Amazon Prime – 1 month on

prime

One month ago, I signed up to a free trial of Amazon Prime.  On the face of it, it sounds pretty good.  Let’s look at the benefits…

  • Free 1-day delivery on a whole load of items
  • Half a million items to borrow through the Kindle Owners Lending Library
  • Unlimited instant streaming of more than 15,000 titles with Prime Instant Video

And all for the low, low, price of £79 a year.  Which you can only pay yearly, not monthly.

Now, let’s have a look at those benefits in turn, see how I did from my month’s free trial…

Free 1-day delivery…

Well, the first thing that happened was Amazon’s website crashed on the “confirm your order” page and duplicated the order I’d placed, sending 2 of each present to the recipient.  Amazon were very good about this and arranged free collection but still, not an auspicious start.

And then it turned out that was pretty much the only thing I needed from Amazon during the trial month that was covered by Prime.  I only needed to place 1 other Amazon order during the trial and that was for an item sold by an Amazon Marketplace seller and didn’t fall under the auspices of Prime.  Fortunately, they dispatched fast and it wasn’t an urgent need, anyway.

I find that, with a bit of planning, I can get most thing from Amazon with their free delivery anyway.

Do I need Prime for 1-day delivery?  No.  Not even at Christmas when I might be ordering a lot.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

What a crock of crap that turns out to be – it’s only for people who own an actual, physical, Kindle.  Not those of us with the app on our phone.

Do I need Prime for this feature?  Nope, can’t use it at all.  They’re 0 for 2 so far.

Instant Video

You would have thought this would be an absolute Godsend with all that sport clogging up the TV, but no.  Did not even get a chance to sign in and watch one minute of anything.  Let’s see…

  1. Switch on PS3
  2. Log in
  3. Find Amazon Prime app
  4. Launch
  5. Wait for app to update itself to latest version
  6. Log in (having retrieved password from wherever I wrote it down this time)
  7. Browse and hunt for something you want to watch
  8. Wait for buffering.
  9. Watch

Versus…

  1. Insert DVD (which has the added benefit of switching on both PS3 and TV)
  2. Log in
  3. Watch Angel.

TV time shouldn’t be taken up with menus, waiting, spinning loading images.  Ideally, since these are actual physical DVDs I’ve purchased, I’d love it if a good chunk of my TV time wasn’t taken up by copyright warnings I can’t skip – have they not realised that one reason people might choose to get a pirated version of a DVD is so they don’t have this crap between them and their film?  But I digress.

Am I going to get any use out of this feature?  Don’t think so.  I reckon owning a movie on DVD is the fastest way for me never to see that film again, goodness only knows how little I’d watch when I’d got that much at my fingertips!  I know I’m missing out on stuff – whole seasons of TV shows I’d love to catch but just don’t have the time.  But it’s not worth £79 a year.

The Verdict

Am I continuing my Prime subscription?

No.

I’m not entirely sure who Prime is aimed at – Kindle owners who order a lot of stuff from Amazon Prime sellers and spend all their free time watching films and TV streamed over the internet, I guess.  Is that me?  No.

13th Age FAE

13th Age of Fate Accelerated – Part 1

Before we begin, for those who don’t know, a role-playing game (or RPG) is a way to tell stories as a group – one person sets the scene, the rest have characters described in terms of their attributes, skills, abilities and powers.  One might play a fighter, wielding a magic sword to take down hordes of goblins.  One might play a powerful wizard, hurling fireballs into the fray.  Success and failure is determined by a collection of unusual-shaped dice and how high (or low) you roll.  The grandfather of them all is Dungeons & Dragons (D&D), due for an upgrade this July.  However, in the decades since it was released, it has seen hundreds of alternatives hit the shelves…

In my left hand I hold 13th Age.  A beautiful, letter-sized hardback.  Bound, colour-illustrated throughout, it contains the rules and game world for Pelgrane Press’s flagship fantasy roleplaying game.  It’s roots are firmly in D&D – characters are described in terms of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, etc., and have lists of talents, feats, powers, and so on.

13th Age has a number of tweaks that update D&D, streamlining things and involving players and their characters in creating the fine details of the game world.  Many of these elements are modular in nature and can be lifted wholesale and applied to whatever game you’re playing.  It’s also one of the best written RPG books I’ve had the pleasure to read, the conversational tone and frequent interjections by one or other of the developers in sidebars providing examples of how they do things.

I’ve blogged about 13th Age here before:

Problem with 13th Age is it hasn’t moved very far from it’s roots in D&D – 6 attributes, lists of talents and feats, much flicking around in the rulebook when creating characters for the first few times

Fate Accelerated

In my right hand I hold Fate Accelerated Edition.  My right hand has the far easier job.  FAE is A5 or thereabouts, 48 pages long including index and character sheet and, on the virtual scales of balance, you’d need about 200 copies of FAE to balance 1 of 13th Age.  It’s lightweight, story-driven gaming.  Characters are described in terms not of Strength, Dexterity and the like but CarefulCleverFlashyForcefulQuick and Sneaky.  Instantly, on seeing the character sheet, you’ve got a much better idea of what sort of a character this is.  You also have Aspects – puncy sentences that describe the sort of character you’re playing.  “Hard-drinking Dwarf thug from the mines of M’Zark“, would be a decent “High concept” Aspect.  It nicely describes, in a nutshell, what sort of character this is.

For picking up a game quickly and diving in, you don’t get a lot faster than FAE these days.  You used to – the system from the old West End Games’ Ghostbusters International was even simpler and faster than this!

What you don’t get with FAE is a world to play in.   And that’s where 13th Age comes in.  You also need special dice with +, – and blank sides to roll.  But then you need the whole range of dice for 13th Age.  Chances are, as a gamer, you’ve already got both.

By taking elements of both games – the lightning-fast character creation and rule-set of FAE coupled with the world-embedding tweaks of 13th Age (and the general setting itself) you’ve got a near-perfect combination of simple rules and great world.

13th Age FAE

But I’m not quite finished yet.  Bits of Dungeon World appeal to me – playbooks for the characters that stop you having to reference the rulebook so often (not that that’s a big deal with FAE), the way it describes campaigns and gets you to think things through…  Z6 will feed into this little project as well.

That’s the problem with RPGs.  Once you start tweaking it’s very hard to stop.

Teams played sports? Not today, thank you Tweetdeck

Apparently there’s some sort of big sporting event on at the moment in Brazil.  I didn’t realise it was Olympics time already.

I am, according to large swathes of the media, supposed to care.

Amazingly, the media (and the General Public) doesn’t seem to understand that there are people who Just Don’t Care.  Never have.  Don’t have a team, never will.

This is me.

Big events will always wind people up.  Look at the vitriol and spite being sluiced around Social Media with the Scottish Referendum coming up!  Anyone dares to express an opinion, they’re shouted down and attacked from all sides!

If I don’t want to know about something, I filter it out, to varying degrees of success.  TV? Easy. Change channels, break out the DVDs, switch off, go for a walk.  Twitter?  Ah, thank you Tweetdeck

I’ve spoken about Tweetdeck before on here – customising it by hacking the files buried deep in the extensions directories – but with big events one feature really comes into it’s own – Filters.

In the Beginning was the Hashtag…

It’s become a convention that for every major event, a Social Media hashtag has to be created so people around the world can comment.  For the Eurovision Song Contest it was, not surprisingly, #Eurovision.  For the World Cup it’s #WorldCup.  There’ll be variants, of course, but get the main one first and you can pick up the spare later.

Look at the columns in Tweetdeck – top-right you’ll see an icon that lets you access the settings for that column, including the filters…  Add the hashtag you wish to exclude, save the changes and Bingo! Twitter becomes a much nicer place.  And you can do this without blocking people you follow.  After all, just because someone follows football (or cricket, rugby, Doctor Who, the Eurovision song contest for that matter) doesn’t mean you don’t want to speak to them.  Some of my best friends follow cricket!

My current filter list looks like this:

#spoty #xfactor #bgt #Brazil2014 #WorldCup

I don’t filter out much but it does what it needs to. Want to talk about me behind my back?  Tag your tweet with one of those and I’ll never see it.  If I tag one of my posts like this, I don’t see it!

You can do similar things with emails – use filters in Gmail or rules in Outlook – and syphon them away from your inbox and into a folder for later perusal.

Facebook and Google+ are more problematic – neither really let you filter our hashtags even though they both use them.  There was an extension for G+ that let you mute things but that doesn’t work any more.

This post was…

originally a much larger rant about my attitude towards sports.  Looking back through the lenses supplied by my wonderful wife (who, thankfully, also doesn’t watch sport on TV but has given me the perspective of one who joined in at school) I must’ve made a variety of peoples’ lives hell at school.

I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to:

My classmates – no-one wants a black hole of negativity on their team, someone who made no effort whatsoever no matter what role they were placed in.  Their parents can’tve been too pleased when told the tales of my inactivity, either!

My teachers – no-one wants to have to teach a black hole of negativity who just won’t even try and join in.  For 7 years.

My wife and kids – who have to put up with this sporting black hole of negativity and carefully cultured ignorance.  My eldest lad enjoys playing football at school and wants a team kit.  I don’t know what to get him!  Is there such a thing as team-neutral, I-just-enjoy-the-game-in-general kit that won’t single him out for abuse from someone who equates that team kit with someone who eats babies?

The Future…

I’m trying very hard not to pass my attitude on to my kids.  It’s one (of many) things I’d change were I to go back in time and do it all again with full knowledge of what had happened last time I leaned on the goalpost and watched the ball roll past while continuing a conversation about Call of Cthulhu.  I would at least make an effort.  After all, it wasn’t their fault my team-mates were lumbered with the guy who was picked last – at least after week 1 when my lanky frame may have fooled them into thinking I was a sportsman.  And I do mean last.  I was the no-choice kid you got left with after fat guy, boy with asthma and really tiny boy.

So now I run, I cycle, I’ve dabbled in archery and I make damn sure my kids at least join in.  If they enjoy it, brilliant! If they don’t, then at least we’ve got another thing in common.

And Finally, Today in Doctor Who…

Now there are many people out there (admittedly, probably not reading this blog), who do enjoy these sport things, and Doctor Who might put things in perspective.

It’s their flagship (let’s face it , their only) Science Fiction series, the jewel in their Christmas TV schedule.  When a new Doctor is being cast the speculation and media coverage is immense – even after the actor has been cast, people want to know what his outfit will be like, will the companions continue the same, will the TARDIS get another makeover, are the BBC going to change the branding again.

Now imagine you don’t give a toss about some weird TV show that only kids watch, couldn’t begin to care about having an opinion on who should or shouldn’t be cast in the role.  Now scale that up – imagine Dr Who is a huge global media event, that every news bulletin finishes with a round-up of Dr Who news from the day, that there are pubs where you can watch it on the big screen every Saturday…

There you go.  You’ve got an inkling of how I feel about sports.  You’re welcome.

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