Tipping Pitches: September 2009

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Links: September 30, 2009

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A few things before I get to my links today, which are a little lighter than normal (although "normal" really hasn't been defined after four other Daily Links entries).

First, I'm all lined up to go to Las Vegas for the BlogWorld and New Media Expo from October 15-17. Pretty pumped about it. I'm kind of a new kid on the block (blog) when it comes to these types of conferences, but I've done things that are pretty close -- fantasy sports. Different group, but probably similar personalities. We'll see.  Who else is gonna be there?  Anyone?  Anyone? 

Also, we've been working with Welikesmall on a slick new iPhone application for American Cancer Society.  I don't want to give away too much just yet, but it will be pretty slick -- combining animations with a utility to keep track of details about your friends.  Pretty vague, I know.  Give me another week or so.

Gotta be honest with you.  A little surprised by the early slant towards technology that this blog has taken.  It seems that almost all of my links end up being about Twitter, Facebook, or iPhone.  I guess that has a lot to do with who my sources are for information right now, particularly with Twitter.  As that evolves, things will change.

Eventually, I want to even it out.  Sports, fatherhood, food that'll kill you but is good, yard and house stuff, Oprah.  We'll try to start covering it evenly (and who is the other person that makes this blog "we?").

Until then, let's get to the technology links:

Most Twitter Users Only Tweet About Themselves -- But Few Follow
Not all that surprising.  It's a secret that not enough Twitter users understand or are willing to adopt.  Actually, same applies to Facebook.  If all you do is talk about yourself, people tune out.  And to be honest, this is even moreso the case with Facebook.  With Twitter, you expect people to promote themselves (they should just make sure to mix in some interaction).  With Facebook, it gets incredibly tiresome to constantly read about other people, particularly when it's drama.  Drama, drama, drama.  You're mad at someone, nothing is going your way, you're sick, your dog smells, etc.  I know you and I want to know what's up, but I don't need all the drama.  If we were in a conversation and all you did was spout about your drama, I'd find a way to get out of the conversation.  With Facebook, I'll just hide you.  I'm a jerk like that.

When it comes to Twitter, it's a little different.  Either I follow you or I don't.  More of a commitment.  But if you're all about the drama (I'm not following anyone like that), you're unfollowed.

But that's not really the point with Twitter.  It's not so much that you'll get unfollowed if all you do is talk about yourself.  It's just that you'll have a tough time making strong relationships (or any at all) that will lead to a productive Twitter account.  You interact with others (send them @replies, retweet others' stuff, send personal DM's), they will be a whole lot more willing to promote your stuff for you.  If you don't have a base of followers who will reciprocate, you're wasting your time.

Facebook Just Made It Super Easy To Put Connect On Your Site
Yeah, supposedly.  But don't think this applies for BlogSpot.  I actually tried to add Facebook Connect to this blog last week.  I got everything up and running just fine but the commenting.  I'm not a programmer, so I may not know enough javascript to figure it out, but that was my issue.  If anyone has any ideas -- or have heard of this same problem and how to fix it, please let me know.  Essentially, I couldn't get the new Facebook commenting to replace the current commenting on the site, and I couldn't find the proper spot to put it in the code.

Following People
There are several sites that will help you find people to follow.  Some, like Mr.Tweet, will look at your current followees (I don't care if that's wrong terminology) and make suggestions.  Others, like Lunch and TweepMPL categorizes people and allows you to add entire lists of people to follow.

But does it matter? Apparently Twitter will release similar functionality soon. People will be able to group the people they follow (kind of like on Facebook with Friends, I guess), but the groups will be public for people to automatically import to their own lists. Good stuff.

Ronnie's Rap
Ok, I have to pass this on.  I was just about done with my links when my brother IM'd this to me.  Wow, does it take me back.  Just click to watch, please.  Hopefully you remember this from the mid-80s.  It was a very popular rap by a Ronald Regan impersonator.  My brother and I absolutely loved it.  I don't think I've heard this in 25 years.  Ah, the beauty of technology.

FYI, sound cuts out in the second half, but it's still well worth the listen (until it goes silent, of course.  After that, listening is kinda silly).

Dear Blog: Happy One Week Birthday!

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Dear Blog:

Seven days ago, you exited BlogSpot's womb a bloody mess.  You talked when it seemed that no one was listening.  One week later, we're still not entirely sure if anyone is reading you.  Maybe it's because you're still learning how to talk.  Still learning the ways of the blog.  You're a little wobbly.  One foot in front of the other.

You did get two comments!  Of course, one of those comments was "Test" from me.  I just couldn't figure out how to delete it.  The other was from Griff, and that dude was probably drunk commenting.  You know Griff.

According to bit.ly, about 25-30 people are clicking on the links I throw out to promote you.  It's possible I'm a bad promoter.  Straight out of college, I tried the telemarketer thing for a while.  I sucked.  You can't sell something you wouldn't buy yourself.

But I believe in you, blog.  And I'm completely comfortable writing this cornball entry because I know that no one is actually reading it.  Maybe it's because your words suck.  Maybe it's because of the lame design.  Maybe it's my weak promotional skills.  I know, blog, stop pointing fingers already.  Serious. 

Dude, I'm serious!

On the bright side, bit.ly only tracks the clicks from Facebook and Twitter.  Maybe we already have loyal readers who are returning every day or referred by a friend! 

Eh, yeah, probably not.  According to Google Analytics, we had 18 visitors yesterday.  Oh, wait, my bad.  That was 18 visits.  Only 13 visitors.  I probably visited five times myself.

What?  Oh, right.  Bad math.  Technically, that would be six times myself.

They say to be patient.  You are, after all, only a week old now.  I know, I'm being a pushy parent.  But get off your ass and sell yourself.  Tired of carrying the weight around here.

Your Pops,

Jon

P.S.  Seriously, stop screwing up.  You're an embarrassment to your mom and me. 

Sports and Fatherhood: Loyalty Brewing

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I was born in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1975.  It was perfect timing, really, to become a Milwaukee Brewers fan for life.  The Brewers started becoming competitive in the late 1970s, were a playoff team in 1981, and became the "Harvey's Wallbangers" when I was seven.

I see seven as a critical age to determining whether or not you're going to become a big baseball fan.  If you don't latch on sometime around then, the likelihood of you being a disloyal baseball fan increases with each passing year.  Or at least that's how I see it.

I can't stop being a Brewers fan.  It's in my blood, I guess.  I also have a brother who helped encourage my fandom.  Even when we moved to Michigan in 1984, an AM antenna concoction was developed to assure that we'd be able to continue listening to Bob Uecker and Pat Hughes, even if it was through the crackling static.  We continued following through their flops of the mid-80s, and clung to every at-bat through their 13-game winning streak to start 1987 and Paul Molitor's 39-game hitting streak in 1989.

We knew the numbers and batting stances of every player, whether they were left-handed or right-handed.  We collected their baseball cards and knew every meaningful statistic dating back to a player's rookie year (or even through the minor leagues if Topps, Donruss or Fleer provided them).

The 1990s were painful as a Brewers fan, more or less.  The early 2000s weren't any better.  But we started seeing glimmers of hope with the arrivals of players like Rickie Weeks, JJ Hardy, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo.

It's the fan who sticks with a team through the bad times who can truly appreciate the good times.  This is what I tell my two oldest sons Michael, eight, and Ryan (aka Pee Wee, PW or P-Dubs), five.

I admit, like every dad I dreamed of having sons who cheered for the teams I cheer for now and as a boy.  But you really can't force it on them.  That backfired on me with the Packers (they root for the Broncos), and nearly backfired with the Brewers.  I backed off, and slowly Michael started expressing interest in the Brewers.  His brother followed.

It's no mistake that Michael's loyalty to the Brewers strengthened in 2008.  Michael was seven (the magic number) and the Brewers were headed to their first playoff appearance since the 1982 World Series.  Like me, he followed everything about the Brewers.  He knew them all, their numbers, their batting stances.  It was in his blood.

We live in Colorado.  Time to give a shout out to technology and the MLB Extra Innings Package.  For most of the season, we watched every game on TV this year.  It engulfed us.  I eventually started following more online as they fell out of the race because it was too painful to watch day in and day out.

In or out of the race, September 28-30 were circled on the calendar in this home since the start of the baseball season.  It was the three days -- the only three days -- when our beloved Crew would appear in Colorado.

I still have a picture of myself in the early 1980s before attending a Brewers game in Milwaukee.  One of my favorite players at the time was Cecil Cooper.  Number 15, left-handed, and the coolest batting stance to imitate.  When he stepped up to the plate, the entire crowd bellowed, "Coooooooop!"

Prior to that game, I made a sign out of cardboard and a stick that I'd take with me to cheer on my guy.  Of course, that sign read, "COOP!"  In that picture, I was decked out in a Brewers cap, Brewers shirt, and Brewers wrist band.

My boys wanted to follow suit.  I gladly cut out some pieces of cardboard for them (about the same size as what I used back in the day), and they went to town. 

Both boys created two-sided signs.  When Ryan Braun was up, Pee Wee would flash his "Go Braun!" sign, complete with pictures.  When anyone else was up, he'd flash the "Go Brewers!" sign, complemented with a picture of Prince Fielder hitting a home run and saying (translated), "Yo man, what are you doing?!"  Prince was saying this, of course, because he could not believe the other team would pitch to him -- ball flying out of the park.

Michael's two-sided sign said "Go Fielder" on one side and "Go Brewers!" on the other.  Not quite as artistic, but the thought was there.

There was some concern that PW wouldn't be able to attend the game at all.  Starting Saturday night, he came down with a fever.  Nothing changed by Sunday or Monday, and he stayed home from school.  He stayed home again on Tuesday, but luckily everything cleared up and he was ready to go to Tuesday's night game.

It would just be me, Michael and P-Dubs.  JJ was too young, so my wife would stay home with him.  The three of us were excited.  It's all I could think about all day long, and I'm sure the boys were much the same.  Starting in the afternoon, I threw some brats on the stove in beer to slow cook for a while.  Fired up the grill at 4:30 and threw the brats on the grill for me and dogs on for my wife and sons.  It was the Loomer Family Tailgate.

You know the kids are excited when we're able to get in the car to something on time.  It was 5:15 sharp, and we were out the door.  Right on schedule to get into the park and soak it in before the 6:40 start.

Of course, we ran into some traffic on I-25 heading up to 20th Street.  Traffic during rush hour in Denver is to be expected, but the three accidents didn't help.  Luckily, our traffic was simple rubber-necking since all of the accidents were on the other side of the road.  It took 45 minutes to make a drive that would normally take 25, but thankfully we were on the side we were.

A little after 6:00 we met up with my buddy Eric to pick up our FREE Brewers tickets.  He knows some people who had season tickets who weren't attending (more on Rockies fans not attending later), so we were all set up.  Eric would partake in a malty beverage and meet us at the game later.

I'm sure the boys and I were a sight.  Boys carrying their cardboard signs and all of us decked out in Brewers garb.  We were proud.  Excited.  Running.  Let's get to that game!

Through the turnstiles, the first thing we did was buy a couple of game cards.  Michael is not only a big Brewers and baseball fan, but he's a stat nerd like his Pops.  He's been talking about getting a game card all week long.  PW, of course, didn't care about keeping score, but I knew I had to get him one to prevent any potential tantrums.

We were inside by about 6:15 or 6:20.  Seats were pretty empty at the time, and we moved down a few so that our view was unobstructed.  Right field line in the corner, 15 rows up.  Perfect seats, really.  We waited anxiously to see some of our Brewers on the field, as at the time it only seemed to be littered with Rockies.  Corey Hart and JJ Hardy were soon spotted walking in the outfield.  Chris Narveson warmed up with Jason Kendall.  Still, that was it.

"Oh say can you see, I'm proud to be an American" and let's play some baseball!

The Brewers started out strong.  Felipe Lopez reached base, followed by a Corey Hart out.  Before I can tell P-Dubs who is up to the plate, he's standing with his "Go Braun!" sign.  Proud.  Still standing.  He doesn't sit down.  Still standing with that sign as Braun hits a shot off of the wall that gets my "Get out!" call, but to no avail.

Second and third, one out for our man Prince Fielder.  PW flips his sign around to show "Go Brewers!" and Michael joins him with his "Go Fielder!" sign.  Fielder intentionally walked (which would happen again two innings later).  Casey McGehee grounded into a double play, and the inning was over.

It was pretty much the story of the game.  The boys stood up with their signs for entire at-bats, likely annoying Rockies fans around them.  Braun would hit another near home run that would turn out to be a double.  Fielder would get intentionally walked to load the bases.  Mike Cameron would hit into a double play to end the inning.  Too many missed chances.

Something we (or maybe just I) found humorous was the laid back attitude of these Rockies fans.  I realize it's a Tuesday night, but how is this game not packed?  Fans were still trickling in by the fifth and sixth innings, or making a temporary showing before leaving.  And it was dead silent unless the scoreboard flashed a "Get Loud!" instructional.

There are six games to go!  The Rockies are two games up in the Wild Card.  This place should be packed, and I know for a fact that Milwaukee would be.

I guess part of the issue in Colorado is the transplants from around the country combined with the "expansion team" syndrome.  Fathers and sons don't have the same relationship with the Rockies that I do with my sons.  There are no fathers with pictures of them holding up signs for their team close to 30 years ago, wanting to continue that tradition.

Anyway, it was getting late.  A game that was initially flying by bogged down in the sixth when the Brewers couldn't get anyone out.  It was the eighth inning, Brewers down 5-2 and Hart, Braun and Fielder were due up.  It's a school night, but we'd give them one more shot.  Came up empty.

So we left, but I did so awkwardly.  I hate leaving a game early, and didn't want to encourage such a practice.  But PW was getting over a sickness and I didn't want to keep the boys up past 10:00.  Sometimes, being a responsible father trumps all.

We hop into the car and turn on the radio.  Top of the ninth inning, one out, no one on.  Mike Cameron's up.  He'll strike out, I thought.  Walk.  JJ Hardy's up.  He'll get out, I thought.  Single.  Two on for Jason Kendall.  They'll pinch hit for him, right?  They need a home run, and Kendall's the weakest hitting player in the game.  Nope, left him in.

By the sound of the announcer's voice, I was encouraged.  Down the left field line...  Fair or foul?  It's gone!  It's gone??  It's gone!!

We may have been in the car, but we went nuts.  Jason Kendall of all people!  Jason Kendall!

So, we missed the best part of the game, unfortunately, but it wasn't over.  The boys would continue their new tradition of raising signs for Braun and Fielder during their at bats, even if the ceiling of the car would resist them.  The fun would continue.

The game ended up going to extra innings and we actually got home in time for me to watch Chris Ianetta hit a game-winning home run (after what should have been strike three, of course) to end the game.

It's ok.  It was a great experience for all of us, and one that Michael and P-Dubs will tell their kids about one day.  It was the first of hopefully many father-and-son live game action Brewers bonding memories.

Next time, we need to wear the luck wrist bands.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Links: September 29, 2009

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The boys and I are heading to a Brewers game tonight, so not a lot of time for chit chat.  But here's a list of my favorite links of the day with a few thoughts...

Tips from the Twitter Elite
Pretty simple suggestions, but things that I need to remind myself regularly.  In a nutshell:

1) Managing a successful Twitter account is hard work.
2) Promote others more than you promote yourself.
3) Be genuine.
4) Thank others for retweets and replies.
5) Keep it simple.

It all makes sense, but only a small minority follows these rules.  Some work hard for a while, then give up when they don't have immediate results.  Some promote themselves like crazy and don't understand the lack of response when they don't promote others.  Interaction is huge.  Make friends.  Scratch their backs and they'll scratch yours.

5 Twitter Tips for Staying Authentic and Transparent
A little more detail about #3 above.  Just be yourself.  Be human.  Let people know who you are.  Of course, this is a little more difficult for brands.  You can allow someone to be the face of your brand and then they move on.  Then what?

2009 Social Media Challenge
Social media in the name of education.  Gotta love it.

Google Wave: A Complete Guide
Video from Huffington Post
Google Wave Invites: How to Get Them
Lots of Google Wave stuff.  I'm still trying to wrap my arms around it myself, and I don't feel so bad about that since Huffington Post provided an hour and 20 minute video that explains how it works.  Hopefully this won't mean that Wave is too complicated -- which seems to be everyone's concern -- to catch on with the mainstream.  Regardless, love the innovation.

Gotta love Mashable.  Got an invite to OneForty through them, and get instructions on how to get an invite for Google Wave today.  Just when I thought it was too late...

RUMOR: Apple Tablet Is an iPhone with a 10.7″ Screen
Sounds cool to me.  My only complaint about the iPhone/iPod Touch is it's size.  I mean, the size is good for its purpose.  It's very portable.  But if I ever want to do anything of substance, I need to shift to my laptop.  Looking forward to finding out whether the rumor is true.

So, you want to start your social media presence
I've been following @EricPratum because, well, he's a god on Twitter.  I'll listen to his advice, and not surprisingly he provides the goods here.

20 Great Social Media Professionals On Twitter
As you may know, I only recently dedicated myself to my personal Twitter account.  Articles like this one are invaluable.  Lists!  Easily follow all 20 people in one click (or maybe two).  Already reaping the benefits.

3 New Facebook Strategies for Building Your Personal Brand
It's not all about creating Facebook groups anymore.  Not even a matter of simply having a Facebook page or application.  Plenty of helpful information here to guide brands in their pursuit of the perfect Facebook marketing strategy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sports and Fatherhood: Fantasy Basketball for Families

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My fantasy sports participation has evolved over the years from dangerously fanatical to occupational to casual.  Fantasy was my escape from a job I hated for several years after college.  This led to an eventual entertaining career.

Eventually, the initial level of fanaticism just could not be sustained.  I didn't want to sustain it.  I am no longer driven to play in eight leagues per season as an outlet from my profession.  I love my job.  And I also have three growing boys with whom I want to spend as much time as I can.

This year, I've played in one fantasy baseball league and currently participating in one fantasy football league.  Both are four team leagues.  Yeah, you heard me.  Four.

The catch?  They are family leagues.  This is my way of staying involved in fantasy and the individual sport.  In the meantime, we have a fun little competition within the family, and it gives me a not-so-subtle way to encourage my kids to appreciate sports and statistics.

So how can you possibly have a competitive league of four people when two of the participants are aged five and eight and the other team is managed by my wife and toddler?  It's going to be a run-away, right?  Otherwise I should be ashamed.

Not really.  To be honest, I don't really try that hard (which is exactly what people say when they don't win).  I did win the first Loomer Family Fantasy Football League, though.  Sons Pee Wee and Michael are in this year's Baseball championship.  And I'm 0-3 so far in this season's fantasy football league.

To make it fun, you have to get creative.  The draft has to be easy for anyone.  You have to eliminate all transactions, including setting lineups.  Pure basics.  Then, anyone can win, and it's fun for all.

So, how will I be setting up our fantasy basketball league?  Glad you asked.  Here it goes....

First, choose a site to run on.  I would use NBA.com's Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner, but...  It doesn't exist anymore...  Anyway, we use Yahoo. 

The Draft
We hold a live offline draft and I then enter the results myself.  For fantasy basketball, we'll have 23 rounds -- which really isn't much when you consider we'll be drafting 92 players and there are typically about 150 viable fantasy players.  In other words, plenty of talent to go around.

For each league, we tend to come up with a new system for the original draft order.  I thought we were going by age (youngest to oldest), but after a disagreement that nearly disbanded our fantasy football league, we instead went with worst regular season the previous year record to best.  Same order every round (no snake).

Since we did not have a fantasy basketball league last year, we will probably go with this order (unless I get overruled, which is entirely possible in this Democracy):

1) Pee Wee
2) Michael
3) Lisa & JJ
4) Me

Next, we'll use a predetermined site's cheat sheet as a guide for all.  I tend to use ESPN, but may use Rotowire for hoops.

Each round, we all pick the same position.  So, for example, all of us would pick a point guard in the first round.  I can't decide to pick LeBron James because he's still on the board.  I have to wait until his position is up.

I'll probably also assign a position to each player so that multi-position players don't confuse matters.  The only person confused would be me when I'm entering the players later on, so we need to take it easy on the old man.

Since I know the players far better than anyone else in this family (because I'm a freaking genius), I will read the names of the highest rated players at the point guard position for Pee Wee, and he'll pick a player because the guy's name is Ryan (PW's given name is Ryan) or because it was the only name of the three he could repeat.  Whatever his system, it typically works.

Michael generally thinks a little harder on it.  But since he's smarter than I am, I won't doubt his strategies.

So that's really it for the draft.  For football, I try to create a competitive team, but I also did go out of my way to draft Packers (I drafted Aaron Rodgers as my first quarterback and Greg Jennings as my first wide receiver, for example).  Keep it simple and light.  Pretty fail proof.


Lineup
Very simple.  Since we haven't had our draft yet, I haven't really thought this through so it's subject to change based on depth of talent at each position.  But it will likely look something like this:

PG (5)
SG (5)
SF (5)
PF (5)
C (3)
Bench (0)

As you can see, no bench.  You drafted him, you play him.  Keeps it nice and simple.  You want players who stay healthy -- not that this is a major consideration when we're drafting.

Scoring
We always use Head-to-Head scoring in our leagues, but I haven't yet determined whether we'll use fantasy points or categories.  We used categories for baseball, but I feel like it makes more sense for hoops in this case.  Anyway, small detail.  We'll figure it out, but always want to keep it simple.

You just can't use roto in a league with kids.  Roto is boring for most adults.  You think it will keep the kids' attention?

Keep it simple.

Transactions
None.  No trades.  No waivers or free agent pick-ups.  No lineup changes.  Nice and simple.  You drafted him, you play him.  No advantages for me, no disadvantages for them (although, I'd likely make my team worse, so this is a good rule for me).

Playoffs
Everyone makes it.  I know, I know.  "The regular season is pointless!"  It's a fantasy league with a five year-old and an eight year-old.  Doesn't have to make sense.  At least the top seed faces the bottom seed in the first round.  That's why we play the regular season!

Make it Fun
Feel free to set up a league for your family, too.  We like to gather around every Monday morning and I announce the scores.  Everyone gets all amped up for it.  In the past I've also made scorecards for everyone to look at when the week is over, but I've tended to forget so the weekly announcement works just fine.

Links: September 28, 2009

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Links galore today.  Let's dig in...

How to Get More Followers on Twitter

Always good to read articles like this one as a reminder.  Make no mistake, this is no spammer's guide.  But at the same time, it makes the point that quantity is sometimes better than quality when it comes to number of followers -- or at least, quantity leads to much more quality.

Ultimately, you need to stay vigilant.  Be active, consistent, and avoid large stretches of silence.  That consistency combined with daily interaction and retweets (the proclamation from others that you have good stuff to say) will eventually drive up your numbers.

Twitter is Just Stupid, Pointless Hype?
It's purely tongue-in-cheek, but 5 Minute Genius describes what many corporate types believe.  Hey, I admit, I wasn't particularly keen on Twitter either.  I saw some value, mainly because so many people were involved.  There was an audience.  But I saw it as a fad that, as the title suggests, was largely pointless.

I was wrong.  But the template copy at the end could have been written by me a few months ago or any other anti-Twitter type.  Pretty funny stuff.

Apple App Store Crosses Another Threshold
Stop giving out numbers of iPhone users, applications created and downloads when you're trying to make an argument for getting involved with the mobile device.  It's like trying to keep up with the numbers served at McDonalds.  Just say "Billions and Billions."

There are now more than 85,000 apps in existence, and the golden 2 Billion threshold has been eclipsed.  I swear I was saying 1.1 Billion just a couple of months ago.

The author asks a good question, though.  Of those 2 Billion apps, how many are still being used?  I admit, there are apps on my device that I have NEVER used.  Doesn't make much sense, I know.  But I'm not alone.

What is Your 'R' for ROI in Social Media?
Marketers need to bookmark this article and send it to anyone who has authority when it comes to budgeting.  Social Media should not be judged by the typical rules of marketing.  Forget "ROI."  If you judge your campaign's success or failure based on ROI, the campaign will be a failure.

Instead, focus on engagement: fans, friends, comments, discussions, retweets, etc.  I've run into this first hand and am about to begin a test that will help mold our social networking future.  It will be important that all involved understand these concepts.

Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner is (apparently) Dead
I am following the NBA on Twitter, and I was at first excited to see that they have opened up sign-ups for fantasy basketball leagues.  I oversaw fantasy basketball for the NBA for three seasons and built their strategy from nothing... to something.  Among the many things I did was put together a suite of games, giving different types of users different options.


The king of those games was Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner, a free, fully customizable draft-and-trade game.  I left after the 2007-08 season, and the game (and everything else I left on my desk) remained for the following year.  Now, it seems it's been replaced by an ESPN version.  The UFC is dead.

It's too bad.  Like any complicated game, it had its technical issues.  But still, my fingerprints are slowly being erased from the site.  Hope to see them succeed.  Still said to see things I worked on disappear.

OneForty -- Part II
I gave a review of Twitter's unofficial app store today, and then spent quite a bit of more time on the site trying out applications.  There's a whole world of tools just waiting for you to try.  I suddenly have a browser full of bookmarks as well as several new programs on my hard drive.  CoTweet, PeopleBrowsr, Twitter Grader, Mr. Tweet, WeFollow, WhoShouldIFollow, UnTweeps, TweetBeep, Tweet Stats, Twitalyzer, Hoot Suite, Tweet Find, Twitter Counter, Seesmic, Twhirl, and Destroyer have all been tried out today.

Also went back to compare some of the new apps to one I already had, Tweet Deck.  It's been a while since I used it.  Since when has it been taken over by Blink 182?  Annoying, to say the least.

Technology: OneForty: The Unofficial Twitter App Store

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I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm a Twitter newbie, but I hadn't made the full commitment to participating with my personal account until very recently.  I am quickly discovering how important it is to be properly equipped with the finest third party applications currently available.  Until now, I was tweeting naked.  Or at least in my underwear.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't completely application ignorant.  I knew some existed.  I did not, however, know that there were over 1,500 available.

The problem then becomes, of course, that of being overwhelmed by a lack of information.  What applications are available?  What would be best for my purpose?

Until now, the way I've gotten this information is through Google searches.  Top 10 lists have become my friends.

But those lists are only so helpful.  How accurate is the list?  And while I may be looking at the top 10 business tools, what if I want analytics?  Games?  Music?  More searching was necessary.

Until now.  Thanks to Mashable.com, I was able to get an invite to the OneForty.com Beta.  A couple of days later, I was granted full access and took an immediate test drive.

First Impressions
Clean.  Easy to navigate.  All of the information that I need is at my fingertips.  Extremely helpful.

Along the left hand side of the page is a list of the top 10 most popular applications.  Ten not enough for you?  Click on a link to view the top 20.

To the right of the Most Popular apps on the home pages is a featured application that may not be getting much love.  A nice little addition to dig up apps that may otherwise be difficult to find.  I'd assume that an app can reach "Featured" status simply by catching the eye of the site's management, and isn't related to metrics.

Below the list of "Most Popular" is a list of "Newest Apps."  Could be helpful, although this may change rapidly as app development for Twitter catches on.

Below the "Featured" app is a list of the 10 "Essential" Twitter applications.  I find it interesting that this list, though there are some similarities, includes many applications that are not listed under "Most Popular."  I'd be interested in knowing the metrics for determining both.

Click on a link to view the "Essential" applications by category (Desktop, Mobile, Business, Networking, Entertainment, Monitoring, Media Sharing, Link Tools, Analytics and Random).  Again, not sure how it is determined whether an application is given the "Essential" label, but I'd assume that it cannot be influenced entirely by ratings.

You can also view applications by category.  Once again, it is not clear to me how they order these applications.  The top two for Advertising, for example, garnered five stars each, the third one star and the fourth five stars.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that users can't easily manipulate these rankings, but I'd love to know how they are determined.

OneForty makes it very easy to learn more about an application and try it out.  I've tried out several through this site.  Click a link to view the application's profile, and you'll get a full description of the application complete with ratings, screen shots, and reviews.  At the top is a large, green, inviting "Try It!" button that I find myself clicking regularly.  Very smooth transition from OneForty to application.

What's Missing?
This is Beta, so I recognize we aren't seeing the final phase of this website intended for full public consumption.  And while there is very little missing now, I'd love to see a couple of additions.  First, some type of explanation -- even if vague to prevent manipulation -- about how the rankings for Most Popular and Essential are determined would be helpful.  Also (and this is a complaint that I have with the Apple App Store), it would be great to be able to sort by average review, number of adds through the site, and number of reviews. 

Parting Shots
Such a nice addition for Twitter and its users.  While I feel that it is nearly flawless now, the number of applications that it is organizing is at a very manageable number (currently 1,580, according to the site).  Will Twitter application development become as popular as iPhone application development?  If it does, OneForty will likely encounter many of the same problems faced by the Apple App Store, unless they make some changes.

Even so, it's a five star first effort for OneForty, and I look forward to following the site's evolution and using it to find cool tools to maximize my Twitter experience.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sports: Favre Ignorance to End (Maybe?)

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Full disclosure:  I'm a life long Packers fan.  Through and through.  And although Brett Favre was (and probably still is) my all-time favorite athlete, it's no secret that Brett and I aren't getting along too well lately.  People tend to throw around the phrase "dead to me" pretty loosely, but I've gotta tell you...  There really aren't three words that better describe how I feel about him as a sports fan.

I won't go into all of the details about what happened a year and a half ago.  Please, let's not go there.  Those scabs aren't healing for quite some time.

I will, however, give you an idea of how a fan like me handles the Favre fiasco.  Although I watch six to nine hours of NFL every Sunday, I can honestly say that I have never, during the past one-plus seasons, watched a game in which Brett Favre played.  Moreover, I have never watched a highlight of him throwing a touchdown pass while in another uniform.

This is the only quarterback I'll be able to watch next Monday.

You can't avoid it entirely.  I've seen him blip on my screen momentarily.  Commentators have talked about him.  It's unavoidable.  But I instinctively flip the channel, leave the room, or find something to distract me.  Not watching.  Not paying attention.  Didn't happen.

A bit of an overreaction on my part?  Possibly, but that's how I deal.  I don't want to see it.  Makes me angry.  You don't want to see me when I'm angry.

But don't think this means I've completely ignored the path of Favre during that time.  I'll closely follow his games, whether it's monitoring the scores on the upper right part of the screen, keeping an open window online, or checking in with my mobile device.  I want to get the news first when he fails.  But when he succeeds (like today), I don't want to see his smiling face.

Luckily, I haven't had to see it once.  So, in my perfect little world, he's been nothing but miserable and has only failed for a little over a season.

I don't think I have to explain in too much detail how I feel about Favre playing for the Vikings.  I'm pretty sure you understand that already.  But the problem is that beginning next Monday, I face a major dilemma.  The Packers face the Vikings.

It's unavoidable, right?  I live in the Denver area, so if this were a Sunday game I might (stress might) at least be able to make the excuse that the game was blacked out here.  Although, that's highly unlikely given the magnitude of this game, but the game is going to be aired on Monday whether I like it or not.

I don't get to watch every Packers game out here.  I don't have the NFL package.  So I've gotta watch it.  But the game's against Favre, and to make it worse it will be played in Minnesota.  Not only do I have to watch that guy play in purple tights, but I have to be subjected to those silly fans.  Not to mention, the likelihood of Favre succeeding and the Vikings winning goes up.

The combination of such events may just put me into cardiac arrest.  Or I may find myself arrested.

On the flip side, wouldn't a Packers victory be all the more sweet?  Maybe Favre throws five picks?  How great would it be to not only see Favre's face, but the faces of the Vikings players, ownership and faithful?  Oh, it would be so unbelievably sweet!  Glorious!

I'll probably watch it.  I'll probably feign distraction with my iPod Touch as long as the game is close or Favre is on the field.  I'll find some excuse to avoid looking directly at the sun during an eclipse.

But if he throws an interception for a touchdown?  Rewind!

Man Food: Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Pancakes

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As I've said before, I'm no chef.  I'm not even an average cook.  But I know how to use a griddle and a grill, and that's really all I need to be dangerous.

Because of that, don't expect to find original recipes here.  Instead, I'll occasionally post family favorite recipes here that I use myself.  They can be found elsewhere, but I'm just letting you know they're tried, tested, and Loomer family certified.

How can you go wrong with a pancake made to taste like oatmeal raisin cookies?  You can't.  And this recipe hits a home run with this family.  It's actually a Rachael Ray recipe (manly, I know), but you can't knock good food.  Here is the original recipe.

Following is how you make them:

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (if you please)
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 really ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 stick butter, melted (plus additional for griddle)
Maple syrup or honey

1. Preheat a griddle to 300-325 (depends on your griddle).

2. Mix oats, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and walnuts (if you prefer, I don't like nuts in my pancakes -- you heard me) in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, combine sour cream, milk, eggs and vanilla.

4. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until just combined, then fold in the mashed-up bananas and the raisins.  Stir in the 1/4 cup melted butter.

5. Melt butter on griddle.  Pour about 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto the griddle and cook until bubbles form on top, then turn.  Cook until golden brown on the other side.

Tip:  Now, the original recipe says to cook for two minutes on each side.  This is nuts.  These pancakes are from scratch and will not be done that quickly.  If you have the heat up too high, you'll burn the outside and they will be uncooked on the inside.  I prefer to cook them slowly -- somewhere between five and seven minutes per side.  That way, you'll cook them through without burning them.

Also note that I don't use the walnuts.  I'm like that.  I don't understand why people add nuts to everything (yeah, make your joke).  Nuts in chocolate?  Nuts in cookies?  What is wrong with you people?  It's fine without.  But maybe you disagree.


Ah... How beautiful.  These actually make about two dozen, so unless you've got a ton of people to feed there's no need to double batch.  We typically have about eight or nine left over that we have for breakfasts during the week.


JJ after his second pancake, waiting for his third.


Not too happy when Mama won't let him have a fourth pancake.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lawn Love: Battling the Bushes

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It's the weekend, which means many things for men.  Football.  Beer.  Relaxation.  Grilling.  Lawn work.

I love my lawn.  Love it.  But before we finally moved into our new house a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't been able to share my lawn love for quite some time.

When we moved into our first real "home" with a yard a few years ago, I babied that thing.  I mowed it.  I sprayed it.  I weeded it.  I manicured it.  I massaged it and whispered sweet nothings.  After all of that love, it returned the favor by looking good and making me proud.

Then we moved to New Jersey and three years of rentals passed before I could again have a lawn of my own (or mortgaged, but you get the picture).

It's a nice lawn.  A pretty big yard, relative to this area.  But "big" also means a lot of maintenance, and this baby hasn't been maintained for some time.  That diaper has not been changed.  Like many homes on the market these days, it was a foreclosure.

Since moving in, I've done everything imaginable in a short period of time.  I pulled every large weed I could see.  I sprayed the hell out of everything that was left.  I patched the bare spots.  I mowed twice, trimmed twice, and edged once.  I applied Revive to bring it back to life like I know it will, and I plan to apply one more time tomorrow.  I am giving this lawn everything I have, and I expect it to return the favor.

Of course, as with any big project, you get the obvious stuff done first and then you start picking out the finer details.  Things that didn't seem so obvious two weeks ago are obvious to me now.  Today, I pulled several look-alike shrubs that were actually overgrown weeds as well as a few ugly shrubs that might as well be weeds.  And then I needed to pull the big, deep-rooted, dead stuff.

It was a battle, but one I enjoyed.  Three of the shrubs came out relatively easily.  But the fourth...  The fourth was my nemesis.

It was a rose bush.  Anyone familiar with rose bushes will realize that removing one is no picnic.  The roots run deep, and are thick and strong.  And even if you get to the roots, the thorns will give you one last jab in hopes of survival.  This particular bush has actually been a week long project.  I started digging it out last week and gave up.  And it's been staring at me ever since. 

So I dug.  And chopped.  And cut.  And pulled.  And dug some more.  At long last, I got that bad boy out, but not without first suffering some battle scars.  It scratched the hell out of me, but it was the scratches that made it such an accomplishment.  You were a worthy opponent, rose bush, but you are mine now.  Into the trash with you.

Wish our first Denver snow teasing us this past week, I realize my time to work this lawn is running short.  But I'll work the hell out of it while I can.  And then next spring, there are no excuses.  It will be green.  It will be lush.  And it will be glorious.


This bush was no worthy opponent.  It was weak.  It shamed all brave shrubs with it's pathetic resistance.


This rose bush, on the other hand, was my nemesis.  It was a warrior and fought a fierce battle.  I have great respect for this bush.  My blood is on its thorns.


My arm after The Battle With the Rose Bush 2009.  My other arm looked just as bad.  Now, I realize that Blackberry cameras don't do such a crime scene justice, so you'll have to trust me on the severity of my wounds.

Fatherhood: Separating "Coach" from "Proud Papa"

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Today was the third game for the Sabertooths, of the eight and nine year-old flag football division.  I've been the defensive coordinator for this group, although I admit there's been little to coordinate.  Make sure they know where to stand.  Wait for the ball to move.  Go!  Get the quarterback!  Maybe slightly more complicated than that, but not much.

The Sabertooths have had a rough start to the season.  Three games, three losses.  Today, although another loss was registered, we saw progress.  After the first game, an honest evaluation was we were 10 plays away from a good game.  Too many bad plays.  After the second game, we were five plays away.  Today, two.

Couldn't move the ball on offense.  Defense looked good overall, but just a couple of plays where we were left reaching for flags were our downfall.  And you also have to give the opposition credit when they simply run a great play.  They faked me out, so I can't fault my players for being faked out.

So we lost, but it was progress.

Yet, I left that game beaming with pride.  Michael, my oldest son, is regularly the smallest or second smallest kid on his team -- no matter whether he's one of the older or younger kids.  He's just small.

He's all heart.  He's not that strong.  He's not that fast.  But he's a fighter.  A cancer survivor.  And I will bet any money that he's always the smartest kid on the field.  He knows what he's supposed to do.  He may run like Phoebe from Friends, but he is aggressive and knows his role.

Today, Michael scored our team's only touchdown on a run up the middle.  Yes, a run in which he should have been swallowed up by kids twice his size, Michael just kept trudging forward.  As my wife says, it was like he was running in slow motion.  But, while the other team kept reaching and flailing for his flags, he just kept running forward.  To the end zone.

But the proud moments didn't stop there.  We have one kid who is heads and shoulders above the rest on both sides of the ball.  He's the quarterback on offense and my "centerfielder" on defense.  I call him my middle linebacker and bring the safeties to the line.  Then, my centerfielder simply roves or blitzes, depending on the play.  He's awesome.

But Michael firmly established himself today as my second most dependable defensive player.  Think your outside linebacker needs to be big?  I disagree.  He just needs to be smart and aggressive.  The other team underestimates him.  He may not be fast, but he is quick off of the ball and doesn't waste time.  He runs to the quarterback -- hard -- with all he has, and doesn't let anyone slow him down.  Two flags today, and both for huge losses.

As a coach, you want to treat all kids the same.  As a father, I could not contain my emotion when he made those plays.  I think everyone watching that game knew who Michael's father was.

Did we lose?  Maybe.  But it felt like we won.


Giving Michael some last minute instruction before the ball is hiked.

Sports: Archive

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Kurt Warner is Not a Hall of Famer... Right? (1/29)
The name "Kurt Warner" inspires emotion and debate. I had never seen the guy as a Hall of Famer. Maybe it's because he annoys me. Maybe it's his goofy wife. Maybe it's because I really didn't think he deserved it. Then, Kurt Warner ravaged my Packers in the playoffs. He was perfect. Unstoppable. Suddenly, I changed my mind. I gave in. He was a Hall of Famer. But I took a surface look at his career stats and changed my mind again. The truth is that Warner is the ultimate "tweener."

Potpourri Tuesday (1/26)
I have never posted a "Potpourri" entry. To be honest, I don't really know what it is. I guess it smells nice. Not sure why it represents randomness. But that's what I'm going with. I'm sports. I'm technology. I'm non-profit. Oh well.

Brewers to Orlando? Hahaha... Oh crap... (1/23)
So word out of Orlando is that Armando Gutierrez, a real estate developer, is trying to get money together to get a Major League team in his city. Mark Boyle of local station WFTV speculated that "one team that could possibly relocate is the Milwaukee Brewers." Let's forget for a second that the Brewers called this claim "ridiculous," "irresponsible" and "hilarious." If the Brewers are on the somewhat-short list of teams that could move. And if they encounter some bad luck, the likelihood of them moving skyrockets.

NFL Coaches Gutless, Players Heartless (1/18)
Everyone remembers Bill Belichick's controversial decision to go for it on fourth down from his own 30 with the lead against the Colts. It's two months later. I applaud the guts because no other coach has any. This is proven week in and week out. This weekend saw three blow-outs out of four games in the second round of the playoffs. Kickers shanking field goal attempts left and right. In such a case, you'd assume that the team getting whooped would need to go for it on fourth down several times in an effort to get back in the game. Nope. No guts. No heart.

Hall Voting Out of Position (1/15)
As you probably know already, I've been digging deep into historical baseball stats during the past few weeks. I've spent a lot of time comparing players, both to peers and players from other eras. It's a major challenge, and one I've always been interested in taking on. Something that really bothered me was the focus on defensive position. Generally when you hear Hall of Fame voters talk about a player's Hall candidacy, they'll talk about how that player stacks up offensively compared to other players who played his defensive position. My question: Why? I don't get it. And as I dug more into the statistics, it made less and less sense.

The Magic Number is Dead (1/12)
There was a time when smart baseball people, in a not-so-smart way, assigned magic numbers as milestones for Hall of Fame entry. You collected 3,000 hits? You're in. How about 500 home runs? Money in the bank. Thanks to the Steroid Era, these same smart baseball people are reevaluating the magic number for home runs. In reality, they should simply get rid of magic numbers altogether. What do totals really tell us without context? The only total I care about is plate appearances.

Where's Big Muscled Waldo? (1/12)
There has been a lot of talk recently about how a certain former Major League Baseball player to be nameless would have been a definite first ballot Hall of Famer if not for some extenuating circumstances (to put it nicely). I disagree. I'm not going to go into a tirade in response to this public perception. Nor will I harp on the PED issue as the reason for my opinion (that can be separated in this case). Instead, I want to step you through exactly why I feel the way I do, without even mentioning the extenuating circumstances. Let's play the Cooperstown Edition of Where's Waldo?

AP Male Non-Athlete of the Year (12/21)
Today, the Associate Press honored NASCAR driver Jimmy Johnson as the Male Athlete of the Year. I'll let you think about that for a moment. I'm sure that Jimmy Johnson is a pretty good race car driver. Word is he won a bunch of races. His car is fast and he is able to move his car faster than the other guys. Sweet. One problem: Jimmy Johnson isn't really an athlete. Oh, the controversy! How could this poor excuse of a nonathletic blogger say such a thing? Easy, he's not an athlete. I said it again.

Edgar Martinez enshrined in Hall of Very Good (12/5)
The time to submit ballots for the 2010 Baseball Hall of Fame inductions is around the corner, which means the time to argue about who does and does not deserve induction is now. There are some old names on the ballot who may or may not have a chance, depending on whom you ask. They include (among others) Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire and Don Mattingly. Actually some quality there, and I'd expect at least one of these guys to finally break through (nah, not McGwire). The new names bring new arguments to the table.

Halladay open to joining the Dark Side (11/29)
So word is that coveted Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay is willing to waive his no-trade clause for a deal to the Yankees. Bring it on. Wait. This from a small market fan? Sick of the Yankees making it rain with 100 dollar bills to the tune of a $200 Million payroll? Yeah, you heard me. Bring it on. The system is broken. It's been broken for a long time. Some could say it's been broken for a century. But it's difficult to fix a broken system when the Yankees aren't winning World Series after World Series.

MLB Network helps relive memories, open wounds (11/29)
I applaud the person or people who put together MLB Network. Greatest channel ever created. A "Greatest Games" marathon of All-Star games is ending tomorrow. I have watched several from the 1980s and 90s and will be recording several shorter "highlight" shows of All-Star games from those two decades as well as the 1970s tomorrow. It's heaven, man. Games you thought you'd never see again. Names you'd never hear. Faces you'd never see. All relived. But being able to sit through a decade makes the Steroid Era seem all the more obvious. And painful.

Selig's departure could spark needed change (11/29)
It was recently revealed that Bud Selig has declined an option to renew his contract that currently ends in 2012 and will step down as Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Here is where you expect me to rag on Selig for ruining the league, causing the steroid issues, and failing to institute a salary cap.

Time to Throw out the Voters (11/24)
Now... What I'm about to say is going to be controversial. That's how you write a blog that gets attention. So, everyone... Controversy Alert! About to say something that many will think is stupid, thus guaranteeing comments and traffic! It's time to get rid of Major League Baseball award voters. There, I said it. Crazy, right? Insanity. Stupid. Look at where the BCS system got us. Reason number one why this is a dumb idea. Wrong.

Fourth Down Decision Strangely Sensitive (11/22)
I've spent two articles trying to make the case for why Bill Belichick went for it on fourth and two from his own 28 yard line with a six point lead and just over two minutes to go. That's not what this blog entry is all about. I'm done. No more. It's pointless.

Why the Stat Heads Win (11/16)
It's been a fun day to be a sports fan, particularly for one who is a bit of a stat nerd. As I wrote last night following the Indianapolis Colts' comeback win over the New England Patriots, I support Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth and two from his own 28 with a six point lead and about two minutes remaining in the game. I know! It's crazy. While I understand the risks involved, I think it was the right move. There is some subjectivity involved. But objectively speaking, there is plenty of data to support this decision.

Belichick Roasted for Unpopular Call (11/15)
Early in the day, I sat on my couch dumbfounded by a coach's ultra-conservative play calling. The New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts faced off for yet another historic clash of the decade's two greatest teams later in the day. The Colts overcame a 17-point deficit to win 35-34 in the waning seconds. Yet, this game will be remembered for one thing: New England head coach Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth and two from his own 28 with just over two minutes remaining.

Small Market Baseball Fans Need an Education (11/13)
Small market baseball fans are cute and all. They expect so much. They love their team. But they're stupid. Yes, I'm a small market fan. But I get it. I get that I shouldn't expect the Brewers to make the playoffs every season. I shouldn't expect them to make it any season. If they do, it's an enormous success. If you're a smart small market fan, you don't expect more than a .500 season. I use the word "expect," but most fans "demand" it. That's foolish.

Money Doesn't Guarantee Success, BUT... (11/9)
n my never ending quest to spotlight the gross economic inequities in Major League Baseball, today I'm going to show the direct relationship between money and success. Before now, I've focused instead on the lack of parity in baseball compared to the NBA and NFL. Additionally, we snapped our fingers and observed what baseball would look like if it mimicked the NBA's financial disparities. Still, we've yet to show the direct correlation between money and success (as obvious as it may otherwise seem). So let's do that.

Brewers and Twins Swap Enigmas (11/6)
Today, the Milwaukee Brewers shipped former All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins for 23-year-old center fielder Carlos Gomez. While the list of reasons why the Brewers did not return to the playoffs this season is long, an item near the top has to be the performance of Hardy. In 2007, Hardy was a major reason for the Brewers' fast start out of the gate, propelling his team to a 24-10 record. He was a surprise All-Star selection that season, and established himself as one of the game's finest hitting shortstops, batting .277 with 26 home runs and 80 RBI.

If Major League Baseball Mimicked the NBA (11/6)
During the past week or so, I've been bogged down in research. I know that Major League Baseball has problems. I know that the Yankees represent that problem. Still. I wanted to compare baseball to the other major sports leagues that I perceived to provide more parity. Today, I want to focus on the NBA.

MLB Economics and Competitive Balance - Pt. 2 (11/3)
In Part 1, we defined "competitive imbalance" and compared data between the NBA, NFL and MLB during the past 10 years to determine, at least on the surface, whether competitive balance exists in those leagues. In that entry we focused on the Accessibility of Success. In other words, competitive balance would exist if a large percentage of teams would have experienced some level of success during the past 10 years.

Top 10 Sports Strategies that Make No Sense (11/3)
I've written some bitter stuff lately, focused mainly on baseball. Poor economic system. Lame baseball strategies. So this got me thinking. What are the top 10 sports strategies that make no sense? Coaches and managers from all three of the major sports leagues are guilty of following conventional wisdom for the sake of avoiding criticism and keeping their jobs. But that doesn't keep the moves from making any rational sense. So here they are. My list.

The Thinking Man's Game... Right?
I'm in my 30s, so I'm old. And when you're old, you say stuff like "In my day..." At one point in Game 5 of the World Series, Tim McCarver made one of these comments. Except it was still after his day. It was something to the fact that 20 or 25 years ago, hitters would take on 2-0 and 3-1. But they don't now. Why don't they? Because the home run is king. And no matter what type of player you are, today's sin is taking the pitch down the middle. So swing away at hitter's counts! Oh yeah, still not a good chance that if you swing away you'll get a hit. There are many examples of "But they don't now" in today's game.

MLB Economics and Competitive Balance - Pt. 1 (11/2)
It's no secret that I have serious problems with the current economic structure of Major League Baseball. It's this uneven playing field that prevents MLB from being the best it can be. It's the even playing field that exists in the NFL that makes that league superior. In the process of understanding the similarities and differences among the leagues when attempting to put together some sort of plan that would work for baseball, I started researching the competitive landscape within each league.

Painful Loss a Reminder of why NFL Superior (11/1)
As a Packers fan, today's loss against Brett Favre and the Vikings was a painful, painful few hours. I'm not going to go into the details of the game or the emotions associated with it right now. Still too fresh, and these wounds need to heal. But the game, Fox's opening act for Game 3 of the World Series later in the evening, provided some clarity. It was a game like the Packers-Vikings extravaganza that reminds me why the NFL is superior to Major League Baseball.

Yankees rebound, BUY a trip to the World Series (10/26)
Warning: The following is written by a bitter small market fan. It is not intended to be especially rational or insightful. It simply reflects what many fans like him of teams that have little chance at postseason success think about the New York Yankees.

Left Out (10/13/09)
I live in Denver, but I'm no Rockies fan. I don't dislike the Rockies. But just want to make sure that's understood up front. My opinions aren't wrapped up in emotion.  The Rockies should have won. Problem was that their roster was ill-prepared to close the deal. It had everything to do with left vs. right.

Experts are the Experts of Hindsight (10/5/09)
First, let's not start on that guy.  You know, that guy.  Not even mentioning him.  But, you realize that the Packers played the Vikings on Monday, night, right?  You know that the Packers lost by seven points?  Well, as the Packers were driving for their final field goal, we here from the ESPN crew (namely, Chris Mortenson) that the Packers would be driving for the tying touchdown at that moment if they had instead kicked a field goal near the end of the third quarter instead of going for it (and failing) on fourth and goal at the one yard line.

Black Monday is Here (10/5/09)
It's sad, really.  But I'm over the sad.  Sad is when something bad happens to someone that is out of their control.  It's certainly not sad for Favre.  It's debatable whether it's sad for the Packers -- and not that I fault them at all.  If I feel sad for anyone, it's the Packers fans.

Lucky Mustache Won't Prevent Attacks from Defensive Rockies Fans (10/2)
Rockies fans, by nature, are not a loyal or rabid fan base. They cannot prevent this. Before 1993, they had a minor league team, but that's it. There is a very short history of baseball in the state. Therefore, the only fans that the Rockies have either 1) grew up with the team, 2) converted when the franchise arrived (thereby underlining their propensity to disloyalty), or 3) were casual fans without any allegiance.

Lucky Mustache Not Enough (10/1)
There's no fun in being a fan without getting your heart ripped out a few times.  You can love your team, defend them, follow their every move in ways that should otherwise be considered illegal.  In the end, your team doesn't care about you.  They're punks like that.  I was reminded of that today. 

Loyalty Brewing (9/29/09)
I admit, like every dad I dreamed of having sons who cheered for the teams I cheer for now and as a boy.  But you really can't force it on them.  That backfired on me with the Packers (they root for the Broncos), and nearly backfired with the Brewers.  I backed off, and slowly Michael started expressing interest in the Brewers.  His brother followed.

Fantasy Basketball for Families (9/28/09)
How can you possibly have a competitive league of four people when two of the participants are aged five and eight and the other team is managed by my wife and toddler?  It's going to be a run-away, right?  Otherwise I should be ashamed.  Not really.  Let me explain...

Sports: Favre Ignorance to End (9/27/09)
Full disclosure:  I'm a life long Packers fan.  Through and through.  And although Brett Favre was (and probably still is) my all-time favorite athlete, it's no secret that Brett and I aren't getting along too well lately.  People tend to throw around the phrase "dead to me" pretty loosely, but I've gotta tell you...  There really aren't three words that better describe how I feel about him as a sports fan.

Man Food: Pumpkin Pancakes

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I don't consider myself much of a cook, but there are two things I can handle with pride: the grill and the griddle. I have a "man griddle" that can hold 12 smaller pancakes at once, and I gladly accept the responsibility of the weekend breakfast duties.

One of the family favorites, and a perfect breakfast menu item for this time of the year, is Pumpkin Pancakes. It's not a Loomer Original by any means (wife clipped it from Parenting Magazine, October 2006), and it's an easy from-scratch pancake recipe that any man with some griddle skills can handle.

We have three boys (aged eight, five and 17 months), and they literally gobble it up. Michael and Pee Wee (the older two) each ate four today while the "baby" (or beast) had three, and was still begging for more "nummies" when he was done. Needless to say, starting today I needed to double the recipe. It otherwise makes about 12 small pancakes, which just isn't enough for this growing family.

Here's the recipe, with some of my notes and photos from today's feast:

1 cup flour
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 tbs butter, melted and cooled (plus butter for griddle)

1. Preheat griddle (could use a skillet, but will take forever with one to two dozen pancakes) to 325 - 350 degrees (will depend on your griddle). In a medium sized bowl, stir together all dry ingredients.

2. In another large bowl, beat the egg for 30 seconds. Add yogurt, pumpkin puree, and two tablespoons melted butter. Beat well (can use a wire whisk).

3. Stir in dry ingredients and beat (again, I use the whisk) until just combined.

4. Grease the griddle with butter. Pour 1/4 cup batter per pancake; flip with a spatula when tops bubble and edges are slightly dry. Cook until both sides are golden brown (around three to five minutes per side).

Tips: Remember, these are from-scratch pancakes, not an instant mix. Because of that, the batter will look differently and will need to be cooked longer. Instead of pouring it on the griddle, it's thick -- almost like cookie dough. I scoop it on with the measuring cup. And since it's from scratch, make sure you cook them long enough. It's a careful balance between cooking them long enough and not burning them. Just don't under cook!


Cook them long enough, but don't burn them! They will start to get a little dark, but it's better than under cooking.


The boys are huge fans of these pancakes. Was told by the older ones (the younger one said it with his belly) that these are their favorites. That's saying something since I also make oatmeal raisin cookie pancakes.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Links: September 25, 2009

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What ever happened to people taking Fridays off or loafing through the day in anticipation of the big weekend?  The Internet used to be seen as an impediment to productivity.  Now the web is what drives it.

I actually saw a study recently that indicated the best time to post something on Twitter (I hate saying "tweet," sorry) is at 4 pm on Friday.  Interesting, right?  So many good links out there today. 

STUDY: Time Spent on Social Networks Has Tripled
So Nielsen has a report out that Americans are spending 17% of their Internet time on social networking sites, tripling last year's numbers.  Is this really all that shocking?  Maybe not.  In fact, I'd expect the growth to be more significant as Facebook and Twitter have taken full hold during the past year.

Some in the corporate (non-digital) world may presume this means that work productivity is down.  I'd counter that this is evidence that, if you are encouraging the use of social networking sites, work productivity is likely up.  The Internet is no longer used only to manage fantasy teams and look at porn (the two things that freak the hell out of businesses).  It's this overreaction that has driven many companies to ban the use of the web during business hours.

It's a mistake.  Encourage the use of social networking sites.  Your employees are your greatest ambassadors.  Allow them to cultivate their networks, and they will eventually promote your brand to their friends -- who may then share with their friends, who share with their friends...

The beauty of social networking is that it's incredibly fun, yet also an incredibly valuable marketing tool.  Empower your employees to use it, and they will passionately promote your brand.

Mobile Coupons and Transactions Taking Hold

Starbucks has long been ahead of the digital curve, and continued that trend recently by announcing the ability for customers to pay for coffee with their iPhones.  Two apps have been released:  1) MyStarbucks helps customers find the nearest stores, and 2) Starbucks Card Mobile allows customers to pay for their latte from their Starbucks account by scanning the app's bar code.  Only 16 stores are currently offering the ability to pay with your phone.

Meanwhile, JCPenney is testing scannable mobile coupons in Texas (really?) stores.  As with the Starbucks debit system, the iPhone user brings up a 2D bar code on their phone and it's scanned for the promotion price.


Will the tests be successful?  Ultimately, the answer will boil down to convenience.  If it's easier for the consumer to use coupons in this way (and assuming the cost of the process is not significant to the brand), mobile transactions and coupons will ultimately catch on.

But, I can see why there may be a barrier.  How do you "clip" or find the coupons (in the case of JC Penny) to begin with?  How much time does it take for you to fumble through your phone to get the proper code while in the check-out line?  Does the scan work, or will the check-out person need to spend a minute trying to scan the thing?

Let me say that it would be doubly difficult with the current Blackberry.  I say this as a Blackberry owner.  Navigating through applications is absolutely brutal.  Load, load, load...  Load...  COME ON!  I'd go nuts, whether I was the jerk with the Blackberry coupons or the lady in front of me.  So, no real surprise that most companies are starting out with iPhones.  Good move.

Or maybe the whole process is actually quite easy, but these are questions that need to be answered before it truly catches on.  An app like Yowza!! is on the right track, in my opinion. Yowza!! uses your location to find savings at various stores within your area.  It's not a singular application for one brand.  It aggregates savings with whichever companies are participating.

Ultimately, that's how this practice will become successful.  Sure, maybe you go to JC Penny a lot.  But what you care about more than anything else is getting the best deal -- no matter the store.  Maybe you can get the same product for less at another store in your area.  That's what these apps need to do.  Understand where you are, easily display the best deals around you, and make the coupons easy to set aside and organize.

Got it?  Now do it (if it hasn't already been done, of course).
 
What are the most essential Twitter apps ever created?
Now, I'm not going to claim to be a Twitter expert and say that I use all of these apps.  To the contrary, I'm glad that a list like this was created.  ControlTheWeb puts together a nice list of Twitter apps broken down into categories of Desktop, Mobile, Business, Networking, Entertainment, Monitoring, Media Sharing, Link Tools, Analytics, and the oh-so-popular Random.  Great list.

Or, you could just check out Mashable's new article and get access to the OneForty beta, Twitter's unofficial app store.  I applied and am still waiting, so I can't provide any feedback for you at this point.

Lee injured after slap from teammate
Full disclosure here.  I am a lifetime Milwaukee Brewers fan and unabashed Chicago Cubs hater.  Hate them.  Hate 'em.  It's even rubbed off on my two oldest sons (so proud), and they hate the Cubs, too.  How can you discourage such behavior?

Anyway, I love stories about the Cubs curse or any other shenanigans about how they can't get out of their own way.  Loved the Milton Bradley and the not-so-surprising result.  Loved it.  And now Derek Lee, possibly their finest player, is injured by teammate Angel Guzman as a result of a celebratory slap to the head following a win over the Giants last night.  That's how bad it is for the Cubs and their fans.  Even when they win, they lose.  Suckers.

Face Paint
Let's keep the subject on sports, shall we?

There's no better visual than of a grown man, sulking after a loss.  Wearing face paint.  And if that grown man places for your team's biggest rival?  All the better.

Now, the fan below may not be from Chicago (or Minnesota for that matter), but I have no sympathy for the Patriots or their fans, so it's all the same.


What a turd.  Let's rewind and go through this guy's day.

8:00 am:  Woo hoo!  Pats play today!  Gonna whoop up on the Jets!  Throw me a beer!
9:00 am:  Yeah, baby!  I'm drunk!  Pats all the way!  Undefeated season!  Pass me another beer!
10:00 am:  Buddy, I got an idea.  Let's wear makeup to the game!  Silver!  Blue and red, too!  Pass me another beer!
11:00 am: Tailgate!  Look at me!  I'm wearing makeup!  Pats rule!  Beer, please!
Noon:  Out of beer?  Huh.  Go Pats!  Yeah, baby, I'm wearing makeup!  Suck it!
2:00 pm:  I'm wearing makeup.  I'm an idiot.

Or do they never come to that realization?  Do they mope away from their seat, to their car, and drive home still wearing makeup?  When does it come off?  Just curious.

And since we're in the business of kicking dudes when they're down, take a look at this video of a Clemson fan after his team's loss to Georgia Tech.  It's just painful.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Links: September 24, 2009

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Every day -- or as often as I can -- I'll provide my favorite links of the day in this space.  I'm not digging this stuff up.  It comes to me.  Beauty of social media.  Just comes through my daily stream on Facebook or Twitter in most cases if I didn't otherwise stumble upon it in my daily perusal of the Internet (do people still peruse the Internet, or do they only go places that people tell them to go?).

The Dancing Baby
It's everywhere, so you've probably seen it by now.  Even if you've seen it once, it's worth watching again.



This baby loves some Beyonce. It's really pretty amazing that we get the urge to boogie this young. We have a 17-month old that does his share of boogieing himself. No rhythm, really, but they mean business.

Top 10 Sports Apps
I love lists.  Love them.  Every now and then I'll need to find the best of something -- or one of the best of something -- before I buy it.  An example is when I bought my Blackberry or iPod Touch.  Alright, I have them.  Now what?  Some of the most useful pieces of content available.

http://bit.ly/pFnpl

Now, I find it somewhat surprising that I don't own most of these apps.  Actually, to be fair, I can hardly keep track of what I do and don't have.  I have about 150 apps now, which I'm sure is still a modest number compared to some.  But I probably only use 10 or so during a given week.

Anyway, I have ESPN Scorecenter, Sportacular, Yahoo! Fantasy Football and MLB At Bat, but that's it from the list.  At Bat is really the only one from the list that I use, and it's probably my favorite app that I own.  It's amazing, and should be #1 on this list.  Probably should have Madden, but such a game at least seems to me to be too complicated for a mobile device.  I could be wrong since this review says it's too easy.  All I know is that I played NFL 2010 for about 30 seconds and haven't played it since.

What should be on this list but isn't?  Well, here are the apps I actually use, besides what has already been mentioned:

Let's Golf!
HR Battle
Flick Fishing (if you consider fishing a sport)
MyFantasyTeams
PowerPros

I realize that MyFantasyTeams is a Yahoo! knockoff and that the Yahoo! version has a much prettier interface, but I can't get everything I want in the Yahoo! app.  In particular, how do I see other teams' match-ups?  Maybe you can do it, but I haven't found a way yet.

What do you think?  What apps were missing from these lists?

Did You Know 4.0
Fantastic video going through the evolution of technology during the past 10 or so years.  Actually may only be five.  Things are moving awfully quickly.  And the video is fast as well.  I must be a slow reader because I had a hard time keeping up.

Regardless, great stuff here.



The Science of ReTweets
I'm not even sharing this because I think it's helpful.  Merely out of amazement.  Dude put together a 22-page PDF on the science of retweeting.  Really?

http://bit.ly/4087by

I gotta be honest with you.  I never read it.  I just saw that it was a 22-page doc and thought it was hilarious.  Hilarious or not, kind of shows you how seriously people are taking this social media thing these days.  Kinda big stuff and whatnot.

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