My First Novel

It was November, 2004. (Oh god, how is it that long ago?!)

Georgia Tech had opened a new student bookstore for that school year which was an upper level of a Barnes & Noble, replacing the previous one which was shockingly dank and cramped. So, it was a welcome change. The store’s first level was a normal store for the public and, as with most of their stores, it had a coffee shop.

I had made my way over to this coffee shop to meet with others participating in an online writing… thing, I had learned of called NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month.

The goal was simple: over the course of the month of November, you wrote 50,000 words. They didn’t have to be good words, in fact they probably wouldn’t be good words. In fact, remove the qualifier of good/bad from your mind for this. Just put 50,000 words on paper, that’s all.

That meeting, as I recall, was a group of six or eight of us. From various walks of life, mostly students but some staff for Georgia Tech as well as person or two who simply lived nearby. I think I met with them once or twice more, but then school got busy gearing up for finals and I never finished my novel that year.

I’ve tried to do NaNoWriMo a few times over the years. Three or four times I think, though most of it was over a decade ago. Up until this year I always felt that November has never been a good month for it for me. School as I mentioned was gearing up for finals, or work always seemed busy, and then there was the Thanksgiving holiday… there were always plenty of excuses that enabled me to tell myself I didn’t have time for it and to give up.

This year, after a nudge from my brother Adam, I decided to give it another go. And, well, it turns out a pandemic was a fantastic for removing my barriers.

This year I “won” my first NaNoWriMo, and did so in only 22 days. I churned out 60,000 words for my first novel. As noted above, the novel isn’t good.

Look, it IS bad.

I’m not saying that to get anyone to try and convince me otherwise. I am saying that because first drafts should be bad. Over the coming weeks and months I’ll go back over it and work on improving the writing to passable or possibly publishable. I’ll fix typos, adjust grammar, rewrite sections, etc. I don’t know if I’ll ever share the novel. I think I will, but who knows?

What has been amazing to me is that now that I have written the story, and experienced the work that went into it, I can fully realize and recognize that it’s possible for me to do it again.

Covid-19’s impact on my day to day schedule definitely played a part into this. And I don’t mean working from home, I wrote this entirely off the clock. But instead by how it had cleared my schedule of being out of the house. But that clearance has made me see, I really could get up everyday and write for an hour before then getting ready and going into the office. Or I could do it at night. Or at lunch. The point is I now have done it and can see past the endless excuses life presents us as reasons not to do a thing.

While I am excited I did a thing (I’m referring to the writing of a book.) I’m more excited by the realization it led me to in regards to using my time for projects like this.

As this blog can attest, so often I sit down to write something and after a few sentences or paragraphs it gets abandoned, or it gets written and sits in my Drafts folder waiting for me to get around to editing it. And now I have seen that I have time, and I can no longer tell myself I don’t.

So, one of the things that motivates me when I undertake bigger projects – stats. It was that way during 2012 when I lost a bunch of weight, and it was that way for this. I created a Google Sheet for tracking my writing. It involved tracking each of my writing sessions, and for those sessions I would enter three things: The date, the current total word count when I was finished with the session, and the rough time I spent writing (in minutes, for ease of calculation.)

Around the third day I added a second sheet to my tracker that did a roll up of sessions into days. Did I need it? No, not really, but having it gave me a better view on a daily basis. And that daily view is more easily parse-able from a distance.

On the sessions sheet, I had it do some all-up calculations:

  • Words to Goal – Sure I could see my total and it was a single piece of arithmetic to calculate, but I had 75,000 words in my head so I wanted a quick look “how far am I from this count”?
  • Total Time: Tracking the total time spent writing, converting minutes into hours and minutes.
  • WPM: Words per minute. One thing I realized early on was I really had no mental model for how fast I was writing. So i was curious to see my words per minute as I wrote. I stuck pretty close to 30 words per minute with some varying levels.
  • Avg. Words per Session: Again, I didn’t have a benchmark to go against, but I was curious how much I was writing each time I sat down.
  • Projected Times: I had two of these, one for 50k words and one for 75k words. Both of these were very simple, calculate word count needed for each goal, then divide by words per minute. Easy peasy. Again, just a barometer for me to see a finish line.

Along with the tables of information I created three graphs:

  1. Tracking word count after each session for the straightforward progress (in the graphic above)
  2. Tracking daily word count, compared to a rolling 3-day average and my cumulative averages
  3. Tracking daily word progress against a trend line so I could see if I was falling behind my trend

How much did these charts help? Some! Were these sheets overkill? Quite possibly but I’m not questioning them so far.

I definitely had days towards the end where I was flagging, I was now confident I would finish and it was about getting across that line. Seeing I was lower than average by a lot motivated me to do another writing session for even just 20 minutes.

I wrote the entire thing in a piece of freeware called FocusWriter. Available for any platform (Windows, Mac, Linux) and is largely a basic word processor with some nice features. This tool worked best for me because it allowed me to write and be offline, or at least not have a browser window open. I opted for a black background with a neon green font color as the display style because, well, I liked the retro and distractionless design.

I am well aware of the fact that the browser is a blackhole for my time if I am not careful. I’m too tempted to click on another tab or check email or check tweets, etc.

I also discovered that I couldn’t really write while watching TV or a stream or anything. I could have it on mute (such as I did for part of the Election week coverage) but I really struggled to write while having an aural input other than instrumental or electronic music.

So What’s Next…

Inevitably people ask when they can read it, which I think is endearingly optimistic. The answer is: I don’t know. But, I have outlined what I think the next steps are for how I want approach fixing the novel.

This is my very rough roadmap to editing I’ve laid out for myself:

  1. Easy pass – Run spellcheck and fix obvious grammar issues. I wrote the novel without the autocorrect features turned on, time to pay for that choice. But, I didn’t want the squiggles of words or phrases distracting me from my writing. The other thing I’ll do during this pass is flag bigger issues. Does something not make sense? Is something awkwardly written? Is something a detail in the book which is important needs to be in line elsewhere? Anything that needs fixing but isn’t a low effort immediate fix will get flagged for later. (Est. time: 1 week)
  2. Flagged issues – This will be a longer editing pass as it will require more work. This is when I work through the flagged comments I’ve made and try to unravel what I was thinking during the haze of November. (Est. time: 3 weeks)
  3. Overall Edit – One more full read through and edit, this is just an overall review without any specific agenda other than improving overall quality. I think I will have this be two-three passes. (Est. time: 2 months)
  4. Alpha readers – IF I feel the story has merit, I share it with a handful of alpha readers to give it a read and start giving me feedback.

I am sure better writers than me will look at this list and think I’m doing it wrong. Please know I am not soliciting feedback on this process from the general public. I may change the method once I start down this road, we’ll see.

Part of this process is also asking myself what’s next. Is this a real book? Do I try and find a book agent and get published by a big publisher? Do I self-publish? Do I do something else entirely like a Patreon and a podcast of the story?

I genuinely don’t know. 

As of this moment, I am leaning toward the idea of self-publishing and exploring non-standard monetization strategies, but I have no idea if I will. I’m not looking to be Tom Clancy as far as authors go, just have a new side hustle to supplement income (being optimistic here) and share stories.

We’ll see. I am aiming to share the story with those Alpha readers in January/February, but that is also possibly wildly optimistic. After that, I have no idea when I expect to put the story in front of an audience.

Are you curious what happens next? Sign up to be notified! When I know, you’ll know:

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D20 AutoRoller

I’ve had this idea rolling around in my head for a few months, but it was watching the VOD of !!Con (BangBangCon) that finally pushed me write this post and really begin to figure out how to start tackling this project rather than just have it stuck in my head.

The What

In 2009, the website PlayByEmail, built a robot called the Dice-O-Matic to roll a bunch of D6 dice to use as the random numbers used on the website rather than rely on digital random methods. Beware your volume, this video is rather loud as the Dice-O-Matic is loud.

I’ve always loved this idea. Not that I don’t trust digital randomness to be random-enough, but I love the idea of a tangible dice machine that could generate random numbers for use in virtual D&D or simply as a random generator.

What I would ideally love is actually something more akin to a desk sculpture, something that is compact enough and quiet enough, that I could set it up on my desk and let it run. Have it as a conversation piece and distraction.

The Why

Necessity is the mother of invention. But necessity also removes a playfulness and freedom from this sort of project. On the one hand, I have no timeline for it. I have no hard deadline.

This is a purely fun project that I can come back to from time to time and no requirement for ongoing attention. It’s something I can fiddle with.

And I have learned, one of the keys to my own sanity, is to have exactly this sort of project.

On top of that, this is a project which will require a number of learnings, and honestly that is super exciting to me. I understand the concepts of almost everything in this project, and yet I look at it and realize there is almost no part that I can pick out and go, “I know exactly how to do that.”

The How

I’ve done a few iterations, but I would really consider this my first concept sketch for this project.

A – This is the roller box. It has a unique shape.
B – A D20, a twenty-sided die
C – In the roller box, these are stairs or ridges, high enough to agitate the dice and ensure it tumbles rater than just slides
D – A motor mounting on the box which is used to rotate the A box 90 or degrees in a back and forth motion. I have it pictured outside here, but I imagine it is probably attached behind it or done smartly to minimize space it takes.
E – This is a pair of webcams which will capture the upward face of the D20.

Not pictured: Raspberry Pi controller for activation of the motor as well as the processing the d20 cameras and recording the results.

In terms of size, I’m imagining it is 12″x12″x6″ or so. I doubt the first iteration will get down to that size, but I won’t consider it done until it fits into that space. Maybe I’ll find that’s just not doable, but I have to believe it is.

The D20 part of this project is something that could be interesting. One of the things The Dice-O-Matic did was it used a brand of D6 which had color-coded faces to aid in the computer-vision reading of the upward facing side.

So, I am wondering if I might need a blank D20, and then develop a color-coding / simple patterning for computer vision readability. An example could be, Red X = 1, Blue X = 6, Yellow X = 11, Black X = 16. Red O = 2, Blue O = 7, etc.

It could also be that computer vision processing has progressed far enough since the days of the Dice-o-matic.

Once I have the visual processing figured out, then comes the question of what to do with the D20 rolls. I assume I just keep it in a running text file and then can pull from it whenever I need a d20 roll for D&D online. Or maybe something else, no idea.

Humorously, what to do with these rolls is not something I really care that much about.

What’s Next

So that’s the idea. Here’s my sketch of what I think my process will be:

  1. Build the roller box.
  2. Figure out motor solution for rolling the box back and forth
  3. Attach Raspberry Pi to control motor
  4. Attach cameras and solve computer vision of rolling result tracking
  5. Implement full control and tracking of rolls

Simple enough, Right?

We’ll see.

(We all know it’s not going to be that simple, right?)

My Star Wars Viewing Suggestion

May the Fourth be with you all.

On this day I feel compelled to share what is my current belief in how you should watch and experience Star Wars. Be warned, it is unique and likely to be contentious.

Phase 1: Entering the Star Wars Universe

  1. Phantom Menace
  2. Solo
  3. Rogue 1

These movies support or are disconnected from the main plot. Starting with Phantom Menace is a risky gambit since the movie is so widely derided (with good reason) but I continue to believe it is superior to the other two prequels, even if it is the least connected to the core plot.

If you step back and frame it for the viewer as a welcome to the SW Universe, I think it does a good job. Jedis & Sith, multiple planets, crazy scenarios, pod racing.

Add in Rogue One and Solo for further stories which support the upcoming marathon but which aren’t integral to it.

FWIW, Rogue 1 is not as smooth a transition into A New Hope as I had, well, hoped.

Phase 2: Luke’s Story

  1. A New Hope
  2. Empire Strikes Back

Once we’ve introduced them to the Star Wars universe, it’s time to begin the core plot.

Phase 3: Anakin’s Story

  1. Attack of the Clones
  2. Revenge of the Sith
  3. Return of the Jedi

Make no mistake, I hate Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. They are two of my least favorite movies in the entire series, but they are integral to the long plot which is being told. And, per the Machette order’s original purpose, integrating them into the movie watching after the reveal at the end of Empire Strikes Back, provides a nice tie-in.

Phase 4: Rey’s Story

  1. The Force Awakens
  2. The Last Jedi

Now we come to the sequels, well, most of them. As a continuation from Return of the Jedi, the shift to Force Awakes is a rough one. It becomes best connected through the story of the empire.

I leave The Rise of Skywalker off the list for two reasons. Firstly, because I hated it. It undid so much from Last Jedi with deus ex machina. Secondly, it’s plot is dependent on that deus ex machina that creates a wild plot which seriously makes no sense. It isn’t needed. You can end on The Last Jedi and what is left unresolved is not overly troubling.

And there you have my morning ideations on May the Fourth.

A Mesmerizing Airplane

Watching this fascinating simple airplane I found on Reddit reminded me about an evening back when I was in Boy Scouts. The scout masters had set up for the patrols in our troop to compete in a paper airplane contest.

I was a member of the senior patrol, called “JOFA Patrol” for some joke I can’t remember. We were also notorious for working smarter, not harder, which often led to us breaking rules. Well, we immediately identified that the rules were insufficient for this competition. That is to say, there were none.

So, rather than make the best airplane we could. Instead we emptied our pockets of coins. Then we took the provided piece of paper and crumpled it up into a ball around the coins. The coins gave added heft to ensure the ball flew far. Rather than have to rely on a plane flying gracefully after a skilled toss, we just had the baseball player in the patrol chuck our “airplane” as far as he could.

As it turns out, this was longer than the entire length of the event hall. Our “airplane” burst against the wall, scattering its payload of coins.

The scout leaders disqualified us for cheating.

If you do try to create the original paper airplane, be aware of this advice from Reddit user jchasse, in response to someone saying their versions of this plane always crashed terribly:

The trick is in “throwing” it.
Hard to tell from the short vid.

Pointer finger sits on top of the paper crease in the middle bottom of the circle with thumb and middle finger below the paper on earthier side. (Take those thee fingers and point them in front of you. That triangle shape is what you are going for) You don’t grasp the paper (like a traditional paper airplane) so much as let it rest between the fingers like a launching rail.


DON’T toss/throw this like you think of a normal paper airplane!
This is all about a gentle push/release.


Let the air currents do all the work NOT the snap of your arm or wrist.

Once you have that down you can start to throw it by facing it vertical up in the air and adding a bit more of a wrist snap before releasing it horizontally, but again this is not about power more about grace.

Do this from the nose bleed seats in a stadium and you can reach all the way to the courts.

As far as the flappy wings never tried that before, curious if they add lift in some manner.

My Favorite Christmas Movies

Love Actually

Released in 2003, the film is one of my annual viewings for the holiday season. It is not a perfect film, but its core (if incomplete) message is one that resonates deeply with me for the holidays.

The Muppet Christmas Carol

I. Love. This. Movie.

It is my favorite take on the Christmas Carol. Sir Michael Caine plays it straight and that makes the movie truly unforgettable.


Also from 2003, Will Ferrell and Jon Favreau (now most well known for his role directing Marvel movies) deliver one of the funniest holiday movies for me. Will’s comedic delivery is masterful for being the outsider trying to understand the society we consider normal.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

A hugely nostalgic movie for me. Chevy Chase and crew, including a young Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and Johnny Galecki, bring me a funny and heartwarming holiday film.

My Guilty Pleasures

Jingle All the Way

It is, to put it kindly, not a good movie. But I love it anyways. Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Jake Lloyd.

The Santa Clause

Tim Allen as ‘Scott Calvin,’ a normal everyday grouchy business executive, gets tricked into becoming Santa Claus. Hijinks ensue. It is also not a cinematic masterpiece, but I can still remember where I saw it and with what friends when I was an 11 year old. So, watching it during the holiday season, transports me back to being that 11 year old kid.

Don’t see your favorite here? Home Alone? Ralphie’s Christmas Story? Nightmare Before Christmas? I enjoy them all. But the six above are the ones I consider my “must watch” for the holiday season.

Off Soda

For 2019, I decided to quit soda. And it was shockingly easy this time. I did this before and ended up relapsing but I’ve really tackled it anew this year.

The only drinks I’ve had:

  • Water
  • Milk
  • Apple juice
  • Blackberry Izze
  • Fresca
  • Scotch
  • Wine

Before you say it, I know some of these drinks have a lot of sugar. That’s the point. I’ve been quitting soda primarily to get me off of caffeine. Cutting back on sugar is coming next.

But what actually made me want to write this post is that I’m currently sitting in a hotel room, of which one of my travel routines is to enjoy a bottle of Pepsi while watching streams in the hotel. It has no sense it’s just a thing I’ve found myself doing while I travel and today as I sit in this hotel room I was struck by a real wanting for soda – something I haven’t truly faced since I stopped drinking soda.

Ah the joys of the human mind.

My Top Games for 2018

Despite what the subject line might make you think, this is not me ranking the best games of 2018. It is instead me sharing the top 5 games I played this past year in terms of time gaming and time spent thinking about them.

Disclaimer: I work for Wizards of the Coast, which is very relevant to this list as we make the top two games on this list: Magic: The Gathering & Dungeons and Dragons. I specifically work on Magic.

1. Magic: The Gathering

My favorite game. The original trading card game and it has continued to thrive. This past year Wizards unveiled the new digital version of the game, Magic: The Gathering Arena. And I have spent many many many hours playing Magic digitally or on table top.

2. Dungeons & Dragons

While I only started a weekly session towards the end of 2018, D&D occupied a lot of mindspace for me because D&D streams are one of my favorite means of entertainment.

Between Critical Roll, Dice, Camera, Action, Penny Arcade’s The C-Team, and the Broken Pact, at its peak I had roughly 13-hours each week of D&D content to consume.

In addition to watching those streams, I also played it a great deal between playing on Clerical Error and other games. For the last few months of the year I started a weekly D&D game with friends, and as DM I spend several hours preparing for each week’s session.

3. Stardew Valley

This indie game is amazing. It is my favorite self-care game. When I have bad days, or when I am stressed, I like to come home and work on my farm. My main farmer is named Boris, his farm is “Motherland Farm” (I was watching The Americans when I started this farm.)

4. Alto’s Odyssey

My favorite mobile game from 2018, it’s a simple game. You snowboard, or in this case, sandboard and sometimes surfboard, across the realm of this game. It’s relaxing and good for winding down before I’m going to fall asleep.

5. Chess

My interest in chess rises and falls in a sine-like wave over the years. I’ve been in a valley of that wave for a while, but this was a late entry to the list as I dove deep back into it with the 2018 World Championship duel between Carlsen and Caruana.

Anthony Bourdain (1956 – 2018)

It’s wrong to call myself a fan of Anthony Bourdain. That overstates it. I read Kitchen Confidential and enjoyed it. When I watched one of his shows, I enjoyed it. But I didn’t seek his content out, I didn’t wait for news of new seasons or projects. But above all, I held jealousy of the career and life he had. It is a romantic way of life.

The vision of traveling the world to eat food and experience life around the world. I’ve been able to see many places around our world, and yet there remains a whole world that I haven’t seen yet. What I’ve done is a step more than most people, and those places I have seen have confirmed this famous quote by Bourdain.

If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.

Bourdain summarized himself perfectly and succinctly in his Twitter bio: Enthusiast. And that is a great way to put what I wish my life was. I dream of being a professional Enthusiast as he was. Not because I think it is an easy and happy life. I knew his life wasn’t, and today’s reading by and about him reinforced it. Even when I travel for at most 30 days a year, I face loneliness on the road. Sure I might go out with friends or coworkers, but at the end I go back to the empty hotel room and am left with myself. Bourdain says he spent 250 days a year on the road. That had to be lonely.

Hearing the news about his death was tough for me this morning. Recognizing that a voice which spoke uniquely has been struck silent, and the resulting silence, would echo for many. Add to that for it to be due to suicide is to force us to recognize that under what he displayed sat the darkness which affects so many, and for someone like him to succumb to it… well, it’s terrifying. He wasn’t someone down on his luck, exhausted from the fight merely to exist. He was struggling, with demons, with loneliness, possibly with mental illness.

As death has a tendency to do, it puts the person front and center of social media. Twitter, Facebook, Reddit; all of them were heavily centered on the death of a voice. And I let myself be swept along, reading posts, watching videos, and participating in conversations. One notable post, which I unfortunately did not save, highlighted something that was an underappreciated feature of Bourdain’s television work. He was one television show, if not the only show on right now, which focused heavily on convincing us we didn’t need to be afraid of other people in the world. It’s so common and so easy to be afraid of people in a foreign country if we’ve never been there or never seen what their lives are like. And Bourdain discovered, through the vehicle of food, that the world was big and amazing and he could show it to us one episode at a time.

In his showing us the world we also got to witness the evolution of his voice. I love the below quote. I initially shared it on Facebook, coming from

He started off as a Hunter S. Thompson-quoting dude who might have tried a little too hard to show you his cigarette, the scotch in his hand, and his punk rock roots, all maybe compensating a little too much for a childhood that included trips to France to eat at La Pyramide, and an education that took him to Vassar. He ended up somewhere else completely: As a truly conscientious traveler, as one of the only men to really publicly examine his role in encouraging terrible behavior in the restaurant industry, as someone who began to understand that the truths of his stories were at best partial and happily highlighted the fakery of storytelling while still trying to expand its possibilities. To believe in it, and in the end tell a story that was human, and at its best, humane.

This quote is in context of a scene that many people lauded, Bourdain dove into what the American food chain Waffle House was. He didn’t try to bullshit about it, he didn’t wax poetically. He talked about it from the start as being a place that beautifully served food that is good for hangovers and serving blue collar people at 3am. In the video we get to witness him experiencing a pecan waffle, lathered in butter, and maple syrup. It’s no Michelin star restaurant, it’s normal food. And it’s delicious. He didn’t try to make us forget that the food we, regular people, could get tasted good.

I truly loved when I discovered his twitter bio was the infinitely evocative and simple descriptor: Enthusiast. That encapsulates my vision of him so perfectly. Food, people, the world–He was an enthusiast. The enthusiast. An example of this enthusiasm is captured beautifully in this Twitter thread about a chance encounter with Bourdain at a food festival:

The whole thread is a delightful retelling of having got to meet him, showing him and his fascination in hearing her talk about her home country. He was enthusiastic to learn more about it. And when he did eventually attend, he was enthusiastic about it. It is a wonderful snapshot of what it could be like to meet him.

I spent a bit of the day swimming through these stories. His stories. Experiencing a life cut short, but one which uniquely gave us plentiful echoes to experience after he is gone. He began his journey by writing a book about his time in kitchens. It’s his book, Kitchen Confidential, which holds a poignant quote that reaches full meaning today:

[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.

Bourdain’s voice and personality, his zeal for life and the world, are gone from creating those new things for us. But there is a lot of him out there. His book, his Ecco press book imprint on which he published numerous books, his articles, his shows. He isn’t gone. Not yet at least. Not until the last of us turns off Netflix and Parts Unknown.

Who would you want to write your life story?

I already wrote it. And though I don’t really care about what people say about me when I’m gone, I guess Jerry Stahl would make an entertaining — if not necessarily flattering — story of the gruesome details.

Interview with the New York Times

Added 10 June 2018:

CNN and Anderson Cooper did a fantastic remembrance of Anthony.

Why I Love the Un-American Football

I started this blog post literally months ago. And I’ve tried to write a similar post for the past two years only to abandon each of them. This one is the closest I’ve come to success, and I’ve soldiered on revising and editing and fact checking. With the World Cup happening, I believe now is the time for me to publish it.

It was at Georgia Tech in 2002 that I met David. We weren’t good friends, or even close friends really, but we did hang out from time to time and during those times I discovered David was ‘weird.’ Now, being ‘weird’ at Georgia Tech is saying something. It was (and most likely still is) largely a geek college with a heavily skewed male to female ratio. I mean, to be fair, I was weird at Georgia Tech too. But David was ‘weird’ because he was, well, he was a die hard soccer fan. Die hard despite lacking access to downloaded recordings of games or infinite satellite channels for European broadcasts. He had just grown to love the sport with what he had been able to catch and follow online over a decade ago. He was always checking ESPN’s soccer coverage website. Like I said, he was ‘weird.’

Of the things I regret in college, I regret not spending more time with David and not getting to know soccer through his eyes. He was an American kid who had fallen in love with a sport which was firmly entrenched as the least popular professional sport in America. Rather than learning to love the game through David, I took another path.

My education in soccer first started as a kid when I played on a YMCA team. I wasn’t good. My earliest experience was in an in-door soccer league in Kansas City. I have no real memories of it but I have heard a story which involves the mob of kids on the field chasing the ball and I eventually collapse on the ball and curl up over it, determined to defend the ball in the only way I know how. When viewed as an action by a four or five year old child, it’s adorable. So focus on that angle.

Soccer required an athleticism that I lacked such that I was often put on defense where the coach’s instruction was “stay near the corner of the box and keep the ball away from the goal.” Not a rousing coaching strategy but then it was YMCA. Combine my less-than-stellar soccer skills with television actively pushing me towards other sports which I could actually watch: (American) football, basketball, and baseball. Soccer was left in the dust. I grew up seeing it as a sport that kids played and adults elsewhere (not America) played and thus not something I should worry about. I mean, I wasn’t seeing a soccer player peddling a sugary drink.

Grant Hill and Sprite

And so it was all the way through college, despite a friend named David, until I returned to Orlando in 2005. During that time I reconnected with some childhood friends from church, a pair of Brazilian brothers named David and Daniel. They were members of my childhood church. David was two years my senior, and Daniel was four years my junior. I was in middle school for one year with David, and I can remember him playing soccer for my middle school’s soccer team. I don’t know I ever watched a game, but I remember him in the uniform and the team photo. I knew both of them much more from church youth group and choir.

It was with these brothers that I watched the 2006 World Cup in Germany. I contend that there is no greater event than gathering with a Brazilian family to watch World Cup soccer. It was a feast of food for every game and they were infinitely patient as they explained the rules of the game which I didn’t understand. I will always be thankful for that first spark that relit my love of soccer.

As a brief aside: I think I returned the favor. My contribution was to take them to Sci-Fi City in Orlando where they bought their first RPG dice sets, before we went on to play many wonderful games of D&D with them and some other friends. The older of the two brothers, David, passed away a few years ago and while the group continued to play D&D without him it wasn’t the same.

After the 2006 World Cup passed, my interest in soccer waned once again as the world around me turned away from soccer and back to those other popular American sports.

In 2009, tied to the fateful events which turned me down my current career path, I joined where my two bosses were both big soccer fans. When the 2010 World Cup rolled around we took our laptops down to the game store before it opened and watched the games on the television while we worked. And it was there my love of soccer was truly reignited. Again, I was swept up in the World Cup, and again I was educated by those who knew far more about the sport.

Again though, the World Cup left us, but this time the interest in the sport was buoyed. I began seeking it out by following some oversea teams. Though I was only casually interested, this time the barrier to entry was lower.

Television was changing. America was changing. The Internet was changing. And I had two new allies: one of my bosses and my fiancee. Katie, as it turns out, was a soccer fan as well so she was all too eager to share this love with me. As I grew to know more about soccer, as I began to find teams I liked, and as the world around me made soccer more accessible here in the states I began to find more and more to love for it.

Perhaps the most critical event of this timeline was just before Katie and I left Orlando. It was then that Orlando launched their NASL team (and now soon to be an MLS team featuring a famous player named Kaka) the Orlando City Soccer Club. Our first experience with them was at a friendly against Newcastle United. Katie and I were able to enjoy the excitement together and we were planning to buy season tickets for the next season were it not for the fateful opportunity that brought us to Seattle.

For those of you who don’t know, Seattle is home to the Seattle Sounders, an MLS club since 2010 (NASL team since 1974). And we are the only city in America to consistently draw European-level crowds for their soccer matches (2013 averaged 44,000 fans per home game.) Katie and I, as I said, had discovered the joy of watching and attending a soccer match while in Orlando and so we knew we had to check out the Sounders. We attended, I believe, two or maybe three games and watched others on television before we decided to order season tickets for the 2013-2014 season.

Sounders stadium

As much as the Sounders matches with Katie deserve credit for feeding the flame, the Internet and the changing landscape of American television deserve a great deal of credit too. The Internet has become an American soccer fan’s lifeline providing clips and full replays of games from leagues around the world, available with just a few clicks of a mouse. Watching them stream live or as recorded matches ripped from broadcasts. It is a common practice for me to acquire a match or two before a trip so I can watch them during a flight, I’ve found I prefer those matches to any other in-flight entertainment.

Additionally, the landscape of American television proper is changing. It is my belief that soccer in America was actively stymied by the proliferation of television and the rise of commercials. Soccer is not an easy sport to profit off of as a broadcast network. Where football, basketball, baseball, NASCAR, and any other sport has countless natural breaks where commercials can be run – soccer does not. And so for that reason networks, in search of profits during some previous decade, shunned soccer. Maybe this is unfair, or perhaps there is more at work than I am aware, but the logic makes perfect sense so I choose to believe it.

Now though, the world has changed. America is going through a soccer renaissance as MLS is on a growth spurt, and American networks are competing to broadcast more and more soccer. Those, combined with online access to games, and infinite clips on YouTube, makes soccer a very accessible sport for those getting into it.

So then why? Up to now I’ve walked you through my personal journey of how I fell in love with soccer, but I haven’t done anything to capture the why. Before I do so, let me first step into a discussion about what I think a few of the reasons are for why soccer has struggled in the United States.

I think part of the reason that soccer struggles is because our modern media machine has not been built to allow soccer to succeed. Television broadcasting relies on advertising deals for commercials and product ads, where NFL, NBA, MLB and other televised sports have many opportunities for commercial breaks (some initiated specifically for that purpose rather than used opportunistically)—soccer doesn’t allow for that. The game is two forty-five minute halves without stops. No chance for commercials, and thus not exactly the poster boy for profitability.

There is one thing which could force the broadcasters to eat this: public demand. And what brings public demand? National team success or the rise of a popular league. Neither of which has truly happened yet.

These issues are a chicken and an egg problem in today’s world. It is imperative for any professional sport that it not only get exposure but also the revenue from the coverage. With that coverage comes not only revenue but also the growth of a culture around the sport: kids watching and loving the sport’s stars. Lastly, this coverage is critical for also the reason of comparison against other sports. As a kid, why should I care about a sport I can’t watch on TV when instead I can follow Jordan and the Bulls, or Deion Sanders and the Falcons or Cowboys, or… someone relevant from baseball (Greg Maddux) or hockey (Wayne Gretzky.)

So, aside from the popularity, with the rise of attention that Americans give it around every World Cup there is still a problem of “stickiness.” It doesn’t grab Americans who aren’t indoctrinated in it. I contend one of the major reasons is the need for people to learn the sport beyond the base rules. Many people think soccer is slow, boring, or hard to follow.

The advantage other sports have that is that they are more “busy” than soccer. American Football is a multi-hour broadcast for less than an hour of active game play. Basketball’s last two minutes of action can take twenty-plus minutes. Baseball is a series of pitches which result sometimes in bursts of action. These sports are short easily processed chunks which create punctuations of action that make us believe that, on the whole, they are faster and more action packed than soccer. The difference is that there are nice and easy digestible bites of these sports. Whether the plays of football, or the shot-clock limited fast-paced action of basketball, these are benefits of short attention span because it lets you know for sure when a play or series of actions is complete.

Soccer is more like a marathon. The clock starts and runs without stop for forty-five minutes. You can’t stop and go to the bathroom without risking missing action unless a player is injured. And during this time, there’s no promise of a score, much to many American fans’ frustration. Games end 0-0 or maybe 1-0! Where’s the blow out? Where’s the double digit win?

Soccer’s continuously long period of motion creates a barrier to entry.

Next comes the lack of clear direction of attention. I sort of spoke to this above, but the trap of soccer is that following the ball is only part of what you should be watching. Soccer’s real beauty lies in the whole picture and not just what happens immediately around the ball. I’ll use the Seattle Sounders’ as an example, right now the Sounders have Nigerian Obafemi Martins and American Clint Dempsey as their star scorers with Clint leading the way. However to give either of them sole credit for their success thus far this season is a discredit to the other, and in fact the team as a whole.

Here’s a goal from the Sounders 2013 season, it’s Obafemi Martins who scores, but watch the passing that leads up to the goal:

So in that play you see a pass from Brad Evans (I can’t see clearly, but I think that’s who it is) to Obafemi, who immediately dishes it out to Andy Rose who is streaking up the side. It’s actually this run which is so crucial, without the run the three defenders around Obafemi would be focused solely on him, and thanks to the run they aren’t, which allows Obafemi to make the turn and get into position for Andy’s return pass before the score.

Now here’s another clip for you to watch:

What you see is Obafemi Martins streaking down the right side of the pitch, and doing so draws the Chivas defenders attention (as it should) we then see a pass to Mauro Rosales (now playing for Chivas funnily enough) who slips as he passes it on to Lamar Neagle who is left wide open because the defense has closed in on Obafemi and Mauro. Again, while the goal is exciting, it’s the movement leading up to the goal which is important.

Now for something a bit different, a defensive play that shows you the beauty of defense. A lightning quick foot move to stop an attack and then a tenacious defense.

Another shot from the World Cup which shows an amazing pass. It’s unlikely Guti, the player who makes the backwards pass, actually knew for sure a team mate was there but it shows the amazing team work where he felt confident a team mate would be in the area.

These aren’t plays which will convert non-soccer fans, but they are examples of the need to be watching more than just the ball.

So, now that I’ve just shown you the importance of not watching the ball – I’m not going to lie. Goals are amazing exclamation points, better than touchdowns, home runs, or three point shots. I mean sure, some are better than goals, but the best goals will defeat the best touchdowns in my opinion.

Alright, let me show you some amazing goals:

I could keep going. The fact that I can make those above embeds with only a few minutes of work is exactly what is going right for soccer now. Technology is opening up the world of soccer in new and Internet-friendly ways. The World Cup aside, it’s an exciting period.

MLS is growing quickly, they’ve announced their next four expansion teams in the next three years: Orlando (as mentioned above), NYC FC (a partnership between Manchester City and the New York Yankees), Miami (courtesy of David Beckham and LeBron James), and Atlanta (with the likes of Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons). No other sports league in America is expanding like the MLS is right now.

In addition to these new teams, they announced a new landmark television deal with ESPN and FOX. This deal is exciting because the amount of money they’re talking about is actually more than NBC is paying for the English Premier League.

That’s exciting because it means that MLS is really starting to be taken serious by US broadcasters, and it also means that EPL is being broadcast in the US, and there is even more exciting news in that there is a deal for FOX to carry Bundesliga starting in 2015. My soccer excitement isn’t only because of the World Cup (though that is obviously part of it) but also because the years ahead are very exciting for fans of the sport.

Some may think I’ve strayed away from why and back to how, and that is understandable, except I haven’t. I’m still on why. I’m in love with the sport now because I have readily available access to it. Something which when I was in college wasn’t true.

There is another major factor which I shouldn’t overlook, though it is far from a conclusive one. Having a hometown team to cheer for is fantastic. Seattle’s love for the Sounders certainly plays part in why I love soccer. I love going to the matches and experiencing the atmosphere of it all. More so than going to a live basketball, baseball or football game, the soccer match experience is fantastic in Seattle.

As I write this latest revision to the blog post the United States Men’s team are on the verge of proceeding to the quarterfinals of the World Cup. The only time we have proceeded further was in 1930, when we placed third out of the eight teams that participated in the first ever World Cup. Interestingly, the first match we played during that tournament was a 3-0 win over Belgium.

Will we be able to overcome one of our most ancient of professional soccer foes? I suppose I’ll find out tomorrow. But regardless of how it ends up, I know I’m going to love to continue to watch the rest of the tournament (though I’ll love it more if I’m rooting for the good ole’ red, white, and blue.)


Searching for a Distraction

For the past decade, my primary hobby has been to sit in front of a computer screen and manage a website. Whether a personal blog, a social group’s hub, or a fan site for a particular game – this has been my way of unplugging and relaxing. Not coincidentally, for most of the past decade my career has also been intricately intertwined with the Internet.

And in the last few weeks I have begun the task of trying to find another hobby which with to unplug.

In the past two weeks I believe I’ve settled on one, at least for the short term. And that is, the study of language. There are a lot of fascinating languages, and I have always loved them. Had I not gone to college for Computer Science I believe I would have turned to a dramatically different path for my life based around linguistics. In some alternate timeline I’m wearing a cardigan sweater and working in academia as I pour myself into languages.

However, in this timeline where I exist, I am still working on the Internet with various websites. So I found myself in need of a hobby which allowed me to fully turn my back on web development as if to hide my face in the shade after years of unforgiving sunburn. Seriously, that’s how I feel. My brain has finally begun to rot from focusing on the Internet for so long and now I need something else to take my focus for a while.

Enter foreign language.

In the past two years I’ve visited Spain twice: Barcelona in 2012 and Valencia in 2013. While there I found myself enjoying the language and wanting to learn more, but resigning myself to lack of time except for my random jaunts with DuoLingo on my tablet. I had a similar experience in Amsterdam – which is my favorite city to visit – and the Dutch language. So I figure, why not begin pouring some of my drive and effort and free time into learning these other languages.

I’ve constructed a rough list of my plan for languages to tackle over the coming years decades. I’ve broken it into two lists: Fluent & Conversational. Fluent meaning I want to be able to converse easily and understand these languages without issue. I am hoping to eventually “think” in these languages. Conversational meaning I want to be able to read and write these languages, and with effort be able to converse in them.

Currently Fluent:

  • English

Future Fluency:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • German
  • Dutch
  • Russian
  • Portuguese
  • Afrikaans


  • Latin (previously conversational)
  • Mandarin
  • Cantonese
  • Korean
  • Ancient Greek

Fifteen languages. One down, fourteen to go. Should keep me busy for a few months, right? I’ve listed them roughly in order of my planned level of attack. I don’t plan to get to fluency before moving on, my goal is to spend 3-4 months focused and then move on to the next with a growing back log of languages I need to actively work to maintain.

My current project is Spanish. For the past few weeks I’ve been working hard on Spanish vocabulary and getting an understanding of its grammar. I’m slowly getting better and I’ve begun posting sentences on Facebook to get feedback and lessons from my Spanish speaking friends.

I’ll do another blog post which focuses on my process and the tools I’m using.