Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What's In Your Wallet?

First, a disclaimer: do not confuse the title for an endorsement of Capital One or their commercials. I've never been a Capital One customer, so I can say nothing about them or the services they provide, but I'm not the biggest fan of their ads. I think they try too hard.

So I was looking through my wallet today for my AAA card, when a thought occurred to me. How about I blog about what's in my wallet? BAM! Blog post!

My wallet is a basic (read: cheap) three-fold wallet. Card pocket on the left, clear card slot in the middle (driver's license), and coin pocket on the right.

First there anything hiding behind my driver's license in that center slot? Why, yes, there is!

This is my Selective Service Registration card. Now that I'm 29 years old and outside the limits of the Selective Service program, I suppose I don't need to keep this anymore, if I ever needed to keep it on me in the first place...but you never know, right? It's not like this card takes up much space.

Now, from front to back, here are the cards that are currently in the left pocket of my wallet:

1) Debit card. Gets by far the most use out of any of my cards, and thus has a nearly permanent place in front.

2) Credit card, which I mostly just use for gas. (This is actually a brand new credit card. That's another story I'll save for some other time.)

3) A card containing the "anti-theft code" for my car's stereo system. I've needed to enter it only once in the life of my car, after the battery went dead.

4) A "passport information card", including my passport number and expiration date, in case I lose my passport or something.

5) An "Ingles Advantage" card! Ingles is a grocery store based on western North Carolina; this is their discount card. I also have an Ingles Advantage card on my keychain, so why I need one in my wallet on top of that is beyond me. (Actually, there is a reason, and I'll get to that.)

6) Yes! I thought I had gotten rid of this a long time ago. I carry a list of all prime numbers under 1,000 in my wallet, because you never know when it'll come in handy.

7) Directions to Vic and Lindsay's wedding and wedding reception (State College, PA, March 2010). Well, how about that? You never know what you're going to find when you're going through your wallet.

8) Dental insurance card.

9) "Safeway Club" discount card. I don't have a Safeway keychain card, so I actually do need to keep this one. This comes in handy on the West Coast, because Safeway is freaking everywhere out there.

10) My health insurance card...except that I've since switched plans. I should probably get rid of this one.

11) A friend's business card. (I won't say whom.)

12) Marla's health insurance card.

13) Dick's Sporting Goods "Score Card". I think this is supposed to be a rewards card, but I've never gotten anything out of it, and I only go to Dick's, like, once a year. Why do I bother carrying this around?

14) AAA membership card. There it is!

15) My new and correct health insurance card.

16) Car insurance card for Amber's car.

17) Car insurance card for my car.

18) Best Buy gift card, which I think has between $30 and $40 on it.

Even though I don't need some of these cards anymore, am I going to get rid of any of them (aside from the old health insurance card)? Nope. Why? Because as it is, my cards fit nice and snug in my wallet card slot. If I carry fewer cards, then the fit will be looser. I don't think 17 or 18 cards is that many, by the way. I bet most people my age have more than that.

Regarding the order...when I get a new card in my wallet, I usually put it in back. So, the cards I use least frequently are in the #3 to #13 range. The car and health insurance cards are updated every 6 to 12 months, so they'll always be near the back.

So, there you go.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Curling Recap: 2/24/12

Career game #172: 2012 Winter League - February 24, 2012

End.......... 12345678 |TTL
Scheck....... 04020003 | 09
Allen........ 10103110 | 07

I've always known opposing Skip Dan to play a rather quiet strategy. Almost always draw, only take-out when absolutely necessary. But his approach in this game caught me completely off guard: it was take-out crazy! Sometimes it worked out great for them, like in the 2nd end. (We had two in the house, one in scoring position, prior to skip's rocks; both of our rocks were gone at the end.) Other times it did not work out for them, like in the 5th end (and maybe also the 3rd end?), when they missed multiple take-outs.

Are our ice conditions becoming more conducive to a take-out game? I think they are. Take-outs are still tricky, but they can be made on every sheet on our ice these days (sometimes), and a take-out game can be generally successful now. Dan's team is one of two remaining undefeated teams in the Friday League, with the other undefeated team being skipped by someone who has always liked throwing take-outs (Murray). Even though we are 2-2, with the two losses coming to those two undefeated teams, I think it's time I start adjusting my strategy accordingly to keep pace with everyone else. Or, maybe I just need to place my guards better. One thing I definitely need to fix is a recent tendency to leave the other team a wide open take-out for a big score with their last rock.

So, all that said...we still had a chance here. We were never we in a position where I had to make a "rescue shot" to avoid giving up a big number, which is a credit to how well the rest of my team played. Every end, we were right there. Even in the 2nd end, we were in pretty good position until I screwed everything up by missing a take-out, and instead taking out a guard which happened to give them the window they needed for a hit for four. In hindsight, I should have just tried to draw in with my last rock. It might have been the difference.

"Wait a second. You had just gone to great length talking about how you should have tried more take-outs. Now, you're saying that trying a take-out when you shouldn't have may have cost you the game. What the heck?" Yeah...just goes to show you, you can't rely on strictly draws or strictly take-outs. Every situation is different and calls for a different shot. In theory, every game I play prepares me better for the next situation. Arena ice is tricky, because most of the time, it is ice conditions and ice conditions alone that dictates what the "best available shot" is.

I have to talk about the deciding 8th end, of course. Halfway through, we were in pretty good position. A predictable line (a.k.a. valley in the ice surface) had developed, and both teams were basically throwing that line with every shot. At one point, I think we were sitting two: (our team = yellow, solid black line = the neighborhood of the "predictable line")

This is a VERY approximate setup, because based on the diagram, I have no idea how they were able to go from this to sitting two with one shot. But, it happened! In hindsight, I should have called for a guard with our front yellow rock to prevent a situation where both yellows could be tapped out of scoring position (which is ultimately what happened, somehow...yeah, I don't know either). But the thing is...on our ice, I don't think we really need to be too concerned about the possibility of double take-outs. They don't happen all that often. And, I thought that getting two in the house would give us a better chance of holding them to one and forcing a shootout. But, nope...a guard well in front of the house along the predictable line would have been the better call either way. After the game-changing double, I should have abandoned the predictable line altogether and tried something different, because otherwise we'd just trade take-outs the rest of the way, giving the advantage to the team with last rock (them). So, yeah, my strategy wasn't perfect in this game. Oh, and I also threw my last shot, which was a must-make shot, all the way through the house. Even if I had made it, opposing Skip Dan likely would have bumped it out and won anyway, but we'll never know...

Well, we'll try again next Friday! I feel good about our team - we're 2-2, with the two losses coming against the top two teams in the league, and in the final end at that - so we'll get a few more wins before the season is out. And if not, then, well, it's just curling, so who cares? (Seriously, though, I think I need to tone down my intensity level some. It's hard when you're the Skip sometimes.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bicycle Maintenance

Apologies to those of you who don't care about bicycling, as that's pretty much all I'm going to talk about the rest of the week.

My 2½-year-old bicycle has been through a lot. It has 4,800 miles on it, and it's been dragged down the interstate at 70 mph, among other things. (A few things had to be replaced after that incident, but many things were not replaced.) How's it holding up?

Well, it depends on your standards. Lately, my bicycle has been running okay, albeit not exactly "brand new". The going isn't as smooth as it used to be, but I considered it to be "good enough". Certainly, any non-serious bicyclist would agree with me. It gets me where I need to go.

However...if you ask the people at the place where I bought the bike (REI), then, not so much. I don't know what a "bike tune up" does, exactly, other than that I got the first one free way back when, and that I hadn't had another once since. Amber took it in for a "tune up" while I was un Utica a couple of weeks ago, and...yeah. How much of the repairs were really "necessary" is up for debate, but I can say that it's running much better now than it was before. On last weekend's 35-mile ride, I averaged about 2 mph better than I had been.

The total amount I've spent repairing the bicycle (which, unlike car repair, I don't keep track of) is now up to about 75% of the original cost of the bicycle itself. That's a lot, right? All this time I thought I was saving money (albeit not much) by bike commuting every now and then, but now I'm not so sure. Bicycling isn't free. But saving money isn't why I do this in the first place.

Interesting fact: My rear tire has gone flat four or five times, but my front tire has NEVER gone flat. The front tire still has the original inner tube that came with the bike.

The bike is a "hybrid" bike, which means it can handle unpaved surfaces reasonably well in moderation. It can, but I think I'm done off-roading. For example, there's an unpaved stretch of the nearby American Tobacco Trail that gave me my most recent flat tire. Not only did I have to replace the inner tube, I also had to replace the tread. (Whatever punctured my tire left a pretty big hole.) But besides that, off-roading doesn't make for as pleasant a ride, and getting dirt everywhere probably isn't particularly good for the bike, either. So, I'm going to keep it on paved roads for the most part from now on. If I want to go off-road, I'll borrow Amber's mountain bike, which she pretty much never uses anymore anyway.

My next bike purchase will be a pure road bike, but after this recent round of repairs, I'm committed to keep this one for a while longer. In any event, it's prepped and ready for my next fake cross-continental bicycle journey, which begins tomorrow. Yay!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bicycling Trip to Alaska: Complete!

Back in October 2009, inspired by something I did in 2005-06 called "The Walking Trip", I started a fictional "Bicycling Trip to Alaska". With the aid of a bike odometer (and mapping software when riding bikes other than mine), I would track how far I bicycled every week, and plot that distance on a map as if I were bicycling from my home in Durham, NC, all the way to Alaska.

In October 2011, I made it to Alaska, but I still had another 634 miles to go until the official end of the trip, at the end of Alaska Route 1 in the coastal town of Homer. But this morning, I officially completed the trip on my way to work. Hooray!

The idea behind the trip was motivation to exercise. If I had a clear goal in mind, and had to publish my progress on a weekly basis, that might motivate me to ride my bike on a day in which otherwise, perhaps, I wouldn't feel like it. With that, I can declare this trip a massive success:
- I finished the trip far sooner than I thought I would have. Originally I thought this would take me six years rather than two-plus years. Later on once I established my pace, I revised my goal to finish the trip before my 30th birthday. I met that goal, too, with room to spare. (My birthday is April 8.)
- I'm in the best shape of my life. (Well, almost...I think I've regressed a little since last summer, but not by too much, hopefully.)
- And now I have a hobby that's fun (most of the time) and good for me, too!

In fact, the Bicycling Trip to Alaska was so much of a success that on Thursday, I'm starting another fake bicycling trip: The Bicycling Trip in Australia. Sydney (ish) to Perth (ish), 2,473 miles. (More on Thursday.)

Now, a bunch of concluding stats!

The full trip distance, Durham to Homer, was 4,628.5 miles. (If I had chosen to "bike" to the Arctic Ocean at Deadhorse rather than the Pacific Ocean at Homer, then that would have added about 150 miles to the trip, and I would still have another month or so remaining. I chose a Pacific destination because it's a better segue to the Australia bike trip.)

I started the trip on October 8, 2009, and completed it on February 21, 2012, after 866 days (2 years, 4 months, 13 days). That's an average of 37.4 miles per week over the length of the trip, which I think is pretty good! That comes out to between 3 to 3½ hours of bicycling every week, or 25 to 30 minutes per day. (Most weeks, I ride for 20-30 minutes two or three times mid-week, plus a longer ride of two hours or more over the weekend, which I don't always have time for depending on the weather and my schedule.)

How long did I spend in each state, province, and country along the way, and what was my average pace in each state? (Notice how my pace progressively got faster throughout the trip on the whole, at least until I got to Alaska.)

North Carolina: 31 days (132.6 miles, 29.9 miles/week)
Virginia: 9 days (67.5 miles, 52.5 miles/week)
West Virginia: 33 days (154.9 miles, 32.9 miles/week)
Ohio: 49 days (181.8 miles, 26.0 miles/week)
Indiana: 48 days (240.0 miles, 35.0 miles/week)
Illinois: 22 days (107.8 miles, 34.3 miles/week)
Wisconsin: 48 days (288.8 miles, 42.1 miles/week)
Minnesota: 61 days (259.1 miles, 29.7 miles/week)
North Dakota: 29 days (156.6 miles, 37.8 miles/week)
Lower 48: 330 days [10m 26d] (1,589.0 miles, 33.7 miles/week)
Manitoba: 53 days (292.5 miles, 38.6 miles/week)
Saskatchewan: 78 days (427.7 miles, 38.4 miles/week)
Alberta: 81 days (492.2 miles, 42.5 miles/week)
British Columbia: 103 days (649.9 miles, 44.2 miles/week)
Yukon: 85 days (543.3 miles, 42.0 miles/week)
Canada: 400 days [13m 5d] (2,405.6 miles, 42.1 miles/week)
Alaska: 136 days [4m 13d] (633.8 miles, 32.6 miles/week)

Here's the map of the full route, with each marker corresponding to one week: (red markers indicate weeks in which I did not do any bicycling)

View Bicycling trip to Alaska in a larger map

Some stats on my weekly distances, with a "week" defined as midday Thursday to midday Thursday:

0 miles: 2 weeks
0.1 - 9.9 miles: 1 week
10.0 - 19.9 miles: 16 weeks
20.0 - 29.9 miles: 14 weeks
30.0 - 39.9 miles: 30 weeks
40.0 - 49.9 miles: 37 weeks
50.0 - 59.9 miles: 20 weeks
60.0 - 69.9 miles: 3 weeks
70+ miles: 1 week (70.8 miles, between 6/16/11 and 6/23/11)

And, finally, a trip log based on cities and state/provincial borders:

10/8/09: Began trip
10/11/09: Durham, NC
10/20/09: Greensboro, NC
10/26/09: Winston-Salem, NC
11/2/09: Mount Airy, NC
11/8/09: Virginia state line
11/15/09: Wytheville, VA
11/17/09: West Virginia state line
11/20/09: Princeton, WV
12/1/09: Beckley, WV
12/12/09: Charleston, WV
12/20/09: Ohio state line
1/14/10: Chillicothe, OH
1/24/10: Xenia, OH
1/28/10: Dayton, OH
2/7/10: Indiana state line
2/18/10: Indianapolis, IN
3/6/10: Lafayette, IN
3/27/10: Gary, IN
3/27/10: Illinois state line
3/27/10: Chicago, IL
4/12/10: Rockford, IL
4/18/10: Wisconsin state line
4/24/10: Madison, WI
5/8/10: Wisconsin Dells, WI
5/22/10: Eau Claire, WI
6/5/10: Minnesota state line
6/8/10: St. Paul, MN
6/13/10: Minneapolis, MN
7/3/10: St. Cloud, MN
7/24/10: Fergus Falls, MN
8/5/10: North Dakota state line
8/6/10: Fargo, ND
8/21/10: Grand Forks, ND
9/3/10: U.S./Canada border (Manitoba)
9/16/10: Winnipeg, MB
9/26/10: Portage la Prairie, MB
10/15/10: Minnedosa, MB
10/26/10: Saskatchewan provincial line
11/6/10: Yorkton, SK
12/8/10: Saskatoon, SK
12/19/10: North Battleford, SK
1/12/11: Alberta provincial line / Lloydminster
1/14/11: Overall halfway point
2/6/11: Edmonton, AB
3/2/11: Whitecourt, AB
3/25/11: Grande Prairie, AB
4/3/11: British Columbia provincial border
4/10/11: Dawson Creek, BC
4/17/11: Fort St. John, BC
5/26/11: Fort Nelson, BC
6/19/11: Muncho Lake, BC
7/2/11: British Columbia/Yukon border (1-6)
7/6/11: British Columbia/Yukon border (7)
7/9/11: Watson Lake, YT
7/24/11: British Columbia/Yukon border (8)
8/2/11: British Columbia/Yukon border (9)
8/7/11: Teslin, YT
8/21/11: Whitehorse, YT
9/3/11: Haines Junction, YT
9/19/11: Destruction Bay, YT
9/24/11: Burwash Landing, YT
10/8/11: Beaver Creek, YT
10/8/11: Alaska/Yukon border
10/16/11: Northway Junction, AK
10/26/11: Tetlin Junction, AK
11/2/11: Tok, AK
11/14/11: Slana, AK
11/30/11: Gulkana, AK
12/2/11: Glennallen, AK
12/17/11: Glacier View, AK
1/3/12: Palmer, AK
1/10/12: Anchorage, AK
2/4/12: Soldotna, AK
2/18/12: Homer, AK
2/21/12: End of trip