Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Joe reviews: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Hay folks! Here's my review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! Enjoy!
-JOE

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

An AntiAcne Pillow Case? Worth a Try.



So, I listen to 'The Browsers' from a local news/radio/talk station.  They like to cover all sorts of random technological/computer/etc stuff.  On their YouTube channel, they've got lots of videos of them going to the CES this year (Consumer Electronics Show) and checking out all the latest gadgets.  Some things included anti-microbial cell phone glass (to help keep it a bit more sanitary), bike lanes in the sky, and a Poloroid camera.  (Wait, is that a new gadget, or a new one coming back? I'm not sure).

Anyways, I heard on their show one day about a pillow case that fights acne while a person sleeps.  Apparently, pillow cases are a major contributor to acne (along with so many other things, it's a complicated subject).  Anyways, I thought I would try it out.  So far, I haven't seen a big difference.  All I've noticed is that it smells lemony and made my skin tingle.  The company that made it is called Nufabrx.  One pillow case cost me $30.  I'm not even a week into the 'experiment' to see what it will do.  The pillow case will last about 6 months or so.
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I'll have to let you all know how it works.  Maybe a fellow Mormon Geeker can tell me if they see a difference or not.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Balancing Act

First, I would like to congratulate my friend Betsy Schow in receiving a publishing contract for her book Spelled with Sourcebooks. When it comes to print, expect a review here. Now, back to the post.

I recently had a conversation with fellow Mormon Geeker Joe about stability. It got me thinking about my life and how sometimes I feel like stability is just a pipe dream. Mix that with a recent post by a friend of mine that made me think about what I do to balance when I'm feeling negative about myself in my life.

So, this may come as a shock to you, but somehow, I'm an adult. I mean, it doesn't seem that long ago that I was playing Donkey Kong 64 non-stop using the "cheater's guide" to get through every single level because I must have not believed in my ability to figure things out. I used to think that I would never grow up and would end up playing video games in my parents' house. But mostly, that's because all I wanted to do was play.

My wife has a magnet from before we got married, which says, "Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional." Ah, I used to live by this concept. But no matter how much Star Trek: The Next Generation I watched, repeatedly, I was never satisfied with my life. Back then, about 13 years ago, I had no idea what.

It took me a while to figure out what was missing. And by "while", I mean years. See, I served a mission and got married and had children. But all I wanted to do was go back to this teenage time where I was so very lazy. Yeah, I'm still lazy, but I figured out what was missing: balance.

Balance is one of those things that actually leads to happiness. So balance between what? Is this a two-sided scale? No. This is a scale with multiple sides. Or perhaps it's multiple scales with pieces of rice and sometimes a wind blows some of the rice of.

This concept isn't a % of time, idea. For some of us, we work 8-hour days. It's gonna have more time than the others. But making sure we're taking time to take care of our other needs, we are more likely to be on stable footing. Here are my ideas of what we need to balance our lives.

First, we need work. We need something that gives us an opportunity to contribute to society. Yeah, not everyone's job is satisfying. Unfortunately, life is unfair that way. When we do accomplish something good, even at a job we're less than thrilled with, it's an awesome feeling. But you know what they say, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy.

Second, we need relax time. Yes, we need that time to put our feet up and watch a movie. Or binge on a TV show. Maybe it's playing a video game for a few hours or a board/card game. Maybe it's hanging with friends. Perhaps it's reading that book we've been eyeing in the store. Whatever it is, we need that time where we can just take a breath and not worry about life.

Third, we need social interaction. Now this can be accomplished in both of the first two steps. However, please don't confuse "polite chit chat" with "meaningful friendship". I know far too many people who have built "lives" in online gaming or something similar. In the end, it is not their real life. It's like those people in Inception who go to the one guy to "wake up".

Fourth, we need spiritual time. This can be scripture study. Perhaps it's prayer. For some, it's meditation. Whatever it is, if it's boosting your spirit/soul, I recommend it.

Fifth, we need to learn. Anyone who looks at learning as being in a classroom with a pen to a notepaper doodling, get a clue here. There's more to learning than formal education. Perhaps it's reading a non-fiction book. Perhaps it's checking out a website about a particular topic. Wikipedia is a great way to begin research (but never let it end there) if you're serious about the topic.

Sixth, we need hobby time. Yes, this can be accomplished in the second or third (or even fourth or fifth) ideas. Honestly, though, we need something that keeps our interest and takes our mind away from the first, but is active, unlike the ideals in the second. But be careful, if a "hobby" becomes a "life's work", it loses the "hobby" stance and becomes such a chore that it isn't worth doing.

I'm sure there are more than these six to help us be balanced. My current routine is trying to strive to maintain these six ideals. Sometimes, they overlap. Others, they are completely independent of one another. So, I suggest taking a few moments and try to see how these ideas are incorporated. If you have any other ideas, go ahead and comment.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tuning out in church-Update!

So I did it. This week I used my electronic devices for good and used them to pay attention in Elder's Quorum instead of tuning out-and you know what? I didn't get bored! I gained a ton of insight from the lesson and the comments shared, as well as from my own study as the class went on. It was great! Definately recommend giving it a try next Sunday.
-JOE

P.S. If you don't know what on earth I'm talking about click here. :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mars to Stephen

Hey readers!

Coming in March will be the release of a very special movie.  "Which movie?" you ask.  Why, the Veronica Mars movie of course!  Woohoo!

I'm really excited for this movie for a number of different reasons.  The first is that it is being funded primarily by fans from a Kickstarter campaign.  I also love Kristen Bell.  She's a very talented and attractive actress.  The movie is based on the short lived television series of the same name.  All of the actors are reprising their roles and the movie just takes place 10 years after the show's final 3rd season.  I hadn't seen the show before this past week but I heard it was right up my alley.

So, in order to prepare for the movie, I've been watching the first season of Veronica Mars on Amazon Prime.  Let me tell you what I think.

Short version:  I love it.  Go watch it.

Longer version:

The television series Veronica Mars follows our titular hero in her adventures as an unofficial part-time private eye detective and a full-time High School student.  Veronica lives in the fictional small town of Neptune in southern California.  Neptune is home to billionaires and dirt poor lower class.  There isn't much of a middle class.  Veronica used to be with the in crowd of the rich kids at school but everything changed when her best friend Lily Kane was murdered.

Veronica's Dad, the then Sheriff, went after Lily's dad as the murderer and broke the whole town apart because it was considered scandalous.  The town voted Sheriff Mars to resign and he's taken up being a Private Eye with Veronica as his assistant.  (More like partner.)  Veronica has been shunned for standing by her father and is now an outcast at her school.

The series plays a lot like a juicy film noir.  Veronica narrates most of the episodes.  Each episode has a mystery to be solved with a few subtle hints to the overarching plot of Lily's murder.  (Some guy confessed but Mars Investigations doesn't believe he did it.)  The nice thing is that I haven't gotten bored with any of the episodes.  The mystery of the week doesn't take away from the main conflict and vice versa.  The characters are well developed and have great chemistry.  Shows like these tend to have two dimensional characters but I don't feel that's what is happening here.  Logan is your typical spoiled rich kid but beneath the surface has a lot of wounds that really humanize him.

The show also has great dialogue.  Fans of Joss Whedon would swear he was a ghost writer for this show.  (He wasn't but he is a big fan and guest starred in an episode!)  You could say Veronica Mars is the lovechild of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Nancy Drew.  Just switch out the supernatural for film noir and call it good.

I'm almost done with the first season and can't wait to finish it off and eventually see the movie.  The show definitely has my recommendation for any of you who aren't marshmallows.  (Fans of the show.)  Any fans out there want to sh

out out their excitement for the movie?  Comment below!

-Stephen

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tuning out in church


My elders quorum president made an interesting observation on Sunday. He said that during elders quorum he watched the men’s heads drop like in a game of “Guess Who”. I’ve noticed this phenomenon before, and sadly I’m not exempt from it. Look around a church meeting sometime and you’re guaranteed to see it. Nearly everyone is looking down… at a phone.

I shouldn’t generalize. I look at my tablet. Now I known you can get the scriptures on everything from a smartphone to an Easy Bake Oven, but peek at the screens. Most often I see Facebook. Next is texts, then various games, then occasionally scriptures. Unless of course the teacher asks the class to read, then it’s a scramble to get to the right page.


My question isn’t whether or not it’s bad, because it’s certainly not good. It’s also not new. Before my tablet I had my sketch book, and back in the day I snuck Gameboy time during sacrament (and I still may with my DS, don’t judge). My question is can anything really be done?

Like I said, I’m just as guilty, my screens usually got Facebook or puzzles. To be honest I can’t remember what the lesson was on Sunday. As I write this I can see the journals a young pre-mission Joe wrote in during every Sunday school class, elders quorum, sacrament, institute class and fireside. Sure I’d text sketch and train my Pokemon, but my first priority was my journal.

So is there a way I can get back to that and if so how?

I know some would say to just go back to the old giant paper quad and teachings of the prophets manual, but despite my FB addiction I actually do use my tablet for my calling. Plus I think technology can be a great teaching tool in the gospel, when used right.
That being said, here’s my thought: Why can’t the same technology used to distract from Sunday lessons be used to help us pay attention? Cliché’ sounding I know but stick with me here. Besides the scriptures and teaching manual, think of all the awesomeness the internet can bring to a lesson. An endless supply of talks, Ensign stories, movie quotes and just flat out C.S. Lewis stuff. What would Sunday School be like with each member taking the lesson to new highs using their cell phones and tablets?
So here’s my missionary-ish challenge: If you’re like me and completely tuned out last Sunday into the world of Angry Birds, texting your mom, or training your Charizard, try something new this Sunday: Listen to the lesson and the first time the teacher asks a question they figure they’re going to either get a primary answer or none at all and see if you can find something on your device to add to the lesson.  I’m doing it this Sunday. See what you feel after the class. Is it the same feeling as last week? Is it the same as completing a level on Plague Inc?
Let us know.

-JOE

P.S. Harry Potter reviews next week! :D

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

By fan request: Harry Potter retro review

Hay folks! I started a series several months ago that I never got around to finishing where I talked about the Harry Potter series. A Mormongeeks fan (Who also happens to be one of the best men at my upcoming wedding) asked that I finish the series. So that's going to be coming up next week. Till then I wanted to go back and review what I've got so far. Enjoy!
-JOE

Monday, January 13, 2014

New Doctor Who Fan

A few years ago, I watched the series/season one premier of what I refer to as the modern Doctor Who. Yes, I know that Christopher Eccleston is the 9th doctor and not a revamped 1st. So no worries, Whovians (or whatever the Doctor Who equivalent is to Trekkie), I am paying attention.

However, I didn't watch it again for a while. Then, on New Year's Eve, my wife and I started watching the one serial available on Netflix for the first doctor (yes, the one from 1964). We got interrupted and didn't finish it (and my wife didn't find it interesting enough). But the next day, we watched the season 6 premier with Matt Smith as the 11th doctor.







Since then, I've gone ahead and watched the only serials on Netflix available for the 1st and 2nd doctors. I've started the premier of the 3rd doctor's story. And my wife and I are more than halfway through Christopher Eccleston's sole series/season on Netflix. So, that means I've seen 5 of the doctors in action. Well, 4 because I haven't really seen the 3rd doctor do much. And even though I've watched Matt Smith, Christopher Eccleston, and William Hartness, I must admit that Patrick Troughton was my favorite in the limited amount of The Doctor that I've seen. Yes, I know that David Tenant is supposedly the best out of all of them. And in a few weeks (or less) I'm sure I'll see him as The Doctor.

So, the one serial on Netflix of the first Doctor was, in my opinion, well-written for what it was. I just wish they would have more of the first doctor's escapades. Yes, I understand a few of them are missing, but not all of them. And really, in the first 2 seasons, very few are actually missing. Sadly there are a lot of missing episodes that will hopefully one day be found. But still, the series (both classic and modern) are pretty awesome. Yeah, graphics (and decent choreography for a fight scene) would help the originals. But honestly, what can you expect from the 1960s?

I will now continue this interest of Doctor Who. But before some of you go "He's jumping on the bandwagon", I'm curious to know how I could start watching a show that's interested me for the past 15 years without looking like jumping on the bandwagon. Heh? Go ahead. No, I'm doing this because I love sci-fi and fantasy. I'm a nerd/geek. I've been more interested lately, but don't have time to always watch (as I have a bunch of items in my to-watch list.) But for right now, The Doctor (and all his versions) will be my current television obsession.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Six Seasons and a Movie

Hey Everyone!

Today is Thursday which means my favorite TV show will be airing tonight, Community!  Community is an unconventional situation comedy about 7 individuals who find themselves washed up at Greendale Community College.  They become a family of sorts as they form a study group and bring together very different world views.  Last week was the premiere of the 5th season.

Hold up, 5 seasons?  Aren't people normally in College for 4 years?  Yes, you would be right.  So, let's do a quick recap of last week's premiere. (Spoilers Ahead)

Season 5 opens up with Jeff Winger's commercial advertising his attorney skills.  We zoom out from the screen showing the commercial to see Jeff Winger unshaven and having his possessions taken away.  He ends up back in Greendale at first to get evidence against a graduate who has become the defendant of a shady bridge accident case.   What ends up happening is that he runs into his old study group and finds that all of them have been out of work and having a rough time since graduation.

Jeff then mischievously convinces them to take legal action against the school for their bogus degrees.  The group follows suite and end up destroying the table they studied on.  Jeff experiences a change of heart when he sees a Hologram of the late(?) Pierce talking about the new museum and how Greendale is a place to find yourself again.  Jeff remembers all of the memories he had with his study group at Greendale and goes back to them to convince them to not take legal action.  To instead, enroll at Greendale so they can find themselves.

The group agrees and Jeff becomes a teacher.  He includes co-worker Professor Buzz Hickey (Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks) as part of the group.  (Replacing Pierce in a way.  And thank goodness.)

Prof. Hickey shows Jeff the ropes of being a teacher at Greendale.
(End Spoilers)

I'm looking forward to tonight's episode.

I'm also excited for this new year.

The season premiere of Community definitely comments on current events.  This day and age is a bad time to be a college graduate.  The work force is oversaturated with talented people and a lot of college grads are actually going back to school or picking up a trade.  The economy is in a rough spot for everyone.

For me, 2013 was an extremely challenging year.  I found myself more discouraged than I had been before.  My last semester in school was the most difficult semester I had ever experienced.  I've been as optimistic as I could but found myself in negativity whenever I rested my head for sleep.  Most of the time, I couldn't get quality sleep.

2014 is a new start.  Like the characters in Community, I get a fresh start and I don't need to think about the past but simply take the lessons I've learned from it.  As Inara said, "A challenge is an opportunity in disguise."  2014 and the rest of life will be challenging.  It always will be.  Sure, it's easy to feel like a failure if you find yourself going back to school or

not getting the job you want.  For me, I actually failed a class last semester.  I never fail classes.  The thing about failure is that it isn't a dead end, it's a part of the journey to success.  Failure does hurt and takes some time to learn from and move away from but that's exactly why new beginnings like a new season or a new year are so important.

Community has often had a sword floating above it's head of potentially getting cancelled.  The cast and crew started to promote the television series with #sixseasonsandamovie.  They are so dedicated to the show they won't stop until they've had six seasons and a Community movie.  I think this is an attitude that I want to have in my life.  I don't want to give up.  I want to keep going whether I fail a class or lose an internship.  We can learn from our past we don't have to be slaves to it.

Hope you take advantage of this New Year and embrace every opportunity that comes in disguise.  What are some challenges you have overcome?  Got a favorite moment from Community?  Comment below!

-Stephen



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Joe's Board Game Reviews: Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures

Hay folks! We got a request to review a board game and luckily enough I've played it! So here's Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures! Enjoy!
-JOE