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To be frank, Mass Effect Andromeda’s trans representation is bad.

BioWare’s games have a reputation, well earned or not, of being progressive and inclusive. These are games that allow players to create characters that aren’t just white men and offer romantic relationships beyond heterosexual ones. Regardless of how far they go in making these inclusions meaningful, BioWare’s games are among the few to do so. Which makes it a disappointment that Andromeda’s inclusion of a trans character is fumbled.

Andromeda’s backdrop, far from the Milky Way of the original trilogy, is a clean break that promises a rich new setting to explore. You’ve come to find new worlds to colonise and settle. Once a colony has been established you, in the role of Ryder, are then tasked with helping the people there, responding to the needs of numerous quest-givers. Among these is Hainly Abrams.

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For many people, their first foray into the world of home automation begins with lighting. There’s a good reason for this: smart bulbs easily fit into existing furnishings and can be operated using just a smartphone, which (mostly) everybody now owns. Philips, with its Hue range, is perhaps the most well known smart bulb maker, but that could soon change thanks to a new entrant: IKEA. That’s right, the world’s biggest furniture is today debuting its own smart lighting range in the UK. As you’d expect, the prices are a lot easier on the wallet.

The Smart Lighting collection consists of TRÅDFRI LED bulbs and remote control, a gateway kit, a motion sensor kit, dimming lights and a selection of LED light panels and doors that can be built into kitchen and bedroom cabinets. To begin with, all of IKEA’s new bulbs provide various shades of white, so don’t start dreaming of a multi-colour setup just yet.

For £69, the gateway kit provides two white LED bulbs, a remote control and a gateway that connects to your router via ethernet. The bulbs are controlled by the TRÅDFRI app, which offers to personalised and user-created presets of warm or cool light. The £29 white spectrum dimming kit, on the other hand, is a lot more analog and requires the use of a handheld control that will change the white colour to one of three settings. IKEA says the bulb is perfect for switching your dining room from a makeshift office into a low-lit dinner party setting, but it could also work as a child’s night light.

There’s also a warm white dimming kit, which comes in at £15. This cheaper plug-and-play kit includes one bulb and a magnetised remote (available in black, white and yellow) that will dim the light between "subtle and strong warm white light" with a simple twist.

With the TRÅDFRI wireless motion sensor kit, which costs £25, IKEA says it wants to "give you and your home a sense of safety with lighting that responds instantly." When you walk into a room, the light will automatically switch on and remain lit until one, five or 10 minutes have passed. Like all of IKEA’s Smart Lighting products, the sensor itself does not need to be fixed, allowing you to place it in a spot that suits you.

Rounding off the collection is a selection of SURTE, FLOALT and JORMLIEN door and light panels that range between £55 and £100. They’re designed to fit in BESTÅ cabinets and METOD kitchens, offering personalised lighting in one of the most important areas in the house.

Although the lights are going on sale in the UK for the first time, customers in Europe have been able to get their hands on the remote controlled solutions since September last year. The gateway kit, however, is new to all markets and allows customers to add new bulbs starting from £9, depending on the fitting. There’s no word on US availability, but as this is Ikea, you never know.

Source: IKEA

An interesting read via Engadget


Progress carries over, too.

By Seth G. Macy

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about Mafia III, 2K wants you to give it a try, for free, beginning today.

The entire first act of Mafia III can be downloaded and played on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Progress from the demo transfers over to the full game, should you purchase it once the demo completes.

The demo releases along side "Faster, Baby," the first paid DLC for Mafia III. The DLC introduces a "new narrative and more to explore," along with a new town, Sinclair Parish, where Mafia III protagonist Lincoln and new character Roxy Laveau join forces to "take down the corrupt and powerful Sheriff ‘Slim’ Beaumont."

Mafia III originally launched in October of last year and went on to be the fastest selling game in 2K history, moving 4.5 million copies in its first week. Sales slowed after the first week, with 2K reporting during its quarterly financial briefing lifetime sales of the game have reached 5 million copies.

In our Mafia 3 review, we praised the game’s excellent story and characters, but felt it was held back by some uninspired gameplay elements.

Seth Macy is IGN’s weekend web producer and just wants to be your friend. Follow him on Twitter @sethmacy, or subscribe to Seth Macy’s YouTube channel.

An interesting read via IGN Video Games

Joe Flint and Shalini Ramachandran, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

It is expanding into new genres such as children’s fare, reality
TV and stand-up comedy specials — including a $40 million deal
for two shows by Chris Rock. The shift has unnerved some TV
networks that had become used to Netflix’s original content being
focused on scripted dramas and sitcoms.

Netflix’s spending on original and acquired programming this year
is expected to be more than $6 billion, up from $5 billion last
year, more than double what Time Warner Inc.’s HBO spends and five
times as much as 21st Century Fox’s FX or CBS Corp.’s Showtime. It
spent close to $10 million an episode on “The Crown,” a lavish
period drama about a young Queen Elizabeth II.

Its shock-and-awe spending — combined with that of Amazon and
other new players — is driving up costs industrywide and creating
a scarcity of people and equipment.

TV network executives five years ago: This is great, we found someone willing to pay us for our back catalog of old crappy TV shows.

TV network executives today: Nobody could’ve seen this coming, this is terrible.

(We just watched Dave Chappelle’s two new stand-up specials for Netflix over the weekend. Fucking hilarious — highly recommended.)


An interesting read via Daring Fireball

I get a huge kick out of the videos of the always-entertaining nerd whisperer Jenny Nicholson. If you haven’t seen her channel, check it out and watch as she sits on her bed, surrounded by sci-fi plushies, and shares her quirky, sometimes labyrinthine, and often convincing theories and opinions on sci-fi and fantasy films, comic books, novels, and other nerd media fodder.

In her latest video, she answers many requests she’s apparently had for doing ASMR videos by explaining ten reasons why her answer is no. But she delivers her ten reason AS an ASMR video, right down to tapping, scratching, and scrunching things as she talks. One of her ten reasons made me laugh out loud:

"I just don’t know how I’m supposed to take myself seriously when I’m crinkling bags for an hour."

For those unfamiliar, ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is an intense tingling sensation some people claim they experience when they hear certain soft voices, pleasant repetitive sounds, or while watching someone doing a particularly mundane, repetitive activity.

I’m sure Jenny is going to get a lot of grief from ASMRtists for seemingly making fun of them, but I would hope they’d have a healthy sense of humor about it all. Several commenters who claim to experience ASMR said that they laughed at her reasons for not doing it. I do not have ASMR, but I do enjoy listening to some ASMR audio as I’m going to sleep and I’m fascinated by the whole phenomenon and the numerous, surreal, and just plain bizarre videos people are producing in the genre. An hour of nothing but crinkling bags? Andy Warhol would be so proud.

An interesting read via Boing Boing

When you walk into the cavernous, hushed halls of a museum, two thoughts likely pass through your head. The first is “How would I go about stealing something off the walls here, Thomas Crown-style?” The second less sinister, but more probable, concern is, “What would happen if I accidentally knocked over this statue?” 

Just the thought of such a blunder is enough to give you anxiety, but you adjust to your surroundings and carry on. If you have kids in tow, it’s likely that the fear won’t be so quick to dissipate, but that’s just one of the joys of parenthood, isn’t it? 

Just be glad this wasn’t your kid: 

It’s only natural to have your imagination run wild when you and yours are given relatively unfettered access to so many significant, historic, and expensive treasures. But sometimes things go wrong, and the idle rumination becomes a very real problem for the visitor and museum alike. 

In a recent Artsy piece by Isaac Kaplan, the writer examines a few instances where – oops – a museum visitor accidentally trashed a piece on display and faced the fallout from their clumsiness and/or inattentiveness.

So what DOES happen if you are responsible for accidentally damaging a work of art on public display? Well, the usual caveat applies – every situation is different – but for the most part, you’re going to be ok. 

I mean, you’ll be too ashamed to visit that museum, or possibly any other one, again, but if it’s an accident, you probably will have to face the music, disclose the damage and your clumsiness, but that’s about it. You won’t spend the rest of your days working in the gift shop to pay down that Ming vase you knocked over. 

Ok. That parent should probably get billed. 

An interesting read via GOOD

Today at CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Sony announced the full title for the upcoming Jumanji sequel. It’ll be called Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, a title that may make you smile or cringe. Additionally, it was confirmed that the movie has a video game plot.

According to Collider’s Steven Weintraub, who attended the event, star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson appeared on stage to introduce a trailer that contained action and silly dialogue.

There is no word yet on when the Welcome to the Jungle trailer will be released to the public. We’ll post the video here on GameSpot when it comes out.

The movie’s storyline will center upon a quartet of high school kids who find themselves drawn into the Jumanji game while in detention. The teens have to clean out the school’s basement as their punishment and while doing so they find an old video game console that has a game called Jumanji on it, according to The Hollywood Reporter. They discover that choosing a character in the game transports them into a jungle as that character.

"One rather nerdy boy is surprised (and rather pleased) to see he’s got the muscles of The Rock," THR reported. "The popular girl in school is horrified to learn she’s got the body of Jack Black."

This may explain actress Karen Gillan’s skimpy outfit, as she is a video game character.

It was first announced in April 2016, and it was presumed that it would be a reboot of the much-loved ’90s movie. However, Johnson subsequently revealed that the film would in fact be a sequel.

Jake Kasdan, the son of legendary Star Wars writer Lawrence Kasdan, is directing. The film opens on July 28, 2017.

Welcome to the Jungle actors Jack Black, Nick Jonas, and Karen Gillan broke into song during an appearance at CinemaCon. Here’s the silly video:

Also during CinemaCon today, Sony released some footage from the Stephen King movie The Dark Tower and also showed the second trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming, while Ryan Gosling appeared on stage to talk about Blade Runner 2049. We’ll circle back with those videos when they are released

An interesting read via GameSpot

Tom Holland, the newest actor to play Spider-Man, says he did not consult with previous Spider-Man actors such as Tobey MaGuire or Andrew Garfield about the role.

"I wasn’t in touch with them," Holland told Variety. "They both said some really lovely things about me online. I met Andrew [Garfield] at the BAFTAs the other day. It was cool. He’s such a nice guy and we had a great chat and went our separate ways."

Also in the interview, Holland talked about the first time he donned the Spidey suit, saying it was "a little bit of a disappointment," but for a good reason. Because he was cast as Spider-Man after Captain America: Civil War started filming, the production team didn’t have time to make him a suit right away. So he had to wear a modified version of his stunt double’s suit, which was too big.

"So the first time I ever tried it on it was kind of like a saggy, sad Spider-Man," Holland said.

But when Holland put on his suit, everything changed–for the better.

"The time I tried it on for real and it fit perfectly was one of the most surreal experiences of my life," Holland said. "It’s been my dream since I was a kid, and the fact that it was coming true before my own eyes was such a crazy feeling. I was just so proud of myself and delighted with how my career had gone and where I was standing."

Also on the line of the Spider-Man costume, Holland said it can take almost 45 minutes to put it on when the harness is attached underneath. As you can imagine, this presents some problems when nature calls.

"The tricky part is going to the bathroom," he said. "You have to sort of plan in advance. You have to be like, ‘Look, I think I might need the toilet in 45 minutes, so we have to take this off.’ Obviously it’s a very expensive suit, so you don’t want it just swinging down around your ankles."

You can read the full interview here at Variety.

The next trailer for this year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming is scheduled to premiere today, March 28. For now, you can watch a teaser right here.

An interesting read via GameSpot

Anyone working behind the scenes at a rally knows that, like a bass player, they’re only doing their job if nobody notices that they’re there. So anytime you can make your protest seem like nobody has organized it, the better. Which is something Matt has totally done.

"Before I worked for the union — while I was still developing my organizing chops — I tried to organize a joint Tea Party/Occupy rally over Obama’s NDAA, because they both hated it equally. I thought it would be a novel event and attract a lot of attention, plus, the gimmick boosted turnout because neither group wanted to be the under-represented one — a lot of progressives who weren’t with Occupy showed up just because they hated the Tea Party. I was manipulating identity posturing."

Steve Lanava/T&G

We don’t know which group had the coffin idea.

Incidentally, this is why Trump needed those paid protesters at his campaign announcement. He needed a lot of people there to make the event look huge. "He doesn’t have a political base," Carusone insists. "And even if he did, it certainly wouldn’t have been in Manhattan, or even New York City [where his campaign announcement was held]."

Later on, it wasn’t as necessary.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Or as affordable

"He never would have gotten his campaign off the ground," Matt says. "But I’m convinced that the rally in Worcester I went to, where Donald Trump called me fat, didn’t have paid people. He didn’t have to do that at that point. But when he was first finding his feet, yeah, for sure."

So yes, there is absolutely some money floating around activism, that’s inevitable in a capitalist society. But in the end, the whole "paid protester" thing is far more complicated than either side wants to admit … kinda like every other political issue, now that we think about it.

JF Sargent is a senior editor for Cracked. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Behind every awful movie is the idea for a good one. Old man Indiana Jones discovers aliens. Good in theory, bad in practice. Batman fights Superman. So simple, but so bad. Are there good translations of these movies hidden within the stinking turds that saw the light of day? Jack O’Brien hosts Soren Bowie, Daniel O’Brien and Katie Willert of ‘After Hours’ on our next live podcast to find an answer as they discuss their ideal versions of flops, reboots, and remakes. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here!

For more insider perspectives, check out I Grew Up In A Racist Militia: 5 Things I Learned and 5 Things I Learned As A Neo-Nazi.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Everything You Know About The Confederate Flag Is Wrong, and other videos you won’t see on the site!

Follow us on Facebook, and we’ll follow you everywhere.

An interesting read via Cracked: All Posts

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The best activity tracker is the one you’ll actually wear every day, otherwise there’s no point in buying one at all. Fitbit’s new $150 Alta HR is the one most people would wear not just every day, but all night—and that’s worth every penny.

At a glance, the Alta HR looks identical to its predecessor, last year’s original Alta. It’s a slim bracelet with an OLED screen that wakes to show the time when you raise your wrist and responds to firm taps when you want to see your daily activity stats—calories burned, how many steps you’ve taken, and how many miles you’ve walked, etc.

But inside is an optical heart rate sensor. This changes everything.

Workout insights

fitbit alta hr workout Caitlin McGarry

The Fitbit uses the Alta HR’s optical heart rate sensor to chart your workout intensity.

Like the Alta (and a handful of other Fitbit devices), the Alta HR uses SmartTrack technology to automatically log your exercise. The new heart rate sensor makes that automatic tracking more powerful by recognizing and logging time spent in each heart rate zone (peak, cardio, or fat burn). You can see this in real-time on the display, but part of the appeal of the Alta HR is that you can just go about your day without ever looking at the device. Just sync the band with your phone at the end of each day or in the morning when you wake up and take a look at your dashboard in the Fitbit app.

With the heart rate sensor, the Alta HR is able to more accurately estimate calorie burn, although I use this information as a helpful guide more than a precise metric. I tracked the same workout simultaneously with the Alta HR and my Apple Watch Series 2, and while the average heart rate was about 10 beats per minute lower on the Alta HR than the Apple Watch, the Alta’s heart rate graph was more informative. The Apple Watch is more focused on plotting its GPS data than giving any heart rate insights. (There are third-party apps that do more with the watch’s heart rate data, but I’m comparing Fitbit’s app with the Apple Watch workout data shown in the Activity app on my iPhone.)

But with its limited battery life, the Apple Watch isn’t useful when it comes to tracking sleep. The Alta HR’s sleep insights take this fitness tracker to the next level.

Insomniacs, rejoice

I confess that I usually get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. If I’m tired enough, I can fall asleep in a noisy room with all the lights on. I am not the target demographic for the sleep analysis that many fitness trackers and apps promise. But Fitbit’s new sleep-tracking features seem like the most useful and accurate I’ve tried so far.

Fitbit uses the Alta’s continuous heart rate-monitoring to track your sleep cycles, so it can tell when you’re awake and what stage of sleep you’re in—light, deep, or REM—based on your heart rate. When you sync that data to the Fitbit app in the morning, your sleep dashboard helpfully graphs your sleep stages and diagrams the percentages of each type of sleep you get per night. Even better, you’ll see insights about what those percentages mean. I thought the fact that nearly half of my sleep is light was kind of a bad thing, but according to Fitbit, that percentage is just fine. (Phew.)

fitbit alta hr sleep Caitlin McGarry

My sleep data is the first thing I look at in the morning. It’s fascinating.

The app will also tell you how your daily activity affects your sleep, though it seems obvious that you’ll be more tired after a day with exercise than one without.

Sleep Stages isn’t exclusive to the Alta HR. Fitbit’s other heart rate-monitoring fitness trackers, the Blaze and Charge 2, will also get this feature in an app update.

I’ve only been testing the new sleep-tracking features for a week so they’re still pretty basic in terms of analysis, but Fitbit says the insights become more personalized the longer you wear the device.

Little tweaks make the difference

The Alta HR is just as slim as its predecessor, but there is one visible difference: new bands. Fitbit replaced the two-button clasp, which was often difficult to snap into place, with a more traditional buckle, and it’s a huge improvement. If you own the existing Alta, you can buy the new bands to swap in for the old ones, which is convenient for those who don’t want to upgrade or have no use for the heart rate sensor. A classic sport band is $30 and a new leather one is $60.

fitbit alta hr beauty 2 Caitlin McGarry

The Alta HR’s new interchangeable bands have a redesigned clasp.

fitbit alta hr beauty 3 Caitlin McGarry

You can easily swap out the elastomer sport band for a leather or metal option.

Fitbit also stretched the next-generation Alta’s battery life from five days to seven days, so you can get up to a week of continuous wear on a single charge. This makes a big difference.

The Alta HR also carries over the bedtime reminders, reminders to move, silent vibrating alarms, and notifications for phone calls and text messages that the original Alta had, all of which are useful features I use constantly.

The bottom line

fitbit alta hr beauty 1 Caitlin McGarry

The Alta HR is a huge improvement over the first-generation Alta.

If you need a specialized fitness tracker for running, biking, or swimming, the Alta HR isn’t the best fit. It doesn’t have built-in GPS, or even the connected GPS that Fitbit’s Charge 2 offers to calculate and map your mileage courtesy of your smartphone. It would be nice if the Alta HR could tell me how far I run each day and not just how many minutes I’ve exercised.

But as a stylish, wearable activity and sleep tracker, the Alta HR checks every box: week-long battery life, sleep-tracking insights, functional and fashionable design, and a useful app that recommends other workouts based on the exercise you’ve already done that week. For the average person, this is the perfect fitness tracker.

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An interesting read via Macworld