Tuesday, May 5, 2015

With a little help from our friends

I've learned a lot in the last month or so about this silly idea of "growing up" and what most of American Society expects of that.  I've also learned that life gets busier with each passing day and that usually means "less play time", so the notion that we give up our hobbies and childish ways is usually an easy sell.  I'm 29, have bills for a house, a car, all the insurance and operating costs that go with those, a second car that I own and work on, and am happily married.  I've got a full-time job that can be a little demanding on time, but nothing unmanageable.  My wife works, but has been putting in part-time hours recently as she helps with her mom's health issues.  So naturally, I'd fall into this case of "oh well he just needs to grow up" when it comes to doing stuff like Nerf and Laser Tag.

My free time slips away from me pretty easily and, as this blog has recently reflected in it's activity, so has my time for my hobbies.  I know there's plenty of other guys in my position and many times, when things get busy and "life" calls them, most assume that it's time to give up the fun and "grow up".  Rightfully so.  There's already the expectation people have that associates Nerf and Laser Tag with children and, as such, anyone older who is still enjoying these hobbies is simply acting childish.  I'm happy to report that this kind of surrender won't work for me... and here's the simple reason why.  I've got great friends.

Now this isn't to say that those who give up their hobbies don't have friends, but rather that the bond my buddies and I share has been forged through working, playing, and enjoying these hobbies together.  It's something that I overlooked before, mostly because I just felt like that everyone eventually gives up doing the things they love.  However, even when I had thought about giving up, it's my friends that have kept my heart in it.  When I've got a full load of stuff to work on, my buddy is sending me a text about the next Laser Tag game that he's running.  When I haven't been able to get to the workbench in ages, a friend messages me with photos of Booster Boards for IR LEDs that he's been developing.  When I get a call from a guy who moved away in January, he's telling me how he saw the video I made featuring the blaster that he built.  These guys are all my age and have pretty similar stuff going on in their lives.  They've got bills to pay, jobs to go to, and lots of other stuff to do.  They're also incredibly loyal, supportive, and genuinely interested in the stuff we've been doing together for ages.

I suppose it's no surprise.  Since June of 2006, we've been organizing weekly outdoor Laser Tag games together.  This summer will mark Season 10 of these events being held.  If it were a fad, it would've run out of gas by now and we'd be hanging up our blasters and doing that "growing up" thing.  Sure, people get genuinely burnt out on things.  Sure, there's situations where that spark is flat-out lost and you're not interested in it anymore.  What I'm getting at is this: don't give up on that stuff because of anyone's decision but your own.  In my case, I can't give up Nerf or Laser Tag because I'm still in this with my friends.  If it were me flying solo, yeah... it would probably have been done awhile ago.  I've written several times about how enjoying these hobbies should be a social event.  That's still true today, and it's THROUGH that interaction with people that I think I've been able to keep enjoying things.
We get by with a little help from our friends.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Publishing Woes

So there's been a lot going on recently in my family that has kept me busy.  In the moments I am able to enjoy my hobby and try to get some content going for the blog... I am faced with another issue: my dying Laptop.  This old Toshiba has been quite the warrior, as it has lasted me over half a decade and not seen the gentlest use!  It's been good to me, so I figured I'd just get another Toshiba to replace it.  However, I'm already tight on time as it is, so I thought I'd ask you guys for some advice on a good replacement for my tired titan of bloggitude before I pull the trigger on a new one.  I need to do this sooner than later so I can get things going again.

There are a few elements that I need to keep in order to continue what I already use it for.  For ease of use, the new laptop will need the following features:
  • At least 2 USB Ports
  • SD Card Port
  • CD/DVD Drive
  • Video Editing Software (mine has Windows Movie Maker)
  • At least 4GB of Memory (I have an External Hard Drive for the big stuff)
There's a lot of new stuff in the world of Laptops since I got mine.  Touch screens, tablet things, click-in keyboards, but I really just need something that's going to be reliable and last me a long time again.  I'm tentative to try out the new tech since it seems like the going trend is "Replace electronics every year because the newest next-best-thing is out!"... and I've never followed that mindset.  It's gotta last me, gotta get the job done.  

I plan on getting a new laptop this week and I'm loading up my external hard drive with anything I need off of this before it goes kaput.  Thanks in advance for any advice!


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

MEGA CycloneShock Review

So I made this review last week and really didn't have the time I had hoped for in order to publish it.  Yeah, the CycloneShock has been out for awhile.  Yeah, there's already a bunch of great reviews out there on it.  The fact is: I really enjoy this blaster, I enjoyed making the review, and I thought some folks would like to see it regardless of how far behind I may or may not be.  (and I am far behind!)

This is the N-Strike Elite MEGA CycloneShock.  Think of it as a Strongarm that's been hooked up to a helium tank.  It's bigger.  It's badder.  It's... too much for Mr. Incredible!  This blaster has presence, power, and a punch that'll put you back in your seat.  I had trouble finding it on store shelves for whatever reason in my neck-of-the-woods so if you've been having the same issue, just go to Amazon and order one because it's a lot of fun.  The review does a good job of capturing my enthusiasm for this blaster as the fun factor on the CycloneShock is very real.

Check out the video review after the jump!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Prayers and Thoughts Please

It's almost like a 2nd Hiatus... but this time I haven't been burnt out on my hobbies.  I'm actually itching to get things rolling but some family health issues have been coming up.  Tough ones.  Whether you're religious or not, no matter what you may or may not believe in, my family could use some thoughts and prayers.

Long story short, my mother-in-law has been battling cancer for over two years.  She was in remission around this time last year, which was wonderful timing for the wedding we had.  However, things have taken a turn for the worst and she is now in hospice care.

My wife and I have been spending most of our free time visiting her and helping around the home.  It's certainly been difficult for both of us to face the facts, so if you could keep our family in your thoughts, we would greatly appreciate it.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Xplorer: "XHawk" Exclusive

Drop-in upgrade kits have become a standard option for serious Nerf fans here in the United States.  Polycarbonate, metal, and 3D Printed parts are easy additions to make off-the-shelf blasters more powerful.  Upgrade parts for improving ergonomics or adding tactical rails and other parts are also seeing more attention from these companies making upgrade parts.  That's where Xplorer Dart Blaster Developments, based out of Singapore, started doing their work.  Over time, Xplorer has become much more serious about what they make and the audience they cater to.  High-tech blasters, Diehard players, enough Tactical Espionage Action to make Solid Snake blush.  With all that they've done, this latest announcement is almost no surprise.
xhawk


Presenting the XHawk from Xplorer!  This is a full-size blaster designed by Xplorer Dart Blaster Developments with a modular construction able to accept a wide range of parts to be set up per the user's preferences.  The XClip Magazine, which is slanted for better ergonomics, feeds Stefan Darts into the XHawk's bolt-action prime.  The standard size holds 10 Stefans, but you can upgrade to a 16 dart mag too.  There's a mag release switch just ahead of the trigger as well as a safety switch to disable the trigger.  A weaver rail along the top will accept most Sights, Scopes and other 20mm accessories.  Then you can add a barrel extension to the front that can add a Shotgun-prime pump by linking to the core XHawk priming handle.  Also, there's an optional buffer tube on the black to add an adjustable stock.  It is designed to be compatible with nearly any M4 Airsoft adjustable stocks.  The buffer tube and the barrel extension can be removed or added easily without the use of any tools.  The entire blaster is built from one piece of CNC Milled ABS Plastic and is designed to hold up to the punishment that SG Nerfers expect.
xhawk2
Official figures from Xplorer on the performance of the XHawk (in it's pistol form) have not been nailed down, but my source tells me the first prototype was getting between 120 and 150 feet.  Ranges, pricing, and a full list of available accessories will be released later.  The idea is to make an affordable core blaster that can be upgraded to the users liking with options and accessories, so I'm interested to see how the XHawk Pistol hits the wallet.  A full custom-made high-powered blaster like this will obviously be aimed at the hardcore players that Xplorer is used to, so I'm not expecting it to be like buying a Retaliator off the shelf.  You get out what you put in!

The guys at Xplorer were kind enough to get me this information before the April 12th release date, so I thought you all might enjoy seeing this early.  What do you guys think of the XHawk?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The State of the Nerf Blogs 2015

Whenever I start to get busy and my hobbies slide off to the side for a bit, I always look around to see who else is still carrying the torch.  Admittedly, I fall behind keeping up with news happening in the toy blaster world.  When I do that, I also tend to discover that other blogs and sites have been coming and going.  I took a look back in July of 2014, so I used that as a base to check up on what was on our minds a year ago versus what things are like now.
Despite the "I'm back again" posts, it seems pretty clear that My Last Dart is out again.  In true "Boy who cried Wolf" fashion, there have been several small spurts of activity with the promise of a return to regular content, but the last we heard from that blog was the Toy Fair Press Pack in January of this year.  Before that, the latest post was back in August of 2014.  As noted before, it's likely that health and school demands have kept MLD out of relevance as a source for current news or information.
SG Nerf  is most certainly dead.  Their most recent post is... well... not recent.  It's still a great resource.  They've been replaced by folks like Xplorer and a mighty band of Rangers that continue to blast it up with awe-inspiring modded and custom blasters.  Singapore is still Stefan-Haven, so it's good to see that SG Nerf's departure isn't a sign of a decline in that area.


Basic Nerf, has taken a bit of a back-seat recently.  Updates on their Facebook page show more activity than the blog lets on, but I miss all the footage from the games they've been hosting.  Last summer had a lot of content from Basic Nerf so, as long as he can get games going again, I expect things to pick back up on that end of things.  He teased at a new video a week or so ago, so there's unreleased content sitting in limbo that should spark things back up.  Basic Nerf has been a strong staple for content before, so I wouldn't count 'em out!


Click Click BAMF probably has the most consistent and longest-running history out there.  They've been around since 2011 and always seem to have the inside-access to Nerf events.  They are still consistently posting reviews and catching invites to those press parties.  They still do a spectacular job connecting with members of the NIC over the years.  They're working up a new logo for the site, so things are looking forward for CCB.


Southern Brisbane Nerf Club, or SBNC, has been in and out before.  Happily, the breaks don't typically last for long as Rob has always made a return to Nerf.  He's done a great job covering news as well as local Aussie events that are always interesting to see.  Urban Taggers could not have asked for a better blog to step in and cover the Australian Nerf Scene.


The Dart Zone has been a fun blog to keep up with that has remained consistent with a lot of great news and modification information.  The tests that torukmakto4 puts his blasters and darts through is incredibly thorough.  Very technical information under controlled tests... this is a great active blog for the hardcore Nerf fan.  I've enjoyed catching up on what I missed before I discovered this blog.  I just need to remember to get a snack before reading up on stuff, as it's usually a good lengthy read!!


r/Nerf has been a good substitute for keeping up with individual blogs.  It's been a good news source for just about everything and I often discover new blogs, pages, websites, and channels by surfing that on a daily basis.  This subreddit isn't going anywhere, regardless of the constant tide of sources coming and going.


Bobololo, Coop, and Drac have been active and fun to watch.  All three have been on the scene for awhile although they've had their share of hiatus periods and breaks.  Which leads me to a bit of a sad theory.  Over time, the Nerf Blog scene seems to have declined overall while Nerf YouTube channels continue to thrive.  I'm not sure why this is, and that's not to say that YouTube Nerf Channels haven't dropped off here and there.  It just seems like the ones I tend to follow have been stronger and more consistent with video uploads for YouTube than new posts to Blogs and Websites.


As usual, I'd like to see more, so I'll make this an opportunity for readers to chime in with their favorites that are running on all cylinders.  It's always good to find out what awesomeness I've been missing!

MLTA 2015 Schedule Released!


As my wife so eagerly pointed out by way of a video of Baymax saying "Weeeeeee!  Happy First Day of Spring", warmer weather, blooming flowers, and outdoor plans are on the way.  Of course, I'm most excited for that last bit.  Plans are already underway for the Midwest Laser Tag Association's 10th Summer Season of games.  It's hard to believe we've been doing this for so long! 


The MLTA will be having an unusual schedule for Season 10.  The plans are aimed at meeting the needs of growing interest year after year while also alleviating the stress on the host of each weekly event.  We'll do this by rotating between two main parks for our regular season games.  Our main base of operations will still be the park directly behind my home.  Every other week we will return to our old stompin' grounds at Mission Park West.  The schedule also works out to host certain events at parks best suited for them. 


Season 10 Schedule
05/15: Fight Night 01 - Mission Park West (Season Opener)
05/22: Fight Night 02 - Southridge
05/29: Fight Night 03 - Mission Park West
06/05: Fight Night 04 - Southridge (Anniversary Event)
06/12: Fight Night 05 - Mission Park West
06/19: Fight Night 06 - Southridge
06/26: Fight Night 07 - Mission Park West (Birthday Bash)
07/03: Fight Night 08 - Southridge (Independence Eve BLAST)
07/10: Fight Night 09 - Mission Park West
07/17: Fight Night 10 - Southridge
07/24: Fight Night 11 - Mission Park West
07/31: Fight Night 12 - Southridge
08/07: Fight Night 13 - Mission Park West (Scenario Night)
08/14: Fight Night 14 - Southridge (Season Closer)


There are some fan favorite events that we've done year after year but we've also sprinkled in some new events.  The Anniversary Game, Independence Eve Blast, and our Opener and Closer games are our staple "cookout" games.  However, this year we're adding two more special events.  The "Birthday Bash" is held for one of our long-time veterans who happens to have a birthday on the day of our Fight Night.  Should be a fun way to celebrate this!  The "Scenario Night" will have some special games planned by our players that we wouldn't normally do.  As we approach that, we'll have rules drawn up for some new games to try out.


I usually host a few Spring Games before we hit the regular season, but the clock is ticking down quickly.  Instead, I'll be focusing my efforts on doing some Mod Nights to not only finish up some projects in time for Season 10 but ALSO to get the armory cleaned up and ready to go for another round.  We'll also need to get some of our older Laser Challenge gear up and running, as we'll be using that gear a bit more this year again.  Throwback games and Zombie sensors rely on this old gear to work right... so we will need to devote some time to restoring gear that is a decade old.