November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Remember Alice?  This is a song about Alice and a great Thanksgiving tradition.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 23, 2011

One Final Longhorn/Aggie Showdown

It was first played in 1894. It's been played every year since 1915. It's been played a total of 117 times. It's been a Thanksgiving tradition and and a central component to my favorite holiday for my entire life. The 2011 meeting of Texas and Texas A&M will be the 118th and the final. At least for a while.

The game has a deep and rich history. It's given rise to name of the Longhorn mascot, verses to the A&M fight song (which apparently will be replaced with others when they move the SEC), many traditions, a deep seeded school rivalry, and an even deeper seeded camaraderie and kinship in the face of horrific tragedy.

Chalk it up to greed, over-inflated egos, hurt feelings, or whatever cause you want to put behind it. The fact that one of the most historic, long standing, and exciting rivalries is coming to an end is a travesty. No one is blameless and all should be held accountable for letting this happen. Thanksgivings will never be the same for me. UT playing Texas Tech is not something you really plan your dinner around. Nor is, I'm assuming, whatever SEC team is going to be slugging it out with A&M. Not even the mythical, red herring, never-going-to-happen-but-we'll-keep-talking-about-it-to-placate-you UT vs. Notre Dame matchup generates the type of excitement that watching the Longhorns and Aggies does. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see burnt orange in South Bend and the golden-domers here ever other year. I'd just want to see that in addition to gathering around a television with my family, all decked out in burnt orange, in a food coma, swigging a beer and watching the Longhorns stomp the Aggies.

These games and the traditions behind them are what make college football great. They are one of the things that makes bearable the fact we have to watch a biased "beauty contest" to crown a national champion rather than the play-off that everyone except those making money from the bowl games wants to see. These games are the type of unscripted drama that makes sports so much fun. And it's all going away. Just sad and really unbelievable. I don't think it will fully sink in until a year from now when this game, for the first time, will not be part of our Thanksgiving holiday.

So this year, we'll enjoy all of our family being together, eat too much of an outstanding meal, get in a quick nap, crack open a cold beer, and gather around to sing "Texas Fight" and cheer on the Longhorns over the Aggies one last time. Thanks for the memories. This is a void that won't be filled for a long time, if at all. Oh, about the Longhorns stomping the Aggies. Realistically, the chances of that happening this year are not that great. But that's why they play the games. Hey, it's a rivalry. You can and should expect anything to happen in a rivalry game. Except perhaps being able to fathom it actually coming to an end. Hook 'Em!

November 22, 2011

Why Gowalla, Why?

One need only read the reviews of Gowalla on the Android market to see the most users are, to put it mildly, "upset" about the changes and the new direction. And while they explain their rationale in this blog post, I have to say I'm in agreement with the majority of other users/former users/soon to be former users.

My issue is not so much the changes in the interface but rather the change to the overall nature of the app. It went from being an interesting social app to something that is really neither. I think Zuckerberg's insightful observation that the the internet is more of a linking of people than computers was right on. When we talk about social, we're really talking about more than just sharing a funny video, an interesting link, or letting the world know what's for dinner. Rather, it's connecting with others on a different level and in a different way. One the doesn't replace human interaction but rather enhances it.

This is where, to me, Gowalla is now failing. It's main purpose now, it seems, is to be a city guide book. To allow you explore new cities and discover new places. That's all great and good if you're new to a city or traveling. However, that's not what the user base originally signed on for. The first line of their description is "Gowalla is the easiest way to share places you go with friends." Now, this is not completely untrue. You can still share places with your friends. It's not the easiest by far and it's not the main function of the app anymore. This is what has people so up in arms.

Previously the app enabled you to check-in to places at your current location and share that with those that follow you as well as other outlets (Twitter, Facebook, Foresquare). Now, you essentially have to tell Gowalla that you aren't traveling, you're not in a new city, you're not exploring the city you're in and looking for a place to go, that you want to bypass the majority of the functionality of the application and simply "check-in". It's like your comfy commuter bike that you cruise around town in has been taken away and replaced with those bikes you see on the Tour de France time trials. Sure, it will still get you to the grocery store. But it's now a hassle to get on and maneuver, it adds unneeded complexity to a simple commute, and it's complete overkill for what you're using it for.

Perhaps this was the intention of the application all along. Perhaps this is their ultimate revenue strategy. (It is, after all, still a free app.) Who knows? I can't even say with certainty why it's still on my phone. Perhaps I'm hopeful that it will return to it's former (and proper) form. With full disclosure, I can't even really explain why I started using it in the first place. My wife would often asked what I got out of checking in to the places I would go. I never really had an answer and still don't. It was fun, interesting, and a little addictive I guess. Now, well... If I wanted/needed a city guide or something to find places or discover new ones, I can think of a number of other applications (Urbanspoon, Yellowbook, Where, or even Google Maps) that seem a bit better suited for this. Through all of the negative reviews and the nearly two months since it was last updated, it doesn't seem likely it will change anytime soon. Too bad Gowalla, I thought we were going places and checking in when we got there.