Pokémon TCG Is Ever Expanding

It’s also ever expensive.

A little over two years ago, I started playing Pokémon TCG with my family. During that time, numerous expansions were released, featuring new cards, new Pokémon, new abilities…you get the idea. Sometimes it only takes a single new ability to trigger an idea to create a new battle deck. A lot of money later, I’d take my fresh fighting strategy to the league and mostly get slaughtered by the veteran players.

Recently, the Evolving Skies expansion reinvigorated my Pokémon TCG habit. Before that, it was my Eternatus Dark Deck. It’s a signature new Pokémon from Sword & Shield, an awesome looking dragon. I bought two of the latest versions of its cards and added new Trainer cards to my deck, making it stronger than ever. It was a lot of fun to play for a while. Eventually, better players defeated me more and more.

Eternatus VMAX

It’s fun for a while. It’s also expensive. And now with so many Pokémon cards stored up in my bedroom, among other things, the space is very constrained. Besides limited space, I have limited time and money to invest in Pokemon. It competes for attention amidst my other interests, like video gaming. While hobbies are a healthy outlet for fun and creativity, I can only do so much.

I’ve been pondering the possibility of getting out of Pokémon TCG altogether, except for maybe some focused card collecting only. It would be a form of minimalism, wherein I eliminate one good thing in order to focus on — prioritize — the better things. No matter how trite, it’s still true: less is more.

With less Pokémon TCG, I’d have more time and money — plus physical and mental space — for video gaming, blogging, writing, and another bourgeoning idea I’m planning… Of course, I’m still interested in playing new Pokémon video games, just less so the trading card game.

I feel like I don’t have enough interest and availability to continue Pokémon TCG. It takes considerable overhead to organize the cards I have accumulated in just two years. On the upside, I have so many good ones now that, if I decide to liquidate some, I’d have a chunky wad of cash to spend on more interesting pursuits.

One sticky point to bailing out of pocket monster card playing is that my wife and kids are still into it. But if I decide to continue by only collecting a few certain Pokémon, then I’d still have my big toe dipped into the Pokémon pool, which would be enough to stir the pot and trade cards amongst my kids.

This is a thing that I think I should do, but it seems hard to do. It’s not the only hobby I had to quit in recent memory. I practiced Kyokushin Karate with my whole family for a few years and got pretty good at it. But two things transpired to end it: Covid-19 and my physical condition… The point is, I already know what it’s like to step back from a shared family hobby when necessary, and if I do it for the right reasons, then it’s for the best. At the very least, I’m sure I can downsize, which seems more reasonable than quitting altogether cold-turkey.

I’ll be thinking it over.

A Truly Smart TV

Last year, I wrote about Switching to 4K video and how reluctant I was at the prospect. I figured I’d hold out longer but was also starting to warm to the idea because I’d love to play games in 4K. Well, guess what? We upgraded!


After being content with our 40” HDTV for the past 9 years, we finally bought at 4K TV at 55”. There were only two things we we’re wanting: the bigger screen (for more immersive/expansive entertainment) and the higher resolution (for more stunning life-like imagery). To our surprise and delight though, we got a lot more than we bargained for.

I don’t keep up with TV tech trends; I’ve always treated my TV like a computer monitor, just a simple “dumb” display. Our previous HDTV had the Nintendo Switch, a Bluray player, and a Roku connected. The latter stick was our portal to online streaming content like YouTube and AppleTV.

Now our new UHD TV is smart in many ways. It totally eliminated the need for our Roku. Every streaming service you would want is built-in and runs great: Prime video, Netflix, and Disney+ to name a few. I can even AirPlay stuff from my iPhone to it with ease.

The shiny new rectangle (not curved, by the way) also has more HDMI ports than our former polygonal movie portal, and one of them has the ARC capability as does our existing soundbar. So now we can connect all our devices directly to the TV, removing the need for the janky cable splitter while also minimizing cables.

Things are also simpler since we’re now able to control our soundbar with the TV remote rather than a separate remote. Also cool, the new TV is smart enough to detect when a connected device powers on, which auto-switches to the correct input. Another bonus, the TV has Bluetooth, so now I can enjoy stuff on the big screen using my wireless headphones so I don’t disturb those in slumber.

There is one minor downside to our new set-up, but it’s not the TV’s fault. Our DSL internet is, by definition, not broadband (it pains me to even say it). So it’s simply not fast enough to stream 4K content. I sampled 4K HDR videos on YouTube and have been able to watch only a few. I tried selecting the full 4K setting on some videos but they collapsed inside a buffering black-hole. The next resolution down (1440p I think) is something like 3K or 2.5K and we’re able to stream that, so at least we have improved over 1080p full-HD (or what you might consider 2K).

If we want to watch full-4K videos, we’ll need to buy a 4K disc player, but those are still very expensive. Frankly, this gives me pause as I consider no longer buying physical media for movie watching and instead may rely on streaming. Hopefully, in the next year or two, our local service providers will finally roll out fiber optic internet to our house (we live in a rural area).

Playing Switch games in HD upscaled to “4K” on the bigger screen is awesome for the improved immersion in 3D environments. Overall quality looks better too. Part of that is due to the smoother motion thanks to a simulated (or interpolated) refresh rate of 120Hz (true native is 60Hz). When Nintendo unveils a 4K Switch, I’ll certainly want to upgrade my gaming. Glad I have a TV ready for it. That said, I’m more inclined now to also buy a PS5. One thing at a time.

I resisted the march of progress for more pixels until now. The cool thing is we got more than that. We have a truly Smart TV that meets our entertainment desires with less effort and greater efficacy than ever. Looks like a smart move to me.

A Social Network For Movies

The other day, I wondered, “There should be a goodreads for movies.” You know, a niche site that lets you catalog and discover movies. It would also have a social media like aspect. I didn’t think IMDb was the right thing. So I searched…and found it!


Social Movia

The site, called Letterboxd, is exactly what I was lookin’ for; I joined quickly!

Its look and feel are designed nicely, a dark background with elegant lines and fonts. Things are neatly organized. The interface is nicer than goodreads.

You create your own profile with a Bio, which other members of the site may follow. Then you start adding movies you’ve seen or want to see.

With all the movies you’ve seen, you can take several actions:

  • Like
  • Favorite
  • Tag
  • Rate
  • Log
  • Review

Of course, you can add movies you haven’t seen to your Watchlist. Speaking of, you can create your own custom lists too.

There are reviews of movies by other people on the site. And you can find folks who have similar movie tastes as yourself and connect with them by clicking, “Follow.”

I’m still new to Letterboxd and have only started building my movie catalog. But so far it’s cool.

There are cinephiles or movie buffs there, people who are really into the art of cinema and theater. This makes me feel a bit like an outsider since I’m more like the guy who just wants a good popcorn flick most of the time. Think Blockbuster. Oh well.

If you’re looking for the “goodreads for movies,” Letterboxd is it!


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Video Game Music Rabbit Hole

A few days ago, I was scrolling the home page on YouTube. I do that. Maybe too much. One of the videos that surfaced was of a composer’s reaction to the Final Fantasy VI song, “Dancing Mad.” Intrigued, I watched the whole video with glee! And a rabbit hole of Final Fantasy music swallowed me up.


When I was a teen, circa 1994, I played FFVI on Super Nintendo. It was called FFIII here in the west. And I recall the great final battle with Kefka and the music that played. Nobuo Uematsu’s score, “Dancing Mad,” was epic! The whole game and the ending were too, of course.

What intrigued me about the YouTube video were two things: the guy who reacted to it is a music composer. And he had never played the game, so he did not know the context of the song! His reaction would be purely based on the quality of the composed score itself, even in its SNES form. Nice!

Good news: I liked his reaction.

This led to me wanting to hear full symphony orchestrated renditions of Final Fantasy songs from the SNES and PS1 days, back when audio quality was still poor and video game music sounded only slightly better than the blips and beeps of 80’s gaming with Atari and the NES.

I discovered several YouTube renditions and covers and orchestrated pieces of FF music – lots to enjoy! Best of all, I also found some of these on Apple Music!

My favorite so far is the album, A Place To Call Home featuring orchestral tributes to Final Fantasy IX. One of my fave songs is Freya’s Theme! This song has so much emotion in it; you have to feel it, like ineffable earnest heartache with a twinkle of hope. Hultgren’s tribute captures the spirit of the song.

So after more than an hour, I was saturated in compelling symphonies of Final Fantasy video game music. What a time it was. Sonic serendipity.


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Switching To 4K Video

Are you already aboard the 4K train? You know, Ultra High Definition (UHD). Despite being a tech-nerd, I’m dragging my feet, content to live with HD quality videos. Why? Because, for goodness sake, it looks great already!

Maybe it’s because I come from a time when the best we had was VHS, which I think displayed something like 320×240 (or 640×480?) resolution on an interlaced TV. It was yuck! Yet it was color TV!

Then we evolved to the awesome DVD format. And today I live with 720p or 1080p HD. It’s superb!

My family was late to the HD party by several years. The advantage: by then, HD was ubiquitous and easy to adopt. And it had dropped in price, becoming affordable.

That’s basically where I stand now with 4K. Sure, it looks stellar. But the costs are also sky high. Well, they are coming down I think.

The trouble is once you’ve invested in a blu-ray player, a new HDTV, and movies on blu-ray, you kind of want technology to stand still long enough to enjoy your investment.

Oh, and let me interject: the 3D movie fad…yeah, I never even considered it.

The next thing you know, marketers are telling you that you might as well be rubbing sandpaper on your eyeballs if you’re not watching glorious 4K stuff.

Now all of the sudden, you’ve got to buy another new TV. And a new movie playback machine. And new more expensive movies.

This is where things get more tricky than usual! Besides contemplating an upgrade to 4K, you must decide whether you’re gonna stick with physical discs or just go all digital. Either way, you’re gonna spend more money.

So I’ve resisted 4K for a few years now. I might hold out at least one more. 

But.

Switch To 4K

I recently realized a new factor. I enjoy video gaming on my Nintendo Switch. There are rumors that Nintendo is planning an upgrade for the Switch to play games in 4K! And, okay, I admit: I am much more interested in jumping on the 4K bandwagon with that prospect.

Just think about it! Mario, Zelda, Metroid, new RPGs…in 4K!!

My digital wallet is starting to feel lighter already.


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