Mike

Wisconsin 2013 – Miller Park

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Wrapping up my recaps of my trip to Wisconsin with the main reason I went: Reds @ Brewers, Sunday, August 18th.

Tailgating
I think this may have been my first tailgate for a non-Penn State game, certainly my first baseball tailgate. Brewers tailgating seemed different than what I saw at a Phillies game a few years ago. This is something they’ve always done, not just when they got good, because, well, the Brewers haven’t had much of a run.

For the tailgate, we had some brats along with the previously mentioned Bavarian mustard. The nice family next to us even came over to chat. They were very Wisconsin (the accent) and I guess noticed that we weren’t very Wisconsin.

When it came time to go in, I had only half finished my Gatorade, we also had some brats left. My friend said to just take it in. What? My bottle was already open, and it’s not water. Sealed bottles are the only type of beverage I’ve heard are sometimes allowed in stadiums. I was assured it would be no problem. And it wasn’t. Nobody questioned me on my way in.

Cheap!
I had posted previously that during August home games, the Brewers were giving $10 vouchers to everyone and they could be used on food or merchandise. With the tickets being $15 on StubHub, that is altogether a pretty good deal.

The Stadium
The first reaction, even from the outside is how large it is with that retractable roof. Inside, you get the feeling that they didn’t go cheap on putting this thing together. I believe the only other retractable roof stadium I’ve been to is in Seattle, where they spent a fortune since they had to secure it against earthquakes.

Miller Park Miller Park

Everything else is standard fare for the new stadiums. The seats are all great and there is plenty of space to walk around on the concourses.

Another thought, and this applies to many newer stadiums, is the open views in the outfield when there isn’t much to be seen. The other similar one is Kansas City. I guess having seats out there doesn’t make a lot of sense, smaller cities have trouble filling what they have. Still, I like the upper levels to connect via walkway.

Miller Park Kauffman Stadium

Extras
Bernie’s Slide – I did get to see a Brewers home run and I did get to see Bernie go down the slide. Hats off to Bernie. He’s always standing out there, ready to go as soon as a ball clears the fence.

Sausage Race – It was a relay the day I was there. Kids as mini-sausages were ready for the hand-off. I think the excitement level would have been amped up if I had a favorite in the race.

Bernie's Slide Sausage Race

Ice Cream Helmet
Here’s where it all fell apart. My friend already has a Brewers Ice Cream Helmet. So I didn’t consider it being a problem. In line, I didn’t see any helmets. Then I started seeing people getting ice cream in dishes. I saw someone at a closed register and went up to ask. He was very knowledgeable and said that they don’t have them any more. My only option was a huge helmet filled with nachos. Don’t have them any more? Were people not happy with them? Did they cost too much? This should be a ballpark staple. If you are cutting costs that much, just keep some around and charge an extra dollar.

I went around the whole stadium to see if maybe there was a stand left. I came across one stand that was ice cream only, but they didn’t have them. I was tricked by old Dippin’ Dots stands that are now used to sell popcorn or nuts. So much for the future, eh, Dippin’ Dots?

The current list of helmet fails: San Francisco, Oakland, LA (although that may have been a ticket issue), and now Milwaukee.

Concession Stands
Can I call a meeting of stadium owners so they can start to make an effort on lines at these stadiums? The only excuse to not have enough concession lines that it never gets more than two or three people deep, is a lack of space. Miller Park is not suffering from this issue. More lines means more revenue. The markup on these concessions makes the expense of paying someone next to nothing. There has to be solution. I’d like to see more attempts at trying different approaches. One item per stand? Try it. Separate lines for cash or exact change? Pre-purchase vouchers for items, or have machines to buy the vouchers so credit cards don’t take too much time? Just try something.

Done
Overall, I liked the stadium. I’m not sure there is a bad stadium left in the majors. The Twins and Mets have newer stadiums (I didn’t like the old ones) and I didn’t mind Tampa Bay. It is hard to differentiate yourself at this point. You can only do so much with the in-game experience if your team has been out of the playoff race most of the season.

Mike

Wisconsin 2013 – Movies

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Remember the Titans @ Camp Randall
Bucky hanging before Remember the TitansThe first item on the agenda after I arrived in Madison was to catch a movie. A movie that would be shown on the video board inside Camp Randall. What a great idea. You’ve got this really nice video board. A huge stadium that is only used a few times a year. It doesn’t even have natural grass, so you can sit on the field with no one concerned about the grass. We had a spot in the middle of the end zone, right in front of the goal posts.

I hadn’t seen Remember the Titans in a long long time. It has never been one of my favorites but people always seemed to love it. After seeing it again a few things stood out: 1) I hadn’t realized that my friends repeated so many lines from the movie that I probably heard the entire script, just on shuffle, on a daily basis and 2) having now been to Alexandria, VA a few times, it makes the movie a bit more shocking, given how it’s affluent DC suburb these days. The rest of the movie was typical football movie, which is fine and something I’m all for in this setting. There would be few better choices.

There had been a vote for which movie to watch, the options were: Despicable Me, Oz The Great and Powerful, Friday Night Lights, Remember The Titans, and The Avengers. I was surprised they weren’t all sports movies and two of them were PG-13. Remember the Titans won and I don’t think it was a close fight.

If they pick Little Giants next year, I might have to fly back.

The Way Way Back
We caught this one at a normal theater. Mostly normal. First, the theater was in a mall. We used to have theaters in malls but they all moved out years ago. This was a new mall theater and really nice. The strangest thing was that when we bought our tickets at the box office, we had to select our seats. Assigned seats!

A lot of people haven’t heard of this movie, so here’s the trailer. Or just trust me, cause the trailer covers a lot.

I loved it, you have to see it. I’m calling it my favorite movie of the summer. Keep in mind it’s the only movie I’ve seen this summer. In case you didn’t watch the trailer. It focuses on a teenage boy spending the summer with his mom at her boyfriend’s beach house, along with the boyfriend and his daughter. Steve Carrell is the boyfriend and he is awful, in a good way. So crazy because he is always nice. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the teenager is awkard and doesn’t get along with Steve Carrell. So he wanders off and makes his own friends, which is where the fun begins. Also in the movie, Allison Janney, is the neighbor and should be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Also, there needs to be some sort of comedy acting Oscar, so Sam Rockwell could win it.

The movie was written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who are both in the movie and you should already know them because the won the Oscar for The Descendents screenplay, and because Jim Rash is the dean on Community. The Descendents was adapted from a book, this one is all theirs. I will see there next three movies, even if the next two are terrible, I’d still give them a third shot.

Mighty Ducks 1 & 2

Random, yes. My friend took me to some of his friends’ apartment warming party with a theme of food from Minnesota & Wisconsin. I thought it would be an outdoor BBQ and escalate quickly. Instead it was indoors and we wound up watching the first two Mighty Ducks movies. They had the box set, but everyone was too tired for the third movie.

Have you seen Mighty Ducks recently? Grab some friends and do it. The first one holds up pretty well. I hadn’t remembered the super cheesy sound effects and that one of the Ducks lines was called the Oreo Line (yes, in a kids movie). I also got to revisit the nickname ‘cake eater’ which when I was little I always felt I didn’t understand so it must be super awful, but no. The first time he heard it, Banks should have just said, ‘you have a problem with cake?’ and it would have been done with. The second one is pretty much the exact same movie. The Ducks become the junior national team, and they only add five outsiders, all from the south!

Mike

Wisconsin 2013 – Trivia Games Are No Longer a Thing?

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Did you know trivia games aren’t cool anymore? That’s what the guy at the game store told us.

My friend was having some school friends over for a game night while I was visiting. He wanted to play Trivial Pursuit, but didn’t own it. He said he had attempted to procure it recently with no success. It’s one of the most common games, it shouldn’t be hard to find. We headed to ToysRUs.

trivial_pursuit

All ToysRUs had was Trivial Pursuit Party edition. Party? That sounds like watered down Trivial Pursuit, which it was, and we had no interest in that. Trivial Pursuit is a ruthless game where you don’t just want to win, but the goal is to demoralize your opponent while you beat them. Is that just me? Anyway, there was very little else to choose from related to trivia in the board game isle of ToysRUs.

Same deal at Target, just a whole lot fewer games.

I found a game store in Madison so we headed over there. I’ve been to game stores before, I like them a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything, but I always come close. Game store employees are more helpful than any employee at any other store. If you know what you are looking for, they will help you find it and anything similar. If you don’t know what you are looking for, they will ask you twenty questions to find something you might like. If you don’t want any help, they’ll leave you be, and may just head to the back of the store (they are very trusting as well). This one also had a game room in the back and on the back wall were some framed game boards, which is an idea I like very much for future room decorating.

When we first got to the store, we said we were just browsing and after a few minutes of not seeing Trivial Pursuit, we asked for help. This is when we were informed that trivia games weren’t popular anymore. The guy at the store said that the only people who like them are the one person who is good at trivia and always wins. My friend said he was that person.

I guess I can see the point of the trivia games going away. You need a group of people and game combination that makes everything fair. The game has a limited shelf life. I’ve played my parents Trivial Pursuit before, the answer to every question was Reagan (oh, the 80s …).

We wound not getting a trivia game. There weren’t a lot of choices. There was a geek focused trivia game, but like I said about having the right group, I am the only one who would have enjoyed that.

The guy talked my friend into a game he said his family loved. It’s called Say Anything. Here’s how it works: Each round, someone picks a card with a few questions on it (the person picking rotates each round). That person can pick any question they like. It’s not trivia, very open ended questions. Each of the other players then writes down an answer to the question and displays it for everyone to see. The person who asked the question secretly chooses one of them. That person can choose an answer for whatever reason they like: their favorite, what they think will be a favorite of the group, or just a random selection. Each of the other players have two chips to bid on which answer(s) they think was selected. Points are awarded as follows: 1 point to the author of the selected answer, 1 point to the owner of each chip placed on that answer (so if someone had their answer picked and had bid both their chips on their own answer, they’d get 3 points in the round), the person asking the question also gets points for every chip bid on the answer they selected, up to 3. That last bit is key to the game, the questioner has an incentive to pick the answer that will be most popular with the group.

What’s great about the game is that it’s completely open ended. So any combination of people could really play together. You have the choice about how to answer: serious, funny, completely unrelated to anything going on at the time. The visibility of the answers adds to the fun. After the first person lays down their answer the other players may not have even started writing yet. At that point you may decide to go in a different direction from that answer, or attempt to top it. I think a time limit could be useful, but we played somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 rounds and never really had an issue with time.

It was a little difficult for me, only knowing my friend, and having met the others just prior to starting the game. It puts you at a bit of a disadvantage because the others sometimes know what to say to assure their answer will be picked. That may have kept me from winning, but I didn’t lose completely. I finished 2nd to last or tied for last in each of the three games. Even finishing last, the game is still a blast. Who says you have to win? Me, except when I don’t.

Mike

Wisconsin 2013 – Mustard Museum

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You might be shocked but the National Mustard Museum was not on the planned itinerary for my time in Wisconsin. The only thing actually on the itinerary was Miller Park, which meant that the other 3 days could be filled with just about anything. So maybe the Mustard Museum isn’t that strange. Ok, maybe it is.

The museum is in a town called Middleton, WI. My friend said it was #1 in one of those best places to live rankings. We wound up there because we were in the area he needed some mustard that they only carry there. Also, I had mentioned I could go for some pie, and there was a diner next door with excellent pie (which was true).

By_Variety_-_National_Mustard_MuseumThe museum is really a mustard store – mustards from around the world, organized by category (I was unaware there were categories), mustard t-shirts, games, and whatever else you could relate to mustard and sell, and a snack bar where you could buy things that you usually put mustard on. There were also lots of samples with pretzel sticks to try it out.

The museum part is downstairs, they just ask for a donation, and includes some history about mustard (I presume, I didn’t actually read any of the signs), a mustard theater, which must just show movies that had mustard in them, and all the varieties of mustards they could pull together, organized by origin. Here is the Pennsylvania section:

Pennsylvania Mustards at the Mustard MuseumGoing in, I had mentioned that there is a very popular variety of mustard from State College that people love so much they ship it all over the place. Sure enough it was available for sale in the store and was represented in the PA section with a Penn State logo jar.

I didn’t mention this while inside, but up until recently I was only into yellow mustard, which I didn’t even notice on the shelves. I therefore would not even pretend to be a connoisseur of mustard. They were very friendly and I was not made to feel inferior for not knowing very much like I’ve felt in some specialty cheese shops I’ve been dragged into by friends.

One issue I have with the vast number of mustards to choose from … I don’t really care for a lot of varieties of things. Let me explain, or try to. I’m a bit of a picky eater. So when I find a food or drink (or condiment brand), I prefer to stick to it. Yes, I realize there might be something better but the road to finding something better is littered with bad experiences. Look at this store, they have hundreds of mustards. In all likelihood, you won’t know that you’ve found your favorite until you are on your deathbed. In the case you do find your favorite, the odds are high that this is the only place in Wisconsin you are going to find that brand. If you move, you’ll spend an amount of time attempting to find that mustard that the marginal taste advantage will be outweighed by effort of the search.

Which bring us to my friend and his mustard of choice. A friend of his brought it back with her from Europe for him. Which begs the first question … why did she bring him mustard? Is he a huge mustard fan? That seems like something I’d have known about him. I believe the mustard was from Bavaria. It isn’t even a domestic mustard! When he leaves Wisconsin in a few years, he’s screwed trying to find that again. Interesting that it is from Bavaria. I don’t know anything about Bavaria, except for Bavarian Pretzels. The obvious question then is … Which came first Bavarian Pretzels or Bavarian Mustard?

Tailgating prior to the Brewers game, I was lucky enough to sample this mustard with the brats. It was pretty good mustard. Not ‘I’m going to run out and find a local specialty mustard store’ amazing, but still, very good.

Mike

Wisconsin 2013

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Miller Park
Miller Park

Back from my weekend trip to Wisconsin. I probably don’t need to explain the purpose of the trip because when someone takes a trip in the summer, Wisconsin is usually at the top of the list. I went because my friend is in a Phd program at UW – Madison and I haven’t seen a Brewers game at Miller Park yet (I was at the stadium a few years ago, but the Brewers were on the road). I’ll try and share some posts over the next few days to recap the trip.

flickr set (warning, pretty much all the pictures are from Miller Park and none of them feature people)

Mike

More LEGO, More Doctor Who

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LEGOs and BBC have been dominating posts recently, I mention those because it will continue.

LEGO Breaking Bad Lab
legobreakingbadThis isn’t official, just awesome. $250 of awesome. At that price, they should break it up a bit. I think they’d sell quite a few packs of minifigs. The town isn’t quite as developed as The Simpsons. However, there are a few things that should be released after this:

  • The RV
  • The White House (with pizza on the roof)
  • El Pollo Loco!!!!
  • Pest Control Tent, so you can turn any of your existing LEGO houses into a cook site.

breakingbadminifig

Doctor Who Mr. Potato Head
doctorwhopotatoheadThis one is official and only $25. The Doctor is much more consumer friendly than meth cooks/dealers. I don’t really like all the variations of Mr. Potato Head. I love the original, but all these branded ones are a bit much. Most of that is likely due to the fact if I bought one, I’d have a thousand. Just from Doctor Who, why not all the Doctors? Throw in the companions while you’re at it.

Doctor Who Blu-Ray Set
I was browsing Amazon for the Doctor Who seasons and specials. I know I can stream them again on Netflix or Amazon but I wouldn’t mind having the discs. I’ve looked before but it quickly gets confusing. The older seasons are only on DVD. Then I have to take the time to figure out which specials aren’t included in the season sets and where to find them. Eventually I give up.

Today when I searched I came across the almost perfect set. It includes all the episodes including specials since the show returned 7 seasons ago. Everything on Blu-Ray, with the older stuff upconverted. It even includes a Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote. (Side story: for Christmas my sister got me a TARDIS, but she wanted it to serve some use, so she got a TARDIS USB hub. So just a Sonic Screwdriver wouldn’t make sense, but one that is a remote, ok, I’m listening.) Actually the screwdriver is a bit much, from what I was reading it usually sells for $100 or more. And that presents part of the problem. The set has a $350 retail and is currently $315 on Amazon. It doesn’t come out until November. I know with most releases Amazon sticks close to the retail until the release week when the movie or show is on sale everywhere, then they match it. But I read somewhere that they had a similar Limited Edition set up through the 6th season and that sold out quickly. I have some time to wait. They may release the seasons individually next year, which they should for the people who have bought the more recent Blu-Rays.
doctorwhoset

Mike

Simpsons LEGO and British TV

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Simpsons LEGOs
Question: what would you buy first? The Simpsons’ house? Moe’s? Qwik-E-Mart? The Nuclear Power Plant? I think it’s pretty obvious that it would have to be a Simpsons-branded Monorail. That’s mostly because I never had the LEGO monorail as a kid.

The 12th Doctor
12thDoctorI watched the live broadcast of the unveiling of new doctor on Doctor Who. The broadcast was a great idea, but since I didn’t know many of the people they had on stage, it was much more for a British audience (which is fine). I hadn’t a clue who Peter Capaldi was when they announced him. After hearing all the talk about him being on a previous Doctor Who episode and on a Torchwood season, I at least knew where I’d seen him, but did little to add to the excitement.

I’ve enjoyed the energy and excitement of the young doctors that have been on since I started watching. I’d have preferred they stuck with that and gone with a female. But I’m relatively new to the world so I can’t care that much, and I’m sure it will be great.

The link from BBC America is a helpful collection of clips to see his previous work.

Sherlock Series 3 Trailer
Actually, I didn’t really care about the trailer, I’m just anxious for the show to come back. And then the long wait until it makes it way to the US.

Mike

What if Super Mario Brothers were released today?

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Somehow I missed this last year. A fan remade the original Super Mario Brothers, at least in video form, if it was made today. It shows the good and bad of today’s games. It looks great but going crazy with the zooming and animations (explosions and blood) are a little over the top. Which is not the fault of the video creator, he is just basing it on the experience of today’s games.

From last year:

 

And this year’s:

 

I look forward to SMB3 recreations in a few decades.

First saw on Polygon

Mike

More Inbetweeners and More Ellen at the Oscars

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Inbetweeners 2 Next Summer!
I’m really excited about this, if you couldn’t tell. I watched the US version first before going back and watching the British version and movie. I love both versions, probably because they are nearly identical. I’d prefer more of the US one, only because I don’t get all the slang and references of the UK one, but I’ll deal. I’m just excited to have more Inbetweeners. I just hope it makes it to the US quickly.
The_Inbetweeners_-_E4.com

Ellen DeGeneres to Host Oscars
She hosted in 2007. Which made me look up who hosted since. Since Ellen it was Jon Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin & Steve Martin, James Franco & Anne Hathaway, Billy Crystal (after Eddie Murphy dropped out), and Seth MacFarlane. That Franco/Hathaway one was so bad, my memory is fuzzy on everything before. I completely forgot about Hugh Jackman.

Mike

Traffic Lights and Intersections

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Hourglass Traffic Light

traffic-hourglassCool, right? Useful? I’m not really sure. The current traffic light, while old, might have gotten it perfectly simple.

Some thoughts:

  • As the green fills up in the bottom of the hourglass. Approaching, will it be clear that it’s empty? Meaning, a large green blob, is a large green blob if you are moving quickly.
  • The yellow countdown timer is useful.
  • Is there a point where there isn’t enough lit up that it would be impossible to see in the fog?
  • The most useful condition is to know that red is almost over. Although that may encourage timing the light and flying off the line.

 

Flashing left turn arrow
The previous link reminded me of a light in Michigan that I shared with my friends a while back (I have a thing for traffic lights apparently). This light adds a blinking yellow that indicates a left turn is allowed, but you should yield to other traffic. I didn’t like it when I first read about it. I can see the value in a light that sometimes allows left turns on green. During non-rush hours it’s such a pain to hit a left turn only light with no traffic on the road. However, I’m still not sure this is the way to do it. It seems that the blinking yellow would be easily confused with the solid yellow. So you’d either try and make the turn without yielding or stop and wait until you realized it was blinking. I’d have to see some to know for sure, but I don’t expect to be in Michigan any time soon.

Diverging Diamond Intersection
Slightly still on topic. I’ve had this link saved for a while. Take a look at the video, because just looking at a picture it’s almost impossible to figure out how it works. Even with the video, it takes a little bit of effort.

It actually makes a lot of sense. It’s probably a little complicated for people to accept right away and start building them all over. The concept has it’s own homepage and lists quite a few existing ones. None close to me, but maybe I’d go out of my way the next time I’m in Maryland.

Driverless Intersections
Of course these are all meaningless when every car on the road is driverless. I tweeted this one back in February.

Imagine the future terror of going through one of these intersections. Would you ever get used to it? I’m pretty sure everyone who grew up driving themselves would be terrified forever while a generation of driverless kids would just cruise right through with no worries.

Mike

Google Hangouts, Maybe now it will work?

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Update: Just after posting this, I opened the app and was greeted by the ‘Get started’ button once again. So the only difference in the latest version is that I haven’t gotten a pop-up telling me the app crashed or forcing me to re-install. Progress?

Google Hangouts for iOS was updated yesterday. This is the 3rd or 4th version of the app. It was first released in May during Google I/O. My fingers are crossed that this one will actually work.

I was really pleased when Google finally announced Hangouts (the expanded chat version, Hangouts was already an awesome launch feature of Google+). I’ve been waiting forever for a chat service that would work seamlessly between desktop and mobile, have group chat, and be something that my friends would actually use. Google had a bunch of different messaging platforms going at the same time and they didn’t work well between platforms and there was no first-party app for iOS.

The short overview is that everything is saved by Google. So wherever you load the service (web or app) you have access to all your conversations. So you can start on one platform and continue on another without having to do anything else. Group chats work exactly the same. You can also share pictures and join Hangouts from the app. It’s built in to Gmail and Google+, so a lot of people will have access to it without any effort.

Google__Hangouts

The web version has worked well since it launched, but the iOS app, not so much. When actually using it, I didn’t have any major problems. The notification counter on the app icon was never correct, but that was tolerable. The problem was that every few days I would open the app and it would tell me it crashed. It must have crashed in the background because I never had it crash while using it. I’d have to login again after the crash, which was pretty annoying, especially with two-factor authentication. After a few rounds of that, the crash message would tell me that it couldn’t recover and I had to reinstall the app. I pretty much gave up on it a month ago. This one hasn’t given me that issue, although it’s only been a day. It does linger on the splash screen long enough for the ‘Get Started’ button to appear, but then it loads the recent conversations.

On the web I’ve found the best ways to be through Gmail or Google+. I liked the Google+ version a little better. It has a larger font and it’s much less likely that the chat window will interfere with something I want to see on Google+, because there is so little to see there. That’s also why I haven’t used it much, there isn’t enough on Google+ for me to always have it open in a tab.

In Gmail, it works just fine. I’d recommend the Right-Side Chat Lab in Gmail. It does what it says and puts a column to the right of your Gmail window with your recent chats. I like this a lot better than just having a few contacts listed in whatever space is available on the left side.

There is also a Chrome app that gives you a buddy list-like view that is detached from the main window. It might be an option if I used Chrome.

Google Hangouts
iTunes