Social Television: The Downfall of Internet TV Like House of Cards?

Social Television and House of Cards

Social Television:

  1. A silly-sounding buzz phrase that makes me roll my eyes.
  2. An actual thing where people watch a television show and discuss it live on social media.

Yeah, a phrase like “social television” makes me throw up a little in my mouth. And yet social TV is a huge piece of what makes series like Downton AbbeyBreaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy so enjoyable. The ability to watch a show at the same time as millions of other people and react with them immediately? It is amazing and a joy brought exclusively by the internet.

So it is fascinating that internet-only shows, like Netflix’s House of Cards, fall flat when it comes to social television. Its greatest strength — the internet — also becomes its greatest weakness.

Downton Abbey and Social TV
For the first time this third season of Downton Abbey, I watched an episode with the rest of the United States. Before the season finale, I had viewed every episode online about a day after it originally aired on the BBC. Me and a friend would find a way to download and watch Downton together in my living room. I knew there were others out there like me, but we never talked. Never Tweeted. Never shared our thoughts on Facebook. Secret cheaters, happy for the instant gratification and laughing at the poor saps who were waiting. I did this through Downton’s regular season all the way up to the “Christmas Special,” which I never watched.

Then a few months later, [spoiler alert] Sybil died again, only this time in the United States. My Twitter stream Blew. Up. Tears and hashtags galore. I was taken aback: I had not been as moved by Sybil’s death when I watched on my own (I’ll admit some moist eyes and that’s it!), but I also missed out on getting a chance to actually talk about it with everyone! #FinallyInteresting #ReallyThatSad? #ByeByeSybil

Then last night, as I was back on schedule with the United States, I learned about [spoiler alert] Matthew. As blood trickled from his ear, my first reaction was to grab my phone to see what everyone was saying, and to add my own thoughts.

Virtual Water Cooler?
As disappointed as I was in the Downton Abbey season finale, the ability to immediately share that with my friends was extremely gratifying. Would my feelings on the season finale be different had I had this social viewing before tonight? Makes me think back even further to a show like LOST. I don’t think social TV was as much of “a thing” back then. But I definitely had a group of friends around the country that I went through the same experiences with each week: watch the show, throw things at the TV, email our theories until the next episode. As I grew frustrated with the show, what kept me going was probably 50% wanting to know how it all would finally end (#LetDown) and 50% not wanting to lose that group.

And this social aspect is exactly what is missing from shows like Netflix’s House of Cards.

#PeterRusso! #Peachoid! #ZoeBarnesFilthyApartment!

These are all hashtags that should have run through my Twitter feed, but they never did. Instead, I watched all 13 episodes in solitude and occasionally saw others mention doing the same. It is a similar feeling to being a secret Downton cheat. “Oh, you’re watching that too? Well, we’ll talk about it when everyone catches up.” Only that moment when you know everyone is on the same page never arrives!

We need to invent new communication systems, where only people who have made it through Episode X can discuss with others who have made it exactly that far.
~ David Winer wanting to discuss House of Cards online.

So is internet TV like House of Cards doomed? #Duh. Of course not. But if Netflix really wants people watching these internet-only shows now, someone is going to have to figure out how to talk about it on the internet right as your watching it on the internet.

What do you think? Do you miss the live action online communication while watching shows like House of Cards, or am I completely crazy? Tell me in the comments!

3 Educational Videos That Have Changed My Life

The following three videos, all picked up from Lifehacker, have changed my life forever. I could keep these wonders to myself but I feel like that would be selfish. So here we go.

1. Close Chip Bags Without the Clip

Bag clips? We don’t need no stinking bag clips!

This involves a bit of a learning curve. But if you put in the effort you can definitely master this bag folding technique and easily keep food fresh without the help of simple machines!


2. Open a Banana Like a Monkey

This video absolutely blew my mind. As the guy in the video says, for my entire adult life I was opening bananas wrong. If the stem wasn’t ripe, or wasn’t long enough, or too ripe, getting the peel open to eat my banana would be tough.

But when you open a banana from the other end, like monkeys do it, there is never a problem. Ever. It’s unbelievable.


3. Extend Your Razor’s Life With a Pair of Jeans

I hate shaving. Even more than that, I hate buying expensive razor blade replacements to do something I hate. The box always says they will last for some extended period of time and inevitably I find myself buying a new pack every few months.

Well, that was the case until I learned to sharpen my disposable razor blades with a pair of jeans. Now I actually don’t remember the last time I bought a new set of razors. I think the blade on my razor right now has been going for 6 months or more, and it cuts like new each shave.

Use a Cast Iron Skillet to Perfectly Reheat Leftover Pizza

I love a greasy slice of pizza. Even better, I love greasy whole pie of pizza. Unfortunately, if I want to live another day to eat more greasy pizza I can’t eat a whole pie all in one sitting. (perhaps that’s another feat of stomach strength to try later)

So the leftover pizza gets wrapped up and thrown into the fridge and comes out the next day cold and stiff with no great way to reheat it. Frowny faces all around.

Well, let’s turn that frown upside down and then stuff it with leftover pizza, because I have discovered the secret to perfectly reheated pizza: Use a preheated cast iron skillet!

Well, it’s actually a combo microwave, cast iron skillet we got going on. Yeah, that’s right, I said “microwave” in reference to reheating pizza. But don’t run away just yet. Here’s how it works.

1. Preheat the Cast Iron Skillets.

I usually throw the skillets in the oven and turn the temperature up to about 425°. Why do this? Because we are going to eventually bake the pizza on the skillets in the oven and this will make for a perfectly crispy crust!

Reheating Pizza: Preheat the Cast Iron Skillet

2. Preheat the pizza in the microwave.

Seriously, use the microwave for leftover pizza. Just a little though. We’re only going to warm up the pizza so it doesn’t have to be in the oven for all that long. Turn the microwave’s power down a notch, to something like 50% or 70% power and nuke it until the cheese starts to get a little melty on top; don’t go too crazy.

Reheating Pizza: Nuke it But Not at Full Power

3. Throw the warmed pizza slices on the preheated skillet.

Here’s the secret ingredient, if you will. Your pizza is warm and the cheese is slightly melty. Your cast iron skillets are all hot and bothered. Throw the pizza on there and let it cook in the oven until they look ready to eat to your liking.

Reheating Pizza: Place the Pizza Slices on the Skillet

4. Take the pizza out of the oven and enjoy the heck out of it.

Just listen to that sizzle!

Everything is re-cooked to perfection: the crust is crispy, cheese is melted, the taste is hot and delicious. Reheated pizza just cannot get better than this.

Have any pizza reheating tips? Am I cray cray for thinking this is the way to do it? Shout about it in the comments.

PS – this pizza comes from Same Old Place in Jamaica Plain, which so far is the best New York Style pizza I have found in Boston.

Georgetown Cupcake is Coming to Boston

Boston, are you ready for true cupcake deliciousness to make love to your taste buds?

Yesterday I asked if Kickass Cupcakes are really the best Boston has to offer, saying they just don’t stack up to Georgetown Cupcake.

Well, it turns out Georgetown Cupcake was already well aware of Boston’s cupcake tastiness gap:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/GTownCupcake/statuses/144530053915619329"]
And opening their shop less than a mile from Sweet Cupcakes?! The flour sacks on them Georgetown Cupcake ladies!

I cannot wait! Maybe I should head over there and save my spot in line right now.

Are Kick*ss Cupcakes Really the Best in Boston?

Kick*ass Cupcake Truck GirlWalking on Boylston Street in Boston yesterday I saw a wonderful site: a Kickass Cupcake truck.

I know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t it redundant to say a cupcake truck is ‘kickass.’ It’s a truck that serves cupcakes!!” True, but this was a truck owned and operated by Kickass Cupcakes of Somerville.

I saw a woman walking away from the truck, cupcake in hand, and I asked her if Kickass Cupcakes are any good. She laughed and responded, “They’re the best in Boston.”

Well, let me say this: if Kickass Cupcakes are the best Boston has to offer, then Beantown’s cupcake scene is hurting.

I didn’t always care about cupcakes. When the cupcake craze hit New York City I ignored it. Soon after, it arrived in Washington, DC (where I lived at the time) and I rolled my eyes. When a friend told me they wanted to wait in line for over 30 minutes to eat at Georgetown Cupcake I whined the whole time.

The whining stopped that day and forever after when I bit down into my first Georgetown Cupcake – Key Lime. The cream cheese icing blew me away, but so did the soft and moist cake. We ordered a half dozen cupcakes to share and they were all out of this world: Red Velvet, Chocolate Ganache…I can’t remember every flavor we tried but I do know that I loved them all. Everything was rich and full of flavor and seemed to melt in my mouth.

Since then I have tasted many supposedly great cupcakes and only been disappointed. Icings are usually too sugary with no distinct flavor. The actual cake part – roughly 75% of the food, and actually part of its name (!!!) – is almost always bland and dense.

Kickass Cupcakes, however, were different. They had fascinating ingredient combinations. Take the two cupcakes I tried:

Caramel Mochiatto – chocolate cupcake, caramel center and mocha frosting topped with chocolate covered espresso beans took things a step further by piling the toppings high.

S’Mores – graham cracker cupcake with chocolate ganache and a toasted vanilla bean marshmallow

There’s caramel baked into the cake just waiting to ooze out with every bite! I actually pulled a muscle trying to open my cakehole wide enough to eat all the S’Mores ingredients at once.

Unfortunately, the excitement only made the disappointment greater. The “graham cracker cupcake” tasted like a dry piece of cornbread. The “caramel center” was nice but the “mocha frosting” was really just generic sugar icing that there was so much of I hardly tasted the chocolate-covered espresso beans.

This was a life lesson in food eating: Don’t get distracted by ingredients piled high. More is not always better when it comes to food. If that were the case an 18-topping stuffed crust Pizza Hut pie would be the measuring stick by which all pizzas are judged.

So tell me, Boston:
- Are Kickass Cupcakes the best in Boston? If so, tell me which cupcake I need to eat.
- Is there a simple but delicious cupcake to be found elsewhere in Boston?
- Or do cupcakes in Boston just suck and I should give up my search now?

photo by Dinner Series via Flickr

UPDATE: Boston cupcake makers are about to get learned. Georgetown Cupcake is coming to Boston in the Spring, opening a shop on Newbury Street.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/#!/GTownCupcake/statuses/144530053915619329"]

Should I go start waiting in line now?

Jalapeño-Infused Vodka Lime Drink Thing

At the Bella Luna Milky Way Restaurant and Lounge in JP this weekend I had a drink they call Some Like It Hot. It is delicious: Jalapeno-infused vodka, muddled limes, simple syrup. Added to that is a secret ingredient the bar tender said is a drop of juice from a jar of cherry peppers.

I had to be able to make my own version at home.

Step 1: Infuse the vodka with jalapeños.
Jalapenos in VodkaI looked up a few recipes online but decided to mostly just listen to the Bella Luna Milky Way bar tender’s advice: slice up some jalapeños and let it sit in the vodka for 24 hours. Easy enough. I went with Absolut vodka mostly because it comes in a clear glass bottle that would makes for easy viewing of the jalapeños. (oooh, pretty)

I sliced the jalapeños length-wise and squeezed them through the neck of the Absolut. Then I let the bottle sit in a dark cabinet for 24 hours, shaking the mixture whenever I remembered. My randomly-chosen ratio was 3 sliced jalapeños to 1 liter of vodka.

Step 2: Mix Your Drink
I didn’t really have all of his exact ingredients so I decided to improvise. Instead of “cherry peppers” – whatever those are – I picked up a jar of Peppadew Peppers. Why? Because they looked like what the bar tender had used and I happen to run across them in Whole Foods. I don’t have any Simple Syrup pre-made so I just used a dash of sugar. And I wanted a little extra sourness so I used a combination of a muddled lime, lime juice and Rose’s Lime Juice.

Final mixture:

  •  3-4 oz. of homemade jalapeño-infused vodka
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 1 oz. Rose’s Lime Juice
  • Large slice of lime
  • Dash of sugar

Muddle the lime in the above mixture. Add ice. Shake turbulently.

Before you pour the mixture into a martini glass, add a large drop of the Peppadew juice straight from the jar. Throw in one whole Peppadew, mostly for aesthetics. Pour into the glass.

Step 3: Enjoy your spicy concoction.

Jalapeño-Infused Vodka Lime Drink Thing

Damn, that’s one spicy meatball!

Building a Fireplace With Legos

FireRock Outdoor Fireplace KitI am not much of a ::airquotes:: handy man. I don’t know how to ::airquotes:: build a deck. If I get a flat tire I might call roadside assistance to ::airquotes:: change the tire. Maybe hammers ::airquotes:: frighten me a little.

And yet I’m fascinated by these FireRock outdoor fireplace kits.

What is a fireplace kit? (update: FireRock explains fireplace kits in more detail) It’s basically the skeleton of a pre-engineered fireplace. They give you the pieces. Those pieces fit in place like putting together Legos, and then you just build your fireplace facade around it.

FireRock says you can build a fireplace in 4 steps and though I don’t really know the first thing about ::airquotes:: pouring concrete, I feel like I could actually do this!

Now all I need is a backyard…

The Time I Shook Hands Like The Queen

Shaking Hands Like the QueenI love this breakdown of the 7 handshakes to avoid in an interview.

Part of why this resonated with me is that there is a story that has  become handshake lore among my friends. It involves a combination of the Limp-noodle and Shooter handshake, but that probably can only be best demonstrated in person rather than through a blog post.

But the handshake list did take my memory back to an interview I had coming out of college where I accidentally gave someone the Queen Handshake.

I had spent all day at this company interviewing with about 5 different people as I was shuffled from room to room. On my last interview I got up and the interviewer reached out his hand.

Carnegie Mellon had prepared us well for interviewing and emphasized the importance of a good handshake. So all day this was on my mind at the end of each interview. And like I had done 4 times previously that day, I stuck my hand out in return expecting to give a normal, appropriately firm shake. Only this time, the back of my hand somehow ended facing up as if I was a queen offering him to kiss it.

There was a notable awkward pause and I’m not even sure what happened next. Perhaps I curtsied, I don’t know.

This was about a decade ago, but the memory is still fresh in my head. The lesson I learned from this?

You can prepare all you want, but it takes two to handshake. No matter how hard you try to impress someone with your  handshake you may end up looking like a Victorian lady expecting chivalry.

Photo credit: da.bo - \\\\\\\\\\handshake//////////

Sneak Peek at Exclusive Movember Donor Updates!

Thanks to some great friends, I have raised an amazing $200 to the Voteprime Movember campaign!

Also, since we surpassed the challenge of $100, the mustache will live on until the end of the month. Hooray!!

But that doesn’t mean the reasons to donate are done. All donors will receive EXCLUSIVE updates and photos as my mustache grows and makes me look even creepier. Want to get a taste of what those updates will look like? Then read on:

donate-to-movember-and-receive-my-excl

Sneak Peek at Exclusive Voteprime Movember Donor Updates:
Adam Gerard Movember mustache, Day 12

Last weekend my mustache was masked. When I went out in public, I simply looked like I hadn’t shaved in a few days. And since making the shave down to just a ‘stache last Monday, I have spent my days in the office and traveling to and from. In short, there hasn’t been much interaction with anyone who is unaware of Movember.

Continue reading

Fight Cancer and Save a Mustache With a Donation

I need your support to save my Movember mustache.

donate-to-save-my-movember-mustac

Why am I growing a mustache? Because it’s Movember and during Movember men across the country grow silly mustaches (a.k.a “Mo’s”) to raise money and awareness about prostate cancer and other cancers affecting men.

Since 2004, the Movember campaign has raised $174 million worldwide and have put the funds towards their strategic goals of suvivorship, awareness and education about the cancer risks men face, and prostate cancer research. In the United States alone last year, Movember donated over $5 million directly the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG.

But why do we care about prostate cancer?

Prostate Cancer Facts:

  • The National Cancer Institute estimates that nearly 34,000 men will die from prostate cancer in 2011.
  • Because the cancer grows slowly, and treatments can have such serious side effects, the best treatment option is often to do nothing.

We need to have better options for prostate cancer than doing nothing. And that’s the purpose of Movember! To grow a ridiculous mustache that makes people take notice so we can not only raise awareness about prostate and other male cancers, but also raise money to support research and eventually find the right answers.

And that’s where I need your help! I agreed to grow a mustache for the month of November and it looks ridiculous. As a result, my lady friend pledged $50 just to get me to shave before the end of the month.

But I got her to agree that if I could raise twice that by Friday, November 11, the mustache lives on all through the month of Movember.

So here I am, about 24 hours before my deadline asking for your support.


donate-to-movember-and-my-mustache

I hear you asking, “What’s in it for me?” First, my everlasting gratitude; something that normally can only be bought with cold hard cash or beer. For a limited time only, it can be purchased with a charitable donation!

But wait, there’s more! All my donors will receive exclusive photos via email of me and my mustache doing ridiculous things like:

  • Walking around in public looking like a fool because the damn thing is so sparse.
  • Standing in front of the mirror looking sad and wishing we had an old timey mustache to wax and curl.
  • Bowling.*
  • Cheering for the Syracuse basketball team.

Also, if that’s enough I’ll just let you come over and point and laugh at me.

So donate to my Movembe campaign. Help a Mo Brother out while supporting prostate cancer research.

* – bowling photos cannot be guaranteed