The Martian, The first great fall movie release?

the-martianThe book The Martian by Andy Weir, has become my favorite book I have read in the last few years. It also ranks up there as one of my all time favorites so far with a handful of other books. Which leads into the excitement I felt when I saw that the book going to be made into a movie with a bunch of actors I like. Among those are Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain. The trailers and videos I have seen so far for the movie makes me think that it has the possibility to be a very good movie.

I have embedded the most recent trailer that came out a day or two ago, and I like this trailer more than the first one that came out a few months ago. It sets up the story well and I like the song that they paired with the trailer.

I would also consider the release of The Martian the kick off to the fall/winter movie season. I am looking forward to a great movie season this fall and winter, with the highlights including the new James Bond film Spectre, the conclusion to the Hunger Games series Mockingjay Part 2 and of course to finish off the year Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens. With that kind of movie line-up it almost starts to rival what we have seen some summers for blockbuster films.

If you could not tell already I am excited for The Martian to come out on October 2nd 2015.

For Me March Madness Is Really About Fantasy Baseball


Over these last few years I have been less and less interested/wrapped up in the excitment of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. I still filled out two brackets this year and yet have that connection to the tournament, but I did think about not even doing those briefly.

To me I am much more excited about March because that means I start thinking more about baseball and that I start having fantasy baseball drafts. For me among other things fantasy baseball drafts are a fun way to hang out with friends and meet new people as well.  I have long been a baseball fan, and fantasy baseball helps combine two things I like: baseball and numbers/statistics. It is interesting to try to piece together a team in a auction draft, where you have a budget typically of $260 to use imaginary money to buy players. Having the challenge of getting a team that has a good chance at winning the league within that budget.  The fun of budgeting your money and figuring out where to spend it, what positions to spend it on and how to balance it on batters and pitchers so that you have enough good players in both of those areas.

There are a few things I think have helped my rise in interest in fantasy baseball over the last three to four years. One is I joined a league with people I have known from my previous jobs and we have an in-person auction draft and that brings the fun aspect of it with hanging out with friends for an evening, with a few of them I only end up seeing once a year at the draft and then interact the rest of the year online. The second part is that there is a cash entry fee that makes the league more competitive and to a certain degree helps keep peoples interest in the league to make that extra push and try to win the league.

Also, the fact that the league is a keeper league, which means we can keep up to nine players from year to year if we want and the strategy that goes into that. Strategy such as do you want to pay the cost it will take to keep the star player you have like maybe say Andrew McCutchen or Miguel Cabrera or go the route of keeping younger players so that you have more flexibility in the auction at the start of the season. The other part to keeper league that makes it fun is that it allows for you to make trades that will hopefully pay dividends the next season in getting a good young player for the star player that you no longer need in the current season since you are no longer in contention.  In that way your fantasy team mirrors what happens to MLB teams in real life in building for the future with trades you often see go down at the trading deadline.

All of this fun is kicked off each year in March with the annual fantasy baseball auction or draft and why March Madness has now become more about fantasy baseball to me instead of college basketball.

A look at Minnesota State Fair Attendance

My enjoyment of looking at data lead to me create a few charts which look at the attendance figures for the Minnesota State Fair. I found data easily accessible for attendance figures going back to 2007. There might be figures going back further out there but have not found them yet. Still eight years of attendance figures still gives us a good picture to look at and a long enough time span to make some judgements.

You can drag to zoom on the charts.

This first chart shows the average attendence for each day of the fair over the eight year span we have. If you think about it, what you see here should not be a huge surprise. You have peaks for attendance on the two weekends and the smallest turn out days during midweek of the fair on tuesday and wednesday. I am slightly surprised that the average lowest attendance day over the eight years is actually the first day of the fair. I would have thought given it is the first day people would be more likely to show up given pent up excitement for the fair and first chance to get your favorite food or get to their favorite building/attraction but I was obviously wrong in that assumption before looking at the data. The first day of the fair also has the lowest attendance figure in the daily attendance records that have been set for each day. In the end I should not be surprised since the attendance figures are similar for the two thursdays the fair has and the factors I described do not outweigh the factors of people’s daily lives that make them less likely to come to the fair during tuesday through thursday.

You are able to de-select the years you don’t want to see.

This chart is looking at the daily attendance for the fair for each day from the last eight years. The biggest take away I found from this graph was the variances of the attendance figures for tuesday-thursday of the mid-week days at the fair over the eight years. What you will see for the top three overall attendance years of 2014, 2009 and 2012 is that for six of the nine days for the tuesday through thursday stretch is that they outperform the average attendance for that given day. What that provides for those three years is to avoid the more normal real dip you see mid-fair for the daily attendance figures and helps propel those three years into being the top three overall attendance years.

Looking at the 2013 numbers if you remember the weather we had during the fair you should understand why it has several days below or just at the daily average attendance numbers. We had six straight days of above 90 degree temperatures, starting from the first saturday to the second thursday of the fair. For that first sunday we had a high of 97 and a dew point of 71, which all lead to the lowest attendance number for that first sunday of the fair in the eight years on the graph. The attendance figure for that sunday ended up being 145,706 which was 18,486 lower then the second lowest attendance day (2014 at 164,192) for that first sunday at the fair.

This third chart is the total yearly attendance figures for the State Fair over the last eight years. As talked about above the 90 degree heat wave is what helped lead to the lowest total attendance since 2008 for 2013. 2014 total attendance set a new yearly record and for the first time ever broke the 1,800,000 mark. The 2014 total attendence record I would say was help driven by the record second saturday of the fair which was set at 252,092 and beat the previous 2010 record for that day by 17,708. Another record for the 2014 second saturday of the State Fair was that 252,092 number also set the all time single day attendance record which was previously held by the second sunday in 2013 at 236,197. So, for both of those records the 252,092 mark simply shattered both of those attendance records. I know there are other factors that contributed to 2014 being a record attendance year but from looking at it from a more statistical point of view that is what I see.


The Age of Radiance by Craig Nelson Book review

19769305Two things I would say will help dictate whether you are likely to enjoy the book “The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era” by Craig Nelson. The first and most obvious is whether you have interest in the subject matter of learning about the sweeping history of the atom, radiation and nuclear weapons, power, and medicine. The second reason is if you like the style of historical writing that is used by author Craig Nelson. The style that Nelson uses and which is not unique to him is to make liberal use of quotes normally from people involved or who lived through the events described.  Nelson likes to construct his story with a smaller mixture of his telling of events and then more weighted towards his  use of quotes. If you like hearing more directly from the people involved then you will be more inclined to like this book given that is the style it uses.

The book covers a larger span of time than you might imagine for this topic. It covers the discovery of x-Rays in 1895 to the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan in 2011. If you are looking for a heavy dose of science and how exactly things work, that is not what you will find with this book. Nelson gives you a moderate understanding of the scientific principles in play when talking about x-Rays, radiation, the splitting of the atom, nuclear energy and weapons among other topics talked about. While at certain times I wish I had gotten a bit more detailed scientific information than I did get, I can see the balance that Nelson likely had to walk in giving you enough information on the science behind the topics discussed but at the same time not getting bogged down in the details so that it would not become inaccessible to your average reader.  In that sense I think Nelson has done a good job of giving you enough of a taste of the scientific underpinnings of the story he is telling to allow you to understand the topics discussed. Nelson also gives you a good idea of the large and varied group of people that you encounter over the course of the history of this topic and the politics and personal stories that are prevalent with in this subject.

If you are looking for a good but not extremely technical look at radiation and nuclear based devices this book is certainly worth a look in my estimation.

Why I am excited about the movie ‘Interstellar’

interstellar-posterThere are several reasons I am excited about Christopher Nolan’s newest film coming out in November of this year. The first few are easy to describe. I have generally liked the movies Nolan has done, so I am interested to see what he has made next. I am a big fan of science fiction and this movie easily falls into that category.  It has a good cast attached to it that I have enjoyed in the past with Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, and Matt Damon among the people in it. The major reason I am excited about the movie is the idea of space exploration that is at the heart of the movie from what I can tell from the two trailers I have seen so far. To me space exploration is the last frontier for human exploration to a certain degree and throughout our history humans have always been explorers of the unknown.  I think this idea is beautifully put in the voice over from Matthew McConaughey in the teaser trailer that was released at the end of 2013:

We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments, these moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Perhaps we’ve just forgotten… that we are still pioneers, that we’ve barely begun, and that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us. Because our destiny lies above us. 

To me it is a shame that NASA retired the space shuttle and we are now reliant on the Russians to travel to the International Space Station. I wish our country could rekindle that sense of dreaming and be pioneers again with a return to the Moon or even Mars, which is something that I would love to see.

The first trailer if you have not seen it is below the cut. Continue reading Why I am excited about the movie ‘Interstellar’

Game Of Thrones Season 4 Long Preview

I have had some excitement for season 4 of Game Of Thrones for awhile already but this 15 minute trailer/behind the scenes videos has certainly made even more eager for the show to return. The footage in the first minute or so looks great and certainly seems like they will keep up the pace for season 4. In the interviews in the rest of the piece we get some good insight into what is to come and what we already have seen.  If you have not watched this enjoy seeing it for the first time.

I think it should go without saying but if you have not finished watching season 3 yet, don’t watch it since it certainly has spoilers in it for the end of season 3.

New Promo for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

ku-xlargeThe new promo for Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey certainly makes me excited to see this show.  With it hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson, who I have enjoyed for a while when I have seen him on TV, it should hopefully be a good adventure. The FOX network is certainly not the kind of network I would have expected to air this type of TV show, but from the previews, I have seen it seems likes they might be on the right track so far.

Review of ‘Dogfight’ by Fred Vogelstein

cover_thumbThe first book I have finished this year is Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution by Fred Vogelstein. The book covers the development of the iPhone, iPad, development of Android based phones, looks at the legal battle that erupted between Samsung and Apple, and finally, what these gadgets have done to change the market in a broad sense. I have seen this stated in other reviews and it held true for me after reading the book myself, that the first two-thirds of the book is the best part of the book and that it tails off after that. I read the first two-thirds of the book over the course of five days and it took me another week to finish the last third of the book.

The first seven chapters make up the telling of the creation of the iPhone, Android, and the iPad and the battle that takes place between Apple and Google once Apple learns about Android. Those first seven chapters are the strongest and where we learn most interesting details about the inside stories of the two most popular mobile operating systems. It is in the telling of the back and forth story between Apple and Google where Fred Vogelstein shines in the book. The chapter covering the trial between Samsung and Apple was alright, just did not grab me as much as the previous seven chapters.  It did not cover as many interesting details which I guess is not a huge surprise given it was focused on a patent trial. The next two chapters are a bit different than the rest of the book, focusing on the more industry-wide effects that iOS and Android devices have had on the world of technology. From how it has effected websites, to media publishing, and the entertainment industry of movies and TV among other things.  While there is some good information in this section it just is a bit of a different turn for the book after a much closer look at a smaller set of topics in only two companies and topics in the first seven chapters.

Overall if you enjoy reading about technology and parts of the inside stories surrounding Apple and Google, there is enough good information I think to read this book in the end. Although it is interesting after reading this book and now several weeks after I have finished it, a lot of the details from it have not stuck with me as well as I might have thought since I have just so recently read it.

30 Years of Mac Computers

mac30I am a few days late on this post since the Mac’s 30th anniversary was last week but I still wanted to share my thoughts. For me I have used Apple computers all my life. The first computer I used at home was one of the green-screened Apple II models. Over the course of the years I have used several Macintosh computer models and I am inclined to think that Apple and their computers have had a great effect on my continued love for all things technological. The first Mac computer I bought for myself was a Titanium PowerBook G4 in August of 2003 before I went off to my freshmen year of college at Gustavus Adolphus. That was a great laptop for me that served me through my entire college career. My Mac’s have served me well over the years and I hope they continue to.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball has a great post that he did yesterday on how in some key ways you can still see the design decisions from the very first Mac OS.

For one thing, they sweated the details. The greatest testimony to their genius is just how much of that original design is recognizable in today’s Mac OS X 10.9. A Mac user from 1984 could sit down in front of an iMac or MacBook today and recognize it as a successor to that original machine. That’s simply amazing.

Even more amazing is that some things haven’t changed at all. File, Edit, and View menus to start the Finder menu bar — the same today as in System 1 in 1984.

Daring Fireball: Special.

 In a piece that touches on a similar topic MG Siegler over at ParisLemon — 30 Years Ago, Apple Was The Same Company talks about how the design philosophy and decisions that guided Apple 30 years ago with the first Mac are still present in their current products.

Finally Apple released a great video for the 30th anniversary of the Mac and I have included it below.

“Lincoln’s Boys” A peak into the making of history

5190p2uQsJL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_From the excerpt I have read of  Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image by Joshua Zeitz in the Smithsonian Magazine it certainly seems like it could be a good book.  More likely a book for people who have a fondness for history and in this case Abraham Lincoln. The excerpt below gives a little taste of it.

It is little wonder that historians consult Hay’s and Nicolay’s writing frequently—their letters and journals provide eyewitness accounts of their White House years. But their major life’s work after the Civil War is a largely forgotten story.

“The boys,” as the president affectionately called them, became Lincoln’s official biographers. Enjoying exclusive access to his papers—which the Lincoln family closed to the public until 1947 (the 21st anniversary of the death of Robert Todd Lincoln)— they undertook a 25-year mission to create a definitive and enduring historical image of their slain leader. The culmination of these efforts—their exhaustive, ten-volume biography, serialized between 1886 and 1890—constituted one of the most successful exercises in revisionism in American history. Writing against the rising currents of Southern apologia, Hay and Nicolay pioneered the “Northern” interpretation of the Civil War—a standard against which every other historian and polemicist had to stake out a position.

via The History of How We Came to Revere Abraham Lincoln | History | Smithsonian.

I think I am likely to get a copy of this when it comes out, but will see.  If you get enjoyment out of learning about history this certainly seems like a book worth checking out.