Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Going to rock out with Ryan Seacrest tonight? What are your New Year's Eve plans and traditions?

Here's wishing you a safe, fun new year from Relatively Journalizing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Anamigo, the Social Networking Site for Pet Lovers, Hosts Photo Contest

Think these kittens are cute? Yeah, me too, and it's likely someone got some money for sending in a photo such as this.

Think you've heard it all when it comes to social networking sites? LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, (and in the words of one of my favorite professors, YourSpace, HisFace, HerFace, Everybody'sFace), etc. But did you know there is a site out there just for people who love their pets?

It's true, Anamigo is a social networking site for people who love their pets and who love looking at cute pet photos and talking about and blogging about their furry friends. Here's what Anamigo says about itself:

"They're there when you wake up, when you get home from a long day and when you're ready to get into bed. And yet, you can’t get enough of your pet. We get it.

So we created Anamigo.com, an online pet community dedicated to giving our pets their own place online. They are such crucial players in our lives in the real world, and we believe they deserve to come online as well.

By design, our site is only as immersive as you want it to be. Relax during a short break from the day-to-day and browse the cutest dog, puppy, kitten and cat pictures from pet people just like you. Create your pet's profile and upload as many photos as you like. Or dig in and participate in our forums, blogs and groups. Anamigo.com is a place where you choose how engaged you want to be — and our aim is to make sure you're rewarded for every moment you spend here."
That reward they're talking about? Anamigo gives out a daily $25 prize for the best pet pic of the day, and weekly photo winners get $125. They give out about $300 a week over at Anamigo, so it's time to grab your pet, start shooting (photos, of course) and start visiting Anamigo.com!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Networking: A Key to Success

Today's guest post comes from Nickey Hollenbach of the blog Virtual Caffeine and owner of Personal Touch Concierge Service, LLC. I'd like to personally say, "thanks!" to Nickey for sharing her expertise with the readers of Relatively Journalizing.

Most people don’t realize just how important networking is! Especially you college grads, right? So I’d like to dedicate this post to the upcoming business generation who most likely have not thought a lot about the value of networking. The mindset you need to be in is networking all the time. After you practice these tips, you’ll find you’re networking without even thinking about it!

1. Go out and talk to people.
If you’re a little on the shy side, the first thing you need to do is GET OVER IT! Practice talking to people by just making small talk. If you’re standing in line (anywhere), smile at the person near you and comment on the weather, the line you’re in, etc. Take it slow if you’re not ready for a full-blown conversation. Don’t try to make up stuff just to talk. And listen if that person is talking to you! It’s the only way you’ll learn something — you already know what you’ve got to say! Try talking to someone you don’t know every single time you go out in public. After awhile, it will be as normal as breathing.

For those of us that have no problem striking up a conversation, do so at every opportunity you have. Don’t butt in someone’s conversation, and do not underestimate the power of a genuine, friendly smile!

2. Concentrate on helping other people connect.
The fastest way to get someone to remember you is to give them a great reason to remember you — that you helped them. So you need to ask the question first (what do you do?) and really pay attention. Any questions pop up in your mind about what they do? Ask them. They’ll know you’re really interested in them, and people love to feel listened-to. Ask them if they have a card and then write notes on the back that will help you remember them. After awhile, you’ll realize that these cards you have are gold. You are bound to know someone who can benefit from the services or products of someone from that card. Pass along a recommendation and let that person know you’ve passed along their name. If something good comes out of the connection — they will remember you!

3. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up — but don’t be a PITA.
After every networking event you go to, send an email to the people whose cards you’ve acquired! Don’t try to sell them anything! Keep it short and simple. If you’ve met someone you think can benefit from knowing you, ask them if you can meet them for coffee. Tell them you think the two of you can be mutually beneficial and you’d love the chance to LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT THEY DO. What THEY do, not what you do. If they say they’re too busy or some other excuse, don’t push it.

4. Tell them what you’re trying to do with your service or product.
Once you get to meet someone one-on-one, that’s when you tell them what you do and how and why. The fastest way to make someone suspicious or bore them to tears is to tell them how wonderful you are. Instead, tell them some success stories that you’re involved with; how you helped X somehow. Keep it short and to the point! If you’re not sure how it will sound, write it down, come back to it the next day and reread it.

5. Come up with and then practice your 30-second commercial.
Come up with your 30-second commercial (because that’s all the time you’ve got to get someone’s interest) and how your service or product can help them. Do not be pushy! That will get you nowhere and you will lose their trust. One thing I do that seems to get people’s attention is that when I get asked what I do, I say, “I bring peace of mind to small businesses.” My company name is Personal Touch Concierge Service, LLC. If that doesn’t get their attention, nothing will! But every single time their interest is peaked I get a follow-up question. I’m then answering their questions and giving them the information that they are asking and not blathering on about what I think they want to hear about me.

6. Join a networking group.
There are plenty out there available at all costs. Your best bet to start out is probably your local Chamber of Commerce. The fee should be very reasonable and they should have at least one card mixer a month. Join committees on the Chamber and get your name recognized. There are also others such as BNI, LeTip, etc. Just Google networking groups and see what’s in your area.

7. Social media.
And of course now is the time to clean up your Facebook and/or MySpace profile and take off all the pictures that make you look less than, shall we say, business-like. Employers and clients are checking out these sites more and more before they hire someone. If they find something rather embarrassing on one of these sites, kiss your client — and possibly even your reputation — bye-bye.

LinkedIn is a must-be-on site for any businessperson. And network like crazy through this site. Invite your sane friends, colleagues, past clients, reputable relatives . . . you’ll grow with connections.


Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to establishing trustworthy relationships and getting your name out there! Nickey Hollenbach can be reached at nickeyh [at] ptconciergeservice [dot] com.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Honorably Discharged

Well, if we're Facebook friends or real-life friends, chances are you already knew about this, but I've been "honorably discharged" from the military. My separation date was 7 October 2008, but I just got the certificate in the mail a couple of weeks ago and snapped this photo (which I made my Facebook profile picture at the time).

I'm still not comfortable enough to write everything I would like to write about my time in the military because one thing the recruiters don't like to emphasize is your IRR (inactive ready reserve) time. Yeah, that's right, even though I have this certificate, the Army could still call me up for two more years, in addition to the six I have already served. Perhaps in October 2010, I will write a tell-all memoir about the things I witnessed, heard and experienced in the military — some good, some astoundingly ridiculous.

All in all, it was a good ride. I wouldn't do it differently because, heck, I got my undergraduate education paid for and earned some money on the side through drills and annual trainings. I got a bonus, too, though it pales in comparison to what people are getting now... we hadn't gone to Iraq yet when I enlisted in 2002. Oh yeah, and they paid that bonus in like four payments and taxed it each time. But I digress...

...I met some great people during my time in the military, and I will always cherish that time and those friendships. I think I will always think like and sometimes act like a soldier, but it is nice to close this chapter on my life and move on to the future — honorably.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

PETA Video Will Make You Cringe

About one week ago, I wrote a blog post about an interview I read with PETA's leader, and I wrote about how absolutely ridiculous I find her and the organization itself. It's difficult to take PETA seriously with some of the tactics they use and considering some of the things they ask people to do (like how we should all become vegetarians).

However, I think PETA's work is good in some aspects. For one, I think their use of different Web sites to reach different target audiences is a great public relations move (much better than their failure to account for exchange relationships or the boomerang effect). They have PETA2 for college students, PETA Kids and PETA Prime for seniors, all of which can be accessed from the main PETA.org site.

Recently, a Virginia resident, Jennifer Thornburg, a recent high-school graduate, changed her name to Cutout Dissection.com. First name, Cutout, last name, dissection.com. Now while I find this extremely ridiculous, I was intrigued enough to visit the Web site that is the girl's name. It wasn't long before I figured out that the site is actually part of PETA2, and I began exploring a bit.

Now, I don't agree with every argument PETA makes, and I still think using some animal corpses for scientific purposes is necessary to advance science. However, I do not think that as an amateur dissector in middle school and high school that I got anything out of dissecting a piglet or cat that I couldn't have learned from a 3D computer model. And, let's face it, public relations practitioner don't do dissections, so if one of those animals had to die just so I could dissect it — now I feel kinda bad for wasting that animal.

So, I can see PETA's argument (and Cutout Dissection.com's) that we should at the very least minimize the number of animals used for dissections. I should emphasize that I had no problem with frogs being used — until I heard PETA's argument about the destabilization of ecosystems and the sheer number of frogs used for these purposes. If they aren't blowing things out of proportion (which I have to imagine they are just a bit), then I really agree with them here.

What really converted me on this topic was the following video because they use so many domesticated animals that we have come to love. I must warn you the stories and images used in this video will make you cringe, and perhaps even tear up. While there are not really scenes of blood and gore, there are scenes of dead animals being tossed around like garbage and live animals being beaten into their gas chambers. This is one of the most horrendous things I have ever seen, but that's why I'm reposting it here.


peta2.com

I do realize the need for scientific use of cadavers of various types, but let's all spread the word to adopt animals so they don't have to be put down and to call for our schools and universities to cut out dissection unless absolutely necessary. We could definitely limit the number of animals that have to be treated like garbage if high school biology/anatomy student and college non-majors in science classes used 3D models. The students would probably also learn more. Unless someone is actually going to need to know how to go inside of the specific animal being used to save future lives of animals, then dissections should absolutely be cut out.

Friday, December 26, 2008

I Choose You, Entman!

If there's one thing I've noticed since I began graduate school and started writing more theoretically based scholarly papers, it's that certain people expect certain other people to be cited as sources in those papers. Otherwise, some scholars just will not find your work credible. Now, the required amount and diversity of citations varies by professor, but some citations are safer bets than others. Deciding who to put in your literature review is much like deciding what lineup of Pokémon to select to beat your friend's pocket monsters, especially for a generation of graduate students who grew up playing GameBoy and knowing that Squirtle might destroy Charmander, but Pikachu will have no effect on Onyx.

Some professors expect a short lit review and want you to get to your results and "so what?" section of the paper. But most of them want an extensive review of the literature, especially in a project such as a thesis. Some want you to cite them, and others just want you to read how many times they cited themselves. Others think you should cite their old graduate committee members from their alma maters. Still yet, there are the professors who think you should cite only one discipline, or perhaps the others who want you to incorporate an interdisciplinary approach. Some love one theory, while others hate it. Some want you to be quantitative while others like to keep it qualitative. The point is, you'll never figure out just exactly what your graduate faculty wants in a paper because none of them want the same things.

However, in the communication discipline, I've noticed that just the mere mentioning of some scholars' names will make professors hit the run away button, metaphorically speaking. In other words, there are some safe bets that are good to release from your Poké Ball of journal articles (EBSCO host, the biggest Poké Ball of them all).

Here's a slightly (OK, extremely) nerdy dialogue you might hear in our department:

Professor A: Well, you certainly framed that well, perhaps just like Robert Entman?
Student A: Well, actually I would look at this like a rhetorical situation, just like Bitzer!
Student B: Oh yeah? But what if I narrate about it with Fisher?
Professor A: The two of you must find a way to agree, I recommend the two-way symmetrical model by the Grunigs!
Professor B: Wait! That's preposterous and unethical! We must settle this as Burkean actors!
Student C: Ridiculous. Waggenspack would never allow it! Find a medium to get your message across.
Student A: Don't try a sneak attack with McLuhan on me, buddy! I'll counter it with Littlejohn and Foss!
Professor A: This needs to end now! Let's see if you can defeat the Kaid brigade (et. al.)!
Student B: That's no match for my Tedesco phishing attack!
***Heath, Coombs and Benoit have entered the arena, Holloway has fainted***
***Ivory and Magee are crunching numbers***
***Denton and Riley are publishing books***
***Self-citing ensues by junior faculty member +1***
***Graduate students lose sleep -4***
***Graduate students' reading abilities +200 pages***
Professor C: It is over. I have come to set all of your agendas. Media telling you what to think about, for the win! McCombs and Shaw, Chapel Hill study, gooooo!

And then the battle ended because every good communication scholar knows citing the 1972 McCombs and Shaw study is almost always a requirement.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve!

Every Christmas Eve since I've been alive, I gather with my mom's side of the family for dinner on Christmas Eve and to read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Then, I gather with my dad's side and open presents and eat and laugh again. I usually stay up late hanging out with my parents, go to sleep, and then wake up Christmas morning to open presents from my parents. That's just always been the tradition. And it's one I cherish. What's yours?

Note: I was informed a few days after I scheduled this post that the above tradition is not happening this year. There will be no family Christmas Eve gathering to read the Christmas story. I am, of course, somewhat appalled, but I suppose I'll have to start some tradition of my own... any recommendations?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why No Bailout for the Newspaper Business? You Can't Resuscitate a Corpse.

Back in May 2007, uber-nerd Bill Gates told the world what many of us early adopters already knew: Print media is dead. OK, it's dying.

But the newspaper industry had seen this one coming for years with the onset of convergence journalism, as kids such as myself were coming up through journalism school learning to write, edit, design, take photos, edit video and post online. What did the newspapers do? They started taking away all the things that were working for them in the first place, and many of them stubbornly ignored the need to change their formats. Sure, some tried, but they weren't quick about it.

I've worked in a modern-day newsroom, and while virtually every journalist I've met has the same great ideas I had when I decided to go into journalism, I don't know if everyone realizes the unrealism of those ideas at today's newspapers. How often do today's journalists get time to do a real in-depth, compelling story or uncover that big scandal in a watchdog function? Most of them are scrambling to make deadline, writing more stories than ever before, and hoping a helpful news release comes their way.

Have managers in the newspaper business discouraged this growing practice of downsizing the newsroom and requesting the same amount of content? Nope, they've allowed cutesy short stories to appear day after day, and they've failed to get the backbone of the newsrooms trained on blogging and video. Or, if they incorporate those technologies, they don't allow reporters much time to utilize them, or they refuse to let reporters write in a tone that sounds as though it is actually a blog. Instead, reporters are forced to write in a news story format, defeating the purpose.

I love journalism, and I love the underlying themes of the Fourth Estate and the media's watchdog function. But in an era of infotainment, where advertising departments and corporate agendas have killed real journalism, I'm afraid we may never be able to turn back to quality reporting at some of the high levels we've seen it in the past. I suppose that's why I'm getting out of journalism for the most part.

I feel as though I can do more good through blogging, publishing myself. I can write what I want, when I want, with as little or as much research as is needed. And the rest of the world is realizing this potential. Bloggers shut down Dan Rather, among other things. We are starting to become the real news source for the world because we aren't worried about what corporate might think, and editorial control is out the window.

Though blogs are often opinionated, readers can go elsewhere to find counterpoints and make a decision on their own. If this were the era of the party press, we'd see newspapers announcing in which political direction they lean — I wish they'd just go ahead and do it now because it's mostly obvious they are all biased. Bias isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is when it's presented as objectivity. It's impossible for any journalist to completely remove all personal biases, as any scholar in agenda-setting and framing theories will tell you.

Which brings me to my next point. It seems newspapers have often also ignored the implications of mass media theory, becoming a highly pragmatic industry. If agenda-setting, agenda-building, framing, priming, new media and other theories were considered more carefully by industry leaders, perhaps they would not find themselves in their current situations. How often do individual journalist themselves consider the theoretical implications of their work?

So, though I do not agree with bailing out industries, such as was done recently with the banks in the U.S. and is under consideration regarding the American automakers, I did give thoughtful consideration about the newspaper industry. Newspapers employ people as well, they are read by many Americans and they serve an informative and educational function. However, my answer to any such action being taken to save the newspaper industry is a resounding "no."

The newspapers are no different from the automakers and the bankers. The bankers encouraged people to take out loans they knew they could not afford, ignoring economic trends. The automakers ignored environmental/stylistic attitudes and economic trends as well, and let's face it, in both cases corruption is involved. The newspaper industry has for years ignored the trend in convergence and the shift to online consumption by audiences, so it too deserves to die. In its place, we will see an emergence of Media 2.0, I think, playing off of Web 2.0. There will be more news from more sources available on the Internet, and consumers will expect the bells and whistles that only a few traditional media have embraced on the Web.

If traditional journalists and news organizations are to survive, they will have to do it online. Even local news is available online from bloggers and citizen journalists. Customizable, quick news must be made available. However, the in-depth reports newspapers used to provide must be allowed to be undertaken because niche audiences interested in those areas will want that information. Veteran reporters must become tech-saavy, and they should be on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites. It's a fast-moving train, but someone has to ride it, and if traditional journalists do not set the tone quickly and boldly, then others will.

If I could make any recommendation to a journalist out there who wonders what to do next, I would tell him or her — get a personal blog. Design a professional-looking blog, quit your job in the newsroom, and start hunting for real news that people want to read. Especially if you work at a small-town newspaper. Just imagine how many hits you could generate if you reported on the things people tell you they think are important. You could work from home, and you could do as much research as you wanted on your stories without worrying about deadlines. If you keep your content fresh and interesting, you'll generate enough advertising dollars before long to forget the newspaper hustle and bustle. (It's not as though the pay was that great anyway, was it?)

Or, you could go into public relations. We still need some people out there publishing the truth, but why not help them decide what the truth is? I suppose that's why I'm so attracted to public relations — it involves strategies and tactics. Not lies, mind you. It just requires a higher, more theoretical level of thinking than the same interview, write, repeat routine every day. But as the relationship between news and PR becomes less adversarial and more symbiotic, journalists absolutely need story ideas and prepackaged information to meet tight deadlines in understaffed newsrooms.

Of course, there's always the option of working for CNN or another news organization that does lots of online and broadcast reports. Though I think TV will live longer than the newspaper, it will not be long before watch all of our content on computers. So, produce video and copy for an online news site if you can land the job. I think these jobs will actually begin to grow as more and more print publications, just as the Christian Science Monitor did, go online in the near future to save printing costs and attract new audiences.

So, just because newspapers will die, it doesn't mean the reasons we all went to journalism school have to die also. Though I don't plan to stay in journalism, I do want to continue to blog because it offers me an opportunity to offer perspectives such as this post did or to actually report news in my community I feel is interesting. Through this discussion (and that's what Web 2.0 is all about), we can develop online communities that will create offline solutions to our common issues.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Widening the Gap: Why Ads Are Not Enough to Restore Microsoft's Legitimacy

Well, yesterday I wrote about the official completion of my internship process. You didn't really think that would be the end of the blog, though, did you? Today, I'm sharing with you my other semester project (well, 2/3, but I can't share the campaign I did for my campaigns class with you until after its launch).

So, my paper for my graduate crisis communication/issues management public relations class was titled the same as this blog post. I looked at the "Life Without Walls" ad campaign by Microsoft, which featured the Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates "What's Next?" ads and the subsequent switch to the "I'm a PC" ads. The image in this blog post is actually one I created to explain the relationships Micrsoft has with its publics.

This project used legitimacy gap theory, which basically says that organizations can create gaps between themselves and publics by doing things outside of social (or market) norms or by failing to adapt to social (or market) changes. These legitimacy gaps produce various issues for organizations.

I determine from my study that Microsoft began its ad campaign with a pre-existing legitimacy gap because of its monopolistic, bullying practices and its poor business model. However, through an analysis of traditional media coverage about the "Life Without Walls" campaign messages (using LexisNexis) and also of blog coverage (to include comments found on blog posts), I was able to see that the new ad campaign did not bridge this gap — in fact, it widened the gap through unclear, absurd messages.

By determining these results, I recommend that Microsoft must fix its business model and redeem itself with consumers through apologia. If it does not do so, its current growth, as compared with that of its rival, Apple, will result in a loss of Microsoft's top spot in the technological marketplace.

I hope to polish this paper for submission and hopefully publication in a public relations journal when I return to school from winter break, so be on the lookout for it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mission: Accomplished — Relatively Journalizing Comes Full Circle With Presentation of Public Relations Report

You might remember how my original reason for starting this blog was to chronicle my internship experiences last summer at the recommendation of my adviser. I interned with great people at a great place called Access, focusing on public relations. I had to write an extensive paper about my internship, applying theory to the practical application of public relations I did there, proving that I had learned more about public relations through the communication theories learned in my graduate courses at Virginia Tech (Department of Communication).

So, keeping in the tradition of this blog and therefore posting about public relations as much as possible (though I realize it's been sort of a smorgasboard along the way), I'll share with you here the extremely abbreviated version of my 85-page paper that I presented last month to my graduate committee.

"Integrating Public Relations Theory Across Multiple Projects: A Graduate Internship Report Offering Insight into Experiences and Lessons Learned"

Overall, I felt the sociopsychological and sociocultural traditions, as discussed often by Littlejohn and Foss, were prevalent as overall frames through which to view my experiences.

I came away with the following five focal points to discuss regarding my experiences:
  1. Audience analysis: you must target the right audiences with the right messages for them. Therefore, knowing psychographic and demographic information about your audiences is key. In addition, I discuss how the narrative perspective of rhetorical criticism can actually lend a tool for creating effective messages across cultures.
  2. Media usage: I discussed agenda-setting, framing and priming theories here, and more specifically, I wrote about agenda-building. As public relations practitioners, we often build the agenda for the agenda-setters (the media), especially in a symbiotic age between the two professions. Also, I took a McLuhan approach, advocating that the medium really is the message.
  3. Research importance: Every PR project starts with good research. While the type and depth of the research varies by case, it is always the first and most important step to success. I discussed the importance of understanding statistics and research methods, including such strategies as using open-ended questions in focus group and surveys.
  4. Public voice: Here, I primarily discussed the two-way symmetrical model of public relations first made famous by the Grunigs while they were at the University of Maryland through their "Excellence Study." I believe it is important to give our various publics voices, finding a win-win zone using a mixed-motive model. However, I also discuss the ethical implications of this concept from a critical perspective.
  5. Advice: In the last part of my report, I offered advice to future graduate students who decide to become professional-track, internship-option students. This includes selection of an internship and workplace performance.
I of course mentioned in the paper the various clients and projects I worked on, but I would rather not mention them here. I did have a great opportunity to work on a wide range of things from research to writing to social media marketing to promotions.

I would like to personally thank Dr. Rachel Holloway for her guidance in this project and Todd Marcum for allowing me to experience this great opportunity.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chevrolet's Ads Are Misleading

I recently came across a Chevrolet ad in TIME magazine, and the page was all green with some leaves floating to the ground. The message in the advertisement reads as this:
"Chevy offers more models than Toyota or Honda* with an est. 30 MPG highway or better. *Or Nissan or Hyundai or VW..."
Now, I'm sure you can imagine how difficult I found this to believe. So, I did a little investigating to see if Chevy is stretching the truth. The following is a list of cars they list on their Web site for this campaign as having 30+ MPG:
  1. Cobalt XFE Coupe — 37 MPG
  2. Cobalt XFE Sedan — 37 MPG
  3. Malibu Hybrid — 34 MPG (only one more than the nonhybrid...)
  4. Aveo 5 — 34 MPG
  5. Aveo Sedan — 34 MPG
  6. Malibu — 33 MPG
  7. HHR — 32 MPG
  8. HHR Panel — 32 MPG
Notice how they count the same car twice because it's a slightly different version? Misleading, I think, but let's do the same thing with Toyota because Chevy mentions how they have more models than the other automakers, so let's test one of them out:
  1. Yaris — 36 MPG
  2. Corolla — 35 MPG
  3. Matrix — 32 MPG
  4. Camry — 31 MPG
  5. Solara — 31 MPG
  6. Prius — 45 MPG
  7. Camry Hybrid — 34 MPG
It appears Chevy actually does beat Toyota by one model. I checked Honda, too, who ties Chevy with eight models, but Chevy likely didn't count the one hydrogen-powered model. Hyundai also has eight models if you count all versions of each car just as Chevy did with its own cars. That makes the statement "more" by Chevy a lie. The other two companies mentioned in the ad were Nissan and VW. Nissan does have few 30+ models, coming in at five, and VW has a pretty clunky Web site, but I'm guessing they don't come in as high as their Asian friends.

So, because Honda and Hyundai tie Chevy, and because Toyota is only one behind, taking out a full-page green ad that touts "more" from Chevy hardly seems truthful. This is just another example of greenwashing to make a buck, when Chevy hardly ranks as a top green company. In fact, Forbes named Honda as the greenest automaker last year, followed by Toyota and then Hyundai. General Motors (Chevy) came in just one from the bottom above DaimlerChrysler. These rankings were determined by looking at overall fuel economy and emissions.

Note: This blog, however, is green. Notice the green image encouraging recycling in this post. Also, this blog is 100-percent paper free. I also reuse other Web sites by hyperlinking. I reduce the energy used by my laptop when writing blog posts by typing insanely fast.

Friday, December 19, 2008

'Not a Cough in a Carload' Provides Truth, Entertainment, Vintage Media Analysis

Luuccccyyyy, you got some 'splainin' to doooooo! The old tobacco ad, seen here, features Lucille Ball, everyone's favorite character from "I Love Lucy" and various other films and shows. Ball wasn't the only celebrity to be fooled into plugging for big tobacco, and the advertising strategies used in the 20th century fooled plenty of regular Joes and Janes also.

Stanford School of Medicine researchers have put together a wonderful exhibit online ("Not a Cough in a Carload") that features virtually every tobacco ad imaginable, searchable by theme, complete with a listing of slogans and a comparison area with contemporary tobacco advertising. One could spend a while check all of these out, as did I. Kudos to the folks at Stanford for putting together this resource.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

PETA Doesn't Even Take Itself Seriously

Recently, Ingrid Newkirk, PETA co-founder (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), did a "10 Questions" interview for the Nov. 3, 2008, edition of TIME magazine. Her answers to some of the write-in questions the magazine received from readers just did not seem very sincere. It almost seems as though Newkirk herself doesn't even take her ridiculous organization seriously. And if she doesn't, why should we?

Some quotes from Newkirk:
"I think if you're against cruelty and you look at what happens to animals in slaughterhouses and on factory farms, you have to be completely against eating meat."
So if I raise my own animals at my house, then it's OK to kill them for meat? Awesome.

In regard to PETA's recent advocating for Ben & Jerry's to use human breast milk in their ice cream:
"It isn't very feasible at all... it was a joke... making anything out of cow's milk is unkind."
Yes, I agree, rubbing that poor animal's breasts is almost as cruel as killing it. I'm sure the cow would love to have all that milk for herself. Newkirk also mentioned that we are taking milk meant for calves. Last time I checked, your milk cows are used for milk or they are used for breeding, usually not both at the same time. Update: It has been pointed out to me by some animal activists that cows are impregnated yearly to keep them producing milk. While I don't find this cruel (because I don't think we should stop drinking milk or eating beef), some do, and more information is available here, here and here. Thanks to gvusamail [at] gmail [dot] com specifically for those links.
"I think animal liberation is human liberation."
I ROTFLMAO'd a bit when I read that one. Very Orwellian, FTW!
"I think people who don't know PETA often miss the fact that we're poking fun at ourselves..."
No, trust me, Ingrid, we didn't miss that fact at all.

FYI, I'm starting a new organization and calling it PEATA (People for Eating All Types of Animals).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How Many ACC Students Does It Take to Change a Lightbulb?

Back in the middle of college football season, my friend Daron Williams, an occasional guest blogger here on Relatively Journalizing sent me an e-mail forward about how many students it takes to change a lightbulb in the SEC, and it also compared the way people celebrate football in the North as opposed to in the South. It was pretty humorous, so I planned to do an ACC version, being from Virginia Tech, sometime here on my blog. When I Googled "How many change lightbulb ACC" I only found this post, but I didn't like most of the lines it used. So I use a couple here, and write some of my own that you actually have to know a little about the school to get.
  • At Duke it takes two — One to change the light bulb, and one to write a study showing how they did it every bit as well as those Ivy League schools.
  • At UNC it takes three — One to change the bulb, and two to throw the old bulb at the Duke students.
  • At Wake Forest it only takes one — The other five students at the school are all busy doing something else.
  • At North Carolina State it takes five — one to change the bulb, one to explain that they really are part of the triangle and therefore deserve the bulb, one to give signal to screw in the bulb from the bell tower, one to ask John Edwards for money to buy the bulb and one to gather the rest of the students to help from the nearby Krispy Kreme shop.
  • At Maryland, it takes seven — one to change the bulb, one to explain to everyone that the bulb isn't racist, one to make sure the bulb won't burn the school down, one to get helpers out of the tornado shelter, one to explain that Jayson Blair didn't actually graduate from Maryland and therefore the bulb is not plagiarizing the use of other bulbs, one to explain why turtles are fierce if seen in the right light and one to ask Jim Henson to bring a Muppet who can help screw in the bulb (just preferably not St. Elmo because that involves fire).
  • At Boston College, it takes five — one to change the bulb, three to complain about how nobody in Boston cares and one to make sure Virginia Tech students aren't coming to take the stolen bulb back to their campus.
  • At Florida State, nobody really knows, but everyone praises Bobby Bowden for getting it done (and the girls all flash onlookers for good measure).
  • At Miami, all the students pitch in and talk about how this type of light bulb will definitely be back in style next year, just before it fizzles out again.
  • At Georgia Tech, it only takes one — and he’ll not only change the light bulb but will figure out how to power most of metro Atlanta in the process (while stealing power from Athens).
  • At Clemson, no one can confirm that they even have electricity, though somehow they were rated one of the most energy efficient schools at the beginning of the year.
  • At Virginia, it takes four — one to change the light bulb, one to fashion the old light bulb into a bong, one to score some really good weed and another to make sure everyone's collars are appropriately popped in the process.
  • At Virginia Tech, it takes four — one to change the bulb, one to explain what a Hokie is to the person who won't leave him alone about it, one to find another light bulb after a student steals the first one because he wanted to turn it into a robot, and one to milk the cow so the light bulb-changers have something to drink — but only after football season has ended.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The REAL BCS Rankings

The end-of-the-season BCS standings, which determined who went to the bowl games.

But if I was in charge, I would rank the teams much differently, based upon several reasons, especially head-to-head matchups. I think those wins against teams ranked higher than the teams who beat them matter, unless the lower-ranked team is just completely horrible and won on a fluke. I don't feel as though the BCS system factors that in enough, and a playoff system (used by lower divisions of college football and the National Football League) would definitely at least give undefeated teams such as Boise State and Utah a chance at the national champion title. And, if the BCS bowls are supposed to be the kings of all bowl games, then why are there automatic bids? Why don't the top 10 teams automatically take those slots?

My end-of-season BCS (emphasis on the B and the S, in the case of the original ones) rankings:
  1. Texas (only loss was to Texas Tech, who is way better than the Ole Miss team that gave UF its one loss; beat Oklahoma)
  2. Florida (Tim Tebow)
  3. Boise State (undefeated, and the team has proven it can win a BCS bowl)
  4. Oklahoma (lost to Texas)
  5. Texas Tech (expect a shootout)
  6. Penn State (weak schedule, but impressive playing nonetheless)
  7. USC (continuing the dynasty, but not quite the way they should've with how well they started out the season)
  8. Utah (undefeated, but pretty weak schedule)
  9. Alabama (hyped, but unable to live up to it against UF; weak schedule and a lot of near-losses)
  10. Oklahoma State (pretty darn good, just not good enough for their division)
  11. Virginia Tech (beat GT, UNC, Nebraska and exacted revenge on BC; won out in the toughest conference in the country to play in this year; did it all with a young team and an idiotic offensive coordinator)
  12. TCU (scary mascot, good team)
  13. Georgia Tech (great defense, great option plays, almost survived the ACC; beat Georgia)
  14. BYU (lost hype after taking one loss, but still competitive)
  15. Georgia (fizzled out quick, but better than the teams below it here)
  16. Oregon (didn't get enough attention; they can put some points on the board)
  17. Michigan State (see #16)
  18. Missouri (Chase Daniel)
  19. Cincinnati (won the Big East to play in the Orange Bowl, but almost lost to Hawaii; Big East easily weakest BCS conference this year)
  20. Buffalo (beat previously undefeated Ball State to win the MAC; one of the most underrated teams in the media)
  21. Mississippi (beat Florida; 'nuff said)
  22. Pittsburgh (won the Backyard Brawl; should've won the Big East)
  23. Oregon State (ended USC's title hopes)
  24. Iowa (ended Penn State's title hopes)
  25. East Carolina (beat VT, destroyed WVU and won C-USA)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oh Snap! It's Gingersnap Lattes with a Hint of Gross!

Starbucks always has their lineup of holiday drinks, and after the Pumpkin Spice Latte fever wraps up from the autumn, I'm ready for Gingerbread Lattes. Except, this year, Starbucks made Gingersnap Lattes. While the drinks ultimately taste the same (though the 'bread latte had a sweeter, smoother flavor altogether), Starbucks thought it would be a great idea to put pieces of ginger in the drink. I'm not freaking joking, just read the description from Starbucks' Web site.

Yeah, so you get near the bottom of your drink, and you take a swig, and you swallow some chunks. And these chunks taste gross, and they stick in the back of your throat. You can't ever seem to swallow them, but you can't seem to get them up to spit them out either. Perhaps they are gone, and it's just my mind tricking me into thinking those disgusting chunks of ginger are still there. I must admit, this was quite a surprise to me, and it'll be a while before I don't feel grossed out or want Starbucks again. And when I do, I think I'll stick to my Americanos. Sorry, I just don't like sushi condiments in my lattes.

Here are some other bloggers with the same complaint, and even what you get as search results if you search Starbucks' own forums for "gingersnap." Hopefully, Starbucks is listening:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

FedEx Fail

Well, I'll be shipping from now on with UPS any time I have a choice after FedEx (no, they don't get hyperlinked) lost a package of mine earlier this month. FedEx's shipping doesn't even make sense. You should not have to send a package from me to my neighbor through your hub, especially the hub (read: black hole) in Memphis, Tenn.


View Larger Map

I had to get my Apple charger replaced (for the second time; it's become a once-a-year thing) because it was much like this, only mine was on the other end near the block itself. It's a very common problem (just Google it and check out some of the forums), but at least Apple is being a good sport about it and replacing them for free until they give you one that lasts. Their rival, Microsoft, would likely just spend millions of dollars on an advertising campaign about nothing and still not fix any actual problems (and would probably make you pay for it). What? They did that? Hm...

Anyway, I became suspicious when my overnight shipping from Apple was stuck at the FedEx hub in Memphis for about three days after arriving there Dec. 4. I called FedEx, who ran a trace on the package only to confirm — they were unable to locate it at this time. Translation: they lost it. They then told me it was my responsibility to contact Apple to get a new one shipped, and that by providing Apple with the tracking number of the lost (misplaced) package, I would be able to get them to send me a new one.

As I write this, I'm on the phone with Lisa at Apple, who finds the whole situation pretty ridiculous, and right now I'm on hold because her supervisors don't seem to know what to do about FedEx's incompetency. I asked her to send it UPS, and she found that sort of funny, but said she unfortunately couldn't pull that off. Ah, as it turns out, they are asking FedEx (so, as my friend Lisa said, knock on wood) to get a new package here. If FedEx finds the original package, they'll send it back to Apple, and I won't be charged for it of course (Apple charges $72 if you don't send back your broken charger).

Great customer service as always (from people who speak great English and who never make you wait before answering the phone) from Apple. Somewhat rude customer service from the people at FedEx when I called, and one person I could barely understand and who kept asking me the same thing as though she wasn't concerned/paying attention. Big shout out of thanks to Lisa, who I think actually said she was Canadian (she said y'know a lot, but definitely sounded more intelligent than Sarah Palin).

But the worst part of all of this, is the time and resources that FedEx wastes in shipping. I'm sure this is the same for many organizations worldwide, and maybe it does reduce costs and energy use overall, but I just somehow find it difficult to fathom. It makes me a little angry to know that my package went within miles of my home, only to go be delivered to Elvis instead of me. When I used Google maps to determine the quickest route from Middletown, Penn. (where the tracking number page said the package originated), to Memphis, I found out that it's likely the package came down I-81 and right through Roanoke, Va., within miles of here (see the screenshot of the map). FedEx, fail! Apple, FTW (as long as you fix those chargers soon)!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

2009 BCS Bowl Prediction Review

So, back in October, I predicted the BCS bowl game teams. Here are picks with the actual results:

Fiesta Bowl
My pick: Oklahoma State vs. South Florida
Actual: Ohio State vs. Texas
Comment: Texas should be playing for the national championship. And Ohio State shouldn't be allowed in a BCS bowl game for at least 10 years. Oklahoma State had a good season, but South Florida fizzled out mid-season.
My points: 0

Rose Bowl
My pick: Southern California vs. Alabama
Actual: Southern California vs. Penn State
Comment: USC continues to dominate the PAC-10... it's USC and the PAC-9, essentially. Penn State could be playing for a national title if not for a trip-up against the Hawkeyes. Alabama actually ended up being picked to the Sugar Bowl, which means I was at least correct that they would not play for the national championship but would see BCS action.
My points: 1.25

Sugar Bowl
My pick: Ohio State vs. Florida
Actual: Alabama vs. Utah
Comment: Well, I put Ohio State in a bowl game, at least, with my picks. So, that's something. And Florida ended up in the national title game. Alabama probably is a good fit here, but I'm not sure Utah will hold up in a BCS game as well as Boise State would have. However, if there's an upset to watch out for, I say it's this one.
My points: .5

Orange Bowl
My pick: Virginia Tech vs. Boise State
Actual: Virginia Tech vs. Cincinnati
Comment: We all knew the Hokies would win, but we never thought they'd really salvage a Big East team to put back in the Orange Bowl. Last year, when WVU was actually decent, they didn't give the Big East their bid to the Orange Bowl, so I didn't expect it this year from anyone, especially because the Big East teams were all poor this year. I think Hokies fans are a little let-down to have to play the Big Least Bearcats who almost lost to Hawaii in their last regular-season game. Tickets sales for the Orange Bowl (which is even farther away for Cincy fans) are proving that this will likely be a very boring game. I think I speak for most Hokie fans that we would rather have seen a matchup like last year's Kansas with a good team from the Big 12 or anywhere besides the Big East. Boise State, an undefeated team, would've been a great matchup here.
My points: 1

National Championship
My pick: Penn State vs. Texas
Actual: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Comment: I still think my Texas pick is right here. Texas beat Oklahoma. And the only team Texas lost to was one that tied with Oklahoma (and Texas) for first place in their division. Texas fans got as crapped on this year as Missouri fans did last season. Florida, now I think they deserve it. And I hope they destroy Oklahoma so Texas fans can argue that their team would've won out.
My points: .5

Total points: 3.25/10. Better luck next year...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Share Your Supper

Last Sunday, I asked you to share your office space. So, today, share your supper! Take a picture of your colorful, tasty or random meal, and post a link in the comments section of this post.

Here, you'll see a meal I made the other night. It's rice with fresh carrots and snow peas that have been sautéed with shrimp and a touch of olive oil and Hoisin sauce. Now, I didn't make the sushi myself, but the fabulous sushi chef at the University City Boulevard Kroger put together the California rolls paired with fish and ebi (shrimp). Delicious! What did you cook up?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Synchroblogging 3: The Season of Christmas

So I just remembered that Dec. 9-16 is part of Kelvin Oliver's (Moments in Time) third synchroblogging opportunity.

Luckily, yesterday's post fits the theme, which is just perfect for this busy time of the year for a graduate student such as myself. Very soon, I'll be finished with grading and my last final exam and such, and I have a whole list of really well-researched articles on which I'm working. Until then, bear with me please, and check out yesterday's post and the Moments in Time blog for other synchrobloggers.

Note: Synchroblog 1 and Synchroblog 2 from Relatively Journalizing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Merry (Jesus) Christ(mas)

While I realize it's perhaps a little early to wish you Merry Christmas just yet (and I promise to do it again when the day actually rolls around), I am in the final stretch of my next-to-last semester of graduate school. Yeah, you guessed it, I'm swamped with tying up loose ends, grading, proctoring exams, being around for office hours and studying for the finals in my own classes. This, of course, means that while I have a great long list of good blogging ideas, all of them require a decent amount of research and hyperlinking and such. Therefore, today's post is going to be a quickie, but a good one nonetheless.

Now, you'll notice in the sidebar on the left that Daron Williams is a contributor to this blog. In the past, he's written about the Olympics and MADD. I normally would not link to such a sub-par publication such as the Collegiate Times, the student newsjoke at Virginia Tech, but it happens to have some high-quality opinion in it this semester by none other than Williams. His column from yesterday discussed the absurdity of the political correctness the VT administration is trying to push by discouraging people from celebrating the holiday of their choice this season.

I have to give Daron a lot of credit. I know him pretty well, and he's one of the most down-to-earth, nicest guys you'll ever meet. So when he talks about all of this "Kumbaya" B.S. in terms of appreciating others' points of view and whatnot, I know he sincerely means it. Now, I totally do not think we should be bigoted toward others' beliefs. If you want to celebrate Hanukkah, that's your business. However, I'm going to take it another step past what my good friend Mr. Williams did.

Merry Christmas.

Nope, I'm not even mentioning another holiday. Because you know what, when it comes to December in the good ol' United States of America, we've done just fine with Christmas for quite some time now, and it's always worked so far. So yeah, you're free to go celebrate whatever you want. And I won't be offended if you tell me Happy Winter Solstice (though I will give you a strange look), so get the heck over it if I love to celebrate Christmas. I guess that's what Williams was getting at in his column really, that we all just need to get along to further the spirit of the season, regardless of what you celebrate. And I can get on board with that.

But I'll be damned if I quell my joy or stop myself in any other way on campus from enjoying the Christmas season. I don't really care who it offends. I won't use your menorah for late-night studying if you won't make the Star of Bethlehem a Star of David. And I won't keep you atheists from celebrating... uh... from... um... not having fun and being grumpy. I guess the whole reason for this blog post (because I know it seems scattered) was to:
  1. Find an excuse to feature a good column by my friend.
  2. Put something up for today's post that required little research (at least I'm admitting it)!
  3. And to just say I think it's ridiculous and out of place for the university to try to dictate what anyone can or cannot do on campus regarding holiday celebrations, regardless of religion/belief/custom.
  4. Well, and finally, to express my opinion that Christmas is the best and most important and most meaningful holiday in all of the world. You don't have to agree, and I'll still shake your hand if you disagree, but at least be a good sport about it all and don't go whining that I'm oppressing you. Yeah, sorry about that whole gift-giving, love-spreading, hope-bringing thing... I know that must suck for you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Parking Fix Needed at Virginia Tech

This, obviously, is the faculty/staff lot at Virginia Tech. This photo was taken last Thursday. The lot, as you can see, is barren.

So let me get this straight, my alma mater, Marshall University, has had a parking lot for years and a school with top-ranked architecture and engineering programs has how many? Zero. Sheesh.

You might be asking yourself, so what? What's the big deal about an empty faculty lot and no parking garage on campus? Surely there are plenty of surface lots, right? Well, not exactly. While there are a lot of surface lots at VT, few of them are divided up the way they should be in regard to the F/S and commuter ratio, and there pretty much are no lots close to any useful academic buildings or residence halls. In fact, residents are forced to park in "the cage," blocks away from their dorms. I personally find myself forced to park in a commuter lot that is out of sight of the building where my office is. There's a lot near my office, it's just, you know, faculty/staff only — and never full. Even though I have a graduate teaching assistant pass, the university (in all its wisdom, of course) made the TA spots the absolute farthest lot away from the buildings in which TAs need to teach. That's right, TA passes aren't allowed in F/S spots, even when 10+ of those faculty spots are open in any given lot on any given day.

Now, I have nothing against walking, but the parking situation at VT does make life a little less productive. I find myself leaving from close locations 30 minutes or more in advance because I never know how long it'll take to park and how far I will need to walk. After a couple of semesters, you begin to realize how much this park-time (as I like to call it) adds up. And the most frustrating part of all of it is driving by empty faculty spots only to go two blocks down to where you are actually allowed to park as a student commuter. It's also frustrating knowing there is a parking lot just outside your office that you aren't allowed to use until after 5 p.m., when I've probably already been on campus anyway — the after 5 p.m. rule comes in handy perhaps once per week.

So you can see the F/S lot above. The second photo was taken on the same day of the commuter
lot just beside it. Yeah. I think if there was ever a time that qualified me to say 'nuff said, now is that time. 'Nuff said.

This video accurately sums up my solution to the problem. Thanks to SNL and Kenan Thompson:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Is 'This' Blog 'Post' 'Unnecessarily' 'Using' Punctuation?!?!....

There are few things in life that make me angrier than when people make simple mistakes with punctuation that they should have learned not to make in middle school. Now, I don't promise to be perfect with my writing, especially online, but I do try my best to edit my work as much as time allows while putting my best product forward when I write. I make my best effort not to write 1970's when the 1970s aren't owning something. Some people, however, just blatantly ignore the rules of the English language, therefore attempting to murder it and making my blood pressure skyrocket.

The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks showcases such stupefyingly idiotic uses of everyone's favorite punctuation device — the quotation mark. While I enjoy this blog very much, I must admit that reading more than one or two posts makes me want to scream. Perhaps you'll make it through more.

The general rule I try to get people to abide by when they ask me for writing tips: it's called a quotation mark for a reason. Don't use it unless you are actually quoting someone.

See you "next time."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Share Your Office Space

Your office says a lot about who you are. So I'm sharing this snapshot of my own office at Virginia Tech (OK, my corner of an office I share with two other graduate students).

You'll see I have pennants representing my high school, my alma mater and my graduate school, in addition to sports posters and memorabilia. You'll also notice a picture on the window sill of me and my lovely girlfriend. Of course, there is plenty of Army paraphernalia scattered about as well, including an Abrams tank and a Bradley fighting vehicle. I have yet to grade some work and read some journals you'll see there mixed in with the random Post-Its and Taco Bell fire sauce packets. And don't forget my awesome clock!

Now that I've shared a part of my life, share a part of yours. Post a link to your office space in the comments section.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

ACC Championship Game

1 p.m. today, the Virginia Tech Hokies face the Eagles of Boston College. The winner advances to the Orange Bowl. Based upon the performance this year, I must say I'm actually surprised the Hokies made it, but I'm proud of their perseverance nonetheless (though much less proud of Bryan Stinespring's playcalling). Regardless of today's outcome, Relatively Journalizing would just like to say...

GO HOKIES!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Had to Share This

If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside.

— Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld magazine

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Extra Edition: Trying to Win Gear Diary's HP Magic Contest!

I'm posting this photo because of a requirement to win this contest. I guess us nerds will do anything for a touchscreen computer and laptops to share with friends!

For your chance to win, enter at one of the 50 participating blogs.

Call for Bloggers — Guest Blogging Week

I want to feature seven guest bloggers in seven days (that's one week). I'd like to tentatively schedule these posts for the week of Dec. 21 to 27, meaning the posts would be due to me by Friday, Dec. 19, 2008 at 11:59 p.m. The first seven people to contact me to let me know they are on board get the exposure! I'm not requiring that you let me post on your blog or that you even are an actual regular blogger with your own blog. (That's right, this could be your chance to break out with your first or second blog post ever!) However, some blogging experience would be a plus!

I don't have any requirements regarding what you blog about other than you make it friendly to most reasonable audiences (see content on this blog to get a good feel) and that it be fun, creative or at least somewhat interesting. It can be political commentary, reflections on the holidays, humor, a rant, sharing a cool link or product — whatever!

Please contact me at joshuadelung [at] gmail [dot] com ASAP if you are interested.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

One Conference to Rule Them All?

As college football fans, we hear, most usually from southerners, that the SEC is the mightiest, toughest-to-play-in, king of all conferences. To those SEC preachers, I say, look again.

Let's look at the 10 ACC vs. SEC matchups this past regular season (2008):

  1. South Carolina vs. NC State. Winner: South Carolina (SEC 1-0)
  2. Alabama vs. Clemson. Winner: Alabama (SEC 2-0)
  3. Mississippi vs. Wake Forest. Winner: Wake Forest (SEC 2-1)
  4. Florida vs. Miami. Winner: Florida (SEC 3-1)
  5. Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech. Winner: Georgia Tech (SEC 3-2)
  6. Vanderbilt vs. Duke. Winner: Duke (SEC 3-3)
  7. Georgia vs. Georgia Tech. Winner: Georgia Tech (ACC 4-3)
  8. South Carolina vs. Clemson. Winner: Clemson (ACC 5-3)
  9. Florida vs. Florida State. Winner: Florida (ACC 5-4)
  10. Wake Forest vs. Vanderbilt. Winner: Wake Forest (ACC 6-4)
So the so-called mighty SEC is down two games to the ACC this year. Even if the SEC wins the Chick-Fil-A bowl, the ACC will still win the year. You esseeseemenites out there can make up whatever excuses you want about some of the ACC's wins against your worst teams, but you got similar wins against NC State and Miami, and you couldn't even beat Duke. When the SEC teams beat up on each other, all football fans have heard time and time again that it's such a "tough" conference to play in. Yet, this season, some people actually had the nerve to say the ACC was so unpredictable because the teams suck. Well, these same sucky teams have a two-game lead over your "tough" SEC teams.

The SEC also no longer has an argument that its in-conference schedule is tougher than the ACC's. In fact, four teams have a 2-6 conference record in the SEC where Florida and Alabama dominate. In the ACC, there is no one dominant team because all of the teams are so tough and competitive. In fact, the ACC has six teams with tied 4-4 in-conference records and four teams with 5-3 in-conference records. Only Virginia (3-5) and Duke (1-7, but who still beat an SEC team) have poor records, meaning there is less dominance and more competition. The ACC has 10 bowl-eligible teams compared to only eight in the SEC.

Now I'm not willing to say that the ACC is the best conference in the NCAA, and I am willing to acknowledge that those bragging rights will likely change from year to year. In fact, it looks to me that the Big 12 is the best conference this year. I will argue that the ACC is the toughest conference to play in now that schools such as UNC are actually putting together respectable teams. In another few years, a national championship contender will emerge from the ACC. The final argument I'll make is that the ACC, as a whole, is a better conference in 2008 than the SEC. Yes, Florida or Alabama will likely play in the national championship game, and both are SEC teams. However, taking into account the conference as a whole, the SEC isn't all its fans think it is — this year anyway.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

'Quantum' Offers Little Solace, Plenty of Action

I saw "Quantum of Solace," the 22nd James Bond 007 film, during the Thanksgiving weekend, as I'm sure many people did. For those of you who saw the movie, I welcome your thoughts about it, and for those who have yet to see it, I promise no spoilers in this review. I will, however, try to give you a little idea of what to expect.

This film is definitely fine as a standalone, but I think you would be much better off and more engrossed in the film if you watch "Casino Royale" (the Daniel Craig film, not the spoof) before seeing Bond 22.

I personally did not like "Casino Royale." I should clarify that by saying there is no single Bond film I dislike, but it definitely was not one of my favorites. "Quantum of Solace" is the same way for me, but I do think it is better than its predecessor. I have no problem with Daniel Craig — I think he makes a good Bond — but the story and lack of JamesBondiness in 21 and 22 just push me away a bit.

"Quantum of Solace" is definitely more of a thrill ride than "Casino Royale." Rather than poker scenes straight off of late-night ESPN2, we have a car chase, a boat chase and an airplane chase — all we need is a ski chase to make this the most cliché Bond film of all time. Those elements were fun enough, but they're overdone in Bond films. The best action sequences came in the hand-to-hand, up-close-and-personal fight scenes involving Craig. These scenes seemed straight out of the Bourne movies, but they are entertaining and well-done. No Pierce Brosnan storming a building and taking out a whole army by himself, but it'll do.

While there is plenty of action, the film offers little comfort to Bond fans who felt after "Casino Royale" that the series was moving too far away from its roots. We have M, and we have Felix, but we don't get much else in the way of what makes James Bond who we know him to be. Even the "Bond, James Bond" and witty Bond lines we have all come to know and love were replaced with dry banter. The Aston Martin is featured, but forget it having an ejection seat. Forget Q Branch altogether — the only gadget this James Bond gets is a camera phone (one of more than 20 product placements).

The storyline itself moves slowly, and it really doesn't advance the characters much further than "Casino Royale" did, though the story is drawn out to be concluded in a later film as Craig's Bond finds out that the Quantum is much like SPECTRE of Bonds in the past. However, don't expect to see a Blofeld here, or even a remotely interesting villain. Nope, Bond fights an Al Gorish sissy in this one. It seems the timeless ideas behind characters such as Jaws, Odd Job, Baron Samedi, Goldfinger, Nick Nack and others are dead. No villain who can't feel pain because of a bullet in his brain. Not even a blood-crying Frenchman. And don't even get me started on the walk-on, bullet-shooting scene being moved to the ending credits.

Overall, this movie is better than some others in the series, but it's lacking what makes it a real 007 flick. Hopefully, the 23rd film will advance the story more, bring the same action and get back to incorporating some classic needed Bond elements.

"Quantum of Solace" gets 3 shakes, not stirs, out of 5 from Relatively Journalizing.

Monday, December 1, 2008

VT Misses Opportunities on Offense... Again. Hokies Headed to ACC Title Game... Again. Hokies Will Play Boston College... Again.

So Virginia Tech pulled off the squeaker versus rival Virginia this past Saturday. The game ended in a W for the Hokies at 17-14. But it should've been 30-14.

A missed field goal in the first quarter was three points, that would have made the score 20-14 in the end.

A Glennon interception in the second quarter (in the end zone) would have been seven points. Senior day or no senior day, someone on the coaching staff should have remembered Glennon's lack of clutchiness during the last five years. The score could've been up to 27-14 after the extra point in the end.

A turnover on downs in the third quarter should have just been a FG. Why risk it when you can just take the points? The final score could have been 30-14 with this FG.

Here are three instances where the Hokies themselves had to do absolutely nothing different than what they did except have better playcalling from the coaching staff. The missed FG was because of a bad angle set up by terrible playcalling from the offensive coordinator, the bonehead Bryan Stinespring. The interception could have been an accurate throw by Tyrod Taylor (or perhaps a bulldozer by Greg Boone or at least a play for fellow senior Cory Holt). And the 4th-down attempt in place of points on the board marks about the gazillionth time the Beamerites have made this same stupefying mistake — the Hokies could have at least two more wins this season if this decision had not been repeated over and over again.

The Hokies are the best team with the number of young players they have in college football. However, they almost were embarrassed at home by a less-than-mediocre UVA team because of stone-age playcalling. If the Hokies want to win their rematch with Boston College in the championship game in Tampa Bay for the second year in a row, they absolutely have to play as good as they always do, but the offensive calls absolutely have to be better. The players are doing their part. The defense is most certainly doing its part. But where are the special teams and offense and just downright sensemaking skills? Someone had better find Beamer Ball before Saturday at 1 p.m. in Florida.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Apple Setting Standard for Green Computers

Here's the brief breakdown from Apple's "Environmental Status Report" on its environment Web page. The new MacBooks are greener than ever.

The new 13-inch MacBook embodies Apple’s continuing environmental commitment. It is designed with the following features to reduce its environmental impact:

  • Arsenic-free glass
  • Brominated flame retardant-free
  • Mercury-free
  • PVC-free
  • 41% smaller packaging
  • Highly recyclable aluminum and glass enclosures

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hokie Matchup: vs. Virginia

The Virginia Tech Hokies face the University of Virginia Cavaliers (or Wahoos, if you will) tomorrow in Lane Stadium. If the Hokies win, they advance to the ACC title game in Tampa Bay. If the Hoos win, well, they advance back to Charlottesville. However, this is a huge rivalry game (fitting, because it's rivalry week in college football), and the Cavs will look to knock off any hopes of a title game their rivals may have. Expect an emotionally-charged, high-powered, hard-hitting game. If the Hokies lose, Georgia Tech, regardless of what they do or don't do against the Georgia Bulldogs (it's an out-of-conference game) will advance to the title game against the Atlantic Division opponent, who I'm referring to here as "Florida State" (we'll see if I'm right).

The real battle for the Hokies Saturday will be against themselves. Virginia is a very weak team this year. The Hoos sputtered early and often, and they got some positive press mid-season, but they have been stale since. However, the Hokies aren't the strongest team out there with their mediocre to all-out terrible offense. Defense? Yeah, the Hokies have that, though.

When I say the battle against Virginia will be a battle against themselves for the Hokies, what I mean is they have all the tools they need to win. Virginia is very beatable, and it's likely the Hokies will face the real head-to-head battle against Florida State or Boston College should the team advance to the title game — both of those teams have already beaten the Hokies once. (Though, the Hokies are good at revenge games. See: 2007 ACC title game vs. BC.)

Here are the current problems the Hokies have to address. If they can fix some of this, Virginia will be demolished:

1) Bryan Stinespring continues to call predictable, dumb plays on offense. Everyone in the stands was accurately predicting the plays against Duke, and Duke was doing a pretty good job of it themselves.

2) Tyrod Taylor is selfish and shaky. Beamer is probably regretting taking off that red shirt now. Or maybe he's glad he did so he knows now he needs to find a real quarterback before next season. Taylor runs when he has the opportunity to throw for big yards. Sometimes he's talented enough to pick up good yardage, but more often than not as of late, he's not. Not to mention he's been picked off a lot lately and he pitched the ball right into Blue Devil hands last week.

3) Sean Glennon, though I thought I would be the last admit it, has done pretty well with the playing time he's seen lately. I personally don't understand why Cory Holt and Greg Boone aren't getting more of a chance at playing, though, considering Glennon is mediocre on his best day. The good part is that Glennon is completing some big passes right now. You thought this was a list of needed improvements? It is. Glennon must learn (though he probably will not considering he's already been at this five years) not to hang on to the football so long. With a young offensive line, the Hokies can't afford the time it takes for Glennon to stare down a receiver — which has led to a lot of turnovers and sacks this season.

4) Beamer Ball is dead. The coaches aren't even trying to block punts this year for whatever reason. Most of the players stand back, and there are just enough up front in case there's a fake. Kick returns rarely make it past the 30-yard line. VT's even had punts and field-goal attempts of its own blocked this year. The signature element of Frank Beamer's teams is gone, causing embarrassment all around the sports blogosphere. Time to get aggressive on that special teams coaching!

We'll see what, if anything, the Hokies improve on tomorrow at noon!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Turkey Day!

Today is Thanksgiving. What are you thankful for? Leave it in the comments, and I'll compile the comments for a future blog post. Have a neat Thanksgiving memory you'd like to share? Feel free.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Win More PC Crap

A while back I exposed the truth behind the HP Freshman 15 Giveaway over at StudentBloggers.Org.

Well, now the folks at HP have partnered with those crooks at Microsoft to host yet another giveaway. They just keep giving away free stuff! For those of you out there who really actually somehow use PCs, head on over to StudentBloggers.Org and check out the HP Magic Giveaway.

Before, you all rallied and prevented Alex from keeping the crap himself with your great submissions. Let's see you do it again!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

1-800-VATECH4

Students, parents, friends, fans, alumni and other various businesspersons and such. Call 1-800-VATECH4 today and tell them you will not be donating another penny until Bryan Stinespring is fired as Virginia Tech's offensive coordinator. The movement of people doing this is already underway.

Update: Or better yet, tell them you'll DOUBLE your contributions if he's canned. Thanks to the good folks over at Fire Byran Stinespring for bringing up these strategies.

Books-A-Million vs. Barnes & Noble (and Borders, Of Course)

Recently, a Books-A-Million (Bookland in smaller malls) opened where I live in Blacksburg, Va., at the new First & Main development. Many stores and restaurants are still being finished at the development and have yet to open at the South Main Street location. No, it's not located at the intersection with First Street, as reported by the ever-ridiculous joke for a newspaper known as the Collegiate Times. (How difficult is it to use Google Maps?) There's no First Street in Blacksburg.

Now, I've been used to Borders (Waldenbooks in smaller malls) for the last five years, as that's the book retailer I became accustomed to while studying at Marshall University. The closest Borders to where I am now is in Bluefield, W.Va., and that's a Borders Express. When I came to Virginia Tech for graduate school, I began shopping for books at Barnes & Noble (B. Dalton in smaller malls) in Christiansburg. So, now that the Virginia-Tech area has Books-A-Million right near campus and the Barnes & Noble just a short distance down the road, which one will come out ahead?

I have been inside the Books-A-Million in Blacksburg twice since it opened. However, I find the store to be disorganized, and it's tough to find books. Some books are completely removed from areas where they should be to be featured elsewhere in the store. While I'm OK with setting up separate displays, some copies of the book should remain in its original location. Also, this location has very few books overall. I have searched the store over for books to which I knew the title and the author's name, and I ended up concluding that the title was not available. Of course, no one ever came over to ask if I needed help finding anything.

On the other hand, just a little farther down the road in Christiansburg is the Barnes & Noble. Every time I go inside, the staff is friendly, and it only takes a few minutes before someone comes over to ask me if I need help finding a product. And, I've never had difficulty finding what I went there for. The store just seems more open and inviting, and there definitely seems to be a larger, more well-organized variety of books. And, of course, Barnes & Noble stores have a Starbucks inside, or at the very least, a Seattle's Best Coffee, which is a subsidiary of Starbucks. As for Books-A-Million, who the heck is Joe Muggs?

Now, let's face it, we can all just order our books on the Internet. But if you don't want to pay for shipping, and if you like the convenience of stopping by your local store (and being able to flip through the book before buying), your choice of bookstore will likely come down to one thing — numbers (if you can find what you're looking for at both, that is).

Barnes & Noble is the top bookstore in the country, followed by Borders. Books-A-Million takes the third-place spot. Aside from sales, though, what about the money that's going to come out of your own pocket? I'll compare the same products from all three (though only two are relevant to customers in the Blacksburg area) here (prices from each store's Web site as of 11/24/08).

Just After Sunset (Collector's Set) by Stephen King
Books-A-Million: $24.16 (members pay $21.74)
Barnes & Noble: $26.25 (members pay $23.62)
Borders: $37.50 (this is the original retail price, Borders does not list a discount for this new release)
Winner: Books-A-Million

Cross Country by James Patterson
Books-A-Million: $18.65 (members pay $16.78)
Barnes & Noble: $19.59 (members pay $16.79)
Borders: $16.79 (here, Borders does offer a discount from the $27.99 original retail price)
Winner: Borders

The Once and Future King (Paperback published by Ace Books) by T. H. White
Books-A-Million: $15.11 (members pay $13.59)
Barnes & Noble: $20 (members pay $18)
Borders: $20
Winner: Books-A-Million

Hamlet (Paperback published by Washington Square Press) by William Shakespeare
Books-A-Million: $9.95 (members pay $8.95)
Barnes & Noble: $5.99 (members pay $5.39)
Borders: $5.99
Winner: Barnes & Noble

The Associated Press Stylebook (2007)
Books-A-Million: $14.31 (members pay $12.87)
Barnes & Noble: $15.16 (members pay $13.64)
Borders: $18.95
Winner: Books-A-Million

So, even though I found Books-A-Million to have a limited selection and worse customer service, they win the overall battle of having cheaper products. Now, I hate these membership programs where you have to pay money to save (which isn't very smart unless you buy a lot of books), but even without including membership benefits, Books-A-Million has the best prices. If you do read enough to buy a membership card, you'll save a ton of cash by shopping with Books-A-Million. If you want to get some rewards without a membership, Borders does offer a rewards program that is free to join and provides some return every $150 you spend. This only a 3 percent return, though, and Books-A-Million's one-year membership ($20) saves you at least 10 percent on your purchases. This means you need to spend more than $200 a year at Books-A-Million to start earning return on your membership. Barnes & Noble's membership is $25 a year with similar savings, meaning even when factoring in rewards programs, Books-A-Million is the best bookstore chain for your buck.

My hopes are that the limited selection and lack of customer service at the Books-A-Million in Blacksburg are a result of the store still being very new because 1) it's closer to my apartment and campus and 2) it's cheaper than Barnes & Noble. However, if aesthetics matter to you, Barnes & Noble has the coolest stores and the best-designed Web site. (And Starbucks!)