Thursday, May 31, 2007

"Drive-In Movie Theaters"

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What other exciting thing did Amber and I do last weekend? We went to a drive-in movie theater. I had never been to one, so I felt an obligation.

Problem is, there aren't many drive-ins around anymore. For the most part, drive-ins are a thing of the past. And that's too bad. According to a little thing that played before the movie, there were once over 4,000 drive-ins in the United States, but there are now only about 400. The reason? Money. These days, movie studios charge theaters a large percentage of their movie ticket prices. And since drive-ins only show one or two movies a night, a few nights a week, it's hard for them to make any money, outside of selling consessions. With this in mind, it's not surprising that we were unable to find a drive-in theater in the immediate Raleigh/Durham area. (There was one in Durham, but the owner recently passed away, and the theater has been closed since then.) Instead, we drove 50 miles north to the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater in Henderson to see the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, whatever it's called. Given, the financial hardships of today's drive-ins, it's beyond me how they're able to charge just $5/person for admission. (And, kids 12 and under are free!) That's cheaper than the student prices at most of today's theater conglomerates. Movies have become far too expensive to make it worth it anymore, but with the drive-in, it's a little cheaper, and you get to spend some time outside. Just don't forget the bug spray. (We didn't.) I think it's actually a better way to watch a movie, too. Instead of being crammed into a theater with a bunch of other people, you get to sit in your car, and actually talk during the movie. (They broadcast the movie audio on a short-range FM signal.) And given the cheap movie prices, I don't feel so bad about getting some popcorn.

There's another problem with drive-in theaters that we didn't have back in the 1960s: large trucks and SUVs. They're always getting in the way. So if you happen to have a smallish car (like, say, a 1991 Dodge Stealth), you better get up front or find a gap. We didn't get there early enough to get a front row spot, but we were able to find a gap, between the snack bar and where the parking spots start back up again. I think we lucked out there. They should make a rule - large trucks and SUVs to the rear!

The other thing with drive-ins is that you're pretty much at the mercy of whatever they decide to show, which is usually the "most popular movie" out at that time. I'm sure they showed Spider-man 3 recently. Next week? Shrek the Third. Then again, if you don't like the movie, then don't go. And, sometimes they show another less-popular movie afterwards, but the midnight start time is a little late for our tastes. (Even 900p is pushing it. We didn't get home until almost 100a.) But still - for $5/person, if you don't enjoy the movie (as was the case with this Pirates movie, Amber and me both), so what?

Again, the question: will we be back to the Raleigh Road Outdoor Theater? I hope so. It's a nicer movie experience than the traditional indoor theater, especially considering today's conglomerates. Smaller-type theaters like Galaxy Cinema aren't so bad, but I'm not sure if I'll be able go to back to AMC again. (Actually, that's not true. I still have a gift card.)


Today's random thought:

- The tennis scoring system is weird. I'm sure there's a story behind it, but as dumb as it seems, I think it actually makes tennis more interesting. What if tennis were to score their matches like other sports? What if their matches had a clock, and each point was simply worth one point? Then, tennis would be really boring - it would be just like the NBA. In my opinion, a five-set match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal would be a lot more interesting than seeing Federer win the match by a score of 89-81.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Your Carolina Mudcats!"

Skip to the random thought (Sorry about the recent lack of random thoughts; I just haven't had a lot of material.)

Now that Amber lives in Raleigh (Cary), we have the chance to do lots of exciting things in the area. First up: a Carolina Mudcats game!

The Carolina Mudcats are a minor league baseball team, the Double-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins. The Marlins are my favorite MLB team, so I think it's pretty sweet that one of their minor-league affiliates plays just down the road. In fact, one of the Marlins' Single-A affiliates is also nearby - the Greensboro Grasshoppers. But I'm not sure if we'll be going to see them.

If memory serves me right, the Mudcats are the third minor league team I have seen play in person (as the home team). The other two teams are also in Double-A, the Jacksonville Suns and Altoona Curve. Of the three, I think it's safe to say the Mudcats game had the least atmosphere. Why is that? Well, Jacksonville Suns games are very well-attended, playing in a large-capacity stadium in the middle of a large metropolitan area. The Altoona Curve play in a fairly new stadium, and there probably isn't much else to do in Altoona these days. That, and they have a guy in a sheep costume do a dance every time the Curve scores a run. The Mudcats have no such luck. First off, the stadium is in the middle of nowhere, located in the town of Zebulon, which I wouldn't even consider a suburb of Raleigh - it's too far away. (It's a 35-40 minute drive from Raleigh (Cary). The stadium is called Five County Stadium, because it's in close proximity to five counties. Clearly, by incorporating the whole area into the stadium and the team name, the Mudcats are trying to draw fans from all around eastern North Carolina - Rocky Mount, Wilson, Greenville, Goldsboro, and Fayetteville, as well as Raleigh. But they must not doing a very good job, because the Mudcats are 8th out of 10 Southern League teams in attendance. They average 3,169 fans per game, compared to 4,411 for the Curve, and 5,954 for the Suns. Actually, the Greensboro Grasshoppers draw more fans than all of those teams (6,365 per game). Maybe the Marlins should make the Grasshoppers the Double-A team and the Mudcats the Single-A team.

Getting back on track here: what are Mudcats games like? Well, the fans don't seem to pay much attention to the game. Generally, there were two types of fans at the game - middle-aged men who are there to get drunk, and families with kids that couldn't care less about the game. So, anytime the Mudcats did anything well, applause was scattered at best. But those moments were few and far between - the Mudcats are in last place in the Southern League, and it showed in this game, a 9-2 loss to the Birmingham Barons. But that's okay - really, the Mudcats are just here to give all of the rednecks a place to get drunk on Friday night. (And the rest of the week, too. Thursdays are "Thirsty Thursdays" - 12 oz. Budweiser for only $1!)

Being a Marlins fan, did I recognize any of the Mudcats' players? Just one - the starting pitcher, Rick Vanden Hurk. In 3 starts for the Marlins, Vanden Hurk accumulated an ERA of 12.75, so it's plain to see why he's playing for Carolina again. And, he didn't do so well in this game, either. But that's okay. If he keeps it up, he might get to play for the Grasshoppers in front of twice as many fans! If only he could be so lucky.

Now, the question: will we be back to see another Mudcats game? I would imagine so. But we also have the Triple-A Durham Bulls. Tickets to Bulls games are actually cheaper than Mudcats tickets. With that in mind, why did we go to a Mudcats game instead of a Bulls game? Well, going to a Bulls game would just seem way too trendy. (That, and the Bulls weren't at home last Friday.)

Today's random thought:

- Has anyone made more of a career out of doing absolutely nothing than Vanna White from "The Wheel of Fortune"? Her sole purpose is a pretty face to walk in front of the TV screen and push buttons. I suppose she was necessary back when you actually had to turn the letters, but now she's unnecessary. But they can't really get rid of her either; that would probably cause too much of a backlash, even though her job requires no talent whatsoever. Then again, while the Weather Channel gets rid of every female on-camera personality once they turn 40, Vanna White still has a job at age 50. So, more power to her, I guess.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Airport History"

How many airports have I flown into or out of? I haven't flown much, but I still think I can put together a decent list. First, a couple of caveats. This list only goes back through 1995. I don't remember ever flying prior to then, but I think I did once or twice as a young child. Also, I don't exactly remember where all of those connecting flights went, so this list may be incomplete and/or inaccurate. But I'll do my best. In chronological order:

1) JAX - Jacksonville, FL. First, of course.
2) IAH - Houston, TX (Intercontinental). This was before it was renamed after George Bush.
3) SFO - San Francisco, CA. These first three airports were part of our 1995 family vacation. I think each route went through IAH, but I don't remember for sure. I know at least the first one did. Back then, we flew Continental Airlines.
4) SEA - Seattle-Tacoma, WA. This was in 1998. Now, I'm not sure where the connections were for the 1998 trip. It's possible that this flight also went through IAH, but another possibility is DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth). But I don't know for sure, so I'm leaving DFW off of the official list.
5) ATL - Atlanta, GA (Hartsfield). If you've done a decent amouny of flying, you've probably flown through Atlanta at some point. This was our connection on our 1999 trip to...
6) HNL - Honolulu, HI. The non-stop flight from ATL to HNL took about 8 hours, the longest single flight I have taken. The return trip was the "red eye", for which I stayed up throughout the duration, allowing me to set a personal record for longest elapsed time without sleep (31 hours), a record that still stands to this day.
7) LIH - Lihue, HI. The Hawaii trip had lots of flying, because it's really the only way to get from island to island. The Lihue airport (on the island of Kauai) is the smallest airport I have ever flown in to or out of.
8) ITO - Hilo, HI. Most flights to the "Big Island" came in/out of KOA (Kailua-Kona) on the other side of the island, but we flew to Hilo instead.
9) CLT - Charlotte, NC (Douglas). This was the connection in 2002 on our way to...
10) PIT - Pittsburgh, PA. This was for James's wedding. This was also the last time I flew something other than Southwest. Hawaii was on Delta; I forget what those others were. Seattle was probably also Continental, and Pittsburgh may have been US Airways, but I can't remember. We would have flown Southwest, but Southwest didn't fly to PIT at the time. They do now.
11) BHM - Birmingham, AL. Now onto the 2004 trip. Southwest has some "untraditional" hubs, of which Birmingham appears to be one. Southwest doesn't even fly to Atlanta.
12) PHX - Phoenix, AZ. My memory of flying into Phoenix was seeing golf courses everywhere. Seems like a good place to live if it wasn't so hot.
13) LAS - Las Vegas, NV (McCarran). As soon as you get off the plane, you're greeted with slot machines and advertisements.
14) SLC - Salt Lake City, UT. Our 2004 trip flew started at LAS and ended at SLC. The return flight went SLC-PHX-BHM-JAX. All 2004 flights were on Southwest.
15) RDU - Raleigh-Durham, NC
16) BWI - Baltimore, MD

So, 16 airports. It's possible I missed one or two along the way, but I'm certain I've been to those 16. Not bad, considering how infrequently I've flown in my life, and that I've never flown out of the country. Also, for the record, I only had to look up 5 of the 16 airport codes (HNL, LIH, ITO, CLT, SLC); I knew all of the others. Memorizing airport codes used to be a minor obsession of mine.

Monday, May 28, 2007

"The Official Unofficial Start Of Summer"

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Meteorologically and/or astronomically speaking, summer doesn't start for another few weeks. But in the mind of many, the "summer season" starts today with Memorial Day, and ends with Labor Day. It's very convenient that those holidays fall when they do, isn't it?

So, here are some random thoughts regarding the official unofficial start of summer:

1) I probably won't have to turn my heater on for a few months. Well, that's been the case for a while. I'm not looking forward to the electric bills this summer.
2) Evidently, it means gas is more expensive. Sometimes, I wish I lived in Venezuela.
3) How many times will I have to turn on the air conditioner in my car? So far, I've only had to do it once, after a round of disc golf. It's cold in my office, so the 130° temperatures in my car actually feel kind of good. At least for a few minutes.
4) How many trips will we make to the beach? Probably at least two. That's my guess. But not this weekend. If I were to guess, I'd say that Memorial Day weekend was the most crowded beach weekend of the year.
5) It's almost hurricane season! Yay! North Carolina (and the rest of the country, for that matter) missed out on any hurricanes last year. How about this year?
6) Sports: Well, once the NHL season ends, it's pretty much down to NASCAR and baseball for the rest of the summer. I've been watching more college baseball than MLB so far this season. I really don't care that much about MLB, at least for now. And on the shorter term, there's also the NCAA Baseball tournament, starting next weekend. But given FSU's recent history, I won't have to pay attention to that for too long.
7) While many people will be going on vacation this summer, I'm done using vacation time for a while. The Nova Scotia trip was the vacation. In fact, today might be my last day off until Labor Day. (Since July 4th falls on a Wednesday, I'd like to work that day in order to stockpile an extra day of vacation.)
8) Now that Amber lives here, we'll probably be making many wild and/or crazy weekend trips to various locations throughout the area. Possibilities include Boone, "The Ultimate North Carolina Road Trip" on US-64, Delaware (Amber has never been to Delaware), and at least one theme park. I'd also like to make a trip to Jacksonville. It's been a while. In fact, in another week, I will have broken my record for the longest-ever stretch between Jacksonville visits. The record is 160 days (3/11/06 through 8/18/06); the current streak is 153 days (since 12/26/06).
9) I have to renew my car registration in July. Will my car pass inspection the first time through this year?
10) Last summer, the highest temperature recorded on my thermometer was 98°. Can we hit triple digits this year? I hope so. Just as long as it's for one day only.
11) How long will it take me to get sick of the summer weather? Probably by the end of June. By then, I'll be ready for the ice storms.

Enjoy your summer!

Today's random thought:

- I've seen a lot of police cars on the sides of roads this weekend, possibly looking for speeders (or seat belt violations, ala "Click it or ticket"). But upon closer inspection, most of these cars don't even have anyone in them. I guess they're there just to scare people into slowing down. Well, based on what I've seen, it works. At least for a few seconds.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

"Graduation Ceremonies"

Graduation ceremonies are boring and a waste of time.

I didn't go to my Penn State graduation, because I didn't feel like going through the hassle. Buying a cap and gown, getting my family to come into town, dressing up only to have my clothes covered up anyway, and so on. No thanks. If your family isn't there to see it, is there really any reason to walk in a graduation? I've never heard of anyone doing it just for the sake of doing it. They do it because their family wants to see them "graduate". Which is silly, because by the time the ceremony rolls around, everybody has already graduated. Except in FSU's case, where graduation ceremonies are actually held before anyone has officially graduated. So, you could walk at an FSU graduation ceremony, and then find out the next week that you failed that final exam you took 8 hours before the ceremony. How much would that suck? Even if you do graduate, you still don't get your diploma in the mail until two months after the ceremony. At least, that's how it was with me. So, the ceremony is strictly symbolic. It's just an excuse for the family to come into town, I guess.

Not only did I not want to go through the hassle of attending my Penn State graduation, I didn't want to sit through the ceremony either. Graduation ceremonies are among the most boring things out there. You have your "motivational speaker", whose talks are never really that good. (Fortunately, the talk at Penn State's graduation last weekend only lasted 9 minutes.) Then, everybody walks across the stage. I think FSU only had two graduation ceremonies total, so you can imagine how long it took. And, you sit through the whole thing just for a few seconds of glory, so you can walk across the stage, shake a couple of people's hands whom you've never met, and not hear any applause or cheering from your family because they're supposed to hold their applause until everybody's name is called. What a waste of time. At least Penn State split it up into more ceremonies, so that each individual ceremony would be shorter. The "grad school" ceremony I attended last weekend was approximately two hours. High school graduations aren't so bad, because you only have a couple of hundred people walking across. But unfortunately, that's offset by the procession. At my high school graduation, every single graduate was part of the opening and closing processions, two at a time. That was the worst part, especially because I was in one of the first two rows (a small perk of being in the National Honor Society), so I had to constantly look behind me to see how much longer I had to keep standing. At high school graduations, you can also tell who's going to college and who isn't. The people who are really excited? They're not going to college. They barely graduated. The people who are ho-hum and want to get it over with? They realize they're going to have to sit through at least one more of these in the next few years.

Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of graduation ceremonies is hearing the speaker misprounounce or otherwise butcher somebody's name. That sucks for the offended person, because this is supposed to be a big moment, right? Hearing your name as you walk across the stage at graduation. And then, they mispronounce it. But from an outsider's point of view, it can be quite entertaining, especially at a grad school graduation. That has to be a tough job, pronouncing all of those names, over and over again for over an hour. And you have to be enthusiastic about it, too - it's important to announce everybody's name with the same level of enthusiasm and diction, so that nobody complains that their name was mumbled because they were near the end of the ceremony. Personally, I think that some day, the name announcement will be computerized. People will be able to go online before the ceremony and set up their phonetic spelling, and hear how the computerized voice will pronounce their name, so everyone will know exactly how their name will sound at the ceremony. That way, nobody's name will be misprounounced, and nobody will have to sit there and read all of the names. Hearing a computerized voice announce your name doesn't carry the same prestige as hearing an actual person do it, but I think that's what we're coming to. And when that happens, graduation ceremonies will have no entertainment value whatsoever.

Maybe I'll feel differently about graduation ceremonies when I have kids and they graduate. But that's a few years down the road. Until then, don't take it personally if I don't show up for your graduation.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Moving Day #12½: Recap"

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First off, thanks to everybody who came by Amber's apartment to help load the moving truck last Saturday. We were able to load the truck in about an hour. Or something. I think that's how long it took. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for the purposes of this blog, it wasn't very eventful. But let's see what I can get out of the rest of the move.

So, fast forward to Monday: 48 weeks after my move from State College to Raleigh (Cary), it was Amber's turn. Wahoo! Amber and I left State College at approximately 815a, with her behind the wheel of the moving truck, and me driving her car. We took the interstate-heavy DC route because it's more truck-friendly than, say, VA-6. Unfortunately, interstates also mean weigh stations, which we were told we had to stop at. Well, not me - just the truck. In order to stay together, when she had to stop at a weigh station, I slowed it down to 55 mph and let her catch back up. Going 55 mph on a heavily-trafficked interstate isn't a whole lot of fun, let me tell you. Then again, at least you don't have to pull out and pass anybody. It's actually quite easy. It's just a little unnerving. Besides the weigh stations, our pace was slightly below my normal 5-over pace, so we made it in 7h52m, which was actually a couple of minutes faster than the last time I drove Amber's car from State College to Raleigh (Cary), even with the three weigh stations. (Although one of the weigh stations didn't really count towards the trip time, because I waited for her at a gas station instead of by driving slow, and stoppage time does not count towards the total trip time.)

Without an entire Meteorology department at our disposal, it took us a little longer to unload everything. All of the stuff we could get ourselves, we did. The heavy furniture, we left for a hired two-man crew. I was wondering what their motivation would be to hurry up, considering that they charge by the hour, but they did the job very quickly. I was impressed. I guess it makes sense, since they had other jobs to do later in the day. I'll forgive them for originally coming on Monday morning instead of Tuesday morning by mistake.

So, now, everything's in boxes. Where does it all go? Beats me. That's more Amber's concern than mine. I've been helping where I can, but she knows her stuff better than I do. And besides - as long as there's a clear path from the television to the kitchen and the bathroom, I don't really care.

Today's random thought:

- I'm not going to talk in detail about the "Lost" season finale, but I'll leave it at this: the "Lost" finale was much better than the "24" finale. I'm glad I started watching that show.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"You Are Now Free To Move About The Country"

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In an attempt to go in chronological order, I'm going to talk about the flight before discussing the move.

Last Friday's flight from Raleigh-Durham (RDU) to Baltimore-Washington (BWI) was my first flight in almost three years, since returning from Utah in June 2004. That flight and this flight were both on Southwest Airlines. I like Southwest, because they're cheap, they get you there, and I've never had a problem with them. I also like that I was able to check in online 24 hours prior to my flight's departure. My flight left at 300p on Friday; I checked in at 430p the day before and printed out my boarding pass on my home computer. Then, when I showed up at the airport, all I had to do was check my bag, pass through security, and proceed towards the gate. Passing through security was no problem, because I kept my onboard possessions to a minimum. Anything I wasn't sure about, I either checked, or didn't bring at all. That included any kind of liquid substance.

The best part about checking in 22½ hours prior to my flight was that I was able to get in boarding group "A". Southwest does not have assigned seats. Instead, it's kind of a "free for all", except that they separate all boarders into three boarding groups. "A" boards first, followed by "B" and "C". (All boarding groups are proceeded by the disabled, those with special needs, and those with young children, of course.) Which boarding group you end up in depends on how early you check in. So, by being one of the first people to check in, I was able to get in boarding group "A". And by showing up at the gate obscenely early, I was able to be first in line in boarding group "A". That sounds like a good thing, being able to get first choice of seats, but unfortunately, the attendants asked me if I wanted to sit in the "exit seat" (the one by the emergency exit). The problem with the emergency exit is that it's right by the wing, and that hinders your view. But hey, at least I got more leg room than anyone else. There wasn't a whole lot to see anyway - it was cloudy most of the way. But that's okay - as a road geek and a meteorologist, I win either way!

Why did I get to the airport so early? Well, I left work three hours before my flight, because I could, and because I had never been to RDU before and didn't want to take any chances. The first stop was the "Park and Ride" lot, designed for people who are too cheap for the main terminal parking, and who don't mind riding a shuttle to the terminals. That's me! Parking in this lot was $6/day, compared to $10/day in the main terminal lot, so I saved $16 by doing the "Park and Ride" thing. And I didn't have to wait that long for the shuttle, either - no more than 5 minutes. (Shuttles come by every 20 minutes.) Then, I found the check in area for Southwest (which has its own terminal at RDU), checked my bag (mostly done via a computer monitor; I barely had to say anything to the attendant), passed through security, and made it to the gate at 1245p, a full 135 minutes before my flight. See why I was first in line? I won't leave so early next time.

I wasn't overly impressed with the RDU airport. Most airports I've been to look "new" and "fresh", but this one didn't. It looked kind of old. Maybe it was just the Southwest terminal, I don't know - I didn't go into the other terminals. I thought RDU would be a little nicer. BWI, however, did have the "new", "fresh" look to it. I think you can define the status of an airport by whether or not they have people movers (a.k.a. flat escalators, a.k.a. the thing the Geico caveman is riding in that commercial). RDU did not (not that I saw), while BWI did. I don't remember whether Jacksonville's airport does, but if I were to guess, I'd say no.

As for the flight itself, it was okay. The flight, takeoff to landing, took between 41 and 42 minutes. (Yes, I timed it.) The takeoff was cool, but after that, I just wanted it to be over. And soon enough, it was. I think it actually took longer to get my bag at baggage claim than the flight itself. That's the thing - flying itself is fast, but the surrounding hassle is anything but, and that's why I only fly if I have to. In this case, Amber's move required an extra driver. In general, I think flying is only worth it if you're going somewhere longer than a day's drive away. It took me an hour longer to get from Raleigh (Cary) to State College this time than it normally takes driving. Granted, I got to the airport earlier than I needed to, and we had to drive back to State College from BWI (a drive made even longer by Baltimore rushhour traffic), but still.

I'll have another airport-related post coming soon (currently scheduled for next Tuesday). How many airports have I flown into or out of in my life? Hmm...

Today's random thought:

- On our way back to Raleigh (Cary) on Monday, some of the electronic signs on I-95 in Virginia displayed the following message: "CLICK IT OR TICKET IT". Umm, isn't the slogan "CLICK IT OR TICKET"? The "it" is already part of the word "ticket". That's what makes it so clever. "Ticket it" sounds stupid. It wasn't just one sign, either - it was every one. Way to go, VDOT.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Nights By County: Mid-2007 Update"

Skip to the random thoughts on the "24" season finale (Spoilers!)

Before I talk about last weekend (I haven't written those posts yet), it's time for everybody's favorite statistic - nights by county! The 2006 nights-by-county competition went down to the wire, with Wake County (NC) and Centre County (PA) finishing in a tie for first, each with 165 nights. How about this year? After the 2006 recap, I said I wouldn't talk about this at all until early July. Well, I lied. But there's a reason I'm doing this update now.

First off, here are my 2007 totals to date:
Wake NC - 120
Centre PA - 13
Westmorland NB - 2
Halifax NS - 2
Lucas OH - 1
Cumberland ME - 1
Aroostook ME - 1
Queens PE - 1
Cape Breton NS - 1

Clearly, the 2007 competition won't be as close as the 2006 competition. The only question is how soon Wake will clinch the 2007 championship. Right now, Wake can clinch the championship as early as July 20th. That date will be delayed by one day for each night I spend in Centre, or for every two nights I spend in any other county. There may be a trip to State College before then, and probably a trip to Jacksonville as well (something I haven't done since Christmas, and is probably long overdue), but I fully expect Wake to clinch the championship before the end of July.

Now, I also said I was going to keep track of Amber's nights by county for 2007, because it might be as interesting as my competition was last year. At the time, I didn't know when she was going to move out of State College. If the move wasn't going to happen until the middle of the year, then that would make the competition interesting. But a mid-May move probably takes all of the suspense out of it. First off, here are her current 2007 totals:

Centre PA - 114
Wake NC - 12
Lucas OH - 6
District of Columbia - 2
Westmorland NB - 2
Halifax NS - 2
Cumberland ME - 1
Aroostook ME - 1
Queens PE - 1
Cape Breton NS - 1

Now that Wake is Amber's residence, it's only a matter of time before Wake passes Centre for first place. There is plenty of time; there are still 223 nights left in 2007, and Wake is only 102 behind. For Amber, Wake can clinch with a total of 175 nights. (For me, Wake currently needs 179 nights, because I haven't spent as many nights outside of the top two counties as Amber has.) Thus, Wake could clinch as soon as 163 nights from now, which is the night of November 1st. As with me, any nights spent outside of Wake between now and then will delay the clinching date, but the chances of any other county winning are very slim. I expect Wake to clinch before the end of November.

For the future - how many years will it be before someone other than Wake County wins? Well, the next move will dictate that. If we move to, say, Fuquay-Varina, then Wake County will tighten is grasp for years to come, as Fuquay-Varina is still in Wake County. But there are lots of housing possibilities around here. Durham County? Orange County? Chatham County? All are possibilities. But by then, I may not even be doing this blog anymore. If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is there to hear it...

Today's random thoughts on the "24" season finale: (Spoilers! Obviously.)

- What did I think of the season finale? Well, I wasn't impressed. All of the predictable things happened - Josh and Marilyn were reunited, and the "component" was destroyed. And, there were no major surprises or plot twists in the finale whatsoever. The biggest surprise in the finale was finding out that Chloe was pregnant. Whoopee. And, it took the finale 30 minutes to finally get going. And, how could they have possibly expected Phillip to go through with the exchange? How dumb. And, I would have much rather seen Jack's father live and Chang die, but instead it was the other way around. So, really, I thought the finale sucked. The season as a whole has endured a lot of criticism; I didn't think the season as a whole is that bad, but it could have been a lot better. This season's problem was that it peaked too soon. The best episodes and most exciting and suspenseful sequences were in the first half of the day.
- Now, what to expect from some of the characters in the future? It was nice to see Bill Buchanan again, but I think he's done, except maybe for a cameo next season, because the writers always seem to do that. Have we seen the last of Audrey? Maybe, maybe not. All CTU characters (including Chloe) don't have to come back without an explanation, and they change every season, so whatever. I don't really know who's going to show up again next season, other than Jack, of course. Speaking of which, I'm glad Jack didn't get kidnapped or have to fake his death again, because he deserved a break. But that "ending" was lame, at best. I also knew Audrey would make an appearance in the season finale beforehand, because Kim Raver's name appeared in the opening credits. Why did they do that? Maybe I should stop reading the credits. But I can't help it.
- So, I've been quite critical of "24". Will I be back next season? Of course I will. But the show could lose me next season, depending. There's only so much you can do with this format and the plot. Kiefer Sutherland has two seasons left on his contract, plus a movie. If I were the producers, I would end the series there. Then again, I also thought "The Simpsons" would wrap up after Season 11 in 2000. Man, I whiffed on that one.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Metaroads"

This is a guest post written by Jacob Haqq-Misra. His blog "Reflections, Ideas, and Schemes" can be found here.

===

Several of Chris' entries deal with road trips and navigation. In keeping with this theme while maintaining my own flavor, I'll begin with a simple question: what is a road? Of course, I mean this question in a very general sense. The Oxford English Dictionary has a number of definitions for the word; I'll just use one of them:

"An ordinary line of communication used by persons passing between different places, usually one wide enough to admit of the passage of vehicles as well as of horses or travelers on foot."

The second part of the definition assumes the use of land vehicles, but the first part is more general. A road is a special case of an edge on a graph (and indeed this is the basis for how navigational software works). But a graph (technically a directed graph) is a general structure, not limited to land travel or even the transport of people. The Internet, airline routes, and satellite networks are all examples of high-traffic directed graphs.

Typically, people assume a road to be a path along which a motor vehicle can travel, but if we take the more general notion of a directed graph edge to create a line of communication, then new roads are everywhere! Interstate construction is only a small fraction of the new "roads" built in the modern-era, since technological advancements (including the building of interstates) have contributed to the flattening of the world.

Asphalt and concrete are fading away; the roads of today are built with fiber-optics and satellites.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"They Should Space Out These Season Finales Some"

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WARNING: Spoilers - if you haven't caught up on "24" and "Lost" through this week's episodes, this post is not for you. I also give away the endings of some previous seasons too. Just warning you.

Just a reminder that this is the last post until next Tuesday. Not because I can't write posts for Saturday and Monday, but because I may not have internet access either day. (But it's a convenient excuse for sloth, isn't it?) Actually, this post is about twice as long as a normal post, so I could have split this up into two posts if I wanted to. Instead, you get it all today.

As documented here in this blog, I only watch two fictional TV dramas - "24" and "Lost". As luck would have it, both shows air new episodes during the same time of year, and both are having their two-hour season finales next week. (Actually, it's not luck. It's business. It's just unfortunate that it's not spaced out a little more.) I'm going to talk about each show, starting with "24".

First off, I'm glad we're here at the "24" finale, finally. This season was kind of sputtering along between episodes 18 and 21 or so. Then, a main character died, Jack's dad reappeared, and things started to pick up as we head for the finale. Here are some things to look for in this finale.

"24" finales are often anti-climactic, in a way, because you know the main terrorist threat will be extinguished. You also know Jack will not die (he's under contract for two more seasons). That said, you know they'll recover the "component", and the Russians will not start a war. (Speaking of which, how about that "two hour" deadline the Russian president gave Daniels? I mean, come on. That was really over-the-top. Nevertheless, this is a TV show with a strict format which they must follow, so that's about the only way they could have done it.) I think it's also a safe bet that Josh will be reunited with Marilyn. Although it's possible that won't happen. The writers of "24" did a very smart thing by killing Jack's wife at the end of the first season. Because of that, we can't be completely sure that anyone other than Jack is safe, regardless of who they are. But still, I would be very surprised if Josh and Marilyn weren't together again by the end of the finale.

Next question: who will suffer a spectacular death in the finale? Chang? Phillip Bauer? Both? Those are the two main candidates. I think Chang is far more likely to die than Phillip - it would be much more valuable to the series to keep Phillip around for another season. I think Chang needs to die, though. If not him, somebody important needs to die, good or bad.

The most interesting thing about the finales of late has been what is going to happen to Jack. In the Season 4 finale, Jack had to fake his death and run off to wherever. In the Season 5 finale, Jack was captured and shipped off to China. What now? Personally, I think Jack deserves a break, even if he is a fictional character. But the trend seems to be to have something life-changing happen to Jack at the end of the season. We'll see what happens this time. I actually have no idea. Except when Jack says "Everything's okay now, it's all over", that's when you know something bad is going to happen.

Finally, a prediction. I've heard plenty of rumors about the direction of the "24" series and such. These are probably baseless, and I'm not going to contribute to the spreading of baseless rumors, but I am going to make the following prediction: CTU Los Angeles will be shut down. You saw that guy from "Division" come in to do an investigation regarding their "security breach". Bill Buchanan has already received the proverbial axe. And, their acting head is inexperienced and not really on top of things. Everything is set up for "Division" to shut CTU down. That would be fitting for a season finale. But then again, my track record of predicting what happens on this show is...well, laughable. If I were you, I wouldn't put much stock in this prediction. But if I'm right...wahoo!

Now, about the "Lost" finale. There are a lot of differences between "Lost" finales and "24" finales. "24" finales occur at the end of a 24-hour period, and thus have to tie up as many stories as possible. "Lost" finales, however, don't have that obligation, because next season, they can simply pick up where they left off. The separation between seasons is kind of arbitrary. For "Lost", that's good and bad. It's good because going into the finale, you have no idea what to expect. It's bad because the finale might not tie up any loose ends whatsoever. And the history of "Lost" finales hasn't been to tie up loose ends, it's to stir up the pot some more to make sure you come back next season. So, I think it's important to keep your hopes down for the "Lost" finale. Don't expect some kind of major revelation. I only expect something major to happen that will set up the next season.

So, what are we looking at here? Here we go, "random thought" style...
- First thing, obviously, they've been leading up to this "showdown" between the main characters and the "Others". Seems like a good place to end the season, eh? But I think I can bank on this: neither group will have things go according to plan. Everyone will probably be screwed afterwards, in their own little way.
- If you read my "24" thoughts, you know I pay attention to the names in opening credits. Well, this week, the guy who plays John Locke (Terry O'Quinn) was still listed. Didn't he die? Or did he? Typically, when characters die, their names are removed from the credits the very next episode (or, at the very least, reduced to "guest star" status). Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but the opening credits don't lie. Hmm...
- Who's going to die? You know someone is going to go. They keep playing up the impending death of Charlie, but personally, I think that makes him less likely to due (regardless of the predicament he now finds himself in). But obviously, when dynamite is involved, people are probably going to die. Are they worried about killing everybody off and not being able to sustain the series? Maybe, but there are only going to be 48 more episodes after this one (three more seasons of 16 episodes each, to be run interrupted from February to May). But anyway, some people are going to have to go (or get written out of the script, a.k.a. "rescued"), and we have two hours to find out next week. The only person I would be disappointed to see purged is Hurley. On the other side, I would really like to see them get rid of Kate. She is, by far, the most annoying character on the show.

So, next week, I have four hours of dramatic prime-time television to look forward to. And then, nothing for eight months. Oh well.

Today's random thought:

- In the search for different radio stations to listen to, I've found one: 88.1 FM, WKNC. It's the NC State student-run radio station. Student run radio is nice, because you get a nice variety of music, most of which I haven't heard before, and is a little bit different and not as commercial. It doesn't matter what station you listen to, if you listen to it enough, it's going to get repetitive. 96 Rock ("everything that rocks!") has gotten to that point. Is that going to happen with 88.1? Possibly. But for now, it's my first choice.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Moving Day #12½: Preview"

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About four weeks ago, I moved from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom apartment the next building over. That wasn't so bad. This coming weekend, I'm helping Amber move from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. This probably won't be quite so easy. Here's this weekend's general timeline:

Friday: I fly Southwest from Raleigh (RDU) to Baltimore (BWI), where Amber will pick me up and take us back to State College.

Saturday: Amber gets her moving truck, and we put as much as we can into it. (If you'll be in State College this Saturday, your help will be much appreciated!)

Sunday: Everyone attends the graduation ceremony. Whether or not we go to Waffle Shop this weekend remains to be seen. I imagine they will be extremely crowded. If we do go, we're probably best served going to the one in Bellefonte. We went there two weekends ago, and there was no wait!

Monday: Amber drives the moving truck from State College to Raleigh (Cary), while I drive her car. This is why I'm flying up there; Amber can't drive the truck and her car. Speaking of which, I suppose we'll have to go back to the airport and pick up my car on Monday, too.

Tuesday: Unload everything into the new apartment. We'll have hired help.

Wednesday: Back to work!

Sounds like fun, eh? Actually, I'm looking forward to it. This weekend has been a long time coming. That two-bedroom apartment I've been living in for the last four weeks is too big for just me.

Some things to watch for, which I will cover next week:
- I haven't flown in three years, and I've never flown alone. I'm not looking forward to it. I don't mind the act of flying; it's all the hassle I'd rather do without. I prefer to be in control.
- I didn't attend my Penn State graduation. What did I miss? Probably not much. Two graduation ceremonies was more than enough.
- I'm going to let Amber dictate the pace of the drive back to Raleigh (Cary) with the moving truck; I'll follow in close proximity. We'll probably take an all-interstate route around DC, which I've learned isn't too bad if you leave State College between 700a and 1100a on a weekday, and thus avoid the morning and evening rushhours. But I'm not getting my hopes up.
- The plan with this moving help we've hired in Raleigh (Cary) is this. They have an hourly fee, and they don't have a minimum. So what we're going to do is have them get the heaviest stuff first, and then as soon as they hit 60 minutes - that's it! You're done, here's your money, thank you for your help. That's the plan, anyway. Will it work out that way? If you're a moving company and you charge by the hour, what's your incentive do anything except take as much time as possible?

This isn't the last post of the week. One more tomorrow.

Today's random thought:

- Every now and then, I'll turn on one of the local sports talk radio stations, and they'll be airing a minor league baseball game (usually the Durham Bulls). How many people actually listen to these games? Is anyone out there living and dying with every pitch? And do more people listen to those games than listen to "Primetime with the Packman"? I would find that hard to believe.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"The Colon-Kelly Connector"

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I think I know my way around the area pretty well. Probably a little too well, in fact. Sometimes, it would be fun to get lost on a bunch of unfamiliar roads somewhere. But there are still areas around here that I don't know quite as well. The closest I've come to getting "lost" around here is in Lee County. Here's a map:

Lee County is home to Sanford, the disc golf course I played last weekend, a couple of Piggly Wiggly stores, and not much else. When I came back from my original Piggly Wiggly trip, I got a little lost. I thought I was on Business US-1 north heading back towards the US-1 bypass, but instead, I was on San-Lee Road, heading east, back towards Broadway and the Piggly Wiggly I just visited 10 minutes ago. Oops.

Then, on my way back from the disc golf course, I thought I would investigate a new road. I've seen glimpses of a new expressway being built around here, but I've never really been sure what it was all about. Then, on Saturday, I noticed that a short segment of the expressway was open! The signs only called it the "Colon-Kelly connector", semmingly because it goes between Colon Rd and Kelly Dr. The expressway extends beyond those points, but this two- or three-mile stretch was all that was open. And they didn't even open both lanes; they had the left lane barreled off in both directions. So it wasn't much. And I didn't know where I was going, either. I didn't know what "Kelly" I was connecting with at first, whether it was a road or a small town. Personally, I think it would have been better if the road connected with "Pancreas Dr" or "Rectum Dr".

My sense of direction isn't great when I'm on unfamiliar roads. So, I didn't know what direction I was going when I was driving on the connector. But fortunately, the expressway-to-be had exit numbers, so they could give me some idea. The exit numbers were decreasing, which means I was either driving south or west. That's funny - I thought I was driving north or east. Hmm. So, no help there. Eventually, I made it to Kelly Dr, turned left, expecting to be heading west back towards US-1 or something. But, nope. A couple of turns later, I made it to...San-Lee Road! Aaahhh! But hey, at least I know where I am at this point. Maybe I should go to Piggly Wiggly while I'm over here. I made my way towards NC-42, turned left, and expected to have to make another right to get to the Broadway Piggly Wiggly. But, wrong again - I needed to turn right on NC-42 to get there. Bah! Oh well - NC-42 is a fun road, and it even goes through Fuquay-Varina. So, that was that.

So, what is this "Colon-Kelly Connector"? I couldn't find it on any maps. Here's an approximation of where I think it goes: (It's the black line.)

While looking at this map, I figured it out. This parallels US-421, which goes through downtown Sanford. It's a future US-421 bypass! And, I was going east, but the reason the exit numbers were decreasing is that even though US-421 is mostly east/west in North Carolina, it is a north/south road overall. (US-421 goes from Wilmington, NC to Michigan City, IN.) So, I was heading east on what is going to be "southbound" US-421. The exit numbers make sense, too - Kelly Dr was Exit 145, and that's about how far it is to Wilmington. Ding!

Mystery solved. And, as soon as I find out the bypass is completed, I'll be there. (I'm not holding my breath, though.)

Today's random thought:
(This week's random thoughts on "24" will be incorporated into Friday's post, which will talk about the upcoming "24" and "Lost" season finales. For today, here's a plain old random thought.)
- I've already talked about the milk color scheme that grocery stores use to differentiate all of the different varieties of milk. It's a good system, because I don't even look at the labels anymore; I just go straight for the green. This is easy, because Kroger is now the only grocery store I go to. But what if Kroger were to suddenly change their color scheme? Then I might accidentally take a jug of 2% home with me instead of 1%. Oh no! Hopefully, they won't do that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Another Dumb Post About Disc Golf"

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Last weekend was my last weekend in Raleigh (Cary) before Amber moves here. So what did I do? The same stuff I always do - played disc golf at some far-away disc golf course. (I've been doing that a lot lately. Can't you tell?) Except that this course wasn't far away. In fact, it was the closest disc golf course to my apartment that I have never played. So, a quick hop on US-1 south down to Sanford's O.T. Sloan Park, and I was there! (I'm going to talk about drive-related stuff tomorrow.)

A quick review of the course. The PDGA course website says the course is "tight and short". Overall, I think that's a fair assessment. The front 9 is entirely in the woods, but there are a few open holes on the back 9. On paper, it seems like a good combination. However, some of those woods holes didn't really have a clear path to the target from the tee, and that always bothers me. What are you supposed to do? Whenever you play a disc golf hole, there needs to be a clear goal in mind, as if to say "this is what you should try to do". Hole #11 especially bothered me. It wasn't really in the woods, but there were trees everywhere between you and the target, and they were all placed randomly in your way. There was no clear "fairway". What was I supposed to do? Pick a gap in the trees and shoot for it. On top of that, the hole is over 400 feet long. And if that's not enough, there's OB surrounding the backside of the target. That hole sucked. I think I got a 6 on it, which really isn't all that bad. But hey, at least the tees were marked, and with distances, and some holes had short tees. That's always good.

O.T. Sloan was my 41st disc golf course played. Where did I place it on my rankings? I don't remember, actually, and it doesn't matter anyway. I think I placed it next to Timmons Park in Greenville, SC. This course reminded me a lot of that one. Timmons Park seemed to be the definitive "park setting, short woods course". Every course of that type brings up memories of Timmons. Are they positive or negative memories? Neither, really. These courses are in the middle of the pack. I prefer open courses to woods courses, but woods courses are passable if they're short and reasonable (i.e. have discernable paths to the targets). They're nice to play in the summer, too.

That's really all I have to say about the course. The real "acid test" of how good a course is can be answered with this question: "Will I be back?" I'm sure I'll be back - this course is legit. Certainly, I'll come back as soon as the US-421 bypass is completed. (That last sentence was a "tease" for tomorrow.)

Today's random thought:

- How many local newscasts out there are named "Eyewitness News"? It seems like 75% of all media markets have one. But actually, according to Wikipedia, only 34 media markets currently have a newscast that identifies itself as "Eyewitness News" (although 109 have had one at one time or another). But if you were to google "eyewitness news", what comes up at the top? Your top 5 are: WABC New York, KABC Los Angeles, WPRI Providence, KSTP Minneapolis/St. Paul, and WPTY Memphis.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"An Open Solicitation"

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In case you haven't noticed, I've been running dry on blog post ideas lately. And, I'll be quite busy all of next weekend, so I won't have much time to write posts anyway. So I'm going to put this out there. Would any of you like to write a blog post to appear in my blog next Tuesday? (There won't be posts on Saturday or next Monday, because Amber's soon-to-be-vacated apartment may not have internet access those days.)

Here are the ground rules for the "guest post":

1) This is open to everybody. Don't be shy.
2) There are no length requirements, except that you use common sense. (In other words, I won't publish your 200-page autobiography.)
3) It's up to you whether or not you want to include a random thought.
4) You can write about anything you want. But, there are some exceptions:
4a) No profanity. In terms of this blog, "profanity" means anything you can't say on The Simpsons.
4b) No hate speech. Don't offend any ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups. (By "social groups", I basically mean homosexuals.) However, you are more than welcome to offend individual people, including me. If you want to write a five-paragraph essay about how much my blog sucks, I suck, and how I should rot in hell, then more power to you.
4c) No "spam". I'm not talking about putting in a plug for your personal website or something - that's fine, provided you're not just some random person I don't know looking for free advertising. I'm just trying to keep the spammers out.

I have no idea how much interest this will garner; how many guest posts I feature in the future will depend on how much interest there is. If there's a lot of interest, then I'll weave all of your posts in eventually, not just next Tuesday. If there's no interest, well, then at least I thought it was a good idea. Post a comment if you're interested, and we'll go from there.

Today's random thought:

- Amber's undergraduate diploma, currently in my bedroom, says her degree was "given in the 201st year of the university". Ohio University was founded in 1804, and she received her degree in 2005. My question is this: If 1804 was the university's first year, shouldn't 2005 have been the 202nd year of the university?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Sporting Event #2 Of The Weekend: NASCAR At Darlington"

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As I may have alluded to in my previous posts, my patience is growing thin with NASCAR. This happens from time to time, not just with my interest in NASCAR, but my interest in any sport. Then again, I keep watching. I've threatened to drop my NASCAR interest multiple times, and yet, I always go back. I'm not sure why, but one of the things I like about NASCAR is that it's easy to follow. There is only one race every week. All you have to do to sufficiently follow the sport is take three or four hours out of your weekend. And, you know your favorite driver will be there, too. (Well, unless your favorite driver is Michael Waltrip.) It's not too hard to watch every single lap of Jeff Gordon's season. With other sports, it's harder to keep up. Take Major League Baseball, for instance. If I wanted to watch all of the Marlins' games this season, I'd have to shell out the dough for MLB.tv or the Extra Innings package, and even then I'd have to devote approximately 20 hours a week. No thanks. (I've only watched one Marlins game this season. It's hard to get motivated when the only times I'll get to watch the Marlins this season are when they play the Braves on TBS or the Cubs on WGN.) But with NASCAR, one race a week, and that's it. And, I don't have to buy some premium sports package, either. It's all free, often on over-the-air network television. (Speaking of which, the reason I pay zero attention to boxing is that all of the major fights are on pay-per-view at exorbitant prices. What's the point of following a sport if you can't watch it?)

Now, to get back on track a little bit. NASCAR is racing at my favorite racetrack this weekend, Darlington Raceway. Darlington is a small town in South Carolina located just outside of Florence. While NASCAR is trending towards races in major media markets all over the country, it's good to see there are at least some races remaining in the Rural South. Even if they did yank one of Darlington's two races and move it to California. In doing so, they ended one of the most traditional races on the schedule, the Southern 500, held at Darlington the day before Labor Day. Now, the Labor Day weekend race is held in some miscellaneous California suburb. The Southern 500 used to be one of the most prestigious races on the schedule. Now? Who cares about California, anyway? Ugh. NASCAR has completely sold out. I understand that it's a business, but come on. Even the NFL appreciates tradition. What if the NFL moved one of the traditional Thanksgiving games from Detroit to New York? Or, in a more extreme case, what if the Green Bay Packers became the Los Angeles Packers? That's what this felt like, to me. By getting rid of the Southern 500, NASCAR said "up yours" to all of its traditional fans.

That said, this is my only chance to see Darlington all season. What's so great about Darlington, anyway? First, Darlington was NASCAR's first superspeedway, the first race being in 1950 (9 years before the first Daytona 500). Darlington is also regarded as the toughest oval on the circuit. As the story goes, when they built the track, there was a minnow pond in the way, so they had to kind of distort the track configuration a bit. Also, the track is one of the most narrow ovals on the circuit, adding to the challenge. Darlington doesn't necessary have the most exciting racing, but to me, it is the most interesting racing, because it's as close as you're going to get to being a challenge on an oval. It's one of the few ovals where a talented driver actually makes more of a difference than a well-prepared car (arguably - that's just my opinion). That makes the Darlington race the most interesting race of the year. It's "old school" racing. All of these new tracks look the same. They could never build a track like Darlington nowadays; everybody would complain about it until the reconfigured the track to look like every other track that's been built in the last 10 years. So NASCAR better hold onto this race. If NASCAR were to remove Darlington from the schedule altogether, maybe I actually would take up my threat to desert the sport.

The race that's left is actually run tonight, not tomorrow afternoon. I don't particularly like night racing - I've always maintained that NASCAR belongs on Sunday afternoon - but thanks to my TLD, I can always "delay" the race until then. If they have to have the race at night in order to sell it out (which it has the last three years), then I'm okay with that. And, at least the race is still 500 miles. That's somewhat traditional. And I'm going to watch all 500 of them. (But probably not live. That's just the way it goes.)

Today's random thought:

- I've been working here over 10 months now, and I just now found out that there is a post office two blocks away from the office. That makes my life a lot easier when I need to mail something; now I don't have to make an extra trip or go out of my way on my way home from work. Yay!

Friday, May 11, 2007

"Sporting Event #1 Of The Weekend: The Players Championship"

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Normally, I save the "weekend sports lineup" for the Saturday post. But I don't have anything else to write about, so I'm dragging it out to two days, because there are two main sporting events I am interested in this weekend.

Most weekends, NBC shows two NHL playoff games - one on Saturday afternoon, and one on Sunday afternoon. Now that we're in the conference finals, you'd expect NBC to continue that pattern, now that the games have increased prominence. But nope - the weekend's games are on Versus at night. Why? So that NBC can show the Players Championship instead. And they'll surely get better ratings for it, too.

First off, a couple of logistics. Officially, the name of the tournament has the word "players" all capitalized, as in "The PLAYERS Championship". I don't like that. Is "PLAYERS" an acronym for something? I don't believe so. Therefore, I will refrain from using all capital letters. Also, I will refrain from calling it "The TPC". In this context, the "t" in "TPC" stands for "the", so saying "the TPC" is like saying "The The Players Championship", and that's dumb. Also, TPC not only stands for "The Players Championship", but it also stands for "Tournament Players Club", in the context of the name of golf course at which the event takes place, "TPC at Sawgrass". There are many "TPC at (fill in the blank)" courses around the country. I will only use the acronym "TPC" to refer to the name of the course, not the name of the tournament. Now that I have that cleared up...

The Players Championship is my favorite golf tournament. Why? Well, it has everything to do with being a homer. The Players Championship is played just down the road from Jacksonville in Ponte Vedra Beach (where all the rich people live). It's the only golf tournament I have ever attended in person (I think), and I have been multiple times. And every year I haven't gone, I've watched it on television. And because it's played at the same course every year, I know the course. Every hole. Not just from being there and watching it on television, but also from playing the course in various video games. When you've been to the event and know the course, it makes watching a golf tournament much more interesting. I'm even watching the Thursday and Friday coverage on the Golf Channel.

Besides the "home feel" the tournament gives me, there are a lot of other things I like about the Players Championship. Unlike many PGA Tour courses, the TPC at Sawgrass favors accuracy over distance. That helps level the playing field, and can sometimes allow for the "anonymous winner". Tiger Woods has only won the event once, in 2001. Other winners this decade include such household names as Stephen Ames (Canadian), Fred Funk (notoriously one of the shortest hitters on tour), and Craig Perks (who?). So, given the classic choice between "Tiger or the field", give me the field for this tournament. Every time. (And for the record, I wrote this before he shot an opening-round 75.)

This isn't just some random tournament, either. This is a big tournament, widely referred to as the "Fifth Major" (i.e. the biggest tournament of the year that isn't a major). I don't like that designation, personally - I think calling it "The Players Championship" is sufficient. But backing up its status as the "Fifth Major" is the largest purse on tour, the appearance of almost all of the world's top golfers, and all the perks (no pun intended) that go to the winner (5-year tour exemption, 3-year Masters exception, etc). The course is also sort of the "home course" for the PGA Tour, with the tour headquarters and World Golf Hall of Fame in nearby St. Augustine. Many golfers also make their home in the Ponte Vedra area. Fred Funk even lives on the course grounds (I think).

Also adding to the tournament's prestige is the famous island green, the par 3 17th hole, possibly the most famous hole in professional golf. (It's probably also one of the shortest holes on the PGA Tour. I mean, I could reach it with an 8-iron.) When I attended the tournament in the past, we never really hung out at the 17th hole. That's where everybody goes. I think the 15th green was always our primary stopping point. But there are three main ways to watch a golf tournament in person. Either pick a spot and stay put, walk forward following a specific group, or walk in reverse and see a whole bunch of groups on a whole bunch of holes. If you're looking to sample the entire field and the entire course, walking backwards is the way to do it. (By that, I mean walking in the opposite direction of the course, from hole #18 to hole #1. I don't mean literally walking backwards.)

So, that's one sporting event I'll be watching this weekend. The other? NASCAR, of course. More tomorrow.

Today's random thought: (WARNING - "Lost" spoiler!)

- "Lost" is on too late for my taste, so I record it on the TLD and watch it after work on Thursday. Unlike with sporting events, it's not too hard to avoid the outcomes of fictional television dramas. Except when ESPN.com's A.M. Jump ruins it for me with the following headline: "6 Who Will Be Missed Besides John Locke (If He Is, In Fact, Dead)". Thanks, guys. I hate you.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Disc Golf Rankings: Redux"

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In Tuesday's post, I mentioned that I didn't exactly agree with my previously-constructed rankings of the best disc golf courses I have played. So, I decided to completely redo the rankings. Here are the new rankings, from the bottom up! Many of the rankings haven't changed from last time, you may notice. But whereas the original rankings were supposed to be an overall "score", these rankings are more tailored to the courses I would like to play the most.

#40: Charlotte, NC (Cameron Woods)
#39: Knightdale, NC (Green Pines)
#38: Raleigh, NC (Buckhorn). I said I'd never play here agaion 9at least by myself), but I am more likely go to back to Altoona, so I guess I should place this course near the very bottom.
#37: Altoona, PA (Valley View)
#36: State College, PA (Circleville)
#35: Mars Hill, NC (Mars Hill College)
#34: Fletcher, NC (Crookston). This course was too difficult, but I think I'd rather play here than State College or Altoona, so I moved it up the list slightly.
#33: Cary, NC (Scottish Hills)
#32: Raleigh, NC (East Wake MS)
#31: Black Mountain, NC (Black Mountain)
#30: Indiana, PA (Getty Heights)
#29: Raleigh, NC (Cedar Hills). I still haven't been back to this course since last summer.
#28: Asheville, NC (Richmond Hill)
#27: Columbia, SC (Earlewood)
#26: Lewisberry, PA (Gifford Pinchot)
#25: Burlington, NC (Cedarock Woods). I've been to the near by Open course a bunch of times, but never felt inclined to play this one again. My preference of open courses over tight courses will be prevalent on this list, but ideally, I'd like a good mix.
#24: Raleigh, NC (Kentwood). The course itself is fine, but it's always so crowded.
#23: Toledo, OH (Ottawa). This is the only new course I've played since my last rankings.
#22: Durham, NC (Cornwallis Road). I'm trying to be objective here, but it's possible overexposure to some of these courses is hurting their rankings.
#21: Greenville, SC (Timmons)
#20: Orangeburg, SC (Edisto Gardens)
#19: Ocala, FL (Ocala Greenway)
#18: Zebulon, NC (Zebulon Community)
#17: Pittsburgh, PA (Schenley)
#16: Kinston, NC (Barnet)
#15: Durham, NC (Valley Springs)
#14: Blacksburg, VA (Golden Hills). I wasn't sure what to do with this course in the original rankings, since I only played three holes of it. Now, I think this is where it belongs.
#13: Charlotte, NC (Renaissance)
#12: Hanover, PA (Codorus). The fact that there are 38 holes here definitely helps.
#11: Indiana, PA (IUP College Lodge). My infatuation with this course has definitely gone down as of late, once I realized that a lot of the holes are tight and annoying. But it still has two of the most fun holes anywhere.
#10: Chapel Hill, NC (Carolina Adventures). The highest-ranking Raleigh/Durham area course.
#9: Gainesville, FL (Northside)
#8: Tallahassee, FL (Tom Brown). Maybe of the original coursesI played had the perfect combination of open and tight holes. I kind of took it for granted at the time.
#7: Hughesville, PA (Lime Bluff). This course was originally #20, but I had a lot of fun last weekend, and I felt this course defintiely deserved a higher ranking.
#6: Jacksonville, NC (Northeast Creek). This course is two or three hours away, but I think it's worth the trip.
#5: Burlington, NC (Cedarock Open). I've been going here a lot lately. That must mean I like the course. I don't consider it part of the Raleigh/Durham area, however; I associate Burlington and Alamance County more with the Triad than the Triangle.
#4: Jacksonville, FL (Fore Palms). I kind of took this course for granted when I was there. But with 27 holes and an excellent variety, I think this is one of the best.
#3: Knoxville, TN (Victor Ashe)
#2: Chapin, SC (Crooked Creek). I honestly don't remember what was so nice about this course, but it made quite an impression on me. I bet if I were to go back, I would probably end up lowering this course's ranking. I think I need to go back and refresh my memory. It's only 253 miles away...
#1: Newtown, PA (Tyler). I see no reason to remove this course from the top spot.

Now, back in November, I also had the # of holes I've played at each course listed. How have those rankings changed? Well, Jacksonville and State College are still way ahead, but the Cary course is now my 3rd most-played course, thanks to my "1st Chris Allen Disc Tournament". The Burlington course is currently my 5th most-played course, but once I finish the 2nd disc tournament, that course will probably be in 3rd place. (When I play a hole with two discs, as in the tournaments, I only count that as one hole.) In the state totals, North Carolina has passed Pennsylvania for 2nd place, and is only 88 holes behind Florida for 1st place. Overall, I've now played 2,874 holes of disc golf since I started keeping track three years ago.

Today's random thought:

- I don't remember how much I've talked about oatmeal raisin cookies in this blog, but I don't like them. I prefer chocolate chip in a second, and so do most people my age. Therefore, when cookies are available and there is an equal number of chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin, the chocolate chips are always the first to run out. This situation came up at a seminar I attended this week. But here, the oatmeal raisin cookies were being eaten almost as fast as the chocolate chip cookies. In fact, if it wasn't for me, it probably would have been 50-50. Maybe that's because everyone at the seminar was older than I am (I think). Apparently older people are more likely to eat oatmeal raisin cookies. But I seriously doubt I'll ever prefer them to chocolate chip.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"US-501: Lynchburg to Buena Vista"

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Throughout the life of this blog, I've beaten the State College <--> Raleigh (Cary) drive into the ground. Well, good news - I'm not done yet!

When I was trying to put together the southern portion of the route, the major sticking point I had was figuring out how to get from I-81 to US-29. Most map guidance I had looked at up to that point suggested I take US-501 from Buena Vista to Lynchburg and pick up US-29 there. But I've done that route before, and it's not fast. Then, on my way back from Staunton in October, I thought I'd try the VA-6 way. And, I've never gone another way since. (Actually, I just went to MapQuest and asked for the best way to get from Raleigh (Cary) to Staunton, and it told me to take VA-6, not US-501. Hmm...it didn't do that last time...) All the while, through my trip segment timing, I left the door open to give US-501 a shot at redemption. And since I don't have many State College <--> Raleigh (Cary) drives left, I figured I'd take the opportunity and give US-501 one last chance on Sunday. I didn't expect this route to be faster, but I at least wanted to quantify the difference. I've taken US-501 twice before, but did not time it specifically in comparison to the VA-6 route either time.

Just to get your bearings straight, here are a couple of maps. The first one is the way I've been going:

Now, here's the US-501 way:

The first map isn't entirely accurate, because Microsoft Streets and Trips 2007 doesn't have the newly completed US-29 bypass east of Lynchburg. Because of that, I can't really provide a meaningful distance comparison between the two routes.

What was the timing difference? Compared to the average segment times taking VA-6, the US-501 way was 12 minutes slower. That's about right. Now...I didn't complete US-501 as quickly as I could have. I was stuck behind a trailer for much of it. He wasn't going that slow, and I don't think that alone made a difference of 12 minutes, but still. The road itself is actually a lot of fun when you're not stuck behind anybody; there are many curvy sections as you head over the Blue Ridge. Unfortunately, US-501 gets enough traffic, you'll almost always be stuck behind somebody if you drive at an above-average speed. And in these mountains, passing opportunities are few and far between. So, this road isn't exactly the fastest way over the mountains. Instead, you're better off taking I-64 over the Blue Ridge. Interstates don't make for the most interesting mountain drives, but they always seem to give you the fastest way through the mountains. You still have VA-6 down the mountain, but it's short, and it's fun, and there isn't much traffic, and you can always take US-250 all the way to VA-151 if you want to avoid curvy sections. (But why would you want to do that?) So, this was probably the last time I'm going to take this section of US-501. It's not fast, and there are other fun roads in the area with less traffic.

One more comment about Sunday's drive. My car surpassed 151,000 miles while on PA-16 near Mercersburg, PA, and the Car Mileage Log has been updated accordingly. This is the third milestone I've reached since starting the log. All three milestones to this point have happened outside of North Carolina on Saturday or Sunday. Also, none have been on an interstate highway. I don't really have a preference where these milestones happen; I'm just trying to objectively chronicle their occurrences. But if I were to guess, I'd say that the 152,000 milestone will happen in North Carolina. And when that happens, I'll be sure to let you know, because every 1,000 miles means I'm that much closer to the car's last gasp.

Today's random thoughts on "24": (Spoilers!)

- If you paid attention during the opening credits, and knew which character was played by James Cromwell, then you would have already known Jack's father was going to show up in this episode. I'm surprised they put his name in the opening credits; usually when a character makes a "surprise appearance" at the end of an episode, his or her name isn't in the opening credits. For example, when Audrey made her first appearance a few hours ago, Kim Raver's name did not appear in the credits. (Speaking of which, I think we've seen the last of her this season.) Knowing that Phillip was going to show up, as soon as we found out that the raid on CTU was for Josh, I figured he was behind it somehow, possibly as part of a mutual exchange with the Chinese. Ding ding ding!
- I can picture Tom Lennox sitting in that van, twiddling his thumbs, waiting for Lisa and whoever to finish their business. That's actually kind of funny. But still, the scenes involving Lisa were really painful to watch.
- It's a good thing CTU got attacked, because this episode was going nowhere up until that point. I was getting tired of all of the love stories (which are getting really out of hand, I must say). And I knew Jack wasn't going to be stuck in that cell for the entire episode. This was the most interesting thing that's happened in the last few episodes.
- When the Chinese henchmen shot Milo, did they know he wasn't the real acting director of CTU? They found out later that Nadia was the director, but I'm not sure if they knew that when they shot Milo. If they thought he was acting director at the time, then killing him would have proven to be a mistake when Mike Doyle contacted CTU and the acting director was dead. I really don't understand what that was about, except to write him out of the script. Which, do you really need to write miscellaneous CTU people out of the script? They're minor enough characters, they could simply disappear between seasons and nobody would care.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

"Hiking With A Purpose"

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Early Saturday morning while in State College, Amber and I decided to hike up the landmark mountain formation in the area, Mount Nittany. (Well, it wasn't that early - we left at about 1000a. But it was earlier than most people in town woke up.) This was the first time I had been up to the mountain, and I was impressed. I just expected a little dinky trail that went up a little bit, and that was it, but nope - there is quite a nice network of trails back there with multiple overlooks of the surrounding landscape. We didn't have time to go all the way around the mountain, but we did get a couple of good overlooks in, including the one of Beaver Stadium (which looked quite similar to the "glamour shot" they show during many Penn State football games on ESPN). And, of course, I don't have any pictures. So I'm just going to speak in general hiking terms.

I like being outside and walking around in the wilderness (otherwise known as "hiking"). But I think it's more enjoyable when there's a specific goal in mind. For example, "let's get to the top of that mountain", or "there's a nice waterfall at the end of the trail". It seems to validate the hike. Otherwise, it's just walking without much of a purpose. Purposeless hiking can be fun, too, particularly if it's a loop trail. Loop trails are nice, because you don't see the same stuff twice. (The Mount Nittany trails we took composed a loop trail.) But a hike without a main goal in mind, where you simply end up turning around and heading back at some arbitrary time...I don't know about that. I guess what I'm saying is, if I'm going to go on a hike, I'd rather it lead to something cool, or at least be a loop. The Mount Nittany hike was both - the "top of the mountain" hike is about as classic as it gets. Work your way up the mountain, and you're rewarded with a nice view, as well as a sense of accomplishment. While the scenery pales in comparison, at least you can hike to the top of these Appalachian mountains without too much trouble, as opposed to the Rockies. You can even drive up to some of these mountains. Mount Washington, here we come!

"Hiking with a purpose" doesn't have to imply there's a goal at the end. What if you're doing something fun along the way? That's kind of how I view disc golf. It's not "hiking" in the traditional sense, but it is walking around outside, either in the woods or in open fields. And during the walk, you're throwing a disc and keeping score. The Blacksburg disc golf course I played the previous weekend was actually kind of a hike - with the elevation changes and thick woods and all, it seemed like a hike. (But it wasn't a disc golf course arbitrarily placed along a nature trail with no sense of planning. They did a decent job planning the course.) And, disc golf courses are, in a way, "loop trails", although you're often within view of the holes you already played.

And, speaking of disc golf, that's what we did after hiking Mount Nittany - a bunch of us drove to the Williamsport area (Hughesville, specifically) for a "real" round of disc golf (as opposed to a "fake" round at the local State College course, where we have to make up our own holes just to play 9). The Williamsport course is my favorite kind - mostly open, but with enough obstacles to make it interesting. But looking back at my course rankings, I found that I only ranked this course 19th best out of 39. Why did I do that? I think it deserves a better ranking - the tees are well marked, and the course is a lot of fun. I think I'm going to have to re-rank all of the courses I've played, because these rankings are temporally biased. I often rank a course after the first play, before it really has a chance to "sink in". I often hesitate to place a course near the top right away. And, I've also tended to overrate some other courses that seemed fun at first. I can tell you for sure that contrary to my rankings, the IUP College Lodge course in Indiana, PA is not the 4th-best course I've ever played (although it does have the some of the most fun holes). Expect an update to the rankings later this week, because I need something to write about for Thursday.

Like how the post smoothly transitioned away from hiking and onto disc golf?

Today's random thought:

- A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I've managed to collect 40 of the first 41 commemorative state quarters, with the lone exception being Iowa. Well, Amber managed to find an Iowa quarter for me, so now my collection is complete through the first quarter of 2007. Thanks, Amber!

Monday, May 07, 2007

"Happy New Year!"

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According to the Chris Allen Calendar, yesterday was the last day of Week 52, and today is the first day of Week 1. I suppose that would make today the first day of the new year. So, happy new year! The only "event" this signifies is that I started my Master's degree research exactly 104 weeks ago. But I'm just glad to be back in the low numbers again. (I considered not resetting the week count every year, but then this week would be Week 105, and that would just be unnecessary. I've also considered having Week 1 be the first week of my life and going from there. If I did that, this would be Week 1310.)

So, what's happened this past year? Let's go back and see... (There are blog posts on many of these, but I'm too lazy to provide you with all of the links.)

1F: Officially graduated from Penn State.
1S: Went to an NHL Playoff game, and finished my walking trip from State College to Jacksonville.
2S: Attended my cousin's wedding.
4R: Interviewed for my job.
5S: Went to Cedar Point.
7M: Moved from State College to Raleigh (Cary).
7W: Started this blog.
8M: Started my new job.
8S: Went to a baseball game in Pittsburgh, much to the surprise of many of you.
9M: Went to Centralia, PA.
16S: Went to Kings Dominion.
17X: Attended the "Bad American Swill Festival II".
20S: Attended my cousin's wedding. (Different cousin, of course.)
23X: Attended the Triangle Curling Club's "Learn to Curl" session.
25F through 25X: Went to Staunton, VA.
33S through 34T: Went to Jacksonville for Christmas.
34X: Celebrated the (real) New Year in Port Clinton, OH.
44R through 45X: Went to Nova Scotia on vacation.
50S: Moved to a new apartment.

One thing I've noticed that I remember a lot more about what I did back in June and July than I do in more recent months (Nova Scotia aside). Maybe that's because I did more noteworthy things back then. Lately I've kind of settled into a routine (drive to State College every few weeks; entertain Amber in Raleigh (Cary) every few weeks). But still, June and July were quite memorable.

What's in store for the new year? Well, beyond Amber's graduation (2X) and helping her move to Raleigh (Cary) (3M and 3T), I haven't really planned anything yet. But after moving twice in the last 12 months, I'm just hoping I don't have to move again in the next 12 months.

8:21 AM Update: Oh, I almost forgot! Not only is today the Chris Allen New Year, it's also the most prime day of the year. So, happy Prime Day!

Today's random thought:

- How close behind you does somebody have to be for you to hold the door open for them? I think the maximum is four seconds. If someone is less than four seconds behind you as you enter a room or building, you should be nice and hold the door for them. But beyond four seconds, and they're on their own. I suppose there are exceptions to the rule - for example, if somebody is carrying two hands full of groceries, then perhaps you can expand it to eight seconds. But in general, I follow a four-second policy, give or take.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

"The Chris Allen Football League: Part 3"

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(On location in State College, PA. But I wrote this post earlier in the week, of course.)

The last time I talked about my football league was five months ago. At that point, each team had played 4 games. (Well, most teams.) Now, each team has played 11 games. I'm going to finish this thing eventually. And by the time I do, it'll be football season all over again.

Just to rehash the idea behind the league: I developed an "algorithm" to play a football game based on random numbers. Then, I developed a league that incorporates performance-based ratings for each team into the algorithm to give teams that performed well in past games a better chance to win subsequent games, and thus maintain some kind of continuity. I've been playing out the league off and on for several months now, and I like the way it's turned out.

Back in December, I said I would look at how the two undefeated and five winless teams would do in the next four games. If the team's ratings have no effect on the outcomes, we would expect the undefeated teams to go 4-4 and the winless teams to go 10-10. (Well, that's not necessarily what we expect exactly, but that's the expected value.) How did they do? Well, the undefeated teams went just that - 4-4. Neither Memphis nor Scranton/Wilkes-Barre were able to maintain their high ratings. I don't know what happened to Memphis - they won their next two to start 6-0, but have now lost 5 in a row, and are actually underdogs in their next game against 2-9 Oklahoma City (one of the five teams to start 0-4). The ratings only consider each team's last 5 games, and they've been dismal for Memphis. So even though they're still 6-5, they're screwed. As for Scranton/W-B, they're 8-3 and leading their division, so they're still doing okay, even if their ratings aren't quite as good relative to the rest of the league as they once were.

So, with Memphis' downfall, are the ratings meaningless and have no effect on the outcome? Nope - I still believe in the system, because those five winless teams went a combined 3-17 over their next four games. And, one of those wins was against one of the other winless teams. (Of those five teams, one is still winless through 11 games. Can Louisville run the table?) There is also one undefeated team. I didn't include that team in the December analysis because they already had their bye week by then, and thus had only played three games. But 11 games in, Little Rock is 11-0, and they clinch the division title with a win against division rival Austin in their next game. Also backing up the influence of ratings are some other teams that have recently taken off. Harrisburg (10-1), Birmingham (10-1), and Greensboro (9-2) all have excellent ratings (particularly in the passing game, which appears to have much more influence on success than the running game). If these teams can keep up their momentum, it's going to get interesting come playoff time, especially because they're all in the same conference.

One thing about this ratings system is that it appears to be unstable. In general, the better you are, the better you're going to get, and vice versa. Through random chance, it is certainly possible to reverse your trend, of course - but teams generally seem to be gravitating away from the mean. And that's good. If the system were stable, everybody would finish the season 8-8, and we don't want that.

My playoff format is identical to the NFL format. The top four seeds in each conference go to division winners, and the top two seeds get first-round byes. (Sports cliché warning) "If the season ended now", here would be your playoff seedings:

Eastern Conference: #1 Birmingham (10-1), #2 Harrisburg (10-1), #3 Greensboro (9-2), #4 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (8-3), #5 Raleigh (7-4), #6 Knoxville (5-6)
Western Conference: #1 Little Rock (11-0), #2 Milwaukee (8-3), #3 Fresno (8-3), #4 Las Vegas (8-3), #5 Salt Lake (8-3), #6 San Antonio (7-4)

My tie-breaker is point differential. That way, I don't have to keep track of division records, conference records, and so on.

I'll talk about the league once again when the playoffs start. (Or sooner, if I run dry on material again.) I'm especially curious to see if the favorites can hold serve in the playoffs given the ratings. But I expect quite a few upsets, because all of the teams to make the playoffs are good - particularly in the West, which has several comparable contenders that have all been knocking each other off as of late, outside of Little Rock. It's the good team v. bad team games that are the most deterministic, and there won't be any of those in the playoffs. Except maybe that #3 v. #6 matchup in the East. But there are still 5 games left, and only 5 games' worth of ratings are carried along. So really, nothing's been decided yet.

Today's random thought:

- Today is "Cinco de Mayo". Personally, I think the fact that Americans celebrate "Cinco de Mayo" is stupid. If you're a Mexican-American, then fine. But "Cinco de Mayo" isn't even Mexico's Independence Day; that is September 16th. I think the only reason Cinco de Mayo is even recognized in the United States is because of advertising and commercialism by companies like Corona that want you to buy a bunch of 24-packs to "celebrate". I see Cinco de Mayo as nothing more than a minor-league St. Patrick's Day that only exists because of commercialism. Maybe I'm being insensitive to Mexican-Americans, I don't know, but that's just the way I've interpreted it. Cinco de Mayo needs to go away.

Friday, May 04, 2007

"Have A Take, Don't Suck"

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Most of the time when I'm at work between 1200p and 300p, I'm listen to the Jim Rome Show on the radio. It's something to help pass the time during those last three hours of work. Except lately, I haven't been listening as much. Except today, I'm definitely going to listen. Except that I'm leaving work early to drive to State College. Huh?

Well, today is Rome's self-proclaimed "biggest show of the year", the "Smack-off". It's a competition between his show's best callers to see who can make the "best" phone call when it counts. Personally, I think it's can't-miss radio material, because the callers are the best thing his show has going for it. Some of them are hilarious ("Jeff in Richmond" is my personal favorite), and even the bad ones can be funny too. I get tired of listening to just Rome. Although, I'll give him credit. Not many talk radio hosts can pull off the solo act. Many talk radio hosts (sports talk hosts, in particular) need a sidekick or two to help fill the "dead air". Because who wants to listen to just one guy for three or four hours? Does anybody really have that much to say? Rome seems to pull it off, though. But I think that's more because of the callers and the interviews than anything else. (I don't even listen to most of the interviews, except when it's NASCAR, hockey, or a college football or basketball coach.)

So, while today is the can't miss "Smack-off", I'm leaving work early so I can drive to State College for the weekend. So, I'm going to try to catch it in the car and forego the usual "driving playlist", at least for the first half of the drive. Through 850 AM in Raleigh, 900 AM in Martinsville, and 1400 AM in Charlottesville, hopefully I'll be able to listen to the entire show with minimal interruption. I'm just hoping that one of those affiliates doesn't tape-delay the show, or only air an hour or two. The affliate list on the show's web site doesn't differentiate between stations that carry all three hours live, or tape-delay the show, or only air an hour or two. For example, the Tallahassee station is listed, but it doesn't air the show until 800p. At least, that's the way it was when I was there. ... Actually, I just checked the Tallahassee station's web site, and now that the station is all sports talk, they air Rome live, all three hours. (They used to be a sports/news hybrid, and air Rush Limbaugh during that time slot.) So maybe there is hope. But I'm still pretty sure that Rome's affiliate listing lists all stations, regardless of when or how much of the show is aired. I know I've run into that before. I turned on the Fairmont, WV affiliate during air time, only to get something completely different. But I'm pretty sure Martinsville is live, since the show gets occasional viewer participation from the Blacksburg area. Charlottesville, on the other hand, I'm not so sure. And even Martinsville, now that I think about it. Does Blacksburg listen to the show on the Martinsville affiliate, or on the Bluefield affiliate? Hmm...

And if I can't listen to the entire show, oh well. It'll probably be replayed next time Rome gets sick, and he'll probably replay the winning call about 50 times between now and next year's "Smack-off". So I won't really miss much of anything.

Today's random thought:

- There's a SunTrust bank branch inside the Kroger I go to. Recently, they had a message on their little marker board: "Free checking accounts for Kroger customers!" First off...aren't checking accounts "free" anyway? I don't recall having to pay anything at Wachovia. Second off...you suck, SunTrust. I was stuck with you for four years as part of your agreement with FSU. PNC's "student accounts" blow yours out of the water. Screw you, SunTrust.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Just Like Yesterday, Except With Soda"

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I'm kind of dry on blog material this week, in case you haven't noticed. But I'm going to try to keep the 6-posts-each-week pace up as long as possible, even if some of the posts aren't . (Although there will be another 3-day break in a few weeks.) So, today's post is going to be just like yesterday's, except for soda (otherwise known as pop). Here are all of the sodas I have purchased in recent memory: (I've written about soda before, but not in this context, so this is not retreaded material. I went back and checked.)

First off, before I go to the list: 1) All of the sodas are diet, because that's all I drink. 2) This list does not distinguish between caffinated and non-caffinated varieties. 3) The list is in order of decreasing preference. So, if you wish, you can consider this a ranking.

Coca-Cola Cherry Zero. This stuff is great. I don't know if it's "Coca-Cola Cherry Zero" or "Coca-Cola Zero Cherry", but whichever spells "delicious"!
Fresca, Black Cherry. I'm not afraid to admit that I like Fresca.
Coca-Cola Zero. Hey, this stuff isn't bad either.
Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi. Not as good as the Coca-Cola stuff, but cherry sodas have always been near the top of my list.
Diet Cheerwine. Cheerwine is a black cherry type of soda, but it's not exactly black cherry. It's kind of hard to describe, except that I like it, and it's hard to find in can form.
Fresca, Cherry Citrus. This was purchased in Canada. I haven't seen it in the United States. That's too bad.
Diet Dr. Pepper. It takes more like regular Dr. Pepper!
Diet Pepsi. Diet Pepsi was my preference over Diet Coke, at least until they came out with Coca-Cola Zero.
Fresca, regular. There are a bunch of "generic citrus sodas" on this list, and they all are grouped together.
Diet Sundrop. A proud product of North Carolina.
Diet Mountain Dew. I am proud to "Do The Diet Dew".
Diet Squirt. Not to be confused with Sundrop, I think this is a RC/7-up product.
Diet 7-up. Remember those "Make 7 Up Yours" commercials? I miss those. I even had the t-shirt.
Diet Coke. With Coca Cola Zero hanging around, why do they bother still making this stuff?
Our Family Diet Cola. This is the "store brand" found at Piggly Wiggly stores in North Carolina. The general rule of thumb with diet sodas is that generics aren't so good. This product backs that up. Yuck.

Well, that was fun.

Today's random thought:

- Unlike my old apartment, my new apartment has a built-in microwave. I was apprehensive at first, but I think this microwave is better than the one I've been using. It cooks my Lean Pockets thoroughly without burning the edges to a crisp! But, if the built-in microwave ever breaks, it's good to know I still have the old one lying around.