My 2020 Retrospective

Howdy y’all, Jason here at 2020 year’s end for a look back at some personal highs and lows. The site is called, Jason Journals, ya know. So if you’re curious about a bit of my life beyond the blog, read on. I can’t promise a good read – it’s 2020 after all – but maybe you can relate.


Things started off well. I was preparing for my Kyokushin Karate belt test with extra physical conditioning. Tough, but I passed!

Also finally finished adding on a half-bath to the master bedroom, doing new plumbing work under the house for the new sink and custom counter. Nice!

Made a half-joking resolution: eat more Taco Casa. I can say I kept it all year long!

I finished the role-playing game Pokemon Sword on my Switch.


I played Octopath Traveler, another RPG, on my Switch. Great one! Still want to finish it…

Tremors about a viral outbreak infiltrating American shores began to shake things up.


This is when 2020 went off the rails. It wasn’t all bad though.

Covid-19 became a thing in America. Back then, I never thought it’d still be a thing in December! This, along with other factors, brought a first round of lay-offs, furloughs, and pay-cuts at my job. As of now, I’m still employed there. Thankfully!

Covid also shut down our YMCA and canceled my family’s karate class indefinitely. To this day, we have not been back to karate and are out of practice. Ugh. The Y is open, but at reduced hours; our class was never reinstated.

On the bright side, I finally bought a motorized sit/stand desk for my long cubicle work days. It’s great! Health matters.

Then we installed a new kitchen counter and cabinets in our old house. So much better.

Also, Animal Crossing: New Horizons landed on the Switch. And it’s totally still a thing to play today! The game never ends.

Speaking of animals, we had 5 baby male goats born at this time. Sold them at auction.


I worked remotely at home for 4 weeks. To “flatten the curve.” Because covid. I’ve worked in the office proper ever since, fine and dandy. Glad.

Bought a new Android phone, the Moto G Power, and switched away from my Apple iPhone 7. Because I’m a tech-nerd-geek-guy and had gone all-Google several months prior. This didn’t last long though…

May through August

The national news was full of bad stuff. I “socially distanced” from news media and social media: Facebook and Twitter. Since then, I’ve used them sparingly. Twitter is pretty good though since I just follow fun stuff.

I read a LOT of books and wrote several book reviews.

Re-finished playing Final Fantasy VII. Yes, an RPG. On the Switch.

My employer made a second round of lay-offs and other cost cutting measures. I got to keep my job while project work started to dwindle.

In August, our AC broke in one of the worst heat waves. It got up to 92 inside the house. The AC was out for a few days until it was fixed. And it wasn’t cheap!

Summer of 2020 was yuck. We had to mask up and lock down and re-open and wonder if life would ever return to “normal.”


I started, finally and for the first time, playing Final Fantasy X! The HD Remaster no less. Yes, on the Switch.

Fall arrived with at least some hope of cooler temps.


I took my wife on a 3 day vacay to a Bed & Breakfast for our 19th anniversary. It was time well spent.

My birthday pushed me further into my 40’s. This year, I feel my age more than ever. My body certainly needs more exercise.

I got to hike trails in Caprock Canyons State Park with family on my birthday. Nice!

Here in west Texas, we had a rare super early snow fall in October!

I finished Final Fantasy X and started Ni No Kuni. I love role-playing video games.


We had a national presidential election. It was in the news. A lot. I voted early for the first time!

I found a good deal on a like-new iPhone 8 Plus and switched away from Android. Also switched from Google to Apple, like the whole ecosystem. Although I still enjoy my Chromebook.

Thanksgiving arrived, and with it some hope of more joyful times. The holiday season started, which helps uplift the spirit, but it definitely felt more muted and truncated than in years past. Many typical festivities were canceled.

Work at my job continued to be very slow.

This month, my 3 middle kids started playing organized basketball at a local club. They enjoyed it. It helped to offset the lack of karate at the YMCA.


After resisting for years, I finally bought AirPods: love them! Also, I got my first Apple Watch (the SE) for Christmas. I don’t practice karate now, but I can at least “close my rings” and stay active. I’ve been jogging a lot more lately! Also hoping for an iPad in 2021.

Season 2 of the Mandalorian surprised and delighted me!

At our home, I finally fixed a broken circuit in the house! Two whole rooms, part of the living room, and our front porch lacked wired power. I had to supplement with extension cords for months.

The fix required I first create a new ceiling opening for attic access. Then as I troubleshot the wiring, I stumbled upon the fix: a loose wire connection in a light fixture/junction box, making the circuit open without tripping the breaker.

Once fixed, I then added new light switches and fixtures and wiring, improving what we had before. Lots of work, but tidy! Truly a bright side during long dark days.

Lastly, for this year’s annual reading challenge, I passed my goal of 12 books with 13 read. Over one book per month average along with many hours playing video games.

Looking forward to 2021

What does the future hold? Don’t know; haven’t been there yet. I do know that worrying won’t make it any better; that’s for sure. And while it seems most people think 2021 will be better than 2020, and I hope along with them, the fact is that 2021 could be worse. But not too much worse, right?

Thinking positively, I’ve got several new RPGs yet to play on my Switch. Escapism! What else? Maybe Stranger Things season 4 and Mandalorian season 3. Fun times ahead. I’m thankful to have such pleasantries and luxuries amidst uncertain and unsteady times.

What are some positive things you are looking forward to next year?

Apple Watch 30 First Impressions

Hey y’all, I got my first Apple Watch ever for Christmas this year! It’s the SE version, which debuted this past September, in 40mm (the smaller size), Space Gray Aluminum, Black Sport Band, GPS (not cellular). This post is simply a list of my first impressions of the watch during my very first day of using it. I tried to be brief!

For #mobilecomputing, I now have a wearable; it doesn’t get much more mobile than that.

  1. The sport band is far more comfortable than I expected. Its smooth and soft, not stiff or sticky.
  2. Though the 40mm seems a bit small for my tastes, I have no problem using it. Bigger would just be nicer.
  3. The overall quality, fit/finish/feel is top notch.
  4. Using the watch – getting into, out of, and switching apps – works well and makes sense to me now that I’ve actually started using it.
  5. The crown as volume knob is as useful and nice as I expected.
  6. The Now Playing app, especially within the workout app, is very handy. Love it.
  7. The speaker is loud and clear.
  8. Text messages, glances, and quick replies are fun, convenient, and cool. Notifications in general are nice.
  9. The number of watch faces and complications is surprisingly robust and almost overwhelming at first. Love the many options. They’re both fun and functional. Love having multiple watch faces for distinct situations.
  10. Love the Reminders app on the watch.
  11. Love email triage.
  12. Voice Memo app sync with phone is great.
  13. Maps navigation is nice and handy.
  14. Love having Apple Music and Podcasts on the watch.
  15. Love doing a workout with Music and Airpods and not having my big iPhone stuffed in my pocket.
  16. Fitness tracking and workouts and activity rings and badges so far are super great and motivating, tons of useful metrics and very customizable.
  17. Month view in calendar app with list view is awesome.
  18. Remote shutter and camera viewfinder work well, not a gimmick!
  19. Raise to wake and tap to wake work very reliably.
  20. Watch performance is smooth, quick, fluid, nice, not choppy or sketchy.
  21. The plethora of apps and options in the Watch app on the iPhone is staggering.
  22. Battery level indicator of Watch and Airpods and Airpods case appear on both watch and iPhone – nice!
  23. Watch is like a remote control for iPhone or iPad.
  24. Love that activity rings from watch appear on iPhone in a widget!
  25. It’s much nicer, and super convenient, talking to my watch instead of my phone for Siri. It seems more natural or fitting. It’s also just way cooler to hear Siri talk back from the watch. I’m using this feature to capture quick reminders.
  26. First try with Apple Pay on watch at Best Buy worked perfectly.
  27. Charge dock with nightstand mode is nice.
  28. Theater mode is nice.
  29. Summary of watch in first 12 hours: nice, healthy, convenient, useful.
  30. Key apps/features I wanna see come to watch: Apple Notes app, FaceTime app with front camera, and video player despite small size.

Playing All The Roles

Hey blog buds and fellow web surfers, I hope your holiday season is cheerful. In my time off, I’ve been able to get more work done around the house (project backlog) and also playNintendo! Fun times of escape going on here. So many good role-playing games! So allow me to explore, expound, and exclaim a bit.

Roles Played

A quick review of RPGs I finished this year. Winter started with Pokemon Sword. Next, Octopath Traveler (this is one I’ve yet to complete). Spring and early Summer were filled with Animal Crossing: New Horizons and reading a bunch of books – so no RPGs then.

But late Summer and Fall were fantastic. I re-finished Final Fantasy VII. Then I finally played and finished, for the first time, Final Fantasy X – HD Remaster.

That’s a lot of RPG goodness!

To see all the RPGs I’ve played to date, go to my Grouvee list.

Role Playing Now

The current RPG I’m playing, which I started this Fall, is none other than Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. In short, I’m around 20 hours into it, and it’s marvelous! I’m SO enjoying every bit of it! And there’s still much great stuff in the game to look forward to. This game deserves its own full blog post!

So that’s 5 RPGs I’ve played this year – lots to like – yet I can’t resist also looking forward to many other RPGs on my backlog – so many good ones, so little time!

Roles To Play

Next on my to-play list is Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition.What will be my first Tales game ever, it’s an action-RPG like Ni No Kuni, also with an anime art style. It will be cool to compare the two once I’ve played them.

After that, oh my, it’s hard to choose. I plan to go back at some point and enjoy finishing Octopath Traveler – it’s a great game!

But Square Enix is releasing a new turn-based RPG early next year: Bravely Default II. It looks like I MUST play it! If I don’t, it’ll be one that I wish I hadn’t passed up. So I’d like to grab whatever special edition may be released for it – a physical copy.

There’s also the much loved and lauded Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition action-RPG. It originally came out on the Wii; I’ve never played it! But I have played about 20 hours of Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U, so I have an idea of what it’s like. It should be awesome, so I’ve got that on my wishlist too.

Lastly, I might also play one other biggun’ – Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition. The title alone is grandiose! It would be my first ever DQ game. Slimes! Yeah, I’ve got to play this one too.

So I guesstimate I have about 330 hours of awesome roles to play in 2021:

  1. Ni No Kuni – 45 hours remaining
  2. Octopath Travler – 25 hours remaining
  3. Tales of Vesperia – 60 hours
  4. Bravely Default II – 60 hours
  5. Xenoblade Chronicles – 70 hours
  6. Dragonquest XI – 70 hours

Yeah, wow! And I’m not really in a hurry. I enjoy immersing in the gameworld, taking on the role of hero, growing characters, discovering secrets, solving puzzles, battling monsters, applying strategy, and usually saving the world from evil catastophe.

By the way, all these games are on Nintendo Switch. And besides the games above that I plan to play in the future, there are more RPG options! For example, I already own Final Fantasy X–2 and Legrand Legacy: Tales of the Fatebounds; I can give those a try. And I’m also interested in Trails of Cold Steel III and Star Renegades.

So anyways, 2021 is looking promising, at least in virtual reality.

What are some things you are looking forward to in the new year? Let me hear it in the comments below!

Convenience Is AirPods Magic

Hey blogland, I hope you’re doing well. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on AirPods. I’ve been using them for two weeks now and I’m loving them. I had resisted buying them for a few years, but I’m so glad I finally got them – on sale of course.

So I have the gen 2 AirPods without a wireless charging case. Before I bought these, I was using the wired EarPods that came with my iPhone 8 Plus. So those are my immediate comparison. Otherwise, I had used a pair of MPOW wireless over-the-ear headphones for a long time.

The Fit And Feel

The AirPods fit my ears as near perfect as I can tell. Much to my delight, they don’t wiggle loose or fall out, not even when wearing a hoodie or changing my shirt. They’re so small and light! I can wear them for hours in comfort.

The Convenience

To me, the most stand-out trait of AirPods is how easy they are to use. I never have to turn them on or off. I never think about pausing or resuming playback. I just put them in or take them out and they just work. The auto-pause feature when you remove one or both – excellent. (There’s one caveat in my gripe section later on.)

Since they go in my ears instead of over, they do not interfere with glasses or wearing a hat. That’s convenient. Their tiny size in the case fits in my pants’ change pocket! So I take them with me pretty much everywhere I go and use them often. I love having them always at the ready.

The AirPods’ battery-life lasts long enough to watch a feature-length movie with them, no problem. They recharge in the case fast, and the case also charges up quickly. In my heavy usage, I need to charge the case once every 2 days or so.

As for wireless range, they’re surprisingly far reaching. With Bluetooth 5.0 in both my iPhone and the AirPods, I find they go very far, even around walls and through floors. Connection is solid.

The Sound

For Apple Podcasts, they sound terrific. And for Apple Music, they sound very good. YouTubing audio is great. To my ears, they have a bit more bass than the EarPods, and a bit more instrumental separation and “soundstage.”

AirPods get louder than I can stand, exceeding the 80 decibel range. Some ambient noise does filter in since these buds just sit in your ears. But that’s also convenient at times. I’ve used them on a long car ride without any disappointment.

The Smarts

One of my favorite things about my AirPods is how flippin’ reliable and easy it is to talk to Siri. The microphones are so close to my mouth that saying, “Hey, Siri…” works practically 100% of the time. Siri’s voice in my ears sounds excellent, and her response time is immediate.

Siri is so easy to use that I’ve found myself trying out more and more requests. To my surprise and delight, Siri often responds helpfully, even knowing the context of my commands, making it easier to just talk to her. I’m a fan!

A highlight: Siri reads my texts to me, like while driving! My hands stay at 10 and 2, a charming sound plays, quietly pausing my podcast or song, then Siri announces who texted and what he/she said. Love it! This, too, fits in the convenientcategory.

“Live Listen” is sort of an accesibility feature I think. It basically lets you use your iPhone as a remote microphone and the AirPods amplify the low sounds nearby. In testing it, I could hear my cat snoring from another room. It’s like using hearing aids.

Related to this feature, I love the Decibel Meter built into Control Center. It actively shows you the loudness of your audio while listening. You see if it’s too loud or not. This is great! I have Tinnitus and minor hearing loss, so this is a meaningful ability.

Another great detail: if you lose an AirPod, you can ping it with the Find My app. A beeping sound will play from the AirPod and it will appear on a map to help you locate it.

The Gripes

Besides simply removing an AirPod to auto-pause what’s playing, you can double-tap either earbud to pause. My small gripe is that the force needed is a bit more than I’d like. I’ve had a few times when I didn’t tap hard enough, but I’ve also never had an accidental pause.

The AirPods are small and light so they’re easy to drop. I dropped one in the car while driving and couldn’t retrieve it until I stopped as it slipped below the seat. They’re a bit fiddly to pluck from the case or return them, so you must be careful.

Although sound quality is good across the range, they’re a bit bright for my ears and I’d like more bass. But given their tiny size, I think they sound as good as physics allows.

To wrap it up, all I can say is AirPods are excellent overall. Apple sells a lot of them; they’re very popular for a reason. They’re the real deal.

I gave away my big wireless headphones and quit using any others. AirPods can’t be beat. Unless, of course, they’re AirPods Pro. I just might upgrade to the Pros next year!

Time For A Watch Upgrade

After years of iterative updates and advancements, Apple’s smartwatch – finally – has won me over. It’s about time! (Pun intended.) Apple Watch seems better than ever now. So my plan is to wrest the Timex Ironman’s grip from my wrist and strap on a wearable computer from Apple. Dumbwatch, “Bye.” Smartwatch, “Hi.”

In the past, I sometimes thought of Apple Watch as superfluous and not ancillary. Sure, it was neat, maybe even nice, but not necessary. Yet Apple has evolved the watch over time, improving features in two main areas: fitness and smartness. So now I see the watch as helpful enough to use in my daily life.

Along with all the advancements, the introduction of the Apple Watch SE at a lower price point in particular compels me to buy further into Apple’s ecosystem. Plus, the adage, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” is apt here. The Apple Watch will be an excellent addition to my iPhone and AirPods. The synergy is smart.

For example, the idea that I can simply dial in the volume on my AirPods by rotating the Digital Crown on Apple Watch – it’s a physical volume knob! Love it!

Or, I’m driving down the road with my hands on the wheel at 10 and 2 and can respond to texts hands free with Siri.

Working all day at my sit/stand desk, Apple Watch will remind me – with a tap on my wrist – to get up off my butt and will track my progress away from being sedentary.

Apple Pay, which I like on my iPhone, can be more easily used via Apple Watch. No need to pull the wallet or the phone out at the register.

The Camera Remote feature will let me use the back camera on the iPhone (the better one) to take selfies or group shots using the watch as a viewfinder and as a shutter button!

These examples are small but solid aids to my modern daily life that Apple Watch can bring. And they represent much more.

Being a tech nerd, the smart stuff of Apple Watch is easy for me to gush over. Yet it’s the health and fitness part of the watch that will be truly valuable.

I’ve posted about this before, saying that if Apple Watch grew stronger with overwhelming wellness advancements, then I’d buy the watch. Well it’s smart enough and strong enough now.

Since I have persistent tinnitus and mild hearing loss, the Noise app sounds great to me. It debuted in WatchOS 6. And it gained improvements in WatchOS 7.

The Activty app is now the Fitness app. And Fitness+ launched this week. Close those rings!

The Heart Rate app tracks real-time cardio rhythm and alerts to irregularity. Since I’m over 4 decades old and heart disease runs in my family, this is important.

Reaching my early 40’s, my body is slowly succumbing to years of sedentary office work and natural aging. Slower metabolism, longer recovery times, reduced energy, etc. I think Apple’s fitness tracking will give me vital stats and motivation to stay in good shape.

Okay, I need to burn calories to shed fat off my belly. #thestruggleisreal

Of all that the watch is designed to do, I think the fact that it’s wearable – small, convenient, always with you – is its greatest strength and the epitome of mobile computing, which Apple excels at.

So at long last, the Apple Watch has won me over. My dumb-watch is about to get a serious upgrade. That’s smart.

What About You?

Since I’ll be late to the Apple Watch game, let me ask you about it.
  • What do you like most about your Apple Watch?
  • Is it more about the smart computery stuff, like iMessage notifications, or is it more about the fitness tracking for you?
  • Do you wear a FitBit instead of an Apple Watch? Would you recommend a FitBit with an iPhone for someone looking for health and wellness features?
  • Is Sleep Tracking important to you?
  • Is your wrist sporting a “dumb” watch?
  • Are your wrists…naked!?

Thanks for your feedback.

Figuring Out Photo Sites Again

Like me, I bet you take lots of pictures. With your phone…er camera. And they’ve gotta go somewhere. You likely just back’em up with the default photo/cloud system on your phone. And the ones that are share-worthy, you probably have your go-to site or service like Instagram. But I’m not sure where I stand with all that now.

In October, something spurred me to reconsider investing in Flickr as my place to practice and pursue photography as a hobby. It’s compelling, but I think the biggest barrier is time.

Then, as I was contemplating Flickr for my photos, a few things happened. One, Google Photos, my oft-enjoyed photo service of choice, dropped a small tactical nuke: no more free photo storage!

Second, I switched from Android back to an iPhone, so I migrated away from Google Photos to iCloud Photos. Because Apple.

So, for me and my family, we’re relying on Apple’s iCloud photo library to auto back-up all our cat pics, food shots, and selfies. And the ones that are share-worthy, well, that’s the part I’m unsure about.

One good article that helped me think about this is here; check it out.

Ignoring the lack of time, Flickr would be my first choice because…good reasons. But the limiting factor then would be either the 1,000 photo limit at the free tier, or simply paying money for the Pro tier. I’d like to support Flickr with my money, but that’s another blog post.

Other than Flickr, are there other good options for posting good images? Instagram? No, I said “good options.” IG is just not good anymore as it has gotten worse and worse over time. I can’t believe IG replaced the main photo capture button!That’s a bad sign for sure. Bokeh has less competition since IG has strayed so far from its roots!

For now, I’m not really sharing any pictures except for the occasional one on Facebook. But those are not typically the photo-hobby type, they’re more like what you’d put on Instagram circa 2012.

Are there any sites besides Flickr these days that are worth any investment? Is iPhoneography still a thing?

AirPods To The Max

Hello there blog-o-sphere! December kind of sneaked up on me. It’s holiday season here in America, which is a bit muted this year due to…extenuating circumstances. Right. Anyways, yesterday Apple did a thing. And I did a thing. Both things are about AirPods.

Max Volume

Yesterday, Apple announced a new product! They expanded their line of AirPods with an eye-brow raising expensive version called AirPods Max. These things cost more than double the AirPods Pro! Thankfully, my ears are not finely attuned enough to be able to appreciate the subtle sound advancements in the new AirPods Max.

You’d think for the high cost, the AirPods Max would have all the features of the Pro version plus more. But they don’t. Notably missing are: wireless charging and water resistance. Plus they lack Apple’s ultra-wide band chip. I’m interested to read upcoming reviews of the sound quality though, because that’s what these “studio” quality headphones are about. And they do include a nifty case. Plus – colors!

Min Volume

It so happens that also yesterday, I bought my first pair of AirPods! I got the least expensive gen 2 pods for the most bang per buck. They were on sale at a reasonable price to me. And no, I didn’t buy them due to the AirPods Max announcement.

I had wanted AirPods for a long time; in fact I almost bought them 2 years ago. A few things had held me back though:

  1. The high price tag
  2. The fear of them falling out of my ears
  3. The uncertainty of them not fitting into my ears in the first place
  4. The doubt over poor sound quality

So how did I vanquish these formidable barriers?

First, as mentioned, they were on sale! And I happened to have enough disposable cash on hand, so…ca-ching. The price was right.

Lasty, when I got my new-to-me iPhone 8 Plus last month, it came with brand new, never been waxed, EarPods! For the first time, I was able to try them out. They fit my ears well, they don’t fall out, and the sound quality is very good. Yeah, they lack bass compared to my other headphones but otherwise sound very nice. And, in fact, they do have some bass, it’s just very muted.

And after doing some Duck Duck Go-ing online (that’s a good search engine, y’all), I learned that AirPods and EarPods have a close enough physical design that I’m confident they’ll fit, not fall out, and sound as good or better.

There’s one more thing, too. I got the AirPods also because I plan to buy my first Apple Watch in the near future. AirPods will just work!

Mid Volume

The AirPods Pro look excellent and, I think, have enough greater features over the AirPods that their higher cost, when on sale, is justified. But I was unwilling to splash out that much money. Maybe I’ll upgrade to these in the future.

Sounding Off

So there you have it. I already own inexpensive wireless over-ear headphones and love being wire free. I also own in-canal wired earbuds; I tried them to see if that type of design was comfortable for my ears. They’re okay… I actually prefer the light non-intrusive feel of the EarPods that came with my iPhone. And although they let in some ambient noise, it’s not too bad.

Once I’ve had some time to really try out the AirPods, I’ll likely post my thoughts on them here, so stay tuned.

Making Room For iPad

I’ve been doing some “research” on the iPad, as if I have more money to spend on Apple gear – I’m sure I saw some loose change in the couch cushions. The last time I really used an iPad, it was running on iOS 12. Now it’s on iPadOS 14, and what Apple’s done to evolve the iPad in its own direction is interesting – okay, and exciting.

Mobile Space

When the iPad debuted in 2010, Steve Jobs asked if there was room in the middle for a third device. Since then, Apple’s been trying to make more room. And once they forked iOS into iPadOS in 2019, the middle space grew bigger.

Not long ago, I said that the smartphone and the laptop squeezed the tablet out from the little in-between space it had started with. But now I see the iPad making itself more elbow room!

Before I get carried away and proclaim the tablet can now replace your laptop, hear me out: it just depends. I still think the tablet should be a tablet, doing what it’s best at: tablet-y things.

The iPad was not designed to be a laptop. Remember, Steve Jobs said Apple thought there was room for a third device; no need to replace the laptop.

iPad Grew Up

But something has happened since the iPad launched. iOS on iPhone grew more capable; it also grew more popular. Many people love iOS for its intuitive touch interface and simple design. They love it so much, in fact, that some people want the iPad to become more than a tablet; it’s a modern way to compute.

iOS combined with a huge touchscreen make iPad very attractive. These simple iPad traits make computing more accessible and approachable for many.

The tablet can do more, so the tablet can be more.

This is why tech-savvy nerds like me attach a button-laden physical keyboard to the king of tablets. It must also be why Apple now sells three different keyboards made specifically for iPad. It makes iPad a more capable computer – like a laptop.

What’s more, Apple has added iPad specific advancements over the past few years like desktop-class web browsing, mouse and track-pad support, and app sidebars for example. And these additions are not merely tacked-on after-thoughts. They are tailor-made to boost productivity while maintaining simplicity on iPad, a balance hard to find.

A Modern Computer

Apple’s mobile computing paradigm spans across three devices: iPhone, iPad, MacBook. Or by category: smartphone, tablet, laptop.

Here’s the big picture: the iPhone is a touch-only interface, the Macbook is an old-school mouse pointer only interface – but the iPad is a careful mix of the two.

Apple amalgamated tangible touch with a precision pointer.

The iPad is slowly carving out its own distinct way to compute, taking the best of the old and the new, the touch and the non-touch, finding new ways to work together as needed.

So the iPad can still be the excellent tablet that it is. Or it can be a laptop replacement. And for many, the iPad can be both.

Often times, when you mix two things, borrowing their bits and pieces, you get a compromised result. But sometimes, you do get the best of both worlds.

Bringing It Together

I think the iPad is becoming a great middle ground for modern computing. True, I still wouldn’t want to run AutoCAD on it. But for most everything else, I would prefer the svelte iPad.

As a blogger/writer/text wrangler, I gave up my iPad last year for a Chromebook. I needed a reliable physical keyboard to type words. And I needed precision cursor control via trackpad/mouse for text selection and manipulation.

That no longer seems to be a problem on iPad. Even the cheapest model at $329 now has the Smart Connector, so you can attach a no-fuss physical keyboard instantly. No pairing. No charging. Just magnet-snap and get to typing.

With my expectations tempered, I plan to once again make iPad my main computer. Not only is it more capable than ever, but thanks to the work Apple’s put into it and the direction they’ve taken things, I believe the future is even brighter for iPad.

The space in the middle is getting more roomy and comfy; I’m movin’ in.

The Case Of The Lady In The Luggage Review

When you go on a cruise, you expect fun and relaxation. Not murder. But for Ellie Tappet, well, it’s truly a mystery why death always finds a cozy life around her. So it is in this 4th book, The Case of the Lady in the Luggage. Once again, Ellie’s sleuthing and relationship skills take charge. Whodunnit this time? Here’s my 99.9% spoiler-free review.

Story And Atmosphere

If you’ve read any of the previous Ellie Tappet books, you know what to expect here. It’s all good clean amateur detective work. No horror, nothing graphic or lewd, no cussin’. This story is about as comfy and cozy as can be for a murder mystery. And as always, I love how light and quick it is to pick up and read, especially in bite-sized pieces.

Want to breeze through a weekend while avoiding bad reports from the news media in real life? Easy! Grab this book and you’re cruisin’.

The story is also a wholesome one since it focuses more on Ellie’s relationships than previous stories in the series. I thought it was the huggiest of all – there are hugs happening almost every chapter it seems. It makes for an uplifting mood, something totally worth escaping into.

There’s also more drama in this story to accompany the cozy mystery. One character from the past, Violet, has quite a bit of relational baggage, which plays into the plot and keeps things interesting.

Character Developments

Among the several returning cast members, Ellie’s story-arc is best. Her character is challenged as she has more authority than before and must balance between taking charge and being overbearing. She also shows new open-minded growth, learning to work with people who are different from her. It brings a good level of maturity to the story.

There’s also levity and cuteness with a little girl aboard, Clara. She’s a precocious karate kid – don’t cross her! Her presence punctuates the story with glee.

Another new character, who I really liked, was a British guy named Julian. His was a refreshing personality. The writing of his dialogue really brought him to life and was very well done. I’d enjoy seeing him in future stories as he brought nice contrast to the returning characters.

So, yeah, I’d say this story is more character driven than plot driven.

The Mystery

Early on, I thought I had a clue as to whodunnit. As usual, I was wrong. Like the first three Ellie Tappet novels, you can expect this one to offer clues or info along the way that may or may not be obvious and will keep you guessing.

I must admit that one of the main antagonists, Murray the Magician, made me think that some elaborate illusion would be key to unraveling the story’s secrets: the who and why and how of the murder. But nope; I was tricked.

In the end, while loose lips sink ships, in this story, they keep things afloat. Want the truth to come out? Use alcohol. Works every time.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of Cheri Baker’s writing is the wrap-up at the end. Story-arcs, relationships, and the various plots are always tied-up with a nice bow. Closure is satisfying and complete. There’s heart in it, not just duty bound “i” dotting and “t” crossing.


Overall, The Case of the Lady in the Luggage was a delightfully easy story to enjoy; it made for a relaxing weekend.

I read the novel on my iPhone in the Apple Books app. It was a free Advanced Reader Copy (ARC). You can purchase a retail copy, now available.

This cruise ship cozy mystery is a recommended bit of escapism. And now’s a great time to read this short book for your annual reading goal. Even with busy holidays, this one’s easy to pick up and get into.

Rating on goodreads: 3 stars.

For more of Cheri Baker’s books, check out her website here.

All In With Apple Again

It’s happening. Again. I’ve been switching up my workflow by using Apple’s apps instead of Google’s or other third-party apps. At first, when I switched from my Android phone back to iPhone, I didn’t think I’d do this. I should know myself better than that; I love to use all the different tech solutions! Also, Apple’s ecosystem is alluring.

Switch Flip

Having returned to an iPhone, I’m reminded how Apple’s iOS is just so simple, elegant, polished and cohesive. You use one part, see how nice it is and how well it works, so then you want to try more of Apple’s solutions – both software and hardware ones.

The cohesive nature of Apple’s products makes going all-in logical, simple, and almost irresistable. Apple is known to make “the whole widget,” which means they design both the hardware and the software to work seamlessly together.

This, of course, is obvious throughout just the iPhone’s software, its default apps and operating system, iOS. A common design language permeates iPhone.

Those are some of the basic reasons why I switched back. And there are more.

Family Sharing

Apple Music – My wife and I both like Apple Music streaming. Going from $20/mo (two individual accounts) to $15/mo (one family account) is a no-brainer. This works best when we’re both on iPhone.

iCloud – It just makes sense, and is more simple, to use the cloud backup solution that’s native to the device you have. With Apple devices, it’s iCloud, so my Google Drive set-up is being upended.

The Big Stuff

Notes – This one has been tough. Evernote is great, but there’s a lot of good I can say about Apple’s Notes app too. The number one strength of the Notes app is its cohesion to the iPhone itself.

The system level integration, by default, gives it great advantage. This means the simple and elegant common design language, both in form and function, puts Notes a notch up.

Photos – First, let me say it, I love Google Photos. If I had to score them, Google’s photo solution gets a 10 out of 10, and Apple’s gets a 9 out of 10. So why did I switch back to Apple Photos? Two main reasons: one, it’s default. So it shares the iPhone’s cohesive design, plus it utilizes the built-in iCloud backup system.

And two, after getting my wife to migrate to Google Photos when I did, several months later she voiced her preference for Apple Photos. So it makes sense for me to share the Photos experience with my wife.

Calendars, Mail, Reminders, Contacts – For many of the same reasons above, the basic productivity and utility apps and services on iPhone are my preference. Reminders, especially, is fantastic, even with Siri voice control, so it wins over Google Tasks.

Other Stuff

Sign in with Apple – This is new to me. Typically, I refuse to reuse the same online identity for various account logins. But I’m really thinking about using Apple’s privacy focused solution! It seems secure and convenient, and it relates to iCloud Keychain, Apple’s password management solution (which is excellent).

Privacy – I had already begun to move away from Google, having installed the DuckDuckGo tracker-blocker extension in the Chrome browser – it works so well! I also changed my default search engine back to DuckDuckGo (I used this for a long time before with great results).

On Apple, more private searching and less ad-tracking is default. Win!

Pages/Files/iCloud Drive – Can’t lie: Google Docs and Drive are great. I might stick with them. But for now, I’ve switched back to Apple’s solutions. (I’m typing this draft post in Pages via the Chrome web app now; it’s quite good.)


Nerding out on mobile computing tech is a thing I do. And Apple does this kind of tech best, so my new-to-me iPhone has been fun to switch back to.

Maybe it’s obvious, but I tend to switch up my tech workflow in general because I get bored and want something new. Call me human, I guess. That said, I really like Apple’s stuff above all, so I’d like to unpack my bags and stay for good.

For now, yeah, I’m all-in with Apple again. Over the years, the healthy fruit continues to make awesome devices and services. So there’s a strong chance that I remain an Apple convert and don’t revert elsewhere. I’m committed…until I’m not.

So, shocker, I’m also looking at getting more Apple devices: iPad, MacBook, Mac mini, Apple Watch, AirPods… Pretty much whatever has an Apple logo because it stands for quality, reliability, simplicity, privacy, elegance, and more.

New Macs And A New iPhone

This week in Mobile Computing, two things happened. New Macs arrived; so did an iPhone. First, Apple finally revealed the start of its move to the new brains and brawn of its Mac devices: their in-house custom built chip called “M1.” The hype was high in the announcement, with claims of high power/speed plus crazy long battery life. Initial benchmarks look promising if not surprising. Did Apple under-promise and over-deliver?

Second, after passing on my iPhone 7 to join the Android life with a new Moto G Power phone earlier this year…I switched back! Now I’m enjoying my new-to-me iPhone 8 Plus; I missed iPhone.

M1 Macs

Not gonna lie: the new M1 MacBook Air and Mac mini are compelling devices. Apple kinda gushed on the big-picture tech specs during their announcement this week. This geek was impressed.

Apple already has big mind-share and market prowess as an aspirational brand of just-works mobile computing, and I see no signs of abatement. It’s hard to resist. Only time will tell, though, if their new custom Mac chips will land well. Will this be just another iterative change or a transformative one?

What’s the big deal, really, about an M1 MacBook Air, for example? Well, on top of what’s already good about the device, now it’s:

  • Quieter or silent (fanless)
  • Faster (speed)
  • Stronger (more powerful)
  • Longer (much better battery life)

So if the MacBook Air was only very good before, now it’s great. Or if you thought it was great before, now it’s superb. To me, it’s all looking to be a bigger change than the mere annual spec bump, by far.

And this is just the start.

iPhone 8 Plus

Over the years, almost all of my Apple purchases have been of used devices. Because Apple stuff is such high quality to begin with, buying a three year old iPhone like I did this week is hardly sacrificing anything. In fact, I got a fantastic smartphone for a fraction of its initial price tag.

The particular one I bought is in serious like-new condition too! It had been encased and screen protected, and it even included the original unused EarPods. It’s truly immaculate.

I’m extra happy for this iPhone since it’s my first dual-camera and phablet version (I previously owned an iPhone 4, 6, and 7).

While I did trade off a few things in leaving behind my Moto G Power Android phone (most notably the nice ultra-wide camera and mega-long 2 to 3-day battery), I gained some great stuff: NFC for contactless payments, great water resistance for spills and pool drops, a 2x telephoto lens, and wireless charging for saving wear and tear on re-plugging in a cable a million times.

Above all, though, I got an iPhone. I missed it. The system and apps and hardware are just so nice and easy to use. And the main draw in switching back, for me, was the fact my wife and son had kept their iPhones.

I was hoping and kinda planning on leading my family to switch over to Android with me, but that didn’t happen! So with my kids using my old iPhone 7 under the Family Sharing I had set up, and with my wife sticking to Apple Music and iMessage etc, I kinda had to go back. Practically, it just made more sense and works out better overall.

It’s the Apple ecosystem that pulls you in and keeps you. And frankly, I really like it. I had even quit using Spotify, embracing Apple Music beforehand. The switcheroo was a no-brainer.

For a moment, when I was prepping to leave my Android phone, I had some anxiety. I wasn’t sure I could de-couple from it, being so entrenched in the Google-verse. Long story short, I just went for it. And right away, I was so glad to be using an iPhone again.

Apple Centric

So yeah, I guess I give up. Take my money, Apple. I’m interested in more, because the Apple ecosystem of hardware and software gets better the more invested you are. AirPods, HomePod mini, Apple Watch, iPad, MacBook Air, MagSafe, rumored Tile-finding devices… What do I want for Christmas this year? Hmmm…

Yet I’m not too enamored. I’m still loving my simple and affordable Chromebook and, so far, am still relying on many Google apps and services or other 3rd-party ones.

Mobile Computing is my thing. It’s also Apple’s, and I think they do it best. Yet Google is strongest at cloud services. As always, I hope to pick what works best, not break the bank, and resist some marketing hype. But in the end, I’m still only human.

Hey, Siri! It’s me, Jason; I’m back.

I Beat Final Fantasy X!

Hey blog friends, I’ve not posted lately because I’ve been focused elsewhere – perish the thought! True though. The whole Presidential election was kind of a distraction, go figure. But my gaze has really been offline and inside escapist role-playing games! And finally, I beat Final Fantasy X!

So back in the very beginning of September – technically the Summer! – I started playing Final Fantasy X for the first time ever, on Nintendo Switch. I averaged about an hour a night, skipping a few here and there.

In the end, about 2 months or 65 hours later, I “beat the game!” So I finished the main story; I didn’t 100% the game with all its extras. Maybe I would if I didn’t have a game backlog.

What a game! Square-Enix, in their line of FF games, did not disappoint. I really don’t know where I’d rank number ten among its siblings. For comparison, I’ve played through four other games in the franchise: FFVI, VII, and most of VIII and IX.


It was a little complex or convoluted – no surprise there. The game is very linear, the worldbuilding is nice, the settings are beautiful, the characters are very likeable and believable.

I thought it was a strange choice to have a story with such strong tones of religion, but I think that’s a nice break from ones all about politics. The main character, Tidus, I liked him a lot! He was such a breath of fresh air compared to the quirky, jaded, or sulky male protagonists of yore.


Fantastic battle system! It was a departure from the active time battle system of the past, being fully turned based. You could take your sweet time on your turn, think about your strategy, the best move, and execute.

I loved that you could finally swap out party members on the fly during battle and even swap out their weapons or armor too! There was more emphasis on status effects than previous games, if you ask me, and I loved this too. Even summoned monsters were more like playable characters.

Leveling system – it was cool, fresh. I liked the Sphere Grid used to level up party members because it gave a sense of control and direction. You had a choice in exactly what skills or traits your characters upgraded, unlike previous games. Yet there’s still something I like about the simplicity of stats automatically increasing at level-ups.


This game is almost 20 years old, PS2 level graphics. But being the HD remaster, it looked great overall. I have not played many modern games, and I had just re-finished FFVII right before FFX, so there was a giant leap in stunning visual design. Loved it.

What I didn’t like, though: No overworld map! No free 360 camera control. Almost zero exploration. The trials (temple puzzles) were okay.


Excellent scores and tracks for the most part. Nobuo Uematsu made great music again, but so did new-to-me artists too. I have several favorites I listen to on my phone now.


The game was a really great experience and challenge. I had to level-grind in some areas, especially at the end of the game. But I like grinding in a JRPG, I’m used to it. It makes me feel like I’m working towards a goal and earning my level-ups. The rewards are thus more enjoyed.

The cinematic presentation was top-notch, which was expected but no less appreciated!

Will I play FFX–2 or FFXII on Switch? What about FFXIII on PS3..? Maybe I’ll play FFX–2 since I already own it, but it’ll be a while.

I’m currently playing a new JRPG called Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. And I’ve got Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition lined up after that!

iPhone Temptation

When looking at Apple’s new iPhones, I’m tempted to buy the more expensive versions. I am lured by the upsell. The least expensive iPhone is all the smartphone you need…but the other iPhones are more shiny!

The dubious rationale behind the purchase of a $1,000 phone is explained nicely in this article on Medium: The Weird Economics of the Apple Upsell.

This year, Apple’s iPhone lineup is a huge Sarlacc pit, ready to pull you in at any point. The span of magical iPhones for 2020 is impressive indeed; there are 7!

The new top iPhone 12 Pro Max 512GB at $1,400 is a full $1,000 more than the 64GB iPhone SE at $400!

Yet both iPhones do basically the same things: make phone calls, texts, take good pictures, run apps, and surf the web. Both have NFC for wireless payments. Both are water resistant.

So what justifies the huge price difference? Fair question. What is the rationale behind buying anything over the iPhone SE?

In the Medium article I mentioned above, it talks about comparing the cheapest new iPhone to the next one in the lineup and then repeating that process each step of the way up until you’ve rationalized buying a phone for $1,400. It makes sense yet it’s kind of bonkers at the same time.

But here’s how to break that reasoning. Don’t compare the iPhone SE to the next one up the lineup chain. Compare the new $400 iPhone, which is all you really need, to the old phone you are upgrading from. That’s the only one to compare to.

If your current phone is ready for an upgrade, then you simply compare it to the least expensive iPhone and leave it at that. Don’t look at the others. Compare only your old phone with the new lowest-cost iPhone. Old phone: frown. New phone: smile. New phone only $400, yes!

It would be nice to live in a reality where we’re rational all the time and never let our emotions or impulses affect our decisions. But we don’t.

Yet it’s rational to strive for such rationality; so we do.

Your Phone Is Your Computer

In the last few years, smartphones have become more expensive. In fact, some phones cost more than laptops. How can a phone command such a high price tag? Among many factors, I’m looking at this one idea: your phone is your computer.

Here’s one example of the higher price of a smartphone over a laptop: my own Android phone is $250. And my Chromebook, on sale, was about $200. So my phone cost more than my laptop. How can that be?

Another example of device cost disparity is found in Apple’s 2020 iPhone lineup too. With new Apple iPhones now on sale, you might be faced with choosing one that costs more than a MacBook. This is “just a phone” we’re talking about here, right?

The new iPhone 12 Pro Max with 512GB storage costs $1,400 while the entry level MacBook Air is priced at $1,000. Why does a phone cost $400 more than a computer?

Whether you’re looking at an expensive iPhone or a flagship Android phone like the Samsung Galaxy Note20, you’re likely to spend as much, if not more, than you would on your laptop or desktop computer. That sounds a bit ludicrous, but it kind of makes sense when you think about it.

The Most Personal Computer

These days, we rely on smartphones more than our computers. And although computers are productivity machines, our phones do as much or more. Since phones are pocketable, they’re more versatile than traditional computers.

Your phone is your point-n-shoot camera; it’s always with you to capture life’s moments. Then on that same phone you edit the photos or videos from the camera, much like you can edit video on a desktop PC.

Smartphones are now our wallets too. They wirelessly pay for things at the store. And they secure your identity so you can pay online. Speaking of money, you can budget finances right on your phone using a spreadsheet or a specialized app.

Our phones, using GPS and an accelerometer, record our steps and calculate our general fitness; they’re like pedometers. Try doing that with your laptop in your backpack.

And phones are now the best music playback devices. They stream wirelessly from the internet to any bluetooth speaker or headphones, at home and on-the-go.

So a phone’s utility often outclasses a productivity laptop. Smartphones changed computing life as we know it starting back in 2007 when the first iPhone debuted. Many people today couldn’t live without a smartphone; they’re as necessary as cars.

Yet when we look at a new phone that costs $1,000 or more, we wear a grimace emoji on our face. Sticker shock shows we forget how much we rely on our phones for all their many capabilities.

I tend to be budget conscious and frugal. Yet I think that since phones are the most important computer in our daily lives, it’s reasonable to pay a high price for them. And to offset that cost, we can say a laptop is our secondary computer, like a peripheral that is ancillary to our mobile phone, and thus pay less for it.

In other words, flip the script.

Instead of a low cost phone and high cost laptop, get a high cost phone and low cost laptop.

Either way, the more I think about all that I use a phone for in daily life, and how much I rely on it, the higher prices seem justified. Our smartphones are tiny marvels of modern mobile computing.

Yet novelty, hype, and marketing work hard to sell those high priced smartphones; I work hard to resist.

What’s your take on high cost phones these days? Do you feel the prices are warranted?

Switching To 4K Video

Are you already aboard the 4K train? You know, Ultra High Definition (UHD). Despite being a tech-nerd, I’m dragging my feet, content to live with HD quality videos. Why? Because, for goodness sake, it looks great already!

Maybe it’s because I come from a time when the best we had was VHS, which I think displayed something like 320×240 (or 640×480?) resolution on an interlaced TV. It was yuck! Yet it was color TV!

Then we evolved to the awesome DVD format. And today I live with 720p or 1080p HD. It’s superb!

My family was late to the HD party by several years. The advantage: by then, HD was ubiquitous and easy to adopt. And it had dropped in price, becoming affordable.

That’s basically where I stand now with 4K. Sure, it looks stellar. But the costs are also sky high. Well, they are coming down I think.

The trouble is once you’ve invested in a blu-ray player, a new HDTV, and movies on blu-ray, you kind of want technology to stand still long enough to enjoy your investment.

Oh, and let me interject: the 3D movie fad…yeah, I never even considered it.

The next thing you know, marketers are telling you that you might as well be rubbing sandpaper on your eyeballs if you’re not watching glorious 4K stuff.

Now all of the sudden, you’ve got to buy another new TV. And a new movie playback machine. And new more expensive movies.

This is where things get more tricky than usual! Besides contemplating an upgrade to 4K, you must decide whether you’re gonna stick with physical discs or just go all digital. Either way, you’re gonna spend more money.

So I’ve resisted 4K for a few years now. I might hold out at least one more.


Switch To 4K

I recently realized a new factor. I enjoy video gaming on my Nintendo Switch. There are rumors that Nintendo is planning an upgrade for the Switch to play games in 4K! And, okay, I admit: I am much more interested in jumping on the 4K bandwagon with that prospect.

Just think about it! Mario, Zelda, Metroid, new RPGs…in 4K!!

My digital wallet is starting to feel lighter already.

Apple iPhone Lineup 2020

Apple spilled the sauce this week. The mobile devices company revealed its newest iPhone(s). There are 4 new ones for 2020. They’re similar to each other, and they’re familiar, being basically the same as last year’s iPhone. They are, after all, iPhones. And that’s not a bad thing.

iPhone 12

For 2020, the four new iPhones are all twelves. You have two tiers; each tier has two versions that differ mainly by size. In fact, when you compare them by specs, you see they have very little difference between them.

The lower tier of iPhone(s) 12 is, I guess, the “normal” one. The upper tier is called “Pro.” Although there are 4 new iPhones, there are only three sizes: small, medium, and large.

  • Small
    • iPhone 12 mini
    • 5.4” screen
  • Medium
    • iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro
    • 6.1” screen
  • Large
    • iPhone 12 Pro Max
    • 6.7” screen

This year, the iPhone 12-es do not offer any major new features; they simply iterate current abilities. Basically, they’re all a little bit faster, nicer, or better than before. If you have an iPhone 11 from last year, I don’t see why you’d need to upgrade.

But do the new iPhones need to make great new advancements? No, not really. They’re already excellent mobile devices, firmly established at the leading edge of mobile computing. This year, they keep that solid stance, moving forward just enough with the march of time.

Well, the cameras are improved, especially on the most expensive model. But I dare say that most people’s phone cameras are good enough these days. So why shell out so much money for a phone that costs $1,000?

The real updates to the 2020 iPhones is the all-new-retro industrial design we first saw with the wonderful iPhone 4 back in 2010. That’s right, the greatest thing about the latest iPhones appears to be their appearance – a 10 year old squared-edge design.

Plus, new colors.

Yes, the iPhone(s) 12 do look as super sleek as ever. It would be travesty to encase them. But nobody wants to drop their fancy expensive mobile computer on the concrete. Heck, I put my “budget” $250 Android phone in a $20 case with a glass shield on it.

I would have bought a vibranium case, but Walmart was all out. And the adamantium cases cost too much. So, they’re really unobtanium. But I digress for fun.

Here’s the full starting price comparison of all the current iPhones Apple now sells:

  • iPhone SE $400
  • iPhone XR $500
  • iPhone 11 $600
  • iPhone 12 mini $729
  • iPhone 12 $829
  • iPhone 12 Pro $1000
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max $1100

*Depends on carrier…

It should be noted that the $400 iPhone SE can do all the same basic things as the $1100 iPhone 12 Pro Max. The differences, costing $700 more, are enhancements and preferences.

For this year’s iPhones, Apple also announced new MagSafe accessories. Cases, wallets, and chargers, for example, magnetically attach to iPhone 12. The video demos make MagSafe look compelling.

As an aside, Apple has talked about Augmented Reality (AR) in its product announcements for years, touting it as the future or as innovative. It looks cool in demos, but is anyone actually using AR? It doesn’t seem to be a real thing, or maybe it remains niche. I keep thinking that, after years of advancing AR tech, a compelling use case would appear. /Crickets.

Oh, and the iPhone 12-s now have 5G.

HomePod mini

One other thing that Apple announced is their new $99 HomePod mini. Notice that I prefaced the product’s name with its price, because that, to me, is what’s most “magical” about this Apple product.

Despite being a “Mobile Devices Company,” Apple is pushing into the home devices market. A sub-$100 price point is like a magical barrier. Given the cost and the capabilities of the HomePod mini, Apple is banking on each household buying multiple mini HomePods.

Even I, an Apple-deviceless nerd, am tempted.

Besides being affordable (for an Apple product), the HomePod mini is said to play good quality music in a 360 degree spatial way, so it should sound good from any direction. Nice.

And if you have two ($198!) HomePod minis in the same room, they will auto-magically pair together to play audio in stereo. Nice-Nice!

Also, you can play music throughout the entire house from all available HomePod minis.

Plus, with multiple mini HomePods, you can use a feature called “Intercom.” It does what you think and sounds useful. You can announce to your household anything you want. Siri plays back your voice, not the Siri voice, to share your announcement. And you can speak it from anywhere: your Apple Watch, your iPhone, your other HomePod mini.

From what I’ve read online, though, Amazon’s Echo speakers with Alexa have the same functions, more or less, and they come with even lower price tags. But Apple is known to make devices work together better than any other company. And since iPhones are common in many households, a $99 Apple smart speaker should be an easy sell.

Apple Aspirations

Apple has made incremental moves in the mobile device area with the new iPhone 12 while it has made a big step in the home device area. But add to that Apple’s product launches last month, the new Apple Watch and iPads; you see overall progress for its mobile devices business. And more is on the way.

Next month, Apple is said to be revealing another of its biggest leaps forward for mobile computing with new laptops featuring its own custom CPUs. As usual, we’ll wait and see.

I admit, since my wife and kids use iPhones, I’ve been thinking about switching back. And these Apple announcements draw me. Even when you look past the marketing hype, there’s no doubt that Apple devices have high-quality and reliability. Plus, they have privacy and security. And now iPhones have widgets like Android.

Spotify Plays Game Music

Let’s talk music streaming for a bit. I bet you already have your go-to place for tunes. Me, well, I’ve jumped around, tried a few things.

It took a long time for me to break from the iTunes a-la-carte model. That ability to purchase one song rather than a whole album was liberating; I came from a time of cassettes and CD’s. If I wanted that-one-hit-song, I ran to the radio and mashed the record button – and groaned when the tape wasn’t queued.

Fast forward to streaming music services. Their monthly subscription fees seemed like too much commitment, but I started to try them out.

First, I sampled Apple Music. It was nice… Then I dove into Spotify; I loved it! Part of the reason I bothered looking into it was knowing that Google Play Music would soon be killed off by Google, but I digress.

Well, despite loving Spotify, I wanted to later try YouTube Music Premium. I did, I liked it, and most of all I enjoyed the perk of ad-free YouTube Premium for only $2 more a month.

But then something happened.

When I first opened up to YouTube Music, I realized quickly that I’d have to give up some official soundtracks; Spotify had them, YouTube Music didn’t. I thought I was willing to live with that.

Turns out, I wasn’t.

Towards the end of Summer, when I got back into playing video games, I wanted the soundtracks to the games! The official soundtracks for all the Final Fantasy games are on Spotify! There’s even the album for Octopath Traveler!

There were a few other albums I missed too. So, there was no choice. I had to have my tunes!

Despite the benefits of YouTube Music, I couldn’t resist the greatest feature of Spotify, the most important reason for choosing it: my songs. Like, music by Nobuo Uematsu!

Aside: Why video game music? When you play certain games, like role-playing ones, the music sets the atmosphere and draws you emotionally into the story. Those tunes stick with you. And you feel sonically obliged to immerse in them.

So, all that to explain why I switched something again. I’m back on Spotify and am loving it!

Ah, but there’s one more thing.

I’m now also trying something else again: Apple Music…on Android!? Yes, it’s true. I’d always thought Apple Music on Android was bad due to poor reviews. But now that I’m in an actual free one-month trial, I’m surprised at how well it works! It looks and feels just like it did on my old iPhone 7!

Not only that, I discovered Apple does, in fact, make a cloud based web player for Apple Music. And it’s working well on my Chromebook!

I love Spotify, so why am I trying Apple Music after leaving Apple devices behind? Long story short, my wife is an iPhone user and likes Apple Music. If she doesn’t switch to Spotify, then I may switch to Apple Music so we can save money with a family share plan.

And yes, the first thing I did was check to see if Apple Music has all my video game soundtracks; it does! Moreover, to my surprise, Apple Music also has a particular game soundtrack that Spotify lacks: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch!

What’s your gotta-have music?

Ready For Ready Player Two

This is interesting. Over the Summer, I read many books – ‘twas a season of readin’. Then I turned to role playing video games for stories – gaming! Now these two forms of escapism are coming together in another way: Ready Player Two.

A new book by Ernest Cline releases in just a few weeks, on November 24, 2020. Ready Player Two is a sequel to Ready Player One, which spawned a movie that, somehow, I’ve yet to watch.

In case you missed it, the story in book one is heavy on video gaming, virtual reality, and 1980’s nostalgia. Fun, sci-fi, action…what’s not to like?

The big question in anticipation is, will book two be as good as the first?

If nothing else, it’s solid escapism to look forward to. We’ll wait and see. I have already pre-ordered my kindle copy and will likely post a review here, on goodreads, and Amazon.

With the holiday season kicking off next month, I think this new fun book will be a great start! Check out Ready Player Two on goodreads. Some put it in the genre LitRPG. Like, a role-playing game…in a book?! NICE!

I must say, how can I not be a fan of the author? He’s a full-time geek, and he lives in my state of Texas. From his bio on goodreads,

“Ernie lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic video games.”

Three Great Gamecasts

These days, lots of folks binge watch shows on “Awesome Streaming Service.” Other fun things you might enjoy: a hobby, cooking, music… I bounce between different things. Lately, I’ve enjoyed the imaginative worlds of video games. The interactive escapism makes for rich entertainment.

When not playing video games, it’s fun to geek out over them with others. Sharing gameplay experiences and anticipating new ones adds excitement. So the social game-cataloging site, Grouvee, is a joy. But I’m here to focus on another avenue for gaming geekery: podcasts.


I’m sure there are a ton of podcasts about video gaming; I’ve found three good ones. You might like’em too.

  1. NVC by IGN
  2. Switchcast
  3. Random Encounter by RPGFan

The first two focus on Nintendo Switch games. The third one is all about RPG games across various platforms besides the Switch, like on Playstation or Xbox.

What they all have in common is intense or serious enthusiasm for gaming – something I relate to. Or you might just say there’s fun and joy.

The people on these podcasts exude passion for gaming when they review games, discuss upcoming ones, and talk about the gaming industry as a whole. They’re informative and bring excitement.

Do these podcasts encourage escapism? You bet! This is a good thing. America in 2020 has been less than enjoyable to say the least. So having something fun to distract from bad news is helpful.
What Else?

Maybe you’re not into video games. No problem. Whatever you’re into, I’m sure you’ll find podcasts for it. Have you thought about it subscribing to any? It’s super easy!

There are many apps for downloading and listening to podcasts on your phone. Best of all, most are free (ad supported). If you’re into writing stories or underwater basket weaving, and you need some fuel for your fun-fire, check out some podcasts by like-minded folks to geek out with.

I’ll leave you with links to some popular podcast players:

Nintendo Switch Like Apple iPhone

When you find something great that truly works well, you want that thing. The iPhone fixed cell phones…and did so much more. Now we all rely on smartphones! But could a game console be like the iPhone?

At Nintendo Life this week, Damien McFerran wrote in response to a Bloomberg article about Nintendo’s future prospects in the traditional game console life-cycle. That cycle tends to swing up and down. And, worst of all, it generally resets the installed user-base. For example, fans of the popular and best-selling Wii console dwindled after the launch of its disappointing successor, the Wii U.

I understand the financial angle about the Switch’s promise, and I’m excited by Nintendo’s current fortune with their awesome hybrid console. But the most interesting point to me is this new idea: the Switch could be Nintendo’s iPhone!


What does that mean? Practically everyone knows what an iPhone is. It is Apple’s smartphone and, according to about half of all US consumers, it is THE phone to get. And the big point is that the iPhone, despite Apple making several variations of it every single year for over a decade, is still the iPhone. For example, I’ve owned the iPhone 4, 6, and 7. They were all…iPhone.

The iPhone is like an appliance you buy once and use for years until it breaks. Otherwise, you don’t want it to change because it works so well the way it is. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it!


Gaming consoles have had a different approach. After several years in the market, console makers unleash all-new and improved consoles with new names, different form factors, upgraded parts, etc. Yes, they still do the same thing – play video games – but they restart from the ground up or reinvent what it means to play a video game. If you’re a gamer, you must reinvest in the new systems or be left behind. Your “old” system, though it still works, will not play the new games.

But what if Nintendo changed all that? What if the Switch is here to stay? The iPhone has been known as “The iPhone” for the past 13 years. What if gamers will be playing on a Switch 13 years from now? That’s never happened before!

Sure, the Switch would be upgraded over time just like an iPhone, but it would always remain essentially a Switch. It would become a known item, the thing you go to if you want to play video games.

For example, if you wanted a music player, you got an iPod. It was iconic! It was the go-to thing for playing music. And if you want a smartphone, you get an iPhone… Likewise, if you want to play games, you should get a Switch; it’s a fantastic gaming machine!

Nintendo’s Switch isn’t broken; don’t fix it.

Upgrade it. Instead of sun-setting the stellar Switch and trying to come up with a totally new console, just keep the Switch moving forward forever. It will have the mindshare as the reliable gaming rig – everyone will know the Switch is the thing to get for video games.

Thanks to the iPhone, Apple is known for inventing Mobile Computing as we know it. And one can argue that Nintendo invented Mobile Gaming. Now I’m not talking about the kind of mobile games for casual play on a smartphone or tablet. I refer to console caliber gaming with tactile buttons; Nintendo has owned this space since at least the GameBoy in the early 1990’s. And as a hybrid, the Switch works great as both a home console and a handheld mobile gaming machine.

Nintendo’s Switch may be the most obvious yet most ingenious innovation to video gaming ever.

Given that Nintendo now has all their gaming eggs in one hybrid basket instead of being split across two segments (home and mobile), and since the Switch is outperforming expectations, it is a solid and winning strategy that should not be fixed.

The Nintendo Switch (verb)

The Switch may have switched up the traditional game console paradigm.

Nintendo’s Switch can ensure this with longevity, which equates to reliability, more mindshare, and greater market share. Sony and Microsoft both do great in the home console space, but nobody plays as well in the handheld game space as Nintendo. “The Nintendo Switch” may refer to not just the game console but to the shift in the gaming console cycle itself.

And the more I think about this, the more I’m starting to see the Switch differently. I have long viewed it as Nintendo’s latest home console that doubles as its handheld machine. But now I’m starting to think the Switch is a handheld machine first and foremost, playing to Nintendo’s strengths, and doubles as a home console.

Could it be that Nintendo’s strategy all along was to invent a 3DS replacement that would also fill the void, left by the Wii U, in their home console space? Whatever their plans were or are, they’re working! The Switch is a runaway success.

It should be. Doing double-duty as a hybrid, the Switch should be at least twice as good as any previous game system sold by Nintendo. Going forward, I hope Nintendo does not try to fix what’s winning and working. Because it means I can keep playing!

The Whole Hybrid

Nintendo should mimic the success story of the iPhone. Apple makes the “whole widget,” combining both hardware and software to invent amazing devices, with their supporting ecosystems, such as iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Likewise, Nintendo makes innovative gaming hardware and is known for some of the most iconic intellectual property outside of Disney with the likes of Mario and his library of gaming software.

The Switch, with Mario, Zelda, and more, provides some of the greatest video gaming you can have, both at home and on the go. There’s no stopping it.

The 3DS Was Switched Out

After many years, Nintendo officially stopped making their super popular 3DS line of handheld gaming consoles. They also removed most references to it on the Nintendo website; it’s discontinued. A search for “3DS” shows a page with a link to the 3DS page, but it redirects to the main home pageinstead.


I mostly missed that era of Nintendo handheld gaming. Before getting back into Nintendo, I was only playing mobile games on my smartphone or tablet. That said, I did own a New 2DS XL just to play Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

Late in the 3DS life cycle, my 5 sons all got their own 2DS or New 2DS XL. So we have several used games in our library. There are so many good ones! Of course, now they all want a Switch Lite, which is Nintendo’s newest dedicated handheld gaming machine.

I still think the Switch Lite doesn’t quite live up to its name since, you know, it can’t actually switch from handheld to console mode! But I understand the simple marketing behind it – consistent branding.

Most importantly, for the first time in the history of Nintendo, it’s fascinating to me that their home console and mobile handheld both play the exact same games! No more separate cartridges and discs. No more disparate versions of games. Any Switch game, physical or digital, plays the same on both the Switch and Switch Lite. Fantastic!

I wonder if this strategy will prove more, less, or the same financially for the makers of Mario and Zelda. The 3DS line of devices made Nintendo a ton of money during a time when their home console, the Wii U, was as popular as a screen door on a submarine. (For the record, I own a Wii U; there are many great games for it! In fact, it’s the system I played Breath of the Wild on.)

As Nintendo has always done in the past, I fully expect the company to introduce new versions of the Switch, especially since it’s so popular AND does double duty as both a home and mobile console.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see an even smaller Switch Lite (Switch Mini?) to hit the $149.99 price point and make it more pocketable. And many people expect a high-powered Switch Pro to be revealed as soon as 2021. Hopefully, it will boast improved joy-cons as well. And 4K.

On top of that, you could bet new Switch colors and special editions will appear down the line, much like the Animal Crossing: New Horizons unit that came out back in March. I’d be up for a snazzy looking Metroid edition or a new Zelda version. Also, I admit some regret in not buying the Pokemon Sword/Shield Switch Lite; that thing looks cool!

Gone are the days when I faked being sick in Jr. High to stay home and play the Gameboy I borrowed from a friend. Nowadays, I bring my Nintendo Switch with me to my job to get some gametime during lunchtime. Things have come a long way, and the future is looking fun.

What was your favorite Nintendo handheld system?

Pokémon Fun Reshuffled

This past weekend, I played something besides a video game: Pokémon TCG. My interest was rekindled by last Friday’s release of the new Champion’s Path expansion. The previous one, Darkness Ablaze, helped fuel the flames. And the new Standard Rotation reinvigorated the playing field.

Put Down The Controller

Yeah, I paused Final Fantasy X, docked the Nintendo Switch, and fully diverted my attention to rebuilding an all-new battle deck. With the recent Eternatus cards, how could I avoid revitalizing my Darkness game!?

So I took my Dark-type deck and started swapping out old cards. Thankfully, one of my favorite strategies remained intact with Weavile GX; I love his Shadow Connection ability! But now I can use his Nocturnal Maneuvers to set up my new main attacker, Eternatus VMAX.

I won’t bore my non-Pokémon readers with too many of the details. Yet you might relate.


Pokémon is very involved; it engages the brain’s problem solving capacity. The numerous cards and abilities are somewhat daunting, but the game boils down to a few basic strategies. And while that translates to costing a lot of time and money, it’s also much fun.

The strategic part captured my brain this weekend. With so many new cards and abilities, I saw time fly by while my mind weighed all the options. You can be imaginative in discovering sneaky tricks or certain knock-outs in the game. But you must always weigh the trade-offs with the benefits. And Pokémon TCG is balanced well; it requires careful planning.

Family Fun

So for the first time in months, my whole family went to the Pokémon League meet-up. My kids and I had fun! I scored great trades for new cards, adding them to my arsenal. Then it was time to start testing my revised Dark deck. It worked, but it has weaknesses; no surprise. So I’ve begun addressing those and will tweak my deck to victory.

And I can’t wait for more! It’s nice to have good family fun, especially during otherwise stressful times. Balancing books, video games, movies, and all forms of escapism is a great problem to have; I’m thankful.

A cool bonus: playing Pokémon with my kids helps me be involved with them more. For example, my oldest son asked me to help him tweak his new Water-type deck. So I’ve started suggesting certain cards and strategies to him – even made a good trade. And my youngest son, still too young to actually play, enjoys trading cards with daddy and his brothers.

So bring it on. I’m eager for the next expansion, Vivid Voltage. It might electrify the game even better, giving the family more to buzz about.

Lastly, speaking of buzz, The Pokémon Company and Nintendo announced yesterday that the newest expansion, The Crown Tundra, for the video game, Pokémon Sword and Shield, will be released on October 22. The biggest news to me: it includes ALL the legendary Pokémon from previous games! That means I’ll finally be able to catch my favorite, Zygarde!

Evernote Is Ever Better

We live in a world of mobile apps. Many companies make different types; pick your favorite! As a nerd, I like trying out apps. And I’ve flip-flopped again. In search of the ‘perfect’ Notes app, I went from Evernote to Keep and…I’m back on Evernote!

Noteworthy Return

First of all, I had rediscovered Evernote last October with enthusiasm. Read about that here. Then I kept being drawn to Google Keep. Check it out.

But now I’ve been spurred to switch back to Evernote full-time. The catalyst was the company announcing its totally new app for iOS.

Naturally, this nerd took note.

Looking at Evernote again, I liked what I saw! There were some new-to-me things:

  1. The web interface looks and works better than ever. That’s not hyperbole.
  2. The Android app widgets are great.

Web App

Since refinding Evernote last year, I knew the company was updating the browser interface. Yet it had a few issues – growing pains – so I felt I couldn’t rely on it. That was a bummer. But now it looks like all those issues are fixed; the web-app experience on my Chromebook has been stable and consistent.

The refreshing layout is attractive: clean, elegant, and simple enough. And its features are great too. For example, it has basic text editing options that Google Keep lacks. Also, it has…folders! Of course, they’re called, “Notebooks.”

One of the biggest yet most basic reasons I’m back on Evernote is to utilize its folder system to store my notes. You know, because – a place for everything and everything in its place. The approach is simple: notes in notebooks (and notebooks in stacks if you like).

Also, there’s a tagging system, so besides organizing notes into broad notebooks, I can label notes with more detail. This lets me sort stuff into categories and sub-categories. And it comes in handy for filtering or searching, so I can find the notes I need.

Tags and Notebooks help me order my mixed thoughts; they’re a sweet combo!

In contrast, Google Keep has only a labeling system to sort notes – no folders at all. It’s less ordered and looks like a big spread-out pile of colored post-it notes. I get it, but it’s just not how my brain works. I like simple, but not oversimplified.


On my Android smartphone, the Google Keep widget is practical but ugly. While appearance is subjective, I think there’s some objective fact to this. The translucency, tight text, and limited empty space all make it look like a phone book clipping (remember the Yellow Pages?)

On the other hand, the Evernote widget is pleasing to view. Not only does it look very nice, it’s highly customizable! You can tailor your Evernote widget in a number of ways.

For example, besides choosing what notebooks you want to see or save notes to, you can change the widget color, which action buttons appear, arrange their order, and show/hide images or tags.

Web Clipper

The Web App and Widgets are fantastic. And I’ll add one more thing – Web Clipper. It’s just awesome! Web surfin’ and note nerdin’ are super nice with this powerful and elegant capability. It’s easy to learn and use, giving you several options to capture content from a website and make a note of it.

Grab a whole site, grab only a windowed portion of it, or just grab the link to it. And you can add tags and remarks right in the clipper window. The clipper makes it easier to note things without jumping between two apps.


Evernote is a company dedicated to one thing – notes! It’s their singular focus, so they aim to excel and achieve success at it. All their eggs are in the notes basket; they don’t want to drop it.

Google, Apple, and Microsoft offer fine Notes apps, but note-taking is not their bread and butter. These big companies want to offer everything so they can be your one-stop provider, trapping you in their ecosystems – walled gardens. It works, but I think it’s easier to trust a company and service that’s purpose built to provide the thing you need.

Evernote’s popularity and utility have fluctuated over the years. But course correction began in January 2019. Ian Small, CEO, has led the company on a huge and sincere effort to fix things for the better. And for the future.

There’s even a dedicated behind-the-scenes video series on YouTube that shows what and how Evernote is improving; I enjoyed it!

Entrusting your personal thoughts to a notes app and service is as important as backing up your kids’ pictures to a photos app and service.

Evernote’s committed effort to earning my trust, and my notes, is noteworthy.

HP Chromebook 14 Review

It’s been about a year since I started using a laptop full-time to manage my WordPress blog and surf the web. The iPad I used was great…as a tablet. But pushing it to be more caused frustration and disappointment. Why force a tablet to be a laptop when you can just use an actual laptop?

So I bought a Chromebook.

HP Chromebook 14

For a blogger who types a lot, you gotta have a keyboard. iPads are glass slabs without a physical keyboard; laptops have them built-in.

You can use a bluetooth keyboard with an iPad; I tried. But it lacks palm rests and isn’t lappable…unlike laptops! When you type a lot, you notice these things.

I’ve owned different laptops over the years:

  • Windows notebooks from Dell and Asus
  • A white plastic MacBook designed by Apple in California
  • A Samsung Chromebook

But my latest is the best.



My HP Chromebook 14 has a smooth white plastic lid with a mirrored chrome “HP” circle logo in the center. There’s one simple long hinge that holds tightly. The base is a matte silver aluminum, tapering to the front. The clamshell design is sturdy, compact, and lightweight.


Screen-time is easy. The IPS display, despite being 1366×768 across 14 inches, appears bright and even. Text is smooth and mostly sharp without blurred edges; reading isn’t a problem. Watching video is satisfactory. There isn’t any contrast wash-out or discoloration at extreme viewing angles.



The keyboard is a backlit pleasure to type on. Backlighting is an adjustable range from dim to bright. Tapping out letters flows nicely on the quiet tactile keys with just the right amount of downward travel and springy return. They feel neither wobbly nor cheap.

In the year I’ve used it, not one key has ever gotten sticky! The keyboard performs as well today as it did 12 months ago when I removed it from the box.


It’s smooth to the fingertips and works precisely. Two-finger scrolling is a breeze, so is swiping right to go back in the browser. Soft-tapping with one or two fingers never fails.

Pressing the track-pad down makes a nice click sound and has a firm yet soft feel. And you must click from the middle half to the front; the back is the hinge so it doesn’t depress.


The HP Chromebook 14 model I have does not flip the display around into tablet mode. So the touchscreen is convenient for web page scrolling and the occasional icon tap.

Also, as much as I type text, it is sometimes easiest to place the cursor simply by tapping the screen where I want it. Touch input is responsive, and the display does not depress, warp or discolor.


The speakers, by B&O, are upward facing from the top-rear of the base. They truly sound better than you’d expect from a skinny flat mobile computer; they’re the best I’ve heard in a laptop. The sound is very clear and full, lacking bass of course.

Since they face upward from behind the keyboard, you never need to position the laptop carefully so as to not muffle the sound on your lap or couch.


I rarely use the webcam outside of a few Zoom or Google Meet videos. Yet I’ve noticed it has a nice wide viewing angle. And the resolution looks good. It’s not blurry, grainy, or washed-out. And it seems to do well even in dim ambient lighting.


There’s a USB-C port on the left and right side; both allow charging. And it has USB-A on both sides. The right side also has a 3.5mm headphone jack plus a microSD card slot. The only thing missing is an HDMI port. That’s inconvenient; you must use a USB-C adapter if you want to plug into a large monitor or HDTV.



  • CPU – Intel Celeron 3350 Dual Core
  • Memory – 4GB RAM
  • Storage – 64GB eMMC

Those aren’t bad for a Chromebook. And mobile computing on this one is great. Everything works fluidly. Web browsing, of course, is quick and easy. Running Android apps from the Google Play store works well.


One of the greatest features is the 9 to 10 hour solid battery life I get from my HP Chromebook 14. With screen brightness usually around 80%, I finish my blogging work or YouTubing and get tired of sitting or standing long before the battery gets close to being drained. It can go a full day unplugged with moderate usage.


Chrome OS

The Chrome operating system works beautifully. It’s still simpler and easier to use than a traditional Windows PC or Mac. I type truck loads of words in Google Docs and other apps, and I manage a mountain of pictures in Google Photos. The only things I don’t do on my Chromebook are CAD, video editing, or PC gaming.

After using the HP Chromebook 14 everyday for over a year, it looks and works as well as the day I bought it! There’s a teeny bit of cosmetic wear and tear, but you must look for it. It travels in my backpack to work everyday as I commute.

There has been one issue with it on the software side, which was a Google cloud sync error between Google Drive and the Files app. The solution was surprisingly quick and easy: Powerwash. I did this on two separate occasions.

Each time, the Chromebook reset like new and kept all my Google account data intact by reinstalling apps and settings. The process took less than 10 minutes. When done, it was like nothing ever happened. All my stuff was there!

Most people only need a browser for most computing. A Chromebook bonus: your Android phone apps also work here!

For mobile computing, my Chromebook is fast, easy, delightful, and reliable.

Finding A Favorite Game

The other day, one of my sons asked me what my favorite video game is – totally fair question! My reply was, “I don’t know.” Then I wondered, “Why don’t I?”

I’ve played many video games over the years, some of which are considered to be among the all-time greats, like one of Nintendo’s Zelda games.

The reason, I think, it’s hard to nail down my mostest-bestest-favoritest video game ever is because it depends on what kind of game I’m in the mood for. They span different genres. Like:

  • Platformer
  • Dungeon Crawler
  • First-person shooter

If you wanna know what game filled me with the most wonder, I might pick a sprawling open-world adventure game full of exploration. If you ask what game makes me most tense, I’d throw out some edgy shoot’em up. Or a game that’s the most fun…Mario in 3D! What game is most engaging to me? One of the Final Fantasy RPGs for sure.

You see, it kinda depends.

So the list of my “favorites” are games that had the most impact on me in some way. They’re in no particular order. And I had to shorten it for brevity.

  • Super Mario 64 - Platformer
  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Adventurer
  • Zelda: A Link to the Past - Adventurer
  • Animal Crossing - Casual Life Sim
  • Turok: Dinosaur Hunter - First Person Shooter
  • Super Metroid - Metroidvania
  • Minecraft - Open world Sandbox
  • Final Fantasy VI (FFIII SNES) - RPG
  • Final Fantasy VII - RPG

Most of these games had a way of drawing me into them, like when a book or movie captures your attention.

Story, atmosphere, strategy, graphics, music, suspense, or a combo of these immerse me in a game. It’s about world building. The better a game does that, the more I like it. But I’ll add that despite the quality or ability of some games to do this, I don’t always get pulled in. And I’m not sure why most of the time.

Maybe someday, one of my favorite games will rise to the top as undeniably the best of all. Or maybe I haven’t played the best one yet!

Until then, I’ll have to play more video games.