Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Poor Headlines Are Entirely My Fault Now

I've written before about how my editors at Undergrad U. would put ridiculous headlines on my articles. It didn't matter how hard I tried to come up with a good one, they always disregarded it. As a result, I got lazy and started submitting stories entitled "Headline Goes Here." Well, my new editor has used my submitted headline for both articles that have run so far. He cleans it up newspaper-wise (meaning replacing "is" with a colon and "and" with a comma), and he writes the subhead, but all the rest of it is my fault.

Laziness: Just Another Word for Nothing Better to Do - How the Many Uses for Others Can Come in Handy

My wife has no discernible mob ties, but I married her anyway. One characteristic she shares with New Jersey's finest waste management executives, though, is her ability to get other people to do her dirty work. Every mob boss knows not to whack anyone himself (are the kids still saying that these days?); that's why you have deadbeat nephews. Anytime a rival gets rubbed out, you can be miles away with an airtight alibi.

This is my wife's guiding principle whenever she needs to make a phone call, especially to someone she's never met. She just talks about how badly it's needed, and about the consequences of not doing it, until I make the call for her. While I'm on the phone, she's often somewhere else, working on her airtight alibi. I wonder why she needs to maintain plausible deniability about these calls. The next time she asks me to call someone named Tony the Plumber and say, “The cannoli is in the pot,” maybe I should decline.

Not having to do the things you have to do looked like fun to me, and I wanted in on the act, so we had kids. It's extra helpful that my five-year-old son likes to pretend he's a deliver van. I play along by letting him “deliver” things upstairs and downstairs all day. My seven-year-old daughter is wise to that game, but she still thinks it's fun to write a grocery list. Now if only she would go to the grocery store for me, I could take a nap.

I don't just use my kids for my own laziness. I also allow them to get me out of awkward situations. My parents love the idea of me visiting, but an actual visit from me ends in the exchange, “They shouldn't cut my benefits”/“They're not in business for your welfare.” Much better to avoid any unpleasant discussions of the merits of capitalism by sending my kids, who get along famously with my father on account of their notorious socialist leanings. After all, the younger the kid, the bigger the freeloader.

I'm expanding the range of work I will no longer do for myself. Recently I've begun having other people do dangerous things for me, like drive recklessly to school. I just stand around at a bus stop until the driver arrives 20 minutes after the advertised pickup time, then sit back comfortably and read as he motors me to class with a blatant disregard for life and limb. Inadequate following distances, excessive speeds, disobedience of traffic laws: he's the total package. There are times when I look out the window and see the mute terror in the faces of other motorists, but I just turn up my music and relax. After all, why should I worry? In event of accident, I've got a bus full of other passengers to cushion me as I bounce around like a pinball. I might even make a new friend that way.

I wish the university provided other services like this for students. Instead of going home for Christmas to announce you've failed chemistry, why not have the school send a singing telegram instead? Your mother will enjoy a little song and dance on the front step, and if the singer's a looker, your father might enjoy it, too. Surrogate class sleepers would allow you to remain comfortable in your own bed without hurting the professor's feelings. After all, you cared enough to send the very best. If the university won't help you out, you can always follow my lead and have kids. My professors have reported back that they enjoy when I send my kids to sleep in class for me. They say it's better than actually having me there. To that I say, “Tony, the cannoli is in the pot.”

© 2009, Broadside. Reprinted by permission.

We Are Go

I e-mailed my editor today and got approval for reprinting my articles here, so long as I tell you the copyright is owned by Broadside. So here is my first. The first thing you might notice is that I mercilessly troll my own blog for ideas, so some of this will seem repetitive. Does that mean Broadside is violating my copyright?

There's Room on My Enemies List: Understanding a Not-So-Understanding World

I've made a few enemies in my life. I don't keep a Nixonian list of them, but I could probably fill a half-sheet of paper. Most are former schoolmates or coworkers that I rubbed the wrong way. For instance, at one job I had an assignment that required me to work closely with a man I'll call “James” (because that's his name). We traveled together once a month. Every trip we'd reach a moment when I thought, “I wish he'd stop talking,” and every trip that moment came earlier. Eventually I told him as much, and shortly afterwards our relationship became irreparably damaged when I said his favorite college basketball team received too favorable a seeding in the NCAA tournament. Our last interaction was when he brought in root beer and ice cream, sent an e-mail to everyone else inviting them to his desk for floats, and sent an e-mail to me telling me why I wasn't invited. James would definitely be on the half-sheet.

Church enemies are a little more tricky, because most churches advise against being a jerk to people, but that doesn't mean church enemies don't exist; they just turn to subterfuge. I used to have a pithy political bumper sticker on my car, but one Sunday it earned me a hotly-written anonymous note under my windshield wiper, with a follow-up call from a church leader who'd been complained to. The leader told me someone's feelings had been hurt (though he also told me he thought the bumper sticker was pretty funny). I never learned the complainer's name, but I could put a general description of him on the list.

Unfortunately, I've become so adept at making enemies that I have some I don't even know about. When I wrote for my undergraduate school's newspaper, I got irate feedback in online comments from three particular readers. While they had screen names, their identities were unknown. I wondered if they weren't people I knew well, who were kind in person but fired up the old computer and channeled all their pent-up animosity towards my opinion pieces. Even if I'd placed them on my enemies list, if they were particularly skilled at masking their hatred, they could have been on a friends list at the same time. (It's a good thing I don't keep a friends list.)

Lately my wife has been getting in on making anonymous enemies. A distant friend of hers wrote a blog post about her husband's use of a motorcycle, and my wife commented that she had always felt motorcycles were somewhat unsafe. The motorcycling husband has now become my wife's blog heckler, popping up every few weeks to remind her that he hates her. Although she's late to the game, she's already surpassed me in the intensity of the hatred she inspires in her enemies. The student has truly become the master.

As much as I disliked James, at least he had the gumption to become my enemy face-to-face, and my wife's new enemy is someone she at least knows by name. If she were introduced to him at a party, she'd know he was her enemy. Anonymous enemies want the cathartic benefit of hating without the messy social awkwardness of not being friends. Either they should be more forgiving of my shortcomings or they should own up to their ire. If the reason they don't come right out with their hatred is a fear there's no room on my enemies list, they have nothing to worry about: I can always switch to a bigger piece of paper.

© 2009, Broadside. Reprinted by permission.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Surrounded by Judases

It feels like my mission all over again. And for those of you who don't remember what I thought of my mission, I'll remind you here that it was an experience I've spent 10 years trying to forget.

It's hard enough trying to get myself to do the things I'm supposed to. The problem with being a missionary was that I had to struggle against many of the people who were supposed to be on my same side. Companions, investigators, ward members, mission leadership, parents, girlfriend. I could go on, but like I said, I'm trying to forget. Let's just say I've contacted the Better Business Bureau about the blatantly un-true title of the movie "The Best Two Years."

Now I have school work I should be doing, and I have to argue with everyone about why I really need to be doing it. Again, it's hard enough to make myself do the work; I don't need to also struggle with convincing everyone else to let me do it. I might be more upset about this than I should be, but if I am it's only because my mission showed me where crap like this leads. I hated my mission, and I'm beginning to hate school for the same reasons.

PS: I'm aware that, when I write anything that actually matters to me, it causes my readers to avert their eyes in shame. That's why it's a good thing that I don't have any real readers.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Penance

My list of the five worst ideas in the history of the church is coming after me with a vengeance. First I got called to the ward activities committee, and now I had to hear the Martin-Willey Handcart Companies lesson in Sunday School for a second week in a row. With my luck, that means testimony meeting is going back to Tuesday afternoons.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Consequence of Letting a Baby Sleep in a Big-Boy Bed

I finished typing my last blog post and turned around from the computer to find Jerome, who had said to himself, "Why sleep when the big kids are watching 'Cinderella III' downstairs?"

Dateline: Richmond, VA

We came to my sister's for the weekend. Persephone, my mother, and my sister are at the Relief Society broadcast, so my brother-in-law, my father, and I are on kid duty. That means Jerome is sleeping in a regular bed instead of a crib and the other four kids are watching "Cinderella III," even though it's after bedtime.

My first article for my new newspaper appeared this week, but their online abilities are severely limited. I think next week I might ask my editor if I can reprint my articles on my blog. (It turns out I'll get paid sooner than I thought, though no one has said yet how much the pay will be.)

One of my friends in my program told me that, in her opinion, it is the other people who have the social problem. Because she's a woman in a predominantly male program, she's had a lot more awkward social interactions than I have, so I trust her opinion.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Layout

I went to a wider look (obviously). Probably because I wanted my blog to more closely resemble my ass. But whatever my reasons, there are some things I like about it and some I don't.

Specifically, I like that, with wider posts, it makes my posts seem shorter. Now instead of clicking over to my blog and thinking, "Oh, jeez, he's written another anti-government screed that's going to require my scrolling three times just to read it all," you'll click over and say, "Hey, his anti-government screed doesn't look as long as it used to; perhaps I'll humor him with a reading."

I dislike that the only way I could figure out to get my title picture where I wanted was to set the margin as a percentage of the page, so if someone views it with a browser window that's not maximized, or on a computer monitor that's set to portrait (like my monitors at my last job), the picture is going to look lame(r). So I guess be warned and before you click over to my blog, make sure you maximize the hell out of your web browser.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Call Me Ken Jennings's Toilet, Because I'm Full of Worthless Answers

JT asks:

Not only do we as married people have a hard time meeting friends, but the Mo-married people find any heterosexual interaction completely awkward. For example, when we invite other Mo-married couples over, I genuinely want to know about each of them individually. When I ask the wife about her interests, without fail, there is some awkward response and the husband takes over the conversation with me so that my wife can talk to his wife. When I don't let it go and try to talk to them in the hall at church, they kindly shy away from me. Am I crazy or do other Mo-married people have this issue? I feel like a missionary with unspoken rules about being friends with girls.

I completely agree. In Kansas we knew a few couples where I liked the wife a lot better than the husband, but I couldn't really every chat with the wife without it seeming like I was picking up on her. (None of these couples were the JTs, though, so don't worry about that.)

Since no one we know in Virginia reads this, I'll tell you this story. Two weeks ago we needed to get a babysitter and we were going to ask around to see who other people recommended. I was in the hallway next to one woman and so I started asking her. She sort of responded like it was inappropriate for me to talk directly to her. I don't know what the deal is, but I feel much more comfortable around my single, non-member female friends (who could conceivably be trying to bed me, if they were blind and lightly retarded) than I do around married, Mormon female acquaintances (who presumably aren't going to try to get me in the sack). It's just one more factor that makes the active Mormon male the loneliest person on earth.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Don't Want to Talk About It

BYU didn't just lose on Saturday, they decided to recreate the picture at the top of my blog, playing the role of Roberto Duran and allowing Florida State to play the role of Sugar Ray Leonard. I appreciate that they would honor my blog like this, and I would go after them for copyright infringement if I hadn't stolen the picture myself. (I added significant original material, though, and made the picture a separate piece of art, so suck it, copyright lawyers!)

What is wrong with BYU football? I think it's a lack of concentration. This game reminded me a lot of the game at TCU last year, when the Cougars didn't just turn the ball over, but did it at the two worst places: right outside the Horned Frogs' end zone, and right outside their own. I think that comes from getting lazy, from looking beyond the play at hand. The Utah game last year was sort of the same way, with the Cougars turning the ball over needlessly.

And of course, the defense sucked. Jacksonville (Ala.) State, an FCS school, kept the Seminoles out of the end zone for three-and-a-half quarters. BYU couldn't make the Seminoles punt or even attempt a field goal until the fourth quarter. What an implosion. I can't even begin to explain it.

Any loss in this game would have brought on criticism of BYU as "overrated," but losing this way nearly justifies it. I wouldn't be surprised to see an Oklahoma team that wins out playing for the national championship, while a BYU team that wins out will once again be in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Writing for Publication

In high school, I took a class called "Writing for Publication," which was basically a weeding out of potential newspaper staff members. The class taught us how to use the inverted pyramid, how to write the lede of the story, how not to call the "lede" the "lead," and the importance of meeting early deadlines to allow for thorough editing.

At the end of the semester, the better students were invited to join the paper. I spent a semester being a columnist, working the girls' soccer and agriculture class beats (seriously), and then I was the editorial editor for a semester. I enjoyed writing the unsigned "opinion of the paper" editorials because I got to declare my ideas as truth instead of just one man's opinion.

At Undergraduate University, I responded to a notice in the paper asking for opinion columnists. I had to turn in a portfolio and whatnot. I was nervous about whether they would accept me, but they did and I spent three semesters writing weekly opinions and having someone else give them ridiculously inappropriate headlines (like when one article about the prevalence of jackets by The North Face was entitled, "Winter Weather Prompts Winter Wear").

Everything I learned in my high school class was disregarded, as my story deadlines were often just before printing, and my editors' only work was opening the computer file and looking for red underlines. One of the semesters I was tricked into joining the editorial board with the promise of pay that never materialized. Instead of being my first paid writing position, it was listening to the crackpot theories of the other board members without hitting them over the head and fleeing the building. But I enjoyed making anonymous enemies, who would leave hateful comments on the online version of all my articles.

This week while looking through the newspaper of Graduate University, I saw another notice for opinion columnists. I responded, but this time with less anxiety. After all, my portfolio submission this time was a link to my articles on Undergraduate University's newspaper's website.

Last night the opinion editor here e-mailed me back and asked if I could meet with him today, and if I could have a column written by then. I wrote it this morning at 11 and by noon it had been scheduled to run on Monday. Now I'm an opinion columnist again, appearing weekly in Graduate University's newspaper. And unlike those cheap bastards at Undergrad U., once I write four articles, these guys will start paying me.

I hope I can make as many anonymous enemies here as I did before. This could be the start of a wonderful career, but more likely it's just a means of feeling slightly superior to my peers until the end of the semester when I get canned.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Cool Kids

Remember the popular kids in high school? The kids who had people lining up to be their friends because, well, because they already had people in the line, I guess. This model of high school friendship resembles a Soviet breadline, where citizens queue up without knowing why, assuming something good must be waiting at the end of the wait. There were kids who wanted to be friends with these popular people, and there were kids who would never be their friends because it was assumed they were petty and shallow. I always thought I had discovered the Third Way of high school popularity, not mindlessly seeking the friendship of the cool crowd, but also not rejecting it out of hand.

I never really thought of myself as popular in high school. I had a group of people I considered friends, but I wasn't the lynchpin of the group. After we graduated, my then-girlfriend (now-wife) and I went back to the school one afternoon to see some teachers she liked. Walking down the hall, we could hear students calling out from classrooms we passed, "It's A Random Stranger!" That was a little weird, like I was Mark-Paul Gosselaar or something. Four years later I met a girl who'd gone to high school with me, but I didn't remember her. She said she knew me, and that I was one of those "cool kids" to her. She wanted to be friends with me and my friends. I said, "Why? We weren't cool." She said, "I know, but you guys were cool because you didn't care that you weren't cool." (I've never figured out if that was a compliment or an insult.)

Throughout my life, I've had people like that, people who weren't necessarily the most popular, but that I desperately wanted to have as friends. I think part of what made them seem so great to me was how little they wanted to be my friends. Even today I have a former mission companion and a friend's wife that I'd be friends with if they didn't dislike me so much.

Now that I'm in a new school, I can't remember how to make friends. I'm so worried about not saying anything that can be interpreted as arrogant that I'm not saying anything. During math camp everyone started their conversations with, "Are you in the MA or the PhD program?" as a more polite way of asking, "Which of us is smarter?" (Just like how, in Saint Louis, everyone asks, "Where'd you go to [high] school?" as a round-about way of asking, "Which of us is richer?") I decided I could avoid this conversation by not trying to make friends during math camp, and waiting until the programs were divided out. The problem with that, though, is even now that we're in our own cohort, the same, "Which of us is smarter?" question is just asked different ways, like, "Where'd you do your undergrad?" and "Did you do a masters first?"

I hate these, "I've got to put a label on you immediately" type of questions. As a missionary, within the first five minutes of meeting a new companion, he would usually ask, "What type of music did you listen to at home?" We weren't going to listen to music together, he just wanted to know if he should put the "friend" label on me. Thus two guys who couldn't listen to, say, country music together, for some reason would be friends or enemies based on whether they WANTED to listen to country music together.

In my new program, I've made two friends, but one of them is the style of "Christian" that is going to shun me as soon as she realizes I'm Mormon. Meanwhile, about half our cohort has become BFF with each other, working on homework and creating websites together. How did I used to make friends? It seems like I'm either trying to become friends with a guy, which feels a little fruity, or I'm trying to become friends with a girl, which feels a little slimy. I know I used to have guy friends that I would call up and ask if they wanted to hang out, but now when I overhear another guy on the bus doing it, I think, "I wonder if they're gay?"

Right before we left Kansas I became friends with the husband of a woman in my program. He was the type of guy who hung out with his guy friends, and I had to force myself to be okay with calling or e-mailing him and making plans to meet without thinking I was lining up a gay date. Besides, don't we all have more important things to do than hanging out with friends? Maybe somewhere there's a person wishing to be my friend right now because he thinks I'm cool for not caring that I'm not cool, but I certainly don't feel like that's possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And the Rest Writes Itself

Last Saturday night, because I had some time on my hands, I wrote three or four blog posts and scheduled them to appear throughout the week. This week I've checked my blog every once in a while and saw that I had a new post. That was great while it lasted, but now I've exhausted those posts, and if there's ever going to be anything here again, I'm going to have to write it. But since I can't do it very well (and I have nearly 500 posts to back me up on that), I'm resorting to the Larry King format to get me through this one.

I'm in a program full of jackasses. When someone says he hadn't been informed about something, saying, "There was an e-mail" is not a sufficient response. If he'd received the e-mail, he would have been informed.

The Pirates had two blown saves in one game last night. I wish I could say this was the first time this season that it's happened. But if I said that, I'd be a liar.

Every night at 11:30 I crave an ear of corn and a cheeseburger.

I hate when people loudly declare the wrong answer. You should at least know enough to know when you aren't so sure.

Today I was falling asleep on the couch and I thought, "I've got to get up and do something, because my wife is going to come find me and be angry that I'm being so lazy." But when I got upstairs, she was asleep on the bed.

My son's reaction to hearing I'd written a book: "How did you make the cardboard pieces that go at the front and the back?"

So lying to Congress for 90 minutes is proper and dignified, but stating as much is beneath the dignity of Congress? A man was beaten into a coma on the floor of our Congress once; calling a liar a liar is just keeping it real.

My stint as Ward Employment Specialist marks the third time I've been in a ward with an unemployed employment specialist. Do they want people to take my calling seriously or not?

Final score of Saturday's game: Brigham Young 37, Florida State 6.

Bull Run Regional Park is very much like being out in nature, except for the planes on approach to Dulles every 30 seconds.

I've slowly bent our desktop computer to my will, making me a local "computer expert," but I can't get our 3.5-inch floppy drive to work. How will I ever access the world-changing English class assignments I wrote in high school?

I miss living in Kansas, but I don't miss a single thing about the University of Kansas.

My new Virginia driver's license looks like a space-aged forgery.

(This isn't actually me; this is the sample from the state's website.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Making My Decisions for Myself

Who knows better what I want, me or someone else?

That might sound like a pointless question, but it's at the heart of many of today's political questions, including the proposed health care reformation. Under the current system, I am free to carry insurance or not, or if the reason I don't carry insurance is because I "can't afford" it, I can join the existing government insurance program. Given these conditions, when we observe someone elect to not be insured, what can we conclude? This person has decided that he is happiest without insurance.

"Oh, but the thing is, A Random Stranger, most of the uninsured don't want to be!" So why are they? "Because they can't afford it!" What does it mean to say someone "can't afford" something? It means that, at current prices, they'd rather spend their money on something else. As long as flat-panel televisions continue to fly off the Wal-Mart shelves, there is no "health care crisis" in America. When elective spending has been reduced to zero and individuals who want insurance still can't foot the bill, then there's something to have a "national discussion" about. As it now stands, all we're really saying is, "Insurance is desirable, so it's expensive, and some people don't desire it that much."

Another segment of the uninsured is those with crazy-ass diseases that make them uninsurable. They would be the most likely to sign up for expanded government insurance. However, insurance works by making well people pay for the health care of sick people. When only sick people join the program, they gain nothing over the out-of-pocket alternative.

Enter Leviathan, with its ability to make criminals out of rational utility-maximizers. Those who don't have insurance because they've decided not to have it, under a proposal of Sen. Max Baucus, a health care reform proponent, will be fined. My guess is that the goal of the fines is to force these people to join the government program, thus providing some healthy people to pay for the care of the crazy-ass sick.

What no one in this "national discussion" is saying is the obvious: life is a terminal event. As much as we love our family and friends, every single one of them is going to die. When life hands you a crazy disease, it's Darwin's way of saying, "I'm selecting against your genes." We can bankrupt the nation trying to keep terminal patients alive an extra year, month, or week, but in the end, what have we accomplished? We've decimated the quality of life of those footing the bill, for the sick to marginally improve theirs. Instead of couching the debate in terms of "no one should die because they don't have health care" (Where does that happen in America today?), the debate should be on the question, "No one has a right to make my life worse in the belief it would make his life better." If I choose not to have insurance it's because I believe I'm better off that way, and the fact that you might think you're better off if I can't make that choice doesn't matter. That argument boils down to "my life is better when I'm the autocrat," and while this is undeniably true, it has no place in the policy decisions of a supposedly free country.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Packaging Fonts

Now that we've moved, we had to get a new bank and grocery store. Persephone came home with the store brand soy milk, and at first glance I thought it was called Nature's Demise.

In terms of rating the milk itself, it's better than Silk but worse than 8th Continent.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rise and Shout

The Cougars just steamrolled the Green Wave (which sounds pretty gross; I can think of a lot of things that come in green waves, and none of them are appetizing) a week after a solid victory over then-#3 Oklahoma. I planned to write about last week's game after I read the AP article that attributed the victory to three things:

  1. Sam Bradford getting hurt
  2. Bob Stoops coaching poorly
  3. Oklahoma's defense playing soft

It was as if Oklahoma took the field by themselves and lost 14-13 to no one in particular. Before Bradford got injured, the score was 7-7. Bradford was not dominating the BYU defense the way a Heisman Trophy winner would be expected. BYU went to Oklahoma and won. This wasn't a bad-call loss like at Oregon a few years ago. If Bradford got hurt, it was because BYU's defensive line was better than OU's offensive line. If Bob Stoops coached poorly, it was because he was outcoached by Bronco Mendenhall. If OU's defense played soft in the 4th quarter, it was because BYU's offense executed their game plan. OU didn't magically lose a game to no one at all, they lost a game to BYU.

I hate the BCS debate because it starts from the faulty premise that there are six conferences in America that, by virtue of their reputation, field better football teams. The fact is that the Mountain West is on par with the Pac-10, and the WAC is better than the ACC. Instead of a system that freezes the better conferences in place as if they will always remain better, a system is needed which allows all conferences to participate and prove on the field who is better and who is not. Most football fans from the BCS conferences are so divorced from reality that they routinely deny actual football results in favor of conventional wisdom. In this approach, it doesn't matter if BYU won or by how much, "everyone knows" Oklahoma is the better team. If football no longer matters in naming the football national champion, it doesn't really matter what took its place.

Big Fat Cow


I finally got around to making a Big Fat Cow, but by the time I was finished, the recipe was substantially altered.

Firstly, I don't think "Weight Watchers Dream Bars" are a real thing. I had assumed it would be in the novelty ice cream section of my grocer's freezer, but it might actually be a type of cookie. Anyway, I looked in freezers, cookie aisles, and snack aisles of several grocery stores and was unable to find anything.

Secondly, I don't own a gas station travel mug. Instead, I used the giant graduated water mug we got from the hospital when Jerome had his heart surgery.

Thirdly, I don't drink alcohol, so I left out the Bailey's Irish Cream (although I say "hello" to anyone who has come to my blog through a Google search for "Irish recipes").

Fourthly, Persephone has a shredded pork taco recipe that needs regular Coke, so I got a bottle of Coke instead of Diet Coke.

To summarize, my version of a Big Fat Cow is two Skinny Cows in a hospital water mug with Coke on top. After all the anticipation, it would be understandable if it failed to measure up. The Big Fat Cow doesn't just fail to measure up, though. It fails to show up for any measuring at all. I was especially disappointed with the way the carbonation of the Coke eroded the chocolate cookie of the Skinny Cow, leaving me with a mug of chunky, chocolate-flavored Coke that looked exactly like what I would expect to see if someone vomited up a Big Fat Cow, or if I changed the diaper of a baby who'd gotten into a Big Fat Cow.

Maybe I changed the nature of the item so much that it wasn't a Big Fat Cow at all, but something entirely different, and it should have a new name, like a Stroppy Cow. However, I like the phrase "stroppy cow" and don't want to waste it on something so unpalatable. Besides, I suspect Maria Bamford never actually ate a Big Fat Cow, but made up the recipe for comedic effect.

e-Bay style rating: F minus minus, would not eat again.

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Redneck Son

Last Christmas my mother bought John Deere hats for all her grandsons. Articulate Joe loves his, but doesn't wear it too often because he loves his Boston Red Sox hat more. About two weeks ago, Persephone bought a few new tee shirts for Joe while they were on sale, and his favorite of the bunch is a camouflage shirt. Monday night for Family Night we went to the other Target in town for our activity (David O. McKay is rolling over in his grave), and this is the outfit Joe ended up wearing.

Since this is Virginia, he wasn't the only one there dressed like this, and although we kept track of him, imagine if we'd gone to Wal-Mart instead: he would have been lost in a sea of identical five-year-old boys. At least we've managed to keep his love of NASCAR from taking the form of apparel. I think he's going to love living in the South.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Do Ya Double Dare Me?

"It may come as a surprise to learn that plant seeds can resist digestion by your gut and nonetheless germinate out of your feces. But any adventurous readers who are not too squeamish can make the test and prove it for themselves." - Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, p. 116.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"A Chilling Preview of Things to Come"

I've got a lot to talk about here, and the fact that no one is going to read it isn't about to stop me. In the coming days I plan to discuss:

  1. My redneck son.
  2. Maria Bamford's recipe for a Big Fat Cow.
  3. Proposed fines for those without health insurance.
  4. BYU football.
  5. Ted Kennedy's postmortem PR spin.

So if these things entice you, make sure to come back. Otherwise, now you know to stay away for about a week or so.


Title from The Simpsons episode "Last Exit to Springfield."

Friday, September 04, 2009

New Worst Enemy

I've begun meeting people in my program, and one of them is almost daring me to hate him. I wish I could tell you more, but the way the blogging world is connected, I'm nearly certain that, even with my limited readership (Hi, you five!), one of you knows someone who knows this person.

I don't like sharing information with new people. This is why I won't discuss movies out loud while standing at the Red Box (because the people in line behind me are listening and judging my taste in movies) and why I'm constantly telling my wife to talk more quietly in restaurants (because the people at other tables are eavesdropping). Last week I didn't want to talk to anyone at math camp because the entire dialectic was "Are you an MA or PhD student?" which was another way of asking, "Am I smarter than you?" since only PhD students were doing the asking. I decided I wouldn't have that discussion with anyone and I'd just wait for classes to start, when the MA and PhD students would be separated.

Well, classes have started now, and I still don't want to talk to anyone, because now that we all know the rest of us are PhD students, the same "Am I smarter than you?" question is being asked in different ways. Some of these ways include, "Where did you do your undergrad?," "Have you done a masters?," and "What field is your degree in?" I don't want to have any of those conversations with anyone, either. Not because I'm embarrassed of the answers; my undergrad school and major are respectable enough, and in the strange calculus of graduate school, being in a PhD program withOUT having a masters is more impressive. I just don't want to be (or appear to be) the type of guy who is constantly worried about my social status. I mean, what are we, hyenas? I don't need to know who the next highest and lowest males in my pack are.

As I've been meeting these people and thinking this way, I realized how amazing it is that I have friends. I don't meet people well. I don't like sharing information with new people, and since that's basically what "meeting people" is, that means I come across as aloof and unfriendly. I don't understand how I go into new situations thinking this way and come out with friends, but I usually do.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Pittsburgh Pirates - World Series Champions

Last week the Pirates won five in a row and I was beginning to think they were going to make a run at a winning season. I imagined them going into the final series at Cincinnati with a chance of winning their 81st game, and I wondered how I would break the news to my wife that I was going to Ohio to cheer them on.

Well, lucky for my wife's patience, they've since lost seven in a row and are now virtually guaranteed to set the record for most consecutive losing seasons by a North American sports franchise. It's a record the fans would rather not have, but one which management seems to have been shooting for since late May.

I've come to realize that the only way I'm going to see the Pirates win the World Series is to make it happen myself, by playing baseball computer games. Well, good news, Pirates fans! When I played Triple Play 97, the Pirates were world champs!

In the divisional series we faced the Saint Louis Cardinals. The Bucs swept, 3-0, with the pitchers completely blanking the Cardinals. The three games had scores of 1-0, 3-0, and 2-0.

In the league championship series, the Pirates gave up the first runs against them in the playoffs, but still managed to win the opener, 8-3 over the San Francisco Giants. The second game went to the Bucs, 6-3, and they then followed that up with an 11-0 drubbing. It looked as if the Pirates were going to sweep the first two rounds on their way to the World Series. However, in a closely-fought fourth game, the Giants won 6-5. Game Five was also a tight contest, going into extra innings tied at 1. In the 14th inning, though, the Pirates scored the winning run, earning their first National League championship since 1979.

The World Series promised to be a hard-fought duel with the New York Yankees. This expectation was not met, as the Pirates swept the series by the scores of 11-0, 7-3, 13-1, and 12-0.

Searching for an MVP on the roster is nearly impossible. Final playoff batting stats were as follows:

  • Kendall (C) .440
  • Bell (RF) .423
  • Giles (CF) .508
  • Young (1B) .396
  • VanderWal (LF) .416
  • Morris (2B) .428
  • Meares (SS) .392
  • Ramirez (3B) .288

This proves what every Pirates fan knows: Aramis Ramirez played half-assed when in a Pirates uniform. His batting average was over 100 points below the next-lowest player.

Pitching was lights-out. The five-man rotation ended with these stats:

  • Benson (0.33 ERA) 3-0
  • Anderson (0.39 ERA) 2-0
  • Ritchie (1.50 ERA) 2-0
  • Cordova (2.08 ERA) 2-1
  • Schmidt (3.00 ERA) 2-0

Now, before you say to yourself, "This man lives a sad life," you should get all the facts. The truth is, I played this series in September, 2005, when I had moved to Kansas and my family hadn't joined me yet. The performance was so dominant that I wrote down the results, deciding to keep them as a token of Pirate success until the real Pirates come close to being as good at baseball as I am at computer baseball. Four years later, now that we've moved to Virginia and I'm going through papers, I've found the note I made with these statistics. To distract myself from the real-life Pirates' horrible performance this past week, I decided to relive the glorious World Series success of 2005, fairly confident that nothing like it will ever happen anywhere outside of Triple Play 97.