Archive for June, 2007

Madison Pool, and why it sucks

Last year, Madison opened a brand new swimming pool in town. The first public pool in Madison (we have 3 big lakes so it has been difficult to do a pool). When I first heard about it a few years ago when construction began, I was very optimistic. While Madison does have lakes, they are polluted from overuse and local pesticides and many beaches are unusable. When the pool finally opened, I was joyous… that is until I actually went there. Now let me preface this by saying that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with the pool. What is bad about the pool is really just management issues and too many people (largely because it is the only pool).

About the pool: Goodman Pool is open from 12:30 to 8:00, 7 days a week, with an hour and 15 minute break at dinner time on Monday through Friday. It costs $3.50 to go to it if you are a resident of Madison. They offer swimming lessons generally in the morning times before the pool opens, as well as during the hour break, on Monday through Thursday it seems. The pool itself features 2 water slides, 2 diving boards, and 3 spray tools in the shallow area, a basketball hoop, as well as a fairly large sandbox area. There are lap times available where they open up two lanes for laps from 6-9 am Monday through Friday.  They recently just opened the pool about a week and a half ago (I think on June 16).

So my issues with the pool….

The hours is the first thing that jump out at me. I understand that they need to offer swimming lessons for kids, after all this is the only pool in the city and they need to fulfill this purpose for people. (Even though previously swim classes had largely been dealt with by the YMCA and other health clubs, a new place for this was likely needed). Still given that there are other alternatives, I would like to see some slightly longer hours especially considering that the pool itself doesn’t open until ALL schools in the area are done with. (Conveniently, school finished in Madison for elementary schools on June 15). To this end I like that they have spots in the morning and evening to accommodate all families. However, I don’t think that they couldn’t cut out some of the morning hours a little and offer lessons from 9-11am and the same 4:45 to 6pm Monday through Friday (currently they exclude Friday, so this would create new times for them to replace the old times with), as well as offering classes on Saturday from 9-11am (this one would allow more people to have alternative hours). Then open up the pool from 11am to 9:30pm, adding 3 and a half hours to the pool time (opening the pool partially at 10:30 may also be an option if they can work a limited area for swimming lessons to occur at the same time). Now I also realize their current hours makes it convenient to have only a single life guard staff (with maybe a few part timers coming in to fill in). But I think it is in the pool’s best interest to just suck it up and have two shifts every day…. I would guess the early hours would require fewer guards except on weekends, and then the second shift coming in can allow the first shift to have breaks, and then the first shift can easily give the second shift breaks before the first shift leaves, not unlike how an average retail store works. They could also use some of their swimming teachers as early morning guards if needed. These expanded hours would make the pool much more worthwhile for those paying the cost of admission, and may actually increase sales given that I think you’d have more people going for just a half day or something instead of currently where you likely get people going all day long. It would also increase concession sales as you now have people who may want to eat lunch but not leave at around 12-1. So more money would be made all the way around, and more people could get served. I also would suggest to the pool to be like every other pool in the northern states and open with memorial day weekend, 2-3 weeks earlier than when they open. Even if this meant more limited hours such as being open from 4-9 on weekdays and all day on weekends, then so be it. Even though we live in a cold state, it was desperately needed this year, and usually is every year (it hit 90 degrees by the end of May and has been almost pure heat ever since, with little rain to cool, a pool was really needed early in June).

Next issue is crowd… This is something that they can’t really do much about… this has more to do with the pool being Madison’s only, and could be helped by additional pools in the city (I think the East side in particular could use one as there aren’t even really lakes as close on the east). However, it is still overbearing to me. I think that with longer hours there’d be a much larger chance of the pool being a little more calm in the mornings and would increase my likeliness of going at that point. In the afternoons however, there isn’t room to really even swim, it is pretty much standing room only in the pool which takes out a lot of the fun to me. If they could disperse the crowd throughout the day just a little, it would help. I also would like to see 8 or 8:30 to 9:30 be turned into an adult only time, maybe with the lap pool being placed back out to give adults an evening time to really enjoy the pool as well. (I really hate constantly being splashed and swam into by little kids at the pool).  I think this one may also die down as the pool gets older and less special, but with 250,000+ residents in the city, I’m not really sure how true that is.

Which brings me to Money. This isn’t going to be what you think really. I’m going to propose a price increase here. Already after one year, the city has stated that even though the pool is constantly filled to the maximum capacity they aren’t making money on it yet (maybe this is because of remaining construction costs?) This tells me that they really are doing something wrong… I think the pool should break even if it is 1/2 to 3/4s capacity. This year they increased the season pass cost, but I think they need a general increase, especially if they open it to longer hours and need more life guards. I would suggest a cost of anywhere from $4 to $5, preferably $4.50, although honestly upping it a whole dollar would likely be a hard sell. To sort of off shoot this cost a bit, they could have a decreased cost if you buy the ticket after 6pm to $3 (I bet the money they’d gain from the price increase of the whole day would largely offset the cost reduction at night). This way those with less money could pay even less if they only came at night for a few hours (this would also help justify an adult only hour). The report on last year’s pool earnings and such stated that the average day brought in around 400 customers to the pool. A $1 increase would then mean $400 per day, which could then be used to offset the cost of perhaps $8-9/hour lifeguards to hire about 5 new lifeguards in and of itself (this is at $9 an hour for an 8 hour shift, I think $8 is more standard which would bring 6 guards). With 5-6 new guards you could easily open up the pool in the mornings and afternoons, but maybe have like diving boards open from 1-8 to accommodate a smaller staff shifts (with overlaps this actually wouldn’t be difficult to do and you could likely get away with 1 fewer lifeguard in evening time 2 – 3 fewer in morning, and then 1-2 middle shifts that would help cover the early evening times. This isn’t even mentioning the additional 3 hours of pool time every day (which could increase daily attendance to 450-500 every day), the added two weeks (which would bring in 14 days at 400 per day or 5600 extra people per year), extra concessions via extra hours, etc. This in and of itself would create a huge influx of new money for the park to take in. (this increase would also come with increases to the non-resident which would go from $4 to $5, youth which would go from $2.25 to $3, and senior from $2.75 to $4, after 6 prices would be a flat $3 for all residents ($3.50 for non), except $2.50 for youths. I would imagine such an increase in hours, weeks, and fees, would largely increase the profitability of the pool.

Minor other issues…. there are no where near enough chairs in this park for swimmers, not even enough to fill the cement, I think it fills the cement half way (there is an entire side without any chairs on it at all), the chairs they have are nice but I’d rather have enough chairs that are bad, rather than good chairs that no one can use. My roommate went yesterday 15 minutes early, stood in line for around a half an hour to get in and wasn’t able to get a chair, that is ridiculous. The sandbox area is great, it has water fountains and weird pipes and stuff for kids to have a lot of fun… however, they have these pumps pouring out water but no buckets or shovels or anything, if you don’t bring your own you are basically left just dumping it in the spot it falls… if you do bring your own someone is likely going to take it. They should have at least 2 or 3 pool owned buckets, if not other sand toys that kids can use in the box, this is the equivalent of if the pool put up the basketball hoop but expected you to bring the ball (they don’t but how awful would that be?). Too many guards… I honestly wonder if they have too many currently… given how many people attend the pool maybe not, but they could probably get away with 1 less guard, I think they currently have 2 guards stationed to the 2 diving boards which is dumb as that is likely one of the lower stress areas (after all you are dealing with 2 swimmers at a time instead of 20).

Comparison of my plan to the Sun Prairie pool (which is another local pool that many went to previous to the Madison Pool opening). The Sun Prairie pool charge $3 for afternoon or evening, or $5 for the whole day. Their hours are 1-8:30 on week days and 1-6 on weekends (they leave the 6-9 hours open for rentals). They also open on June 2, 14 days earlier than the Madison pool. With my plan the hours would be longer than Sun Prairies, a sign of the larger city population I think and would justify not having a cheaper afternoon price and instead just have all day prices at that point. Otherwise, at $4.50 it would actually be cheaper than Sun Prairie’s $5, so Madison could easily say that even with a $1 hike in price that they are being very competitive. I also think the lower price is somewhat justified as I believe the Sun Prairie pool is actually a bit bigger than the Madison Pool (I think the separated diving boards off into a separate pool because of that they have more use of the deeper area and lap pools and have a much larger shallow area as well (they even have 2 kiddie slides which Madison does not)). The start date would be similar in both instances so this isn’t really a problem.

So overall I think my new plan would be competitive. Though honestly I do think hours look to be probably where they are going to be. It seems most pools set up their hours to provide for a standard 8 hour life guard shift and no more. (I looked up a third pool out of the area to ensure this was true for the most part). However, I still think a pool like Madison that has 250,000 citizens with only one pool could probably easily get away with longer hours and still pack the pool.

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New Keyboard & Headset

Well a couple of days ago I went out and bought a couple new pieces to my computer that I wasn’t expecting to get for quite awhile; a new keyboard and headset.

Really these two pieces were both annoying me quite a bit. For some reason my old keyboard was not starting up all the time with my computer. I was having to restart my computer almost every time I started up just to get the keyboard to recognize and it just began bothering me to no end after a few weeks. My headset has been broken for a couple of months. I think I ran over the plug for it with my chair because for the last few months I have had to squeeze and maneuver the plug just right to actually listen through it. Sometimes it took a half hour to position it just right, and even then it would die out after an hour or sometimes even less. I feel really bad about the headset because it was fairly nice and my roommate got it for me for my Christmas present this past year, it only took me about a month to break it and a half year to need to replace it. It was really frustrating.

I bought the Microsoft Natural 4000 or something keyboard, it was in an opened package at best buy so I got $10 off the retail price. I chose it because I need a natural keyboard given how often i use keyboards, and also because it had some nice features like a zoom (which helps because I have no scrollbar on my mouse) and the old style of insert key pad. I never have cared for the 3 rows of 2, and much prefer the 2 rows of 3 keys even though it makes the keyboard a little bit longer. My headset I bought was one from Altec Lanseng which I figured it would be a good quality product. I also used a $5 coupon from Best Buy to lower the cost so over all I saved $15 and spent $91. It wasn’t a horrible deal but it wasn’t a cost I was expecting to spend right now.

Random Annoyances

My roommate is currently out to lunch with her father so I got the apartment to myself and quiet for a moment. I need to go to the hospital for medicine, but really I don’t want to because these times happen so little.  So yeah, I’m still being bothered by her constantly being home.

She still hasn’t even gotten a nibble on a new job and I’m not shocked but this is not the topic I want to be “I told you so” on. I mean she left work so that she wouldn’t feel ok with not getting a new job, to force herself to make the change because she isn’t someone who changes easily.  It isn’t a bad idea, but in order for it to work you have to act like you aren’t working and change your attitude to finding a new job. That means going after jobs that you don’t particularly like, that may be a little lower in salary, that may be further away, etc. These are the jobs you’d tend to grab that you may not if you still have employment, but she hasn’t gone after these. She is just as picky as she always was. On top of that, she still hasn’t changed her application process. She emails the applications and then let’s them be. She is doing two things wrong here, first she is emailing. Even though they accept emails, I bet most places would still prefer a hard copy of the resume. Second, she never calls back. She feels that if they wanna hire her, they will call her but that isn’t the case in modern job hunting. You need to call back and schedule an appointment but she doesn’t unless she really wants the job. So really her whole process of getting a job hasn’t changed and it really needed to. She might as well have been staying at the crappy job she was working at. If she is going to be this picky either way at least she’d have a somewhat decent salary.

On top of this, one of the main reasons that she left was also because she felt that she was always frustrated and she was not happy with who she was. Since she has become unemployed though, her frustration level has probably gone down, but she actually gets frustrated much easier than she ever had before which leaves me in the position of always being on the receiving end of her frustration. This isn’t helping matters at all.

On a side note, the itching from my swimmer’s itch subsided about Tuesday or Wednesday. I hope that the bumps go away somewhat soon though because I look somewhat diseased right now and am really embarrassed about the way that my skin currently looks.

Pirates

I just saw Pirates of the Carribean yesterday and I thought it was fairly good. This one was much better than the second one which I didn’t really care for all that much. The problem with the second one was that it was trying to be too funny and thus it lacked any real content. That is to be expected from these type of movies, but it felt forced and while the first movie wasn’t exactly heavy on content, the twists and turns that made the story run did not exist in the second story.

The third one however had much more twists and turns, in fact one could say a few too many because it was fairly easy to lose track of all that was going on. Some of the story line in this one could have easily been shifted into the second movie I think in order to add to the second one without overdoing this one. Like perhaps they could have started the call of the pirate council in the second movie would have been a good option. This one wasn’t as funny as the first movie, but it still had some good, albeit strange, humor.

My one big complaint about this movie was that everything seemed to be far too overdone. For instance in the middle of the end fight scenes Will & Swan decide to get married by Barbosa all the while all three are fighting baddies. This scene made me sigh with the corniness, but more than that, they drew it out for 10 minutes! I think this movie being somewhat corny is to be expected, but don’t drag it out. Especially considering the length of the movie was awefully long as it is at 3 hours. 3 hours for a low content action movie is a bit much, usually that length is reserved for more serious movies. There was another similar scene that stuck out with the evil trade company boss dieing a magnificent 10 minute death which made me wonder “who is this guy? And why do I care?” The scene was overdone for what really was a minor villain. They paid more attention to this guy than Davey Jones or Barbosa’s death in the first movie. It was retarded because it took me half of the movie to figure out he was even in the first one. This character was extremely forgettable and they made it seem like it was the main character in the movie the way they killed him. I think they could have easily done without some of these lame scenes which added nothing to the movie and was more senseless than anything and could have shaved 30 minutes off the run-time to make the movie length more reasonable.

A minor complaint was general inconsistencies which I don’t really mind because in reality it is to be expected with this type of movie. The main one that stuck out in my mind was that each pirate lord had a piece of the 9 pieces of 8. However, what confused me was that Barbosa had a piece and so did Jack Sparrow. I realize they were trying to increase the importance of these people, but in reality I couldn’t get over the hump of trying to figure out why a captain lord was part of the crew of another captain lord. Additionally, it seemed like the captain lords mainly consisted of different areas (China, Carribean, Mexico, Japan, Africa, France, Mediterranean, etc) yet Sparrow and Barbosa seemed to be the only 2 representations of the same area. It was all very odd, and maybe I missed that Barbosa stole his piece from someone else or something. But Barbosa was part of Jack’s crew and it just doesn’t make sense that a crew member would have held this kind of power.

My last real complaint with the movie was the Pearl itself. In the end of the first movie, it was sort of revealed that the ship itself wasn’t really cursed, the people on it were. This lead to the wonder of well what is so special about the Pearl? Even in this last movie they talked about how powerful this ship was, being the only one that could match Davey Jones’ supernatural ship. I had assumed that this would be dealt with in the second and third movies, but sadly it just left me wondering why this ship is so important that everybody is trying to get it? (Another pirate lord was also trying to steal it in this movie). They also left open a hole in Sparrow’s story with what the deal with this trading company guy was, they seemed to have a much larger history than was explained, but now that he is dead it seems rather unlikely that they will explain it.

I was certainly happy to see that they left the series open at the end, it is a good series overall, and it seems likely with how they ended at that Swan & Turner’s involvement with the series is likely over to a larger extent (I wouldn’t be surprised by cameos but I am guessing they are pretty much done, which is good because after the first movie, these two could have been done without entirely.)

Overall, I give this movie about a B. It was good, fun, humorous, and twisty, but a little too twisty and not funny enough. Is a hard balance but I liked it this way better than where they went with the second movie (which I probably would have given about a C or C+).

Growing frustration

My roommate recently quit her job without having another job lined up. Financial issues aside, this has become very frustrating already for me as now she is around all the time. It used to be that I used the afternoons to work on random stuff. Whether it be an NWN module for an upcoming contest, cleaning, working on my story, or some other random project that I have, I did it in the afternoons. The problem is that the reason I did it in the afternoons was that I was awake and also because she wasn’t around. With her around, I get distracted, i don’t feel I can concentrate on what I am doing, and a small part of me feels embarassed and more pressured than what I need to feel.

What makes matters worse is that she feels bored all the time and thus finds the need to force me to do stuff with her. It is one thing if she went out on her own, in fact I would welcome this as a chance to do what I need to do. But she needs me to go because she doesn’t want to do anything alone. This complicates matters not only because it is more lost time, but if I am out and about doing things, then when I get home i am usually tired and either want to take a nap or I just want to sit down and play my game. Thereby taking away still more time.

The whole process is frustrating. I am not getting anything done. I have decided to put my book on hold for the time being and concentrate more on my NWN module as that is due in mid-July and I feel like I can win this competition. I also would like to work more on my resume, its webpages, and business cards to help me get my name out and be able to get a job after next semester. However, if this continues and she remains unemployed for long, I will certainly have to go up to the cottage alone so that I can concentrate on the book fully. It is just not something I particularly wanted to do because of gas prices and no air conditioning in my car, but more and more it is seeming like a good idea.

Week Vacation

So this was an exciting vacation I just got off of.

On Monday we traveled up to Menomonie, and did a few chores around the cottage like getting wood at a store, unpacking the car, and eating dinner. Then on Tuesday we went Geocaching to a local park that had four caches in it. We found three of them, but on the last one noticed that we had quite a few ticks on us. We thought it was just 2 or 3 at first and drove to another cache on the way home that was near a cemetery. We parked in the cemetery and got ready to go when my roommate noticed that she had a tick going down her shirt. We both immediately got out of the car, took our shirts off and yelled noticing several ticks on both of our bodies under our shirts. We quickly decided that we had enough geocaching and we got back into the car and drove back to the cottage. Now, I we both had Off on, with deet to stop ticks and still by the end of the day we probably had a good dozen ticks each on us. It was really the most horrifying tick experience that either of us had ever had.

Other than that the trip was rather uneventful. We only got one morning of sunbathing in due to bad weather. Even though we bought wood at a local gas station all the wood was still too wet to get a decent fire going. We went to a local restaurant that we  had never been to before and decided the portions were far too big (the biggest sandwich I have ever seen!) and far too expensive for the quality that it was. We decided if we ever went again we would either stick with appetizers or just split an entree. Otherwise it was good. Even if things go bad when we go up to the cottage, it is just nice sometimes to get away for awhile.

Vacation

Tomorrow I will be going up north to my mom’s cottage for a short vacation. Will probably only be there for 3 days, but there is no phone line or anything so I won’t be able to update this blog until probably on Thursday, maybe Friday.

In order to get a decent start on my book, which I haven’t even really looked at. I plan on printing what I already have written and bringing it up so that I can read over and edit what I have, and write additional content. This might work a bit. I don’t really care for the idea of writing the old fashioned way with pen and paper, but it does get me away from the distractions that being at a computer often provide me so it may be helpful in getting my mind on task.

I also plan on getting a couple geocaches while I am up there. The area we are going to has probably like a 3:1 geocache to geocacher ratio up there. There are a ton of caches, but not many people to find them. The reason for this is because it isn’t hugely populated area, and there are lots of nature areas to hide things in. And there are also a few people who are dedicated to hiding. So it is kind of cool going up there because you have all these caches all over the place that don’t really get used much. It turns out to be a fairly good geocaching vacationing area because of it. (Also some of the caches are pretty good!)

Other than that the plan is just to relax. We are expecting rain a lot of the time so there may not be a lot of opportunity to actually get outside much, but we are hoping to have enough time outside that we can enjoy our surroundings. Even so I think it is prime time to get out of dodge. Fresh out of school, and my roommate recently quit her job, so we both kind of need to get away and refresh. Also, even though gas prices are high, I expect them to get higher so it is better to get this trip done early rather than late.

I hope we have a good time.