Monthly Archives: January 2004

Smart Radios

I’ve spent a good portion of the holiday break working on a “research theme” to guide my work. I realized that I had been unfocused in my first semester at VT, flailing in a number of research directions, and not making much progress on any of them. Obviously, this has to change. So, I decided to spend some time thinking about the problems in my field which were important and how I could make a contribution in those areas.

The big theme of my research is “Smart Radios.” A very accessible introduction to this topic is this report from the New America Foundation. It’s pretty long, and I haven’t read it all myself yet, though I will try to do so in the next couple of days. Nevertheless, if you want to know what I spend my days thinking about, this will give you an idea.

Curious Business Model

There is a very curious business in Blacksburg. They sell pizza. You walk in and you order a pizza. You choose the size, the toppings, and even the cheeses. They have stuffed crust and pizza bread, too. They lovingly prepare the pizza you have ordered, and then they wrap it in plastic wrap and send it home for baking. All of the wonders of frozen pizza, without the convenience or the low price. All the goodness of a pizza shop, without the instant gratification.

I admit to being completely puzzled as to how such a business can succeed. Why would you pay full pizza shop price for a pizza you have to bake yourself (in an inferior oven, no less)? If you wish to avoid the trouble of ordering a pizza and picking it up (or tipping the delivery guy), then why not stock up on frozen pizzas instead? Is there something magical about Wedgee’s Take and Bake pizza that makes it superior to the alteratives? We’ll soon find out, as I just put my first Wedgee’s pizza in the oven.

As a side note, we have been very disappointed in the pizza in Blacksburg, on the whole. In Ithaca, you could throw a rock and hit a pizza place. If you threw it hard, you would hit a good one. Not only that, but it would probably be open from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. 365 days a year and would serve a variety of pizzas by the slice. Here, the pizza tastes like cardboard. The one decent pizza place we’ve found has really weird hours, and almost none of them offer pizza by the slice. (On the plus side, the Mexican food is better by about 2 orders of magnitude, which more than makes up for the pizza deficiency, as far as I’m concerned.)

The verdict? Wedgee’s is better than most. It is definitely better than frozen pizza, and it is better than the majority of take out pizza we’ve had in Blacksburg. Still, I’m not sure that it is worth the price, given that the level of effort is considerably higher than what’s required for takeout.

Time to go Meetup for Howard Dean!