Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rock Band

So today, I'm going to talk about the video game Rock Band. This game has been around for quite a long time so it might seem odd to talk about it. Here's the thing though, it is one of the best video games I've played. In this post we're going to talk about all the reasons I like it, some recent news about it, and explore some of the group dynamic effects of the game.

I was quite self-conscious about my voice before playing Rock Band. I had no experience with drumming and very little experience with video games in general. I also had very little experience with music. Rock Band has given me the opportunity to learn skills, gain confidence, and connect with music that I wouldn't have otherwise. With the expansion of instruments to include the pro instruments, Rock Band really opened up the opportunity for learning. I love that the low levels are approachable enough that I can play with young children. I love that the rigor level can be racheted up to the point where in order to succeed I need to practice and focus and work for it. It is the best of both worlds. Rock Band also has a neat level of character customization.

A while back, Rock Band fans everywhere were disappointed to learn that Harmonix was not going to be releasing any additional Rock Band songs. Luckily according to a press release, they are back at it releasing more songs. They also sent out a survey which leads me to think that they are considering developing for the next generation of consoles.

I think the social dynamics around Rock Band have settled down but it is something to keep in mind. When I first started playing Rock Band, most of the people who had it slowly started to feel used for their game. It was so much fun and so exciting that it was all people did for a while. This led to some weird feelings. If you feel these things you should plan to do other things with your friends. Rock Band is great but you don't have to Rock Band all the time.

Friday, January 23, 2015 is a great website for coordinating meetups with busy people. I have used it for planning parties and business meetings. I am particularly a fan of coordinating in a way that reveals as much information as possible. does this for me.

Essentially what you do is create the details for the event and all of the days and times that are potential options for meeting up. You then send the link out to all the participants and they mark their availability. I usually enable the middling response of yellow. This is equivalent to the phrase "if need be." You can then maximize your meeting by picking the best time for all the people.

Unfortunately the free version does not have calendar integration so if you aren't up for spending money on it you'll then have to contact all those folks again and inform them of your response. I think this is fine though. They have to make their money somehow.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Nue Restaurant Seattle

There is a new restaurant on Capitol Hill in Seattle called Nue. It brands itself as serving "internationally inspired street food." This description is apt. I went out for a business meeting and it was the right level of elegance and quirk that really hits the spot for a tech business meeting. The waitstaff were attentive but didn't rush us at all. The menu was truly unique.

I'm generally not very adventurous. Luckily the group ordered some of the smaller plates to share so that I could try several things. I can personally vouch for the Indian Kale Pakora, Grilled Barbados Pig Tails, and the Japanese Katsu Sando with Togarashi chips. Everyone ordered something different though and everyone was thrilled with their meal. This is definitely a place I will be coming back to.

Monday, January 12, 2015


Bananagrams is a game that is like a competitive solitary speed scrabble. Each player gets the same number of tiles to start with. Players then simultanously try to arrange their tiles so that they create a valid crossword structure, like in scrabble. Once a player has used all of their tiles they say "peel" and then all the players must grab another tile from the middle to incorporate into their crossword. Play continues like this until there are fewer tiles left than there are players. When that happens the first person to complete their crossword says banana and is the winner so long as all the words are legitimate.

There is a special rule as well for being able to put a tile back that you don't want. If you do that though you must take three tiles instead. I don't generally do this as it seems like a bad trade and takes up valuable time. I think I would only consider it if I had horrid letters AND no vowels.

I like this game because it is somewhat solitary. I don't have to worry about other people blocking me with their words. I don't have to worry about using their words to make my own. All the letters in my play area are under my control. It is also nice to be able to break words apart and put them back together again. There is nothing saying that the first crossword you make to say "peel" has to look anything like your final crossword when you say "banana." I also like that there is no waiting. It is not turn based everyone is playing the whole time.

For a low-pressure style of Bananagrams, there is also the non-competitive style. I was introduced to this after church one week. I went out to coffee with some folk and they were playing Bananagrams. The difference was they determined ahead of time who would win. They freely traded tiles between players. It was all about the creativity of making the most awesome words. The person they determined to be the winner could basically ask for any letter they needed. It was neat to see what they came up with.

Anyway, this is the inaugural post of WhitPicks. As you can see, I do pick bananagrams. It is a fun game that can go pretty quickly. This means you can play several rounds before tiring of it. In future installments of this blog I will pick all sorts of things and discuss why I pick them.

Do you have variations that you use when playing Bananagrams? Have any criticisms of the game? Feel free to use the comment section to help people get even more info.