Enlightened Self Disinterest

I read Gruber’s piece today on how retailers are blocking Apple Pay in the hopes of launching their own mobile wallet. The motive appears to be to capture more customer data and reduce credit card transaction fees. Which made me want to share something I noticed using Apple Pay.

I used Apple Pay for the first time at the Apple Store last night. There was a little nervousness from me and my salesperson, but the transaction worked seamlessly. Until it came time for the receipt. He asked me if I wanted an email receipt and I said yes. Then he asked for my e-mail.

If you’re a regular Apple Store customer, you’ve probably come across the scary and convenient feature where they know your email once you swipe your credit card. Since your card number is linked to your iTunes account, they usually have an email and ask you to confirm it. With Apple Pay, the system randomly generates a short term credit card number for each transaction. So I need to tell them my email address now. Apple has built a system that restricts their own retail stores from tracking customers.

Having to dictate your email address is annoying. It’s also a very powerful example of why Apple Pay is a positive change to payment systems. You can now shop anonymously if you wish and more importantly, your actual credit card number is not stored in a vulnerable system. I look forward to trying it out at more retailers going forward.

Instant Karma

Watching Ohio State lose in the conference championship was thrilling, but Sparty’s win couldn’t carry me home.

Last winter I won a trip to a College Gameday matchup of my choosing and I got to redeem it at the Big Ten Conference championship game. It’s kind of weird to attend your conference championship game when your team is not playing in it, but I thought it would be fun to be among by fellow Big Ten fans. I also really wanted to see Ohio State lose. I knew it was a long shot, but I thought we had a chance at seeing something special. And we did.

Ohio State came out too excited at the start of the game and quickly racked up pass interference penalties and personal fouls. That kept a couple early Michigan State drives alive and gave them confidence. Ohio State came back in the second half, but Michigan State’s defense shut them down again in the 4th quarter. Once Michigan State’s offense got another drive together, you could see desperation starting to show on the Ohio State sideline. Their fans (who were all around me) were also becoming un-hinged. When the clock expired, I enjoyed the rare thrill of Schadenfreude in-person. I felt like the forces of the universe were working in my favor.

The next morning I sat eating my breakfast in the hotel, with a beaming smile across my face as every Ohio State fan slumped by. Then I read the story on ESPN.com, which described Urban Meyer’s sad post-game pizza, which kind of touched me.

What kind of monster am I? Here’s a guy who works so hard that he’s giving himself stress-related heart problems and I am celebrating his failure. It reminded me of how hard losses are on my dad (who also dips into cold pizza after games) and made me question why I would wish that on anyone. I started to worry maybe the forces of the universe were not done with me yet.

Snow started falling as we headed back to the airport and we also heard there was a huge snowstorm in Philly. We found out my brother’s flight was delayed a couple of hours because of the backups in Philly. I left him to catch my connecting flight to Chicago, feeling a little guilty. Then when I landed he texted me his flight was cancelled. I felt really bad that our trip would force him to take a day off of work. I couldn’t get off scot-free though, my flight back to Hartford was delayed in Chicago, then cancelled. I would have to spend a day in Chicago before I could get back.

All in all things could have been much worse. My brother caught an earlier flight back to Philly and I spent a day working with my colleagues at ESPN Chicago. It was a great experience and I really am still happy that Ohio State lost. But I think next time I’ll try not to gloat so much, or else karma may catch up with me in another way.

2010 in Tweets

Finding the right format for a year in review post is tough, so I decided to assemble my favorite tweets from 2010.

  • just donated to http://foodforthepoor.org to help the people in haiti. if you have the means please support the charities working there #
  • Steve Jobs announced the iPad, which would translate into more work for me in 2010
    it’s an ipad www.blogcdn.com/www.engadget.com/m… #
  • I helped rip up a friend’s kitchen floor:
    http://twitpic.com/11q9iu
    – playing this old house at pacinos new place #
  • After a month of preparing, I finally got an iPad to play with… I returned it a week later:
    http://twitpic.com/1cwkdq
    – i swear i bought it for work! #
  • it’s official, espn.com is ready for ipad http://stevr.com/2c ! #
  • I got to spend some time in New York City:
    the biggest thing i’ve learned from user testing this week is that new yorkers are impervious to traditional marketing. #
  • Roy Halladay Perfect Game!!! #
  • Helped dig up a friend’s backyard in preparation for a new patio:
    helge’s future patio http://twitpic.com/1u9jak #
  • @_nuno we used the dingo a lot but we weren’t great at handling it http://twitpic.com/1uc58p #
  • survived jury duty, didn’t get picked for any trials. very tried despite doing nothing but sit in a room all day. #
  • Saw the movie of 2010:
    get out of my way children, i’ve been waiting 15 years for toy story 3 #
  • Big sports day, the US gets a regulation time goal in World Cup:
    walt disney pictures presents… miracle ii… coming to theaters july 2011 #
  • Then the longest Wimbledon tennis match:
    oh god, looks like there is an infinite loop bug mahut-isner match. someone needs to restart the matrix #
  • Yes, I bought an iPhone and kept it:
    scoped out the bristol at&t store, only 4 geeks in line at 1030pm. might swing by tomorrow morning #
  • like most days, today i had to deal with a lot of unexpected things work. this was one of them 🙂 http://youtu.be/S0_qztvd35U #
  • This is what I got to watch during lunch http://twitpic.com/23kdjt #
  • We all waited for LeBron’s decision:
    The Decision will end with LeBron learning we’re all dead but our time together on the island was very real and special #
  • I read a lot more this year, especially when I got my Kindle in December:
    Nothing like the sense of accomplishment you get from finishing a book. I conquered The Adventures of Tom Sawyer today #
  • I took my brothers Brian and Mike to Walt Disney World:
    Finishing up day 1 at Disney World and I’ve traveled by car, plane, boat, bus, and monorail. #
  • Sometimes the stress of building a large-scale web site gets to me:
    today is one of those days i wish i worked for a site with only 100,000 pages that all used one page design 🙁 #
  • Sometimes all that hard work pays off though too:
    RT @sbosky I’m loving the new page design on ESPN.com. Much easier to navigate. #
  • I took a 3 city baseball road trip with my friends from work:
    Camden yards row 3 http://twitpic.com/2glrs0 #
  • @khaughney yep. 9 guys, 3 games, 3 days, 1 RV. It has been an epic trip. #
  • The Daily Collegian said goodbye to a great news advisor:
    John Harvey is one of the best teachers I encountered at Penn State collegian.psu.edu/archive/2010/0… via @dailycollegian@khaughney #
  • Roy Halladay opens the playoffs with a no-hitter:
    so that’s one way to deal with all the expectations #halladay#highhopes #
  • Long story but basically my dad missed the first half of a football game, returned at half time and the team won the game in the 2nd half:
    I just want to throw this out there that my dad is the f-ing man #
  • We met a lot of new people at the jQuery conference, including John Resig:
    RT @scottconnor “Everyone wants to hang out with us. It’s the opposite of high school.” – @steveclancy #
  • I saw Amar’e Stoudemire walking in full uniform to a commercial shoot on my way out of work #
  • Joe Paterno got his 400th win the day Zenyatta got her first loss:
    Joe Pa > 21 Zenyattas #joepa400 #
  • Got up early due to fall backward, so I went to the NYC Marathon:
    using my extra hour to go see @mattrestivo and gang run in the nyc marathon #
  • I went to the Penn State-Indiana game in DC:
    We Are taking over the Metro http://twitpic.com/38k1iv #
  • My brother Mike had an impressive Thanksgiving Day game:
    at the half the haverford fords lead 20-0 over the upper darby royals. mike clancy has 2 TDs and an INT #
  • Philadelphia had a Merry Cliff-mas:
    cliff lee returning to the phillies. this so beats the ghostbusters firehouse santa got me when i was 6, way to go big guy! #
  • Kitten’s First Christmas http://instagr.am/p/t-Qh/ #

Lost Finale Theories: Die Early and Often

From left to right: Faraday, Boone, Miles, Mic...Spoiler Alert: If you have not seen the Lost finale and ever intend to, you probably don’t want to read this.

I was not sure how I felt about the Lost finale immediately after it aired. I was not sure how I felt about it this morning. Yet after hearing a lot of negative reaction and differing interpretations from friends and online theorists, I decided I like it a lot more now. At first I thought they gave us a simple answer to a complex question, but I now I think they gave us a complicated answer to a very simple statement: eventually everybody dies.

Let’s start with “eventually”. A lot of people now believe that the last scene confirms that the passengers of Oceanic 815 slammed into an island in the Pacific Ocean on September 22, 2004. That’s just not true though. Christian Shepherd tells Jack “your time on the was the most important time in your life.” While you could interpret the afterlife as part of Jack’s life (since Christian also points out that even after death they are very real), I don’t think that is what he meant. Jack Shepherd died in 2007 after restoring order to the island, collapsing in the bamboo he regained consciousness in 3 years earlier.

We’re left to believe that the “flash-sideways” world we’ve seen throughout season 6 is not part of the real world and instead part of the afterlife. Being the afterlife, its devoid of time or space so characters who live many years after Jack appear. In some ways it make sense – in the moments between life and death, the characters live out their deepest desires. Jack and Juliet become parents, Saiyd and Sawyer become heroes, and Locke and Ben get to know their fathers. In one sense they can’t move on because they need to realize these dreams and although they can’t move on because subconsciously they are searching for their friends on the island. Once they realized their friends are safe and among them again, their souls can move on together.

Something about this seems off to me. The fact that Christian Shepherd spelled it out so clearly, makes me suspicious. Nothing on Lost is ever clear, so why would this be any clearer? I can’t say for sure what the answer is though. I have a couple of thoughts. One thing that seems really interesting to me is that going from outside the church to inside the church, Kate is obviously dressed differently. In fact it seems like a number of them are dressed different. I guess once you realize you’re dead and in the afterlife, you can dress yourself however you want. It just seems like an odd detail to throw in there.

It got me thinking, what if it took Jack a long time to accept his death. Something about the last scenes gave me that idea, that they didn’t walk into a church and walk out dead. My thought is maybe reincarnation is a part of this story. Maybe the flash sideways was a life for these souls and only after they have reconnected have they achieved enough karma to move on and break the cycle of death and rebirth. As Jacob says, it only ends once and it seems in this life these souls have achieved enough grace to move into the next realm. So all these people did live together for a time in Los Angeles, became aware of their existence on the island, lived together for a while and finally reunite in death. In this scenario Jack doesn’t follow Kate into the church immediately, he might not accept death for many years later. It doesn’t change the final ending, but it does leave an opening for a lot more interpretation than half a season of life after death.

I think its great that everyone is interpreting things differently. My one friend is an atheist who thinks it was all a cheap plug for religion, where I have faith and think there’s more to the ending than they all go to Heaven. I think I want to go back and rewatch the series looking for clues about the show’s true ending. Someone posted this clip from an earlier season that just made my head spin. I guess I’m happy that I know that ultimately the characters I grew so fond of found peace in their life and death. Looking back it wouldn’t be Lost if it did not end with a few mysteries.

Kick-Ass

Kick Ass & Hit GirlNo matter how jaded you are towards movie violence, I think you’ll be a little shocked to see 11-year-old Hit-Girl commit acts of cold-blooded murder throughout Kick-Ass. The general controversy around the movie that this violent child is a new low for films and potentially a danger for kids. Honestly, I think my biggest concern is for adults. Hit-Girl kills without mercy or remorse. She seems almost untouched by her militant upbringing. My concern is adults will view children differently, no longer believing that children are impressionable. At the end of the film a man chokes and throws Hit Girl across the room. The moment is horrifying, but given the context it plays like something out of WWE. Kick-Ass is a mediocre movie with some clever moments and I wouldn’t discourage someone from seeing it. However, I hope that cartoon-like child violence does not become a movie trend.

Movie Review: The Invention of Lying

The Invention of LyingVoltaire said, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.” In Ricky GervaisThe Invention of Lying, Mark Bellison does that and more. In conceiving the world’s first “lie”, he opens the door to a world of imagination and emotion. The concept is clever and occasionally funny, but the execution feels a bit off.

In watching the movie, I kept thinking about it in comparison to Gervais’ television comedies The Office and Extras. Both are set in modern-day Britain, yet their characters also seem incapable of lying. David Brent shares the “good news” in The Office that the company is closing his branch and giving him a promotion.In Extras, guest-starting Kate Winslet explains she wanted to do a Holocaust movie to better her chance at winning an Oscar (in real life Winslet won last year as an ex-concentration camp guard in The Reader). The characters’ unusual honestly is what makes these shows funny, yet when it becomes normal in this movie it seems a bit off.

I suspect part of the problem is the A-list American stars struggled with the dry, British humor. Most of the cast seemed to misread deadpan for robotic cluelessness. The only actors who seem capable of telling the truth without a straight face in the film are Gervias and Arrested Develepment alums Jason Bateman and Jeffery Tambor.

The film seems to get lost in a Monty Python-esque turn when Bellison conceives the greatest “lie”, that of an omnipotent power and an afterlife. The film also treats fat losers as a race, which as a fatty I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. I enjoyed the premise of the film and some of its more inspired jokes, but ultimately I was left wishing for more.

News Reading and Focused Tasking on the iPad

New York Times app on iPad at launch at San Fr...
A series of events this weekend caused me to purchase an iPad on Saturday. I bought it mainly to test with in the short term and I’m still undecided about whether I want to keep it. It’s gorgeous, easy to use, and very well designed. It is also very expensive, fills limited “needs” and is inflexible. However two ideas stuck out very big in my mind from my first days of use that I wanted to share.

News Reading

The New York Times and USA Today applications are very impressive. In the past I’ve been pretty skeptical of “e-ink” newspaper applications. Hyperlinking and the interoperability make the Web superior to most news applications. The iPad applications, however, do a good job of recreating the experience of flipping through a newspaper skimming and reading stories as you go. Individual articles fill the screen, text wrapped in narrow columns which are easier on the eyes. On the USA Today app, you could literally “flip” through pages by dragging your finger horizontally. It was so simple and fun that I read through all 29 articles that were available on Monday morning. I haven’t read that much of a newspaper in years.

I still don’t think that applications are a good investment for most publishers, but I think there’s a lot Web publishers can learn from the design of these applications. Navigation was sparse. The focus was on content, not links. I spent little time on the apps’ front pages and a lot more time reading strories. Instead of marketing each story as a single product and trying to push other products on you (the Amazon.com model), the apps encourage you to play and consume more (the Netflix model?). Reading on these applications is more about the experience. Rather than overwhelming you with choices, they are offering a single cohesive product. These applications don’t have the burden of advertising and other marketing obligations that their Web counterparts have. I think some advertising could still be incorporated without destroying the experience (and in this environment, would be more valuable for advertisers). In the end I was frustrated that more news Web sites are not designed like this, since there is little in the apps that you couldn’t do in HTML.

The iPad will not save the print business model. For starters its too late. This device is not ubiquitous enough yet to make up for lost print revenue even if consumers would pay for subscriptions. Publishers have to recognize that they will never be able to recapture more than a fraction of their old subscription base online simply because they have too much competition.The publishers who do want to charge for content on an app should at least be smart enough to block access to non-subscribers on their main site. Otherwise they’re just selling bottled water. Under the right circumstances I could see myself paying for the right to read certain publications, but I don’t see myself as a typical consumer in that sense.

Focused Tasking

One of the biggest complaints from iPhone users is the lack of multi-tasking on the device. Playing on the iPad I’m starting to think the issue is exaggerated and that maybe this “limitation” is actually a feature. Forcing you to dedicate the whole screen to one view helps you focus on the task at hand, again by limiting choices. I believe this is part of the reason why I spent so much time reading the news apps on my iPad. It was more work to switch to Twitter or Gmail than it is on my browser. Whatever app I had open got my full attention. Compare that to my work computer which typically has half a dozen apps, more than a dozen windows and a bunch of tabs open at once constantly demanding my attention.

Even Safari on the iPad allows you to focus more on the task at hand. Tabs are banished to a background view so you aren’t constantly tempted. Double tapping on a text area zooms in on it, so the content you’re reading fills the screen. This is a feature is meant for making text more readable on mobile devices, but it also allows readers to block out distractions on the page. The HTML5 video experience also allows you to make any embedded video full screen, which looks great. You also have to consider that most iPad/iPhone users are a captive audience. They’re either traveling or too lazy to leave their living room, so they’re more patient and want to enjoy the content.

Yes there are some apps that need multitasking – I really can’t justify just sitting and looking at the NPR orPandora apps while I’m listening to them. Ithink I would suggest instead of caving on multitasking, Apple adds the ability to load widgets to your home screen that run in the background. That would allow me to keep track of live feeds like Twitter and Facebook while I’m idle (like last night when I was watching the NCAA Championship game with my iPad). It would also give radio apps a place to run in the background while you’re working. I imagine we may be hearing more about the future of multitasking in the iPhone later this week, but I for one hope they leave it largely unchanged.

* * *

So are some of my big observations from using the iPad, neither of which have gotten a lot of attention in the initial reviews. Even if you don’t need/want this device, there’s a lot you can gain from just looking at the design of the applications. It is worth spending a day or two playing with if you get the chance.

Things that Happened in 2009

  • The ESPN.com redesign launched to mixed reviews. I proudly rolled out my changes without breaking anything.
  • Started running daily and watching what I ate for a month, ultimately losing 10 pounds. Then I fell back into my old routine.
  • Spent a Sunday in New York as a tourist seeing the MoMA and Avenue Q.
  • The Weiner family welcomed their first child, Sadie. Congrats.
  • Ran the O’Hartford 5K in 36:48, exactly tying my race partner AP.
  • Survived the NCAA Tournament launch and my boss’ two week paternity leave. Probably the toughest two weeks of my career.
  • Went to watch Penn State play in the NIT semifinals at MSG. We won the NIT championship, making us the best of the worst.
  • Read Blink!, The Blind Side, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Restraunt at the End of the Universe, and Me Talk Pretty One Day.
  • Mourned the death of Harry Kalas.
  • Attended the Annunciation BVM School Class of 1999 10 year reunion, which was fun.
  • Said goodbye to Kaitlin Lee, Aaron Ho and ultimately Andrew Erickson at work. Welcomed Brandon Dow and Shane Leighton.
  • Spent a lot of evenings watching the Screaming Monkeys and 79ers games, which I attribute to there being nothing to do in Connecticut.
  • Survived Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.
  • Spent some time in Ocean City, NJ with my family. It was the first time my parents ever rented their own beach house.
  • Drove halfway to Newport for the Newport Folk Festival before realizing I had no cash or credit card on me. Turned around and enjoyed a nicebarbecue that evening at Pacino and APs. Not a bad day.
  • Went to Disney World with my mom and brothers Kevin, Jack and Billy.Oppressivelyhot but otherwise a great trip.
  • Made a surprise appearance at my brother Mike’s first football game as starting quarterback. He scored a touchdown on his first play.Helped move my brother Pat into his new house the next day.
  • Spent 5 days in Boston at the jQuery conference and the Ajax Experience. I highly recommend the jQuery conference.
  • Bought a new bed frame, discovered it was the wrong size for my mattress. Bought a new mattress – there was no way I was building another bed.
  • Bought an iPhone. Discovered I couldn’t get my work’s e-mail or make a call without getting dropped. Returned the iPhone 3 days later.
  • Saw Usain Bolt run in person at ESPN’s campus.
  • Attended a Bills-Jets game, the Eastern Illinois-Penn Stategame, and the Harvard-Yale. The Penn State game included a stay at a cool cabin up by Mount Tussey.
  • Watched the Yankees beat the Phillies in the World Series. A sad ending to a great season.
  • Joined the ESPN bowling league and got my average score up to 113.
  • Got eyeglasses because I’m apparently farsighted.

Epcot 2009

Epcot at DuskThis year I took my Mom and my 3 youngest brothers to Disney World from August 6-11. It was ridiculously hot and humid the whole trip, but otherwise a lot of fun.On our first full day in Disney World we went to Epcot. Going to Epcot was a strategic move recommended by the Unofficial Guide – get the World’s most “boring” park out of the way first. Thus while everyone was excited about rides like Test Track and Mission:Space, Kevin (age 12) decided that anything that wasn’t a roller coaster was a waste of time. After fighting his mother and picking on his little brothers for a while, Kevin finally warmed up to Disney entertainment and eventually accepted something with a title as boring as Universe of Energy could be fun. Unfortunately we were all too hot and tired to really appreciate the World Showcase there are limited free options there. We did get to ride Soarin’ twice thanks to smart FastPass usage and it was a big hit amongst the entire group. I was glad I got to ride Universe of Energy, Spaceship Earth, and see Turtle Talk because I missed those rides the first time I came to Epcot. I also appreciated Illuminations a lot more this time because we got a good seat and I decided not to waste time taking pictures. By the end of the day I think everyone was satisfied with their first Disney park experience – even Kevin.

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