Nov. 28, 2005

Look, I understand the concept of Black Friday, that holiest of feast days at shopping malls everywhere. A lot of people are off from work on the day after Thanksgiving, so it’s a good chance to get a head start on Christmas shopping and take advantage of some sales.

But since the dawn of online shopping several years ago, did you ever hear the term “Cyber Monday” until now?

I certainly didn’t. According to many news stories, today was the e-commerce equivalent of Black Friday. It’s when a lot of people decide to do a lot of online shopping, presumably at their day jobs — which isn’t terribly smart, especially if one’s year-end performance review is right around the corner.

But the timing of this digital festival is puzzling to me — why would people postpone their online shopping until the Monday after Thanksgiving? The last time I checked, the Internet is open for business seven days a week. And it would be smart to shop online during the post-Thanksgiving weekend to make sure that popular items are still in stock. (Note that I said it would be smart — for the record, I haven’t even started shopping yet.)

While we’re at it, we’ve gotta find a better name than “Cyber Monday” for this occasion. Sounds like a fictional holiday from the show Futurama.

[ No. 215 ]

Nov. 21, 2005

What a great weekend in college football!

After posting mind-numbingly dismal records of 3–9 in 2003 and 4–7 in 2004, Penn State completed an unexpectedly impressive 10–1 season with a 31–22 win over Michigan State, and in the process, the Nittany Lions captured their first Big Ten title in 11 years.

Earlier in the day, Ohio State defeated Michigan on a touchdown pass during the last minute of the game in front of over 111,000 fans in Ann Arbor. (Now you know what it feels like to lose a heartbreaker, Wolverine fans.) And previously third-ranked Miami was stunned by Georgia Tech — a huge upset that moved Penn State up to No. 3 in the BCS rankings. It’s not terribly likely, but if USC or Texas loses, PSU could actually play in the national title game.

In related news, behold the ugliest uniform in the history of sports:

The hideous new Oregon football uniform

I’m guessing that the uniform selection committee at the University of Oregon enjoyed a few cocktails before they approved this outfit. I can’t even decide on the worst feature — the garish colors, the cross-hatched sleeves and kneepads, or the jersey numbers taken straight from an Atari 2600 video game.

[ No. 214 ]

Photo credit: Sports Illustrated /
Craig Mitchelldyer, US Presswire

Nov. 16, 2005

This was certainly a banner night:

8:15 p.m. — After waiting for 45 endless minutes at a Conshohocken bar for a blind date to arrive, and having left two polite but understandably confused phone messages with her, I angrily accepted the fact that I’d been stood up and drove home through a steady rainfall.

8:45 p.m. — Shortly after I arrived home, the phone rang, and I quickly prepared myself for an awkward conversation with Miss No-Show. But instead, the call came from a student representative from the Penn State Alumni Association who wanted to know if I’d like to make a contribution that was 10 times larger than my previous gift. (Greedy requests from my alma mater are becoming a disturbing trend, but I managed to refrain from yelling at the girl on the line.)

9:45 p.m. — Just when I thought I had finally calmed down with a beer, an Inquirer crossword puzzle, and a 76ers game on in the background, a sudden blackout sunk my house into complete darkness and silence. No lights, no TV, and a load of wet clothes lay motionless in the dryer.

As my friend Steve would say, “Angry Mike” is back.

[ No. 213 ]

Nov. 7–11, 2005

Some observations and lessons learned from my latest trip to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., for two days of technical training and another two days of meetings:

  1. Back in April, I encountered a lengthy check-in process at Philadelphia International Airport, and had assumed that it was an isolated problem. But I endured another long wait at the check-in counter this time as well, and it turns out that someone with my name is indeed on some sort of terrorist watch list.
  2. I was instructed to contact the Transportation Security Administration about this ongoing problem, but according to their Web site, I will probably never succeed in clearing my name:
    Please understand that the TSA clearance process will not remove a name from the Watch Lists. Instead this process distinguishes passengers from persons who are in fact on the Watch Lists by placing their names and identifying information in a cleared portion of the Lists. Airline personnel can then more quickly determine when implementing TSA-required identity verification procedures that these passengers are not the person of interest whose name is actually on the Watch Lists.
    Clearance by TSA may not eliminate the need to go to the ticket counter in order to check-in. While TSA cannot ensure that this procedure will relieve all delays, we hope it will facilitate a more efficient check-in process for you.
  3. Perhaps the TSA has my official name mistakenly listed in their records as “Mohammed al-Devine.” But as a law-abiding citizen, I’m frustrated to know that I’ll probably face the same airport scrutiny from now on. As if air travel wasn’t maddening enough before 9/11 — thanks, you al-Qaeda bastards.
  4. In the midst of the Crabtree Valley Mall and heavily congested highways around Raleigh, my coworker Paul and I were surprised to discover amazingly long and scenic paved running trails within a half-mile of our hotel.
  5. The wait for a table at a Cheesecake Factory in Raleigh is just as ridiculously long as it is in King of Prussia. (I honestly don’t understand what all the fuss is about — the food is OK, but it’s not good enough to justify a 45-minute wait on a weeknight.) So, we opted for dinner at a nearby Ruby Tuesday instead, where we were seated immediately and provided with excellent food and service.
  6. It’s difficult to refrain from laughing out loud in a training class after one of your colleagues points out that the instructor sounds just like Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther.
  7. Against all odds and conventional wisdom, a pair of all-day meetings can actually be enjoyable and productive. Go figure!

[ No. 212 ]