Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Baby update

Just a quick post to catch people up on things. Our daughter was originally due on January 6th. But when my wife went in for her last ultrasound, they were saying the baby was on the larger side (who would think?) and she had a huge head, in the 95th percentile (I told my wife "Big head = big brain!"). Based on that information, the doctor had scheduled an induction for the 28th. However, we went in to see the doctor today, and things weren't really making any progress, and the baby didn't seem to be much larger (so no need to rush things along). So, we're going to hold off for now and come back in on January second to see where things are then. No baby until 2007 unless she suddenly changes her mind and makes a quick appearance on her own!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My family's future?

A lot of times after I explain how my wife took something back to one store and drove to get it at another store for the sole purpose of saving 75 cents, people look at me like they just don't understand. So I reference this to help explain:

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Mavs game


We went to our first Mav's game last night with some friends. We took the DART (light rail) in from Plano. Quite convenient, since you don't have to drive downtown and pay to park. Also, to credit Dallas, a couple of times when we got on the train, all the seats were full, and men were practically falling all over themselves to give up their seats to our pregnant wives (the other couple is expecting in February, a month after us). Stay classy Dallas.

The game itself was uneventful, with the Mavs obliterating the Hornets in the first quarter. At the start they were up 21-3. They pretty much coasted after that. Although I have no real love for the Hornets, I was kind of rooting for them a little bit since Bobby Jackson plays for them now, and I always liked him when he played on the Kings (Peja is on the Hornets now too, but he was injured and didn't play at all). How did Bobby repay the love? He got thrown out in the third quarter and looked like he was about to physically tear the ref apart. Anyway, at a random timeout after that, the Mav's mascot, whose stupid name I can't remember, came out for some quick entertainment. He sits on a little skateboard thing and they use a giant slingshot to shoot him at these huge inflatable bowling pins. If he gets a strike both times, Dave and Buster's gives $10 of game cards to every fan in one lucky section. They announce that tonight's section is section 324. Wait a minute...324...THAT'S US! I am way more into the mascot bowling now than the ho-hum game. The mascot guy comes through for us with two strikes, and shortly thereafter the Dave and Buster's people come up to hand out gift cards. We are near the top of the section, so after the girl near us finishes, she still has a bunch left, so I ask her if we can have some more. She is happy to oblige as she just wants to get rid of them, so we now have $60 of Dave and Buster's credits. After any Mav's win, Taco Bueno gives out coupons for free tacos, so we scored those too as we left. Not bad for our $9 cheap-seat tickets. We made money going to the game!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Number 1


I had to post a screenshot of one of my two solo victories at weboggle. Here I am playing under a team name, since I do like to play as a team with some of my coworkers, but as you can see, I am the only one playing (since my score = the team score) and I have the highest overall score. It's been a lot of playing to eke out two victories, and none of the really awesome weboggle players were on there, but someday maybe I can beat them. We do actually have a great team of people that play from work, so we often win when we play as a team. Three in a row is our record, which we've done several times, but we haven't yet been able to get four. Check in shortly after 5 PM central to see us win (though we don't play every day). Sometimes we get a couple people playing around 10:30 as well. It's actually not as easy to rack up high scores in team play as you might think, since it is easy for multiple players to mostly just list the same words. You might have one person score a 100 and another 65, but your total could easily only be 120 due to the number of duplicates. We seem to have a fairly good team strategy going now, with certain people specializing more in looking for very long and odd words, and the fastest typists working on churning out the most common and shorter words.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

random updates

I had a great visit with my grandma, my mother, and my aunt and uncle in Salt Lake City last weekend. My grandma has been having a lot of health problems, so I thought it would be good to get in a visit before I really can't travel as we get closer to having the baby. Although she had been having a lot of problems with mental confusion before I got there (the result of a nasty fall and broken pelvic bone a few weeks ago), and had another fall and mental setback after I left, while I was there her mind was actually fairly clear. I had a great time visiting her. We even watched Lawrence Welk together on Saturday night in her room at the care facility. That normally wouldn't be a highlight for me, but it was a nice reminder of old times. I remember how she and Grandpa used to love watching the Lawrence Welk.

Yesterday, I went to my second class at the hospital in preparation for being a dad. This one was for dads only, and was actually fairly useful in terms of information presented. The first session, that we went to last week as a couple, wasn't bad, but I felt 95% of it I could have gotten from just reading one of the pamphlets they gave us. Anyway, I do feel a little better prepared for the actual birth experience. I do find that since I've been so busy, I get far more irritable if people don't present information to me as quickly as possible. I don't want people wasting my time. The last speaker last night was focused on child development stuff, and I was thinking how I liked how fast she was talking and presenting stuff. The head lady then immediately interrupted to tell her she was talking way too fast and needed to slow down. Great. This same lady brought the hammer down on TV watching with your kids. Basically said it was terrible for them. Shocking.

I saw a funny shirt at work yesterday. In the spirit of the "Keep Austin Weird" campaign, this shirt said "Keep Dallas Pretentious". I think you can only really appreciate that after living here. I found a link to the website where these are sold, but it was down. So, if they ever get it working again, maybe I'll throw it back in here. But probably not. Let's face it, I'm not spending time to update new material on here, much less going back to clean up old stuff.

I was able to see the Kings on ESPN last night. I stayed up a little late and they rewarded me by beating Detroit.

**Update
Miracle of miracles, I have returned and put in the link to the t-shirt referenced above.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

GMAT tips

Well as of last Saturday, I am officially done with the GMAT, and I did quite well, scoring in the 99th percentile.

Here is my advice on GMAT preparation.
1) There's really no value to buying an expensive new book to practice out of. I got more out of the two books I bought at a used book store (I'll add the titles into the post once I have the books with me) for a total of $15 than the one terrible new book that I bought for more than $30. Of course, consulting Amazon.com to see which books other people like also makes a lot of sense.

2) You should immediately download the free GMAT test prep software from mba.com. Make sure you understand all the math in the math review section, but do not yet take the two practice tests. You don't want to waste your freebies!

3) Time yourself as you work through your practice problems from the very beginning. Pacing ended up being most of my difficulty on the quantitative section, but I was completely unaware of it until I took timed practice tests. Then I had to scramble to catch up. This was very different from my experience taking the GRE in 1998 right after I finished college, where I don't remember having to think twice to bust through math problems in no time. Not only has the intervening 8 years meant that I had dropped off in some math skills that used to be second nature, but I realized that the corporate engineering world basically teaches you a different way to think as well. In conversations with another co-worker here who had the same experience on the GMAT, we realized that engineering is much more focused on you methodically determining the correct answer, with no real bonus to you to get it done super-fast, so you get rusty at going so quickly. Anyway, my advice from all that is that as you work through practice problems, if you do a set of 15, make sure you can finish those in less than 30 minutes, (same pacing as you would have on the GMAT with 75 minutes for 37 questions) rather than just working through at whatever pace until you finish. Also, the GMAT often has questions that can be solved simply if you identify the trick or can be brute-forced if you don't. If you don't watch the pacing, you might fall into the trap of simply brute-forcing questions all the time, when you really need to be learning the underlying trick. You will NOT have time on the GMAT to brute-force a bunch of questions.

4) There are several free resources to help you as well. Princeton Review has a free computer GMAT that you can take to assess where you are. Keep in mind with any free product, you get what you pay for. I found an error in the Princeton Review test, which they confirmed in e-mail to me and I assume has now been corrected, but you might be exposed to questions I did not see. Peterson's also has a free test (also had some wrong answers, I don't really recommend this test too highly) and 800score.com also has one free quantitative section available online as well. Because I ended up needing help on the pacing so much, I actually purchased the 5 full GMAT tests from 800score.com as well. If you also pursue this route, do be aware that the free quantitative section is the same as one in the 5 full tests that you buy, which is kind of annoying.

5) For an overall plan, I recommend that you study from a book or two at the start (while timing yourself for practice questions), eventually working in some of the free practice tests along the way to check your progress and identify areas where you need more work than others. For me, this quickly showed that I needed to focus on a few key math concepts I wasn't remembering and pacing as I've stated above, and that I could largely ignore further study on the Verbal portion of the GMAT, since I was rocking that section with no problems. I recommend saving the official GMAT test prep practice tests until close to the end when you are almost ready to take the GMAT. These tests are actually old official GMAT tests, so they are most like what you will really take. I don't believe the tests from Princeton and Peterson are actually adaptive, and even the 800score.com tests, which do adapt somewhat, don't do so to the same extent as the actual test itself does. I actually went back through one 800score.com test I had already taken to see how much getting all the answers right changed what questions I saw. I did see a couple of different questions, and some questions were reused but restated so that you had a find a slightly more difficult answer, but they were not that different. Anyway, the official GMAT tests should be pretty good indicators of how you will do on the test, and will definitely identify if there are things you still need to understand. With any practice test, be sure to go back through after you finish and understand all the problems you missed, and also just check through the ones you got right, in case you guessed a right answer without really understanding what you were doing. Obviously this is the only way to identify what areas need further study.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Busy?

Well, I decided that new responsibilities at work, getting ready for the baby (I haven't really done anything...yet. Painting is coming), and studying for the GMAT (pretty much ready) weren't enough for me, so I've decided to try to run an 8 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. My wife is working that day, so I thought it might make sense to try this now. I've never actually run that far before. I cracked off 10K (6.2 mi.) this Saturday, which is the farthest I've gone to date. With that, I'm pretty sure I can make it 8 miles, though I will probably have to walk a couple of times and won't be that fast. My training plan right now is to run several 2-4 mile runs during the week, do a long run each Saturday in the 10k vicinity, and take Sunday off.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Conversations

Rental Car Counter
Already late to a lunch meeting, I'm in a rush to get my rental car after deplaning at SJC. The guy at the Avis counter asks me "Would you prefer a 4-door or 2-door car?" I figure I might be hauling around some folks, so I say, "4-door".
Avis guy:"We don't have any 4-doors. Would you prefer a mini-van or an SUV?"
Me: "SUV. Definitely."
Avis guy: "We don't have any SUV's. Would you like the mini-van?"
Me (silently pondering why he keeps offering me choices that I can't actually have): "I think I'll go back to the 2-door car, thanks."
So, I ended up with one of the new Ford Mustangs, which is actually pretty nice. I got a Mustang as a rental a few years ago, before the redesign, and it was a terrible car. This one is actually fun to drive, though only legless people could sit in the back seat.

Dinner
One of my co-workers notices that the menu states that the Caesar salad has "eggless dressing". Not sure if that is different than normal or what, he asks the server, "What does it mean to have an eggless dressing?" The server replies, "Without eggs". Totally straight-faced, doesn't crack a smile, doesn't say anything else. Even after I start laughing.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Hug it out

Just before I left Roseville on Tuesday, two of my coworkers there had a little spat. I kept telling them that they needed to "hug it out" because I just think that is a hilarious phrase. Two days later I was watching The Office, the funniest show on television, when Michael, the boss, says that exact phrase to his employee Dwight after Dwight tries to take Michael's job, gets discovered, and then breaks down. I'm leading pop culture once again.
We just got back from a whirlwind week in California. We arrived in Sacramento late Wednesday night. I kicked things off on Thursday by getting up early to meet several friends for breakfast before heading off to work. The drive in was a bit of a hike from El Dorado Hills to HP in Roseville, but didn't seem too bad now that I'm so used to driving so far to get anywhere in Texas. I worked Friday and Monday and Tuesday from Roseville as well, and it was great to see my old team, though some days were so busy that I was hard-pressed to fit in an appropriate amount of goofing off. I did manage to hit a brewery on Friday after work with some of the guys. It is right near HP and just serves beer from the back of the brewery only on Thursday and Friday evenings. It has a very small-town feel, as people bring homemade food and whatnot to share. Saturday and Sunday my wife had a baby shower each day. I got out of the first one, and was able to take off for a quick trip up to Tahoe with a couple of buddies. I won't mention the other friend that was supposed to go with us but deserted us to .... play Worlds of Warcraft. The trip was really cool, we really miss in Texas the ability to take off and drive for an hour and be in such a beautiful area with cooler weather. On Sunday I did attend the second baby shower, and had an enjoyable time at that one. Two of my cousins were able to make it from Lodi, and it was great to catch up with them. We visited our old church on Sunday night, and a collection of old-timers turned out to greet us. Holly completely coincidentally happened to be in town at the same time from Colorado. We had a great time hanging out with folks afterward at the legendary In-N-Out. Speaking of restaurants, yes, we did manage to hit all of our favorite places. We had dinner with friends on Friday night at Original Pete's. Monday night saw us at the greatest place on earth, Chicago Fire. Tuesday we even tried a new place (with this friend and his wife, who hosted the first baby shower) in Folsom called My Brother Vinny, which serves generous portions of delicious Italian food. We ate on the balcony and it actually had kind of a European feel. Needless to say we had a coupon. We also enjoyed several home-cooked meals at my in-laws' new house, including Saturday night's steak dinner which we enjoyed with my wife's cousin and his new wife. Between all the eating out, the showers, and connecting with friends and family, we did more in that one week than we normally do in several months in Texas!

Guess where I'm going Monday through Thursday of next week? That's right, back to California. This time to Cupertino for work. No, I couldn't combine the trips, so don't ask!

Monday, September 11, 2006

I remember

I remember being awakened by my roommate pounding on my door shouting something about a plane crashing into a building. I remember thinking, "What can I do about that? I should just go back to sleep," but something in his voice made me think this might be something more than a random accident and I should check it out. I got up in time to see the second plane hit and the towers fall, and it was obvious that it could no longer be an accident.

I remember a trip down to NYC from RPI two years earlier, where my buddy Seth and I walked into the lobby of the WTC and found out that it cost $12 to get to the top as a tourist. That's a lot of money to a grad student, so I said, "This will always be here, let's just see that some other time..." Nope.

I remember how earlier that month, I had worn a t-shirt with a small American flag on it, and a friend commented that nobody wore flags anymore. After thinking about that, we realized we hadn't really seen much patriotic wear or patriotism in general (singing along with the national anthem, etc.) since Desert Storm. That was about to change dramatically.

I remember how a culture whose only heroes came from sporting events suddenly saw real heroes in action on Flight 93 and many parts of Ground Zero. The whole event really demonstrated how trivial most of our everyday lives are. I remember churches being full in the weeks that followed, as people struggled to understand what happened. Was it a momentary blip on our consciousness before we consumed ourselves again with celebrity worship and banality?

I remember thinking that it wouldn't be long before we would be struck again. How hard could it be to strike a school, a mall, or a stadium? Our sense of invincibility shattered. Yet five years later, no major blow.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

blah blah blah

Almost a year ago, we had to replace our washer when it failed. We limped along using our old dryer out of sheer cheapness/stubbornness. Then last week we wandered into Lowe's to look at faucets and decided to see how much the dryer was. It was still $850. We decided we could live with the old dryer for a while longer at that price. One of the workers there saw us looking at the dryer, and told us they had a returned one available at a discount. Sure enough, they had one for $500, the only catch being they had had to swap out a part. For $350 off, we were happy to take it. However, with returned items, they don't deliver the new dryer nor do they haul away your old one. Picking the new one up was easy, but how would we get rid of the old one? Craigslist to the rescue again! I put the add out for a free dryer, and in less than 10 hours I had 17 responses. The dryer was gone the next day.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Trader Joe's to go

My wife has developed quite a system to keep herself stocked with her favorite goods from Trader Joe's grocery store while living in a state that has no TJ locations. Fortunately, virtually all of our family and friends live in close proximity to a TJs, so any time we go to visit them, my wife brings along extra luggage for the specific purpose of bringing back food. Also, when they come out to visit us, my wife requests certain foods from them as well. I would never have suspected it, but according to the Dallas Morning News, my wife is leading a trend.

It looked like a lot of luggage for a weekend trip: Three suitcases and two big boxes. But it was easy carrying them to the airline counter. Most were empty.

I was taking them to New Mexico to fill them up.

Two days later, when I checked in at the Albuquerque airport for the flight home, they were stuffed. I had boxes packed with wine, Thai-spiced peanuts, cans of corn chowder, organic dog biscuits, hand lotion, dried gooseberries and much more. Yes, I know we have grocery stores in Dallas. But we don't have a Trader Joe's.

Monday, August 28, 2006

What is faith?

The spring issue of the RPI alumni magazine featured a balanced story on how students of different faiths integrate that faith into their daily lives at RPI. The story included this statement:
"“The world is telling you that science and faith don'’t go together, that God couldn'’t have done all of that," says Kristen Clark '09, a physics major from Michigan who heads outreach for the Rensselaer Newman Catholic Fellowship. "Part of what is great about RPI is that you can learn that these things go together. It'’s a struggle. Science can't explain everything."
That statement was apparently too much for one RPI graduate, who responded with a letter to the editor in the latest edition of the magazine.
Science Can Explain Everything

I read recently with some dismay your cover story on spiritual faith in the Spring '’06 Alumni/ae Magazine. I think it unfortunate that you chose to feature twice in that article a particular quote by Kristen Clark '09 (both in the third paragraph of the article as well as in a legend to one of the figures).

I am referring to the following sentence: "“Science can'’t explain everything."

I firmly disagree. Science can and will eventually explain everything. The simple fact that science has not yet explained everything does not automatically prove the existence of a creator or the weakness of the scientific method. In choosing to feature that particular point of view in your piece on students and their religious observances, you provide tacit approval to those who would elevate faith over science.

I expected a publication produced by one of the nation'’s leading technological universities to have a more forward thinking point of view. What can I expect in the next issue, a cover story promoting intelligent design?

Number one, lighten up! I'm quite certain that the dominant philosophy at RPI is in agreement with the letter writer, so he hardly needs to get so worked up that an article mentioned, but did not endorse, an alternative idea. Secondly, consider this sentence: "We don't have all the answers now, but eventually ______ will make everything clear." Fill in that blank with God, and apparently you're a crazy Christian (and certainly not "forward thinking"). But put science in the blank, and you are a completely rational person making observations based solely on evidence? I think not. This guy has just as much faith as Kristen Clark does, just in something different.

Craigslist success

Over the past couple of years I have browsed Craigslist classifieds (link is for Dallas, but you can find your city on the right) as a buyer, but this weekend was the first time I used it to sell anything. Ever since we bought our plasma TV, our old 32" TV has just been sitting unplugged taking up space in our bedroom. I had taken pictures of the TV a month or so ago, but never got around to actually posting them. I finally put it on CL Saturday afternoon and by Sunday I had 6 people express interest in it. We sold it Sunday night, and the buyers were willing to pay the full price I had listed it for, $150. I think that was a decent deal, since I saw several comparable TVs listed at $200, though I also saw one at $125. I ended up giving it to them for $140, since they were college students who had driven up from Arlington. My wife, in her pregnancy cleaning frenzy, also threw in an extra bookshelf CD player that she wanted to get rid of. Our bedroom definitely looks nicer without that big hulking TV in it. The thing is so large we really struggled to get it into the buyers' car, but finally succeeded in getting it through the front passenger door with the seat fully reclined. Anyway, the Craigslist experience was definitely a good one: easy to post, free to post, immediate response, very friendly buyers.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kaplan College Guide loves RPI

RPI gets a mention as a new Ivy.

Applications to RPI were up 23 percent in 2005—a reflection of the school's reputation as an educator of scientists and engineers. The class of 2010 is 29 percent female. Students like the school's state-of-the-art facilities, including the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies. RPI also operates a co-op program that lets students work at companies like IBM. Hockey is big on campus; RPI has a Division I team that's won two national championships. Skiing is also popular; the campus is just 45 minutes from the Adirondacks and the Catskills.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Working for the man


I have a lot of stuff to blog about, but have had almost no time. I've picked up some commitments at work while a co-worker is on vacation, and that work has been extremely time-intensive, both at the office and at home, and quite stressful. Expect to hear more from me as I have opportunity.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Gas temperature map

Gasbuddy.com has this new gas temperature map visually depicting how high gas prices are across the country. Not that anything on it will shock you. Yet another way we save money by not being in California.

Brain Builder

Out: Sudoku
In: WEBoggle

Friday, July 28, 2006

How do you want to be remembered when you die?

An unsolved, brutal, multiple-stabbing murder of a real estate agent recently took place in Mckinney, a few miles from our house. When I saw an article on the deceased in Sunday's paper, I thus read it with some interest.

Sarah used to tell her friends that life was worth enjoying. She never needed to be reminded in return.

An expensive Jaguar and Mercedes-Benz sat in her driveway. Fancy clothes came from Saks and Neiman Marcus. Friends joined her on luxurious vacations to California, Colorado and Hawaii.

"Everything she did was to the extreme," said longtime friend Holly. "Everything she did was above and beyond."

After reading that, I started to feel even sadder for the lady. This is how people remember her? For what she had? I joked to my wife that if something happened to me, I didn't want her to list off all my material achievements in the paper. "A Toyota Camry sat in his driveway. Affordable clothes came from Nordstrom Rack and Banana Republic, on clearance. His wife joined him on exotic vacations to Ohio, California and Arkansas. They enjoyed an occasional fancy meal at the Olive Garden." Anyway, I pondered on this some more, as I read the whole article and thought, perhaps if those were the things you spent your life pursuing, that's exactly how you would want to be remembered? I'm hoping I'm wrong on that, because that would be even more tragic.

After Sarah graduated from Berkner High School in Richardson in 1983, she landed a job leasing apartments in North Dallas. Apartments quickly turned into houses as Sarah realized that real estate was a good way to make money.

At 23, Sarah married her first husband, Mort, a longtime love interest. They had a son named Alex. But the marriage broke up after five years. Young Alex and his father, who could not be reached for comment, moved out of state. Sarah would rarely see her son.

"I think there was a lot of pain there," Holly said. "It wasn't a subject that came up often."

Alex, now 15, did not attend his mother's funeral on Thursday, said Sarah's brother, Joe.

I think this part may make this the saddest article ever.

Executive Home

What exactly constitutes an "executive home"? This seems to be the real-estate buzzword du jour here in Dallas, but no one is really sure exactly what it means. I think general agreement is that "over-priced" is at least part of the definition. I'm pretty sure there aren't enough executives here to buy the 50,000 executive homes being advertised.

Monday, July 24, 2006

NOT a Unicorn

I have been informed by some of my ever so sensitive co-workers in Roseville that our most recent ultrasound pic looks like it might be of a unicorn. Let me disabuse any of my readers of that notion, and point out that that is merely its hand up by its face. You can actually make out the individual bones if you click on the picture to see the larger image. Now I wonder if my child will ever eventually read this blog and be curious about who said they looked like a unicorn. Someone might need to get ready for an awkward conversation in five or ten years.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Baby Pic




My wife went into the doctor shortly before our trip to Ohio, and ended up having an ultrasound. Which was a surprise to me, because somehow I had thought she was only having a blood test. I had kind of wanted to be there for the ultrasounds, and indeed my wife informed that she was the only one at the place there without a husband. The doctor viewing the ultrasound proceeded to inform her that he knew the baby's gender and asked if she wanted to know as well. Definitely the kind of thing that I wanted to be there for! Anyway, he proceeded to claim that we are having a girl. However, we were only 13 weeks along at that point, so I was kind of suspicious of the accuracy. Is he the sort of guy who just likes to predict things? Especially when the odds of being randomly correct are 50/50? My wife bumped into her regular doctor while working last week (one of the advantages of being a post-partum nurse is getting to see your doctor a lot), and her doctor confirmed that 13 weeks is awfully early to be trying to ascertain the gender. She told us to definitely not buy anything for the baby based on that. I guess we'll know more at the next ultrasound in a few weeks. We may be setting a new record for most ultrasounds. I joked on the phone the other day that I was going to buy TomKat's ultrasound machine, now that they are done with it, so we can just have a daily record of progress. Anyway, we'll be happy with either gender.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Graceland


On the way back from our trip to Ohio, we visited Graceland. This is never a place I had a big desire to visit, but it actually was fairly interesting. First, we had to get over the price, because $22 seemed pretty steep to me, to see the house of someone I'm not all that into. Fortunately, we got 10% off as AAA members, giving us a whopping total of $4.40 saved! Anyway, the house was delightfully ugly and tacky, which is what made the trip enjoyable. I offer you a few pictures from the vast selection available in our snapfish album. E-mail me if you're dying to see more.

I laugh every time I look at this picture. It just can't get any more redneck thank having a silver punchbowl set on top of a TV in your fancy dining room.

I cry every time I see this one. The interior decorator involved in this should have been charged with a crime.


These last two are from the same room. Note how the hideous green shag carpeting is the same. Unfortunately, in the second one, the carpet is actually on the ceiling.

Regardless, I definitely learned a lot more about Elvis. I was quite surprised to find out that he had his own racquetball court built on the premises. And he had a shooting range there as well. Who knew we had those interests in common? Anyway, to sum up, Graceland is kind of a fun trip back to kitschy 1970's America, and would be a must see if you are an Elvis aficionado.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Discover your strengths


I read the book Now, Discover Your Strengths a couple of years ago with my mentor at work. As part of that, you actually take a test to help reveal your strengths. The results have come up in discussions at work and with friends (I guess a lot of people are reading the book now), so I thought I would post my top five characteristics.

Input People strong in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

Learner People strong in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

Command People strong in the Command theme have presence. They can take control of a situation and make decisions.

Context People strong in the Context theme enjoy thinking about the past. They understand the present by researching its history.

Strategic People strong in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.

The in-depth descriptions line up even more with me. This is one of the few tests I've taken where it wasn't more of a feeling of "That kind of describes me, I guess. Couldn't anybody say they felt that way at least some of the time." Nope, this is right on. As proof, the top two results have to do with learning. No surprise, as I have long said that if I won the lottery, I would just go to school full-time and get a bunch of degrees in a variety of subjects that I enjoy. That would be a lot of fun to me.

Update

My right wrist recently really (secretly I enjoy alliteration) started to hurt with the dreaded signs of Carpal Tunnel syndrome, the nemesis of computer workers everywhere. Since I already use a natural keyboard, my next step was to switch to using my mouse left handed for the past two or three weeks. While this does seem to be helping, I think it makes me more tired at the end of the day, because I am just left hand stupid. It's not a problem for reading e-mail or that kind of thing, but any highlighting or dragging and dropping just becomes a chore.

Public service announcement: I am not a Cystic Fibrosis carrier.

We have had about four days of rain since arriving in Texas in March 2005. This drought has forced McKinney to Level Three Water Restrictions. Essentially this means you can only water your lawn on trash day, and any water bill going over 10,000 gallons a month will be hit with a 25% surcharge. In our house, we've taken it a step or two beyond that, however. For example, we (and here "we" is more correctly used to indicate something my wife is really excited about and I go along with) now use a bucket to collect the water that runs through the shower while you are waiting for it to warm up and use that to water flowers and plants in the front yard. With something satisfying twin goals of cheapness AND environmental friendliness, my wife is an unstoppable force.

Bumper sticker I saw on the way to work a few days ago: God Bless John Wayne

Number of days I helped people move in the last week: 3
Items broken or banged up:0
Injuries to my person: 3 (scraped up hand, bruised shoulder, re-re-sprained my ankle - I actually did the first re-sprain by running into the wall playing racquetball. Similar to how I separated my shoulder in college. Walls are dangerous.)

Nights I got together with friends to watch the Mavs play only to realize there was no game that night:1 - Although I had seen about 400 statements that the game was on Sunday, apparently every time my brain translated that into Saturday. Oh well.

We've made the decision to put granite in our kitchen, to replace the lovely Formica that you've seen featured in several pictures (see here and here) on this blog, as I like to use part of our counter as my display area.

Days between my initially starting this post and actually publishing it online: 14

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Who feels like bursting into song?

Those of us who feel like a lonely voice in the wilderness crying out against grammatical sins can find friendly solace in this list of the 10 Flagrant Grammar Mistakes That Make You Look Stupid. I could not agree more, and they listed one of my top pet peeves at number 1! Here is the complete list from the article.

#1: Loose for lose
No: I always loose the product key.

Yes: I always lose the product key.

#2: It's for its (or god forbid, its')
No: Download the HTA, along with it's readme file.

Yes: Download the HTA, along with its readme file.

No: The laptop is overheating and its making that funny noise again.

Yes: The laptop is overheating and it's making that funny noise again.

#3: They're for their for there
No: The managers are in they're weekly planning meeting.

Yes: The managers are in their weekly planning meeting.

No: The techs have to check there cell phones at the door, and their not happy about it.

Yes: The techs have to check their cell phones at the door, and they're not happy about it.

#4: i.e. for e.g.
No: Use an anti-spyware program (i.e., Ad-Aware).

Yes: Use an anti-spyware program (e.g., Ad-Aware).

Note: The term i.e. means "that is"; e.g. means "for example". And a comma follows both of them.

#5: Effect for affect
No: The outage shouldn't effect any users during work hours.

Yes: The outage shouldn't affect any users during work hours.

Yes: The outage shouldn't have any effect on users.

Yes: We will effect several changes during the downtime.

Note: Impact is not a verb. Purists, at least, beg you to use affect instead:

No: The outage shouldn't impact any users during work hours.

Yes: The outage shouldn't affect any users during work hours.

Yes: The outage should have no impact on users during work hours.

#6: You're for your
No: Remember to defrag you're machine on a regular basis.

Yes: Remember to defrag your machine on a regular basis.

No: Your right about the changes.

Yes: You're right about the changes.

#7: Different than for different from
No: This setup is different than the one at the main office.

Yes: This setup is different from the one at the main office.

Yes: This setup is better than the one at the main office.

#8 Lay for lie
No: I got dizzy and had to lay down.

Yes: I got dizzy and had to lie down.

Yes: Just lay those books over there.

#9: Then for than
No: The accounting department had more problems then we did.

Yes: The accounting department had more problems than we did.

Note: Here's a sub-peeve. When a sentence construction begins with If, you don't need a then. Then is implicit, so it's superfluous and wordy:

No: If you can't get Windows to boot, then you'll need to call Ted.

Yes: If you can't get Windows to boot, you'll need to call Ted.

#10: Could of, would of for could have, would have
No: I could of installed that app by mistake.

Yes: I could have installed that app by mistake.

No: I would of sent you a meeting notice, but you were out of town.

Yes: I would have sent you a meeting notice, but you were out of town.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

NO NO NO NO NO!



This is exactly the kind of cheesy thing we don't need! I left off the name of the church, because I'm sure they are well intentioned so I don't want to smear their good name, but FRANtastik "God Power"??? Come on! This is along the same lines as the t-shirts from a few years ago that twisted brand names into fun Christian slogans. Oh great, a little Internet search has revealed that the t-shirts live on.




The top one, where they've taken the "Budweiser, King of Beers" slogan and turned it into "GodWiser, King of Kings", is the one that really stood out in my memory as an egregious example, but Saviorade is running neck and neck it with now. Augh! I just want to note that this is not a diatribe against Christian t-shirts or fliers in general, but rather ones that are cheesy, uncool knockoffs of pop culture. Maybe I'm overly sensitive on this, but if we really believe in an all-powerful, omniscient, omnipresent God, doesn't it seem almost demeaning to be reducing Him to fitting into a copied advertising slogan? Not to mention saying very little for our creativity as Christians.

While looking for these t-shirts, I actually found an article making a similar point to mine. This not to say I agree with everything in the article, but I think the selection below is stated well.
The problem with these carbon-copied Christian acts is the problem that plagues all Christian versions of "secular" products: they'’re copying something that isn't any good to begin with. A Christian boy band aping the showy banality of 'N Sync is only doing Christianity and Christ a disservice by placing his message in a soulless, superficial context. A shirt that uses Mountain Dew'’s logo to advertise Jesus is, in essence, selling out one of the few people in the history of existence who would never sell out. Perhaps Christian marketers will eventually give it up and start trying to do things differently than the rest of the industry does. Changing the word "Pepsi" to the word "Jesus" doesn'’t count as "in the world, not of the world." Maybe someday instead of parodies or trite slogans, we'’ll see more straightforward Christian T-shirts with nothing but plainly inscribed Bible verses and no colorful fanfare.
I think I'm going to be working the phrase "showy banality" into my everyday usage.

Whoa


Probably not a surprise to most readers of this blog, but I'm going to be a Dad. We had the first ultrasound today. It's hard to make too much out at this point; we're still pretty early here at 9 weeks. I was impressed by the ultrasound lady's ability to identify head and bottom in the pic above. On the other hand, how would we know if she were wrong? Anyway, until now it felt sort of dreamlike that we were having a baby, because there wasn't anything tangible to latch onto, other than a slight bulge in my wife's belly and her needing to sleep 12+ hours a day. Now it feels more real to actually see the pic and especially to hear the heartbeat. There's definitely somebody in there. Wonderful and terrifying at the same time. Being a Dad is a big responsibility, and I'm just a couple of years removed from making random trips to Reno at 3 AM on a Tuesday and keeping myself awake at work the next day via intravenous Mountain Dew. I guess maybe the times won't change so much, only the reason I'm up at such a weird hour. I can only really compare my feelings to when I first left school and started working at HP - excited about the new opportunity and because you know you will learn and grow, but wondering on the inside if you're really up to the task. Only multiply that times one thousand.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

What?

I just saw someone walk out of a stall in the restroom after pooping and NOT WASH HIS HANDS. Straight out the door! Isn't this the one thing left in the world that everyone can agree is wrong? Slowly...losing....all...hope....

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Office

Things I find exist in most offices:

1) The guy who constantly refills his gigantic cup (or more accurately, bucket). The cup never seems to get cleaned either, so it has gradually developed its own brown ecosystem. The owner will often refer to this as "seasoning".

2) What list would be complete without reference to the inappropriate speakerphone user? Not only is using a speakerphone at all a faux pas in the cubicle world, but it is never just for business purposes either, so people end up overhearing all kinds of personal information. Even at my new work, where we have offices that could actually allow you to use a speakerphone privately at low volume, I still have one habitual offender who a) never closes her door, thus obliterating the benefit of having an office, b) has fairly loud conversations, and c) always seems to be discussing a surgery or her kid's grades when I walk by. What is the deal? CLOSE THE DOOR!

3) On a similar subject, the person who has no idea how loud their computer volume is, and naturally loves having it ding to announce every time they receive an e-mail. The whole building can know how important you are!

4) Guys only: The weird urinal user. The guy who is taking a leak at the urinal, but is simultaneously stretching with his hands over his head, or leaning against the wall above the urinal with both hands. That's gross in the first place, because you should touch as few things as possible in a public restroom, particularly right around the toilet, and by no means should you use the metal flusher part above the urinal as something to lean on. Ugh. Furthermore, do your business and get out. What is wrong with people?

5) Things inappropriately used to indicate status at work:
- Number of meetings attended. "Important people like me are required to spend all day on the phone."
- Number of unread e-mails in the inbox. "Normal e-mails don't even rate me reading them."
- Newer/fancier monitor/laptop/equipment in general. Work envy: "I see you're sitting on the latest from Herman Miller and viewing your work on a 22 inch flat panel."
- Old and busted: hours spent at work.
- New hotness: Can you get away with not taking mandatory training courses? This may be an ACTUAL indicator of status. Tread carefully.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Repetition is the key to understanding

This post is dedicated to Mr. Greg Kurtz, my honors English and Literature teacher at Dayton Christian High School. Mr. Kurtz drilled two concepts into our mind in our classes (well, Mr. Kurtz was a great teacher, so I'm sure I remember more than two things from his classes, but these were concepts that he especially emphasized). One was that an author will usually repeatedly state in different ways the main point he wishes to communicate, hence "repetition is the key to understanding". Second was the concept of logical suspension of disbelief. For example, you have to accept that Superman comes from a far-away planet where people are born with superhuman strength and the ability to fly. Once that is established however, things still have to progress logically given that framework. For example, it would not make sense for the citizens of Metropolis to consider Superman a hero if he used his superhuman strength only to fling poop at them at supersonic speed. All of that is just background so I can review a book and a movie that I recently read and watched.

While in California, I finally read the Da Vinci Code. An easy and somewhat interesting read. Brown does a good job of keeping you involved in the different puzzles and wanting to see their solutions. However, I would quibble with the MTV-style chapters. Some were only two pages long! Irritating. Now, let's address how the logical suspension of disbelief applies to this book. By this point, many people have probably been overwhelmed by the amount of chatter discussing how the book is an attack on the church, what the Christian response to it should be, etc., so I'm not covering that at all. Rather, once you realize that the book is complete fiction and only an idiot could think there was anything factual in it that undermines Christianity, you can still have an ok time reading it. That part is the logical suspension of disbelief. However, one character's actions so did NOT ring true for me that it really killed the whole experience. At the start of the book, a French policewoman and a Grail historian are investigating the death of the policewoman's grandfather, who it turns out has quite a few connections to the Grail. She had actually cut off contact with her grandfather ten years earlier, when she walked in on a bizarre sex ritual at her family's vacation cabin wherein her grandfather was having sex with a woman in front of a bunch of masked people. Later in the book, the Grail historian guys explains that this was a PAGAN sex ritual where the masculine was connecting with the feminine and bringing them both closer to God or some other crap like that. Now a normal response to that would be "Yeah, that's exactly what I THOUGHT it was. Creepy!" However, in the book, the policewoman responds by crying, totally accepting the explanation as valid, and expressing remorse that she cut off contact with her grandfather over such a triviality. WHAT? How did the explanation change things at all? What else would she have thought was going on in the first place? Regardless, how does the explanation matter? If she had walked in on her grandfather sacrificing a child to something, and the historian dude later explained that it was ok because it was a PAGAN child sacrifice ritual that allowed them to connect to God better, would that have made it ok?


My wife and I watched Rumor Has It, starring Jennifer Aniston, on Saturday. For a chick flick, this actually had a pseudo-promising premise. Aniston, the lead character, returns to her hometown of Pasadena to discover that her family might have been the basis for the The Graduate. It seems like an interesting story could pop out of that, right? Wrong! The movie becomes a serious trainwreck at the point where the Aniston character meets the man who slept with her grandmother and her mother (so he would be the Dustin Hoffman character in the Graduate) and who she suspects might be her real father since her mother had a brief fling with him a week or two before her wedding to the man Aniston grew up with as father and a baby (Aniston) popped out shortly before nine months after their wedding. It turns out he is sterile so he cannot be her father (Side point, she couldn't just ask her mother because she died when Aniston's character was only nine years old). Ok, now she knows and can move on right? Or, option b) She could have sex with him! Guess which one happens in the movie? Yikes, this is a disturbing trifecta. 1) Creepy older dude 2) Who slept with your mother and your grandmother 3) WHO YOU JUST THOUGHT COULD BE YOUR FATHER. There is no way that would ever make sense. I still feel dirty just having watched it. The next day after watching this, the movie would come to mind and I would involuntarily shudder. Even aside from that, the plot was terrible. My recommendation: run fleeing from the room if anyone even mentions this movie in the future.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The end of 'more' - Los Angeles Times

The current frenzy over Wal-Mart is instructive. Its size is unprecedented. Yet for all its billions in profit, it still amounts to less than four cents on the dollar. Raise the cost of employing people, and the company will eliminate jobs. Its business model only works on low prices, which require low labor costs. Whether that is fair or not is a debate for another time. It is instructive, however, that consumers continue to enjoy these low prices and that thousands of applicants continue to apply for those jobs.


Try to guess who wrote such a reasonable-sounding sentence before you follow this link. Respond in the comments if you would have correctly guessed that in your first 1 million tries.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ugh


This stuff tastes as good as it looks, which would be like the vomit in The Exorcist.

Did you miss me?

It's been a while since I've posted. I can't really say why, it isn't that I've been any busier than normal, or that I've had a computer shutdown. I mostly just haven't felt like it, or an idea will pop into my head to blog about, and then shortly I will think "That isn't really worth blogging about." Too high standards? Or just sheer laziness? Probably the latter. Regardless, I'll catch you up on what's been going on here.


We got back from a week in California late Tuesday night. We had a great time in Sacramento, but we were pretty spent by the time we left, as we tried to max out seeing as many people as we could during our visit. We arrived in Sacramento very late the previous Wednesday night. I guess by the time we made it out to where we were staying it was actually Thursday morning - 1 AM CA time, felt like 3 AM to us on Texas time. We got in late, so the pickings at the rental car place were pretty slim and we ended up with a PT Cruiser with a sunroof. Kind of different so it was fun for a while, but in the end I didn't really like it. The good thing is that I Pricelined it and got it for $16 a day. Not my finest hour in rental car history (that would be $13/day) but pretty close. I'm a huge fan of using Priceline for renting cars - all of the price savings that you get on airplane tickets without the drawback of not being able to specify a time. Moving on from my Priceline ad, I had an 8 AM meeting the next morning, which I just dialed into from our hosts' house, as there was no way I was getting up early enough to drive into HP Roseville from Folsom by 8 after our late night the night before. When I did make it in, I was actually able to just work in my old cube, as a contractor that had worked there in the meantime had quit to take a job with Tivo. It no longer felt the same though. For one, I had to clean up the huge amount of dust that had collected there. But it was a lot of fun to hang out with my old team. Naturally there were quite a few inflatable beach ball attacks. Par for the course in California. I don't really get that in Texas. I think offices tend to discourage that sort of activity, whereas cubicles are quite conducive to it. We went to the legendary Chicago Fire Pizza two nights in a row with different groups of friends. A great restaurant, but it does lose a little something to go to the same place two consecutive nights. We also basically stuffed our faces every day with all the different people we met up with for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so much so that I could not even fit in hitting In N Out even once. I believe I gained back about three pounds from my all my eating. I did manage to go jogging once, but I had hoped to do more. My performance has been no better in the week since we got back, due to the effects of jet lag, me getting mildly sick, and time devoted to the NBA playoffs. We did manage to see a ton of our old friends and got to go to our old church. We miss both of those things a lot, as I feel like one thing we lack in Texas is a lot of Christian friends our age. We also hung out with my wife's family for Mother's Day and couple of other meals. In fact, her grandmother ended up having emergency gallbladder surgery while we were there. Never a good thing to have to have surgery, but since she did have to have it, I was glad that my wife could be there for it. There's my quick vacation brain dump.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Science experiment?


My wife recently took an onion we left in our pantry for too long and started growing it in a glass on our counter. I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps she's really missing middle school science fairs? Regardless, I knew you'd want to see it. We have no plans at this time to become self-sufficient in terms of onions.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Is it me?

I'm usually not much for online tests/memes, but I took one a couple of weeks ago that I thought was interesting. Fairly accurate too, though I have some minor quibbles with it. You can mouse over the picture to see the traits it has for me. I think it over-rated my extroversion a little bit and gave me lower style points because I said that what I wear doesn't define me at all. But I am an engineer, so maybe "slightly low attention to style" (the gray box at the bottom) is all we can hope for. One interesting thing is that I can actually invite other people to answer the same questions about me and see if their perception matches mine. Go here if you would like to do that. I'm actually fairly interested in that, so please do so if you have any inclination.
**Update: it looks like you have to do your own assessment of yourself before you can assess me, so this may not be such a huge win. Oh well.

Final PBG results

I have the money in hand from the contest! At left you can see what I look like now that it is over. Ok, maybe not. As you know, I hit the initial weigh-in at 245. We then had to stay under target (253 for me) for the next month, including potentially random checks. We actually only had one random weigh-in, and then the final one at the end of the month. I weighed 246 at both of those, so I managed to stay pretty much the same. I've started playing a ton of racquetball at work, and am playing basketball once a week as well. I'm as active as I've been since college, and it's definitely fun, although one guy at work owns me at racquetball, so I am now dedicating myself to beating him. I have started running more, too. I busted out a 10k (6.2 miles for those of you who aren't metric savvy) on the treadmill two weekends ago. It is amazing how much easier it is to run when you weigh less. I even did the 10k in 58 minutes, which is no incredibly speedy time or anything, but is going pretty quickly for me. I'm also occasionally trying to run faster 1 mile times. So far I've gotten down to 1 mile in 7:30, and I'd like to push that down under 7 minutes. My other big aim is to do a 5k in under 25 minutes (basically 8 minute miles for 3.1 miles). Right now I can do in the 27 minute range, at a little bit faster than a 9 minute mile pace. I figure with a little bit more training I should be able to keep up an 8 minute mile pace for an entire 5k.

On a related note, I saw a doctor for the first time since we moved here, just to get a physical. He pronounced me "very fit" and was impressed with my resting heart rate being under 60.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Taxes

According to this article, America has one of the lowest overall tax burdens in the world. I'm not sure about how these numbers are figured out though, as I really don't see how they calculate that being married and having two kids drops you from 29% to 11% overall tax burden.

Now, check how your state ranks in per-capita taxation. We apparently made a killing here by moving from California, ranked #9 with $2,724.31 paid by the average person each year, to Texas, ranked 49th with $1,434.16 in average taxation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Brownouts are stalking us!

I thought moving out of California would mean no more brownouts. Wrong! Apparently hitting 101 degrees in the middle of April can wreak havoc with a state's power grid. April is normally a month where they schedule to have some generators offline for maintenance, since the weather should be quite temperate, so this hellish heat just overwhelmed capacity. The previous all-time high for April in Texas was in the mid-nineties and was set in 1925. I'm really glad I could be here to see that record obliterated.

The Good News: 1) It didn't really seem THAT hot to me - maybe I'm getting used to Texas? Maybe being thinner helps? 2) The high temp is supposed to be in the seventies starting tomorrow. Strange weather. The Bad News: If it's getting this hot in April, what will August be like?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Rabbit is back!

As someone who learned to drive on a 1981 diesel VW Rabbit, similar to the one at left with the exception that ours was white, I am proud to announce that VW is bringing back the Rabbit! For those who thought my old Corolla didn't have much power, that was nothing compared to the lack of prowess the Rabbit, named Wally by my sister, displayed at going up hills, etc. But for its time, it got incredible gas mileage, 40-something mpg, and it kept going forever. I think ours finally hit the graveyard at 240,000 miles. VWs today are a shadow of their former greatness.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Little Rock trip

We spent Friday through Monday in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had planned on the trip being a surprise to my wife, which it was until just as we were starting out when a friend called to see if I wanted to go to lunch and I said, "I can't, we're on our way to Little Rock", not thinking about my wife being right next to me. Either way, it would only have been another hour or so before it would have been obvious where we were headed. Since she already knew we weren't going to go more than a few hours drive, going northeast from our house doesn't lead to that many places in that time. Anyway, Arkansas was actually pretty, certainly much moreso than Dallas. We even got to see some green, and a lot of trees. Overall I would say the Little Rock area has a lot of potential for growth, though currently it is a little bit redneck for me. We both liked the smaller town size. You could travel anywhere around the area in 20 minutes max, quite a contrast from the two hour journeys across the metroplex we are now more accustomed to. Which reminds me, there was NO traffic in Little Rock, ever. It was glorious. We actually rolled into Little Rock, after stopping for dinner at Cracker Barrel (my wife's favorite restaurant), around 5 PM on Friday, when you would expect the highway to be packed. Not only did we never slow down, the highway wasn't even crowded! Amazing. We then rolled into our hotel, which was actually a bed and breakfast place near downtown Little Rock. This did not thrill my wife, who apparently had been expecting a fancy hotel. It turned out well though, with the big drawback being just the lack of a real shower. I guess you are supposed to take relaxing baths in the jacuzzi tub while you're there, but that really isn't our thing so we ended up taking half showers from the flexible shower head. Naturally my favorite part was the homecooked breakfast served every morning. As you eat this meal with the other guests, it also afforded us the opportunity to meet several different interesting people, including a family from California and two women traveling from Lafayette, Indiana on their way to meet up with their husbands somewhere. This also demonstrated that my wife will as of yet not identify herself as being "from Texas". She now states it as, "I live in Dallas, but I'm from California." I find this humorous, as I did the same thing for a long time in California - "I live in Sacramento, but I'm NOT from California".
On to what we did while we were there. We just took it easy at the B&B Friday night, then did some serious hiking at Pinnacle Mountain on Saturday. That's the pic above; we have several of our own that we took, but I haven't downloaded them off the camera yet, so that I just grabbed off some website. It wasn't a very tall mountain at all, but the last part of it was a steep climb over a bunch of rocks, so we got a good workout in. After we climbed back down, we walked around part of the base and back, giving us about a five mile hike in total. Thankfully we managed to sneak the hike in between bouts of rain. We headed home and got cleaned up and met up with my cousin, who got stationed in Little Rock two weeks earlier. On our way to dinner, we saw signs for the Old Mill, which I had seen in my web searches for stuff to do, so we took a quick detour to check it out. It turned out to be a very nice area, with tons of plants and flowers. In fact, there was a wedding party there taking pictures when we arrived. I'll post some pics from there as well, upon downloading. We then proceeded on to Bosco's, where we celebrated my wife's birthday and then over to a sports bar across the street to hang out a little more and watch the Final Four. We came home reeking of smoke from that, but a good time was had by all.
Sunday we slept in a little and then went to check out some museums. We ruled out seeing the Clinton Presidential Library, because we didn't want pay $7 each to see stuff about Clinton. We started to check out the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, which had gotten fairly high reviews online. I could tell my wife wasn't that excited about it though, and then we walked through the door and it smelled funny, so we bailed on that too. Another $7 each saved! We then proceeded down the street to the Old State House Museum. This was a very impressive museum for the price of admission: free! Seriously, it was very high quality, but it only made me realize how Arkansas has been the site of virtually nothing important to our nation's history. Sure, they participated in big events, Civil War, Mexican War, etc., but not much actually happened there and they have very few citizens of national significance. Somewhere in there we grabbed some very good Chicago-style pizza. Not up to the awesome standard of Folsom's Chicago Fire, but better than anything we've yet found in Dallas. After the pizza, and knowing my weigh-in in the challenge at work was fast approaching, we then went back out to the Pinnacle Mountain area and walked around in two more parks, Maumelle and the Arkansas State Arboretum. We also managed to check out some real estate in the area, as we are always curious about the types of homes you can get for the money in different areas of the country. I think real estate is my wife's hobby. Then Monday we returned home. I'll give a couple of more in-depth stories in another post; this one is already too long.

PBG checkpoint

Date Workout Time Calories Burned Weight
2/23/2006 256
2/24/2006
2/25/2006 Elliptical 60 1450
2/26/2006 Elliptical 60 1507
2/27/2006
2/28/2006 Elliptical 42 1050
3/1/2006
3/2/2006
3/3/2006 Elliptical 42 1050
3/4/2006 Elliptical 50 1200
3/5/2006 Elliptical 60 1440
3/6/2006 Elliptical 51 1250 258
3/7/2006 Elliptical 50 1250
3/8/2006
3/9/2006 Racquetball - cutthroat 90 1200 255
3/9/2006 Precor Elliptical 30 620
3/10/2006
3/11/2006 Elliptical 36 900
3/12/2006
3/13/2006 Precor Elliptical 40 750
3/14/2006 basketball 90 1350
3/14/2006b walleyball 90 1200
3/15/2006
3/16/2006 jog 2 mi 20 400
3/16/2006b stairmaster 10 200
3/16/2006c Precor Elliptical 20 400
3/17/2006
3/18/2006 Elliptical?
3/19/2006
3/20/2006 Elliptical 5 125
3/21/2006 basketball 90 1000
3/22/2006
3/23/2006 Precor Elliptical 43 850
3/24/2006
3/25/2006 Elliptical 60 1500
3/26/2006
3/27/2006 Elliptical 10 250
3/28/2006 Elliptical 52 1200
3/29/2006
3/30/2006
3/31/2006 Jog 2 mi? 20 425
4/1/2006 climb mountain, etc for 5 mi hike 150 2100
4/2/2006 walk 3 mi 80 600
4/3/2006 Elliptical 60 1540
4/4/2006 Elliptical 42 1050 245


It's been a while since my last update on the contest. We had to weigh in by today under our target weight. My target was 253, and as you can see, I was well under. Now I just have to keep it off for the next 30 days and I will split the pot with the other successful folks. No word yet on how many else made, but current speculation is still five or six, which would yield a profit of about $150 for me. I still need to keep exercising and watching what I eat, as I gamed it a little bit this morning to get eight pounds under. I didn't eat breakfast and had a very small meal last night for example. So if I had not done that, I would have still made it, as I have been consistently weighing in around 249 to 250, but without as much breathing room.