After much consideration, I'm going to skip the trip to Allentown. For one thing, I would rather apply that money toward debt to make some meaningful reduction there. The other thing is that driving six hours each way just to ride a single coaster is just a little goofy, even for me.
I've already got a lot of stuff lined up for next week as it is, and that's going to cut into the hours I work. Plus I've got my last tournament in Columbus in a couple of weeks. One last hoorah for the season!
I thought that by now we'd be far enough along in the stages of mourning to start to ask tough questions about that, but given the war in Iraq (which still has nothing to do with domestic terrorism) and the general political split of the nation, perhaps not.
Let's state the obvious... she isn't saying that the attacks were justified, and I doubt anyone with a shred of common sense would say they were. But the focus since then has been all wrong. The questions raised always have to do with how it happened and not why it happened.
Some aspects of U.S. foreign policy goes a long way in pissing people off. Just look at the mess in Iraq. We more or less destroyed half of the country with zero justification because we could. The only thing that did pan out was Saddam's brutality, but that was more than a decade ago, and not any different from what has been going on in Northern Africa and the former Yugoslavia. Odd how we've not instituted "regime change" in those places.
That's just one example, and there are plenty more. We are the greatest power in the world, but with that power comes a great deal of responsibility. The bullshit cop out from Bush about "they hate freedom" is weak. "They" don't hate freedom, "they" see a country that does what it pleases, stomping out cultures, races and religions because it can. I'm sure as Americans we don't see our actions that way, but how many things in your daily life show that perception is reality? Put yourself in someone else's shoes just for a minute.
Hard questions lead to difficult discussions. It doesn't mean we shouldn't have them.
I got an invitation today to go to Dorney Park's media event for their new coaster next Tuesday, and I'm contemplating whether or not to go. There have been so many media events this year and I just can't make them all.
This one looks like a 5.5 hour driving trip. I looked at flying, but the closest inexpensive flight is to BWI, and the drive from there is another two hours. I just don't really want to drive it by myself. It's not a bad drive, it's just a long way to go to ride a roller coaster a few (OK, dozens of) times.
All of a sudden, in the past month or two, people in linear-threaded forums keep starting their post with a carat (^) to indicate that they're referring to the previous post.
Well no shit! That's the way the forum is structured! We've been getting along without this latest silly trend for years. Why now?
There was apparently some confusion last week about whether or not Microsoft supported a bill in Washington that would protect gay rights there. CEO Steve Ballmer cleared the air in an e-mail to employees.
Then Robert Scoble, who is quickly moving beyond global blogging champion and into the realm of attention whoring, posted a response telling Ballmer that his response was half-assed. I totally disagree.
I have a number of gay friends and acquaintances. I've gone to bat as an advocate of these kinds of issues for years. I have the same personal position that I did ten years ago: Discrimination against homosexuals is not any better than racial or sex discrimination. That's basic human respect, and key to living in an increasingly smaller world.
However, Ballmer made the right choice. In a public company the size of Microsoft, you don't start picking battles on an issue that has already split the country down the middle (to say nothing of its employees, who likely follow a similar demographic). That's irresponsible to the shareholders. If you do something that could potentially put off half of your customers, you have no business running a company that size.
If I've learned anything since my college days, it's that you can create meaningful change by working the system, not just standing up in a crowd and pissing people off. While the latter can get you headlines and is exciting, in a lot of cases it just makes some people's position on a divisive issue that much more entrenched. There's a time and place. A wise leader knows the difference and can make the right decision sans chest thumping.
I've pushed my political views on my sites before, but those are businesses that affect only me. If I lose "customers," so what, I wasn't getting rich in the first place, and I have no one else to be held accountable too. That's a lot different than a company worth billions of dollars.
I forgot to mention earlier that I essentially got out of jury duty. There were two cases scheduled. The first was a civil case, but they settled it just before they started jury selection. That case was there because the original, a criminal case, lacked the defense's key witness who didn't show. That one was postponed as well.
Bottom line, I get my $20 and can't be called for jury duty the rest of this year.
Watching 24 is like injecting heroine. As soon as you're done, you need more.
Tonight's episode was a big deal just because of the involvement of certain characters that fans have come to know and take a lot of interest in over the past few seasons. The ending was one of those "Holy shit!" moments that you just don't get on TV, and with the next twist in the final five or six hours, it can only get more crazy.
Get the previous seasons on DVD. You won't be disappointed. I don't even watch that much TV, and yet, I can't live without this one.
WARNING: FREQUENT USE OF THE WORD FUCK FOLLOWS
This fucking Ohio weather. I had a tournament in Tiffin today, which is a bit southeast of Toledo. It's mostly turnpike. ODOT apparently put the trucks away for the winter, because it was treacherous. Cuyahoga was horrible, Lorain bad, and points west were wet but not dangerous.
One of my kids and her dad never made it. They got into an accident. She hit her head, he hurt his hand, but apparently neither one required hospitalization. Their car was apparently totaled.
The tournament went OK without her, and I'm really proud of the way the kids pulled together.
The drive home was wet but not dangerous, again, until you got to Lorain County. Cuyahoga was even worse. I'm just past the N. Ridgeville exit, and the left of the three lanes is not usable. So this fucking asshole in a late 70's tank of a Chevy goes barreling into the left lane to pass. As soon as he or she turns on the signal, I know exactly what's going to transpire. The fucking moron slides all over the place and over-steers, then brakes. The car does a complete 450 degree spin, narrowly missing a semi in the right lane. Fucking idiot.
The other car slides far enough into the middle lane that I see the opportunity to drive around. As expected, I slide all the way into the shoulder, and I narrowly miss the wall. I turn the wheel just a little to the right and start pushing the gas. I flirt with the wall for a good 200 feet before the car finally start to pull away from the wall. I look in the rear-view and momentarily see more evasive reaction, but I just keep on going. Fucking moron could've killed a lot of people.
I've had encounters like this before. I've been lucky time after time. What pleases me is that somehow I'm actually more calm in those situations. My brain slows everything down and processes the situation. I caught myself saying calmly, "Nice going, asshole." Every possibility ran instantly through my mind, along with my options. Somehow I made the right choice, but again, I just narrowly missed that wall.
Tomorrow I have fucking jury duty. Can't bill the client when I watching some asshole get prosecuted.
While the death of TechTV, and especially the The Screen Savers, is really sad as hell, it's really cool that several of the alumni from the show have come together to record an audio program. Leo Laporte announced the first show and you can download that MP3 show. He's also on with Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose and Robert Heron.
It's a really interesting show to listen to, especially the parts where they talk about working in TV and the old days.
This is pretty free-form stuff (although Leo sounds like he's using compression). It's so great that they get together to do this stuff. I hope it lasts. The biggest issue is that for the moment this is not something that they can monetize. Let's face it, this is cool and interesting, but they do need to make a living. For now they all have day jobs elsewhere.
It's still absolutely mind boggling how Comcast managed to completely tank a great, and presumably reasonably profitable, network.
So today at practice playing against the 18's, I played middle for half of the rotation. Both of the girls had school stuff to be at so I filled in. Put one of my D.S.'s in as the other middle (she was awesome).
I don't get a chance to play much, so I cherish getting the chance. I really have a great appreciation now for how much work it is to be a middle. You're pretty much always in motion. I mean, I know that because I'm a coach, but I never really appreciated it. I didn't completely suck, but it's really hard to get to the outside quickly.
On one block, I got a little too over-zealous and landed on my setter's foot. My first reaction was, "Oh shit, I broke my setter," but as it turns out I only hurt myself. I dropped to the floor and pulled I think one of the muscles on the side of my lower leg. That's weird. No sprain or swelling though.
I got right back up and ignored what I felt, and actually faked a slide then blocked the very next play. I knew I hurt myself, but it wasn't bad enough to stop, and I felt it wouldn't be very cool to let the kids see me bleed. How lame is that? Bowing to peer pressure from 17-year-old girls. Just like high school!
By the last rotation it started to hurt a little more, but it didn't really start to suck until I got out of my car a half-hour after practice ended.
Still... good times. Practice is becoming a lot more relaxed, and I think that everyone is adjusting their expectations. Our tournament this weekend has club teams and younger teams, so this is our chance to win one. If I get nothing else from playing with them, it's that it's a ton of fun, win or lose. How could you ever get down when you're have that much fun? I'll have to ask them...
Last night I played DDR for the first time in ages. Felt pretty good about it, even though I was tired after a half hour. The game said I burned 400 calories.
Today I'll probably play with my kids a bit at practice. Both of my middles will be absent, and I really like playing middle. I want to scrimmage the 18's and kick their ass. That would be fun. Most people are surprised to find out that I have a 30" vertical. My arms might be scrawny, but I've always had insane leg strength. Chalk it up to cycling in high school.
I need to find the motivation to get back to exercise some more. About a year and a half ago I dropped about 16 pounds, one or so a week, mostly by just watching what I eat, but also by exercising a few times a week.
I'd still like to lose a little more. I mean, I fit into 38" pants, with a belt, but 36" is a little too snug. The college drinking trophy still interferes a little, and I'm sure that will be harder to get rid of as I get older.
I didn't have to work today, and probably won't tomorrow either. It has been nice to just chill out! Actually, I've been productive (selfishly anyway, I didn't clean the house or anything). Not only did I fix the camera, but I also spent quality time writing code.
Steph went to dinner with a friend, so I pretty much have a day's worth of alone time. It's nice to have that now and then. Having this work schedule is also pretty cool. Yesterday, we sat on our front step drinking beers at 3 in the afternoon. The act itself isn't cool, it's the fact that we could!
I'm thinking of perhaps having some beverages now, again, because I can. God knows I'll be too busy on the weekend!
My $35 replacement screen for my little Canon S400 came in the mail today. It took me nearly 90 minutes to swap out the screens because everything is tiny, everything is fragile, and it's hard to figure out how to get it apart. The good news is that I only lost one of the tiny little screws. There's also a substantial plastic part that came out that didn't find a home upon reassembly. It still seems to work though, so whatever.
Once again, I can take nudies of myself to send to friends!
So nice to have the windows open. I'm really liking the arrival of spring this year, in part because it has been dry (not so good for the grass).
It feels like anything can happen in spring. Stephanie got into her internship program today, my contract project is moving forward, there's adventure in the air! That's so Indiana Jones.
I have noticed that all this fresh air is causing people to drive like morons though. Not cool.
I took in Stephanie's car. Er, my old car. The '98 Corolla. The thing was vibrating like crazy at speed and I couldn't figure out why. I figured it had to be something in the drive train or the suspension to be that ugly. I never considered the obvious... that the rear tires were pretty much bald. Duh. Had them replaced as well as an alignment because the bad wheels pulled it way off. $200 I guess isn't so bad. At least the car can last a little while longer. 112,000 miles and we've never really had any significant repair for it, save for things like belts and filters. What a great car. It'll be kinda sad when we have to trade it in. I'm sure we'll get over it when it's replaced with a hybrid. :)
I'm still pretty pissed that the LCD in my little Canon S400 broke. I did some searching and found people with similar problems had Canon quoting them $200 or more, which is crazy because you can still find them hanging around new for around $250. Luckily I found a shop that sells the part for $35, so if I can get the puzzle apart, I can replace it myself. I can't believe that thing cost $500 two years ago.
I've got this list on my desk of things I want to do in terms of writing software. Some of it is the basis for other stuff I want to do. Beta 2 of Visual Studio 2005 should be in my mailbox soon too.
But I just can't concentrate long enough to do any of it. I swear I have adult ADD or something. I can't make myself do it. All I can think about is being outside, sex and when we can take that next big vacation (not in that order). I'm annoyed with myself.
I finally got around to buying the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD (well, original in that it's the "special edition" series). Tonight I watched Return of the Jedi to find that there was yet another change right at the end, presumably only for the DVD.
When the galaxy is celebrating and they're having a good time in the Ewok village, you may recall the Jedi ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin hang out. What they changed is that the ghost of Anakin is now played by Hayden Christensen instead of the guy that originally did Darth Vader, Sebastian Shaw. I think that borders on disrespectful to the guy that we all associate now with the unmasked bad guy, especially since he's been dead for 11 years.
The other thing is, if Hayden gets to be the ghost, then why wouldn't Ewan McGregor be there as a young Obi-Wan? You've gotta figure that Anakin, at the time of his death would be somewhere around 50 at least (the actor was like 78). Even Yoda then should be a spritely 400.
I was never against the special edition version of the films, but at some point Lucas has to stop fucking with them.
So it has been sitting around my house for weeks, but I noticed today that I had the first letter in the Rants + Raves section of the April 2005 issue of Wired. Weird to see your name as the first thing in you read in a magazine.
Back in my more ambitious journalism days I used to write newspapers and magazines constantly, and I managed to get into virtually every one I wrote to. If I got anything out of being a columnist in college it was an understanding of how to push buttons, especially from the editors. Now I always think about writing but never do. The Wired thing was just a thing where my wife's iBook was sitting next to me so I pecked something out.
Stephanie mentioned she's wanting a good rain right now, and I have to say that I actually agree. It has been sunny all week, but not particularly warm here (damn Lake Erie). One of my favorite parts of spring is thunderstorms. I'm really looking forward to the first good one, provided it's not something that causes damage.
Spring always gives me a little boost in energy. I have more ambition, want to do stuff, and even my, uh, "needs" jump into overdrive. If only the temperatures could stay in this range all summer.
It's Garbage day! Bleed Like Me was released today and it's fucking brilliant. This is the first time I've been excited about a new record and the tour in a very long time. Already have my tickets for Cleveland, thinking very heavily about getting tickets for Columbus the night before. I don't know if I can go several years again without hearing them.
There is a fair amount of video already on the Garbage site, including the video for "Why Do You Love Me" and a live performance of "Stupid Girl." Having seen the band four times in the last 10 years, I'm blown away at just how good they've become live. Go see them.
The title track is really smooth. Great lyrics. I also like "Sex Is Not The Enemy," which is very much a kick in the nuts to people that vilified Janet's Super Boob while ignoring the ridiculous violence on TV every day. Good times. I really look forward to having a great summer album.
At the urging of other Fishies, I bought the latest Green Day album. I've been hesitant since Grammy nominations usually == suckage, but it's not bad. The kids have grown up. Not a single mention of masturbation in the whole album. It really works as an album too, something you don't see very often in rock records these days. Come to think of it, you just don't see a lot of rock albums period.
I checked the stats and noticed that my blog gets read... a lot. Pretty weird that anyone gives a shit about what I have to say, but since everyone else is doing it, I thought I'd add a way to drop some Google ads on your blog. If you'd like to do the same, instructions are here.
Hey, if you make a buck a month, your blog is free, right?
The other day at my client's office, on what I can only describe as Muzak's 80's/90's/now channel, I heard a cover of Material Issue's song "Everything," a really great sappy indie/pop song circa 1992. The cover was from a band called Stereo Fuse. As covers go, it was a really great version of the song.
I got to thinking, wow, that song is over ten years old now. I bought that album, Destination Universe, in '92 or '93, as well as Freak City Soundtrack, a year or two later. The singer/writer has long since died, I forget how, but what a great gem from that era. That album had "Kim the Waitress," a great track with kind of a citar-inspired sound to it. That one got a lot of airplay on our alternative station in Cleveland at the time.
Just another example of how I can't stand that really great music, despite the Internet, doesn't get out into the world easily. For as much as radio and MTV suck, we're stuck until we all have satellite radio in our cars, and even then, only if they continue to offer a wide range of music with huge play lists the way they do now (ditto for services like the music channels on DirecTV, DMX and Muzak). Maybe then my beloved Venus Hum and Supreme Beings of Leisure will finally get the exposure they deserve.
Last weekend we had our bid tournament and it was a disaster.
OK, let me qualify that statement. If it was as simple as, "We got our ass kicked," at least there would be some clear conclusions one could draw and act upon. However, it wasn't that simple. We dropped all six of our pool matches. Four of them went to three games, and 11 games were decided by two or three points. Eleven games! The only decisive loss we had was against the team that would go on to the gold final, and none of us had even the slightest expectation of being there anyway.
So while this was fairly demoralizing, it got worse in the last two pool matches, where for the first time in my career we lost to poor officiating. Twice. Blatantly horrible calls that decided each match, both by the same official. I have no idea what this guy was doing reffing a bid tournament, because he was totally clueless, and worse, totally ignoring the line judges and down ref. And you wonder why kids aren't confident making calls. The opposing coach the second match was very kind to tell me and my team afterward that we should've won the match.
Fortunately, we won our bracket match at the end, so we were the best of the worst in terms of finishes. It was just so incredibly frustrating to get close to a win over and over like that. Eleven games!
I can say without even looking at the video that I know my kids' intensity level fluctuates like the mood of someone with bipolar disorder. With all of the confidence I have in coaching skills and game theory, this is the area that continues to elude me. How do you teach intensity? How do you keep teenage girls engaged at that level for two days?
At least we had our "happy ending" with the last match. It went only two games, but they were 26-24 and 28-26, of course. As one of our other coaches put it, "They only remember the last match anyway. That and the team outings in between." So very true.
My little Canon S400 somehow managed to develop a cracked LCD, below the surface of it. I'm pissed about that.
Then the flash on the 10D is also not popping up. Granted, we generally use the off-camera flash, but still, that pisses me off too. My 75-300mm zoom is also showing signs of death as it grinds at times to focus. That problem is my fault from a beverage malfunction at Medieval Times last year.
I'm so irritated by it all.
I got my first bad book review on Amazon. It doesn't bother me that much aside from the fact that the author is clearly not even remotely a part of the target audience. I see that quite a bit in Amazon reviews. I remember one ages ago, I think for one of Alex Homer's books, where the reviewer went on and on about how the book doesn't tell you about this or that, and it was a beginner book! I've always been a fan of his writing style, and if it wasn't for him I don't know if I would've ever started coding again.
Fortunately the feedback I've been getting via e-mail has been pretty good. A guy from Spain, despite an apology about having poor English skills (apparently he's never seen teen chat-speak by American kids?), simply said, "I get it now." That's the greatest compliment I could ever get, because that was always the intention of the book.
Now that I've been away from it for awhile, I think the one thing I would do differently is perhaps do another example chapter that applies basic OO concepts. I went with the data access/container object example because the thing I've seen more than anything in bad code is repetitive data access, though I'm kind of a hypocrite because I rarely combine data access and some kind of object representing the data into one thing anymore. Then again, perhaps that's a natural progression for a learning developer. It certainly was for me.
I only spent about four hours or so at work today and came home to enjoy the nice cool breeze and sun here. It's really hard to go to an office on days like this. I might be waiting for more work for awhile until the client decides to fully commit to the project.
Oh, I'm also a bit exhausted from my weekend with the volleyball kids. We did kinda poorly, but I'll save that for the next entry.
Three years after their last album, "Bleed Like Me" from Garbage hits the street Tuesday, and I can't f'ing wait.
You can hear the entire album now on the VH1 (thanks Greg for the link). Much more raw and loud than their past stuff. The first single, "Why Do You Love Me" is loud, with this change in the middle of the song that brings it down then goes back to kicking you in the nuts. I love it.
The last year hasn't been great for music other than finding a couple of trance compilations I liked. The only things I've been able to fully commit to as kick ass have been Blue Man Group (which was 2003 anyway), Venus Hum and to some degree, Gwen Stefani. It looks like Garbage is going to come through for me though, and I'm crossing my fingers that the new Nine Inch Nails album doesn't suck (or suffer from extreme mediocrity like The Fragile did).
Did you see that Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer? That really bums me out.
Given my educational background, I'm obviously a news junkie. Of the three major networks, I've always liked ABCnews the best because I think it tends to be a little more fair and they generally (with exceptions, of course) have a higher standard for what is considered newsworthy. During the 9/11 disaster I think their coverage was easily the best, and a lot of that had to do with Peter Jennings. God bless him for trying to make sense of the chaos.
I know that lung cancer does generally not have a very good prognosis, and that's a wholly depressing thing. It's not like I know the guy, but he's been coming into my living room for two-thirds of my life now. I have a lot of respect for him.
Publishing something online isn't as easy as it used to be. Back in the day, you could monetize traffic in a way where eyeballs == serious revenue. Not so easy these days.
On one hand, the growth of the Internet means there are more people out there to look at your stuff. On the other hand, there are more people putting out the same stuff as you. Increased competition makes it seriously tough to start anything new. I'm lucky because my sites have been around for five years or more, so they're established, but I can't imagine trying to break into a new space and be successful in any reasonable amount of time.
Then there's the issue of trying to fill ad inventory. In the late 90's you could make a mint with the various agencies out there. Then during the bust, most of them went under. Back in 2001, I nearly lost my shirt running CoasterBuzz.com, when bandwidth was costing me a grand a month and the ad agencies were dropping like flies. I had to start the CoasterBuzz Club in order to survive back then. That got me through the toughest time, and maybe this will be the year that I finally ditch all of that business debt (provided I keep working contract jobs on the side).
Pundits have been predicting the death of online advertising for years, but it is on the upswing in terms of overall volume, even though it has to be spread around more. Big advertisers are finally coming around to see that the mighty click-through is a shitty metric, and that, even on the Web, branding is a powerful tool without a specific action when the ad is viewed. They're finally realizing that, yes, just like seeing a billboard on the way to work, it's not going to result in the instant purchase of a car or a beer.
I do a little selling myself every year, but generally don't pull down more than a couple of grand. I just don't have the time. I'm still somewhat loyal to Burst Media after all of these years. I've been with them since 1998, and they survived the bust. They're still focused on the publisher as the first customer. Their ability to fill inventory is up and down depending on the month and the categorization of your site, but I can't easily break away from them unless they're losing money.
I also mix it up with FastClick, Tribal Fusion, Google at times, and most recently, Casale Media. I wrote an ad serving package (CliqueSite.Ads, download it here) that can rotate these providers with my own sales, and so far that's allowing me to tune things a bit with the distribution of inventory.
If you have something compelling enough, you can certainly make a buck, but it's hard to find a niche that you can own. Simply getting a good rank on Google isn't enough.
I love online content. It has more or less been my only source of income in the last year, during the time I was writing my book. There are college kids out there blogging about cell phone gadgets pulling down a couple of G's a month. It's such a change from my media roots (I double majored in journalism and radio/TV, worked in the biz for four years), where you needed a transmitter to make a living. While there's a lot of crap out there, and it's hard to separate the bullshit from the gold, it is an exciting time to be an online publisher.
People ask on my sites why amusement parks around here don't open in April. Well, after being 70ish Wednesday, there are several inches of snow and the front of my house looks like it was blasted with a 30-foot snowball.
Any more questions?