Sunday, August 26, 2007

I'd Like to Thank the Academy...

Last night, the community theater where we spend most of our free time, Patio Playhouse, held our annual awards banquet. There was food, entertainment, and of course, awards. The competition was pretty fierce this year, and I am proud of the many friends of mine that won. The show I helped produce took home 3 awards, including best ensemble. And I think you may know the person who won "Best Actor in a Minor Supporting Role".

I was surprised, pleased, and humbled at the same time. I fumbled through my acceptance speech, having never given one for an acting award before. So, I'd like to take this time to thank all the people who made this award possible.

First off, I need to thank She-Who-Deserves-Thanks, as well as Maya and Josh. They were supportive and encouraging throughout. Josh and Maya learned all my songs and practiced them with me daily.

I need to thank Mary Bright and Richard Brousil, my directors. They believed and me and gave me one of the juiciest part I've ever had and I ran with it. They gave me the latitude to make the role my own and reigned me in when I went too far afield. And they helped me achieve things musically that I never have before.

I also want to thank the rest of the cast. The mission band, the Hot Box girls, and the gamblers. You were all great to work with an fun to play off. Special thanks have to go to the leads in the show. All of you were larger than life. Bob, Sara, Kevin, and Kris; you all gave so much. And of course, we can't forget the orchestra, especially Emily, Dan, Richard, and She-Who-Gets-A-Second-Mention. I had a habit of changing things up, but they stayed right with me and made me look good. In my mind, Guys and Dolls will always be tops! Thanks again!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Friday Funny IV - The Goblet of Funny

Today's clip is another of my favorite old comedy sketches. Watch as Dave Foley struggles to remember the name of a well known Orson Welles movie...

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Make Memories for Those Who Can't

This is another sponsored post, but it's an easy one for me to speak positively to. My grandmother died of Alzheimer's disease almost 10 years ago. It was painful to watch her go. It was even more painful to realize she had been gone a while and we never noticed because my grandfather covered for her so well. When he died, her last link to reality went as well. She lingered on for a number of years, but she didn't recognize many of us. She had rare lucid moments, but most of the time I doubt she even knew we were there. I remember her trying to read the newspaper out of habit. I say trying because it was upside down. It was hard to go visit her, but we knew she needed the company, even if she didn't know who we were. So we went and we watched as she slowly forgot how to do everything she ever learned.

Research has come a long way in the past 15 years with respect to treating and delaying the onset of symptoms, but there is still nothing remotely like a cure. So, if my giving a plug to a worthy charitable cause raises a few extra dollars, I'm OK with that. But you don't need to give money to help. You can volunteer your time as well. You can spread the word. You can get educated. The Alzheimer's Association has a lot of good data on the science behind the disease, dispelling myths, and even information for kids and teens. I personally like this link which lists 101 activities to do with a person with Alzheimer's.

Of course, if you can donate time or money, that would be great. The Memory Walk is a nationwide event. Odds are good that one is happening in a town near you. So, if you want to get involved, sign up now. The graphic above will take you to a page where you can enter a zip code and find out when and where your local walk is. I found two near me here in SoCal. One is in San Diego on October 27th and the other is in San Marcos on October 28th. From there, it's easy to sign up, donate, or even become a team Captain. If you don't live here, just go to the web site and enter your zip. I found four walks within 30 miles of my parents' house.

So, get out there and walk, donate, or just spend time with someone with Alzheimer's. It may not be easy, but very few things worth doing are.

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A Papaya Free Week

It's been a very weird week for us for a number of reasons. The main one is that Maya has gone to her first sleep away camp. She has been away for weekends before and overnights, but never a whole week. We sent her to the same camp that we like to go to for family camp on Thanksgiving and Mother's Day. The staff there always do a great job at family camp, so we figured she'd have fun. Even though we haven't seen her and only one of the ten pre-addressed and stamped envelopes we sent her with have surfaced, we know she is having fun. How do we know? They have a camp photographer who snaps hundreds of pictures a day and posts them to a web site where we can log in and view them. Of course, lame-o that I am, I get all mopey when I see the pictures and I miss her. Josh misses her, too. He's only asked where she is a couple of times. Tomorrow, we pick her up at a family cook out where she will show us all she has done. If you want to see the photos, private mail me and I'll send you the link. I don't think I am allowed to post it.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Comment Roundup

Some things crept into the recent comments that I wanted to follow up on, but I didn't think any of them deserved a full post. So, I am hodgepodging.

* James had a good point about the Pay Per Post model. He wondered if your earnings dropped if you were too negative and your credibility dropped if you were too positive. The way I had planned to combat that was not to take offers that I couldn't speak to sincerely. But that may not be enough. After all, nobody sees me bypass an offer. Given this thought, I am now planning to do some work for them for free. If they ask for a positive tone write-up and I don't feel positively, I'll write a negative tone review and just not accept the offer. What do you think?

* The fruit fund raiser post brought up some interesting points on two topics. I had originally been complaining about the pervasiveness of unhealthful choices in our culture. But my suggestion opened the whole school/group fund raiser issue. I don't think many of us like these fund raisers. Parents don't like peddling overpriced crap for the pittance that comes back to the school. Friends and neighbors don't like being guilted into buying it. The alternative is just to beg for money, but that can be more awkward. So, what is the solution? How can we transform the fund raiser model into something that supports the local economy, gives the school an adequate return, and gives the donor a feeling of satisfaction with their donation?

* Steve wants me to recrunch the numbers with the current six game lead for the Red Sox. Consider it done. The Sox are 76-50 and the Yanks are 70-56. That puts the Sox slightly over 0.600. They have been fluctuating around that for some time. If they continue to play 0.600 ball for the rest of the season, they will go 22-14. If they only win half of their games, they will go 18-18. So, we are likely to finish with 94-98 wins. That means the Yanks need 95-99 total wins to beat us. Therefore, they have to win between 25 and 29 of their remaining 36 games. That translates to a low end winning percentage of 0.694 and a high end of 0.806!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Idea Worth Sinking Your Teeth Into

Like most of our population, I'm a bit overweight. Obesity is something of an epidemic here in this country. And yet, all of our school fund raisers seem to have candy or cookie dough or some other fattening item in them. And even though I love Girl Scout Cookies and think the program does teach the girls many valuable lessons, I once commented to She-Who-Sometimes-Agrees-With-Me that they ought to sell Girl Scout carrots or something. Then they are learning and promoting health. Enter the Fresh Fruit Fundraiser! You sell oranges, grapefruits, apples, and tangelos. You can sell them as gift baskets or sell them directly in bulk to people. The gift basket method seems to me the better way to go. Unless someone is planning on some mad baking or juicing, a 20 lb box of fruit seems excessive. I suppose a bunch of people could go in on a single box, but that dilutes your fund raising opportunity. Still, it seems like a step in the right direction to me and I intend to suggest it to the PTA this year.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

BriWise Advertise

That's right! This space is for rent. I am trying out a service called Pay Per Post. The concept is that they get money from advertisers and give a portion of it to you in exchange for writing an article that meets a set of requirements. I'm just getting started, so I haven't seen all the types of requirements yet, but they seem to be on the order of number of words in the post, links the need to be included, and the type or tone of the post.

There was some controversy when they first started out because people weren't disclosing the fact that their posts were paid advertisements. That's been cleaned up with the advent of the disclosure image you see at the bottom of the post.

Another thing I like is that it seems like they are trying to integrate into normal blog flow. For instance, you can't take more than 2 offers per day, you have to have non-advertising posts between each of your advertising ones, and your blog has to have a minimum of one regular post every seven days.

Now, before you get too excited, obviously there are some factors about your blog that play into things. Your Google page rank determines what level of offers are available. You will also get feedback rankings (number of tacks) based your sponsored posts as well. Did you do the bare minimum to qualify? Or did you take to the spirit of the task as well?

On the other side, there are also opportunities for advertisers. Pay Per Post is trying to use targeted marketing to drive traffic to advertiser sites. This is an extension of the Google Ad Words model. The difference is, the ads are not random. People only post the ads that fit into their interests on their site. This eliminates one of the amusing Google Ads quirks. If I write a post complaining about President Bush, my banner suddenly contains pro-Bush ads. With PPP, your opportunities are restricted to the categories you selected when you signed up.

I am guardedly optimistic about this. It seems like a nice way to have my blogging habit earn me a little side cash. I don't have any visions of retiring on my PPP income, but if it allows me to buy a toy or two once in a while, it will be worth the effort. It gives me a chance to practice a different style of writing, and I enjoy that whether or not I get paid. This just allows me to justify the time.

If you are interested in signing up, I have a widget on my sidebar. I do get paid for referrals, but in spite of that, I don't want people rushing to sign up just for that. The referral fee is $15 and is contingent upon the referee having a qualified blog and writing a post. So, you can't just have all your friends sign up and then quit.

My advice is to wait and see. I'm going to make a go of it and report my progress. That way, you will have more details and can make a more informed decision. It doesn't cost anything to sign up, so this seems to be in a different class of internet offer than "Shoot the mugger and get a free iPod", but it's better to be safe than sorry and I am happy to be your guinea pig.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Funny III

Here's an animation called "Gopher Broke" that I found on It's like YouTube, but a bit newer. It's hosted by DivX, so it is supposed to support DivX content formatting as well. I'm just starting to explore it, but you may need a DivX plug in to view this.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Extra Secure

I love the Security system at my office. It’s fun being a contractor. You get to jump through meaningless hoops so someone else can feel like they are effective. There are a number of excellent rules and regulations here. For example, every day all contractors enter through the side door. You can tell who the contractors are because they all have red bordered badges to contrast with the regular employees blue. They stop at the security desk to check in. Security click a button on the screen next the contractor’s name. How many of you think that does something? Perhaps it checks the employee in and activates their badge? Keeps them hones about their hours because they check in and out? Nope. It just acknowledges that they stopped by the desk. In order to prove that you checked in, they have to put a round sticker with a red C on it on the back of your badge. The sticker has day of the month hand written on it. It’d be impossible to circumvent this system. Well, maybe Tom Cruise could do it in the next MI movie.


The best part of the whole system is that it is possible to go out through a door that you are not allowed back in through. The first such place I found was the patio of the cafeteria. It was a nice day, so I went to sit at a cool and shady table while I ate. None of the doors would allow me back in. To add insult to injury, the patio is surrounded by a tall iron fence to prevent outsiders from eating with us without security clearance. The gates leading out through this fence are locked and not badge activated. I was trapped on the patio until someone opened the door for me, which by the way is a security violation. No piggybacking allowed.


Why am I ranting about all of this? I had to mail a letter at work today. The mail pickup is at the reception desk. I walked out to the lobby and dropped it off, completely forgetting that my badge does not allow me in through the lobby. Further, the receptionist is not allowed to open the door for me. So even though I just walked out that door for the sole purpose of putting an envelope on a tray, I can’t go back in. She looked at me without a hint of pity and said “You have to go around”. So, I walked out the front doors, down the far end of the building in the hundred degree heat, and back in through the unlocked doors. I then walked past security, which saw my red bordered badge and never bothered to check for the scarlet C. I then got the customary snub from my star-bellied, er, I mean, blue-bordered colleagues, and finally made it back to my desk. Well, I feel better.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mathological: Red Sox are Choking Edition

I'm not sure that I've coined a new term. Someone must have thought of it before. But here at BriWise, "Mathological" will now be used to refer to any attempt to mislead with numbers. It's part of my campaign for a more statistically aware planet. Yesterday was a topical attempt since I had been comparing job offers and was hoping to help others in the same boat. Today is a little more frivolous. As a Red Sox fan, current sports events just feel like history repeating itself. The Sox are choking again. They were up by 10 games at the All Star break and here it is, barely a month later and the lead is down to 4. It's inevitable that we implode and the Yankees overtake us, right?

Well, there's perception and then there is reality. Let's look at the numbers

W L Pct
Boston 71 47 0.602
NYY 67 51 0.568

Now, how have they performed since the Al-Star break?

W L Pct
Boston 18 13 0.580
NYY 24 08 0.750

Which of those percentages looks closest to the season average? At the break, the Sox would have been 53-34 for a percentage of 0.609 while the Yankees were 43-43, for a percentage of 0.500.

If we apply those percentages to what they have done since the break, we see that the expected value of Sox wins was 19. So, they are certainly close to the pace they were setting before the break. For those who don't want to do the math, 19/31 = 0.612. The Yankees, conversely, played a mediocre first half and only won half their games. That means, they should have been expected to win 16 games. They won a full 50% more.

Does this help us predict anything? Of course not! If it did, we wouldn't need to play the season. But it does suggest that the Sox are not choking. They have lost 4 of their last 7. So, the immediate impression is that they are doing poorly. The Yankees, on the other hand, have caught fire. They are not as bad as the data of the first 86 games suggests, but they are not as good as the data of the last 32 either. How do I know? Let's look at more numbers!

If a team was to play 0.750 ball for a season, they would win 121 games. That hasn't been done in the modern era, which is a fairly large sample size. So, while it is not impossible, it is statistically unlikely.

That doesn't mean the Yankees won't catch the Red Sox. With 44 games left, if the Sox continue playing with consistency, they will win 26 or 27 more games, falling a little shy of the coveted 100 win plateau. Let's say 26 for the sake of argument meaning they would end up with 97 wins. The Yankees need to win 31 of their remaining 44 to overtake the Sox, a winning percentage of 0.704. Not impossible, but, again, statistically unlikely.

This isn't meant to cheer anybody up. Just a little numerical reminder that the Sox are not choking. The Yanks are surging. So, lay off and stop stressing all you doom and gloomers!

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Beware of Math

Comparing job offers is often a challenge. No two job offers are equal, even if they have the same dollar value attached. They are further complicated by the fact that different people value different things. For example, would you accept a lower salary for more time off? What if the salary discount subtracted more than the weekly value of the extra time? This is further complicated when you add contracting offers into the mix. Screw apples and oranges. It’s more like trying to compare a tropical fruit cup with a New England fruit cup with another New England fruit cup that somebody picked all the grapes out of. When you are a contractor, you get an hourly rate. You get no paid time off, but you do get paid for every hour you work. You also get a bump if you go into overtime. That means that the way you compare things is going to vary depending on what assumptions you make.

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you are comparing two jobs. One is a $30/hour contract and one is a $50k a year job. To get these into the same units, we need to annualize the hourly rate. How do we do that?

  1. Multiply it out times 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year.

30 dollars/hour * 40 hours/week * 52 weeks/year = $62,400 per year

Looks like a better job, no? This will tell you how much you would earn with no overtime and no time off. How realistic is that? Let’s take out the holidays since most companies will not let you work on holidays.

  1. Same as 1, but subtract the holidays since you won’t earn anything for those. Let’s assume 10 holidays as that seems typical on average. That’s the equivalent of 2 weeks of business days.

30 dollars/hour * 40 hours/week * 50 weeks/year = $60,000 per year

Of course, you aren’t allowed to take vacation under that scheme. So, if you are looking to compare, should you take unpaid vacation and see where you come out?

  1. Same as 2, but subtract out the vacation days you don’t get. More and more high tech companies are standardizing on 3 weeks to start. That brings us down to 47 weeks.

30 dollars/hour * 40 hours/week * 47 weeks/year = $56,400 per year

Starting to get close now, isn’t it? And what if you get sick? Can you take time off? And how will you pay for medicine and such?

  1. Same as 3, but we are going to remove a week of sick time and a conservative $500 per month to cover the difference in having company health insurance and having to be self-insured.

30 dollars/hour * 40 hours/week * 46 weeks/year - $500/month * 12 months/year = $49,200 per year

Now, all of a sudden they are similar. If we start adding to the salary with things like bonuses, tuition reimbursement, flexible spending plans, etc, it starts to far outpace the contract position.

The problem is that whole analysis is biased toward normalizing for benefits. If your goal is to make as much money as possible and assume some risks for yourself, then you may want to calculate for averages and maximums and may make some assumptions for overtime. You could probably calculate an annualized income of $70k.
What does this all mean? It means you need to decide your priorities and goals before you start searching. And you should do the math yourself. Other people will give you their takes on the numbers. This is not out of a desire to mislead or be malicious. They are just doing the math from their perspective. Do your homework. Set up your assumptions. Then do your comparison. Just realize that it is a subjective comparison. There’s nothing wrong with being subjective when you are the subject. After all, you are the one who needs to live with the decision.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Funny II

I may try to make this a regular thing. I'm going to look for amusing videos to plug in here and give you a new one each Friday. Here's a great bit from one of my favorite comedy groups of the 80's; The Frantics!

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How to Waste an Hour

Step 1: Be tired.

Step 2: Pop “Dark Side of the Moon” into your computer’s CD drive.

Step 3: Play in Windows Media Player in full screen mode with visualization on.

Step 4: Wipe drool from keyboard when you come to

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Not Blogging For a Few Days

My folks are in town and we are scheduled to the hilt. I even took a couple unpaid days from work so we could really run ourselves into the ground. Here's the schedule. Sea World today and tonight. Legoland tomorrow during the day. Kid Improv performance and Andrews Sisters tribute performance back to back tomorrow night. Saturday morning is the Renaissance Faire, where I am the Sheriff and Faire spokesperson. Saturday night is improve performed by the adult troupe I lead. They fly out early Sunday and I do another day of Faire. So, if there is blogging time in there, I'll do it. But don't hold your breath. ;)

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Acrostic Fever!

Not too long ago, Maya discovered acrostics. For Valentine’s day, all her close friends were given acrostics of their names. She also did it with birthdays and other card giving holidays. Here’s an example of her work:


Well, Josh decided that he, too, wanted to make cards like these. He decided this just in time for Mother’s Day. Here, then, is the best Mother’s Day card She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has ever received.


Naturally, we had to ask questions about it. Most were self-explanatory. Here is the oral translation he gave us. Morkr = Marker. (Guess what art supply has been renamed in our house?) Terifik is Terrific. Histre is History. Ebnokshis is Obnoxious. And Rose is Rose. Interesting sentiments. But that left one out.

Mom: But what is Obishus?
Josh: Mommy, YOU’RE Obishus.

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