Friday, December 28, 2007
(photo from http://www.photoatlas.com)
Saturday, November 3, 2007
So this $200 Jean Baptiste trumpet broke a month after its purchase. In my personal opinion, it's more like a toy than an actual instrument. This proves that the total cost of ownership is so much more important than a product's initial purchase price. Now the owner has to go buy another one, when money could have been saved over time buying a higher quality instrument. The Yamaha and Selmer (Bach) instruments haven't broken in half, and probably won't, unless done intentionally.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
There was a man in Houston, Texas that got a letter in the mail from his church (or maybe just a church in the community). The letter stated that the church was trying to retire its building debt, and was seeking donations. The letter stated that if you sent in a gift of $76 or more, God would bless you with a reward worth triple that amount. The man wrote back to the church, without enclosing a check, writing the following:
"Dear Pastor ______,
If you really believe what you wrote in the letter, why don't you write me a check for $76? Then your gift would triple, which would help the church pay off its mortgage."
Though this is funny, the "give X amount and God will double, triple, etc." message is a very popular, yet misguided doctrine taught mostly in the Word/Faith sector of Christendom (a sector to whom many popular TV evangelists belong). Many, but certainly not all, "non-denominational" churches are usually of the Word/Faith movement. From personal observations, it seems like the goals of these churches are more about building the next mega-complex or exalting the pastors' authority and wallets than solely bringing people to Christ and providing them with a thorough study of the Bible. That does not mean that these churches do not teach the essential elements of the Gospel and that the parishioners are not saved. However, when a pastor's primary focus is having the next mega-church and "living large" someday instead of bringing the visitors they come in contact with on any given Sunday to Christ, the message takes the risk of being deluded in order to bring in the number of people needed to achieve those goals.
More on this later...
Friday, September 7, 2007
So Kane's Furniture has this commercial talking about how the Florida Gators won the 2006 and 2007 NCAA basketball national championships and their 2006 football championship . They have made a deal that if the Gators win this year's football title, furniture bought this weekend will be free. (They will basically cancel the loan that customers apparently don't have to pay any principal or interest on until 2009).
So, the executives are using a strategy to lure in Gator fans wanting to take a bet, which may very well be a success this weekend. But in order to if the executives to KEEP the money made this weekend, they essentially have to wish for the Gators to mess up and lose. So, I guess the joke is on the Gator fans...
Monday, August 20, 2007
For the past few years, I have been a user of the George Foreman grill. I have had many problems with the grill. Even when cooking on one side of the grill and turning over the meat, the meat would always come out overcooked and very dry. This is due to the fact that there are not any temperature controls on the Foreman grill. The temperature is very hot, so when cooking a thick chicken breast or steak, the outside of the meat usually burns and goes dry before the inside begins to cook. When the meat is finally cooked to safety standards, it is very tough and just plain unsatisfying. Furthermore, the Foreman grill is difficult to clean, especially when using a gooey marinade. I mean, I can't throw it in the sink to soak, and the "non-stick surface" is not so "non-stick."
I decided to test out a grill pan. It is basically a pan with grill lines that can be used on a stove. It is probably one of the best kitchen purchases I have made. So far, I have cooked a salmon fillet and a boneless, skinless chicken breast. The chicken breast cooked so much better on the grill pan. I was able to cook the meat thoroughly while maintaining the flavor, juiciness, and overall texture of the meat. I used to dread the nights I planned on cooking chicken breasts, but now that I am cooking it on a better grill, I think those meal plans will no longer be so bad.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Marilyn Manson and similar artists got the blame for Columbine. Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan get the blame for everything wrong with teenage girls. No one seems to mind. However, when someone blames a problem on rap music, some automatically call it racism. How is it different?
Aren’t average people actually doing a lot more to save the environment than the celebrities and politicians promoting environmentalism without even changing their lifestyles?
If you believe that everyone’s religious/moral beliefs are equal, then how can you say that the beliefs of someone who doesn’t feel that way are wrong?
How much cheaper would college tuition be if the campuses were more a cluster of dorms and classrooms rather than mini-resorts with lush landscaping, “free” gyms, “free” medical clinics, other “free” services, and state of the art technology in the facilities?
Why is it that a music teacher would be laughed at by his musical colleagues if his plan for improving his groups’ ratings was simply to add more rehearsals, but the state solution for poor reading and math test scores is to add more hours of reading and math instruction?
Given all of the “non-denominational” churches that have popped up over recent years, aren’t these churches kind of becoming a denomination?
Okay, so I kind of took this one from someone else: While everyone is discussing CEO pay relative to what others in those companies make, why don’t we hear about the salary of Oprah’s secretary, or Ben Affleck’s cook, or the wages of the men that built John Edwards’ mansion?
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
People often rave at the idea of something being available for free. Sometimes, it works out to be a good deal, but oftentimes, receiving a service for free can actually pose a greater inconvenience than it would be if such a service were available for even the smallest fee.
One example of this inconvenience is the computer lab at my college’s (FSU) main library. When I was there, students had access to computers, which I will estimate to be anywhere between forty to sixty units with office, design, and programming software along with internet access. There were approximately three to four laser printers available for printing. Users supposedly had a printout limit of 50 pages per day, which would be provided at no cost.
During the school day, students would often have to wait in line to gain access to a computer, despite there being 40-60 units available. When I would use the computer lab to print out papers and such, I would end up standing in the print line for several minutes. (The clerks would stand by the printers, separate all of the documents, and then lay them on the counter for users to pick up). Some of the long wait was simply the result of student waste of resources. The ink and paper were “free,” so students decided to print out their professors’ 40 slide PowerPoint lectures and long articles from the internet. Some of these items would sit on the counter and never be claimed, so the clerks would oftentimes throw items away. After the long queue, my document would finally come out of the printer, and I could finally be on my way (probably running to class to turn in the paper).
During my last year in college, the university decided to levy a charge of 5 cents per page in the computer lab, which would be collected through the smart chip on our student IDs. Note that this charge is cheaper than the typical price of copying at Kinko’s or your favorite office store (7 or 8 cents per page). Furthermore, it is significantly cheaper than printing something from a computer at Kinko’s, where you have to pay a per minute charge for computer use as well as a print fee that is more than the fee for using a copy machine.
This nominal charge of 5 cents per page caused a dramatic drop in computer lab use, at least in the times I needed to use the lab after the change. Instead of waiting in line to use the computer, I could just walk in. When I needed to print something, my document was on the counter when I got to the clerk’s desk.
Although it was cool to be able to print items for free from the library computer lab, I did lose a lot of time waiting around for a computer and/or printout, which didn’t help me when I was rushing to print in between classes.
So, was this “free service” really worth it? No.
P.S. I wonder how empty the school’s urgent care clinic would have been if they charged a $2 fee per visit.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I was going to post a YouTube video of Beyonce's embarrassing fall at her Orlando concert last night. While performing at the Amway Arena (where the Magic plays), she fell down the stairs that were on her set, but she immediately got up and continued her routine. At the end of the concert, she apparently requested that videos of the fall not be posted on the Internet. Her wish was not honored as videos surfaced the next day. However, they were quickly removed from YouTube, with Sony/BMG citing a copyright infringement.
I'm still surprised that a major artist actually came to Orlando...
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
When I tell people that I like a certain pop song, like a Keyshia Cole, Jessica Simpson, or Rihanna song, the usual response, especially from elitist music major classmates in college, was “why do you listen to that crap?” They will go on to talk about the lack of pure talent that these artists display, which, in many cases, is true. The only response I have, which is a proper response, is that, despite their lack of singing talent, these artists have been successful at producing a piece of music that people enjoy.
In classical music, the listener has the ability to choose which soloist or music performance ensemble is worth his patronage. When deciding to purchase a recording of Jacques Ibert’s Concertino da Camera for Alto Saxophone and 11 Instruments, I can chose the dark tone, tastefully modified articulations, varied use of vibrato technique, the original cadenza, the full use of the saxophone's range, and expressive phrasing style of John-Edward Kelly or I can chose the bright tone, limited range, overused and unvaried vibrato, alternative cadenza and overall aesthetically unpleasing recording of Eugene Rousseau. For Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, I can choose to support the Atlanta Symphony’s recording over the Chicago Symphony’s recording because of the
Unlike most classical compositions, today’s popular music is written for specific artists and usually cannot be performed by other artists. Beyonce may do a better job than Keyshia Cole on some of her songs, but Beyonce does not have the legal means to perform Keyshia Cole’s music. So, if I want to hear “Love” by Cole or “Umbrella” by Rihanna, I have to hear those songs from those specific artists. I do not object to this practice since songs are usually written for the very people who will be singing them. So, the songs will not necessary expose the artists' weakness, at least in the studio. It is this very practice that makes some of these songs appealing. Maybe Beyonce won't do such a good job singing "Umbrella"...
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Businesses have the right to charge whatever price they feel is reasonable for their services in order to gain a profit. If a customer is unwilling to pay that price for such services, then they have the capability to find cheaper services elsewhere. So, I will not be calling the gouging police anytime soon. However, why would this Chevron station feel the need to charge forty or fifty cents above neighboring stores and the local market?
If those outrageous prices are meant to throw off free-spending tourists, it is an ill-conceived business strategy inasmuch as there are other gas stations next door with lower prices. The station cannot claim that the prices are set at a premium because of the company's claim of superior products. Other Chevron stations charge a competitive price while simultaneously pushing their products as superior to Hess, Amoco, etc.
The only feasible idea as to why they charge 30-40 cents above market value would be to entice those tourists that may have gas cards or credit card-based gas purchase incentives that can only be redeemed at Chevron stations, which is the lone station of that brand in that area. However, this could not possibly bring in enough revenue to stay competitive against neighboring stations. They still need to entice that customer that is willing to stop at a random station for gas, which they do not seem to be doing effectively.
Despite the high prices and low customer rate (based on observation), this gas station remains open. It would be interesting to learn how they have been able to survive.
Friday, July 20, 2007
-Driving to the gym that is a fence hop away from my apartment complex.
-Lowering my thermostat temperature when it is really hot.
-Making multiple driving trips when I could have condensed them into one trip.
-Not changing out my regular light bulbs and installing the fluorescent bulbs so I don't break them and turn my apartment building into a chemical hazard.
Well, I still burn less electricity that he does on his private jet. And my car gets almost 30mpg on the highway. So, I guess I am doing more for the environment than the Distinguished Professor of Global Warming Studies. I can't even afford a regular commercial ticket...well, there's the Visa..."everywhere you want to be"...
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Apple does make high quality products and has revolutionized the distribution of music. However, that success does not mean that other companies should not attempt to enter the MP3 player market. The main argument against Microsoft was that it was already wildly successful with its operating systems, servers, office software, and gaming consoles. So, it was foolish of Microsoft (spelled Micro$oft by them) to want to enter an "already crowded" MP3 market given their dominance in other areas and Apple's firm grip on the MP3 market. If this argument was used consistently by the zealot Apple fans, then why would Apple have wanted to enter a cellphone+PDA market already dominated by the Blackberry (aka "Crackberry"), Palm Treo, and the plethora of Windows Mobile equipped devices? Extending it further, should Apple give up on the Macintosh operating system and start selling Windows computers because they cannot make significant gains against Windows?
Although the Zune and other emerging MP3 players have not been able to take away a significant amount of Apple's market share, some of the continued success of the iPod can be attributed to the capitalist ideal that competition accelerates innovation. In a similar fashion, the introduction of the iPhone is going to push Blackberry, Palm, and the manufacturers of Windows Mobile devices to continue making outstanding mobile products, and this will subsequently move Apple to make better iPhones. This will thus create a reciprocal cycle of high-quality technology. True supporters of Apple products will welcome competition, not necessarily because they are looking for an alternative product, but because new competition will serve as a catalyst of accountability for future Apple products.
Monday, July 16, 2007
So, when I decide that I don't want to cook, yet don't intend on cheating on my efforts to eat cleanly, I usually head to Crispers. There I am, thinking that this is a good, healthy alternative to other quick order restaurants. When looking up the nutritional value of the sandwich I usually order, I found out a Big Mac appears to be a healthier option!
To those looking to cut calories, the Big Mac seems to be the better choice, but calories alone shouldn't be the sole determining factor.
Although mono- and polyunsaturated fats have nutritional value (which makes up the difference between total fat and the saturated fat/trans fat content listed), the amount of such fats in that one turkey sandwich may be in excess. Given that turkey is one of the more naturally lean meats, I would assume that a lot of the saturated fat content in the Crispers sandwich comes from the cheese. I think the 1.5 grams of trans fat in the Big Mac is trivial compared to the high total fat content of the turkey sandwich.
The carb content of the turkey sandwich is unprecedented, with most of the carbs in the turkey sandwich coming from sugar, though it does have a higher amount of dietary fiber than the Big Mac. The bread on both sandwiches (or at least on the Big Mac) is from enriched wheat flour, so that's more bad news. The turkey sandwich does beat the Big Mac in the protein category. But is protein content alone enough to propel the turkey sandwich as a winner?
Yes, it is true that if you take away the high-quality, yet fatty cheese and honey mustard on the turkey sandwich, you will cut a lot of the fat. But, if I do that, what is the point of going out to a restaurant? If I want a bland sandwich, I can make that at home for about $1.00 (if that), which is about $6.50 less than I would spend on the sandwich and chips at Crispers or Panera Bread.
So, it looks like the Big Mac is healthier than the Crispers Smoke Turkey Delight. Despite that argument, I will choose the turkey sandwich over the Big Mac, because at least I don't feel unhealthy after eating it as I would after eating a Big Mac. However, I cannot look at this sandwich (and possibly any restaurant outings) as a healthy alternative to just making my own meal at home. For me, restaurant food choices become a battle of choosing the lesser evil.