Thinking About: Checklists

Before Morgan Freeman made a silly movie the bucket list concept was making waves. Books like 1000 Places to See Before You Die were popular back in my days working at a bookstore. People like having a connection to something larger than themselves. All of society of based on that principle. Having a checklist of places you’ve visited is handy and marking them off the list or a map from time to time gives you a feeling of accomplishment.

When Facebook first began allowing extensions on the original homepage, before the News Feed, it seemed like everyone had enabled the world and United States map to show off the countries and states they had visited.

Hardball Passport has taken this to the challenge of ballpark visits. Not just keeping track of which parks you went to but how the games turned out.

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Brothers” Data, the android, meets his creator, Dr. Noonian Soong. As Dr. Soong attempts to explain his desire to have a legacy, he walks Data through the decision tree of parenthood and history.

DATA: Old things?

SOONG: Old buildings, churches, walls, ancient things, antique things, tables, clocks, knick knacks. Why? Why, why?

DATA: There are many possible explanations.

SOONG: If you brought a Noophian to Earth, he’d probably look around and say, tear that old village down, it’s hanging in rags. Build me something new, something efficient. But to a human, that old house, that ancient wall, it’s a shrine, something to be cherished. Again, I ask you, why?

DATA: Perhaps, for humans, old things represent a tie to the past.

There are moments in life mean different things to different people, but everyone has a few tucked into the back of their mind that they wait for, prepare for, and hope will cross their path in the future. Something as simple as a voice modulator or a fan: you have to do a Darth Vader impersonation.  Or maybe Christmas tree shopping lets you break out a Linus speech. Maybe you finally get a chance to correctly chime in “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!”

One of these white whales for me was the cellular peptide cake. With mint frosting. Going back to the Star Trek well, there is an episode where Data has a dream that features an appearance from Counselor Trio as…a cake.

As someone with very limited art skills recreating anything that needs creative efforts is often beyond my skills. I can muddle my way through things from time to time. I can make a normal cake. But when it comes to the artistic effort, my final results often turn out like Homer’s – nothing like the picture in my mind’s eye.

Taking up this challenge was on my bucket list. And this weekend I set myself to the task. One box of funfetti, some frosting, and several bottles of food coloring later, I completed my masterpiece:

IMG_20140525_072348

In addition to visiting the Star Trek Experience before it closed, including walking on the bridge of the NCC-1701-D, this is another large item crossed off the bucket list. And the cake tasted pretty good too.

May 22, 2004 – Red Sox vs Blue Jays

That was then

Ten years ago today the Boston Red Sox won their second straight game against the Toronto Blue Jays. They didn’t know it at the time, but the winning streak would last five games. Well before The Trade, things were going well enough.

That game was started by Pedro Martinez, won by Anastacio Martinez, and saved by Keith Foulke.

Manny Ramirez hit a home run. David Ortiz and Mark Bellhorn scored runs. Kevin Youkilis played in his fifth major league game.

Ted Lilly struck out 10 in 5.2 innings but his bullpen failed to deliver on the “Ted Lilly always beats the Red Sox” curse.

This is now

Tonight, the Red Sox will play the Toronto Blue Jays in an attempt to prevent losing their seventh straight game.

Jon Lester, who was nearly traded prior to the 2004 season for A-Rod, will be playing the role of ace that Pedro did so well a decade ago.

David Ortiz is still on the team, the sole remaining player from the 2004 club.

Opposing the Sox will be Mark Buehrle, a veteran in his own right.

Ten years ago things went well enough for the Red Sox. Maybe tonight that echo of a boxscore will penetrate Fenway Park and end the current slump.

Or their talented players will do what talented players do – win.

Get Ready for the Baseball Season With These Apps

Baseball is back! The first game, a Texas showdown where the Rangers welcomed the Astros to the American League was on Sunday. All thirty teams will have 162 games between now and October and no fans enjoy staying connected more than baseball fans. And the best way to keep on top of your favorite team, fantasy team, stats, and players are the apps.

At Bat 2013

At Bat can be the beginning and the end of a baseball app list because it fills your life with baseball. At Bat is a scoreboard, team tracker, radio, and television. Depending on the subscription pack you sign up for, ranging from free to $129, At Bat will provide scores, radio broadcasts, television streams or all of the above. What makes At Bat special is that it lives beyond your phone: just log in on your PC and stream audio or video. You can set it up on your Apple TV, Xbox 360, or PS3. Getting a new BlackBerry phone at work? It’s even on BlackBerry and the Kindle Fire. If you have an Android phone, you can put a scoreboard widget right on your homescreen. Keep baseball in your pocket.

MLB.com At Bat

At the Ballpark

A companion to At Bat, At the Ballpark handles your experience going to a game. A free app, At the Ballpark lets you check in to the game, track the games you’ve attended over the last few years (though only as far back as 2005), and puts a map of the park in your hand. This may not sound that exciting, but Major League Baseball doesn’t think small. The eventual killer features of this app are food and beverage ordering and ticket upgrades. Both are currently in a select number of test markets: Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia), Minute Maid Park (Houston), Chase Field (Phoenix), CitiField (New York) and Marlins Park (Miami) for food and beverage ordering and Turner Field (Atlanta), Target Field (Minneapolis) and O.co Coliseum (Oakland) for seat upgrades.

If the only thing that sounds interesting to you here is the ability to change your seat when you find yourself behind a pole or spot a prime seat that no one is using, keep Pogoseat in mind. Right now Pogoseat is only in a couple locations on the west coast, but competition might force MLB to roll out their solution sooner.

MLB At the Ballpark is available for Android and iOS devices.

Fantasy Sports

Yahoo! and ESPN are both back with new editions of their fantasy baseball apps, depending on which service you use for your fantasy league. While neither app is a breakaway success, both get the job done. You can set your roster, search for new players, and keep your team up to date. Neither is as full-featured as the full desktop application, which for Yahoo is not designed for touch and is not as nice an experience on a tablet as it could be, but both get the job done.

Both apps are available for iOS (Yahoo)(ESPN) and Android (Yahoo) (ESPN)

Score Keeping

Maybe you are the guy or gal who goes to a game and buys the program every time just to get the scorecard. There’s something about filling in each box along with the pros and making a more personal record of the events of the game. But face it, you’re living in the past. Don’t worry though, because technology is here to bail you out: iScore is the classic scorecard formatted to fit your favorite gadget. You can keep score, track pitches, chart hit locations, and more. And the best part is you can use it for any baseball or softball game – major league, minor league, little league, you name it.

iScore is available for iOS and Android.

Twitter for Sports

One of the biggest changes in how data is consumed these days is the idea of the stream versus the inbox. Email is an inbox, it shows what you have read and what you still need to read. Twitter is a stream. Twitter doesn’t care if you read everything from everyone you follow, just that information flows past and you are free to dip in and out of the steam as you choose. Whenever you want to consume some content, just fire up an app and dive in. The final apps in today’s look are bringing this model to sports.

Fanboat is designed to be like Pandora for sports. (Full disclosure, I helped create Fanboat) When the app is launched simply follow your favorite teams and Fanboat will begin to learn what teams and players you like. At the end of every game, Fanboat pulls in the box score and breaks down events in a game – home runs, three pointers, passing yards, you name it – and displays the more significant (ie. a home run instead of a single, a hat trick, multiple touchdown receptions) feats and lets the user explore the game from these jumping off points. Instead of waking up in the morning and reading the sports page or watching an hour of SportsCenter, anyone can get a personal digest of the sports most important to them.

Fanboat is available for iOS.

Fancred is a community for sports fans. When you follow someone on twitter you see comments they make, stories they share, links and pictures they post. The same is true on Fancred. Like twitter, you create an account, have followers and can follow people, but you filter your feed based on the teams you root for. If you like the Red Sox you can sort to show what Sox fans have been posting or what stories have been posted that are about the Red Sox. Unlike arguing with strangers on twitter or blogs about which team is good and which, well, “sucks” on Fancred you can converse with the fan community you’re a part of and if you don’t agree with someone you don’t need to follow their posts. As you post more and your posts are voted up, your Fancred score increases, showing that you are a passionate fan. What’s more, Fancred is a local company, based right here in Boston!

Fancred is available for iOS.

Cross-posted at Sports of Boston

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

With all due respect to the winter holidays this past weekend lays equal claim to this title. Starting on Thursday afternoon, the regular season of Major League Baseball in 2011 began.

Like March Madness or Sunday football, the opening weekend has every team playing game after game after game. Every pitcher starts with an ERA of 0.00 and every batter starts off with an Elvis Andrus-esque home run total (also zero).

For some teams this was a great weekend and for others, not so much. My hometown Red Sox gave up home runs to the Rangers like they were going out of style. The Dodgers however took 3 out of 4 games against their chief rivals in San Francisco, who happened to win the World Series a few months back.

Matt Holliday will soon have one fewer internal organ and the low budget Rays lost perhaps the biggest bargain in the game when Evan Longoria felt pain in his oblique.

But with no team having yet gone through it’s five man pitching rotation, and at worst, in a three game slump, times are good. Even for the Royals.