Friday, June 30, 2006

"Lame Sports Fan"

It wasn't my intent to have two consecutive sports-related posts, but yesterday I said I would elaborate on my sports fandom, so here you go. As implied by the title, I think I'm a pretty lame sports fan. A lot of people do too. Why? It's pretty simple: I like to casually root for teams other than my "favorite" team when my team is in the dumps. This doesn't mean I "drop" my favorite team - I'm just trying to keep myself entertained when my favorite team sucks. The best example of this is in hockey, where the Florida Panthers (my former favorite team, as elaborated on below) never make the playoffs. To keep myself interested, I decide to root for the other Southeast Division teams (Tampa Bay, Carolina, Atlanta, Washington) throughout the playoffs. When Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004, was I happy? Sure. I would I have been happier if the Panthers won instead? Absolutely. Does the fact that I rooted for the Lightning all the way through the playoffs make me a lame sports fan? Maybe, maybe not. But this might: let's look at the evolution of my favorite teams in each sport:

NFL - started with the Bills, but switched to the Jaguars upon their inception, because I'm from Jacksonville. (That's as legitimate a team switch as you can have, I think.)
MLB - didn't really care about baseball until 2002, and picked the Marlins as my team. Then they won the World Series next year. I'm going to stick with the Marlins even if (when?) they move. Actually, I want them to move. (Move them to Raleigh!)
College - started as Florida State, went over Penn State in about 6th grade (because of family connections, and to be different from everyone else in school), went back to Florida State a year before I started going there, picked up Penn State as a "second-favorite" when I went there for grad school, exhibited no rooting interest whatsoever in the 2006 Orange Bowl, and am leaning back to Florida State only now that I'm away from Penn State.
NBA - I don't really care about the NBA, but just for the sake of picking a "favorite team", I chose the Charlotte Bobcats upon their introduction to the league in 2004, so I could follow a team "from the beginning". Now that I'm in a Bobcats market and can watch the games, I'll show more interest.
MLS - Real Salt Lake! (Yes, I have an official favorite MLS team, just for the sake of having one. All this means is if they're in the MLS Cup final, I might record it and watch it the next day.)

Then, there's the NHL - started with the Panthers in 1996 because they were in the Stanley Cup finals, then switched to the Hurricanes when I moved to Raleigh (Cary) 2 weeks ago.

Why did I switch NHL teams at age 24? Because I live in Raleigh (Cary) now, and they were one of my secondary teams as it is. I'd like to believe the switch was not based on team performance, but I'll be honest - if it were the Panthers winning the Stanley Cup this year instead of the Hurricanes, I'd still be with the Panthers (at least for now). When it came down to it, it didn't make any sense for me to keep rooting for an obscure hockey team in Florida when there was one I already kind of liked in my hometown. With that said, despite what I may have said, I did not go to the championship parade last week - I feel I didn't deserve to celebrate, since I literally just joined the bandwagon. But if they win again next year, I'll be there.

As for future team switches? The current set is pretty stable; I can't envision any scenario where I would switch teams now as long as I'm living in Raleigh (Cary).

Today's random thoughts:

1) One thing I do miss about Walker Building is the recliner in my office. Obviously, I don't have a recliner in my work office here. So what do I do when I don't feel like working for a little while? "Yeah, I just stare at my desk...but it looks like I'm working."
2) How valuable is your free time, quantitatively? I think you can figure this out by considering this. The more you work, the more you get paid. But everybody has a cutoff, where you would rather not work more hours even though you'd get paid more for them. This "work cutoff" depends on the pay rate, of course. I don't feel like working out the actual formula, but consider a simple example. Let's say my "work cutoff" is 40 hours/week, and I get paid $20.00/hour. A 40-hour work week gives me 72 hours of free time per week (8 hours of sleep per night don't count). This means I'd rather have 72 hours of free time and make $800/week than have 71 hours of free time and make $820/week. Actually, I have no idea where I'm going with this, but as per my blog rules, I can't go back and erase it. Sorry.
3) I think of a lot of random thoughts during the day, and I'd like to remember them. A lot of these thoughts come at work, and I'll most likely forget them if I don't write them down. Anyway, I've discovered a great way to write these down: use the back of the previous day's page-a-day calendar page as a notepad, write down things when I think of them, and then take the notepad home. This is where today's #2 came from - apparently I didn't think it all the way through.

(This wasn't one of my better posts...but it was really just something I threw together at work when I was waiting for some model runs to finish.)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

"La Copa Mundial"

There comes along a one-month period every four years where I really like soccer: the World Cup. To me, soccer isn't that exciting by itself; it has to mean something, and on the global stage, the World Cup matters more than anything. Think about it - four years of preparation, and it comes down to three games, followed by (if you're lucky) a single-elimination tournament. Countries (other than the USA) live and die by the World Cup. I can't get enough.

Now that I have a real job, I can't watch the games live because they're on during the day...but with my TLD, it doesn't matter. Today, I just watched Spain v. France from two days ago. I'm proud of myself; I successfully avoided the result for two days. (It's not hard to do when all you watch in the meantime are older programs on the TLD.) But I haven't been recording the games on ESPN...I've been recording them on Univision. Even though I have no idea what the announcers are saying, I find soccer games much more enjoyable in Spanish than English, for these reasons:
1) The Spanish announcers are far more enthusiastic than the American announcers. Now, if ESPN had Mike Emrick broadcasting the games, then it might be a different story.
2) The American announcers don't really add anything to the telecast. I don't know soccer strategy or anything like that, so what "analysis" they do provide doesn't mean anything to me anyway.
3) Soccer is an international game, so I think it's appropriate to give the telecasts an international flavor. And what better way is there to do that than by watching the games in Spanish? The World Cup just doesn't feel right with English-speaking announcers (except when the USA is playing, then I watch on ESPN).
4) One word: "Goooooooooooooooooooooooool!" (But occasionally, they will announce "golazo" instead of "gol". What's up with that?)

I have managed to pick up some Spanish words, though: "Falta" means "foul"; "offside" means "offside"; and "penalty" means "penalty". Other than that, I'm pretty clueless.

A common theme in my sports viewership is to pick up interest in other teams once my team flames out. The "new team" doesn't supercede my interest in the original team; it's just to keep me interested. (More on this in tomorrow's posting.) Since the USA did a good job of putting the "out" in "flaming out", I've picked up interest in the French team. "Les Bleus" play Brazil next...and I might actually watch this one live. Vive la France!

Today's random thoughts:
1) My parents are currently vacationing in Europe, and I got a postcard from them today. They sent it from London 4 days ago. How is it that I can get something in the mail from London faster than I can get something from Jacksonville or State College? Anyway, the postcard has a picture of Big Ben on it, and my mom remarks: "Isn't it just great they named a clock after the Steelers quarterback?" Ugh...at least I don't have to live in Pennsylvania anymore. (No, she's not a Steelers fan...Jaguars all the way.)
2) I like to develop "rules" for myself just to cut down on the decisions I have to make on a daily basis. For example: I wear a jacket only if it's below 60°. Or, I eat breakfast on weekends only if I wake up before 1000a. This way, I can think less about that and more about random thoughts like these.
3) Are there any phone books out there that don't advertise a law firm on the back? One law firm in Jacksonville (or is it Tallahassee?) even uses that as their slogan: "We're on the back of your phone book!" Every city has their "trademark" law firm with the annoying commercials and catch phrases. I haven't watched enough local TV yet in Raleigh (Cary) to figure out what it is here. But I admit, I'm going to miss Edgar Snyder. "One click, that quick!" "You never pay unless we get money for you!"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

"Bar Poker Tuesday"

First, a disclaimer: Among the things you won't ever find in my blog are poker stories. The reason poker stories (particularly, "bad beat" stories) exist at all is because poker is a game of percentages. Play enough hands, and someone's occasionally going to beat you with a two-outer on the river. In fact, that'll happen about once every 20 times you're in that position. So, it happens...and all talking about it does is further prove that there's something to this probability and statistics stuff. With that said...this post isn't about the game of poker, but bar poker tournaments in general.

In State College, I played a lot of free poker tournaments at local bars and eating establishments. I usually played in these things twice a week, but the "standard" tournament night was Tuesday night at Bar Bleu. It was the original (Crowbar doesn't count), and the most popular. I made a wild assumption that there would be similar tournaments going on in the Raleigh (Cary) area, and with Google's help, I stumbled upon this web site, for a "company" that hosts bar poker tournaments nationwide, including in Raleigh (Cary). Turns out there is a smorgasbord of tournaments in the area - I could play every night of the week if I wanted to. But instead, I'll decided I'd try out this place called "Mac's Tavern", because they have tournaments every Tuesday night, and it's in Cary. (God forbid I go to Raleigh if I don't have to, right?)

It didn't take me long to discover that the format of the Mac's Tavern tournament is almost exactly the same as the State College tournaments, from the starting chip stack, to the blind structure, to the chip colors...everything. (Well, there are two small differences: the person to the right of the dealer shuffles instead of the small blind, and they skip the 4K/8K blind level.) I found it interesting that poker tournaments sponsored by different "companies" would be essentially the same. It got me thinking: who came up with this bar poker format? Whoever it was, it seems to work, because everybody does the same thing now, even though there are many different bar poker "companies" out there. Even the "talent pool" was similar in structure to the State College tournaments, with a good mix of the skilled and the ignorant. I think there were too many ignorant old people there last night, but they were all eliminated pretty fast.

Will I be back? Sure...it's something to do on Tuesday nights. (I apologize for today's entry; I think it was too much "this is what I did today". But as per the rules I set forth in my first post, I can't erase any of it.)

Today's random thoughts:

1) Many people don't consider North Carolina to be part of the "South". I admit I used to be on the fence regarding this issue, but I killed my first cockroach in my new apartment today, so I think that settles it: I'm in the South. (But Richmond, VA is still not the South. Sorry, guys.) One thing's for sure, though: Raleigh (Cary) is far more similar to Jacksonville than it is to, say, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
2) Continuing that thought, Raleigh is about halfway between Jacksonville and State College. I find it interesting that the northern half presents such a big change in weather, scenery, and culture, while the southern half barely does anything. There's a perfectly good explanation for this, but I still find it noteworthy. It's almost like the 6½-hour drive south is a "waste" because I'm not really going anywhere. But 7½ hours in the other direction, and I'm somewhere completely different.
3) It seems like half of the Lutheran churches that are out there are called "Grace Lutheran Church". Why is this? Is it just because it has a nice ring to it? (The fact that it does may just be because there are so many, and it's a familiar name.) Was there some famous Lutheran named "Grace"? Or, is "Grace Lutheran Church" just the premier name for a Lutheran church, much like "First Baptist Church"? Seriously, I'd like to know...this kind of thing is difficult to Google.
(And I realize it's probably not as many as 50%, but it's a lot.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

"Grocery Store Roundup"

Today, I'll fulfill my promise and talk about grocery stores. Because I know how sorely disappointed everyone would be if I didn't. Grocery stores aren't quite an obsession of mine (at least not as much as other things), but I do find it interesting how wherever you go in the country, you'll likely find that the most popular grocery store is something different. Sure, there are some mega-stores that have taken over various portions of the country (Kroger, etc), but even where there is Kroger, you may find the most popular grocery store is something else. (And, for the record...I don't consider Wal-Mart Supercenter a grocery store. It's too conglomerate, and it didn't start out as a grocery store like all these other places did.) While I'm talking about this...what is the most popular grocery store in State College? I'd say it's Weis, just because of numbers. Usually, the "most popular" grocery store is also the most plentiful, because of the whole supply and demand thing.

Anyway, there are three main grocery store chains represented in the Raleigh-Durham area: Food Lion, Harris Teeter, and Lowe's Foods. I hadn't even heard of Lowe's Foods until I moved here, but I've been there and it gets my seal of approval. I've also been to Harris Teeter, which is nice, but expensive. I have no plans to go to Food Lion, because they suck. There's a reason they're closing stores in Florida. Apparently, Kroger is also well-represented in the area, but I have yet to see one. Winn-Dixie used to be here too, but all their North Carolina stores have closed.

Which one is most popular? Let's see how many there are within 20 miles of my apartment:
Food Lion - 64
Harris Teeter - 28
Kroger - 21
Lowe's Foods - 17

I guess that settles it. But you still won't see me at Food Lion. And are there really that many Krogers around here? Why haven't I seen one yet?
(One word about Lowe's Foods: out of all the possible names they could have given their grocery store, why did they have to pick one that was shared by a major home improvement warehouse, thus requiring they reference their name with "Foods" at the end?)

Today's random thoughts:

1) When I got local phone service through BellSouth, I went cheap and declined Caller ID, among other things. (I'm not going to use the local phone much, and I'd have to buy a new phone for Caller ID anyway.) But since I hooked up the phone, I've been getting about 2-3 calls per day from either telemarketers, or else machines that can't talk. I don't even pick up the home phone anymore. Personally, I think this is a conspiracy by BellSouth to get me to buy Caller ID. Is it going to work? No. As it is, I already know not to pick up the phone. The moral of the story is, if you want to talk to me, call my cell phone instead, which is what you probably do anyway. (And yes, I have recently added my home phone # to the National Do Not Call List, or whatever it's called.)
2) Here's something that's always bothered me: weather.com gives hour-by-hour forecasts, complete with precipitation probabilities. But what do these probabilities mean? If there's a 20% chance of rain at 10 a.m., does this mean there's a 20% chance of it raining between 10 and 11? If there's a 50% chance of rain for four consecutive hours, what's the chance of it not raining at all during those four hours? 1/16? (Actually, no...even if the probabilities are taken as hourly probabilities, the hourly events are dependent. If it's raining at 10, it's far more likely to also be raining at 11.) Well, anyway...it seems to me that if the chance of it raining on some random day is 40%, then the hourly probabilities should all be less than 40%. But they're not; the daily probability is just the maximum hourly probability (from what I can tell). If an hourly probability is 40%, but all the others are 0%, then the daily probability should be 40%, because the entire day's rain fate depends on that one hour, and there's a 40% chance of it raining during that hour. But since the other hourly probabilities are usually non-zero, this should increase the daily probability of rain beyond the maximum hourly probability. Statistically speaking, something's not right with the weather.com hourly precipitation probabilities. (Surprise!) Anyway, the moral of the story is, don't get your forecasts from weather.com. (But are they better than NWS State College?)
3) No #3 today, because I kind of went overboard on #2.

Monday, June 26, 2006

"First Day of Work"

I'm trying to shy away from the "this is what I did today" kind of blog, but the first day of a new job is a noteworthy event, so I feel obligated to make it today's topic. (At least until I go off on a tangent and talk about something else.)

Really, though...is what happens the first day ever that important? In terms of what I'll be doing on a day-to-day basis once I settle in, the first day is actually most unlike the other days of work. It's kind of like the first day of school (or, in college, the first day of classes). I never dreaded the first day of class as much as the second day. Nothing is ever expected of you on the first day. So really, the first day is just a necessary step to the second day, and is quite irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

It didn't take me long to go off on that tangent...so anyway: today I talked to a bunch of people and started reading a manual. Tomorrow I'm going to fill out a bunch of forms and continue to read said manual. How long before I get "settled in" and begin the normal work routine I long for? Depends on how long it takes me to figure out what I'm doing. If Jon Petters could do it, then surely it can't be that hard. :)

This is probably the last I'll talk about my job for a while, because I don't expect anything noteworthy to happen until at least next week. Tomorrow I'll talk about grocery stores instead.

Today's random thoughts:

1) The local Target must love me. Last week, I spent over $1,000 there in three separate trips. Not counting rent money, that's about 1½ months of graduate student "pay" that I disposed of in one week. When's that ARL Summer paycheck coming in? (I'm optimistically thinking Friday.)
2) Yesterday, I never even left my apartment. I didn't realize it until I went to lock the door as I went to bed...and it was already locked, from when I locked it the night before. So, I have a new goal: never do that again. It's only an issue on weekends anyway...and I can always go play disc golf or something. The side effect of this "rule" is that my car won't ever get a day off as long as I'm in NC, but hey...the sooner my car breaks, the sooner I can get a new one.
3) I've been "decorating" my apartment by putting random things on my walls, like golf scorecards and what pictures I do have lying around (as of now, 1). This requires the use of double-stick tape. What's the most efficient way to tape something to the wall: putting the tape on the wall, putting the tape on the object, or both? Putting the tape on only the object isn't working, so I'm currently trying both. I'll keep you posted on the results. This double-sticking of the double-stick tape (quadruple-sticking?) requires more tape, and it's harder to do because you have to line up the tape. If it doesn't work, I'll just keep adding more tape. As you add more tape on top of tape, eventually you'll get to a point where both tape surfaces (the one on the object, and the one on the wall) are perfectly flat, and you'll get perfect cohesion, which you don't get with objects that may not be flat (such as a golf scorecard, which has a fold in it). That's the theory, anyway.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

"Raleigh Disc Golf"

I like to play disc golf, because it's free outdoor activity that only takes an hour or two. Plus, it gives me an excuse to drive places. So as you would guess, my first week in Raleigh (Cary) included some disc golf. If you don't play disc golf (or just don't care), you might as well skip to the "random thoughts", because disc golf really isn't that interesting to talk about. If you're not sure what it is, well...just imagine playing golf with frisbees.

Anyway, here's what I thought of the three area courses I played this week:
1) Kentwood Park - It's the closest 18-hole course to my apartment, so that's good. It's also the closest course to the NC State campus, so that's bad because it's very crowded. (Although by some fluke, I was able to play all 18 holes without waiting.) The course is short (no holes over 300 feet) and somewhat tight, but I thought it was really easy - I shot (threw?) a 56, which I believe is my best-ever score on an 18-hole disc golf course. (It's hard to compare scores between courses, because many of them are so different.) I'll probably be making this course a regular stop.
2) Cedar Hills Park - This is the only other 18-hole course that's actually in Raleigh. It's less crowded, but it's also 15 miles from my apartment. This course is much tougher...it's tight and much longer than Kentwood. I shot/threw a 77, which leaves much to be desired. I'm sure I'll go back and play here more, if nothing else because I have a score to settle with this course. Breaking 72 here would make me happy.
3) Zebulon Community Park - Part of my Zebulon, NC journey from yesterday (as talked about in yesterday's posting) was a round of disc golf at Zebulon Community Park. First off, playing disc golf the day after a round of heavy rains usually isn't a good idea...so keep that in mind before you decide to go to a new course, because some courses have a tendency to flood (or at least puddle). This course was challenging, but had a good mix of open and tight holes, so I enjoyed this course (standing water aside). Will I be back? Maybe, but not for a while...especially considering there is no Piggly Wiggly in Zebulon.

There are several other courses in the Raleigh area that I will eventually play. Original plans for Saturday were to play a 9-hole course in Knightdale on my way back from Zebulon, but by then I didn't feel like it. Besides, I'm going to be living here for a while...do I really need to play all the area courses in the first week? There are 22 different courses within a 100-mile drive of my apartment, which is refreshing considering there are only 5 courses within 100 miles of State College. (And some of them are really pathetic.)

Today's random thoughts:

1) Instead of playing more disc golf on my way back from Zebulon, I treated myself to lunch at Bojangles'. I really like Bojangles'...but is that just because I've never lived near one? How will I feel in a few months after having unlimited access to Bojangles'? In order to protect its novelty, I'm going to limit myself no more than one Bojangles' trip per month, so I won't be back until at least July 24th. (And by the way, because I'm particular about this sort of thing...Bojangles' is a plural possessive, not a singular possessive.) I also practice "novelty protection" with Reese's Fast Breaks...road trips only. (Except when someone gives one to me...I can't turn down a free Fast Break.)
2) A little more about Winn-Dixie: I went to their website in order to find where the closest Winn-Dixie is to me, just out of curiousity. Turns out it's in Dublin, GA - 315 miles away. Whew...I was afraid I'd actually have to go to one. Although, I must admit...the prospect of buying several different flavors of Chek soda was appetizing.
3) Can flies hear? I hope not, for their sake. Mosquitoes can annoy the hell out of me just by buzzing around my ear...I can't imagine having to live with that all the time. Surely this is a question that can be answered with a simple Google search, but where's the fun in that? It's much more fun to just talk about it.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Zebulon, NC"

Road trips are really easy to write about. Whenever I need an impetus for a blog post, I'll just drive somewhere. Today, the destination was Zebulon, NC. Other than just to go somewhere, there were two reasons for making this trip: disc golf, and Piggly Wiggly. I'll talk about the disc golf tomorrow.

I had received mixed reports on whether or not there was a Piggly Wiggly in Zebulon. It's not listed on the Piggly Wiggly web site, but it is listed in other places like the Yahoo! Yellow Pages. Not surprising, the Piggly Wiggly web site was correct - there is not a Piggly Wiggly at 410 West Gannon Avenue. It's now called "Country Foods". I felt obligated to go in there to get some parmesan cheese (which I forgot to get at Harris Teeter earlier this week), so I walked in and immediately noticed that there was a line of 9 people waiting at the only open register. No thanks. But did the place still look like a Piggly Wiggly? Possibly - Piggly Wigglys are very hit-or-miss. Some are complete dumps, while others are actually pretty nice. This one was closer to being a dump. It probably isn't much different now than it was when it was a Piggly Wiggly. You may be asking yourself, "What's the difference? It's just a name." When it comes to Piggly Wiggly, there's a big difference. "Country Foods" is boring. And besides...you can't get Mr. Pig brand soda at Country Foods. (By the way, there was also a Winn-Dixie across the street, but in true Winn-Dixie fashion, it was boarded up and permanently closed.)

As for the town of Zebulon itself, it looks like any other small southern town. There's a distinctive difference in appearance between small southern towns and small northern towns. Southern towns are a little more spread out and use more brick; northern towns try to cram a bunch of two-story houses into a small space. It got me thinking: where's the imaginary line that separates "southern" towns from "northern" towns? I'm guessing it's somewhere in northern Virginia, because Berkeley Springs, WV is quite northern in appearance, while towns in southern Virginia that I've been to (Amelia and Blackstone, specificially) look just like Zebulon. Next time I drive through northern Virginia, I should stop in Warrenton and see which side of the imaginary line they are. Unless Warrenton is too close to DC...that area is too modern to be placed in either category. I'm talking about small rural towns.

So, in light of Piggly Wiggly's absence, was this a wasted trip? Absolutely not. I was destined to make a drive out there to play disc golf eventually anyway. And the drive itself was fun too - 35-40 minutes, 30-35 miles each way. I may go back to Zebulon sometime to see a Carolina Mudcats minor-league baseball game. There's still hope for Piggly Wiggly, though: there's one 40 miles south in Broadway, NC. And unlike the Zebulon store, this one's actually listed on the Piggly Wiggly web site. But that trip will have to wait...I'm giving my car the rest of the weekend off. It's earned a break.

Today's random thoughts:

1) How much sunlight does it take to wake someone up? Whatever amount it is, I think it's a constant, because for the last three mornings, the sun has woken me up between 740a and 745a. It's kind of annoying, but it doesn't really bother me because I'll be waking up earlier than that for work anyway.
2) I didn't know they made see-through shower curtains, until I got one. It's not completely clear; it has a cartoonish world map on it, but it's on a clear background. Isn't part of the purpose of a shower curtain is to distort vision in and out of the shower, in addition to keeping water off the bathroom floor? I have no desire to watch myself take a shower, but I guess it's nice to know I can if I want to.
3) One thing that bothers me is that a lot of new products that come out are given names that are based on existing products. I guess that's what they have to do to sell it, but I still don't like it. Example: The Reese's Fast Break candy bar. It's good enough to stand on its own by now; can we please drop the "Reese's" from the name so that the Fast Break can develop an identity of its own? Sodas are really bad about this. Mountain Dew Code Red is completely different from Mountain Dew; why not just call it Code Red? And what the hell is Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper? Ugh.

Friday, June 23, 2006

"Tivo-like device"

I got digital cable for my new apartment (I wanted DirecTV, but I'm on the wrong side of the apartment building for that). And for $5 a month, they're giving me a Tivo-like device to use with my cable. ("They" referring to the cable company.) It's only taken 2 days for the Tivo-like device to ruin me. I can't watch anything live anymore. Just now, I was going to watch something...so I put it on, paused it, did something on the computer for 30 minutes, then went back to it and fast-forwarded through the commercials. (And I almost finished the 2-hour broadcast right as it actually ended!)

First off...why am I calling it a Tivo-like device? Well, it's not "Tivo", but it's pretty much like a Tivo. It's technically called a DVR (Digital Video Recorder, I think), but a DVR isn't necessarily a Tivo-like device. My parents have a DVR, but it's just like a VCR, except with DVD-RWs. You can't do many Tivo-like things on it, like pause live TV or record every re-run of The Simpsons automatically. Why don't I just call my Tivo-like device a Tivo? Because in my opinion, although it's surely close, "Tivo" hasn't entered the echelon of brand names that are used to describe products of that type (Kleenex, Coke, etc). Much like the word "Google", the word "Tivo" is now frequently used as a verb (example: "I Tivo-ed last night's 24"). However, I don't think we can use it in a generic sense yet in referring to the device itself. This is because when I say "Tivo", you think the brand name, not the specific device. When I say "Kleenex", you think "tissue", not "Kleenex-brand tissue". So I'll continue to refer to it as a Tivo-like device, which I will abbreviate TLD. Once non-Tivo brand TLDs like mine become more mainstream, then we can make the switch. (By the way, it's a good thing we can use the word "Kleenex" in the generic sense. Otherwise, I'd have to use a sentence like this: "I went to the store today and bought some Kleenex-like devices.")

I've been using the TLD to record some sporting events and then watch them later (specifically, World Cup soccer games); the problem is I have to avoid the result until I watch it. This is actually harder than I thought. I accidentally saw the result of the Ghana/USA game before I watched it, because the headline "Ghana knocks USA out of World Cup" popped up on my Yahoo Mail start page. Oops. Surely I will get better at avoiding sporting results. (Hopefully, anyway, because all the World Cup games next week will be when I'm at work, so I'll have to record them.)

In conclusion...if you're thinking about getting a TLD, I highly recommend it.

Today's random thoughts:

1) Last night as I was preparing to brush my teeth, I was thisclose to accidentally putting shaving cream on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste. I was more amused by that than anything. After all, small traces of shaving cream end up in my mouth pretty much every time I shave. It doesn't taste that bad. But does it aid in the prevention of tartar buildup? Probably not. They should come out with a product that can be used as both shaving cream and toothpaste. Call it "Barba-fresh."
2) One of our "traditions" in State College was team trivia at the Sports Cafe (aka "El Café de Deportes") every Friday night. But, it has come to my attention that they're not doing it there anymore, starting tonight. Is it coincidence that right after I left town, they stopped doing trivia? You decide.
3) While we're on the topic of team trivia, I kept track of all our point totals in team trivia - not just at "El Café de Deportes", but other places as well. We finished with 1,220 (out of 1,424 possible) points in the main rounds and a balance of +5 points on the final questions. (We purposely kept down our wager on the final question last week so that my final question total would stay in the positive. Turns out we got it right, so all it did was cost us the game. Thanks anyway, though!)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

"Raleigh (Cary) Driving, Part 1"

I've been doing a lot of driving around Raleigh (Cary) so far this week. Driving around here is certainly more enjoyable than in State College where you're stuck at 25 mph most of the time. It also helps that I don't have to drive through any overcrowded downtown areas like in State College or Tallahassee. Instead, it's all 35/45 mph roads that like to tease me by forming a second lane, and then closing it 1/2-mile later. Kinda defeats the point of having the second lane at all, doesn't it? Granted, there's a lot of construction around here, and eventually there will be more prolonged multi-lane periods on these roads, but for now it's pretty stupid.

Lane closures aside, I really enjoy the Raleigh (Cary) driving experience. There are so many trees around here, a lot of the roads have a "rural" feel to them, even though they're in the middle of a city. I-40 is a pretty good example of that. (Most interstates in cities are that way, it seems.) Some areas around my apartment aren't developed yet, and obviously that also adds to the rural feel. I also enjoy the interstate driving, which I will be doing plenty of on my way to and from work. I have learned to appreciate both the wide-open brand of interstate driving with little traffic (I-10, I-99), and the heavy-traffic, multiple-lane variety (Atlanta, Capital Beltway around DC). When I drive through Atlanta, I actually opt for I-75 straight through instead of I-285, even when I-285 is shorter. For some reason, I think driving 55 mph next to 6 other cars is fun. (Not to mention that driving into downtown Atlanta on I-75 looks really cool, especially at night.)

I have a lot of enjoyable driving and exploring ahead of me. It took me over 18 years to figure out all of Jacksonville's roads (and I mean "all"), so it'll probably be a while before I get bored with Raleigh's roads. It took me about two months to get tired of State College's roads, but at least the surrounding countryside is close. Living where I am in Cary, I'm not too far from the North Carolina countryside, so I have a couple of scheduled "pleasure drives" outside the city coming. The first is to Zebulon, the location of the closest Piggly Wiggly. The second is to Fuquay-Varina, just because it has a cool name. Don't you wish you were from Fuquay-Varina? I do. (Pronounced FEW-quay var-EE-na.) Expect many more entries about driving in my blog - it's one of my many sick obsessions.

One quick word...why do I call it "Raleigh (Cary)"? Because most people know of Raleigh, but not Cary...but I live in Cary, not Raleigh, and will only be going to Raleigh for golf, disc golf, and Carolina Hurricanes games.

Today's random thoughts: (The plan is to make this a regular feature of my posts. We'll see if I have enough random thoughts to sustain it.)

1) I'm actually looking forward to starting my job on Monday. I've finished up pretty much everything I needed to do upon moving here, so now I have three days to kill. Hey, at least work will be something to do. (What's the over/under on how soon I get tired of work? A month? A week? Next Wednesday?)
2) Through an informal survey of two people, I have discovered that the best cell phone service can be found on odd-numbered floors. This is based on the fact that basement reception sucks (almost uniformly), the reception in my apartment (2nd floor) sucks, and the reception in my ground-floor White Course apartment was better than my 2nd-floor White Course apartment. 3rd-floor reception is typically pretty good, too. No word on the 4th floor, though - but we know that basement reception = bad" and "bad (good) reception below implies good (bad) reception above" based on my survey and experience with floors B through 3. By induction, we can prove with these two facts that cell phone reception on the 4th floor sucks.
3) At Harris Teeter on Tuesday, I saw something for the first time ever, for those of you who want to stay healthy but really don't like skim milk: 1/2% milk! I didn't know such a thing existed. I almost got some, too...but I decided to stick with my 1% milk, which is a proven winner in my book. (By the way...I'm going to write an entry about Harris Teeter and the other regional grocery stores in NC next week.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"Introduction"

I've considered starting one of these things for a while now, and thought now was a pretty logical time to do it since I just moved to North Carolina. The idea behind this blog is to provide an outlet for my I'm going to try to give the blog a "stream-of-consciousness" feel, meaning once I type something, it stays...I'm not allowed to change it (except for typos). This will certainly make my blogs longer, which is both good and bad. My goal is to waste as much of your free time as possible. My thoughts aren't as interesting when they're organized, anyway. Listening to someone talk is always more exciting than reading something.

I'll also throw in some things about my life, just so you can "keep up"...but "life updates" won't be the focus of the blog. Let me summarize my life so far... It can basically be split into three parts. Years 0-18 were spent in Jacksonville, FL going to school; years 19-22 were spent in Tallahassee, FL going to college at Florida State; and years 23-24 were spent in State College, PA at Penn state grad school. Year 25 begins in Raleigh, NC where I'm starting a job next week. (Well, technically I live in Cary, but whatever.) See, I just summarized 24+ years of my life in one paragraph...so imagine how much it will take to talk about the next few months.

There's also this thing in my AIM profile I call "by-the-numbers". To keep myself entertained, I keep various statistics about my life. I'll be talking more about those here. For example, during the Summer of 2005, I drank over 64 gallons of fluid. How's that for useless knowledge? There are a lot of things I can't fit in my AIM profile (especially now that it's polluted with links), so that will be one purpose of this. I'm sure one day, I'll share my extensive "dinner time" data that goes back through June 2004. Does the amount of time it takes a restaurant to bring your food order depend on whether or not you got an appetizer? Stay tuned...

One more thing before I go to bed: I titled this "Introduction", and put quotes around it in the Title box. Does this site automatically give me quotes, which would make my title appear to have double quotes? Even if it doesn't, putting the quotes seems kind of redundant. You already know that "Introduction" is the title, with or without quotes. In fact, the quotes may even seem kind of pompous, as if I'm attaching some kind of important title to this thing. Ever see a commercial with a title? Progressive auto insurance commercials come to mind - some of them have titles on the bottom of the screen at the beginning. Do we really care what you cared to call your commercial, Progressive? Are your commercials even worthy of a title? Titles exist for identification purposes, that is all. If something is never important enough to need to be referenced directly, it doesn't need a title. I've never had a conversation that went like, "Did you see that Progressive commercial?" "Which one, 'Bad Call' or 'On Hold'?"

(This is what you can expect from me on a daily basis.)