April 30, 2004

Tales from the Classroom: Reading Day

It's Reading Day today -- the day off between the end of classes and the beginning of final exams -- and about an hour ago, I passed a student (not my own) who was casually strolling across campus and smoking a blunt, the unmistakable scent of marijuana lingering behind him.

I can only assume that he had finished all his required readings.

Posted by Jess at 02:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 29, 2004


Yet again, I get the feeling that I'm at least a month behind the rest of the blogosphere here, but I stumbled across this blog earlier today. It's written by someone claiming to be a well-known Hollywood actor, and the people who speculate about these things are speculating that the author could be Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, or even George Clooney.

Sure, "Rance" is almost certainly a hoax (what fun would the blogosphere be without the occasional hoax and/or accusation thereof?), but it's an interesting read nevertheless.

Posted by Jess at 10:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Tales from the Classroom: The envelope, please

And the award for Worst Argument in Favor of Having an Exam Grade Changed in an Introductory Political Science Course goes to...

"I knew the right answer was A and I meant to circle it, but I accidentally circled D instead. Can I get credit for that?"

Let's have a big round of applause, ladies and gentlemen!

Posted by Jess at 07:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 28, 2004

What a lovely black helicopter!

From Yahoo News:

Blog-Tracking May Gain Ground Among U.S. Intelligence Officials
By Doug Tsuruoka

People in black trench coats might soon be chasing blogs.

Blogs, short for Web logs, are personal online journals. Individuals post them on Web sites to report or comment on news especially, but also on their personal lives or most any subject.

Some blogs are whimsical and deal with "soft" subjects. Others, though, are cutting edge in delivering information and opinion.

As a result, some analysts say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials might be starting to track blogs for important bits of information. This interest is a sign of how far Web media such as blogs have come in reshaping the data-collection habits of intelligence professionals and others, even with the knowledge that the accuracy of what's reported in some blogs is questionable.


While blog postings are voluntary and available to anyone to read, some observers say blog monitoring by governments or the media raises civil liberties and privacy issues. One such critic is James Love, director of the Ralph Nader-affiliated Consumer Project on Technology.

"When you're conducting surveillance where you have no expectation of illegal activity, there has to be some threshold to justify such surveillance," Love said.

(read the rest of the article...)

On an unrelated note, Apropos of Something and its webmaster -- Rusty Shackleford of Ogden, Iowa -- would like to reaffirm their support for any and all U.S. policies...past, present, and future.

Posted by Jess at 10:45 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Report to the bridge, Ensign Crusher

Upon tuning in to TechTV's Call for Help the other day and discovering that Wil Wheaton was guest-hosting, I was tempted to call and say something along the lines of, "You've got to help me! I'm trapped on the holodeck, the safety protocols are disabled, and a holographic Professor Moriarty is trying to take over the ship! What should I do? You're our only hope, Wesley!"

How's that for a call for help?

Posted by Jess at 07:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 27, 2004

Do you Yahoo?

So, have you seen the new split-screen Yahoo commercial featuring Al Franken and Ben Stein discussing how Democrats and Republicans use the search engine differently? Here's a transcript:

Ben Stein: Democrats use Yahoo search for hugging trees, protecting little itty-bitty insects...

Al Franken: Republicans will check Yahoo news for the latest on, uh...large boats.

Stein: Republicans use Yahoo to find friends...

Franken: Yachts.

Stein: To do charitable work...

Franken: Yachts.

Stein: To do volunteer work to bring this country together, to make it a better, more loving country.

Franken: A lot of them get their trophy wives on Yahoo.

Voiceover: Politics engine, commentary engine, life engine -- Yahoo!

Pretty funny stuff. You can view the commercial online here.

Posted by Jess at 09:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 26, 2004


I used to think that my tendency toward feelings of stress and anxiety while grocery shopping at Wal-Mart suggested an emerging case of agoraphobia, but upon further reflection, I've decided that I'm just an antisocial jerk.

Posted by Jess at 03:57 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 25, 2004

Yoke for a roguish cow

An antiquity spotted while visiting a museum/gift shop at Cade's Cove this weekend:

Yoke for a roguish cow.

When I hear the word "roguish," names like Rhett Butler and Han Solo typically spring to mind. As it stands, I can't say that I've ever encountered any livestock that I would describe as pleasantly mischievous. Then again, I haven't spend much time around livestock.

Posted by Jess at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 23, 2004

Parking ticket update

So, I finally asked to speak to enough people's supervisors at campus parking services to find someone who acquiesced that something about the whole parking ticket situation seemed at least slightly unfair (see here and below for more details). She eventually agreed to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to run the license plates and figure out who actually owns the mysterious blue Honda -- assuming, as I have claimed, that it's not me. The process, however, will apparently take three to four weeks to complete. I can only assume they're using carrier pigeons to transmit the information back and forth.

In the meantime, the parking services representative suggested that I pay the fine now in order to clear the flags on my account and allow me to register for classes. Then, if they ultimately decide to reconsider my original appeal and overturn the ticket, they can reimburse me the forty bucks. Yeah...right. I'll get right on that.

Posted by Jess at 04:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Campus justice

Some of you might recall my run-in with campus parking services from earlier this semester. To make a long story short, I received a $40 campus parking ticket in the mail several weeks ago. Since I didn't remember actually parking illegally at any point, I contacted parking services for more information on the violation. They informed me that a car I didn't own, registered in a state in which I don't have a license, was cited for being "out of zone" in a parking lot in which I had never parked. I suggested there must be a database error or a problem with duplicate parking sticker barcodes, and they assured me that neither was possible. Therefore, they claimed that I had either lent out my parking sticker to someone who had parked illegally or it had been stolen (and returned to the windshield of my car, I suppose, with no trace of the crime). Needless to say, I filed a written appeal; you can read all the details in the original entry.

Anyway, I received the results of my appeal via e-mail this morning, which I have reproduced below (emphasis is mine):

The appeals committee has reviewed your appeal of the below listed citation. Student Appeals has determined that a violation has occurred and that it was avoidable; therefore, your appeal has been denied. As the committee is an independent body solely charged with the task of reviewing appeals, this decision is final.

As a student of this university, it is your responsibility to know where you can and cannot park. In the future, please be aware in which lot you are parking and utilize alternative transportation (buses, carpooling, walking) when needed.

You are responsible for the citation and associated fine. If this citation has already been paid, no further action is needed on your part. However, if the citation has not been paid, it is now due and payable. If you have not already received a bill for this citation, you should during the next billing cycle. If the citation is not paid within 10 days of the invoice date, your academic records will be flagged and you will be unable to register for classes until all debts are paid. Vehicles with three or more outstanding citations are eligible for immobilization or towing.

Apparently, the fact that I don't own -- nor have I ever owned -- the car ticketed for the violation wasn't enough hard evidence to get me off the hook. You have to love the part toward the end, too, where they remind me that my academic records will be flagged and I won't be able to register for classes until I pay up. Now I know how the A-Team felt -- unjustly fined for a crime I didn't commit.

I'm going to cool down for an hour or so, call back parking services, and ask to speak to someone who isn't insane. Tactics like presenting rational arguments, offering empirical evidence, and asking to speak to supervisors haven't served me particularly well up to this point. It could be time to implement Plan B: irate yelling.

Hey -- forty bucks is nothing to sneeze at when you're a graduate student.

Posted by Jess at 11:36 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 22, 2004

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

Teedz just clued me in to this eBay auction: a recreation of the time-traveling DeLorean from the Back to the Future films. A couple of photos -- including the all-important Flux Capacitor that makes time travel possible (larger images can be seen on the auction page):

Are you telling me you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean? Flux-capacitor... fluxing...

If you plan to bid, be sure to confirm with your car insurance company whether your policy covers damage resulting from temporal paradoxes.

Posted by Jess at 05:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 21, 2004

Dining in the Classic City, Part III

A disclaimer seen on a restaurant menu earlier today: "If you smell like patchouli or smoke clove cigarettes, we reserve the right to kick your ass out of here."

Posted by Jess at 06:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The art of the prank

Slashdot has linked to a site featuring photos of a couple of great workplace pranks today: an office covered in 2,500 Post-It Notes and another filled with 650 balloons. In case the site gets Slashdotted, here are a couple of shots of the pranks:

Can I borrow a Post-It? Happy birthday!

You can find more photos, as well as details on how the pranks were executed, at the links above.

I've never actually had the chance to work in a prank-friendly environment. I was, however, both the victim and perpetrator of several dorm pranks back in my undergraduate days. Without a doubt, the worst prank my suitemates and I ever suffered came when our sister hall decided it would be funny to take the gutted fetal pigs they had dissected in Biology 101 and deposit them in our rooms -- hanging from the ceiling, tucked away in our beds, stashed in the refrigerator, and so forth. For some reason I never quite understood, they also put lipstick on some of the pigs. Oh, and they threw glitter all over our clothes, too. Personally, I found the whole pig thing far more disturbing than funny -- you know, in a ritualistic slaying kind of way. Plus, the formaldehyde permanently stained one of my favorite t-shirts.

Needless to say, my suitemates and I were more than a little angry and itching to retaliate (although that could have just been the glitter). Someone suggested sneaking into their dorm and spiking their laundry detergent with bleach. That seemed unnecessarily cruel, though -- not to mention a bit too costly for them to replace their wardrobes. The next proposal called for waiting until the night before spring break, sneaking out to the parking lot under veil of night, removing one tire from the cars of each resident of our sister hall, hiding them, leaving behind clues on where they might find them, and thus delaying their departures for spring break by a few hours. That option, however, sounded a bit too much like actual work.

Eventually, we decided that the answer was to fight grottiness with grottiness. So, we went out and bought several bags of manure-based fertilizer, a few containers of earthworms, and some crickets. Then, we slipped into their dorm rooms (with the help of an evil resident assistant), spread the fertilizer about liberally, set the worms free in it, and lifted the ceiling tiles to release the crickets where they could chirp along happily until eventually discovered. Sure, the prank lacked panache, but like I said, we were angry -- not to mention the fact that we were a bunch of dumb college students.

And I still think they got off light for the whole pig thing.

Posted by Jess at 11:00 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 20, 2004

Knee deep in the hoopla

Mac recently made note of Blender's list of the 50 Worst Artists in Music History. Now, it seems that the magazine has published a list of the worst songs ever. Coming out on top (or is that bottom?) is Starship's "We Built This City." I really can't argue with those findings, although I probably would have gone with "Hotel California" instead. Man, I hate that song.

Other "favorites" on Blender's list include "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus (#2), "Party All the Time" by Eddie Murphy (#8), as well as some controversial picks like the Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and Simon and Garfunkle's "Sound of Silence."

Posted by Jess at 11:51 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 19, 2004

Taking the blog linkfest to a whole 'nuther level

Kelley of Suburban Blight has rounded up roughly umpty-gazillion links in her latest Cul-de-Sac and was kind enough to include my recent entry complaining about the replacement of low-fat, low-calorie foods with low-carb alternatives at grocery stores around the country. Meanwhile, check out the rest of the Cul-de-Sac; it serves up enough fresh reading material to keep you busy for at least the next few days.

Posted by Jess at 10:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Mmm...that's good irony!

D'oh! I submitted this post to Slashdot discussing accuracy in online reporting and linking to the New York Times' recent article -- "First With the Scoop, If Not the Truth" -- on inside-the-beltway gossip columnist Wonkette and, in the process, misattributed a quote from the article to Wonkette's editor Ana Marie Cox that should have gone to her publisher, Nick Denton, instead. Needless to say, that's more than a little embarrassing.

I've e-mailed one of Slashdot's editors and asked him to correct my stupid -- albeit deliciously ironic -- mistake. In the meantime, my apologies to both Wonkette and Mr. Denton.

EDIT: It looks like the crack Slashdot team fixed it.

Posted by Jess at 04:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dynamic Duo

In the immortal words of Chief Wiggum, "Can't you people take the law into your own hands? I mean, we can't be 'policing' the entire city."

Batman and Robin fighting crime -- in Whitley

Two mystery men dressed as Batman and Robin have been fighting crime and saving damsels in distress in a small English town.

The pair have been spotted springing into action a number of times in recent weeks on the streets of Whitley, near Reading. The Reading Evening Post asked readers for news of the duo after they dealt with a pair of streakers at a local football cup final.

And the newspaper was besieged with calls from residents who claimed to have seen the 'superheroes' in action.

Michelle Kirby was stranded when her Peugeot 206 ran out of petrol on Easter Sunday - until Batman and Robin appeared out of nowhere and pushed her car to the nearest petrol station. She said: "They just appeared. I saw them running down the road in Batman and Robin outfits -- I was laughing so much."

"It was like a scene out of Only Fools and Horses and they stayed in character the whole time. They said, 'I'm Batman, I'm Robin' and I said, 'No, you're not' and asked them if they were going to a fancy dress party but they said they were going back to Gotham City."

Ray Cox, 61, spotted the caped crusaders at about 11.30am after doing his morning shopping.

"I said to my wife, it would make it a better and safer place with these men," he said. "Batman was quite a broad chap. They would scare a few muggers off and I'd feel safer in Whitley."

Oh, sure -- these guys fight crime for a few weeks dressed as Batman and Robin and they make the papers. Meanwhile, I've been running around town dressed as Wonder Woman for the past six months, and what do I get for my trouble? Uncomfortable stares and the occasional request to "stop twirling that lasso and put on some clothes."

Posted by Jess at 07:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 18, 2004

Evil Doug for President!

It was only a matter of time, but Evil Doug has finally thrown his hat into the ring and officially announced his bid for the presidency.

Second, I must point out my plan for economic growth. This will be accomplished by replacing everyone with a more efficient robot replacement. Now now, before you get all scared, this will take many years...so you yourself won't be killed off and replaced with a robot...probably your grandchildren, but not you. This will provide you with the grim satisfaction of knowing that the grandkids won't have a higher standard of living than you do...dang whippersnappers.

His stance on robot workforce replacement alone is more than enough to get my vote. If you still aren't convinced, however, you can read more about his bold plan for America's future here. Evil Doug for President: "If You Were Running for President, He'd Vote for You."

Posted by Jess at 09:38 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 17, 2004

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

Andy brought to my attention these photos of the Batmobile from the upcoming Bat-flick, Batman Begins:

It's just not Batman unless Prince is doing the soundtrack.

Or Batman busts out the Bat-Credit Card.

Oooookay. I think Andy described it best as a cross between a Lamborghini and a Hummer. For simplicity's sake, I think I'll call it the Bat-Humborghini.

Speaking of which, have you ever wondered where Bruce Wayne finds suppliers and manufacturers for all his cool bat-equipment? It seems like his eccentric orders might raise an eyebrow or two around the company water cooler. "Hey, Bob -- have you ever noticed that we seem to ship an awful lot of black fiberglass shaped like stylized bats and bat wings to Wayne Enterprises? I wonder what that's all about."

Posted by Jess at 09:21 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 16, 2004

Tales from the Classroom: Academic Freedom

Students for Academic Freedom placed an advertisement in the campus newspaper yesterday that included the following text:

If you are not taking a course whose subject is the war in Iraq, your professor should not be making statements about the war in class. Or about George Bush, if the class is not on contemporary American presidents, presidential administrations or some similar subject.

Yikes -- I hope an introductory American politics class falls under the classification of "some similar subject." After all, I had kinda planned to make mention of Iraq (and maybe even President Bush) at some point when we started our unit on foreign policy next week.

For extra added fun, check out Students for Academic Freedom's tips on how to research your professors' voter registration records and report them back to SAF.

Posted by Jess at 11:06 AM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

A low-fat guy in a low-carb world

I realize that in this age of low-carb, Atkins-friendly dining, watching one's fat grams and caloric intake is basically the dietary equivalent of splitting one's skull open and releasing the evil spirits therein to cure a headache. I also recognize that grocery stores only have so much space on their shelves to devote to diet foods, and that they ultimately must stock what sells. Still, do they have to replace every low-fat and low-calorie product with low-carb alternatives?

I'm convinced the only reason I can still buy Diet Coke is that Coca-Cola already test-marketed Low-Carb Coke and discovered that consumers assumed "low-carb" meant "flat," resulting in poor sales performance. (EDIT: I should have known.)

Why, Lord? Why? All I want os a low-fat granola bar! Is that too much to ask?

Posted by Jess at 07:43 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

April 15, 2004

Can't get enough reality television

Mark me down as a fan of meta-reality television -- i.e. shows that not only skewer the conventions of the reality television genre, but also give the media whores desperate enough for their fifteen minutes of "fame" that they would appear on reality television in the first place their just desserts. That's why it warms the cockles of my heart to read about the WB's upcoming Superstar USA and the second season of Spike TV's Joe Schmo.

As the name suggests, Superstar USA is a take-off on the never-ending talent show that is American Idol. The twist? Superstar USA's panel of three judges (including such music industry luminaries as Tone-Loc and Vitamin C) "mock the vocally gifted while Paula Abduling* the truly tune-challenged." Of course, the contestants aren't in on the joke. Eventually, the "winner" -- that is, the very worst of the worst -- brings home the title of Superstar USA, as well as a $100,000 grand prize in exchange for being made a laughingstock on national television over the course of several weeks. Sounds fair enough to me.

Meanwhile, Joe Schmo 2 will spoof romance/relationship shows like The Bachelor and Average Joe, introducing an unsuspecting Jane and Joe Schmo into the faux reality show-within-a-show, "Last Chance for Love." Much like the first Joe Schmo, all the other "Last Chance" contestants are actors following a script full of shocking plot twists and everything else we've come to expect from the genre. Kevin Kay, Spike TV's Executive Vice President of Programming and Production, has the following to say in the network's press release: "We know that guys despise reality relationship shows, so what better genre to mess with on behalf of guys everywhere." Again, that sounds fair enough to me.

Personally, I just hope that they figure out a way for the first season's Pimped-Out Immunity Robe to make a return appearance in Joe Schmo 2.

*For those keeping score at home, I guess "Paula Abduling" is now a verb.

Posted by Jess at 04:37 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 14, 2004

Performance evaluation

I have a performance evaluation coming up at the end of this semester. If anyone asks me if I can recall any mistakes that I've made on the job over the course of the past three years, I think I'll reply, "No." Then, if they call my attention to a specific decision that could possibly be construed as a mistake and ask me if I would stand by that decision even if it ended up costing me my job next semester, I think I'll respond, "Well, I don't plan to lose my job next semester."

Seriously, though, I didn't feel like President Bush accomplished what he needed to do in last night's press conference -- that is, he didn't exactly reach out to those Americans who have doubts about the war in Iraq and reassure them that the administration is doing the right thing. There are certain ways to communicate a "stay the course" message without further alienating opponents of the war and other critics of the administration, but Bush by and large failed to hit upon them. Instead, it seemed more like he was preaching to the choir. Obviously, the President can't go on national television and start saying things like, "Yeah, we might have messed up. Our bad." That would be political suicide. Nor can he completely dilute his message to improve his standing in the polls. By that same token, however, he could have perhaps attempted to present his case in a manner more consistent with the "uniter, not a divider" message on which he campaigned in 2000. As it stands, I would find it hard to believe that last night's press conference won over anyone who wasn't already a Bush supporter.

I don't think it's fair to ask President Bush to accept responsibility for 9/11. On the other hand, with regards to questionable intelligence and/or motives vis--vis the war in Iraq, it seems like there should come a point at which the President adopts Truman's "the buck stops here" attitude and argues his case from there.

Posted by Jess at 10:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

April 13, 2004

The Squirrel is Mine

Somehow, this photo helps put Bob Dylan appearing in Victoria's Secret ads into perspective.

It's me best mate -- an anthropomorphic squirrel.

First spotted at VH1's Best Week Ever Blog.

Posted by Jess at 03:58 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 12, 2004

Coming in 2006: The Southeast Asian Prom

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Equal but separate in Lyons
By Dan Chapman (April 10, 2004)

Hispanic, black and white students at Toombs County High School all will hold their own proms.

LYONS -- The black kids at Toombs County High School will hold their prom at the National Guard armory next weekend. And the white kids will dance, laugh, reminisce and cry in the same building on May 7.

Toombs County High School junior Yuri Flores and Hispanic classmates will hold their own prom this year at the Silverado in Lyons.

But what about the Hispanic kids? Which party will the children of the Mexican migrant workers attend?

Neither. They'll hold their own prom.

In what might be a first for Georgia, students from one high school will attend three separate proms. Toombs County's dubious distinction demonstrates the evolving arithmetic of race in America, where white plus black plus brown doesn't add up to "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

It wasn't supposed to be this way when Yuri Flores bought a $50 ticket to the white prom in February. She returned later that day with a white girlfriend, Jennifer Hart, who also wanted to buy a ticket. Hart says the White Prom Committee girl wanted to know if her date was white, black or Hispanic. Mexican, was the answer.

"She told me that it was a white prom not a Mexican prom, not a black prom," Hart says. "It made me feel mad. That's not right. I wanted to put my fist in her face."

Flores, too, was stunned. Hurt. Mad. And, within minutes, determined. The Hispanic/Latino Prom Committee was formed that February afternoon. The Silverado nightclub, on U.S. 1 north of Lyons, will resound May 8 with cumbia, rap, pop and reggae as Latino high school kids in Toombs County and from across east-central Georgia go to the prom.

"This is the land of freedom. It's supposed to be the land of dreams," says Anna Rosa Perez, a Toombs High junior with braces and aspirations for a career in Hollywood. "But it's not equal. We just don't want to be left out. [Our prom] will show other people if you try to achieve something, you can do good and you can do what they can do."

(read the rest of the article...)

A quote from a white student later in the article: "I don't have any problems with them. We don't really care as long as everybody gets to go to a prom. I don't think we should make a big deal out of it. Some of them probably wanted it like that."


Posted by Jess at 09:51 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

The system is down

The new workspace (a/k/a Apropos of Something Central) -- complete with Ralph Wiggum on the Simpsons daily calendar and Go Fish on the monitor:


Now, the story behind the new workspace. Simply put, we dodged a bullet here at Casa de Jess yesterday afternoon. My previous computer desk -- an uncomely MDF monolith with an integrated printer stand, monitor platform, shelving unit, CD rack, tire-mounting center, and more -- completely collapsed while my wife and I were moving it back against the wall after painting our living room/computer room. Apparently, Tab A somehow slipped out of Slot H, countervailing forces took effect, and the entire thing just started breaking apart. Wood was splintering (well, simulated wood), dowel rods were snapping, screws were shooting across the room, and chaos reigned. Fortunately, we were able to rescue the monitor just before the breakdown proceeded to the molecular level and the entire desk dissipated into a cloud of atoms and wafted out the door.

Now that's what I call a computer crash.


I'm so sorry.

Posted by Jess at 04:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 10, 2004

The Bridges of Madison (and Oglethorpe) County (Georgia)

You know, springtime in Georgia almost makes it worth suffering through the unbearably hot summers and bleak winters. Almost. Anyway, here are some shots that my wife and I took while visiting Watson Mill Bridge and Howard's Bridge this afternoon. Click the thumbnails for a larger view.

bridge1s.jpg muds.jpg
canoes.jpg waters.jpg

While we were out and about, Kourtney and I began to wonder why covered bridges were built in the first place. Surely the builders wouldn't have gone to all the trouble and expense of covering a bridge unless it served some purpose beyond attracting tourists a century down the road, right? Our best guess was that they were built to protect the bridge from the elements, but that doesn't seem like too serious of a concern here in Georgia. Fortunately, this page sheds a bit more light on the subject.

Posted by Jess at 09:44 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 09, 2004

Blog It Forward

It's time for the latest round of Blog It Forward, and Lachlan over at My So-Called Blog (an all-around excellent blog in its own right) has been far too kind in chosing this site as one of her picks. Thanks for the kind words!

Now, it's only fair for me to pass along the linky love, so allow me to choose a few favorites from my own blogroll upon which to heap praise. I'll start out with a blog near and dear to my heart: Evil Doug's Existential Journal. I've known Evil Doug since we were undergraduates together back in the proverbial Day, and as I've said before, he is easily one of the funniest people that I've ever met. We're talking literally laugh-out-loud funny here. Needless to say, I was thrilled to find out a few months ago that Evil Doug had launched an online journal full of his trademark absurdist humor. Check out this entry from just a few days ago to get an idea of what I'm talking about.

Next up is Wendy Darling's Magic Short Bus. Wendy's posts never fail to amuse -- take, for instance, this recent entry about a sandwich with its very own business card. Classic. Plus, Wendy is a stop-motion animator. How many people do you know who can make that claim? Honestly, that is -- we all know how many people are running around these days pretending to be stop-motion animators.

Finally, I wanted to mention Chew's News -- a site that I only recently discovered, but that I have quickly come to rely upon for my daily dose of odd news, interesting links, and more. Better still, the site is usually updated before 7:00AM, making it the perfect blog to read while eating a bowl of cereal before work in the morning. Plus, Chewie's a student at my alma mater, too, so that certainly never hurts.

Naturally, mad props and big ups go out to everyone on my blogroll; you guys and gals produce more quality reading before breakfast than most blogrolls do all day. I just thought I'd pick a few from the list and join in on the Blog it Forward fun.

Posted by Jess at 04:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Dear Beantown

To the people of Boston:

Although most of you do not know me, and I have never actually visited your fair city, I nevertheless feel that I owe you a sincere apology. In recent weeks, I admit to having made a number of insensitive statements (primarily directed at my television) about Bostonians, including calling them "meatheads," mocking their accents, and perhaps even describing them on a few occasions as "wicked retahded." Such behavior was wrong, and I apologize. In my defense, however, I should point out that this hostility results entirely from the varying degrees of frustration, anger, and disgust I have registered while watching the current crop of Bostonians populating reality television -- e.g. CT and David from The Real Word/Road Rules Inferno, Randy from The Real World: San Diego, and most of all, Boston Rob from Survivor All-Stars. I realize that these despicable wastes of space are not actually indicative of the citizens of Boston as a whole, and it is unfair for me to direct my utter distaste for every fiber of their collective being toward all Bostonians simply because these losers all happen to hail from the same town.

That being said, I have absolutely nothing against Boston or the vast majority of its residents. For instance, I have nothing but respect for the city's role in the American Revolution. Great work on the Boston Tea Party, guys, and my sincere condolences on the Boston Massacre. Your city truly is the Cradle of Liberty! Furthermore, I appreciate the efforts of your Red Sox and hope that they will finally best the New York Yankees this season. I should also note that I have seen nearly every episode of Cheers, and I particularly enjoyed those in which Kevin McHale guest-starred. Finally, while I have never actually bought one of their albums, I have often enjoyed Aerosmith's songs on the radio, and I respect their work -- at least up until Nine Lives. But, I digress. Someday, I would like to visit your city to see its many historical sites, explore the campuses of some of the finest universities in the world, and sample its signature baked beans. Perhaps we could arrange a time when the aforementioned CT, David, Randy, and Rob will be out of town for college speaking engagements or the like.

In the meantime, I hope that you will accept my most heartfelt apology. By that same token, however, I also hope that you will seriously consider placing tighter restrictions regarding whom you allow to represent your city on reality television programs in the future. Let's not allow the backstabbing of Survivor Rob, the around-the-clock drunkeness of Real World Randy, and the general idiocy of The Inferno's CT and David become synoymous with the city of Boston. You're better than that. Thanks for your time, and best wishes.



Posted by Jess at 11:09 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Two random links

Just a couple of random links to start off the day:

First up is the aptly-named Subservient Chicken (link via Electric Bugaloo). It's about time that we finally harnessed the power of the Internet for something worthwhile. Command the Subservient Chicken to do the Robot! The Macarena! Take a nap! Your wish is the Chicken's command. It's INTERACTIVE!

Next is Jay-Zeezer: The Black and Blue Album. Somehow, I get the feeling that I'm weeks behind the rest of the Internet in discovering this one, but the Black and Blue Album is a remix of Jay-Z's Black Album that combines Jay's vocals with the musical backing of Weezer's Blue Album (in the spirit, of course, of Danger Mouse's Grey Album). It's still a work in progress, and some of the tracks are a bit rough around the edges (unlike Danger Mouse, the creator of the Black and Blue Album isn't a DJ), but I have to admit that "Dirt Off Your Shoulder/Surf Wax America" kinda rocks.

Posted by Jess at 08:22 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 07, 2004

"Welcome to my grad lounge," said the spider to the fly.

I received this e-mail message from my department today:

We have recently learned that this week is "Graduate Student Appreciation Week." The Graduate Office would like to express appreciation for each of you. Please stop by the Graduate Lounge on Thursday, April 8, 3:00 - 5:00 for a special "treat."

Why do the quotation marks around the word "treat" fill me with an odd sense of forboding -- as if I'm being led into a trap or similar skullduggery?

Posted by Jess at 06:14 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 06, 2004

Maybe I should try this with my classes...

What happens when an English teacher in Japan prints out a bunch of Penny Arcade comic strips, blanks out all the speech bubbles, and asks his students to fill them in with their own dialogue? Well, something like this (click to embiggen):


More "remixed" PA strips are achived here. Oh, and if you play video games and don't already read Penny Arcade, I beseech you to either stop playing said video games or start reading Penny Arcade. Personally, I'd recommend the latter.

Posted by Jess at 02:45 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 05, 2004

She's real, you know

Mac links to the news this morning that Jennifer Lopez will be the guest of honor in an upcoming episode of Inside the Actors Studio with host James Lipton. I couldn't resist cross-posting my comment:

"Miss Lopez...you redefined the craft -- nay, art! -- of sketch comedy dancing with your resplendent work as a 'Fly Girl' on what may very well have been the defining comedic achievement of the last century...a show known as In Living Color. 'You can do what you want to do...' went the theme song to that magnificent show. Well, Miss Lopez -- J.Lo, if I may -- America did what it wanted to do. And. It. Watched. Falling in love along the way with a certain young dancer who would go on not only to revolutionize her chosen profession of dance, but also the fine arts of acting and creating marginally listenable pop music, as well. Miss Lopez, it is an honor to have you here today."

"So, tell us about your work in Anaconda."

Posted by Jess at 10:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Livin' larger than P. Diddy

Bathing in bottled water (see the previous entry) isn't nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Especially when you're not doing it by choice...

and you're doing it in the bathroom sink...

and the bottled water is ice cold...

and it's not so much bottled water as jugged water from Wal-Mart.

Posted by Jess at 08:22 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 04, 2004

Stinkville, USA

It's an exciting day here at Casa de Jess. Our next-door neighbor had a party last night, and one of the guests broke the water main while driving through her yard to park -- flooding the street and leaving both our houses without running water in the process. It looks like nobody can get out to repair the break until tomorrow morning at the earliest. So, until then, we're living with no water. Oh, irony of ironies -- if only there were some way for me to put my years of scholarly research on water scarcity to work!

I honestly can't remember the last time I went an entire day without a shower. I'm almost certain it's been at least a decade. Worse still, I have to teach in the morning. It may be time to start calling around to see if any of my friends will let me come over and shower at their place sometime around sunrise tomorrow.

I know, I know -- I'm such a wimp.

Posted by Jess at 04:05 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Election-year fun

Peter David, one of my favorite authors, has posted a clever parody of the Billy Flynn/Roxie Hart press-conference-turned-ventriloquist-act from Chicago on his blog, reimagining the musical number in the context of President Bush and Vice President Cheney's upcoming appearance before the 9/11 commission. Here's an excerpt (sung to the tune of "The Press Conference Rag"):

Let us turn to

[CHENEY (as Bush)]
Nine eleven.

Saw it coming?

[CHENEY (as Bush)]
No one could have.

Richard Clarke said --

[CHENEY (as Bush)]
Hes a whiner.
He said some stuff thats not so nice.
We put our trust in Condi Rice.

You can read the rest here.

Meanwhile, the latest issue of the Economist offers up a cover story examining better ways to attack the policies of the Bush administration (cover image via Atrios). In all fairness, though, the usually-conservative Economist also features an interior story on better ways to attack John Kerry. Personally, I'm surprised that people are having so much trouble coming up with good reasons to criticize either candidate.

Posted by Jess at 12:46 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

Back from Hotlanta

Back from the game. Stuffed from dinner in Little Five Points. Sunburnt within an inch of my life. Perplexed over which is a cheesier name for a ballpark concession stand: a hotdog place called "Frankly, My Dear..." or a french fry place named "I Only Have Fries For You."

Posted by Jess at 07:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Who will win the base-ball matches?

I'm off to see a spring training game between the Braves and the Red Sox with some friends (including my main man Justin) this afternoon. To celebrate the occasion, I thought I'd post this great image that showed up over at Gothamist yesterday:


"I hope you achieve more and more!" You've got to love Japanese fans. In New York, the sign would probably read more along the lines of, "Try not to blow it, pretty boy!" Most likely with a few misspellings, too.

By the way, the title for this entry is borrowed from one of my favorite Onion editorials by Publisher Emeritus T. Herman Zweibel.

Posted by Jess at 08:29 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 02, 2004

So that's why they call him the Nature Boy

Whoo! I'm naked under this robe, Mean Gene!Three professional wrestlers working for Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment are being sued by a group of flight attendants who allege that the grapplers sexually harassed them during a May 2002 flight. The Smoking Gun has posted the relevant court documents, and the flight attendants' account of the incident paints a rather ugly picture. Still, I can't help but chuckle when I see a list of defendants that reads as follows: "Richard Morgan Fliehr, a/k/a Ric Flair, a/k/a The Nature Boy...Scott Oliver Hall, a/k/a Razor Ramon, a/k/a The Diamond Stud, a/k/a Big Scott Hall, a/k/a Starship Coyote, a/k/a The Bad Guy...Virgil Runnels III, a/k/a Dustin Runnels, a/k/a Dustin Rhodes, a/k/a Goldust." How can you expect to receive a fair trial when you're identified as "The Bad Guy" right there in the court documents?

The documents also reveal this fascinating bit of information about the so-called "flight from hell" (emphasis is my own): "[Ric] Flair wore a jeweled cape and was naked underneath." You mean to tell me that the Nature Boy actually wears those garish sequined robes -- and nothing else -- on flights? In that context, his whole "limousine-riding, jet-flying, wheeling-dealing, kiss-stealing son of a gun" spiel takes on a whole new meaning.

Posted by Jess at 10:31 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 01, 2004

Making fun of George Lucas is like shooting wamp rats in a barrel

Of all the April Fools' gags I stumbled across on the Web today, my favorite by far is this page of "leaked" clips from the upcoming Star Wars Original Trilogy DVDs -- complete with tongue-in-cheek commentary from "George Lucas" himself!

Update (10:55PM): Runner-up for the best April Fools' gag goes to the Brothers Chaps for their faux hijacked domain over at Homestar Runner. 20X6!

Posted by Jess at 08:56 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Tales from the Classroom: The Fake Answers

Just in time for April Fools' Day!

Coming up with good multiple choice questions for an exam isn't that hard. The hard part is coming up with all the fake answers -- you know, the multiple choice options that aren't correct. On the one hand, you have to make sure that they're not too good; in other words, you don't want the fake answers to be close enough to correct that they confuse rather than test the students. On the other hand, they can't be too ridiculous either, or the students will see straight through them to identify the correct answer whether they've studied or not.

There's something to be said, however, for having a bit of fun with the fake answers. For instance, I had a history professor as an undergraduate that would often include a Frenchman by the name of Marquis de Loofru in the multiple choice answers on his exams. Marquis de Loofru..."de loofru"..."u r fooled." Get it? I always got the impression that the professor derived a great deal of joy from the instances when students actually chose the Marquis as the correct answer on his exams. Then again, he also took great pleasure in doing his best HL Mencken impression when students said something less-than-correct in class, calling them "boobs" and "nincompoops" while grinning like a jackanapes. But, I digress.

Taking a cue from that professor, I realized early on that I needed a good running fake-answer gag when I began teaching -- to entertain myself while writing and grading exams if nothing else. Eventually, I decided that my go-to fake answer was going to be...the Cone of Tragedy! I actually lifted the name from a broken-down carnival ride featured in an old computer game, figuring that it should be good for a few laughs. Before long, it was showing up as a potential answer in questions like this:

Which of the following metaphors is typically used to explain the logic involved in arms races?
  1. Occam's Razor
  2. The Allegory of the Cave
  3. The Prisoners' Dilemma
  4. The Cone of Tragedy
  5. The Faustian Bargain

Eventually, the professor I worked with noticed that the Cone of Tragedy kept make repeat appearances on the exams. He asked about it, and I reluctantly explained the joke. Much to his credit and my surprise, he loved it and told me to keep using it. Before long, it became a competition between the two of us -- who could come up with the most ludicrous way to work the Cone of Tragedy into our exams. Five years later, we both continue to mention the Cone whenever the opportunity presents itself. For instance, just last week, I asked my students on an exam to identify the mutually supportive networks that arise in U.S. government between bureaucratic agencies, interest groups, and legislative committees with jurisdiction over a particular issue or policy area. Most of them correctly chose "iron triangles" as the answer, but one student decided to go with "cones of tragedy" instead.

The story doesn't end there, however. In recent months, I've spent quite a bit of time researching decision-making heuristics in international relations. In particular, I've been trying to determine why leaders insist on pursuing courses of action that they know are risky and unlikely to succeed when a rational individual would clearly do otherwise. It seems that in many cases, what happens is that the decision-maker starts out by making a bad decision and then continues to follow up that initial mistake with a series of further miscues in an attempt to "make things right," ultimately sending things spiraling out of control. I'm at the point now in my research where I need a catchy name to describe this decision-making fallacy, and only one springs immediately to mind: the Cone of Tragedy.

I think it's safe to say that I'll win the competition with my mentor if I can successfully incorporate the Cone into a peer-reviewed journal article. Heck, if I keep it up maybe the Cone of Tragedy could even make the transition from fake answer to real answer one of these days.

Posted by Jess at 03:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays

CNN.com reports that the stars of The Simpsons -- Dan Castellaneta, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, and Nancy Cartwright -- have stopped showing up to script readings in a bid to force a settlement in lengthy contract renewal talks with Fox. Each voice actor current earns $125,000 an episode, and they're asking for $360,000. When you take into account that Ray Romano earns nearly $2 million an episode for Everybody (Except Jess) Loves Raymond, that seems fair. Let's see if the Fox executives threaten to recast The Simpsons like they did when contract negotiations stalled in 1998.

In other Simpsons news, I noticed while strolling by the newstand downtown yesterday that Marge Simpson is this month's Maxim cover girl. Now, I love Marge as much as the next guy, but there's just something vaguely disturbing about this lascivious cover image. And to think the United Kingdom recently voted her television's best celebrity mother.

Posted by Jess at 10:26 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack