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Archive for March, 2013

As one of only seven people in the World to actually watch every episode of ABC’s remake of V I have long been prone to the idea that a species of reptilian humanoids may exist and be living among us.  Now thanks to this bat shit crazy video that Wired wrote about the other day (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/03/secret-service-reptile-aliens/) I finally have some hard proof.

Check it out at:

Normally I wouldn’t give much thought to a grainy video with a creepy voice over but since this lends credence to a belief that I’ve long held I’m susceptible to drinking the kool aid.  That belief?  That ancient aliens once visited the Earth.  How else do you explain how the Pyramids or Stonehenge were built?

The thing that bothers though me about this conspiracy theory is that it seems kind of pointless.  How could a reptilian bodyguard control policy?  Doesn’t our system of checks and balances prevent one person, one branch of government, heck even one entire alien race from dedicating what happens?

Perhaps that means that they are only here to protect us and steer us back on the right track when we go astray.  But then again maybe not since we seem to make lots of bad decisions that lead to costly protracted wars.  Moreover, I’d like to think that if an advanced alien species capable of interstellar travel and shape shifting really was looking after us that they would have long ago figured out a way to avoid the sequester.  Or have figured out a way to get rid of Sarah Palin.  Or the Kardashians.  Which is why as much as I want to believe in the idea that shape shifting reptilian alien overlords are secretly governing U.S. policy it’s probably not very realistic.  Or is it?

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Why is it that most secret service agents are bald? Is it because they are all shape shifting reptilian aliens?

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#174 – From A to Z

Apparently there was a lot happening while I was in Arizona.  Here’s a look at some of the great ideas happening now, from A to Z, and everything in between:

Amazon Studios Greenlights First Childrens Series Pilot – The future of TV has arrived.

http://www.technobuffalo.com/2013/03/06/amazon-studios-greenlights-its-first-original-childrens-series-pilot/

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Bloomberg’s Soda Ban Nixed – New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to get soft drinks above a certain size banned in New York City was shot down recently.  I get what Bloomberg was trying to do since obesity causes so many problems but there’s just no way you can justify telling people in a free society what size drink they can consume.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/12/nyregion/judge-invalidates-bloombergs-soda-ban.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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Chess Boxing – From the “you can’t make this stuff up department” comes the next big thing in sports: chess boxing.  (http://www.wired.com/rawfile/2013/03/laurra-pannack-chess-boxers/)

As the article states, “The rules in chess boxing are simple. There are 11 rounds and players alternate between boxing and chess. The boxing rounds last three minutes and the chess rounds last four. You win by knockout or checkmate. If neither of those is achieved, the boxer with the highest number of points wins.”

Olympic committee I hope you’re paying attention.

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Defiance – The crossover from video game to movie and vice versa is a tenuous one and if you don’t believe me just try watching Doom.  Syfy hopes to change that with their ambitious new series, Defiance, that has been five years in the making.  The reason why it has taken so long is because its not just a video game trying to become a TV show and it’s not just a TV show trying to become a video game.  It’s both.  Simultaneously.

The TV show will be set in a post Alien invasion St. Louis.  The video game in a post Alien invasion San Francisco.  And here’s the best part:  what happens in one might affect what happens in the other.  As this article from the Wall Street Journal alludes to, “for example, the TV show’s lead characters, a reluctant lawman (played by Grant Bowler) and his adopted alien daughter (Stephanie Leonidas), will appear in the game as avatars after the finale of the TV show’s 12-episode season.”

Sign me up.

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Electrical bacteria in oceans – I wonder if there are any practical uses for this?  Power source for future underwater colonies?

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/science/marine-bacteria-act-as-living-electric-cables-307438.html

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Facebook adds weather to events page – Seems so obvious in hindsight.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/facebook-shores-up-events-pages-with-weather-forecasts/

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Google Watch – Anything you can do I can do but better?  Is Google going to be making a smart watch too?

http://www.siliconbeat.com/2013/03/22/google-watch-joins-apples-iwatch-on-the-watch-watch-list/

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HBO’s Game of Thrones prequel – Yes!!!!!!! Make it happen!

http://theclicker.today.com/_news/2013/03/23/17428478-game-of-thrones-prequel-series-possible-says-author-george-r-r-martin?lite

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iWatch – Apple has been rumored to be making an iWatch for quite some time.  Everyone assumes it’s going to be a smart watch but what if it’s something else.  What if iWatch refers to Apple TV?  Or to their version of Google Glass?!

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J.J. Abrams tabbed to direct new Star Wars trilogy to be set after the events of Episode 6.  Here’s hopping that J.J. can do for Star Wars what he did for Star Trek: re-imagine it and make it relevant again.  Please don’t fuck this up!!!!

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Keychain Keyboard:  My keychain already contains more useless crap than a swiss army knife: a bottle opener even though I don’t drink, keys to doors whose locations I can’t remember, a membership card to a gym that I no longer frequent, etc.  And yet I won’t hesitate to add one more item to it:  a keyboard that projects onto any surface!

http://mashable.com/2012/11/25/virtual-keychain-keyboard/

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Lumosity – Finally brain training gets the attention it deserves.  Check it out at: http://www.lumosity.com/ and as the website says:

“Harness your brain’s neuroplasticity and train your

way to a brighter life.”

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Movie that changes it’s ending based on audience feedback – It’s chose your own adventure for the 21st Century.

http://gizmodo.com/5984830/paranoid-movie-watches-you-watch-it-and-changes-to-your-liking

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NBA embraces advanced metrics – Several NBA franchises including the Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors have taken to the stat sheet to find a competitive advantage.  Grantland recently featured how the Raptors have figured out a way to measure defense by overlaying game footage with “ghost avatars” showing where each player should have been playing.  Of course in real life with fatigue setting in it’s hard to be exactly where you are supposed to be all the time.  But there is one player who does it better than anyone else.  Yep, you guessed it.  LeBron James.  Greatest.  Player.  Ever.

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Oblivion – Greatest Movie Ever?

Patent for Google Glass to control appliances – I want this!!!!!  #cantwait

http://phys.org/news/2013-03-google-patent-google-glass-ish-appliances.html

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Quantum Computers are almost here! – New reports indicate that Lockheed Martin wants to develop quantum computers for commercial use.

http://gigaom.com/2013/03/22/lockheed-martin-wants-to-use-a-quantum-computer-to-develop-radar-aircraft-systems/

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Robotic helicopters that can juggle – The future of robotics has arrived and it is amazing:

Samsung Smart Watch – Anything you can do I can do but better, part 2.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/19/tech/mobile/samsung-watch/index.html

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The Booth at the End – If you are looking for something to watch check out the Booth at the End on Hulu.  Fans of action will be disappointed because nothing happens on this show.  Literally.  It’s just a guy sitting in a booth in a diner talking to different people. And it’s absolutely riveting.

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Under the Dome – I’m not a Stephen King fan but this looks awesome!

http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-stephen-king-under-the-dome-moves-south-for-tv-20130306,0,1565730.story

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Verizon’s Pay as You View TV Plan – Yes!!!!!!!!!!! Finally!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here’s how it would work according to Engadget: The telecom firm is in talks with mid-size and smaller content companies to pay for channels only based on how long we watch: Verizon would pay whenever a subscriber tunes in for at least five minutes. In theory, it’s a win-win strategy that lowers Verizon’s overhead (and hopefully ours) while rewarding the more successful smaller channels.

Read more at: http://www.engadget.com/2013/03/18/verizon-in-talks-to-charge-for-tv-channels-based-on-viewing-time/

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What’s up with all the smart watches!?!?!? – 

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/226191

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Xbox Always On – According to rumors the new Xbox will always be on and always connected so that updates are received seamlessly.

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-03/20/xbox-720-always-online

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Yankees will finish in last place in the AL East – Jeter, Arod, Granderson, and Tex are hurt.  Swisher, Martin, Soriano gone.  Everyone else old.  Not a good combination.  Hello #1 overall pick.

Detroit Tigers v New York Yankees - Game One

Zombies explained by Wired UK

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#173 – Shark Labs

People have always told me that I would love the ABC show Shark Tank which features entreprenuers pitching their fledgling products in hopes that one of the big name, deep pocketed “sharks” on the show like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban would want to partner with them and take their company to the next level.  Considering how much I love ideas and entrepreneurship it seemed like an obvious fit. 

I always resisted though because the more that someone tells me to do something the less I want to do it.  Even if it’s too my own detriment.  However, that all changed recently when I stumbled upon an episode and decided to give it a shot.  I was quickly hooked.  (I would like to say pun intended but I’m not sure that a fishing reference applies to a shark tank.)

While I now think that the show is great and highly entertaining there is something about it that bothers me and that’s the fact that the ideas getting pitched are already finished products.  These aren’t prototypes foretelling what a particular item may one day be capable of.  These are actual companies with real products that are in need of a cash infusion to expand their market share.  There are legitimate investment opportunities here and that’s what piques the interest of the sharks to be sure.  But why should anyone else care?  Aside from the obvious appeal of delighting at someone cracking under the pressure of an intense cross examination is there any other reason to tune in? 

That could all change though if the show changed it’s tune and instead focused on ideas instead of existing companies.  If it focused on what could be rather than what is.  If it not only started asking bigger questions but tried to answer them as well.  Wouldn’t that be great?  Wouldn’t it be great if a show centered around businesses did the one thing that any great business should do and pivoted towards a new goal?  If it reinvented itself on the fly?

Tried and true business concepts like market share would give way to more abstract concepts.   Algorithms would take center stage.  The phrase “in theory” would be uttered a lot.  And the fact that a business plan doesn’t exist would be a non factor.  The show that I’m envisioning would offer promise and hope for all of us not just financial gain for a few.

The way that it would work is that the panel of sharks would be replaced by an all new panel of people or entities interested in providing the holder of the idea with whatever resources they need to turn their idea into reality.  It would be as if Shark Tank and Bell Labs had a baby hence the name Shark Labs.  It’s a blind leap of faith to be sure but one that many people would be willing to take if they believe enough in the idea or the person pitching the idea.

More importantly though the format of this new show would allow us to get away from companies hawking energy drinks or eco-friendly laundry bags and get us to instead focus on the big picture things that really matter such as clean energy, education, and healthcare.  I’m willing to bet that someone out there has an idea that can disrupt those industries.  We just have to find that person.  Shark Labs could help. 

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Wouldn’t Shark Tank be better if it focused on ideas not companies?

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#172 – Flattr

I generally don’t like to pay for content that is freely available.  It’s why I’ve never been behind the New York Times pay wall and never will.  It’s why I wait for books to become available in my local library before I read them.  It’s why I cancelled my cable.

Yet at the same time I recognize the need to reward content creators for their hard work.  I sympathize with musicians who lose revenue to record labels and illegal downloads.  I feel the pain of journalists, columnists, and bloggers alike all of whom give away so much of their content for free just to make a name for themselves.  For every Peter King with the backing of Sports Illustrated there are a hundred self proclaimed fantasy gurus with a lot to say and nothing to show for it.

For years creative types have lamented their fate as free laborers and wished for a better way.  Wished for someone to come along to foot the bill and save the day so that they could continue to support themselves while doing that which they love to do.  Now thanks to the new service, Flattr, that wish may finally be coming true.

Flattr is exactly what it sounds like; a way to flatter people whose work you appreciate by linking payments to anything that you “like” online.  According to a recent article on Tech Crunch (http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/18/flattr-now-monetizes-the-like-economy-by-connecting-social-accounts-with-payments/) here’s how it would work:

“Flattr users can now give and receive micro-donations directly on other web services they already use. They just need to Favorite, Like or Star content on any social service they have already connected to Flattr. The list of connected accounts now runs to Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, Github, Flickr, Vimeo, 500px and App.net while more are planned. Flattr will divide your monthly budget into equal parts based on the number of clicks (Likes, favorites and stars) throughout the month.”

When I tell people about this concept the first thing that everyone says is why would anyone do this?  Why would anyone willingly pay money for something that they can get for free?  And it’s a fair point.  Why would anyone do this?  It’s one of those things that sounds great from the content creator’s point of view but doesn’t make much sense from the consumer’s point of view.

And yet I have a strange feeling that this could catch on.  The success of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter indicates that people do have a willingness to support projects that they care about and are emotionally invested in.  Similar bonds undoubtedly exist between author and reader, artist and audience.

There are however some drawbacks to this idea.  For starters I utilize the favorite button on Twitter to save items for future reading.  I wouldn’t want to have to pay someone everytime I did that.  I also think this would deter people from haphazardly throwing around likes as they would choose to use them more selectively.  Which means I can kiss goodbye the occassional like that one of my blog posts gets.  And if someone does indeed go around liking everything and anything that they come across then their monthly budget will get so dilluted that each recepient will barely receive any money.

In spite of all that I still have high hopes for this idea as should all creative types.  This could very well be the answer to our prayers.  Now if you would be so kind as to click that you like this post on Twitter I’ll be well on my way to striking it rich.  Thanks!

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If you could make small payments for content that you “like” would you?

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The last in a series of posts about baseball in honor of my trip to Spring Training:

Probably the best part about my trip to Arizona this year, other than the fact that I didn’t die from a scorpion bite, is that I got to see Team USA, Team Italy, and the Netherlands play in the World Baseball Classic. 

The WBC while still in its infancy has come together nicely while coinciding with the sports growth internationally.  This mini tournament probably couldn’t have existed twenty years ago but now that players like Jurickson Profar and Xander Bogaerts have emerged as budding young stars for a team like the Netherlands it can.  For proof look no further than two time defending champion Japan which didn’t even make it to the finals this time around.  Or just ask the Americans who once again were eliminated early on.  The Worldwide talent gap is shrinking.  Parody is longer limited to just the National League West.

But for all of its commercial appeal the WBC still comes up short in some regards because of its timing.  By being held in early March, during Spring Training, many top flight pitchers opt out of the tournament due to conditioning concerns while many other star players avoid playing to nurse nagging injuries.  Add in all of those fringe major league players who don’t play to focus on winning jobs in Spring Training and what you have is a tournament that’s run at less than full strength.  It’s watered down.  It is to baseball what the Slam Dunk Contest is to the NBA.  Something that could be great.  Something that should be great.  But ultimately something that comes up short. 

There is an obvious solution however and that is to move the WBC to the All-Star Break.  The tournament would have to be condensed into a one week format but that tradeoff is a small price to pay for having teams at full strength with pitchers capable of giving 100%.  It would also be a great promotional opportunity for Major League Baseball giving them the chance to dominate the sports landscape for an entire week during the middle of the summer. 

Considering how desperate MLB is for people to care about the All-Star game (having it decide home field advantage in the World Series) this would seem like a no-brainer.  This time it counts could give way to this time it matters.  And it would matter.  Not just to the handful of players who actually take it seriously.  But to all of us.  To everyone. 

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If the WBC was played during the All-Star Break its value would be enhanced.

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Here are some random thoughts from my time in Arizona:

Attending Spring Training games is hit or miss.  When you commit to buying the ticket you have no idea which regulars are going to be playing that day and for how long.  And yet that day’s starting pitcher is announced ahead of time and listed in that days newspaper.  I’ve never understood why that is.  Why is that the only announcement that is being made?  Why isn’t the whole starting lineup announced publicly before the game starts?  And why is it that in Spring Training when there are several pitchers set to pitch in a given day that only the starting pitcher is announced?  Why not list all of the guys scheduled to throw on that day?  This is the kind of information that could determine how large of a crowd you get on a given day and how long people will stay for.  I’m willing to bet that you’d get larger crowds and have people stick around longer if they knew who was going to play and when.

I don’t get the point of the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.  They already publish top ten prospect lists within the pages of their bi-weekly publication.  Going thirty players deep doesn’t make much sense since those are the guys who are mostly just organizational filler who never amount to much.  Wouldn’t it make more sense to publish a Player Handbook?  Especially for those players like a Domonic Brown of the Phillies who no longer qualify for prospect lists but who still are relative unknowns with a lot to prove.

I don’t understand why split squad games take place in two different locations.  Doesn’t it make more sense to have those two split squads play a day-night double header at their home stadium?  That way the manager can see everyone instead of choosing which half of his team to see and that way the fans can attend two games and be guaranteed to see everyone on the team play instead of missing out on seeing key guys.

At the Diamondbacks-Breweres game on Wednesday I saw a beer vendor with his back to the field get hit in the head with a foul ball.  Miracously he shook off the blow like it was nothing.  But what if he had sustained a concussion or worse?  Shouldn’t vendors have to wear batting helmets for protection?

I don’t know why all games start at 1 pm local time.  Shouldn’t they start at 4 pm so that it’s not as hot out and so that those games that are being televised can be aired in prime time at 7 pm east coast time?

It bothers me that airports don’t have food courts near baggage claim.  After a long five hour flight and a one hour delay on the runway I wanted something to eat.  But if I stopped in the terminal to eat I risked missing my bag come out and chancing that someone else could have grabbed it.  By the time I finally ate after a one hour subway commute home I was starving.  It would have been perfect if I could have ate something near the baggage claim carousel while waiting for my bag to come out.

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These weary travelers sure do look hungry!

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The third in a series of posts about baseball in honor of my trip to Spring Training:

My biggest regret about my trip to Spring Training was that I was missed Mike Trout’s first inning home run on Thursday.  The reason why?  One lane of traffic leading to the parking lot created a massive traffic jam that caused me to be fifteen minutes late for the game even though I had arrived twenty minutes early.  Epic fail city of Tempe.  Epic fail.

There is a way however to avoid this horrible fate from happening again and it has nothing to do with parking lot logistics.  Rather the obvious solution is to play games backwards.  Now I’m not talking about running to third base first or making it take 3 balls for a walk and four strikes for a strikeout.  What I mean is that the starters shouldn’t enter the game until the fifth inning instead of the current practice of leaving in the fifth inning.

Aside from the obvious benefit of giving late arriving fans a chance to get to their seats before the star players come out you’d have a legitimate on field reason for doing this as well and that’s the fact that you’d be getting your regular players experience closing out games.  This is especially important for late game relievers who currently get their work in during the middle of the game while the regulars are still playing.  Makes sense from the standpoint of practicing against actual major leaguers but makes little sense in regards to gaining experience in late game situations.  If Spring Training is all about preparing for regular season situations shouldn’t your relievers and your team get experience in closing out games and playing winning baseball?  Currently that doesn’t happen.

A reverse starting lineup makes sense from a pure business standpoint as well since fans would be more inclined to stay for the whole game instead of the mass exodus that occurs when the stars leave.  The longer fans are in the ballpark the more concessions and merchandise you can sell.  That’s business 101.

In addition, having your star players come off the bench would give them a chance to practice pinch hitting which is something they may be called upon to do during the season and it would also give your younger players and bench players a chance to start something that they may be called upon to to during the season as well in the event of an injury.

When you really think about it there are so many obvious benefits to having a reverse starting lineup that it is almost unfathomable that no one has thought of this before.  It makes sense from a player development standpoint and it makes business sense.  Although then again that’s probably why it hasn’t been implemented yet.  This is major league baseball we’re talking about after all.  Not everything is supposed to make sense.  Just ask anyone who has tried to park in Tempe.

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Late arriving fans wouldn’t miss Mike Trout’s first inning exploits if he played the second half of spring training games.

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