December 31, 2006
Ugh… After Christmas, the wife’s family and I headed up to Santa Barbara for a night. We ended up heading out to a very nice dinner, with a bit of an exotic selection. My meal was an appetizer of Rabbit Satay, followed up with the “Game Platter” as an entree, consisting of Elk Chop, Buffalo Medallions, and Venison steak. It was pretty good.
But what followed wasn’t. I won’t bore you with the gory details, but let me say that my life from 2 AM on was… Unpleasant. It was so bad that all day yesterday, I couldn’t even keep down water. It culminated in a scorching fever last night, but I think I’ve finally broken through. It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get at least a drink or two in me tonight!
December 29, 2006
Purdue (Big Ten #4, 8-5) @ Maryland (ACC #4, 8-4)
Vegas Says: Pick’Em
This is a tough one. Purdue has enough offensive firepower to roll right over Maryland, and Maryland doesn’t have enough offense to keep up. But then, when you look at Purdue’s season, we haven’t seen a defense stop Purdue all year long, despite the fact that Purdue has laid a few offensive eggs this year. Most games where the Boilers sputtered on offense came down to bad execution by Purdue, not overwhelming defense. Even Purdue’s two worst offensive performances, scoring 3 points against Wisconsin and being shut out by Penn State, those defenses were aided by 25-mph gusting winds that completely disrupted Purdue’s passing attack.
But when Purdue’s offense is rolling, anything on the tracks ahead of them is destined for obliteration. Purdue may only be averaging 27 points per game this year, but they’re 6th in the nation in passing ypg, and 12th in total offensive ypg (including Div I-AA schools). Due to offensive miscues, Purdue didn’t score in the first half at Hawaii. When they hit a rhythm in the second half, though, they racked up 35 points in a hurry. With a stable of incredible offensive receivers, and enough of a rushing attack to keep a defense on their toes, the only enemy of Purdue’s offense is Purdue’s offense; Maryland’s defense is a non-factor.
So it all comes down to the first half. If Purdue can hit an offensive rhythm and get out to an early lead, they can play loose and confident, and can blow the doors off this game. Purdue’s defense isn’t exactly “stout”; in fact it’s atrocious. But the same label can be applied to Maryland’s offense. The bad against the bad will result in some Maryland points, but if Purdue’s offense can keep the pressure on, they can force Maryland into mistakes.
Ahh, but there’s the question. If Purdue’s offense sputters, Maryland has a history of winning close games all year long (thankfully, so does Purdue). If Purdue doesn’t get out to an early lead, this could easily be an ugly 17-15 game like the Purdue/MSU game earlier this year. Maryland has experience and confidence in close games, and that may be too much for Purdue to overcome.
And then there’s the preparation. Maryland’s coach has prepared his teams the last two years for bowl game routs, while Joe Tiller has— in the past— treated bowl games like a vacation for his players. Tiller has stated publicly that he’s not going to do that this year, and the team traveled down to Orlando before Christmas to get ready for business. Preparation will determine a lot of how the first quarter goes, and thus may determine the whole tempo of the game. Maryland is going to want to keep this a low-scoring affair, while Purdue wants a shootout.
Personally, I think Purdue got a bit of an advantage with the Hawaii game. That is a bit of a bowl game, with distant travel and a different climate. They started slow, but they got rolling in the second half. If they can carry that offensive success into the early stages of the bowl game, this one isn’t close. If they don’t, though, all bets are off.
Prediction: NO OFFICIAL PREDICTION (but as a Boiler Fan, I’m personally picking them to win)
Predicted Final Score: Purdue 31, Maryland 17
December 28, 2006
Well, Christmas is over, and thus it was time to exchange some jeans. One of the drawbacks to living on the statistical edges of human size and shape is that most clothing is not designed for someone like me. Jeans are a particular problem, because my legs are fairly thick (for someone with my waist size), usually requiring me to buy baggy fit style jeans simply to be able to breathe.
So it was off to Nordstrom with the wife to get some new ones. I managed to find some that were on sale cheaper than the original ones I received, and fit perfectly. So we decided I might as well get a new shirt to go with it. Well, she pointed out a weird-looking flaming skull designer t-shirt with a large yellow script “Ed Hardy” on both the front and the back of the shirt.
“Who is Ed Hardy”, I asked, showing my ignorance… “Oh, he’s a famous designer, and Brittany Gastineau models for him.”
If he’s that famous, why does he need to advertise so heavily on both sides of his shirt? If he’s well known, people should know his designs by sight, right? And why would I want something from a designer that uses Brittany Gastineau as a model? Last time I checked, my body shape is not exactly similar to hers in absolutely any dimension, since not only is she female, she’s also a super-skinny model type. So I can’t think that fitted womens clothing she models for this designer would impact my buying decision for men’s clothing. Not to mention the fact that I refuse to advertise for Ed Hardy without appropriate compensation, and that compensation doesn’t involve me paying $50 for a t-shirt…
So I said no. “But you’ll look cool”, my wife replied. Maybe so, maybe so. But I’m not spending $50 for a t-shirt sporting some random designer’s name to do so. If principles stand in the way of coolness, I do believe I’ll remain uncool for a long, long time. Commenter Nick can tell you that I wasn’t exactly “cool” in college, and I sure haven’t cared enough to change that.
So I got a nice gray shirt at less than half the cost, not including the cost of the argument which followed on the way home.
December 25, 2006
I don’t get it. My wife and I flew out to CA from Georgia for Christmas, and we’re both Silver Medallion with Delta. That entitles us to free upgrades when they’re available. So we showed up to the airport last night, saw their information boards, and saw that there were two seats available in first class, and three people on the list.
Here’s where it gets weird. I fly a lot more than she does, so I’ve got far more miles. According to their board, the upgrade priority go in this order:
1- Skymiles status
2- Same-day travel disruptions
3- Ticket Value
So we look at the board, she’s #2 on the list, and I’m #3. I would think that due to miles, I should be ahead of her (even if we’re both Silver). But due to a weird coincidence in the fare, we ended up buying the tickets as separate transactions, and hers was the higher value. So she sat up in First Class and I was back in coach. Frankly, if we were to get separated, I’d rather her be up there, and I had a choice exit row seat (with no seat in front of me, so tons of legroom), so it wasn’t that bad.
But now I’m pissed about this year. I’m about 4000 miles shy of Gold Medallion status. Knowing that most of my flights are the cheap fares, getting up to Gold would do wonders for my upgrade chances. It almost would have been worth scheduling an extra trip somewhere just to pick up the miles. Since I’ll still be at Silver next year, the fact that I flew about 46,000 miles this year instead of 25,001 (the amount to qualify for Silver) won’t even help my upgrade chances. Annoying.
December 23, 2006
I’m headed to CA for Christmas in about 5 hours, and likely will be shuffled around different places without high-speed internet access until I get back here on Jan 4. I may get some posting in, and I’ll try to get posts related to the Purdue/Maryland game, and a few BCS bowl predictions in, but don’t expect there to be much going on…
December 22, 2006
Well, my company went through some changes. One guy from my office left, and my boss decided to move to Nashville. So I’ve got a whole new office:
Now, some of my more loyal readers might notice something strange about this picture. They may ask, “But Brad, that looks just like your basement?!” To them I’d say, you’re obsessing about me and you should seek help. But that doesn’t make the observation any less correct.
With the changeup of the office, I’m able to now work from home. With the simplicity of communication these days, there really wasn’t any reason to keep me in an office anymore (particularly since there was only one other person there, and he travels frequently). So now I can say goodbye to the daily commute, the life of khakis and polo shirts, and the time I waste with everything associated with office life.
From what I’ve heard, though, the greater freedom that you have working from home also often leads to increased productivity. This was a previously-unused room, and I’m making sure that I don’t have extraneous distractions like TV. And with this above my desk, I’m sure I’ll have some extra motivation if I decide to head down there and write at night
December 21, 2006
Or is it…
Looking to waste time? Check this game out, and I guarantee you’ll meet your objective.
Hat Tip: VRB
And ignore the headline… I don’t know where they came up with that!
The best remedy to beat stress out is to simple hand-holding, claims health magazine WebMD.
According to a new study in the US, holding hands with your spouse can help you reduce stress. Psychology experts from the University of Virginia conducted the study of 16 happily married couples who were in their early 30s. The couples were told that the study was about holding handsâ€”and that mild electric shocks would be involved.
The wives wore electrodes on their ankles and watched screens that warned them when a shock was coming or assured them that they weren’t due for a shock.
Meanwhile, the researchers scanned the wives’ brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
As predicted, when the wives knew they were due for a shock, their brain scans showed activity in brain areas that handle threats.
But when the wives held their husbands’ hands during the same threat, their brain scans looked calmer than when they weren’t holding hands.
The study went on to show that the greatest stress reduction was found in the strongest marriages. Something to remember.
I know my wife is a stress case, and I never really know how to help. I’m an engineer, so I want to “solve” the problem. Perhaps this would be better…
Moderate drinking may lengthen your life, while too much may shorten it, researchers from Italy report. Their conclusion is based on pooled data from 34 large studies involving more than 1 million people and 94,000 deaths.
According to the data, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol â€” up to four drinks per day in men and two drinks per day in women â€” reduces the risk of death from any cause by roughly 18 percent, the team reports in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
I’ve got a theory on this. Moderate drinking is a stress-reducing activity. Much like exercise, or simple relaxation, when you sit down with a beer or glass of wine, you let yourself release the stress you’ve been building up all day long. There may be some actual scientific health effects of moderate drinking, to be sure, but I don’t think that can easily account for an 18% reduction.
Either way, I’m all for it.
Hat Tip: Below The Beltway
December 20, 2006
Thousands of soldiers sent to seize control of one of Mexico’s top drug-producing regions have discovered widespread cultivation of a hybrid marijuana plant that is easy to grow and difficult to kill, officials said Tuesday.
The plants can only be killed by having their roots pulled, a slow and tedious task, Army Gen. Manuel Garcia told The Associated Press, one of four media outlets allowed to accompany soldiers on the daylong raid.
“Before we could cut the plant and destroy it, but this plant will come back to life unless it’s taken out by the roots,” Garcia said.
The hybrid first appeared in Mexico two years ago but has become the plant of choice for drug traffickers in western Michoacan state, a remote mountainous region that lends to itself to drug production.
The plants resist chemicals that only burn the top leaves without hurting the root, making aerial fumigation impossible, Garcia said.
Does anyone think for a second that this would have happened without a ridiculous drug war causing the pot business to be extremely profit-laden?
In one sense, it’s a reminder of just how ingenious the market can be when providing a desired product, even if it’s illegal. On another sense, I get a bit worried when people are creating plants that won’t die. It reminds me of the plant that ate the South…
Hat Tip: Control Congress
Rap megastar Eminem and his high school sweetheart divorced for a second time Tuesday, less than a year after they remarried.
Eminem and Kim Mathers agreed to divide property under terms of a private settlement and to share custody of their 10-year-old daughter, Hailie Jade Scott. They told a judge they understood the divorce was final.
The couple “conducted themselves with dignity and respect,” Circuit Judge Antonio P. Viviano said. “All in all, they are a very fine couple to deal with.”
Eminem, 34, declined to comment after the brief hearing as two men whisked him into a black Cadillac Escalade. Mathers, 31, did not speak to reporters.
Eminem and Mathers remarried Jan. 14. He filed for divorce April 5. They first married in 1999 in a secret ceremony in Missouri, and divorced in 2001.
I can’t say I’m surprised… I was surprised when they got back together, given some of the things he wrote about her in his songs. But this divorce really shocks me about as much as this one did.
December 18, 2006
I’ve been putting this one off for several months now… But another blogger who I’ve read and corresponded with for a while has written a book. I read it a while back, because I was buying a copy for my sister-in-law and her fiancee.
The book is called How To Merge Your Money for Marriage, and it’s written by Jack Stevison, known to the readers of this blog as Uncle Jack (no relation). The book is written for any couple looking to get themselves started off on the right financial track in their marriage.
Are You Planning for your Wedding, or for Your Marriage?
The divorce rate in the U.S. continually hovers at 50%, and couples blame financial stress as one of the top reasons for marital breakdowns.
Learn how to keep money from becoming a stress inducer, and learn how to save even if you’re the “spender” in your marriage.
An enjoyable read that provides practical planning advice for couples on how to conquer the financial issues together.
This book could be the least expensive item you buy in advance of your wedding, yet have the biggest long-term positive impact on your marriage!
I have to say, this was a difficult book to review. Most of what I read is something I choose to read for several reasons, not the least of which that it’s something that I expect to learn something from. When it comes to financial planning, though, I’ve already read quite a bit, and I know exactly what I should and should not be doing (having the willpower to do it is another story). So while there were a few interesting things, I didn’t necessarily learn a lot from the book.
However, what I didn’t quite grasp at first was that I’m not the target audience for this book. It’s a short, simple book. And it’s targeted at the sort of people who might not read a 250-page financial-planning tome. It gets straight to the point with little fuss.
So I’d have to say that most of my readers probably already know and understand much of what’s in the book. However, that’s not a reason for me not to recommend it. It’s recommended as a definite great gift idea. We all know people getting married who have very little understanding of money or the world. We all know that most of those people, if they’re going to read anything at all, will read a short, quick book. This is a perfect book for those people.
And it’s important. Financial concerns are a big cause of marital strife. Even worse, financial dishonesty and hiding things from your spouse are common and highly-destructive traits. This book lays out, in clear and uncertain terms, that financial planning is something that needs to be tackled from day 1. And if you’re beyond day 1 in your marriage, it needs to be tackled immediately. Further, it gives a simple blueprint both on how to have the discussion, and on what the goals need to be.
There are a lot of people who can benefit from a book like this. Even if my readers may not be those people, the book is a good (and easily-digestible) primer for quite a few young couples, and probably one of the few books on the subject that they’ll actually read. If you know someone like that, pick up a copy.
One of my daily reads for quite some time has been Coyote Blog. The author, Warren Meyer, is a business owner out west, as well as a libertarian. It’s always one of my top spots for economics and free trade writing, as well as a first-hand account of how ridiculous government regulation has become. If you’re not reading it, add it to your list.
Last month, Warren’s novel, BMOC, was released. As I am a voracious reader, I’m always on the lookout for new books. I managed* to get a copy of BMOC last week, and read it on my flights to and from Texas this weekend. The book is a suspense-murder-intrigue type of plot:
Susan Hunter is a brilliant but lazy student at the Harvard Business School, who has a long-term plan for succeeding at Harvard and getting a high-paying job with the absolute minimum of work. Her plans begin to awry when she receives an invitation for a job interview with Preston Marsh, the quirky millionaire who has built his fortune on oddball businesses from selling designer musical tones to harvesting coins in fountains. Marsh convinces Susan to abandon her path of least resistance to work in his new business called BMOC, which guarantees its student clients that it will make them popular. But nothing in the job description prepares Susan for getting sent to LA to investigate a young woman’s suicide. Susan has to struggle to adapt her business school training to what increasingly appears to be a murder investigation, as a consortium of media companies, tort lawyers, and even a US Senator fight to hide the truth. And that was before they started shooting at her.
Now, I should lay out a few reviewer’s ground rules here. I’m not a literary critic. I very rarely dislike any novels. So when I say I liked the book, that’s not setting the bar very high. So I’ll try to go into greater depth, but at the very least I found it to be a very enjoyable read, and recommend it for that reason.
One of the things that struck me as a reader of Coyote Blog was the extent to which I noticed Warren’s writing voice and style carried over into the novel. Most of it, of course, was inside things that most non-readers of the blog wouldn’t pick up on, of course, which is to say that it certainly doesn’t detract from the novel. But writing about an business student allows Warren to throw in a little bit of his own subject matter. And, of course, the main character just happens to have a poli/econ blog called “Spreadsheet Girl”, for which Warren’s own blogging experience obviously gave him the knowledge to write accurately about. It’s not like he’s calling the internet a series of tubes. I should point out, though, that it’s not overwhelming. Yes, the main character happens to have a blog, but it’s an aside to the book, not a central theme (as you could worry about some bloggers-turned-authors doing).
Beyond this, the plot is pretty good, and it flows in a cohesive manner. Warren, as far as I could tell, manages mostly to stay away from some of the problems inherent in murder-suspense thrillers, where the plot is just too incredibly convenient to be plausible. The book is definitely a page-turner, but not at the cost of character development. The action sequences make sense, and there is a bit of poetic justice and humor in certain scenes.
For those of you who look at books for their ideological bent, Warren takes a big shot at government, media, and tort lawyers. All while making the entrepreneur/businessman into the “good guy”. Part of this was by design, as he said that he was sick of reading books always portraying the “evil” capitalist businessman. But this isn’t a “libertarian” book. This is a murder-suspense novel, and it doesn’t feel like you’re being beaten over the head with philosophy.
Above all, if you’re looking for a new read, give it a shot. Is it going to win any literary awards? Probably not, but it’s well-written, and you’ll be supporting a fellow libertarian blogger.
* Full Disclosure: Warren graciously offered a few free copies to bloggers. His hope was that bloggers would read and review the book.
December 17, 2006
I couldn’t really mention this previously, because my brother is a regular reader of the blog. But the point of the Texas trip was for his 40th birthday party, which his wife organized as a surprise party. Thankfully, though, his wife is his social coordinator, and my wife is mine, so he just sort of accepted the fact that we had decided to fly out for a weekend without any real suspicion*.
So my brother, his buddy, and I went out sailing on Saturday to get him out of the house, with a case and a half of beer and instructions not to get back before 6:30 PM. A case and a half of beer, a broken rudder, and a stop at the bar on the way home, and he got a big surprise as 40 of his closest friends were waiting in his backyard. Some pictures below the fold, of Jeff & his 10-month old son Jack, of his wife Jacki and my wife, and then some pictures of the wife and I from the weekend…
* It appears I got both the looks and the brains in this family…
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