Sunday, November 21, 2010

My thoughts on Puerto Rico

So Ashley and I have been in Puerto Rico for the past few days and return home tomorrow. I'm kind of torn about this place. I really wanted to like it because it's an island that's easily reachable from the east coast and it's in a great climate. Turns out there are many things to like, too. The only rainforest in a US National Forest is El Yunque, and it's less than an hour drive from San Juan, the most english speaking of the Puerto Rican cities. El Yunque is truly a beautiful place, too. The picture above was taken from atop the second highest tower they have there. You have to hike up a very cool trail for about twenty minutes, but it is definitely worth it. A word of advice, though...definitely take rain gear or be prepared to get wet. We didn't get wet, but only because the rain came while we were at the top and we had a dry place to wait it out.

A couple days ago we took a drive from San Juan to the southeast corner of the island. That required a very long drive on a very narrow highway through the mountains. The mountains themselves were quite amazing, with the incredibly large stands of bamboo, some of it more than six inches in diameter and shooting up at least fifty feet. The coastal area was also quite amazing in it's beauty. This island has many rock cliffs to the ocean, but also amazing beaches in between.

The big problem is what the people have done to this place. Almost all buildings are built of concrete and have a flat roof. I'm guessing that's for hurricane protection. But apparently crime is also so bad here that everyone not only has bars on everything, they have tiny (or no) windows and usually concrete and/or steel fences. Many communities are gated with large walls. Even through the mountains, houses are small fortresses. Businesses, too. There's never anywhere reasonable to park, so people just park in the street. And then double park. Oh, and the my my. Potholes so big I'm sure there were people and cars lost in them. No signs on anything. Road names change on a whim, including major highways (and their numbers!).

There are various groups trying to push tourism in Puerto Rico, but that's a joke. They want tourist dollars, but from what I can see they aren't willing to make any kind of investment to get it. The first "overlook" we saw on the entire trip was inside El Yunque, and even those were a joke. The cabs are stupidly're in for $10 minimum, and usually $14-19 for just an average ride of maybe 15 minutes. And good luck finding a cab unless you're at a big hotel. They don't drive around looking for fares...they go park at the nearest hotel and get out of the car and go hang out with the other cabbies somewhere sort of nearby.

Restaurant service? The food is good, but the service is terrible. Only once during the entire stay did we NOT have to ask for drink refills. That was at our own resort, where we did eat several times and did have to ask on every other occasion. And the service in general at the resort was stellar compared to everywhere else we visited. The highlight of our trip had to be eating here:

That's El Churry, a food stand in a truck. It was made famous by the TV show Man v. Food. Jonas saw it there and we had to go hit it. They make this churrasca sandwich that's pretty incredible. Just trust me and go get it if you're ever there. Notice you just go order, pay, and they hand you food. No opportunity to screw up the service there! Oh, and you are eating along the main coastal drag, and on a Saturday night that was an event in itself. Saw plenty of Fast-n-Furious wannabes, but the best was when we heard this thumping sound coming. Yes, it was from some major bass in a big stereo. As we looked for the source, we saw a minivan coming...with both front doors open and the driver and passenger BOTH standing in the doorjam (I guess he had the cruise set and was just reaching in for the steering). As we watched them go by in awe, we saw the source of the bass...both rear doors were open, too (held open by something, I'd imagine) and there was a rear wall of speakers pointed out the back. Heck, for all I know the thing was being propelled by the bass.

We even saw two natives go by on a Polaris RAZR. On a public street.

All in all, it's not a bad place. You do have to worry about crime, but it does have amazing weather and some amazing sights. The two forts and Old San Juan are stunning. El Yunque is kind of profound. The coast is beautiful. You just have to be in a little different mindset about some things. People say they drive crazy here. I don't think they drive crazy, but they do have a bit of oddness about how they drive that takes some getting used to. Oh, and the road signs are in Spanish. That's not as big a deal as you might think, though, because they all look like the same signs as the US, so you get used to that quickly. Our fairly new Garmin Nuvi GPS did have the roads, but the names did NOT match up and the GPS was VERY bad at routing via major versus minor roads, unlike in the US.

The biggest drawback? They don't have Mountain Dew here. I never once saw it in any store or at any fountain. Plenty of Pepsi and even 7-Up, though.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Two Days, Two Podiums!

Hot on the heels of yesterday's team triathlon, I went back to Dark Mountain for the duathlon. It's never advertised with exact lengths, and that's because they seem to like to mix it up. Last year it was a 4.5 mile run, then 10 mile mountain bike, then a 2 mile run. This year the first two were the same, but the run at the end was changed to just over THREE miles. Oh man, I wasn't really happy about that. What's worse was last year's course was all trail and mostly a mile of up and then a mile of down. This year we had to go straight back up the dam (for the second time on the run, and once on the bike) and go do maybe a mile of trail, and then it was all road back. So it was more road than trail, which was my major beef. My knees don't care for the hard stuff!

Anyway, on to the race report. The first leg I needed to make sure I didn't do what I did yesterday and start too hard and get my heart rate too high. So I played it safe and ran to the bottom of the hill and then walked up. That put me last of the men and right beside the last lady. Then I took it easy getting going across the dam and got warmed up good before even trying to move much. Seemed to get warm fast, and reeled in Matt. We pretty much stayed together for the first three-fourths of the run, and at that point he stretched his legs out and pulled away by nearly a minute, I'd guess. For some reason, even though I felt like I kept the heart rate reasonable, I was pretty slow. I thought I was slower than least year, but it turns out I was pretty similar in time based on the data from last year's run leg. Even that had me bummed because I thought I'd be much better than last year. But last year I was fresh off a paddle, not a day removed from a really hard mountain bike ride.

I should mention here that I originally planned to carry a water bottle on this run, but opted at the last minute for a small Camelbak instead. That kept my hands free to more easily consume some Gu Chomps near the end of the run, as well as a salt supplement. I felt like I had plenty of fluids and proper nutrition this morning (including Gu Chomps a little while before the start and a salt supplement then, too). Then my plan was to swap to my bigger Camelbak for the ride that also has tools and spare parts in it, and after that leg to go on the TWO mile run with nothing. I didn't even think about the fluid situation with the change to a THREE mile race once I figured that out.

Even though Matt got to the first transition well ahead of me, I caught him here and we headed out together on the bike. Even more strange was another competitor beat me by even more and only left transition about a minute ahead. Matt and I stayed together up and across the dam and around the Welcome Center building, but I started pulling away on the singletrack. We did have to pass a LOT of runners from the running races that started after our race, but that trail is nice and wide, so that wasn't a problem. I doubt the runners cared for it, but I only had to slow for one and that was more my fault than her. But once we got out of that trail and out back on to the road, I never saw Matt again.

Then I headed up into the actual Dark Mountain trails, and not far in I had a very annoying reality hit me. Cramping calves. It was at the 2.5 mile mark according to my GPS, which was just about the same place this happened last year. I thought last year was because I forgot my salt supplements and didn't hydrate well enough, but apparently that's not entirely the case. It may be that no amount of salt or water was going to get me back in shape at this point in my training after that kind of ride yesterday, or it could be that I shouldn't have had quite so much sweet tea (and thus caffeine) yesterday. Or likely both. It's just strange that it happened at an almost identical place in the bike as last year with the exact same run before it (though last year I did also have a 3 mile paddle before the run, too).

Anyway, what I know is that the calf cramping was SEVERE at first. Mostly in the lower areas of the calf, and on both sides just depending on when I needed to put larger amounts of power into the pedals to climb. It was so bad at first that it seemed worse than I remembered last year, and I was seriously considering just quitting (about a mile from where this started the trail takes you back VERY close to the staging and start areas, so quitting would have been VERY easy). But as I worked on my breathing and consumed more water (yeah, I know, it's too late for that, but what the heck), it did seem to get better. I did have to walk a couple climbs (briskly, of course), which also helped stretch things out. By the time I got near the staging area I decided I might as well continue on as it seemed to subside to very tolerable levels. I'm really happy that's the way things went, because I really don't like the idea of quitting something I start. It's really gotta hurt.

So I continued on but with what seemed like fairly reduced climbing capability over yesterday. But I thought to check my power average, which I can easily get on my GPS, and found I wasn't down that much over yesterday. Hmmph, might as well lock in and get the most out of the fast sections of the trail since by now I'm really familiar with it, too. Next thing I know, I see a rider ahead of me occasionally. There's probably nothing better than a rabbit to chase when you haven't had one, so this was good. It was the guy I had seen in transition. Turns out he was climbing worse than me, so that's where I was seeing him mostly. But once we got toward the end and things started going downhill, I lost track of him again. He was on a full suspension bike and me a hardtail, though, so this all makes sense. He was losing power to his suspension while climbing, but could really rock the bumpy downhill.

I came out of the woods and headed around the field and into transition again. My rabbit was still in there, and it hit me that my legs still felt HORRIBLE and more water for this longer run would be nice. Fortunately I still had water left from the first run, so I swapped back to that Camelbak (along with all the other stuff to swap), and headed out with my rabbit-friend. We both walked up the big hill, then he took off and put a 10 yard or so gap on me across the dam. That gap would ebb and flow, but ultimately stay about the same as we ran the trail out with both of us walking some of the up-hills. My calves didn't mind the running, but my quads felt like big lumps of goo bouncing around and threatening cramping themselves. I think they were just so built up with lactic acid that it felt like they were going to cramp, but they never did.

Anyway, as we got to the end of the trail section (with a long stretch of pavement still remaining to finish the race), he stopped at the water station only to find no water left. That wasted most of the gap he had, but we hit the road with him having about a five yard gap that he turned into a ten yard gap and then a twenty yard gap. I figured this was his push to the finish. Hmm. Wait, I have that capability, too! Okay, so I turn up the speed a little, and notice I'm reeling him in SLOWLY. I also watched the road nicely to "shortcut" the large right hand curve a bit while he ran the entire outside. Every little bit counts. Then as we got to the dam I decided that it was time to open it up a bit more. Strangely, at that point he stopped to hug some lady that was running the other way (perhaps part of one of the other races going on that day? I don't know) and stopped as I got near telling her he had to go because he was hoping to stay in front of "that guy." He was smiling and cool about it, but I think he thought this was going to be no problem for him.

Yeah, that didn't exactly work out. At this point I was really into a much better pace, better than he had been in that entire leg. So as I went by he just exclaimed "well, so much for that last goal I had...good luck!" At this point I could hear my family, friends, and kids all yelling for me from down below the dam, and the kids were making their way up the dam to greet me. I was thinking at this point that I had probably started going fast WAY too early. There was no way I could maintain. But I just figured I needed to maintain it to the hill and then go down the hill quickly. Alan offered to let me toss my Camelbak to him, which I gladly accepted. I still had a HUGE distance to cover around the big field before the finish. I kept that pace pretty well around the "track", as they call it, but on the final straight to the finish I couldn't help popping a smile and really stretching out into a reasonable sprint. It wasn't a great sprint, but it was a very strong finish for me at that point. I was completely toasted, roasted, and composted.

But damn, it felt really good.

As I write this, I have my knees propped up and am reclined on the couch. It's been several hours and yet I'm still totally stoked. I don't exactly know why, either. Maybe it's that things went wrong, somewhat horribly wrong, and yet I kept working and figured out how to make it work. Maybe things weren't as horribly wrong as they felt right then, I don't know, but it seemed bad. And somehow I ran nearly 8 miles today with a 10 mile mountain bike in the middle, and I pushed it really hard and got everything out of my body that it had to give. And for that I was rewarded with the endorphins. And they feel good. I can't wait to do this race again and be even better.

Oh, the podium? Yeah, it wasn't so impressive. I was third in the under-40 group, but there were plenty of over-40 folks that beat me, and at most there were five in my group, and maybe only four. I beat Matt, but he just wasn't in the kind of shape this event requires and had severe cramping for much of the race. Kudos to him for pushing through what were MUCH more significant cramps than what I had. Alan totally crushed me today...that's the payback I deserved for my "fast for an old guy" comment yesterday. He's just plain fast, never mind being an old guy! I was just under three minutes slower on my bike ride today than yesterday. That still put me a few minutes faster than last year. Alan, however, did the bike leg in a very impressive 54 minutes, some 13 minutes faster than me today! That is basically the same gap we had last year, too. Amazing work.

Unfortunately Miles had to bug out due to some family issues, but both Michael and Ken beat me fairly handily, too. No idea about their times, but Alan did beat them. I think everyone had a good time, though. We need more races like this around!

For the folks interested in data, this is the bike leg and the run leg from the triathlon last year. This is the first run, bike leg, and second run from the duathlon this year. The first run and bike course were the same as the triathlon this year and last year. Sorry if this is somewhat incoherent...I'm kind of wiped out right now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Podium Finish!

So today my buddies, Alan Bocko and Matt Kimel, and myself competed in our first relay triathlon, the Dark Mountain Challenge. It's a three mile paddle, then a four and a half mile run, then about a ten mile mountain bike. Matt did the paddle, Alan the run, then I finished with the bike. The quick summary is that we finished second out of the team relay racers, which was probably only five or six teams. The winning team was about twenty full minutes ahead of us (1:56 to our 2:16), but they had a very serious paddler who beat us by maybe three or four minutes there, and then ONE guy did the run and bike, but he's a professional rider that is sponsored by Specialized. They were smoking in all phases. We did beat our other three buddies, Miles Pfeifer (paddle), Ken Riley (run), and Michael Cobb (bike). We had about seven minutes on them in the paddle, kept that interval on the run, and then Michael closed the interval by about two minutes on me. So they were about a 2:21. They finished third.

The backstory is that we did this race last year, but all three of us as individuals (our entire team, and Michael also did it along with some other friends who didn't make the trip this year). Matt showed he was really strong in the paddle by being fifth out of the water (overall) last year in what wasn't a very fast boat. Before that race I had purchased an 18' "surf-ski", which is a Hawaiian sit-on-top kayak that's really fast but really unstable. Just got a killer deal on Craigslist. The problem was it was so unstable when I tried it out that I opted for something a little more sane (long story there, but that boat kind of stunk for other reasons). But in the time in since, we learned that the surf-ski actually is a boat that can be mastered, with the big key being it's much more stable at speed, just not going slow or stopped. Fortunately we don't want to go slow or stop during the race, so Matt worked on it for a few weeks and got the thing down nice. And it is fast. They handicap boats for this race, but even with the extra handicap over the boat he paddled last year, Matt was three minutes faster (maybe more, I forget) this year. He paddled the three miles in 31:30, but with the seven minute handicap we were at a 38:30 for his leg. With some technique work Matt feels like he can shave a few minutes off this time, still.

Alan is fresh off a pretty bad achilles injury, so while he's still plenty fast, he was just a little off his time from last year at about 33:30. That's for about 4.5 miles of singletrack trail in an area that's very hilly and at a little bit of elevation. Still very fast for an old guy. And he'll get faster again.

My bike leg of the triathlon last year on this same course was 1:12, so I really wanted to beat that badly this year, especially since last year I had paddled three miles and run 4.5 before getting on the bike. This year I was fresh. I thought that was in major jeopardy, however, as I started out too hard. See, there's this HUGE hill you have to climb right when you get on the bike to go over the Kerr Scott Reservoir dam, and I went too hard there and didn't ease up enough to get my heart rate in check going across it. Then I realized it when I got in the first section of singletrack (about two miles worth) and STILL couldn't manage to get it back. After that, well, there's just so much up and down in succession that it just kind of sucked for most of the race. So my climbing really suffered.

To make matters worse, the Garmin GPS watch I have is pretty good most of the time at collecting data, but occasionally can be off by up to 20% of the total distance you've ACTUALLY covered. So around 30 minutes in I was just getting to four miles on the GPS. What? This is bad. It's a 10 mile course. I'm thinking this heart rate thing has me going slow. Wait, I'm not going slow. I'm going fast, just not as fast as I want to be going. And I remember "data can be wrong." So I just keep working with my breathing and trying to keep the heart rate in check and keep pushing. Then riders start passing me. Two or three guys and one girl! And let me tell you, she went by me like I was standing still. Fortunately all of those folks were doing the race as individuals, but yes, that means we got beat by a few individuals. That doesn't just mean they were in better shape than our entire TEAM, that means they overcame that part and transition time, since they had to do shoe changes and gearing up that we didn't have to do. Ugh. So now I'm worried again that I'm REALLY slow and the data isn't wrong. Shoot!

But after those folks went by (in fairly quick succession, thinking back), I never heard or saw anyone else. My biggest fear was that I had inherited a ten minute lead on Michael and would blow it all. But I know all I can do is ride my race. Trying to be Superman won't do anything but make it worse, so I keep breathing and churning. Turns out I actually only inherited a seven minute lead, and much to my surprise, I ultimately only lost two minutes or so of it! This is very good, I think. I finished in just under 1:05, with basically a 1:12 last year. So while I felt bad for most of my leg, I did beat it pretty significantly. And I think I could do much better, which is a good feeling, too, even if I didn't pull it off today. For reference, last year Michael beat me by six full minutes on the bike leg. This year he was about three minutes faster.

How will I fix this error for tomorrow? TOMORROW?!? Oh yeah, tomorrow there is a duathlon at the same location. Most of us from today are doing that race as individuals (there's no team option anyway). It's the same 4.5 mile run, followed by the same 10 mile mountain bike, followed by ANOTHER two mile run. Yeah, big fun. I'm looking at tomorrow's race as not a race at all. It's a training session that I must finish and just want to finish strong. Only it will have a starter's gun and a big group starting with me. Then I'll throw all that out the window for the two mile run at the end since I'll be in survival mode at that point anyway. (I'm sure my coach, Sage Rountree, will love that last comment!)

Here's a link to data from today, along with data from last year. Couple things of note...last year's data has this at almost ten full miles, this year only eight. Yet the course was almost identical. Last year I went 42MPH down the big paved hill, this year it's showing 47MPH. That's not possible, especially since I had to brake and swerve around a stupid pickup truck who decided to take his half out of the middle before I got to the bottom. That probably cost me 10 seconds of time, too, as the uphill on the other side was a LOT more pedaling than I've had to do in previous attempts. I am using a different GPS this year than last, but both are Garmin devices. The same watch that I used last year had me at 43.5MPH on that same hill a few weeks ago, and that's without a truck trying to kill me.

Also of note is that this year I have a power meter on my bike. I put out an average of 268W for this entire ride according to Garmin Connect, which is around 40W higher than my training averages. That's a pretty significant percentage and I'm very happy with that. But it means I could probably train harder, too. *cough* (And for reference, the Power Meter is a separate device from the GPS and the data so far has appeared to be much more trustworthy. It does get logged by my GPS, but it's made by a different company and is actually a physical device in the crankset.)

The final word for those of you still awake after all this is to thank my coach, Sage. This weekend is going so much better thanks to her help. She's only been working with me right at a month, but I can feel a ton of improvement that simply wouldn't have happened without her. I can't wait to see what we can do in the coming months!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In memory of Carolina Freight

I have a soft spot for the old trucking companies that used to move this nation's products. My grandfather was a truck driver when I was growing up, and because of that, "trucking" was always just something that was cool to me. Of course my favorite movie of all time is Smokey and the Bandit, but other trucking movies like Convoy and TV shows like BJ and the Bear hold a special place in my heart. A recent news article on WRAL brought me back to some memories of seeing Carolina Freight trucks on the road. My grandfather did work for them for a couple years and my other grandparents lived near the hometown of Carolina Freight, Cherryville, NC. So growing up I got to go to the C. Grier Beam Truck Museum in Cherryville.

I was very happy to find that museum is still alive and well, and from the pictures looks to be the same as I remember it. I definitely hope to get my kids in there one day, and do recommend it for those of you who remember Carolina Freight trucks roaming the interstates or just enjoy looking at some very cool old trucks (from back in the days when the "sleeper" was actually on the front of the trailer rather than the back of the cab of the truck!).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why do we hate entrepreneurs?

This was forwarded to me by my Dad from the forum and I think it deserves sharing. Thanks to the original author.

This Is Why There Are No Jobs in America

I'd like to make you a business offer.

Seriously. This is a real offer. In fact, you really can't turn me down, as you'll come to understand in a moment…

Here's the deal. You're going to start a business or expand the one you've got now. It doesn't really matter what you do or what you're going to do. I'll partner with you no matter what business you're in – as long as it's legal.

But I can't give you any capital – you have to come up with that on your own. I won't give you any labor – that's definitely up to you. What I will do, however, is demand you follow all sorts of rules about what products and services you can offer, how much (and how often) you pay your employees, and where and when you're allowed to operate your business. That's my role in the affair: to tell you what to do.

Now in return for my rules, I'm going to take roughly half of whatever you make in the business each year. Half seems fair, doesn't it? I think so. Of course, that's half of your profits.

You're also going to have to pay me about 12% of whatever you decide to pay your employees because you've got to cover my expenses for promulgating all of the rules about who you can employ, when, where, and how. Come on, you're my partner. It's only "fair."

Now… after you've put your hard-earned savings at risk to start this business, and after you've worked hard at it for a few decades (paying me my 50% or a bit more along the way each year), you might decide you'd like to cash out – to finally live the good life.

Whether or not this is "fair" – some people never can afford to retire – is a different argument. As your partner, I'm happy for you to sell whenever you'd like… because our agreement says, if you sell, you have to pay me an additional 20% of whatever the capitalized value of the business is at that time.

I know… I know… you put up all the original capital. You took all the risks. You put in all of the labor. That's all true. But I've done my part, too. I've collected 50% of the profits each year. And I've always come up with more rules for you to follow each year. Therefore, I deserve another, final 20% slice of the business.

Oh… and one more thing…

Even after you've sold the business and paid all of my fees… I'd recommend buying lots of life insurance. You see, even after you've been retired for years, when you die, you'll have to pay me 50% of whatever your estate is worth.

After all, I've got lots of partners and not all of them are as successful as you and your family. We don't think it's "fair" for your kids to have such a big advantage. But if you buy enough life insurance, you can finance this expense for your children.

All in all, if you're a very successful entrepreneur… if you're one of the rare, lucky, and hard-working people who can create a new company, employ lots of people, and satisfy the public… you'll end up paying me more than 75% of your income over your life. Thanks so much.

I'm sure you'll think my offer is reasonable and happily partner with me… but it doesn't really matter how you feel about it because if you ever try to stiff me – or cheat me on any of my fees or rules – I'll break down your door in the middle of the night, threaten you and your family with heavy, automatic weapons, and throw you in jail.

That's how civil society is supposed to work, right? This is Amerika, isn't it?

That's the offer Amerika gives its entrepreneurs. And the idiots in Washington wonder why there are no new jobs…


Porter Stansberry

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

Ashley and the boys took me to see Toy Story 3 yesterday as my Father's Day present. I was a big fan of the first one, but thought the second one was just okay. But the reviews seemed very good for three, so I went in with high expectations.

It did not disappoint. Very good movie. I'm impressed they've been able to keep so much of the original cast involved through three of these. They have also been able to dramatically increase their abilities as far as the computer generation of the graphics. The facial expressions are incredible, as is Buzz's spanish dance scene. Amazing work.

This was by far the most emotionally moving of the three movies for me, and I'm sure it will be for any parent. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying that the theme of the movie is what happens to all the toys as Andy prepares to leave for college. I mean I know my kids will leave one day, and I thought I was fine with it, but wow. This movie drives that realization home. Even with that, I still really enjoyed it. Nice work, Pixar.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Goodbye, George

So, I've never been a huge baseball fan, but I've been enough of one that I've always sort of hated the Yankees and in particular, George Steinbrenner. But much like I felt when Dale Earnhardt died, I was sad to hear George had passed. I felt like I lost something, and that something was something I enjoyed hating. Hating is probably an exaggeration, but that's what we do with sports. That's what they are for. Someone to cheer for, and conversely sometimes, someone to hate.

There's been a lot of rhetoric about how big "The Boss" was not only in baseball, but in the world of sports and even in the world that is New York City. To me there's one simple way to point to what George built with the Yankees, and that is what every baseball player strives for: To be courted by the Yankees. Make no mistake, there are plenty of kids that grow up playing baseball and hating the Yankees. But ask even those kids what the biggest compliment to their game they could get would be and they'd say "to have the Yankees want me." Sure, they might prefer their lifelong team to be the one to actually sign them, but the team they'd want the most to chase them would be the Yankees.

Why? Because it means you're one of the best. That's all the Yankees have settled for since George took over. And even when they got what they thought was the best, they expected you to maintain that level or they'd move on to whoever had surpassed you. Period. Now, that might sound bad in some ways, but it is the pure business of sports. And from the sound of things, as long as you did what you were brought in to do, nobody treated you better than the Yankees would.

I'm happy to learn more about how philanthropic George was. I'm happy to learn more about how he turned a $10M franchise into a $1.6B franchise. But the real legacy he leaves is the aura of the New York Yankees. You either love them, or you're jealous of them.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getting up early?

I don't know what's happened to me as I get older, but I've noticed I'm waking up earlier and earlier and it's harder and harder to go back to sleep. I fought it and fought it. Then I fought it occasionally, and just got up otherwise. It all sucked. But now I'm starting to realize that life is better if I just get up early.

It would seem my body requires a little less sleep than it used to. I used to really need nine hours at a minimum. But now I'm good with as little as six or seven without major ramifications. What's even better is I don't mind getting up early on vacation. In fact, I prefer it because I go ahead and bike or run before it gets so hot and I've been playing outside and lose ALL motivation to get my exercise in that I want to do.

The next logical step? I might learn how to nap occasionally. It almost happened yesterday, but I predict it will happen at some point during this vacation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Having problems with motivation to exercise?

It's all about motivation. We all know we should work out more, but we don't want to. Oh sure, you can say "oh, I want to, but I don't have the time." Sorry, doesn't fly. Occasionally we really are too busy to squeeze a workout in, but in reality it's just that you aren't prioritizing it highly enough. To me that's really "don't want to" enough to find a way.

Why don't we want to? Lots of reasons, but I think a lot of it boils down to making ourselves think we have to. Get out of that mentality, and get out now. That doesn't help with motivation, it only makes it worse. You don't have to. Nobody is holding a gun to your head. But you probably do want to, or you wouldn't still be reading this. You just may be finding you don't want to enough to prioritize it high enough on the list.

One thing works great for me, and that is scheduled workouts with someone else. In an ideal world it's with a trainer who you're paying to kick your butt. Those are best. But failing that (because we can't all afford that), another great alternative is regularly scheduled workouts with anyone else. Why? Because canceling is a pain. You're worried you're letting your partner(s) down or that they'll think you're a wuss or whatever. It's peer pressure that works. Plus the time seems to go faster when you have someone to talk to. The drawback to the friend versus the trainer is that it's easy to not work as hard with the friends. SO WHAT. Something is better than nothing, and by a LONG shot. And having it regularly scheduled is really key, since it's much harder to drop the ball on scheduling the next one.

But what about motivating yourself for lone workouts? Step one is don't tell yourself you have to do it, because down deep you know you don't have to. Focus on the reasons why you want to, and do everything you can to find more reasons why you want to. The single best motivator is finding exercises that you really enjoy doing, obviously. That can take some effort, sure, but it's out there. No, not everyone enjoys running or bicycling or even tennis. But there are so many good sports that provide great exercise that you can likely find something you enjoy. Heck, I find spinning on a bicycle trainer works great as long as I have The Big Bang Theory episodes to watch while I do it. You might find a treadmill or indoor bike much more tolerable and quite possibly even enjoyable if you find something else you enjoy doing while on it. Podcasts, TV shows, etc. Or they might at least be tolerable enough that you don't mind doing an hour on the treadmill on a day when you just can't do a meet-up with someone somewhere else thanks to other commitments, weather, etc.

Oh, and if you're thinking "I can't keep up with my friends at what they do", stop that thinking NOW. If your friend invites you to run with them and the only thing stopping you is "I can't keep up", get over it! They know you won't be at their level. They'll adjust. They really don't mind, or they wouldn't have asked. Again, friends like to help friends, especially with this. Stop worrying about "bothering" them or "holding them back" or whatever. It isn't a big deal. If/when they need to train harder than you'd allow as a partner (say they're training for a race and want to compete), they'll let you know. But otherwise? Don't fall into the "I can't keep up" trap. It isn't real.

To reiterate, find ways to make it fun. Lean on friends to help you with that. Generally, you have similar interests to your friends, or they wouldn't be your friends. And if you have friends who do exercise, find out what works for them. People who exercise a lot do enjoy spreading the joy they've found in what they do.

Seek it out. All things worth having are worth working for. Get started.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Willful Foreclosure?

This past week, 60 Minutes did a story on a new trend...people willfully walking away from their mortgage and house. That's right, people who can afford their mortgages choosing to not pay them.

Why would someone do that? The quick version is some states have laws protecting your assets entirely in the event of a foreclosure. So folks in particularly hard hit real estate markets who bought houses around 2006 now find their home value at roughly half what they paid. To add insult to injury, that means they can now rent a NICER home for around half what their mortgage payment is. So they've done the math and realized that just walking away and waiting on their credit to recover is cheaper in the long run than continuing to pay.

The story even featured a likable couple who went on camera and admitted they were in the process of doing this. They didn't feel bad in the least. They even chose to live in the house six months without paying because that's about how long it will take to get foreclosed on and evicted. All the while saving that mortgage/rent money. And Arizona state law protects the money they have in the bank, the cars they have paid for, and all the rest of their assets.

So why shouldn't they? I'll tell you why. Because it's not the bank's fault. It's not the bank's responsibility to prop up their bad choice. It might not be completely their fault, either, but let's face it, they'd have ZERO recourse had they saved up or inherited enough money to have bought that house outright. If it was paid for, they'd be living every day in a house now worth half what they paid. But would they be "out" anything? Nope. Not unless they chose to SELL it for less than they paid. But that would be a willing choice.

They leave the bank with no choice. The bank entered an agreement with them to help them buy their house. Sure, the bank stood to make money on the deal, but that's what banks do. Well, that's what they used to do. If everyone who could started doing this, well, they wouldn't be able to any longer.

In my opinion, it's legal theft. And the only reason it is legal is because a law was created to help protect consumers without ever thinking about a situation like this. Yes, the law needs to be changed, and needs to be changed quickly. I just can't for the life of me understand why the bank should be left holding the bag on a couple hundred thousand dollars of losses in cases like this. These people are gainfully employed, have a life savings, have no money troubles whatsoever. Yet the law is letting them stick it to the bank. A bank who did nothing more than help them in the first place.

It's just wrong, and people should know better and take responsibility for their own financial problems instead of pushing it off on someone else like that. Kudos to 60 Minutes for not listing which states this is legal in (other than Arizona). All they said was it's legal in 10 states right now in some form. I hope it isn't legal in mine.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

My memories of basketball camp as a kid

I know this probably seems like a random topic, but it is far from it. It's actually inspired by this story that I found thanks to Twitter.

As most know, I grew up in the Charlotte, NC, area. The only sport I played as a young kid (other than a single year of coach pitch baseball) was basketball. I played youth league ball in the Winterfield league (which I don't think exists any longer). It was one of those area-based youth leagues, and the competition was pretty good. There were age groups up to 16, and I think I played from around 8 to 16.

Outside of that, I also played in Bryan Adrian leagues and attended some of his camps. His leagues were one per season, so you could play in four leagues per year. It was a pretty simple deal, really...something like ten weeks of playing on Sunday for two hours. The first hour or so was drills and the rest was a game. Each league had four teams, and each player got a shirt in one of four colors. Each color was a team. You were all mixed up for the drills (on purpose so that everyone got to know everyone) and then you broke out into your teams to play the games. We always had sites with two full courts, so two games happened at one time.

Before we started, Bryan would always talk about what we were going to focus on. Then he would usually lead a drill or two with everyone in one big group, then we were divided up into smaller groups for more drills. He moved around the entire gym watching and giving his own input, though there were other coaches who were in charge of each area and later each team at game time. He'd watch some of both games, and occasionally provide input there, too. Then after the two games were over everyone gathered for about five minutes with him. He'd go over the things we learned that day and what we could work on by ourselves. Then he'd grab a few kids at random to try to score on him one-on-one. Maybe five kids, total.

You got five seconds and one shot only. And you're a kid and he's big. And quick (even with the bum knee). And smart. I don't remember more than two or three kids all season ever scoring. And if you did? $5 in cash. That was a lot back then, and he made you earn it. That was the thing with Bryan. You want something in life, you have to earn it.

He wasn't a friendly guy. He was a tough guy. But he was a genuine guy, too. If he had something to say, he said it. If you deserved praise, you got a terse "good job." If you didn't, you got an explanation as to what you needed to do differently. And you got the opportunity to try again. He never asked for anything of you for him. He only told you what you needed to do for you. He never seemed disappointed or agitated or frustrated with us kids. He just taught. If you wanted it, you learned it. If you didn't, well, you didn't. Didn't seem to be any sweat to him either way. But he worked so hard to help that deep down you just had to think he cared. I remember doing the math along the way on how much money he must be taking in. We knew what we paid, and it wasn't hard to estimate his expenses (it was easy, since the other coaches would tell us what they got paid, and the gyms he used were gyms that we knew other folks that rented, too).

He made a reasonable living, but he wasn't getting rich off this stuff. What he did do was work. And sweat. And teach. To me, anyone who is willing to sweat when they teach and do it all for a meager living must care about what they do. A lot.

Why was he all closed up? Only God knows. What I know is he helped a lot of kids be better basketball players, and as far as I know he did it very well. I'm sure he had some sort of problems in life other than what was mentioned. My idle curiosity wants to know what they are, but in a way I'm fine not knowing, too. Because I want to remember him as that tough basketball player who realized he had a gift he could share and just wanted to share it with as many kids as he could. And that's just what he did. Thanks, Bryan. You will be missed.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Farewell to a best friend

This is a very old picture of Jasper (top) and Clark (bottom). Clark passed away about three years ago, but today we lost Jasper. Both were brothers from the same litter, and we have our good friends the Cosper's to thank for hooking us up with them. Kit's sister, Dee, had a horse farm and a female dog that appeared to be mostly German Shephard that they had adopted (or that had adopted them!). Before they realized she was even old enough to breed, though, she was pregnant.

Ashley and I signed up for our first pet together and waited long enough for them to be weened. When we showed up to pick up Jasper we found that only one sibling remained unclaimed. The folks who had said they wanted him didn't show, and I quickly theorized that having two dogs would mean they would chew on each other rather than our stuff. Ashley agreed, and we took home two puppies instead of one. Both had already been named...Clark got his name because he had a white patch on his chest that Dee's kids thought looked like Superman's symbol. They wanted to name him Superman, but cooler heads prevailed and they were fine naming him Clark, short for Clark Kent. Jasper was named after Dee and Bob's restaurant at the time, Jasper's in Cary.

We loved the names and loved the dogs even more. There are so many wonderful stories of both their lives, from Jasper and his ball chasing antics to Clark and the bullet he carried to a pot bellied pig tormenting them to Clark playing the "mother" to all creatures he loved. Like raising kids, not all the stories were good ones at the time, but they are all now fond memories. We loved them both, and now we will miss them both. In recent years we spoke of Jasper singularly since Clark had to leave first, but now I feel like it's quite appropriate to speak of them together again, since I know in my heart they are together again. I thank God for the 10 years we had Clark and for the almost 14 we had Jasper.

Farewell, doodlebug. Me, Ashley, Kevin, Zach, Sandi, and Hattie will miss you. And a lot of other people.

Conan versus Jay

So I've distilled my thoughts on the Conan versus Jay saga after having watched Conan's interview on 60 Minutes. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, just move along, nothing to see here.

Conan is bitter. I get that. Most comedians his age probably coveted the job of The Tonight Show host, and he got it. He was on top of the world. Then it all came crashing down. Promises had been made that were now broken and he was devastated. To top it all off, it was someone he considered a friend that was doing this to him.

But wait. He also said in the interview he realizes that NBC's part in this was "just business." Sure, there were relationships there that are now dead as a result, but he understands. But on the topic of Jay all he could really say is "that's not something I would have done" regarding Jay being willing to take back The Tonight Show.

This is where I get confused. NBC had two people under contract. It doesn't sound to me as if Jay had a choice in the matter. NBC decided they wanted Jay back in that time slot, and they offered Conan his same role (and The Tonight Show label, I believe) to move back thirty minutes. Conan refused and NBC decided to buy him out of his contract. But what did Jay's contract even say on the matter? Jay's contract is huge compared to Conan's, and any buyout is estimated to have needed to be well in excess of one hundred million dollars. Conan's buyout was $32M.

THIRTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS. And he's bitter. And he realizes it was a business decision. And he thinks Jay shouldn't have accepted the job. But what if Jay's contract didn't give him that choice? Maybe Conan knows the details of Jay's contract, but it seems unlikely.

But here's my thing...Conan isn't as funny as Jay. Okay, that's my opinion. But I'd bet you anything that if we could measure "funny" across the board, Conan just isn't as funny as Jay to most Americans. They can't relate to him as easily as Jay "the car guy" Leno. The ratings are one measurement, and Conan's show fell behind Letterman. And that's all NBC cares about at the end of the day, and that's no secret to anyone in the business.

So my thing here is this: Suck it up, Conan. You got handed a $32M check. You'll live comfortably off that if you do no more work in your life. You will work, because you're funny. But sadly, you're not as funny as Jay. That's life. Move on. Be happy 60 Minutes felt like taking a stab at NBC, because otherwise you're not nearly relevant enough to make that show on your own.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Brute Electronics

I may or may not have blogged about my AEV Brute before:

It's basically a 2006 Jeep Rubicon with a stretched frame and custom bodywork from AEV to make it a pickup truck. It's also got some other goodies like a 5.7L Hemi, 4.5" long arm lift kit, 37" tires, winches on both ends, etc.

I recently spent some time updating the electronics in it, though. First up was a new stereo headunit from JVC very similar to this one. All I wanted was something that had a built in HD FM tuner and front panel USB port that would operate my iPhone, and this one has it. We added a rear AUX input, too (you'll see why later). The real beauty of this headunit, I think, is that you have the choice of iPod control with the unit or you can leave the control on the iPod/iPhone itself. I prefer the iPhone interface, so I use that. The dash speakers were upgraded and I had a custom rear speakerbox built by the fine folks at Beechwood Metalworks:

That's the AEV logo in the speaker grills. Awesome work. The amps are buried inside the cabinet.

Next up I needed to add my HAM radio. The model I chose is the Yaesu FTM-350R. It has built in APRS functionality with the optional GPS unit, and it's a dual transceiver with crossband repeat functionality. All that adds up to allowing me to relay my mountain biking position from a small handheld through the more powerful mobile unit in my truck. In real time. I mounted the display, speaker, and GPS in the roof of the Brute:

I used a RAM bar mount and arm to mount directly to the top of the rollbar. Then I just used zip ties to mount the Yaesu external speaker to the rollbar. Finally, I put the GPS module in the alpine window for a great view of the sky. The main unit of the radio was mounted right on top of the speakerbox:

The microphone can just lay over the center console and I can use it perfectly. The wiring for the unit runs through a grommet in the top of the speakerbox. I haven't done it yet, but eventually I plan to wire the unit so that it turns on and off with the ignition switch unless I override it with a relay and switch I'll put in.

The antenna is mounted somewhat temporarily, currently. I just put it on a piece of aluminum and c-clamped it to the bed.

The final piece of this was to add mounts for my GPS and iPhone. I simply bolted RAM ball mounts into the tray on top of the dash. Then I used RAM arms and the Garmin 376C mount to put the GPS and iPhone on the dash:

Note the radar detector above the mirror. That's a Valentine 1, IMHO the best radar detector on the market. It's hard wired in to switched power. I used the visor mount turned around backwards and slid under the plastic trim that's above the windshield. To do that I had to take the curved piece off the plastic part that slides onto the V1. I then pulled the trim piece out some to get it in there, and reassembled. Then I used a small piece of sticky velcro to space it out to level it and help keep it from vibrating around.

Anyone who has tried to put a V1 in a Jeep knows that the suction cup mounts don't work well because the windshield is so vertical. It sits at the wrong angle. And the visor mount is fine except, well, you can't use the visor any more. There are mounts that hang from the rear view mirror that work fine, but they block your view significantly in a fairly important spot. This spot doesn't block anything (other than annoying sunlight that can penetrate over the mirror and isn't blockable by the visors, and that's a good thing!).

Here's a final shot that shows the XM puck that the Garmin uses. It's magnetic and stuck to the windshield frame. It's wire is perfectly sized to just push into the gap between the hinge and the windshield frame, which wraps around the corner and just goes into the door jam through the weatherstripping. It goes right into the dash and under the defrost venting over to the middle where it plugs into the GPS:

I'm really loving this setup. The speaker is right near my head, but nowhere I can hit it. That's good, since I can leave the volume low to monitor things while still having the radio on. The controls are very easy to reach and highly visible right above the visor. Yes, it's a lot of visible electronics for theives, but the Jeep is equipped with a full alarm system with power door locks and hard doors and hard top.

Also note that the XM radio on the GPS is piped into the stereo via that rear panel auxiliary input we put on the stereo. The beauty of the Garmin 376C with XM is that it gets realtime weather radar information via XM radio and overlays that on the GPS map. It also puts the turn-by-turn navigation information on top of the XM radio, so if you're using navigation and listening to XM you can't miss any of your directions.

It's possible that I could have used a serial output on my Garmin GPS to the input of the Yaesu HAM radio instead of installing the optional GPS unit. That solution would have taken more hours of work than it was worth given the relatively low cost of the Yaesu add-on. I also consider it a good redundancy to have two GPSs in a vehicle like this. The Yaesu doesn't do navigation, really, but it does show direction, speed, and position, and could be very handy if the Garmin fails. The iPhone has GPS, too, but I really don't feel great relying on that. It's another good backup, though.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review of the iPad

Well, I know everyone and their brother has already done a review, but I can't resist throwing my two cents in, so here goes...

I really like it. Why? The huge screen, relatively light weight, and incredible battery life. Okay, great, but what does it DO? Well, that's the big question now, isn't it? It's a great web surfing tool. Okay, but you've probably got something for that already. It's a great email reader, and a good email sending device if you mostly send short messages or don't mind adding the optional keyboard. Okay, but you probably already have that covered, too. It's a really nice picture viewing device. And video viewing device. And gaming device. And book reader. And calendar. And note taker. And a whole lot of things.

But nothing you can't already do with a laptop, right? Well, the thing is it does all that better than a laptop. Sure, there are things it won't do that a laptop will, but the things it does are all done exceedingly well. And in a light form factor with a battery that will last OVER 10 hours! Not many laptops can even come close to that.

What can't it do? Things like video editing, running Windows applications, or even someone every day tasks like running Quickbooks. Is there a killer application that makes it a "must have"? Not yet. But the thing you do get is the App Store, which will likely mean there will be a killer app or forty at your disposal soon. What do I dig now? The ABC app, the Wall Street Journal app, the fact that the email client in some ways is better than the OSX one, and how much better viewing video is than on the iPhone/Touch. The Blogpress app is pretty good for entries like this, but I had to add the picture using my Mac.

What doesn't it do yet that it will? Multitasking, a proper Facebook app (don't get me wrong, you can use Safari to do Facebook fine, but the iPhone app is better than using the web in many ways, and I expect we'll soon see an iPad app that's of the same ilk), and printing. There are some workarounds for printing from some applications, but hopefully we'll be able to print from the iWork suite. It just seems really odd to me that you can create and exchange documents so easily yet if you want to print one you have to send it to another machine first.

Does everyone need to rush right out and get one? Not really. But if you have a need for a space friendly device with good battery life that will let you surf the web, do email, and generally entertain you, I can't think of anything better. And heck, even the TSA is getting friendly saying it's not a big enough computer that they want you to take it out of your carry-on bag at the security checkpoint. That's worth something to me, right there.

One hole I hope gets filled is navigation. It should be MUCH easier for someone to build and market a dashboard friendly mount for this device so that the GPS enabled 3G version (coming in about a month) can be used as a navigation device (or the current version with an external GPS). The screen size will be much better than most of the off-the-shelf units, and the fact that it can also be your music player is an added bonus. I don't think it'll be more than a couple months before we see something like this on the market, and likely several somethings like this.

Can it replace a Kindle? Depends. If looking at "computer screens" for long periods doesn't bother your eyes, yes. If, however, you find that "computer screens" bother you and something like the Kindle's special screen doesn't, then no. It's a beautiful screen, but it is still basically "just an LCD." The Kindle is special in this regard, and if you need that particular feature of the Kindle then you need a Kindle. Unfortunately the only way to know if this device will bother you is to spend a few hours reading on one, but supposedly Apple does have a good return policy on in-store purchases. The iBook reader is a free application, and there are even some timeless classics you can download to it for free to give it a try. So you can, in effect, try it out for free to see if it will work for you. They've sold a half million of them in less than a week, so you might know someone who will loan you one, too. Nah, few people are going to let these babies out of their hands for quite some time.

-- Posted from my iPad, mostly

** EDIT: Shoot, I should have tried to put the picture in with the iPad. It's totally possible, and not even that hard. You just switch to your browser, find the picture you want to put in your block, touch and HOLD your finger on it, select "Save" from the menu that pops up. Then you have your image saved in your image library and can select it with the Blogpress app. Dang, should have known it was that easy!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Apple's Fail and Win

First, the win: The App Store. With the App Store, Apple has setup the iPhone and now the iPad to be "game changers." If there's a piece of software that can make the device a winner, someone will likely create it and shove it into the App Store. And that amazing "community" (and it is a community of sorts, thanks to the fact that it's so easy for users to contribute and things to bubble up thanks to reviews and intelligent pricing) is what can totally shape demand for a product.

How did they do it? They created the hardware, then they created an operating system for the hardware along with the Software Development Kit (SDK) that any developer could use to very easily create an application, and then there is the relatively pain-free process of submitting your application to the App Store where Apple will sell it for you and distribute your revenue to you. Yes, I admit that there has been some problems between developers and Apple over problems with the App Store, but you have to admit that on the whole the model has worked very well for both parties. Apple does continue to listen to developers and add facilities developers need to continue to push the envelope, too.

Articles today about the iPad launch are pointing to the fact that a lot of people in line to buy first day iPads are doing so only because they'd "buy anything Apple sells" and thus are just lemmings. I submit that the App Store is mostly to blame for this kind of thinking, though. They know that there already are apps for it and there will be even more apps for it and are counting on those to make the device something they will treasure. You can already stream Netflix to it, watch TV from ABC, read USA Today and NY Times news, and it has complete eBook functionality including an App for those who already have Kindle eBooks. With most of that being completely free. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that they've already got the thing serving some pretty significant markets. It won't just be a success because of some lemmings.

Where does the App Store go next? Only Apple knows. I'm surprised they haven't tried to push it a little more for the Mac platform myself.

Now, the fail: Apple is far too limiting on the hardware integration side. They simply haven't embraced anything resembling an open model for allowing other companies to integrate the iPhone, iPod Touch, and now iPad in with their hardware. The first sign of this was how closed the Bluetooth is on the iPhone. It allows you to connect your iPhone to a Bluetooth headset, but the rest of the Bluetooth API is closed to third party developers. This means no Bluetooth keyboards, no syncing to a computer via Bluetooth, and no talking to a whole host of other Bluetooth devices that were starting to appear on the market. There were many $50 devices out there that were Bluetooth that manufacturers have now made into $150 wifi devices just to talk to the iPhone. This is not a win for consumers, obviously. Bluetooth is a perfect mechanism for a digital camera to get GPS information from your iPhone so it can geotag your photos, for instance. But Apple makes that impossible, even though all the building blocks exist already.

The problem runs much deeper than Bluetooth. Apple very closely licenses its dock connector, so anyone who wants to connect to it must pay Apple and go through a process to validate what they want to do with the device. So far this has been very limited. We've seen alarm clocks and a few basic stereo docks, but little more. Will we see refrigerators let you dock your iPad for easy recipe access and podcast playing? Will we ever see an aftermarket car stereo where the face is just an iPhone dock? Will we ever have the ability to control any aftermarket device via the dock part in a generic form? Ie. RS-232? There are currently a ton of possible industrial uses for the iPhone/Touch/iPad that we can't even try thanks to Apple closing up their serial port. The bigger problem is not the things I have thought of that we're missing, but the things the truly inventive hardware folks might find that would really kick some serious butt. They're not even trying, because they know Apple won't let it happen.

I don't know why Apple doesn't want third parties to let people control their devices with Apple products. Seems to me they've been a perfect mass market device that they'd sell even more of if they would. But for some strange reason they just won't embrace third party hardware like they have third party software. Could it be that they just can't take the step into a realm where they don't (and can't) have the level of control they have now with the App Store? I don't know, but it's pretty maddening to those of us who can see all kinds of awesome uses for these devices only to have an Apple roadblock in the way of making it happen.

Friday, April 2, 2010

March Madness Expansion?

It looks likely that the NCAA will expand the NCAA tournament for men's basketball from 64 teams to 96 teams next season. The reason is simple...added revenue. It will add two days to the tournament, and a total of 32 more games. It will also kill the NIT, it would seem.

This has the support of the coaches. Why? Because most coaches are judged by "getting in the NCAA tournament" or not. It's about job security.

Okay, great. But think about this? There are about 340 division one basketball programs. Now we're going to 96 teams in the tournament. That's nearly one-third of the programs, when before we had less than one-fifth. The significance of just "making" the tournament will be diminished greatly. Will there be any talk of the teams who don't make it? That is the "bubble" we hear so much about now? My prediction is that we'll hear a little about it just before and just after the selection show, but the noise will be a lot less. Why? Because there's a new bubble in town...

The bye. That's right, the bye. The top 32 teams in the tournament (what we currently know as seeds one through eight) will not have to play the first round. Instead, the bottom 64 teams will play one game for the right to play the top 32. Currently, just about the last thing anyone cares about as far as seeding is who are teams 29 through 32 and 33 through 36. Why? Because those are seeds eight and nine, and those two play each other in the first round of a 64 team tournament.

In the new system, however, that won't be the case. Who gets selected as 32 or less versus those just above that cut-off will be the new "bubble" discussion. Why? Because those who aren't in the top 32 not only have to play another game to win the whole thing, they now have to win three games in the first six days of the tournament instead of just two in four days like before to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

That's huge.

It's only going to take a couple years, if that, before people realize just how much lower your statistical and realistic chances are of winning the tournament as the 33rd or higher overall seed (anything 9th to 24th now). Sure, people currently feel like a 9th or higher seed isn't gonna get it done, but the difference now is that it just because EVEN HARDER to do what's already pretty unlikely. So the seeding cut-off will be huge. I predict it will be the new "making the tournament" bar that coaches are currently held to. Which means it just got HARDER for coaches to keep jobs, not easier.

All for money. *sigh*

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Good idea: Check. Execution: FAIL.

Listed for sale here. This is one of the better views, too! There is no "better side."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Another one for the Stokes girls!

So you might remember my blog entry about the Friendly Chapel Church. If not, click it! In that vein, here's another one for the Stokes girls:

I mean did the local sign maker get tasked with naming the church? Or was there a special on letters so they decided to use as many as they could? There really was only one church (and it was quite cute and fairly old looking).

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Book Recommendation

So it's strange...I don't really read books. I mean sure, I read the third through the last of the Harry Potter books, but that's because after watching the first two movies I was impatient to know more of the story and willing to read the books to get ahead. I've also read the Josh Thurlow series of books by Homer Hickam. I don't really know what got me started on those, though. And I don't remember what got me to read Hatteras Blues, either. I remember my wife bought it for me, but I think I asked for it. It might be that I saw it on a bookstore sign near Hatteras Village, I don't know.

But I did read it recently, and ironically enough I read most of it while on a cruise ship. I feel like anyone would love this book. I know anyone who loves the Outer Banks of North Carolina would love it. I believe anyone who has ever fished off-shore would love it. People interested in coastal history should definitely enjoy it. Heck, anyone with a pulse, really. Please, by all means, give it a try if you're looking for something to read. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

You might be a redneck if...

Just a few I thought up:

...if you've ever shot a fish.
...if you've ever wrecked your truck trying to run over a squirrel.
...if you've ever totaled a golf cart.
...if you've ever run over a squirrel with a golf cart with your Momma riding along.
...if you've ever de-limbed a tree with a shotgun.
...if you've ever fired a gun from a moving vehicle.

You might be a redneck.

No, not all of these have happened to me. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to guess what's what.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Towns banning cellphone use while driving

So, currently there's no data to support the fact that accidents decrease in places that ban handheld cellphone use while driving. Yet towns like Chapel Hill want to make it illegal to use a handheld phone while driving. The best you can do is cite a AAA study that claims you're just as impaired while talking on a cellphone as if you had a blood acohol level of 0.08, which is the legal limit. So you're just impaired enough to be BORDERLINE too drunk to drive and thus we need to ban them? And the study is by the AAA, for goodnesssakes. Can we get some data from more than one source on this before we do it?

And honestly, I don't believe this is the kind of thing a town should be allowed to legislate anyway. The article states that the state legislature has to allow them to do this, which is good, unless the state actually does allow it. Then it's bad. Why? Because I can't think of a single reason why something that's bad enough we should ban it in Chapel Hill isn't something we should ban statewide. And if you think "oh, no, it's safer to talk on your handheld phone when traveling in rural areas", well, fine. That still means EVERY city should ban it, which is something the legislature could just do. I mean seriously, do you want to have to worry about what the law is in every city you go in and out of? Heck, they don't even mark the city borders on every road! How are we supposed to KNOW what the law is where we are?

It's rediculous, especially since many people (like myself) live outside Chapel Hill and would have little say in the creation of this law. I suppose I can lobby my state representatives if Chapel Hill chooses to ask for this, but really...I shouldn't have to. Note that nowhere am I claiming it's a safe thing to do. But we should be having this discussion at the state level only.

Friday, January 8, 2010

This is just wrong.

On so many levels, this is just wrong. Found in a Food Lion. They had a very large tub of these in the middle of the aisle. Who picks that up and thinks "wow, I'll get this for my kids!"?!?!?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Confusing the message with the delivery vehicle!

So, I genuinely love my man, Chris Grams. I'm pretty sure we first met when he was hired at Red Hat, but somehow we have several non-Red Hat mutual friends we've since found. I don't see Chris often (not nearly often enough, that's for sure), but I do follow him in the social networking scene. So when this post popped up on his blog, I had to respond.

Normally, one might respond to a specific post like his through the comment section of the original site. I'm not doing that because I haven't updated my own blog enough lately. pause Okay, that's not true...I'm really doing it here because I'm going to disagree with him somewhat vehemently yet at the same time I believe his general point is still valid. It's more the metaphor and some of the quotation I don't agree with. Oh, and I'm also putting it here because this is a topic that my Dad and I were discussing just a few days ago (no kidding).

I had already noticed a trend that traditional albums on vinyl (or LPs, as they are commonly called) had started to make a bit of a comeback. It's long been known that serious musicians haven't given up on tube-type amplifiers, either. In fact, there was a long period where there were no mass produced turntables being made, yet now you can walk into any Restoration Hardware and buy one (thanks to the fact that the Beatles stuff was re-released recently). Chris points this trend out as well, and goes on to give some of the reasons why people are going "lo-fi" (which is short for "low fidelity", the opposite of the trend toward higher fidelity sound systems based on digital music and such).

I just don't get it. These days one can record with incredible accuracy for cheap. There's simply nothing stopping you from sitting in a basement with a dog on the floor and getting a precise recording of "the best stuff." So why would you then dilute your "best stuff" by sending it out the door via what's not only lower quality, but adds errors (cracks and pops)? To me that's using lo-fi to help hide your own flaws that might happen in your "best stuff." And if you do that, aren't you being less "authentic"?

Okay, I do get why someone would want to listen to a 1966 recording via LP. In fact, I see both sides of that coin. There's obviously a market for the remastered stuff for the folks who don't care, but it most definitely is more authentic to listen to it as everyone had to in 1966. What I don't get is why anyone would want to do that with a modern recording. You're just diluting your own authenticity, in my opinion, by lowering the quality of your product intentionally. (And for the record, pun intended, I'm the proud owner of a Seeburg jukebox that sits in my basement full of original vinyl that I dearly love.)

I think you can be "real" as a musician and still release your music in unaltered digital form. I think you can be fake in recording in a studio, obviously. But you can also be fake by recording in your basement with your laptop, editing to high heaven, and then releasing on vinyl. The vinyl and the CD and iTunes are all just vehicles. The vehicle does not define the message. It can't enhance the message, but it can take away. So what's the real reason for the resurgence of vinyl? I think it's just a cool fad. Nothing more.

How a company markets is no different than how authentic a musician chooses to be. A company can go hire a big corporate ad agency and end up with a lie as an advertisement that's nothing more than actors saying what writers who are completely disconnected with the actual company tell them to say. Then they can edit to complete "perfection." But I think we've seen companies hire big corporate ad agencies and get "authentic" advertisements using real employees and real messages. We've seen plenty of companies get even more "authentic" by doing contests to let customers create their advertisements for them and show the winner during the superbowl! The spectrum is there, and a company can certainly do a good job of getting their message out in a lo-fi way.