Career Direction From Storyteller To Storydoer

Do you wish you had a crystal ball to see your future career direction? Do you wish someone will tell you what path to take? It really won’t help you. The past can help you to understand and articulate your story to date, and having excellent eyesight and insight can help you to see clearly right now. The future is unknowable, que sera sera.

Since I graduated from university with a Law degree, my career has zig-zagged in many different directions and being a lawyer has not been one of them (through choice). I’ve been a cameraman for a small media company, a pizza restaurant manager, a sales assistant in a department store, an administrator for a professional institution, a researcher for a start-up in professional services, a manager in a public service, a consultant in a small organisational development consultancy, and now an independent coach, facilitator, author, blogger and Associate for several consultancies in developing people for job, career and improved performance.

I’ve lost my job three times, once because I was ill-suited to the role and twice because the companies folded. This is the third recession I’ve experienced.

What conclusions do you draw about my working life and career? Did I end up where I thought I’d be? No way.

It’s been a non-linear, varied journey of exploration that has been characterised by regular change. It’s helped me to survive and thrive in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It has required agility, flexibility and being open-minded. I’ve been hard to label, being generalist and specialist at different times.

On the face of it, my career history seems really random. But it hasn’t been. There have been consistent threads drawn from a commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth. It has enabled me to be a storydoer, creating my own narrative as I’ve gone along. The ability to reflect and understand myself has allowed me to also be a storyteller – about who I am, what I can do, my strengths and the talents I have honed. I’ve pointed them at the thing I feel most passionate about – helping people “learn to leap” in their jobs and careers.

If you are setting out at the beginning of your working life, or making a shift in career direction, you are about to write a chapter in your own story.

Develop your narrative or story consciously through investing in your self-awareness – from regular personal reflection on what you are doing and how you do it, as well as seeking feedback from other people… so your story makes sense to you and helps guide your direction.

Are you career gazing, using hindsight or your 20/20 vision?

Why is Vitamin A in My Diet Shake?

I have been a fan of diet smoothies for a very long time now, and I have nothing but praise for these products. They have helped me get my weight in check leaving most of my friends wondering what my secret is. However, today I am not here to discuss what the best diet shakes are but rather to discuss why Vitamin A is always present in most of these products. Some of the diet shakes are so good that I decided to research what they contain as their main supplements.

Benefits of Vitamin A in Diet Shakes

Vitamin A is one of the most popular supplements thanks to its benefits. While the main aim of diet shakes is to put your weight and health in check, Vitamin a plays a huge role towards achieving that as explained here:

Vitamin AAids inProviding Immunity

The Vitamin A found in most of the diet shakes helps to provide immunity to the user’s body. Scientists say that most of the genes in the human body responsible for providing immunity largely depend on Vitamin A. if you have not noticed, taking diet shakes regularly makes you healthy and the chances of getting sick are highly unlikely.

Helps Your Vision

The rhodopsin molecule depends on a lot of Vitamin A for its formation and is critical to how the human eye works. Since most of the diet shakes are made using natural ingredients, the Vitamin A available in them is responsible for providing users with proper vision. Research shows that people who use diet shakes regularly have better vision as compared to those who do not. Now you know if you have issues with your eyesight, try diet shakes.

SupportsSkinGrowth

Apart from providing you with immunity, Vitamin A is responsible for taking care of your skin. Continued studies show that the Vitamin A found in diet shakes provides additional support and care to the human skin. For instance, I noticed that when I got wounds on my skin, they heal faster if I take diet shakes than when I do not. I also noticed that the skin re-growth is faster when diet shakes are involved. Also, vitamin A has been proven as one way of fighting possible cases of skin cancer, and that is what diet shakes offer. Cell formation is also reliant on Vitamin A and forming of other soft tissues in the human body.

ProtectsThe Body from Diseases

Until now, there is no doubt in my mind that Vitamin A is one of the most important supplements available in my diet shakes. This is after I discovered that Vitamin A could prevent some types of chronic diseases such as cancer. With its ability to prevent malignant cells from developing, scientists argue that Vitamin A can prevent some types of cancers such as prostate, lung, bladder, ovarian and skin cancers. If I can be able to prevent even a half of these complications just by taking my diet shakes, I can live with that at any time.

Diet Shakes and Vitamin A Concentration

In most of the diet shakes that I have encountered, the supplements come in specific quantities. In that case, it does not mean that taking a lot of diet shakes will prevent you from all the diseases in the world. More of Vitamin A does not mean it’s better. Be strict with the amount in your diet shakes and strive to achieve better every day. While purchasing your favorite diet shake, always ensure that you read its ingredients and if Vitamin A is not one of its supplements, leave that alone and move on to the next.

Conclusion

Due to the greatness that comes with my diet shakes, I decided to research on some of their major supplements and found out that Vitamin A is one of the main ones. After further research, I realized that vitamin A is one of the best because of the benefits that they have to offer. For instance, it is responsible for taking care of my skin, gives me immunity and prevents me against some diseases like some types of cancers. Now I know why Vitamin A is a major supplement in most of my diet shakes.

Taking a Deeper Look at TruVision

TruVision reviews

TruVision Health is a supplement-company that focuses on health & wellness. It was formed in 2014 and it is famous for offering various types of health-supplements. According to TruVision, their supplements are all-natural and are made from plant-based ingredients. Their products are not sold directly to the shops. The company uses people to sell and promote their products.  

TruVision is a company that cares. Many TruVision reviews prove this. When FDA confirmed that an ingredient had some effects on people, they removed the ingredient immediately from the product. The company did not focus on the financial loss.  

Moving on from the company’s structure, let’s get into their products. We believe it is essential to know more about their products and understand whether the company is genuine or not. Here is more about their two main products.

What Products do TruVision Sell?

TruVision is a company that is involved in selling many products. The products are designed to improve cardiovascular health, maintain the health of the joints and get rid of free-radicals. A collection of their supplements is made to develop blood-chemistry (TruFIX), and to improve sleep (TruSLUMBER). You will also get a supplement that helps in weight loss (Tru Weight & Energy) even though it was alleged to have (DMBA), a stimulant drug such as ephedrine. Studies relieved that ephedrine was dangerous, leading to it being banned. But before the drug was banned, most people use it without reporting any side effects.

What does TruFIX Claim?

According to the TruFIX phrase “Tone-up-your-blood-chemistry”, some people wonder what that means. How can a product tone-up blood? Well, TruFIX claims to develop cholesterol, regulate blood sugar level, and keep the liver healthy.

The active ingredients involved are Alpha-lipoic-acid, Chromium, Cinnulin, Raspberry ketones, Copper and Magnesium. Let look deep at TruFIX Ingredients to identify whether it is effective or not.

Tru-Fix Ingredients

* Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA) – being an anti-oxidant, it has helpful effects on inflammation. In the year 2018, some studies revealed that HIV-patients used ALA to improve their anti-oxidant stores. Happily, you can get Alpha-Lipoic Acid through a normal diet as it is found in meat, vegetables, and fruits.  

* Cinnulin- Cinnulin is an ingredient that is extracted from Cinnamon. It helps to improve Systolic blood-pressure, glucose level, cholesterol level and also prevent blood-sugar spikes.
* Chromium – Chromium is a vital mineral contained in a number of foods we consume. You can find it in meat, eggs, cheese, herbs, potatoes, oatmeal and broccoli. People lacking chromium should take a supplement.  

* Raspberry Ketones – When raspberry ketones are used in high doses, it can burn fat very fast. But it might not work well on its own. According to the company, it helps to prevent plaque accumulation in the arterial walls.  

* Magnesium – Taking magnesium supplement can help to regulate blood-sugar levels, and also assist in lowering the blood-pressure. But the good news is that taking a diet rich in magnesium is more than enough.  

* Copper – Most of the diets we eat are rich in copper. This means you do not need a copper supplement.

Hence, Tru-Fix claims are true. Therefore, we can say it is a decent product.

What does TruCONTROL claim?

This is a product with combo-pack. Its task is to lower cholesterol, improve liver function, lower the blood-pressure, help in burning fat and increase metabolism. Having 2-supplements in one day offers the results of the ingredients for 24-hours. This is essential for people who want to lose weight.

TruCONTROL Ingredients

* Caffeine – Caffeine enhances performance to improve fat burning, metabolism and enhance your workout results.  

* Green Tea Extract – the ingredient affects non-usual caffeine drinkers. This means it might not work well for other individuals. Cocoa power help to improve the flow of blood and lowers the blood-pressure.  

* Yohimbine – it is an excellent fat-burning supplement. It helps to increase the adrenaline in the body, and help people become active during the day.

Final Word

The above ingredients are found in the combo-pack products discussed. Moreover, the TruVision claims are true. By looking at the ingredients used, and the available TruVision reviews believe that you now have all the information you need to move forward. The ingredients are all natural and beneficial to our bodies. All you need is check out the best product that works well for you.

A Guide to Our New Health Equity Collections Page

 

People living in the most deprived areas can expect to spend nearly 20 fewer years in good health compared with those in the least deprived areas. This fact is avoidable, unjust and summarises the scale of health inequality in England today.

PHE has produced a number of evidence reviews, tools and guidance to help support national, regional and local areas to reduce health inequalities.

For the first time, all of these resources have been brought together in one location: the Health Equity Collections page. This will make it easier to find data, evidence and tools on health inequalities, and therefore be better equipped to take effective action to reduce it.

What does the page contain?

The Health Equity Collections page contains over 30 resources that have been produced over the last few years. Some key documents included in the Collections page are summarised below.

The chapter on health inequalities within the Health Profile for England identified, amongst other things, a clear North South divide in life expectancy.

It also shows that CVD, cancer, and respiratory diseases were the top 3 factors driving the difference in life expectancy between the most and least deprived communities.

Source: here

Reducing health inequalities in local areas

In September, we published ‘Reducing health inequalities in local areas,’ a guide that sets out actions that local health systems can take to make an impact at a population level. It also shows, in order to achieve reduction in inequalities, a range of different interventions by different sector must be delivered systemically at sufficient scale and with long-term sustainability.

Source: here

Evidence papers

There are a number of evidence papers that provide practical advice for actions to take to reduce inequalities across a number of determinants:

  • Building young people’s resilience in schools and young people
  • Increasing employment opportunities and improving workplace health
  • Fuel poverty and cold related health problems
  • Community based approaches to health
  • Improving access to green spaces
  • Using the Social Value Act

Tools to support outcomes

The collections page also features a number of tools that provide information to support monitoring of local, regional and national outcomes in reducing health inequalities.

Health Profiles are conversation starters, which provide a snapshot overview of health for each local authority and highlight issues that can affect health in each locality.

The Segment Tool provides information on the causes of death that are driving inequalities in life expectancy at local area level. Targeting the causes of death which contribute most to the life expectancy gap is likely to have a significant impact on reducing health inequalities.

You’ll also find our most recent publication, Modern Slavery and Public Health, which uncovered several opportunities for public health to make a difference to the anti-slavery agenda.

The report discusses how leaders in public health are in a position to influence statutory and third sector engagement by talking about modern slavery (for example, housing associations, schools and allied health professionals) and raising public awareness.

We hope you find this library of resources helpful in analysing and reducing heath inequalities either at a national or local level. We will continue to populate it as we develop further insights in this area.

If you have any questions about this page or any of the documents listed here, please contact the Health Equity team at health.equity@phe.gov.uk

Foursquare Curb Appeal Part 2 – Complete Exterior Paint Job

Continuing on our quest for curb appeal, we’ve tackled the next major step in our exterior project list at our “new” house, and I must say, I absolutely LOVE the results!

As we mentioned in our first post in this series when we talked about how we spruced up our flower beds, this summer we’ve also decided to approach improving the curb appeal and address some deferred maintenance items of our American Foursquare home in three distinct phases.

  1. Flower/planting bed beautification
  2. Addressing exterior paint issues
  3. Overall porch projects and paint

Yes, the exterior paint is the next major item on our list of projects, and boy is it needed. As you can see from the following photo, we have several examples where the paint on our siding had been compromised and was simply bubbling and peeling off.

This issue in the photo could been seen on all sides of the home’s exterior. Alex even did a little bit of work last year to address some of the absolute worst sections on the front of the house.

Now, you know us as DIYers to the core, right? Well, we also like to fein that we’re reasonable homeowners from time to time. When dealing with something that’s a large scale project that requires many people to get it done in a timely manner, and would require a lot of work up high on ladders, my preference is to hire it out to the pros. As a result, when it came to painting our home (both now and when we last had our home painted in Alexandria), I look to a dependable painting crew.

But before the crew could get to painting, we had some color selections to make, as well as some prep work we wanted to tackle ourselves.

The prep work included two significant elements. The first dealt with repairing and replacing some significant wood rot on the front porch decking and steps.

Alex worked to repair those when we were working on the garden this Spring, and was able to install new boards where necessary to make the porch whole again.

We also removed the handrails from the front porch because they were a soggy, rotten mess. We may build new ones at some point, but rather than get bogged down for the next several weekends building new ones, we decided to patch the railing and live without them for now to see how we like the look.

The second was the fact that there were many rotten pieces of siding that would need to be replaced when the painters came. But this isn’t siding you can just go pick up at the big box. Oh no! This is 100+ year old siding that is flat, not beveled. It’s 5-1/2″ x 1/2″, so not your standard size that you can go buy. As a result, Alex picked up a bunch of cedar boards that were all 5/8″ thick, and planed them down to 1/2″ to match the old siding profile and reveal.

It was a ton of working running them through the planer (and then pre-priming all sides of the boards with oil-based primer), but it was work that was necessary to make sure the new boards looked appropriate with our existing siding. This, in and of itself, was a full day project, but one that was important to help correct the issues in the right way.

Next up, we had to make our color selections. This is one of those cases where you can often reach project paralysis at a fairly rapid pace. I was sure I wanted the overall color of the exterior of the house to stay white. Rather than dive down the rabbit hole of different shades of white, we kept it simple here and went with our painter’s recommendation of using Sherwin Williams factory mixed bright white. That way if we ever have to touch up sections, we don’t have to worry that the paint might be mixed differently than the color on the house.

The porch floor, porch ceiling, and the metal roof colors all needed more deliberation. We’d already painted our front doors Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue, and I love how that turned out, so I wanted to make sure I chose colors for the porch floor and ceiling that would complement the Wythe Blue. I certainly wanted to stay in the blue family for the porch ceiling, and opted for a shade lighter than the door, which is called Rainwashed by Sherwin Williams. We landed on this color after determining the equivalent Sherwin Williams color to Wythe Blue, and then moving one shade lighter on the chips.

When it came to the porch roof, which was installed with a factory hunter green finish, I wanted to find a shade that wasn’t quite so green. The old paint had failed in places and was beginning to rust, so we wanted to get a coat of paint on it to protect it. This seemed an idea time to change the color to something we liked a little better. At the same time, the shingles on the upper roof are a gray/green/black combination, so I didn’t want the metal roof making the upper roof color stand out. Really, I just wish the shingle roof was gray or black, but we’re not replacing the roof anytime soon so we’ll have to embrace it. My preference for a roof is to always use a dark neutral color when choosing shingles, so you never end up with this situation when you want to change things in the future.

We ended up choosing a very dark gray with the slightest hint of green to work with the upper roof. We used Sherwin Williams Andiron, and I feel like it really nailed the color I was going for. It has just enough of a green undertone that it works for the asphalt shingles, but it also tones down the green tremendously.

While the house, porch ceiling, and metal roof colors all came together pretty seamlessly, the porch floor has been a major saga. What we were looking for was to change the existing brown tone to gray. So we chose Sherwin Williams Chatroom. a gray with a hint of green to work with the roof color, selected off the same chip as the Andiron color for the metal roof. But after Alex repaired the rotten sections of the porch, and we put on the first coat, it ended up looking really green. Far too green for our liking.

At this point, we knew we didn’t like it but the painters hadn’t started yet, so we decided to reserve judgment on the Chatroom color until after the rest of the house was painted (and it actually dried).

As far as the professionals go, our painting crew ended up spending a full week painting the house. They power washed everything, removed loose paint, repaired rotten boards, caulked where necessary, corrected splits and gaps, and generally made our house look 10 times better!

It was amazing to see the house transform from slightly dingy with siding cracks to a clean and crisp historic waterfront home. As far as the porch floor is concerned, we ended up revisiting the color after we realized it wasn’t the look we wanted (even with the new metal roof color). The Chatroom color worked with the roof, but when you’re on the porch, you can’t see the roof, and it just looks a little off. Though we’d already applied our paint to the front porch and steps outside the laundry room, we begrudgingly admitted we made a misstep.

After a lot of back and forth, we eventually landed on Sherwin Wiliams Dorian Gray. It’s more of a true gray, and after applying this color, I’m much happier with its look rather than a greige with green under tones. We still have a good amount of work to do on the porch, but here’s a quick comparison between the Chatroom (lower stairs) and the Dorian Gray (upper stairs).

As much as I hated having to repaint, we forced ourselves to look at it as primer and a failed experiment. Even before the new color was dry, we already liked it better than the old.

We’ll give you more updates on the porch in our next curb appeal post, as it’s still very much a work in progress. But we’re certainly headed in the right direction.

Driving up the driveway is a wonderfully welcoming introduction to our home. The fresh white paint is classic and just looks like it could have looked over 100 years ago. And if you’re seeing our home from the water, we decided to add a little patriotic flair to our facade in celebration of Independence Day.

The new roof color is far more neutral and looks great with the upper roof. While we won’t be changing the relatively new shingle roof, the new dark gray color on the lower roof balances the green and makes the coloring on the shingles far less apparent, which was exactly my goal.

But I think my favorite part of the whole project is probably the porch ceiling. The Rainwashed color we used is exactly how I was hoping it would look. The painting crew sealed it all up and painted/filled any significant cracks. And, at least for the next few weeks, all of the spider webs and bugs that usually collect on the porch ceiling, are all gone.

Our curb appeal’s second step is complete and looking great. We still have a lot of work to do to repair and spruce up our porches, but a freshly painted house is a huge weight off of our shoulders. We’ll be working over the next several weeks to address these larger porch issues. While it won’t move along nearly as quickly as the house painting project with a large crew, I think it will be just as impactful.

Hope you have a wonderful Independence Day if you’re from the States, and happy 150th to our Canadian readers. Have any projects on your list during your days off, or are you using the time for a little bit of relaxation?

Our Thoughts on PAX Unplugged

Penny Arcade has been running their PAX conventions all around the world for years now, but they have always been very broad. They have reached out to all corners of the gaming world and tried to bring them together. This wide net approach is great, but it isn’t a perfect match for the board game community. Board game culture is dominated by massive board game focused conventions like GenCon, Essen Spiel, Origins, and others. So it only makes sense that PAX would eventually expand in that direction. PAX Unplugged was their first attempt at doing so.

The EFG team has had some time to reflect on our experiences there now that we are home, unpacked, and survived the holiday season and I’m happy to report that we had a blast. Unplugged was a great show and it still has room to grow into a major event.

The event took place in the Philadelphia Convention Center. Its a massive facility located in the heart of Philly. It is also right across the street from the Reading Terminal Market for easy access (during the day) to all sorts of awesome food. I was impressed by the facility compared to some of the other convention centers I’ve been to in the past. It was sprawling, but I never felt lost while inside.

There were just too many games for us to cover all of them. We would have driven ourselves mad. Take a look below at our impressions of the games we DID get a chance to see.

Games we came home with

Eleminis

Flying Meeple

Eleminis is a game for 2-8 players ages five and up.  This is a light set collecting game.  In this game you are trying to collect five different elements, but there are limitations to what you can trade and other players can use action cards to thwart you.  This game is reminiscent of Hoagie with building a set and the ability to spoil the other players’ sets.

Gimme Gimme Guinea Pigs

Flying Meeple

This is a very fast paced and simple game for 2-6 players ages 3 and up.  In Gimme Gimme Guinea Pigs you are trying to be the first to collect a set of all the same pet, but you can only hold 7 cards in your hand.  Discarded cards are placed face up for other players to take.  This was super quick and easy to play, and a very simple game for the youngest gamers.

Down Force

Restoration Games 

Downforce is a old game, know under other names which has been given a modern update.  In Downforce players bid on cars and each car the win gives them a power.  The cars are raced around a track using a deck for moving the cars.  There are choke points build in so you can block other cars.  Players also bet on the cars, and the winner is the player with the most money at the end of the game, regardless if you win the race or not.  The board is also double sided with two levels of play.  Suggestions for how to scale the game down to younger players is also included in the rules.

Stop Thief

Restoration Games

Stop Thief is a revival of the game that was originally published in 1979.  In this game player take on the roll of investigators trying to catch several thieves to collect the reward money so they can retire.  This game incorporates an app that provides sound clues to the location of the thief.  The app provided different levels of difficulty in play as well as a retro mode with vintage sounds.  There is also a cooperative mode in development.  This is a great deductive reasoning game for the whole family.

Indulgence

Restoration Games

Indulgence is a trick taking game similar to Hearts.  In this game, which is set in Renaissance Italy players take turns playing the ruler and putting out three edicts (rules) to follow with which cards to collect or avoid.  One players per round can also decide to play the sinner and do the opposite of the edicts.  The risk is high and the reward great if you accomplish the sin.  The game has beautiful components that play up the opulence of the Renaissance theme.

Duck! Duck! Go!

Ape Games 

Duck! Duck! Go! is a game for 2-4 players for players 8 and up.  Using movement cards you move your ducky around the board so it makes the rounds and touches all three buoys.  The first ducky to do get back to the drain after touching all three buoys wins. The game board is build using two sided tiles so each game has a unique board.

Games We Played

Bubblee Pop 

Quick Simple Fun Games

Bubblee Pop is an two player strategy game that attempts to mimic game play elements from match-3 puzzle games like Candy Crush and Puzzle Quest. It does remarkably well considering how Video Gamey I thought those mechanics were.

The designer managed to capture an lot of the strategy elements from the two player versions of these types of games and threw it onto an board game. This is interesting because it removes the sometimes frantic nature of the video game version and encourages deeper strategies.

Stuffed Fables

Plaid Hat Games

Stuffled Fables is easily our most anticipated board game right now. We’ve where excited about it since it was announced. Our hype intensified when we interviews Jerry Hawthorne on our podcast. We’re even MORE excited now that we’ve played it.

The theme is adorable. Players take on the roles of a little girl’s stuffed animals as they defend her while she sleeps. The game is played by pulling dice from an bag and rolling them to perform various skill checks. These things are cool, but they aren’t what sets the game apart.

Stuffed Fables is separated from the crowd by its Adventure Book. It’s an spiral bound, choose-your-own adventure style book where each

Shiba Inu House

Renegade Game Studio

In Shiba Inu House you are matching pictures from a card with one two or three Shiba Inus sitting on a colorful dog house.  Using the cards you match the dog image and build a doghouse. The pictures can get mashed up as long as the image is correct of each dog with their house.  The graphics are very bright and colorful

Doggy Go

Renegade Game Studio

Doggy Go is a speed  game for 1-4 player game for ages 6 and up.  Players are trying to complete a pattern on acrobat cards with their doggie tiles and acrobat item cards.  You gain the acrobat cards for correctly completing your pattern first.  The player with the most cards wins.

Castles of Caladale

Renegade Game Studios

Castles of Caladale is a tile laying game for 1-4 players ages 8 and up.  In this game each player is trying to rebuild their castle using the mixed up pieces left from all the castles being destroyed.  The player to build the largest and most complete castle, and scores the most point on their castle wins.

Adapt

Gate Keeper Games

Adapt is a card and dice game for 2-3 players ages 14 and up where you start as a guppy and your fish evolves over the course of the game, and then uses their adaption to battle at the end of the game with the other players.  The game has a reversible mat to simplify the game and make it a game for ages 7 and up.

Kaiju Crush

Fireside Games

Kaiju Crush is a light strategy game for 2-4 players ages 10 and up.  Each player takes their turn as a Kaiju with unique powers and they move to crush a City Tile and fight other kaiju. Players earn victory points and when they run out of movements the player with the most victory points wins.

Dicey Peaks

Calliope Games

Dicey Peaks is a 2-6 player game for ages 8 and up, and is the newest game from Calliope Games.  In this game players are trying to climb a mountain.  They need to manage their Oxygen levels by deciding when to climb and when to rest.  They also need to watch out for the Yeti. The first player to the top of the mountain is the winner.

‘Minecraft’ is a microcosm of Microsoft’s gaming strategy

Helen Chiang has been with Microsoft for 13 years, and the past 11 of those were spent in the Xbox division, managing the Live team and working with developers in the Xbox Live Arcade program. She helped Minecraft get settled on Xbox long before Microsoft’s acquisition, and now she’s in charge of the entire game.

“It’s really important for the overall gaming strategy,” she told Engadget. “What I like to think is that we’re out in front thinking about a lot of different things.”

Chiang says Microsoft can use Minecraft as a proving ground for new ideas and features that might make their way to other Xbox projects. For example, Microsoft recently partnered with NetEase to release a version of Minecraft in China, and Chiang says the game is doing well in the region. This opens the door for other Xbox games to make the international leap. In the coming years, players might also see more Microsoft games coming to a range of devices, just like Minecraft.

“We’re one of the games that’s on all of the platforms outside of just Microsoft platforms,” Chiang says. “When I started at the company, and it’s really evolved over time — that is something that’s changed in our strategy. I’m really excited to work on a game that, really, it doesn’t matter where the players are playing. Part of what’s important to Minecraft is that we make it available to anybody, anywhere they want to play, on any device that they want to play. And that’s something I think we’ll see Microsoft do more of.”

With more games on more platforms, an obvious question looms: What about cross-console play? Currently, Microsoft allows PC and Xbox players to join select games together, including Gears of War 4, but the list is limited. The company is even willing to enable cross-play between Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch — here’s looking at you, Rocket League — and it wants to work out similar deals with Sony’s PlayStation 4. Cross-platform play is possible from a technical standpoint, and both Microsoft and Nintendo have expressed interest in connecting their consoles. However, Sony has historically rebuked these efforts.

Minecraft is an ideal test case here. The Better Together update unifies all versions of Minecraft, from consoles and PC to mobile, allowing players to interact with people on different devices and receive updates at the same time. Better Together is live for Xbox One, Windows 10, mobile and virtual reality versions of Minecraft, and Chiang’s team is working on the Switch version right now. It should be available “shortly,” though there’s no concrete launch date.

Sony, meanwhile, is still playing coy.

“In my role as the new studio head for Minecraft, I’m looking forward to continuing the discussions with Sony about bringing the Bedrock engine over to players on PlayStation,” Chiang says. “I think that is something that is very important to us and I’m looking forward to continuing to have those conversations with Sony.”

If everyone decides to play along, Minecraft‘s future will be more connected, communicative and open than ever, and Microsoft’s broader game strategy could follow suit.

“I think games are such a dynamic industry, one that really builds on everything that’s happening in technology,” Chiang says. “So I’m really excited about what we’ve done in games and how much farther we still have to go.”

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Aukey Mohawk Drone

 

Street Price: $65; Deal Price: $38 w/ code 5H86P2FT

Use code 5H86P2FT to knock over $25 off the price of the Aukey Mohawk, our sub-$100 drone pick for more experienced pilots. We’ve seen this drone hit $50, then $40, both with similar promo codes, but this is a new low at $38 after the code is applied in cart. This deal is slated to last until 1/31, but there’s no telling if stock will last that long.

The Aukey Mohawk is our experienced pilots pick in our guide to the best sub-$100 drone. Signe Brewster wrote, “If you’ll accept a more difficult learning curve in exchange for faster flying, or if you’re already a capable drone pilot, the Aukey Mohawk might be the right drone for you. In our tests, it responded nimbly to flight controls, performing the best of the larger drones we flew through our obstacle course. It also has a few autonomous features, such as returning to home and flipping.”

Anker PowerDrive 4

Street Price: $16; Deal Price: $12 w/ code ANKER312

Use code ANKER312 to drop the price of this 4-port USB car charger to $12, the lowest price we’ve seen for it in a few years. As this car charger typically goes for $16, this is a nice savings. If you’re tired of running out of USB ports for charging, the PowerDrive 4 may be a nice option for you, especially at this price.

The Anker PowerDrive 4 is our more ports for more gadgets pick in our guide to the best USB car charger. Nick Guy wrote, “It might seem crazy to some people, but if you really need to charge more than two devices at once in the car, the Anker 4-Port USB Car Charger is a great pick. It puts four USB-charging ports that can handle a total of 9.6 amps in a package that’s of course much larger than the PowerDrive 2 and ReVolt, but still impressively compact.”

Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat

Street Price: $250; Deal Price: $200

At $200 (price reflects in cart), this matches the pricing we saw during the holidays and again in early January for our upgrade smart thermostat, the Ecobee4. While we anticipate the price falling further eventually, right now this is as low as we’ve seen this new generation’s pricing go. This deal is slated to end 1/27.

The Ecobee4 is our upgrade pick in our guide to the best smart thermostat. Grant Clauser wrote, “Thanks to a built-in Alexa, the Ecobee4 can play music, relay the news, and control your home’s smart lights as well as adjusting the heat and air conditioning. Like other Ecobee thermostats, the 4 also works with remote sensors, which is useful if your thermostat isn’t in the best part of your house to measure the temperature: Ecobee4 uses the remote sensors’ readings, along with occupancy detectors, to achieve the target temperature in multiple occupied rooms, rather than just wherever the thermostat is installed. (One sensor comes with the unit, and you can add up to 32 more.) Because it has Alexa built in, you don’t need a separate Echo to control it by voice, and if Alexa isn’t your smart-assistant choice, Ecobee4 also works with Google Assistant and (via Apple’s HomeKit) Siri. However, it doesn’t have the level of intelligence of the Nest Thermostat E for automatically figuring out your schedule, and it’s worth spending the extra money on only if you have real issues with cold spots in your home, or really want an Alexa in your thermostat.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Thursday, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to thewirecutter.com.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Dress Your Home to Impress

‘Tis the season to decorate your home for the holidays. But you may not know where to start. Furthermore, you may not even know which Christmas decorations to use. No problem. We’re giving you five different Christmas decor ideas that you can easily use. After all, decorating your home for the holidays shouldn’t be stressful. Instead, it can be a great way to spend time with the family. Let’s get started!

Makeover Your Home for Christmas with These Holiday Decoration Ideas

Dress Your Home to Impress with These Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Lighted Tree

Decorating your home for the holidays may be overwhelming and leave you feeling frustrated because you may not know where to start. Keep in mind that your goal should be to create warm and inviting spaces for you, your family, and guests. After all, the holidays are a time to celebrate with the ones you love.

With that said, use our Christmas decor ideas and you’ll transform your home into one that shines with peace, joy, and happiness.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Interior Entryway

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Entryway

Give your holiday guests a warm welcome with a festive interior entryway. For instance, a Christmas topiary that sits in a lighted base with lifelike greenery, gold berries, and natural looking pine cones will dress up your doorway. See how the warm glow of the base instantly brightens the entryway? If you have the room, place the topiary on either side of your door. Otherwise, use only one.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Mantel

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Mantel

To create a religious mantel display, use a lighted Silent Night Christmas wreath with a wood sign that spells out a divine message for all to see. It features 50 warm white LEDs, real pine cones, and red berries to give it a realistic look. Next, drape a lighted natural Christmas mantel swag on top, and place flameless candles on candlesticks on each end. Add two golden trumpeting angels to complete this heavenly look.

Another Christmas mantel decorating idea is to use a frosted Christmas wreath on a distressed window frame as the focal point. You can build around it by adding other Christmas decorations like wood candle holders with faux LED candles and wrapped gifts. For the final touch, hang Christmas stockings with a stocking holder. Your family and holiday guests will appreciate the warm and cozy space you’ve created.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Dining Table Centerpiece

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Centerpiece

Add country charm to your holiday celebration with a rustic sled Christmas candle holder with burgundy metal rails. The wooden platform supports three glass mason jars with a battery-operated candle votive inside. The realistic-looking white pine sprigs, red berries, and real pine cones add the ideal accents. As charming Christmas table decorations go, the rustic sled slides into first place.

Here’s another Christmas decor dining table idea: a trio of pine trees that showcase the look of mercury glass. These beauties will make a sparkling addition to your Christmas table as they represent a favorite tradition of the season. They’re lit with 30 LEDs and come in three different sizes. Place these beautiful trees on a table runner, and they’ll light up your holiday table perfectly.

Finally, you can add a touch of whimsy to your dining table with ice skates featuring iced tips, berries, pine cones, and a delightful red cardinal. They’re lit with 10 warm white LEDs and have a timer function for 6 hrs. on/18 hrs. off. Imagine these cool ice skates decorating your Christmas table. Your guests will look forward to sitting down to a feast that’s one of the season’s best.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Table

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Table

Remember to add holiday cheer to your tables. The first look includes snowman and log cabin snow globe Christmas candleholders. But these are no ordinary Christmas snow globes because each one has 3 warm white LEDs. Top them with red flameless candles and place the candleholders on Christmas greenery. These pretty Christmas decorations will add sparkle to your holiday.

Serve your guests in style with the fold-away buffet table. But don’t forget to add some Christmas decorations to it. For instance, you can place lifelike or live sprigs of holiday greenery on it for a festive look. If you have taper candleholders, you may add them as well. Of course, you could place a lighted Christmas centerpiece with flameless candles on it, too. It’s your choice!

What’s more, you can create a sparkly holiday scene with a few Christmas decorations. First, place batting or a lighted snow blanket on your table. Next, add silver ornaments or twinkling spheres and a gift box. Finally, add a lighted twig Christmas tree. for a simple and elegant Christmas display.

Christmas Decor Ideas: Stair Banister/Railing

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Banister

Trim your stair banister/railing with Christmas swag (secure with garland ties) embellished with pretty bows and bright lights. In the corner, you could add an artificial Christmas tree, elves, and gifts for a complete look.

Another Christmas decor idea is to trim your stair banister/railing with Christmas holiday hydrangea collection that’s embellished with ornaments, real pinecones, hydrangeas, berries, and twigs. In addition to the garland, add Santa bags and Christmas gifts. Joyful.

Add Heartwarming Christmas Décor to Your Home

Indoor Christmas Decor Ideas-Stair Railing

Sit back and imagine that you’ve decorated your home for the holidays using our indoor Christmas decor ideas.

Your interior entryway gives everyone who enters your home a warm welcome feeling. A festive centerpiece sits in the middle of your dining table and adds to your joyful holiday celebration. Your fireplace mantel looks merry and bright. And finally, an embellished garland wraps around your stair banister/railing transforming it into a bold statement piece.

Seem impossible? It’s not!

All you have to do is use our Christmas decor ideas. You may even want to mix in some homemade indoor Christmas decorations to create an eclectic holiday look.

Do you know someone who can use Christmas decor ideas? Share this post with them via email or your favorite social network: Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Potential Risks and Rewards

Nintendo announced their new line of DIY Cardboard STEM toys last night: The Nintendo Labo. Its a collection of kits that include pre-punched cardboard sheets and instructions to turn them into peripherals for the Nintendo Switch. Two kits will launch on April 2oth, 2018. The first is a Variety Kit that will include the components to make a piano, a toy house, a fishing pole, a pair of “remote-control cars,” and a set of handlebars for a motorbike. The second is a backpack harness that lets players control a giant, building-smashing robot a-la the Jaegers from Pacific Rim.

The announcement was met with mixed results last night. I’m willing to throw out some of the concerns though. Single adult men don’t really get to complain that a children’s plaything doesn’t appeal to them. Comedy Writer Mike Drucker said it best in this Tweet:

 

Mike Drucker

@MikeDrucker

NINTENDO: Nintendo Labo is for kids and those that like kid stuff!
ADULT GAMER: Okay, but what if I don’t want it?
NINTENDO: Totally fine. It’s for kids.
ADULT GAMER: Yes, but cardboard? Really? Not in my game room!
NINTENDO: It’s for kids.
ADULT GAMER: But how is it for me?

With that said, I don’t think the kits are without risk. I’ve spent the last day thinking about it and have some thoughts about the risks and the potential rewards of purchasing, and playing with, Nintendo Labo Kits.

The Risks

Durability

The Labo kits are made out of cardboard. All signs are pointing to the cardboard being of the thicker variety, but at the end of the day it is still cardboard. This means that these things have the chance of being very, very flimsy. I can imagine a lot of families will buy these things, build them, and have them broken after a few uses by a rambunctious child or pet. Some of the early previews from places like The Verge have said that the kits seem pretty durable, but we really won’t know how much punishment they can take until they are out in the wild.

The Cost

The Variety Kit and the Robot Kit are $70 and $80 respectively. That is a lot of cash. Now, both of those kits come with a cartridge that includes software, but we have no idea what’s going to be on it. $150 for both kits is a TON of cash in today’s economy and I think that will, unfortunately, leave a lot of families out of the fun. Also, these kinds of toys can’t really be shared so the price will never come down like they do on most video games.

The Games

The fact is that we really have no idea how fun any of the mini-games will be. If the cartridges are filled up with a bunch of trash and tech demos a lot of kids will just bounce off of them and create a LONG line of resentful parents. I don’t really see that as a good look for a company that is just starting to build momentum.

The Potential Rewards

The Joy of Creation

What kid DOESN’T like building things? LEGOs and other building kits have never been more popular so this does seem like a natural success. I can absolutely see a bunch of kids getting hyped to build their own game peripherals. A lot of younger kids learned to play Super Mario Kart using the plastic steering wheels that you put Wii-motes in. These kits give them the change to build stuff that is way cooler.

Discovery/STEM Learning

The piano kit works by using the infa-red sensor on one of the Joy-Cons to detect the movement of silver tabs to play music. The remote controlled cars work by using the precise vibrations from the HD rumble in the Joy-Cons to move themselves. That’s just two of the projects in one of the kits. Kids are going to learning some very interesting engineering tricks that are being used by a company that is used to achieving miracles using relatively simple technology. The learning potential is incredible for kids who are interested in taking advantage of it.

Family Time

The instructions for building the Toy-Con kits are all displayed on the Switch tablet. They are manipulated using touchscreen controls. This makes building the different kids ideal fort a two person team. I expect that a lot of parents will be teaming up to build these toys and play with them. That kind of family time is invaluable.


What do you think? What are you concerned about? What are you excited about? Sound off in the comments!