Monday, June 30, 2014

Transformers 4: Age of Extinction Review

Chance, my son, recently went with his grandparents to see Transformers: Age of Extinction. I asked him to write a review when he came home, and I told him I'd post it online.

Transformers: Age of Extinction is everything you would expect in a Transformers movie: slow motion explosions, guns, and giant alien robot vehicle fights. Oh yeah, I shouldn't forget to mention the dinosaurs? However, It is the first Transformer movie without Decepticons, and the first sequel with a new main protagonist.
Generally, Transformer movies consist of Sam Witwicky helping Bumblebee save the world from Decepticons. However, in this movie Cade Yeager, a in-debt engineer with an interest in robotics helps Optimus Prime save Tokyo from being turned into scrap metal. Yeager, who fixes things to make a living, sees an opportunity to make money when he buys an old semi-truck which he intends to strip it down for parts. He later learns that the truck is an injured Autobot in hiding. After the Battle of Chicago, all Transformers are being hunted down by the U.S. Government. As he starts trying to repair the Autobot, the Government comes for the truck. After this insane scene, he, his daughter, and her boyfriend are on the run from the Government and alternate artificial Transformers, as they try to save Tokyo from being demolished from a device called the Seed.

 I would rate Transformers: Age of Extinction 8.5/10, contrary to other critics who gave it rock bottom scores due to a small story-line or too much action. Do you go see Transformers for the story? Do you watch a horror movie for comedy? No, it’s just how the movie is. Its like saying Dumb and Dumber isn't philosophical enough. You go to Transformers for the gun and sword wielding fighting alien robots, not for a movie about a person who finds true love. Of course all movies need plot, some more than others, but Transformers is the best action movie I have seen this summer so far, and although not my favorite movie, it is a movie I wouldn't mind watching multiple times. It is definitely a movie you should watch at least once. It’s a movie great for any age, for anyone, and it's movie no one could hate.
-Chance Jones 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Greensboro's Best Blogs

Blogging once was a very popular thing in North Carolina. Greensboro,  nicknamed Blogsboro by the Los Angeles Times, called the online craze our "second revolution".Things have changed, bloggers have come and gone (Jeff Martin, David Hoggard, etc). A few of us have stuck around. I've been blogging in some form or fashion since 1999, but didn't really join the local community until around 2006.

Something I've thought about lately was that I should compile a list of local (quality) blogs online. Roch has been running Greensboro 101 (an aggregator) for sometime, but it's become convoluted in recent years with non-blogger content, and excludes many great blogs (like Greensboring). I'm not sure why (it used to be on there), but I'd love to see it return to a blog only platform.

Greensboring became so successful over the years, the site was split off into two other major blogs which spawned two books: (a blog on travel and culture), and (a food and recipe blog). Today, these publications remain very successful, but they wouldn't be here if it wasn't for other bloggers.
So with respect, I'm going to list the people I read on a daily basis, the bloggers and local web celebrities I deeply respect.

1. Ed
You can't mention blogging in Greensboro without Ed's name coming up. Ed is a reporter, writer and editor for publications like Forbes and Wired, and  who also consults. His dog Luna is adorable, and Ed is very pleasurable to meet in person despite his reputation as Greensboro's Blogfather.
2. Billy Jones: Performing Arts Blog
Billy is one of the hardest working bloggers I know. Originally famed for being the "blogging poet", he also went on to build a airplane from a bicycle that tormented local police officials as he road it on the streets of Greensboro. He is an avid motorcycle fan, author, an eco-blogger, and an overall great guy.
3. Sue
Sue doesn't blog all that often any more (her last post was almost a year ago), but it would be a huge mistake to not to follow Sue, a self-described "tech mama" who demands her children call her "Dr." and who owns the oldest woman owned technology company in the Triad.  She's always helping others and is an integral part of  Converge South, and local blogging.
 4. Danielle Hatfield:
Danielle is always around. On the news, online, and always on social media. She keeps me motivated, and always keeps me thinking. Danielle works with her husband Brandon at the Experience Farm, a branding and marketing agency.
5. Barbara Nelles: Eating up Greensboro,
I once met Barbara at summit of bloggers at Table 16 in downtown Greensboro. She's been consistently blogging the local food scene for years. Barbara describes herself as an eco-feminist tree-hugger who enjoys bird watching.
6. John Robinson:
Former editor of the New and Record and now a blogger and instructor at UNC, John is now free to join the corruption of bloggers everywhere who are often considered the mortal enemies of print journalism. While I'd love to say "welcome to the Dark Side", John has been avidly committed to local blogging for sometime. Unfortunately, I don't think everyone has always agreed with him. If only his students knew they could still buy John Robinson as Nathaniel Greene buttons.
7. Lex Alexander: Blog on the Run: Reloaded
Lex describes himself as the last sane Republican coot, and was a staff writer for the News & Record. He was one of the earliest bloggers (2003), and an author.
8. Jamy Gearhart: Joy 365
One of the bloggers I've read over the years started out as a visitor to my blog. She chronicles her life and family online through their adventures of living in the Piedmont Triad. As Headmaster of the Jedi for Universal Understanding, she is always a joy to read.
9. Roch Smith Jr.: Roch101
A self described ombudsman for Greensboro and former mayoral candidate, Roch has always been a part of local conversations online. Roch developed an aggregator of RSS feeds (linked to above), and gave me great advice when I went to learn some basic PHP skills. 
10. Ben Holder: The Troublemaker.
Considering recent local headlines of Fecund Stench, Ben's troublemaking may seem a bit tame. However, Ben has dug up more documents and police records then anyone I know. This is one blogger you want on your side as he works to "fight blight and bring neighbors back to the hood".
11. Gedeon Maheux: gedblog
Gedeon is a foodie, graphic designer, sci-fi fan, and a self-described cancer survivor and geek boy. His blog is always interesting, and always visually wonderful.
12. Cara Michelle Forrest:
Cara is a homeless advocate and blogs about her ministry efforts to serve the homeless and hungry in Greensboro. Cara maintains an updated list of free meals in Greensboro where those who are hungry can grab some grub if they can't afford it on their own.
13. John Locke Foundation: Piedmont Publius
This organization is a non-profit think tank for truth, freedom, and the future of NC. Their blog is timely and news worthy, though I'd love to see a more complete list of blogs under their blogroll, since it's a foundation blog representing the area. The blog appears to be written mostly by Sam Hieb a local freelance journalist.
14. Good Eats:
This blog is written by individuals calling themselves Mackie and Ryan, but that's all we know. It looks promising, but hasn't been updated in a while.
15. Greensboro Observer:
Another anonymous blog, from a local developer. My guess is it is Marty Kotis. If it is, then Kotis and Jeff Martin (aka Fecund Stench, a former Greensboro blogger) became entangled in a public drama when Kotis and Jeff quarreled outside a plus sized women's clothing shop. I swear I didn't make this up. 
16. Dr. Joe Guarino This blog focuses on conservative issues in culture and local politics written by a practicing physician.

Now I'm certain there are blogs that I've missed! If I did shoot me a line. If you're starting out blogging in Greensboro, send me an email too (it doesn't hurt to give me a shout-out with a link either!).

Saturday, June 21, 2014

River Tubing In North Carolina on the Dan River

River Tubing Down The Dan River In North Carolina
Greensboro is not really known for adventure. There are days I long for the far off places on Pinterest, but I know that I live in a state where nature sometimes comes secondary to our commercial and industrial needs. However there's one place, right in our backyard, that rivals the rivers of far off places like Jamaica, Belize, or Hawaii.  Where you can go river tubing through the forests, get out and hike local caves, and enjoy a 2.5 hour trip down the most tranquil and beautiful North Carolina countryside. The best part it cost only about $7 per person on the weekdays ($10 on weekends), and is less than an hour (39 miles) from Greensboro.

We went to the Danbury General Store, who offers complete tubing trips which include a tube and shuttle to a private launch pad. While the water isn't sparkling clean (it is a river after all), the area used for tubing is above the Duke Power ash spill, and is completely untainted. Unfortunately a lot of people are confused about the issue and it has really hurt their business we were advised. The good news for you is that you'll be tubing with less people, so your experience will be more authentic and real. There were periods of time where we were isolated and alone, floating down tranquil sections of the Dan River (this is not a white water adventure). 

It's best to check river levels before you go. USGS posts real time water height at the head of the river.  The day we went, gauge height  was about 1.82 feet. While perfectly acceptable, there were a few shallow spots. We also arrived around 2 PM (the latest disembark time allowed), and according to the USGS, high discharge appears to be earlier in the morning, tapering off by the end of day. Arriving earlier in the day may increase your fun, though expect to get out of the tube a few times to get over the rocks. Because of this, it's important to have a good pair of hiking sandals with suitable grip. Flip flops will simply fly off within five minutes of beginning, and the rocks are sharp and slippery. Also be aware there are periods where the river is over ten feet deep and weak swimmers may need swimming aids.

While there are periods that require a certain level of physical capability, it is overall a very relaxing ride. You can purchase an addition tube for a cooler and fill it with food and beer (for $5). Personally I wouldn't recommend this unless water levels are particular high. However if you do, don't forget something to tether the additional tube. Bug spray, and sun screen prior to arriving is absolutely necessary. 

Your tubing adventure begins right at the General Store. Go to the bathroom inside the gas-station (there are no toilets on the river), bring a driver's license and cash or credit-card to the tubing shack outside. You'll sign a disclaimer then you'll want to go lock all your personal items up in the car except for the door key, and then leave it with the with them at the tubing shack. I used a wrist wallet to carry my key, but ripped it on the rocks (but didn't lose the key). From here you'll take a shuttle that goes on a ten minute drive up the river where you're released from their private launch pad (that includes about twenty steps down into the river).

The ride is just under three hours, and you will actually arrive back at your car when you're finished. It's absolutely fabulous fun, and a great adventure.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Grass Fed Burgers - Greensboro's Best.

The Go To Burger and cheese-fries.
Never, ever, in the history of Greensboro has a burger restaurant got so much right as Downtown Greensboro's Grass Fed Burger Bar. From the roll-up front door evoking European sidewalk dining, to the locally sourced grass-fed beef (Summerfield Farms) and fresh bakery baked buns (Loaf Bakery), you would expect the food to be complete rubbish, because rarely do business owners succeed at both good food and great business management. However, you'd be wrong.

This is not a children's restaurant, your twelve year old will not find a clown here. Grass Fed's food is slightly reminiscent of the flavors of Southern California's In-N-Out, and was one of the most delicious lunches I've ever had. Their super-thin, hand-cut, liberally salted french fries drizzled in cheese, and their Go-To Burger with burger sauce, was fresh, simple, and delightful on the tongue. Not since Johnson's freshly slaughtered burgers have I tasted beef as good as this. Everything was seasoned to perfection, and their service was friendly (though slightly improvised).

The bad? They're a bit pricier than your local fast-food. You're going to pay for fresh, locally-sourced, great tasting food. We happened upon a special ($2.99 burgers, $2.49 cheese-fries) on Facebook and still came out to almost $30 for a family of four. A double patty burger can normally cost $8.99 at Grass Fed. The question is, is it worth it? Yes, without a doubt. They also use paper-plates and paper napkins. It's cute, but not that cute. I'd like something a bit more clever, like colored wax-paper, or custom packaging which could be both cheap, eco-friendly, but not give off that "cheap" feel.

My opinion is that Greensboro has finally received a burger restaurant worth celebrating. There's normally a downside to most options in Greensboro, and there's very few options that reach the threshold of famous, or addictive, but this one has. It's likely one of the best burgers I've ever had in North Carolina, and I only wait to return and try the chili to determine if its truly deserving of such a title. Unfortunately I need to sell a kidney before that happens.

That said, look for a deal and go as soon as you can to Elm Street's Grass Fed Burger Bar for the best burger in Greensboro.