Author Archive

MUNCHMOBILE: Stumpy Burger

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Food

WEEK 7 — STUMPY BURGER

This week, down one man, the Munchmobile headed to downtown Provo in search of a classic American favorite: a good old-fashioned cheeseburger. This noble crusade led our heroes to Stumpy Burger, located at 225 W. Center Street in Provo. Upon entering, we noticed that the restaurant is very minimalistic. The design was a simple, classic western motif; the only thing that really stood out was a variety of stuffed raccoons in the corner. We spoke with the owner for a few minutes who told us that Stump’ys specialty is just classic hamburgers. The menu was very simple as well, featuring essentially just a few different sizes of hamburgers, drinks and fries. Keeping it simple, we selected the burger size of our choice and  sat down at the simple wooden tables to snack on some buckets of peanuts while we waited for our burgers.

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Burger and fries, courtesy of Stumpy Burger.

Ben Wagner
I chose to munch upon a fine 1/4-pound. The beef was excellent quality, obviously freshly ground — the way a real burger should be made. None of these pre-fab patties from Costco at Stumpy Burger. The best part of the burger was definitely the cooked onions that were liberally applied. They were excellent and added that onion-y flavor I love so much to the burger.

Perhaps the best part of the meal was the fries that accompanied it: these were homcut and -fired potatoes, nothing from the frozen food section at Wal-Mart here. They were obviously cut and fried right in Stumpy’s kitchen, with a healthy dose of my favorite ingredient: salt. The accompanying fry sauce was also a special concoction. Completely different from any mayonnaise and ketchup combo at your local Arctic Circle this sauce had an unidentifiable taste to it, but it was something unique and quite good. The combo meal was $6.25 for the burger, fries and a drink. For that price, I guarantee you won’t find a burger of that quality anywhere else in the Utah Valley area. 4.5 out of 5 Raccoons.

Jake Welch
Of all the burgers that I have tasted in the past year, I would go as far as to say that this burger was one of the most original. It all starts with the patty. This thing was a whole half pound of legitimate beef ferocity. It looked nothing like those perfectly round or square patties you find at fast food restaurants. The Stumpy Burger looked like it was hand-crafted right before it was thrown onto the grill. Just think of any cliched adjective regularly used to describes burgers and this one fits the bill.

Don’t worry, the cheese, onions and even the bun were also on their game. One of my favorite parts about this meal was the hearty fries and sauce. They call the stuff fry sauce, but trust me, this isn’t your typical Utah concoction. It’s got a myriad of deliciousness that I can’t really put into words. When it comes right down to it, this place is original and, here at the Munchmobile, that’s what we’re all about. 4.5 out of 5 buckets of peanuts.

Overall, we found Stumpy Burger to be a very original, excellently put together burger joint, all at a very affordable price. We highly recommend it as one of the best burgers in the Valley. 4.5 out of 5 fresh-cut fries.

For suggestions on where you’d like to see the Munchmobile head next week, leave a comment below, send an e-mail to rhombusmag@gmail.com or send a message on Twitter to @rhombusmag.

Ben Wagner and Jake Welch are correspondents for Rhombus. Their editor hasn’t met anybody who loves a hearty burger more than these munchers — except perhaps himself. Share you burger love with the Munchmobile crew @ben_wagner and @jraywelch.

Snow_Leopard

"Snow Leopard" Arrives This Friday

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

Big news out of Cupertino, Calif., today as Apple announced they will release their new operating system this Friday, Mac OS X.6 or “Snow Leopard.” Snow Leopard will feature mostly “under the hood” improvements to OS X, improvements that Apple claims will “prepare Mac OS X for future innovation.”

Some of the changes will be immediately noticeable to some users, such as the changes to the QuickTime media player. Also, Snow Leopard is significantly smaller than its predecessor, Mac OS X.5 (or “Leopard”), and it will free up seven gigabytes of hard drive space just through installation. However, most of the changes will be in the way the operating system works, such as the switch to 64-bit or the use of Open CL technology and will not be immediately apparent to the average user.

TECH: Best of the App Store – August 2009

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

After doing my two-part “Best of the App Store” piece last month, I received a lot of positive feedback via my Twitter page. I know that not everyone has iPhones (you should though, especially at $99 for the 3G) or iPod Touches, but I feel quite a large percentage of Rhombus readers do. So I’ve decided to turn the “Best of the App Store” into a monthly feature highlighting new apps or older apps that I’ve just now discovered.

  • TweetDeck (Free) — Last time, I raved about Twitterfon being a great free iPhone app and then received some feedback from some people who had problems with it. As soon as I posted the article, my Twitterfon app started going on the blitz as well and I was forced to consider alternatives. So far my favorite is TweetDeck. TweetDeck originated as a desktop Twitter app that features a unique columned interface. The best thing about the iPhone version is that it mimics this columned interface on the iPhone, as well as being a fast and fully featured Twitter client. TweetDeck does have its disadvantages though. For me, the lack of landscape mode in the browser is a huge turn-off. Also, I will often open TweetDeck and it will tell me there is no connectivity, yet it still loads the latest tweets. This is a nuisance more then anything and hopefully they can fix it with a small update. Even with these flaws, the unique interface TweetDeck uses keeps bringing me over all the other Twitter apps I’ve recently used.
  • F.A.S.T. ($0.99) — Fast is simply one of the coolest games I’ve seen on the iPhone and a great example of what the iPhone is capable of. The game is a combat flight simulator capable of placing you in the cockpit of 10 military aircraft and plunging you smack dab in the middle of mid-air dogfights. The accelorometer controls allow you to fly the plane by tilting the iPhone, giving you the sense that you are actually flying the plane. The game also features multi-player functionality over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing you to dogfight against your friends. The graphics are quite impressive and, with over 30 missions to play, this game will literally keep you occupied in the danger zone for hours on end.
  • MyPhone+ for Facebook ($2.99) — This is one of those apps that you never realized you wanted or needed until you get it. This app takes all of the info in your address book and syncs it with your Facebook info. It takes the names of your contacts and looks for them amongst your Facebook friends, then it takes their profile picture and uses it as the contact picture in your iPhone address book. It also adds their emails, addresses and birthdays to your address book when available, allowing you to easily keep your address book updated with the most current info on all your contacts.
  • BeeJiveIM ($9.99) — This application falls into the category of something I’ve always wanted and, when I finally found it, I was giddy with excitement. Beejive is an instant messaging application that can do Aim, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, Myspace, Yahoo and Facebook chat. You can keep use all of your chat accounts right on your iPhone. The interface is simple, but effective and easy to use. The app also features landscape mode which is a huge plus allowing you to type a lot faster. However all of these pale in comparison to BeeJive’s best feature: BeeJive allows you to close the app and even turn off the phone, but it keeps your accounts open and logged in. Therefore you still show up as being available to all your contacts and, if they message you, the phone tells you with a push notification that appears similar to a text message. You can then open back up Beejive and chat away. For anyone addicted to communication like myself, this app is a dream come true: the ability to always be connected to my chats, even when I’m not physically at my computer or even using the chat application on my phone. So from now on when you see me on Facebook chat for 17 hours straight, just remember I’m always on — even when I’m not.

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus Magazine and considers the time before the iPhone to be the Dark Ages. Give him some feedback about the apps by following him on Twitter @ben_wagner.

BOOK REVIEW: "Downtown Owl: A Novel," by Chuck Klosterman

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Uncategorized

The Rhombus faithful may recognize Chuck Klosterman from his large library of work as a columnist (for Esquire, Spin, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.), one of his four non-fiction books (Fargo Rock City; Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs; Killing Yourself to Live; Chuck Klosterman IV), his appearances on ESPN’s “The B.S. Report with Bill Simmons” podcast or from any conversation you may have ever had with Rhombus Magazine’s illustrious editor.

Downtown Owl is Mr. Klosterman’s first foray into fiction and is a novel (if you can really call it that) unlike any I have ever read. The author tells his story from the viewpoint of three central characters living in a small rural town in North Dakota. The characters are seemingly unrelated and are not interconnected in any way besides the fact that they happen to live in the same town. Chuck Klosterman grew up in rural North Dakota and he undoubtedly knew people like the characters in the book. Interestingly enough Klosterman himself seems to have very little invested in any of the three characters. Thus, we as readers don’t find ourselves emotionally invested in them either. In many ways the three characters cease to be protagonists and instead become representative of the concept of small town life.

The plot of Downtown Owl is very non-traditional and, in many ways, the book is about nothing. The book reads almost like a collection of short stories or anecdotes told from three different viewpoints that explore and flesh out the town of Owl. Since the book lacks any central plot, Klosterman often digresses into seemingly worthless tidbits of information, such as famous play’s from the local high school football team’s history or how one of the townspeople has a huge bison farm. The book uses this flawed thematic device to create an astoundingly deep and accurate portray of the life in the small town of Owl. Even without a central plot to drive it, Downtown Owl never seems boring or uninteresting because the digression keeps you interested in the quirky town. The book eventually stops reading like a book about nothing and becomes a book about everything, whether it be old age, coming of age or how the Allman Brothers sucked.

Fans of Chuck Klosterman will instantly recognize his unique voice. Although the characters are all quite different people, the third person narrative voice is most definitely that of Chuck, even to the point that the dialogue of his characters begins to sound like him at times. While this flaw can be distracting, it actually adds something to the story. Klosterman’s trademark wit and insight about seemingly unimportant and ordinary things comes through even in a fictional story. Therefore Downtown Owl becomes, in reality, an exploration of the psyche of small-town life. Anecdotes about high school football becomes analogous to what it is like growing up in a small town. A running theme about which of the town bullies would win in a fight really becomes metaphor for what it is like to be in a place where everyone knows what you do and yet no one knows who you are. In classic Klosterman style, ordinary events are broken down and overthought to the point that we find deeper meaning in something as mundane as teaching high school history.

Downtown Owl is an incredibly flawed book. It features no real plot, characters in which we are emotionally uninvested, an ending that offers little resolution and characters that seem much to insightful for their own good. Add all these flaws together and you get a book that is so terribly flawed that it’s brilliant. The book’s flaws make it interesting, just as the flaws in the people of Owl make them interesting.  4 out of 5 stars.

Downtown Owl is a novel featuring adult language and is not suitable for anyone without the maturity level to handle such language.

Downtown Owl and other books by Chuck Klosterman can be purchased at the author’s Amazon page.

Ben Wagner is a Correspondant for Rhombus Magazine and has spent far too much time looking for deeper life meaning in Chuck Klosterman’s work. If you liked this review, please let him know by following him on Twitter @ben_wagner

TECH: The Battle For The Net Begins

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

For those of us with iPhones, one thing has become abundantly clear since we signed that two-year service contract: AT&T is a huge, miserable failure. Lack of tethering, MMS, dropped calls, missed texts, voicemail failures: its just one thing after another. So it really shouldn’t surprise us that AT&T has fired the first salvo in the battle for net neutrality.

For those unfamiliar with the term, net neutrality refers to the concept of an open Internet. A neutral network would be a network free of restriction on content, sites or types of equipment connected. Basically, any Internet-enabled device could connect and use the Internet for any purpose conceivable. In recent years, many advocates of an open Internet have expressed concern about the ability of Internet service providers (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc.) to block certain websites and services. For example, Comcast is first and foremost a cable provider; therefore, they could conceivably block websites like Hulu so their customers are forced to watch Comcast’s cable and not view their television online. Likewise, AT&T could block Skype so their customers had to use their cell phone minutes, Verizon could block Apple so people don’t realize how much they need an iPhone, etc. Proponents of net neutrality believe your service provider should provide you with an Internet hookup and not dictate what services you use while on the Internet. Many believe that, if Internet service providers were allowed to begin censoring web content, it would only be the first step in them beginning to charge users for things like e-mail, bandwidth use and special packages (i.e. Comcast beginner package gives you access to Facebook, Google, and eBay for only $19.99 per month; Upgrade to the experienced package for only $5 more and receive YouTube and Amazon!)

This vision of the Internet is obviously not what we want. While the Internet as we know it is in no way perfect, the ability for easy, open communication and distribution of information is what makes it great. An Internet connection should be an Internet connection: it should not be up to Comcast to decide what websites or services we use through the Internet. Some supporters of net neutrality include Google, Microsoft, Steve Wozniak (of Apple fame), Yahoo and Amazon, while opponents include AT&T, 3M and Alcatel.

On Sunday, reports began circulating around the Internet that AT&T DSL subscribers were unable to access 4Chan.org. 4Chan is an imageboard Web site with minimal rules on posted content. Users post anonymously, and 4Chan has been used in a variety of ways that link it to Internet sub-cultures and activist movements such as Anonymous (essentially the Internet equivalent of a gang) and Project Chanology (an online anti-Scientology movement). Previously 4Chan has been used to distribute pornography, pirated material and coordinate Internet attacks. As the day wore on, it was confirmed by 4Chan that AT&T was indeed blocking the website in several regions around the country, although the block only seemed to affect wired AT&T customers, while people using the carrier’s 3G network were unaffected. Within hours, 4Chan began organizing counter-attacks, including a plan to circulate a rumor about the death of AT&T’s CEO in an attempt to artificially lower the stock price. On Monday, AT&T effectively retreated and unblocked 4Chan, reopening the site to all of its users.

While I am in no way condoning the content on 4Chan’s website, it is the right of those users to post said content. AT&T’s service is (and should be) providing people with a connection to the Internet; It is the user’s prerogative to censor any content they don’t want to see. While the 4Chan block may not have even been legal under FCC regulations, it further raises the issue of net neutrality laws (or the lack thereof) in the United States. While net neutrality generally exists in the United States, there is no clear law protecting it. Politically, net neutrality continues to be a hot issue: seven different bills have been introduced in Congress regarding net neutrality — and each has been voted down. During his 2008 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama pledged to make net neutrality legislation a priority during his first year in office. While he has understandably been occupied with issues like the economy and health care reform, I hope net neutrality doesn’t stay on the back burner forever. Companies like AT&T and Comcast will continue to push this issue and challenge net neutrality until more comprehensive regulation is adopted.

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus and, ironically, works for Comcast. Follow him on Twitter @ben_wagner.

SPORTS: "Starbury" Finally Loses It

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Sports

Recently, the antics of much maligned NBA point guard Stephon Marbury have gone from the normal garbage one expects from him to levels of Michael Jackson-esque insanity. “Starbury” promised his loyal fans (apparently he’s under the impression that those exist) via his Twitter account that he would be doing a live 24-hour video chat from inside his home. While this, in and of itself, sounds ludicrous and completely narcissistic, the best moment of said live chat came when Stephon broke down into sobs for a good five minutes while listening to some R&B music. Take a moment to watch the whole thing. You won’t be disappointed:

NBA fans are undoubtedly aware of Marbury’s career history. After being drafted by the Bucks and then promptly traded to the Timberwolves, Marbury spent two good seasons in Minnesota and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team. During the lockout season of 1999, he fell out of favor with T-Wolves management and was traded to the New Jersey Nets, while Minnesota went on to make the playoffs for the next six years, including the Western Conference finals in 2004. While in New Jersey, Marbury became an All-Star without ever leading the Nets to the playoffs. He was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2001 in exchange for Jason Kidd, who subsequently led the Nets to two straight NBA Finals appearances. (Beginning to notice a trend?)

Marbury led the Suns to the playoffs in 2003, where they were promptly ousted by the Spurs. He was then traded to the New York Knicks during the 2003-2004 season, as the Suns went on to contend in the Western Conference for the next several years and Steve Nash (the guard who replaced Marbury) won back-to-back league MVP awards. Marbury played for the 2004 USA Olympic team, the only American basketball team to fail to win gold since the team started fielding NBA players. During the ensuing years, the Knicks failed to field competitive teams and finished under .500 every season and failed to make the playoffs. Marbury was involved in several off-the-court incidents, including spats with Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown that resulted in Brown’s termination by the team.

As the Knicks continued to struggle, Marbury also continued his involvement in several off-court incidents involving new Coach Isaiah Thomas, including a sexual harassment suit being filed against the Knicks organization and the coach. Marbury continued to feud with Thomas, with some reports indicating that the pair even came to blows on the team airplane. Marbury was eventually placed on the inactive list when Chris Duhon won the starting point guard position in training camp. When offered more limited playing time, Marbury reportedly refused to become active again and was banned from all team practices and facilities.

The Knicks eventually bought out Marbury’s sizable contract and he was subsequently signed to the then-defending champion Boston Celtics as a reserve point guard. The Celtics failed to repeat as champions and Marbury’s impact on the court was negligible. Now a free agent, recent rumors have tied him to the Wizards organization or possibly some European teams.

Now, after having reviewed his tumultuous career, both Marbury’s on- and off-court performances have revealed him to be a selfish and troubled individual. If nothing else, the ridiculous video above further proves this. The question is what drove him to break down and what drove him to think it was a good idea to post a video of said breakdown on the Internet for the whole world to see. I have a few guesses.

Reasons Why Starbury Was Crying:

A) He feels guilty about having “improper relations” with an intern in the back of a truck at a strip club (yes, he has admitted to this, and yes, he is married.)

B) He feels guilty about running Larry Brown out of New York.

C) He realized that nobody likes him and that he has no friends other than the guy consoling him in the video. (I’m guessing that’s Glen “Big Baby” Davis, but I could be wrong.)

D) He just finished The Notebook.

E) He’s legitimately scared that Kevin Garnett is going to eat him (and/or has threatened to go to war with him. Both have the same end result.)

F) He realized every team he plays for becomes instantly better as soon as he’s gone.

G) He’s discovered the truth behind the NBA’s officiating problem and David Stern has threatened to kill him if he talks, yet he feels morally obligated to inform the world about the conspiracy.

H) The King of Pop is dead.

I ) He looked in the mirror and realized he can never get rid of that ridiculous tattoo on the side of his head.

J) He realized that, with Steve and Barry’s closing all 240 of its locations, there will be a significant loss in revenue from his Starbury line of shoes and clothing.

K) Drugs.

L) Alcohol.

M) The realization that no one wants him except the Wizards and some crappy European teams.

N) All of the above.

Personally, I’m leaning towards E — and I can’t blame him: KG scares me too.

Ben Wagner is a tech and sports correspondent for Rhombus. He knows far too much about Stephon Marbury’s career. Follow him on Twitter @ben_wagner.

TECH: Google's New Plan For World Domination

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

On July 7th , at around midnight, the official Google blog announced the next phase in the company’s plan for global domination. (I’m half-joking). They announced the development of the Google Chrome Operating System, the follow-up and natural extension of the Chrome Internet browser Google released a year ago. Chrome OS will be an open-source operating system that will begin arriving on netbooks sometime in 2010.

netbook-vs-notebook

Netbook (left)

For the uninitiated, netbooks are small, lightweight and compact laptop computers. This class of PCs generally feature smaller processors and hard drives then their bigger counterparts. However, they are ideal for travelers who mainly need Internet access and don’t want to lug around a 17-inch Dell boat anchor to do so. Hence the name: “netbooks.” Because these computers are essentially designed for Internet use, they generally run Windows XP or sometimes even Linux. During the ongoing global recession, netbook sales have skyrocketed due to their lower costs (most netbooks cost between $200-$400) and the market is currently booming (certain reports suggest a 260% growth in sales just this year).

Google’s foray into the operating system market has largely been seen as inevitable for quite some time. While Google’s # 1 priority has been and always will be its search engine, they have slowly but surely begun to creep into other areas with programs like Gmail and other Google apps. Last year Google released Chrome, a browser meant to compete with Internet Explorer and Firefox. Chrome received mostly positive reviews and has gained a 1.8% market share of the worldwide Internet browser usage since its release in September 2008. At the same time Chrome was released, Google also debuted Android, an operating system for celular phones. Android was designed to compete with the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm and Windows mobile telephone operating systems used on smartphones.

So it didn’t seem that much of a stretch to think that Google would enter the operating system market at some point. Microsoft’s Windows OS has dominated the personal computing market for years. The only two competitors they have faced are Apple and Linux. I’m sure most people are familiar with the Mac vs. PC debate by now, thanks largely to those cheeky Apple commercials with John Hodgman and Justin Long, and I won’t go into that. For those not in the know, Linux is an open source operating system, meaning that it is free and anyone with the prerequisite know-how can take the operating system and modify it however they want. As a result, there are thousands of different versions of Linux available for free. While this is one of Linux’s greatest strengths, it is also one of its greatest weaknesses because there has never been a unified attempt to make one version that works best for everyone.

Enter Google. Chrome OS will be an operating system based on Linux and made primarily for netbooks. So far HP, Acer, Adobe, Texas Instruments and others have all voiced their support for Chrome. The OS is said to boot up in seconds and be competely impervious to viruses and other security flaws present in PCs. Chrome will focus on the web. The goal is for Chrome to be extremely lightweight, essentially just a shell of an operating system that can get you online in seconds, so you can use Web-based (sometimes referred to as “cloud”) applications, including programs like Google Docs and Gmail that run completely on the Internet.

This presents a unique set of problems for Google to overcome. For example, what happens when you’re in a location without Wi-Fi, like an airplane? Without an Internet connection, your Chrome-based netbook essentially becomes a paperweight. Undoubtedly, netbook makers will try and counter this by selling cheap netbooks with 3G wireless cards built in, providing Internet wherever you can get a cell signal. Privacy issues also arise. If you are using Chrome OS, all your documents, photos, music, etc. will be stored not on your hard drive, but on Google’s servers (a.k.a. “the cloud”) where anything can happen. Google could concieveably know everything about what we do on our Chrome-based computers. Competition will also be an issue: don’t expect Microsoft to sit quiet during all this. They will undoubtedly start a smear campaign to point out all the flaws in Chrome. Furthermore, Windows 7 has purposefully been designed to be netbook friendly and will undoubtedly be a hit when it’s released this fall.

The announcement of Chrome also creates one very important question: What is Google’s ultimate goal? Do they really expect to bring down Microsoft and Apple? Realistically, that’s about as likely as me writing an entire column without mentioning the iPhone. While I’m sure Chrome will be a serious effort, many are questioning if the OS isn’t Google simply trying to make a statement. The company has said they believe Web-based applications are the future of personal computing. Is Chrome OS nothing more than an attempt to keep Microsoft on its toes and force them to compete by creating an operating system more conducive to running cloud applications? Even if Chrome ultimately fails to take off, Google will have pushed the entire industry toward Web-based apps. Perhaps their ultimate goal is to have a plethora of online applications, available via an iTunes-esque app store, that could run through the Chrome browser on Windows, Mac or Linux.

Of course, that is the ultimate cynic’s view. When it comes down to it, Google just wants to see ads. Chrome OS allows the company to collect even more data about its users and slap Google ads on everything you do. Working on a doc? See an ad. Looking at your digital photos? See an ad. Is Google really trying to change the industry for the better, or do they really just want you to know that you can bid on a cheap new iPhone 3G S at Swoopo.com?

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus. Surprisingly, he somehow managed to complete an entire article without mentioning Twitter.

TECH: Best of the App Store: (Part 2: Games)

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

If you missed the first installment of “Best of the App Store,” you can check out part one here.

If you read part one of my “Best of the App Store” series, you will have noticed that this was intended to be a three-part piece. Well, two vacations later I realized that may have been especially ambitious. There was going to be one article about free games and one about paid games. I also discovered that I couldn’t find five free iPhone games that were worth my time and, therefore, yours. So I decided to combine the two into one, so I present to you “Best of the App Store: Games.”

Honorable Mention

  • Space Deadbeef (Free) — For me, this is the best pound-for-pound free iPhone game available. The game is a simple side-scrolling space shooter that boasts impressive graphics and a unique control scheme. Part of what makes this game so addictive is the way the levels are laid out. Essentially you play the same level over and over again. Every time you beat the level it increases the difficulty. Also, you have an unlimited amount of lives so when you die you can keep re-trying the level at the same difficulty. The game displays how many deaths you have and what level you are on so that you can compare your skill level with your friends. If you own an iPhone or iPod Touch and are looking for a free game, this is the one.

Top 5 Games

  • Tiger Woods Golf ($9.99) — I realize this game may not be for everyone. It is a sports game and it’ll cost you $10. However, it is absolutely phenomenal. It is a fantastic mobile version of the console game. The control scheme is great for the iPhone and the graphics are as impressive as I’ve seen. You are presented with a realistic golfing experience right on your phone. I’ve definitely gotten my $10 out of this game; if you like golf, you will too.
  • World Cup Ping-Pong ($0.99) — I love ping-pong. I have spent countless hours in my basement with my brother, destroying all hope in his soul with a barrage of power shots, drop shots and spinning serves — and I have never, ever enjoyed a ping-pong video game. Even the Wii Play version bored me instantly. So I was skeptical of this game, but I figured for $0.99, why not? What makes this game great is that it uses the touchscreen interface just as it should. Its simple: wherever you move your finger, the paddle follows, allowing you to feel like you’re in complete control of the paddle. Therefore, the precision that makes ping-pong a great game is present in a simulated version played on a 3.5 inch screen. There is a free “lite” version available that removes all the different levels of competition and tournaments available in the paid version. So if you want to give it a shot, you’ve got nothing to lose.
  • Flight Control ($0.99) — This game took the App Store by storm some weeks ago and has become a must-have for iPhone/iPod Touch owners ever since. The game is built upon a simple premise: there is a runway on the screen, various types of aircraft begin to enter the screen and you have to land them on the runway without crashing them by tracing their flight path with your finger. Sounds simple, but once more and more aircraft enter the screen it becomes quite difficult. Definitely give this one a shot. It’ll keep you trying to best your high score for hours.
  • Dropship ($1.99) — This game is a fun space shooter that has a slight learning curve, requiring some mastery of the controls. Once you have them down, you’ll find yourself spending hours and hours steering your spaceship around, trying to rescue fellow space cadets and shoot down alien fighters. This is a very fun space shooter and I highly recommend it. Definitely worth your $1.99.
  • Need for Speed: Underground ($6.99) — One of my favorite genres of games from the App Store is racing games. The steering control system is very fun and intuitive. There are plenty of racing games to choose from, but so far this one has been my favorite. The game features fantastic graphics for a game you are playing on your phone. It also features a surprisingly involved storyline and several types of racing modes. You also get the option of earning money to upgrade and customize your car, even down to the color. While its a bit pricey at $6.99, you get what you pay for here. Nothing less then a console-worthy racing game in the palm of your hand.

Well, that’s that. Enjoy!

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus. He apparently has nothing better to spend his money on than iPhone games. Follow him on Twitter at @ben_wagner.

MUNCHMOBILE: Clint's Place

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Food

WEEK 2 — CLINT’S PLACE

For this week’s edition of the Munchmobile, our fearless munchers made their way to Center Street in Provo to find a place that would satisfy our sandwich needs. We looked no further that Clint’s Place, located on 42 W Center Street. Upon entering, we had the impression that the place was called Hickory Kist, because the window displays a large logo sporting that name. The cashier informed us that the name of the eatery was Clint’s Place and that they used products from Hickory Kist Deli in Spanish Fork.

After the confusion cleared, we searched through the menu to get a feel for what Clint’s Place had to offer. It was clear that the owner has a passion for classic rock based on the names of the food items, ranging from Zeppelin’s Coda and Abbey Road sandwiches to the Strawberry Fields and Rainy Day Woman smoothies. The options used to be limited, but just recently they beefed up their menu to over 13 loaded sandwiches. They also have five breakfast sandwiches that looked rather intriguing and an assortment of smoothies. As is customary here with the Munchmobile, we took a few recommendations from the house. Ben went with The Clintster, which they said was their most popular. Jake decided on Mojo Risin’, one of their new selections that is gaining popularity fast. What did the munchers think of their meals? Let’s see what they had to say.

Jake Welch — Mojo Risin’

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Mojo Risin'

I have to admit that I was a little wary of this sandwich because it had all the makings of a typical house favorite: chicken and bacon. However, I was rather impressed with this sanny, not because their chicken and bacon was superior to that of a deli. What got me was the little things. As soon as the sandwiches were served the waitress informed us that our bread was grilled with honey butter. Again, I was unsure of the gimmick but, trust me on this one, it works. The little touch of sweet balanced out perfectly with the cream cheese and avocado. I was also a big fan of the bread, which is baked on-site daily. It’s not hoagie bread, which gives this place a nice change of pace from other sandwhich shops in the area like Gandolfo’s. The only knock that I had with the place was the price. I was pretty hungry so I went with the whole sandwich, which came out around $8. Usually something has to be pretty darn satisfying for me to justify spending that much. In the end, I felt good about my purchase. It was definitely worth it. Four out of five dill pickles.

Ben Wagner — The Clinster

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The Clintster (right)

According to the waitress behind the counter, the Clintster is the most popular sandwich at Clint’s Place and rightfully so. The Clintster is a hearty sandwich comprised of breaded chicken, turkey, and bacon, with the usual trimming of lettuce, tomato and mayo. Then Clint’s Place adds in its cream cheese and signature honey-buttered bread to complete the tasty concoction. The honey butter bread was the biggest difference one would notice from a sandwich at any other deli. The sweet taste of the bread gave the sandwich a unique taste not found at your nearest $5 sub joint. While the Clintster is an expensive sandwhich at $8, it’s worth the money if you’re looking to expand your sandwich horizons. 4 out of 5 chip bags.

So looking back, the only thing our munchers advise you about with Clint’s Place is the price. Most whole sandwiches range from $6.75-$8.00 and the half’s go for around $4-$5. This might scare off most of the student readers because they can always get a five dollar foot long at Subway. Please don’t let that fool you. Subway offers you the lowest quality meats and cheese on the market for five bucks. If all you want is to get filled with meat that is 88% moisture and vegetables that were fresh weeks ago, then Subway it is. However, if you care about getting a quality meal and you don’t mind spending a few extra bucks then Clint’s Place is a safe bet. 4 out of 5 Clintster’s.

To learn more about Clint’s Place, visit their Web site.

For suggestions on where you’d like to see the Munchmobile head next week, send an e-mail to rhombusmag@gmail.com or send a message on Twitter to @rhombusmag.

Ben Wagner and Jake Welch are correspondents for Rhombus Magazine and they seem to have some issues with Subway. Let them know what you think by sending a tweet to @ben_wagner and/or @jraywelch.

TECH: Best of the App Store (Part 1)

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

I’m am, admittedly, an app store addict. I try and stay away from the iTunes App Store because, once I get into it, I will undoubtedly download five or six new apps. With 50,000 different apps available, both free and paid, it’s sometimes hard to sift through the garbage to find the store’s true gems. Luckily, that’s why I’m here. Following is part one of my “Best of the App Store” series, with today’s entry  focusing on free utilities (non-gaming) apps.

Honorable Mentions

  • Darkroom — For iPhone and iPhone 3G users, this app is a must. Darkroom uses the accelorometer to measure when your phone is steady as you take a picture. Once you hit the shutter button on your camera, the app waits until the phone is completely steady before taking the picture. This allows for much clearer shots, especially during low-light conditions. Unfortunately, this app is not yet compatible with iPhone OS 3.0 and iPhone 3G S and is, therefore, relegated to the honorable mention category.
  • Skype — The popular video chat client released its mobile iPhone version some months back and I instantly loved it. While the iPhone version doesn’t feature video chat, it does feature free voice calls (when there is a local wi-fi connection) to any of your Skype friends. This feature can save you minutes and works great. The instant messaging feature also works great, allowing you to IM with your online friends over a 3G connection. Don’t be surprised if we see an iPhone external webcam released in the near future and Skype adds video chat over wi-fi to this app. Therefore, I put this app in the honorable mention category because it has yet to reach its full potential.

Top 5 Utilities

  • Shazam — So it’s late at night and you’re getting kicked out of the library as they blare music over the speakers and you just can’t quite identify the song playing as you’re packing up your books for the night? Just open up Shazam! Let it listen to the song being played and within seconds it somehow scours its massive database of just about every song ever written and tells you the name of the song, as well as handy info such as the artist, links to iTunes to purchase the song and accompanying YouTube music videos (if available). This app is scary accurate and I have no idea how it works. I figure there are only two logical explanations: a) there are people a lot smarter then me, or b) black magic. I’m leaning towards b, but it could go either way.
  • Flixster – This app is simple: it uses the GPS device in your phone to find your location, then searches for movie theaters in your vicinity and displays the movie showtimes for those theaters. Simple and easy to use. It is one of the most used apps on my phone.
  • Stanza — There are a lot of free e-reader programs for the iPhone, but what sets this one apart from the pack is the converter program available from the Lexcycle Web site. This converter program allows you to take any document on your PC or Mac, convert it to a Stanza format, then sync it to your iPhone. Like that latest column on Rhombus and want to read it on the road? Copy the text, put it into Stanza, convert, sync and — voila! — you have it in an easy-to-read format right on your phone. It converts everything from PDFs to simple .txt files, so you can make virtually any document portable.
  • Twitterfon — There is a plethora of Twitter apps available for the iPhone: some are free, some are not. I find that it completely unnecessary to spend money on a Twitter app when there is a great one like Twitterfon available for free. Twitterfon is fully featured and easy to use. I like the user interface so much that I often find myself using Twitterfon instead of my desktop Twitter client. If you use Twitter (and if you don’t, then why are you really reading this?) and have an iPhone, tweet with Twitterfon.
  • Evernote — Evernote is a fantastic app for Mac and Windows. On the surface, it is a note-taking application. Add in the fact that Evernote uploads all of your notes to the Internet where they can be accessed from any web browser and you can begin to see the potential it has. Then add in the iPhone app which allows you to access your notes from your phone and you have a truly great way to record and access information. Last semester I took all my class notes in Evernote, which were then synced to the Web. Come finals time, I was able to study my notes from my iPhone while waiting in the massive line to enter the testing center. The synchronization between PC, Web and iPhone is fantastic and seamless and requires no manual effort: it is all done automatically in the background. Throw in the ability to create to-do lists and store photos and videos and Evernote stops becoming a note-taking app and becomes a new way to organize and retrieve information from wherever you are. If you are a student and you have an iPhone, believe me: this is a must-have.

Now go out and download ‘em! I mean, they’re free. What do you have to lose? Check back tomorrow for my top five free games!

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondant for Rhombus. Let him know what you thought about his app recomendations by sending your thoughts on Twitter (hopefully using Twitterfon) to @ben_wagner.