Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Back: The 18th Annual Glimm Memorial NCAA Basketball Pool

Welcome to the 18th Annual Glimm Memorial NCAA Basketball Pool! The
games begin in just 4 days, so don't wait - fill out your bracket now.
As you know, the Glimm Memorial is the premiere NCAA Tournament Pool,
and the only pool named for Alma Glimm. For $5, the Glimm Memorial
guarantees three weeks of entertainment. So hurry up -- click here to fill out your bracket. 

More details on The Glimm:

WHAT: The 18th Annual Glimm Memorial NCAA Basketball Tournament

HOW: Go to and fill out a bracket, then either give me $5 cash, or paypal me the
money (if paypaling, send $5.50 to cover Paypal's charges).

HOW MUCH: Five bucks per entry. I just said that. Pay attention. And yes, you can enter more than once.

THE PAYOUT: The winner gets
70% of the
pot, runner-up 20% and third-place person 10%.  And if you finish dead
last, you get your five bucks back.  Twenty books is coming out of the
pot to pay for the software that I use (it's worth it, trust me), and I give myself 2 free entries.

SCORING: It's a 1-2-4-8-12-16
scoring system with upset points. So that means that you get one point
for picking a game correctly in the first round, two points in the
second round, etc.  Any time you correctly pick a team seeded 9 through
16 to win a game, you get bonus points (1 point for a nine seed, 2 for
a 10, all the way up to 8 for a 16 seed) - so it pays to take risks.

WHY GLIMM? The pool is named for Alma Glimm, my 11th grade math teacher.

AGAIN, WHY GLIMM? Because Mrs. Glimm represents everything that is good about
an NCAA tournament pool - she proved that anybody can win these
office pools. Knowledge of college basketball is irrelevant, and we all
have a chance. 

When I was in 11th grade, this pool was in its fifth year. In
math class one day, I was passing out brackets, getting people to sign
up, when Mrs. Glimm swooped in. "Gambling in school?" she said
incredulously. "You can't gamble in school!"  Undeterred, I explained
to her that no money was changing hands, and it was just for fun - yes,
I lied.  All of the sudden, Mrs. Glimm perked up. "Really?" she said.
"Can I try?" So I handed her a bracket.

Mrs. Glimm, who had no knowledge of college basketball and had
never participated in a pool before, finished in first place. Of
course, because she didn't think there was money involved, she got a
nice pat on the back, and the runner-up took the cash.

I'm not certain that Mrs. Glimm is actually dead. But she was pretty
old when I was in 11th grade, so there's a good chance.  Actually, I
don't even know if her first name is Alma. But it sounds right.

You have 2 options: Give me cash in person, or send it via Paypal to
If you're paying via Paypal, you must pay $5.50 to cover Paypal's fees.
And if you don't pay, I send my goons after you to break your arm. Only
one arm. I may be nice and make it your weak arm, if I'm in a good mood.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

We're going to Spain!

Nicole and I both love Spain. We spent a week in Madrid on our honeymoon, and thought it was fantastic. We loved the food, the energy, the wine, the nightlife. Ever since, we talked about getting back to Spain.

So on Friday afternoon, when we found an amazing deal on fall airfare to Spain (one of those perks of working at Travelzoo), I called Nicole and asked her: "Want to go to Spain in November?" She said yes. And we're going.

We booked flights on Iberia, flying into Madrid on Nov. 8 and out of Barcelona on Nov. 16. I'm really excited because this time we're going to travel a bit and see more of the country, instead of just staying in Madrid. We're planning on spending 2 nights in Madrid, 1-2 in Valencia and then driving up the coast to Barcelona and staying there for 3-4 nights.

The best part? The airfare cost $550 total. For both of us. Roundtrip, with all taxes. We've paid more to get to California.

We've got 8 months to flesh out our itinerary, so if you have any suggestions, send them my way.

Resurrecting the blog

So a few days ago, I wrote a post about [. I had an ulterior motive: There was a piece of software I wanted (WebCamMax) to get AnnieCam working, and it cost $50. Being the cheapskate that I am, I wanted to find a way around that. And I did: The company gives you a free license for the software if you review it on your blog. Hence that post.

But I enjoyed writing it. So I'm inspired: It's time to bring back the blog.

There's a lot going on to write about in the next few weeks. Nicole and I just booked a trip to Spain in November (more about that in my next post). The Glimm NCAA Memorial Basketball Tournament begins one week from today, and it looks like Michigan will actually be in the 64-team field for the first time in over a decade. Baseball season kicks off in a few weeks, and the Mets will move to CitiField. We're in the middle of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, and President Obama is attempting to use it to enact some pretty amazing liberal programs. All exciting stuff - and I will write about all of it.

The blog will touch on a bunch of things - our life, politics, sports. I'll even point out some great Travelzoo travel deals. So tune in.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Annie scales the gate, and AnnieCam is born

For the last seven months, we've had a pretty simple system with Annie,
our dog: When we go to work, we'd put her in the bathroom behind a baby
gate. We'd leave some toys, water and her bed, and she'd hang out in
there all day. We have a dog walker who comes once a day in the
afternoon to take her out. And it worked well.

Not anymore. For the last two days, Annie scaled the baby gate, roaming free in our apartment.

We've been considering giving her free reign of the apartment anyway. Now, she's taken the decision into her own paws.

brought me to my next project: AnnieCam. Since Annie's going to roam
free throughout the apartment, we'd like to be able to keep a bit of an
eye on her.  My laptop has a built-in webcam, and we have an older
external webcam, so I can actually create a two-cam setup.

In my past life as an online editor for newspapers, I've experimented with several live-streaming web sites. My favorite is So I created an AnnieCam channel on ustream.

I needed to decide what software I would use that would let me use 2
cameras. I've done some experimentation with this kind of thing before,
too, in my newspaper life, exploring what programs could be used to
join feeds from multiple cameras and make a feed look professional. I
wanted to use one called WebCamMax - but new there wasn't a 64-bit
Vista version of it.

But out of curiosity, I went to its site anyway, and discovered that there's an alpha of a 64-bit version of WebCamMax.

wasn't sure what to expect from an alpha, but was pleasantly surprised
- it seems to be a pretty full-featured program. It does all sorts of
things to manipulate a webcam feed. I can add text, graphics, photos, a
feed of my desktop, etc. And most importantly, I can take in feeds of
two programs.

Knowing that Annie loves to hang out on our couch,
I decided I'd set up the two cameras facing the couch, each covering a
different part of it (yes, it's a very big couch). I then used the
program's Picture-in-Picture functionality to display both feeds at

At first, the PiP was blocking a key part of the screen,
which was a little problematic. Then I realized I could just move the
PiP box around, so I put it in the upper left-hand corner of the
screen, and voila - perfecto!

The software isn't perfect.
There's one feature I'd really like -- the ability to rotate between
feeds every X seconds. So I can set it to show one camera full-screen
for 90 seconds, then switch to the other camera for 90 seconds, then
back, etc.  So WebCamMax people, if you're reading this, please add
that function!

Below is some video testing out AnnieCam. And
I'll probably have AnnieCam running pretty much 8-6 on weekdays, so
tune and see our cute cockapoo hanging out on the couch!