Month: June 2014

Technology Temptation

I love computers. I often prefer their company to people. Before I got married, I had close to a dozen computers in my life. They all worked. Or mostly worked. And when the ding or a NewEgg or TigerDirect email would appear in my mailbox, I would look through it. The same for the paper catalogs. What was on sale? What did I need to complete a machine? What upgrade could I buy?

I threw a lot of money into hardware that I rarely did anything with. Hard drive. Enclosures. Cords. Adapters. I had a mountain of junk that I thought was important.

It wasn’t. I had big plans for what I bought. But I never followed through with much of it. So I bought more and more. I kept looking to see what I could buy. Because it was a deal.

Now, I don’t receive any of their mailings. I’ve long since removed their temptation from my life. I can’t remember the last time I visited either site. I no longer lust for technology.

I’ve done the same with app deals and sales. I don’t get notified. If something goes on sale, it’s usually something I already own. And if it’s not. I don’t need it.

If I did, I would have already bought it.

Soccer and the World Cup

Growing up, I played soccer. It was the only thing I played consistently. I played some recreation league basketball and was on middle and high school teams. I was never very good despite my height. I enjoyed it well enough but my heart wasn’t in it like it was in soccer.

I was never lured on to the football field. Much to the displeasure of my high school coaches. I have the body of a lineman and the demeanor of a cheerleader. Though I almost played one year. They needed a punter and kicker. I tried out and got the spot. But the practice times conflicted with my recreation league soccer.

So I turned it down. Much to the chagrin of the football coaches. If you ever want to go from a nobody to a popular kid back to a nobody in the course of a week, I recommend almost joining the struggling football team.

I loved playing soccer growing up. The recreation league ran twice a year. There was a spring and a fall season. I played twice a year and had a blast during both seasons. I loved to play in the pouring rains in spring and the frigid cold of an early winter. I played with a good group of people and despite our age difference, there was even one year my brother and I got to play on the same team. This was a relief to my parents. We had a blast.

I was always a defender. A lumbering beast with poor form but a thundering foot. I kept the ball out away from our goalkeeper and slowed down many swift strikers with well-timed slide tackles. I even had a moment in the spotlight when I put a ball in the net from midfield thanks to an a keeper who cheated too far up the field.

I played left and right defender, getting reasonably good kicking and clearing with both feet. Later, I moved into stopper or sweeper positions in line ups that featured those positions. There is little more satisfying than a well-placed slide tackle on a striker who tries to dribble around me.

This is a long way to say I love watching the World Cup. I don’t follow Major League Soccer. I’m not a supporter of any teams overseas. I don’t watch or pay much attention to the sport outside of those few international matches.

When it’s World Cup time, I’ll watch any and every game I can manage to find. I watch because nothing is decided until the game ends. A powerhouse can easily fall to an underdog. A defending champion can fall to a weaker country in early rounds. A team can come out of nowhere to run over all competition. It’s a sport where lucky breaks and mistakes can change the outcome of the entire match.

I watched Portugal tie the United States in the closing seconds of the game. I watched France battle Switzerland to a 5-2 win. I saw Brazil and Mexico play to a scoreless tie. and Algeria put on a clinic against the Korea Republic with a 4-2 win.

I did not expect England not to advance. I didn’t think Spain, the defending champions would also fail move forward. I didn’t know how the US team would do. And in the wake of the victory over Ghana and the heartbreaking tie to Portugal much has been written about whether the US has arrived as a soccer power.

Are people in the US watching soccer? Yes, we are. Here in Washington DC, we are doing our part.

Soccer is such an exciting sport to watch, and play. It’s not constantly stopped with commercial breaks. It’s nonstop action with the potential for scoring plays at any moment. I’ll be watching the US play today against Germany in hopes the team can advance to the next round. Then I will be watching Algeria face off against Russia or Korea play Belgium later today.

I love to watch soccer. I love seeing it played on an international level with amazing players. It’s not an american sport. It’s not a US sport. It’s a world sport and the very best in the world have come to play in Brazil and I salute them and can’t wait to see what happens next. Anything can happen. That’s what makes it so exciting!

Photo by marcp_dmoz on Flickr.

The Cloud

Spotify. Pandora. Rdio. Beats.
Netflix. Amazon instant video. Hulu. HBO GO. WatchESPN.
Dropbox’s camera upload. Flickr auto-upload.
Podcast downloads.

As the world races towards The Cloud™ with open arms, music and movies are more often hosted there. Instead of having a song live on the device I want to hear it come out of, it’s on a server somewhere.

Streamed to me live and on-demand. Except when it’s not.

Servers go down. I ride an underground metro the entire way to work and back. Commutes and lack of connectivity gave rise to Instapaper and local media. Even in those dark days before the internet and mobile phones with the ability to reach across the world for a song or book. These are places where I can’t stream media to my device.

But they’re not the biggest deterrent to The Cloud™. Not for me. There is a bigger problem with moving everything to a distance server.

I have a 3 GB data plan.

That is the single biggest deterrent to using streaming services. If I streamed, I would hit my limit in the first few days of each month. Then I’d have to pay $10 per extra 1 GB of data after that.

Something I know well, because I had a 2 GB plan until I realized it was only $5 more per month to up it to 3GB and with all the travel I’ve done lately, I was consistently going over my 2 GB allotment.

I look at Dropbox wanting to save all of my photos and that’s a wonderful idea. Only I can’t use it until I get home to the plentiful bits provided by my WiFi.

The same goes for Flickr’s auto-upload. I’d love to be able to send every photo to the service and use the generous 1 TB of space I have there. But I can’t because it would kill my data allowance.

I’d love to watch the World Cup, stream Netflix or even enjoy one of the many music services. But I don’t even bother signing up to any of them. I have Netflix and ESPN apps on my devices at home. But never on my phone.

Beats looks interesting. I’ve never used it. Rdio looks neat. I don’t have an account. I have Spotify and Pandora accounts but I rarely use them. And when I do, it’s a Spotify link on Tumblr I want to listen to as I browse my dashboard from my laptop.

As the future moves into The Cloud™ and away from putting files on devices, I’m watching from afar and enjoying my local media. As I will continue to do until data becomes less expensive than printer ink! (I’m kidding. Nothing is more expensive than printer ink.) The capabilities of what we can do using the internet are astounding and moving forward very quickly. Unfortunately, the access to those services are being charged at a premium for mobile devices.

Home broadband is neither inexpensive not ubiquitous either. But it’s still far ahead of what I can do from my phone. Unless I want to keep paying. And paying. And paying.

Pictures of us

My wife said something last night that has stuck with me. What pictures are you going to frame and remember? The picture of scenery or one with us in it?” It was far more elegant than that. But her point remains. Take more pictures of us! And she’s right. I don’t take nearly enough pictures of us on vacation. As many photographers confess, there is rarely evidence they were on vacation at all.

There is only one photo of us from Bonnaroo.

Bonnaroo 2014

We were there for four days. We went to over 20 concerts. We sang. We danced. We laid in the grass. We ate. We drank. We slept. And it’s all in our heads. For now. There are no photos of us enjoying ourselves. There is nothing to look back on and remember the good times. There are only stupid pictures of bands and strangers. But no other ones of us. Which we took as a fluke. We almost came away having not taken a single photo of ourselves. For the entire four-day festival.

I did a little better in Canada.

But still fell short of capturing us on the trip.

Sure, I like to take pictures of where we go. But what’s going to be a better picture in a year when the memories have faded?

Bonnaroo 2014

Or this?
Bonnaroo 2014

I am going to be better at capturing us doing things together. It doesn’t matter where we are, if we aren’t there. I’m not going to hang up pictures of random people and things when I could have memories and pictures of us having fun together.

We are going to California for a week. We’re going to attend a dear friend’s wedding and see the sights around San Francisco. And while we’re there, I am going to make a point to take pictures of us doing things. Living life. Having fun. Being silly.

I want to remember the trip and be able to show us living it. If you’re finding yourself lacking from the vacations you’ve taken. It’s time to change that.

Get 3 months of Audible for $6

I love Audible. On the way back from Bonnaroo my wife and I enjoyed Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison. Having seen both seasons of the Netflix show, I enjoyed the book. It was interesting to see what liberties were taken with the show. It was fun to see some of the memorable parts from Season 1 show up in the book. It was equally interesting to see who and what were completely made for TV.

Road trips commutes are made for audiobooks. No matter how much music I have I eventually get tired of it. Podcasts are great too, but eventually I wanted something longer I could really get into. Our 12 hour drive was perfect for listening to Orange is the new Black.

When I can lose myself for hours in a book, read by a professional, it can enhance an already great story. When read by the author, it can bring a story to life with the voice and inflections which gave birth to the story.

There are often deals for new customers. However, Audible is running a deal for new and expired members.

Tell me more about this deal!

The deal is a discount from the $14.95/month price to $1.95 for three months. That’s three books, one per month, for $6.00.

Go here to get the deal.
Enter the code TZ2014

Now you’ll enjoy Audible for $1.95 a month for the next three months. The membership will give you one credit to use each month. The credit is good for any book on the service. The deal expires June 30, 2014 so you’ve got a couple of weeks to use it.

Membership comes with some other perks.

  • 30% off all purchases.
  • Member-only deals and sales
  • Free audio subscriptions to The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times
  • Freely exchange any book that doesn’t meet your expectations. No questions asked.

I returned a book with the reason I did not like this book. I got a refund of the price I paid for the book, no questions asked. I haven’t had an active membership in a few months and I had no trouble redeeming the deal with my expired membership.

Be sure to set a calendar reminder to cancel your account after three months. Otherwise, you’ll be charged $14.95 per month after that.

Photo credit: Forest Hills Audio Book Month Display