How Bad Is the Astros’… Chron Blog?

It’s October baseball, folks, and the Astros are in the postseason for the first time in 1,000 years. Hope and delight reign in the hearts of Houston sports fans, but torpor rules on the pages of the Astros’ primary blog,, where Astros fans often turn for news. Why?

If you’re like me, you’ve noticed that your phone or computer starts to struggle whenever you hit the Astros’ Chron blog, and here’s why: the Chron blog webdesign needs life support, stat. pages have 17+ adsAstros blog fail #1:

Too many ads. Soooo so many ads.

I counted 17 ads in this example (right), and I was generous. I only counted the giant Outbrain panel in the middle of the page as one ad. It has fourteen links, half to Chron sports content and the other half to the typical drivel that earns the Chron income — clickbait content like “9 MLB Players Who Are Actually Huge Jerks” and “Sofia Vergara: Her Hottest Photos From Her Adolescence Until Now” (because Vergara is a huge Astros fan, right?).

Click on the image to the right to see the detail; look for the green arrows which denote ads.


The Chron’s Astros blog also needs tuning to meet Google’s standards. I ran a random Astros blog page (about McCullers allegedly making a throat-slash gesture at the Royals) through PageSpeed Insights and compared it to a random ESPN article.

Google rates the Chron’s Astros blog as a 39 of 100 for desktop and a lousy 16 for mobile. That’s a failing grade by any standard, HISD or otherwise. Meanwhile, ESPN’s news-heavy page gets a 73.
chron astros blog page speed astros blog page speed espn page speed





Lastly I ran my sample Chron blog page through a website speed test and compared it with ESPN’s. Again the results aren’t pretty.

ESPN’s page weighs in at 1.7 MB, loading in 8.1 seconds on average.

The Chron’s blog page loafs in at 14.5 MB, loading in 47.5 seconds on average. It’s almost ten times fattier and almost six times slower.

This site’s no glowing example of web design. It’s pretty basic. But since we respect our readers, we try to make the reading experience welcoming and enjoyable.

We spend an inordinate amount of time at the Chron’s Astros blog. They’re tuned in to the happenings and all the games, and our lives would be poorer without their reporting. But it wouldn’t take much for the Chron to tidy up their web presence a smidge and make the Astros blog pleasant to visit instead of a teeth-gritting, disk-churning experience. Will the Houston Chronicle deliver? Or will they continue to treat the Astros blog as a low-brow basement useful only for penny-click ad revenue?

espn speed test
astros blog speed test


Star Wars Battlefront Beta: A Review

star wars battlefront reviewThe new Star Wars Battlefront beta is out and we’ve got some unsolicited impressions.

First the bad news. The Star Wars beta is overflowing with snipey reload-free blaster gameplay. In this Star Wars implementation, a standard blaster has a high fire rate, high magnification in zoom mode, and nearly infinite range, allowing ridiculous snipefests on the open snowfields of Hoth. A snipe battle between you and a six-pixel black blob on a black mountain is not quality gaming. Blasters do eventually overheat, requiring a reload-like cooldown, but it definitely feels different than a standard assault rifle. The end result? Newbies dying all day and not knowing why. Campers everywhere on the heights and slopes. This is cheap, cheesy gameplay.

The other gripe I have regards the dearth of objectives on the maps. Whether fighting for drop pods or Hoth uplinks, these are huge maps with dozens of players swarming toward a mere handful of objectives (two on Hoth!). This makes for ugly, random battle experiences. You’d think DICE, veterans of the Battlefield games, would understand the joys of faceoffs all across a balanced and diverse map, which was their bread and butter all the way back to Battlefield 1942.

Although the other levels may offer more restraint, I fear Star Wars Battlefront will serve us explosion overload instead of a variety of epic combat experiences like those we saw in the Battlefield games, like one heroic player fending off a wave of a half-dozen opponents at a base, or one-on-one standoffs, or coordinated efforts to break down armor-heavy defenses. Digital combat loses all flavor and strategy when served up as a massive dogpile of idiocy.

My suggestions are simple: trim down the blasters’ range, and add more objectives to the maps.

IMHO, too much has been made of the Rebels’ disadvantage in the Hoth level. Sure, it’s skewed a bit toward the Imperial side, but unlike some writers who never saw an Imperial defeat, I’ve seen the Rebels win about 30% of the time. (The Forbes writer makes some good arguments for skewing the rewards as well.)

Others also objected to the content unlocking (under the sleazy click-baity title of “was the beta a mistake”… tsk tsk), which is a legitimate point. But overall I think the beta has been a huge success for Lucas/DICE. The game looks great and introduces some new ideas.

And now the good news: I like the approach to regenerating your chosen “deck” of items, with the best item needing powerups to gain uses. This means grenades (if you choose them) are almost always in hand when you need them, and no more grenade spamming by an ammo crate. It also means that (if blaster range gets nerfed) snipe campouts will be greatly reduced because of the delay on sniper reloads, which are part of the deck. The sound effects are truly magnificent, with the devastating thermal charge grenade really setting the bar. (The one exception is the orbital strike, which is deafening in its sonic absence.) Seeing Vader and Skywalker running around in combat is a serious hoot. And removing the respawn timer? Well, I think we can all applaud that move.


ACL Festival video + Shia Arrested, Of Course

shia labeouf drunk againIf you missed the Austin City Limits Music Festival (like I did) or are just looking to relive some of the moments in video, check out the Red Bull TV video highlights. It’s not the most generous assortment of headliners, but you can find songs from Gary Clark Jr., Nate Ruess (of Fun), San Fermin, Alabama Shakes, Dwight Yoakam, Hozier, and Vance Joy, plus interviews and such.

And in case you were curious, actor Shia LeBeouf was definitely at ACL, and here’s the public intoxication arrest article to prove it.



Zynga’s Words With Friends. I’m a word guy, obviously, and I can’t help playing this game against friends and strangers. It’s crowdsourced word puzzles, really.

But why, Zynga? Why does your QC have to be so utterly lousy? Why are you so hellbent on proving you couldn’t care less about this marquee property?

Here’s example #1: The word of the day recently was “whore.” Inappropriate word to feature, obviously, and also not exactly a word of special interest. Today’s word is “oi”. The definition: “oy.” Not exactly something you’re going to tweet out to all your friends.

IMHO, Zynga has the WOTD on “randomize” without anybody on staff bothering to eyeball it for the .5 seconds it requires to pick something fun and family-friendly.

Example #2: the definition and example sentence for the word KEEF. Do you know what a KEEF is? I didn’t, and here’s what WWF had to say about it.

wtf wwf

Thanks for nothing, WWF and Zynga.

P.S. It’s the resin glands of cannabis. Bonus drug reference for you.

More examples in the gallery below. Words With Friends is just a hot mess of fail.