Friday, August 31, 2007

"College Football Consensus Predictions"

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Two weeks ago, I posted my "predictions" for this season in college football. Since then, Jared has posted everyone else's predictions. And in an effort to stretch one more post out of this, today, I'm going to summarize everyone's predictions, based on the 8 answers I currently have access to. Let's start at the top:

1) Pick a team in the preseason top 10 who will NOT be in the top 10 when the regular season ends. The consensus pick is Florida with 3-of-8 votes. I hope you're right! Others receiving votes: Wisconsin (2), Ohio State (1), Virginia Tech (1), West Virginia (1). The remaining five teams are USC, LSU, Texas, Michigan, and Oklahoma. So is it safe to say they're a shoe-in to finish the regular season in the top 10?

2) Pick a team not in the preseason top 10 who WILL finish in the top 10 at the end of the regular season. Unsurprisingly based on the sample space, Penn State got two votes. California also got two. I kind of ignored Penn State's chances when I put together my answers, but I don't see a top 10 team.

3) Predict the regular season record of your favorite team. The consensus is that "[Insert favorite team] is going to do great this year!" Of all the picks, I was the only one to predict as many as four losses, and the only one who didn't predict double-digit wins. The average prediction for his/her favorite team was 10.5 wins, 1.75 losses. So, is everyone a bunch of homers, or am I just the only one that roots for a crappy team? (Umm, I'd say both.)

4) Predict the order of finish (top four teams) in your favorite conference -- if you pick the SEC, Big 12, or ACC, pick the top 2 in each division.. I'm going to skip this one because it's hard to make a "consensus" on this without basically just regurgitating what everyone already said.

5) Predict the biggest upset in your conference (must be a conference game). Again, there was no consensus, as everyone picked something different. But at the end of the season, let's see if any of the 8 picks pans out: Duke over Wake, Okla St over Texas, NW over Ohio St, Oregon over USC, Illinois over Michigan, So. Car over Tennessee, Baylor over Tx Tech, Nebraska over Texas. Of those, I think SC over Tennessee is most likely, based on my prediction for Gamecock grandeur this season.

6a) How many undefeated teams will there be at season's end (NOT including bowl games)? Everyone either picked two teams (5 votes) or zero teams (3 votes). Wishful thinking?

6b) Which teams will be going undefeated? LSU and Hawaii lead the way with three votes. Texas got two, with USC and Virginia Tech getting one vote each. So if you think Hawaii is a "dark horse" pick, it's not - in contrast, it's the trendy pick.

7a) Predict the BCS Teams. Let's take it conference-by-conference:
ACC - Virginia Tech 4, Georgia Tech 3, Clemson 1. Is Georgia Tech the trendy "I don't want to take VT like everyone else, so I'll pick some other team" pick? Personally, I think Georgia Tech is an ACC also-ran this year. They're in the same division as Virginia Tech, which makes their road to the ACC Championship game that much tougher. The Atlantic Division is far more wide open - just about anyone can win it - which makes it more likely to produce a "surprise" conference champion, since they only have to be above-average for eight games and great for just one game. See Wake Forest last year, or my pick of Clemson for this year. Or how about Boston College? In retrospect, I think BC would have been a better "off the board" pick than Clemson. Oh well, there's no turning back now.
Big East - West Virginia 4, Rutgers 2, Louisville 1. Moving on...
Big Ten - Michigan 4, Wisconsin 2, Ohio State 1, Penn State 1.
Big XII - Texas 5, Nebraska 2, Oklahoma 1. When you put it up to a single championship game, maybe it's not so crazy to think Nebraska could win.
Pac-10: USC 7, California 1. The strongest consensus conference of the bunch.
SEC: LSU 5, Florida 2, South Carolina 1. What, no love for Vanderbilt?
At-large BCS bids: For this list, I'm going to combine them with conference champions, to get the total number of "somewhere in the BCS" votes that each team got: USC 8, Texas 8, LSU 5, Michigan 5, Virginia Tech 5, Oklahoma 5, West Virginia 5, Wisconsin 4, Florida 4, Ohio State 3, Hawaii 3, Penn State 3, Rutgers 3, Georgia Tech 3, Nebraska 2, California 2, South Carolina 2, UCLA 2, Louisville 1, Georgia 1, Notre Dame 1, Boise State 1, Arkansas 1, Tennessee 1, Clemson 1.

7b) Predict the BCS championship game and the national champion. For national champion, we have four votes LSU, and one vote each for USC, Texas, Wisconsin, and California (an admitted "wishcast"). For the championship game loser, we have four votes USC, two votes Texas, one vote LSU, one vote Michigan.

8) If you could attend only one regular season college football game this year, which one would it be? The only game with multiple votes was Texas v. Oklahoma. Independent of favorite teams, I'd say that's a pretty good choice.

9) Who will have more wins at season's end, JoePa or Bobby Bowden? (Bowden currently leads 366 to 363) Four votes Bowden, four votes Paterno.

10) Suggest a name for this year's Penn State Dirty-Dawg group (yep, shameless promotion). "Beaver Stadium Cleanup Crew" is your winner. Are you in?

On another note, I don't think I'll be doing those "College Football Saturday" posts this season like I did last season. For one thing, unlike last year, I have decided not to purchase ESPN GamePlan this year. The main reason is in the fine print: "Big Ten games are not available in the ESPN GamePlan package." I think we can thank the new Big Ten Network for that one.

Last Year: "So Bad, It's Good".

Tomorrow: "Raleigh (Cary) <--> Toledo: The Soundtrack".

Today's random thought:

- I got a phone call the other day requesting me to take part in a survey. I said, "Sure!" Surveys are fun, right? Well, yes, unless they're about local politics. I've never heard of these Cary city council members. I don't even know who the mayor of Cary is. That survey made me feel pretty stupid.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Raleigh (Cary) <--> Toledo: Part 2 Preview"

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Back in January, I posted "Part 1" of this topic. To recap, the idea is this. What's the best way to get from Raleigh (Cary) to Toledo? To find out, I'm taking six different routes over three round trips and timing segments of each drive (segments are defined between intersections of possible routes), to determine the fastest route. This is important, because as long as Amber and I live in Raleigh (Cary) and Amber's family lives in Toledo, we'll be making this drive. I haven't made the drive since January, but we're going there tomorrow for the long weekend, so "Part 2" is finally upon us.

First, for the northbound route, we'll be taking I-64 from Charleston, WV to Lexington, KY:

I certainly don't expect this to be the fastest route. It's hardly direct. But I've never taken most of this stretch of I-64, so this is a good excuse to do it. I'll gain some counties for my map. And, this will be my first visit to Kentucky in over five years.

From a quantitative standpoint, here's what this route is up against. The most direct comparison for this route is US-35 through southern Ohio, which cuts straight from Dayton to Charleston, WV, and is mostly expressway in Ohio. Last time, I took US-35, and it took 3h05m to get from Charleston to Dayton. Taking I-64 and I-75, it's approximately 300 miles from Charleston to Dayton, so we would have to average almost 100 mph to equal US-35. Not a chance. Considering we'll be driving straight through Cincinnati, I don't think we'll even be able to get under 4 hours. But on the bright side, Kentucky did recently raise their speed limits from 65 to 70. And, we're leaving early tomorrow morning, so who cares?

Southbound, I'll be cutting through central Ohio by way of Columbus, taking US-23 from Findlay to Columbus and US-33 from Columbus to I-77 in West Virginia:

This is one of two Findlay-to-Columbus routes that I'll be investigating. This is the generally accepted route north of Columbus, but I'm going to try another route in Part 3. South of Columbus, US-33 passes through Athens (home of Amber's alma mater, Ohio University), so we may stop by there along the way. As for Columbus itself, why am I going the long way around I-270 (known as the Outerbelt)? Because I have to in order to incorporate all possible route segments. If I take the short way, and then take the short way again when I try the other possible Columbus route next time, I won't have traversed the entire Outerbelt, and I won't be able to calculate every possible combination of routes around Columbus. Going the long way around just once isn't enough either; I have to do it both times.

This route has two bases for comparison - the afore-mentioned US-35 route, and the I-77/I-80 route I took northbound in Part 1. From Charleston to Toledo, I-77/I-80 is the "clubhouse leader" at 5h01m. US-35/I-75 took 5h19m. Where will this route fall? Regardless of its time, it won't be "official", because it will have taken the long way around the Columbus Outerloop. I won't have all of the final results in until Part 3 is complete, which will probably be before the end of the year. I don't imagine we'll go through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's without making another trip to Toledo. (Especially since that's probably where Amber and I are going to get married. Or, at least, that general area.) But after Part 2, I'll at least have a general idea if the Columbus routes have a chance. (Also keep in mind that those times, 5h01m and 5h19m, are subject to change as the result of future trips. For trip segments that are repeated, such as I-75 from Findlay to Toledo, the final numbers consider the average of all trips for each segment. So if on Friday, it takes me two minutes longer to get from Findlay to Toledo than it did last time, then US-35's official time from Charleston to Toledo will become 5h20m, since the Findlay-to-Toledo average will increase by one minute.)

I haven't talked about the portion of the route from Raleigh (Cary) to Charleston yet, because all the route variation occurs north of Charleston. (Except for the I-40/I-75 Knoxville route, which we know will take longer.) But there is one question about the North Carolina portion. Depending on when Amber and I leave tomorrow morning, we may drive through Greensboro and/or Winston-Salem during rush hour. How will that affect our route times? Well, last time, it took 1h20m to get from my apartment to the I-40/Bus-40 split east of Winston-Salem. In an effort to avoid traffic, we may take the portion of the Greensboro Outer Loop that has been completed thus far. Either way, I'll be curious to see how it affects the segment time. This doesn't have any effect on the route competition, since every route uses this segment, so this is just for fun.

Overall, my two total trip times thus far are 9h25m and 9h56m. (The latter was with US-35, which I said was 18 minutes longer. However, the 9h25m trip departed straight from work instead of from my apartment, and that saves about 13 minutes.) Under 10 hours is the "benchmark", I'd say, so we'll see. Next week, I'll post the results.

Last Year: "Summer 2006: By The Numbers". I still keep my "by-the-numbers" section alive in my AOL Instant Messenger profile, although I don't think it's as interesting as it used to be. Maybe I'll write a post about it next week.

Tomorrow: "College Football Consensus Predictions". Jared has already taken care of posting everyone else's predictions, so I'm just going to take everyone's guesses predictions and develop some sort of consensus. After all, the season starts this weekend (well, tonight, actually), so I think another post is warranted.

Today's random thought:

- I just discovered something on Facebook called the "Traveler IQ Challenge". It's a game that shows you a world map, the name of a city or landmark, and you have to click your mouse on the map as close to where it's located as you can. The closer you get, and the faster you do it, the more points you get. It's like they made this game just for me! I'm quite good at it. If you have me on Facebook, the game can be accessed from my profile. But I'll refrain from talking "smack", because I'm sure at least one of you can beat my World IQ of 132.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

"Does Every City Have A Road Named After Martin Luther King Jr?"

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I've always wondered the question posed by the title of this post, particularly for southern cities. So, I decided to find out how many of the 100 most populous cities in the United States have a road named after Martin Luther King, Jr. I did this using Google Maps, which lets me type in something like "Martin Luther King, Atlanta, GA", and it will deduce in the full name of the road, if there is one (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, or Martin Luther King Jr Dr). Or, if there isn't a road, Google will return something else named after MLK. So, let's get started! (A quick reminder that this is only as accurate as Google Maps.)

1) New York, NY - No. I'm not sure if Google searched all of the boroughs, though. All it returned was MLK Jr High School.
2) Los Angeles, CA - Yes. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd may or may not be located in infamous "South Central". (I don't know where "south central" is on a map, but it looks good to me.
3) Chicago, IL - No. There is a MLK Jr Dr in the distant suburb of North Chicago, but I'm not counting that, since that's not part of Chicago.
4) Houston, TX - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
5) Phoenix, AZ - Yes, sort of. All I got was a Martin Luther King Cir, a tiny dead-end sttreet. I guess it's technically named after his father, but for the purposes of this, it counts.
6) Philadelphia, PA - Yes. Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr is also known as River Dr.
7) San Antonio, TX - Yes, Martin Luther King Dr.
8) San Diego, CA - Yes. CA-94 has been designated the Martin Luther King Jr Fwy.
9) Dallas, TX - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
10) San Jose, CA - No. But San Jose does have the Martin Luther King Jr Library.
11) Detroit, MI - Yes. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd intersects Rosa Parks Blvd.
12) Jacksonville, FL - Yes. I already knew about Martin Luther King Jr Pkwy, but Google also gave me Martin Luther King Jr Dr, and Martin Luther King Dr, for a total of three separate roads. (One of those is actually in Baldwin, a separate community that is technically part of incorporated Jacksonville, but whatever.) And, that's right, Jacksonville is the 12th largest city in the United States. Woo! Keep in mind these are strictly "cities", not "media markets" or "metropolitan areas". This means several suburbs will make the list, which I think is fair because suburbs have the right to have their own road named after MLK, independent of neighboring communities.
13) Indianapolis, IN - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr St. It seems the majority of these roads don't use the "Doctor" prefix, but this one does. This is also the first to use "Street".
14) San Francisco, CA - Yes. But Martin Luther King Jr Dr isn't a major road, its located entirely within Golden Gate Park.
15) Columbus, OH - Yes. But according to the map, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd only lasts for one block, it's just something they slapped onto a gap between two other road designations.
16) Austin, TX - Yes, Martin Luther King Blvd.
17) Memphis, TN - No? I would think Memphis is a sure thing, but all Google found was Martin Luther King Riverside Park. Well, at least they have something.
18) Fort Worth, TX - Yes. The Martin Luther King Jr Fwy is otherwise known as US-287. See, both Dallas and Fort Worth have one.
19) Baltimore, MD - Yes. As is the case with many of these roads, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd is located in downtown Baltimore.
20) Charlotte, NC - No. This is even more surprising than Memphis. But like Memphis, there is a park named after MLK.
21) El Paso, TX - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
22) Boston, MA - Yes, again, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
23) Seattle, WA - Yes. This is the first one to be called Martin Luther King Jr Way.
24) Washington, DC - Yes. Even though it is the nation's capital, I had my doubts about Washington. But there it is, Martin Luther King Jr Ave. It's not in downtown Washington, but is across the Anacostia River.
25) Milwaukee, WI - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr. The two "Dr"s meaning two different things (Doctor, Drive) is confusing, isn't it?
26) Denver, CO - Yes, Martin Luther King Blvd.
27) Louisville, KY - Yes, barely. Dr Martin Luther King Pl is only about 500 feet long.
28) Las Vegas, NV - No. But they do have an MLK Park and an MLK Elementary School.
29) Nashville, TN - No. What's wrong with you, Tennessee? Nashville does have Martin Luther King Jr Magnet School.
30) Oklahoma City, OK - Yes, Martin Luther King Ave.
31) Portland, OR - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
32) Tucson, AZ - No. Tucson didn't even give him a park, a school, or anything. But there is someone named Martin Luther King living at 1322 E 1st St, according to Google.
33) Albuquerque, NM - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Ave.
34) Atlanta, GA - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Dr. Of all the cities in the southeast, you would expect Atlanta to have one. That, and Birmingham, and Montgomery. (Those two come up later.)
35) Long Beach, CA - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Ave. I'm actually a little surprised with Long Beach.
36) Fresno, CA - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
37) Sacramento, CA - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. California isn't disappointing, I must say.
38) Mesa, AZ - No. I have a feeling a lot of these suburbs will come up empty.
39) Kansas City, MO - No. Only a middle school and a park.
40) Cleveland, OH - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Dr.
41) Virginia Beach, VA - No.
42) Omaha, NE - No. But there is a Martin Luther King Swim Pool.
43) Miami, FL - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
44) Oakland, CA - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Way.
45) Tulsa, OK - No.
46) Honolulu, HI - No. Not surprising - as I remember, all of the streets in Honolulu begin with the letter 'K'.
47) Minneapolis, MN - No, only a park.
48) Colorado Springs, CO - No, only a school. It seems the further you move down the list, the fewer instances you find.
49) Arlington, TX - No. But Dallas and Fort Worth each have one, so they're forgiven, I suppose.
50) Wichita, KS - No.
51) Raleigh, NC - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. I think I have yet to drive on it, though. (This list is out of date; Raleigh recently passed Wichita for 50th place.)
52) St. Louis, MO - Yes, Martin Luther King Blvd.
53) Santa Ana, CA - No, only a school. I didn't even know where Santa Ana was before now. (It's in Orange County, CA.)
54) Anaheim, CA - No.
55) Tampa, FL - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. It's a pretty major road, too.
56) Cincinnati, OH - Yes, Martin Luther King Dr.
57) Pittsburgh, PA - No, only an elementary school.
58) Bakersfield, CA - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
59) Aurora, CO - No. But Denver's road is pretty close.
60) Toledo, OH - No. That's funny, I thought I remembered them having one...
61) Riverside, CA - Yes, Martin Luther King Blvd.
62) Stockton, CA - No, only a school.
63) Corpus Christi, TX - Yes. According to Google, they have both Martin Luther King Dr and Martin Luther King Ave, although they are both the same road.
64) Newark, NJ - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
65) Anchorage, AK - No.
66) Buffalo, NY - No, but there is an MLK park.
67) St. Paul, MN - Yes. This is the first one to refer to him as a reverend: "Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd". How many prefixes and suffixes can you have?
68) Lexington, KY - Yes, Martin Luther King Blvd.
69) Plano, TX - No, but this is another Dallas suburb, so it's not surprising.
70) Fort Wayne, IN - No. I'm more surprised that Fort Wayne is the 70th largest city in the country. Who knew?
71) St. Petersburg, FL - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King St.
72) Glendale, AZ - No. Not surprising, since Mesa didn't either.
73) Jersey City, NJ - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Dr.
74) Lincoln, NE - No.
75) Henderson, NV - No. Henderson is a suburb of Las Vegas, which didn't either.
76) Chandler, AZ - No. Phoenix has too many large suburbs.
77) Greensboro, NC - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Dr.
78) Scottsdale, AZ - No. Again with the Phoenix suburbs...
79) Baton Rouge, LA - No. Every southern city without one surprises me.
80) Birmingham, AL - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Dr.
81) Norfolk, VA - Yes. I-464 is also known as the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial Hwy.
82) Madison, WI - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
83) New Orleans, LA - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
84) Chesapeake, VA - Yes, although it's same road as in Norfolk, I-464. But I suppose it counts.
85) Orlando, FL - No. Hmm, I thought they had one.
86) Garland, TX - No. But there is one in Garland City, AR.
87) Hialeah, FL - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. This is the same road claimed by Miami, though.
88) Laredo, TX - No.
89) Chula Vista, CA - No. Chula Vista is the second city on this list I couldn't locate on a map prior to this exercise. There are two more coming later; all of them are in California.
90) Lubbock, TX - Yes, Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
91) Reno, NV - No.
92) Akron, OH - Yes. Martin Luther King Jr Fwy and Martin Luther King Jr Blvd are the same road (well, sort of).
93) Durham, NC - Yes, Martin Luther King Pkwy.
94) Rochester, NY - No.
95) Modesto, CA - Yes, Martin Luther King Dr.
96) Montgomery, AL - Yes. I-85 has been designated the Martin Luther King Jr Expy.
97) Fremont, CA - No.
98) Shreveport, LA - Yes, Dr Martin Luther King Jr Dr.
99) Arlington, VA - No.
100) Glendale, CA - No.

This means that according to Google Maps, 58 out of the 100 most populous cities have a road named after Martin Luther King. Considering the top 50 cities, it's 33-of-50. The next 50 cities (51-100) are split 50/50. I'd have thought it would be more than 58%, but that's perception for you. You see them in multiple cities, and then you think, "Well, then every city must have one."

Now, when you split it up according to these geographical regions, here's where it stands: (I didn't classify Alaska and Hawaii in that classification, so I decided to include Hawaii with California, and Alaska with Northwest.)

Leftovers 2/2 (100%)
Mid-Atlantic 6/8 (75%)
Southeast 13/18 (72%)
Midwest 10/15 (67%)
Northwest 2/3 (67%)
South Plains 9/14 (64%)
California 10/18 (56%)
Northeast 2/6 (33%)
Rocky Mtn 1/3 (33%)
North Plains 1/3 (33%)
Southwest 2/10 (20%)

The "Leftovers" region only has Lexington and Louisville, KY, both of which had one. (West Virginia has no cities in the top 100 in population.) If you include Kentucky in the Southeast, then the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast tie for first with 75%. It's not surprising that those regions have the best percentage, and that the Southwest had the worst (thanks to all of those useless Phoenix suburbs). But I'm surprised that California was over 50%. Not bad, guys.

In case you're wondering how I feel about all this, I think all major cities should have at least one street named after Martin Luther King Jr. It's something I expect to see when I visit a city. "Hey, there's the courthouse!" "Hey, there's Martin Luther King Jr Blvd!" At 58%, you could argue that it's already overkill. But if you're going to have overkill, you might as well go all the way, right? Let's work on getting that 58% up to 100%!

Last Year: "Paramount's Kings Dominion". We haven't made the trip to Carowinds yet, but we will.

Tomorrow: "Raleigh (Cary) <--> Toledo: Part 2 Preview".

Today's random thought:

- Due to the new government regulations, we now spend much more time on Daylight Saving Time than we do on Standard Time (34 weeks versus 18 weeks). So should we redefine "Standard Time" to actually refer to "Daylight Saving Time"? We could also redefine the time zones so that states that don't use DST today move back one time zone. (For example, Arizona would move from Mountain to Pacific, which actually makes more sense because Arizona is coordinated with Pacific time more often than with Mountain Time anyway.) But then, what would we rename the old Standard Time? "Daylight Wasting Time"?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"A Boring Post About Last Weekend"

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Amber and I usually don't do anything exciting the weekend before a big road trip. With a road trip to Toledo planned for next weekend, and no curling, this weekend was quite uneventful. But we did do two things that we haven't done in a while.

Amber and I hadn't gone bowling since June 24th, a span of 9 weeks. We had considered it the previous two weekends. We prefer our bowling in the morning, but every bowling alley I know of in the Raleigh (Cary) area doesn't open until 100p on Sunday. And our last two Saturday mornings were spoken for. So, this week, we took the opportunity and got our standard three-game set in. And as is almost always the case, Amber won all three (although all the games were painfully close). I wouldn't be surprised if we went bowling again this weekend while in Toledo. Not like there's anything else to do in Toledo, right?

Amber and I hadn't gone out to dinner by ourselves since June 17th, a span of 10 weeks. (Yes, I know the exact dates, due to my obsessive stat keeping.) Since then, we have been to dinner with family and friends, and to breakfast, but no "dinner-for-two". So, we took care of that on Saturday as well. My chicken strips were delicious, as always. (When dining out, I probably order chicken strips at least 50% of the time. I would keep an official stat about that, but I think that knowing my stats on that would influence my decision making, which would defeat the purpose.)

There was also this thing called "Lazy Daze" in Raleigh (Cary) on Saturday, which was pretty much their version of Arts Fest (except for one day only). The most interesting thing I have to say about that was that although we went during the heat of the late afternoon, at least we got to take advantage of cheap concessions! Bottled water (sold by many area non-profit organizations) started out at $1.50. But by the time we got there, everyone had dropped the price to $1, and some people even dropped the price to two-for-one! We definitely took advantage of that. Whose idea was it to have this thing in late August?

I've also decided that I'm officially sick of summer. So I'm glad we're driving north this weekend, where the highs are forecast to be in the 70s. Wahoo!

Last Year: "Generic Theme Park Rides".

Tomorrow: "Does Every City Have A Road Named After Martin Luther King Jr?"

Today's random thought:

- How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? According to Mr. Owl in that famous commercial, three. But one time in 5th grade, I took it upon myself to count. No sucking, no biting, only licks. I think I counted around 500 licks before the chocolate finally broke through.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Georgia Counties"

The way I see it, it's either post this today, or post nothing today. So I might as well post it, right?

Here's a typical exchange in the car as Amber and I drove to and from Jacksonville a few weeks ago:

- Chris sees a Georgia license plate with a county name he doesn't recognize. "Hey, Amber! Where's [name of county] County?"
- Amber looks up the county in the road atlas. "It's in [location], near [city]."
- Chris: "Thanks!"

I already know where all the counties in Florida are. My next goal is Georgia, which I think is easier than North Carolina because Georgia puts county names on their license plates, and thus I am exposed to the county names more. And I already know a lot of Georgia counties, particularly along the south and east borders, and in the Atlanta area. But the problem is, there are 159 counties in Georgia, which is the second-most in the country (Texas has 254). So, it's going to take some work. (In case you're wondering, I have been to 88 of the 159 counties.)

To help me out, I put together this map:

Now, here's the key, with comments about some counties:

1 - Dade. 2 - Walker. 3 - Catoosa. 4 - Whitfield (Dalton, famous for really nice carpet). 5 - Murray. 6 - Gilmer. 7 - Fannin. 8 - Union. 9 - Towns. 10 - Rabun. 11 - Chattooga. 12 - Floyd. 13 - Gordon. 14 - Bartow. 15 - Pickens. 16 - Cherokee. 17 - Dawson. 18 - Forsyth. 19 - Lumpkin. 20 - White. 21 - Habersham. 22 - Stephens. 23 - Hall (Gainesville). 24 - Banks. 25 - Franklin. 26 - Hart.
27 - Jackson. 28 - Madison. 29 - Elbert. 30 - Polk. 31 - Haralson. (Wow, I had never even heard of a lot of these counties before I put this together.) 32 - Paulding. 33 - Carroll. (Now we're in the Atlanta area.) 34 - Douglas. 35 - Cobb. 36 - Fulton (downtown Atlanta). 37 - Fayette. 38 - Clayton. 39 - Dekalb. 40 - Gwinnett. (That's it for Atlanta.) 41 - Rockdale. 42 - Barrow. 43 - Walton. 44 - Newton. 45 - Morgan. 46 - Oconee. 47 - Clarke (Athens). 48 - Oglethorpe. 49 - Greene. 50 - Wilkes. 51 - Lincoln. 52 - Taliaferro. 53 - Hancock. 54 - Warren. 55 - Columbia. 56 - McDuffie. 57 - Glascock. 58 - Richmond (Augusta). 59 - Burke. 60 - Heard. 61 - Troup. 62 - Coweta. 63 - Meriwether. 64 - Henry. 65 - Spalding. 66 - Pike. 67 - Lamar. 68 - Butts. 69 - Monroe. 70 - Jasper. 71 - Putnam. 72 - Jones. 73 - Baldwin. 74 - Bibb (Macon). 75 - Twiggs. 76 - Wilkinson. 77 - Washington. 78 - Jefferson. 79 - Johnson. 80 - Harris. 81 - Talbot. 82 - Upson. 83 - Crawford. 84 - Muscogee (Columbus). 85 - Chattahoochee. 86 - Marion. 87 - Taylor. 88 - Schley. 89 - Macon (not where the city is). 90 - Peach. 91 - Houston (pronounced HOW-stun, not HUE-ston.) 92 - Bleckley. 93 - Laurens. 94 - Dooly. 95 - Pulaski. 96 - Crisp. 97 - Wilcox. 98 - Dodge. 99 - Wheeler. 100 - Treutlen. 101 - Emanuel. 102 - Jenkins. 103 - Screven. (I'm far more familiar with these over here.) 104 - Candler. 105 - Bulloch. 106 - Effingham. 107 - Montgomery. 108 - Toombs (Vidalia, home of famous onions). 109 - Tattnall. 110 - Evans. 111 - Bryan. 112 - Chatham (Savannah). 113 - Liberty. 114 - Long. 115 - Wayne. 116 - McIntosh. 117 - Brantley. 118 - Glynn. 119 - Camden (home of my car's 158,000th mile). 120 - Stewart. 121 - Webster. 122 - Sumter. 123 - Quitman. 124 - Randolph. 125 - Terrell. 126 - Lee. 127 - Clay. 128 - Calhoun. 129 - Dougherty. 130 - Worth. 131 - Turner (home of the first Piggly Wiggly I ever went to). 132 - Ben Hill. 133 - Tift. (Tifton is in Tift County, which makes it easy to remember. Unfortunately, most of these counties aren't like that, and some of them are misleading. Many counties have county seats that are also the names of other counties.) 134 - Irwin. 135 - Telfair. 136 - Coffee. 137 - Jeff Davis. 138 - Bacon. 139 - Appling. 140 - Early. 141 - Miller. 142 - Baker. 143 - Seminole. 144 - Decatur. 145 - Mitchell. 146 - Grady. 147 - Colquitt. 148 - Thomas. 149 - Brooks. 150 - Cook. 151 - Berrien. 152 - Atkinson. 153 - Lanier. 154 - Lowndes. 155 - Echols. 156 - Clinch. 157 - Ware. 158 - Pierce. 159 - Charlton.

So...out of 159, I probably know less than 30. I have some work to do.

Last Year: "Drives By County". After next weekend's drive to Toledo, I'll probably post an updated map, since it's been a while.

Tomorrow: "A Boring Post About Last Weekend".

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"My Thoughts On The FedEx Cup"

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The FedEx Cup is the PGA Tour's attempt to get you to watch golf in September. If you follow sports, you've likely heard of it. If you don't follow sports, you're probably not going to read this post anyway. So let's move on to what I think about it.

First off, I wasn't real thrilled when NASCAR announced the "Chase For The Championship", a 10-race season-ending "playoff". But it must have worked, because golf, of all sports, basically tried to copy it. Both the NASCAR and golf "playoff" systems are pretty similar - you accumulate points during the regular season, and then the top X number of participants have their points reset (or seeded), and we start over for the playoffs. But here are the two main differences. First, the NASCAR playoffs are far more exclusive - only 25% of the full-time drivers make it. In golf, the top 144 players make it, meaning pretty much anyone with any level of success on tour is in. But the other difference is that golf seeds the players such that the seeding actually matters. Thus, Tiger Woods can miss the first event and still be the favorite to win. Nobody has a realistic chance of winning the NASCAR championship if they miss an event, and the regular-season "seedings" are negligible.

Now, while NASCAR has had success with its playoff system, here's why I think the FedEx Cup won't succeed. In NASCAR, there already was a season-long championship. There has been since NASCAR started. They simply decided to change how the champion was determined. But in golf, there has never been anything like the FedEx Cup. They basically just made it up. Up until now, season-long golfing success is determined mostly by how you do in the four majors. The majors are what the sports-viewing public views as "important", based on tradition and publicity. The FedEx Cup? It's hard for the public to accept this as "important" when they don't even understand the thing. I understand it, but it still has a complex points system. And I don't think "points systems" make golf more interesting. Golf is more watchable when you have the players at the top of the leaderboard going last on Sunday. But what if the eventual FedEx Cup winner is done playing hours before the final tournament is over? That's boring, and confusing. Strokes should decide golf tournaments, not points. Granted, NASCAR has the same problem with its championship, as the eventual champion usually only has to finish 10th or so in the final race to win, and that's not very exciting. But at least it's still undecided until the race is over. And, all the possible scenarios in golf may be hard to grasp. So I don't think this is going to work for golf. I think they're better off "seeding" in terms of actual strokes and doing away with points altogether heading into the final tournament. That way, the seedings would be relevant, and whoever had the best score at the end of the final tournament would win the FedEx Cup. It would be much easier for fans to follow that way.

But I'm in favor of a season-long championship in order to determine the best golfer in a given season. But what does it say when its "best player" skips the first playoff tournament? Apparently, Tiger doesn't care that much about the FedEx Cup, so why should we care? (Or, maybe he's just so confident, that he knows he can sit out the first tournament and still win.)

As for me, I might actually watch some of this, because I now have a rooting interest on tour: Boo Weekley. Boo is the #17 seed entering the playoffs. If Boo is in the hunt, then maybe I'll sneak a peek every now and then. If not, then forget it.

Last Year: "The Diabolical Scheme Thwarter: Issue #1". I think the DST stories fizzled out because they were a bit too ordinary, and I wasn't as creative as I should have been with it. But at least I got five "issues" out of it.

Tomorrow: "Georgia Counties".

Today's random thought:

- I just discovered that the name of the expressway linking Orlando with the Space Coast (FL-528), formerly known as the Bee Line Expressway, is now called the Beachline Expressway. Why? Because Brevard County tourism wanted to promote their beaches as the closest beaches to Orlando. I strongly disapprove of the name change. I thought the name "Bee Line Expressway" was cool. Boo!

Friday, August 24, 2007

"The Atari 2600"

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My parents weren't big spenders when I was a kid. So, I never had a Nintendo, a Super Nintendo, a Sega Genesis, or anything like that. Instead, I had an Atari 2600, and I got plenty of use out of it. (I think it's still lying around my parents' house somewhere. I wonder what those things are pulling on eBay these days...) Let's reminisce, shall we?

Some time ago, I downloaded all of the games I used to have (plus some more) onto my PC, playable via an emulator. You'd be surprised how small these games are. Four kilobytes? This blog post might not even be that small. But those are probably the most efficient four kilobytes in video gaming history. Now, I'm going to present a ranked list of my favorite Atari games, starting at the top: (All of these games were either mine, or I played them at my aunt/uncle's house. I may have left out a few.)

1) "Pitfall!" In my mind, this is without a doubt the best game ever made for the Atari. I don't think it's a stretch to call it "revolutionary". And, it's far more complicated than your typical Atari game. It took me a while to get good at it, but once I figured out how to jump over the crocodile heads without the aid of a rope, I was unstoppable. Wikipedia link (That's the only game I'll link to Wikipedia, because I'm lazy. Instead, here's the master list.)
2) "Enduro". You know how I like racing games, right? Well, this was the best one I knew of for Atari, and thus, I played it a lot. The premise is to pass a certain number of cars during a "day". When I was a kid, I used to wonder the following: "When would I reach the mountains in the background?" (Never, of course.) "What happens when you pass day 9?" (You move on to day 10. I wondered this because there's only slot for the day number on screen. But once you pass day 99, you go to day "0", and then back to day 1, which is just like the first day 1, I think.)
3) "Megamania". There are a million "shoot 'em up" games for the Atari, and I think this one got played the most, probably the things to shoot included "hamburgers", "cookies", "radial tires", and "steam irons". On a side note, the top 3 games were all made by Activision. Hmm...
4) "Warlords". This was the best multiplayer game for the Atari. It's based on the "pong" concept, except each player has a "base" they're trying to protect. And, you can even hold onto the ball if you press the button. Innovative! (Yep, the button. Remember when games only needed one button?)
5) "Berzerk". Walk around and shoot robots, but don't touch them, or the electric walls, or you will die in spectacular fashion. (Once I got past the top 3, I'm really splitting hairs with some of these rankings.)
6) "Double Dragon". Fight people with your fists, legs, elbows, and sometimes-available bats, knives, and oil drums. Wahoo! (When it came down to it, the elbow punch was really all you needed.) I think the music annoyed the crap out of my parents.
7) "Pole Position". Just like the arcade game of the same name.
8) "International Soccer". This game is more commonly known as "Pele's Soccer", it seems, but my cartridge says "international", so whatever. This was my favorite non-racing sports game because the computer actually put up a decent challenge.
9) "Yar's Revenge". This game is kind of bizarre, when you think about it. I can't describe it in less than 100 words, I don't think.
10) "Golf". No club choices (including putters), just determine the length of your backswing, and "let her rip". Only 9 nine holes, though.
11) "Gyruss". A shoot-em-up game with a really sweet soundtrack.
12) "Ice Hockey". No fights, but you can injure people temporarily. That was the best part of the game.
13) "Vanguard"
14) "Circus Atari". I liked this game just because when you miss your guy and he falls flat on the ground, it looks funny.
15) "Commando". Based on the movie (I guess). The most disappointing thing about this game is that there was an image on the back of the box with a motorcycle driving across one of the bridges. But we played this game for hours and hours, and never saw any motorcycles. False advertising!
16) "Robot Tank". Another Activision game that may have been ahead of its time.
17) "Home Run". A baseball game. Most Atari sports games were only enjoyable with a human opponent.
18) "Combat". This game was one of the better two-player games, where the goal is to shoot the other guy.
19) "Stampede". Another Activision winner. Herd up those cattle!
20) "E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial". Now, some consider this game to be not only the worst in Atari history, but the worst game in video gaming history. Basically, they rushed something out for the holiday season, and it was crap. This was a disaster for Atari, and helped lead to their eventual demise. But I didn't know all those things when I was a kid. I liked running around and eating chocolate. There are still plenty of game copies available in a New Mexico landfill somewhere.
21) "Centipede". I think just about every popular arcade game in the early 1980s was ported to the Atari.
22) "Frogger"
23) "Q-bert". The problem with this game was that you could only move diagonally, but you moved by pressing in the regular four directions, leading to confusion. That's a limitation of the Atari system, I'd say.
24) "Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back". Shoot the imperial walkers before they reach that predetermined arbitrary location!
25) "Super Breakout". We were too cool for regular "Breakout".
26) "Street Racer". Yeah, its name would imply that I would like the game more than #25, but...nah.
27) "Missle Command"
28) "Video Olympics". This had several glorified versions of pong, including "basketball", "volleyball", "hockey", and so on.
29) "Defender". Shoot stuff. I might as well group all of these standard-fare shooters together, right?
30) "Demon Attack". Shoot stuff.
31) "Astroblast". Shoot stuff.
32) "Galaxian". Shoot stuff. These guys at Atari were awfully creative, eh?
33) "Air-Sea Battle". Shoot stuff, but this game was much better with two players.
34) "Asteroids"
35) "Phoenix"
36) "Football". Before Tecmo Bowl, there was this. It was better than nothing.
37) "Donkey Kong". Yeah, there was a Donkey Kong game for the Atari. It had a total of two levels, which repeated themselves.
38) "Frogs and Flies". It's always been my goal to get a score over 100, since the screen only outputs two digits for the score. But I've never been able to do it, even now.
39) "Cosmic Ark". This game perplexed me as a kid, but I've actually had some fun with it now on the PC. But these rankings are based on how I felt as a kid (to some extent - they're fairly arbitrary, as usual).
40) "Pac-Man". This game was another "failure" for the Atari. I didn't think it was bad at the time, but looking back on it now...yeah, Ms. Pac Man was far superior.
41) "Space Invaders". Sure, it was one of the originals, but there are many better shooting games for the Atari.
42) "Star Raiders". This game came with an entirely new controller with multiple buttons! Thus, I don't think my simple mind ever figured this game out.
43) "Starmaster". I never really figured this game out, either.
44) "SwordQuest: Earthworld"
45) "SwordQuest: Fireworld". Not knowing the background (these were part of a contest), and not having the comic books that game with the game (and explained the plot), these two SwordQuest games had to be the most confusing games I've ever played. I had no idea what was going on. But, there were some fun mini-games.

Thank you, Atari, for helping me kill time during my childhood.

Last Year: "AIM Semi-Hiatus. Before this, I would be signed onto AIM all the time. Then, I signed off completely. Now, I'm on sometimes, whenever I feel like it (or whenever I think of a decent away message).

Tomorrow: "My Thoughts On The FedEx Cup".

Today's random thought:

- I greatly prefer bathrooms with the light switch inside, as opposed to just outside the door. This keeps you from having to pollute the adjacent room with unnecessary light in the middle of the night. Why don't they all do it that way?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Fantasy Football"

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Fantasy football has taken the country by storm. Why? Here are some possible reasons:
- It's free.
- It promotes gambling.
- People are bored at work.
- Everyone thinks they know sports better than their friends.
- It's everywhere. It's always being promoted and advertised, and there are countless television shows, magazines, and websites on the subject.

Personally, I've been involved in some kind of fantasy football probably for the entire decade. First, James and I did it at this website called "Sandbox" (I think), and we joined some random league. Then, we got the whole family in on it, plus friends, and everyone gravitated over to Yahoo, because they do it the best. I'll give Yahoo credit: while Google has made their search engine obsolete, they have managed to stay afloat through fantasy sports.

I've always been in that "middle ground" when it comes to fantasy football. I'm not a fanatic about it, but I'm not the type to go three weeks without checking my roster either. And, that "middle ground" is generally where I finish each season. Except last year, I finished last in one league. But I didn't mind, because in this league, draft order the next season is determined by reverse finish from last season. So, I rode my last place finish all the way to the #1 pick in this year's draft, which I will use on LaDainian Tomlinson. (No, I didn't "tank". But maybe I should have.)

Only recently was I convinced that you should use your first picks on running backs. Quarterbacks get more points than running backs, right? If Peyton Manning gets more fantasy points than anyone else, why shouldn't he go #1? That was my reasoning. Well...I could tell you why not, but then I'd just be regurgitating the same advice you can get on any number of fantasy football "tip" websites, and that's something I'm trying to avoid in this post. But once everyone caught on to the need to draft running backs early, now all the top running backs go in the first two rounds of every draft, so you have to take them early, or else you'll be stuck starting Fred Taylor.

I'm in three leagues this year - all on Yahoo, of course - and all free. I won't play fantasy football for money, because then it will be guaranteed that everyone else in the league will be taking it more seriously than I am. I try not to take this stuff too seriously. I did little-to-know preparation for any of the drafts. Basically, when it came I tried to fill a hard-to-fill need (running backs and wide receivers), I found a highly-ranked player at the position, checked his "news and notes" to make sure he wasn't injured (or suspended), and selected him. Although I confess, I did actually read a short "guide" before the draft. But the only thing I got out of that was that it's a good idea to draft your best running back's backup in case he gets injured. Seems like a good idea to me, particularly when you have lots of "bench" spots available.

One more thought on fantasy football leagues: playoffs. I am actually against any kind of playoffs in a fantasy league. James's league has no playoffs, and the team with the best end-of-season record wins. I like it that way. I can live with a "championship game" in Week 16, or even a four-team playoff in a league with 10 or more teams, but having the championship game in Week 17 is kind of dumb. In Week 17, the best players don't always play, because their teams have either already secured their playoff spot, or are out of the mix and are trying to give younger players a chance. And, that's over the winter holiday season, and people might not feel like playing fantasy football over the holidays.

I don't claim to know anything about fantasy football, and I don't expect to have much success this season. Basically, I'm just hoping at least one of my teams finishes above .500.

Last Year: "Interstate 570", a post about the misnumbered Interstate 99.

Tomorrow: "The Atari 2600".

Today's random thought:

- Why is the section of ads in the newspaper called the "Classifieds"? Is it just because the ads are classified into categories? If so, that seems silly, because lots of other things are classified as such. But grocery stores aren't called the "Classifieds", and neither are libraries. Why not just call it the "Advertisements" section?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Durham Bulls v. Carolina Mudcats"

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These two teams didn't actually play each other; I'm just doing a comparison. One of Amber's co-workers had two extra tickets to last Friday's Durham Bulls game, so we went to the game at no cost to us. And we didn't even have to pay for parking! There are many free places to park that are not-too-far-away from the stadium (the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, affectionately known as the DBAP). But I didn't find out until later that Saturns park for free in the parking garage adjacent to the stadium, since Saturn is the official car of the Durham Bulls (or something). I'll have to remember that for next time.

That's actually one of the few things I liked better about the Durham Bulls game. Tickets are also slightly cheaper in Durham (by a dollar or two), which is a bit perplexing. But I think I like the Carolina Mudcats games better. First off, the Carolina Mudcats stadium is in rural Zebulon, the park isn't overly fancy (it's just nice enough), and they're called the Mudcats. And while there are advertisements, as, you'd expect, you don't feel overwhelmed by them. Meanwhile, the Durham Bulls park is in downtown Durham, with a nice view of an under-construction office building. Yuck. The park is nice, but it all seems very corporate. While the name of the park itself isn't sponsored, pretty much everything else there is. Not so at the Mudcats' Five County Stadium. And, the "blue monster" and manual scoreboard at the DBAP are blatant ripoffs of Fenway Park. (One or the other would be okay, but not both.) And, the fact that there's a movie called Bull Durham doesn't help the Bulls' cause either. The Durham Bulls seem like too much of a big deal. Meanwhile, you can drive to Zebulon and actually feel like you're "getting away from it all" to watch a small-town minor league baseball game. The drive is a lot more fun, too. It's about the same distance, and the drive to Durham is too repetitive given that both Amber and I drive in that direction for work every day.

Now...I'll give the Durham Bulls some credit. They seem to be playing a little better (relative to the other teams in their league) than the Mudcats. And, they won the game we went to, also. I suppose the level of play at the Bulls' games is higher because they're in AAA, as opposed to AA, but it's hard to tell. AAA does have more recognizeable players, although I only recognized three players from the game, all pitchers. (Jae Seo and Jay Witasick for the Bulls, and John Van Benschoten for the visiting Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates' AAA affiliate. The Bulls did have a couple of memorable names, though - Raul Casanova and Evan Longoria.) You're not likely to see any major-league veterans at an AA game, only young up-and-comers. Although, the Marlins tend to promote/demote directly from AA to the majors, so that's a plus for the Mudcats. (That's another thing that's better about the Mudcats: they're affiliated with the Marlins. Durham's affiliate is Tampa Bay. And because of that, you'll always see the DH rule at a Bulls game, but you'll see the pitcher take at-bats at Mudcats games whenever the opponent is another National League affiliate. I vastly prefer the pitcher coming to the plate. 9 players, 9 batters. That's real baseball.)

So, I think we're more likely to go back to a Mudcats game than a Bulls game. I guess I'd rather hang out with a bunch of small-town rednecks than all the big-city people that go to the Bulls games. But the minor-league season is almost over, so that's probably it for minor-league baseball this year. See you next year!

Last Year: "Traffic Dynamics". I like this post, personally.

Tomorrow: "Fantasy Football".

Today's random thought:

- Last week, I heard promotions for a Madden 08 (video game) tournament. The grand prize was a PlayStation 3 and a copy of the game. The PS3 is one thing, but giving away a copy of Madden 08 as part of the grand prize seems silly to me. If you're good enough at Madden 08 to win a tournament, isn't it safe to assume you already have the game?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"Curling Recap #5"

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Thus far in this blog, I've been refering to last Saturday's event as the "Mini-Bonspiel", because I believe that's what it was called last year. But I have been mistaken: this year, "mini-" has been dropped from the name, and this is a full-fledged Triangle Curling Club Summer Bonspiel. Wahoo! Let's get to it!

First, here's the format: Each of 10 teams plays three preliminary four-end (one hour) games during four time slots (each team gets one "bye"). Then after each team plays their three games, teams are "seeded" according to the following point system: 5 points for a win. 2½ points for a tie, 1 point for each end won (within each game), and ¼ point for each point in each game. The seeds then determine the final matchups: #1 plays #2, #3 plays #4, #5 plays #6, and #7 plays #8. (Since we can only play four simultaneous games, #9 and #10 are out of luck.) The final matches are full 8-enders (time permitting).

The 10 teams weren't composed entirely of Triangle Curling Club members. There were teams (or half-teams) from the Potomac Curling Club (Laurel, MD), the Chesapeake Curling Club (Easton, MD - they aren't crabby, they just curl with attitude), and the Pittsburgh Curling Club. Quite honestly, I expected those teams to school us, assuming they would bring their best. But, actually, it didn't turn out that way. Instead, Amber's team earned the #1 seed, and my team earned the #2 seed, both with 3-0 records in the preliminaries. Amber's team won by a combined score of 21-5, and my team won by a combined score of 18-5. Wasn't it nice of them to put us on the best teams?

Actually, it wasn't as simple as going 3-0 and appearing in the final. There was another team threatening to go 3-0, which might have put a damper on our "storybook ending". I watched their match end. But, it ended in a tie. Whew!

Now, on to the final match. Amber and I have both been playing pretty well so far, and that continued on into the final. When you play on the same ice for over three hours straight, you start to get a feel for it. I was confident our team could at least make a game of it. We even went out to a first-end 2-0 lead, without last rock. But that was the last scoring we would ever get: Final score, Amber's team wins 11-2, in 7 ends (time ran out). This game even featured a "blank" end with no scoring. We had last rock, but on the last throw, we figured we were better off carrying last rock into the next end and go for 2+ rather than just take one here. This strategy is common in high-end curling competitions, although it obviously didn't work out too well for my team. But that's okay - Amber still got a first place prize (four TCC glasses plus an assortment of candies), and I still got a second place prize (one glass plus less candy), and they both went back to the same household in the end.

I think part of the reason the score got so out of hand is that towards the end of the game (once it was 8-2 after the 5th end), the focus was not on scoring, but getting "the box". The box is another little prize, whose contents were not disclosed until after the match. I forget everything that was in it (socks, along with more TCC glasses and candy), but it was highly sought after. Here's how it works. Whenever one team makes a draw to the four-foot ring (touching the ring is okay, but you can't hit any other rocks on your shot), or a double take-out or better, that team takes the box. Then, whenever the first finals match ends, whoever is in possession of the box keeps the box. (This idea was taken from the Schenectady Curling Club, I believe.) So, in the 6th and 7th end, knowing the game was out of reach, we were exclusively going for four-foot draws to gain possession of the box. Amber had two "box shots" during the finals, but they were early in the game, so her team wasn't able to keep the box. I almost got one late, but it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because the Pittsburgh team was on their game. They took the box late, and then followed it up with two more "box shots" just for good measure. They were worthy "box champions".

The Triangle Curling Club Summer Bonspiel was lots of fun. But now, I'm sore. Good thing the Fall League doesn't start for another few weeks.

Last Year: "Your Jacksonville Jaguars!" This was actually "last year" from Sunday's non-existent post, but I like this one better than the actual last-year post, which is out of date now that I've found the ultra-back way to State College. Now, there are probably 20 reasons, not 10.

Tomorrow: "Durham Bulls v. Carolina Mudcats".

Today's random thought:

- When I think of "The Discovery Channel", I don't actually think about the word "discovery" itself, I just take it as the name of the channel. This way, saying something like "It's on Discovery at 8" makes sense. But the same does not hold true for networks with more generic names like "The History Channel" and "The Science Channel". "It's on History at 8" doesn't make any sense, does it? Thus, for those channels, we have to use "the" and "channel" along with the name, whereas with Discovery, we do not. Now, even though the word "speed" is generic like "history" and "science", for some reason, "It's on Speed at 8" makes a little more sense, at least to me. But that's probably because I'm used to hearing "Speed" used that way, since I watch the Speed Channel a lot, and that's how they promote their network.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"A Half-Assed College Football Preview"

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I know college football season doesn't start for two more weeks, but it's not like there's a whole lot else sports-wise going on. Sure, there's baseball, but I've been paying very little attention to it this season. And of course, there's also NASCAR, but nobody cares about that.

Earlier this week, Robert sent out a "college football prediction survey" of sorts, which he thought it would make a good blog post. So, here it is. First, a disclaimer: I haven't been reading a whole lot of college football previews this summer. I don't know how many starters each team is returning. I don't follow recruiting. I don't really know what to expect. But that's not going to stop me from making predictions based on what I do know, based on what I have read, and what I've heard on local sports talk radio (which is entirely focused on the ACC, and to a lesser extent, the SEC). I forbid myself from looking at any additional previews or any other aids, aside from schedules.

So, without further ado, here are my answers to Robert's survey:

1) Pick a team in the preseason top 10 who will NOT be in the top 10 when the regular season ends. (Preseason USA Today top 10: USC, LSU, Florida, Texas, Michigan, WVU, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Va Tech, Ohio State) I think it's almost a given that the Big Ten won't have three teams in the top 10 at the end of the regular season. Sure, they did last year, but only because Wisconsin didn't play Ohio State. This year, Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin all play each other. Which team is going to drop out? As much as I'd rather go with one of the other two teams, I'm going to go with Wisconsin.

2) Pick a team not in the preseason top 10 who WILL finish in the top 10 at the end of the regular season. The smart choice is probably #11 Louisville, seeing as how the Big East elite often slowly work they way up the rankings as they beat UConn et al (while larger conference teams start out higher in the rankings and then beat themselves up), but that's no fun. Instead, I'm going to go with an unranked team: South Carolina. Here's how I see it. The Gamecocks get both Georgia and Tennessee on the road, but both teams are a little down, probably only ranked where they are (13 and 15, respectively) based on name. If they can get by Georgia in Week 2, the sky's the limit. They'll lose at LSU, but besides that, every game is winnable, including Florida at home (Spurrier has proven he can beat his alma mater, and last year, they almost did). And they always beat Clemson, it seems. Can South Carolina make it through the SEC with two losses or less, including a possible trip to the SEC Championship? Probably not, but picking an unranked team to finish in the top 10 is supposed to sound crazy, right?

3) Predict the regular season record of your favorite team. My prediction for Florida State's season is: Losses at Clemson, VT, Florida, and either BC or Wake Forest, for a record of 8-4. I think FSU will be better, if nothing else, because Jeff Bowden is no longer the offensive coordinator, and the two-headed quarterback monster has another year under its collective belt. But they won't be that much better. Let's face it - FSU was dominant in the 1990s, but this decade, the rest of the ACC has caught up. (That's a "half-full" viewpoint if there ever was one, eh?)

4) Predict the order of finish (top four teams) in your favorite conference -- if you pick the SEC or Big 12, pick the top 2 in each division. Hey, Robert - don't forget about the ACC! We have divisions too! In the Atlantic Division, I'm taking Clemson #1 (6-2) and Florida State #2 (5-3). In the Coastal Division, I'm taking Virginia Tech #1 (8-0) and, back from the dead, Miami (FL) #2 (5-3).

5) Predict the biggest upset in your conference (must be a conference game). Is there such a thing as an upset in the ACC? Well, maybe if it involves Duke beating...anybody. So here's one for you: Duke over Wake Forest, the defending conference champion. Hey, it almost happened last year.

6a) How many undefeated teams will there be at season's end (NOT including bowl games)? Two undefeated teams.

6b) Which teams will be going undefeated? First, Texas. I don't think a whole lot of the Big XII. Texas's only major roadblocks are Oklahoma and Texas A&M, and with no Ohio State-like team on the non-conference schedule, I think they can get it done. My second undefeated team is Hawaii. They get Boise State at home, and while they often play multiple BCS teams, this year, their only BCS opponent is Washington. Other teams I considered were USC (the Pac-10 is deeper than the Big XII), West Virginia (one loss, at South Florida), and TCU (oops, they play Texas - that could have been embarassing).

7a) Predict the BCS teams -- in other words, pick the following ten teams: ACC champ, Big East champ, Big Ten champ, Big 12 champ, Pac 10 champ, SEC champ, then the four next best teams. Remember, only two teams from the same conference can be in the BCS. First, conference champions: Clemson (ACC), West Virginia (Big East), Michigan (Big Ten), Texas (Big XII), USC (Pac-10), and LSU (SEC). (Yeah, those are all boring picks, but oh well.) Others: Hawaii (this year's Boise State), Ohio State (if I said they'd stay in the top 10 instead of Wisconsin, I have to take them), Oklahoma, and South Carolina (I have to make my picks consistent, right?).

7b) Out of those ten teams, predict the BCS championship game and the national champion. Texas defeats USC. I think a one-loss USC would get the nod over a one-loss LSU, except for the fact that USC is ahead in the preseason rankings (#1 vs. #2). That, and LSU doesn't have JaMarcus Russell anymore. LSU is a trendy pick, but...nah.

8) If you could attend only one regular season college football game this year, which one would it be? Notre Dame at Penn State. If nothing else, it would be fun for Amber and me. And I'd be more likely to walk away from that game happy than from Florida State at Florida.

9) Who will have more wins at season's end, JoePa or Bobby Bowden? (Bowden currently leads 366 to 363) Well, if I think Florida State gets 8 wins, that means Penn State needs to go 11-1 just to tie. So, I'm taking Bobby Bowden. (See, I'm trying to make all of my picks consistent with each other.)

10) Suggest a name for this year's Penn State Dirty-Dawg group (yep, shameless promotion). Hmm...obviously, it has to be Penn State themed. How about "JoePa's Portable Toilet Service"?

Now, in four months, we can go back and see how bad some of these picks turned out, and mine will undoubtedly be horrible. But that's okay.

Later on this month, I'll post everyone's predictions, not just mine. (If you put together multiple "half-assed" previews, what do you get? A "triple-assed" preview?) Then, in four months, we can go back and see how bad some of them (esepcially mine) turned out. But that's okay. At least you don't need a subscription to ESPN Insider to read them.

Last Year: "Five Months Later...", an on-location post from Jacksonville.

Tomorrow: I don't have a post for tomorrow, so according to my "new blog schedule", that's it for this week. Tuesday's post will be "Curling Recap #5".

Today's random thought:

- Maybe it's just me, but I don't think "sour cream and onion" potato chips taste anything like sour cream, or onions. It's pretty much its own flavor.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Intersections Between I-95 and US-1"

I forget who asked, but I was once asked the question: "How many times do you think I-95 and US-1 cross paths between Florida and Maine?" I forget what my answer was. I think I said around 20, with knowledge of how the roads cross paths in the southeast, but with little-to-no knowledge of how it goes in the northeast. Well, let's find out!

1) South end of I-95 in Miami. When I-95 ends, it dumps you onto US-1. I suppose they don't really "cross paths" here, since I-95 ends, but I'm counting it as #1 nevertheless.
2) I-95 exit 273 in Florida, north of Daytona Beach. US-1 is inland of I-95 from Miami all the way here.
3) I-95 exit 298 in Florida, south of St. Augustine.
4) I-95 exit 339 in Florida, on the southside of Jacksonville. This is the Philips Hwy exit near The Avenues Mall.
5) I-95 exit 350 (approximately) in Florida, on the St. Johns River southbank in Jacksonville. I'm not sure exactly which roads US-1 takes on its way to the Main Street bridge (Kings Ave?), but they cross paths again somehow.
6) I-95 exit 354 in Florida, on the northside of Jacksonville. This is the MLK Parkway exit (formerly 20th St). (My descriptions won't be this detailed all the way up the coast. I just know Jacksonville.)
At this point, US-1 heads inland by way of Augusta, Columbia, and Raleigh (Cary), and doesn't meet I-95 again until...
7) I-95 exit 76 in Virginia, in downtown Richmond.
8) I-95 exit 81 in Virginia, on the northside of Richmond. (I'm using MapQuest to do this, just so you know. If MapQuest inaccurately portrays the path of US-1, then so will this.)
9) I-95 exit 126 in Virginia, south of Fredericksburg.
Note: I-95 exit 161 is for US-1, but US-1 does not cross I-95's path; it stays east. Only actual intersections count. And as a check: Between "odd" and "even" intersections, US-1 is east of I-95. Between "even" and "odd" intersections, US-1 is west of I-95.
10) I-95 exit 177 in Virginia, in Alexandria. This is last northbound I-95 exit in Virginia, along the Capital Beltway.
11) I-95 exit 26 in Maryland, near Beltsville. This is the last exit along the Capital Beltway before I-95 breaks off towards Baltimore.
12) Between I-95 exits 47 and 49 in Maryland, south of Baltimore. Here, US-1 follows Southwestern Blvd, for which there is no exit.
US-1 heads inland for a while again, and the next intersection isn't until north of Philadelphia.
13) I-95 exit 46 in Pennsylvania, north of Philadelphia in Bucks County. This is near Tyler State Park, home to my #1 ranked disc golf course.
14) I-95/I-295 exit 67 in New Jersey, northeast of Trenton. This is the mysterious "north end" of I-95. I-95 reappears on the New Jersey Turnpike, which is east of US-1, and that allows me to maintain consistency.
15) New Jersey Tpk exit 15E, between Newark and Jersey City. This is for the Pulaski Skyway, which heads towards the Holland Tunnel. But US-1 doesn't take the Holland Tunnel into New York. Instead...
16) Between I-95 exit 72A (Fort Lee, New Jersey) and exit 2B (Bronx, New York). US-1 and I-95 cross the Hudson together on...the George Washington Bridge? (I admit, I don't know my New York bridge names well.) Once in New York, US-1 breaks off to the left of I-95, and thus, this counts as an intersection. (If US-1 broke off to the right, which is the side it came on from in New Jersey, then it wouldn't count, because then they wouldn't have crossed paths.)
17) I-95 exit 15 in New York, near New Rochelle.
18) Near I-95 exit 22 in New York, near Port Chester. I don't think there's an actual exit for US-1 here; exit 22 is for the road next to US-1.
19) I-95 exit 9 in Connecticut, near Stamford.
20) I-95 exit 11 in Connecticut, near Darien. When I took I-95 through Connecticut, I remember seeing a lot of exits for US-1. I wasn't sure how many of these were actually path-crossings, or just "near-misses". Well, we're about to find out!
21) I-95 exit 19 in Connecticut, just west of Fairfield.
22) I-95 exit 24 in Connecticut, west of Bridgeport.
23) I-95 exit 33 in Connecticut, east of Bridgeport.
24) I-95 exit 39 in Connecticut, near Milford.
25) Near I-95 exit 48 in Connecticut, in New Haven. It gets a little messy here. Exit 48 is for I-91, but somewhere in the interchange mess, US-1 ducks under I-95, and US-1 crosses the Quinnipiac River on a separate bridge to the right. Then, on the other side of the river...
26) Near I-95 exit 49 in Connecticut, just east of New Haven. US-1 ducks right back under I-95 right after the river crossing..
27) I-95 exit 51 in Connecticut, in East Haven.
28) I-95 exit 55 in Connecticut, east of Branford.
29) I-95 exit 57 in Connecticut, near Guilford.
30) Between I-95 exits 58 and 60 in Connecticut, near Old Saybrook. I-95 and US-1 cross the Connecticut River together. Afterwards, US-1 breaks off to the left at exit 60.
31) I-95 exit 75 in Connecticut, near Niantic. Isn't this nuts? I guess all of those exits really were path-crossings.
In New London, I-95 and US-1 cross the Thames River together. But US-1 does not cross I-95's path here; it stays to the right. And, finally, that's it for Connecticut. So, let's continue... (I'm using "left/right" here instead of "east/west" because I-95 and US-1 are more east/west oriented in Connecticut than north/south.)
32) I-95 exit 17 in Rhode Island, south of downtown Providence.
33) Somewhere near I-95 exit 21 in Rhode Island, in downtown Providence. There's actually a stretch here where US-1 is on both sides of I-95 at once! It's on two one-way streets; northbound is east of I-95, and southbound is west of I-95.
Now, another faux-pas crossing in Pawtucket. At exit 27, US-1 joins up with I-95 to cross the Seekonk River. Then, at exit 29, it breaks off back to the east.
34) I-95 exit 1 in Massachusetts, in South Attleboro.
35) Between I-95 exits 12 and 15 in Massachusetts, south of Boston on the MA-128 "beltline" (or whatever they call it). Between these exits, US-1 runs together with I-95. But unlike anything we've seen thus far, on this stretch of highway, I-95 and US-1 are heading in opposite directions! This is known in road geek circles as a "wrong way concurrency".
36) I-95 exit 44 in Massachusetts, north of Boston in Lynnfield. This is also on the MA-128 "beltline" (or whatever they call it).
37) I-95 exit 50 in Massachusetts, near Hathorne. (I'm not sure how legimitate the "towns" shown by MapQuest are. I'm doing the best I can with this unfamiliar territory. Maybe Hathorne is a really big deal, I don't know.) This is actually it for a while. In fact, there's only one more, as US-1 stays east of I-95 all the way until...
38) I-95 exit 302 in Maine, near Houlton. This is the next-to-last exit on I-95. From here, I-95 heads into Canada (after one more exit for US-2), and US-1 heads toward the northern reaches of Maine.

So, there you have it, folks: I-95 and US-1 cross paths 38 times. Now, some fun facts and statistics!
- The north and south ends of I-95 are both in close vicinity to US-1.
- The by-state distribution of path-crossings is as follows: 13 in Connecticut, 6 in Florida, 4 in Virginia, 4 in Massachusetts, 2½ in New York, 2½ in New Jersey, 2 in Maryland, 2 in Rhode Island, 1 in Pennsylvania, and 1 in Maine. (I gave NJ and NY each half-credit for crossing #16. It's only fair.) Thus, over half of the crossings are in New England.
- Of the 38 crossings, I have been to 31. I'm missing #10, #11, #16, #17, #32, #33, and #34. I would have had #32-#34 if I took I-95 through Providence instead of I-295 around it. Oh well. And, I may have been to #10 and #11, but not in recent memory. Whenever I take the Capital Beltway, I take the half that isn't I-95. As for #16 and #17, well...the only part of New York City I've ever been to is Staten Island. How about that?
- Of the 31 crossings I've been to, how many of those exits have I actually taken? Well, I think I've taken 5 of the 6 Florida exits (all but exit 273). Other than that, I've only used two: #13 (Bucks County, on the way to the afore-mentioned disc golf course) and #38 (Houlton - that's where our hotel was the first night of the Nova Scotia trip). So, that's 7. Then again, taking all 38 exits is an unattainable goal, as some of the path-crossings aren't exits (such as #12).

Now, my question for you is this. Is there another interstate/US highway combination out there with more than 38 path-crossings? Maybe an east/west combination? I-10/US-90 comes to mind, but that only goes out to Texas, although they are close the whole way. I'm not sure if there are any east/west combinations that follow each other from coast to coast. I am curious about I-5 and historic US-99, though. That one would be hard to figure out via MapQuest, since US-99 doesn't exist anymore (although it has been replaced with state route 99 in many places). Still, it wouldn't mean anything anyway.

Last Year: "Poker Again". From random thought #2: "...I'll hit 150,000 miles before the end of 2007." Ha. I hit 150,000 in April.

Tomorrow: "A Half-Assed College Football Preview".

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Happy Valley-Goose Bay"

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This has nothing to do with Penn State's "Happy Valley", but instead a place a little farther away.

I'm always looking for exotic road trip destinations, even those that are far away. Well, I certainly found one that you can drive to: Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. (Newfoundland and Labrador is the official name of the province.) HV-GB (as I will abbreviate it from henceforth) isn't on the island of Newfoundland, but is in mainland Labrador. And, that's right - you can drive there!

Your standard-fare roads will take you all the way to Baie-Comeau, Québec, northeast of Québec City on the north shore of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Then, you take route 389 to Labrador, and route 500 (the Trans-Labrador Highway) from there to HV-GB. It's about 665 miles from Baie-Comeau to HV-GB - easily a day drive on interstate highways, but probably best left for two days on these roads. Besides, there are many fine accomodations near the halfway point in Labrador City. As denoted on the afore-linked websites, some of the road is paved, but most of it (particularly in Labrador) is gravel. So, I probably wouldn't take my car on this journey. A 4x4 truck would serve best. I imagine many fine rental car places rent trucks, don't they? And don't forget that spare tire!

What is there for the town's 7,969 residents to do, job-wise? Well, HV-GB is home to a military base, CFB Goose Bay, although its use is declining (as is the town's population). According to Wikipedia, the runway at CFB Goose Bay is also a thus-far-unused alternative landing site for the NASA space shuttle. If I were an astronaut, I know I'd rather land there than boring old Florida. The HV-GB website shows the workforce distribution, of which government services take up the largest chunk. And in case you're wondering, yes, the town used to be two separate towns (Happy Valley, and Goose Bay), and then they joined up. Three cheers for hyphenated town names!

HV-GB looks pretty far north and east, but when you compare its coordinates with other Canadian cities, it really isn't. It lies south of Edmonton, Alberta, and west of Sydney, Nova Scotia (been there!) as well as the entire island of Newfoundland. If you're just looking to drive north, Alaska is a much better option. And St. John's, Newfoundland (or thereabouts) is the farthest east you can drive in North America. (There is a ferry to the Newfoundland island from Nova Scotia. I can only imagine it carries cars.)

So, what is there to do in HV-GB? Indoors, they have several museums, which might prove interesting, considering how little I know about Labrador. Outdoors, they have wilderness tours, Muskrat Falls, and and even a 9-hole golf course. How awesome would it be to play golf in Labrador, of all places? I bet it's not crowded! Really, though, I think this would be one of those trips where the drive itself would probably be the highlight as opposed to the destination. The scenery along the drive has to be probably amazing. And this drive probably isn't as popular or well-known as the Alaska Highway. Alaska is the priority, but maybe someday. Whenever it is, I guarantee it won't be during the Winter.

Last Year: "The Chris Allen Racing League, Part 2".

Tomorrow: "Intersections Between I-95 and US-1".

Today's random thought:

- Between my "Triangle Curling Club" and "I'm Stickin' With The Pig" bumper stickers, I think I have the most awesome combination of two bumper stickers in automotive history.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

"Lunenburg County, VA"

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The other day, I was curious about which county I have never visited was closest to Raleigh (Cary), because it might make a good "random drive" destination. The correct answer was Davidson County in North Carolina (78 miles away), but I decided against going there, because we're sure to pick up that county eventually, either with a trip to Charlotte or the "Ultimate North Carolina Road Trip" on US-64. Instead, we went to the next-closest non-visited county - Lunenburg County, Virginia. Lunenburg County is about 90 miles north of Raleigh (Cary).

I've had a couple of near-misses with Lunenburg County. I-85 comes within 500 feet of Lunenburg County to the southeast, and US-360 straddles the county line to the northwest. In fact, no interstate or US highway goes through Lunenburg County at all. How many counties can claim that? Well, three counties in Florida can (Calhoun, Liberty, and Union). And there's at least one county in Pennsylvania like that, too (Cameron). So maybe that trait isn't so unique after all.

Here's the obligatory map of our drive:

As implied by its lack of major roads, Lunenburg County isn't very populous. Its 2000 Census population was 13,146. However, there are actually several counties in Virginia with smaller populations. I actually counted 17 on this list. So, all things considered, Lunenburg County actually has a decent population. That, and Virginia has a lot of rural areas. For example, the population of Highland County, Virginia, is only 2,536. (And I've been there!) But I think the surprisingly high number of low county populations in Virginia has a lot to do with their "independent cities". Many cities in Virginia are not part of any county. So, some counties that otherwise would be able to count these cities with their population otherwise cannot. However, Lunenburg County does not have any independent cities.

What's in Lunenburg County? Well, not much. We drove through its county seat (Lunenburg), but I wouldn't call Lunenburg much of a town. In fact, it's pretty much just the courthouse. (With a few surrounding buildings.) It's as if they decided to just stick the courthouse in the middle of the county somewhere. And thus, the "town" of Lunenburg was born. Nearby Victoria was a bit more legitimate. I was beginning to wonder if Lunenburg County had any traffic lights at all within its boundaries, but sadly, Victoria did have one. On the bright side, that saved us the trouble from driving to Kenbridge (the only other town in the county that might have one).

Now, to go a little "road geek" on you, in relation to my car mileage log (link above to the right). My car hit the 159,000-mile mark on this drive, on one of those "600" routes in Virginia. So, I was wondering - are these routes "county roads", or "secondary roads"? This would affect how I label it in the mileage log. County roads get the "CR-" designation, while state-funded secondary roads get the "##S-" designation, where ## is the state abbreviation. In Virginia, these roads are officially known as secondary roads, and thus, the car mileage log says "VAS-664". (I also now have a "key" that explains that "VAS" means "Virginia Secondary". I'll also use the key for road names that are too long to fit. I haven't had that problem yet; the only non-numbered road I've had a milestone on is the Cary Parkway, which is easily abbreviated.) The only other state I can think of off the top of my head with "secondary roads" like this is Tennessee. Some states (like Florida and New York) have county roads. Some states (like North Carolina and Pennsylvania) have four-digit state roads, which I suppose are technically "secondary" roads. But if I were to reach a milestone on one of these, I would use the proper name of the road (if there is one), since the numbers are rarely used. One such example is Beaver Creek Road along this route. This road is also known as NC-1008, but that's not commonly used, or even signed, except for the fine print on the street name signs.

This post has reached my "target length", so let's end it here.

Last Year: "The Chris Allen Racing League, Part 1".

Tomorrow: "Happy Valley-Goose Bay".

Today's random thought:

- Sometimes, Sports Illustrated has a "celebrate this team's recent championship with a collector's edition whatever" promotion. But doesn't that alienate people who aren't fans of the team in question? What if I was a Florida State fan who was considering subscribing to SI, and their promotion was "Celebrate the Florida Gators championship with this free Gators football"? I wouldn't get the subscription. I don't understand how those promotions increase magazine sales, quite honestly.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Curling Recap #4"

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Last Friday's curling match wasn't really much to speak of. My team beat Amber's team 9-1. The most noteworthy thing I learned is that when I released the stone at "normal walking speed" in relation to the sweeper(s), it usually ended up in pretty good shape. Of course, everything will probably be different next time, but that's okay.

Instead of talking about the match, I'm going to talk about what we did afterwards. The nice people at Factory Ice House let the curling club paint some lines into the ice (the targets, starting lines, and such) so that we can more highly enjoy our curling experience. Some of the lines were starting to fade, last Friday was a good time to repaint some of them so they would look good for this Saturday's Summer Mini-Bonspiel (which some out-of-towners will be attending, so I've heard).

How does one go about painting these lines? You can't just paint the ice; it won't last. Those hockey lines aren't just painted on the surface. Here's how it works. First, measure the lines, according to official rules of curling. Then, drill ½-inch wide lines and circles into the ice, so that you reach the surface below the ice. (We had devices to drill fairly accurate circles at prescribed distances from the center of the targets.) Then, once you get all of the ice shavings out of the grooves (using brushes and screwdrivers), get out the red and blue paint! Don't just paint the bottom of the gaps in the ice; paint the sides of the grooves too. The lines will show up better if you paint the sides in addition to the bottoms. Then, spray some water back into the grooves, and I guess after a zamboni run or two, the ice surface will be level once again. We left after the painting and some of the cleanup was done, so I don't know if there was another step after that, but it looked close to done. And now, every time we go back, we'll know we helped put those lines there. (And you'll be able to tell, too. I don't think I did a very good job of painting.)

So, what can go wrong? Well, drops of paint will inevitably end up on the ice surface. But that's okay, because they won't last. But if you spill paint on the ice, then you have to let it freeze, and then get out the ice scraper. (This happened once. I'm surprised it didn't happen more than once, considering that we used tall plastic cups to distribute the paint among the painters.) Some of the lines might not be drilled perfectly straight, either. In fact, they weren't. Oh well, it happens. These aren't the Olympics, you know. Or even the Tim Hortons Brier.

I'm looking forward to seeing the "finished product" next weekend when we go to the Mini-Bonspiel. I'm also looking forward to the curling itself. Can you think of any better way to spend a Saturday?

Last Year: "First Golf Entry". Not counting Putt-Putt, I haven't swung a golf club in over five months. That's depressing. But according to random thought #1, gas is about $0.15/gal cheaper than it was at this time last year. Wahoo!

Tomorrow: "Lunenburg County, VA".

Today's random thought:

- Apparently, our cat has become infatuated with the outdoors. Every time we open the door now, out goes the cat. It's not that big of a deal, because we live in an upstairs apartment, and the cat never goes down the stairs. But it's still kind of annoying, and disheartening. Does Rolo hate me?

Sunday, August 12, 2007


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WARNING: Actual life announcement

Amber and I are engaged. Wahoo! We haven't set a wedding date yet, but it will probably coincide with peak fall foliage for whichever northern location we decide to go to on our honeymoon. (Next year, not this year.)

So, I figured this would be a good opportunity to talk about "engagements" in general. Basically, they mean the couple in question intends to get married. But how soon? I think 12-18 months is a standard "engagement" period. Really, the way I see it, getting "engaged" is just about making the announcement. I've intended to marry Amber well before we got "engaged". This was just about making an announcement, and letting Amber wear a pretty ring. (The ring is a family heirloom, so I didn't have to pay a dime! Wahoo!) It's not like anything's changed since we made the announcement, only that we've made the announcement. Basically, I've known that this was "the real deal" ever since she decided to move down here with me, and that was in February or March or something - I forget exactly when. So why not get "engaged" then? Because even if we had, we probably wouldn't have started thinking about the wedding then. The engagement is supposed to signal "hey, it's time to start talking about the wedding". And since it takes 12-18 months to plan a wedding, that's why I'm calling that the "standard engagement period". (Which, it's kind of ridiculous that a wedding should take that long to plan, isn't it? Oh well. You know how these things go.)

That's one reason not to have been "engaged" back in March (too soon for an announcement). Another reason is because people might have thought we were crazy and that it was "too soon". That leads us to our next question: how long should a couple be together before they can get "engaged"? In our case, it was 13½ months between "first kiss" and "marry me". (Speaking of which, there wasn't really a formal "proposal". Like I said, it's pretty much been a mutual understanding for a while, especially since we are living together now. I wouldn't move in with a girlfriend if I didn't intend on marrying her. Really, this was just "hey, my mom has a couple of heirloom engagement rings, if you want to check them out". I don't think we're going to observe an official "engagement date", and that's fine with me.) 13½ months is probably below the average length between "first kiss" and "marry me". I don't know what the average length is, but I'd guess two to three years. In general, that's plenty of time to figure out whether or not a particular marriage could work. But then again, I'm sure the older you are, the shorter the average length. If you marry your high school sweetheart, chances are, the length of time between "first kiss" and "marry me" was a lot longer than 13½ months. It might not have been until after college. Or, maybe you got married when you were 19. That works too. But 13½ months is a lot closer to average for a couple of 25-year-olds than for college-age people, I think. Not only is the proverbial clock ticking, but people trust their judgment more when they're 25 than when they're 20. (At least, they should.)

Now, a word about "promise rings". From what I understand, "promise rings" are popular among your high schoolers and college students. Basically, they're saying "I have every intent of marrying you, but it's too soon for an engagement." On paper, it seems like a good idea, particularly for people who are "too young" to be engaged. But I think it's pretty weak. It just seems like a way to shut their girlfriends up without actually getting engaged. (To quote Ron White: "Diamonds. That'll shut her up.") And it seems kind of arbirtary to me. Maybe I'm just naive about relationships, but when you're with somebody, doesn't that mean you think highly enough of that person that you would consider marrying them? What is the "promise" denoted by a "promise ring" supposed to be, anyway? "I'm going to marry you"? "I have every intent of marrying you"? "If everything goes right, I intend of marrying you"? The latter two are extremely weak, if you ask me. They should be implied by the fact that the relationship exists at all. As for the first one, well, if you're that serious about it, then you might as well just quit fooling around and get the engagement ring. If I were a woman and my boyfriend got me a "promise ring", I would actually be a little insulted. Then again, I'm not a woman, and I don't think like one. Maybe most women just want a free ring, regardless of what it's supposed to mean. Whatever. Maybe I'm totally misunderstanding the concept of a "promise ring", but I think they're stupid.

So, sometime in September or October 2008, Amber and I will be getting married. Then we're going on vacation. I think I'm looking forward to the vacation more than the wedding itself. But I'll save my thoughts on weddings for another post. (Oh, wait...I already wrote that post. Two posts, in fact.)

Last Year: "Blog Statistics". I think my blog has become far too systematic for another post like this. That, and the random thoughts section (which, as that post points out, got more comments than the posts themselves) is merely a shadow of its former self.

Tomorrow (Tuesday): "Curling Recap #4". Finally, the first post of the week will actually be about last weekend!

Today's random thought:

- When I got a new car battery, all of my radio station presets were reset. But it seems the "default" radio station (what the radio is tuned to when you first turn the car back on) is 88.1 FM, the station I listen to most of the time anyway. Sweet! (The default AM station is 1530 or 1570, I forget which. Seems pretty random to me.)