What a newbie learned about the World Cup

Soccer balls

There are three things I remember about the World Cup held four years ago:

1) The sound of vuvuzelas could not be ignored in clips shown on the news. YouTube even added a vuvuzela button temporarily to its player so you could add the sound to any video.

2) I listened to the final in Spanish on the drive back from the IKEA in Charlotte in an SUV I’d rented with my brother. We couldn’t find a channel broadcasting the game in English, but we could pretty much figure out what was going on by the excitement in the announcer’s voice. I also remember pulling up in front of my brother’s house, fiddling with the buttons to try to turn off the radio, and accidentally turning on the satellite radio we could have been listing to the whole time. Whoops!

3) There was a psychic octopus named Paul who accurately predicted the outcome of 11 out of 13 matches, and then died several months after the final.

I didn’t anticipate caring about the World Cup this year because I’m an American and as everyone knows, Americans don’t care about soccer. However, I’m with the rest of the world in thinking it should be called “football” and we should call American football something else. Regardless of my US citizenship, I somehow got sucked into the World Cup this year and watched several games. Honestly, I blame the Google doodles. They had so many cute, animated doodles running throughout the month that I felt like I should watch the games just to be more informed.

I didn’t play soccer as a kid, and I haven’t watched soccer on TV before, so I learned several things about the sport that seemed weird to me but probably are accepted as normal and obvious to everyone else on the planet.

There are no time outs
I was surprised to watch my first game and realize the players on the field were expected to run around non-stop for 45 minutes each half. Like, woah, that’s a lot of running. I’m so used to time-outs being part of game strategy in other sports like basketball and American football that it was bizarre to watch a game where the clock never stopped. How do advertisers feel about this? Half the fun of the Superbowl is watching all the clever ads during time-outs and other natural game breaks. It’s hard to think TV networks would be able to make as much money off of a televised soccer game as they do on an NFL game. The only ad I could spot was a little Coca-Cola logo next to the score bar.

No one knows exactly when the game will be over
Because there are no time outs, referees tack on extra minutes to the period to compensate for time lost by injuries and other stuff. But you never know how many extra minutes there will be until you cross the 90-minute mark. Knowing how much time you have left is so key to strategy in other professional sports that it’s got to be frustrating not to know how much longer there is in the game until it’s almost over.

On the bright side, they usually don’t add that many more minutes. I bet that makes it easier to predict how much television air time to block out for the match. In the fall I’m always annoyed that NFL games run long and bump the rest of the shows that evening to an unpredictable number of minutes late. It makes it really hard to program your DVR.

The referees are out on the field with the players
I’m used to seeing referees on the sidelines of games, but in soccer they’re out there in the middle of the field with everyone else. I’m surprised they don’t get run over more often than they do. And considering how seriously people take this game, I’m scared for what might happen to a ref who gets in the way and accidentally prevents a team from making a goal.

Something ALMOST happens all the time
During one of the games I was working on my computer but was listening to the TV in the other room. It was funny to listen to the announcer’s voice get really, really, excited and then….oh, sorry, no goal. And then to get really, REALLY, excited and…nope, no goal then, either. Repeat, ad infinitum. I finally understand why people scream “GOOOOOOOOOAL!!” when their team scores because there are about 10 fakeouts before you get the real deal.

As a result, it also makes people really, really happy when they score, happier than I’ve seen a team get in any other sport. I love how the team members run into a big group hug and all celebrate together, unlike in other sports where it’s usually just one person or a couple doing a victory dance.

The cup itself is kind of ugly.
I was disappointed when I saw the actual World Cup awarded to the winning team. It’s not that large and I think it’s kind of ugly, right up there with the mirror-ball trophy awarded to the Dancing With the Stars champs each year. Considering this is the biggest sporting event in the world, and FIFA is a corrupt organization that has a bazillion dollars, couldn’t they come up with something nicer?

The World Cup was fun, but I doubt I’m going to start watching professional soccer matches. I rarely watch professional sports of any kind unless I’m personally invested in the team for some reason. But four years from now I’ll probably tune in and I’ll definitely be looking for the cute Google doodles.

JenFul Playlist – April and May 2014

Ear buds

Every two months (or in this case three months) I post playlists of the songs I’ve been listening to recently. You can listen to the playlists in the Spotify players below if you have Spotify installed. If not, the playlists are listed in text below that. As always, you can follow me on Spotify here and view my other playlists here. I’ve commented on a few highlights below.

April 2014

May 2014

Comments/Highlights

I haven’t been listening to as much new music lately. I’ve felt a bit swamped with work and haven’t been taking the time to look through the “New Music” emails from Spotify or to spend the evenings playing Candy Crush Saga with music videos on in the background.

That said, some of my favorites from this two month stretch are Gabrielle Aplin, Churchill, and KONGOS. It’s nice to see Beirut has a new release out too. I liked their song Postcards from Italy which was played on WOXY (R.I.P.) in 2006 or so back when that station was all I’d stream all day.

I’m also not really a country music fan, but a song from the TV show Nashville made the list this month. (Mediocre show, great music.) I’m also a bit surprised to include a Dierks Bentley song here, but I saw his episode of Crossroads with OneRepublic and liked the message of his song “I Hold On.” I still don’t know how to pronounce his name though.

April 2014

Bronze Radio Return – Up, On & Over
The Limousines – Love Is a Dog from Hell
Johnnyswim – Diamonds
Magic Man – Texas
GABRIELLE APLIN – Panic Cord
GABRIELLE APLIN – Home
Echosmith – Cool Kids
The Lone Bellow – Green Eyes And A Heart Of Gold
Mindy Gledhill – All the Pennies
Churchill – Lock Your Heart Down
Noah Gundersen – Ledges
David Bowie – The Prettiest Star – 1999 Digital Remaster
Casey Abrams – Get Out
Savoir Adore – Beating Hearts
A Fine Frenzy – Now Is The Start
Air Traffic Controller – You Know Me
Mr Little Jeans – Rescue Song
The Damnwells – I Will Keep The Bad Things From You
Haim – Forever
Beecher’s Fault – Turn the Page

May 2014

KONGOS – Hey I Don’t Know
NEEDTOBREATHE – The Heart
Birds Of Tokyo – Lanterns
Moon Taxi – Morocco
Beirut – Santa Fe
Atlas Genius – Trojans
Nashville Cast – Is That Who I Am
KONGOS – Come With Me Now
Wild Cub – Thunder Clatter
Dierks Bentley – I Hold On
Ariana Grande – Problem

JenFul and The Case of the Mysterious Interstitial Ad

JenFul and The Case of the Mysterious Interstitial Ad

A full-page interstitial ad took over my browser a few weeks ago when I was visiting my blog, which was weird because I don’t have any advertising on my blog, and if I did I would never use a full-page interstitial ad because they are more annoying than my upstairs neighbor who moved out this week, thank the Lord! I thought it might be a fluke, perhaps something that was triggered by leaving a web page, not by entering my site. Then it happened a week later, and again two days after that, so I decided to put on my Nancy Drew hat to figure out what the hell was going on. Then I took it off and decided to put on my Veronica Mars hat instead because she’s way cooler than Nancy Drew and more in touch with modern fashion.

Unapproved advertising!

In case the ad was being triggered by malware on my computer, I ran a virus scan and also downloaded MalwareBytes to run a malware scan. A few cookies were deleted, but otherwise my computer was clean. Then the ad appeared a day after my scans, so it was fairly safe to assume the ad was not being caused by something on my own computer.

Next I asked my Facebook followers if any of them had seen the ad, and three people had. They were all using different browsers, so I figured it wasn’t anything browser-specific, but it was definitely something happening on my site.

Next I tried Googling sponsor.adverstitial.com which was the address of the page the ad forwarded me to. This is when I realized I’ve become spoiled by expecting Google to answer any question I have within the first 3 or 4 listings on the first page of results. When I Googled sponsor.adverstitial.com nothing helpful came up. A lot of people were complaining about the ad, but no one had figured out what was causing it. I had to wade at least 10 or 15 pages deep into the results before I found anything remotely helpful. Eventually I found a support thread on the WordPress.org forums in which someone had posted about the same problem 6 hours earlier. Over the course of the next day or two we finally figured out what the culprit was.

What was causing the ad to appear? For the solution to The Case of the Mysterious Interstitial Ad, turn to page 105… (or, um, just keep scrolling)
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The culprit was SITEMETER!!

Any youngins out there might not remember Sitemeter, but it’s a free web stats service that was pretty popular before Google Analytics ate up most of the market share. If you’re wondering why I was still using it, I like that it’s simple. When I log into Google Analytics I feel like I’m operating the control panel of a space shuttle. There are a bazillion options and a bazillion ways to track goals and campaigns and other things that I do not understand. I feel like you would need to earn a degree in Google Analytics to fully understand every feature. The nice thing about Sitemeter was that you could log in and easily see how many pageviews you’d had. There were easy-to-understand bar graphs. It was easy to see your most recent page referrals. They’d also email a stats summary to you once a week that was handy and quick to read. Simplicity, it’s underrated.

Unfortunately, Sitemeter is now EVIL too and inserts ads on web sites without permission. And they might have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you darn kids and Google! I’ve removed the Sitemeter code from my site and I haven’t seen the mysterious interstitial ad since. If anyone else runs into it after today, let me know. If you’re using Sitemeter on your site, I recommend you remove the code because it might be inserting ads on your page without your knowledge.

Thus ends The Case of the Mysterious Interstitial Ad. I think I’ll knock off work early, have a soda pop with Encyclopedia Brown and Sally Kimball, and find out what Bugs Meany’s been up to lately.

Facebook fail

Recently it was revealed that Facebook manipulated some users’ news feeds in 2012 to see if the happy or sad emotions expressed in their friends’ posts affected the happiness or sadness of their own posts. It’s kinda creepy, I agree. But I thought you might find it reassuring to know that even though Facebook is all powerful, it can still be kinda stupid–just like powerful people! The all-knowing Wizard of Oz was just a huckster behind a curtain, and the Facebook algorithm often reveals itself to be less all-knowing than we think it is too.

Example 1:
Last year my friend Andy opened a coffee shop in downtown Indianapolis called Bee Coffee Roasters. (If you stop by, tell him Jennette sent you! He adopted Java Bean’s sister, so that makes him family.) Here’s how Facebook thought I should react to the news:

Yes, Andy would definitely be surprised by that

Yes, Facebook, Andy would definitely be surprised if I got him a Starbucks card to celebrate the launch of his store. However, I would not be surprised if he never spoke to me again after that.

Example 2
Facebook needs help with geography.

Where is the Indianapolis Star located?

We should schedule Facebook a play date with Google Maps.

Example 3
Even though my Facebook profile specifically states I’m a web designer, Facebook feels the need to insert this sponsored post in my feed every now and then.

Wix

Really, Facebook? You think I need some cookie-cutter template builder to create a web site? I actually feel insulted whenever I see this ad. They read everything I post to my wall and it’s still like they don’t know me at all!

And Facebook isn’t the only algorithm with issues. I logged into Spotify to listen to music the other day and it gave me this suggestion:

I will never want to ride the train

No, Spotify, I can guarantee you I will never, ever, ever want to ride the train. Thank you.

Has anyone else experienced a humorous Facebook fail?

No email, no problem

E-Mail

I went over 36 hours without checking my email last week and it was kind of wonderful.

As a web developer and a blogger, I’m rather glued to my email, or it might be more accurate to say email is the glue that holds my professional life together. Without it I’d have to talk to people on the phone. How awful! Although my phone anxiety is nowhere what it used to be, in most cases I find it less stressful to type a message rather than chat it out.

I spend several hours a day in front of a computer with my email software automatically checking for new messages every 5 minutes. If you email me after I’ve dragged myself out of bed, I will probably read your message within an hour or two of you sending it. How long it will take me to reply…well, that’s too embarrassing to mention. But I did read your message even if I feel completely overwhelmed and want to crawl back into bed for the rest of my life!

Last weekend I went to Wordcamp Chicago with the ulterior motive of visiting my family while I was out there. I checked my email before I left for the airport in the afternoon. Between the flight delay, the flight itself, and the drive from the airport to my brother’s house, my laptop wasn’t in reliable wifi range until after 10pm. I had an autoresponder set up on my business email telling anyone to call me if they had an emergency, and no one had called me, so I decided not to bother checking my email that night.

When I left for Wordcamp in the morning I didn’t think about checking my email until I’d left and I hadn’t brought my laptop with me because it’s heavy. I don’t have my smartphone configured to access my email because sometimes you need to step away from the SMTP server, you know? After Wordcamp my brother and sister-in-law met me at the CTA station and took me out for pizza, so by the time we got back to their place I was tired and thought, hell, let’s go for a record! I’ve made it 24 hours without checking my email. If I go to sleep I can make it to 36 hours before the invisible strings of the wifi pull me towards my keyboard.

So that’s what I did.

It was remarkably freeing, and I hadn’t even realized I’d felt so trapped. I hate the fact that each message comes with the responsibility to do something after I read it. That something might be as simple as reading a blog post that looks interesting or taking advantage of a sale a store is offering or replying to a client about a question they have or fixing something that’s broken or figuring out how much to charge for a task I’ve never done before and oh my God I’m exhausted just writing about it. It’s not that I mind reading 60 messages that much, but I do mind having to make 60 choices after reading those emails. Whether I delete the message or reply or add a task to my calendar or sort it into a folder to deal with later, every email demands an action.

That’s what’s so wonderful about having an autoresponder telling people I was away. It freed me from the responsibility to take any action in a timely manner. I could just get to it when I got back. When I checked my messages on the road I could say, “Well, guess I’ll get back to that later,” close my laptop and walk to the lake with my family. So it might not really be that I enjoy walking away from my emails, but that I enjoy walking away from responsibilities for awhile.

I only got one phone call while I was away and it only took 75 minutes to fix the problem. As a web developer I’m always scared something horrible will happen while I’m away, like a client’s database will crash on Christmas Eve or the FBI will confiscate their web server, two things that have actually happened to clients of mine. If all I have to do while I’m away is a simple 75-minute code fix, then I feel blessed.

At the conference I also tried to avoid checking Twitter or Facebook, partly because my phone battery drains faster than it used to (don’t we all!), and partly because if I’m at a conference I like to talk face-to-face with the people in the room with me. Radical idea, I know. It’s a bit hard to achieve it at a tech conference because people are tweeting about what they’re doing and using a conference hashtag and all that, so if you’re off of Twitter you might miss some things. Like, oh, that you won the Pebble Smart Watch in the origami bird competition! Finally, all those years I spent as a child folding paper in my bedroom have amounted to something other than a shoebox full of paper creatures that I have carted from one apartment to the next.

My little paper friends

Why, no, I didn’t have many friends as a child, how did you guess? But learning how to fold a sheet of notebook paper into the shape of a dragon did help boost my popularity by about 0.05% To enter the Pebble Smart Watch giveaway I just had to follow the instructions they provided to fold a piece of paper into the shape of a crane. It’s a pretty basic form and wasn’t any trouble for me, but I think it filtered out 90% of the conference attendees from entering the giveaway, greatly improving my odds. I still didn’t think I’d win though, and I was already on my way out of town when they did the drawing. So imagine my surprise when I checked my email the next afternoon and learned I’d won. Whoops! I guess there are occasional advantages to checking your email more than once a day.

Thankfully they didn’t give my prize away to anyone else and it is in the mail on the way to my house as I type. However, you can’t win without also losing, which is why the universe decided now would be a great time for my Kindle screen to break.

Broken Kindle

Oh poor sweet Kindle! It’s like the cyclops screensaver slurped up your digital ink. I’ve already ordered a new one and this time I will be much more careful about transporting it when I travel. But the nice thing about traveling is being away, which applies just as much to your email as it does to your location.

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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You Are Not A Machine. You Are Not Alone. | Smashing Magazine

North Carolina Senate race spending tops $100 million - CBS News
I've suffered through soooooo many political ads this season, so I'm kinda glad to hear we've topped the nation in spending because it sure does feel like it.

Ebola: Maine deploys state police to quarantined nurse's home | World news | The Guardian
I know not everyone will agree with me, but I think Kaci Hickox is pretty badass. I admire her for standing up to policies that are based on fear, not science.

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