New Year’s Resolution

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions; they never held the allure for me that they do for many. But this year, I do have one thing I want to accomplish on a more regular basis. It isn’t anything deep and meaningful like making someone smile each day; it isn’t something significant like losing 30 pounds. It is, however, something that I want to accomplish, which is the main definition of a resolution, is it not?

In July, I turned 21 years old, and received a wonderful gift from my parents; a new digital camera. The camera received some use on road trips that I took near the end of the summer, but has been more useful as a dust-collector as of late. I have taken some photos for my cooking experiment, and of a few other things, but I haven’t even gotten around to uploading them, either to my computer, or to the vast array of social networking sites I use. This brings me to my two-part resolution:

In 2010, I plan to take more pictures using my digital camera, and to share more of them online so my friends/connections can see my efforts.

It’s my hope that the resolution to share my photos will provide accountability, forcing me to follow through with the first portion of the resolution, to take the photos to begin with! I have so many different ways to share photos now, between Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, that I really have no excuse not to share the photos that I have already taken. As for taking photos to begin with, I hope to chronicle any trips I take (myself or with the band department), as well as use my camera to track my cooking experiments, and any other experiences I may have on campus.

Some members of my Twitter network have embarked on the 365-day photo challenge, in which they plan to take one photo for each day of the year, and post it to their Flickr account. I considered taking this challenge to force me to use my camera more often, but since I haven’t taken even one photo in weeks, I thought it might be too severe a change for me. I wanted to set an attainable goal, and I think I have done just that. To those of you who are trying the 365-day challenge, I wish you the best of luck!

To everyone else, stay tuned  both here on my website, as well as on my social networking sites (see the left sidebar) for updated photos, starting next week when I return to campus and dust off my camera! Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a slideshow from a Flickr set of photos I’ve taken on the University of Miami Campus. Enjoy!

Happy new year!

Getting Old…

A lot has happened in the month-and-a-half since my last post here. It can all be summed up in three words, however: I’m Getting Old!

While generally speaking, 21 is not an age that most would consider old, there have been a few things that have happened over the past 6 or so weeks that have made me much more aware of the fact that I’m “growing up” and soon will be in the “real world.” Allow me to list a few:

  1. Turning 21 – Yes, the biggest sign of my aging hit me on the 21st of July, when I celebrated my 21st birthday. While the evening was a blast, and a lot of fun to share with great friends, one of them said it best when he noted, “it’s all downhill from here!” 21 is really the last age at which there is any “reward” for a birthday (for those of you out of country-if there are any-I am now allowed to consume alcohol), so my friend made a great point when he pointed out that from here on out, there really isn’t anything to look forward to on a birthday except the knowledge that you’ve lived another year.
  2. Staffing a Band Camp – I have now participated in 7 band camps (plus one drum major camp) as a member of a marching band. In early August, however, I had the opportunity to work as a staff member for a band camp for the first time, helping a friend who recently graduated from UMiami with her second band camp as a teacher. This was a really eye-opening experience, and helped me develop my marching band teaching skills immensely. On top of that, it was downright fun!
  3. UM Band Camp – I began my third year as a member of the Band of the Hour this August, with band camp here in Miami. This year, I hold two leadership positions in the band; I am the Band Captain, as well as a Section Leader for the trumpet section. It’s hard to believe that I am starting my third year with the band, and even harder to believe that I only have one year left after this one.
  4. Junior-Level Classes – Since the first day I arrived on campus in 2007, I heard horror stories of the insane course load of Junior year in the Music Education program. I heard stories of people averaging 3 hours of sleep for the whole year, having to skip meals to finish projects, and having no sense of social life. While the semester has just started, it seems as though these stories may have been slight exaggerations. What really struck me, however, was the realization that all the projects I have heard the “older” Music Ed majors complain about for the past two years, the projects that classified someone as “old” once they had to do them, are now being found on my syllabi. Now, I’m the old person, who will probably be complaining about the massive load of projects an assignments come November.

All of these events, of course have been positive ones in my life, but when you put them all together, they are also a stark reminder that pretty soon, I’ll be graduating and starting a new stage of my life. Scary, huh?

In other news, the first football game of the season is just over a week away, as the Band of the Hour and the University of Miami family will travel up to Tallahassee this weekend to watch the ‘Canes take on rival Florida State in a prime-time game on ESPN on Labor Day. Keep an eye out for me on ESPN, and stay tuned for updates on this blog, and on my Twitter page!

Greetings From a New Host!

As I mentioned a few days ago, I recently made the decision to switch web hosts. I had used hosting from MyInternetServices.com since I bought the domain and space back in June of last year, and recently have been disappointed with some of the load speeds and the amount of times where the site was down all together. Another bothersome issue with MyIS (and this is a pet peeve of mine for all commercial companies) was the customer service, or lack thereof. Now don’t get me wrong-MyIS did their job effectively, and solved any problems I had, but I am interested in more than just a company who can fix my problems. I want someone who’s going to take a vested interest in my needs and in what I’m doing!

It was with this in mind that I sent a very simple update out over Twitter the other day: “I am looking for a good inexpensive web-host for my web page. Any Suggestions?”  Not 39 minutes later, I was first contacted by a representative from PinchHost over their Twitter account (@PinchHost) with a just-as simple response: “I have a suggestion…” This representative (who I came to learn later goes by Alex!) and I “tweeted” back and forth for a while, talking about general information about the company and the services they provide. I told Alex I wanted to sleep on the decision, and to please “tweet” me in the morning. Sure enough, at 5:45 am the next morning, I had a message waiting for me asking if I slept well!

That morning, Alex and I discussed some more specific details about PinchHost’s hosting plans on Twitter, and by lunch time I had made the decision to switch over. Alex suggested we speak via Skype to discuss final details, payment, and to get everything set up, and proceeded to spend the next 3 hours connected on Skype with me as we set up my new space! Not only did he help set up the webspace, but Alex also helped me set up email accounts for my site using GoogleApps, and took the time to re-download and upload all my information when the first file transfer created problems. All in all, Alex probably spent almost his entire day at work helping me get set up!

As the next few days went by, I waited for the namserver change to propagate across the world. For those of you non-techie folks, this basically means that I was waiting for andyzweibel.com to stop looking at the old host for my files, and start looking to PinchHost. I ran into a few problems when the UM campus took longer than expected for the change to occur, but Alex was there right beside me the whole time, doing what he could to solve the problems, and suggesting I do things that he wasn’t able to (such as contact UM’s IT people-thank heavens I didn’t have to do that!). After a few days, the problems sorted themselves out.

I thought everything was set up, and the transfer was over–in fact, I even started writing this post–when I received another email on Saturday from Alex:

Hi Andy,
I’d like to move you to a different server almost twice as powerful. The change requires very little action on your part. If you confirm, I’ll carry out the process and send you anything you need to know about the change.
Kind regards,
Alex

I had been a customer for all of 3 days, and he already wanted to move me to a more powerful server? My answer, of course, was a resounding “yes,” and by that evening, the move was completed and andyzweibel.com was at it’s (hopefully) final resting place! It is this new, more powerful server that you are viewing my site on at the current moment. Hopefully, you notice a difference–I know I have already!

I want to take this oppotrunity to thank Alex and the PinchHost team for all the time and effort that have been put into helping to get my information moved over to the new host. I love everything about PinchHost, from their personal approach to support to their pro-active approach to problem solving. The pricing is the best I’ve seen (I am paying significantly less than I was before), and the quality of the hosting has been fantastic. In my book: great people + great pricing + great products is a formula for success in life! Congratulations to the folks at PinchHost for having it figured out!

My Print Debut

Yesterday, The Miami Hurricane, the official newspaper of the University of Miami, published an article on Twitter, and I was quoted in the article! As those of you who are returning members to my site know, I have written on Twitter a handful of times here on my blog, but this is the first time any comments of mine on the service have been put in print. You can check it out here. Here is a quote the article:

While it is helpful to remain in touch with friends and to read about the activities of favorite celebrities, sometimes Twitter can provide too much information. However, sophomore Andy Zweibel does not feel that this detracts from the site and its full potential.

“Those who don’t know much about [Twitter] think it’s just a glorified Web site for posting Facebook status-esque updates. This is what I thought from the beginning too,” he said.

“I have realized that it’s so much more about meeting people and sharing ideas, than letting everyone know when you’re eating a bowl of cereal,” Zweibel said. “I would encourage anyone to at least try Twitter for a few months before passing judgment.”

Special thanks to Danielle Kaslow, UM student and write for The Miami Hurricane, for putting together such a great article, and to Greg Linch (@greglinch on Twitter) for putting Danielle in contact with me!

Wordle

I came across a website called Wordle a while back through a post regarding it by one of the people I follow on Twitter. The basic premise of Wordle is to take a set of text (popular choices include blog feeds, twitter streams, etc.) and create a “word cloud” based on the words used in the set of text. The size of each word is proportionate to the frequency with which the word occurs in the text set. Wordles are great ways to see what you or others talk about most frequently.

After reading a post by Tim J at The Other Blog Without a Name, though, in which he used a wordle to create a word cloud of the search terms that brought users to his site, I realized I had not yet created a wordle for my site here. So, without further adieu, I give you the wordle for http://andyzweibel.com, care of http://www.wordle.net:

Website Wordle

Also, care of TweetStats, a wordle of my Twitter stream (with @replies removed):

Twitter Wordle

You can click on either wordle to take you to a larger image, located on the wordle site. I would highly encourage anyone who is more visual to create a wordle for anything they have written (a blog, twitter, even a term paper for classes!); it’s a really interesting experience getting to see your own words like this.

Happy Easter!