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Paul Nicholson
Nashvegas TN
Digital Marketing guy for Captain D's. Hockey fan, photographer, and father of 2 awesome boys.

(Opinions expressed here are not those of my employer. Heck, they might not even be mine.)

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Monday, March 31, 2008

Preds get into it with Columbus fans

Ok, so it doesn't sound like it was that bad, but it got your attention, right?

James Mirtle just posted a story about his road trip to see the Preds play the Blue Jackets in Columbus (actually, he was there on assignment for the Globe and Mail to cover a soccer tourney).

The most interesting part by far:

Toward the end of the game, two hecklers started trying to give it to one end of the Preds bench where Jerred Smithson and Vernon Fiddler were sitting.

The conversation seemed relatively innocuous, and Fiddler was having a good time giving little behind the back fist pumps while he mouthed one word to the crowd: "Playoffs".

Eventually, it turned a little ugly, as Smithson sprayed a water bottle through the crack in the glass at the fellow...who proceeded to dump half a beer over the glass.

He also has some good pics, but i won't post them here. I don't want to steal the whole post. Go check it out for yourself.

Looks like the animosity between these franchises doesn't just involve the players. I don't recall ever hearing of these types of altercations with fans in Nashville when Columbus visits, but that may have to do with us being the big brother in this situation, and the fans there are probably tired of losing to us all the time.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

pretty source

I'm all for commenting my source code and formatting it so that it is nice and neat. Proper indentions, tags, and comments are the key to writing good code.

I think Muxtape.com has taken pretty source code to the next level, though.
I want my 503 bytes back.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Predators lease goes before Metro Council

Now that the Predators' lease has passed the Sports Authority, it will now go before the metro council.

I have already expressed some of my concerns about this lease from both a fan and citizen perspective in the past, and i intend to do so again soon, but in the mean time, i wanted to make sure you all knew how easy it was to let your councilman know how you feel: http://www.nashville.gov/council/feedback.html

This is what i just wrote in to our councilman, Erik Cole...

Mr Cole,

First, thanks for being a great councilman. I really appreciate everything you've done for us in east Nashville.

I just wanted to let you know that I strongly support the passage of the Predators new lease agreement. I know it is far from a perfect deal. Even as a Preds fan, I am disappointed in the length that it locks the team here. But the fact is that the city, arena, downtown, and all will do much better with the team here than not, and these lease terms are a good short-term patch. This will give the team under new ownership time to get on their feet and make things happen the way they should have under the previous ownership.

If the Preds are still heavily reliant on large subsidies in 5 years, and attendance has not gone up, then they can leave, and though it would make me sad, I wouldn't fight it. However, I believe this shorter term "last chance" is one worth giving the team and the city.


Paul Nicholson

Here's hoping that their 5 year plan works.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sports Authority Approves New Predators Lease

NashvillePost.com is reporting it right now. Of course it is a pay only article, and i don't have a subscription, so i have no more details than a headline right now...

UPDATE: The sports section of the Tennessean doesn't have anything, but deep on the metro news section there is an article that talks about "Metro will always pay $3.8mil in arena loss" and mentions in passing that "Sports Authority members voted 7-1 to approve the lease agreement. The dissenting voter, Steve North, said he thought the new lease might leave the city paying for more than it expects."

Next move from here is for the new lease to be approved by the Metro Council. No idea on the time frame for that one.

UPDATE 2: According to a random article by the Canadian Press, the new lease will go before the Metro Council on April 1st. Just hope that isn't a joke. ;-)

UPDATE 3: The City Paper finally posts an article! Confirms the passage and the April 1st date for Metro Council. A few other comments, but not real details beyond what we had already heard about the lease changes outside of specifying the penalty amounts the team has to pay if it wants to leave after 3, 4, or 5+ years: "$20 million for 2010, $25 for 2011 and then drops to $10 million for any year thereafter" (more on that later...).

I'll make another big Preds update soon...

Monday, March 17, 2008

critter captcha

First off, for those not familiar with a 'captcha', they are basic test for humanity in web-based forms, meant to keep spammers away. If you make a comment on my blog, you'll see one. They are generally a random collection of text that you have to enter into a form...the typical "type the word you see here" kinda stuff. The one at the right here ("A6LTY") is from a Facebook sign up page.

You may have seen them getting more and more distorted lately (like the one to the right from MSN). This is because spammers were starting to use basic OCR software to allow their automated programs to defeat the tests. OCR software has a hard time seeing through distorted letters that (most) people can still easily see.

Last week captcha's were in the news not once, but twice. First, Gmail's captcha on their sign up process has supposedly been cracked. Gmail had been a pretty safe place to do your email business until recently, but now we may start seeing more spam come from "@gmail.com" (like we've been seeing from @hotmail and @yahoo for years). If that wasn't bad enough, there are apparently spammers in Russia paying people $3 a day to do nothing but enter captchas all day.

So, what is a site supposed to do to protect its users against spammers?

Go fuzzy.

I just signed up for an account on the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle to comment on a story about East Nashville's 5-points area*. I was greeted with this captcha:
That's right. You now get to go back to kindergarten and identify your animals. I hit refresh and it gave me 9 new animal pictures and asked me to click on all animals with four legs. Creative and kinda fun. I wonder how long it will take to crack though...

* I wanted to make a comment, but haven't been able to yet due to a really screwed up sign up process, because this chick must be really dumb to think that 5-points is named that just because the businesses are part of the Greater 5-points Merchants Association...wow...is Brooklyn named that because you get to it on the Brooklyn Bridge?

Friday, March 07, 2008

At the Preds party

At the Preds party

At Beyond the Edge for the Preds viewing party. Not going to live blog the game... Since i forgot my laptop (posting this from my phone). Feel free to comment on this post or direct message me on twitter (pwnicholson) with questions. I know Pete and Terry are great but they don't always remember that we can't see everything they can when on they are on the radio.

Preds' owner talks, and party reminders

David Freeman, the leader of the Predators new ownership group, just did a little Q&A with the official Preds website (which i have to say has been coming along nicely in terms of content and quality). Not too much there that was amazing, but a few quotes and observations to point out:

First and foremost i'm loving the implications in this quote:

NP.com: Have you starting planning the budget for next season?
DF: Sure. Yes. Strategically it's probably not good for us to talk about that publicly for competitive reasons. Our budget will be significantly higher than it was this year. In fact, I'm quite certain we will spend more on payroll next year than at any time in the history of the club. We're that committed to building this team right back up.
Did you catch that? "we will spend more on payroll next year than at any time in the history of the club". Wow. That's saying something!

I just got through saying on a HockeyBuzz discussion about Shea Weber's chances of resigning with the Preds, that i was nervous about our ability to sign Shea. If projects are correct that he could command $7mil a year, then i assumed that meant he would be gone. The largest contract (that i know of) that the Preds have ever signed anyone to was Vokoun's contract when we resigned him in the middle of last year to a 4-year, $22.8mil deal that will max-out and pay him $6.3mil in the final year... and we traded him and that contract away at the end of the year when Leipold put the team on the salary floor*. With that in mind, signing a d-man to a $7mil per year contract seems pretty out of character, and possibly out of reach. I think we could count on a small amount of home-town discount from Shea, so that together with this comment from Freeman makes me a lot more hopeful about our chances of keeping him, Erat, and other restricted free agents at the end of this year.

*Side comment about Craig Leipold: I think Leipold clearly had the pockets to keep the Preds above the salary floor, and he was clearly intent on buying the Wild before he'd even sold the Predators. Since he was about to move to another Western Conference team, why not do massive damage to the franchise you're about to turn around and face 4 times a year. It would be the equivalent of a player who had just been traded setting fire to the equipment truck on your way to the airport. -- I'm glad Leipold brought hockey to Nashville, but i think what he did to the franchise in the last year borders on unethical business practice. Not a fan personally.

Other thoughts on the interview...

Freeman talks quite a bit about his personal relationship to the team and hockey, etc. While talking about his experience on Trade Deadline Day and how his kids are with the team, etc...you get a real sense that this is still a project for the city, and a logical business decision. He is not passionate about hockey and is still fresh into becoming a fan, but is getting there.

Specifically, when asked about Nashville as a hockey market, the owner of the franchise replied:
I don't know that I'm in a position to answer that question. Time will tell. But I think that there's obviously a much greater awareness of the team and what the team means to the city. Even for those who might not have been hockey fans in the past – and maybe they're still not – but I think there's a huge awareness of the team and what it means to the city. Sometimes you don't know what you've got until you almost lost it. I think that definitely applies in this situation.
He also said that he doesn't talk about the team much with his kids, but that his kids get most of the news about the team from their friends. He said that they are enjoying going to games and "have become big fans very quickly, just like I have." While i certainly appreciate the honesty, i would love for him to have gushed about how much he loves the game and doesn't know how he missed how great it was for so long, and that once more people in Nashville are exposed to hockey that 'the most passionate fans in sports' (as 104.5 calls Nashville) will turn to hockey with the same zeal they give to football. But i guess that's me.

All in all it's a good interview and worth checking out. I think Freeman is just an understated, shy guy. He's still getting used to giving interviews and isn't much of a marketer himself. Good news is that he's hiring people who do, and the marketing and sponsorships are getting much much better.

Reminder to come watch the game with us tonight at Beyond the Edge (assuming you aren't snowed in). Game starts at 8:30pm, and there will be giveaways (i am pretty sure tickets for an upcoming game will be one of the prizes) and much fun had by all. They guys at Beyond the Edge are big Preds supporters, so come out and support a business that supports that Preds!

And of course my birthday party LAN party is tomorrow...invitation is still out there for any interested in coming. Just need a PC and...well, that's really it. You'll need a copy of Half-Life 2, but we may even have an extra we can spot you if needed.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

padded cell walking

Please, oh please, tell me this is a joke.

Actually, it is a PR stunt. Pay directory service 118-118 and some charity no one has ever heard of ("Living Streets") teamed up to provide this 'service' and get mentioned in the news (and posted on blogs) around the world.

Well it worked. Good on ya fellas.

H/T Engadget

basic building blocks

Thanks to Brittney for posting a pic of this great new Lego ad:

click to en-biggen

Fabulous ad that shows Lego as they are meant to be used.

Too bad that the company's product group has forgotten what their ad agency knows so well.

It is getting harder and harder to find buckets of raw pieces in stores. Only Lego fanatics, willing to go online and take time to custom order parts, can find them anymore. If you hit Wal-mart looking for a quick Lego fix, you're only going to find these ridiculous sets that border on basic modeling kits.
I always ignored the directions showing all the different houses and things you could make with the generic kits anyway. That is the fun. Gimme a buck-o-pieces and make me use my mind. But when half the pieces have decals and designs on them and are custom molded nose-cones, it just ruins the fun.

Having said that...the more custom character pieces can be fun...especially when i can have my favorite character from the Star Wars Lego video game on my desk at work.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Preds Viewing Party reminder

Just a quick heads up that Beyond the Edge is hosting another viewing party for the Predators game this Friday night. This game will not be on Fox Sports South, so unless you have the Center Ice package at home, you'll have to head to one sports bar or another if you want to watch it live.

So, why not check it out at a cool bar in East Nashville with a bunch of other Preds fans - oh, and have a chance to win swag (hats, t-shirts, etc) and tickets to an upcoming game!

Time Change: This is a west coast game, so it starts late - 8:30pm. But hey, it's the weekend, so why not stay up a little late?

Predators vs Calgary
Friday, March 7th, 8:30pm
Beyond the Edge
112 S 11th St., Nashville, TN 37206
Note: Friday also happens to be my birthday, so i think this is kinda turning into an unofficial birthday-related party-type thing for me. Just be warned. And bring me stuff. Or something.

Predators/Hockey News (with attendance update)

I was widely quoted as being a pessimist about the attendance for the Predators when i made this post back a few weeks ago (something about titling it "Bad News for the Predators' Future"). Since I posted that, i figure i owe everyone an update:

Through 28 games, the Predators had averaged 12,756 in paid attendance. In the last 5 games, the Preds averaged 14,190 in paid attendance (including a few sellouts that were at about 15,200 in paid attendance). That's a significant increase, and something to be proud of. That brings our average through 33 games to 12,973 per game. Still not where it needs to be, but an improvement.

So, now we must average 13,750 in paid attendance to reach the 13,125 needed to qualify for the revenue sharing we need. Looks like a very do-able number, especially since we've averaged well better than that lately (and the current race for the playoffs, free food night, and a few games against Detroit won't hurt).

Unfortunately, it looks like my other predictions from my earlier post were pretty accurate. Even if the Preds sold out every game from here on out (assuming that translates to 15,200 in paid attendance out of the 17,113 capacity, as has usually been the case) that would only pull the average up to 13,408. Far, far short of the 14,000 needed to keep the current lease intact.

So, it's a good thing Freeman and the new ownership crew finally got the new lease over to the Sports Authority after all. That agreement keeps the team here for at least another 3-5 years (depending on attendance) and I am beginning to trust this new ownership group to do what it takes to win over fans and businesses in the community...

UPDATE: A blogger on the Tennessean's website (only works in I.E.) is also reporting that the new ownership has rescinded the "cure clause" for attendance this year. Meaning that, technically, even if the new lease isn't put into effect and the 14,000 in paid attendance isn't reached, the team still can't move. The same blogger says that the Sports Authority will be reviewing (and voting on?) the new lease terms tomorrow morning. Still awaiting any official confirmation...

UPDATE 2: Just talked to my ticket rep and it looks like the March 20th Detroit game and the March 22nd Chicago game will be sellouts, and several other games are going fast. Looking good!

Which reminds me, it turns out that local good-guy Gordon David Freeman is the largest shareholder after all. He owns 32.63% of the team, while the "outsiders" from California, Boots Del Biaggio and Warren Woo own only a combined 31.58%. That is a significant change from what we were led to believe earlier.

The fact that the outsiders (with eyes for a franchise in Kansas City) don't actually own most of the team, with locals just holding a token share, really means a lot to me. Conspiracy theories about them just playing nice and having a plan all-along to move the team (and Freeman just being a guy they talked into being a local front/mouthpiece) aren't going to go away... but this sure looks better, especially when you take into account that the remaining 35.79% is owned by other Nashville locals (making the total local share nearly 70%). I'm kinda surprised the team hasn't made a bigger deal out of it.

The first two sentences from an article in the Tennessean today regarding Martin Gelinas:
Predators forward Martin Gelinas will undergo surgery on Wednesday to repair his torn ACL, putting an end to his season.

Gelinas had suffered the injury Feb. 21 against Vancouver, but was hoping that — after the swelling had gone down — there would still be a chance he’d be able to play without the ACL this season.

Really? I'd love to have seen him try to play with a ligament completely removed from his leg. He's a tough player, but i don't think anyone would be able to pull that off.

On a more serious note, it is too bad that we've lost Jelly Gelli Gelinas for the season, and i honestly wonder if his career is done. He was playing very well for us this year, but he's getting up in years, and recovering from ACL damage this bad won't be easy, even for a fitness and conditioning nut like him. If he were under contract, i'd say he'll be back. But i don't know many teams that will take a 38 year old 3rd-liner recovering from a bum ACL. Great player, but that may be it for him.

I didn't get a chance to watch the Washington Capitals clean the ice with the Boston Bruins tonight, but...wow. Of course, everyone's going to be talking about Ovechkin's 5-point hat-trick-with-2-helpers night, but just take a second to check out the box score. More than just the 10-2 slaughter stands out to me...

Boston players Zedeno Chara (who i have on my fantasy roster), Marco Sturm, and Phil Kessel all played 16 or more minutes (nearly 20 for Chara) but ended up even in plus/minus. Kessel actually ended up plus-1 for the night!? I know 4 goals were on the power play (so they don't count toward plus/minus), but 6 goals were at even strength! How do you end up on the bad side of a 10-2 drubbing and still end up plus-1 for the game? Wow.

Conversely, with 6 goals scored at even strength and only one even strength goal allowed against their team, Sergei Federov, Brooks Laich, and Alexander Semin somehow ended up minus-1 for the game. Ouch.

Ovechkin got his 5 points, but the Caps really spread the love tonight. Every single player in the Capitals roster registered at least a point (either a goal or an assist) except poor Jurcina and new arrival Sergei Federov.

Besides the horrible minus-1 and no points for Sergei in the game, he didn't draw a complete goose-egg on the otherwise packed box score...he had a single shot on goal. Woooow. I'm sure he was one of the 3 stars for this game...

Chara not only pulled off an even plus/minus for my fantasy team in this game, he also pulled in an assist, a shot on goal, and 9 PIMs. And someone just offered me a trade with him for Jonathan Cheechoo. Ha! Yeah right!

Preds fans hope Florida takes a dive

Toronto Globe and Mail writer James Mirtle just posted a good summary on his blog of how the NHL's draft lottery works. It isn't terribly different from the way the NBA's lottery works if you are familiar with that method.

Basically, the 14 teams that don't make the playoffs are put into the lottery drawing to arrange their draft order (This is done so that the worst team in the league doesn't automatically get the #1 pick, which would cause teams to intentionally lose at the end of a year). It is a little complicated in that no team can move down more than one spot from where they "should" be, and no team can move up more than 4 spots.

As of right now for instance, the Predators are just out of the playoffs and would be the last team in the lottery (#14). At best we could move up to pick #10, but couldn't do worse than #14.

But the best part for Preds fans? Everyone remember that trade we made with Florida for Tomas Vokoun that everyone was so upset about? "We gave up Vokoun and didn't get anything in return!" It was a pure salary dump, meant to unload Vokoun's big contract and get the team on the salary cap floor. Well, we got Florida's second round pick last year, and their first and second round picks this year. Where is Florida in the lottery at this point? 3rd from the last! Meaning that the Preds (who own Florida's first pick) have a 14.2% chance of getting the #1 pick in the draft, and it isn't too inconceivable to think that we could end up with the #1, #10, #31, #40 (and more) picks. The worse Florida finishes, the better the Preds chances of ending up with the #1 pick.

This draft is largely considered one of the deepest and most talented in years (see a mock draft here), and Poile has proved himself as a fabulous GM, especially when it comes to drafting.

I'd love to make the playoffs this year, and go deep - heck, win it all - but the great thing is that as good as we do, we can still improve our position in the draft with every loss Florida racks up.

If Vokoun really loves his old team so much, i wonder if he'll let a few weak ones through the wickets for us... :-)