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Participation is King

Aug 11, 2009 by Steve Belt in General

Phoenix Photographer, Tyson CrosbieThe graphic you see at the start of this post has appeared at the bottom of the middle sidebar on the right for over a year now.† The graphic states, ďI make comments participation is kingĒ.† Tyson Crosbie created that graphic for those of us that participated in his soft edit comment process to proudly display on our blogs as a show of support for his approach to social media and photography.

Itís been a long time coming, but alas, right now I need your comments.† Tyson has published my soft edit on Flickr and for the process to work most effectively I need you to go to Flickr, view the 15 images- and via comment -vote for which image you believe best represents the words ďspontaneous, inspired, and directĒ.

And now that Iíve asked for a favor, a few words about the images and the experience of being photographed by Tyson.† Because I was a lucky winner of one of Tysonís fine art photographs in his contest Living With Art, Tyson needed to come to my home.† As a result, the photos were taken there on the day I received #9.† Tysonís wife Jamie was also present.† She told me this was the first time sheíd seen Tyson take someoneís portrait.

In the past, Iíve had my portrait taken a few times.† The process in the had always been the same.† The photographer asks me to sit in a spot, look in a certain direction, tilt my head a certain way, and then a few clicks later, my portrait was complete.

That Saturday was very different.† Tyson gave me very little direction.† As you look at the images in the soft edit, you can probably identify the shots in which I was given the most direction.† These are the images, in which makes it becomes painfully obvious, I could never be a professional model.† Instead, for the most part, I was simply chatting with Tyson and Jamie about stuff.† Just talking about this and that.† Learning more about each of them, and them a bit about me.† Small talk, reallyÖthe kind you might do at a dinner party.† It was certainly nothing like what I expected a photo shoot to be like.

But the resultsÖthey speak for themselves.† Still, the process is far from complete.† To be the most effective, this process needs you to participate as well.† So head over to Flickr, and please, please comment.† Let me know what image or images you think capture those three words.

Thank you.

Thinking on two wheels

Aug 03, 2009 by Steve Belt in Cycling, Mountain Bike

Iím currently planning my cycling events for the year and working to get back into better riding shape, now that the worst of the heat of the summer is starting to inch behind me.† Iím already registered for The Tour of the White Mountains (TOWM) and El Tour de Tucson (ETT).† TOWM is October 3, so just 2 short months away.† Iím signed up for the 65 mile course along with Chris Z.† Robert and Chris M are supposed to sign up any day now.† This is the distance we attempted and failed miserably at last year, having finished only ~45 miles of the course, before being forced to DNF by race organizers as the rain/lightning was about to pound us into submission.† Honestly, I was toast anyway, so the rain didnít actually stop me.

Finishing the 65 miles will be challenging.† Itís a challenging course, and even without the challenge, just riding 65 miles on a mountain bike is a long ride on dirt.† Currently, my strength is well off what I need, while my endurance is only off by a bunch.† Stated differently: I could ride 65 easy miles without much worry, but TOWM doesnít offer 65 easy milesÖthey are tough, high altitude miles.† That means more hill climbing work in the McDowells over the next two months to build my strength up.† Sunday, I had visions of a Sunrise climb, but failed 1/3 the way up, as I was simply feeling ďcookedĒ, from the early morning heat at only 7:30am.† Due to misplaced sunglasses, I left my house at 6:30am, which was 30 minutes later than intended, and under the direct sun, just couldnít motivate myself to push through both the heat and the pain of the climb.† I still rode for 90 minutes, but it wasnít pretty, and demonstrated to me, just how far out of mountain biking shape I really am right now.

For ETT, my goal isnít to just finish.† Iíve finished the 109 mile event the last 2 years in a row.† Two years ago it was in 6 hrs 23 min, and last year in 6 hrs 1 min.† Both results were Silver medal finishes.† Gold medal finishers are under 6 hours.

Naturally, this year, Iíve got my sights set on Gold.† And I donít want to just make Gold, I want to cruise comfortably into a Gold finish.† That means 5 hrs and no more than 45 mins.† 5 hrs 30 mins would be better.† Iím currently riding the 45 mile Cave Creek loop in under 3 hours, including the necessary stop at Cave Creek Coffee Company.† Thatís a good start, but I need to lop off a good 30 minutes from that ride/route.† I love the route for itís relative lack of traffic, and similarity to ETTís course conditions, so itís tough to want to mess with a good thing, but I found a way to add 9 miles, including another 3 mile climb, without adding any traffic, so from now on, my Cave Creek ride will be 54 miles.

The other big ride I have yet to do this season is the Rio Verde around the mountain ride.† Thatís roughly 50 miles, but it includes either going up 9 mile hill (up Dynamite Road from Rio Verde) or the 10% grades that are in Fountain Hills, depending on which direction is ridden.† Either way, itís no picnic, with terrain significantly harder that ETT, and thus why itís a good training ride.

But the ride I really want to complete during preparations this season, and if I can Iíll know 6 hours is well within my grasp, is the Bartlett Lake Dam ride.† From my house itís nearly a 75 mile ride.† And itís either up or downÖthereís almost nothing flat about the ride.† I tried it last year, and failed to get to Bartlett Lake, riding only 50 miles, instead of the 75.† It was brutally windy that day,† but I know itís a ride I need to conquer if I really think a Gold finish is within my grasp this year.

FYI, the Bartlett Lake ride is one that Lance Armstrong was known to ride back in his US Postal days when he stopped in Scottsdale after visiting Tucson to ride Mount Lemmon.† I suppose thatís the allure for me as well.† If itís good enough for Lance, itís certainly good enough for me.

Iím also 100% committed to riding the 24 hrs in the Old Pueblo again.† Team Are We Dead Yet? will hopefully continue to build on itís experience and strengths and find a way to complete 14 laps this year.† If we can stop sleeping together as a team, I think we can do it.

Iím also probably going to ride Tour de Phoenix (April 2010?), as Chris Z said he really enjoyed the ride last year.† Itís 75 miles, and seems poorly named as the ride never once pedals over any portion of Phoenix soil, but the ride should be fun, and a great way to maintain my fitness/focus after the 24 hr race, which annually seems to be a problem for me.

The Belt Family all gets iPhones

Jul 22, 2009 by Steve Belt in Family

iphone-3gToday, for almost no reason at all, I decided that I wanted the new iPhone 3Gs.† It has nearly nothing important over my iPhone 3G thatís just 1 year old, but for some reason, I wanted it.† The video doesnít really matter to me.† The better camera doesnít really matter to me, although a zoom lens on the camera might be handyÖdepends on how well it works.

At the same time, I thought, ďWhat will I do with my old regular iPhone?Ē† Immediately, I thought, ďGive it to JanĒ.† Then I thought, ďIf Jan is going to move from Verizon to AT&T, what are the family talk plans from AT&T?Ē† And that prompted, ďShould Hayley and Emily get an iPhone?Ē

Moments later it was decided:† The whole family might as well start drinking the Apple iPhone Kool-Aid.

And there you have it.† A call to AT&T to set up a FamilyTalk plan and a trip to the new iPhone store at Scottsdale Quarter, and we are now a 4 iPhone family.† Currently, my new iPhone 3Gs is synchronizing with iTunes, downloading all of my apps, songs, pictures, and what not.

Next up, each of the girlsí new iPhones (they got the $99 iPhone 3G 8Gb version), and then the port of Janís number from Verizon to AT&T, followed by setting up her iPhone.

Oh, and just as the real Apple love affair was starting to really set in tonight, the first call I placed on my new iPhone dropped twice.† I was checking in with my sister Shannon, who had surgery on her ear last week, so you knowÖnothing important (sarcasm).† The first drop was while I was driving through my neighborhood (that was somewhat expected), and the second time while in my house, after we had been talking just fine for 10 or 15 minutes.† No reason at all for the second drop, other than AT&T just deciding I had talked long enough, I guess.† That first call was a 3G call.† Iím going to give 3G a workout over the next few days to see if itís worth trying to go 3G yet, but Iím already expecting Iíll need to switch back to the tried and true Edge network.

Chicken Point Sedona: where the cool kids wish they were

Jul 15, 2009 by Steve Belt in iPhone photo, Mountain Bike

Another crappy view. Chicken Point is off the Broken Arrow Trail. I was pretty much toast by the time I got here. Being off the mountain bike since February wasn’t a good idea, but with the 65 mile Tour of White Mountains on October 3 more saddle time is in order.

For those curious, it was only 102 at 3:30p when I started and just 95 when I finished at 6pm. Even though the clouds were threatening, there wasn’t any rain.

Car/brush fire blocks I-17 northbound

Jul 15, 2009 by Steve Belt in Cycling, iPhone photo

I was attempting to head north to Flagstaff to ride my mountain bike in the relative cool, when traffic came to a halt. A small U-Haul had caught fire and pulled well off the freeway. The car fire then started a brush fire that is now burning ong both sides of the northbound lanes near the old Sunset Point rest area.

Hermit Trail at the Grand Canyon

Jul 07, 2009 by Steve Belt in iPhone photo

This was a bit over 2 miles down the trail. Very rugged and steep trail.

Realty Executives Quarterly Evemt

Apr 16, 2009 by Steve Belt in iPhone photo

I spoke this morning in a breakout session about Social Media and blogging. We had about 60 people attend the session. It was a nice warm up for RE BarCamp, which is next week.

Does it make sense to close comments on older posts?

Feb 22, 2009 by Steve Belt in Blogging

My primary real estate blog, Phoenix Area Real Estate Blog, is starting to get a ridiculous number of spam comments lately.† I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the big boys, but for me, it’s a continual annoyance, with several hundred spam comments per week.† Fortunately, the anti-spam software is working, and none of those comments are being seen by the public.† I mean, if you saw what I see left, you’d probably get sick.† The porn, pills, and whatnot that’s out there is seemingly limitless.† But even though it doesn’t get to the live web site, it is still something I must manage on a continual basis, as occasionally, the software will mark as spam a comment that looks spammy, but was in fact legit.

With my problem framed, I’m considering the following solution:† Close comments to any post older than XYZ months.† Here’s why I’m thinking about doing this.† Most of the spam is on older posts.† Often posts that are very old…even older than a year.† If I close comments to older posts, then the spammers are just that little bit thwarted.† If I can cut the spam in half, I’d be elated.† Perhaps it’ll work.† Perhaps it won’t.† I really don’t know, but I’m annoyed enough to give it a shot.† The truth is, very few posts get a legitimate comment much after the first month or so.† There are a few “superstar” posts I probably wouldn’t lock, but posts that clearly have no business being commented on now, are what I’m thinking about locking.

The question is, how long would it make sense to leave comments open?† Could I hurt my community?† Would anyone notice?

On the panel

Feb 18, 2009 by Steve Belt in iPhone photo

At the Dale Rector school of real estate for Realty Executives.

On the panel

Feb 18, 2009 by Steve Belt in iPhone photo

At the Dale Rector school of real estate for Realty Executives.