Archive: December, 2005

Sorry, Pistons fans

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 31, 2005, 3:56 PM | comments: 0

Cavs own Pistons 97-84. Detroit has four losses now, and Cleveland caused one. It's nice to have one of those for a change go in our favor.

2005 Retrospect Part II: The music

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 30, 2005, 8:31 PM | comments: 0

Music gets its own entry in looking back at the year, because it's one of the single most important things in my life. In the most general sense, it helps me feel.

Overall, it was a much better year for music, and thank God for that, because I was wondering if anything was going to not suck. The start of the year's new music started with Gwen Stefani's solo album, and I loved it. Good pop music lives. Black Eyed Peas also did a great job showing that pop music doesn't have to suck. Good to see someone follow up a good album with a better one.

I also picked up Green Day's American Idiot, which I think actually came out in 2004, but it took me awhile to buy it. I know they tend to be labeled as punk, but it really reminded me of classic album-oriented rock. It was listenable start to finish. Nickelback did rock music good too, only their album brought back the feel of good song writing in a way that reminds me of the old Bon Jovi days. Sure it's "popular," but that doesn't mean it has to suck.

The highlight of the year came with the release of Garbage's Bleed Like Me, an album that may be one of my favorites ever. The title track is my favorite Garbage song of all time. The show was amazing.

Beck and Gorillaz put out great quirky albums, both better than their last efforts. Fiona Apple showed record companies they have no idea what good music is.

I finally got a good soundtrack. Veronica Mars has a great mix of stuff, including the really hot "No Sleep Tonight" by The Faders and "We Used to Be Friends" from the Dandy Warhols. Best soundtrack since the first Tomb Raider movie. The TV show is also kickass.

Armin Van Buuren put out Shivers, and it was good. The whole trance/house/dance thing is sketchy and hard to find good stuff, but this was a very solid effort. The only thing that seemed odd is that the bonus track that came with the iTunes version was, well, a bonus track.

There were two albums that really stand out for me though. The first is Liz Phair's Somebody's Miracle. It's a great collection of songs about relationships and feeling out your place in them, and it's got a nice edge to it.

The other great album is Imogen Heap's Speak for Yourself. It actually covers a lot of the same ground as Liz Phair's album, but it's far more electronic and dark. It's weird because the two albums are very similar in content, only one has a slightly upbeat feel and the other is brutal honesty about the despair involved with failing relationships. It's interesting to contrast the two. They're both great.

The music aside, the technology took another step forward as well. iTunes continues to sell millions of songs and the iPod is more popular than ever. I bought my second iPod, and only bought one actual CD this year. Some bands broke out with their own releases on the Internet through Creative Commons licensing, which is exciting.

Here's hoping the good tunes continue to roll out in 2006.

All-star college alumnus

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 30, 2005, 6:10 PM | comments: 1

Hey, random thought, but I found out that one of the teachers at my cousin's middle school, a guy I worked with in my TV job and went to Ashland University, was busted for propositioning a middle schooler for sex. Wow. Would've never pegged the guy for a sick pervert.

There could be money in blogging afterall

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 30, 2005, 12:09 PM | comments: 0

Wow, this is crazy. One of the Net's hero bloggers, in terms of money he makes, posted his stats for the blog that makes him the big six figures. I'm totally underwhelmed.

Imagine that a site like CoasterBuzz does more than twenty times the traffic with more ads and doesn't even come close. As I mentioned in a previous post, the reason is that my market segment doesn't have the same appeal his does in terms of Google and Chitika ads. But isn't that a great story? To think that someone can write about what they're interested in on a daily basis and generate that kind of cash shows that the potential for average people to make money with the Internet, with something useful even, is inspiring.

Sleepless night with a sick cat

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 30, 2005, 2:00 AM | comments: 1

Sigh. Luna isn't having a good night. She's been kind of miserable and throwing up today. You may recall several years ago that a vet told us she wouldn't likely live another year, but here she is.

A better vet told us she has something like Irritable Bowel Disorder. We had her on medications that really didn't do anything. I decided to stop giving them to her, and really ever since then she's been doing better. The frequency of her attacks is only two to four weeks, instead of once a week as it used to be. This is an unusual circumstance when her last spell was about a week ago.

It's kind of heartbreaking too, because when she feels really bad she howls in a way that almost sounds human. It's awful. This time it's just some minor crying, and she gets it over with and goes back to sleep.

Our cheap ass carpet (thanks Pulte, fuck you!) has not weathered her barfing very well, and I wish I could afford to replace it. Even without her barfing it's still so matted and dirty that it sucks. We replaced one room early this year and it made a huge difference, and it's very barf resistant too.

Yeah, it's inconvenient when she's sick like this, but it isn't all that bad. She's happy and nutty the rest of the time, and a real lover too. Luna is probably the most affectionate cat I've ever had. I'm sure she has a lot of good years left in her.

Job update

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 29, 2005, 10:54 PM | comments: 0

I think I mentioned awhile ago that I wanted to get another contract job. I'm getting a lot of calls, and trying to use some restraint about what I'm willing to take. I've decided it's OK to be picky and only take something if it really seems interesting. If I'm going to put up with The Man, I want to see eye to eye with him.

My motivation this time is really that I want to get out of the house more, and even more importantly, give myself something to challenge my mind. The world will keep spinning around me if I don't get out of my bubble now and then. If that happens, I could suddenly become obsolete without even knowing it. That's no fun.

But here's the craziest thing I did today... I sent a demo CD to my local Clear Channel office. There was a want ad for an entry level board operator position at the news/sports station, so I figured what the hell. I'm not above that. I would enjoy being in the environment I think, even if the money is one-fifth of what I'd get at a programming job. I just want to spend some time around it again and see if it's something I really want to do. I still theorize radio is a dying medium, but the experience could be fun anyway.

2005 Retrospect Part I: The business

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 29, 2005, 9:48 PM | comments: 0

I don't know why the new year causes us to reflect exactly, but I can't help doing it. The part that matters the most, my general well-being, I'm still processing. I'm not ready to write about that yet. So I figure I'll cover some other parts first. I'll start with the business.

The P&L is complete enough for me to get a good grip on how things look. It's not all bad, but it isn't all good either. I'm down slightly on profit for the year, despite an increase in revenue, but that's because of software upgrades (namely the MSDN subscription) and the purchase of audio gear for the podcast. The most disappointing thing is that bank fees ended up being about flat, and interest charges are up like 30% because the business cards weren't offering good low rate transfer options. I've got the interest down to about $25 a month now, thank God.

Traffic on my sites was up in most cases in the 10-20% range, and the ad revenue was about in line with the traffic increases. The frustrating thing about that though was having to use more advertising to compensate for lower fill rates and lower CPM's. The targeted Google ads that are making some people millionaires only work with subject matter that has strong advertising potential. Sadly, the amusement industry isn't big on that because it's just too small.

CoasterBuzz Club is still doing OK, but is down from last year overall. That doesn't surprise me because CoasterBuzz is so long overdue for an overhaul. It's on my to-do list though.

Looking forward to next year I've got several proposals out there and some new things to try. I just need to stay focused long enough to make them happen. Not sure what they'll do in terms of revenue, but if I can hit a few of the targets, I should be in good enough shape late in the year when I tend to struggle a bit.

My book, which I kind of look at as being part of the business, didn't sell as well as I had hoped in the first half of the year, so I'm crossing my fingers it did better in the second half. The publisher has done a pretty piss poor job of marketing it, but at the time I got the contract, I was just thrilled with the royalty rate I was getting so I never questioned anything about retaining copyright or how they'd market the book. Now I know better. If it does 10,000 copies in the long run, I'll be satisfied with that.

The one thing I didn't make a lot of progress on was the debt position of the company, and that's disappointing, but to be expected since I didn't work a day job the last four months of the year. I only knocked it down by 40%.

I also let my personal life, which has been less than stellar, get in the way of meeting some of my goals this year. I hope to work around that next year.

So overall I'm reasonably pleased with how things went, but very aware of the improvements and new goals I need to hit next year. I'm still floating in that limbo between hobby and successful business. I just hope it's still fun when I get far enough on to the success side!

24 Season 4... done!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 29, 2005, 8:19 PM | comments: 0

Wow, I actually spaced out watching this season over about a week and a half. Best of the seasons, no question at all. The first half of the season has three extreme events alone, with dozens of subplots. Then things get even more crazy in the second half.

There are a lot of things I liked about the story arc with the characters too. I love the Tony and Michelle story because I guess it gives you hope that two people can overcome adversity even in the most dire of circumstances. That's a good plot to have in all of the death on the show, and gives you hope. The Jack and Audrey line wasn't as interesting because she just wasn't attractive, and Jack's too kickass to really love anyone.

Oh, and I almost forgot that Mia Kirshner was in it too. She made appearances in the first too seasons as well. She fits squarely in the "sexy ugly" category. (That's when someone isn't attractive in a traditional sense, but there's some weird attraction you can't quite place.) Her character is one of the few recurring, and she's so bad ass.

So the next season starts in Chicago. No telling where that's going to go or who will be in the new season. I assume that the story will be something about an internal government conspiracy. I totally can't wait. Most movies aren't as good as this show.

iPod sound for the bedroom

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 28, 2005, 10:13 PM | comments: 0

One of the odd and unintended disadvantages of not driving as much due to self-employment is that I don't listen to as much music as I normally would. This is bad from the standpoint that music is probably the single most motivating thing in the world to me.

I love my iPods, but there are times when I just don't really want headphones on either. When I stayed with Mike and Artemisa at Holiday World and then again at Cedar Point, he had a little Altec Lansing speaker set with a dock. I was surprised how good it sounded.

So I got the slightly updated version of his, the iM3c. I really like it. It's not going to fill a room with window-shaking bass or anything, but it sounds great for the bedroom when it's only a few feet from my head. So now I can listen when I'm reading or DS'ing or whatever. It also has a nice travel pouch with international power adapters too. Sweet.

The Voyage... drool

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 28, 2005, 7:13 PM | comments: 2

OK, so I'm letting my coaster geek side really show here, but holy crap... is it May yet?

Up too late in pursuit of music

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 27, 2005, 2:34 AM | comments: 0

No wonder my sleep is so screwed up lately!

I found on Liz Phair's site that she did a few little podcasts, the first of which has a really rough live cut of her doing "Table For One." It's a very, very sad song, but it's very sweet at the same time.

Somebody's Miracle is one of several albums this year that are absolutely awesome, and you can listen to start to finish. It's about fucking time that we've finally had a year with good music!

Immi coming to Detroit

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 27, 2005, 2:07 AM | comments: 0

Imogen Heap is coming to Detroit in January, her closest US tour date. I think I've gotta go!

Thoughts on Narnia

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 27, 2005, 1:21 AM | comments: 0

I went to see The Chronic-What?!-les of Narnia today. Fabulous movie. Aside from wishing I had a ten-year-old British daughter, I got a lot out of it.

I know the Christian types are all over this movie for its Christ-like story, but honestly now that I've seen it, I think that regardless of what C.S. Lewis' intentions were, the connection is a little over-exaggerated. Yes, the lion is like a die-for-your-sins-and resurrection type (who happens to be voiced by Liam "Qui-Gon" Neeson, didn't know that), but with all of the magic and war (which I suppose could be Biblical), I just don't see it.

But I love the beaver, especially when he's wearing armor. :)

It got me thinking about the way I learned about Christianity and the way a lot of other people from college learned about it. I understand being thankful that Christ died for your sins, and the whole miracle of his life in general. But what I eventually took away from it the most was the notion that God loves you and virtually everything around you is a miracle. Having faith in that world is what I dig, and honestly I've since learned that it's the same fundamental value that's found in most religions.

In contrast though, a lot of people learn about Christianity as this morbid, guilt-based lifestyle, which absolutely sucks. Remember that line from Dogma? "Organized religion destroys who we are by inhibiting our actions, by inhibiting our decisions, out of - out of fear of some -- some intangible parent figure who -- who shakes a finger at us from thousands of years ago, and says -- and says: 'Do it, do it and I'll fucking spank you!'" The first time I heard that, I though, wow, that's so true.

But aside from all that, I do realize that the point of the season, the point of most any religion, is that love and peace, looking out for each other, that's what makes life worth living.

SNL "Lazy Sunday" video on iTunes

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 24, 2005, 3:32 PM | comments: 1

If you saw Saturday Night Live last weekend, you saw the funniest fucking musical short they've done in ages. Through the goodness of iTunes, you can have the "Lazy Sunday" video free:

Merry Christmas. Thanks, Lorne Michaels!

If Everyone Cared

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 24, 2005, 1:03 PM | comments: 0

"If everyone cared and nobody cried
If everyone loved and nobody lied
If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
We'd see the day when nobody died

And I'm singing

Amen I, I'm alive"

-Nickelback, "If Everyone Cared"

Mint pie!

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 8:21 PM | comments: 0

Gas bill... Ouch!

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 8:14 PM | comments: 0

And if that wasn't enough, the health insurance I never use is going up 20%. Someone is always trying to fuck you.

24 dream

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 7:14 PM | comments: 0

You can tell when I'm having a fit of ADD, because I blog all day.

I had a dream last night that was like this 24 themed thing. I was moving into an apartment because I was going to graduate school in some college town as cover for some mission. Me and a friend were going to be neighbors, and for some reason they were setting up amusement rides in front of our rental houses.

So I go to check in with the landlord and she's all giving me shit about the length of my lease. My phone rings and it's President Palmer from the show. He's like, "You have to start watching your professor because we think he has the bomb." Then my former JV coach is there too, and she's blowing me off for some reason (just like real life). The landlord is giving someone shit on the phone the whole time.

I start running across this campus quad when I realize that I left my Vonage phone router at home, and I can't seem to stop thinking about that because I'm expecting an important call. My pants keep sliding down because they don't fit anymore, and my gun is weighing them down. That's about all I remember.

Interpreting these crazy ass dreams is always fun, but this one seems pretty straight forward. I watched a few episodes of 24 before bed. I clearly have some attachment to the idea of college that I can't explain. The amusement rides are just, well, my dorky thing. Being blown off by Liz I guess just hurts my feelings. And the friend living next door I'm sure is just wanting to see the friend more frequently. Unfortunately, none of it is deep stuff I don't already know being awake!

CoasterBuzz sixth birthday coming

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 6:39 PM | comments: 2

Wow, CoasterBuzz is closing in on six years. It's weird because people that don't know me assume it's like the center of my life, but honestly I feel like I don't pay enough attention to it. That's not to say I don't like it, but I don't give it the time it's due.

I've been thinking about how I can improve it and change it, but there are two roadblocks I need to overcome. The first is that I need to finish the new forum version. Ugh. That's been haunting me too long. The second thing is that I'm cautious to spend a ton of time thinking about such things because I think the return on investment is limited. The coaster enthusiast and amusement industry audience is limited. That's not to say I'm not seeing a steady rise in traffic (up about 15% year-over-year), but with ad revenue not being great, I have to pick my projects carefully.

And that's the other thing. The ad revenue model I think is a double edged sword. Using a mix of ad formats (including the pop ups which annoy the shit out of everyone), I've been seeing anywhere from .60 to .80 effective CPM. That's not great at all. The CoasterBuzz Club memberships only offset the shortcomings to a certain degree. But the flip side of this is that it is at least revenue. I just don't like having to rely on third parties to secure income.

If I could get back to $1 CPM with one banner, like in the old days, I'd do it a heartbeat. Sadly, I just don't see it happening with the crap that the ad agencies are selling.

I guess in the end, it's nice to have the community. I'm still very pleased that it's a good group of people that act like adults for the most part. The content is still what matters, but I need to figure out how to monetize it.

Amber loves nerds

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 6:21 PM | comments: 1

Yes, my geeky friends, there is hope for us. We seem to be coming more into fashion every day. Is it for our brains or our money?

Seven years for college? You're kidding me!

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 5:51 PM | comments: 0

There was a story on the news today about college students taking on average as long as seven years to finish school! What the hell? On what planet? Even the Cleveland State president said it's not realistic to finish in four or five years.

Now, I did a double major in four years, and still had to pad my schedule with phys ed classes my senior year. I've got a friend graduating next year who could have graduated a semester early even. My volleyball kids all seem to be on schedule to finish in four years.

So who the hell are these people? I understand some majors that an extra semester might be necessary, especially if there are out-of-class requirements like internships or student teaching or whatever, but seven years?

Gay marriage ban vs. domestic violence

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 5:40 PM | comments: 2

I love this. A clever lawyer challenged domestic violence charges in Ohio for gay-on-gay relationship crime because we have an asinine amendment here that bans gay marriage. Domestic violence is however defined as being between married people. It's going to the state supreme court now, and I don't see how the charges can hold. You can't be told that you can't be married or enjoy the benefits of it, but then be charged with a marriage crime.

Ohio is so stupid. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to live here.

Andes Mint Pie

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 3:06 PM | comments: 1

The Schwan guy just dropped by. I got the last Andes Mint Pie on the truck.


Spontaneous midnight muscle pulls

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 23, 2005, 11:09 AM | comments: 1

I found out that I'm not the only one in the world who can spontaneously pull a calf muscle in my sleep. Whew! I'm not as weird as I thought.

The toilet paper unroll is killing me!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 22, 2005, 6:53 PM | comments: 2

If you've never played Warioware: Touched, you have to try it. It's like crack, only without the shakes. It's a ton of mini-games that use the stylus. In some levels you even have to blow into the microphone in some games.

The one where I have to unroll the toilet paper as fast as possible is killing me because sometimes the roll gets too big!

What are the holidays really about?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 22, 2005, 12:13 AM | comments: 1

It's remarkable how the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and celebration, especially considering what they're based on, but yet so many people are so miserable or unhappy, ironically because of the expectation for the happiness and joy.

I was talking to a friend tonight that said, "It's just another couple of days. We could choose any other day." I think he's right in a lot of ways, but to even extend that thought, we could choose virtually any other day of the year to celebrate. In fact, it could be argued that we should celebrate things like love, relationships, our children, every day.

Human beings are incredibly resilient. Mother nature, evil and other forms of heartbreak knock us down all of the time, and usually, we get back up. The thing that we may find hard to admit is that we do it better with the help of other people. I've spent a great deal of the year understanding how to better take care of myself, but I've also come to grips with the idea that it's not a weakness to need the close company of people that you care about, and care about you. We're social animals.

So what do you do during the holidays when things aren't quite what you wish they would be? I think the first instinct is to be sad and depressed, but you have to fight through that and be thankful for the times you've had, and have a little faith that there will be more great times ahead. It really does soften the sting of loneliness and sadness a little.

No camera love for awhile

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 19, 2005, 11:30 PM | comments: 0

The HD camera I want to buy isn't going to likely be available for most people unless they ordered it early, early on. The HVX200 will be in heavy demand for awhile, which makes sense because it really is remarkable. That's OK I think. I look forward to getting it but I can wait. My favorite dealer from my pro video days says I'll probably have to wait until February or March.

Time to get on that screenplay.

It reminds me of the release of the various Canon digital SLR's a couple of years ago. I had to get my D60 from a Canadian retailer, but the 10D replacement was a little easier to find. It's exciting to see that the new 5D is out now, because it's a full 35mm frame, but it's really expensive.

The evolving method of film distribution

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 19, 2005, 12:43 PM | comments: 0

There's an interesting story on about how some people are distributing films outside of the normal studio system. Morgan Freeman is even in on the action, and here's a guy that gets millions for every picture.

There's such an opportunity here. In the early days of the Web, if you could grab on to an audience for a particular market, you could still "own" it today and likely trump certain traditional media outlets. There's potential there to do the same now in video and film. The potential to make a zillion dollars might be lower, but the potential to do something you're enjoying and make a little money doing it I think is an awesome opportunity. The trick is that the window to do so is not very large.

King Kong... amazing

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 19, 2005, 11:52 AM | comments: 0

I've seen a lot of movies this year, and I have to admit that I don't remember most of them. In fact, other than Elizabethtown, there aren't many at all that really strike me as memorable.

Then I saw Peter Jackson's King Kong. If this thing doesn't score Oscars, I'll be super pissed. It's one of the most beautiful and sad movies I've seen in a very long time. I won't give away any spoilers (though I assume everyone knows how it ends), but they pulled off what I suspected would either kill or make the movie: They made an animated ape "act" and convey emotion. That's fairly amazing.

Go see it. It's the best movie this year.

Holiday World fudge

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 18, 2005, 6:04 PM | comments: 0

As a group outing customer, I was on the mailing list from Holiday World to get a big tin of fudge from Holiday World. It's butterscotch. It's f'ing awesome!

What makes a good film

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 16, 2005, 12:44 AM | comments: 0

There has been so much art and story telling in recorded history that it's hard to come up with something entirely original. Once I started to accept that, I made peace with the idea that the next screenplay I write will probably be in someway derivative of something that has already been done.

The next thing I've come to grips with is that in trying to come up with a basic plot line, I've been too worried about what makes a good film... to other people. It occurred to me that's kind of silly if the film I want to make isn't going to be made with the expectation that other people should like it. So instead I've decided to think about what makes a good film to me.

The last movie that really had an impact on me was Elizabethtown. There were a lot of reasons I liked it, but I think overall it was the story of the main character's struggle to appreciate one set of memories while being open to the possibilities offered by new people and situations in his life. As we move through the "four year cycle of change" as I like to call it, it's hard to embrace that cycle.

I also liked The Girl Next Door because it's a well-written, if often done, underdog story. Someone said to me once that the nerdy guy never gets the pretty girl in the end, but I disagree. I don't exactly have the longest dating resume, but it's happened to me a number of times, and I'm a dork. ;)

I don't think anyone likes Lost in Translation as much as I do, but I think it's great because it's so simple. Two people in the right place, at the right time, who are right for each other, free of all the roadblocks they'd encounter in their normal lives. The whole "plot" is just about them enjoying time together. The moment when they're lying on the bed talking about what gives their lives meaning is the best few minutes of any movie I've seen in a long time.

The Big Lebowski is a classic in my mind because the characters are so well drawn and the story is this great string of easy to follow events. Throw in the goofy fantasy sequences and it's just damn entertaining.

I didn't really get Pulp Fiction at first, but I loved the dialog. After seeing it a few more times and reading some academic papers by film school types, I totally get it. I think when you view it as s story of redemption, based on the decisions the characters make, it's almost a kind of morality play. Do people right and it'll come back to you, but do them wrong, and you'll get yours.

So what do these films all have in common? Not a lot, really, but there are little elements in each that appeal to me in some ways. I can point out hundreds of things I don't like about a lot of other movies, and I guess I just don't want to make one of those!

Weather people suck

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 15, 2005, 12:15 AM | comments: 8

If you watched the news here in Cleveland, you'd think that the end of the world was coming. But wouldn't you know it, they've revised the forecast and now everything is fizzling out. I thought I was going to get to bust out the snow blower, now most of the area will get just an inch. So much for a winter wonderland!

As fascinating as meteorology is, being the weatherman would suck since you can't be right half of the time.

TV that's too intense

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 14, 2005, 8:49 PM | comments: 1

I'm working my way through season 3 of 24. Of all four seasons, I'd say it's my least favorite, but I just got done watching an hour that was probably the most disturbing of all the TV I've seen. Michelle says goodbye to Tony because she's presumably gonna die, then Jack has to kill Chappelle. I didn't even watch the last part, because I remember being too freaked out by it the first time.

I look forward to watching season 4, which is more about the kick ass "holy crap!" moments. Also looking forward to the new season in January.

If you're not watching that show... you're missing the best thing on TV.

"Don't be interesting, be interested"

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 14, 2005, 12:54 PM | comments: 0

I was reading an article in Business 2.0 last night where they asked 30 different business leaders which single philosophy plays the biggest role in their lives. There was one that stuck out for me, one that I've always known and practiced, but never really put into words.

Jim Collins, a management consultant and author, explained that a mentor of his once sat him down and told him that he spent too much time trying to be interesting instead of being interested. That struck a cord with me.

I don't think I generally try to be interesting (except when I'm trying to capture the hearts and minds of the kids I coach), but being interested is the thing that defines the relationships in my life. All of my closest friends and romances have been powerful and meaningful because of my interest in the other person (and generally the reciprocation of that interest). I'm fascinated by the details of people's lives, about what they do, what they think and what they feel. My therapist says that's part of the reason that women make better friends (and lovers) for me, since men don't tend to share the way women do.

I haven't always been good at it though. I've gone through periods, some lasting years at a time, where I've become kind of self-absorbed. I don't mean that in a "hooray for me" kind of way as much as I mean in a deeply reflective and self-evaluating way. That's something I want to work harder on, because the balance of getting yourself and understanding the framework of support that you operate under with friends is important.

Mario Kart DS is like crack

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 13, 2005, 4:53 PM | comments: 1

I was surfing about Amazon when I noticed that there was a Nintendo DS bundle with the new Mario Kart DS. Upon research of the game, I found out it supported online play (the DS has Wi-Fi). Given my recent rediscovery of all things Mario, I got very interested, very quickly.

So I stopped at Target for a few things this morning, and there it was. I haven't bought anything for myself in many moons, so I figured it was time. I also picked up Warioware Touched as well.

After f'ing around with my router settings for a half-hour, I finally got the DS to talk to Redmond, or where ever Nintendo parks their servers. My first online match, I kicked the guy/girl's ass. When it showed the career win-loss, they were apparently a n00b at well. Next match, I got hooked up with two winners. It all went down hill from there!

Still, it was so much fun playing with other people from all over. The single player game is pretty sweet (32 tracks, including some from previous versions!), but the fun of the game has always been multi-player with humans. It turns out that it's even fun with strangers from all over the world. It's a bit slow finding people to play with, but maybe that's just the time of day, or the fact that the game is still fairly new. I bet Christmas day there will be a ton of people. It's really a lot of fun!

I also got Touched, because Stephanie got addicted to the GBA version. I tried the DS version in the store, and found it to be a ton of fun. I've only played a few rounds, but this one if fun too! The part about blowing into the microphone is a little weird, but the various mini-games using the stylus are very clever.

Opening up that box, I noticed the old familiar Nintendo labeling, and remembered that the first game machine I ever bought myself, with my own money, was the original Nintendo Gameboy, the very week it came out. In fact, it even cost the same as this DS bundle ($150). Prior to that I had an Atari 2600 that my parents bought years earlier. So I feel a certain amount of allegiance to Nintendo. God knows they still make some of the most fun games. I sure hope they get their next console right, for their sake.

New ABC anchors

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 12, 2005, 7:01 PM | comments: 1

So they've apparently designated Bob Woodruf and Elizabeth Vargas as co-anchors for World News Tonight on ABC. That's an interesting choice, and one that makes sense because I don't think you can simply replace Peter Jennings. And hey, Elizabeth has gone curly and she's super cute. :)

The adult juice box

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 11, 2005, 7:31 PM | comments: 1

Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. The box of wine from Franzia. Five litres of average to crappy wine that'll at least get you to tie one on. I bought such a box about a month ago, maybe more. I finally finished it off with dinner tonight.

I do enjoy good wine. I don't have it very often, but I do like it. I'd like to try it more frequently, especially with the local vineyards we have right here in Ohio (including the islands). I don't know that I "appreciate" it, but I do enjoy it. I'm a white/pale wine guy myself, and it's amazing how you can barely tell there's alcohol in good wine.

So why the box? Oddly enough, I met my wife while drunk on the stuff (it could've been the paint fumes from painting my rental college house all day too). Ounce for ounce, it has the best value too. A typical .75 or 1.5 litre bottle will probably taste better, but if you have friends over or want to tie one on yourself, it's not going to go very far. Yes, I'm the guy that spent hundreds of dollars on alcohol for the 12-litre mai tai at a party a couple of years ago, but most people aren't that impulsive.

The other nice thing is that the stuff doesn't seem to have the ill effects that other alcohol frequently does. If I slam a lot of beers, I can feel it the next day. It's not always horrible, but I can still feel it. You don't get that way with wine, or even wine in a box! :)

I'm not even sure why I'm sharing this, but you know, I like to blog. For some reason, including RSS hits, 13,000+ readers hit this thing every month. I can't question what the hell they're looking for, so I just write!

Doing the right thing and the pack mentality

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 11, 2005, 5:35 PM | comments: 5

The other night I was talking to my mom about how I wouldn't be showing up for dinner on Christmas Eve, but would rather wait until after they get home from church. I told her our family ate like crap. That's not to say the family doesn't make good food, but it's sure as hell not healthy food.

Much of my family is overweight and my grandfather is walking heart disease. So which part of "lifestyle change" isn't obvious? My mom said that's how everyone eats, as if that makes any sense. Yeah, we're the most obese country in the world too.

So there's one reason to eat right... it makes you kind of a rebel. Hey, I was always going against the grain as far back as college, so it makes sense to me! Actually, now that I'm older and wiser, I know that the reverse-pack mentality isn't really any better than being a conformist, but that causes me to arrive at the conclusion that everything in life should generally be carefully considered for the situation.

I don't understand why we do things because everyone else does them, even if they aren't good for us. For something like eating poorly, it's not even a matter of acceptance. Most people don't give a shit what it is you eat, and people know that. It's like when people loot in a disaster or riot, people think, well, I guess it's OK then if everyone else is doing it.

God I could go for a pizza right now.

Mythbusters marathon

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 11, 2005, 3:50 PM | comments: 0

I swear I'm not sure how I'm not addicted to something, because I get into some things too easily. I made some lunch and turned on the TV. Discovery's Mythbusters was on. Then another episode, then another. That was like three hours ago.

OK, I'll admit right up front that I totally crush on Kari, the only female on the show (and she's had red, light brown, dark brown and dark streaks on light hair so far... she's got a creative streak). But aside from the perky cute personality, they build all kinds of cool shit on the show and generally it involves blowing stuff up or cutting something. Great show.

I so need to get off the couch today and DDR or something!

HVX200 samples

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 11, 2005, 11:17 AM | comments: 0

Wow... someone got their hands on an HVX200 and posted some HD samples. They won't run at full frame rate on a lesser computer, but oh my God. I can't believe this is video!

Film budgeting

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 11, 2005, 1:49 AM | comments: 6

I sketched out a budget for the film I'd like to make. I've arrived at a total somewhere between $12k and $15k, depending on a few variables, and that does include four paid actors, assuming I can shoot in seven days and recruit friends for everything else. It also includes a DP, because I'd like to have someone that has actually been on a set before and owns a light meter to help me out there. (If you're reading this, Frank, you could do it!)

I could raise that cash working two to three months, no problem. I also intend to buy equipment, not rent it. The real question is whether I buy the camera this month, and thus write off the expense for tax purposes, or wait until next year. The toughest part of that is I don't know if I could get one anyway, because I suspect they'll be in short supply when they finally start to ship in about a week and a half.

I have some ideas sketched out for screenplays that I need to flesh out a bit, and if I get really ambitious, maybe I'll write more than one. Third Time, my first screenplay, needs a huge rewrite or three, and frankly it's too auto-biographical and not creative enough.

So why the hell would I endeavor to do any of this? Well, mostly to say that I did. I doubt it would ever make any money, and really that's OK. But at least by shooting it in HD there's the potential for a film blow-up if by some chance it did get noticed. Otherwise, it's all about Internet distribution, and that's good enough for me to get it in front of people.

More retro PC gaming fun

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 9, 2005, 12:50 AM | comments: 2

I learned that indeed you can find all of the old game console emulators and ROM's online, which makes my previous post even more exciting! This means I can play all of my old 2600, N64 and SNES games on my computer without having to plug in the old game systems. As far as I can tell, that's totally legal because I own the originals and it predates copy protection and the DMCA. Sweet!

It's becoming clear that I need a better TV to play this computer-based stuff...

An Xbox 360 controller for 20-year old games

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 8, 2005, 5:02 PM | comments: 2

I picked up an Xbox 360 controller because I figured I would eventually have the damn console, and also because it's Windows compatible. What do I have on Windows that I need a controller for? Well old arcade games, of course!

Since I have a PC in my living room used as a DVR, and therefore hooked up to the TV, it kind of made sense that I should be able to play classic Ms. Pac-Man or Joust. I mean, these games are like the only thing that actually run at a resolution lower than a TV! Ironic that I'm using a controller designed as state-of-the-art for something so old.

I look forward to getting that damn Xbox 360 some day, but I'm figuring it probably won't be until after Christmas at this point, unless I happen to get lucky.


posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 8, 2005, 1:05 AM | comments: 3

Just checked the weather as I typically do as I wind down each night, and it's 3 degrees!

What the hell am I still doing living here?!


posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 7, 2005, 8:30 AM | comments: 0

I had a dream that I was renting a house from a friend, for college, and he booted me out with no warning and no where to go so his sister could live there.

I seriously have abandonment issues.

New pants

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 7, 2005, 12:41 AM | comments: 0

I bought a pair of jeans today for the first time in ages. This is significant because I've lost many pounds since I last bought pants. I used to wear 38".

So I tried 34" and they fit. Wow. They were a little tighter than I'm comfortable with (I wasn't looking for rock star jeans ;)), so I decided to buy 36" instead. Still, this was a very real moment of accomplishment for me.

Now when I look at photos of me a year ago, I honestly am a little uncomfortable with those photos. All at once I'm horrified that I was overweight, even if it wasn't that bad, and at the same time, having that moment in the fitting room, really pleased with myself.

It's a strange feeling to have when it's not as a self-defense mechanism to compensate for some feeling of insecurity. Doesn't that suck? That we can't feel an honest to goodness positive feeling about ourselves unless it's in response to some amazing achievement or to balance out some negative feeling?

EAS for an Amber alert?

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 7, 2005, 12:09 AM | comments: 3

Saw something during Letterman that I've never heard before. They actually used the EAS for an Amber alert, and detailed everything about the kid, the suspect, his car, etc. That's interesting to me from the standpoint that in the old days you never used the EBS for anything short of a natural disaster or nuclear war.

Once a broadcaster, always a broadcaster.

Victoria's Secret

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 6, 2005, 11:26 PM | comments: 0

Do you know what her secret is?

Customer service. Duh.

24 Day 5... oh my God!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 6, 2005, 4:32 PM | comments: 0

First off, props to Amazon for getting 24 Season 4 to me the day of release, and with free USPS shipping at that. I got Season 3 as well.

I got the box open and there was a big red sticker on it indicating a Season 5 prequel. I ripped off the plastic and watched it immediately.

It's the first seven minutes or so prior to the start of the new season. Jack is sporting a mullet and in Chicago, driving a Toyota (because they sponsored the prequel). He pulls off into this warehouse area, where another car, a Prius pulls up. Out comes Chloe, warning Jack that she's pretty sure someone figured out she messed with his autopsy results, which would obviously mean that he's not dead.

Chloe leaves, and a shadowy figure on a motorcycle shows up, and someone in a BMW gives chase. There's a car chase, with one of the best endings of a car chase I've seen in awhile. Thus, the next season is set up. Season 4 ended with Jack faking his own death (with help) because he led a clandestine mission into a Chinese embassy where one of the guards was killed (not by the American team, but his own contemporary). Naturally since it wasn't officially sanctioned he had to be turned over to the Chinese, and so he "died" instead.

This is one of the best shows on TV. Hard to believe I have to wait more than a month for it to start again!

Nap buddy

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 6, 2005, 3:13 PM | comments: 0

DDR... again

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 5, 2005, 11:36 PM | comments: 4

I picked up DDR Ultramix 3 for Xbox yesterday because I figured a new mix would get me playing again. It's really different... lots of popular music on it, and more new songs. It's about time they did one that wasn't the same shit I've heard a thousand times. Played about a dozen or so songs, and so far I like it. It even has the all-time most pussyish DDR song, Butterfly. :)

I never thought that three years ago, when Kara got me on that damn machine, that I'd still be playing it today, and would spend so much money on it. Between all of the different versions and the many pads, not to mention the PS2 I bought for the purpose of playing the game, I've spent upwards of $600 on it. (And don't even go there about how I could've stolen all the songs and played it on a PC!)

Looks like my volleyball kids killed my favorite pad when I loaned it to them, so I guess I need to buy yet another one.

I want my own movie theater

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 5, 2005, 10:23 PM | comments: 2

OK, the one thing that I don't like about my house is that I don't have a place to build a movie theater.

As much as a movie dork as I am, this is something that I really can't wait to do. I want tiered seating with big couches that you can disappear into and a good 500 watts or more of sound. I want the nice sound dampening (and fireproof!) curtains, a popcorn machine, and for shits and giggles, a beer tap. I want to recreate, no, surpass, the experience of a real movie theater.

I need a bigger house.

Too focused on the future

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 5, 2005, 9:14 PM | comments: 1

Do you ever feel like everything that you're excited about is in the future? For example, I can't wait to start the J.O. volleyball season, which starts for me on January 3. I'm really excited about it!

But it's one of several things that are in the distant future. It's like I'm all about waiting for things and not able to enjoy the moment. I have a lot of anxiety about that because I should be filling the current time that I'm living with nifty-way-cool something since I don't exactly get that time back.

Anxiety sucks. I haven't had feelings like this for a long time, at least a year and a half. And I'd bother one of my friends about it on AIM right now, but it appears to be down or something, and now I'm anxious about that!

The common thread of troubled relationships

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 5, 2005, 2:04 AM | comments: 1

I had dinner with a friend tonight who has some relationship issues. Granted, she's much younger than I am, but I find it remarkable that the issues she is encountering are not really any different from those we encounter at any age. It all seems so obvious to me, but you never see it when you're in the thick of it.

"It" is of course the need to be happy independent of anyone else and, maybe even more importantly, identify when the other person in the relationship is in some way manipulating you. And I don't just mean intimate or romantic relationships, but also those involving family and friends.

In every case, you can see that people will make each other miserable, with one usually being manipulative in some way. It goes back to a book I read last summer where the true feelings people have are never said, and the resulting snowball effect makes things implode. The book talked about saying what you feel, and responding by saying how hearing that makes you feel. You do that back and forth enough and the theory goes that you can reach the underlying problem at the most fundamental level.

The big question I suppose is whether or not you can overcome that potential for discomfort, and realize that the discomfort sure beats the utter tragedy that could come after more time has passed.

They should pass out a book explaining this shit about the time puberty hits.

Another late night grocery store adventure

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 3, 2005, 2:35 AM | comments: 0

I slept in way too much this morning and I'm paying for it now. I'm finally getting tired, but only after a trip to the grocery store.

As I've mentioned before, it's not so much that I dislike all of the people during the day as much as I just feel it's impossible to not be rushed during the day. Wouldn't you know it though, that the one person I had to interact with would be, well, stupid. More on that in a minute.

If I've learned anything from trying certain Thai foods, it's that most foods are really just vehicles for some kind of seasoning. That would stand to reason, as I can't think of any reason people would voluntarily eat ribs or wings if it weren't for the sauce (I don't eat either, but you can put the stuff on virtually anything else). Most importantly, salt is about the last thing you need to create flavor.

So I've found that veggies are more yummy when sauced or seasoned, or accented with sesame seeds or certain herbs. I've done a lot of experimentation with various forms of stir fry that aren't really any particular Asian style, but more combining things that I like. Most store-bought sauces suck though, so I'm considering learning how to make my own out of various powders and seasonings.

I also realized on my last visit to Chipotle that virtually everything in their brilliantly simple line is good because of the way it's seasoned. The meats (I only eat the chicken) are marinated in something yummy, the salsas are a good mix of seasonings, the rice is limed up and virtually everything has some amount of cilantro. That's why they can charge more than five bucks for a burrito. So tonight I spent some quality time in the ethnic food aisle, specifically the Latin America, Mexican and southwest areas, and decided to try some hot sauce. I'm going with some brand name marinate for the meat, but we'll see how that goes. I'm gonna make a good burrito. Shit, I forgot lettuce. Though chances are they didn't have any worth buying this time of night anyway.

OK, back to the one person I had to deal with, the cashier. I'm sure it's a lonely job, and boring too. Hell, I did radio overnight and even that got a little boring. She scanned a few items and then stopped and stared at me, or more specifically, my industrial. After three months it's finally starting to look healthy. She asked if it hurt. My natural reaction is to be a smartass and tell people that having a 14 gauge needle stuck through your ear twice is like eating candy, but clearly this was not a happy person, so I just said, "You bet it hurt," and left it at that.

She totaled the bill and I signed the credit card slip, and as she pushed the filled cart to me, she said, "You know, all of that healthy stuff doesn't mean you're gonna live even five minutes longer than me." By "healthy stuff" I assume she meant things like the organic vegetable spread or maybe even the soy "chicken" marinara. Boy, I had no witty response to that. What the hell can you say?

Going back to my previous post, I have to say that since I started eating this stuff, the soy-based "meat" products and such, I've lost weight and feel healthier. Will I not get cancer because I eat organic ice cream? Who knows, really, but if you can afford to not put even traces of hormones, pesticides and other substances into your body, why would you?

As for the grumpy cashier, I told her to have a great night and went about my business. Oh, and by the way, you apparently can't buy beer that late. Now I know.

Thoughts on Super Size Me after my own weight loss

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 2, 2005, 11:31 PM | comments: 0

Showtime is free this weekend, and I just watched Super Size Me again. There were two things in particular that caught my attention this time.

The first was the bit about the hard core physical education program that some school was doing. They don't just run the kids around, they teach them how to stay in shape and use machines and such. My God, if I had that in high school I can honestly say that I'd be a different person today. I don't have the slightest idea what to do to in a gym, and I probably never will unless I hire a trainer.

The second thing I thought was interesting was the part where his girlfriend was describing how he was physically in bad shape (and not very good in bed). That part hit home, because honestly, since I dropped a lot of weight, stopped eating beef six months ago, and very rarely eat fast food, even when I'm loafing and not exercising, I still generally have a lot of energy. Not sure I'm the one to make judgment about the bedroom performance though. ;)

I have to say that I'm often amazed at the general apathy that people have toward their own health. I didn't used to feel that way. As a typical guy, I used to feel that if nothing was obviously broken, don't worry about it. I've got a long way to go, but I'm starting to get it now and understand that "preventative maintenance" goes a long way not just to being healthy in the long run, but feeling good every day.

I scratch my head trying to figure out why this wasn't obvious to me before, especially being married to a vegetarian working on a nutrition degree. When I see that documentary, I see that your environment has so much influence over you and you don't even realize it. I've learned through counseling that events in your life, especially your childhood, shape who you are. And sometimes, the only way that you can overcome the environmental influence is to figure stuff out yourself.

Check out the film if you've never seen it. It will change the way you think about food.

Thoughtful lyrics of the day

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 2, 2005, 1:38 PM | comments: 0

"You wanna roll in the grass
Kick your shoes off
Have a laugh
But sometimes I am too tired

I wanna raise my hand and say
I don't understand
But there are days when I'm to tired
There are days when I'm just too tired
And the wind kicks in again and says
Lean on me
Rise above me
And it says
Sailor don't leave the channel now
Deep blue rollers are breaking across your bow
And the wind will guide you in"

"Wind and the Mountain" - Liz Phair

Stumbled on Imogen Heap site

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 1, 2005, 11:33 PM | comments: 0

Not exactly stumbled, but looked around it for the first time. There's a video on there for "Hide and Seek" (requires Windows Media Player) which I found interesting because, well, it's the most odd song on her recent album. It's all her processed vocal, and nothing else. The lyrics seem to describe the bitter dissolve of a relationship (at least that's what I get out of it), but you can really feel that sadness in the song. Even more intense is the song "The Moment I Said It," which sounds like a pretty straight forward plea to convince a disenchanted lover to not leave. Really great piano part in that song.

Those dark tracks aside, the album as a whole doesn't really sound dark, like "Goodnight and Go," where she just can't resist someone who is apparently totally wrong for her. The theme lyrically is one that seems to sum up as, "Fuck! The other people in my relationships don't get it!" Who can't relate to that! :) It's the amazing texture of the sounds though that mix her amazing vocals with a variety of real and electronic instruments. You think you've heard it before, but you can't pin it down to any one person.

Odd name aside, "Immi" rocks. The song I really dig is called "Daylight Robbery," but I have no idea what it's about. I think it's about partying, but given the tone of the rest of the album, it could be making fun of people that party too. Hell if I know. :) I just like the sound of it!

Speak For Yourself is a great album. Get it.