Cost And Craze Of Pokemon

During the past holiday weekend, my family enjoyed lots of Pokemon trading card game action, among other things. We attended the weekly League meet-up for card trading and lots of head-to-head battles with everybody’s current decks. And as usual, I learned a few more things, had fun, and embraced challenges. But this Pokemon thing is a craze that sometimes has me a little concerned.


Pokecraze

I don’t know how long my family’s Pokecraze will last. There’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm, especially from my five sons. My wife and I also have some serious fun with it. The makers of Pokemon release new cards over time, at a pace that reinvigorates the craze just when it might be dwindling. Well played!

Amidst all the card trading and playing buzz, I have two concerns: addiction and expense.

Addicting

No doubt you’ve heard the slogan of Pokemon, “Gotta catch’em all!” It’s that “gotta” part that’ll get’ya. But it’s not just about trying to collect all the Pokemon as I once thought. There are so many Pokemon cards, with new ones coming out all the time, I don’t think it’s feasible to catch them all.

It’s about playing the cards more than collecting them. With so many Pokemon cards and a plethora of abilities, the strategic possibilities are vast. There are several general types of play stratagem. Let’s say, for example, there are ten basic ways to win battles, and you definitely must think about both offense and defense.

Ten ways does not sound like too many, but the numerous cards and abilities combine in so many various ways that the possibilities are endless! So many angles of attack! You can’t help being drawn into the stratagem.

You’ve gotta try one more thing, one more card or combo of cards that lets you tweak your battle deck. And you then get to play it several times against multiple opponents with their decks to find your own strengths and weaknesses. The cycle repeats itself afterwards when you learn once again where you need to adjust your cards.

Next, as your brain tries to strategize, you think of what you want to accomplish and how you might achieve it. There must be a card somewhere that gives a specific ability you could use. So you go on the hunt to find such a card. And you might not notice that you’re being further drawn into the Pokecraze.

Expensive

Addiction comes with a cost. With various new cards, new abilities, and endless possibilities, you have more to buy, more to catch, and more money to spend. A few dollars here and there add up to a lot! In my household, with 7 people enjoying Pokemon, it doesn’t just add up, it multiplies.

There is the gambling type of addiction in buying single packs of cards off the store shelf. Called Booster packs, each one contains 10 random cards. You pay money for the chance to pull an extra rare and powerful card out. It’s like a slot machine, pulling the handle in hopes the three cherries line up and you score the big prize. And you do it over and over until you win or you’re almost broke.

Another way to throw cash at the cards is to buy in bulk. There are many types of boxes and promo sets of cards, each with their own special offerings. They typically contain several Booster packs inside along with a powerful rare card, a collector’s pin or coin, specially marked dice, card sleeves, or a pre-built battle deck – always something to entice. And the price per card in the bigger sets is a little less than individual packs, so you justify the spending.

Finally, there’s the number one place to go and buy cards, TCGPlayer. It’s a great website where you can buy any Pokemon card you want! If you want to collect certain cards or you’re on the hunt for the next few cards needed to tweak your battle deck strategy, then you simply type them in and Add to Cart! Days later, your cards are waiting in the mailbox.

TCGPlayer has all the cards, offered from different sellers across the country, so you can try to find the lowest priced card in the best condition. And instead of spending a lot of money on Booster packs, hoping to pull a good card, you spend a little money on the specific good card you need. But it adds up over time.


Craze Conclusion

I wonder when, like any fad, our Pokemon craze will conclude. Or is it here to stay; are we playing the long-game? Part of me wouldn’t mind if it dissipated because we’d be less inclined to throw cash at cards here and there. It tests our self-control and restraint. But it’s not all bad.

My whole family is sharing the enjoyment of Pokemon together, playing and trading and collecting with one another. There’s much value in that. “Family Game Night” happens a lot these days! And it is helping us to go out to the League and meet new people in our community, socializing face to face with others, geeking out on a common interest. Overall, we’re having a lot of fun!

The makers of Pokemon have been going at it for over 20 years now. They routinely put out new Expansions in each series of cards, so we’ll likely continue the Pokecraze for a while. In fact, there’s an entire new Series coming soon! It has teased new special card types.

Here’s my money; gimme the stuff.


What’s your expensive addiction? Ever try Pokemon? Leave feedback below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Thoughts On Digital Minimalism

Two months ago to the day, I posted thoughts on social media. It was a general look at my social media use at the time and a point of scaling back from Facebook in particular. My conclusion was apt:

“Minimalism is a good final point on my current thoughts on Social Media. I don’t want to delete altogether but minimize use or exposure, and thereby mitigate any negative effects. I hope the net results will be positive!”

I also shared that I had pre-ordered Cal Newport’s new book Digital Minimalism. It finally came out a few days ago and appeared on my kindle immediately!

So far, Cal’s new book is great! I’m about half-way through reading it; here are some of my thoughts.


This is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Newport. I’m kinda jealous because, man, he can write well! His ability to clearly present arguments and definitions of concepts with real-world examples is noteworthy. The writing is concise, and the logical flow from one thought to the next is silky smooth. Regardless of the content, the reading is a pleasure.

But of course, I love the content! My expectation leading up to the book’s release was that Cal’s Digital Declutter (not so much detox) was going to be too challenging for me personally, like when I was young and had to eat my broccoli. Good, but hard, to do.

Does decluttering mean I will have to give up my smartphone? No, not necessarily. In fact, Cal presents surprising findings from a close look at the Amish and Mennonite cultures known, inaccurately, for eschewing technology altogether.

Yet I’m finding, through Cal’s simple and compelling reasoning, backed by much research, studies, life-examples, and works by others, that the Digital Declutter is so necessary and valuable that I’d be somewhat of a fool to not jump in headlong with conviction of a good outcome. Like I can’t wait to benefit from it! It’s better than broccoli smothered in cheddar cheese!

I’m carefully considering the weight of Cal’s words and his own life as a testimony to living a better life more in control of technology than being controlled by tech.

Our smartphones, for example, promised to give us new capabilities, to enable us. Instead, they enslave us, exploiting our vulnerabilities.

Digital Minimalism begins by defining what it is and why it’s important. I was generally convinced of this matter beforehand, but after reading Cal’s first few chapters, my understanding is better and, if locked-in before, the key has now been tossed into the abyss.

The book’s outset also explains the value and method of the Digital Declutter. While I’ve not yet embarked on this 30-day task, I have already begun to pare down my phone’s apps plus online services I use.

Some of the most valuable stuff I’ve gained so far is the in-depth promotion of solitude, walking, and other practical ways to declutter from device domination.

I also appreciated that Cal expounded on a distinction between connection and conversation and applied it to what he terms conversation-centric communication. Basically, the argument is well made that real-life face-to-face socializing can never be replaced by social media and digital “likes.”

The reason this is worth reading is because, even though many people would agree that the argument’s conclusion is common sense, Cal reasons how and why and shows that our common sense can be undermined by the technology and our own psychological weaknesses.

For now, I’ll end with a quote that I loved enough to, ironically, share on Twitter (needing to turn on my kindle’s wi-fi to do so):


“…humans are not wired to be constantly wired.”

Cal Newport – Digital Minimalism

I’m still soaking up this good read, but I’ll go ahead and highly recommend you buy it and consume it for yourself!

The Grip Of The Smartphone

A thought-provoking idea was posted recently on Cal Newport’s Study Hacks blog. It asked, “Are smartphones necessary anymore?” That notion was based on the premise that a smartphone is nothing more than a connected mobile device. But many of the responses in the comments showed that the smartphone is much more than that.

When Steve Jobs introduced the quintessential smartphone (iPhone), he said it was three things: a phone, a widescreen iPod, and an internet communicator. 3 in 1.

But in time, the smartphone became several other things: a GPS, a camera, a handheld game console, an ebook reader, and more!

So, the smartphone seems indispensable; it’s replaced so many other single-use devices!

I do think there’s a lot of good to be said about sticking with single-purpose devices (I still cling to my kindle paperwhite). They tend to be simpler and better at their dedicated function. But of course, then you must carry around a bunch of different gadgets.


I’d say that smartphones are like cars. Our society now kind of just assumes you have one. You could trade your smartphone in for a dumb flip phone. But that would be like trading your car in for a bicycle. Sure, you can do those things and survive. But our culture works around the fact that the smartphone is here to stay.

woman girl writing technology
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Granted, technology gives, yet it also takes away. It’s apparent that smartphones are not perfect. They take away our attention from ‘real life’ in the moment, distracting our focus. Their apps can cause addiction. And many people have started to notice the downsides of upgrading to a smartphone.

There are articles and books that address these issues. A Wired story spurred the question of the necessity of smartphones:

It’s Time To Bring Back The Dumb Phone

There’s also:

Going Dumb: My Year With A Flip Phone

‘Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia


Like all technology, I think smartphones have pros and cons. And you must decide for yourself which outweighs the other. I’d caution to not throw the baby out with the bathwater though.

Certainly I relate to smartphone addiction. I’m a tech geek anyways. Before iPhones, there were PDA’s. I had a Pocket PC (Dell Axim X3), like a Palm Pilot. Before that: the Casio B.O.S.S. These things were cool gadgets. So of course I want to keep my smartphone. I just need to be careful and use it in moderation I guess.

antique broken cell phone communication
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But if I really had to, I think it’d be possible to rely on an LTE enabled iPad or laptop computer instead of a smartphone for staying connected and productive. Then again, a tablet is too big to be a pocket point-n-shoot camera.

Is the smartphone in our grip, or are we in the grip of the smartphone?

Do you think smartphones are necessary? Could you go back to a flip-phone or a feature-phone like the Blackberries of yore? Would you? Should you?

Being An Introvert On Twitter

This year has seen a lot of bad news concerning Facebook and online privacy. The drum beat of anti-social media has grown louder. You’d think scrolling a newsfeed is like smoking cigarettes. Perish the thoughtcrime!

On some level I think that’s an apt description. Like maybe Brave New World is coming true. Or 1984. Or both. Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death? To some degree. But I don’t want to over-amplify suspicions of dystopia.

Social media does have some benefits, right? It’s not all bad. Convenience and connection come to mind. I know that’s debatable. And I think whether the good outweighs the bad is ultimately an individual decision. Yet when the anti-social drum beats loudly, it sounds like many agree the bad overshadows the good, if there is any at all. Personally, I go back and forth.

When I deleted Facebook and Instagram earlier this year, I kept Twitter.

Being the biggest and most influential of all, Facebook gets most of the heat. It’s well deserved based on the ill news reports of privacy disregard and misinformation campaigns. But Twitter also gets a fair share of backlash.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The tweeting bird icon is cute, but Twitter’s been described less favorably: cesspool of toxic human waste, vitriolic garbage fire, hellscape. Sounds harsh! And I think I can see why; I’ve heard pretty bad things about the negativity there: trolls, unfiltered comments, blocking people, and the like.

Maybe I’m a bit naive, but fortunately so far, my experience as a ‘nobody’ on Twitter has been far better than that. Maybe it’s because my follower/following counts are so low: just double digits. But that’s fine with me. I wouldn’t say I’m a heavy user of Twitter. But I like it. Why?


In general, Twitter’s design and function on the web and iOS app is simple, clean, and elegant when compared to Facebook. The user interaction is minimal. Only 140 (now 280) characters of text! A few buttons here and there, a few features. That’s it. On the surface, it seems easy to grasp.

The whole Twitter etiquette thing may be less easy to grasp as I’m sure I’ve broken it before; I try to not spam or overuse #hashtags or @replies. But I think this is due to my slow grokking rather than poor design of the service.

Even though I’ve had little engagement on Twitter with other users, it’s actually been nice. Quality over quantity. People have been polite, sincere and helpful or encouraging. So my guess is it depends largely on who you follow and how many people or brands you keep up with.


A specific insight I think I’ve had on why I like Twitter is this: it may be a place where introverts can feel like extroverts at the party. That might sound dopey, so I’ll try to explain.

Introverts like myself generally don’t do well at parties or other social gatherings of humans. I’ll speak for myself; I’m not good at saying witty, funny, or intelligent things on the fly. In fact, it’s hard to say those kinds of things even in writing where I have time to think before I speak!

On Twitter, I think introverts can sort of feel like they’re “part of the conversation.” They can throw in their two-cents worth of deep thoughts in a succinct-pithy-partial-paragraph. Or even just silly banter. We can be ourselves without worry because the awkwardness of close physical proximity is absent!

Granted, the lack of physical proximity, and worse, the ability to remain anonymous if one so chooses, both allow or enable all kinds of the bad behavior Twitter is infamous for.

Introverts can follow/be followed relatively easily, “hang-out” with peers or keep company with prominent figures and have a semblance of connection. (Of course I’m presupposing authenticity and all that.)

Where else can I easily express my fondness of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee with others? Well, I could blog about it here I guess, but I doubt Dunkin’ would notice. On Twitter, they’re likely to engage with me with a retweet supporting their brand. But I digress.


If it turns out that a majority of people agree social media is more trouble than its worth or is detrimental to our mental health enough to require a surgeon general’s warning, then I’ll probably quit not just Facebook but also Twitter. Like switching from Camel Wides to Marlboro Lights won’t cut it. You gotta quit smoking altogether.

As one can breath air without inhaling ciagarette smoke, one can communicate without social media.

Anyways, I couldn’t fit all that in a tweet. So I blogged it! And I’ll share the link on Twitter.

What are your thoughts? Thanks for reading.

-Jason

The Matrix Of Social Media

Billions of people are going about their lives every day, oblivious to the truth: just like The Matrix, Social Media has them. We live in an online world of mindless scrolling, hooked on ‘likes’. Impulsively, we go to Facebook or Instagram to check our notifications. The ‘feeds’ beckon our minds to…keep checking–but for what? It seems Social Media Addiction is a thing, and it seems designed to be.

My usage of social media started in 2009 with Facebook and grew from there. In the past nine years, as I consumed more of its content, it consumed me further. So I’ve had to pull back and exercise moderation, exerting self-control. The social media matrix is all about control; it wants our attention at all times.

Two times in the past, I have deleted, not just deactivated, my Facebook account. Call it ‘nuke from orbit’. And because of the recent news that, once again, Facebook user data and privacy was exploited, I might press the big red button for a third nuke. I can quit Facebook anytime, I’m not addicted! Said the social junkie. The #DeleteFacebook trend on Twitter (irony alert) is compelling.

For some reason, even before the news of the current data exploit, I’ve been drawn to withdraw from social media. Well, maybe not Twitter. The fact that I’m concerned about adverse social media withdrawal and not getting my fix of notifications is evidence, I believe, that I’m addicted to it. But I can quit anytime!

Psychostimulants

Social media is like coffee. You wake up and you’ve got to have it, and you get jittery if you go too long without it. Plus it can keep you up late at night! That’s the way it goes with me. I’ll enjoy one or two cups of coffee per day. The next thing you know, I’m up to 4 cups a day–too much! So I step back from the coffee; just put the mug down!

That’s what moderation looks like. You still drink coffee or use social media, but you do it more mindfully; no more mindless scrolling and checking. You put healthy limits on your time on Twitter or Facebook. But if you find yourself getting sucked back in too far past the boundaries, you may have to resort to abstinence. Instead of a little Instagram or Snapchat here and there, for example, you “just say no” to the drug altogether. You might resort to the ‘nuke from orbit’ option. Go ballistic. Delete.

You can quit cold turkey, sure. Just pull the plug! But that might not be successful. Like Neo in The Matrix, you might pop because your mind can’t take the sudden absence of red circles with numbers in them. So you might try soft exits in a series of steps. I’ve done this before and it totally helps. Instead of deleting or deactivating Facebook, for example, you can detach.

Find The Nearest Exit

Last year, I posted an idea for gaining control over your Facebook Newsfeed: The End of Newsfeed Distraction. It wakes you up from the mindless scrolling so you don’t find yourself tumbling down the never-ending rabbit hole of social matrices.

Some other easy and helpful tips: on your smartphone, move all social media app icons into folders on a 3rd or later screen so they’re a bit harder to get to. And the next logical step–simply delete the apps from your phone or tablet. This let’s you keep your account intact (it’s there if you need it), but it saves you from instinctively tapping away at your screen to check your feeds.

These steps are simple. And if the thought of doing them makes you uncomfortable, then consider that social media has you. It’s important to take control, again like The Matrix. At the risk of a false dichotomy, either Facebook controls you, or you control Facebook. You consume it and then unwittingly discover that it consumes you! Social Media is insidious that way.

It may sound like I’m bashing all social networking, and I get that some people love to hate on these modern fruits of technology just out of sensationalism. I don’t mean to sound alarmist unless there is some danger. Some people do get great usage out of the tools of social media and it serves them well. And I am starting to wonder if Facebook itself, as big as it is, has become somewhat essential to modern life, just as the internet itself has become a utility like water and electricity. I would contend otherwise–but that’s a blog post for another time.

For now I’ll say social media, like fruit, can be good. But even fruit goes bad over time. Biting into a rotten apple is not fun. Scrolling a sour newsfeed is not fun either. But people do it out of habit. You’ve just got to decide to keep your good habits and toss your bad ones. You decide because you are in control. Don’t let The Matrix Of Social Media control you.