2016 Reading List

After the year that was 2016, with a ton of celebrity deaths (of celebrities people actually liked, like David Bowie and Carrie Fisher) and the election of a xenophobic candy corn here in the US, I could always find some kind of solace in a good book. And I got through 23 of them this year, which is a happy number, since my goal is at least 20 every year.

2016 has been an interesting year, and not one I would like to forget any time soon from its upsides (instead of as a cautionary political tale). I started dating a sweetheart of a human being, two of my best friends got married, I attended some awesome press events even if I subsequently took a break from being a professional video game critic late in the year. I interviewed a sitting world champion of pro wrestling (AJ Styles, the best wrestler on the planet with or without the belt) and attended my sixth E3. I moved into a new room. Got my first two tattoos.

It’s been a productive year, when I really sit down and think about it. And 2017 is going to be better, because I’m going to MAKE it better.

Like I did with the 2015 list, here is the list of what I read, along with a two-sentence review and a final score. Hope this might help tune you into some good books for your 2017!

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Cheaper Isn’t Always Better: A Five-Dollar Headphone Review

Back in August of 2016, I did my first review of hardware of any kind: my now-standard headphones, the Kingston HyperX CloudX Pro Gaming Headset. In June the pair were dropped in front of me, and I played with them over two months to see if they were really worth the effort. And damned if they were, I now take the clamshell with me every time I leave the house with my work bag. (And wherever else I may be when I need a pair of headphones, for that matter.)

As I said in the review, I’ve owned my fair share of crappy headphones that just can’t do the trick the way a high-quality $100 pair can. But sometimes, an inexpensive pair can get a person through some rough times when carrying a bulky pair just isn’t in the cards. And tonight, I bought the cheapest pair I’ve ever owned of physical headphones, from my favorite cheap-o store.

Being as how I haven’t written a proper review of anything in a little while, I thought I might break that cycle and lay down the law on that new pair. Simply because they’re not only better than I thought, but that their price led me to believe.

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A Case For The Electoral College

I’m going to admit something upfront: I’m not any specific expert on our political system. The California school system has a reputation for not being the best in the country, and that’s been my entire educational experience. (Well, that and being one of those people that’s spent hours at a time scrolling through Wikipedia, checking some sources as I go.) So, everything I say here should be taken with a spoonful of salt. But I’ll cite my sources where I feel them necessary, and hopefully what I have to type will have some merit.

This post is going to be about elections. I’ll do my best to keep my statistics correct and searchable, and my opinions measured until it’s time for me to weigh in. This isn’t meant to be a partisan post, only a response after one of the most contentious elections in presidential history (and to be blunt, the most divisive in my lifetime). More than that, this is meant to be informational without being pretentious; understandable without insulting anyone at all. After everything I think it’s time for a little cold water and context. After educating myself a bit, I thought I might add my thoughts into the heated discussion.

So, let’s have a conversation about the Electoral College and why it’s important… and what I think would make it better. (Hint: It’s a simple solution that won’t work.)
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Veteran’s Day

On Veteran’s Day, since I work from home and Starbucks on a regular basis, I have taken to one tradition: I leave about six dollars and a large cup on the counter for the next veteran to come in. It’s a small gesture – I can’t be too big anyway, I’ve been financially strapped enough over the past few years – as a “thank you” to those who have served our country and its military conflicts. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do to give thanks as a grateful person who respects those who have given their all for my right to speak and think and live as I wish.

So at my local Starbucks here in the California Bay Area, that cup is waiting. I wrote “Thank You” on it so you know it’s for you. Hopefully I won’t be the only one doing this.

Here’s to a sober and reflective Veteran’s Day, everyone.

President-Elect Trump And My Middle Finger

First, and most importantly: How are you? Are you alright?

Secondly: How did it get to this point?

I’ve never felt this disenfranchised in my life as a result of an election. And this will get a bit ranty, but I need to say something. So, here’s my two cents. Take them or don’t.

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Nintendo’s “NX” Is Now “Nintendo Switch”

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When Nintendo’s WiiU was initially announced, I thought that the built-in screen would be used to play games on the go. There was a battery, the thing was bulky and a tiny bit heavy (for long-term travelling use, anyway), analog sticks and buttons and everything that reminded me of a Ben Heck portable build. In short: I was excited. Think of the possibilities! Not just a portable Nintendo console, but a fully-fledged Nintendo console on the go! As much as I love my 3DS, it’s not quite the experience of sitting down through a cutting-edge Mario or Zelda title!

When I heard for certain that it still needed the plugged-in box to actually play, I wasn’t devastated per se, but I was a sad panda. Even with the touch screen capabilities (which were fun and interesting, BTW) I couldn’t justify for myself buying one. Partly because of being broke, but also because I’ve been focused on enjoying my portable consoles over the past few years for my personal fix. So when I watched the trailer for the Nintendo Switch this morning, I started getting really excited.

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The Best Kind Of Stress

The most beautiful thing about the Internet is the ability to search for, investigate, and learn new stuff. Everything from an analysis of the most up-to-date theories of how the Earth formed to how to tie a bow tie can be found online, and in incredible detail – videos, scientific papers, walkthroughs, even the ridiculousness of WikiHow can be poured over to learn whatever it is you would like to learn.

Why this is important to me, and why it’s important to me right now, is because I’ve started investigating and learning to achieve a specific goal, and thereby achieving a goal I’ve set for my life: selling the book I’ve spent the past three years writing. And the process is why I’ve only so far sent two proper submissions over the past four days.

And I’m freaking out about it.

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Back To Square One

I haven’t posted here for a while. Not for any particular reason, just haven’t been inspired enough (and had enough time to write something I would want to share). The past six months or so of my life have been really good, kinda sad, and sometimes quite disappointing to think about, so I’ve just kept most of them to myself.

But hell, to get myself writing in this little corner of the Internet again, I’ll open up just a little. It’s been busy.

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I Was A (Really Bad) Teenage Game Reviewer

Back in the school year of 1999/2000, about 16 years ago, I started writing video game reviews in a school notebook when I should have been studying electronics. I would’ve been about 15 at the time. And instead of being fascinated by the electronics room’s dissected Atari 2600 heavy six-switch (though admittedly I was), I was dawdling writing my thoughts about games that had spent their fair share of time in my home consoles. And the first, which I remember with some clarity, is why this comes to my mind now: I reviewed Pokemon Yellow for my Game Boy, a game now being re-released nearly twenty years after its initial launch in Japan. I don’t still have the ripped-out page for that review, which is for the best… I feel like reading it back now would bring back my desire to burn things.

Image via Wikipedia

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