June 29, 2005

Bad Song

Heard the new Dave Matthews song, American Baby, yet?

It's bad, even by DMB standards.

Starting work

I started work yesterday. Of course, this entailed a few meetings and a lunch. It's a slow start this week, but we're working up to a sprint by the end of the summer. The next few weeks will be getting a recruiting plan together and aso figure out what the kids club is going to look like come September. I saw the office I'll be doing some work out of as well. It's right there near the wrestling room. The only bad part is that it's shared with the tennis coach, though I hear he's not in it that much. As a special treat, an adjunct Kinesiology professor will be using it for office hours. That should only be for the fall semester.

While I was out in Wheaton yesterday, I dropped in on Mike and Kristin Vazquez. I saw Mike when we were here in May, but I hadn't seen Kristin since they'd been married. As an extra bonus, Mike's little brother Marcos, who I met when I lived in California for that one summer, was staying with Mike while attending basketball camp at the college. It was good to see all of the, and I'm sure I'll see a lot more of Mike and Kristin in the future.

Oh, and our cable was hooked up yesterday morning, so Janet is happy.

June 26, 2005

Thanks to a friendly neighbor...

...I have internet access. Someone has a wireless network in our building. Don't know who, but I'll use it until our Internet access is set up.

Anyhow, the point of this post is to say that we've arrived safely and are getting ourselves unpacked. A few points...

The apartment is small, but we'll make do. Maybe I'll even get Janet to throw something out.

I wrestled in the Prairie State Games on Saturday. See the pictures in Flickr.

We visited a church this morning, and, against all odds, ran into a girl who graduated from my high school a year before me.

Our neighborhood is pretty nice, but the bad part of town starts about a fifth of a mile from here, and we've decided to only go to the stores in the northern part of town from now on. The discrepancy between north and south in Oak Park is severe.

Every bad thing you've ever heard about traffic in Chicago is true.

June 20, 2005

Last Post in the South

Well, we're off tomorrow, and the cable gets cut off today, so this is it for blog posts in North Carolina. It's been a heck of a time getting ourselves packed up, and we're not quite there yet, but we will be by tomorrow morning when we saddle up and get this caravan rolling.

Blogging may be light for the next week or so, as we'll be traveling and unpacking and not having our cable hooked up immediately. Perhaps you'll get a post on Wednesday during our travel break in Ohio.

I feel like I should say something momentous on the occasion of our big move, but I'm all tapped out. We've packed, and we'll be loading later. I'll miss the people we've met, but I won't miss living in North Carolina for reasons I'm sure I've discussed previously. Illinois will be a bit of a homecoming, as it's not so different from the Ohio I grew up with.

So that's it for me. I'll see all of you north of Mason-Dixon.

June 15, 2005

Ten things I could live without

1. Men who wear sleeveless t-shirts and tank-tops
2. The phrases "all y'all" (terribly redundant) and "y'all's" (utterly moronic)
3. Howard Dean
4. People who complain about getting up early (especially if it's after 6)
5. Nutrasweet
6. People who drive to the mailbox
7. Fake mayonnaise (e.g. Miracle Whip)
8. Art History as a college degree
9. Title IX quotas
10. New Jersey

June 11, 2005

How I became a wrestling coach

One day, last fall, I was sitting in church. I do some of my best thinking in church, though it's not always about the sermon, but a lot of the time it is. Anyhow, my mind wandered to how I didn't really enjoy my job that much, but I didn't know what to do about it. I had spent five years in school training to be an engineer, and I had succeeded in finding myself a job as just such an engineer. The job paid well, wasn't terribly stressful, and had good benefits. It just wasn't doing it for me. I had left grad school because I didn't want to be there anymore. Never go to grad school unless it's what you really want. You're unlikely to want it once you're in the midst of some difficult project. That was how I ended up at Infineon. I sent in my resume, miraculously got an interview, and hassled the people in charge until they hired me, but DRAM Burn-In didn't get my blood flowing.

Then it hit me, right there in the activity room of the Central Raleigh YMCA: I want to be a college wrestling coach. My immediate thought was the mental equivalent of slapping yourself on the forehead (I didn't actually do it while in the throes of Come Thou Fount or whatever we were currently signing). I was taken back to a day my junior year of college when an excited Coach Turner accosted me in the hall and tried to feel me out on whether I'd like to be his assistant after graduation as well as working in the school in some other capacity. The end result would be that I took the reins of the team once he decided to hang up his shoes. Deep into my engineering studies and constantly surrounded by the sport, I told him that I was more interested in becoming an engineer once I finished school. I had (foolishly) not dreamed of how much I would ultimately miss the sport once my competitive days were behind me, and I was thinking that I didn't want to spend four years training to be an engineer and then not become one. I think that Coach Turner was just feeling me out, and nothing had been decided about finding his eventual replacement, because he never mentioned it to me again in the next year and a half of college.

The week before the national tournament my senior year, Coach T. sat down with me in the wrestling room and told me he was retiring as wrestling coach at Messiah in order to move to Lock Haven to both live closer to his son Thane and become the director of the Mat Town USA Wrestling Club. Shortly after the season ended, there was talk of Coach Turner's replacement being a classmate of mine who graduated in 3 1/2 years and had assisted with the program that season. This made me wish (briefly) that I'd taken Coach up on his offer the previous year, as, not to put anyone down, I felt like I'd forgotten more about wrestling technique than this person knew. I said nothing, because he had Coach's support, and Coach has forgotten more about wrestling than I know. Eventually, it was decided that the school wanted a coach with a graduate degree, so the job wouldn't have been mine at that time even if I wanted it. This led to the hiring of Bryan Brunk, last of the University of Southern Maine and a former Wheaton wrestler (this is important later). Bryan was an excellent choice, and he has already won two coaching awards since he took the reigns for the 2003-2004 season. He also recently determined that I am both the single season and career takedowns leader in Messiah wrestling history, which is neither here nor there, but is at least a boost to my ego.

That settled, I married Janet and moved to North Carolina. My graduate school experience has been described elsewhere, but I finished one year and then decided to work. That's how I ended up at Infineon, learning about DRAM Burn In. This brings us back to where we started the story, with me in church deciding to become a wrestling coach. I told Coach Turner about my goal, and asked him for advice. He was helpful, both with his advice and in a way he never could have expected. He told Bryan about my desires, and Bryan put me in contact with David John, who had been an assistant at Wheaton for at least one of Bryan's years there. David told me about the job that I am now set to begin at the end of this month. This was great news to me, though nothing was set in stone or even well planned when I first contaced David back in the fall. Time passed, and I stayed in touch every few weeks or so as he consolidated his support and the plan took shape. The job was hardly mine at this point, as they could choose to hire whoever they wanted. I began to hurry up and wait.

Thankfully, I made a good impression on Bryan in the short time I had known him, and Coach Turner has never been anything but totally supportive of my wrestling (and other) development. Thanks to those two things, I came highly recommended, and by people David trusted. As weeks turned into months and fall rolled over to winter, Janet and I planned a trip to Wheaton to meet the important people and interview for the job. I fixed up my resume to convert it from engineering mode to wrestling mode and contacted a few references to write letters of recommendation, which they happily did. Janet and I knew little of what to expect once we got there, as I had no idea that I was still the only person who really knew about the position being created.

Arriving in Chicago late one night in February, I finally met David face to face. He and I talked late that night in a booth of an all-night restaurant while Janet struggled to stay awake in the seat next to mine. That first night went well, I thought, and a groggy Janet agreed with me. The next few days were a whirlwind of meeting as many people as David thought I should. I'm sure I'll be seeing a lot of them all once we're finally there. The strangest part of the trip was the fact that it only seemed the slightest bit like an interview for about 10 minutes in a nearly empty Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Chicago. Of course, I'd been in constant contact with him for a few months, so it seems like the in-person meeting was to make sure I was serious about this and to make sure Janet was on board (we'll discuss that in another post). Chicago was cold like I hadn't felt in a while down here in cozy North Carolina, but it was nothing either one of us hadn't seen before. We spent some time looking around the villag of Oak Park, where we planned to make our home, should we end up moving. We returned to Raleigh hopeful, but uncertain.

Discussions in the next few weeks with the principle people involved assured me that yes, the job was mine. Salary and benefits details were discussed and sufficient, and we planned to come back in May to find ourselves a place to live. We went back and found a place that is smaller than our current apartment, but not bad considering the area. Hopefully, the cat won't have any problems with it, as we didn't consult her for approval (she's not very good on the phone, see).

Since then, we've planned and packed and prepared to make a move that is untraditional at best, uncertain at worst. This kind of thing is fairly unique, and is only possible because of the people involved and their passion for Wheaton wrestling and the sport in general. It can be said that wrestling has a small, but devoted, following, and the truth of that couldn't be more evident in this case.

Yesterday was my last official day as an engineer, and next Tuesday we leave North Carolina for the last time and head toward Illinois where I will transition from engineer to wrestling coach. People don't change careers all the time in this country, but it happends often enough. I'd argue the change is rarely this dramatic, however. The most interesting thing that happened in the past week was the reactions of my coworkers when I told them what I was going to be doing. More of them expressed a hint of envy than I'd have guessed, as I suppose not too many people get the opportunity to make a career out of a hobby.

So that's my story up until now. That's how I changed careers to what I think I'm supposed to be doing. I'm now the poster child for "It's not what you know, it's who you know," but I'm OK with that, this time. I am very excited to see how this all turns out. For sure, once the Strider Wrestling web page is up and running, the link will be prominently featured on this site.

June 9, 2005

Strider Wrestling

Many of my readers are already aware of what I'm about to announce, but I'm sure there are some who aren't, or at least are fuzzy on the details. I'll get the basics out of the way today, and I'll talk more about it in the coming week or two.

I am no longer going to be an engineer. My last day at Infineon is tomorrow, June 10th, 2005. Janet and I will be moving to a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, and I will become the Program Director for a newly formed non-proft organization called Strider Wrestling. My responsibilities will be twofold. First, I will become the assistant wrestling coach at Wheaton College. The current head coach, Dr. Seth Norton, is also a full time economics professor at the college, and my job will be to help ease the administrative, recruiting, and training load on him. The second part of the job will be organizing and coaching a youth wrestling program for K-8 students. The original plan is to operate the clubs in two locations: College Church in Wheaton and Lawndale Community Church in inner city Chicago. As the organization's first (and only, for now) employee, I will have a lot of work to do to get this off the ground, but I will also have the rare opportunity to help determine what it will be and where it will go.

Janet will be attending graduate school at Loyola University of Chicago and (hopefully) working part time. We're very excited about the opportunities we have, though we still have much to do in order to be ready to move out of our apartment in less than two weeks. If anyone reading this has any questions or comments, leave it in the comments or send me an email.

June 8, 2005

More apples

Commenter Lara has posted more about her Apple experience in the comments to the previous post, so you can read them to see what she has to say about getting a Mac. I will admit that I only performed a single comparison between an arguably high-end Powerbook and a higher end PC laptop. Down at the shallow end of the pool, the differences in price are not as stark, and the educational discount for Apple is at least $100, depending on which Mac you go for.

A lot of the price discrepancy is in the upper half of the product line, as you can't get a 17 inch Mac laptop for less than $2,700, but most people have no need for a screen that large or the budget to buy it. Down at the lowest end, you can pick up an iBook with a 12.1" screen for $999 ($899 with the Ed. discount) if your goal is email, surfing the web, and running productivity software.

I think the statement I want to make here is that Macs are generally more expensive than their PC brothers, but if gleaming white cases, shiny metal, and OS X sets your heart aflutter, you can get your Mac without ending up in the poorhouse.

Not more expensive? I don't think so.

A commenter posted the following in the previous post:

But macs are so worth the extra couple dollars over the long run. I LOVE my powerbook, and it was the same price as the PC laptop I had before and it came with a 3 year warranty. Not more expensive at all.
Now, I'm not going to get into a war between PC and Mac lovers, as I've realized over the years that people with Macs are not totally rational, as evidenced by the huge number of Apple users calling Steve Jobs a sellout after switching to Intel. I don't understand their position; it's not like their love of Macs was really a love of PowerPC. Whether OS X is better than Windows XP, I'm in no position to judge due to my exclusive XP experience. As for OS 9, I've used it, and Windows XP beats it up and steals its girlfriend. Anyhow, I'm here to talk about price. The commenter says that her Powerbook was the same price as her previous PC laptop. this proves nothing except that electronics prices always go down. It's just the way it is, even with Apple. The Apple Lisa was released in 1983 with a 5MHz processor, 1MB of RAM and a 5MB external hard drive. Oh yeah, it was a monochrome display. Price: $9,995. If someone sold you a state of the art desktop today for ten grand, you wouldn't think you got a great deal because it cost the same as your old Lisa. In the same way, buying today's hardware at yesterday's inflated prices doesn't mean the cost is the same. Let's give an example comparison, using the same warranty for each:

Apple Powerbook G4
Processor: 1.67 GHz
Screen: 15.2"
Memory: 512MB
Hard Drive: 80GB
Warranty: 3 years
Price: $2,648

HP dv4000
Processor: 2 GHz
Screen: 15.4"
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 100GB
Warranty: 3 years
Price: $1,778

The difference in price between the two is $870, and the cheaper of the two is more powerful. Going with the standard warranty for each closes the gap in price, as upgrading to three years with Apple is more expensive than with HP. Is the difference in operating system worth nearly $900? Who am I to say? That's up to the individual user. For some people, maybe it is. I just wanted to make it clear (though with just one example) that Apple computers are definitely more expensive. The hope is that the price may come down with the switch to Intel.

June 7, 2005

An apple a day

As far as I can tell, this much has been clarified in the past 24 hours:

1. No, you will not be able to buy any old Intel PC and install OS X on it. No word on how Apple will preclude this from happening, but there's a good chance it will involve a chip the OS looks for and can only find on Apple motherboards.

2. While Apple will not provide any technical support for people who install Windows on Apple built Intel machines, there will be nothing in place to stop them from doing so.

From the two points above, it sounds like the dual OS PC could be a reality, but you will have to buy a Mac in order to have it, which is too bad, since Macs are prohibitively expensive and out of most consumers' price ranges.

Arrghh!

I haven't talked about Fantasy Baseball in a while, and I'll keep it short. The hot hitting Clint Barmes, who is on my team, is injured and out for three months. What happened? He fell down the stairs while carrying groceries and broke his collarbone. You have got to be kidding me.

June 6, 2005

How about them apples?

The big news in the world of computers today was the announcement (or confirmation of the rumor) by Apple CEO Steve Jobs that Apple is switching to Intel processors for the Macintosh. This is big news, as the company had previously used PowerPC chips built by IBM. The reason for the switch so far has been given as improved power consumption characteristics and more confidence in Intel's plans for the future. So far, the announcement has brought up two main questions on the web:

1. Will I be able to run OS X on any Intel PC, even if I didn't buy it from Apple, and would I be able to run Windows XP and OS X on the same computer?

2. Why would anyone buy a Mac between now and when the first Intel Macs come out next year?

If it is ultimately true that any Intel PC can run OS X, I can see Microsoft taking a big hit in their market share, as OS X is reputed (I've never used it) to be easier to use than Windows XP. The real Holy Grail is a PC that is running both OS X and the latest version of Windows XP, while allowing the user to modify files with each operating system as desired and use programs that are only available for one OS or the other on the same machine. The real kicker in the announcement was the Steve Jobs revealed during his presentation the his visual presentation was running OS X on a Pentium 4 and that the last five revisions of OS X have been dual compiled for both PowerPC and Intel, just in case they ever decided to make the switch.

It's big news.

The Author Responds

I did, in fact, receive a response from the author of the previously mentioned article about Wal-Mart's policy on what media it will carry. Since I had not told the author I would be publishing his response, I'll only summarize, rather than quote, what he said. He explained the definition of censorship as restricting the production or circulation of certain materials. Wal-Mart does not do this, they simply choose not to sell certain items, which is not censorship. The author has two main objections to Wal-Mart's policy. First, since Wal-Mart is, in some places, the only retail seller of books or CDs, they are, in effect, determining what is available to those communities. This makes more sense hearing it again from the author because he mentioned this point in the article, but followed it with mention of Amazon and other online merchants. This email leads me to believe that this inclusion may have been added by an editor. His second reason is that the media deemed "offensive" or "controversial" by Wal-Mart is often deemed as such to cater to the "Christian right" while allowing media that may be offensive to non right-wingers. It sounded like his second objection comes down to him being offended by Wal-Mart's conservative values, and thus refusing to shop there.

June 3, 2005

More on America's Largest Retailer

Here is an interesting article: Does Wal-Mart Deserve to Be Hated?

The basic point of the article is that Wal-Mart's actions are no different than any other large corporation like GE, Johnson & Johnson, or Home Depot, but that it's actions for some reason get more attention. The reason given by the author is that Wal-Mart essentially has a big target on its back due to its incredible success. You can read the article to get the whole picture, but there were two things that especially caught my eye.

First:

I'm not going to say that it's completely fair that Wal-Mart pays comparatively less than other employers, but if Wal-Mart can fill its employment needs without offering higher pay or benefits, I'd argue that it has a certain obligation to its owners to do so.
In other words, as a publicly traded company, it has a duty to maximize shareholder value, and that's just what it tries to do.

Second: The author objects to Wal-Mart's policy of not selling potentially controversial media and says he will not shop there until they change the policy. He then goes on to say that it is not censorship and they have the right to sell whatever they want, just like any other company, and it isn't like people can't get the things Wal-Mart doesn't sell. The two statements don't make a lot of sense together as it isn't quite clear exactly what he is protesting if it isn't censorship. I've sent the author an email questioning this. I'll let you know if I receive a reply.

Overall, an interesting read.

What a long, strange trip it's been

I saw Carlos Baerga batting yesterday for the Washington Nationals. Carlos Baerga really takes me back. He made his name as a slugging second baseman who ran like a penguin for those great (but not great enough) Cleveland Indians teams of the late 90's. Back then, his bat speed was fierce, he sprayed the ball to all fields, and helped power Cleveland into the 1995 World Series, where they were the losers in the one Series the Braves managed to win in their current run. At that time, Cleveland was in love with the Indians, and tickets were the hottest item in town. Kids stayed up late and came to school bleary-eyed with tales of playoff heroics. Baerga played no small part in this. From 1992-1995, he was probably the best hitting second baseman in the game, batting over .300 each year and smacking double digit home runs to boot. In 1992 and 1993, he amassed over 200 hits. However, whatever greatness he possessed mysteriously disappeared for the 1996 season. His line in Cleveland fell to .267/.302/.396 (BA/OBP/SLG), and he was traded to the Mets along with Alvaro Espinoza for a pre-MVP Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. For the Mets, he slipped to .193/.253/.301.

Whatever caused him to fall off the cliff at age 27 (I blame his roundish figure) kept it up for the next few years, as 1997-1999 showed that he was unlikely to regain past glory. In August 1999, he was reacquired by Cleveland, but was allowed to leave again at the end of the season. After the 1999 season, he made stops in the Tampa, Seattle, and Boston organizations, but never got any major league playing time. It wasn't until 2002 that he again stepped onto a big league field, this time as a member of the Red Sox, he played adequately in a part time role, but hit with very little power, only getting 13 extra base hits in 182 at bats. By this time, he was bouncing all over the infield and DH, playing wherever just to get the chance to play. 2003 and 2004 were spent, again as a part timer, with the Diamondbacks, who last year were the worst team in the National League. Leaving the desert as a free agent, Carlos has hooked on with the newly christened Nationals in the capital. He's mostly a pinch hitter now, and plays mostly second and third, though he's seen brief action at first this season. He has amassed a line of .250/.289/.278 which is just as bad as it looks. It's hard to say he's not washed up at age 36, riding the bench on a team whose regular second sacker is on the disable list.

He's made it this far, however. He has played in at least parts of 14 seasons now, and he was a legitimate star for several of them. The Tribe wouldn't have made the 1995 series without him, and the players brought in the 1996 trade help get the Indians within an out of winning the 1997 World Series. It's been a worthy career, and the people of Cleveland will probably never forget him.

Chris Berman once said, "One if by land, two if by see, three if Baerga."

Carlos Baerga
Games: 1562
Hits: 1552
HR: 132
AVG/OBP/SLG: .292/.332/.424
All Star: 3 (1992,1993,1995)
Silver Slugger: 2 (1993,1994

June 2, 2005

What do you remember?

They say that you don't retain all that much of what you learn in college. I don't put stock in any studies that claim to give specific percentages of how much we remember or forget, but the general theory seems to have merit. Case in point: not only do I not remember everything I learned in college, I can't quite remember the names of all the classes I took, and I've only been out of undergrad for two years. The other day, I sat down and tried to recreate my college schedule, matching classes with the semester in which I took them. I did pretty well, but there were at least half a dozen spots where I must have taken a class, but darn if I could remember the name or the topic. If I can't even remember that I took a class, is there a chance I remember anything I learned in it?

Looking back, however, it's a certain type of class that I was having trouble recalling. Engineering classes were the easiest, as I spent them with people I knew and liked, and the professors were people I knew from other classes or just seeing them around. Also, the really horrendous classes were easy to remember for their sheer awfulness. The class (mentioned in the previous post) about sub-Saharan Africa fits in this category. The sheer mind-numbing uselessness of the class and the fact that it took place in one of those depressing classrooms in the basement of an on campus apartment building has seared the experience, if not any knowledge, into my memory. My Old Testament Literature class was another of these detriments to my well-being. The professor was utterly incompetent as well as being one of those professors you don't want to argue with because there's a good chance it will damage your grade. I will always remember the alternating looks of disgust and resignation on Shannon Scull's face in each class, as her expression matched my inner feelings. That said, it was the mediocre general education classes that slip from memory. They were neither interesting enough to look back upon fondly nor wretched enough to be memorable. It isn't like I paid attention in these classes. I got A's in almost all of them. It's just that nothing impressed itself on my mind as the sort of thing you don't forget. Perhaps it could also be because of the people in the classes. Usually a large group of people I didn't know, so there were no personal relationships present to help make the three hours per week memorable.

I seem to have recalled the important things, however, as I recall being in all my engineering classes and the math/science classes that formed their foundation. I also remember some other classes, if for no other reason than the zaniness of the professor. To finish this post off, I was in class or interacted with professors who exhibited all of the following at least once:
1. Taught with no shoes on
2. Wrote and erased the board at the same time
3. Talked like Kermit the Frog
4. Was referred to as a kid as "Dangerous Don"
5. Gave a bonus question that involved identifying all the other students in class
6. Got upset with me for suggesting we talk a little less about feminism and more about the class topic
7. Began teaching the second she got one foot in the door
8. More than once wore windpants, tennis shoes, and a tucked in polo shirt
9. Is missing some toes
10. Cannot pronounce the word "specific"
11. Made a class of at least 20 sit in a circle every day
12. Asked me if I was dyslexic
13. Didn't react at all when I inserted a sentence about my group being geniuses into a lab report
14. Told Coach Turner's wife (her workout partner) when I skipped her class one day
15. Was the only person on the whole campus who ever even once called me Andrew

That's Messiah College for you, kids.

June 1, 2005

Short, but sweet

The last movie I saw in the theater before Revenge of the Sith was The Matrix Revolutions. Like it's my fault they closed the $1.50 theater for renovations.

The last match I lost in college, I gave up a penalty point for fleeing the mat that proved to be the deciding point. According to the rules enacted the very next year, I wouldn't have even been out of bounds.

I took a class in college about sub-Saharan Africa, and I don't remember a darn thing about it, except that I wrote a report on the Boer War.

Ever hear the song The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace? If you haven't, don't listen to it, or it will be in your head for a solid week, even though the lyrics make no sense at all. I'm warning you.

Choose Carbs.