Archive for Interests

New Pokemon! Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire!

Ok, so the next Pokémon games have been announced.  Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are 3DS updates of Ruby and Sapphire.  So instead of new plots and regions, we’ll be revisiting the Hoenn region.  I’ve already pulled all my Pokes out of my game into the Pokémon Bank in preparation, and have preordered both games.  I appreciate the reasons to remake a game, but to be honest, when you have all the previous games and handhelds to play them, remakes aren’t really a big deal (except to dilute the legendary pool).

I’ll post a quick review like I did with Y after they’re release on November 21, 2014.


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Hot Manwich Buns!

Ok, that probably didn’t sound too good.  But they turned out pretty yummy.  Basically, you need a can of the large biscuits (like Pillsbury Grands), a can of Manwich, and 1 pound of ground beef.

Just make the Manwich according to the directions, and set aside.

Next, take the biscuits out of their can, lay out a sheet of wax paper, and roll out each biscuit to, say, around 8-10 inches around.

Place one or two spoonfuls of Manwich onto the rolled-out biscuit, and tuck it into a shape of your choosing.  I like to pinch them up in one spot at the top, making a round bun, or fold over into a meat pie shape.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes on a greased cookie sheet.  Viola!  Pretty yummy, and makes a great snack later!

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Short Pokemon XY Review for the casual gamer

Ok.  Yeah, I’m an old man and I like Pokemon.  Been a fan of the franchise for years.  I unfortunately came late into the games, starting with Ruby in Generation III.  And I can’t quite figure out WHY I like Pokemon, but oh well.

SO…the good and bad first.


  • The visuals – This is the first Pokemon game designed for the 3DS platform, and it really takes advantage of the hardware.  For the first time, Pokemon are animated 3d characters, rather than flat 2d sprites.  While not completely immersive, the world is large and visually interesting to watch.  Pokemon battle moves are now animated, and some of them are incredibly cool looking.
  • The sound effects – A lot (most if not all) of the sound effects have been re-worked, including the battle moves sounds.  If you have the ear, you can really hear some complex sound effects going on.
  • The score – A lot of the music is orchestral, and sounds terrific.  The ambient music (in towns, Pokemon Centers, etc.), is low-key and stays in the background.  The orchestral pieces really shine, though, especially in some of the climactic scenes.
  • GTS – The Global Trading Station got a major upgrade, that finally allows you to look for, and request Pokemon you’ve never seen!  This makes it tremendously easier to fill your Pokedex without having to resort to shady trade-trade deals.
  • New Balancing – With the added “Fairy” type, and some changing of some older types, the game is a little better balanced overall.  This won’t matter so much to the casual gamer, but I assure you it means a lot to those who compete in tournaments and such.  Sorry guys, no more PWNHaxorus!


  • Too fast – Or not long enough.  Even a casual gamer like me managed to finish the game (beat the Elite Four and Champion), in 76 hours.  And that’s being pretty slow and trying to be as thorough as possible.  Frankly, though, this is typical of the franchise, and I’m not too upset.  It’s one of the longer games.  Usually the Pokemon games have a pretty extensive after-game, and I’m hoping it’s the same this time.
  • NO TRANSFER! – In every other game, going all the way back to Generation I, there’s been a way in-game (on the cartridge) to get your Pokemon from your old games, to the newer ones, keeping your little friends with you as you go along.  This time Nintendo decided not to include that function in-game, and produce a downloadable app that uploads your Pokes to the interwebs.  That’s fine and dandy, but they didn’t have it finished by the time the games were released.  In fact, it will be THREE MONTHS after release before Nintendo released the Pokemon Bank…a PAID service that keeps your Pokes safe and sound.  I understand the concept, but they should have had some free method for people who just want to do a one-way transfer from an old game or two.


  • It’s easy – Maybe too easy.  It’s good in that there’s a better story, with better characters and plots, and it lets you enjoy the game without grinding out levels and killing the mood of the game.  On the other hand, it does make it a little light on the challenge, and that might turn some people off of it.


  • This is a good game for both kids and adults to enjoy, and you don’t have to spend hours at a time playing.  Caught in traffic?  Knock out a couple of battles.  Waiting in line at Wal-Mart? You’ve got time to beat a Pokemon Gym.
  • The game is linear, but there’s no time limit to get to the next destination in the story, so you can explore, look for hidden goodies, or blast through the game at warp speed.  It’s all up to you.
  • And with the 3DS’s suspend and pause function when you close the lid, you can play in 5 minute chunks with no problem.

Note that there are two games, Pokemon X, and Pokemon Y.  If you’re buying one of the games for a child, if you prefer no whining, I’d suggest finding out which one they want.  I’m just sayin’…

There’s no functional difference between the two, except the main Legendary Pokemon (the ones pictured on the cover of the game) is different, and some of the Pokemon you find in the game will be different.  In years past, this would have been a really big deal, as finding the Pokes that weren’t in your game meant you had to go find someone with the other game physically.  But with the aforementioned GTS, you can trade anonymously with players from all over the world, so it’s not nearly the problem it used to be.

Not to give any spoilers, but some of the visuals and sounds are really killer.  You really have to see a Lucario using Aura Sphere, or Dragon Pulse.  And the Lickitung animation is hilarious.  Not to mention, if you’ve ever watched the Pokemon cartoon, you’ll recognize Pikachu’s call!

Well, I hope I’ve helped someone decide to get Pokemon X or Y for themselves, a child, or a friend.  They really are good games, and I can’t wait to explore the after-game!


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Great Tasting, Quick Chicken and Dumplings Recipe

Mom’s Chicken and Dumplings, from

This is the recipe my wife uses to make chicken and dumplings.  The whole family loves it, and it’s quick and easy.  Basically, you just need a rotisserie chicken, some biscuits, cream of chicken soup, broth, milk, and water.  It turns out great every time, and only takes about 30 minutes to make.  The recipe makes enough for one meal for our family of five, and if we double the recipe, that gives us some leftovers…which are just as good the next day.  Seriously, you should check it out and try it.



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On ink pens

Ok, I’m a pretty weird character.  I geek out on the strangest things.  Flashlights.  Radios.  Ink Pens.  Specifically, fountain pens.  I know, I’m weird, but they’re so neat!  I’ve been fascinated for years, but the most I ever did was buy a Sheaffer school fountain pen at Wal-Mart a couple decades ago for like $6.  It’s a cartridge pen (it takes cartridges instead of using ink out of the bottle), and it writes really well…for a $6 pen.  That was the first fountain pen I ever bought.  I still have it, in fact, and use it regularly.  The second thing I bought was a calligraphy set.  Don’t remember how much it was, or where I got it, but I guarantee it wasn’t much.  I played around with calligraphy a little, but to be honest, my hand isn’t steady enough for that.  And any case, I’ve since lost that pen set.

Fast forward a decade and a half.  I’m in Office Depot, and see a Yafa fountain pen.  I say to myself, “Well, it’s about $13, but that’s cheap for a fountain pen.”  It is, indeed, very inexpensive, but here’s the problem with impulse purchases…you have no idea what you’re buying until you get it home.  I take it out, and it feels really good in the hand.  It’s larger round, pretty hefty, and looks good.  But the pen simply doesn’t write well.  It takes forever for ink to get from the cartridge to the nib (the tip of the pen), and when it the ink finally does get there, it skips, and has trouble starting. I put the pen in my pencil cup, and basically ignored it.

So a couple weeks ago, I was looking through my pencil cup looking for a working pen, and found the Sheaffer and Yafa pens.  So I readied my Google-Fu, and came across John Morgan’s oPENions site.  He has a very good beginner’s guide, and a several good reviews on inexpensive yet good writing pens.  Using those reviews, I made additional Google Searches, and hit several forums on those pens and others, eventually coming across mention of the Jinhao pens.  Inexpensive Chinese-made pens that write fairly well, and are only about $10.  So I went to, and found everything I needed.  I bought a Jinhao medium nib pen, which came with a converter for bottle ink, a bottle of black Noodler’s Ink, and a Sheaffer converter (I wanted to try to convert that old school pen to bottle ink).  I had the stuff in about four days, and immediately cleaned out the pen for its first inking.

So far, I’ve been very happy with the Jinhao.  It’s heavy, and has a large diameter, so it feels very significant in your hand.  It writes fairly well, with very little skipping, and starts right away, even after a weekend of non-use.  Unfortunately, the Sheaffer converter didn’t work, as the school pen I have is only for cartridges.  Still, it can be used for something else.  I’m finding that fountain pens are wonderful to make you really WANT to write better.  To concentrate not only on what you write, but HOW you write it.  Next time I get a few dollars, I’m going to get one of those Lamy Safari pens, and maybe some blue ink.  It’s a hobby that can be really expensive, but not necessarily so.  And like flashlights and radios, it can be endlessly interesting.

…I still don’t use the Yafa.  Bad writing is just bad writing.

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