Joe's New Jersey Racquetball: Blog 2006
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2006 Blogs

12/06/06 Streamlining Video
Been away for a bit, my DVR got kind of full and I really wanted to keep some episodes. So I've been using my Plextor ConvertX to save me a tremendous amount of time converting video.

Before the process was to capture it with my breakout box from Pinnacle to my laptop, transfer the 4 GB file over to my main computer, remove the commercials, re-render it as an AVI file, use another computer with a DivX Converter on it to render it again, hours or a day later finally copy it back to the main computer for storage. It was pretty damn ridiculous!

Now the ConvertX makes it into a DivX file on the fly. I can use WinDVD Creator instead of Pinnacle and cut out the commercials and re-render it for storage in a fraction of the time. Anyway got a huge back log of racquetball video, but I'm not in a hurry to get to it. I also don't really care to render stuff I shot without my wide-angle lens--it just looks pretty amateurish.

11/18/06 Basic Physics
"An object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion..." Newton's First Law of Motion. Never really interested in Physics (beyond game programming) and didn't have it in school, but I've heard the quote before. I've also believe I've seen something similar in Racquetball books, but I witnessed it myself last night.

I was coming up a step short on most of my shots during several rallies. I guess I should not have had a doughnut, munchkins, and a host of other junk food throughout the day. I'm sure that didn't help, but I also noticed that I was flat footed when I started to move to the ball. To initiate that first step cost me a lot of time. Guess it's one of the first basic lessons, always keep moving. To always keep the weight forward, etc. I think even bouncing or even shifting weight helps, just never want to be at zero. Takes a lot of work, but think it's easier in the long run.

11/14/06 Finally Relief
I can finally breathe. After a lot of failed Doctor visits, I finally got relief from the ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) Doctor. I also went to an Allergist per his request and found out some stuff about my allergies and how that can impact my breathing. I can't remember the last time I felt this good and if it means I need to take medications for the rest of my life oh well. I'll live with it. I can't wait to se the difference between Pirates Plunder and the Racquet Wars tournament in December. Should be awesome. I think I need to recover from Jason's cold, but otherwise I'm pumped.

10/13/06 Camera up the Nose and Terrible 1.5's?
Took off work today to visit an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) Doctor. Seems it's still the same old or another sinus infection. Oh I'm pretty sick and tired of this crap, but at least I got to see first hand what's going on. Yep the Doctor shoved a fiber optic camera up my nose (both sides), it felt like a scene out of "Total Recall". Wasn't exactly the most pleasant experience, but it didn't hurt as much as I thought it would.

I got three medications now one of them being a nose spray. I think for the first time in a while, I can actually smell something. Of course, one of tonight's ofactory pleasures was Jason's soiled diaper. At least a sinus infection had some advantages. Not sure it affected my tournament game last weekend, but it sure doesn't help. Gotta go back in two weeks for a follow-up and talk about my sleep apena problem. I might have to use one of those positive air pressure machines (C-PAP). I really don't want to have surgery, since I heard it often doesn't take and don't want to risk surgery. Never had one and if I can help it, never will.

Anyway Jason has been pushing our limits at home. He's been waking up at 3:00 and wanting to play the past couple of nights. Yes I give in and play with him. Sometimes it takes about an hour for him to go back to sleep. Meanwhile work and everything else must go on. So everything has been suffering. Even my relationship with my wife. We might have to let him cry tonight if he wakes up just to break the cycle. Not looking forward to it. He's a good boy. Defiant and stubborn, but a good boy. Happy 17 months Jason!

10/13/06 Racquets Galore and Home Movies
Past couple of weeks had a lot of racquets come in for re-stringing. A lot for me is about four. I registered my business again, so I've been collecting sales tax. Haven't heard back from the State about collecting it though, so we'll see. Anyway between getting racquets ready at night and whenever Jason goes to bed, so computer time has been suffering.

Also owe my family in Florida some Jason footage. So been looking through old files and trying to assemble something for them. It's about an hour so far and just takes up so much space in AVI format. So looking forward to ripping it in DivX and putting it on VCR tape and getting that project finally done.

Stuff that's not done usually haunts me, rearing it's ugly head at the worse possible time and ruining any inspiration for other projects. "I need to...I got to..." are some of the worst phrases that can go through a developer's head.

9/06/06 Another Sinus Infection?
Another trip to the Doctor resulted in another round of antibotics. I guess, I get everything from my son from his day care, but still after seeing something on Discovery Channel about germs and surfaces. I'm going to invest in some Clorox-wipes! Guy from the show said, "People don't clean their keyboards until they stick to them."

9/02/06 Lots of things to fix!
Things have been kind of messed up since FrontPage started to have problems publishing my site. Basically the way I wrote my old database would cause a lot of files to be changed, so making it a big job to publish my site. So been thinking about what to tackle first, I think all the matches is key. Getting them displayed will form the new base for everything else.

Also been back and forth with my host about PHP breaking down throughout the day. My member area is under PHP and to have it fail during a league is not a real option. There's been some major problems with migrating my web server to use ASP.NET 2.0. Still coding the basics with .NET, so PHP is almost ready. I also hardened the code to offer some protection against SQL Injection attacks and the like.

Coming up to my first tournament of the season at Hillsborough. Got a lot of things to work on. I had a lesson with Eduardo from Classic a couple of weeks ago. He noticed a couple of contact problems and my general inability to get low to the ball. So I want to drill like crazy and get into proper form.

7/10/06 Goal Reached. 105 MPH!
I pulled out my radar gun and tripod tonight and within the first few hits, I nailed 102, 100, 98, and even 105! For a second there was a 112 MPH, but it skipped. With other racquets I've struggled to reach the 90's. I think my highest was 97 with a 165 or 175 IGS. 99 MPH with a Megablast 185. Now with an 185 IGS and a smaller grip. I rifle off triple digits in a couple of tries.

The highest I've seen at Rutgers recently has been about 112 or 115 MPH. To finally be on the heels of these guys is a big accomplishment for me.

7/08/06 Picked the Head Metallix 190
I played with the Head Liquidmetal IGS 185 last night. I felt I was hitting with more power and was able to do more with the ball. I mean the added mass helped me on some shots that otherwise wouldn't make the wall. There was one rally where I think a lighter racquet would have helped. It was during a doubles game and I found myself out of position near the front-left corner. One of the opponents (Roger) hit a corner shot that angled right to me. I was able to get the racquet on it, by some sheer luck, but it didn't have the speed to make it. Maybe if I had a lighter racquet it would have. Definitely not a deal breaker.

I'm not going to go back to 175 or lighter until my swing develops correctly. I often have a slow swing and One Lee's observation about sometimes being inflexible leads me to think a light racquet will hinder me more than help. For me, it's pure ego to a degree to want a more expensive lighter racquet. A Team Head guy at a Fairfield doubles tournament last season showed me an IGS 165 and told me, "You got work your way up to this bitch." Don't know if he called the racquet bitch or me.

It all comes down to a formula. Power=Mass*Velocity^2. I don't get the power from the mass side of the equation with a 165 or 175. I also can't provide the velocity consistently to over come the lighter mass. My power will increase with the 190. With the formula greater mass at the same velocity will always yield more power. Where Power takes off is increases in velocity:

Power Formula: M*(V^2)

Mass Velocity Power  Power % Velocity %
190 30  171,000 100% 100%
175 30  157,500 92% 100%
175 32  179,200 105% 107%
175 34  202,300 118% 113%
175 36  226,800 133% 120%

If you're not safely generating the velocity, then your velocity during the course of a match or tournament will wane. If it drops below a certain point, 30 in the above example, the benefits of a lighter racquet is lost. To generate more power with a lighter racquet, you have to increase your base swing speed by 13%. A 7% increase only gets you 5% more power. I'd rather swing at a slower pace that I can keep consistent during a tournament than peak for a match and lose speed. Safe to say a loss in power is a major benefit to your opponent.

7/06/06 Off Season Adjustments
Jason is kind of partial to the IGS 165. Looking good for 13 months, keeping the racquet nice and flat.  
I've been staring at my Head order form for a couple of days now. I already narrowed one of the choices the grip size. For a long time, I've been using the 3 7/8 grip. I guess since I have big hands, I thought I needed a big grip. Well I still have the Head Demo bag from last season, so I tried a 5/8 grip and liked it. Hell I liked it so much that I could no longer play with a 7/8's. It felt like a tree trunk.

The next decision is tougher which racquet. The Metallix comes in 170, 180, 190 grams. 170 has already been deemed too light for me and nixed. I'm leaning toward the 190, since I still miss my green 185 Megablasts. I played all Season with the 175 IGS and it was ok I guess. I'm going to be 35 this year and I can come close to 100 MPH from a drop and hit. So I'm saying that my swing might be slow enough to warrant a 190. I'm going to try the IGS 185 tomorrow and see if I like the extra weight. I guess my problem with a heavier racquet means my maneuverability will suffer, but if I'm only hitting the ball in the 80's then it doesn't matter if I get a racquet on it. 80+ MPH doesn't put enough pressure on my opponent.

I'm also working on my swing. The funny part is, I'm not even holding a racquet most of the time. I'm trying to start my swing from my legs, back, and shoulder. I would like to use more of my lower body and some more early racquet prep into my swing. So as Joe Camilo from Hillsborough put it to me at State Singles, get some more acceleration into the shot. Anyway just seeing how it feels to swing that way and it's very awkward.

6/26/06 Grounded by Sinus Infection
I've been pretty sick. All of last week I had low grade fevers, cough, sneezing, chills, you name it. About mid-week, I went to the Doctor and he told me I had a sinus infection. Finally started to get relief this past weekend when the antibiotic kicked in. Today I played racquetball for the first time in over a week. I was still coughing all over the place, but I managed to play a couple of games. It felt damn good to play.

I have a couple of issues with ASP.NET, basically my pages didn't work with my provider. So instead of breaking everything, I tweaked it for regular ASP.

5/27/06 Goodbye PHP/MySQL. Hello!
Funny how things are. I started to code things for PHP 4 and 5 and got everything transferred over to MySQL then I started running into road blocks. First was the class limitation in PHP, I did not see a way to include classes embedded in other classes. I even asked this guy at work who's a pretty good PHP guy. Anyway I could change things and work around that. Next barrier was transforming XML using XSL. Couldn't do it using PHP 4/5. I tried it on my provider and it bombed too. I know some sort of component is missing, but why bother.

I really want XML/XSL to drive my new site database. So I downloaded ASP.Net framework and SDK. I installed it, I like it, and it works on my computer and on my provider's server right off the install. Done deal! I also get access to a SQL Server, so why not drive it home this way. I have always been a Microsoft guy, I guess a Zebra can't change it stripes after all.

My Provider is all .Net and offers PHP/MySQL as alternatives. Might as well use my provider's strengths and do it right the first time.

05/17/06 Cleaned and Exported my Database to MySQL
I started to map out a new racquetball database after sketching out the tables I realized I can just modify my existing database. So after hacking, dropping, and updating some fields I'm pretty happy with the new setup. Of course, I'm pretty sure I broke every line of code in the process. It had to be done.

I found a cool tool, Access2MySQL Pro, that took a lot of the headaches of creating tables and importing data to MySQL and replaced it with a couple of mouse clicks. Pretty sure I'll be registering this software. Anyway got some solid me time tonight. I have a lot of other stuff to do, but I yelled stop and said this time is for me! It actually took a while to refocus and stop rummaging. It was easy to get swept up into Jason's party, and be frantic about it., but it's gotta stop now.

05/02/06 Server Woes and the battle for ASP/PHP.
I wrote on my main page that I can no longer update my website as a whole. I now need to go back and update individual pages and folders. For all the stats I run here that's not going to work for long. No one to blame except myself, started out with a basic design and kept it that way. Back to square one.

I've tried to use PHP and My SQL with some marginal results. There are some things I love about PHP. There's not a lot I like about My SQL, I've been an Access developer for a long time, so it's been a rough switch between interfaces. I also developed an ASP application in record time at work and have been struggling with PHP books to do basic stuff like handle dates. So do I continue pissing away time on PHP or just knock it out in ASP and Access?

It's easy to fall back into what we know and go back to old habits. I know Access has some limitations, but it's also a great database development tool, and can't beat transferring just one file between servers. So not sure what to do. I need to do something or else things will continue to break down here. I'm also frustrated that I cannot do what I want in PHP/My SQL. There's no flow man and coding line by line really sucks. Learning and cutting code at the same time is a bad combo. So looks like I answered my own question. Just do it in Access/ASP!

04/06/06 Way above expectations. Despite a bad start.
Yesterday did not start well. My wife woke up coughing about 12:30 in the morning and kept coughing to about 1:00 despite our efforts to help quiet them. Eventually she went downstairs to let me sleep. I woke up with Jason around 6:00. Fed, changed, dressed, and got his day care bag ready and forgot to eat breakfast. I somehow managed to get something to eat along the way and get to work very late, as usual, but I was going to play racquetball last night come hell or high water!

It would have been easy to fall into the pattern of excuse making and just quit, think I was tired, or rummage through the problems of the day, but that didn't really come into play. I kind of winged a performance script and it really did affect my performance in a positive way. I played pretty well for the first couple of hours. Of course, Wednesday was kind of a bonus since my wife took Jason to her volunteer group. So I played 'til 10 PM. Towards the end I was pretty tired and I took a lot of bad and sloppy shots. Regardless playing for five hours brought back the good old days. Was a lot of fun and it was great to see people from the Busch Ladder that I don't see that often.

03/24/06 The Fundamental Level of Mental Toughness
Yeah it's the night before State Singles, about 10:25 PM, and I'm here writing about mental toughness. Well I played tonight with my friend One Lee over at Cook just to tool up a bit before Saturday. First couple of games were going great. Everything was running the way it should. My racquet felt great, my swings were effortless, eyes on the ball, and I had great ball control. Then something happened. One Lee said, "Ok last game. Give me 100%, no mercy."

Suddenly my swings became rigid, I was skipping easy shots, my legs seemed rooted to the floor. I had kept One Lee in single digits those first two games and now I'm fighting to catch up and win 15-12. He noticed the major difference between both games and said I was too tense, too rigid. Well the change also taught him how follow through is important.

I would never have noticed the change if he didn't point it out to me. I would have thought I was getting tired, the battle was too easy, etc. Then I started to make connections with what I read in the "The New Toughness Training for Sports" by Dr. James Loehr. He wrote that overloads of current flowing in the body can cause tension. That people who are mentally tough are flexible, responsive, engaged, etc. So tomorrow at States, I'm going to concentrate on one objective. It's not winning a game, a match, or even a trophy. It is staying flexible both mentally and physically. I think that's the first step toward real winning.

02/21/06 Disappointing Doubles
I listened to the Racquetball Roundtable last week and Ray talked Doubles. I love Doubles, well let me rephrase that I love "good" doubles. I've been forced to participate in some bad doubles lately at Cook. Hey I'm ready to admit my own shortcomings in doubles, but when it happens during every it just bums me out. Anyway a some of my pet peeves:

  • Serving to my side of the box! Oh boy that's #1.
  • Partner hugging the side wall on my return or my shot of the rally.
  • Partner doesn't move on the return.
  • Partner ignores shots of "Mine. Mine. Mine!"

Serving to my side of the box is the worst thing any partner of mine can do to me. I'm not talking about Z serves that hit near me and go to the middle or the opposite corner. I'm writing about a serve that puts me in the way of my opponent's return or traps me up front in the box. Instead of working the rally, I'm working to get out of the way of the shooter. It normally opens the entire left side of the court and since I'm moving away from the left side almost any pass will work.

Partner turns into a wall-hugger. Bill Serafin has reinforced that Doubles is about the cross court shot because it keeps you out of the shot. Anyway I hit my cross court shot just to see my partner on the wall getting hit by the ball. All I needed was a foot or more and it would have been fine.

Some partners who stay in the back court when I'm hitting a return. They have to at least move up to dotted line, better yet the short line. Since I'm returning I'm stuck in the back as well, which opens the front court to an easy pinch shot.

Sometimes if my partner is over zealous and he's way up front a shot that's going to bounce near him causes a bloodlust or something. I call "Mine." Since I know the ball is going to drop into my hitting zone. Most of the time it's ignored and they hit the ball waist high or higher and it comes off the back wall for a setup. Either I'm too far up because I called "mine" or we're both out of position.

Anyway just needed to vent about doubles. For people who say they hate doubles, well I think they just don't understand. I'm happy to play doubles even with the people that see themselves in this article. I know they can in turn write about me. For example, when I get worked up I become ultra-aggressive on the return and start encroaching on my partner's turf.

01/20/06 Where's my killer instinct?
Merriam Webster defines killer instinct as "an aggressive tenacious urge for domination in a struggle to attain a set goal." Kind of funny I always thought it meant something else. Like a friend admitted to me a while back, "when I'm on the court I hate my opponent." Hey man whatever floats your boat. I think my opponent is out there to do his/her best, I should be doing the same. Often I'm not.

I've caught myself on at least three recent occasions failing to do my best. First, was my match against Nick in the league. Once he hurt his back, my game changed. I was actually concerned, "concerned" is not in the above definition. If my goal was to win, I definitely did not pursue it 100%.

The second time was last weekend in Delaware. I was playing a B Singles match and I was playing the game, but I don't think I was playing to win. I was not aggressive or tenacious or even had the urge to win. I was playing hard, but not playing to win. Why? I don't know. I guess the hour and half drive wasn't long enough. I also didn't set any goals and as Dario Mas said, "Concentration and Focus are key."

Monday night, I played a game vs. Ajay Singh and he wanted to win and he did. Through the single game, I went cold and warm, but never hot. I have a couple of excuses my arm hurts, lack of sleep, improper fuel. Regardless, did not want to dominate, did not set a goal. Did not have the urge. Afraid of getting hurt or just afraid of losing. Something was going on.

What a bleak picture I must be painting. On the other hand, I also remember what the killer instinct tastes like. One of the best had to be Doubles at the Summer Shootout with Leigh Marshall as a partner. We were fired up and Bill Serafin was watching. I hit a kill shot, man I rolled it, and I turned around and pointed my racquet at Bill like saying that's for you man. We still lost the game 15-14, but I did the above definition justice. We also got 2nd place.

Also at Delaware, after losing the first game in Doubles. Scott Goldstein and I went on the attack. It's a different doubles chemistry, I think I'm looked to as the more experienced player, so it's important I keep control. Problem in the first game, I kept things too controlled. I don't know what happened or what turned it around, but all of the sudden things snapped into place and we're looking at 14 something and had three chances to put it away. I remember getting one of our opponents out and saying "#$%@ yeah!" as an aside.

So I've read numerous mental toughness books and they all hint at getting to the zone that magical place where everything fits, everything feels instinctive. For me the killer instinct cannot be a thought process, it goes beyond thoughts, it's something that ignites. I'm still learning how get the fuse set.

Ultimately if you can honestly say you did your best for yourself, your partner, your opponent then you can rest easy. If you hesitated in any aspect then you need to start digging for the problem. Something is holding you back in your game and in life.

12/13/05 New Year's Resolution...Back to the Gym!
Now that I'm playing racquetball less intensely and only about twice a week for two hours. I see noticeable loses in my consistency and endurance. At Hillsborough recently Gloria, the tournament director, did a bad thing and added another round to her round robin! After the first round, I totally tanked and had single digit scores in all my games except my last one, which I won.Doubles followed a similar path. I was also somewhat injured. My first thought, I never get injured! What's going on?

I've been practicing whenever I get the chance and it's starting to pay off again. I'm gaining my control and some consistency back, but I need to hit the weights again to increase my endurance and output. I also need to concentrate on my core. I plan to attack States this season and to do that I need a solid plan.

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