A New Blu-ray Format?

Richard Lawler of Engadget on Ultra HD Blu-ray is bringing high-res movies home soon:

After Blu-ray and HD DVD ushered in the age of HD and 1080p movies for the masses, discs were beaten to 4K by streaming services like Netflix, YouTube and Amazon. While the internet is still doing most of the heavy lifting for 4K, the Ultra HD Blu-ray specification is finally complete which means we should see movies and players arriving later this year.

In the worlds of Tony from Real World: Skeletons, “wait wait wait wait wait wait wait wait”. Is this a late April Fool’s joke? A new format for media on DISCS?!? Nobody wants this. People are done buying media this way (at least a majority of people). Better video quality is not going to be enough to pull people back in, except for maybe the elitist of cinephiles. Streaming is too convenient and easy, and doesn’t take up tons of shelf space in people’s houses. 4K video is going to catch on, but it won’t be via physical media.

I had no idea there was another media format coming. As someone who bought a ton of DVDs in the early aughts I learned my lesson when Blu-ray won the battle over HD DVD. In fact I didn’t even own a Blu-ray player until I bought an Xbox one last year, and I still haven’t purchased a single Blu-ray movie (and the only one I would consider purchasing is Star Wars). Sure there are some DVDs I am glad I have because those movies are not on streaming services, but chances are that if I wanted to see them otherwise I would just buy them in iTunes. Is anyone seriously interested in this?

Technology in Sports Stadiums

Mina Kimes of ESPN Magazine on the improving technology in sports stadiums:

There it is again: the “fan experience.” Yet one can’t help but wonder: Who truly benefits from this experience – fans or owners? Hundreds of sports-tech stories quote vendors and executives, but we rarely hear from fans. Do they mind having their faces scanned? Are they really clamoring for instant replay on their phones? According to Extreme Networks, which tracks data usage in stadiums, the vast majority of people who use the Internet during games are on social networks, not their teams’ apps.

Definitely don’t want my face scanned. Instant replay on my phone? ABSOLUTELY! The caveat here is that the data service in the stadium must be good enough to allow the replays to be viewable. At the White Sox games especially, there are a multitude of problems with replays. First they don’t show that many replays. Second, the video board is small for 2015. And third, there are many seats that don’t face it or are too far away to be able to see enough detail.

I often turn to social media for explanations of a call or because I want to know why someone came out of the game or what someone was arguing about. That isn’t to say that I don’t use social media in a traditional sense. Part of the reason people during the games are using social media is because there isn’t a reason to use something else. MLB’s new Ballpark app is a prime example. Sure it gives you bonuses for checking in, and a chance to see some highlights, but it provides nothing beyond that. Give me value for using it during games and I will.

I think this is an untapped market. All of the things you can do at the 49ers new stadium, seeing bathroom lines, food lines, even ordering food from your seat, these are the things that would make using a stadium-specific app worth it. The demand is there, but the supply is so crappy that no one is using it.

Thoughts on the Mad Men Finale

It’s finally over. After dragging out the last season over two “parts” Mad Men has finally drawn to a close. There is generally a ton of scrutiny placed on series finales, but recently there is has been a backlash to the backlash saying that “a great show can be ruined by a finale you didn’t like.” That is a pretty good philosophy and too much pressure is put on showrunners to go out with the most “perfect” ending possible. After having been around for the last few seasons of The Sopranos it was clear that Matthew Weiner was aware of backlash, but it didn’t seem to affect his decision. It seems like he went forth and did what he wanted to do, and go out on his terms.

Betty didn’t have much to do in the finale, except reiterate that she wanted things her way. Nothing new there. She is happy to accept her life is ending (it seems). Sally meanwhile has grown and matured beyond her years. She handles putting Don in his place pretty well, and goes home to take care of what needs to be taken care of. Some would argue that she is more of a grown-up at this point than either of her parents, and that is a good thing. Roger has made the same mistakes over and over in life. But not it seems like he is owning up to what he is, rich, but lonely. He wisely writes his will to give Ellerbe and Kevin his fortune before going off to Canada with Marie Calvet. He thinks he has found someone mature to like him for him, but who knows if that is actually how it works out. Meanwhile, the “one that got away” Joan finally finds something she is good at, enjoys and can do without reporting to some man. Her buyout from McCann will help her get started, and since she knows Kevin is taken care of she clearly doesn’t have to worry about his financial future. It always seemed like this is where Joan’s story should go. The successful career woman who is her own boss. It seemed like she realized this when she had yet another man who was trying to get her to quit working and just be taken care of. Ironically it was what she and all the girls wanted in season one.

Pete* was only seen very briefly after having his sendoff in a way last week. Pete evolved over time for sure, and seemed to mature almost as much as Sally Draper did. He figured out that work is just work and that he could never find again what he had with Trudy, and used a new job and new state to try and hit the reset button to before he messed it all up. That last scene with him and Peggy was a perfect opportunity for the show to make a “wonder what it could have been” type comment, but that is what Weiner does so well, sidestepping the tropes of every TV show before his. Speaking of Peggy** and television cliches, the fact that her and Stan ended up together fits in that mold, except it doesn’t. Although there was always a whiff of flirtation going on there was never an in your face “will they or won’t they”. That makes the revelation that they are in love with each other almost as much of a surprise to the audience as to them. It was a great moment, and a happy ending for Peggy. Her personal life was always been the question mark in her life. There has been no doubt for a long time that she would succeed professionally, it was just a matter of whether or not she would find love. Great ending for her.

Then there is Don. The entire episode ended up feeling like a great “bait and switch” for Don. As Chris and I were texting during the episode, it looked like Don was going to get on the hippie bandwagon (albeit a little late), but it turns out that this Don story ended up the same way they all do. A breakdown, some big catharsis about how/why he is the way he is and then back to the conference room. While it’s not explicitly said it sure appears that Don got the idea for the famous Coca-Cola commercial and returned to the advertising world. This makes a ton of sense because that is how Don has always operated, and instead of having some big awakening and drastic 180 from the man he has always thought he should be, he did a 360, like always and ended up back at the beginning. He tried to suddenly become a father to his soon motherless children. He tried to “save” someone again (this time Stephanie), he realized again that he has nothing but his work. And so he went back to it. It’s what he loves. It’s what he does. It’s what he will always be. And that was the story of Don Draper.

Why I Ordered An Apple Watch

It took me 9 months from release to buy my first iPhone. I was skeptical about the lack of a keyboard, and just didn’t know it would be anything more than an iPod that could make phone calls. But after playing with it a bit I knew I wanted one. It took me about 6 months to buy an iPad. I was sure I didn’t want one. But on release day I remember reading about how amazing people thought it was. I eventually bought one and love it. I didn’t even last a month before ordering an Apple Watch.

I have mostly never worn a watch. They don’t look good on me, and I never really found one I loved. I wore one for a while at the end of high school, but once I had a cell phone with me all the time I never understood the point of having a dedicated timekeeping device. But the Apple Watch is so much more than that. Am I addicted to my phone? No more than I am to any other piece of technology I own. But I definitely suffer from the syndrome of pulling it out of my pocket after getting a notification only to discover it isn’t anything I care about. The Apple Watch is great for making that even easier. A quick glance will let me read iMessages or emails or other notifications, and that is sweet. But it isn’t just that.

I never liked the wrist worn fitness trackers. I had two different models that didn’t have to be worn on the wrist. They were fine, but they were easy to forget, either at home, or in my pocket when doing laundry (RIP Withings Pulse). But wearing something on my wrist that does fitness tracking plus a crapload of other things is also tremendous.

I also love the idea of controlling podcasts and music without having to take my phone out my pocket. It seems so trivial, but especially when moving the lawn or something, it just seems perfect (although who knows if I will actually wear it then).

I bought the sport edition (a.k.a. the cheapest one), but the 42mm in black. I don’t care about the dressiness of it because I don’t get too dressy that often and I mostly want it for the utility, not the fashion. I might hate it. I might love it. I might have wished I waited for version 2. But all the praise convinced me to just give it a go and see how it turns out. Obviously I will report back with my thoughts when I have it. Estimated shipping…July.

Sideclick Universal Remote For Streaming Devices

Sideclick is a new Kickstarter project trying to solve a very “2015” problem:

There is one big problem that streaming devices share. None of their remotes have the ability to power on and off your TV or control volume. A 2nd or sometimes 3rd remote is always needed.

Sideclick is a universal remote attachment that snaps onto your streaming remote, allowing you to control the basic functions of your TV: Power, Volume Up and Down, Channel Up and Down, and Source/Input.

Sideclick eliminates the need to always be looking for “that other remote” and allows you to control your TV and your streaming device all-in-one.

On first glance this seems like a really good idea. But upon deeper thought there are a few flaws. First off, the device is a “universal remote” but there are specific models for different streaming devices. It’s likely that most people would only have one of these given devices at a time, but it is basically locking you in again if you ever decided to switch systems.

The other issue is that for $30 (the contribution required to get one device) a decent universal remote could probably be purchased. This remote could do a lot more and potentially control the media device as well.

Still, this is a really clever idea. And for someone who only watches their Roku or Amazon Fire TV this is definitely a device worth picking up.

Pygmy Reviews #54 – Movies

The Hustler (1961)

One Line Description: High stakes games of pool between a young hustler and a seasoned veteran.

Old movies tend to very hit or miss for me. Sometimes the way older films were made just doesn’t pan out for me. Most of the older Paul Newman movies I have seen (Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Slap Shot) I have loved. But The Hustler just missed for me. Despite being nominated for just about every Academy Award it lost most of them (mostly to West Side Story), it just was kind of boring. Newman is good, but the story feels like it takes an abrupt and odd turn at the end, and often when movies do that it’s too hard to leave a good impression. The movie feels very much like a Newman movie, particularly The Sting, just something about the way the movie looks and feels. But it just doesn’t hit those high points. It really seemed to drag at times and the pool scenes are nearly as exciting at you would expect them to be. I had this movie on my list of shame for a long time, but it was kind of a letdown.

Drinking Buddies (2013)

One Line Description: Two co-workers constant flirting leads them, and their current significant others to a strange place.

Most movies strive to tell a complete story, including attempting to offer up as much of a resolution as possible in around two hours. Other movies try to just tell stories about interesting or funny people. Drinking Buddies was clearly trying to fall in the latter category, but just never gets there. The cast is solid, including the underrated Ron Livingston (Office Space). Jake Johnson is hilarious on New Girl, but it turns out when he tones it way down and is the only funny one, he can’t carry the load. I know Anna Kendrick is a darling in most people’s eyes, but her tiny mouth makes me uncomfortable and I legitimately believe she is very overrated. Maybe it’s because she seems to play a neurotic, uptight character in a lot of movies and that makes her unlikeable. Olivia Wilde was OK, but I don’t remember her from any of the movies I have seen her in, so she must not be very memorable. This movie definitely gets points for the Chicago setting, but overall it came up short. I had much higher expectations for this movie, but it was really just not that funny. It was by no means terrible, but definitely not great.

Let’s Be Cops (2014)

One Line Description: Two down on their luck friends pretend to be cops to have fun and impress women, but things go too far.

Another Jake Johnson movie, another very ‘meh’ movie. As good as Johnson is on New Girl he just doesn’t seem to be good in movies. When he has to be the star his schtick just doesn’t work for 90 minutes. Damon Wayans Jr. also seems to play the same “blah” character he plays on New Girl. You want to like him, but he comes off as unlikeable and almost whiny. Rob Riggle shows up, and then ends up playing the straight man for once, which he is fine at, but it’s like signing Mike Trout to play DH. The funniest role of the movie probably belonged to the small part of a woman whose apartment Johnson and Wayans use for for a stake-out. Some great jokes in there. Otherwise this wasn’t as good as 21 Jump Street, and the ending just makes me sad. Of all the ways the story should end for these guys, the way it does probably makes the least sense. Oh well. I wouldn’t waste your time.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (2015)

One Line Description: A mall security guard get’s wrapped up in an art heist while at a hotel in Vegas for a convention.

Former podcast co-host Chris convinced me to see this one. We have a tradition of seeing most of Kevin James movies in the theater the last few years, but I was reluctant this time out. The first Paul Blart movie was horrendously bad. It seemed unreal that they would make another one. Jaime Mays seemed to have decided that she was better than a sequel, and she was probably right, so her character is written off in the first 30 seconds. And at no point does this movie get better. The first 30 minutes are excruciatingly bad. Kevin James, who has put back on all the weight he lost for Here Comes the Boom and then some, is mailing in this performance Adam Sandler-style. There are laughs, and of course James falls down a lot. And the plot is as ridiculous as the first one. But unlike the other movies in this post, I went into it with literally zero expectations. There was no way it could be worse that I pictured in my mind, so the dozen or so laugh out loud moments were a pleasant surprise. But I did want to walk out about 20 minutes it because it’s so rough in the beginning. If this comes on and you can’t find the remote, you could do worse, but do not go out of your way to find this one.

Post 2015 NFL Draft Thoughts

My predictions proved to be quite foolish. I went 2 for 7, and both the ones I got correct were pretty easy predictions.

1. We will know well before the clock starts ticking that James Winston is indeed the first overall pick. (WRONG?)

It certainly seemed from everything I saw that this was a foregone conclusion, but it didn’t ever seem like we knew 100% for sure beforehand that this was happening. So I think this prediction was wrong.

2. Marcus Mariota will go 2nd (CORRECT)

It was the Titans. Time will tell if it was the right move. People are concerned he might not beat out Zach Mettenberger for the job, but that alone doesn’t tell us anything. The question is whether or not he is good enough to be a starter in the NFL. Having two starter-quality NFL QBs is not a bad problem to have.

3. No other QB will go in the 1st round (CORRECT)

I knew this was a softball, but there is no way that I would have predicted that no QB would go in round 2. And there is no way I would have predicted that Garrett Grayson from Colorado St. and Sean Mannion of Oregon St. would be not only the next two QBs taken, but the only two in the third round. Brett Hundley going all the way in round 5 was a surprise. The Packers might have gotten a steal there.

4. The Bears draft a defensive player (WRONG)

Every single Bears fan had to be excited to see that Leonard Williams, the guy most people thought was the best player in the draft was still sitting out there at #6. Considering the rumors that the Bears were considering trading up to #2 I hope they at least called to see what it would take to get to #6, especially since the Jets really didn’t need Williams. Despite the fact that Vic Beasley was still out there (as I predicted) the Bears went with West Virginia WR Kevin White. White was a junior college transfer and really just broke out at the end of his career. He also slowed down considerably as the season wore on. This is far from a slam dunk pick, and with all the holes on defense I am not really sure I agree with this pick.

5. Seven WRs go in the first round (WRONG)

I came close, there were six, and a third one went 5 picks into the 2nd round. Of the eight guys I said had a shot, six of them went in the first round. Dorial Green-Beckham slipped to early in the 2nd, not shocking with his off-field issues. Jalen Strong dropped all the way to the third round and could be a monster steal for the Houston Texans.

6. The death of the 1st round RB is greatly exaggerated (WRONG)

Gurley went 10th. Gordon went 15th. No one else snuck into the first round and only two guys went in the 2nd. The first of which was the surprising selection of TJ Yeldon with the 36th overall pick. Tevin Coleman and Duke Johnson not only didn’t sneak into round 2, but didn’t get picked until the third round.

7. There will be more defensive players drafted then offensive players in round one (WRONG)

Swing and a miss. Defense lost to offense 15–17. It seems like the offensive push is really on right now. Guess it will take defense a few years to catch up.

Other Observations

A few other stray observations:

  • It’s already been written about a bunch, but the draft was pretty uneventful. The top two picks were in attendance. There were almost no first round trades. No one really dropped that wasn’t expected to. No one really got picked way ahead of where they were projected. Technology has it made it so much easier for reporters to gather information that they go into making predictions with much more information than years past, and that has made mock drafts much more accurate. That takes away a bit from the drama.
  • No kickers were drafted (there was one punter). 2010 is the last time no kickers were drafted. And other than that year, there had been at least two drafted every years since 2003. But when you look at the guys drafted over the last five years most of them don’t appear to be current starters. Teams just seem to be getting smarter to the fact that kickers are more readily available and less reliable from year to year.
  • Having the draft in Chicago seemed to work pretty well. I didn’t hear about any big issues, which makes me think they will start moving it around, at least every other year.
  • As someone who has been a draft fanatic for well over a decade now, I can say that the draft is losing it’s luster for me a bit. The time between picks is excruciating, and they are always at least one pick behind, and for no real reason. With as accurate as mock drafts are, the surprise element gets lost a bit. And there is so much info about every draftee online before and after that it doesn’t really add value to see it when guys get picked.

Seven Pre-2015 NFL Draft Predictions

The NFL draft has grown into such a spectacle that it’s hard to right anything about it that no one else has. The fact that it’s not in New York for the first time in a long time is obviously going to be an interesting story. Despite the fact that it’s so close to home I never seriously considered going. To be honest it just doesn’t like it would be very much to be there in person. It’s slow to watch on TV, I can’t imagine that in person it would be much more exciting. I hope I end up knowing someone who goes in person so I can find out their thoughts after the fact.

In the meantime, here are seven (mostly) foolish predictions for the first round:

1. We will know well before the clock starts ticking that James Winston is indeed the first overall pick.

Remember when we used to know weeks in advance because contracts would already be worked out? It’s weird that doesn’t happen anymore. But there doesn’t seem to be any doubt at this point that Winston will be the guy.

2. Marcus Mariota will go 2nd

It might not be the Titans but they are going to take advantage of this being such a two QB draft and trading the pick if they don’t want him. I don’t think the Phillip Rivers trade happens, but someone moves up to grab him.

3. No other QB will go in the 1st round

This isn’t that bold since recent history suggests it happens pretty frequently, but whatever. I need at least a softball or two.

4. The Bears draft a defensive player

With the news that the Bears won’t bring back Shea McClellin for his 5th year option mean they now have an even bigger need on defense. Everyone thinks that it will be one of the two WRs (Kevin White or Amari Cooper), but things could have changed yesterday. Leonard Williams, Donte Fowler and Vic Beasley most likely will all be gone, but something always goes different than people think. One of those guys will slip to 7 and the Bears will grab them.

5. Seven WRs go in the first round

You have to go back to 2004 for the last time 7 went in the first round. 2009, 2007 and 2005 all had six guys taken. Amari Cooper and Kevin White are 100% locks and both could go in the top 10. Breshad Perriman and DaeVante Parker seem pretty safe bets. Phillip Dorsett and Dorial Green-Beckham both have pretty decent shots. Nelson Agholor and Jalen Strong are both fringe prospects. So it’s possible.

6. The death of the 1st round RB is greatly exaggerated

Only four running backs total have gone in the first round in the last four years. Todd Gurley has been flying up draft boards and Melvin Gordon should go in the top 20. Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah all look like 2nd round picks, but one of them will sneak into the 1st round.

7. There will be more defensive players drafted then offensive players in round one

There are a lot of good defensive players out there this year and it seems like teams are starting to build more around defense again. So I expect to see a lot of defensive players taken in the first round.

Pygmy Reviews #53 – iOS Apps

Swype Keyboard ($0.99)

One Line Description: A custom iOS keyboard that supports swiping a finger around instead of traditional typing.

Swype is not a new concept. It was first released for Android nearly two years ago and came to iOS with the custom keyboard support in iOS 8. It allows the user to swipe their finger back and forth across the keyboard and then turns those swipes into letters/words based on when/where the finger changed direction. It works surprisingly well.

It comes with it’s own version of what Apple calls QuickType allowing the user to pick words as they go, or autocorrect as they see fit, and can be used like a regular keyboard, thus making it a reasonable option as a full-time replacement. It seems vastly superior to one handed typing (at least on the iPhone 6), but might not be better than two handed typing in most situations. That likely would just come down to preference. It seems that most people prefer SwiftyKey over Swype, but Swype doesn’t require full the keyboard access that SwiftKey does and therefore provides a more secure option.

In regular typing/non-swiping scenarios, it isn’t as good as the built-in Apple keyboard, but it works great in the swiping world. At $0.99 it seems worth a shot, despite the horrible app store reviews.

Emoji++ ($0.99)

One Line Description: A slightly better implementation than the current stock emoji keyboard.

The default emoji keyboard on iOS 8.3 is a vast improvement over it’s predescessor. Emoji++ has the long scrollable list first and still seems to make it easier to just scroll through every emoji there is. It also allows favorites to be stored so they can easily be re-used. It also has a section for recently used icons to pick from. It’s not a drastic improvement over the existing implementation, but at $0.99 it is worth it for anyone that uses emojis with any regularity, and would seem like also a requirement for anyone who is an emoji “power user”

Narwhal (Free)

One Line Description: A simple Reddit client

The previously mentioned Alien Blue comes loaded with eye candy and fancy interface ideas, but Narwhal overall is probably a better Reddit client. It looks nice, and uses swiping in lots of clever ways to keep buttons hidden. It has a few minor quirks though. For some reason it always shows the Reddit front page briefly when opened before showing the user’s front page. It seems like a bug, and one that should be easy to correct. It also has no way to view the sidebar for a subreddit, something that has been mentioned as a future feature but never delivered on. It also takes some trickery to get to the iOS share sheet, and so saving images and articles can be more complicated than they need to be. Still the interface is much less jarring than Alien Blue, and it provides a nice enough experience to warrant taking a peak. It is surely one of the better Reddit clients out there, which is needed since Reddit lacks any sort of mobile website version. It’s free, so it can’t hurt to try unless no sidebar access is a dealbreaker.

Tally 2 (Free)

One Line Description: An app to keeping counts of things.

I am really not sure why Agile Tortoise (which writes one of my favorite iOS apps Drafts) decided to re-write Tally, or why they decided to continue to make it free, but this is one of those apps that is nice to have tucked away in a folder in case you need it someday. Pretty much anything you can think of is built into this app. Tallies can be named, they can start or be manually set to any value, they can count up or down and by any set amount. Tapping on the screen changes the value by the default count and swiping down does the opposite. There is even a Today widget to quickly access current Tallies!

If you are someone who has to regularly count things this is a no brainer option. But again this is the kind of app that some people might occasionally need and it’s nice to have around just in case.

Throwback Jersey Sales by State

Mitchell and Ness makes throwback sports jerseys. And they [recently published the following map] with the top selling jerseys by state.

So many oddities here. The one that stands out the most to me is the Bo Jackson White Sox jersey leading the way in Arkansas. Because Arkansas has no pro teams it’s obvious that this is going to be a team from another state, but why Bo Jackson? He was born in Alabama and went to Auburn. And why the White Sox version? Kansas City is much closer and that would have even made more sense.

Walter Payton in South Dakota is another weird one. It’s not really surprising Payton is the top selling jersey in Illinois. Chicago is a Bears town, and way more people are buying Bears jerseys than Bulls these days. But why South Dakota? Payton was born and went to college in Mississippi.

Add on more strange Chicago ties with Ernie Banks being the top seller in New Mexico. This might be the hardest to explain. Like the previous two oddities, New Mexico has no major pro team, and it doesn’t seem like the place a lot of people retire to. So why Banks?

Kobe Bryant jerseys are remarkably popular. States like Oregon and Nevada are not huge shockers being so close to California and having just one pro team (the Trailblazers between them). But how in the heck is Kobe Bryant the top selling jersey in Wisconsin and Minnesota?!? The obvious guess in Wisconsin would be Brett Favre, but perhaps too many people have that jersey already. And there probably isn’t another former Packer popular enough to bring in lots of sales. The Bucks and Brewers perhaps don’t have a standout throwback either. But it seems crazy to think that it would be Kobe of all people. In Minnesota Kevin Garnett probably sold too many jerseys when he was there, and with Vikings Cris Carter is perhaps the only guy who would come close, and he might be too recent as well.

It doesn’t seem so crazy that some of these states have odd choices, it’s just surprising what the odd choices are. Wisconsin is thought of as such a football state, and Minnesota as a hockey one. So if Minnesota’s top jersey was Gretzky that wouldn’t be totally shocking. But for it to be someone like Kobe just goes to show how incredibly popular he is apparently. If I was someone from Wisconsin though I would be pretty embarrassed.

This data is no doubt skewed by the fact there is there is surely a “sweet spot”. Jerseys have become more and more popular over the last 20 years, and for the most part guys who played in the last 20 years probably sold a lot of jerseys when they played (Favre and Garnett are examples from above). And someone like Fran Tarkenton with the Vikings is probably too far back to be that popular, so something random like Kobe happens. Still very interesting data.

(via ESPN)