Saturday, July 26, 2008

omg n3\/\/ pollzorz.

Following the "success" of last week's poll, here is a new poll that was inspired by a blurb from a recent issue of Wired. I hope JV appreciates this one.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


The organization at which I've been volunteering has had me compile a list of contact information for all the media outlets in the state so that they know where to send their press releases. One of those media outlets was the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, who publishes a community affairs newsletter of sorts.

This conversation (or something very similiar) took place after I dialed what I presumed to be the CTUCC phone number:

Unofficial sounding voice on the other end: Hello?

Me: Um... Is this the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ?

Him: Excuse me?

Me: Um... I was calling for the Connecticut Conference of the United Church of Christ, but it looks like I have the wrong number...

Him: What organization are you calling for?

Me: (Confused pause) I...don't understand what you mean...

Him: What are you calling for?

Me: I was calling to speak to someone from your newsletter to find out who to send press releases to.

Him: Are you a Born Again?

Me: No...

Him: Have you been touched by salvation?

Me: No...

Him: Do you believe in God?

Me: Yes.

Him: Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

Me: Yes. (Maybe if I continue with their charade, they'll finally give me the email address I need...)

Him: Do you believe he died on the cross?

Me: (Another confused pause) This isn't really helping me right now, so I'm going to try another number.

Him: Hey! What if you died today?... (his voice fades away as I hang up the phone)

Could the Mormons really be that obtuse and intrusive? Apparently not, because when I checked their website, I realized that the number I had was off by a digit and an area code. The real Mormons turned out to be quite friendly and helpful.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Seven Things That You Should Join Me in Complaining About

1. ...Why don't we light things on fire while we're at it?

It's happened. A wiffle ball field built by a group of Greenwich teenagers in an abandoned piece of public land has been demolished by town officials. Neighboring property owners complained that the kids who were using the field were being too noisy. Greenwich officials say that it was also a "liability" for the town.

As if that isn't enough to make your blood boil, here's a quote from one of the neighbors:

"Most of the people I know and I've grown a family, stop playing wiffle ball when they're 12 years old, I mean, this is just a farce to do something else."

Something else...? I'm trying to imagine what is going through this woman's head:

Teen 1: "Here's an idea! Why don't we spend three weeks clearing all the shrubbery from this abandoned field and erecting fences to turn it into a wiffle ball field that looks like Fenway Park? We'll invite a bunch of friends, head over there in broad daylight, and, while some of us are playing wiffle ball, the rest of us can sneak into the surrounding bushes to binge drink and have underage sex!"

Teen 2: "Sounds super! This will be the least labor-intensive and most subtle way to engage in all sorts of illicit activities!"

Disregarding the stupidity of her remark, it's disappointing that this woman would make an unfounded, negative assumption about an entire group of people. What's stuns me, though, is that there are people like this who have so little faith in our nation's youth. Apparently, though, the kids have gotten back by wearing T-shirts that say, "I'm over 12 and I still play wiffle ball."

2. China hosting the Olympics

According to this, 1.5 million Chinese citizens have been evicted from their residences to make room for Olympic facilities and have received insufficient to no compensation for their losses. That's nearly half the population of Connecticut. Under any circumstances, it's an incredible violation of human rights, but for the Olympics? Aren't they supposed to be about world...goodness?

3. Speculation that [British Open winner] would not have won the British Open if Tiger were playing

Tiger Woods was not arrested, kidnapped, or otherwise involuntarily restrained from competing in the British Open. No, Tiger chose not to compete because, due to his injury, he knew he would be unable to win. He essentially forfeited his opportunity to become champion. Padraig Harrington does not deserve for his achievement - defeating the best golfers in the world to win this year's championship - to be diminished.

4. Did you hear? John McCain is old! Hahaha...!

Jokes like this - driven into the ground by late night talk show hosts - stopped being entertaining months ago. Besides, I'm sure they could take a much bigger swing at him. He is a Republican, after all...

5. Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I saw this piece on TV explaining that, while many solidiers have been returning to Iraq for second and third tours of duty, thousands of gay soldiers are leaving/being discharged due to this archaic policy. The logic? Allowing gays to serve would make the troops less cohesive... which is somehow worse than have thousands fewer soldiers. Hmm.

6. Commercials, especially those for cars and department stores

No, Mazda and Old Navy, your rapidly flashing screens and loud, irritating music are not making me want to purchase your product. TV ads need to be slow-paced, off-beat, and/or humorous to attract anyone's attention. And don't get me started on the local ads. Bob's Dodge, for one, claims that Bob "just wants to get me 'a loan.' " (Tied to a chair in a dark room? I don't want to imagine...)

7. The efforts of right-wing, Christian news agencies to shield our minds from heresies

This gaffe has been picked up by tons of superior blogs and by Jay Leno's "Headlines." One News Now is a news agency that reprints articles from the AP and other sources but alters them to make them Christian-friendly. Among other things, they apparently use a program to automatically replace "offensive" words with ones that they consider more appropriate. You can imagine readers' surprise, then, when they discovered that sprinter "Tyson Homosexual" (not Tyson Gay) won the 100 meter dash at the U.S. Olympic Trials... (Click here for hilarious excerpts.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Exciting New Feature!

Great news, loyal reader(s?)! This blog will now feature an irregularly updated poll for your amusement. The current poll is both a nod to the upcoming Olympic Games and a tribute to a Greenwich wiffle ball field which is about to meet its unfortunate demise.

Vote now or be smitten.

Keeping the Beat

Occasionally, you encounter moments that make you think that everything is right with the world. Yesterday, I was provided with exactly that.

I was stopped at a traffic light at an intersection. At the end of each crosswalk were those crosswalk signs with the blinking red numbers that tell you how much time you have left. I also happened to be listening to the radio at the time. 104.1 FM was playing that song (I don't know the name) with the lyrics "Don't scream about / don't think about / turn your head now baby just spit me out."

Anyway, it was to my astonishment that the flashing of the remaining seconds on the crosswalk sign (15...14...13...) was almost exactly synchronized with the rhythm of the song, which had reached an instrumental interlude of sorts. I expected the flashing numbers and the beat of the song to fall out of sync within a moment, but, no, that was not the case. It was surreal. What's more - at the moment that the crosswalk sign flashed "0," a cymbal crashed to signal the end of that section of the song and the beginning of a new one.

It may have been for merely an instant, but for those fifteen seconds, I felt as though I were at the center of a perfectly harmonious world.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Even for a blog of this caliber, it can be difficult to come up with quality, original posts day after day, so tonight (this morning?), I will share with you something I discovered while Wikipedia-ing a couple of weeks ago.

There lies, in the middle of the Pacific, a small archipelago called the Pitcairn Islands. It consists of four islands, only one of which is inhabited and which spans only 5 square km in area. This British-owned territory is the least populated jurisdiction in the world, with a population of around 50.

The most remarkable thing about the place is that the population is almost entirely descended from a group of Brits and Tahitians that arrived there via a mutineed British ship a few hundred years ago. They speak two languages - English and Pitkern, which is a blend of English and Tahitian. They have survived for centuries largely by subsistence farming and fishing and by selling stamps and crafts to passing ships.

The only way to predictably access this incredibly remote place is to fly to Tahiti, then fly to some other island in the French Polynesia, and then take a 30 hour boat ride that runs once every several months the rest of the way to Pitcairn. Otherwise, the inhabitants must depend on ships that pass by infrequently if they want to leave this small spit of land.

What's most remarkable about this place is, despite its inaccessibility, the place is rather modernized. They have satellite telephone and Internet, have TV sets for DVDs and the like, and provide public education for all children until age 15.

Despite the fact this this doesn't seem an uncomfortable place to live, I still can't figure out while anyone would choose to stay there. People clearly have the option and means to leave, since the population has dropped from about 200 in the 1930's to its current level. Why forego a modern lifestyle with its connections, appliances, and transportation to remain on a small rock in the middle of the ocean?

Or maybe the ones who have stayed have it right. Perhaps they are enjoying an island paradise free of distractions and pollution while we are the ones who are suffering. But...maybe the reason that some of them stay is more sinister: a history of the sexual abuse of girls on the island was brought to light when a British offical visiting the island a few years ago made the discovery. A 2004 trial sent six Pitcairn men to prison until the end of this year. Creepy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Am A Sloth

Unemployment can be both a blessing and a curse. For the benefit of all, I'll now assess the pros and cons of my current state of joblessness (to end on a high note, we'll move from bad to good).


Feeling of worthlessness to society. Such feelings dissipate, however, after reading stories of surprisingly low teen employment rates and the desperate tactics of unemployed MIT grads.

Indolence. My current lack of productivity will surely come back to haunt me come the beginning of the semester, when I am reminded once again that math is, in fact, difficult.

I don't get money. This especially is a problem for me and my extravagant college student lifestyle. The price of a grilled cheese at the Campus Center spiked from $2.75 to $2.95 last semester and shows no sign of slowing down.


I end up creating a blog.


I read things. Unemployment has given me the chance to reacclimate to the idea that there are enjoyable things to read, something I thought impossible after a semester of political science.

I will become a Guitar Hero. I yearn for the day when a group of naive friends, having never heard the phrase "Star Power" before, will marvel as I nail the solo on "Sweet Child of Mine." Maybe someday.

I don't have to work.

I create reproductions of 70's prog rock hits. Try to imagine Supertramp as a ringtone. More on that later.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Channel Surfing

With very few exceptions, the quality of summer television, mainly low-budget reality programs, isn't great (consider Wipeout and Celebrity Circus). Hence, you can imagine my enthusiasm when I stumbled upon the premiere episode of the new ABC program I Survived A Japanese Game Show a few weeks back.

The show's American participants compete on the Japanese game show Majide, which, to us unfamiliar Americans, is quite the spectacle. The wacky games run the gamut from "Pedal Fast or Big Splash!" (in which a person must pedal a tricycle within the "red zone" on a treadmill or else risk sliding backward into the looming pool of icewater) to the Human Claw game (analogous to the claw games that one plays in a movie theater or restaurant to win exciting toys, except a human is substituted for the claw). Other aspects of the show add to the fun: Japanese crowd members are given noisemakers to shake at appropriate times, and it's always amusing to watch the show's host make snide remarks about the American contestants to the crowd in Japanese.

What I find most entertaining about the show, though, is how seriously the competitors take themselves. How can you be driven to the brink of tears after "letting your team down" in the Human Claw challenge? How can you be ruthlessly determined to defeat your opponent at games such as "You Look Funny Stuck on That Wall," in which competitors dressed in Velcro suits must jump onto a wall and fit their bodies into the bizarre shapes outlined on it? This show is almost a parody of traditional reality programs; it proves that we Americans will take even the most absurd tasks seriously when $250,000 is dangled in front of us.

Despite the incessant video confessionals and inter-competitor drama that clutter all reality shows, I'll continue to watch I Survived A Japanese Game Show, if only to find out if the competitors will realize that they are being made to look like complete fools on national TV.

(A note about the blog's title: some might contest my claim that NFL Fever 2000 is history's greatest computer game. I urge all doubters to probe the depths of the Web to find the game's free demo. Granted, you only get five minutes of game play, but I assure you that you'll be hooked and will have memorized the entire rosters of the 1999 Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos within a few days.)