Thursday, January 30, 2014

Southern SnowApocalypse of 2014

Snow is something I’m very familiar with. I grew up in Holland, Michigan which is right off the coast of Lake Michigan. Every winter we would get dumped on, snow-wise, because of the lake effect. It wasn’t odd to not see grass from November until March. I dislike snow a lot and was happy when we moved down to NC. We still get winter but it’s usually much milder and not as long.

Not this year though. Thanks to the polar vortexes we’ve gotten a ton of snow and zero degree temperatures. A couple of days ago, Atlanta was gridlocked because of the snow. We got a couple of inches here. My husband is great driver in snow but when he left for work on Tuesday, he didn’t get very far before he decided the roads were too bad and came home.

We have a unique perspective because of growing up in Michigan. Things are different down here because they just aren’t prepared for snow. Todd said the roads were so bad because the plow trucks weren’t plowing they were just salting. So it made it very dangerous.

I saw tons of posts on Facebook and Twitter of friends stranded, running out of gas and having to walk home. It’s crazy to think a few inches of snow could cause so much chaos but living down here we just don’t have as many winter resources down here.

Emily didn’t have school for three days because of the snow and cold this week. While I wish she could go to school I do feel better safe than sorry. A bus overturned not far from here on Tuesday when it was snowing so much. There were just minor injuries but it was very scary to even think about all those kids on that bus.

It’s supposed to be 40 today so the snow will be melting, ending the SnowApocalypse of 2014. Hopefully this will be the last of the horrible winter weather down here but I’m not holding my breath.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Back to the Future: The Game Review

I was eight years old when the first Back to the Future movie came out and I remember going to the theater to see it. I loved it and I still love the whole trilogy to this day. So I was excited when I heard about Back to the Future: The Game which is by Telltale Games.
I had heard about the episodes of this game that had been released for the computer but I never opted to play them. But I was glad when I heard that all five episodes were going to be bundled into one game for the PS3 and Wii consoles. The version of the game that I played was for the Wii.
The gameplay in this game is a bit simple. You are basically pointing and clicking on people and objects to reach the goal for the various level. There are some puzzles but they are fairly simple. There is a ‘hints’ button that will help you if you get stuck and I honestly used that a lot because it make it easier to get through the levels and not just have Marty run around aimlessly.
I think the strength of this game is with the voice actors and the story. Christopher Lloyd did the voice for Doc. Michael J. Fox wasn’t available to voice Marty, but the voice actor who did, AJ LoCascio, did such a good job of sounding like Michael J. Fox that it was hard to tell the difference.
The story was really interesting too. I really did feel like I was playing through a whole new set of Back to the Future movies. The game took me two days, which was about 15 hours, to play. I had a hard time stopping because I wanted to know what happened next.
The only issue I had was that with the WiiMote, because it was hard to click on some things. Especially if it was in a part of the story that I had to click something at a certain time. I would eventually get it but it would take me several tries.
All in all, Back to the Future: The Game is a pretty interesting game if you are a fan of the Back to the Future series. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a point and click game where you get to star as Marty McFly. This game is currently available for both the Nintendo Wii and the Playstation 3 as well as for PC/Mac computers.
Note: I received a copy of this game for review purposes.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Heat Debacle

I hate being cold. It’s one of the big reasons why winter is my least favorite season. It’s been very, very cold this winter which is unusual for NC. Several people on Facebook have mentioned that it’s been hard to heat their houses with the bitter cold and it reminded me of the time that our heat got turned off in the dead of winter.

The first year that Todd and I lived together we opted to go to our separate parents’ houses for Christmas. It was an odd year since my mom hadn’t been dead for very long. My dad, sister and I tried to do some of our old traditions but it just felt weird.

I didn’t stay very long at my dad’s house and I was the first one back to our apartment. Todd had been the last to leave and he turned OFF the heat. This was in December in Michigan! Needless to say it was literally freezing in our apartment.

After cranking the heat up, I got under my electric blanket. I love electric blankets because I’m always cold. This one had been a gift from my grandpa from a few years earlier and I was super thankful to have it. I just played on my DS under the blanket while it took several hours for my apartment to warm up.

Todd apologized when I called to tell him, though he also found it very funny. From then on, we never turn our heat off when we leave. In part because of this incident but also because we don’t want to come home to cat-icles. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Second Generation Work From Home Mom

More and more people have the opportunity to work from home these days thanks to the wonder of the internet. I am able to do tech support in my pj’s from my home office and I make pretty decent money especially since I don’t have any commuting expenses.  But I am probably a little rarer that I’m a second generation work from home mom since for many years my mom also worked from home.

My mom worked a variety of jobs when I was little as she tried to work shifts that only took place when we were at school. When I was a little older, my parents started a water testing business since my dad is a microbiologist. Originally they rented an office but that didn’t last very long. They converted part of our basement to an office for my mom and a lab for my dad. She handled all the office parts and he handled all the science parts.

She didn’t do all the work from home since someone had to collect the samples. In the summer, I’d ride along with her and we’d talk. It was a great bonding time for me and my mom. But she was able to control her schedule completely so if either my sister or I were sick, she could move things around to be there for us.

When I was a sophomore in college, I got very sick. My mom was able to adjust things so she could drive two hours to pick me up and bring me home. I was very glad she was able to do that for me.

My parents ran the business even after my mom got cancer though it got harder as the cancer got worse. After my mom passed away, my dad sold it but I’m not sure if it’s still in business. But I have great memories of my mom working from home and being there for me when it was necessary. And I’m very thankful I’m also able to work from home too!

Monday, January 20, 2014


A little over a week ago, my daughter went to a birthday party for one of her preschool friends. She had a great time but I think she brought something home with her. That something being the flu that is going around.

She woke up early on Sunday with a fever and she was really listless all day. I figured she might have the flu and I really confirmed it once I got it the next day. She and I spent several days in bed trying to get better. Thank goodness after a few days the fever subsided, though we both have a bit of a cold now.

We’ve been really lucky that Emily has only been really sick a few times in her short life. But I was super paranoid during this sickness, due to reading the wrong things on the internet. A few weeks before we got sick I read a post on Reddit about a parent who found their 10 year old passed away due to the nasty flu that’s going around.

So when Emily got the flu, I checked on her repeatedly during the night to make sure she was still breathing. She was and my paranoia got less as she got better. Though I do need to read less things about dead kids on the internet.

We kept Emily out of school all week because of the fever. At least two kids in her class had the flu too and because of the nasty strain of the flu going around, the school asked to err on the side of caution when sending kids back to school. At least one of the kids who got the flu were also had the birthday party. Who knows how it started but it’s been a very long week.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

HERO Games

I’ve played quite a few role-playing games (of the rolling dice sort) over the years. I started out with D&D and then played quite a bit of World of Darkness in college. But of all the systems I’ve ever played, HERO Games is my favorite.
I was introduced to HERO Games when my husband and I made our first friends after moving to North Carolina. They were a geeky couple like we were and they were looking for some gamers to join them in a weekly game. I jumped at the chance because it had been years since I had been in a regular game. The system they played in was HERO Games.
It took a little while to get used to the new system, but I quickly fell in love. Character creation can take a while because it is a system that is very character orientated. But there is a computer program,HERO Designer, that speeds up the process a great deal.
You can play any sort of game you want in HERO from fantasy games to superhero ones to anything in between. There is combat like in other role-playing games, but the stories tend to be more character driven. I’ve played in games that there was little to no combat but it’s still very fun.
When you create your character, you decide on a variety of things like strength, intelligence and other things you would find in other games. You can put points into how attractive your character as well, which is a neat little quirk of the system. But the most interesting thing, to me, is that you get to give your character advantages and disadvantages.
The disadvantages can make the games very interesting, especially if your GM uses them. I think the most unique disadvantage I’ve seen was in one of my friend's characters. Her character was completely blind, which is a huge disadvantage. It made things difficult for the whole party sometimes, but it made things interesting as well.
For anyone who might be looking for a new role-playing system to play in, I would greatly recommend HERO Games. It will probably always be my favorite system because of the story and character driven elements to it.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Chronic Pain and Cold

Jayne Hats for Warmth!
Like so many other parts of the country, it was really, really cold last week. It was zero degrees a couple of days with the windchill in negative digits. It was cold inside our house because it couldn’t get up above 65. It seemed like everyone I knew was pretty miserable because of the cold weather but I thought I’d talk about how it affected my chronic pain.

Cold and chronic pain don’t mix so while we were dealing with the subzero temperatures, my pain levels were really high. In fact, they are still high today despite it being much warmer today. Nearly everyone in my various chronic pain support groups online were having similar issues.

The pain I could deal with, what was more annoying was my eczema. I have always had really dry skin but it wasn’t until I ended up at a dermatologist that I was diagnosed with very bad eczema. I was given a medicated creme which helps a lot.

Some parts of the year I can go months without having to use the creme at all. But winter is always a rough time. My eczema is all over and I have different hot spots every day. I’m very itchy especially before bedtime because usually I’m busy during the day and can ignore it.

Also because of the cold, I had been spending a lot of time under my electric blanket. Too much heat like that for too long can cause an eczema flare as well so I had to be careful on how long I kept the blanket on.

Thankfully the temperatures have risen and hopefully they won’t drop down that low again. I feel for everyone who has felt worse for whatever reason during this cold snap!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron – A Steampunk Novel

Steampunk has become a very popular genre as of late so it isn’t a surprise that there have been a lot of steampunk books coming out. I like steampunk, but I haven’t had a chance to read many of the books. Because of this, I jumped at the chance to review Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron by Raven Dane.
Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron tells the story of Cyrus Darian, who is alchemist and necromancer among other things. He finds himself on quest to find the Technomicron, a book that is shrouded in mystery and magic. There is an interesting set of secondary characters who help and hinder Darian on his quest.
This book is set in late 1800s London and it is very steampunk. I liked that there were consequences to the steam power as it was often pointed out that London was under a thick cloud of smoke at all times. The descriptions of the world were very detailed which was good and bad. It took me a little while to get into this book because of all the details kind of bogged down the beginning.
I was glad that I stuck with it because Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron was very interesting. I did find that I liked several of the secondary characters, such as the Demon Prince, Beliel, better than the main character. The character of Cyrus Darian had many layers but most of those weren’t extremely likeable.
But it ended up being a very good book in the steampunk genre. I would recommend Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron to anyone who likes reading steampunk historical fantasy.
Note: I received a copy of this book for review purposes.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Why I Like Disney's Magic Bands

I saw a blog post this morning about all the Disney resorts going to be Magic Band only by the end of this month. There is a lot of information out there about Magic Bands, some of it not very true, so I thought I’d share my experiences with them for our trip this past October.

When my travel agent emailed me to let me know that we would be getting Magic Bands I was very excited. I had heard a lot about them and I had hoped that we would be able to take part in testing. We got our Magic Bands customized. I got a green one, Emily got pink and Todd got blue. Sadly, purple, which is Todd and Emily’s favorite color, is not one of the options for the Magic Bands.

They arrived really fast in a cool box that had Mrs. Incredible on it. Magic Bands are one size, but the outer part can be taken off to fit smaller wrists. We all tried them on when they arrived and then they went back in the box. They sat in my office until it was time to pack up for our trip.

Once we got to Disney World and were checking in, they activated our bands. We arrived in the morning and our room wasn’t ready yet, so we did other things. Once it was time to get our room, our Magic Bands did need to be readjusted. That took a couple of minutes but that was the only issue we had with them.

I had heard horror stories before the trip about the bands falling off. But when we checked in, we got a free Magic Band holder that said 2013 on it. It helped keep the bands securely on our wrists and none of us had problems.

The Magic Bands had our room key, our park tickets, our dining plan, Fastpass + and our Photopass. We did get a Key to The World too but we never used it once. It was so easy to use the Magic Band and it was especially nice to be able to open our hotel room with arms full of stuff or child just by taping the band.

Now there has been some concern about tracking information on the Band. We didn’t hook a credit card up to our Magic Bands because we knew it would be too easy to over spend. So the only information that the Magic Band got from us was what parks we went to and where we ate. That’s not any information that I care about anyone having but I’m not too fussed about anything tracking me while on vacation.

We were able to wear our Magic Bands everywhere, even in the pool. Emily did get sick of wearing it after a few days but I just put it in my fanny pack to be used for getting into the park and Fastpass +. We didn’t ever lose them and they never were even loose.

The only snafu we had with the Magic Bands took place after our vacation had ended. Most of our photopass pictures were linked to the Magic Band though we had used a card the first few days. Our pictures showed up on the photopass site right away but a few weeks after our trip, they disappeared. I emailed support and they did get them back. Plus they gave me extra time to view / purchase the pictures. So that turned out ok in the end.

All in all, I loved the Magic Bands. They made our vacation easier and now we have a cool souvenir!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy Birthday J.R.R. Tolkien!

On this date in 1892, one of the most beloved authors of fantasy fiction was born. J.R.R. Tolkien and his books have fans of all ages that are all over the world. But I have a personal reason for being a fan of Tolkien and his books.
As a young child, I would sit on the arm my dad’s chair as he would read to me from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It was my first taste of fantasy and I loved it. I think that was the start of my life as a geek as my love for Tolkien’s works haven’t diminished since I first heard them.
Today I'll be celebrating one of my favorite author's birth by watching the end of Fellowship of the Ring and the beginning of The Two Towers with Emily. She ended up watching part of Fellowship with me and she was fascinated by the Balrog. 
Happy Birthday J.R.R Tolkien and thank you for the gift you gave the world of Middle Earth!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Browncoat Ball Website is Live!

Me at the 2010 Ball
One of the things I’m looking forward to most in 2014 is the Browncoat Ball. I had the pleasure of being on the planning committee for the Ball in 2010 that took place in Charlotte. This year the Ball is going to be in Greenville, SC and I’m on the planning committee again.

The Browncoat Ball is a unique experience were fans of the show Firefly and the movie Serenity get together. The Ball moves from city to city and every year there is something different. The things that stay the same are there is always a dance, which is the Ball itself, and there are chances to do fun things in the host city.

This year Greenville is hosting the first murder mystery with the Ball. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. My first big event that I did with the Greenville Browncoats was a Firefly LARP back in 2007. It was a weekend where I made a lot of friendships and just had a great time.

The website for the 2014 Browncoat Ball launched yesterday! Check it out and consider coming to the shiniest shindig of the year!