July 31, 2004

Nomaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

You wanna talk economy??

Let's talk economy. Some might say we're in the middle of an economic downturn. Others might say we're on the way back up. Still others might say we're doing just fine. Count me in the latter group. I was out at a few shopping centers today doing a little birthday/anniversary shopping, and the crowds were fierce. Today was a great day for American consumerism, if you ask me, and I will gladly point anyone who disagrees to the Crossroads Shopping Center and Cary Towne Center Mall. You can stock market this, and consumer price index that, but just go out to the mall some Saturday and try, just try, to tell me that there's a problem with the economy that is keeping people from spending money.

July 30, 2004

I haven't had a haircut since....

Well, I'm not really sure. I did have Janet thin out the sideburns, though, since I'm not interested in the little curlies I had going on there. I'm thinking of going pretty short when I get a cut in Vermont. We'll see how it goes. That's all I got tonight. Oh, and I think every person in America has seen "This Land" by now, since my mother sent me an email telling me to go see it. Mom, I saw it a week ago, but thanks for the heads up.

July 29, 2004

Three more months of this?

I flipped on Senator Kerry's speech while Janet was in the shower tonight. It was somewhere in the middle. Less than 30 seconds after I turned it on, he mentioned his service in Vietnam. I immediately shut the TV off. We get it, ok? You served in Vietnam. Now it might be good to tell America what you plan to do now, rather than what you did 35 years ago. Of course, that's impossible, since he really doesn't have a plan, except the one where he talks about how great he is for going to Vietnam. If you want a Massachusetts resident with military experience, why wasn't Ted Williams ever a candidate? He served in twice as many wars as Kerry. Obviously, there's more to getting elected than military service. Perhaps the Senator should keep that in mind.

Jimmy at the Beach

James may not know it, but the volleyball tournament he was watching on TV this past weekend took place on the very same sand where he tried to perfect his beach volleyball spikes during the summer of 2002. Hermosa Beach was my old stomping grounds during my now famous internship at the Circle A Ranch (go here and check out the logo to see why I called it that....well Cailyn anyhow). The sand is white, the weather is beautiful, and the water is cold cold cold. Hey, it's the Pacific Ocean. That's one cold ocean. The weather in Southern California really can't be beat. Whatever anyone tells you about it is true. I spent three blissful months with no rain, no humidity, and temperatures ranging from 70 all the way up to 80 or 85 at the most. It was quite a difference from the East Coast climes I'm accustomed to, and the current summer-long humidity outbreak in the Triangle makes me wish I was there sometimes. Occasionally I toy around with the idea of moving back, but reality keeps us where we are. Frankly, for all the good, it's darn far away, which would take some serious getting used to. There are a number of people at my job who moved here from California. I'm thinking to myself, dude, you had it, and you left on purpose. Most of them don't even have family here. Their little kids will be ticked off watching The O.C. someday and wondering, What If?

July 28, 2004

I go to the grocery store

Is it bad if you recognize most of the cashiers at the grocery store? I'm not sure, but I think the answer is important to my life, since there are definitely a few I'm used to seeing these days. Here's another question: whether it's bad or good, what does it really mean. I doubt I would be at the grocery store this often if I were single, but I also think that it might not be a good thing, since the frequency of my visits is mostly due to our desire for fresh food. Two people can only eat so many tomatoes and such at once, lest the rest go bad, so we end up going to the store a lot to refresh our stock of such perishables. There are also so many rules about storing food. Here's my favorite: did you know that a chemical in tomatoes that is responsible for nearly all of its flavor completely disappears if the tomato gets below 50 degrees or so? My whole life, I've kept tomatoes in the refrigerator, but I found out just a few months ago that you should never do it. And you know what, it's true. They taste way better if you never let them get too cold. Another fun rule is that pretty much every food lasts longer if you store it in the dark. The things you can learn from the Food Network. Well, Alton Brown at least. You'll learn more about food watching a half hour of his show each day than you will watching the entire 23.5 other hours of programming on that channel. You can bet your spatula Martha Stewart won't tell you why you should beat egg whites in a copper bowl. You have to go to Alton to learn all about copper ions reacting favorably with the egg white.

July 27, 2004

Now I've never met the man, but.....

Ted Kennedy has to be the biggest waste of flesh since I don't know when. I'm not sure which is worse, his inflammatory brand of "politics," or the fact that he has now duped the pitiful citizens of Massachusetts into keeping him in the Senate for 42 years. Combine that with the fascination with Ben Affleck and belief that a fat old dead baseball player is haunting their team, and my view of Bostonians is reaching an all time low here (good thing your'e getting out now, Vikki). Ok, let's give them a little slack for electing him in the first place, though they should have known better, but I'd imagine people with better sense probably would not have returned this boob to office after he drunkenly drove his car off a bridge and left a woman to die in it. Oh yeah, he was driving with an expired license. Lucky for him, he was in Massachusetts, where these things don't matter, as long as your last name is Kennedy.

July 25, 2004

Kitchen Tips from Andy

Todays tip is for bakers.

If you are going to refill your flour container, there's a good chance it won't hold the full five pound bag of flour, so you should check it out before you turn the bag upside down in the cannister to empty it out. Otherwise, you'll likely end up with a big mess on your hands and some temporarily white clothes.

This tip came to fruition at the tail end of my doughnut making foray. Right now, the dough is rising, so I can't comment on the results, but it's off to a promising beginning, as the dough is most certainly rising.

Oh yeah, and yesterday, Janet and I were sitting on the floor playing Trivial Pursuit, when the cat jumped up on the couch and meowed pretty much in Janet's ear. She (Janet) jumped a mile high when this happened, as she had no idea where the cat was before she made the noise. Me, I just laughed like a good husband, though the scare woke Janet up enough to beat me in that round.

July 24, 2004

Give it a chance

Now that Tim has said he's sorry and will be a good little blogger, we'll let him into our links section, but only as long as he promises to be good, though he should probably try to be more productive at work, instead of trying to fool the U.S. Army's web filter, but that's a story for another day.

A little perspective, please

Blogs (short for web logs) and Pogs have no real similarities but in their rhyming names. They weren't started for college students and teenagers, and they aren't some quickly appearing and disappearing fad. Blogs are going on five years old now, and while there has been a recent explosion with the development of user-friendly interfaces, the concept is hardly new. There are generally three different (major) types of blogs. The first of these is a topical blog, where the author focuses on a single topic and gives commentary and links to other articles or blogs that relate to the topic (Sabernomics is an example). The second is what I call a links blog. Basically, the owner posts links to interesting, funny, or strange news stories and web sites (Dave Barry's Blog is a widely read example of this format). The last, and probably most common, is the personal blog. This blog is an example of that. No real topic other than the life of the owner and his or her friends and family. People use it to keep in touch with friends over a distance. These categories are very general, but they get the point across that it is a very flexible and general medium for communication. Some of the more popular blogs have readerships in the thousands. The blog is essentially the spawn of the Usenet, bulletin boards, and email lists that has evolved into its current state. The current popularity is derived from the incredible ease of use for anyone to have a frequently updated website, for free.

The blog is likely here to stay, as all the major presidential candidate campaigns for the current election have (or had) blogs as a way to disseminate little bits of information to the fan base. As previously stated, the readership in the thousands for some blogs across a wide spectrum of the population precludes the possibility of blogs going out of style when the core demographic grows up, since there is no core demographic for blogs in general. All in all, this supposed fad looks like it has only growth potential as the world of cyberspace is exposed to every last corner of society. I will close with a listing of some of the more famous or widely read blogs.

Wonkette: Political commentary with an irreverent twist
Instapundit: Legal commentary, among other things
Eduwonk: Educational commentary
Slashdot: An old standby of nerds everywhere
Mark Cuban's Blog: A blog from the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks
Fark.com: A compilation of any type of link you could imagine, posted daily by Drew Curtis
Wil Wheaton Dot Net: Written by Wil Wheaton of Star Trek:TNG fame, this blog got the author an actual book deal
The Drudge Report: An older site that became famous by being the first on the web to utter the words "Monica Lewinsky"
Kausfiles: A "mostly political web log" by Mickey Kaus, a writer for Slate
Rob and Rany on the Royals: Rob Neyer, moderately famous baseball writer, and Rany Jazayerli, doctor and slightly less famous baseball writer, muse about their favorite team

That's all I could get in this post, but there are literal hundreds of thousands of the things all over the world, and they're not disappearing any time soon.

July 22, 2004

Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois

In case you wondered, those are the red properties on Monopoly. This and many other bits of trivia came from my head today as I laid a severe thrashing on my dearest wife in Trivial Pursuit. She had played me to a standstill, even pulling ahead in total games a few weeks ago, but then I went all Ken Jennings on her and have now railed off a pretty impressive winning streak. The bane of my existence is still the Entertainment category, since I have not seen all of these old movies and television shows, though I was able to come up with the star of Disney's The Parent Trap (it's Haley Mills, by the way). I'm pretty much an expert in Sports and Leisure, unless the questions stray too far toward Leisure, then I'm pretty much sunk. I get all the baseball questions, which are usually pretty easy, for me anyway. Janet likes to go for the History questions (imagine that), and she usually does pretty well, but even the most impressive History major can't have studied it all, though she knows a little more about the Kennedy family than is probably healthy, though I guess that's not as bad as a 22 year old who has seen every episode of M.A.S.H., which she also is. Of course, everything has its degrees. I can name seven knuckleball pitchers, which probably puts me in a minority (in case you wondered: Tim Wakefield, Steve Sparks, Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro, Hoyt Wilhelm, and end-of-career Jim Bouton, who wrote an excellent book, Ball Four). I also know that 17 pitchers were on the league's "allowed to throw it" list after outlawing the spitball. I can't name them, though.

July 21, 2004

You won't hear this in the suburbs

So I have a friend who just bought a house in downtown Raleigh. It's in a neighborhood that is in the process of being developed for bigger and better things, but right now, it's pretty much what you think of when you hear the words "Downtown Raleigh," if you get my drift. He was talking to one of his neighbors about the changes in the neighborhood, and the guy said, "I've been seeing some things that you wouldn't have seen before. The other day, I saw two white girls jogging with a dog. I ain't never seen two white girls jogging with a dog around here." Think about the trouble it would cause if a white person reversed that saying in Cary, NC, Stow, OH, or Mechanicsburg, PA. You'd be likely to start a fight, but this guy was just saying it matter of factly, since it was probably true. Growing up in the suburbs, you could get the feeling that everyone lives like you, except maybe in New York or Chicago, but when it comes down to it, this exchange could have happened anywhere there is a moderately large city, since Raleigh is no metropolis at 250,000 people.

July 20, 2004

Election 2004 Update

On a radio show the other day, John Kerry said his favorite Red Sox player is Manny Ortez. Of course, this mythical person does not exist. He tried to correct himself and then said David Ortez. Getting closer, but still, not a real person. We think he was going for David Ortiz, who can rake it, but we may never know for sure, since Mr. Kerry can't keep track of the baseball team in his tiny home state. You'd think he'd at least have caught a few games while racking up a #1 ranking in missed votes for the Senate. Of course, a few years ago, he said his favorite all time Red Sox player was "The Walking Man" Eddie Yost. At least this time, he got both the name and the knickname right, but he happened to choose as his favorite a player who never donned a Red Sox jersey in his 18 year career. Frankly, I don't think someone who can't keep his players straight should be anywhere near the pinnacle of power. At least Bush knows the Rangers traded Sammy Sosa when he was one of the owners, as he is fond of recalling when asked if he's made any mistakes.

July 19, 2004

Bills

I get lots of mail now. I used to never get any mail. I would go weeks and months at at a time without an interesting piece of mail. Just the occasional colored invitation to some diversity event or something at the good old MC. Now, I get lots of mail. Every day there is more mail. Of course, mail used to be fun. Now, it could be better. Like, if the cable company sent me a check every month instead of a bill, or if I could cash these little slips in for money from BB&T instead of me sending them money and a coupon. Of course, it could be a lot worse. Did you know that in 2003, the average American household owed $8,000 on all credit cards? That makes my bills sound a little more manageable. Sure, I have debt, but not credit card debt with their outsized interest rates. I'm talking low rate date like my car loan and school loans. Good Debt, as they like to say. Janet and I wondered how much credit we could accumulate if we accepted every credit card offer that came in the mail. This is pretty much how the Wayans brothers made their first movie. They maxed out every credit card they could find. Good thing it was a hit, or they'd be entertaining cell block D down in the Big House.

July 18, 2004

Lists of Five

Five Good Movies
Shawshank Redemption
Les Miserables
Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
Sneakers
The Hunt for Red October

Five Ugly Cars
Hummer H2
Honda Element
Toyota Prius
Pontiac Aztec
Chevrolet Aveo

Five TV Shows to Watch
Alias
Law and Order
Monk
Good Eats
Sportscenter

Five TV Shows to Skip
Trading Spaces
Survivor
The Apprentice
Will and Grace
Las Vegas

Five Dishes I Can Make (that you would want)
Steak Tacos
Chicken Fingers
Chili (Vegetarian or Meat)
Asian Stir Fry
Chinese Lettuce Wraps

Those are my lists. If you disagree, well make your own list.

July 17, 2004

Week in Review

Blogging has been light this past week, I realize. I decided to take a short hiatus from the blog to focus on entertaining my parents. I can leave Janet alone and go blog, as long as Trading Spaces or something is on, but I figured I should pay attention to my parents, since they were only here for four days. On a side note, Paige Davis is one of the most annoying people on television, but not worse than the all time annoying champion, Ryan Seacrest. Anyhow, back to the parents. It seems my Dad has decided to take up golf. I'm not sure exactly when this happened, but it's definitely in the last two months. I guess he's been hitting golf balls in the field at work during lunch, and he goes to the driving range sometimes. Lately, he's been hitting up the par three courses in his area, and he did some here. There's a really short par three course down the road a ways, and he went there three times. Over the course of those three days, he played the nine hole course eight times for a total of 72 holes. I was there for 18 of them on Wednesday, when I took the day off. My Mom went with him each time, but only played 9 holes each day (she's a bit stiff when she swings, but is getting better) then headed off to the strip mall. While they were here, I made dinner a few times (steak tacos on Tuesday; chicken fingers Thursday) and we hit up Red Lobster on Wednesday. I think they had a pretty good time, and just had the chance to relax. Unfortunately, Steve couldn't come, since the whole point of the trip was for him to go to a summer camp while they came here. Then, on Friday morning, they headed back toward the mountains to pick up the kid and drive their Hyundai back to Ohio, which has been having unseasonably marvelous weather, as compared to the heat and humidity in the 90's here. I think they'll be back.

July 11, 2004

Going to the vet

The cat has a problem, so I'm taking her to get her ears checked out tomorrow. I'm sure she'll be ok, I'm just worried about the cost. Cats don't get covered in my health insurance plan.

By the way, if there is ever a couples Trivial Pursuit contest, Janet and I are well practiced, since it's the only game we have. I have a winning streak going right now, so I've pulled ahead, but we were neck and neck for a while. If more of the sports questions were about baseball, I'd be so far ahead, she couldn't even see me. Oh, and the first person ever given honorary U.S. citizenship was Winston Churchill.

July 10, 2004

No traffic? Hah!

We didn't think that there would be any traffic or trouble parking on Hillsborough Street when we went to El Rodeo for dinner tonight. Oops. We had unfortunately forgotten that the Kerry-Edwards campaign had a rally this afternoon on the campus of the North Carolina State University. Thankfully, we have a small, maneuverable car that was able to slide into a space right in front of the restaurant, and we had a good view of the crowds walking up the street after the event. Let me tell you, I'm not sure you could have paid me to go stand in the sun for 5 hours today, considering the 95 degree heat. I'm sure they're impressive fellows, but I can get a much better view from my television. I'm going to be sure if I attend a rally, it will be 75 with no humidity or I'll catch the highlights on the news. The highlights weren't even that high tonight. I'm not sure a shred of valuable information got out today. From my reading of the various news sources, Kerry and Edwards have given the exact same speech every time they've been in public this week. Also, Kerry thinks he and Edwards have good hair. I think it's all part of the "stealth campaign," where the Kerry campaign tries to make it so the voters know as little about him as possible come Election Day. Janet, though, has been paying attention, and she doesn't know what she's going to do. She thinks Bush is stupid, but Kerry might be worse. I told her she could always vote for me, which might turn out to be a pretty good choice this year.

July 8, 2004

Not another one

Please don't buy a house with a roof at the level of a parking area.

Index this

They said to buy an index fund instead of a traditional mutual fund, so we did. We took a little of that money that was busy doing nothing in the credit union and rolled it into the grandaddy of all index funcs, the Vanguard 500. It tracks the S&P 500. Index funds are a good idea, since in any given year, 90% of mutual funds do not meet the performance of the S&P. Of course, I'm now an American adult: I have lost money in the stock market. Not to worry, it's only been one day, and we're in it for the long haul. This is my advice to any young people out there. 1)If your company matches any contributions to the 401(k), use it to the max. (for example, my company matches 100% of the first 3% of your salary and 50% of the next 3%, so basically, I can put in 6%, but really get 10.5%....it's free money) 2) If you can afford it (i.e., you have no high interest debt), get yourself in the habit of putting at least $100 bucks a month away in an index fund. If you put $1000 a year in an index fund, if you assume the 11% annual rate of return average that the stock market has given since 1926, in 46 years, you will have over a million dollars. Do the math if you don't believe me. To me, a million bucks from a 46 grand investment sounds like a good deal. Go to Fool.com to learn all you wanted to know about getting started.

Check this out

Apparently someone had a run-in with a guide wire. You can read the article here.

July 7, 2004

Groceries

The chips aisle always stumps me. I just can't force myself to by name-brand chips of any kind, so I end up walking back and forth searching for a proper generic substitute. This is harder than it sounds a lot of times. It is way too tough to find off brand yellow corn tortilla chips. There are tons of white ones, but hardly any yellow. I end up with some not-quite-off brand chips which satisfy me, but they're a tough find. Then, today, I searched high and low for small generic pretzels. They just taste better than the big ones. They were nowhere to be found. Janet finally found them hiding behind some of the other generic pretzels, so disaster was avoided, since the only place I can tell the difference between Rold Gold and the store brand is in my checking account.

Oh, and I caught the last 15 minutes of The Natural tonight. It's good stuff, with Roy Hobbs homering off the young lefty farmboy not unlike who he once was before Barbara Hershey shot him and Kim Basinger poisoned him. Bobby Savoy gives him the "Savoy Slugger" and he blasts one off the light tower to win the pennant and give the Knights to old Pop. Oh, and I checked, the goofy kid who played Bobby Savoy has exactly one entry in the IMDb entry, and it's for the natural. He had his 15 minutes of fame at an early age.

July 6, 2004

Welcome to North Carolina

I just thought everyone would like to know that I have been officially granted North Carolina residency by the North Carolina State University. Thus, I can take classes at the in-state rate, which is a lot less than what it would have been. Of course, Infineon will be footing the bill, but I'm sure there's a tax benefit for me involved somewhere. I know that school loan interest is deductible, but what about this?

Speaking of school loans, I tried to find the form to fill out to tell the government that I'm not a full time student anymore, and it doesn't seem to exist. They think I'm full time, so I don't have to pay the loans back yet. I'm trying to decide what to do. I'm sure they'll figure it out eventually. I do know how much the monthly payment would be, so I might just start sending them that amount every month until they get the hint. That sounds like a good idea.

My parents are coming to visit next week, so they can see our apartment and new car finally.

Oh, and my sister is smack dab in the middle of her first week of officer training in Seattle, Washington. Wish her luck.

July 5, 2004

Take me out

Janet and I took in a ballgame on Saturday night here in the Triangle. I was able to get some free tickets in the field level seating down the first base line, so we had a good view of the action, though we had to remain vigilant, should an errant foul ball come sailing our way. The game in question was between the Durham Bulls (of movie fame) and the Charlotte Knights. It was a good time, once the game actually started after a 90 minute rain delay. We were afraid we wouldn't be watching baseball that night, but the sky cleared, and we had ourselves a game. There was only one problem with this game, and that was the other people who came to watch it. I'm sure most of the fans were there to watch baseball, but we seemed to be surrounded by people who would have enjoyed themselves whether there was a game or not, as long as the concession stand was open. First there was the woman sitting to our left who got up and came back over and over again. One time, she apologized and said she wasn't very good at sitting. This of course begs the question of why she came to a baseball game, but I didn't get the chance to ask her. The worst, though, were the four people in front of us. Between the four of them, they must have eaten one of everything served at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. This wouldn't have been so bad, but they never, ever got up or came back during the break after a half inning. They always got up and came back in the middle of the action. This was punctuated by the guy in front of us spending the last three innings spitting tobacco juice into his empty beer cup. Gross. We were hoping for one of those errant foul balls that I mentioned, but we had no luck there. The game itself was enjoyable, and I hope to go again, but I hope to not be anywhere near these people the next time I make the trip.

July 3, 2004

Let me fill you in

I'm going to tell you a little secret. When Vikki talks about being excited for a Nydam family gathering, she's really excited about the prospect of consuming moderate to large quantities of adult beverages under the guise of a family get together. Just thought you'd like to know.

July 1, 2004

Special Bonus Post

You get two posts today, you lucky skunks.

I also was thinking about recruiting for a Division III college. How do you know who to target, and how do you convince someone to drop between 15 and 25 grand per year on a college education when you can't offer a cent of a scholarship? This brought my thinking to the bestselling book Moneyball by Michael Lewis. He wrote this book about the Oakland A's and the challenge of competing with the NY Yankees of the world (I've heard it said that rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in a casino, but alas, that's another post). The goal is to change your evaluation techniques to figure out what is undervalued by everyone else. That way, you can get it on the cheap. In baseball, on base percentage has been historically undervalued, while batting average has been overvalued. The general thinking is changing, but that's not the point here. If you'll remember, the point is trying to recruit for a Division III wrestling team. I came up with at least one solution. This solution is to look for guys with high ceilings that haven't realized most of their potential yet. Basically, you want guys that are going to get a lot better than they are when they first get to your team. To me, this means guys who don't have a lot of experience, but have had more success than most people with similar experience. You're looking for state qualifiers who maybe didn't start wrestling until high school as well as state placewinners who maybe didn't start until junior high. Of course, this only counts for big wrestling states like Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. For places like Massachusetts, you aim for top four and up. As an example of what we're looking for, consider the following three examples, Harry, Mike, and Andy. Harry has been wrestling since he was 9 years old, he won four state titles in Ohio, and threw in a Junior National championship to go along with it. Division III coaches don't go after these guys. It's just a waste of time when every Big X and Big XII school out there is ready to give them a free ride. Andy started wrestling at an early age, and did finally win that state title his senior year. He didn't get the scholarship offers, so a small school looks ok to him. Every coach needs to have a few guys like Andy on the radar. These are more long shots than other guys, but worth the effort. Most of the high placewinners in DIII are guys like Andy. Then there's Mike. Mike didn't have a lot of experience, but he was able to qualify for the tough NY state tournament. There's obviously some potential, but he's still raw. If Andy and Mike wrestled before college, Andy would stomp all over him. However, Mike's ceiling is high, and he just started to climb the ladder. Through hard work and more hard work and good coaching, he develops himself into a Division III national champion. Not everyone like Mike will have that much success, but you want to try to find guys like him as much as possible, since, in their minds, your school is about the level they're at. Essentially, it comes down to the Andys and Mikes of wrestling. That's where you want to have your focus. You still have to fill a team, however, so you can't be focusing on just the Mikes and Andys because there frankly aren't as many of them as there are of the guys who have wrestled for a while and had good, but not great, success, or the newer wrestlers without the potential of a Mike. It's a delicate balance, since only a few schools sport stars at every weight class, so you have to use your recruiting resources wisely.

High school teammates

I was thinking about Tim Claypool for some reason yesterday. I don't have the foggiest idea what brought him to mind, but the story is rather entertaining, at least for me and people who like wrestling. Maybe you'll like it, too. Tim came late to wrestling. He didn't start the sport until his junior year of high school. He was a pretty agreeable fellow, though, and picked it up fairly quickly. Now, he had nothing like what you would call a good career in high school, but that's the amusing part of the story. One year, I don't remember which, Tim managed to have a record with exactly as many wins and losses. 11 times his hand was raised, and 11 times the referee raised his opponent's. This is not altogether odd. The odd part was that he went an entire season without ever getting all the way to the end of the match. That's correct, of his 11 wins, all 11 came by pin. Of his 11 losses, all of those came by pin as well. I have no idea what happened to Tim, but he'll always be my teammate with the most unique record.