Where are all the baseball fans?

I recently had the opportunity to attend 2 baseball games, one in Miami and another in Dallas.  Both games were pretty good and both were blow outs (although the Rangers didn’t win theirs whereas Miami did).  What was readily apparent was the lack of fans in the stands.  There were huge swaths of the upper deck empty and if you crammed all the box seat people together you might be able to fill up maybe 3/4 of the lower deck.  Thats a ton of money being lost and I attribute it to a few things but the biggest one is cost.

The baseball tickets that I got were relatively cheap at $25 but for a family of 4 thats already $100.  Next expense would be food.  I don’t drink beer or anything like that but I did eat regular food and that stuff is more expensive than eating at an airport so add another $50-$100.  There’s also parking that will run you another $10 and then the kids will want a hat or something so add $25 per child.  You’re over $300 and thats just for a single game.  While that sounds great and all the average person can’t bring their family to cheer on their home team due to the large expense.

One of the largest areas that is lacking is PARKING!  OMG there was no place to park really at either location.  There are 3rd party lots around the ball parks but the management should analyze how much money they could make by creating massive parking garages to house the cars of their fans!  They could be creative and have the garages away from the ball park and give them to take buses or a street car to the game.  That would increase the fan experience right there.  The Marlins were one of the dumbest teams in existence by building a huge stadium in the middle of a residential area so they had no room to put parking.  As I was exiting the game, I noticed that most of the workers are taking up the garage spaces that should be for fans.  If your fans can’t get to the stadium due to distance of parking, you need to re-evaluate your plans.  Something similar is happening now with soccer in Miami.  They thankfully axed the Overtown idea and they will create the new stadium closer to the airport so there is sufficient parking for a mixed use area that includes shopping and offices so it can be used 365 a year for not just soccer but also corporate events too.  Now thats smarter planning.  I’ve found that if you’ve planned for a certain number of parking spaces, you should at least double the number to make sure there is enough parking not only for fans but for the people that work at the stadium which is often missed.  (My new office for work is a prime example, not enough parking spaces for tenants so we’ll have to find our own options to park just to go to the office).

I get it, running a baseball team is expensive but if your team sucks and you’re not putting butts in seats, start lowering prices so people can come to the game.  Stop paying for top players because the sports talking heads say you need it, the farm teams are supposed to feed the majors and having a good farm system to give you future awesome players should be a priority (NY Yankees??).   Baseball salaries are probably one of the biggest drivers of moving ticket prices north, thats probably why seeing minor league teams is more fun.  The cost is low, you can bring the entire family for a reasonable price, and the seats aren’t so far away that you can see your favorite player most of the time.

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Alexa Life with the Echo Dot and UE Blast

Alexa has started to infest my home through the Echo Dot and now the UE Blast. I received the Echo Dot as a present for Christmas so that I could start experimenting with a voice assistant. A little while later, I received a UE Blast which has Alexa voice control while also being a really sweet speaker in its own right. My dog likes wires for some reason (that’s very cat like of her) so I got a nice mount for my Echo Dot so it can live in the living room without fear of being dropped (its been dropped twice already by the dog). The UE Blast lives in the office but its rarely on since my wife has no use for voice assistants and I don’t want Alexa listening to me upstairs.

My use cases for Alexa are pretty limited so far, its probably due to my not having a “smart home”. I don’t have the doorbell, thermostat, lights, or garage door opener that could be controlled by Alexa using my Echo Dot or my UE Blast. I definitely don’t shop with it, I’m still old school and I like to see what I’m buying first on the web and then maybe in a store before plunking down hard money. I think the main things that I use my Echo and UE Blast for is music and the weather. The weather is used to find out if I can go motorcycle riding on a given day, music is just for fun and to see if Alexa or Amazon can play the music we ask of it.

The far field mic’s are pretty good, they can hear me from across the room. Obviously the UE Blast has the better sound for music since its also technically a UE Boom with just WiFi and Alexa built in. To make the Echo Dot a little bit better, I paired it with my UE Boom so I can have good music from the Echo Dot, it just requires an extra step of actually turning the UE Boom on and pairing it but that’s a cinch to do. I just yell “Alexa, pair my Bluetooth speaker” and its done in seconds. The UE Blast I just tell it to play music. I used it at my father in laws place while everyone was asleep and it worked really well. I was able to play with the dog and ask Alexa stuff since I was able to connect to the WiFi. The Blast will be my “go to” speaker to bring on vacations if we want to have music wherever we are. It’s got some long battery life and with Alexa built in, it will be quite useful in hotel rooms and other spots like that.

I’ve generally discouraged my daughter from using Alexa too much, unlike Google I can’t really control who Alexa listens to for commands. I can’t count the number of times my daughter has over ridden my music by playing Frosty the Snowman just to mess with me. She has it down so that Alexa just has to hear “Alexa, play frosty!” And it automatically plays the song for her. I’m thinking that when she gets older, maybe I’ll get an Echo Dot for her room or something so that it can wake her up in the morning. I definitely won’t be having one of them in my bed room, I have enough iPhones and other Apple devices that have alarms to wake me up.

What’s becoming difficult is managing all the different devices I have now. For phones and tablets I’m all in on Apple, even my main computer for home is my MacBook Pro. I have Chromecasts and Apple TV’s that are attached to various TV’s. I keep Apple TV 3’s to do streaming from my Apple devices and the Chromecast for my NAS. I now have voice assistants from Amazon but they can’t do anything really since I don’t have a smart home but the music at least is pretty good. I don’t think I’m going to get a Home Pod, I’ve already started down this Alexa path so I might as well keep on going with it regarding voice assistance. With some IFTTT recipes I can technically integrate some things from Alexa to my iPhones and iPads. I was really tempted a few days ago with a sale on Google Home Mini’s but that would have complicated things even more at my home. I’m hoping that Alexa can start recognizing voices, then I can get a few more (maybe without the wife knowing)…….. but I still use Siri when I’m away from home because you know, she right there on my wrist and phone.

New Bicycle: Fuji 1.9T Cross Over

As part of my company health benefit, I’m allowed to buy a bike once every 5 years. As it so happens, my current bike had a flat tire in the back and the bike itself is about 5 or 6 years old. I wanted to get a new bike for a while but just didn’t have the justification to do so. However with the health benefit I didn’t have to pay the full amount for the bike. I decided to go to Durango Bicycles that’s a local shop in my town They happen to be a Fuji bike reseller and they introduced me to the 1.9T cross over. One of my requirements was to lose the brakes that are on the tires directly and get one with disc brakes that’s similar to my motorcycle. It has the usual Shimano gear shifters but it has some pretty big tires which means that its really more meant for the road than it is for the trails. It can do some trails but since I live in South Florida, there really isn’t much of an opportunity to go on trails.

I’ve had the bike for about a week and I’m pretty pleased with it, well the only short coming is the seat which is really hard and kinda hurts. I am going to look for a more comfortable seat but right now its not a priority. The wheels on this thing are awesome mainly because they get the bike up to a decent speed pretty quickly and can sustain it easily on level ground. This is of course in contrast to the mountain bikes I’ve owned before which had smaller tires and were really meant for light trails that I never rode. My switch to the cross over bike was a great choice and I’m liking this bike more than any other I’ve had. I have to get it serviced in the next month to tighten the cables in it but that’s just routine stuff.

I decided to look up the Fuji company on Wikipedia and its history is pretty cool in that they have been making bikes for well over 100 years. The company has changed hands a few times now but they make one awesome bike. They make a whole line of competition bikes and the sales guy at Durango tried to sell me on getting a Fuji bike for my daughter. I think she’ll be getting a Walmart bike though, she’s growing too fast and she’ll outgrow the next bike I get her pretty quickly. Maybe for her adult bike I’ll invest in a Fuji for her. Something that she can take to college (hopefully they won’t steal or strip it down like I’ve seen at my school many years ago). The next piece of equipment to get is probably a bike rack for the van or my car so that the entire family can go bike riding at CB Smith or one of the other parks in the area. Can’t wait to get back on my bike just to ride around town a bit, if only it wasn’t the summer time and so hot out.

The VW California looks awesome, why can’t it come to the US?

Recently I’ve been looking at RV’s just for fun.  I’ve been impressed with the amount of junk that can fit into a van to make it semi-livable for a night or two or just to make things more comfortable on those long road trips.  I take a lot of trips to Orlando it seems and while the Odyssey is pretty awesome for that purpose, I found this gem from VW.  VW has been known for ages for making camper vans and they used to sell them here in the US extensively (remember those micro buses in the 1970’s with the pop up roof?). Well this is the latest evolution of that van.  It’s a VW pop up camper van and has a ton of features like a built in outdoor table and hide away outdoor chairs.  This thing has almost everything that an RV has except for the bathroom part (too small to fit in a shower and toilet).  The best feature I think is the pop up roof to add extra bedding,  My daughter would totally love that if we could just stop at a rest stop and take a nap in the van for a little while before progressing on our trip.  I would personally love to have this thing to replace the Odyssey.  The kicker is that this vehicle won’t be shipped to the US.  The cost is prohibitive ($100K give or take) and for that amount you can get a full fledged RV like the Winnebago Travato 59K which does have a bathroom but no pop up roof.   The video in this post is the one I watched that shows all the features of the new VW California.  Too bad it won’t be here, they need to drop the price to like $60K, maybe then they’ll move some units over here.

Broke down and got the Apple Watch 3

After much delay I finally decided to get an Apple Watch 3.  It was mainly driven by the reduced price that I could get through work (who can say no to $150 off?) and the fact that my original Apple Watch starts running out of power at 6PM.  I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted about this before and that I wouldn’t get a new watch till number 4 came out.  I got the exact same watch as my wife which is the Apple Watch Nike Edition, the difference being is that mine is a 42MM and hers is 38MM.  It’s very nice that I can go ahead and re-use my link band from the original Apple Watch, it doesn’t look as snazzy as when I had it with the chrome finished Apple Watch edition but it still looks good enough to me.

I got the LTE version and I might be activating the LTE on it just to give it a try.  my wife has the LTE edition too but she doesn’t want to go running outside, too many snakes and other vermin in my neighborhood that she doesn’t want to deal with but I want to use mine for going out and walking the dog or going to the nice walking area outside of my hotel without my phone but still be able to get my text messages.  I’ve watched reviews saying that the LTE is hit or miss but that was a while ago when the watch first came out and there have been a few updates since then.  I’m sure its better now but I just don’t feel like dealing with the $10 a month that I’mg going to have to pay.  We’ll see how useful it is, I think I have a month to try it out and see how it is.

So far, the watch is noticeably faster than my original one, thats to be expected since its 3 years behind in terms of technology and speed.  The battery part was never its strong suit but the increased battery life of this Apple Watch is just awesome.  My wife doesn’t make fun of me anymore when my watch turns off, even after putting it on power save mode.  Siri is also way more useful too, it actually responds in a decent time frame rather than just sitting there spinning and then timing out since it can’t figure out what I wanted.  Most of the stock apps are also very good too now, I’ve made good use of the work out app during this weekend and I’ve been closing my rings without having to worry about the watch running out of power as it counts steps or how many times I’ve done the water rower.

I have to say that I’m happy with my purchase of the Watch 3.  I shouldn’t have waited so long but I was skeptical of upgrading.  I’ve been trying to reduce my upgrade cycle, not really because I can’t afford the new toy, but its more evaluating if I need the latest and greatest toy (case in point my iPhone 7 and iPad Air 2).  Both still work great, although I want something that can use an Apple Pencil.  The iPhone I won’t be replacing until maybe 2019, unless something truly WOW comes out in September with the newer phones.  Now I just have to wait for the box so I can recycle my old Apple Watch, this way I’ll at least recoup another $75.  Money is money after all!

 

2018 Jeep Wrangler is meh…..

I had the good fortune to change things up a bit this week. I was able to get a Jeep Wrangler Sahara as a rental. I normally get a GM because of CarPlay but since this was available I thought, why not its supposed to be a fun car to drive. The specs are on the internet so I won’t really go into that but needless to say, I’m not very impressed with the Jeep as a car. I guess its because I value speed rather than off-road capability. This car is SLOW. The pick up is pretty terrible compared to my minivan and my sedan that I have at home. I guess its because I’m spoiled by the power that both cars have and the fact that they both can get up to 70 mph in short order.

The doors are a pain in the ass, you need a lot of force to close them. You really got put some oomph and slam the doors closed. It’s hard to see but there are running boards on this thing but they’re too high, when you use them you then have to duck into the Jeep. Talk about terrible user design! I’ll admit, the Jeep looks really cool but its not comfortable, gets terrible gas mileage, can’t accelerate fast on the highway, there’s really not a lot to like about this thing.

I would like to take the top off but that requires 2 people to accomplish when it has a hard top. I’m glad for my Hertz Presidents Circle status, it gives me the opportunity to try out some cool cars sometimes. I’ve wanted a Jeep in the past but now after actually driving it for a few days, I can say that I’ll never own one of these things. Along with most American cars I’ve driven as rentals. It would seem that the cars I like the least come from Chrysler (the 200 is an abomination that shouldn’t be sold to the general public). I think I’ve been fine with the Dodge Charger and maybe their pick up trucks but thats about all.

I’ll keep running around for the rest of the week in the Jeep, it was funny but I knew after the first 5 minutes of driving the Jeep I hated the thing. Too bad it was too late to return it to Hertz to get another car. Let’s see what car I get next week, maybe it will be something like the Infiniti Q60 I got that time at Melville NY or maybe I’ll give the new Camry a spin.

Driving the Infiniti Q60 3.0T AWD…. what?

Last week I had the pleasure to drive around in an Infiniti Q60.  My good fortune is attributed to landing really late at night and there not being any other cars in the Hertz lot and my Presidents Circle status.  One of the things that are crazy about Japanese cars is their branding.  Lots of letters and numbers in the title so when you talk to someone it sounds like you’re a scientist or something.  Even I have a hard time telling people what it is I rented since it doesn’t have a cool name that stands out, just a model number for the most part.

Anyway, this car was really FAST!  It had a 3.0 turbo under the hood but since I had to drive on Long Island and the LIE, there was no where to really test out all the muscle under the hood.  This car is truly wasted in the NY Metro area since the speed limit is 55mph, there are cops everywhere, and the pot holes in the road just ruin the otherwise very smooth ride.  I will say that climbing hills was a lot of fun, just slam on the gas and zip up to the top and leave the little Hyundai tailgating me in the dust!  I don’t know how many gears the transmission had but it had a nice manual mode which is also wasted in NY Metro and I appreciated that it wasn’t paddle shifters but the actual floor shifter that is used to move from gear to gear.

As with most sports cars, the interior is cramped but at least the trunk was big enough to hold my backpack and my rollerboard suitcase with ease unlike the Camero SS convertible I had that one time in California.  There IS a feature to have a map but since the SD card with the map data isn’t in the car it just showed a blank screen, slightly annoying and there was also no CarPlay.  I had my phone mount which made it not so bad but the infotainment needs an update to support CarPlay or Android Auto.  I guess overall not a bad car as a rental but I still wouldn’t buy one myself.  Surprisingly I still like running around in my Honda Accord or Honda Odyssey than most of the cars that I end up renting.  Too bad Hertz doesn’t invest in Honda’s as rental cars, I think a lot of people would like renting those cars compared to some of the ones they offer currently.

I wonder what car I’ll be able to rent this week….. another Chevy Malibu or Impala perhaps?  At least those have CarPlay 🙂