Ah... the fall tradition of closing the park. Every year it's a little different, with different people and different circumstances. This year, I closed the park from a Lighthouse Point cottage with Mike and Artemisa, the Chicago newlyweds I crashed Holiday World with.
They flew into Cleveland around lunch time on Friday, and after bringing them back to my house to pack in all of the crap I was taking, we obtained burritos at Chipotle (where Artemisa was disappointed at the lack of Mexicans working there), and took the short drive to Cedar Point. It's interesting going with out-of-towners because you realize yourself that there are a lot of things you overlook due to familiarity. Such is the case with driving up the Chaussee to see all of the million dollar homes.
Let me get the one negative out right away. The state of our Lighthouse Point cottage was again less than stellar. I complained about it last year and got a letter saying that I "know it's not normal for the park," but they're doing little to prove that. Fully developed spider webs, gross stained toilet seats, strange stains on the blankets, a shower that doesn't drain, a nasty shower curtain, mold in the corners... these are not acceptable for any place that's $175 a night. I pay less than that on-property at Universal for a AAA four-diamond hotel.
With that out of the way, we hit the early entry Friday night and went straight to Millennium Force. Believe it or not, it was my first time on the ride all year. With the ongoing seat belt drama, and my own shrinking waist, I was curious to see how bad it was. Truth is, there was no struggle and plenty of room to pull the belt even tighter. I observed that it's actually women who appear thin but struggle a bit, presumably because they're just wider in the hips than men.
Anyway, it was a great ride as always. The train I was on seemed to have sloppy springs (a little lateral shuffling), but it didn't seem to slow it down at all. Crazy sustained air on those hills. A little chilly for sure, but good times. Being with Mike, who asks a lot of questions about the ride, I thought a lot about my inner-geek and how closely I followed the ride when it was under construction. It was a real coaster dork moment.
We looped around the park and hit a number of other rides, including Wildcat, Blue Streak, Raptor, Wicked Twister, Power Tower, Iron Dragon and Magnum. It was one of the most productive riding nights I've had in a long time, and surprisingly didn't feel rushed at all. When you're with out-of-town guests you tend to want to not let them down in the face of what's familiar to you, but really it was casual.
We had the pizza buffet at Midway Market for $8. Totally worth it. It was really surprisingly good, and while they didn't have the normal Midway Market variety, they did have all of the normal desserts. One complaint though... there was meat on every pizza. I mean every pizza. Hello... what do the vegetarians do? They're 10% of the population. Fortunately I found one with chicken on it, which worked because I still eat poultry.
We also checked out the show at Red Garter. This year it's really the best it has been since adopting the "Monsters Rock" title. It's technically more interesting in terms of the set and the rock-n-roll lighting, and they finally got male vocalists that can sing rock songs. The women were absolutely stunning, all three above average (and I can't not mention all very attractive, even if that's superficial). The song list still needs a little refinement, but it's the best so far. Great show, and I'm crossing my fingers for the "Big E" awards.
On Saturday, Mike and I went in for morning laps on Millennium Force and Mantis. It got busy in a hurry, and the next thing we got on was Giant Wheel. From there we could see the parking lot was getting zooish in a hurry. We also noticed they had a flatbed trailer behind Wicked Twister with rental power transformers on it. Kind of cool that they do what they have to do to keep the ride up!
We met Artemisa at the TGI Friday's in Breakers for lunch. Aside from everything being a buck or two more than a normal Friday's, I'm impressed that it's so well run, especially for its size. I remember the service was notoriously bad the first year or two, but since then it has been consistently good. Someone deserves a pat on the back.
We crashed in the cottage and napped for a couple of hours. We had a few beers and went into the park around 9pm, really just to enjoy the atmosphere since we wouldn't get a lot of riding done with the crowds. We ran into John Hildebrandt, the GM, and Monty Jasper, the VP of maintenance and new construction, and they took us back to the makeup room where the Screamsters were created. That was really cool.
We stopped at the Fright Zone skull entrance to see Jeff Tobe do his thing some more (we did on Friday night as well). Even though he's out in the real world, I hope they're able to retain him, because he's very entertaining out there.
Other than a lap on Skyride (or a one-way trip), we didn't get on anything else. It was just too busy. But that was OK too... the point was just to enjoy the company of friends and the atmosphere. When we returned to the cottage, we smoked chocolate-flavored cigars and made turkey burgers.
The first thing on Sunday's agenda was the recording of the podcast with Cedar Fair boss Dick Kinzel, and it mostly went OK. A little editing and it'll be in good shape. Following that we had lunch at Famous Dave's. This place still needs to work out their service kinks, and I'm sure that wasn't lost on Mr. Kinzel, who I heard was there with us but in the next room.
I had a serious headache (I wonder why?), so while Mike and Artemisa picked up merchandise, I took a nap in the car. I felt much better after that and we headed to White Water Landing. I have a lot of memories of the ride, but none of them are particularly sentimental or even specific. It was, I think a very important ride in the lineup, and suspect it will be missed.
Next we met up with the Walsh family to see the Tell Tale Heart performed. I was seriously impressed. It's little things like this that really make the Halloweekends experience above average, and I regret that after this many years I had not previously seen it. Good stuff.
We met Kara and Linda at WWL so they tagged along, and they all rode Mean Streak while I sat it out. I did join them on Gemini though, and that was my last Cedar Point ride for the season. It was smooth and trimless. Good times.
I didn't want to stay for any of the usual last ride bullshit, because I can't stand the enthusiasses that make a scene and claim some kind of entitlement. I learned years ago to steer clear of that nonsense.
Driving around Perimeter Road one last time, I was reminded again that the closing weekend experience is still about who you spend it with. It's still the people that matter the most in this hobby, not the number of laps you get. I'm grateful for the friends I have and careful not to ever take those relationships for granted. It's the people that make it worth riding.
A friend of mine made the point to me that despite some overall negative things going on my life, there's a lot of positive stuff going on too. He's so right, and I suppose that's why I'm so upbeat.
Tonight I did a late-night grocery run to buy some junk for partying this weekend. I was all giddy about that. I'm never giddy, especially in grocery stores, but I'll take it.
Part of what I find exciting was my realization last night about what kind of business stuff I can develop. I've got some interesting ideas I'll try to develop in the coming weeks. I'm also pretty sure I'm going to commit to buying that HD camera in December. It's a worthy investment not just for the business, but it also eliminates, no, blows away, the barrier to shooting my own short films. Nothing like shooting in a format that looks great on the big screen.
I'm going to get a chance to do some fun, if not that exciting in terms of content, video stuff this weekend. It's fun to break out the lights, microphones, cables and other junk. It's fun looking through a Markertek catalog, something I haven't done in years. There's like this two-stage joy in doing anything with video. The first stage is the gadget geeketry that goes with plugging in things to each other such. The second is actually capturing some kind of media. I love that stuff.
.NET v2.0 went RTM today. The final bits are finally out there after nearly two years of messing with the alphas, betas and previews. The MSDN subscription I reluctantly bought still hasn't got here though, so I'll have to wait until next week before I can download. I'm not going to wait for the DVD's to arrive.
I'm not going to go to Vegas next week. After talking to my friends, they're not going to have much play time, and frankly it'd be kind of fiscally irresponsible for me anyway.
Citibank hooked me up with an insane credit card deal, and I'm moving all of my credit card debt (entirely too much of it) to a 0% card through January 2007, and no balance transfer fees. So while it sucks that I have the debt, I'm not getting my ass kicked by finance charges anymore. How awesome is that?
I feel fortunate to have so many good things to think about on what might otherwise have been a very difficult day.
I came upon this quite by accident. We need more chick activists. Although, these chicks don't look tortured at all. I might even say they're a little underfed.
I decided to crawl into bed and listen to This Week In Tech #27 tonight, figuring the geek stuff would put me right out. It did in fact do the opposite.
The show had a lot of discussion about how we're going to get content in the coming months and years. Everything is changing, and it's going to happen no matter what Hollywood and network TV does. Being able to buy and watch an episode of Lost on your iPod seems insignificant to analysts right now, but it's the first step in something that will evolve.
The Internet is finally starting to get to a point where the concept of "anyone can be a star" is crossing over to audio and video. You don't need a television network to get your shit in front of people anymore. There's no telling how exactly you might make money yet, but that will eventually get worked out.
My mind is pretty clear on this. There is enormous potential to catch the front of this wave because it's stuff I already know how to do. I'm a couple of key items away from even owning all the gear to do it. While geeks get their hands on DV cameras with no lighting or decent sound (and the inability to understand deinterlacing), I can do it all... today. Even if I don't do the stuff myself, I can do it for others and get paid. I've had the skills for more than a decade, and I own most of the gear. Only the medium has changed.
It has finally dawned on me that this is what I need to do. These are the kinds of services I can offer the world, and I already have a particular client that I'm going to prove myself to. From there I need to map out a business plan, figure out how to quickly pay off the debt incurred by capital expenditures, and make a name.
There are more details that I've scratched out here on paper, but what an epiphany...
Yeah, I admit it, I'm jealous of Alex's new iPod. How cool is that?
The thing is, I need to be smart about anything expensive that I buy, because if I'm going to continue to get more serious about doing video, I need to use money (or credit resources, I should say) for equipment. We're on the verge of "affordable" high definition video with the forthcoming HVX200 camera. That sounds like a lot, but consider that cameras that have previously been used to acquire video like that cost something like $100,000. That's quite a change.
Here's hoping my big November project pays off in a hurry.
There was an interesting story today on ABCnews about how positive thinking may lead to longer life. It's an interesting story because they start by focusing on generally upbeat nuns and point out how they tend to age better than a lot of other people.
Being positive apparently results in less production of certain stress hormones that are bad for your heart and immune system. That makes sense to me, because I haven't been sick much at all in the last two years or so, since I was laid-off from a job I didn't like and decided to live on my own terms.
But how do you let stressful stuff just roll off? There's the hard part. Somehow you have to treat even bad things as being positive. That's not easy at all. I guess you do the best you can and train yourself to do it. When I encounter negativity, there's almost always some way that I can challenge myself to deal with it in a positive way, but it depends on how emotionally involved you get.
Crazy stuff to think about!
We're recording the podcast at Cedar Point live this Sunday at the Red Garter Saloon with none other than Dick Kinzel, the CEO and President of Cedar Fair, LP. That's a huge big deal. This guy is easily one of the most respected people in all of the amusement industry today.
I had a conversation this morning about blogging, and why people do it. I was staggered to find that my blog is read 10,000 times a month, so that made me start to think about why I do it.
I guess it's almost easier to start by saying why I don't. I don't do it for attention (I already get more of that than I want). I don't do it for an audience, at least not on this blog. I don't do it to be liked, or for someone to agree with me. The truth is, I don't do it for anyone but me.
Understand that I have other blogs as well. One is totally private that no one ever gets to read but me. That's where I put stuff that I just need to work out by way of getting it "down on paper." I also have a professional blog on the Microsoft ASP.NET site, which is the aforementioned exception to the writing for an audience thing. That one I've woefully neglected since finishing my book.
I write this blog, in conjunction with my secret one, more because it's therapeutic than anything. I like to write. I went to school partly to write. I feel that I can more effectively form my own opinions (and occasionally vent) when I peck something out at the keyboard. It helps to process what you think and feel so you can move on to the next thing. It's also nice to have a record of yourself as you move through life.
The only negative is that of course people like to judge what you put out there, but I don't let that bother me for a couple of reasons. The first is that most people who do so are spineless little people without the balls to say who they really are. I lead a somewhat public life, and I'll tell you in person the same thing I'll tell you online. Sadly, most people hide behind the wires. I don't do that at all. What you see is what you get, triumphs, tragedies, flaws... everything, and it's quite liberating to be yourself without having to apologize to anyone for it. The only way to accept who you are is to embrace it all, and most of the time I'm able to do that.
The flip question is to ask why you read blogs. Most of the blogs I read are professional, with only a few being personal. I've seen blogs here and there that are clearly written for other people, or even specific people. That's fine, but they're not very interesting to read. Then you have readers that just border on being stalkers who are in dire need of their own lives. Those people are creepy.
Now if I could just be this guy, who makes six figures a year writing blogs. Wouldn't that be a sweet gig!
Well it'd be lame after my Captain Jack post not to mention that a real important person, Rosa Parks, died today. She was 92.
Even though everyone knows her story, it's hard to believe when you think about it that racism and civil rights were in such poor shape as recently as the 50's and 60's. But even more frightening is that shit still goes on. That's staggering. Look at the crap that went on in Toledo recently, and that's not even the south!
It's amazing that we haven't managed to destroy the entire world. Someone always has to hate someone. Radical terrorists hate everyone, some Americans hate people from the Middle East, Latinos are now facing more hate crimes... what the hell is wrong with people? I mean, there are countless individuals that get on my nerves, but to dislike people for their ethnicity or religion is beyond irrational.
The only group I can't stand are the real haters. They're just stupid white rednecks, oddly enough.
I doubt many people would care, but Captain Jack, a.k.a. Franky Gee, died Friday at the age of 43. The only reason I'd know of him as an American is that he contributed a lot of tunes to various Dance Dance Revolution mixes over the years.
It's crazy that he scored 19 gold and platinum discs, according to the article, because he was practically unknown here in the states. Still, cheeseball dance pop or not, he had some fun songs in DDR.
Still one of my favorite lyrics...
"Quit whining you haven't done
Anything wrong because frankly
You haven't done much of anything"
Dogma - KMFDM
Wow, it was kind of nice to get up this morning and not really have any specific agenda. Not that I don't have things I need to do, but I didn't have to do anything specific at any specific time, if I didn't want to.
I started the morning by doing the last few edits for the CoasterBuzz Podcast because I wasn't that motivated to do it last night. I'm irritated about the sound quality on the call to London, but I'll get over it.
I ordered a nice bag from Mackie for my mixer, which it described as having "robust construction." It really is pretty nice for $30, and it means I can stash the box away somewhere. The mixer was well worth it. I'm very pleased with the audio quality on the podcast.
I actually got pretty hardcore working on my next site today, which is surprising, because given that I had nothing on the calendar today, I could've just done nothing. I feel some of my motivation coming back, beating the SAD that comes with the season change.
A couple of friends of mine are going to Vegas next week on business. I can't get the bastard to stay on IM long enough to answer questions, so I'm gonna get the skinny from him on the phone tomorrow. Who knows, if I can sneak in a cheap flight, I might just go meet them out there. That would be rad.
A couple of friends from Chicago are flying in Friday afternoon to dork it out at Cedar Point for closing weekend. Hard to say how much riding we'll do with possible shitty cold weather, but hey, there will be beer and my small gas grill. Maybe a game console. We'll have fun anyway.
I finally saw Elizabethtown, and I absolutely loved it. It has been a very long time since a movie really affected me in some way at an emotional level, but this one did it.
Putting aside for a moment my irrational infatuation with Kirsten Dunst, the film is a sentimental and sappy story that also happens to be very clever with great dialog. It challenges you to think about what success really is, and the importance of various relationships in your life.
I may go see it again. No idea what the DVD release date is, but I'll get it that day. I finally have something to put along side of Singles, another Cameron Crowe movie.
We lost our sectional tournament game yesterday, and that ends our season. It's a bummer that short of winning the state championship, you have to end on a loss. I think we certainly had the better team, but it was one of those days where the kids just didn't have their hearts in it.
No regrets though... I'm pleased with the outcome of the season. A winning record without having the benefit of several years with the kids is always welcome. And I'm very thankful for a challenging schedule. I wish we didn't have to play the crappy teams at all, but our A.D. made the valid point that someone has to play with those schools, because we'd want them to play with us if we weren't competitive.
I'll probably miss the seniors more than anything. They were four very different personalities, but all of them had great resolve to learn the new system and be the best they could be in their roles. I have a lot of respect for that, because given their time at the school prior to my arrival, they could have just as easily been resistant to everything. Instead, they were amazing.
It's a bitter-sweet thing that tomorrow I'm free to do anything I want. I better enjoy it though... J.O. tryouts are just around the corner.
Yeah, you heard me. Boo-yah!
It's fun to be me.
I fought it for a long time, but I finally had to actually turn on the heat today. It just got too chilly in here. I thought maybe I could get through October with no heat or air conditioning, but alas Ohio weather foiled me again.
For the first time in eight years of coaching, I had to boot a player out of practice for speaking inappropriately to me. I couldn't believe it. That's about the last thing I ever thought I'd do.
It has been a tough year, though little of it has to do with the kids. Honestly, the kid problems I can manage and deal with... it's the crazy parents that make life difficult. I've got one who basically thinks the team sucks. I'm not sure what his measuring stick is. Maybe it's our record, 10-8, which frankly I'm proud of given our schedule against a lot of bigger (and taller) schools. I'm happy as a clam, especially because I can say with a straight face that all eight kids are markedly better than they were when I got them. They even push my intense system.
Tonight me, my JV coach and one of the kids and her mom went to see the match that determined who we would play. It ended as I expected, and the team we play we should be able to own. It all depends on which one of my teams (the quiet passive one or the loud aggressive one) decides to show up.
I'm crossing my fingers. A Cinderella story would be nice. They don't have to make a movie about it, but I'd like to make some great new memories.
Well, I hate spending the money, but I guess I have to stay in the loop. I ordered an MSDN Enterprise subscription today from Amazon for about $1,400. Buying either that or the Universal before the end of the month gets you upgraded to the forthcoming Visual Studio Team Edition with MSDN plan, which will retail for around $5,000. So to get all of the latest and greatest stuff (including Office, Windows Vista, Source Safe, and the server products), it makes sense.
The alternative was waiting for the release of Visual Studio and getting the pro version for $800 or so, but it lacks all of the testing tools (not to mention practically all of the software Microsoft makes).
Like I said, I do hate spending the money, but using VS 2005 in beta form the last year and a half, it really is an amazing tool that I use every day. Getting to know the testing stuff in particular (the release version, that is) is important from a career standpoint too, because I suspect it will be used everywhere. I have to remind myself that the first time I bought a subscription, back in 2001, I spent $2,500 and was unemployed in a scary way. This is a piece of cake by comparison!
Just a follow up to last night's post... I had Gardenburgers on sourdough bread. :)
I've learned that I actually enjoy grocery shopping when I don't have to fight old ladies who can't drive their carts in a straight line. Alas, what made grocery shopping fun in college was doing it at insane times of the night.
I think it was the summer between my sophomore and junior years that a 24-hour Meijer opened in Mansfield, near Ashland, Ohio. I remember being astounded by the selection and the fact that I was there at 3 a.m. I think it was there that I discovered the 20 pound bag of rice, which served me well.
My grocery store is just a mile down the road, so I hit it tonight. I did $78 in damage in a little under 30 minutes, but I picked up a lot of stuff that I normally just race past because I'm so anxious to get out of there. For example, I picked up a loaf of sourdough. It's expensive, sure, but it's so yummy. I also picked up a bottle of lime juice and Corona. It's like making your own girl beer. Favorites I haven't had in awhile, like Gardenburgers and English muffins fell into my cart. It's not that I'm in a rut, I just normally get essentials and get the hell out. Tonight, I could look around.
I latched on to another TV show. I so don't have room in my life for another, but I've seen all three episodes of ABC's Commander in Chief, and I'm hooked.
The premise of the show started simple enough... the president dies and his vice president (Geena Davis), a woman and an independent, takes the oath, despite the urging of the cabinet and the Speaker of The House (Donald Sutherland) to resign. Add the complications of being a mother with three kids, a "first gentleman" husband, her lack of party affiliation, and determination by the speaker and a lot of other people to bring her down, and it's pretty exciting stuff.
Not only is Geena Davis amazing, showing the right balance of character traits (and flaws), but Donald Sutherland is such an evil badass. Already, after three episodes, you want to hate virtually everyone in Washington, because you know this shit really goes on. It's crazy.
So the DVR has to pick up yet another show every week.
I took some variation of the Myers-Briggs type test, and it turns out I'm ENFP. Yep... that's pretty much me, except for the part about being spontaneous. I'm still a little stuck in my safety bubble at times for that.
I'm guessing there aren't very many code monkeys out there in this classification. Makes me wonder what the hell I'm doing!
I will say that most of the scores ended up being fairly moderate, not far from going the other way. That means I'm either well-balanced, or really fucking boring!
I decided to take a "solo date" to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo today. I've been talking about it since spring and I never did it. Since it was cool and sunny today, I decided that today was the day.
The zoo is kind of a special place for me, because I used to live just a few blocks away. The neighborhood really scares me now, but I did spend 14 and a half years there. I have so many memories of the place, and it was really weird to go back.
Let me start by explaining the bridge photos. That's the infamous Fulton Road Bridge in Cleveland. Built in 1932, it has been falling apart ever since. I remember it was in bad shape when I was a kid, and to see it now, I'm surprised they let traffic over it. Well, actually it's down to one lane each way. In any case, I have photos from the ground that include the covers to protect the zoo from falling concrete. Scary. It's going to be replaced starting late next year.
Anyway, I started my walk around the zoo by entering the African area in the middle. The lions, zebras, gazelles, giraffes and ostriches are in this area. Just next to them is monkey island, which is one of the oldest habitats at the zoo. I remember days when that island was totally filled with critters running all over the place. These days there are just a handful. Adjacent to this area, on the other side of the rhinos, is a really nice catering area. I was very impressed.
After passing under the bridge, I entered the western most part of the zoo. That's where the polar bears, sea lions, camels, reindeer and back in the day, some huge turtles (didn't see any). Only one of the bears was out sunning himself. They're such amazing creatures. I think I may have accidentally missed one of the habitats there by taking a certain path, but I'm not sure. It has been so long since I've been in there.
I noticed that they still do zoo keys, these little plastic things you can buy and stick in slots to get audio to play at various exhibits. When I was a kid, there were cool souvenir plastic keys that were shaped like skeleton keys. Now they're more like swipe cards.
There's a neat wolf exhibit that looks fairly new. It's very cool because it's built on the hillside, so there's a lot of interesting terrain for the wolves. Unfortunately, and presumably so they aren't freaked out by screaming children (and there were plenty today), there's a big glass wall between you and the habitat. Although you do get to see the critters swimming in the water this way.
I skipped the greenhouse but went around the old Waterfowl lake. There you'll find lots of ducks, geese and flamingo. This is the old core of the zoo, where the bird habitat is (I missed it or it's gone) and the pachyderm building. This zoo has always been big on elephants. I don't remember any of their ages, but I know several of them were born there. They've always been a big deal.
I skipped most of the new Australian stuff due to time constraints, but I wish I would've looked in there more. Lots of stuff just roaming about. I did peak in the Koala exhibit, but they were sleeping. Some strange reddish-orange kangaroos were also in there.
I guess this is a good place to mention that I saw no peacocks. The thing that always struck me as a kid was that they were everywhere and not constrained to any particular area. That's weird. I wonder why?
I headed up the deck walk to the cat and primate building. This is a very long wood and steel walkway that climbs you up 80 feet. Still a hike! I remember as a kid that kids would often get into the zoo and hide out there all day to cut school. No cutters were there this day.
The gorillas were hiding somewhere, and that bummed me out. I did get to see the cheetahs outside though. They're so lean and skinny looking, kind of like when my cat Luna was particularly sick. They were all chilling out.
Inside, the snow leopard cub was curled up napping, so I could barely see him. The older cats were up and stretching. The various primates were all doing basically nothing, except for one kind of monkey that clearly has no problem breeding in captivity and loves to swing from vines. I forget the species.
Watching the clock, I jumped on the tram to go back down to the entrance (the trams are made by Chance, by the way). That's when I saw some of the cooler Australian stuff that I skipped. Perhaps next time. I had to get into the Rain Forest!
You don't hear a lot of "save the rain forest" stuff these days, but the world is still not doing a good job of preserving them and the gigantic ecosystems they support. That's a damn shame. Anyway, this artificial rain forest was a real joke for the longest time because it went way over budget and opened many years late. Today, it's still a very neat thing to walk through. The species in that building are a lot more unique than those in the main zoo. The orangutans are in there too.
There's a neat artificial rain/fog cycle in the one area, which is complimented by audio about the unfortunate destruction of the rain forest. It's still very neat to see.
I was there for about 2.5 hours and snapped about 130 photos (at least 20 were junk). I was getting frustrated with my cheap long lens, in part because the best it can do is f/5.6 at length, and partly because the soda accident I had at Medieval Times a few years ago causes problems with focusing. I'm really out of practice too. The stuff I shot was largely crap, and not sharp. The problem isn't the equipment as much as it is me. Poor exposure was a problem in the shadowy places with bright sun. I need to get out and shoot more.
Overall, it was a fun couple of hours. The weather was perfect, and the animals at most exhibits were indeed out and about. The overall state of the zoo is pretty good, and better than I expected. There are a lot of empty habitats though, and I suspect they could use more money. I'm thinking about becoming a member myself.
I like zoos. A lot of people don't, but I think it's important to understand animals and learn about them, even if it is in a contrived environment. I'll not likely get a chance for an African safari, so this is the closest I'll ever get to the animals.
I have to admit that it's kind of nice to hear people tell me that I look good. I haven't lost a ton of weight, but it has been enough that some people have even described me as "sexy." Not going to complain about that!
I'd still like to lose a bit more though to get that mid-section more trim, so I'm trying to stick to the diet. I haven't been doing that well for the last four or five weeks though, and I'm kind of stuck. The problem comes when I have nights like tonight, where I've already used my alloted points and I'm still hungry. Part of this is certainly the food choices I made, but I wonder if I should just listen and eat. I know that in part I've been stress eating, so I confuse what my mind wants and what my body wants.
What I really want, in the worst way, is to go down the street to Steak-n-Shake and get a big f'ing chocolate shake.
For all of the love I generally give Apple, they're really annoying me right now. iTunes v5 and v6 won't burn CD's for me. Nothing else has changed on my system, so it's not my problem. Everything was peachy with v4.9, and has since gone down the tubes.
What's particularly annoying is that there are widespread cases of the same error on their forums, and it has been well over a month now since they broke something. People with purchased music are getting blown off, which is pretty lame. Replacing my perfectly functional drive is not a solution!
I got about 16 minutes of OK audio for the next CoasterBuzz Podcast. I interviewed a couple of people from a production company in London doing a series for Discovery. One episode will cover the construction of a number of wood coasters going up this year. It's neat stuff, not your typical enthusiast stuff.
The quality of the call fluctuated quite a bit, but I guess there isn't a lot I could do about that. I'll try to pull a little of the noise out where I can.
I had a meeting Saturday morning to discuss some possible business opportunities, and while I'm excited at the potential, I'm not going to bank on any of them yet. Exciting stuff though.
That got me to thinking that I'm in dire need of having some "corporate" site to at least explain what the heck my company does. So I stayed on task today and whipped something up. It's not the greatest story ever told, but it's certainly better than the one static page I had before. As soon as I have time, I'll work on improving that.
The important thing I got out of this exercise was kind of mapping out what I do, and what I can do more of. I loath to do a formal business plan, but I do now have a business map, and I can see where the potential is. That's a step in the right direction.
Recording the CoasterBuzz Podcast was a pain in the ass today with interruptions and all kinds of problems (listen for the Easter eggs), but it got done, and it actually sounds like we had fun. We have a special guest to record tomorrow afternoon, and then have another big one we're lining up hopefully for the next few weeks. Really exciting stuff, if not always money-making.
People piss me off. It's not even past lunch and already I'm annoyed with people. That's not a good sign.
Tonight was our last regular season game, and it was at home. That means it was also senior night. Our opponent was the one we lost to a few weeks ago in five games, losing the last one by two points. They wanted it bad.
At first, I feared the worst. We blew a 10-point lead and lost the first game. I wasn't surprised, but certainly disappointed. However, they won the next three, and did it in fairly convincing fashion. We never got huge leads, but my kids were so fired up, and so intense, that they were pretty awesome. We also had the single biggest crowd I've seen at that little school, and it made a huge difference.
So despite all of the distractions and a few parents that continue to question my ability and motivation for coaching, today was one of those days where you remember why you do it. Every kid contributed, half of them had their best matches of their high school careers. Kids that were "projects" to say the least at the start of the season have come around to be bona fide athletes and competitors. It was awesome, and it really provided the validation that I needed.
JV won too, and it was like they finally clicked. I give Liz so much credit for her patience in dealing with those kids. I couldn't do it because I'm used to high-level coaching, not basic skills coaching. She really balanced me out this year, and I'm so grateful she coached.
After the match, we went out for a late dinner at a kind of mediocre restaurant, but it was nice to see how happy and excited they all were, especially the seniors. They will certainly be missed next year.
So a week from Saturday we play our first tournament game, and we play until we either lose or win the state D-4 title. I have my fingers crossed that the team I saw today is the one that shows up. If it's that team, I'll be pleased, win or lose.
Today it was worth all the drama and nonsense. Today the kids exceeded every expectation and showed that they've been listening. It was a good day.
Apple made some important announcements today. While the analysts may poo-poo them in some respects, they're first steps toward a bigger picture that will make a difference in the long run.
First is the new iPod. The video thing is certainly the gee-whiz feature, but I think in the formal announcement it was really emphasized just the right amount. It's not the ultimate killer application, and I don't think anyone expects it to be. The point is really that it's a forward step in the storage and distribution of video. Would I buy the first season of Lost on iTunes for $35 to watch on my computer and iPod? At that price, maybe, especially if I do a lot of flying. There is a market, even if it's small to start with.
They're also making a huge statement with Front Row, the media app included with the new iMac. Along with its remote control, it does music, video, photos and DVD's better than anything else out there. There's no contest at all. They've gotten it right in their first try. It's simple, easy, and awesome.
Conspicuously missing is some kind of DVR capability, but you can be almost entirely sure they haven't gone there yet for two reasons. The first is that tuning devices (cable boxes, satellite receivers, HD tuners, etc.) still suck in terms of integration to any external device. The second thing is that I believe we aren't all that far away from seeing a decline in traditional video programming distribution. IP distribution is already here today among the geeks. I give ABC a lot of credit for having the courage to experiment with Apple on the distribution of their highest rated shows.
Apple is doing something elegant and again pressing the technology in a way that makes sense. Say what you will about Jobs, but he's the only executive on the planet that right now bridges the gap between media companies and tech companies. Everyone else is speaking different languages. Hollywood in particular is hopelessly lost, fighting over HD formats that ultimately will go the way CD's are going.
These are very exciting times for technology and media junkies.
My Microsoft Intellimouse Explorer started to have button issues a week or two ago. It wasn't clicking. Then earlier this week it started tracking weird as well. Prior to the tracking problem, I wrote Microsoft and told them, and they agreed to send me a new one.
But they sent me the wireless version instead. Score. Good mistake. It's physically the same mouse, just no wire (not that it ever bothered me anyway). I'm comfortably clicking again.
I was talking with a friend tonight about how difficult relationships can be. They can be complex, scary and difficult. But in the grand scheme of things, are they really that complex?
He told me the story of his parents, who went through a very difficult period. They took a trip together, but didn't actually spend the time together. His mom spent most of the trip sitting on the beach, spending hours watching the waves come in.
Given the different tide cycles, the roughness of the incoming water changed every day. As ridiculously complex as the Earth's systems are, it always manages to support life (despite our best efforts to destroy it). This giant ball of matter keeps moving around the sun, slowly shaping its land masses, giving and taking away life, constantly changing. The Earth has been at it for millions of years.
When you think about it in that context, maybe the relationships we have in life aren't all that complex. You might go as far as saying that they're not even that important since they exist in a small fraction of time. If this amazing rock we live on can keep driving the tide in and out every day, should it really be that hard for us to conduct relationships?
The Beatles said all we need is love. That's half true. The other thing we need is the patience and will to also accept the shit, because the shit is a small price to pay for the ultimate benefits of love, friendship and human contact.
Indeed, my ability to operate effectively in interpersonal relationships is inconsequential compared to the chaos of the natural world. If there can be some order in that worldly chaos, maybe I overestimate the chaos of relationships. Maybe they're more straight forward than I think.
I let my kids really just goof today. They need days like that now and then I think because they get burned out on being totally serious every day.
Since one of my kids were sick, I played her position, as an outside hitter. Yep, I still kind of suck at passing, probably just because I'm out of practice. However, I had a sweet hit on a shoot that really surprised the kids. I am so about the quick everything in volleyball, and I think when they see me do it, they realize that I'm not crazy... the stuff really works. I got serious air and my less experienced setter just put the thing in front of me. It was really beautiful. If the "old man" can do it, they all can!
Our final home game is Thursday. After that, sectionals are a week from Saturday. Crossing my fingers...
Wow, the earthquake is Pakistan is horrible. I can't believe the amount of destruction nature has brought on the world this year. First the tsunami, then the hurricanes and now this. I can't remember a year like this. I've donated more money this year to the Red Cross than probably the last five years combined, including 9/11. I hope people can continue to find a few bucks to donate here and there.
WARNING: This is one of those blog posts that you read and think, "Why the fuck would anyone want to read the boring details of this person's life?"
Luna woke me up at about 6:30 this morning to release what I can only call her most impressive hairball to date. I don't know where she gets all that hair considering the brushing I give her.
Anyway, despite what was scarcely five hours of sleep at the time, my mind started racing. Actually it was racing in a dream to begin with, but now I was awake. I was also hungry. Put these things together and you get a strange and sudden urge to go pickup a few groceries. So that's what I did.
First off, I haven't been up this early in many months. I'm astounded at the number of people moving about that early, and think, wow, that sucks. Getting up before dawn and on a regular basis sucks. I'm glad I don't have to do that for the time being.
My car was one of three in front of the grocery store, and what a different experience that was. No people to fight through, no lines, just me and my basket, free to shop. They were hosing out the meat coolers too, which I wasn't aware you could do.
I only needed a couple of things, but I saw some giant tortillas and got inspired to make burritos. I scored some chipotle-lime marinade and put some chicken in when I got home. Sadly, the fridge fairy must've taken the bottle of lime juice I would've used for the rice, so I won't have the full flavor experience unless I go back today. Probably not the best meal choice anyway. I'm starting to get used to people telling me I'm sexy, so putting on pounds isn't a good idea.
I got home well before sunrise, had a little breakfast, and realized I still didn't get any bread. Still no toast for me. Shit! Oh well. I'm undoubtedly going to crash around lunch time, but in the mean time I'm working on my projects. I might as well be productive while I'm up!
As if I didn't already have enough things in my head distracting me from, well, making a living, I'm getting the movie bug again. There are a lot of new films coming out that I'm kind of excited about, and the tech of course keeps drawing me in.
I have another screenplay in my head, and it's fairly well developed. It's also too much about my own life. That's why I think I would suck as a screen writer because I have such a hard time coming up with something from scratch, that has nothing to do with me.
Then I have my usual barriers about the fact that I don't know any actors, I can't use the music I really want, I don't have the gear. All problems that could be worked through, sure, but anything to keep me from actually taking the chance to do it.
My first priority was just seeing the iPod Nano up close. I was speechless. The "impossibly small" tagline seemed silly, until I actually held one in my hand. Unreal. I'm just blown away that they can keep making what is essentially the same device cooler with every generation. Wow.
I also played around with Final Cut Pro while I was there. I'm annoyed with Avid, because every time they come out with a new release, something stops working. Final Cut seems to have a much better interface, but you know, I don't actually have a Mac (yet) so it's not like I can use it anyway. I'm going to try and wait as along as I can, until the Intel Macs come out next summer.
Just thinking about Singles in my last post, I relized that Cameron Crowe wrote and directed Elizabethtown, coming out this Friday. I guess most people know him for Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky, but I know him for Singles, one of the best movies ever made.
Of course, you don't have to talk me into seeing a Kirsten Dunst movie anyway. :)
Last night Stephanie and I went back to Ashland University for the homecoming comedy show, Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood. They did improv stuff, like on Whose Line, and frankly as a long-format show it wasn't very good. We left early.
We walked around campus and it was like going to a different place. I didn't bother going to the radio station since it was rebuilt. There's a new rec center under construction, along with a new education building, expansion of the science building and closure of a road they bought. There are also new parking lots, a new student center, new business building, new senior apartments. Basically, the place I went to school is long gone. Short of inviting myself into my old dorm rooms, it's a totally different place.
I ran into my roommate from my senior year. She's had a child, gained some weight, and it was, I don't know, weird. I didn't see anyone else. Even at the BW3, there were alumni from the last year or two, and then really old people that had been out 30 years. It has only been 10 for me.
I don't even know why I wanted to go. Maybe it's because Steph and I met there. I honestly haven't even thought about college in a long time. It annoys the shit out of me that the people I considered my friends would disappear into the world.
Since graduating, I've changed careers three times, been married, gone through layoffs, the Internet boom and bust, etc. I couldn't predict or control most of it, but it has been endlessly interesting, if not traumatic at times. No regrets at all, and I wouldn't trade in even the worst times.
I feel more than anything like there's so much potential for great new things, and I probably haven't thought of what those things might be. It's hard to get your head around that; that the next big thing in your life can't even be conceived. How cool is that? I realized that's the same feeling you have in college. That brings me a lot of joy because it means I still haven't been beaten down by the world, and I'm still hanging on to feeling young. That's awesome. I just have to reconcile that notion with one perfectly summed up by Janet in the movie Singles:
"I think time is running out to do something bizarre. Somewhere around 25, bizarre becomes immature."
Bah. That's nonsense!
OK, clearly I need to find a better use of my time. :)
I just found that iTunes has radio playlists, by market and station. How fucking cool is that? I mean, radio is irrelevant in my opinion, but still, that's fucking brilliant. It's so crazy to think that when I left the biz almost ten years ago that this shit didn't exist. Crazy!
So knowing that there is no "real" alt rock in Cleveland, I buzzed over to 89x in Detroit (CIMX/Windsor). Despite being owned now by Clear Channel (or Inifinity, like it matters), they actually have some interesting shit in there. I used to have an 89x sticker on my car in college. I was a dork.
Oh shit... Nine Inch Nails is in Detroit Saturday and Cleveland on Sunday. Hmmmm... how spontaneous am I?
OK, so I might be a sell-out, but I found some stuff I really liked and bought it.
First off, I snagged a couple of old singles. The first one is called "Superman" by Lazlo Bane, the theme to the TV show Scrubs. It's just kind of a fun song that makes it OK to be vulnerable and not perfect. The other one is Hoku's "Perfect Day" from Legally Blonde. Yeah, it's cheesy pop, but how could you not feel good about it?
In the album category, I snagged three. The first is Fiona Apple's new Extraordinary Machine. She still has an enormous head, but she still sounds sexy as hell. I glossed over her second album, but this one is a winner. I really dig it. There's a lot of very different textures on it, but it's all very much her.
I took a chance on getting Liz Phair's new Somebody's Miracle. She's been around now for at least a decade, and honestly she's never grabbed me, but I previewed the tracks and this one I liked. She's just got that girl rocker sound that's fun to listen to. I'm sure it'll continue to grow on me.
Finally, I got Nickleback's All The Right Reasons. Yeah, this one for sure qualifies as frat boy rock, but my inner (and hopefully secret) Def Leppard fan really digs their sound. This is much better than 2003's The Long Road. What stands out is that the lyrics show off some of the best rock writing since 80's era Bon Jovi. I know it's a sappy tune, but the current single "Photograph" is a really, really great song.
Overall, it's a real relief that 2005 is shaping up to be a good year for music. It has been a rough year and I need the tunes to get me through it. My 2005 playlist keeps growing, and I feel like I'm growing with it.
I had grand intentions of doing a lot of work tonight, but as has been the case all week, it's so hard to get in the groove after practice. No matter, I've got all day Saturday and Sunday to just go heads down and crazy.
So to prepare for that, I'm endlessly surfing around iTunes to find something that will get me focused and moving. Music really is a huge part of my life (even if I can't create it), and it never fails to inspire me, carry me through good and bad times, and generally turn on my brain. Somehow I forget that's true when I go numb and stare at the ceiling, or worse, TV, for hours on end.
I think I've got some potential winners... stay tuned.
I'm sitting here in my office when a car full of Bible thumpers, four of them, pulls into my driveway, parks, and disperses into the neighborhood. The two women, attractive as they might be, ring my door bell. I yell down from the window for them to get lost and get the hell out of my driveway.
Who do these idiots think they are? Did God issue them a parking pass for my driveway? You aren't going to "save" anybody by pissing them off. It just blows me away that people have the nerve to do this kind of thing in the name of their religion.
I've spent the better part of 30 years trying to figure out what my faith is all about. These arrogant jerks aren't going to win me over. I swear I should convert to Buddhism. When's the last time a pack of Buddhists went roaming around your neighborhood knocking on doors telling you you're going to hell if you don't convert to their way of thinking?
About two weeks ago, I bought some audio equipment and decided to do a podcast for CoasterBuzz. To my surprise, people are actually listening to it. The first episode is closing in on 1,500 downloads, and the second is on pace to do the same. That's amazing to me.
I'm hyper-critical of it of course, because I'm not just some guy with a computer and a microphone. I used to do radio for a living, so I hear it and think it's just not good enough. I need to get over that and judge it the way I judge Web content... on the content. Technically it's sound even if I don't like my own performance, and the content is frankly pretty good. I'm working on a special guest soon that would be a huge thing for us.
The scary thing is I just got the credit card statement for the audio equipment. Ouch! And I complain about how I can't make the business debt go away. There's a business plan in there somewhere, and if I could find sponsorship, I could kill it pretty quick. Good old fashioned radio ads. That's fun!
Yep, it's finally out. I'm not sure if I'll get it or not. The songs in this mix make it really tempting though...
OK, so with my last post about volleyball winding down, and a relatively narrow window, I need to think about taking a vacation. Last weekend it was nice to escape from real life for a bit.
Stephanie and I were talking a while back about this. She has taken little recharge retreats and said it was good for her. I stubbornly said I don't need that kind of thing, but I think that maybe she's right. Getting away from your routine really does boost your energy and offer a bit of perspective.
No idea about the what or where, or how the hell I can afford it, but the holidays I suspect are really going to suck. I need to head that off.
We've got one more regular season game next week, and then we're on to tournaments. I can't believe it's almost over already.
As of tonight, we're 9-8, which is perfectly acceptable to me. The schedule ended up being a lot harder than I expected, but I'm glad that it was. Originally I worried that it was going to be all crappy teams like last year, but it ended up being much tougher. That's good, because winning every match against crappy teams is boring.
Individually, each kid has made a ton of progress, and that to me is a true sign of success. Even the games we lost were close. We only embarrassed ourselves once.
The only downside to this high school stuff is some of the parent issues, because they're a huge distraction from doing the actual work, but fortunately I've got a supportive administration.
The J.O. tryouts begin in November, with practice in January, so I don't get much of a break. I need to think about taking a vacation.
I thought that maybe it was just the traveling this weekend, but honestly, I am so lethargic. I was dragging ass at practice today and our game yesterday, sleeping in late both days, and right now I think I'm going to waste time watching TV. Two days down this week and I'm not doing anything even remotely productive.
It's fall. The only thing I feel like doing this time of year is sitting around under blankets, turning on the fire, watching movies and of course eating. But I really love this time of year. Fall really is the nicest time of year in Northeast Ohio. I always look forward to doing fall things.
I got my 2005 first-half sales report for my book today, and fortunately it did include a royalty check. It was about a week's pay at my typical billing rate. That's not particularly great.
Honestly it brings me down a little. I'm just so frustrated with the publisher's lack of marketing effort (or wrong marketing effort). Yes, I've had many e-mail exchanges with people that have read the book and loved it, and that's certainly empowering and validating, but I banked so much of my financial goals for this year on the kind of sales they thought we could achieve.
I posted some initial thoughts already, but here's a "proper" trip report I did on CoasterBuzz.
Best event ever.
I recruited Kar-uh to be my marketing intern and ride pal, and she arrived at my house about noon on Friday. About six hours later we arrived in Santa Claus (with just one potty break!) and met Mike (onceler) and his wife Artemisa at the campground. The line of people checking in was crazy.
Most of the people we were hoping to see that night, including Rob (nasai) and Tomoko, were stuck somewhere in traffic between Indy and Chicago, but we got our RV, Mike and Artemisa procured supplies, and we unsuccessfully tried to start a fire.
Rob and Tomoko finally arrived and were fortunately put up in the very next RV. He sucked at fire building as well. We visited Corey and a few other cats down the road, then Kara and I took a walk, and got lost. I'm sure the alcohol had something to do with it, but honestly, that place is impossible to navigate at night. The pool and newer asphalt was familiar though, and we managed to find our way back. Don't try that at home.
Saturday we got out to the park to distribute tickets, and immediately after that, setup for the podcast recording. HW's entertainment guy, Chris, hooked us up with audio and we were off and running with a "studio audience" of a few dozen people, and the some folks from the general public that though we were going to sing and dance. They left.
Following the podcast, we knocked out a lap on each coaster. Good stuff, but they're just not the same animals that they are at night. Felt good to be on the rides, but we knew there was more to come.
Our posse went back to our RV, where I did a power nap and everyone else, well, I have no idea what they did. I was napping. Back to the park, we started the construction tour for The Voyage.
Aside from some of the lift and a couple of turns, The Voyage isn't even a shadow of what it's going to be, but even in that little piece, it's insane. Then when you go deeper into the woods and see the footers, the huge holes from the tunnels, and the land on either side of the ground-level mid-course brake, it's very clear, that this will be the most insane roller coaster ever built. I know that's a very Paul Ruben thing to say, but when you do the math and understand it'll be going 50 mph on the last drop, I just can't imagine how it could possibly suck. I am so there.
Dinner was yummy, because Holiday World makes good pizza. I only had a couple of bites of fudge, because honestly the pieces were too big, and I can't eat something that rich. The subsequent auction for the Red Cross was sweet, as they managed to collect several hundred dollars. Well done.
The exclusive ride time finally came, and it was the most intense two and a half hours of riding in my life. They were doing double visual checks of restraints, which is a shame they have to, but I totally would have as well. There are also infrared cameras on the lift and cameras all over the rides. It really is a different world now.
But enough serious stuff... If one-train waits for ERT wasn't enough, they were also doing double laps. Mike made the interesting point that for a family-oriented park, these are two of the most intense coasters anywhere. They're so physical, so fun, that it's hard to go somewhere else and ride other rides and still feel a strong attachment to coasters in general. Why can't they all be like this?
It was getting toward the end of the ERT period, when we rolled in to The Legend station after two laps. Awesome rides, but I was starting to reach the limit of what I could take. So they sent us a third time. I looked at Linda (CPLady) in the queue and just shook my head. I couldn't believe it.
But with all of that intensity came the kind of satisfaction that you get after a tough workout. You're a little sore, but you know it was totally worth it. It was totally worth it. That ended my night of riding, and I was greatly satisfied.
The party got a little nuts in the campground, as people I didn't really know wandered in and out. There were a few times where coaster discussion got a little too geeky too (how does this happen while consuming?), but overall it was a lot of fun being around friends. I seriously had the absolute best time of any event I've been to.
When we packed up our cars in the morning, it was kind of sad that it was over. The event itself was awesome, but the social aspect in the campground made it even better (or I beer-goggled how good of a time it was). I'm very grateful to the park and its staff for showing us a good time. It was really amazing to be there.
The CoasterBuzz Club Fall Affair at Holiday World might have been the single greatest event I've been to. It was great for a lot of reasons.
First of all, this was the first time in ages that I've really had a weekend entirely for me. I did whatever I wanted to do and didn't have to worry about pleasing anyone beyond giving out tickets. Considering all of the time I spend trying to make people happy while coaching, this was a very welcome change.
Second, I got to hang out with people I was really looking forward to seeing. Mike and Artemisa from Chicago are one of my favorite couples, and Mike might even be a bigger computer geek than me. Rob and Tomoko came in from Seattle and it was really cool just to meet her and see him for the first time in two years. Kara got to be my marketing intern, roommate and riding pal all weekend (including the drive), and it was a lot of fun getting to know each other.
Next, it's freakin' Holiday World! I don't think there's another amusement park in the world that is as friendly and family like anywhere. It might be in the middle of nowhere, but they really make you feel like you're part of their family.
Late in the afternoon we got to do a walking tour of the construction site for their next coaster, The Voyage. What an amazing piece of work that's going to be. The topography alone promises an interesting ride, and the actual design will be insane. I'm not as coaster geeky as I used to be, but I have to admit that I can't wait to ride this one in the spring.
Of course there were the coasters, The Raven and The Legend, and they are still two of the best rides anywhere. Because the number of people at the event was relatively small, they were doing double, and even triple rides. Understand that these are two of the most aggressive and physical coasters out there, so this is a serious big deal. After something like seven laps on Raven and nine on Legend (including three laps without getting up to close out the night), I felt like someone beat the crap out of me. But it was a good pain... really good pain like what you feel after a workout.
We rented an RV in the campground next door with the Chicagoans, so that's where the big party was. It was interesting to see a lot of people, and especially the folks I was looking forward to seeing. And wow did I drink a lot. My body can't handle all that abuse in one night, but it was so worth it. Good times.
I feel generally good about myself and came to grips with a few things about my life. I recharged my emotional batteries. I have the sore back to remember it all. Awesome weekend.