Aegis Bio – USB 3.0

There are plenty of reasons to own an external hard drive. Whether as a simple backup, to free up space on a full notebook drive, or for data portability between work and home, a portable hard drive is the tool of choice to offload serious data off a system hard drive. Sure, a USB flash drive on a key ring is great for convenience, but when it comes time to move hundreds of gigs of data, a mechanical hard drive can offer capacity like nothing else can.

The downside of putting sensitive data on a hard drive, and taking it out and about is that then the data is vulnerable. While Windows 8 is password protected on bootup by default, there is no such default level of protection on an external drive. Those hundreds of gigs of data, now can be accessed by anyone that finds such a drive forgotten at the local Starbucks. That external drive is now becoming somewhat less attractive.


Some people design, build, and operate robots to battle other homemade robots; others sit down at Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots and start flailing away with their fists.  While the early show Battlebots featured the former type of mechanized combat, the Syfy Channel show Robot Combat League definitely skews towards the latter.

Hosted by WWE star Chris Jericho, Robot Combat League is a pretty straightforward mechanical battle.  Twelve two-person teams (usually one athletic person and one scientific person) are given a huge robot designed for walking and punching.  The teams practice with their robot (the scientific person sits and operates the legs, while the more athletic one wears a device on their shoulders and arms that controls the robot's upper torso).  All the teams compete in a Power-Up Challenge, and the best and worst robots then battle -- with the loser going home.  The last team/robot standing wins a trophy and $100,000.
While the idea of human-controlled giant robots slugging it sounds like the ideal playday, that's where the appeal of Robot Combat League begins and ends.  The robots are assigned randomly, which might be a problem except that the robots are apparently only cosmetically different.  We don't know if a particular robot is stronger, faster, or tougher than its counterparts, and the teams don't get to modify their warriors.  As for the combat itself, it almost feels like a parody of boxing: Judges evaluate three two-minute rounds (with 20 minutes in-between rounds for repairs), a "knockout" happens if a robot becomes unresponsive (metal bars keep the robots upright, so no falls happen), and there are sparks and hydraulic fluids everywhere.  But since the robots aren't modified, they just punch and block; there are no saws, flamethrowers, or other distinguishing weapons.
These ultimate remote-controlled toys might make a great attraction in a rich person's arcade, but the Robot Combat League is a disappointing, uncreative mess.  I'll stick with board and card games with robots, or even watch sports with humans, before tuning in to this again.

Overall grade: F
Reviewed by James Lynch



Shania Twain was one of the biggest country stars of the late 1990s and early 2000s, scoring hit after hit with up-tempo tunes and slower romantic ballads.  She also proved mildly controversial, as her music seemed to be closer to top-40 pop than the country genre she aspired to -- and that she used sex appeal more than singing to push her music.  Her 2004 Greatest Hits makes the case for both sides of her career.

Greatest Hits goes in reverse chronological order -- from her albums Up!, Come on Over and The Woman in Me -- before adding four new songs.  These are her big radio hits -- no rarities, live tracks, covers, or lesser-known songs here -- and the songs show both her appeal and limits.

Almost all of the songs alternate between female-empowering, basic feel-good pop (from the woman-as-boss "Any Man of Mine" to the just-have-fun "Man!  I Feel like a Woman!") and shamelessly sentimental romance melodies (like "You're Still the One" and "From this Moment On").  The writing is very simple, going for basic rhymes ("I'm not always strong//and sometimes I'm even wrong") and odd metaphors ("you're a fine piece of real estate/ and I'm gonna get me some land").  As for the "Is she country?" question, while some of the songs have a very country feel, most of the songs here are far more pop than Grand Old Opry (with probable influence from her then-producer and husband Mutt Lange, who worked with bands like Def Leppard and Nickleback instead of country acts).

That's not to say that Greatest Hits isn't enjoyable.  Twain has a good voice, for both sentiment and excitement, and while her songs may often be guilty pleasures, they can still be fun to listen to.  While many will debate how much Shania Twain brought country and pop together -- and whether or not that's a good thing -- Greatest Hits is a pretty good showcase of the music that made Shania Twain such a star performer.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch


Marco Glaviano, SIRENS

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, supermodels strode forth upon the Earth like goddesses.  They could cross from one coast to the other in a few strides, adoring fans followed them by the millions, and they could destroy any who displeased them with lightning bolts from their eyes.  Okay, maybe it wasn't exactly like that -- but folks like Cindy Crawford, Paulina Porizkova, Angie Everhart, and others were household names and mainstays on magazine covers and swimsuit calendars.  Photographer Marco Glaviano captured some of the best images of the best models, and his book Sirens (first printed in 1999) is a wonderful collection of his work across these two decades.

Sirens collects a wide selection of Glaviano's work, mainly from beaches and glamour shots.  Chapters are dedicated to specific models (Crawford, Porizkova, Niki Taylor, Amber Smith, Claudia Schiffer, and a new model named Anna Nicole Smith), or themes (Behind Closed Doors, Naked Chicks on the Rocks, Goddesses of the Sand).  Glaviano also offers observations on both the models and themes.
Sirens works both as a collection of beauty and a time capsule.  These photos capture the beauty of some of the most attractive women across two decades, and it's no surprise that Glaviano has done swimsuit calendars, magazine covers, and even the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.  At the same time, the fashion world doesn't offer a lot of longevity for even its biggest celebrities, and many of the people shown here haven't been active in the fashion world for years; because of that, Sirens functions well as a nostalgic look back at some of the biggest names in beauty from over a decade ago.
Sirens provides plenty of not only beauty, but also the creator's thoughts on that beauty.  The only thing that would have made this book better if it was a coffee-table book, giving these pictures the size they deserve.  That said, Sirens is an astounding look at the best of the beautiful.
Overall grade: A+
Reviewed by James Lynch


I've heard plenty of origins for zombie outbreaks -- from the supernatural to the alien -- but I can't say I've ever heard that the cure is love.  Still, this is the premise of Warm Bodies, a comedy that explores young love in the days of flesh-eating undead.
R (Nicholas Hoult) is a zombie.  Not knowing how he died or even what his name is, R shambles around an airport aimlessly, shoulders hunches, pale blue eyes staring blankly.  He collects trinkets and stores them in an airplane, where he listens to old records.  He has "conversations" of a few words with a fellow zombie (played nicely by Rob Corddry), he steers clear of the "bonies" (malevolent skeletons that were zombies but whose flesh all decayed), and he wonders to himself if there's anything more to unlife.

While out on a feeding run, R and his companions ambush some explorers from a walled-off city of humans. During the attack and feeding frenzy, R notices Julie (Teresa Palmer), a young woman, and he decides to keep her safe.  His romantic feelings may stem from his having killed and eaten the brain of her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco), which let R experience Perry's emotions.  Soon feelings start developing between Julie and R, and changes begin happening to the young zombie -- and other zombies around him.  But Julie's father Grigio (John Malkovich), the leader of the walled city, thinks the only good zombie is one shot in the head; the bonies are also getting agitated.  Will love conquer all?  Will Julie find out that R ate her boyfriend?
Warm Bodies is a nice comic nod to both the current zombie and young romance crazes.  Hoult makes for a sympathetic member of the undead, as his scary appearance and groans are belied by his internal monologue.  (While trying to romance Julie he repeats to himself over and over "Don't be weird.")  Palmer is decent but somewhat generic as the teen with daddy issues who falls for the worst possible boy, and Corddry is terrific as the buddy zombie who also feels loneliness.  Warm Bodies goes for less slapstick humor and more subtlety, and at times this slows the movies down; but this movie is often funny and entertaining.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



The best games often involve a type of balance, keeping a player from using the same strategy or technique over and over for an easy win.  Dixit, a French game published in the United States by Asmodee Editions, achieves this balance by making itself a visual party game -- with a big twist.

In Dixit, everyone has a hand of six cards.  These cards have colorful, often surreal art that ranges from the whimsical to the scary.  Each round one player is the storyteller, choosing one of their cards in secret and offering a description -- from a single word or sound to several sentences -- to everyone.  The other players choose a card to match that description, and then the cards are all shuffled together and laid out, side to side.  Everyone but the storyteller secretly votes for the card they think best matches the description (but not their own card).
But there's a catch.  If every player or no player votes for the storyteller's card, every player but the storyteller scores two points.  If some players pick the storyteller's card, those players and the storyteller score three points.  And each player scores a point for each player who chose their card.  After scoring is done, everyone draws back to six cards, the player to the storyteller's left becomes the new storyteller, and a new round begins.  When the deck runs out of cards, whoever has the most points wins.

Dixit is an unusual party game.  The unusual feel of the artwork makes this feel different than most U.S. games, and the storyteller faces an unusual challenge: Being too specific is as risky as being too vague.  Dixit is a pretty simple game that's also pretty enjoyable.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch