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Geography Bee – or Are You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader?

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Today was the National Geographic State Geography Bee, and for the third year in a row, Matthew got to go. Even getting to the state bee itself is quite an accomplishment as it means you’ve won the competition at your middle school, then taken the test that all school winners take, and are selected as one of the top 100 kids in the state. Matthew has always been a huge fan of geography, and it’s been extremely gratifying to see him have success in this.

The first part of the state competition is the preliminaries where each contestant is asked 8 questions. The top 10 kids move on to the finals with a tie-breaker round used if necessary to get to the 10. This year, Matthew was one of 12 kids who got all eight of their preliminary round questions correct, so he went into the tie-breaker round. Although this was the second year in a row where it had happened, my understanding is that it’s more common that the tie breaker round consists of kids who got 7 of 8, with fewer than 10 kids typically getting all 8 right.

Matthew survived the tie-breaker round, getting both questions correct and moved on to the finals just as he had last year. Once there, his goal was just to improve on his position of last year (tied for fifth), and he did just that – this year tying for fourth in the state. Needless to say, we’re very proud of him.

The final round moved fast enough that I wasn’t able to get down all of Matthew’s questions, but I did manage to write down the ones he faced in the preliminaries and tie breaker round. So, how many would you have gotten right?

Preliminary round
1. Death Valley is located on border between California and which other state – Nevada or Illinois?

2. Which city is more populous – Indianapolis or Chicago?

3. Which country experiences colder winters – Cambodia or Mongolia.

4. Which island country is not in the Pacific – Samoa, Vanuatu, or Mauritius?

5. In October 2012, archeologists announced the discovery of Viking artifacts such as yarn and wet stones on Baffin Island in what North American country?

6. The syncretic religion of Santeria, also known as Regla de Ocha developed in this, the largest of the countries in the Greater Antilles. Name it.

7. From the 16th to the 18th century, Poland was united with what present day country whose capital city is Vilnius?

8. This capital city is the legislative capital and seat of parliament for South Africa and is overlooks the Table Bay. Name it.

And here are the tie breaker questions:

1. The Seikan Tunnel connects Hokkaido and Honshu in what island country?

2. Name the southernmost country in the Balkan Peninsula

geobee 1

geobee 2

Written by mdoel

April 5, 2013 at 9:25 pm

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Our Kids are Incomparable

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As a parent, you quickly learn that your kids are going to surprise you more often than you think. You just hope that there are more positive surprises than negative ones. We had a positive one recently that I thought I’d share.

Over the last couple of years, our son and daughter have become fans of several podcasts. In particular, they really love The Incomparable and on the 5by5 podcast network and the MacWorld podcast – especially the Pundit Showdown episodes which they find hilarious. I can’t tell you how many times they’ve listened to the Star Wars episodes of the former, but they practically have them memorized.

About a week ago, my wife and I went out to dinner. When we got home, the kids told us they had recorded their own podcast episode. It’s in the style of The Incomparable where they completely dissect The Princess Bride. Nobody but their parents will likely listen to the whole thing, but it just tickled me to see how they imitated something they love.

Listen to The Princess Bride episode on an unnamed podcast.

Written by mdoel

October 18, 2012 at 12:42 am

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Prayer of Confession

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Sometimes, you see a prayer that just speaks to how you’re feeling. At church today, this one seemed to have been written with me in mind:

You asked for my hands, that you might use them for your purpose.
I gave them for a moment, but withdrew them, for the work was hard.
You asked for my mouth to speak against injustice.
I gave you a whisper that I might not be accused.
You asked for my eyes to see the pain of poverty.
I closed them, for I did not want to see.
You asked for my life, that you might work through me.
I gave a small part that I might not get too involved.
Lord, forgive my calculated efforts to serve you-
only when it is convenient for me to do so,
only when in those places where it is safe to do so,
and only with those who make it easy to do so.
Father, forgive me, renew me, send me out, as a usable instrument,
That I might take seriously the meaning of your cross.

Written by mdoel

November 13, 2011 at 6:46 pm

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Peanut Butter Fritos

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My lovely wife Julie discovered this recipe a few years ago and it’s been a family (and friend) favorite ever since. Based just on the title, it’s hard to believe that these could taste as good as they do. But taste good they most certainly do. And they’re very easy to make.


* 1 Family sized bag of Frito’s Scoops
* 1/2 cup light corn syrup
* 1/2 cup sugar (or Splenda)
* 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (Jif is our favorite)

1. Lay Fritos out on wax paper bowl side up
2. Combine corn syrup and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil.
3. As soon as the boiling begins, remove from heat and stir in peanut butter
4. Drizzle on top of Fritos using a pasta utensil or slotted spoon

We frequently double the above recipe if we’re sharing beyond the family, but the above would serve 8-10 people.

Written by mdoel

November 8, 2011 at 3:04 am

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Where this madness is headed

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The news of the week (Texas A&M leaving the Big 12 for the SEC) seems to have everyone convinced that we’re just a short time away from having 4 super conferences of 16 teams each. And I fear that the conventional wisdom is right on this one. I fear it because it is madness.

Consider a hypothetical 16 team Big Ten that adds Missouri, Pittsburgh, Texas, and Rutgers. The league would be split into two 8 team divisions with the conference winner determined by a championship game. So far, so good. But think about the schedule for a bit – especially if Ohio State and Michigan are kept in separate divisions (itself a form a madness, but that’s another post). Every year, Ohio State would almost certainly play the other 7 teams in it’s division plus maintain the guaranteed matchup with Michigan. That’s 8 games from your 12 game schedule.

What do you do with the other 4 games? Today, everyone plays 4 non-conference games per year. But if that holds, or even if it’s reduced to a mere 3 non-conference games, then there will be teams in Ohio State’s conference that it never plays or only plays home-and-home against once every decade and a half or so (conference schedules are usually set 2 years at a time where year 2 flips the home/away designation of year 1). What’s the point of having Michigan State and Ohio State in the same conference if they almost never play each other? **UPDATE – it occurs to me that if you have 3 non-conference games per year, and given OSU’s habit of scheduling in-state schools, you might see Ohio State playing Akron more frequently than it does a conference opponent**

We could solve this particular problem by having even more conference games, but that too is a problem on two fronts. First, it would be an economic hit to the powerful schools like Ohio State that have gotten used to having at least 7 home games per year. Second, it would all but eliminate the marquee non-conference match ups that are such a perfect balance to the regional conference action. Say goodbye to Ohio State taking on Texas, Miami, USC, and the like. And that would be a shame.

The only option left is to increase the number of games in the schedule. If you had 13 or 14 games per year, you’d still be able to have a good blend of conference and non-conference action. But would the university presidents ever agree to this? The cynic in me says they might, but that would go against most of what they’ve said about protecting the integrity of the student athlete.

I’m not sure I see a way out of this. I’m hoping the Big Ten is smart enough to stay at its current 12 teams. Even that feels a bit large to me, but I vastly prefer it to the madness that would be a 16 team league.

Written by mdoel

September 7, 2011 at 8:34 pm

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Is government getting bigger?

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The talk of the day seems to be about the latest jobs report from the Government Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows a worrying employment situation in the US. In short, though total employment grew by 18000 jobs, that’s nowhere near enough to keep up with population growth and the net result was a rise in overall unemployment. The political classes are going to spin this as is their custom. But this caught my eye:

I’d actually argue that creating jobs – at least in the short term – is almost by definition one thing that big government is good at. The Republican charge of “big government” liberalism is as old as Republicanism itself of course, but is it true in the current situation? This is an answerable question. The BLS allows you pull the stats for government employment over time. And here’s a chart from that data:
A chart of government employment since 2001
In short – government is getting smaller under Obama, not larger. At least as measured in terms of employment.

Written by mdoel

July 8, 2011 at 3:30 pm

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A New Chapter

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Throughout the course of a life and career, everyone goes through many phases. Sometimes, the transitions can only be recognized with the benefit of hindsight – like the growing realization that the first 35 years of your life spent without the benefit of hot sauce was a missed opportunity. In other cases, you realize what’s going on as it’s happening. Such is true with me now.

For the last few years, I’ve worked full time trying to build Resort Gems into a growth site. Although that work is not completely done, the “combat operations” portion is drawing to a close for me. But, starting on August 15, I’ll be moving on and going to work for Edgecase.

I have long admired Edgecase as a company. I became aware of the company in late 2007 while still working at AOL. A small group of artisans working in Columbus on the hottest new subfield of web application development – Ruby on Rails. For the last few years, it’s been a joy to work alongside them – first in a client/vendor relationship and later as people sharing the same office (our company has sublet space from them at the coolest office building in Columbus). Now it will be my supreme pleasure to join them and work alongside a world class team a colleagues.

I have been absolutely blessed in my career to have several great jobs – all of which I have loved (with the possible exception of my newspaper route when I was 14). My time with VacationView will remain among the best professional experiences I could possibly hope for. But, for now, it’s time to move on to the next chapter.

Written by mdoel

July 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm

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