State of the Sharks 2010-2011

I’ve had a few people ask me my thoughts on the Sharks this year, so here are a few thoughts about them so far.

Overall, I’m satisfied with what i see.  There are some rough edges, but name me a team in the NHL that doesn’t have them? We’ve been hit with some injuries, especially on defense, and that’s both shown that we have impressive depth in the organization, but that some of that depth is young. Justin Braun has been a real eye opener to me, he has a very rare ability to get a point shot through traffic and on goal, and isn’t afraid to do so — but he’s taken some time adjusting to the speed of the NHL, and he’s made some mistakes along the way. He pretty much singlehandedly gave up all of the goals in that bad Detroit loss, where the Wings schooled him and fed him his jock (but they do that to a lot of good players); he and the Sharks dealt with it appropriately, and he ratcheted back his pinching and played more conservatively, and he’s progressed very quickly. I expect he’ll go back to Worcester at some point, but he’s shown he’s got a good future as he continues to mature.

The two questions I seem to get asked more frequently are — what about our defense? and what about Nabby?

Nabby first. As big a supporter of Nabokov as I was, I felt the Sharks made the right move. Nabby wasn’t going to get better, and we’d seen what he brought to the team. With what his contract was going to require, I agreed with us moving on to another option, because goaltending that good was available elsewhere, and for less money, allowing us to spend more of the cap space on other needs. I’m not as convinced as some pundits that Nabby will end up back in the league this year, but he well could. Nittymaki was an adequate replacement for Nabokov, and when the Sharks got Niemi as well, I was thrilled. Niemi had a rough start, but he’s found his game, and he’s showing why he beat the Sharks in the playoffs last year. This is definitely an upgrade.

And on defense? we miss Blake, although I don’t miss his once-a-game 2 minute penalty for “I’m old” (usually a hook). While I wouldn’t mind an upgrade, I think the crew we have is good, when healthy. Wallin and Huskins as our 5-6 dmen is pretty good, but when we have injuries and they need to bump those two up to 3-4, it shows. Overall, though, I’m not worried. I like Jason Demers and he’s maturing nicely, and our top four D (Boyle, Vlasic, Murray, Demers) is pretty darn good. I don’t see much need to do anything, but if Wilson finds the right fit, I wouldn’t complain if he upgraded Huskins onto the black aces. the big thing is being healthy in the playoffs, and not depending much on the depth. Joslin is good as a physical body, Braun is a bit of a wildcard but in a year or so, watch out. I’m really impressed overall.

The player the Sharks really miss right now is Manny Malhotra, but I don’t blame them for not matching Vancouver’s money. Nicholl fills part of it and Jamal Mayers isn’t much of a downgrade on ice, but we miss Malhotra’s and Blake’s leadership and work ethic. The team is still figuring out who the new leaders are, and I think that shows in some of the inconsistency. I see no reason to panic, and I expect it to be sorted out by the playoffs.

Marleau is in one of his “enigmatic” phases, but I’ve come to realize at some point in every season we seem to wonder about Marleau, and at the end of the year, his numbers and contribution are there. He’ll kick it in and the questions will stop. Again. I expect that’ll be the way he is the rest of his career. Given the numbers end up being there and he shows up in the playoffs, I’ll live with it and not worry about it so much.

Thornton/Heatley is a great pair, and speaking as someone who was against the Heatley trade, I’m happy to say I’ve been proven very wrong on that deal, and I say that with great enthusiasm for what he’s done since coming to San Jose. Coture is a great pairing with Ryan Clowe, and ought to win rookie of the year. More amazingly, he actually might, despite playing out west were the eastern hockey media doesn’t see hi, regularly because the sharks games are up past their bedtime.

All in all, I give this team a B right now. I expect more, but this team will figure it out and bring it as the season progresses. I don’t see any glaring holes, I don’t see any significant problems that need to be fixed — but this isn’t a team beyond tweaking, and I expect at some point Wilson will. Most likely to not be in teal come the end of the season? Maybe Setoguchi, although I’m in no hurry to move him.

Final question: cheechoo? I think it’s great the Sharks have given him an opportunity in Worcester, but people who think this indicates Cheech might return to San Jose are thinking with their hearts and memory, not their heads and Cheechoo’s current abilities. The best Cheech could be in san jose is a part time player and black ace, if that. If he makes it back to the NHL, it’ll be with a lower tier team, and god help him, I hope it’s not the Islanders.



Posted in Sports - Hockey

Writing about Hockey

Every so often I get an email from someone asking why I don’t write about hockey anymore. I figure it’s probably time to talk about it here, if only so I can point to it later and stop writing it multiple times…

Short answer: I haven’t. But I have taken an extended break. I’m starting to write a bit this season, and I have some stuff I plan on writing when I get the time and motivation.

The primary reason I took a break is pretty simple — writing about hockey stopped being fun. I’ve come to believe that some things in your life need to be reserved for fun — if you turn everything into work, then you’re never NOT working. When writing about hockey started feeling more like work than fun, it was time to step back and get back to what hockey really should be — a diversion from real life and something to just relax and enjoy.

A second reason I felt like it was time to step away for a while is that so much hockey and sports writing is really negative; there are writers and bloggers that seem unable to write anything but rip pieces — this is especially true in much of the Canadian press, where it seems if you actually say something nice about a team you cover, you get fired. it seems a lot of writers have taken the “good news doesn’t sell newspapers” concept seriously, to a fault. I find many of them unreadable.

But worse, since I always wanted to try to show both sides of the situation, to write with a balance (and promote what’s good about the sport as well), I tended to end up a target for fans who respond to things they disagree with using abuse. After a while, I just got really tired of the trolls, to be honest, whether those trolls are bloggers who can’t handle someone saying something doesn’t suck, fans who see anything they disagree with as something to be attacked, or professional trolls like Bruce Garrioch. It seemed impossible to try to hold an intelligent conversation without attracting the reactionaries, and so I decided to stop. There didn’t seem to be much of an audience for someone who wasn’t reinforcing the “it all sucks” motif. I’m still not convinced there is, although there are some writers out there (like David Pollak at the Merc) who still have that balance (although, god, read the comment section on just about any posting on his blog, and you’ll see why I stopped)

And finally… there are some really good writers out there, which allows me the ability to sit back and let them write instead. If we’d invented the blogosphere 15 years earlier, maybe I’d have done things differently, but today, with folks like Pollak, Mike Chen over on SB Nation and Jon Swenson over at Sharkspage, I don’t feel a great need to wade in and have my say these days. I much prefer sitting back and watching and having a good time and not worrying so much about whether they’re using a left wing lock or a modified trap.

And here’s a hint: if you hate everything going on about the sport, why are you watching it? If you’ve hit that point where hockey (or sports in general) is nothing but a reason to complain about stuff, go do something else. If it’s not fun any more, why do you inflict it on your eyeballs? And then inflict yourself on us?

That’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t answer it in the comments. I already know the answer….


Posted in Sports - Hockey

Book View Cafe

Some days people give you a gift without even realizing it. Here is a gift I am pleased to pass along to you.

This gift started out as a tweet from Vonda McIntyre, noting that Ursula K. Le Guin is now blogging. That in itself was enough to make my day; back in the ancient of days when I was involved with SFWA and writing a bit I got to know many of the authors in the field, but Le Guin is one of those rare writers that changed how I viewed the field, and through her non-fiction and criticism also changed how I thought about life. She is one of those rare people that I bestow the “I will happily read your shopping lists” honor on (the others I’ve given that award to being Ray Bradbury, Gene Wolfe, Terry Carr, and Damon Knight — each of which deserves its own discussion point at some point in the future). She is also one of the most gracious and nice people you’ll ever meet.

It turns out that Le Guin is blogging at a site called “Book View Cafe“, which describes itself as an online consortium of writers; effectively, it’s a shared blog and publicity resource that somehow I hadn’t discovered before today. That’s my loss, because there are a group of really interesting people involved with that site, and the blog looks to be chock full of Interesting Stuff You Probably Want To Read. A quick glance at the authors involved with the site shows a long list of names I can recommend to you as well worth your time, including not only McIntyre and Le Guin, but Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Brenda Clough, Katherine Kerr, Laura Anne Gilman, Phyllis Radford, Judith Tarr (and her horse), Sarah Zettel, and Sherwood Smith.  All of which are extremely nice and interesting people to spend time with as well as writers worthy of your time.

So please consider wandering on over to the Book View Cafe blog, and attach your eyeballs to it for a while. Your eyeballs will likely thank you and ask for a return visit.

Posted in For Your Consideration Tagged , , , , |

An audience of one….

I got this in an email today. Since I’ve been thinking about similar things over the last week or so, I figured I’d continue mulling it over here in public for the amusment and horror of all…

I am finding that the volume of your personal tweets that seem to be replicated on LinkedIn keeps me from seeing updates from other contacts on LinkedIn.

I figured it was better to ask you first. How would you handle this situation?

There is, of course, an implied “and if you don’t fix this, I’ll have to unsubscribe from reading you” in the sub-text.

Which is understandable. Managing the firehose of information that is the internet is a challenge. So much to follow, and there’s always that implied worry that you’re missing something, so there’s a quiet pressure to keep broadening your reading, which means if you don’t keep an eye on it, it becomes an infinite time sink and then nothing useful gets done.

I’ve struggled with this over the years. I think we all have. It’s nothing new here, either — one of the challenges we always faced with mailing lists is that whenever a mailing list got onto a topic that the group was motivated to talk about, message volume would spike, and that would shortly be followed by people clamoring for QUIET because the volume of messages was bothering them. Imagine that — the best mailing lists were ones that weren’t used, because if you use them for things that the group was interested in, you got told to shut up.

And I say that somewhat facetiously, but it was a serious issue in using email for one to many communication, one that we never really solved well. Digests for mailing lists were at best a nasty hack, one I always hated. client filters solved the problem better if users took the time to learn them and use them, and too few did. It was easier just to complain that people were actually enthusiastic about a topic and that was bad, because it generated too much content. This was ultimately a key reason I gave up on mailing lists — they were from the “well, all I have is a hammer, so this must be a nail” era of the internet, and I’ve been exploring alternatives to mailing lists for group communication since my first painful attempts to use forums in about 1998.

The web and RSS changes the equations but to some degree doesn’t solve it; there’s still way too much content out there and the challenge is how to edit and filter it so you get what you want and need without drowning.

The tools to do this are still pretty young and immature, but we’re getting there, slowly. Here’s how I do it these days, and in that is the answer to my friend’s question.

I allocate a chunk of time to following the news, much as my mom and dad allocated time every day to read a newspaper. I don’t do it at the morning table — I tend to browse throughout the day, lots of the time comes while I’m waiting for “stuff” to happen or finish. Since I’m constantly exploring and finding new stuff to follow, it’s safe to say I’m always bumping up against the “credit limit” for my time budget here. When I find myself doing that, I look at what is in the feeds and I delete feeds that are least interesting (or more correctly, ones for whom the time it takes to process those feeds outweighs the content or enjoyment of processing them). Quiet feeds have a lower barrier of entry; busy feeds need to more consistently bring in useful information for me to keep following them.

I typically find having about 400-425 feeds in my Google Reader fits in my time budget. When it gets over 450, I find myself feeling like I’m wasting too much time on it; if I drop it below that, I feel like I’m not reading widely enough. So that’s my comfort level.

Ditto things like facebook and twitter and all of the other places that have streams of data passing through. They all get a time budget; that budget is a subset of the overall time budget I allocate to following “stuff” out there.

You get into my feeds if I find you interesting. You leave my feeds if there are other feeds more interesting  than you and I run out of time consistently before getting to your stuff.  And, of course, my interests are constantly evolving — I used to read a LOT of Apple-oriented feeds (for obvious reason); today, it’s about four. Those feeds didn’t become uninteresting — my interests changed. it’s not you, it’s me. Honest.

I don’t play the “I’ll follow you if you follow me” game. Most of the people doing that, in reality, are doing the “I’ll pretend to follow you to get you to follow me” game, and I have no time or interest in playing that game. I find it disingenuous, but not as disingenous as getting the notification of someone following me on twitter, only to see they’ve already unfollowed me by the time I go and look at whether I might want to follow them (which I do). Amusingly enough, that is a very common occurence among “social media experts” who follow 10,000 or more people. I’m sure they read those feeds religiously, too.

I post stuff to the various services for a very specific audience: me. I have an audience of one. I put it out there because it’s the stuff I find interesting enough to be the stuff I want out there when I’m looking. To the degree that what you find interesting is the same as what I find interesting is what makes reading my postings worth time in your browsing time budget. Or not.

I am sensitive to the time issue. That’s one reason why I consciously keep the blog relatively low-volume and focussed, and have shifted the more casual link-love and the chattering conversational stuff over to twitter. It gives people some options to subset what I do to fit their interests if they want. I long ago gave up the presumption that my every word is to be studied and cherished. Please, god, don’t archive me and turn me into a PhD thesis in 30 years, okay? I really wonder sometimes about people who feel everything they say has to go to every channel and be archived forever, and why they would even want that. But that’s just me…

The twitter to linkedin bridge is one I’ve wondered about. It seems to me Linkedin might better be served as a tighter, more formal communication channel. But right now, I think the balance and volume is okay, and to date, I’ve gotten, well, one complaint about it. So I’m leaving it alone, but I might decide it warrants a smaller firehose than facebook gets down the road. This is all new, and we’re figuring it all out as we go along…

Which is my long-winded answer to the question: if what I do has enough value to you to read and follow, great. If not, that’s great, too. If you feel you want subsets of the material, I’ve set up ways to do that in various ways (blog only, photos only, etc) or you can build your own filters if you care. Or you can choose not to follow it and use your time on something better fitting your interests. That’s the joy of this; nobody’s forcing you to do anything, there are always options.

I do hope you find me interesting and choose to read what I put out there. But if you don’t — life goes on. For me, what’s important is that what I put out there is what I find interesting. Too many people go into this trying to create content for an audience they hope to attract, and far too often, turn out uninteresting or commercial stuff. Me, I’m just trying to do what’s fun and interesting for me, and to the degree that there are those out there that also find it fun and interesting I’ll have an audience. I try not to pay much attention to “the numbers”,  but I will say they’re growing slowly and I’m quite satisfied that the time I put into creating content is a good investment of my time.

And that’s all that matters. If it’s a good investment of time, do it. If if it’s, do something else. to view it any other way is to overcomplicate things. …

Posted in Community Management, The Internet

The elephant in the sitting room…

Scott wrote a comment on my post a couple of days ago that makes a good opening as I shift gears a bit:

Chuq, do you think the weight gain triggered the sleep apnea or did you have apnea first, which led to weight gain? Sleep apnea shows itself as a lot of different symptoms — it’s great that you decided to get to the core problem.

And the answer to that is complicated, and the experts are still figuring all of this out.

But first, a few notes before I dive in:

  • I am not a trained medical professional. I am an interested layman who’s been trying to learn as much about this as I can because it interests and affects me. Do not use me as your medical doctor replacement.
  • Be careful who you believe on the internet. Including me. There’s a lot of bullshit out there, some of it spouted by loonies, some of is published by people who want to sell you crap, and some of it published by people funded by large companies who want to sell you crap. Be wary of who you believe.
  • If they use the words “easy” or “foolproof” run away fast. Or toddle. Or waddle. Or whatever it is you do, as fast as you do.
  • If you are offended by someone making fat jokes, well, sorry. It’s okay. I’m fat. I can do this….

There does seem to be interesting research (also here) coming out that indicates that sleep apnea, and that inadequate sleep can both be a trigger for obesity. There are now some studies showing particularly strong links to inadequate sleep prior to the age of 5 being linked to obesity later in life. If you burn your candle at both ends, it seems to affect your metabolism, and your body is more likely to go into a defensive mode where it tries to collect fat.

Weight gain and apnea is a particular conundrum, because it looks like the apnea leaves you in a state of chronic exhaustion, and that exhaustion mucks with your metabolism and slows it down, which encourages fat storage. And as your weight goes up, it can enhance the apnea, creating a nasty feedback cycle. Apnea does a lot of other things — if you’re always exhausted, you’re rarely functioning at your best. Your mental processes slow down, you don’t think as clearly, your reaction times slow down — you know that feeling you get after an 18 hour day or pulling that end of project all-nighter? When you hit that point where no amount of Red Bull brings the edge back, and you have to think twice about how to tie a shoelace? Apnea takes you to that point and leaves you there is it strengthens. It saps your energy, meaning you’re less likely to exercise, also encouraging weight gain and muscle loss. You end up stressed; when you’re exhausted, you’re more likely to feel negative and unhappy and the stress and anxiety pile up.

Ultimately this all turns into a negative feedback cycle. And let’s not forget that there are strong correlations between apnea and insulin resistance, which leads to diabetes. And it all tends to happen slowly, over time, so you don’t really see the results until you’re far into the process.

I’ve always been hefty. I’m 5’8″ but with a seriously heavy bone structure. As a sophomore in high school, I wrestled at 142, and in good shape it was a struggle to meet weight. If you look at a recommended weight chart, a 25 year old at that heigh with a large frame is suggested to sit in the range of about 145-170. A 15 year old still developing and in good physical shape hitting that range is sort of off the chart, so one word never used to describe me is svelte. or petite. I exited high school about 175 in decent shape, and then got lazy. I was 280 on my 30th birthday. My doctor and I have done some work reconstructing my weight profile, and I started gaining about 7-10 pounds a year out of high school, and just kept it up, until close to the end at Apple when I hit that point where it spiralled and I put on about 60 pounds.

When I left Apple, I weighed 380. Today, four years (and a month) later, I weigh — 385. That in itself is a victory of sorts, but not a complete on. In those four years, I gained at least 20 pounds (maybe more; I stopped weighing) and joined the 400 club, and then lost it again. And then in 2008, I took of 35 pounds, only I wasn’t trying to, and that was one of the things that caused me to go get tested and we caught the diabetes fairly early on; I know I wasn’t diabetic in early 2007 when I got tested. I seem to have flipped this particular switch in late 2007. Since I and my doctor both know I’m was a good candidate for diabetes (as well as having a family history of seriously high cholesterol) we’ve kept a fairly close watch over time while I tried to figure out how to get the weight loss. Unfortunately, in 2008, my dad got sick and I spent much of 2008 helping mom deal with that, and then deal with the funeral, and then deal with the estate, and I never got around to the tests until fairly late in the year, when in all honesty I already knew. I emailed my doctor and suggested we should do some tests, he agreed, and the numbers came back seriously sideways. We retested and added in some other checks, the urine test came back “HEY! YOU CAN MAKE POPSICLES FROM THIS!”, and that was that.

Diabetes, according to a friend of mine, is nothing much at all to worry about, but you have to keep a very close watch on it. What he means by that is that as long as you take it seriously and pay attention and manage it — it really isn’t a big deal. he’s right. That’s a whole set of discussions for down the road, but suffice it to say, the best control I can put on the diabetes is to get the weight off and keep it off. Right now I’m controlling it by managing my diet and with some drugs, but the goal state here is to manage it by diet alone, and that means getting in better physical shape, getting the weight off, and eating a diet that keeps the body in balance. I’ve made good progress on that third part; I’m still struggling with the first two.

it’s complicated.

In talking with my doctor about all of this over the years, and with my therapist when I was in therapy, and with nutritionists, I’ve learned a lot about what makes me tick and where my struggles come from. Bad lifestyle habits don’t get fixed overnight; if you try to fix everything all at once, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll fail. One of the best pieces of advice my doctor gave me was to grab one thing I felt I could fix, and fix it, and keep working at it until the habit was relearned, which takes weeks. Try to do too many things at once, and as soon as you muff one, or you hit a patch of stress, or something comes up — you fall back into the old habits and lose it.

Try to pick up a mountain, and you’ll fail. Pick it up one rock at a time, and it’ll take a while, but if you keep at it, you’ll find you moved it. Slow and steady. My last year at Apple, I was on the burger and fries diet — five, six times a week (at least). Whatever was fast and didn’t require thought, since I only allowed myself 15 minutes for lunch, including acquiring it.

Today, there’s very little to complain about in my diet. One of the most effective tools in fixing a diet is the food diary, where you track everything you eat. Since i decided I needed to get serious about this, I spent a week tracking what I ate and did an analysis of it. The good news: I was right, I was eating to maintenance (no gain, no loss), and the food ratios where just about where I expected them to be. The bad news: the total calorie count AND what I thought an appropriate was an appropriate calorie range for maintenance were off by about 20% — I was eating more calories than I tallied mentally, but I also had the goal number off — so in practice, the result was accurate but the scale was off. That’s easy to recalibrate. The food ratios were just about where I expected them to be, more or less 30% fat, 35-50% carb, the rest protein. That’d be a great diet — unless you’re diabetic. As a diabetic, that’s too many carbs, and one of the diabetes drugs I take works by encouraging the liver to sequester blood glucose (i.e., stuff it into fat cells); hence losing weight with that going on is even more complicated. So I have to change that ratio to something more like 30% fat, 30% carb, 40% protein. Thank god I like deli sliced turkey…

There is, in our culture, this weird aspect that can best be described by the words “Just say no”. it drives me crazy sometimes, because it’s incredibly naive — and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work with kids and drugs or alcohol, it doesn’t work with kids and sex (or priests and sex, or married adults and sex, or…). And it’s embodied with weight with things like “just put less on your plate” or “you just need to walk 15 minutes a day”.

Here’s the hint: if it was THAT SIMPLE, all of us would be thin and healthy, okay? Notwithstanding that I take full responsibility for some bad choices I made, if you look around, there’s a huge obesity epidemic. there are more things driving that than being lazy and eating badly. Wherever the western diet gets introduced, obesity and diabetes follow. Here in the states, the combination of the western diet (heavily processed foods, carb heavy foods, fast food places everywhere, sweetened soft drinks, etc, etc) AND a culture of “don’t walk, get in the car” the obesity issue is magnfied. In places like Canada and New Zealand where there’s still a culture of “go outside and play”, it’s a lot less prominent. Just saw a study the other week where the average New Zealander takes twice as many steps per day as the average US person. And it shows in the average waistline.

I’m convinced that we’re going to find that there’s a direct link between the growth in usage of high yield corn syrup and many of our societal issues here. I would non be surprised if we end up coming to realize that this is our generation’s tobacco, and if you’re old enough you remember when the tobacco companies spent megabucks telling us it really was healthy. Where my mother’s generation in many ways died of lung cancer and deal with emphysema, our generation and the kids growing up today are as likely to die of heart attacks and strokes and suffer from diabetes. The evidence is still being built — but I expect it’ll happen, with the mega-food companies fighting it the entire way. At least until they can find a graceful exit strategy to convert their processed foods back to sugar.

In my case, there are a couple of things that have complicated this further. One is that I’m wired to eat under stress. When I stress out, I eat. That’s not something that “put less on your plate” remotely deals with. You deal with it by learning how to not be stressed. Which, if you’re stressing out about your weight, is an interesting challenge.

The other thing is a piece of biology. There are two hormonal signals tied to eating. One is the hunger signal, which tells you to eat. The other is a second signal called satiety, which is actually the trigger that tells you you’re full and you to stop eating. You start eating when you’re hungry. You stop eating when you’re full. In my case, the satiety trigger is sluggish. I don’t get the signal as quickly as the average person. That means that you eat longer, which means you tend to eat more, before you stop. Which means more calories.

All of which, I guess, is a long-winded rant on the stupidity of our culture that goes after simplistic answers to things that clearly are complicated and difficult. We set ourselves up for failure — and then beat ourselves up when we fail. And then go eat a donut to make ourselves feel better, which is okay because we suck and we deserve to be fat and everyone hates us. And so the cycle starts again.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand it in the context of myself. I’m now ready to make a serious stab at the core problem — my weight — because I believe I’ve finally dealt with all of the OTHER things that tie into it and complicate it and get in the way of dealing with it or trigger it, whether it’s a crappy diet because I was so tied to my job I didn’t allow myself enough life to eat properly, or stressing myself out over things that honestly didn’t deserve to control my life that much, or any of a dozen other things that all pile on and get in the way, like, oh, if you’re a stress eater and your dad is dying, losing weight just doesn’t hit the top of the priority list…

The reality is — this stuff’s all incredibly complicated. It’s a different path for everyone. Maybe I’m finally on mine. Maybe not, but I know I’m closer to it if I’m not there. And that’s why I’ve started writing about this — not because it makes my situation any easier, but because maybe it’ll help you find your path a little faster and easier. And even if not, it never hurts to know that you’re not alone in the struggle, right?

(the last few days have been heavy and deep. thanks for sticking with me. we’ll switch gears and go lighter for a while, but we’re not done here, not remotely. And if you have thoughts or questions, drop me a note….)

Posted in About Chuq