April 21, 2014
The Laker Fan’s ‘Hater’s Guide’ To the First round

By the end of this season I wasn’t even frustrated with the Lakers. For a fan like me, they were so bad and had been so bad for so long that I started looking forward to a Laker-less playoffs. At least then the pain would stop.

But now that the 13-14 Laker’s season is over, it doesn’t mean that I can’t still be a Lakers fan. There are a lot of interesting first round match-ups to watch and using a combination of history, rivalry, and player hating, a Laker fan can find a lot to be invested about in this years playoffs.

*When I say “we” or “us” I mean the Lakers

The West

Spurs (1) vs. Mavericks (8)

Despite the Spurs being the most successful team besides the Lakers since 2000 I don’t have a lot of beef with them. We beat them a few times and they beat us. I never felt that they beat a Laker team that was a real contender anyway so I don’t hold any grudges for the ones the Lakers lost. But I have even less beef with the Mavs.

We mostly handled them in the Dirk and Nash era and when they beat us in 2011 they made up for it by also beating The Heat. But more than history is just pure aesthetics.

As impressive as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Greg Popovich have been for being a good team basically 15 years straight, they are, frankly, always boring to watch. The odds are stacked against them but if Dallas does eek out a few victories it will be because of some awesome Dirk games which are bound to be exciting. The Spurs will most likely win but it will be so boring and methodical that even the fans in San Antonio will probably just yawn and shrug their shoulders.

Laker’s Hater Pick: Mavs in 6

Thunder (2) vs. Grizzlies (7)

This one is more complex. In 2012 the Thunder beat down the Lakers so bad that it seemed personal. They were definitely the better team but we got spanked so hard that it was borderline abuse. Kevin Durant was the best player in that series vs. an ailing Kobe who’s knees basically fell off against the Nuggets. But it was Russell Westbrook’s relentless attacks at the basket, Ibaka’s physical beatdowns on Gasol, and James Harden’s annoying rise to stardom that really left a bad taste in my mouth.

But I can think of a few teams that I hate more than the Thunder and frankly if the Grizzlies were to advance those teams would have a much easier time and so it’s sorta crucial that the Thunder advance. Nothing personal Grizzlies, I like Z-Bo and your tough D but you guys can’t score against anybody.

Laker’s Hater Pick: Thunder in 5

Clippers (3) vs. Warriors (6)

Gee I wonder who I’ll pick. The Clippers are the embodiment of a Lakers fan’s ire and frustration. A team in LA, who isn’t the Lakers, that is good, with young good players, a good coach, fans who crawled out of the woodwork 3 years ago and spend every game trolling Facebook, and a hyper inflated sense of entitlement.

But even more than petty jealousy, they are an annoying team to watch. They complain about every single call or non call, every play. They flop constantly. They play high tempo ball that always falls apart in the playoffs. And Doc Rivers sorta compared DeAndre Jordan to Bill Russel and said Blake Griffin should be second in MVP voting which even Clippers fans have to admit is a little out of touch with reality.

Plus I really like the Warriors. When Steph Curry gets hot, it is must see TV. Their home crowd is amazing. They are definite underdogs and have to over achieve to advance in a stacked Western Conference — but last year’s series against the Nuggets and Spurs were amazing. Who doesn’t want them to play more games?

Laker’s Hater Pick: Warriors in 6

Rockets (4) vs Blazers (5)

I don’t really hate or like either team a whole lot. They both shoot a ton of 3’s, have great post players, and play generally bad defense. Neither of these teams seems poised to upset any major players after the first round though the scales tip in the Rockets favor because Dwight Howard could be a matchup nightmare against certain teams. Really what this boils down to is petty things.

James Harden plays for the foul first and his shot second and that makes him hard to root for or call him a legitimate superstar. He is an excellent shooter of course and can get to the rim against anyone but not since 2008 Paul Pierce have I disliked a guard so much for always seeking out contact.

Also, screw Dwight Howard. I don’t blame him for leaving LA for greener pastures or for last season’s debacle. But I do blame him for being a the kind of diva that only 2010 Lebron James and 2007 Kobe Bryant could ever match without being half as good as either.

Laker’s Hater Pick: Blazers in 6


The East

Pacers (1) vs. Atlanta (8)

The Pacers are the only team who could beat the Heat in the East. They were practically built at every position to match up with South Beach and so in the interest of Miami not waltzing through to the Finals I have to root for the Pacers. The only trouble is, they’ve been sucking for months now and seem to be ready to implode before the dream matchup in the eastern conference finals.

Atlanta is basically not a real playoffs team but should probably win an achievement award for making the most 8 seeds with the most below-average team. Not even their fans really care about them enough to show up to a game and they are usually just a tune up for every good team in the east.

Laker’s Hater Pick: Pacers in 5

Heat (2) vs. Bobcats (7)

Who actually likes the Heat, outside of Miami, I mean as a whole team? They’re basically the bad guys in every sports movie ever made and when they wear those black uniforms rooting for them seems like rooting for Sauron in Lord of the Rings. If you’re wondering, Lebron is Sauron, Wade is Saruman (cause he’s been deceived by Sauron and should be a good guy), Pat Riley is the Witch King, and Mario Chalmers is an average-at-best point guard.

The Bobcats are barely a bump in the road and there is no way they could win the series much less 2 games. But this isn’t a list of likely winners so…

Laker’s Hater Pick: Bobcats in 7

Raptors (3) vs. Nets (6)

Brooklyn is a 2015 lottery team that doesn’t know it yet. They got their cool new stadium in a cool new city. They got all the best players that were available in 2013 who weren’t Dwight Howard and overpaid the “stars” they already had. But in the end it produced an average team.

Toronto got rid of Rudy Gay and instead of tanking, played really well in a weak conference earning them a much deserved trip to the playoffs. Their fan’s are great cause they basically play for the whole country of Canada and they are probably the hardest underdogs to root against in the whole playoffs (and even against a 6th seed like Brooklyn they are probably still underdogs).

I don’t hate KG or Paul Pierce as much as I used to since history ultimately will have to concede that the Lakers were the better team of that era and as players they’re both well past their prime. They could probably give Miami more trouble than the Raptors if the two teams met but in this case it doesn’t seem worth it to root for them.

Laker’s Hater Pick: Raptors in 6

Bulls (4) vs Wizards (5)

I admire the Bulls. They are overachievers but only because they have to play so hard to compete every game. They play stifling defense against elite teams. I have a newfound respect for Joakim Noah. He is the kind of guy you want on your team without being particularly talented. But he isn’t an offensive minus like Ben Wallace or Dennis Rodman was, he puts up good and sometimes great numbers. He just needs help and has never really had it. Plus they give Miami fits and its always a beautiful thing to watch.

The Wizards are in the early stages of maybe becoming something. John Wall and Bradley Beal are very good offensively and they can challenge even the great teams every once in a while. I just don’t get to watch them very often so I don’t know them super well.

Laker’s Hater Pick: Bulls in 6

April 15, 2014
Casting the first stone: The Anti-Gentrification Movement

When did it become acceptable again to confront another human being and tell them where they can and can’t live?

Gentrification is a term used for that purpose. A term for labeling the movement of the rich to formerly poor areas. A term that brings to mind the loss of unique cultures being bulldozed by fancy restaurants, expensive apartment complexes and white washed walls. To be frank, it’s about white people moving in on brown peoples territory.

I’ve seen it happen. over the course of 6 or 7 years, I saw Echo Park transition from a slightly dangerous feeling, up and coming neighborhood, into a mostly safe, mall hipster and yuppie haven. Some of the old run down businesses have been replaced by expensive restaurants and bars, the Echo Park Lake was cleaned up and though the city still looks the same, it has, to me, lost some of it’s vibrancy.

Try finding a reasonable place for rent there. It’s too expensive mostly — another hallmark of gentrification. As a result other, cheaper neighborhoods are starting their transitions to be the new hip places to be. Gentrification spreads, people migrate, trends migrate, and sometimes hard working people get displaced.

But it’s happened before. A lot of the neighborhoods being gentrified today were no man’s land 20 or 30 years ago. Places where immigrants, and working class could afford to live and gang violence was a fact of life. But looking further into the past, 50 or 60 years ago, those same neighborhoods were different.

Even the places that have always been thought of as the roughest neighborhoods were not always that way. Compton, Watts, and Inglewood were some of the earliest suburbs for the new middle class that grew out of the 1940’s post war boom. Many of these areas were predominately white at first, but like any nice place to live, middle class families of all backgrounds began to move there.

But the United States changed a lot in the mid 20th century socially and economically, and the needs and desire’s of those in the middle class changed. There was urban decay and new suburbs were created to the east and north of Los Angeles. It was a change that was echoed in many of the major US cities — the migration of middle class and rich families away from urban centers. Some would label it white flight.

But starting in the 1990’s the trend began to reverse itself and until today the movement has shifted away from the suburbs and back to the cities. Consequently many of the working class, poor and immigrant populations have, at least in southern California have done the reverse, moving to the cheaper outskirts of the suburbs in San Bernardino county.

This presents a common trend about American populations — we tend move to the best situations that are available to us. This is because we all desire similar things. On some levels it’s practical. We want to afford housing, rent at the very least, but homes if we can. On some level it’s about preference. One neighborhood might provide more jobs, or better schools, or, for the rich, livelier nightlife, safer neighborhoods, shorter commutes.

What each person chooses to prioritize is based on individual situation and preference. There is a major caveat to this, however. Money equals mobility in the United States and a man with enough money can choose not to care about a long commute if he cares more about say, a nice view. Or if a young person thinks life is boring in the suburbs and wants an edgier, trendier, and initially cheaper place to live, they will choose not to care about things like safety or space.

All this to say that change is not only common, sometimes it’s practical. The hard part is watching the change happen. Seeing a formerly colorful neighborhood become bland is a loss culturally. But the anti-gentrification movement, especially the anti technology variant in San Francisco seems hell bent on stopping change. They picket outside of Google Employee’s homes and harass them whenever they can. They stage protests at bus stops. They assault people who use certain gadgets. And they feel completely justified.

While they seem to frame their arguments with vague ideas about loss of culture and the working class being forced to serve the rich, the problem is clearly rent. In San Francisco rents are skyrocketing, due largely to the technology boom. The prices have even come to rival New York, another metropolis that has been victim to gentrification. People who have lived in San Francisco for years are being priced out by engineers, developers and startups. As a result the city renowned for it’s diversity and acceptance has finally found a group they can’t tolerate — nerds.

But the writing is on the wall and it has been for many years. For every billionaire made through computer code, there are a thousand employees who just moved up in the world, who want to enjoy their lives and live somewhere new. Somewhere exciting and beautiful. Somewhere like San Francisco, a picturesque metropolis if there ever was one — a city ironically founded by people chasing riches of a different kind in the 1840’s.

It’s supposedly the American Dream. Only people don’t want white picket fences anymore, they want brick lofts, quirky dive bars, and vibrant daily lives. And while there will always be people left out of success, or forced by circumstances to adapt and decide where they can find a better life, for better or worse, I have to ask, who are we to say what is the right way or wrong? Who is to say who belongs and who doesn’t belong?

Maybe gentrification is just another term for the ugly side of change. Good people are being forced out of their lives by money, greed, and social standing. It’s hard to be for something like that. My hope is that smart people will seek out legislation to regulate this change or at least make it tenable to those who have less power. Maybe they can build more housing to satiate the demand and hopefully drive down prices. But when the tactics of the anti-gentrification movement are mob mentalities, assaults, and a bullish sense of self righteousness, I have to wonder if they really care about preserving culture or just care about themselves. As if they would be any different were the situations reversed.

Their tactics may work and that’s the worst part. The rich techies don’t have to live in San Francisco and if every time they walk in the streets they run the risk of being attacked and harassed by an angry mob they may decide it just isn’t worth it anymore. I know I would consider moving. But whether or not these groups realize it, they may doing more harm than good to the city they claim to love. If they hate working in coffee shops now, imagine what it will be like when there are no customers.

I used to work in a coffee shop too. People with even a little bit of money can be jerks. That’s what the paycheck is for.

January 7, 2014
My Thoughts On The Wolf Of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall Street is a story about excess. It’s unavoidable. Every aspect of Martin Scorcese’s true (ish) tale of greed, sex, drugs, lies, power, even redemption, oozes with the kind of over embellishment you’d expect from the self-made author, Jordan Belfort.

Sourced from his own memoir, the Wolf of Wall Street plays out like former jock recalling his best tackles in high school football. The entire time I watched, I couldn’t help feeling that nobody could have lived that life, not to that level. And in that level of dubious facts and lionized ideals, there is a certain kind of truth. Jordan Belfort is absolutely the man we see on screen not because of the realism of each scene but because the story in which *SPOILER* a bad man loses everthing, doesn’t tell the story of a bad man hitting rock bottom and coming to terms with what he wrought.

Instead, Jordan Belfort’s exploits, which lose him his wealth, family, friends and business, comes across like a mere bump in the road; no more significant than the crash of 1987 which cost him his first job but lead him to his next endeavor as a con man, selling worthless stock to gullible people.

And in truth, his present day job as a “motivational speaker” and “author” which we see him transition too after his time in federal prison, is no more than another version of what he did before. The people who pay him to teachthem his secrets as a salesman, forget that rather than giving them the inside track to success, the Wolf is merely rounding them up for his latest slaughter.

After watching the movie I thought, as any good movie about Wall Street will make you think, about how our country is founded on aspirational people who want more power and wealth. They seem to take the kinds of risks we cringe at. In films like this, we watch in anticipation as they almost get away with it until their pride ultimately causes them to go too far.

Then I think about the boom and bust of legal Wall Street and how greed can hurt everyone, even the ones who don’t play the game.

Sadly though, the reason Belfort was able to sell gullible people worthless stock is because a lot of hard-working, play-by-the-rules Americans have been fed the fable that the only barrier between them and success is their willingness to take educated risks. It takes money to make money. That’s why Belfort’s clients practically begged him to take their hard earned savings at Stratton Oakmont and that’s why aspiring investors beg him to give away his “secrets” now.

What we fail to see (or maybe don’t want to see), is what is obvious. Belfort is a bad person. He wasn’t just willing to gamble to make it big. He was willing to gamble other people’s money knowing they would lose and he would win. He didn’t really care about much except getting caught which took years and some missteps on his part to happen.

We also forget that Belfort is most likely a very, very smart person. He seemed to understand basic human nature and desire to the point that no matter what he had to sell you, he always had an advantage. In the movie Belfort asked his friends and later the people at his motivational conference to sell him a pen. It was a demonstration of the mind of a true salesmen, a zen-like lesson on how to create desire. But the true measure of Belfort’s genius is that in each instance he was actually selling himself to those groups and they didn’t even realize it.

In the same way, by seeing and enjoying The Wolf of Wall Street I was joining the multitudes who had been swindled by Jordan Belfort. Martin Scorcese masterfully crafts a movie that seems like a blunt and repetitive expose on unbridled greed and excess. But subversively - to the audience, cast and director - I feel that we all may have played a part in another one of Belfort’s schemes.

November 5, 2013
The unintentional things I learned in Basic Training

image

I am not a military guy. I never grew up dreaming about serving in the armed forces or had a family lineage to follow. I had none of the often noble, often personal inclinations that might possess a young man to join the military. Yet 9 years ago when I was 18, I joined the Air Force and entered basic training.

Despite the physical and mental toll it took to mold me into a member of the military, there were some lessons I learned about myself and others that were more nuanced than marching in line, saluting, and following orders.

1. Some people immediately regret their life decisions

The second you get off the bus from the airport to the base, you realize they aren’t going to ease you into this. The first night is long and hellish as everyone, still in our civilian clothes, is yelled at and ushered from facility to facility without having a clue about what is supposed to happen or when it ends. That first night when I finally made it to my bunk, I just sat in the darkness trying to fall asleep to the sounds of young men quietly sobbing.

One cute girl from Michigan I struck up conversation with on the bus was discharged a week or so later for slitting her wrists because she wanted to go home. I remember one guy in particular saying, very matter-of-factly, that he not only needed to leave but that his case was special. The thing about basic training is nobody is special.

2. Nicknames stick even if they don’t make sense

Some people get military haircuts before going to basic training, others keep it real. You don’t get a haircut or a uniform until the second day of training so for a little while you pretty much look like a gaggle of teenagers wearing canteens.

One guy in my group had long hippie hair. So naturally our Training Instructor, the Air Force’s version of a drill sergeant , latched onto that obvious trait and called him Jesus. Another somewhat portly guy had a full beard and was very quickly nicknamed Santa Claus. They were called this every day until we left which was especially funny cause Santa Claus had a baby face without his beard and looked more like Pugsley from the Adams Family than St. Nick.

3. There are moments of humanity to be found in everything

One of the head training instructors was a monstrous female sergeant who was six feet tall and looked like James Hetfield. One day we were in class and she was sitting behind us. She was sick and sounded like she needed to blow her nose. Finally she sneezed. I was near her and despite everything in my body telling me not to draw attention to myself for any reason, I said, “Bless you.”

Rather than fly off the handle or intentionally ignore me to keep the game going, she politely thanked me and smiled slightly, her eyes watering from the cold. It was only for the briefest of moments, but in that small gesture, there was finally evidence that somebody around me was a normal, vulnerable human being.

4. Texas in mid July is hell

We woke up around 5:30 every morning and would go out for physical training before showering or eating. Even during the summer the sun wasn’t up yet and despite the darkness, I was sweating profusely in the humid still air. I hated it. But worse than exercising in that humidity was standing at attention. Being in full BDUs (battle dress uniform), holding your arm out perfectly straight for undetermined amounts of time, the sweat drips from the tip of your elbow to the underside of your arm. But like so many parts of basic training, you eventually stop noticing it.

5. You can adapt

Like I said in the last sentence, about 3 or 4 weeks in, you stop caring what’s happening to you. Whether it’s running in the heat, or breathing in tear gas, at some point I was able to put most of myself on auto-pilot. One of the things everybody tells you before you go off to training is that it’s either fun or not that bad but every week you’re in training it feels like the hardest thing ever and you kind of feel like they lied. But honestly, I hadn’t even left the base yet before I started thinking, well that went fast.

6. You can’t be perfect

Everyone had their strategy for getting through training. Some guys volunteered to lead. Some guys screwed up constantly. I tried to just do what I was told and not draw attention to myself. Unfortunately one particularly humid day we were standing at attention and my sleeve was just a little too far over my wrist. It bothered me and as the minutes went by standing still it started to really get to me. So, in a line of perfectly uniform bodies being inspected person by person, I extended my saluting arm to adjust my sleeve.

I don’t know if I thought I could do it subtly but what ended up happening was something between raising my hand in class and a Nazi salute. I could only stand there and take my yelling like a good idiot. If you’ve never had somebody yell at you in complete, justified rage mere centimeters from your face then what you don’t know is that it’s either scary or funny. In this case I was trying not to laugh.

7. It’s always possible not to lose yourself

Through all the yelling and all the pushups and all the long nights and early mornings, I began to transform. I had good posture, I could easily run for miles, I rarely got yelled at. I had become in some ways, the cog in the machine that you are supposed to be. That’s what training is ultimately about. They stripped me down of all my old self; my clothes, my hair, my family, my friends, my free time and replaced it with rules and consequences.

In order to make it through, I had to fall in line. But I still kept myself. One of the last few days we were there, all our training completed and all our tests passed we had some time to sit and talk like normal people for once. The entire time we were in training we were known only by our last names. Trainee Martinez. Then Airman Martinez. But the last week I went around to the group of people in my flight and started asking them, “What’s your first name?”

I don’t know why it was so important to me but doing so felt good because we had gone through a lot at that point and we still knew nothing about each other. Unexpectedly, some resisted.

One kid told me that he had earned the right to be called Airman at that point and it was disrespectful to call him by his first name. At first I was a little annoyed by it but I just threw up my hands and moved on. We were the same. We had done the same things, learned the same things and knew exactly the same amount (which by the way was practically nothing still). But he had left himself behind at some point. I never wanted to.

September 18, 2013
Your smartphone could fix/ruin your life

Recently, a new study found that the way we use our smartphones could be sapping us of our confidence in stressful situations. But perhaps the most interesting revelation was that it found that the larger the screen, the less of a negative effect it had on the user. Users on an iPod Touch were found to be the least confident while people who had read a larger screen were shown to have few or no ill effects. You love your smartphone too much to simply abandon it whenever facing a tough situation but what devices would best suit those stressful times?

Job Interview

Job interviews are stressful on several levels and not only require confidence but the appearance that you’ve got it together. Just like picking the right tie or pair of shoes, you want to exude competence while also not being too flashy. Bright colors and cheap plastics need not apply here. You want something that says I’m confident, but I don’t need to show off.

Best Device: HTC One

Proposing

You know you want to get married. You’ve already thought it over and bought the ring. In your head you’ve already made the commitment, so why risk cold feet by bringing an old 2nd-Gen iPod Touch with a tiny, low-quality screen? Get something big and bright with good battery life. Remember, you aren’t trying to impress anyone, you’re trying to get engaged.

Best Device: Samsung Galaxy Note II

Talking to an attractive stranger at a bar

Unless the bar is an exact replica of the Mos Eisley Cantina, you probably want to leave the R2-D2 edition Droid 2 at home. It’s all about flashiness here. You’re on equal footing with everyone else there and you want to stand out. What better way to do that than with the biggest phone you can legally buy?

Best Device: Samsung Galaxy Mega

Gambling

Before you decide to go all-in at the Texas Hold’em table with a 7-2 off suit you need be able to bluff like a high roller. Forget dark sunglasses and trash talk. Try waving your hand over your smartphone screen to answer a call. Not only does it look like you barely care what happens, to the untrained eye you may now seem supernatural (therefore unbeatable).

Best Device: Samsung Galaxy S4

Showing off that beach bod

This isn’t a stressful situation for everyone, but for certain folks who maybe care more about cool phones than getting ripped, the idea of having your shirt off might be the most stressful of all. It’s hot out and you can’t just sit in the shade while your friends go swimming. So you make a break for it. You quickly toss off your shirt and get in the water. The only problem is, your phone was in your pocket still. You just ruined your summer…

Or, you were smart enough to get one of those cool new waterproof phones. Now you’re the guy who gets to film everyone having a great time. You’re a winner. Thanks technology.

Best Device: Sony Xperia Z


Source: Harvard Business School

 

July 1, 2013
How to use Google Glass without losing friends and alienating people

I wrote this for gdgt, it’s got practical tips for Google Glass users and aspiring Glass users.

April 17, 2013
What is and what should be

image

When Facebook Home was announced last week, I knew it wasn’t made for me. I don’t run my life through Facebook or really want to spend more time in that environment than I need to.

I made that clear in my last post because I really do feel like something new needs to exist.

But when i installed the Facebook update for iOS last week, one of the Facebook Home features included was the chat heads messaging feature. In the past few days I’ve put the chat heads feature through its paces and I have to say, it’s a good thing.

On the surface it seems like a cheesy little bubble that pops up when somebody messages you, and it is. But its not how it looks but how it works that intrigues me. 

image

When you have a chat head open you can stick it to either side of the app to stay mostly out of the way, or close it all together by dragging it to the bottom. It’s very simple and very easy to ignore. But the best part of it is that no matter what you do in the Facebook app, it stays where you left it and functions the same. It seems to function completely independent of the app itself, in a consistent and persistent manner. It allows the messages to be quickly addressed while never taking you out of the part of the app you were using.

But this is only so useful in one app, especially one I don’t use all that often. However, what I understand of Facebook Home’s functionality on the HTC First phone is that  the chat heads exist in every part of the phone and work for other messaging service, including texts.

IF implemented correctly,  I think a persistent messaging service (like chat heads) that works across all apps and all parts of the OS (like Facebook Home) could become the standard for all mobile operating systems in the near future.

Fully realized, I believe It will alleviate the need constantly switch between apps and messaging, or use clunky pull down menus and improve the fluidity of smart phone software overall. I spend about 70 percent of the time using my phone as a computer to pull information from the web and maybe 30 percent to message other people. Allowing the 30 percent to operate seamlessly with the other 70 percent is going to subtly (but importantly) improve the still imperfect way we interact with our phones.

image

Much like the pull-to-refresh feature is a standard gesture in most apps today, persistent messaging needs to become standard OS feature as well. And I hope that engineers at Apple and Google and Windows and Blackberry and whoever see that too, because as good as chat heads are, I’m still meh about Facebook.

April 4, 2013
Selling Boring

I think Facebook is incredibly boring. Through all the redesigns and feature additions, my enjoyment and engagement in the service has long been on a downward trend.

It’s staid. But it’s also, almost, necessary. Unlike Twitter or Instagram, which is very simple, very easy to use and ignore, Facebook is about as fun as sitting in a room with your family during a holiday- after everyone has already eaten.

Grandma is falling asleep, the TV is on one of those Worlds Wildest Police Chases shows because the big game is over and all of my cousins are staring at their phones waiting for my aunts and uncles to say it’s time to go. It’s probably not going to get any better but you’re obligated to be there anyway.

So whenever they release a new product, like the new Facebook Home phone UI it’s kinda meh..

image

Watching the Verge’s video hands-on of the new software was so hard to be enthusiastic about. It was like a 15 minute explanation of an android lock screen or a Flipboard app that only shows Facebook updates. Sure it has some nice looking elements and animations and it was really smooth and refined but ultimately this is only something for the person who still lives and breathes Facebook.

Facebook Home is like that big family photo they take every holiday since who knows when everybody will be together again (everyone’s looking at the old people). Everyone smiles and tolerates the photo but the picture is never actually shown to anyone after that.  And the same way that Facebook has been announcing other changes ( like the new search, the new layout, the privacy changes) it’s something that is interesting for about a day’s news cycle before we all forget about it completely only to log in months later and notice another feature was added.

image

The same thing every year. Some people will get a lot out of it i’m sure. Some people get addicted to Farmville or post puppy memes. Some people compulsively change their profile pic or repost those stupid chain letters. Those people might enjoy Facebook Home.

But I still feel like these features are stop-gaps preventing the inevitable move to something better. Something more interesting and less sopped in desperation. Social networks used to be the deviled eggs of tech, now they’re the assorted salad.

image

March 14, 2013

Ever since me and my brother first saw this trailer the only thing that has stuck with us is that first line from Blackbeard and what could have possibly lead up to it.

Come on Blackbeard, you never tell us what you’re really thinking 

Hey shhhh, everybody, Blackbeard is finally going to talk about Edward Kernway

Blackbeard, for once, be real with me, what do you think of Ed?


Also we love riffing on possible versions of Blackbeard’s intro.

Can Blackbeard be frank with ya fer just one time, lads?

You know that despite my ruthless reputation, Blackbeard is above all else forthcoming

Do you want Blackbeard’s God honest opinion, do ye?

mutters under breath not really.

Well, here it is anyway.

Maybe it’s just this Rum Talking, but I feel like divulging a bit.

March 13, 2013
The Polygon Dilemma

image

To say that Simcity has been having problems lately is an understatement. Servers were going down, features were being taken away, entire cities cried out and were suddenly silenced. But anybody who has ever played an online game on day one, should be familiar with this. MMO’s, online Shooters, or even systems like the Wii U have all had their troubles when finally releasing their product to the public. It’s common knowledge, people always complain, but deep down, we all kind of expected it.

So what’s the problem?

Simcity isn’t an online game. Well, at least not in the traditional sense. Simcity has always been a single player game. You build the best most efficient city you possibly can, trying to predict problems and overcome them. You play as a type of city planner and benevolent being, trying to manage chaos which is inherent in progression. It is a game of man vs. machine. The challenge is to be the best you can.

But for the latest iteration, simcity went online. You still don’t compete, per se, against anybody, but you could build cities next to friends online and in indirect ways affect how their city operates.

But at its core, Simcity is still a single player game. Except for one thing: even if you never intend to build a city next to a friend or ever even tell your friends that you play Simcity, you still have to play online. So when EA can’t keep its servers up and there are waits and shutdowns and lost features, players ask themselves, why can’t I play this alone, on my computer?

image

The answer is simple. EA doesn’t want you to. They have their reasons for sure. Having to log in to a server and have an account makes it harder to pirate. There are the new features like building cities next to each other and a sort of community aspect which in some ways does affect how the game is played. But at it’s core, what everyone suspects is that, EA wants to control everything. They want to make sure that you cant resell your copy, or modify the game, or potentially pay anybody but EA a dime for that copy. It’s about DRM.

Polygon, a gaming website, initially loved Simcity. Their review gave it a 9.5, about as close to perfect as they could muster. And almost universally, Simcity was loved by all gaming sites. This is largely because, Simcity is a great game. And when all the websites got their early copies to test it and review it before the game launched, they didn’t foresee the problems which were coming.

So while Simcity is being bashed left and right today and is only now starting to recover, those reviews still say, “hey, this is a game you should get”.

Except Polygon’s. One of the unique and suddenly prescient things about Polygon’s reviews is that they are fluid. From day one they decided that if a game changed in any way that could make it better or worse after they reviewed it, that they could (and would) go back to adjust the score to what they felt was fair.

So what does Polygon’s initially glowing review say today? 4 out of 10.

image

Now every reviews website has slightly different ways in which they use a 10 based scale but generally speaking a 9.5 out of 10 is a game that will probably be awesome and a 4 is a game you definitely shouldn’t play.

But do Simcity’s problems really turn a AAA game into a complete mess? That involves some interpretation. On the surface Simcity is an online game that is having a REALLY bad launch. But realistically, its a temporary problem. One which is currently being fixed and probably in a few weeks and maybe a patch or two later, will be just fine.

And Polygon knows this too. And while in their addendum to the original review they say why they changed the score to an 8 and then to a much more devastating 4, I think it’s really all about game developer EA.

Since Battlefield 3 came out a few years ago, EA has been consciously trying to control their games from end to end. They make you log into their horrible Origin service and launch the game from a buggy browser interface and in general have unapologetically added bad things to a good game. And they’ve done it again with Simcity.

Sadly EA isn’t the only one. Ubisoft does it to with their crappy U Play service. And the only reason they do it is so a good service that is stable and universally praised like Steam, can’t have an ounce of control over their bottom line.

image

Its all about business moves. Not consumer satisfaction. If it was about gamers, then Simcity would have had an offline mode. If it was about consumers Battlefield wouldn’t launch through a browser. But we know better than that. So does Polygon.

That’s why they gave it a 4. EA doesn’t hear gamers. There’s too much interference. But Joystiq, Polygon, Game Informer, IGN, they have a direct line. 9.5 was a thank you. 8 was a caution.

4 is the middle finger.

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »