Archive for the 'General' Category


Only in Phoenix

Oct 10, 2011 by Steve Belt in General, iPhone photo

I was just leaving for Echo Coffee yesterday morning, when I noticed three young male deer in my neighbor’s yard.  It’s amazing to me to see deer in the desert.  This isn’t the first time I’ve seen deer in my neighborhood.  Heck, I’ve seen them eating the plants in my front yard.  But when I first drove past them, they were grouped perfectly under a tree in the neighbor’s yard, and it was just picture perfect…except I wasn’t immediately ready for a picture.  I turned around, and one by one, they ran across the driveway, then into the open area by the house.  From there they huddled under a new tree.  In one picture, notice a saguaro cactus, prickly pear cactus, an ocotillo cactus, sage brush, and one of the deer nibbling from the tree.  For me, it was just an amazing sight.

Back up your important data

Sep 22, 2011 by Steve Belt in General

This is a PSA from me, sponsored by me, intended for everyone:

Back up your important data!

Nearly 3 months ago, my primary computer for Echo Coffee started giving me some fits.  The symptom was that it didn’t like to boot up.  Often it would take several attempts before it succeeded in booting up.  As a result, I started to get picky about whether I would install updates or reboot the computer at all.  I figured either the power supply, memory card, or video card was on it’s last leg.

Two months ago, the thing absolutely refuses to boot up.  I bought a new video card, and that didn’t help.  So I took it home, and decided to start swapping parts until I had it working.  A few failed reconfigurations and many wasted hours later, I’m fed up with it, and resign to just read the important shit off the hard drive and build a new computer.

And then reality finally sets in.  The problem all along was a faulty boot hard drive.  “No problem,” I think, “it’s part of a software raid, the other boot drive will have all of my data.”  A few minutes later, “Oh, that’s right, I had disabled the software raid a few months ago, because it was using so damn much memory.  No worries, the server has all of my files backed up on it, right?”   “Ummmm, no sir.  Server backups were never even enabled when you switched from to a year ago.”  Doh!

So, here I sit with nary a backup in sight.  Normally anything important for my business is written to 5 drives.  Two on the raid on the PC.  Two more on the raid on the server.  And 1 more on the server’s nightly external backup drive.  How did I get myself into such a stupid setup?  Ugh!

So the drive in question went over to Data Doctors 3 weeks ago.  It’s had it’s read-write head replaced and has been on some fancy imaging device, working 24/7, to copy the data to a viable hard drive for over a week.  I don’t have much of an ETA for when I’ll get my data back, but I do know it’s going to cost me over a grand.  Yep, more than $1000.  Ouch!

So…learn from my mistake.  Figure out a viable backup solution for anything you hold dear, and put it to use.  If it’s a hassle, fix the hassle.  If it stops working, make it work immediately.  Don’t delay.

Poke confirmation

Aug 15, 2011 by Steve Belt in General

Why is it that Facebook needs you to confirm that you are about to poke someone?  There’s no confirmation for liking something.  There’s no confirmation for updating someone’s wall.  There’s no confirmation for adding a photo to your library.  But for some reason, Facebook thinks that you may have accidentally chosen to poke someone, and that this life altering event requires a confirmation.

Really Facebook?  Really?  Enough with the annoying confirmation pop-up!

New Gadget Idea

Aug 13, 2011 by Steve Belt in General

Ok, I’m not much of an inventor, but I had an idea for a gadget today while roaming the aisles at the local Fry’s Electronics.  What I was looking for, and didn’t find, was a combination iPod dock, memory card reader, and USB hub.  You can get a memory card reader and USB hub as a single device, but not with iPod dock as well.  Since iPod/iPad/iPhone are now so prevalent, it seems only logical to put all of these together.  And ideally, in a USB 3.0 spec.

Anyway, I’m not going any further with this idea than what you see here, but if anyone has the means to take this idea to fruition, let me know…all I’ll ask for is a free sample.  FYI, the images above are from some old defunct devices that kinda/sorta do what I want.  But none of these devices has been updated to current technology, so they won’t work with iPhone 4, modern memory cards, or USB 3.0.  Yeah…so not much use these days.

Socializing Online for this Small Biz Owner

Apr 28, 2011 by Steve Belt in General

A little over a year ago I opened Echo Coffee.  Doing so, as you can imagine, changed my life substantially.  For the first 6 straight weeks I was there from open to close every day.  I would arrive at 6:45am and leave at 10:30pm (if we got out quickly).  That gave me 8 hours to drive home ( 30 mins each way), do laundry, sleep, shower, and get back to Echo.  As you can imagine, it was fatiguing.  By the time I had a day off, “multi-tasking” was an impossibility.  I would tell the staff I can do one task ok.  If I’m trying to do 2 things…they are both going to suck.  And nothing I do is going to be great.  They really picked up the slack for me big time in those first few weeks.

And we got through it.

There were hiccups, of course.  But we managed not to make too many mistakes, particularly the kind that could have doomed a brand new small business.

Lately, I’ve had a little time to look back on the past year and think about some of the ways I’ve changed.  One of the most obvious, for me, is my lack of involvement in the social media world.  Back in the day, I was somewhat “internet famous”.  I recall a ranking site that listed my real estate blog among the top 50 in the nation.  I don’t know how accurate it was, but at the same time, to be on the list at any slot meant you were getting noticed.

So why have I essentially fallen off the grid?  I thought about that a bit and here’s what I came up with:  On an almost daily basis, I now get to socialize with literally 100’s of people every day.  And I get to do so, face to face.  Maybe it’s just 30 seconds, or maybe it’s longer.  But it’s personal.  It’s look someone in the eyes, shake their hand, and share a moment or three.  Back when I was a Realtor, on a good day, I spoke to a handful of people, and very few of them were face to face.  More often it was over the phone, and it was business.  However, I wanted to talk to 100’s.  So I blogged.  And I tweeted.  And I got my socialization fix online, while sitting in an office by myself.

So the difference is, these days if I want to chat it up with someone, I can walk out into Echo’s dining room, and politely ask how things are going?  Or what are you are working on?  (Because invariably, most are working on something, and not just there to enjoy coffee, which is a shame).  And because “I’m the owner” random strangers (or at least, they were at one time) will gladly share a nugget of what’s going on in their lives.  Which quite honestly, I enjoy.  I’ve always liked living vicariously through other people’s lives.  That’s not to say my life sucks or is boring.  But I know I’ll never get to do _everything_.  And there are many things I’ll never want to do.  But nearly everything that anyone else is doing interests me to some extent.

I’m interested in learning a tiny bit about the geology student studying dust devils on Mars; the internet SEO guy that was a former San Francisco Giants baseball player; the Fox 10 news anchor; the CBS 5 weather man; the yoga instructor; the Realtor; the just married; the just divorced; the police officer; the visitor from Chicago, Washington DC, and Seattle; the young; the old; and everything in between.  Everyone has a bit of a story to tell, and I’m always up for it.

So the coffee shop suits me well.  It suits me very, very well.  But it does mean that my internal drive to socialize online has been placated.  And so it is, that I reflect on how I used to think small business owners failed so hard at social media, because “they don’t get it”.  Now I think…maybe they do get it…they just don’t need it.  Well, maybe that’s not the case for everyone.  But it feels that way for me.

So, the next time you wonder what happened to Steve Belt, I thought I’d share that I’m alive and well and making great coffee for great people, everyday.  I’ll probably never completely stop being social online, but my current status quo is likely to continue for a fair bit longer as well.  There are still lots and lots and lots of people I have yet to meet that come into Echo all the time.

Free information at a Price

Aug 31, 2009 by Steve Belt in General

I’m in the market for something relatively big and expensive.  Call it a car or a painting or a piece of industrial equipment…it really doesn’t matter.  So, where do I start my search?  Why online of course.

The item I want is manufactured to customer order and as a result most manufacturers offer them in custom colors with custom add-ons.  They have websites that talk about how great theirs is, with pictures of it, and customer testimonials about how awesome their product is.  There are technical specs about how physically large it is, what capacities they offer, and all sorts of bits of information that will help a buyer make a decision.

The odd thing, however, is most manufacturers do not list a price for their products online.  Talk about annoying.  One manufacturer has a class form to fill out to submit an online price request, which I did last night.

This morning I get a simple form email asking me some obvious questions (questions that I believe I answered when I submitted the form), for which the answer was once again answered.  Then, instead of getting pricing, I got a 2nd email, once again with more questions.

At this point, I became more than a little annoyed.  How many times are we going to email each other back and forth, before this company salesperson decides to let me in on the secret of the price.  I began to feel like I was taking part in an infomercial, with the classic, “but wait, there’s more!”.  Finally, I got back a fancy color PDF for the 2 products that would obviously work best for me, and that included….the PRICE!

I’m still clueless as to why getting a price out of this company was tougher than pulling my wisdom teeth.  Oh well…every business can’t always operate under the mantra that their product needs to be great, price accordingly, and then you don’t have to keep the price a secret.  If that’s what “Great” costs, then that’s what it costs.  I still think this company’s product might be great…just annoyed that I jumped through hoops to get it.

If you sell, manufacture, or provide a service, and are offering that product online, do yourself a favor and list the price.  Online consumers expect to the see the price.  If, for some unexplained reason, you cannot list the price, then absolutely, positively give the customer the price the second they ask for it.

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, “I make comments participation is king”.  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.

It’s 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 “spontaneous, inspired, and direct”.

And now that I’ve 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 Tyson’s 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.  Tyson’s wife Jamie was also present.  She told me this was the first time she’d seen Tyson take someone’s portrait.

In the past, I’ve 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, really…the kind you might do at a dinner party.  It was certainly nothing like what I expected a photo shoot to be like.

But the results…they 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.

Copper Ridge keyboarding plays at SUSD school board meeting

Jan 13, 2009 by Steve Belt in General

The keyboarding class at Copper Ridge Middle School is one of only a handful in the nation. My daughter Hayley is playing before today’s board meeting to help keep the program alive

Making final preperations for el Tour de Tucson

Nov 16, 2008 by Steve Belt in General

This year, I am again riding el Tour de Tucson.  The event is now less than a week away, on November 22, starting at 7am for those of us riding the 109 mile distance.  For the last couple of weeks, it’s been the #1 thing on my mind.

I’m having a hard time determining if I’m as fit as last year.  This year I’ve been riding more rides that are 50ish miles in length, while last year we mostly rode 40ish mile rides.  Last year, I rode the around the mountain ride (Fountain Hills->Rio Verde) just once, and it almost killed me, which put strong doubt in my mind about the Tour.  This year, I’ve done that ride twice, on back-to-back days, and felt really good the first day, and as good as could be expected the second day.

I’m going to give myself credit for being in about the same shape.  Perhaps a little better or a little worse. If so, being a gold finisher and finishing in under 6 hours is within my reach.  Hopefully I don’t have any mechanicals, the weather is clean and clear, and I at least have a chance.

Anyway, because I’ve been feeling pretty good about the around the mountain ride, yesterday I decided to attempt the Bartlett Lake ride that Lance Armstrong used to do.  It’s 68 miles.  The ride starts by heading north up Pima, which is a mild gradual climb.  Then in the town of Carefree the climbing gets more difficult before reaching the high point at the turn off to Bartlett Lake at mile 20. At that point, you drop down significantly over a 14 mile distance to the marina.

Yesterday, it was pretty breezy.  In fact, it’s been windy fairly often recently, and it’s been frustrating to train in.  The wind was coming from the east, and thus all the way up Pima there was a strong cross wind, making the climb all that much harder.  Turning east in Carefree took me right into the teeth of the wind, so by the time I arrived at the turn off to the lake, I was pretty wiped, and just 20 miles in.  I began to drop down the hill toward the marina, when after 3 miles I went through a wash that causes a climb similar to the previous descent.  Just 1/4 mile up, I realized that 14 miles of this type of climbing just might kill me.

Riding alone, I did the smart thing and turned around.  Back at the wash, I stopped for a couple of minutes, and prepared for the 6-8% grades that the next 3 miles were about to present.  The climb out wasn’t actually as bad as I had feared, and then I was rewarded with the 35 mph descent back to Pima with the wind at my back.  The ride down Pima, normally the dessert of any ride, was no joy ride at all.  Again, the strong side wind meant I was unable to get over 28 mph, and there was a lot of work getting down the hill.  Total distance was only 48 miles in 3 hrs 25 mins, but it felt a lot harder than the 50 mile around the mountain ride.

Today, is my final training ride, I’m going to do the around-the-mountain ride in reverse (clockwise).  I’ve never gone in this direction, but it’s the direction that the Tour de Scottsdale does.

For the race next weekend, I’m going to try to ride smarter, attempting to save energy, while at the same time riding faster.  My basic plan will to be to avoid leading any pace lines whenever possible, and just stick to the wheels of faster riders.  Hopefully we can start a little closer to the front this year, which will allow me to be around strong riders that pull me around the course.  Anyway, that’s the plan.  We’ll see how it goes.  The only hitch in the plan will be riding with Chris Z.  He’s a slower starter, due to asthma and how long it takes his lungs to expand.  Once he gets going though, he’s at least as fast as I am.

I Voted Today

Nov 04, 2008 by Steve Belt in General

I voted today, and the experience taught me something very important about myself. I’ll explain:

I arrived at the polls at 7:30am. There wasn’t much of a line, and I quickly moved to present my drivers license. My address on yge licrense isnt up-to-date (thank you DMV), so they told me, “No problem, you can still cast a provisional ballot.”

As I waited in that next short line I began to get nervous. Would my vote count? They were handwriting information about each voter, and what if there was an error? So I left the polling center, went to my car and retrieved my car insurance and registration. Returning to the sign-in, they then noticed I had received an early ballot and again directed me to the provisional balloting line.

I took another look at the carbon copy registration sheets and with my anxiety mounting, returned home and dug my ballot out of the trash. To this point I hadn’t given my early ballot much thought as my wife had ordered it for me. I procrastinated voting by mail and missed the deadline. Now I know why. I want my vote to count. And not just a little bit. I really want my vote to count, and there’s something about watching your vote go into the counting machine that’s comforting. It’s an acknowledgement that my vote has been counted.

Today, I didn’t get that satisfaction. Returning for the third time to my polling location, I was directed to drop my ballot in a bin to be counted later. I’m sure it will be, but I really wanted it counted now.

This is the first, and it will be my last attempt at mail-in or early voting. If (or should I say when) we progress to online voting that won’t scare me. But until then I’m going old school.

And funny enough, when I arrived at Starbucks this morning for my free coffee, a neighbor and I shared consenting sentiments, as she too had voted early by mail, and very much missed her trip to the polls.

What about you? Does early voting scare you? Or are you confident it works flawlessly?