For those of you who are students…

If you haven’t seen it, I have a grade calculator on my site. You enter in the grades you’ve made for each test/assignment thus far, and how much each test/assignment counts toward the final grade. You then enter what the minimum grade is needed for an A, B, C, D, etc. (If your school uses plus/minus grading, it can handle that too.) Then you hit the Calculate button and it tells you what you need to average for the remainder of the term in order to get whatever grade you want.

I developed it nine years ago, when I was teaching at the University of Memphis. My students were spending way too much time calculating their grades and not enough time studying, so I decided to create a tool that would help them. I have a tracker on the calculator, and toward the end of the semester, the hits go way way way up. Yesterday it got 944 hits and will probably break a thousand today.

Good luck on final exams, for those of you preparing to take them.

One more car I’m looking at

After my last post about cars, a good friend pretty much convinced me not to buy a new car for a while. After all, he argued, there’s nothing mechanically wrong with my car, and I live downtown and walk everywhere so no one knows what I drive anyway. Why not, he said, spend $500 to patch up the car’s interior, and keep driving it for several more years? That was the course I was leaning toward anyway, so it was good to get that advice.

Then I started seeing a car – actually an SUV – on the road that I hadn’t noticed before: The Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Normally I’m not a fan of SUVs but this is a really sharp looking car, especially in its Voodoo Blue color. It has a 4-liter V6 which is plenty big enough for an SUV this size, and it looks like the base model (~$22K) comes with everything I would need. It just looks like it’s waiting to be driven to the beach. And it’s a Toyota so you know the reliability is good.

Anyone own one of these? Or know somebody who owns one of these?

She Blinded Me With Science

Thomas Dolby, creator of the 1980s hit “She Blinded Me With Science,” will perform Saturday night at EP’s Delta Kitchen and Bar. He’ll be joined by another DJ and world-renowned composer of electronic music, BT. Click here for more info

I haven’t kept up with Thomas Dolby for a while, but I do remember his name for a reason other than “She Blinded Me With Science” – back in 1996, when I was teaching Computer Literacy at the University of Memphis and first added an Internet component to the course, Thomas Dolby was one of the people I talked about. At the time he believed that the Internet would change the way people listen to music – rather than it being a passive experience where the artist creates and the public consumes what they are given, Dolby predicted that enjoying music would become an active experience on the part of the audience, and that the interplay between artist and audience would take the work to an entirely new level. To that end, he posted his latest tracks on his website, and invited his fans to download them, mix them, and send them back to be heard by the world. He also had message forums where his core fans could have a say in the direction he took with his career.

Not sure what happened to that project, because honestly, I haven’t heard much about him from 1996 up until this week. One thing’s for sure though, he’s a man of ideas and it would be interesting to find out where he has taken his music in the years since. I read on his bio that he was involved in the company that invented polyphonic cell phone ringtones.

Doors open at 9:30 and tickets are on sale at ($20 + $2.96 “surcharge”). If you go, I highly recommend you wait until the late-night menu comes into effect at 11:00, and then try either the Not-Yo Crawfish (crawfish nachos with pepper jack and sweet potato chips) or the Lobster Pronto Pups.

Speaking of EP’s, every time I go there I hear how a local food critic has been doing a lot of “whining” to the staff there, because they allowed me, a humble blogger, to “scoop” her – to post the details of their menu and pics of their food before she got a chance to. Heh. That’s kind of funny. Anyone got connections at Sauces and/or Spindini (two more downtown restaurants scheduled to open soon)? Maybe I can scoop her on those too.

All right. Just returned from a shopping spree at Target, where I bought a new Santa hat after losing my old one a couple of years ago on a drunken Sunday afternoon. Think I’ll wear it to the Saucer in a few minutes, when I go to visit my waitresses and see what the “buy the beer, waste money on the glass” glass of the week is. Good night everybody!

How far would I go to escape Cubicle World?

Now and then I like to pose hypothetical questions to myself to keep my mind occupied. And this week I came up with a doozy.

A little background: My ultimate career goal is not to make as much money as possible. It’s to find work that allows me to do my work on my own terms. Over the years I’ve learned that I’m at my creative and productive peak when I can take my laptop to coffee shops, Wi-Fi enabled restaurants, even the library – and work from there. I’ve also learned that I tend to be at my mental peak when I go to bed around 2 AM and wake up around 9. No matter how good a job is in every other respect, I will always feel somewhat imprisoned by a cubicle and an 8-to-5 schedule.

So here’s the question I posed to myself. What if someone called me and said, “Paul, we saw your resume online and are interested in talking to you. We need someone to program and administer our ASP.NET/SQL Server website. You’d be able to do it when and where you want… as long as you have an Internet connection, it’s up to you where you work, and what hours. We’d be willing to pay you what you’re making now, at your current job. Would you be interested?”

“Sure!” I would say. “Of course I’d be interested!”

“Well, there’s just one thing,” continues the hypothetical caller. “The site you’d be working on is a porn site. You wouldn’t appear the site, obviously. You’d just take care of the back-end programming and administration. Everyone pictured on the site will be over 18 – there’s no child exploitation or anything like that. And we plan on having mechanisms in place – which you would help to develop – to make sure that the site is only viewed by people who are of age. So, given that, would you have any objection to programming a porn site?”

Wow. That would be a tough call. On one hand, I’d do just about anything to escape Cubicle World. And although I’m not into porn personally, I have no moral objection to other people looking at it, if that’s what they’re into, as long as everyone involved is of age.

But, on the other hand, if I took the job I’d be “the porn guy.” Everywhere I’d go, I’d be viewed through the frame of my job. Would normal, well-adjusted, professional women want to date me, knowing what I do for a living? Would they think, “oh my god, what do I tell my friends, my parents, when they ask what he does for a living?” And also, how would I list the job on my resume? No matter how good my programming skills, I’m sure quite a few prospective employers would toss my resume in the trash the moment they typed in the site’s URL and saw what I had been working on.

Another problem is, working on that type of site would limit my ability to do my work at Wi-Fi coffee shops and restaurants. I mean, can you imagine me working at Starbucks, testing my code, with naked people on the screen doing all sorts of things to each other, in full view of the college student studying at the next table, and the three old ladies at the table behind me? I’d be too embarrassed to do my work at the Saucer where the waitresses might see it. As for my other favorite Wi-Fi spot – Sleep Out Louie’s – the employees and regulars would probably encourage me to do my work there, and in fact take such an interest that they’d frequently want to see what I’m working on. But then the general managers of the corporation that runs Sleep Out’s would hear about it and they would tell the staff that I can’t do my work there anymore.

And then the other problem is, if I worked on a porn site I’d have to sit there and look at porn all day while I test my code. After a while, would I still be able to maintain normal, healthy relationships while viewing porn 40 hours a week? Or would it eventually seep into my brain and affect the way I act?

So, after thinking it all over, it’d be damn tempting but I’d probably turn it down. Guess I’ll have to come up with an alternate plan to escape from Cubicle World.

Memphis: Our officials have more baby mamas than yours

As I was surfing through the comments on Thaddeus Matthews’ blog, I came across a link to this CafePress store that sells T-shirts about Memphis politics.

A few of my favorites:

  • “Memphis: Our officials have more baby mamas than yours”
  • “Welcome to Memphis. Hold on to your purse”
  • “Memphis Elections: (rows and rows of tombstones) At least they voted”
  • “I went to Memphis to visit Graceland, the FedExForum, Elmwood, the Peabody, and Beale Street, and all I got was robbed”

Hilarious. Best Memphis-themed T-shirt store I’ve seen online.

My new favorite blog to read

Local political blogger Thaddeus Matthews has been covering the downfall of Councilmen Rickey Peete and Edmund Ford and businessman Joe Cooper since the story broke. I’ve checked Matthews’ blog occasionally in the past, but I must say I have gotten downright addicted to it over the weekend.

Matthews has a lot to say, and at times it’s up to the reader to separate what is fact from what is gossip/hearsay in his blog (especially in the comments that are left), but there’s no doubt that it’s an interesting read. And give the man his due – over a year ago in the aftermath of the E-Cycle scandal, he was saying that more officials would be brought down on charges of public corruption – and he was right.

Furthermore, he’s saying that we’re still not done. He’s hinted that Peete and Ford could flip and become government informants themselves, leading to other indictments. Ya know what, I wouldn’t be surprised if Matthews is right. I don’t have any particular names in mind when I say this, just a gut feeling that this investigation is going to net a BIG fish by the end of 2007.

My only other comment about the whole thing is that Rickey Peete sure has a name that lends itself to making jokes about his predicament. Tricky Rickey. Sneaky Peete. Re-Peete. Etc.

What downtown tourists really want: "downtown, memphis, hookers"

Every now and then I check my tracker, which among other things tells me how the last 20 visitors found my blog.

Just looked at it a few minutes ago and there was a hit from one of the guests at the Peabody. Well, I assume it was one of the guests and not one of the employees, but who knows. Anyway, this person found my blog by searching for “downtown, memphis, hookers.”

Now we know what people visiting downtown are really looking for. I’ve told some of you that I have a new Downtown Memphis-themed website scheduled to roll out in the spring. Maybe I should add a section on where to find hookers.

The National Conference for Media Reform, Downtown Memphis, January 12-14

The National Conference for Media Reform

Found this while surfing the Memphis Flyer website… there will be a convention called The National Conference For Media Reform in downtown Memphis the weekend of January 12-14. They have some big-name speakers lined up, including Jane Fonda, Bill Moyers, Jesse Jackson, and Phil Donahue. The major topics include media policy; media literacy, critique and accountability; independent and noncommercial media; civil rights, social justice and the media; and media reform activism.

The conference is open to anyone with an interest in the subject matter. It’s kind of expensive to attend – the regular registration fee is $195. However, bloggers can apply for credentials which will get them in for $75, and there are also volunteer opportunities and scholarships available.

Here’s a complete list of topics and speakers. They also have a blog which is where they post updates about the conference.

Don’t know if I’ll go, but if anyone planning on attending the conference is reading this, I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about Downtown Memphis. Just e-mail ’em to me.

Pics: Rapscallion Party II/Mike’s plate party

All right. I know why people REALLY read my blog. It isn’t because they want to know what’s going on downtown. It isn’t because they want to read about which restaurants have hired Romanian waitresses or what the bums are drinking or what statues the pigeons are crapping on.

No, the real reason people read my blog is because they want to see pictures of CARMEL in a TUBE TOP. And it’s time to give my readers what they want. So here ya go.

Here are a few more select scenes from the evening:

This is what success looks like.

Team member Skippy emphatically makes a point.

Mike prepares to unveil his plate.

Someone used up almost the entire tab ordering expensive Chimays. No, wait, that was Rapscallion Party I.

Oh, no!

Click here to view the entire photo album (125 photos). Congratulations to Mike on reaching the 200 milestone and getting his plate on the wall. I can’t believe we drank $370 worth of beer. Wait a minute, yes I can. Thanks to our Beer Goddess, Amy, for taking such great care of us, and for inventing new and tasty beer mixers for us to try. Thanks to Mikey the Camera Nazi for snapping most of these pics. No thanks to Blogger, whose photo upload module was being a bitch, adding an additional 40 minutes to the time it took me to create this post.

Arkansas vs. Florida for the SEC championship today at 5:00. Go Hogs!