Homes to Consider

Today’s real estate market is in a slump. What this means, clearly, is that you should be buying.

If you’re willing to live in the middle of nowhere, here are a few very interesting ideas for homes:

  • $320,000 buys this ~3,000 sq. ft. building, a former railroad station. With just a tiny bit of work, it would be a nice home. Check out the living-room-to-be; mount an LCD TV right over the fireplace and put down carpeting over most of the floor (except for right by the fireplace). There’s a bookcase off to the right, although I’d paint it white. Breakfast nook anyone? Just put down a carpet. This view is pretty inviting, too. (And check out the palm trees outside: it’s Georgia, after all.)
  • If you’re more of an athlete, how about this school in Kansas? $325,000 buys you 24,500 square feet on 5 acres. The gym looks ready to use. Read “17 classrooms” as “17 palatial bedrooms” after you renovate them a bit. (Carpet + less-hideous ceiling + ditch the fluorescent lights.) And tell me that library wouldn’t make a nice home theater.
  • This place in Missouri is ridiculously nice. Tell me the third picture isn’t what you want to see as you walk home. It sets high expectations for what’s inside, but it’s even nicer than you might expect.
  • This old Montana bank is dirt cheap. 6,200 square feet for $140,000. I’d want to totally gut the interior, and the location is probably not desirable, but still… Oh, and put a nice fence up on the roof for safety, and then you have a pretty sweet ‘outdoor’ area. And it has a vault!
  • This place is totally undesirable but ohhh so cheap. It looks like it’s ready to fall down, and the power substation in the front yard destroys whatever value the place may have had. The good news is you may never lose power.
  • Cheap place in Indiana with an associated business.
  • This building is butt-ugly but is situated on a nice dam. I want to live here!
  • Whoa! 40,000 square feet of amazing office space? Might make a nice home.

Granted, you’d be an idiot to buy any of these places without looking carefully into all the costs and zoning laws, and I’m not sure any are in good locations.

A Partial Upgrade

My AthlonMP system is aging. Actually, it’s aged. It’s down to 512MB RAM (the other 512MB went bad a long time ago). BIOS updates ended 4 years ago, and the thing doesn’t seem to support drives over 137 GB or USB keyboards, two things that have worked for a long time. (Hint: it seems like a good idea at the time, but don’t buy a server-grade motherboard for your desktop. It seems better, but it’s all these little things that will get you.)

I have a decent enough graphics card, a nice HDTV tuner, a DVD burner, 500/200/60/40 GB drives, a nice keyboard, and a monitor. So all I need, really, is a new motherboard, CPU, and RAM.

So here’s a motherboard. Here’s the processor. Here’s the RAM, times two. Net cost? A little under $500. For a quad-core processor, 4 GB RAM, and a motherboard with GigE. Assuming, of course, that all you need is motherboard + processor + RAM. Which is the case for me. Granted, it also assumes that you have $500 to spend on computer upgrades….

Edit: Seems that the RAM might not be the best. Don’t take my word on it being the right thing.


The other day I was feeling quite hungry and somewhat under the weather. So I headed to the convenience store on campus to grab a bite to eat and a drink. I learned that the “Amp” energy drinks are actually not that bad, although they’re ridiculously expensive. Sadly, my first thought when buying it was about strategic advantages in the energy drink industry. I think I’m spending too much time in classes.

And then I saw a microwaveable chicken chimichanga. How could you go wrong? I bought it and took it back to my room to eat as I watched Game 2 of the World Series.

Not until I unwrapped it did I notice three things wrong:

  • It lists “Chicken Leg Meat” on the front. This sounds pretty disgusting, but also, improbable: while I don’t spend a lot of time checking out chicken legs, they don’t look very meaty. Ordinarily, I would be so disgusted with the mental image of munching on chicken legs that I probably wouldn’t eat it. But I was starving.
  • Content with eating chicken legs, I turned it over to find the microwaving instructions. “Heat until hot” is the least helpful instruction ever. For those who may be finding this via Google in an attempt to microwave your chimi, 2 minutes is a good starting point. But remember, 30 second intervals.
  • “Best when thawed.” ??? Maybe they mean you should thaw it before microwaving it, but it kind of sounds like they’re suggesting that you not eat it while frozen.

Some photos:

img_1467.JPG img_1464.JPG img_1463.JPG

A Public Service Announcement

I’m pretty much an expert on zombies. I beat Dead Rising, and watched Shawn of the Dead the other day. (By the way, the catchy tune that is their themesong is The Blue Wrath by I Monster.)

So a few comments:

  • They’re none too smart. You can fool them by walking like a zombie. Throw a hunk of meat and they’ll all clump around it. Someone with as much experience as I have is really pretty comfortable walking amidst zombies.
  • They’re slow as molasses. You don’t even have to run. Just walk away from them.

The more important thing, though, is the topic of what to do if there’s a big zombie infestation. There are three important considerations in selecting a location:

  • It needs to be a place where you can live for a while. You want a place to sleep, a bathroom, and an ample supply of food.
  • It has to be hard for zombies to get into. It’s unclear if they can break glass / break down doors. In Dead Rising they cannot, but it does happen a bit in Shawn of the Dead. Better safe than sorry, though: get something with secure doors and not too many windows.
  • You want an ample supply of weapons. You really don’t want a gun: they’re a pain. Just get a blunt object. Shopping carts work extraordinarily well.  So do lawnmowers and cars, but you’ll most likely be indoors. Machetes, meat cleavers, sickles, and chainsaws are also incredible weapons. But when all else fails, just pick up a baseball bat or frying pan.

Anyone who’s seen Shawn of the Dead knows that a pub is a terrible place to go. There aren’t that many weapons (I guess you have plenty of bottles, corkscrews, and a Winchester with 29 shots, but that’s not really enough), it’s not at all secure, and there’s not much to live off of. (Just peanuts!)

Dead Rising takes place in a mall. That’s not bad. But I’ve found something even better: Costco. They have big huge gates (like garage doors) that they close at the end of the day, so it’s hard to get in. There are a ton of skylights on the roof, but they’re so high up that if zombies come through them, they’ll plummet to their death. There’s an ample supply of weapons, and, of course, a ridiculous amount of food. There are also beds. (Though if you’re alone, you might not want to sleep, lest you wake up and find your brain being munched on.) And plenty of little rooms like coolers and a kitchen where you can hide out.

It’s best to be with others, but beware the apparent tendency for them to become psychopaths and try to kill you. It’s best, then, to keep the best weapons for yourself and to sleep with one eye open.

If you’re not a Costco member, I’d imagine that a BJ’s or Sam’s Club could work. Heck, even a Wal-mart would probably do. But if you want to stick with my recommendation, you can sign up for Costco here. Note that it’s possible that, in the event of a zombie invasion, the lady checking membership cards at the door may be absent, so if you’re near a Costco but aren’t a member, you may be able to get in.

Do be warned, though, that if I beat you there, I’m shutting the gates. So when the zombies come, rush to Costco. Coincidentally, there’s one in Nashua and one in Waltham, so I’m always near a Costco. (Why do you think I picked Bentley?)

You may want to print this guide out and keep it in your glovebox, by the way. Internet access can’t be guaranteed in a large-scale zombie attack.

Today’s Photoshoot

I’m home for the weekend, and stopped by the Turkey Hill Cemetery. Got some nice shots, perfect for Halloween. It’s funny how much of an effect the post-processing can have… Here’s a shot in black and white, with a little glow added:

Eerie Light

And here’s a shot in color:


This marks the second time, by the way, that the 10D’s AE has gone wonky and I’ve had to switch over to full-manual mode.

I created two new sets on my Flickr account, Foliage and the Cemetery Trip.

Gutsy Applications Menu

Posting this in the hopes that it’ll be useful to someone else, because it certainly took me a long time and caused a lot of frustration.

There’s a bizarre bug that a few people, myself including, have run into when upgrading to Ubuntu’s Gutsy Gibbon release: the applications menu is blank.

Some recommended deleting ~/.config/menus/, but, in my case, this didn’t recreate it.

Here’s a tip, though: there’s an /etc/xdg/menus/ Copying it to ~/.config/menus/ fixed my problem. And now, I have an applications menu. Hurrah!

Today’s Deals

Going through the circulars, here are some more incredible deals:

  • Office Depot has a 17″ widescreen LCD (1440×900), $139.99 after rebate. Brand-name is Hanns.
  • If you don’t mind an eMachine, Office Depot also has a desktop with a dual-core AMD “4000+,” 1 GB RAM, 320GB disk, Vista Home Premium, dual-layer DVD/CD drive, and a 17″ CRT + an all-in-one printer. $399.97 after rebates, but you’ll pay $725 in store.
  • Movin’ on up, dual-core notebook (TK-55 processor… What’s with new processor names that no one understands?), 1 GB RAM, 120 GB disk, dual-layer DVD/CD burner, Vista Home Premium, 15.4″ widescreen display (with Brightview), and integrated 802.11b/g WiFi. Just $449.99 after rebates, or $629.99 before rebate at Office Depot.
  •  Still in the Office Depot circular, an HP desktop with a dual-core AMD 4800+, 3 GB RAM, 320 GB disk, dual-layer CD/DVD burner, Vista Home Premium, and 22″ widescreen monitor (with Brightview). Seems like a steal at $749.99 after rebate ($919.99 before).
  • Or move up to quad-core with a Gateway system with Intel’s Q6600 processor, 2 GB RAM, 400 GB disk, dual-layer DVD/CD, and Vista Home Premium. Oh, and a 19″ LCD. $879.98 after rebate, $1029.98 in store.
  • Or move up to 58-core system for just $2,249.99 on eBay. (Discounted $250 since I last mentioned it.) 58 processors and 55 GB RAM. It’s at the bottom of the pack of the systems I’ve mentioned for storage, though. I’m not sure on shipping, but it’s worth considering on this refrigerator-sized computer.
  • Back to Office Depot, you can pick up an Acer 19″ widescreen LCD (1440×900) for just $189.99 after rebate. It’s also got a 2000:1 contrast ratio, which seems pretty enormous. Slap this on your 58-core system and you’ll have one hell of a desktop. (I’m not sure that the E10000 even has a VGA port?

How the Republicans Can Win

Let the Democrats continue bashing each other in public, ensuring that, post-primaries, whoever wins from the Democrats already has egg on their face, thrown by another Democrat. The Republicans won’t even have to run attack ads.

And Republicans, don’t worry. It seems that we’re well on way with this plan. Just sit back and watch as we talk ourselves out of the White House.

Long-term Planning

In business, and really just life, it’s important to plan for the long-term.  In a lot of publicly-traded companies, managers have incentives to manage for the short-term: if they boost the company’s numbers for the year, they get huge bonuses. The plan doesn’t account for the fact that they may well have gotten there by sabotaging the company’s future.

But the long term is different from the absurdly long term. I’m sitting here reading an article about how Merrimack needs to replace its manhole covers. There are two plans; one is very expensive but will last us 50 years. The other is significantly cheaper, but there’s a chance that, in a couple of decades, they might need to be replaced again.

I guess the right way to look at it is the total cost over time. But frankly, in 20-25 years, I’m going to be in my 40’s, and probably not living in Merrimack. I’m not going to think, “Man, I wish we’d spend more on manhole covers.” I won’t even remember that we replaced them 20 years ago.

One of my classes this semester is called Strategic Management. Some classmates presented their “strategic recommendations” for a golf company. One of their plans was aimed at growing the company’s market share over 100 years. I had to choke back my laughter when they said this.

It’s important to plan for the future. Doing something that you know will endanger your company in the future is a bad idea. You always want to be thinking of the future. But how can you know what the golf industry is going to be like in 50 years? How can you know what the economy will be like? For a five-year plan you can infer that it won’t change too much, besides a little technological advancement. But if anyone ever gives you a 100-year plan for their company, I encourage you to crack up laughing. I almost did, at least.

Business School

Kyle’s ending sentence reminded me of something I’ve noticed before: we at Bentley are not normal. Even those of us who aren’t obsessed with starting the next big company still have business on our minds all the times.

The other day one of my friends here remarked, “I want a Gap T-shirt.” Or at least, that’s how you’d have heard it. But what we heard, especially since a lot of my friends here are accounting majors, was, “I want a GAAP T-shirt,” which is actually what he meant. He just said it and we all cracked up laughing. I think I’m going to try to whip one up in Photoshop.

I came across this book on Amazon today. It’s called “Amtrak Privitization: The Route to Failure.” And my first thought was, “That’s not at all what I’m looking for,” (I was looking for a book about car maintenance by someone with a similar name), “but it sounds really interesting.”

The problem is, if you asked a sane person what their opinion of the book was, I think they’d tell you that it was the most boring topic they could imagine. And here’s another book that makes the opposite argument: the government should ditch Amtrak and let the private market “fix” it.

Of course, Railroad Law a Decade after Deregulation doesn’t grip me quite as much, especially at 50 cents a page.

As an aside, there’s one copy for $71.81 on The next is $101.98. In theory, you could buy it, read it (or use it as a doorstop), and then relist it around $95. It seems like it’s not a hot seller, but $71.81 is unnecessarily low on the part of that seller.