just procrastinating

Monday, May 03, 2004

For Sale
So our house is officially on the market. We spent all weekend cleaning, painting and de-cluttering, so ready or not, it's out there.

Gmail
Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution posts this interesting piece of info about the consumers surplus from Google's Gmail:
Google will be offering its Gmail service for free, but right now supply is limited. Not surprisingly, a market in the accounts has arisen, check out this ebay listing. I have heard that some accounts have gone for as much as $150.
It's actually pretty useful. When I heard that I was being let go, I had a bunch of personal stuff on my work PC that I needed to get like pictures and stuff and limited time to do it. So I just emailed everything to my gmail account, which would not have been possible for any of my other email accounts.

Remaindered?
This poem by Clive James posted over at Assymetrical Information is hilarious, once you realize what the word remaindered means: A book that remains with a publisher after sales have fallen off, usually sold at a reduced price. I had to look it up, and then the whole thing made sense.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

John Kerry Has An Orange Bike With a Matching Shirt and Helmet


And he is running for President.

Friday, April 30, 2004

One of those Days
Things were going well this morning. I slept in until 6:30 or so and was out of the house by 7:00. I decided to switch cars with my wife and take the Jeep to get inspected and get her oil changed, as I mentioned before. So I went to the Merchant's Tire and Auto which is only about 3 or 4 blocks from my office and dropped the car off and walked the rest of the way to the office. It was a nice cool morning and everything is green now, that new fresh green of spring. I was at the office by 7:25.

I got into the office and swiped my card at the door and one of my co-workers was there, Henry. I joked to him, "Hey today could be my last day, you know, we have that meeting and all." We had an "All hands meeting" today at 10AM to discuss financial results and the pipeline (business that we are working to get in the future), but these meeting also seem to happen when they do layoffs.

Sure enough, not 5 seconds after I say that, my boss comes over and says, "You got a minute."

Fuck. I guess I knew it could happen, but I had kind of convinced myself that it wasn't going to happen to me. I'm not sure how or why I did that. So I signed a few papers, sent a bunch of personal files to my new gmail account, which I am really happy to have for this, packed up a box and that was it. Actually that wasn't really it, because I didn't have a car, so I had to hoof it back to Merchants, who were actually done already (it's 8:20 by now) get the Jeep, drive back to work, get my box of crap, say some goodbyes and that was it. I was home by 9:20.

No biggie though. I'm bummed about the loss of income, but its only 6 weeks, since I get 2 weeks severance and I was planning on making my last day June 25. It gives me ample time to study for level 1 of the CFA exam, which I had almost written off and thought I would just wait until Dec. Our house is going on the market this weekend, so I will be able to keep the place clean and take care of the dog, who we have to do something with when people are looking at the place, because she doesn't really like strangers in the house.

No hard feelings for the people at work either. The partners there are battling for their survival in an industry that has recently become commoditized, and getting new business is not an easy task. The job was never really my thing: I was hired there back when the place was Commerce One under the impression that within 6 months or so I would be a practice manager for their Strategic Sourcing practice. Well that didn't really pan out and I was laid off once before for a few months, only to be hired back when this group split off from Commerce One.

So now I guess I am full-time looking for a job. And what great fun that is.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Friends?
I don't watch Friends much any more, but I watched it tonight since it is coming to an end soon. Man, did that episode suck. I don't know if the writers have lost it, or if the cast is just too emotional to perform well, but that was some of the worst TV I have seen in a while. I am starting to think Tony has a point, although I used to like the show, at least for the first four or five seasons.

When M*A*S*H was nearing the end, the cast said they were getting to old to play what they were supposed to be: young Doctors in the Korean War. So in a way, it is kind of sad to see Friends go because they too are getting too old to play the part of young urban dwellers trying to make their way in the world. Since they are my contemporaries, that probably means I am too.

Most Smog?
This gets a big WTF? Why would Knoxville be so high? (since I am moving there)

1. Los Angeles, California
2. Visalia-Porterville, California
3. Bakersfield, California
4. Fresno, California
5. Houston, Texas
6. Merced, California
7. Sacramento, California
8. Hanford, California
9. Knoxville, Tennessee
10. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas

Here is the best explanation I could find: "Ragsdale noted that while pollution in Miami blows out to sea, the Great Smoky Mountains trap ozone in East Tennessee and western North Carolina, making the EPA air standards unreasonable for the region." I figured the mountains had something to do with it, which I think is similar to LA's problem.

Marriage Penalty
It looks like the House is trying to make changes to the tax code regarding marriage penalty permanent, which I suppose is a good thing, although it is unclear whether the Senate is going to take this up. I am somewhat unimpressed with our tax savings this year from the reduction in the marriage penalty, but any relief is welcome. I thought this was designed so that our taxes would essentially be as if we were filing as singles, but that wasn't the case at all.

Ultimately, I would still be better off if there was no "married filing jointly" or "married filing separately". It seems like you could accomplish what is intended by applying some kind of "head of the household" status to families with just one wage earner and just tax all income earners equally. This would reduce the complexity of the tax code and there wouldn't be a marriage penalty or any marriage bonuses. But, I guess that would make things too easy.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Highway Deaths
Traffic deaths are up this year to a 13-year high. This is something that bugs me because it is almost like something that we are blind to as a species. It is as if 40,000-45,000 deaths a year is an acceptable loss for the benefits that cars give us. Do the math on that, and say you drive for 60 years, you have a 1% chance of dying in a car crash in your lifetime (I think, I suck at stats (1+45000/290M)^60-1). That is a pretty big deal to me. Most people know someone, or know someone who knows someone, that has died in a car crash, but nothing really changes.

We go ape shit when 3000 people die from terrorism, and rightly so. But every 25 days or so we lose the same number in car crashes, and people just seem to go about their business. I don't know what the solution is, and I don't want any restrictions on my driving, but it seems like someone could make some money coming up with something that could cut down on the number of traffic deaths.

Ball of Paint
I heard about this giant ball of paint a couple of days ago and I had trouble visualizing what that could mean. So if you were wondering, here is the picture and story:
Like Michelangelo and his Sistine chapel ceiling in Rome, fellow artist Michael Carmichael has been working on his masterpiece in Alexandria, Ind., for years.

The house painter returns from work each day to his studio to paint a puzzling spheroid -- over and over.

It started out with Carmichael's baseball. Then, 27 years later, it is covered with thousands of coats of paint.

It's a lot of dedication, as CBS News Sunday Morning's Bill Geist found out. And it's paid off in the world's largest ball of paint. It's probably hitting close to 1,300 pounds.
Needless to say, I am impressed: 18,000 coats of paint over 27 years that means about 2 coats a day. You don't see people with that kind of commitment and dedication all that often. What an amazing achievement!

Grade Inflation Again
So Princeton is deciding to ration the number of A's that they give.
PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) Princeton University faculty has approved a plan to combat rising grades by limiting the number of A's it awards to undergraduates.

The faculty on Monday voted 156 to 84 to implement the plan. Princeton is the first college or university to formally buck a nationwide trend of grade inflation by rationing A's, said Dean of the College Nancy Weiss Malkiel, who authored the plan.

Under the guidelines, which go into effect in the fall for Princeton's 4,600 undergraduates, faculty are expected to restrict the number of A's to 35 percent in undergraduate courses; for junior and senior independent work, the percentage receiving A's will be capped at 55 percent.
The 35% number sounds pretty fair, but 55% sounds kind of silly. I know if you get into an Ivy league school you are probably pretty smart (and your parents are probably pretty stupid for paying that kind of tuition) so they most likely should get more A's. But if 55% of the class gets them, what is the point? I thought a C meant "average".

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Virginia Inspection
Virginia is one of those states where you have to get your car inspected annually, which is kind of a weird concept to me coming from Illinois. Its only $15 bucks; its just more of a hassle that usually requires some kind of logistical coordination between the two of us to get done. The inspection stickers on both of our cars expired in January, and I kept meaning to go up until a couple of weeks ago. Then, I thought I might just gamble and see if I could make it until we moved in July.

Well, my wife lost that one, and got a ticket yesterday. They usually don't just pull you over for that, so it must be the whole end-of-the-month thing. Since this is one of those jobs that is technically mine, (anything related to her car is pretty much my responsibility: oil changes, repairs, etc.), I guess I'm getting it done.

Why Are People Still Tanning?
I heard about this story on the way to work, about a California law-maker who wants to ban teens from using tanning salons, unless it is for a medical reason.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Assemblyman Joe Nation is wary of the dark. And the bronze. And even that reddish pink glow.

The Marin County lawmaker, who has pale skin and knows first-hand the dangers of skin cancer, wants to take away every California teenager's freedom to get a wicked indoor tan.

He has introduced legislation banning anyone under 18 from using a tanning machine with ultraviolet rays, except under doctor's orders. No more after-school roasting or base-coating before spring break.

"We don't say it's OK for a parent to give their child a cigarette at age 15, because there is no good that can come from that," said Nation. "We also know there is no good that can come from a tanning salon."
Now I agree with the assemblyman on tanning, but I am always get a little wary when people start talking about banning this or that, so I wouldn't support this. But why are people tanning in California? Can't you just go outside? It's free. And secondly, why are people still tanning? Yeah, I know the teens don't know any better, and think they will always have perfect skin, but I see grown ups walking out of these places even now.

I went to one of these places once (OK, twice) back in 1990, but it was for "medical reasons". The reason being, I would have felt bad if I went back to school after Christmas break and wasn't tan, after telling everybody I had been in Florida. But I felt ridiculous in there, and that was before we were absolutely certain that they were bad for you.

Monday, April 26, 2004

New Website for John Kerry
This is hilarious, and I imagine it is how a lot of people feel: www.johnkerryisadouchebagbutimvotingforhimanyway.com

Color Quiz
Found via Seethruskin. This sounds right to me; Maybe not quite as sunny, but definitely the part about wasting my time on stuff that seems futile:

you are lightcyan
#E0FFFF

Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well.

Your saturation level is very low - you have better things to do than jump headfirst into every little project. You make sure your actions are going to really accomplish something before you start because you hate wasting energy making everyone else think you're working.

Your outlook on life is very bright. You are sunny and optimistic about life and others find it very encouraging, but remember to tone it down if you sense irritation.
the spacefem.com html color quiz

More on Tillman
Here is a nice article written back in 1997 about Pat Tillman and a follow-up from the author here. Makes me think about the cliche that those who burn twice as bright only burn half as long.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Point Break
Point Break was on FX Friday night, and I had to watch it. Point Break is one of those movies that I have seen maybe 15-20 times and for some reason, I can still watch the entire movie. You know the story: Federal Agent Johnny Utah goes undercover and befriends a group of surfers to help him find the ex-presidents, who are a group of bankrobbers, only to realize that his friends, led by Patrick Swayze as Bodhi, are in fact, the ex-presidents.

I always liked that LA surfer lifestyle. I feel like those are my people, even though I don't surf, and really have no intention of ever entering the ocean again. Also, this movie has cameos by the RHCP's Anthony Kiedis, and great acting by Keanu Reeves. For example: "I...am an FBI...agent." or "You gotta go down. People trusted you and then they died!" When he said those lines, I actually believed that Keanu was an FBI agent, and that he truly believed that Bodhi had to go down. No really, I did. Anyway, this movie is up there with Casablanca in my book.

Sopranos
Who isn't hoping that Tony and Carmela get back together? It just ain't right this way.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Pat Tillman
I feel pretty bad about this. I really liked him and admired him for giving up his football career to do something he believed in. There aren't that many people out there like him.

Power Washing
Decided to take the day off since I have a lot home projects to take care of, to get this place ready to sell. I rented a power washer to clean the deck, and after 2 hours, now it looks like I have a new one. Power washers are pretty sweet, and the work, oddly, is very fulfilling. One you start power washing stuff around the house, its pretty hard to stop.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Customer Facing Employees
Here is an article about Conseco hiring back some of its call center employees after outsourcing the jobs to India. Here is a nice quote by some guy that I think is obvious, but I guess it took a while for that schmuck Gary Wendt (not Norm, that's George Wendt, but the guy who used to run GE Capital and his wife took him for a bunch of cash) to figure it out:
"Call centers may not generate money directly. But they add revenue in that most customers' only direct interaction with the company is through their employees, who effectively become the face of the company," said Butler, who wrote a book on call-center management published earlier this month. "When customers call an American company, but the voice on the other end of the phone clearly is not, the customer wonders why those jobs are overseas. If the service level turns out to be dissatisfactory as well, that may not be the best message to send."
I'm not against outsourcing or offshoring, but it never seemed like a good idea to me to send customer facing jobs away.

"Working" at Home
I got a couple of guys coming out to the house today to fix some tiles and clean the carpet, so I will be "working" from home today. Our house is going on the market some time next week, so the next few days are going to be spend doing all kinds of touch up work inside like repainting some walls and recaulking some of the baseboards and moldings, as well as getting rid of the general clutter that we have. I might actually call in sick tomorrow and get a pressure washer and clean and reseal the deck. So my life is pretty exciting now.

Oh, by the way, we had another softball game last night which we actually won. I was 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored, and had to run over the catcher on the last one because he was blocking the plate. (sorry, guy) I'm still not too happy with the way I am hitting the ball; everything seems to go to center or right-center and I am trying to pull the ball.

It is absolutely ridiculous how sore I can get nowadays from doing something as trivial as running the bases. But I guess those muscles just don't get used that often.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Share Your Experiences?
This has got to be a scam. I get this email today from my spam filled umich.edu address and it says this:
This is not commercial email.

Someone who knows you has just begun the process of sharing experiences and opinions about you in our online community.

If this email message was delivered to your spam or bulk email folder please notify your ISP or spam filtering company regarding this mistake on their part.

To view all of the postings about you at our website use this link...
So needless to say this captured my interest. So I go out to their website and investigate and, sure enough, people are looking for information about me, and people who know me "very well" "socially" are giving it up. Although to contact these people and find out what the are saying, you will need to upgrade to a Platinum membership, only $39.95.

OK, I get it, a profit scheme...

Spring=Snot
Now that spring has pretty much sprung around here, that means it's time for my nose to start running like a faucet. Something in the pollen I guess keeps it going for about a month and half. I used to take Allegra which worked really well at drying things up, but last year my health plan dropped it because Claritin went over the counter. All non-drowsy anti-histamines were dropped when that happened. Claritin doesn't quite work as well on me, and I don't feel like paying $200 for a month's supply of Allegra, so I guess I'll just suck it up for the next month or so. (get it?)

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Stop Hate!
Oh no! The Arabs really hate us. Let's stop whatever it is we're doing and just do what they want.
PARIS (Reuters) - Arabs in the Middle East hate the United States more than ever following the invasion of Iraq and Israel's assassination of two Hamas leaders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said in comments published Tuesday.

Mubarak, who visited the United States last week, told French newspaper Le Monde that Washington's actions had caused despair, frustration and a sense of injustice in the Arab world.

"Today there is hatred of the Americans like never before in the region," he said in an interview given during a stay in France, where he met President Jacques Chirac Monday.
I think if we went out and got a card that says "I'm Sorry" and then everybody signed it, that would help to make up for whatever it is that got them so angry.

Mid-Calorie Colas
Coke and Pepsi both recently announced that they will be introducing mid-calorie versions of their brand:
ATLANTA (AP) - Coke is launching a mid-calorie cola that promises half the sugar, carbohydrates and calories of its regular version.

The Atlanta-based company said Monday that Coca-Cola C2 will debut first in Japan and then the United States this summer.

The company has been researching the idea for a year.

There will be subtle packaging differences to distinguish between the new drink and the company's flagship brand.

In January, PepsiCo Inc. said it, too, was looking at the idea of selling a mid-calorie cola. At the time, spokesman Dave DeCecco said the Purchase, N.Y.-based company had applied for a patent for Pepsi LS, which some have speculated stands for low sugar. The company later named its mid-calorie cola Pepsi Edge and said it would debut in the United States this summer, roughly the same time as Coke's version, DeCecco said Monday.
I am interested in seeing how well these will do. I made the switch to Diet Coke probably when I was about 27 or 28, which I think for many men is the age where you notice that your metabolism has slowed down. So for me that saved like 2 Cokes a day or 400 calories. But now that I put down about 3 or 4 Diet Cokes a day, I have this strange feeling that aspartame is doing something to me that isn't quite right, so I'd be willing to give this a try.

I'm not sure that the midpoint on calories is where you want to be for this, but maybe it will work. I think ideally they would produce something with the calories of Gatorade--50 or so per 12 oz.--but that didn't have that aspartame kick that Diet Coke has.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Bad Songs
I agree wholeheartedly with the top choice from Blender Magazine's list of "The 50 Worst Songs Ever," We Built This City by Starship. That song sucked from the moment it was first played and it only got worse as they played it over and over in 1985. Here top ten worst:
1. We Built This City, Starship 1985
2. Achy Breaky Heart, Billy Ray Cyrus 1992
3. Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung 1986
4. Rollin', Limpbizkit 2000
5. Ice Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice 1990
6. The Heart of Rock & Roll, Huey Lewis & The News 1984
7. Don't Worry, Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin 1988
8. Party All the Time, Eddie Murphy 1985
9. American Life, Madonna 2003
10. Ebony and Ivory, Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder 1982
I'd probably argue with a couple of these, but they all pretty much suck. Its sad to see what the 70s and 80s did a pretty decent band like Jefferson Airplane.

8 a.m. Classes
Duke University has decided to eliminate the dreaded 8 a.m. classes. That, along with some additional coddling should prepare them for the real world:
DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University is eliminating 8 a.m. classes and trying to come up with other ways help its sleep-deprived students, who too often are struggling to survive on a mix of caffeine, adrenaline and ambition.

The school also is considering new orientation programs this fall that would help freshmen understand the importance of sleep.

"Generally, the people I know, we don't see sleep as that important compared to what school and the curriculum have to offer," said Marcel Yang, a Duke freshman from Chapel Hill.

Lack of sleep among college students is an old problem that appears to be getting worse, according to some national surveys.

College students sleep an average of six to seven hours a night, down from seven to seven and a half in the 1980s. Last month, the University of Michigan held a national conference on sleep, stress, depression and college students. Sleep deprivation can hurt academic performance and increase stress.

James Clack, Duke's director of counseling and psychological services, said the latest research shows that college-age people should be getting nine hours of sleep a night.
Oh please, cry me a river. I am not so sure that this is a good way to prepare the kids for the real world, where at least in this industry, the people who roll in around 8 a.m are usually the slackers. I know Duke is a good school and all, but if you aren't getting at least 10 hours of sleep a day in college, then you really haven't learned anything.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

New Advancements in Snack Chips
For people like me who have thought, "I wish Doritos weren't so hard to eat, then I could eat more." Frito-Lay has just introduced Rollitos, which is essentially a slightly smaller Dorito, rolled up so that you can fit more of them into your head. Just what America needs!

Meet the Press
John Kerry has got to be using some kind of sunless tanning product; either that or he is turning orange. I don't know about the botox, but he really does look different than the last time I saw him on Meet the Press a year or so ago.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Mustaches for Charity
This is pretty funny. Some UVa students are growing mustaches to raise money for the Make-a-Wish foundation. Here is a story about it in the Cavalier Daily.

One thing I have noticed is that if you are a male born before, say 1960, you might not get the joke here. I don't know why things changed, but the only acceptable facial hair nowadays is a goatee, at least within my peer group. Unless you are Magnum, PI.

Apprentice Finale
The final Apprentice episode was last night and I feel pretty good about the outcome because the Chicagoan Bill Rancic won. As I mentioned before, I was impressed by him early on, specifically during the Planet Hollywood episode when he made the team think about what foods had the highest profit margins.

Ultimately, Omarosa ended up bringing Kwame down. He seems like a good guy, but why would you want to leave your job at Goldman Sach's to go and work for Trump? I suppose those jobs aren't that great from a "quality of life" perspective, since a lot of those New York investment bankers work until 10PM or later, which to me is no kind of life.

Trump gave the winner the option to choose between two jobs in his company, and I'm not sure that Bill's background is the best fit for the one that he ultimately chose: overseeing a 90-story building project in Chicago. It seems like someone with a little bit of civil engineering in their background might be needed for that. But, I suppose Trump was just a Wharton grad when he got in the business, so you can probably learn it on the job.

So what is NBC going to do now on Thursday nights with no Apprentice and soon, no Friends?

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Camel Spiders
Could this really be true? It is still listed as undetermined on Snopes.

When I first moved to DC, I lived in the basement of a house in Cleveland Park and in the fall months, almost every day I would find and kill a jumping spider. I called them African Jumping Spiders of Death, or African JSODs for short. But they were these frightening, nasty things that would come right at you when you tried to kill them. They could jump like 5 feet, so if you missed them the first time, you were in trouble. I had trouble sleeping after one landed on my forehead in the middle of the night. So I kinda got a problem with big spiders.

Kerry Meets a Former Supporter
I heard about this on the radio at lunch today on Rush Limbaugh. John Kerry had a run in with a heckler, or more accurately a former comrade, Walter Daum. I sort of feel sorry for Kerry with this, but I guess you reap what you sow.
In a town-hall-style meeting...Walter Daum, questioned him on Iraq.

"You said, `Stay the course,' but what the U.S. is doing is bombing hospitals, bombing mosques, killing hundreds of civilians," Mr. Daum, 64, said. "Is that the criminal course you want to stay? It's an imperialist country fighting an imperialist war. At one time you opposed an imperialist war. I'm old enough to have done that myself. People hate George Bush. But by the end of your presidency, people will hate you for the same thing."

As several people in the audience hooted in support, Mr. Kerry answered: "I have consistently been critical of how we got where we are. But we are where we are, sir, and it would be unwise beyond belief for the United States of America to leave a failed Iraq in its wake. What we need to do is help transition to stability, that helps recognize people's rights. I'm sure you want to recognize people's rights."

"I want the Americans out!" Mr. Daum shouted.

"Yes, and I want the Americans out —— " Mr. Kerry started.

"No you don't, you say, `Stay the course'!" Mr. Daum shouted again.

"Stay the course of leaving a stable Iraq," Mr. Kerry said, finally winning a round of applause.
I agree with John Kerry on this, and this guy was pretty obviously a kook, but its kinda funny to hear Kerry defend himself from the left.

Turbo Tax
Turbo Tax for the web sucks. I have been using it for 4 years now and it really hasn't improved one bit. It is still the same unfriendly user interface, the support is non-existent or expensive and something always gets screwed up.

This year I e-filed and waited until Sunday night, only to find on Tuesday that it was rejected because some information from TurboTax (my previous AGI) in the electronic signature didn't match what was reported to the IRS, so I had to try again. Of course since today is the deadline, when I check my e-file status it says "please wait 24-48 and check back". So of course, I'm like, "well I don't have 24-48 hours". Luckily buried somewhere deep on the support page, it says that as long as you have submitted them by 4/15, if they are subsequently rejected, you can still send them in by mail until 4/20. Still, that info should have been displayed prominently.

I suppose this would have gone better had I not procrastinated and waited until the last minute.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Survivor
I read here about that poor little girl who survived ten days after her Mom crashed the car and went over an enbankment. This story was linked to on Yahoo and when that happens, I like to read through the message boards to get a feel for what other people are thinking about the story.

The message boards at Yahoo are pretty funny at times, but many of the people who post there are from the lowest of our species. But on this story they are truly evil.

Presidential Performance
I watched the presidential press conference last night and I thought Bush did a pretty good job, a much better performance than the state of the union. The speech he gave at the beginning was very well done and he had the right tone for the occasion.

One problem that I have with Bush is that he is behind the scenes too much, and I think this reflects poorly on his leadership. He should have given this speech last week, or even earlier when everything seemed like it was spinning out of control. He needs to get in front of things and not let the press or the Kerry campaign frame them for him. If Bush loses in November, it is entirely his own doing.

The Q&A with reporters is a different thing, and I hate when politicians don't answer the questions and in this case, Bush was pretty quick to change the subject. I understand that this is a song and dance that the press and all politicians play, but I do find it annoying. The press seemed determined to have Bush give the Kerry folks some good fodder for their campaign, by trying to get Bush to admit to mistakes, or apologize to the 9/11 families, but he wasn't providing them with anything.

But all in all, I feel a little bit better about our President and the way things are going.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Abercrombie & Fitch
I go over to the mall about twice a week for lunch just to get a change of scenery, so I end up visiting the J.Crew, Eddie Bauer, Gap, and Abercrombie & Fitch pretty regularly. I rarely buy anything, but I just like to walk around and see what's new.

Today, I decided that Abercrombie and I are moving in different directions. I have know this for a few years now: that I am no longer in their target demographic. Back when I was the target, in the salad days of the early to mid-90s when the place was a maze of flannel and perpendicular lines, there was always something there that I wanted. More recently, I have always liked their T-shirts because of the quality, and their boxers are the only ones I wear.

But today, I went in and the music was too loud. The girls behind the counter looked at me funny. But for an occasional T-shirt and the boxers, there was nothing that I could leave the house in, without feeling silly. I feel like they're the one who has changed, but I guess it's me too.

Apprentice Professionals
I see the Apprentice girls are doing there best to keep their 15 minutes alive. Here is a picture of the Kristi, Ereka, Amy and Katrina looking like another kind of "professional".

Monday, April 12, 2004

Cubs vs. Pirates 4/21/91
I caught the last part of this game on ESPN Classic, which of course the Cubs lost 13-12. This was back when Barry Bonds--who just tied Willie Mays for home runs--was still a Pirate. He doesn't even look like the same person. Compare this guy and this guy. I suppose it's possible that he has just been working out extra hard at the gym.

Risk Taker
Wow, this took guts...or something.
LAS VEGAS, Nevada (Reuters) -- A British man who sold all his possessions, including his clothes, stood in a rented tuxedo on Sunday surrounded by family and friends and bet everything on a single spin of the roulette wheel.

He won't go home empty handed.

Ashley Revell, a 32-year-old Londoner, sold all his possessions in March, took $135,300 to the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, did some low stakes gambling and then placed everything he had left on "Red."

The wheel was spun, a crowd of supporters including his Mum and Dad from London went wild, the ball bobbled over the slots and landed on Red '7' -- and Revell walked away with $270,600.
I'm pretty much not a risk taker, so the only scenario under which I would have done something like this would have involved some kind of head trauma.

Funny how he is being hailed as a "winner" because a roulette ball just happened to end up on red. One tiny fractional move of that ball, and this guy would be a complete "what were you thinking" loser. But, that's how things work, I guess.

Declassified Memo
Yeah, I don't know but, if from this you all of a sudden decide to start tightening up security at airports, and making it difficult for people to travel, color me unconvinced. I have to admit that I am a little less than impressed by the amount of detail that makes it to the top, but I guess that is why it is called a "brief". Maybe Batman or Sherlock Holmes could have figured this out, but I doubt that any of the Clinton crew would have been able to string that together.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Huh?
Uh, why?
SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Federal agents have seized urine samples and doping test results for several Major League Baseball players and are expected to re-test them for tetrahydrogestrinone (THG).

San Francisco slugger and single-season home run king Barry Bonds, whose 659 homers are one shy of matching Willie Mays for third on the all-time list, was among those whose samples was confiscated, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The samples were given last year during pre-season training camps, seven months before the existance of THG was revealed, as part of a voluntary program that led to first-ever mandatory steroid tests for major leaguers this season.

Internal Revenue Service agents with search warrants took fewer than 15 samples from Quest Diagnostics laboratory on Thursday in Las Vegas, company spokesman Gary Samuels told the newspaper.
I think I need to re-read this. When I first read it, I thought it said IRS agents took urine samples of basesball players. That couldn't be right.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Cool Gizmo
I don't golf that much but I think I definitely want one of these now. The Swing Speed Radar gives you a measure of your club-head speed, and I guess you can also use it to measure bat speed. Apparently, average golfers have club-head speeds of 70-100 mph, and Tiger Woods clocks in at 130 mph. That just makes me want it even more.

Apprentice Update
So it's gonna be Bill or Kwame. This episode was a little different in that now that it was down to four, they didn't have a challenge. Trump brought in a group of his top execs and had them interview all four of the candidates. So we were treated to a few minutes of watching them stumble through interview questions.

Watching that, it was obvious that Amy Henry hadn't really done her homework on the Trump corporation. In one of her interviews, you could see that she kept trying to change the subject. That obviously didn't play well and is one of the reasons that she got fired. Nick was kind of the same way. As they described him, there was just no substance behind his answers. So he got fired too.

It was kind of funny seeing Bill Rancic get asked the "What is one of your weaknesses?", question and he used the old "take a strength and make it look like a weakness" answer. You know, "I'm too much of a perfectionist" or something like that. People see through these instantly, as did Trump's interviewer. The right answer to these, I think, is to take an actual weakness that most people have or can empathize with, and then talk about how you are doing something to compensate for it. I always use the public speaking one, and then can say the steps I took to overcome it. But I may have to change that since I really think I have overcome it.

Now that it is down to Bill and Kwame, the final challenge is to manage an event that is held by the Trump Corporation. Bill got lucky and ended up with a golf tournament, and Kwame got the Jessica Simpson concert at the Taj Mahal. They brought back the 6 most recent losers to be the teams for Bill and Kwame. The deciding factor in this might be that Kwame picked Omarosa to be on his team and she is already f'ing things up.

I suppose I'm rooting for Bill to win, because of the Chicago angle. But both of them seem like good guys, so I'd be happy either way. Like Kelly, I get a kick out of the whole Kwame/Troy friendship. Those guys are like brothers.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Good Grades
Man, did I go to the wrong schools. There is an article here in the New York Times about grade inflation and some of the ivy's and sort-of ivy's.
Aiming to halt widespread grade inflation afflicting Ivy League colleges, Princeton University officials are proposing to limit the number of A's that its professors award.

The goal would be to lower the number of A's to 35 percent of all course grades, from 46 percent now.

Although there has been wide discussion of the easy grading policies at top universities in recent years, most highly selective colleges and universities have continued to give out abundant A's.

A survey by Princeton last year found that A's made up between 44 percent and 55 percent of undergraduate grades at 11 institutions: the eight Ivy League colleges plus Stanford, M.I.T. and the University of Chicago.

"We need to be more discriminating than we have been in the grades we reward," said Nancy Weiss Malkiel, dean of Princeton's undergraduate college, who released the proposal yesterday.

She said, "We believe there should be some correlation between intellectual performance and reward. We want grading to help students evaluate what they have learned, how well they have learned it and where they need to invest additional effort."

If Princeton's faculty approves the proposal later this month, it would be by far the biggest step in recent years by a top university to change the way it evaluates its students.

Harvard University said two years ago that it would reduce the number of students graduating with honors and make slight revisions in its grading system.

But a recent report by the dean of Harvard College, Benedict H. Gross, showed that after a tiny dip in average grades - from 12.67 (on Harvard's 15-point scale) in 1999-2000 to 12.58 in 2001-2002 - grades inched up again to 12.68 last year. (On a 4-point scale, where 4.0 is an A, that would have represented a 3.41 average in 1999-2000, 3.39 two years later, and 3.41 last year.)
Where I went to college, Miami University, Ohio, I think the all-men's average was like a 2.8, so if you had above a 3.0, you were doing fine. The Econ. Department there seemed a little stingy with the As. Some professors only gave one or two, and that usually wasn't me. In business school there was a forced curve for the core classes that limited the top grade, Excellent (they didn't use letter grades at UMBS) to 10%; so to get one of those you needed to forgo a little more sleep than I was willing to.

Grades seem like they are hard to compare across schools anyway because of this, so it is kind of silly that even now for some jobs, the idiots in HR still occasionally ask me what my grades were in college. Whatever.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Kinda like Speak 'N Spell
Remember Speak 'N Spell, that toy from back in the 80s that allowed you to type in some words and then it would speak them for you? Well I ran into this website here that makes something called SitePal, which are little characters that you can put on your website that can talk. Kinda cool, but I need to stop playing with this. I'm running out of stupid things to make her say.

Bad Idea
I saw this yesterday from Drudge about the administration's new focus on porn. Great idea guys. Way to alienate half of your base. Isn't there some other stuff going on that could use the focus? Maybe these guys really aren't very competent.

The article talks about Lam Nguyen, whose works at the Department of Justice and his job is to "sit for hours in a chilly, quiet room devoid of any color but gray and look at pornography". Hmm, interesting. Since my Mom reads this, I'll just leave that one alone.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Bad Laws
Here is a local news item about some kids getting mugged at UVa that helps to illustrate why underage drinking laws are silly:
Authorities are investigating two armed robberies of University of Virginia students on railroad tracks near Rugby Road within minutes of each other - and wondering why both victims waited until the next afternoon to contact police.

The incidents occurred around 12:30 a.m. Friday, and police believe they are related. In both cases, the victim told authorities he encountered a group of men and was threatened with a silver handgun.

Timothy J. Longo, the city’s police chief, expressed frustration that both victims failed to immediately report the incidents, giving authorities no opportunity to quickly arrest the assailants.

“One of the victims said, ‘I didn’t think you’d catch anybody,’” Longo said. “To have something like this happen and not say anything until the next day is aggravating. We could have done an extensive search of those tracks.”

He added that Friday’s incidents illustrate why local residents should not stroll along the tracks. They are poorly lit and lined with brush that provides good cover for anyone looking to set up an ambush, the chief said.

“We talk until we’re blue in the face about how it’s not safe to walk on the tracks,” he said.

In one of the incidents, a 20-year-old man reported that he and a 19-year-old woman, also a UVa student, were stopped on the tracks by three black men and a white man. One of the assailants cocked a gun and pointed it at the man before demanding money, Longo said. The student gave them an undisclosed amount of cash.
So the police are wondering why the students waited until the next afternoon? Lets think about that for a minute and see what we can come up with.

If you were an underage student walking home at 12:30AM on a Thursday night, is there a reason that you might not want to just show up at the police station and get interviewed by a police officer? I've been to college, and I'd say there's probably a pretty good reason to wait until the next day.

Not Cool
This photo has been making the rounds lately, and by now I think most people believe that it has been photoshopped. I hope so. If it is legit, it is certainly inappropriate and that guy should get in trouble. However, since I have a low threshold for humor and a high tolerance for being offended, I thought it was pretty funny, and I can see how a bunch of 18-20 year old Marines would think it was funny. But, yeah, not cool at all.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Ten Years Ago
Kurt Cobain died ten years ago today. Here is a story in the Washington Post about him. I thought this part was kind of funny:
He left behind his music, but if we're being honest, let's admit that he also left us a hellacious mess. Since 1994, every rock band selling bleakness that has reached the upper end of the charts has owed something to Nirvana. It takes an elastic sense of responsibility to blame an artist for his less gifted imitators, but without "Nevermind" there would have been no Creed, no Puddle of Mudd, no Godsmack, no Korn.
What do they say about a butterfly flapping its' wings?

Back in the early 90s, I was a big fan of Nirvana, like most people my age, I suppose. I liked Kurt Cobain, even though he was always seemed kind of pissy. But I didn't care, I had all the records and learned how to play all of the songs on the guitar. But now I can't really listen to them anymore; I have heard them so much that I think they are pretty much played out in my head. I feel sorry for that poor kid of his: Her Dad is gone and her Mom is pretty much gone too.

Aspiring to Greatness
Someday, I hope to be able to say that I achieved something as worthwhile as this:
A group of swimmers has begun an ambitious journey, swimming across Australia in a pool attached to the back of a truck.

The first leg of the swim began in Geraldton in Western Australia.

A 60-strong entourage is making the trek to Sydney in New South Wales in a custom-made pool on the back of a truck.

Local shire president John Sewell has just taken to the pool and is being closely watched from the lifeguard tower.

Swimmers are tethered to the pool and the truck is sticking to a speed limit of 90 kilometres per hour.

City Councillor Chris Gabelish says he is thrilled to see his idea come to fruition.

We could use leaders like Chris Gabelish, who have similar kinds of ideas and vision right here in the good old US of A. The other amazing thing is that they are going 90 kilometres per hour. I'm not sure what that is in actual miles per hour, but I bet it's pretty impressive. Via Dave Barry.

New Baseball Glove
I have a friend down here who plays on a softball team and they are always looking for players, so I told him that I could if they needed me. We had a game last night and I needed to get a new glove, because I guess I lost my old one. I haven't really been in the market for a baseball glove in about 18 years and I was surprised to find that they still cost about what they did back in 1986. I bought this sweet Mizuno glove here, and it was on sale for $40.

Isn't outsourcing great? I get a sweet baseball glove for $40 and some kid in the Philippines has a job. That's win/win in my book.

So we played last night at 8:30PM and lost big, like 23-12. The other team had obviously been practicing. I was a pretty disappointing 1 for 3 with an RBI and run scored. I was swinging for the fences and just don't seem to have the bat speed to get it over the fence, so I kept popping up. In the field, I was error free at second base, which is odd given my history. It was fun.


 
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