Preparing for 100,000 Page Views per Month

Once every year or so, I get obsessed with making improvements to my site. Last year it was modernizing and customizing my WordPress theme. This time, it’s:

  • Better hosting (more reliable, much faster)
  • SSL (greater security, even faster)

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Best 5 Strategy Board Games for Families

The typical U.S. family has a deck of cards and a few games in the closet. Most have heard of few, if any, of the best family games to come out in recent years. This is too bad, because quite a few of these games are far more fun and interesting than just about every game invented before 1995.

5 best family strategy games
5 Great Family Strategy Games
(latest editions may look different from pictured games)
Ticket to Ride, Catan, Pandemic, Stone Age, and Dominion

This article profiles 5 modern strategy games that are terrific for the whole family, including ours.

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Stone Age Review: A Great Family Game that is not Primitive

Imagine you are the leader of a Stone Age tribe. To survive and prosper, your tribe must hunt for food, develop agriculture, gather resources, make and use tools, construct buildings, raise children, and develop civilization. If your tribe doesn’t strike the right balance, your people may starve, or may be surpassed by neighboring tribes.

You can experience all this with a game I strongly recommend for families:

Stone Age


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Many modern games attempt to have some kind of theme. However, you know a theme is not transporting you to another time and place when you think primarily about optimizing efficient placement of colored cubes. That pretty much sums up many modern “Euro” games: Place colored cubes efficiently.

When we play Stone Age, the board components and graphics combine beautifully with game mechanics to immerse us in a way that’s rare for a board game. We feed people, we gather wood, we build buildings . . . And if our people don’t eat, they starve. It even comes with a dice-rolling cup made of rawhide. Please pass the stinky cup!

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Dominion Review: Great Game for Busy Families

All my life I’ve loved board and card games. I’m therefore often asked for recommendations. My busy sister Anita (owner/operator of The Flying Squirrel Bakery Café), recently asked:

Can you recommend a good, quick game? We like Monopoly, but it takes too long. We want something that’s easy to learn and play that also has strategy and variety.

My recommendation:
Dominion

or 
Dominion: Big Box

Dominion, Prosperity, and Alchemy are included in the Big Box

Dominion, which often takes less than 30 minutes to play, fits my sister’s criteria well. If I were to recommend a family collection of fewer than 10 board or card games to own, this would be one of them. It would be my top pick for very busy households.

The rest of this review combines two articles into one:

  • Description of Dominion’s game play and what makes it so good for such a wide variety of families
  • Basic and advanced Dominion strategy

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Can You Teach Hustle in Youth Baseball? Yes!

Hustle. We’ve all seen that player who hustles, always running top speed to first base, going all out to catch far away fly balls, diving for grounders, backing up, doing their best to catch poor throws, etc.

Sliding into Home
Base runner hustles home on a passed ball
(photo by John Walter)

And we’ve all seen the opposite . . . players who rarely run hard, never attempt to make a difficult play, and exert little effort all around when they don’t have a bat in their hands.

In my experience, most kids try hard when they’re first learning baseball or any other new sport. In our local PONY league, I’ve seen strong effort from all but 1 or 2 players on every team my son has been on through the age of 10. Sometimes they don’t know at first what they’re supposed to do or where they’re supposed to go. But drill it, and then they’ll do it.

However, something shifts at the Bronco 11-12 age level. With most players having played at least 4 years of baseball, some stop trying as hard to improve, while others mark time until the start of the “real” season, summer all-stars or travel ball. Maybe some of it is age-related, as kids begin to challenge authority and become more independent.

End result: lack of hustle.

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Key Youth Baseball Decisions for Parents: Money, Time, and Beyond

The financial costs of youth baseball can easily spiral out of control, so I’ve been itching to write about it. A single season of recreational league fees, equipment, clothes, fundraisers, and other costs can total anywhere between $150 – $2500/year, while costs and time commitment can run far higher for travel ball teams. Much of this information is covered below.

While this article is based on my experience with 7- to 12-year-olds, most of these costs apply to other ages as well. Figure on spending about half as much for ages 5 and 6, and a bit more for teenagers who also pay for showcases and BBCOR bats.

As I started to write about cost, I realized that decisions over whether to do 8 vs. 5 months of baseball per year or spend $300 or $50 on a bat are minor in comparison with more fundamental decisions that need to be made at a relatively early age.

This post details the time and money it takes for kids in the U.S. to play youth baseball in various ways. But it goes beyond cost to also highlight and discuss more fundamental decisions that need to be made when considering how best to approach this all-consuming sport.

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Our Youth Baseball League is Great! Here’s Why . . .

I hear so many stories and read so many accounts of recreational youth baseball leagues with unhappy parents and significant issues. With every new story, I appreciate my son’s local rec league even more.

This post is for anyone looking for tips to help make their league better, whether as a board member, a manager, a coach, or even a concerned parent who shows up to board meetings occasionally.

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Axe Bat Origin 2016 Review: A sub $100 bat for youth baseball that is awesome

When an average hitter picks up a new bat and immediately starts hitting far more line drives than he ever has before, you know he’s holding a winner in his hands. The Origin Axe is that bat.

Axe Bat Origin cropped image
Origin Axe Bat 2016 (-12) L135C

When my son starting using the 2016 Youth (Drop 12) Origin Axe Bat L135C, it immediately became his favorite bat he’s ever tried. His percentage of line drives and hard hit balls increased substantially. He used to be “that speedy guy” who kept beating out dribblers and grounders to the left side for singles. No more. Now fielders are moving back when he comes up to bat.

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Is Your Kid’s Bat too Heavy? Here’s How to Tell

Whether you are a parent or a coach, by far the easiest way to improve a kid’s real game hitting results is to switch to a lighter and/or smaller bat. Of course, that only works if you first determine that the bat is too long or heavy.

360px-Louisville_Slugger_exterior
Louisville Slugger Museum

This post explains several methods for determining whether a bat is too heavy, starting with a reliable method any parent or player can use without a coach. I used to think it required substantial coaching skill to figure this out. It doesn’t.

Just observe soft toss. If the player hits mostly line drives, the bat is fine. If not, try a lighter bat.

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