Category Archives: Review

Album Review – Hero By Maren Morris

Every once in awhile we’ll play a new song on the radio that will catch my ear.  The sound will be just different enough to make it stand out.  That’s how I felt about “My Church” by Maren Morris.

Then I listened to her demo version of “Dear Hate” that she shared on Twitter.  After hearing these two songs I was intrigued by her sound and wanted to hear more so I checked out Hero… her debut studio album.

Maren Morris Hero Album

Before I share my review of the album let me first say that I am probably far from it’s target audience.  I highly doubt the 40ish Dad crowd is who Maren Morris was aiming for when writing and recording this album.

That said, I do think I can objectively share a few thoughts on the album.

I really like “My Church”… the first radio single off Hero.  It’s got an old-school vibe and pays homage to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

It’s probably the most country sounding song on the album.  The rest of it Maren flirts with many different genres… including blues and pop.  She shifts effortlessly between them and sounds great doing it.

Some of the albums highlights for me are “Rich” a fun nod to the stereotypical excuses and lines some guys use.

Another fun one is “Drunk Girls Don’t Cry”.

“80s Mercedes” is sure to be an album favorite for a lot of people.

There’s even a love/crush song in “Sugar”.

This album, to me, fills a void that Taylor Swift left when she walked away from country music.  It’s packed with plenty of songs that 14-24 year old girls will relate to and enjoy singing. Which makes sense, since Maren herself is in her mid-twenties.

The sound of Maren Morris and this album reminds me a lot of Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert.  On some of the slower, softer songs I think I can even hear a hint of Nora Jones.

There’s some profanity sprinkled throughout the album but it isn’t gratuitous and seems to fit with the style and mood of the songs it’s in.  No F-bombs… just an occasional s-word or BS.

Overall, I enjoyed this album and I’m fairly confident in saying that my wife and almost 15 year old daughter will love it.  Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

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Pokémon GO: A Review From A Non-Gamer Dad

I’m not much of a gamer.  Sure, back in the day I loved our Atari 2600 and original Nintendo.  After we had kids we got a Wii and that’s fun to play every so often but it’s sat unplayed (by me) for quite some time.

When I first heard talk about the Pokémon GO game on a few Android podcasts I listen to I thought it sounded interesting. Since it was free I thought I’d check it out… especially with how fast it exploded onto the scene.

In a matter of days it had millions and millions of players around the world. On July 11th I became one of them, less than a week after it became available.

Until now, I had missed everything Pokémon. Never played any of the previous games, or collected the cards, or watched any of the shows or movies.  I wondered if that would have an effect on my enjoyment. The short answer: it made no difference.

What is Pokémon GO?

It’s an augmented reality game you play on your smartphone.  It uses your GPS to know where you are and shows your position on a map.

The game encourages you to get outside and explore your surroundings.  The more you walk the better chance you have of encountering and catching Pokémon.

Pokemon GO Screen grab

Pokémon are fun animal/bug-like creatures that you hunt down and collect.  You capture them by throwing a Poké ball at them.  If you hit it just right the ball opens and locks the Pokémon inside.

Once you have captured one it gets logged in your collection.  From a technology standpoint it’s pretty cool when you encounter a Pokémon.  Your phone will vibrate, and if you choose to, it will show the Pokémon on your screen with your actual real world surroundings.

Here’s the first Pokémon I caught outside our house.

First Pokemon GO capture

Another aspect of the game are Poké stops.  These are points of interest scattered about that you go to to get Poké balls and other “goodies” that will help you in the game.

Once you hit level 5 you can choose to join one of three different teams; Team Mystic (Blue), Team Valor (Red), Team Instinct (Yellow).

I’m to the point in the game where I could choose a team but haven’t done it yet. I’m waiting to see what teams my friends are on. Diehard Pokémon fans will probably pick a team based off personal preference from previous games and experiences.

Once you are on a team you train the Pokémon that you’ve caught to fight at Poké gyms.  This is an aspect of the game that I haven’t gotten into yet but will explore when I have more time.

What is my opinion of Pokémon GO?

I think it’s great!  It encourages players to get outside and explore the real world around them.   From my own experiences I can tell you that when players are out and about… they’re talking to each other.

They’re asking which team each other is on, sharing tips, and where they’ve caught certain Pokémon.

Just this past weekend I saw a grandmother and 2 young elementary aged grandkids exploring a park.  She was sharing their excitement and having fun with them.  I can almost bet that without the game had she suggested they go to the park she would have been greeted with groans of displeasure.

Pokémon GO is having an impact on small businesses.  More people out walking means more traffic to local stores. I even read where one animal shelter is “renting” out their dogs to players. They’ve got a waiting list and have already adopted several dogs.

Are there any parental concerns with Pokémon GO?

If you play with your kids I don’t see any concerns.  Little kids would love walking around Pokémon hunting and collecting.  They wouldn’t even need to know about the fight aspect of it.

Of course, like with most things, people need to use common sense and exercise personal responsibility.  There are a few things to discuss with your older kids if they’re going  to play

  • DO NOT DRIVE AND PLAY.  Let me repeat that. DO NOT DRIVE AND PLAY.
  • Play with a friend.  Walks are more fun with friends.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and don’t bury your face in your screen.

Final thoughts on Pokémon GO?

It’s a fun game that encourages physical activity.  My daughter and I are already planning a walk this weekend to see what Pokémon we can find.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more into the game than her.

We’re also going to combine our playing with some geocaching too!

Don’t let the anti-Pokémon GO, fun haters get to you.  Try it out and see what you think.  You don’t need any prior Pokémon knowledge. Just a willingness to get out and walk.

One thing of note… since you’re using GPS, the screen, and camera, Pokémon GO will take a big hit to your smartphone batter. I’d recommend getting an external battery charger.

Are you Pokémon GO player?  Leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts?

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Tony Tries It: Geocaching

Have you ever had something that always sounded fun, that you always wanted to try, but never got around to doing it?  That’s how I’ve been about geocaching.  I’ve talked about doing it for a few years but never did anything about it.

As we approached the weekend (with a lighter than normal schedule) I suggested to my girls that we give it a try while my wife was at work.  They both enthusiastically said that it sounded like fun.

Anyone with a couple of kids knows that when you can get them to agree on something you run with it… so this weekend we set out on our first ever geocaching adventure.  Read on and then be sure and watch our video at the end!

First Geocaching Adventure Selfe

If you’re wondering what exactly geocaching is… let me put it quite simply: it’s a real world treasure hunt.

You go online, or use the Android or iPhone app, to create a free user name and account.  Then you look up hidden geocaches that you’d like to find.  You’re given GPS coordinates and maybe a hint or two on how to find what you’re looking for.

There are millions of geocaches all over the world.  They can be large enough to hold trinkets, paper, and pens.  Or they can be really tiny with just enough room for a rolled up piece of paper.

On the paper in the geocache you write down your geocaching user name and the date you found it.  You can also “check-in” on the app letting the geocache owner know you found it. Once you do a smiley face shows up on your app map.

Geocaching App Screenshot

Using the app we found out that there are 4 hidden geocaches in our town.  One is less than a half mile from our house.  That’s where we started.  We set out on our bikes and were in the general location quickly.

The geocaching app let us know we were close.

Geocaching App Screenshot Getting Close

The first one was the hardest of the four for us to find.  Mostly because we had no idea what exactly we were looking for.  We knew it was small, though, about the size of a film canister.

We almost gave up but kept looking and eventually found it.  The excitement for all of us was pretty high.

Geocache hidden in a tree

We signed the log and returned the cache just as we found it.  Then it was a short bike ride to the next one which we found with a lot less looking.

The third geocache we went after was the easiest find of the day.  It’s probably because we now had some idea of the types of things to look for. Plus, we were getting more familiar with the app and how to use the compass in it.

Tiny Geocache

Our last geocache of the day was super small.  My girls looked all over the area but couldn’t find it.  We wondered if it had gone missing because checking the geocaching app we knew the people that tried to find it before us came up empty handed.

Through a little dumb luck I found it.  It was about the diameter of a dime and probably a half inch tall.  If you weren’t looking for it you’d never find it.  Even if you’re purposely looking for it I can see where you might miss it.

I’ll admit that we all felt a little bit of satisfaction knowing that we found it when others hadn’t.  We returned that super tiny geocache to it’s hiding place and rode home talking about our first geocaching adventure.

We all agreed that we wanted to go again.  Next time, my youngest wants to find a bigger geocache containing trinkets.  That way we could take one to keep and leave a trinket that we brought behind.

Geocaching is a fun activity for families! It’s free and when you download the app you’ll have everything you need to get started on your smartphone.  I especially liked that it got us all outside and paying attention to our surroundings.

If you give geocaching a try make sure to bring a pen along to sign the log.  You might even want to bring a pair of tweezers to get out the paper log.  As previously mentioned, they can be really small.

Fortunately, I had someone with small fingers with me on the trip that got all the logs out fairly easily.

Opening a tiny geocache

You also want to bring along your phone charger or portable battery pack.  GPS and have your screen brightness on high to see it in the sun can really eat up your battery.  (Click here for my review of the portable battery pack I use.)

Geocaching was a successful Tony Tries It that I’d recommend to anyone. We can’t wait to do it again!

Have you gone geocaching before? How many have you found?

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