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Let Eric Hosmer hit second

Yesterday, the Cleveland Indians humiliated the Kansas City Royals 8-3 in what really looked like a showdown between two bad teams. Neither team played especially well, but the Indians were less bad. And in any given game, less bad is all it takes to win.

The Royals fielded poorly in the first inning and that made the difference, but the makeshift lineup the Royals fielded made it difficult for them to catch up. And catching up wasn’t out of the question. The Indians didn’t have Cy Young or Walter Johnson out there; it was the aging Derek Lowe.Read More »Let Eric Hosmer hit second

The worst test I ever took

I’m gearing up (finally) to take the CISSP, a 250-question marathon of an exam that covers everything from firewalls and intrusion detection systems to how tall the fence or wall around a building should be and what kind of lights to use in a parking garage.  And everything in between. Three of my colleagues have had CISSP certifications for several years, and on Friday two of them were telling me what to expect.

And the worst test I’ve ever taken came to mind. No, it wasn’t Security+. I had a pretty good idea I was going to pass that one, which I did. The worst test I ever took was Dr. Walter Johnson‘s Fundamental Macroeconomics (Economics 1) makeup final at Mizzou, circa Winter 1994.

Read More »The worst test I ever took

Why don’t wins count anymore?

In Kansas City, baseball fans are celebrating. In St. Louis, they’re fuming.

It’s usually the other way around. Right now, Royals fans are celebrating Zack Greinke’s highly deserved Cy Young Award. In St. Louis, fans are complaining that Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, expected to finish 1-2 in the voting, got "snubbed" and lost to San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum, who won a total of 15 games.

Greinke, for what it’s worth, won 16.The Cy Young Award usually is "the pitcher with the most wins" award. And that makes a little sense–Cy Young won 511 games in his career, the most all-time. And that itself shows the problem with wins.

Cy Young is the winningest pitcher of all time, but he’s not the best. Walter Johnson won 417 games pitching mostly for last-place Washington Senators teams. Put him on the teams Young pitched for, and he would have won more than 511 games. Win 110 games over the course of your career and you’re considered a pretty good pitcher. Johnson pitched 110 shutouts.

I learned playing Micro League Baseball in the mid 1980s that wins are an overrated statistic. Cy Young was an outstanding pitcher, but Walter Johnson and Lefty Grove could beat him most of the time. Advanced baseball statistics barely existed in the mid 1980s and my Commodore 64 sure didn’t know anything about them, but I quickly started paying attention to WHIP–walks plus hits per innings pitched.

In their best seasons, Johnson and Grove permitted fewer than one baserunner per inning. And they permitted fewer baserunners than Young. Fewer baserunners means fewer chances to score, which means a better chance of winning.

Greinke and Lince*censored*won on the strength of their advanced statistics. Carpenter and Wainwright were very good this year. But they gave up more baserunners per inning than Greinke and Lince*censored*did, and other advanced statistics also indicated that Greinke and Lince*censored*were the better pitchers last year.

In the case of Greinke, the Royals lost six games in which he gave up one run or fewer. Yes, you read that right. Six times, Greinke took the ball, pitched seven or eight innings and gave up one run, or zero runs, and the Royals still lost.

So it’s easy to imagine a scenario where Greinke would have won many more games. Had Greinke pitched on a team that could consistently score more than two runs, had the Royals had more than one reliable relief pitcher to back him up, and had he had more than one above-average fielder playing the field behind him, for example.

Greinke realized he only had one guy behind him who knew how to catch the ball, so he would intentionally pitch in such a way as to make them more likely to hit a fly ball to wherever David DeJesus was playing, usually left field.

Lince*censored*suffered from less bad luck than Greinke did, but still won his 15 games while pitching for a weaker team than the Cardinals.

According to, pitching for a team with average offense, Lince*censored*and Greinke each would have won 18 games. Under the same normalized conditions, Carpenter would have won 15, and Wainwright would have won 17.

Both pitchers had good years, and admittedly they played for a team that had problems. But Tim Lince*censored*pitched for a team with even bigger problems.

I see the words "which pitcher gave their team the best chance to win every fifth day" thrown around by St. Louis fans a lot. The answer, when you normalize the statistics, is Lincecum.

Or, to look at it another way: Carpenter’s and Wainwright’s win totals showcase just how good Albert Pujols is.

The case for Tim Lince*censored*was less clear than the case for Greinke, and that was why the vote ended up being so close.

But it’s obvious to me that the voters got it right in both cases. And that’s good.

Twenty five years ago, it wasn’t as easy to go much deeper than conventional statistics like wins, losses, and ERA. Today it’s simple, so there’s minimal excuse to pay attention to them.

$13.99 a day for three days isn’t $39 total!

On Monday, I had the pleasure of renting a car. The insurance company was paying–the pleasure came courtesy of the 81-year-old woman who rear-ended my wife and son as they sat at a stop sign–but I learned a lot about rental company tactics.The insurance company was paying $24 a day, which would put you in a mid-sized car–roughly the size of a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. So the rental company tried to upsell me. Enterprise stuck me in a Buick LeSabre once when the Dodge Neon I initially tried to rent had a flat tire. I hated the thing. It was comfortable, but it was huge, I couldn’t park it, the brakes were mushy, and the steering was mushy. I felt like I was stuck in a big bowl of oatmeal.

But they didn’t want to put me in a LeSabre. They wanted to put me in an SUV or a minivan. Completely impractical. Besides, I wanted fuel economy. I pointed to a Ford Focus. “How’s that gas mileage compare to my Honda Civic?” I asked.

“It has to be pretty close,” he said.

“I’ll take one.”

Once inside, he said he also had a Toyota Corolla. I lit up. “I’ll take the Corolla.” He said the last person who rented it got 38 MPG out of it. I like 38 MPG.

Then he took me outside to see the car. It was cleaner than my car, had fewer scratches on my car, when he put the key in the ignition and turned it, the engine started. It promised to cost less per mile to drive than a Civic, and someone else was paying the bill. What’s not to like?

Then he tried to sell me insurance. By then I was getting frustrated because all this upselling was making me even later for work, and I was plenty late enough. They had primo insurance for $23.99 a day, which was more than the daily cost of renting a Corolla. He said it would give me a million dollars in liability. I don’t remember what else. I probably rolled my eyes. I think he sensed there was no way, no how he was going to sell that to me, so he turned to the “cheap” $13.99 insurance.

“I don’t think I need insurance because American Family said they’d cover me since I have full coverage.”

“What’s your deductible?” he asked.

“I don’t know. I’ve never had to use it.” (Remember that second sentence.)

“It’s probably $500. So for $13.99 a day, we can save you the hassle of having to deal with American Family if anything happens.” Then he went over the things it would cover.

I started to get antsy, knowing how late for work I was getting. I tuned him out, which was the best thing to do. Otherwise I’d get even more irritated.

“So for just $39, we can take care of you for three days.”

I ignored the mathematical fact that $13.99 times 3 is $41.97, not $39. Any sixth grader should know that.

“$39 is a lot of money,” I said. That’s true, isn’t it? That’s about how much it costs to fill a Corolla’s gas tank in Missouri right now.

He laughed. “So’s $500!”

“Yeah, but I’ve never had to use that deductible, so the chances of me having to use any insurance this week on this car are about zero. So it really doesn’t make any sense to pay $39 for something I’m not going to use.”

“Suit yourself,” he said.

It suited me fine. The car was in our possession from roughly 9 AM on Monday until about 5 PM today (Wednesday). I guess that’s about 56 hours. My wife ran errands for a couple of hours each day and went to the doctor on Wednesday, but I think it’s safe to say that the car spent at least 41.97 hours sitting in our driveway.

Nothing bad happened in our driveway. I’m sure the dog sniffed it a few times.

I’m guessing the salesman who was helping me was probably 24 or 25, and in all fairness, when I was his age I didn’t think $39 was a lot of money either, even if it was really $41.97. Let’s face it. When I was 19, I was making about six bucks an hour. When I was 24, I was making a shade over $12 an hour, and after $6 per hour, that seemed like a lot of money. That was 9 years ago. Let’s guess this whippersnapper makes $15 an hour and made $8 an hour selling dishwashers at Best Buy five years ago. When you go from making $160 a week to $2400 a month, $41.97 seems like nothing. I’m sure he’ll spend more than that on dinner and drinks on Friday.

And I’m sure he and thousands of others like him manage to convince a lot of people every day that $41.97 is really $39, and $39 is nothing, so they sign on the line. All those nothings pile up really quick, and the next thing you know, you’ve got a $9 billion company.


But that “only” tactic doesn’t work on me anymore. Quote me $41.97, and I can tell you it takes me an hour and a half to make that, pre-tax. Factor in taxes, and it takes me more than two hours to make that. That’s a quarter of my day! If I’m going to waste $41.97, I can think of a number of things I’d much rather waste $41.97 on. Maybe a full tank of gas. Or half a week’s worth of groceries. Or 288 diapers, if I shop at Dollar General. That might last my son a month.

But I spared him the Dr. Walter Johnson Economics 51 lesson on Opportunity Cost ($101 per credit hour in 1994 at Mizzou). Like I said, I was already late for work. I’d probably already blown $28 worth of vacation time and I didn’t want to make it $41.97.

Well, at least this year the Royals showed up to play

I enjoy reading Rob & Rany on the Royals, but I just can’t feel as negative as they do about the team. I know signing 5-6 free agents who are basically average players isn’t going to make them win the World Series, and I know the Royals lost 3-1 to the Tigers yesterday. But I’m encouraged.

They did the little things.First of all, Scott Elarton, the ace pitcher who would be a #4 starter on a contending team, kept the Royals in the game. He gave up two home runs, yes, but they were banjo shots, and one traveled an underwhelming 333 feet (the wall is 330 feet away). In other words, that one doesn’t go out of every park.

And those two home runs were the only runs he gave up. If any other pitcher pitching for any other team goes 5.2 innings and gives up two runs, he’s done his job. Seven hits and three walks against three strikeouts in 5.2 innings isn’t Walter Johnson, but it’s a big improvement over Jose Lima.

Encouraging sign #2: They caught the ball. Mark Grudzielanek and Doug Mientkiewicz, signed primarily to steady the Royals’ league-worst defense, both made plays that nobody since Frank White and Wally Joyner make. When those guys catch the ball, and teach young and impressionable Angel Berroa and Mark Teahan how to catch the ball, it helps the pitchers when singles that would have turned into rallies become outs.

Encouraging sign #3: The Royals scored one run because three guys did their job. David DeJesus led off the 4th inning and legged out a single into a double. Mark Grudzielanek, who keeps getting criticized for going 0-for-4, grounded out to first base, moving DeJesus over. When the leadoff man gets on, moving the runner over is your job. I don’t care if Grudzielanek doesn’t get a hit all year, if he moves DeJesus over every time, he’s the best #2 hitter the Royals have had in several years. Then Mike Sweeney hit a weak grounder to the pitcher. Sweeney’s job was to hit a single to drive him home and keep the inning going, or at the very least, hit a fly ball deep enough that DeJesus could tag up; he did neither. Then Reggie Sanders, signed almost exclusively to protect Sweeney in the lineup, came up and singled, reminding the world that the Royals don’t have someone with the offensive prowess of Garth Brooks (the country singer) hitting behind Sweeney anymore.

Encouraging sign #4: Nobody in the Royals lineup yesterday makes Royals fans wish Garth Brooks would have made the team when he was in spring training a couple of years back. Yes, the lineup is full of average players, but the biggest problem with the Royals the last few years is that average would have been a big improvement. When you have trouble finding someone who can hit .200 to play left field, which is supposed to be an offensive position, you have big problems. They’ve solved that.

Encouraging sign #5: The league is under pressure to actually make sure baseball players aren’t injesting substances that would be illegal for you and I to take. No more steroids and no more speed. Fifteen years ago, guys like the Royals signed aren’t average players. They’re slightly above average. This lineup isn’t much worse than the lineup the Royals trotted out in 1985. Mike Sweeney isn’t as good as George Brett, but Reggie Sanders and Angel Berroa are a lot better than Steve Balboni and Buddy Biancalana.

I’m not under any grand delusion that the Royals are going to win it all this year. I’m also not under any grand delusion that Sanders and Grudzielanek and Mientkiewicz and Elarton and Mark Redman are going to be productive players for years to come. What they are is short-term solutions. Last year, the Royals fielded their Triple-A team, and they led the league in losses. This year, their Double-A and Triple-A teams are stocked with players who belong there.

In the meantime, the young guys are learning from Mientkiewicz, Sanders, and Grudzielanek how guys who’ve played on championship teams play ball. Grudzielanek is already showing Berroa and Teahan how to shift for opposing batters. In the ’70s, the Royals didn’t just throw George Brett, Frank White, and U.L. Washington out there and tell them to learn how to field. They kept the veteran presence of Cookie Rojas and Freddie Patek out there until Brett was reasonably steady at third and then they brought up White and Washington one at a time.

The Royals aren’t doing exactly what they did in the ’70s, but this year, finally, there’s a method to their madness.

How to get rich–the Biblical way

Money is a controversial topic in Christian circles. On the one hand you’ve got people who say money is the root of all evil. The other extreme says if you do the right things, God will reward you with health and wealth and who knows what else.(This was the topic of my Bible study last night, in case you’re wondering. And I’m short of material, so I’m recycling. I’m also mixing in some insights people shared.)

For the record, 1 Timothy 6:10 says money is a root–not the root–of all kinds of evil. That’s somewhat less of a strong statement than saying it’s the root of all evil. So, money causes problems, yes, but it’s not the cause of every problem in this world.

To see some other causes and symptoms of evil, see 2 Timothy 3:2.

Isaiah 55:2 asks why we spend our money on what is not bread (when the Bible says “bread,” it’s frequently referring to the necessities of life such as basic food, clothing, and shelter) and on things that don’t satisfy. The main reason we do it is because we’re surrounded by messages that say this product or that product will change our lives. And while some products have changed lives, let’s think about it for a minute: Those kinds of things tend to come along once a generation, if that. I’m talking about things like the airplane, the automobile, and before those things, the railroad. Computers belong in that category. But the soda we drink is not going to change our lives, at least not for the better. Drink soda instead of water and it could make your life worse–regardless of what that 7up commercial with the bear says.

The American Dream is to give the next generation things the previous generation doesn’t have. Some have said that dream is dead, because we’ve become so affluent that we can’t think of what the next generation can possibly get that we didn’t have.

But it’s not working. Our kids have entertainment centers in their room that give a more life-like experience than the movie theaters of 20 years ago. They’ve got videogame machines that play better games than you could find in an arcade a couple of years ago. They have everything imaginable, and yet they’re all on ritalin and prozac. Meanwhile, their parents are both working, to pay for those two luxury SUVs and the next big home improvement project and all the toys and all the drugs that are necessary to keep themselves and their kids afloat in the miserable life they’ve built together.

My dad wasn’t always there for me. It seemed like most of the time he wasn’t. But it’s safe to say that when we ate dinner together 5 or 6 times a week, it was unusual. Most weeks we ate dinner together 7 times a week.

My American Dream is for my kids to have two full-time parents. Screw the luxury SUVs and the $300,000 house in the suburbs. My Honda Civic has more ameneties than I need. I’ll drive it for 15 years so I can have more money when things that matter crop up.

I told you how the Bible says to get rich. And maybe you’d argue I haven’t answered that question yet. I think Isaiah 55:2 can lead one to wealth that’s very enviable, but, yes, the Bible also tells how to gain material wealth. Check Proverbs 13:11. It’s especially relevant in the era of dotcom billionaires.

You’ve seen stories of wealty people who nickeled and dimed themselves to the poorhouse. What Proverbs 13:11 says is that you can nickel and dime your way to prosperity as well.

What the Bible doesn’t say is how, so I’ll share the concept of opportunity cost, which is one of two things I remember from Macroeconomics. I don’t know how many other people in my class picked this up from the dear departed Dr. Walter Johnson at Mizzou, so I’ll do my best to make my examples clear.

Opportunity cost says a 13-inch TV does not cost $99. That’s the amount written on the sticker, but that’s not the price. The price is about 30 lunches at my company cafeteria.

The monthtly cost of driving a new car every three years is about half my mortgage payment. But my mortgage will be paid off in 28 or 29 years and my house will be worth more then than it is now. In the year 2031, I will have absolutely nothing to show for the car I’m driving today. Those people who buy a $2,000 used Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla every few years and drive it until it dies have more money than you think they do.

Assuming you work about 240 days a year, two cans of soda every workday from the soda machine at my employer will cost you $240. But not really. What happens if you invest that money in what’s called an index mutual fund, which follows one of the major indices, such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average? Historically, you’ll gain about 10% per year on your investment, which means you’ll double your money every 7 years investing that way. (That’s taking into account times of bad economy, like today, or worse.) Anyway, I just grabbed my calculator. If you take that $240 and dump it into an index fund, in 35 years you can reasonably expect it to be worth $7,680.

The real cost of a can of soda is sixteen dollars. Unless you’re not going to live 35 more years. But unless you’re going to die tomorrow, the real price is considerably more than 50 cents.

There are a total of 118 verses in the NIV translation that use the word “money,” and considerably more talk about the concept without using the word. Of those, Matthew 6:24-34 is poignant, as is Ecclesiastes 5:10-20. What I take from them is this: If you build your empire 50 cents at a time, you’ll never be as wealthy as Bill Gates. But you’ll have more than you need, and you’ll be happier than Bill Gates, and you’ll sleep a lot better.

And if your name is Jackie Harrington, I suggest you start selling autographed 8×10 glossy photos of yourself. Sign them, “Bill Gates just stiffed me for 6 bucks! Jackie Harrington.” Sell then for $10 apiece to people like me. Then put the money in an index fund. Then in 35 years, when you’re a millionaire, write a thank-you letter to Bill Gates.

Computer stuff will be back soon…

I did very little this weekend, since I actually had a weekend this time around. Saturday I read a lot and slept and played Baseball Mogul, Sunday I got up early and did some laundry, went to church, read a lot, caught up with a couple of old friends I hadn’t talked to in a little while, and I ran Disk Administrator on my Duron-750, the system bluescreened, and now nothing can read the drive and I’m hacked off that I’m going to miss a chance to watch Greg Maddux make a run at 300 wins, Pedro Martinez make a run at Walter Johnson’s old strikeout record (Nolan Ryan was still a long way away), and Mark McGwire make a run at Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs.
Expect to hear more on my data recovery efforts this week. There’s no shortage of tricks I can pull. But supposedly,

Church scared me. Much of the service reminded me of Pepper and Friends, a really corny children’s TV show in Columbia, Mo. Haven’t seen Pepper and Friends? Be glad. Be very, very glad. Imagine Richard Simmons, but even more hyperactive, riling up bunches of kids. Ugh. And now I know what the traditionalists are scared of. As long as it’s just once a year, at the end of Vacation Bible School, I’m fine with it, but now I understand the fear of bubblegum, substance-less church services.

True Confessions of a Male Mercenary. And I found myself playing Older-and-More-Experienced-and-Ever-So-Slightly-Wiser Brother this week. I was talking to someone, and he was telling me about this girl he knows and talking about wanting to ask her out… in a few months. That’s a strategy I’ve successfully used many times in the past… to fall flat on my face. My problem was that as I waited for that opportune moment, whenever that might be, my mind was absolutely racing in the meantime, creating grandiose images of the woman I was pursuing that often turned out to be mere fiction. And what’s the girl thinking as all of this is going on? Let me consult my quote wall:

“The best part of a relationship for most people is when it’s just beginning, and they can make this person in their own mind into this creature that doesn’t exist.”

Ouch. Aimee Mann said that in an interview, years ago, and I just had to write that one down for the wall. She knows a little bit about bad relationships because she was in several of them.

Besides frustrating the girl, we end up investing far too much emotionally in her, and when she fails to meet our expectations–remember, we’ve just spent a good deal of time making her into someone else who exists only in our very vivid imaginations, so it is a matter of when–we fall hard.

So my advice to him was to spend some time with her, now. That way instead of imagining things about her, he’s learning what she’s really like–because, after all, that sweet, innocent-looking thing could be an axe murderer for all he knows–and he’s giving her a chance to figure out what, if anything, she wants. Otherwise she just has to guess–and since the guy is usually expected to make the first move, she can afford to be cautious. Am I the only one who’s noticed girls are a whole lot more likely to say no than guys are?

And if she does say no? Then you haven’t spent months investing emotionally in someone who isn’t going to return it. And you can get on with life. Trust me. Until he finds The One, a guy can transfer all those emotions almost at will. Some scumbags continue to do it even after they find The One. After all, how many songs say, “it’s not cheating if she reminds me of you?” Of course she reminds him of her–guys know what they like, and they naturally go looking for more of it. (For me, it’s usually dark hair and a past.)

I think most girls at least suspect we’re mercenaries like that; none have ever seemed terribly shocked when I’ve admitted we have the ability. They live with it; they have deep, dark secrets too.

Enough waxing philosophical about life. I’m a fixer, not a philosopher. I’ll try to fix something today–a machine, not a person–and tell you all about it tomorrow.


Games. Anyone who knows me well knows that, in my mind, there are three computer games worth owning: Railroad Tycoon II, Civilization II, and whatever the year’s hot statistical baseball simulation might be (but I’m always disappointed with the lack of a financial aspect–gimme a lineup of Ty Cobb, Rod Carew, George Brett, Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Nomar Garciaparra, and Mickey Cochrane, along with a pitching rotation of Walter Johnson, Lefty Grove, Cy Young, and Denny McLain, and I’ll slaughter you no matter who you’ve got–though my payroll would probably be upwards of $200 million just for those core 13 guys).

But if I were stranded on a desert island with a computer and could only have one game…? I’d take Civ 2.

Well, Sid Meier’s working on Civilization III now, and expecting a late-2001 or early-2002 release. And I found a great Civ site at , with info on the upcoming Civ 3, along with info on the rest of the series, including strategies, loadable scenarios, patches, and other good stuff.

Hardware. Now that I suddenly don’t owe four figures to the government like I suspected I might, the irrational part of me has been saying to go buy some new computer gear. The rational part of me is reminding me that the markets are down, interest rates are down, interest rates are going to be cut again, and thus it’s probably a good time to sink some money into the market, preferably unsexy, proven blue-chips like General Electric, Coca-Cola and Anheuser-Busch. No matter what the economy does, people aren’t going to stop buying light bulbs, soda and beer, right? And I don’t care about dividends or short-term gains. I’m reading up about nutrition with the goal of increasing my life expectancy into three digits. I’m in this for the long, long haul.

But computer hardware is a lot more fun than stock certificates. And no one wants to read about me buying GE stock, right? So, let’s talk hardware.

First off, some people say you shouldn’t swap out motherboards because you should never take down a working system. Build a new system, then part out the system you’re replacing. I understand the logic behind that. That means starting off with a case and power supply. Time to buy for the long haul. For the long haul, there are two names in power supplies: PC Power and Cooling, and Enermax. Where to go, where to go? I hit PriceWatch and searched on Enermax. Bingo, I found , which stocks both brands, along with a good selection of cases and allows you to swap out the stock power supply with whatever you want. Sounds great, but you generally only get about a $12 credit when you do that. Bummer. I went to, looked up Enermax, and found a rating of 6 on 42 reports. That’s comparable to companies like Dirt Cheap Drives and Mwave, both of whom have given me excellent service over the years and get my business without hesitation.

What else have they got? Well, if you want to build a stealth black system, black cases, floppy, CD/DVD/CDRW drives and keyboards, for one. Nice.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to offer PCP&C’s cases. They do offer the ultimate l33t case, the Lian Li line. Cost of entry: $159 and up, no power supply included. The ultimate l33t solution would be a Lian Li case and an Enermax power supply. But would I really want to spend $200 on just a housing and power…? They also offer cases from Palo Alto, who makes cases for Dell and Micron. Working in a Micron shop, I’m very familiar with the Palo Altos, and they look good and won’t slice you up, though sometimes you have to disassemble them more than you might like. Cost of entry: about $70, including a 235W power supply, which you’ll want to swap out for something better. They also offer InWin and Antec cases, both of whom I’ve had good luck with. Reading further on their site, they claim only to stock cases their technicians have been able to work with easily and without injury.

And unfortunately, their commitment to quality doesn’t necessarily seem to extend to motherboards. I found the accursed PC Chips amongst their offerings. Boo hiss!

On the good side, if you want a PC on the cheap, here’s the secret formula: At Directon, grab an Enermax MicroATX case for $29, a Seagate 20 GB HD for $89, a socket 370 PC Power & Cooling fan for $19, a vial of heatsink compound for $1, and a Celeron-433 for $69 (highway robbery, but watch what I do next), then head over to Tekram and grab a closeout S-381M Intel 810-based motherboard for $34. Then head over to Crucial and pick up whatever size memory module you want (a 64-megger goes for $35, while a 128er goes for $60). Boom. You’ve got a real computer for well under $350, even accounting for shipping and a reasonable floppy, CD-ROM, keyboard and mouse. Or salvage them from an older PC. Get it and spend the money you save on a really nice monitor. For most of the things you do, you need a nice monitor more than you need clock cycles.

You could save a few bucks by picking up an old PPGA Celeron at your favorite Web closeout store, or on eBay, but the extra shipping will probably chew up all the savings. The going rate for a PPGA Celeron, regardless of speed, seems to be right around $60. You’ll pay $10 to ship it, while adding a CPU to an order that already includes a case and other stuff won’t add much to the shipping cost. One thing that did impress me about Directron is they don’t seem to be profiting off shipping, so they get honesty points. I’d rather pay $5 more up front and pay less shipping, because at least the dealer’s being honest.

I didn’t come to any conclusions and my credit card stayed in my wallet, but maybe I’m a little further down the road now.

And I guess it’s time for me to go to work.