Roger Angell on Derek Jeter’s goodbye

Roger Angell’s essay on Derek Jeter’s impending retirement:

All right, I’ll settle for one more inside-out line-drive double to deep right —the Jeter Blue Plate that’s been missing of late. It still astounds me—Derek’s brilliance as a hitter has always felt fresh and surprising, for some reason—and here it comes one more time. The pitch is low and inside, and Derek, pulling back his upper body and tucking in his chin as if avoiding an arriving No. 4 train, now jerks his left elbow and shoulder sharply upward while slashing powerfully down at and through the ball, with his hands almost grazing his belt. His right knee drops and twists, and the swing, opening now, carries his body into a golf-like lift and turn that sweetly frees him while he watches the diminishing dot of the ball headed toward the right corner. What! You can’t hit like that—nobody can! Do it again, Derek.

I could read Angell all day long and never be bored.

I recently binge-watched the second seasons of both “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” on Netflix. While doing so, something started to bother me: the opening credits are annoying long.

“House of Cards” opening credits is 1 minute, 32 seconds long, and there are 13 episodes per season. By the time you finish the season, you’ve suffered through watched just shy of 20 minutes of opening credits, which is about ⅓ of an episode. “Orange is the New Black” clocks in at 1 minute, 12 seconds long, which totals 15 minutes, 36 seconds per season, or about ¼ of an episode. Both shows opening credits are exactly the same from episode-to-episode, and they both place episode specific guest credits in the corner while the scene after the opening credits is shown.

When you consider that Netflix’s ability to skip content is a little flawed (due to the inherent limitations of streaming), it’s easier to just sit through the opening credits and stew rather than to try and skip them and waste even more time.

While both shows’ opening credits are well done and appropriate for each show, they should be drastically cut for the second episode — and any additional — when you binge-watch them. I think a five second title card would be appropriate, a la “Breaking Bad”, “Falling Skies”, and some episodes from season two of “Elementary”.

To be fair, there would have to be an amount of time that they would reset the opening credit skip window if you’re not watching back-to-back. I’m going to propose a 3 hour window — if you watch an episode within 3 hours after the watching an episode and seeing the full credits, the opening credits of the subsequent episode would be skipped.

It should be very easy to implement this on Netflix produced shows since they have a certain amount of control over them. In the order for the shows, Netflix could specify that two different versions of each episode be created, one with the full opening credits and one with the abbreviated credits, and they can then stream the appropriate episode to the user.

However, what about the shows that Netflix did not produce? To skip the opening credits, Netflix would need to know the exact time the opening credits start and end. While this information might be available with recently produced shows, I’d be shocked if it was available on shows that were produced more than ten years ago.

Even if Netflix were to have that information, I’m guessing that their license agreements to stream the shows only allow them to stream an unaltered version of the show, making my brilliant idea moot.

What about the End Credits? I’m not entirely sure why, but the end credits don’t bother me as much as the opening credits. Perhaps it’s because the end credits can be used for bathroom breaks, food/drink refills, or to briefly discuss the episode that was just watched. More than likely it’s because they are easily avoided on Netflix. As soon as the end credits start, you can press the stop button on the remote and then start playing the next episode.

I hope Netflix implements my idea soon, because if I sit through the opening credits of “House of Cards” for the third season, I will have watched one hour of opening credits, which is equivalent to an entire episode.

Jawbone Up in cities

Jawbone looked at the data from Up devices from June 1, 2013 through June 1, 2014, organized by city.

The movement and sleep patterns of a city tell an amazing story about its culture and people. How active is a city? When do they go to bed on average, and how much do they sleep? How stark are the differences between weekends and weekdays? What events brought people together and significantly impacted the health of a city? Each pattern forms a distinct “thumbprint” for the city, the unique way its citizens live their lives. To an untrained eye, these images may just look like the abstract brush strokes of a Rothko painting. To a data scientist, however, these graphics richly detail the routines — and occasional abnormalities — of city denizens.

The main problem with data like this is that it represents a subset of a subset of people in the city: people who wear fitness trackers, and of those, people who wear a Jawbone Up. This is not a very representative sampling of people. By definition, people who wear fitness trackers are probably more concerned with their health and as such would, on average, go to bed earlier, get up earlier, and be more active than non-fitness tracker wearing people. The only data this really shows us is how Jawbone Up users in one city compare to Jawbone Up users in another city.

Quality beers in ballparks

The Washington Post takes a look at the quality of beers in each of America’s ballparks.

Counting single-day offerings, the Cincinnati Reds’ selection of distinct beers went from 42 to more than 130 – the most in Major League Baseball, according to a Washington Post analysis. Craft sales increased even more dramatically, by 363 percent. The biggest-selling beer at the Brewery District is still Bud Light – not exactly a craft product – but stadium officials found that rather than taking away from existing beer sales, craft consumers were actually creating a new category.

The Mariners are number one, while my Yankees are dead last.

Comprehensive guide to New York City hot dogs

Eater brings us a look at the NYC hot dog, both a history and a look at the unique varieties in NYC.

Sausages and bread are among the oldest forms of processed food. German immigrants to New York City served frankfurters and wieners with milk rolls and sauerkraut from pushcarts on the Bowery from at least the 1860s onwards. The recipes for these sausages dated back hundreds of years, with Frankfurt, Germany and Vienna, Austria vying for ownership of the “original” hot dog. But, just as with pizza, an old world food form was transformed and given greater significance in America. In 1871, German butcher Charles Feltman opened a hot dog stand in Coney Island, then an up-market destination for the affluent. It established Coney Island as ground zero for the hot dog.

Don’t read this until after you’ve eaten. Trust me.

Several years ago I received an iHome iD91 alarm clock radio as a gift, and it changed my alarm clock life forever. When it died, I had a heck of a time finding a suitable replacement, mostly because the features I was spoiled with, but now considered a necessity, didn’t seem to exist in any one alarm clock radio on the market.

“Josh, why wouldn’t you just get another iHome iD91 or another iHome device?” you ask. Well, the iD91 died in such a way that it made me want to look at, if not give preference to, other brands. Everything on the iD91 worked great except that the upper 50% of the digital display just stopped working. In this day and age, how does half a digital display stop working? It was never dropped or hit or abused; I live in NYC and we really don’t have power issues, and it’s connected to a surge protector anyway. LCDs don’t just go bad on their own…they’re either caused by physical trauma or by power issues, and in this case it would be an internal issue caused by bad manufacturing…possibly slightly less voltage than necessary, amplified over time.

So, I figured I would shop around, see the wealth of different options I had, and choose the best for my needs.

Boy was I wrong!

Continue reading…

Cutaway Leica M3 is beautiful

Here are some beautiful pics of a cutaway Leica M3. This is pretty much the definition of camera porn.

It’s up for auction, if you can afford it.

The first Range Rover is for sale

The Range Rover with chassis number 1 is available at auction. It has been restored, but for some collector, it has historical value.

It is agreed that Michael Forlong – The producer of the two Range Rover promotion films “A car for all reasons” and “Sahara South” was to become the first private owner of “No 1″ on 8th April 1971. Before taking possession, the car was re-sprayed into the production colour of Bahama Gold, and the textured dash was fitted. A private registration number WGA 71 was allocated to #001 in November 1975 when the vehicle passed to Mr. W.G Ansell of Belvedere, SE London. Before disposing of the Range Rover in 1979 to the next owner (a farmer in Kent) the WGA 71 number was replaced with an age related number EGU 16H, and so the identity of this important icon was inadvertently disguised for a further 6 years.

It gets about 14.4 mpg. The Hummer H2 only got about 9 or 10 mpg.


August 11, 2014 at 8:00pm • Zero comments

Updating my post from over two years ago, I now present my regularly listened to podcasts in order of how quickly I listen to new episodes, from “as soon as they are released even if I’m in the middle of another podcasts’ episode” to “when there’s nothing else to listen to”.

  • 99% Invisible (web site, iTunes) — This weekly podcast about design is amazing because of how interesting it presents its subjects. If I told you that a story about the design of fire escapes could be amazing, you’d laugh at me, right? Well, you’d be wrong.
  • Slate’s Hang Up and Listen (web site, iTunes) — This weekly sports podcast is able to take its time and delve into the more interesting sports stories from the past week, usually with interviews from reporters that cover that sport. It’s my Monday evening commute standard.
  • NPR: Planet Money (web siteiTunes) — A semiweekly, 15-30 minutes about money and economics presented to a layman. Its short length and timely subjects make it a must listen.
  • WNYC’s Radiolab (web siteiTunes) — Somewhat similar to Stuff You Should Know in that it takes a topic and explains it; includes interviews and other narrators as well as music, TV, & movie sounds bites that are part of the story. It’s very well put together.
  • Freakonomics (web siteiTunes) — From the authors of the books of the same name, this podcast uses general economic theories to take a fresh look at everyday life.
  • The Memory Palace (web site, iTunes) — While this podcast does not have a regular publication schedule, when it pops up in my podcasting app, I usually listen to it almost immediately. It presents short stories from the past, and like 99% Invisible, they are always interesting.
  • Slate’s Lexicon Valley (web site, iTunes) — This podcast usually takes a word that is somewhat relevant to current events and explores its origins and how its usage has evolved over time. It’s like the 99% Invisible of language.
  • Kumail Nanjiani’s The X-Files Files (web site, iTunes) — Kumail Nanjiani and a guest talk about the more interesting episodes from The X-Files. It really helps to watch the episodes of the TV show before listening to this one. I used to love The X-Files, and now I’m watching them again because of this podcast.
  • Fat Man on Batman (web site, iTunes) — Kevin Smith interviews guests related to all things Batman. It’s Kevin Smith and Batman…how could I not like this?
  • On the Media (web site, iTunes) — A weekly hour long look at how the media covers our world. From someone who does not watch news on TV because of how it has evolved into ridiculous entertainment, I find it quite interesting.
  • Stuff You Should Know (web siteiTunes) — If you loved David Macaulay’s The Way Things Work, you’ll enjoy this podcast. Basically, two guys, Josh and Chuck, have an unscripted conversation about how different topics work. There’s one topic per show and each show is usually between 20 and about 40 minutes long. They aren’t experts, and they don’t pretend to be, but they do a good job of taking a topic and presenting it. It’s The Discovery Channel for your ears.

New words added to Scrabble dictionary

5,000 new words have been added to Merriam-Webster’s Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

This ain’t the English you learned in grammar school, but it’s Scrabble for the Internet age.

“These are words that have become part of the culture, part of the language and part of the dictionary,” says Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster.

Among the other new pop culture words added are “chillax” and “frenemy,” now recognized as common parts of our speech. Foreign words such as “qigong” — a Chinese exercise routine — and “qajaq,” which is the Inuit spelling for “kayak,” were also added to the updated version of book, available Aug. 11.

I hate “chillax” as a word, however, it’s 19 points and, if played right, it could be a big point getter.