Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: August 2007
Last night a cute blonde girl bought me a drink. However, she knew me because sheâ€™s my kidsâ€™ summer camp counselor. This incident got me thinking about how you know youâ€™re oldâ€”today is my 53rd birthday. So I decided to start a list: You know youâ€™re old whenâ€¦
Happy Birthday to Guy! (happybirthdaytoyouhappybirthdaytoyoublahblahIhatethissong….)
I hate to use the term “old”, although there are days when I definitely feel it fits… I prefer “middle aged”, at least most days..
The first time I remember feeling, um, middle aged was when the last player in the NHL older than I was retired, so that the entire league was younger than me. That was, by the way, Sergei Makarov.
A big “middle aged” moment was when I was walking in the mall and passed a mother and her daughter walking the other way, and I realized I found the mother a lot more attractive. Another aspect of this: you redefine your idea of “girl” as you get older (I think “girl”, as opposed to “woman”, is a term for any female too young to consider dating, if you were in fact available to date) — and when you hit the point that you can buy a “girl” a beer legally, you’re definitely middle-aged.
And on a less fun moment, a big “you’re middle-aged” reality check is when you start having peers die of things other than accidents or alcohol….
I heard Eddy Money talk about this a while back, and his “you’re old” moment — he said he was on tour, and was trying desperately to stay up late enough to keep his drummer from hitting on his daughter… no word on whether he succeeded….
One of the projects I’ve started this weekend is to clear out some clutter and clean up the “server room”, the room where we used to house the servers when we ran servers here in the house and had the internet piped in to serve them (today, we “merely” have a consumer DSL line to our usage, which is a heck of a lot cheaper since we don’t need the fast outbound speed or static IP addresses….)
One reason I’m doing this — I wanted to get my writing files out and accessible again. I’ve picked up my first freelance gig (which is nice), and out of happenstance had a nice long talk with a friend I haven’t talked to in a long time, and it might turn into another writing gig. I’ve been spending some time the last few days researching some ideas for that, and we’ll see whether they like them.
It was fun, and a bit weird, to get my writing out of the boxes and into a file cabinet. Some of it I knew was in there, like my novel-in-stasis and my published short fiction and unsold fiction bits — but also my old writing, the reviews in Amazing Stories (when it was a TSR publication), my writing for Macintosh Horizons, but also some of the tech writing I did when I was at Sun, including, which I’d completely forgotten, the README for NFS release 2.0.
Now, that’s an answer to a trivia question nobody’s going to ask…
Also, when I left Apple, I brought home about eight boxes of “stuff”; when I went to StrongMail, I only took in a couple of boxes of books and a few things, and those came back when I left, so I’ve had a bunch of things just sort of hanging around, and a lot of technical books inaccessible. It’s time to start cleaning that up and either putting the books in shelves, or donating or tossing them, depending on how useful they are.
The “server room” is, of course, a dumping ground for everything in the “I need to deal with this someday” for both of us; Laurie still has a bunch of boxes from when she left Adobe, and all of her cookbooks are in there (15 boxes) waiting for me to finish the living room to get them back in the shelves, as well as much of my native art that has been waiting for the remodel to have a place for display again… Now that the living room is headed towards paint-ready, I’m pullling that all out again and getting itÂ up on the walls again. I may even be able to walk in the server room again soon.
And browse through those Sun technical support bulletins. Ah, the days of SunOS 3 — anyone else remember when Sun ran 68000 chips?
So I’ve been more offline than on, working on the remodel in the front half of the house. I’ve got all of the door trim in (finally), and I was hoping to finish off the entryway walls today, so I could start on the baseboard.
I took off the faceplate from the lightswitch that runs the porch light, so I could put a box expander on it after adding the tongue and groove that’s going up — only to find there was no box. They simply cut a notch in the drywall, stuffed the switch in it, and then used drywall screws to hold it down, then screwed the plate to the drywall.
This is, how do we say it? Not up to code. no, frankly, it’s a bloody stupid idea on any number of levels.
So now I have to go buy a box, cut open the wall, retrofit the box in, and fix this properly.
In remodelling the house over the years, pretty much every project has run into one of these “what were they thinking?” moments, where you realize the previous owner was pretty good most of the time, but then started improvising or cutting corners, and now you get to figure out how to fix it.
Things like — realizing he used exhaust pipe to duct the forced air and air conditioning instead of using ducting. So when we replaced the air conditioner, we also got to re-duct most of the house.
Stuff like that.
my one goal — my PRIMARY goal — in my remodel work is that whoever buys the house off of us, whenever we decide to sell, and starts remodelling it to their needs doesn’t say things about me like I say things about him…
It is amazing what a little trim does to finish off a room, though. Especially since we’ve been living with it half-done for two years (gah). I see the light at the end of the tunnel; next week I should have the front entry, the living room, hallway and master bath all ready for paint, and then it’s making final decisions on the dining room and getting those changes in.
THAT is going to be interesting, because it involves opening up a wall into the weight room (and library), and pulling the existing door and replacing it with a larger set of bifolds (I think); and unfortunately, I don’t know what I’ll find when I open it up, other than, well, trouble — because it was done by one of the tenants after the owner retired and moved out, when they started running a stereo repair shop in their garage and hacked things up to allow them to lock away that part of the house away from the living spaces (while leaving access to the bathroom — ever see a house with, I kid you not, an airlock in it? we had one). Those were the same people who used a piece of stereo zip wire to ground an electrical outlet, so I’m not holding out much hope…
Especially since when we tore off the old base moulding to get ready for the new flooring in the front of the house, we noticed that part of the wall was built ON THE CARPETING. they just laid the base of the wall over the carper. That’s how we know we have a larger door opening in that wall; we just need to figure out how best to bring it back…
Something tells me I”m going to be taking a few names in vain soon.
well, off to Lowes for more STUFF. if there’s one given to remodelling, there’s always a part you need that you don’t have…
Posting has been light again, mostly because I’m focussing more on the remodel work. I just finished trimming out the front door, and I’m getting close to finishing off the entry way. I still need to do the base moulding, but we’re getting suprisingly close to “paint ready” in the living room and entry. still need to trim out the hallway and bathroom and do the dining room, which is a significant amount ofÂ work, but I could be paint ready for everything but the dining room by the end of next week; maybe further than that. we’ll see. Happy with the progress and quality, so what the heck.
one phone interview so far this week, and one more in an hour or so. Things continue to bubble, nothing boiling.
And Laurie and I have started planning our post-Labor-day vacation. All that’s decided is that it’ll include a couple of days in Portland and then the northern oregon coast (Astoria and Newport definitely, everything else is tentative. If someone wants to say hi while we’re in town, drop me email and we’ll try to work out the schedule.
Portland is probably going to focus on a photo trip to the zoo, and up the Gorge, since we haven’t done that for a while (and especially not in a while when it hasn’t been miserable and November… ). I want to spend some time doing photo work and birding around Fort Stevens, and some birding around Yaquina head in Newport. Beyond that, we may just — gasp — sit on a beach or something. (us? nah).
I’m trying to decide if I want to put in for a day in Cannon Beach or not as part of it. We’ve mostly decided to do more exploring and less driving, so we’ve cut out the southern coast, and once again Fort Bragg and the Mendocino coast has been relegated to “it’s close enough we’ll go there when we take a long weekend”, which, of course, we never do… (grin)
Oh, and the hockey talk continues over on Two for Elbowing, for those that forgot that blog exists…
I’ve been researching the Tampa Bay sale a bit. Some bloggers (and some newspaper reporters) have been looking at the sale price ($206 million is the reported number) and using it to justify all sorts of statements, from the “owners get rich when they sell a team” to “hockey has failed in the US” (popular in Winnipeg, but it’s really unclear to me how they made this leap of logic).
But is it really true? The numbers, when you look at them in more detail, aren’t quite so rosy…
The numbers as I’ve been able to find: Absolute Hockey is a new partnership led by Doug MacLean and backed by Jeff Sherin, a real estate developer, Oren Koules, a hollywood type best known for the “Saw” series of films.
They’re buying the Tampa Bay Lightning and other properties for $206 million, from Palace Sports and Entertainment. Palace Sports bought the team for $115 million eight years ago, and have reported about $70million in losses since. (throw enough zeroes at it, and it starts looking like real money).
So if you just take those numbers at their base value, Palace has put in $185 million to reap $206m, a net profit of $21 million. Seems like a not-bad investment.
Life’s never that simple, and raw numbers don’t tell the real story. Just on these numbers, starting with $115m and adding in about $8.5m per year for every year, your rate of return is a lousy 2.3%. That’s worse than investing in money markets, S&P 500, or even 12 month CDs over that term (right now, I can get 5.35% from ING on a 12 month CD). They seem to be selling this off having made money — but they could have made more money with less (or zero) risk by simply parking the money somewhere.
There are complications here, of course.
The first one is that losses generated by the team can be used to shield profits by the owners elsewhere. Part of that $70m/ loss will get recovered by keeping money elsewhere from going to Uncle Sam. Let’s assume (since there are no real numbers available) that half that loss is a “paper” loss, that it’s recaptured away from the team. In other words, every year the owners were writing a check for $8.5m to cover operating losses, but writing a tax check that was, say, $4m less to the government because the losses shielded profits elsewhere. If you roll that tax gain back into the the franchise as an asset, you see a rate of return around 5%.
That’s actually a decent rate of return for that time period. Maybe not great; at least it’s not insanely bad.
On the other hand, let’s look at that $206 million number. It’s not for the hockey team.
It’s for a set of properties including the team. The three key components:
The hockey team.
The lease at the arena and the right to operate it
Two pieces of property near the arena totalling 5.5 acres.
The property is on the books and assessed at $17.5 million. They are evidently (from researching them through the tampa papers and local real estate info I could find) properties that have high potential for condos or mixed condo/retail development, except that the market is down right now. But in a longer-term look, these properties have a huge upside to someone experienced in Florida real estate. Oh, gee, one of the partners is a Florida real estate developer. What a coincidence.
So, what are these properties worth? well, they’re assessed at $17.5m, so I’ll go with that, but their value to someone who can develop them is a lot more; This is, if you ask me, the investment upside of the deal.
The arena operations? Tampa’s arena is one of the more profitable in the country; it grossed $18m last year, and is on pace to match that this year. Half of its light dates are non-hockey, but it’s also a business much like a movie house: much of the “profit” goes back to the act, not the house.
But the ticket take isn’t the only story; there’s signage, naming rights, sponsors — and every team/arena deal differs in how these are split between the sports team and the arena, but some of those dollars end up with the hockey team (and factor into the $70m loss above), and some end up as part of the arena management agreement.
All told, it’s not unreasonable to assume around a 10% profit off the arena management — say, $2m a year or so. It’s value? A good round number would be 6x or 7x that profit number, or $12-15m.
So now we can get at least into the ballpark of the value of the hockey team.
$206m for the sale, minus $17.5m minus, say, $12m, or about $175m.
The franchise was awarded in 1991 for $50m. If you just look at that price and the $175m, you get a rate of return of 7.2%. That’s pretty good over 15+ years. But that ignores that the owners were continuing to “invest” by covering operating losses every year. Even at $3m a year, that drops the rate of return to well under 4%, and given the numbers the current owners have announced and taking into consideration both tax advantages and the probably profit on the arena side, your rate of return drops under 4%.
That’s a lousy investment over that time period, even trying to make it as rosy as I can. It wasn’t bad for Palace, but the earlier owners — they didn’t do well.
How does this make things look for the new owenrship?
I’m encouraged. here’s why
Doug MacLean — as a hockey guy, he understands the core of the franchise. By the way, while it looks like all of the money is to be made away from the team — and that’s actually true! — if you don’t own the team, none of the other opportunities exist. you can’t do the arena without the team, and you can’t develop the property without the arena. So to some degree, the Lightning need to do what the Sharks do, which is manage expenses and limit the “losses” in such a way that the arena income and tax offsets make up for the losses.
In other words, you don’t need to be profitable to be profitable. But that doesn’t mean you should assume that any loss is acceptable… By my guesses and assumption, a team like the Sharks or Lightning can “lose” about $5m a year in “team losses” and do okay because of the other aspects of the situation. That’s roughly where I’d put the “break even” point on the entire financial picture, as opposed to just looking at team numbers, if the team manages the arena and the partnership can take advantage of the losses in the taxes.
If MacLean can keep the team competitive on a decent budget and help the organization succceed, they ought to do fine. I’m especially happy to hear they’re planning on moving in and being local owners. that’ll help engage the business community and it’ll also keep someone with motivation to make it work close at hand and watching.
Second, they have a guy from the entertainment industry; increase the entertainment factor, and you can improve your attendance and ticket revenues.
Third, they have those plots of land, and a good person to figure out what to do with them. If they can make that work, they can turn this into a great investment. As it is, it’s a good investment, from what I can see.
Our curmudgeonly java.net editor Chris Adamson, started things off by simply offering up a repeat of his last MacWorld wish:
An end to .Mac. Itâ€™s overpriced, it sucks, and it makes iLife suck.
The more I think about it, the more I realize we have a great real-world example that for all we talk about long tails and courting the early adopters and the geek elite as a way to generate buzz and figure out what the Next Big Thing is, we also need to be careful about trusting the geeks TOO much, especially with consumer products. it’s been labeled all sorts of things, including a failure.
Chuqui 3.0.1 Beta: analyzing the apple offerings..:
But think about this: 1.78 million .Mac subscribers; how many people would pay $50/year for Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter or whatever? Much less that $99 for .Mac. The thing people forget: .Mac is aimed at a specific market — and it’s not us geeks.
This is where the geek world falls down — it can’t differentiate very well between “this is bad” and “this isn’t what I want” — too often, they equate the two. .Mac numbers, and sites like LinkedIn (found to be dead and “old news”, but generating good revenue and profitable, unlike new and sexy facebook) or Ning (which geeks seem to look at and go “where’s the meat?” — but 70,000+ sites have found some….) don’t get much respect in the geek community, but seem to be doing very well out in the real world.
It’s a great reminder that we live in an echo chamber, and there is some serious tunnel vision among the residents in it.
The biggest criticism we can really raise at .Mac is that it doesn’t cater to us geeks; for geeks, of course, that’s enough to warrant a death penalty by some — and heck, you saw the same kind of criticism about the iPhone over a lack of developer tools, or the iPod for not being opened up. All these have done, and what we find .Mac has done, is sell well into the consumer segment.
But, of course, that doesn’t matter. If the geeks don’t like it, it sucks.
Hey, do I hear an echo in here? nah…
(hat tip: Bruce)
update: one more
It probably doesnâ€™t need to be said, but yesterdayâ€™s announced upgrades to Appleâ€™s perpetually anemic .Mac service left me, and probably many others, pretty disappointed.
Every time you hear someone talk about how bad .Mac is, think about that 1.78 million subscribers, at, oh, $80 per (to count for family packs and etc)…. then compare that to Facebook’s revenue, Twitter’s revenue, my blog’s revenue (hey, I made $1.15 in July! whoo hoo!)
Congratulations to Barry Bonds — 756 is a historic moment.
Today is not a day for talking about the other aspects of this record. Today is a day for letting Barry enjoy what he’s accomplished. that other stuff has been talked about in the past, and will be decided by history, but today, it’s the act that matters.
No, he hasn’t always made himself the easiest person to like, but last night, when he was thanking the crowd and his teammates, you could see the walls he keeps around him come crumbling down; it’ll be interesting to see whether we get a different Barry in the future, now that this is behind him — or whether his detractors throw so enough stones that he simply walls off again. It’s not JUST Barry that is responsible for how he is, after all.
I’ll leave the asterisks to the future, and to those who don’t seem to have a problem describing the details of the bachelor party during the wedding reception — there’s a time and a place, and this ain’t it — I won’t ruin Barry’s party.
I did have one thought last night though — it sure would be fun to see Barry stick around and hit enough MORE home runs to make any talk of asterisks silly and irrelevant. It’d make certain pundits and writers apoplectic to see him do that, because it’d ruin a good rant on their part. I wonder how many that would be? 30? 50 more? 75?
And he could well do it; it might take moving to the AL and DHing, but gee, would that be so bad?
And while Brooks rips the Rangers for penny-pinching, the same can certainly be said for Avery who, in fighting for a $2.6-million contract after a career-high 48-point season, surely presented an eye roll-inducing argument as to his value to the team.
This has been almost a classsic example of “how not to make friend and influence enemies” — the joys of arbitration.
The case for Avery: when he was traded to the Rangers, the Rangers DID catch some fire and go on a roll. We have to face the fact that these things did happen together, and it’s unlikely a coincidence.
The case AGAINST Avery: The Rangers are basically correct when they say: “Avery is not a mature player. He plays, at times, like an individual rather than a member of a team. This is sometimes referred to as an inability to see the ice, and in Avery’s case this seems to fit with his overall approach to the game.”
Now, Avery may not like hearing that. But it’s true.
Let’s not forget that Avery is basically one season away from being kicked off a team and sent home, where he was considered such a detriment to the Kings he was told to pack and leave. Where he was put on double-triple-secret-probation by Lombardi and told to keep his nose clean and mouth shut — or else.
I swear, the best thing someone could do for Sean Avery is sign him to a multi-year deal and then trade him to Edmonton or Buffalo, away from the lifestyles of LA or New York. But he’d probably find a way to cause problems anyway.
Avery has always seemed to have a much higher regard for his talent level than his teams. He’s a feisty player with attitude who actually has some talent — but not nearly the talent he thinks he has. His off-ice attitudes reminds me of Link Gaetz in some ways. Yeah, the Rangers got better when he got there; they needed some grit. They can get that grit many other ways than Avery if they need to, though, he’s a very replaceable player. There’s also no indication — or track record — that he would be able to sustain that kind of spark for the entire season for them. Given his career numbers, the chances he’d maintain the scoring impact is zero.
So for me, this one’s a no-brainer. Avery’s feelings might be hurt, but tough. He doesn’t seem to worry about other people’s feelings much (ask Bryan Hayward), and he played way over his head, and way more disciplined, for a short period of time. To believe he can continue that for a full season with that impact is unrealistic.
And he’s once again shown he has trouble handling the truth. A sad reality for a player so happy to get in everyone else’s faces…
I’m with the Rangers here. And if Avery wins arbitration, I’d walk. He’s not worth it, epsecially given the risk for a badly timed off-ice controversy. Not a small issue, given his history.