Gen Z

Okay, this is a rant.  You have been warned.

I work in media and advertising (on the software side) and so talking (or at least “hearing”) about demographics is a daily thing.  Specifically, generational monikers such as “boomers”, “Gen X”, and “Millennials” are pervelant.  And now more frequently, “Gen Z”.  Of course no one in advertising talks about “The Greatest Generation” any more because they’re all dead or in nursing homes.  It seems to me that generational naming got really lazy after the boomers.  Which isn’t too surprising since it was probably a boomer which came up with the subsequent names and since it wasn’t all abotu their own self, they didn’t care that much.  The term “Gen X” is generic and had already been used a number of times so they slapped it onto my generation and basically accused us of being slackers.  I think we should have been called “The Star Wars Generation”; it’s not only an appropriate double entendre, it’s also perfectly fitting.  Initially the Millennials were known as “Gen Y” which is even lazier than “Gen X” because it just has no meaning whatsoever.  They then got the barely-better name based on their birth year which is minimal effort.  I think they should be called “Generation Over-Share”, but that’s just me.  And now, worst of all, the poor kids almost old enough to drink… not only is “Generation Z” the laziest of all names, it also has this unnecessary sense of finality to it which I do not believe will be reflected in their generation.  If anything, they will be the generation that makes amazingly huge changes and vast improvements to the waste land the boomers worked so hard to create.

Is this right?

There was an article on FastCompany about Hulu’s desire to change the way that people “experience” TV.  It says:

The goal is to deliver, for less than half the price of cable, the best of live television with the on-demand functionality of a streaming platform—along with features that neither offering has ever seen before.

I can’t help but wonder if they’re missing the point.  I’m not quite sure that the cord-nevers are actually looking for a cheaper version of their parents’ cable television.  What I suspect would be a lot more desirable than a cheap “skinny” package would be the ability to pay for what you want, or better yet, what you use.  Thinking in terms of current offerings this could be a micro-subscription per channel, although I think it could be even better if it were a very micro price paid per genre or specific show.  I’m thinking something along the lines of a Spotify or Apple Music style service although considering the cost of production for video, perhaps with some genre-specific focus to offset the higher cost.

There are many parallels between the shake-up in the music industry and the shake-up in television, it will be interesting to see if they wind up in the same place.

Who Will Replace Linear Television?

Television viewership has been declining and skewing toward older viewers over the past few years and reaching the eyes of Gen X, Y, and Z (hate those labels) is growing increasingly difficult through traditional channels.  Meanwhile, “online video” is wrought with challenges that traditional advertisers find discouraging, such as bot traffic, unsafe content / brand protection, and a lack of transparency.  Media consumption overall is up so that tells us that the younger generations with more cash to spend aren’t all holed up in the library (or if they are, they’re not reading books).

This in itself is not news.  The important inference to make from these data points is that these new media consumers are learning – or were born accustomed to – new ways to consume media.  In the old days, we would flip on the TV and click-through the few available channels until we found something to watch.  More advanced TV users would reference a paper TV Guide and plan their week around their viewing.  Not only that, people would feel a sense of “togetherness” to watch a show at the same time as others and then discuss with friends or coworkers the next day.  These newer generations of media consumers do not do or feel any of this.  In fact, watching linear television makes them feel isolated and alienated as opposed to being connected into something that is trending, has comments, and is referenceable in the context of social media.  In addition, they expect to be able to consume when and where they want to, whether that’s watching YouTube videos on the train, part of a movie on Netflix shortly after waking up and still laying in bed, or catching up with a serial program at the office.

While the big screen in the living room may not be going anywhere any time soon, linear television will certainly be dethroned by some combination of SVOD, CTV, apps running on Smart TVs, and social video.  It’s not a question of “if”, it’s a matter of “when” and “who”.  The cable companies are clearly making a play for this, as are the tech giants.

There are some interesting technical developments:

  • Apple’s “TV” app – It integrates with the iTunes Store as well as apps on the device to allow consumers to gather disparate sources into one place.
  • All of the CTV devices – Such as Chromecast, FireTV (including Firestick and Alexa devices), XBox, PlayStation, Roku, etc.  Whether using something like Airplay or using the device directly, this links the experience that consumers desire for media consumption with the big screen.
  • PTV – “Programmatic Television” is really only exciting for advertisers, and possibly for traditional media channel owners as it will allow for ads to be served dynamically on content they’re already showing.  This means better monetization for a re-run of “Duck Dynasty” at 2 AM if the advertisers already know that someone in your home is in the market for, say, a new truck.  Although there’s not much of a benefit for consumers here.
  • SVOD – “Streaming Video On-Demand” is something we take for granted on cable boxes these days and it’s easy to forget what a novelty this was when it started rolling out 10 years ago (not to mention how terrible early versions were).  While it’s great to see the Cable giants trying, this falls way short of what younger consumers are looking for.

And there are some disheartening trends

  • Apple’s “TV” app – It’s awesome to see a step in the right direction, although Apple is clearly excluding competitors by not including Netflix, YouTube, or Amazon, and only supporting apps that require pay subscriptions through their own app store (support for cable subscriptions is extremely limited).  Because of this, Apple will not own this space and I would assume that this app will fall into disuse.
  • Cable Companies and their very closed approach – There have been a number of efforts toward unlocking the cable box.  On its surface this may seem like using a FireTV instead of a leased box from the cable company although it goes a lot deeper and includes access to consumer viewing data.  Good for advertisers?  Sure.  Also good for consumers as the viewing experience could feasibly be more tailored to their specific wants and needs while delivering the same content.  The FCC, however, will likely have to get involved and I can’t help but think of what a failure the “cable card” was in the late 90s, early 2000s.

It is quite possible that Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google will – over time – produce enough original content and eventually lure established producers, supported with original user-submitted content, that the value held by existing content producers, tied to linear television (and the attached strings that come with it) will go away.  This would mean a new future where tech companies control the “how” of delivering content and the net result for consumers is a better experience.  These are, after all, companies that for the most part prize user experience and customer happiness above all.  Of course, it will be interesting to see how the Tech Giants play together (or don’t) once they win and I certainly wouldn’t count the Cable Giants out yet; they have huge amounts of resources and know this space very, very well.  The next decade will be very exciting!

Finally coming out about my Warhammer 40k Hobby

This was a big week for me. I came out of the Warhammer closet. Here are some pictures of my Work in Progress beginnings of a Tau army. This one is based on the Vior’la sept. 

I brought my paints and models with me for my two week work trip to Singapore so I could spend my non-work time painting. It basically took up 80% of the space in my luggage but was totally worth it. 

Weight Loss in Three Easy Steps

I’ve recently discovered how stupidly simple it is to lose weight.  I think an important part of this is to remember that it’s not “easy”…  And aside from the emotional component of food, this process can be tedious… But it’s definitely simple.  

Step 1: Get an iPhone

Step 2: Get a calorie tracking app (which will tie into the iPhone Health App)

Step 3: Meticulously track everything you eat and weigh yourself daily

This will create a feedback loop where you start to see exactly what your calorie intake does to your weight.  It’s a straight-forward interaction and it’s this relationship that thin people naturally understand!  My theory is that fat people simply don’t have this feedback loop naturally so we have build it externally.

For extra credit, get a bluetooth scale that automatically puts your weight into the Health app on the iPhone.  By doing this, you start to see the correlation: 

Cooking at Home is Easy

 

Today when I got home from work I decided to cook this beautiful “cowboy ribeye” I had in the fridge. Fortunately the local grocery store has a decent butcher (albeit expensive) and since I’m trying out low-carb to lose weight I didn’t have to feel guilty about picking this up:

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I have Julia Childs’ old “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” sitting around so I decided to see what she had to say about steaks. I noticed reading through this cookbook previously that a lot of the recipes are surprisingly simple and straightforward while also being delicious. I think people are often intimidated by the idea of cooking, let alone French cooking. The recipes in each section of her book start out with the simplest and progress to increasingly complex dishes. The first recipe for beef steaks was “Biftek Saute au Beurre” which basically just means steak pan fried with butter, more or less. You wind up with a nice steak and a small amount of very delicious gravy… I decided to try it. I also decided to make Brussels Sprouts, in the simplest way, just blanched.

Normally for a steak I would get my cast iron skillet smoking-hot and then slap the steak with it on each side, set the fire alarm off, and have a great piece of meat. Super simple. This time I decided to try her way which involved heating butter and oil, cooking the steak in it (about eight minutes on each side for this huge 2″ thick piece of meat, with turns every four minutes), and carefully regulating the temperature so as to not burn the butter/oil. When that’s done and the meat is cooling, the pan is deglazed with beef broth (which is a surprisingly convenient way to clean a cast iron skillet) and then that’s removed the heat and butter is stirred in which makes the gravy. Again, simple and delicious.

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So with very little effort I wound up with this amazing steak, Brussels sprouts, and a nice sauce to put over them both. The sauce did not detract from the natural, aged, amazing flavor of this ribeye. It was additive instead and it also worked great on the sprouts, rather than putting butter or salt on them.

The results… a steak dinner that would have cost $70+ at a nice restaurant and would have meant waiting around for longer than it took me to cook it, eat it, and clean up. Oh, and for the record I didn’t eat all of it. I save about half.

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Healthy Eating

I’ve been working with a personal trainer for the past few weeks and this is the first week I’ve started taking my eating seriously. You’re supposed to eat like five cups of fruit and veggies a day and my trainer says to make sure that more than half of my plate is covered in vegetables. Sure, great advice… ever tried doing this? It’s damn near impossible at restaurants although I’ve spent this week striving to make it happen. These are the fruits (or veggies) of my labors:

Probably the least healthy of all… too much pork and cheese and sausage:
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Hainanese Chicken, Rice, Bok Choi, Bitter gourd salad, and chicken broth:
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Totally vegan Japanese teishoku… everything is vegetable:
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A wrap. Ugh. With smoked salmon:
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Eggplant w/ pork, mackerel with ginger and lemon, etc:
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Pork, veggie, udon, with egg, etc:
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Mixed grill with sprouts, green beans, potato, and a salad:
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And of course, all of this is much better than how I used to usually eat…

Plate of Polish delights:
Boats and Polish Food

Bacon Explosion – bacon interweaved into a basket wrapped around sausage meat covered in BBQ sauce:
Bacon Explosion!

Eating My Way Through Tokyo

I’ll add some detail to each of these photos later but for now I just want to get them all online. This is most of what I ate while I was in Tokyo for a week. I realized, sadly, after the fact that I didn’t photograph everything, such as the delicious onigiri (rice “ball”) and other snacks that I had from the convenience stores which were all quite delicious and really interesting in that these are not items typically found in western convenience stores.

I really got into the habit of having sushi and miso soup every day for breakfast. This is a good habit! Lots of green tea. I also just had to eat at a few of the western style diners because, with their smoking sections, I just felt so nostalgic even though the menu items were a bit… unconventional (such as oozy cheese-stuffed meat balls served with bacon and sausage and rice w/ all-you-can-drink Calpis).

And now the photos:
Bacon-wrapped cheese/fish cakes

God these were delicious

Fresh Grilled Scallops

So Much Tamagoyaki!

More Pork Ramen

Yakitori Assortment

 Why Not?
Why Not?

Curry Platter

More Coffee Boss

Tuna Chirashi

Cheese filled meat pile with rice

Assorted Fish Chirashi

Side salad, custard, green tea

Okonomiyaki

Salad and rice

Making Okonomiyaki

Lunch Boxes

Gyoza

Mt Rainier Coffee

Rainbow Coffee Boss!

Pork Ramen - Tonkatsu

Assorted Beef Tongue

Beef Tongue

Tuna Chirashi Bowl

Butter Scallop Flavor Fries

More Takoyaki

Aodo Miso Soup

Takoyaki

Assorted Tuna Nigiri

Assorted Sushi

Toxic Foods, Gut Bacteria, and Weight Loss

So a few realizations converged on me simultaneously over the past few weeks.  It started while reading an article on environmental conditions that cause cancer.  This, through a circuitous path led to me reading up on our gut bacteria… our gut bacteria is starting to be thought of as more than just resident, (usually) helpful bugs, but actually as another organ.  One that is vitally important in our health as well as our metabolism.

Interestingly, thin people and fat people have different make-ups in their gut bacteria and while this science is still relatively new, there have been studies that show that obese mice have lost weight after taking on gut bacteria from thin mice (by eating their poo… maybe that’s why animals eat each others’ poo?  It’s actually a fast way to diversify your gut flora).

Anyhow, I’ve read through a lot of information out there and started to self-experiment.  I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life.  I also was on antibiotics quite a lot as a youngster and through my early life.  I started to hypothesize that the repeated elimination of my gut bacteria by general antibiotics as a kid led to me having an unhealthy flora which in turn led to an unhealthy appetite, eating decisions, and metabolism (none of my three siblings are overweight and none of them took antibiotics as much as I did as a kid… I had a lot of ENT infections) which has led to my adult weight problems.  Therefore, if I can replace my gut bacteria with healthier strains that should lead to a virtuous cycle of weight loss.

To effect this, I’ve started eating yogurt and kimchi every day because they are extraordinary at establishing healthy probiotics in the gut.  In addition, I’ve been eating what are referred to as “prebiotics” or, essentially, the whole foods that help to maintain a healthy environment for the gut bacteria.  These include organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and very limited meat consumption (shocker there).

One of the really surprising things that I’ve learned in this process is that the modern “engineered” foods so commonly eaten in the US actually destroy good gut bacteria:

  • Artificial sweetners
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Trans Fats

So even if you consume the same number of calories, if you consume the above foods and kill of the “good” bacteria in your GI tract, you will get fatter than someone eating whole foods.  I suppose we’ve long suspected this, but the science is coming together to show it now.  These foods are toxic (killing off the cancer-fighting, fat-fighting organisms in our bodies) and they are making us fat.

One interesting note; apparently the EU has banned High Fructose Corn Syrup.  I’ve been reading ingredient labels here in Singapore and I haven’t seen that ingredient on any product (Coke here uses sugar, for example).  Many of my colleagues (and myself included) who have spent some amount of time here notice weight loss, even if they are eating more food than they would back home in the US… could this be related to the elimination of this pervasive, toxic food that is omnipresent in American foods?

Oh, and regarding the testing of my hypothesis… when I first started eating a lot of whole grains, fruits, and veggies I felt so bloated and tired!  Now the probiotics seem to be taking hold, however, and I’m starting to feel so much leaner, more energetic, and clear-headed.  I’ll continue to update as I progress down this path.  In some ways I actually feel like a different person.

One Less Thing to do

 

Since moving to Singapore I don’t check the weather anymore.  Every day the sun rises at 7 and sets at 7.  The weather is always the same.  In the past I was bored senseless by monotonous weather although the occasional rain storm (with thunder and lightning) keeps it interesting.

Anyhow, I found this amusing:

 

NYC Highs
High temps in NYC over one year show a variation of around 41 degrees Celsius (around 72 F).
SIN High One Year
While the same graph for Singapore shows a variation of a mere 7 degrees Celsius (19.8 F).