Thursday, April 30, 2009

Travelogue: 4/25/09

We had a little bit of time to kill on our way to the campground on Saturday. So, we took a side trip:


View Larger Map

The primary (and actually, only) purpose of the side trip was to drive through Mitchell County, the only county in North Carolina I had yet to visit. We would actually go back to Mitchell County three days later, but we didn't know that at the time.

I expected Mitchell County to consist of basically nothing, but it wasn't like that at all. Spruce Pine is a sizeable town for this area, and civilization begins almost immediately after crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway. I thought US-19E would be a nice little road through the middle of nowhere, but it actually had lots of traffic, and portions of it are being widened to four lanes.

(Side note: I don't really care for those "split" U.S. highways, such as US-19E and US-19W. The same goes for the two instances of I-35E and I-35W. The main reason is because if I felt like taking one route from end-to-end, which branch would I take? Note that the I-35 mileage in my interstates driven spreadsheet includes the full length of I-35E and I-35W in both Texas and Minnesota.)

So, I've visited every county in the state. Now what?

While We Were Gone...

We're back! So, of course, I'm going to start out by talking about hockey.

I recorded a sporting event or two during the camping trip, but I did not record Games 6 and (if necessary) 7 of the Carolina Hurricanes v. New Jersey Devils first-round playoff series. Why not? The way I saw it, either the Devils would win the series and I would wish I hadn't wasted my time watching it, or the Hurricanes would win the series and I'd have at least four more Hurricanes games to watch anyway. What I did not consider, however, is that Game 7 might have a very exciting and awesome finish that I absolutely would not want to miss. (Well, "awesome" depends on who you were rooting for.) The Hurricanes scored the game-tying goal with less than two minutes to play in the game, and the game-winning goal with less than one minute to play in the game. So, I missed out on what may be one of the most exciting finishes in Carolina Hurricanes franchise history. And I didn't even know about it until the next day (or even that the Hurricanes won Game 6, either). But, hey - it beats the alternative.

Meanwhile, if all goes as planned, I'll be watching Game 1 of the Hurricanes' next playoff series (against the Boston Bruins) in high definition! But more on that later.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Week Off

Time for a vacation! Well, sort of. We'll only be gone a weekend plus three days. And, we may not even leave the state of North Carolina in the process. (We're going camping in the mountains.) But, I will be removed from most forms of technology for a few days. Woohoo!

Now...I could be like some people do and "Twitter" throughout the trip from my cell phone. But I'm not going to do that. If anything interesting happens during the trip, it'll appear in this blog after the fact, like normal. And unless you're also coming on the trip, you won't know the difference. For the vast majority, there is no difference between "as it happens" and "a week or two late". And I think making recollections after the fact in the blog will allow me to produce a more polished product with more perspective than putting simple, shallow statements like "Wow, the view is really nice up here!" on my non-existent Twitter page. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. There is a market for that sort of thing, or else Twitter wouldn't exist, right?

So, anyway, you can look forward to the usual blog stuff after we get back next week.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Month

Given how trendy all things "green" have become, I'm actually a little surprised that Earth Day is still only, you know, one day. How long until environmentally-conscious celebration and awareness takes over the entire month of April, and attains similar status to Black History Month?

Random Thoughts on '24': 4/20/09

(SPOILER ALERT, sort of)

I haven't been doing these lately, because I haven't had a whole lot to say. But now I do.

There are far too many levels of conspiracy, and it's a mess. As soon as they uncover one conspiracy, the focus moves on to whoever those conspirators were working for. Those people are then caught, and the show moves on to whoever they were working for. Is anybody making any decisions themselves, or is everyone just blindly taking orders? I think this endless string of conspiracy hierarchies could come full circle, and eventually come back to someone from Season 1 - say, Nina Myers. (Yes, I know Myers died several seasons ago. Or...did she???) Or, in the series finale, Satan himself will be revealed as the master conspirator, and will face-off with Jack Bauer in Hell an hour or two after Jack's death. Now that's a series finale!

Speaking of Jack's death, we all know that Jack isn't going to die this season, and that his daughter isn't getting on that flight back to Los Angeles, and that she's doing to do whatever she has to do to save his life. Let's just get on with it already. And the sooner the better, because the last few episodes have shown how important Jack Bauer is to this series. When Jack is calling the shots and is actively involved in the endless pursuit of terrorists, it's can't-miss television. When he's sick and can't do much more than have sappy conversations with his daughter while someone else runs the show, the show is boring. (Side note: If I have to see Renee Walker "cry" one more time...) Jack needs to be on his game for this show to be interesting. Otherwise, it's just another TV show that I don't need to watch.

So, anyway, while I continue to watch 24, I'm not that excited about each episode anymore, and watching is no longer a "same day" priority. Lost has been far more interesting this season. Maybe I should start blogging about Lost instead...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The (Almost) Annual Haircut

No, I don't have pictures. But I did get my (almost) annual haircut last weekend. Over the last few years, I've gotten one haircut every 12 months (or longer). But just like last year, I didn't quite make it 12 months. In fact, I didn't even make it 11 months this time. I got impatient.

This time, Amber cut my hair rather than a barber. With that option available, I may not go 12 months - or even 11 - before the next haircut. If this trend keeps up, maybe haircuts won't be a blog-worthy event anymore!

Curling Recap: 4/17/09 - 4/20/09

Friday, April 17

End............ 12345678 |TTL
--------------------------
Our team....... 1002322- | 10
Other team..... 0110000- | 02

This was my second game, and first win, playing as skip. But to be fair, the other team had an equally inexperienced skip, so somebody had to win. But I'd like I had a good strategy: put as many rocks in play as you can, and only use the take-out when absolutely necessary. Even if a rock or two is left short of the house, there's a chance it could be bounced in, either by your team or (accidentally) by the other team. In games where the ice isn't perfect and most shots are not executed perfectly (i.e. every Triangle Curling Club match), I've found that it's dangerous to try too many take-outs. If you miss, then you leave the house wide-open for the other team to score a big number. That's what happened in the 5th end on Monday...

Monday, April 20

End............ 123456 |TTL
--------------------------
Other team..... 101051 | 08
Our team....... 030300 | 06

Our impressive streak of losing the coin flip (8 consecutive, and 12-of-13) came to an end, but it doesn't do much good when you give up a 5-ender.

So...season over! Our Friday team finished 3rd out of 11 teams with a 5-3 record, and our Monday team finished 5th out of 6 teams with a 2-3 record. My all-time record is 32-26, still a healthy 6 games over .500. (See By the Numbers for detailed curling statistics.)

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Television

What does one do when he gets a check for $8,000 from the government? In another time, most people would have spent it on extravagant items. These days, paying down debt and increasing savings are likely the most popular choices. As for us...you didn't expect us to put ALL of the money in savings, did you? Let me introduce you to our new television!

I went cheap when I got a new phone. But we did not go quite so cheap when we bought a new television. While I don't feel a souped-up phone increases my quality of life that much, I do feel that a nice high-definition television does.

Our choice was based on Consumer Reports' recommendation of the Samsung brand, preference for LCD over plasma, preference for 1080p over 720p, and the size of our "den", for which a television larger than 40" isn't necessary. (That's an older picture, of course. Our new television does not look exactly like the old television.) The new television means I've done away with the two-TVs-next-to-each-other setup, but I wasn't using the second television that much as it was.

But while I have the television I've been thinking about getting for months now, my journey to high-def heaven is not complete. I still have to call DirecTV and ask for HD service. Why haven't I done this already? What am I waiting for? The primary reasons are money and hassle. I'm still in my first 12 months of DirecTV service, which means I'm still getting an $18/month rebate. If I upgrade my service from "Choice Xtra Plus DVR" to "Choice Xtra Plus HD DVR", does the rebate go away? The DirecTV website seems to imply "no", since I'm upgrading rather than downgrading, but that's one thing I'll have to ask. I'll also ask how much an HD upgrade will cost, besides the extra $10/month which I am more than willing to pay for HD. Sure, new customers get a free HD DVR upgrade, but what about customers they already have by the throat? I guess I'll find out. I've heard from multiple sources that if I waffle back and forth with my decision making on the phone - as in, "Well, I sort of want to upgrade to HD, but I don't know...it's pretty expensive...maybe I'll just stick with what I have..." - that they're more likely to give you free stuff. Hey, maybe I can get another three free months of HBO, Starz, and Showtime!

But really, the reason I'm holding out on an HD upgrade is because we'll be out of town from Saturday until next Wednesday, and I see no sense in upgrading and then leaving town immediately. Then again, I could call this week and schedule installation for after we get back, right?

In the meantime, we do get local channels in HD. And that's nice.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gas Buddy

Yesterday, I created an account for myself over at GasBuddy.com, a website I frequently visit to browse the price of gas in the area. The main reason is because the the price of gas at the station along my work commute isn't always listed. And since I look at that station's price every day anyway, I might as well contribute to the web site, right?

College Baseball or ARCA?

There are two local sporting events this weekend that I've considered going to: a Florida State v. NC State college baseball game, and an ARCA race at Rockingham. (ARCA is pretty much minor-league NASCAR.) We did the ARCA race last year and the baseball game two years ago. And I'd like to do one this weekend, but not both. So, which one will it be?

Actually, we've already decided on the baseball game, and the main reason is the price. Tickets to the baseball game are $7/person, while tickets to the ARCA race are either $20, $30, or $35 depending on where you want to sit. We paid $30/person last year. But this year's race is shorter (down from 500 kilometers to 200 miles), which decreases the value of the ticket in my opinion. On top of that, I don't think tickets for a two-hour stand-alone ARCA race at a track in the middle of nowhere should be any higher than $20/person for any seat, especially given the current economic climate. And, tickets to October's NASCAR Truck Series race in Martinsville (VA) are also $30. For the same price, I'd much rather go to Martinsville.

So as much as I'd like to support the guy trying to keep Rockingham Speedway in business...not this year. Besides, I think Amber will have more fun at the baseball game anyway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hockey Hockey Hockey

The NCAA men's hockey championship game, between Miami (OH) and Boston (University), was last Saturday night. It featured a last-minute game-tying goal, and an overtime winner, for the national championship. Will any game in the NHL playoffs be as exciting as that game was? I hope so, because I forgot to watch the national championship game.

This is the first time since I moved here that the Carolina Hurricanes made the playoffs, so that's very exciting. And, their first game is tonight. Now...the last couple of playoff seasons, I haven't always stayed up for the end of those long multi-overtime games. That says a lot about the power of my sleeping pattern, since I think that overtime playoff hockey is the most exciting thing in all of sports. But now that my team is in the playoffs, I might actually stay up for an overtime or two this year. Maybe. We'll see. I'm trying to not get too excited about the playoffs too early, or else I'll have already had enough by the time the conference finals begin.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Curling Recap: 4/6/09 - 4/13/09

Monday, April 6

End............ 123456 |TTL
--------------------------
Our team....... 000203 | 05
Other team..... 221040 | 09

Monday, April 13

End............ 123456 |TTL
--------------------------
Our team....... 21000- | 03
Other team..... 00211- | 04

In between those two losses, both of which extended our impressive streak of losing the opening coin toss (we've now lost 9 straight coin flips and 11 of the last 12), we also went on Friday solely to practice.

Now...I'd like to think I'm a decent curler at this point, but my form is not exactly "textbook". I'd love you show you pictures, but of course I don't have any, so you're just going to have to take my word for it. The problem is, without practice, it's hard to make that transition from "bad form" to "good form" without throwing away a few games in the process. And I'm too competitive for that. I want to win! So that's why we made the 30-mile drive just for an hours' worth of practice.

And after that hour or so, I made two conclusions: I still need more practice, and I need better pants.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ocracoke Island

On Saturday, we made a day trip to Ocracoke Island, one of the few noteworthy places in North Carolina we haven't been to yet.


View Larger Map

The best thing Ocracoke has going for it is that it's hard to get to. It's only accessible by ferry, and the only reason to go there is if you're actually going there. Which means, more beach for us! At least, in theory. I don't know how crowded this place is in the summer. But I do know that Ocracoke's beaches are often ranked among the Atlantic Coast's best beaches. Having seen them for myself, I'd say...sure, why not? Any beach with small-ish crowds, lots of sand, waves, and no highrise oceanfront resorts blocking the view works for me.

I always seem to ask this question when doing these road trip reports, but here we are again: Will we be coming back? Yes, but not any time soon, and not for just a day trip. It'd be nice if we could make a day beach trip to Ocracoke, but considering how long it takes to get there (5-6 hours), it's not practical. Instead, I think Ocracoke would be a good place to take young children for a few days. Not because Ocracoke is crawling with mini golf courses and go kart tracks - it most certainly is not - but because young children are involved, our preferred style of vacation will change from "go as far away as we can and visit as many places as we can" to "stay close to home and spend as little time in the car as possible". So...maybe in a few years?

As for the rest of the Outer Banks...eh. NC-12 is a nice drive, yes, but I'd rather take a scenic mountain drive. I actually didn't realize that there were so many small towns on the Outer Banks. I thought that between Nags Head and Hatteras, it was all federally-owned land and there was basically no residential or commercial development. Wrong! So very, very, wrong. The Outer Banks aren't developed as the Florida Keys, but there are quite a few stand-alone towns out there.

On the drive, I noticed a couple popular Outer Banks activities: 1) kitesurfing, 2) visiting lighthouses. Why do people visit lighthouses? Is it to go up to the top and get a nice view? Or is it to get really generic-looking sappy photographs? I think it's the latter. Personal safety aside, I'd rather go kitesurfing than visit a lighthouse.

Now, the obligatory road geek and statistic section. Coming from the Triangle, NC-12 and the Hatteras ferry is about an hour faster than US-264 and the Swan Quarter ferry, if you time both ferries perfectly. The Swan Quarter ferry costs $15, recommends reservations, and leaves twice a day, while the Hatteras ferry is free and leaves on the hour, every hour. But I imagine most people still go the Swan Quarter route because it means less driving (even if it means a longer overall trip), and because the ferry ride itself (2½ hours each way) can be quite pleasant if the weather is nice. (The Hatteras ferry is 40 minutes each way. And in case you're wondering how fast these ferries travel, according to my GPS, the ferry speed was usually between 10 and 12 mph.) And yes, the ferry ride was nice, but next time we go back to Ocracoke, we'll probably take the more-driving, less-time route. More driving and less time? That's a no-brainer for us! Well, except for the whole "young children" thing. (And just to clear the air, Amber and I do not plan on having our first child either this year or next.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tiger Woods on Multiple Channels

DirecTV has been advertising expanded coverage of the Masters golf tournament. Basically, it's the same extra stuff that CBS was advertising for their web site, except on television - three extra channels of coverage, at no charge to us.

This prompted Amber to ask a very simple question: "Why?" My answer was, "In case you want to watch anyone other than Tiger Woods."

On that note, I went through the Masters extra channels yesterday afternoon. And guess what? Three of the four channels were showing Tiger Woods. The fourth channel? Finished for the day.

Well, so much for that.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Oil Change #5: Somewhere Else

I've gone to a Honda dealer for my car's first four oil changes. However, I'm taking the car somewhere else for the fifth oil change.

Here's the thing with dealers. Yes, they will do a better job with your car than anyone else. But it's also going to cost you. And I've found you can't always trust them to give you solid, unbiased opinions on car maintenance. Generally speaking, what they're going to tell you is in their best interests, not yours. (Side note: when I owned a Saturn, I found that the Saturn dealers were a little more trustworthy. But that's Saturn.) And yes, the same can be said for pretty much any car care place, but at least the other places won't charge you as much.

As I've mentioned before, my car has this "maintenance minder" system. It tells you when you should change your oil (roughly every 7,000 miles), along with any other routine maintenance that should be performed with each oil change. So far, I've found the maintenance minder suggestions to be pretty reasonable. (For example, with the fourth oil change, it recommended changing the air filter for the first time.) Now...I would have thought that of all the car places around, a Honda dealer would take the maintenance minder system to heart. Not so. Other than resetting the "oil life" to 100% after each oil change, they pretty much ignore it. Despite the automatic "oil life" system, dealers still give you that windshield sticker, telling you to get your oil changed after less than 4,000 miles, contrary to the car's own advice. As for other routine maintenance, dealers have their own maintenance schedule they want you to follow. For example, the dealer recommended I get my "30,000-mile maintenance" at either this oil change or the next one. Looking at the list of services performed at 30,000 miles, pretty much the only services that weren't just "checks" were to change the oil (of course), replace the oil filter (which they do every oil change anyway), a couple of other filters and the transmission fluid (not to be confused with a transmission flush), and to rotate the tires. Total cost: $350. Adding up each of the components, I just don't see how that is worth $350, especially considering that I can do some of the little things (e.g. air filter replacement) myself. But beyond selling large SUVs and trucks, this is how dealers make money. I imagine with the economy the way it is, dealers have to raise their service charges to make up the difference. On the other hand, if people are keeping old cars instead of buying new cars, independent auto mechanics might be doing better business than ever before. Maybe that's all the more reason to take your car there.

Nice To Hear From You, Planet Radio

Among the "Happy Birthday" wishes I certainly did not expect to receive was an email from Planet Radio 107.3 in Jacksonville. But sure enough, there it was.

How did they know my birthday? I remember signing up for something on their web site 9 or 10 years ago, back when I was in high school, and the station was still known as Planet Radio 93.3. (As a reminder of their past, they still own the domain name planet93.com). I think whatever promotion I signed up for had "deadbeat" in the name. Am I making that up?

Either way, I don't recall ever getting a birthday email from them. Why this year? Why now? Why did they even bother holding onto my contact information after all these years? Regardless of the reason, I unsubscribed all from future emails, so that should be the last time I hear from Planet Radio. In a way, that's too bad, because Planet Radio has its place in my childhood memory bank. (Well, my adolescent memory bank.) On the other hand, it was kind of creepy to even get that email. This isn't like getting "Facebook'ed" from someone you knew in high school and hadn't heard from in 10 years. That's what Facebook is for, right? On the other hand, Planet Radio is a private corporation whom I never knew on a personal level, and is more interested in how much money they can make off me than me personally. By sending me that email, they reminded me that they still exist, and would make a fine listening choice upon my next visit to Jacksonville. And, I even gave them their own blog post. So, they win. Oh well.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Chris Allen: National Champion?

Who am I rooting for in tonight's NCAA men's basketball national championship game? The school whose campus is less than 8 miles away from home, or the school with a player named Chris Allen? As implied by the title of this post, I'm going with the latter. Go Michigan State! Beat [North] Carolina!

However, I don't care enough to stay awake until the end. And, I doubt I'll be able to avoid the game's result at work the next day, so next-day DVR-ing won't work, either. So, I'll record the game and then watch the last four minutes over breakfast the next morning. I think that's what I did last year.

Curling Recap: 3/30/09 - 4/3/09

Did you know? 'Curling' is one of the few sports that is both a noun and a verb!

Rather than overload you with curling posts, I combined our last two Triangle Curling Club games into one post...

Monday, March 30th

End............ 123456+ |TTL
----------------------------
Our team....... 0101021 | 05
Other team..... 2010100 | 04

This was the second match I've been a part of that went to the one-shot, closest-to-the-button tiebreak (here was the first). My teams have won both, but these tiebreaks have absolutely nothing to do with anyone other than the skip. It's one throw by each skip, and the best throw wins. There are no sweepers, and no hitting (the first stone is temporarily moved if it's going to be disturbed by the second stone).

Not only are my teams 2-0 in tiebreaks, but the teams that scored in the last regulation end are also 2-0 in tiebreaks. Hey, maybe there is something to "momentum" in sports after all! On the other hand, no team scored in consecutive ends the entire match, which is about as anti-momentum as you can get. (On a related note, I can't remember a match where the team with hammer scored in every end of the match, but I don't feel like going back and looking, either.)

Friday, April 3rd

End............ 12345678 |TTL
----------------------------
Our team....... 033002-- | 08
Other team..... 100120-- | 04

It wasn't so much that we ran out of time; both teams were just playing too slowly to get a full eight ends in. But hey, after two more ends, we might have lost. In top-level curling events such as the Olympics, each team is on a "clock" and has a certain amount of time to complete all of their shots for the entire match. (I'm not sure what happens if you run out of time. Does the other team get to throw their remaining rocks uncontested?) Keeping track of each team's time this way would be very complicated at the club level, so we don't do that. And on a side note, Amber and I have now lost 9 of our last 10 coin flips.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Yes, We Qualified for the $8,000 Tax Credit

Boy, am I glad we bought our house on January 15th instead of December 15th. Being middle-class first-time homebuyers, it ended up being a difference of $8,000. Hooray government spending!

Now...unlike many people, I like to get my taxes done fairly early - say, the first week of March. This year, I waited until this week. But only because I had to. In order to claim the $8,000 tax credit, and still be able to file our taxes electronically (which is faster, easier, and more secure), we had to wait until 8:00p Monday, March 30th to file our taxes. We filed at 9:30p. (It would have been even closer to the deadline, but we were curling that night.)

We haven't gotten our mammoth "refund" back yet, of course - they say to give it three weeks. We'll see. I'm sure the IRS is in no hurry to cut us that check.

-0001 Zip Codes

The zip code '10001' is in New York, NY. The zip code '20001' corresponds to Washington, DC. The zip code '90001' is in Los Angeles. Hmm...I'm noticing a pattern here. Are all -0001 zip codes in major cities?

Uh, not quite. '30001' and '40001' aren't used at all. '50001' is Ackworth, Iowa; '60001' is Alden, Illinois; '70001' is Metairie, Louisiana; and '80001' is Arvada, Colorado. What gives? Does the USPS (or whoever came up with the zip code system) not know the honor that goes with one of these prestigious zip codes? Instead of being in a suburb of Denver, why can't '80001' be in downtown Denver? Why does some almost non-existent town in Illinois get '60001' instead of Chicago? Why can't Atlanta get '30001' instead of '30301'? Bah!

By the way, go here for a nifty zip code map.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"Who Wants It More?"

One of my many detested sports clich├ęs is when announcers talk about "who wants it more". In general, the "who wants it more" argument is a bunch of hogwash. If it's a big game for both teams, it can generally be assumed that both teams want to win equally as much. But one instance where it may actually apply is in college basketball's National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Case in point: Penn State.

I've watched the last two Penn State NIT games (on DVR delay the day after due to the 9:00p starting times), and it's pretty obvious to me. Penn State actually does "want it more". The NIT is really nothing more than a consolation tournament. So I can understand that motivation can be a problem, especially if you're a team like Florida that has recently won two national championships. Why should Florida give a crap about the NIT? Sure, the vast majority - if not all - of the Florida players weren't around when those national championships were won. But with those championships come lofty expectations, which make an NIT berth a disappointment. At Penn State, on the other hand, the team has been so bad for so long that any glimpse at glory - even if it is just the NIT - is worth fighting for. The players and student body alike have embraced the opportunity to win the NIT. The same cannot be said for most of the other schools involved. Notre Dame didn't look particularly motivated against Penn State, either.

All this may not matter in tonight's NIT final, however, because I imagine Baylor is equally motivated, given their recent basketball history. So maybe instead of "Who wants it more?", we should be asking, "Who has had it worse over the last decade?" That appears to be the key to NIT success: the only way your players (and fans) are properly motivated is if your program hasn't had a lick of recent success. Sure, Penn State hasn't been good for a while, but their struggles come nowhere close to what Baylor basketball has been like the last few years. That said, Penn State may not have a chance tonight.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Baylor actually made the NCAA Tournament last year. Really? Baylor? Maybe Penn State does have a chance tonight.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Bicycling: Update

I've had my bike for a couple of months now. And I'm actually still riding it. I've found that the key to motivating me to keep riding the bike is to use a stopwatch and record statistics. As such, I've been taking the same four-mile route around the neighborhood every time:


View Larger Map

I'm averaging 22 minutes for this four-mile route. My completely arbitrary goal is to break 20 minutes, which I've done twice in 17 attempts.

Why do I want to motivate myself to do this consistently? Exercise. I feel like I need some ass-busting exercise, even if it is just for 20 minutes two or three times a week. (I've been trying to make this a Tuesday, Thursday, and sometimes Sunday routine. But I was out of town last Thursday and Sunday, didn't feel like it yesterday, and the weather doesn't look good today. So I guess that means I better do it tomorrow.)

Why biking? I find biking to be more fun (read: less tortuous) than running, even if you do get in traffic's way from time to time. That's why I stick with the residential roads. I did bike to the office on a weekend once. But due to some of the roads I have to take and intersections I have to cross to get there, that's not something I feel comfortable doing consistently, even if it would be the proverbial "killing two birds with one stone".

Maybe it would be a little easier for me if I got something other than the cheapest bike on the shelf. If I'm still biking consistently a year from now, I'll consider upgrading.

New Phone

Speaking of upgrading, I'm getting a new phone! Yeah!

Actually, it's not that exciting, and I got the cheapest phone available ($0 with a two-year contract), which is why I'm not telling you which phone I'm getting. Yeah, I know. LAME. Well, I guess I'm just one big lame.

Why am I getting a new phone? Because 1) I can; and 2) my existing phone sucks. It doesn't always ring or vibrate when someone calls or texts. It occasionally calls people accidentally. It's also not a camera phone. (I could have gotten a camera phone the first time around, but the research lab I worked in at the time did not allow you to bring cameras inside, including camera phones.) And, I've had this phone for almost four years now, which is probably much longer than most people go between phone upgrades.

Now...I realize you can spend a lot of money on a phone with all kinds of gizmos and such. So, here is my justification for getting basically the bare minimum. I'm a minimalist when it comes to phones. I get the cheapest plan available, with no features whatsoever beyond the basic plan. I don't text enough to warrant the 200 texts/month for $5 plan, although I do come close. I didn't check my email for three days straight last weekend, and I was fine with that. I already have a GPS, and I don't plan on surfing the web a whole lot from my phone. Now, my new phone will be able to do many of these things, but it will cost money, so I probably won't. All cell phones do is make things more convenient. There isn't really anything important you can do with a phone that you can't do by other means. And yet, many people feel they simply cannot live without their cell phones. I'm trying not to get to that point. I am at the point where a cell phone is a necessity, but that's because it's my only phone. I don't use my phone to surf the web or check email right now, and I'm getting by just fine, so I'd like to keep it that way. And I'll be saving money in the process. Some people spend hundreds on wireless service every month. Me? With a company discount, my plan costs $31/month. Meanwhile, I'll take the money I save on wireless and make on-time house payments, which is something some people seem to have a problem doing these days. Hmmm....are cell phone plans partly to blame for the recession?