Monthly Archives: December 2015

Best Video Games for Couples to Play Together

Sometimes the best way to beat boredom is with some video games. But being married to a “gamer” can be a challenge! Video games are so much fun and so addictive that sometimes a non-gamer spouse can feel left out when a gamer plays. But instead of feeling left out and alone, why not join your spouse or partner? Some video games are perfect for couples to play together!

Pick a Platform

The hardware can sometimes be the biggest obstacle to gaming with a group. Computer gaming can be amazingly fun, but playing multi-player with a partner can require some technical skill and hardware that not everyone has. If you’re in a long-distance relationship or are separated by business travel, multi-player gaming can be a great way to spend time together despite the distance. If you’re in the same home, you may want to set up a game that can be played privately with only two of you; this used to require setting up a private LAN, but if the home has a good wireless connection, it can be done pretty easily with modern games over Wi-Fi.
Console games are usually the best games to play multi-player, as you can sit on the couch next to one another while playing. Nintendo Wii has many games specifically designed for multi-player, and as their games are easy for non-gamers to play, it tends to level the playing field when playing with a hardcore gamer! PlayStation usually has a pretty good selection of multi-player games, and Xbox doesn’t always have a great selection of multi-player games, especially for a casual gamer.
Pick a Game Type

Ideally, you can both agree on a game style. Non-gamers will usually want to stay away from a first-person shooter (FPS), as those games can be more difficult to master. Role-playing games (RPGs) are a good option for most new gamers, and platformers can be a fun choice for the casual gamer but may bore some more advanced gamers.
Best Games

Fable 3 (Lionhead Games) is a great RPG for gamers who enjoy lots of options, a light-hearted feel, and a good storyline. Multiplayer games require the same set of characters for the entire game.
Diablo 3 (Blizzard Entertainment) is an RPG with a dark storyline, lots of loot, and a robust multiplayer experience. It’s available on computer, PS3, and Xbox, and the multiplayer experience is beautiful, allowing you to move characters in and out of the multiplayer mode while retaining their experience and skills.
For a fun distraction rather than a regular campaign, try Mario (Nintendo)! MarioKart is a great casual racing game, and Super Mario World and Super Mario Galaxy are both great games to play as a couple or as a family.
If you’re looking for a first-person shooter with lots of multiplayer options, try Gears of War 3 (Epic Games). This game is a hit with men and women, and there are many different multiplayer options, from co-op play to versus games or horde mode, to accommodate a quick game as well as a long chapter. Borderlands 2 (Gearbox) is another great multiplayer experience with a quirky, light-hearted storyline and a good mixture of RPG and FPS elements. Be forewarned that in Borderlands 2, the difficulty level will adjust to the level of the highest-ranked player, so it’s best not to play an advanced character with a new one.

Metal Scrapping for Beginners

Washers, dryers, computers, TVs, printers, VCRs, DVD players, air conditioners, refrigerators, and power tools all harbor a secret. Buried within them is metal. Even if it’s no longer working, you can find valuable treasure within and sell that treasure for cold, hard cash. This is the practice of metal scrapping, a fun and exciting hobby that allows grown-ups to go on a real live treasure hunt!

Safety first!

Because metal pieces can sometimes be sharp, it’s best to have a pair of cut-resistant gloves. You may find a dust mask, steel-toed boots, or a back brace to be useful. For beginners, it’s best to avoid refrigeration or air conditioning units, as they contain freon, a dangerous chemical requiring specialized disposal.

The scrapping workshop

It’s best to keep your work area clean and free of clutter. Small pieces of metal and plastic can easily become mixed in a cluttered workspace. Your workspace should have good ventilation, good lighting, and comfortable seating.

Plastic paint buckets provide excellent storage for scrap material, although e-scrap (scrap from computers) is usually smaller and may need smaller bins. You’ll usually want one bin for copper, one for aluminum, one for ferrous materials, and one bin for motherboards or other computer equipment. If you’re specializing in e-scrap, get a complete list from your local scrap yard or recycling service to determine how best to sort it.

Identifying metals

The most common metals encountered in scrapping include copper, aluminum, stainless steel, and iron. Aluminum and stainless steel look similar in appearance – usually silver or chrome in color – but stainless steel can be picked up with a magnet. Copper is generally a dark gold color, although some aluminum may be painted with a copper color. New iron may look like stainless steel, but older iron tends to be dark brown of black, and it’s also picked up with a magnet. Scrappers may also encounter brass and even gold in their scrapping adventures!

Breaking down appliances and electronics

Because there are so many different types of appliances and electronics, it’s impossible to concisely explain how to break down everything. Video tutorials can be found on YouTube and other websites that help to identify the most efficient way to break down most appliances and electronics.

To the scrapyard!

Once you have your scrap metal, you can plan your first trip to the local scrapyard. Make a phone call to a few scrapyards, ask a few questions, and choose the yard that seems to be the friendliest. When you get to the scrapyard, the employees will help you load your scrap onto the scale for weighing. They’ll give you a weight ticket and send you to the payment window, where the yard will pay you according to their policies. Always bring a small toolkit and your safety gear to the yard with you! Sometimes the employees will point out a simple thing that could earn you more money, and you may need to remove a piece on the spot to get the maximum value.

Metal scrappers serve a valuable purpose in modern society. By removing precious metals from what other people see as garbage, they’re helping to keep heavy metals out of landfills. When these metals are stored in landfills, they leach into the water supply and can build to toxic levels, so metal scrappers help to protect the environment and aquatic ecosystems. Metal scrapping can be a fun way to bring in some extra cash, turning one man’s trash into your very own treasure!

How to Learn Glassblowing

Artistic expression can take many forms. In addition to painting and sculpting, art may be in the form of clothing, blankets, or decorative household items. One of the most beautiful and practical uses of art is in the form of glassblowing, which can be mastered by almost anyone with the right instruction. And after seeing an art exhibit of Dale Chihuly stuff, I knew that this is one cool hobby that I wanted to learn. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far…

Finding a School

Glassblowing requires the use of specialized tools. In addition to the glass, furnaces that can reach more than 2400 degrees Fahrenheit are required. A bench with a marver is needed, along with a blowpipe and punty. For more elaborate designs, paddles, shears, blocks, and many other tools are necessary. Since few people outside of the professional art world have access to these tools, the best way to learn glassblowing is to find a school or class nearby that offers a class.

People in some areas, like Tacoma, Washington, have an advantage. They can often find freestanding glassblowing centers that offer regular classes, and the market for glassblowing prices is competitive enough to keep prices low. In most parts of the country, classes in glassblowing may be available at a local art museum, art college, or community college.

Preparing for your Class

In most cases, you’ll want to wear closed-toe shoes and have long hair pulled back and out of the way. Most schools require that students provide their own eye protection, and some require that students provide or purchase their own aprons and gloves, although that may be included in the price of the course. You’ll probably want to bring a notebook or sketchbook to draw designs, and to avoid clothing with long, flowing sleeves or flammable synthetic materials.

If you’re not sure whether glassblowing is really for you, ask your school if they have any one-day workshops on the topic. Some schools have shorter sessions where you can work with a glassblowing expert to build a single piece; this allows you to experience glassblowing before making a major investment of time and money.

A Short Primer

While your instructor will probably go over glassblowing, knowing a bit before beginning will help you to feel more comfortable in the glass studio. Modern glassblowing involves three furnaces: the crucible or furnace, filled with melted glass; the glory hole, used to reheat pieces while working on them; and the annealer, used to slowly cool the glass to prevent cracking. The tip of the blowpipe is preheated and then used to pick up a blob of molten glass, which is rolled on a marver to cool the outer skin of the glass. Then you blow air into the pipe to create a bubble. Over time, the piece can be expanded, and larger pieces require far more time and energy. Once the piece is finished, the molten glass is transferred to a punty to create the opening.

Glassblowing is an ancient art that has created some of the most beautiful and lasting pieces of art in the world. With modern tools and techniques, glassblowing is a fun way for even a hobbyist to create beautiful, unique sculptures and pieces.

Good Ways to Learn a Foreign Language in Your Spare Time

There are few things in this world that define a culture more completely than a language. A language is shared by and shaped by the people who speak it, and by understanding the language, you develop a more complex and nuanced understanding of world cultures.

But these days, we’re all busy, and learning a foreign language is something that few of us can find the time for. The good news is that you can learn a foreign language in your spare time, even if your free time is limited!

First, choose a language.

Choosing a foreign language can be difficult. For native English speakers, the easiest to learn are European languages. In most parts of the United States, Spanish is extremely useful as a second language. In many parts of Canada, French is the ideal second language.

Choosing an ancient language or a language not widely used will limit the availability of resources available to learn the language. For example, Swedish and Norwegian are not widely used outside of Sweden and Norway, so resources to help you learn those languages will be more difficult to obtain. Latin and Attic Greek can be useful in Biblical scholarship, but the resources available to learn those languages are generally geared toward college-level students and can be difficult for an autodidact to use.

Second, choose a primary resource.

One of the best free resources for learning popular modern languages is an app for the iOS and Android. Duolingo is also available as a web-based game. Not all languages are included with Duolingo, but its portability on various devices makes it a fun way to learn languages while sitting in a waiting room or picking the kids up from school.

If the language you want isn’t available on Duolingo, Rosetta Stone is another option that’s exceptionally easy to use. Rosetta Stone is a computer program and website that’s rather pricey, but is highly effective in helping to learn foreign languages. With adjustable settings, the program can be adjusted to allow children as young as seven to begin learning a foreign language.

If you need a classroom setting to learn most effectively, or if you can’t find your language on Duolingo or Rosetta Stone, consider taking a class at your local community college. For Vulgar Latin, Attic Greek, or Arabic, you may be able to find classes at local churches or mosques.

Find a friend!

The best way to cement learning a new language is to speak it often! Rosetta Stone offers students the ability to chat online with people all over the world, allowing students to hone their language skills while conversing with real people who speak that language.

Ideally, you’ll be able to find a friend who speaks the language you want to learn. You may want to ask around on social media or within your network to seek out a linguistic buddy. Meeting periodically for face-to-face interactions will help you learn to truly understand your new language.

Learning a second language can be incredibly rewarding, and it’s not as difficult as you might first assume. In most parts of the world, people are expected to know more than one language. A native English-speaker has an advantage when he or she is bilingual, as it’s a skill that few native English-speakers develop. But the true value of learning another language is not in its benefit as a resume-booster; learning another language teaches you about people, customs, and societies in other parts of the world.

Starting Your Own Podcast

Have you ever had someone tell you that you have a face for radio? Maybe becoming a radio personality was never your destiny, but almost anyone can build a podcast! With a few simple steps, you can start your own podcast, gain a loyal following, and broadcast your information to people all over the world. Or maybe you’re just like me and enjoy listening to podcasts and thought, ‘hey, I can do that!’ and you can! I’ve had that thought more than once and when I was browsing around a site, I realized that this could be a fun hobby that is super cheap once you get the equipment together. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

Step One: Planning

The first step in building a podcast is planning. What is your topic? Pick a title, write a brief (under 400 words) description, and plan out your first few episodes. Plan the regular format for your podcast. Usually, it’s easier if you can do interviews on a podcast – the time goes much faster and it’s easier to fill the time. When you’re just starting out, you may not have a guest, so practice and rehearse your speech for time.

Podcasts are normally fairly conversational in tone, so you want to avoid being too formal with your speech. Decide how frequently you plan to podcast, and make sure to stick to that schedule.

Step Two: Recording

Recording a podcast can be easy or complicated, but there are a few tools you’ll need to get started with:

  • A good microphone
  • Audacity (a free program)
  • Call Recorder for Skype (if you’re doing interviews)

With these simple tools, you can begin recording your first podcast! Audacity is an audio editing program that allows you to edit and reformat your podcast, so you’ll want to save your podcast in mp3 format.

Step Three: Tag Your File

On the Properties section of your new podcast file, you need to add some information so that the podcast services know what it’s about. As a minimum, you’ll need to write the podcast title, your name, the episode number, and the artwork. This ensures that when your podcast is properly uploaded, the podcasting services like iTunes and Stitcher can provide those additional details when someone looks at or downloads your podcast.

Step Four: Upload Your Podcast

Podcast experts recommend that you host your podcast on a server outside of your own website’s server. The reason is that podcasts can take up a lot of bandwidth and space, and they can sometimes cause your primary website to run slowly. Libsyn is a fantastic media hosting service that offers a flat fee for media hosting with plans starting as low as $5.

Step Five: Syndication

Once your podcast is on the server, it’s accessible by anyone who’s looking for it. But syndicating it to a podcast feed like iTunes or Stitcher allows people with those services to play it quickly, conveniently, and easily. If you’re using Libsyn, the site has tutorials in their knowledge base to help you easily syndicate your podcast feed to iTunes. Additional step-by-step instructions can be found through iTunes or Stitcher. The server and podcast app can change the exact steps, so check the tutorials for the latest info.

Podcasting can be a great way to build an audience and to build credibility. While expert podcasters may spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to build their podcast, you can start podcasting today with a very low initial investment and then upgrade later, when your audience is large enough to support your expenses.