Monday, March 31, 2008

3/31/08 I've Got My Lunch Packed Up, My Boots Tied Tight, I Hope I Don't Get in a Fight

How's your NCAA bracket? You know why this year is fun? Because those of you who have no idea what's going on probably have the final four correct. Those of us who think we're clever and playing above the rim - Not so much.


This is what I get for not writing that often. Everything I wanted to talk about is old news. We could talk about Easter, but that was over a week ago. Why was it so early? Well, here's why: ((19*t+u-w-(u-(u+8)\25)+1)\3)+15)mod30)+(32+2*x+2*y-(19*t+u-w- (u-(u+8)\25)+1)\3)+15)mod30)-z)mod7)-7*(t+11*(19*t+u-w(u- (u+8)\25)+1)\3)+15)mod30)+22*(32+2*x+2*y-(19*t+u-w-(u- (u+8)\25)+1)\3)+15)mod30)-g)mod7)+114)\31

Solving for t (or u or w, they don't define their variables), Easter won't be this early again in your lifetime.


Today is opening day for most baseball teams. So, for my fellow White Sox fans, here's a look back at a painful, almost torturous memory - The failed dynasty of 1993.


You give your baby's age in months. That stops around 2 years, right? Why stop there? To me, thinking about your age in months is more meaningful. Thinking about your 287 months or 334 months or whatever on earth really puts your time here in better context. Well, let's go one further and calculate your age in days.


I promised Shayne Shine that I would promote Earth Hour here. Earth Hour happened 2 days ago. I think it'll happen again in 363 days. So, if you missed Earth Hour 2008, consider this fair preparation for 2009.


How does the voice for this commercial say everything with a straight face? Does this kind of 80's advertising still work? Especially for the greatest hits of 2001?


Mike introduced me to a guitar arrangement of Billie Jean (one of my favorite songs). It's done by Chris Cornell (one of my favorite singers). Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

3/26/08 A Journey of 1000 Posts

This is post number 1000 since we switched "Something I learned today" over to Blogger. That's like 997 posts more than any high school English teacher would have ever predicted. Fortunately for us, this isn't Gilgamesh. I can much better handle stream of consciousness.

Before I get started on the "journey" theme, let me first tell you something I actually learned. Last night I sat down to eat a very late dinner. As I was taking that first scrumscious bite into my burger, I thought I felt the apartment move. Ever since I moved to California I'll freak out when the ground shakes. 999 times out of 1000, it's a plane overhead or a big truck driving by or a neighbor slamming a door shut. (The one time happened to be a 5.0 type earthquake a few years back. I noticed it was coming when my water bottle went all concentric water circles, Jurassic Park moments before the building shook.) After I grabbed the couch like a scared little girl, I heard a door slam upstairs, so I got mad at myself for freaking out. A half hour later, I get a call from my neighbor. She asks, "Did you feel the earthquake?" She was watching the news and they confirmed there was an earthquake. Immediately, I check online, wanting to know the magnitude and epicenter. It was one of those good news / bad news situations. The good news? It was only a 3.0 magnitude. The bad news (and what I learned)? The epicenter was essentially under my feet. I was under the impression that there were no fault lines for at least 50 miles. If by "miles" you mean "feet", then you're not too far off.


In recent days I drove back and forth through the Mojave Desert on I-15. So, in keeping with the idea of a "journey" (it's a stretch, I know), here are some stories from the road in no particular order.

On the drive back, I had an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. I probably shouldn't admit this in such a public forum, but it almost feel premonition-like. For example, a few days before I got pulled over for no front license plate, I had a strange sinking feeling that I needed to put one on, after a year and a half of not having one. Lo and behold, I get pulled over for the first time ever. With that uneasy feeling, I pass a giant sign that says, "California Desert Conservation Area". Now, I've been misled and mistaken many times before. But, uh, aren't we more generally concerned with conserving arable land?

According to the local radio station (which for some reason is on both FM 98 and 99) the winds were gusting at 30 to 35 miles per hour. Tomorrow the gusts were predicted to be 60 miles per hour. Yikes. These wind gusts were helping my already shaky confidence. It was to the point where I was even ready to go "The Secret" on the universe and start thinking positive thoughts and all that quacky, pseudo science stuff. I can't tell you why I was feeling so uneasy. I just was and couldn't shake it. Initially the plan was to stop at the first of two Oregon Trail-ish outposts for gas. The first stop would have been Baker. I kept checking my odometer and gas gauge and decided that I could make it another 60 miles to Barstow before making my stop. I figured that would shake up whatever goofy karma was floating around. (Doesn't Barstow sound very Oregon Trail?)

Only 11 miles from Baker (the first outpost), I felt a giant rumble in my tummy. Over the next 10 minutes, it became clear that I wasn't going to make it to Barstow without a bathroom stop. I pull into Baker and fill up at a Shell. (At $3.72 for regular, no less). I hardly finish filling up when I make a B-line for their bathroom. Now, I won't go into bathroom details, but at some point during my dookie, the guy in the next stall starts tapping his foot. Now, I don't know about you, but if it wasn't for that Congressman (I forget his name), I wouldn't have thought twice about the foot tapping. Instead I laughed to myself and somehow found myself wiping a little quicker.

Here's the crazy part. We're going to need a visual here for accuracy. My car is facing to the right and is in front of the gas pump, just like it would be if you were filling up. You know how there are metal barriers shaped like upside down U's protecting the gas pumps? As I walk in front of my car to get to the driver's side, there's a giant black bird on that upside down U. And by giant, I mean, the biggest bird I've ever seen up close. Like, a foot and half big. It had one good foot and one that was mangled and curled under that it sort of just used for balance. Given my prior uneasiness, this bird kind of Edgar Allen Poe-d me. He looked directly at me as I stopped short of making it to entirely around my hood. I froze for a second and decided to continue walking. The bird made eye contact with me the entire time. We were no more than 3 feet apart, and the bird was silently telling me that I was on his turf and to just go on my way. So I did.

Nothing bad ending up happening on that drive back. I got home safe. Due to the winds and the spring weather, my windshield somehow massacred hundreds of bugs along the way. It's gross and I have no idea how to get the guts off.


In the year 2012 when I write post number 2000, I will fondly look back at today for some odd reason. Because I'll do that, I leave myself a time capsule video that will more than likely not exist in four years. Even so, I feel obligated to remind my future self of my current inexplicable desire to hear Rihanna's "Umbrella".

Thursday, March 20, 2008

3/20/08 We're Going Downer!

We're going Downer, Downer, Downer! Physics Partner Jeremy actually found some of the commercials, giving me the greatest spring equinox gift ever... The place is called "This Is It Furniture". And I wasn't high, as some of you had suggested - they actually do offer a free onion. I'm sure I'll think of something else eventually... but for now, I have now replayed everything that is replayable from my under-21 life.

If you look closely at the beginning, you can see the old guy I was referring to. For a split second.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

3/18/08 It's Been One Week Since

I've been real bad about this lately. My apologies. It was due to my celebratory partying. No, not for St. Patty's Day. I'm still recovering from Pi Day. We math nerds go all out when Pi Day falls on a Friday. Ok, that's all a lie. I just don't have an excuse. So instead of apologizing and making excuses, let's just brain dump for the week...

  • The movie "21" looks interesting. It's about the group from MIT that devised a system to "beat the house" in blackjack. In fact, this site gives the basics on card counting. As an added bonus, the preview features my favorite song by Spoon, "My Mathematical Mind".

  • "21" got me thinking about the TV show "24". In my shallow world stunted by blinders, I think the show "24" will be hit hardest by the writers' strike. The fact that last season was probably the weakest season, combined with the fact that it's completely postponed until the fall (or later), has just killed the hype the show once held. I wouldn't be surprised if ratings for "24" are half of what it was at its peak. (Given my lack of knowledge of anything TV related, don't be surprised if "24" has its greatest season ever.)
  • I've made no secret that I think that Nickelback sucks. Their lead singer, Chad Kroeger, has done everything to effectively confirm this. In a recent interview with Playboy, he says, "I put my own dick in my mouth. I was 14 and much more flexible at the time." I suppose I can at least apologize for calling them "talentless".
  • I've vowed to not play fantasy sports this year. It's just not nearly as fun for me as it used to be. I have, however, made an exception to play one NCAA bracket with my family. In case you need extra incentive to pay attention to the tournament (I know I do - zero teams from Illinois made it), here is the "All Porno Name" Team.
  • Out of all of the video clips I've looked for over the years, I've eventually found just about every one. Except for one. It's the Downer Furniture commercial from Central Illinois. I feel like I'm playing "12 Monkeys" here and giving the clues that I can remember to solve some sort of mystery. Here's what I can tell you - 1) I saw it on a regular basis while living in Champaign, Illinois in the latter half of the 1990's. 2) The place wasn't called "Downer". But that's all I remember them screaming. 3) At the end of every commercial, they offer you a free onion if you show up. 4) In at least one commercial, the sidekick guy yelling "We're going Downer!" continually cracked a bull whip.

  • The other day I was trying to explain "Mr. Bassman" from The Muppets to someone. Because I'm old, I don't remember who it was. So, if the mystery person I was talking to happens to read this, well, here's what I was referring to.

  • I've broken 2 Rock Band bass pedals. I don't even own the game. Apparently it's a very common problem. It's to the point where people are MacGuyver-ing better bass pedals for the game. You think that, with a retail price of $179.99 plus tax plus warranty (get it - seriously), they could have spent more than a buck-oh-nine on a spring loaded crap ass piece of plastic. I mean, seriously, you don't think that something that you intentionally smash with your foot over and over again would require something sturdier?

(If you fast forward to the 4-minute mark, you'll see it break mid-song)

  • I was shopping at Trader Joe's the other day. More than once I noticed how utterly inefficient my path through the store had before. And it deeply bothered me. Have you ever had a little upset pit in your stomach and you have to think about what was upsetting you? Usually it's something somebody said or you remember you have to do something. That particular day - the pit in my stomach was due to the fact that I covered almost half the store twice based on my which-path decisions. Like I said earlier, I celebrate Pi Day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

3/12/08 When the U.S. Gets a Cold

I had the rare pleasure of an IM conversation with Lucia from Guadalajara today. She asked me what I thought of the "Economic Crisis in the U.S.". Before I go on, let me state that the media in Mexico is like the media anywhere else. It utilizes fear, glamorizes events and tears at your heart strings. It also has its own agenda. Obviously their media is focusing on the falling dollar, rising gas prices and the scramble in the housing market here in the United States. (If for a second you think their focus is unfair or biased, just look at the news you watch and tell me 2 recent newsworthy items about Mexico that don't have to do with violent border disputes. It's always biased.)

I told Lucia what I honestly believe. That this is just the beginning of a greater economic downslide. And, like I've said before, it's all tied into gas prices. It's somewhat important to note that gas prices in Mexico are 1) Much more expensive than they are here and 2) Controlled by a government monopoly (Pemex) that taxes gas at a very high rate, since there are very few commodities outside of transportation that can bring substantial revenue to the country. So, expensive gasoline is relative.

I tried to put gas prices in perspective. I told her that in the late 1990's gas was somewhere around $1/gallon. Today, right outside my place, regular unleaded is $3.60/gallon. I have no doubt that gas will hit $4/gallon by Memorial Day and tinker near $5/gallon by the end of 2008. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that we'll hit $8/gallon by 2010. These numbers are nothing new and shouldn't be viewed as shock value. We then extrapolated these numbers into the costs of basic goods. The cost of food is rising as a result. The amount we spend getting to and from our jobs is increasing, in turn decreasing our expendable income. It's to the point where it may not become worthwhile for certain people to even commute to their current job. This whole domino effect should come as no surprise. We've known about it for decades. Our country has waged wars, some in secret, to postpone this inevitable oil hangover. Well, we're here. And we're approaching potentially scary economic times.

While I didn't go into quite as much detail with Lucia, she responded, "Don't scare me". I couldn't quite figure out why she was scared. She then told me a saying, roughly translated is, "When the United States gets a cold, Mexico gets pneumonia". In economic terms, that's the sentiment in Mexico. In general, most Mexicans I know take a greater interest in our politics than many Americans do. Lucia said that she's rooting for "El Morenito" for president. Pretty much saying, she likes the skinny brown haired fella.


I'm not quite sure how I feel about this webpage. But I found it share-worthy. It's called Stuff White People Like.


Let's continue to make this more multicultural and talk about "Peter and the Wolf". Remember "Peter and the Wolf"? Sure you do. I certainly grew up on the music. On a vinyl record if I remember correctly. The cartoon is from 1946 and is by Walt Disney. The original music and cartoon is from Russia. I'm going to start a completely false rumor and say that Disney stole "Peter and the Wolf" from the Russians and initiated a half century long cold war.


Finally, to end my short sighted view on the world - 50 people in India blind themselves while staring into the sun, hoping to see the Virgin Mary.


Monday, March 10, 2008

3/10/08 What Song is Missing From Rock Band?

If you could add a song to Rock Band (or Guitar Hero), what would it be?

My answer is clear. It's Sevendust's "Black". I've always loved this song. And now that I'm more musically adept and understand musical compostion and difficulty better, I love it even more.

To add to my love fest with Sevendust, I also have a great admiration for bands who can take their hard rock songs and do an acoustic set. Well, you guessed it - Sevendust did just that.

Friday, March 07, 2008

3/7/08 Deceptively Mediocre

After 3 years of playing half court basketball, I finally figured out how to describe my game. It's "deceptively mediocre". I walk out there and the opposition thinks - hey, not only can we put our worst defender on him, but we can also double team the good guy and leave him open. That's when my mediocrity kicks into 2nd gear. Since I lose defenders often, I tend to get more open shots than most players. One day recently, I was actually hitting my open shots. To which one guy intended to compliment me by saying, "You're the Mike Bibby of open jump shots". His buddy said, "What's that supposed to mean? That's a terrible comparison. Mike Bibby is like the 73rd best open jump shooter in the NBA." He basically said that I'm the Michael Bay of movie direction. Or the Fred Armisen of SNL cast members. And that's the best compliment I've ever received on a basketball court. Thank you. Thank you very much.
There are two hallucinogenic plants that grow in the Sinai desert. Which leads to the question - Was Moses high when he brought down the 10 Commandments?


Damn my New Year's Resolution. I feel bad even posting this, despite it's equal opportunity funny-ness.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

3/6/08 Gaming Like It's 1996

Recently my brother and I were talking about some computer games we played during the 1990's. I think we both agreed that "Ripper" was one of our favorite games. I would guess that you've probably never heard of it, which leads me to say that it's tremendously underrated. It starred Christopher Walken and the guy who played Indiana Jones' buddy, Sallah. Karen Allen (also from "Raiders of the Lost Ark") and Burgess Meredith (of "Rocky" fame) were also characters. The story was well written, the puzzles were clever and tricky and, most of all, the main theme song was "Don't Fear the Reaper". Given the constraints on technology at the time, it's even more impressive to fondly look back at the entire game play. I'm finally at that age where I'm starting to think, "They just don't make game like they used to."

My brother also reminded me of the "Tex Murphy" game series; most notably "Under a Killing Moon". It falls under the same genre of puzzle solving and unraveling a mystery. Seriously - are there equivalent type games nowadays?

The final game series that we both really immersed ourselves into was "Myst". It's probably the bigger household name of all of these games. The world of Myst is completely unique. And, to be perfectly honest, I miss that world.

Maybe I need to start some sort of Facebook group for the other 6 or 7 people who pine for those games of the mid-90's.


Cousin Eric sends a video starring his buddy Justin Uretz. It's called "Killer Road Trip". Enjoy.


In honor of our recent water balloon videos, here's a montage of water balloons in slo-motion.

(Sometimes the embedded video doesn't work from this site. If it doesn't, the water balloon link is here.)

Monday, March 03, 2008

3/3/08 Casimir Pulaski Day

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day! I hope you're celebrating in Polish aided Revolutionary War style.


Since Casimir Pulaski is synonymous with "Hey - We get the day off of school! But who the hell is Casimir Pulaski?" (Illinois only), here is some educational stuff to fill in the gap...

The sun may have a star companion named Nemesis. Nobody's ever seen it (which leaves me skeptical). But the theory goes as such - Every 26 million years or so, there's a mass extinction on earth. This includes the dinosaur extinction, generally blamed on a giant asteroid hitting the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Nemesis swings close enough to our solar system every 26 million years, bringing with it large asteroids and debris, leading to those extraordinary impacts and subsequent extinctions.

Have you ever inhaled helium to make your voice change? Yeah, we all have. How about sulfur hexafluoride? It'll do the opposite. And, based on this video, I wouldn't recommend it.


If you enjoy chemistry videos, Wired Magazine has the top 10 Most Amazing Chemistry videos.


Last week we visited the Sarah Silverman video with Matt Damon. Jimmy Kimmel has responded. (Thanks to NLN Natalie for the link). Oh, and watch for some great celebrity cameos.


I'm at that age where many of my friends are having kids. I was in a situation recently where my friends put on some kids music for their little one while we were in their car. Poker Jason asked what I thought of the music. Well, for everyone with little kids, here's my recommendation....