Handheld Gaming – What happened?

Who remembers the Gameboy, the PSP, and the… well I guess we don’t have to ask who remembers the Nintendo DS, because it’s still around, and still has decent sales, but still who remembers having a Gameboy and being one of the cool kids? Then the PSP came around, and it was like having full console games in your pocket, and having the ability to store Music, and watch Movies, and have it all right there! Well, admittedly, we don’t have to ask what happened to make this device no longer popular. The advent of the smartphone, and development of games for 100% touch screen inputs, as well as all of the major game developers decided that this was going to be the future of portable gaming, so why not? When Apple released the iPad, and kickstarted the consumer tablet market, it was easy enough to take these games that had been developed for 3.5″ and 4″ screens, smooth the graphics, and blow them up to a 9.7″ screen, and voila! They could sell another copy of the same game! The graphic quality on these games has always been pretty great, however the story lines, and lack of advancement of previously successful franchises such as Doom, Halo, or Call of Duty onto these platforms, and lack of porting of popular MMORPG’s, and lack of processing power and control customization has always been something that would make hardcore gamers shy away from them.

I guess this is me just writing more about my nostalgia for the PSP, and classic portable gaming – I owned two PSP systems, and a little over a year ago, bought the PS Vita, which was the successor the the PSP, and still play it often. When you look at the quality of today’s mobile games industry though, what do you see? Sure, there are a few games that have story to them, such as Infinity Blade, or NOVA, and we even saw one Mass Effect game for mobile too! But compare any of that to the Resistance Fall of Man story and game play style, or the Call of Duty play style, Killzone, Borderlands, Little Big Planet, the list goes on, you just don’t see quite the same style, and it’s difficult to because the devices we’re using simply aren’t designed for games. Being able to play games on them the way we do is just a bonus. Nintendo, however, believes that the tablet market is the future of gaming, so much so that their last two systems have been tablet centric. The Wii U wasn’t the best seller, but it paved the way for the Switch, the tablet based machine that you simply dock to play on the TV, or slip the controllers on the sides. Is this the wave of the future? Will the next Playstation, or Xbox be tablet based? Nintendo has never really had high end focus on GPU and CPU speeds like Microsoft and Sony have, they’ve always gone for the family friendly gaming experiences.

Personally, I miss the classic handheld consoles, but if Sony or Microsoft were to go the way of Nintendo, and design a quality console that is portability focused, I’d give it a shot. I remember waiting and waiting for Microsoft to announce a handheld like the PSP and it never happening, and I’ve owned at least one iteration of every Sony portable. I think that the market still wants it, the Vita, while it’s mainly considered a dead console in the US, it is still very popular in Japan, and if a quality product is provided, and it is marketed properly, we could see a resurgence in the portable market.

Fermented/Preserved Foods – What I’ve done, and what’s next

When you think of fermentation, what’s the first thing that you think of? Do you think of traditional beverages such as Beer and Wine, or distilled beverages like Whiskey or Vodka? Or do you gravitate towards foods, and think more along the lines of Sauerkraut or Kimchi? Preserved foods? The process of fermenting is kind of crazy, we use microbial life that wants to help us, and boost our immune systems to take our food and beverage, and preserve it to keep out the other microbial life that wants to kill us. We’re the battleground for a microbial war!!! There of course are the other methods of curing, such as jerky, or canning things to make pickles, or spiced peaches… but I’m talking about Fermenting! Activating yeasts/bacteria that are naturally occurring, or added to a product to create something entirely different!

About two years ago I started making fermented beverages for the first time. I started with an attempt at making a non-alcoholic ginger beer actually, as I wanted to make a homemade, carbonated beverage, without the alcohol content. The first batch came out okay actually, however at this point in time I wan’t utilizing an airlock to let off the pressure, and had to,”burp” the container a few times a day to let off the pressure. If you don’t do this, you’re going to have a mess on your hands as things will get a wee explosive. This was an okay process, however I did forget one day, and all of the bent in portions of the 3L jug I used decided to push out due to pressure. The end product was okay, a little lacking in ginger, but pretty tasty! After this attempt, I bought an airlock, and tried it again, and it worked quite well! From there, I thought it would be a good time to try brewing beer! Why not? At this point I’ve gotten a basic understanding of the fermentation process down, lets go for it! I was reading recipes, and just had no clue what the terms were, “mash,” “sparge,” wait… why is it just saying @30 mins? What am I doing at 30 mins? 30 mins into what? And you can read the full directions, but unless you get yourself a little background on the process, you can get a little lost, even in a fairly basic process. So, I continued to do my reading, finally understood that a mash was just your ingredients holding at a certain temperature for a duration of time – fundamentally it’s the exact same concept as steeping tea. You keep the leaves, or grain in this case, submerged in hot water until a desired flavor is achieved, a sparge was running water through your grain after the mash (which isn’t even a necessary step if you’re extract brewing), and then the boil is when you bring your wort up to a boil for a duration of time, and add your hops and other desired flavors. Man, why did I think it was complicated? First batch was mediocre at best. Actually the first batch I made molded because I added my yeast when the wort was still too hot, and killed it, but the second batch was not great. Was a good beer to cook with because all of the flavors transferred nicely to foods, it just wasn’t the greatest drinking beer.

Another, increasingly popular, fermented beverage is actually derived from tea, Kombucha. I have had very little success in making it, but am in the process of trying again as I enjoy this drink, but it’s quite expensive to buy, ranging from $3-7 for a single serving. The process is fairly straight forward, take a colony of yeast, and healthy bacteria – called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), and place it in with a pH balanced sweet tea, and let it sit around 70 degrees or so. The pH is balanced by the addition of vinegar, and sugar to the tea, making an ideal environment for the SCOBY to work on fermenting the tea. Now, because this beverage is fermented, it can leave a very small trace of alcohol – usually no higher than 0.5% on the high end – meaning that anybody that has a sensitivity or allergy to alcohol in any form should probably refrain from consumption, however the concentration is small enough that there is nothing to worry about for the average person. One of the major manufacturers of retail kombucha faced a lawsuit in regards to alcohol content. The hardest part about this is that once it’s put together, it’s a waiting game, there’s nothing you can do to it to help it from turning, you just need to hope that it was done right in the first place.

While I am attempting another batch of Kombucha at the moment, I also am working on a small batch of Sauerkraut at the same time! That’s one of the cool things about fermenting, and preserving, it only takes up a little bit of space, and is minimal overall work!

“Does this insurance cover stupidity?”

If you read my post about smartwatches, and noticed that I really liked my Samsung Gear Fit 2, and had no intentions of getting rid of it anytime soon, you’ll get a chuckle out of this. On the Saturday preceding the holiday weekend, I was enjoying a day at the lake with my family, and decided that I wanted to go swimming off the boat (you already know where this is going), so I threw a life-jacket on, made sure my pockets were empty, and decided to leave my watch on, because hey, I went water skiing with it last year, how could a simple dive off the boat be worse than hitting the water straight on at 25mph? Well, I jumped in, and there it went… right to the bottom of Seneca Lake. When I purchased that fitness tracker/watch last January, however, I purchased the 2 year replacement plan on it, because I know that I can be accident prone – gotta love Best Buy! When I was at the register, I asked, “Does this insurance plan cover stupidity? The odds are that I’m going to do something majorly stupid if it breaks this.” And the cashier said, “oh yeah, it’ll cover anything!” Well… some dummy forgot to read the fine print about needing to bring in at least some piece of the device that broke in order to be able to cash in on that insurance plan. The day after I lost it, I went into Best Buy with my receipt, and the box, and told them the story of the 47 8×10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows (forgive my Alice’s Restaurant), and while they got a chuckle, they said that they couldn’t do anything about it.

Now, I am back to the old school, analog watch, and you know what? I’ve actually missed that to some extent. As you can tell, I enjoy tech and all, but I don’t always need to be connected to everything, in fact, I prefer to not be from time to time..

Pitfalls of Blogs – What’s coming down the pipe

Ah, and we’re back to the old pitfall of blog posting – being busy with other things, and having places you want to go tend to take over, and the posts fall behind. In a week or so I will hopefully be back at it though! More gadgets, events, and more to discuss!

For those in the Greater Rochester/Buffalo Area, keep in mind that the Batavia Hamfest is coming up on Saturday, July 21st, held at the Alexander Fire Hall from 6am to Noon!