Archive: April, 2007

Kings Island - 4/28/07

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 30, 2007, 2:01 PM | comments: 2

I'll keep this brief since KI trip reports are all the rage lately.

Catherine had been to the park opening day, so she already had a pass, and I got mine in the mail from Cedar Point. We headed down with Cosmo and got there probably around 10 something.

I was pretty amazed at just how many people were in line for passes. It always struck me as strange just how many passes they appear to sell compared to Cedar Point. Perhaps it has something to do with the proximity to the city.

We dropped off Cosmo in Doggy Daycare with a wonderful older gentleman who was easily the nicest person you'd ever meet. Cosmo got a stall next door to another Boston, Zak, and I think there was a love connection.

To satisfy my own curiosity, I noticed that the season pass systems are in fact integrated. While my pass is the same style that CP has used for years, with the photo and name on it, my picture (now five years old) appears on-screen when they scan it. This makes me curious to know if CP and GL will have these screens as well, because someone with a KI pass could just pass it off to anyone for use at those parks if they can't see a photo of you. My pass, by the way, scanned just fine at the parking tolls as well.

The park is beautiful and clean, as it generally has been the last few years. I noticed that supervisors now have Cedar Fair ties as part of their uniforms, which makes me giggle for some reason. I've also noticed lots of signage (like the legalese warning signs) that has the typography I've seen at the northern parks.

Expecting longer lines, we first headed to Flight of Fear, and probably waited five or six trains at most. I noticed while waiting to launch a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, and sure enough, the work lights were on. That was a bummer. The launch was really cranked, and as we navigated to the mid-course, I was crossing my fingers that we'd continue on at speed. Sadly, we came to a near stop. Normally I'd consider this to be something only a crybaby enthusiast like myself would complain about, but honestly the entire train was booing. In the final corkscrew, you actually fell into the restraint. Oh well, even in this state it's easily my favorite ride at the park.

Next up was the Italian Job stunt track. Such a fun little ride! We ended up having to wait about ten minutes for some kind of ride shut down (judging by the way they were moving trains around manually, it was a phantom blocking issue). The they had what was assume was an AUR on one train because they hosed it down and sent it empty a couple of times. The water splashes under the bridge were not firing, and the helicopter was totally impotent, without movement, propellers, or "gun fire." Made the explosions a little silly looking. I really hope they keep up with this ride. The theme stuff is fun.

We met up with Eric and his wife for lunch, where we encountered the only major snag of the day. We hit Bubba Gump's right around noon. Cath got a grilled chicken salad. Can you believe that at noon they had no grilled chicken ready? The line got longer and longer with people waiting. What made it worse was that there were so many people standing around, including supervisors. While I realize that food only cooks so fast, you'd think that there would be some incentive to do something at least. Hand out some free sodas or something. I was annoyed.

We went to Adventure Express after lunch, which is still goofy fun. It was the first place I noticed the Cedar Fair safety touches, with "stay seated" notices and seat belts. At least they like the retractable belts here. They did not interfere with the capacity of the ride.

Next was Top Gun. One of the best Arrow suspended coasters is also the most poorly run. I've never seen a crew hustle on this ride. It's made worse by the fact that it's programmed not to dispatch a train until the other one is fully stopped in the brakes. That strikes me as a total waste of time. I think there are seconds to be saved there. The new seat belts have two flaws. One: They put pressure on your testicles and, Two: They put tension on the restraints, which were never designed to pull down on you continuously. It's very uncomfortable. After decades of safe operation on these and the Arrow loopers, I'm still trying to figure out what problem they were trying to solve.

We took a little break to walk Cosmo around. People love that damn dog.

Next up was The Beast. Aside from some inconsiderate trashy faux-blonde smoking in the queue, I really enjoyed the ride. It seems to be running pretty well and it has a good crew. They removed that obnoxious Coke thing near the entrance too, so now that area is a bit more wide open. Good call.

We started to pretty much have our fill of the place, and wanted to get home to watch the Cavs game too, so we wrapped things up with fries at the place next to The Beast. I know I'm generally the guy who says I'll pay whatever stuff costs, but the food prices are a bit out of line, even by Orlando standards. The soda prices are very much a kick in the nuts. $3.35 for a 20 oz. fountain soda is ridiculous. It's almost offensive to me. I guess part of the problem is that I'm willing to pay it. Something has to give though, because it's way too much.

Overall, the park seemed to be running pretty well, despite my minor complaints. I don't really think about it much in terms of being in transition, because the park was in pretty good shape to begin with. My hope though is that they continue to hang on to the film licenses where they make sense. Other than that, I hope they make adjustments on the food (or at least soda) pricing.

Must organize my life

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 29, 2007, 8:33 PM | comments: 7

Something has been nagging at me for a couple of weeks, and I haven't been able to precisely figure out what it is. I'm not depressed or anything, just... stagnant.

I have some ideas about what that might be, but I'm not willing to admit to any of them. In the mean time, I feel like I need to make some organizational stride and work to simplify some things. As I mentioned earlier, I want to relocate my office to the downstairs room.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are some psychological advantages to this arrangement relative to how I feel about the space of my home. Parts of it feel empty, and I don't like that. The plan, then, is to consolidate some of that emptiness, while giving myself some room to stretch out. The office still feels a little empty because there's a desk missing, while the downstairs room is missing, well, pretty much everything. The office is also small, and on the north side of the house, so it never gets any sun.

The downstairs room has three giant eight-foot windows on the south side of the house and is very open because you can see into the kitchen from it. In fact, the entire lower floor of my house is very open and comfortable. The stairs create a kind of barrier that sort of keeps me from using the upstairs for anything but sleeping and showering, and I think bringing all day-time functionality together encourages day-time activity. I mean, it often takes a week for a bank statement to make it from my kitchen table up to the office.

The byproduct of this arrangement is that I'll have to clean everything, and throw away things I don't need. My filing cabinet probably has electric bills from five years ago. I'm pretty sure I don't need those anymore.

When I was a kid in a high school, I had a routine in the morning in the kitchen that helped me make the most out of my time. I knew exactly what order to do things so that the cereal never got soggy and the toast was hot. It sounds really anal now that I think about it, but the thing I like about that memory is that I still got to school early, I wasn't hungry, and I had time in the morning to do what I wanted. I think making adjustments like that are what I need to do to fit more into my life, like more "me" time and exercise.

Thrill ride?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 28, 2007, 7:06 PM | comments: 3

I'm going to miss the Fulton Road bridge demolition!

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 27, 2007, 6:39 PM | comments: 1

I just saw on the news today that the Fulton Road Bridge is coming down tomorrow, and I'm going to miss it. I'm kind of bummed out about it.

The bridge is just a couple of blocks from where I used to live in Cleveland. It has been a landmark as much as it has been a continuous danger, since before I was born. If you've ever been to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, and walked under it, you wonder how it managed to stand as long as it did.

The bridge is visually very impressive, maybe in part because it looks like an ancient archaeological find, it's in such bad shape. I was always fascinated by it though when I was growing up. It just seemed like such a fascinating piece of engineering. I look forward to seeing the replacement when it's finished.

Redecorating stuff

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 27, 2007, 12:48 AM | comments: 2

Wow am I bored tonight.

I've been slowly thinking about and making little decorating changes in my house. The first step was to get rid of that ridiculously gigantic entertainment center earlier this year. That changed the whole dynamic of my living room, and the Target stuff I put in its place looks great.

The new bedroom furniture was a great move for me because it helped me take ownership of the room. Stephanie is a great decorator, and I'm thankful that she had such great taste when she chose a lot of the things around the house. That said, I sometimes catch myself having a certain thing a certain way only because she did it that way. I liked our bedroom furniture too, but it was kind of fun to shop for something that was entirely me.

With Luna gone and no longer destroying the carpet, I'm ready to replace that soon. I want to pay off the bedroom furniture first (even though it's 0% financing until 2011 or something stupid like that). I'm kind of dreading that because I can't imagine I can get away with spending less than five grand on it, and carpeting is so not sexy. Even without the Luna factor, it would need replacing anyway since the builders used total crap. Six years old and it's matted down and crappy looking.

I was thinking about how I could make my office more comfortable, so that I would actually spend time working in it. I don't think I like it being in one of the bedrooms. I'm seriously considering moving it down to the family room, which used to be the "red room" before Steph moved the furniture with her. It was fading in that room with the giant 8' windows, and it looks much better in her place. I was thinking I'd bring my desk down there, or get a new one, and get a nice big couch or something. It gets a little cool down there in the winter, but add a computer or two and that'll change!

Finally, I need to get my landscaping cleaned up. A part of me thinks about doing it myself, but I'm just not that interested. All it really needs is the bushes trimmed, and new mulch. The catch is all the weeds creeping up in what's left of the mulch now. Maybe if we get a nice weekend and I'm home I'll be inspired. I'm fully expecting to wake up to a yard of dandelions tomorrow, which kind of sucks.

I don't take a ton of pride in my house, even though it's a neat house in a relatively nice neighborhood. I guess that even after six years here, two on my own, I struggle to really identify it as my own. The feeling of home is so hard to create.

RIP Industrial, 2005-2007

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 27, 2007, 12:16 AM | comments: 1

I reluctantly took out my industrial piercing today. I had it for exactly one year and eight months. The keloids just keep getting bigger, and the rear hole in particular keeps getting gross.

It was an exciting day when I had it done, and I was pretty excited about it. What bums me out about losing it is that it symbolized my emotional and physical triumphs that happened by the fall of 2005, a remarkable time for me overall.

Now all I can do is let it heal. Once the holes have closed and healed, I'll probably bust out the tea tree oil to reduce the size of the bumps. That's the funny thing about it, that I know that works because I started to get one in the first month that reacted very strongly and simply peeled off. Later I read up and found that if the piercing is not otherwise mostly dry, all the oil does is attract bacteria. Now I know.

It'll be weird to sleep on my left ear tonight.

Two years ago today, my life changed forever

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 26, 2007, 1:42 PM | comments: 10

A few minutes ago I was chatting with Stephanie about the good old days. It was two years ago today that she moved out. It was easily the worst day of my life. I can't think of even one that comes close.

As I told her, I don't have any ill feelings about her. We had a pretty good run together. The only real postmortem we can really agree on is that I wasn't able to be the kind of companion that she needed. I thought I could be a provider to her, and that would be good enough, but I didn't fully understand what it was that she needed. She didn't really know either.

The thing people ask me all of the time is if I feel like all that time we were together, about ten and a half years, was wasted. Why would I think that? We had some seriously good times. We were best friends and companions. That's not time wasted at all. I have no regrets.

These interim two years have been good for me in ways that I never expected. The first real significant breakthrough was the knowledge that I have to better take care of myself. I still waffle on this periodically, but I'm getting better at it. I better understand what it is I want to do professionally, and even found a job that I like. I was able to mercilessly focus on getting my financial world in order. These aren't things you can easily do when you have to simultaneously share your life with someone else. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's sure easier when it's just you.

I also learned how to fall in love again, and I did twice. These experiences, combined with my former marriage, have led me to the firm conclusion that the dynamics of relationships are so complex, that there's no sure-fire way to predict how two people will work together. These three women in my life are very different, and they in turn are different with other people, just as I am different with each of them. That's a fairly startling discovery, that you are very different with every person you have a deep relationship with. It blurs your own perception about what you "need" and who can provide it. Soon you start to realize that your needs aren't even the same from one person to the next. It's not that you compromise, it's that there are different rules. The only real requirements I can nail down is that I end up with someone I can connect with intellectually, emotionally and sexually.

Dating has certainly been a nightmare. I don't like doing it. The serious relationships I've had have been mostly effortless, and dating is too much work. I've met 16 duds since January. Most of the women I've met have no passion about much of anything. I can't be with someone who just allows life to happen to them.

So today marks a somewhat dark anniversary, but I can't say that the long-term outcome has been terrible. I'm relatively happy, but I admit that life is even more fun when you've got someone close who loves you, and you can love back. I'm sure I'll figure it out.

Keeping warm

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 9:40 PM | comments: 4

Facebook, the money and doing what you like

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 2:49 PM | comments: 0

There's a good feature in Fast Company about Facebook and its founder. Pretty interesting stuff.

There was a lot of buzz that the company could have sold for as little much a billion dollars. This guy, Zuckerberg, is all of 22. Can you imagine that? As he said, quite correctly in my opinion, when you sell, you're out. It's not your thing anymore. Of course, he might just be looking for a bigger pay out too. No one can really know.

The dot-com era has generated so much wealth based on ridiculous perception of company worth. I have to be honest, I don't know that I wouldn't have cashed out if I were Zuckerberg. For that much money, frankly, you can start over and do whatever hell you want. But just as Kevin Rose with Digg, they seem to want to build something that is lasting and real, and profitably in the long run.

That's the challenge of a new business. You can spend a great deal of time losing money, even if everyone loves you. So far in this decade, being an entrepreneur meant you'd build and flip. But I think people are starting to realize that you don't create something great that way.

I wish the Internet would have come sooner, because I think I would've been one of these guys. I could especially see the promise of online community very early on, but I didn't have the expertise or the foundation in it that I would've had if I were in college at the time. That's why I run one reasonably profitable niche community, and not something huge.

But I kind of like where I am in that respect. There are other niches I'd like to explore, but I'm starting to realize that I'm much more interested in the end state than I am the coding. At my core I'm still a media guy who wants to make the show run, not build the printing presses, radio transmitters or video cameras. That, however, is a post for another time.

Business is good

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 25, 2007, 11:44 AM | comments: 2

There's a very long thread on CoasterBuzz about cutting hours at various parks, with the opposition saying it's about bad greedy companies sticking it to their customers. It's a pretty good debate, and relatively civil. I deflected some of the personal attacks and it seems to be staying on track.

As much as I'm a tree hugging, peace loving, gay marriage approving liberal, I tend to be more business minded than I like to admit. Despite never having a true passion for business, I'd like to think I understand it better than most people. I weaseled some Brits out of a $100k for a stupid domain name, and made my hobby pay bills (or at least, afford me very cool media creation toys like cameras and computers).

Coaster enthusiasts are an interesting lot, and generally I think it's great that they're so into their hobby. I get that way myself in streaks, though it's only one of the things that I really get passionate about. But the community also has a bit of a Utopian view about the way things should be. Not only is the idea of parks being businesses somewhat foreign, they are frequently unrealistic.

Just in the last day, I recall seeing posts about how one park "deserves" a certain ride because it's "fair." Then there's the whole feasibility thing, whether it be the survival of Conneaut Lake or a Disney park in the middle of nowhere. These are a few of many frequent examples that demonstrate a lack of understanding about how a business fundamentally operates. Now granted, I'm sure some of those posts are by kids, who probably wouldn't know any better, but even then, that seems reason enough for concern.

I'm not an investment banker or anything, but you need some fundamental understanding of the way capitalism works, and what your place is in it. I'm talking in a broad context here. Credit card debt is at a record high, defaulted mortgages are rampant, and our morons in Washington continue to write checks on credit to fund a war no one wants (and was started on false pretenses). We can't compete with companies from other countries. We bow to lobbyists to keep supporting industries that can't support themselves. Where does it end? We've got a serious cultural problem here.

We do have some great success stories, like Google for example, but overall we essentially invented capitalism, but we suck at it. That's unfortunate.

Home movie theater done right

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 24, 2007, 4:36 PM | comments: 2

I'll put it out there right now that my future wife absolutely must agree to put up with the fact that I'll build my own home theater. It may even look something like this.

The equipment list is a little more high end than I think is practical, but you get the idea. I'm more about the decorating and furniture. It doesn't look like they bought any of the "make-out" seats though, with the arm rests that lift up. That's unacceptable.

24 is kinda weak this season

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 24, 2007, 12:04 PM | comments: 0

Someone at work forward this to me...

All very valid points about what has become a less interesting season. He doesn't even mention that they've managed to kill off countless favorite characters or recycled absurd plot elements like using the 25th Amendment against the president.

The season started with a lot of promise. Jack appeared fragile and worn, and there was no love or desire left in him. By the fifth hour, it was like he was his old self after two years of torture. Are you kidding me?

All things considered, I guess we should be thankful for having five good seasons before this, but they really need to regroup and refocus next season. Bring back the intensity with something fresh, and give us reasons to love or hate the characters. We don't even have a signature bad guy this season, unless you count the VP.

I'm crossing my fingers that it'll be better next year.

Video compression stuff

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 24, 2007, 11:36 AM | comments: 0

Last night I got some free help from a friend getting a Flash video player working. Flash is still pretty sweet, I just wish I had the time to learn more about it. I've been through a lot of the basics twice now with books over the last six or seven years, but never really got into it hardcore.

Anyway, as much as I love H.264, especially for getting giant HD files down to something more or less manageable, the files are pretty big and some weaker computers have a hard time playing them back. I'm not fond of Flash video, but I'm conceding that it's "good enough" for now. Since we're going to post video for Maverick's media day on PointBuzz, I can't saturate the pipe with giant files.

The 16:9 resolution I'm going to use is 640x360. It's not exactly a standard resolution, but it's about 1/4 of the 1280x720 I'll be shooting at. It's still a great deal better than the 360x240 we used to do in the old days. At around 1.2 mbits, I can get a file around 10 MB per minute. That's not horrible. Much better than the 30 MB per minute I had one some of the full 1280x720 stuff!

Video always reminds me how much I love it. I like it so much more than writing code, I just don't have as many chances to use it. Also ironic, I need to write a great deal of code to deal with it, as well as photographs, another thing I love. Hopefully the library code I've been working on lately will last me another four years.

Buzz kill

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 23, 2007, 2:09 PM | comments: 1

Wow, now I know that I'm all screwed up by weather. After the high from the weekend's sunshine, I'm totally dragging ass today. Combined with the fact that I'm inside a big room with no lights on and no windows, I'm tired and unmotivated.

Word on the street though is that we've got a good thunderstorm or two in store for us tonight. Those are fun as long as it stays warm.

The sun: It does exist!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 22, 2007, 3:43 PM | comments: 2

Friday was torture in terms of work. Stuff had to get done, and yet the sky was cloudless and it was warm. But for an outstanding change, it stayed warm and sunny all weekend.

My plan for the weekend was to mostly buckle down and get some work done on my various projects. That more or less materialized, but I also had to take advantage of seeing Kara for a little while since who knows when I'll see her next, going to Minnesota and all, don't ya know. We did some of the goofy shit we always do together. I'm proud of her for kicking ass in school right up until the end, and for getting the fuck out of Michigan for the summer. They grow up so fast! (That sounds stupid when you're talking about someone who is 6'1".) She actually got me to get out a volleyball and hit it around a bit. Look at me do something athletic!

The evenings were easy to chill out with the windows open and pound out some code. Warm air and dark skies are just as invigorating for me.

This morning I started draining the hot tub because the water was getting cloudy with "organic matter" as they say... dead skin, hair conditioner, lotion and God knows what else. I did the math, and in its first 37 days of operation, it was occupied for around 30 hours. According to the chemical and care literature, that's about three times normal use. But it was a good thing to do though, because it was 20 degrees when I filled it, and I didn't do any of the cleaning or polishing. This gives me a chance to start it up right. UV protection for the shell and all.

My Cedar Point pass came yesterday, complete with the "OP" and "MX" endorsements. So glad they did away with the stupid parking sticker on the car nonsense. It's good that people bitched and said, "This is not what we, your customers, want." Late in May, when Geauga Lake opens, I've talked some people at work into doing some power riding at lunch. That'll be fun. I'll pop the pass cherry next weekend at Kings Island with Cath.

Media Day is less than three weeks away, and honestly I'm looking even more forward to the day before, due to the post-golf festivities. I love hanging out with those cats.

Anyway, I just wanted to take a break from the sun for a moment to cool off, hydrate and share. What a great weekend, and welcome to summer!

360 update: Munch's Oddysee finally compatible!

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 20, 2007, 11:53 AM | comments: 5

Finally, the game I've been waiting for ages to be compatible to the Xbox 360 has made the list...

Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee is easily one of my most favorite platform games of all time.

"There's my buddy. [fart noise]"

Anywhere but here

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 20, 2007, 11:07 AM | comments: 3

I'd like to be anywhere other than work today. Sun + Friday + warm = Jeff wants to be in it.

Punk Rock Barbie

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 19, 2007, 11:08 AM | comments: 4

So am I the only one who is a little attracted to Avril's new look and her goofy punk pop sounds?

I feel so dirty. Not in a perverted way, but for lowering my musical taste standards.

Remember what I said?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 19, 2007, 10:12 AM | comments: 3

Remember Monday when I said that someone would suggest the students should've been armed at VT? Well sure enough, an otherwise smart guy I work with, who has an MBA and writes code for a living, said exactly that in an e-mail thread at work.

Now that we know more about the shooter, it's pretty clear to me that nothing could have prevented the outcome short of locking the guy up. Even then, that opens a debate about how to deal with mentally ill people, and I'd guess the vast majority of those people are able to function in society to some functional level. We can't lock them all up either.

I think Gonch put it best when he said shit happens, it's tragic, and there isn't much we can do about it.

If the pants fit, wear them

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 18, 2007, 2:10 PM | comments: 9

I've been on a summer clothes buying spree lately. I order ten new T-shirts with clever things on them from various places. Today at lunch I stopped by Old Navy to buy some more shorts, since most of those that I have were tortured the last year or so.

My big surprise is that the 32" shorts fit. Like not even tightly, they just fit. Two years ago I was wearing 38" pants and they were kinda tight. That's pretty crazy. I ended up buying the 36" shorts instead though, partly just because I'm used to buying stuff with extra room, and partly because, weird as this seems, the pockets were bigger. Very strange but true. I mean, cargo shorts are for carrying your shit, you know?

Can Internet radio be saved?

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 18, 2007, 1:03 AM | comments: 1

The recording industry (with four major big players) and the radio industry (mostly two big players) are trying very hard to kill Internet radio by way of forcing a royalty system that is disproportionately burdensome for Internet broadcasters. Simply put, the current rules will but Internet broadcasters like Pandora out of a business they've barely had time to mature.

It's hard to say if it will have any impact, but your Congress critters need to know this is not a good situation. It makes two anti-competitive industries even worse. You can let them know the royalty system is bad pretty quickly by visiting this site and filling out your details. It takes less than a minute...

Excited, but need more time!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 17, 2007, 5:10 PM | comments: 0

I'm starting to get excited about Maverick, and doing our thing for media day. Walt and I were chatting today about the things we'd like to do, and I'm trying to think of some clever way to do some of the things I'd really like to hack out to make certain site features better. But we're looking at just three weeks to go!

Meanwhile, after doing not much of anything last weekend, I think I'm going out and doing something every night this week. Me as a social butterfly is weird. I need more time!

It beats sitting around waiting for something to happen I suppose.

A sad day at Virginia Tech

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 16, 2007, 2:29 PM | comments: 10

I don't know if you've seen any of the headlines so far, but apparently there are at least 20 people dead at Virginia Tech as some crazy asshole started shooting up the place, in a dorm, then in a classroom. Very sad indeed.

See, it's not the threat of terrorism that scares me, it's crazy gun-toting asshole who were born here. What's worse is that you know some people are going to stand up and say that if the kids had guns they could defend themselves. You know that's coming.

It's a very sad day.

Wanna do a short TV pilot?

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 16, 2007, 12:21 PM | comments: 4

OK, so who's with me?

What can we shoot and crank out in one weekend?

New Final Cut Studio is awesome

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 16, 2007, 12:16 AM | comments: 0

Strange to see this stuff be announced on a Sunday, but being that NAB started yesterday (a show I never went to even in my broadcast days), it makes sense.

The new Final Cut Pro is finally on par with Avid because they have their own HD codec that squishes video to wickedly small sizes, and you can finally mix formats and frame rates in the same time line. I'm sure that FCP users the world over are rejoicing for that!

They have some wicked little hardware box too that can transcode anything to anything, made by a third party. It's like an ultimate I/O box. That's ridiculously impressive, even if I don't need it.

The new Compressor version looks impressive too, and will export to Flash video. I have stuff that can do that already, but they're talking about exponential gains in encoding speed, and you throw all the CPU's you have at the media. I might finally get to take true advantage of those four Xeon cores!

Exciting stuff coming down next month, that's for sure. I wish I was going to have it in time for the video stuff I'm planning to do for media day.

Thank God for a little sun

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 15, 2007, 6:40 PM | comments: 1

About an hour ago, the sun came out here under a blue sky. It was only 42 degrees, but I jumped in the hot tub and soaked in every last ray I could for 20 minutes.

I am continually amazed, especially in spring, just how powerful the sun can be to motivate and invigorate the human spirit. I wonder, too, why I continue to live where I do when it's not available half of the year.

Alone time but relapsing into sickness

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 14, 2007, 8:42 PM | comments: 3

I was really looking forward to not having anything at all to do this weekend, for the first time in like two months. Just me at home, hopefully working on CB4 or something.

But I woke up snotty and with a slightly sore throat, as if I was starting to relapse a bit. I've been tired and unmotivated all day, and you know how I hate being that way. Watched some movies and such, but I just don't feel up to engaging my brain at all. Cosmo is sleeping beside me making me even more tired.

So here it is, closing on 8pm, and I haven't really done anything. I was so motivated last night, and managed to work until 1, but then the crappies set in overnight and it's feeling like last weekend. I've gotta get this out of my system because once May rolls around, it's like I'm busy with one thing or another every weekend.

I was sick twice last year, which is twice as much as normal. In March I had serious flu, and then in November I had that ridiculous cold and fever nonsense while in Columbus. This instance wasn't that bad, but it's nagging me.

The Departed: Not an Oscar movie

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 14, 2007, 8:28 PM | comments: 4

I finally got around to watching The Departed. How the hell is this best picture? It's a really long gangster movie with endless double crosses until nearly everyone is dead. The only thing I found interesting was that Jack Nicholson was a bad ass, something he is in every other movie anyway, and a brief sex scene that was kinda hot. Oh, and there's a great scene with Alec Baldwin overacting because, as you know, no one can out-act Arec Bawdwin!

The rest is a bunch of guys with Boston accents chest thumping and beating the shit out of and/or shooting each other. I found nothing clever about the script or the cinematography. It was entertaining I suppose, but best picture? Not even close.

Gotta say, I'm scratching my head on this one.

A tale of two ASP.NET AJAX approaches

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 13, 2007, 11:49 PM | comments: 3

Warning... extreme techy code monkey content. I'm posting here to make a note of what I did.

I was working on a project where I wanted to do some nifty AJAXy stuff tonight. I've actually been messing with it for a few nights now, and today I got frustrated with the way things were going so I almost started over.

The idea was simple: Allow the user to click on a link, which opened up a text box, and after typing a few letters, all kinds of stuff appears relevant to the text she typed. This is conceptually similar to what the auto-complete extender does, but instead I want to bind what it calls to a templated control in a Repeater. Sounds simple enough, right?

Well, I thought it might be. I made an extender that captured the keyup event of the TextBox control that would fire the postback the TextBox control's server-side change event. The repeater itself was in an UpdatePanel. It worked like a champ, or so I thought.

The weirdness began when I tried to click on the rendered results in the repeater. Like magic, they just disappeared. I was able to debug enough to see that when I did that, the client-side change event for the box was fired, which of course with my repeater caused the server-side to fire. Beyond that, the debugging did not go well for me, and my Javascript skills aren't great to begin with. Even poking around with Firebug, I couldn't figure out exactly what was going on. Besides, IE to Firefox behavior was a little different, and it didn't react when I backspaced below the minimum character count.

I still believe that any generic put-stuff-in-an-UpdatePanel kind of functionality is an immediate score and works like a champ. It really does remove the plumbing nonsense from the equation for server-side monkeys like me who don't want to know or care about what's really going on. Getting a little more creative, however, is less easy. The syntax for creating an extender is really, really strange for the client-side pieces. It's not that hard to figure out if you follow the sample, it's just strange to the un-scripted eye.

After screwing around with this and feeling like the complexity of the solution was growing over the complexity of the problem, I decided to step back and write some stuff on a more manual basis. My first thought was to hack out some handlers that generated HTML based on values in a query string, and have the well-known XmlHttpRequest objects handle that call from the client. That's a really easy solution that you can learn from any AJAX tutorial.

But I do believe there is some power in using "the system" as it were, because it makes exposing a Web service easier by creating script proxies under the hood and without any real work. An article on MSDN by Fritz Onion was what originally inspired me, and of course there's adequate documentation as well.

All of a sudden, my life became much easier, and it just worked. I registered the Web service and the client script in the ScriptManager, used a plain vanilla HTML input tag with an onkeyup event handler call, and in ten minutes I got to the place I wanted to be with far less bulk than the extender and UpdatePanel combination.

I guess the bigger point I'm trying to make here is that it's tempting to solve every problem with UpdatePanels, but honestly there is so much power in this framework that it's worth it to get to know the client-side stuff.

The relative crap that rises to the top

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 13, 2007, 2:50 PM | comments: 0

If the rise of new and popular Web sites has shown us anything, it's that you can serve up crap and make a shit load of money. Look no further than MySpace to see what I mean. Seriously, it's everything that Geocities was, only worse. It's visually offensive, and yet a serious phenomenon.

Then I was reading in Business 2.0 (which, by the way, put out the first good issue in more than a year for April), where the guy who started the Friend Finder sites (including the notorious Adult Friend Finder) is just rolling in the cash. Nevermind that the app that drives those sites is total crap compared to or any of the "real" dating sites (none of which have AFF's traffic).

Even e-mail doesn't make sense. Yahoo has a huge market share of the free e-mail space, and it's hands down one of the worst, behind only Hotmail. But it's what people like to use.

What is fascinating to me though is that while all three of these properties are wildly popular, they're successful for different reasons. MySpace is successful in terms of "eyeballs" but isn't yet making Murdoch any more rich. My theory is that advertising is even less effective when you can't figure out how to navigate around that piece of shit. AFF is successful by not giving much of anything away, but yet letting people post nudies of themselves. And Yahoo was just among the first to the game. Their ad revenue is slipping.

The very definition of success is not constant. What's most surprising is that, if you read the article, the Friend Finder guy makes the point that the "Web 2.0" cats are just now figuring out what most didn't back in 1999: All you need is a computer and a couple of smart people with a good idea. Venture capital, huge marketing budgets and flashy press don't lead to gold.

And that leads me full circle to my post about modern media, and in particular filling a niche. I think that being successful really is about creating something you love and making a decent living from it. I think that going beyond that might be largely accidental for entrepreneurs like me. Clearly you could think of the next great thing and grow a company, but that's creating a company. Creating a company is something that is very different from creating some kind of feeling or experience for other people, the kinds of things I enjoy doing by way of Web sites or future films or whatever.

It's funny how talking through these things helps you better define what it is you're after!

Early birthday wish

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 12, 2007, 9:56 PM | comments: 8

If you can figure out who this is, be sure to wish her happy birthday before she leaves for the weekend... (as if it's hard to figure out)

Motivation, success and the evolving media

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 12, 2007, 7:42 PM | comments: 3

I was listening to This Week in Tech #92 today, and it was pretty fascinating. The guys who do the Tiki Bar were on it, among others. There was a lot of discussion about producing your own media in these exciting times, and in particular how it differs from the old school "real" media. They also hit the topics of motivation, fame and other related things.

First off, even as someone who has been publishing Web sites getting tens of thousands of visitors every day for almost ten years now, I guess I haven't actually realized how fascinating and crazy it all is. I spent so many years working in "the system" of mainstream media, and now that I'm free of it, I'm still kind of coasting (no pun intended).

Back up to grade seven, when I was fascinated by top 40 radio. I thought, wow, I want to do that. Then in grade nine I got to tour the TV facilities of Kent State, and a year later got to work in the cable TV studio for my city. Getting something I created on cable TV even seemed huge.

In college I got more stuff on cable TV, and my voice on radio. Then it was commercial radio in a fairly large market, then back to government cable TV. That act of creation, sharing it, and getting feedback that it was in some way enjoyed was an enormous high.

Today, anyone can do this. What's weird is that the "hard" stuff, creating a Web site, came first and came in droves. When I launched CoasterBuzz in 2000, there were little sites popping up all over the place, most of them built by teenagers. Today, most of them are gone. Now the audio and video stuff, which I think most people can more readily do than code a Web site, and there aren't that many people doing it. They are uploading crap to YouTube, but that's about it. It seems like missed opportunities are all over right now.

But look at where we're going. Hollywood, TV, the music industry and the like are all scrambling to figure out what the hell to do with themselves, when guys are creating things like lonelygirl15 in a bedroom, or the Tiki guys are making drinks. Even better, two guys sit and drink beer on a couch and talk about tech news on DiggNation. You can call it fringe media if you want, but when hundreds of thousands of people are seeing this stuff, that's better than most cable shows, and they're produced at a fraction of the cost.

Then there was the discussion about motivation. Leo Laporte is a classic radio guy, and he talked a bit about how in that business you want to try to climb to bigger markets and such. I can really identify with that, because that's the kind of thing I thought I wanted to do in radio. Now he aligns his motivation with the Tiki guys, in that he wants to create something that people enjoy, and have it seen or heard by as many people as possible. Again, that's me. The Tiki guys also say that there's nothing wrong with wanting to get paid to do this stuff either, and if possible, make a living doing it. Now they're entirely speaking my thoughts. When the one guy said it'd be nice if he could spend time at home with his family and do the "work" on his time, I felt validated that my wanting to do the same is a feeling shared by others.

An interesting turn came when a caller said she was a little freaked out by her success. The very same things about the Internet that make it easy to get your stuff out to the world makes it easy for the world to get to you. That can certainly be terrifying. I had stalkers show up at radio events, so I know what that's like. I admit I'm not always that friendly when a complete stranger walks up to me and says they enjoy one of my sites, because I just assume they're a little crazy. That's not fair to them, I know, but I felt more anonymous on radio speaking to tens of thousands of people who didn't have any idea who I was. I'm working on it, but being a public figure, even for a niche audience, makes me uncomfortable. It's a constant struggle to find that line where you're putting a human face on your media and still keeping some things private.

But overall, it was a fascinating show that really made me think about just how different the media game is. I might not be able to quit working day jobs or consulting gigs, but even having my "hobby" available to me as a financial security blanket is something that wasn't possible ten years ago. There are more opportunities now than ever to do something you love, and do OK providing for yourself.

These are indeed exciting times.

New laptop at work

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 12, 2007, 5:21 PM | comments: 0

I finally got a new laptop to replace my desktop at work. The thinking goes that if we're going to spend a lot of time in meetings, and because we're very collaborative, having a laptop makes more sense.

While it's no MacBook Pro, I have to say that I'm a lot more impressed with the new one than the Dell I bought almost two years ago (which I finally sold!). Better build quality, better battery life and it's a little lighter. If only it didn't have to run Windows!

I do miss having a 1680x1050 screen. That's the only fault I can really call out on my MBP. It's still not even an option on the 15" models. The 17" sure is pretty, but expensive and huge!

Catching up and fast moving clouds

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 12, 2007, 12:29 AM | comments: 5

I feel like I spent a lot of time catching up today. I'm still not feeling 100%, so it wasn't easy. I went to work for half of the day, and left because I was getting the whole chills/sweats thing again. Napped it off and did some work for home in the early evening.

I had a growing pile of stuff on my desk at home. Statements to reconcile, club memberships to process (quite a flood since announcing the events, a good problem to have), bills to pay.

When I finally got to the bottom of the pile, I went out to the hot tub for a little while to try and get out of my head. This of course did not work or I wouldn't be writing this. You know those scenes in movies or on TV where they show the clouds moving across the horizon in high speed? That's what it looked like when I was sitting out there. There was nothing peaceful about it at all. A spark of lightning and I had a sudden sense of urgency to not be sitting in 425 gallons of water.

But the image of those clouds is so prevalent in my head. It's that metaphor that time is passing by quickly, you know? As generally content as I am with most parts of my life, the passage of time still fucks with me. After spending time in Orlando, and seeing happy families doing happy stuff, I get a little concerned. I want to have one of those too, but the process of meeting people and finding the right one is so time consuming. Being self-aware about what makes an ideal relationship is kind of a burden because you can no longer settle for glaring flaws like poor communication, head games, hang-ups, dishonesty, and most importantly, a lack of unconditional support and love.

This particular segment of life also gets me thinking about the other problem I have, my inability to live entirely in the moment with disregard for the future. You can't live like that 24/7, but if you don't do it at all, you miss something. Right now, I'm thinking about how we're doing media day stuff, about how I'm making zero progress on CB4, about who is gonna go with me to the June BMG show, about when I'm going to plan the luau, how soon the Hershey event is, and perhaps most ridiculous, how my presentation is going to go down at a conference in freakin' November! Shit that's seven months away has no bearing at all on my life today, and yet I can't stop thinking about it.

Those clouds are relentless. I hope there's a break in them soon so I can enjoy the stars that appear there normally.

Feeling shitty still

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 11:40 PM | comments: 6

I managed to feel a little better yesterday. Got some good spins on my beloved Dueling Dragons. Orlando weather failed me miserably. I don't think it got over 70 the entire time I was there, and yesterday it rained quite a bit.

My room failed to be clean, and frankly I was a little pissed since the rates were high for the holiday weekend (it was booked solid). Bitch and ye shall receive. I got back to the room to find the big cheese and crackers (like $30 worth) plus wine and chocolate covered strawberries. I drank the entire bottle.

Which is probably how I short-circuited the cold recovery, because I still feel pretty shitty. I'm in a total funk now. Watching sappy movies today isn't helping.

Oh well... I've got another shot coming in June, and a break in the action of sorts a month from today.

Kermit is hurt

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 11:27 PM | comments: 4

Stephanie passed this on to me... it's pretty damn funny, Nine Inch Nails fan or not.

Sick on vacation

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 8, 2007, 11:10 PM | comments: 3

So you might be asking yourself, "Why the fuck would Jeff be online when he's allegedly on vacation?"

Simply put, I think I got airplane funk. After getting here in Orlando yesterday, I enjoyed a few beverages at the Hard Rock, did a little stuff at USF, was amazed at just how much alcohol they were selling (never got close enough to the Daughtry concert), and by the time I got back to my room, I knew something wasn't right.

Woke up feeling super shitty. Forced myself on Dueling Dragons and a few other things at IOA. Got back into bed by 2. Woke up three hours later with a nice fever, but forced myself out into the world again. Medicated, but I'm tired again. I'm semi-functional, and I'm hoping to beat this so I can enjoy myself tomorrow.

And wouldn't you know it, it was in the high 50's the first part of the day here. That shit followed me from Cleveland.

Bill O'Reilly has a melt down

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 6, 2007, 9:48 AM | comments: 5

This is pretty hilarious...

Mind you, Geraldo is a joke too, but he's calling out O'Reilly on what he's really doing: Taking a tragedy and using it to make his own political point, which does in fact make him a douche bag.

And he wants the mayor to resign? Give me a break. If I was the family of the girls who died, I'd be appalled by this.

A perfect storm of Penton people

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 5, 2007, 9:36 PM | comments: 1

I'm sure I've rambled on about the glory days at Penton Media, and the good times we had there. Well today I had a perfect storm of contact with former Penton peeps.

First I had dinner with Mary. I haven't seen her in more than a year, partly because I'm a douche, and partly because she's too married to her job. We caught up, talked about the good old days, etc.

I'm pulling out from the restaurant and Tim calls me on the phone. He's asking how to get music on his kid's iPod, but of course we talk about Mary. We talk shop a little, make brief references to the Penton days.

No sooner do I get home and Freeze calls me. We talk about screenplays and shit, and of course, the Penton days.

The meltdown at Penton started in 2001, and I think by the end of the year, we were all either laid-off or left. Yet, we can pick up the phone or hang out and it's like we haven't missed a beat. That's pretty remarkable when we're all in such different situations now. (I was going to say different relationships, or lack of, but I guess I'm the only one in that boat!)

One of these days we need to figure out how to get the entire Moe's lunch crowd back together. Indeed, we were a part of something special, even if the people running that company didn't know their heads from their asses.

Eating orange Popsicles

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 5, 2007, 4:18 PM | comments: 0

On a much more polite note, here's Jill Cunniff performing "Lazy Girls" on Carson Daly last night.

How adorable is she? :) I gotta stop saying that. I can't have a celebrity crush on someone's mother!

Bitches Ain't Shit

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 5, 2007, 1:38 PM | comments: 3

As if the song weren't absurd enough to begin with (seriously, who sits around and thinks that's a great song title?), it's ten times as absurd when Ben Folds performs it...

Or better yet, a cappella by a bunch of college kids...

Dr. Dre would be proud, if in fact this were a song to be proud of in the first place.

John McCain money

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 5, 2007, 12:49 AM | comments: 0

I just noticed that on this post that I got a John McCain ad from Google. That's funny stuff. I wonder how much his clicks are paying out?

Hershey event ready to roll

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 5, 2007, 12:46 AM | comments: 6

I did the registration flyer for the event at Hershey today. Once the park is OK with it, I'll post it. I feel so accomplished!

I am worried, however, that we just don't have enough time to plug the event. Seriously, I hope that those of you planning to go bring lots of friends. We'd look a little silly if we have fewer than a hundred people. I'm sure we'll get close, but solid numbers lead to better events the next year!

Jill will be on Carson Daly tonight

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 4, 2007, 6:42 PM | comments: 0

Check Jill out tonight on Carson Daly. DVR it if it's past your bed time!

Really pathetic people

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 4, 2007, 3:35 PM | comments: 4

I make no secret that I don't much care for certain people. That said, there are usually pretty good reasons for it.

There are a couple of people in the coaster enthusiast community who are total attention whores. Every once in awhile they start spamming my sites with false identities in a transparent attempt to garner more attention. They don't get that the Internet is not really anonymous.

So what motivates full-grown adults to do this kind of thing? What is it about the online world that makes it so easy for people to spend a lot of time and energy this way? I can't imagine trying to be a character online when it's hard enough trying to be a quality person in real life, where the meaningful connections are.

Being a "celebrity" is highly overrated. I got about as close as I wanted to get to it when I was working in radio (the great irony about radio "celebrities" is that they don't make shit, and have to do appearances to make any serious money). When freaks start showing up at your live events, it's not flattering, it's scary. You should've seen the toothless wonder that would show up at my remotes when I was working in the Mansfield station. I can't even imagine what you put up with as a "real" celebrity, like a movie star.

This kind of thing really puts into perspective for me what life is really about. To me it's about having a great partner to share everything with, and health that makes it all possible. If you have those two things, I think you get the rest of your needs pretty easily. That's the only kind of external validation I need in the long run, the only kind that has a lasting impact.

Supreme Court to EPA: Do your job

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 4, 2007, 2:39 PM | comments: 0

Thank God the high court had the balls to stand up to the administration on an environmental issue, by using, of all things, the law!

Emissions ruling 'a rebuke to Bush'

It's still mind boggling to me that a country our size dumps more shit into the air than any other nation on a per capita basis. You wanna know what "harms the economy?" Letting things go as they are and watching our coastal cities go under water. That's bad for the economy.

There is so much economic opportunity for dealing with environmental issues. The problem is that entrenched industry doesn't want to do the work to exploit the obvious opportunity, because, God forbid, they'd have to do research and be innovative. At some point that somehow stopped being the American way.

Josh Wolf finally freed

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 4, 2007, 2:24 PM | comments: 2

It's about fucking time...

Freed blogger calls release a victory

This whole case sets a scary precedent. It doesn't matter if you write for a Web site or not, or if you are documenting something stupid or not. The government has no business putting people watching the world in jail. It would be nice if this guy could sue the government for holding him the way they did.

Alanis' humps

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 3, 2007, 1:44 AM | comments: 2

I swear to God I want to marry this woman...

A small, small world

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 3, 2007, 1:40 AM | comments: 3

Ugh, taking naps on the weekend always leads to me not being able to sleep when I'm supposed to. I guess it's better to do something than sit in bed staring at the ceiling.

Cath was telling me about how she's managed to connect with all kinds of people from her past that she hasn't even thought of in ages. Well out of the clear blue yesterday, I got e-mail from a "girl" that I met in high school on a camping trip. This was pre-Internet of course, so we exchanged some letters back in the day. I lost track of her when her parents got divorced and her and her sister got shuffled around. I remember it being very tragic at the time.

Well her and the sis were going through a bunch of old letters they found, among them a few from me. So the older one decided to look me up. It's so completely random!

The world seems to shrink more and more very day.

Lessons in digital cameras

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 2, 2007, 8:42 PM | comments: 1

I think it was late 2002 or early 2003 when I picked up my Canon Elph camera. It was 4 million pixels, had a rechargeable battery, used CF cards and was generally pretty small. The screen was a little small too, but at the time that was generally the best you could do. It cost $400.

It had generally served me well, and was a lot easier to deal with than the old Nikon I had. It nearly died when the screen broke, and I mostly repaired it. Of course, it developed a pink streaking problem after that too, which appears to be mechanical (perhaps from the extra parts left when I put it back together).

The thing I learned about the Elph series is that they're small and generally let you just turn it on and shoot. What I don't like is that as an able-bodied photographer, was that I couldn't just pop things into manual and go at it. Night time stuff was one example of where it was an issue. Another was in situations like the Blue Man Group shows. I had to "trick" the camera by allowing it to flash, and therefore expose it at a reasonable shutter speed even though it was dark. If I had control, I could set it into shutter priority and make it capture whatever it could see.

So I decided it was time to replace the Elph, in part because the pink streak thing was annoying me. This time though, I had no desire to spend a ton of money on it. Cameras you carry in your pocket get beat up a lot for one thing. And if I'm that worried about getting things perfect, I'll bust out the SLR. The flip side, though, is that the little camera likely captures more moments than the SLR.

I like the UI and controls of the Canons, so I wanted to stay with them. Of course I looked at the G series first. The G7 is basically an SLR in a small package. It's a great camera, though expensive. It even has a small lithium-ion battery. It's very much full-featured. The only thing I can criticize is that the grip is really small. Oh, and it's $500!

The A series cameras have lots of flexibility, and honestly have a much better value proposition. The one I settled on was the A710 IS. At only $250, half the price of the G7, the feature set makes it very compelling even over the G7. It uses two batteries (some use four), it's 7 million pixels (some use more), it allows you to do full manual, and it has a 6x zoom with image stabilization. I'm looking forward to playing with it this weekend and see if I can pull off some sharp night-time stuff. I might have to bust out the mini tripod! It's a little bigger than the Elph, but not horribly.

And have you seen that 2GB SD cards are like $20 now, even for the faster throughput ones?

New shoes for my car

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 2, 2007, 4:33 PM | comments: 1

Stephanie's dad always used to refer to new car tires as "new shoes." After 67,000 miles, it was time.

Plus I needed to replace the transmission fluid (yeah, it shouldn't be brown). And my alignment was pretty whacked. Plus I needed an oil change. By the time it was all said and done, I spent $600. Ouch. I have to remind myself that this is the only maintenance I've ever done on the car in 67,000 miles though, so I suppose in that perspective it's not a big deal.

I also didn't want to buy some crappy tires that I'd have to replace in 20,000, because I'd like to double the mileage.

I hate spending money on cars, but I suppose this time I just have to suck it up and know it'll be a long time before I need to do it again.

Good weight loss progress

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 2, 2007, 12:54 PM | comments: 1

Despite not doing as much exercise as I'd like, so far the weight loss thing is going pretty well. After two weeks I'm down four pounds, so I'm at that two-a-week rate that is supposed to be reasonable and healthy.

Doing the Weight Watchers thing, of course you get flex points to "spend" whenever. I've been getting along with only using one or two on week days, giving me a pile of them to use on weekends. The truth is that I'm not being stupid, but I'm not really going out of my way to log food on Saturday and Sunday either. I'm surprised that it's all good on Monday when I weigh-in.

From what I've read, varying the amount you eat from day to day, or at least every few days, also helps to keep your metabolism from going in weird directions. A lot of people who try to be radical and keep their caloric intake way down every day apparently unintentionally train their bodies to think they're starving and slow down their metabolism. By "spiking" your diet with bigger days now and then you keep that from happening. Of course, it varies entirely by person. I hate stuff like that because it's not hard science.

I'm back to the tightest hole on my belt and even my 34" pants are starting to feel a little loose. That mass just north of it probably won't go away fast enough, but one battle at a time. I haven't even ramped up exercise to where I should yet. My goal is that by July I feel better about how I look out in the hot tub, since there's a chance people might actually see me with my shirt off. I guess it couldn't hurt to get a little color by then too!