3/6/17 Movie Monday: Smart Teen Comedies

Posted March 5, 2017 By Mom
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Welcome to DMM’s 3/6/17 Movie Monday, where I’ll help you tackle movie night with brief reviews of movies and videos you may have missed that are worth the rental or purchase. This week, I’m focusing on teen comedies that raise the bar.


Puberty vs Money


Note that I’m not saying these movies are necessarily recommended for anyone aged at least 13, since some of them have strong language and adult situations. But for older teens and adults looking to reminisce, these are all worth the watch.


Easy A (PG-13)
After a little white lie about losing her virginity gets out, a clean cut high school girl (Emma Stone) sees her reputation tarnished until she decides to use the rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing.

One of Emma Stone’s earliest starring roles, and definitely one of the first where she gets to show her comic timing chops. The excellent script hits all the usual teen comedy notes (backstabby girls, harried school administrators, dumb jocks, wise beyond their years kids, etc.), but turns many of those conventions upside down with clever insights and laughs from unexpected places. Especially recommended for parents to watch with older teens who are grappling with issues of looks-ism and bullying in school. Great supporting cast features Patricia Clarkson, Lisa Kudrow and Stanley Tucci.


Whip It! (PG-13)
After years of indulging the ambitious dreams of her Texas mom by competing in beauty pageants, a sixteen year old misfit secretly joins the roller derby and discovers self-confidence, romance, and a new identity as a phenomenal league star.

A fun and surprisingly touching movie from Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films. This is definitely a girl power flick, but it’s never heavy-handed and does a great job of showing how a person’s true power comes from being true to him- or herself. In a nice touch that’s rare for these types of films, the misguided and controlling mother isn’t painted as a one-dimensional villain, but as someone deserving of both sympathy and respect. Ellen Page is perfect in the starring role, and the supporting cast includes Barrymore, Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis and Marcia Gay Harden.


Ten Things I Hate About You (PG-13)
A family rule forbids a teenager from dating until her unpopular, rebellious, older sister gets a suitor of her own. Modern remake of Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew.”

Julia Stiles co-stars with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the late, great Heath Ledger. The source material is Shakespeare, but this contemporary take is entirely relatable to a modern audience. There’s plenty of witty repartee, and the talented cast makes even the most well-worn teen comedy tropes seem fresh again. Intelligent and funny.


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Free App Friday: All Time Classics
Welcome to DMM’s 3/3/17 Freebie Friday, this week featuring apps. All of this week’s free apps are based on classic games, and all are rated 4/5 stars or better.

Remember that free apps may include in-app purchase (IAP) options or be ad-supported, but given that these apps have been given very high ratings by MANY consumers, where IAP links or ads are present they must be pretty unobtrusive. Descriptions below are from the apps’ product pages.



Backgammon Free – User friendly interface – Strong Backgammon AI – Full match play + doubling cube – Hints, 2 player hotseat and stats – supported by unobtrusive ads

Blackjack 21 Free + Slots – Blackjack 21 FREE is the Best Free Blackjack Card Game poker app for Kindle and Android! NEW FEATURES ADDED FOR 2015 INCLUDING SLOT MACHINES!

Gin Rummy Free – Simple and quick to play, and if you are new to the game then Gin Rummy Free provides everything you need to learn it!



8-Ball Pool – Customize your cue and table! In every competitive 1-vs-1 match you play, there’ll be Pool Coins at stake – win the match and the Coins are yours. You can use these to enter higher ranked matches with bigger stakes, or to buy new items in the Pool Shop.

Chess Free – Human-like playing style with engaging user interface – 12 levels of difficulty and a 2-player option – Customizable game sets with 8 boards and 7 styles of pieces – Optional chess timers, tutor, hint and undo buttons, and handicap feature

Cribbage Pro – Classic cribbage where 2 players race to 121 points with single player or online multiplayer & Contests for real prizes!



Cracker Barrel Games – Includes Solitaire, Peg Solitaire, Checkers, Memory Match and Spot the Difference.

Reversi Free – Classic strategy game – 10 levels of difficulty – Move suggestions and game statistics

Amazing Mahjong: Zen – Enjoy the classical Mahjong game with great graphics and nice music.

Solitaire Perfect Match – Entirely new Solitaire Game! Match cards to clear the decks, get valuable rewards, and compete with friends. No hurry, no rush.


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There’s an All-New Fire HD 8 Tablet in town, with twice as much memory, 50% more RAM and longer battery life. Currently rated 4.5/5 stars and priced at $89.99 — or five monthly payments of $18.


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Amazongeddon II: Checking Amazon Server Status

Posted February 28, 2017 By Mom
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#Amazongeddon II, The Force Stays Asleep, happened today. In other words a bunch of Amazon’s servers went down, resulting in a temporary interruption in Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service, other Amazon services, and an interruption or slowdown in service for lots of other sites whose software also resides on those servers. I’ve written about checking Amazon server status before, but it seems like a good time to revisit the topic.

First things first: let me reassure you I’ve heard nothing about any kind of malicious attack here, it seems to be a good old fashioned case of technical difficulties. It’s important to remember that no piece of hardware or software, nor any human who works on or with them, can guarantee 100% infallibility and zero downtime. About the best anyone can hope for is a speedy resolution and restoration of data when problems do occur. Because they will. Today, Amazon had everything back to normal in 2.5 hours. Not bad.




Are Amazon’s Server(s) Down?
The Amazon Web Services (AWS) Service Health Dashboard is where Amazon lists current and recent status for all Amazon Web Services. Since it’s a free, publicly-available resource anyone with internet access can check current status at any time.

Tap or click on images to view an enlarged version in a new tab or window. Note that while these screenshots are from 2015, I’ve verified they still accurately reflect the Dashboard. The only significant difference is that there’s now a button at the top of the screen allowing Dashboard visitors to access a more personalized snapshot.



The top section of the Dashboard lists every AWS service and shows current status. Note that you can even subscribe to status reports on specific services via RSS feed (red arrow in image above).

To clarify: Amazon does not list status for specific servers, probably because there could be many individual server “boxes” in use to support a single AWS service. This post references “servers” in the title because that’s how most people tend to think about uptime and downtime: in terms of individual servers, rather than in terms of a single service that’s supported by a multiple servers. The status dashboard cannot give you the status of individual servers on Amazon’s end, but it can give you status on services, and that’s really all that matters for purposes of this discussion.

The Current Status list pictured above will show you at a glance if any services are currently experiencing downtime or known issues, while the Status History table (lower down on the page, you have to scroll quite a bit to find it) allows you to check on historical service status:



The signal-light graphic used to show service status at a glance is easy enough for non-techies to understand (green = service is online, yellow = service is online but is experiencing performance issues, red = service is down, i = notes available). The rest of the information that’s provided when you mouse over a given status icon in the Status History table (as shown in screenshot above, red arrow indicates icon that was moused over) is only really intended to provide developers and tech administrators with status updates, so it’s not written to be consumer-friendly.


Services Specific To Amazon’s Alexa Service
I wish I could provide a reliably accurate list of all the services that could possibly be involved in supporting all Echo/Alexa features, but Amazon hasn’t published such a list. Also, I am not personally aware of all the Amazon services in use by Alexa skill developers. However, checking status for any service located in “N. Virginia” (indicated by red boxes in image above) will catch a lot of them. Not all of those services will be involved in Alexa stuff, but quite a lot of Alexa stuff is being run on N. Virginia servers.

There are two services I can definitely say are involved with Alexa/skills processing as of this writing so if immediate status information is vitally important to you, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feeds for these two. These are not pictured in the screenshots above, but you can find them by scrolling down the lists:


1. Amazon Dynamo DB (N. Virginia)

2. AWS Lambda (N. Virginia)


Click here to visit the AWS Service Health Dashboard, and bookmark the page for future reference.

This is a cross-post from my Love My Echo site.


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The Philips 464495 Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 Starter Kit, 3rd Generation with Richer Colors, Works with Amazon Alexa (UK visitors – click here) is a great way to get your smart home setup up and running quickly. Currently rated 4/5 stars and currently priced at $199.99, the starter kit includes the new, second generation hub plus three color bulbs (that can also be set to white light).

Advertisements make it possible for Love My Echo to bring you great content for free, so thanks for your support.

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2/27/17 Movie Monday: Standup Comedy

Posted February 26, 2017 By Mom
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Welcome to DMM’s 2/27/17 Movie Monday, where I’ll help you tackle movie night with brief reviews of movies and videos you may have missed that are worth the rental or purchase. This week, I’m sharing some of my favorite picks from one of my favorite genres: Standup Comedy.


Against Picketing


All of these have strong language and may have adult situations, references to drugs or alchohol or innuendo too, so while they’re generally marked ‘Not Rated’ they should be treated like R-rated content.


Steve Rannazzisi: Manchild
MANCHILD is the first Comedy Central one-hour stand-up special from Steve Rannazzisi, co-star of “The League.” Taped at The Civic Theater in New Orleans, Rannazzisi’s special shows that he is a stand-up husband, dad, and Manchild above all else.

I never watched The League and had never heard of Steve Rannazzisi before his comedy specials showed up on some premium channel or other. Rannazzisi is likeable and hilarious, and this special will be particularly enjoyed by anyone with young children. From the challenges of traveling with kids in tow to the “Dad whistle”, parents are sure to relate to a lot of Rannazzisi’s material. Some great relationship material too.


Kyle Kinane: Loose in Chicago
Filmed at the historic Metro, Kinane addresses the terrestrial woes that plague us all, or none of us whatsoever. A cross section of concealed carry opponents, gout survivors, and historians of personal regret would probably get a kick out of this.

Kyle Kinane is the “voice of Comedy Central”: the guy who does most of the voice-over announcements on that channel. And he’s a terrific comedian in his own right. This is his third special, recorded in his hometown of Chicago. Kinane’s material draws from his own experiences as a fortyish, never-married man, so you won’t find any “having kids is so nuts!” or “take my wife, please!” material here. This is observational and self-deprecating comedy, with the occasional razor-sharp insight thrown in.


Pete Holmes: Nice Try, The Devil
In his first hour-long special on Comedy Central, Pete Holmes perfects his signature silliness. He may look like a youth pastor, but he’s as comfortable talking about religion as he is secretly hating his girlfriend’s friends. This special is McDonald’s.

That last line of the description will make sense after you’ve seen it. Pete Holmes is also an observational humor guy, but he’s got the thirtyish single guy take. So of course there are some great anecdotes about dating, but he’s also got some very funny stories on subjects like his parents, his goofy, “fun Dad” look and persona (even though he’s not a father), and his overly-optimistic routine on nights when he thinks there’s a chance he might be bringing a date back to his apartment.


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Welcome to DMM’s 2/24/17 Freebie Friday! Today I’ve got a classical sampler that’s currently available for pre-order for free, and an album of music for meditation.


The Club Can't Handel Me


Today’s first freebie is The Classical Sampler from Affetto.

9 contemporary Classical tracks from modern composers. Piano, strings, and even some chorale.



Today’s second pick is The 5 Elements of Om Mani Padme Hum. Music for Tai Chi, Qigong, Yoga and Meditation.

Six tracks to cover wood, metal, water, fire, earth and qi elements in meditation, also free as of this writing.


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The Emie Devil Volt Portable Charger, 5200mAh Compact and Stylish Power Bank USB Charger is a stylish and fun way to keep the juice flowing for your mobile devices. Light-up horns show you the status of the current charge at a glance. Looks great on a desk, end table or counter top. Currently (as of 2/23/17) rated 4/5 stars, priced at $35.99-$36.99 depending on color choice.

Advertisements make it possible for Digital Media Mom to bring you great content for free, so thanks for your support.

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