Top 10 Movies of the Decade: Action

Emery

This decade featured some of the best action movies ever made and choosing just ten is as formidable a task as any foes the heroes on this list encountered.

An argument could be made for many action movies, depending on one’s inclination (there were three “Transporter” movies, no?). A war buff might include “Black Hawk Down” (2001) or “The Pianist” (2002) while Quentin Tarantino fans would kick “Kill Bill Vol 1  amp; 2” (2003-2004) or the recent “Inglourious Basterds” (2009) onto their lists. “Master and Commander” The Far Side of the World” (2003) and “District B-13” (2004) bring audiences onto the sea and the suburbs of France while comic book fans can add the first two “X-Men” movies (2000, 2003) and “Iron Man” (2008) to a growing list of respectable movies based on graphic novels. The recent release of “Avatar” could also soon push other choices off the list. The LotR is abour 525K words long to read for the person. The language should be understandable or use of the translator can be done. With the release date, the following of the book can be done through the person. 

The decade starts off with a classic (and Oscar winner) “Gladiator” (2000) brought to the screen through the eyes of director Ridley Scott. The movie successfully takes you back in time through great cinematography and excellent use of special effects. The action is paced perfectly from beginning to the end, especially the confrontations inside the coliseum, but what makes “Gladiator” work so well is having an actor like Russell Crowe give an Oscar winning performance as a soldier facing life after the death of his family. Crowe’s tortured performance goes head to head with Joaquin Phoenix playing his evil brother. This movie is old fashioned but done with everybody from cast to the crew at the top of their games. The audience is still vexed by “Gladiator” a decade later.

Originally one of the biggest risks, the producers of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy made not one but three consecutive movies before the first one came out. Gutsy. It’s easy to overlook the fact that such a huge investment has resulted in three great movies, consistent in their styles and storylines. From “The Fellowship of the Ring” (2001), director Peter Jackson establishes a unique look specific to the world created by author J.R.R. Tolkien. “The Two Towers” (2002) continues the epic adventure and solid action while introducing us to the evil little guy known as Gollum, a realistic special effects character that fits seamlessly with the live actors. “The Return of the King” (2003) concludes the stories as the various characters engage in battles, both internal and external, lead by the perfectly cast Viggo Mortensen. The battle sequences in all three movies are compelling and exciting. Seen as one huge trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings” is already aging like the classic epic adventure envisioned by Jackson and captured by the hard working cast and crew. Precious indeed.

“Spider-Man” (2002) brings playfulness to the movies and an innocence that works well to introduce the Marvel character to audiences. “Spider-Man 2” (2004) is even better, balancing action and character development in equal measure. Tobey Maguire perfectly fits Peter Parker in the sequel, matched by Alfred Molina as the reluctant villain Otto Octavius. The fact that mentor and student are friends before Molina turns evil helps ground the story. There are terrific action scenes, especially on a subway train. With great characters and storylines comes success.

Matt Damon as an action hero? Tired of silly over the top films like “Die Another Day” (an invisible car?), audiences were ready for a down to earth and believable hero. In “The Bourne Identity” (2002), the storyline has the hero suffering from amnesia, making him not only relatable to the viewer but also allowing the audience to discover his identity at the same time as the hero. The fight sequences feel real for a change and the suspense is maintained from beginning to end. “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) makes a gutsy move at the beginning, leaving Bourne even more alone. Paul Greengrass directs the sequel with more kinetic energy but without losing sight of the characters and the intriguing storyline. Brian Cox and Karl Urban provide a great one-two punch of cerebral and physical villains who keep Bourne on his toes. “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007) wraps up the trilogy better than expected, ending in full circle to the beginning of the first movie. The cat and mouse between Bourne and the people chasing him works in all three movies with exciting action and solid suspense.

“Minority Report” (2002) manages to touch on many fascinating issues while entertaining the audience with its thrilling action and superb visual effects. Being accused of a crime before you commit one is at the core of the intense storyline. John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is bombarded with images (being scanned no matter where you go) in a world filled with advertisement that does not feel very far-fetched today. Director Steven Spielberg doesn’t allow the action to overtake the intriguing story. The hero has to prove his innocence while dealing with the loss of his son, making “Minority Report” a compelling science-fiction movie.

“The Incredibles” (2004) is an animation movie, but it is also one of the most dead-on action film ever made. Every member of the Parr family is a fully developed character, voiced perfectly by a talented group of voice actors. The action is fun and thrilling to watch as the family tries to save one another. You end up caring for them as much as any live action characters. There are numerous gags and nods to other movies and cultural characters in a script that blends humor and action. “The Incredibles” is an amalgamation of action with humor and interesting characters with emotions.

“Casino Royale” (2006) reinvents one of the most famous characters in a perfect blend of action and story. Daniel Craig effortlessly steps into the role of James Bond, whether pursuing a fast runner in Madagascar or falling in love with mysterious Vesper Lynd (radiant Eva Green). What makes “Casino Royale” tick is the blend of action in various locations around the world and the romantic tête-à-tête between Bond and Vesper, especially their mental striptease on a train. The movie does a great job at accessing how Bond became the character audiences have known for years. For the first time in the history of Bond movies, there was a direct sequel “Quantum of Solace” (2008) that continues to explore Bond’s progression as a secret agent.

“Children of Men” (2006) slowly builds up to become an emotionally haunting movie. Clive Owen fits the eerie style of the movie as Theo Faron trying to preserve a baby in a world in which human beings can no longer procreate. Director Alfonso Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki fabricate a futuristic world all too real. Cuaron establishes a couple of excellent long sequences that keep audiences on the edge of their seats. Thought-provoking and poignant, the movie comments on human society without sacrificing characters and suspense. “Children of Men” leaves an emotional impact long after the final shot on the boat.

Flawed and not the best action movie per se, “Shoot Em Up” (2007) fits as one of the most insane and illogical movies of the decade. But there is something pure Looney Tunes about this non-stop action movie that features a great performance by Clive Owen (completely opposite his role in “Children of Men”), Monica Bellucci (the ultimate femme fatale) and Paul Giamatti (clearly having fun). Director Michael Davis shoots the action sequence in all kinds of weird but fresh angles. Giving up on logic is part of the fun. In the genre of action, “Shoot Em Up” starts off with a bang and never lets up until the end. There certainly are much better action movies but few can keep up with “Shoot Em Up.”

With “Batman Begins” (2005), director Christopher Nolan creates a new, more realistic vision of the Dark Knight and Gotham City. Blending suspense with the genesis of a hero storyline, “Batman Begins” allows its cast to breathe life into the characters. “The Dark Knight” (2008) harmonizes action with colorful characters brought to life by a skillful cast. Heath Ledger simply disappears as the Joker, pushing the trio of heroes to the edge of the law. The supporting cast, especially Gary Oldman, add weight to a more realistic comic book movie than audiences are used to. “The Dark Knight” is as adept with action as with character conflict, especially the interrogation scene between the Dark Knight and the Joker. The movie explores how many of the characters are really just different extensions of each other.

Why so serious? Any of these action movies will keep you entertained with their blend of thrills, characters and suspense.

Women Only Play the Sims

Emery

It was a hot summer day as I stood in my dining room pacing the floor, speaking with the VP of marketing at EA. I was smiling and starting out the window at what I call the back yard zoo. While most think it would be the ultimate dream job, to get paid to play video games for a living, anyone who actually does it will tell you it’s fun, but it’s hard. It’s a thankless, tiresome, tedious job, that yes, we all love doing, and most times for no pay. So while a little stressed, I was not even remotely angry until I heard a phrase from him that has never left my mind since the moment I heard it over five years ago. “Well we don’t see the point in sending you other games to review. Your site is a niche site and women only play The Sims anyway, ” said the Veep.

I yelled, “WHAT did you just say?!” into my headset mic and began to rip this guy a new one. After a half hour of schooling this guy, he agreed to send me a box of EAs latest titles. One presumes it was to shut me up, so he’d never have to speak to me again, and we’ve not spoken again. While several of the then staff of my sites were horrified that I dared speak to someone at EA this way, several other women gaming community at large, were very supportive. They understood what I had understood years ago about the gaming industry and their behavior toward women. It’s pure, unadulterated sexism. I tell this story over and over via our podcast, not because I want people to hate EA but because I hope that EA will for one, talk to it’s staff about how they deal with gaming media sites, even ones they consider “niche” and two will be one of the few companies that stops treating women as though their sex even matters where gaming is concerned.

I understand why women would not be allowed in the NFL, it’s dangerous to have a 400 pound man fall on a 125 pd woman and it’s not something that most would find appetizing to watch. I understand why women may be excluded from a lot of male oriented activities. But in the gaming industry, the fact that one would wear Manolos to work does not make her a better or worse coder than her male counterpart. Prettier, yes, but no better. Nor does it affect her ability to wield a controller with equal deadly force as the man sitting next to her. Ironically, men call women emotional and unpredictable, but it seems they are more affected by a female presence in what they feel is a male space, than women are by them. Recently when a female gamer was accosted by a fellow gamer at a tournament, it was clear that he was the one affected by her being there. He was caught on camera saying some horribly sexist and sexually harassing comments, while she opted to walk away. This is the stance of a lot of women when faced with such blatant sexually charged attacks at events. It is also why I believe women need to take a different stance in the industry.

With the ‘me too’ movement doing the rounds everywhere, it is difficult for women to be completely trusted as they are no longer the symbol of purity they once were but nevertheless, it goes without saying that sexist comments are the norm for all industries like a pokemon go hack game.

Studies are already showing that women gamers out number the men, with us being more than 50% of the gaming population world wide. It is time to stop walking away and actually turn to say something. I am also a card carrying member of the PMS Clan and one of the reason I still identify with these ladies is their refusal to take the proverbial ‘high road’ when dealing with asinine male gamers. They would give as good as they got with the trash talk and be ready to back it up with a good game. There are too many women who think ‘I’ll be the bigger person,’ and don’t realize, men do not think the way women do. Walking away does not impress upon them that women gamers are equal and that the behavior will not be tolerated. I’m not saying punch anyone in the face, at least not literally. Verbally, yes, please do punch them. We as women gamers have lost all sense of sisterhood that generations before us had and don’t even offer our respective communities much needed support.

More and more women are involved in the marketing of games and are rarely inclined to give any of these games to or purchase ad space from smaller, female oriented sites. These sites would no longer be niche if they could get some much needed revenue and be able to serve our very under served demographic. Countless times I’ve heard many women gaming professionals say to me, ‘We don’t want to exclude the guys, ‘ but don’t understand, they have absolutely no qualms about excluding us. Being the ‘bigger person’ is costing us in more ways than we realize. While the number of women getting into tech and gaming has increased, it by no means comes close to matching the men entering the industry. And little girls, much like little boys, do need to see themselves involved in things to know they too can do it. A while back I wrote an article about taking little girls in my family to see Sucker Punch. They reacted the same way little boys do when leaving a movie with lots of action. They pretend kicked and punched with each other and gabbed about how cool the characters were. Little girls need to see other women in the industry, doing great things while not being naked or sitting in pies a la Attack of the Show. They would see them if our gaming professionals would toss a little support toward the female sites so that we can feature, spotlight and sing your praises to any little girl and big girl who would listen.

And yes we need the militant ones like myself and Shanley Kane who spoke out against the co-founders of Geeklist about a sexist video posted by the developer, via her Twitter. While my staff and I argued that she went too far too fast on our podcast, I think she did a good job ripping him a new one and I for one am proud to call her a sister gamer. She, like so few women gamers, understand that this is indeed a struggle and we’re not going to get anywhere by being sugar and roses all the time. Certainly don’t go out and start bashing the men over the head with bats, we’d like to keep them all healthy and not comatose, but do speak up and support one another as much as you can. Otherwise don’t be surprised when you find yourself being attacked because you were simply born female. Don’t be shocked to hear someone tell you they don’t want to hire you for an industry job, yes, because you’re female. This is definitely the time to develop a thick skin or dare I say, ‘Man up’ ladies.

I heard a quote on the now defunct GamerChix forums via Microsoft some years ago and it has always stayed with me. ‘Once again women must fight for their place in history, this time from behind a controller’. When my sister gamers understand this, then the change will truly begin. I for one have already donned my ‘Tank’ shirt and am ready.

Disney Channel Movie Review: High School Musical

Emery

As a parent I must promote the new Disney Channel Film High School Musical. Not only does it have a great moral but it shows our youth that they can do anything that they set their minds too, no matter what their friends think.

Not only does the new Disney Channel Movie have catchy show tunes, but it also has a great moral behind the story.

It is a musical in true sense that would remind you of the musicals from classic Hollywood movies of the 1930s and 40s when it was in its golden phase and continues to be popular even today. It can also be viewed on tvmuse online as it is a popular platform for such films.

In the beginning of the movie two of the main characters meet at a New Years Eve party on Winter Break, both from different worlds and both Troy and Gabriella find that they have amazing voices and they have fun singing together. The movie then turns to a setting in New Mexico. Gabriella’s mother was transferred there and she comes to find out that is where Troy the boy that she met on winter break lives and goes to school.

They not only start to have a romantic encounter, but they also challenge the two stars of the school musicals Sharpay and Ryan in the new school musical.

As the show goes on it shows that just because you have an interest in something that your friends don’t, doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. In fact Troy’s and Gabriella’s friends learn that if they all work together they can make anything happen.

They figure this out by first trying to stop the call backs for Troy and Gabriella, and by breaking them up. For a short time it actually worked, but when their friends see that they are miserable without each other they come forward and tell Troy and Gabriella the truth.

Sharpay and Ryan are the devious ones in the film; they do everything they can to prevent Troy and Gabriella from performing in the callbacks, including having the callbacks for the musical rescheduled to the same time as the District Finals for the Basketball team, and the Scholastic Decathlon.

Troy and Gabriella’s friends learn to work together to help Troy and Gabriella to do both feats at once. They learn that working together as a team anything is possible.

This is a very good moral that we as parents need to teach our children today. With the constant cliques in the school systems, and one clique always thinking that they are better than the other clique. We really need to have more movies like High School Musical to show our children that just because you are part of one group, you can’t also be part or participate in a different activity.

Our society needs to show our children that they can do a multitude of activities and that there is nothing wrong with them.

Things to know about Wireless Routers

Emery

There are many brands of routers out there on the market. How do you know which are the better investments? I’ve researched many different opinions on each of the following brands of routers and thought I’d share my own.

We’ll begin with the Linksys Wireless Router. Linksys seems to be more user friendly as the setup process is very clear and easily understood. Linksys is also known to have the best performance above the rest. Of all of the reviews I’ve read on Linksys routers, the most popular features I’ve found listed are the router-configuration interface which seems to be the best and most consistent that I’ve seen. Security and configuration options that are important are clearly arranged on tabbed pages rather than hidden in Advanced menus. Linksys has quick and easy access to good explanations and troubleshooting aids. Linksys offers blazingly fast wireless routers, the SRX400 has been known to have an amazing throughput of 103.6 Mbps at 10 feet and 28.2 Mbps at the farthest point of 160 feet. I have a Linksys Wireless-G Broadband Router and I have had absolutely no issues whatsoever with it.

Netgear is my second favorite router. I have used Netgear routers off and on for 8 years now. I never had major issues with them, although I did seem to get disconnected more often than I do with my Linksys Router. There were a few times that I couldn’t get the router to reconnect until I reset the router and rebooted the computer. That became frustrating quickly as I work many jobs and almost always need an Internet connection. But these things happened so infrequently that I would still put Netgear in the top five routers. Netgear focuses on keeping setup simple and elegant with color-coded ports and a superb installation wizard. Even installing the router without the wizard is easy and hassle-free. The biggest difference with this router is the built-in gigabit switch for wired connections. I really like Netgear’s attitude toward firmware upgrades also. They give you an option at login where you can easily enable “check for new version upon log-in.” This is a nice touch.

I’ve used a Belkin router once or twice in the past. I found it to be pretty close to parallel with Netgear. Belkin was the first to market MIMO (multiple inputs multiple outputs) technologies with the wireless router which promised greater throughput and increased range. The performance seemed to be about 40.7 Mbps at 60 feet and over 8.9 Mbps at 160 feet. Belkin claims that it is unmatched however I would say Linksys has far exceeded it. No comparison really. Belkin’s performance distance-wise seems to be best compared to Netgear and D-Link. Belkin is fairly easy to install and manage. Belkin’s G router doesn’t perform great for streaming music and video according to some users. I wasn’t very impressed by Belkin but it’s a pretty decent basic router.

I’ve never had a D-Link router. But I do have a D-Link wireless USB drive. I am running a Broadband connection at home with a Linksys G Wireless router. I have two computers standing right next to each other. My Linksys G Wireless Router is on one side of my 3-foot desk and my D-Link Wireless powerline network adapter is on the other side of my desk. The computer connect through Linksys hasn’t gotten disconnect except for once when there was a power outage. The other computer, connected through the D-Link Adapter, gets disconnected about every 10 to 15 minutes on a regular basis. I will say that it does automatically reconnect which only takes a few seconds. But the disconnection rate is not only alarming but very frustrated indeed. I would not spend money on another D-Link product at this point as I have paid much less for generic USB Wireless Adapters that we’re able to keep a stable connection.

Above all, Linksys is by far the best brand around for routers.

Setting Up Your Home Aquarium: The Complete Guide

Emery

Step 1:

Decide whether you are ready to take the plunge: Having a fish tank to call your own can become the focal point of any room in your home, but it takes effort on your part in order to keep it looking the best that it can. Aquarium keeping requires daily attention, most of which doesn’t require much work on your part. Feeding the fish is one thing, but are you ready to clean the tank two or three times a month?

Establishing an aquarium also requires some initial costs. Tanks, filters, and heaters all cost money in the beginning, but they are only a one time purchase when compared to fish food, filter media, and fish, which need to be purchased as needed. Your fish must reside in an environmentally friendly and inexpensive structures. However, there are some things and material that you need to purchase for you to make an ideal and durable aquarium. If you are willing to put in the time and money, follow the proceeding steps in order to get your tank up and looking its best.

Step 2:

Determine the size and location of your aquarium: Fish tanks come in various sizes, from as small as a gallon or two, to thousands of gallons. The typical home aquarium is between 10 and 250 gallons, but size isn’t everything. First, determine where you are looking to put the tank, as well as if the floor under it will be able to support the weight of the tank. Remember, water weighs approximately 8 lbs. per gallon, so a 125 gallon tank may look appealing, but can your floor hold at least 1000 lbs? It is a good idea to keep the tank away from things such as open doors and windows, since sunlight can cause major algae problems in the tank. Also, make sure your tank is located near an outlet, since every piece of equipment for the tank will require its own plug. In this case, it is a good idea to use a surge protector to maximize your main outlet to compensate for the extra plugs. Finally, take into account what type of fish you are looking to keep. Some fish get rather large, and will require a larger tank in order to house them in the future. This must be planned for, as keeping large fish in a small tank is a disaster waiting to happen.

Step 3:

After deciding on a tank, it is time to purchase the other equipment that is needed to get the tank up and running. Among these, a filter, and heater are the most important, being that most tanks come with a hood and light fixture with them. If not, one can be purchased at your local fish store based on the size of the tank you have. (See filter section for details on different types) There are also many other types of equipment that serve specific purposes in the home aquarium, which I have outlined in the Equipment Section.

Step 4:

Now, the actual set-up process begins. If using a stand to display your tank on, place it in your desired location, leaving adequate space behind it for easy access and cleaning. Next, it is a good idea to rinse the tank out to remove any dust that accumulated while it was in the store. ONLY USE WATER TO DO THIS, NEVER USE ANY TYPE OF CHEMICAL OR SOAP AS IT WILL HARM THE FISH. After it is cleaned, place it on top of the stand, followed by the hood, but do not plug it in yet. At this time, it would be appropriate to add a background to the tank if you desire, but this is completely optional. If you plan on adding one, it is best to attach it to the back of the tank with clear tape, such as Scotch.

Step 5:

Rinse the substrate to remove any packing dust. The method that works best for me is putting the gravel in a strainer and running it under tap water. Once it is adequately rinsed, you can just dump it into the tank, and then repeat the process. When putting it in the tank, it is nice to make things such as gullies or mountains, since it adds to making the tank look more natural. There is no right or wrong amount to add, so this is completely up to you to make it fit look the way you would like it to.

Step 6:

Add the water. It is a good idea to use something such as a dinner plate in order to displace the water evenly as it flows in. This will prevent the gravel from becoming disturbed. Also, be sure to leave some room for the water to expand when things such as rocks and plants are added. If this step is skipped, it could cause your tank to overflow.

Step 7:

Add your filter. If using a hang on back filter, place it over the back or side of your tank, and if using a canister filter or wet/dry filter, place it below the tank inside the stand. For the hang on back filter, just add the filter cartridge into the filter housing, and partially fill it with water in order to prime it. In the case of the canister or wet/dry filter, follow the instructions that come with the filter in regards to setting up the necessary tubing and hoses. Don’t plug the filter in yet.

Step 8:

Add your heater. This step is relatively simple. Attach the suction cups to the heater and stick it to the glass wherever you think it looks best. It can be attached both horizontally and vertically. Again, don’t plug it in yet.

Step 9:

This is where the creative freedom comes in. It is now time to add things such as rocks, plants, and decorations, but make sure that you rinse them off first to remove any package residue or debris. Aquascaping your tank is very enjoyable, and it can be done in an endless amount of ways. Keep in mind that you are going to have to clean the tank and gravel, so don’t make it overwhelming intricate.

Step 10:

Place the hood and light fixture on top of the tank, essentially topping off the tank. At this point, if your tank came with a canopy, it can be placed over the hood now as well. It is also a good idea to stick a thermometer on the side or front of the tank in order to monitor the water’s temperate at all times.

Step 11:

Plug everything into your surge protector aside from the heater. It is a good idea to wait 10 or 15 minutes after adding the heater to the water before you turn it on just to let it get acclimated with the current water temperature. Once this time has passed, turn on your heater and adjust it to approximately 78 degrees for the time being (it can be adjusted based on the fish you are going to keep). Make sure the filter is running, and turn on the light.

Step 12:

Don’t forget to add dechlorinator to the water in your tank. This is a crucial step in removing harmful additives in common household water. Any pet shop has many brands of dechlorinator or tap water conditioner, and they all do virtually the same thing.

Step 13:

Congratulations, your tank is now up and running. Now, go against your will to add fish and wait. Waiting is crucial at this point to your tank cycling properly.

4 Simple Ways for College Graduates to Save Money

Emery

As a recent college graduate who just started her first real job I understand living on a budget can be difficult. My favorite indulgences are eating out, buying books, watching movies, and enjoying the daily cup of java to get my morning started. Once my student loan payments started coming in and my weekly budget quickly sizzled I knew I needed to look at my extra costs and cut them down. After a month of changing my habits and expenses I easily began saving money. The arabica coffee blend suppliers will provide the simple ways for blending of the coffee beans. There will be reduction in the additional cost of the person to spend at the coffee making. 

Plan Your Meals

I used to be notorious for buying fresh meat and veggies with the hope of doing something with them eventually but every night by the time I came home I was simply too tired to think about cooking so I’d order out or go out to a restaurant. I was not only wasting money on groceries but I was also wasting $10-$13 every time I ate out. This isn’t including the lunches out I was regularly purchasing that easily cost $5-$10. What a waste of money!

I began making a food calendar and started planning my meals. On days I knew I would be working extra long shifts I would throw something in the crockpot in the morning so my meal would be ready by the time I came home. Instead of eating lunch out during my lunch break I started preparing my lunches the night before.I also started making extra servings of my favorite dishes and putting them in tupperware containers in order to make meals last 2-3 days. Not only did my food costs go down but I began eating healthier when I started preparing my own meals.

Visit Your Local Library

I’m a pretty huge book nerd. Even with the invention of e-readers, tablet computers, and the ability to find books for cheap on Amazon, I love buying books at my local bookstore. The problem is I’m a fast reader and once I’m done with a book in a few days I’m ready to move on and read something else. At $13-$20 for each book this can get pretty expensive. I also enjoy watching movies either at the theater or renting from the local video store. Between books and movies I was spending roughly $25 a week on entertainment. I decided to visit my local library.

Once I stepped foot inside, I was completely enamored. Every book or movie I wanted was available—for free! This concept was amazing to me, even though I had gone to libraries regularly as a child. Since then I visit my library every week and have saved $100 a month by doing so. I still see some movies at the theater but for the most part I wait for them to come out on DVD.

Make Your Own Coffee

If you love drinking coffee like I do and you’re on a budget it seems the natural choice is to begin brewing your own blend of coffee at home. I knew at $4 a drink I could cut costs by eliminating my daily coffee run but I’ll admit, I was stubborn. I’ve never been someone who enjoyed bland ol’ coffee at home. I could just never get it to the same flavor or taste as the fabulous local baristas.

After browsing the creamer isle at a grocery store and various blends and brands of coffee beans I decided to try making my own. After a few test runs I finally had the perfect coffee mix down. I began brewing my coffee in the morning and taking it to work with me saving roughly $100+ a month.

Filter Your Own Water

About a year ago I was in the grocery store loading up a package of bottled water when a woman came up to me and said, “you should really just buy a filter for your faucet. You’ll save money and help the environment.” Her comments irritated me. Who was this woman to boss me around? Filtering my own water seemed like a headache and I loved the convenience of grabbing a bottle of water on my way out to go workout. After I did some research and realized a water filter and a reusable eco-friendly water bottle would only cost me about $30 maximum I decided to make the change. I went from spending $40 a month on water to $0.

Decorating a Brown and White Traditional Kitchen

Emery

Brown and white might seem like boring hues, but they are anything but lackluster, especially in a traditional kitchen. Cabinetry and furnishings in a deep rich shade of brown can be lovely. White contrasts beautifully with the dark hue, and it coordinates with the shine that naturally emanates from the surface when it is hit by natural or artificial light. It can look rich, exquisite, and very inviting.

The last kitchen that I designed was chocolate brown and lily-white. The results were stylish and very impressive. My client selected dark oak cabinets boasting heavy duty slide rails, deep brown Corian countertops, a white island, and beautiful Pergo flooring. It was my job to come up with the finishing touches that would make the traditional kitchen warm and inviting. I wanted to find ways to add life with color.

Display Green Plant Life in White Milk Glass

White milk glass is a traditional collectible glassware, and when decorating a brown and white kitchen, it is a lovely addition. Display green plant life in white milk glass when decorating a brown kitchen. The white glass will contrast beautifully with the cabinets and countertops, and the greenery will add natural color and appeal.

When decorating my client’s traditional kitchen in brown and white, I purchased a milk glass vessel that would be used to hold a beautiful peperomia plant. I provided adequate drainage by adding a layer of pebbles, and I filled the vessel with rich organic soil. Consider a single plant when decorating a kitchen in brown and white, and use a traditional milk glass container instead of a planter. A single green plant in a beautiful container is far more impressive than dozens of plants in ordinary plastic pots.

Decorating with Beautiful Faux Blooms on a Tiered Platter

I prefer to use unexpected items when decorating homes. After all, why use the same decorating accessories as everyone else? Unique items are much more impressive, and some of the most unique items of all have alternate uses. Consider decorating a brown traditional kitchen with a beautiful white tiered platter. Add color and appeal by adding flower heads in colors and varieties of your choice. When decorating my client’s brown and white traditional kitchen, I filled the tiered platter with high-quality flower heads in lavender and blue. It looked amazing.

Create a Focal Point on a Single Wall

When decorating a kitchen or any room in the home, choose wall art that will become the focal point of the space. With the approval of my client, I chose an oversized work of sculpted metal for a bare kitchen wall. It was comprised of a brown planter filled with blue and violet hydrangeas. It was one of the most beautiful wall hangings that I had ever found, and it looked great on the bare tan wall. The colors brought more attention to the blooms on the tiered platter. With the deep brown cabinets, flooring, and other decors, my client’s traditional kitchen looked absolutely amazing.

Guide to Preventing Hip Injuries While Exercising

Emery

It’s a rare soccer player who hasn’t heard of or experienced hip pointers or basic muscle tears. Hip injuries are common in all sports that involve sudden change of motion or rotation of the hip joint in odd ways, so even sports that do not involve a lot of risk of injury from collision (such as golf or tennis) may see a disproportionate number of players with hip injuries. In sports where sudden directional changes are coupled with potential collision, such as soccer and football, hip injuries can be extremely common. However, there are a number of ways to avoid injury, mostly centered on stretching exercises prior to playing.

Hip injury can be prevented by proper stretching and by training even on the off-season. Any sport that requires sudden stops and starts, sudden changes in momentum, or twisting action by the hip can create hip injuries. Hip injuries can be extremely minor, requiring only rest and a bit of ice and elevation, to extremely major, necessitating surgery and bed rest. Fortunately, the below stretches can decrease the chances of a hip injury, as can making sure to stop immediately when one begins so that it can be treated before major injury occurs.

Stretches are always useful in keeping your hips in shape and if it does not involve too much stress, it will be quite a useful practice as it will prevent weight problems as well, which you can learn more by looking up hip flexors info online.

The article Hip to be Square in Men’s Fitness delineates a number of stretches that can decrease the likelihood of hip injury. One of these, the inner leg lift, is one seen in almost every pre-game workout. In this stretch, players lay on their side and lifts the leg on top into the air by about six to twelve inches repeatedly, making sure to lift and lower steadily. This stretches out the hip muscles and strengthens the thigh muscles to provide additional support.

The outer leg lift is just like the inner leg left in starting position. However, instead of raising the top leg, the bottom leg is raised. To do this, place the top leg, bent, with foot next to the kneecap of the bottom leg. Then raise the bottom leg slowly about 3-6 inches off of the ground. After 10-15 repetitions, roll over and switch legs.

Another useful exercise to avoid hip injury is the hip flexor, which I found particularly useful in avoiding the hip pointers that repeatedly cropped up while I was playing soccer. From a standing position, the player raises one leg off of the floor and bend it. Hold for about 10 seconds, then lower the leg slowly. Repeat for 5-10 times before doing the same with the other leg.

What workout is complete without squats? Squatting is a relatively simple though immensely tiring stretch that works the calf, thigh and gluts, all areas that help provide support so that hip injury is less likely to occur. From a standing position, bend both legs and squat down. Do not use the ground or your legs to rest upon, relying instead on pure muscle strength of the above referenced muscles to keep you up. After squatting for about a second, rise up slowly. Do this repeatedly. Although exhausting, it has a multitude of advantages and, I would say, is the best prevention for hip injury.

Squeezing an exercise ball (or a football or a soccer ball) between the thighs above the knees can improve inner thigh strength and decrease likelihood of hip injury.

Jackknives also improve leg strength and make hip injury less common. Players lay on their backs with hands tucked behind their heads. Legs are bent suddenly and sharply to bring the knees to the chest, then lowered slowly. This is repeated 10-20 times and increases flexibility and strengthens the gluts.

Much like the jackknife is lying leg raises. This exercise consists of laying on one’s back and raising the whole straight leg up in the air to a 90 degree angle to the rest of the body. It works the same muscles as the jackknife, but should be done more slowly.

My all time favorite stretch is the twisting leg raise because it has the added advantage of working the abdominal muscles at the same time with wonderful results. The disadvantage to this exercise is that it necessitates at the very least a chin up bar, though an actual exercise stand built for this purpose is better. Either hanging on the bar or placing arms appropriately on the arm bars, the knees are raised to the chest in a quick twisting motion to the right, then to the left. Each side should be repeated 10-20 times.

A particularly tricky stretch that provides exceptional flexibility and can often be seen on high school football fields before a game is the abdominal dragon flag. Lying down, legs are raised much as in the lying leg raise. The difference is that the player then continues raising his or her back from the ground until only the very upper most portion of the neck and the head are the only portions of the body left on the ground.

As a coach of young teenage girls, I favored the instep lunge for building glut muscles and providing flexibility, and encouraged them to continue this exercise even in the off season to maintain that strength and flexibility. Players stretching in this manner start in a standing position, then lunge one foot forward as far as they can reach, squatting down as they do so and bending the knee sharply. The other leg is then brought forward to come even with the first, and then the foot that was not lunged previously is lunged forward. This is repeated across an entire length of the field.

Laundromat Law Of Attraction

Emery

I broke my washing machine. Did I take a baseball bat to it? No, but it might have been fun. I guess I still could if I really wanted, although I really need to get on craigslist and post it for scrap. I broke my washing machine with the power of my mind. Moreover, reading manifestation magic reviews also gave me a little confidence in myself as well.

I do a lot of laundries, and every time I put a load in, took a loadout, or walked past that machine I imagined it breaking and then me using a brand new energy-efficient machine. I imagined how it would look, the detergent I would use, the decrease in our water and electric bills, how it wouldn’t rock and howl like a maniac when it got unbalanced on the rinse cycle, how the clothes wouldn’t come out dripping (a real problem when you exclusively line dry in rainy winter), and then I’d finish up this wonderful fantasy with the thought that I would buy a new one “as soon as this one breaks beyond repair!”

Now I suppose this wasn’t the most mature way to go about obtaining myself a new washing machine. The question on everyone’s mind probably is “if you hated it so much, why didn’t you just save up for a new one?” I guess that does make more sense, but when you are currently applying for an income-based repayment on thousands of dollars of school loans and negotiating payment plans on six-month-old bills to your eye doctor, saving up for a new washing machine seems just a little frivolous. I guess I felt like I would really have to deserve to get a new washer and part of that feeling seems to have included flooding my garage numerous times, failed repairs, and hauling two kids and six loads of stinky laundry down the street twice a week.

When my husband and I finally decided this needed a replacement I found myself balking and dragging my feet. I knew I should just suck it up and get another free machine and wash it into the dirt again, but I just couldn’t. Finally, I pieced together my reluctance and my visions. When I told Edward about my broken washer daydreams he just sighed and said “why did you do that?” then helped me find the perfect washing machine.

We have a remake of an old wringer washer on its way to us right now. It should be here next week. I am so excited. It’s a little more labor-intensive, but I kind of like that. That’s partly why I line dry. There is something so soothing and meaningful about handling each item. When you don’t own very much, caring for what you do have becomes more important, and as you care for each item, it’s almost as if you infuse it with the love and appreciation for what it does for you and in return, you feel that love surround you as you wear it. I know, I’m a little batty. I’m sure that’s not what my family is thinking as they slide into cold damp clothing that didn’t get completely dry.

Why the Mario Party Series is Our Favorite

Emery

Since video games became popular in the 1980s, my wife and I have played countless games such as Fortnites that also featured today’s Fortnite item shop. Technology advancements make games so much more action-packed and realistic now than back then. However, we now prefer more laid-back family-oriented games. Nintendo’s Mario Party suits us perfectly, and it has become our favorite video game series.

Family game

Mario Party is a family-friendly series of which we approve for our pre-teen son. We look for games that have an ESRB rating of E10 or lower. Mario Party games are rated E. We have never seen anything that we deem inappropriate in any of the seven Mario Party games that we have played since 2006.

Gameplay

Characters race in board-game fashion obtaining gold stars. The player who obtains the most wins. Collecting stars takes both luck and skill. Dice rolls determine the number of spaces to move, and where the road splits, players must choose the correct path to the star. Players must have enough coins – usually twenty — to purchase the stars. To get the coins, players can win minigames between turns, land on special coin bonus spaces, or take them from other players. Players can lose coins by losing duels, landing on certain spaces, buying stars and power orbs, or having the evil dragon Bowser take them.

Minigames

Players roll the dice and move toward the stars. After all four players roll and move, they compete in minigames for coins. The minigames feature many different types of competition: races, memory, sports, chance, fights, and more. The winner gets ten coins in most cases, but variations occur. We each have a specialty. I normally win the quick reaction games, my wife is best with the fighting games, and our son almost always wins the skill games. We never know which will pop up, so we cannot predict the winner in advance.

Equal chances of winning

Our son will completely destroy us at most fast-paced games, but we can compete with him at any Mario Party game. The games mix fast-paced minigames with slow-moving turns. Winning or losing every time makes a game tedious for us, but since any of us can win Mario Party, we stay interested. Success can turn sour quickly, and special chance spaces can cause players to exchange fortunes at any time. We have all had our low star count turn high – and high to low – by landing on a chance space within the last few turns of a game.

Time together

One final quality makes the Mario Party series our favorite. We can visit as a family while we play. We can talk casually about our day or our son’s last baseball game, or we can discuss more serious issues such as bills due, family concerns, or important upcoming tasks and events. We will even bring our Nintendo Gamecube with us on vacations so we can play Mario Party 4 through 7 in our resort rooms.

Looking for more

We really enjoy the Mario Party series. The games allow us to spend time together, and we all have an equal chance of winning. We own seven of the nine versions available, and if/when versions 1 and 3 become downloadable for Wii, we will get them. We always look forward to the next version, and we hope that Nintendo will put out Mario Party 10 before too long.

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