Sunday, August 27, 2017

Moore League: Who has the best football website?

By Scott Wilson

It's time for the 2017 football season! So let's kick off the action by looking at which Moore League team has the best football website.

It's no secret that there's a huge disparity in the quality of football in the Moore League. Long Beach Poly always dominates, while some of the other teams are happy just to get a win or two.

Fittingly, perhaps, Poly has the best football website in the league, but in this competition it shows some weaknesses. More surprising is that Lakewood, which has a strong football program that is often second in the league only to Poly, has a website that is an embarrassment to the team and the school.

To be clear, this is a rating of each team's "official" websites, whether created by the school or the booster club. Other sites, made by fans or professional networks, are not included.

Note: Websites change. The items I cite in this article were there at the time of this article, but they may have changed by the time you get there.

Long Beach Poly
Grade: B+
Poly's football website has a multitude of features and an attractive design. It has schedules for varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams. There is a full varsity roster. There's a list of the coaches, with brief biographical details on each. One page recounts the history of the program.

This is all good, but a closer look shows some flaws.

The 2017 schedule on the home page is labeled "2014." There's a junior varsity schedule even though Poly is not fielding a JV team this year. The latest "news" item is more than six months old. A "Merchandise" link leads to a dead-end Ebay page.

In short, this website gets a lot of things right, but it needs someone to go through and clean it up.

The football website is separate from school's, but there's a link from the school site that directs visitors to the right place. That's good.

Grade: B-
Confusingly, Wilson football has two websites, with information on the team scattered across both.

The football page on the school website leads off with outdated summer program information, but it's immediately followed -- helpfully -- with the complete 2017 schedule. There's a mixed bag of other info on the page, including the the name and email address for the coach, results from last year, a link to a Google Doc that lists the football team's records and pictures of previous years' teams, but not this year's.

Oddly, there is no link to the other site,, which is labeled  the "Official Home of Long Beach Bruins Football." This site contains a lot of information, but it's not well organized. There are brief bios of many of the coaches, but some some pages are blank and some links lead nowhere. There are no rosters.

The site appears to have been created by the Wilson boosters club, but it never directly says that.

Between the sites, a Wilson football fan can mostly find what he or she needs to know, but it's strange that you have to go two places.

Grade: C
Anyone who goes to the Millikan High School website and looks at the football page will conclude that the Rams' football program was shut down after the 2016 season. The page contains only 2016 schedules, two photos and a video from 2015. Intriguingly, there is a link to something labeled as "Millikan Football Website," but if you click on it, you'll find an empty page with the notation, "The domain may be for sale."

So no more Millikan football?  Well, not so fast.

A Google search leads to another site,, apparently created by the Rams' Booster Club.  And it looks pretty good.

It has the 2017 varsity schedule right at the top; JV and freshman schedules are easily located, too. It has complete rosters for varsity, JV and freshman (pictures with the varsity), plus some good collections of pictures. Weirdly, all three "Coaches" pages (varsity, JV, frosh) are blank. Nor do the coaches' names, or contact info, appear anywhere else on the site.

It's a Jekyl and Hyde situation. If fans find the boosters' site first, they'll get most of what they want. But those who come to the school site first will go away with no idea that Millikan even has a football team.  Why not place a link on the school page to send people to the booster club page?

Grade: D+
The Cabrillo football site is dominated by a lengthy biography of Coach George Richardson.  The 554-word bio isn't the only thing on the page -- no, there's also a large picture of Richardson at the top of the page. And to one side, there's a rotating slide show feature four more pictures of the coach, plus a picture of one of his high school football championship rings.

If you're a parent of a new player entering the program, it's nice to learn something about the coach. And with so many pictures of him, you'd have no excuses for not knowing what the coach looks like.

But hey, shouldn't the website have something about the, um,  team?  There is a link to the current schedule, in a PDF file. And at the bottom there's a link to a weirdly random collection of Cabrillo football pictures at the website MaxPreps. But none of those pictures are more recent than 2014.

There's no roster, no pictures of the current team, and no way to contact the coach. And no schedule for the JV or freshmen teams.

Grade: D
Go to the Compton High School website and click on "Athletics" and you'll be taken to a page that lists four sports. One of them is football. Click there and you get the current football schedule for the varsity, JV and freshman football teams. And that's it. That's the entire Compton football website.
At least the schedules are up to date and easy to find.  But there is not even the name of the coach or a way contact anyone with questions.

Grade: D
The Jordan Panthers' football website consists of team photos of the varsity, JV and freshman teams, plus the name of the coach, and links to Word documents containing games schedules. The schedules are for the current season, but bizarrely, they omit the team's first four games.

Grade: F
The Lakewood Lancers football website is notable mostly for what it doesn't have. It doesn't have a
schedule of games. It doesn't have the coaches' names or contact information. It doesn't have rosters or a single picture.

Worst, the site doesn't have any current information -- it is filled with outdated announcements about summer camp and practices.

Ironically, the page does contain a mission statement for the program which promises "a high quality, competitive, dynamic football experience." Too bad they have no interest in a high-quality web page.

Update, Sept. 11, 2017: Since this article was written, the Lakewood football website has greatly improved.


See also: Who has the best baseball website in the Moore League?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Need an article behind a paywall? I can help

If you're trying to get an article that's behind a website's paywall, I can get it for you for $5 per article. Yep, just $5 -- very likely less than you'd pay to pay the article.

Post a comment below to contact me. I will respond promptly. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Backpacking do's and don'ts

I've just returned from a three-day backpack. Here are some things I learned:

Check and test everything before your trip. Everything. 

Fill up your backpack with gear and go for a practice hike, even if it's not a long one. Is there anything on the pack that's broken or missing?  Fasteners rattling or loose? Can you adjust the straps to fit your body? You should do this even if you've used the pack successfully in the past. Once you're out on the trail, you'll be limited in the kind of repairs you can do.

Try out your boots, even if you've worn them before with no problem. A blister will seriously impact your hiking. Try your boots with the socks you will actually be wearing on the hike. Make sure they have good shoelaces to make the boots snug on your feet. Go for a practice hike (possibly the same one with the backpack, above).

Try all the food you're taking ahead of time. You don't want to wait until you're on the trail to discover that the freeze-dried meal you're counting on for dinner one night tastes terrible. And you'll wonder why you carried food that you're not going to eat.

In freeze-dried meals, Mountain House Rice and Chicken is a winner. Mountain House Mac and Cheese is not.

Consider a Knorr pouch meal (or similar store-brand offering). These are not strictly freeze-dried meals. But they are much cheaper and can work. First, save the pouch from a freeze-dried meal. It's designed to retain heat. Place the Knorr meal inside and add water. Seal it up and it should cook like a freeze-dried meal. Still -- see above! -- try it ahead of time.

Unless you're sure you're going to have a lot of downtime, don't bring a book, not even a light one. Your time will be taken up hiking, cooking, cleaning, setting up gear, and conversing with your backpacking buddies.

Keep lunch simple. You won't want to stop to eat anything that requires much work while you're on the trail. One good idea: Put a couple Clif Bars in your pocket and nibble on them during the day.

Consider a way to get your water without taking off your backpack. I found I could carry a small water bottle in pocket for sipping, and refill it as needed from largest bottles in my backpack.

Test your stove ahead of time. Bring a lighter or matches; test them first.

Double-check the trip plan. You may not be the leader of your group, but it's in your interest to make sure the details have been thought through.  Is the distance of each day's hike reasonable for your group's fitness level? Do you have required permits in-hand? If you don't, do you know exactly how you're going to get them?  Do you know exactly what you're doing on the nights immediately before and after the backpack? If your group is not traveling together, how and when will you all meet up?


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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book review: "Frozen in Time" by Mitchell Zuckoff

At the outset of World War II, the United States rushed to send airplanes to England to help in the fight. With long-distance flying still limited, the planes hopscotched from New England to Newfoundland to Greenland to Iceland  before finally touching down in Britain. But not all of them made it.

Greenland's fierce winds and blinding snowstorms were a particular obstacle. In "Frozen in Time," author Mitchell Zuckoff tells an amazing story from 1942-43 when one military plane went down, followed by the crashes of two rescue planes (there was even a related fourth crash, but Zuckoff doesn't spend much time on it.)

The series of events leaves two planes of dead men on the ice of Greenland, while a shattered third plane barely shelters nine survivors from the freezing temperatures.

Those survivors, and the efforts to rescue them, are the primary focus of a story that takes an amazing number of twists and turns. Just when you thought nothing more could go wrong, it does. Severe cold, tremendous winds, hunger, and the perils of deep crevasses in the ice are just some of the perils that both the survivors and rescuers must overcome.

Zuckoff weaves the rescue together with a modern-day story of attempts to find the remnants of one of the crashed planes and return the remains of the perished men to the United States. At first I wasn't sure this would work, but Zuckoff does a deft job of blending the stories together.

Zuckoff has conducted thorough research and the details he found bring the story alive. My one concern in the storytelling is that while he captures the hardiness and resilience of the men, I wonder if he glosses over moments of conflict. The only hint of disagreement among the survivors he offers is when one ignores his companions and goes off to sleep away from them. Surely, during their long ordeal, the men must have had an occasional squabble?

This is a book with a lot of characters and I liked the way Zuckoff introduces the stories of the plane crash survivors and rescuers one at a time as they enter the narrative. That gives you a chance to get to know one character before moving on to the next.

But oddly, when Zuckoff describes the modern-day story, he fails to follow the model he used for the World War II story. He tries to describes all the modern characters up front, and it's hard to keep them straight.

I liked that the book puts the pictures at the appropriate places in the book. This is much more useful to the reader than cramming them all into the middle of the book.

With so many characters, Zuckoff helpfully includes thumbnail biographies of each at the back of the book. Unfortunately, he doesn't tip off the reader that the bios are there and I didn't find them until I was done with the book. Now, at least you know they're there. You might find them useful for reference


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Friday, August 4, 2017

Dare to rent a Dollar car

Can you stand the pressure?

Can you stand the pressure to rent a car?

For a recent trip, I reserved a vehicle through Dollar Rental Car at the airport in Calgary, Alberta.

About a week before the trip, I was curious whether Dollar's rental lot was at the airport, or off-site, requiring a shuttle. So I did a Google search for Dollar rental Calgary. My research took a surprising turn.

Rather than finding an answer to my question, I instead found reviews of the Dollar operation at the Calgary Airport. And they were NOT pretty.

Most of the reviews were one- and two-stars, with many people complaining that Dollar personnel talked them into buying unnecessary and expensive add-ons to their car rental, especially accident and damage protection. For instance:

  • "The agent told me and wife that my US insurance only cover the Camry I own, now I was renting a mini van so I should buy the full coverage for $35 plus tax and fees per day which is 30% more than I expected."
  • "Then informed us that that we needed the insurance despite paying with my RBV Avion Platinum VISA which I know has coverage. She adamantly insisted that 'absolutely NO credit cards cover luxury cars.'  Pressured me that if an accident occurred I would be fully responsible for everything."

As I read the reviews, I didn't have much sympathy for these people. I have rented many cars and have routinely turned down the "Collision Damage Waiver" and other upgrades at rental counters simply by saying "no." If these renters got talked into something, well, I figured, it's their own fault.

Very few people actually need to buy "insurance" for car rentals. (The collision damage waiver is not actually insurance, though many people call it that. It's an agreement by the rental car company not to sue you for vehicle damage.)  Most personal car insurance policies cover you when renting a car, though you should check to be sure.

Also, most credit cards offer rental car insurance as one of their perks. With the combination of personal car insurance and credit card coverage, it's likely you are covered better when renting a car than driving your own car.

Still, the reviews of Calgary's Dollar operation did get me wondering. Since I live in the U.S., I checked with my car insurance company (Geico) to make sure my policy applied in Canada. It did. The same was true of my credit card coverage. It was all good; I was covered.

Arriving at the Dollar counter in Calgary, I was curious whether I would see evidence of the pressure-selling that I had read about online. It didn't take long.

As I stepped to the counter, I noticed a Dollar agent talking to a customer to my left. She said, "Now, do you want the full insurance or just the basic coverage?" Notice that she left out a third option: No coverage. I also liked the "just the basic" touch, as if that would be a really weak choice.

I didn't hear what option the customer chose, but he was startled by the price: $30 a day. "Why is it so high?!" he asked, almost in a panic.

I had an urge to reach out and help this guy, but soon I dealing with my own agent, handing over my credit card and driver's license and answering various questions.

Finally, she got to the question I knew was coming.

"About the insurance -- do you want the full, bumper-to-bumper coverage, or ..."

I interrupted. "We don't need anything extra."

She looked shocked. "You don't want any insurance?"


"You will be responsible for the full value of the vehicle," she said, her tone of voice implying that this would be a horrible mistake. 

"I know."

"Do you have insurance that covers you in Canada?"


"Are you sure?"


She acted as if she had never seen this before. Someone didn't want the insurance!

Glumly, she went ahead with the paperwork, making sure to emphasize that I had to initial on the contract that I was taking FULL responsibility in case of damage.  There was even a separate line to initial saying that any windshield damage would be my responsibility.

It wasn't just the insurance. She asked if I wanted to list a second driver on the policy. I said no, knowing that Dollar charges extra for an additional driver. She seemed skeptical, perhaps because my wife was standing right there. She had me initial one line on the contract, emphasizing that I would be the only driver "no matter what."  (No matter what? I'm thinking that if I'm having a heart attack, I'm going to let my wife drive.)

Eventually we got our keys and went. But the whole experience left me rattled. Even as sure as I was about my choices, the agent's pressure almost made me crack. I suddenly had more sympathy for those people who had criticized Dollar online.

I was so concerned about Dollar looking for ways to add extra charges that, before returning the car, I did something I've never done before. I videoed the entire car so I would have evidence of its condition. I feared that Dollar was going to find some tiny scratch or ding and blame it on me.

As it turned out, there was no problem when I returned the car. We were checked in and let go. The final bill was what I expected. 

I can't say, of course, if all Dollar counters are like the one at Calgary. But the lesson is the same. Be wary of all extra charges, and check your coverage from your insurance company and your credit card before you set out on your trip. .


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