AT's Blog – From A to T

Occasional observations and random musings from Cali to DC

Archive for September, 2010

To iPad or not to iPad…that is the question!

Posted by ataylorblog on September 27, 2010

iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro

Image via Wikipedia

With RIM announcing it’s new Playbook Tablet for Blackberry’s today.  I was reminded of a little dilemma I had a few weeks ago.  What was the dilemma you ask?  Well, I had an iPhone & a MacBook, but was intrigued about the new gadget that hit the market called the iPad.

While the promotions and hype surrounding this new device were enticing, I simply didn’t see where another gadget fit into my daily life.  I actually had to chuckle at the mock-ups of the life-size iPad (ala the keyboard in the movie Big) that people could use as a giant electronic Twister game.  I mean, the iPhone & my Blackberry more than fulfill all of my mobile needs & my MacBook serves its purpose at home, at work, and while traveling.  Where exactly does one use the iPad?  Especially since there is no phone and no camera currently available (unless you buy an app and an app for that app).

Steve Jobs has coined the tagline, “iPad our most advanced technology in a magical & revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.”  All very true, but still what benefits does the iPad provide (this was pre-obsession with Words with Friends obviously).

I’d love to tell you that I put a lot of thought into the positives and negatives of purchasing an iPad.  Basically, I walked into a Best Buy a few weeks ago looking for a camera case & left the store with the iPad.  I couldn’t resist any longer.  Plus, the only way for me to truly find out if I needed an iPad was simply to purchase one & try it out for a minute.  Right?  There’s no better form of analysis than trial and error!!

Well, after dibbling & dabbling with the iPad and iPad apps for the last few weeks, I feel that I can finally respond to my friends when they ask “To iPad or not to iPad,” because that is still the question on everyone’s mind.

While I’m still formulating my genuine response to that question, I will offer you a closer look into my life with a briefcase full of gadgets.

From time to time, when I actually take time during my often hectic & over-scheduled days, I find a moment (usually a very brief moment) to step back & put my overconsumption of tech gadgets into perspective.  What I find on most occasions is that many of us spend more time tinkering & tampering with the gadgets that were meant to help us manage our days more efficiently, communicate more frequently, and simplify our lives than living life fully.  Instead, many of these same “amazing” & “cool” gadgets actually make our lives more complicated, reduce productivity, and hinder true/authentic communication between human-beings.

Feel free to disagree with me wholeheartedly, but as an admitted recovering tech addict I am almost positive that we all are going through this same dilemma.  College friends found me an easy target when chiding folks about having to have the newest “things” that came on the market (at least as far as electronics were concerned).  In business school, we called these folks the “early adopters”.  You know ‘em, the nerdy folks who know the release dates for gadgets as soon as Bill Gates & his counterparts pitch them at a tech show.  Well, I’m not that crazy, but I used to find myself always having to have the latest & greatest item out there.

Fortunately, my mere possession of these gadgets has now made it almost impossible for me to keep up with the folks in my life on a regular basis.  In fact, I’m sitting here on the couch writing this blog & if I look to my right or to my left, I am surrounded by my iPad, MacBook, iPhone, and Blackberry.  Another Powerbook is hooked up to the TV so that I could watch yesterday’s Cowboys vs. Texans game and my iPod is in a docking station nearby.  White power chords can be found in every nook & cranny in my house and strange ringtones & alerts seem to be going off at all times of the day and night.

All in all, I try not to complain about the fact that we can literally find the world at our fingertips with these amazing inventions.  I also am grateful that I have access to this technology.  I have signed on for this chaos and to a certain extent probably am motivated by being busy.  However, eventually, I will have to decide between instant access and peace & quiet.

Sadly, I don’t think this dilemma will end in the near future.

So should you get an iPad?  Well, I can’t answer that for you.  It’s a great device, so if you’re interested in adding another “great” resource to your toolbox….definitely get yourself one.  If you’re trying to simplify your life…stick with your phone & computer.

In the end, I do truly love the iPad.  My iPhone & MacBook feel like the older children when a newborn comes home from the hospital because they certainly haven’t received as much attention since the iPad’s arrival.  Figuring out how to maximize the use of all of these gadgets is still a work in progress.  Trying to carve out a moment of peace & quiet away from all of the gadgets is a challenge, and I don’t think a resolution is near.  Maybe I’ll find an app that will show me the way.  If you know of an app for this, please share it with me!!

Until then, I guess I’ll just have to keep challenging folks to a game of Words with Friends.

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A Saturday Afternoon in South Bend

Posted by ataylorblog on September 27, 2010

After nearly four years, I finally returned to South Bend, IN Saturday to watch my Stanford Cardinal take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on a chilly fall afternoon.  During the late 1990′s and early 2000′s, this journey had become a regular fall voyage for my brother Gary & I (until work got in the way).

This has always been a trip that I looked forward to.  Great football taking place with an amazing backdrop on the Notre Dame Campus.  Reconnecting with classmates.  Pit stops on Michigan Avenue for shopping (and Garrett’s Popcorn).  Dreams of a chance encounter with Oprah while in town.  Hope of ending the Cardinal losing streak in South Bend (previously a 1992 team that my brother played on).  AND most importantly, an opportunity to spend the weekend with my big brother.

One trip that stands out in my mind was in October of 2004.  The Connecticut Sun were playing the Seattle Storm in the WNBA Finals that year while I was still working at the WNBA League Office.  I remember attending Game #1 of that series in CT on October 8th then flying to South Bend on Saturday, October 9th.  I was able to find a flight that would get me to Indiana about 2 hours before the game and was met at the airport by my brother Gary who had driven down from Chicago.  As I threw my luggage in the backseat, I noticed an enormous bag of Garrett’s Popcorn that he surprised me with (I guess he knows me pretty well).  We went to the game (a 15-23 defeat to the Irish) and quickly rushed back to the airport, so that I could catch an evening flight out to Seattle where I would catch Game #2 & Game #3.  Seattle would go on to win the championship that year.  This sports junkie will never forget that amazing weekend.

Another year, I packed sandals and capris for a game that would end up taking place in the snow.  Luckily, we were able to hit Michigan Avenue to purchase boots, gloves, stocking cap, and a jacket the night before.  The Stanford equipment manager hooked me up with a team sweatshirt before the game (I must have looked pretty pathetic standing there in the snow).  Gary has never let me hear the end of that one!  Needless to say, he now packs two extra sweatshirts & gloves for every game (home & away) just in case little sister loses her mind & fails to check the weather channel.

After years of making this trip every other year, our streak ended in 2006 when life’s conflicts stood in the way.  I didn’t realize how much I missed this annual rite of passage until we started driving down I-90 towards South Bend yesterday morning.  Not much to see during that 2 hour drive except the authentic scenery you’d expect to see in rural Indiana.  Gary pointed out the plethora of corn stalks lining the highway and I counted the “red barns” hiding behind trees along the way.

As we passed other vehicles on the road, we all looked at one another & quietly acknowledged that we had a common destination.  It was South Bend or bust for the hundreds of cars on the road with us.  It’s amazing how much changes over time.  During our initial drives a decade ago, we would frantically turn the knob on the radio to find a Chicago station that would receive decent reception in the midst of the cornfields.  In later years, we would simply connect our iPod to the car’s stereo system & enjoy the route listening to our own theme songs.  This year, we listened to downloads from iTunes while I clicked away on the computer on the way there & watched the Boise State versus Oregon State game on the return trip.  The simple wonders of modern technology.

While I will have to keep dreaming of running into Oprah, our wish for a Stanford victory did come true yesterday!  Behind an impressive effort from Andrew Luck, Owen Marecic (who made the writer of this Sports Illustrated article look like a prognosticator), and the Stanford Defense…Cardinal fans outlasted the Irish fans hanging around the stadium well after the game until the players ran over to celebrate in the corner of the endzone with us.

It was great to run into some classmates and former teammates before & after the game as we all walked around campus and took in the site of Touchdown Jesus.  As we have all ventured out to separate parts of the world, it is always refreshing to renew friendships with old pals as well as some new ones with others donning the Cardinal & White (and big smiles at the conclusion of yesterday’s game) when you run into them.

These days, college athletics seems to be the subject of much scrutiny, but it is simple Saturday afternoons like I just experienced that reminds us how very special college sports are to the fabric of America.  For those 3-4 hours, we could forget about all that weighs on our mind while watching these young men play the sport that they love for no other reason than for the love of the game (and maybe for the expensive tuition that both of these institutions charge)!

Sounds like this home & home series may end in the near future when both schools look to find alternative opponents that fit into their non-conference schedules, so I will certainly hold on to the lasting moments of another Saturday afternoon in South Bend because it may be my last!

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Facebook Makes Some New “Friends” in Newark, NJ!

Posted by ataylorblog on September 25, 2010

Yesterday, in front of a worldwide audience, Facebook co-founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a magnanimous donation of $100 million to Newark’s school system.  The gift is the first donation  (hopefully of many) granted from a foundation he formed to support education programs.

Sadly, I was traveling (to Chicago nonetheless) and missed the show since Oprah airs in the morning here Chicago-land.   I DVR’d the episode, so I’ll have to reserve final judgement on the announcement until later.  A simple stroll through the channels last night produced a pretty good synopsis of the entire show or at least the relevant parts of the show.  From what I can gather, it was another great “AHA” moment during Oprah’s 25th and final season.  Lots of smiles.  Lots of hugs.  Lots of applauding.  And, during the evening talk show circuit…lots of skepticism.

While I admittedly haven’t followed Zuckerberg’s story (or the story of Facebook) that much up to this point, it seems like naysayers are questioning the motives and timing behind this enormous philanthropic gesture. Sounds like these pundits feel that with the movie The Social Network coming out in the New York Film Festival on Friday, Zuckerberg was trying to sway public opinion about his self-esteem (or lack thereof).

I for one don’t really care if the guy is insecure or not. What I do care about is that this twenty-something has, in an instant, potentially changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children & families in the Newark area for generations to come.

Yes, it is crucial that they allocate the funds strategically while formulating a long-term plan, but I have no doubt that the current leadership in Newark (Cory Booker) will develop an appropriate strategy that ultimately generates the results we are hoping for.

The truth is, though, that the education system in this great nation of ours is far from adequate, especially in our inner cities.  I personally find this unacceptable.  How can the most powerful country in the world continue to witness such an enormous education gap?  We can’t all write a check with 8 zeros on it, but there are a multitude of ways that we can make a huge difference in the lives of the future leaders of the world.  Selfish intentions or not, I believe that Zuckerberg has inspired a new generation of philanthropist.  I know I am inspired by his gesture.

Why did he choose Newark?  That was the first question that popped into my head when the rumor started circulating earlier this week.

Well aside from the fact that Newark is a very attractive market just on the west side of the Hudson River from the mecca of the world known as New York City, I think his decision to select Newark had a great deal to do with the mayor of Newark, Cory Booker.

I’m definitely on “Team Cory” and here’s why I think teaming up with Mayor Booker (& the Governor of NJ) makes sense:

1. Cory Booker is undoubtedly one of the rising superstars in politics & has garnered a significant amount of attention and acclaim for his commitment to Newark & his political savvy.
2. Cory & Oprah seem to have a strong relationship built on respect and admiration for one another. Not that the Zuckerberg team couldn’t pull this off on their own, but there’s no doubt that if you want to get to Oprah, I’m sure Cory can help with that. Once you’re on the Oprah show, the rest is history. I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t love to come up with a product or book & get on Oprah to promote it. That 60 minutes of answering questions, would change ones life forever.
3. Cory is definitively one of the mayors in this country who is genuinely committed to affecting change in their communities. He has done an amazing job in Newark in a short amount of time & while there is a long way to go, I don’t doubt that we will see a dynamic change in Newark in the next decade as a result of his leadership.
4. Cory has taken to social networking & leveraged Facebook and Twitter very effectively as a way to communicate with his constituents. Who better to partner with then someone engaged in using your product?

Many refer to the premiere of The Social Network to illustrate why Zuckerberg chose Friday to unveil his plan. I point to the premiere of “Waiting for Superman” to reinforce why we are lucky that this young man used his resources to do good in a city that desperately needs someone to stand up for it.  Superman doesn’t exist, but for the children in Newark, maybe some superhero dressed as a teacher will show up in their classroom in the near future.

Last night, we caught a few minutes of a panel discussion on this exact topic on Fox News (a station I don’t typically frequent). Panelists questioned whether Oprah’s involvement was good or bad and if “we” were asking tough questions about “how” the money would be used. But when one panelist (I didn’t recognize him) inferred that the problem with Newark’s school system & the children in it was not about the lack of resources but instead about the lack of discipline, I realized that this country has a long way to go before we will truly be ready to tackle the education crisis & to close the gap between those of who are fortunate enough to have access and those who face several challenges (self-imposed and otherwise).

There is no quick fix, but I applaud the young billionaire (regardless of his motives) for using his wealth & stature to address our concerns.  Newark is one of many markets that is in desperate need of the resources that will allow them to educate our children.  There will be many mistakes along the way, but if one more life is changed as a result…I say bravo!

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Growing up a Boise State Bronco fan

Posted by ataylorblog on September 24, 2010

As Kirk Herbstreit and the ESPN College GameDay commentators descend upon Boise, ID this week to prepare to talk all things college football on Saturday morning to those of us gridiron junkies who wake up early in order to hop on the couch & get set for wall to wall college football, my head is filled with many wonderful memories of growing up a Boise State Bronco fan.

I know jaws are dropping out in cyberspace right now, but for those of you who didn’t know…yes, it is true.  I am a native of the 43rd state.  I was born and raised in Mountain Home, ID (a town about 40 miles southeast of Boise).  Growing up, the speed limit was 55 mph, so getting to games was a “road-trip”, but nowadays Mtn Home is nothing more than a suburb of Boise (taking some of us with lead feet 20 minutes to get there).

It sounds like viewers are in for a special treat this Saturday morning as the GameDay set will be live from the “Smurf Turf”!  Don’t adjust your TV sets.  Folks in Boise (except for those University of Idaho Vandal fans) are pretty excited about the national media attention they’ve been receiving & plan to show up en masse.  Apparently, Nebraska holds the record for 16,000 fans attending the morning show, so I hope that Bronco Nation takes the challenge & comes out to break the record.

I was talking to a friend recently & he challenged me to think of a collegiate program that has had such a dramatic rise to acclaim in our lifetime than Boise State has had over the course of the last decade.  He mentioned Miami “The U” Hurricanes and their rise to dominance in the 80′s after relative anonymity (by the way, the ESPN 30 in 30 episode on The U was very entertaining).  Maybe you can reference Colorado’s success in the ’90′s and West Virginia’s success during a similar time frame, but you will be hard pressed to identify a program that has witnessed as monumental a journey as BSU.

Founded in 1932 as Boise Junior College, BSU didn’t become a four-year institution with university status until 1974.  That’s just 36 years ago.  The Broncos won the I-AA Championship in 1980 and was still competing in I-AA football as recently as the mid-1990′s.  Less than two decades later, they are a legitimate contender & have become regulars on the bowl scene.

As someone who has to regular help folks with their geography lesson (no, Idaho is not in the midwest) and must distinguish Idaho from Iowa or Ohio…times like these make me want to reminisce about my days of “growing up a Boise State Bronco fan”.  Here are 10 special memories that popped into my mind tonight (in no particular order):

  1. Watching from the bleachers in the end zone as the Broncos took on the Grambling Tigers in the I-AA semis in 1980.  It was FREEZING that day & I had on what seemed like 20 layers of clothing.  We had a blast watching Everson Walls (who later was drafted by my Cowboys) and the Tigers compete.
  2. Snagging some cash from my dad so that I could run across the street from the stadium to get a burger from the Bronco Grill before games.  I always kept the change : )
  3. Finding a $20 bill in the bushes the afternoon before our rivalry game versus the U of I while tailgating with our family friends the Wright’s & Harvey’s (I was like 9 years old, so this was a big deal…I went on to open my first bank account with that $20)
  4. Climbing the stairs to where our season tickets were (nosebleed).  I was too scared to look down.
  5. Attending BSU games when my brother Gary was being heavily recruited by them.  We sat across the field from our parents’ seats near the student section (which made me feel pretty cool) and my mom armed us with a huge brown bag of home-made popcorn (with extra butter of course).
  6. Trying to catch the plastic footballs the cheerleaders threw into the stands.  Never caught one sadly.
  7. Sneaking down to the seats that had heat lamps…not much luck here either.  Those folks weren’t giving up their seats.
  8. Watching my oldest brother Greg play for the Broncos.
  9. Watching Cedric Mintor run for touchdown after touchdown & Hazen Choates run & pass for touchdowns.
  10. The Blue Turf.  Enough said.  I admit I was a little skeptical when I first heard they were installing blue turf, but when Sports Illustrated covered it, I thought…maybe it’s not so bad after all.  I will admit that I have not “personally” witnessed birds diving into the turf, but I have had the rumor from numerous sources!

Now the question you probably all are wondering about.  Does this native Idahoan feel that the Broncos legitimately deserve a chance to compete for the BCS Championship?  Yes, I absolutely do and it’s not just because of my fond memories of growing up in the Great Potato State.  I realize that all of the naysayers out there feel that they are not deserving simply because of their weak conference schedule.  But in a free market society, shouldn’t everyone have an equal chance to compete for the right to hold up 1 finger (get your minds out of the gutter…I’m talking about the finger that signifies that you are #1/the best/the champions)?

While some programs have the chance on an annual basis to compete for the championship, the system has forced the Broncos to have an amazing cumulative body of work over the last 3-4 years in order to garner a ranking high enough at the onset of this season to even be in the conversation for the national championship game.  All these kids can do is play the teams on their schedule.  Unless the NCAA finally changes the current BCS system to create a true playoff system, the major conferences are shoe-ins for these game. Until then, based on what they have done on the field, an undefeated Boise State team absolutely deserves to play in the big game.  I think we all would love to see it.  David versus Goliath.  A program that has overcome the odds.  Kids who have achieved an amazing feat.  A city that is now known for more than potatoes and blue turf.  That’s stuff that dreams are made of & a made for TV movie.

I, for one, hope that BSU’s “body of work” the next couple of months justifies the voters to give them a chance at history & the computers validating their on-field success.  If it happens, I may have to withdraw that $20 bill from my account, have my mom dig out some of those blue & orange pom poms we used to take to the games & get my tickets to watch history being made!

Go Broncos!

**The only thing better than seeing the Broncos in the BCS Championship game this year would be watching BSU vs. Stanford in the championship game!!!  Go Cardinal too!!!

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