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.