August 31, 2006
You say potato, I say potato
This just in from the BBC:
Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits, say researchers.
...which is a real surprise, considering, you know, tea basically is water. This just in! Researchers say that drinking melted ice is as good for you as drinking water!
(Link via Dancingastronaut)
August 30, 2006
Is that a large order of nan on your plate, or are you just happy to see me?
The quality of my camera phone in a dimly lit environment leaves something to be desired, but what you see there is the most phallic piece of nan I've ever received at an Indian restaurant. It's what arrived with our dinner last night at a place in Boston. We're wondering if it's a coincidence that, when it arrived, it was placed down to directly face my female companion. And to think, I was the one eating balls last night. (Malai kofta, people! Malai kofta!)
August 29, 2006
Luxury is my middle name
Over the weekend, I stayed at the kind of place that decorates their chocolate-covered strawberries as tuxedos. Iím not typically comfortable with expensive over-indulgence, but one thing I canít turn down is a professional massage, and so that was on the agenda.
ďWhenís the last time you had a massage?Ē the woman asked me before she began.
ďOh, maybe a year or two ago,Ē I said.
ďWell then, youíre overdue.Ē
It sounds so pornoish, doesnít it? But I know what she meant, and I love it. I feel like we, the general population, have somehow pulled a fast one on masseuses: They call themselves ďmassage therapists,Ē they think of their work as therapy, and therefore I donít feel as weird paying someone to rub me in awesome ways for an hour. If only other all luxuries were this way. It reminds me of a tour guide I once had, who called shopping ďretail therapy.Ē
August 27, 2006
I come for the uplifting in-flight entertainment
I just arrived on a JetBlue flight from West Palm Beach to Boston, during which at least half the seat-back televisions were tuned to a live press conference about the crashed plane in Kentucky. Then, seeking something a little more calming, we all huddled together and watched back-to-back airings of "Alive" and "United 93."
August 24, 2006
Immortal comic creator, 1. Snot-nosed blogger, 0.
As I've ranted before, one of my chief gripes with classic newspaper comic strips is their outdatedness, both in tone and setting. They feel out of time, anchored to the mentality of the decade they were created in, but clumsily accessorized with modern lingo or equipment. I consider that wasted space on a page that should be filled with youthfulness and innovation. And so, when I saw August 8th's Beetle Bailey, I was not impressed:
An iPod? Beetle Bailey was originally set in the Korean War, and there's never been much of an indication that the war ended. So, armed with a smarter-than-you attitude and the anonymity of the Internet, I shot the writers an e-mail:
Sent: Tuesday, August 08, 2006 10:39 AM
Subject: Sarge has an iPod?
Mort, Greg, Brian:
So, wait. About today's strip: Did they have iPods in the Korean War? How did I miss this bit of musical history? And instead of computer chips, did they run on, say, little records?
Yesterday, much to my surprise, Mort Walker wrote back:
Sent: Wednesday, August 23, 2006 5:46 PM
Subject: Re: Sarge has an iPod?
One of the great things about cartooning is you can do anything you cant...forget about reality...ignore time...invent your own world. Beetle is a soldier for all times, not just the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, or the Iraq situation. All I know is that Sarge has an i-pod and I gave it to him today.
Sigh. I guess that's true. Of all the Beetle Bailey-related things I could complain about, that wasn't a very good one. I'm being too literal. I'm the one stuck in some mentality. I'm the-- hey! Hey! Mort wrote "i-pod," not "iPod." Ha ha, old man! Now who's out of touch? Nya nya nya.
When life hands you lemonade
Things I wish I had taken a picture/video of yesterday:
1. Three women are talking tech at the table next to me at dinner, and one says: ďBut Wikipedia is part of the Internet. You know, like YouTube.Ē Clearly, someone at that table hadnít been studying their tubes.
2. On an overpass above a highway I rode yesterday, someone had hung a big sign that said, ďJeremy, will U go 2 prom with me?Ē I hope he said yes, because otherwise, things could get ugly.
August 22, 2006
There are two rules about Gym Club
I've officially been a gym member for one month and two days, and it's gone better than expected. I usually manage to make an appearance every other day, I don't feel as uncomfortable there as I once did, and I'm apparently actually building muscle. People are telling me they see it. After hugging me recently, a friend told me I even feel different. One day, I fear, I'm going to wake up and have a fake tan as well.
But if there's one thing I don't ever think I'll accept, it's gym culture. I even try not to make eye contact with the employees, because I'd rather they not even say hello to me. Just let me come in and out, never really a part of their world -- especially a world with these two rules:
Rule number 1: Talk about Gym Club. So, I casually mention, I just joined a gym. "You did? That's great," someone will say. "You know what I love to do? I take a big swig of water and then do 27 reps on the bench press while gurgling Elvis tunes, and I take a break between reps 19 and 20 to scratch my left buttcheek. You should try it. It's a great workout." Apparently being a gym member means you have to tell every other gym member about your workout routine. I had already decided never to work with a personal trainer -- and now I realize it's totally unnecessary, because the world is full of experts.
Rule number 2: Ding, dong. If you walk into the locker room, some pasty old dude must be standing near the door with his dick hanging out. How is this so constant? Always naked, always near the door. Maybe they're on some sort of rotation -- cock on the clock, so to speak.
Surely, there are more rules. I'll update this list as they become more obvious.
August 21, 2006
Golly gee, a blog about business finance? I'm in!
The Washington Post has been ahead of the game in embracing and understanding the power of blogs, particularly with its ingenious idea to link to every blogger who links to a story. Every Post storyís page has a box like the one to the right, which says, ďRead what bloggers are saying about this article.Ē Through an agreement with Technorati, they are constantly updated with bloggers whoíve linked to the story. Iíve appreciated this from all three angles: As a reader, itís great to have an outlet for conversation with other readers about a story Iím interested in; as a very occasional contributor to the Post, itís been huge fun seeing what bloggers write about my stories; and as a blogger, I like the trickle of traffic that comes my way every time I link to a story. It certainly encourages me to link to more Washington Post stories -- oh fine, hereís a random one just for the hell of it -- and thatís no doubt exactly what the Post wants.
So, itís hard to really fault them for their latest attempt. Still, Iím going to try.
Washingtonpost.com has launched a little advertising feature called Sponsored Blogroll. This is what it looked like today:
According to the blog of a sales guy there (via Adotas), the feature is intended to share advertising revenue with blogs while helping ďB-list and C-list bloggersĒ gain more traffic. Could it work? Perhaps. Hell, if I allowed advertising on my site, Iíd probably consider it. But todayís launch was really weak, and not just because it has so few blogs listed and is, as the ad guy writes, ďin the ghetto positionĒ on the siteís front page. The real problem is the blogs they made deals with.
The blog world is made up of, as I see it, organic blogs and zombie blogs. The organic blogs are what you actually read: Everything from Gawker to your friendís online diary, put together with varying degrees of skill by people who understand what blogging is. The zombie blogs are promotional, ad-driven websites in the form of a blog, created by companies who donít understand the medium but want to appear relevant. If anybody reads those things, Iíd be shocked. Theyíre the equivalent of old women wearing tank tops and short shorts: Your clothing canít mask who you are.
Right now, the Postís ďSponsored BlogrollĒ is filled exclusively with zombie blogs -- or should I say, five zombie blogs and one site (cruiseandvacationpackages.com) that doesnít even fake being a blog. This is the wrong way to launch this feature. The Post has to recognize the meaning of ďBlogrollĒ: You can learn a lot about a blog from its blogroll, but, in this case, when youíre electing to join a blogroll, the company you keep is just as important. If I were a blogger interested in this promotion, Iíd be scared away by these things. Who wants to be in a blogroll surrounded by corporate shills? What kind of lame-o club is this?
And furthermore, what viewer wants to sift through a blogroll full of advertisers? At that point, the featureís no different than any of the other advertising links on the site. The point of a ďSponsored BlogrollĒ is that visitors will be curious to check out the links, which are somehow different from the rest of the siteís advertising. Clicking must be done, because without an exchange of traffic, thereís no tangible value. To accomplish that, though, the blogroll needs to become a destination that visitors can expect interesting things from. Maybe itís me, but a blog called ďSmall Business ManagementĒ doesnít fit that bill.
Good luck, Washingtonpost.com. Itís great youíre thinking about blogs, but you may want to think a little more critically.
August 18, 2006
I was driving along the highway recently when I heard an unfamiliar rumbling noise. Ruggaruggagruggagruggag. I was only two exits away from work, so I slowed down and figured I'd just figure it out once I got there. But about ten seconds later, there was a popping sound and my car felt like it was limping. I looked behind me and saw chunks of tire flying away. It looked violent.
I've often wondered how calm I'd stay it a situation like this, and the answer pleased me: I said, "That's not good," and pulled over. No problemo.
The same can't be said for the tire:
Holy crap. I've never seen anything like that. I called a towing company, who sent a guy to change the tire (because, yes, I admit, I don't know how to do it myself), and then I went to get a new tire. When I showed the tire shop guy my ripped-to-hell tire, I said, "Isn't that funny?" Because, you know, it kind of was. It was destruction like I had never seen it, so gratutious and ugly. But surely, I thought, this guy sees it every day. Tires must do this all the time, right? It's not like I ran over a chainsaw.
"No! That's not funny," the shop guy said.
Whoa, man. Ok. Not funny.
August 17, 2006
♣SORRY FOR THE lack of posts this week. It's been a busy one. I'm writing this Table Scraps from a Panera, as I wait for my car to go through a battery of expensive tests I doubt I need. I hit 30,000 miles and brought it in for a routine oil change, and they started telling me about all this junk I can -- nay, should -- get done for $199. And because I obviously don't know anything about cars, I went for it. So here I am, waiting and blogging.
♣AND YOU THOUGHT Speedos were dangerous on humans. Turns out, they're even more deadly on dolphins. (Bonus reason for this link: The dolphin in this story is named Scrappy. "Happy Scrappy for sure!" my dad wrote when he e-mailed it to me.)
♣SCARY BEAMS OF cosmic rays are real, and they're coming right for you!
♣GOLLY GEE, THE Los Angeles Times sure had a great scoop this week about a French clothing company's pornographic online catalog. Had they wanted to pick up on this story when it was still fresh -- say, oh, back in June -- I know of an AP piece they could have picked up.
♣THINK YOUR LANDLORDS suck? At least they're human.
♣I LIKE PEANUT butter sandwiches. The jury's still out on this, though.
♣HERE'S YOUR 'WELL, Duh' headline of the day: "Man drinks potion for good luck: doesn't get any."
♣IF YOU WANT to be a film critic, here's how not to get freelance work.
Still, nothing beats my usual t-shirt and shorts
Thanks to my girlfriend and her love of the fashion industry, Iíve been sucked into watching Project Runway. Actually, OK, letís be honest: Iíve been sucked into it for three seasons straight. Itís really pretty entertaining, even for someone as completely fashion-blind as me.
A few days ago, my girlfriend invited my friend Rob over to join us for the show on Wednesday, thereby continuing our mid-week television tradition. (Rob used to come over Wednesdays to watch Lost, but itís now on summer break.) On Monday, I saw Rob and he said, ďIím going to come over Wednesday to watch Project Runway.Ē
ďGreat!Ē I said.
ďOh, man,Ē said a male friend of ours, who was standing nearby. ďThat was a really un-manly conversation.Ē
ďAlright,Ē I said to Rob. ďYou can come over and weíll watch hot chicks design stuff.Ē
That was a little bit of a lie, though: Thereís only one hot designer on the show, and she got kicked off last night! Crap. Now how can I pass this off as a manly activity? I'm going to have to start screaming, "Show us your tits!" whenever Heidi Klum comes on screen. I'm sure that'll go over well at home.
August 14, 2006
heck hell, Toronto
I can't tell what sort of point the Huffington Post is trying to make with today's post about the Toronto Star's uncommon usage of an unsavory word:
Congratulations, Toronto Star! You're pioneers of print: Today, thanks to TV columnist Vinay Menon, you officially become the first mainstream newspaper to employ the word "douchebag" as a descriptive term. The person about whom Menon waxed so eloquent was MSNBC's Tucker Carlson, who, as reported last week, will soon be dancing with the stars. Menon, who seems to disapprove of Carlson's extracurricular television choices, recalled Carlson's days on CNN's "Crossfire," where "he often came across as just another smug douchebag in the beltway."
Is this sarcasm? Glee? Detached amusement? Whatever it is, I'll tell you what I think: Good for you, Toronto Star. Way to not fear the crotchety wrath of your elderly readers. Way to not fear angering jittery advertisers. Way to break with newspaper tradition and actually talk to people using their words. Newspapers may be one of the guardians of language, yes, but they're too slow in acknowledging changes in the language they guard. While they're busy blocking the front entrance, the little girl prisoner inside has grown up, sprouted a huge pair of knockers and is wearing a tight shirt. See what I'm saying?
Actually, uh, maybe I got a little off track. But, listen. Newspapers want to reflect the community they serve, but cannot bare to talk like the community's members. Dan Savage said it best in this interview:
What's frustrating is that with daily papers, the editors always bitch about their falling readership, their terrible demographics, and then they're not be able to put two and two together and realize that if you don't have anything in your paper that's going to upset a five-year-old then 35-year-olds are going to look elsewhere for the kind of writing that appeals to them and speaks to them.
I mean The New Yorker says the f-word, The New York Review of Books does, and the public does. It's especially funny the knots that daily papers tied themselves into after Bush called Adam Clymer at The New York Times an asshole. Why couldn't that be in The New York Times? If the Republican presidential candidate can say it out loud and not lose the election, why is it too toxic for The New York Times? Any 13-year-old who is reading the Times and sees the word asshole in a paragraph after the jump already knows the word. Who are they protecting? They're protecting the sensibilities of subscribers they should want to get rid of. They can pick up readers who don't like their newspapers' writing to be porridge.
It's time to talk the talk, literally. Bravo to the Star for using the word "douchebag." It's not about the word, of course, but about the attitude that permits that word to run. Newspapers should be informing and challenging readers, not coddling and protecting them. If Tucker Carlson is a douchebag -- and he is -- then our newspapers should say so. In those exact words. Because that's how people talk. It doesn't need to happen all the time, of course, but the attitude of engagement and vitality needs to be there. Otherwise, they'll be stuck appeasing elderly readers to their deaths -- theirs, and the newspaper's.
Sold next to the submarine screen door
At around 6 a.m. Sunday morning, I woke up with a lot of questions. Most importantly, this one: ďIs it better to poop where you wash laundry, or wash laundry where you poop?Ē
Seconds before, I had awoken from a jarring dream. In it, I was in a laundry room and wanted to put my washed clothing into a dryer, but my clothing was no longer in the washer. I checked and then checked again, and found nothing but a pool of water. I checked the other machines, but they werenít there. The laundry was gone. Then, a woman walked in and explained what happened: These machines are hybrids -- washing machines and toilets, sharing the same bowl -- and I must have pressed the toiletís flush button instead of the washing machineís start button, thereby flushing away all the laundry I put in there. I realized my mistake -- oh, how dumb I am! -- and began fuming at how much good clothing I had just thrown away. One of my favorite t-shirts was in there! How could I be so careless? Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!
Then I woke up. It took a few seconds to orient myself, then to realize that not only do these hybrid machines not exist, but thereís a damn good reason they donít. I drew the above sketch for better understanding of the problem.
Itís a good thing I donít sleepwalk. Otherwise, someone might find me taking a dump in the laundry room.
But what do you want?
From my tracker, circa 6:51 a.m. PST yesterday:
In case thatís hard to read, someone found my site by Googling ďmy buddy wants to give me a blowjob.Ē Sorry, pal, thatís not really a topic weíve covered here before. But good luck. Depending on your perspective, youíve either got one awesome, selfless friend, or an incentive to watch how much you drink at the bar next week.
August 10, 2006
What? You mean that little country with the funny-talkin' people?
This from Washingtonpost.com, at 9:30 a.m.:
And on a personal note, let me just tell you how fun it is to buy round-trip tickets to London -- as I did this week -- and then read something like, "British authorities said today that they had thwarted a terrorist plot to blow up multiple airliners traveling between Britain and the United States and cause 'mass murder on an unimaginable scale.'"
Whee! Nothing like a little threat of horrific death to spice up that vacation.
August 09, 2006
An open letter to the Cold Stone Creamery kid who made my ice last night, and who I didn't tip
Last night was my first visit to Cold Stone Creamery, and it put me in a bind. You lost. It's not fair, I know. Can we talk about it?
Prior to last night, I had heard a lot of things about Cold Stone Creamery. Among them: The ice cream's really good, it's prepared in a unique way, the cups have stupid names ("like it" is small, "love it" is medium, "gotta have it" is large) and employees have to sing a song about the store every time someone tips. I was excited for the first two, and not so excited for the second two. Call me old-fashioned, but I just don't like altering basic principles of retail that don't need fixing. I consider both Cold Stone Creameryís changes demeaning. It's foolish to think you're offering the customer something unique when you still have three size choices, and they are, whether you like it or not, small, medium and large. And it's foolish to force your employees to do something corny and staged, and to do it repeatedly, when that's not what customers are there for. We come for ice cream, not a show. It puts an awkward, false veneer on what should be a normal, person-to-person exchange.
You seemed sympathetic to that. I ordered my ice cream in a "small," and you confirmed it using the word "small." That was great. We stuck it to the man! What a team! But after I paid, I had a tough decision to make. I wanted to tip you, but I really, really, really didnít want you to sing that song. It would have made me uncomfortable, knowing that I forced you to do it. Iíd have wondered if you resented me for tipping you, as if you'd think, ďYour lousy tip isnít worth me doing this.Ē
So I didnít tip.
And that was kind of lousy, too, because I saw you pounding away at that ice cream. Man, you creamed that thing. And thatís the kind of effort that deserves some tipping. Not that the standards are high, of course. Weíre a tipping culture. We tip when someone pushes a button and coffee comes pouring into a cup. We tip people for picking up our luggage. We tip people for doing the jobs theyíre supposed to be doing. Iíd rather everyone just get paid more, and the tip be included in the price of an item, but thatís an argument for another day. Anyway, you deserved a tip, and you didnít get one.
Sure, itís my fault. I went with some friends, and one of them, who also hates the song you have to sing, left a tip when the cashier wasnít looking. That was pretty smart. I should have done that. But still, I think there's a learning experience in here: Cold Stone Creamery should just do away with the song. It isnít charming. It isnít pleasant. Itís annoying to the customers and (I assume) the employees, and I bet Iím not the only one who has been discouraged from tipping because of it.
Or, well, maybe I am. Maybe Iím just a selfish, petty bastard. But I doubt it.
Next time, I promise Iíll slip you a dollar when youíre not looking. Thanks for the good ice cream.
August 08, 2006
From the Rude Awakening Department
A 15-year-old aspiring reporter in Indiana watches "All The President's Men" in her journalism class, then thinks...
a) "Yes! What guardians of justice! What an inspiration!"
b) "Wow! Such dedication and guts!"
c) "Yikes! Do journalists curse like that?"
No trick question here; it's c. "Itís made me hesitate because I donít want to be around (that kind of) language a lot," she tells her local paper.
I love it. Girlie, if you can't handle a few f-bombs from your co-workers, you can't even imagine the crazy shit you'll encounter from your sources. Time for a career in playing with puppies.
August 07, 2006
♣SURELY, THERE MUST be a funny Yiddish word for a rabbi that leaves his wife and marries a former Russian Orthodox nun. Az di bobe volt gehat beytsim volt zi geven mayn zeyde! (Alright, so that actually means, "If my grandmother had testicles she would be my grandfather!" Irrelevant, but somehow perfect.)
♣PETER SAGAL, HOST of NPR's "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!" may be great on radio, but he's not as good at picking fights at ballgames.
♣SAMUEL JACKSON CALLED me last week. No, really. The phone rang, I answered, and the bad motherfucker himself told me that I should be psyched to see his new movie, "Snakes on a Plane." And I am. But he seemed really busy, so we didn't talk much. Actually, come to think of it, he did all the talking. But whatever, I'm sure he was just busy.
♣WHEN BOSTON'S PUBLIC transportation agency launched a survey, they made it amazingly easy to hack in to. So much so that I just had to write about it.
♣AND THEN, THERE'S this.
August 04, 2006
The Razr is a piece of sht
An approximation of the conversation I had with a Verizon Wireless customer support woman, when I called to see if my new phone is broken:
Her: Thank you for calling Verizon Wireless. How can I help you?
Me: I bought one of the Razr phones a few weeks ago, and have some serious problems with it. Ok, for example, it freezes up like Iím running Windows 95. Iíll be talking, and itíll drop the call and then freeze, so I canít do anything with it for maybe 10 seconds. Sometimes it happens when I open the phone, so I canít answer calls. And I canít have that happen. I need a phone that works.
Her: Right. I have a Razr also, and the same thing happens. It sometimes freezes. I think itís because the phone is so small, and itís doing so many things, that sometimes it canít handle it all.
Me: Ok, well, thatís not an excuse. Thatís a reason for the phone not to be on the market. They shouldnít be selling the phone if itís freezing on everyone.
Her: Well, I think people know that it freezes, and they still buy it, so I guess it canít be that big of a deal.
Me: What!? If someone at the Verizon store told me the phone freezes, I wouldnít have bought it. But nobody told me.
Me: And I have this other problem, with the battery. Iíll use the phone and the battery will run down, and then itíll keep warning me itís on low. But if I turn the phone off and on again, the battery suddenly has at least two bars remaining. And Iím saying, why doesnít the battery know how much power it has?
Her: Right, yeah, that happens with my Razr as well. The battery is expended, but if you turn it off and on again, you get more battery.
Me: But that doesnít make sense! Why am I playing Ď20 Questionsí with my battery? Why canít it just be reliable?
Me: So is there anything I can do here? Can I get another phone? Iíll exchange it for a cheaper phone. I just need something that works consistently.
Her: No, you can only return the phone 15 days after buying it. After that, you need to wait 12 or 24 months, depending on your plan, before getting another phone. You already have the latest software, but when new software comes out for the phone, you can download it and maybe that will solve the problem.
Me: How will I know when new software comes out?
Her: You can call us back.
Me: You mean, you canít just notify me when new software comes out?
Me: And when will it come out?
Her: It comes out every few months.
Me: But thereís no specific time.
Her: No. But just call us back every month, and weíll tell you if thereís new software.
Me: Thatís really unhelpful.
Her: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
Me: No, thatís it.
Her: Thank you for choosing Verizon Wireless. Have a nice day.
August 02, 2006
Revenge is a dish best served on wheels
From AP's asap 'money and gadgets' front page, circa this morning
After I bought a new car last summer, I felt ripped off and in need of revenge. I hatched a plot to go screwing with random car salesmen by negotiating for the same car I already bought, recruited a few friends to help me, and then wreaked obnoxious confusion at dealerships across the state. The plan was to turn it into a story, but for reasons that are way too blah blah blah to share here, I didnít actually pull it off until the Associated Press ran it yesterday. What relief.
My friend Rob took the photos of me that ran with the story. That jumpkick looks cool, huh? It took us at least a dozen tries to get right. I had no idea I could even do that. Move over, Chuck Norris. Thereís another ass-kicker in town.
Because the AP could only run two photos from our wonderfully ridiculous photo shoot, Iím including a few of my favorite rejected photos below (some of which were so goofy I didnít even submit them).Continued after jump...