Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!

What a peculiar day February 29 is. I mean, why is an extra day added to the end of February, and not in, say, April or September? It's just very arbitrary.

But I guess the more important question to ask is why is an extra day necessary? For that, the answer is pretty straight-forward. Over the course of four seasons (autumn, winter, spring, and summer), they last for 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 16 seconds, which as you can infer, is a tad over one full calendar year. But if you pay attention, that extra time is enough to keep all the four seasons out of sync if something isn't done to rectify the situation. If a typical calendar year stays fixed at 365 days, then after 30 years, all the seasons would be a week off. And after 100 years, they'd all be off by a month. Can you just imagine if summer took place in October? Me neither.

So who proposed a 366th day as a quadrennial occurrence? Thank Sosigenes of Alexandria. In the first century B.C., Roman emperor Julius Caesar wanted to do away with multiple calendars that had little continuity. He enlisted Sosigenes, a Greek astronomer, to help devise the Julian calendar, a predecessor to the Gregorian calendar we use today. (In case you didn't notice, July was named after Caesar, as well.) It was Sosigenes who insisted that an extra day be added once every four years to keep the calendar in line with the seasons. Caesar obliged, the Julian calendar came into effect in 45 B.C., and the rest, as they say, is history.

February 29 is truly odd because of an uncertainty about how people born on that day celebrate their birthday. In non-leap years, those whose birthdays don't "exist" can choose to celebrate the day before, February 28, or the day after, March 1. It depends on where one lives, though.

But don't fret. Several famous people were also born on February 29. Among others, they include Pope Paul III, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, NHL goalie Cam Ward, and Philadelphian typesetter Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegelstein­hausenberger­dorffvoraltern­waren­gewissenhaft­schaferswessen­schafewaren­wohlgepflege­und­sorgfaltigkeit­beschutzen­von­angreifen­durch­ihrraubgierigfeinde­welche­voraltern­zwolftausend­jahres­vorandieerscheinen­wander­ersteer­dem­enschderraumschiff­gebrauchlicht­als­sein­ursprung­von­kraftgestart­sein­lange­fahrt­hinzwischen­sternartigraum­auf­der­suchenach­diestern­welche­gehabt­bewohnbar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wohin­der­neurasse­von­verstandigmen­schlichkeit­konnte­fortplanzen­und­sicher­freuen­anlebens­langlich­freude­und­ruhe­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­angreifen­von­anderer­intelligent­geschopfs­von­hinzwischen­sternartigraum, Senior. Seriously. And it hasn't deterred them the least bit.

Well... unless you're a pirate apprentice.

Picture of leap frogs courtesy of

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Florida State Senator J.D. Alexander Doesn't Care About USF Polytechnic

When a term-limited politician known more for being a bully than an ambassador in the public eye steps up against higher education, it would seem reasonable that his fight is a ludicrous attempt to go out of office swinging.

But what if he hit for the fences and scored, too?

Such is the possibility surrounding J.D. Alexander (seen left), a Florida State Senator from Lake Wales in Polk County. The Republican's latest political move may be his boldest yet, in which he wants the University of South Florida's (USF) Polytechnic campus in Lakeland to split into it's own separate, accredited institution by as soon as July 1, 2012. Never mind that such a split would leave thousands of students and faculty out to dry, and that accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools normally takes anywhere from three to five years.

This is one man's vain vision to leave a lasting impression before he leaves office. And what better way to do that than by forming a new university that goes against everything his constituents want?

Initially, the issue was whether or not the Polytechnic campus should sever it's ties to USF so soon. USF Poly, as it's shorthanded in the media, was founded as the latest USF school in 1988. The school changed its name from USF Lakeland to reflect an adopted polytechnic model of education in 2008. Less than four years later, in November 2011, it was decided that while a split was a necessary step in the right direction to become Florida Polytechnic University in the future, several guidelines had to be achieved, which are expected to take several years. USF was also put in charge of guiding it's Polytechnic campus through the process of independence.

At best, the changes wouldn't take full effect until the current student body had a sufficient amount of time to graduate under USF Poly. At worst, those caught in-between the transition would be grandfathered into the USF system, ultimately allowing students to retain an alumni status with USF. Either way, it appeared to be a compromise worth agreeing upon.

But now, less than four months later, it's evidently clear Senator Alexander is using his political clout to get what he wants. And what does he want? To pull the rug out from underneath those whose future depends on USF Poly.

He blames USF for not doing enough to see this transition through, going so far as to say he's "lost confidence in USF's leadership." In retaliation, Senator Alexander, who's also the head of the Senate Budget Committee, proposed up to $108 million in cuts to USF which, among others, would eliminate all funding to USF Poly. The irony of it all is that he helped fund tens of millions of dollars to USF Poly for a new, high-tech campus alongside Interstate 4. But that was years ago. Today, he's taking a personal vendetta against a school he helped build.

What makes a split of USF Poly so acrimonious is that the institution serves a unique demographic. As of the 2010-2011 school year, the average student is 29 years old, and a majority (61%) go to the school part-time. One of the main reasons so many go to USF Poly in the first place is because the location is more convenient than driving to and from Tampa (where USF's flagship university is located) on a regular basis. The campus also has it's own unique program requirements, from majors in IT and industrial engineering to Bachelor of Science in Applied Science degrees, exclusive to USF Poly. If this school splits before the year is up, many students will face one of three options: stay with USF and either drive or relocate to Tampa, enroll at another university with no guarantee all their credits will be retained, or quit going to school altogether.

It's equally acrimonious because Senator Alexander's demand to split soon or else came so abruptly, it caught practically everyone involved off-guard. At the beginning of February 2012, there was no indication that the immediate fate of USF Poly would hang on the whim of a state Senator from a small town in central Florida. Students learned, professors taught, and administrators led under the assumption they still had time to acquiesce this transition.

But now more than ever, the people of USF Poly must object to Senator Alexander's plan and stand up to other influential leaders and politicians in the state of Florida as a united institution. Because if they don't, one man will get his way and leave thousands more disillusioned by the American higher educational system today.

Picture of JD Alexander courtesy of the Florida Senate
Picture of USF Poly campus courtesy of Rodda Construction, Inc.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Reddit Does Not Care For Wilson Phillips: Inside The Cutthroat World Of A Social News Website

It's unequivocally clear in today's social media driven age, especially among the Millennial generation, that people can pick and choose the stories they want to see. No longer is it necessary to sift through a newspaper to find an article of interest or watch an hour long newscast just to find out what the big teaser was at the beginning of the show. Everything's only a click away, and this now includes the way people can judge what will be the top stories on the Internet.

So marks the intrigue behind social news websites, where an online community of members can upload their own content, whether original or shared, and rank it's position within the site. Good posts tend to get some positive feedback, great posts typically invite a lot of overall feedback, and bad posts are either ignored or given negative votes to bury it's lack of originality. Many times, the big "stories" of the day are either funny, outrageous, random, thought-provoking, or a combination thereof.

Several such websites exist, such as Digg, Slashdot, and Newsvine, but my focus today is on Reddit. For you noobs, Reddit (pronounced read-it) is known for it's slogan of being "the front page of the internet." Registered users are called redditors (with the average age surprisingly between 35-44), and different categories are known as subreddits. As a redditor myself, I primarily use Reddit to invite more traffic for my blog, though I have recently become more active by uploading other links of interest and commenting on others' posts.

Well, once upon a time, I uploaded a link through todayilearned, a subreddit where users can share interesting tidbits of information they recently found out. Long story, I was on the Wikipedia page for actor William Baldwin when I found out he married one of the singers from Wilson Phillips in the mid-1990s. That, believe it or not, was the first time I thought of Wilson Phillips as someone other than a male country singer. When I clicked on the corresponding page, lo and behold, I discovered Wilson Phillips was actually an American, all-female singing trio. And after listening to a snippet of their Billboard #1 hit single "Hold On", I decided to share my latest bit of newfound knowledge to the Reddit community.

And how did they respond? One person commented, "Ok. And what?," while another said, "Who did you think it was all this time?" Apparently, they must've had to endure Wilson Phillips on the radio to near-death in the early 1990s and are trying to keep them in the repressed memories category of their conscience. (Don't even think about looking, I've since deleted the link in all of it's notoriety.)

But the Wilson Phillips flop is but one of many daily examples of posts that flounder shortly after uploading. It's almost impossible to say what will make the front page of Reddit on any given day. The only hope of making it to the top is several hundred to a few thousand people liking what the original poster liked.

And that's another problem. I know when I upload something most of the time, it's either going to be read once at best or ignored altogether at worst because I don't think like most redditors out there. Ergo, the odds are stacked even more against me in my quest to deliver front page material. This is not to say it's an impossible task, but I think the Chicago Cubs have a better chance of winning the World Series over the next one hundred years than I ever will making the front page on Reddit in that same time. Microscopic odds, indeed.

Now, don't get me wrong. I also happen to think Reddit is the number one resource to stay current on news-worthy information today and for the future. And without it, I wouldn't have had a fraction of the page views to my blog already. So for what Reddit is worth, it's a double edged sword that can cut either way in the hopes of influencing a global audience with the next Internet sensation.

Just make sure to keep Wilson Phillips out of the conversation.

TL;DR - Uploading top-rated content on social news websites takes more luck than skill.

Original album cover courtesy of
Reddit logo courtesy of

Friday, February 3, 2012

Rock On... Tide Pods

Something that caught my eye as I was browsing the Internet, looking for inspiration to post on this blog, was a laundry product called Tide Pods from Proctor & Gamble (P&G). From what I've read, these Pods were expected to be released in September 2011, but was delayed to just this past month before being delayed again to later this month. But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself.

Pods, as the name implies, are little detergent tabs which also contains stain remover and brightener for a 3-in-1 washing machine clean. According to the company's product press release, these Pods have delivered a 97% customer satisfaction rate for cleaning clothes in excellent condition compared to the standard 68%. Pods are claimed to be "customer-inspired" and "technology-driven," as well as an American take on the rise and popularity of liquid detergent packets in Western Europe. Each Pod is measured to handle a medium-sized load of laundry, and I read somewhere a pack of 57 goes for $15.99.

Personally, I like this new/forthcoming product by Tide. I don't have to worry about measuring, nor if I added a right amount of detergent. They also come in three different scents that all smell enticing (spring meadow, ocean mist, mystic forest). And even though I'm one to wash my darks, lights, and whites separately, my doing so once a week, even with separate Pods, would deliver clean clothes for nearly five months with a pack of 57. Now that, to me, is $15.99 well spent.

And yet, I'm skeptical about it's longevity. Certainly, detergent packets look to be the way of the future for laundry, but previous attempts in the U.S. have failed to materialize, namely because past models couldn't dissolve fully in the wash. The big innovation in laundry the past few years has not been liquid tabs, but those Purex 3-in-1 sheets. Also suspicious, especially considering these Pods have had a $150,000,000(!) marketing budget, is that this product has been delayed not once, but twice. Now unless the people at Tide are hoping for a spring/summer smash hit when all those pesky stains just happen to pop up, multiple product delays usually mean there's something wrong in it's function, whatever it may be. Not only does it cost the company time and money, they're losing both new and loyal customers to competing brands. Ultimately, I like the concept, but I don't think the world is ready for these Pods just yet.

Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Prisoner Within My Own Walls, Part 1

Author's note: Some of the language in this post is vulgar and is not something I would ever say, whether in public or private. I only include these phrases because they were, at one point in time, direct quotes spoken about me. My apologies to young readers and/or those sensitive to such foul language. Please continue at your own discretion.

I am both free and captive. I'm allowed to speak up but I can't speak out. And every injustice thrown my way happens to be my own fault, as well.

Yep, this is what happens when a family member gets treated like nothing more than a stranger for a roommate who's worn out his welcome.

Now, some context for you to understand my plight, dear reader. As of this initial post, I live my father, sister, and another woman who acts as my father's caretaker. Long story short, my father divorced my mother, left her out to dry in California, and shacked up with the aforementioned woman a few years his senior. The main reason I'm with my father now is because I moved from West to East to attend a big-name university, and living with him is much cheaper than paying for room and board. My sister joined the fray within the past year and is attending a separate, nearby college.

So what's the big deal, you may ask. Everything would be normal, or at least moderately tolerable, except the only person in my current household not named Morea is a bad influence. Especially around me.

I guess you can say it all started shortly after I got off a cross-country flight from California to Florida three summers ago. Without any warning, my father tells me out of the blue he's been living with this woman and I've got to treat her like family, more or less. Naturally, I'm stunned. I mean, how else is a child to react upon hearing one of their divorced parents has had a domestic partner all these years and was never made aware of their existence until that moment? So right off the bat, I've got a bad feeling about this woman. But as my father told me shortly before meeting her, all he wanted me to do was be nice to her.

I did, and I have, for more than two and a half years. How have I been treated in return? Being called a "fucking asshole," a "low-life piece of shit," and a "god-damned son of a bitch," among other colorful terms.

Of course, having a sailor mouth is but one of her traits that only seems to rear it's ugly head around me. Occasionally when she walks past my room and I'm in it, she'll say aloud to no one in particular, "It stinks!" If I touch something and pass it to her, say a side dish during dinner, she hesitantly accepts as if I have AIDS, extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis, or some other kind of deadly disease. Sometimes, I can be doing something as simple as boiling water for a Maruchan cup of noodles and if I'm in the kitchen for more than a minute, she'll come walking in, get within a few feet of me, and just stand there, ostensibly glaring at me as if to say, "How dare you boil water in my kitchen." This never happens around my father, and it certainly never happens around my sister, who's only a few years younger than me. In fact, the difference is like night and day.

To Be Continued...

Photo of prisoner's hands courtesy of