Saturday, September 30, 2006

"College Football Saturday #3"

Skip to the random thought (1)

So...I've already written this post twice, and it's been erased twice. So that means one of two things: either the final result is very polished and refined, or it's half-assed and lazy. I'll let you decide which one.

Time slot 1
Game 1: Colorado at Missouri, 1230p, FSN South: Once again this week, the early games aren't very enticing, but this game is my Dirty Dawg "upset special". Colorado has no wins; Missouri has no losses. So why do I think Colorado is going to win this game? Because that's the way things go in the Big 12 North, usually.
Game 2: Virginia at Duke, 1200p, Local TV: Tickets are only $25 - plenty of good seats available!
Game 3: Illinois at Michigan State, 1200p, ESPN GamePlan: This game will likely be over by halftime, so I'll watch it while I can.
Game 4: Wisconsin at Indiana, 1200p, ESPN2: The only team in the Big Ten that might be worse than Illinois is Indiana. Good news: they play each other next week!
Game 5: Tennessee at Memphis, 1200p, ESPN: "Trap game" for Tennessee? Eh...maybe, but doubtful. And that's the last time the overused phrase "trap game" will appear in my blog.
Game 6: Navy at Connecticut, 1200p, ESPN GamePlan
Game 7: Mississippi State at LSU, 1230p, ESPN GamePlan: In two SEC games this season, Mississippi State has been outscored 49-0. You do the math.
Game 8: Akron at Kent State, 200p, ESPN GamePlan: I was going to make a snide comment about NC State here, but I figured that wasn't a good idea considering they are playing Florida State next week.

Time slot 2
Game 1: Northwestern at Penn State, 330p, ESPN GamePlan: This is the first week in which I've been really glad I bought GamePlan. Penn State better win this game. If they don't, my interest in the rest of Penn State's season will decrease sharply.
Game 2: Boise State at Utah, 300p, Versus: OLN changed their name to Versus recently, thus officially completing their (attempted) transition from "specialty sports network" to "generic sports network".
Game 3: Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, 330p, ABC: The ACC has had some very exciting games so far this year. Why? Because the ACC is the most mediocre conference in the country.
Game 4: Alabama at Florida, 330p, CBS: Roll Tide?
Game 5: Purdue at Notre Dame, 230p, NBC: At least I don't need the cable box for this game.
Game 6: Oregon at Arizona State, 330p, ESPN GamePlan: I used to have an Arizona State hat, but it got lost. I know how, but I'm not telling.
Game 7: Texas Tech at Texas A&M, 330p, ESPN GamePlan
Game 8: Houston at Miami (FL), 600p, ESPN2: One can dream, right?
Game 9: Idaho at Utah State, 300p, ESPN GamePlan: Trivia time! Name the following: 1) The conference in which these two teams play; 2) The two teams' nicknames; and 3) The cities in which these two schools are located. If you can get these right, you are just as pathetic as I am! Answers below.

Time slot 3
Game 1: Ohio State at Iowa, 800p, ABC: I just hope Ohio State and Michigan aren't both undefeated when they play each other in November. I'm tired of hearing about both teams.
Game 2: Michigan at Minnesota, 800p, ESPN: Ditto.
Game 3: USC at Washington State, 700p, TBS: I bet TBS is thrilled that they actually landed a game that matters this week.
Game 4: Georgia at Mississippi, 900p, ESPN2: Georgia got exposed by Colorado last week, so this game might be closer than you think...
Game 5: Colorado State at Fresno State, 1000p, ESPN GamePlan
Game 6: Kansas at Nebraska, 700p, FSN South
Game 7: SMU at Tulane, 730p, CSTV: There might be a New Orleans storyline surrounding this game. Is Tulane playing their games at home again? I'll tune in and find out.
Game 8: Stanford at UCLA, 1015p, FSN South
Game 9: Middle Tennessee at North Texas, 700p, ESPN GamePlan: The quest for that coveted New Orleans Bowl berth is underway!

Enjoy your college football Saturday, or whatever else you decide to do today.

Trivia answers:
1) Western Athletic Conference (WAC). If I'm not mistaken, both schools used to be in the Sun Belt, and then moved over to the WAC prior to last season.
2) Idaho Vandals; Utah State Aggies
3) Moscow, ID; Logan, UT

Today's random thought:

1) Since I used a form of the word "ass" in today's post, I figured this was a good opportunity to lay down the "profanity ground rules" for my blog. It's pretty simple: if you can say it on The Simpsons, you can say it in my blog. If you can't say it on The Simpsons, you can't say it in my blog. I guess this makes my blog rated TV-PG?

Friday, September 29, 2006

"The Diabolical Scheme Thwarter: Issue #5"

Skip to the random thought (1)

I'm not sure how long I'm going to keep these up, actually. Personally, I think the "plot lines" are getting continually dumber. And that's saying something, considering where we started, and that we're only up to issue #5. I guess the whole point is to be dumb, right? I hope so.

#5: The Music Industry

The DST likes listening to the radio. His favorite station is Mojo 94.9 - Cincinnati's station for jammin' oldies! But one day while he was listening at home, the station suddenly went to static. What gives? He couldn't pick the station back up on his radio, but he could still get other stations. Particularly, the "Today's Best Music" station was coming in very well. But the DST didn't want to listen to corporate-driven music. Hmm...this has the makings of a diabolical scheme, does it not?

First of all, what happened to Mojo 94.9? To find out, the DST rode the bus to the Mojo studios on the other side of town to ask someone what happened.
- DST: "Why can't I pick up your station anymore?"
- The secretary: "It's temporarily off the air. We're in the process of changing formats to a 'Top 40' format."
- DST: "Oh, okay. Thanks anyway."
- The secretary: "You know, you could have just called and asked. Why did you have to come all the way over here?"
- DST: "I don't know. Who made the decision to change formats, anyway?"
- The secretary: "Let me give you his phone number."

(You can probably guess whose phone number that was, so I'm just going to skip to that conversation.)

- TL: "Trauma Llama Ding Dong!"
- DST: "I should have known it was you. Why does Cincinnati need so many Top 40 stations?"
- TL: "Money. People aren't buying oldies records anymore, they want fresh poppy music from 17-year-old girls."
- DST: "No they don't! That music sucks. It's not even music. It is a corporate scheme designed to brainwash little kids into buying records with their lunch money."
- TL: "Wow, usually you don't figure out the scheme until later. I'm proud of you. But good luck stopping it. Toodle-oo!"

Well, the DST probably couldn't stop the corporate machine that record companies are these days, but the least he could do was get Mojo 94.9 back on the air with its jammin' oldies. He could pose as an executive from Cox (the corporate owner of the station) and override the decision to change formats, but...nah. Instead he decided to go to the station tower and considerably weaken their signal, so nobody would hear it, nobody would listen, which would lead to the station would get poor ratings and lose money, and hopefully change formats back to jammin' oldies. Well, this almost worked, but instead of changing back to oldies, 94.9 changed formats to something else: country. Nooo! (It can't always be that easy, right?)

Now, on to plan B. The DST went back to the station headquarters to snoop around the station. He stealthily disguising himself as someone who appeared like he belonged there. (I'm not sure what kind of costume this entailed, but I'm pretty sure it involved a collared shirt and very large headphones.) Eventually he found an unlabeled room with the door closed. He walked in, and found a knob on the wall called the "Format Selector". All of the basic station formats were there, and right now it was set to "country", of course. So, he changed it to "oldies", and thus automatically changed the music being played on the radio. (Do disc jockeys even do anything anymore?)

Now, you may be thinking: wouldn't the station employees notice? Well, yes, but they didn't do anything about it for a little while, because they were lazy. Then the calls started coming in from listeners thanking 94.9 for returning the station to the old format. The response was so overwhelming that they decided to keep the format, and rightfully reinstate Mojo 94.9 as Cincinnati's station for jammin' oldies. Wahoo!

The end.

(Now, you may also be thinking: how did everyone know when the station switched back, so they knew to call in and respond? And why didn't all of these people complain when the station switched formats in the first place? I don't know the answers to those questions. I don't have all of the answers, people.)

Today's random thought:

1) Most music videos are pretty stupid, but this one is pretty sweet. I like a couple of things in particular about it - the single continuous shot, and the lack of concern for a flashy background set. And when did YouTube suddenly take over the world? Everything is on YouTube these days.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

"This Is What I Did Today"

Skip to the random thoughts (2)

Generally, I try to shy away from blog posts that are strictly of the "this is what I did today" type. But I decided that for today's post, I'd take "this is what I did today" to the extreme. Yesterday, I kept a running list of almost everything noteworthy that I did. All day. So, this is what I did yesterday:

608a: The alarm goes off, and I hit the snooze.
621a: I got up.
623a: I shaved. This is a "day 2" in the 5-day rotation, meaning I shave in the morning.
632a: I ate Crispix for breakfast.
644a: I got dressed.
651a: I left for work.
710a: I stopped at the post office to drop something off in the mail.
723a: I arrived at work. Normally I time how long it takes to get to work, but since I took a different route and stopped at the post office, I didn't do that this morning. Next week, I'll have a post about my morning commute times. It usually takes 20 to 25 minutes to get to work in the morning.
727a: I started doing real, actual, work, while listening to 102.9 FM on the radio (Raleigh's "oldies" station).
737a: I saw "professional woman" outside. This is the earliest I've seen her so far. This makes 11-of-12 days I've seen her.
742a: 102.9 has their daily "Fact or Whacked?" trivia game, and I wrote down the questions. Right now I have 24 true/false questions saved; next week I'll devote a blog post to them.
828a: I got up and went to the bathroom. I typically have to use the bathroom three or four times during the work day. (I don't actually keep track of this - it's just a guess.)
957a: I turned off the radio. My ears hurt from the headphones if I listen to the radio all day, so I turn the radio off from 1000a to 1200p.
1003a: I finished doing all of the work I had to do when I arrived this morning, and now there's a lull in the action. I get to this point almost every morning, and today's is actually later than normal - usually it's between 830a and 900a. I'll have more to do in the afternoon once a model run finishes.
1006a: I started writing the day's blog post regarding my time working at Publix. I also replied to some comments from Tuesday's post.
1048a: I saw "short late woman". I haven't talked about her yet, because I just started noting her appearances down this week, but she's a short woman who always walks by around 1100a. Does this mean she works until 700p? That can't be fun.
1103a: I posted the day's blog post.
1110a: I started reading other blogs - the "daily rotation" of blogs, if you will.
1133a: I ate lunch - a bologna/cheese sandwich and an apple.
1135a: I saw "tall guy" walking by outside on his cell phone. Now my day is complete. (At least the people-stalking portion of my day.) Tall guy is now at 33-of-41 days.
1206p: I turned the radio back on to listen to the Jim Rome show. His show takes me all the way to 300p. It works out pretty well.
1227p: I got back to work once my model run finished.
1254p: I sent an email to Amber. (Yeah, about that "getting back to work"...)
120p: Just about done with everything I need to do today, I started adding James's contributions to the co-op county map. (The new map is posted below as a random thought.)
159p: I went to a 20-minute meeting about logistical stuff.
227p: I finished adding James's contributions to the co-op map.
240p: I went to the bathroom, only my second trip at work today. Unofficially, that's below average.
243p: I updated my online timesheet. I have to do this every day, and I usually do it during the last hour of the work day.
244p: I started the "end of the day" procedure - making sure everything is running smoothly and will keep running when I leave work, and planning out what I will do when I get to work the next day. I had two things running - one to finish around 400p, and the other to finish in a couple of days.
258p: I turned off the radio.
305p: I left work.
333p: I got home. I took Wade Avenue to I-440 to get home, and it took 23m20s. My varying afternoon commute routes will be the subject of a blog post, but not for a while.
340p: I changed clothes, got some water, ate some crackers, and started playing NASCAR Racing 2003 Season.
504p: I started cooking dinner - a Bubba burger and french fries. In the meantime, I started watching the World Series of Poker final table on my TLD, which aired last night. I also played Madden NFL 06, MVP Baseball 05, and Guitar Hero.
636p: I left for Wednesday night poker at Sunset Grille.
843p: I left Sunset Grille after being eliminated in 12th place.
858p: I got back home and ate four Oreos.
903p: I made my Dirty Dawg college football picks for the week. (Upset special: Colorado over Missouri)
907p: I got a phone call from Amber.
951p: I got off the phone.
956p: I brushed my teeth and changed clothes.
959p: I went to bed. (This is a little earlier than my normal bed time, but I wasn't feeling well.)

Wasn't that exciting? That's pretty much a typical Wednesday.


Today's random thoughts:

1) James sent me some additional counties that he has been to for the co-op county map, so here is the new map, with James's counties are in green:


He contributed an extra 119 counties in 6 states, for a new nationwide total of 1,577/3,097 counties, or 50.9%. Wahoo, we're now over 50%! We really needed the help in Louisiana - our total increased from 3-of-64 to a respectable 30-of-64. Idaho is now our least-traveled state (6-of-44, or 14%).
2) Yesterday I talked about traffic lights and multi-way stop signs. Well, there is another intersection method of which I am a fan: traffic circles. They're fun (weee!), and if they're not heavily-trafficked, you usually don't have to stop. Examples I've been to recently can be found in Clearwater, FL and Newton Grove, NC.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Working at Publix"

Skip to the random thoughts (3)

I've had my job for over three months now - I started three months ago yesterday. I think it's time to stop calling it my new job - now it's just my job. But this isn't the first job I've had. I didn't have to work as much as other people did in high school and college because I wasn't a big spender. But in Summer 2002, I did need a job, so I could buy a new computer. It would have been nice to get a part-time desk job (data entry or something like that) or an internship, but instead I just went around to a bunch of stores in the area. Eventually, I applied for a job at a nearby Publix, and they called me the next day. I didn't apply at any other grocery store - not only is Publix far superior to any other supermarket in Jacksonville, I've heard it is the best place to work.

I pretty much had the job when I showed up to the interview, if I wanted it. But the first thing the store manager said was that they have a clean shave policy, so I would have to lose the goatee. This was kind of a big deal at the time, but not really - I'll go three months with no facial hair if it means I can get a new computer. (Those three months were the only three months I was goatee-less for a six-year period from October 1999 to October 2005.) I remember two other things from the interview - he asked me why I wanted to work at Publix (I forget what I said), and he also asked me what I wanted to do. Bag boy? Cashier? Stock boy? I chose stock boy, because they made 75 cents more than the others ($6.50/hour instead of $5.75/hour). I also had to go to this lame orientation before I started working, where they pretty much just educated you on the history and policies of Publix Supermarkets. I was paid for it, so I didn't mind.

So, anyway - the main reason I wanted to write this post was so I could talk about exactly what I did at this job. As a daytime stock boy, my main job was to make sure the shelves were stocked. The overnight stock people took care of most of the store, but there were some items that needed to be re-stocked throughout the day - most notably bottled water, soda, and sale items. Bottled water sold like crazy. I didn't realize how much water they sold at grocery stores. Granted, this was a summer in Florida, but this was two years before all those hurricanes hit. Soda also sells well, although we typically only had to worry about restocking the soda that was on sale. Publix also has a lot of great sales, and those items also obviously sold well. Personally, I enjoyed being the water and/or soda person. You only had one aisle to worry about, and you knew where to find the water and soda in the back. With the sale items, it was a little more complicated, because sale items are scattered throughout the store, and throughout the storage area as well. Re-stocking water requires more physical labor than re-stocking Hamburger Helper, but I didn't mind. After my first three days of work, I was very sore, but I was generally fine after that.

We also had to occasionally re-stock beer and milk. Beer was usually a once- or twice-a-day thing. Milk was usually the job of the dairy person, but sometimes she was caught up doing other things, and had the stock people re-stock the milk. I actually had a lot of fun re-stocking the milk - it meant spending time in a refrigerated room. Wahoo! Frozen foods also needed the occasional check, but I rarely did that. Bagged ice was also an issue, and I did have to re-stock that from time to time, and let me just say it wasn't as much fun as the milk.

There were two main things I didn't like about being a stock boy. One was helping the bag boys. I learned during my work tenure at Publix that bag boys are slackers. They can usually be found in the break room or around the store, and always have to be called to the front service area to do their job. But sometimes they needed our help, so they would call the stock people to front service as well. I was a terrible bag boy, and there was also other stuff I would rather be doing, like...you know, my job. Sometimes we even had to help the bag boys bring in shopping carts from the parking lot. But I didn't mind that as much as unloading the delivery trucks. Most delivery trucks arrive as the store closes - when this happens, the overnight people unload them. But some days of the week, they came during the day, in which case it was the stock people's job to unload them. I think I only spilled one pallet during my work tenure. I remember there was spaghetti sauce on it. It was messy.

Speaking of spillage, fortunately, employees were not responsible for broken merchandise incurred during work. That's a good thing too, because some people might not make any money. I remember one time, a very large amount of beer toppled over and spilled in the back room. (Someone else was responsible for this - not me.) As you can imagine, the back room smelled like beer for a while. Cleaning that up was fun. But I would estimate that several hundred dollars worth of beer was sacrificed in this incident. It took me weeks to make that much money, so it's good that they didn't charge us for broken merchandise. I'm not sure how much that pallet I spilled was worth, but I think the only thing lost was the spaghetti sauce.

What are my lasting impressions of working at Publix? It was okay - it paid for the computer. The work wasn't fun, and it was kind of stressful because I wasn't sure what I would have to do every day, and we couldn't leave until the work was done. I guess that's how they motivated us to do our jobs. Of course, we got paid for all of our time, but by the time midnight rolled around, I wanted to go sleep. Oh well. Now I have a greater appreciation for a job like the one I have now. No physical labor whatsoever. This is why I went to college in the first place - physical labor isn't for me.

Today's random thoughts:

1) On my way up to (and back from) State College last weekend, I took US 30 instead of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. I approve. It only added two minutes to the usual time, and was actually faster than the last couple of times I took the Turnpike. And I saved $1.25. US 30 has much less traffic, but unfortunately, it has more construction. A lane of the Everett bypass is closed for no apparent reason. Seriously, the road looks done - it's freshly paved (all lanes), and there are no construction workers or vehicles in sight. Open the road already! There are also a few traffic lights, and more permanent construction near US 220, but I definitely prefer US 30 to the Turnpike, so I'll be taking that from now on.
2) I've been playing the occasional Freecell game at home. I've gotten pretty good at it - my record is currently 12-1. I think it helps when I only play a couple of games at a time. The more games one plays consecutively, the lazier and stupider one gets. It's a shame my work computer doesn't have Freecell on it.
3) I would like to send "props" to whoever invented the traffic light. What a creative and practical way to control traffic flow at major intersections. Without traffic lights, we would just have a bunch of four-way stops, and that would be a mess. I remember a major intersection in San Francisco that was actually a five-way stop. Why no traffic light? And what's the record for "X-way stops"? I don't think I've ever seen a six-way stop.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Bellefonte, PA"

Skip to the random thoughts (3)

Bellefonte is a town of about 6,000 people just north of State College. I think it is very underrated. I might even go as far as to say it is "the Fuquay-Varina of Central Pennsylvania". (Or is Fuquay-Varina "the Bellefonte of Central North Carolina"?) Well, there is one small difference between Bellefonte and Fuquay-Varina. Bellefonte's population has held fairly steady over the last 15 years. Meanwhile, like every other city in Central North Carolina, Fuquay-Varina is growing. Its 1990 census population was 4,562, and its 2005 estimated population is 12,200.

But anyway, one thing you may have gathered from reading my blogs is that I like going to Waffle Shop when I visit State College. Well, did you know that Bellefonte has a Waffle Shop too? I didn't, until Amber and I stumbled upon it during one of our random drives one weekend. We even tried it out last Sunday, hoping it would be of the same top-notch quality as the State College versions. So, is it? You bet it is. There are some small differences - the restaurant appearance is different, but it's pretty much the same, from the menus to the service. (And we didn't have to wait in line to get in!) My usual meal (eggs/pancakes/sausage) included one less sausage link than normal (four instead of five), but it was also 20 cents cheaper, and while I still received three pancakes, these were huge, and more than made up for the one fewer sausage link. But, most importantly: how long did it take to bring the meal? 5 minutes, 54 seconds - top-notch as always. Waffle Shop continues to impress.

Besides a Waffle Shop, downtown Bellefonte also has a nice park down by Spring Creek. The park-next-to-downtown feel can't be beat when you're in a small town like Bellefonte, especially when you include a small river or creek. I don't know, it just feels like a good place to be. And since I still haven't purchased a digital camera, I'm going to leave it at that. But it's enough to give Bellefonte the status of a "nice small town".

Bellefonte also has a nearby miniature golf course that we visited following our brief Waffle Shop excursion. We've both been there before, so obviously we must have enjoyed the course to make a return visit. I've noticed there are two primary types of mini-golf courses: Flat obstacle courses, and hilly curvy courses. Flat obstacle courses are mostly flat (duh), except for the occasional ramp or pit. There are no major elevation changes. These courses also feature many obstacles of different types, where you have to go around something, under another something, or whatever. These courses also feature a lot of 90° angles with right triangles at the corners which you can bounce your ball off of to progress towards the hole. The Bellefonte mini-golf course is a flat obstacle course. The classic "Putt Putt" courses are also flat obstacle courses. Now, hilly curvy courses are don't have many obstacles, but the holes are often far more convoluted and complicated, with many hills, curves, and embankments. The holes at these courses are often much longer than their flat obstacle counterparts. The only hilly curvy examples I know of off the top of my head are near Jacksonville (Mandarin Mill is my personal favorite). I haven't yet done any investigating to see what kind of miniature golf Raleigh (Cary) has to offer. Mini-golf isn't found in cities as much as it is in tourist-trap places. If you drive past Pigeon Forge north of the Smoky Mountains, which is a very touristy place, you might see a mini golf course every other block. This seems kind of silly to me. When people go on vacation to a place like the Smoky Mountains, they are going for the Smoky Mountains, right? They can play mini-golf at home, right? Apparently a lot of families play mini-golf on their family vacations. Go karts must be popular too.

Okay, so I got off-topic a little. One more thing about Bellefonte. Considering it isn't a very big town, why are there so many signs for it on I-80? If you're in DuBois looking for I-80, the signs will say "I-80 East, Bellefonte". Is Bellefonte worthy of such designation? Probably not, but neither is any other city on I-80 in Pennsylvania. I-80 doesn't go right by State College, so they can't put that. I-80 also misses Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport. It's like they routed the road specifically to miss any large towns. So, they just give signs for all of the small towns along the way, like DuBois, Bloomsburg, and Clarion. I think some signs in Ohio actually reference New York instead any of the pathetic cities in Pennsylvania. I suppose Pennsylvania could have completely ignored all the cities along I-80 and just sign for Cleveland and New York the whole way, but I guess they wanted to give some love to Stroudsburg and Sharon instead. And that's fine - it's their state. They can do as they wish.

I got off-topic again. I guess Bellefonte really isn't that interesting. But I like it. Bellefonte has some impressive hills too. Check it out.

Today's random thoughts:

1) One thing that's kind of related to today's post, but I felt like dumping it into the random thoughts. On my drive back to North Carolina last Sunday, for the first time in a while, I really took the time to admire the Pennsylvania scenery. It really is nice. The mountains and the valleys are something to admire. When I first moved to Pennsylvania, I vowed never to take the scenery for granted, and guess what I did? Oops. I think the scenery out west is much more spectacular, and that's why I think I can never live out there.
2) You know how I like county maps. Well, here's one - average gas prices. If you like cheap gas, Missouri is the place to be, while New York and anything in the Pacific Time Zone are not. This map pretty much agrees with my observations, except that I thought Pennsylvania was a little cheaper than West Virginia. And I remember Tallahassee gas being more expensive than Jacksonville gas, but according to the map it's now the other way around.
3) Last weekend, Amber and I were at Hollywood Video looking for a movie to rent, and stumbled upon a section called "Cult Classics". What exactly is a "cult classic"? I would define it as a movie that isn't that popular on the whole, but is immensely popular with a select few. Or, popular movies that manage to avoid the mainstream. They had a lot of movies in this section that I would consider "cult classics" (including the movie we were looking for, Army of Darkness), but I object to the inclusion of Napoleon Dynamite in this section. Napoleon Dynamite is too mainstream to be a "cult classic". But then again, personal experience has taught me that Hollywood Video often has trouble classifying movies correctly.

Monday, September 25, 2006

"Wedding Receptions"

Skip to the random thoughts (3)

Saturday's post was about weddings, but I never talked about the receptions that follow. So...I'll do that today. Weddings are serious and predictable (Catholic weddings, in particular), so it's important to have something a little more laid back, spontaneous, and fun afterwards. And people like food too. And cake. (And sometimes alcohol, although the last two receptions I went to were dry, so I'm not going to talk about that aspect of receptions.)

First, an observation about the people in attendance. On average, it's 50% groom's family and friends, and 50% bride's family and friends. In most cases, the families don't know each other, so there are two distinct halves of "social networking". And since this was my cousin's wedding, I only knew approximately 25% of the people in attendance (the "Allen" half of the bride's family). As a result, there isn't as much mingling at receptions as there could be. When one goes to a reception, what percentage of the attendees does one talk to? It's pretty small. People usually just stick with the people that they know. The only people who know everyone at the wedding are the bride and groom, and even then, one is likely meeting distant relatives of the other for the first time. It must be a lot of work being the bride and groom - you have to talk to everybody, and everybody in attendance wants a piece of you, because you're the reason they are there in the first place.

There was very little mingling between halves (and even quarters) at the receptions I have been to, but receptions still provide a good opportunity to catch up with relatives. ("How's the job?" "Good...") There was a lot of time between the wedding and the reception (and at the reception itself), so we spent most of the time talking and catching up, which was nice. A wedding reception is a good venue for that sort of thing. (In particular, this one provided a good opportunity for my parents to meet Amber, and vice versa. It worked out pretty well.) One thing this wedding reception had that I have not seen before: personalized playing cards. Two decks per table at the reception. So not only did it give us something to do during some of the "dead time" before the reception started, but I was lucky enough to keep a deck for myself. Sweet. Props to whoever came up with that idea. I'll have to remember that one. They even gave us paper and pen so we could keep score!

There are a lot of traditions at wedding receptions. The dances, the cake "first cut", the flower-throwing, and so on. Who came up with all of these, and how did they stick? Some of them seem kind of silly. Not to mention, predictable. It would be refreshing if someone changed it up every once in a while. I'm not sure what one could do to "shake it up", exactly. And I think most people want most of the main traditions applied when they attend a reception. That's what they expect. Particularly, I imagine the bride and groom want to take part in the traditions themselves, since it will be their only opportunity, and going through all of the "wedding traditions" yourself must be half of the fun. (Or some percentage, at least.)

Wedding cake is the best cake out there, and deservedly so. My only qualm is that the pieces usually aren't big enough. I realize that everybody has to get a piece, but that's why you get such a big cake, right?

How late does one stay at a reception? Of course, that depends on a lot of factors. Amber and I left when my family left - there wasn't a whole lot of incentive to stick around after that, especially considering we had to make it back to State College at a "reasonable hour" (which ended up being around midnight). Our departure was shortly after the dancing had begun, of which there wasn't a whole lot of anyway. (I guess that sounds like a criticism, but it's not. It's not like I was going to go up there and dance.) We didn't stick around for the "flower-throw". I remember at the last wedding in May, I stayed a lot deeper into the "festivities", but that might just be because the reception started earlier (200p instead of 500p, I think). That's another responsibility of the bride and groom - you pretty much have to be the last ones to leave, right? Is there ever a time when they tell the few remaining guests "hey, it's time to go"? Or do guests generally know the "polite" time to leave? I've never stayed at a reception long enough to find out, so I don't know how that works.

I hope you've enjoyed this collection of random thoughts on wedding receptions. And unlike in Saturday's post, today you get a full slate of additional random thoughts!

Today's random thoughts:

1) First, a nights-by-county update. I spent three nights in State College last weekend, so as of last night, the score is currently Centre County 160, Wake County 84, with 98 nights remaining in 2006. What's the current outlook? Well, Wake's cushion is now down to 22 nights. Duval County (Jacksonville) will likely get 7 more nights (4 Thanksgiving, 3 Christmas), so Centre needs 8 more nights to win. It likely won't be decided until New Year's Weekend - it's going to be close. But I'd say Centre County is a 1-point favorite to win. (I don't encourage betting, however. I would get kind of suspicious if Amber bet $20 on Wake County.)
2) Road signage: "Reduce Speed Ahead" versus "Reduced Speed Ahead". One is a command, while the other is information. And the second is kind of assuming - it assumes the speed of the traffic flow is, in fact, reduced ahead. "Reduced Speed Limit Ahead" would be more accurate, but kind of unnecessary; the three-word version gets the message across just fine. I've noticed that North Carolina seems to have the command version, while other states opt for the informational version. I think I prefer the informational version - it's a little more welcoming. "Speed Zone Ahead" is another variation that I don't see as much.
3) I saw a "new" Head On commercial this weekend, featuring some woman cutting into the original commercial, mocking it and talking about how much she hates the commercial. (But she loves the product!) How stupid and lame. I have lost respect for Head On. Not only are they calling attention to themselves, but it wasn't funny. Why couldn't they just stick with the classic commercial? It's obviously quite effective. I was considering buying some Head On just for comic relief. But now...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"Weddings"

Today I'm attending my cousin's wedding in Erie, PA. So, I thought I'd use today's post to give some thoughts on weddings in general. And I am going to make no effort whatsoever to put smooth segways between paragraphs.

One thing I've always noticed about weddings is that the people involved often seem very stressed. But the thing is, you know that at the end of the day, the couple in question will be married at the end of the day. So why all the stress? I guess they want to make sure all the details work out as planned. But it remains, a wedding is one of the most deterministic activities out there.

I just realized that I've never been to a wedding that did not involve a family member. (Actually, I've always known this, but it looks better in writing to say "I just realized".) What does that mean, exactly? Well...most of the friends I've kept up with over the years, they haven't gotten married yet, so there obviously haven't been weddings. I haven't even been to that many weddings, period - I think today's wedding makes #4 lifetime. And the first of those, I was too young to remember. (I'm not even sure if I was there at all, quite honestly. But I think I was. Maybe I can ask someone today.) I don't know where that first wedding was, but the last three have all been in western Pennsylvania - Pittsburgh, North East, and now, Erie. (By the way, North East is indeed a town in western Pennsylvania. It's in northeastern Erie County, if that is any consolation.) And I'm pretty sure that first wedding wasn't in Florida, considering it involved an aunt and uncle that have never lived south of Tennessee, so I can say with 100% certainty that I have never attended a wedding in my original home state of Florida.

Since I started my job, two co-workers (both in the neighborhood of 27 years old) have gotten married. Both times, we had a "pot luck" food event to celebrate. (What do you call a bridal shower for the groom? Groomal shower? I guess that's what these were.) And...I have no idea where I'm going with this thread, except that I'm talking about weddings, and two co-workers have gotten married since I started the job.

This is an observation I've made about weddings in general. The main goal of a wedding is to make the bride look good. Everything is about the bride. And, that's perfectly fine with me. From a personal standpoint, anything that would take the attention off of me is a good thing.

I was the best man for my brother's wedding, so I had to make the "toast" at the reception, of course. I forget what my speech was about, but I think my goal was to make him look like the superior brother, and I think I did a good job with that. (Trust me...that isn't very hard to do.) The last wedding I went to was the first wedding I went to simply as an observer, not as an active participant. I'm not sure what I think about the fact that it took 24 years for that to happen. Maybe people just don't like me enough to invite me to their weddings. Family weddings, on the other hand - they pretty much have to invite me, right? Oh well.

And...I'm not going to have any random thoughts today, because that's basically what this entire post is, right? Actually, no - they're not random; they're all about weddings. Weekend posts aren't supposed to be that noteworthy anyway.

Friday, September 22, 2006

"More County Map Fun!"

Skip to the random thoughts (2...again)

(On location in State College, PA. But don't expect to see me in Walker Building today.)

I had some spare time at work this week, so I decided to have some more fun with these county maps. First off, I mentioned in one of the other posts that I was in the process of coloring the entire county map with just four colors so that no two counties of the same color would border each other. Well, this week, I finished:



Reading that book Amber let me borrow (which I never finished, and don't plan to - it's way too nerdy) actually helped me out. It gives a way to get out of precarious situations when a yet-to-be-colored county was bordered by all four colors. (It involves swapping the colors of a two-color "chain". I won't go into the details.) Recall that four-corner situations don't count. There were many four-corner instances on the map; I'm not sure if all of these are actually four-corners in real life, but given the resolution of the map, if it looked like a four-corner situation, I treated it as such. And in case you didn't notice, I chose to ignore Alaska and Hawaii.

I also used this map to figure out something about myself. I tried to use each color the same amount, but I probably used one color more than the others. Which color? And does that mean that is my favorite color? Well, here are the final totals: Green - 786; Blue - 779; Yellow - 777; Red - 770. Is green my favorite color? Hardly - this probably isn't a statistically significant difference anyway. (I didn't feel like finding out, but it has to be insignificant.) But I think I have an explanation for why I used green slightly more. Of the four colors, green stands out the most. Blue is dark, yellow is faint, red is...just red. Green is bright and vibrant.

I'm not the only one who created a counties-traveled-to map; Jeff [Frame] originally did, and Amber has created one as well. I decided to combine the three to produce a "co-op" map:



Now, to explain the color code. Red, blue, and yellow are the same as they were in my previous map. (So you don't have to go back and look: I've driven to red counties, been to blue counties since 2000, and been to yellow counties sometime before 2000.) I added in Amber's map first, and green counties are the ones she contributed. Then I added in Jeff's map, and the cyan counties are the ones he contributed on top of Amber's contributions. All the different colors are kind of dizzying, so here's the same map with just one color:



If you add up all of our contributions, what % of the country have we scoured? We have 1,458 of the 3,097 nationwide counties, for 47.08%. That's almost half of the country. Pretty impressive. Our top 5 states are Delaware (100%), Rhode Island (100%), Florida (99%), Pennsylvania (93%), and Connecticut (88%). Our bottom 5 states are Louisiana (5%), Mississippi (12%), Idaho (14%), New Hampshire (20%), and North Dakota (21%). (I know it looks like we have all of Massachusetts filled in, but we are missing two offshore counties - Dukes and Nantucket.)

I also decided to have a "competition" between the three of us. Which one of us has been to the most counties? I could count all of them one-by-one individually, but that's a boring competition. Instead, I decided to do it presidential-election style: whoever has been to the most counties in each state gets that state's electoral votes. So, I did this, and here are the state-by-state results with the # of votes for each state: (And by the way, I'm doing this with no clue who will win. I'm also assuming each map is accurate - although I noticed that Jeff filled in San Francisco Bay by mistake. How's the water?)

My states: AL-9, AR-6, DE-3, FL-27, GA-15, HI-4, LA-9, ME-4, MS-6, MT-3, NH-4, NY-31, NC-15, ND-3, SC-8, VT-3, VA-13, WA-11, WV-5
Jeff's states: AK-3, CO-9, CT-7, IL-21, IN-11, IA-7, KS-6, KY-8, MD-10, MI-17, MO-11, NE-5, NJ-15, OK-7, SD-3, TN-11, TX-34, WI-10
Amber's states: AZ-10, CA-55, ID-4, MA-12, NV-5, OH-20, OR-7, RI-4, UT-5, WY-3
Chris/Jeff tie: PA-21
Chris/Amber tie: MN-10, NM-5
Three-way tie: DC-3

Final totals:
Jeff - 205.5
Chris - 199
Amber - 133.5

As I was tabulating each state, I thought Jeff would own me, but it ended up pretty close. But if I didn't include Amber in the competition, I would have taken California, and would have won. Oh well. Hey, wait a second...nobody got the 270 votes needed for a majority. By the rules of the U.S. Constitution, don't we need a run-off?
With a run-off, we split Amber's states in this way:
Jeff (41 more) - MA, NV, OH, RI
Chris (81.5 more) - CA, ID, OR, UT, WY (plus sole possession of MN and NM)
Tie (5.5 more each) - AZ, DC
New final score: Chris 286, Jeff 252

Ha! I win.

Today's random thoughts:

1) Wednesday morning, I encountered my first accident-induced traffic jam on my way to work. I'm surprised it took this long to see one, but I guess that's a function of leaving early every day. I actually left much later than normal on Wednesday - just after 700a. If I had left at the normal time, might I have been involved in the accident? I didn't see any car wreckage or anything, so I'm not sure how bad the crash was. The traffic reports on the radio didn't indicate it was anything serious.
2) I got a free hat in the mail this week! Wahoo! It was an ESPN GamePlan hat from Time Warner Cable. Time Warner was simply showing their appreciation for my purchase of ESPN GamePlan during the "early bird" period (before the season started). Hey, I'll take a free hat. (Well...only if the free hat isn't part of the 2nd-place prize at a Hiway Pizza championship poker tournament.)

(I realize these are both "shorts" and not random thoughts, and this is a general trend of my blog as of late, but I haven't been feeling as creative lately. Maybe next week.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"A Typical Week"

Skip to the random thoughts (2)

I've noticed that each day of the work week seems to have its own "personality" - not just at work, but after work as well. How so? Let's discuss! I should also note that this week doesn't really apply to the template, since I worked on Sunday and will not be working tomorrow. A little more on that later. But, let's start with the (usual) start of the work week...

Monday: Generally, people don't like Mondays. Me? Eh. If I just came off of an "active" weekend, then my mood is...well, bittersweet. Yeah, the weekend's over, but I had a good time, and it's time to get back to work. If the weekend was "just me", then Monday isn't that much different than any other day of the week. By Sunday afternoon on a two-day "just me" weekend, most of the time I'm actually looking forward to going into work the next day. So, Mondays aren't really that bad. As far as evening activity goes, I use Monday to get stuff done - sometimes it's laundry day, but it's almost always grocery store day.

Tuesday: Tuesday still seems like it's near the beginning of the week, so Tuesday seems like just another day - it sticks out far less than any other day of the week. Tuesday evening used to be "bar poker night", but starting last week, Tuesday is now Durham/Chapel Hill disc golf day. The Durham/Chapel Hill courses are my favorites in the area, so I look forward to these days - perhaps more than I should.

Wednesday: "Hump day". Congratulations, you made it to the middle of the week! Now the weekend seems within reach. Yes, as a 40-hour-worker, I am now pretty much living for the weekends. But that's what you do to make a decent living. (In grad school, I wasn't just living for the weekends, I was living for every afternoon. Heh.) Once I get through Wednesday, the weekend seems near, even if it isn't really. Wednesday evening is also now "bar poker" night, which isn't as anticipated as it used to be, just because the bar poker format involves so little "real" poker anymore - it's actually kind of a drag now.

Thursday: On its own, Thursday is my least favorite day of the week. That's disregarding the fact that it's closer to the weekend than most other days. Thursday by itself isn't much fun. Maybe it's because it's not as close to the weekend at it seems, because I still have to work again the next day. I also have no regular Thursday afternoon/evening activity. Sometimes I play a short round of disc golf at a nearby course, but usually I just hang out at home. And the work day isn't as interesting on these days - usually the stuff I started earlier in the week is winding down by now, so I don't have as much work to do.

Friday: Friday is, of course, the most anticipated day of the week. "Getaway" Fridays (ones where I leave town) are much anticipated. But what about the Fridays of "just me" weekends? Yeah, I look forward to Friday, but...eh, they aren't really that exciting, just because I haven't done a whole lot on those Fridays. I've been trying to get up with some people on Fridays, but the timing hasn't quite worked out on that yet. (Maybe next week?) In the meantime, I've tried to do other stuff. For instance, I drove to Burlington and played disc golf after work last Friday at the 38-hole double course. That was okay. As for the work day itself, I do a lot more clock watching on Fridays than other days, of course - and usually get less work done.

This week didn't fit the template at all, as far as what each day "felt" like. The fact that I worked on Sunday screwed everything up. I've said this before, but I really enjoy working on Sunday. Sundays are quite productive, there's no traffic, and when I get home and resume usual Sunday activities, it's almost as if I wasn't even at work that day. Monday still kind of felt like Monday, even though I was at work the previous day. I'm not sure what Tuesday felt like, but Wednesday definitely had the Thursday feel to it. And today absolutely feels like a "getaway" Friday, because it pretty much is - I'm driving to State College after work. Wahoo!

Today's random thoughts:

1) Maybe it's just me, but I think the first two Family Guy episodes of the new season have been sub-par. They're getting too ridiculous, and they're relying on ridiculousness to be funny more than simple jokes, and it's coming up flat most of the time. That, and the Quagmire sex jokes need to stop. They're far too predictable, and they're not funny. I think Quagmire needs to take a three-episode break. Again, maybe it's just me, but I think the Quagmire sex-joke-to-total-air-time ratio has gone up exponentially over the past couple of seasons.
2) More grocery-store-related fun! A lot of people must go straight to the grocery store after work - I can tell this based on how they're dressed. In a lot of places, you'd look out of place being dressed up, but for some reason the grocery store isn't one of those places - maybe that's because it's so commonplace. It does seem more in-place at a place like Harris Teeter. I think someone would look kind of silly wearing a suit and tie at, say, Piggly Wiggly. But I wonder if there's anyone out there who dresses up specifically to go to the grocery store. Actually, I can see an old retired woman doing that. (As for me, I always go home first after work and change into shorts. Would you expect anything less?)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"The Diabolical Scheme Thwarter: Issue #4"

Skip to the random thoughts (2, but they're long)

As you may have already figured out, most of the DST's story lines are inspired by my own personal experiences. But not exactly - I usually start with something that happened, and then either greatly exaggerate it, or make up a bunch of other stuff around it.

#4: Wal-Mart Supercenter

One day, the DST decided that he needed some new underwear, so he hitched a ride to the local Wal-Mart Supercenter with his neighbor. His neighbor didn't really need to get anything at Wal-Mart; he just wanted to get out of his apartment for a few minutes.

In theory, this should have been a quick trip. Get your underwear, and get out. But unfortunately, it was not that simple. First of all, Wal-Mart is always crowded, so they had to park their car far away from the front doors. Then, they had to find the underwear section - finding anything in a Wal-Mart Supercenter can be a daunting task. And then, the DST discovered that they were out of his size of Fruit of the Loom, so he had to get the generic brand, even though they will likely grow holes faster. Then, they had to get in line. Because the registers were grossly understaffed and the lines were spilling out into the aisles (even the so-called "express lane"), he had to use self-checkout. But there were even lines at the self-checkout registers! The self-checkout lines were a little shorter, but there was still the guy in front of him who struggled with the bagging procedure.

In any event, he finally got his underwear, but it took far longer than it should have. Why is Wal-Mart so popular? They're crowded, large, often poorly stocked, sometimes dirty, and the service sucks. But they have low prices, and they're often the closest department store to home, so apparently that's enough to get people to show up. It's a cleverly disguised form of bribery. Doesn't this sound like a diabolical scheme to you? Why can't they have low prices and actually give a crap about their customers? The DST decided to get to the bottom of this.

The DST figured that the Trauma Llama was somehow involved in Wal-Mart's success. But he can't just call the Trauma Llama - he's always changing his phone number. But perhaps, the DST sensed this may go beyond the Trauma Llama's realm of influence. The DST certainly has no problem with the Wal-Mart corporation being as prosperous as they are - they are one of the great American success stories. But are they really making the world a better place? Not with their continued customer negligence and brainwashing people with low prices, they're not. What can the DST do about this? Can he change the course of a multi-billion dollar corporation?

(This is called "digging yourself into a hole", caused by writing a story without thinking it all the way through beforehand. Hmm...I don't want to start over, so how can I get the DST out of this and provide some semblance of a thwarted diabolical scheme, and still make it at least slightly believeable?)

(...Eh, screw believability. This is my story. I want a happy ending.)

The DST took a programming class in college, and one of his neighbor's friends works at Wal-Mart, so through the friend, he was able to hack into Wal-Mart's central computer system and increase the prices of every item in the store by 40%. (Use your imagination on how the DST disguised himself as a Wal-Mart employee.) Now, it would only be a matter of time before people would take notice, and go to a store like Target with better service, and now, lower prices. Two weeks later, the local Wal-Mart parking lot was half full. A month after that, Wal-Mart head of operations Sam Walton VIII announced that he would be closing hundreds of stores nationwide, and that he "wishes Wal-Mart could be more like K-Mart". Soon thereafter, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was purchased jointly by Meijer Inc. and Publix Supermarkets, thus ending Wal-Mart's reign over society as we knew it.

Triumphant, the DST then received a phone call: "Trauma Llama Ding Dong! I just wanted to thank you for bringing down Wal-Mart once and for all. But trust me...this is the last time we will agree on anything. Next week, we will be enemies once again. Toodle-oo!"

The end.

Today's random thoughts:

1) This is kind of hard to describe, but take a certain drive long enough, and eventually certain "images" on the drive become "trademark" to the drive, at least with me. I'm not talking about things on the side of the road, I'm talking about the road itself - certain curves and hills, things like that. You come up on a certain hill, and it's like "yeah, I know this hill". It's kind of hard to describe. But anyway, now in my 13th week of commuting to work, I think I'm up to that point on I-40. I reached that point on I-10 between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, for sure - most notably, the big hill just east of exit 225. You get quite a view coming eastbound off that thing. As much as I've driven from State College to Jacksonville and Raleigh (Cary), I'm not anywhere near that level of road familiarity yet. (The road's too long, and the drives have been too infrequent, at least so far.)
2) It's been a while since I've talked about grocery stores, eh? Well...a while back, I talked about how long it takes to know from memory where everything is located in a grocery store, to the point where I can order my grocery list beforehand at home. Well, at Lowe's Foods, I'm getting there. I can't pre-order the list, but when I'm at the store, I get everything in order and usually don't have to double-back and get something I missed. Contrast that to Harris Teeter, where this week I had to double back twice. I don't go there frequently enough to know that store well - I usually only go there when I have to make a stop at Wal-Mart (which is next door). As implied by today's post, I much prefer Target over Wal-Mart, but Target is far less convenient to get to than Wal-Mart. It was nice having Target right next to Wegmans. This Wal-Mart is not a supercenter, however, so it's not so bad.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Instant Messenger Contests"

Skip to the random thoughts (3)

It's time for another completely random topic! Since I'm now on AIM Semi-Hiatus (which isn't going away anytime soon, by the way), I no longer put much effort into making the AOL Instant Messenger experience entertaining for all. But, I used to...did I ever. By-the-numbers hasn't always been in my profile. It was there freshman year of college, and came back between FSU and PSU, I think. What did I do in between? Surely, I didn't have a blank profile. Instead, I ran contests. I think I actually had more fun running the contests than anybody had participating in them.

So what kind of contests did I have? These are ones I remember:

Longest Online Contest (LOC): By far, the longest-tenured of my contests, and the only one cool enough to be known by a three-letter abbreviation. I ran this thing for three years. What is it? It's based on a simple concept - who can accumulate the most online time? AIM veterans know that when you hover over someone's screen name on your buddy list, their online time pops up. I used different "point systems" throughout the contest, but the concept remained the same - the longer you've been online, the more points you get. Whoever accumulates the most points in a semester wins. I participated in the first LOC, and I actually won it. Isn't it bad form to win your own contest? (I didn't participate after that.) The longest online time anyone accumulated during the LOC was 45 days. (I made it to 27 days once.) After a while, to give people without permanent internet connections a fair competition, I included a second LOC contest: every night when I check the scoring, if you're online, you get a point. (Every semester, there would be at least one person who got every possible point. There were often two or three.) Some people took this contest very seriously. I know one guy whose computer crashed, but for some reason he was still showing up on AIM. So instead of rebooting his computer, he left his computer in its crashed state, solely for the purpose of accumulating LOC points. He made it to 16 days before his friend got pissed and literally pulled the plug on him.

Away Message of the Week: This wasn't intended to be a contest, but that's what it turned into. I merely wanted it to be "an exhibition of outstanding away messages". But publish something in your AIM profile with something that appears to be a "winner", and that's a contest. Which is unfortunate, because I don't like contests where winners are "judged". With the LOC, it was clear-cut. But with something like this, I had to decide on my own which away message was the most creative each week. I could have put it to a vote, but as you'll see in some of my other contests, people tended to cheat in "voting" contests. This contest didn't last long - a few weeks at the most.

College Football Pick'em: I think I only ran this once. It was simple - I picked five games each week from across the country. If you predict the winner correctly (straight-up), you get a point. I also designated a "game of the week" which was worth two points. (Last week, for example, Auburn/LSU would have been the "game of the week".) This was fun, but I didn't do this again the next year because other people were doing similar contests, and there are a million places online where you can do college football pick'em.

Popularity Contest: I'm not sure what I was thinking when I started this contest, but it was simple - I had a bracket, and included everybody in the LOC in the contest (and gave people a week to "opt-out" if they didn't want to participate). Every day, two people would "compete". People voted for one person or the other. Person with the most votes wins. The problem with this was, of course, people cheated. I only allowed one vote per person, and keeping track of IP addresses and things like that through the medium I used to keep track of votes (through IMchaos.com) got to be more trouble than it was worth. If only there was something like AIMfight.com back then - then running this contest would be easy.

College Popularity Contest: Same idea with the popularity contest, but instead of people, I did it with colleges. In the style of March Madness, I included 65 colleges that were represented in my buddy list and in voting for the popularity contest. And because I grew weary of tracking down cheaters, this time I let people vote as many times as they wanted, however they wanted. There was no such thing as cheating this time around. Well, it didn't take people long to write scripts that automatically sent thousands of votes to the IMchaos server, and that produced some interesting results. (#1 seed Florida State lost in the first round to #16 seed Presbyterian College.) I couldn't find the bracket on my computer, unfortunately. This contest never reached its conclusion - we reached the Final Four, but the script-automated voting became so intense towards the end that we would repeatedly crash the IMchaos server. So before the national semifinal between Ohio State and Washington, I told everybody: if you crash the IMchaos server again, the contest is over, with no winner. Guess what happened? The other two schools in the Final Four were UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), and I forget the school that made it out of the South region. For some reason, I think it was one of the obscure Florida schools, like Florida International or Stetson or someone like that.

You know, that college popularity contest would be fun to do again, especially since I now know a much more geographically diverse network of people. But, I'm too lazy to find a good medium for hosting the contest. Suggestions are welcome.

Today's random thoughts:

1) Often times, listening to Oldies Radio (Fayetteville! Lumberton!) is a struggle because other stations are competing with me to send me their signal. I was always wondering what that other station was, or more specifically, where the station is from. Well, I found out: 106.9 The Fox, Hampton Roads. There might be other stations competing too - this is a classic rock station, and later on my drive I heard the Beatles trying to wade their way into my signal. (I'm 100% sure it wasn't Oldies Radio that was playing the Beatles then.) Do classic rock stations play the Beatles? If not, there might be a third station in competition. But if all my problems are caused by 106.9 The Fox, it baffles me how a station as far away as Norfolk can compete with nearby Fayetteville. Norfolk is much farther away.
2) (If you don't know statistics, you might want to skip this one.) Why is it called "linear regression"? "Regression" is such a negative term - it's the opposite of "progression". By performing a regression on a set of data, are we truly regressing in our understanding of the data?
3) Yeah, so in case you haven't noticed, I changed the blog text font from Georgia to Trebuchet. I've always been a fan of Trebuchet. That, and I don't appreciate the way the Georgia font does numbers, with their off-vertical nature and all.

Monday, September 18, 2006

"Elementary School"

Skip to the random thoughts (3)

Yes, this is a completely random topic. You see, whenever I think of a good post topic that could serve as a post on any day, I add it to a list of topics that I use as post topics for "slow" or "uninspired" days. I was just thinking back to elementary school one day, and I decided I could make a post talking about memories of elementary school. Today, I'm going to ramble about them in the hopes of putting together a somewhat-satisfactory post.

First off, I was curious: I attended Fort Caroline Elementary from 1988 to 1993. How many teachers that were there then are still there now? And how many of my teachers are still there? (And this is where I lose everybody who's reading this post, except for my brother, perhaps. Don't worry - this is the only paragraph that's name-specific.) Of my five teachers, three are still there (1st/Shannonhouse, 2nd/Adams, 3rd/Hughes). And the gifted teacher (Manley) is still there, too. Ah, I had some good memories with gifted. The one day a week where it was okay to be a little nerdy kid! I must have made quite an impression on Mrs. Manley - apparently she still talked about me years after I left. (That's according to some of the younger kids I knew in Boy Scouts.) The P.E. teacher (Hayes) is also still there. He was cool. Everybody liked him. Or maybe everybody just liked playing outside. Being an elementary P.E. teacher has to be one of the most fun jobs out there. (Speaking of which, when do kids stop calling it "P.E." and start calling it "gym"? 6th grade?) As for the other teachers, I recognized a few other names on that list (how can you forget Dragoo?), but it's kind of sad that my trio of 5th-grade teachers has completely departed. (I've talked about the Kindergarten clock story before, but that was at a different school. Fort Caroline didn't have kindergarten until later. But as reported by James, my kindergarten teacher is still teaching at the same school, except now she teaches 1st grade instead of kindergarten. I wonder if I had anything to do with that...)

And speaking of gifted, in 5th grade gifted I did a report on hurricanes. This was my first documented meteorological research. The report was video-taped...I wonder if it's archived at school somewhere. I would like to watch it now - knowing what I now know about hurricanes, I'm sure it's completely wrong. I don't remember much about the content of the report, but I'm sure it was a winner - worthy of publication in an AMS journal, even. But it wasn't as cool as my 4th-grade gifted report on Yugoslavia.

Another thing I remember from elementary school is these plays we used to do. The music teacher (who has since left) used to organize plays - one for each grade, throughout the year. (I don't think there was a 1st-grade play, but there was a 2nd-grade play for sure.) They were fun. I remember being some kind of duck or chicken or something in 2nd grade. That's the only role I remember having. I remember that one because a few nights before they announced who would play whom, I had a dream that I was playing "Chucky" (one of the duck/chicken/whatever-type things) in said play. And guess who I ended up playing? I think Chucky was his name, anyway. His role was nothing like the Child's Play Chucky, sadly. That would have been fun. Anyway, I don't think I really enjoyed doing these plays. I remember asking the teacher when I was a kid, "Why do we put on these plays anyway?" "Entertainment!" Well...I guess. But now I know the real reason for these plays - it's to get parents to come to the PTA meetings. They'd always have the plays right after the PTA meetings. Clever strategy, I think. But much like my 5th-grade report on hurricanes, I would like to watch these plays again. I bet they're hilarious. Watching little kids try to act has to be a riot.

One more thing about elementary school. I remember walking through the hallways of my elementary school while in middle school a couple of years later. The hallways seemed so much smaller. Obviously, that's just because I had grown, and my perspectives had changed. But I wonder what the hallways would look like now. And I'd like to see my middle school hallways too - I remember walking through them while in elementary school, and they were huge. Maybe I should go back and see. And say hello to Mrs. Manley while I'm there. She might even recognize me - my appearance has changed a lot over the years, but now I pretty much look like the same nerd I did back in elementary school (except with more hair). I think it would be nice to see my other teachers too, if nothing else to see what they look like now that I'm not short. Obviously, they all seemed very tall when I was in elementary school. I think it would be funny to go back and realize that one of my "tall" teachers is actually only 4'9". That might freak me out, actually - kind of like my world crashing down on me. Hmm.

Today's random thoughts:

1) I don't like Sunday morning radio. Most radio stations have these specialty shows or whatever that play weird stuff or have a theme or something. What if I just want normal radio? I guess people would rather have these "specialty shows". I think satellite radio is in my future at some point - then it won't be an issue.
2) I'm not going to give a full recap of Saturday's football games, but I will say this. Next time I watch a full day of college football, I'm going to count how many times I hear the word "indisputable". (As in, you need "indisputable video evidence" to overturn a call on instant replay.) I bet it's at least 50. Memo to college football broadcasters everywhere: We get it now.
3) As a "meteorologist", I always enjoy reading things like this in news stories. This is from the AP: "[Hurricane] Lane is expected to dissipate as it moves inland, forecasters with the U.S. National Hurricane Center said." Yeah, no kidding. I can envision how this conversation took place: AP - "What is your intensity forecast as Lane moves inland?" NHC - "Seriously?" AP - "Yes." NHC - "Well, we expect Lane to weaken." AP - "Thank you for your time." Isn't the fact that hurricanes weaken over land common enough knowledge that it doesn't require a citation? The article might as well have said this: "Lane is expected to dissipate as it moves inland, according to Chris Allen of Cary, NC."

Saturday, September 16, 2006

"College Football Saturday #2"

Skip to the random thoughts (3)

I'm going to do just like I did last Saturday and list all of the college football games available to me on TV today - if nothing else, for my own personal benefit. I can afford to be selfish in my own blog, right? A couple of subtle differences this week - I'm not going to place games on specific TVs right now, just generally "prioritize" them, because last week I constantly changed games' positions depending on excitement, halftimes, and so on. I'm also going to list every game that's on, regardless of how much I plan to ignore them. (Every game that involves at least one I-A team, that is.) Once again, I don't have anything better to do today. (I'll probably make a post like this every Saturday I plan to watch college football. When I actually have something better to do, like next Saturday, I'll post something else.)

Time slot 1 - I don't know how many of these games I'm actually going to watch. The best games are all 330p or later.
Game 1: South Florida at Central Florida, 230p, CSTV: Why can't they start this game at noon? It's a shame this game will probably get lost in the rotation once 330p rolls around, but I'll definitely keep my eye on it throughout.
Game 2: Michigan State at Pittsburgh, 1200p, ESPN GamePlan: It's a good thing I have GamePlan, because this game is being given regional coverage on ESPN2 (along with BYU/Boston College), and this is the only noon game I really care that much about.
Game 3: Iowa State at Iowa, 1200p, ESPN: Hopefully Iowa will play better this week than they did last week. Do they get their starting quarterback back this week? Maybe I should have looked that up, especially since I had to pick this game for Dirty Dawg.
Game 4: BYU at Boston College, 1200p, ESPN2: I could probably watch no football until 230p today and not feel like I missed anything. By then, we'll know which of the noon games are "exciting", and that's when USF/UCF starts. Hmm...maybe that's not such a bad idea.
Game 5: Arkansas at Vanderbilt, 1230p, ESPN GamePlan: The grudge match! You can throw out the records when Arkansas and Vanderbilt take the field.
Game 6: Duke at Virginia Tech, 1200p, Local TV: It's pretty sad when Jefferson Pilot is showing this. But Clemson/FSU is the only other intra-ACC game this week, so I guess they didn't really have a choice.
Game 7: Cincinnati at Ohio State, 1200p, ESPN GamePlan: This week's Troy/FSU-style "letdown"? One can only hope. But I think the Cincinnati defense better prepare for plenty of Justin Zwick in the second half.
Game 8: Marshall at Kansas State, 1230p, FSN: Marshall has won this game before. Only if it happens this year, nobody will care.
Game 9: UAB at Georgia, 100p, ESPN GamePlan: Umm...let's just move onto the next time slot.

Time slot 2
Game 1: LSU at Auburn, 330p, CBS: I love watching SEC football on CBS. Maybe it's the just because of the CBS theme music. I think CBS's college football and college basketball theme music is among the best in sports.
Game 2: Michigan at Notre Dame, 330p, NBC: Dear Notre Dame - If you beat Michigan this week, we'll call it even. Sincerely, Penn State. (For the record, that fake punt ND pulled on PSU last week didn't bother me. Maybe that's just because I wasn't watching the game at that point.)
Game 3: Miami (FL) at Louisville, 330p, ABC: Who do you think I'm rooting for in this one?
Game 4: Oklahoma at Oregon, 330p, ESPN GamePlan: I'll admit, the Oregon uniforms are starting to grow on me. Even the yellow ones. But they still need to get rid of that crap on the shoulders.
Game 5: Texas Tech at TCU, 530p, OLN: Since when did OLN start showing college football games? I guess pretty much every sports channel shows college football these days.
Game 6: Idaho State at Idaho, 500p, ESPN GamePlan: Rivalry game? If Washington v. Washington State is the "Apple Cup", this game should be the "Potato Cup". This game intrigues me more than it should. Maybe it's just because I want to see Idaho's home field, the "Kibbie Dome". It looks cool in the video game, I know that much.
Game 7: Ohio at Rutgers, 500p, ESPN GamePlan: After beating UNC and Illinois to start the season, I wouldn't put it past Rutgers to lose this one. (I thought I'd remind everybody that Ohio is coached by former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, and that they beat Pittsburgh last year.)
Game 8: Mississippi at Kentucky, 600p, ESPN GamePlan: Interesting how the SEC schedule makers grouped everybody together this week - good teams playing good teams, and crappy teams playing crappy teams.
Game 9: San Diego State at Wisconsin, 330p, ESPN GamePlan: The Big Ten season can't start soon enough.
Game 10: Texas at Rice, 600p, ESPN2: Why, ESPN? Why??? (I know why. Ratings. People watch Texas. But not me.)

Time slot 3
Game 1: Clemson at Florida State, 745p, ESPN: I made my Clemson-over-FSU prediction well before they were exposed by Troy. No way I'm changing it now. Yes, I'm a pessimistic FSU fan. Proactive pessimism - it works! (But really, how could anyone watch that game last week and not think we're going to lose tonight?)
Game 2: Florida at Tennessee, 800p, CBS: Who do you think I'm rooting for in this one? (By the way, I would much rather listen to Verne Lundquist than Brent Musberger. No contest.)
Game 3: Nebraska at USC, 800p, ABC: This game (and the games below it) probably won't get much of my attention, at least early.
Game 4: Arizona State at Colorado, 700p, TBS: Memo to the University of Colorado at Boulder: they're not called Buffaloes. They're called Bison. This has always bothered me.
Game 5: Fresno State at Washington, 630p, FCS Pacific: I love Fresno State. Every non-conference game they play has intrigue. (By the way, they're at LSU on October 21st.)
Game 6: Navy at Stanford, 1030p, FCS Central: This game will probably serve as something to flip to during the commercials during the final moments of FSU/Clemson and UF/Tennessee.
Game 7: Army v. Texas A&M, 915p, ESPN2: Last I checked, the Aggies were 27-point favorites. Umm...
Game 8: Wofford at South Carolina, 700p, ESPN GamePlan: I heard somewhere that one out of every six male students at Wofford is on the football team. Good luck, guys!
Game 9: Louisiana-Monroe at Alabama, 700p, ESPN GamePlan: Yawn.
Game 10: Nicholls State at Louisiana Tech, 700p, ESPN GamePlan: Anyone know if they're showing this game in HD?
Game 11: Stephen F. Austin at Arizona, 1000p, FCS Pacific: Bed time! Seriously, how bad are some of these late games?

So, that's 30 games available to me. See, that's another thing college football has on the NFL. More games on TV. And ESPN GamePlan is half the price of NFL Sunday Ticket. And I can't even get Sunday Ticket because it's only on DirecTV and my apartment faces the wrong way. Simple math: 30 games > 4 games. And by the time Sunday rolls around, I'm usually tired of football anyway. In fact, I'm not even going to watch football on Sunday. I'm actually working on Sunday. So there.

Today's random thoughts:

1) A while ago, I mentioned how I like to park in one of the five parking spots visible from my office window at work. Well, I almost always get one of those spots - in fact, I almost always get the middle spot of the five. That's the spot. That's my reward for getting up early. I guess most people in this building show up just before 800a - that's when the spots fill.
2) I saw "tall guy" on Monday, but I haven't seen him since. That's four straight days. Did he go on vacation? If so, why didn't he take Monday off too? Maybe he just doesn't park on this side of the parking lot anymore.
3) Here's something that I should have included in yesterday's post - I guess this is a downside of writing the day before and posting early in the morning. But, anyway: March 15th is also known as the "Ides of March", mostly thanks to Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Why don't you ever hear "Ides" applied to any other month? Yesterday was the "Ides of September." I think that has a nice ring to it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

"If I Had a Million Dollars..."

Skip to the random thoughts (2) <--the (2) means there are only two thoughts today.

What would you do if you had a million dollars? That's a popular question to answer - people have fun talking about what they would do given the freedom of a large sum of cash. It's everybody's dream. But I think the question needs to be updated, because a million dollars probably isn't enough to live comfortably for the rest of your life. If a million dollars were to suddenly drop in my lap, I wouldn't quit my job. So...what would you do if you had ten million dollars? Then, most people would quit their jobs. I'm not going to answer that question today - instead I'm going to talk about why winning the lottery may not be the best thing.

"Money can't buy happiness" is a popular cliché. While that is true, for most people, some money is necessary for happiness. If I didn't have a job and was poor, I might be "happy", but probably not as happy as I am now. So, I need some money to be happy, so that I can live a stable life. In addition to enabling me to pay rent and get around town, money also allows for the purchasing of material things like video games, theme park tickets, fried chicken, and digital cable - these things definitely increase my happiness. (Do they make me happy? Not really; they just bump up the already-established happiness.) So while money can't buy happiness, it can buy things that help contribute to happiness. If I were to receive a million dollars tomorrow, I would be able to buy even more material things. Would it make me that much happier? Maybe a little. At the very least, I would be able to get a digital camera.

But besides seemingly unlimited access to material things, people don't want to work. So, they play the lottery. The lottery is immensely popular. Why? Well, the dream of a life of financial security and unlimited access to material things is certainly one reason. But also, people don't understand statistics. 14,000,000-to-1? Most people can't comprehend what that means. Let me put it this way. Let's say you play the "Cash 3" - it amounts to picking a three-digit number correctly. Your odds of winning the "Cash 3" are 1,000-to-1. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? Well, if you play every day for a year, your chances of winning at least once during the year are 30.6%. That means there's more than a 2-to-1 chance that you won't win all year. And this game is only 1,000-to-1. Now try decreasing your odds by more than four orders of magnitude. 14,000,000-to-1? No thanks. I don't play the lottery. I did buy one lottery ticket once - I mean, these things only cost $1. But that's where they get you. Those dollars add up. So, I stopped at one ticket. I have a set of six numbers that I use, and of course, I've never seen those numbers win any lottery. But, I won't complain about the lottery - it's definitely made a positive difference in my life. Through the state of Florida's Bright Futures Scholarship program, which is funded by the Florida Lottery, I didn't have to pay for my college education. So, because people don't understand probability and statistics, I went to college for free. Isn't America great? (By the way, buying one ticket per lottery, you would have to play a 14,000,000-to-1 lottery twice a week for 93,308 years to increase your chances of winning at least once to 50%.)

Let's suppose you did happen to win the lottery. Great! You quit your job. You buy a new house, a new car, countless material things, and you even go on that European vacation you've always dreamed of. You also do everything else you've ever wanted to do. Well, congratulations! By age 30, you've accomplished all of your life goals. Now what? You've already done everything; what else is there to do? And that's where I think winning the lottery may not be a good thing. Freedom to do whatever you want is great for a while, but isn't a recipe for long-term happiness. Some things need to be kept from you for a while, but still within reach in your lifetime. That's what keeps me going. There are a lot of things I want to do in my life. If I won the lottery, I would probably be able to do all of them in three years or less. But under the current 40-hour-work-week and two-weeks-vacation system, it will be quite a while before I can accomplish them. And that (among other things) will make life worth living for a very long time. Every day can't be a vacation. If every day were a vacation, would it even be a vacation?

I'm not really sure how to finish this post, so let's just end it here.

Today's random thoughts:

1) I saw a personalized license plate yesterday that said "ASK TELL". What's that supposed to mean? Is that the opposite of "Don't ask, don't tell"? No; that's a double negative, so maybe it's the same. But actually it's not the same, if you look at it as a mathematical implication. "Don't ask --> Don't tell" is equivalent to "Tell --> Ask", but not "Ask --> Tell". Clearly, this guy did not think this through when he got his license plate. But I will give him this - it's much easier to remember his license plate than my 3-letter/4-number special.
2) What color are mashed potatoes - yellow or white? For some reason I thought they were yellow - that's probably because many other people (not me) put butter in them, and that makes them yellow. But they're white.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Soda (Pop)"

Skip to the random thoughts

First off, let me get this out of the way. Some people call it "soda", some "pop", others "Coke". The thing is, it isn't a personal preference at all - it's a function of where you grew up. There is no "right" or "wrong" term for it; it's regional. So let's all get over it and just get along. I call it soda, because that's what I learned when I was young. (There are some curiousities on that map that I'd like to mention. For one thing, why are St. Louis and Milwaukee/Green Bay "soda", but all of the surrounding areas "pop"? Also, what's with the strong gradient across the Pennsylvania appalachians? And, I'm proud to live in one of the most confused states of them all.)

I'm going to talk about a lifetime of drinking soda. My habits have periodically changed throughout my life. I started out on diet soda, because that's what my parents got at the store. Then, one fateful day in high school, I had a regular Sprite, followed immediately by a Diet Sprite. At this point, I realized how much better regular soda tasted. So, I converted to regular soda. That lasted until, I think, the summer between my FSU graduation and grad school, and I came to a realizaton. Diet soda isn't that bad, if that's all you drink. As long as you don't have regular soda, then diet soda tastes okay, because it's the best that you know. So, I converted back to diet soda, and subsequently lost about 20 pounds. Then sometime in grad school, I almost removed soda from my drinking habits completely, opting for water instead. But lately, I've hopped back onto the diet soda train.

Unlike with diet soda (which I'll get to later), I would drink almost any regular soda. I was a big fan of generic soda, in particular - it was cheap, and it was still good. I would still get the name brand stuff when on sale, because you simply can't beat Coca-Cola Classic. But with generic soda, you sometimes have more variety. Case in point: Winn-Dixie's store brand Chek soda. I forget how many different flavors they have, but it might be over 20. Junior year at FSU, we tried them all. The only one I didn't like was Red Cream, which was probably the worst soda I've ever had. It was undrinkable. Lemonade soda, however? Good stuff. Cherry Citrus (aka Code Red)? Aww yeah. Strawberry? It doesn't get any better than that. In fact, I developed an obsession with generic strawberry soda during my college years. I would collect them. I think the main idea behind this is because one of my roommates collected generic "doctor" sodas, and I thought it was cool, and wanted to do something similar. Doctor sodas are much cooler though, because of all the great generic names they get. My favorite is, of course, Piggly Wiggly's "Mr. Pig". I still have an unopened bottle of Mr. Pig on display in my apartment. (It's unopened because I've had some, and let's just say it doesn't taste more like regular Dr. Pepper.)

But, the days of strawberry soda and Faygo are gone, because I'm only drinking diet soda now. Unlike with regular soda, not every diet soda is what I would call "drinkable". I don't really have a rotation, but there are certain sodas I try to get. Coca-Cola Zero is one of my newer favorites - so much better than Diet Coke. Diet Dr. Pepper really does taste more like regular Dr. Pepper. (More than what? They don't say on the commercials.) And I'm not ashamed to say that I like Fresca. I've mentioned Diet SunDrop before, which is kind of like Fresca, except it's a North Carolina product, it's (sometimes) cheaper, and it's much cooler. Those are pretty much the standard selections I look for at the grocery store. I also have some "Our Family" diet cola from Piggly Wiggly that I got in Kinston last weekend - it's not very good, but I thought I'd give it a try anyhow. Oh well.

My senior year at FSU, I decided to save all of my soda cans, and build a tower next to my fridge at home. I usually drank two or three sodas per day back then, so after a few months, I had an impressive-looking tower. I think I had over 450 cans at one point. Then, one day, I closed the fridge a little too quickly, and the cans came tumbling down. That was a sad day. The other day, I decided I'd like to do this again. Problem is, there isn't a good place in my apartment to build such a tower. You can't really do it on carpet; it's not stable enough. And there isn't a spot in my kitchen that I can afford to give up. So, I'm going to place the cans on top of the cabinets and cupboards in the kitchen. I'm not sure how it's going to turn out, but it will probably be a while before anything "cool" materializes. So far, I'm up to 2 cans. Wahoo! I'll keep you posted.

Today's random thoughts:

1) For a variety of lame reasons, I've now "officially" switched bar poker night from Tuesday to Wednesday. Last night was my first Wednesday event at Sunset Grille. It's further away than the Tuesday bar, but there are fewer players, this place smells less like cigarette smoke, and Wednesday is a better night for me. The only problem with this place is that the tables aren't poker-friendly - they just threw green tarps over the long/narrow dinner tables. But that's fine - I think the new poker night will stay. "Bar poker Tuesday" had a nice run - almost an entire year.
2) I've been at my job for 11 weeks now, and that's enough to give me two sick days, and two days of vacation. Wahoo! Not that I'm going to be using the vacation anytime soon, but it's nice to know.
3) Just thought I'd warn you today: I've been running dry on random thoughts lately, so from now on, you might not get three thoughts every day. But I still have plenty of post topics, so I'm still keeping the 6 posts/week pace.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Kinston, NC"

Skip to the random thoughts

As I mentioned in a self-serving comment on Saturday's post, Saturday's day of sitting around watching college football didn't really do it for me. Fortunately, Sunday gave me a chance to get something out of last weekend. When in doubt...drive somewhere! When unsure of where to drive...drive to a disc golf course! When unsure of which disc golf course to drive to...follow the advice given in a comment from the last disc golf post! Let's go to Kinston, shall we?

Kinston is about 1½ hours east of Raleigh (Cary). Long drive? Maybe for you, but not for me. When I made it to Kinston, it seemed like I was barely in the car at all. What does that say about my driving habits, when I can drive somewhere almost 100 miles away and it seems like a leisurely drive across town? My poor car. (I'm over 128,000 miles now, by the way. 130,000 before the end of the month?) I stopped for gas along the way, and filled up for $2.479/gal, which is the cheapest I've filled up for since my move. It's not as cheap as I've heard it is in some places ($2.199/gal in Toledo), and it wasn't even the cheapest along my drive Sunday ($2.399/gal in Dunn), but it's nice to know that I'm paying under $2.50 again and it's not even the cheapest out there. Speaking of gas stations, consider a station with three pumps in a single line. Is it bad manners not to pull up to the farthest available pump? I think so. One guy did this to me yesterday - someone was filling up at the far pump, and this guy stopped at the near pump, completely isolating the middle pump. This is why three-in-a-row is a bad design - most modern gas stations don't go beyond two.

Now for the obligatory disc golf course review: Barnet Park, Kinston, NC. First thing's first: all of the holes were very easy to find. Each hole was followed by a "nex-t" sign and an arrow. ("Nex-t" is clever, is it not? I've seen it many places before.) Each hole also had concrete tee pads and hole diagrams. Full marks for all of that. My feelings on the actual course, however, are mixed. Most of the holes were fair, but some were kind of ridiculous. I don't like the holes where if you miss the fairway, you're in deep woods, and your only shot is to throw it perpendicularly back onto the fairway. Considering how hard it is to throw a disc straight, I don't think this is fair. There are a few holes like this, so I'm not going to give this course my highest marks. At least at other woods courses like Valley Springs, if you throw it off line, there are still paths to the target. But there is at least one open hole at Barnet Park. This isn't a Raleigh-Durham area course, so it doesn't "officially" go on my "regional rankings", but if it did, I would place it #2 between UNC and Valley Springs. (Remember that I moved the UNC course to #1 after I originally posted the rankings in the Disc Golf Part 3 post.) Overall, Barnet Park was the 38th course I've played nationwide, and it ranks #12 overall.

Now, the drive back. I took US-70 all the way out to Kinston, which is the fastest and shortest route. Normally, I enjoy 4-lane US highways, but US-70 didn't really do it for me. Too much traffic, and too many traffic lights. So, I scouted out alternative routes for the return trip. I noticed that NC-55, which passes about 5 miles west of my apartment, also passes through Kinston. Why don't I take that road all the way back? I'm glad I did. NC-55 is only two lanes most of the way, but there was very little traffic on it. It was a great drive through rural eastern North Carolina. Traffic picked up remarkably west of I-95, however - if I were to do it again, I would probably pick up the interstates at that point. But if I did that on Sunday, I wouldn't have driven through Fuquay-Varina. How many of my drives include a Fuquay-Varina pass-through? And what does it say about my driving habits when Fuquay-Varina now seems like "home"? (Well, it is only 15 miles away.)

With apologies to Jeff [Frame], I stopped at Bojangles' in Fuquay-Varina on my way back home. Yum! This was just over three weeks since my last visit. (23 days, specifically.) I think I'm going to try and go a long time until my next visit. I don't have a specific time frame in mind, but it's definitely going to be more than three weeks. Not because it wasn't good - it was terrific, as always. I just have issues with its nutritional value.

Oh, one more thing. Just outside of Kinston on NC-55, I passed by a Piggly Wiggly. Wahoo! Of course, I had to stop and check it out. Recall my three classifications of Piggly Wigglys: nice ones, dumps, and in-betweens. This one was interesting: half of the store looked nice, while the other half looked like a dump. It's kind of hard to describe without pictures. So, I'm classifying this one as an in-between. It turns out this wasn't the only Piggly Wiggly in Kinston. In fact, Kinston has five Piggly Wigglys! If I had known that, I might have gone to all five on Sunday. Maybe I'll make a return disc golf/Piggly Wiggly trip to Kinston in the future.

Today's random thoughts:

1) Word is, the leaves are already changing color in State College. I'm jealous. I'm also jealous of highs in the 50s. Yeah, I know it's cloudy, but I like overcast. Fall was my favorite season in State College. My favorite season in Raleigh (Cary)? I expect it will be winter.
2) Among the people I see outside my office window every day, I've added another person to join "tall guy" on the list: "professional woman". Every morning, her husband parks in the handicapped parking spot to drop off her professionally-dressed wife, they kiss goodbye, she walks in, and he leaves to wherever. This couple seems like complete corporate tools. But so far, I've seen her 3-of-3 days. "Professional woman" sightings are much more structured - usually around 800a. However, that's usually my only chance to see her. I don't always see "tall guy" walk into work, but I see him outside talking on his cell phone a lot, so I have other chances to see him. (His count is currently at 26-of-31 - I didn't see him yesterday. And, when I've seen him, he's worn white twice as much as blue - 6 to 3.)
3) The guy on the radio station I listen to in the morning mentioned Head On ("Apply directly to the forehead") this morning. "I'm still not sure what this stuff is or does!" he says. Then he introduced the traffic report with "Traffic! Apply directly to your commute! Traffic! Apply directly to your commute!" I think this made my morning.