Just When I Thought I Was Out

Yesterday I was drawn back in, if only for an hour or so. I got to see my favorite driver win at the most storied track in American Motorsport if not World Motorsport. He did it as he has done it most of his career – he took a great car and won, for the 90th time to be exact. He is now in sole possession of third place on the All-Time Wins list and only 15 back of David Pearson. He may or may not reach that number and his current pace would argue against him hitting that mark. However, for this one afternoon, he had the best car and was the best driver, overcoming a late caution and potentially troublesome restart to take the lead. What does this all mean for rest of the season? Who knows, but as Gordon said after the race, the best team with the best car and the best driver usually wins at Indy, and most years that is enough for a title as well. He will no doubt have to pass his protege to win this season and maybe this is nothing more than an indian summer, but I hope its a bit more than that. I think Gordon has one more title in him and the drive for five is still alive!

Photo Credit: Dave Parker (AP)

Short Range Vision

Kirk Goldsberry, writing for Grantland, on former Wolfpack star T.J. Warren:

Despite his obvious scoring prowess, it’s how and where he scores that make him so intriguing. Warren is a true throwback, scoring in ways and in places that the league has largely forsaken.

That’s from Goldsberry’s seemingly optimistic introduction. Goldsberry takes a sharp turn toward reality in his conclusion:

As a small forward trying to find a place in today’s NBA, it doesn’t bode well for Warren that he made just 17 of 88 shots (19 percent) beyond 16 feet last season. For him to maximize his value, Warren will not only have to continue his success close to the hoop, he’ll also have to improve both his frequency and his efficiency out on the perimeter.

I don’t disagree with Goldsberry’s assessment; I just hope the “short” commentary surrounding Warren turns out a lot like the commentary surrounding another former Wolfpack athlete.

Round and Round

Ever since Matt Kenseth’s unfathomable1 one-win Sprint Cup championship run, NASCAR hasn’t been able to sit still on tweaking their Championship format. The very next season, NASCAR introduced the Chase for the Championship. I think it’s safe to say it’s been a success … for Jimmie Johnson.

But no four years have been alike with the Chase, as they’ve been tweaking the formula ever since. This year, they expanded the Chase even more while simultaneously placing a “greater emphasis on winning”. To go along with the new emphasis on winning, they’re also highlighting the drivers who are chasing each other with special paint scheme elements for Chase eligible drivers. I actually kind of like this change, though admittedly I’m not sure this isn’t that different from the glowing puck that invaded our television screens twenty years ago courtesy of Fox. It also begs the question – should the cars ineligible for the Chase even be out there to begin with2?

  1. Albeit well-deserved and not necessarily unprecedented, as Terry Labonte garnered two Championships with just two wins.
  2. The quick answer is yes because having the full field running around the track is part of racing. But think about the possibilities for a second. Yeah, there it is.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards

For the Birds

I love the Baltimore Orioles. You’d just never know it because I don’t really love baseball. But I do give the MLB scoreboard and standings more than a passing glance at least weekly. And for the past twenty years those passing glances have created more than their fair share of disappointment. The last three years have been a breath of fresh air in Baltimore, though, and it’s been fun to experience the resurrection of a once-proud franchise whose championship futility was not as long-suffering as Boston’s, but explored depths rivaled by only a handful of franchises.

I came to follow the Birds by way of my grandfather, who watched their games from his Hagerstown, MD home near-religiously. Until this summer, I’d never attended a game at Camden Yards1, but I felt a sense of pride any time I saw the almost 25 year old ballpark show up in ranking after indomitable ranking as one of the best ballparks to catch a baseball game. It goes without saying that Cal Ripken, Jr carries hero status in my realm of influence.

The Orioles aren’t a storied franchise like their division brethren Yankees or Red Sox but they do have some tradition and three World Series Championships. They haven’t really been good since 1997; and while most define their downfall as the post-Ripken era, in my mind it began with the Jeffrey Maier drop-catch in the 1996 ALCS2.

Today, however, they’re on the upswing. Going into the All Star break, they’re at the top of the AL East. Three of their key starters are homegrown talents3 and their common practice of attracting aging talent4 with golden parachutes appears to be a thing of the past. Buck Showalter came in and installed, at the very least, a new culture that, while certainly not earth-shattering, has provided plenty of unfamiliar and noteworthy results.

Who knows where this season will end up, but it’s nice to have the luxury of cautious optimism at the All Star break. If nothing else, it’s at least fun to watch the O’s again and it’s nice when I can raise a glass, take a drink and mean it when I say, “This one’s for the Birds!”.

  1. I attended a game or two when I was younger and the O’s played in the much less heralded Memorial Stadium.
  2. If Maier doesn’t interfere – and it was interference – I think the O’s win that game and that puts them up 2-0 on the Yankees and going home for the next two games. I still contend they would have won that series if the Maier interference is called differently.
  3. Notably Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, and Manny Machado.
  4. It seems a little unfair to call Tejada aging talent during his first stint as an Oriole. Remember, however, that Tejada was supposedly 27 at the time – he was really 29.
iPad mini

Starter Pack

Even though I’m a proud iOS user for over four years now, I’ve never done a must-have list for iOS apps. I just picked up a new first generation iPad mini (for the daughter) and that created a perfect opportunity to start making my list. Even though the iPad is intended for my daughter, I’m pretty sure it will jump into my hands a few times a day so I might as well get some use out of it.


Without question Instapaper is the first non-standard app that I install on every iOS device I own. As soon as it came out for Android, I even installed it on my wife’s then-phone, the only Android device in our household. I come across a ton of stuff on the net that I want to read but rarely at the right time – Instapaper plays a crucial role in helping me punch through all of those articles. I love it, can’t live without it and I’m not sure why I haven’t gotten an iPad just for Instapaper. I’m starting to seriously question my priorities.


I don’t tweet a ton, but I check Twitter obsessively and I can’t imagine what it’s like to experience Twitter without Tweetbot. Sometimes friends will tell me something that annoys them about Twitter and I’ll look at them puzzlingly – forgetting that I interact with Twitter through the Tapbots lens. Once it hits me, I send that lost soul a link to Tweetbot and tell them they’ll thank me later.


This spot was previously occupied by Elements 2, but then development on that app slowed (for good reasons) and I decided to make Vesper my note-taking app of choice. Thankfully, this shift coincided with the release of Vesper Sync, a homemade solution to that ever-challenging sync problem. I don’t take copious amounts of notes on my iPhone, but when I do, I use Vesper.

Reeder 2

Okay, I confess. I’m one of the nerds that has and always will use RSS for news and blog site updates. Twitter has gone a long way to becoming the “what’s up” spot for the typical net junkie, but I find Twitter too ephemeral. I actually want to keep up with a handful of sites, not just find out what is hot off the press. RSS clients make keeping up with blogs just like keeping up with email – both the good and the bad. Reeder 2 not only helps make that task manageable, but also fun and efficient. Swipe, tap and hold, or just drag scroll to browse, save for later, mark as read, or skim. It’s all on the table and it looks clean, not cluttered. I love Reeder 2, it is definitely a must-have for me. (Reeder 2 for Mac is also now available.)

Day One

I don’t journal often, but when I do, I use Day One (iOS and Mac). Day One is a Markdown compatible journaling app that offers a beautiful, easy to use interface with lots of great journaling features. You can automatically add meta-data like the current weather and your location. Using the data from Forecast.io (my go-to weather source) Day One can even go back in time to fetch the weather if you are back-dating a post. Because I still can’t get in the habit of journaling, I resolved this year to write not only journal entries in Day One but also blog post drafts. I have only a so-so success rate so far (this post was written primarily in the WordPress iOS app) but I can’t deny that writing in Day One is an absolute pleasure and I always love using it when the mood strikes.


Oy, email. I’ve never really loved email on the iPhone. The closest thing to a great experience I’ve had came in the form of Sparrow, acquired and then sunset by Google in an obvious acqui-hire move. But even Sparrow had it’s drawbacks, primarily the lack of push notifications. Mailbox was and still is a great alternative to Sparrow (and of course, the default iOS Mail app) with only one drawback – reliance on its own servers for push management (and also probably some of the fancy stuff they do with to-do/email snoozing, more on that in a bit). Mailbox has the best interface of any other mail apps I’ve tried and aside from a few server delays every once in a while and that lingering 3rd party server worry, I love checking, reading and writing email in it. That said, I don’t use it for my primary email account1 because I’m apprehensive about relying on a 3rd party server for my main email account (privacy, reliability and longevity are my big concerns in that regard). I’m also really anxious for the Mac app.


Twitter and Instagram are my primary social media vices, with a little sprinkling of Facebook as a way of keeping up with far away friends. I love photos and all of the interesting things you can do with them, including the style-heavy filters that Instagram practically introduced to the mobile photography layperson. These days I try to keep my filtering to a minimum (the oft-used #nofilter), though I do make the occasional use of filters from …


I’m still kind of weening myself off of Camera+, but as I evolve into less frequent use of the Depth of Field filter, I’m finding myself turning to VSCO Cam. Like a host of other camera apps in the App Store, VSCO Cam features filters and tweaks to amplify or downplay your photos to give them a custom, professional touch. The difference with VSCO Cam is that it features the power of the Visual Supply Company, purveyors of highly regarded post-processing photo filters since 2011.

OmniFocus 2

I’m still finding my place in OmniFocus, but I know that I’d be twenty steps back if it weren’t for even my primitive use of it. Other popular list/todo apps are far simpler (Clear, Due), but the simplicity comes at the cost of fairly anemic customization options. For someone who relies on simple lists for task management, run away from OmniFocus and stick with any of the aforementioned apps, among others. But if you are a productivity nerd, you have to try OmniFocus. (The much-anticipated OmniFocus 2 was recently released for the Mac.)

Dark Sky

Oh the weather. Earlier I mentioned Day One’s use of forecast.io data to retrieve weather data for backdated posts – Dark Sky is the founding app from the group behind the forecast.io data. If I had written this article just a few months ago, Dark Sky would not have placed this high on the list. But back in January, the Dark Sky team revamped the app considerably. At launch, Dark Sky’s primary purpose was to tell if it is currently raining or how soon it’s going to rain if precipitation is close. Now, it is a full-fledged weather app. The visualizations are awesome and most of the info any amateur meteorologist will need is right at your finger tips.

Fantastical 2

To tell you the truth, I could probably get by with the new calendar in iOS 7 but by the time it reached my phone it was too late; Fantastical had a tight grip on my life scheduling sensibilities and it wasn’t letting go. In calendar applications, I like to jump back and forth between week and month views and Fantastical 2 handles this incredibly swiftly on iPhone. Though I typically prefer month views that show more event details (title & time at least), Fantastical has enough tap-slide-tap capabilities that I don’t really feel like the information I need is far beyond my reach. The horizontal week view they added with their major post-iOS 7 update only solidified their spot on my two-app home screen grid2 (besides the four I keep in the dock). I check my calendar constantly but Fantastical makes the experience efficient enough to remove some of the friction that makes that such a burdensome task.

  1. About a month ago, I finally gave up on Sparrow and started using Boxer.
  2. Fantastical, OmniFocus. I’m also in the four-apps dock camp: Launch Center Pro, Boxer Mail, Phone, Messages.

Counter Trays

I’ve only sparingly followed the happenings of the local Fire in the Triangle series (which I just recently learned is a stepping stone to an even larger series), but this past week’s event really caught my attention. Along with featuring a chef from a new favorite, the secret ingredient pairing was Angus Beef and Counter Culture coffee. Curiosity piqued!

Overall it doesn’t seem like the food fared well, with the evening’s courses peaking unceremoniously with dessert. That said, I’ll never look at my bags of Counter Culture the same, equipped now with the knowledge that I should take them into consideration when planning my next meal.

Additional Reading

For other coffee-infused treats, check out Stumptown Coffee’s Fourth of July recipes.