Saturday, November 23, 2013

Xbox One Initial Review

Let me start by saying I don't consider myself a Microsoft Fanboy, despite owning every version of the Xbox that Microsoft has produced. My goal here is not to gush about the virtues of the Xbox One, while overlooking any shortcomings. Instead, I plan to give you a quick write-up of my first day of experience with the new Xbox offering. My motivation for purchasing the Xbox One was not a need or desire to be an early adopter. The deciding factor was significantly more mundane... my 360 stopped reading my disks, leaving me with the choice of buying a new 360, or upgrading to Xbox One. Since I'm writing a review on Xbox One, my choice should be obvious.

Let's start with the setup. It was straight forward, with no glitches or gotchas. There was an immediate software update required, which 500 meg, and took a bit to finish. In fact, the initial update doubled the time needed for the setup. The first boot-up, and the one immediately after the software upgrade seemed slow, when compared to the Xbox. After the updates, I migrated my settings, which was a snap. I simply had to enter the email address and password associated with my existing Xbox 360 account, and everything was transferred. This migration was something that Microsoft got 100% right! I do not know, however, if you can go back to the 360 after migrating to Xbox One. It does, however, look like you can sign on to a different Xbox (at a friend's house, for example) and access YOUR downloaded games, music and movies. (I haven't verified this firsthand though.)

Next, I spent some time playing with the Kinect and voice commands. I was very impressed with how well the Kinect recognized me as an individual. My wife walked in and out of the room several times, and each time, the Kinect recongized me. I was also impressed with the voice commands. I'm not going to say it was flawless, but I will say I suspect that errors were based on my misunderstanding of command synatax, rather than the Xbox failing to understand my speech.

After spending some time with Kinect, I downloaded Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Once again I was impressed... Netflix and Hulu settings transferred with my profile. All I had to do for Amazon was enter the username and password. I was initially a bit concerned that these apps might not be ready on launch day, but was happily to see them. In fact, I'm pleased to see the wide array of available apps.

Finally, after a brief eternity, I got around to trying out the gaming, which in my case is Ryse. I didn't spend a lot of time playing the game... my goal was to have everthing up and running when the kids got home. But I will say this... I like how the controller feels. I like how the game looks and plays. I do not, once again, like how long the game took to install and load initially.

Overall, I'm very happy with the purchase.  Setup was a breeze; all of my must-have apps were available, and gameplay looks to be very immersive.  The only issues I have are with install/update speed.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Reflecting on my Enlistment

Tomorrow, November 10, the U.S. Marine Corps will celebrate its 238th birthday.  As is the case this time every year, I make a point to watch the Commandant's message, and inevitably, I end up reflecting on my own service as a Marine.  Year after year I reach the same conclusions...

First, I stand in awe of today's Marines.  I enlisted as a peacetime Marine.  I never expected to be involved in any conflicts.  And when I was tapped for missions, they weren't like the Afghanistan or Iraq wars of today.  I was asked to participate in Operation Earnest Will, which was essentially mine sweeping operations and oil tanker escorting in the Persian Gulf.  Later, I was a participant in Desert Shield and Desert storm.  Desert Storm was, to borrow a phrase, "A Splendid Little War."  We walked over an unwilling, demoralized opponent.  Today's Marines are combatting highly-motivated guerilla-style opponents.  If Desert Storm was the Spanish-American War, then today's Marines are fighting something more like Korea or Vietnam.  Furthermore, all Marines serving today knew what they were getting into when they raised their right hand and swore "to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Compared to today's Marines, I had it easy.

My other conclusion is that I am a better Marine today than I was during my actual enlistment.  As I said earlier, I joined the Corps as a peacetime Marine; and though every Marine is a rifleman, I didn't really take that creed to heart.  I did my job well, but I had a difficult time submitting to authority.  Furthermore, it was difficult to be promoted from Corporal to Sergeant; instead of knuckling down and doing my best, I became discouraged.  I let my hair grow longer than regulations allowed. I quit PT. My uniform was clean, but not crisp, and my boots were buffed but rarely spit-shined.  I (mistakenly) believed that I was a lot smarter than my peers and my superiors.  I loved my actual job, and I loved the idea of being a Marine, but I knew that I wouldn't be making the Marine Corps a career.  It took me two decades to truly appreciate my beloved Corps.  Today, I voluntarily keep my hair short (partially because it's receding).  I regularly exercise and if I took a Marine Corps PFT today, I would likely get a first class score.  I take pride in my appearance, though not to the point of vanity.  In the face of adversity, I tackle the problem without becoming discouraged.  I don't fight authority just for the sake of being difficult (but I also don't simply submit to authority because they say so).

My enlistment in the Marine Corps entails less than 15% of my total life experience.  But now, having some distance and perspective, I acknowledge that the Corps has had an oversized influence on who I am as a man today.  The Marine Corps gave me a great many experiences, and it instilled or developed several positive character traits.  I am proud to be a Marine.  But again, I stand in reverence of those who have followed in my footsteps, and I freely admit that I'm a better Marine today than I was twenty-five years ago.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Another Fitness Goal Achieved

I hit another physical fitness goal today.  This was the last of my original goals that I hadn't yet achieved.  Today I finally managed to do a set of 50 push-ups.  When I set my original goals, I estimated that I'd hit all of my goals within six months.  It took me a bit over a year to be able to do 50 push-ups.  I should clarify though, that I have NEVER done a set of 50 push-ups, so I'm not upset about needing a year to hit that milestone... I'm happy that I achieved it at all.

Now, it's on to my next goal, which is to do 50 push-ups, a First Class Marine Corps PFT, and swim a mile in one mega-workout session.  I can realistically do two in any given session.  I hope to be able to hit my next goal within the next six months (which means that it may take another year).