Welcome Back!

As usual, life is crazy and raising teens sucks up a lot of time. We’ve been gaming, working on schoolwork, attending concerts and graduations, dealing with the occasional family emergency, hosting exchange students, and working. I’m still writing a fantasy novel, and it’s shaping up nicely! The genealogy bug bit me badly as well.

Within the next few months, our family will be picking up stakes from beautiful Pennsylvania to move to Florida. I’ve always told hubby that I wanted to retire there, so we’re getting there a few years early. One of the great disappointments I discovered was that the Optometry board in this state apparently has decided that Florida needs to have a ruthlessly restrictive time-gate on doctors and graduates moving in from other states. So, in May, they instituted one of the most onerous regulations I’ve ever seen in the fifty states: all people applying for a license after May 15th are now required to retake national boards. It doesn’t matter if the applicant took it only three months ago. It doesn’t matter if the applicant has over 20 years of experience, taught ophthalmology residents and published numerous journal articles. Nope. We all still have to jump through this ludicrous hoop–a hoop that costs $2700 and is offered only ONCE A YEAR. It’s beyond insulting. While I’m sure some of the Florida ODs are high-fiving themselves at the success of keeping the grave threat of highly qualified optometrists from other states at bay, I think it’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve seen in the field. Fortunately, military bases are far more accommodating of licenses from other states, since they’re federal lands, so I hope to find an open position in one of their nearby facilities.

On the plus side, while I languish in national board hell, I can get a provisional teaching license in physics, biology, French, and history with absolutely no prior experience or education courses. I’ll be trusted to teach hundreds of high school students but not look at eyeballs. Yay! I’ve vowed to get elected to the board with the singular goal of getting rid of this idiotic regulation requiring retaking the boards for licensure.

In addition, I’m going to write about some products from time to time that might make us all geek out. Posts with affiliate links (like this one) will have the usual disclaimer. I am working on developing a marketing business through the Four Percent Group. If you’d like to learn how to monetize your blog to make money this week, just click this link. Feel free to contact me to ask questions.
Come join me!

My biggest project, besides licensure and surviving another cross country move, is to get my Gryffoniers novel published. It’s at 85,000 words and moving along beautifully. I joined a writer’s group here in town, and the folks in the group have offered amazing and invaluable advice and critiques. The non-fantasy members of the group are actually waiting for the next chapters every month. They are truly a wonderful group of friends. My goal after finishing the novel, besides starting the sequel, is to find an agent. If you all know a great agent who handles fantasy books, let me know!

Thanks for waiting so patiently for me to return. I look forward to geeking out with you all in the near future!


Krupnikas: Elixir of the Lithuanian Gods and/or Goddesses

Wending my way through Ancestry.com has lead to some very interesting findings, such as the fact that my dad’s family was not English, like we’d always thought, but part of the Palatine emigration. I also discovered that Lithuanian genealogy is not for the faint of heart. At the time the Lithuanian branch of my family came over to the US, Lithuania was part of Czarist Russia, they ended up on ships leaving Germany, and many of them knew almost no English. Their Lithuanian names had been converted to Russian Cyrillic spellings, translated back into Latin spelling via German, and then translated into English once they hit Ellis Island. Needless to say, this didn’t do much for the encouragement of correct spelling of their names.

I joined a couple Lithuanian groups on Facebook to find more information. In addition to the marvelous help, I learned a lot about Lithuanian heritage, including, but not limited to, holiday celebrations, food and boozy stuff. Apparently, Lithuania is insanely cold in the winter, and like most countries where it gets insanely cold in the winter (basically, any place that gets below freezing in December and/or January), they drink a lot of booze. The one made famous by Lithuanians is a honey spice liqueur called Krupnikas. My guess is that it helped them forget how awful it is outside when it’s 37 below 0.

Bottles of Krupnikas ready to age.

Bottles of Krupnikas ready to age.


Since it was around Christmas time, and it was insanely cold out, I thought I’d try out some Krupnikas. It was not available for sale in the state-controlled package store, mostly because the Pennsylvania Dutch are known for being German. I looked around for recipes, and quickly discovered there are as many varieties of this as there are people on the planet. Possibly more.

After much reading, researching, and some 151 rum, here’s the recipe I tried out.


Zest of 1 lemon

Zest of 2 oranges

6 cinnamon sticks (broken lightly)

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric (should use 2-inch piece sliced red or yellow ginger/turmeric root. I guessed on the powdered amount. I’m not a huge turmeric fan.)

1 3-inch piece ginger root, peeled and sliced (a potato peeler works pretty well on the root)

1 teaspoon nutmeg (should use one nutmeg seed, cracked. I guessed on the powdered amount)

10 pods cardamom, lightly crushed (I had the seeds themselves instead of pods. This might not be enough cardamom as a result. But with this much Everclear, who cares?)

15 whole cloves (could use 10-20)

2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed

15 whole allspice (could use 10-20), cracked

4 teaspoons grains of paradise (or 2 teaspoons black peppercorns and 2 teaspoons white peppercorns) cracked

2 teaspoons caraway seed, cracked

4 vanilla bean sticks, cut up. I love vanilla, so a few extra beans snuck into my mix.

4 pounds clover honey (go for organic if you can). Use less if you want it less sweet, although even 2 pounds of honey is still pretty darned sweet.

3 quarts water

1.5 liters 190 proof Everclear (1 large or 2 regular size (750ml) bottles. I only found 151 proof this year. Pennsylvania apparently thinks 190 proof is too dangerous for us hoi polloi). Other grain alcohols are fine as long as they are very high alcohol content.

7 or 8 12-ounce bottles and stoppers, sterilized (I did mine in the dishwasher. You can get bigger or smaller bottles as you desire.)

Sterilized bottles ready for the delightful concoction.

Sterilized bottles ready for the delightful concoction.

Put 1.5 quarts of water into the pot. Mark where that spot is in the pot on a clean ruler or a wooden spoon. This is so when the spice water boils down by half, you can see it easily. Add the rest of the water and the spices.

You can use a mortar and pestle to crack the spices. A food processor works even better.

You can use a mortar and pestle to crack the spices. A food processor works even better.

You can slice up vanilla beans, but cutting them with kitchen scissors is even faster.

You can slice up vanilla beans, but cutting them with kitchen scissors is even faster.

I wrapped mine up in a spice bag that I made from two layers of cheesecloth. Bring to a boil and simmer until it reaches your halfway mark, about an hour. If you are making a half batch, it may take less time.

The spice water with the spice bag steeping. It smelled fantastic.

The spice water with the spice bag steeping. It smelled fantastic.

Pour only the honey into another large pot (you’ll need one large enough for the honey, 1.5 quarts of spiced water, and the 1.5 liters of Everclear). Heat the honey until it boils, skimming off the foam.

Boiling honey for Krupnikas

Honey boiling in a large pot.


I used a jelly foam skimmer to remove the foam. This handy device is available on Amazon and in lots of places that sell supplies for canning.

Using a jelly foam skimmer to remove the foam.

Using a jelly foam skimmer to remove the foam.


When the spiced water is done boiling down halfway, add it to the honey.


Remove the pot of honey spice water from the heat, far away from any flames to avoid starting a fire with the alcohol. Apparently, this is an area of Great Concern for many other Krupnikas creators, since this warning is repeated in large bold letters in every post. I felt it necessary to repeat it here out of wisdom and a sense of kinship with other Krupnikas makers. Don’t make the fire department come out on an insanely cold night to put out a fire caused by your inattention to this warning.

Here's the Everclear for the Krupnikas.

Here’s the Everclear for the Krupnikas.

Pour in the Everclear and mix well into the honey water. Pour this mix into sterilized bottles. Let it age at least two weeks. Any sediment can be strained out or filtered out through a coffee filter—wet the filter first so that the filter doesn’t absorb any more alcohol than it has to. The sediment that’s left behind can be added to a nice Krupnikas spice cake.

Here is a nice sample of newly-minted Krupnikas.

Here is a nice sample of newly-minted Krupnikas.

Makes about 6 to 8 of the 12-ounce bottles, depending on how much you ‘sample’ while cooking.

Having heard that Krupnikas is good for all sorts of ills, including cold viruses, I decided to test it out after aging for four months. It might need a little more time to age to an even greater smoothness, but after a few sips, I’m pretty sure it’s just fine right now. My cold is substantially less noticeable!


Frank and The Texas Chili Cook-off

Awhile back, a Texan friend of mine, who knows how to make REAL Texas Chili, sent this to me as well. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt the rest of the night, and I had those residual laugh spasms periodically whenever I thought about it, which was rather often.
Spew warning: put down the drink. You’ve been warned. Enjoy!

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

What follows is one of the funniest things I have ever read, sent to me in an email last year from a friend in Boston. A warning to those with delicate sensibilities and who are easily offended – Otherwise, take 2-3 minutes and give this your full attention. If laughter is the best medicine, you should be glowingly healthy for the rest of the week.


“My name is Frank, and recently I was honored to be selected as a judge at a Texas chili cook-off. The original person called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking directions to the Budweiser truck when the call came in. I was assured by the other two judges (native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy and besides, they told me I could have free beer…

View original post 864 more words

Chocolate Dice!

While monkeying around with my new Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and Razer Naga 2014 Left Handed MMO Gaming Mouse, I found this wonderful post over at Our Geek Home about chocolate dice. I thought it might make a fun project for a geeky family or a cool DIY gift for the geek in your life.

Thanks to Razer for making the Naga MMO gaming mouse in a left-handed version!

Thanks to Razer for making the Naga MMO gaming mouse in a left-handed version!

Clearly, the “one” is the number you should leave off the dice! The biggest question is whether the dice would ever make it to the gaming table. 😀


MSNBC Laughs At An Adopted Child

Clearly, Chris Hayes isn’t the only one making an idiot of himself at MSNBC. Melissa Harris-Perry and her panel of alleged comedians decided that making fun of the race of the adopted grandchild of former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was fair game. I am appalled and disgusted by this.

My sister-in-law is a saint. She helped raise over 100 foster children, and she adopted two of them. They happen to be black. My step-sister had 3 children. They’re biracial. Her daughter has a biracial daughter, too. I love them all dearly, and I am proud to be their aunt. When I look at my family, I don’t look at their skin color. I could care less what level of melanin happens to be in their skin. I don’t even see adopted nephews as having different blood relatives generally. The mothers of the two children did the right thing allowing my sister to adopt my nephews, as hard as that decision may have been. I occasionally notice the furtive looks my step-sister and sister-in-law get having children of a different race. Fortunately, I never saw any adult make fun of my nieces and nephews for being black or biracial. I never saw any adult make fun of my sister-in-law or step-sister (both of whom I gladly call sisters) for raising children of a different race.

Not until the MSNBC show last Sunday, that is.

Both my sisters happen to be fairly conservative. They did not choose to bear or adopt children of other races in order to add diversity to the Republican party or whatever conservative cause that MSNBC decides is OK to mock this minute. My sisters love children. They wanted a lot of children in their lives. My sister who fostered all those kids and then adopted two of them has made a monumental sacrifice in her life. She helps children who have lived in such dire circumstances that the state was forced to take the children away before their mothers killed them through violence or neglect. These are children who have been through so many horrors in their brief lives that when we hear their stories, you and I are forced to squeeze our eyes closed to shut out the images and hope not to vomit. The children are often traumatized both inside and out, and they require extraordinary amounts of treatment and time to recover. My sister showers them with love, and the children, fostered or adopted, have thrived in her care.

Along came Melissa Harris-Perry, Pia Glenn, and Dean Obeidallah. Apparently, they found it hilarious to mock the Romney family for welcoming a child who isn’t white into their family. Instead of rejoicing with the Romneys that they have another child, or taking some time to talk about the challenges of interracial adoptions, or discussing how desperately these children need help, or exploring how badly we need more foster parents, they laughed. How convenient that they forgot President Obama was raised by a white mom and taken in and loved by his white grandparents. Did they laugh at that? No, they wouldn’t have the temerity to so much as smirk. Making fun of children of Republicans, however, is perfectly acceptable.

That fact that they think mocking any child is revolting. I won’t support any MSNBC sponsors, and I certainly won’t be supporting anything that Harris-Perry, Glenn, or Obeidallah do. Any person or organization willing to support that kind of behavior doesn’t deserve my hard-earned dollars.

We can do something positive about this, however. I encourage each of you to look into foster parenting and adopting. Consider fostering or adopting a child yourself and check out the Child Welfare Information Gateway. If you don’t have the resources to do that, then help out the many great organizations like AdoptUSKids.org, your local child welfare agency, or the many religious organization that help foster kids and families that foster or adopt. They’ll welcome your time, money, and talents, and your help will make the difference in the life of a child.

Six Degrees of Star Wars Canon

Do you have the burning desire to argue whether Darth Vader, Revan, or Emperor Palpatine is the most powerful? Have you ever wondered if Revan would pwn Darth Maul’s butt?  (Yes) If you have, you’re a geek. If you’ve ever debated these life-altering issues on a Star Wars forum and brought up ‘canon’ (or ‘cannon‘, for those who prefer the artillery version), you are a complete and utter geek. If you’ve moderated a motley bunch of geeks, well, you’re so geeky, your geekiness has reached a level of nerd nirvana normally reserved for people like Bill Gates, except with a whole lot less money.

If you chuckle at this, you just might be a geek. (1)

If you chuckle at this, you just might be a geek. (1)

As a super-moderator on LucasForums, I’ve done two things. First, I’ve escaped being made an administrator, because the Geek Factor just might make the universe explode. Second, I’ve moderated people who are fighting about Star Wars canon. Yes, I said fighting. I’m not sure why discussion of Star Wars canon can inflame the level of hatred normally reserved for baby killers and tax collectors, but it happens. If you ever see a “Revan vs. X” thread on any forum, I guarantee you that the “it’s not canon!!!11!!11!eleventy-one!!11!!” argument will appear even faster than a mention of Hitler in a political/religious thread.

After moderating a number of these threads, and surely not influenced by the level of 151 rum in my cup that night, I decided to chime in on the canon argument. This is my updated version.

This cannon is not canon. (2)

This cannon is not canon. (2)

Statement on the New Six degrees of Star Wars Canon

We, at WookieWikiWarrickWicketpedia, wish to clear up the confusion of ‘Canon’ in Star Wars by instituting a new classification system on how to rank the different Star Wars and Star Wars EU (Extended Universe, aka ‘Extremis Uniflammitorio’) materials. This will replace the Canon-a, b, c & g system, along with other associated letters and symbols, up to and including the ampersand. This was becoming just too confusing, resulting in many emails and tweets from forum administrators and moderators who were ‘having to deal with too damn many threads on arguments over Canon’.

As a result, we now establish forthwith the Six Degrees of Star Wars Canon. This shall supersede, override, and otherwise be totally more awesome than any previous versions of Canon, which are now no longer Canon, because We Said So. Not even Leland Chee can change this.

First Degree Canon shall be The Movies. Radio adaptations, so long as they include voices from the Original Actors (and Actresses) shall also be First Degree Canon. The Screenplays are also First Degree Canon, but only if George Lucas put a ‘GL’ on every page. The official soundtracks are First Degree Canon, because John Williams has included the use of both the bassoon and the triangle in his music, and quite possibly the krummhorn. Anything spoken by George Lucas is First Degree Canon, including those more mundane statements like ‘I want to order a pizza’ and ‘I need to take a dump.’

Second Degree Canon shall include those radio adaptations that deviate from the script slightly but still maintain the ‘True Spirit’ of the movies. ‘True Spirit’ shall be determined by us, unless George Lucas says otherwise. Those radio adaptations that include the voices of Harrison Ford or Liam Neeson shall automatically be changed to First Degree Canon, because their voices are really sexy. Those adaptations that include excess amounts of Jar-Jar Binks or Ewok cuteness shall automatically be reduced to Sixth Degree Canon or less.

Third degree Canon shall include any books that George Lucas decides shall be Third Degree, which is pretty much everything else not in the First and Second Degrees. It’s his world—if he wants to say a book is First Degree or Sixth Degree, we shall bow to his greater Star Wars wisdom. The exception are the Vong books, which shall be reduced to the Degree of Hell normally reserved for those who continually talk through movies. All Star Wars games are Third Degree Canon. The Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games, along with Star Wars: The Old Republic, are Second Degree Canon because they are Really Righteous. The SWTOR Encyclopedia and all Gree speak shall likewise be Second Degree, because the SWTOR writers are made of win and Hall Hood achieves ultramarine apogee.  We hereby declare all permutations of Revan and Exile to be Canon, because trying to pick just one was really pissing off the fans. The Star Wars Lego games normally would be Fourth Degree Canon because of the ‘cutesy factor’. However, since my kids love them, and I can play a Yoda Lego figure, they may remain at Third Degree.

Fourth Degree Canon includes any comic books. Graphic novels remain at Third Degree because ‘graphic novel’ just sounds more cool than ‘comic book.’ The exception is the Knights of the Old Republic comic book series, which is destined to become a Graphic Novel when bound together, and because they’ve drawn Zayne Carrick really cute. It’s at least Third Degree, and we might even make that series Second Degree if sales continue to be good.

Fifth Degree Canon includes all fan-fiction, unless they are “Really Good,” which, by our definition, is anything with over 1,000 views on LucasForums and/or FanFiction.net. Any stories with 15 thumbs-ups or greater on kotorfanmedia.com shall also achieve this rare distinction. If they’re “Really Good”, then they can, at the option of the administrators, moderators, and/or the author, move to Fourth Degree. The exception is if the spam-per-view ratio approaches 1:82, in which case the fanfic shall be declared ‘spammy’. That fic drops to Sixth Degree. Action figures are Fifth Degree Canon, unless they involve Yoda, Han Solo, or Luke Skywalker. These are First Degree Canon because I like them and because Frank Oz rules.

Sixth Degree Canon includes any speculative posts on any forums. It also includes any non-speculative posts, comments, jokes, pictures, and other written, visual, aural, or tactile media. Anything else not already specified shall be Sixth Degree Canon, unless the author finds something she really likes, in which case the Degree of Canon may be altered accordingly. Forum posts that are written by administrators, moderators, LucasArts, or BioWare employees shall be whatever Degree of Canon they desire, because the author feels the need to suck up, unless George Lucas declares otherwise, because his First Degree is more equal than everyone else’s First Degree.

We hope this clears up any confusion about Canon. If you have any further questions, please send an email to our help center at ‘we won’t answer it anyway.idiot’. We will do our best to make sure that the answer to your questions are answered with as much obfuscation as possible, preferably by someone who does not even speak your language.

Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.

Image sources: (1) theChive.com (2) HQWallpapers4Free.com

Why Doctors like Gosnell Are Horrible for Women

The stories of this monster are grisly. Kermit Gosnell is accused of murder of babies who were clearly born and were even crying before allegedly being killed. He also is accused of manslaughter of at least one woman. Many more women suffered needless complications from his shoddy practices that could hardly be called ‘medical’.

Karnamaya Mongar died while in Gosnell's 'care'.

Karnamaya Mongar died while in Gosnell’s ‘care’.

Set aside the abortion issue and infanticide for a moment, as horrifying as it is to know that he allegedly killed so many innocents both in and out of the womb.

Focus instead on the women he treated–or actually, failed to treat.

He allegedly lied to pregnant women about how far along in their pregnancies they were. This meant they were not properly informed about their own bodies, their babies, or the risks of late-term abortions.

He allegedly used rusty instruments (which harbor tremendous amounts of bacteria). He didn’t sterilize them properly. He didn’t use even the most basic medical equipment during the surgeries to properly monitor blood oxygen levels and blood pressure. He used teenagers to start IVs and administer sedation. At least one women, Karnamaya Mongar, was over-sedated with so much medication that she died on the table. Numerous other women who had abortions or other procedures at his clinic suffered severe infections and sterility.

Authorities found the body parts of babies stored throughout the clinic. The clinic itself was filthy dirty and had blood all over the place. There were cats roaming freely throughout the clinic–and cat urine and poop littering the place. I love my cats, but I’d never dream of letting them run around my office. Keeping the body parts of babies in jars is just sick and barbaric.

Ask yourself this: “Would I go to a bloody clinic with cat poop all over to have ANY procedure done with rusty, unsterile instruments?” Ask yourself if you’d let a loved family member go to a place like that. Ask yourself if ANY woman should be subjected to a supposed ‘doctor’ treating them with so much disrespect that he couldn’t bother himself to hire licensed professionals or even keep his instruments properly cleaned. How does this somehow become acceptable if it involves abortion? Defenders of women’s rights should be howling at this flagrant abuse of 16,000 women.

I’ve heard the ridiculous argument that ‘if abortion were more available, women wouldn’t have to endure this’. Horse hockey. Don’t make excuses for a man who preyed on vulnerable women to make a few extra bucks for himself–some $1.8 million per year. If this man is found guilty, he deserves to rot in jail the rest of his life for harming so many women in addition to killing babies. If a pediatrician had done this to children, the press would be screaming about the horror. Since this involves abortion, however, it’s been swept under the rug. We don’t want to accept that it’s happened. We don’t want to deal with it since it’s such a thorny moral issue for so many of us. If you believe that abortion should be legal (and I do in cases of rape or incest, or when a woman’s life is in imminent danger, though I would strongly advocate for adoption when possible), you should also believe that women need to be safe during the procedure. Any reasonable person who is strictly pro-life would agree that no woman should suffer at the hands of this alleged butcher.  Gosnell was allowed to mistreat women for YEARS before someone finally did something.

It doesn’t matter if you’re pro-life or pro-abortion. The women who suffered under this man’s ‘care’ deserve to be lifted up and supported by all of us, not ignored.

Rest in peace, Karnamaya Mongar.

Image source: USA Today

Unboxing the Razer Blackshark Headset

After babying my old Plantronics headset along for months with liberal applications of electrical and duct tape, it finally gave out a few weeks ago. Headsets don’t work well with one earphone hanging off the side. Plus, the duct tape kept sticking to my hair. Ripping out strands of hair every time I took off my headset was not my idea of a good time. I loved that headset. It was comfortable and had great sound.

Need a new gaming headset? Check out the Razer Blackshark!

Need a new gaming headset? Check out the Razer Blackshark! (image: razerzone.com)

So, I grabbed the Turtle Xbox headset back from the kids and plugged it in to chat with Trusty TorWars friends. This worked for speaking just fine. When I turned on the Christmas music, which includes everything from Michael W. Smith to Mariah Carey to Mannheim Steamroller to The Three Tenors to Messiah, I heard The Dreaded Hiss.

I loathe, despise, and otherwise bear negative sentiments towards hiss in music. I don’t cringe at the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Hiss makes me not only cringe, but also makes me want to rip my eardrums out with a pickle fork. This made the Christmas gift decision very easy for me. I suggested to the family that getting a new headset might even be an emergency in order to salvage my ear anatomy. Trusty Hubby smiled and nodded but decided no one was actively dying, so it would have to wait til Christmas when we got paid.

On Christmas Eve, we opened our gifts. I was delighted to see that there was a Razer Blackshark headset for me.

I love my family!

I love my family!


Razer products rock. I have an Orochi mouse (which replaced the Lachesis I wore out) and a Lycosa keyboard. I’m waiting, admittedly impatiently, for a lefty version of the Naga mouse. When hubby and I meandered around the Best Buy doing some Christmas shopping, we stopped by the headsets so I could drool. We both noticed that the Blackshark was made of metal, which would theoretically survive far better than the plastic on my Plantronics. Mind you, this requires that my daughter not do things like rip it off her head and drop it in frustration when losing an online match.

The headset is great. It’s heavy duty, the metal parts are sturdy, and the entire thing is very customizable. Even the mic has multiple adjustment points. Each side is adjustable to individual ear heights (mine are slightly different, being the asymmetrical person that I am). The earpieces swivel in several directions to make each one fit just right. It’s comfortable to wear for long periods of time, despite being a bit heavier than the Turtle. I’ll take the weight for the sound improvement any day.

Most importantly, the vast majority of the hiss is GONE! My music sounds a bazillion times better. The true audiophiles are going to want to spend the extra bucks for a very high end headset, but that’s not what this headset is designed for. It’s designed for gamers. When Razer says this headset is noise-cancelling, they aren’t kidding, either. I can hardly hear any external sound with the headset on and the music playing. Now, mind you, I don’t play Skillet, Kamelot, or Lacuna Coil at low volumes, so that might be contributing, but I’ve noticed that the family has to come tap me on the shoulder now to get my attention. However, this is still a significant advantage when my kids decide to have a debate on the plot points and art style of My Little Pony and I wish to listen to ANYTHING else that won’t liquify my brain. I’ll have to play Star Wars: The Old Republic with Mumble on so that I can hear hubby’s comments, despite the fact that we’re in the same room.


The biggest disadvantage to the Blackshark design is a lack of a control switch for the volume and the mic. I mute my mic a lot when I’m doing raids and operations. My mute button is now ‘unplug the mic from the back of the tower’. Since my tower sits on a table where I can reach the back easily, this is a simple thing for me, but it won’t be for others. I also wish it had a volume control. I didn’t realize how much I adjust my volume until I couldn’t. This is not a negative for me, but it might be for some others: it does not come with a USB connector. I prefer to use the jacks, anyway.


Setup is an absolute breeze. You plug it into the proper jack on your computer, and that’s it. It comes with an additional splitter cable if you want to use the microphone, too. In fact, the only setup difficulty I encountered was actually opening the package to get the headset out. This is not unique to the Blackshark. EVERY Razer product comes packaged in such a way that you need 18 five-year olds and a table saw (not together) to open it.

Like the Orochi, the packaging says ‘if you’re even thinking of shoplifting me, you’re never going to get this open in time before store security catches you’. This means it will take approximately an hour longer to open than to plug in and use. I have hand arthritis, which did not help one bit.

Just remove the tape, then rip the tabs off to get the top open, because the tabs are stubborn.

Just remove the tape, then rip the tabs off to get the top open, because the tabs are stubborn.

Inside the main box are a series of other partial boxes and lots of plastic. Think Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls, except not as cute. Razer helpfully labeled a tab ‘Open’ for me, but it was sealed too tightly for me to actually pull the tab ‘open’.

A helpful tab labeled 'open', which I had to rip off to open.

A helpful tab labeled ‘open’, which I had to rip off to open.

Once I’d performed a bit of rough surgery on the box, I found, yes, EVEN MORE PLASTIC.

Once you've removed the helpful 'open' tab, and open the box, there's more to open!

Once you’ve removed the helpful ‘open’ tab and open the box, there’s more to unlock!

This is what the inner box looks like when you finally get it off.

This is what the inner box looks like when you finally get it off.

The headphones were packaged in yet more plastic, and it’s that rigid, form-fitting stuff that locks the item in place so that it cannot move. It works so well that if a nuclear explosion hits, this headset would survive far better than Indiana Jones did in the lead-lined refrigerator. Steven Spielberg should definitely consider this for future movies.

But wait! There's more!

But wait! There’s more!

Having had the experience of the top popping off my Orochi mouse when I tried to remove it from this same kind of plastic packaging, I had nightmares of one of the earpieces popping off as I tried to extricate it from the plastic. Fortunately, I was prepared for Razer this time and had a Jaws of Life on call in case I had an emergency. The pièce de résistance was the twisty tie holding the cord in at the bottom of the plastic package-and/or-safe. When all else fails, and you absolutely, positively, MUST secure it, use either duct tape or a black twisty tie.

Because we just had to have a twisty tie in there somewhere.

Because we just had to have a twisty tie in there somewhere.

The pile of packaging

The pile of packaging

Razer was so careful about security that they put plastic around their quick start guide. It had to be sealed for our protection, you know.

Even the user guide has to be removed from its packaging

Even the user guide has to be removed from its packaging

Once everything was unwrapped, I plugged it in, fired up iTunes, and put on music. It sounded great. Razer even included a handy registration card and a cute Razer logo sticker.

The Razer registration card, with the handy logo on the back.

The Razerzone information card, with the nifty logo on the back.

The registration card also serves as a handy coaster.

The Razerzone signup card also serves as a handy coaster.

The sign up process is so easy, even a cat can do it.

Good thing I don't have a touch screen monitor.

Good thing I don’t have a touch screen monitor.

Packaging issues aside, I enjoy my new headset very much. If Razer comes out with a mute switch/volume control add-on for the Blackshark, I’ll be first in line to buy it.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter! My handle is @JaeOnasi.