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rewind 2012: apps & technology

As I continue to rewind 2012, today I discuss my favorite apps and general technology geek talk. 
Top 5 Apps
1.  Clear
I love this app!  I use it on my iPhone and my Mac.  It's a very simple interface and friendly to use.  Nothing special, just real easy to do list making.  I really really love it and mostly love the simplicity.  No project managing, etc.  Just a real clear make a list and cross it off.  It's really changed the way I grocery shop and plot out my day.  Each day I learn how to make things a little simpler.  
2.  Scramble with Friends
So addictive!  This game was started on a whim, since I loved Words with Friends and I just wanted to keep playing some of my friends in these types of word games and this one stuck!  It's super fun and kind of a mix of cross word puzzles and word building.   I like that it's fast.   Each game is only 2 minutes per round and you can play a game while you're waiting for something to microwave or anything.  Brilliant and fun!
3.  Song Pop
 Basically, this game is Name that Tune.  Since I love music, this game fits a niche that not everyone loves, but I do.   I love guessing which song is which and can't believe it when I miss something.  It's very addictive and I found myself playing strangers anyone, just so I can play.   I've started to kind of taper off a little, but it's still very fun and highly addictive to play.  
4.  Angry Birds Star Wars
 I have loved Angry Birds for awhile, but I hadn't played in forever.  I must say when I saw the Star Wars themed version I had to check it out.  It's great.  It borrows from the standard angry birds game and from the space version, but it's all done with a Star Wars theme and I just can't get enough of it.  I started playing it in November and it's renewed my interest in all my Angry Birds games.   Those Rovio guys are genius and they even are planning on making a movie.  We'll see if they can build a real cross platform franchise or if this birds/pigs fizzle out next year.  
5.  Passbook
 This isn't so much an app as it is a feature within iOS6 for iPhone and iPad.  I think it needs to mature a lot, but I was really interested in exploring it.  Starbucks has a very seamless integration and it's so simple and easy and transformed how I get my Starbucks coffee.  It will pop up a notification on my Phone when I enter one of my normal Starbucks locations and give me access to my gift card/payment card without having to launch the seperate app.   Again, simple and I can see how this could evolve into a digital wallet type app.  I'd love to be able to use this for all my loyalty cards for stores which I hate carrying around so much.  I can also see it for credit cards.   I guess we'll see how it evolves over the next year, but so far it's intriguing and it's something I really want to use.  
Now that you know my favorite apps to use, here's some general tech talk.  As always, 2012 ushered in some cool new toys.  iCloud officially launched by Apple and MobileMe went away.  I am really enjoying iCloud and again it's the simplicity that I love the most.   I think I miss the website ease with MobileMe and I definitely miss the galleries.  But I'm using squarespace now for my site which is much much nicer and I'm looking into other ways with picture galleries, since I think the squarespace galleries lack a little something for ease of use.  iCloud just works and good to know my information is backed up in Apple's cloud (huge data center in North Carolina and maybe more soon).  The nicest part is the backups just happen when you are plugged into power and wifi is nearby.  Genius!  The bad part is that it's not backing up everything on my hard drive.  I like that I can delete stuff from my own hard drive and then just grab it back from iCloud especially the iTunes purchases.   This is extremely helpful.  I like it so much, I'm considering a service like Carbonite to backup the rest of my stuff on my Mac.  I've been holding off on using iTunes Match too, but I think I may give it a try since I keep hearing good things about it.  It was a rocky beginning so I held off.   
The tech patents are getting insane.  You need to look no further than the many many patent lawsuits that you see everyday.   TiVo is using them to keep themselves alive.  They have a great service and I wish them continued success, but they need to sell themselves to Apple and integrate with Apple TV.   They will die at some point due to a lack of innovation and how much it costs to get into their product versus a standard cable dvr.  They are way better than a cable DVR, but I must admit that I haven't upgraded my TiVo in like 4 years now and it needs it, but I wonder why I should bother.  I'm just recording less and watching online more.  I lvoe TiVo, but I wonder if it's a product whose time has come and gone.   Hmmm.....The patent lawsuits reached an all time crazy with Apple vs Samsung.  I'm glad that Apple won their victory, but then Samsung won something too.   I mean, some of the stuff these companies are claiming a patent on, just don't seem like things that you should be able to patent.  Crazy, and then lawsuits in multiple countries too?  Too much.  I think the patent system needs to re-evaluated in this new age of technology.  
Facebook did another redesign and introduced timeline.  They keep changing to keep it fresh, but they will have a hard time doing that I think as they evolve since they are so super huge.  They just bought instagram toward the end of the year too.   Who knows how long Facebook will survive, most of these type of companies fall out of favor after a few years, but Facebook and Twitter look to be going strong.  I will say I've tried Google+ several times and I really liked it, but couldn't get into using it.  There is something lacking there from a user experience and Facebook and Twitter are just simpler and more integrated and more of my friends use them.   Oh well.  GetGlue I am also still using for checking into movies and TV.  Now I'm also on Good Reads for books and FourSquare for locations.   Lord help me.  These social networks are just everywhere.  I feel like at some point, we'll all went to be a little less social, right?
Apple came out with all kinds of cool gadgets this year.  2 rounds of new iPads, new iPhone with a big redesign, new iPods with a big redesign, new iMacs, new Macbooks.  Thunderbolt and Lightning cables now replacing all of our other standard 32 pin iPhone/iPod/iPad cables.  Whew!   I didn't buy any of those new gadgets this year, but I finally got an Apple TV.  I LOVE IT!!!  It is a big change in my habits and I get much better playback of Netflix on that device.  It's so impressvely tiny too.   Not in the way at all.  I also like getting lots of my media from my Mac to my TV/Stereo.   I really really like it.  I subscribed to Hulu Plus only because I could get it on my TV through Apple TV.   I would never use this service if I could only use it online.  It's the way I consume a great deal of television now.   I still prefer to watch my TV on TV and not through my computer.   Although I do watch on my iPad occasionally.   I find it a complimentary service to my Netflix subscription and not a replacement.  It has more current shows than Netflix.  It also has commercials, but I don't find them very intrusive.  It still lacks a great deal of content, especially HBO and bothersome when whole sections of Saturday Night Live aren't able to be streamed, but the content they do have on there I like to consume.  I should probably do a whole post at some point this year on what I like about Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.   I need to also do a whole post on the Apple TV and what I'd love to see done with that.  There has been many rumors going around about what Apple wants to do in the TV space, so I guess getting my thoughts out there would make me feel better before anything actually happens.  I also need to do a whole post on digital downloads for movies and tv shows.   I've done a lot more of that this year through iTunes and have lots of digital movies in my collection.   I generally like the idea but have lots of issues with it.   I still have a bunch of blu-rays too.  iTunes major redesign finally came through in December too.  I've heard mixed reviews, but I generally like it.  Still getting used to it somewhat though.   
In general, it was another fun year in techy stuff.  Maybe a new iPad for me in 2013?  mini or standard?  let's see what next year brings.  this is the year that I would get a new iPhone too.  


rewind 2012:  movies

Movies. I love them. Here's my rewind 2012 look back at the movies I've enjoyed watching in 2012. First up is my top 10 favorite movies of 2012.

10. Brave
9. The Hunger Games
8. 50/50
7. The Dark Knight Rises
6. Cloud Atlas
5. Skyfall
4. The Hobbit
3. Argo
2. Lincoln
1. The Avengers

I watch movies a lot but in the last few years I've noticed I've made it out to the movie theatre less each year. Perhaps it's age or perhaps the movies just aren't as appealing to me these days. I still managed to see a decent number of movies this year. My top 10 doesn't reflect many award bait - more serious- movies which I'm bound to see in the next 2 months. Some of the ones I'm looking forward to are The Impossible, Les Miserables, Amour, Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, The Master and a few more. My top 10 was literally my favorite movies to watch from this past year.

Brave was a fantastic and fun movie to watch. It kind of surprised me with the magic angle and the comedy but the movie has heart like so many of Pixar's movies. Not my favorite Pixar flick but all around a very good movie. The Hunger Games also surprised me. I went just because of all the fuss. I thought it would be another Twilight style franchise. I hate the Twilight movies. Too melodramatic and I was expecting to hate this movie. It was fun though. Jennifer Lawrence continues strong performances in her roles and she's going to be around a long time. I will definitely go see the next installment in this franchise. At number 8 is a smaller movie I caught as part of the Independent Spirit Awards screenings. It really resonated with me and again Joseph Gordon Levitt surprised me. As well as Seth Rogen. They took the subject of cancer and managed to make it funny and heart warming. Having lost my Mom to cancer it pushes some extra heart strings for me too. If you haven't seen it - you should really check it out on video. Something different.

At number 7 is The Dark Knight Rises. The final film in Christopher Nolan's excellent Batman trilogy. The Dark Knight to me is a near perfect movie so I knew it would be tough to beat that one. It didn't for me. I thought this was a bit long at times, but still very enjoyable and twisted. The character of Bane played by Tom Hardy was initially tough to understand for me but ultimately proved to be menacing and didn't bug me after a bit. Really difficult to top Heath Ledger's Joker though. Anne Hathaway's Catwoman plays more like a heroine but thought she did a fine job. The standard players are back too. All in all, a timely corrupt government / political storyline. A very well done flick. Cloud Atlas gets in at number 6 for me this year and earns the distinction of being the movie I enjoyed the most while understanding the least. A great cast playing multiple roles in a genre busting time traveling fantastic movie. First off, it's beautiful to look at. You could spend the whole movie just watching the visuals and still be blown away. It's really a movie about life and love. Based on a book that I'm now intrigued to read, it just confused the hell out of me while still blowing me away with how riveted I was. Directed by Tom Twyker of Run Lola Run fame and the Wachowski brothers of Matrix fame, it's just plain a must see. The movie stayed with me for days and had me thinking and thinking. I will probably see it again on video.

Number 5 was Skyfall. A very fun James Bond flick that brought a little humor back to the franchise. Much more fun than Quantum of Solace. Straight up a blast with some great crazy action sequences and some great dialogue scenes for a change. One particularly uncomfortable one occurs between Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem who plays a great Bond villain. And the classic Bond theme song sequence is in there too. Number 4 is The Hobbit. This is quite honestly a technological marvel. I might have to write a whole post on just the techie aspect of it. I must see it again. I saw it in 1 of the best tech cinemas available. 3D high frame rate 48 fps 4k digital projection and Dolby Atmos sound. Amazing. Story wise I thought it was a bit bloated, but there are things happening in this movie that I'm not sure I'd even dream up. Stunning visually. The best thing about it though was the return to Peter Jackson's middle earth from Tolkien that was the most fun. Number 3 is Argo. A political based on real events movie about the Iran hostage crisis of the 1970's directed by Ben Affleck. A really great edge of your seat thrill ride of a movie. I loved it and found myself wanting to know more about that time in history. Excellent movie.

The top 2 was very difficult to rank for me. These movies are so different that its almost unfair, but they are both great movies. I settled on Lincoln at number 2 plainly because I'd seen it less. Spielberg and a hands down Best Actor Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln our 16th president. It surprised me that the movie wasn't a straight biopic but rather a tense political drama about the passing of the 13th amendment to the constitution of the US which effectively ended slavery and a bit about the civil war. Just a great great all around movie with near flawless acting by all parties. It really showed Lincoln's straight ahead way of dealing with the politics of the times. He also found a way to get things done. I hope every politician out there sees this movie and can draw some of the same comparisons to today's politics and is inspired to change some thinking. My favorite movie of the year goes to The Avengers from Marvel. Outstanding flick. Very very fun to watch and super funny dialogue. Directed by Joss Whedon it was just a super fun movie to watch and re-watch. I've seen the movie 3 times in the theatre and at least once on video since it was released. I wasn't sure they could pull it off but they sure did. Best popcorn fun of the year. The Hulk smashing Loki and hitting Thor scenes are worth watching over and over again.

Although these movies didn't make the top 10, they are worth talking about. Ang Lee's heart wrenching visually stunning flick Life of Pi was great and worth seeing. Amazing Spider-Man was fun and a good re-boot. I really loved Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy. She's fantastic in almost everything she does. Prometheus by Ridley Scott I was really excited to see but slightly disappointed in. It was an Alien prequel of sorts but confusing as all hell. Some parts fantastic but some just plain boring. Left me torn. Bourne Legacy was fun and Jeremy Renner was a fine action star but the movie felt it was missing some pieces of why I enjoyed the earlier Bourne films so much. Rise of the Guardians was a fun family animated flick that basically turns Jack Frost into an action star, elves into funny idiots and Yetis into toy makers. Fun but I found myself a bit bored in spots. Act of Valor is worth noting not because its a great movie. It's fairly bad actually but it contains some bad ass action of actual Navy SEALS.  It's worth seeing for that. Unfortunately the same bad ass Navy SEALS also do the majority of the acting and are bad actors. They were a few notable 3D re-releases that were great to see again on the big screen. Beauty and the Beast shows its age but is still a sweet lovable movie that it doesn't matter how many wrinkles in the movie's animation are revealed. Titanic was great to re-visit. The IMAX 3D treatment also shows some special effects magic flaws of the time but its still a great movie.

All in all another great year at the movies and I'm hoping to see more great movies soon.


rewind 2012:  music

rewind 2012 continues with what music was I listening to this year. Here's my top 10 most played songs of the year along with some general music commentary

1. Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) - Kelly Clarkson

2. Home - Phillip Phillips

3. The Last Song I'll Write for You - David Cook

4. 3 Words - Elliot Yamin

5. Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye

6. Dancing on the Ceiling - Lionel Richie with Rascal Flatts

7. What Makes You Beautiful - One Direction

8. The Vision of Love - Kris Allen

9. Blown Away - Carrie Underwood

10. Skyfall - Adele


I guess as I get older I listen to less and less new music, but for the purposes of this rewind I tried to focus on what type of music I was listening to that was new. I have to say that I was very surprised at the top 10. I listened to Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" album a lot and I did get to see her live at the Hollywood Bowl this summer which was fun. She's a great singer and seems so genuine and I think that's why I'm drawn to her. She's also not bad to look at. I liked the album a lot and many songs on the album came close to the top 10 most played.

I think by looking at this top 10 I noticed it's very post American Idol stars heavy. I guess I tend to follow a few of them and since the show's been on for 10 years, it does figure since I get a lot of my new music from that show. I definitely watched a lot less this year, but I caught most of the last 3 episodes and that Phillip Phillips didn't super impress me. But his song "Home" really did. I don't know what it was about that song, but it really resonated with me. It made me buy the kid's album which came out in November and it's not bad.

At 3 and 4 is David Cook and Elliot Yamin. Both of these guys sound great and even better than they did on Idol. I really enjoy listening to their music and David Cook had my most played song last year with "The Last Goodbye". He just is fun to listen to. Elliot Yamin I'm surprised that I still stumble into his music. But a good soulful voice for a crazy teethed white guy.

Number 5 on my list is Gotye. This song just sounded cool and I just loved it every time it came on the radio and I finally bought it and just played it over and over. It has such a cool sound and I should really listen to the rest of his album, but I haven't so far.

As far as the rest of the top 10, Lionel Richie delivered an excellent album called "Tuskegee". It's an album of covers of his songs as duets with country artists. It was really enjoyable to listen to and I listened a lot. It just so happened that "Dancing on the Ceiling" brought back so many memories for me, that I kept playing it more than the rest. One Direction is my guilty pleasure. It's a boy band and so corny pop music. I bought it for my niece after hearing them perform on "Saturday Night Live" and I just think it's got a great hook. It didn't surprise me to learn that Simon Cowell engineered the band and they were finalists on UK X Factor. They will burn bright, but may fall fast. Boy bands usually do. Kris Allen's album was very enjoyable to listen to and "The Vision of Love" just got into a larger rotation in my playlists. Carrie Underwood is always good and her record this year was no exception. Adele's "Skyfall" managed to get into the Top 10 this year even though it didn't even get released until October. I really like this song a lot. It's classic James Bond style theme song and her voice sounds amazing on it. She's so talented. I also still played the hell out of her album "21" this past year.

Some other music that I bought and listened to this year included Atomic Tom, one of my most played songs last year, I bought the record in January. Jack and White featuring Brooke White from American Idol. She has such a Joni Mitchell kind of voice sounds cool. Nate Fowler who I found via Twitter and he was giving his songs away for free. Dude is talented and played some of his stuff a lot. Madonna's "MDNA" album came out. It was decent, but she's starting to get older and still trying to perform like she's 20. I'd like to see her do something classier and do a Vegas act or something. Partnering with Nicki Minaj (who's nuts by the way), doesn't make you relevant. One of the most fun songs last year was "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 and that album isn't too bad. Their new record "Overexposed" featuring "Payphone" was more of the same. Otherwise, this year I listened to a lot of Fun. We Are Young was right up there in one of the most overplayed songs of the year, but it grew on me. Not enough to buy the whole album, but worth listening to on Spotify. How great is stuff like Spotify and Pandora? So good to listen to music on the go and discover some new stuff. I have to say that music is everywhere these days. I also discovered a few bands' music through "Saturday Night Live". I listened to Frank Ocean and Passion Pit after seeing them perform on the show. I also discovered a few new bands on iTunes including Safety Suit. It helps when they have albums for $6.99. I like to encourage that price point and I also bought music on Amazon a few times this year, especially when they sold them for under $5. I really dug a few albums as a whole too. Babel by Mumford & Sons is a really solid album and I tend to listen to that one as a whole. I also really like El Camino Real by Black Keys. Some killer songs on that one. And I really liked Pink's new record. I kind of got back into her last year with "Raise A Glass".

I spent a good part of the year listening to old favorites like Richard Marx, Survivor, Madonna, Top Gun & Footloose soundtracks. Saw Madonna perform on the Super Bowl. I was shocked to find out that Whitney Houston passed away and listened to her music a lot. As well as, discovering some Michael Jackson music again this year. I even watched the Bad 25 documentary by Spike Lee on Thanksgiving night on ABC. Speaking of old favorites, did you know that Heart made a new record this year? Called "Red Velvet Car". It's very good. Duncan Sheik also made a whole album of 80's covers. Interesting. Richard Marx brought out a fine Christmas album this year too. I also went to a few concerts. I mentioned Kelly Clarkson, but also listened to classical & movie music at the Hollywood Bowl. Went to see John Williams do movie music in concert including a big section of E.T. complete with clips from the movie. And an enjoyable night under the stars listening to Pixar Movie Music in concert with scenes from movies. The opening sequence to "UP", made me tear up.

The last cool thing I did this year that was music related was go to the Grammy Museum in downtown LA. I really thought that was cool and I'm planning on going back again and again to see more exhibits and hopefully some concerts. It's a really cool space with lots of interactive exhibits and just a nice venue.

I'm sure there's lots of other cool music that I missed talking about. There was also a lot of really popular music that I thought was OK, but just didn't float my boat. Starships by Nicki Minaj, Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen, Gangham Style by Psy or anything by Taylor Swift. Not bad, just not my favorite.  Well, Psy, was pretty bad.  There was also Ellie Goulding Lights, We Found Love Rihanna, Flo Rida, Neon Trees, Bruno Mars, The Wanted, the list could go on for days. Ok, well that's it for my talking about music for this year. I'm not sure what new music 2013 will bring just yet, but I know I'm sure I'll listen to some of it. It's just one of the things I do.


2013 begins and rewind 2012

Happy New Year!  2013 is here.   I'm going to try to update this blog a bit more this year.  I thought I would take a few days to look back at what was going on during 2012 in order to get the year started right with lots of updates.   I really am going to try to update more often and try to do some writing, even if it's only blog posts.  Anything that is more than just status updates on twitter and facebook.

I've got lots to write about and they will be rolling out over the next several days.  I've got a look back at movies, tv, music, apps & technology and the final edition about general news and things I did personally.   Check those out and enjoy!  Happy New Year everyone!



another lounge around weekend

Went to the doctor today. New offices. Never been there. Doctor was very nice there. I may go back. The reason I went is I can't get rid of this cough I've had. He says it's just a sinus infection and gave me a nasal spray. Weird feeling but seems to work. He said to use it for a week at least and the cough should go away. Let's hope so. I'm sick of this cough.

I think I'll just lay low again this weekend and just hang around the house mostly. I'll probably try to do a few things. I may go see The Bourne Legacy. Ive been wanting to see that.