Archive: December, 2004

Awesomely bad #1's

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 30, 2004, 9:20 PM | comments: 0

Obviously the VH1 understands my demographic, because between Best Week Ever, I Love the 90s and other shows, I find myself stopping on that channel when there's nothing else on. Today they had the 40 Most Awesomely Bad #1's.

Most were pretty predictable. The one about the Spice Girls sure took me back. I remember when they came out, my first reaction was that I wanted to bone every one of them... except "Baby Spice." Scary, Posh, Sporty, Ginger... they were all on my celebrity to-do list (doesn't everyone have a list like that?). But Baby... ugh. Not attractive.

Well... things change. While the rest were having babies, banging soccer stars or generally getting skanky, Emma Bunton got HOT. Sure didn't see that coming.

Of course the number one song on the show was Macarena, but honestly, I don't think anyone can really appreciate just how annoying that song was unless they worked at a top 40 radio station at the time. Trust me, I did. It was horrible. I have no sympathy for people that were annoyed by the song. Not only would I have to play it five times a night for three months straight, but even at 3am some little 14-year-old was calling me over and over wanting to hear it. That should've been the first warning sign that radio was not something to make a career out of.

Ah, but it's amazing how even bad songs lead to memories...


Kissing Jessica Stein and filmmaking

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 30, 2004, 12:27 AM | comments: 0

We watched Kissing Jessica Stein again today, I guess for the first time since we first got it and watched it. If you're not familiar, it's about two girls, one a conservative, neurotic, Jewish woman (Jessica), the other a free spirit that runs an art gallery (Helen). Both are 30ish and disenchanted with dating and relationships, so Helen places a personal ad, and Jessica answers it. This is not, however, a "gay movie."

I admit that the reason I wanted to see the movie was that I knew two chicks would hook-up, but while it is an interesting twist to a relationship movie, it's still, first and foremost, a relationship movie. The thing is that it's one of the best I've seen. It conveys a lot of real, genuine moments between interesting characters. The porch scene between Jessica and her mom is brilliant and unexpected.

Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen not only starred in it as Jessica and Helen, respectively, but they also wrote and produced it. That takes a lot of balls and confidence to believe enough in what you're doing to put your entire career on the line like that. Both have since done a little acting, but they haven't written anything else. That's a bummer. I'd go see anything they decided to write.

Of course this got me to thinking about filmmaking again. It's yet another thing I want to do, but I just don't know how to make the time. I wrote a screenplay, and while Robert Rodriguez says you should just make whatever you write, my screenplay is barely a draft. It's certainly no movie.

Recently I started to think about doing some very short films, maybe five minutes a piece, with a fairly ridiculous premise. They'd be pretty easy to shoot, and I think easy to write.

The problem is time. There are so many things I want to do, and I can't find the time. I just submitted another book proposal, I've got software to write, volleyball gets hardcore as of next week, and I generally spend too much time in between fucking around.

The thing that makes me hopeful that I can write, shoot and cut something this year (considering I've had Avid for years and cut nothing more complex than a wedding), is that a year ago I never thought I'd write a book. Well, it'll be on the shelf in less than three months. Weirder shit has happened!


Another New Year's Eve

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 29, 2004, 8:59 PM | comments: 1

In the eleven December 31st's that Stephanie and I have been together, we frequently think two days before hand about what we're going to do, and most of those years, we haven't done anything. We've gone to a few parties here and there, but generally speaking we end up chilling at home as if it were pretty much any other night.

It's not that we're anti-social or anything. The truth is that we don't even ask most of our friends what they're doing. I guess the "holiday" really isn't that important. Certainly getting drunk isn't what it used to be either. So as of now, it looks like we'll spend Friday night with Regis.

What I don't understand is where the notion comes from that you have to be doing something special that night. Honestly, 2004 was the first year since 2000 that brought anything strongly positive into my life. Who knows how 2005 will be. Furthermore, I can't allow myself to get all jacked up on what might be this year (or the next, or the one after that) when I should be making something of the time I have right now.

The passage of time seems to get faster and faster as you get older. Trying to find meaning in birthdays and new years gets more difficult every year.


Fear and failure in uncertain times

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 29, 2004, 12:28 AM | comments: 0

Tobe made an interesting point regarding my dreams where I can't seem to get a radio job right. He said he has those kinds of dreams when things are uncertain and he really wants something. With that connection, it's not so weird after all that I would have similar dreams.

I won't bullshit anyone... the first quarter of 2005 is going to be tough for me financially. I had some weak months in advertising, and those tough times trickle down to the next three months. Working for myself, whatever that's supposed to mean, is a risk that I knew would involve some financial uncertainty, but I guess sometimes it gets to me despite the fact that the "danger" is mostly in my head.

Which leads to the next point, namely wondering what exactly it is I'm doing. I accept that ad revenue and membership on CoasterBuzz will probably remain flat this year. So unless a couple dozen kids at every major university buy a CampusFish blog, I'd say that my Web properties aren't going to help a whole lot.

There are a couple of software products I hope to develop/finish, and I'm sure those will lead to additional cash. Those won't come until the end of the quarter though.

I've also got the book launching in mid-March, which means I'll hopefully see some royalties by July. I just submitted another book proposal, so if that comes through, perhaps I can score an advance.

So to make things clear in my own head, there are two fundamental issues causing my fear and uncertainty: One is the non-concrete plan to really making a living, and the second is the financial uncertainty caused by that lack of a plan. The thing is, I should know from managing projects at various jobs that making a plan with actionable items usually moves things forward.

On a less important scale, or maybe not, I've been thinking a lot about volleyball too. I have high hopes for my kids this year (as I do every year), and there's a volleyball-related opportunity I'm going to pursue soon.

Now if only I could apply the same child-like wonder and awe I had when I graduated from college. I need that kick in the ass to get moving again!


Donate to Red Cross for tsunami relief

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 28, 2004, 4:37 PM | comments: 0

By now you know that many coastal cities in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand were trashed by tsunamis, and that well over 40,000 people were killed in the massive disaster. Tens of thousands of people are homeless.

Amazon has setup a direct payment gateway to the American Red Cross. Red Cross gets it all, and you can donate as little as $5.

Make a donation here:
http://www.amazon.com/paypage/PX3BEL97U9A4I


I had the radio dream yet again

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 28, 2004, 10:00 AM | comments: 3

I wish I knew why I was having the radio dream. Seriously, it pisses me off.

Last night's variant took place on a Canadian station. As usual, I risked dead air because I couldn't get the next song queued up in time. Again the music logs were hand written, and again the CD's weren't numbered.

That's what kills me the most. If the CD's were numbered, it would be easy! In real life, at most stations, you subscribe to a service that publishes compilations. You get disc 32, track 7, and you're in business.

I wish I could figure out what kind of fear of failure is subconsciously fucking with me.


I want to crush the competition

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 26, 2004, 9:28 PM | comments: 1

I decided that I think I want to write another book. In doing so, I've been doing some preparation for that and also mapping out some of the software I'd like to write.

When I see what's out there, I feel like I could crush the competition. I mean really mangle the crap out of them. The funny thing about being a solo developer is that in many cases you can be a lot more agile without the constraints imposed by a large company or an owner. I think I can do it faster, and hopefully better. What product areas? Well, if I said then I'd be tipping off the competition. I certainly don't need that.

In all of my professional programming career, I haven't been a part of an organization that crushed its competition. A lot of that has to do with my dotcom era jobs, where no one was winning. I guess technically I was a part of a competition ass-kicking team when I worked at Progressive, but in a company that big, you don't really feel as much of a stakeholder since they can do just fine without you (as I'm sure they are now).

Hopefully the advertising market can kick off to a strong start in 2005 to support me during this endeavor. The 4th quarter really sucked, and I'm feeling the pinch now. CoasterBuzz I suspect has peeked in terms of revenue and traffic, because the potential audience really isn't that big. Ditto for smaller niches like PointBuzz. I need to broaden my horizons beyond content or I'm going to starve.

(EDIT: In response to Alex's question.)

I submitted the proposal for the book in January. the proposal went through editorial review by lots of other authors, was revised, then went through it again. I was offered a contract in March, and began writing it.

My "finish date" was at the end of Sept., after which time it went to more people for review in its entirety. I had to turn in the revised draft by the end of October. Then in late November, I got the revisions from the copy editors (for grammar, formatting, clarity, etc.), and I turned in those edits about two weeks ago.

In January I'll get PDF's of the actual laid-out pages. More revisions, then by mid-Feb. they'll finish the changes and it'll be on the shelves mid-march.


A horrible way to end the year

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 26, 2004, 4:30 PM | comments: 1

I don't know if you've seen the news, but tsunamis generated by an earthquake in Indonesia have made a mess of Southeast Asian coasts, killing as many as 10,000 people. India and Thailand apparently got the worst of it. (CNN)

From what I've read, it's not that a giant wave comes crashing on the shore, but rather a ridiculous tide comes rushing in and rising faster than anyone can deal with it. It all happened so quickly and early in the morning that it really couldn't have been avoided.

What a very sad way to end the year.


One of my favorite gifts

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 26, 2004, 12:32 PM | comments: 2

I didn't give or get a lot for Christmas this year, which is absolutely fine given the financial constraints that me and my family are living under these days. (Although not having to go to a crappy job that I don't like, however poor it makes me, is the greatest gift of all.) Still, one of the coolest things I got was the Blue Man Group DVD from their rock tour. Stephanie snagged it right off my wish list.

The performance is basically The Complex album live from 2003. Musically, I think the appeal of the group is that they get really good guests and there's just a ton of percussion. The live show had three percussionists, plus the main drummer, two guitars, bass, keyboards, several vocalists, plus the three Blue Men themselves.

Tracy Bonham appears for vocals on a number of songs, including one of my favorites, "Up To The Roof." Honestly I don't know a ton about her other than the fact that she was on Lilith Fair. I get the impression she's very acoustic kind of girl, which is what made her tour with Blue Man kind of odd.

Venus Hum, my current pet band, also makes an appearance for the cover of "I Feel Love." The lead singer is absolutely adorable, and it's nothing short of amazing that so much sound comes out of someone so little.

Also cool is the Exhibit 13. It's about documents that blew into a Brooklyn neighborhood, obviously around 9/11. I think what makes it so powerful is that it makes no statement about the event at all. It only gets you thinking about the things one would think about if they found these pieces of paper themselves that day.

Even though they don't perform the music from the album at the live shows around the world, I still really look forward to seeing them someday, perhaps in Las Vegas. I don't really see them so much as a performance art troupe as much as I think there are good musicians under that blue stuff. When you can get Dave Matthews and Gavin Rossdale to appear on your album, you're obviously on to something.

Anyway, it's kind of an old DVD, but I really dig it. I wish I would've had the chance to see the show when it toured, and I hope that they do something like that again.


I'm an Alias geek (and 24 geek)

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 23, 2004, 7:45 PM | comments: 0

We're blasting through the third season of Alias on DVD right now as a refresher before the new season begins in January. It's a complicated story to follow, and seeing it a second time is helpful. We have all three seasons.

I give the writers for that show (as well as 24) a lot of credit, because they're charged with figuring out a huge story arc then fleshing it out into 22 to 24 episodes. That's not an easy task. I've read that J.J. Abrams, the series creator and producer, wasn't happy with the third season because it didn't concentrate enough on the people, but I still enjoyed it. I look forward to the next season.

This year, they aren't starting until January, which I think is a good plan. The holidays cause too much of a break in the action and you easily get lost when too much time passes between episodes. I think we went like five or six weeks without a new one in season three.

24 is doing the same thing with a late start. Not only that, but they're going to bang out a pair of two-hour episodes right away. If that doesn't get people hooked, I don't know what will.


Used the snow blower four times this week

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 23, 2004, 11:09 AM | comments: 2

As Stephanie mentioned, we're getting fairly hammered here with snow. I used the snow blower for the fourth time this week, a new record.

When we bought the house in spring 2001, I wondered if I'd ever need a snow blower. That winter wasn't too bad, so we didn't get one. The next winter, I couldn't stand it, and got a little MTD. It got a fair amount of use, then a little use this year. This week was the first time since I got it that I had to buy additional gas and oil for it.

Like I said, the first snow is charming, but I'm done with it now. It got just warm enough, around 32, last night to cause it to melt a little and bring a little rain. Beneath the new four inches since I cleared the driveway last night, there was a nice layer of slush. The end of the driveway is even worse. The snow blower managed to deal with most of it, but only with a great deal of pushing and humping. I can feel it in my arms and back now.

Living somewhere subtropical gets more appealing every year.


Why are local print shops so incompetent?

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 22, 2004, 1:00 PM | comments: 0

I ran out of membership cards for CoasterBuzz Club recently, so I called around to various print shops to see who could perforate new ones. Full color printing was too much no matter where I went, so I decided instead to take the printing into my own hands and buy a color laser printer. At least that way I can change them periodically.

So I settled on a shop in the next town to do the perforation. That was three weeks ago. I've been in there three times. The die that they ordered to cut the holes was coarse and did nothing but cause the paper to rip when you tried to punch the cards out. So today I went in through the winter storm warning for the third time to look at samples, and it was absolutely unacceptable. They just called and said they were ordering a new die and would have it early next week.

This isn't the first time I've had problems. The first time I did this (I ordered a thousand color cards), they got the perforation wrong the first time. They did it on the lines of the printing, which was incorrect. The image of the card bleeds over the perforation, and that's what I specified in my instructions. So if you have a club card to this point, and saw there were two sets of perforations, that's why.

What is it that's so difficult for these people? How do complex print jobs ever get done?

I'm frustrated as hell, because I've got about a dozen cards to send out, and I don't have any. Not that the members will need their cards this week for anything, but it's just the principle of it all.


Trackbacks enabled

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 21, 2004, 11:00 PM | comments: 1

I finished testing the trackback

feature on CampusFish, and it's up and running. I'm not sure which other blog systems support it, but it's there. I think Moveable Type does, .Text does, and I know suck journal does not.

I quietly added friends-only posting and an aggregate RSS feed on the home page as well. I've got a couple of other things in store as well, coming together as time permits.


Sick for the holidays? Not if I can help it.

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 21, 2004, 10:57 PM | comments: 2

It's weird, but it seems that for most of the previous ten holiday seasons I've been with Stephanie, I've been sick. The first one, back in '94, was absolutely horrible. I swear we both got Ebola that year. Not fun.

Last year was the third of that ten that I wasn't sick. In fact, aside from a minor cold late last summer, I haven't really been sick at all since Christmas 2002. That's a long record of not being sick, perhaps the longest in all of my life.

Today I noticed some little aches, my teeth hurt, I'm just a little phlegmy, and I just don't feel right. That's no good. I don't want to be sick for the holiday because it's become a cliche.

Fortunately, I had some Ben & Jerry's Organic Fudge Brownie ice cream, and I'm already feeling better.


Those ribbons on everyone's car

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 21, 2004, 10:44 AM | comments: 14

You know, I see those ribbons on everyone's car, and it kind of gets on my nerves. You aren't "supporting our troops" or spreading breast cancer awareness when you buy these, you're supporting the bank account of the people that make them. It's a blatant play on your feelings.


When your kids grow up...

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 20, 2004, 6:57 PM | comments: 0

I now have a ton of volleyball kids that have graduated and gone on to college. I ran into one today that I first had at the age of 14 (playing up two age years, but one school year on my 16's that year). She just finished her first semester at Elon, where her club team is going to nationals.

It's weird, because this was a 14-year-old kid kind of growing out of proportion, tall for her age, maybe even a little clumsy. Now, just a few short years later, she's this beautiful, talented, dean's list grown-up. It's kind of hard to wrap my mind around that, especially since I don't have kids of my own.

Obviously the years that I coached her were only a minor part of her development as a human being, but even that little part is gratifying. The more kids I see go out into the world, the more I understand why parents are so fierce about looking out for their kids. Of course, it kind of makes my wife and I want one of our own too, as the clock is ticking (I'm 31, she's almost 30).

When you're hyper-analyzing the mechanics of lateral passing, it kind of makes you wonder a little what's really important...


Individual attention makes a world of difference

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 20, 2004, 12:37 AM | comments: 0

Today the insane Northeast Ohio snow kept two kids home, one was sick, one was traveling and one had a show choir gig she couldn't miss, so that left me with just five kids at my practice today. While I was initially skeptical it would be worth it, it ended up being a really awesome 90 minutes.

First off, I cut video of each kid doing their hitting approach, so I reviewed this with them individually. I also showed them a highlight clip from last year's team executing the swing offense. I think it made a world of difference in their opinion about it.

More importantly, this involved lots of repetition to work on the very hitting issues these five kids had. Even with my sub-standard setting (my setter was the sick one), they quickly began to fix their problems and started smacking the crap out of these balls. None of them, save for the one middle, had ever really hit 1 balls before. Now they can do it almost as if they had been doing it all of their lives.

What a great holiday gift that is. You could see it in their eyes that they were getting it, and they were thrilled. One of them in particular I feared might not buy into the swing offense, but there's no doubt in my mind now that she's hooked.

This is all because I was able to work with them more individually. You hate to use gym time like this, but when presented with a scenario where you have no choice, you can do it guilt-free. It was me, the five kids, and two of the moms in this giant three-court gym. We did lots of 1 balls, a couple of passing for distance drills, and I was able to really pay attention to each kid individually.

Today was one of those days that really make coaching rewarding. No matter what happens in the long run, knowing you're having an impact on these kids' development is the greatest feeling in the world. None of us may ever get rich by coaching, but that doesn't mean that we can't be a little selfish enjoying moments like that.


Adventures in snow driving

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 20, 2004, 12:09 AM | comments: 6

If you don't live in Northeast Ohio, Buffalo, or perhaps Western Michigan, you may not be familiar with lake effect snow. The short explanation is that wind blows over the unfrozen lake, picks up moisture, then dumps that shit on you as snow. It generally dumps the snow starting at the shore or a couple of miles inland, then it peters out 30 to 40 miles in. If you checked the radar here, right now, you'd see white bands that extend from the lake to that inland point, and nothing to the south.

More to the point, we can get slammed here while Columbus doesn't see a thing.

So I went to practice this morning. I'm about 20 miles inland, our practice site is about two. The closer I got to the lake, the better, but what a mess. Surprisingly enough, even the SUV jerks that think they're invincible were driving responsibly.

I wouldn't say it's really hard to drive in snow, exactly. I think you have to know the limits of your abilities and you car, and understand the physics of it. Slamming on your brakes is bad, and those are the idiots that end up in the median. Point the wheels where you want to go and apply appropriate acceleration. Know that at a certain speed, even with four-wheel drive, you cease to be able to control the car.

The thing that really surprised me, because I only had serious snow once after I got the car in March, was anti-lock braking. On city streets, like when I get off the freeway, I like to do a brief brake tap to see how much I'll slide. Well, ABS doesn't allow that, so instead it makes a horrible noise, vibrates the hell out of the car, and pulses the brakes. That's a good idea I suppose, because you can't steer if you're sliding, but I'm not entirely sure I like giving up that control. It doesn't feel natural.

I have to admit that I'm a little fascinated by snow driving. In college, my best man Frank actually took a course on it, so I learned a lot of interesting things from him. Also, my dad used to rally race, and he took Frank and I up to a frozen lake in Michigan once. Surprisingly, a lot of the video games get the slide-n-drive physics right (except that if you plant the car in a snow bank, you're not just going to back out and continue).

I haven't had a big enough parking lot in years to try a 360 spin, but it's one of the most satisfying things you can do in your street car without destroying it.


Eating at the Greasy Spoon

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 17, 2004, 5:05 PM | comments: 0

I finally went to Kent with Stephanie today. I've been there a lot of times, mostly for volleyball tournaments, but this time at least I got to see where she spends her time and sends me instant messages from.

For lunch, we ate at a place called "Ray's Place." It's precisely the kind of place that you'd probably never think about going to unless someone brought you there. The food is really good, and despite selling everything that can possibly be deep fried, they have good stuff for vegetarians and slightly alternative foods like turkey burgers. They also have a cutie waitress with a nose ring and tri-colored hair, which of course doesn't hurt.

Places like this can be very familiar and comfortable, even if you've only been there once. I can't quite put my finger on it. I think part of it is just being in a college town again, which I kind of miss.

There are a lot of places like this, you just never know where you'll find them. When I worked in downtown Cleveland, we frequented a place called Moe's. That place was a dump, and they certainly didn't have the cute nose ring tri-color hair waitress, but damn the food was good. Their cook was drunk most of the time, but he made his burgers by hand, cut his own fries, and did a Thanksgiving-style turkey spread that was better than anyone in your family could do.

These places are a part of the community that you work in or live in. Unfortunately, I live in the burbs where we really don't have such places. Actually, we do, but they're frequented by people I'm not comfortable around. The place in Kent was top notch, and I hope to go again.


The new CampusFish (read this)

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 17, 2004, 1:10 AM | comments: 3

First off, I have to apologize. If you wrote something today or posted a comment today, it was accidentally blown away. My backup was corrupt and the last good data I had was from about 3a.m. EST Thursday morning. Sorry!

Anyway, after getting a few kinks worked out, it is otherwise working. The new features include:

  • Shorter URL's. Mine, for example, will simply be www.campusfish.com/Jeff.
  • Custom styles: You can choose from a few styles, and I'll work on additional styles in the next week or so. You can also do your own style, if you're really ambitious and know CSS.
  • Better album management: Order the pics by number and edit picture slugs.
  • Traditional blog roll: Gone is the difficult calendar and list box. You'll have your last 20 entries on your blog home, and the archive is broken up by month.
  • Edit comments: Duh.
  • Better friend management: Looks the same, but expired members will appear crossed out, and expired "friends of" will not appear at all.
  • Blog title and subitle: Found in your profile edit.
  • Web site: In your profile.
  • Public commenting: You can turn on the ability to allow non-members to post.

Stuff that won't quite be ready:

  • Totally hide a post from everyone but you.
  • Only friends can see post.
  • Comment track-back via RSS.

You should login and click the profile link in the left-side navigation. Check all of your options and fill in the blanks.


First significant snow

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 13, 2004, 10:35 PM | comments: 2

We had our first significant snow today. For reasons I'll never understand, the northern part of Medina County, south of Cleveland, got more than its fair share. I've never quite been able to peg the pattern that puts us under so much snow. It's not as bad as the snow belt, but still more than I'd care to have.

Anyway, the first one is always kind of neat. Every year my tolerance for winter seems to decrease, but that first snow is always something to behold. I think I'd miss it if I ever moved to Florida or something.

Then again, wearing shorts and being under sunny skies, palm trees and 80 degree temperatures in November sure is nice too.


The challenge of motivating your team

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 12, 2004, 11:47 PM | comments: 0

I like to think that I'm a pretty OK coach in terms of understanding vollebyall, especially in the ways that it continues to evolve with regards to rule changes, advanced offense, etc. However, the one thing that I kind of suck at is getting the kids motivated. I'm still looking for the magic bullet.

Today at my second practice, some of the kids are a little skeptical of the swing offense. Except for the middles, none of them have much experience hitting anything quick, so putting trust in the setter is not easy for them. I think they'll get it, but it'll take a little more time.

I think what I'm facing at the moment is the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD), and it's hard to motivate with that looming over your head. They're great kids, and you can already see the spark in their eyes when they really pound a ball. They just want it to be instantly consistent, which of course isn't possible for anyone.

This calls into question the long-standing theory by a lot of coaches that you have to concentrate on the little victories in skill development. The idea goes that, for example, a passer might shank every pass into the bleachers, but that's OK if you got them to move behind the ball on every pass. One part of the skill mastered, consider it a success and get the next part down. Again, the requirement of instant gratification makes that feel less successful.

Perhaps I'm just over-analyzing (did I mention it's only the second practice?), but you know, worrying about these things is what I do. There has to be a clearer reward and more obvious praise for the mini-victories, I think. In the case of teaching this offense, some of them are getting their approaches right, but not connecting in the meaningful way they're used to. Others don't have the approach right, or are worried the setter won't put the ball in their hands, so they never even get the opportunity to hit the ball.

I shot video today, so I think we'll have stuff to work with next practice. I'm not discouraged or disappointed, just trying to work through the challenge. I'm still fairly confident this is going to be an outstanding year.


The future of CampusFish

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 11, 2004, 1:58 PM | comments: 12

I mentioned a few entries ago that I'd like to make CampusFish kick ass. In terms of blog and photo features, what would you like to see?

Today I've been taking a break from writing code to research the innards of the .Text blog system, which runs my ASP.NET blog. So much of what goes into this kind of thing is remarkably unimpressive and unimportant to users, but trust me when I say there's a lot of really neat stuff to learn in an application like that, much of which can be used in all sorts of other applications.


Sometimes the kids don't get it

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 10, 2004, 12:59 AM | comments: 5

One of the industry types that frequents CoasterBuzz started a thread about why you should join CoasterBuzz. He's a good guy, a good manager from what I hear, and he's got the right attitude for the amusement industry. I happen to like him because he puts CB higher than the trade rags in terms of being timely.

Of course, any time the subject comes up, you get a bunch of people that start going on about how it's not worth it blah blah blah. They can't just not join, they have to make a case for why they shouldn't. That's annoying.

Getting people to buy something that doesn't really get them anything but the feeling that they're lending their support is a tricky value proposition. Paid members get a card in the mail, no ads on the site, and that's pretty much it. Over a thousand people since 2001 have felt there was value in this, but who knows how long that will last.

Personally, I've spent money on two other sites. They had competitors, some of which were free, but both had compelling enough content to get me to pay up. I don't pretend that same value proposition is a slam dunk for CoasterBuzz. The really weird thing is that the majority of club members aren't even the types that post in the forums. I guess they find value in being a part of something, so they're sold on the feeling. That's the motivation really to buy most things.

One common objection is that people don't like the idea that I can do this for a living. That's weird, because I know on the photography sites I frequent, the owners are congratulated for being able to do that. Some people in the coaster enthusiast community find this to be outright offensive.

The younger folks are the worst, but this is a generation that doesn't see a problem with stealing music of software either. I wonder what will happen when they get to the adult world, where they have to buy cars, houses, diapers and pay taxes. I'm not saying they're all bad (I do coach them, after all), but they do have a different value system.

I'm very lucky, because I'm getting an opportunity to figure out what I want to do professionally. I'm partially free of the financial impact of this decision because the sites generate just enough revenue to get by. I wouldn't say it's comfortable, but we aren't starving yet. It'll certainly be a little easier when the book royalties start coming in, or I figure out The Next Big Thing.


Team-building exercises

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 8, 2004, 3:16 PM | comments: 0

I did a couple of team-building exercises at my first practice last week. As I mentioned in a previous post, the kids know about one half of the kids or the other, but I think that exercises that force them to interact go a long way breaking the ice and getting the communication flowing.

For example, something I've done for years is get them in a circle, put their right hand on the person in front's shoulder, and the left on the left hip, close in the circle, and make them sit on each others' lap. It's a struggle with nine kids, but it works pretty well with ten or more.

Then there's the whole tangled arms thing. Every kid grabs another kids opposite hand, and they have to untangle themselves without releasing hands. It took about fifteen minutes this time, and thy needed the crutch. The crutch is where you allow them to release and reconnect one hand, but they can't talk thereafter.

I also did the "helium pole" trick. Everyone puts their index fingers out at shoulder level, and you put a tent pole on them. They must lower it to the ground, but if anyone stops touching it they have to start over. It's hilarious to watch everyone start pushing up on it because they don't want to be the one to cause a reset. They found the loop-hole in the rules where I never said they had to keep their fingers straight, and then it was easy.

I also tried the bomb diffusing trick, where you put 30 numbered pieces of paper around the far side of the court in non-sequential order. They get four attempts to cross from the far baseline into the far court and touch all 30 numbers in sequence. They failed on the first try, like they're supposed to, but I was surprised they got it on the second try. Needless to say, this drill facilitates communication and critical thinking. Smart group!


What's next for me

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 6, 2004, 6:58 PM | comments: 4

I'm reviewing the copy edits for my book right now, and I honestly can't think of anything I've ever done that's more boring or tedious. Ugh... twelve more chapters to go.

Once that's done, I've actually got a lot of stuff to do. First off, I need to do some relatively minor coding things for PointBuzz. Once those are done, I'd like to rework CampusFish and make it what I really wanted it to be. After that, I've gotta start getting serious about the POP Forums rewrite.

What I should be doing is finishing the ad-serving software I wrote nearly two years ago. It exists only as a back-end system. To put campaigns in it, you actually need to manually poke around the database. This is something I could actually sell, and having something to sell would make me a little less reliant on the constantly fluctuating advertising market that my sites have to endure.

On the non-work front, I have to finish Halo 2 and SpongeBob on the Xbox. Volleyball has started again, so many of my thought cycles are devoted to that. I want to get back into DDR. I want to master some video tapes to DVD (including our honeymoon from four years ago now).

And speaking of Stephanie, I want to spend some quality time curled up on the couch with her, fire on, watching movies when it's snowing outside. That's what breaks are for!


First practice... done!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 5, 2004, 5:32 PM | comments: 0

I had my first practice with my 17's today. Overall I think it went pretty well. The good thing here is that the entire team is actually drawn from our two 16's teams from last year, so they more or less know each other. Combine that with the fact that most of them come from really good high school teams and I can see getting to the hard work quickly. A few of them were on the 14's team that went to nationals.

This is the third group I've tried to teach the swing offense to. As expected, some kids really embraced it, and others might still be a little skeptical. I think they'll come around. One of my middles is a repeat from last year (she played up), and she volunteered a testimonial that really helped.

It's an interesting proposition because the first thing you need to do is get them to forget everything they know about timing and get them to just approach strong and fast, jump as high as they can and get their arms in the air. Outside hitters in particular have such a hard time trusting that the setter is going to simply put the ball in their hands.

So begins this year's journey. What can I expect? Top ten in the region? A trip Salt Lake City? Anything is possible...


Life's biggest moments

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 4, 2004, 11:27 PM | comments: 1

We watched The Girl Next Door tonight. If you've never seen it, get it. While you'd think it was just another stupid teen sex movie, it's actually very cleverly written with great characters (that, and Elisha Cuthbert isn't exactly hard to look at for two hours).

The movie kind of starts and ends on references to big moments in this life, in particular graduating from high school and celebrating those "once in a lifetime moments." I suppose others that would qualify include prom (which I didn't go to), first day of college, college graduation, first new job, marriage, birth of a child, etc.

For the most part, I guess it's safe to say that these events happen largely in sequence and few are repeated. That idea undoubtedly doesn't sit well with a lot of people, and might even be depressing. I'm here to tell you it shouldn't be.

First of all, the big events happen about four years apart. Our last one was our wedding four years ago, so the way I see it, we're due for a really big deal any day now. Maybe that's going to be some great vacation or something. Maybe a trip to nationals. Who knows?

There are moderately cool events too. Our last one was just a couple of weeks ago in Orlando, and others this year included our annual party and a trip to Baltimore, which included good times at Medieval Times and, coincidentally, we saw The Girl Next Door. Even the shitty hotel was kinda funny.

The biggest danger is that you'll miss the smaller moments that happen all of the time. Things like your wife doing the white girl overbite dance, the cats getting nutty, a big birthday party... it could be so many different things. Frequently we're looking for gigantic gestures of our lives when there are so many great little things that happen every day.

I'm trying very hard to notice these things. Everyone has tough times now and then, but you still keep getting new good memories to store with all of the other ones. You just need to stop and realize it.

Make new memories today.


Not all of Christianity is bad after all

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 2, 2004, 5:55 PM | comments: 2

In the last year you'd think that most Americans have gone totally nuts in a negative direction regarding what they call Christianity. On more that one occasion in my life I've felt that organized religion in general is out of control, and the last year has been particularly bad.

When I say something like that, usually the hardcore come back and say that flaming liberal types are worse. My personal feeling is that thoughtless liberalism is just as bad as thoughtless "me too" conservatism.

So the United Church of Christ started airing a new ad, and some of the networks won't show it. They have in on their site here:

http://www.stillspeaking.com/default.htm

Basically, there are some bouncer types and a velvet rope in front of the church, and they turn away gay, Latin and Asian folks. It's followed by an all-inclusive shot of a UCC congregation that includes lesbians, black folks, etc. The tag line is that "Jesus didn't turn people away."

I know that Christians in general are not bad and hateful people, but Christianity as a whole has a real perception problem. It's worse in the Middle East, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that so many Muslims see the US offensives as a war on Islam.

But this ad gives me hope. I think religion is supposed to be about celebrating faith, not fearing it or mourning it. This is certainly a step in that direction.


Posted new VolleyBuzz articles

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 2, 2004, 4:11 PM | comments: 0

I finished posting three articles on VolleyBuzz today. I was really pleased with the article on recruiting. The two coaches had very enthusiastic responses to my inquiries.

Now comes the point in time where I have to just kind of wait to get the word out about the site. I hate that part. I'm doing a little light-weight marketing for the site, but obviously a community like this best grows by word of mouth. That's kind of a tedious process, but it also results in higher quality community participants.


I had the radio failure dream... again

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 1, 2004, 10:16 AM | comments: 5

I know I've blogged about this before, but I had the radio failure dream again. This is the one where I'm doing a radio shift and I end up with dead air because I can't get the next song on fast enough or I try to talk and can't get what I'm supposed to say. I also get the call letters wrong (weird since I only worked at three different stations).

This time around, all of the music had been removed from the original CD cases and put in little brown envelopes, with hand-written titles on the envelopes in almost illegible handwriting. That's why I couldn't find the songs.

On one hand, I don't know what keeps triggering this dream. My definition of success has changed so much since the days I worked in radio, and it has nothing to do with money or fame. Back in those days, I was pretty insecure about being "successful" in the biz, compared to today where I don't feel that pressure as a programmer.

On the other hand, the new thing I remembered was that I was most worried about letting my boss down. I could imagine Matt, one of my program directors, sitting me down and telling me he didn't need me anymore, because I wasn't providing a quality show. I can't figure that one out, unless it's some metaphor for something else. I haven't had a boss since the radio days that I was worried about pleasing.

I wish I knew why I kept having this dream, and why it upsets me.


Building a volleyball site

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 1, 2004, 12:55 AM | comments: 0

I've wanted to build a volleyball site for a long time. I've got other sites with thriving communities for other things I'm interested in, so this seemed to be a natural fit!

As of this writing, the site isn't technically "done," but so far all of the tests have worked out and at least it's mechanically sound. Now all that's left is to start attracting people to use it, fill its forum, and stock it with quality articles.

As for the actual game, I have my first practice with my new J.O. 17's this Sunday, and I'm really excited about it. Looks like I've got a killer group of girls this year!