May 6, 2015

Apple Watch Review – From A Pebble Convert


The Verdict: (for those who want the details, see below):

I’ve been wearing the new Apple Watch for a week now and find it to be a solid upgrade to the Pebble Steel I’ve been using since that was released.  The Apple Watch feels more mature that Apple’s typical “version 1” products, but it is lacking some basic features which will hopefully be added with software updates in the near future.  The limited processing power is noticeable when opening most 3rd-party apps.

I also haven’t found any 3rd-party apps that are amazing.  Other than using the watch for reminders, email notifications, checking the weather, and occasionally to check the time, there isn’t much I do on the watch. When I have a moment I may skim top stories on the news apps, but nearly everything else I have installed goes untouched.

For people who can consolidate a number of other devices, such as an older smartwatch and an activity tracker(s), the Apple Watch makes a nice upgrade and the cost can be offset by the sale of those other devices.  For most, the cost will be prohibitive for something doesn’t add a lot of features beyond what people already have on their phone.

Score: 7 / 10  – Good,  with hopes that the score will increase after future software updates

Detailed Review:


Here are the top benefits so far I’ve found with the Apple Watch:

  • My phone stays in my pocket, or on my desk, most of the day
    • I still pull the iPhone 6 Plus out to browse the web or send lengthy email replies, but it’s no longer in my hand most of the day.  Given that the size of the 6 Plus is so large, the Apple Watch may be more appreciated by a 6 Plus user than a standard iPhone 6 users.  For people tracking their steps, it is also nice not to have to have the phone on you all day.
  • Activity and workout apps are very well done
    • These are very simple and informative, and while some reviewers have complained about the gentle reminders to stand up and meet exercise goals, I find them welcomed, and you can easily turn them off.
  • The notification system is very nice
    • Notifications are easy to access, provide a good level of detail, and are easy to clear/manage.
  • Deleting unneeded mails as they come in is something I’ve been wanting for a while now
    • The Pebble didn’t support this, and it is great to be able to keep a cleaner inbox by deleting unimportant messages as they flow in right on the watch.
  • The battery life is much better than I expected
    • When Apple mentioned the battery would last 18 hours for most people, I was very worried.  When it comes to using tech I don’t consider myself “most people” and feel I would use it a lot more than most.  I put on the watch when I wake up and use it all day until I go to bed and generally have 30% or more battery life left.  While the Pebble could go almost a week between charges, I don’t have a problem charging the watch daily while I sleep, I already do the same with the phone.
  • Siri and voice dictation
    • Speech to text on the watch seems to work better than on the iPhone.  It picks up what I say very accurately.  My only complaint is that it occasionally turns off while I am talking (see below).


  • Poor 3rd-party app speed
    • I don’t know if it is the processor or memory, or perhaps bad development by 3rd-parties who are just learning how to make Apple Watch apps, but apps are noticeably slow when loading most 3rd-party applications.
  • Poor 3rd-party app functionality
    • While this isn’t Apple’s fault, it is worth noting and is a challenge to 3rd-party developers.  Even though there is definitely a limit to what can comfortably done from a device on your wrist, there is a lack of revolutionary or even exciting apps to use.
  • Cost
    • I can now sell off my Pebble Steel, Fitbit, and a heart-rate monitor thanks to the features in the Apple Watch which makes the cost acceptable to me.  If I wouldn’t have been able to do so the cost wouldn’t have been worth it even at the entry level price.  I suspect the cost will drop eventually, early-adopters be warned!
  • Why only 20 glances?
    • While I rarely use the glances, my phone reminds me that I am at the max whenever I try to check out a new one.  If the limit could be removed it would be a nice-to-have.
  • Why can’t I delete a calendar item from the watch?
    • This seems like it should be easy.  I can delete emails, why not a calendar item I want to remove?
  • Poor detection of a raised wrist
    • The watch is “off” most of the time, until you raise your arm using a gesture to look at it.  While it works fairly well, I find it often doesn’t pick up that motion, or the display goes off even as I continue to hold my arm that way.  Hopefully as they collect data they can improve the activation/deactivation of the display.  Having to hold my arm/wrist they way Apple wants it to be held to keep the watch activated can be uncomfortable at times.
  • Limited email viewing
    • Most emails these days are media-rich, with images and HTML formatting.  On the watch these types on emails tell you to go to the phone to read them. While I can understand that scaling an image in an email may not be readable on the smaller watch display, I’d still prefer such a view as I most likely could still tell if the email is worth keeping to check later, and in most cases I could delete it right away.
  • Why are the watch bands so expensive?
    • Apple’s marketing and hype can use words like “stunning” and “luxurious” all they want, but the watch bands are far from revolutionary, nor is there anything about them that seems to justify the high prices.  Hopefully we will see 3rd-party bands at reasonable prices soon.
  • I’d like options for louder speaker volume and stronger feedback
    • I do regularly miss notifications even though I have the volume and feedback levels at their highest.  When in a quiet environment or not busy with a task I notice them, but if I’m focussed on doing something or there is background noise at a decent level I miss them.  I can always to turn them down or off when I don’t want to be disturbed, but not being able to make them loud or noticeable enough can be a pain.
  • Notifications don’t go to the watch if your phone is active/unlocked
    • While this may be the way some people want to work, it would be nice to have a setting to send them to the watch even when the phone is in use.  I may have my phone unlocked if I’m on a call or listening to music, but that doesn’t mean I’m looking at it so notifications can get missed.
  • Also, why can’t I have notifications queue up when the watch is off/charging?
    • The only time the watch isn’t on my wrist is when I’m sleeping, so I’m not sure if the notifications don’t come in due to it charging or just because it is off the wrist, but either way I’d like to be able to put it on in the morning and check anything I’ve missed from the watch, rather than needing to check the phone.
  • More workout types would be nice
    • While the Workout app has quite a few different activity types for tracking (indoor walk, outdoor walk, elliptical machine, rower, …) it isn’t clear how these differ, nor are there choices for many common exercise types like cardio.
  • Activity / Workout community features
    • One of the things I’ll miss about the Fitbit is the challenges you can have with friends.  It helps motivate activity.  Hopefully there will be more social/community options and challenges added in the future.
  • Why can I set a reminder via Siri, and snooze or mark them as completed when they pop up, but not view them on the watch?
    • There is no Reminders app, and Siri will tell you to use your phone to view them.  This seems odd as quite a few 3rd-party apps have decent interfaces to manage reminders, you’d think Apple would extend it’s Reminders app to the watch.

Suggested 3rd-party Apps:

While none of these would be considered “killer apps”, here are the few I’d suggest checking out:

  • Dark Sky
    • This is better than the built-in Weather app for both the phone and watch, highly recommended
  • News apps (WSJ, NY Times, CNN)
    • Take your pick of preferred news source, but having it on the watch is a convenient way to skim top news stories without pulling out the phone.  Most have a way to flag a story to read later from the phone if you see an article of interest.
  • Phillips Hue
    • If you have Hue lights, their phone app makes it easy to toggle your preset scenes or turn lights off from your wrist, although in the time it takes the app to load and respond you probably could have pulled out the phone and done it from there faster.
  • Mint
    • If you use Mint for budget management the watch app is a nice companion.  If you don’t use it, check it out, it’s free!
  • Do Button
    • If you use IFTTT, Do Button is nice, but similar to Hue, slow to load and it is potentially faster just to use the phone.
  •  Passbook
    • While not a 3rd-party app, this one is worth a special mention.  I just recently started using Passbook even though it has been around for a while.  I’m not sure why it took my so long to see the value of it, and having on the watch is very nice.

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January 21, 2014

‘Beats Music’ Streaming Service Launches in the US

via iPhone Hacks | #1 iPhone, iPad, iOS Blog

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June 30, 2013

10 Free Live Albums Featuring Radiohead, Folk, Rock & Jazz [Sound Sunday]

Just in time for this week’s edition of Sound Sunday, Radiohead have released a live recording of their 1995 show at New York City’s Tramps via Noise Trade. All album tips will be donated to Amnesty International. Radiohead’s epic recording is accompanied by folk, rock, and some fascinating live jazz and improv albums. While all EPs and albums can be downloaded for free, we ask you to please donate a few dollars for music you enjoy! You are also welcome to submit material for an upcoming edition.

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Read full article: 10 Free Live Albums Featuring Radiohead, Folk, Rock & Jazz [Sound Sunday]

via MakeUseOf

January 8, 2013

Wayback Machine: 100 Quotations Every Geek Should Know

Wayback Machine: 100 Quotations Every Geek Should Know

One thing that every geek can do is quote their favorite geek-culture media, whether it’s movies, books, television, theater or music. The GeekDads have tried to compile a list of such quotations for your enjoyment.

from GeekDad

January 2, 2013

Christmas in Paris: Family Fun in the City of Light


Ahh, Christmas in Paris. The twinkling lights, fabulous holiday shopping, vin chaud and cozy nights by the fire. Isn’t it romantic? Sure, unless you have kids, in which case, copious lists for Santa, too many unscheduled hours and sugar overload can lead to a merry meltdown, turning even the cheeriest maman into the Grinch. That’s why I’m filling our family calendar with lots of happy holiday diversions. Here’s what we’ll be up to this most wonderful time of the year.


Festive holiday windows. Parisians are accustomed to lust-worthy window shopping; faire du lèche-vitrine (literally “window licking”) is a time-honored activity here. But the Christmas season takes this pastime to a whole new level. A trek up to les grands magasins on Boulevard Haussman is a holiday must with kids. The windows of Galeries Lafayette and Printemps come to life with music and animation, all at eye-level for your little elves’ entertainment. The windows of Le Bon Marche and BHV are also worth a visit.

coyote-agileAntonia Hayes

Another day, another carousel. Pint-sized Parisians love them a carousel. Just look around: There are dozens dotted around the city and easy to find near most major monuments. Between Christmas and the New Year, the Marie de Paris offers its own cadeau to the city: Free rides on the carousels!

Alecska [Follow the Story] & Alexandre Marchand

Our favorites (we’ve tried them all, I swear) include the two-story merry-go-round at the base of Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre and the manège at the Luxembourg Gardens. (It’s more than one hundred years old and kids spear little tin rings with mini wooden “baguettes.”)


A view from on top of the world. If your brood is feeling brave, take a ride on the Grand Roue de la Concorde, the city’s towering ferris wheel at the foot of the Champs Elysees. Its glittering views over the Tuileries, atop the Louvre and beyond give new meaning to City of Light. It’s only up until January 13 so don’t delay. Tickets are 10€ for adults, 5€ for kids under ten.

Making Magique

The circus is coming to town. A highlight for us last year, Le Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione is poised to become an annual family favorite. It offers all the timeless magic of a bygone era circus (think traditional clowns, awe-inspiring acrobats and trapeze artists, jugglers and even a tiger-tamer) set to a live orchestra under an authentic “big top” in the Marais. This year’s production, Eclat, runs until March 2013.


A giant of an exhibit. Know any kids who aren’t fascinated by dinosaurs? Me neither. We love the Jardin des Plantes any time of year but the dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Natural History (through May 2013) requires a special trip. Although not a specifically “holiday” outing, pair this with a hop across the Seine to Notre Dame Cathedral. Like the museum’s massive meat-eaters, the cathedral’s towering Sapin de Noël is sure to leave the little ones wide-eyed in wonder.


Christmas with a conscience. In this season of consuming, er, giving, it can be a challenge to teach kids about the real meaning of the holidays. The Musee du Quai Branly is making it easier. From Dec 26 to 31, kids who bring a toy to donate can participate in a special free atelier where they’ll make a new toy out of recycled materials. Donated toys will be given to children living in refugee camps. Stay and explore the intriguingly curated exhibits housed in this Jean Nouvel-designed jewel. A win-win for the whole family.

HiP Paris Blog, Christophe Verdier, Family Friendly Christmas

Christophe Verdier

And if your holidays just wouldn’t be complete without a traditional Marché de Noël, head to the Champs Elysees for the obligatory stands hocking tartiflettemarrons grillés, knit woolies and carved wooden ornaments. You’ll also find some rides for kids and an indoor skating rink at the nearby Grand Palais where little ones can take to the ice. Courage, parents, courage!

Related links:

  • Expat Edna guides you through the many Christmas markets in Paris.
  • Paris by Mouth lists where to eat during Christmas and New Years in Paris
  • lists their favorite suggestions to keep you busy during the holidays in the city of light.

Written by Paige Bradley Frost for the HiP Paris Blog. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.

from HiP Paris Blog

January 2, 2013

The Top 10 Nerdy Films of 2012

We like to think that it’s a nerds’ world at the movies, and certainly there’s been a lot of press in the last few years to back that up, but in 2012 it seemed especially true.

Developing a Top 10 List of the best of the nerdiest films this year was no easy feat, even with high-profile disappointments like Prometheus, John Carter, and The Amazing Spider-Man, but we were still able to do it. Some of these titles maybe obvious, but they all have one thing in common, they prove that in the genres of sci-fi, horror, fantasy and action, the year 2012 was far from the end of the world. Cinematically speaking, at least.

Here’s the Top 10 Nerdy Films of 2012.

1. The Avengers

Can we take a minute and appreciate the mere fact that this film even managed to exist, let alone be as good as it is? First of all there’s the logistical feat of getting all these characters and actors co-ordinated onto a single soundstage. Then there was the Hail Mary hiring of Joss Whedon, a man known more for his TV work and his one movie based on one of his TV shows than for blockbuster filmmaking. And finally, there was the shattering weight of expectations; billions of dollars and a decade of work all riding on The Avengers not just being done, but being done well and then doing well at the box office. The result was not just the third biggest box office hit of all time, but the closest thing a major summer tentpole flick can get to being an auteur work. Every inch of this film had Whedon’s fingerprints on it, and his voice never gets lost amongst the action and effects. So complete was Whedon’s influence on the film that Marvel bucked its own trend and hired him immediately, not just for the sequel, but to be the overseer of the entire Marvel Movie Universe on the Disney end. Forget the Whedonites! Hollywood, Joss is your master now.

2. Skyfall

It was a long time waiting for the latest Bond movie, and while I’m not sure I’d stamp Skyfall as the best Bond movie of all time, I think we can all agree that it sufficiently washed the taste of Quantum of Solace out of our collective mouths. On the occasion of the character’s 50th anniversary of his big screen adventures, the franchise’s producers, and director Sam Mendes, managed to put together a Bond flick that was strangely familiar while continuing down the bold path set by Casino Royale. Bond himself is treated to a complex arc that questions his abilities and his dedication, and M becomes the most unusual Bond girl as Her Majesty’s finest tries to keep his boss’ sins from coming back to kill her. A charismatic villain in the person of Silva played by Javier Bardem, as well as the addition of new supporting players like Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw as the stalwart new Q, and you have the rare Bond movie where you’re just as engrossed by the non-action scenes as you are by the action. Even the fact that film’s climax bears a little resemblance to a more lethal Home Alone scenario does nothing to diminish the greatness of the Skyfall.

3. The Cabin in the Woods

Finally freed from bankruptcy purgatory, The Cabin in the Woods came out this past spring and gave us a new cult classic from director Drew Goddard and officially kicked-off what was to be the year of Whedon. More than that though, The Cabin in the Woods is perhaps the most effective deconstruction of the horror genre since the first Scream, and if it had been more successful at the box office, it would have been just as significant a game changer. Instead, Cabin will have to stand as a bizarre, though effective, reboot of The Evil Dead. Five pretty young people go into the woods where they awaken an ancient evil from beneath their dilapidated cabin. But the gag is there’s a second story running concurrently, a secretive group of some kind of instigators both controlling and observing the action and fate that befalls our young heroes. Or are they the heroes? Really the stars of the film are the Statler and Waldorf-esque Hadley and Sitterson played by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins, and where as in different hands these two would definitely be played for villains, in Whedon and Goddard’s script they’re the unsung, under-appreciated heroes of the story. Ultimately though, Cabin may have been undone by marketing; if you went into the film cold it was a joy, but the trailers and the ads gave a lot away. And you scoff at J.J. Abrams for his secrecy…

4. Django Unchained

Yes, I will cross Spike Lee – who’s films I enjoy immensely – in order to include Django Unchained on this list, after all, if it’s a year with a Quentin Tarantino movie, it’s probably going to end up on a couple of lists like this. Continuing to cut a bloody swath of revenge and historical revisionism across cinema, Tarantino takes us to the final years of slavery in the American South prior to the Civil War, and like his previous film, Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino cares not for meandering asides, or anachronistic music selections, but is instead focused on getting us to the blood curdling – and blood spilling – finale. Of course, he makes us earn that visceral violent thrill by navigating a slew of quirky characters and silver-tongued dialogue scenes, which is all part of that QT-charm. Tarantino veterans like Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson hold up their end, while Tarantino rookies Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio look like they’re having a ball, DiCaprio in particular seems to be relishing the role of the villainous Calvin Candie. And like most of Tarantino’s past endeavours, Django is an Easter Egg filled treasure trove of call backs, homages and cameos that require more than one viewing in order to catch them all. But of course you’re going to see this again and again because it’s Tarantino and you wish you were half the movie nerd he is.

5. Indie Game The Movie

Much has been said – and written – about independent musicians and filmmakers, but what about independent game makers. This documentary focuses on three different stories, each offering some kind of insight into the struggles, creativity and commitment of these bold few who shirk the big gaming houses to strike out on their own. One surprising aspect of the film is the way it peels back an industry that the mainstream still doesn’t really understand. The average guy on the street has at least a basic knowledge of the Hollywood studio system and the functioning of big record companies, but gaming? Well it turns out the difficulties translate across media. The other thing that translates is the passion. Even if you’re not the world’s biggest gamer, the subjects speak the language or art, whether it’s trying to maintain some semblance of artistic license, battling your former d-bag partner to be allowed to preview your game at a trade show, or simply working 16 hour days and apologizing to your wife with a promise that when you’re done it will all be worth it. It’s an inspiring tale of creative pursuit and the incredible effort to beat the competition and get your game in front of the most eyes. And they say there’s nothing artistic about video games.

6. Chronicle

It’s strange that in a year with so many big budget superhero movies in theatres that one of the best should be a low budget job starring a bunch of unknowns in a 90 minute film stylized to look like a home movies and CCTV footage. But there it is, and there is was. Chronicle, although late to the whole “food footage” trend, which this year alone included The Devil Inside, Project X, The Chernobyl Diaries, V/H/S, and Paranormal Activity 4, had the benefit of being one of the few none-horror offerings in the genre. On top of it all, it offered compelling character drama, a realistic spin on superhero archetypes, and blockbuster action on an art house budget. So complete was Chronicle’s impact on the genre that star Dane DeHaan was recently cast to play Harry Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man sequel, and director Josh Trank was hired to direct Fox’s Fantastic Four reboot. But none of that would matter if Chronicle didn’t click on a basic level. It comes down to a question that’s plagued fanboys since the dawn of super-powers, would you use your powers for your own ends like Andrew, or would you use them to help others like Matt?

7. The Dark Knight Rises

I’ve heard a lot of people call this movie the Return of the Jedi of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, and I think they meant it as an insult. I know a lot of people were disappointed that despite the hype, Rises didn’t change their world forever, but following the unprecedented heights of The Dark Knight how could it? Of course It couldn’t, and also not helping the situation is this false, Highlander-ish beef between Rises and The Avengers, as if there can only be one film to rule the nerds for all time. If you read Drew McWeeny’s two-part analysis of the film, I think it’s pretty much spot-on. What Christopher Nolan did, and I think fantastically to his credit, is take the Batman mythos and re-purpose it to be a realistic and human three-act epic. Sure, Bane and Talia’s revenge plot disguised as class warfare was perhaps overly complicated, but how often do movie crime plots revel in simplicity? Have none of you seen The Usual Suspects? So let’s focus on the positive: the film’s compelling emotional beats, all the comic book Easter Eggs worked in by the Nolans, and honestly, wasn’t Anne Hathaway the Catwoman of your dreams? In the end, what we got with Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was a competent, compelling, and artful cinematic telling of the Batman story with a thoroughly well-thought out beginning, middle and end. Besides, don’t we all know the alternative?

8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

What was really unexpected about The Hobbit was the split between critics and fans; the former appraising the film with a collective sense of ennui (and serving it a 65 per cent “fresh” Rotten Tomato rating) and the later eagerly enjoying the return to Middle Earth after a long, 11-year wait. I concede I found myself somewhere in between while watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Any point that deviates from the main thrust of J.R.R. Tolkien’s first book is difficult to wade through, but whenever the story focuses on Bilbo and the dwarves’ journey to the Lonely Mountain is golden. So much so that I was disappointed by the time we get to the end and realizing I’d have to wait another year for part two. Technically, the film is brilliant. The photography, the effects, and the score are all amazing, and how awesome was it to have Gandalf back in grey mode (and essayed perfectly by Ian McKellen)? New players like Martin Freeman as the young Bilbo and Richard Armitage as would-be dwarf king Thorin are fine additions, and Andy Serkis owned as Gollum once again. In a case of the good far outweighing the bad, The Hobbit definitely leaves you wanting more, and Peter Jackson’s command of Middle Earth lore is indeed unquestionable. I think though there’s still a question of whether or not three movies is too much of a good thing. I guess we’ll see next Christmas.

9. Dredd 3-D and The Raid: Redemption

For me, it’s hard to separate these two movies, so they make the list together (which technically makes this a Top 11 list, and I know that, don’t bother pointing that out). Both are about cops who enter a building to bust a drug kingpin only to have it turn into a multilevel battle royale for survival. In Dredd, the cop just happens to be Judge Dredd, and in a feat of resurrection nearly impossible, director Pete Travis washed away the memory of Sylvester Stallone’s ill-fated attempt to turn the comic into a film back in 1995. As for The Raid, the Indonesia/US co-production was hardcore in a way that Hong Kong used to do best. The visceral bone-crunching fight scenes plus the various personal stakes amongst the cops and gangsters make this a bloody, claustrophobic and an all-too satisfying action flick that U.S. filmmakers are rarely capable of. As for Dredd, the 3-D makes this look like a big Hollywood effort, but it can be as rough and raw as any indie action effort. Like Chronicle, Dredd proved there’s a lot that can be done on a small budget, and certainly you don’t need a big budget to make the ultra-dystopia Mega City One a reality. Sometimes, when it comes to action movies, getting more bang for your buck gets you more bang for your buck.

10. Looper

Time travel is hard to pull off, but in director Rian Johnson’s first foray into genre filmmaking, he proves that he can cram a lot of ideas and inspiration into a single, two-hour film to create what maybe the best time travel thriller since 12 Monkeys. Now I’ve been a big fan of Johnson’s work for a while now, from the high school-noir Brick to the fanciful con-comedy Brothers Bloom, so maybe I can see past the logical fallacies because the filmmaker knows how to spin a good yarn. But I prefer to think it’s because Looper is a brainy, twisty and fun sci-fi film that, granted, isn’t as concerned with the snake eating its own tail minutiae of time travel as it is being a compelling character piece. For instance, some found the Bruce Willis-ish make-up worn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt to be kind of creepy, but I choose to believe that’s a compliment, like, “It’s creepy how much Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks like Bruce Willis.” But JGL’s spot on impression of Willis is just one aspect of one great performance that includes good work by Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, Noah Segan, Garret Dillahunt, newcomer Pierce Gagnon and Willis himself. If you sat there counting the paradoxes you’re missing the point because Looper is The Terminator masquerading as Goodfellas. Or vice versa.


December 5, 2012

Things to Do Before You’re 30

Let me preface this post with two things: 1) This is not particularly geeky. 2) While I am not of the opinion that 30 years is the peak (or end) of life, I do agree that it’s a milestone age that inspires a bit of reflection and a flurry of future-planning, at least for me. My 30th birthday fast approaches, and while I didn’t expect to care at all, it seems there’s a bit of OMG I’M A 30-YEAR-OLD LOSER happening. I don’t mean to say that not being crazy famous or rich or whatever before 30 makes a person a loser — that’s absurd. I just meant that there are things I thought I would already have accomplished, and yet the Internet is loaded with lists of things one should do before completing a third decade of life, and invariably these lists contain things I have not done. Like some of these, actually:

Books to Read Before You’re 30

This is an admirable list in that it contains both classical works and newer classics, and even a book on etiquette. I have read four of the 10 and while I think mentioning that Marcus Aurelius is easily consumed in bathroom-break length bits, I’m probably never going to touch it. What are your suggestions for other pre-30s reading?

Amazing Things You Should Do Before You’re 30

I’ve done 12 of these 29 things, and no way in hell am I telling you which ones. Trust that jumping from a building is not included, but add .5 for once having pet a dolphin at SeaWorld. I already work my dream job — thank you, Internets — and have written a letter to my future-self, which arrived a year ago and was spot-on. Too bad “be totally psychic” wasn’t on that list, because then I’d have another thing to cross off. As far as activities go, which new thing should I try this month?

Must-See Places

BuzzFeed’s list of 20 amazing places to see before you die has both my feels and my bank account weeping quietly in the corner. I have been to zero, though I did once watch an episode of Digging for the Truth wherein Josh Bernstein (the sexiest real-life approximation of Indiana Jones, IMO) went to Petra. (I realize that this does not count.) Have any of you been anywhere incredible or un-missable that you would recommend to someone? 

Foods to Try

Okay, here’s an area in which I excel. Of  TIME’s 7 recommendations, I’ve had 7. But these are great regional American foods or items that I can make at home (mmm, bread). What crazy-but-available food should everyone try at least once?

Songs to Hear

Here’s a weird list: 1000 songs to hear before you die. Scanning just the first 17 — which is how many I can see without actually scrolling — I think I might be okay here. I give myself a predicted 50% completion rate, anyway. But this list seems bizarrely incongruous: Beyonce ended up mixed in with The Beatles, and where the hell is Nirvana? Anyway, drop your music recs in the comments. I’ll listen to them all. 

So as I scramble to shoehorn base-jumping and eating a durian fruit into the next couple of weeks, tell me how you guys celebrated/plan to celebrate your big 3-0s, or any other important birthday. (Except the 21st — we all know how everyone spent that day.)

[image from the always-rad someecards, which is pronounced “some ecards” and not “so me cards,” which I recently heard just before my brain exploded.]

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from Geeks are Sexy Technology News

December 1, 2012

First Stewart & McKellen, Now Jackman Circling ‘Days of Future Past’?

They say that Wolverine is the best at what he does, and it seems that what Hugh Jackman is best at is playing Wolverine.

Jackman, who is currently in the midst of some awards consideration for his portrayal of the persecuted Jean Valjean in the upcoming screen adaptation of the long-running stage musical Les Miserables, is in talks with the producers of X-Men: Days of Future Past to reprise the popular role of the feral mutant Wolverine in the film, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

As previously announced this week, both Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen have joined the cast of Bryan Singer’s latest X-Men opus. The accomplished thespians, who appeared as Professor X and Magneto respectively in the first three X-Men movies, will join stars of the recent prequel X-Men: First Class – James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, and Nicholas Hoult – in the new X-Men film. The film, which is based on the classic X-Men comic book story of the same name, will combine casts and characters across many, various X-films covering the past, present and future of Marvel’s Merry Mutants.

Of course, Jackman hasn’t strayed too far from Wolverine, who he first played in X-Men in 2000, which was followed by X2 in 2003, and X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. Jackman appeared in the solo adventure X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009, and cameoed last year in First Class in a scene with McAvoy and Fassbender. Jackman recently wrapped up the sequel The Wolverine, his second solo film as the character, which is due for release next summer.

Now naturally, getting Jackman to appear in any X-Men project is a no-brainer, but Wolverine plays a pretty significant part in the comic book story. The question is, will he have an equally compelling part in this movie? And does this bode well for a coming announcement that Ellen Page will appear in the film as Kitty Pride? I think this project gets more and more interesting, I just hope that they don’t show all their cards before the film’s release and save at least a couple of surprises.

X-Men: Days of Future Past will be in theaters everywhere on July 18, 2014.

Source: Hit Fix


October 19, 2012

Organize your photos and videos with This Life

Many people use their computers to manage four things: work, browsing the Internet, music, and photos. For my family, photographs are a big deal. My iPhoto library is bulging at 32 GB, and that’s with 2009 – 2010 archived on an external drive. In short, my wife and I take a lot of pictures with our digital cameras and smart phones.

Keeping the lot organized is a challenge. Not to mention sharing with far-flung family and friends, as well as finding that one shot you’re after. While I love Apple’s iPhoto, I’ve been looking for something that’s platform-agnostic (Mac, Windows, whatever), easy, tidy and even fun. There are many contenders, but for right now, This Life is what we’re using.

There are a few things I like about This Life, and I’ll describe my favorites. It recently came out of its beta testing period and is now available to the public.

Getting Photos Into This Life

You can’t start using This Life until you fill it with photos. Fortunately, the process is easy. The company has made a free “uploader” application for both Macintosh and Windows. Simply download it, open it and follow the instructions. It will begin uploading any photos you throw at it. Depending on how big your library is, it may take a while, so go make a sandwich.

You can also import photos from many popular services like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Twitter, Picasa, SmugMug and more. I moved my Instagram and Facebook photos over to it easily.

Once your photos are in This Life, it’s time to start organizing.

Who’s Who

Many photo-management applications offer face recognition, but I haven’t found one that works as well as This Life’s. Facial recognition technology lets you give a name to a face in one of your photos. This Life then looks for that same face in the other photos and assigns that name to it. The idea being that you can search photos by face (“Jane Smith”). It isn’t 100 percent accurate but, boy, does it work well. It also runs in the background so you can do other things on your machine.

Once you give it a name/face combination to ponder, This Life gets to work. The next time you launch it, you’ll be given a few guesses to confirm. The next time, a few more. As This Life gets more confident, it does greater and greater batches and eventually leaves you alone. It works well.


This Life also handles duplicates very well. Specifically, if it finds two copies of the exact same photograph, it keeps the one with the highest resolution and deletes the others. That’s very handy and saves me from having to find those on my own.


There’s no This Life application for the Mac or Windows (aside from that uploader utility). Instead, you use it in a web browser. It’s organized in a very clever way. By default there are two “views,” or ways to look at your photos: My Story and Library.

The library view presents all of of your photos at once, in chronological order, from left to right (oldest on the left, newest on the right). There are three rows of photos and a pretty little drop shadow makes them appear to be resting on a big table. A slider on the bottom of the screen lets you move back and forth, and if you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, that will work, too.

Click any photo to zoom in and share via Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or email. You can also leave a comment and perform simple editing tasks like “Image Magic,” which attempts to correct for lighting and color balance (hit or miss in my testing) and rotation. Finally, you can delete the image or download the full-resolution original to your computer.

That’s great, but the real beauty is in Stories.


This Life lets you group photos into what it calls Stories. You can think of Stories as albums, but they’re more than that. This Life’s developers refer to them as “living albums — they are a dynamic collection of photos, videos and notes.” I’m a big fan of This Life Stories.

Creating a new Story is simple. Just click “New Story” in the upper left and give it a name. Adding photos and/or videos to a story is even easier: just place your mouse over it and click the heart that appears. That’s it. Honestly, you can add dozens of photos to a Story in seconds. To switch to a different Story, select it in the drop-down menu and resume clicking hearts.

Stories are also collaborative. You can invite others to contribute to a story and upload their own photos and videos. My family has a reunion ever year, and everyone takes pictures. It was fun to invite them to my “Family Vacation ’12” Story and see their contributions come in.

There’s more to love like searching by location, which shows all photos taken at a certain geographic location, and tags, which lets you describe what’s happening in the image. This makes search very powerful, as you can enter “Jane eating cake at Grandma’s house” and find exactly those shots. Super.

Sign Up Options

This Life is free to use for up to a certain amount of storage, and additional plans increase based on the amount of storage you require. There are many photo management options out there, and This Life is definitely worth your consideration.

Like this site? Buy Erin Rooney Doland’s Unclutter Your Life in One Week from today.

from Unclutterer

September 7, 2012

Ben Folds Five to Play Free Concert for NYCC 2012 as Part of Reunion Tour

Ben Folds Five

Press Release:


Opening Night Concert Free for VIP and 4-Day Ticket Holders!

Appearance is part of band’s 2012 reunion tour

Norwalk, CT, September 5, 2012: Officials at New York Comic Con (NYCC) are pleased to announce that the critically acclaimed and renowned alternative rock trio Ben Folds Five will perform at NYCC in an opening night concert. This exclusive concert appearance for the fans attending NYCC will be part of the band’s reunion tour following the release of their first new album in 13 years called The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind . Ben Folds Five will perform in the IGN Theater at NYCC on Thursday, October 11 at 8:00 PM, presented by WD, maker of digital storage and home entertainment products. The concert is free for NYCC VIPs and 4-Day ticket holders with entrance provided on a first come, first served basis. Badges must be presented at the door.

This year’s New York Comic Con, which attracted over 100,000 fans last year, will take place October 11 – 14, 2012 at Manhattan’s Javits Center. The extravaganza attracts top talent and major artists from all areas of the pop culture universe including comics, film, television, music, books and gaming.

Ben Folds Five reunited last year to record three new songs for the career-spanning compilation The Best Imitation of Myself: A Retrospective. At that time the band hit on ideas that yielded their first new material since 1998’s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner which has led them back into the studio to record a new album. Ben Folds has noted that when the trio, which includes bassist Robert Sledge and drummer Darren Jessee, got together for the compilation their time together was very creatively productive. He notes: “I just started throwing ideas out there, one after the other, and they were all coming together and sounding like something from another album, like an album in the future. We really found ourselves very interested in making another sound.”

In commenting on the exclusive concert engagement, Lance Fensterman, Group Vice President and Show Manager for New York Comic Con, notes: “This is an awesome way to be kicking off this year’s edition of New York Comic Con, and it is definitely a statement about the type of high quality programming and entertainment that we plan to deliver to our fans on all fronts. We are all about providing killer content from all strains of popular culture. This is simply the latest in a long line of notable announcements that we will continue to make right up to our show. We are grateful to Ben Folds Five for agreeing to fit us into their tour schedule and for getting our 2012 event off to such an auspicious start. The IGN Theater will be packed with fans on Thursday, October 11!”

As noted, New York Comic Con spans the pop culture universe, welcoming guests from the worlds of movies, television, anime, manga and video games and providing a home to all that is new, nerdy and cool. In the past, this has included performances from stand-up comics, dinners with all-star chefs and panel discussions with names in fields ranging from cryptid research to theoretical physics. NYCC is proud to be building on this tradition by playing host to Ben Folds Five. The band has been a part of the broader pop culture world since 1994 and their appearance at NYCC will be an opening highlight, ushering in a show filled with pop culture celebrities, guests and entertainment activities.

“Ben Folds Five personifies the inspiration and creative courage that attendees of New York Comic Con so much embrace and that we applaud at WD,” said Jim Welsh, executive vice president for WD’s branded products and consumer electronics groups. “We support artists, hobbyists and creative professionals of all types as we know their digital storage devices need to be reliable and entertainment products effortless to use and of the highest quality.”

WD will be showcasing its newest home networking products, which accelerate movies, video and gaming, delivering a premium high-definition entertainment experience. Truly fitting New York Comic Con style, WD’s showcase will be in a 34-foot Airstream trailer, wrapped in flashy images and parked inside the Show Floor (Booth #1167).

Tickets for New York Comic Con in 2012 are currently available for purchase at Anyone interested in exhibiting at New York Comic Con should contact Larry Settembrini, Other information about the show, as well as news about ReedPOP, which organizes a range of pop culture events, is available at and . Organizers note that many more guests will be announced over the next few weeks and fans should keep their eyes on NYCC’s website and blog for additional comic, entertainment and anime announcements.

ABOUT BEN FOLDS FIVE: Ben Folds Five, the groundbreaking trio who changed the course of indie rock in the mid-1990s, has re-formed and is releasing The Sound Of The Life Of The Mind, the group’s first album of new music in 13 years.

Ben Folds Five is Ben Folds (piano), Robert Sledge (bass) and Darren Jessee (drums) who emerged from Chapel Hill, NC in 1994. The trio’s high energy gigs garnered an intensely loyal fanbase and BFF signed first with an indie releasing their first eponymously titled album featuring the classics “Underground” and “Philosophy.” Then a move to the majors wrought 1997′s watershed album Whatever And Ever Amen. A slice of pure pop perfection, the album introduced the ballad “Brick,” broke the band commercially and sold more than two million copies worldwide. BFF recorded its last album, 1999′s The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner , which included the single “Army,” before disbanding in 2000.

The trio briefly reunited for a one-off live performance of The Unauthorized Biography Of Reinhold Messner on MySpace in 2008 and in 2011, the original three members recorded three new studio tracks for The Best Imitation Of Myself: A Retrospective, a career-spanning Ben Folds anthology. The old magic seemed to be rekindled.

BFF gave its first concert in more than a decade to a spellbound audience at New York’s Mountain Jam Festival on June 2, 2012. That was followed by a short run of key US summer festivals in June including Bonnaroo, Milwaukee Summerfest, and Old St. Patrick’s Church Block Party in Chicago.

The band returns to the road this Fall with a major North American tour. November will see BFF performances at Australia’s two-week Harvest Festival followed by tours of the UK and Ireland. In 2013, Ben Folds Five will go to Japan, Korea and elsewhere in the Pacific Rim as well as returning for more North American shows.

ABOUT REEDPOP: ReedPOP is a boutique group within Reed Exhibitions which is exclusively devoted to organizing events, launching and acquiring new shows, and partnering with premium brands in the pop culture arena. ReedPOP is dedicated to producing celebrations of popular culture throughout the world that transcend ordinary events by providing unique access and dynamic personal experiences for consumers and fans. The ReedPOP portfolio includes: New York Comic Con (NYCC), Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2), Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) Prime & East, Star Wars Celebration, Fantasy Football Fest and the UFC Fan Expo. The staff at ReedPOP is a fan-based group of professionals producing shows for other fans, thus making them uniquely qualified to service those with whom they share a common passion. ReedPOP is focused on bringing its expertise and knowledge to world communities in North America, South America, Asia and Europe.

from Convention Scene