Imagine No Malaria

Today, our church kicked off its 175th anniversary celebration by having Rev. Katie Dawson come and speak about Imagine No Malaria. I remember hearing what she was going to preach about before today, but didn’t quite process it until we were in church. The entire service brought back many memories and feelings about my trip to Ghana.

First, some quick facts about malaria. First, it is a completely treatable disease transmitted by mosquito. If it is caught within 36 hours of the first symptoms, all ages have a good chance at survival, even the very young. After that though, it gets trickier. Second, over 600,000 people die from this treatable disease every year, most under the age of 5. Because the disease affects the red blood cells, it can work through a smaller body quicker than an adult. Third, prevention methods help. By distributing bed nets, groups like Imagine No Malaria have helped cut the death rate in half since the year 2000.

Two things stood out for me today listening to Rev. Dawson speak. Before, during and after the trip, I took anti-malaria pills. These pills were covered by my insurace for the trip, so I had very little concern about the cost of them, but I found out later, even in the states they are relatively expensive. I am making the guess then that no one in Africa takes these types of pills daily, instead just living with the risk of catching it. This is why the bed nets are so important. Mosquitos are most previlent in at night, so a bed net can lower the risk to almost nothing when in use.

The second, and more emotional thing, was thinking of the children at the school where we worked. Every once and a while, it hits me that there is a good chance that one of the children I met will come down with malaria. It makes me think of how far it was from their village to the clinic we donated supplies and the fact the clinic was not well prepared for a child with malaria.

There is good news out of all this. Donations to Imagine No Malaria really make a difference. For 10 bucks, one long lasting net (3-5 years) can be purchased. That same 10 dollars can get 10 early detection tests, to make sure that people are treated for the right thing. 10 dollars can pay for 3 courses of medicine as well. It doesn’t take much to make a change in people’s lives.

On My Phone

For years I have seen folks posting their phone home screens to share what apps they use. I am a sucker for them each time, mainly because I love discovering new apps that I have not heard of or sometimes getting more info about an app that I might have heard of before, but not tried out. So, I have decided to go ahead and post my home screen and talk about the apps I use, since I enjoy those posts so much.

Main Screen

  • Tweetbot - For the last 6 months or so, I had been using the Twitter app. It was decent enough to make me not switch back to a third party client. Then over the holidays, Tweetbot was on sale, so I picked it up and am so happy I did. It looks 1000 times better, better functionality and syncs with the other Tweetbot apps which the main Twitter app could never get right.
  • Facebook - Gets the job done, so much better in the last 9 months since they made it a native app
  • Weather Underground - I am a weather geek and pay for the Weather Underground service, so this app works great and I can get rid of the ads in it. It was recently updated for iOS7 which helped on performance and the look of the app
  • Camera - No fancy camera or photo apps for me. Pro tip though, leaving the camera app in the top right is a reminder that behind that is where the lens is.
  • Podcasts - I don’t listen to a ton of podcasts, 6 or so, so the main Podcasts app works alright. I wish the iCloud syncing worked more reliabily, but it is on par with pretty much every other podcast app syncing. I had been a long time Downcast user, but their iOS7 update didnt do it for me and Apple’s did.
  • Letterpress - I still play this game regularly, it is as great today as when it came out.
  • Rdio - Being an Rdio subscriber, this is my primary music app on my phone, as well as the iPad and computer. The offline syncing works great and now that I have a provider that has actual data service, I can use it for streaming as well.
  • Trello - Task tracking for at home, for free it works really well for what we need it to do.
  • Alien Blue - I am not a huge Reddit user, but this app makes me check in on it more. It has the features I am looking for for free, though for 2 bucks I can see it being worth it to upgrade to pro if you are a power user.
  • Dots - My fallback for when I need to kill some time. Simple game to connect dots and make squares to clear them off the screen, but the interface is great and when you get a square, the buzz is a nice touch.
  • SportsCenter - This was a relatively new addition with the iOS7 update to their app. The interface is much cleaner and the ability to do alerts works really well.
  • Pocket - The last year has seen me flip-flop between Instapaper and Pocket for my read later app. Both are great apps, but Pocket’s handling of video is still better than Instapaper, and Pocket appears to be working more on finding new things to read based on my history.
  • QuizUp - Another new addition based on an article on the Verge around Christmas, this is a fun social quiz game that takes hardly anytime to play. It also allows you to challenge friends from your social networks without having to play at the same time. It has a great interface and a lot of fun.

In the Dock

  • Mail, Safari, Calendar and Messages - No surprises here, other than the Phone app is relegated to the second screen.

That covers it, I would love to hear your feedback or questions, as well as if you liked the post and would like to see something similar about the iPad. Add a comment to the post or get hold of me on social media.

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2013 Top Ten Albums

Another year, another list of my top 10 albums, with honorable mentions in no particular order:

  1. Boards of Canada - Tomorrow’s Harvest
  2. Arcade Fire - Reflektor
  3. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
  4. My Bloody Valentine - m.b.v.
  5. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
  6. The National - Trouble Will Find Me
  7. Balance and Composure - The Things We Think We’re Missing
  8. Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety
  9. Weekend - Jinx
  10. James Blake - Overgrown

Honorable Mention

  • Justin Timberlake - The 20-20 Experience
  • Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks

This was seriously a fantastic year for new music. So many great bands putting out albums that continue their fantastic work. A very difficult year to rank the top albums.

It also provided my biggest disappointment since The Smashing Pumpkins’ Zeitgeist in 2007, True North by Bad Religion. I was really excited for it and it just turned out to be a semi-political rant with really clichéd lyrics.

Pre-Game Rituals

Ghana players sing before their World Cup playoff against Egypt in Cairo

Earlier today, I shared this video on Facebook, originally posted by Kwesi, with the comment, “Something tells me that the USMNT hasn’t done this before any of their matches”. I wanted to explain that a little bit more.

When I watched this video, it reminded me of the times at church when we were in Ghana, the similar songs and dancing done during the services. It made me think that the players on the Ghana squad likely all experienced that same sort of thing at some point in their lives, especially the ones who grew up in Ghana. This similar experience is a bond that these players automatically have.

The US team definitely does not have that common bond. It is one of the things that sets our country apart, we have players who grew up in Texas, New Jersey, German Air Force Bases and more. There is no common experience for these players from when they grew up. Not saying this is better or worse, but it did make the video stand out to me, as it is something that I would never see from the US squad.

Oceanhorn

Since getting rid of the Wii, one glaring hole in my video game world has been Zelda. I love the Zelda games, and don’t care that each game is basically the exact same thing just with better graphics or different challenges. So, when I saw the teaser for Oceanhorn this summer, I had some hope that my Zelda fix could actually be solved on iOS, at least somewhat.

The good news is, it did solve my fix. Yes, 9 bucks is a lot for an iOS game and no, it isn’t quite up to the same quality as a Zelda game, but it is still a lot of fun to play and when comparing it to a full Zelda game, 9 bucks is a deal. I have been playing it on an iPad mini and it is perfect for that form factor. The mini is light enough to hold for extended periods of time, but a large enough screen that the games little details are not missed. This was an easy purchase for me, and if you enjoy Zelda, I highly recommend it.

Oceanhorn in the App Store

Comic Events: Why They Are Awesome and Suck at the Same Time

I have been reading comics for almost 10 years now, which means that I have seen my share of comic events. They can range from relatively compact like the Sinestro Corps War to the enormous Civil War. Like most stories, the ones that are more focused and condensed are usually better, which is why the aforementioned Sinestro Corps War was so highly regarded. The importance and scale of the story was big, but it only took about 20 issues to tell. Knowing this, it makes me wonder why the enormous stories seem to do so poorly in quality. The easy answer is that so many creators are involved, the story will fragment and lose quality. I definitely see this in some events. In some cases though, something different seemed to happen.

When I originally read through Blackest Night when it was coming out, I thought it was convoluted and just a scam to hop aboard the zombie train in the DC universe. Then when I came back to it a couple of years later, reading through trades, the story made a lot more sense. The tie-ins actually were important to connect things and I could much easier see what Geoff Johns was trying to do. I ended up enjoying the story much more when reading it all at once and in order.

I imagine it must be tough to balance the overall story of an event of that size with pacing over months at a time. It is interesting that something similar is playing out between the two bigs right now, Infinity for Marvel being a condensed event in the Avengers books and Forever Evil playing out across a bunch of the new 52 in a multi-month event. It will be interesting to see in a couple of years which of these events turned out better.

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