Friday, May 30, 2008

You were right..

....word problems did suck in math class. Some smarty farty education researchers just published an article that compared kids who learned using "real-world" story problems (because many of us have had to figure out when the train from St. Louis heading east will pass a train from New York headed west) versus kids who learned straight abstract math.

In an absolutely unsurprising result, the kids who learned abstract math did a lot better at retaining and using math skills.

As a dyed-in-the-wool math geek, this makes total sense. The whole beauty of math is that is removes all the irrelevant information from a problem and lets you solve for exactly what matters. More importantly, if you know how it works abstractly, then you can easily apply it to other problems.

If you learn math through specific examples, you never see the generality of it, and you can never solve anything BUT problems involving passing trains.

Good Advice

This guy Michael Pollan wrote a book called In Defense of Food, and gave a great seven word summary of his position:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Ron Lieber, in an article on personal finance here, came up with a great seven word summary of his position:

Index (mostly). Save a ton. Reallocate infrequently.

Hard to argue with any of that - so I won't.

Where did I put that brown shirt?

I try really hard not to make overtly political posts, because honestly no one really wants to listen to me get schreechy, but this just blows me away. This article is about the case that some of the prisoners at Gitmo brought against the U.S. for unlawful imprisonment. Here's a clip from the article:

During arguments last year, government lawyers said the courts should give great deference to the president when the nation is at war.

"What you assert is the power of the military to seize a person in the United States, including an American citizen, on suspicion of being an enemy combatant?" Judge William B. Traxler asked.

"Yes, your honor," Justice Department lawyer Gregory Garre replied.

The court seemed torn.

My italics. In what bizzaro world is this acceptable in the United States? If the U.S. Army suspects me of being an enemy combatant (based on what evidence?), they can imprison me without charging me, without providing me a lawyer, and without having to actually put me on trial. They want to assert that the U.S. Army can hold me in perpetuity in a jail without ever having to give me the opportunity to be released.

And don't give me, "Yeah, but they wouldn't do that to you. You're not a terrorist." Because I'm white? Because all terrorists walk around with neon signs on their backs that say "I'm a terrorist"? The whole basis of our justice system rests on innocent until proven guilty. We made a conscious choice in this country to err on the side of freedom - until now. Now, the government is arguing that they have the legal right to imprison anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Oh, you say, only if they are suspected of being a terrorist? Really. How do you establish that? Think back on all the cop shows you watch. You can generate suspicions about anyone. If you wanted to, you could talk yourself into suspecting my Grandma of supporting terrorism.

The point is that the U.S. was established with a very healthy suspicion of the government, because it cannot be trusted to use power wisely. There must be checks and balances (like trials and lawyers and shit like that). This is not a Bush or Republican issue, either. NO government can be allowed powers like this. It's disgusting, it's revolting, and it is essentially what Kim Jong Il has in North Korea.

Hope you enjoy kim-chee.

Deflating your pessimism IV

Here's a graph of real GDP growth over the last few years, stolen from Greg Mankiw's blog. If you hadn't been reading the news for the last 6 months, would you guess that the U.S. is in a recession, or even about to fall into one? There are certainly potential issues right now, but we are not on the cusp of some economic collapse.

Deep breaths, everyone, deep breaths.

Monday, May 26, 2008

How Important are You?

This guy had a clever idea - see how important someone is by how many times they've been mentioned on Wikipedia. Here's his informal list:

Winston Churchill: 10,808
Abraham Lincoln: 10,595
Napoleon Bonaparte: 10,414
Moses: 9,443
Jesus: 9,310
Muhammad: 9,194
Batman: 8,953
Julius Caesar: 8,766
Superman: 7,945
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer": 7,371
Christopher Columbus: 7,181
Albert Einstein: 7,135
Romulans, race in "Star Trek": 6,176
Buffy Summers, main character in "Buffy": 6,034
Battle of Gettysburg: 5,581
Klingons, race in "Star Trek": 4,895
Incredible Hulk: 4,892
Iron Man: 4,807
Buddha: 4,775
Arthur Herbert Fonzarelli, aka The Fonz: 3,659
Spider-Man: 3,607

I, for one, have ALWAYS thought Batman was historically underrated, and I'm glad to see Wikipedia finally gets him his due as more relevant than that jerk-off Julius Caesar. What did he ever do? Shockingly, though, I see that Romulans are more popular than Klingons. I smell a jihad.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Cupcake Economics

So last night I actually had a speaking engagement. Yes, there were people out there willing to listen to ME talk. 40 female CPA's held their monthly meeting at the Houston branch of the Federal Reserve Bank and asked me to talk about current macroeconomics. I came up with a little story to explain the issues that have arisen with the housing bubble, and since it worked out really well I'm going to force you all to listen to it.

Abby has a problem. She is supposed to give a cupcake to her friend Annie, but Abby got a little impatient and ate the cupcake herself. So Abby comes to Dad(me), and asks if she can borrow my cupcake so that she can pay Annie back. I'm happy to help Abby out, but as a fan of cupcakes myself, I ask Abby what she is going to do for me in return. Abby tells me that tomorrow she is going to get 2 cupcakes - and that tomorrow I can have both of them. So she will exchange her 2 cupcakes tomorrow for one cupcake today. I'm a little skeptical (what is she is lying about getting 2 cupcakes?), but Grandma pipes up and assures me that Abby is owed two cupcakes. (Grandma isn't the one who owes Abby the cupcakes, but she can vouch that someone owes Abby 2 cupcakes)

Great. I give Abby my cupcake, and Abby gives this to Annie. Problem solved. Except that when I come into the kitchen tomorrow to collect my two cupcakes, they are not what I expected. Sitting on a torn paper towel are two crumbly cupcakes with all the frosting licked off, and some kind of sticky kid-goo attached to the them. They are NOT the two high quality cupcakes I contracted for. This leaves me a little miffed, but what can I do?

Well, next week we find ourselves in a similar situation. Abby is supposed to give Annie a cupcake, but she ate it already. So she comes to me for another cupcake loan, and again offers me two cupcakes tomorrow. Again Grandma assures me Abby is owed two cupcakes. But I have done my own research in the meantime, and I discover that the two cupcakes are coming from Madeline. I love her to death, but you can't trust that kid with cupcakes, and I'm quite sure that the two cupcakes will again arrive with all the frosting licked off and some kind of sticky goo all over them. I don't want those cupcakes. So I refuse to make Abby the loan.

What happens? Well, Abby cries. But it is hard to feel bad for Abby because if she hadn't been so impatient she wouldn't need the loan at all. Besides Abby, Annie is crying. She didn't get ANY cupcakes, and she has some right to feel jilted - Abby promised her one and didn't deliver. So Annie is getting hosed in the deal. I kind of could care less - I still have my good cupcake, and that's better than two nasty ones that I have to wait for.

The big problem here is that Annie gets shafted through no fault of her own. Abby caused this problem, but the hang up is that it is my unwillingness to lend her a cupcake that is the proximate cause of Annie crying. And the proximate cause of my unwillingness to lend is the crappy return I'm getting from Madeline.

So who can rectify this situation and how could they do it? The obvious person to turn to in times of crisis is Mom. She has several options
  1. Give Annie a cupcake directly (Mom has lots of cupcakes)
  2. Give Abby a cupcake directly
  3. Loan Abby a cupcake for the two nasty ones
  4. Give Dad a cupcake
  5. Guarantee to Dad that he'll get two good cupcakes tomorrow (taking the nasty ones herself if Maddie messes them up again)
  6. Open a bottle of wine and do nothing
So what should she do? If she chooses options 1) or 2), then she is implicitly rewarding Abby for being impatient and eating the cupcake that is supposed to go to Annie in the first place. If she does 3) or 5), then Mom absorbs the "risk" of getting nasty cupcakes herself, and why should Mom be any more willing to eat nasty cupcakes than Dad? If she does 4), there is no guarantee that Dad will use this extra cupcake to make a loan to Abby (and I can assure you I would not - I still don't want nasty cupcakes in return). If she does 6), then Mom absorbs no risk, but she also ensures that Annie gets shafted. Your answer depends crucially on what your ultimate objectives are. If you #1 priority is to make sure Annie stays happy, then you've got to go with 1), 2), 3), or 5).

Alright, this is all kind of contrived, but what relevance does it have to the current situation? Let's take each person and thing in turn and describe who they represent
  • The cupcake: Cash or liquidity. The cupcake represents something you can either consume directly, or you can use it to buy things to consume directly.
  • Annie: The "real" economy where people exchange cash for goods and services. Annie needs the cupcake in order to function. Annie needs cupcakes from Abby in order to finance her activity. Think of a company that needs to make payroll or pay suppliers, but is short on cash. They need a line of credit or a loan - a cupcake. Without it they'll have to lay people off or cancel orders.
  • Abby: Investment banks and financial firms. They are in the business of providing liquidity to the real economy, but in their haste to profit from their activities they sometimes just eat the cupcakes themselves.
  • Dad: Regular banks. They often work with investment banks and other financial firms to fund their activity (e.g. lend them cupcakes). They are concerned with the quality of assets that they get in return for lending out cash to the other financial firms.
  • Grandma: Rating agencies. They are supposed to tell banks whether the assets they are receiving are high quality or not. But they can get fooled by a cute smile and pretty face.
  • Madeline: Sub-prime mortgagee's. They probably shouldn't be trusted to deliver quality cupcakes (or regular monthly payments) to their creditors. But their cute smile and pretty face can fool Grandma sometimes.
  • Mom: The Fed. Trying to induce something in this system to happen so that the real economy gets the liquidity it needs to function.
So last fall, sub-prime mortgages started to default and miss payments (they delivered gunky cupcakes) at higher rates than rating agencies would have led you to believe (Grandma got duped). This means that the banks which were collecting these payments (Dad) got skittish and started to examine the source of these funds more carefully. The banks decided that the payments were untrustworthy and no longer sufficient collateral for loans to other financial firms (Abby). The financial firms (like Bear Stearns) needed loans, though, to make their payments to other creditors in the real economy (like Annie). When the banks decided to stop lending to the financial firms, the financial firms were not able to keep funding real economic activities (and in fact the banks became wary of lending to "real" economic agents as well). This meant that lines of credit were hard to come by and therefore firms stopped hiring, or laid people off, or canceled orders, or delayed payment on existing orders. This slows down economic activity.

So what has the Fed tried to do? First, they pumped cash into the market by lowering interest rates. Essentially, Mom dumped a dozen cupcakes in Dad's lap. But the problem isn't that Dad didn't have cupcakes to lend, it's that he didn't trust the payments from Madeline (the sub-prime people). So he didn't lend Abby any cupcakes, and Annie was still crying (banks didn't use this cash to lend to financial firms or to real economic agents).

To ensure that the "real" economy continued to get the credit it needed, the Fed had to look to different possibilities. It made a big change in its policy, and started to do several things
  • The Fed guaranteed the assets of Bear Stearns so that JP Morgan would bail them out (Mom guaranteed that Dad would receive two good cupcakes, and took on the risk of getting bad cupcakes herself)
  • The Fed started to deal directly with financial firms, taking on their lower quality assets in exchange for cash (Mom loaned to Abby directly, in return for the two potentially nasty cupcakes tomorrow)
In doing this, the Fed has absorbed risk. The bad cupcakes are now essentially on the Fed's book, not the financial firms. They did this to make sure that Annie got her cupcake, and the real economy was able to continue to access credit. Now, if it turns out that the sub-prime mortgages are not totally worthless, the Fed could make a profit (if Maddie learns some self-control then Mom will get back two edible cupcakes, or at least cupcakes with most of the frosting still on them). However, the Fed might get saddled with worthless assets (nasty cupcakes).

Should the Fed have done this? That depends on whether you are concerned more with punishing Abby or more with making sure Annie doesn't get shafted. Yes, Abby is probably at the root of this problem, but is it fair that Annie suffers as well to punish Abby? Is it fair that we allow the economy to go into a longer recession, just to make sure the owners of Bear Stearns lose their lunch? This is the dilemma the Fed faces, and they've generally sided with the idea that it is more important to keep credit flowing to the economy than it is to punish the bankers who caused this in the first place. The alternative was higher unemployment and slower growth.

I'm hungry.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My evil plan is working

So apparently I am doing all the right things. This article is entitled "Secret to a Happy Marriage: Be annoying". The gist is that some researchers asked people who the most annoying person in their life was. The longer people were married, the more likely they were to answer "my spouse".

Now this reeks of reverse causation (one of the great bugbears of empirical social science). The authors infer from these responses that "annoying your spouse will keep you married longer", when it is just as plausible (and probably more likely that) "being married a long time will make your spouse seem annoying."

When Kirstin and I hit our 50th anniversary in 2051, if I ranked people in my life by the absolute amount of time spent together it will probably look something like this:
1) Kirstin (by a mile)
2) Abby
3) Madeline
4) My mom
5) ESPN (or maybe a little higher)

Anyway - let's say that Kirstin and will have spent 2 waking hours interacting with each other on a daily basis for 50 years, for a total of 36,500 hours of time together. And lets say that Kirstin only annoys me once every 10 hours together. She will have annoyed me 3,650 times by 2051.

In contrast, while I'll have spent lots of time with Abby and Madeline, it won't be close to the time spent with Kirstin. Once they become teenagers and refuse to speak to me, the time will plummet. So let's say I'll have spent only 1 hour interacting with them on a daily basis for 18 years - or 6,570 hours a piece. Now Abby and Madeline have a much higher rate of annoyance, say once every 2 hours (perhaps an underestimate). That means they'll annoy me 3,285 times a piece by 2051.

So even though Kirstin is far less annoying than Abby and Madeline, she will still have annoyed me more times by 2051. It's basically because she is around me so much.

Therefore, if someone asks me in 2051 who has annoyed me most in my life, then it will be Kirstin. But that doesn't mean that Kirstin being annoying kept our marriage together - it's just a function of living a long time.

In short, that's a stupid study.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


So the potty education of Madeline is in full swing. While I certainly do not absorb (no pun intended) the full brunt of this chore, it has reminded me of the many rules and regulations concerning going peepee in the potty on a regular basis.

  • Stage I - In which the subject professes their undying love for all things underpants and does the happy dance when allowed to wear them.
    • Corollary: The wearing of underpants bears no mental relationship to the output of bodily orifices and hence Stage I involves a) changing the subject more often than with diapers, and b) mopping up attendant puddles
  • Stage II - In which the subject professes their abject horror for all things underpants and writhes in pain when forced to wear them.
    • Corollary: The subject will continue to demand the various treats and rewards that were made available in Stage I for successful use of the potty
  • Stage III - In which it dawns on the subject that peeing in the potty will stop the underpants from getting wet.
    • Corollary: This realization is not accompanied by any physical acuity in controlling the bladder, they now just feel bad when they have an accident
  • Stage IV - In which the subject stays dry during daylight hours, at which point many will suggest the child is potty trained
    • Corollary: Stage IV is only accomplished through militantly enforced visits to the potty every 20 minutes
  • Stage V - The subject puts it all together and actually alerts a parent prior to peeing
    • Corollary: This applies only to pee. All poops are still administered under Stage I and therefore it is quite likely you will end up cleaning poop out of their car seat.
At this point, we have just dipped into Stage IV. Maddie has actually remained dry for a whole day, but only by peeing approximately 0.25 ozs of fluid every 12 minutes.

We shall remain vigilant.

Penguinis and Red Wings

So we have the Stanley Cup final that I was hoping for: Red Wings vs. Penguins. I was a little nervous about the Wings after the two losses to Dallas, but they came out flying in game 6 and I keep reminding myself that they finished this series without Franzen, who should be back for the Finals. I'm pulling for the Wings, but honestly the Penguins are just so fun to watch that I won't be sad if this thing goes 7 games. I'd love to see a back and forth series - something to rival the fantastic 1994 Vancouver/New York contest. That remains to this day the best hockey I've ever watched.

What is really scary about the Penguini's is how dominant they could be for a long time. Everyone knows about the core of stars they have. But you have to be shocked that they all worked out so well. For four straight years, they hit home runs in the first round of the NHL entry draft:
2003 - Marc Andre-Fluery
2004 - Evgeni Malkin
2005 - Sidney Crosby
2006 - Jordan Staal

This is remarkable considering that the NHL draft is a lot more like the baseball draft than the NFL or NBA drafts. That is, you are generally selecting 17-19 year olds whom you hope will make it eventually. To actually hit on four straight - and hit BIG with first line type guys that make major contributions - is amazing. Is there any other team (in any sport), that got it this right, this often, in this short a time?

The Nordiques in 1989-1991 went Mats Sundin, Owen Nolan, Eric Lindros - but honestly, Lindros is overrated and that's only 3 in a row. You'd think the Red Wings would have some good run of 1st rounders, but all their talent comes from late picks - their #1's are good (Hudler, Franzen, Kronwall) rather than great.

New Jersey got Shanahan in 1987, then went Guerin, Brodeur, and Niedermayer in 89-91 (they also got Brian Rolston in the 1st round in 1991). That would be pretty impressive if they hadn't traded half of them. The Rangers got Dave Gagner, Terry Carkner, Ulf Dahlen, and Brian Leetch in 83-86, but honestly, does that lineup scare you like Andre-Fleury/Malkin/Crosby/Staal? No, I didn't think so.

The only team close is Edmonton. In 1979-1981 the Oilers went Kevin Lowe, Paul Coffey, and Grant Fuhr in the first round (also picking up Messier and Glenn Anderson in 79, Jari Kurri, Andy Moog, and Walt Podubny in 80, and Steve Smith in 81). This has to be as close as it gets to todays Penguins. (Gretzky wasn't drafted - he signed with Indy of the WHL as a 17 year old, and then got sold/traded to Edmonton before they joined the NHL).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Jeff Sachs falls into a trap

You may have heard of Jeffrey Sachs, who is an economist at Columbia, hangs out with Bono, and tries to convince the rich world to spend billions on foreign aid to help Africa and Asia. He claims a big bang aid effort will lift all these people out of poverty. It's generally silly, as we have zero evidence that massive aid does much of anything for anyone.

That might not be so bad, except now Sachs is falling into the old "the world is ending" trap that plagued many people in the 1960's and 1970's. This trap is the "Oh my God, look at all the babies in poor countries. How will the world ever feed all these people, give them electricity, houses, clothes, etc... We MUST be headed for global doom, starvation, and despair." This invariably leads to the proponent of this argument to tell everyone they have to have only 2 kids - or they are dooming society. I won't spend my time debunking this argument (but I'd be happy to if anyone was bored one day), but I noticed this, which is from the NY Times book review:

"In an age when we don’t need to have lots of children to work the fields, or to compensate for high infant mortality, Sachs argues that it’s both economically rational — and crucial for a future of sustainable growth — for people to reproduce at a rate close to 2.1 children per family. In his acknowledgments, Sachs thanks his three children."

Food History

Not what you think. This is the history of military conflict from WWII until recently, done with food. For example: hamburgers are the Americans, pretzels and sausage are the Germans, the croissants are the French......

Friday, May 16, 2008


This link is to a blog by a mom we know in Houston. Her two girls go to pre-school with Abby and Maddie, and the mom (Kristen) is good friends with Kirstin. (Not too confusing, huh?) She's hilarious, and some of the 4 people that read my blog (thank, mom) have met her and her girls, so you might enjoy hearing what she's up to.

People are stupid - Part 3

O - H......H - O ?????

Ladies and gentlemen, THE Ohio State University.

People are stupid - Part 2

So Starbucks apparently has a new logo - kind of a two-tailed mermaid thing with lots of flowy hair. You probably didn't notice. Thankfully, a Christian (really?) group called "The Resistance", did. They found.....boobies. Yes, actual boobies right there on your triple-shot chai half-caf soy vente latte. Boobies that might touch your hand and incite you to think about boobies all day. Boobies, boobies, boobies. Melons, gazongas, squishy mammarian spheroids. Breasts, hooters, titties, honkers, bosoms, meatballs, bikini stuffers, cha-chas, Satan's love pillows, yams, love muffins, knockers.

Sorry, what was I saying?

People are stupid - Part 1

Quick, what's the first thing that comes to mind when you see a rainbow? Leprechauns? Kermit the Frog? Rain? Noah's Ark?

Eh - wrong. The first thing that came to your mind was sex. That's right. Educator David Davis, principal of Ponce de Leon High School in Panama City, FL, asserted this during a trial in which he attempted to defend his decision regarding his ban on rainbow-based items. (Article here)

Mr. Davis had forbidden junior Heather Gillman from wearing any sort of clothing, stickers, buttons, or symbols that included rainbows, because these showed her support for rights for gay people. Mr. Davis testified that rainbows are "sexually suggestive" and would make students unable to concentrate because they would be picturing gay sex in their minds.

An interesting side note - students at Ponce de Leon are welcome to wear or show the Confederate flag.

Thankfully, the federal court ruled (and I'm paraphrasing this a little), "Mr. Davis is a douchebag."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New sports

Try this on for size - port-o-john racing. I'm starting a new list for myself called "Life's Rules of Thumb". First entry: If you buddy's idea ends with "..and we'll throw beer cans at you while you do it.", decline to participate.

I'll finish this post later....'s about procrastination, and an excellent article at Slate on it. Good stuff:

The trick to overcoming procrastination is even simpler. Ready? Here it is:

Get off your fat badonk and stop procrastinating. Right now. No, not after the Gilmore Girls rerun ends. Now now.

Will you do this? No. You will not. You will dabble at the crossword for a while. Later, you might get a yogurt. Eventually, you'll start reading pointless crap on the Internet. You see, you're doing it as we speak! Because: You are lazy.

Understand that this will never, ever change. You will always be lazy, and you will always procrastinate. I know it's tough for you to hear, but it's a harsh truth that you need to internalize.

I'm serious about this. It's bad enough that you're so damn lazy. People like you can't afford to be delusional on top of all your other problems. Oh, I'm sure you imagine yourself growing out of this silly procrastination phase. In the future, you'll get an early jump on projects, work at a steady pace, and always finish ahead of schedule. You'll take the time to do things right—instead of nipping under the wire in a rush of half-assed, flailing chaos.

It's a beautiful dream, my indolent chum. And I'm here to shatter it. Again, I speak from experience in these matters. When I was young, my procrastination was merely debilitating. As I age, it gets far worse.

Take, for instance, this assignment. I first learned of it two weeks ago and, since then, I've gotten really, really superb at Guitar Hero III.

The Husband Test

So you probably saw "Wife Test" from 1939 floating around the interwebby (e.g. "Slows down card games with chatter - 1 Demerit"). Well, there is a husband one too. This flickr page has them scanned in - so check out the husband ones. Some faves:

"Publicly praises bachelor days and regrets having married" (This is only 1 demerit - seems important, though)

"Leaves shoes in living room" (Uh, that's where my feet were, honey)

"Blames wife for everything that goes wrong" (again, only 1 demerit)

"Uses vulgarity or profanity" (what f*$&ing profanity?)

"Dislikes to dress or shave on Sunday" (whoops)

"Has date with wife at least once a week" (oooh, +5 points)

"Reads newspaper, books, or magazines aloud to wife" (is she supposed to be illiterate?)

"Carries adequate insurance" (another +5 points - apparently its a bonus that you can poison him for the insurance when he leaves his shoes lying around)

"Usually comes home with a smile" (that's great - but what if it's because he was just at the strip bar?)

Get smarter a little bit at a time

This is a pretty cool web application. You sign up at DailyLit, and they e-mail (or send you an RSS feed) daily an installment of a classic book or wikipedia entry. For example, I just signed up and they are sending me MacBeth in daily snippets (the first clip was essentially Act I Scene I) that are quickly digested. The wikipedia option basically gives you a little mini-course on a subject (i.e. wine) based on what people have put on Wikipedia. They have hundreds of classic books available for free - and for a charge you can get current releases.

I have no idea if I'll keep up with MacBeth, but it's much less daunting than sitting down with the whole play and getting frustrated when your brain tires of parsing old English.

Wonder drug?

So this stuff Progivil sounds like it is some kind of science fiction construct. An intrepid writer decided to try some, and wrote about the experience here. Progivil was supposed to be used to treat narcolepsy, but enterprising students discovered that in normal people it heightened mental alertness and concentration. Not only that, but it acts as an appetite suppressant, so people often lose weight while taking it.

There has to be a drawback to this stuff (assuming that it actually works, and is not just causing some kind of placebo effect), right? I just imagine that at some point your liver must explode or something.

Monday, May 12, 2008


Kirstin found us a great new restaurant - Beavers. Pretty much everything is smoked - ribs, pulled pork, sausage, brisket. All top notch, and the fried pickles were a revelation on the appetizer menu. Very full beer list and when we walked in Rebirth Brass Band was playing on the outdoor speakers. An 'A' all the way around.

Scratch that: A+, I forgot the t-shirts. All the staff have shirts with a silhouette of a beaver on the front - the back says "Beavers - just south of Hooters." Now THAT is a bar t-shirt.

Bad Ass Hockey Wackos

I got to watch parts of the Pens/Philly game over the weekend (game 1). And I was thinking to myself the whole time - I'd rather have Malkin than Crosby. Crosby is smooth, talented, crafty, tougher-than-he-looks, and makes big plays.......but. But Malkin is, as the title indicates, a BAHW. He's insane, dangerous, and scares the living crap out of me. When it comes to the playoffs, I've got to choose the BAHW.

The point that drove this home was Malkin's full swing slap shot from TEN FEET in front of Martin Biron. Who shoots slapshots from that close? Almost every single other player in history would have gone for the dink or deke, but Malkin wound up like Al McInnis and fired it as hard as he could right at Biron. It was one of the greatest playoff moves I've ever seen and here is why:
1) He scored
2) He scared the living be-jeezus out of Biron

He owns Biron right now. Absolutely, I don't care how mentally tough Biron thinks he is, but Malkin owns him. It was such a perfect playoff message to send. Malkin's slapshot said: We both know I'm better than you, but I'm going to repeatedly remind you of that fact. Over and over. Every time down the ice. Until you skate off crying after 5 games hoping we never see each other again.

There are only a few guys that seem to have this gene, and they are rarely, if ever, actually the most talented guy on the ice.* In Colorado, Sakic was the best hockey player, but I'd take Forsberg every day of the week and twice on Sunday if we had to play one playoff game. In Detroit, it's the difference between Lidstrom and Konstantinov. In their first Cup run, it was Konstantinov that absolutely ate Lindros alive, and then stood there smiling like some crazed Hun from the steppes. He wasn't just good, he kind of scared you. Ron Hextall in the mid-80's might have been one of these guys.

So Crosby is great - and if I were starting a franchise today I'd go with him. But if I needed to win one playoff game tonight - it's Malkin. We can shove him back in a cage after the game and toss him raw meat until the next time he's needed.

(* If anyone brings up Claude Lemieux or Mike Ricci - you are officially disinvited from ever visiting this website again. Those two are NOT what I'm talking about. They were certainly not talented, and I said "crazy", not "dirty". I am scared of Malkin, but I'd love to have him on my team. I am disgusted by Lemieux and Ricci, and want them nowhere near my team.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

New best ad ever

Here you go. I can't imagine anyone who would, for example, walk all the way from Surf and Broadway to Sheffield and Addison in Chicago on a regular basis wearing day-old clothes and smelling like the bottom of an ashtray.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The fruits of my labor

Here's a nice top-10 list of the benefits of becoming a full professor. My favorite is probably getting to kill a student on the full moon, but the bobble-head night is cool too.

For the blissfully ignorant, there are generally four kinds of professors:
1) Adjuncts - do lots of teaching, not eligible for tenure
2) Assistants - do lots of research, pretend to like students, hoping to get tenure (hey, that's me)
3) Associates - did lots of research, overtly hostile to students, have tenure
4) Full - once did some research that no one remembers, are frightened by students, have tenure and enjoy the 10 benefits listed in the link above.

The distinction between associate and full is pretty lame, honestly, since getting tenure is the essential goal. It's like the difference between a Christmas present wrapped by me, versus a Christmas present wrapped by Kirstin. The gift is just as good, but one package looks a lot nicer than the other.

Best TV Characters Ever

Kirstin and I were batting this around last night, after someone from work brought up the subject a few days ago. Who are the best TV characters ever? We didn't have any real fixed criteria, but here were some candidates in no particular order.

Omar (The Wire)
Pembleton (Homicide)
Kramer (Seinfeld)
Louie DePalma (Taxi)
Norm (Cheers)
Hawkeye (MASH) (early only, not the mush crap later in the show)
Locke (Lost)

By the way, you're not allowed to pick anyone from Friends.


Go here, and check out these pictures of a volcano erupting at night. The site is in Spanish, but I'm confident that you can all figure out that the little > arrow means "next picture". If not, I suggest just taking another bong hit and grabbing the Cheetos.

Go all the way...

If you're going to propose a ridiculous policy to make gas cheaper this summer, why not go with Colbert and propose we go all the way. Free gas.

Party all the time

Leave it to Dilbert to finally get politics right. "The Economics Party" sounds good for me. And I am totally on board with Dogbert as the VP. A Dick Cheney for the next generation. Viva la resistance!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wookin Pa Nub


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Coke Explosion

This is some cool video. Using a special FX camera with 1200 frames per second, some guy has filmed four different two-liters of Diet Coke exploding after you drop Mentos into them (who knew?). It's as mesmerizing as the photos of milk droplets or the bullet through the playing card.

PJ Commencement Address

P.J. O'Rourke offers up the next great commencement speech. My favorite section:

We all get confused about the contradictory messages that life and politics send.

Life sends the message, "I'd better not be poor. I'd better get rich. I'd better make more money than other people." Meanwhile, politics sends us the message, "Some people make more money than others. Some are rich while others are poor. We'd better close that 'income disparity gap.' It's not fair!"

Well, I am here to advocate for unfairness. I've got a 10-year-old at home. She's always saying, "That's not fair." When she says this, I say, "Honey, you're cute. That's not fair. Your family is pretty well off. That's not fair. You were born in America. That's not fair. Darling, you had better pray to God that things don't start getting fair for you." What we need is more income, even if it means a bigger income disparity gap.

Hooray for unfairness.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Stupid Bike Lanes

This is pretty funny. It's about the worst "bike lanes" in the world. Ah, government.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sheep Riding

This was a new feature at the rodeo this year (I know, the rodeo was over a month ago - but I'm just getting through our pictures now). The thing that really burns me is that I was "Mutton-busting" over 25 years ago. Mom can back me up on this, we were riding sheep WAY before it was cool. Or a money-making proposition, apparently. Sons of bitches.

Aside: 25 years ago? Crap, I'm old.

Overdue Cute

I forgot to post this one a while ago. This is pre-egg coloring for Easter. Post egg-coloring was not so neat and tidy.

American Idol

Yeah, I watch. You got a problem with that?

So here's the lowdown:
1) David Archuleta - You know those crazy polygamist's that got raided in Texas and are now all over the Today show (and for all I know will have their own segment on Sportscenter any day now)? Well, this kid has got to be one of them, doesn't he? No 16 year old is so drippy. Honestly, who gets up and looks at themselves in the mirror and says, "You know what, I think my best bet is to become the male Celine Dion. People will respect that. Yeah. That is a good idea." (Insert about 17 "huh-huhs" in there to get his speech pattern down. It's like watching Beevis in slow motion.) PREDICTION: Final 2, because if there is anything you can take to the bank, it is that American has awful taste in music.

2) David the other one: You know, faux-hawk guy. The one who has morphed into some smirky version of everything that is rotten about Rob Thomas and Creed. He'll sell records, because you don't even need to run him through the Gold-o-nator record machine down at the studio - he already sounds like 99% of everything on the radio. Question: can you sell out if you never had any credibility to start with? PREDICTION: Winner, because while putting another stake into the heart of all that is good with music, he at least will never cover "Wind Beneath My Wings", and we all know Archuleta is dropping that bomb in the next 9 months.

3) Syesha Mercado - she's not that great, but I like her. Probably because she isn't so enamored of her own musical earnestness (see 1 and 2). They nailed it last night - she belongs on Broadway. I can absolutely see her being able to hold up a musical with sheer energy and charisma. No, it's not multi-platinum superstardom, but that's a solid B+ for a singer. PREDICTION: Gone next week.

4) Jason Castro. How do I loathe thee? Let me count the ways. 1) White guy dreds. Need I say more? 2) A voice that is the musical equivalent of mild salsa - it's more than just tomato pulp, but not much more. 3) The dreds, did I mention those? 4) The effortless delivery. I don't mean that as a compliment. I mean he actually exerts no effort. 5) Jack Johnson called - he'd like his entire persona back, with interest and penalties. 6) The smirk. I'm pretty sure it's because he's autistic and doesn't understand how to interact with other humans, but if it's real, then I'd be happy to put my foot through his teeth. PREDICTION: 3rd place - and then you will never hear from him again. Unless you locate that van Cheech and Chong were driving around in.

If you were a Michael Johns or Carly or Brooke fan, relax. Remember that for most people, NOT winning is probably the optimal outcome. If you win, you have to make your first album with Simon. God bless the man, but he has screwed every single winner with 12 tracks full of Light FM schlock that would make the Pope spin the iPod over to AC/DC.

Turn in your man pass

I shall now commit male heresy:

I no longer want to watch Sportscenter.

It's true. Not because I no longer like sports, but because I just can't stomach the actual production of Sportscenter anymore. They have MTV'd themselves and shrunk the ratio of useful content (videos for MTV, game reports for ESPN) to dreck to somewhere around 1/10. Honestly, at what point do they just walk me through a few highlights from a game and then move on to the next game?

I love Barry Melrose as much as the next guy, but I don't care what he has to say when I'm looking for scores. John Clayton should be heard, but never seen (at least he got work as Pinocchio in the Shrek movies). For the love of God, Skip Bayless should be sent to work on one those "Dangerous Catch" crab boats - anything to keep him from talking.

Do I need to see a panel of 7 discuss the draft 6 days after it took place? Did they re-pick and not tell anyone? Are the highlights supposed to be better when Linda Cohn stands up?

Finally, why is that train wreck of a no-talent cheesemonger Chris Connelly involved in anything remotely related to a sports highlight show? If he tries to uplift my spirit any more with the true story of how a baseball/football/basketball/hockey player found purpose by meeting/e-mailing with/fathering some sappy kid with cancer/mental deficiencies/no-legs I'm going to sue his nasal-voiced overcombed puke-inducing ass for spiritual abuse.

Can I just see some clips from the Cubs/Brewers game today? Please?

Amy who?

So Kirstin is out tonight with a friend, and once the Pens/Rangers game was over I flipped through the channels and found an Amy Winehouse concert on MHD. Alright, I'm a sucker for live HD music, and she's supposed to be pretty good.

Hmmmmmm.....I don't get it. Every few seconds, she looks up and seems startled that there are all these people watching her. And if I was singing songs like those, I'd be startled that people were listening too.

If you close your eyes, her voice is great. Sultry, kind of a throwback to some 1960's jazz club. But the phrasing is so garbled and "innovative" that it's like listening to Abby or Maddie try to keep time with music.

So scratch that off the "to buy" list. Eh.