Start the Weekend Right Link Series – Volume #1, Edition #6

As 2013 comes to an end, I wanted to be sure to post a final “Start the Weekend Right” entry. Here are yet another set of links to help you start your weekend the right way and the last set of links that I’ll be posting for 2013. And again – if you find yourself visiting several websites on a daily basis, then I recommend you consider signing up for a free Feedly account. I don’t get anything for promoting Feedly – I just love the service and I think that it’s really a great RSS aggregator (it’s even better than the old Google Reader). And if you’re using another RSS aggregator, then please consider following JerseySmarts.com at http://www.jerseysmarts.com/feed/ or if you’re already on Feedly, then you can follow us by clicking here.

Now, enjoy the links! If you come across any interesting links, then please share them with us in the comments section below.

Start the Weekend Right Link Series – Volume #1, Edition #6
Christmas Songology Winner: The Best Christmas Song Ever is…, Busted Halo
One of the radio shows that I listen to on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM is the Busted Halo Show. The show has a companion website that is much broader and covers a larger cross-section of how pop culture interacts with our Roman Catholic faith. Well, they hosted a “Best Christmas Song Ever” contest and I couldn’t agree more with the song they selected and who they chose as the optimal performer for the song.

Is an MBA Bubble Popping?, The Atlantic
Just like the recent media ]negativity around the glut of young lawyers who can’t find a job, it looks like we might be heading for a glut of MBAs out there who aren’t earning what they once might have earned. After working part-time in higher education for the last 7+ years, I can’t say that I disagree with the point that this author is making.

The Library Designed Like a Bookstore, Book Riot
One of the many new, great blogs that I started following this year is Book Riot. They have a lot of great content for folks who love literature like me. One of the articles from the last few weeks that really piqued my interest was this short photo essay about a library in The Netherlands that was built to look and feel like a bookstore. Check it out – it’s pretty cool!

An Epidemic Of Thirsty Men Is Making It Harder To Get Laid, Roosh V
If there’s one thing that pisses me off about modern man it’s that many of them are systemically weak. In other words, there are guys out there who put their manhood aside and desperately chase any female with a heartbeat in an attempt to create what they think is a sincere feeling of interest and intimacy. They’re wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to write about any one of their ridiculous actions here… luckily, you can read this entry from Roosh V about some of the pathetic moves from these thirsty guys.

7 year-end tax tips to keep Uncle Sam out of your wallet, Get Rich Slowly
With the end of the tax year coming in a few days, we should all be doing what we can to lower our total taxable income. For my part, I’ll be hiring a new accountant and giving him my collected insanity of a tax return to file in April 2014. Should be fun… for him!

Cut the cord: New HD antennas bring your monthly TV bill back to $0, Christian Science Monitor
Admittedly, I haven’t read this article yet, but it’s something that I’m very interested in learning more about. The cost of cable television is outrageous. I have hundreds of channels that I don’t watch and I shouldn’t be forced to pay for them because they’re part of a bundle or a package. A few years ago, Senator John McCain was pushing some legislation to decouple all of these channels and allow consumers to select and choose the channels that they wanted to pay for on their plan. I wonder why we’re not there yet?

The Case for Supporting Other Small Businesses, Inc.com
As the owner of two small businesses, I wholeheartedly agree with the point that Janine Popick makes in this article. Small businesses should be supporting one another and I try to do that as much as possible with my small business purchases. This is a good, quick read – so give it a shot.

10 things we’ve learned about fat, The Week
Like most folks out there I enjoy reading about the latest health studies around the major topics of the day. In this case, The Week has compiled a list of the ten things that we – as a society – have learned about fat. They provide links to the different studies that prove each of the ten points – it’s an interesting read.

Learn Your Target Net Worth Multiples to Guide Your Savings Plan, Lifehacker
This is a great article and the best part about it is the graphic at the top. It’s a quick, easy guide to how much your net worth has to be after a certain number of years in the workforce. It also shows what your net worth should be at different ages. It’s an interesting read, but somewhat technical once you click over to Financial Samurai so give yourself some time to review and re-read.

Can Wii Go On Without U?, Game|Life
This is one of the articles I read that informed my post from a week and a half ago about how to fix the blunder that the Wii U has become. This link leads to a few brief paragraphs and then to a podcast if you’re interested in hearing a discussion about this topic.

Get your weekend started right by checking out these links. And if you don’t have one already, I recommend you open a new, free Feedly account. You can follow JerseySmarts.com with your new account or add it to your existing Feedly or other RSS aggregator account. Enjoy!

What To Do About Nintendo’s Next Generation Blunder… U

Back in 2008 I started investing in the stock market. One of the cardinal rules of investing is to go with what you know and that’s what I did to some pretty spectacular results. In 2008, I was 27 years old and before I began investing I looked back at which companies I really knew something about from my life. For example, I invested in Barnes & Noble because I had been going to their bookstores since I was a kid and I knew that they offered something much different than Borders or the local bookstore. Also, once I started working full-time after graduate school in 2006, I picked up a daily commute that lasted over an hour to and from work. During that commute I began listening to satellite radio so I understood the very unique place that it occupied in the daily lives of millions of commuters and I invested quite a bit in Sirius XM (which was just Sirius back then). That investment paid off big time and helped me fully pay off one of my student loans a few years ago.

No one seems to give too much of a damn about Nintendo's latest console

No one seems to give too much of a damn about Nintendo’s latest console

As a kid growing up I used to love playing video games. I wasn’t obsessive about the games like you see with so many young kids today; I probably played as much as anyone else in my age group. However, as I got older I began to learn more about the video game companies. Who were the people behind these games? Who made the Mario series? What about the Madden games? Who was behind the wildly popular WCW/nWo video games? By the way, I used to consistently watch wrestling (again, probably not any more than anyone else in my age group – we all loved Stone Cold and The Rock back in the 1990s). Those two items – video games and wrestling – were two pieces of pop culture that I “knew” and that I felt comfortable investing in. So I invested in WWE and THQ stock back in 2008, too.

A quick side note: today, I’m only invested in two stocks – Sirius XM and WWE. They’re both reliable and WWE’s dividend is fantastic, not to mention that the stock has doubled in value over the last year (and… I happened to purchase before it doubled, too). Oh, and I sold my THQ stock at a profit before the company went under.

Getting back to the point, one of the things that I knew well as a young kid and that I researched quite a bit as I got older was the video game industry and, in particular, the Nintendo company. No matter what people may think, the Nintendo gaming consoles were the superior, global home console up until the GameCube was released (and floundered). They beat the Genesis and the first PlayStation as well as a long line of one-shot consoles that could never really compete. And yet, when I began investing – even after Nintendo had its major success and reclaimed the “King of the Consoles” crown with the Wii, I couldn’t bring myself to invest in the company.

And I still can’t bring myself to invest in the company because of blunders like the Wii U.

There are a bunch of people out there who are writing about how Nintendo should scrap the entire Wii U platform and focus on a truly next generation system. Others are writing that Nintendo should just give up on hardware and become a dominant software company on the Sony and Microsoft systems (which I think is a silly, dumb idea). And there’s never a shortage of anti-Nintendo writers who are heralding the end of the company once and for all (they get proven wrong every few years).

I don’t think I fall easily into any one of those categories. First, I’m just a guy with a blog – not someone who gets paid to write about technology or gaming systems. Second, I base my entire opinion on not investing in Nintendo solely on my own personal impressions of their ability to meet the demands of the video game market. Third, I’ve always been a fan of Nintendo and as long as they exist I’ll probably remain a fan (even though my video gaming has dropped from 2 – 3 hours each day as a kid to 2 – 3 hours every 6 months today).

With that information as a base, the title of this entry remains: What to do about Nintendo’s Wii U blunder?

I’m not going to suggest that they should scrap the system completely. However, I do think that it would make a lot of sense to drop the dual screen peripheral requirement for the most intense and hardcore games. In other words, when the latest Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed, Madden, NBA 2K, etc. are being developed and released for the next generation consoles (Wii U, X-Box 1, and PlayStation 4), the developers should have the option of making a game that doesn’t require the use of the second screen in the game pad. I don’t know if it is easy or economically viable for third party developers to do that right now, but it seems to me that part of the Wii U blunder is the gigantic game pad with a second screen that hasn’t ignited the video gaming world like the Wii Remote did in the last decade. And speaking of the Wii Remote, I don’t think that Nintendo ever really understood why it was such a draw for hardcore and old school gamers. It wasn’t that any of us old school video gamers or any of the hardcore gamers were excited about swinging our arms around like a looney tune – nope. The draw of the Wii Remote is that there were only two or three buttons that you could push to perform an action – not the nearly dozen or so that you had to deal with on the PlayStation controller.

Nintendo missed that point completely and it shows with the silly second screen in the huge Wii U game pad.

The other thing that I would do if I were Nintendo is I’d really focus on the next generation console and make it everything that their competition is and more. Yes, it’s time for Nintendo to start making a home theater-capable console. That means that the next Nintendo console has to be able to play the latest home movie technology whether it’s still Blu-Ray movies or something more advanced. And the console needs to be able to easily perform the same multimedia streaming/tasks that the Microsoft and Sony platforms can perform. If that type of functionality is paired with a blazing fast system that can handle the latest graphics and includes a powerful, yet easy-to-use internet shop, then I think Nintendo has a winner on its hands.

The final requirement that I would have for Nintendo’s next system is full backward functionality with the Wii and Wii U. Further, that backwards functionality should include the ability to transfer the digital ownership rights of any game purchased in the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles. That would be the type of ground-breaking, customer-centric focus that would set Nintendo apart (again) from the pack and ultimately lead it to long-term success…

…and potentially lead me to invest in the company!

Start the Weekend Right Link Series – Volume #1, Edition #3

We’re back again with the third edition of the Start the Weekend Right link series! A consistent link series usually takes some time to catch fire with people out there on the interwebs. While we work to build an audience around this new feature, I hope that you’re enjoying reading these stories – and that you’re sharing them with your family and friends! Before we get to the links, though, I just want to remind you of what I wrote last week and the week before: If you find that you visit several websites on a daily basis, then I recommend you consider signing up for a free Feedly account. I don’t get anything for promoting Feedly – I just love the service and I think that it’s really a great RSS aggregator! And if you’re using another RSS aggregator, then please consider following JerseySmarts.com at http://www.jerseysmarts.com/feed/ or if you’re already on Feedly, then you can follow us by clicking here.

Now, enjoy the links! If you come across any interesting links, then please share them with us in the comments section below.

Start the Weekend Right Link Series – Volume #1, Edition #3
Gamestop Defends Xenoblade Price Tag, Metroid Prime Trilogy Being Restocked, Joystiq
That’s right. I’m starting this week’s Start the Weekend Right link series with a story about a video game. When I was younger I played video games a lot. As I got older the free time that I used to spend playing games vanished. These days if I get 5 hours of video gaming in every year, then that would be a lot. Back to this story: a few years ago a Nintendo subsidiary named Monolith Soft came out with a role-playing game (RPG) called Xenoblade Chronicles. I picked up this game when it was finally released in North America and without question this is the best RPG that I’ve ever played. The game was so good and available in such a limited quantity, that you can only find used copies and they are going for $80 – $100+ online. Pretty impressive for a game that almost didn’t make its way to this part of the world!

How to Know If You’re Working (and Living) With Purpose, Inc.
This is a good article for those of you who might be wondering whether or not you’re living a life of purpose. The author of this article – Shelley Prevost – poses four questions for you to ponder in order to come to an answer. After reading the article, I can honestly say that I have strong, positive answers for each of these questions. In addition, I think these questions provide a good framework to adequately consider whether you are, in fact, living a life of purpose. For me, I know that if I didn’t have a job with community impact or at least have the ability and opportunity to help other people on a daily basis, then I wouldn’t be satisfied. We only have a short time on this planet – why not be happy and try to give others happiness in the process?

How The Heck Do I Get Started!?, Nerd Fitness
If you’ve ever tried to do something – anything! – big in your life, then you’ve stopped to ask yourself this question. Steve Kamb – the guy behind Nerd Fitness – is one of the best, most entertaining fitness writers that I’ve ever come across online. He integrates all of the geeky things that I either was or currently am a fan of and works them into the world of fitness. Trust me here, folks – if you read Steve’s writing you’ll see that he has a gift for making fitness fun. In this entry, he gives some perspective on how you can start doing whatever it is that you want to achieve. Unlike nearly all of the weight loss blogs out there, Nerd Fitness isn’t annoyingly preachy and Steve doesn’t force you to accept his perspective on life (consciously or subconsciously). He’s just a cool, geeky guy who got in great shape and had a lot of fun along the way. Give his blog a read – I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

Time Capsule Found During Renovations at FDU Makes Special Request, Daily Record
I stopped linking to Gannett articles when the media giant went uber greedy and charged for accessing their silly, mostly-shoddily written articles after only a few days of being offered online for free. So I was conflicted on posting this link because who knows how long it will be active. Anyway, I thought that this very short story was entertaining. Apparently, some guys who were remodeling the bathrooms at FDU some 80+ years ago left an unofficial “time capsule” in the wall. The capsule was written during prohibition and asks the finder to have a drink on the renovation team if prohibition had finally ended!

Controlling Emotions, Wall Street Playboys
There is a growing movement in the blogosphere called the manosphere. This group of bloggers are typically young men who are successful at one aspect of their lives or another (or many at one time) and they write a very real-world, practical approach to achieving similar success. Some blogs focus on stories related to that success and others talk about the ideas behind that success. The team at Wall Street Playboys posted an article the other day talking about how and why it is important to be in control of your emotions. If you’re a young man and you’ve found your way to this week’s link series, then I encourage you to read this article.

You Don’t Know Jack… About the Assumption, Busted Halo
This isn’t an article to read, but rather a short video where Father Jack Collins interviews people on the street about whether or not they know the meaning behind yesterday’s holy day of obligation. What holy day of obligation was yesterday you ask? It was the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you’re not sure what that means, then take a few minutes and watch this video so you can find out.

Vivat Jesus!, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan
One of the blogs that I really enjoy reading is that of His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Cardinal Dolan had a very natural speaking (and writing) voice that boils down complex theological issues in a way that is easy to understand and appreciate. In this entry, he talks about visiting the recent Knights of Columbus national convention. I thought this was a good entry to add to this week’s list of links not just because I enjoy Cardinal Dolan’s writing, but because as a member of the Knights of Columbus, I’m glad to spread commentary about the good work that the fraternity sponsors around the country.

New Residential Construction Planned for Waterfront, Asbury Park Sun
It’s amazing how much new construction is going on in Asbury Park. Granted, we’re not talking about a new developing every week, but it certainly seems close to a new development every month. From the expansion of the Johnny Mac’s area to the Vive residential development that was sold out just about as soon as the units went on sale to the renovations up and down Cookman and the many entrepreneurs and small business owners still rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy – there’s a lot going on in Asbury Park. This article talks about yet another residential development planned for the waterfront area. If you’re interested in development in New Jersey or the revival of Asbury Park, then this article is for you.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?, Men’s Health
Admittedly, this is not a safe article for me to read! There are some nights when I have an absolutely horrible time trying to get to sleep and then there are other nights when I sleep like a log. Unfortunately, there are more nights when I toss and turn and wake up in the middle of the night for one reason or another, but that should improve when I’m off the tremendous amount of medication that I’m currently on. In any event, this article from Men’s Health says that if you get 5 hours of good, quality sleep, then you’re okay. It’s a quick article – only a few paragraphs long. If you have a few minutes, then I suggest giving it a read.

Get your weekend started right by checking out these links, starting a new, free Feedly account, and/or adding the blogs above (and JerseySmarts.com, too) to your existing Feedly or other RSS aggregator account. Enjoy!

Have You Heard About This OUYA Video Game Console?

Some of you may be familiar with the new crowd funding website Kickstarter.com. I stumbled across this website a number of months ago and I immediately loved it. The main gist of the website is aspiring artists, developers, writers, entrepreneurs, etc. post descriptions of their projects online and then ask you to help them fund their goals. It’s a way of harnessing the do-gooder, helping spirit that exists in all of us while, at the same time, helping someone achieve their goals and realize their dreams.

But Kickstarter is better than just feeling good about what you do with your money – you actually get something in return for your dollars.

The first campaign that I put some money towards was a music project. Believe it or not, there is a woman professional wrestler who is an accomplished country music artist. She’s not half bad, actually! Anyway, this woman was trying to make a second album with funding from Kickstarter and was asking for anyone to contribute $5, $10, $50, $100, and so on towards the costs to develop her album. After the word spread around the internet, she reached her funding goal and is now in the process of making the music. The dollar amount that you contribute to a campaign dictates what you’ll get in return. Personally, I only contribute at a level where I’m going to get something tangible. For this woman’s campaign, I contributed $50 (funded from my website company) which gets me both a physical copy of the new album plus the full MP3 version of the album, my name in the “thank you” section of the album, my CD autographed by the woman, and an invitation-only web concert. Sometimes the rewards are much more extravagant. For example, in this campaign if you donated $10,000, then you received all of these items, a 30-minute in-home concert, a hand-painted t-shirt from the singer, an executive producer listing for the album, and a personalized thank you video.

And each Kickstarter campaign is different. Seriously, check out the link above – I think you’ll enjoy what you find on there.

This entry, though, is about a new video game console that I saw on Kickstarter. Here, watch the video for yourself:

Did you watch the video? It’s a pretty cool concept, right? Some of you might be wondering, “Well, what’s the difference between this OUYA video game system and the Nintendo Wii or the Playstation 3 or something like that?” And that’s a good question. I’ve been doing some research on this OUYA concept and what these folks are trying to do and this is what I think the difference is between this console and the others.

It’s open.

When I say it’s open I mean that you can go in and hack it and it doesn’t void a warranty or become an illegal device or anything like you might imagine. In other words, people can go in and hack the core system’s operating protocols (I’m probably not using the right language) and it’s not a problem at all (assuming, of course, that the hacking doesn’t fry the system). The OUYA system is built on the same software infrastructure as the Droid cell phones out there – it’s an Android-based system. What this means is that anyone who can develop an “app” for a Droid cell phone or an app for a Droid tablet (for example, a NOOK) can have that app operationable on the OUYA system. This creates two immediate outcomes – one interesting and one alarming.

The interesting outcome is that since the console is built on the Android system, there are going to be thousands of apps and mobile games available for download on the first day that this thing is hooked up in your living room. The second, more alarming outcome is that I can’t imagine wanting to play any of the time-wasting games on my cell phone on the big screen of my television.

That second outcome is one of the issues that the OUYA development team is taking very seriously. They are talking to a variety of high-level gaming software companies to ensure that there are blockbuster-level games available for this system as soon as it hits the market. That’s going to be a huge task, but with only one week of starting their Kickstarter campaign these folks have already generated over $5.2 million from over 40,000 backers.

That’s a lot of money to make in a single week!

I admit that I’m not technical enough to know much more about how this thing is going to work, but I do know that if you Bing “OUYA” you’ll find a bunch of positive and negative press for the not-yet-created console. For my part, I like supporting these Kickstarter campaigns and I’ve supported a variety of independent video games on that website already. So I supported the OUYA campaign at the $99 level. This gets me the ability to reserve my username before the console goes live to market, a “Founder” emblem emblazoned next to my username forever, and an OUYA console plus one controller. That’s right – a brand new video game system (expected to be delivered some time in March 2013) for $99 (plus $20 for shipping).

You can’t even buy a used current generation console for $99!

If you’re interested in the OUYA or in at least learning more about it, check out their Kickstarter page. This is a very interesting concept and I’m glad to support it!

Retro Video Game Review: Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

Sometimes you have to face the music. For example, at some point over the last ten years I lost just about all of my video game skills. Gone. Sure, I can play a game here and there, but I can’t dominate them like I did when I was a little kid. I’m just not very good at the high end video games that are produced and released these days. The truth is that I suck at these Call of Duty games, I’m horrible at that Resident Evil stuff, and when it comes to Madden and other sports games – I just can’t keep up!

I suspect that there are many people out there just like me – people who used to be good at playing videos games, but try to play today’s video games and generally find themselves on the short end of the stick. If you’re one of those folks who has been passed by in the current generation of video games, then I’m here to tell you that there is hope thanks to the Nintendo Wii! More specifically, there is hope thanks to Nintendo’s Virtual Console – where you can download hundreds of old games from previous gaming systems.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest - A Quick, Fun Way to Spend 10 Hours

Last weekend, I was flipping around the Virtual Console looking for a nostalgic way to spend a few bucks and there it was – Final Fantasy’s Mystic Quest. Frankly, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it on the screen because I didn’t think that Mystic Quest was the type of big-time game that you’d find on the Virtual Console. But there it was and a few bucks and a few minutes later it was downloaded to my Wii and I was ready to play.

Mystic Quest was originally released in 1992 and you’ll be able to figure as much as soon as you turn the game on. The graphics, gameplay, character movement, audio, and sound effects are all straight out of time warp when George H. W. Bush was still President and I was kicking butt playing on the recreation soccer team in Mount Arlington. Good times, but I digress.

It took me about 10 hours of playing the game in order to beat it. Now, I don’t specifically remember how much time I spent playing this particular video game back in 1992, but I have to imagine that it was a number greater than 10! So, while I tend to fail miserably at today’s video games, I think I’ve actually gotten better at yesterday’s video games. Ha! That’s improvement right there, people! And, honestly, I could have beaten the game a little bit quicker, but it took my some time to get my bearings about me (hey, it’s been almost 20 years since I last played the game – give me a break!).

Mystic Quest follows a tried and true formula for Final Fantasy games: something bad is happening in the world, a fabled hero appears, the hero defeats a series of lesser “bad guys” which lead up to fighting the major bad guy, and the world is saved. Hey, if the formula ain’t broke – don’t fix it, right? After you save a bunch of crystals, you’re faced with going through a tower and refighting a different form of each of the lesser bad guys before you come before the Dark King (creative name, right?). After you defeat a few incarnations of the Dark King, Square-Enix (actually, Squaresoft made the game, but since they’re now Square-Enix, I’m using that name) puts together a montage with the hero visiting all of the major locations in this very small land that the game takes place in. The hero gets an update from everyone, borrows a ship from his girlfriend’s father, and goes off sailing around the world with a treasure hunter named Tristam.

And that’s it – the game is over. There’s nothing else going on after you beat the game unlike some of the newer Square-Enix games where you can go through the game from the beginning with a powered up version of the hero. But hey – this game was made in 1992 and the idea of going back through the game at top performance was probably crazy talk back then!

However, better than actually beating a game again, I was able to take 10 hours of my time (broken into an hour here, two hours there) and feel like I was good at a real video game again. So if you’re on Nintendo’s Virtual Console, like role playing games, and are a fan of Final Fantasy and Square-Enix – go ahead and download Mystic Quest. You’ll love it!

Up next from the Virtual Console… Secret of Mana released by Square-Enix in 1993. Awesome!