Usher Raymond might be the best R&B singer/performer of my generation. Most of his classic music was released during my formative years so I have a lot of memories tied to his music. Specifically Confessions, an album I listened to on repeat during my senior year of high school. I’ve compiled my top 10 list of Usher songs, in order of my favorites.
Graphic design is a hobby of mine and so is collecting t-shirts. One of my favorite places to get t-shirts from is a local Pittsburgh company Cotton Bureau. They print and ship custom t-shirt designs from independent artists on high-grade fabrics. A couple years ago I designed a shirt for my fictional cigar lounge, Beard Cigar Lounge, and have since printed about a dozen versions of that shirt through Cotton Bureau. Recently, I decided to make more shirts…
Today I’m debuting two new designs, each in two different design options.
The first is a simple 4-1-2 (Pittsburgh’s primary area code) design representing my hometown. This design is available in both black and white font to better match the shirt color. Order here
The second is a joke my friend and I have about “bros” observing “sun’s out guns out” in the summer. My take on this is the more grammatically correct version “Sun is out, guns are out”. This is both available in light and dark skin tones. Order here
The two new designs are available in a lot of different colors as well as styles, including tank tops and infant onesies!
Written by my 13 year-old self during the summer of ’99
The day that I moved I was fussing with my CD player so the wire was not attached to the device so I took the only tape I had at the moment and took it off the back of the box behind me. Then after a while it was up and running and of course I was listening to it. That summer I stayed with my dad because Mom made me, I was too bad. But then they found a house out in the country so I decided to go with them. I debated over the switching school thing but I decided I needed to go with them. Well anyways, I was staying with my Aunt Ginny every day except the weekends when Dad and Donna were home. Then once the first day of school I was nervous not about the new school, it was not knowing anybody. So my dad went out with me to the bus stop for the first time then so as I saw Steve, my best friend now, I knew I had seen him before. Then Rob introduced everyone, he was real friendly and then the bus came. The first day was going good I only got lost twice until seventh period when I had no idea where the science room was and when I was walking in the right direction, I saw Steve lost and looking for the same class. So I said, “Are you lost?” He said, “Yeah.” So I told him to go this way and then we found it. Next couple weeks we were best friends and we had three classes together. So then by Christmas we were best friends or my best friend he had others.
Then one hot day in February we decided to go to our friend Tom and Pete’s house so we decided to go down the hill (wrong move Ben). Half way down I started to shake because of my loose back tire and we were going about 60mph. Then I suddenly hit the ground and while I was out I was having flashbacks of the same thing over and over again. Then I woke up bloody and hurting and then Mr. Olsen came out because Steve had told Keith to get him and he drove me up then Ruth and Donna drove me to the ER where they said I had shattered my elbow almost the worst possible way. Then I had surgery and got six screws, one plate, four pins, and a wire in my arm holding it together (I hope you’re not eating Ben, like don’t read this when you’re eating). Well then I was all stapled up and then I was home for two weeks. Went back to school and was allowed to do things. Then I was fine for a while. I went to Cedar Point. Then just recently, I went to Raystown Lake and had the best time of my life. We rented a boat that had a water ski and tubing back on it. Then Mike said, who wants to go first and I said I would (Ben would, he wants to screw up his elbow just before his final surgery). So I did and I sucked then everyone else tried it and Dave went the best and then when we went to go bring the boat back I wanted to go again and I fell off after one minute, but then got back on for approximately 10 minutes, the longest in the history of the Beard’s (Ben goes from zero to her in only the short Tim elf recently turned 13 years of his life, yeah right…). Then we rented a jet ski which Dave drove and I went and it was awesome! Then the next day me, John, Mom, and Jordy went to Sandcastle for a day and we rode everything, I even rode the Go-Karts. Now I’m at Grams typing this with staples in my arm from my final surgery, cool huh? (Yeah Ben, really cool, I bet everyone wants staples in their arm just like you)
Now to explain my story as you’ve seen these “( )”, those are from my inner self and what he thinks of things (Yeah that’s me Ben, why don’t you just suck it and shut up you fuckin’ Dick head, thanks). Well in the next story coming out this fall you’ll see and read about what went on with me and everyone else at school.
By Ben Beard 7/18/99 9:42pm
Notes from the publisher: I have transcribed this diatribe (almost) word for word only fixing some typographical errors such as “ur”, “w/“, “ull”, and “every1”. I’d like to think that my writing and overall story telling have come a long way in the last 20-some years.
The holidays are over now, sadly, but you may be enjoying some nice holiday gifts. One of the most popular gifts this year is the critically acclaimed Apple Watch. Most new Apple Watches come with one band included, but one of the great features of the watch is that you can swap bands easier than you change your undergarments. That allows you to customize your look and find something that suits you. Apple sells a small variety of bands, but those are very expensive and leaves a lot to be desired.
If you’re like me and want a lot of variety in your choices of wrist wear, you collect different bands. I’ve tried a bunch of different ones and I have one to suggest to you today.
“Longvadon was founded by two French brothers with a passion for watches and style. It all started when one of the brothers, Robin, was sitting in a cab with a friend who’d just bought the Apple Watch and was complaining about how he just couldn’t find a really good looking, classy, quality strap for his watch after looking everywhere online. It was all either cheap knockoffs or the few extremely expensive options offered by Apple and its partners.”
The Longvadon Story
This is my second Longvadon strap, my first was featured in my Apple Watch review. I’m currently using the Men’s Classic Navy Blue Leather band as my daily driver. My favorite feature is the clasp. On the outside it looks like a traditional watch band buckle that sometimes can be tricky to put on and take off. Underneath the buckle is a butterfly style clasp that you may find on all-metal watch bands. With the press of a button you can easily slide this off your wrist when you need to charge and then put it back on with low effort.
Having tried other leather watch bands, I find the finish on the Longvadon band very comfortable and durable. With the clasp design you don’t have the normal wear and tear on the buckle that comes with a traditional style. The lugs, or where the watch band attaches to the watch, sometimes don’t fit right or slide around, unlike the Apple branded straps. The Longvadon band clicks in and stays put like it should. You can tell attention was paid to the details and fit on this band.
Longvadon is an easy company to order from. They use a secure payment processing system that even allows you to pay via PayPal, Apple Pay, or Amazon Pay. I prefer to use Apple Pay on the web where I can to ensure my transaction and information is secure.
If you’re looking for a band that both be a comfortable everyday band, but also class up your look when you want, give the Longvadon collections a look.
If you’re interested in getting your own Longvadon Apple Watch band, use this link to make your purchase.
Continuing my list of the best things from 2020, mostly what helped us get through the pandemic, the most obvious thing you use a lot is your phone. There are a lot of great apps I use everyday but the three I’m about to list are essential apps for entertaining me, staying connected, and getting me what I need. What are some of your favorite apps of the past year?
Unlike movies of the past year, TV shows or series, have become our primary form of entertainment. Personally, I’ve been favoring a series over a movie because they seem to be better written and produced these days. There was a lot, past and present, content to watch while we were all stuck at home this past year. TV helped us pass the time of being quarantined, but also helped us connect with others by sharing common interests in content. I enjoyed a lot of TV shows this year, but I whittled my list down to just three. These three are new shows for 2020. There were a lot of great shows (The Mandalorian, The Boys, Big Mouth, The Crown, and Ozark) that gave us new seasons to enjoy. Today I’m focusing on shows that debuted in 2020.
In no particular order, here are my picks for best new TV show of 2020:
An international phenomenon and the only thing a lot of us talked about during the earlier outbreak of COVID-19. Joe Exotic, the Tiger King won us all over with his crazy story and footage at his entertainment park. If you haven’t seen this by now, stop what you’re doing and give it a watch. You’ll thank me later. Hopefully someday we’ll get more from this crew, but for the rest of history, Joe Exotic will be what helped us get through our first ever pandemic shut down.
A comedy about an English soccer team coached by an American doesn’t really sound like something most people would be interested in. Before I started watching Ted Lasso it was not something I would have watched based on the synopsis, or cover if you will. After the first episode I was hooked. It’s a kind hearted, well written story about overcoming the various hurdles in your life for a bigger purpose. When you watch Ted Lasso you’ll find yourself laughing, crying, and on the edge of your seat, all in the same episode. Don’t worry about the premise, give it a shot and if you’re like me, you’ll be counting down the hours until you can watch more of Ted.
A series about a chess prodigy… is this going to be another Ted Lasso where we don’t want to judge a book by its cover? Well, in short, yes. The Queen’s Gambit follows a young girl through the child welfare system where she discovers her natural ability to play chess. I can’t explain really what draws me to this show, but I think it’s primarily the story telling and the acting. The lead actress shines through her ups and downs as we see what it’s like to be a chess cehampion in the mid-20th century. The Queen’s gambit is another show that you should ignore what you think it might be about and just watch it. Again, trust me.
Movie theaters were open for like five minutes this year and it doesn’t look like their reopening anytime soon. Most all big movie releases this year were either delayed or went directly to streaming so it’s been a crap year for new movies. There were a handful that snuck out before the pandemic hit, but all the blockbusters haven’t seen the light of day yet. In fact, this past Christmas day, Wonder Woman 1984 was released on HBO Max, for no additional cost. This is the first giant movie to do this and Warner Media is continuing this strategy into 2021. All in all, 2020 was a crap year for movies, hopefully next year is better.
One of my favorite categories to talk about and engage with others on is technology. Not only is it my day job but I would consider technology to also be a hobby and lifestyle of mine. Surprisingly 2020 gave us a lot of new technology; I guess that’s one thing that the pandemic couldn’t hold back. Some things were delayed, other things are supply constraint, but after it’s all said and done, nothing really got cancelled because of COVID. Good things come to those who wait so my top three picks this year were all released within a week of each other.
In order of release date, here are my three picks for best piece of technology sold in 2020:
The next generation of gaming is here! Finally we have solid state storage standard and get the amazing features like 120 frames per second and ray tracing. These are still really hard to find along with its counterpart the Sony PS5 due to high demand and low supply. Earlier this year I wrote about how you may want to put a new TV on your list as well to take full advantage of this new hardware.
The iPhone design is all new this year and Apple finally brought back the flat edge design that the iPad Pro has had for a few years now. In addition to the great new design, all new iPhones get 5G, OLED displays, and new colors. The best of them all, the iPhone 12 Pro Max, includes major changes to the three camera system producing some of the best photos you can get out of a smartphone. Two really great things about the new iPhones Pro are storage and video. Apple starts the Pro Max out at 128GB which is the sweet spot of storage for me. Lastly, the new iPhones Pro take HDR (Dolby Vision) video which may not seem like much, but when you watch it on your phone or an HDR TV, you really see the difference. I don’t want to take any other kind of videos again.
Earlier this summer Apple mentioned they would be ditching Intel for their processors and moving to their own, dubbed Apple Silicon. Now we have the first set of Macs which include the new Apple Silicon processors, the M1. It’s crazy to think that for only $999 you can get a tiny little laptop that has all day battery life and is faster than 90% of the computers out on the market, right now. We’ll probably never see leaps and bounds like this in computers again, so we have to relish it while it’s here. Anyone who asks me what computer they should buy, before they can finish I blurt out “MacBook Air with M1”. It’s great for everything from web browsing to professional video editing. It’s truly a great computer at a great price.
Much like my albums of the year, I’m listing my songs of the year. These songs are standouts and heavily rotated tracks in my library. Only one of the songs happens tp appear on my albums of 2020 list. Nevertheless, it was tough to only pick three, but by limiting that small amount I pull some truly great songs that I’ll be listening to for years to come.