Archive: October, 2007

Shitty dating site makes one guy rich

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 30, 2007, 3:15 PM | comments: 1

I'm not jealous of many things, but the fact that one guy built a dating site and is making millions from it annoys the shit out of me. It's one of the most hideous sites out there, but it also demonstrates how relatively worthless Yahoo, Match.com and the like really are.

I actually thought about doing something like that last year, but then I met Cath and dating sites weren't interesting to me anymore. I went through the same cycle at the start of this year too, but then I met Diana.

There's the real problem about me and online revenue. If I'm not interested, I probably won't do it. I had a template for an Xbox 360 site, but I wasn't that interested. I started a couple of blogs in high AdSense brackets, and lost interest in those too.

I do have an idea for a community site I'd like to do, and if I can ever get CB and PB re-launched, I think I can build it quickly. No idea if it will work, but I may give it a shot.


Bionic Woman rocks

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 30, 2007, 12:38 PM | comments: 0

OK, I admit that I was skeptical about NBC's reincarnated Bionic Woman, but I am so hooked.

I was skeptical because the original was so cheesy to begin with. Of course, the only reason I gave it a shot is because the lead character is so cute, and in the last episode I watched she got to use her British accent, but whatever, it's good TV.

Here's why: It's the classic girl hero ass kickery that has been absent since the end of Alias. Even La Femme Nikita inspires the show to a certain degree. While they did push some characters too far too fast, as if to suggest they wanted to get involved before being possibly cancelled, these kinds of shows do things that male action shows don't. Jack Bauer gets a little nutty, but aside from the one time he cried like a little girl, he's usually busy beating someone's ass. Female action heroes almost always appear more vulnerable and show some range, and I think that's important if you want something beyond action.

I'm not suggesting this show deserves an Emmy or anything. Far from it. It has all of the right things for the writers to play with right off the bat, but they'll need to choose to use those elements. Otherwise, you're just left with a cute girl, and that's not enough to sustain a show.


Leopard-ized and iLife'd

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 30, 2007, 12:53 AM | comments: 4

The install for OS X Leopard went pretty smooth on both of my comprooders. The Finder enhancements are pretty nice tweaks, and the network drive handling is particularly better.

Time Machine is indeed every bit as cool as I thought, but it also expects you by default to do an all-or-nothing arrangement, which I'm not sure I really want to do. I've got the drive space, but it just seems like a bit of overkill. Then again, when you can buy giant drives for a hundred bucks, maybe it's the right thing to do.

You still can't backup by way of a network drive, which is a bummer, and .Mac is still pretty basic, unfortunately. Still, if you're not totally hung up on off-site backups the way I am, Time Machine is a drastic and idiot proof way to go. Well done.

I also upgraded iLife, because the support for AVCHD, my new camcorder's format, was included with iMovie. I've also wanted to do the new event-based organization of iPhoto, so it seemed like a worthy upgrade to me. Despite using the likes of Avid and Final Cut Pro, I have to say the ease of use on iMovie is pretty stunning. I plugged in the memory card from my camera and knew it was video. Ditto for inserting a data DVD of video I had the camera burn with its included burner. It just knew, sucked in the video, and worked.

Definitely a couple of worthy upgrades there, and I don't mind giving Apple more of my money when they deliver stuff that just works.


Swearing off Chipotle

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 29, 2007, 2:03 PM | comments: 6

I don't think I like Chipotle anymore. I mean, that initial feeling of that warm tortilla in my hands is pretty nice, but an hour after I eat it, I only feel... shitty. It's like my guts come out of my body, kick me in the nuts, smack me in the head, and then go back in and create angry noises whilst beating me up from the inside.

I think that actual problem isn't the ingredients as much as it is the quantity of food. And keep in mind, I don't go that nuts, I just do the simple burrito with rice, chicken, hot salsa and a little bit of cheese. That's practically a diet burrito by that place's standards.

I know that I shouldn't be eating that crap anyway. I've really fallen off the horse the last few weeks in terms of eating because I simply don't have enough brain cycles to keep up with the necessary lifestyle change. And even I know that's a bullshit cop out because there's always something.


Cedar Point - Closing weekend 2007 - Season thoughts

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 29, 2007, 12:57 AM | comments: 6

Ever since they opened Lighthouse Point, it has become tradition to book the place for closing weekend, and this year would be no exception. The last two years I had Mike and Artemisa joining me from Chicago, but with the birth of their daughter, they obviously have more important things to do! I invited my cousin Dave and his wife Niki out, and they arrived Saturday morning.

Diana and I got there at about 7 p.m. Friday night, which was later than usual for us, but between work and packing and loading the car, it was still good time. We dumped our stuff in the cottage and headed quickly to Famous Dave’s for dinner.

What a turn around that place had. Last year the service was consistently terrible, but after a half-dozen or so visits this year, I have to say I never had an issue. I learned that both Dave’s and Friday’s got new managers this year, with much experience between the two, and it definitely shows. While a part of me feels that franchise places take away some of the character of a park, I’m glad they’re doing a better job with service at these places.

In the park, we were delighted to see a relatively unimpressive crowd, which was not surprising as the sky was spitting until 9 or so. We took laps on Millennium Force, Raptor and Wicked Twister. Diana had a scary experience with vertigo (the medical condition, not the ride that collapsed a few years ago), so she was nervous about doing a ride that went backward, but we rode it twice and she loved it. Good news for me, because I love that ride, and I’m glad I can share it with her.

Returning to the cottage, we found there were a number of problems. Several lights were burned out, and there were big spider webs in the bathroom and living room area filled with bugs. It was pretty gross. And most amazing, there was no toilet paper. How the hell does that happen? Tired, we decided to deal with it in the morning.

I ran into a blue-tag from housekeeping in the morning and showed her what our issues were. She was pretty indifferent, but at least scored some TP. Instead of a can-do attitude, she was all about the “not my job” routine, which is about the last thing you want to hear out of someone working in hospitality. About 15 minutes later, a maintenance guy showed up to deal with the lights. He was very nice, very quick, and friendly.

While we were out, someone did come take care of half the webs (missed those in the bathroom), and they made the bed and replaced the towels. They also found a little travel deodorant and put it on the bathroom sink, assuming I suppose that it was ours, but it must have been left there the previous week. That demonstrates the lack of detail on the part of their cleaning staff.

Accommodations has been so inconsistent over the years, and it’s very frustrating because it’s the place I spend the most money in any given year. Maybe that’s the problem too, that I keep giving them money even when they’re not delivering the kind of service I expect. At $200 a night, I expect the kind of service I get at four-diamond hotels because I pay that much or less at those places. Maybe they don’t have incentive to achieve that level of service because the place will sell out anyway. Regardless, it leaves me frustrated.

Fortunately, the weather ended up cooperating for the weekend, though it was awfully cold and windy Saturday, so we didn’t spend as much time in the cottage as we might have if it rained more. Once Dave and Niki arrived, we headed in for resort ride time at 11 a.m., and went straight to Maverick. They didn’t get a chance to ride earlier in the season, so this was their shot. And they got in free too, since we had those comp tickets that the park was stupidly giving away with 2008 season passes.

The wait was only a half-hour, though they closed for “weather” for about five minutes with us one train from boarding. Not sure if they’re still doing this drizzle means stop thing. But we did get to ride, and that was our last spin on it for the season. It was the first time Diana took a spin in the back seat, and that is the money airtime seat, especially down the first drop. Love that ride.

We had lunch at Friday’s on the beach, which like I said, also ran very well this year. That’s such a great location. I regret not getting a chance to eat outside there this year, on the expanded patio.

Inside the park, Dave and I played DDR for the first time it was I can only describe as many months. Wow am I out of shape. Played a little Skee-Ball after that, and unfortunately for the attendant, the things were eating quarters left and right.

After riding various things, and seeing a growing crowd, we went back to the cottage and crashed for an hour or two, in part to facilitate staying up later to be social and such.

We tried to take the “courtesy shuttle” to Famous Dave’s for dinner, but the salty old bastard driving was like, “It’ll be 20 minutes, I’m gonna go back and forth from Sandcastle to the resort gate.” We got off the shuttle and walked. Courtesy my ass.

Dave’s was very crowded, but we took the 40 minutes in stride with some drinks at the crowded bar. All things considered, they did a nice job keeping up with the crowd, and we had two drinks no problem before being seated. Server was on top of things even with a table of 12. The girl crapper was apparently a mess, and while Diana did report it, it turns out that the restaurant staff isn’t allowed to touch it, it has to be handled by some other department. This is where I’ve noticed Cedar Point has some issues, when it comes to interdepartmental cooperation. I don’t know if some of it is union issues or what, but it keeps things from getting done.

In the park, the crowd was pretty serious, but there were some great riding opportunities when you looked around. We walked on to Power Tower, and were lucky enough to get the side facing the main lot (which was probably 80% full). The sky had cleared, so there was a beautiful moon reflecting off the lake and all of the great lighting was lighting the drifting fog from the various scare zones. I would’ve given anything to photograph that view.

I was anxious to see the show at the Red Garter again, because the first weekend, it was not very good. I was happy to see how much better it was this time. They had a female singer I don’t remember (taller, short hair) who definitely made the females stronger overall, and having two guitars really let them rock out. Good thing too, since Def Leppard tunes were meant to have two guitars! I’m embarrassed that I even know that. The upstairs of the Garter was trashed with popcorn and spilled beer everywhere. Really nasty. Great show though.

I have to say that despite the thick crowd, they seemed to be doing a good job keeping up with bathrooms and trash in general. That’s usually the first thing to break down under load, but they did a nice job.

Crowds being what they were, we walked through Camp Snoopy and jumped on Woodstock Express. The guy running it was very cool and perfect for working with kids (or in this case, four adults). Dave and I made asses of ourselves for the DVD cameras, and I had to use all of my restraint to not buy the disc. Me and Diana also did the Tilt-a-Whirl, all to ourselves. We also did the Samba (I think it’s called Balloon Race there?), which I’ve never really even thought to do before. That’s some great fun, and I would’ve never thought to do it if it were busy with kids.

The highlight of our evening came on our final ride of the night, on Paddlewheel Excursions. I don’t know why this ride is only giving half the rides it did ten years ago, because it’s a classic and good fun. In this case, it was even more interesting because just before it made the final turn, the boat lost power. We got to see the goofy guy with the flying machine try to take off twice! Another captain and a small army of maintenance guys showed up with a second boat, and we all piled in. Someone that may have been an area supervisor or full-timer rode with us, and we actually started half way around doing the route backward. I gotta tell you, Millennium Force’s third hill was especially impressive from that angle. We then turned around and went back the “right” way and we pushed our way around the dead boat. It was a pretty harmless problem, and I thought it was kind of funny how the supervisor kept asking if everyone was OK.

With that adventure, we headed back to our cottage and enjoyed a few more beverages before crashing around 1. It was a very fun day.

After sending my relatives on their way Sunday, we scanned our season passes one last time under sunny, cool skies. Basically we were looking at one last walk around the park for the year. Getting to the back first, we did laps on Gemini and Mean Streak. We also did one on Cedar Creek Mine Ride. Diana told me all about how she used to ride it with her mom when she was younger, because she wasn’t fond of riding anything else. It was a great memory for her, and an appropriate way to remember her, as she passed away earlier this year. It made me realize that most everyone who grew up in Northern Ohio has some kind of story like that involving Cedar Point, because it’s so much a part of our culture here.

We took the train through Boneville, and headed up toward the front of the park. I was hoping to score cheese-on-a-stick for my cheese loving girlfriend, but alas, that stand was closed. Space Spiral was down for some reason, and Disaster Transport had a long line, so we decided at that point to just let the season go, and headed down 250 for Buffalo Wild Wings. Our 2007 season was over.

For the most part, this was a better year for the park. There were some annoying and strange things going on, like the drizzle means close rides phenomenon, but it was easy for me to overlook the annoying things because Maverick was just so damn good. I forgot all about the late opening of the ride, and I’m happy to say I probably got to ride it 30 or so times. Not bad for someone who isn’t that into hardcore riding the way I used to be. Maverick was a home run, as told by the many smiles as people exited the ride.

The steady improvements around the park are starting to add up too, and Frontier Town seems to have new life now with the new rides, bathrooms and games. That they managed to keep the flavor of it all entitles the planning and design folks to a lot of credit. My hope is that they can continue the polish around the Giant Wheel midway by ditching that hideous stadium and maintaining the giant trees out there.

While I think they hit a good price point on tickets and season passes, they need to revisit the food issue. The food almost universally sucks in terms of quality and service, and the pricing is far beyond what even I’m willing to pay for it. They make Disney and Universal look like a good deal. I know they’re making a killing on the new franchises (Chic-fil-A and Panda Express), but the rest of the counter service places are horrible. I haven’t bought a vending machine drink since it was $2, and I doubt I ever will. I just refuse to believe they couldn’t sell more food at lower prices and make up the difference in volume, not to mention a better guest mindset that they aren’t being screwed. As I mentioned earlier, many kudos to the franchise places, or at least Dave’s and Friday’s, as examples of a great turnaround in service.

Also, if they’re going to have a no smoking policy, then they need to find the balls to actually enforce it. Smoking was the worst around the park I’ve ever seen it. It’s like it was worse despite the policy. I don’t know how the law applies to amusement parks, but if it’s supposed to be in designated areas, then they failed completely to enforce the law. They could take a note from Six Flags Great America this year where they were booting people out by the dozens, unapologetically. That’s how it should be if you ask me.

Halloweekends has become something of an epic success. Adding the parade was brilliant, the family friendly nature of many of the attractions really works and overall the draw of the event is clear. The fact that they can have their biggest day of the season in October says a lot about their success. I just hope they can continue to handle the crowds and retain enough experienced employees to keep up. A couple of good weekends can make a huge difference in the final attendance count.

I look forward to next year, and whatever new attraction it may involve. For now though, I’ll enjoy the off-season and the inevitable trips to Orlando it brings!


First time out with HDC-SD5

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 28, 2007, 7:34 PM | comments: 0

I took the new video camera out this weekend to Cedar Point to mess around with it a little. My first intention is to use it as a tool to record volleyball, but it obviously works well as a vacation camera since it's so small.

While I did pull it out a little yesterday, I didn't use it much given the crappy weather, and certainly didn't bring it into the park. So today was really the first time I used it.

My initial impression wasn't good because, as I could see while shooting, and like most consumer cameras, it cranks up the shutter speed by default. That makes everything basically not have a blur and you see a series of nearly still frames which isn't natural. I think I figured out how to deal with it, but manual stuff seems like an all-or-nothing proposition. I'll have to play more to find out for sure. Given that H.264, the recording codec, records changes in the picture, a series of sharp images won't compress well and cause artifacts.

The color saturation is quite good though, as I'd expect for a 3-chip camera, even if they are tiny chips. The resolution looks a little soft because they achieve the full 1920x1080 by using the all three chips, a trick that my HVX200 uses as well.

That's one thing I need to get used to though, because the HVX costs eight times as much and naturally makes better pictures! I find myself having similar feelings as I did when I first bought a DV camera, where I was used to pro gear and expecting more out of the consumer stuff. Once I adjust my expectations, I'll be more than satisfied with what I get out of that camera.

Overall I think it will be a handy replacement for my aging DV camera, and the portability factor alone makes it a great choice for lugging to volleyball tournaments and on vacation. Being tapeless is also very handy, as the 16 gig SD card can record 170 minutes or more.


Consult me not

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 26, 2007, 4:14 PM | comments: 0

Regarding that previous consulting opportunity, even if they like me I don't think I'm going to pursue it. They're not interested in thinking outside of the banner ad, which is exactly the kind of thing I'm trying to get people to do in my IAAPA gig. Throwing money at banner ads as a local/regional business is like pissing away cash. I don't really want to be a part of that, even if it can net me a big check.


Moving deja vu

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 26, 2007, 11:21 AM | comments: 1

Showing up at the new building today was very strange. It has trendy carpet destined to look old in five years, and some very Brady furniture too. It's a lot nicer than what we had before, certainly, even though I still can't see any natural light from where I'm sitting.

It's certainly an interesting time for the company for a lot of reasons we can't talk about publicly, but I can't shake that feeling of deja vu. When Penton Media moved in 2000, everything was new and shiny, and subsequently tanked a year later. I don't think that's going to happen here, because the execs have a clue, but I do sense a culture shift where the technologists and the sales and marketing people are getting further apart. That's what causes dotcoms to tank.

Regardless, I'll stay optimistic, and keep in mind that there is plenty of opportunity if I don't like the way things are going. For now I have no reason to think there is a problem other than my deja vu.


Finally, a little meaningful progress

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 26, 2007, 12:06 AM | comments: 0

I've been resenting CoasterBuzz, or rather the forthcoming code behind it, because the list of things to do to build it keeps growing. But I finally feel like I got something right tonight.

I "finished" the news system, which is to say it all works but isn't pretty yet. What makes it better is that, this time, the comments are actually driven by the forum app. When you look at a topic in the news discussion forum, it replaces the first post with exactly the same stuff you'd see on the news item, including the text and related parks.

The reason I'm so pleased with myself is actually because of the forum code. It took all of four lines of added code to the forum to make it work. All of the stuff I did for templating finally paid off. The pseudo code is something like, if first post and news forum, clear the control key and put in the UserControl that is shared with news detail. Done.

The part really hanging me up is still the park and coaster databases. A part of me really thinks it's time to scrap what I wrote last year for that and start over. It's just shitty. Other than that, I need to integrate the photo app testing on PointBuzz for the coaster photos, and the light content management app I've mostly written (for miscellaneous pages). If I come up with a look that I like, at that point I'm basically there. That feels a lot closer than I generally think.

I thought it would be nice to launch it just before IAAPA, but that would mean finishing it some time Sunday, 11/11. I don't think I can jam it out in two weeks like that. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.


I hate everybody!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 25, 2007, 5:25 PM | comments: 9

Or so it has been said. I don't really look at sites other than my own unless it's something to read in my RSS feed, or on Digg, but Walt forwarded me a link to some Geauga Lake fan site where apparently me, Walt and Dick Kinzel are all sleeping together and party with Satan. It's all pretty hilarious.

This one kid (I shouldn't assume he's a kid, since there are plenty of really screwed up adults too), thinks that I had it out for him or that I was worried about his site competing with mine or something. He used some acronym for it that I can't even make into something remotely familiar. The guy said Kinzel reads the forums and hates the negativity. I suggested to Walt that someone should tell him Kinzel has his e-mail printed on paper by his secretary, but Walt said it probably wouldn't make a difference.

Clearly the guy puts a lot of weight in his online life, which is fine for him I suppose, but that's not how everyone rolls. The real world, where human beings interact face to face, is still the one where most people exist. I mean, my day job is all about what goes on electronically, but when I finally leave it, do you think I'll remember the code or the people I work with? That guy isn't even a blip on my radar, but the words in a discussion forum are apparently his reality.

Culturally we're in a strange limbo, at least among people under 40. More and more people, it seems, spend a huge amount of time worrying about how many friends they have on MySpace, how many Twitters they watch and having IM available to them 24/7. I don't get that. I personally want less of that, not more! There's something to be said for face to face conversation, having a beer with someone, hanging out around a campfire, having sex, etc. Even solo interaction with the environment is more rewarding, whether it's reading on your deck or seeing the sunset on the Pacific ocean.

The whole thing reminds me of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, where the duo travels around the country beating up people who think they suck. That's some hilarious commentary on the way things are. "You are the ball lickers!" :)

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to plot out who I'm going to hate next.


A taste of contentment

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 25, 2007, 1:07 PM | comments: 3

I rolled out of bed at 9 this morning and it was fantastic. The sun was shining and the wind was causing the siding on the house to make that comforting sound it does. Cosmo immediately started bugging me for food.

Like Linda, I've come to realize that I'm battling a touch of SAD again. Everything in my life is pretty kick ass, and yet I've been feeling kind of down and lethargic. I'll freely admit that this time of year, specifically this week, brings a certain reminder of loss with it (Stephanie and I were married Oct. 27), but I think I'm mostly at peace with that. It's more the weather, combined with working in that fucking dungeon of a dark office.

But this morning was quite wonderful. I logged on to check e-mail, cracked the back door for fresh air while the fire place was on, and just let that sun lift me up. After showering I was eager to get out into the world and did a little grocery shopping. Working at home rules. ;)

This reminds me so much of the summer I wrote my book, and how every day I would just smile and marvel that this is what I was doing. I didn't have to go anywhere or meet someone's expectations, I just worked at my own pace, and I was free to read, listen to music, play video games... whatever I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. And while that sounds like a fantasy, I still managed to write a book in the process, and maintain my sites in what was their most profitable year to date.

That's usually the point where my mind makes a different turn and starts beating itself up over why it hasn't come up with some new clever idea to keep doing that. But today at least, I'm not thinking down that road at all.

There are a lot of exciting things going on in the immediate future, and I'm finally willing to give myself credit for making them happen. I don't see that as a lack of humility, I see it as empowering yourself to keep on keeping on.


Oliver on AJAX

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 10:14 PM | comments: 1


Can you consult for us?

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 5:16 PM | comments: 5

This was totally random, but I got a call today from a "major amusement venue" about doing some Web marketing consulting for them. This is in advance of my IAAPA seminar, if you can believe that.

Hoping for a packed house. :)


Getting domestic, camcorder and IMAP

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 2:46 AM | comments: 4

If it isn't completely obvious yet, Diana and I have been talking about moving in together. It's funny that we don't talk about curtains and furniture (God knows I have enough of that), but boy does she like to think about kitchen stuff. See, her kitchen is tiny, and mine is not. So last night we were hanging out in Crate & Barrel, and I realized that the way to her heart is through kitchen gadgets. We stopped in a Viking store and I actually started looking at the $3,000 stoves thinking about how cool they are. That's obviously love.

What's interesting about our relationship though is just how honest we are about everything, and how effortless that makes everything. Sure it helps that we have similar feelings about how to conduct our time together (like it's OK to just stay home), but we also don't feel the need to entertain each other or set expectations.

It's easy to fall in the trap of being with someone for the comfort. I did that several times earlier this year, and that's a bullshit way to be. But when you can have the comfort and it doesn't feel like you're compromising something, that's pretty amazing. Diana has lived pretty independently most of her adult life, and for her to be willing to make that leap says something. Frankly I started to enjoy solo time too, but I don't feel like her sleeping in the same bed interferes with that.

Anyway, I spent some of the evening researching camcorders, and settled on a new Panasonic that records to SD cards in the AVCHD (H.264) format. I thought long and hard about what my needs were. Obviously I'm not going to tote around the HVX200 on vacations or to volleyball tournaments, but I miss having video. My old DV camera from 1999 hasn't been very reliable the last few times I used it (seems to be a power problem), and of course it's not HD either. The time was right after eight years to finally buy a new one. Circuit City had it in stock locally and well priced, so I ordered it and will pick it up tomorrow.

The HDC-SD5 is freakin' tiny. As much as the HDV tape format cameras are small, they're not that small. While recording solid state to AVCHD is highly compressed, and that makes editing a quasi-issue, I'm not going to edit much with this camera. The compression isn't good for noisy low light stuff either, but also not a big issue. What ultimately sells me on this is the size. I can carry it in a pocket, and that's a big deal when you want to hop on a roller coaster.

And finally, in other news, Gmail finally has IMAP access, which means I can use my popw.com e-mail account, hosted with Google Apps, on my iPhone's native e-mail client. Yay!


Missing volleyball video

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 8:48 PM | comments: 0

I had a video clip of my 2004 team on my last laptop, executing the swing offense and demonstrating the way the other teams couldn't defend against them. It was pretty sweet, and surprising given that it was only the second season I used that offense. Lots of my favorite kids on that team as well.

Sadly, I don't think I copied it anywhere safe when I cleaned off and sold that computer. This seriously bums me out. I don't have the original tapes, so that video is apparently long gone. What's surprising is that it didn't even end up getting backed up to one of my backup services at some point. Sigh.

I was looking forward to showing it to my future team, because it acted as quite a sales tool to get them to buy in to the system.

I guess from now on I need to be more careful. It should be less of an issue too, because I have more hard drive and back up space than I know what to do with, so I don't need to shuffle video files around or delete them immediately when I need the space.

That did get me to thinking too about shooting video for training this year. I experimented with using my HD camera and was astounded at the clarity and level of detail I can get when shooting at 60 frames per second. It's an amazing tool.

I'd like to have something that I can shoot games with as well, and I'm contemplating a small consumer HD camera for that. What a change that would be when you can actually read the numbers on their jerseys. Not sure what I'd get. I'm not so sure I'd want to use something solid state that records using AVC because it's so compressed, and support in Final Cut Pro appears sketchy.


More moving chaos

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 5:15 PM | comments: 1


Volleyball club first impressions

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 1:01 AM | comments: 3

I met most of the coaches and directors for the volleyball club, and overall I have a very positive impression. Like many other clubs, it was started by parents who wanted to create opportunities for their kids to play, and those three kids are nearing their end run. They only insist they make a team, not that they play, which is good (though I don't think any of them will be in my age group).

The coaches are mostly young, and it was pretty weird being one of the older coaches with more experience. What a difference from 2000 when I showed up for tryouts with nothing but two freshman seasons under my belt. Not that it matters, I suppose, but it's kind of a boost for me because I realize that this is my tenth season coaching. While I know every season is a learning experience, I'm starting to realize how much experience I have to draw on.

I can't wait to get started. I hope that the talent pool is rich enough to justify a national team, because I love the travel. I also like competing against the best, even if I can't beat them. Some of the greatest learning opportunities come from those situations.

I'll have a team, hopefully, in about two and a half weeks!


Moving mess

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 22, 2007, 1:47 PM | comments: 6


Being Mike Arrington

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 22, 2007, 1:20 PM | comments: 0

Saw this on Digg... Tech Crunch makes $240k a month. Sweet.

This shows that advertising revenue is not dead on the Internet, but it sure does require a lot more visitors to be worth your while and scale to a point of making it a living.

Good read though for those who enjoy the content biz on the Internet.


You're playing it too safe

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 22, 2007, 11:17 AM | comments: 0

Just when I get pretty comfortable in what I'm doing "for a living," I end up seeing something like this that seems to be written for me.

It's all true, but I think an increasingly evident change isn't so much fear, but acceptance that I kind of like what I do. Not all of the time, but certainly the majority of the time.

The alternative plan for me, involves some kind of plan where I can ramp up to six figure income within a year, so that might be part of the problem in that it's probably not that realistic (unless I have a really good idea). If that balloons fast enough, I can move to that house on the beach, open a volleyball club and really enjoy the stuff I do in more of a part-time capacity now. I'd make that damn film too.

The thing that has probably changed the most in my 30's though is the notion that things are "good enough." I need to find some of that 20-something idealism again and not forget. Like that blog post says, I've got an enormous safety net out there right now. Best I use it.


Transformers HD DVD

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 21, 2007, 9:21 PM | comments: 1

Diana and I watched Transformers today, and she loved it. I gotta tell you, I'm surprised at how much people love that movie. I think the reason is that you really care about the characters, including the robots. When Bumblebee gets captured by the humans, Diana was really upset by it. I think that really says a lot about the kind of heart and detail that went into the movie.

What I found most impressive is that they did all of the special features in HD. I don't have a lot of HD DVD's yet (this is only the third, not counting Planet Earth), but I've noticed looking at them that so many include the features as standard def, same stuff on the regular DVD's. That's kind of a bummer.

The biggest surprise in the making of docs (there are about two hours worth), is how much stuff was shot in-camera. Stuff I thought was CG was actually real. Maybe that's why it sold so well, actually.

Michael Bay seems like a real arrogant dick, but I suppose when you need to make a movie of that magnitude with a $140 million budget, you almost need someone like that to get it done on time and without going over. Really the success of the movie is something I think you have to credit the countless artists who brought the vision to the screen. They succeeded in not destroying a fond memory that, according to one of the features, 75% of all men ages 28-38 have (or something like that).

Great stuff though. This is probably the first action movie that has made it into my absolute favorites list.


Holy crowds!

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 20, 2007, 9:19 PM | comments: 2

BooBuzz in the morning was sweet, with many rides on Maverick, but it sure got crowded quickly after that. Word on the street was that it was on pace to match the previous Saturday, which was the busiest day of the season! I would've never guessed that in October.

For Diana and I, we were able to take it in stride since we had other stuff to do, including record the podcast, but I feel bad for people like Carrie or Tyler and Beth who drove a very long way to be there.

My legs hurt a little from crossing the park at least five or six times, but whatever, I needed the exercise. Right now I need the hot tub.


Boo!

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 20, 2007, 11:57 AM | comments: 2


OS X Leopard will have to wait

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 19, 2007, 1:38 PM | comments: 0

I was thinking next week that I'd pick up OS X Leopard at the Apple Store next Friday during lunch, but as it turns out, it doesn't start selling until 6 p.m. Bummer. Although, to be realistic, I'll be celebrating closing weekend anyway, so I shouldn't have time for it.

Closing weekend is looking sunny, if a little chilly.


Volleyball adjustment

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 19, 2007, 1:31 PM | comments: 0

After some coach shuffling, I'll be doing 16 national instead of 15, which frankly is OK since it has been an awful long time since I've dealt with kids that young.

Tryouts are in just a few weeks!


Coding the news

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 19, 2007, 1:56 AM | comments: 0

My goal was to bang out the news system on CBv4 tonight. I was content to worry about porting the old data another time, but I only got half way.

But it accepts news in a more elegant way on the back end, the database junk is done, and the park association part is AJAXy so the big ugly postbacks are gone.

A couple hundred new lines of code, better class design than I used to do, and wow am I tired. I wonder how it'll look in the morning.


ASP.NET AJAX in Action: Awesome!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 18, 2007, 4:18 PM | comments: 0

I haven't bought a programming book in awhile, but I was getting the itch to start reading something a little more in depth to engage my head and perhaps inspire a little. Blogs and other sites just don't offer the kind of depth that a good book can.

Since I've been disappointed with the official ASP.NET AJAX site and the documentation there (it's complete, but offers very little context), I decided that's what I wanted to know more about. Some experimentation with control extenders is about as far as I've gone beyond UpdatePanels, so there's an area I could get into.

I settled on ASP.NET AJAX in Action, mostly because it was suggested on Scott Guthrie's blog, and he knows something about the subject, obviously.

I got it Tuesday, and I haven't been able to put it down. Yeah, it's that interesting. The reason it works for me is that it appeals to my curiosity about the "why" instead of just saying what to do. It offers what so few programming books do anymore: context.

After the first few chapters, you start to work out in your head how so many of the things in the control toolkit work. I've never been that fond of JavaScript, but the new framework makes it a lot less painless. I dig it.

So if you're interested in this framework, and explore it in a meaningful way, check it out. Totally worth it.


Why you should (or shouldn't) write a programming book

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 18, 2007, 11:31 AM | comments: 0

I still get questions about writing a programming book, two years after Maximizing ASP.NET came out. I figure maybe it's time to write a blog post on it so I can easily field such questions with a little more substance.

Instead of giving advice on whether or not you should do it, let me share my experience and you can decide.

First off, consider what your motivation is. It's my opinion that you really need to want to help people out, and be confident that's what you can do. Everything should be secondary to that. You probably aren't going to get rich from doing it.

In my experience, the largest benefit to me was having that "publication" at the top of my resume. In the event that you want full-time or high-end consulting work, for me at least I've been able to write my own ticket. I still need to be charming in interviews, but a lot of weight comes with that publication.

You'll need to have a fairly clear vision of what you want to write, and where it will fit in the market. When my book came out, we were on the tail end of over-saturation with a ton of titles, many of which never sold that well. If publishers don't see where it can fit, they won't pick up the project.

I started by outlining what I wanted, and writing the introduction and two chapters. I shopped that around to various publishers, and was pretty amazed at the responses. Most hilarious was one publisher, who published a lot of books at the time (I won't say which one, but you'd be shocked), who told me to come back in five years when I had more experience. He was outright insulting. The reason I didn't take it all that personally though was that he couldn't even spell. There's a difference between "your" and "you're," after all. That was not someone I wanted to work with.

Obviously, Addison-Wesley was ultimately the publisher that picked up the project, after some peer-review that went on for about two or three months. The idea was to make the project more focused. Imagine that just four years prior to that, I bought my first ASP 3.0 book by Alex Homer, and now the guy was among those looking at what I proposed. That was kind of intimidating.

The thing I screwed up on is not retaining copyright, but I didn't know any better then. I figured I was lucky just to get a contract. I was given an advance and fairly healthy royalty percentage, oddly enough higher than what I remember reading was average at the time. Unfortunately, even a couple of years later, it hasn't quite reached the point where it made more than the advance, but again, that was never the intention for writing the book.

I had about six months to write, and I took time off from working to do it. What a great summer that was. At the same time, I was playing relentlessly with something called "Whidbey," which we now know as Visual Studio 2005 and .NET 2.0. Also somewhat amusing now, is that I was talking about rewriting POP Forums for the new framework version. Here we are three years later and we're on the verge of the next release, and no new forum app. Ha!

Writing for a publisher is an interesting process. First off, copy editors do a marvelous job helping you make things clear. Granted, I've been writing since college (double-majored in radio/TV and journalism), so the editing wasn't bad, but they certainly made me a better writer. Then seeing things laid out on pages, it was just so surreal. Creating something tangible like that is a pretty cool experience.

The entire project took about a year and a half from the time I started pitching in late 2003 to the time it appeared on shelves in March, 2005. At least for my experience, that was where the positive experience ended.

The marketing of the book was very poorly handled. At first they were pitching it at conferences with architects and experienced people, which were so far from the target audience that I could only scratch my head. You should've seen the first draft of the back cover copy. It read like total marketing B.S. that would've painted me to be a phony. It was terrible.

But there were some very shining moments. I got a lot of e-mail from people who bought the book and sincerely thanked me for writing it. Regardless of the scope of the audience, it was valued by some people. It's analogous to my experience coaching volleyball to girls. If even a few become better, it's worth your trouble.

One of my college professors actually sent a copy of the book to me to sign and send back to him. How crazy is that? One of your mentors suddenly looks up to you for something.

Inevitably, one of the questions I get is, "What would you do differently?" As I mentioned, I would've negotiated to retain the copyright. If I still had it today, I'd give the book away in PDF form. It's not going to sell much more anyway.

I'd also think about self-publishing. If I were to publish the same book today on LuLu.com, and price it at $30, I'd make about $20 a copy. That's ten times what I'd get in royalties through a mainstream publisher. I wouldn't have the marketing arm or publicity of a major publisher, but I would only have to sell one-tenth as much to make the same money. Again, the money wasn't the primary motivator, but my time is still worth something.

I wrote the book for the me of several years earlier. I was fortunate in being able to use the style and teaching that I thought would be effective. Certainly as time has passed, I have more experience, and I'm a better code monkey. I could probably write a better book. The question is, will I?

Hard to say. I think I'd co-write a book if I had the opportunity and was approached, but I don't know that I'd do one solo.

So my advice, even though I said I wouldn't give any, is to do it if you think can. It's a more impressive feat than you might think when you look back on it.


Good Luck Jeff

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 17, 2007, 11:38 PM | comments: 0

Diana and I went to see Good Luck Chuck tonight on this, our customary "date night." Somewhere along the line we got into this routine because it just made sense since it's not always easy to see each other during the week. It's a nice routine.

The movie, aside from being an excuse to see Jessica Alba being hot in her undies, is really about believing that if things are really going well, it's bound to end. I know that's a theme that a lot of us around here talk about all of the time.

In fact, it's one of those things that me and Diana talk about all of the time. We're so kick ass that we just assume it's destined to fail, and it's shitty that life and our experiences program us to think that way. Sometimes, when you strip away all of that expectation and scary shit, all you're left with is the glaring reality that things are pretty good, and not likely to change. How awesome is that?

It's not just something you apply to relationships necessarily either. I mean, you can apply it to jobs, hobbies and even the weather.

One might argue that you can't truly understand good without the opposing bad, and to some length I agree with that. However, there does come a point where you just need to sit back and recognize a good thing for what it is: A good thing.

I've sure got some good things going lately. :)


Funny headline of the day

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 17, 2007, 10:40 AM | comments: 1

Twin blows on jobs front

You can't make this stuff up.


It's all about volleyball

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 17, 2007, 12:13 AM | comments: 2

Well, I think it's safe to say that I'm really excited about volleyball again. In fact, I think Diana is gonna be tired of hearing about it before too long, because I talked her ear off both ways to and from a match tonight.

I went to see Caity play for Marietta down at Mt. Union College, the closest match she had to home. In the afternoon Diana said she'd bug out of tennis to go with me, so she met me near work. I got all down about making the drive, but you know, once I was on my way that changed. No joke, she really is the reason I love to coach. I've written about her before, and she had an incredible season last year. I'm proud of her.

Coaching balances me out, and gives me purpose. It's something that's totally not electronic, and I love that about it. I mean, if I can get nine teenage girls to do what I ask and have them develop as athletes and people, virtually everything else in life seems easy by comparison.

I can't wait to get started with my tenth season...


A job well done

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 15, 2007, 11:02 PM | comments: 5

I'm sipping a diet Canadian from a frosty mug right now. The taste brings me back in Scrubs-aside fashion to Oulette Avenue in Windsor, Ontario, circa 1993. Good times. I'm sitting on the couch and catching up on my stories (as in, prime time television drama). I just got out of the hot tub, which I'm thrilled is actually staying clean despite heavy use. There's a nice breeze flowing through the house.

So what gets me all this Zen-like goodness? I actually wrote a fair amount of code today for the next version of CoasterBuzz. Today was all about revamping the entire club membership stuff. The goal was to provide the upsell opportunity, look up expiration dates and transaction history, and indicate membership card printing dates. While that is generally pretty basic stuff, it is time consuming. Add on some CSS issues, some rewiring to make the account stuff not appear as part of the forum app, and I even made new mail-in PDF's after six years.

How close does this get me to finishing the site? Well, I've still got a really long list of things to do, but I suppose progress is progress. It's easy to get overwhelmed, but I'm trying to keep things in little pieces and take them one at a time.

Overall though, it was a good, productive day. A very good Monday after an awesome weekend!


Time shifted productivity

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 15, 2007, 12:11 PM | comments: 1

Well, I only lasted until about 1 a.m. last night, and didn't make any giant strides in that time on CBv4. My neck felt crappy and I was surprisingly tired.

But then I rationalized that the idea wasn't to stay up as late as possible to code just to say I did. Regardless of when I'd go to bed, I was still going to sleep seven or eight hours. So I resolved that if I just went to bed, I would get up and start coding in the morning.

And what do you know, I actually did. I slept for about seven hours, got up, had some breakfast, and went to it. Granted, I didn't have the greatest time since I was tracking down a problem, but work was done, and I intend to continue throughout the day. I still get the sense of accomplishment!

Oh, and the neck feels much better today. A little soreness when I move it in certain directions, but overall I have total movement. Plus the sun is shining into my office, something I don't get to see very often. It feels very good.


I <3 my cat

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 15, 2007, 12:06 PM | comments: 1

Cosmo, my cat, has been very different the last few months. She still tends to be a little evil to people she doesn't know, but overall she's very much a changed cat.

She's lost a lot of weight because of the diet food that Cath scored for me. You can see it when you pet her or pick her up. She's not a tubby bitch anymore. She's going back to regular wet food today, but I've got plenty of the dry food left. Of course, it's a lot easier to monitor her food intake when she's the only cat.

Even more fun, she has really become more active lately. She gets these nutty streaks now and then that are hilarious. She actually fought the end of the couch the other day, which was strange, but entertaining. She still sleeps most of the day, like any cat, but she has her big active spurts.

She also seems to be sleeping on the bed with me more than she used to. I'm not sure I can explain that. A lot of her good nature kind of disappeared when we got Luna, so I guess it makes sense that much of it is coming back now that Luna has passed. She follows me around, greets me at the door and generally likes to hang out, which is what you want in a cat, right? Yesterday, she even crawled on to Diana's lap, which is very unusual.

Cosmo will be 11 this winter, which means she's been with me nearly a third of my life. How weird is that? She's still very healthy, and active, and isn't destructive. She sheds like crazy, but that's about the only thing I can complain about.

I do miss Luna, and I hate that I replay her last hour in my head all of the time. Still, there's a good chance that Cosmo is going to have two kitten brothers and a bitchy little sister before too long. We'll see how that goes... ;)


Pictures of You

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 15, 2007, 12:09 AM | comments: 0

...by The Cure, is such a great, sad, but wonderful song.


Ugh, the pain!

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 15, 2007, 12:07 AM | comments: 0

I mentioned yesterday my pain in the neck, and while it did seem better today, more of a soreness than pain, I found it hard to stay sitting up in my chair while recording the podcast tonight (which is probably the worst show we've had in awhile).

This sucks, because the whole point of me taking Monday off was to work my ass off tonight and crank out as much CB code as possible. So far, I've written about 30 new lines of code. :(

Of course one thinks of all kinds of weird things that could cause this (symptom of watching House, I think), and my mind wanders to the worst case scenarios pretty quickly.

But my more rational self thinks of two things. The first is that the Claritin I had Friday night triggered some thing. I know that various drugs are known to cause certain aches and pains, and while not a listed side effect, I'd buy it because the last time I took an allergy medicine, I had similar pain (I think it was the weekend of the AVP in Cincy).

My second theory is that I simply pulled a muscle in my sleep by way of some sudden twitch. I've done that countless times, pulling one of my calves, though that usually wakes you up.

Maybe I just need something to bitch about.


Broken bodies

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 13, 2007, 1:58 PM | comments: 1

Diana and I are both suffering from issues that are interfering with our lives.

First, she has allergies. Not like one-week-a-year when you cut the grass allergies, but holy crap I'm incapacitated allergies. When they did the prick test on her back, they nearly had to hospitalize her because her reaction was so bad.

So for the last few days, she has been outright miserable. And to make it worse, something at her house seems to make it worse. And if that weren't bad enough, something at her house also makes me miserable, even with Claratin. It sucks because I don't want it to be a situation where she's always at my house, but it's starting to feel like we don't have any choice. I theorized it might be one of her cats, but they didn't bother me when I first started visiting her, so who knows.

You may recall how I had that obnoxious neck pain after being sick a bunch of weeks ago, and that it hung out an awful long time. Well, last night I was telling Diana how I had been pain free for quite some time. Then I woke up this morning with a pretty horrible neck and shoulder pain. Hot tubbing didn't really help, and it actually hurts more now. What is that about?

At first I chalked it up to sleeping funny, or not sleeping right when I'm with someone else, but I'm not even sure that's it since I was obviously sleeping solo back when I was sick. Maybe it's my bed or pillows or something. I just don't want to be broken. I'm too young for this kind of shit.


Free iTunes songs

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 12, 2007, 1:39 AM | comments: 1

Eat 'em up yum...

http://digg.com/apple/5_Free_iTunes_songs_For_Facebook_Users


Working on my big Keynote

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 11, 2007, 11:55 PM | comments: 0

My hand out materials for my IAAPA presentation are due tomorrow. I've been working on the Keynote all evening, and I'm only about two-thirds done. Looks like a late night for me. At least I can tell by the schedule that much of the other marketing stuff being presented is old school bullshit stuff, but that actually puts more pressure on me to get mine right.

And already, I can tell it's too long.


Journalism, personality and responsibility in the online world

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 11, 2007, 4:26 PM | comments: 16

Someone called me out in a news item on CoasterBuzz about what my responsibility was regarding my position as the guy who runs CoasterBuzz. I'm pretty comfortable about what that position is (and I spelled it out there, in case there was any question), and I've mostly stayed true to it.

The last year or two has really elevated the concept of "citizen journalism," and there are new players we couldn't have imagined pre-Web. Granted, the part no one talks about is that the citizens morph into companies in the long run (wow, that's an interesting topic to explore), but the point is that the rules are different.

A lot of people, including myself, give Fox News a lot of crap, because they're hardly unbiased in reporting "news" (hint: the literal on-screen flag waving). Not everyone will look around for better sources, let alone try something offering a totally different perspective like al-Jazeera. I'm not naive enough to believe there is totally bias-free reporting, but at least I look for some balance.

With blogs, RSS and all of the socially-powered stuff on the Web today, you almost get a game of telephone where the message can change over time. It's better than that game at least, because there are always links and searches that can get you closer to the real thing. Still, this leaves the question: What is the responsibility of journalists today, and what place does personality have in it?

I took a journalism class in college that covered non-fiction narrative, that brand of writing that covers some subject, but fully involves the author as a part of the story. Look no further than virtually anything Hunter S. Thompson ever wrote for examples. Often called "gonzo journalism," he'd frequently edit the facts but loosely convey the same meaning to tell the story. A lot of that class I took revolved around the moral and ethical implications of this practice.

The immediacy of the Internet is the new variable in this equation of personality and journalism. Engadget caused Apple stock to tank temporarily on a rumor. Howard Dean got excited and kicked in the nuts for it in the 2004 presidential election due in part to video around the Internet. Taste makers can kill a product before it's even released. These are all acts that result in some part due to some editorial decision on the part of individuals.

Is that OK? Most of the time, I'd say yes. It depends largely on how you set expectations though. Publishers of all forms of media, large and small, suck at this. Worse yet, the consuming public sucks at figuring it out.

What all of this rambling means is that when it comes to journalism and the reporting of news, half of the responsibility lies with the consumer of that media. Blaming the nebulous "media" for things is stupid and lazy. You have to do your part to discern the bullshit from the steak. If more people did that, it would force the integrity and hand of news organizations to do a better job. If you're willing to be spoon-fed the bullshit, well, hold your nose and swallow, and be sure to brush your teeth afterward.


The war and the soldiers

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 11, 2007, 3:11 PM | comments: 0

I saw an editorial today in The Miami Herald that is one of the most common sense things I've read regarding the "support the troops" versus "hate the war" issues. In particular:

Some of us are old enough to remember the mistreatment of soldiers who returned to this country from service in Vietnam. ''Baby killers'' was one of the more printable epithets hurled at them. We had not yet learned to separate the war from the warriors; to the contrary, we transferred our anger over a controversial war to those who made no policy, made no decisions, whose only role was to serve as honorably as they could and try to get the heck out of there in one piece.

Very well put.

Although, he does lump the general in with soldiers instead of the policy makers, which I don't entirely agree with. Sure, he's working under the directive of the commander-in-chief, but he still has to make the daily decisions on the ground and I think is a fair target for criticism. The MoveOn.org ad is fair in its assessment of the situation itself, but would've been a lot more effective without the name calling.

I hadn't even heard about the Rush Limbaugh nonsense, but I suppose when no one cares about what he has to say, the only choice is to piss off the people who hang on your every word as well.


Hot and cold

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 11, 2007, 1:14 AM | comments: 6

Only in Cleveland can you use your air conditioning and then you heat less than 72 hours apart.


Fall is here

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 10, 2007, 12:23 PM | comments: 1

Wow, fall sure did show up in a big way this morning. It's damn cold. I wanted jacket weather, and I sure got it!

I realized this morning too, with the feelings that arrive with a temperature change, that fall is such a mixed season in terms of my experiences. There is that feeling of new stuff I mentioned in a previous post, and there is also those tough times from various years. I think all of my recent contemplation arises out of some dominance on the part of the harder memories.

I'm lucky that there is someone in my life that can shift the focus quickly with little more than a smile.


Enough

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 10, 2007, 1:21 AM | comments: 2

I don't want to be contemplative anymore.


Viewing the big financial picture

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 10, 2007, 12:02 AM | comments: 0

I've been very contemplative tonight about my finances. Normally looking at them stresses me out, usually because it's around the time quarterly tax estimates are due. Last month was particularly bad due to a perfect storm of taxes, car and home insurance and something else expensive that I can't remember. Focusing on the moment in this case isn't helpful.

So first I looked at my personal finances. I was surprised to see that they were mostly positive. I put away more this year than I ever have too. I did a nice savings stash, an IRA that has seen some modest gains (mostly index funds), and for-fun buys in Apple and Google that are up 20% in three months. I really should've sold my big wad of Cedar Fair for those while the going was good!

Just an aside, but investing in Cedar Fair was a fun thing I started like seven years ago on a Sharebuilder plan. I never contributed a ton, but over all that time it ended up growing to 240+ units! It shows how saving really does pay off over time, but if you're not paying attention, you shouldn't be buying individual stocks. Fortunately, even with the price down, the distribution makes it a modest 7% return, and at least for the time being that'll probably continue.

I'm actually spending less money on a lot of things this year, which surprises even me. One of the biggest categories, eating out, has gone way down. I still spend a lot, but I like eating out, so I won't apologize for it! I'm spending less on personal travel, since there was no volleyball for me. Utility bills are down too with a mild summer and much lower natural gas prices last winter. When I did make major purchases, which this year meant a lot of furniture in my half-empty house, I did so on same-as-cash deals and paid them off quickly. I'm proud of myself for that one.

There are some negatives, though minor. My mortgage rate is a bit high because I did a no-cost loan last year. As long as I refinance within four or five years (or move), I break even. I also have a revolving couple of grand on credit cards for no good reason, although considering it was around $20k at the end of 2005, I'll roll with that. It'll be gone by the end of the year.

The business is something different. It's not that it's in a bad place, but I'm not paying off debt as quickly as I'd like, and ad revenue is slipping. In fact, it's trending down about 20% on roughly the same traffic to my sites. That's a bummer. It's hard to say for sure since my metrics using server log based stats was never accurate, and I started using Google Analytics mid-year. A redesign will help for a lot of reasons, and it's pretty obvious that's on my mind lately. Working for a company that measures virtually everything, I've become a lot more aware of how to quantify success.

I didn't buy a ton of hardware this year, so naturally that makes the business more profitable. Overall I did a better job on expenses this year. The only expense I anticipate for the rest of this year is the new Visual Studio and/or an MSDN subscription, provided it ships on time.

I guess what this all means is that I'm reaching a point where I can spend money on things that I want to spend on, but at the same time be smarter about how I do it. That's hard, and I've never been very good at it. My technology habit in particular has made that tough, but at least most of those expenses are business related.

Maybe 2008 is the year I can stop playing business pretend and actually make something out of my interests in building community sites.


Wait until you're married to have sex

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 9, 2007, 5:24 PM | comments: 5

Granted, this is linked to on the crazy ThinkProgress site, but this ad that your tax dollars paid for, encouraging parents to tell their kids to wait until they're married to have sex, is pretty funny.

Forget for a moment what you think on the subject (or that your first time will be terrible). If the research shows this message has no effect, why would you spend money on it? This isn't a health issue in this case, it's a moral issue, and therefore not worthy of tax dollars.

I hope to God that my kid(s) wait as long as they can, and do so in a responsible and safe manner, but I'm not naive enough to think that they are going to wait. A clear picture of the risks and consequences, and trust, I think is the best you can do as a parent.


Trent Reznor to record label: Fuck you!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 9, 2007, 1:45 PM | comments: 5

Nine Inch Nails no longer has a record label. I think that's a pretty sweet arrangement. Once you're really popular, do you really need the record companies in the digital age? Surely you don't.

Radiohead is doing the same thing, and they're actually selling their album starting tomorrow online for whatever price you see fit. It's a very interesting experiment. I look forward to seeing what happens.


Making time your own

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 9, 2007, 12:57 PM | comments: 0

There's an interesting quote on how you use your time on the 37signals blog that I can relate to.

It's very true that we are very much forced to conform into a world of schedules that frankly ignore the fact that we're all wired very differently. I can probably attribute 75% of my distaste for day jobs to being on a schedule that isn't mine. (The rest is working on something I don't have my heart in.)

I don't like getting up early most of the time, unless it's to do something special or travel (or crack the gate at IOA). I often do my best work late, and it feels good every once in awhile to just work my ass off until 4 a.m., something I haven't done in a very long time.

I like that the text mentions eating as well, which is another thing that schedules interfere with. I tend to like to eat lunch and dinner a little earlier, especially if I don't have breakfast. And I still haven't mastered eating "right" in a you're-at-work-and-not-in-your-kitchen situation.

We all have to work. That's just a condition of society I suppose. I'm OK with that, but it's the structure that I find so difficult. I can't seem to be domesticated entirely.

Alas, I guess I'll figure it out eventually.


BWW lunch

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 9, 2007, 12:30 PM | comments: 0


An uncomfortable college memory

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 9, 2007, 11:38 AM | comments: 1

Carrie's post got me to thinking about an uncomfortable memory from college in what was really a kind of dark year for me overall.

My sophomore year, I was an RA, and my hall director arranged an off-site retreat for us. I figured, you know, we'd hang out and do whatever, but the point was really to get fucked up.

Now understand that I had never really had much to drink, let alone get drunk at that point. I was really apprehensive about alcohol in general because of all the alcoholism in my family. Not knowing anything about my own limitations, all I really knew is that I didn't want to go down that road.

We ended up doing nothing other than getting a hotel room and buying a shit load of beer. It made me uncomfortable and feeling unsafe. I was also very angry. So when they busted out the cards and the beer, I played the "not feeling well" card and curled up on a bed and tried to ignore what was going on.

I remember facing away from them, and even crying a little at one point because I was angry. I mean, it was our job to make sure people wouldn't be drinking, and this is where we were? They made me feel like a piece of shit.

It got worse too. My hall director actually had the fucking balls to tell me the next day that I wasn't being a team player or whatever. This is the same self-righteous asshole who told the Indian guy on our staff he was going to hell because he was Hindu. (As an aside, I loathed that guy once I was out of there and realized he was the worst kind of person, someone who thinks they're good, is perceived as good, but really is representative of the world's problems.)

That was a shitty year in general because I just didn't feel like I belonged anywhere. Even in my success in radio/TV I didn't feel like I was a part of things there. I was in "like" with this girl I could never see because I couldn't drive (and no Intertubes to keep in touch daily). It was really a fucked up year when I think about it.

That summer, I had my first real exposure to alcohol, and it was even legal, in Canada. It was a safe and comfortable environment with a couple of friends. Drinking never quite became a sport for me after that, but I was able to explore it in a pressure free way that I think to this day allowed me to make good decisions. I get what I'd describe as "drunk" a couple of times a year, and generally only when I'm at home or able to walk to where I'm staying.


Setting the tone

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 8, 2007, 1:29 PM | comments: 5

Sometimes the stars seem to align in a way that you didn't expect. I got seven hours of hardcore sleep. Traffic was pretty smooth, weather was nice. My current project at work is going next month so that lifts some pressure. It really sets a nice tone for the week.

It was like this pleasant series of events that changed my mood entirely. Funny how you beat yourself up over letting things outside of your control get to you, but then when those same things can totally lift you up, you welcome them.


Hot weekends

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 8, 2007, 12:19 AM | comments: 1

Let me be the next to complain about the crazy hot weather in October. Of course, I'll change my tune later this week when it doesn't even get to 60, but whatever. It's just a little crazy that I've had my air conditioning on, and obviously I'm not getting in my hot tub when it's like this.

This weekend involved much loafing, and it was awesome. Diana and I once again went to Halloweekends at Cedar Point on Friday night, and did a good bit of riding. Unfortunately, I kind of hurt my neck on Raptor for some reason, and that kind of brought me down. Between that and the loafing, I felt kind of like a slug. I'm out of shape and I don't like it. I'm starting to snap out of it though, and I'm crossing my fingers that this means that I'll actually do something about it.

There is another side effect of full-time dating that I really like though, that being less time spent connected. When I was single, I spent way too much time doing nothing online. I like not checking e-mail, not visiting my sites over and over, and just engaging myself in the real world. Online stuff doesn't quite hold the same appeal as it used to, which in turn gets me to question why I do what I do to some degree. Fortunately I get a little validation now and then at events or by e-mail or whatever that make me realize there are people who appreciate what I do.

Diana and I had a great moment last night, in a non-conventional sense. I played Halo while she knitted. I love that we can do things that interest us individually and then do things together. We've been talking a lot about doing together things... stay tuned. :)

This will be an interesting week.


Sweet release

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 5, 2007, 3:08 PM | comments: 7

It's just hours away. It can't come soon enough.


Tech press and tech bloggers are completely full of crap

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 4, 2007, 5:13 PM | comments: 0

The nice thing about Digg and social sites and RSS is that you can absorb a crap load of content around stuff you're interested in. Unfortunately though, I'm starting to realize that "crap load" is exactly what it has become.

The problem is that all the people doing the writing take a simple view of what they're covering and gauge its relevance on that. They form opinions that ultimately aren't useful because they lack context from the things they're covering.

Certainly the iPhone has been the biggest target as of late. It doesn't do Exchange support well, I can't install 3rd party apps, my iPhone was bricked by an update... etc. Why is it that none of this matters? Because it's a segment of the population that is so minor and so not part of the greater customer base. iPhone customers just want to make calls, surf for porn, and listen to tunes. It wasn't built for the geeks. If you want to launch rockets and haX0rz your neighbor's Wi-Fi, buy one of those goofy little Linux PDA's and knock yourself out.

The problem is that the coverage is by geeks for a non-geek device, and the writers don't get it. The same lack of context happens almost daily when it comes to other consumer devices, like the HD disc players. Look at how they all thought the Nintendo Wii would be novel but not a hit. Again, not thinking like the general population.

Unfortunately, a lot of the time even the geeky stuff isn't covered in context. Witness this silly rant by Scoble about the .NET source being released and integrated into the next Visual Studio. He just outright dogs it and rants. Does he develop in .NET or even have a realistic view of how widespread its use is? Apparently not. As a developer using that platform, it's a huge deal because I can better understand how and why things behave, and learn a great deal about the design practices employed. Instead, Scoble makes some asinine rant about open source and other such nonsense. This ain't religion, it's the VS team giving its customers what they really can use. And yet he has the balls to castrate old school media. He's not doing anyone a service.

There's a part of me that wants to just stop reading all of this crap, because I'm no longer getting any value out of it. I love my Apple shit, I love Visual Studio and .NET, and I love my Xbox 360. I use them every day, and feel comfortable talking about the products. Outside of those realms, I can't say I'm all that qualified to make a lot of declarations about tech I don't use beyond, "I have no use for that."


Virtual colonoscopy

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 4, 2007, 4:46 PM | comments: 0

The medical community seems to agree that "virtual colonoscopy" is now the way to go over the traditional sedate you and stick a scope up your ass method. That's welcome relief to me. Of course, the lingering issue will be insurance coverage, but the fact that it costs half as much should be enough you'd think.

I've had a whole lot of intestinal trauma in my life, and frankly my shitty diet isn't making that better. While I do eat more fiber now that I ever have, I still need to do better. Add to that some family history on both sides for colon polyps and cancer, and it's something I need to watch for.

It's kind of neat because we're getting more and more like Star Trek medicine. "My God man, you can't cure him by drilling holes in his head!" :)


Return to coaching

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 4, 2007, 11:38 AM | comments: 1

It's not 100% firm yet, but it looks pretty likely that I'll be coaching again after having a year off. They want to put me on a 15 national team (they've replaced the open and club designations with national and regional), and best of all, I can likely retain the team for four years. That's like the ultimate experiment for me. I've never had a team for two years, let alone four!

So far I get the impression that this new club is where Quicksilver was a couple of years ago. There are actually several directors that work more in team fashion so no one person has the overall burden, and if one leaves, they can bring another on. I like that idea because no one person can suddenly pull it all out from under you they way my former club's director did. That still annoys me.

Having a year off has really helped me clear my head about what's important about coaching. Taking average kids and making them better has always been my thing, and particularly with my Elms team and second-to-last Quicksilver team, I also felt like I was getting the team dynamic right as well. My system already lends itself well to the kids making decisions on their own, but after those two teams, I understand how to empower them and get them to take ownership.

I'm still a little troubled by that last Quicksilver team I had, because they just didn't care, but I don't know that there was really anything I could do about that. About half of them just wanted to have fun, only they weren't having fun because they didn't want to work to be better and win now and then. As much as I internally want to take responsibility for that, a lot of former parents and kids told me I shouldn't. I need to let that go. In nine seasons, that was the only instance I had those kinds of problems.

In any case, I'm really looking forward to getting out there again. The girls I'll have trying out were roughly in the middle of the pack last year, behind the usual suspects, and it's that critical year where things can change pretty dramatically. As usual, I'm always optimistic going in. We'll see what happens!


Blue Man Group coming back to Cleveland

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 4, 2007, 1:01 AM | comments: 1

Mark your calendar... March 22 at Quicken Loans Arena. That's the Saturday of Easter weekend, which if I had to guess, means I might be out of town coaching that weekend. That would be bittersweet, but a topic for another post.

I think they may secretly hate me. The Pittsburgh show is closing weekend at Cedar Point. I'll be in Orlando for the Columbus show. Erie is a Thursday and probably not easy for Diana and I to make.

New community site for them launched today as well.


As if I needed another way to waste time

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 3, 2007, 2:27 PM | comments: 0

Tetris Splash on Xbox 360 Arcade


I miss my industrial

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 3, 2007, 12:53 PM | comments: 0

I saw a girl today with an industrial, and I have to say that I'm disappointed I don't have mine anymore. It was really fine for the first eight months, until I started to fuck with it with other barbells. That was obviously a mistake.

I don't think I've outgrown the piercing phase, but I don't know what additional holes I'd get. I'm still not going down the tattoo route until I lose more weight.


Screen Savers reborn: Tekzilla

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 2, 2007, 7:47 PM | comments: 1

Revision3 just launched Tekzilla, which is more or less The Screen Savers from the TechTV days, with Patrick Norton and Jessica Corbin hosting again. Jessica was probably the reason I got hooked on that show. I had a huge crush on her.

If you look at Revision3's lineup, it starts to look at lot more like TechTV every day. A lot of the personalities worked on the cable network too. If they can continue to grow it and monetize it, it will be very exciting times for everyone who believes that IP TV has a real shot at making it.


Don't sign that

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 2, 2007, 6:50 PM | comments: 3

I've been pretty salty all day. People have been annoying me and pissing me off. Again, I really need to let go a little.

They were doing new pictures today at work for the new ID's we need for the new building. Here's the funny thing though, they wanted us to sign a photo release that read like a model contract. Not gonna happen.

One other guy on my team objected, but he let me go first. I got no resistance, and even if I did, they could take it up with HR. Given my media background, pretty much since the time I was 18, I know better than to sign something like that. Writing code does not entitle my employer to any rights or use of my likeness.

After me and the other guy didn't sign the release, suddenly everyone else wanted theirs back. That got me to thinking, why do people just blindly sign whatever they have put in front of them?

Sure, there are some cases where you don't really have a choice. I had to "sign" something to use my iPhone with AT&T, for example. But beyond that, people seem to be willing to sign anything, and most of the time they don't even bother reading it. That's troublesome.


Chew with your fucking mouth closed!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 2, 2007, 3:15 PM | comments: 3

I'm sure Tyler can appreciate nasty inconsiderate co-workers, but the single most annoying disgusting thing that makes me want to punch someone is chewing with your mouth open. It's fucking gross and more annoying than dragging your fingernails on a chalk board.

And the dude behind me is doing it right now.


Holiday World - The CoasterBuzz Club Fall Affair - 9/29/07

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 2, 2007, 1:19 AM | comments: 3

I've been looking forward to this pretty much since last year. The night time rides on The Voyage are the stuff of legends. At last, I'd get my chance.

Diana and I both cut out of work early on Friday and made the drive to Santa Claus in about 6.5 hours, including some really crappy traffic in Columbus. I ended up slowing down a bit in parts of Kentucky and Indiana because the deer were standing there in the median just looking at you, contemplating suicide.

Lake Rudolph was crazy crowded, and as I suspected from various failed attempts by others to book an RV, totally booked. They do not screw around with their Halloween festivities, and that in itself was an attraction. I still don't understand the rental golf cart thing, because I don't really understand where it is people are driving them. It's a big campground, but doesn't anyone ride their bike anymore? It's not that big. But hey, they had free Wi-Fi, which is cool if not a little weird.

After we settled into our giant RV, which was this time not co-occupied by the Jandes family or a tall woman from Michigan, I called Carrie to invite her over for a bit and tried to get a fire started. It might have been a failure were it not for Diana's friendly demeanor and the neighbor's lighter fluid. We turned in at a reasonable time after a long drive.

Paula greeted us in the morning as we set up in a ticket booth. Diana, given her diverse theatrical experience, ran the box office like it was her job because, well, it was her job at one time. After an Elvis sighting, a critique of the IAAPA education program and some great stories about the Koch family, we finally got to enter the park ourselves.

It was well into lunch time by Eastern standards, so we skipped all of the rides and headed down to Plymouth Rock Cafe (for which Paula gave me a hard time about not remembering the name). The "adult" portion is more like something two adults might eat, so we both got "child" portions that included two sides. The turkey was a little disappointing, but the fried chicken Diana had was pretty good. The score was the mashed potatoes. No chemical taters here. They were awesome. Fantastically yummy even.

With full bellies, I suggested we ride the coasters from oldest to newest. Diana was very impressed with The Raven, and I was blown away by how smooth it was. I don't know what was different late last year, but what a great ride.

The Legend is back into strong form as well. There's a little bit of roughness in the first two drops, but I thought it was running well otherwise. Anything would've been an improvement over last year. You could tell how much faster it was just by the forces in the helix.

Our first ride on The Voyage placed us in the second row. They were running two trains and the relatively small crowd seemed to be focusing on the ride. It seemed a bit rough on the first two drops to the extent that it slowed it significantly in the turn around. Mind you, by Voyage standards this still means it was ridiculously fast. For this early afternoon ride, they did not seem to be engaging the mid-course as a trim. It was crazy on the trip back. Just slightly slower than I remembered, but not disappointing at all. Evening ERT would be something entirely different.

After being disappointed last fall with a low score on Gobbler Getaway, and possibly a broken gun, I was hell bent on having the best score of anyone I knew. Of course, Diana did apparently have a broken gun, scoring all of 160 or something. I got something in the 1500 range.

We rounded out a tour of the park with some photos ops and a ride on Liberty Launch. That is such a great little ride.

After that, we napped back at the RV. It's not that there was a lack of stuff to do, we just really cherished a little down time after a crazy week of work.

We returned around 4:30 or so. After chatting it up with the Willi-Young-Anderson-Myers-Neu party, we headed back down for a ride on Turkey Whirl. I also learned that the high scores of the day were generally in the 1600 range on Gobbler.

The turkeys were well lubed and very spin happy. It was a nice long cycle with some nice forces, and it runs about as well as the Tilt-a-Whirl at Cedar Point (the only other one that has ever really stood out for me). Best theme ever. Great ride.

We did Gobbler again, and Diana had a more respectable score, while I did 1860. Gonch and Tyler had nothin' on me. Take that!

Back up the hill, we did the flyers, and it was the first time I had someone in the car with me. Not snappable, but a good time still.

Dinner rolled around, and a good time was had by all. I sat with the Family Gonch, while all the cool kids were at another table. Love the pizza. How do so many parks manage to screw up pizza, anyway? Holiday World has yummy pizza. Paula, Mrs. Koch and I all made a few brief comments, and we were on our way for ERT.

The first hour included Raven and Legend, and as you would expect, they just kept getting faster. The sun was down shortly thereafter, with no moon to be found yet. Totally amazing.

We also noticed that they were doing double visual checks on restraints, and even taking photos of them at times. Some people remarked that they were a little creeped out by that, and I can't blame them. I can't blame the park either, after the accident a couple of years ago. It's sad and unfortunate that the enthusiast community has to be looked after like this.

Finally, we got to have our way with The Voyage. Or rather, it had its way with us. Total darkness, totally out of control, ridiculously fast, and insanely awesome. That thing is even more obscene at night. You kind of wish that it would be over just a little sooner.

I did three laps, and that was enough for me. Coming down to the midway after that last ride, I clearly was not the only one. It looked like a triage area in a war zone, with people sprawled out on the ground and looking after each other. It's a good kind of pain though. Like the kid you feel after a good workout. It was totally worth it.

Back at the RV, I got a roaring fire going, and food and beverages were had by the various component of our little clique. I think we had around 12 people there, which was just about right. Since Gonch and I were both there, we planned to do the podcast, but like a moron, I left the power cable to my mixer at home. I was really pissed off. That would've been fun.

Instead we talked about old times, new times, life, alcohol, nipples, hair styles and how old Gonch is. Good times. That, for me, was really the highlight of the trip.

Tyler ended up crashing at the other end of our RV since we had extra room. Morning came sooner than we would have liked, but packing up didn't take long, and we were roadworthy by 11 a.m. Central. The trim home was seven hours with a stop outside of Cincy at a Cheesecake Factory. Also went to the Apple store, which means I've been to all three Ohio locations (and all of them are near a Cheesecake Factory).

This was easily one of my favorite events to date. I think we've had a total of 16 or something now with the club, so that's saying something. I look forward to many more!


FM sold something!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 2, 2007, 12:40 AM | comments: 0

After eight or nine months of only selling remnant inventory, FM finally sold something for CoasterBuzz. It's a nice four digit sale, but unfortunately is spread out over eight months. Still, I'm pleased that they finally sold something.

It's little things like this that encourage me to work on the new site more.


The in crowd

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 1, 2007, 11:50 PM | comments: 14

All the cool kids are doin' it.


Mass forum clean up

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 1, 2007, 2:42 PM | comments: 9

You know, Walt and I were chatting one day about how maybe we should just boot about a half-dozen people from the PointBuzz forums just to try and bring the focus back to actual discussion. I don't even read the forums there much anymore, let alone post in them. I'm getting to that point on CoasterBuzz as well.

That half-dozen are people who post a lot. I mean a metric assload, in fact. But I'm not sure how much they're really saying. This weekend around the campfire, Cindy even said it was basically the same half-dozen people who posted all of the time about dumb shit, trading "inside" jokes and whatever, and making something public feel, well, not. Not exactly what she said, but I'm paraphrasing.

Historically, after doing this for almost ten years (holy crap!), these folks tend to come and go and it takes care of itself. Aside from spamming, we let stuff just happen, and I don't remember the last time we actually banned anyone. But at the same time, I really feel like I want to "take back" what I've been spending time and money on for the last almost-decade so that it's fun for me again.

Of course, people always like to accuse me of being a jerk or whatever, and that's fine. I'd like to think I'm just calling out people being stupid, but that could be further interpreted as being arrogant. It still comes down to wanting to enjoy what I write the checks for.

At the very least, I suspect there's a club member only forum coming to CoasterBuzz. When looking the cards mailed or the bulk of people registering for events, I realized that very few are active in the discussion. That's a problem, since they're not the freeloaders, those are the people really paying the bills. That's something to ponder.


Voyage sore

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 1, 2007, 10:52 AM | comments: 8

As much as I want to write a little trip report on the weekend, I haven't gotten around to it. I'm enjoying a little soreness today, both from The Voyage and the voyage (in the car), the marks of a truly successful trip.

Best time I've had in awhile, and a much needed break from everyday life. I wish it could have been longer.