Getting my first pair of shoes at the Continental Cup

A pair of curling shoes purchased from Brooms Up Curling Supplies at the 2019 Continental Cup in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A pair of curling shoes purchased from Brooms Up Curling Supplies at the 2019 Continental Cup in Las Vegas, Nevada.

A lot of people new to the sport of curling often ask if it’s expensive to participate in. Thankfully, the answer is no for the individual curler.

In a lot of ways, getting into curling is like going to the bowling alley. In bowling, you pay for a lane or a certain number of games. In curling, you pay for ice time.

The sport of bowling calls for bowling balls and shoes, but the alley often makes those available for casual participants.

It’s similar in curling — you need a broom to sweep and a special slider for the bottom of your shoe, but most clubs have some available for newer players to borrow.

(Also, the curling stones are owned by the club, just as a bowling alley owns the pins).

As I’ve gotten more involved in curling, I’ve slowly started acquiring personal equipment. Many curlers recommend getting shoes first because that would have the biggest impact on your game.

Unfortunately, shoes are a little pricey, so my first purchase was a curling broom (which was about 45 percent of the cost of shoes). I felt it was a good upgrade compared with the heavier house brooms. I certainly feel more effective with my own broom.

I’m now in a position to buy shoes, but there aren’t a lot of physical curling stores in much of the United States.

Thankfully, one of the American vendors, Brooms Up Curling Supplies, has a mobile showroom that travels to different curling events — including the 2019 Continental Cup.

While many supplies are available for purchase online, I enjoy being able to browse gear in person and try it on for size. The Brooms Up trailer is good for this, as the owner Gary carries a lot of the major manufacturers gear (but not all).

With the Brooms Up trailer parked between the Orleans Arena and the casino, a lot of curling fans drop by after  draws. I was able to drop by Friday and buy my first pair of curling shoes.

As you can tell from the photo at the top of this post, they’re not the most glamorous but I’m hoping they will do the trick. The left shoe includes a built-in slider (currently covered by a rubber gripper) that will help me glide across the ice. With the gripper on the left shoe and a rubber sole on the right, I should be able to walk on the ice with confidence.

My next challenge will be actually using these shoes. Even a small change to my delivery can have a big impact on the game and these new shoes are a big shift.

Also, I’ve never previously moved around on the slider after delivering a stone. Instructors and anyone with common sense caution standing up on a slip-on slider and I’ve certainly fallen a couple times when I forget.

I imagine it will take me a while to used to shuffling around on a slider. I’ll certainly exercise caution, but I’m excited about this next step in my curling experience.

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Getting the joke at the Continental Cup

Mixed doubles during Draw 5 of the 2019 Continental Cup in Las Vegas on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019.

Mixed doubles during Draw 5 of the 2019 Continental Cup in Las Vegas on Friday, Jan. 18, 2019.

Watching curling in person can be a unique experience, especially at this weekend’s Continental Cup in Las Vegas. Watching with several thousand enthusiastic fans who are knowledgeable about the game really takes it up the next level.

Watching curling in person offers fans a chance to watching multiple games at the same time (versus TV focusing on one game with highlights from the rest). That increases the likelihood of watching an interesting play develop.

At the same time, it can be a little daunting for a newer fan. The first international competition I attended was the 2018 World Men’s Curling Championships, also in Vegas. There were four sheets in play (as opposed to three here this weekend). It was easy to focus on a specific sheet and be a little late noticing something interesting happening elsewhere on the ice.

I had an easier time watching with the three sheets in play this weekend, but I still missed one or two key plays.

If you can’t make it to Vegas for the final two days of the competition, watching a curling competition on a screen does have its advantages especially if the broadcasting team clicks with the audience. Certainly the TSN crew airing the Continental Cup gets a lot of kudos. Fans in the U.S. can watching online on ESPN3 (or on Curling Canada’s YouTube channel about two days after each individual event airs).

Some fans in the audience get the best of both worlds — watching in person and listening in on the TSN broadcast team of Vic Rauter and former Olympians Cheryl Bernard and Russ Howard. Fans who purchased tickets to every event received a headset that allowed them to listen to the TSN feed.

Fans who bought tickets to the entire event received ear buds that allowed them to listen to the network broadcast in the arena.

Fans who bought tickets to the entire event received ear buds that allowed them to listen to the network broadcast in the arena.

Apparently, a lot of people bought this package. At some points during the competition, most of the audience erupted in what appeared to be spontaneous laughter. It wasn’t necessarily in response to something happening on the ice (although some of the athletes like to joke around and fans indulge them with laughs).

I quickly wondered if there was some joke that I was missing. That was literally the case — it appears everyone tuning into the TSN broadcast was able to hear some quip and reacted appropriately. (Sample joke after the camera spotted a couple dressed as characters from “The Flintstones” — There’s Fred and Wilma. And Pebbles is on the ice. That’s relatively funny and super corny if you’re a curling fan)..

I was a little sad that I missed the joke, but it definitely shows how many diehard curling fans are in the audience.

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Watching the world’s best curlers in Las Vegas

A decal stating Las Vegas Curling Rocks is posted on a door at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 3, 2018. The casino is hosting the 2019 Continental Cup.

A decal stating Las Vegas Curling Rocks is posted on a door at the Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, on April 3, 2018. The casino is hosting the 2019 Continental Cup.

Today is the first day of the 2019 Continental Cup of Curling at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. If you haven’t seen this event before, I would say it’s well worth your time if you’re a fan of the game. In the U.S., games stream on ESPN3 online (with replays shared on the Curling Canada YouTube channel about 48 hours later).

Six of the world’s best teams are competing this weekend in a format similar to the Ryder Cup. This time, it’s Team North America against Team World.

Teams include gold medalists from the 2018 Winter Olympics including women’s champion Team Hasselborg of Sweden and men’s champion Team Shuster of the United States. The rest of the roster is loaded with top athletes, including four Canadian teams, five additional European teams and Team Sinclair from the U.S.

One of the things that sets the Continental Cup apart from other international events is that it’s generally more fun and not just because it’s in Las Vegas. As far as I know, the stakes are little lower because the outcome of the event won’t affect any of the teams’ chances to qualify for a national championship or a spot at the Olympics.

Teams do play for pride and a share of a decent-sized jackpot, but it appears to be a chance for athletes to have a little fun in the middle of the season before going off to national championships (in the case of Canada and the United States).

The Continental Cup often shakes things up, on and off the ice. On the ice, the competition is arranged so individual squads are broken up and recombined in various ways — including setting up pairs to play on mixed doubles squads or assembling new teams for the new team scramble format.

The traditional teams of four will have regular matches, but even that’s mixed up over the course of the weekend as the final day features a skins format.

Off the ice, the teams have areas to cheer their teammates on. This is generally different from other competitions, where teams who aren’t playing usually don’t come the arena.

All of this adds up to something special. The athletes look like they’re having a lot of fun and the competition is a blast to watch. Last year’s event ended in a tie that had to be broken with curling’s equivalent of a shootout.

The Continental Cup is also a great opportunity to see different teams from around the world face off. Last year’s event preceded the Olympics and the games offered an excellent preview of what happened in South Korea, including the fact that John Shuster was ready to make a splash on the international stage.

There are three rounds a day today through Saturday. On Sunday, there are two rounds of skins games. Coverage from every round (or draw) airs live on TSN in Canada and is available on ESPN3 in the U.S.

It will be exciting to see how this year’s event unfolds.

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On ‘The Good Place,’ Michael is failing his ethics test

In a screenshot taken from a third-season episode of "The Good Place," Janet and Michael discuss what to do to help their four friends. Screenshot captured for criticism and commentary.

In a screenshot taken from a third-season episode of “The Good Place,” Janet and Michael discuss what to do to help their four friends. Screenshot captured for criticism and commentary.

So, this post contains spoilers about the TV series “The Good Place” through the episode that aired Oct. 11. It will also discuss elements of the show from past episodes, so caveat emptor.

One thing stuck with me at the end of the last aired episode, “The Snowplow.” Simply put (and without major spoilers) — Michael failed the Trolley Problem.

Continue reading “On ‘The Good Place,’ Michael is failing his ethics test” »

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Back in the hack for year 3 of curling

That was the conclusion of the final end of my second year of curling (it's not my shot). We were playing yellow, but an attempt to use the dial tool dislodged a stone so we called it a tie. Our skip, Joe, won the sudden-death draw to the button.

That was the conclusion of the final end of my second year of curling (it’s not my shot). We were playing yellow, but an attempt to use the dial tool dislodged a stone so we called it a tie. Our skip, Joe, won the sudden-death draw to the button.

I started my third full year in curling two weeks ago at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns. It was great to get back to a sport that I’ve come to enjoy over the past two years.

Considering that my involvement in the sport has ramped up in the past few years (including attending the World Men’s Curling Championship in Las Vegas and volunteering for a national event in Salt Lake City), I thought it would be fun to share some of my experiences on the ice. I’m not a competitive curler by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely hope to continue getting better and make a positive contribution to whatever team I’m playing on.

My team in Monday curling league (Team 20/20) ended the winter season on a high note. We fought from behind to tie the opposing team in the B bracket playoffs on March 26.

In the final end, I inadvertently set in motion what would eventually result in a tie (that’s the photo at the top of this post). The tie led to a sudden-death draw to the button that our skip, Joe, won.

In that final end, I was playing second on a three-person team (that means I threw the 4, 5 and 6 red stones out of eight). Thanks to the shooting of our lead, Andrew, we were sitting shot but there was a gap that someone could shoot to get closer to the button (as the team with the stone closest to the button scores).

My task was to put up a guard in that gap to prevent the opposing team (The Icemen) from taking advantage of the opening. My first couple attempts didn’t pan out.

My third and final shot also missed as a guard — it drew into the gap (or port, in curling lingo) and rested near the button. It was a nice shot that didn’t immediately hurt us, but it created an opening for the opposing yellow team (which had the advantage of throwing the final stone of the end).

The opposing vice skip (who shoots third out of four) threw a shot similar to mine and pushed my last rock out of the way.

From there, it was a back-and-forth effort between the two teams. Our skip, Joe, followed the same line and knocked the yellow stone out of the way. The yellow team skip delivered the same shot and pushed our red stone back slightly.

That led to a crucial moment in the end and the game — who has the shot? If it’s us on the red team, it would be prudent to put up a guard and end this bit of shooting practice. From my perspective as the vice skip, I thought it was close but the advantage was ours.

(As an aside, it didn’t make sense to try the draw shot again because our red stone was behind the tee line — it could’ve been used by the yellow team as a backstop, allowing them to sit fully on the center of the button and claim the win.)

Joe successfully put up a guard, clogging the port that we had all found success through. It forced the yellow team to make a difficult shot that they couldn’t convert. They would’ve basically had to run into two of their stones for a chance to push their stone closest to the button just a centimeter forward.

Here’s what team yellow faced:

In the last shot of the final end of the winter 2018 Monday league, the yellow team faced a difficult shot to try to get their stone closest to the button on March 26, 2018, at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.

In the last shot of the final end of the winter 2018 Monday league, the yellow team faced a difficult shot to try to get their stone closest to the button on March 26, 2018, at the Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns.

The photo doesn’t show the red stone sitting in the outer green circle (called the 12-foot) at roughly the 10 o’clock position.

After each team has thrown their eight stones, it’s up to the vice skips to agree on who actually scored. If it’s not possible from visual observation, there’s a measuring device that can be used. It was the star of the Winter Olympics whenever it was used on TV and it came into play that night in March.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of mixup in the measurement. Because the stones were so close to each other, the measurer tried to measure the outside of the stones. That doesn’t work for many reasons, particularly because the sensor doesn’t bend in that direction.

Trying to sweep the measuring dial past our red stone simply pushed the rock out of the way slightly. We were given the opportunity to reset our stone, but I noted that there was really no way to do it in a way that was fair especially because we were trying to measure its original position and that was no longer possible.

With measuring out of the question, both teams concluded that it was easiest to declare that it was a tie and that no team scored that end (called a blank).

(Another aside: We were uncertain about the rules when it came to measurements and it led to a Reddit discussion on the matter. The curling rules do address the situation, which will be helpful moving forward. We didn’t know it at the time and I was happy both teams agreed to call it a tie.)

The tie set up the draw to the button, where each team’s skip throws one stone to try to get closest to the center of the house.

Joe made the shot and we won our playoff. It was an exhilarating end to a great night of curling. Even before the yellow team took their last shot in the final full end, it was exciting that we had to come back from being down 3-0 after the first end and stole a point in the fifth end to tie everything up heading into that crucial sixth end.

Here’s the box score:

Our match was for the B bracket championship which was set up for the teams in the middle of the pack in our league. We entered the playoffs seeded eighth and I was more than happy to emerge as the “best of the rest” of our league night.

The members of Team 20/20 --- from the left, Joe, Andrew and Ryan --- pose after receiving medals for winning the "B" bracket during the winter 2018 Monday curling league at the Utah Olympic Oval.

The members of Team 20/20 — from the left, Joe, Andrew and Ryan — pose after receiving medals for winning the “B” bracket during the winter 2018 Monday curling league at the Utah Olympic Oval.

This season, I’m on a changed up team. We started off with a win, but have since run into some trouble. Next time, I’ll recap how the year has started.

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A comment on commenting systems, specifically Kinja

My Kinja profile pre merger

My Kinja profile pre merger

It seems like there are very few good commenting systems on the Internet. Based on my experience, the free or low-cost services can be very barebones, sluggish or just a pain to use (I guess you get what you pay for). After being saddled with Facebook Comments for several years, I was happy when my previous employer switched to Disqus. It’s not perfect, but it was the service I was most familiar with and it offered a fairly robust series of moderation tools that I _definitely_ put to use.

I no longer have to moderate comments on a regular basis but I’m still partial to Disqus, especially because it’s the system used on one of my favorite websites — The A.V. Club. Commenters there have a love-mostly hate relationship with Disqus, particularly during the service’s hiccups. At the same time, A.V. Club stories garner dozens and hundreds of comments and Disqus (mostly) handles the workload.

Unfortunately, that’s apparently about to change in the next few months. In the past few years, The A.V. Club and its sister publication, The Onion, were purchased by Univision. The Spanish-language broadcaster has been expanding into different sites and also added the Gizmodo network (formerly Gawker). One of Gizmodo’s assets is a content management system called Kinja.

Based on previous media reports, it appears that The Onion and A.V. Club will move over to Kinja. Although there wasn’t official confirmation at the time, it’s started a series of comments on A.V. Club. (NOTE: The move has been announced after I first wrote a draft of this post and is taking place Aug. 23.)

In a recent comment, someone asked what was so bad with Kinja. Here was my stab at a response —

I’m not sure about _all_ the objections about Kinja, but the biggest annoyance for me is that posters and their initial posts start off in a “pending” status.

When you’re in pending status, your comment is out of view unless the reader clicks on “View Pending.” Even then, the pending comment is displayed in gray and tagged “PENDING APPROVAL” to reinforce how “pending” it is.

Posts can be moved out of pending if they get enough likes/stars. I also believe that the posters can earn a trusted-sort of status but the process of how this is done isn’t well explained.

I must admit I haven’t seen _too_ much spam on Kinja sites lately, but trolls still abound. Generally, the system puts up unnecessary hurdles to interaction.

All in all, it’s a clunky system. Also, as I understand it, It’s the underlying content management system for the blogs that use it (like Deadspin). It makes it easier to swap content between sites, but they all look bland and cookie-cutter.

For as much as people gripe about Disqus on A.V. Club, the users there have built a vibrant community centered around a common love of pop culture. It’s gotten a bit more combative as the site has published more politically focused articles (which seems somewhat understandable, given the current president’s symbiotic, yet toxic relationship with the media). The comment area has also remained a reliable fixture of the site, even as it undergoes changes (with some longtime features being cut and some dubious elements added — including some sponsored content that the commentariat lustily mocked).

Despite the increasing politicization, The A.V. Club comment area remains a mostly positive forum full of inside jokes, truly awful puns and considerable passion. I sincerely hope that the switch to Kinja doesn’t negatively affect this oasis.

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Tasting notes from my first Pie and Beer Day

Monday was the first Pioneer Day that I’ve been able to celebrate in Utah for many years. I started the day in a traditional way — by attending the Days of ’47 Parade in Salt Lake City. After a break, I ambled over to Beer Bar for a tradition that sprung up in the years when I was outside of Utah — Pie and Beer Day.

It’s a bit silly but Beer Bar was hosting a fundraiser for the Utah Brewers Guild that featured pairings of pie with local craft beer. The offer was five pairings for $25. It was a little pricy, but it allowed me to try a lot of different pies and beers that I wouldn’t ordinarily seek out.

It was a big draw as the establishment was packed with people, both inside the building and outside on the rear parking lot.

As I fought the crowds, I took notes on the beverages and desserts that I ate.

First — Copper Onion & 2Row Brewing

Lamb sausage pie with goat cheese from Copper Onion & hIPAcryte, an IPA, from 2Row Brewing

Lamb sausage pie with goat cheese from Copper Onion & hIPAcryte, an IPA, from 2Row Brewing

The pie: Lamb sausage pie with goat cheese, pickled peppers, caramelized fennel, herbs and park fat crust.

The beer: HIPAcryte – an IPA

Tasting notes: The beer is relatively light for an IPA. The hops come through, but the pine accent is primary note. The pie is savory as expected, but the herbs and fennel make themselves known. The crest by itself is flaky, and is serviceable as a pie delivery system. It’s a bit greasy (which is understandable given that it’s a pork fat crust) but the crest ultimately holds up. Combining bites with the beer, they go well together – the body of the beer stands up to the boldness of the pie without conflicting with each other.

Second — Garage on Beck & Moab Brewing

Mormon Funeral Potato Pie from Garage on Beck & amber steam lager from Moab Brewing.

The pie: Mormon Funeral Potato Pie

The beer: Steam lager

Tasting notes: Despite spending a few years in Utah, I really don’t have much experience with “funeral potatoes” — a common fare for gatherings around funerals. I am more familiar with the steam lager style of beer — an older brewing style kept alive in part because Anchor Brewing of San Francisco continued brewing it during the dark ages between the Prohibition and the beginning of the craft brewing era.

The beer is a bit sweet with a tinge of bitter hoppiness. It’s got an amber color and definitely tastes like an amber (actually, it may be an amber — I’ll have to double check [Edited to add: It was amber and a steam lager.]).

The top of the pie doesn’t look like I would expect it to — it’s got a dry, crumbly look with bread crumbs and what looks and sort of tastes like dried shredded cheese. The inner part of the pie looks more like a potato casserole should. The crust is very crisp and has good flavor, although it’s not as golden brown as it could be.

The pie is spicy, which compliments the creaminess of the potatoes. Digging into the pie is a bit of an ordeal because the dry toppings go flying to and fro but there’s some sort of chewy middle layer that doesn’t let go easily.

As far as a pairing, it’s another winner in my book.

Third — Tulie Bakery & Epic Brewing

Blueberry Lemon Hand Pie from Tulie Bakery & Tart and Juicy from Epic Brewing.

The pie: Blueberry Lemon Hand Pie

The beer: Tart and Juicy

Tasting notes: There are a lot of cute little pies at this event. I skipped all of them and went for the monster hand pie by Tulie. It looks like a triangle of folded puff pastry topped with sugar and toasted golden brown. Given the size, I’m a little worried that the balance between pastry and filling may be off, but we’ll have to see.

The beer isn’t one that I would seek out on my own, except to maybe try once or twice. It’s got a ruddy orange look and definitely has a tart scent. On tasting, it’s lighter than my first two samples. It starts off with a bitter fruit taste but then it opens to a more balanced sweet and tartness.

The pasty is slightly overbaked, with an overly dark underside but it isn’t burnt. The crust is flaky, buttery and falls all over the place (likely because it’s dry). The fruit is there, but the flavor of the pasty is dominant (especially on the edges and this hand pie has a lot of edge). The blueberries are present, but I’m not getting much lemon. There’s also a flowery accent which is pleasant.

As a pairing, the sourness of the beer doesn’t fully match up with the pie as the beer underscores the pie’s lack of sour or tart bite. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to score this as a miss.

Fourth – Beltex Meats & Bohemian Brewery

Apocalypse Now Pie from Beltex Meats & “mystery beer” from Bohemian Brewery.

The pie: Apocalypse Now Pie (with wagyu beef, hash browns, American cheese, pork confit and kimchee)

The beer: Mystery beer (some sort of lager – must double check. LATER: It’s a kolsch)

Tasting notes: This entry had the most intrigue, given that the pie had a vague description and the beer was unspecified. However, Beltex has garnered a reputation for being good with meat, so I had high hopes — something that was borne out by others who had previously sampled the establishment’s offering. Many had high praise, although one noted that it was a little dry.

The beer is slightly sweet with just a hint of a hop profile. It tastes like a competent lager, but I worry about it being overwhelmed by the pie, which features rich beef, pork confit, kimchee and cheese — all savory elements.

The pie is a round handpie, with fork-crimp edges and a shiny golden brown finish. There’s no indication of what’s inside, but the initial appearance makes you want to dive in. Working in the from the tough edges, my first impression was mostly American cheese, which was just OK.

The second and third bites were better. The pork confit is definitely present as there was a hunk of shredded meat in my pie. I don’t think the kimchee entirely worked — it adds a bit of color and spice, but it gets lost in everything else. The hashbrowns are stringy, but that’s probably for the best because it allows it to spread through the pie without being overwhelming.

The cheese was odd — part of it backed to the upper crest and turned an unpleasantly dark brown. The crust itself is dry when it’s thick — which may have prompted the comment about dryness. When the crust is acting as the envelope for the pie filling, it seems to be just right.

Overall, I would say this is a solid hit, but not a home run. The beer actually works with the pie, to my surprise, as the lager lost none of its flavor potency.

I joked with one of the Beltex people about what they’re going to do next year. I suggested Apocalypse Now Redux or Heart of Darkness. Now, that I’ve had time to think, I would be in favor of Tart of Darkness.

Bonus tasting – Stein Eriksen Lodge & Park City Brew

Pecan pie made with Breakthrough wort from Stein Eriksen Lodge.

I had saved the pecan pie from Stein Eriksen Lodge for last, which turned out to be a bittersweet decision. The pie was supposed to be paired with Park City Brew’s Breaking Trail Pale Ale, but they ran out. The good news is that the pie didn’t count as a pairing (essentially a bonus). As an aside, Beltex also appeared to be out of beer and their pies weren’t visible, so it was good when I grabbed the pie when I did.

The pie: Pecan pie made with Breakthrough wort.

The beer: None 🙁 (although the pie people noted that the sweet barley wort created as part of the brewing process was used in the pie).

Tasting notes: The pie looks great, with chopped pecans throughout the filling. Some pecan pies have just a handful of nuts. This is the total opposite. The crust looks like it’s in good balance to the rest of the pie — not overly thick, with a light golden touch.

On first bite, the flavor of the pecans comes to the fore. There’s a little sweetness to it, but it’s not overwhelming as some pecan pies can be. The pie is a little on the drier side, without as much of the cohesive filling but it holds up well. I’m not getting much crust on my bites, but that’s not the worst thing in the world (and it may be balancing out the nuttiness of the pecans).

This is definitely a good pie.

Fifth – Pat’s BBQ & Squatters Beers

Rhubarb pie from Pat’s BBQ & Blueberry Hefeweizen from Squatters Beers.

The pie: Rhubarb pie

The beer: Blueberry Hefeweizen

Tasting notes: My phone battery is dying, so I’ll keep this one short. The hefe has the blueberry notes. It smells fairly tart but the delivery is entirely smooth and sweet. There’s almost a cream taste to it.

The rhubarb is a mix of rhubarb and blueberries. They go great together — tart and sweet. The crust has absorbed some of the moisture of the filling, but that’s not bad for pie. The crust is still firm.

Tasted together, the pie and beer are fruit whammy. Not a bad way to finish my first Pie and Beer Day.

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From the archive — Eyes on iPhone: North state dials up new device in droves

The first incarnation of the Apple iPhone was formally released 10 years ago on June 29, 2007. Here’s what I wrote for the Enterprise-Record, published the following day.

Elizabeth and Larry Bartschi (foreground left), and Tiffany Clements watch as AT&T store employee Tony Ahn demonstrates the camera feature on the new iPhone during its Chico launch Friday at the AT&T store on East 20th Street. (Ryan Olson/Enterprise-Record)

Elizabeth and Larry Bartschi (foreground left), and Tiffany Clements watch as AT&T store employee Tony Ahn demonstrates the camera feature on the new iPhone during its Chico launch Friday at the AT&T store on East 20th Street. (Ryan Olson/Enterprise-Record)

After months of waiting through countless Internet discussions and tempting commercials, scores of north state residents were able to get their hands on the highly anticipated — and hyped — iPhone early Friday night.

Silas Radcliffe, a teacher in Woodland, was eager to start using the iPhone after waiting in line outside the AT&T company-owned store off East 20th Street in Chico for more than eight hours.

“I’m shaking right now,” he said. “I just want to go home and open it.”

The iPhone combines Apple Inc.’s popular iPod music player with an AT&T cell phone and a Web browser into a slim, black device. Unlike nearly all other cell phones, the petite iPhone features just one button with most functions — including text entry — being controlled through a touch-sensitive screen.

Many, including Radcliffe, were eager to use the iPhone’s Web browser — which displays full Web pages, unlike browsers on many other phones.

Although some are leery to buy first-generation electronics, Radcliffe was confident Apple had thoroughly tested the product.

“They had six months to perfect this extensively before it came out,” he said.

Many of the people waiting appeared to be Apple enthusiasts, either publicly working on Apple’s notebook computers or saying they’ve used Macintosh computers for years.

Christopher Price was the first person in line when he arrived at 10 p.m. Thursday. He was covering the launch and the iPhone as editor-in-chief of phonenews.com, a Davis-based Web site that covers the wireless industry. The iPhone has drawn a great deal of visitors to his site.

“The response to the iPhone has just been amazing,” Price said.

Price noted the iPhone has a lot of things in its favor — it builds on the success of the iPod, brand loyalty to Apple and making sophisticated technology easy to use. He said he pictures using the iPhone on a daily basis over the myriad other devices he uses and tests as a part of his job.

Price is also excited about Apple’s ability to easily deliver updates and new features to iPhone customers through new software. It’s a feature that Apple’s phone competitors don’t offer.

“The one thing that stands out with the iPhone is the software,” Price said.

An unidentified AT&T store employee demonstrates the Web browser on the iPhone, pinching two right-hand fingers together to zoom in on text. (Ryan Olson/Enterprise-Record)

An unidentified AT&T store employee demonstrates the Web browser on the iPhone, pinching two right-hand fingers together to zoom in on text. (Ryan Olson/Enterprise-Record)

Shortly before the iPhone’s bow at 6 p.m., 57 people had gathered outside the Chico store. It was the only place between Yuba City and Redding where people could immediately buy the device — $599 for a model with eight gigabytes of data storage and $499 for one with four gigabytes. After selling out within 75 minutes, employees told customers they could order the devices — for delivery in two to four weeks. The store will get new shipments, but it was uncertain when.

Friday’s launch was a momentous event for both Apple Inc. and AT&T, formerly Cingular. Fred Devereux, an AT&T vice president and general manager, said the launch was a “historic night” for the industry. He noted the growing crowds ahead of the iPhone’s 6 p.m. launch.

“Almost every store by lunchtime had a dozen people waiting outside our 100 stores in Northern California,” said Devereux, who oversees wireless operations in Northern California and Nevada.

He said the iPhone is going to “revolutionize” the industry by bringing a media player, telephony and Web access into one package, which is also tied into Apple’s iTunes music library software. Devereux said the device is geared for a wide variety of customers — including business professionals, students and homemakers.

As a 17-year veteran of the industry, he’s witnessed the industry grow from a few providers on an analog network to the introduction of digital services. He said the iPhone launch is unprecedented.

“None of that compares to this — to the excitement, to what we’re going to be able to do for customers,” Devereux said.

AT&T is also hoping customers from competing cell phone providers switch to their service as the exclusive provider for the iPhone.

There was at least one “switcher” in line Friday. Jay Coughlin was waiting to buy an iPhone over his service from Verizon Wireless. He used other devices, but is eager to try the iPhone’s Web browser.

“I’m a sucker for the cool things,” he said.

Even before people could get their hands on the device, there were concerns about the speed of accessing the Internet via AT&T’s EDGE data network.

Devereux was positive EDGE would be up to the task after AT&T enhanced the network in preparation for the iPhone. He noted EDGE is also “fortified” by wireless Internet connections. In addition to AT&T’s cellular network, customers can use iPhones on their home and work Wi-Fi networks to surf the Web.

Although there have been initial reports of some sluggishness, EDGE appeared relatively speedy outside the Chico store when Adam Vesely watched a video via YouTube.

After buying the phone, Vesely went straight to his car to activate the device from his laptop computer. Customers buy the phone at stores which are activated through the iTunes software on their personal computers.

With just minutes of iPhone usage under his belt, Vesely said it was a worthwhile purchase.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” he said.

BACKGROUND: In January, Apple Inc. announced the iPhone after years of speculation whether the hardware maker would introduce a mobile phone. The iPhone combines Apple’s popular iPod media player with a cell phone (from AT&T) and a Web browser — for between $500 and $600.

WHAT’S NEW: On Friday, the iPhone went on sale at Apple Stores and AT&T company-owned stores. Locally, the AT&T store off East 20th Street sold out its initial stock within 75 minutes.

WHAT’S NEXT: People can purchase the device online or wait for a new shipment. Time will tell if the iPhone is a success.

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10+1 images from my first year back in Utah

At the end of May, I marked the first anniversary of my returning to Utah. To celebrate the occasion, I reviewed the photos I took from the past 365 days and picked ten that highlighted some of the fun activities from 2016-17. There’s also a bonus picture — the first photo I took upon my return.

Click any photo to embiggen…

10+1 photos from my year back in Utah

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Hitting 11 million image views on Google Maps

My profile on Google Maps.

My profile on Google Maps.

Just a year ago, I passed 2 million views on Google Maps. Imagine my surprise when my images surged past 10 million views just a couple of months ago. The 190 images I’ve published on Google Maps has been viewed 11.1 million times as of this writing.

I wish I could claim total responsibility for this accomplishment, but it seems like it’s more a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Since I started uploading photospheres to Google Street View, none of them had exceeded 1 million views (although one was close at 970,000 views). Following the Oroville Dam crisis in February, I had two photospheres reach past the one million mark, with one reaching past two million.

In my experience, the most successful spheres are those that are featured in Google’s search results. I don’t have definitive proof that this is the case, but I’ve found the images that featured in the search results seem to perform best. The example that came to mind was my photosphere for Bear Hole in Bidwell Park. I was surprised when I saw it suddenly surge beyond 100,000 views. I wasn’t sure why it was performing so well.

The most plausible explanation was that it was featured on the search results on Google Map. When I searched for Chico, CA in Google Maps, the search engine returns a map of the city, but there’s also a card showing useful information — and photos of the city. Often times, these are popular pics of major landmarks or the like. Google also includes photospheres. This is often from its own Street View service, but it increasingly appears to include photospheres taken by its users.

A Google Maps card for Oroville, California on Monday, May 29, 2017. The top image is from one of my photospheres.

A Google Maps card for Oroville, California on Monday, May 29, 2017. The top image is from one of my photospheres.

I think this is behind my most “popular” photospheres, including ones taken at regional parks, train stations or other landmarks likely to be searched by people.

Adding credence to my theory was another photosphere of Bear Hole taken by another user. I saw that it too was featured at times in the Google Maps search results and it had a view count similar to mine,

That brings me to the incident that brought my views surging to new heights. In early February, there was a natural disaster that prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people in Northern California. Although the emergency spillway at Oroville Dam didn’t breach, I imagine there were a lot of people interested in learning the location of Oroville Dam and the surrounding area.

Indeed, the most popular photospheres featured the now-destroyed main spillway at the dam. It’s interesting that my most popular image is something that no longer exists.

The second most popular image for me was a photosphere of sculptures at Centennial Park in Oroville. It’s not associated with the park because there’s no entry for the park on Google Maps, but it is the first thing that comes up on Google Maps when someone searches for Oroville.

Several other images from Oroville have jumped following the Oroville Dam crisis, but those are by far the most popular.

I don’t know if a view is counted merely because someone sees it on a search result or if someone actually clicked through to see the full image. I would like to think it’s the later, but information on Google support forums indicates that merely seeing an image in a search result counts as a view.

Ultimately, I would like to think that people are viewing my images — it’s nice to think that millions of people are seeing my work. If it’s true, these images are the most popular thing that I’ve ever done.

 

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