May 03, 2004

Animals don't feel pain

Yesterday, my wife and I were discussing potential names for veterinary clinics and whether we liked gimmicky names such as "Pets are People Too." Then, I sarcastically suggested that "Animals Don't Feel Pain" Veterinary Clinic would be a terrific name if she ever decided to open her own practice. I can just imagine it now...

Customer: So, when you say "Animals Don't Feel Pain," are you pledging to provide painless care to my pets or are you saying that you believe my pets are physiologically incapable of experiencing sensations of pain?

Receptionist: Well, ma'am, if you accept the latter, the former is more or less a given.

Then, we got off on a tangent discussing other unrelated "Animals Don't Feel Pain" businesses, like the "Animals Don't Feel Pain" Airport Shuttle Service and the "Animals Don't Feel Pain" Bakery. But, as you can imagine, that's neither here nor there.

Posted by Jess at 01:40 PM | Comments (6) | 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 16, 2004

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 09, 2004

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

March 30, 2004

Here's a tip: try a subtler approach

I've had a shockingly productive day today; I submitted a manuscript to a journal, cleaned the house, did a couple of loads of laundry, and prepared my lectures for the next week or so. To reward myself for all the hard work, I decided to go out to Sonic Drive-In this afternoon for a celebratory fresh-fruit slushie. My total came to $1.38, and I handed the carhop two dollar bills.

"Would you like your 62¢ back, sir?" she asked.

"Uh...yeah," I responded.

"Oh," she replied, sighing and dispensing my change from her money belt.

Surprisingly, this isn't the first time that this has happened to me at Sonic. I'll admit that I'm occasionally a bit out-of-step when it comes to "should I tip, or shouldn't I?" situations (e.g. the tip jar at Subway). Still, is a 62-cent tip appropriate when all someone does is walk twenty feet to hand you a $1.38 slushie? She wasn't even on rollerskates!

At least my carhop asked if she could have my change, though. A couple of years ago, I was paying for a $13 haircut with a $20 bill in a salon at the mall. The hairdresser counted out seven dollar bills into the palm of my extended hand and then simply took two off the top for herself, sticking them into her pocket as a self-made tip. I was so dumbfounded by the sheer audacity of her actions that I had stumbled back out into the mall before I completely processed what had just happened.

And I was actually going to tip her, too.

Posted by Jess at 06:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2004

The Superhuman Menace

J. Jonah Jameson, Editor-in-Chief, The Daily Bugle*

In my role as editor-in-chief here at the Daily Bugle, I am confronted on a daily basis with what various individuals consider the major problems that plague New York City today. All told, they run the gamut of sources of blame. Traffic, crime, climate, George Steinbrenner -- the fingers have been pointed in a hundred different directions. However, I'm here to tell you that there's one clear root for all the discontent in this once-fair metropolis. This scourge which befalls us is the superhuman menace, and it must be dealt with -- promptly and for good.

Over the past several years Manhattan has turned into little more than a stomping ground for freakishly powerful superhumans. Though they group themselves into camps of good and evil, the average citizen has just as much to fear from the so-called "heroes" as we do the villains. Battling in our streets, these superhumans consider themselves above the law, dispensing justice without the "inconvenience" of having to deal with a judge or jury. Not only this, but the super-powered "heroes" residing in Manhattan only serve to attract more superhuman villains, each with a plot more devious and destructive than the last. More "heroes" leads only to more villains; the problem itself is self-perpetuating.

Pie ChartFurthermore, the exploits of these supermen and women damage vast amounts of real estate in our city, endangering the lives of countless citizens in the process. Last year alone, Damage Control, Inc., estimated that over $45 million worth of repairs were required in Manhattan due soley to the actions of these oafish brutes and power-hungry maniacs. While buildings are toppled by these titans, innocents are placed directly in harm's way. For example, just a few years ago, we witnessed the Human Torch set the entire campus of Empire State University ablaze. Moreover, when was the last time we saw that gamma-irradiated freak known as the "incredible" Hulk leave a check with the local authorities after smashing up a local used car lot in an attempt to stop some supposed megalomaniac from taking over the world? Not bloody recently! The money to cover the shenanigans of these nigh-invulnerable superhumans comes directly out of the taxpayers' pockets -- our pockets!

Rogue vilgilantes and property damage are not the only problems presented by the superhuman menace. What of the cosmic abnormalities that accompany superhuman activity? In the past decade alone, New York has been subject to far more demon infestations, alien invasions, portals to the Negative Zone, and rips in the space-time continuum than I care to count. And it doesn't end there. What is the God-fearing Christian to believe when a member of the Avengers parades around proclaiming himself as the Norse god of thunder? Also, how safe can our skies be for aircraft with all these superhumans flitting around like hummingbirds?

Friendly Neighborhood Spider MenaceWhen the Fantastic Four -- the first group of superhumans to take up residence in Manhattan -- arrived on the scene, the superhuman problem was not nearly as pronounced as it is today. However, with emergence of the aforementioned Hulk, the Avengers, and the mutant freaks known as the X-Men, it is clear that superhumans are dangerous and a threat to human life. Perhaps the most dangerous of all these superhumans is the misanthrope known as the Spider-Man. Time and time again, this arachnid anarchist defies the law, engaging in criminal activities under the guise of "protecting innocents." Why would he wear a mask in the first place if he weren't up to something he shouldn't be?

Furthermore, he has admittedly worked alongside known criminals like the Black Cat and the Sandman in the past. However, despite his obviously sinister intentions and my attempts to report the truth in the pages of the Daily Bugle, Spider-Man continues to be revered by the public as some sort of hero. I am here to tell you that your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is nothing more than a common street thug with super-powers -- and a menace to our city!

HULK SMASH!How can will deal with these walking superhuman wrecking crews? Various attempts have been made to control the superhuman menace in the past and all have been largely unsuccessful. Military intervention is clearly not the answer, as evident in the early attempts by the U.S. Army to deal with the Hulk. Despite sending full-scale attack forces against the emerald goliath, the Hulk rendered entire tank squads little more than scrap metal in a matter of minutes. Legislation and government intervention have produced less than stellar results as well. The Mutant Registration Act and various attempts to bring the Avengers under the control of both the United States and the United Nations have both failed miserably. While there has been limited success in dealing with the mutant problem through the use of the robotic Sentinels, it is not the answer.

To put an end to the superhuman menace, we humans must unite and realize that the Spider-Men, the Hulks, the Iron Men, and the Things are not our saviors. Instead, they are the very source of the problem. When the general public begins to realize this, we will be well on our way to putting an end to the superhuman menace.

*Originally written sometime in 1999 or 2000 and never published.

Posted by Jess at 08:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 27, 2004

In lieu of an actual entry

Deep in the Apropos of Something archives, a heated debate continues to rage on among commenters presumably stumbling onto the site via Google: bear or tiger?

Posted by Jess at 10:48 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 22, 2004

PastaMania runnin' wild

What's better than this image that I found in my inbox earlier today?


Nothing, that's what.

Oh, and since creativity is running a bit low today and I don't have anything of substance to write, the extended entry includes an image that I hacked together while I was considering different ideas for my recent redesign.

The Conquest of the Moon People

When are those Moon People going to learn?

Posted by Jess at 07:24 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

March 18, 2004

Low-budget MIDI karaoke mania!

Despite my geeky tendencies, I tend to subsist at least a few rungs below the rest of the civilized world on the technological ladder at any given point in time. Case in point: I do not own, nor have I ever owned, a cell phone. In fact, I could probably count the number of times that I've even spoken on someone else's cell phone in my life on two hands. Along similar lines, I've also managed to totally miss out on the entire MP3 revolution. I don't own a portable MP3 player, I don't have an account at the iTunes Store, and I've yet to rip the first song from my archaic CD-based music collection.

Back in the halcyon days of college, however, I did boast an amazing collection of rock/pop MIDI files on my computer. You might remember these amateur MIDIs -- they were the instrumental music files that typically came out of your computer speakers sounding like they were played by a ham-handed first-year piano student with a faulty metronome and a vintage 1986 Casio keyboard. Nevertheless, back in the day (circa 1996), they were ideal for use as slow-loading, browser-crashing background music to accompany the animated GIFs, scrolling marquees, and "hot links" on your Geocities webpage.

Anyway, let's get back to more important matters, i.e. my rockin' MIDI collection. I had it all -- Weezer, the Beastie Boys, Garbage, the Smashing Pumpkins -- and all of them were absolutely wonderful in a completely horrible kind of way. It was such a guilty pleasure just to hear how bad the latest Top 40 hit would sound once a MIDI "artist" got ahold of it and piped its melody through the "harpsichord" channel, slightly off-tempo.

On occasion, when we weren't busy playing Quake or going to Wal-Mart at 3:00AM for a case of Sam's Choice soft drinks, my friends and I would hook up the rinky-dink microphone that came bundled with my modem, load a few songs, and partake in a little activity that I liked to call low-budget MIDI karaoke. We'd take turns at the mic, performing our favorite songs and recording our efforts using Windows' built-in Sound Recorder program (just in case anyone might ever need musical evidence of what a bunch of losers we could be at times, I suppose). Sadder still, there was no alcohol whatsoever involved in these activities.

Up until my hard drive crashed a few years ago, I still had a few of my favorite karaoke performances saved -- including a lovely rendition of Beck's "Where It's At" and a tongue-in-cheek, Shatner-esque cover of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" -- all backed by the sweet, slightly off-key sounds of MIDI. Ah, those were the days.

Oh, what the heck! Why not play along with low-budget MIDI karaoke at home? You know you want to...

Posted by Jess at 07:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2004

Playa hatin' on beloved elderly media personalities

If I could choose any two people alive today to engage in a vicious fight to the death, I think I'd choose Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes and radio commentator Paul Harvey. No matter what the outcome, the real winner would be the American public.

A couple of years ago, I actually found myself driving behind Paul Harvey's tour bus on a relatively treacherous mountain road near Asheville, North Carolina. At least I assume it was his bus -- it was covered in larger-than-life images of the trivia-spewing shill. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that there was some small part of me that felt tempted to run his bus off the road, screaming out the window as I passed, "Now you know the rest of the story! Good day!"

Posted by Jess at 06:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 12, 2004

I'm sorry, she's not in right now

Throughout the week, I've been engaged in a low-stakes game of cat-and-mouse with my new best friend: a plucky little telemarketer from Discover. It started on Monday when this telemarketer called to ask my wife if she would be interested in reopening her Discover Card account. Since she was out, the telemarketer asked when might be a better time to call back and reach her. Without thinking, I rattled off a random time to call back the following day just to get off the line as quickly as possible.

The next day, the same telemarketer -- I recognized her distinctive accent -- called back at precisely the time I had specified in our previous call. Again, my wife wasn't around, so I came up with another time when she might be available the following day, just for kicks. On the third day, she called back, my wife was out, and we arranged yet another call-back time. This cycle continued throughout the week, with the same telemarketer calling back at a different time each day -- always right on schedule, and as "luck" would have it, always when my wife wasn't around. In fact, I just got off the phone with her a few hours ago.

Sure, continuing with this petty little game means that the telemarketing calls will keep coming, but it all somehow seems worth it when I think that I might be causing personal inconvenience and/or frustration in some telemarketer's life.

Posted by Jess at 09:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Opera Man

My official groan-inducing IM of the day (after having downloaded the adware version of Opera to test my site's new design): "Wow, this browser has more toolbars than, um...a town full of alcoholic carpenters?"

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen! I'm here all week; try the fish...

Posted by Jess at 06:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2004


My wife has spent the last couple of weeks working an externship at a nearby veterinary emergency hospital. From what I've gathered from our conversations, the late-night emergency shift tends to bring quite a few interesting characters into the clinic. For instance, a few days ago, a woman came in with a six-month-old cat that had been in labor for a couple of days. Since it was too young to deliver and was in quite a bit of pain, the doctors determined that the cat was going to need an emergency C-section -- at an estimated cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars.

My wife reported the prognosis to the cat's owner, who became agitated and began to argue that she shouldn't have to pay that much since it wasn't her fault that it got pregnant. Instead, she felt that Animal Control or the Humane Society should cover the cost for her. As diplomatically as possible, my wife explained to the owner that it was ultimately her responsibility to have her cat spayed -- especially if she was going to allow it to go outside.

"Well," the woman explained in her defense, "this cat is the reincarnated spirit of my mother, so we wanted her to have a couple of litters before we got her spayed."

Yep, the cat was the reincarnation of the owner's mother; that's why it hadn't been spayed. I'm sure Mom appreciated the thought, too.

This is a prime example of why it's a good idea that my wife is entering a profession in which she'll work with people on a day-to-day basis, and I'm planning to become a recluse in the ivory towers of academia. Whereas she did her best to overlook the bit about reincarnation and pressed ahead with the consultation, I probably would have responded with something along the lines of, "Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am. I didn't realize that you were completely insane."

Now that I think about it, wasn't there an episode of Friends where Phoebe finds a stray cat that she thinks is the reincarnated spirit of her mother? I can't believe they'd play such a serious metaphysical concept for laughs...

Posted by Jess at 05:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 06, 2004

Back when I was clever

When you've been publishing online for close to nine years, it's an interesting experience to go back from time to time and take a look at stuff you can't even remember writing in the first place. For instance, I don't recall stating during the 1996 presidential election that Bob Dole had been in the Senate "since Julius Ceasar was assassinated there," but apparently I did. Or, there's this bit from 1997 about the then-popular Macarena:

The Macarena Conspiracy

Surely to goodness we're all familiar with this little ditty and its accompanying dance craze. Everyday, more and more people are being seduced into the dark grasp of this Latino song. Even President Clinton and Vice President Gore have been spotted doing the vile Spanish hokey-pokey! What is the Macarena really? For one thing, it's certainly not Spanish, Mexican, or even Portuguese. It's pure and simple, good old fashioned Cuban Communist propaganda! The Marxist factions on this Castro-controlled island nation sent this song over to America in a bid to slowly weaken our capitalistic society through forcing all club deejays to buy copies of the oft-repeated single. In essence, they seek to make the 260 million residents of the United States (and the 400 or 500 hosers that reside in Canada) into a bunch of mindless zombies, obsessed with placing their hands on their hips and behind their heads and improvising lyrics they'll never quite understand. "Hey, Macarena!" indeed. It's more like, "Hey, Dictatorship of the Proletariat!"

Thank goodness Google and the Internet Archive Wayback Machine are around to make sure that my name will remain associated with such, ahem, gems until the end of days.

Posted by Jess at 10:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 29, 2004

Speaking of witchcraft...

Interested in harnessing eldritch forces for personal gain, but just don't feel like leaving the comfort of your computer chair? Apparently, some people are, and that's where SpellKaster comes into play. Drawing upon the awesome power of radionic energy ("the powerful vibrational forces that flow throughout our universe"), the makers of SpellKaster claim that their innovative software can cast spells to help you achieve wealth, romance, and good luck. It can even be used to inflict misery and retribution on your enemies -- all for the low, low price of $97 (available for Windows operating systems only)!

Posted by Jess at 12:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 25, 2004

Tales from the Lunchroom

Campus is abuzz today with rumors of snow in the forecast -- enough of a novelty in Georgia to get people genuinely excited. Meanwhile, I can't help but reminisce about elementary school in Virginia and the times when it would begin to flurry during the school day. Needless to say, my classmates and I would spend the entire day ignoring our teachers and staring out the windows, studying the snow a flake at a time to see if it would accumulate enough to send us home from school early. Sooner or later, usually while we were eating our lunches in the cafeteria, our vice principal would appear with important news.

"Did you hear that we're getting out after lunch today?" he'd ask us.

Needless to say, this would send all of us into ecstatics as visions of sledding and snowball fights danced in our heads. Around that point, our vice principal would break into a grin, prompting someone to ask, "Are we really getting out after lunch today?"

"Of course," he'd reply, "right around 3:15 -- just like we always do!"

He'd have a good laugh and then return to his vice principal duties, leaving my classmates and I to finish our lunches, dejected knowing that our dreams of a truncated school day had been deferred.

Then, he'd do it again the next year. And the year after that. Year in and year out, my classmates and I wanted school to be dismissed early so very badly that we'd go along for the ride one more time -- even though we knew better.

In our vice principal's defense, he wasn't a cruel man -- just a guy who enjoyed a good joke (even if it was at the expense of pre-adolescents). In fact, I remember him as a wonderful administrator that I truly respected and admired as a child, not to mention a man with an uncanny knack for hitting backward, over-the-head free throws in the school gymnasium.

Furthermore, I can understand his temptation to use his position of authority to mislead students. When I heard my class discussing the rumored snow before we got started today, my mind was racing to devise a way to adapt the "getting out after lunch" motif to the university setting. Thus far, I'm at a loss, but I hope to have something ready in time for next winter.

Posted by Jess at 01:42 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

February 19, 2004

Horse people

Occasionally, my wife will be in the middle of relating a story about the vet school, and she'll refer to one of her classmates or professors as "a horse person." I always interject, "You mean a centaur?"

Hey, it's not my fault that I grew up with a copy of Bulfinch's Mythology on my bookshelf!

Posted by Jess at 01:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 17, 2004

Damn you, Ashton Kutcher!

Yesterday, the campus newspaper -- its finger poised, as always, about a mile and a half from the pulse of contemporary American youth culture -- ran an article predicting that trucker caps are sure to be the fashion trend of the upcoming year. What, is it still April 2003 around here and nobody bothered to tell me?

On a related note, is it just me, or does anyone else out there ever get the overwhelming urge to just slap a color-coordinated, purposefully-askew trucker cap to the ground when you see someone wearing one as part of a carefully-planned outfit?

Posted by Jess at 11:08 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 13, 2004

Isolation Day

My wife hates Valentine's Day. Hates it. As I'm reminded on an annual basis, she feels that it's a contrived, overly-commercialized holiday manufactured by the evil triumvirate of the greeting card, candy, and floral industries that only serves to perpetuate the idea that romance should be confined to one day per year. I should note that she doesn't reject the notion of Valentine's Day in that all-too-common way where she tells me not to buy her anything or take her out to dinner, only to get upset when I don't take the iniative to do so of my own accord. Trust me -- if I were to walk into the house tomorrow carrying a stuffed bear with little red hearts on its paws, the consequences would be too terrible to mention. Seriously.

Due to my wife's general distaste for all things Valentine's Day, we've celebrated our own alternative holiday on February 14th for the past five years -- a holiday we like to call Isolation Day. To celebrate Isolation Day, we basically just spend as much time apart from one another as possible for the day and carefully avoid doing anything vaguely romantic when we are together. It's a terrific day to clean out the gutters or grab a bite to eat at Taco Bell instead of buying roses or making dinner reservations at Chez Coûteux. Best of all, it leads to great conversations like this:

Me: "What do you want to do for Isolation Day tomorrow, honey?"
Her: "Nothing."
Me: "Cool."

Want to join us -- and by "join us" I mean "stay the heck away from us" -- in celebrating Isolation Day this year? Just explain to your significant other why you won't be celebrating Valentine's Day, make other plans for yourself, and have a great time sticking it to the confectionery-floral-military-industrial complex.*

Happy Isolation Day Eve, one and all!

*Apropos of Something is not responsible for any damages incurred while explaining to your significant other why you won't be celebrating Valentine's Day this year.

Posted by Jess at 05:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 01, 2004

Super Bowl Predictions

Since I haven't been following the NFL all that closely this season, I decided to have Madden 2004 simulate a match-up between the Panthers and the Patriots. Based on the results of the simulation, I'll go on record predicting a win for New England over Carolina, 34-17.

I also predict that the Super Bowl will appear to briefly lock up during the third quarter, but it will turn out just to be McAfee downloading new virus definitions in the background.

Posted by Jess at 12:28 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 14, 2004

Fatal Ice

When I walked into the graduate lounge today, I noticed that someone had written a note on the chalkboard selling textbooks from some public policy course or another. While that's a fairly standard practice in our department, what really caught my eye was the email address written below the note: (well, not, but you get the idea).

How awesome of a username is Fatal Ice? When I saw it, images of a shadowy hacker hanging out with people using nicks like Zero Cool or AcidBurn and looking for "backdoors" into "mainframes" immediately sprang to mind. How could I have spent nearly three years in a department alongside someone with a 'Net handle like Fatal Ice and never actually gotten to know him or her?

It was at this point that one of my friends walked into the lounge. Naturally, I pointed out the email address on the board and asked him if it wasn't the coolest Internet nick he'd ever seen in his life.

"I guess so," he replied. "But who's Fat Alice?"

Posted by Jess at 06:15 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 10, 2004

Atkins is dead; long live Atkins!

I've written about the perplexing, self-loathing advertising campaign launched by fast-food chain Hardee's to promote their new line of Thickburgers in the distant past, but I noticed something while driving by one of their locations recently that merits a bit more attention.

It turns out that Hardee's has done it again and introduced an exciting new menu item--the low-carb Thickburger. I'll let the fine folks at Hardee's describe their latest culinary sensation: "The Low Carb Thickburger is made from a charbroiled 1/3-pound seasoned, Angus beef patty, which means it tastes great even without the bun. So, no other quick-service burger chain can offer such a delicious low-carb burger option."

Now, just in case the passage above doesn't make it crystal clear, the new low-carb Thickburger is a hamburger without a bun. More specifically, it's a hamburger patty, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, and a couple of pickles wrapped in a napkin. Don't believe me? Here's a photo of the new "sandwich" from the Hardee's website:


What kind of world do we live in where removing the bun from the hamburger equation and retaining the beef patty is supposed to make it healthier? Perhaps more importantly, is a hamburger, by definition, even a hamburger anymore without the bun?

Personally, I'm holding out for Hardee's to introduce a low-carb, low-cal Thickburger with just some lettuce and tomato wrapped up in yesterday's newspaper. To paraphrase the chain's current slogan, maybe that's how the last place I'd go for a burger could become the first.

Posted by Jess at 02:09 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 22, 2003

Three observations

First, the talking trash cans in the Atlanta airport seem somewhat unnecessary (and a bit creepy). Do I really need to be told to "please press down the lid and ensure that the trash in completely in the receptacle" every time I walk by--especially when it's someone else's trash in the first place?

Second, if you're ever in Philadelphia, the best cheesesteaks are at Pat's King of Steaks, not Gino's.

Finally, a can of water chestnuts--organic or not--should never cost $7.50. Never.

Posted by Jess at 09:13 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

Frosty the Gunman

I just thought I'd pass along this helpful piece of holiday advice that I heard on a radio advertisement yesterday: "No Christmas morning is complete without a gun under the tree." Thankfully, we still have four shopping days left until Christmas.

Posted by Jess at 06:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 19, 2003

Just in time for Christmas: Satyr Satire

Is it just me, or does this 2003 holiday postal stamp have a weird pagan vibe to it--what with the anthropomorphic reindeer, antlers, hooves, and Pan flute?


I'm just saying. Of course, I'm still not quite sure how the gaudy purple and yellow pants and suspenders fit in to the overall Dionysian allusion. Maybe it's actually a depiction of the dreaded Luchataur--the half-deer, half-Mexican-wrestler creature of legend.

Posted by Jess at 08:10 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

December 18, 2003

Burrito economics

There's a locally-owned chain of burrito restaurants here in Athens that my wife and I frequent from time to time. Basically, the place works like this: you pick what kind of tortilla, beans, and meat you want and then choose the remaining toppings--cucumbers, black olives, freshly chopped jalapenos, etc.--Subway style. Here's the strange part, though; while all those toppings are included in the base price of the burrito, the restaurant charges an extra 30 cents if you want to add lettuce. How can you charge extra for lettuce when you're giving away olives? Olives! I thought restaurant suppliers gave restaurants a couple of complimentary trash bags full of lettuce when they ordered their real vegetables.

It's like buying a car and having the salesman say, "We'll throw in the custom floor mats for free, but we're gonna need a buck fifty for the Coconut Breeze air freshener."

Posted by Jess at 07:55 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 15, 2003

The future is now

I was just picking up some groceries at Wal-Mart and heard this announcement over the store PA: "Virtual reality sales associate needed in Toys."

So, do they do that with, like, holograms or something?

Posted by Jess at 09:13 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 11, 2003

Hard Drivin'

Whenever I spend any appreciable amount of time playing an arcade-based racing game (lately it's been Re-Volt on my PC, not to mention a brief dalliance with the Mario Kart: Double Dash demo at Best Buy), I find that the line between fantasy and reality inevitably begins to blur. In turn, the next time I get behind the wheel of an actual car after playing one of these games, I start thinking thoughts like "Hey, that collapsed tree would make a great ramp!" or "I could pick up a little speed if I could just powerslide out of this turn!"--and let's not forget the ever-popular "That guy's going for the inside lane; a little nudge with the old bumper will teach him a lesson!"

The moral of the story? I should never, ever play the Grand Theft Auto series.

Posted by Jess at 08:53 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 07, 2003

Bear versus Tiger

It's that time of semester when conversations get a little strange among the term-paper-addled students who hang out in the graduate lounge at school. On Friday, for instance, we somehow ended up on the topic of which animal would win in a one-on-one fight to the death--a bear or a tiger. On the one hand, a bear obviously holds advantages in terms of size, strength, and endurance. On the other, a tiger has an edge in terms of its superior speed and agility.

Among the ten or so people who debated the issue--none of whom were comparative biologists, I should note--the consensus seemed to be that the bear would win easily due to its presumed ability to sustain more injury. I still contend, though, that the tiger would win, not only thanks to its speed, but also due to the fact that tigers are natural hunters with an inborn killer instinct. Sure, a bear might win in a grabbing-salmon-out-of-a-stream contest, but a fight to the death seems like a tiger's time to shine. Before I had the chance to plead my case fully, however, the conversation moved on to a debate over who would win in a fight to the death--Count Chocula or the Frankenberry Monster. Duh! You should never bet against a chocolate vampire!

Nevertheless, the question remains: bear or tiger?

Posted by Jess at 09:12 AM | Comments (66) | TrackBack

December 03, 2003

Smelling good for fun and profit

Every time I see Ally Hilfiger prancing around on MTV's latest so-bad-it's-good reality series, Rich Girls, I can't help but reminisce about the brief period that I spent as a foot soldier in the Tommy Hilfiger empire. In fact, it was right around this time of year in 1996 that I began working as a Tommy Hilfiger "fragrance model" in a department store at the local shopping mall.

For those who might not be familiar with the fragrance modeling industry, I was that person who wanders around the store spraying cologne on little cards and attempting to pawn them off on unwitting shoppers. Or, to put it another way, I was a scented magazine insert come to life. To draw yet another analogy, the fragrance modeling biz--and make no mistake, despite all the glamour, it's still a business--is surprisingly similar to telemarketing. Basically, one's entire job as a fragrance model consists of rudely interjecting oneself into people's lives in an attempt to sell them a product that, far more often than not, they have no interest whatsoever in purchasing. Unlike telemarketing, however, fragrance modeling transpires face-to-face, so the would-be customers (or "marks," as we called them) don't have the easy option of simply hanging up--or even slamming their doors as in the case of door-to-door salesmen and proselytizers. Needless to say, this can create a wide range of rather uncomfortable scenarios.

In my experience, most shoppers recoiled in an odd mixture of fear and disgust when offered a card that I had generously sprayed down with Tommy cologne, shouting "No, thank you!" over their shoulders as they ran away to hide in the shoe department. In other words, they reacted just slightly more positively than if they had been offered a vial containing a live strain of the bubonic plague. We usually referred to these customers as "maybes."

On the other hand, a sizeable portion of the shopping populace apparently suffers from severe allergies, and they're not at all afraid to share this fact with a well-intentioned fragrance model if he or she approches them with a sample. In fact, it wasn't uncommon to receive a thorough dressing-down right there in the middle of the store. It usually went something like this: "How dare you, you insensitive clod! Get that freaking card out of my face this instant, or I'm going to have a talk with your manager!" Meanwhile, the customer would cover his or her mouth and nose with one hand while clutching their children close with the other to protect them against my olfactory assault. I can't really blame them, though. By the end of my eight-hour shifts, I would inevitably end up with watery eyes and a sinus headache to end all sinus headaches thanks to the noxious wares I peddled.

Finally, there were the customers who simply walked by and pretended they could neither hear nor see (nor smell) me. If I had my guess, these were the customers who were in fact most likely to buy a bottle of the cologne when it was all said and done--assuming, of course, that anyone actually bought a bottle of the cologne as a direct or indirect result of my efforts.

To add insult to injury, since I was selling a Tommy product, I also had to sell the "Tommy look." This meant dressing head to toe in Tommy Hilfiger couture, which at the time consisted primarily of button-up shirts emblazoned with unspeakably gaudy red, blue, and yellow flags and chinos featuring an almost implausible number of pleats. At first, I was somewhat comforted by the assumption that I would be taking these hideous garments home with me as a perk, where I could then properly dispose of them with a ceremonial burning. Much to my surprise, however, at the end of each day, the store manager would simply reattach the tags to whatever clothes I had just worn for eight hours (and in which I had presumably perspired) and place them back on the racks.

Needless to say, it wasn't the most fulfilling job I've ever worked, but as a poor college sophomore, I certainly couldn't complain about making $15 an hour. Plus, I can't overemphasize the added bonus of being able to spend the rest of my life telling stories that start out, "Back when I was a fragrance model..."

Posted by Jess at 05:54 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

December 02, 2003

The Apropos of Something Book Club

I just logged into to order a Christmas present or two, and the book recommendation that popped up on the front page was Interaction Effects in Multiple Regression by James Jaccard and Robert Turrisi. Here's the book's description:

Text introduces the reader to the basics of interaction analysis using multiple regression methods with one or more continuous predictor variables. Includes new topics such as interaction models with clustered data and random coefficient models. For practicing researchers.
I'm a little self-conscious now that I know thinks I'm a nerd.

Posted by Jess at 10:31 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 01, 2003

Just a couple of drinks to steady my hand

An actual question from my wife's veterinary board exam practice book:

Dr. X resects a large tumor from a dog's abdomen. The dog later dies of complications. At a state veterinary board hearing initiated by the owner, testimony reveals that Dr. X was impaired by alcohol at the time of surgery. Dr. X is censured by the board. In a subsequent lawsuit for malpractice against Dr. X, the court:
  1. must find Dr. X liable for malpractice because he was drunk at the time of surgery
  2. must dismiss the case because it has already been decided by the state veterinary board
  3. must find that Dr. X was not negligent if he used the same degree of surgical skill as other veterinarians practicing in the community who do surgery while not so impaired
  4. must dismiss the case if Dr. X provides proof that he has enrolled in an American Veterinary Medical Association-certified alcohol rehabilitation program
The correct answer, as it turns out, is 3. Translation: if you're as good when you're drunk as the veterinarian across town is when she's sober, you're in great legal standing.

I have to admit, however, that I'm rather intrigued by the prospect of taking my pets to a veterinarian named Dr. X.

Posted by Jess at 06:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 30, 2003

Cult Leadership for Dummies

Author's note: This piece was originally intended as an article for Verbosity before the webzine folded in 1997.

In 1978, more than 900 cultists in Jonestown perished after drinking cyanide-laced punch upon the order of their charismatic leader, Jim Jones. In 1993, a tense stand-off at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, ended in tragedy with 80 cult members dead in the wake of a fire of still-debated origins. Four years later, 39 Heaven's Gate cultists committed suicide under the leadership of Marshall Applewhite to shed their earthly "containers" and join a spaceship traveling behind the Hale-Bopp comet.

Certainly, these tragic incidents received quite a bit of attention from the media. Not all cults, however, are quite so lucky. Each year, thousands of cults pop up around the world and go virtually unnoticed by society at large. Sure, you've looked around; unfortunately, none of the cults in your immediate area seem quite right for you. Have all of your options proven either a bit too freaky, or a tad overly-militaristic, or perhaps a little too polytheistic? What is a sensible person seeking alternative spiritual enlightenment to do? Why, start your own cult, of course!

Of course, that sounds like a daunting task. Fear not, loyal readers; Verbosity Magazine is here to help. With these simple steps, you can have your own cult up, running, and noticed in a matter of weeks. So, without further ado...

Creating Your Own Cult in Six Easy Steps

Step One: Come up with some wacky religious belief around which to base your budding religion. People aren't going to follow you if you don't stand out from the crowd -- particularly if you're placed in the position to eventually ask them to kill themselves (which occurs surprisingly frequently in the average cult). For instance, perhaps your cult could believe that Three's Company is actually the holy word of the mighty Rit-tar, sent to encourage men to live with multiple female roommates.

Step Two: You'll need a catchy name, both for yourself and the cult. A good pseudonym will command the respect of your followers, as well as reveal your peaceful and benevolent nature to the world. Try something like "Sunbeam," "Dewdrop," or "Bill G." As for the cult's name, it really should be something that sounds vaguely theistic. For example, the "Church of the Day After" sounds like it might have some sort of religious significance.

Step Three: Recruit followers. Lots of them. It's just more lungs amongst which to disperse the FBI's tear gas when it eventually comes.

Step Four: Now, you'll want to find a compound. A nice ranch in a secluded area of the Midwest works well. You'll want to be close enough to town that you can stumble in and scare the locals from time to time, but far enough away that they can't see your strange and mystic rituals. (You did develop some strange and mystic rituals along with Step 1, didn't you?).

Step Five: You'll need some form of income for your cult; ranch houses don't just grow on trees. The hip, post-industrial thing to do in order to pay for cultic activity seems to be web design. If you feel like that's what your god and/or gods want, go for it. Other means of raising funds include selling children, performing sketch comedy in local senior citizen communities, and theft.

Step Six: At this point, you'll want to begin stockpiling weapons -- just to be on the safe side. Sure, you're a peaceful, benevolent occult figurehead, but some people just don't understand the First Amendment.

That should take care of it! In six simple steps, you now have your very own cult and, if you followed the directions, a dedicated body of followers. Speaking of which, anyone that would like to send online donations to the Church of Verbosity should send their credit card information to our editorial staff at the earliest possible convenience. Thanks for your support. May Bleepo smile upon you in all your endeavors.

Posted by Jess at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 10, 2003

Bizarro McDonald's

Yesterday, my wife and I hiked to Anna Ruby Falls in Unicoi State Park and visited the faux-German alpine village of Helen, Georgia. On the way there, we briefly stopped off at a McDonald's in Cornelia to, ahem, "tour the facilities" (don't tell Mayor McCheese). We soon came to discover, however, that this was no ordinary McDonald's. A decidedly non-red-and-yellow color scheme dominated the restaurant, and tasteful art adorned the walls. A two-sided stone fireplace surrounded by leather sofas served as the focal point of the dining area, and a desert case stocked with a wide selection of cakes flanked the front counter. The cashiers were wearing ties, and the cooks were decked out in white chef jackets. Closer inspection revealed a menu--handheld, not up on the wall--that featured such items as ribeye steak, panini sandwiches, and roast beef. I almost expected to see kids jacked into a virtual reality McPlayland and a McBidet in the restroom.

Frankly, I felt a little underdressed in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt.

Posted by Jess at 07:56 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 30, 2003

What has brown done to you?

Not to steal teedz's thunder, but UPS is beginning to drive me nuts. Sure, I've had the typical delivery problems that most customers face: i.e. the UPS guy tries to deliver a package on Monday at 2:30 and I'm not there to sign for it, so he takes it back to the warehouse. On Tuesday, he tries to deliver it again at 2:30, but to no avail. Now, even given the empirical reality that I wasn't at home at 2:30 on either of the previous days, the UPS guy fails to discern the pattern and deduce that I might have some kind of mid-afternoon obligation during the week (gasp!) and, as such, attempts to drop it off again on Wednesday at 2:30. Since it's the third attempt and I'm not there to sign for it, the package goes back to the nearest UPS warehouse, leaving me with no option but to pick it up on my own time--during business hours, of course.

Now, I could live with that kind of frustration. My more recent UPS problems, however, run much deeper than that. My wife has lived in our current house for the past year and a half. I moved in after we got married about six months ago. During that eighteen-month span, I would estimate that we've had roughly fifteen packages fail to reach us, including one just yesterday. In many cases, my wife and I have paid shipping twice when our packages were returned to their respective senders. The problem? Apparently, the UPS person has been delivering our packages to the apartment complex next door to our house for lo these many months. On each occasion, the person working the front desk at the neighboring apartment complex would point out to the UPS delivery person that the package didn't specify an apartment number in the address (not surprising since it wasn't being sent to an apartment), and UPS would thus declare that the package had an "insufficient address" for delivery and return it to its sender.

After the first couple of failed deliveries, my wife and I began to notice the emerging pattern. So, we called the local UPS office and explained the whole situation. Their defense? Apparently, since we live at 2025 Evergreen Terrace and the apartment complex next door is at 2035 Evergreen Terrace, it's easy for the delivery person to get confused and deliver our packages to the wrong place. Call me crazy, but isn't that how all streets work? Also, isn't being able to discern between addresses--no matter how similar they may appear--the very essence of a UPS delivery person's job? Somehow, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service seem to be able to figure it out. Would it be easier if the streets were numbered non-consecutively? On a few occasions, we've even asked the sender to specify on the mailing label "2025 Evergreen Terrace (the brick house, not the apartment complex)," but that wasn't enough to counteract the simple reality that the numbers 2025 and 2035 are apparently utterly indistinguishable from one another--even to the trained eye.

Anyway, after that first call, the manager of the local UPS office promised to talk to his drivers and fix the situation. That was about a year ago, and our problems persist to this day with every single package that's sent to us via UPS--including the cell phone battery that we were expecting earlier this week. Each time it happens, we call UPS and they assure us that it won't happen again.

What can brown do for me? They can cram it with walnuts. (Ugly.)*

*TM and ©: Homer J. Simpson

Posted by Jess at 02:26 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

October 29, 2003

Best. Images. Ever.

I've dabbled in web design for the past eight years or so and, during that time, I've thrown together countless graphics for my various web projects. Now, as Andy can tell you, I am--and always have been--completely devoid of any artistic ability. Heck, I spent the better part of my first three years online thinking that the "page curl" effect in Paint Shop Pro was the height of design sophistication. Nevertheless, while shuffling through some of my older work, I couldn't help but get a chuckle out of these two images from 1997:



While I think these images are pretty hilarious even when taken completely out of context, they were originally part of this article by the inimitable "Evil" Doug Smith. Ah...there's just something about the serene look on Princess Diana's face as she's about to be devoured by the fierce tyrannosaurus rex. Speaking of which, aren't those vestigial arms cute? The dinosaur's, that is--not Di's. Also, be sure to note the "angry eyebrow" on that sheep.

Posted by Jess at 08:14 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2003

Slightly less cool than the Showcase Showdown

On a lark, I decided to submit this site to The Truth Laid Bear's weekly New Blog Showcase. To provide some background for those not familiar with the Showcase, it exists primarily as a way to get newer weblogs a little exposure, with the "winner" each week being determined by the number of inbound links to his or her blog. While this site has virtually no chance of winning, it seemed like a fun idea at the time. So, if you happen to be visiting from the Showcase, welcome--and feel free to blogroll me! ;)

With that bit of exposition out of the way, TTLB encourages entrants to link to entries from a few other entrants' blogs as part of the cross-promotional fun. One of the entries that leapt out at me immediately from this week's submissions was "I miss Lewis Grizzard" from Anastasia's Southern Musings. As I commented over in her blog, I'd like to think that much of what I know about humorous writing (which may or may not be that much) I learned from reading Lewis Grizzard's syndicated columns in my local newspaper as a child. Then again, I also claim that much of what I know about performing on-stage I learned from The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, so what do I know?

With an exception or two, however, most of the entries in the Showcase this week are political weblogs. Obviously, this isn't going to win me too many votes in the contest, but political blogs have never appealed to me at all. Maybe it's because political science is both what I study and what I do for a living and, as a result, when I'm playing around on the Web, I'm looking for diversion as opposed to futher immersion. Then again, maybe it's my training as a political scientist that has given me a relatively dim view of political editorializing--something that we're usually encouraged not to do in our own professional work. Or, it could just be that I'm too much of a moderate to identify with what tend to be the more extreme positions, either right or left, of most political blogs.

Bah! Political commentary--who needs it? Go buy a copy of Chili Dogs Always Bark at Night instead.

Posted by Jess at 07:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2003

So not funny it's funny. Or not.

marmadukeWhile administering mid-terms earlier today, I came up with the perfect idea for a Marmaduke comic. Just imagine Marmaduke and his owner outside of a drive-through car wash with the owner trying his best to shove Marmaduke into the car wash. In turn, the caption reads, "There has to be a better way to give you your Sunday bath!" You see, it's funny because Marmaduke is larger and more stubborn than the average dog and that creates a unique set of frustrations for his surprisingly even-tempered owners.

Come to think of it, I have a pretty good idea for a Family Circus strip, too. Here's the scene: Jeffy and his mom are sitting on the sofa smiling and flipping through an old family photo album together. Jeffy turns to his mom and says, "Sometimes I think they should call the 'good old days' the 'best old days.'" Oh, and the ghost of Jeffy's grandfather--also smiling--is floating around in the background.

Being a cartoonist would be so easy if it wasn't for the drawing.

Posted by Jess at 05:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 21, 2003

The Tao of Dangerfield

RodneyMy friend Josh and I were chatting on AIM this morning and found ourselves (however improbably) discussing the rather odd fact that I've interacted with comedian Rodney Dangerfield on multiple occasions in the eight years or so that I've been online--first when he endorsed my website and later when we interviewed him for Verbosity. That's where this chat transcript picks up:

Josh: [Rodney Dangerfield] likes to keep in touch with the common man.
Jess: All great artists do. He's probably sitting in a cafe in Paris right now, observing the human condition and prepping material for his next Indian casino tour.
Josh: There's a comedy routine in there somewhere.
Jess: In Rodney Dangerfield or in observations about Rodney Dangerfield?
Josh: A routine about Rodney Dangerfield in a Paris cafe, observing people and writing new material.
Josh: Discarding all the truly witty, deep, philosophical insights and keeping only the tired one-liners.
Jess: Heh.
Jess: Je n'obtiens aucun respect.
Josh: I like it.
Maybe he's right; this could be the biggest thing since Kathy Griffin's "Jerry Seinfeld is the Devil" routine. I'm taking this show on the road, baby!

current music: Barenaked Ladies, "Aluminum"

Posted by Jess at 03:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 08, 2003

Lost: Understanding American Democracy

I was loitering around the graduate student lounge earlier today and spotted a note on the chalkboard reading, "LOST: UNDERSTANDING AMERICAN DEMOCRACY." Taking the recent turn of events in California into account, I scribbled a message underneath the original accouncing, "I too have lost my understanding of American democracy. If found, please return." Only moments after I finished writing it, one of my fellow graduate students was kind enough to inform me that Understanding American Democracy is a textbook. I guess some people just don't appreciate quality political satire.

Speaking of political satire, I just heard back moments ago that I passed my international relations comprehensive exam from a couple of weeks back. Hopefully, I'll know something about my comparative exam in the next few days.

Posted by Jess at 06:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 04, 2003

Don't quit your day job

How does President Bush keep himself busy when he's not out fighting terrorism? Why, writing poetry, of course! Here's the full text of a poem he recently wrote for the First Lady (as reported by

Untitled (by George W. Bush, age 57)

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh my, lump in the bed
How I've missed you.
Roses are redder
Bluer am I
Seeing you kissed by that charming French guy.
The dogs and the cat, they missed you too
Barney's still mad you dropped him, he ate your shoe
The distance, my dear, has been such a barrier
Next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier.
Wow--I don't know what to say. I will say, if nothing else, that the love triangle hinted at by the poem among President Bush, the First Lady, and French President Jacques Chirac is intriguing.

Now, here's a poem that I wrote in third grade (please note that it was submitted to my teacher with a drawing of a brontosaurus sitting on a person):

One Day I Bought a Dinosaur (by Jess, age 8)

One day I bought a dinosaur
I bought him at the corner store
I bought him for a dollar and a cent
He's very, very different
From any other toy I've got
Ugh--he sure does weigh a lot!
I know it's good, but is it presidential good?

Posted by Jess at 03:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 01, 2003

File under 'D' for 'disorganized'

I've noticed that much of the correspondence that comes across my desk these days--whether it's school-related or just day-to-day bills and so forth--includes the friendly reminder that I "save a copy" for my "records." Lately, this helpful bit of advice has been making me feel a little self-conscious (dare I say inadequate?) since I don't actually have what you would call "records" per se. All this paperwork, however, is starting to give me the distinct impression that everyone else apparently does. I mean, sure, I hold on to all the stuff that seems vaguely important (correspondence related to my student loans, bank statements, advertisements from Lerner New York), but I'd estimate the odds of me actually being able to find a specific "record" if I ever needed it (which, of course, I probably never will) at approximately slim to none. After all, I would need a decently-sized file cabinet just to hold my "records" from the past year.

Still, I can't shake the feeling that everyone else out there actually has records. Very creepy.

Posted by Jess at 02:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 16, 2003

Athens 0wn3d j00, Melos

I've spent most of the day knee-deep in Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War, and I've come to the conclusion that my general distaste for Athens extends beyond my current surroundings to encompass the Athenian Empire--or, if you prefer, Delian League--of the fifth century BC.

In related news, I really need to stop studying so much.

Posted by Jess at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2003

Fast-food reflections

Has anyone else seen and/or heard the series of advertisements that have been running in recent months promoting the, ahem, exciting new menu at Hardee's? To make a long story short, the overarching theme of these ads is as follows: "We know that we used to suck, but we promise that our food isn't nearly as bad as it used to be. Honest. Please come and eat here." Here's a summary of one of the spots from

"The spot shows an 18-year-old ex-customer who recalls, with pained facial expressions, his total disgust over his last Hardee's meal. 'The whole place just smells like fried chicken,' he says, 'like chicken, frying chicken. So I bite into the burger and, dude, it was just weird. I'm eating the burger and smelling the chicken.'"

The ad then flashes to a picture of Hardee's new, ridiculously-named Thickburger, reassuring would-be customers with the slogan, "Introducing Thickburger and no fried chicken. Instead of trying to make a lot of things good, we're going to make one thing great." Other ads promise that the Thickburger represents "how the last place you'd go for a burger will become the first." Best of all, most of the ads also explicitly point out the fact that Thickburgers are significantly more expensive than competing fast-food burgers, but assure customers that it's worth the price.

Let me get this straight. You've just reminded me why I wasn't eating at Hardee's--the "last place" I'd go for a burger--and now you want me to pay a premium price to give you a second (or third) chance? Yeah, I'll get right on that.

Meanwhile, Arby's has given up on such previous advertising campaigns as assuring customers that "Arby's is different," urging you to "give in to your grown-up taste," and offering "a taste of the Southwest." Nowadays, they're depending on a anthropomorphic CG oven mitt named (wait for it...) Oven Mitt to bring people in to try one of their seemingly endless variations on slapping roast beef onto a bun. Now, obviously a talking oven mitt is going to sell sandwiches; that much is a given. What I don't understand, however, is the almost tangible sense of hostility that Oven Mitt's co-workers hold toward him for some unknown reason in the commercials. For instance, in one spot they mercilessly taunt Oven Mitt for lacking a nose and ears. Come on, guys--he's an oven mitt! Isn't the fact that he's able to hold down a job in the fast-food industry enough to placate you? In another spot, the co-workers angrily accuse poor Oven Mitt of being a suck-up just because he compliments the manager on having a good idea during a staff meeting. Although the scenarios change from ad to ad, one thing remains constant throughout the campaign: these people think of Oven Mitt as a second-class citizen/glove that's not worthy of their time and respect. Then again, when you consider that Tom Arnold provides the voice of Oven Mitt, I suppose that the pieces begin to fall into place.

At the moment, however, my favorite fast-food slogan is for Checker's--a chain of less-than-stellar drive-through burger joints here in the South. Their awe-inspiring slogan? "You gotta eat." Yep, that's the most compelling reason the ad wizards at Checkers can devise for dining at their fine establishment. You have a biological need to consume food; if you don't, you'll die. Given those facts, you might as well address this biological need at Checker's--especially if there's one nearby and you have some form of legal tender in your pocket. Please note that they never claimed that their food was good. But, it will stave off death--at least in the short term. In the long term, of course, the calories, fat content, and cholesterol will all do their part to help you shuffle off this moral coil. But, I guess fast-food is all about the here and now anyway, eh?

Posted by Jess at 06:11 PM | Comments (5)

August 30, 2003

More fearsome than a double-chinned Balrog

We've had a bit of controversy here on campus lately, and I just can't resist posting about it any longer. To make an extremely long story short, UGA has been home to a beloved hot dog vendor for the past couple of decades--a vendor known affectionately as the Hot Dog Man. Recently, the local authorities discovered that the Hot Dog Man was setting up his cart a hundred feet or so outside the area where his permit allowed him to operate. As a result, the police asked the Hot Dog Man to move his cart, he refused (rather vociferously), and the police ended up arresting the Hot Dog Man and removing him from campus. When the news got around, students went nuts, there were widespread protests around campus (including people dressed up in hot dog costumes), and the Hot Dog Man is now back in action, slingin' frankfurters despite threats of daily fines from the county government.

Now that we're all up to speed on this rather contentious situation, the Hot Dog Man's wife and business partner was quoted in the campus newspaper yesterday as saying, "This is an absolute vicious attack. It is like there is a two-headed Goliath up against us--one head is the University and the other head is Athens-Clarke County." Is it just me or does the imagery of a two-headed Goliath strike anyone else as funny? I mean, a Goliath is pretty tough, so a two-headed Goliath must be twice as menacing, right? Plus, it reminds me of Dante's depiction of Satan in The Inferno. In fact, I'm almost certain that was the Hot Dog Wife's intention when she said it.

Posted by Jess at 03:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2003

Hopefully, 'ice cream-tastical' will make the cut next year...

A brand new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English is out (reserve your copy today, kids!), now incorporating entries for such words and phrases as "bada bing," "reality TV," "muggle," "turntablist," and "bootylicious." What's the point of having a dictionary in the first place if we keep filling it with imaginary words? Anyway, this quote from CNN's story on the new edition is absolutely priceless: "Though some entries may perplex and infuriate linguistic purists, the dictionary's publishers say words are only included if they are well-known and have proven they can pass the test of time." Thank you, O Keepers of the English Language! "Bootylicious" is truly a word for the ages!

So, is a turntablist better than a DJ, or is that just what DJs put on their résumés to seem more impressive when applying for real jobs?

Posted by Jess at 06:55 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 17, 2003

Hard-hitting theological commentary

While driving to Atlanta today, I couldn't help but notice several "God billboards" alongside the highway. These billboards have been up for awhile in several states, and some of you have probably seen them yourselves. They feature a simple black background with white text spelling out such messages as:

"Let's meet at my house Sunday before the game." - God
"What part of 'Thou Shalt Not...' didn't you understand?" - God
"Keep using my name in vain, I'll make rush hour longer." - God
"Have you read my #1 best seller? There will be a test." - God

Although I've seen these billboards a zillion times, today something struck me. God (or, more accurately, His public relations staff) is really quite passive aggressive. With that kind of attitude, just imagine if the competition started running ads:

"I'd sacrifice a couple of goats for you." - Satan

Posted by Jess at 07:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 09, 2003

Zombies. Why'd it have to be zombies?

So, my wife and I are currently playing System Shock 2, an all-around incredible first-person shooter/horror/action CRPG that was released by Looking Glass Studios a couple of years ago. To make a long story short, the protagonist in the game is a space guy trapped on a run-amok starship trillions of miles from Earth. To make matters worse, you're stuck on the ship with about a zillion zombies (and a herd of psionic monkeys, but that's a different story).

When the first Quake game came out six or seven years ago, I wrote the following: "Hands down, there are no scarier sounds known to man than the groan of a Quake zombie or the splat of a hurled decaying body part making contact with its target." As it turns out, I was wrong.

In System Shock 2, the zombies not only groan in the typical spooky zombie fashion, but they also pass the time by begging you to kill them and apologizing profusely while beating you to death with a lead pipe and/or wrench. Double creepy. Worse still, a System Shock zombie is about ten times as fast as a Quake zombie--not 28 Days Later fast, mind you, but fast all the same. They also wield shotguns on occasion.

I hate zombies.

Posted by Jess at 02:06 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2003

I Hate Weblogs

Yep, that's right. I hate weblogs. About eight years ago, when I first logged on to the web, I wondered what could possibly be more self-indulgent and useless than lists of all the CDs that a person I don't know owns or a list of his or her "hot links." Then, as the years passed, weblogs began to appear on the scene, and I discovered that self-indulgence had soared to new heights. Pretty soon, everybody that I knew online had a weblog, and they all insisted that I needed one as well. I resisted for the first year or two. After all, as I said at the beginning of this paragraph, I hate weblogs.

That being said, I've decided to launch a weblog.

I'm sure you're all like, "Wha-wha?!" right now. Yeah, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me either. Why launch a weblog now after battling against it for so long? Well, the story starts about six months ago when some script kiddie "hacked" my homepage and erased what was there. Now, I should note that my previous homepage was by no means a testiment to meaningful content, and I ended up replacing it with nothing more than a plain text message reading, "Gone for now."

That was working out fairly well for me. Then, in past month or two, I got the strange urge to actually relaunch a homepage to go along with the webpage that consumes most of my online time. Why? I have no idea. Try as I might, however, I couldn't come up with anything that amounted to a list of links to sites that everyone already knows about anyway (please see the right sidebar for an example of this phenomenon in action). So, I've decided to give this whole blogging thing a whirl. We'll see how long it lasts...

Meanwhile, to get discussion (heh) started, here's a little something that a member posted on my site's message forum recently. "Break this record," eh? Nice work with the web template, Guinness Book of World Records.

Weblog, weblog, one-two, one two, and if you swing by my crib then I can blog wit' you....

Posted by Jess at 12:21 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack