Putting Out the Vibe Random observations from my day-to-day life

October 7, 2011

The Box Car Rentals

Filed under: Products,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — Matthew @ 1:31 pm

In no way related to The Boxcar Children, The Box Car Rentals are the genre of cars that I hope on a weekly basis will not be given to me.  I became intimately familiar with the Chevy HHR when Avis “randomly” assigned them to me for three straight weeks.  In actuality they probably had me flagged in their system as “our only customer who will not refuse the HHR.”  I simply didn’t have time and found it funny how much my coworkers loathed my rental.  Do rental car companies get some sort of industry discount on these undesirable cars?  Literally all of the cars below are very common among the mid-size SUV category.  Coming in with the most Street Cred in this group is probably the Kia Soul (at least their commercials are coolthis one too).


Chevy HHR
Chevy HHR
Kia Soul
Kia Soul
Nissan Cube
Nissan Cube
PT Cruiser
PT Cruiser
Scion Xb
Scion Xb
Cardboard Box
Cardboard Box


To be honest, the PT Cruiser (and all of these cars I suppose) has always reminded me of this:

August 24, 2010

Girl Scout Cookie Geography: A brownie civil war!

If you’re like me, you grew up in the wonderful and comforting land of Caramel DeLites, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, Shortbreads, and Peanut Butter Patties.  However, when I attended the University of Minnesota for my freshman year of college, my Girl Scout Cookie world came crashing down around me.  When trying to purchase Caramel DeLites from some Twin Cities Brownie saleswomen, I was shocked to see that they didn’t sell my favorite cookie.  Upon closer inspection I realized that they did sell what seemed to me to be a generic knock of off, entitled “Samoas.”  It turns out Samoas and Caramel DeLites are the exact same cookie but are merely the different names that the two licensed bakers of Girl Scout Cookies, ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers, have for them.  It seems Little Brownie Bakers has been making Girl Scout Cookies since the early 1980s and ABC Bakers has been making them since 1939.  I suppose that in  forcing the two companies to compete for the nation’s girl scout cookie sales, the Girl Scouts of America has actually managed keep the price of cookies down by forcing economic competition.

However, this system also undoubtedly causes strife for Girl Scout Cookie lovers across the nation.  This is because there is actually very little consistency throughout states or even counties in some instances, whether Little Brownie Bakers or ABC Bakers have been selected as the baker of choice (it is up to the Girl Scout leadership in that region of the country).  So if you find yourself in Buffalo County in Western Wisconsin, be careful how your order your Caramelly Coconut treat.  Much like families were torn apart during the Civil War, it seems Buffalo County has it own Girl Scout struggles between the north and south of the county.  Also, what’s up with Osceola County in northwest Iowa being the only county in the whole state that purchased from Little Brownie Bakers because they are actually a part of Southwest Minnesota’s Girl Scout Leadership?  Either way, that is whack and they must really be in love with Samoas (and not Caramel DeLites).  Thin Mints may be Thin Mints across the board, but here is a summary of the confusing cookie names.

ABC Bakers Little Brownie Bakers
Caramel DeLites Samoas
Peanut Butter Sandwiches Do-Si-Dos
Shortbreads Trefoils
Peanut Butter Patties Tagalongs

So I did some research – a lot of it actually – and created the following map of how Girl Scout Cookies break down throughout the Midwest.  I highlighted the WI, MN, and UP counties in white but then grew a little lazy as I researched the baker of choice throughout the rest of the map.  If you zoom in you can still make out the other county lines though.

Girl Scout Cookie Map

Girl Scout Cookie Map

View Minnesota and Wisconsin Map Only





December 17, 2009

Christmas List #1: Invisibility Cloak

Filed under: Creepiness,Nerdiness,Products — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 4:28 pm

For those of you who don’t know, while working on my master’s degree I’ve worked in the RFID Lab on campus.  Last week at one of our workgroup meetings, another Engineering Graduate student (the electrical kind) was presenting his recent research entitled, “RFID and Metamaterials: Now things get interesting.”  The title was misleading.  The incredibly theoretical presentation, along with a painfully practical audience made for what one would consider a “tough gig.”  However, a few minutes into the presentation, something was said that led me to believe that in the midst of my spacing out, J.K. Rowling had slipped up to the front of the room and taken over the presentation without me realizing it.

The negative indices of refraction present in many metamaterials has been demonstrated to provide a “cloaking” effect at microwave frequencies.

With metamaterials, awakward moments like this one may one day be avoidable

A cloaking effect!  Instantly, I stopped contemplating whether or not I would actually find a date to that weekend’s drumline formal (a high school homecoming-esque event that involves dressing up, dinner, and a lot more alcohol than dances in the Eisenhower cafeteria) and was completely engaged in the presentation.  The moment I had been waiting for since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone had finally arrived: I could finally add an invisibility cloak to my Christmas list!  However, to my shock, the nerdy audience didn’t even acknowledge the incredible breakthrough mentioned by the presenter and the subject was quickly changed when the next slide read, “Metamaterials can be created in broad ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum as well as acoustics.”  Shit.

As disappointing as the remaining 20 minutes of the presentation were, science is acknowledging that metamaterials may one day make an invisibility cloak a possibility (due to 2008 research at UC Berkley, 2006 research at Duke, and research in Scotland).  Just imagine the possibilities:

  • I could have totally dominated the recent 3,000 person snowball fight on Bascom Hill.
  • Sneaking drinks into Summerfest would become a joke.
  • A few years ago I could have stolen Rob’s textbooks and he would have had no other choice but to go out with us instead of studying.
  • I wouldn’t miss a Packer Game at Lambeau for the rest of my life
  • Mess up Andrew’s immaculate bedroom

What would you do?

March 16, 2009

Avoiding alarms

Filed under: Nerdiness,Products — Tags: , , — Matthew @ 4:19 pm
SleepTracker Pro

SleepTracker Pro

There only only two things in life that I enjoy waking up early for:

  1. Waking up at 5:00 AM on a badger gameday to either drink bloody marys, or as of last year to go to UW Marching Band rehearsal.
  2. Going fishing

Other than that, I’m convinced that the moment my alarm goes off each morning is pretty much the worst moment of my day.  I don’t hate what I do during the day, I just value sleep, and I’ve been sleeping unusually poorly lately.  Therefore, when my friend Mattsen showed me his new toy, a watch that monitors your sleep patterns and wakes you up at the least intrusive moment of your sleep cycles, I was very intrigued.  I remember from some psychology classes that this probably means waking up up right after Rapid Eye Movement (REM)/dreaming sleep and you can set up to a 90 minute wake-up window which will wake you up as close the end of REM cycle as possible.  The watch is called  the SleepTracker Pro Sleep Monitoring Watch (~$163) and in addition to tracking your sleep patterns and waking you up at an ideal time so that you feel more refreshed, it also connects to your computer so that you can track your sleep patterns over time and look for lifestyle influences which improve your sleep (something which I’m sure Wando’s Bacon Night doesn’t coincide with).  There is also a cheaper, ~$91, model that may be slightly more in my budget.  I’m not sure I’d really use the software, but maybe if I get some cash together, I won’t be hitting the 5 minute snooze on my cell phone for 20 minutes each morning.

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