Sunday, September 30, 2007

"The Rugby World Cup"

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So, the Rugby World Cup is going on right now. Who knew?

Actually, I knew about it a month ago. But that's because I have a lot of spare time. (That, and I think Jared mentioned it in his blog somewhere.) It isn't getting a whole lot of press in this country, it seems. Which is interesting, because the United States is one of the 20 teams competing. But actually, it's pretty simple why nobody in this country is paying attention to the Rugby World Cup: WE SUCK AT IT. An article I read online prior to the start of the World Cup said that the United States' odds of winning the World Cup were 1,000-to-1. Based on our performance so far, I think those odds were actually a little generous. But more on that later.

First off, what is rugby, exactly? I already knew sort of what rugby is - a cross between soccer and American football, so it seems - but I didn't know the rules or anything. So, I went to our old friend Wikipedia. But wait - there are two types of rugby: "rugby union" and "rubgy league". Bah! Which one is the World Cup playing? Eventually, I figured it out - it's rubgy union. I then read up on the rules, but didn't get a whole lot out of it. In retrospect, what I should have done is bought this game. Playing a video game is a great way to learn the rules of a sport.

But here's what I have learned, from reading the rules and watching half of one match:
- It's kind of like American football, except with no downs, no stoppages, or structure. It's a free-for-all - carry the ball until you get tackled.
- When you get tackled, you have to give the ball up, preferably to a teammate. I'm not sure what happens if you don't give up the ball.
- You can kick the ball forward, but you can't throw the ball forward. You can only throw laterally or backwards.
- Scoring: a "try" is when you possess the ball on the ground in whatever they call the "end zone". A "try" is 5 points, followed by a 2-point kick conversion (which they make remarkably more difficult than an American football point-after-touchdown). You can also drop-kick (not punt) it through the uprights for 3 points. So, it's similar to American football, but not quite.
- You can also score 3 points off of a penalty kick. I haven't figured out what constitutes a penalty kick, except that according to Wikipedia, it's when "the opposing side infringes against the laws of rugby". Uh huh. More specific, please?
- 15 players a side; two 40-minute halves.
- If the ball goes out of play, you have a "line-out", which is like a throw-in except the players get propelled in the air by their teammates to get the ball.
- No downfield blocking!
- I still don't know what the deal with "scrums" is.

So, how did I get to watch this game? Well, a select few matches are on everybody's favorite sports network - Versus. I caught the second half of the United States' match against Samoa on Thursday. It wasn't live; it was a day-after telecast, as all of the Versus-shown matches are. Samoa is a small country in the Pacific Ocean, approximate population 200,000. And, they beat us. Embarrassing. Why is the United States even in this tournament? At least Canada managed to earn a draw.

The United States is 0-3 in the World Cup thus far. And sadly, it's only going to get worse: our last match (played today; televised on Versus Monday at 600p) is against rugby powerhouse South Africa. That Samoa team we had so much trouble with? South Africa beat them 59-7. Good luck, guys.

Rugby just isn't our thing, I guess. The countries that are best at it: Australia (the "Wallabies"), New Zealand (the "All Blacks"), South Africa (the "Springboks"), and England (do they have a nickname?). Those four countries have split the five World Cups thus far, with Australia being the only country to win twice. Going into this thing, I thought it was inevitable that Australia would face New Zealand in the final. At least, until I saw that the two would face either in the semifinals, not the finals. Boo! That's lame. Hopefully, that's the semifinal that Versus is showing. (They're only showing one of the two.) If not, my only other option is to fork over $24.95. No thanks.

Last Year: "College Football Saturday #3".

Tomorrow (Tuesday): "Curling Recap #7".

Today's random thought:

- Remember back when TBS started all of their shows at :05 and :35 past the hour? That was weird.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

"College Football Saturday: 9/29/07"

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For my money, the most intriguing game of the weekend was last night - West Virginia at South Florida. And that's kind of a downer. I don't think the football weekend should climax on Friday night, especially when I have curling. (I recorded the game, and will watch the rest this morning. So as of now, I don't know who won. And I've made sure not to read any post comments from USF graduates yet either.) California at Oregon might have the most "national impact" of any game this weekend, but that game is ABC regional coverage, and since I don't have ESPN GamePlan this year, I won't get to watch it. And I won't get to watch Penn State at Illinois, either - thank you, Big Ten Network.

So today might be more about what games I won't be watching. From that perspective, and since last night's game was the most interesting of the weekend, today isn't a very interesting College Football Saturday. I think I might go disc golfing instead. Or something. Oh well. On with the games:

Time slot 1
Game 1 - Notre Dame at Purdue, 1200p, ESPN: This game is #1 by default. I guess ABC/ESPN can only get three Big Ten games per week, hence Penn State's demotion to the Big Ten Network? (This isn't strictly a Big Ten game, but for TV purposes it is, because Purdue is the home team. The conference of the home team controls the television rights.)
Game 2 - North Carolina at Virginia Tech, 1200p, Local TV: Is Virginia Tech an ACC contender, or an also-ran? This game will help us find out.
Game 3 - Teams TBA, 1230p, FCS Central: Even though I don't know who's playing in this game, I'm making it #3 in the hopes that it's something worth watching. Because some of these other noon games...yuck.
Game 4 - Air Force at Navy, 100p, CSTV: I guess this one isn't so bad.
Game 5 - Baylor at Texas A&M, 1230p, Versus: Normally the only times Baylor gets shown on national TV are when they're playing Texas or Oklahoma, so I guess this might be a rare opportunity I should take advantage of.
Game 6 - Oklahoma at Colorado, 130p, FSN: What everyone else calls "an explosive offense", I call "running up the score". Bob Stoops is notorious for that. How many will Oklahoma hang today?
Game 7 - LSU at Tulane, 1200p, ESPN2: You know, as much "dap" as LSU has been getting so far, this is their first "road game" - if you can call it that.
Game 8 - Temple at Army, 1200p, ESPNU: You're kidding, right?

Time slot 2
Game 1 - Alabama vs Florida State, 500p, CBS: Even though this game is a "home game" for FSU, it's in Jacksonville. And from what I've heard, there will be more Alabama fans there than FSU fans. I'm in full-scale "pessimism" mode regarding FSU football. I don't think FSU stands a chance in this game. That, and the press the program has been receiving lately hasn't exactly been positive.
Game 2 - Clemson at Georgia Tech, 330p, ABC: Yeah, I'm kind of an ACC homer. I think the ACC is far more interesting than some of these other conferences, because there are no clear favorites year-in and year-out. They don't have Ohio State and Michigan, Texas and Oklahoma, or USC. Instead, they have a bunch of mediocre teams with no clear favorite. Wahoo!
Game 3 - Louisville at NC State, 330p, ESPNU: How bad is Louisville, really? This will provide a good "acid test".
Game 4 - Michigan State at Wisconsin, 330p, ESPN: It's nice of ABC/ESPN to put one of their regionally-televised ABC games on ESPN. But why not do it with California/Oregon? I know they can do it with Pac-10 games, because they did it with Ohio State/Washington two weeks ago. Maybe they can't do it every week. Or, maybe they just want people to buy GamePlan.
Game 5 - UTEP at SMU, 430p, CSTV: Yep, that's it for the 330p lineup. Thanks, ABC.

Time slot 3
Game 1 - Auburn at Florida, 800p, ESPN: When Amber and I were in South Carolina two weeks ago, I was wearing my Auburn hat. Then, a bicyclist decked out in Auburn gear hollered at me, "War Eagle!" I responded with a similar "War Eagle!" That is what you're supposed to do, right? I hope so - otherwise I just made a fool of myself.
Game 2 - Pittsburgh at Virginia, 700p, ESPNU: I think this is a very important game for ACC bragging rights. Virginia is 3-0 in the ACC, but has already lost out-of-conference to Wyoming. If they lose this game too, to a lower-tier Big East team, then what does that say about the ACC?
Game 3 - BYU at New Mexico, 830p, CSTV: I tend to under-respect the non-BCS conferences when I make these lists, so here's me trying to reverse that.
Game 4 - USC at Washington, 800p, ABC: So, this game gets nationally televised, but not California at Oregon? Does USC get the 800p ABC slot every week? How dumb. I'm sick of USC. They need to go away.
Game 5 - Cincinnati at San Diego State, 1000p, Versus: Cincinnati is ranked! Can they keep it up?
Game 6 - UCLA at Oregon State, 630p, FSN: Actually, it looks like every Pac-10 game except California at Oregon is on this week.
Game 7 - Arizona State at Stanford, FCS Central, 1000p
Game 8 - Washington State at Arizona, FCS Pacific, 1000p
Game 9 - Ohio State at Minnesota, 800p, ESPN2: I'm not going to waste my time with this garbage game. Minnesota is crap this year.

So, in all, I would say this College Football Saturday has a rather disappointing lineup. If you feel the same way, never fear: the NHL season starts this weekend! Los Angeles vs Anaheim, live on Versus, Sunday at 1200p! Wahoo! (And in case you forgot, or never even knew, Anaheim just won the Stanley Cup.)

Last Year: "The Diabolical Scheme Thwarter: Issue #5". This was the last of the Diabolical Scheme Thwarter stories, sadly.

Tomorrow: "The Rugby World Cup". That's right - a Sunday post!

Today's random thought:

- On your "History" and "National Geographic" types of channels, you tend to hear this expression used a lot: "biblical proportions". Used in a sentence: "That tornado wreaked havoc of biblical proportions!" Is that because everything in the Bible is big? To me, that expression seems like a cliché that has since lost its original meaning, and people now use recklessly when the word "big" just won't do.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"Tri-City/Tri-State Areas"

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In my travels, I've been through a lot of areas that like to dub themselves the "Tri-Cities" or the "Tri-State". Personally, I think there are too many. We need to consolidate this term and separate the "pretenders" from the "contenders".

When I think "Tri-Cities", two metropolitan areas come to mind:
- Bristol/Kingsport/Johnson City, Tennessee
- Pasco/Kennewick/Richland, Washington

Personally, I think all other "tri-city" areas should cease to use this term. I'm glad Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill calls themselves the "Triangle" instead of the "Tri-Cities". Same goes for the "Triad" just west of here. But are there any other metropolitian areas that are using this term judiciously, trying to make themselves seem better than they actually are? Well, there are some; I'll get to that later.

Even two areas dubbimg themselves the "Tri-Cities" might be too many (although I suppose I can live with two). But which one has a greater stake to the term? To find out, I googled "tri-cities", and here are how the top 30 results are distributed among all "Tri-City" areas:
Kennewick, WA: 16
Bristol, TN: 11
Binghamton, NY: 1
Petersburg, VA: 1
Grand Haven, MI: 1

So, the nod goes to Kennewick/Pasco/Richland. But what about those other three? Binghamton, Endicott, and Johnson City, New York call themselves the "Triple Cities". I can live with that, except for that one search result that called it the "Tri-Cities". Inexcusable. And, I've never even heard of those last two cities. Isn't the whole idea behind a "tri-city" area that all three cities are relatively equal in significance? As for Virginia, Petersburg/Colonial Heights/Hopewell call themselves the Tri-Cities. I think they need to stop using the term immediately, especially since the more-famous Tri-Cities area around Bristol is partly in Virginia. We can't have two tri-city areas in one state. Ugh. And who cares about Petersburg, anyway? They're just a distant suburb of Richmond. If anything, they should include themselves as part of "Greater Richmond", instead of trying to stand on their own by including a couple of dumb suburbs and giving themselves a name that has already been taken by an area on the other side of the state. They suck. And I don't know what Grand Haven's problem is. I've never heard of Grand Haven, and it's not obvious on a map what the tri-cities are supposed to be. Boo Grand Haven!

At least we don't have this problem with the term "Quad Cities". That term is reserved only for the Davenport, IA area. Nobody else dare touch that. (I learned on Wikipedia that there are actually five major cities there now. It used to be four. But once Bettendorf approached East Moline in population, they considered renaming themselves the "Quint Cities". But "Quad Cities" had already stuck and was known nationwide.)

Now, on to "Tri-State" areas. Anywhere where there is a 3-way intersection of states, if there's a metropolitan area nearby, they probably call themselves the "Tri-State". I don't think of any one or two areas in particular when I think of "tri-state" areas, so I don't have a problem with many areas using this term, because unlike "Tri-Cities", it doesn't identify any one or two areas in particular. But, which "tri-state" areas are the most prominent? Let's do the same "Google" test that we did for tri-cities: (Except I stopped at 20 because I got lazy.)
- NJ/NY/CT (New York City): 4
- OH/IN/MI: 4
- IN/IL/WI (Chicago): 2
- WV/KY/OH (Huntington, WV): 2
- OH/PA/NY (Erie, PA): 1
- DE/MD/PA (Wilmington, DE): 1 (Not sure which states are included here, actually. Is NJ one of them?)
- IN/IL/KY (Evansville, IN): 1
- OH/KY/IN (Cincinnati): 1
- IA/IL/WI (Dubuque, IA): 1
- MO/IL/IN (the "Tri-State Tornado"): 1
- CO/NE/WY: 1
- unknown: 1
I guess you could give the nod to NYC, but it's hardly a majority. Most of these results are for businesses calling themselves "Tri-State (fill in the blank)" in order to try to get more business, I suppose. (It's kind of like calling them the Carolina Hurricanes to get fans in two states.) There's also a "Tri-State University" located near there OH/IN/MI border that accounts for most of those results. So, there's no clear winner here. But we knew that. It is interesting how frequently this term is used in the Midwest, though.

So, if you take anything from this post, take this: if someone uses the term "Tri-Cities", assume they are either talking about Bristol/Kingsport/Johnson City, TN, or Pasco/Kennewick/Richland, WA. If they're not, order them to stop. (Unless they're talking about something in another country. I guess I don't have jurisdiction there.)

Last Year: "This Is What I Did Today".

Tomorrow: "College Football Saturday: 9/29/07". It's the post that writes itself!

Today's random thought:

- Amber came up with an awesome simile the other day. I forget what the context was, but for our sake, let's assume she was talking about her current streak of wins on Freecell. "I'm on a roll...like butter!"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"-1 Year Anniversary"

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Some of you may be wondering how the wedding plans are going. So, here's where we are so far.

Well, we've already reserved a place for the reception. It's at a lodge in the middle of the woods in this park just west of Toledo. It seemed to fit our "style" pretty well. And, we reserved it for Saturday, September 27th, so that means we've set the wedding date as well. Hey, isn't today September 27th? That makes today our "-1 year wedding anniversary", if there is such a thing

I wonder what the distribution of weddings-by-month is. I bet it's not uniform. (I don't expect a lot of people get married in the middle of winter, for instance.) Our reasoning for the date is so that the honeymoon coincides with fall foliage, since I'm almost 100% certain our honeymoon will involve Canada in some way. James's wedding date was also in September, but if I remember correctly, their date was chosen so that it would be the same date as another family wedding. We had that option as well - my parents' anniversary is October 18th, which falls on a Saturday in 2008 - but, nah. Besides, 9/27/08 is the 271th day of the year, and 271 is a prime number. (Normally, 9/27 is day #270, but 2008 is a leap year.) Personally, I think February 29th would be the most awesome wedding date.

This also means we're getting married in Toledo. It makes more sense that way, because of where our respective families live (most of my family is up north as well). We're currently considering potential church sites for the ceremony itself, but we don't have anything definitive on that, so I'll save that for another post.

This isn't really my jurisdiction, but Amber already has a dress picked out. Of course, all of the details have been kept "super secret" from me. Here's my male-oriented perspective on wedding dresses: is there really that much difference between them? Everything's just white. It all seems like splitting hairs to me. But maybe that's why some women have so much trouble deciding on one. (Perhaps it's analogous Mr. Burns in the grocery store, trying to decide between ketchup and catsup. "I'm in way over my head...") I can understand it, to an extent - even though you're only going to wear it one day, you're going to get a lot of pictures taken in it, many of which may be displayed in prominent locations throughout your house and your office, so you're going to be looking at that thing for the rest of your life. With that in mind, it's no wonder some women sweat over this so much.

Only 366 more days of planning to go! Oh no! (That was supposed to be sarcastic, just so you know.)

Last Year: "Working at Publix".

Tomorrow: "Tri-City/Tri-State Areas".

- Of all the people who are driving cars with only one working headlight, how many of them know about it? I bet it's less than 50%. You can't easily tell one headlight is out from the driver's seat, so normally someone has to tell you.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"How To Get A Major Highway Named After You"

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I don't know if it's like this everywhere, but around here, just about every stretch of highway has an honorary name attached to it. For example, driving to work, I pass signs for both the "Tom Bradshaw Freeway" and the "Dan K Moore Freeway". Those are two different segments of I-40. Further west, I-40 becomes the "John Motley Morehead III Freeway", and eventually, the "Sam Hunt Freeway". So, this begs the question: what do you have to do to get a stretch of highway named after you? David Letterman lobbied to get I-465 around Indianapolis named the "David Letterman Expressway", and even had the mayor of Indianapolis on his show (if I remember correctly), but his efforts proved futile. So, what does it take? I decided to do some research (i.e. Google) on all these people to see what I could find.

- Tom Bradshaw (I-40 south/west of Raleigh) was the mayor of Raleigh from 1971 to 1973. (Wikipedia)
- Dan K. Moore (I-40, Wade Ave to NC-147) was the governor of North Carolina from 1965 to 1969. (Wikipedia)
- John Motley Morehead III (I-40, NC-147 to US-15/501) is a chemist who gave many generous donations to his alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill. He is also the grandson of John Motley Morehead, a former North Carolina governor. (Wikipedia)
- Harriet Morehead Berry (I-40, US-15/501 to I-85) was the leader of the North Carolina Good Roads Association, which created the first state highway commission in 1921. She is a member of the North Carolina Transportation Hall of Fame.
(source)
- Sam Hunt (I-40 in Alamance County) is a former North Carolina Secretary of Transportation. (source)
- Cliff Benson is also a former North Carolina Secretary of Transportation, coincidentally under Governor Dan K. Moore. He is the namesake of the I-440 beltline. (source) Contrary to what I previously hypothesized, the nearby town of Benson was not named for him.
- I.L. "Buck" Dean (a portion of NC-147, a.k.a. the Durham Freeway) is a former Durham City Councilman and a longtime member of the North Carolina Board of Transportation. (source)
- Claude E. Pope (US-1 from Raleigh (Cary) to Sanford) was a businessman and "industry pioneer" who served as the North Carolina Secretary of Commerce from 1987 to 1989. (source)
- James E. Harrington (I-40 in Johnston County) is a former North Carolina Secretary of Transportation. (No convenient source; just Google "james e. harrington" "north carolina" for proof. Not to be confused with the mayor of Brockton, MA.)

So, in most cases, you have to be a politician to get a major highway named after you. That's probably the easiest way. But in some cases, you can get away with being a really, really good businessman, or by donating lots of money. Surface roads are another animal entirely - you can be almost anything and get one of those named after you, anything from a reverend to a NASCAR driver. Major interstates seem to be a bit more exclusive. No wonder David Letterman had so much trouble.

Last Year: "Bellefonte, PA".

Tomorrow: "-1 Year Anniversary".

Today's random thought:

- I don't think I have the stomach for Hamburger Helper anymore. It used to be a staple of my dinner rotation; now it's something we only try once every two to three months because it normally doesn't sit well. Am I getting old?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Curling Recap #6"

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Last Friday night's curling was the first week in the "Fall League". The fall league has 8 teams, and features a round-robin format followed by two "playoff" weeks, for a total of 9 games between now and December. All games will be on Friday nights starting at the ripe hour of 915p. So, we can look forward to curling almost every week until Christmas, with four "off weeks" scheduled in October and November. (I think we'll make full use of those off weeks.)

Entering the league, what are my expectations? Well, you know me and my "proactive pessimism": my goal is simply to not finish last. Amber and I have been playing long enough now to earn a spot on the same team, with Amber the "lead" and me the "second". Our teammates: a couple of older gentleman who have been curling approximately 100 times as long as we have. That's good; we can use all the help we can get. Especially in our first match. Then again, it's been five weeks since there's been any curling here, so maybe that will help level the playing field.

Well, we lucked out: the skip on the opposing team wasn't there! (They had a substitute.) So, I guess this was a good night to play them. The final score was a 10-2 win. How about that? I had several really nice throws, that I mostly attribute to luck. The ice was doing some funny things from time to time, too, causing stones to jerk in one direction or the other, with no rhyme or reason. And, it seemed like our team got all the lucky bounces, while the other team got all the unlucky bounces. I guess that's the way it goes sometimes. I don't expect to be so lucky in the next game. (We get to go curling again in just three more days! Sweet!)

Amber's parents were in town for the weekend, and they attended the first two ends of the match and took some pictures. I'll try to get a hold of some of them, because currently, I don't have any in-action pictures of Amber or me curling. Pictures like that would go really well in a Facebook profile.

So, after one week, we're 2nd in the league standings (we're team #7). After a successful first week, have I adjusted my goal of finishing 7th or better in an 8 team league? Nope. If we enter the playoffs in 5th place, last place is still a possibility, so I'm trying to keep my hopes down. Even if we do finish last, that's okay, because Amber and I will have done it together. (Aww.)

Last Year: "Wedding Receptions".

Tomorrow: "How To Get A Major Highway Named After You".

Today's random thought:

- Something I noticed this weekend: Ohio license plates may not have the name of the county on it anymore, but they do have a sticker in the lower-left that corresponds to a particular county. Hey, that's better than nothing. The numbers appear to correspond to alphabetical order: Lake County (the one in that picture) is #43 (43rd in alphabetical order), and Lucas County is #48 (48th in alphabetical order). Why don't all states have something like this? I could use a #92 on my license plate to distinguish myself from all of the lame #32's and #68's. (And, even worse, the #60's.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"College Football Saturday: 9/22/07"

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It's time to get back to the "roots" of my blog, with a good old-fashioned post about College Football Saturday. My game selection isn't as extensive as it was last year, since I don't have ESPN GamePlan (or the Big Ten Network). But I do get ESPNU. Besides, I think I can do without the MAC Game of the Week. About the only games worth watching on ESPN GamePlan are the Jefferson Pilot Lincoln Financial ACC and SEC games, and the ABC regional telecasts. I get the LF ACC games anyway, and the SEC game this week is Florida at Ole Miss - no thanks. And ABC hasn't had many regional telecasts so far; I think tonight's 800p two-game lineup is the first one of the year. I was worried that Penn State/Michigan would be regional, but nope - it's national. Wahoo! If Penn State is ever on a regional ABC telecast that I can't watch, I can always purchase ESPN GamePlan for the day for just $21.95.

Here are today's games, split up between the three basic time slots:

Time slot 1
Game 1 - North Carolina at South Florida, 1200p, ESPN: Now that USF has their first national ranking ever, they better not blow it by losing at home to a below-average ACC team. (Which, I find it curious that USF got ranked not immediately following their win over Auburn, but a week later after Auburn lost to Mississippi State, making that win look much less impressive.)
Game 2 - Georgia Tech at Virginia, 1200p, ESPNU: Georgia Tech fell off the radar quickly after losing to Boston College. I think they can get it back together in this game.
Game 3 - Clemson at NC State, 1200p, Local TV (Lincoln Financial): NC State's last win over a I-A opponent was against Florida State, almost one full year ago (10/5/06). Ouch. For both NC State and Florida State.
Game 4 - East Carolina at West Virginia, 1200p, ESPN2
Game 5 - Army at Boston College, 100p, ESPN Classic. Boston College looks like an early favorite in the ACC. After all, they're already 3-0 in-conference; this is their first non-conference game.

Time slot 2
Game 1 - Penn State at Michigan, 330p, ABC: Obviously, the most important game of the day for me.
Game 2 - Michigan State at Notre Dame, 330p, NBC: Living with Amber now means that every Notre Dame game gets at least some priority. Even if they have been playing at the I-AA level so far this year. If they ever do decide to join a conference, maybe they should join the Missouri Valley Conference.
Game 3 - South Carolina at LSU, 330p, CBS: As much as I've been on the South Carolina bandwagon prior to the year, I don't think they have much of a chance here.
Game 4 - Maryland at Wake Forest, 330p, ESPNU: Hooray for the ACC!
Game 5 - Northwestern at Ohio State, 330p, ESPN: Was Northwestern looking ahead last week when they lost to Duke?
Game 6 - Texas Tech at Oklahoma State, 330p, FSN
Game 7 - Colorado State at Houston, 430p, CSTV

Time slot 3
Game 1 - Kentucky at Arkansas, 600p, ESPN2: There isn't a whole lot of "intrigue" in the late games, which is fine, because by this point, I may not feel like watching any more. But I do think Kentucky can pull the "upset", if you can call it that, so I'll keep an eye on this one.
Game 2 - Georgia at Alabama, 745p, ESPN
Game 3 - Iowa at Wisconsin, 800p, ABC: This game is regional, along with USC at Washington State, which probably won't be much of a contest.
Game 4 - Arizona at California, 600p, Versus: It looks like Versus has picked up the Big XII/Pac-10 contract that TBS had for the last couple of years. So, expect to see more college football on Versus this year.
Game 5 - Purdue at Minnesota, 900p, ESPN2: Personally, I think this game has more of a "Big Ten Network" feel to it, rather than ESPN2.
Game 6 - Washington at UCLA, 1015p, FSN: Not that I'll be up late enough to make it past halftime, but just in case.
Game 7 - Connecticut at Pittsburgh, 700p, ESPNU
Game 8 - SMU at TCU, 830p, CSTV
Game 9 - Rice at Texas, 700p, FSN: That pre-season pick I made of Texas winning the national championship isn't looking too good so far.

Enjoy your Saturday! (And your Sunday and Monday, for that matter.)

Last Year: "More County Map Fun!"

Tomorrow: "Curling Recap #6".


Today's random thought:

- What do you do if you receive mail that's not addressed to you? That is, sent to the correct address, but with someone else's name? An old woman asked me that at the mailboxes the other day. I usually just throw it away. I guess some people are more responsible than I am.

Friday, September 21, 2007

"More 'Simpsons' Trivia"

I've got nothing for today, so here are a few more "Simpsons" trivia questions from my daily calendar. I haven't been doing quite as well this month. Through yesterday, I'm only 7-of-17 for September. My goal is to get back above 50% before month ends, and I need to go on a 6-of-8 streak to pull that off. I've only had one month under 50% (February: 10-of-24), and I'm 119-of-223 (53.4%) for the year through yesterday.

Here are the last 11 questions. (Answers are at the end of the post.)

9/8-9/9: In "Skinner's Sense of Snow" (CABF06), stuck in school because of a snowstorm, Bart complains that he is going to miss what? a) The "Itchy & Scratchy" episode where they kiss, b) A "Munsters" marathon, c) Watching the mailman make his way to their mailbox, d) The radio announcement that says which schools are closed.

9/10: In "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" (4F15), when alcohol is made illegal, what does Moe's Tavern become? a) Moe's Mowers, b) Moe's Pet Shop, c) Moe's Tea House, d) Moe's House of Yarn.

9/11: In "The Wandering Juvie" (FABF11), Marge advises Bart not to hang around in juvenile hall with whom? a) Guys with bad hygiene, b) People who'll beat him, c) Jimbo and Kearney, d) Criminals.

9/12: Fill in the blank of Bart's Blackboard Gag from "The Great Money Caper" (CABF03): "The nurse is not _____". a) A stocking model, b) Trying to kill me, c) A doctor that failed med school, d) Dealing.

9/13: In "Co-Dependent's Day" (FABF10), Homer is so bored while watching the "Cosmic Wars" movie, what does he do? a) He cleans out his wallet, b) He flicks popcorn kernels at the screen, c) He sneaks next door to see "My Little Porpoise: The Movie", d) He lies on the floor and takes a nap.

9/14: In "Treehouse of Horror XII" (CABF19), in the segment "Wiz Kids", why is the evil wizard Montymort (Mr. Burns) avoiding Satan? a) He hates the smell of brimstone, b) He is tired of listening to Satan's same old jokes, c) Satan always jabs him with his horns to be funny, d) Satan's wife has a screenplay.

9/15-16: In "The Wandering Juvie" (FABF11), according to Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel, he hasn't had a good memory since when? a) A bulldozer ran over him and popped his head like a pimple, b) His rifle accidentally went off while he was scratching his nose, c) He drank his thermometer, d) The family's pet scorpion holed up between his ears.

9/17: In "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show" (9F17), the veterinarian offered to do what for $20? a) Remove Snowball II's hair balls, b) Give Maggie all her shots, c) Give Homer a tick bath then spay him, d) Kennel Bart for a week.

9/18: Fill in the blank of Bart's Blackboard Gag from "The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" (CABF02): a) Tell off-color jokes, b) Play jammin' guitar solos, c) Provide a urine sample, d) Drain the fish aquarium.

9/19: In "Homer's Enemy" (4F19), what does Bary buy at an auction for one dollar? a) Four quarters, b) Picket signs from a recent power plant protest, c) An abandoned factory, d) A box of action figure parts.

9/20: While feeling blue in "Bart's Inner Child" (1F05), what prank does Bart decide to pull? a) Dig up Flander's flower beds and blame the dog, b) Call Moe and ask for I.P. Freely, c) Spit off the overpass, d) Drop water balloons on kids at the playground.

Last Year: "A Typical Week".

Tomorrow: "College Football Saturday: 9/22/07".

Answers:

9/8-9/9: a)
9/10: b)
9/11: b)
9/12: d). This is the third one of these "fill in the blank" questions, and I'm 0-for-3. Then again, they're all from post-season-10 episodes, because that's when you see more of the full opening sequences. Why do you see more full intros later in the series? Because the writers got lazy and started writing shorter episodes. That's my opinion, anyway.
9/13: a)
9/14: d)
9/15-16: c). That's the third question on this episode in recent memory. Bah!
9/17: c)
9/18: c). That's 0-for-4 now...
9/19: c)
9/20: c)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Alternate Routes To Charlotte"

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I-85 from Raleigh (Cary) to Charlotte is probably the generally-accepted "best way to go". But it kind of goes out of the way. And it's not very interesting. So, what other options are there?

I see four options, starting in the south:

US-1 to Rockingham, US-74 to Charlotte: We took this way back last Sunday, primarily so I could pick up two new counties. US-74 just outside Charlotte is slow, but the rest of it is fine and dandy. However, it's not faster. It took us about 2h40m to get to the I-485/I-77 junction south of Charlotte via I-85 on Saturday, while it took 2h56m with US-74. And that's from the south side of Charlotte; if you're going to downtown uptown Charlotte, this route is even less desirable. It was a nice route, but it's not faster.

NC-24/27 from Carthage to Charlotte: US-74 goes pretty far south, so it's really no less out of the way than I-85. So is there another rural route north of US-74 that you could "cut the corner" on? Yes, there is - NC-24/27, which you pick up via US-15/501 near Carthage, and take west all the way to Charlotte. It's definitely shorter mileage-wise than US-74, but it might not be faster, since it's only a two-lane road. But it's worth a shot.

US-64 to Asheboro, NC-49 to Charlotte: This is probably the straightest path from Raleigh (Cary) to Charlotte. My biggest concerns with this route are driving through Asheboro, and the traffic northeast of Charlotte near Concord.

US-64 to Lexington, I-85 to Charlotte: I took a split-time on Saturday at the I-85/US-64 interchange near Lexington: it took 1h31m to get there. Could I get there any faster taking US-64 the whole way? When we do the Ultimate North Carolina Road Trip (tentatively scheduled for either of the last two weekends in October), maybe I'll do a split time on this segment and find out.

From areas further north and west, such as Durham and Chapel Hill, I-85 is certainly the way to get there. But Raleigh (Cary)'s more southern location makes some other routes more viable. Eventually, I'll figure out what the best way is. Then again, I don't really have much reason to drive to Charlotte. Maybe next time we go to Carowinds, I'll be able to complete this thought, instead of writing a largely-incomplete post that's probably just a waste of your time more than anything else.

Last Year: "The Diabolical Scheme Thwarter: Issue #4".

Tomorrow: "More 'Simpsons' Trivia".

Today's random thought:

- Yesterday, I alluded to the fact that I already had an Ingles discount card. I don't go out of my way to collect them, but I don't get rid of them, either. Right now on my keychain, I have 7 cards: Albertson's, City Market (good at Kroger), Harris Teeter, Ingles, Lowe's Foods, Piggly Wiggly (only good in South Carolina and coastal Georgia), and Wegmans. I'm only a Food Lion card short of having all the area's four major supermarkets covered. (I haven't even stepped into a Food Lion since I moved here.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"Upstate South Carolina"

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We were already going to be in the Charlotte area last Saturday, so why not make a full weekend trip out of it? So, we stayed at a Super 8 in Gaffney, SC (we've still never had a problem with Super 8). While we were there, we shopped at Ingles (a supermarket based in Asheville, NC, for which I already have their discount card from various camping trips in Western NC), and bought enough stuff to make peanut butter sandwiches the next day.

Then, the next morning, we started on SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. The original intent was to take the entire road from I-85 in Gaffney to I-85 near the Georgia state line, but we didn't quite take the whole thing. Here's the actual route we took:

Let's take this in steps:

I-85 (A) to US-276 (B): I don't think you can see the mountains from I-85, but as you progress along SC-11, they start to come into view. These mountains have the distinction of being the closest mountains to Jacksonville, so as a result, I've been here a lot. They always looked rather impressive coming from Florida. But now that I live in North Carolina, and live closer to more impressive mountains, does that take away from these mountains? Well, not really, as it turns out - I was still impressed. There isn't a whole lot on this segment of the road, except a Boy Scout camp in the area that I've been to twice (Camp Old Indian), but I forgot exactly how to get there. (That doesn't mean I couldn't have found it if I needed to.)

Caesars Head State Park (3), US-276: We took a detour up US-276 to go to Caesars Head State Park, which I've also been to before. I had two reasons to go back: 1) There's a really nice view at the top. 2) US-276 is a really fun road. Again, I had to wonder how accurate my perceptions were as a Florida native, but the view was still awesome, and I'd put US-276 up there with many of the roads we took in Virginia and West Virginia. These aren't "cupcake" mountains by any means. (Well, compared to the rest of the Appalachians, which are all cupcakes compared to the Rockies.) One thing about this park: no trash cans, except in the restrooms at the visitor's center. Pack it in, pack it out.

US-276 (B) to Lake Keowee (C): This is probably the most scenic part of the drive. It's closest to the mountains, and offers a nice view of Table Rock. I briefly considered making a detour at Sassafras Mountain (the tallest point in South Carolina), but I've been there before, and it's not really that good of a view anyway. So, we moved on to another state park with a view of Lake Keowee (called Lake Jocassee further upstream) to eat Ingles-brand peanut butter sandwiches. (Laura Lynn-brand, actually. All of their store-brand products are "Laura Lynn", named after the daughter of Robert Ingle, founder of Ingles.) The lake view was actually pretty pathetic, unless you like boat ramps and low water levels. Oh well.

Lake Keowee (C) to I-85 (D): That was pretty much it for the scenery. So, I decided to take a detour into Georgia and go to previously-unvisited Stephens County. That detour probably added about 30 minutes (at least) to the drive, but it was worth it. (I actually picked up five new counties last weekend - Stephens, plus four in North Carolina to bring my NC total up to 87-of-100. How have I visited so many counties? By making trip detours like this one to Stephens County, specifically for the sake of the county map.)

SC-11 isn't as scenic as roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway, or various roads in West Virginia, but it's the best South Carolina has to offer. I think that's what makes it noteworthy; the fact that it's in an otherwise flat state. They call this region the "Upstate" of South Carolina, not just because it's in the north, but because it's "up" in altitude as well. Clever, eh? Unlike with New York, I don't think South Carolina has any arguments about what consititutes "upstate".

Last Year: "Instant Messenger Contests".

Tomorrow: "Alternate Routes to Charlotte". Yep, I'm going "road geek" on you again.

Today's random thought:

- Hershey's Kisses and 3 Musketeers now come in flavors such as "cherry" and "strawberry". I've tried them, and it just doesn't work. If you ask me, fruit and chocolate don't mix.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Carowinds"

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First off, some semantics: it's no longer called "Paramount's Carowinds". All of Paramount's theme parks are now owned and operated by Cedar Fair (of Cedar Point fame), so the name of the park is just "Carowinds". Thus, some of the logos and images that can be seen around the park might remind you of Cedar Point. Amber, a Cedar Point "homer" and former employee, has mixed feelings on this.

I went to Carowinds 2 years ago, but I didn't remember much about it. I didn't remember specifically riding any of the roller coasters, only the existence of certain areas of the park. So, it might as well have been a new theme park. Apparently, the "Borg Assimilator" coaster (a "flying" coaster) was there last time, but I don't remember it. It was pretty cool. Other coasters:
- "Hurler": A wooden coaster, which I think they tried to make as bumpy as possible. But that's okay, because it comes with very cushy seats. This was the only coaster we rode twice.
- "Thunder Road": A much older wooden coaster, with both "forwards" and "backwards" rides. "Backwards" was closed, though, possibly for the season. Given how short the wait was at this ride, I can't say I blame them.
- "Carolina Cyclone": An old-school corkscrew type of coaster. You pretty much know what to expect with these types of rides.
- "Carolina Goldrusher": Your basic "mine train" coaster.

Hmm. Were those really the only coasters we rode? Well, there were more that we didn't ride:
- "Vortex": A stand-up coaster. I've never had fun on one of those.
- "Ricochet": A "wild mouse" coaster. We went there with intent to ride twice. The first time, the line was long. The second time, the ride wasn't running, and the line was long.
- "Top Gun": Your basic inverted coaster. We would have ridden it...if it was open. (Not to be confused with the "Top Gun" ride at Kings Island, which is a different style of inverted coaster, where you sit in a suspended car.)
- Two "kids" coasters in the Nickelodeon section of the park. They both had a fairly long wait (certainly a longer wait than most of the grown-up coasters), so we didn't think it was worth it.

We also skipped the Spongebob Squarepants 3-D movie ride, which is probably the same thing we did at Kings Dominion last year, and I did twice last time I was here. (Not because it was that good, but because that's just what happened.) In addition to your carnival-style rides, we rode two more things, which I will comment on here:

- The log flume. (Which, does the name really matter? While coasters can have their own personality, all log flumes are pretty much the same.) We got wetter than you normally get on a log flume, due to a higher water level on the ride, due to the large rainfall experienced the day before. (Speaking of which, the weather was really nice all weekend. It's about time!) One issue I had with the log flume was that the wait was unnecessarily long (approximately 50 minutes). You know how most log flumes board two groups simultaneously, one on either side of the platform? Well, they only had one simultaneous loading going on here. If they had two, the wait wouldn't have been as long. I guess once Labor Day passes, and parks like this are no longer open on weekdays, they tend to tone down the operation a bit. Or, maybe it's in the park's best interest to have lines. That way, you stay at the park longer, and are more likely to buy more stuff. Of course, you don't want to make the lines too long, or you might lose customers in the long run.
- The "haunted mansion", which was called Scooby Doo something-or-other. Normally these things are pretty lame, but this one was actually fun, because each rider got a little "gun" type of deal that you can use to shoot down the cardboard "ghosts", only made cool because it keeps score: every time you shoot a ghost, you get 30 points. Now that's how you make a haunted mansion fun. (And, for the record, Amber beat me by 30, or one ghost.)

The more theme parks you visit (this was #2 this year), the less you feel like riding every ride, only choosing to focus on the most intriguing rides. And that's what we did. And, also, the older you get, the earlier you feel like leaving. I don't know how we ever did Cedar Point from open to close, especially sandwiched between two 5-hour drives. I don't think I have another performance like that in me.

Well, I do have a couple of opinions on how we were able to pull off the 12-hour Cedar Point marathon. For one thing, Cedar Point had a few long waits, which gives you some needed down time. They have a lot of coasters, which motivates you to stick around so you can ride everything. And, I think it was cool and overcast that day. A relentless sun takes a lot out of you (or at least, it takes a lot out of me). A cloudy, overcast, cool day is the best day to go to a theme park.

One more general note: the park was beginning to prepare itself for "Scarowinds", the Halloween-themed version of the park. Apparently, it's quite popular, and often fills to capacity. Personally, I think I can do without "Scarowinds". There are already enough teenagers at these parks as it is.

Now, the big question: which is a better park: Carowinds, or Kings Dominion? Well, Carowinds is about 15 minutes closer. But Kings Dominion had the bobsled ride, where you can ride the Canada bobsled. Advantage: Kings Dominion.

Last Year: "Elementary School".

Tomorrow: "Upstate South Carolina".

Today's random thought:

- This past weekend, the National Weather Service issued freeze warnings across various parts of New England. Eventually, it will get to a point where every night in New England is a freeze, but you won't see freeze warnings then. When does the NWS stop issuing freeze warnings? After the first freeze? The second freeze? When there hasn't been a freeze for a fixed number of days? Does it depend on the climatology (i.e. are freeze warnings only issued when the average low is above 32°F)? Inquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"This Weekend's Plans"

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What are we doing this weekend? Well, last night was our last Friday night without curling for four weeks (the Fall league starts next week), so we figured it was a good opportunity to take a "fun trip out of town". One option was the Ultimate North Carolina Road Trip (US-64 from the Outer Banks to Tennessee), but we're going to save that for one of our two off weeks in October, so we can see fall foliage. Instead, today, we're going to Paramount's Carowinds in Charlotte, NC. I'll recap my impression of Carowinds on Tuesday. I went there two years ago, so I won't expect any surprises (except I do know a couple of coasters will be closed today). After this, Amber and I will have gone to all three close-vicinity theme parks within the past year-plus.

Then, after a night at a hotel in Gaffney, SC (45 minutes west of Charlotte - I stopped at a Bojangles' there 3½ years ago), we'll be exploring the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (SC-11) in Upstate South Carolina. I've been up here (down here?) many times before, but I've never taken the whole road. Along the way, we may head up to Caesars Head State Park, or maybe Sassafras Mountain (the highest point in South Carolina). Either way, there are many fun roads to be had around here. SC-11 itself is more of a scenic road than a fun road, known more for scenery than curves. The road itself

After that, it's about five hours from the west end of SC-11 (at I-85 and the Georgia state line) back to Raleigh (Cary). So it'll be a short-lived stay in South Carolina. But that's okay; there isn't a whole lot of other interesting stuff near Charlotte. (Well, there is a bunch of NASCAR stuff, but...nah.)

To answer the question I posed last week, the next "new county" to go will be Davidson County (one of the two I predicted), which lies along I-85 on the way to Charlotte. (See, I knew what I was talking about.) I'll pick up one other new county along I-85 (Rowan, which is right next to Davidson), but unless we go out of our way, that'll be it.

Hopefully, there will be enough interesting stuff from this weekend's trip to make at least two blog posts. If not, oh well, that's not going to stop me from trying.

Last Year: "If I Had A Million Dollars...". If nothing else, this post gave everyone an excuse to quote Office Space in the comments section.

Tomorrow (Tuesday): "Paramount's Carowinds".

Today's random thought:

- I got Fruit Roll Ups at the store this week, because they were on sale. It seems you can't get Fruit Roll Ups without some kind of gimmick these days - peel-outs, crazy colors, "tongue tattoos", you name it. What happened to just "strawberry"?

Friday, September 14, 2007

"The Horse Balls Game"

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The horse balls game is a game I played while at a cookout in Toledo a couple of weeks ago. I'm going to talk about it, while trying to not make it sound too much like a commercial.

I guess the idea is based on horseshoes, except instead of horseshoes, you have two tennis-like balls connected with a string. (I don't know if they actually resemble a pair of horse balls. I'm guessing, no.) Then, 30 feet away, there's a stand-up target with three horizontal...umm...clotheslines? They're not clotheslines, because they're plastic and rigid. But I can't think of anything else to call them. The "plastic lines" are each about a foot apart, one, two, and three feet above the ground (approximately). The idea is to fling the "horse balls" towards the target and try to get them to wrap around one of the three "plastic lines". (This post was written with minimal aid from the game's website which I linked above. Basically, I just went there to double-check the rules afterwards.)

Amber and I were the first to try it out at the cookout, but we didn't know the rules, so we made up our own scoring system: 3 points for the top rung (red), 2 points for the middle rung (yellow), and 1 point for the bottom rung (blue). (As it turns out, this is the actual scoring system.) We were playing on a concrete driveway, so I found it was actually easier to score "on the bounce" rather than "on the fly". When you're on the bounce, it slows the balls down, so it has a better chance of sticking, rather than hooking and then flying off with all of its angular momentum. It also gives you a larger margin of error as well. However, it makes it harder to get to the highest-scoring red rung. And, it might not actually increase your chances of scoring, because after the bounce, the string may not be fully extended. In order to get the balls to hook, the string must be extended and as taut as possible. This is best accomplished by giving the balls a strong rotation upon release (but not too strong a rotation, or else one of the balls is more likely to bounce off the rungs). The bounce is a moot point if you play the game as intended (on a grassy or dirt surface), but the driveway was the only reasonable place to have the game. When Amber and I took on a couple of other people, we lost to a team that did not employ the bounce, so maybe the bounce tactic wasn't the way to go.

It seems pretty obvious to me what the "target audience" of this game is: football tailgaters. They want this to be a game that people play at tailgates. I thought it seemed like a terrific game to have a tailgate. What other games are there? Well, classic horseshoes, and that "throw the bean bag into the hole" game, neither of which is probably as popular as the alcohol-based games (beer pong, etc). Speaking of which, NC State has banned kegs and hard liquor at their tailgates. Is this a common thing across college campuses?

Maybe you've seen the "horse balls game" at a tailgate near you. Or, maybe not, and it's just an obscure game from a fledging business. Who am I to say?

Last Year: "Soda (Pop)".

Tomorrow: "This Weekend's Plans".

Today's random thought:

- Most standard calendars list all major Christian and Jewish holidays. How soon before they start listing Islamic holidays as well? I thought about this on Wednesday, seeing that my "Simpsons" calendar proclaimed that day as Rosh Hashanah. Then, I ripped off that page yesterday, and saw that yesterday was the start of Ramadan. I guess that answers that question - we're already there! (Speaking of which, are there any Muslims on "The Simpsons"? I can't think of any. Other than, perhaps, the guy who sold Homer crab juice in New York City.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"School Buses"

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First off, what is the proper spelling of the plural of "bus"? Is it "buses" or "busses"? Well, both are legal, but "buses" is more common, getting 6 times the hits of "busses" on Google. So, let's go with that. I wonder if it varies amongst other English-speaking countries...

Did you ride the school bus to school? If so, how long? I wonder what the distribution is by age (or grade). I bet the younger students are more likely to ride the bus. Then, as you get older, you're less likely to take the bus, and more likely to pursue other means of transportation (either by bike, or eventually, drive yourself). Or, do more parents take their kids to school themselves at an early age, and then once they hit middle school, that becomes "uncool" and they'd rather take the bus to school than ride with their mommy?

Personally, I only rode the bus in elementary school, and only in the afternoon. I had parental transportation all other times, or I would ride my bike. (Which, when I was a kid, I didn't wear a helmet when riding my bike. It wasn't really a big deal. My, how times have changed...) I didn't really like riding the bus. I guess that's why I didn't do it more.

On TV shows and such (particularly "The Simpsons"), you see the school bus come up directly in front of kids houses. But that's not very realistic. The way my school bus worked, there were set locations where they would pick up and drop off kids. They didn't go by every single kid's house; that would be very inefficient. Isn't this the way it's done everywhere? Or is it different in smaller towns like the fictional Springfield, where there is only one elementary school? I know that I've followed school buses on rural NC-86 before, and it seemed like they were stopping at individual houses. But in a rural area where houses are separated by long distances, that's probably the only practical way to do it.

Now, a public service announcement regarding when you have to stop for a stopped school bus. Laws are different in different states, but in North Carolina, you always have to stop when you're behind a bus (obviously). But what if you're going in the opposite direction? If you're on a two-lane road, yes. If you're on a four-lane road with no center turn lane or divider, yes. If you're on a four-lane road with a center turn lane, median, or barrier, then you don't have to stop. But you do have to stop on a two-lane road with a center turn lane. (source - the News and Observer)

How fast can a school bus go? Well, apparently on US-1 northbound in the mornings, they can't go any faster than 45. Many mornings, I'll see a school bus in the right lane with its flashers on, going slow. I guess that's what they have to do. I've learned to get in a passing lane as soon as possible if I see one in the distance, and that I'm usually good to pass him in time to get back in the right lane before my exit.

As technology progresses, I don't think school buses will become obsolete anytime soon. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the buses used today are at least 20 years old. (Then again, I don't think I've been in a school bus in almost 10 years.) How much mileage does a typical school bus put on in a given day, anyway?

Last Year: "Kinston, NC". I haven't been back to Kinston since then (except driving by on US-70), either to play disc golf, or to go to one of their five Piggly Wiggly locations. And last year at this time, apparently gas was cheaper in Toledo than in Raleigh (Cary), which is not true now.

Tomorrow: "The Horse Balls Game".


Today's random thought:

- I see this bumper sticker a lot, especially in Cary: "I'm a proud parent of a TERRIFIC KID!" This has to be one of the dumbest bumper stickers out there. Is this for parents whose kids aren't good enough to be in the honor roll, just so the parents can feel better about themselves? "My kid may not be smart enough for the honor roll, but boy, he sure is terrific!" What are the requirements for being a "terrific kid", anyway? Maybe I should make a bumper sticker that says, "I'm a proud author of a TERRIFIC BLOG!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"By The Numbers: The Archives"

I've kept some interesting stats over the years. Now, here they are, in the (random) order in which they appear in my archives file: (The boring stats are all at the top, it seems.)

- Miles driven: As repeated several times in this blog, I've kept monthly miles driven totals dating back to May 2004. Over that 3+ year period, my lowest monthly total is 191 miles (September 2005), and my highest is 4,465 miles (March 2007). 31 of the 40 months have been over 1,000 miles. Annual totals are 15,800 miles in 2005 and 27,190 miles in 2006. Through the end of August, I'm up to 21,718 miles so far in 2007.
- Disc golf: Between Summer 2004 and Summer 2006, I kept by-semester totals of disc golf holes played. The highest semester was the first, Summer 2004 (519 holes); the lowest was Fall 2004 (175 holes - this was before I discovered Circleville Park in State College). As mentioned yesterday, I've played a total of 3,110 holes since May 2004.
- Dropped cell phone calls: In July 2006, I had 30 dropped cell phone calls, mostly due to poor reception in my old apartment. The reception in my new apartment is much better.
- Gas money: I mentioned the current stat yesterday. Some extras: I spent $447.92 on gas in Summer 2006. The cheapest gas I've purchased since then was $1.899, and the most expensive was $3.099. (That doesn't include Canada, which had more expensive gas when you do the appropriate conversions.) My car has a 13 gallon tank, but the most I've ever purchased at single stop is 11.224 gallons. My most costly gas purchase ever (excluding Canada): $33.00. All of those were with my car; I've had more expensive and higher volume fill-ups with Amber's car ($38.79; 14.588 gallons).
- Golf: I used to play a lot of golf. Those were the days. I played 622 holes of golf in 2005, 357 of which were during the summer. (In comparison, I played 677 holes of disc golf that year.) But I haven't played any golf in months. It was nice when I could leave work at 1100a and spend the afternoon on the golf course.
- Hours worked: I kept this stat from Summer 2005 through Summer 2006 while at Penn State. My per-week averages: 18.1 hours in Summer 2005, 22.2 in Fall 2005, 23.5 in Spring 2006 (85.1% of which was in Walker Building, 7.8% in the Water Tunnel building, and 7.2% elsewhere), and 20.5 during the first six weeks of Summer 2006. My highest weekly total was 36.1 hours, and my lowest (considering all weeks where I spent the whole week in State College) was 14.4 hours. The low week was the week after I turned my thesis in.
- Class extra/omitted time: Some classes at Penn State had a tendency to go overtime, while some let out early. Here are the semester totals: Meteo 521 (Dynamics) went 87 minutes over; Meteo 474 (a statistics class which I forget the name of) went 104 minutes under; Meteo 554 (Turbulence) went 106 minutes under; Meteo 529 (Mesoscale Dynamics) went 136 minutes over (wow!), and Meteo 580 (the speaking/writing class, whatever it was called) went 22 minutes under. If memory serves me right, both of the classes that went over were Mon/Wed/Fri classes, which have more of a tendency to do so because they're only 50 minutes long. Tue/Thu classes, however, are 75 minutes long, and thus have a tendency to end early. I know Turbulence was Tue/Thu; I forget if 474 was. (I'm pretty sure it was, because I think I had Mon/Wed/Fri off that semester.) Meteo 580 only met once per week for 50 minutes.
- Walking distance: I talk more about this in this post, but in short: I bought a pedometer to track my weekly walking distance, and then translated the distance to a fictional trip from State College to Jacksonville, a 910.3-mile trip that took me 8½ months. During that "trip", my longest-walked week was 53.3 km (33.1 mi), and my shortest-walked week was 27.1 km (16.8 mi). The major sources of walking distance were golfing, disc golf, walking across campus, and walking downtown. Since I only do one of those four anymore, I expect that if I were to keep this stat again, my weekly walking distances would be much shorter. (Curling might be interesting, though.)
- Team Trivia: We played a lot of team trivia at local establishments across State College. In Spring 2006, we received 938 out of a possible 1,382 points (67.9%). If you exclude the final question of the night (the only question of the night you can lose points on), we received 961 out of 1,140 possible points (84.3%). Thus, our final question average was negative. During that semester, we won $180 in gift certificates. In Summer 2006 (the first six weeks only), we did much better: 287/344 (83.4%) total, 259/284 (91.2%) prior to the final question, and 28/60 on the final question, bringing our final "final question" total back into the positive. We had one perfect night (all possible points, including the final question). Our worst night was 52/71 pre-final question, and 37/86 post-final question.
- Food money: In Spring 2006, I spent $517.06 on food. 57.5% of that was spent for food at home, while the remaining 42.5% was spent at restaurants. The total went up slightly in Summer 2006 to $594.06, even though the at-home percentage was higher (61.6%). Chalk that up to Harris Teeter and Lowe's Foods being more expensive than Wegmans. On a broader scale, college meal plans typically cost well over $1,000 per semester, so you can see how much of a ripoff they are, at least compared to my normal eating habits.
- Long pants days: I try to avoid wearing long pants when I can. This was easy to do in Florida, but in State College, it gets a little colder, making long pants a necessity. During the 2004-2005 winter season, I wore long pants 19 days, spanning from December 3rd through March 3rd. In the 2005-2006 winter season, the coldness started earlier and ended later. I wore long pants 27 days that season, spanning from November 17th to March 21st. During my time at Penn State, the coldest wind chill I experienced was -8°. These days, I wear long pants every day to work. And, I wear them to curling, since you pretty much have to (not because it's cold, but because you don't want your bare knee scraping the ice). However, I have yet to wear long pants strictly because of cold weather in Raleigh (Cary). (I have worn long pants since 3/21/06, while visiting State College, and possibly Toledo as well.)
- Advisor emails: In Spring 2006, I received 146 emails from my two co-advisors. In the first six weeks of Summer 2006, I recieved 49, which is about the same per-week as Spring.
- Sleep hours: This one goes way back to Summer 2004. That summer, I wrote down when I went to sleep and woke up each night. My average for the summer was a to-sleep time of 144a, and a wake-up time of 1100a, for an average of 9.3 hours of sleep per night. (I didn't have a job that summer, or any other obligations, so I could pretty much do whatever I wanted.) I'm considering starting this stat up again, to see how my times compare these days. (Most work nights, I'm in bed before 1000p, and typically wake up between 610a and 630a.) During Spring 2006, I kept a semester total of how much I slept, to compare, and I averaged 8.8 hours per night, with a high weekly average of 9.9 hours/night, and a low weekly average of 8.1 hours/night.
- Instant messenger ads: I used to get IM advertisements sent to me all the time while logged on AOL Instant Messenger. In Summer 2005, I received 75 ads. In Fall 2005, that total went up to 230, including 56 in just one week. I don't get these ads anymore, probably because I'm not online constantly like I used to be.
- Snack foods consumed: I kept track of how much weight in snack foods I ate at home. I did this by adding up the net weights of snack boxes and such once I finished them. I did this for three semesters: Fall 2004 (38 lbs, 5.6 oz), Spring 2005 (28 lbs, 14 oz), and Summer 2005 (31 lbs, 2.7 oz). I can't do this stat now, since Amber and I share the same snack boxes. I could do collective totals, but that's probably a bad idea. If I were to guess, I'd say I eat more snack foods now than I did back then.
- Fluids consumed: Same type of deal with fluids as with snacks. Spring 2005 total: 60 gal, 110 oz; Summer 2005 total: 64 gal; 86 oz.
- Spam e-mails: In Fall 2004, Spring 2005, and Summer 2005, my primary Yahoo email account received 3,830; 2,741; and 3,101 spam emails, respectively. The highest weekly total was 314. After I stopped keeping the stat, I think my spam intake increased considerably, but I think it's died down lately.
- Wegmans savings: You know how grocery stores tell you on your receipts how much you "saved" with their savings card? Well, at Wegmans, I kept track. I saved $31.47 in Fall 2004, and $27.20 in Spring 2005. Unlike most stores, Wegmans didn't go crazy on the artifical card savings. Contrast that to Kroger, where I've "saved" over $230 so far this year.
- NASCAR Racing 2003 Season laps made: I actually still keep this stat, although I don't publish it. I've kept it since January 2004. My lowest monthly total is 508 laps (March 2005), and my highest monthly total is 2,868 laps (August 2006). Annual totals: 17,332 in 2004; 20,546 in 2005; 25,731 in 2006; and 14,085 thus far in 2007 (on pace for 22,207). In February 2005, EA Sports published a game to compete with NR2003 called NASCAR Sim Racing. But I only ran 756 laps on that game before switching back to NR2003 full time. The 2004 total was comparatively low because I played a lot of other video games too. These days, NR2003 comprises a large percentage of my total video gaming.
- Office hours visits: During my lone semester as a TA, I only had 10 office visits all semester during office hours. There were also 6 visits outside of office hours. I didn't keep track of how many different students comprised those 16 visits (probably between 5 and 8).
- Shower replacement at White Course: While living at Penn State's White Course Apartments, one time, they replaced our showers. During the replacement process, we had to use our suitemates' showers. (Each four-person suite had two showers.) It took 21 days for them to replace my shower, and 15 days for them to replace the other shower in the apartment. (The times didn't overlap, thankfully. At least they had some common sense.)
- Alcohol spending: Maybe I shouldn't be publishing this, but oh well. During my last six weeks at Penn State in Summer 2006, I spent $65.40 on alcoholic beverages. Hey, I deserved it.

I haven't been keeping as many interesting stats these days as I used to. I used to have a lot of variety; now I just stick with the same stats I've always done.

Last Year: "The Diabolical Scheme Thwarter: Issue #3".

Tomorrow: "School Buses".

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"By-The-Numbers: 9/11/07 Update"

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I still keep statistics in my AOL Instant Messenger, which I call "by the numbers". I don't take it as seriously as I used to - I only update the stats once every few days, instead of multiple times every day - but I still keep the stats going. And since I'm not on AOL Instant Messenger that much anymore anyway, I thought I would post the current stat totals here.

First, my two-lane highway "aggressiveness score". I've mentioned this here before, but going back to last Thanksgiving, I've been keeping track of how many cars I pass on two-lane roads, and how many cars pass me on those same roads. Since last February, I've also been keeping track of the by-state distribution. Here's where we stand right now. Overall, I've passed 97 cars, and been passed by 24 cars, for an overall "score" of 80.2%. (The score is 97/(97+24).) Here's the by-state distribution (only since February):
- North Carolina: 12-4 (12 cars passed, passed by 4 cars)
- Virginia: 7-0
- West Virginia: 1-0
- Pennsylvania: 20-5
- Maine: 7-0
- New Brunswick: 1-7
- Prince Edward Island: 1-0
- Nova Scotia: 8-3
There haven't been many updates to these stats lately, though. Most of the damage was done en route between Raleigh (Cary) and State College, a drive I make less frequently now than I did when Amber lived there.

Next: Since 9/1/2006, I've spent $2,443.08 on gas. That's about $200 per month. And that's a minimum; it's quite possible that I forgot to update the stat after some gas purchases.

I used to keep track of miles driven per semester, but now, I just semi-regularly post my car's odometer reading in "by the numbers". Currently, my car's odometer reading is over 161,600 miles. This stat has taken a back seat to my car mileage log, and I may remove it from "by the numbers" altogether. I do still keep track of my monthly mileage totals, however.

My Freecell record is 161-41 (80%), with a record winning streak of 20 wins. That's good, but it's not as good as Amber's streak of 43 wins. (And counting? Last I checked, the next one was giving her some problems...)

After I moved into my current apartment in April, I started collecting soda cans above the kitchen cupboards Recently, after collecting can #284, I ran out of room up there, at which point sent all of my cans to the recycle bin and started over. Currently, since April, I've collected 296 cans, although 284 of those have been recycled.

Finally, I've been keeping track of how much money I've spent at Bojangles' since 2/1/2007. The total: $80.32, in 12 visits. That total includes money spent on food for Amber, as well as food for me. (Amber doesn't like Bojangles', but at she did try it.) I've averaged one visit every 2 to 3 weeks, with the most recent visit being last Saturday after a round of disc golf.

Speaking of disc golf, this isn't part of "by the numbers", but I thought this was a good chance to update my total-holes-played count. I think I only played once in August, but I've played each of the last two weekends to bring my total to 3,110 holes. North Carolina is now my most-played-in state, with Florida second and Pennsylvania third. The Jacksonville course is still, by far, my most-played course (950), with State College's Circleville Park in second (448). The next six courses are all Raleigh-Durham area courses, with Burlington's Cedarock Open course leading the way with 152. I'll be surprised if any course ever passes Jacksonville. As long as I live in Raleigh (Cary), and have many area courses at my disposal (none of which is a clear-cut favorite, except Cedarock, which is an hour away), I'm unlikely to play at any single course enough to even approach 950 holes. I'd have to move to a city with only one or two area courses (like Jacksonville or State College) to accumulate that many holes at a single course.

That's it for now. I'm going to dive into the "by the numbers" archives tomorrow.

Last Year: "September 11th, 2001".

Tomorrow: "By The Numbers: The Archives".

Today's random thought:

- Wearing a red shirt to Target is a bad idea. People might think you work there.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

"Gas Price Tendencies"

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Rumor is, I've done a lot of long distance driving over the years. So, I'd like to think I can offer some "tips" on where you can find (relatively) cheap gas. (Recently, I don't have a very good track record regarding finding the cheapest gas. But that's okay. I've learned from my mistakes.)

In urban areas, the general rule of thumb is this: the nicer the neighborhood, the more expensive the gas. This is certainly true in Raleigh (Cary). If I want cheap gas, Cary isn't the place to find it. West Raleigh and Garner, however, usually deliver. The reasoning makes sense - people in nicer neighborhoods generally have more money, and are less likely to "penny pinch" when it comes to getting their gas. I don't know if it works the other way in the poorest neighborhoods - I obviously don't spend a lot of time there - but based on my experience, gas prices in the poorest neighborhoods aren't any cheaper than in middle-class areas of town. For example, according to this site that I checked on Friday (when I wrote this post), the cheapest Raleigh-area gas station was at the corner of Western Blvd and Kent Rd. I've been there many times; it's right by the Kentwood Park disc golf course in West Raleigh, in a fairly average area of town. The most expensive gas? North Raleigh and Cary, of course.

In rural areas, it's a little more hit-or-miss. But I have noticed that you generally find the best success with those large travel stops - Pilot, Flying J, Wilco, Love's, TA, and so forth. Often, there are multiple travel stops at a particular exit (or a group of adjacent exits), and the competition drives prices down. If you drive a particular interstate route often, you may notice an exit or two with a bunch of travel stops, where cheap gas can often be found. Some examples that I've found include I-95 Georgia Exit 29 (near Brunswick), I-95 Virginia Exit 104 (north of Richmond; this exit is typically overcrowded, though), and multiple I-40/85 exits in Alamance County, NC (between Durham and Greensboro). These places often advertise their prices on large signs visible from the highway, making it even easier to find cheap gas. Thus, when I'm on the interstates, I try to get gas at one of these travel centers. And not just for cheap gas - these places will almost always have king size Reese's Fast Breaks (sometimes on sale), and may have some of those cheap college hats I like to collect. The alternative is to stop at random gas stations in rural areas, which can be quite expensive for gas, and might not have Fast Breaks or hats.

What if you're not on the interstates? Well...then it's a little more tricky. You But if you're in a rural area, the urban area rules don't apply either. So what do you do? Well, in general, the really small, underdeveloped towns aren't going to have cheap gas. But the larger cities might also be expensive, if they're "upper class". Your best bet is the medium-sized towns in developed areas. A medium-sized town in an obscure location might not have cheap gas, because of its location. But, maybe it does. These routes are hard to get a handle on with respect to gas prices, and you basically have to know the route to have any luck. On US-33 in southeastern Ohio last Monday, I "whiffed" on my chance to get the cheapest gas. The further away from Columbus you got, the more expensive the gas got. I attribute that to the "obscure location" of southeast Ohio. Fortunately, I found a Murphy USA (also known as the Wal-Mart Supercenter gas station) in Logan (halfway between Columbus and Athens?). Wal-Mart gas is usually pretty cheap. That was the cheapest gas we saw before we left Ohio, but it wasn't as cheap as the Speedway just outside of Columbus. We should have stopped there instead. Bah! (I was a little gun-shy at the time, because on our random drive through Ohio that weekend, I stopped at a gas station only to find gas 10 cents cheaper 5 miles down the road afterwards.)

When you're doing long-distance driving, the state you get gas in also makes a big difference. Gasoline taxes vary by state, and thus, gas prices as a whole can very greatly by state. Considering the states I've driven in within the past three years, here's how I would classify each state's gas prices:

Cheapest of the bunch: South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia
Acceptable: North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee
Avoid if you can: New York, West Virginia, Maine, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan
Not classified: New Jersey (cheap gas, but they don't let you pump it yourself!)
Not enough information: Delaware, every New England state other than Maine

I realize that if you're driving on I-75, you can't avoid Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan. But there is a hierarchy: Tennessee is cheaper than Kentucky, which is cheaper than Ohio, which is cheaper than Michigan. So it depends on which way you're driving. If you're driving southbound and you can make it to the next state, do it. If you're driving northbound, you should top off before crossing the state line.

Then again, gas prices are always changing, even across states. I don't remember Ohio being that expensive, but according to this map, the Midwest currently has the most expensive gas in the country. When I've checked this in the past, the most expensive gas was almost always on the West Coast. Why did that change? Who knows.

Personally, I think the sooner we all switch to alternative fuels, the better.

Last Year: "College Football Saturday". You know, maybe I will bring these posts back, at least if I can't think of anything else to write about on a given Saturday.

Tomorrow (Tuesday): "By-The-Numbers: September 2007 Update".

Today's random thought:

- Here's a post I was thinking about writing: "Interstate Hierarchy". The idea is this: when two interstates are concurrent (i.e. use the same stretch of road), the exit numbers along the concurrent stretch follow the mileage for one interstate or the other. Refering to the interstate that dictates the exit numbers as the "dominant" interstate, one could develop a hierarchy based on all nationwide concurrencies. But it's not possible, because of this three-way example: 1) Between Greensboro and Durham, NC, I-40 and I-85 are concurrent, with I-85 dominant. 2) West of Knoxville, TN, I-40 and I-75 are concurrent, with I-40 dominant. 3) In downtown Atlanta, I-75 and I-85 are concurrent, with I-75 dominant. This gives us an "endless loop". Oh well. (Here's an even simpler example I found: I-94 dominates I-90 in Illinois, but I-90 dominates I-94 in Wisconsin. But I like my example better. East Coast Bias!)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

"Athens, OH"

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Our return route from Toledo last weekend took us through Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University, Amber's alma mater. So, we took the opportunity to spend an hour or so there. I wanted to see the town, and Amber wanted to reminisce. (And eat at one of her all-time favorite restaurants, a place called "Lui Lui". The food isn't really my "cup of tea", but at least it was relatively fast - 12m31s. We've had great luck with the restaurant times lately. Our last 37 restaurants have all been under 20 minutes, the last one over 20 coming way back on New Year's Day.)

Ohio University boasts 28,000 students, according to Wikipedia. That's not quite as many as that other university in Ohio (51,000 at the main campus), but this one was there first! The student enrollment is larger than the permanent town population, so the college dominates the town. There isn't much else there, except an old insane asylum (which we drove by) that is now the property of the university. Despite the town's reputation as "haunted", the town didn't seem "creepy" to me, just old. Maybe I just need the full experience. I think the town embraces this reputation, and goes out of its way to look "historic", complete with brick roads in downtown. (Err, I mean uptown. Much like Charlotte, they call their downtown area "uptown" for some reason.)

But if it wasn't for the university, Athens would probably be just like neighboring Nelsonville, which was quite reminiscent of towns like Shamokin and Mount Carmel in Pennsylvania coal mining country. Instead, Athens is just a small, old college town. It's in the middle of nowhere, too, which was refreshing. And only 30 minutes from West Virginia! I can't blame Amber for going there. It seems like a nice place to go to college, but I'm not sure if I would want to raise a family there, just because of how much the college dominates the town, and the town isn't big enough to be able to escape college influence. Then again, this is only based on a one-hour visit.

At the afore-mentioned restaurant, they had copies of the student newspaper, so I picked it up to see what the local buzz was. The big stories: the RIAA's continuing crackdown on illegal file-sharing on college campuses, and where the college ranked on the latest edition of "party school" rankings (8th, I think). I guess a university in a small town with a "haunted" reputation is a good recipe for a party school. I don't really keep up with those "party school rankings", nor do I know which schools carry that reputation, but I think Florida State was #1 at one point.

Like pretty much any town with a population over 20,000, Athens has a Wal-Mart Supercenter. We went there just so I could get my own Ohio University hat. Which, I did, for $10. It's pretty sweet. It's also my only predominately green hat. I have a Michigan State hat, but the hat itself is khaki-colored, while only the logo is green. I guess there aren't that many major colleges with green as their primary color. Who else is there? Tulane? Hawaii? North Texas?

So, now I've seen Athens, Ohio. Wahoo! And if the US-33 route wins the competition (which it appears it might), we may be passing by Athens a lot more in the future.

Last Year: "It's a 'Just Me' Weekend". Whatever that means.

Tomorrow: "Gas Price Tendencies".


Today's random thought:

- It's always easier to wake up after sunrise than when it's dark outside. But we're now at the time of year when once again, I have to wake up before sunrise on weekdays. And because of the new Daylight Saving Time regulations, I might not get it back until next summer. Oh well, at least it won't be as hot outside.

Friday, September 07, 2007

"Drives By County: 9/3/07 Update"

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It's been a while since I posted a full update of my nationwide counties-visited map, so here's the latest version, updated through last weekend's trip to Toledo:

Now, some numbers. Last weekend's drive to Toledo added 18 counties. The northbound drive added 2 in West Virginia and 6 in Kentucky, and the southbound drive added 8 in Ohio. There was also a semi-random drive on Saturday that added two additional counties in Ohio, and upgraded one county in Michigan from "yellow" to "red" status. On that drive, I decided I wanted to take my car to Michigan, because my car had not been there yet. (Red counties are counties that my car has been to.) Michigan is the 24th state that my car has been to, and is now the 4th state for which my car has been to exactly one county. (The other three: Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont.) Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin are now the only states east of the Mississippi River that my car has not been to. (My car has also not been to the District of Columbia.)

My national total is now 891-of-3,098, or 28.8%. Of those, my car has been to 499-of-3,098, or 16.1%. Which county will be my car's 500th new county? I think the two most likely candidates are Davidson and Hyde counties in North Carolina. We don't have any long out-of-state trips planned any time soon, so it will probably be in-state.

My North Carolina total is up to 83-of-100. Five states have higher percentages than North Carolina (Maine, Delaware, Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania). Ohio (42-of-88) and West Virginia (23-of-55) are both still under 50%. Kentucky is up to 25% (30-of-120). Michigan is one of 8 states under 10% (8-of-83). We'll have to work on that one.

I've already determined that our next drive to Toledo, which will incorporate two new routes as part of "Part 3", will add 6 more counties in Ohio, which will push that state over 50%. Besides that, I don't expect any major purges in counties visited anytime soon.

Last Year: "Drives By County Update". Yes, I planned it this way. Some comparisons to last year:
- Last year, I said there were 3,097 counties nationwide, but now I have 3,098 listed. I think I re-calculated Alaska's counties since then.
- I've added 95 counties to my total since last year. 35 of those are in North Carolina (I was at 48-of-100 last year).
- Last year, I said there were 12 states in which I had visited at least half of the counties. Now I'm up to 15, having added Maryland, North Carolina, and Rhode Island to that list.

Tomorrow: "Athens, OH".

Today's random thought:

- When does afternoon end and evening start? I'd say 6:00p. "The CBS Evening News" comes on at 6:30, so it can't be any later than that. You could also claim 5:00, but I think that's a little early, because many people are still either at work or commuting home from work then. "Evening" is supposed to signify that "after work" time, right?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

"What's In Ohio?"

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Outside of my recent drives to Toledo, I haven't ventured away from the East Coast much over the last few years. So, I'm not that familiar with the state of Ohio. After taking two trips there and "soaking it in", what does somebody like me think of Ohio? (I'm working hard to not overlap with this post.)

Well, the southeastern part of the state looks a lot like western Pennsylvania, with the rolling hills and whatnot. The western part of Ohio is something I'm quite new to, though. Open, flat spaces? Wow! Sure, other states have farms everywhere too, but the southeast has trees everywhere, and Pennsylvania has mountains. Everything seems a lot more "yellow", too. It's actually kind of neat, and it's a refreshing change from the landscape I see all the time. The middle of the state doesn't really have a personality.

Kroger is clearly the premier grocery store in the state, which makes sense (they're based in Cincinnati). But I never really found any competitors. Does Ohio even have any other grocery stores? I guess their only competitors are supercenter-type places like Wal-Mart and Meijer (another regional chain). Speaking of which, so many people up there call it "Meijers", it drives me nuts. There is also an abundance of Bob Evans locations. And unlike the Bob Evans in Raleigh (Cary), people actually go to the ones in Ohio. The most common gas station appears to be Speedway, not to be confused with Raceway, Racetrac, and so on. Speaking of which, whatever happened to Starvin' Marvin?

A lot of people live in Ohio - it's the 7th most populous state. Lots of people seem to live in this area as a whole, not just Ohio. Michigan is the 8th most populous state, Pennsylvania is #6, and Illinois is #5. I guess before air conditioners were invented, the Midwest was the place to be. Ohio is also 9th in population density. Fortunately, they seem to have done a good job with their rural highways. It's easy to get from one part of the state to another, regardless of where you are. The cities themselves, however, are another story.

Ohio has a bunch of cities with confusing or misleading pronounciations. Lima and Milan may be spelled like their foreign counterparts, but they aren't pronounced the same. Chillicothe, Bellefontaine, and Gallipolis, I still can't remember how to properly pronounce on demand. (Bellefontaine is "bell fountain", which is stupid. And I think Gallipolis rhymes with "police", which is completely illogical.) Maybe these city names are their way of weeding out the visitors from the locals. If someone pronounces it "LEE-ma" or "bell-fon-TEN", you know they ain't from 'round here. But Ohio is also home to the only American city that begins with the letter 'X' (Xenia), so that has to count for something.

That's it for my thoughts on Ohio, until next time I go there.

Last Year: "Spelunking".

Tomorrow: "Drives By County: 9/3/07 Update".

Today's random thought:

- One of the problems with having a small car is that other drivers can't see you as well, particularly amongst a swarm of larger SUVs (as often found in Raleigh (Cary)). It seems that way, at least, because of all the near-misses I've had on the highway with people almost running into me while changing lanes. Or, maybe the drivers around here are just inconsiderate. It's probably a combination of both.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

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

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Here are the results from "part 2" of my "what's the best way to get from Raleigh (Cary) to Toledo" competition, previewed here.

First, the northbound drive, taking I-64 from Charleston, WV to Lexington, and I-75 north from there. I didn't expect this route to be faster than US-35 through southern Ohio, but I wanted to quantify the difference. Well, here's the difference: I-64 is 1 hour, 36 minutes longer. However, some of that can be attributed to slowdowns in Cincinnati. We got to Cincinnati around 200p on Friday, and it was slow. I can't say I'm surprised, but Amber has taken this route much more than I have, and she said it was unusual. To quantify the "slowness", it took is about 60 minutes to travel 30 miles through Cincinnati. In fact, we might have saved some time taking I-275 around the east side of the city. (Ordinarily, I-275 is not faster, because it goes pretty far out of the way, about 20 miles longer than I-75 straight through. And, I-275 might have had traffic problems too.) But even with no traffic, we might have gotten through Cincinnati 30 minutes faster, in which case this route would still be more than an hour slower than US-35. So, that settles that. Dayton also gave us some slowdowns, and because of that, the US-35 route is now officially 20 minutes slower than I-77/I-80 via Cleveland, since Friday's drive added two minutes to the Dayton-Findlay segment average time.

But despite the traffic, I don't have any regrets. I added several Kentucky counties to my map (update coming later in the week), and we left early enough (a little after 600a) where we could afford a little detour. The total trip time on Friday was 11h52m, which is pretty stinky, but oh well.

Southbound, we took US-23 to Columbus, and US-33 from there to I-77 north of Charleston. This route was a success. This route clocked in (average segment times incorporated) with the same Charleston-Toledo time as I-77/I-80 via Cleveland, the clubhouse leader (5h01m). And that's even going the long way around Columbus (which I did to get all of the trip segment combinations), so if we went the short way, it would have been even faster. After part 3, I'll have all of the necessary data, so I'll know for sure.

This route was fun, too. OH-15 and US-23 from I-75 south is speed limit 65 with no stops all the way to...maybe Marion, maybe Delaware, I forget which. Delaware and the area north of Columbus is slow, but the drive southeast of Columbus on US-33 was fantastic. The newly-completed Lancaster Bypass certainly helped. Along the way, we stopped in Athens; I'll have a post about Athens later this week.

This trip also recorded the 160,000 and 161,000 milestones on the car mileage log (link above to the right). I always enjoy it when these milestones occur outside of North Carolina.

So, to summarize: The best way to get from Charleston, WV (and points south/east) to Toledo, OH (and points north) is either to take I-77 to I-80 via Cleveland, or US-33 south of Columbus and US-23 north of Columbus. I'll know for sure after our next drive to Toledo. I wonder what route all of those Appalachian State fans took...

Last Year: "The Bad American Swill Festival II". The fourth BASF was scheduled for last weekend. Did it happen? If so, how'd it go?

Tomorrow: "What's In Ohio?"

Today's random thought:

- SunCom (a wireless company) has been using "random thoughts" as part of their ad campaign. The idea is, when you don't have to worry about your wireless plan, you have time to think about other stuff, such as, "Why are the seats at stadiums called 'stands'?" Clever, but I like my style better.