Complexity of What to Write

September 1, 2009

I’ve come to the point in my writing at mgoblog that I’m really not sure where I should go next. Now that the season are starting for most of the teams, my google-stalking abilities only do so much. Most of what I’m capable of doing from a distance is just read the box scores and press releases. I don’t want to just rehash those, so I’ve got to find some other way of relaying what the teams are doing. Finding that way is hard.

Since I’ve started, baseball has always been my out, but I’ve hit the end of the rope on most of that posting. I’ve done some solid season previews (or at least I think so). The post on the volleyball team’s win was one of my better game recaps, baseball included, but that was because I was able to watch the game and get into it.

Now, going into the school year, I don’t have access to hardly any video of games. I’ve got very little radio through mgoblue. Even the few games I will be able to watch, they’ll be through streaming IPTV that I’m not even sure will hold up. What does make it through, I have no way of recording it. My life is too busy to watch all these games live for free.

So while the jihad bought me some time to think without people wondering where my writing is, I’m finding that I’m the odd man out and it sucks. I’m the writer disconnected from my topic. I’m the one that can’t be there to get the interesting input on the other side of Michigan sports – a place I really like being. So where do I go next?

My first thought is coach and player interviews, but how do I go about them? The ideal time would be right after games, but I can’t be there. So I go with midweek interviews, what do those really accomplish from a journalistic stand point? I’m not sure it’s much. Asking them about games they played a few days ago seems like dated information. Asking them personal information doesn’t seem like it would remain interesting as interviews would start to become stale for mgoblog’s readership. That kind of stuff is great on mgoblue, but mgoblog is an entirely different animal.

After that, I wonder what good I really can do with mgoblog as a full Olympic/non-revenue sports contributor. Do I just post a notes piece that bullet points how each team did? Do I try to preview weekends more in depth? I don’t know.

None of these ideas scream out to me the writer as something appealing, which makes it infinitely harder to write. If I’m not passionate about the information I’m spreading, I think it’s a waste for me to do it. I don’t want to waste my own effort.

What I am certain about though, is I want to continue to write, and that is what will have to drive me onward.


Meta Somewhat Completed

August 8, 2009

With the recent MGoMerger completed, I’ve made a couple changes to the sidebar.  I’ve decided to get rid of the text at the top and place an updated version on the “About” page.  Along with that, I’ve edited my blog roll to reflect past and present works better.

Formerly on mgoblog will link to all posts I make on mgoblog (so long as I remember to tag them correctly) (updated: link corrected without using tags).  This should help me track all of my posts in an easier manner than what is available through the basic mgoblog functions.  I think it’s valuable for a writer to be able to link out their specific work, especially on a site where my work will be the minority.  This should help with in the future if I want to use mgoblog as a reference.

Formerly Tweets is a link to my twitter page.  Fomerly’s Fanposts links to my few posts on Maize ‘N Brew (among other places), for much the same reason as keeping my mgoblog author feed.

The MGoBlog Baseball and VarsityBlue Baseball posts link to just baseball specific posts.  Occasionally Tim, Paul, or even Brian may mention baseball, so I want to make sure I can still link out the entire baseball section of the respective sites to college baseball fans looking for information on Michigan.

I’m still not sure if I want to move up on the side bar to the top or keep my search and archive functions closer to the top. I had contemplated adding a list of tags, but doesn’t offer enough choices on how to present it.  The only option I have is tag cloud, which draws all the attention away from the blog to the tag cloud with is counter productive.  We’ll see if this changes in the future.

If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know in the comments/email.

The Girlfriend Returns

August 7, 2009

The last nine days have been awesome. The girlfriend made her second documented visit, which went equally as pleasant as the first documented visit, if not better.  We did a little bit of traveling, plenty of finer food sampling, and few couples events that have me feeling way old.  This particular visit was particularly special, as it marked our one year point as a couple.

Early in the visit, we did plenty of traveling.  Day one saw a return to Galveston and its West Beach; we had visited during the previous trip.  This time the island appeared to had really cleaned up the place. In March, during her previous visit, there were still boats randomly placed along side streets in the center of the island.  There were traffic lights that were still off with temporary construction stop signs placed between lanes.  Even the beach showed signs of disrepair as the sand along the seawall was three feet thick and dropped in a steep step at the water’s edge.

This time the streets were clean and all of the signals we passed appeared to be going fine.  The bars along the beach all appeared to be reopened.  Even the sand had worked itself into a nice sandy slope.  It was nice.

The weather also played in our favor.  The temperatures outside were in the high 90s with heat indexes in Houston reaching about 103.  The wind at the beach, however, was blowing hard and steady, probably in the 20 to 25 miles per hour range, offering a nice break from the heat.

West Bound I-10

DSCN0001The following day, we made the trek west to San Antonio and its Riverwalk.  On the way, we made a stop in to the K. Spoetzl Brewery, home of Shiner beers.  The beer “fresh brewed with an attitude in a little town called Shiner” has one hell of a brewery. The place looked like the cleanest chemical production plant I had ever seen.  The best part of all of it, the tour is free and includes 4 free samples.

I heavily sampled the new Smokehaus variety, which is made by malt that was smoked bbq style behind the brewery.   The smoke flavor was very light, and the girlfriend could hardly taste it.  I thought it was a good summer beer, not too light. I just wonder if I wasn’t supposed to drink it at a slightly higher temperature for more flavor.

We both picked up a souvenirs.  I got a pint glass, one of the last 5 available to the public to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the brewery.  The girlfriend got a sweet fleece blanket that will show up later.

From the brewery, we headed back across US-90 and cut up TX-183 to Luling, home to the original Buc-ee’s.  I grabbed a Dublin Dr. Pepper, a bbq sandwich, and some jerky.  It was like heaven.

Night on the Riverwalk

I made the mistake of getting a hotel too close to the riverwalk.  It was way too expensive.  The hotel charged for everything they could get their hands on.  I get there and immediately they tell me they’re charging $16 dollars to my room because the valet is mandatory.  FTW!

Despite that, the rooms were damn nice and we were less than half a mile from everything.  We took the quick walk upon our arrival and walked the stretch of the river with the restaurants.  It helped clear up some space in my stomach.

After making the walk, we decided on a place for dinner.  She chose a Mediterranean style place that had some interesting dessert choices that were quite enticing.  Too bad we got the name mixed up.  Instead, we ended up at a faux-Mexican style place where we were way overdressed.

The service was horrible.  After being seated, it took 15 minutes for our waiter to even acknowledge us.  After that, we ordered drinks that took 30 minutes to make it 5 feet as we were just next to their kitchen where the bar was located (not a walk up bar). Another 30 minutes later we had to demand our check so we could leave.  I caught my waiter spitting ice out of his mouth and into his bare hands as he went to deliver drinks to a table.

The hour and fifteen minutes left us both so disgusted we decided to just head back to the hotel.  So on the way home, we stopped in at a Texas Wine store and picked up a bottle.  We got back to the hotel, had wine and turkey jerky, and honestly, it was probably the most awesome way to spend our one year recurrence (I won’t call it an anniversary).

Saturday in Gruene

The next morning we headed up I-35 to Gruene, Texas, home to legendary Gruene Hall, the Guadalupe River, and the Gristmill.  We arrived a little early to be seated for lunch so we made the rounds of the town of Gruene, taste testing all sorts of jellys and spreads, looking at ridiculously overpriced antiques, and smelling delicious delicious candies.

After an hour of building up hunger, we headed back to the Gristmill for lunch.  The place was still pretty empty being before noon, but we were able to grab some great seats inside where we could look out over the lower levels.  The restaurant is in the ruins of an old cotton gin facility, built into a hill overlooking the Guadalupe River.

The food and service were awesome and it really made up for the night before.  If you’re ever in central Texas… Gruene should be one stop you shouldn’t pass up.

Saturday Night Concert

After coming home for a few hours to recuperate, we headed back out again to the north side of Houston to the race track for a concert.  We showed up just on time for the concert, grabbed some beer (they ran out of the only not-so-shitty-non-light-beer… RABBLE RABBLE), and headed to the infield to the concert site.

The headliner for the show was the Counting Crows.  I like their old stuff, and their new stuff is okay.  They opened up with a few songs and had their opening act (Augusta) play songs peppered throughout the show.  Through the portion of the show we stayed for, I recognized two songs.  One was by Augusta.  The other was Long December being played after we were in the parking lot trying to avoid the many soon to be drunk-drivers on the road way.  I was a bit disappointed so few songs were the ones I knew.


The atmosphere was actually pretty sweet.  The infield was a huge improvement over how the race park used to have concerts.  The infield is much bigger than their sidelines, and the beer booths DSCN0086were much more accessible.

As far as the people at the concert, it was way different than my usual crowd at the race park.  Normally I go to Texas Country acts which draw the slight red-neck, beer drinking, cigarette smoking crowd.  This was a lot of couples mixed from 20 to 45 years old.  They were much more mellow.  Oddly enough, there were a lot more cops at this show than any of the previous shows I’d seen either.  Weird.

Sunday Night Couple’s Dinner

Here’s where I start to feel old.  On Sunday, the girlfriend and I spent the evening having dinner with a high school friend of the girlfriend – and her husband – and her baby – at their house.  It was weird.

While it was fun playing with their baby, it was so weird to know I’m old enough and involved enough with someone to be having the types of dinners where you go to another couple’s house.  It’s not a bad thing, just weird to be actually having them.

We did get a bottle of wine out of the trip though.  We brought the couple a housewarming gift (luckily not wine), and the couple decided to return the gesture by dumping a bottle of wine on us.  The couple doesn’t drink alcohol and was given it as another housewarming gift.  So bonus: give them some finer food, get some finer wine!

The Last Few Days

The weekdays brought less activity, mainly due to my class being right in the middle of the day.  We did manage to get out of the house on Wednesday though, including a trip to the Houston Zoo.

It hadn’t been to the zoo since I was probably 12.  It’s changed quite a bit.  No longer do they have rhinos, pandas, hippos, penguins, or nearly as many animals in the still existing exhibits.  I was really surprised at how little there actually was.

We spent most of our time in the reptile house and the “natural encounters” exhibit.  Both of those were air conditioned; it was ridiculously hot out and the Yankee girlfriend just couldn’t hack it.

Check out some of the pictures at the Photo Album above.

After the Zoo, we headed out a seafood dinner.  I guess it’s also worth noting that before dinner, we stopped at a Barnes & Noble across the street from our restaurant.  We found out the store is closing and about 85% of the merchandise was 40% off.  THIS WAS AWESOME.  I picked up 4 classic literature books for $20.  I could have bought the whole store if I had the money.  So if you’re in the Houston area, head to the B&N on S. Sheppard before everything disappears.

As for dinner, we did Pappa’s Seafood, which is just the right balance of casual and classy.  It’s a place you can go in casual clothes, but get the high class service and specialty seafood to make it feel well above a Chili’s or Olive Garden.  The girlfriend chickened out on having the lobster that was on special for $9.95 a pound (less than half the normal cost).  Apparently she felt the throwing of live lobsters in boiling water was just too weird.

As for me, I had the fried catfish and shrimp plate that was delicious.  The seafood menu was too limited at that particular Pappa’s that night.  Too many items were either blackened or nut crusted.  I prefer my fish grilled or pan seared, not blackened or baked.  It was delicious though.

Now the Wait

Now that she’s left, it’s going to be another 2-3 months before we get to see each other again… which sucks a lot.  If anyone needs a part-time intern in the Houston area, I’m definitely for sale.  I need money and work hard.  Hire me!  Please!

I’ve got a couple other articles to catch up on soon, including a mgoblog post or two.  Those should be out this weekend.

Foray in Michigan Volleyball

July 25, 2009

pvballMy baseball coach’s daughter playing for my high school now. Jesus, I remember when she was like 12. Now she’s their ace.

As mentioned previously, I’m also looking to expand coverage of the Michigan Volleyball team.  I’ve found in my home town, the sports of baseball and volleyball go hand in hand.  The two sports are on complete opposite ends of the sports scheduling spectrum, making it easy for the two teams to see the other play.  As a baseball player, I was never stuck in practice and unable to see the volleyball team play.  Same went for the volleyball players who would fill the baseball stands.  And yes, we did pack each others’ games.  By my senior year, the baseball team packed the student section with the “bleacher bums” equipped with t-shirts made by the volleyball players.  Come spring, they were our “bleacher babes.”  It was a great (however stereotypical suburban high school) relationship between the two teams.

It also stretched past the fields.  Many of the baseball players, including myself (however badly that ended up in retrospect), dated volleyball players.  Two of my best friends in life are still a pair of volleyball players from my time at high school.  The two teams just gelled, and it has had a lasting effect on my sports fandom.

It’s not just me.

I’ve always been a fan of playing volleyball and volleyball-esque games.  Since becoming inundated with the game through my then girlfriend, I would estimate I’ve played more volleyball than any other sport.  It started with playing volleyball a town over at their lighted sand courts, but in college, it hit a new high.  I joined Alpha Delta Phi (yes, the one with the volleyball court out front).  While opinions of us may vary depending on who you talk to or who you may know, the volleyball court is probably the most defining feature of our house.

Many of my greatest memories of the house happened while playing on the volleyball court.  While there were obviously great bonds built, every year those started at the same spot.  Every August, as move in is just beginning, volleyball becomes the focus.  Guys in the house, passerby’s on the street, volleyball is that fun distraction that drew us all in.  It’s where we’d catch up with our brothers and friends we’ve missed over the last four months.

As college went on, I was introduced to wally-ball.  For those of you not familiar with this particular intramural, you’re really missing out.  It’s volleyball meets racquetball.  You play in the racquetball court and off walls.  The season I played co-ed with my house and the sister sorority de jour was one of my favorite experiences in IM sports.

After I left Michigan, I worked in Chicago for a year and had a brief stint with a men’s club team there.   My work schedule limited my participation, but it was interesting none-the-less.  While being one of only two straight guys on our team of 12 was awkward, being able to smash down as an right side hitter was a great release from the rigorous travel schedule at work.

Since returning home to Houston, I’ve tried to make a point to get out at least once a month to the volleyball courts.  I’ve also made it a goal to see more high school and college games.  Last year, I was lucky enough to catch Michigan play at the Rice Invitational.  I think I was the only non-parent at the game.  I watched Bower and Paz, two players I will probably write a bit more about soon, rip up Louisiana Lafayette in 3 straight games.   It was awesome.  It was also the last time I got to see Kerry Hance – dig through enough old haloscan comment sections of mgoblog v1.0 and it may reveal some drooling over her on my part.  But sigh, she’s graduated on to bigger and better things.

08 Team, There’s Kerry, front and center… (pic from mgoblue)

I occasionally posted a brief fanpost on maizenbrew or mgoblog, but I never really got into the blogging thing.  That post, along with my blogging of the baseball Big10 tournament in 2008, though, lead me to start the blogging of baseball full time.

So that brings us back to now.  After a season of baseball blogging, I’m looking to also bring in volleyball.  I’m not really sure how I’m going to go at it though.  I’m running into several problems, most notably lack of media coverage.  I’m hoping the opening series at the Nebraska/Runza/AVCA Showcase will make it onto CBS College Sports or ESPNU.  This being THE tournament of the volleyball season (imagine the preseason-NIT but bigger), there is a good chance that much of it will be televised, especially our match versus home team and probably preseason top 3 team Nebraska.

After that, the BigTenNetwork hasn’t released any programming schedules with regard to volleyball.  Last year’s coverage was meager at best. They only offered 20 conference games (one per night) over the course of the season, seven of which included Michigan.  I’m really hoping we can see more streamed coverage from either BTN or  I’m not expecting it though.

We’ll see how things go over the next few weeks.  I’ll probably start with previews and background information here, then post them as diaries on mgoblog as a litmus test for how fans respond.  I’ve been informed that the volleyball team has quite a cult following, and I’m hoping I can offer them more coverage as they desire.

Women’s volleyball is hot, your argument is invalid.

I’m somewhat afraid that the mgoblog community isn’t the greatest platform to start coverage.  Many fans on there aren’t really fans of the school as much as they are the football team.  To invite fans of the school (as you almost have to be in to be a supporter of a non-revenue sport) into this pre-existing community could scare off some readership.  I really liked the community feeling we were gaining at VarsityBlue with the baseball crowd.  I’m not sure they’ll care to put up with the football crowd.  So those are just the thought’s I’m having right now.

Depending on how Brian orients his site as a source, it could work out nicely or play to my fears.  If my posts are semi-buried, I may be able to insulate the non-revenue varsity sports fans from the ridiculousness that is mgoboard.  Unfortunately, I anticipate that that crowd will seep over regardless of how I try to insulate my posts.

That said, insulating my posts isn’t something I really want to do.  By trying to set myself apart, I lose exposure for the sport coverage.  I’m not sure what the best option is.  I think the best option going forward is to post here and then diaries, hoping to do something like 40Acres does at BurntOrangeNation with his baseball posts.  I can post tid-bit recaps without much substance just to say, “hey, volleyball exists and they won.”  Make those posts on Sunday before football posting kicks in with thought out reflections as a hold over.

But as I’ve said, I’ve got time to figure that out.

I’ve Been Bought Out

July 24, 2009

News finally broke today that VarsityBlue, my home to Michigan baseball coverage the last 5 months, has been absorbed by MGoBlog – the leader in University of Michigan sports coverage not related to the actual school.  For those of you not familiar with the sports blogging world, Brian, the creator of MGoBlog, is widely heralded for being an innovator when it comes to the medium (college sporting blogs related to a specific school, and to an extent, college sports in general).  His site, created as a writing outlet for a fan, has grown into one of the largest individual sites dedicated to college football.  He became so successful that he was able to give up his job as an software engineer and do the blog full time – and for good money.

Now, after experimenting with a recruiting correspondent for a few months, Brian is looking to absorb VarsityBlue with Tim as a lead reporter, Paul as an Ann Arbor based correspondent (Tim’s not always in Ann Arbor), and me doing baseball.   This is a great chance for me to increase exposure of not only Michigan baseball, but my own writing.  I’m not opposed to either of those, obviously.  Really, that goals post was written the day before I found out there were plans for the absorbtion.  At least I have a plan to put towards Brian now at least?

So while details on my role have been sparse, I’m hoping to start getting things kicking in the next few weeks.  I’ve got to discuss with Brian his thoughts on other minor sports, particularly ones that happen during football season.  I’ve got some ideas about limited volleyball coverage, but I need to run it by him.  The goal of the merger appears to be making MGoBlog into the media center for Michigan sports coverage, which means any new coverage would be warranted.  Brian’s already discussing the problem of providing too much content, which is a very valid concern.  If there’s too much, people will just be overwhelmed by the content.  I’ll play it by ear.

Also, with the transition to MGoBlog, I’m contemplating my current use of anonymity.  With VarsityBlue, as well as commenting on MGoBlog for the last two years, I’ve stuck with the tag name of formerlyanonymous.  I’m contemplating going to my real name for posting there not only for exposure, but more importantly for validity.  By putting my name to my work, I’m taking a larger responsibility in what I say and think.  I can’t hide behind the faceless entity of “formerlyanonymous.”  I would put my work to my name, which will help with my credibility as a writer.  Plus, I mean it makes me even more “formerly anonymous.”  And who doesn’t like clever tags like that?

I’ll be updating some links, tags, and categories on here in the meantime.  Once I know how the new MGoBlog will work, I’ll provide an update along with creating an RSS feed of posts on the new big site.


Vector Field Calculus Week

July 5, 2009

I’m currently taking multivariable calculus and it’s the last week of class.  That said, I need to find ways to study.  I’m one of those that believes the best way to learn is by teaching, ergo I’m going to try and explain vector calculus on this blog.  I don’t expect it to be pretty.  If you don’t have a little background in calculus you probably will have no idea what I’m talking about.  If you have a background of calculus, good luck making sense of what I’m talking about.  I appreciate any clarification questions as they will force me to reinforce my understanding by explaining things better.

We’ll see if this lasts more than one post.  Vector Fields after the jump.

Updated: 5:51pm CDT, update highlighted in yellow

Read the rest of this entry »

Goals for Michigan Baseball on Varsity Blue

July 3, 2009

This is more something for me, but perhaps some of you might be interested in what I’m working on.-FA

While my posts here at formerlyanonymous are of the sporadic, as-it-happens sort of substance, my posts at VarsityBlue are much more targeted.  It’s plainly obvious that much of what I do there is rehash games and add a little extra opinion to the standard press releases offered by MGoBlue.  My goal for next season is to increase that coverage a little bit more.  I want to help encapsulate the history and tradition that makes Michigan baseball the storied program that it is.

Most people, even pretty strong Michigan fans, don’t have any idea of the baseball juggernaut the Wolverines used to be.  This is a real shame, because, along with winning, all a fan wants is that their team be meaningful.  With the state of college baseball being what it is – south dominates and the north is left to be “mid major” or worse despite having well over half the teams – it’s very easy for fans to be lost when it comes to Michigan baseball.  It’s a non-revenue sport.  It’s played for the most part after students are already off campus.  The stadium is tucked away from the main streets of campus.  There just isn’t much enthusiasm to see games in potential snow storms.  There are just way too many factors against it.

I know I’m not going to change those factors.  What I can do is get people excited about history and tradition, something I’ve found many Michigan fans value more than common sense (see: #1 jersey mess of last year).  The following are some of the ways I’m thinking about cashing in on nostalgia:

  • A series on “Players Past.”  Included in this would be a list of the most famous of Michigan baseball players.  I’d give a bio of players such as George Sisler, Bill Freehan, and Barry Larkin.  I also want a separate section on players currently in professional baseball, both majors and minors.
  • Michigan Records.  This one is a little bit harder with the resources I have available.  I’d like to get a list of Michigan team records, Michigan BigTen records (I have a copy of this), and anything else where Michigan is the “Leaders and Best” type-things.  Comparing Michigan’s overall record and # of wins to the NCAA.  To start the 2009 year, we were #4 in total wins (still #4 as Stanford is 40 games behind us) and #18 in winning percentage (fell to at least #19 behind Texas A&M this season).
  • World Series Recaps.  While Michigan hasn’t made it to a CWS in a long time, they still have a couple appearances.  I want to recap these big moments.
  • The NCAA violations.  With the 1989 sanctions, I think its important that fans get the whole picture, not just the happy moments.  If anything, we can compare it to the basketball sanctions, showing how far a program can come when down.

After that, I’m planning on havnig my season previews much like last year.  I’ll start with the recent class of seniors that left.  Then I’ll move to returners on the mound, recapping their 2009 campaign and summer ball where available.  Then I’ll move to the offense/defense and do the same.  I’ll probably pepper in the new guys with the returners as there is little I’ll know about them going in.

I’ve already got a good jump on the “Players Past” section, with 5 already completed and a couple more on the way later this week.  I think the big plan is to have as much of the early season stuff done early so I get a good jump on next year.  I found that this last season was so quick to escalate into a regular thing that I really felt overworked in the first few weeks.  It started with just a few previews over at Maizenbrew and all of a sudden, I get a call to post on VarsityBlue regularly.

As far as after the preseason, the other thing I really want to work on is obtaining interviews.  It’s going to be a little bit harder to do this from Houston, but I’d like to get an interview with either players, or even possibly Coach Maloney here or there.  If things work well enough, possibly even ex-players.  I find interviews offer the best view into how a team is performing and what players are like.  I’ll be the first to admit that what draws me into baseball is the personalities.  While I haven’t met any of the current players, I have pseudo-personality traits for many of them.  Each guy is one I can’t help but root for.  Things like the Captain’s Corner Blog on MGoBlue just solidified those personalities.  It was great.  I want to be able to share these kids with more fans.  They deserve it, and I really think interviews are a great way to bring that out.

So with that, I think I have my two goals for the next year.  First, I want a tradition laden preseason – something to draw in a few extra fans.  Second, I want to get at least one good interview.