Thanksgiving Battle Royal

Thanksgiving Battle Royal

Read more

Knights' Tournament

Thanksgiving is now over. Turkey has been eaten and we are going to return to classes. As the holiday break winds down and the pre-exam jitters gear up, now would be a good time to take a little breather and reflect on this past week.

Thanksgiving is, for the most part, a time to eat. A time you all sit down and eat. Together. With people you’re related too. Usually from out of town. And, to quote Modern Family, “What’s Thanksgiving without the competitions?” And indeed, there will be competitions.

The I-Can-Eat-More-Than-You Competition
A simple, yet classic, competition. This battle is often never spoken of, and the winner is never publicly acknowledged. However, the rules are perfectly clear: he or she, whoever eats the most food during the first hour of the Thanksgiving meal, will be the winner.

The Monopolized-Conversation-The-Longest Competition
Slightly more subtle than the previous competition, the MCTLC contest requires wit and cunning verbal skills. The rules are simple: all you have to do is keep a group of four people or larger involved in conversation for as long as possible. The topic of the conversation is up to you. It can be as mundane or exciting as you wish, but know that the longer you keep your group engaged, the more points you shall receive. This one is usually won by my great aunt.

The Swag-O-Meter
We all have that one relative. You know, the one that you see once a year, and that one time happens to fall on a Thursday late in November. The one who, due to their lack of appearance any other time throughout the year, feels the need to make a vastly unnecessary, yet thoroughly enjoyable, huge entrance. To win this competition, one must not shy away from loudly announcing his or her presence in any particular room, even if you’ve already been in there once before. You must also have no fear interrupting conversations just to get that greeting handshake or hug in to those loved ones. Be bold, be brave and you’ll take home the Swag-O-Meter trophy with ease.

Those seem to be the largest of the competitions I run into on Thanksgiving day, and undoubtedly, each family will have their own special events as well. If you managed to, or know someone who did, grab one of these top spots at your Thanksgiving. Feel free to let me know in the comments below and share your story!

Bottle School Blitz!

Bottle School Blitz!

Read more

raider relief

Remember Raider Relief? The group behind projects like H20, Hugs for Haiti, March Makeover and Souls for Soles? Well they’ve got another project for you!

Introducing the Bottle School Blitz! The Bottle School Blitz is a project to try and raise money to build a bottle school  in Guatemala. These schools actually use recycled bottles as the insulation for the buildings, both promoting education and green living.

Raider Relief will be acting this Saturday, November 19, by blitzing the community around Alliance and posting up outside of local business to raise spare change for the project. This is the biggest push the organization will be making, however we still have other ways for you to help even if you can’t come to this Saturday’s effort.

One way you can participate is to be on the lookout next week for Raider Relief and our take-home bottles. What we want you to do with these is to take home a bottle and fill it with change over the Thanksgiving holiday. When break is over, just bring it back and return it to Raider Relief and we will add whatever you’ve raised to our total. Bottle Schools cost around $10,000 and we are hoping to raise, if not all, most of what is needed to get the project under way.

If you have any questions or would like to help out, contact the project leader Zak Suhar (maybe you read his blog here!) and he can direct you to the appropriate people. Happy holidays, and we look forward to seeing you at our event!

Whale Trail for iOS Giveaway!

Whale Trail for iOS Giveaway!

Read more


I’m a sucker for apps. However, since I started my app buying hiatus, I haven’t bought any for quite a while. This experiment has actually proved very successful in saving me money and not loading up my iPhone with unnecessary junk. However, as I watched the App Store scene from afar, I noticed one new game gaining traction – Whale Trail. I’m a sucker for games that look simple and can quickly kill 15 minutes while waiting for a meeting, and Whale Trail seemed to fit the bill. I put it in my hypothetical “month bucket” (Month bucket. n. a hypothetical list of items you want to buy. Items must remain on the list for one month before you can buy them, thus eliminating impulse purchasing) and forgot about it.

Long story short, when I came to reevaluate my list, Whale Trail still seemed like something fun I would indulge myself with. So, I spent the .99 and picked it up. Verdict: it’s fantastic.

You take the role of Willow the whale in a journey through the clouds as you try to escape the evil Baron Von Barry (think the Cracken from Pirates of the Caribbean). Your goal is to help Willow fly through the sky collecting bubbles, which refill his Whale Trail meter gauge. If the gauge goes empty, you fall into the ocean and have to start from the beginning. As you fly along, you will have to dodge dark storm clouds which, if hit, can quickly deplete your WT gauge. The combination of a catchy soundtrack (you’re going have the theme song “Whale Trail” stuck in your head for a couple days) and engaging graphics make for a really fun pick-up-and-play experience.

willow the whale

Now for the fun part. I’m going to be giving away one copy of Whale Trail for iOS to one lucky commenter! All you have to do to be entered is the following:

  1. Leave a comment below telling me what your current favorite iPhone / iPod touch / iPad game is.
  2. Go to the entry form: (click here to enter) and fill out your contact information

This coming Wednesday (November 16) I will randomly select one of the commenters and contact him or her via email. Good luck to everyone and even if you don’t win, still check the game out!

Diary of a student about to register

Diary of a student about to register

Read more

browser wars

What follows are my sms / typed entries as I woke up around 6:20 a.m. this morning to register for classes in the spring.

  • 6:22 a.m. – First alarm went off. Yes, I know it’s early, but I really don’t want to sleep through this morning. Timing is crucial. Still, five more minutes won’t kill me.
  • 6:39 a.m. – Sitting in my bed. Just. Sitting. Enthusiasm is pretty low and the warm bed behind me begs the question, Why haven’t I written an app to do this for me yet?
  • 6:44 a.m. – Nothing yet. I left the window open last night so I could just log in and start refreshing. However, I forgot that my 24′ widescreen monitor has the brightness level of about the surface of the sun. Who needs vision anyways?
  • 6:51 a.m. – OK, still not open. Interesting. I wonder how many other people got up this early to register. Did I even get in early to register last year? I can’t remember.
  • 6:54 a.m. – Nothing. Loaded up Facebook in one window and have Self Service in the other. How cool would it be to have the job of switching SS on? It’d be sweet, like candy.
  • 6:58 a.m. – And, we’re in.
  • 6:59 a.m. – And, we’re down. Getting this weird system error message as I try to advance to the next screen to confirm my schedule. I give my classmates about 30 seconds before they start freaking out.
  • 7:02 a.m. – Facebook is proving a hilarious source of entertainment as I sit here manually refreshing this error page. I have some witty friends.
  • 7:03 a.m. – From a techincal standpoint though, there’s probably not a whole lot they can do. If we don’t have the server power to withstand ~ 400 connections near simultaneously, we’re just going to have to suffer through this. The real problem is that Self Service dynamically renders each page, then serves it to the user (that way everyone sees a unique page even though we’re all on the same url). If they were pushing static pages, the server would be doing better.
  • 7:08 a.m. – Kinda ridiculous. Pen and paper are winning the battle against the Internet currently.
  • 7:12 a.m. – ANGEL, you’ve just been promoted. Somehow, you look better than our dear Self Service here. Enjoy the spotlight, because it’s only going to last until I log back in and you tell me Chrome isn’t a supported browser.
  • 7:18 a.m. – IT’S OPEN. For REAL this time.
  • 7:25 a.m. – Wrap-up: a little bit of a bumpy start and an uncessary wake time, and I’m all ready to go for spring. Ah Self Service how I love you, but I can only take you in small quantities at a time. How about we do this again next year? Great.

Instapaper

Instapaper

Read more

instapaper

We’ve all been there. You’re being productive on your laptop when all of the sudden you click a link one of your friends sent you. One link becomes two links and before you know it, today has become tomorrow and you still have a paper to write.

The problem exists not because you can’t focus, but because you are worried that if you don’t go check out that link right now you will forget about it and may never see it again. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to save that article, video or picture for a later time when you aren’t working? Well, turns out there is and it is called Instapaper.

Instapaper is an online service I have been using for a very, very long time. Marco Arment, founder and single developer of Instapaper, describes his service as “A simple tool to save web pages for reading later,” and it does just that. See an article you want to read, but don’t have the time? Just click on the “Read Later” bookmarklet (bookmarklet. n. a small bookmark that performs an action on the current webpage, rather than directing you to a new one.), and watch a small box appear that reads “Saved!” Your article is now saved in the unread section of Instapaper’s website. You aren’t limited to just articles however, Instapaper can save any link you throw at it, be it video, image or text.

Now, being able to deflect possible distractions while working online is a blessing in and of itself, but where Instapaper really shines is in it’s mobile app. Officially available for the iPhone, Instapaper’s mobile offering allows you to use either your iPhone or iPad to read your saved articles on the go. However, instead of just serving up the normal webpage that you saved, Instapaper parses through the article for just the text. This means that when you load up an article in the Instapaper app, you won’t have to wait for ads or the whole webpage to load, instead, you will be greeted with just the text. This makes for a great reading experience.

instapaper comparison

The app costs $4.99 and is a universal application which means it has been designed with both the iPad and iPhone in mind and a specialized user interface for each. You might be put off by the higher price, but this is only if you want to take your articles with you on your device. The basic services of Instapaper, the bookmarklet and the website, are all free for you to use.

So go now and check out Instapaper and set up an account. The next time you see an article or link you want to follow, save it for later instead of checking it out now. Once you finish with whatever you had to do, just head on over to the Instapaper website and all your cool links will be there waiting for you.

Loved by hundreds of thousands of users, Instapaper has changed the way I work for the better and made me more productive. I highly encourage to give it a try and check it out.

Instapaper website
Instapaper on the App Store

How I lost (and found) my iPhone

How I lost (and found) my iPhone

Read more

lost

Fun little thing that happened to me today:

I was walking in the library when I went to grab my iPhone, but it wasn’t in my pocket. I checked my bag and laptop case, but it wasn’t there either. I started to freak out a bit. I didn’t have a passcode set and just thinking of how many websites it was authenticated with made me sweat.

I quickly went to a computer, logged on to iCloud.com and went to Find My iPhone. I saw a little GPS pin drop on the east side of the library start moving towards the circulation desk. After marveling at this realtime event, I remotely set the passcode and had it show the message “Please call: with my girlfriend’s cell phone number.” Five minutes later the circulation desk calls her. They have my phone and we walk over to pick it up.

Apple rocks.

Special thanks to my girlfriend and her calming demeanor towards what, I’m sure, was a very hysterical 19-year-old.

Fall Break Wedding

Fall Break Wedding

Read more

Fall break was intense. I did a lot of things and accomplished quite a bit of schoolwork as well. However, the most significant thing I got to attend this past weekend was a wedding.

chris and sarah

On Saturday, I got to attend the wedding of Mr. Christopher Durr and Ms. Sarah Mariani. Sarah, an alumna of Mount Union, is the sister of my girlfriend, who was the maid of honor, and I, happily, got to attend the festivities. I hadn’t been to a wedding in quite a while, so I was very excited.

The whole thing was incredibly well decorated. Sarah, with an eye for design, and Chris, with an eye for Sarah, put together a beautiful ceremony at their church and then followed up with a reception at Gervasi Vineyard in Canton. Although a little chilly, I don’t think anyone noticed once we were all inside and the reception began.

We listened as the best Man, maid of Honor and father of the bride gave their speeches. After the toasts had been made and the food had been eaten, it was time to dance. And dance we did. Dancing continued on into the night and ended with the bride and groom leaving for their hotel before their honeymoon began the next morning.

emily and i

It was a really interesting and fun experience being able to see the behind-the-scenes of a wedding, and also attend it as a guest. It turned out even better than I could have imagined and I’m sure that everyone had an absolute blast attending.

Android’s big problem

Android’s big problem

Read more

Mountain / Tree / Landscape

As a tech consumer, there are only ever three things that you absolutely loathe when it comes to your favorite gadgets:

1. When the device is too expensive.

2. When the device is out of stock.

3. When the device is outdated within a short period of time.

I only want to focus on number three for right now. That’s because it is indicative of Android and Google’s current problem.

Note: As I sit here writing this post from my Macbook while texting my mother with my iPhone, it should be clear that I live in an Apple world. However, I arrived late to the Apple world. My first smartphone was a Palm Treo 700p (stylus all the way), which was eventually followed up by the original Motorola Droid. I’ve been reading tech news, particularly mobile tech news, since my family first got the Internet. Although some may label me an Apple fanboy, I simply like to use the most superior product in any given category. This being said…

Google recently revealed its latest update to the Android OS, and keeping in line with the company’s “treat” naming scheme, the operating system has been called Ice Cream Sandwich. It will debut on the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus and will be available soon. It will be a flagship device for both Google and Samsung.

From a technology standpoint, this is great. Who wouldn’t want a new, super powered, 4G, HD, *insert acronym here* device?

Unfortunately, it ends up that the consumers don’t.

Sure, those in the smartphone market will start looking at these new Android devices and sizing up spec sheets to try and pull the trigger on something “just right” for them. But in order to see the real problem, you have to take a look back in time and examine just how little time has passed since the last “great” Android device was released.

Just a month ago, Verizon launched the Droid Bionic. This was hailed as the king of all smartphones and got a huge push from Verizon. The thing is, not only is the Bionic now old news only a month later, but the ill-timed launch of the Motorola Droid Razr was completely overshadowed by the Galaxy Nexus press event.

In the span of a month, and I only mentioned two of many manufacturers, three new devices were pushed to market, all set up to be the next “great” Android device. Consumers are getting overwhelmed by this saturation of spec-chocked Google phones and often times it really hurts the people who went and recently bought an Android device in the first place.

No one wants to own the latest and greatest phone for barely a month.

“But people enjoy the phones they get, why do they care what gets released?” you ask. Well, because it’s not just the new phones and features they will be missing out on for the next two years of their contract. Remember the new, feature loaded OS update Ice Cream Sandwich to Android? Unfortunately, because each phone manufacturer has to get its hands on the source code and make its own modifications for each of its devices, odds are that unless you go buy the Galaxy Nexus right now, you won’t be seeing any of those new features for a while.

This is a real problem. I know more than a few people who are really upset that their “high end” device they paid more than $150 for is now outdated. I doubt it will change at all because people are still buying these phones, but I see it as a huge downfall to jumping into the Android / Google world.

Thank you

Thank you

Read more

steve jobs

Thank you. A million times, thank you.

Confessions of an appaholic

Confessions of an appaholic

Read more

app

I’ll admit it. I’m somewhat of an appaholic. But I’m changing that and conquering my impulse buying at the same time.

iPhone apps appeal to me. They hover nicely in that psychologically-pleasing price range of .99 cents to make each purchase not sting as much as it probably should. New to do list manager? Sure, I’ll check it out! What’s that, it’s like Angry Birds, except with mice and cheese? Excellent!

No. It has to stop.

For one, I’m on a budget. Now, my definition of “budget” may be more loosely defined than others, but I like having money available for things that tie into life experiences. I have yet to find the real-world need to throw birds at buildings. Actually, it sounds quite cruel.

Secondly, it reinforces a bad habit I’ve had since I was a little kid – impulse buying. When I was younger, any money I got was quickly exchanged for whatever Walmart happened to be selling that day. I didn’t buy recklessly, but going into a store without a specific item of purchase in mind was the Angry Bird to my piggy bank.

Eventually I matured through high school and realized the value of money for things beyond that $15 to $20 threshold. All was good, and then the App Store hit. Thousands upon thousands of insanely cheap outlets for my free time were just a touch away. They were too easy to buy. One tap to change the Buy button to green, preparing for the go ahead. One more tap and you knew it was only a matter of minutes before a new toy was dropped off on your home screen. The receipt would be emailed to you in a few days, and you ended up spending less than you would have for gas to even get you to a physical store. I may not have thought it was much money at the time, but even the smallest grains of sand, when amassed, could cover hundreds of miles of shoreline.

Oh, and that .99 cent app you just bought? It, with tax added on, is actually costing you $1.06 (with Ohio tax rates at least). As soon as you shove the price up above that .99 sweet spot, things get a little more realistic. I knew the only way to really give myself an edge in this battle was to cut away completely. Five minutes later in my iTunes account settings, I had found, and removed the credit card I had on file. Since it will be a hassle to add it back every time I check out a new app, I see this being a very effective deterrent. So far, it’s working great.

Sometimes you have to go to an extreme to help compensate for a personal weakness. Mine was impulse buying. By removing my credit card, I can’t buy another app even if I wanted to. Drastic? Maybe a little, but if it means that I can start saving a couple dollars here and there for the things that really matter to me, then it’s worth every penny.