Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wedding/Honeymoon: Preview

This just in: Amber and I are getting married this Saturday, and then we're taking a two-week vacation. Wahoo! We're leaving for Toledo tomorrow, so there won't be much blog activity between now and the time we get back (Sunday, October 12th). If one of our hotels has internet access, I might post something just for the sake of posting from some obscure location. But there's no guarantee. Actually, if/when we do find ourselves at a computer, my top priority will be keeping my college football picks and fantasy football teams up to date; blog publishing will be secondary.

I think the best thing about the wedding actually has nothing to with us. It's just an excuse to get everyone together. For example, most of my northerly-located family has yet to meet my 14-month-old niece, but will this weekend. Some of my more distant family members, I've never even seen outside of a wedding or a funeral setting. I guess that's the way things go.

We've had lots of requests for wedding pictures, and don't worry: we will quench your thirst. Actually, chances are, some of the wedding's attendees will have pictures posted online before we do.

I'm actually a little uncomfortable with all of this attention. But that's okay, because the bride is supposed to be the center of attention, right? Actually, Amber's not entirely , which might help explain why this won't be one of those $30,000 weddings. Not so much. There won't be any fancy decorations and other "showy" things like large floral displays and limousines. No need to make a big production out of it. Instead, we concentrated on what you really want: cake and beer.

The wedding day weather forecast looks nice, too. As of 100p Tuesday, the Saturday forecast for Perrysburg, OH: mostly sunny, high 76. The beginning of the honeymoon looks nice, too.

Speaking of the honeymoon, I've already discussed it ad nauseum, and not a whole lot has changed since that post six weeks ago. I think the thing I'm anticipating the most during the honeymoon is the drive north from Winnipeg to Thompson. I'm also looking forward to the Lake Superior north shore. (As in, the Ontario north shore, not the Minnesota north shore. As previously mentioned, given our trip route, the Minnesota north shore isn't a particularly convenient destination. But we will be going through Duluth.)

Speaking of which (how about these segways?), I think the thing we've planned the least with regards to the honeymoon is what we're going to do after re-entering the United States. We have 2½ days from the time we cross the border at the International Peace Garden until our last night of the trip in Sheboygan, WI. In between, we'll be going through towns such as Grand Forks, Bemidji, Duluth, Ashland, Iron Mountain, Green Bay, and Manitowoc. Anything interesting up that way? Or will we end up wishing we had spent an extra day in Thunder Bay?

The majority of the honeymoon will be spent in the Central time zone. We'll enter Central time on Friday, October 3rd driving from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, and we'll stay in Central time until the last day of the trip (Sunday, October 12th), when we attempt to drive from Sheboygan all the way back to Raleigh (Cary). (That's 950 miles for those keeping track at home - if we take the most direct route.)
I wasn't particularly thrilled when Hurricane Ike increased gas prices in North Carolina. But prices are even higher in Michigan, where we'll be spending two to three days (1½ at the beginning of the honeymoon and one towards the end). But gas is more expensive still in Canada, especially now with the US Dollar's recent slide. Oh well - we can't control those things, so no point to worrying about all that.

And finally, to justify the time of year in which we're making this trip, Northern Ontario's fall colour (as it's spelled up there) is well on its way. If we're going to be making this trip anyway, why not make it when the leaves are pretty colours?
That's all for now. Look forward to very lengthy wedding and road trip recaps in about three weeks.

Credit or Debit?

An alternative to store-specific gift cards is generic gift cards from a credit card company. But I always have trouble using them.

First off, when I swipe the card and the cashier asks "Credit or debit?", I don't know what to say. Is it credit? Not really. Is it debit? No, because there's no PIN attached to it. Bah! Instead, I just say something like, "Uh, it's one of those prepaid gift cards."

On top of that, some stores aren't well-equipped to handle a prepaid gift card that covers some, but not all, of the purchase price. Best Buy had lots of trouble with this, because it kept saying "cancelled". Kroger, on the other hand, was effortless. After swiping the card, the price was simply reduced by the amount on the card. That's how it should work.

And, of course, you can't use prepaid gift cards at gas stations. I've decided that prepaid gift cards are really just a pain.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How DirecTV Makes Money

When I signed up for DirecTV two months ago, I got HBO, Starz, and Showtime free for three months. But what happens when those three months are up? Do HBO, Starz, and Showtime get de-activated, or do I keep them and start getting charged accordingly?
To find out, I called DirecTV customer service yesterday. And as you would expect, the answer was the latter. And since I haven't been watching those channels much, and we'll be gone for three weeks anyway, I went ahead and cancelled then. I wonder how many people forget to cancel, and then are awestruck with an exorbitant bill the very next month...

While I was at it, I also ordered NHL Center Ice, whose "early bird" price was $10 higher than last year (not just on satellite, but also on cable). But that's okay, because it's still a lot cheaper than NFL Sunday Ticket, which DirecTV really wants you to get. When I asked about NHL Center Ice, the customer service representative also asked me if I wanted NFL Sunday Ticket. And, NFL Sunday Ticket is constantly advertised on DirecTV. But what do all of those commercials have in common? None of them mention the actual price. Instead, they say things like "current subscribers save $10" or "get four months free when you buy NFL Sunday Ticket". Meanwhile, when DirecTV advertises other sports packages such as ESPN GamePlan, they always mention the price. Could they possibly be trying to hide NFL Sunday Ticket's absurd $299 price tag?

Curling Recap: 9/19/08

End............ 12345678 |TTL
Our team....... 12000311 | 08
Their team..... 00212000 | 05

I actually don't remember much about the match, except that the first five ends went completely against the numbers I posted last week, which suggested a sub-par first two ends but success in three through five. Oh well. It seems like whenever I tabulate these kinds of statistics, the very next game goes completely against the trend I just reported.

With that in mind, let me try this: our teams have now lost six consecutive coin flips. We're 6-11 on coin flips since I started keeping track. (The pre-game coin flip determines who has the hammer in the first end, although the coin flip winner can choose rock color instead of hammer if they choose.)

Our team is now 2-0 in the Triangle Curling Club Fall league, so we seem to be well on our way to avoiding the last place prize, the "crying towel".

We'll be gone for next three weeks, but we're only actually missing league one match, since the league coordinators did their best to accomodate our wedding/honeymoon plans and schedule our bye week and a night of general instruction around it. Speaking of which, the club was even nice enough to give us a card and monetary gift for our wedding. Completely unexpected, and very much appreciated. (Awww.) And then after that, Amber won $28 in the 50/50 drawing. All indications are it was not fixed.

Actually, I shouldn't just single out the club. With our upcoming wedding, everyone has been really nice to us lately. We should get married every year! (Actually, on second thought...one wedding is plenty.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thoughts on Peanut Butter and Bread

I had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch today. It was yummy, much more so than normal, because we used different bread than we have been. Lately, I've been disappointed with the quality of Kroger-brand bread. It's not particularly soft, and it's very "crumby". Not so good. So, last week, I splurged and bought a loaf of Nature's Own bread, which is more than twice the price of the store brand. And I'll tell you what: it's worth it.

As for the peanut butter, we've learned that Amber is more patient with almost-empty peanut butter jars than I am. She'll keep a jar around until she has just about every scrap out of there. I'll open a new one as soon as it becomes "inconvenient" to make a peanut butter sandwich. Ah, married life... (Yeah, I know we're not married yet, but I doubt life will change much after we get back from the honeymoon, especially with regards to peanut butter.)

By the way, we have long finished the two jars of peanut butter we brought back from Nebraska eariler in the year.

College Football Saturday: 9/20/08

I've learned from StatCounter that putting entire college football schedules in your blog is a great way to get lots of hits from random people. So, let's keep it up!

Time slot 1

Game 1 - Temple at Penn State, 1200p, BTN (overflow): Temple might not be as bad as it has been in the past, losing to UConn in overtime and losing to Buffalo on a last-second "Hail Mary" (which I was actually watching live, believe it or not). But I'm still hopeful for another "over at halftime" game.
Game 2 - East Carolina at NC State, 1200p, ESPN: Rumor is, NC State fans really don't like East Carolina. Should be fun!
Game 3 - Mississippi State at Georgia Tech, 1200p, Local TV (Raycom): With the triple option attack of former Navy coach Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech has been fun to watch. Hopefully this game will be higher scoring than 3-2.
Game 4 - Iowa at Pittsburgh, 1200p, ESPN2
Game 5 - Central Florida at Boston College, 100p, ESPNU: The "BCS vs. non-BCS" games in the early time slot are actually somewhat interesting today.
Game 6 - Florida Atlantic at Minnesota, 1200p, BTN (overflow): Two in a row for FAU? (As in, two in a row over Minnesota, not two in a row on the season.)
Game 7 - Ohio at Northwestern, 1200p, BTN (overflow): Three of Ohio's first four games have been televised. Not coincidentally, those three games were also against teams from conferences with their own television network.
Game 8 - Central Michigan at Purdue, 1200p, BTN (overflow): Upset alert?
Game 9 - Troy at Ohio State, 1200p, BTN: The only way Ohio State will beat the Trojans this season.

Time slot 2

Game 1 - Virginia Tech at North Carolina, 330p, ABC
Game 2 - Notre Dame at Michigan State, 330p, ESPN: One more win, and Notre Dame matches last season's win total.
Game 3 - Florida at Tennessee, 330p, CBS: Usually, CBS puts this game in primetime, but Tennessee must not be that good enough for that this year.
Game 4 - Utah at Air Force, 400p, Versus: The Mountain West has gotten off to a good start, which likely means that the conference will beat each other up and send nobody to the BCS. Which is too bad, because it's a steep drop-off to the Las Vegas Bowl.
Game 5 - South Florida at Florida International, 500p, ESPNU: Over at halftime? Let's hope so.
Game 6 - Wyoming at BYU, 300p, the mtn.
Game 7 - Arizona at UCLA, 300p, FSN: Actually, this middle time slot might be when I take a break from football and watch...oh, I don't know, NASCAR.
Game 8 - Rutgers at Navy, 330p, CBS College
Game 9 - Idaho at Utah State, 400p, Altitude
Game 10 - Indiana State at Northern Illinois, 300p, CSN Chicago

Time slot 3

Game 1 - Wake Forest at Florida State, 700p, ESPN2: FSU has moved into the top 25 by essentially playing nobody. Doesn't seem right to me, but if they win this game, they'll have earned it. I think from the standpoint of winning the ACC, this is the biggest game of the year for the Seminoles.
Game 2 - LSU at Auburn, 745p, ESPN: Take the "under".
Game 3 - Georgia at Arizona State, 800p, ABC: I find it strange that this game is even being played.
Game 4 - Ball State at Indiana, 700p, BTN: Yeah, the top 3 games are just about it for the evening time slot. But Ball State could make this interesting.
Game 5 - Fresno State at Toledo, 815p, ESPNU: I said this last year, and probably the year before that too, but to re-iterate: Fresno State is NOT "FSU". Their official name is the California State University at Fresno, not Fresno State University.
Game 6 - Iowa State at UNLV, 900p, the mtn.
Game 7 - Portland State at Washington State, 700p, FSN Northwest: Actually, as bad as WSU has been this year, this could be a close game.
Game 8 - TCU at SMU, 800p, CBS College: The rivalry!
Game 9 - Rice at Texas, 700p, FSN
Game 10 - Sam Houston State at Kansas, 700p, FOX College Sports

I'll try to watch all the football I can today, because the next three Saturdays, I'll be on the road. Speaking of which, I was curious to find out whether American college football was televised in Canada as much as it is here. The verdict is: yes, if you're willing to spend lots of money on "premium packages". And by "lots of money", I mean "still less than the price of NFL Sunday Ticket". That's good to know in case we ever decide to move to Canada.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Floss, Dammit!

Amber and I have different dentists. We also don't floss much. But there was a noticeable difference in how each of our dentists reminded us of that.

Amber's dentist was reasonable, and realized that most people don't floss regularly. My dentist, on the other hand, made me feel like a 7-year-old, lecturing me throughout the entire freaking visit about the benefits of flossing, and with an attitude to boot. You know, I'm not stupid. I don't want to go to the dentist to get a lecture. Please don't insult my intelligence. I'm just lazy. That's all. And I'm a bad person. There, are you happy, miss mean teeth cleaner? I admitted I was at fault. Don't you feel better now? Do you do this to all your patients? (By the way, the actual dentist with the advanced college degree is nice, and so are most of this office's assistants. But this one...yeesh.)

Amber says she likes her dentist, so I'm considering switching to her office for my next dental visit. But for the record, I have been flossing a little more now than I used to. How long is that going to last?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Land of Pretzels

Hanover, Pennsylvania, is the home to two snack food companies: Utz and Snyder's of Hanover. While these two companies are in direct competition with each other, they do have different specialties; Utz is more known for potato chips and Snyder's for pretzels. But still. Is Hanover really big enough for the two of them? How do two snack food companies end up in the same rural Pennsylvania town?

What's so special about Hanover, anyway? Why not build a factory in Chambersburg instead?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Winnipeg: Dangerous?

Upon telling our curling club compadres that we're making a stop in Winnipeg during our honeymoon, their Canadian insider advice was this: "Be careful. There's a lot of crime in Winnipeg." Really? Winnipeg?

Yep. Winnipeg has one of the highest crime rates in Canada. And comparing back to the US, Winnipeg's violent crime rate (1,082 violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year) is higher than Durham (798) or Raleigh (571) (source). Who knew Canada could be so dangerous?

With this in mind, we changed our hotel reservation from District 3 to District 6.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Curling Recap: 9/12/08

It's Triangle Curling Club Fall League time! Hooray! And due to a massive influx of new curlers, we have 10 full four-person teams in the league, and Amber and I have been upgraded from second/lead to vice/second, respectively. After winning the league championship last spring, I guess we deserved a promotion? I'm the least-experienced vice in the league by far, so my confidence isn't exactly high for this season. But I'm only 1/4 of the team, and we got off to a good start:

End............ 12345678 |TTL
Our team....... 00111111 | 06
Their team..... 31000000 | 04

I'm pretty sure that's the first time I've ever won a match without scoring more than one point in any end. I guess it's like winning a football game without scoring a touchdown.

As previously documented, during a typical club match, the rocks start off slow, and then progressively speed up. The reason for this is because the rocks don't get onto the ice until a few minutes before we begin play, so the rocks don't have a chance to reach ice temperature before play starts. And the warmer the rock, the harder you have to throw it. As also previously documented, I'm more comfortable with faster rocks, which may contribute to these slow starts.

Am I a "second-half curler"? Actually, since I've been recording all of these box scores, let's find out! I added up the numbers from my last 15 games to get these end-by-end statistics:

1st end: Score 6-19; Ends won 5-10
2nd end: Score 5-16; Ends won 5-10
3rd end: Score 16-10; Ends won 10-5
4th end: Score 22-12; Ends won 9-6
5th end: Score 24-4; Ends won 12-3
6th end: Score 17-12; Ends won 7-8
7th end: Score 9-12; Ends won 7-8
8th end: Score 13-11; Ends won 8-4 *
(* - 3 of 15 games did not have an 8th end)

Based on those numbers, I wouldn't say I'm a second-half curler; more like a middle-game curler. The first two ends are brutal, but then we start to figure it out. By the 5th end, we're rolling. Then by the 7th end, things tend to even out. Disclaimer: most of those 15 games were with the same team, so those numbers probably have as much to do (if not more so) to do with my teammates as they do with me. But we'll see how it goes this season, because Amber and I are on a completely different team this time around.

Finally, I'm not sure if I'll be able to do the shot diagrams this season as I've been doing up to this point. As the vice, I have to concentrate on every shot, and can't observe quite as much and try to memorize situations and bounces as they happen. Maybe I should just bring a camera.

Friday, September 12, 2008

College Football Saturday: 9/13/08

It seems like whenever South Florida has a big home game, it's on Friday night, pretty much the only night of the week when I'm not available to watch a football game. Why do they do that? For low-profile teams playing low-profile opponents, the incentive behind playing on Friday is to give your game a national television slot that it can't get on Saturday. But for top 25 teams, there's no need, especially when you're bringing another top 25 team (Kansas) into town. This game would be nationally televised - or at the very least, on ABC regional coverage - no matter when it was played. So why play on Friday? Come on, USF! If you want to play UConn or FIU on Friday night, fine. But people like me who have better things to do on Friday night would appreciate it if you scheduled your big home games for Saturday so that I could watch it live. Thank you.

Time slot 1

Game 1 - NC State at Clemson, 1200p, Local TV (Raycom): Elaborating on something I said yesterday, this game is back on WRAL (the local CBS affiliate), so WRAL still does in fact hold the local Raycom television rights. I'm guessing the reason last week's Raycom game was on another channel was so that WRAL could air CBS's US Open tennis coverage.
Game 2 - Navy at Duke, 1200p, ESPNU: I can't help but root for Duke football. They definitely have that "loveable loser" thing going for them. (Note: this applies to FOOTBALL ONLY.)
Game 3 - Iowa State at Iowa, 1200p, BTN
Game 4 - California at Maryland, 1200p, ESPN: This game could prove to be yet another blow to the ACC's stature.
Game 5 - Florida Atlantic at Michigan State, 209p, ESPN2: FAU in the upset? It could happen.
Game 6 - Stanford at TCU, 100p, the mtn: Rescheduled from an evening time slot due to Hurricane Ike.
Game 7 - Louisiana-Lafayette at Illinois, 1200p, BTN (overflow)
Game 8 - Temple at Buffalo, 1200p, MASN: "Pillow fight of the week"?
Game 9 - Montana State at Minnesota, 1200p, BTN (overflow)
Game 10 - Southern Illinois at Northwestern, 1200p, BTN (overflow)

Time slot 2

Game 1 - Chattanooga at Florida State, 345p, ESPNU: #1 by default, but will take a back seat to more competitive games if this game is anything like last week's game (FSU 69, Western Carolina 0). So far this year, I've been having a hard time motivating myself to watch blowouts by my favorite teams when there are more interesting and competitive games elsewhere on my satellite receiver.
Game 2 - Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, 330p, ABC: Sticking with my conference...
Game 3 - Georgia at South Carolina, 330p, CBS
Game 4 - Michigan at Notre Dame, 330p, NBC
Game 5 - UCLA at BYU, 330p, Versus: The Utah v. BYU game at the end of the season might be quite important in terms of who goes to the BCS. But guess what? That game's on the Mountain West Sports Network (a.k.a. "the mtn"). Well, at least some people (me) will be able to watch it.
Game 6 - Oregon at Purdue, 330p, ESPN: There are a lot of "okay" matchups during these first two timeslots. Lots of games featuring two slightly-above-average teams. Hmm, you know what would make the first part of Saturday more interesting? Kansas v. South Florida.
Game 7 - Hawaii at Oregon State, 400p, FSN Northwest: A matchup like this has "1100p start" written all over it, but kudos to those people involved for playing this game while I'm awake.
Game 8 - Air Force at Houston, 330p, CBS College: I've always wondered whether it was cost-effective for channels such as CBS College to pay for the rights to broadcast Conference USA and the Mountain West, when very few people other than fans of the two schools will watch the game. I guess it must work out for them, or else there wouldn't be so many sports channels.
Game 9 - Penn State at Syracuse, 330p, ESPN360.com: As it turns out, not every Penn State game will be available on my television this year, even with the Big Ten Network. While ABC can't put Big Ten home games on regional-only coverage, there are no such restrictions on road games against another conference, so ABC has put Saturday's Penn State v. Syracuse game on regional coverage. But it's still available on ESPN360.com, so I can run to the computer and watch if it's competitive. Hopefully, Penn State will be able to put them away early, like they've done with their first two opponents.

Time slot 3

Game 1 - Ohio State at USC, 800p, ABC: This is a big game, but ESPN doing their usual overpromotion, so that makes me less interested in it. It also has a sort of Yankees v. Red Sox feel to it, featuring two successful teams with large fan bases, and I'm basically sick of both teams. And given that there isn't much intrigue in other games during the late time slot, I'm unlikely to stay awake until the end. But still, at least this game's on the schedule. Ohio State could have easily played another MAC school this week and everyone would have been fine with it. So, give credit to these two schools for putting this game on the schedule.
Game 2 - Wisconsin at Fresno State, 1030p, ESPN2: Very intriguing game, but on waaaaaay too late. Such is life with ESPN. If you're Fresno State and you want your game on ESPN or ESPN2 on Saturday, you get the 10:30p time slot.
Game 3 - Oklahoma at Washington, 745p, ESPN: Speaking of Washington, now's a good time for me to voice my opinion on that unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on last week's BYU/Washington game. Don't blame the officials. Blame the people who wrote the rules. The officials called it correctly according to the rules, and that's their job. I think the rule should be modified so that only obvious attempts to showboat or show up the other team should be flagged as such.
Game 4 - Auburn at Mississippi State, 700p, ESPN2
Game 5 - Virginia at Connecticut, 730p, ESPNU: In case you missed it last week, UConn beat Temple, 12-9, in overtime. Yikes!
Game 6 - UNLV at Arizona State, 1000p, FSN Arizona
Game 7 - Arizona at New Mexico, 800p, CBS College
Game 8 - SMU at Texas Tech, 700p, FSN Rocky Mountain
Game 9 - Missouri State at Oklahoma State, 700p, Channel 617 (FOX College Sports)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Digital Television

One thing I do not get with DirecTV that I got with cable is the local stations' "alternate channels" - for example, the WRAL NewsChannel, and the local NBC WeatherPlus channel. On Time Warner, they're on channels 256 and 217, respectively (I think). On DirecTV, they're non-existent.

But that's okay, because these stations are broadcast over-the-air, too! For example, the WRAL NewsChannel is over-the-air 5.2. So even if you have DirecTV, you can still view these channels...if you have one of those digital converter box thingies. Which, of course, we do not. Yet.

So, I went online and applied for a $40 coupon to purchase one. I should get it in a few weeks. It isn't so much the WRAL NewsChannel itself I'm interested in. Actually, WRAL sometimes uses this channel as an "overflow" channel. For example, when a severe weather update preempts CBS's regular programming. WRAL ships it off to 5.2. Or, when two Raycom ACC football or basketball games air at the same time, 5.2 usually gets the second game. (That is, if WRAL still has the rights to Raycom games. Last week's Raycom game was on a different local channel entirely.)

Advertising By Smell

One thing McDonald's does very well is their smell. When you drive by a McDonald's, or if someone brings McDonald's food into your general vicinity, you know it.

Breakfast and lunch/dinner each have their own distinctive smell, too. And, best yet, it makes you want some yourself! Clever.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Officiating After the Fact

In Sunday's Formula One race, Lewis Hamilton took the lead with two laps remaining and won the race. But then, several hours after the race ended, he was given a 25-second penalty, relegating him to third place and giving the race win to somebody else.

I'm not going to complain about the penalty itself. Whether or not he deserved a penalty is another issue altogether, and is actually irrelevant to my argument. Instead, let's ponder this: What took so long? It is my opinion that in-game officiating should take place, you know, during the game. That's how other sports do it. If someone commits traveling, it's called right away. If someone commits holding, it's called right away. And so on. If the officials missed the call, oh well. Human error is part of the game. We can't go back and try to "fix" results after games or races have already finished.

This isn't like drug testing, where we don't know whether somebody cheated until well after the event is over. This also isn't like the NCAA, where investigations don't surface until several years after the fact. Lewis Hamilton (allegedly) broke the rules during the race, in front of everyone to see, including the people who run Formula One. If it was so obvious that he broke the rules, why didn't they give him that 25-second penalty right away? Instead, they waited until several hours after everybody had already left the track or turned off the television. How incredibly gutless.

Can you imagine if other sports did this? What if the NFL came out five hours after a game ended and said, "Upon further review, there was holding on the winning touchdown play. As a result, the other team is credited with the win." It was like Formula One played a joke on us. They showed us a race in which Lewis Hamilton appeared to win, and then... "Ha ha! Lewis Hamilton didn't win the race after all! April Fools!" (Note: according to the European calendar, April Fools Day actually takes place in September.) Not even NASCAR does this. When a NASCAR team fails post-race inspection, they keep the win, but are penalized points and money. This is actually one of the few things I agree with NASCAR on. We shouldn't be changing the outcomes of races contrary to what everyone just watched a few hours ago.

If they're going to change the results of races I just watched several hours after they finish, then to me, that completely damages the sport's credibility. Now, after every F-1 race I watch, I have to ask, "Are they going to change the result later today? Is what I just watched actually legimitate?"

I can't watch F-1 anymore. This has completely ruined it for me. What a sham.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Is It September 27th Yet?

I don't expect to have a whole lot to write about between now and the wedding. We're just sitting around, counting down the days, or something. In other words, this blog isn't going to be terribly exciting this month. (I don't do a very good job of promoting this thing, do I?)

So, today, here's a post about dumb driving statistics. Tomorrow, it gets even better: a post about Formula One. Wahoo!

My goal for September is to put fewer than 1,000 miles on my car. This month provides my best chance yet. I won't be here the last six days of the month, and we don't have any road trips planned until then. Basically, I'll just be driving to work, disc golf, and curling. That should easily keep me under 1,000 miles.

Even though we won't be back until October is almost half over, we do have a weekend road trip planned for October that will probably use my car. So this is my only chance - at least until we move closer to work.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Boring Side

Tropical Storm Hanna didn't turn out to be that big of a deal for us after all. No power outages, no high winds, just a lot of rain (5.19" at the airport). And that's good, because apparently we're still in "moderate drought".

West of the center (where we were), northerly storm-relative winds were almost completely cancelled out by the fast southerly motion of the storm. (For you non-meteorologist types, "northerly" means "from the north", which is the opposite of "moving northward".) So, basically, we were on the "boring side" of the storm.

But I won't complain. I was happy to watch football yesterday.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Fuel Mixture

I didn't buy the ultra-peppy (by comparison) Honda Civic Si, because I decided I didn't need 60 extra horsepower just to commute to work and back. It would have made road trips more fun, but I decided it wasn't worth the extra money I'd have to spend on a car that gets much fewer miles per gallon.

Now...in some forms of motorsports such as IndyCar, the driver has a "fuel mixture" dial that adjusts how much fuel is used. More fuel = more horsepower, and less fuel = less horsepower, but better fuel mileage. Why don't street cars have this? If the Civic Si had one, then theoretically, I could get my usualy 39 mpg when I'm driving to work on one setting, and then switch over to ultra-horespower Si mileage whenever I'm driving on a mountainous road or something. I believe that's what we call "the best of both worlds".

Actually, there's probably a very good and obvious reason why street cars don't have this. Or maybe high-performance cars do, and I just don't know about it, because I've never driven one. I guess I'm really not that informed on the subject.

College Football Saturday: 9/6/08

Of course, this is all dependent on having electricity all day, as Raleigh now has a 58% chance of experiencing tropical storm-force winds this weekend (as of 11:00a Friday). Not to mention, satellite reception. In the six weeks I've had DirecTV, I have yet to experience a signal interruption, but I'm not sure it's really been "tested" yet. You'd think if any kind of weather would interrupt the satellite signal, a tropical storm would, right?

First off, this site has made compiling this list of games a lot easier, although I still cross-check it with the program guide, because there are some disagreements.

Time slot 1

Game 1 - Georgia Tech at Boston College, 1200p, Local TV (Raycom): It's been well documented that last weekend wasn't good for the ACC. But I'm sticking by my conference.
Game 2 - Ohio at Ohio State, 1200p, ESPN2: An Ohio University graduate, Amber is excited about this game. I've informed her that if she wants to see a close game, she better not miss the first quarter.
Game 3 - Miami (OH) at Michigan, 1200p, ESPN
Game 4 - Eastern Michigan at Michigan State, 1200p, BTN (overflow): Honestly, GT/BC is probably the only interesting game in this early time slot. If I lose power, or the DirecTV signal has problems, then oh well.
Game 5 - Connecticut at Temple, 1200p, ESPNU: Slow week in the Big East? Oh, right, Temple isn't in the Big East anymore. Never mind.
Game 6 - Marshall at Wisconsin, 1200p, BTN: The Big Ten Network and all of its games don't have much intrigue to offer this week. Oh well - such is September college football.
Game 7 - New Hampshire at Army, 100p, ESPN Classic: Even Army is scheduling FCS opponents. (Speaking of which, media finally seems to be making a permanent switch from "I-A" and "I-AA" to "FBS" and "FCS", so I'll do the same.)
Game 8 - Florida International at Iowa, 1200p, BTN (overflow)
Game 9 - Eastern Illinois at Illinois, 1200p, BTN (overflow)
Game 10 - Northern Colorado at Purdue, 1200p, BTN (overflow)

Time slot 2

Game 1 - Oregon State at Penn State, 330p, ESPN2: At least one Big Ten team is playing a respectable opponent this week. (With all due respect to Ohio University, of course.)
Game 2 - Mississippi at Wake Forest, 330p, ABC: Weather pending, of course.
Game 3 - West Virginia at East Carolina, 430p, ESPN: Weather pending, of course.
Game 4 - BYU at Washington, 300p, FSN: Could be interesting. If BYU doesn't win, they can kiss legitimacy goodbye for this season.
Game 5 - San Diego State at Notre Dame, 330p, NBC
Game 6 - Texas A&M at New Mexico, 500p, Versus: Texas A&M lost to Arkansas State last week. Clearly, they must have been looking ahead.
Game 7 - Air Force at Wyoming, 330p, CBS College: Now that I have the Mountain West Sports Network (a.k.a. "the mtn."), I'm going to pay more attention to this conference.
Game 8 - Richmond at Virginia, 345p, ESPNU: I'm disappointed in you, ESPNU. Northwestern/Duke would have been a much more interesting ACC option than this game. No, really. That's my honest opinion.
Game 9 - Central Michigan at Georgia, 330p, FSN South
Game 10 - Idaho State at Idaho, 500p, Altitude: Altitude is one of those regional sports networks I get with DirecTV Sports Pack. Wahoo!
Game 11 - Buffalo at Pittsburgh, 600p, SNY: Another Sports Pack special!
Game 12 - Western Carolina at Florida State, 600p, ESPN360.com: First off, last week, I said I'd put all ESPN360.com games on this list. But this week, I'm backtracking that to only include any ESPN360.com games I might actually watch. Even though Florida State is involved, I still may not watch unless it's a close game. Which, hopefully, it won't be.

Time slot 3

Game 1 - South Florida at Central Florida, 700p, ESPN2: The last game in this rivalry for a while, because USF doesn't want to take part anymore. Why not, USF? So that you can schedule another game against some crappy FCS team? Boo, USF!
Game 2 - Miami (FL) at Florida, 800p, ESPN: When these two teams play, FSU fans win, because it guarantees a loss for one of them.
Game 3 - UNLV at Utah, 800p, the mtn: With the Mountain West Sports Network (a.k.a. "the mtn."), I've rekindled my secondary interest in the Utah Utes. Let's go Utes!
Game 4 - Minnesota at Bowling Green, 730p, ESPNU: Hey, I've been there.
Game 5 - California at Washington State, 630p, FSN Northwest: I think this game is also on FCS Pacific.
Game 6 - Maryland at Middle Tennessee, 700p, CSN Washington: I'm actually not 100% certain this game won't be blacked out. Comcast SportsNet - Washington was airing reruns of Maryland basketball games earlier this summer, but they were blacked out for some reason. Well, whatever...
Game 7 - Stanford at Arizona State, 1000p, FSN Arizona
Game 8 - Louisiana Tech at Kansas, 700p, FSN
Game 9 - Rice at Memphis, 800p, CBS College: East Carolina and Central Florida are about the only Conference USA teams I have much interest in. Everyone else, forget it.
Game 10 - Texas at UTEP, 1015p, ESPN2: Oh, right - almost forgot to put this one on the list.
Game 11 - Murray State at Indiana, 700p, BTN
Game 12 - Montana State at Kansas State, 700p, channel 617: Some football games are only on FOX College Sports (FCS), which is cable-only. There is no reason to put FCS on satellite since we can get all of the FSN regional channels through Sports Pack. So, how do DirecTV customers watch FCS-only games? By airing these FCS-only games on channel 617.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Air: 75 Cents Each

I've found that it's a good idea to keep three quarters in the car at all times, because you never know when the "low tire pressure" warning light is going to come on. This has happened a few times since I've had my car. One time, the tire was actually flat. The rest of the time, it was just a colder-than-usual morning. (Remember kids - temperature and pressure are directly proportional!) If nothing else, these instances remind me that it's a good idea to keep my tires inflated. Isn't that right, Mr. Obama?

Many gas stations have air pumps that you can use to fill up your tires, but in my experience, they all cost $0.75 to use. This seems pretty silly to me. After all, this is air we're talking about. And public safety is at issue here, not to mention a slight increase in fuel mileage. Shouldn't air for tires be a public service?

Oh well. Maybe if Obama is elected president, that will change. But he didn't mention this in his speech last week, so maybe not.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Hurricane! Well, Maybe

Not to be confused with Hannah Storm, Tropical Storm Hanna (soon to be Hurricane Hanna?) is heading our way. But rather than give you the kind of technical analysis you might expect from someone with a Master's Degree in Meteorology, I'm going to take this in a different direction: What does this mean to me?

Despite spending the first 22 years of my life in Florida, I have never actually experienced a hurricane. The best I've ever done is a minimal tropical storm. Jacksonville (FL) has the benefit of being tucked away on the coastline, normally out of harm's away. The last time a hurricane made landfall at or near Jacksonville was 1964. If you want to live along the southeastern US coast, Jacksonville's a good place to be.

So, in other words, I've missed out. Despite being over 100 miles from the ocean, I'm probably more in harm's way here in Raleigh (Cary) than I am in Jacksonville (FL) - disregarding the last four years, of course. But at least I don't have to worry about storm surge here. Flooding may be a problem with Hanna, except that it's not supposed to stick around long. Winds may be a problem, especially since Hanna won't have much time to weaken before it passes by us, but it isn't expected to reach Category Two status. But that doesn't mean it can't happen, of course. As noted in just about every forecast discussion published on the National Hurricane Center web site, hurricane intensity is difficult to forecast. And that's why they give us this table.

Speaking of probabilities, as of 11:00a Wednesday, the probability of Raleigh (Cary) experiencing sustained tropical-storm force winds (tropical storm-force) is 28%, with only a 2% chance of sustained hurricane-force winds (source - NHC). So, odds are still high that we'll barely get anything, and that a power outage won't black out my College Football Saturday. That's my biggest concern, to be honest with you.

(But for the record, we are prepared in the event of an extended power outage. We have plenty of non-perishable food, water, flashlight batteries, candles, and books to go around.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Get Your Pencils Ready

Western Lanes, a Raleigh bowling alley that's about as old school as it gets, does not have electronic automatic scorekeeping. Instead, they give you a bowling scorecard and a pencil. Now that's bowling!

Do people even know how to keep their own score in bowling anymore? I hope so. But I do know that the person who created that bowling game for TI-brand graphing calculators (popular in high school) didn't, as 12 consecutive strikes would only result in a score of 290, not 300. (My version fixed this, of course.)

So, if you don't know how to keep your own score in bowling, I invite you to read this. But since that's a rather long-winded explanation, here's the "Cliffs Notes" version, which assumes you already know how bowling works:

1) Add up all pins knocked down.
2) When you get a spare, the next roll counts double.
3) When you get a strike, the next two rolls count double.
4) If your last two throws were strikes, your next roll counts triple.
5) If you get a spare in the 10th frame, bowl once more; that roll counts single.
6) If you get a strike in the 10th frame, bowl twice more; those rolls each count single.
7) Exception to rule #6: if you get a strike in the 9th and 10th frames, the first extra roll in the 10th frame counts double, not single. (That's where the afore-mentioned graphing calculator version of bowling went wrong.) The second extra roll in the 10th frame always counts single.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cary or Apex?

Yesterday, I played disc golf at a brand new course less than 10 minutes from home. But I'm not going to talk about that; instead, I'm going to talk about where this park is located. Which Raleigh suburb is this - Cary or Apex?

All of my map guidance indicates that this is Apex. However, when you get to the park, you pass a "Cary - Town Limit" sign, and there are "Town of Cary" signs plastered all over the park. Clearly, this is Cary's jurisdiction. So what happened?

Based on what I know, this area wasn't ever technically "in" Apex. Instead, it was unincorporated Wake County, and all addresses in the area were specified as Apex. Then, Cary annexed this area, officially making it part of the Town of Cary.

Appparently, Cary has imperialistic aspirations to make as much of unclaimed Wake County part of Cary as they can, much to the dismay of some residents.

Well, as long as they stay out of Durham County, then whatever.