Saturday, June 30, 2012

Marla's First Blog Post!

I let Marla type this next blog post. Enjoy!


gggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg1 xf c ggfffffffvhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ty j 7uuuuuuuuuuuuuuy5bbbdddddddddddd4tgf xxxcc cvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvcvfhygb2s````````dcgrrrrre5555555555555555590800000u bhjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjik xc rtccccccccccfgv xzreeeeeeeeedfddddddddddddddddddccccccccccc 78978978978978978978911:01 6/30/201211:01 6/30/2012000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000007676 ./bbb vgnffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff xxxxxxxxxxeqqZffffffffffbddda


Isn't it impressive that she was able to type the correct time and date? She's learning so fast!

(The time and date is just Notepad F5, by the way.)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Chris Allen Blog 100,000th Pageview Spectacular

With one exception, I hate it when TV shows and networks do self-serving anniversary and/or episode milestone specials. It's so lame. "Hey, the number of episodes we've produced is now divisible by 100! Let's spend 30 to 60 minutes talking about how awesome we are!"

On a related note: hey, the counter on my blog (which I started in January 2008) just passed 100,000! Let's spend five paragraphs talking about how awesome my blog is!

Or, instead, let's just talk about how a few of my posts have been fortunate enough to find their way into some key Google search results. Sure, I have a few loyal readers (and I am very appreciative of you!), but I imagine that given the wide range of topics I've covered over the years, random Google searches account for a pretty high percentage of my hits.

I actually haven't looked at the StatCounter stuff in quite a while. The latest version of the Blogger interface keeps its own stats, and shows pageviews for all of my posts right there on the "Dashboard", so I can easily tell that way which posts get a lot of clicks, and which ones don't. Other than posts which get a lot of random Google hits (e.g. anything to do with Honda Civic sun visors or license plate registration stickers), I haven't been able to determine a pattern with the widely-read posts (would not have expected this one to get 72 views, for instance), but I have noticed that my single game curling recaps and bicycling posts (e.g. yesterday's post) are often among my least read. (Note: if I'm honest, I expect this post to be among the "least read".) The model of posting links to individual posts on my Facebook/Twitter feeds has worked well for many reasons, and gauging the popularity of individual posts and topics is one of them.

Well, anyway...thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Bicycling in Chapel Hill

I've ridden my bike most everywhere within a 15-mile radius of home in the last 3+ years. But even though it's relatively close to home, I don't go to Chapel Hill very often, even though the town has a very bicycle-friendly reputation. Let's discuss!

First off, let's have a look at a map:

View Larger Map

When I ride south or east to Cary, I have a lot of route options, which is good. But when I ride to Chapel Hill...not so much. Unless I want to go way out of my way, the highlighted route - which includes a decent portion of a two-lane, no shoulder road which gets a decent amount of traffic - is the only way to get to Chapel Hill.

Of course, once you're in Chapel Hill, you have plenty of bicycle-friendly route options. Bike lanes! Greenways! Wide shoulders! The catch? Hills. Lots and lots of hills.

I know it doesn't look impressive at all in a picture, so you'll have to take my word for it: Chapel Hill has the steepest hills in the Triangle. Nowhere else do I have to occasionally walk my bike up a hill. (Yeah, compared to mountain ridges, these "hills" really aren't all that bad, I imagine. I don't know how those people do it.)

So, I basically do a Chapel Hill bike ride whenever I'm feeling really ambitious. This happens about two or three times a year. (Compared to downtown Durham or Cary, which I ride to, say, ten times a year.)

Despite being closer to home than both the Duke and NC State campuses (both of which I've ridden to multiple times), Saturday was actually the first time I had ever ridden through the UNC campus: (All of my previous Chapel Hill bike rides avoided the campus.)

(Side comment: How much money do you have to donate to the university to get one of those parking spots?)

Another fun fact about Chapel Hill: not only does it have the Triangle's meanest hills, it's also the only place in the Triangle where I can really get lost. Seems like every time I go here, I miss a turn, make a wrong turn, or something. On the previous ride to Chapel Hill, a key connector road was roped off by the police, and I had no clue how to get around it without looking at Google Maps on my phone. I don't have an issue with the main roads in Chapel Hill - I know those pretty well. It's the residential roads that mess with me. Like here, for instance:

View Larger Map

Which direction am I going? Who knows?

Speaking of not knowing where I was going, one of my goals while on the UNC campus was to find one of the campus's primary landmarks, the Old Well, and get a picture of my bike with it. I suppose it might have helped if I knew where it was, or even what the name of it was, going in. At least if I knew the name of it, I would have probably been able to find it on a campus map. But I didn't want to waste my energy going all over campus, either. Gotta save my energy for those hills! So, no, I did not find the Old Well...this time.

Well, Chapel Hill certainly makes for a good workout. I just need to do more research before I head over there next time, I suppose. And get myself in better shape, too.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nissan Altima

To make another long story short, Amber's car has been in the shop much longer than orignally expected, to the point where we had to return the Kia Optima rental car and get a different one. Hey, if nothing else, at least we get to play the "rental car lottery" once more. More data!

Well, anyway, we ended up with a Nissan Altima, which - again, based on our small sample space - also appears to be a common rental car. (Out of our five rental cars, we've ended up with an Altima twice.)

So...I'm a little biased against Nissan. Once upon a time, my mom's experience with a 1985 Nissan Sentra was, let's call it, unsatisfactory. Yes, that was a long, long time ago (among my earliest memories is when we bought the thing - true story), but it's funny how one negative experience can persist. I'm sure Nissans are a lot better than they were in the 80s, and it's ridiculous to hold the quality of their 1985 models against them today, right? I mean, just look at American cars: they are a lot better now than they were back then.

(Side comment: I think Nissan has had a hard time with the Sentra. The subcompact Versa sells well because it's super cheap, and the Altima appears to be doing okay. But why aren't there many Sentras on the road anymore? Is it because everyone else once had a bad experience with a 1980s Sentra, too? Or, maybe it's just because the compact car genre, which includes the Honda Civic, is too competitive.)

Obviously, I have to compare the Altima with the Kia Optima, and detail every single difference I think of, then the really dumb ones. (Hey, I just realized that "Altima" and "Optima" are both six letter words that start with a vowel and end in '-tima'. Interesting.)

Fuel mileage is important to me, and the Optima wins that competition, by approximately 5 mpg (35 to 30). Over the life of a car - let's call it 150,000 miles - and assuming $3.50/gallon, that's a difference of $2,500. So, yes, a 5 mpg difference is worth talking about. Of course, the tradeoff is that you get more power with the Altima, which is probably why given these two choices, Amber is more likely to choose the Altima, while I am more likely to choose the Optima. Amber also says that you have more vision in the Altima than the Optima, which I hadn't noticed. I actually had a harder time with the Altima at first when waiting at a stop sign.

I never really "pushed" the Optima (e.g. floored it, or took a turn or two quickly). Kias aren't meant to be pushed. And I usually drove the Optima with the "ECO" option on, although I was never really convinced that the "ECO" option actually did anything. The Altima, on the other hand...well, a car with a decent amount of power kind of dares you, right? The Altima's power is nice, and I was very impressed with the acceleration through the gears on the automatic gearbox. Of course, the tradeoff is fuel mileage. Can't have it both ways! I wasn't particularly fond of the steering, though. It seemed like you really had to tug on the wheel to get around a corner.

The 'stat gizmos' (e.g. real time MPG), which I claim are more common on cars with other deficiencies, are pretty much the same on both cars...but I remember thinking that the Optima had something that the Altima did not, although now I forget what that was.

Amber likes the interior of the Altima better because the control panel is less cluttered. But I liked the interior of the Optima better - it just seemed a little more cozy, I don't know. Hard to say why. It could have been just because the Optima was newer (15,000 miles instead of 35,000 miles) and still had that "new car smell", though. (Actually, 15,000 miles is hardly 'new'. I wonder if Enterprise fakes the new car smell in its cars.) And, the Optima could play mp3 CDs; the Altima cannot.

Well, anyway, none of this really matters, because I think Amber and I are both unlikely to purchase either car with my next purchase. However, my opinion of Kia is...let's say, "evolving". I received more than one "I like my Kia!" comment (or something similar) when I posted that Kia Optima blog post a couple of weeks ago, and I recognize their cars are getting better. The Optima was a much better car than the Spectra rental we drove back in 2008. HUGE difference.

My next car purchase (2015?) is likely to be a "crossover" type of vehicle - our current cars already get kind of cramped on road trips, and we don't even have a second kid yet! - and currently, there are three brands I'm thinking about: Honda (it'll be hard to beat the CR-V), Ford (the only American brand I would consider), and...Kia. Did I really just say that? Yes, but the Kia Sorento does seem to get good reviews. Then again, my next car purchase is (hopefully) another three years out, at least, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Co-Ed Kickball: Season 5 Recap

If you happen to be Facebook friends with some of my kickball teammates, then perhaps your timeline was inundated with pictures of this trophy around, oh, 9:15 PM last night:

That's the trophy for winning the Knightdale kickball league, which as of last night, is ours! I didn't even know they had a trophy. I thought that at best, we would get a certificate or something. (That's a team trophy, and there's only one of them, as opposed to separate trophies for every player. But it does say "Spring 2012" on it, which means we don't have to give it to the next champion. It's ours forever! Sweet.)

How did it happen? Well...the team has been together a while now and has six seasons under its belt (five since I joined), and there has been steady improvement as we keep building the team, find which roles (both offensively and defensively) suit everyone best, and continually learn how to play solid defense and cheap ways to score runs. Yes, I think 'bunt bunt sacrifice sacrifice' is kind of a cheap way to score a run, but if executed, it is very difficult to defend. (Our 1-4 kickers in the lineup are who they are specifically so we can best execute the 'bunt bunt sacrifice sacrifice'.) And it's not like we're the only ones doing it, either. We noticed the other teams playing our style of 'small ball' more and more as the season progressed.

How's this for steady improvement: our team records during my five seasons are 2-11, 3-8, 4-7, 5-6, and this season, 7-5.

"League champions at 7-5? That's not very impressive." Yeah, well, it took some luck along the way. Our 5-5 regular season record was good enough for the #2 playoff seed out of four teams. (Everyone in the league makes the playoffs.) And we got a gift when our first playoff opponent (the #3 seed) showed up with fewer than the minimum three required girls (this is "co-ed" kickball, after all), resulting in a forfeit win for us. That was the only way we were going to make the championship game, too, given how soundly we were beaten in the non-official game we ended up playing. Maybe we just stopped caring once we realized the game didn't count. (I was also still nursing a pulled leg muscle from the weekend on Monday, so I was basically useless in that "game".)

Also helping was that the #4 seed knocked off the #1 seed in the other semifinal. And we caught some breaks in the championship game, too. The 7th inning comes to mind, when the other team had the bases loaded with no runs while down 3-2, and came out of it with no runs. (Good defense, yes, but when you have the based loaded with no outs, and you don't score at least one, it's the offense's fault.)

It also helped to be the home team (by virtue of being the higher seed) because of how the 9th inning played out. In the top of the 9th, they once again loaded the bases with no outs, except this time they scored 3 to go up 5-3. Then, in the bottom of the 9th: single, RBI triple, RBI double, single, out, RBI single, win!

I noticed during the 9th that given the way kickball works, it really helps to know exactly how many runs you need to score. Ball placement is key to advancing and scoring runnners, and if you know how many you need to score, you can plan accordingly and usually accomplish it. (If you execute, of course, which we obviously did! And as long as the number of runs you need to score isn't, like, 20.) We had that advantage, while our opponent did not. In that regard, it was eerily similar to the final game of Saturday's curling tournament, also a championship-clinching win aided by knowing exactly how much we needed to score. (I'm on a roll! Two trophies in a week!)

So, it takes a little bit of luck to win a championship, in any sport. But we'll take it! Luck or not, it's been fun to be a part of this team, and to see its progression from cellar dweller to champion. I can't take any credit for the 9th inning, though, having been the pitcher of record when we gave up three runs in the top of the 9th (some of which were due to crappy defense by me), and not having come to bat in the bottom of the 9th. So, basically, I was the guy who blew the save in the top of the 9th inning, only to end up as the "winning pitcher" when the rest of my team rallied in the bottom of the 9th. Interesting feeling, that.

With that, let's delve into the season stats. Amber and I played in some games together and some games separately while the other person stayed home and watched Marla. This means I only played in 8 games this season, a career low. (Amber played in 7.) So, many of these stats are career lows:

Season batting: 20 H in 31 AB (.645), 1 RBI, 9 R, 0 XBH/BB/K. Career lows in hits and at-bats, which I can attribute to my somewhat limited participation...but that's also a career low batting average. No excuse there! Except that maybe the defense is simply catching on to my style. I may never again match the .761 average I put up in Season 3, but .645 is still pretty good for a bunter, I think. (My career average is .702.) This was also the second season of five in which I did not have any extra base hits. But on a positive note, I scored one run every 3.4 at-bats, which is better than my career average (4.2). Nine runs is also not a career low. (Career low = 7 runs, career high = 11 runs.)

Season pitching: 8 starts, 6-2 record, 2.18 ERA (17 ER in 70.1 IP), 2 K, 5 BB (3 IBB). That's a career best ERA, barely beating out last season's 2.30. This is also the first time I (or the team) has finished over .500. Hooray! My career record (17-29) is still well below .500, however, which again shows how far our team has come. Two strikeouts is a career low, and two non-intentional walks is a career high, both of which we can chalk up to the significantly smaller strike zone. I miss the old strike zone, but they certainly aren't going to change it back now. Regardless, curvy pitching is still occasionally effective. (And fun!)

Kickball season ran much later than usual, which means next season starts in, maybe, two months? I might need more time than that. We need to savor our victory!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Food Trucks

"Special announcement! Such and such food truck is going to be in a nearby parking lot from 11 to 2 next Tuesday! Take advantage of it while you can!"

It seems like I've been hearing this a lot lately. I don't know if these things have been around for years now and I never noticed, but food trucks seem to be the latest craze. Here's one parked near my work called "Baguettaboutit":

Instead of going to a restaurant, they come to you! (Well, if you're lucky. Usually you still need to come to it.) And it's specialty food - none of this generic American fast food garbage! And being a mobile vehicle, the food truck won't be nearby all the time, so you better act now!

At least, that's been my interpretation of this craze. I've never actually gone to and eaten anything from a food truck, mostly due to my lunch at work policy. Except on rare occasions (e.g. company lunches), I always, always pack a lunch, because going out for lunch is a) unhealthy and b) expensive.

Why are there so many food trucks? Well, starting a food truck business has to be a heck of a lot easier, and cheaper, then starting a restaurant. You can probably get by on two employees. If that! And by driving around everywhere, you help get the word out that you, in fact, exist. For all I know, "Baguettaboutit" could have just started up two weeks ago (their website doesn't say how old they are), and here we are talking about them already.

Why are food trucks have such cult followings? Perhaps it's because they play the same kind of "limited availability" game that McDonald's plays with the McRib.

Also, food trucks often serve specialty food that is hard to find in established restaurants, or at least has some feature (e.g. custom spices) to distinguish them from generic American restaurant fare. That type of product often lends itself to a cult following.

But it's not all specialty food. Perhaps the most well known food truck in the area is OnlyBurger, which sells my kind of grub: burgers and fries. They started out as a food truck business in 2008 - in fact, they seem to credit themselves for starting the food truck craze - but were so successful, they parlayed that success into a permanent restaurant. And hey, the restaurant is even open on weekends! Maybe I should check it out sometime. (Then again, I also still need to go to Five Guys for the first time.)

But as for the other food trucks, which often only appear during working hours...sorry. Gotta stay true to my lunch at work rule.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Inaugural (Wilmington) Beachspiel: Recap

We had a great time at the Coastal Carolina Curling Club's Inaugural Beachspiel on Saturday! They did a great job, especially considering that this was their first big event. It would be hard to justify not going again next year, in part because we will be the defending champions!

Let's start with the facility itself. If you're going to start a curling club in Wilmington, NC, there aren't many places to do it. While the Raleigh area has at least five ice facilities, some of which have multiple rinks, I believe the Wilmington Ice House is the only traditional ice rink in the area. Not only that, but they only have one rink! So if you want to play hockey in Wilmington, there is only one place you can do it. Scheduling has to be a challenge for them, right? (Wilmington also has a "synthetic ice skating rink". What is "synthetic ice"?)

Like I said in the preview, I wasn't sure what to expect with the ice conditions. How much time would they have to work on the ice beforehand? Would it be "Zamboni and go" (like on a league night), or would they have some time to try and level out the ice beforehand? Turns out they worked on the ice pretty much all Friday night into Saturday morning. Having some experience with this myself, I know how hard that can be, and I thought they did a great job. There were falls (usually towards the walls, which is the opposite of what we usually experience at home), but nothing unreasonable, in my opinion. I certainly didn't hear anyone complain about the ice, and I have heard some complaints at some of our home bonspiels. (Then again, the bonspiel field was about 75% arena ice curlers, 25% dedicated ice curlers; but as far as I know, that 25% had a great time!) The ice was a good speed, too, although it's worth noting that the curling sheets were shorter than regulation length. Perhaps the shorter sheet length (about the same as our club once had) and subtle falls gave our team an advantage that we wouldn't have had on perfect regulation ice?

Alrighty...let's curl!

Career game #182: Beachspiel Game 1 - Saturday, June 16, 2012

End............... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle (Jaun)... 12040102 | 09
Philadelphia...... 00202020 | 06

In the preview, I said that I expected a couple of "highly skilled teams from somewhere up north" to be competing. Is this team from Philadelphia one of those teams? I thought they might be, but they had about the same amount of curling experience as our team. If we played these guys 10 times, I think we'd lose 6 or 7 of the 10. (On dedicated ice? 9 out of 10.)

We definitely got some breaks in this game. For example this was the setup for one of our Skip Chris J.'s shots...

(Our team = red. Disclaimer: It's hard to remember specific shot details when you play three games in one day. So, take these diagrams with a grain of salt, as they say. There may have been one or three red rocks in the house here, rather than two, or something. I don't remember. I don't even remember which end this was. The 24 ends we played on Saturday kind of run together.)

Take out the yellow rock, right? Problem was, there was a decent left-to-right fall here, so getting by those "guards" and still hitting the yellow was a challenge. But what ended up happening was truly remarkable: the rock fell so much that it wicked off the inside of the "G" rock, kicked left, and then hit yellow rock #1. That's arena curling for you. I feel bad when we're playing against a dedicated ice team on arena ice, and something like that happens.

But we did make our share of shots, and we certainly played well enough to capitalize on the occasional friendly bounce. (That wasn't the only one in that game.) Whether we really deserved the win or not, we'll take it!

Now...some words about the format. Since we only had time for three games each rather than a full elimination bracket, "points" would determine the overall champion: 5 for a game win, 1 for each end taken, and 0.25 for each point scored in a game. For example, we earned 12.25 in Game 1: 5 for the win, 5 for the five ends we took, plus 9*.25 = 2.25 for the nine points scored. We also earned an additional 1.5 points by playing the 8th end, compared to if the game had been stopped after the 7th. Remember that when I talk about this next Beachspiel rule...

Many (not all) bonspiels have some rules regarding timing in order to keep the games on schedule. The Beachspiel timing rules were unique: you have 105 minutes to finish the game. They used the scoreboard clock, buzzer, and everything, which I've never seen at a bonspiel before. If the last rock of an end has been delivered before time runs out, then that end counts. Otherwise, the not-yet-completed end does not count.

I mention this because in Game 1, we finished the 7th end with less than 10 minutes left on the clock. That's not enough time to play another end, right? I didn't think so, and I took my glove off and was prepared to shake...but the Philadelphia team (trailing by one at the time) said, "Let's keep playing!" Their strategy? Throw the first few rocks of the end all the way through the house as quickly as possible to save time, and then slow it down later in the end and try to score one. A reasonable strategy, and I don't blame them one bit, but...this can get a little tricky, especially in a sport where etiquette is king. If you're us, how much do you hurry up knowing that if you don't finish the end, you win? We just played at a normal speed - didn't rush our shots, but didn't deliberatly stall, either. (Deliberately stalling would certainly not have been in the "spirit of curling".) And, we ended up completing the 8th end...and in hindsight it's a good thing we did from a competitive standpoint, because it actually gave us a few extra points that would very much come in handy later in the day.

As far as the timing rule itself goes, many bonspiels (if they have a timing rule at all) say "when time runs out, finish the end you're on, and then play one more end after that". I think that's a better rule, because then you're not putting anyone in an awkward position where in the final end, one team is rushing to beat the clock, and the other team is indifferent to the clock. Instead, when it matters most, both teams can play normally and go for the win. Here, setting an 80 minute clock and having the "finish this end, plus one more" rule might have been best, in my opinion.

Well, anyway...Game 2!

Career game #183: Beachspiel Game 2 - Saturday, June 16, 2012

End............... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle (Jaun)... 00002131 | 07
Minot/Triangle.... 11110000 | 04

Our first two opponents were pre-determined, with the third opponent determined by the point standings at the time. So, winning Game 1 did not give us a more difficult Game 2 opponent like I thought it might. I think our Game 2 opponent (two curlers from Minot, ND, plus Patrick and Amy from Triangle) lost their first game before facing us. (Speaking of Triangle, an incredible 8 of the 16 teams entered in the Beachspiel had at least two Triangle curlers; 5 of those 8 had all Triangle curlers. And, Triangle teams ended up taking the top two positions. Needless to say, our club represented well!)

So...the first half of the game, obviously, was a struggle. However, just about every final shot of the first four ends was a "Hail Mary" shot by Chris J. that did just enough to cut them down to one (as opposed to giving up two or three) and keep us in the game. Even down 4-0, I wasn't feeling too bad. We were playing reasonably well. A break here or there, and we're back in it.

In the second half of the game, the other team started wearing down (note: alcohol may have been a factor for the Minot folks) and missing their takeouts, allowing us to score in each of the last four ends. The sheet we played Game 2 on was definitely the straightest-playing sheet, making this game a take-out game. Curling around guards wasn't impossible, but it was difficult, and we pretty much had to rely on a missed take-out, followed by well-placed guard, in order to set ourselves up for points. (I remember throwing lots and lots of guards in this game. Straight ice means that while take-outs are easier to make, precise guards are also easier. Raises, too!)

Of the three, I think Game 2 was my best, personally. By then I was all warmed up, and not yet tired, either. Although I didn't really get all that tired playing three games in one day, at least not at the time; it's when playing five games over three days, for example, that my muscles start to get sore. (I am kind of sore today, though. I knew it would catch up to me eventually.)

And...yes, it's so much easier for me to make shots when someone else is calling the strategy. Vice is definitely my best position. I can offer strategy advice here and there, without worrying about what line to call (an admitted weakness of mine), call the entire game, or have the pressure of making the final shot of every end. The stats (3-10 as a Skip at bonspiels, 16-8 as a Vice at bonspiels) don't lie!

At this point, I think our point total had us in 4th place out of 16 teams. Two of the top three teams played their last game before we did, and we'd be playing against the other top team ourselves, so we already knew what we needed to do in order to win the bonspiel: win our last game (obviously), and either take 5 ends and score 13 points, or take 6 ends and score 9 points. (Admittedly, knowing what we needed to do was a pretty big advantage; otherwise we might have played a little more defensively once we got the lead.)

Career game #184: Beachspiel Game 3 - Saturday, June 16, 2012

End............... 12345678 |TTL
Plainfield/Tri.... 20000001 | 03
Triangle (Jaun)... 03212110 | 10

Our opponent here was one part Plainfield (NJ) Curling Club and three parts Triangle, including Justin and Tabby, whom Amber and I have curled with many times before and are curling with again in both August bonspiels.

This is actually the game I remember the least about, so it gets the shortest recap. I think there was one end (the 6th?) in which the other team was looking pretty good, maybe looking at four or five, only to end up taking out their own shot rock by mistake, I think, opening the door for us to get one and keep the dream alive. The game was a lot closer than the score indicated, so I can't say we were in "control throughout"; we just made the shots when we needed to make them, and got a lot of the breaks, I suppose. I don't really know what we did to steal all of those ends.

So, we're in the 7th end. Since we did the math before the game, we knew the deal. Sure, the scoreboard says 9-2, but we still had work to do: one more end to win the bonspiel. It was the most tense 9-2 game in the history of curling (perhaps). And we may not have had time for the 8th end (which it turns out we did, but only because we hurried), so the time was now. Up comes Skip Chris J. with this setup: (Our team = red, and again, this is APPROXIMATE.)

This sheet had a right-to-left fall, which means you couldn't curl from left-to-right and get to the button. And we couldn't draw around the other side either - either there was a guard out there, or we just simply weren't having any luck with that line. So, the play was to raise #1 into the house. Chris J. executed perfectly, and the rock finished about an inch (if that) closer to the button than yellow rock #2. The championship winning shot! I remember yelling very, very loudly on the sweep calls there. (Well, we did need to hold the line and get around that yellow guard, you know. I tend to yell louder on the big shots.) It was exciting!

Oh, and remember that extra 1.5 points we got in Game 1? We wouldn't have won the bonspiel without it. We finished 0.5 points ahead of the vaunted Murray/Kathy Triangle team.

Our Skip gets the shot diagrams, but Lead Sean C. and Second Andrew F. played great all day. The reason I threw a lot of guards was because Sean and Andrew put us in great position end after end. Total team effort! And here are the individual trophies we won:

(Note - I believe they will be using a different lighthouse for the trophy model next year.)

We also get our names listed on the main trophy as the inaugural Beachspiel champions. Hooray! Thanks to everyone at the Coastal Carolina Curling Club for putting on a great event!

The win prompted me to go back through the stats and assemble some bonspiel-related statistics, much of which is now part of the curling section of By the Numbers:
- This was my 14th career bonspiel, and my 7th career away bonspiel. (That includes three one-day intraclub events, not just full multi-club bonspiels.)
- Five of the 14 bonspiels were "pointspiel format" bonspiels; the other nine were bracket-style format.
- I have two career bonspiel championships, both in "pointspiel format" events. My other win was an intraclub one day event in June 2010; the Beachspiel was my first interclub event championship.
In bracket-style bonspiels:
- I've made the overall final once, losing in the final of the 2010 Carolina Classic.
- I've made the final of a consolation bracket twice, winning both of those times (4th event at the 2009 Carolina Classic, 2nd event at the 2011 GNCC Arena Club Championships). Both of those were at home; I have never curled in the final draw of an away bonspiel. (The 3rd event semifinal of the 2011 Kayser still eats at me sometimes.)
- I've curled on Sunday in 5 of 9 bracket-style bonspiels. My record in Sunday games is 4-3.
- At the other end of the spectrum, I've gone winless in two bonspiels. We could chalk both of those up to a lack of experience (my first away bonspiel, and my first away bonspiel as Skip), but it's only a matter of time before my next 0-3. It happens.
- My career bonspiel record is now 27-24, including 17-7 at home, 7-17 away from home on dedicated ice, and now, 3-0 away from home on arena ice.

And speaking of statistics, Amber and Marla made the trip down for part of the day, too, giving Marla four new counties. Yay!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Inaugural (Wilmington) Beachspiel: Preview

Yes, the calendar says June, but it's a curling weekend!

Our home Triangle Curling Club has been around in some form for a while (1995), and our annual summer bonspiel (curling tournament) - the "Carolina Classic" - is now in its 5th year. But two newer North Carolina curling clubs, in Wilmington and Charlotte, are hosting their own summer bonspiels for the first time this year. In something I (and perhaps some others) am dubbing the "Carolina Triple", I'm curling in all three North Carolina bonspiels this summer. The first leg of the "Triple" is this Saturday in Wilmington, with the Coastal Carolina Curling Club's inaugural "Beachspiel".

The "Beachspiel" is attractive in part because it is a one day only event, and it's only a two hour drive each way, so that means no hotel costs! We can just drive down and drive back that day. There is no easier "away bonspiel" for us to attend.

So...about this "Beachspiel": - Since it's just a one day event, that means three games for everybody regardless of wins/losses. I would assume wins/losses affect who you play in games two and three. - It's a "pointspiel", which means teams earn points for wins, ends taken, and so on, and the team with the largest point total wins the event. - 16 teams are entered, but the team names on their own don't give a whole lot of information. Shoot, I don't even know what our team name is! (It's true, I don't.) So I don't know where everyone is coming from for this event, but I do know that our Triangle club is sending a healthy contingent (Four teams? Five? SIX???) I also expect at least two highly skilled teams (compared to us) from somewhere up north to be present.

Like our Triangle Curling Club, Coastal Carolina is an arena club. This will actually be my first ever "away bonspiel" on arena ice, interestingly enough. All 24 of my curling games away from home have been on dedicated curling ice. Normally that puts us at a big disadvantage, and that shows in my career away bonspiel record (7-17), but will going to an away bonspiel on arena ice give us some of that advantage back? Maybe, maybe not. Ice conditions at arena ice bonspiels can vary from "almost dedicated ice-like" to "Sunday evening league night". Since Coastal is a relatively young club putting on their first bonspiel, I would expect the ice conditions to be closer to "league night" standards than "dedicated ice-like", but we'll see.

Between the teams participating and the ice conditions, there are a lot of unknowns going into this bonspiel. So how well should I expect my team to do? (My team: Chris J. at Skip, me at Vice, Andrew F. at Second, Sean C. at Lead. At least, I think that's the order. All I know is that I'm definitely not playing Skip in this one, which is fantastic.)

Well, maybe not having any expectations at all is the way to go here. Besides, this isn't about wins and losses! Wins/losses just happen to be the aspect of bonspieling I can best analyze quantitatively, and I keep track of this sort of thing in detail, so that's why I talk about that aspect of it so much in comparison to the "fun"/social aspects of curling, which are very important and huge draws, but aren't as easy for me to write about, usually. So, yeah. Let's, umm, have some fun!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kia Rental Cars

Without getting into too much detail, Amber's car has been in the shop for the last couple of weeks, during which time she's been driving a rental: a Kia Optima.

I've been thinking about the Kia brand a lot lately. (Well, not really, but more so than normal.) Its U.S. market share is growing. They advertise a lot. And, out of the four times either Amber or me has gotten a rental car since we've known each other, we've ended up with a Kia twice. I wouldn't have noticed that the Optima is the official car of the NBA, for instance, if not for the fact that we've been renting one.

And that got me wondering. Kia's reputation is, well, cheap. And Hyundai is way ahead of them in the "relatively inexpensive Korean alternative" market; if you're going to get a cheap Korean car, you're going to get a Hyundai, not a Kia. They're trying to change that and become a major player in the U.S. automotive market, and while I don't really know if the cars have gotten a whole lot better over the years, they're doing a good job marketing them, at least.

As part of this marketing campaign, could Kia possibly be oversaturating the rental car market with their products, in an effort to expose more people to them, and hopefully change their reputation for the better? "See, our cars aren't so bad after all, are they? In fact, they're actually kind of nice! And how about that gas mileage!*"

(* - According to the in-car telemetry, the Optima gets about 35 mpg highway, which is pretty good for a car its size. I do appreciate Kia's emphasis on fuel efficiency. But can we really trust the numbers the car is giving us? Wouldn't it be convenient if the numbers reported by the car's MPG gauge were slightly higher than the actual MPG?)

Where do rental car companies get their cars, anyway? From dealers, directly from the car companies (in bulk, perhaps), or some other way? That's something I know nothing about. Is Kia selling their cars to Hertz, Enterprise, and the like in bulk and at a loss as part of their marketing campaign? If that's the case, I think that's brilliant marketing. But I have no idea. There just seem to be a lot of Kias in rental car parking lots, and I don't think it's purely coincidence.

So, I've driven the Optima once. Here's the thing I've noticed with the Optima, and also with the Chevy Cobalt rental we drove a few years back: they're overloaded with gizmos. It takes a long time to cycle through all of the dashboard statistics and such. Now, being a stats guy, I like having all of this at my disposal, but that's actually not what is most important to me in a car. Reliability and durability are my top priorities. I want to be able to drive this thing 200,000 miles with as little work done to it during that time as possible. And that's the main reason I don't plan on buying a Kia anytime soon. Their reliability, I believe, is still well behind Honda, Toyota, etc. And I think the reason cars like the Optima are overloaded with gizmos is because they're trying to make up for a lack of quality in other areas.

But that doesn't matter when you're renting one, of course, because rental cars are usually fairly young when you get them. The Optima had about 14,200 miles on it when we received it. Why, by our standards, she's still a baby! (My Civic is now over 81,000.) The Chevy Cobalt had about 21,900 (US-50 trip, September 2009); the Kia Spectra (Nebraska trip, March 2008) had about 15,700. So as a rental car, a Kia is perfectly fine.

(Completeness note: the fourth rental car either of us have had over the years was a Nissan Altima that Amber rented in 2007. I never drove the Altima myself.)

(Statistical note: if we get Amber's car back this week, then we'll be returning the Optima before its odometer reaches 15,000, and thus, the Optima will not earn a place in the Rental Cars tab of my Car Mileage Log. But the original estimate was actually yesterday, and they've already missed that, so...I'm not ruling it out.)

But the thing is, there's nothing interesting about driving a Kia. Whenever we go to a rental car place and they give us a key with the name "KIA" inscribed it, it's a disappointment. And if they are in fact oversaturating rental car parking lots with their product as part of a marketing campaign, then the likelihood of leaving the rental car lot with a Kia is pretty high. Small sample space, yes, but two Kias out of four may indicate a trend.

In August, I'll be renting a car for a company trip, and the Kia Optima is a member of the class of cars I'll be renting from. (The Spectra and Cobalt were "Compact"s; the Optima is an "Intermediate".) The odds that I'll end up with another Optima? They have to be pretty high, right?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Why I'm Not Taking the Triangle Parkway

The Triangle Parkway has been open for six months, and has been tolled for five of those months. During that time, Amber and I have spent a total of $1.10 in tolls between the two of us. So, no, we're not taking the road all that often. I'm not sure many others are, either, because everything I drive over it and look, there is hardly anybody on it.

I don't know if people are staying off the road because they're opposed toll roads in general, or because the Parkway doesn't really help them all that much, but for us, it's the latter. Even though we live nearby, the orientation of the Parkway with respect to our house means that the Parkway doesn't really help us directly.

However...there is something NCDOT could do that would make me slightly more likely to spend the occasional $0.50 and use the Parkway. To explain, let's break out the Google Maps:

View Parkwood to I-40 in a larger map

The green pushpin is the approximate location of our house. The red pushpin is the I-40/I-540 interchange. Getting from the green pushpin to the red pushpin is something we have to do a lot.

The blue route is generally the fastest way to get there, and best of all, it's free! (Or, I should say, "taxpayer funded". None of this is truly "free".) But there are times in which the blue route may not be the best route, such as during rush hour, when NC-55 northbound to I-40 is slow, the NC-55/NC-54 traffic light is slow, and I-40 itself may or may not be backed up.

Alternatives include the green route and the red route. The green route isn't the answer, though, because not only is the green route slower to start with, rush hour affects the green route even more than it does the blue route because of all the traffic lights on NC-55. So, that's out.

Now, about that red route. This includes some of the Triangle Parkway, and currently costs $0.50 per one-way trip if you have a transponder ($0.77 if you don't). During rush hour the other day, I thought I'd give the red route a chance. Since it's tolled, it had better be quite a bit faster - or at the very least, less stressful - than the blue route for it to be worth it, right?

Well, here are my conclusions: - At normal traffic volume, the blue route is still the way to go, toll or no toll. - At rush hour, unless there is a major accident along the blue route, the red route offers no significant time savings over the blue route. At best, red route time = blue route time. At worst, the red route adds a minute. - The reason the red route wasn't faster during my rush hour test was because I spent two minutes sitting at the Davis Drive traffic light (the purple pushpin on the map) waiting to get onto the Parkway. (Hopson Road --> Parkway Southbound traffic must first cross Davis Drive via a traffic light.) And that got me thinking.

Obviously, NCDOT wants people to drive on your fancy new toll road (and yes, it really is fancy). So wouldn't it make sense to speed to access to that toll road as much as possible (without compromising traffic flow on other roads, of course)? Why make willing customers wait up to two minutes just to get on the darn thing? Shouldn't drivers willing to pay a little extra be given higher priority? I mean, Davis Drive isn't that busy a road.

So here is my memo to NCDOT: speed up the traffic light timing at Davis Drive, and I might take the toll road more often. I'm not saying I'll take it every time we head east; I'm just saying that for the Parkway to be a viable rush hour alternative, we need to be able to get on the Parkway a little more quickly. Because as it stands, unless I-40 is completely slammed, the Parkway is pretty much a non-option.

Well, regardless, NCDOT is likely get plenty of toll revenue from all of us once the next section of NC-540 opens up, because that will address a much bigger need. (NC-55 in downtown Apex is truly awful, even on weekends.) But until then - and until our transponders work in other states (hopefully soon?) - our account balance is generally going to stay right where it is.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Sports Saturday: 6/9/12

Horse racing - Okay, so I wrote this nice long piece about the Belmont Stakes, before it was announced that Triple Crown contender I'll Have Another was scratched from the race due to injury. The whole thing is obviously obsolete now, and the Belmont is pretty much meaningless now. But I don't want my piece to go to waste, so I'm publishing it anyway.

=== (beginning of obsolete section) ===

I'll Have Another goes for the Triple Crown in today's Belmont Stakes. It's been 34 years since a horse last won the Triple Crown, and no doubt, an entire country will be rooting him on...except for me. I always root against horses going for the Triple Crown.

Why? sports, sometimes the agony of defeat makes for the best television. The Triple Crown is one of those times. The elusive Triple Crown hasn't been won in 34 years! And that's what makes this such great theater. So many horses over the last two decades have come so close, and yet they all came up short, occasionally in heartbreaking fashion. (Smarty Jones in 2004 comes to mind.) And that's what makes this so interesting, to me. As soon as someone thinks they have it...nope, here comes Birdstone on the outside for the win! Too bad!

And if I'll Have Another wins the Triple Crown, then that would basically ruin that aspect of it, right? Next time a horse goes for the Triple Crown, it just won't be the same if I'll Have Another breaks through today.

"So, are you saying that you NEVER want to see a Triple Crown winner in your entire life?" Well...I wouldn't go that far. And I can't say I'll be terribly disappointed if I'll Have Another wins today. It would just make horse racing less interesting until we get another 20+ year Triple Crown drought. I think if/when the drought reaches 50 years, I may change my tune and start rooting them on. But for now...booooo! Belmont Stakes - Sat 6:30p, NBC

=== (end of obsolete section) ===

To be clear, I never, ever root for these horses to get hurt. That is not what I meant AT ALL. This is all my fault, isn't it?

And to answer the question, "Well, are you happy now, jackass??? No. I am not. This isn't how it was supposed to happen!

That said, I look forward to the next Triple Crown contender, and I hope he (or she) actually gets to race in the Belmont...and loses.

NHL - While the possibility of the agony of defeat may draw me to the Belmont Stakes, the opposite is true for the Stanley Cup Final. The Stanley Cup presentation is the best trophy presentation in all of sports, and I make an effort to watch all Stanley Cup Final elimination games live, or at least the next day without knowing the outcome. (It's not the same if you already know going in that Team X is going to win the Cup.)

So I'm kind of torn here. On one hand, I want the Los Angeles Kings to ultimately win the Cup. And, it would be more convenient for me if they win it on a Saturday night when I can actually stay up for it, So I should definitely be rooting for a Kings win tonight, right? Except that the Stanley Cup hasn't been presented to the home team since Anaheim in 2007, and it always makes for a better trophy presentation when the fans are cheering instead of booing. (Yeah, given that this is New Jersey, I expect a healthy amount of booing if the Kings clinch the Cup tonight.) So ideally, I would want the Devils to win tonight and the Kings to win Game 6, right?

Either the Belmont, this is must watch television, to me. The fact that the Kings are up 3-1 in the series doesn't matter. They still have to win one more. The amount of pressure on a team that was up 3-0, only to lose the next two, has to be huge. And it's not like the Kings are so much better than the Devils that their triumph is inevitable. This series is not over. Los Angeles at New Jersey - Sat 8:00p, NBC

Auto racing - It's time for my favorite Formula One race of the season! Not just because it's in Canada at a track I am very familiar with (and that I've actually been to, although not for a race), but because Circuit Gilles Villeneuve always puts on interesting races. Last year, Jenson Button passed Sebatsian Vettel on the last lap (which NEVER happens in F1!) for the win. It would be unrealistic to expect that to happen again, but my expectations are up. Formula One Canadian Grand Prix - Sun 2:00p, FOX

IndyCar races at its first high banked 1.5 mile superspeedway (Texas) since the tragedy at Las Vegas last year, so I'm wondering how aggressive drivers are going to be with that in mind. That, and truth be told, this is usually the most entertaining IndyCar race of the year. IndyCar at Texas - Sat 8:00p, NBCSN

Finally...the NASCAR race at Pocono has been shortened to 400 miles! Hooray! NASCAR at Pocono - Sun 1:00p, TNT

College baseball - This weekend are the NCAA baseball tournament "Super Regionals", also known as the Round of 16, and Florida State is once again in the mix. I haven't followed the team all that much this year, but I know that they were ranked #1 for at least some of the season, and might have earned the overall #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if not for an 0-3 showing at the ACC Tournament a couple of weeks ago.

So the team is good. Their opponent this weekend, Stanford, is also good, and from what I understand has a couple of pitchers who were drafted fairly high by MLB teams this week. This could go either way. You have to be really, really fortunate to even get to, let alone win, the College World Series, which helps explain why Mike Martin has never been able to win one in all these years of outstanding teams. Stanford at Florida State (Game 2 of 3) - Sat 6:00p, ESPN2; Sunday's Game 3 time/network TBD, if necessary

MLB - As of press time (Friday afternoon), the Washington Nationals are still in first place! And this weekend, they play an interleague series at Fenway Park. I'm certainly not a fan of the Red Sox, but I appreciate Fenway Park, and I am looking forward to seeing the Nationals play there, especially because it doesn't happen every year.

As for the Nationals themselves, they've had some injury problems, but last year's biggest offensive threat Michael Morse is back (finally), and the starting pitchers have remained healthy as well. I think this team is for real. (Now please, please don't lose 10 of 12 now that I've said that.) Washington at Boston - Sat 4:00p and Sun 1:30p, MASN

Soccer - No World Cup (or even Women's World Cup) this summer, but we do get the European Championship, a.k.a. Euro 2012. As is often the case in events involving European teams, I'm rooting for France. They don't play until Monday, though.

But there are some potentially outstanding games this weekend, if you're into 1-0 games, that is. (Seems like that's usually what happens when two major European powers face off...if we're lucky.) The weekend's headliners are Germany v. Portugal - Sat 2:45p, ESPN and Spain v. Italy - Sun 12:00p, ESPN.

NBA - The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have a Game 7 tonight, winner moves on to the NBA Finals. Lots of people will be watching, but it's only the third priority in the evening timeslot, for me. Like many, I'm not a fan of the Heat (or especially the ESPN-led hype surrounding the team), but...whatever. I'm not emotionally invested in this sport. Boston at Miami - Sat 8:30p, ESPN

Tennis - And there's also the French Open this weekend! One point I don't think I've ever made about tennis: I think the women's game is more interesting than the men's game. Why? Because the women's game is more random. Part of that is because women play best-of-3 instead of best-of-5, but I think there's more to it than that. I mean, when was the last time the men's final of a Grand Slam involved somebody other than Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic? (I looked it up: 2010 Wimbledon. That makes the 2012 French the 7th consecutive Grand Slam final featuring only those three men.)

Despite this, I only occasionally watch the men's Grand Slam finals and never watch the women's Grand Slam finals. This weekend, I'm changing that: I'm recording the women's final and will make watching it a priority.

Boxing - Finally...I've heard there's a major fight this weekend, or something. I completely ignore boxing because the big events are all on pay-per-view, so why bother? Except that I must not be completely ignoring it because I'm mentioning it here. I guess the "boxing people" (Do they even have a governing body? How does that all work?) decided that they could make more money being a niche sport with devoted fans who are willing to pay for pay-per-view fights, rather than have widespread appeal and be on broadcast television. If you're boxing, it doesn't matter that the majority of the country doesn't care about you as long as you still have enough people willing to drop coin every time there's a big fight, right?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

New Statistic: Marla Non-Day-Care Days

I'm always looking for new statistics to add to By the Numbers. Here's the latest new stat: the number of days in which Marla does not go to day care, for whatever reason.

Why did I think of this today? Because, well, today is one of those days. Marla has developed a lot of rashing, which may or may not have been symptomatic of a contagious disease. But her doctor checked her out and gave us a signed note saying that it's "just a rash" and that she doesn't appear to have a contagious disease, which means we can take her back to day care tomorrow, fortunately.

It seems like we have to keep Marla out of day care an awful lot. But do we really, or does it just seem that way? Well thanks to my obsessive stat keeping, now we can find out!

I'll be keeping track of Marla's "attendance" - the percentage of the total number of weekdays in which Marla attends day care, as well as the percentage of the total number of day care operating days (excluding observed holidays and such). I will also track the reasons for all of Marla's day care absences, which will fall into the following four categories: 1) Illness. Pretty self explanatory - there was chickenpox, hand/foot/mouth disease, plus some various one-day bouts (e.g. today) that I may have long forgotten about. 2) Day care closed, either due to holiday or to weather (e.g. snow). Our day care follows a vacation schedule that falls somewhere between the Federal Government and an actual school; that means they are closed on most, if not all, Federal holidays (don't remember what they do on Columbus and Veterans Days), plus several non-Federal holidays as well (e.g. Good Friday, Thanksgiving Friday, a few days before/after Christmas). We've yet to have any weather-related closings; we can thank our mild (i.e. boring) winter for that. 3) Family vacation. If we're out of town - say, driving to or from Toledo - then Marla is not going to go to day care that day, of course. 4) Other. I don't know what else would keep Marla out of day care, but I'm sure something will come up eventually.

I suppose it would bias the absence percentage for me to start the counter today, given that today is in fact an "illness" day (officially). So, I'm going back to the beginning of May (ish) and starting my stats retroactively from Monday, April 30th. (I'm starting on a Monday to make it easier to calculate the total number of weekdays.) ... Actually, as luck would have it, April 30th was also an "illness" day. Well, I didn't know that when I picked that date, so that's still going to be my statistical starting date.

Two technicalities that I feel obliged to document somewhere: - On days which are both "day care closed" days and "family vacation" days, such as this past Memorial Day, then it counts as a "day care closed" day. - If Marla has a "partial day" - for example, she goes into day care, and we have to take her home due to a developing illness later that morning - it only counts as an absence if she spent the majority of the day out of day care. In general, I think less than 4 hours in day care = an absence, but I'm going to use common sense on this rather than a strict guideline.

The numbers so far: - Today is the 28th weekday since 4/30/12. - On one of those 28 days, the day care was closed (Memorial Day). - Among the other 27 weekdays, Marla has been absent four times: twice due to illness, and twice due to family vacation. - This means that Marla's attendance (since 4/30/12) is currently 85% on days in which the day care is open, 82% overall.

So, it's a stretch to say that we're always keeping Marla out of day care, but 82% still sounds pretty low. Or is it? To compare, let's look at my job. Each year I get 9 paid holidays, plus 15 days vacation, plus 10 days sick leave. If I use all 34 days of paid leave each year, then my work attendance for the year will be 87%.

So, I think 87% - including holidays - is a good benchmark for Marla. I would say "let's work on that", but in reality, we have very little control over this.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

LG Phone Battery Fail (Sort of)

Last month, my smartphone - a T-Mobile G2x, a.k.a. LG Optimus 2X - kicked the can, and so T-Mobile sent me a new one. But they didn't sent me a new phone battery, or even a new back cover for the phone. They only sent me the bare minimum. So you figured it was only a matter of time before I had to replace the battery too, right?'s not that the battery I had been using failed completely. It's just that I was still having problems, even with the new phone. The new phone would randomly turn off on occasion, and would frequently shut off while charging the battery. Many times, the only way to get the phone to turn back on again was to perform a "battery pull" - take the battery out of the phone, put it back in, and turn it on. I had to do this about once a day.

I've since learned the G2x is basically rubbish, but for this phone to have trouble right out of the box...maybe something else is at work here. Maybe I need a new battery, too?

After doing some online research, I concluded that my best option was not to go through T-Mobile and get another battery under warranty. The G2x stock batteries aren't very good to begin with, and regardless, it might take some effort to convince the T-Mobile folks that the battery is in fact defective. (It's easy to demonstrate that a phone won't turn on, but hard to demonstrate that it sometimes shuts off randomly.) My best bet was to get a third party battery, even if that meant paying a few bucks. So, I got one of these.

This new battery has about twice the battery life of the old battery. Hooray! But the catch is that it's also twice as thick, and also came with a new back cover to accomodate the larger battery; and thus, my phone is now twice as thick as it used to be. Small price to pay, I suppose. (I'd take a picture of it, but taking a picture of my phone battery with my phone would surely cause some kind of singularity.)

So, problem solved, right? Well...almost. The phone has occasionally shut off and/or rebooted while being charged, but certainly not every time like it was doing with the old battery. But the good news is that with the new battery, I haven't had a single random shut off during normal use, and I haven't had to perform a single battery pull, either. Yet.

Monday, June 04, 2012


This post is mostly for the guys. In general, men carry their stuff in pockets, while women carry their stuff in purses. I recognize the benefits of purses, and I don't personally object to the idea of a man carrying a purse (or anything by a different name that is functionally equivalent to a purse). However, like many men, I'm a minimalist: pockets are more than sufficient, so why worry about carrying this extra thing around with you all the time?

I've always kept my keys in my left pants pocket, and (since I've had one) my cell phone in my right pants pocket. But recently I've discovered a reason to change that, and it's proving kind of difficult.

First off...why have I always kept keys in the left and phone in the right? I actually don't know. But, that's how I've done it since I've been old enough to have a need to carry around keys with me. Is "keys in the left" the "social standard"? Is that what most guys do? Or are there actually a lot of guys who carry their keys by some other means completely (e.g. jacket pockets, some kind of belt loop clip-on device, a lanyard of some kind)?

Regardless, the reason I'm trying to switch to "keys in the right, phone in the left" is because I carry Marla with my left arm. Many times, I'll be carrying Marla, and will have a need to access my keys...except that they're in my left pocket. In order to access my keys with my free hand while carrying Marla, I'm actively trying to convert to "keys in the right".

But despite all the effort I've put into the switch, many times within the past week I've found my keys in the left pocket, or my phone in the right pocket, because I'll have put them there without even thinking about it. It is very, very hard to break a habit of 15+ years.

Well, regardless, we all keep our wallets in one of the rear pants pockets, right?

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Marla Picture Dump: May 2012

At the end of each month, I grab a few baby pictures from my phone and post them online in what I've been calling the "Marla Picture Dump". Here are May's pictures, in which Marla demonstrates her ability to stand on her own. Wee!