A Chance to Test the Xbox One

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I haven’t gotten a lot of use out of our Xbox One. I have used it for workouts and it’s been a very capable media and Blue-ray player, but none of the current games (that weren’t available on the PC) have enticed me. That changed with the release of Destiny. Destiny is created by Bungie, the studio that brought us the Halo series of games. They are back with a game that includes a lot of the mechanics of Halo with additional features that make it also resemble a MMO (massively multiplayer online game).

Typically you have FPSs (first person shooters) that include a story component as well as a player versus player (PVP) or cooperative (PVE) multiplayer component. Destiny includes these components as expected. On top of this, they add a character building component typically associated with MMOs or RPGs. In Destiny you pick a class (or type) of character each with different styles of play and special powers. As you level up your character, you gain access to new powers and new gear. The gear includes weapons (3 different classes) and armor (head, arms, chest and legs). You also gain access to additional visual upgrades as well. Basically, you build a totally unique character.

Destiny is available for multiple platforms, so what makes the Xbox One unique? The first thing that I noticed were the amazing visuals (shared with the PS4). The second thing amazed me was saying “Xbox Record That” after killing my first big boss. Later on while checking the Xbox One app on my WP device, I was able to watch the 30 second clip. On the Xbox One, it keeps a 30 second cache of everything that’s going on so that you can always records something great in game. Not only that, but you can easily edit and access it from anywhere. You can also jump to another app than then quickly jump back into the action when you are ready. Overall, I’m enjoying the new game and I’m looking forward to all of the additional content that will be coming out for the game over the next couple years. The Xbox platform itself just keeps getting better as well and I’m now at the point that I would prefer the “next gen” over the 360.

Back From A Great Vacation

Our vacation this year was actually relaxing. I know that sounds a little crazy, but it seems that most of our vacations are so packed that by the time it is over, I’m just thankful to get back home where I can get some rest. This year we put together a visit to the Disney World parks with a four day Disney cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream cruise liner. We were joined by Connie’s sister Tammy and her husband Clarence (they vacationed with use a couple years ago and it went wonderfully).

It’s hard to believe just how much stuff that we did over a weeks time, but the trip was fabulous! We had planned the cruise and voted to spend at least one day at the Magic Kingdom to ride a few rides. We ended up arriving at Disney World and stayed two nights at the Art of Animation Resort. This is one of the lower cost resorts, but still the room was fine and the grounds were awesome as usual. The first half day, we went to the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. It’s very similar to Mickey’s Christmas Party, but with a Halloween theme (admittedly a little early). What an amazing fireworks and light show around the castle. The next day we had a full day at the parks. The girls stayed at Magic Kingdom (shopping and riding less aggressive rides), but I sprang for park hopper upgrades for the boys and I and we visited Epcot and Hollywood Studios to hit some of the big rides with their uncle (who did the worst of the rides with them). We then met for dinner at The Beast’s Castle in the new section of Magic Kingdom (the rose from the castle in the photos). The rain held off the entire day, which was great. Very nice temps.

On Sunday we boarded the Disney Dream (one of the two largest of the four Disney ships). We had two adjoining rooms on deck 8 each with a veranda. The verandas also connected on the outside of the rooms. The ship itself was amazing. It’s only been out for a couple years since it first launched and it was fresh and clean. With two full theaters inside the ship and another massive screen on the top by the pool, there was plenty of space for live shows and Disney movies (even first run movies like Guardians of the Galaxy and Maleficent). The Aqua Duck was a water coaster that circled the top of the ship, even going out over the ocean at one point. Connie and the kids loved that one. During the adventure, we rotated through the three different dining rooms (massive rooms with their own individual themes).

The first port of call was Nassau in the Bahamas. Connie and her sister Tammy went to Atlantis early and spent time with the dolphins. The rest of us went to the water park there at Atlantis. The Atlantis casino and resort is a sprawling facility that takes up a large swath of the island. It’s a shame that the casino ruins the place, but I suppose that’s how they primarily pay for it. Regardless, I’ve never seen such a luxurious resort. Connie and Tammy were elated (bubbling over) with their time with the dolphins. This was also the first time that I ridden a water slide through a tank filled with sharks and stingrays (we were in a tube that literally went through the tank). We had a few moments of stress when we got separated at the park and were a little concerned about leaving on time, but all worked out well. Nassau is like many of the tourist spots with luxury on parts of the island and poverty around the rest of it. We only travelled through those parts while riding the bus back to the ship.

Castaway Cay was our second and final stop. Disney created the destination as an exclusive location for their cruise ships. It’s largely uninhabited when the ship isn’t docked. I didn’t realize that they were having a Castaway Cay 5K race on the island, but since entrance to the race was free I signed up so that I could at least get a little extra exercise. It was a pretty easy run and very memorable for my first 5K race. For the family it was a relaxing day of time on the beach. There was lots of beautiful water, sand, umbrellas and even a few slides. I suspect that they will continue to improve the island with additional features, but even as is it was a beautiful beach.

Our last day at sea we basically caught up on all the things that we had missed before. We watched shows, played mini-golf, shopped and ate (boy did we eat). I became somewhat addicted to the soft-serve ice cream bar that stayed open almost 24 hours a day. Quinn hit the pizza bar quite often as well. The coursed meals every night were just over the top. Even time spent in the room visiting among the family was fun. No vacation is perfect, but this one went very well. We didn’t even get sick! That is a Callahan family first.

Travelling with Tammy and Clarence was a real treat. They are both very pleasant people and we got along great with them. I hope that the feeling was mutual. I know the kids really enjoyed it as well. Speaking of the kids, I was so proud of their behavior. We gave the boys a little more leeway this trip and they didn’t disappoint us. All of the kids followed the rules and were very respectful of those around them. We created some very special memories this trip and I’m thankful for the opportunity to take some time off.

Sweet Sixteen for Quinn

Quinn at 16Big day around the Callahan house today as Quinn turned sixteen years old. Maybe not the milestone that 13 or perhaps 18 would be, but still a big deal. Unfortunately the festivities were muted due to a great percentage of family members suffering from a cold (or whatever illness it might be). I’m the only one that hasn’t progressed through it. Because he was under the weather, his choice for our traditional family birthday meal was Chinese take-out at home. I suppose he liked it a lot when Emma requested it for her meal. It was delicious and probably will be again tomorrow.

Probably his favorite gift this year (with the exception of money) was his earbuds. It seems that these are a notch higher quality than what he is used to using. He also got a video game to play with his friend Jonathan. We also didn’t have school today in honor of his birthday, so I would say it was a pretty big day.

For all practical purposes, Quinn is grown. Sure, he’s not out on his own. Sure, he’s still in school. However when you consider that most of the big items in life are now decided by him. Very few understand that 16 and I don’t think he is fully aware of it. When I speak with him about topics now, I know that he’s an honest young man and I can trust that he is giving me an honest answer. Even though he likes to procrastinate, when asked to do something, he does it. He is a good guy and that does count for something. He has even come a long way in being more patient with his little sister (who really adores him). I love Quinn and I hope that he continues to make good choices (and perhaps make his bed more consistently). Perhaps at some point he’ll find a renewed interest in the piano. I can at least wish for that.

Keep working hard son. Keep doing what you know is the right thing. Keep your faith. While you are doing that, keep on smiling because everyone around you (including me) really loves it.

Breaking the News Cycle

I wish I knew how many conversations that I have had that were broken apart by discussions of current events. I’m not talking about local events, but either national or international events. It seems that people get very passionate about the topics and headlines that they watch on cable news networks. It’s the sort of thing that fills up the news feed on Facebook (and perhaps Google+ if that’s your thing). I know that it contributes to my avoidance of FB for sure.

All of the talk and rehashing and nothing ever gets settled or fixed. The cable news networks love that. They are selling advertising and the stories that make people the most angry (or frustrated) are the ones that will keep bringing you back. This isn’t just a left or right situation either. Old Murdock finally got wise to the idea and carved out the niche on the right. It’s the opposite story from the other networks, but the game is the same. Keeping them coming back so that can sell advertising.

I broke the news cycle a few years back, but I haven’t yet been able to disconnect from others that do watch it. Had a telemarketer gasp in horror ( or perhaps humor) as I told them that I didn’t watch TV and didn’t have an interest in Contour or any other media product they were selling. Please don’t take my internet though. Seriously, don’t even try. Now that I’m off the news addiction, I see what an impact it has on those around me. In reality, I don’t see a way to really affect that situation either. They’ll either learn or continue the habit. Either way, there aren’t any solutions in the news cycle. You only get more problems.

You want to fix a problem? Vote consistently and bring a few with you. Go volunteer within a service organization (there are churches that have some great programs to reach those with needs). Oh, there will still be problems, but you’ll feel so much better about the ones that you actually affected. Just fix a few of those problems and it’ll at least make you feel better (unlike the news cycle).

Stop by for a few words on what is happening with the Callahan's.