This Season’s #1 Tech Gift

It’s getting close to Christmas and chances are you have a few people on your list that you’re just not sure about what to get them.  You might consider getting them what I consider to be 2013’s top tech gift.  It’s Chromecast from Google.

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Chromecast connects to your wifi and allows you to “cast” or “stream” content from your smartphone or Chrome browser to your television.    It is a USB powered dongle that plugs into the HDMI input on your tv.  It comes with cords to plug it into the wall or a USB jack on your television to supply it with power.  Set up is a breeze.  Plug it in and a screen will pop up and walk you through the process which takes only a matter of minutes.  It might take you longer to find where you wrote down your wifi password than to set up Chromecast.

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Once set up you can use a growing list of apps to send content to your television.  Currently, you can get content from Netflix, Pandora, Google Play Music, Google Movies, HBO Go, Hulu Plus and a few other sources with more to come.  It works with Android, iOS, and Windows so it more than likely supports all the devices and computers you already own.

We’ve had a Chromecast in our house for a couple of month’s and it has become a big hit.  I love it because it’s new, techie, and can play movies from the Chrome browser on our PC.  My kids like playing YouTube videos with it and my wife has used it to get caught up on TV shows by streaming them right from the show’s/network’s website.

Perhaps the biggest reason I think Chromecast is this season’s #1 tech gift is the price.  It’s only $35.  You can order it from Google or Amazon, or walk into any Best Buy, Wal-Mart, or Staples.

Do you have a Chromecast already?  What are your thoughts on it?  Do you agree that it’s this season’s #1 tech gift?

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Christmas Traditions

The most important thing about Christmas is the birth of Jesus.  To me, the second most important things are Christmas traditions.  You probably don’t have to think real hard to come up with a list of Christmas traditions from your childhood… many of which you continue now with your own family.  A few years ago a new Christmas tradition started in our house when my kids received an Elf on the Shelf from their Grandparents.

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Given the pictures I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter there’s a good chance you have an Elf visiting your house.  At the very least you know someone with their own elf.  Our kids named our elf Fred.  He’s a good elf.  He moves quietly around our house (when I remember to move him) and doesn’t cause much trouble.  My nieces’ elf has been known to raise a little ruckus.  Just this season he’s been caught shaving, tp’ing the Christmas tree, and taking Barbie out for a joyride in her convertible.  About the craziest thing Fred has done is rappel off our ceiling fan to hover over the dining room table.

Up until this year both our daughter’s believed in Fred’s magic.  Sadly, the oldest has caught on but her sister hasn’t.  This may be the last year for her.  Hopefully, we’ll get one more.  But trust me, even when they are both in on Fred’s (and my) little secret I’ll continue to move him around each night.  I’ll probably still be doing it when they’re in college and home on break.  They’ll roll their eyes and say, “Dad, we know you’re the one moving Fred.”  The next year if I didn’t do it they’d surely complain and want to know why Fred was missing or wasn’t moving around.

That’s the thing about some traditions.  You never really realize how much they mean to you until you notice they’re gone.  So, what Christmas traditions do you enjoy?

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Random Thoughts From A Middle School Dance

This weekend I volunteered to be the DJ at Middle School Fundraiser dance for a group that my daughter is a part of.  I’ve DJ’ plenty of dances before but most were wedding receptions for friends.

At none of them did I have to worry about the content of the songs. This weekend was different.  “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights, Strokin, and Save A Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” are crowd favorites… just not appropriate for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.

The job was even more difficult because I don’t listen to much pop music.  I’m a country music kinda guy and when I’m not listening to that it’s all Christian rock.  With the help of a high schooler and some other parent volunteers I think we did a good job of keeping them dancing and having fun.

Over the course of the 2 hours I think we only let one “questionable” song through and we bailed on it when we caught it.  Now for some random thoughts and observations on the night:

Technology sure has made DJ’ing easier.  I used to have to lug around crates of CD’s and hope they didn’t skip.  This time I used a laptop… and with Google Play Music All Access every song you could ever want was just a mouse click away.

Middle School dances haven’t changed much since I was a kid.  The dance floor was scattered with distinct groups.

“Thriller” and “YMCA” will get everyone dancing no matter what age they are.

Some of the popular songs of today are hard to dance to but when they were the kids didn’t mind.  Instead of dancing they’d sway as a group and sing along.  “Wrecking Ball” would be a good example.

As awkward as I remember dancing with a girl in middle school was it’s just as awkward to watch.  Girls hands on guys shoulders.  Guys hands on girls hips.  A foot of space between the two.  No eye contact or conversation.  Just a robotic sway side-to-side.

Hormones will make a young guy say some funny stuff.  Like the one who came up about 30 minutes before the end of the dance and said, “I was thinking we should end the night with a couple of slow songs”.

Although at times it was frustrating… it was a fun night.  The biggest victory?  My daughter said I didn’t embarrass her.

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