Friday, December 25, 2009

2009 Christmas Booty (and thoughts)

So, here's my haul for 2009

As tradition dictates, a pint of Jack Daniel's from my Mom

a replica of the infamous leg lamp from “A Christmas Story”

Old Spice gift set

Casino” on DVD

Tropic Thunder” on DVD

Echoes of War: The Music of Blizzard Entertainment” CD boxed set

Hershey's Extra Dark Chocolate Assortment

Picture frame with a picture of my niece and Santa

A fancy picture frame

GreenAir Scented Reed Diffuser

Tankard O' Terror replica stein

$35 worth of BestBuy gift cards

Jelly Belly jelly beans

a pack of Handkerchiefs

a 4-Seasonings Sampler Pack (popcorn seasonings)

Heel Tastic (because I have very dry, crusty skin on my heels)

(note: some of the above were tagged as being to both my wife and myself)

Now, every year I post the list of what I got for Christmas on my blog. I don't do it so much so say “Hey, look at what I got!” but more to help me remember what I received and to remember to be thankful for it. I have to admit, this year I wasn't in a very Christmas-sy mood. At the beginning of Christmas week, I was really just ready for it to be over with so I could go back to my regularly scheduled routine. After last night's annual family gathering, and watching all the kids get excited about Christmas and Santa Clause, I have to admit, I'm very glad I overcame my Grinchy outlook. But let us not forget what Christmas, and the holiday season is about. For Christians it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. For Pagans, it's the Winter Solstice. For Jews it is the commemoration of the re rededication of the Holy Temple. But, whatever your religious persuasion (or even lack thereof), the season itself is about peace, goodwill, generosity – in other words, all that is good about humanity. Instead, what we get is rudeness, selfishness and greed as everyone clamors for gifts and the retailers gladly take your hard earned money without a care. I guess that's why I wanted Christmas to be over this year – it just wasn't seeming very jolly with all the stress. Why have we let what is supposed to be the best time of the year become one of the worst? Think about that for the next 365 days, and maybe next year Christmas can be a lot less stressful and a whole lot more peaceful!

Merry Christmas!

~ JC

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Droid Part 2

About a month ago I wrote a blog about my new Motorola Droid, which I had only had for a day. I've now had it for about thirty days, so I'm here to give you an update on how it's performed. Hope you find it helpful. If nothing else, I've updated my blog as promised :-) (again, sorry this is a week late).

Battery Life

I'll begin with the battery life, because that's usually a sticking point for a lot of people on their mobile devices. Let's just call it like it is: the battery life could be much better. However, this is true of all modern mobile devices and cellphones, most especially with smartphones. To put it simply, my take is that the technology available for mobile phones has reached a point that they are surpassing the battery technology available to them. The first couple of days I had the Droid, the battery life just plain sucked. The device would be down to 20% of battery life by the end of the day, almost without exception. Keep in mind, though, that I was spending a lot more time using and playing with the phone that first few days than would be considered normal usage for me as I familiarized myself with how it worked and downloaded various apps for it. By the end of the second week my usage had become a bit more normal, and now the battery is down to only about 50% by the end of the day (by end of the day, I mean by the time I'm plugging it in to charge and heading to bed).

Smartphones in general have shorter battery lives than the average, standard cellphone mainly due to the fact that they are performing lots of tasks in the background even when they are not actively in use for a phone call, surfing the web or text messaging, etc. So, the lesser battery life isn't a deal breaker, it just means you'll want to make sure you have a way to charge it often (vehicle charger for example) even if you are away from home.

Bluetooth Functionality

I've been using Bluetooth enabled headsets for years. I've always used a headset while driving, and I loved when Bluetooth came out so I could have a wireless headset and not have to worry about getting things tangled up while in the car. The Bluetooth functionality on the Droid leaves a little be desired, however. The sound quality is just fine; it's really neither any better nor worse than the sound quality I've had with other phones. The issue I have with Bluetooth on the Droid is that there appears to be no support for the headsets multifunction button. I cannot answer a call with the headset, control call waiting with the headset, or activate voice dial with the headset. This is rather annoying to be honest. One of the things I've always loved about Bluetooth is being able to tap the button on the headset and say something like “Call Rob” and the phone would call my friend Rob without me having to touch the phone itself. With the Droid, I have to tap the voice dial icon on the touchscreen, then say “Call Rob” then select it from the list of items the Droid thinks I meant. Not really very safe if you're driving at 75mph on the interstate, y'know? So, I'd like to see Google fix that in future patches of the Android OS. Those of you who don't use Bluetooth, of course, probably won't care about this though.

Music Player

This is the one where I take some umbrage with some of the reviews I read about the Droid prior to buying it. The music player works exactly as it should; it plays music. What else do you want? Some reviews panned how the music player's UI looked or functioned. I see no issue with it. It lists your music by artist, song, album or by playlists. I fail to see how a music player could really do anymore than that. Do you want it to display album covers too? Why? You're not really going to be looking down at the thing while lisetnig to music, it's going to be in your pocket or holster. In short, it functions as a music player and that's all that is really needed – moving on.


Without going into a long diatribe on this, I'll just say that the volume on the Droid is beyond impressive. I actually have to turn the volume down when I'm at home and the phone is sitting on my desk. At full volume (actually, not even quite full volume) I can hear my phone ring when I'm at work, and I work in a leather shop where we have some pretty loud equipment running at times (air compressor, belt sanders). I even was able to use the music player in my car one day when I was unable to find a suitable radio station and the generic cradle I have basically covers up the phone's external speaker.


The touchscreen is very responsive and very easy to see, even when standing outdoors. In fact, it's almost to good. I've found myself tapping icons by just hovering my finger over the screen to close. My only real beef with the screen is that it is very prone to smudges and I have to clean it fairly often.


Ok, let's get down to the nitty gritty here, the Apps for Android. The real reason anyone would get a smartphone like the Droid (or the iPhone) is the ability to customize it with apps, right? Ok, maybe that's not the driving reason for getting a phone like this, but it's definitely a big factor in how this phone functions for its individual owners. When I got the phone, there were an estimated 10,000 apps available in the Android Market; there are now around 20,000. So, there are lots of things to choose from, some bad, some good, some great, and some just downright stupid/useless. In the last thirty or so days, I've downloaded dozens of apps. Some I still use, but I've also deleted several. In fact, I'd say I've deleted more apps than I've kept. I don't want to drag this out, because I realize that I've probably lost a few readers by now, and, let's be honest, I've already written one blog on this topic, and this one is getting a little long winded itself. So, I'll give you my list of what I'm currently using and let you deicide for yourself.

  • Dolphin Browser – the stock Android browser appears to be Safari Mobile. It works, but I really like Dolphin better since it has tabbed browsing and supports the ability to use dual touch for zooming in and out like the iPhone does. It also has shortcuts to various Google services built into it.

  • Documents to Go – available in both a free and paid version. The free version allows you to view Word and Excel documents. The paid version allows you to not only view, but also edit Word, Excel and Power Point documents as well as view PDF documents. It normally sells for $29.99 USD, but I managed to catch it on sale for only $9.99 so I bought the full version.

  • Astro – this is almost a must have app. The one thing about the Android OS that falls short is that it has no built in way to manage files on either the device or the micro-SD card without plugging it into you computer via the USB cable. Astro gives you that ability.

  • Astrid – simply put, it's a to do list app, but the reason I chose this one over others is because it has built in sync capabilities with the very popular Remember the Milk web based to do list without having to subscribe to the full version of RtM in order to use RtM's own app (if you subscribe to RtM, then you'll probably want to use their app as I would think the sync and integration would be better).

  • MySpace Mobile – self explanatory I think. I actually almost like using this better than the actual MySpace (to bad Facebook mobile isn't as well done).

  • Yellowbook – basically an app for using

  • Assistant Free – for those of you who use Page Once, you'll want this one as it is there mobile app for Android. It is also available in a paid version. I went with the free version because, while I like Page Once, I don't use it extensively.

  • Pandora – free Internet radio. You do have to create an account, but then you can log into at home or work via any web browser in addition to on your phone (caution, this is one of those apps that will drain the battery over time because it is streaming music over either a 3G or Wi-Fi Internet connection)

  • Aldiko – one of dozens of eBook readers available in the Android Market – if you especially love classic literature, this a good thing to have.

  • Bible – there are tons of Bible apps in the Marketplace. The one I chose simply calls itself “Bible” and contains pretty much every English translation of the Bible that I've ever heard of, plus I few I didn't know about. Has a daily reading feature for those of you who try to read through the entire Bible in a year, bookmarks, and adjustable font size. For those of you who are Catholic, however, it does not include the Apocryphal Old Testament Books. In fact, I'm not sure if I remembered seeing one that did.

  • Games – I've downloaded three games; two different chess apps and one solitaire app that has four different versions of solitaire (standard, spider, free cell and one called “forty thieves”)

  • Barcode Scanner – allows you to scan a barcode on an item and then searches Google for the items so you can do price comparison shopping while standing in the store

  • Zedge – a great app for free wallpapers and ringtones to customize your phone

  • Key Ring – eliminates all those little cards on your keyring by allowing you to scan them and store them in your phone instead.

  • Twidroid – syncs with Twitter for those of you who like to Tweet

  • Weather Channel – an app by The Weather Channel – need I say more? (it will use the phone's built in GPS to give you weather for your current location, or you can manually enter a city or zip code)

  • Quick Tip Calculator – enter the amount of your restaurant/bar bill, the percentage of tip you want to leave, and how many ways to split it, and voila! It tells you how much each person needs to leave to cover the tab and tip

  • United States Constitution – like the Bible app, there are dozens. The one I have also includes The Declaration of Independence as well as other historical documents (I just think everyone should have a copy of the US Constitution)

  • NFL and NHL – both of these “apps” basically are shortcuts to those league's respective mobile sites for scores, standings and news

And that pretty much covers what I'm currently using. Note, this is just the list of apps I've downloaded; it does not include the apps that came pre-installed in the device. If you compare this list to the list in part one of this series, then you'll see that there were some that I no longer have listed. As I mentioned above, I've had a lot of apps that didn't make the cut, some didn't even stay on my phone more than five or ten mintues (like the virtual bubble wrap – fun for a minute or two, but then just useless).

So, there it is, the final in my two part series on the Motorola Droid. I hope you enjoyed it and that it helps you make your own informed decision on next cellphone upgrade.

~ JC

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Appologies

I realize I had promised a detailed review of the Motorola Droid for this week's blog. Alas, I was quite overcome by an extreme feeling of fatigue and spent the entire day in bed. In fact, I'm still feeling pretty icky. So, I will try to either have that for you next week, or I'll work on it throughout the week and get it posted asap.

~ JC

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Goin' Old School

Sometimes it is the simpler things in life that give the most enjoyment. I have often blogged about my experiences with playing Massively Multilayer Online (MMO) Role Playing Games (RPGs), namely World of Warcraft (WoW). Within the last two to three weeks, however, I have logged into WoW only a few times, finding myself getting very bored, very fast. I started playing WoW over a year ago as a way of being able to game with my friends who are now scattered all over the U.S. with whom I would have been playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) or some other similar “paper & ink” RPG. The problem with computer based games, whether online or not, is that once maximum level is obtained, there generally becomes a limited amount of content to experience, at least until the next patch or expansion is released. It is this fact that lead my best friend and I to seek a way to play D&D despite the fact that he lives in Atlanta, GA, and I live in Fayetteville, NC (to spare you having to find a map, that's roughly a 6-8 hour drive or about 370 miles; not exactly conducive to being able to sit at each other's kitchen tables once a week. To further exacerbate the situation, everyone else in our gaming group was just as far away or farther from both of us (one in Charlotte, NC and another in Michigan!). So, this is about how we found a way to go old school RPG in the information super-highway age.

Goin' Old School in New Ways

As I mentioned before, we were beginning to get bored with WoW; no new content had been added in a couple of months nor was scheduled to be released until weeks later. We also found ourselves in a guild that seemed to be unable to move forward on high level raiding content due to scheduling conflicts, and our efforts to find a guild to raid resulted in basically finding people who were, shall we say, less than friendly (i.e., they were douche bags). So, we decided to check out Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO), mainly because it had just changed to being a “free to play” MMORPG. Playing DDO made me feel nostalgic for the old days, and I began mentioning to both Rob and Jere that I wished we could find a way to play D&D via a chat room or something (yeah, I know, chat rooms are so 90s). Our search netted us to pieces of software to aid us, Ventrilo (which we had been using with WoW anyway) and OpenRPG. “Vent” would give us the ability to talk to each other, while OpenRPG would give us a virtual table top on which to place (digital) miniatures and roll our dice. Perfect! Some additional hunting on my part turned up a program called Redblade, that not only is a D&D character creation program, but allows for export to a standard HTML document, making it very easy to share character sheets via email. Now we just had to get the group together.

We're Rollin' Now

I'm not going to drag out all the details of the few weeks it took us to put it all together learning how to use Redblade and OpenRPG to our satisfaction, Rob getting his server setup for us to be able to use Ventrilo without having to buy server space, relearning the 3.5 edition D&D rules, finding people to play, etc., etc. Suffice it to say, it eventually went off without a much of a hitch. Last night was the first time in years I've been able to play D&D or anything else like it, and I have to say, it was pretty awesome. Sure, it lacked some of the nuance of sitting around a kitchen table in someone's house where we could all drink beer, eat mass quantities of chips and just enjoy each others company as we enjoyed the game, but still, being able to get together with old friends who share the hobby of gaming is fun no matter how it's accomplished. We figure from here the sky's the limit. OpenRPG isn't D&D specific; it's just a virtual table top with virtual dice rollers. There are a plethora of RPGs out there that we used to play. It's just a matter of pulling them all out of storage and refreshing our memories and our imaginations. It's not high tech. It's not all noise and lights and endless questing for better gear. It's simple, old school gaming like we used to do before there was Internet and gaming consoles. And you know what? I love it!

~ JC

Next week: My second review of the Motorola Droid; it will have been almost a month since I bought, so I'll let you know how it's performing and what apps I like and don't like.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This is the DROID I've Been Looking For

Like most people, every two years I get a new cellphone whether I really need to or not. My last phone, the LG Voyager, turned out to be a bit of a let down in terms of its ability to access the Internet. So, for the last two years I've bided my time until my next upgrade date and read reviews of various smartphones. Until recently the choices for smartphone operating system were Windows Mobile, Palm OS or Blackberry. None of these particularly appealed to me. When the iPhone hit the market, it seemed to have set the mobile device world on its ear and showed that a hand held device really could be both a phone and a solid device for accessing the Internet. The problem with the iPhone was (and in my opinion still is) the fact that it is exclusively on the AT&T network. I remember reading a lot of reviews of the iPhone complaining about this fact and that Apple had signed a five year exclusivity deal with AT&T. So, when I found out that Verizon had launched a new smartphone a few weeks ago that utilized the Android Mobile OS developed by Google, I became quite excited. No other smartphone in the VZW catalog has appealed to me as much as the Motorola DROID, so I embarked on doing a lot of research on this new device. I read reviews, watched YouTube videos, weighed all the pros and cons and finally made my way to the nearest Verizon Store to check it out for myself (which means, I went to go play with it *grin*). It didn't take long for me to be hooked and within a few minutes I had made up my mind that I wanted to use my upgrade eligibility to get the DROID. I've had it now less than twenty-four hours, but I want to share my first impressions.

First of all, I love the size of the phone. I've heard a few people say that think the phone is to big. I love the fact that this device is not the tiny, small-buttoned phone that seems to permeate the market. I'm a big guy, with fat thumbs; I need the keyboard (be it virtual or real) to be large lest I hit the wrong keys. The DROID has, essentially, three keyboards; one physical, slide-out keyboard and two virtual on-screen keyboards (I say two, because the virtual keyboard can be used when the phone is either vertical or horizontal). The dimensions of the phone aren't really that large; it's essentially the same size as my Voyager (perhaps slightly wider, but also a bit thinner). It just appears larger because of the generously sized 3.7 inch screen (to put that in perspective, my Garmin Nuvi 255W GPS has a 4.3” screen, so it's not much bigger). The phone also has some heft. That's not to say it's heavy, but it's not feather-light either; personally, I like that too. I would prefer that the physical keyboard's keys were a bit larger as I have hit a few wrong keys (again, fat-thumb syndrome), but I'm sure I'll get used to the layout soon. Overall, the phone feels very solid and is very easy to handle and see. In fact, most of the reviews I've read seem to point out how easy the screen is to see both in terms of it's size and it's very vivid resolution.

Ok, enough about how the phone looks, let's move on to function. I'll start with the phone functionality itself, since that's probably what it will be used for the most. I have to say, it's very different not having a send or end key (even the Voyager had that even though it is also a touch screen device). Other than that it is pretty straight forward to use the phone on the DROID. Simply press the phone icon and up comes the dial pad. Dial the number, press the green phone receiver icon, and there you go. When you're done, tap the red phone receiver icon and the call is ended. It's just that simple. The contact list is very impressive thus far. It automatically integrates and syncs with my Google Contacts, which means I didn't have to spend an hour manually transferring my phonebook from the Voyager to the DROID or trying to use the wireless backup service from VZW (which doesn't work the same with the smartphones as it does other phones). Of course, the fact that I had put everyone's email addresses and phone numbers into Google some time ago helped, but it's still pretty cool that the sync feature works so smoothly. Dialing a number from the contacts list is pretty easy, even it does require more screen taps to pull off. I also like the fact that I can set Favorites in my contact list so that the people I call most are placed in a shorter list rather than having to scroll through all of my contacts looking for them. The only cons I can think of here are the lack of a speed dial list (at least, I haven't found one yet) and that the phone does not support one touch voice dialing via my Bluetooth headset. The phone does have a voice dial app already built in, however. You just have to tap it first, so I've put it in a very easy to find spot on the home screen should I need it while driving. So far, I've really only made one phone call with the DROID, but the sound quality was superb. I switched from the Bluetooth to the speakerphone seamlessly with the controls on the screen that come up while in a call and the I have to say, the speakerphone on this thing is loud and clear (on the Voyager, the sound was muffled unless you opened the flip to expose the speakers).

Now for the fun stuff (the Android OS, the Browser and the Apps) that make this a smartphone instead of just another cellphone. I won't lie, I immediately starting playing with these features before I made my first phone call or sent my first text message. In fact, the salesperson had me enter my Gmail account information in the store before I even left as part of the phone's initial setup. The touch screen is very responsive (in fact, I may need to see if I can adjust the sensitivity in the settings). I love that I can customize the home screen, not only in terms of what applications are there, but also in how the icons are laid out. Naturally, being a Google Android based device, Gmail, Google Calendar and YouTube are preloaded as applications. Being that I've used Gmail as my primary email for several years as well as using Google Calendar for keeping track of birthdays and appointments, this was a big plus. Facebook mobile is also preloaded, which is a nice touch (although, I'm sure I would've downloaded it anyway). One of the features of Android that I love is how it notifies me of when I get an email or text message. Rather than popping up on screen automatically (which I've always found annoying, especially if I'm already trying to read a previous message or compose one) it uses the status bar at the top of the screen. When I'm ready to view the message(s), all I have to do is expand the status bar to full screen. This has the added benefit of allowing me to read messages in any order I want instead of having to read them in the reverse order they arrived in.

The browser on the DROID is awesome! Unlike the Voyager, it's not limited to WAP versions of websites or simple HTML. So far, every site I've pulled up has loaded just as it would on my computer. Of course, it's much smaller, so I do usually have to zoom in to read the text, but the fact that I can even view sites with dynamic elements like Fash and Java is great. On the Voyager, I eventually dropped the unlimited mobile web feature from my plan because I just wasn't using it. On the DROID, I'm almost glad to start paying an extra $30 a month again since I can actually see my favorite Internet sites as they are intended to be viewed. Again, this is why I love the size of this phone, because if the screen were any smaller, it would be useless for web browsing (of course, any larger, and it would become to cumbersome to carry around).

Let's talk about Apps! The Android Market (which is the equivalent to the iPhone's “App Store”) has been criticized for only having around 10,000 apps compared to the over 100,000 available to iPhone users. So what? 10K applications to choose from is plenty, especially when you consider that both the DROID's and iPhone's users aren't going to come close to using all of those. For every useful app I've found, I've found dozens that have no appreciable use (at least, not to me). Either way, the fact that I can download applications to customize my DROID to suit my needs versus not being able to do that with my Voyager, is just plain awesome. So far, I've found several apps to make life a little easier or fun, especially when I'm away from my computer (like when I have to sit for an hour getting my oil changed or if I decide to go sit at a coffee shop to just get out of the house for a bit). Here's a list of some of the apps I've downloaded so far:

  • Aldiko – an eBook reader; came preloaded with The Art of War and The Invisible Man, and has a pretty big library of free, public domain books available. There are serveral eBook readers to choose from in the Market, some free, some that you have to pay for.

  • Pandora – a free streaming Internet radio application that is customizable. The fact that the DROID (unlike the iPhone) can run multiple apps at once makes this a very usable music app since I can continue doing other things while still listening to music.

  • Barcode Scanner – this turns your DROID's camera into a barcode scanner and links with Google Product Search so you can shop online for the best price on an item while you are still standing in the store.

  • Key Ring – this one seems pretty cool, but has gotten mixed reviews, so I'll have to test it out to see if it's worth keeping. What it does is, allows you to scan and save all those little discount club cards you keep on your key ring into your DROID so you can clear your key ring of all the clutter.

  • United States Constitution – there are several apps like this available. The one I selected includes not only the Constitution but also the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, et.,al.

  • Twidroid – a Twitter app available in both free version and a paid version if you need more features.

  • SportsTap – a sports score app that can be configured to send you updates on your favorite team(s) for when you can't watch the game yourself.

There are also a few other apps I'm considering such as “Open Home” which allows for more home screen customization and “Locale” which allows you to use the DROID's built in GPS to set profiles for your device based on where you are located (like automatically going into silent mode when you are at your favorite movie theater). Visual Voicemail is also available on the Android platform and while the app itself is free, to use it I'd have to pay an extra $2.99 a month on my monthly bill, so I'm still debating if that's really worth it or not.

All-in-all, I love the DROID. I finally am able to have an iPhone-like experience without having to deal with AT&T's questionable 3G coverage or Apple's proprietary nonsense. I'm very pleased that Verizon chose to let the Android OS do it's job as intended without imposing their standard VZW UI as they usually do giving me the freedom to do what I want with the device, while still having access to Verizon's superior (in my opinion) 3G coverage and speed. As I said though, it has not even been twenty-four hours, so I'll have to let you know about other things (like battery life, which so far seems low, but I've also been using it rather heavily downloading apps and getting used to the UI, so once I start using it “normally” I'll have to see how the battery does). For now, I have to give the Motorola DROID 5-out-of-5 stars.

~ JC

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Your Hobby Sucks... but then again, so does mine

Everyone has a hobby, or at least something they enjoy doing when they are not working or sleeping. What is a hobby or pastime if not just a big time sink? I mean, let's think about this for a moment. There are twenty-four hours in day. Most of us work six to eight of those hours and sleep six-to-eight as well (for the sake of argument, we will go with the “normal” eight hour work day and eight hours of sleep per day). That leaves an extra eight hours to kill everyday. You have to fill that time with something (hopefully, bathing and eating are amongst those activities). So, the question remains, what to do with all that free time? Housework? Yardwork? Sure, those are things that need to be done, and on days that one doesn't have to be at work, there are even eight extra hours to be filled beyond the normal eight the other five days. So, people find ways to keep themselves busy or entertained to fill the void, right? The point is, no one really has the correct answer to this equation, but I would be willing to bet they think they do. Why? Because so many of us love to put down or criticize others who fill their free time with activities that we would not or do not enjoy, so therefore, their hobby must suck.

As a lifelong gaming geek who has enjoyed playing role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons and the like for over twenty years, I have always had to catch hell from others who do not understand why I play/played such games. Now that we have moved into the age of the Internet and World Wide Web, those interests in RPGs has moved to into the realm of playing MMORGPs such as World of Warcraft and D&D Online. Now, I freely admit that I am a bit OCD at times and when I take up a hobby, be it a game or other activity, I tend to become immersed in it to the point of being almost evangelistic when speaking of it. So, I can kind of see where I would get on someone's nerves who is not interested in those activities. However, that does not mean that I am wrong for enjoying them does it? I ask because sometimes I find people that seem to think I am. I hear questions all the time like, “Why do you play [insert name of game here]? That game is stupid!” or “That is such a waste of time.” To the first statement I'll say, it is a free country and your are entitled to you opinion. To the second statement, yes, it is a waste of time; that's the point! I have eight extra hours to fill everyday, and anything I do outside of work or sleep can be categorized as a waste of time (you know, except for household chores and the aforementioned bathing and eating). I want to be clear on this so I'll use all caps, ALL HOBBIES ARE A WASTE OF TIME! Yep, I said it. I don't care what you choose as a hobby, it is nothing but a waste of time. That's the point. If we aren't working, sleeping or doing chores, we want, (dare I say, need) our other time to be wasted doing something other than staring at a wall being bored.

I guess what I'm getting at is this. In the gaming world, geeks can become quite vicious when talking about or defending their particular game. People who play WoW think that people who play other MMORPGs are stupid. People who used to play WoW and quit talk trash to and put down those who still play, and it goes on and on an on; just find any message board on gaming if you don't believe me. But even outside of the gaming community people can become quite petty about things. Persons A and B both like to read, for example. Person A likes to read trashy romance novels, while Person B prefers Science-Fiction. Now, neither of these genres serve any purpose other than to be entertaining. They aren't scholarly books that might teach the reader something about history or politics or science or any of hundreds of other topics. So they both want to know why the other one reads “that crap.” And of course, Person C comes along and wants to know why either of them waste their time reading “that crap” since he “doesn't waste my time reading fiction.” Then there are the people who do not even enjoy reading at all and wonder why all the “nerds” are reading when they could just be watching TV or going to a movie instead.

Maybe I'm just over sensitive because it seems that gaming geeks like me seem to catch the most shit from people who don't get why we play games. But the real point to this whole diatribe is, no one truly has the right to question anyone else's hobby or pastime. Just because you don't enjoy, doesn't make it invalid and just because you do enjoy it doesn't make it “better” than mine or anyone else's. So, STFU and go play your games, read your trashy romance novel, watch you reality TV shows, pimp your rides, or whatever else cremes your Twinkie. Just remember to eat and bathe (especially bathe; that one is a non-negotiable).

~ JC

Sunday, November 01, 2009

D&D Online - 1st Impressions

As everyone who knows me or regularly checks out my blog knows, I'm a World of Warcraft fanatic. I've been playing it since August of 2008, I've gotten two characters to the level of cap (currently 80) and I still play almost everyday (the number of hours per day varies based on what's on TV that night or if I have other real life things to do). Lately, however, the game has become, well, a bit tedious and even frustrating. Once a “toon” hits 80 in WoW, there's little else to do except run the same daily quests (everyday – hence the “daily” part) to make gold and grind out reputation with different factions and try to earn or find the best gear available in the game. All this is done in order to experience the “end game” content – this is content meant for max level characters wearing the best gear. But what happens when there is no one on to play that content with? Raids require either 10 or 25 toons in the party to even have a chance of completing, so when there's only eight guildmates online, and half of those either aren't level 80 or or just turned 80 and don't have the gear to survive the end game raids yet, what is one to do? Hmmm.... level up an “alt” or go do more dailies? Ok, but even that gets boring after awhile – I mean, leveling an alternate character means going back and doing all the same quests you did with your main character months ago and gets really bland really fast. So, in order to keep things fresh, a couple of us have decided that when we're feeling burned out on WoW we'd try something different lest we end up quitting WoW entirely to keep from going mad. That something, for now anyway, is Dungeons & Dragons Online.


The first thing of note about Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) is that it's advertised as Free to Play. This sounds like a great thing since I'm already paying $15 per month to play WoW; I can play DDO for free and not have to maintain subscriptions to two different games. The problem with the Free to Play concept, however, is the limitation of only being allowed a maximum of two characters in contrast to the up to fifty I could have on WoW. It is the Free to Play option of DDO that made me willing to give it a try though, so I'll gladly deal with the limitations in race and class selections that are also imposed for free players. The game client itself for DDO is also a free download and generally takes only a few mintues to download and setup (I had some issues that caused it to take over an hour, but the two friends who are trying this out with me said it only took them about five minutes). WoW's client is technically a free download, but the license keys to actually get beyond the 10-day trial do have costs ($19.99 for the Basic Game, plus $29.99 for the “Burning Crusade” expansion and another $39.99 for the “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion – the expansions aren't necessary to play the game, but they are necessary if you want to advance beyond level 60, but I digress). WoW's client typically takes up to two hours to completely install regardless of using the download option or actually obtaining the DVD discs due to all of the patches and updates that will have to download (WoW is currently on version 3.2 with 3.3 due out soon, so even if you're only planning on doing the basic game, you still have to get all the patches). So, as far as the client and costs are concerned, DDO gets the advantage (at least at first glance; however, DDO can cost real life money if you want to do anything beyond the basics).

My initial reaction to DDO's user interface was that it was just plain bad in my opinion. It's was confusing. Most other MMORPGs use similar controls such as right clicking to attack a target while using left click to simply target something without necessarily attacking it. Now that I've spent some time playing (I've made it to level 2 *grin*) and gotten used to it, it's not so bad. It is more interactive in combat than WoW's UI. In WoW, a target is picked, and buttons are pushed depending on which ability you wish to attack with. In DDO, you keep left clicking on your target, which may or may not move around, to keep attacking and your hits and damage are determined by a d20 die roll just like in the table top version of D&D. There are special abilities in DDO as in WoW, and the player still activates those abilities the same way, by clicking them on their action bar, but in DDO there are no macros to string abilities into a single button push. So, I like DDO's combat a little better than WoW's since in WoW it's not very engaging to simply click buttons over and over. In DDO I have to pay attention to the fight, move around, and try to keep clicking my target(s).

Game play in DDO seems to be a lot less grind oriented than does WoW. There is no race to get better gear, no mindless running around on quests that require you to kill 50 of something or collect 25 this-or-that. DDO is all quest and dungeon crawl driven in it's leveling methods. You get the quest from the quest giver, you find the entrance to the dungeon (usually not far from the quest giver), you go inside the dungeon, you complete the quest-line (complete with a check list on screen to help guide you) and then turn in the quest at the end for your reward – VOILA! In WoW, you pick up the quest, run around trying to find whatever/whoever/whichever it is you need to kill/gather, usually well away from the quest giver, and grind until you get bored or complete the quest. Assuming you diddn't give up and abandon the quest, you go turn it in for a reward that you may or may not be able to use. Which brings up another point – quest rewards. DDO has a feature built in that causes all quest reward selections from the quest giver to be class appropriate. I like that. In WoW, playing a leather armor wearing rogue, it was very frustrating for the quest rewards to be selections of caster-class cloth, or plate armor for the warriors and paladins – all I could do was select the most expensive one, and sell it. In DDO, my Dwarf Barbarian is given a selection of items, all of which he could use, it's just a matter of deciding, based on how I want to play him, which one would be the most useful. Oh, and all the dungeons in DDO have the option to do them on normal mode, hard mode, epic mode or simply solo mode, so you don't have to go hunting for a group or waiting for guildies to log on if you don't want to.

In terms of content, the content in DDO hasn't really drawn me in yet. There doesn't seem to be much of a storyline, but truthfully, very few people who play MMORPG's even pay attention to that anyway; they read enough of the quest text to know what they need to do to complete it, and that's it. So as far as that goes, WoW may appear to have a more detailed and elaborate back-story than DDO, but in the end, that doesn't really matter. I'm playing the game, if I really want to become that immersed in a great story, I'll turn off the computer and go read a book.

Now, let's bear in mind here that I've only been playing DDO for a few hours total since I downloaded it on Friday night and I've been playing WoW for over a year. I'm certainly not saying that I'm about to quit WoW (for which my subscription is paid for through mid-January) and start playing a free MMO entirely. There are things that I think DDO does better than WoW such as better graphics, a better questing system, and more interactive combat, but there are things that they fall short on as well, such a UI that may be almost to simplistic and doesn't allow for much customization (WoW allows others to write addons so players can fully customize the UI if they want to). All I'm saying is, I love gaming, and I want to continue to play an MMO (let's face it, there's nothing on TV worth watching anymore), so DDO is a nice substitute for when WoW starts getting boring because I've done it over and over to many times.

Until next time – PEACE!

~ JC

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Nothing Worth Watching

Sunday morning and once again I found myself scrolling through the guide on the cable box searching in vain for something worth watching before finally settling on watching something that I had previously DVR'ed. (It's for this very reason that I don't automatically delete things after watching them). Now, weekend AM TV viewing is typically a crap shoot for finding anything to watch, but it seems as though even prime time television is getting that way as well. Is it just me, or is anyone else getting tired of the seeming onslaught of “Reality TV” crap that the so called major networks keep producing? I've found very few shows that I personally find worth watching and many of those are not on the networks, they're on cable. The Sci-Fi Channel's re-imagined “Battlestar Galactica” was quite well done and I was disappointed when it ended; but at least it ended well and wasn't dragged out ad nauseam like so many network sitcoms and dramas tend to be. The new show by Joss Whedon, “Dollhouse” is very good as most Whedon shows tend to be; I was glad to see Fox actually gave it a shot at a second season. “How I Met Your Mother” is another network show that is enjoyable and seems to break the old school sitcom model used for decades and I do enjoy “NCIS”. Beyond those I'd rather watch The Food Network or shows that are only available on HBO (“True Blood” and “Entourage”) or Showtime (“Penn & Teller's Bullshit!”).

What I'm saying is, it just seems like Hollywood has lost any creative spark. For example, “NCIS: Los Angeles” premiered last week, and while so far I find it to be a good show, it's still at its core a spinoff. Even beyond television is Hollywood's new trend toward making old 1980's TV programs, cartoons or video games into movies, usually badly. There have been exceptions, granted; “Transformers” was actually pretty good and I've heard that “G.I. Joe” wasn't that bad. I'm just tired of seeing things rehashed. Come up with something new already! And people wonder why I play “World of Warcraft” so much; really, what else is there to do?

~ JC

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Reflections on the Future

So, I was reading a post by my buddy Jimmy over at the Jabberwocky Asylum called “My Life Changes: Everything Old is New Again!” this morning and it got me thinking and put me in a blogging mood. As you may have read in my last post, I was fired from my job at RadioShack. Day one afterwards was like having a day off. Day two was like a mini-vacation. By day four, I was about to go stir crazy from boredom despite having a couple dozen books to catch up on reading and my World of Warcraft addiction to keep my occupied. Thankfully, yesterday I got a call from my aunt's husband, who owns Wild Bill's Concealment, which makes holsters and belts and such for folks who are licensed for carry and concealment of handguns. In other words, he's a leather smith, and he offered me a job. Now, I know jack about leather working, but it seems like it'd be fun to learn a skill like that, plus it's an income while I decide what I want to be when I grow up (for the record, I'm 37). So, I'll enjoy the remainder of this week and I'll start working for Wild Bill on Monday.

Over this past week couple of weeks, both before and after my exodus from RadioShack, I've thought about a lot of things. I've watched my friend Rob go through the loss of his aunt to cancer. I've dealt with being unemployed (albeit for a very brief period) and what to do about finding an income and possibly returning to school in some capacity. Reading Jimmy's blog this morning was, well, eye opening to a degree. For starters, it made me realize that I'm not the only one who worries about what I'm supposed to be doing with my life, or if past choices were right or wrong. This whole past couple of weeks has made me rethink my beliefs, spiritually speaking, my mortality, my career (or rather, the lack thereof).

Truth be told told, I have no frakkin' idea what the future holds. Who does? I also have no plan (but, hey, it's only been a week since I lost my retail job). I do know, and still hold to my conviction that losing my job at RadioShack was decidedly not a bad thing. It needs to serve as a catalyst to propel me forward and light the proverbial fire under my ass to start living and seek my bliss and my true calling and career. And, no, I don't think my calling is to make leather holsters for the rest of my life (but, that doesn't mean that I wouldn't be open to it if it turns out that I really love doing it). I've always toyed with the idea of working in the computer field in some way. Years ago I started a programming degree, but never finished it. I've attempted to start my own computer repair business with some friends, but we floundered on it shortly after. I've interviewed with a company in Atlanta to be an IT guy, but at the time lacked the necessary skills to get the job. I've researched various certification programs at local community colleges, but never had the balls to go for it. So now is the time. Get busy living or get busy dying, as Andy said to Red in “The Shawshank Redemption.” Either I'll end up loving leather working and use that as a catalyst to doing my own thing with a crafting skill, or I'll end up back in school for IT and/or networking certification and finally get that high paying gig in the computer industry that I say I've always wanted. One thing is for sure, I'm not even the least bit interested in ever working in retail again! I've had enough of having my soul drained by corporate greed and asshole customers.

Oh, and with so many things running through my head these days, this blog will probably be reborn as well. I've never had designs on writing professionally, but I do enjoy writing. So even if no one reads it, I'll still write it.

~ Carlisle

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yes. I do still exist

Wow, it's been almost a full two months since I last blogged. Not much has changed, and yet so much has changed. On the “not much has changed” front, I still play World of Warcraft religiously and have switched to playing on a lower population PvP server and have also switched to playing a toon of the Horde faction (see my previous post “Ding of Dings” for details on what all that means). On the “so much has changed” front, I am now unemployed. Yep, I've become a statistic in the current “economic crisis” here in the United States. Lemme 'splain... no no, that take-a too long, lemme summup.

You see, my former employer, RadioShack, pays it's sales people hourly plus “commissions” (I put commissions in quotes because they don't call them that, but I won't bore you with all that; it's just easier to say commissions because everyone understands that concept). The big money maker for RadioShack (so the claim) is wireless (aka cellphones) and service plans. Simple really, when they sell a cellphone the get the retail cost of the phone (even if the customer paid less than retail under the whole “with 2yr agreement” pricing) plus other kickbacks and bonuses from the carrier based on what type of minute/text/data/etc plan the customer signs up for; all that equals tons of profit without much pay out for product. Service plans are pure profit because it's like getting the customer to pay for a sort of extended warranty on a product that they'll likely never file a claim on. So, if John Doe buys a LCD TV for $400 on sale RadioShack makes maybe a 10-20% profit because the markup on TV's is pretty low. But if you can get Mr. Doe to also buy a 2yr in home repair plan for an additional $130, then that service plan is pure profit because there's only any overhead on it if Mr. Doe actually has any issues with the TV and RadioShack has to have the TV repaired or replaced under the service plan (which doesn't happen that terribly often, because most people just plain forget the bought the service plan or just don't want to go through the hassle of making the phone call to file a claim against the service plan they bought, so RadioShack, Sears, BestBuy or whatever retail chain the whole thing was purchased at, never loses anything on the service plan).

So, I said all that to say this... I was fired for not selling enough wireless and/or service plans. Forget the fact that I was there for three years, never missed a day of work in all that time, had customers who asked for me personally because my customer service skills were that damn good, and the fact that even though I wasn't selling very many cellphones or service plans, I was regularly meeting or exceeding the $75 per hour sales quota to qualify for other “spiffs” and commissions. Nope, none of that shit mattered. Neither did the fact that I was, and I realize my touch of arrogance in this comment, one of the few truly competent employees in the entire district. Nope, the fact that I couldn't get people to spend extra cash on service plans (many of which were pointless) or get them to buy a cellphone other than the not so profitable prepaid variety is what got me fired. The only thing I'll miss about RadioShack is that Anna was the best damn manager I had ever worked for, and it sucked that she had to fire me when it wasn't her decision.

So now what, you ask? Simple. I'm going to go take classes in Networking and/or other various computer related certifications so I can get a job worthy of my intelligence level and ability to deal with technology and trouble shooting. Roxanne and I had already planned our vacation for the last week in April and the room in Myrtle Beach has already bee booked and essentially paid for, so I'm going to relax and enjoy life for awhile before hitting the grind of work again. There are online classes and work from home jobs I can do. Hell, if I get really squirrelly I may even look into government grant programs to start small businesses and work for my damn self for a change. Who knows? All I know is, I'm not that upset about losing my job at RadioShack. In fact, I feel like I've been set free! Hey, maybe I'll have more time to write for those of you who, for some odd reason, like reading my blog *grin*.

~ Carlisle

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Ding of Dings

Ding is a common exclamation used by players to announce to their friends and guild members when they reach a new level. Because of this, ding has taken on several auxiliary meanings, such as the act of leveling up, the graphic associated with leveling up, etc. Originally, the sound effect when a character leveled in Everquest was a ding.

All these months of playing World of Warcraft paid off just a couple of weeks ago, on January 24th to be exact, Rumplewort achieved the current pinnacle of WoW – Level 80. I call this the “Ding of Dings.” So now, you may ask, what's next? If you've reached the max level, why keep playing? Where's the challenge? Oh, but there's more gentle reader, much more. At level 80 I've taken to doing “dailies” which are quests that repeat on a daily basis and pay fairly good rewards in the form of gold or reputation. My buddy and I have also recently taken to entering battle grounds lately where we join other players of our faction to compete against players of the opposing faction. I also have a guild to support and several Alts (Alternate Characters) that I can begin leveling. The challenge of the game now is to make my main character (aka “toon”) as rich as possible so he can funnel gold to my Alts and also help support his guild. Of course, as those Alts reach epic levels, new ones will be created. There are two major factions in WoW (Alliance and Horde) with five races in each faction. There are also nine different classes (e.g., Warrior, Mage, Rogue, Hunter, etc.) and one “hero class” (Death Knight) in the game. When you take that into account, then it's pretty easy to see how one can keep the game fresh and fun – simply try playing a class or race you haven't played yet, or a class/race combination that's different than what you've played before. I've only been playing since August 2008, so the only toon I have any real experience playing is a Dwarf Warrior. I also have a Draenei Hunter, Human Death Knight and Tauren Hunter on the “Shadowsong” server, and just recently created an Orc Rogue and and Orc Death Knight on the “Blood Furnace” PvP server.

That brings me to another topic about WoW – PvP, which stands for Player vs Player. The aforementioned battle ground scenarios obviously would be a PvP situation, however there are other areas anc concepts that involve PvP. I've mentioned “servers” so I'll explain what that means. Or even better, I'll quote the definition from

A realm is an instance of the World of Warcraft (WoW) game world. Realms are hosted on physical devices called servers (for this reason, the terms "realm" and "server" are often used interchangeably).

So, a server or “realm” is what a player logs onto to play the game. There are several dozen realms in the US with an identically named European realm as well. Think about it – if, at last known report, there are over 11.5 million subscribers to the game worldwide, there's no way in hell they can all log onto the same server at once – it would overload and crash in a matter of seconds, or it would run so slow that the game would be unplayable. Now, not only are there several dozen servers, but there are different types or styles of play depending on what type of server you log onto.

PvE (Player vs Environment) – also known as a “normal” server. Basically, you just do the quests, interact with other players and fight creatures and non-player characters as needed to gain experience points and rewards. PvP is voluntary on these types of realms so you can't be attacked (or “ganked”) by an enemy player without expressly putting yourself in that position on purpose.

PvP (Player vs Player) – as I mentioned above, there are battlegrounds and certain zones that are PvP even on the PvE realms, but on a PvP realm, anytime you enter territory controlled by the opposite faction or territory that is contested, you are automatically put in PvP mode. Your warning is the fact that you're on that type of server, so you've essentially volunteered for it by signing onto that server.

RP (Role Playing) – since WoW is supposed to be an RPG (Role Playing Game) these realms require that players speak in the chat channels as though they were their character and be descriptive when discussion their actions using speech similar to what you find in novels and the like. There are also tighter restrictions on character naming. Personally, if I'm going to role play, I'd better have dice, paper and pencils in front of me while sitting at a kitchen table with friends. But that's just my opinion. These servers are also a type of PvE realm as PvP is not forced in opposing or contested zones.

RP-PvP – If you've paid attention to the above descriptions, then you should be able to figure this one out I think :-P

So, even though I've achieved the “ding of dings” with my first, and main, character, there's still lots of war to craft ;-)

~ Carlisle

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Triumphant Return (maybe)

The writing bug has bitten me again... well, at least for today. We'll see what 2009 holds for Carlisle's Chaotic Commentary, but for today I'll bring everyone up to speed.

WoW, This is Addictive
As my regular readers (assuming I still have any) know, I began playing World of Warcraft® back in August. I'll admit to a certain level of gaming addiction and that WoW has contributed to my not writing my blog every Sunday as I had been doing. I started playing the game at the long behest of a buddy of mine and even joined the guild he was a member of (“Sons of Gotrek”). No WoW guild is immune to drama and upheaval, and ours was no different. Back in November, Blizzard released Wrath of the Lich King, the 2nd expansion pack to World of Warcraft. It seemed most of us were on board to level to 80 (the previous cap being 70) and creating the new and long awaited Death Knight (WoW's first hero class).

Well, the unexpected happened. Our Guild Master quit. I don't mean he quit the guild, I mean he completely quit the game a mere week or two after the expansion pack was released. One of my buddy's characters (also known as a “toon” as in cartoon) was promoted to Guild Master by the previous GM before he quit, so we thought everything would work itself out. Well, it didn't. Within the last two weeks we had a couple of other members move their main toons to a different guild saying they wanted a “more active guild.” I can respect that, but how about helping recruit people and make the one you're in more active? Oh, and I'm sorry that I have a life outside of WoW and don't play 24/7 like you guys are able to.

The icing on the cake was when my buddy, unannounced and without any fanfare or explanation, also dropped his main toon from the guild, leaving the alternate (Alt) toon that had been made guild master in place. At that point, I was done as was my other buddy who I regularly quested with. In fact, we had been pretty much a subset within the guild for months as we always seemed to be questing together separate from the rest of the guild. So, I am now a Guild Master. There was no coup or anything. Jere and I simply left “Sons of Gotrek” and collectively have spent almost 400 Gold of our toons' hard earned loot to create “Myth Inc” (the name is inspired by the Myth Adventures series of novels by Robert Asprin). I have to tell you, being a Guild Master is some work. First I had to buy a guild charter, then get nine other toons to sign it (that cost me about 40 gold in bribes at 5G a pop, with Jere's main being the first to sign leaving eight more to get). Then we had to establish a Guild Vault, which cost another 100 gold. Last night we spent another 250 gold to add more storage to the Guild Vault. And all this while trying to save enough gold to pay for training and new skills as we get closer to the goal of Level 80. Naturally, about half of the toons we bribed to sign our charter left the newly formed guild within about 24 hours (which was expected) and there's a couple that we may have to quietly remove since they don't really seem interested in actually participating. We did manage to luck up and get one guy who's pretty excited about being in a guild and has even already started helping to recruit others. He and his friends are still pretty new to the game, but I kind of dig the idea of helping to teach the “newbs.” I wouldn't have made it to Level 76 (the level my main is at at the time of this posting) with help from others (both friends and strangers), so I'm happy to pay back – plus, it's just good karma.

I wish I could Retire Early
So, everyone out there is aware of the current “economic crisis” here in the U.S. I assume. If not, pick up a fucking newspaper, turn on a TV to a news channel or generally take your head out of you ass and pay attention to what people are saying.

That being said, my work place is certainly not immune, especially being a retail chain in a town who's work force is probably 90% retail clerks or food service workers. You'd think, with the Christmas and Holiday gift giving season having just ended that we'd have been ok right? NOT! The week before Christmas I was cut down to about 28 hours. I got my normal 37ish hours in the week of Christmas, but then the two weeks after, I only worked around 24 each, and this coming week, I'm only scheduled for 20! WTF?! I am, as far as I know, still listed as full time status. The other thing is, our schedule is supposedly based on sales performance. Well, even with sales down across the board, I still had more sales than most of my co-workers. Oh, but that's right, RadioShack only cares about cellphone sales. Forget all the other shit I sold, I didn't sell as many phones as everyone else. So, I get fucked up the ass with a chainsaw without the courtesy of any lube. Loyalty (I've been there 3 years come March) means nothing anymore, not does the other work I do such as price tags, freight, planograms, etc. to help keep the store operational. Just sales.... sales, sales, sales. Oh, great you sold $1million of stuff.. sell some more, you can do better than that... blah blah blah.

I'm 37 years old. The prospect of trying to re-enter the job market isn't a very happy thought, and since the job market basically sucks right now, it's an even less happy thought than usual. Truth be told, I'm so sick of stupid people and assholes that I'd rather just retire. Of course, for that to happen I'd have to win the lottery or have some excruciatingly rich relative I don't know about suddenly die and leave me their estate. Not bloody likely I'd say.

That's My Girl!
While my hours at work dwindle, Roxanne, my fiancée, continues her work as the Operations Manager for the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra. It's not a high paying job, but at least it builds her resume toward working in marketing and public relations. In fact, she just began the MBA program at Methodist University, which will make her future job prospects even greater. I'm very proud of her and will be supporting her anyway I can over the next year and a half (I even did the laundry today while she was at school).

Future Chaos
Sorry for this being such a long winded blog. I guess that's what happens when you take three months off from blogging – you end up with a lot to say at one time. I'm not promising that I'm going to go back to the weekly format. Perhaps I'll try monthly posts starting out to get back into a rhythm. Thanks for reading.

Until next time,
~ Carlisle

PS. Yes, I know my last post back in September said I wasn't going to continue posting the blog on both Blogger and MySPace, but since it's been three months since I've posted anything at all, I've kind of changed my mind about that.