Archive: April, 2002

Software, Web sites and roller coasters, oh my!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 28, 2002, 5:06 PM | comments: 0

I finally got to a point where my forum software, POP Forums, is ready for testing in its new, rewritten, .Net form ("that's one degree of seperation," bizatch ;)). It has been a real challenge because I've had to start entirely from scratch on the new platform. Already there are thousands of lines of code and it still doesn't have some of the existing or new features.

On top of that, I'm also re-designing Guide to The Point. That should be ready in no time because I'm using CliqueSite to run it. What makes that system so cool is that I more or less just have to design the template, and I'm good to go. The rest is all generated on the fly as far as navigation and such goes.

These are both some serious milestones for my own personal projects, and especially cool considering that I have a lot less free time now that I'm working again.

Steph mentioned to me that I've always had a project to do for as long as she's known me. When I stop and think about it, I think she's right. That makes me stop and wonder... on one hand I don't want to die not doing the things that I wanted to, but at the same time am I going to miss something by not stopping and looking around (even if that's doing nothing with my wife)? Neither scenario is a good thing.

Ferris Beuler once said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it."

Good advice for a movie.

Garbage in Cleveland

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 21, 2002, 7:43 PM | comments: 0

I'm a huge Garbage fan. They're one of the few bands that I can still be really into. I first saw them in Cleveland late in 1995 when they played Peabody's Down Under, a little shit hole of a concert hall in the flats. At the time, "Vow" didn't score any airplay, but their second single, "Queer," did and even got airplay on MTV.

That first show was interesting. I knew that Butch Vig, the drummer, had produced albums like Nirvana's Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkin's Siamese Dream (two of the best albums of the 90's), the other dudes were also studio rats, and Shirley Manson was the singer for some crappy little bands that no one ever heard of. Didn't know what to expect when I saw them live.

The good news was that they could play, but Shirley was not confident, and just didn't look comfortable. What a difference a few years makes.

I had been reading Shirley's journal entries on the Web site about her guitar and voice lessons, her counseling and what not. Clearly she had issues, and clearly she wanted to be a better musician. I couldn't possibly know how she feels, but I can tell you that as a musician she is leaps and bounds ahead of where she was.

She's confident, she was having a good time, working the crowd and damn does she have the pipes. She was outright powerful up there. I sure miss her red hair, but she's so much stronger than before, nailing every note and not letting you realize that she isn't singing harmony to herself as she does on record.

Last night was my fourth time seeing them, and I'm glad to see a band that I like just keeps getting better, and not worse (see: Smashing Pumpkins). I hope they stick with it for a long time!

I'll have a joygasm with my spring water, please

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 16, 2002, 2:05 AM | comments: 0

Check it out... spring is finally here. In a way I was lucky, since I was unemployed the majority of winter and didn't have to deal with going out into it everyday. Still, what a relief to again be under the sun, wearing shorts and leaving the windows open. It's about freakin' time!

Spring makes everything better. Volleyball practice is more fun, driving is more fun, I feel more inclined to get the next version of the forums out (and in turn re-build GTTP), I even felt like sweeping the garage out, though Steph beat me to it.

And you know what's next... amusement parks, baby!

On running and participating in coaster forums

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 8, 2002, 1:47 AM | comments: 0

I posted this on Ultimate Roller Coaster, a fine and long-running coaster site. The guy who runs it, Eric, and I have been in touch for years. He's a talented designer and a good guy. We share a lot of pain running popular coaster sites... the post follows.

Some jerk posted some crap on CoasterBuzz about how much he disliked URC or whatever, and I promptly removed it (because it shows a lack of class) and came over to see what the problem was.

While I haven't seen a ton of it, it strikes me as a little ridiculous that anyone would criticize Eric for any kind of moderation. He's more than patient if you ask me.

After running message boards for five years or so now, and lurking on others (including this one), I've come to some interesting conclusions that I thought I'd share, in no particular order.

1. Generally speaking, it's easy for people to be jerks online. There are a lot of civil people, and it depends on the content or subject matter (coaster enthusiasts are tame compared to gamers), but when you mix people who are of varying ages, experiences, etc., people get off on being more [your adjective here].

2. People don't like control. That's a real bummer too, because point one pretty much requires you have a little control or you end up with the chaos and endless nonsense found on RRC.

3. There's always an "in" crowd. Yeah, they'd stuff you in your locker if you were in high school. We call them coaster snobs, and we used to have a ton of them on Guide to The Point, where probably hundreds of people started down the road to be enthusiasts. Just because Cedar Point was the center of their universe they weren't as good as the people with triple-digit track records. It's what I hated about RRC in my early days. Only a few years later they've traveled, knocked out dozens of new rides, and many of them to this day make up the CoasterBuzz membership. They're not too good for the youngin's and newbies, and would sooner ride with them than slam them in a public forum.

4. Kids have no manners. OK, that's not a fair statement. I love working with teens, but there are always a few, a minority if you will, that have no people skills online. My policy is to boot them right away.

5. People don't give an upstop wheel about what the person running the sites or forum feels or thinks. In the last year or two the fact that ad dollars are in the crapper makes this worse. I can't speak for Eric, but I sure as hell know that it irritates me when some ungrateful little snot can't follow the rules for our FREE service that we're providing. Bandwidth ain't free, folks, and if we're gonna pay for it, we're going to run things the way we see fit (even if you think it's wrong). If I were a bigger jerk (or perhaps really drunk one night), I'd rewrite my rules to look like this.

There you have it. What do you do about all that? I dunno... take it as it comes. We're talking about discussion forums about roller coasters here, not Middle East peace talks. Give everyone a break, especially us Webjockeys, and go with the flow. We've all got lives to lead. Spending much time thinking about this kind of stuff is probably not the best use of our time.

The thrill of victory and agony of defeat as a coach

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 1, 2002, 2:54 PM | comments: 0

I spent the weekend in Baltimore with my volleyball kids, playing in the three-day national qualifier there. I went in to it with the intention of just having a good time and giving the kids a great learning opportunity, and that's what we got.

The tough part however was the length of the whole thing. I had to keep nine 17-year old girls happy, focused and motivated. That means keeping on your happy face and promising them it's all going to be good. By the third day, when we suddenly started to tank, I gave all I could.

So that begs the question... who keeps the coach happy and motivated? Granted, I'd much rather be coaching than working, but I also wish I had a support system. The kids have each other and their parents to lean on. There are always plenty of shoulders to cry on for the kids. I can't say I felt like crying, but I didn't feel like I had anyone to support me.

Luckily, my need for support was largely emotional, and not augmented by satanic parents or officials. The problem for me was just that the stress would manifest itself physically in the form of headaches, diarrhea, tight back muscles and such.

There's often no one there to tell you, "Good job," or, "Hang in there, coach." That sucks, and you start to question why you even bother doing it. You don't really get paid (only compensated for expenses), so it sure isn't that.

Then I stopped and remembered all of the little breakthroughs I had with the kids. I finally got into one of their heads and got to understand her, another girl started to really fix one of her greatest skill problems, another started to excel in her role, yet another felt she "fit in." There were all these little victories happening around me and I didn't even realize it.

These are the kinds of triumphs that mean more than the numbers in the score book. They are the things you'll remember a dozen years from now, not what you scored.