15 March 2007

Kiplinger 100: Best Values in Private Education

College rankings are, for the most part, useless. I believe that college selection is an individual choice that cannot be summed up by rankings. Still, many students chase the same elusive top schools, as though "winning" admission to one of them is the only means by which their high school success (and future success) can be measured. Yet, what may be the #1 school for one student may not be on another students radar. I don't know how that gets factored into rankings.

Kiplinger's, as usual, provides some specific, targeted advice in their current article, Kiplinger 100: Best Values in Private Colleges. The idea behind their rankings is to compare colleges, both research universities and liberal arts colleges, on the basis of the quality of their education versus the relative costs to the students and their families. Also, the article brings to light some disturbing issues that many students face at this time of year.

When Andrew Kositsky applied to colleges several years ago, complicated circumstances prevented him from receiving much family support or qualifying for need-based aid. Rather than abandon his dream of attending an Ivy League institution, Kositsky, of Lummi Island, Wash., considered borrowing $100,000 to foot the bill. "I thought it would be worth it because I'd only go to college once. I wanted the decision to be made irrespective of money."
Then he talked to Caltech, where a flexible approach to financial aid meant that he could attend a top program without mortgaging his future. "Not only was Caltech understanding in the first place, but it was also willing to listen in case the dynamic changed," says Kositsky. His package, which includes federal and institutional aid, covers about three-fourths of the cost. Kositsky and his family pay the rest.

When Kositsky graduates next year, he plans to share his enthusiasm for math by teaching, a profession he couldn't have pursued had he been saddled with six-figure debt. This brainy kid now recognizes a no-brainer: "Looking back, I'm glad I made the choice not to take out those loans."
I suspect that all too many students (and their families) approach paying for college more in line with Kositsky's first statements - "I only go to college once..." is a familiar refrain.

So, which colleges do manage to blend high quality education, while remaining light on the wallet? The top 10 universities are as follows:


Cost After Need-
Based Aid
Need MetAid From
Cost After Non-
Need-Based Aid
Based Aid
Average Debt
1California Institute of Technology, PasadenaCA89117%

2Yale University, New HavenCT5,40910%

3Harvard University, CambridgeMA6,6499%

4Rice University, HoustonTX3,18525%

5Duke University, DurhamNC6,53422%

6Princeton University, PrincetonNJ4,90611%

7Massachusetts Institute of Technology, CambridgeMA4,06614%

8Emory University, AtlantaGA6,51037%

9Columbia University, New YorkNY4,22511%

10University of Pennsylvania, PhiladelphiaPA9,84121%


Now, this is an impressive list of schools. They are Top 10, after all. But, how realistic is this collection of schools to the average - heck, even top college students. Only one school admits more than one-quarter of their applicant pool, and Emory (37%) is still no guarantee for most students. 60% of the schools on this list (the Ivies and MIT) offer no merit-based scholarships, so if you don't want to open the pocketbook at these schools, you need to exhibit financial need. Even the schools that do offer merit awards only do so for the top of the applicant pool, or students with special talents that the university seeks.

You can find the complete list of liberal arts colleges here. The statistics are going to be eerily similar. Here, four of the Top 10 admit more than one-quarter (Davidson, Washington and Lee, Colgate, and Wellesley), but only one admits more than one-third (Wellesley - 34%). Getting in will be more than half the battle here, too. Five of the ten do not offer merit-based scholarships, either.

Scour the lists, though, as there are a number of schools that admit a good percentage from their applicant pool, and offer excellent merit-based scholarship opportunities. A brief, cursory glance yields a list including these choices:

Centre College, KY - 63% of their applicant pool admitted; 83% receive some merit aid.
DePauw University (IN), Austin College (TX), Wabash College (IN), Agnes Scott College (GA), and Illinois Wesleyan all admit more than 50% of their applicant pool and offer more than 50% of their admitted students merit-based aid.

On the university side, Trinity University in San Antonio, TX meets the same 50/50 profile. So does Case Western Reserve (OH), Whitworth College (WA), Drake University (IA), Gonzaga University (WA), Butler University (IL), and Valparaiso University in Indiana.

It seems to me that based on those results your best bets for affordable quality schooling can be found in Indiana and at some of the country's better faith-based schools. As with everything else, though, these rankings should be taken at face value, and only considered as part of the college admission decision process.

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14 March 2007

Of Beer and BBQ

If you are arriving in the middle of this story, you might want to go back and start with Part I.

When last we left the trip through Texas, I was leaving the Avalon Diner and heading west to Shiner, Texas, and the Spoetzel Brewery - the makers of my favorite brewski, Shiner Bock. I remember my first trip to Texas back in the early '90s. One of my college buddies was getting married in San Antonio, and I flew out for the festivities. Every place we went, I would go to order my beer of choice, Amber Bock, and every place I went, I was told "we don't serve Amber Bock, we have Shiner Bock." Not being familiar with the brand - and not being much of a beer drinker to begin with, I moved on to something else. It wasn't until the night of the bachelor party when my friend was still coherent enough to know that he should stop consuming all the beers people purchased for him, that he passed me (the designated driver) one of his Shiners. I guess we could call it love at first taste - because I was hooked.

For all the times I have been to central Texas, I always wanted to visit Shiner and the brewery. Unfortunately, Shiner is about two hours west of Houston, an hour and a half east of San Antonio and about an hour and a half southeast of Austin. Usually, no matter how well I plan, I just can't swing that much drive time on the work nickel to score a trip to a brewery. This trip, though, was my own doing, and there was a group gathering at the brewery as part of the weekend festivities, so the stars aligned properly - for once!

We arrived in Shiner too late for the morning tour and way early for the afternoon gig (note to self: someone should really check to see the tour times before driving two hours!). We had time to kill, so we went - well, where else? The nearest watering hole. Heck, it was after noon somewhere, right? Right up the road from the brewery was a place (which may well have been named "Bar" or "Tavern" for all I know) that sold frosty cold plastic cups of Shiner Blonde for - get this - $1.25. This will do until the brewery tour begins.

The Shiner folks are a little squirrelly about people taking pictures inside the brewery, so I only got some outside shots. The brewery tour is cool (and free!). I learned a lot about beermaking and that Shiner Bock is now the #1 best-selling craft beer in Texas (not really surprising - those yellow bottles are EVERYWHERE) and the #4 best-selling craft beer in all of the United States. Today's trivia - Who are the three ranked ahead of Shiner Bock? Answer at the end of the post (if I could only figure out a way to post upside down!).

You get a few free samples before, during, or after the tour. They offer more than just the bock for tasting, too. I sampled the blonde, hefeweizen, bock and the seasonal dunkelweizen. The first three were good, but the dunkel is an acquired taste that I have not acquired. I thought it tasted a little thick - but, true beer lovers may love it. Me, when I say "Shiner," I mean "bock."

After navigating our way through the backroad Texas speedtraps, the caravan made it's way up to Taylor, TX - home of the legendary Louie Mueller's BBQ. I visited Louie Mueller's about a year ago, and detailed the bulk of my feelings at that time. Still, there was something so noteworthy at this stop that bears specific mention. For all the readers out there in Internet-land who are fans of menus, Louie Mueller's boasts one of my favorites. Scratched out on butcher paper and posted to the wall with masking tape, all of the days offerings are clearly spelled out. You can pretty well figure that most regulars here don't stop to read the menu.

The barbecue at Mueller's is excellent. As big a fan as I am of Williams Smokehouse in Houston (I won't link to the same article again, but if you haven't read the first post in this series, you'll know what I mean), if I had a choice between the two on a daily basis, I suspect that I wouldn't be eating much at Williams. During this weekend, though, we searched out the pinnacle of all BBQ, and while the beef brisket and pork ribs are really solid choices here, we would find some samples of those products to be superior further along in the trip (how's that for a teaser?). But, the single best thing on the menu here are the phenomenal beef ribs. Pictured to the left is the guy in our group affectionately called "The Mayor" enjoying one of these Flintstone-esque brontosaurus - errrr....beef ribs. I may go so far as to say that these ribs weren't only the best thing on the Mueller's menu, but it may have been the single best piece of meat - any style - that we enjoyed the whole weekend. Maybe after the last post, I will do an "awards" post for the best of this trip. The guys at Mueller's are probably going to hate me for posting this, as they told us that they get a spike in business whenever the local food writer mentions the beef ribs - and they usually cannot keep up with the demand on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, the rib shown in the picture was the last one sold for the day - yes, most of us didn't get to order them, as they were sold out. I managed to sample a small piece of the rib meat that someone else had ordered, and I can assure you - this is a serious nominee for best BBQ of the weekend.

Stay tuned...more to come on visits to Lockhart (Kreutz's Market, Smitty's) and Southside Market in Elgin.

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13 March 2007

Maybe I Can Still Beat the Tax Man?

The frequent commenter that posts anonymously but signs her comments "Rache" is one of my co-workers. Not only does she read about my latest obsessions here, but she also gets the added privilege of hearing about them during the day at work. Usually, when she's had enough, she sends me an article that either supports or refutes my claims and attempts to secure herself a few moments of peace. To be honest, it is not a bad plan at all.

When she finally tired of hearing me moan about having to plunk down some dough with my federal tax return, she sent me this article from MSN. Apparently, I am not the one banging my head against the wall this tax season.

I had thought about most of the ideas brought forward before I read them in this article. Unfortunately, I don't have a "green" car, nor did I install energy efficient windows last year. I didn't pay college tuition, either. For that matter, most of the discussion points from the article are things that you would have had to do back in 2006 to have any effect on your tax return now....except one. And, I can actually take advantage.

This will cause a collective :gasp: from the personal finance blogging community....but, I have not yet contributed to my 2006 IRA. I still have a traditional (deductible) IRA. I don't make the maximum contributions because, quite frankly, I cannot afford to stash an additional $4,000 away - with no real ability to touch the money for another 30 years. I would love to - but, I just cannot afford another $4k for retirement savings. But, what if I were getting a discount on the money invested in the IRA? In essence, that what will happen, if I contribute.

TurboTax estimates that for every dollar of deduction that I have, I will save about 18 cents in taxes. So, for every $1,000 deposited into my IRA, it will really only cost me $820 out of my pocket. Since I need to pay Uncle Sam anyway, the money really is discounted. If I were getting a refund, the same theory might be true, but it would have less of a real effect on my thinking. Crazy, isn't it? Sometimes logic has less to personal finance than "personal" has to do with finance.

Still, where am I going to come up with the $1,500 it will take to alleviate my tax bill? While TECHNICALLY I have the cash to make the contribution, it would be coming from money that is earmarked for something else. I do have about $1,000 worth of Motorola stock that I could deposit (actually, I am not sure if I can contribute stock directly and I must be losing my touch with "The Google," because I have yet to find a concrete answer). I just don't know how to apply the tax issue, and I need to make a phone call to TD Ameritrade, the folks who hold my IRA account. Can I deposit the stock directly? What is the amount that is deductible? The tax basis? The fair market value? Would I be better off to sell the stock and just deposit the proceeds (seems like it makes less sense to pay an extra set of commissions to buy and sell, but it wouldn't be the strangest thing I have ever heard)? Of course, another day in the market like today, and I won't need to worry about it, as the MOT stock is just plummeting, of late.

I need to get this situation squared away soon, and still figure out where the difference between what I own in stock and what I still need to contribute to abate my tax obligation is going to come from. The clock is ticking, though, and with one month to go until the filing date, I have little time to secure additional funding.

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12 March 2007

Why Hoarding Airline Miles is a Fools Game

Confession: I am an airline miles and hotel points whore. Yes, whore. I am the nut who will fly an extra connection - completely out of the way - just to rack up another 1,000 miles. A few years ago, when a hurricane was bearing down on Hooterville, I had scheduled work travel. I knew that if I waited for my outbound flight, there was a good chance that it would be canceled. I went to the airport early and hoped to get on an earlier flight to New York. The only option that would have gotten my out earlier was to fly from Florida to SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico to JFK - instead of a direct Florida to NYC flight. For an extra 1,900 miles, I would gladly make a detour to San Juan - and I avoided a hurricane - BONUS!

Based on the title, you wouldn't think that I would be the kind of fellow that would be accumulating airline miles, would you? Oh contraire...I love accumulating. I also love using them. I am an "earn and burn" kind of a guy. Many people often make the serious mistake of "saving up" for a destination award - a trip to Hawaii, a summer vacation to Europe, etc. The reality is that airline miles and hotel points are not appreciating assets - that is, you do not earn interest on your miles balance, and there is just no way that the miles you have today are going to be "worth" more tomorrow.

Instead of saving for a Hawaiian vacation, figure that you are saving cash for a kitchen remodel. You know that the new kitchen will cost you $25,000, so you begin stashing away a few extra dollars each month. After one year, you have saved $18,000, but now the cost of the new kitchen has risen to $40,000. You continue to save, and after another year, you have saved about $30,000 - except, the cost of your kitchen has now risen to $50,000. Face it - at this rate, you're starting to think about dining out more often than cooking at home.

How far fetched is this example? Not very, when you consider that within the last couple of weeks, one major airline and one major hotelier have introduced major changes to their award structure that has caused nothing but a serious devaluation in the currency that is your hotel points and airline miles....and they did it completely under the radar...essentially in the middle of the night when no one was looking. That is easily the biggest gripe. Without a doubt, had USAirways or Marriott announced that they were moving the goalposts with a few months notice, allowing people who had been planning on booking these affected awards the opportunity to do so, they would have created some goodwill - even while delivering bad news. By waiting until after the voting for the Freddies (the mileage geeks' equivalent to the Oscars), Marriott really steamed some folks.

Devaluation is the term often heard when disappointed folks talk about their inability to score their intended award, but INFLATION is just as critical. There are just too many airline miles and hotel points on the market right now, all chasing a limited number of available award seats and hotel rooms. It used to be that you actually had to fly or stay at a hotel to earn their respective currencies. Now, you can buy flowers, eat at your favorite restaurants, charge your groceries on a co-branded credit card, or refinance your mortgage to get points and miles. This ease in earning miles has led to a glut on the market. The more miles people "own" as assets, the more miles airlines keep on the books as liabilities. When airlines and hotels realize that there are too many awards sitting unused in loyalty accounts, they need to tighten the strings.

The bottom line is this - if you are saving for a "dream" reward, aim to have the required mileage earned in less than one year. If you cannot do that, there is a good chance you will not get the desired award at the level you are chasing. Reduce your expectations accordingly for each year it will take you to earn the mileage required, and you will be less disappointed. Also, many airlines and hotels readjust their award offerings early in the year. If you think that you MIGHT use an award - and you suspect that the award may cost more when the next devaluation occurs, book it in advance. Most hotels will gladly return the points you have allotted for a canceled award - and some don't even require you to have the points until you are ready to travel. Airlines will usually charge you a fee to do the same, but you might be willing to pay that as insurance to secure the award you really want.

Earn 'em and burn 'em - you will reduce the likelihood that you will be disappointed.

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I Owe, I Owe - It's Off to Work I Go!

It was an unhappy weekend here at the Fortress of Solitude. Yesterday was tax preparation day. I'd been putting off this relatively easy task for a month-plus now, mostly because I was sure that my refund was going to be extremely small this year. If I was expecting enough money to fund a summer vacation, I would have been all over this at the beginning of February.

After plugging in all of the information from the W-2 and 1099s, deducting all of the deductions, exempting all of the exemptions, and ciphering until I could cipher no more, it turns out that I owe $222 to my Uncle Sam. This, of course, led me to believe that there must have been some mistake - I NEVER owe. I usually get a smaller-than-everyone-else refund, which I am OK with, because it means that I have had more of my money to do with as I please than those who get huge refunds. But, I don't OWE. In 18 years of filing a 1040 (or equivalent), I have never owed money on April 15. This year, when all of my friends are talking about spending their tax refunds on a vacation to Bermuda, I am going to be squealing as I write a check that will help subsidize their Hawaiian shirt wearing behinds.

How did this happen? Well, I did make more money this year than last (a good problem to have) from my day job. I also worked as an independent contractor this year (more than last), from which there was no money withheld. On top of that, I also owe self-employment tax on that money. Passive income was up, too. Thanks to my ING account, my interest earned was better than 20 times what I earned last year in my feeble Wachovia account. Unfortunately (fortunately, from a tax paying standpoint), my interest paid was also up on my student loans. I have a decreasing outstanding loan amount, but my interest paid increases....UGH!

From a tax standpoint, my problem is that I don't spend nearly enough. My medical expenses, including health insurance premiums, were well below the required threshold for deductibility. If I got sick more often, I would spend more money on healthcare, and I would save on my tax bill. My mortgage is abominably tiny - and therefore, so is the interest I pay on my primary residence. It is so small, that I also do not meet the minimum threshold for itemizing deductions. If I spent more money, to get a bigger house (that I neither need, nor can afford), I could save money on my taxes. I could also contribute more to charity, make a large capital purchase (sales tax savings), or sell stocks at a loss to reduce my tax burden. Unfortunately, I didn't - so, I can't.

One thing that really chaps me is the low income tax credit for retirement savings. This money is designed to encourage those who would otherwise not contribute to a self-funded retirement account to save money. Obviously, this is a win for the government. If they can get more people to save for retirement, there may be less of a burden on the social security system in years to come. Unfortunately, they think that "low income" caps out at $25k/yr for single filers. By just bumping that up to $50k, it would appear that more people would participate (I am thinking of the 20-something colleagues that I know that have no concept of retirement savings), which would alleviate some government burden in the future, and cost relatively little in present day dollars. Of course, the most important benefit would be that I would have my tax bill eased.

Today's patron saint of this blog is Mr. Pink, from 'Reservoir Dogs' who said it best. "It would seem to me that The Travelin' Man belongs to one of the many groups the government @$^%s in the $^% on a regular basis."

And, it hurts. :-(

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09 March 2007

The Lowdown on H-Town, Part II

This is part of a series that begins here.

After returning from Galveston, we made off for dinner at Magnolia Bar & Grill. This was my second trip to this venerable Houston establishment. The last time I was in town, the weather was great and we ate outside. This trip, temperatures dipped into the 40's, so we decided an indoor table was in order. Magnolia has a large and varied menu, but their specialties include a lot of creole seafood. First up on my agenda was this stellar bowl of shrimp gumbo. The picture, as usual, does not do this bowl of spicy goodness any justice. You could not dip the spoon into the bowl without pulling up three shrimp per spoonful. The broth was spicy, but not distractingly so.

My dinner entree was another Texas gulf specialty, stuffed redfish. There were three of us at the table, and two of us ordered the redfish. My other dining companion (the artist formerly known as "Wacky Mutant Assistant Chick") went with the stuffed shrimp, which were also described as excellent. The redfish came with a lump crabmeat stuffing (like the shrimp in the gumbo, you could pick out the large chunks of crabmeat in the stuffing). The mashed potatoes that accompanied the dish were some of the best I have ever had.

Wacky Mutant Assistant Chick also grabbed a piece of their key lime pie, and put away the whole thing. Personally, I liked the fruit garnish, but I am not a fan of key lime pie - and can I just tell you how hard it is to live in Florida and not like key lime pie?

Breakfast the following morning was at the Avalon Diner, which earned a prominent spot on my Best of 2006 list. You can follow along after the jump...

Before departing Houston, "wanderingjew" and I planned to meet up for breakfast at the Avalon. Unfortunately, he ran into some car trouble and had a rough go getting to the restaurant. We ended up in slightly more of a rush than we had anticipated, but the Avalon is a worthy stop for some pre-road trip grub. Located in a non-descript strip mall in a somewhat upscale neighborhood, the Avalon Diner doesn't look like the kind of place that would normally attract my attention. But, one step in the door, and you immediately feel as though you have taken a step back in time. The decor is retro - the traditional 1950's diner feel. I love the oversized soda caps hanging on the wall.

To be honest, my breakfast was unexciting - I ordered the old-fashioned, thin, small-tread waffle, based on a Michael Stern recommendation. It was good. But, just good. Wanderingjew ordered the chicken fried steak (sorry, I didn't get a photo), and I have to admit - he won. This is definitely an instance of "when in Rome..." and when in Texas, chicken fried steak is usually a pretty good option.

The real reason I added Avalon to the Houston recap, though, was to add the photos and the full attention that my previous visit deserved, but was never written. On my last visit, I sat at the counter and observed the inner workings of a tradtional diner from a cat bird seat at the counter. There is nothing like getting the first-hand view of the interaction between the cooks and the servers at the counter. On top of the ambiance, the thin-patty burgers at Avalon are delicious. The crinkle-cut fries are the ideal accompaniment.

The burger, fries and a shake was a great meal, but on my next trip through town, I want to check out their fresh-squeezed lemonade (they also do limeade). This machine makes the magic. You can see the fresh limes and lemons in the background. I watched as they created each glass, as it was ordered. Each lemon squeezed on the spot, a little syrup and sugar added and blended perfectly and served in an old-style fountain glass.

Well fed, we departed for Shiner, Texas, the home of Spoetzel Brewery - the makers of Shiner Bock beer. More on that in the next installment.

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08 March 2007

New Years Resolutions Revisited - How YOU Doin'?

We are about ten weeks into the new year, or about one-fifth of the way through, depending on how you look at it. Remember the New Year's resolutions you made back on January 1 - hopefully in a reasonably sober state? I do. I posted them here (note to self: dumb thing to do). I guess ten weeks is as good a marking point as any to do the first check-up.

#1 - I resolve to take more days off from work in 2007. Hmmm...this is not going as well as I'd hoped, but it is not a complete failure, either. So far, I have used zero vacation or sick days this year - and along the way, I have accumulated more. But, I used my one personal day and the comp day that I earned for working a weekend when we hosted a tour for guidance counselors. Those days were used on my previously mentioned Houston/Austin, TX trip. I also took some partial days off to go and watch our school's basketball teams play some road games. Unfortunately, it is the second week of spring training, the ACC Tournament is going on right now nearby, and our women's basketball team is playing in a regional tournament this week, too. Me, I will be at work. :-( This needs work. Perhaps after I do my taxes, I will start planning summer vacation.

#2 - I resolve to blog more often in 2007. This one is, for now, a win. I am ahead of my pace from last year, and I have been submitting articles to blog carnivals to drive more traffic. I even started my own - the Carnival of Dining Out, which has had two successful issues, so far. I have also begun the work on a new online project that I hope to launch soon. When this happens, I will have to consider this one in the win column.

#3 - I resolve to further reduce my outstanding debt in 2007. The only additional payments that I have made so far have been an additional $50/month on my condo mortgage. I have been earmarking some additional money to pay down my student loans, but I haven't made the payment yet. Also, I have been using part of my travel reimbursement checks to pay down student loans. To date, I have not had any work travel, but expect some coming up in the next few months. I don't know if I am willing to consider $100 of extra principal paid on my mortgage as a true win here, but it is no worse than a push.

#4 - I resolve to make more money in 2007. Kind of like the mortgage payments, the only additional money that I have made when comparing this year to last is the simple change in my salary from one year to the next. Money earned from blogging (actually in my pocket) is zero, but there has been an increase in my AdSense account, and I will hopefully cash a check from them in the near future. If my new online venture hits, there will also likely be a small revenue stream there, too. I have yet to sell anything on eBay, or anywhere else. My latest obsession is covered call options in the stock market. If anything pans out in that direction, I will post some details. I have also been floating a few bucks into Prosper - mostly for giggles - but, I am earning a return of 13.6%, so far, on a small investment. I was willing to call the previous resolution as "no worse than a push," but this one will have to be labeled as "a push, at best." Still, I think things are heading in the right direction.

#5 - I resolve to live a healthier lifestyle in 2007. I knew this would be the toughest one. Let's see - I have eaten more at home - or homemade foods at work for lunch. This has had the side benefit of being frugal, too. Unfortunately, when I cook for myself, one of the things that goes out the window is portion size. Last month, I made a conscious decision to cut out fast food of any kind - I called it "no food that is delivered to you in your car, through a window." I was pretty successful - only two window trips, and one was almost unavoidable. I had no Chick-fil-a, which I do enjoy - and no morning stops for Dunkin' Donuts (medium coffee and two donuts - more than $3!) - so that helped eliminate some of my own "latte factor." Now I need to cut out Publix chicken tenders, and I will really be on the right track. I still lacked in the exercise department. I played tennis once - which is once more than I had played in the previous ten weeks. Net result - no weight gain, but no weight loss. Again, this looks like a "push-minus."

I think that was a pretty objective view of the situation. All in all, I would give myself a grade of C. There is significant room for improvement, but I do think that I am on the right track. So, how did you all do??? Come clean. No one's keeping score.

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01 March 2007

Carnival of Dining Out II - Now With Smell-O-Vision!

Welcome to the Carnival of Dining Out II. I mentioned last month that I wanted to increase participation, and we have about 50% more submissions than last month. I am glad to see more and more people participate - even if I have to weed out a few submissions that are completely irrelevant. Last month, I organized things geographically - but, this month, since I am such a rebel, I am going to shake things up and organize things by type of food.

Fine Dining Experiences

Anne-Marie presents On becoming a gourmet nation...in Vegas posted at Anne-Marie. She shares her experiences with the seven course tasting menu at Charlie Palmer's Aureole - complete with a picture log. I do love other bloggers who photograph their meals - my friends think I am a freak!

I thought that I might get a few submissions from some romantic Valentine's Day dinners this month. Well, if you take the plural out of the last sentence, then I was right on track. Brute Force reports on V-Day 2007: Plouf. The lesson that we should take away here is that people who photograph their food get prime real estate at the Carnival of Dining Out (photo credit to the left)! Check out the rest of Brute's blog at Adventures of BruteForce.

Steve Madsen checks in with Sip Restaurant Review posted at South Bank Projects. Usually, when I am out in the Seattle area, I stay downtown, but Steve makes a good case for making a trip out to the suburbs of Issaquah.

For the Sushi Fans

Jennifer Miner makes her case for The Best Sushi in the Country. If I were the kind of guy who liked eating sushi, I suppose that southern California would be one place I would start if I were looking for the best. But....

...our mileage award (distance from home base here in Hooterville) goes to Jul, an ex-pat living in Zurich who wants us all to know that Seefeld doesn't suck. She writes This non-American Life.

"Man Food" - Pizza, Wings and BBQ

Toby Boyce presents Delaware Ohio's Best: Wing Store posted at Sadie's Take, saying, "Every college town has to have its share of wing establishments and Delaware is no exception. So which is the best? Well..."

My own late entry to the dance is from a trip that I took this month to go eat BBQ in Texas. The Lowdown on H-Town is part one of a multi-part series on my trek through the barbecue heartland. Check back and see the posts that follow, too.

Since I don't know of a Carnival of Dining *IN*, I am going to let KevinL slide on in with Ordering Pizza For Delivery - A How To Guide posted at Pizza Delivery Stories. Fortunately, pizza makes a good addition to a section that includes BBQ and chicken wings! Whenever I get store-bought pizza, I usually pick-up, because I like the pick-up place better than the delivery places, but if I am ever going to phone ahead for delivery, I will make sure I follow Kevin's tips.


One of the places on my summer vacation radar is the DC area - one more major league baseball stadium where I have never seen a game, so I am glad that Elizabeth stoppped by to talk about Snickers Non-Fat Frozen Yogurt Blend In at Thomas Sweet (Georgetown, DC), which she has posted at A Daily Scoop: Ice Cream Reviews. While this blog is not quite updated daily - someone call Lionel Hutz - this is the most blatant case of false advertising since 'The Neverending Story!' - there is new content added frequently.

Now, one of my favorite sections - Food in the News!

My buddy Lazy Man always has good takes on finances. This month, he talks about the The $25,000 Meal over at Lazy Man and Money. I don't see the big deal. Come on, Lazy, if I get the plane tickets to Taiwan, you buy dinner? :-)

Matthew Paulson presents Getting Green: Information for Those Who Want to Be Millionaires. posted at Getting Green. I suspect that he would be appalled at a dinner check of $25k for one! But, if Lazy Man is buying, I say the more, the merrier.

Arun tackles the seemingly endless problem of The Assumed Tip at Arun is bringing you...Your Daily Remedy. Having participated in a few food discussion boards over the years, this topic always seems to bring out the best in people. To those who choose to leave comments, please play nice.

savingadvice would never stiff anyone on a tip - and doesn't think that you should, either. As a matter of fact, he wants you to know 5 Great Ways To Leave A Tip. Personal Finance Advice, is loaded with other wonderful tidbits to mind your money, but I don't think anyone can put a price on cool money folding tricks.

This post isn't really about dining out, but it is, at least, about food - well, Food TV personalities, but, it made me laugh - and you really can score extra points with that. While the Travelin' Man does not condone anyone referring to themselves in the third person, no one talks about Rickey better than Rickey. In this case, pour yourself a cup of joe and sit down and read Rickey Henderson's take Rickey Examines The Food Network posted at Riding with Rickey. Thank goodness Rickey can find time to post a blog about Rickey while coaching my beloved Mets at spring training.

The last article warrants it's own section. If I had the time, I would immediately start the Carnival of Bad Carnival Submissions. I would probably have more articles than I could ever manage if all the other carnival hosts sent in submissions. Instead of starting a new carnival, I present to you, my faithful readers, a single-post sub-carnival. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, the first (and I assure you, ONLY) edition of....

The Carnival of Bad Carnival Submissions

Katie presents IMPACT Defense Against Multiple Assailants class posted at KitKat's Critique. What earns Katie a link here is her sales pitch to me. She wrote "Please post this in an upcoming carnival so everyone who's wondered what a good self-defense course against street muggers (which, if you dine out at interesting places, you might be more likely to run into than the average person!) is like can read a detailed description from a student's point of view." Katie, this post clearly is important, but has a place elsewhere....but, you got stones, kid.

Well, that about wraps things up for this month. I hope that you enjoyed what we had to munch on this month. Last month we had 10 posts and this month brought 15. Hopefully, we can continute the upward trend next month with a very, very, very special April Fool's Day Edition of the Carnival of Dining Out, starring Marlee Matlin, Rick Schroeder, and that chick from 'Blossom'. Submit your articles to the next edition of the Carnival of Dining Out using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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