April 30, 2005

Bob Dole wants you to come see Bob Dole

So we did. In case you didn't know, Senator Dole has written a book about his experiences recovering from his injuries sustained on Hill 913 in Italy during World War II. The book is called One Soldier's Story: A Memoir. In promoting the book, the Senator appeared at the McKimmon Center on the campus of NC State last night. Janet got some free tickets by virtue of being a student, and we went and saw the man himself. He started by talking about his role as chairman of the recently completed World War II memorial that was built with almost entirely private funds. He told some stories of his political career and some of the people he talks about in the books. He didn't say a whole lot about the book because, in his words, "I want you to buy the book." He's a funny guy, and he talked a little bit about his famous Pepsi commercial featuring Britney Spears and a dog named Ted. He also mentioned his early campaigns in Kansas where he had a group of women called "Dole's Dolls." He said if he tried that today, he'd be locked up.

After a short talk and some questions, he went to a table in the back to sign copies of the book. Since we had no book, we called it a night. Janet remarked how much he looks to have aged since his presidental campaign nearly 10 years ago. I looked up his age this morning, and Janet and I both agreed he looks pretty good for a man of 81, even if he can't use his right arm and has little feeling in his left.

One last story. When in Washington, he lives with his wife in the Watergate Hotel. Shortly after the 1996 election, he was asleep in bed, and all of the sudden there was a commotion outside and lights shining all around from reporters. He turned to Elizabeth and joked, "There's been a recount." Alas, it was not to be. As it turns out, he had been unknowingly living next door to the most famous intern in White House history. He assured us that he had never even had a conversation with Monica Lewinsky. He's a funny guy. I recommend his book Great Political Wit: Laughing Almost All the Way to the White House, which is a collection of humorous statements by politicians the world over. He took his electoral loss a lot better than Al Gore ever did.

April 29, 2005

Always low prices

I read a few articles today that made me want to talk about Walmart again. Sorry. You can find the articles here and here (you might need to register for free or use BugMeNot). The articles echo some of what I think about the company. Mainly, people like to pick on Walmart because it is the biggest company on the block. By market capitalization, Walmart is the 8th largest company in the United States, behind such giants as GE, Exxom, Microsoft, Citigroup, BP, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer. This makes it an easy target, as not only is it a gigantic company, it also has a very visible presence, as anyone can tell you where the nearest Walmart is, but not everyone knows that GE owns NBC.

Here a few reasons that I don't think Walmart is as evil as some would have you believe. First, Walmart is the largest non-government employer in the United States. Walmart has 1.2 million U.S. employees (this includes Sam's Club). That means that there are more Walmart employees than there are people in each of Rhode Island, Montana, Delaware, South Dakota, Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. Each of those 1.2 million people has a job, and there is definitely value in that. Another reason Walmart isn't so bad is that they support the US economy in a number of ways. First, the myth that they get everything from China is just that, a myth. According the the Walmart, they purchased around 18 billion dollars of Chinese goods to resell last year. A high number, I know, but not in comparison to the 137.5 billion dollars of American goods they bought. That 137.5 billion is a significant amount of money to put into the American economy. They don't do business only with China probably because Walmart operates on such low margins and high efficiency that they can't be viable if everything they sell has to be shipped from the other side of the world. At a certain point, it is cheaper to buy your goods from this country because you can get them much more more quickly and avoid international tariffs and fees. OK, those are the independently verified reasons that they aren't so evil. Now I'll give some information from the Walmart website that you can put as much stock in as you like. The company claims to have a much higher rate of full time employees than most retailers (the biggest knock I hear against he company is that they won't let people work full time to get benefits. If Walmarts claim is true, critics should look elsewhere). They also claim to pay an average full time wage of $9.68/hr. I realize this doesn't include part time workers, who likely make less, but $9.68/hr is more than Janet made working at Barnes & Noble full time. Lastly, the store claims that over half a million employees received some health benefit from the company, another knock against those who claim they don't (or rarely) pay benefits.

In the above paragraph, I left out one of the biggest benefits of Walmart, and that's prices. Walmart does have the lowest prices on almost everything they sell, and that is a benefit to lower income families. If your dollar goes further, you can buy more of the things you need. For middle to low income families, price determines where they shop, and Walmart has the lowest prices.

If you add all of that up, it makes Walmart sound a lot more socially responsible than a lot of people like to claim. I think the reason Walmart gets somewhat of a bad rap, while Target, Kmart, Costco, and everyone else gets a free pass has to do with the company's portrayal in the media. Walmart was started in 1962 in Bentonville, Arkansas, by the fairly conservative Sam Walton. The conservatism has survived to this day to the point that Walmart will not carry certain music or movies, along with Jon Stewarts book featuring pictures of Supreme Court Jusices' heads pasted on naked bodies. This rankles the liberally leaning media as censorship of the worst kind, never stopping to mention that the store is completely within its rights to determine what they sell, and it's not like the things they don't carry aren't available elsewhere. The company has also fiercely resisted unions in all their stores, which is another point liberals like to harp on. I will admit to being somewhat anti-union, but I'm not saying there's absolutely nothing wrong with Walmart's anti-union stance, I'm just saying it helps explain the media's dislike of the company. When the media dislikes something like Walmart, you're going to hear about it, and they will focus on anecdotal stories rather than general facts and trends. You'll hear about the one mom-and-pop store that couldn't stay in business in Vermont, but you won't hear about the 1.2 million employees or low prices that increase the purchasing power of the average American.

Lest you think I'm just a Walmart shill, I'll agree that it's not all roses at Walmart, and there are legitimate concerns. The company has a lot of lawsuits to deal with on everything from its treatment of women workers to unpaid overtime. Some of the things I've heard concerning the suit put forth about the treatment of women by the company have given me pause. It is concerning to hear that women make up 65% of the hourly employees but only 33% of the managers. The numbers aren't the disturbing part, but if the disparity is due to discrimination due to sex, that is a problem that deserves to be investigated and made right. The 40 pending lawsuits related to unpaid overtime will be interesting to watch. Also, if the company is engaging in anticompetitive practices, that should also be stopped, though I think some of what a is commonly called anticompetitive by the average person is really just smart business. Walmart should pay their workers fairly and avoid discrimination no matter what. Of those two things I'm sure. As long as they do that going forward, I won't call the company bad for America.

The last thing I'll say is that Walmart go to where they are by being smarter than everyone else. They didn't start with 4,300 stores, they started with one, just like every small business owner that complains about the newest Super Walmart down the street. This is a company that had a vision and executed it with spectacular results both for its customers and for its investors, many of whom were made very wealthy due to the company's performance in the last 43 years. we would all do well to keep our eye on the company, but let's not be too hasty to call it evil.

April 28, 2005

Whoa there, relax for a second

It's articles like this one that freak out millions of high school seniors every year. The article gives creedence to the idea that there is only one right college for each kid, and you better find it or else. I say that's preposterous, considering how similar a lot of schools are. The article does give some good advice in the Identify Your Ideal section of the article. Rather than start with a list of schools, start with a list of characteristics and match schools to that. After doing that, you might find out how similar all the schools on your list really are. Consider the following list of criteria I just made up:
1. Big school or small?
2. City or small town?
3. Christian or Secular?
4. What majors?
5. How much does it cost?
6. How far from home?
7. Difficulty of admission?

OK, take that list, answer all the questions, and then find schools that match up. Let's say you live in Altoona, PA, you want a small Christian school that has Chemistry as a major, is moderate in cost, and you were a fairly strong student in high school. Grove City College and Messiah College both meet all of your criteria (they're also the same distance from home) and they are similar enough that there's no reason to agonize over a decision between the two. Visit them both and then pick the one with the campus you liked best. It doesn't have to be so hard. Also, make sure you apply to more than one school. This is smart for a lot of reasons. First, you never know whether you'll get in (I got into Duke no problem, but the University of Virginia told me to take a hike). Second, a lot of applications are due in December and January. If you haven't made up your mind by then, that's fine, just apply to some schools and spend the next few months doing the necessary research and making visits. I remember how stressful choosing a college was for me, and I can't help but feel it didn't have to be this way. If more students and their parents would see that there is more than one right decision, it would make life a lot easier. Janet visited over a dozen schools starting in ninth grade. That's just not necessary. Find a happy medium between waiting until the last minute and going to whatever state school is closest and visiting every school in the region until you find the perfect fit.

The second thing the article that made me chuckle was under the heading Look beyond the price tag. Here's the sentence:

Parents, at the same time your kids are dreaming about their ideal schools, you'll want to give them a reality check about how much you've saved, what you think you can afford and whether you're willing to take on debt to pay for a dream school. (italics mine)
Implicit in this statement is that parents will pay for all of school, including any loans that will be accumulated. Maybe more kids are getting their college paid for completely by their parents than I know about. Thinking back, maybe this is true. I had four roommates my senior year of college, and I was the only one of the five of us who left college with any debt at all. Perhaps I should have distributed the debt evenly to each of my roommates' families (Jim Barley, call me!). That experience aside, I know that a pretty sizable number of students are responsible for the totality of their college costs, Expected Family Contribution be darned. I'm thankful to not be in that boat, as when the first round of PLUS loans started coming due, it wasn't me making those payments while I was in school. I think what I'm getting at here is that the article should probably have been a little more evenhanded in its treatment of college costs and realized that not every student has parents who can foot the whole bill.

April 27, 2005

I made this on Monday

Chicken and Avocado Quesadilla

It was very good. I sauteed the chicken in a little oil with some cumin instead of using smoked chicken, which I didn't have. The author of this recipe, Juan Carlos Cruz, has a show on the Food Network called Calorie Commando that espouses low-cal meals. The show is utterly unwatchable, as Mr. Cruz doesn't seem to have the personality for television, but this recipe is definitely worth making. I find the same thing happens with me and Rachael Ray on 30 Minute Meals. I can't watch that show either, but the food she makes is often good. Thank goodness for internet recipes.

Oh, a tip for the above recipe. The green chiles come in a can, and I found them in the Mexican food section of our grocery store, not with the other canned vegetables. They're not very spicy, so don't worry about that if spicy isn't your thing.

April 26, 2005

Mass is different than weight...didn't you take physics?

Here is a website that will compute your Body Mass Index (BMI) for you based on your height and weight. I've always wondered about the BMI calculation, but then I saw the link for Limitations, and it made me feel better. I've been feeling like the BMI was a little fishy ever since I calculated my BMI back in college when I was in the best shape of my life. There I was 5'6" tall, weighing around 155 pounds, and exercising 5 days a week (sometimes twice a day), but my BMI was 25, which is the very bottom of the "Overweight" classification. It seemed a little fishy when I walked around campus and noticed that well over 90% of my fellow students looked fatter than me. We couldn't all be overweight, could we? No, of course not. The main limitation of BMI is that it doesn't work for athletes and muscular people because it overestimates body fat. Most people who are 5'6" and weight 155 pounds are not nearly as strong as I was then. Even today, now that I've gained some weight, it still doesn't work for me. I'm not in great shape, but I'm hardly obese, yet the BMI calculation has me in the upper regions of overweight. Sure, I'm not as thin as I once was, but I'm definitley stronger. I can rest easy knowing that if I can see my abs, there's no way I'm seriously overweight.

Oh, by the way, a fun fact of the BMI calculator. If I assume heights and weights for James and Janet, it turns out they have the same BMI of 19, which is getting close to what is considered "Underweight." This comes with the disclaimer that James and Janet may both actually be lighter than what I guessed, but I doubt either one of them is heavier.

Next time, I'll poke you with a metal hook

I hadn't been to the dentist in roughly two years until this morning. Graduation, marriage, moving, and getting a job all conspired to push the dentist's priority far back in my mind. Finally, Janet and I made appointments and I went today. She goes next Tuesday. You don't know what to expect after two years away, but I still went. Thankfully, the sealant, fluoride treatments, and regular brushing have paid off. I'm a picture of dental health. The dentist's exact words were, "This is one of the most boring initial exams I've ever done." Good news in my book. As a bonus, today's visit was just supposed to be an initial consulation, but there was a gap in the schedule and I got to see the hygienist for my cleaning as well. This means I'm good for another six months. I'll hopefully better about getting this taken care of next time, but I'm glad my lapse in responsibility didn't cost me.

April 22, 2005

I don't usually bring work up

This is my situation. It's not bad usually, but about twice a day it gets pretty annoying. I might have the worst cube in the building. I'm right on the main hall and at an intersection to boot. For this reason, people will be walking and talking to each other, they will get just outside my cube, and then stop and keep talking, sometimes for 10-15 minutes, and oftentimes in a foreign language. The picture below is instructive. I am represented by the bold Me. Notice that my cube doorway is pretty much out in the hall so if I turn around, I can see 150 feet down the hall to the other cube (currently empty) that shares my plight. This makes sure that every person walking by has a great view into my work area. The X is where the informal conferences take place. Specifically, one person does this at least once a day, even though he sits in two cubes away and could easily have his talks there.

April 21, 2005

Statistics Fun for You

It's time to have more fun with Messiah College Statistics.

First, let's talk about the College Honors Program. This used to be prestigious, and membership was difficult to attain. Back in the day, when Janet and I were in the second ever Honors Program class, there were only 30 people per class in the program. For our freshman class, that worked out to 1 out of every 24 freshmen in the program. We were some hot stuff, I tell you what. Since then, it's gradually declined in selectivity while increasing the scholarship level for its members. This means that it's much easier to get it, and they reward you more greatly for it. I occasionally think about this as the Department of Education takes $183 out of my checking account each month for the next ten years. Anyhow, back to the numbers. This year, the Honors Program features 90 freshmen out of 690 enrolled freshmen. Around 13% of freshmen are in the program, compared to 4% of my freshman class. Each of these 90 students is receiving a 60% scholarship, in addition to any sort of the other scholarships that are automatically awarded for test scores/GPA, the minimum of which is an additional $6000 automatically awarded to students meeting certain requirements, all of which a student must meet to be in the Program in the first place. I can say Janet and I were in the Honors Program, but it doesn't have the same cachet as it once did, so I'd have to explain myself to the whippersnappers skating by in the program right now.

Perusing the Messiah College scholarships page shows me that I went to college too early. Under the current conditions, assuming I was still in the Honors Program, I would have been on the hook for less than five grand a year, and that includes tuition, room, and board. That's down in southern state school territory right there, and a bargain and a half considering the quality of my college experience. Heck, it was worth it even though I still owe a lot of money for it, but I still wish they'd upped that aid while I was still on campus.

Enough with that, let's talk about girls. Well, boys and girls to be more precise. The trend in colleges these days is that more girls are going to college than boys. Messiah College is no exception. This year, 63% of the students are female. In other words, there are 1.7 girls for every boy. Not bad odds for a young gentleman, but that's beside the point. The point is the trend. I have data going back to 1997, and this year is the year with the highest disparity in the ratio of females to males. Not only that, it's been getting worse (or better, depending on your point of view) every year. Back in 1997 there was only a 60:40 ratio. Then it was 61:39 until 2002 which was 62:38 and then 2003 and 2004 were both the current 63:37. Something tells me the school should say no to a few more girls and yes to a few more boys, though Christian colleges across the country experience the same disparities.

There are likely numerous reasons for this, but I have a theory. It's not that there are more Christian girls than guys, at least not to this level of disparity. I think that Christian parents are more likely to want their daughters to go to a Christian school, which is generally a much safer environment. They aren't as concerned for their male children, as they are seen as better able to fend for themselves. Like I said, it's just a theory that is perhaps supported by the fact that 57% of undergraduates at NC State are male.

April 20, 2005

Shouldn't she be upset?

Here, read this post. It's short, so I'll also copy it here to save time:

So this is what tim said when he was telling liz a story today by his truck outside of old main..
" Yea, Kathi is my current and last girlfriend I'll have....."
It's the sweetest thing!!!! He is soo adorable!
I suppose some backstory is in order. You see, the Kathi in this case has been dating the Tim for around 3 years now (roughly). She really wants to be engaged, like, yesterday, and, frankly, if I were Tim, I'd have popped the question ages ago, so don't get the idea that she's out of line here at all. They won't be getting married for a while, I'll leave that alone because I don't know nearly enough details to speak intelligently about it, and it's not my story to tell in the first place. The thing that flabbergasts me is how Tim's little statement, about a girl he is not either married to or engaged to, doesn't bother her at all. In fact, she thinks it's adorable. If I were in her shoes, I'd be seriously ticked, thinking to myself, "Oh, yeah? Prove it, pretty boy." Personally, when I was dating Janet way back when, I wouldn't have dreamed of saying that sort of thing before I slapped that diamond on her finger, especially if I had told her that we weren't getting married for a while. To each his own, I suppose, though Tim better realize what he's got before too long. Even Kathi can't handle this for too long, I bet.

Dr. Gray Made No Mention of This

This is a cool use of fiber optics to transport light from outside to an inside room. It's like the skylight that isn't really. My friend Robin has something similar. Her house has these 8ish inch diameter tubes coated with reflective material on the inside that run from the roof down to her first floor so she can get natural sunlight even without roof access. These Swedish engineers have just taken it to the next level.

April 18, 2005

2004-2005 Season Review

Back in October I wrote a post about Messiah Wrestling through the years, starting with my first year there. I wrote, "Who knows what the future will bring?" for 2005. Well, now we know.

The preseason didn't get off to a very good start, as the most talented freshman recruit managed to not be even close to his desired weight before dropping off the team well before the first match. Undaunted, the team pressed on without filling the 125 weight class until getting a midseason transfer who will be ok if he stays away from the sixth year seniors.

Having all the weight classes filled is oftentimes half the battle in division III, so they were well prepared for the heart of the dual meet season. The team finished with a respectable 12-10 record, beating the teams they were supposed to (except Gettysburg). They finished in the middle the pack in most tournaments while always having some high placewinners.

The highlight of the year came when Tim Pentz collected career win #100, becoming the tenth Falcon to achieve that distinction, though unfortunately the first to do so without reaching the national tournament (it should be noted that it is more difficult now than in the past to qualify).

The lowlight came at the MAC tournament where the team, despite finishing in 3rd place, failed to qualify anyone to the national tournament for the first time in at least a decade, though the foundation for the future is in place with up and coming future stars like Derek Ricker, Matt Gorkos, and Josh Cragg.

Back in October I tried to figure out which of the teams since 2000 was the best. The 2000 team remains on top with two All-Americans (including a national champ) two tournament wins and only two losses. I said that I wasn't sure which team was second best, but the 2005 team is not it, though the season was hardly a failure, as only the vagaries of NCAA qualifier allocations kept at least two deserving Falcons from the Show. I look forward to seeing what they can accomplish in the next year or two.

Fantasy Island

We're now two weeks into the fantasy baseball season in The Andy Vogel Experience league, so it's time for an update. If you don't care, skip down and read my analysis of hybrid car ownership, but I'm putting this here since half the people who read this are in the fantasy league.

Standings after 2 weeks:
1 The Rally Monkeys 20-6-2 (Janet)
2 The $10 Bet 20-8-0 (Katie)
3 Mighty Smalls 15-12-1 (Amy)
4 Mystery Inc. 15-13-0 (Tim)
5 South Side Steroids 14-13-1 (Andy)
6 The Arbiters 11-17-0 (Ryan)
7 Man Eating Squirrel 9-18-1 (Captain Jimmy)
8 Stuckeybowl Sluggers 4-21-3 (Vikki)

After two weeks, the Rally Monkeys and $10 Bet have surged to the front. This rise to the top has been fueled by each team scoring big victories this week. The Monkeys beat up on the Stuckybowl Sluggers, whose weaknesses have been mentioned elsewhere. The $10 Bet has surged ahead on the strength of playing Man Eating Squirrel, whose manager has been asleep at the switch due to well-documented work obligations. The Monkeys get a lot of production out of the two Red Sox sluggers (and Yankee killers), but since the Red Sox and Yankees don't square off again for six weeks, it will be interesting to watch Ramirez and Big Papi going forward.

The next three teams are all bunched closely together. Mighty Smalls had the Week 1 lead, but lost it after a 9-5 loss in Week 2 to South Side Steroids. Mystery, Inc. bounced back from a Week 1 loss to capture the fourth place spot after week 2. Mighty Smalls and South Side Steroids are still dangerous teams whose hitters are finally starting to wake up, especially South Side, who was buoyed yesterday by Miguel Tejada's grand slam. The contrast in pitching styles between Mighty Smalls and South Side Steroids is stark in that South Side has many good starters, while Mighty Smalls has all but cornered the elite closer market, thus nearly guaranteeing to win the Saves category every week.

The bottom three teams are all very different in composition and reason for being at the bottom. Man Eating Squirrel has been discussed, and should be expected to bounce back once the Captain is back to regular hours. Stuckeybowl may win a week here or there, but should get used to the eight slot. The Arbiters have had a run of bad luck, at the very least. With Ordonez, Bonds, and Berkman on the DL, as well as J.D. Drew off to a slow start, there hasn't been a lot of outfield production. Additionally, Mariano Rivera's well-publicized problems with the Red Sox hasn't helped. This team has been the most active in dropping and adding players as he looks for the right combination. Most recently, dropping J.D. Drew for the streaking Jose Guillen may be genius or folly, but we'll know more in a month.

So far, the secret to staying on top is a combination of getting production from your players but also making sure you manage the lineup to get as many at bats as possible out of your roster. Of course, I wouldn't put too much stock in two weeks worth of results. Most likely, slumping players will break out of it and resume normal levels of production. Also, these standings could shift a lot by the playoffs, as there are 20 more weeks of competition left.

April 15, 2005

Saving Fuel - Almost

Volkswagen has scrapped plans to produce a car that gets around 300 miles per gallon. If you read the article, you can find out that the car was to have a carbon fiber body, only seat two (uncomfortably), and sport a 0.3 liter engine with a top speed of 75mph. Obviously, the car would have been only sold in Europe, as the size and construction would likely make it illegal for safety reasons on this side of the pond. The plan was scrapped as the engineers realized they could not get the car out the door with a price lower than $30,000. This was too much to pay for what sounds like a four wheel moped.

Here's the key quote that describes what they were trying to accomplish as well as why it failed: "People just won't pay these sorts of prices to get a few extra miles of fuel efficiency, but it's another matter if the price of fuel really shoots up."

Perhaps they'll revive it if gas doubles in price.

The other interesting fact in the article is that Volkswagen is taking a financial beating these days, but we'll leave that to the financial types.

April 14, 2005

Sorry

Sorry that your bird died, Vikki.

Hybridize

I may have written briefly in this space before about hybrid cars, but I think it needs an update due to rising fuel costs. Let's assume for a minute that you can get 15 extra miles per gallon with a hybrid over a conventional engine, and lets say that means 28 mpg for regular and 43 mpg for hybrid. Assuming that a person will drive approximately 10,000 miles per year, that adds up to roughly a difference of 125 gallons of gas. According to the government, the national average gas price for the week of April 11th is $2.28 per gallon. If we make the rash assumption that a gallon of gas would be that price for an entire year, the difference between owning a hybrid and a conventional car is 125gal * $2.28/gal = $285. Obviously, this assumes the conventional car you're driving gets pretty good milage, as 28 mpg is a number not achieved by many cars. If we drop the milage to 24mpg, the savings increase to $419 per year. The current difference between a Honda Civic and a Civic Hybrid is in the neighborhood of $3000. At savings of $419 per year, it would take a little over seven years to make up the difference. This isn't an unreasonable time, to me, as I would not buy a new car that I planned to have less than seven years. Back when gas was $1.80 per gallon, it would have taken just over nine years to make up the difference, which may be stretching the length of time most people own a car. The higher gasoline prices go, the more a hybrid makes sense. I realize that I've made a lot of assumptions that are unrealistic, such as gas price stability, miles per gallon, miles per year, and possible higher maintenance costs, but these assumptions are good enough to illustrate my point, that higher gas prices make a more compelling case for a hybrid car.

I've left something out, though it only applies this year, at least under current tax law. That thing is the tax incentive for purchasing a hybrid. If you purchase a hybrid in 2005, you can claim a $2000 deduction on your 2005 income tax return. Assuming that a hybrid owner is in the 25% tax bracket, a $2000 reduction in AGI can save you $500 in today's dollars, which is worth more than it will be in 5 years, due to inflation. With that $500 reduction, the seven years it would take to make up the cost in fuel savings is reduced to just under six. This tax credit is phased out in 2007, thought it may be reinstated in the future.

I've approached this topic from a purely economic perspective because I can put a number on fuel costs and gas milage. The value of the knowledge you are polluting less and consuming less can't be quantified and varies from person to person. Some people who own hybrids don't care about the cost savings, they only care about saving the environment. For the, the previous two paragraphs don't mean a whole lot. For the rest of us, consider the potential savings. It only pays to get a hybrid if you're going to keep it longer than the time it takes to make up for the price premium. If you plan on getting a hybrid, make sure you do your homework to figure out the total cost of ownership so that you're not throwing money down the drain for no reason.

April 13, 2005

I'll take Astronomy for $800, Alex

I got the final question right on Jeopardy! last night. Me and one of the contestants correctly deduced that the two word, colorfully named phenomenon used to describe the movement of galaxies toward the earth is the blue shift. The other two contestants bit on the obvious and went with the red shift, which describes the movement of galaxies away from the earth. James would be so proud of me.

April 12, 2005

25 Thoughts

It seems to me that NC State students who have brand new iPods, $70 a month cell phone plans, and no college loans should reevaluate their lives before going to protest a $300 tuition increase.

In the upset of the young century, Janet dove headfirst into Fantasy Baseball with unprecedented gusto. No word on whether she'd have been as excited if she didn't have Manny and Big Papi on her team.

I wonder if poor Josh Cragg has any other friends.

If you weren't the pope, would you want to be? It seems like a hard job.

I know someone who refuses to eat leftovers.

For my money, the most common grammatical speech error is ending sentences with prepositions.

I've lived in North Carolina for 20 months, and I still cringe when referred to as "y'all." I don't think that will ever go away.

Janet baptized the kitchen with balsamic vinegar yesterday. It was a real mess.

Some people take their barbecue eating very seriously and get into heated arguments about which kind is better. I've had pretty much all of them, and, when it comes down to it, I'd rather just have a cheeseburger.

The only barbecue argument I'm willing to have is to vigorously defend the fact that the only true barbecue, by definition, is pork that has been smoked. You can sauce it however you like, for all I care, but I remain culinarily correct.

Mitch Albom, in addition to being a scab, can't tell the future.

I'm tired of the Boston Red Sox. OK, that's not true. I'm tired of Red Sox Nation. Both Chicago teams have waited longer than Boston, so let's all keep that in mind.

I've seen people go backwards on an elliptical trainer on multiple occasions, but I still haven't figured out why.

If you insist on putting song lyrics anywhere in your blog, at least make sure you don't ever repeat songs. If I want to put "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys in my blog, OK, but I better only do it once.

I think the level of panic at college campuses across the country is very palpable this time of year as thousands of jobless seniors try to figure out what they're going to do with themselves after they graduate while simultaneously sensing the end of their careless college lifestyles.

I saw Joe Morgan on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball the other day. He's not in midseason form yet, so his comments almost sound smart. It will take a few months for him to really be dumb.

Do you care whether or not Britney Spears is pregnant? I know I sure don't.

I'm thinking about changing my name to Kennedy and moving to Massachusetts. I'd be governor by the end of the week.

I eat a lot of onions. I wonder if they're good for you...OK, just checked; they have vitamins B and C, antioxidants, and something that helps raise good cholesterol. Pardon my breath.

I think the ultimate insult would be having someone steal your identity, then bring it back three days later with a note saying, "It just wasn't worth taking."

Remember the Siegfried and Roy commercial for Sprint? "You got any gummi bears?" "Whatever's on the shelf there, chief." Still slays me, and I haven't seen it in at least a year.

I think life would be more exciting if the 40 yard dash was a part of every job interview and not just for players in the NFL draft. "Well, Jim, you've got impressive experience as a tax accountant. Now let's go outside and see if you can break 6 seconds."

I'm thinking I might start hitchhiking to work. Think of the gas money I'll save.

Whoever is responsible for Jimmy Fallon's film career needs to be tracked down and beaten severely.

I think my job would be more enjoyable if there was a water slide from the third floor down to the parking lot.

April 11, 2005

True Story

During World War II, the U.S. government carried out a covert operation based upon the assumption that the Germans were comically devoted to order and discipline. When we bombed German trains, we also dropped upon the wreckage German-looking mailbags filled with sealed letters to ordinary German citizens. The letters contained anti-Nazi propaganda. We theorized that the German authorities, finding unopened mail, would unquestioningly deliver it. They did.

April 8, 2005

Vikki Needs Comments on Her Blog

Just wanted to say that

A German and a Scholar

There was a guy at work today wearing navy blue pants and a black dress shirt. I kid you not. Of course, it was the perfect storm of fashion disaster, as he is both an engineer with a PhD and a German. The wardrobe has no chance against that dynamic duo.

Can you believe I'm ahead of the curve?

I never thought I could be one of the cool kids. According to this article on CNN, 14% of college students bought or sold textbooks online in 2004. My first thought was that the number seemed low, especially since I started buying at least some textbooks online way back in the dark ages of 2001, and we did our best to keep Janet out of the bookstore entirely this year, thanks to ebay and Amazon. As I thought more about it, though, things began to make sense. Janet talked about kids in her class whining about the bookstore and talking about how expensive it is, while she was thinking they should just go back and log in for cheaper books. It's obvious that these kids (mostly undergraduates, but not all) had not even considered getting the books anywhere but the campus bookstore or one of the bookstores lining the street across from campus. I should mention here that N.C. State undergraduate students have proved time and time again these past two years that they are not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Trust me on this one, I've been a lab assistant at N.C. State and Messiah for kids the same age, and the people in the Messiah physics class were way, way smarter as a whole than the kids in the intro to electrical engineering lab I had here in Raleigh. That said, I can see why the number of people buying onine is so much lower than I'd have guessed: it just doesn't cross the students' minds.

I think part of this has to do with who is buying the books. I bought all my own books when I was in college. Sure, the tuition and room and board is all paid in advance by loans and scholarships and whatnot, but the book purchase is one where you have to go to the store/web and plunk down actual money that seems more real than some ethereal tuition fee. That made me more conscious of how much I was paying for these books, and thus after a better deal. For many students, they just put the books on the parent's credit card, buying $300 of brand new books they won't read each semester. This happened at Messiah, and it happens here at NC State, especially since the cost of education here is so much less. There are a lot of kids whose parents just take care of everything, and maybe they work a few hours for some beer money. I'm not saying there's a problem with this, I'm just saying that it might help explain why these kids have no desire to search half a dozen websites to get the best deal on textbooks.

April 7, 2005

Just as many bad wigs, though

I've been watching Alias for a few seasons now, and this season was really starting to tick me off. First off, all they ever did was have these self-contained episodes where somebody stole something really bad, and the gang of worst spies ever goes to steal it back. Meanwhile, Sydney and Nadia get the chance to beat up some bad guys (because there's nothing hotter than spy sisters). Finally, a few episodes ago, things started to get interesting, as it began to look like Spy Daddy was turning a bit evil working with Uncle Arvin. This is exactly what this show needs, a multiple episode story arc to keep me interested. If they keep this up, I might even watch next season, because based on the first few weeks, I was out of there come September (toy helicopter of doom, anyone?). Now, Spy Daddy and Uncle Arvin are definitely up to no good, but at least Jack's conflicted about it, at least when it comes to Spy Barbie. Vaughn is trying to find his possibly dead father after stealing the thing that made the random extra character melt at the beginning of this week's epidsode (yeah, it was gross). Next week, we even get to see Spy Auntie return with her bad Russian accent (I know my Russian accents, I've been there). Of course, there's still time for this show to disappoint me, so they better keep their act together for the next few months, or else I'm walking.

April 5, 2005

You're Kidding, Right?

Apparently not, as red is a bad color for grading these days since kids can't handle it. Well, from the article, it sounds more like the parents can't handle the thought that they don't have perfect children, so we end up with schools making teachers grade in some other color. While Janet would heartily embrace any change that brings more purple into the world, this strikes me as patently ridiculous.

April 3, 2005

Wallpapering

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usThe website Digital Blasphemy has some excellent rendered wallpapers for use on your desktop. I typically go to the users gallery, which will have 40-50 free wallpapers for your perusal. The thumbnail picture accompanying this post is what I have on my desktop right now.

April 2, 2005

Picture Post

Perhaps you'll find yourself in these images to keep everyone busy on a lazy Saturday spent dreaming of baseball to come:
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April 1, 2005

Not April Fool

Just to let you know, the email wars are heating up. Possibly in response to Yahoo!'s announcement that they are upgrading everyone from 250MB to 1GB of free email space this May, Google has announced that they are upping everyone from 1GB to 2GB of free email space. I can only imagine Hotmail can't be far behind. Is there anyone left out there still using email outside the big three? AOL, perhaps?