Barbie vs. Brady: Tips for Watching the NFL Playoffs When the Kids are Home

Brady vs. Manning. Kaepernick vs. Wilson.

Classic matchups.

But at my house, it was “Powerpuff Girls” vs. “Sophia the First,” and “Jesse” vs. “Austin & Ally.”

Someone please shoot me.

Alas, that’s what it’s like at my house when it comes to watching any kind of sports when the girls are here. And they seem to be here mainly when the biggest games are on: Super Bowls, NCAA championships, college football championships, Game 7s.

You know, everything I care about.

Sure, sure, time with the kids is great. But every man has a limit, especially when it comes to watching your favorite teams. After all, you can only have your nails painted so many times on Sunday afternoons before you permanently lose your man card.

Follow these tips, though, and you won’t miss a down during this year’s NFL playoffs.

1)      Record, record, record: First, start stockpiling all those shitty kids’ shows you hate. The reason? If you can’t record more than two shows at a time, then you need a steady stream of kid shows in your DVR recordings. That way, your kids can still watch their favorite, pre-recorded shows while you record two games at once.

2)      Invite Other Kids Over: This might seem counter-productive, but it works like a charm: Invite at least one of your kids’ friends to your house. The kids basically babysit themselves when their friends are over, and they’ll probably spend more time playing in their rooms than watching TV. Plus, the fathers of those kids will love you for it and may return the favor someday.

3)      Make an Event Out of It: If it’s a big game, then treat it like a mini-holiday – something the kids can get excited about. I used to take my girls to the local high school football team’s games, even the road games. The girls, of course, didn’t give a shit about the game itself and in fact would spend the majority of the contest talking to their friends with their backs to the action on the field. It’s the pageantry and party-atmosphere they love. So, invite some friends over – your friends and your kids’ friends – and grill out. Have the kids dress up in team jerseys and make game-related crafts during the pregame while you’re getting the food ready. (That way, you can still watch the pregame show.) Once your guests arrive – and, more specifically, more kids show up – your children will be too preoccupied to care about what’s on TV.

4)      Avoid ESPN, Facebook and the Internet Altogether: If you wait to watch the NFL playoff games until after the kids go to bed, then you still want that element of surprise. That means you have to avoid things like Facebook and any highlight shows during the course of the day.

I tend to wait until my kids are in bed before watching any games or grownup shows, then fly through the games by fast-forwarding through commercials, plays and game stoppages. By the time I finally hit “play” on my DVR, I typically have no idea of who won that day’s games.

It doesn’t always work out.

I recall one year in which my favorite NFL team had finally reached the playoffs. I dressed up in my team jersey, headed off to work, and pleaded with my co-workers to keep the outcome secret.

They did.

So I could hardly contain my excitement as I drove home that night, first stopping at a fast food joint to grab a bite to eat. I was minutes away from home when the lady at the drive-thru window saw my jersey and said, “Too bad about the loss, huh?”

Damn it.

New Year’s Resolution? Throw Away Toys

The girls and I live in a cramped, two bedroom apartment, so the two of them share a room.

Translation: Their room – and the house – is always a damn mess. I can’t stand it.

At this age, the main problem is toys and craft projects. Everywhere I look, there’s a toy lying around. I see three Barbies having a “tea party” on my work desk; Rainbow Looms are on the couch (along with a billion of those damn little rubber bands); the pet “grooming station” is next to the recliner; a random Hello Kitty doll is in the middle of the living room floor; and the Flutterbye Fairy – which literally broke within minutes of being used the first time – is stashed away on another chair.

And that’s clean, by our standards.

The girls’ room, though, is a different story.

The reason why so much of this crap winds up strewn all over the house is because A) I am raising spoiled children, and; B) I am apparently raising future stars of the TV show “Hoarders.”

I warned the girls before Christmas: “We gotta give away or throw away about half this crap.”

“She’s not capable of doing that,” my oldest daughter said.

And she’s right. My youngest child is like a walking, talking, living, breathing tornado. Like a tornado, she goes into a room and picks up and drops off shit where it doesn’t belong. I recently spent four hours cleaning up the house – vacuuming, dusting, moping, picking up, etc. – only to have the house look like a homeless person lived there within 30 minutes of the girls’ arrival. The primary culprit? My little one, who is 5.

Unlike my 9-year-old, the little one still loves playing with toys. And she has a lot of them. At last count, she had more than 100 stuffed animals, most of which are on the top bunk, where she sleeps. (Her bed, by the way, looks like a toy chest.) She’ll play with something – or hell, maybe she’ll just pick something up – then, within minutes, she drops it wherever she’s at and moves on to the next toy.

This process takes place about 1,000 times a day so that, by the end of my day, this house looks like a bomb went off. I constantly remind her to put things away when she’s finished playing with or using it. By now, though, my demands are nothing more than background noise that goes ignored.

And I’ve tried everything. I’ve threatened to spank her for not putting her stuff away. I’ve grounded my 5-year-old. I’ve made her “pray to Jesus” to teach her how to pick up after herself. Hell, one time, I made the girls pick up after the other one in an effort to shame my little one into doing a better job about cleaning up. (Didn’t work; she gladly spent 5 minutes picking up after her sister, while my oldest daughter spent an hour cleaning up for her little sister – and complained about it the entire time.)

Then, out of the blue, came this little bombshell:

“I don’t like my stepdad,” the little one said one day.

“Why?” I asked. “He sure loves you.”

“Because he threw away a bunch of my toys yesterday,” she said, and then burst into tears.

Instead of comforting her, though, I had this reaction: “God damn it,” I said. “That was my idea.”

Unfortunately, that meant I couldn’t utilize the same punishment at my house. Let me explain.

My 5-year-old has had this problem since the day she could walk. She took her first steps on her first birthday, and by the end of the day, the entire house was littered with her toys and other crap she had randomly grabbed (and later dropped). Tired of dealing with this every day, I told my then-wife that we should start throwing away (or at least pretend to) anything that’s not put away at the end of the day.

“Absolutely not,” my ex said back then. “That’s just cruel.”

Four years and a new husband later, suddenly the idea of throwing away toys that aren’t put away is a brilliant idea.

I was thoroughly irritated.

Regardless of whether I paid for the toys or if they came from my ex’s house, I was all for the idea of throwing away toys. For one, I guarantee that most of those toys wouldn’t be missed. Hell, at this point, I don’t think either child has any idea of what toys they have. Plus, if you throw away enough toys, you’d think the girls would be more diligent about picking up after themselves.

Both girls were legitimately upset by this turn of events at mom’s house. Apparently, my ex’s new husband pretty regularly throws away shit that’s not put away, and that goes for both girls. My oldest has a good point: her little sister and her 4-year-old stepsister regularly go into her room at mom’s house, randomly grab shit from her room, then don’t put it back afterward. So she’s had things thrown away, too.

And, of course, my little one can’t stand the idea of parting ways with any of her stuff, including toys she hasn’t played with in years.

So, the simple fact that I do not throw away anything that’s not put away has earned me major brownie points with the girls. Most times, I could care less whether the girls like my rules or not. And I know they complain about some of my rules when they’re at mom’s house – and I then hear complaints about that from my ex.

“Dad makes us do too much homework.”

“Dad gives us chores.”

“Dad makes us to go to church.”

“Dad makes us go to bed earlier at his house.”

“Dad makes us take a bath or shower every night.”

My response to those complaints? “Tough shit.”

But I have mixed emotions about the toys situation at my house. On the one hand, I think throwing away anything that’s not put away is a brilliant idea. It was, after all, originally my idea. On the other hand, anything legitimate that’ll earn me brownie points with the kids has to be taken pretty seriously, as any divorced parent will tell you.

So, instead, I came up with a new idea: “Let’s go through all your toys and stuffed animals, and then give away anything you don’t play with to the poor.”

Eureka. The girls loved the idea, including my little hoarder, whose heart was touched when learning that some kids don’t have any toys to play with.

“Start making a pile,” I said, “and I’ll check back in an hour to see your progress.”

During that hour, I heard intermittent complaints:

“Dad, she’s just playing.”

“Dad, she called me a ‘hoarder,’” followed by, “What’s a ‘hoarder’?”

But, an hour later, both girls emerged from their room, saying they were finished.

“I’ll be the judge of that.”

I was very impressed with my 9-year-old’s pile. It was filled with toys, stuffed animals, dolls and books that she had lost interest in.

Then came my 5-year-old’s pile. It was not as impressive.

Her pile was about a fourth of the size of my oldest daughter’s, even though she has more to give away. It included a bunch of long-forgotten McDonald’s toys – you know, those cheap little toys that break within a few minutes – along with a slew of broken toys.

“Umm, no. You’re not giving away McDonald’s toys and broken toys to poor children,” I said.

“Why not?” the little one asked. “They can still play with them.”

This was coming from the same person who had spent an hour playing with the rocks and sticks she had found and brought inside the house.

“How would you like it if Dad only gave you broken toys?” my oldest daughter asked her sister.

“I wouldn’t care. I’d still play with them,” the little one said.

You can’t argue with that logic.

So, I’ve put together a new game plan. Both girls left with their mom, stepdad and stepsister this morning for a trip to see his parents over the winter break. I’ll use this time to go through their stuff myself.

And I plan on throwing away or giving away about half of their stuff.

Happy New Year, girls. You just made half of the city’s poor children very happy.

Daddy’s Not a Racist, He Just Hates All Drivers

There’s not a racist, bigoted or sexist bone in my body.

It’s how I was raised and how I’m raising my children. In fact, I’d rather live in a culturally diverse community than be surrounded by a bunch of white assholes like myself. I don’t stand for hateful acts and regularly preach to my girls that they should stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and to speak up when injustice occurs.

But when I get behind the wheel, I take the Howard Stern viewpoint on racism: I hate all people equally.

It’s almost like some kind of penance for God-knows what sins I’ve committed over the years. If I’m driving in the left-hand lane, then some moron going about 15 miles slower than me will suddenly decide to get in the lane in front of me. If I’m in the far right lane and am about to turn right at the stop light, then some douchebag will suddenly change lanes – and sit there in the lane until it turns green.

You get the drift.

Anyone who’s spent any time driving knows that certain cultures, genders and age-groups all seem to drive the same way. Racial stereotyping? Absolutely. But, again as the great Howard Stern once said, how do you think these things become a stereotype?

As a coping mechanism, I sometimes blurt aloud some of these stereotypes (along with a slew of four-letter words). Now that I have kids, though, I have to be careful about what I say.

So, as a service to you, I’ve compiled a few of my observations. For starters, we’ll ignore the low-hanging fruit: elderly, Asian, teen and minivan drivers. Yes, those drivers are typically dangerous on the road, but so, too, is any white male between the ages of 16 and 45. I promise you, that particular demographic will use their phone to text or read/send an email at least one time while driving. While on the highway. At 70 mph.

Among my less-obvious observations:

  • God squad: Unless you’re in no hurry to get to your destination, change lanes the second you get behind someone with any kind of religious bumper sticker. The next time I see a driver with a fish symbol or a “Jesus Saves” bumper sticker crawl to within 5 mph of the speed limit will be the first time.
  • Handicap drivers: Same goes for getting behind someone with a handicap placard on their car. Unless you want to be 20 minutes late, change lanes.
  • Morbidly obese drivers: There’s a reason why morbidly obese motorists drive so erratically. They’re eating.
  • Mothers without kids in the car: This is sometimes a hard one to spot. If you’re on the road and see another motorist who appears to be a mom – but don’t see kids in the car – then you know she’s in no hurry. The reason? This is like a mini-vacation for her away from her kids.
  • White men in expensive cars: These guys have a surprisingly low number of speeding tickets, probably due to their $1,000 radar detectors. But they have no qualms with driving inches from your bumper, even if you’re going way over the speed limit.
  • Any white male between the ages of 30-50 in a beat-up car: They’re drunk.
  • Any white male between the ages of 22-29 in a beat-up car: They’re stoned.
  • Any black or Hispanic female driver between the ages of 16-30: You’ll have to wait a few minutes for her to go after the light turns green. She needs to finish texting.
  • Any white female driver between the ages of 16-40: Same as above, plus she’s also fixing her makeup and/or hair.
  • Any white male between the age of 16-25 who’s driving an expensive car: Possibly the most dangerous driver of all, these spoiled assholes will have at least one accident and one speeding ticket on their record. This month.
  • You, the reader: If you’re reading this and are highly offended, then I guarantee you drive way too slow.

(Quick side story: I once lost my shit while driving to work. There were only two people on the road: me and a motorist way ahead who was obviously going below the speed limit. About a quarter mile before I made my turn, this driver crossed two lanes to get in the right-hand lane, right in front of me, then proceeded to go 30 miles below the speed limit. Then, of course, the driver turned right, just as I did, on a one-way road, so I remained stuck behind him. My cursing, though, was soon stymied as I realized that the motorist was also driving to the same office. It was my boss. Expecting his wrath, I tried to avoid eye contact as he parked right next to me. But, he was all smiles as he exited his car. “Didn’t see you there,” he said, cheerily. See? Elderly drivers. Dangerous.)

I could drone on and on.

Anyway, I got particularly worked up one day after getting stuck between a motorist driving about 20 mph below the speed limit in the far left-hand lane and a motorist going slightly slower in the right lane. This went on for about 10 miles.

And I was about to lose my fucking mind.

I did my best to bite my tongue, because both girls were in the car. Finally – finally – the moron in the left lane had put enough distance between him and the motorist in the right lane that I could squeeze over into the right lane and pass both of them.

As I was doing that, my oldest daughter got a glimpse of both drivers, then said with a very curious tone: “Hmm. That’s strange, dada. They were both going slow, but neither driver is old, has a handicap sign or has a religious bumper sticker. And both drivers were men.”

I about died.

Guess I need to be a little more careful about what I say while driving.

How to Choose the Best Weed Wacker Today

People who live in a house understand the importance of having a tidy lawn. Furthermore, it is well known that this is a weekly operation that can suffer no postponing. Though there are families who prefer to ask for professional help, the majority rather do it themselves as a recreational activity. However, in order to actually enjoy it, it is extremely important to own a practical and operational tool. The best weed wacker for you is the one that helps you get the job done in effective time with optimum results.

It is important to know that choosing the best weed wacker is definitely not a random purchase. You cannot simply pick the first one that you see. Furthermore, the price is the aspect that must be analyzed last; otherwise you may end up with a tool that will cease to work from the first day. The purpose of this article is to reveal the things that you must consider when you want to buy such a device. Remember that the first step in such an acquisition starts from your house, to be more precise you need to measure the size of the lawn and the toughness of the grass.

A weed wacker is a tool with a mono-filament line that helps you cut the grass and get rid of unaesthetic plants. It is practical in every household, and most important it can help you finish the job fast and effectively. The best weed eater is the one that is adjustable not only to the landscape, but also to your height. Furthermore, it should help you trim crowded spaces or narrow alleys.

Qualities of the Best Weed Wacker

When it comes to purchasing the best weed eater for your yard, it is important to consider the following aspects:

  • The size of the yard and/or garden;
  • The type of the machine;
  • The type of shaft;
  • Maintenance;
  • Comfort of use;
  • Warranty.

The size of the yard and/or garden is the first thing that must be taken into consideration. If you skip this step, you may end up with a device that cannot handle the surface, thus will burn before finishing the job.  It is important to know that small lawns can be efficiently trimmed with a corded electric weed wacker. They are quiet and eco-friendly and ensure enough movement to reach every corner.

Medium yards require more movement. This means that it is not efficient to depend on the length of a cable or the position of the socket.  An optimum purchase would be a cordless weed eater powered by a battery. However, they do not represent a good choice for big yards and gardens as the battery may get empty before finishing the job. In this case, remember to browse the gas operated ones.

As it can be seen there are three major types of such machines: corded, cordless and gas powered. Corded electric weed wackers are the ones that do not require a recharge during the trimming process. They are lightweight and can be operated with ease. Before you actually purchase one make sure that you have a socket close to the garden, otherwise you will not be able to use it.

Cordless weed wackers run on batteries. They can be rechargeable or not. These devices are also very quiet and eco-friendly. The only restriction would be the battery capacity that determines how long it lasts. If you really want or need high power than gas weed wackers represent the optimum purchase. They are a bit noisier than electric ones but can handle successfully even the most difficult jobs.

The type of the shaft is another important aspect that must be taken into consideration in order to make an efficient purchase. There are three main types available: straight, curved and split. Straight shafts are long and can trim with ease any area of the yard. Tall people will definitely enjoy them most.

Curved shafts can be handled with ease and ensure an optimum balance. They are not very good at reaching complicated corners, but pretty much do what they are supposed to do. Split shafts will definitely be noticed with ease thanks to their versatile design. They allow you to remove the trimming head and add other attachments, such as leaf blowers or tree pruners.

Besides replacing the string, weed wackers may require additional maintenance. Most models mainly need to keep the head clean, and they are good to use. Besides this, it is highly advisable to make sure that the air filter is free of debris, and the bolts and nuts are positioned correctly. It does not take much time and significantly increases the life of your device.

Gas weed wackers are a bit more exigent. The spark plugs require regular maintenance and replacement from time to time. Before you store it during the winter make sure that the tank is empty. This is the only way you can avoid corrosion. Make sure you take the leftover fuel to a hazardous waste center.

Remember that you will be using this tool pretty often so it must be comfortable. In this case, the main aspect that must be taken into consideration is the weight, noise level and eventual smoke produced. However, do not make this a priority if you own a big garden as you need a more powerful tool in order to get the job done effectively.

Never buy a weed wacker before checking the warranty. Most products are covered by at least one year of free maintenance, in case they break down. There are brands that ensure free extensions if you register the weed wacker on their site. Just like in the case of comfort, do not turn the warranty issue into a priority.

Conclusion

As it can be seen, choosing the best weed wacker requires time and research. However, considering  that this is a purchase that you will use on long term it is totally worth it. Remember the order of the six qualities of such a device and you will definitely take the best decision.

5 Tips to Make Your Lawn Healthier

Regardless of the condition of your lawn, you will be better off to think ‘organic lawn.’ There has been a lot of publicity about the damage that chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides do to the environment. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough publicity about why plants, including lawns, are healthier and more disease resistant without man-made chemicals. If you have been brought up with a typical chemical lawn and garden mentality, you may think this idea preposterous. It is not. Understanding how grass actually grows may surprise you.

Even if your lawn has been doused with chemicals for years, you can convert it into an organic lawn. Some basic practices of organic lawns are still good advice for improving the health of any lawn even if you also use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.

I am a fan of organic solutions, but I also recognize that some people prefer chemically treated lawns and gardens. If you do use a chemical fertilizer or pesticide in your yard, please make sure to carefully follow the directions and avoid overuse, which can do serious harm to your lawn.

Here are some tips that will improve any lawn.

1. Water less frequently, but deeply. Most experts agree that an inch of water once a week is about right for most lawns. This will vary with climate, soil composition, and time of year. To find the best watering cycle for your lawn, distribute several cans or other containers around your lawn and water the lawn. When the containers have one inch of water, turn off the water. Note how long it took to fill the containers to the one-inch mark. Now you know how long to water. You also know which areas don’t get as much water and may need a sprinkler adjustment or change. It is time to water again when the lawn soil surface is dry to the touch. This insures that roots will grow deep. Exactly how deep the roots grow depends on the soil and type of grass.

2. Cut your grass to its recommended cutting height. Some people recommend setting your lawnmower to the highest setting, but I do not agree with this method. Different types of grasses have different cutting height requirements, so it is best to stay within the cutting range recommended for your type of grass.

3. Aerate your lawn. If you aren’t familiar with lawn aeration, it is simply poking holes in the lawn. This is done with a machine that pulls little round pieces of soil, called plugs, out of the lawn. These plugs are deposited on top of the lawn. Although unsightly, they break down and disappear in a couple of weeks. Aeration allows water, air, and nutrients into the soil and prevents soil compaction. Your lawn should be aerated about once a year.

4. Leave lawn clippings on the lawn. Your lawn needs the organic material they supply. Because the grass clippings will be pulled into the soil and decomposed by soil organisms, you will need much less fertilizer. The best kind of mower for this job is a reel or mulching lawn mower because they both leave finer clippings than regular rotary mowers. We’ll talk more about this in the lawnmower section. It is a myth that grass clippings cause thatch. However, if you already have thatch, you’ll want to collect your clippings until you have solved the problem because clippings can make it worse.

5. The best fertilizer for your lawn is an organic fertilizer with a ration of approximately N-P-K: 3-1-2 (3 % nitrogen, 1% phosphorous, and 2% potassium). Follow directions when applying any kind of fertilizer. As an alternative, organic fish emulsion or compost tea will be a healthy treat for your lawn because they both add live microforms to your soil. You can find fish emulsion at your local gardening center, but may have to purchase compost tea on the Internet or make your own. Compost tea is water that has been soaked in compost.

Hybrid Bikes – A Quick Guide

What is a Hybrid Bicycle?

A hybrid bicycle is a bike specially designed to be used in several road conditions, and can be used as a mountain bike or a road bike. This design is somewhat recent. It aims to have certain features that are available on mountain bikes, while also being more suitable for urban settings.

The most prominent feature that hybrid bikes have is the ability to change gears. This feature was previously available only on mountain bikes. Having gears on the bicycle can enable the rider to adjust to several road conditions to make the ride more comfortable.

Types of Hybrid Bikes

A road-biased hybrid bicycle is similar to a racing bicycle. It is more suitable for urban use, though it can handle moderately rough terrains like roads with sand, gravel, and mud. This bike is moderately sized. It also has switchable gears for more comfort in handling different terrain.

Mountain-biased bicycles are much better at handling rough terrain and uphill roads. Their tires are slightly bigger and can grip uneven terrain much better. They have better and bigger gear ratios to help in handling tough roads. The larger gears help in handling uphill roads.

Another type is the comfort bike. This type has softer wheels that provide more comfort to the rider. This type of bicycle usually has a suspension system on the wheels, on the chair, or both.

Hybrid bicycles are usually made of lighter materials like aluminum and carbon fiber. A lighter bicycle is much easier to handle and transport. However, the lighter the bike, the more expensive it is.

Hybrid bikes have an advantage over single purpose bikes and they are more dynamic in terms of purpose. They can be brought almost anywhere and they are usually the sturdiest type of bicycle.

Optimizing Your PS3 for Blu-ray

The PlayStation 3, prior to the advent of sub-$300 Blu-ray players, was regarded as one of the cheapest and value-added ways of getting Blu-ray technology into your home. Despite the competitive price drops in standalone players, the PlayStation 3 remains an incredible value by offering users the ability to view and play high-definition videogames and multimedia content, all in one piece of hardware. Regardless of where your gaming allegiances lie, there is no contesting the fact that the PlayStation 3 is a multimedia powerhouse.

Most PlayStation 3 owners are new to Blu-ray hardware, and while just about any high-definition setup will provide breathtaking visual and audio presentation, there are a number of ways to fine-tune your player to maximize your player’s performance. While one half of the equation involves components beyond your PS3, such as the calibration settings on your DLP, LCD, or Plasma TV, these devices must be adjusted on a case-by-case basis. No two viewers are the same nor are two viewing environments—people are picky when it comes to tech. However, the PS3 is host to a number of onboard settings that, if calibrated properly, can ensure the best possible source video for your home theater setup.

Blu-ray sales have been higher this year than ever before, and the PS3 continues to lead the charge in Blu-ray hardware. To guide new and existing PS3 owners through the vast plethora of settings presented in the console’s Xross Media Bar, we’ve crafted this comprehensive guide of recommended settings. To access this portion of your PlayStation 3, scroll to “Settings” just the right of the “Users” drop down menu. From there you’ll be able to access all of the categories discussed in this guide.

Video Settings

This section of the XrossMediaBar is where you’ll find all of the necessary settings for video content, DVD, Blu-ray, or otherwise. You can find the “Video Settings” sub-category just below “System Update” and “Game Settings.” From within this menu there are several settings categories that affect Blu-ray performance, check out our recommended settings below:

“BD Internet Connection”

Online integration is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Blu-ray technology. It enables users to get all of the latest firmware updates for their player, which ensures that playback performance is as seamless as possible. The PlayStation 3 is unique in that it utilizes WiFi technology, whereas most standalone Blu-ray solutions require an Ethernet cable connection. The WiFi of the PlayStation allows you to get updates and content for your player as soon as they become available, as such, it is important that your PS3′s Blu-ray internet access is always turned on. Of the two options provided for the “BD Internet Connection,” select “Allow.” This tells your player to establish an internet connection every time a Blu-ray disc is being played.

Recommended Setting: ”Allow”

“BD/DVD Cinema Conversion”

This option pertains primarily to how your PS3 displays DVD content recorded in interlace format. This issue only rarely applies to Blu-ray content, primarily supplemental content with lesser encodings or homemade Blu-ray discs. To ensure that you get the best possible viewing experience, even with standard-definition supplemental content, leave this selected to “Automatic,” which enables your player to automatically detect and match the best conversion method for the source material.

Recommended Setting: ”Automatic”

“BD/DVD Upscaler”

Like the “Cinema Conversion” category, this setting is only applicable to Blu-ray content that is encoded in standard definition (non-HD extras). There are a number of options given to users: “Double Scale,” “Normal,” “Full Screen,” and “Off.” The “Double Scale” option doubles the resolutions of the source video, which sounds more beneficial than it really is. Double scaling your video can, in some cases, give you a softer image than what you started with. “Full Screen” is also an undesirable choice because it scales your image in a way that stretches it beyond its natural dimensions. We recommend going with “Normal,” which scales your image to the maximum proportional resolution supported by your TV.

Recommended Setting: ”Normal”

“BD/DVD Video Output Format (HDMI)”

This setting allows you to specify the color space of the video output from your PS3, either RGB or Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr. Typically, video game content is encoded in sRGB and video is broken down into Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr. The PlayStation 3 can automatically detect which color mode is best for the source video, but some users have noted problems with the auto detection, such as discoloration. Additionally, RGB and Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr output can be affected by the type of display you are using, whether it be a PC monitor or TV. For those using a PC monitor we recommend “RGB,” while HDTV owners should stick to “Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr” for Blu-ray content.

Recommended Setting: ”RGB” for PC monitors, “Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr” for TVs.

“BD 1080p 24 Hz Output (HDMI)”

This setting pertains to how your PlayStation 3 outputs video refresh rate for Blu-ray content. For the most fluid, cleanest picture, Blu-ray delivers video at their native 24 frames-per-second, which eliminates common playback issues at higher framerates, such as 60 Hz and 50 Hz. Most current-generation TVs support 24 Hz playback, but if you are unsure whether or not your display is capable of displaying at the native framerate, select “Automatic.” This allows your PlayStation 3 to automatically detect the framerate and display rate of your setup.

Recommended Setting: ”Automatic”

“BD/DVD Dynamic Range Control”

One problem with high-end digital audio outputs is that they are impractical for low-volume usage. If you are trying to watch a film and your volume isn’t cranked, hearing the film’s dialogue can be incredibly difficult; the words get lost in the soundtrack and effects. To prevent this, Sony incorporated an automated feature that would boost dialogue, however, we’ve noticed that this feature can increase dialogue beyond favorable levels at times. To ensure that you get pristine audio performance, we recommend keeping this feature set to “Off.”

Recommended Setting: ”Off”

“BD/DVD Audio Output Format (HDMI)”

This setting, for whatever reason, is still filed under “Video Settings” on the XMB menu, despite the fact that it has nothing to do with video performance. In any case, this option allows users to specify how audio signals are delivered to their audio system when connected via HDMI. For this option, owners of the original “fat” PS3 want to select “Linear PCM,” as it is capable of delivering the most diverse audio formats, including Dolby TrueHD. Those with newer, “slim” PS3 models, which have upgraded HDMI ports, can select “Bitstream” to achieve Dolby TrueHD.

Recommended Setting: ”Linear PCM”

Display Settings

You can find “Display Settings” just below “Printer Settings” toward the bottom of the main “Settings” queue. This area of settings determines the overall video output settings for your PlayStation 3. Most of the settings in this subsection are largely subjective. Output resolutions will vary with each television, and user-preference determines the screensaver. The two main settings we need to view and tweak are “RGB Full Range (HDMI)” and “Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr Super-White (HDMI).”

RGB Full Range (HDMI)

This setting pertains to how wide the RGB color output of your PlayStation 3 is. There are two options within this setting “Limited” or “Full.” “Limited” delivers a more subdued, albeit more naturalistic, color range, while “Full” produces both brighter and richer tones on both ends of the spectrum. As a result of the “Full” spectrum, many intermediate shades get lost in the mix. On the other hand, some users may find that “Full” is better for their particular TV, however, we found that in most cases “Limited” produced the best results.

Recommended Setting: ”Limited”

Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr Super-White (HDMI)

The “Super-White” feature on the PS3 is designed to present deeper black levels and brighter whites during video playback with supported TVs. This feature only works with displays that accept Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr signals via HDMI. If you are unsure about whether or not your display accepts Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr via HDMI, don’t fret! You can leave this feature set to “On” in any case. If your TV supports it, then you get the full benefit. If not, it has no negative impact on your picture.

Recommended Setting: ”On”

Sound Settings

The final subsection in our guide is the “Sound Settings” section. You can find the “Sound Settings” just below “Display Settings” on the XMB menu. This, as you may have guessed, is where you can configure your system’s audio output.

Audio Output Settings This section is fairly automated, simply select the method by which you have your PS3 connected to your sound system and select “Automatic.” This allows the system to automatically detect what settings are supported by your audio system and enables them. Review the codecs, making sure none are left out, and save.

Overview

Video Settings

  • BD Internet: ”Allow”
  • BD/DVD Cinema Conversion: ”Automatic”
  • BD/DVD Upscaler: ”Normal”
  • BD/DVD Video Output Format (HDMI): ”Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr” for TVs, “RGB” for PC Monitors
  • BD 1080p 24Hz Output: ”Automatic”
  • BD/DVD Dynamic Range Control: ”Off”
  • BD/DVD Audio Output Format (HDMI): ”Linear PCM”
  • BD/DVD Audio Output Format (Optical Digital): ”Bitstream”

Display Settings

  • RGB Full Range (HDMI): ”Limited”
  • Y Pb/Cb Pr/Cr Super-White (HDMI): ”On”

Sound Settings

  • Audio Output: Varies/Automatic

“BD/DVD Audio Output Format (Optical Digital)”

While Linear PCM is the better choice for use with HDMI connections, Bitstream codecs are better suited for optical cable connections with the PS3. Linear PCM codecs can only be delivered as stereo signals by the PlayStation 3. The better option of the two is Bitstream for optical connections, as it can deliver Dolby Digital Plus, DTS surround, and Dolby Digital. Unfortunately, optical connections in either case cannot deliver Dolby TrueHD.

Buying Guide for Mountain Bike Tires

Mountain bike tires are one of the things that can really affect the performance of your mountain bike. Depending on where and how your ride, there is a bike wheel that’s best for you. But before we go and talk about the different types of bike tires that you can choose from, let us first define some common terms you will encounter when buying mountain bike tires.

Bead – The stiff edge of the tire is called the bead. This is what gives the tire its shape and which holds the tire to the rim. This part of the tire is made from steel wire.

Tread – This is the rubber part of the tire that comes into contact with the ground.

Tube – Made from rubber, this thin hoola hoop shaped balloon goes inside the tire when it is attached to the rim of the bike.

Traction – This term refers to a tire’s ability to resist slipping or skidding.

Rolling Resistance – This term refers to the friction that is produced when the tire is rolling. This is caused by the changing shape of the tire as it hits the ground and leaves the ground.

Now that you know a few basic terms, let’s talk about the types of mountain bike tires.
In terms of tread, there are 2 basic types of wheels. You have the knobby tread tires and the slick tread tires.

Knobby tread tires are best for mountain bikes that are used on off road conditions. The knobby tread of the tire can improve traction on irregular surfaces and on soft soil conditions such as in sandy or muddy terrains. This is because when the knobs hit the surface of the terrain, they squeeze the loose soil, sand, or mud, which gives your bike traction. Having knobs on tires also increases their rolling resistance, which means there is more friction created between the wheel and the terrain.

Slick tread tires on the other hand are best for city biking. When biking on smooth tracks like on concrete the best tires to use would be the ones that appear to be smooth. The great thing about using this kind of tire is that they “conform” to the shape of the road as they touch it, which gives it good traction.

There are tires that feature a combination of both. These tires feature a slick tread along the spine of the tire, and knobs along the sides. This gives your mountain bike extra traction when you are turning. This can make your bike safer.

You may wonder if using smooth tread tires would make the tires slippery especially on wet surfaces. Professionals will tell you that, it does not matter what the tread is like on your tires; they will be slippery on a wet surface regardless.

Aside from tread, air pressure is another thing that affects the performance of your mountain bike tires. The more inflated your tire is, the faster you can go. But the trade off on speed comes at the expense of safety and an increased risk of running a flat. An over inflated tire will not hug the surface of the train as much. It is also more prone to puncturing when it hits a hard object. When your tire is not inflated enough, you will notice that it runs more slowly. This is because more of the tire is touching the surface of the terrain, which increases the extra friction that slows you down.

When choosing tires for your mountain bike, you don’t have to use the same type of tire for the front wheel as the back wheel. Professional mountain bike cyclists usually mix and match different types of tires to give them the maximum advantage, safety and performance.

Here are some popular tire combinations and what they can do for you:

  • Wider front tire with narrower rear tire

This combination will give you a smoother ride. Usually, a wider tire provides better shock absorbency. A wider front tire can also give you a safer bike since wider tires provide more traction especially when making turns, and you make turns using your front tire.

  • Narrow front tire with a wider rear tire

This combination is a good one to try if you want a lighter bike.

  • Wider knobby front tire with a narrower slick tread rear tire

This is the preferred combination of many off road riders. This combination will allow you to navigate through most difficult terrain. Often, when your front tire survives a difficult terrain, you will be able to easily power your rear tire to follow the lead of your front tire. Plus, a slick rear tire means you will have less rolling resistance on the tire that supports a heavier load, which means less friction and more speed.

Getting into Commuting – Part 1 A Walk into Reality

When thinking about commuting, many things can go through your mind. I recently pickedVery Nice up a book that I was reading about 10 months ago with the intent of finishing the book and noticed I wrote a list down. After trying to decipher the handwriting, it was a list I made 10 months ago for things I needed to get to be able to commute. All I could do was chuckle.

There are many “steps” we take to get into commuting regardless if you think they are steps or not. Either consciously or subconsciously we go through the motions but to be honest, you don’t Cycling to Workneed to reinvent the wheel when you start to get the bug to commute. Yes, there is upfront work but once that’s set, you are well on your way to pedaling yourself to work and such.

So, here we go. Part 1 of a series to walk you through some of what we all go through when it comes to figuring out the commuting world. I call this “a walk into reality”. Let’s begin.

The first thing is to ask yourself why you want to commute. What’s your answer? Some may be to save money on gas. Perhaps it’s to lose some weight and get fitter. Maybe it’s faster to commute by bicycle then it is to drive. Or maybe parking is so expensive at work that it is a financial burden to drive.

The point is to just think and jot down why you want to commute. Go ahead, write it done.

And to be honest, perhaps your answer is one of those or maybe it’s something different. I guarantee you that all of the above…..and more…. will happen when you start to commute.

Next step: Do you have a bike? If the answer is no, no worries. You can get one either used or new. Doesn’t  have to be fancy at all but it just has to work. Of course, getting aTraffic Sucks used bike will call for the need to get a tune up by a mechanic. Don’t forget that step! You can buy a bike new for sure but avoid all the bells and whistles; you will end up customizing the bike to your needs and riding ability. This step warrants much more research.

The next step is to write down what you think barriers are that you might have when commuting. Perhaps it’s the need to shower when you get to work. Maybe there is a question in my mind where to park your bike or how to transport clothes. Your list might be long or short but regardless, don’t let the list discourage you. There are answers to everything.

BoringLastly, just write down how far of a commute in miles and time it takes you by car. We will use this later in our series. And also write down what you don’t like about your work commute.

I wanted to share with you what I had:

Why I wanted to commute: Because I am a heavy guy (fat in the midsection) and needed a way to lose weight. Loved the gym but hated spending time in it. And I wanted the challenge. Also to save money since the truck is a gas hog. Also, I wanted to ride during the shorter day light hours.

Did I have a bike at the time: No, not one I wanted to use for commuting daily. I got a Giant Roam mountain bike. This was a great start into the journey of turning this into a commuter bike.

Barriers: 1- Scary area to ride. Route 70 in Cherry Hill scares the shit out of me by bike and Camden has a real bad crime rate. I thought it would be suicide by bike. 2- Where to stash my bike at work?  3- How to bring my clothes in everyday? 4- Would I be able to do the miles it took to get in? 5- How would I deal with the darkness? 6- How would I deal with showering? 7- How would I get by in from my wife?

Current commute by car: Takes me 20-30 minutes depending on traffic and it is 11 miles one way, 22 miles round trip. What I hated about my car ride was the wasted gas, time it took to get home and worse if it was raining. The mood I was in when I got into work (still sleepy) and the ass whole drivers in NJ.

DIY Road Bike Wheels

Firstly it is important that you have all the right gear before you begin the process so check you have the following:

Spoke Wrench

Plastic Mallet (rubber mallet)

Nipple tool

Small regular screwdriver

Grease

Truing tool

A truing tool is an extra cost, but it ill make life a lot easier in regards to seeing where you need to apply tension on the nipples. An alternative is to turn the bike upside down and use the forks as the tool and the brake pads as indicators to the wheels straightness.

The right components

Weight is an important part of road biking and the choice of parts and frame etc. With a wheel the starting part is the hub in the centre of the wheel. The general rule of thumb is to have a 32 spoke hub, but some heavier riders will need more than this. Conversely lighter riders may want less spokes to save weight, there are a number of spoke designs that keep rigidity but have less spoke, which means less weight and therefore less drag. The rim that you choose is critical as it is the main part of the wheel and its important to buy the right one for your weight and type of riding. Mavic as a brand are good in regards to making rims. DT stainless steel spokes and nipples are the best for beginners and in regards to length there are a number of tools of the web for calculating spoke length. Remember that front and rear wheels require slightly different length spokes as the hubs are different, taking into consideration the cassette.

Lacing the spokes

Place rim flat and insert spoke into hub flange, insert other end into rim and tighten nipple with 4 turns. (Remember to grease the nipples) Install in exactly same way on every other hole the next 7 spokes. Place them in every 5th rim hole. Twist the hub until all spoke are tight. Then place the next 8 spokes through the hub going from the inside out. Make sure you get the same twist on each spoke so everything is perfectly aligned. This should mean you have completed one side. Then turn it over and tap gently in the middle to bend the spokes outwards and find the new resting position. Do the same process as you did on the first side. Start opposite the first spoke you did last time, mark it so you know which one it is.

Tightening and Truing

Sit the wheel into the truing tool. It should be loose but in the effect final shape. The next stage takes a keen eye and patience. Only tighten in less that half rotations as that can make a big difference to the tension. Keep spinning the wheel and applying pressure on either side to get everything to sit in the right place as you tighten it all up.

4 Tips That Will Help

1. Lubricate the spoke nipples, when dry you can tighten them and they feel tight but actually they aren’t and will come loose in time and make truing very difficult in the future.

2. Seating the spokes will eliminate any slack, so lie them as flat as you can. If this isn’t completed you will find as you ride that the spokes will straighten and loosen, eventually leading to total collapse.

3. Slowly true round and centre the rim, do not do any section up to tightly. It’s better to slowly go round and tighten with half a twist. Once you feel the rim is true and semi tight, begin the final tightening process.

4. Apply some pressure to both sides of the rim and in turn the spokes, this will help seat the nipples in the right place before the final tighten.