Britrock Blog

Just another Brit in New York City

Is Plaxo relevant anymore?

Posted by Britrock on May 26, 2009

Plaxo Facebook Connect Promo Email

Plaxo Facebook Connect Promo Email

“Link your Plaxo and Facebook accounts (and get more out of both)” the header of the email I received today from Plaxo. Is that truly what I want or need? More importantly is it what my friends and contacts on both Facebook and Plaxo need? By allowing Facebook to connect with my Plaxo profile I could inadvertently create even more noise in the already crowded social media space and burn more contacts by flooding them with surplus or repeated information.

When I first signed up for Plaxo in approximately 2003 it was an online storage depository for my contacts that would allow my contacts to update their own details whenever they moved house, changed job or bought a new phone number. At some stage Plaxo repositioned itself to become a challenger to LinkedIn, a networking site for business people. Including OpenSocial was a good step to making it easier to sign-in to my Plaxo account with my Yahoo ID, especially when considering its formerly complicated password retrieval system. Plaxo Pulse’s introduction in 2007 allowed users to provide updates on their online activity of other sites. Since Plaxo’s purchase by Comcast in July 2008 there have been no press releases and few update communications from the company. There were murmerings that Facebook was looking to acquire Plaxo not so long ago. With this announcement today the site appears to exist in a slightly murkier realm sub-Facebook and competing with FriendFeed.

FriendFeed aggregates content from multiple social media sources including Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube etc, and allows the user to organize the feeds of information into groups that communicate e.g. marketing experts, friends, work colleagues, friends that follow the same sports teams, fans of Coldplay that can put up with Chris’ voice etc. Plaxo Pulse held the upperhand with social media site aggregation being two years ahead of FriendFeed but today I don’t know what value it offers to me- an average consumer of social media trends and online applications.

What does Plaxo allow me to do that adds more value than LinkedIn, my business social networks or FriendFeed where I aggregate my social media streams or Facebook where my online friendship network lives? Is it just another way to lose friends online? Is it a faster way to get fired? Either way, I’m using a lot of tools to manage my online life. Maybe its time to cut back on a few.

Paxo - sage and onion chicken stuffing, not to be used with your PC or Mac.

Paxo - sage and onion chicken stuffing, not to be used with your PC or Mac.

Post script: For those British fellows not familiar with online networking and social media, reassured that Paxo, the sage and onion chicken seasoning amd stuffing will always be relevant.

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Thoughts on the demise of Southampton Football Club

Posted by Britrock on May 12, 2009

Having just watched Manchester United beat a poor Hull City side in the English Premier League’s final round of games and by quirk of fate seal their status in the top flight of English football, I’ve begun to reflect on the demise of the team I’ve supported through think and mainly thin – Southampton Football Club.

Although I live in NYC, I take every opportunity I’m able to seek out the fortunes of the Saints via supporters forums online, Internet radio, my iPhone, televised highlights on my computer or TV through Fox Soccer Channel, a random game on Setanta or a visit to the club every trip home to England. However its difficult to describe affection for what losing this connection to a football club means without coming across as cliched or worse a poor imitation of Nick Hornby.

As a young lad, I grew up in the South of England and at the age of eight I found my interest in football growing and the need for a team to support and players to idolise. Generally accepted wisdom suggests that football teams are chosen by a combination of factors that include the closest team to where you live(d), who your parents supported and who was popular at the time. My closest team by geography was Southampton Football Club, an underdog if ever there was one, and I was lucky enough to attend a few games at The Dell with friends. In 1976 the club won its greatest honour the FA Cup, sadly I was three years old and living in Edinburgh, Scotland at the time. By 1982, Southampton’s best finish in the top flight of English football – second place, I had my first replica kit and my dedication was cemented.

Saints fan - 1982

Southampton have been on a downward rollercoaster ever since, with moments of snatched glory and marginal highlights glimmering through including an FA Cup final appearance against Arsenal in 2003, a 6-3 victory over Manchester United in a Premier League game, dramatic escapes from relegation and inspired individual performances on the pitch from players like Matt Le Tissier. The following BBC slideshow BBC’s slideshow captures many of the highs and lows of Saints demise. Off the pitch the club moved from The Dell, one of the coziest grounds to a legitimate full sized stadium St Mary’s, sold many of its best players and struggled with financial and boardroom challenges.

Regardless of how the club has performed or where I’ve lived my allegiance has never wavered, meaning I’ve sat through and by accounts forced friends and girlfriends to experience watching Southampton lose on TV in grimy, smelly bars all over New York City. Some have even had the pleasure of watching Saints in England and taste the gastronomic dirge that is steak and kidney pie. Relegation to the Championship tested my patience as even fewer Saints games were televised in the U.S. leaving me to huddle over a computer to listen to Internet radio commentary of games we invariably lost.

Regardless of the misery Southampton Football Club have helped me endure, I’d prefer not to lose this constant relationship. Part of my English being, personality and connection to the motherland is maintained through the Saints. I’ve moved away from home, changed job, immigrated country, married, divorced, loved musical groups and then despised them but the one true constant is my football club allegiance.

Through poor performance on the pitch last season the club finds themselves relegated to League One, the third level of English football, and face a ten point deduction for falling into a state of not being able to pay wage bills or other outstanding debts. If Saints do exist next season in League One playing the likes of Millwall, Yeovil and Exeter my trips home to watch games will be less than glamorous… there will be no David Beckham’s for my girlfriend to watch. Most importantly the club needs to be rebuilt from the boardroom down, living within our means and building up and out of League One, without being tempted to look beyond our capabilities. I’d love to see the club receive new ownership, although why anyone would invest in a football club is beyond me with even Manchester United in debt to the tune of millions of pounds.

Financial mismanagement has led the club to the brink of not existing for a “next season” at all. Without a new investor the club will be effectively bankrupt. Meaning the club will be extinct. The will be no more Southampton Football Club to waste countless hours and money over, and rather dramatically part of me would no longer exist either. Without a football club at all how much would I change for better or worse. Personally I hope I only ever have to contemplate the awful prospect and never actually deal with it. To the fans of Newcastle United, Middlesborough and West Bromwich Albion think on to a next season. To my Saints supporting brethren – fingers crossed we’ll have a next season.

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Ten keys to English Premier League fantasy football

Posted by Britrock on October 1, 2014

In true Bilip (bad Philip) style, I’ve just returned from a lot of travel in a short space of time, 50+ airport visits in two months, so naturally there’s lots to catch up on. And I’ve just spent two hours reviewing fantasy football lineups for NFL and EPL leagues I play in. Both seasons are relatively speaking, at a similar premature stage and newbies have either got the hang of it or are utterly lost. NFL fantasy obsessives have countless complex sites and tv shows that provide guidance, but the EPL has relatively few. Perhaps because EPL fantasy fans have more rich and fulfilling lives… or are too lazy/ambivalent to care. To help out two close friends of mine, new to fantasy EPL (Great midwest boys weekend StEvil B and the Pocket Dog!) I threw a few links and pieces of advice together. Make of it what you will. I’ve never won a fantasy EPL league and I’m a Saints fan.
Overall EPL dream team
Biggest factors in EPL fantasy:
  • Goals scored earn 6 pts (plus bonus depending on if the goal won the game)
  • Cleansheets/no goals conceded earn 6 pts for defenders (2 pts for midfielders)
  • Assists earn 3 pts
  • Captain doubles his pts each week
  • Two wildcard transfers a season
  • Playing 90 mins earns 2 pts
Ten considerations for fantasy EPL success
1) Scoring goals from setpieces
As goals are relatively difficult to predict, its good to consider the predictable moments e.g. set pieces (free kicks within shooting distance and of course penalty kicks) Last year Lambert earned me heaps of points because he didn’t miss any of his penalty chances and scored lots of freekicks. The aging legend is on Liverpool’s bench now, and Gerrard (while I don’t rate him much as a player; sometimes controls a game, he overhits 85% of his passes a fundamental skill for a midfield player & perpetually looks perplexed) he does take the penalty and free-kick chances for Liverpool.
So its worth looking at this link: EPL Penalty & Free kick takers

2) Consider the schedule
Southampton are going to have a fairly miserable time of things between the end of November and mid January as they play Man City, Man Utd (twice), Arsenal (twice), Chelsea and Everton. Naturally this will affect your teams ability to score points and my need to drink pints. Useful link of weird colored fixtures: Geekiest spreadsheet of EPL fixtures in existence
EPL 2014 Fixtures Ranking
3) Captains double your points
Selecting a team captain will double his points contributed. This should be your marquee player every week. Diego Costa would have earned you almost 100 pts as your captain every week. P.S. Its week 7 this week. That’s ridiculous return. In general the goalkeeper can only score a maximum of a cleansheet plus a bonus = 8 or 9pts. Diego Costa on two occasions this season has surpassed double figures. The caveats to choosing your best player as captain; if the opposition is difficult it reduces both goal scoring and cleansheets, or if he may not last a full game due to struggling with an injury or is Balotelli. The guy has a shot at goal every 15 minutes but hasn’t scored yet, and negatively affects teammates ability to score. Having said that Liverpool’s fixtures look favorable and he’s bound to go off like a firework from a bedroom window. Link to utterly unhelpful story about Balotelli setting house on fire: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2011/oct/22/mario-balotelli-house-fire-fireworks 
 
4) Wildcard transfers let you reset your team
Wayne Rooney is suspended for three games, Aaron Ramsey and James Ward Prowse are injured for multiple games, your goalkeeper is Hart sitting on a bench, Balotelli and Wellbeck are your strikers, for some reason you gambled on a back line of Stoke, QPR and Burnley players. Play your wildcard. Twice a season you can make unlimited transfers in one sitting, that will allow you to reset your team. Don’t forget bargain players at unfashionable clubs. Useful slightly hidden stats page http://fantasy.premierleague.com/stats/elements/?element_filter=0&stat_filter=value_season

5) Make transfers at the end of the week
Premier League teams involved in midweek cup competitions risk having players injured and tired from these games, as a result its wise to wait for these games to play before making roster changes. A club with lots of injuries will obviously not play as effectively. Man Utd currently have at least 9 players out. Track injuries here: http://www.physioroom.com/news/
6) Set your line-up before Saturday morning
Each week there is a deadline to set your line-up, chose your captain and make transfers. (generally a majority of teams will play on a Saturday morning).

7) Order of substitutes matters
Your lineup is set and contains a number of Man City players. Pelliegrini likes to rest players randomly, and as a result two of your players don’t play any part in the game. Not to worry, because those players not taking part are automatically substituted out and replaced with those on your bench in the order you have placed them. Make sure you leave your weakest player in the number 3 spot. Weakest is defined by ability to score points, not simply because he looks as skinny and weird as Peter Crouch.

8) Formations can change
Unlike Sam Allardyce’s rigid 4-4-2. You don’t have to play the 4 – 4 – 2 shape the form gives you each week. If you’ve built your team around Costa, RVP and Aguero, play with three up front each week. If goalscorers have the potential to earn more points by scoring goals why wouldn’t you play three up front if that’s who score the most goals? Because anyone can score goals, just ask Begovic. Play around until you see a shape you like. Remember midfield players receive two points for a no goals conceded, and forwards are most often substituted reducing their chance at 1 extra point for playing 90 mins.
3-4-3 4-5-1
9) Form & fixtures matters more than class
Balotelli, Van Persie and Dzeko or Ulloa, Berahino and Weimann? The former have 56 pts costing a combined 30.8 m pounds versus the non-glamor players have 98 pts at a current price of 17 m pounds. Track the form and fitness of players, ease of fixtures and potential suspensions.
Useful stats link: Whoscored.com form stats

10) Its all luck with a little knowledge thrown in for seasoning. Or vice versa
If anyone could actually predict the result of sporting events they’d setup an organization that would allow them to pit their wallets against anyone who fancies themselves a sporting soothsayer. Not sure who is mostly likely to be the Jacksonville Jaguars of the EPL? See what the sports betting agents think collectively, its not as if they make money on this every week or anything. Combined betting perspectives: http://www.oddschecker.com/football/english/premier-league/relegation

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Fox Soccer: The, Like, EeeeeEEEEEEENNNNNNNDDDDD!!!!!

Posted by Britrock on May 17, 2013

Fox Sucker ChannelThe title of this piece might be a little confusing and hard to read, but its what the kids do with language these days isn’t it? Using lots of apostrophes and capital letters and the like. My apologies if anyone that has read anything I’ve ever written before is turned off, its simply my way of appealing to a new audience, perhaps poorly imitating their nuanced form of communication to ingratiate myself to them. This metaphor is laboring in much the same way Fox Soccer Channel struggles to inject excitement into end of season games, which is a shame as I was going to rant about being too lazy to invest time and effort into researching who my new audience might be and what it might want.

Fox Soccer lost out to NBC in holding the broadcast rights for the English Premier League (or BPL or whatever rights holders are contractually obliged to call it) and for that I’m grateful. Not to be disingenuous as Fox Soccer Channel provided good coverage of many EPL games, Sky Sports News, MLS, SPL, La Liga and little bits of Serie A and others. Fox Soccer must also be credited with attracting a wider U.S. audience and helping entertain people that perhaps wouldn’t have access to soccer coverage before and preferred helmeted battle chess, America cricket and other sports with excitable fans.

The challenges to watching Fox Soccer Channel are lengthy, and I’ll do my best to avoid turning this into an over the top moan at high pitch that loses momentum halfway through because I don’t feel comfortable enough in my convictions… damn it, I’m slipping back into the mocking analogy I abandoned in the opening paragraph.

The five lessons NBC needs to learn from Fox’s mistakes:

Commentary

The commentary was generally awful; from the feckless Tommy Smith and his idiotic ‘catch phrases,’ to the clown Gus Johnson and Ian Darke they all appear to have forgotten that their role is to report on an event as it occurs. Yelling a players name into a device that captures and amplifies sound provides no benefit to the audience. Granted describing what is happening is challenging particularly if you may have received instruction to make your commentary colorful and impassioned like those Latin American fellows. For all Ian Wright’s excellence as a goalscorer his reputation should be protected from himself by never being allowed to use a microphone again. Wright’s poor use of language, repetitive phrases, lack of real insight, unfamiliarity of when to speak and when to allow his partner to speak, I’ve yet to listen to game he’s commentated on where something wasn’t “embarrassing.” At least not as embarrassing as his commentary.

Expert analysis

Steve McManaman and Brian McBride aside, expert analysis on Fox was a shambles of irrelevance led by Rob Stone, Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda. The latter three shared an awkward camaraderie and to be fair to Barton and Wynalda, that at least have a little football experience to call upon and occasionally offered insight. Stone is a fish out of water, a lumbering striker defending his own penalty box opposite a skilled ball player. Prone to growling of a goal scorer’s name during highlights packages in the manner of a sufferer of Tourettes syndrome, Stone’s lack of soccer knowledge justified the ‘expertise’ of Barton and Wynalda.

Premium premium plus channel

Whoevers decision it was to charge a premium for a sports/Fox Soccer Channel made a good decision. Its a niche that not everyone wants to subscribe to. Approximately midway through the Fox Soccer Channel deal, viewers who paid for Fox Soccer Channel suddenly lost access to half the broadcast games unless they wanted to pay an additional premium for a premium Fox Soccer Plus channel. Not quite bait and switch but Fox made some of us soccer fans feel like suckers. Funnily enough this alienated a few overseas fans of soccer who simply refused to pay for a premium on top of a premium channel and chose to watch the few games of interest online or in bars. Watching international feeds of EPL games online also meant viewers were not subject to the awful US studio commentary that lacked atmosphere and listenable reportage.

Deep-throated cinematic style voiceover promos

The cringeworthy voiceovers of Jimmy Hodson that have long accompanied movie commercials found there way onto the Fox’s networks playbook of nauseating tricks, and has been overused on FSC. Fortunately NBC and ESPN hasn’t adopted this practise. The countdown to never having to hear “Chel-sea…. ver-sus… Nooor-witch” growled with the same intensity as a horror slasher flick ever again has begun.

Highlights Packages and News

A crucial aspect of being a fan of any sports league is being able to see highlights of all other games within the league. The collated highlights package from the sports native country will offer all the necessary elements, by all means add local U.S. appeal with local commentary teams and experts, but soccer is not as complex as gridiron football and doesn’t need to be dumbed down. Fox Soccer News is often a confusing mixture of news from around the globe, with Ed McMahon offering its one ingratiating feature. Perhaps he’s a little low-key in his delivery and not full of the vim, vigor and ‘sparkle’ of other anchors of other shows, but employing his perspectives and observations would add credibility to any soccer program he associates himself with.

That the NBC commentating, host and expert opinion duties will be include experienced individuals from the UK is a positive. Rebecca Lowe, Arlo White, Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle are all well versed in presenting soccer in an unpatronizing manner. Analysis from Gary Lineker, Graeme Le Saux and Lee Dixon who will continue to provide the same duties in UK which have gone down fairly well with friends back home. Just as long as they don’t export the droning clueless Mark Lawrenson or the personality void Alan Shearer.

With an immediate return to the Championship, arguably more entertaining for not being full of wealth, I’m looking forward to watching Southampton start a new Premier league season in August without the grating irritations served up by Fox.

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Backup, Backup and backup again.

Posted by Britrock on March 4, 2013

Backup, Backup, Backup
Missing laptop
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the experience of losing all of my work (thankfully, returned to me now – see UPDATE), its the importance of having a backup copy. The biggest question is cloud/online or external hard drive.

My storage archive and backup needs are split into three key areas; all images for work (in excess of 1 terabyte of data), digital music collection (in excess of 80 gb) and documents including business plans and budgets.

Hard drives are mechanical devices and will eventually fail or need replacement. The one time cost provides a mechanical device that I can plug in and set to backup all of my files on a regular basis regardless of internet access or bandwidth restrictions.

Online (or “cloud”) storage seems like the future and offers many fantastic benefits including file access (including backup and retrieval) from anywhere. Should my apartment burn to nothing and my hard drives are all destroyed I still have my data saved in the cloud to be retrieved whenever required.

However, there’s currently no cost-effective online/cloud option that I can truly trust will be in business forever and none of the providers has a policy in place should their systems crash and my data disappears. From all of the sites I’ve looked at the retrieval of data generally appears to download at the pace of 8 to 10gb a day. To retrieve all of my photographic data would take at least three months of constant downloading. Can’t think of many broadband providers that would allow that to go ahead without restrictions.

As the American Society of Media Photographers summate in their thorough article of backup systems
“Although some online photo services may offer cheap or free archiving, there will always be a catch. No one can provide a service for below cost for long and stay in business. They will eventually have to charge what it costs to provide the service, or stop offering it. At the moment, none of the online services provide any kind of guarantee or validation that the files remain on the server in an uncorrupted form.”

Online storage providers seem to appear weekly, however it remains to be seen how many survive as I recall the tale of Xdrive who despite having 100,000 of users, premium accounts and AOL as a parent company ultimately joined the internet deathpool. Cloudreviews.com has a comprehensive list of all cloud storage providers and there’s a fairly helpful comparison chart at http://www.onlinebackupreviews.org/comparison however its missing Pogoplug.

I’ve considered:
Google Drive – fantastic collaborative tool for working on documents together and useful as a backup of 5gb of data.

Dropbox – great as a local and online backup of documents and incredibly easy to share. The easy sharing and large capacity is ideal for sending clients work. upto 18 gb of free storage is incredibly generous. The base price for Dropbox for Teams is $795/year for as much storage space as I need. However, I won’t need all my data accessible in such an easy way, so there has to be a simpler option.

Mozy – solid company from what I’ve witnessed. I used the service as a backup for a laptop a while ago and it was excellent and easy to forget about. However for 2 terabytes the annual fee is almost $10,000.

PogoPlug – looks like a fantastic and viable option for personal use of documents and music. At $60 a year for unlimited storage it works for my music though I’m not sure about the ‘streaming’ capabilities. Might be interesting to explore when traveling for work.

Each of these online storage options look good, but limited in size. Step in Backdrive.com, unlimited backup storage for less than $5 a month and it will store my music and documents. At first glance it seemed similar to so many others, the advantage is under the hood when I realized I could partition an external hard drive I use as my Mac Timemachine. The real bonus comes when you need to restore a large quantity of files, as you won’t need to be online for the length of the entire Simpsons and Family Guy back catalogs playing back to back. Instead Backdrive will send you your choice of a USB drive ($99) or USB hard drive ($189). Will be experimenting with these guys this month.

For ease of use, backup redundancy and anywhere access, I’ll continue to use Dropbox, Google Drive, laptop and external hard drive for document archive and backup. That’s the easy stuff.
The music needs to be on an external hard drive to prevent my laptop grinding to a halt especially when Photoshop is open, and Backdrive will hopefully be the solution as my music backup. I’m still not convinced by Spotify.

The work images will need at least two hard drives capable of handling at least 2,000 gb/ 2 terabyte drives. The external storage device search continues and I’ll provide an update once that decision is close to being made – I’m thinking Lacie at the moment but we’ll see as WPPI rolls around and what deals are available.

p.s. BACKUP EVERYTHING YOU OWN – NOW!

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My business was hit by catastrophic backup failure

Posted by Britrock on February 13, 2013

UPDATE:

After the police report was submitted, filings made to lost luggage at NJ Transit and PATH system, and an insurance claim filed, I was left to work out how to move on and prevent this kind of lose happening in the future. What I hadn’t expected to happen was NJ Transit calling to let me know my bag and all of its contents had been turned in. When collecting my bag from the equally bemused NJ Transit employees, all they were able to tell me was “someone decided to turn in the property.” Even when pressed that’s all they would say. I’ve not been able to truly understand what happened to my laptop bag that was double strapped (one through the handle and the shoulder strap entwined through the retractable handle of my suitcase) but I’m grateful for having everything back. Now to put into place the backup plans to ensure if anything similar happens, my work isn’t lost irretrievably. No one can be this lucky twice.

My business was hit by catastrophic backup failure

Missing laptop

Missing laptop


Yesterday’s state of the nation address (SONA) seated all of the presidential office in one venue, presenting the daunting prospect of what to do should something terrible happen to everyone in that room? Who would be president and how would America move forwards? I was on a plane as the SONA was taking place, and we were asked to turn of our electronic devices for wheels-up it got me wondering what would happen if my one-man business was affected with a large loss.

Well as it happens that something awful happened on the last leg of my journey home last night, as my bag containing my laptop and hard drives with backups of all my data was stolen last night. The tool I use the most for my business – my 17’ MacBook Pro i7 is gone. I’ve lost my previous clients’ work and all the original RAW files of every wedding, portrait, event and Guinness World Record I’ve photographed, save for a few images on my website, Dropbox and one set on a memory card that hasn’t been reformatted yet.

Everything I’ve photographed, edited, stored, written, planned and budgeted since I started Britrock Photography are lost. Police reports, lost property reports, insurance claims and desperate pleas on Craigslist for the return of the hard drive will likely yield nothing more than time spent in hope.

The only way out of this situation is to get remotivated and act as those this is a business reset. Wasting too much time pontificating or worrying about what could have, should have, would have taken place, I need to assess what I have and plan to start again.

Inventory;
Thankfully I have my camera gear – cameras, lenses, speedlights, reflectors and the skills I’ve learned. A couple of clients and some experience. You can’t lose the experiences and those are the critical elements that will drive me onwards.

Sadly I don’t have the funds to afford a replacement laptop to edit any of the new images I shoot, and that’s the next biggest hurdle. I’m writing this from an ancient PC still running XP with a nervous tic that prevents Firefox from running without a crash for more than 7 minutes at a time. Cue Firefox crash? Funnily enough I may have to extend the up-time estimate to 10 minutes. Positivity is working already.

From this day forward I to promise to create a double if not triple backup of everything. I will use Google Drive, Dropbox and Mozy to ensure I don’t have to start budgets and plans from scratch ever again. Most importantly I will make sure I have a double backup of all future images I shoot.

Wish me luck on my business rebirth.

Posted in Business, Consumer Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Getting a good tightend makes life better in America

Posted by Britrock on September 10, 2012


American sports are better observed, learned, understood and then properly enjoyed through gaming. And yes, there’s a British English vs. American English discussion lurking in only the second word of this piece but I’ll save that as a filler paragraph later in another article.

When I first arrived in New York City in the winter of 1999, to reach the sidewalk I had to drag my suitcase over a small embankment of garbage strewn snow, amongst which was the sports section of a newspaper with a close-up photo of a helmeted football participant cheering. Steam poured out of his mouth as rainy globs of snow streaked passed him. Anything that could make a grown adult male that happy while obviously cold, damp and probably bruised was immediately intriguing, yet I didn’t know where to begin learning football.

At school we played and learned games including rugby, association football, cricket, golf, tennis, rounders, softball, athletics, field hockey, volleyball, basketball and cycling. We didn’t learn how to race bicycles but we did learn the principles of how to ride one safely on the road, receiving a ‘cycling proficiency’ certificate and a free reflective piece of plastic on completion. The only time I use the word proficiency is in relation to a cycling lesson at school, making it a grotesquely underused word possibly made uncool because of its originator – the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

“Football for Dummies” didn’t really help, despite reading more than half of it my limited attention span didn’t allow it to sink in. The mere mention of tightends made me smirk like a schoolboy hearing the word “breast” regardless of context. So I bought a Playstation and a copy of Madden 2000, forced Brett Favre to avoid early retirement and take the Packers to three Superbowl titles. And like a girl I picked Green Bay because at the time their green and golden-yellow uniforms had a nostalgically cool look to them.

So, I became familiar with ‘downs,’ QBs, WRs, RBs, the difference between a passing and running game but not when to deploy them, how to defend or not to ‘go for it’ on fourth down everytime. And I still didn’t know what a tight-end was, where they played or what they did, but I knew I liked the entertaining education and participation in virtual sport played over here, and set about learning an American sport a year.

This was around the end of football season and I can’t remember who won the Superbowl that year. Giants won last year, and a couple of years before that I think. But I can tell you I almost won at a superbowl party pick’em’game, finished second in a fantasy baseball league the following year, and in one evening in the summer of 2005 I learned three American sports; kickball, beerpong and flipcup.

Fantasy baseball takes levels of commitment, conservative estimate is an hour a day and a little luck; I landed New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Alfonso Soriano in his rookie year. Daily scanning of news websites for information on starting pitchers, batters on hot streaks, and patterns. Always looking for patterns because that’s how humans try to make sense of things.

Baseball, college basketball and football, a little ice hockey, MLS have all entertained me but I’ve not really dedicated any time to wasting hours on NFL games beyond dipping my toe lightly into a playoff league where everyone had the same players and no one really cared about the result.

With limited reading and only intuition to go on, I logged onto and dived straight into a free ESPN league that included a ‘live’ snake draft. There are entire websites, books and even TV programs dedicated to fantasy football draft strategies and even more words written about the merits of every single player in the National Football League. So I ignored it all and went with my gut feelings.

Top five things I learned from my first draft:

a) A quarterback will score the most points each week, not always the same QB each week however. There are eight maybe ten elite quarterbacks, and only five or six that will deliver big points almost every week.
b) Kickers and defenses will likely contribute the fewest points and definitely not the most points on any given week. Pick them towards the end of the draft.
c) There are lots and lots of running backs and wide receivers who tend to score points sporadically depending on if their team is winning or losing, and picking the right four or five guys is more luck based than anything else.
d) Tightends, especially good TD scoring tightends are worthy of a 2nd or 3rd round pick. The name makes me chuckle less now.
e) If fantasy sports makes watching sports much more fun, imagine doubling it and making it a once a season activity with the tension of the final moments of any close, freescoring game. There’s more pressure during the draft that will affect enjoyment of sports on a weekly basis than picking lottery ticket numbers that could change your life.

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An Escape Route Has Closed and I Feel A Little Sad

Posted by Britrock on September 25, 2010

Much has changed since the beginning of this decade for many people, if ever there was an inadequately obvious opening sentence this was probably it and it was written to preface a topic that will be scorned upon should anyone read this piece. Today something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed for ten years concluded and I was momentarily choked up at the prospect. Completing the mission has ended my solo experience with the anguish, challenge, characters and the environments of Halo: Reach the video game series.

The end is nigh

As I write, the soundtrack is playing on loop in the background and it feels rather like I’m peering back to a tiny planet as I’m whisked away in an escape pod. For those that don’t play video games, try imaging your favorite movie, TV or book series has ended and with it the place you used to escape to has closed. Imagine being the longstanding lead actor in the final episode of Lost, or Days of Our Lives or Harry Potter.

The Halo video game series offered casual gamers, that include myself and a few of my closest friends, an opportunity to take part in what’s known as a first person shooter, a game where you take on the role of the lead protagonist fighting to save earth from invading aliens. Halo was also the first game on the Microsoft Xbox game console and offered the visual perspective of seeing the world through virtual eyes, not over the shoulder or from above, and this immersed us in our universe defending role.

With that previous paragraph I’ve stripped away all the texture that created the experience and can now see it was a collection of stunning landscapes, camaraderie with my now departed alien and human contemporaries, beautiful soundtracks and earth has been saved. It shouldn’t be but is a strange sensation to feel an emotion for a video game, beyond frustration for difficult to complete gaming experiences, and makes me question why I feel almost embarrassed for really enjoying the video game. Perhaps it’s the stigma attached to video games being childish and only as an escape or perhaps… considering tomorrow marks the 36 anniversary of my birth I should really have grown out of them.

Earlier today during a conversation with a friend about my guilt for feeling an emotion about a video game, we realized that it wasn’t just a game played by murderous 12 year olds looking for cannon fodder and there are plenty of those. Halo represented an opportunity to escape from everyday adult lives and be heroic albeit in our living rooms at 4am on a week night. In retrospect the ten hours I put into completing Halo Reach were hours I wish had passed more slowly. Sure I can play it again, and there’s countless hours of multiplayer action to be had with people from all around the world online but the story is over for me and I feel/felt a little emotion. The end. I will not be ashamed. Much. Instead I’ll turn this into a thank you and compliment the Bungie team for a job well done for leaving me thoroughly entertained for the hours, days and nights I’ve poured into a video game.

Update: As I was looking for a suitable image to show you the landscapes I stumbled upon an announcement from Bungie that in its first week alone more than 70 million games of Halo: Reach have been played. That’s quite an audience.

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To be a Briton in America on July 4th

Posted by Britrock on July 4, 2009

So what does it feel like to be a Briton in America on the day the country is celebrating its severance from my nationality? Despite the one cringingly daft question I seem to get asked every year “Do you celebrate July 4th in England?” Actually that question is surpassed in daftness by a question I hope no Briton is ever asked again “Did you play Quidditch when you were growing up in England?” A dutiful yet polite “No…because I don’t know how to fly” helped settle the score on the latter question.

Nine times I’ve been witness to America’s celebration of its independence from England and every time I’ve realized, although I’m a Briton and happy to remain one, celebrations really are quite good here. Food, weather, the fireworks and the flags. Yes, New Year’s Eve fireworks in London are great, and barbecues and the British summer are also fine occasions but what’s missing is the industrious purpose and preparation of Independence Day. The cleaning, polishing and tidying things up as “Old Glory” looks down leaves everything looking brighter, crisper and shinier than at any other day of the year. In stores people are buying vast quantities of meat, beer, chips and preparing to eat and be merry as if their patronage to the flag was being questioned and by eating ones weight in salty snacks you were able to prove heritage.

That’s the curious part about the years I’ve enjoyed living in America. When asked my nationality I’ll reply British; born in Scotland of a Scottish father and English mother, my formative education and upbringing took place in the counties of Surrey and Hampshire, England makes me a person of Great Britain. Ask the same question of an inhabitant of the UK and the answer would like be English, Scottish, Welsh etc., people tend to give a more direct nationality.

The reciprocal answer to my question in America is often a little more complex. America is a nation of immigrants and almost everyone claims a mixed background. No one is technically “American.” My group of close friends includes an Italian (born in New Jersey of parents from the same state whose grandmother is from Italy), a Dutchman (born in Iowa whose parents were born in Iowa whose relatives may have been from Holland), a Norwegian-Cherokee Indian, Dutch and British mix who’s quite charming.100_0425

The neighborhoods of New York City tell a similar tale. Many of the Puerto Ricans in Spanish Harlem not far from my former neighborhood were technically born in New York City, the Greeks in Queens, and Italians and the Irish, many born on the fair isles of America salute two flags but come July 4th everyone’s American. Its a day of shared national pride. It’s a day to forget where you’re from but remember instead where you are.

George Washington Bridge carries Old Glory

July the fourth – Independence Day is a day I enjoy. Plenty of food, drink and happy people. Every country should celebrate a national holiday like this. Though perhaps the 80s nostalgic Neil Diamond accompaniments to the fireworks displays could be toned down just a touch. Happy birthday America.

George Washington Bridge carries Old Glory

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Did You or Someone Else Secure Your Facebook Name F-O-R-E-V-E-R [dun-dun dadada]

Posted by Britrock on June 13, 2009

Last night’s Facebook “vanity address” grab felt like a PR campaign. Tension and anticipation was built up through blog posts on Facebook, followed by media coverage intimating that brands and individuals would be fighting for their online identity. In reality, a handful of people logged on at midnight and blundered their way through the one click process of securing their ‘Facebook’  identity f-o-r-e-v-e-r! Like a bad driving license or passport photograph, one mistake or over eager click of a button and Facebook users would be stuck with a miss-spelled name or punctuation in places that didn’t need it. At least that was part of the story.

Hysterical Media Reaction to Facebook Name Claim

Hysterical Media Reaction to Facebook Name Claim

Its difficult to tell how many people actually stayed by a computer, the minutes ticking down until midnight when the application system was activated, however reading the conversation on Facebook and Twitter amongst my small group of friends it appeared that 5% of us took the time to make the change almost immediately. Mashable claimed that 200,000 names were applied for in 3 minutes last night.  Mine was more luck that planning, as I returned home close to midnight having a great night out with close friends watching Josh Ritter open Central Park Summerstage’s 2009 season with a mellow performance amongst the trees.

Rosh Ritter at Summerstage 09

Rosh Ritter at Summerstage 09

Relaxing, with beer in hand, I logged onto Facebook and clicked the first named option available www.Facebook.com/philip.robertson. Moments after accepting the address for the [insert dramatic tension…perhaps I should create a blog post and conduct calls to reporters to build up the tension] “rest of my life,” I realized I didn’t need punctuation in the middle of my name. Fortunately Facebook also captured www.facebook.com/philiprobertson for me. But why offer the two alternatives and why assign them to the same person? Surely this will reduce the number of available accounts, unless there’s something I’m missing or perhaps its not as important as was suggested in the hype beforehand.

Life didn’t change after I secured my own personal brand… er… name my parents gave me. So I’m off to the gym. Safe in the knowledge something even less dramatic will happen sometime soon.. but with probably greater significance and I’ll miss out because its really not that important in the greater scheme of things.

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Marcel Marceau Missed His True Professional Calling By Months

Posted by Britrock on June 4, 2009

As hard as it is for a grown man of 35 years to sit in front of a big HDTV wearing a communication headset attached to a plastic control device, any feelings of mild humiliation are tempered when immersed in a fierce online virtual gunfight with friends.  Every gamer knows that feeling of anticipation; staring, unblinking, at the screen, waiting for the moment a deftly executed sprint-and- stab combination yields instance death to an enemy delivered by a careful flick of a few buttons and bumpers on a controller. Admittedly there is a sheepish feeling that descends once ones girlfriend walks into the room to determine why the aforementioned adult has yelped with glee, loudly enough for the neighbors to hear.

That sense of anticipation took on a greater sense this week as Microsoft, purveyors of the remarkably fine and popular Xbox video game system, announced Project Natal the ‘insert PR person’s claim that its the “next evolution” of gaming…’ By the popularity indicators of today the new concept is capturing the online communities imagination as “Project Natal” ranked highly as a search term on Google, as a topic of conversation on Twitter and spawned many videos on YouTube.

It appears that what Microsoft is proposing is stripping away the controller and headset from where grown adults hide, and replacing it with nothing. That’s right “nothing.” Project Natal is supposed to leap forward a generation beyond Nintendo’s motion-sensing controllers that allowed anyone to participate in virtual bowling, boxing, dancing, prancing, swaying, heading, yoga-ing exercise routine, by introducing gaming without a device in hand. Tangible-intangible gaming if you will. No longer will mature gamers be able to pointlessly dodge and weave to simulate their immersion in the action, to confirm they are unable to interact with ones partner about the choices for dinner or deny being responsible for household chores because  of the plastic control device in their hands.

Xbox Project Natal

Xbox Project Natal

Project Natal was introduced at E3, the electronic entertainment expo, by Steven Speilberg representing the pensioner demographic, where herds of the curious imagined miming activity that would be relayed by motion-sensing cameras through a video game system to a monitor where movements will be translated into real-life ‘virtual’ activity. The concept appears feasible and engaging. Look how easy and accessible Nintendo’s Wii has made gaming for grandparents. Only this morning NBC’s Today Show ran a segment featuring a retirement community of octogenarian boxers and 298-bowlers.

However Project Natal poses many questions for me which I probably won’t be able to answer until my grandparents or parents buy the system. Will Project Natal signal the end of a generation of overweight, pale children that evolve over-developed ‘virtual gaming’ muscles? Will people become more healthy because they are miming participation in activity rather than guiding onscreen characters to take part through operation of controllers by fingers and thumbs? What will happen to the “Xbox finger” support group? How will the motion-sensor compensate for overally expressive Europe nationalities that tend to communicate with a great deal of arm flailing? How much embarrassment will the new system’s auto detection of participants gender cause for long haired gamers? And does Project Natal contribute to Microsoft’s second coming? You might be able to find guidance on Bing.com.

Project Natal Be The Thing That Slides Under Your Couch

Project Natal Be The Thing That Slides Under Your Couch

Writing these reactions to the future of a pastime my friends and I have bonded over for years, has helped me realize that it might, “might,” be time to grow up and become a functioning adult, retire my controller, controllers actually, including the Guitar Hero Gibson Les Paul replica… Perhaps I could particpate in actual golfing, bowling, drinking and watching football. Or perhaps I could stand in the warm, dry comfort of my living room, not having to wait for the hackers in the group in front, as I swing my arms and turn my hips before watching my seven iron approach to the green come to rest within gimme distance as I take part in my “regular healthy exercise.” Will I need a gym or golf club membership? I’ll never need to leave home. With the money saved I could by sunlamps to compensate for not ever being outside. Waiting for tee-times, an open lane at bowling will be a thing of the past as I mime my freetime away. The virtual future is here and Marcel Marceau missed his true calling by merely months, god rest his face-painted soul.

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My Introduction

Posted by Britrock on May 26, 2009

When a search for “How to construct, edit and maintain a blog with multiple topics ranging from Brit-rock music to English football, from social media marketing and public relations to consumer tech, Apple iPhone apps and other stuff that happens in my life?” failed to yield the perfect resource for putting together this blog, I decided to make it up. My blog will not be a hyper-focused series of articles on one topic for that wouldn’t be the authentic Philip. With interests that cut across many aspects of life I’ll attempt to capture the elements I, and hopefully anyone reading these pieces, will also find interesting and valuable.

The “About” section of this blog will capture a little about me and what this blog will cover, however, I’m going to introduce myself and elements of what make me – Philip Robertson in this post. I’m a Brit, born in Edinburgh, Scotland who moved to England when I was very young. No, I don’t have a Scottish accent, in fact my only recognizable Scottish trait is my translucent skin which adopts in a marvelous palate of reds and pinks during the summer months as my skin cooks like shrimp. My formative years were spent on the south coast of England in and around the town of Alresford, Hampshire, the surrounding towns, villages and cities amid the green countryside.

Five years were spent in London working in public relation’s agencies, enjoying the indie-rock music scene in addition to exploring different cities throughout Europe. Which brings us upto the present and my life in New York where I’ve spent eight good years, working in marketing communications roles with public relations agencies and in marketing departments of companies.

Living in New York City has afforded me the opportunity to visit more than half the states in America, elation, confusion, fear… sorry, I probably should have introduced my random bouts of odd humor earlier in this piece. Bear with me, it will become easier to understand.

New York City is my current home and feels like a hub to me. Its a place trade, art, music, fashion etc, etc, visits if not begins in some instances, which provides opportunity to experience a wide variety of ..well.. differing experiences of pretty much everything. Touring bands stop in New York, usually only the better or more established UK acts to whit I’m largely influenced. And occasionally a band will  begin their fledgling music career in one of the smaller venues and I”ll get to see it.

Benzos at Rothko

Benzos at Rothko

Tradeshows and summits frequently take place here bringing a rich diversity of industry. Professionals, companies and people needing attention flock to New York City to seek the rapture of the influencers and column inches or time on screen. And the people of every nation live here adding flavor, flavour or ‘flavah’ depending on which part of the city I or they are passing through.

This is my justification for writing about many unrelated and different topics. I hope you enjoy them, comment section is open and there are multiple ways listed on how to contact me more personally. Oh, and if you must post spam for male enhancement products etc or other freebies please consider whether adding more of me or my offspring to this planet is really what you want for this planet.

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