Friday, March 30, 2012

Is Best Buy Doomed?

A few weeks ago while watching television I came across a special on CNBC, The Big Box Fights Back.  The program featured Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn and background information on the big box electronics retail giant Best Buy.  Best Buy has already outlived past big box giants Circuit City and CompUSA, however the end may be near for Best Buy.  I found the program to be very entertaining and informative.  The program pointed out that many consumers use Best Buy as a testing location before ordering the product online for a cheaper price.  General retail giants Target and Walmart are also stocking larger electronic sections, hurting Best Buy's bottom line. 

I have long been a fan of Best Buy, and I tend to make my major purchases there in regards to electronics.  As a matter of fact, in December I made a large purchase of a new television at the local Best Buy.  However, I can see why the big box store may soon become a thing of the past.  Honestly, my TV was a little cheaper via Amazon and Costco.  However, I choose Best Buy for a few reasons.  First, I'm still not sold on having a product like a TV shipped to the house.  Second, I do have a Best Buy Credit Card.  I like taking advantage of their reward points and financing offers.  I always pay off the balance of the purchase before the promotion expires, so the interest rate is not an issue.  I can see where Best Buy can be in trouble.  Those large stores carry almost too much product.  The only items I buy at Best Buy are home entertainment products (TV/DVD/Video Game Systems, etc.) or maybe digital cameras/video cameras.  I tend to buy all of my music and movies in digital form or via Amazon.  I purchase appliances at the large home stores (Lowes, Home Depot) and computers at the Apple Store.  

Will Best Buy Survive?

Just today, CNET posed the question "Is Best Buy following CompUSA , Circuit City to Certain Doom."  Sadly, it looks like Best Buy is heading for defeat.  I notice they are trying to stay alive by promoting their Geek Squad services and possibly opening smaller boutique type stores (think Apple Stores) to save money and better serve their customers.

Are you a Best Buy shopper?  Do you just use Best Buy to test out products, then return home to purchase online?  Will you even miss Best Buy if they disappear?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Bound Custom Journal Review Part 1

Last month I wrote about the "Killer App" for 2012, the journal, or pen and paper.  I am an avid journal writer and the story easily caught my attention.  My journal entry mentioned the Bound Custom Journal and included the Kickstarter video the company used to become established.  Not long after this post I came across a contest Bound was holding the called "There Are No Favors in Business."  The contest was simple, I just had to state who I was, why I would receive value from receiving a Bound Custom Journal and how I could return value to Bound.  I took a shot and fired off an email to Joel, one of the founders of Bound.  Last week, I was happy to be selected as a winner!  I quickly went to work building my own custom journal and now I am happy to provide some initial thoughts on the process and the product.

My Journal Arrived Via First Class Mail

The Bound Custom Journal site is very user-friendly.  I selected The Original Bound Journal which is $35 and includes 140 pages of custom content.  The journal size 4" x 6" and includes a linen cover in a choice of colors.  The color choice was easy, I went with Carlson High School Royal Blue (my name for the color, no the official name).  It did not take long to put together my custom journal, filling 140 pages with three different types of inserts. Users can put together any type of inserts they like to fill their 140 pages.

Hand-Crafted (and Signed) From North Carolina

Of Course I Choose Marauder Royal Blue

Before winning the contest, I was going to treat myself to a Bound Journal as a birthday gift in May.  I figured I would create the journal as a yearly writing tool.  Therefore, I decided to start my journal with a monthly calendar running from May 2012 through April 2013.  The next section of my journal is comprised of the largest section, college ruled lined pages.  My final section of the journal is comprised of twenty-four checklist pages.

My Custom Journal Starts With a Monthly Calendar

Next, College Ruled Journal Pages

To Finish, Checklist Pages

I will finish with some initial thoughts on the Bound Custom Journal.  The creation and ordering process was very easy.  I had no problem putting together my journal.  There are many options and the website provides clear images of each insert type.  The cover is soft and has some flexibility, but is also firm enough to to permit writing anywhere.  I love the product and ease of design.  The price does seem high, but there is really no product to compare the a Bound Custom Journal too.  The user is able to pick exactly what they would like in their journal.  Sure, if you just want a journal notebook you could pick up Moleskine Journal for half the cost.  However, it has only one type of insert.  If you want just a journal, there are many other options.  I plan to write a brief "Part 2" after using the journal for a while in May.  If you want something "built to order" check out Bound Custom Journals. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games Does Well at Midnight

Early reports are out and it appears The Hunger Games did very well with midnight showings earlier today.  Earning $19.7 million at midnight screenings makes it the highest earning non-sequel of all time.  That total places The Hunger Games in seventh place overall for midnight openings.  I find this very impressive for a non-sequel.  Early reviews are mixed, but most agree the movie is well on its way to becoming a blockbuster (the first of 2012!)

I will not go out to see it opening weekend.  I do not like the idea of being in a crowded theater to watch the movie.  I know many people that are going opening weekend including my youngest sister.  Any readers catch the movie yet?  Thoughts?  I am not expecting it to be better than the book, but like I have said many times, the previews do look very good!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How Young is Too Young For The Hunger Games

Way back in November of 2010 I wrote about how much I loved the Suzanne Collins novel The Hunger Games.  Now, we are just a few days from the opening of the Lions Gate feature film based upon the novelThe Hunger Games will be the first big blockbuster of 2012.  Many are predicting Twilight like ticket sales.  I have made it clear that I plan to see the movie (a big step for me, as I really hate going to the movies).  Recently, the question in my house has been, will I take my seven-year-old daughter to see the PG-13 rated film.

Christopher J. Ferguson wrote an interesting piece about taking his 8 - year old to see the movie.  Ferguson dispels the notion that violent films, television programs or video games lead to violent children or adults.  Personally, I agree with Ferguson and respect his decision.  As a parent I do not want to hide my children from everything.  I would rather watch with them and be there to answer the questions I know they will have.  My daughter is an advanced reader and has expressed an interest in reading The Hunger Games.  I really see no problem with her going to the film or reading the novel.  She and her younger brother have both watched all of The Harry Potter films (with some of them being rated PG-13).  Ferguson says it best when he states, "Parents are free, of course, to use their moral compass to decide which media is appropriate for their families, but some of my own research suggests that the best option is for parents to consume violent-themed entertainment alongside their children rather than to either shield kids from it or leave them on their own."

I remember watching a Friday the 13th movie as a fourth or fifth grader with my older cousins.  Yes, I was scared to death, and yes as I entered middle school I became obsessed with seeing every terrible sequel to the Friday the 13th series.  However, I swear to you I have never chased after anyone with a machete in my entire life (and have never had the desire to do so).  I have no problem separating fiction from reality (although I must admit to killing many innocent citizens while playing Grand Theft Auto III for hours on my Playstation 2 years ago).  I think I can safely take my daughter to see The Hunger Games and not worry about her running around the neighborhood picking people off with a bow.
May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Great Apps to Get Started With Your New iPad

Did you just pick up Apple's newest iPad?  Or did you pick up a great deal on on a used iPad2?  Well, either way you now need to head to the iTunes store and pick up some great Apps.  While a number of Apps are free, most are not.  So it is best to read up on the Apps before clicking that purchase button.

Buy Some Apps, Unless You Just Wanted an Expensive Paperweight

Once again, the writers at Time Magazine's Tech Land has put together a great list of 30 best Apps for any iPad user.  The great thing about this list is that many of the Apps are free.  I picked up a few today after reading the list.  I really love the idea of Zite, a custom magazine/newspaper for the iPad and iPhone.  I also added the free ABC player to the HBO player I previously downloaded.  Note that many of the network/cable players require wifi and a subscription if it is a paid service provider (like HBO).  I am debating about dropping $4.99 for Blogsy so I can write more Geekly Reader posts using my iPad.  I am not sure about typing via the touch screen.  I may have to pick up a portable keyboard.

Did anyone pick up the new iPad?  Is the screen that much better?  I have yet to hit the stores to play with one.  Happy downloading!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

RIP Encyclopedia Britannica

RIP Encyclopedia Britannica, well at least the print version.  News broke earlier today that Britannica would stop selling the print version of their famous reference tool.  After 250 years the Britannica will only offer an electronic version.  I am actually surprised the print version has lasted this long.  I am not sure if you have priced a printed encyclopedia set recently, but they are expensive.  The last printed set I purchased (for the Carlson library) a number of years ago was over $1,000!  The minute the books arrive they are already outdated!

Last Chance, Order Yours Today
I just visited the Britannica website and you can pick up the this wonderful thirty-two volume set for just $1,395!  Act now.....this is the "Final print edition" after-all.  Are you kidding me, nearly $1,400??? You can buy yourself a couple iPads or a loaded notebook computer and have a world of information at your fingertips.  Wow, hard to believe this business model is not working so well in 2012.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Apple iPad 2012 Update

This past week Apple announced an update to their highly successful tablet the iPad.  The third generation of the iPad will be available in retail stores on March 16th.  Here is a brief summary of some of the upgrades from the current iPad 2 (which I currently own):
  • New, improved Retina Display
  • Upgraded 5mega pixel camera (front-facing camera remains the same)
  • A5X processor and upgraded quad-core graphics processor
  • 4G LTE data access (for those purchasing iPads with a data plan)
A full "hands on" review review via CNET can be accessed here.  It provides a video with some "hands on" interaction with Apple's newest tablet.  Now, the question to ask: "Should you buy the new IPad?"  The answer depends on what you own right now.  I am NOT going to buy this newest iPad.  I own the iPad 2 (wifi only) and I am very happy with what the device has to offer.  I do not think the upgrades on this newest tablet warrant purchasing this new release.  While the new screen and camera will be nice, the current model works just fine for me.

Now, if you do not own a tablet or own the first version of the iPad I think the upgrade is worth the investment.  The improvements over the original iPad are substantial.  If you are looking to save some cash, you may want to invest in an iPad 2.  It appears that Apple will continue to sell the 16g iPad 2 for $399 (although for that much I would just buy the newest version).  I am also sure that eBay will be flooded with used iPads as users that always need the "latest and greatest" will be selling their iPad2s so they can buy the new iPad 2012.  As I mentioned before, I plan to stick with my iPad 2 for now.  Happy tablet shopping!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March 2012 Read of the Month

I have selected my Read of the Month for March 2012, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Since I read Looking for Alaska last April I have wanted to read other books by John Green.  I really enjoy his work and writing style.  I was turned onto his work by a number of students at Carlson High School.  Many of the readers at Carlson enjoy John Green's books.

March 2012 Read of the Month
This novel is told by cancer survivor Hazel, a teenager fighting for her life.  I have just started reading this week and I can tell I am going to love the book.  It appears the novel is going to focus on the relationship between Hazel and fellow cancer survivor Augustus Waters.  It is hard for me to put into words, but I really love they way Mr. Green tells a story.  Some authors just have the ability to make reading a book so exciting and enjoyable.  Just like in Looking for Alaska, once I stared The Fault in Our Stars I did not want to put the book down.  I will probably have the book finished within the week.  I am only hesitant about the book because it deals with children and cancer.  As a parent, the subject scares me to death, but I will still finish the book.   Have you selected a book for March is Reading Month?  Happy Reading!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

February 2012 Read of the Month Full Review

It took an extra day or two, but I was able to complete my February 2012 Read of the Month, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  As I have mentioned in previous entries, Unbroken is the true story of World War II POW Louie Zamperini.  As with most of my reviews, I will do my best to provide some feedback without giving too much away from the book.

Hillenbrand (who also wrote Seabiscuit) spends much of the first half of the book providing background information on Louie Zamperini.  Much of the background information revolves around his running career and eventual competition in the Olympic Games.  After some of Zamperini's running background is presented, a good amount of time is used to provide background to the aviation used in World War II.  For me, the book was starting to drag at this point.  I do not want this to sound bad, but I guess it just will; I just wanted Zamperini's plane to be shot down so his story of survival could begin.  My track coaching background kept me interested in the early part of the book, other readers may not feel the same way.  If you start to loose interest, please skip ahead to when the plane is shot down, you will not loose interest at that point.

The remainder of the book covers Zamperini's survival at sea and in various POW camps in Japan.  I will not give away many details.  I will say that his physical and mental strength is amazing.  While reading, expect to come across individuals you love and many that will make your skin crawl (The Bird, uggg, enough said).

Once the Allies force Japan to surrender the book continues to provide information about Zamperini's return to civilian life.  As expected, it was not easy.  However, things did improve for Mr. Zamperini.  He is still alive and enjoying life in 2012!

I want to thank "The Captain" Mark Nyholm for this book recommendation.  I know he is enjoying retirement and his new gig as a grandpa!  If you know a great book I should read please let me know.  I will do my best to pick it for one of my Read of the Month selections.  Since it is already March I need to find something quickly.  I am debating about reading the Harry Potter series for the first time, which means I would need to pick up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  My other option that I am looking at is John Green's newest work, The Fault in our Stars.  I really enjoyed Looking for Alaska and think it may be time to give Mr. Green another read.  I will let all of you know shortly.  Happy March is Reading Month!  What are you Reading?