March Madness on demand

For those of you stuck at work without access to a TV, CBS Sportsline has free live video of all the NCAA tournament games. You’ll need a broadband connection to be able to view.

cbs.sportsline.com

Now, some corporate middle-management types would say, “Watching TV on company time? That’s unacceptable. That will decrease productivity…” Shut up. Get a life.

(8) Arkansas vs. (9) Bucknell at 11:30 CT today.
(1) Memphis vs. (16) Oral Roberts at 1:50 CT today.

Go Tigers. Go Hogs.

Friday update

– I’ve been meaning to say thanks to Leanne the Diva for mentioning my blog, and my Deal of the Week series in particular, in her new iDiva blog at the Commercial Appeal. The CA is starting to embrace the role of bloggers as a means of providing relevant content. iDiva is one of the new blogs to appear on the site, and it is geared toward women, with new posts every day divided into about a dozen different sub-blogs.

– Lots to do this weekend… I’ve already mentioned the Beale Street festivities for St. Patrick’s Day tonight, and the parade tomorrow. There’s also a lot going on at Peabody Place, where Venus Mission, Herman’s Circus, and DJ Tree will be performing. If it’s like past years, they’ll be selling green beer in the mall.

– Also tonight, there’s ShamROCK at Big Foot Lodge. A $10 donation gets you access to a DJ and $2 cups of 34 oz. green Big Foot Beer, as well as specials on green alcohol. Prize to the person wearing the most green. Donations benefit PALS of Porter Leath. This should be a good one – Big Foot is known to throw quite the party.

– Pat O’s is having a St. Pat’s celebration and charging a $10 cover (unusual for them – admission is almost always free there). If you want to go to Pat O’s, here’s a better idea – buy a $10 wristband, which will get you in not only Pat O’s, but all the clubs on Beale (except Alfred’s, which sucks anyway). Wristbands tend to sell out around 10:30-11:00, so come early. (Note: You might want to ask the doorman at Pat O’s if the wristband will get you in before you buy one – I think it will but I’m not positive about this.)

– Tomorrow (Saturday) night should draw an … um, er, interesting… crowd downtown with Kid Rock performing at the FedExForum. I’m steering clear of that scene; for some good music, check out FreeWorld at the Flying Saucer.

– The Happy Mexican at the corner of Second, St.Martin, and Huling is now open, if you are looking for a place to eat before you head out to St. Pat’s festivities or Kid Rock. Haven’t been there yet – am curious whether it can measure up to Rio Loco, the current gold standard for Mexican downtown.

– The WWE Supershow, featuring a Smackdown! taping and a live Monday Night Raw, will be at the FedExForum on Monday. I’m still looking for a source for free tickets if anybody knows of one…

– Speaking of the WWE, chairman Mr.McMahon is on the cover of this months Muscle & Fitness Magazine. They call him “the world’s most intense 60-year-old” and have pics of him working out with his son-in-law Triple H, one of the WWE’s top wrestlers. They give details of his workout regimen. Apparently he can keep up with Triple H in the gym, and actually out-lifts him on some of the machines.

– By the way… one of Mr.McMahon’s exercises is called the “Romanian deadlift.” Just thought that deserved to be mentioned.

– Financial guru Suze Orman will speak at the U of M on Tuesday, March 21 at the campus’s Rose Theater. The event is free and open to the public.

– There’s rumors of a new 400-unit condo complex to be built on the east side of Fourth between Union and Gayoso. I wonder if that means they are going to tear down the King’s Court Motel? If Downtown can get rid of King’s Court and the Greyhound Bus Station in the same year, it really will be hard out here for a pimp. It will be good for Downtown’s residents, tourists, and employees, though.

– Last week downtown, the Southern Republican Leadership Conference met and chose Bill Frist as the man they’d like to see as the Republican nominee for 2008. That’s why people were walking around Beale Street wearing “Frist Is My Leader” stickers. Here’s a website with info about Bill Frist.

– The author of one of my all-time favorite books, The 48 Laws of Power, has a new book out: The 33 Strategies of War. I flipped through a few chapters at Bookstar last night and it looks good. However, I didn’t buy it there, because Amazon has it for $9 less.

And that’s the report for Friday… 8 more hours in the cubicle, then it will be time for 48 hours of drinking!

Those little black x’s are starting to appear

With all the (much-deserved) hype about the #1-seeded Memphis Tigets, let’s not forget about the Grizzlies.

Check out the standings at Yahoo Sports. Ignore the division standings; those don’t matter much. What you want to look at is the Western Conference standings at the bottom right of the page.

There you’ll see 15 teams listed, ranked in order of winning percentage, except that the division leaders are automatically 1, 2, 3. At the end of the regular season, teams 1-8 go to the playoffs, and teams 9-15 watch the playoffs on TV.

So the Grizzlies’ first goal is to stay in the top 8. We’re number 6 now. So far, so good.

You’d think our next goal would be to move up a spot. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. The way it works, in the conference playoffs #1 plays #8, #2 plays #7, #3 plays #6, and #4 plays #5. If the rankings remain the same through the end, that would put us up against the #3 Denver Nuggets in the first round, the weakest of the divisional leaders with a .561 winning percentage as of today.

On the other hand, if we move up a spot to #5 we’ll be playing the #4 San Anonio Spurs, who are the best team not to lead a division and have a massive .781 winning percentage. Considering Memphis has never won a playoff game, I think we’d do much better with Denver as our opponent.

You’ll notice that three teams – Detroit, Dallas, and San Antonio – have black x’s by their names. That means that they’ve already qualified for the playoffs. Even if they lose every game for the rest of the season, there’s no way that the #9 team could catch up to their won-loss record. Since only 3.5 games separate us from the #9 team, it will probably be well into April before we see x-Memphis in the rankings.

We’re #6! Let’s go Grizzlies!

What I’ve been up to this month

You may have noticed that I’ve been posting a little bit less frequently this month, and that I’ve been going out a little bit less frequently as well, citing a mysterious “project” that I’m working on. Things have been going well with the project and I’m ready to share a few more details.

This started as a result of a phone conversation with my friend AngieDawn a few weeks back. Angie has been investigating ways to start businesses online. We talked for over an hour, and I realized it was something I ought to look into as well. At one point she asked, “Have you ever thought about writing an e-book?” After I got off the phone I realized I already had written an e-book. Back in 1999, when I was still teaching at the University of Memphis, I wrote a book for college students on how to improve their grades by cultivating positive relationships with their professors.

However, in 1999, there was no proven method for selling e-books online, and at about 50-70 pages the book was too short to be published in print form. So it sat on my hard drive in computer purgatory for 7 years.

My conversation with Angie revived the idea. I realized now that I didn’t need to sell the book – I could give it away for free on the Web, and make money through ad links on the site, as an affiliate for Amazon.com, Shop.com and other online retailers. For example, on the chapter about improving grades on papers, I could put links to books on writing and grammar. So I registered a domain name (which I’ll reveal in a couple of weeks) and began work on proofreading and formatting the chapters.

Now, the next issue I faced was: Once I get the book written, how do I drive traffic to the site? It takes a while to build a following. With the Spring semester ending in early May, I want to get a lot of people to the site quickly. But how could I do that, without spending a pile of money on advertising?

At that point I realized something: I already have a built-in audience. About 9 years ago, I created an online grade calculator for my students to use. I got tired of watching students obsess over their grades, spending hours trying to figure out what they needed to make on their remaining tests/quizzes/final exam to get the grade they wanted, given how they had done so far during the semester. So I created the calculator to do the math for them. It’s been online for so many years that it already has a following. That’s why I put a tracker on it a couple of weeks ago. On Monday of this week it drew 242 hits, double the traffic this blog gets. I suspect that the grade calculator’s traffic is much more seasonal than this blog: Around the end of April I bet it will be getting 400-500 hits a day, dropping to a tenth of that by mid-June.

So, I’m going to move the grade calculator to the new site, to provide a built-in audience for the e-book. I’m also going to give it a new look – let’s face it, the calculator as it is now looks like it was built in 1997. Time for a facelift.

Another thing I’m going to do is have forums on the site, where students and teachers can post their own tips for getting better grades. This will do two things: 1) It could provide additional material for future chapters or a second book (with credit to be given where appropriate), and 2) it will make the site sticky – it will make people come back to visit again and again.

I’m also going to have an online college bookstore, where students can buy books about college, test prep guides, caffeinated mints, and other items of interest to that audience. Again, I’ll use affiliate links to do this. Tonight after work I’m going on a field trip to Tiger Bookstore to get a better idea of what college students buy.

That’s the plan for now – if you have ideas or suggestions I’d love to hear them. E-mail them to paul@paulryburn.com.

In other news: The weekend is coming up – St. Patrick’s Day weekend. That means I’ll be on Beale Street for the Raising of the Goat and the Blessing of the Kegs tomorrow night. In case you’re not familiar with this tradition, Silky has this goat. He puts it on a platform with a hot babe. They raise the platform up in the air and people applaud and drink and the hot babe throws beads to the crowd and the goat eats hay and poops all over the platform. I’m not exactly sure what this has to do with St. Patrick’s Day.

Saturday I’ll be back on Beale for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It starts at 4 PM but I recommend getting there at 3 to stake out a good spot on the street. Fellow blogger Kat and her breasts will be there, riding the Ptolemy Krewe float, and Kat has promised to throw me some choice beads. I have an entire closet shelf full of beads from previous parades, so I’m going for quality over quantity this year.

I may take some pics of the parade and do a photo album. GoDaddy’s servers have built-in photo album capabilities – all I have to do is upload the pics, rather than spend hours resizing and linking as I did with previous photo albums. So, now that they’re hosting my site I’m anxious to try this feature out.

And, of course, Sunday I’ll wrap up the weekend with the usual drunken brunch festivities at Sleep Out Louie’s.

Still looking for an invitation to Google Analytics… I guess my time has run out for finding an NCAA tournament pool to participate in, since games start today. (1) Memphis plays (16) Oral Roberts at 1:50 PM Central tomorrow. Unfortunately I’ll be sitting in a cubicle and won’t be able to watch the game on TV. March Madness days should be declared national holidays in my opinion.

Speaking of cubicles, time to go do some sitting now…

Mail bag

Before we get started, two announcements:

1) A friend of mine is looking for someone with invitations for Google Analytics. This is a website-traffic monitoring service that is used for marketing analysis. Like Gmail when it first started, the service is currently available only if you have an invitation from a current member. So if you have an extra invite you don’t mind sharing, she’d appreciate it – email paul@paulryburn.com if you have one and I’ll pass it on.

2) Anyone doing an NCAA tournament bracket pool? I wouldn’t mind getting in on the action if you are.

All right. Down to business. Let’s open up the electronic mailbag.

Subj: ru happy with the size of ur thing
Subj: Pharr7macy news
Subject: Pharammacy news
Subj: GF complaining in the bed/room
Subj: natural in largement
Subj: Phaeermacy news
Subj: GF not happy with ur per4mance
Subj: Super Hot St0ck p1cks, get in early
Subj: SHORT D1CCK, EN LARGE YOURSELF UP TO 2 FULL INCHES
Subj: Ph@rrmacyy news
Subj: Pha2armacy news
Subj: how’s ur GF, satisfied?

Hey, I just noticed something. These messages are not sent to paul@paulryburn.com, my real address. They’re sent to (some random address)@paulryburn.com. In fact, they’re often sent to a bunch of random addresses @paulryburn.com, which is why I sometimes receive 40 copies of the same e-mail message.

However, my website is now hosted by GoDaddy, and guess what I found in their e-mail account management tools! There’s a little checkbox that reads “Make paul@paulryburn.com a catch-all for this domain”… uncheck that box and all that spam goes AWAY! I love it!!!

I made the change about 2 hours ago. Now, before, in a 2-hour period I’d receive about 40 e-mails. In the 2 hours since the change I’ve received a grand total of THREE e-mails – a test from myself, and two from friends. NO SPAM!

So, this is probably the end of the “Mail Bag” regular feature in my blog. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and rest easy knowing that other regular features like “What the Bums Are Drinking this Week” are still around for your reading enjoyment.

Sigh… if only I could eliminate the bums with a checkbox…

New job

Quite unexpectedly, I have a new job. I wasn’t even looking for one – I’m quite happy at my current company, ACB, where I’m learning a lot and the work environment is very easygoing.

So a week ago Thursday, when a recruiter who had seen my resume online called to tell me about a web developer position with the Memphis City Schools, I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.”

She said, “Well, at least let me tell you what the pay rate is.” The rate she quoted was MUCH higher than what I make now – about 80% higher. Given that information, I couldn’t help but be interested, so I told her to go ahead and schedule me for an interview.

Last Monday – a week ago today – the recruiter called at 8 AM and asked if I could make an 11:30 interview. Despite the short notice, I was able to do it on my lunch hour. I went in and met with the application development manager. He explained why he needed to hire someone: Many of their apps are still mainframe-based, and it’s time to convert them to Web/Intranet solutions using ASP.NET. He liked the fact that I had a background in education, and that I had almost 2 years’ experience in ASP.NET and SQL Server 2000. He said I’d have a lot of bright people available as resources to learn from, and I’d get to work on some exciting projects. I was very impressed and thought it seemed like a good operation.

A couple of days later, the recruiter called, and said the City Schools would like to offer me the position, to start in two weeks. I told them no. My current job asks for people at my level to give 4 weeks’ notice upon leaving. When I started working for them, that seemed a bit excessive, but now I can totally understand the need for it. I manage relationships with a couple of large corporate clients, and I’ll really need all four weeks to transfer knowledge to other people in the company and make sure programming issues don’t fall through the cracks. Of course, they can’t require the 4 weeks’ notice, but this is a company that has treated me very well, and I’m not about to screw them over.

So, last Friday the recruiter called back again and said she had talked with the City Schools, and they’d be willing to let me start in 4 weeks. Having agreed upon that, I accepted the position.

Other than the money, the job is appealing for another reason – the job is at the Board of Education on Hollywood, at the far eastern edge of Midtown. So I’ll have a 4-mile commute to work as opposed to my current 17-mile ride. I’ll also have an hour lunch break (compared to my current half hour) so I’ll have time to re-familiarize myself with Midtown.

On the other hand, I won’t be able to wear jeans at the new job (at least not from what I saw when I went to interview). Don’t think I’ll have to wear a tie though. Also, I’ll have to be there at 8, compared to 9 for my current job. For a night owl like me that’s really going to hurt.

But the biggest downside of all was what I had to do today: I had to meet with my current boss and give him my resignation. Unlike other companies in the past where I’ve looked forward to leaving, I’m actually sad to quit ACB. The boss is a guy I really do like and respect, the co-workers are all people I get along with, and like I’ve said all along, I’ve learned a great deal there. The IT department is already a man short, and I hope my leaving won’t screw up their plans in a major way. I have a feeling it will though. Nevertheless, my boss was gracious in accepting my resignation. He praised my work and made me feel really good about my contributions at ACB, and wished me well in the new job.

My last day at ACB is Friday, April 7, and I start with the City Schools Monday, April 10.

If any web developers are looking for work there are now TWO openings in my current company’s department. E-mail me (paul at paulryburn dot com) for more details.

Back tomorrow with an “update” post. Laundry and sleep are on the agenda for the rest of the evening.

Deal of the Week

Short and sweet this week. 1 GB iPod nano at Circuit City this week for $149. First time I’ve seen the 1 GB nano for under $199. Here’s a chance to own the Cadillac of MP3 players at a discount price. The 1 GB will store about 200 songs and is only slightly bigger than a credit card.

(Edited Monday, March 13 to add:) Looks like this is a new model, not an existing model at a discount price. Up until recently, the smallest-capacity nano was the 2 GB at $199.

However, I have another Deal to make up for it. This week at Circuit City you can get a SanDisk 1 GB Cruzer Micro USB drive for $34.99, after two mail-in rebates. That’s half off the retail price of $69.99.

Sorry about the iPod confusion, and I’ll see you next Sunday with another Deal.

Falwell’s in good company… NOT

A couple of days ago I posted my results from OKCupid’s Politics Quiz. (See the March 9 blog entry). It graphs the results, with “social permissiveness” on the x-axis and “economic permissiveness” on the y-axis.

The site has a copy of the graph with pictures of famous people, showing where they would likely be if they took the quiz. Given my results (76% socially permissive, 28% economically permissive) my point on the graph would be right in the middle of Hillary Clinton’s forehead.

I looked at some of the other famous faces of the graph. At the end of the graph representing 0% social permissiveness, there’s a pic of Rev. Jerry Falwell. And who’s right there next to him? Osama bin Laden, Joseph Stalin, and Darth Vader.

That’s some good company you have there, Jerry… NOT.

Entrapment

This is the light at Main and Union, at appoxmiately 3:30 in the morning on Friday night/Saturday morning. I know you can’t tell, but the light is flashing red in all four directions (Main Street is a pedestrian mall, so that means it is basically a stop sign for Union). If you zoom in on the pic (I’ve uploaded it at full resolution – about 1 MB – dialup users be warned) you can see that there is a police car parked outside Cafe Samovar, waiting to catch people who don’t come to a full stop.

This is the only time that light is EVER set to 4-way red – when a cop is watching the intersection. Same goes for another intersection downtown, Linden and Walnut, which is a major thoroughfare for downtown into midtown. If you ever see one of these lights flashing red, I recommend coming to a COMPLETE stop – stop, 1, 2, 3, go – before continuing.

With all the murders, robberies, rapes, and other violent crimes in Memphis, I really have to question whether the Memphis Police Department is making the best use of its time and resources, switching traffic lights to flashing red as bait to catch minor violators.

If anyone from MPD reads this and would like to respond, I promise to publish your full, unedited answer in my blog.