Photographing Brian David Collins and Rae McAlister

On Saturday, July 6, my band Amy and the Peace Pipes had the opportunity to play with Rae McAlister and Brian David Collins at Avogadro’s Number in Fort Collins. I took the opportunity to capture some photos during their sets, on Avo’s beautiful backyard patio. It made for some great natural lighting, mixed in with some of the colored lighting they were using for the show.

Rae McAlister

Brian David Collins

It’s always a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to taking pictures bands I’m playing with. On one hand, it’s a great opportunity to refine my photography and hopefully capture some images that the artist can use. On the other hand, I’m also focused on getting ready to perform and ultimately need to take some time (especially in the band right before ours) to get everything in order to take the stage. I do wish I had more time to get some different angles and use my wide lens.

Why the Broncos preventing ticket printing is evil

Broncos embrace mobile ticketing for 2018 season

In which by “embrace mobile ticketing”, they mean they’re taking away the ability for season ticket holders to print tickets from home, requiring you to use their ticketing system to broker not only re-selling the tickets but any transfers as well.  I always love the PR spin that acts like they’re giving you something when they take something away.

One one hand, I can understand their justification for doing this, and the selling point that this will cut down on high-margin scalping and counterfeit tickets, which is all well and good, but when I heard about this policy change, I couldn’t stop thinking about two formative stories that shape my view of mobile ticketing.

  1. Back in the fall of 2017, I purchased tickets to Mumford and Sons, only available as a moble ticket. It turned out that I had to travel for work the week of the show, and tried to transfer 2 of the four tickets to my wife and the other two my friend. The ticketing system was so shoddy that it ended up taking days of attempts before I believed the transfers went through. Fast forward to the night of the concert, when I got a call from both of them stating that the tickets I transferred to my friends weren’t coming up.  So there everyone was, in line and stressed out about not being able to get in, while I was far away and essentially powerless to help them out.  The concert attendants weren’t particularly helpful, and who can blame them when they have a compounding line of people eager to get in.  We finally solved the whole problem by me re-claiming the transferred tickets, screen shooting them from my phone and texting the image over to my friend – which I should have just done, to begin with.
  2. This time the last year, the Broncos went on a massive audit of season ticket holders, establishing a newly-formed policy that they would revoke tickets to people who didn’t go to any games that year. They used the only data point that was convenient at the time – the NFL Ticket Exchange and tracking the electronic tickets. I detailed my concerns about this last year, but the bottom line was that for all practical purposes, my tickets should have been revoked and the only thing that saved me was the wherewithal of “selling” (and by selling, it was at-cost to friends and family) the tickets through the printed tickets.

Make no mistake, this is about making sure the Broncos and the NFL have the data points for all ticket transactions and can harvest the data for their own purposes, especially for retroactively enforcing policies that they just made up.  I wouldn’t be surprised after next season they’ll take tickets away from someone who wasn’t able to go, transferring the tickets to friends and family. And yes, I understand that there are fans that abuse their tickets by massively upselling them and not attending any games for years at a time. It would be fair to call their fandom into question. However, there are also many other fans that simply may have had a life event (like a birth, a sickness, a temporary job relocation) disrupt a single year of their attendance, and despite devoutly attending games for a decade before, they’re subject to the same revocation.  The Broncos have every right to do that, but it doesn’t make it a complete jerk move and fan-hostile.

Mobile ticketing ENABLES season ticket audits. I’m all for preventing scalping, but if you were serious about punishing scalpers you could send an intern out on game day, pretend to consider a scalper’s ticket and note the seat #, call the ticket holder the next day.  Sure it takes a little more work, but it punishes those who are egregiously violating your policies, rather than the low-hanging fruit of new parents that sold the tickets to their next-door neighbors.

If you go read the article and the FAQ, they’ll tout that 35% of their fans used mobile ticketing last year, conveniently forgetting that 2/3 of their other fans have never used this process.  I’d get it if 80-90% of the fanbase were using their phones to get into games, but don’t pretend they’re not trying to ram something down fans throats that they didn’t even ask for. Don’t piss on my leg and then tell me that you’re making me fire-retardant.

What about for friends who buy my tickets or if I can’t go? Now they’re all going to need TicketExchange accounts and I will basically need to handhold their app experience. Where’s the convenience in that? Now the Broncos are making their season ticket holders your front-line support for your app. I imagine that many more fans are going to have a similar experience to my Mumford and Sons story from above. Emailing tickets to my friends wasn’t a problem that needed solving.

I went back & forth on Twitter with one of their PR reps (and to their credit, they were at least responding – unlike last year), and he was quick to justify that other teams were doing this and that the NFL is moving over to this.  However, the Avalanche, Nuggets, and Rockies are still providing paper tickets with nice commemorative designs.  Even if many more teams were using this system, just because others (don’t) do it, doesn’t make it right. This is a race to the bottom for the fan experience. Commemorative tix aren’t the issue – introducing a barrier (preventing printing) to my “honest fan” experience, all to collect data to possibly punish me later on – is.

This isn’t about being a luddite or not embracing technology, this is about protecting yourself from data harvesting that is only going to be used to punish you, as the Broncos and NFL continue to squeeze blood out of turnips for their money-printing machines.

This podcast blew my 16-year-old mind

You may know that I’m an avid Podcast listener, going on for ten years and am currently subscribed to 105 different shows. With as much as I listen, few episodes stick with me, but this one from The Slate’s Hit Parade went back in time and blew my formative teenage mind, leaving me to question whether the formation of my pop music appreciation is a complete sham.

I read somewhere that the music you’re exposed to from the time you’re a teen into early twenties has the biggest impact towards your appreciation. In your mind, that is the most iconic period of music and since then has likely gotten worse.  As I’m 36 now, my middle school and high school years occurred during this period that was covered in the podcast. I was lucky enough to have parents that gave me a pretty wide berth in what I could listen to and buy, and I ended spending a sizable amount of money on albums throughout the 90’s.

Listening to this Podcast made some really deep cuts against my music psyche. If you went to high school the same time I did, I’d really suggest you listen to this, but the gist of the podcast is that the record industry severely ratcheted down the selling of single cassettes and CD’s of band hits to force consumers to buy the entire album if they wanted to own the song.  As the podcast went through example after example of these albums, I realized that I ended up owning many albums by these one-hit wonders.

To a teenager, $15 was a sizable amount of money, often representing a couple hours of work.  When I shelled out money for those albums, I had a strong incentive to not feel like I flushed my cash down the drain – and as a result not only did I listen to those entire albums, but I convinced myself that it was a good album, conditioning myself to appreciate all of the album’s tracks.  The problem is that repressed, deep in the recesses of my mind, I secretly knew the album wasn’t good, and come to find out that in many cases the record companies felt the same way – but they just wanted to take my money.

That’s not to say that there weren’t iconic albums in the 90’s – Pearl Jam’s Ten and Vs., Alanis’ Jagged Little PIll, Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and Infinite Sadness come to mind for me, but for every one of those, I also had the misfortune of owning Chumbawumba’s Tubthumping, Primitive Radio Gods Rocket, and Shawn Mullins’ Soul’s Core. Nothing against those artists, and being in a band myself I know that your music can’t appeal to everyone – but the point is that during the 90’s consumers who wanted to own your one hit song was forced to buy the entire album, with the record industry laughing their way to the bank.

I was on the ground level when Mp3’s starting propagating the landscape and giving way to Napster and iTunes, making the single once again accessible to everyone.  This podcast goes to show that downloading wasn’t simply about stealing music, but was as much about disrupting a very corrupt business model.  It’s crazy to think just how different things are today, with most songs available on a whim to be streamed on our phones.  In today’s age, the value of the album has been questioned by many musicians, including myself. Artists are coming to grip with the fact that recordings have been reduced to a commodity, from once being the product to now being a tool to help market your product (your live shows and relationships with fans).  People still put a lot of care into the constructing of albums, but many artists are now more concerned with churning out new music at a regular pace.

I don’t often wear my tinfoil hat, but it is mind-blowing just how much of our formative appreciation of art is decided by rich white guys in boardrooms. Give the podcast a listen and let me know which of those songs and albums resonate with you.

Clara’s First Day of School!

I know it’s cliche to say that these kids are growing up too quickly, but it’s really quite remarkable just how true that is.

Today Clara started pre-school at her elementary school, and she couldn’t be more proud or excited. Ever since the kids in her daycare have started school, Clara’s been keenly interested in school. At home she’ll often pack her backpack and proclaim that she’s off to school, then going to her room and enacting a school day.  We’ve often had to curtail her ambition about starting school, reminding her it was a ways off.

That day has finally come, and while her early childhood has been a joyous journey, this did still manage to take us by surprise. Clara’s grown into a confident and articulate little girl, and that really became self-evident when she sat right down at her little table and started working on her art project. Bethany and I waved at her through the window, knowing that her excitement had trumped any nervousness or fear of being without her parents.  It also became a little emotional, realizing that this is Clara’s first opportunity to interact with a large group of kids each day, being exposed to different ideas and values, some of which may challenge our own.  The village is now helping raise our little girl. Of course, we’ll be here to foster that, but there is still some significance in presenting your children to the world.

Here’s to more great days of school!

 

Educating my home

Over this Christmas we took the plunge into the smart home craze.  This started with the purchase of a Google Home, which I bought as soon as it was available.  We ended up loving it so much that we bought a second one during a Black Friday sale. We then ventured into getting a smart thermostat, a smart door bell, smart switches and smart lights.  About a month into everything I’m mostly satisfied with our purchases, although I would say that few have crossed the line of “luxury” into “necessity”.

There’s still a lot more we can do to smarten up our home, but here are the products I got to dip my toe into the water (in the order they were purchased):

  • Google Chromecast (+ Chromecast Audio)
  • Google Home
  • Belkin WeMo Switches
  • Lowes Iris Switch
  • Ecobee3 Thermostat
  • Ring Video Doorbell
  • Philips Hue Lights

Google Chromecast (+ Chromecast Audio)

We actually began the journey with the Google Chromecast audio last spring, when we bought a device to put into our kitchen.  We love having music on while we’re cooking, which was previously powered by bookshelf speakers I mounted on the wall, then ran off the desktop computer through speaker-wire running through holes I drilled into the adjacent office.  When the office was transformed into Clara’s room, we needed a replacement for the desktop and found Chromecast to be a great solution.

The Chromecast audios, combined with a set of speakers and a digital amplifier similar to this one, makes a good poor-man’s version of the Sonos.  We ended up buying a second Chromecast Audio and have it running from another amplifier to outdoor speakers on our back patio. The beauty of the Chromecast is that you can push audio from most major services/apps (like Spotify, Pandora, podcast players) and create zones inside your house that synchronizes that audio.  This has been awesome for parties we host, or those summer nights when you’re cooking outside and in the kitchen.

Google Home


Enter the Google Home. I was intrigued by the Amazon Echo and had multiple family members who raved about the device, but I held off getting one because it didn’t have the one killer feature I wanted – the ability to play music to the Chromecast.  After going to the trouble we did to find the Chromecast Audio, I didn’t want to have to choose between decent speakers and not-so-good speakers coming from the Echo.  We bought the Google home as soon as it came out almost on the sole basis of the ability to direct audio to Chromecast. It’s great to be able to tell google to “Play (my playlist) in the kitchen” and watch it go to work.  I think Alexa is still an excellent product, but I’m wiling to bet on Google’s AI and ability to interpret voice, as well as it’s openness in having an API that can integrate with technologies. So far that is starting to pay off, with Google now working with WeMo, Philips Hue, but most importantly, IFTT (If This, Then That) enables us to use voice commands to control the devices around the house (as well as customize Google’s responses).

Home is really handy for setting timers (which we use frequently with parenting), add items to our shopping list (it’s great when you’re cooking and can simply call out the ingredients), as well as  answer random questions throughout the day. We ended up getting a second Google and put one in the kitchen with the other on our bedroom.  I think most people could get by with one, but it has been handy to have the other one to provide news in the morning and play music during bath-time.

I still have a lot of wish-list items for Google Home, however.  It really can only be associated with one account, which doesn’t make much sense for a family device.  We’ve tried to get around this by setting up a family account and porting data from both of our accounts, but it still has a lot of kinks. Google still doesn’t support reminders/tasks or random notes. The Chromecast control for Spotify is pretty decent, but the Video Chromecast leaves a lot to be desired.  I would be over the moon if somehow Plex could get integrated with the Chromecast voice commands.

Belkin WeMo Switches

I bought a single WeMo switch the last time it went on sale and use it to control our living room lamps.  The switch was really easy to set up, and with Google Home integration it does it’s job really well. It was easy to set up and does support setting schedules (which we do when we’re out of town).

The only problem with the WeMo switch is that I don’t have many other appliciances or devices that would be handy.  Lamps make a lot of sense since they can remain in an “on” state and allow the switch to control the flow of power, but most other devices are too smart to just remain on all the time. Ideally I would love to have a WeMo that would control the TV setup so we can have it randomly turn on while we’re on vacation.  I know there are a lot of other WeMo devices that may support this, but it’s not a big priority.

Lowes Iris Switch

When we bought our Christmas tree Lowe’s had a promotion that made the switch really cheap. It works a lot like the WeMo switch, but has a lot less features. It doens’t integrate with Google Home or IFTT, so it’s really just been relagated to running a kitchen lamp on a schedule.  All things being equal, I would pay extra for the WeMo switch.

Ecobee3 Thermostat


Next to the Google Home, this is probably the most useful smart device we’ve bought. While you can make your thermostat efficient by programming a comprehensive schedule, the functionality with a wifi enabled thermostats really makes it easy to manage and monitor your HVAC.  In our home we only have one zone, with the Theo state located in the living room. The furnace sits below our bedroom, with the girls bedrooms on the opposite end of the house. Often during cold nights the girls rooms would often be the coldest, with us being forced to crank up the heat in our room for most of the night.

I was really nervous about the installation, but it really couldn’t have gone easier (even with installing the little power adapter on the furnace).  The accompanying app has very detailed videos that walked me through the installation.

What puts the Ecobee over the Nest is its  ability to have remote sensors being placed throughout the house (we put one in Mariana’s room, the coldest room in the house). The Ecobee uses those sensors to build an average (or you can configure it to make the sensor the primary temperature gage) and equate that to the heat threshold.  The end result has been that our room isn’t as hot and the heat has been more consistent throughout the house.  Our home energy report claims that we are extremely efficient, but it’s hard to tell how much money we have saved just yet. The Ecobee lets you control everything remotely as well through your phone.  In terms of band-for the-buck, this has been the best device.

Ring Video Doorbell


This device was one of my Christmas presents.  Having recently become a teleworker, my home office is deep with the bowels of the basement, where the doorbell isn’t always heard (and I’m often on calls).  In addition to ringing the normal doorbell, the Ring sends notifications to the phones, tablets, and even my computer through the app.  You can then choose whether you want to view a live video feed and even talk to someone through the doorbell.  The Ring also has a motion sensor that lets you set the detection range, and will even capture video when the sensors are tripped (as well as sending you a notication). The Ring installation was also relatively easy, and we were able to hardware it with ease.

The only major gripe I have about the Ring is that it’s an extremely technological replacement for a very simple and archaic appliance (your doorbell). With houses not being wired to send much power to the doorbell, the Ring is limited in how much power it can use to charge. During our deep cold spell this winter, the Ring’s lithium battery wasn’t able to keep the charge and ended up requiring me to take the doorbell off and charge it in the house – so you need to be careful how often you use the “video” features, especially during cold spells.

Luckily we don’t have too many people coming to our door, so I often forget about the Ring, but it has been really handy for giving piece of mind.  I would say that it’s probably the most frivolous device. I’m glad I got it as a gift because I’m not sure if I could mentally justify purchasing it.

Philips Hue Lights


We bought two Hue light bulbs and placed them in our living room ceiling lights.  We’re pretty happy with having them up there, being able to set different colors and levels of brightness through the app on our phone (as well as Google Home integration).  If you’re looking for a really vibrant way to feel like you’re in the future, having Hue Lights will accomplish that.

On the flip side, the lights aren’t the most practical purchase you can make. While it is convenient to tell Google Home to turn on the lights when you walk in the door, I’m not sure if it saves much more time than the light switch (especially when you’re telling Google Home for the second or third time).  The cost can quickly add up, and really only pay off if you’re able to outfit all the lights in the room (which made the living room the easiest barrier to entry).  Eventually I would like to buy some lights for the outdoors (and be able to change them colors at different times throughout the year, but again it’s hard to justify the cost.  It’ll be quite a while before we outfit our 10 movie room lights downstairs. One thing that’s important to note is that you HAVE to buy a hub for the lights to work, so you’ll be dropping $50 before you even get any lights.  I would suggest that you pay the extra to have the colored lights, the white-only lights can only do so many tricks.

While it has been a lot of fun having all these gadgets and tricks in our home, I think we’re a long way off from having a completely Smart Home.  I also don’t think people who can’t afford to shell out for these devices should be afraid of missing out.  If I were to recommend one device, I would suggest getting the Ecobee – especially if you have tempterature consistency issues in your house. If you’re looking for a device that makes you feel like you’re in the future, get the Google Home.

What about you? Have you outfitted your house with any smart devices?  I’d love to hear your story!