January 31, 2005

New Blog to See

Just to let everyone here know, I've started a new blog. I'll still be updating this blog, but I decided to start one dedicated solely to sports. I copied a bunch of old sports-related posts from the past year over there, and I'll be putting any future sports stuff over there. The new blog is called Foul Territory. I hope you enjoy it.

Birthday

By the way, my birthday (#24) is Friday. I want Sharper Image gift cards, though I'll take cash via the PayPal button to the left.

January 30, 2005

And they wear sandals in the winter

Janet and I were having a discussion about writing and discussing in college classes today. We've been having talks like this more now that Janet is in class again. In engineering, there isn't a lot of opinion floating around, because it either works or it doesn't....end of discussion. In history, a lot more is open to interpretation. Who was right, Lee or Longstreet? Was Lincoln gay? These are discussion type questions.

We then got around to our previous college experience, and how different professors treat discussion and writing in different ways. Some are happy to hear dissenting views, as they want their students to think critically and for themselves. Others tend to get snippy when their opinions or ideas of what is important are questioned. This sort of professor starts to stifle his students, as students are quick to mold their writing and speaking to match that of the person in charge of handing out the grades that make up the ever so important GPA upon which all college students are ultimately judged in the search for that first job. I've experienced both in my quest to be liberally educated at Messiah College. I'm naming names, so buckle up. I had my dreams of critical and thoughtful debate squashed in my very first liberal arts-style class. English professor Dr. Crystal Downing taught a First Year Seminar course for Honors Program students entitled "Cinema and Semiotics." The goal of the First Year Seminar courses is to help teach freshman to write better while focusing on a specific subject. Every freshman sits in a smaller class doing similar, but different, topics. Ours was supposed to look at symbolism in popular media, with a specific focus on movies. It turns out, that wasn't really the goal of the class. Actually, Dr. Downing spent a lot of our time in class trying to push her version of feminism on the students. This was a bit of a shock, considering the title of the class, though she did adhere to it just enough to keep the title accurate. We had a large reader that we used for most of the class, and it had a lot of articles on varied topics, many of which were likely interesting and applicable to the topic. However, we read article after article on the role of women in media and discrimination. Needless to say, disagreeing with Dr. Downing's point of view was not looked upon kindly, especially if the disagreement came from an 18 year old wrestler who had the temerity to also be an engineering student (the philistine!). It finally reached a bit of a breaking point for me, and I piped up in a class discussion to wonder aloud why we were spending so much time in our class focused on feminism when there are so many other applicable things we could discuss. You can imagine how well that went over. I feel like I was never given a fair shake in that class, at least not as fair as that given to the female english major in the row behind me who lapped up every one of Dr. Downing's ideas. Finally, we had to choose a movie of our own in order to analyze the symbolism within it. I thought this would be my chance to express some original though and leave her gender wars out of it. I chose the excellent movie Wag the Dog. You'd think a movie that is nothing if not a treatise on manipulating the public and the media through disinformation would be the perfect choice for a class supposedly on symbolism in the media. She didn't bite. She didn't like my choice, and she didn't like me. I'm not saying the paper was great, since it probably wasn't, but my idea was dismissed before she even read the paper. No one else in the class wrote about a movie anything like this one. It's like the old saying about liberal thought: "Any view is valid, except the ones I disagree with." It was a rough class for me both in terms of fellow students and the professor. I haven't even told the story about our group activity where we each brought in an ad and analyzed them, but I had to explain to everyone why the color yellow is significant in an advertisement featuring Lance Armstrong. I know a lot of students at Messiah loved Dr. Downing, but, for my money, no professor I have ever had did more to inhibit the free flow of ideas in class than Crystal Downing. That makes her the worst professor I have ever had.

Two years later, I found myself in another Honors course, but the scenery was a little differnet. Dr. Dennis Hollinger, then the college pastor, was teaching a course on Ethics. Now, I am 100% sure that Dr. Hollinger and I have some very different views on theology. Go look up the differences between the PCA and BIC churches if you want to see some. Those differences didn't keep the classroom from being a place of open debate and discussion. The course covered many different topics, most of which I don't remember. What I do remember is that I didn't have to agree with everything the professor said, and I was also permitted to disagree with the other students in the class. He wasn't trying to win people over to his view as much as get people discussion their own separate views and why they held those beliefs. Additionally, grades on essays and papers did not hinge on holding fast to the professor's point of view. For our final paper, I wrote ten and a half pages on "A Christian Approach to War." I argued for the existence of just war and that the government is "an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:4). The doesn't really agree with the Anabaptist/BIC practice of pacifism, yet I was graded on the strength of my arguments and the quality of the written words as opposed to the grader's emotional response to my position. I would wish that any student could have Dr. Hollinger for ethics, but he has, alas, gone off to become president of Evangelical School of Theology, a post for which he is likely well-suited.

Finally, it was the very next fall I found myself in a standard Bible class, a requirement for graduation. I was skeptical entering a Bible course at the school, given my divergent beliefs from those of the Bible professors, but I hoped to make the most of it. The class was on some of the prophetic books in the Old Testament and was taught by Gilberto Lozano. Professor Lozano was a cheerful guy most of the time, but he ran a pretty awful class. I felt like I learned a very small amount, and I got nearly nothing out of the class. It was the sort of class that had an attendance policy, since it was so worthless as to drive students away. Ideas did not flow particularly well in this class either. The professor put forth a lot of ideas and theories about the authorship of certain books and the interpretation thereof, but he didn't really call anything he said a theory or mention the fact that some scholars disagree with the interpretation he put forth. I had to find out that some of the things he taught weren't 100% accepted by looking them up for myself outside of class and using my own resources. I wanted to question, I really did, but there just wasn't a place for it. What he said is what went, and it was what he put on the test. By this time, I was a senior in college, so I knew pretty much how it was supposed to go. You can question the professor, but at the expense of your grade. I did the math in my head and figured that the hit to my GPA was not worth winning an argument with a below average Bible professor, so I was a good soldier and did as I was told. I even tried to ask the professor for a little leniency on my grade because I had one bad test that contrasted with my good work the rest of the semester. I was very diplomatic. I sent him an email and asked if he would consider the whole of my work over a single test, even though I knew he didn't have to. He gave no response, never wrote back, never called, nothing. I would have been happy if he just told me no, but instead I got silence.

Maybe someone more skilled than I could have walked this tightrope of independent thought over the pit of acceding to the professor's point of view, but I did the best I could. As you can see, not all professors are bad, but there are bad ones out there. I would hope for any student that they would have at least a few of the good ones in their quest for the degree. I did, and I'm grateful for it and what they taught me.

January 28, 2005

I was starting to wonder

It's been 19 months since I graduated from college, and I was wondering about some of my friends for a little while. You see, there's always the temptation to just go home after college and live at home like it's summer vacation and you're headed off to college again in the fall. I can pretty safely say now that my friends have mostly avoided this temptation, at least for now. Here's the recap of some select individuals, and this is by no means an exhaustive list:
1. Amy - Finishing up teacher school, all set for a job in Virginia this fall, and Mom and Pops aren't coming...no word on Herbie or Holly yet. They'll miss her terribly, but Chesapeake will never be the same.
2. James - Still at home, but where else would he live in the Cove, and it's not like he's running into the bossman all the time in that giant house. He bought a Cavalier, which is cause for worry, but he's bounced back nicely since that event.
3. Liz - Safely away in Pennsylvania nursing the heck out of the greater Hershey area, and in the midst of buying a townhouse. She's like a real adult or something.
4. Vikki - teaching biology to rich kids in Maryland, and saving money by going on dates as much as possible. She went almost straight from school to living on her own. I wonder what she cooks for dinner?
5. Giant Tim - Part of the reason Vikki can go on so many dates is because Tim isn't paying any rent, as he's living with his mom still. His dad and brother live there too, but mom's the important one. We'll cut hime some slack as he was finishing grad school. If he heads off to the middle of nowhere for medical school, he'll be truly on his own, as James won't be around to answer the phone when his mom calls looking for him every 20 minutes (yeah, this actually happened one day. The emergency? Who knows?)
6. Skippy Tim - To be honest, Tim worried me the most. I thought there was a chance he'd be living at home until he got married, and even then, there might have been a question. However, he has wildly exceeded all expectations by diving headfirst into home ownership. You can read about all his house projects here as you shudder at how much work he has had to put into a townhouse that already cost that much. Ah, the joy of real estate near the ocean, and in Jersey, no less.

So there it is. Just look at us. We've gone from hanging out in the basement of Smith to having real jobs, and paying actual rent to actual landlords. Maybe in a few years, we can do a "Where are they now?" kind of thing for the five year reunion.

January 26, 2005

The Value of Coaching

High school wrestling, as with any high school sport, has vastly different extremes of coaching competence. It's hard to see as a high school student since you only see your own coach up close, but it definitely shows up in college when athletes from different backgrounds all get together on the college team. Sometimes, even a very successful wrestler has trouble adjusting to college because he won a lot of matches on talent and athletic ability. Other guys like me had a good amount of talent and athletic ability, but not enough to win with, so we either lost to the great athletes or learned how to wrestle smarter and more precisely.

In light of this, I count myself fortunate that I received such excellent coaching as a high school student. Three people get a lot of the credit for this. First, Don Horning, two time NCAA Division I All-American for Kent State. He's responsible for way more Ohio state champions than any one man reasonably should be, and he taught me a lot about winning, and a lot of my wrestling style developed as a result of being with him. Second is Joe Boardwine, currently of the NHSCA. He came into the picture my senior year of high school fresh out of college himself. Wrestling with him all year and learning from his recent college experience helped me from then until I hung up my shoes two springs ago. Lastly, there was the guy who kept me seeing Don on Sundays my senior year and drove me all over Ohio to wrestle. That's my Dad.

I mention all of this to talk about how talent only takes you so far in college. Some go farther than others, but at the highest levels, everyone has talent, and everyone is athletic, so you have to be smart in order to win the match. I think I see some of this when I watch college wrestling now with a different perspepctive. I see guys with more talent than I had, but I know that I made fewer mistakes when I was at the same place in my competitive life. It's coaching (well, mostly, there's a mental aspect to it as well) that makes the difference, and there isn't enough of it to go around, unfortunately.

January 25, 2005

Donation Button

Please take note of the new PayPal donation button at the top of the sidebar. Feel free to make a donation of any amount to support the Life and Times of Andy Vogel and keep the great content flowing. Thank you.

January 24, 2005

Janet is a machine

The girl spent something like three hours tonight sitting at the computer finding sources for a paper for her class on the Civil War and Reconstruction. She decided to write her paper on the Lost Dispatch, Special Order 191 (fascinating stuff, you should look it up), and then she went to town on the NCSU Library web page, among other places. Her focus was unreal; any attempt at witty comments bounced off her like so many tennis balls. I had never seen her so intense in a search for sources. She says it was what she did at the library when no one was coming to watch movies, so that would explain why she was able to write a 25 page paper last semester without me seeing any of this. Now that she has wiped the dust of the media center from her feet for the last time, she can do her research from the comfort of her own home. She seems to be way more excited about this grad school thing than I ever was, which is good, since her future job prospects are pretty bleak if she doesn't get the degree. It helps that she is totally jacked up about history and museums. She totally picked the right field, job opportunities not withstanding.

January 23, 2005

My new favorite commercial

I'm not sure what my previous favorite commercial was, but my new favorite is most definitely the Dr Pepper commercial featuring Stacy's Mom. Stacy doesn't make an appearance, but I don't think the commercial suffers for it. When you see it for the first time, you'll understand what I mean.

This one's for Myron Cope

Let's Go Steelers
Let's Go Steelers
Let's Go Steelers

January 22, 2005

Krispy Kreme Ouster

So the CEO of Krispy Kreme was forced to resign this past week. The company has been in a bad way the last few months, and the stock price has taken a big hit as the value of the company drops. It's never a good thing when a company with business problems tries to blame lackluster sales on low-carb diets (yes, this really happened). Now that the low-carb fad seems to be dying a slow (and hopefully painful) death, it will be interesting to see what gets blamed for next year's less than stellar results.

All that said, as long as the Hot Now sign is on when I drive into the parking lot, I really won't get all bent out of shape over stock prices. I was there on Thursday night with Janet. We picked up a dozen glazed and took them to the man who introduced us to Hot Now, James Sutton. The doughnuts were warm and almost liquid, just like I remember. There really is a big difference between getting doughnuts fresh off the line and getting them out of a display case at the grocery store. Herein may lie some of KK's problems. They have switched their focus from KK stores to selling more doughnuts at grocery stores and gas stations, which doesn't seem too good considering the loss in quality after even one day on the shelf. They should have kept the stores and kept cranking out Hot Now doughnuts for customers who just can't wait to sit back with a cup of coffee and two or three dozen doughnuts watching the newly fried rings go under the frosting waterfall, which is truly a sight to behold.

January 20, 2005

Futility Infielder

Jay Jaffe has a website called Futility Infielder and there is a blog associated with it in which I posted a comment. This comment spurred Jay onto approaching the subject I commented on in greater detail in a post/article today. You can see it (and his reference to me) on his website here.

Hurray for the internet!

January 19, 2005

Stranded Kids Update

As of 9:20pm, the kids are still stranded at four area schools, at least one of which is in downtown Raleigh, where you'd think the snow would be clear, as it has now been nearly seven hours since snowfall ended.

Breaking News

It's 7:20pm, and a breaking news bulletin just came on TV to tell us that there are students stranded at four area schools due to the snow, and that the buses have been called off at one of them, leaving 150 students stuck at Enloe High School. Oh yeah, most schools closed early today. Direct quote from the newscaster: "The only way your kids will get home is if you go and get them." I must remind everyone that there has been less than in inch of snow in the Triangle today. By the way, it stopped snowing five hours ago. I have got to get out of this place.

January 18, 2005

Riding the Roller Coaster

Occasionally, I go to Yahoo! Finance to check on the market, as my only investment outside my retirement stuff is in an S&P 500 index fund that tracks the market. Every time you go there in the middle of a trading session, there is an article talking about what the major indices (Dow, Nasdaq, S&P) are doing that day. These articles always crack me up. Now, the articles themselves aren't funny, so don't go reading them looking for a chuckle. It's the authors that make me laugh. Someone is sitting there writing two and three stories a day talking about this stuff, as if the everyday fluctuations in the market have anything to do with long-term stock market performance. It's quite a racket these brokers and financial journalists have going. They get everyone all in a tizzy about what happened that day or week when only a tiny percentage of investors (daytraders) are affected by it. Everyone else should have at least 3-5 years ahead of them before they need the money in the market, and many, with IRAs and 401(k) plans, are looking much further than that. Of course, there's a reason for this level of reporting. They wouldn't be able to sell any financial magazines if all they ever said was invest for the future, buy an index fund, and try to avoid short term capital gains taxes on your stocks. The magazines don't say that, and for good reason. People will continually make bad decisions with their money, so they think they need "The 10 Hot Stocks for Right Now" or "The Next Walmart!" People are still buying stocks on a tip from an acquaintance at a party or from the dentist without doing any independent research. This is why your broker (why don't you use a discount broker?) calls you at dinnertime to try to sell you some fund or stock, because that tactic works in generating commissions.

Wow, I think I've been thinking about this stuff too much, and I've definitely been hanging out at Fool.com a lot. Maybe you should just go there and click around, then go pick up The Motley Fool Investment Guide. Maybe then you can understand the thrill I have in understanding that the stock market isn't some overly complicated beast that no mere mortal can tame. You don't invest in stock, you invest in companies that issue stock. There's a world of difference between the two. I'm frankly feeling pretty ripped off that I spent four years in college supposedly learning information that is important to my life, but I only found out what a P/E ratio was in the last month. Every college should make their seniors take some sort of personal finance course that includes a big unit on investing. The best way to avoid being a drain on your kids in your old age is to start saving for retirement as soon as possible to let the magic of compounding do its work.

January 17, 2005

Space Aliens

It's been requested that I tackle the issue of extraterrestrial life. Captain Jimmy is an avowed believer in the existence of such creatures and even in some of the X Files style abductions and such. Me, I'm not so sure.

I know there are supposed "answers" for what I'm about to bring up, but I don't put a ton of stock in most of them, so here goes. Today I'll talk about the obstacles in the way of us meeting beings from another planet. Maybe some other time I'll talk about why I don't think they exist, regardless of whether we will ever contact them.

Physics seems to stand in the way of interstellar travel at this point. Star Trek used so-called warp drive to travel between the stars by traveling at speeds up to and exceeding the speed of light. This doesn't quite cut the mustard relativistically. You see, the theory of relativity states (among other things) that as you approach the speed of light, time slows down, and the traveler shrinks in the direction of travel until reaching the speed of light at which point time stops and the object is flat relative to the direction of travel. In other words, we go sailing off into space near the speed of light, we're gone for a year (as far as we know), but 50 have passed back on earth. Exceeding the speed of light seems ridiculous given the above, not to mention that nothing has yet been observed exceeding the speed of light, probably because it is impossible. Then there's the old standby, the wormhole. This avoids the relativistic problems by bending space and time to affect great travel distances in short amounts of time. This is the basis behind such shows as Stargate SG-1. The first concern there is a practical one. Let's say you built one stargate. You need a second one to get you to where you're going, but you have to go there to build it, which is why you need the stargate in the first place. You can see what I mean. There are also hyperspace and hyperdrive engines that perform a similar tactic as a wormhole. I'm not as familiar with the concept behind these, so I'll leave it as seeming like it would take an inordinate amount of energy to do whatever it is they're supposed to do, which is why every show that has such devices also invents some new element with great energy producing power.

There it is, in terms of the technology that seems to prevent contact between distant planets. I'm waiting for your comments.

January 13, 2005

Clean this filthy house

That's what I'm up to this weekend. We got a head start on this goal tonight by picking up the living room and bringing a bookshelf down from the guest bedroom. That way we have a place to put stuff that otherwise might end up on the floor.

OK, I can't talk about this anymore. It's too late for me to write a real post, and you don't want to hear about cleaning. Maybe we'll pick things up tomorrow. Have a good one.

January 12, 2005

Boycott God?

I read an article the other day on Slate. It was about God and the recent tsunami disaster. You can read it here. Essentially, it boils down to blaming God for the tsunami and saying that people should "boycott" God to show him that random acts of destruction are no way for a deity to behave. I'm not describing this very well, so just go read the article, it's not long. It appears to be tongue-in-cheek, but it'shard to say. You can decide for yourself.

I thought I would give my own take on the article and the disaster. Basically, the article wants God to be fair and not needlessly take lives in disasters like the tsunami or September 11th. This is a common sentiment in popular culture as well as main line Protestant thinking. Constantly, you will hear people lament, "It's just not fair," or, "Why would God be so unfair?" I have an answer to this question, and I use it every time. I say, "You don't want fair. Do you know what fair is?" Usually this gets the person's attention, and I can go into a more detailed explanation. Basically, it comes down to saying that each breath I take is evidence how "unfair" God is. I, and everyone else in the world continue to live at the pleasure of the Lord. The greatness of our sin is more than enough to send us all to hell, and it is solely on God for us to live another minute. This point is illustrated beautifully by the great 18th century theologian Jonathan Edwards in his sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." You can read it here. It doesn't seem like the most exciting thing to listen to, but the truth is in there. Of course, most Protestant churches would not agree with a lot of what he says, as Edwards was most definitely Reformed. He paints the picture of sinful man dangling over the flames of hell, and the only thing keeping him from tumbling to his doom is the mighty hand of God. Further reading will uncover that it isn't for a lack of power that God hasn't cast everyone into hell, but a matter of desire.

I would recommend going back and reading that sermon top to bottom whenever you feel the need to call God unfair. In it you can see what we would get if we really got fair, and that it is only through the grace of God that we wake each day. I'll close the words of a song by Wayne Watson:

If He gave to me all that I deserved, this would be my final breath

January 11, 2005

It finally happened

It's a miracle it didn't happen sooner. I finally managed to get a little knicked up wrestling. I felt a little pop in my left knee, but nothing is really hurt, just a little tender. I'm pretty sure I just strained a ligament or a tendon or something. No big deal, but I'll probably just take the rest of the week off to let everything get tightened back up in there.

Enough about that, let's talk about UHF. Someone left a comment on my blog quoting from that masterpiece of American cinema. It stars Weird Al as the owner of a struggling UHF television station (channel 62 if you must know). Also, Michael Richards (aka Cosmo Kramer) stars as Stanley Spudowski the janitor turned hit children's television show host. Al comes up with a bunch of shows (like Wheel of Fish), and it all boils down to a telethon to save the station. If you haven't seen it, run, don't walk to the store and get your hands on it.

January 10, 2005

Saw some matches

I took in my first wrestling match of the season on Saturday. NC State hosted a bunch of dual meets. The best team there turned out to be North Dakota State University, as they were able to take out the hosts along with Appalachian State and Duke. The Wolfpack did manage defeat an overmatched Anderson College squad as well as Gardner-Webb.

It was good to get the chance to see some wrestling after so long just going to practice. I had seen the results of the NCSU matches on the internet, but it's just not the real thing. To be honest, they didn't look that good. They totally outclassed Anderson, but some of the matches were too close, and the sharpness wasn't there. It was the first match back after a layoff, so I can chalk it up to rust, since I haven't seen them in action much this year. Hopefully, they'll get it all together and wrestle better this weekend, since they're taking on the highly ranked Fighting Illini from the University of Illinois. I don't imagine they'll win the match, but I think they can take a few from the home team.

Additionally, I got the chance to have a long talk with Clar Anderson, the coach at Duke. I first met Clar when he recruited me to wrestle at Duke way back in the good old days of 1998-1999. I then went with some of his team on a two week trip to Russia in May of 2000. That was a trip, from beginning to end. Ask me about it some time. I hadn't seen him since that trip until this past weekend. We talked about Duke and stuff going on in our lives. He told me about the criminally low budget for wrestling at Duke, let alone the complete lack of scholarships. Just put it this way, Coach K's salary is over six times the entire wrestling budget. No wrestling scholarships and less assistant coach money than Messiah at a school with an endowment over $2.6 billion. If anyone can explain this to me, I'd love to hear it. Anyhow, it was good to see Clar, and he invited me to come wrestle with his guys any time, which is nice. So at least I got that going for me.

January 8, 2005

You can beat the market

This is what I've come to decide. I've been reading up on my favorite financial website, The Motley Fool, and the wealth of knowledge there has been helpful to me. They take a patient, disciplined approach to saving, investing, insurance, retirement, education, taxes, whatever. I've been looking at their investment information most recently, and I was even spurred to pick up a few of their books at the library. I'm currently into The Motley Fool Investment Guide. The main goal of The Motley Fool is to get people to take control over their money, because they believe a little knowledge and research (most of which is free) will enable individuals to outperform brokers who make their money not by investing wisely, but by inducing clients to make trades. You see, a full service broker is paid a hefty sum each time he buys or sells a stock for you. Cut down on those fees, and your overall returns immediately make a big jump up, even if you end up buying the exact same stocks or mutual funds.

Another of their big things is steering people away from actively managed mutual funds. They say this because 80% of all actively managed mutual funds are less successful than the S&P 500. Understand what this means. It means that 4 out of 5 (highly paid, I might add) people who manage money and choose stocks for a living are unable to consistently beat the market. There are a lot of reasons for this, and most of them have to do with management fees and commissions, which put managed funds in a hole from the beginning. The best mutual fund to own, according to the Fool, is a passively managed S&P 500 index fund. This fund perfectly tracks the S&P 500 benchmark that so many funds fail to beat. I personally have some money in one of these, and it's doing way better than the 1.5% interest I'm gaining in my savings account, which is way less than the 10% yearly historical return of the U.S. stock market.

However, the Fool says you can do better. They want people to pick their own stocks so that individuals can wallop the S&P 500 with a moderate amount of time invested. Aspire to be better than an S&P 500 index fund, they say. There is a system to it all. Look for companies in good financial shape (low debt, lots of free cash flow). Investing in stock is not the same as playing the lottery if you've done your homework. The goal is to find companies that are undervalued (according to stock price) and purchase their stocks, knowing that the investment may take a while to pan out. The trick here is that the only money that should be invested in stock is money that can be safely left alone for 5-10 years, minimum. That way, investors can ride out the rough patches while benefiting from the bull markets. Money you might need in six months should be in your savings account earning that 1.5% I talked about earlier.

An object lesson: Between 1973 and 1974, the market had a meltdown. The S&P 500 lost 47% of its value. $10,000 became $5,300. Bad news all around.....sort of. It was bad news for people with money in the market that shouldn't be, but not so bad for everyone else. Money invested in the S&P 500 in 1970 grew at an annualized rate 13.5% between then and 2000, and that includes the meltdown period mentioned above. Put it this way - if you put ten grand in the S&P 500 in 1970 and didn't touch it until 2000, you would have had about $450,000. Now, things went south (though not as badly) again after the tech bubble burst, but long term investors will continue to wait it out, watching their money grow, maybe even putting more money in as as to take advantage of the down times.

The moral of the story is this: there has been no better place to invest your money than the U.S. stock market. This is true throughout history, and it will continue to be so in the future. It's better than bonds, savings accounts, money markets, CDs, and anything else you can think of. The trick is to know where you money is going, and to not buy a stock because your uncle said he heard a thing from a guy who has a cousin on the board. I'm considering moving some money out of the index fund and looking to buy individual stocks for the first time. I'll let you know when I actually do it, and I will keep you apprised as to my progress. Until then, go get The Motley Fool Investment Guide and make The Motley Fool website a regular stop on your daily internet travels.

January 4, 2005

It's hard to enjoy it

The weather, that is. Today, the weather was in the seventies here in Raleigh. Record highs, they say. It's been in the sixties at least for a while now, and it's supposed to continue at least until the weekend. It's pretty nice to walk around outside in January with no coat on. I even wore short sleeves today. The part that's hard to enjoy is that somewhere deep inside I know that it is January, and that this can't possibly last. I just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, since it inevitably will. Of course, I'm glad about the weather, and the possibility of 70 degree weather in January is the best thing about living in North Carolina. There are plenty of things to dislike about living here (giant bugs, stifling summer heat, the fact that it's not weird when someone in a graduate level history course calls people from the North "Yankees"), but the opportunity to go coatless in the dead of winter is nice.

Back to the "Yankee" thing. It actually happened this past semester in Janet's class. We wondered if it would be appropriate for her to call them Rebels when she starts back up again next week. I think she should raise her hand and say, "If you can call people like me 'Yankees,' can I call native North Carolinians 'Rednecks?'" Maybe that will put a stop to it. It's not that it really offends me or anything, it's just so weird. I can guarantee that I never once in any history class (or any other class) I have ever taken, did I or anyone else in the class call Southerners Rebels, Rednecks, or anything else.

Just for the record, I don't like being called "y'all" even by people I like.

Finally, five Southern pronunciations of North Carolina cities:
1. Durham - Durm
2. Wendell - wen - DELL
3. Hickory - HICK - ree
4. High Point - Hah Point
5. Asheville - ASH - vull

January 3, 2005

Back in the Swing

Everybody is back at work now that the holidays are over. No more cartwheeling down the aisles or rearranging all the cubicles to spell my name. Just more burn in test engineering. The tester is still broken, so we'll see how soon that can get fixed. We got the 2005 calendars today, and they're all in German, and they have the German holidays listed. Some of them are entertaining like Himmelfahrt, which is fun to say. Give it a shot; you'll see what I mean.

Speaking of fun to say, while Solstivus is fun to say, it's a really really cheap rip off of Festivus from Seinfeld. Even the name is similar. Of course, the strangest thing is the fact that a google search on Solstivus yields a link to www.hardflip.com, where you can find the following...

The wife and I were talking and decided not to celebrate Christmas anymore. My mom and dad started celebrating 'Festivus' years ago after the Seinfeld show. There are a lot of elements of Christmas that drive me nuts. So we're starting a new holiday called 'Solstivus' around the same time. It's still in its infancy. I got a lot of gifts from the family but the best was from my brother. knowing that 'Stone Cold' is one of my favorite movies he went on Ebay and found this book. It's so awesome. Click on it to enlarge and I also added the back with some quotes...

What are the odds of there being competing Solstivus holidays? Of course, this one seems newer and far less developed than the equally stupid holiday dreamed up earlier by the Barleys. I sent the guy an email letting him know what was up, so you can thank me later, James.

January 1, 2005

Half Decade Over

When the clock ticked over to midnight last night, the first half of this undefined decade came to a close. Here's a bit of an off beat look back.

2000:
I ring the decade in from Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, sight of the annual Pickle Drop. They drop a ball in New York, but a giant pickle man in Dillsburg. I'm pretty sure every resident of the city had filled the main street. We were hoping for some sort of Y2K related issue, but the lights didn't even flicker.

The U.S. Census Bureau hits the streets attempting to count all the people in this great land. This includes college students, as census forms are passed out in dorms across the country. For most of us, this meant a single front and back, but the unlucky guys with the long form had a few more pages to figure out. Thanks to some form counting errors, the Naugle Dorm at Messiah College now has its own air force base and seven members of congress.

The stock market soars to new heights, and no one has any inkling of the precipitous decline coming in the next year or two, from which the market has yet to fully recover. Paper millionaires by the thousands are made, thinking themselves set for life. Meanwhile, anyone with an engineering degree has bonuses and stock options thrown at them hand over foot. Three years later, when it's my turn, graduates have to work a lot harder.

Rulon Gardner, Brandon Slay, and the evil New York Yankees have pretty good summers.

George W. Bush is elected President of the United States in a controversy-free election. OK, just kidding. There were more lawyers filing briefs than there are hippies in Vermont.

2001:
The 2001 NCAA Division III wrestling tournament takes place in Iowa. It's seriously cold in Iowa in March. The wrestling, though, goes pretty well.

James Jeffords switches parties mid term from Republican to independent, thus giving Democrats control of the Senate. Needless to say, the Senator is from Vermont.

George Harrison dies, leaving only Paul and Ringo from the Beatles.

Britney Spears is at the height of her powers, despite all evidence pointing to the fact that she is, indeed, Britney Spears.

In sports, Michael Jordan makes his last ill-fated comeback, Barry Bonds smashes 73 home runs, the Diamondbacks beat the evil Yankees, Dale Earnhardt drives his last lap, and Lance goes for number three.

Everybody's favorite green ogre makes his debut in Shrek.

The only thing most people will remember about 2001 is the tragedy of September 11th, as planes crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field outside Somerset, Pennsylvania. This date affects U.S. foreign policy, and probably affects it permanently. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stem from intelligence, accurate and otherwise resulting from the 11th.

2002:
This is the year of the Rally Monkey, as James, Amy, Tim, Janet, and myself wear Rally Monkey t-shirts for the entire duration of the World Series. Dr. Whitmoyer sees fit to refer to us as the "Rally Monkeys" for a while. I still whip out the Rally Monkey shirt every now and then, and I'll always have the picture that has been posted here previously.

Little old ladies everywhere shriek upon finding out that they have no more pension, as Enron goes belly up, only to reveal widespread corruption and outright stealing. In related news, the Houstos Astros are forced to rename their stadium, as Enron Field doesn't connote winning. The new name is Minute Maid Park, and it's also known as the "juice box."

The Republicans grab control of Senate in the mid term elections, thus overcoming the hardship caused by turncoat Jim Jeffords, who Janet claims is very nice.

The MLB All-Star game ends in a tie, as Bob Brenly and Joe Torre run out of pitchers in the 11th inning. Commissioner Bud Selig is forced to call it off, even though there's a 7-7 score. Bud's image doesn't get any better from here on out.

Personally, I decide to marry Janet Elizabeth Kraft, set the career victories record at Messiah College, and get cracking on Team Scoreboard.

2003:
Graduation, woo hoo! Of course, now what? I end up at NC State with my new wife Janet.

Speaking of Janet, I propose to her the day she gets back from her January trip to New Zealand. I got meet cousin Betty for this "surprise." I say "surprise" because I specifically told Janet's mom not to tell her I was coming, but the first thing she told her when they spoke was that I was coming to the airport. I'm still not over it, as Janet can attest.

It's LeBron's world, we just live in it.

The war in Iraq begins in earnest. Baghdad Bob becomes a cult celebrity with his predictions of doom for American troops. Actually, it's just a bad time to be in the Republican Guard. The news media eats it up, calling the fastest advance in military history a "quagmire." Things do get worse, as we'll see later.

Liberian president Charles Taylor resigns, rather than be forcibly removed from his position. His days of robbing the Liberian people are over.

I get cable for the first time in a long time.

2004:
I get a MINI.

The Boston Red Sox win the world series for the first time in 86 years, in the process inducing the worst choke job in the history of organized sport. That it was the Yankees only made it sweeter.

An earthquake generated tsunami kills over 135,000 in Asia and Africa. It's a true tragedy the likes of which has not occurred in my lifetime.

College doesn't continue to agree with me, and I get my job at Infineon. Janet, on the other hand, quits the library to become a college student once again.

The war in Iraq continues, taking soldiers away from their family and costing untold billions. We'd all like this one to go away, I think.

My parents celebrate 25 years of marriage, and 23 years of having the best son parents could ask for.

George W. Bush is reelected President after the Democrats nominate the least appealing candidate in years to oppose him. Of course, their other option was Howard "Screamin" Dean and his orange-hatted college students. Dave Barry's coverage of the election proves to be the most entertaining, yet again.

The NHL locks out its players. Most fans not in Canada still haven't noticed.

Janet spend the day after Christmas in the hospital, and a week later, she's still feeling the effects. I've managed to avoid illness to this point. Let's hope it stays that way.

Well, that's it for the first half of the decade. Yeah, I missed some stuff, but you can put it in your own blog.