Thursday, April 27, 2006

Create a Caption

A boy and his dog. What caption best suits this picture?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Get an Education

For any of you who wondered what it might be like to take a class at UC Berkeley, you can now do it for free. They are experimenting with putting their lectures on iTunes for free download for anyone.

I've decided to take a philosophy class called "Existentialism in Literature and Film." Here is a description of the class:

The course will be organized around various attempts to reinterpret the Judeo/Christian God, and to determine in what sense, if at all, such a God is still a living God. We will study Dostoyevsky's and Kierkegaard's attempts to preserve a non-theological version of the God of Christianity, as well as Nietzche's attempt to save us from belief in any version of God offered by our tradition. We will view and discuss three films that deal with related issues.

In his opening remarks, the professor admits that many students will probably not show up to class, but listen to the lecture while jogging or something. This appears to be a way to solve allowing everyone who wants to take the class to be allowed to take it without a waiting list.

Kind of interesting. This is gonna be great.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Do Not Top Off

Some time after May of 1995 my wife stopped filling the gas tank of whatever vehicle she happened to be driving. I wasn't crazy about this at first, but then it just became something that I did as a weekly routine. It gave me a chance to monitor the mileage of the vehicles--which was something I actually used to keep track of--and do little things like clean the windshield, check the fluids and all that good stuff.

I am such a creature of routine. There were a couple of things I always did (and continue to do) when putting gas in the car. First, I always wait until there is less than a quarter tank to refill it. Most people do, I think. It's just a matter of lengthening the amount of time between fill-ups. Second, I always fill the tank. I never just put five bucks in , or five gallons. I always fill it. Why? Well, I guess it's the same reason I always reset the odometer--to get an accurate assessment of my fuel consumption per mile. Even now I reset the odometer--every time--even though I never calculate the mileage. Weird.

Somewhere along the way I reasoned that I could never get a true and accurate measurement of the efficiency of the fuel I was consuming unless I knew exactly how much I was putting in. Could the automatic shut-off on the gas pumps be trusted? I didn't believe so. Especially if I went to a number of different gas stations, their mechanisms could all be very different. What if some filled me up to the top and others left a half gallon in the tank? The only way I could be sure of the most accurate measurement is if I could see exactly what was in the tank--i.e., if I could just top it off--even very slowly, I could see just where the fuel level was at the place the nozzle goes in.

Then I started noticing these little signs appearing in various places around the gas pumps. "Warning: Do Not Top Off." "Yeah, yeah, yeah," I thought, "why not? They just don't want me to spill it. I don't spill it. I'm very careful."

Finally, this week I decided to try to do a little research as to why those signs appeared at every gas station. Was it the law? Was it a suggestion? Was it personal preference?

I've since found some compelling reasons to stop topping off the tank.

  1. If you over-fill your tank, the vapor recovery system, installed on most gas pump nozzles will actually suck some of the extra fuel that you just thought you used to top off your car back through the vapor line and back into the storage tank. The bad news is, of course, this fuel has been metered and you've already paid for it!
  2. Topping off your tank affects your car's vapor collection system which in turn will cause your car to run inefficiently.
  3. Spillage. This is always an issue and no matter how careful you may intend to be, you still may spill some gas outside your car. It messes up your paint and can create a potentially hazardous mess for the next customer.
  4. Gasoline expands after it is retrieved from the cool tank in the ground. If you fill your tank to the top, you leave no room for the gas to expand, further sabotaging your car's vapor collection system.
A couple of other items of interest. 1. Fill up your gas tank in the morning or the evening when the gasoline is most dense. You will find that you can get more gas for your dollar (or dollars) at these times. 2. Make sure your gas cap is on tight and doesn't leak. Some metro areas require a gas cap check. This is for environmental reasons as well as efficiency reasons. It is estimated that 147 million gallons of gasoline evaporate through faulty gas caps each year. 3. Make sure your air filter is clean. A dirty air filter will make your car run rich, which obviously consumes more fuel but also wears more on your spark plugs.

It's a habit I'm going to have to learn to break, and even though I know I'm gonna feel like I'm not getting enough gas, from now on, I'm going to resist the urge to top off the tank! What do you usually do?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Theme Song

Who else noticed the new theme song of TWiT's episode 50? OK--new arrangement!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Baseball is back

It's been a while since my last post (sorry) and I've noticed since I last had anything I felt was worth posting, the Major League Baseball season has started.

I was excited when I learned that the season started with the Indians at the White Sox on Sunday night, April 2nd. Excited because ESPN had requested that the game be pushed back from the original Monday afternoon start to Sunday night so that they could air a good division rivalry.

Eric, being the big fan the he is, and me, being the big fan that I am, decided we needed to ring the season in at a place where we could watch the game on a big screen. We found a Damon's and got some ribs. Dave B., Eric's brother in law, and former Ohioan joined us as did Mike P, whom we are slowly but surely converting [back] to baseball.

The game was a drag. They played three or four innings, ended up tied, CC left the game early with a strained muscle in his abdomen, then it rained (in Chicago, that is). It rained for three hours. We didn't stay for the conclusion of the game. We couldn't if we wanted to--the place closed at 10:00. In fact, I couldn't even stay awake for the conclusion of the game once it resumed.

In spite of a let down for the opening day of this season, there are a number of reasons to like baseball. Here's a list of random thoughts regarding the game and what's so great about it.

  • 162 games plus spring training and play-offs
  • You don't have to wait a week for the standings to change
  • A team can overcome a multi-game losing streak and still get to the play-offs
  • Minor league development
  • Minor league games
  • "Duct tape night"
  • The "game within the game" --pitcher, batter, etc
  • No cheer leaders
  • Get into most MLB games for under $10. About as much as going to a movie.
  • Fan participation (foul balls, bats)
  • Free souvenirs
  • No clock to govern the game
  • Managers get tossed
  • Players get tossed
  • Sometimes there's even a bench-clearing fight (close to hockey, Mike and Dan)
  • The defense has the ball
  • Game of threes: 3 strikes/out 3 outs/half-inning, in a perfect game, each batter can face the pitcher 3 times (27 outs=9 innings)
  • No "tie" column in the standings-each game played until somebody wins
  • You can get a tan while watching the game
  • You can eat peanuts (the perfect snack) while watching the game
  • You can leave peanut shells under your seat and someone else will clean it up
  • Sometimes guys collide
  • Double plays
  • Triple plays (I saw one once in KC)
  • Hitting for the cycle
  • A walk off home run
  • Over 100 years of history
  • You get to do corporate singing
  • No replay review by the umpires
  • Cool patterns in the grass.
  • A closer striking out "the side" (doesn't happen for Cleveland)
  • Unbelievable amount of statistics
  • Inside-the-park home runs
  • The many useful metaphors in life derived from baseball (step up to the plate, hit it out of the park, three strikes and you're out, etc)
  • Mid-season trades
What others do you like?