Speeding Up Baseball

Jayson Stark of ESPN says MLB players want ‘voice’ in changes:

That while players are generally in favor of shorter games, they haven’t been shown survey data documenting exactly what fans are telling baseball it needs to change and what those changes would accomplish.

Really, players are that unaware? Let’s see how easy this can be said.

THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH BASEBALL IS PACE OF PLAY.

There is the feedback. It’s awful. NBA and NHL games take around two hours. Football games push past three a lot of the time, but some of that is because of halftime. Baseball games regularly push three, and even non-overtime games can hit four in the right circumstances. This is completely unacceptable. There is no reason a regular season baseball game should take four hours, or even three.

The counter arguments in vein of “that is how it’s always been” are absolute nonsense. Not wanting fans to countdown a pitch clock are ludicrious. These are professional baseball players. And there are a million tweaks that could be made.

The obvious answer has always been just to limit when a pitcher can step off the mound and when a hitter can step out of the box. Starting with the simple rule that neither of those things can happen once an at-bat starts unless there is a foul ball seems like a really easy way to go. Allow each hitter one warning per game, and a pitcher one or two. This would probably make a pretty significant difference without drastically altering things.

There should also be a limit to the number of times a catcher can go to the mound. Once per inning might be good.

Pitch clocks might be overkill, for now, as that time won’t seem nearly as long to fans without the constant stepping in and out of the box. If things don’t get a lot better, something more drastic can be considered.

Commercials aren’t going away, or getting shorter, anytime soon. Other ways to speed up games would likely be things that players would dislike as well. Fewer warm-up pitches is one example.

There is no denying “modern analytics” could play a role here. But that just makes the point more obvious. If players can accept these new fangled ideas, it shouldn’t be so hard to accept that just because this stuff has always been allowed that it should continue to be.

Pace of play is a major problem. Baseball doesn’t want to admit that they are losing fans, but guess what, they are. Fewer and fewer people under 30 are into baseball, and it’s likely that will only grow and grow in the coming years as the next generations are raised with baseball being at best the #2 sport.

College Football Playoff Hierarchy – Week 8 Edition

There is a bunch of articles being published lately discussing the first college football playoff, and specifically who would be the four teams “if the season ended today”. This is sill though. Why would anyone care who would be in the playoffs if the season ended today? It’s one thing in a sport like baseball where there are 162 games and one single game isn’t guaranteed to make an impact. But when it comes to college football, the circumstances are different. Any college football playoff that lists both Ole Miss and Mississippi St. are teams that are in just doesn’t seem that logical. Sure it’s possible, but it seems unlikely that a 1-loss non-conference champ will jump the line without extremely great luck.

Instead, the best way to understand what is going on is just keep the cheatsheet below handy. This hierarchy is probably pretty accurate. Obviously there are some circumstances that can shake it up, but this could really be close.

Who Possible Teams
1 Undefeated SEC champion Ole Miss, Mississippi St.
2 Undefeated Florida St. FSU
3 1-loss SEC champion Ole Miss, Mississippi St., Alabama/Auburn, Georgia/Kentucky
4 Undefeated Notre Dame Notre Dame
5 Undefeated Baylor Baylor
6 1-loss Pac 12 champ Oregon/Oregon St./Washington, Arizona/Arizona St./Utah
7 1-loss Big Ten champ Michigan St./Ohio St./Rutgers/Minnesota/Iowa/Nebraska
8 2-loss SEC champ 10 teams
9 1-loss SEC at-large Ole Miss, Mississippi St., Alabama/Auburn, Georgia/Kentucky
10 1-loss Big 12 champ Baylor, OKlahoma St., Kansas St., Oklahoma, TCU
11 2-loss Pac 12 champ 10 teams
12 1-loss ACC champ Florida St., Georgia Tech, Duke
13 1-loss Pac 12 at-large 6 teams
14 2-loss Big Ten champ 9 teams
15 2-loss Big 12 champ 6 teams
16 1-loss Big Ten at-large 6 teams
17 3-loss SEC champ 13 teams
18 Undefeated Marshall Marshall

Which Cloak VPN Plan For Your Vacation?

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are something that most people know as a method for connecting to their work network from another computer. But the “private network” piece goes way beyond that. And VPNs are the perfect solution to the lack of privacy on public Wi-Fi networks. This is especially useful when traveling. There are several different options for VPN services, but one of the easier solutions is Cloak. The weird thing about Cloak is that they have some tricky pricing structures, and knowing which plan to select for infrequent, short-term travel.

Cloak plans can be purchased both from the Cloak website and from the iOS app. These plans are different though. Here are the plans and where to buy them.

Length Price Data Where to Buy Price Per Day
7 days $3.99 Unlimited iOS $0.57
1 month $2.99 5 GB Web $0.10
1 month $9.99 Unlimited Both $0.33
12 months $99.99 Unlimited iOS $0.27

The yearly plan obviously makes sense for anyone that needs a VPN all the time. That leaves the other three plans up for consideration.

The $2.99 monthly plan is limited to just 5 GB, but if someone is planning just some light use, mostly on a mobile device, or just some occasional email and social network check-ins, this probably sufficient. It would not likely be enough for a month of use, but for a typical vacation1 it likely would get the job done. It would presumably be renewable for an additional $2.99, so $6 would buy 10 GB if a little bit more is needed at the last minute, but that is not necessarily a cost effective purchase. This plan is best for either a really short trip, or a trip where public Wi-Fi usage will be fairly minimal.

The 7-day plan for $3.99 offers the worst cost per day, but is an overall cheaper option when data usage is going to exceed 5 GB, but the trip will be pretty typical in length. Although the $9.99 plan offers a better cost per day, there is no reason to spend the extra money if the VPN access is only needed for a couple of days. Even at the 14 day mark, two 7-day plans cost $7.98 vs. $9.99 for the 1-month plan.

It’s easy to think that Cloak offers the 7-day plan on iOS at a higher price to just take advantage of people wanting it quick and easy through the app, but the reality is that Apple takes a 30% cut of In-App Purchases, so Cloak is only seeing $2.79 of the 7-day price, meaning that they get more money from people buying the 5 GB one month plan on the website.

To recap, for any trip/vacation where public Wi-Fi usage will be minimal, or where almost all internet usage will be on a mobile device, the $2.99 (5 GB) plan is probably sufficient. For any trip where heavier usage is required, and the trip won’t exceed 14 days, the $3.99 7-day plan makes the most sense. IF the requirement exceeds 14 days, it’s the $9.99 plan that is the best deal.

  1. Assuming no more than 7 days []

Playoff Baseball Score Overlays

Jason Snell of Six Colors is very annoyed with how Fox Sports displays outs in baseball:

Put simply, there are three outs per inning, but Fox Sports 1’s score box displays only two circles, filling them in as an inning progresses. It led to an interesting conversation on Twitter, which I’ve Storified.

[…]

Does anyone who’s watching a baseball game not know that there are three outs in an inning? Probably not. That’s why this is not a major design foul. But still, it grates. Outs is a concept that adds up to three, but the outs graphic adds up to two. As John Gruber wrote, the better decision would be to show all three outs, fill in the third out at the end of the inning, and then fade out the entire graphic as you go to a commercial break.

The second point is the key one here, and why I don’t get why it’s such a big deal. Most of what shows ups in these modern TV score overlays is not labeled. Therefore someone with limited knowledge of the sport might not have any idea what any of the information means. The idea of filling in the third out and then removing the overlay seems weird since the overlay disappears almost as soon as the third out is made.

If a redesign of this display is up for discussion, doesn’t it make much more sense to go back to a number and words, such as “1 Out” instead of having just dots? This would fit just fine and make it much easier for casual fans to understand what it means.

But why stop there? Baseball has a major advantage in the fact that the primary camera angle is static, and there is a ton of unused real estate on the screen that isn’t needed. There is space on the left and right sides, as well as the bottom of the screen, where basically nothing is ever going on during the pitch. Why don’t networks put more information on the screen? Has research proven that it’s sensory overload?

If someone is watching the NLCS who primary watches AL baseball during the year, they don’t know every player. Why not have the name of batter up all the time? Knowing who specifically is on base, or on deck could be useful as well. Perhaps there is in fact diminishing returns on how much is “too much”, but stats and information are bigger in baseball than any other sport. Seems like a missed opportunity to provide people with more information.

More Brady Hoke Replacement Talk

Brian Cook of MGoBlog again went to work on possible Brady Hoke replacements. This time with a much less glamorous (and probably more realistic) list of people. His list is comprised of four current head coaches, and seven coordinators. The biggest problem for many elitist Michigan fans (and neither Cook nor I fit this bill) is that they will almost certainly feel that many of the names on this most recent list are “beneath” them (and the program).

Michigan has fallen so far though. Take away Hoke’s (now) flukey first season and this team hasn’t really had a really meaningful year nationally since 2006. And they haven’t won a Big Ten Title since 2004. It’s true that in college football programs prestige and other historical factors do come into play, but Michigan is at it’s lowest point in decades, as is the Big Ten, who seems to be all but eliminated from playoff conversation already.

Michigan had it’s chance to land a top flight coach, and did, before running Rich Rodriguez out of town after three seasons. A complaint many Rodriguez supporters had all along was that Michigan was too cheap to allow Rich Rod to being his defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel with him. That coupled with the bare cupboard of players he was left with made it impossible to the program going. Of course it’s worth nothing that not only did Brady Hoke win 11 games with Rodriguez’s players the year after he left, but Rodriguez himself is thriving (with his DC Jeff Casteel) in Arizona right now.

At this point some parallels could potentially be drawn to the state of the Alabama program in 2007 when Nick Saban was hired. Alabama was in a downward spiral, and just quickly gone through two coaches in the same way that Michigan is about to. But much of Bama’s struggles could be attributed to a bunch of NCAA violations and sanctions that had riddled the program in the early 2000s. Saban had an amazing track record, but was also coming off an unsuccessful NFL run and was basically a free agent, and that is the biggest difference. Saban wasn’t plucked from some other program, in the same way Ohio St. got Urban Meyer a few years ago. It was almost all about right place, right time.

Michigan’s absolute best hope that scenario is Jim Harbaugh. If any of the rumors are true that San Francisco is ready to cut ties with him, then he could be the guy. But not only are those just rumors, but it’s hard to see every other NFL team taking a pass on him. Oakland has already fired their coach, and trying to fix that team would allow him to stay in the Bay Area. If the Jets or Rams fired their coaches, Harbaugh could easily be in the conversation.

The Big Ten’s weak status doesn’t help either. It’s probably fourth in the “Power 5” right now. And the SEC will potentially have three jobs available: Florida (or Mississippi St. if Dan Mullen moved to Florida), South Carolina (if Spurrier retires after a dismal season) and Texas A&M (if Sumlin got wooed by the NFL). And even if neither of those happens this year, they could just be around the corner. So would a top flight coordinator (Kirby Smart, Pat Narduzzi, Chad Morris) want to roll the dice on a flailing Big Ten program instead of a potentially rising (MSU or TAMU) SEC one?

Quickly going through Cook’s list:

  • Bronco Medenhall isn’t leaving BYU probably ever. If he does it will be for a position better poised for success than UM
  • Craig Bohl makes a ton of sense because Wyoming is stepping stone. But he has only been there one year.
  • Ruffin McNeil is a guy that is going to be gaining steam. Normally he would be the kind of guy that would take like the Rutgers job. Sadly, Michigan is at a point where they might have to settle for someone like this.
  • Jim McElwain makes a ton of sense. Former Alabama coordinator. Doing well at Colorado St. Probably wouldn’t be a huge slap in the face to the elitist Michigan fans.
  • Chad Morris probably takes an SEC job if he can. Florida would make a ton of sense. Don’t seem him considering Michigan.
  • Tom Herman – Cook didn’t play the “Bo” card when talking about an Ohio St. assistant taking over Michigan. Everything about Herman at least makes some sense though.
  • Pat Narduzzi will be a HC somewhere soon. Not sure he would want to have Dantonio be his biggest rival.
  • Tim Beck and Scott Frost are newish coordinators, and it seems crazy that Michigan would take a flier on someone like them.
  • Josh Heupel is one of the coordinators that makes a lot of sense, and is probably attainable. Even if Bob Stoops isn’t retiring soon, one would assume OU is his dream job.
  • Kirby Smart has lost a little luster as the “coordinator of the moment”, and is probably waiting for an SEC job anyway.

Here is what seems like the best combination of “possible” and order of preference, although not my preference per se:

  1. Jim Harbaugh – Almost certainly the #1 choice if available. Hard to see him coaching another other college if this job is out there
  2. Les Miles – Passed over (either by him or UM) twice, but LSU looks down (although super young).
  3. One of the random head coaches. Butch Jones, Jim McElwain and Craig Bohl all come to mind.
  4. Doug Nussmeier – Cook hasn’t mentioned him. He has two more years on his contract and has recently been thrown around as a HC somewhere. Could make the transition easier, and because he will have had just one year with Hoke won’t have the stink on him.
  5. Other random coordinator. Narduzzi, Herman and Heupel seem like the most sane/logical choices.

Remember that the last two hires were not the likely names going into the search. Rich Rodriguez had turned down Alabama previously and seemed like he was staying at West Virginia. And Hoke seemed like a long shot candidate. It would also seem likely that the powers that be will insist on a “Michigan Man” if possible, so until Mike Hart is ready to be head coach, the pickings are slim.

Some Summer TV Thoughts

Spoilers in the footnotes, which look like what you see at the end of this sentence1. Or at the bottom of the post.

You’re The Worst – Season 1

A new show on FX about a loathsome couple that meet at a mutual friend’s wedding2, and end up going home together and hooking up. The rest of the season shows the early evolution of their relationship, and the hook is how truly horrible of people they both are. The cast is mostly unrecognizable unless you recognize Aya Cash from a brief stint on The Newsroom as the Occupy Wallstreet girl.

The show got off to a rough start, and like many shows these days, it was hard to see how they could take a show like this and make it work for multiple seasons. How could the couple not fall in love in the first 10 episodes? And if they didn’t, would the audiences keep coming back? This show is raunchy, shocking and hilarious most of the time. There is just the right amount of everything to make it highly entertaining without seeming like it’s forcing the issue. Sure at times everyone seems like an extreme caricature of some stereotype, but that doesn’t make it less fun.

It slowly became a show to look forward to more and more each week, and even found a way to wrap things up in just the right way as to make sure the show still works going forward. And no show has lived up to it’s name as well as this in a long time.

Will watch again. Potentially a top tier sitcom

Married – Season 1

FX’s other new show didn’t come gain as much notoriety, but was surprising solid. Many critics recommended skipping the pilot3, and jumping in headfirst to the 2nd episode. The show stars Judy Greer (someone almost anyone would recognize from somewhere) and Nat Faxton (who is probably one of those “that guys” at this point, but actually won an Oscar for writing The Descendants) as a married couple kind of stuck in that stereotypical rut with three kids all under the age of like 13, all their dreams gone, and the reality and monotony of life engulfing them. Unlike You’re the Worst, that theme is really as close as things get to a full-blown story arc. The supporting cast includes Brett Gelman (the only good part about Go On) as their rich, drug addicted friend who is always hatching some scheme to accomplish something.

This show succeeds despite a cast that isn’t super deep, and without an really significant hooks. Greer is funny and charming in an “every woman” sort of way. Faxton does a great job of playing a grumpy stoner, who pretty much hates his life but goes along with it anyway. Their have remarkable chemistry together and that is likely what moves the needle from “unwatchable” to “pretty good”. Because this show isn’t trying to ride some sort of hook, it has staying power as long as it stays funny. Overall it was solid, but not amazing.

Masters of Sex – Season 2

Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan were back for season two of their historical fictional series about sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson. The first season was very, very good. It was a total breakout performance for Caplan. Season two, however, was not the sophomore performance one hoped for.

Many people don’t know the details of Masters and Johnson’s lives, neither personal or professional, so most people aren’t waiting for something specific to happen like they are with someone like Boardwalk Empire’sAl Capone character. But even people with just a basic understanding know that their work spanned decades, and that the pace the show went on in season one was unsustainable.

That of course can be handled in a multitude of ways, and the writers chose to execute it in a way that seemed to mess with viewers a tad too much4. It had an adverse affect on pacing of the show, and although it had to happen, it can make the story feel weird.

The season also spent far more time dealing with the personal lives of the characters (both main and supporting) and less time on the research. Perhaps this was always the plan. Perhaps the show will mix this up a bit in season 3, but it was far less interesting than season 15. There were several arcs throughout the season that didn’t pay off for the most part, and at times things felt sluggish.

The performances of Sheen and Caplan were again magnificent though. And it’s clear (in a similar way to Jon Hamm in latter Mad Men seasons) that they keep this show in people’s good graces. Sheen plays a bland man like Bill Master’s to perfection, and this season in particular has a couple of great scenes.

Overall, season two was very uneven. Not Homeland season 2 bad, but definitely not the sophomore season The Americans put on earlier this year. Sheen and Caplan do enough to get people coming back, but this show could do better.

  1. Footnote! []
  2. The man is an ex of the bride, the woman is best friends with the bride’s sister []
  3. I did []
  4. It was multiple time jumps, of varying lengths in the midpoint of the season []
  5. It almost felt like they made almost no progress in season two on the study, despite covering several years. This is a problem []

Twitch’s Rising Popularity

Seth Stevenson of Slate.com trying to understand Twitch’s popularity:

When news broke that Amazon was buying Twitch, a videogame-themed online streaming site, for nearly $1 billion, the most striking thing in all the media reports—at least to me—was the sheer number of people who will willingly watch other people play video games. I’d previously thought that when somebody else was holding the Xbox controller it was time to prepare oneself a snack. An ex-girlfriend described watching another person game as “the most boring possible thing I can even conceive of.” Yet Twitch is racking up 55 million unique visitors per month. Audiences for some of its real-time events can rival the viewership of major league sports playoff broadcasts on TV.

Twitch continues to gain steam. It’s likely that many (such as myself) discovered Twitch mostly after it’s inclusion in the Xbox One software. The exhibitionist inside everyone might spurn enough curiosity for someone to try starting a stream of them gaming, and eventually go see what other people are doing. But much of the content is what Stevenson discovered later:

What about those low-key channels where it’s just one dude gaming, and shooting the breeze with his thousands of viewers? Well, those viewers are finding a community of like-minded souls, they’re engaging over a shared interest, and they’re getting tips from superior gamers on how to win at the games. How is this different from watching a cooking show that mesmerizes you while also teaching you how to make a soufflé? Or, for heaven’s sake, watching a show about remodeling nondescript houses in suburban neighborhoods?

There is a big difference. And it’s what makes Twitch so hard to grasp even for a lot of people who do play video games. The payoff for cooking something is how good it tastes. The payoff for building/remodeling/etc. a house is improve the place you live everyday. The payoff for video games is mostly entertainment. Being good at them might increase the level of enjoyment, but the basic payoff is still there. When watching someone make a souffle, it’s something that most people might struggle to do on the first few tries. And failing at that is not a fun proposition, even for the most dedicated amateur chefs. Remodeling houses is something that requires both a house in need of remodeling, and generally a fair amount of money, not to mention skills that most people don’t possess.

But video games are completely different. Most people have fun playing video games no matter how good they are. And they really don’t require specialized skills, and come at a heckuva cheaper price than home renovation. And that’s what doesn’t make sense about Twitch. Why would someone want to sit for hours and watch someone else play video games? As Stephenson alluded to, anyone that grew up before online games knows how boring it was to sit and wait your turn on the couch next to friends.

That is what makes Twitch different than sports, cooking shows or HGTV. The kind of people that watch it are very unique. And probably aren’t doing it for the reasons that most people think. Until video games become so cutthroat competitive, or the barrier for entry gets higher, it’s hard to see watching them become much more popular, because it’s more fun just to play them.

Here Come the Hoke Replacement Posts

It has begun. Brian from MGoBlog has written a post on possible Brady Hoke replacements:

When you’re a four point dog to Rutgers it’s time to start keeping an eye on potential new head coaches.

[…]

61-year-old Les Miles is also in this group. If he had a time, it was 2007. I’m not saying there’s no chance… but there isn’t much of one. And you already know all about him anyway.

Cook is a realist. He is levelheaded. He doesn’t get too carried away, not anymore at least. This is “part 1” of his post, and focuses on probably the best options out there. He (rightfully) calls the Harbaugh brothers and Kevin Sumlin pipe dreams. Unfortunately some of the guys on his actual list only seem marginally more likely than pipe dreams.

In his sixth season, Dan Mullen finally looks like he is taking Mississippi St. somewhere. It is too soon to see if it’s a blip or something more real. MSU always seemed like a stepping stone for Mullen, but would Michigan be a step up in it’s current state? That is the biggest problem right now. Michigan has struggled for a while. Sure it’s one of the most prestigious programs in the country historically, but it has fallen way down. Add the fact that Big Ten is clearly not in the same tier as the SEC and Pac–12 right now, and it’s hard to see this being a step up for some. A coach in the SEC fits in this group. Mullen is very solid, and likely will be a candidate for a top tier job. If Florida becomes available (where he was an assistant) that seems like a much more logical fit. Mullen isn’t a pipe dream because no one from Mississippi St. should be for Michigan. But it seems very unlikely.

Mike Gundy is in his 10th season at his alma mater. He has one of the richest+active boosters in the country looking out for him. He can probably coach at Oklahoma St. for at least 5 more years without an even lukewarm hotseat. He hasn’t left for (probably) dozens of other jobs he could have had. He is loyal to his alma mater, and just doesn’t make any sense at Michigan, or anywhere else for that matter at this point.

Todd Graham of Arizona St. is known for comically job hopping a bunch in the last few years. No ties to Michigan, or the Big Ten really. He has strung together a couple of decent to good seasons at ASU. The Pac–12 is the #2 conference in the country right now, and ASU has the luck of being in the weaker south division. ASU could be (at least) the third best team in that division yearly if they recruit well. Michigan has a tougher division, and is much further behind the competition at this point.

How David Shaw isn’t a pipe dream seems insane. Attendance problems and salary are nice bullets to throw out there, but the natural more for Shaw is the NFL. He has experience there as an assistant, he coaches a pro style offense and his predecessor had success1. Why would Shaw leave a top 20 program for a team that can’t even compete in their division? Just for money? Shaw will either be at Stanford or in the NFL five years from now. No question.

Butch Jones on the other hand, is where things finally start to make sense. Jones is from Michigan, and was both a assistant and head coach at Central Michigan. He is in year two at Tennessee, and has looked just OK so far. Would he want to jump ship after just two seasons in the SEC? Hard to say. The SEC East is solid, and Tennessee is probably currently not in the top tier with Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Missouri.

Kevin Wilson was an interesting name to throw out. It shows how far Michigan has fallen (more on that in a moment) that they would consider an Indiana coach that has not had tons of success. This one doesn’t make much sense at all.

Jones is the only name on this listen that seems truly realistic. That must be a blow to Michigan fans. When they lured Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia, after he had already turned down Alabama, it seemed like a coup. Michigan would return to glory soon, with one of the best coaches in the country. Everyone knows how that ended. When Brady Hoke was hired, he was not an a-list candidate. The program has dropped much further down the pecking order since then. There is no reason to believe that an A-list coach (Shaw, Gundy) is coming now.

Cook knows what he is doing, and this list is no doubt to just cover bases. No one on this list seems too real. Even if Michigan fans don’t want to accept it, no A-list guy is walking through that door. More likely the real candidates will come in part 2 (or three).

  1. Even though Harbaugh has had some issues, they are mostly personality related, something that doesn’t really apply to Shaw []

Pygmy Reviews #45 – iOS Apps

Speedtest (Free)

One Line Description: Test the speed of a cellular or Wi-Fi internet connection.

Nothing too special here. The companion app to the Speedtest website, it doesn’t offer much beyond testing the speed of an internet connection. It can use over Wi-Fi or cellular and provides the pin, download and upload speed based on a single test. Different servers can be selected and tested against, or it can just select a server automatically. There is an option to switch between displaying data in Mbps or Kbps, but that is about the only option besides server location. It is ad-supported, but they can be removed for a fee. It’s unclear how much data this app consumes per test, but it appears that it is probably around 15 MB or so. This app does what it’s supposed to and can be a nice diagnostic tool for slow connections.

CanIStream.It (Free)

One Line Description: An app to quickly check across multiple services to see if a movie/TV show is available for streaming.

CanIStream.It is a useful website for checking the availability of a movie or a TV show across different streaming services. It will also show whether or not it’s available for purchase from a few places. The app accomplishes exactly what the website does, just from an app instead of a browser. The results seem relatively quick, but the matter in which the results are displayed on the app (pretty much the same form as the website) require unneeded side scrolling. It’s clear that this “app” is just a port of their website modified slightly to fit better on a small screen. Any time side scrolling is required on something that absolutely doesn’t need to have it, someone did something wrong. The problem is that there is no mobile version of the website. Just a splash page to download the app or search the desktop site. So the reality is this is the best option by default. And while it is clunky, it gets the job done in quick fashion. Hard to argue with that when it’s free.

Breaking News (Free)

One Line Description: A news app that focuses on up-to-the-minute stories aggregated from around the web and social media.

The generically named Breaking News app has a lot to offer. Putting people’s political agendas aside, it seems to provide a solid look at extremely current stories by aggregating headlines and links from around the web, including pictures. The app itself looks like a Twitter feed, full of short blurbs/headlines with a relative time, some sort of category, and sometimes a link. These categories are like “tags” in a sense that they allow a user to filter news stories by them1 but are not like tags in the sense the stories tend to have just one directly associated, and then a bunch of them listed under “related topics”. The push notifications are good, but whether or not they do/don’t include truly important things is up to the opinion of the user. Twitter is an excellent place to be made aware of something that is going on, the Breaking News app offers a great place to find out more details. It’s hard not to see this app being useful to anyone who is interested in current events since it’s high level of filtering means it’s easy to remove unwanted topics.

Groceries ($0.99)

One Line Description: A list manager focused on shopping, specifically groceries.

IMPORTANT: It should be noted that there is currently a bug under iOS8 where the QuickType suggestions overlay the entry point for items to a list, making this app almost unusable. This app hasn’t been updated since February, but, per the developer a fix is coming.

There is no shortage of grocery list apps in the App Store, and every one offers something different. Even Apple’s own Reminders can be (and is) used for keeping track of what to buy at the store. It’s difficult to determine if Groceries adds a whole lot that other similar apps don’t, but it gets the job done. It comes with a built-in database of foods, which can be modified, so that it can autocomplete items as they are being added to the list. Different shopping lists can be created, so if a user wanted to shop at multiple stores they could easily keep track of the lists separately. When the user is adding a new item they must first start typing, and then a list of suggestions appears. After fully typing (or tapping) an item, Groceries then requires a quantity, leaving it blank seems to assume “1”. The app has smart filters that appear as tabs on the side that allow the items entered to be filtered based on their category in the database. In other words, it’s easy to just see all the fruits and vegetables with one click.

Sliding one way on an item marks it green, swiping another way swipes it red. Presumable the red color is meant to be used for things that are no longer needed. One of the things Groceries does by default is essentially make all lists re-usable. So marking something as read seems to indicate it is not needed at this time. Anything marked one color or the other automatically moves it to the bottom of the list, making it easier to see what items remain. Individual items can be added or removed, or the entire list can be reset so all items are marked as needed again. The entire list can also be quickly deleted. For someone who buys the same things every week, this is a nice feature, but deleting and re-adding a new list each week for people who are more random is a bit of an inconvenience.

The app also offers some sharing features (which I have not used) to easily share a list with people, but this doesn’t seem to include any sort of syncing, just sharing of a list. Overall it’s a good app2, but not so great that it’s worth switching to if another app is satisfying needs.

  1. Either to see more of the same topic, or less []
  2. Minus the deal breaking iOS 8 bug []

2014 College Football Week 5 Preview (sort of)

Normally this is the time for the college football preview for the week. But after news came down last night that ESPN had suspended Bill Simmons for three weeks for his criticism of Roger Goodell, it didn’t seem like a good time to be giving ESPN any sort of free publicity. The fact that Simmons has been suspended longer than the original suspensions of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy combined, just makes it even harder to swallow. Far be it from the “worldwide leader” to show any kind of journalism or integrity. Absolutely disgusting.

On that note, I am personally boycotting ESPN (except Grantland, Simmons’ website) until The Sports Guy is back on the air. With that in mind, I have turned to the wonderful LSU fansite LSUFootball.net to present the complete TV schedule of every game not on an ESPN network this week. If you have never checked out this football schedule, it is the ultimate source for what channel every single game is on. And since I scraped it directly from their site, make sure you check it out for all future weeks.

Game Time CT Network
Thursday, September 25th
DII: Missouri Western at Lindenwood 7:00 p.m. CBSSN
UCLA at Arizona State 9:00 p.m. FS1 / FOX Sports GO
Friday, September 26th
Middle Tennessee at Old Dominion 7:00 p.m. FS1 / FOX Sports GO
Saturday, September 27th
Army at Yale 11:00 a.m. DTV: 608 / FCSA (cable)
Georgetown at Colgate 11:00 a.m. (NESN+ / CSNC) *5 / ASN (.pdf affiliates) / PLN Video
Iowa at Purdue 11:00 a.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
Northwestern at Penn State 11:00 a.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
TCU at SMU 11:00 a.m. CBSSN
UTEP at Kansas State 11:00 a.m. FSN Affiliates / FOX Sports GO
Colorado State at Boston College 11:30 a.m. FSN Affiliates / (ESPN-GP / espn3) *2 / FOX Sports GO / RSN
Maryland at Indiana 12:30 p.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington) 2:30 p.m. CBS / CBS Video
Florida International at UAB 2:30 p.m. CSCA *5 / ASN (affiliates)
Northern Colorado at Montana 2:30 p.m. RSNW / DTV: 101 / RSRM (jip at 3)
Western Kentucky at Navy 2:30 p.m. CBSSN
Colorado at California 3:00 p.m. PAC-12 Network (HD) / Pac-12 Video
Delaware at James Madison 3:00 p.m. CSMA *5 / CSN (.pdf cable) / CAA Video1 or CAA Video2
Texas at Kansas 3:00 p.m. FS1 / FOX Sports GO
Stanford at Washington 3:00 p.m. FOX / FOX Sports GO
Tennessee Tech at Northern Iowa 4:00 p.m. CSNCa / Panther Sports Network (cable)
Cincinnati at Ohio State 5:00 p.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
Boise State at Air Force 6:00 p.m. CBSSN
Cal Poly at Northern Arizona 6:00 p.m. FSAZ+ / FCSP (cable) / NAU-TV Video / Big Sky Video
Maine at Towson 6:00 p.m. CSNE / CSMA / TCN-P (cable) / CAA Video
Rice at Southern Miss 6:00 p.m. DTV: 608 / FCSA (cable) / FOX Sports GO
Samford at Chattanooga 6:00 p.m. ALT2 / ASN (affiliates)
Memphis at Ole Miss 6:30 p.m. FSN Affiliates / (ESPN-GP / espn3) *2 / FOX Sports GO
Baylor at Iowa State 7:00 p.m. FOX / FOX Sports GO
Washington State at Utah 7:00 p.m. PAC-12 Network (HD) / Pac-12 Video
Illinois at Nebraska 8:00 p.m. BTN / BTN2GO Video
Nevada at San Jose State 9:30 p.m. CBSSN

A miserable week for college football gets no help from the ESPN boycott.

  • Thursday night’s Pac–12 game between UCLA and Arizona St. looked a lot better a month ago, but still features two top 15 (AP) teams. So much so, that this might be the game of the week. It has the unfortunate problem of starting at 10 eastern, but it might be worth it to sacrifice sleep on Thursday because it’s all downhill from here.
  • The 11 AM timeslot is left with just Big Ten Network games. Penn St. is knocking on the door of the top 25 (currently 27th), and hosts Northwestern, who is in a mighty downward spiral at the moment. A convincing win here almost surely lifts the recently sanctionless Nittany Lions into the top 25.
  • Arkansas vs. Texas A&M on a neutral field is the only afternoon game worth acknowledging. The spread is only 9.5, which seems very low. Is this where Texas A&M gets exposed as not being a top 10 team, or where they vault into the top 5?
  • The best way to stick it to ESPN is to turn into Western Kentucky vs. Navy at 2:30. Might be a fun game actually.
  • Fox has a decent game at 3 PM when Stanford goes to Washington. Stanford has struggled a bit coming out of the chute, but they are coming off a bye with a chance to get back on the wagon. Washington has quietly gone 4–0 since they haven’t played anyone and snuck by Hawaii and Eastern Washington in the first two weeks. They are just outside the top 25 and could use this win to make a jump.
  • Baylor at Iowa St. is a chance to potentially watch Iowa St. get undressed in their home stadium. Baylor is a quiet 3–0. Quiet because they haven’t beaten anyone. But they have also scored over 170 points in three games. 170!!! This is a chance for them to get some attention.
  • Utah beat a bad Michigan team in Ann Arbor last week. A win against the mediocre Cougars could get them closer to the Top 25. They are a real sleeper in the Pac–12 south.