Thursday, January 29, 2009

North Carolina 80, Florida State 77

I don't watch as much college basketball as I used to, but I still make it a point to watch Florida State and Penn State whenever I can. Between living in an ACC market and getting the Big Ten Network, I have the luxury of watching almost every game. But this doesn't always mean I'll stay awake for those 9:00 games. Last night, however, I decided to stay awake for the post-11:00 conclusion of Florida State and North Carolina. FSU was a huge underdog, but was leading late in the game, only to have North Carolina win on a last-second shot. What was I thinking, anyway? I think the moral of the story is that, in most cases, there's no reason to stay up past 10.

Anyway, I need to vent. FSU has one player (Toney Douglas) who is clearly better than everybody else on the team. It's nice to have an outstanding player, but I think this actually hurts you in late game situations. In close games, teams with one outstanding player usually just give him the ball and hope for the best. FSU was no different last night. Their last several possessions all started and ended with Douglas. Players other than Douglas scored no points and only took one shot in the last 7:30 of the game. This makes it pretty easy on the defense. They only have to defend one player! Obviously, most of these late-game possessions did not end well, usually with a missed desperation shot or a turnover. What happened to team basketball? I believe coaches employ this "strategy" to avoid criticism. If the team's best player doesn't take the last shot of the game, the coach will be criticized. Conventional logic says that giving your best player the ball at the end of the game gives you the best chance to win. Well, by that logic, why doesn't your best player take all of the shots? If running "isolation" plays with your best player is the most effective offensive strategy, then why don't you do this on every possession? That may work in the NBA, but unless you have LeBron James or Kobe Bryant on your team, it won't work in college basketball. Leonard Hamilton's NBA style of coaching helps bring in a solid recruiting class year in and year out, but it has not translated well on the court, at least on offense.

That said, FSU has been excellent on defense this season, which is a credit to good coaching, and also to having a few really tall players. Then again, they pretty much blew it late in the game last night. Up by three points with one minute to play, UNC's Danny Green went on a fast break, made a layup...and was fouled! WHAT ARE YOU DOING???? Under no circumstances should you foul in that situation! You're up by three points! The ONLY way they can tie the game on a layup is if you foul! Once he has position, let him make the lay-up, and then take the ball back with a one-point lead. Instead, Green made the free throw and tied the game. Then, with three seconds to go and the game still tied, FSU's defense stood around watching while UNC's Ty Lawson ran the length of the court undefended and took an open three-point shot at the buzzer. And this wasn't a desperation buzzer-beater, this was right at the three-point line, a very makeable shot for a player like Lawson. Yes, this is another situation where you absolutely positively do not want to foul, but that doesn't mean you should give him "carte blanche" to take a game-winning shot, either. Obviously, the shot went in. Game over. Thanks, guys.

Final Commute Statistics from Raleigh (Cary)

Now that my days of commuting from Raleigh (Cary) to work are over, the timing stats I've been keeping are final. So, let's publish them! These numbers don't cover all of my commutes, only commutes in which I took the fastest route directly from home to work or from work to home (which wasn't all that often in the afternoon, actually). Also, commutes on weekends or federal holidays are kept separately.

Morning commute [465 trips]
departure time - median trip time [occurrences]
6:05a-6:10a: 18m53s [1]
6:10a-6:15a: 19m58s [2]
6:20a-6:25a: 20m03s [2]
6:25a-6:30a: 20m12s [3]
6:30a-6:35a: 20m06s [6]
6:35a-6:40a: 20m31s [23]
6:40a-6:45a: 21m01s [58]
6:45a-6:50a: 21m16s [164]
6:50a-6:55a: 20m55s [132]
6:55a-7:00a: 21m12s [36]
7:00a-7:05a: 21m38s [11]
7:05a-7:10a: 20m37s [4]
7:10a-7:15a: 23m42s [1]
7:15a or later: 29m01s [1]
Saturdays: 19m21s [3]
Sundays: 19m43s [9]
Holidays: 20m22s [9]
Total median time: 20m59s
Best time: 18m41s (6:50a-6:55a)
Worst time: 50m02s (6:50a-6:55a)

Afternoon commute [192 trips]
departure time; median trip time [occurrences]
before 2:00p: 20m43s [5]
2:00p-2:10p: 20m34s [1]
2:10p-2:20p: 20m58s [6]
2:20p-2:30p: 19m25s [1]
2:30p-2:40p: 20m07s [4]
2:40p-2:50p: 22m11s [2]
2:50p-3:00p: 22m46s [2]
3:00p-3:10p: 20m50s [56]
3:10p-3:20p: 20m51s [53]
3:20p-3:30p: 21m01s [17]
3:30p-3:40p: 21m54s [16]
3:40p-3:50p: 22m46s [4]
3:50p-4:00p: 22m20s [7]
4:00p-4:10p: 25m29s [9]
4:20p-4:30p: 30m29s [1]
Sundays: 19m55s [3]
Holidays: 19m53s [5]
Total median time: 20m58s
Best time: 18m29s (3:00p-3:10p)
Worst time: 42m25s (3:10p-3:20p)

I'm not sure how particularly useful all of this is, but there you go. Once I figure out the fastest route to work from my new residence (which will take a few weeks, as I'll document at some point), I'll start over.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

25°F Is No Longer Shorts Weather

I've had to make some adjustments to my cold weather clothing scale over the last couple of years. The biggest change is that I have raised the minimum wind chill for shorts from 20°F to (gasp!) 30°F.

What happened? I think this is just a function of my job. I wear long pants to work every day, and I spend most of the day indoors. Both factors have apparently weakened my legs' resistance to cold temperatures (not to mention, made my legs much, much whiter). Skin does thin out as you age, but I doubt my skin thickness has changed in any meaningful way in the last two years. That will probably make more of a difference by the time I'm 50. Maybe by then, my shorts threshold will be all the way up to 40°F.

Random Thoughts on '24': 1/26/09

(SPOILER ALERT - that means you, Amber! I don't know if cities in northern Mexico carry American over-the-air channels like in Canada, but Amber wouldn't have had time to watch this week anyway. Instead, it will be waiting for her on the DVR when she gets back.)

That was an expert assassination and framing job done by Roger on the president's husband...until the very end. How could he not know precisely when the drug was going to wear off, especially when Henry started being able to talk? Couldn't Roger have handcuffed him as an extra precaution? How could he have done everything so well but completely whiffed on a very important detail? What took him so long, anyway?

I'm also impressed with Jack's sniper rifle abilities. Yes, he was prepared in the event that Dubaku's people tried to kill Tony. But Jack didn't know exactly who was going to pull the trigger until the gun was pulled. Jack had a split second to react, aim the sniper rifle at the correct gunman, and shoot. It was a little too amazing, even by Jack Bauer standards.

My first thought was that Kidron, Ohio was a fake city. I'd like to believe I've heard of every 30,000+ population city in Ohio, so if I haven't heard of it, it MUST be fake. (Actually, at first, I thought they said they were targeting Kettering, a Dayton suburb with a population of 60,000.) It turns out that Kidron is a real place, but it is an unincorporated village with a miniscule population, not a medium-sized city as depicted in the show. Why couldn't the fictional terrorists have targeted a real medium sized city? Wooster would have made a fine choice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Curling Recap: 1/23/09

End............ 12345678 |TTL
----------------------------
Their team..... 00100002 | 03
Our team....... 12024210 | 12

It's curling season again! And I think we have a pretty good team. At the risk of sounding overconfident, I expect a lot of wins. Then again, this first match was against a team with two first-time curlers (ours had none) and without their regular skip, so it wasn't exactly an even matchup. And, I generally play my best after a long break. My teams are now 4-0 in league opening games, which always come after a four-to-six week break.

Once again, the size of the league expanded from the previous season, now with 11 teams. It's fun to watch the club (the Triangle Curling Club) grow. And Amber and I plan on sticking with it for years to come. Aside from the outstanding job done by club leadership to grow the club, the area's demographics are definitely in our favor. I've found that most people who have joined the club in the last two years are one of the following: 1) relocated northerners or Canadians with prior curling experience, or 2) recent college graduates "hooked" by the sport's curiousity. The Raleigh area has plenty of both, and will continue to for many years to come. Curling isn't cheap - it costs Amber and I about $1,000/year between the two of us - but the well-publicized recession hasn't appeared to affect club membership, at least yet.

Shows We Watch Other Than "24"

I don't know how much interest there actually is in my "Random Thoughts On 24", but I might as well keep it going regardless. But I haven't watched last night's episode yet, so I'll talk about what else is on television.

January through May is a busy time in the world of network television. Pretty much every show is airing new episodes during this time. As such, the DVR has been very busy of late. Unlike my parents, who watch practically everything (their homemade DVR is running almost non-stop), we don't watch much fictional television. But we do have a few shows set on "record all episodes". I think I've done this before, but there have been some changes, so in no particular order:

24: As I've touched on, the series seems like it's winding down and running out of ideas, but it's still entertaining.

The Simpsons: The new episodes are obviously not as good as they were in the 1990s - and they never will be - but they're getting better, I think.

Family Guy: I've noticed that as the show has aged, the scenes have gotten longer, and the random cutaways have been less frequent.

The Office: I gave this show a try a few years ago, but didn't really care for it. But that was before I got an office job. Now, I think it's hilarious. We've also been recording reruns on TBS in addition to the new episodes. (I've long grown weary of the traditional sitcom, so I won't watch anything with a laugh track.)

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart: It took me a while to realize that this show was the left-leaning answer to the right-leaning Colbert Report. Maybe the existence of Colbert allows Stewart to be a little more opinionated?

Lost: This show is starting to lose me as it becomes more immersed in (and completely dominated by) silly sci-fi plot lines, so it's a good thing this is the next-to-last season.

House: Amber likes this show more than I do. I'll watch it sometimes. In my opinion, the main character's witty sarcasm is the only reason to watch, and that alone is generally not worth 42 minutes of my time.

We had also been watching Fringe based on the recommendations of others, but gave that show up this week after watching seven episodes upon discovering that neither of us really enjoyed it that much. We've started recording TNT's Leverage in its place. My official impression of the first episode we watched was "eh", but Amber really liked it, so we'll see how this goes. If it doesn't go well, we'll work Monk back into the schedule earlier than planned.

Monday, January 26, 2009

House Pictures

As promised, here are some pictures of our recently purchased house:

The house looks like an 'L' from above.

The garage/carport isn't wide enough for both of our cars, so this is how we're going to park our cars so that either car can leave at any time, while still taking advantage of the garage/carport.

With the trees, backing out of the driveway is a bit of a challenge. I've found that as long as I keep the left-side tires on the edge of the driveway, I won't hit anything.

You had to know I would take a picture of the satellite dish.

The previous owners' washer and dryer, sitting elegantly on the back deck. We'll get rid of them eventually.

I'll be spending a lot of time in here.

I'll also be spending a lot of time in here. I'll have more pictures of the new Map Room in a week or two. It's bigger and better than ever before! (Actually, it's probably about the same size as the old Map Room. But it's definitely better.)

What to do with all of this space? Well, that is a dart board you see in the lower left.

This will be a guest room with its own bed, once we get the second bed. More on that later.

Eventually - but not anytime soon - this will be the "baby room". For now, we're keeping the room empty and closing the door so that we don't fill it with junk.

There's also the master bedroom and the kitchen, which I didn't take pictures of for some reason. Oh well. You can use your imagination. We also have a fairly sizeable wooded backyard, which is one benefit of living at the end of a cul-de-sac.

Pretty sweet, eh?

Amber Goes to Mexico

Amber is spending the week in Monterrey, Mexico, for a conference. Mexico isn't on our list of "places we'd like to visit", but it's not like Amber got to choose where they held this thing.

Personally, I don't see myself ever going to Mexico, in any capacity, ever. Most people go to Mexico for either the beaches or to party. We can drive to the beach anytime we want, and I grew up in Florida, so the beaches don't appeal to me. And we're not the type to go to Cancun and "party" for a week. I bet there is some neat stuff in Mexico once you get away from the beaches, but there's neat stuff in a lot other countries, too. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with spending a week at a beach resort - if that's your thing - but Mexico isn't really the type of place I'd feel comfortable driving around on our own. And if we're going to spend money on a guided tour, we might as well go somewhere else.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Electric Company Advertising

You don't get to choose your electric company. In the old apartment, it was Progress Energy; in the house, it is Duke Energy. You don't get to choose. So why do electric companies advertise? What return on its investment does Xcel Energy get by sponsoring a hockey arena? I have no idea.

By the way, Duke Energy and Duke University are related in that the same family (last name Duke, of course) had strong financial involvements in both, apparently large enough to acquire the naming rights.

Our New Grocery Home

We've been doing our grocery shopping at Kroger for a while now, due to their combination of prices and overall store quality. But there aren't that many Krogers in the area. Now that we've moved, is there still a Kroger near home?

Yep. And it's really nice, too! Take that, Harris Teeter! I was very satisfied with the quality of our new home grocery store. More than anything, I'm relieved that we won't have to default to Food Lion.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Significant Snow, By Our Standards At Least

Now, to catch up on some other non-house-related stuff...

Due to lack of internet access and Weather Channel access, I wasn't following the weather over the weekend. Then, Monday, I found out that 2-4 inches of snow was forecast for Raleigh (and Durham) on Tuesday. Yippee! This is my third winter living in North Carolina, and have yet to experience more than a half-inch of snow at a time. And now that I live really close to work, commuting won't be affected too much by it, either! Bring it on!

And it was brought. In some areas, 2 to 4 was actually too low of a forecast. Areas of Raleigh received over 6 inches. Sweet. Where we live and work, we probably got between 3 and 4 inches. That's enough to make everything look nice, and enough for the kids to be able to make a snowman or go sledding, but not enough to cause any serious logistical problems. The roads were a slippery in spots, but it was fine as long as you drove carefully (which, of course, many North Carolinians did not). I actually think the roads were in better shape here than they often were in State College after four inches of snow.

But then, well after the snow stopped, there were still issues. Some snow had melted, but overnight lows were still well below freezing, making the dreaded "black ice" a problem. Northerly locations will put large heapings of salt on the roadways to prevent this, but down here, there was no salt to be found, anywhere. NCDOT will often treat roadways with a salt/water mixture before expected winter weather, but after the fact, they don't really do anything about the ice. Might salting the roadways actually be more cost-effective than having to close schools and businesses an extra day?

We actually got over 48 hours of snow cover out of it, but today's "warmth" (upper 40s) should put an end to that.

Unaffiliated

When I first registered to vote, I registered as a Republican. Then, when I last changed my registration a couple of years ago, I became a registered Democrat. Now that I've moved, I'm changing my party affiliation once again. I am now "Unaffiliated".

Why the change? Because as an Unaffiliated voter in North Carolina, I have the option of voting in either the Republican or the Democratic primary. So, there is no downside to being Unaffiliated that I can think of. And given my political leanings, "Unaffiliated" is about right. Most of those "political spectrum" questionnaires put me just to the left of center.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Time Warner Customer Once Again

...but only for internet. Time Warner installed our cable internet today, so now I can publish blog posts like this from home rather than from work (shhh...don't tell anyone). The guy who came on Sunday apparently didn't know what he was doing, because cable actually did reach the end of the street, so there was no reason why he couldn't have installed it that day. Oh well. Not everyone can do their job well.

So, now, this is the Best House Ever. I feel kind of bad having all these holes drilled in the walls and floors after just a few days. But satellite and internet installation is a one time thing, so that should be it for holes in the wall. At least until we start installing a coat rack...and blinds..and decorations...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Housing Update: 1/20/09

So, we're all moved in. All the essentials are set up except for internet access, but more on that later. Once that's taken care of, it will become the Best House Ever. Here's a quick recap of how the weekend went:

Saturday: Two Men and a Truck arrived on time, and they loaded all the furniture and most of the boxes. We didn't ask them to take every single item in the interest of time (and money). It all went very smoothly. We were charged for 3½ hours of labor, even though it was actually more like 4; they rounded both the start time and end time in our favor. At first, I would expect companies that charge by the quarter-hour to do just the opposite, but evidently doing it in the customer's favor is better for them in the long run, because it gets people like me to make positive customer testimonials. Good job, guys! And not just because you didn't charge us that extra half hour, either. You did a great job.

Once everything was moved, I realized that all of the food was still at the apartment. Whoops! A quick trip to Wendy's took care of lunch (along with my car's 25,000th mile). Then, later in the day, I drove back to the apartment to empty out the kitchen, and to get a few other things that were inadvertently left behind. By the end of the day, and with my parents' assistance, a lot of stuff was unpacked already. Hooray efficiency!

Sunday: By the end of the day, both television and internet were supposed to have been hooked up. Neither was. DirecTV missed their appointment because 1) someone misspelled my address, even though I spelled it out over the phone, and 2) they tried calling the apartment phone number to contact me instead of my "new" phone number (i.e. cell phone). Not good. A lot of people had to screw up for this to happen. After spending 90 minutes on the phone with DirecTV (mostly on hold), they were initially going to reschedule my installation for next Thursday. But after I threatened to cancel my service, they rescheduled my installation for the next afternoon. Was I really thinking about cancelling? At the time, yes - I was pissed - but in retrospect, that would have been a mistake. Because as I'll describe in the next paragraph, DirecTV still installed my new dish before I could have received Time Warner Cable.

Time Warner did show up on time to install the internet, and then discovered that there are no cable outlets anywhere in the house, and that cable doesn't even reach the end of the cul-de-sac we live on. This can be fixed with new cable extending from farther down the street, but the installer was not equipped with enough cable to handle it. So, he rescheduled for this afternoon. And given the current weather situation (2-4 inches of snow!), I don't really expect them to make it today. But we'll see.

Meanwhile, we made a trip to Lowe's to buy furniture and other house stuff. Now that we've doubled our living space, all of our smaller stuff seems inadequate. This includes the 20" television. My next television purchase will be an HDTV, and I'm holding off on that for another year, probably after next Christmas.

Monday: I had the day off, but Amber did not. I spent the day going back to the old apartment to retrieve a few more items, use the exercise room (it was a good excuse to watch TV). I also bought a brand new computer desk, which I put together while waiting for DirecTV to arrive. They did eventually arrive, and they did not have a problem setting up the dish. So, we're good to go on that front. All is forgiven? Well, not quite, but I'm glad that's done.

This will be the last "housing search" post. The end! Now, back to blogging about other stuff.

Random Thoughts on "24": 1/19/09

I know mixing ammonia and bleach can be harmful, but is it really that dramatic, with violent bubbles and thick, visible gas? I doubt it. But that wasn't as humorous as when the guard got a phone call and the caller ID said "F.B.I." Usually, when the FBI calls me, it does not say "FBI" on my phone.

I didn't think this was a particularly interesting or eventful episode. And that Jack was assigned to kill Renee and would try to fake it was entirely predictable. Haven't we seen this before? Maybe this show is starting to run out of steam.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Moving Day #13

The house is ours! Closing took about an hour, and wasn't much more than signing a bunch of papers and handing them a big check. We did find a couple of surprises at the house, though. For one, there are no cable outlets anywhere in the house, which will slightly complicate the installation of cable internet (and cable television in case DirecTV doesn't work for whatever reason). No biggie, right? They'll know what they're doing. It might just cost a little extra. But the bigger surprise is that they left behind their washing machine and dryer, even though we didn't request it. We just bought our own eight months ago, and we like them, so we'll either be selling or giving away the old ones.

So, now we're done! Or...are we? Not really, because we still have to move our stuff, which is a lot of work, even if the famed Two Men and a Truck is helping us. But we don't need Two Men to carry everything, just the stuff that we can't carry ourselves or fit in a compact car. We can handle small boxes and bags ourselves. And that's what we've been doing so far. Yesterday and today, Amber and I both packed our cars and dropped by the house after work. So, we already have four car loads of stuff at the new house. And there's still a lot of stuff to go. And to think, less than three years ago, I could fit all of my posessions in two cars, with room to spare! Owning your own furniture has a way of dramatically increasing the size of your possessions. Getting married also helps. Amber has a lot of stuff.

Even after Two Men is done with the big stuff on Saturday, there will still likely be more stuff left in the apartment, which we'll worry about later that day and the next day. My parents are coming up to help with that aspect of the move, and with the unpacking and setting up of various things while I sit around the house on Sunday and wait for the satellite and cable internet installers to show up. Hopefully my parents won't turn around once they look at the weather forecast. A high of 33°F isn't that cold to most people, but in Jacksonville, barely-below-freezing wind chills are enough to warrant a Wind Chill Advisory (since expired):

AN ARCTIC AIRMASS WILL PLUNGE INTO THE AREA THIS MORNING. TEMPERATURES ARE FORECAST TO FALL TO NEAR 30 INLAND AND MID 30S COAST. NORTH WINDS INCREASING TO 10 TO 15 MPH WILL PRODUCE WIND CHILL TEMPERATURES OF 20 TO 25 DEGREES. IF YOU MUST VENTURE OUTDOORS...MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES.

"If you must venture outdoors"? I mean, really! I guess people who live in Florida live there for a reason. And to be perfectly honest, I didn't own a cold-weather hat until after I moved to Pennsylvania. Many Florida residents may not know how to dress appropriately for even 30°F weather. For example, when I took a Spring Break skiing trip to Vermont while at FSU, I didn't have any real cold-weather clothes. Instead, I just packed all the sweatshirts and long pants I owned and put as many on as I needed to stay warm. But I was still obviously unequipped for the bitter cold (-20°F wind chills) that we experienced the first day, so our ski instructor gave me a spare neck warmer. I had never even heard of a neck warmer before. I didn't know what to do with it.

Well, anyway, this is my last blog post published from Raleigh (Cary). Hopefully.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The End of Raleigh (Cary)?

Now that we're moving to Durham, is there ever any reason to spend any more time in Raleigh (Cary)? Yes...for now. (Since it's been a while since I've explained this, Raleigh (Cary) really just means Cary. But very few people outside of North Carolina have heard of Cary, while most have heard of Raleigh. So, that's the idea behind my Raleigh (Cary) designiation. To people outside the state, it's Raleigh. To people inside the state, it's Cary.)

Our doctors and dentists are in Raleigh (Cary), and we don't plan on switching to Durham doctors/dentists, at least for now. Between the primary care physician, eye doctor, and dentist, that's only five visits to Raleigh (Cary) each year. That's not too bad. Amber has to visit the doctor far more frequently thanks to that whole blood clotting incident last summer, but she says she's definitely not changing doctors. So there you go.

On top of that, I've found that in terms of the service department, the Honda dealer in Raleigh (Cary) is far superior to the Durham dealership. Same goes for the Mazda dealer. So, both Amber and I will likely still be taking our cars to Raleigh (Cary) for service and such.

Other than errands like that, I can't think of any reason to go to Raleigh (Cary) anymore. They have a few events, but we rarely attended. I've played lots of disc golf in Raleigh (Cary), but only because those courses were close to home. The two Durham courses and Chapel Hill courses are better than anything in Raleigh (Cary), so there won't be any reason for me to play disc golf in Raleigh (Cary) anymore, or even plain old Raleigh for that matter. We still have a few Carolina Hurricanes games on the horizon, but that's in Raleigh, not Cary. And the curling club is in Wake Forest, which isn't any closer to our old residence than our new residence. And all of our shopping can be done in Durham close to our new home. Kroger is three miles away, and south Durham has just about every store we would ever need to go to. I doubt we'll ever have a reason to go back to Cary's Crossroads shopping center.

So, we'll still be spending some time in Raleigh (Cary). But not much. We're "too cool" for Cary now. But I guess we're technically still Cary residents for a couple more days.

Duke Not Getting Enough Press? Actually...

Here's a story from the [Raleigh] News and Observer about Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. Bascially, he's complaining that his team isn't receiving enough attention and credit from the local media for being ranked #2 in the country. And I'm actually going to back him up on it.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Duke not getting enough attention? What the hell? That's crazy. Almost every Duke game is nationally televised. ESPN is always talking about Duke. How could Duke possibly not be getting enough attention?" Yes, Duke gets plenty of attention from the national media. No problem there. But Krzyzewski is not talking about the national media. He is talking about the local media. And in terms of Triangle-based media, Duke is only the third priority, well behind North Carolina, and even behind NC State. In the 2½ years that I've lived here, coverage of Duke athletics has never been the priority. That's not only true with the media, but also with the local population. Outside of the Duke campus, Duke has a surprisingly small local fan base in comparison to the region's two other major universities.

Why is that? Here's an explanation. UNC and NC State are both public universities with local enrollments. Much of each university's student body comes from the state, and much of it stays in the state after they graduate. There are a lot of UNC and NC State graduates floating around the area. On the other hand, Duke is a private school with a smaller student body. Also, Duke gets a lot of students from out of state, and few of those students stay in North Carolina once they graduate. (I don't have the data to back this up, by the way.) But this also means Duke has a lot of alumni scattered throughout the country, in addition to all of those bandwagon fans, of course. Finally, while Duke has a strong bandwagon following at the national level, it doesn't as much at the local level. I've found during my time here that most people who have no prior attachment to any local school root for UNC.

So, there you have it.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Closing Time

As I've mentioned a time or three in this blog, we're buying a house. Closing is tomorrow, and the move is this weekend. The only thing left for us to do in the meantime is to go to the bank and get a certified check for the down payment and closing costs and bring it to closing the next day.

I have no idea how long closing takes, or even what you do at closing, but I'm planning on taking the entire afternoon off from work just in case. I would think that all of the details have already been worked out, and that we just need to sign a few more papers. But we've never done this sort of thing before. And there might be other delays. For instance, we still didn't know exactly how much we owe at closing, so I haven't been able to get the certified check yet. From what I've read, it's fairly typical for the lender to take their sweet little time and wait until the last minute. I've probably made more calls to the lender than I have anyone else during this process. Everyone except the lender has been 100% on top of things.

So, yes, this is all very exciting. I'll post pictures once we get settled in.

Interstate Rest Area Parking

This post has been sitting in the queue for a couple of weeks. On the way back from Toledo, we stopped at a rest area along I-77 in West Virginia. As soon as the off-ramp to the rest area began, we saw cars parked along the side of the road rather than in parking spots, indicating that parking was limited or non-existent.

But I've seen this kind of thing before. Even when people are parking in non-existent parking spaces, that doesn't mean there isn't parking available farther down the ramp. In fact, there were about 30 empty parking spaces farther down towards the end of the ramp. What's the deal? Why was everyone making their own parking spots, instead of using one of the many available real ones?

Most rest areas are one-way. If you drive by and there are no parking spots available, then there is no orbiting the lot or waiting for another car to leave, Too bad! Back on the interstate you go. Your bladder is going to have to wait. Perhaps this particular rest area parking lot was actually full at one time. But probably not. You can't see all the way down the ramp at first, so if you see other cars making their own parking spaces, one might assume that they're doing so because there are no parking spaces available. But I don't think I've ever actually seen a rest area where every single parking space was filled. So, my advice is to just keep on driving. You'll find a spot. Trust me. And chances are, the spot you'll find will still be very close to the restroom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Random Thoughts on '24': 1/12/09

(SPOILER ALERT)

I'm not in the business of making predictions, especially when fictional television shows are involved, but I had a feeling Tony would eventually be on the side of "the good guys". I just thought it would take more than 30 minutes. And for the record, "the good guys" refers to whichever side Jack is on, even if they're fighting the government. Better watch out for that Massive Government Conspiracy! I guess this means Jack is going to have to go into hiding (yet again) at the end of this season, because I doubt everyone involved in the Massive Government Conspiracy is going to be overthrown in the next 20 hours. But the "good guys" are going to get that mystical device...eventually.

I think this might be the most "fake" season yet. Not only was Jack/Tony's escape a little too easy in my opinion - not to mention ridiculous - but the use of the fake country "Sangala" doesn't help either. Being a geography nerd, it's hard to maintain a "suspension of disbelief" when the name of a fake country is mentioned every 10 minutes. There are plenty of obscure African countries out there. Would the people of, say, Burundi really be that offended if the name of their country was used in this context? Apparently so. But on the bright side, at least the residents of "Sangala" speak French.

They're trying to make Ethan (the Chief of Staff) look like the high-level government "mole". However, this show has a history of deliberately trying to make you think someone is the mole, only to later reveal that it's someone else entirely. We'll see...

Something Contagious

Amber and I appear to be going through the same exact cold symptoms at the same exact time. Obviously, it's contagious. Usually, one person gets is first, then the other person gets it a few days later. But a married couple getting sick at the exact same time? That seems a little unusual.

Actually, I blame myself. While packing last Saturday, I packed away the tissue box.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Snuggie

Rarely does one of those 60-second infomercial-style commmercials get as much attention as the one for The Snuggie. I've had conversations with multiple people about it. Everyone knows someone who wants one, it seems. What's the deal, anyway? What's so special about the Snuggie? It's only a blanket with sleeves, after all.

I think there are two reasons for the Snuggie's widespread infatuation. 1) The name. I mean, it's called the "Snuggie". 2) It looks funny. Don't the people "wearing" the snuggie in the commercial look silly? And don't they look happy in their silliness?

I don't think I'll be getting one. Personally, I just wear a sweatshirt when I'm cold at home, which happens a lot, considering that we like to set our winter-time thermostat to 65°F.

Random Thoughts on '24': 1/11/09

(SPOILER ALERT)

As promised, here are some random thoughts on last night's "24" season premiere. I know tonight is also being called the "season premiere", but in my opinion, "season premieres" cannot be discontinuous.

I think those two hours were actually more interesting than the prequel. They sure didn't waste any time. Since the prequel was not originally planned, I expected to see some redundancy with respect to character introductions, but perhaps they edited the redundant stuff out. Perhaps, originally, President Taylor was given a more dramatic introduction in the season premiere, instead of just assuming everyone watched the prequel and already knew that she was supposed to be the president.

Throughout the two episodes, I was patiently anticipating Jack's first kill of the season. Does he get credit for killing one of those boat guards towards the end?

Two generic plot items: the magical rebirth of a formally assumed-dead character, and sticking Jack Bauer with an attractive young female work partner. I also expect Jack and/or the previously mentioned attractive young female rebel against the will of the big bad FBI boss (more so than they've done already), which happens just about every season. And, once again, they rarely have more than one lead at a time, and are after a single "magical" object. This season hasn't been all that unpredictable so far. Hopefully that will change.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Floppy Disks

Packing and moving time is generally when I get rid of most of my old stuff. Among the things that will "bite the dust" this time around: all of my floppy disks. Neither my current home computer, Amber's laptop, nor my work computer has a floppy drive. So what am I to do with all these disks? Well, nothing. They're pretty much useless at this point.

It's just as well, for a couple reasons. For one, thumb drives have made floppy disks obsolete. And it's not like I can fit a whole lot on a so-called "High Density" (the original "HD") floppy disk, which has a capacity of 1.44 MB.

Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow

Do I really want to watch tonight's BCS Championship game? I don't think I do. And this doesn't have as much to do with how legitimate this "championship" is, as it does with one player: Tim Tebow. I've had my fill of Tebow. I've long had my fill of Tebow. I've heard enough of national and Florida-based sports media going on an on about how great he is. I've seen his picture more than enough on television, online, and in the newspaper. (My parents have made a habit of drawing on his picture in the Florida Times-Union. They get a chance to do this just about every day, because his picture is in the paper just about every day.) Yes, I am bitter that he keeps beating Florida State, but it's more than just that. He's everywhere. You can't escape him. Even Amber is sick of him, and she only digests about 2% of the sports content that I do.

Does the prospect of watching him eat some humble pie tonight intrigue me? Sure it does. But even if Oklahoma does win, it's not worth staying up until midnight, and it's definitely not worth sitting through four hours of "Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow Tebow".

And yes, I realize I'm not helping.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

License Plate Registration Stickers: 2010 Edition

For nerdy people like me, one of the most anticipated events of the new year is finding out what color the new license plate registration stickers are. Last year, I predicted that this year's new stickers, which expire in 2010, would be red. That prediction was based on two things: 1) The 2003 and 2007 stickers were both green, implying a four-year rotation, and 2) The 2006 stickers were red.

But, I was wrong, because the 2010 stickers are...green. Again.

Am I disappointed? In some ways, yes, because I wish they would use more than three colors. But on the other hand, it means there is no pattern or system, so that it'll continue to be a surprise year in and year out. Now that's exciting.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Frankenmuth, MI

We went to the German and/or Christmas-themed town of Frankenmuth, Michigan, a couple of weeks ago. I don't have a whole lot to say about it, except that there are a lot of local establishments named "____ Haus", as if "haus" is the actual German word for "house". ... Actually, "haus" IS the German word for "house". All this time, I thought they were just trying to mock the Germans, kind of like sticking an 'o' at the end of every word and calling it Spanish.

Anyway, I'm curious about something. Given that there are German-themed towns in the United States, are there American-themed towns in Germany?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Ten Days Until Closing

Fun time's over. Time to get back to work. But on the bright side, we'll be homeowners in ten days. Wahoo!

Even better, we don't really have any outstanding issues before then. This is pretty much a done deal at this point ("knock on wood"). We'll close on Thursday (1/15) and move on Saturday (1/17). I've also taken care of the most important part: scheduling television and internet installation at the new house.

DirecTV has their little Movers Connection Program, where they'll move you for free!* (It's free as long as you don't move more than once in a 12-month period. Even though our initial installation was only six months ago, we still qualified.) And, better yet, we get HBO, Starz, and Showtime free for three months - again! I didn't watch those channels hardly at all the first go-around, but I've already started recording movies overnight that we may be interested in watching (e.g. Superbad). And, yes, we have to cancel it ourselves once the three months are up. I thought the Movers Connection Program would take your old dish to the new residence and set it up. But, nope - it's a brand new installation with a brand new dish. We only need to bring the receivers from our old residence. What happens with the old dish? That's for us to decide. Hmm...

Meanwhile, I've decided that now is a good time to switch from DSL to cable internet, given DSL's vulnerability to lightning and AT&T's subpar customer service. And, we're ditching the land line, too. Cable internet is more expensive than DSL, but it will be worth it.

DirecTV installation is scheduled for Sunday morning (1/18), and internet installation is scheduled for Sunday afternoon (1/18). I thought about scheduling both for the same timeslot, but decided that might not be a good idea considering they're competitors and all. Also, if we can't get DirecTV reception through the trees - I'm about 95% sure it can be done, but you never know - maybe the Time Warner folks will give us digital cable, too. Here's hoping that won't be necessary.

Interstate History: Now Online

I keep track of which major interstates I've driven, and how much of each interstate I've driven; I published all of this almost two years ago. But there have been some updates since then. And instead of keeping this to myself on my private hard drive, why not publish it?

And so, we have another statistical addition to the right-side bar: Interstates Driven. With a little help from Google Maps and Wikipedia, I approximated mileages as well. According to my calculations, there are 41,516 miles of interstate highways (one- and two-digit interstates only), and I've driven on 9,214 of those miles (22%).

Now, some regulations and other notes:
- Only interstates traveled in my car (old or new), Amber's car (old or new), or a rental car under my name or Amber's name count. Interstates traveled during childhood family vacations do not count.
- I must be in the car. If Amber drives somewhere by herself, that doesn't count unless I'm with her. If someone borrows my car, that doesn't count, either.
- I'm not considering incomplete, discontinuous interstate highways. This includes I-73, the North Carolina portions of I-74, and I-69 south of Indianapolis. (Apparently, there are scattered I-69 signs in Kentucky and northern Mississippi.) These highways won't be completed in any meaningful way anytime soon.
- For mileage purposes, multiplexed interstate highway segments (e.g. I-64 and I-77 in West Virginia, or I-70 and I-76 in Pennsylvania) count for both interstates, so that these segments count double when adding up total mileage across all highways. It's just easier this way.
- I've driven four interstates end-to-end (16, 68, 84, 88). I-99 used to be on that list, but it's been extended since our last trip to State College. Even though I have traveled most of the "new" portion of I-99 all the way to I-80, it was not all I-99 at that time, so only the portion up to Skytop Mountain counts.