Best AA Batteries and Chargers: 2016 Update

Fujitsu Charger and 3 batteries
1 AAA and 2 AAA batteries in Fujitsu’s excellent budget charger

Over the past 5 years, I’ve written many articles about pre-charged, low self-discharge AA and AAA rechargeable NiMH batteries. Such batteries, used in conjunction with a high quality charger, offer consumers the best combination of quality, durability, environmental sustainability, and cost-effectiveness, as compared with other types of rechargeable batteries or single-use Alkaline batteries. I explained why in my original AA battery article, and more briefly review below.

In this post I update everything for 2016. I will also update this post with any significant developments for at least 11 additional months.

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The Grinch who Changed to the Twenty Sixteen WordPress Theme

I’m the Grinch who grumbles about every WordPress theme. Except one. After years of resisting change, I finally switched FilterJoe to a modern, responsive theme: Twenty Sixteen—the new default theme included with WordPress 4.4.

Grinch image

An easy-to-read blog matters to me. Nothing WordPress offered in the last 7 years has tempted me away from the child theme I personally put a lot of effort into nearly 7 years ago.

My only temptation has been to leave WordPress for a simpler and more writing-focused platform like Ghost or Medium. While WordPress was for blogging at first, it expanded over the years into content management and an online application platform. The original focus on blogging has been diluted, and WordPress themes often reflect that.

However, WordPress now offers Twenty Sixteen for modern blogging, and it is good.

In this post, I detail how Twenty Sixteen makes me comfortable with it as a wonderfully content-focused blog theme.

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Great Gifts for Kids Who Love Baseball

My son loves baseball and will be entering the 11 to 12-year-old Bronco division of PONY baseball in 2016. I’ve seen a lot of baseball gifts come and go over the years.

gift image from

Here’s a gift guide aimed at baseball-loving kids below the age of 11, broken down by age, so you can benefit from my 20/20 hindsight and hopefully get an idea or two. I purposely skip books as I already wrote about great baseball books elsewhere.

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More Fun is More Effective in Youth Baseball

My son really enjoyed the year I managed his 9-10-year old baseball team. When I asked him what he liked so much, he said that I was good at organizing. But that’s not what this post is about.

He especially liked that practices were really fun. He takes baseball very seriously. Yet, at age 9, he wanted practices to be fun . . .

Cubs players dog pile
“Of course I want to have fun!” says Milo

In this post I describe how I organized 9-year-old youth baseball practices for fun. Even if you aren’t a coach, there’s a few things here you can do at home with your little leaguer, though some of them require another kid or two.

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Magic the Gathering Guide for Keeping Costs Low While Still Having Fun

Magic the Gathering is a very popular collectible card game. Kids and adults who seriously pursue this game will stretch their minds and have loads of fun. However . . .

Magic the Gathering can be very expensive.

Some people end up spending thousands of dollars per year buying cards or participating in drafts. There is a collectible aspect to the game that can become more like addictive gambling or playing the lottery, leading to the phrase “cardboard crack.” Some people open hundreds or even thousands of packs of cards per year.

This post was inspired by a conversation with a worried parent and was initially intended as a parent guide, explaining how to get most of the fun and benefits of playing Magic while spending no more than the cost of a typical board game along with several expansions. The intent was also to approach the cost aspect of Magic as a tremendous financial learning experience far beyond the typical benefits of games.

However, now that I’ve finished this guide, I think it’s also useful for newer Magic players of all ages who want to maximize fun and minimize cost.

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Do Hitting Mechanics Matter in Youth Baseball?

It depends.

Sure, there’s a few rudimentary basics that everyone has to learn such as bat grip, batting stance, hip rotation, keeping your back foot planted, and keeping your eye on the ball. Beyond that it gets confusing fast.

Muhl Tech Tee helps develop better mechanics by discouraging casting or dropping the bat head

Should coaches spend a lot of time teaching hitting mechanics during practices and give tips during game at-bats? Should kids take private hitting lessons? Will spending time improving hitting mechanics have an immediate impact on game performance? With all the disagreement among pros about finer points of hitting technique, how to even know which mechanics are correct? Do mechanics even matter all that much if you have the right mental approach and a good batting eye?

I’ve been confused about this topic for years. My 10-year-old son recently began taking private hitting lessons for the first time, which helped me sort out why and when mechanics matter. I’m ready to share what I’ve learned.

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Best Cooler for Weekend Camping or Youth Sports

My wife was right.

For our 2-night camping trips, I wanted to get the bigger, “better” cooler. She wanted smaller.

We got smaller. Everything fit. Everything stayed cool.

The “best” cooler turned out to be the correctly-sized cooler, correctly packed.

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So You Want Your Kid to be a Good Baseball Player

Some parents come from a place of supporting their kid’s biggest passion in life. Others come from a place of wanting their kid to be the best they can be at whatever they do. Others may wish for their kid to have more baseball success than they had. Regardless of where you’re coming from, you’re not alone if you want to give your kid every chance to realize his or her potential.

I’ve observed hundreds of kids from the age of 2 to 10 being introduced to baseball. I’ve learned that how you get started playing baseball can have a big impact, perhaps more than what is possible once your kid has some experience.

In this article I don’t discuss mechanics or getting formal lessons. I discuss what you can do when your kid is just getting started that will be most helpful for the long run. Some of my advice will be conventional wisdom or common sense. Some of it will surprise you. Most of it will be based on evidence backed by data or scientific studies.

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Axe Bat Review: In the Hands of a 10-year old

I recently wrote a comprehensive youth baseball bat guide, targeting the ages of 12 and below. While I briefly summarized key points for various recommended bats, I think there are some noteworthy bats that merit a detailed review. The complete line of Axe bats is one of them, due to the special nature of the handle.

My 10-year-old son has been using an Elite Axe bat (provided for review by Baden Sports) and a Phenom Axe bat (purchased) over the past 10 weeks, partly because I wanted him to test them, but mostly because he wanted to.

From Baden Sports'
Axe Bat Elite 2015

In the comprehensive guide, I mentioned several times how bat reviews are universally poor. Too many variables are not held constant, making it difficult if not impossible to write a completely fair review for any given bat. In this review, I discuss the unique aspects of the Axe bat and how my son fared. I also point out issues with my own methodology and why reviewing bats is so difficult.

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Developing a Youth Pitcher: A Balanced Approach

Imagine: The hardest throwing pitcher in your local youth recreation league dominates by striking out most batters, even though he does walk about 1 batter per inning. All he has to do is throw hard strikes. Clearly a shoo-in for the all-star team.

Then comes the first game against a tough team in summer play. Everyone is surprised when the other team scores 7 runs in 2 innings through a combination of walks, hits, and errors. How could that happen against the team ace?

What’s even more surprising is when the guy who relieves him does better, despite having only average velocity. This pitcher varies the location of his pitches, throws some changeups, and throws a “little league curveball” that wasn’t permitted during regular rec season. The other team’s hitters are baffled, managing only 2 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run in 3 innings. What’s going on here?

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