Wednesday, June 13, 2012

With so many sodas out there why do gamers do the Dew?

First off, let me apologize for my column not being here in awhile. I appreciate all of those out there that take the time to stop by on Thursday and read my column and I hope I didn’t disappoint you.

It was a hard week few months.
Excuses aside, my ideas for what to write about that week were also pretty dry and how many times can I do the “what am I going to write about this week” columns?

That brings me to this week.

Have you ever noticed how many gamers live and die by the amount of Mountain Dew they consume? Why is that?

When Diablo 3 was getting ready to drop, all of the posts on the message boards read basically the same way.

“Dude, I need to go stock up on <insert random snack here> and Mountain Dew before Diablo 3 drops! Woo Hoo”!

It got me thinking, and that can be a dangerous thing, why Mountain Dew? How come everyone wasn’t hitting up Starbuck’s or getting their Mello Yello freak on?

No, it is always Mountain Dew.

There were even special “World of Warcraft” Mountain Dew Game Fuel flavors where you could “choose your side” either Horde or  Alliance.

I have even seen websites devoted to bringing these flavors back periodically ala McDonald’s McRib.
That still doesn’t solve my original question, why The Dew?

It isn’t like it tastes incredible. I find it to be a bit sweet.

Me, I am a Mello Yello fan all the way. But I also know that Mello Yello isn’t available everywhere.

I also keep hearing people say that Mountain Dew has “more caffeine” than any other popular soft drink.

Actually Pepsi Max has 69 mg of caffeine as compared to 54 mg in Mountain Dew, so that isn’t true either.

Plus Pepsi Max is a low calorie soda so we gamers could get the caffeine rush and not have to worry about our waistlines. BONUS!

In the end, I think it has a little to do with the marketing ploy about how “cool x-gamers” were all about “doing the Dew”. Remember those commercials.

Since most gamers, including myself, find ourselves stationed in front of a computer or game console for an exuberant amount of hours, longing to belong to a group that excels at snowboarding or BMX isn’t that far fetched.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to be Shawn White ripping down a mountain with his curly red locks flapping in the breeze.

But I digress.

But my point is, Mountain Dew and gaming are a match made in marketing heaven. As long as there are gamers, there will always be Mountain Dew.

Maybe, that will change in the future, but I don’t see it happening. Mountain Dew is a part of the gaming culture now and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So where ever there is a game launch, Mountain Dew will be there, somewhere.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Car you go with brand new or settle for good and used?

 So, my wife and I have been thinking about replacing our old girl for awhile. That girl would happen to be our good ole reliable Chrysler LHS.

What we are looking for is a car that gets exceptional gas mileage, doesn’t have five hundred billion miles on it, and doesn’t cost ten million dollars.

Plus getting to that point, we have a few other stumbling blocks to consider.

We don’t want to start a payment plan  and if we do, we don’t want it to tax our budget to its limits.

Also, we don’t have tens of thousands of dollars just lying around to throw at any car we want and pay for it in full.

That would be nice it just isn’t the reality that I live in.

So what is a thrifty couple to do?

I mean we could settle for an older model with some extra mileage on it. Then, of course, we have to hope and pray that it will last until Declan’s graduation. (He is 18 months old)

The other option is to go all in. Find the car of our dreams and try, somehow, to fit that car payment into our budget.

Of course, then all we are doing is, for the most part, paying out little for the actual car and more on interest itself.

That is fine and dandy but since the car loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot, that seems like a hard pill to swallow even though many people do just that every day.

Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that those that get a car, get a loan, and pay for it with their hard earned money are doing anything wrong. I am just saying, for some of us, it just doesn’t work.

Plus Dave Ramsey would reach up from the photo below and slap me across the face for going against everything I learned at his conference that my wife and I attended a few years ago.

He, of course, would say buy something that runs and will get you from point A to point B that you can pay 100% for right now.

Then, while driving around in the car you settled for, you can put the money you would have been paying out towards another, more expensive car, into an interest earning account, or pay off your debt snowball, etc., etc.

Those that read this column on a weekly basis, for whom I am communicating with more and more (thank you all), know that I have a hard time waiting for new and shiny things.

Me in a car lot (or electronics department) is like Gollum from Lord of the Rings in a jewelry store. “My Precious”!

Plus there are so many good and honest dealerships in town, where do I even start? 

It is a conundrum that wears on me with each passing moment.

Luckily I have a bright and caring woman taking care of most of the leg work on this situation. I don’t think I have seen a more devoted and dedicated researcher in my lifetime. It is actually pretty cute to see her go through all the pros and cons of every vehicle we even have a passing interest in.

So if you see me out on one of the lots in town, feel free to honk the horn or even stop in and give me your two cent opinion on anything and everything related to a car I am looking at or one that you recommend. Too much information is always better than not any at all.

Hey everybody, Star Wars is coming out...again, but in 3D!

So, after reading a friend’s column from this past week, I was struck with inspiration. I am going to talk Star Wars this week. Thanks Megan!

As most of you are probably aware, especially after the onslaught of trailers, Star Wars is being rereleased, again. Only this time in 3D.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 3D opens up tomorrow as the onslaught begins.

So it made me wonder, how many of you out there are actually looking forward to it?

For me, I think it will be an interesting experience. Though I am      still trying to decide whether or not my oldest child is old enough to go with me or not.

Since their release, a few of the diehards out there have panned Episode 1-3 as the “George Lucas has lost his mind and only wants money now” trilogy. It will be interesting to see what that sector of fandom will think a second time around.

Honestly, I really despised Phantom Menace when I first saw it. Jar Jar Binks really annoyed me and the movie seemed to move along at a snail’s pace.

And don’t get me started on the horrible representation of Yoda or “Stoner Yoda” as this interpretation of the Jedi Master has been refered to by some.

Then years later, I recently took out my old Phantom Menace DVD and rewatched it for the first time since my original movie-going experience.

I must admit, I actually enjoyed it. Maybe it was because I had no preconceived notion about how great it was going to be or maybe I am just getting softer in my old age.


Whether we like it again or not isn’t really the obvious question this time around. That should be: What will George Lucas change this time around?

Hopefully he will change the aforementioned Yoda to the crisp, well-animated Yoda from Episode’s 2 & 3.

That change right there would change my opinion of Episode 1.

Will he put in a ton of “extra” scenes that made their way to the cutting room floor during post-production like the Jabba the Hut scene in Episode 4? That would be an awesome bonus.

One part of Episode 1 that doesn’t need to be tampered with, messed with, or even minorly revamped is  the lightsaber battle featuring Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul.

Oh man, that was AWESOME! The best Jedi vs. Sith fight scene ever!

If Lucas even, so much as, distorts that in any way, I will be disappointed. Like the scene where Obi-Wan (SPOILER ALERT) beats Darth Maul by cutting him in half, keep your hands off Lucas!

Much like the Han Solo vs. Greedo scene from Episode 4, some things are better off left alone.
But it is George Lucas and he just can’t seem to leave certain things untouched.

Either way, much like the rest of you, I will make my way to the theater with hopes of living out my glory days of geekdom on screen. Maybe I can even pass along a little of my joy of the Star Wars universe to the next generation of Darlings.

But if Liam ends up liking Jar Jar Binks, he and I will have to have a talk.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My first venture into the tablet world with Amazon’s Kindle Fire

It has been a few weeks since I wrote about anything tech related  so back to it.

For those that read some of my earlier articles, I was one of those unlucky few that hadn’t ventured out into the tablet world just yet.

Try as I might I couldn’t justify plopping down a load of cash on something that I just felt I didn’t need. Wanted, yes, but need...well...

Then I ran into the problem of trying to do tech troubleshooting via my small 4 inch smart phone screen. So my wife and I talked about it and I was given a budget on finding something a little bit more practical for when I need to do some quick research. And do it without booting up the laptop or hogging the desktop.

Enter the Kindle Fire.

At $199 it fit right into the budget I was comfortable with in terms of want & need. Plus it left some money on said budget for a case and screen protection.

Also, it was big enough to be functional but not so big that I couldn’t shove it into the pockets of my cargo pants. Portability, for me, is a big selling point.

So price and functionality are just a couple of big benefits of the Kindle Fire tablet.

A few of the other features I like about the Kindle Fire are Amazon’s Cloud Drive and it’s free app of the day.

Let me get into the cloud storage first.

With the Kindle Fire you are given 8 Gigs of storage on the device. After the Operating System and preloaded apps, you are left with approximately 6 Gigs.

That doesn’t seem like a lot considering you can expand your storage on most Android based tablets.
That is where the Amazon Cloud Drive comes in.

You are given, anybody is, 5 Gigs of space to access through either the Amazon website or directly through your Kindle Fire. For a minimal fee you can quickly add an addition 20 gigs for another $20 a year. Plus you never have to worry about losing those pesky mini-SD cards.

Then there is the free-app-of-the-day program. Every day Amazon offers an app that you would usually pay for, for free. So just check the app site every morning and download that free app and store in your Cloud Drive or directly onto your Fire.

Now this device isn’t perfect. It doesn’t come with a camera or GPS. I know those are some major selling points for consumers out there. (For me, I get that in my smart phone and just didn’t need it in my tablet.)

Another issue is the limited amount of apps available through Amazon. You, the consumer, have access to only a smidgen of the hundreds of thousand apps available on the Android market.

Though it has some limitations, the Kindle Fire has a price point you just can’t beat and it is very easy to use. For those that are looking for a tablet that doesn’t have a steep learning curve, this may be the one for you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

If you think I look bad, you should see the other guy!

First off, let me start by saying that I was going to talk about the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) but something weird happened. The online community rose up and convinced Congress that this wasn’t a good idea.

Both of these Acts have been killed off in Congress. YES! Way to go internet! I told you we could do it.

Just keep your eyes and ears open for the new Act that has cropped up, the Online Protection & ENformcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN).

Don’t know enough about it yet to give an informed opinion but after I do some reading about it, I will pass on my ideas of what I think about it in a later column, if this Act lasts that long.

*   *   *

Now about my face...

It was a cold and dreary Tuesday morning. Having fought back a fever for most of the night, I engaged in the act of an animal owner and went to let the dog out.

Little did I know what my day had in store for me.

As I opened the door to let him out, the confrontation between two immovable objects began.

Knowing my opponent for as long  as I did, I dodged and weaved to the best of my ability but to know avail.

It dropped me with one knock out blow and I lay in a huddled mass on the cement having gone head first to the ground.

Luckily for me I wasn’t out that long and that the dog had already  made his way back into the house.

No I didn’t do battle with an unseen assailant, I actually had passed out from the exhaustion of battling an illness the night before.

I picked myself off the cement, determined to not let this beat me. I went directly to the couch to assess my injury.

My face and knee both stung and I knew that meant I had landed pretty hard.

Upon checking my face in the mirror I noticed the bruising and scrapes around my eyes. It looked like I had done battle or at least been pushed down the stairs by my wife. But no, just me and the cement.

I quickly ran (hobbled) down the hallway and sat down next to my wife and proceeded to wake her up and tell her the tragic tale. Part of me knew she would be a little disturbed by what had transpired but she is my rock and she quickly sprang into action to get things taken care of so we could make our way to the emergency room.

There I would receive great care from the trained staff at our local hospital. To those helpful nurses, techs, radiologists, staff members, and doctors, I say thank you. You made the experience less painful with your care and clever whit to keep a smile on my beaten face.

So there you have it. My run in with the cement slab in front of my house.

And yes I checked when I got home. Though my face was a bruised mess, there wasn’t a scratch or crack to be seen on the slab much to my dismay.

Because we all would like to think that we could crack cement with our faces.

So the other guy, well he looks just fine. As for me, I will live to fight another day.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

That's right, I'm Abe Froman, The Sausage King of Chicago

Do you remember when you would celebrate a sick day home from school? 

I know I did. I loved it when I was sick as a kid.

The main reason being that my immune system in my young body would kick the disease out of my system by noon, so the rest of the day would be play, play, play.

Be it video games, watching television, or just getting into my brothers’ personal items to see what kind of stuff I could find to blackmail them with later, there was always something to do to keep me entertained.

Plus, back then, we all wanted to be like Ferris Bueller and have an elaborate scheme in place for skipping off to a baseball game in the middle of the school week.

Speaking of Ferris, how many of you tried the clammy-hand  trick that Ferris gave us?

You know the one where you fake a stomach cramp, and while bent over, you lick your palms.

Heck, I tried it and it worked a few times. Then my mom saw the movie...and well, let’s just say it didn’t work after that.

Fast forward a few years and I feel more like Cameron Frye now than I do like Ferris Bueller.

Just this past week I got a stomach virus from someone in my family. Try as I might I couldn’t work the full day, so I went home early.

As I got home I felt more like singing “When Cameron was in Egypt's land... let my Cameron go!” then finding some way to sneak off to do something to celebrate the extra time away from my responsibilities.

That is the trouble with growing older, you start to put things into a new perspective especially when your immune system isn’t as awesome as it once was.

You would rather cuddle up under a warm blanket and nap then break out the computer games for an all-day gamerama!

Plus, I missed out on hanging out with my kids and wife. Because I didn’t want to get them sick with what I had, they had to be kept at arms length so they would stay healthy.

It would break my heart when one of the boys would try to crawl up in bed with me or sit with me in the recliner and I had to tell them no.

So the moral of this column is that I don’t like to get sick anymore. Having to miss time with my wife and kids just isn’t worth it.

Also, I missed my geek night out with the guys and that is just unexceptable!

I know I don’t have any control on whether I will get hit with a flu bug or some kind of stomach virus, so it is not like I can will myself to be healthy for the rest of my life.

What I can do is try to eat better, get plenty of rest, and try to avoid every sick person in a two-county radius.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The pen is mightier than the sword, but what about the pencil?

So welcome to the year 2012. I hope it lasts longer than 2011 did.

They say that the older you get the shorter the years last. That is no lie.

But anyway...

So here we are in the new year. With that new year comes a whole new slew of resolutions.

You have the usual suspects like: going to lose weight, going to work harder at my job, going to spend less money and save more, etc. etc.

Though these are all great resolutions and ones that I have made and broken countless times, I have decided to go a different route.

I have decided that  I am going to write more.

No, no, I am not talking about sitting at a computer desk and typing out a quick email to let everyone know the latest and greatest events happening in my life.

No, I am talking about getting out a sheet of paper and a pencil (because I can’t commit to the pen) and write someone, anyone.

Why you may ask?

For one, I miss it. I really do. Don’t you miss getting to your mail box and being excited about a letter you got from a friend?

In a world where your mailbox overflows with bills and credit card “approval” letters, wouldn’t it be great to get an actual letter from someone you know and love? 

And I am not talking about a Christmas or birthday card.

I mean an actual “hey how have you been, this is what is happening with my life, I miss you a lot, write back soon” kind of letter.

So my goal this year, and I want you guys to hold me to it, is to write at least one letter a month.

This isn’t a lofty goal and it is one that should be easy to reach.

The hard part is going to be putting aside all the electronic wonderments that adorn my person.

Will I long for my smart phone, laptop, iPod or Kindle Fire (oh yeah I got my tablet finally) as I try to put all my words and phrases down on paper like I did so many years ago when the world was a simpler place?

Knowing me, probably.

But I am going to do it because I know that the person on the other side of that letter is going to appreciate it more. Hopefully this will garner a response and not by text message or Facebook wall post. 

Then I can go to my mailbox with the hope and joy of expecting something new and exciting and not enclosed in a box from Amazon.

Though those smiley faced boxes will still come and be enjoyed as well.

Who knows? Maybe this will be a new trend that will catch on like Facebook or texting. I mean really, who writes real letters any more.

Well, starting this month, I do. And I hope and pray that more of you do too. You will be surprised at how much you missed it just the way I know I will as well.