Monday, September 07, 2015

Family Ties

I went to a wedding on Saturday. I didn't want to go. Well, I did, I just didn't want to go to it on this particular Saturday. Saturday was both the start of Labor Day weekend and the beginning of the college football season - a combination so wonderful that my mother was surprised when I sent a "Yes" RSVP back. Attending said wedding meant that I was going wind up missing most of the first Clemson game and spending seven hours in a car, but since it was family I decided to go with very little grumbling.

I'm glad I did.

While I get to see my dad's brothers and sisters surprisingly often, I very rarely get to see my cousins. Not only are they a lot older than me (my sister and I are the two youngest and there's a 10 yr gap between me and the next closest cousin), but we're all pretty spread out. Knoxville, Greensboro, Atlanta, Columbia, etc...getting us together in one place doesn't happen too often. It was nice to see everyone (and in some cases, their kids) even if it was only for a brief moment.

Em and I wound up having to bail on the reception because of the three and a half hour ride facing us, but even that wasn't too bad. Surprisingly, I think we both enjoyed the time we spent in the car together. Between our respective social lives, our joint social lives, and the demands of our jobs, it's been a minute since we've had a chance to really talk to each other. Sure, we talk every day, but it's not the same kind of conversation as when you're alone in a car. It was nice to just talk about any and everything for a bit.

Sometimes it's the days you're least excited about that wind up being the best.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Sunday Night Selections: Summer 2K15 Playlist

TOPolk's Song of the Summer 2015
Major Lazer, MO, & DJ Snake - "Lean On"

Summer Blazin' 2K15
Maroon 5 - "This Summer's Gonna Hurt"
Walk the Moon - "Shut Up and Dance"
OMI - "Cheerleader" (Remix)
Tove Lo - "Talking Body"
DJ Snake - "You Know You Like It"
Major Lazer ft MO & DJ Snake - "Lean On"
The Weekend - "Can't Feel My Face"
Rachel Platten - "Fight Song"
Natalie La Rose ft Jeremih - "Somebody"
Silento - "Watch Me"
D.R.A.M. - "CHA CHA"
Nicki Minaj ft. Beyonce - "Feeling Myself"
Drake - "Energy"
Rihanna - "Bitch Better Have My Money"
Fetty Wap - "Trap Queen"
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince - "Summertime"

Friday, July 10, 2015

Finally Furled

As a native South Carolinian, I'm glad that this day has finally come, but I'm sad that it took so long to get here. And while removing the flag from the State House grounds won't change anything overnight - people will be just as hateful tomorrow as they are today - I'm hoping that it will be the start of a new beginning. South Carolina is slowly moving into the 21st century, one baby step at a time.

A member of an honor guard carries a Confederate battle flag as it is removed from the Capitol grounds. (AP)

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Women's World Cup: Sexism or Basic Economics?

“All 16 national federations for the teams that failed to get out of the group stage at the 2014 men’s World Cup received $8 million from FIFA. That was $6 million more than the winning national federation will receive at this year’s Women’s World Cup, and that is just the start of the disparity.”
Let’s not forget about this f*cking travesty. We must keep demanding more out of FIFA and their trash federation. (fiftythreecrimes)
The 2011 WWC reached 151 million international viewers, the 2010 MWC reached 1.3 billion people worldwide. That’s quite a massive difference, almost like the graph above.

I’m sure the 6,000+ people who have liked or reblogged this post want to know what they can do to change this? Well it’s quite simple, support these players outside of every 4 years. Go to an NWSL match. Can’t do that? Buy their merchandise, watch them on TV/your computer/a ham radio. If you don’t actually support the sport, people won’t pay these women to continue playing.

Womens club soccer has been incredibly volatile in the US, with teams closing, leagues closing, and general shityness, mostly because the support wasn’t actually there. You want to see these numbers even out? Actually support the sport instead of actually feigning anger on the internet. (illustratedexample)
The boldface is mine because it’s pretty much what I would have typed out anyways. To be frank, it’s been annoying as hell to see post after post about the pay disparity between the Women’s World Cup and the Men’s when no one actually looks into WHY that pay difference is there. I’m all for gender equality when it comes to getting paid, but I also understand supply and demand. If you’re FIFA, you have little incentive to pay [for] the best women’s soccer players the same way you would the men. The monetary figures from advertising revenue, attendance gates, and flat out profit favors the Men's World Cup on a rate of more than 10-to-1. "The 2011 Cup brought in just $5.8 million, while the men’s cup in 2014 netted $1.4 billion. Fox Sports, which is carrying this year’s World Cup, says it has already tripled 2011’s revenues, but the numbers are still far apart. This imbalance trickles down to the prize money as well." (New York Times) And while the US Women winning the World Cup was the highest rated American soccer match on US TV, the same cannot be said globally. If the eyeballs aren't there, the money won't be there either.

I don’t bring up these points to throw the Women’s game under the bus. I bring up these points to say “Hey, put up or shut up.”  Out of all of my friends - both online and “IRL” - only one of them is an active supporter of women’s soccer. She’s doing her part. All year, every year. If you show up only once every four years to support the ladies, then bitch about them not getting paid, you’re part of the problem.

[reposted from my tumblr. please excuse my brevity.]

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

My Life as an Amiibo Scalper

"You used to be like, 'I'll only buy extra to help my friends.' Now you're all, '$17 isn't enough profit. I can get more.' What happened to that old mindset?"

"War. War changes things."

Once again, my wife is always correct.

When amiibo first launched... (Wait. Some of you may not know what amiibo are. Before you go any farther, skim this page, then come back. I'll wait... All set? Good.)

When amiibo first launched, it was a fun little celebration of Nintendo's history and classic characters. It was collection of fairly detailed little figures that also unlocked in game bonuses in various Wii U and 3DS software. I didn't want to buy into the hype, but I did want to play along and have a few figures of my own. On the day of the amiibo launch, I purchased three figures to go along with my copy of Super Smash Bros. - Link from the Legend of Zelda, Samus Aran from Metroid, and the Wii Fit Trainer from Wii Fit. A few days later I picked up an amiibo of Fox McCloud to represent my favorite Nintendo franchise, Star Fox. Things were great...until the bottom fell out.

A photo posted by Terence Polk (@topolk) on

In early December, a rumor got out that Nintendo was going to discontinue some amiibo. This didn't make sense as the line had just released in late November and appeared to be selling well. Then the confirmations came. The "Holy Trinity" of Marth, Villager, and Wii Fit Trainer were being removed from store systems and the Race to eBay was on.

Was it an issue of Nintendo manufacturing demand? Probably. No matter, as Wave 2 sold out equally as fast and with it, its own set of effectively discontinued figures. Nintendo couldn't (or wouldn't) keep up with demand and in order to get the figures you wanted, you did one of two things - you either formed an alliance with friends or you paid a scalper. Obviously, one option was way more pleasant than the other. Given the choice of sending a few bucks to a friend to mail you a Marth versus spending $120 for one on eBay is an easy decision. I chose the former. Between people I had met on social media and real life friends, we had Wave 3 covered. If one of us found a rare or "unicorn" amiibo and we knew of a friend who wanted one, you picked it up for them and mailed it off to them. I was proud of this. I was even interviewed by GameInformer magazine as the Yin to the scalper's Yang. 
Polk decided he was going to assist those who couldn't find figures they were looking for. "Maybe I'm a believer in karma, but I've never asked for more than face value plus sales tax plus shipping costs," he tells us. "With the way demand has been for certain characters, your options are to pre-order everywhere possible or resort to paying extreme markup from scalpers. In that case, I'll go with the former everytime."
Then came Wave 3. With Wave 3 came more amiibo, more attention, more hype, and more scalpers. With more people wanting to collect amiibo, be it for fun or for profit, more and more of the collectors that I was close with dropped out of the game. The time and stress surrounding these $13 figures just started being not worth it anymore. For whatever reason, I've stuck around, but with the exception of few twitter friends, I'm no longer looking out for the best interest of my fellow collectors. Instead I use those same collectors to subsidize my collection. Nintendo fans are a passionate, if not crazy, fanbase who will pay a pretty penny to get what they want.

Why'd I change my mindset? I don't know. I think I just got tired of seeing people pocket easy money while I shipped off rare figures for a song. Being the good guy wasn't giving me the "warm-fuzzies" anymore. I got much more of a rush from turning $13 into $40 without doing much more than uploading a couple of pictures to eBay and shipping off a box. Coincidentally, my "reselling" of amiibo started right around the time I stopped driving for Uber, so maybe I was just trying to fill that void. Who knows?

Will I keep doing this? Well, I'm not going to lie and say no. Two weeks ago I sold a figure for $119 ($100 profit). Hell, as I was writing this post I sold a figure for $50 ($26 in profit - which is the cost of two amiibo), so this train will keep on rolling. That said, a little (very teeny tiny) part of me feels gross about it. That's probably why I'm writing this post - a little bit of my guilty conscience is peeking out.

Wave 5 of the Smash Bros. line launches in July. With that we get a little bit closer to end of amiibo madness as we currently know it. Which is good, because the devil in me is getting tired of putting a muzzle on the little angel on my shoulder.

Monday, June 01, 2015

A Tale of Two Kindles - Part III

Part I || Part II

So it's been three weeks since my Kindles came in the mail. They arrived only a day apart, with the OG Kindle arriving first, so I didn't really have much time to grow attached to one before the other arrived. While I do have a favorite, both of them come with their own selling points: 

OG Kindle
- It's tiny. With it being so small and super light, it's easy to toss it into my work bag for a lunchtime read. Also, I can curl up into a weird position and hold this with one hand, much like I would with a real book.
- Distraction free. This is an eReader. Nothing more, nothing less. There's no browser, there's no games, there's no apps. When it's time to sit down and focus on reading, this is the device I go to.
- Awesome battery life. This thing does not die. It's gotten a fair amount of use in the last few weeks and I've only had to charge it once. This makes this baby perfect for vacations and long flights.
- The screen creates a "soft reading" experience. Reading on a tablet can be tough. While the OG Kindle's screen isn't as easy on the eyes as the Kindle Paperwhite, it's still a very pleasant experience.

Fire HD 7
 - The speakers on the HD7 are really nice. I bring them up for two reasons: 1) Sometimes I like to listen to music while reading. Yes, even my leisure time requires background noise. 2) The Fire HD7 has a "pretty good" text-to-speech program. While I haven't used it much, being able to turn any book I'm reading into an audiobook is quite nice.
- Magazines and Newspapers are great on the HD7. Currently I subscribe to the digital versions of The Washington Post and WIRED Magazine and I've been more pleased with both. WIRED is also available on the OG Kindle, but it loses something without the interactive features and content that are in the HD7 version.
- Even though I was looking for an eReader, having a tablet isn't bad. It's still my third option behind my phone and laptop, but it's a nice option to have. I have found lounging about in the recliner while fiddling around with apps or whatnot to be rather relaxing.

As to which one is my favorite, I'm surprised to say that it's the Fire HD 7. The whole reading experience is better on the OG Kindle, but it's not bad at all on the Fire. In reading "Guestlist" by twitter friend, @JayFingers, I found that 70% of my reading was done on Fire. When I sat down and thought about why, I realized that it was because the tablet allowed me to be distracted for a moment, then go back to reading. Physical books and even the OG Kindle get "put down" and don't always get picked back up. Meanwhile on the Fire, I can stop reading, look something up, send out a tweet, check my email...then go right back to reading. This works for me. That said, I still enjoy my OG Kindle and would recommend it to anyone looking for a small-gift to anyone who doesn't have an eReader already. In the same vein, I can't necessarily recommend the Fire HD 7 to someone who doesn't have a tablet, but that's another story for another time...