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Archive for September, 2008

Moral Obligations of the Socially Superior

September 29th, 2008 View Comments

I am obviously the smartest and most socially competent person I know, but that is not nearly so easy as one might think.  I’m constantly concerned about making sure that I am fulfilling my responsibility to society – giving back by helping people to realize how ignorant they are, pointing out their flaws and foolishness to motivate them to become somewhat normal.  Problem is, despite my towering intellect, I’m not always sure of the best course of action in certain situations.

Take, for example, the situation that occured to me today.  I was at the grocery store, ready to leave and selecting a checkout aisle.  As I’m approaching an aisle, I notice another guy walking toward me doing the same thing – looking for a checkout aisle.  As I’m eyeing the nearest aisle, he sees me considering it, and immediately launches into a jog so he can beat me to the checkout lane.  As he trots into the lane he looks at me with a look on his face that says, “And what are you going to do about it?”
So I acted like it didn’t bother me, because it didn’t.  In fact, the only thing I really felt was a great deal of sympathy for someone who is apparently not too bright.  I walked down to the next lane – one this fellow passed up so he could run in front of me into the lane he chose, keep in mind – and purchased my goods.  I gathered my bags and started walking out.  And as I was leaving, I walked past the other checkout lane, and saw said mentally disadvantaged fellow still standing in the checkout lane he had worked so hard to obtain.
So what is my societal and moral obligation here?  I’m not sure what I should be expected to do.  And this has really been bothering me ever since because I’m not sure I left that situation the way I should have, the way I am obligated to because of my superiority.  What I actually did was to grin a bit smugly at him as I strutted by, but I’m not sure that was enough.  Should I have laughed out loud?  Should I have pointed at him and told others around him what a dork he was?  Should I have asked him what his problem was, or taunted him mercilessly?  Will my actions be enough for him to realize his foolishness, or should I have done more to help him realize his lameness?
Categories: Rants Tags: ,

An E-Commerce Experiment

September 20th, 2008 View Comments

Some of you know that I am the President of Vice of SR Investment Group, a company that so far specializes in not making money. Not content with the current rate at which we are not making money, we decided to try to find a different way to not make money.

So we are starting a new e-commerce website, Surly Jack’s Outpost, at http://www.surlyjacks.com. It will sell outdoor stuff. I was going to describe it better, but hey, I don’t care enough.

Surly Jack is a fictional character we made up as the fake owner of the store, by the way. Don’t let him offend you, he’s actually not that bad a guy, really.

Surly Jack’s was going to open today, but there were just too many things that needed to be done to make it by today. It should be opening up within the next few days. But the real evolution will come later, as we continue to revise the look of the site and make it look, uh, non-cookie-cutter. Yeah.

Anyway, check it out. You can follow Surly Jack’s blog and/or twitter to stay informed on the status of the web store. Or go to MySpace and become Surly Jack’s friend. Believe me, he can use all the friends he can get.

Essential Albums: Journey "Escape"

September 16th, 2008 View Comments

Artist: Journey
Album: Escape
Year: 1981
Best Song You’ve Probably Heard: Don’t Stop Believing
Best Song You Might Not Have Heard: Escape

Journey was my first ever “favorite” band and is still one of my favorite bands of all time. We all owe Journey a great debt, as they are one of those select few bands who saved the world from disco. And that is saying something. Grunge failed to save us from country, unfortunately, and disco, like country, had a lot of social appeal in spite of being lame. So for bands like Styx, Journey, and Van Halen to salvage us from the depths of disco lameness is something we can all be thankful for.

Anyway, choosing “Escape” over “Frontiers” as the first Journey “Essential Album” was not an easy pick. Ultimately, “Escape” is more significant as it was probably the most important Journey album to launch them into the upper echelons of all-time musicdom. “Escape” established them as a known, mainstream arena rock band, solidified and embodied their classic sound, and at the same time stood them above the crowd as one of the best ever. Who among us has not been inspired by “Don’t Stop Believing” or has not had the opportunity to make fun of someone singing, “So now I come to you with broken arms?”

Actually, the title song “Escape” might be the best song on the entire album, and probably even the most inspirational. “Mother, Father” is a beautiful ballad, the best on the album, and Dead or Alive is a great live song. In fact, any Journey concert would be incomplete without playing at least half of this album – and in my opinion, they should play more of it at each show.

If you don’t have it yet, pick it up, or download it from Amazon.com. You may find that you know more songs from this album than you thought, and that you wonder how you ever made it this far without having owned it.

(Image credit: amazon.com)

Categories: Music Tags: ,

Fuel Mileage Experiment, Week 2

September 10th, 2008 View Comments

Week two of the fuel mileage experiment has ended. Here are the results of week two:
Mileage: 273.1 miles
Gasoline Used: 9.862 G
Miles per gallon: 27.69

So this week, with the same assumed $4/gallon, it cost me $39.45 to drive those 273.1 miles, for a cost of 14.44 cents per mile. As expected, this is higher, but only slightly higher, than the 13.77 cents per mile cost of driving at the speed limit. Also, as expected, I’m getting slightly lower fuel mileage, 27.69 mpg compared to 29.05, a difference of 1.36 mpg.

Assuming my average times to work are accurate, here are the raw costs of driving back and forth to work for one week, and going nowhere else:
Total miles, one way: 23.3
Total number of one-way trips: 10
Total miles per week: 233
Slow driving time, per trip: 25 minutes
Slow driving time, per week: 250 minutes
Fast driving time, per trip: 22 minutes
Fast driving time, per week: 220 minutes
Time savings for fast driving: 30 minutes/week
Slow driving fuel costs, per week: $32.08
Fast driving fuel costs, per week: $33.66
Cost savings for slow driving: $1.58
Per hour compensation for slow driving: $3.16

Wow. $3.16 per hour. That is how much I am compensated for driving slowly.

Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Yes, but if you drive the speed limit, you won’t get a speeding ticket, whereas if you are speeding you run the risk of getting a speeding ticket.” True. That will throw off the calculations.

For fun, let’s figure out how often I would have to get a speeding ticket in order to compensate myself at minimum wage for driving the speed limit.
Minimum wage: $6.55
Less current slow-driving compensation: $3.39
Per-week difference: $1.70
Assumed cost of a speeding ticket: $100

Using these numbers, if you got a $100 speeding ticket more frequently than once every 59 weeks, it would make up the difference. That’s not quite one speeding ticket per year.

Of course, you don’t have to stay within the speed limit to avoid getting a ticket; you just have to stay under the “real” speed limit, whatever that is. For the record, I’ve never had a speeding ticket yet, knock on wood.

Categories: Science Tags:

A Rainbow

September 9th, 2008 View Comments


Is this too soft for this website? Can we just allow it to be here because it is scientifically interesting? How’s that?

Anyway, a full rainbow, even a faint double if you really look hard enough. Ok, maybe not, but trust me, it was there. I know, it required three pictures. I guess apparently I need a wide-angle lens.

Categories: Science Tags:

Since When Is A Correct Call A Controversy??

September 8th, 2008 View Comments

BYU eked out a win on the road against Washington last Saturday, 28-27. Lest we get confused, I would not wish to tarnish my half-badness in any way by conveying any semblance of support for BYU. So let’s be clear about this: THIS IS NOT A PRO-BYU POST.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, I’ve simply got to talk a bit about how stupid the sports analysts are, pretty much universally, everywhere, even on other planets. Lest we forget, they make a point of reminding us every so often, when some type of controversy like this arises. It would be easier if they just said, “I can’t actually think for myself, so let’s just assume that my opinion lies completely contrary to common sense.” That would be much quicker.

If you do not watch college football and are therefore not a half-badboy, I assume you are reading this blog because you are trying to repent. So for you folk, I will give you the basic rundown of the controversy:

  • BYU played Washington at Washington on Sept. 6.
  • Sports analysts are required to hate BYU, because they are not from a BCS conference and are therefore less of everything.
    • Note – I do not have to like BYU. But seriously, how long do we have to put up with this BCS superiority garbage? Haven’t we learned anything yet? Anyway.
  • With time expiring in the fourth quarter, and BYU leading 28-21, Washington put together a heroic drive culminating in a touchdown with 0:02 left.
  • After scoring, the Washington player threw the football up into the air. On TV it appeared to go some 20 feet or more into the air.
  • Said throwing of the football into the air was clearly and without question an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty according to the rules (2008 NCAA Football Rules and Interpretations, Rule 9, Section 2, Article 1, Number 2), which state that
    • After any play the player in possession must immediately return the ball to an official or leave the ball near the downed spot
    • Among other acts, throwing the ball high into the air is prohibited (item c of said rule)
  • As a result, the official flagged and penalized Washington 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct, as he is required to do by the rules.
  • The ensuing 35-yard PAT try was blocked by BYU.
  • Thus BYU ended up winning the game, 28-27.

Literally billions of sports analysts weighed in over the weekend, all of them blaming BYU and officials for the controversy. Well, maybe not blaming BYU per se, but definitely expressing disdain and disagreement for the fact that an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called at that point in the game. Anyway, the essence of the argument was threefold:

  • The player was clearly overcome by exuberance, and was not in control of himself, as could be expected.
  • No harm was done or intended by the player, who was only celebrating the great play made, and not attempting to be unsportsmanlike.
  • A penalty or other call by an official should never determine the outcome of a game.

Let’s attack these in reverse order.

First of all, it is the job of the officials to attempt to enforce the rules of the game in a fair and unbiased format. They do not weigh the gravity of each individual play and take that into consideration as to whether or not a rule was violated. If a rule is violated, it is their responsibility to enforce the rule. In this case, the ruling was clear. The rulebook clearly describes the inappropriate behavior, which obviously matches the actual behavior in this case. It is the responsibility of the official to enforce the penalty in this case.
At any rate, the plays at the end of the game are not the only ones that can determine the outcome of the game. If not so, then please let me know at what point in the game do the plays become relevant to the outcome? I’d say, potentially all plays are relevant from the opening kickoff onward. Officials should not be expected to guess or determine whether a play will be a determining factor in deciding the outcome, let alone allow this to factor into any decision regarding rule enforcement.
Furthermore, this is all based on the assumption that the ruling actually affected the play. Are you trying to convince me that a college-level placekicker in the PAC-10 does not have sufficient strength to reliably kick a 35-yard field goal with sufficient altitude to avoid a block? Or that BYU (am I actually saying this) is not capable of blocking a field goal except under extreme conditions?

Next point. What exactly was the player’s intention is unknown and irrelevant. Intent is not a factor in determining whether to enforce a rule, at least not in NCAA football. If you are tackling someone, and you grab the face mask and turn the head while tackling them, that is a 15-yard personal foul penalty. Whether you meant to do it is not relevant. The same is true in this case. Whether the player intended to taunt the other team or otherwise exhibit unsportsmanlike conduct is not the issue. The issue is that the player did violate the rule, regardless of intent, and it is the job of the officials to enforce the rule.

Finally, the issue with the significance of the play and the resulting excitement meaning that the player obviously was overcome with emotion and could not control himself. Man, how I love that phrase: “Could not control himself.” “Yes, Bob, the player is literally not in control of his own self! He cannot make responsible choices! His freedom to choose has been revoked due to extreme excitement!”
Give me a break. Let’s suppose the penalty was more harsh. Suppose that he is told, “Look, go out there and score a touchdown. But if you do not hand the ball to the official after the play is over, I am going to cut your index finger off with this here old rusty wood rasp.” Do you really think he would score, forget that his finger was in jeopardy, and throw the ball into the air anyway? And then come back and say, “Sorry! Please don’t cut my finger off with that there old rusty wood rasp! I was excited and lost control! I literally could not choose otherwise!”

This last one actually gets me more than any of the others. This is not the first time I’ve heard sports analysts defending the players because they lost control. This is probably because a lot of them used to be players also, which also probably means they don’t have much education, and also think they are better than everyone else. Well, in this little place I call “Realworldia,” we are expected to maintain control of ourselves and make correct choices, even when it is hard.

In case you were wondering, this is a non-rusty wood rasp. Source: Wikipedia
Categories: Sports Tags: ,

Fuel Mileage Experiment, Week 1

September 3rd, 2008 View Comments

I’m conducting a fuel mileage experiment for the next couple of weeks; in fact, I just finished the first week. Here is the experiment: At the start of week one, I will fill up the gas tank, then drive conservatively everywhere I go. No speeding, and no jackrabbit starts. Then I’ll record the mileage, refill the tank, and drive like I normally do.

So week one is over. Here’s the results:
Mileage: 262.8 miles
Gasoline Used: 9.046 G
Miles per gallon: 29.05

Assuming a price of $4/gallon for gas (which is a bit low but pretty close), that means it cost me $36.18 to drive those 262.8 miles, for a cost of 13.77 cents per mile.

Also, the average time to work (23.3 miles) is about 25 minutes, versus about 22 normally. So I’m saving about 1/2 hour of time per week driving my normal way. How much am I paying for that 1/2 hour? We’ll find out next week.

Categories: Science Tags:

Matt’s Positions as of September 2

September 3rd, 2008 View Comments

The stock market is the definition of fair-weather friend. I looked to be ready to post a modest but reasonable gain for August, when suddenly a week’s worth of weirdness took away some $4000 of my portfolio’s value.

Anyway, here’s the positions as of September 2.

AAPL:
Long 3 SEP08 145/150/185/190 Iron Condor
Short 3 SEP08 185/190 Vertical Call Spread
Short 5 OCT08 155/160 Vertical Put Spread
Long 2 JAN10 150 LEAP

AEMD:
Long 5000 shares

BIDU:
Short 1 SEP08 380/390 Vertical Call Spread

FSLR:
Short 1 SEP08 250/260 Vertical Put Spread

GME:
Short 2 SEP08 35/45 Vertical Put Spread

GOOG:
Long 1 SEP08 460/480/510/520 Iron Condor

RIG:
Short 1 SEP08 120/130 Vertical Put Spread
Short 4 SEP08 125/130 Vertical Put Spread
Short 5 OCT08 115/120 Vertical Put Spread
Long 2 NOV08 120 Calls

RIMM:
Long 2 OCT08 125/130 Strangle

SLV:
Long 400 shares

SPY:
Long 5 SEP08 123/124/131/132 Iron Condor
Short 3 SEP08 123/124 Vertical Put Spread
Short 2 OCT08 120/125 Vertical Put Spread

UA:
Short 2 SEP08 30/40 Vertical Call Spread

USO:
Short 2 SEP08 91/93 Vertical Put Spread

XLF:
Short 2 SEP08 22/24 Vertical Call Spread

This month profit (loss): (5.93%)
Year-to-date profit (loss): (5.85%)

This month’s strategy:

  1. Greater focus in fewer positions. I’m too spread out. I was trying some new things, but they backfired on me quite a bit.
  2. Trade indicators on Rule #1 stocks. I need to construct positions that I can exit if the indicators turn to sell. This leads to:
  3. Favor even-numbered positions, so I can close out half if I’m wondering if it is time to exit.
  4. When buying options, always buy at least six months out. I’m getting beaten up on what would otherwise be potentially good strategies because I’m not paying attention to my time frames.
  5. When there is nothing left to do, trade SPY. Don’t try to force trades or enter into additional positions.
Categories: Finance Tags:

Ahhhh….

September 3rd, 2008 View Comments
Sugar.

Therapy.

Categories: Hobbies, Sports Tags: