Thursday, March 31, 2011

Please Feel Old Now

This picture comes from a photo collection taken at various shopping malls in 1990.

Look at them, and then marvel at the fact that 1990 is now over 20 years ago...

Friday, March 25, 2011

What You Should Be Reading

I've written here before about my unabashed love for Deadspin, the snarky sports blog that's for more informative and interesting than pretty much all other sports news sites combined.

Now they have a new running feature from the eggheads at the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective. As the name implies, they're a group of Harvard students and researchers applying quantitative analysis to sports (e.g. Sabrmetrics and the like).

In their recurring contribution to Deadpsin, they're applying their fancy school mathematics to the sports exploits of fictional characters. For example, today they looked at the usage rate of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air in the one time he played organized basketball on the show. In previous entries they've looked at such burning questions as how often Trey Parker should theoretically lose a game of Baseketball, and the box score from the cartoon/live-action/product placement reels of Space Jam.

Also, they produce sweet charts like this:

The Fresh Prince only missed one shot, and it was half court

Monday, March 21, 2011

Well, If They Wanted Dignity They Shouldn't Be Poor

In the latest in a long line of ridiculous public policy measures designed to strip punish the poor for being poor and to strip them of the last few shreds of dignity they have remaining, Minnesota Republicans are trying to push a bill that would make it so public assistance could not be converted to cash form (ever) and could only be sued at special terminals at select stores.

What's the justification? Well, this is public money! If we're going to give these people money, then we should be able to dictate every detail about where, when, why, and how they can use it. Down to every last penny.

Of course, if we give hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to banks and investment firms (as, you know, a thank you for fucking up the entire world economy), it's nothing less than fascism to even argue we should have any say over how they spend it. Only a God-less socialist would suggest that the least we could do is not allow them to award themselves multi-million dollar bonuses for completely fucking up at their jobs.

After all, I'm sure they'll do something useful with the money, not blow it all on food and rent like those lazy poor people...

Thursday, March 17, 2011


With the start of the season a mere 15 days away, I'm starting to become acutely I'll be missing the first two months of my favorite sport. Fortunately the baseball season lasts approximately three years, but still.

So in the meantime, I've been reading a shit load of baseball-centric blogs to fill the void in my life, and wanted to pass along some of the highlights of these exploits.

First, there's the all-steroids team featuring a player at each position who most clearly benefited from some time on the juice. Notable for Twins fans in the inclusion of David Ortiz, who in his 6 years with the Twins manages 58 home runs total, and then went to Boston and got a locker next to a known steroid user and suddenly couldn't stop hitting home runs. Also not too coincidentally, he suddenly lost the ability to hit homers after said roids hookup was traded to LA...

Also of great interest is the first ever NCAA-bracket to determine the greatest set of facial Hair in Twins history. While I assume it's inevitable the Pav-stache will take the day, check out all of the first round brackets (conveniently broken down into Griffith era, Pohlad era, 21st century, and worst of all time), and be sure to get over there in time to vote for the second round.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How To Catch The Most Elusive of Prey

The hipster is one of the hardest to define social categories, as so many people are desperately trying to be one, but no one ever likes to be called one. In fact, calling someone a hipster is often either the first sign you yourself are a hipster or that you will soon be accused of being one.

That being said, apparently last week someone began setting up hipster traps all over New York City, consisting of some of those dumb ass sunglasses they all wear, a PBR, a bike chain, and some of those hippie cigarettes that are apparently less evil than other brands of cigarettes.

In any event, hopefully we can get some of them in captivity and dissect them for the purposes of science...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What Have You Given Up For Lent?

Before you answer, if you were going to say some variant of "I gave up Catholicism for lent! Ha ha ha!" let me stop you right there. The first time it was said it was neither funny nor original, and the millionth time it's said, it is even less so. This is one of the greatest drawbacks of social media; I saw some variant of that joke at least a dozen times in the past few days, all from different people, all of whom thought they were just so damned funny.

Ok, but that's not the point of this post. The point is that some guy in Des Moines has given up food for lent. Instead, he will get all of his of his nutrition via beer, a la the monks of old.

And before you think he's just some dumbass frat boy who wants to drink a lot of beer, he's apparently put a great deal of research into this and consulted with a nutritionist to make sure he won't, you know, die or anything. Also, he's only having 4 beers per day, so even despite their relatively high alcohol content, he won't ever be drunk from it.

Still, even with those boring safety qualifications, this is way better than giving up chocolate or something...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gettin Out While The Gettin's Good

Of all the times I could have picked to go abroad, I seem to have hit on the jackpot. While I'm enjoying relative warmth and some actual sunny days now and then, the folks back home are under a record snow that is already in the top 10 of all time, and threatening to go to number one if they get the typical snowy March.

And I can't say I miss it too much. Not only had I gotten my fill of snow before heading out, but the piles of snow in my backyard were already enough to dwarf the fence and then the garage.

But that's nothing compared to some of the snow piles around the metro area. For instance, they're currently taking bets on when this 60 snow pile in St. Paul will finally melt.

I'm not due back until June, but at this rate, it doesn't seem too unlikely there'll be snow left for me when I return...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Banksy's Oscar Pout

Although Banksy already awarded himself an Oscar (complete with stormtroopers to protect it!), the Academy did not officially give him one.

His response?

The little girl is the 15 month old daughter of a producer of The King's Speech who apparently dropped and broke his Oscar. What comment Banksy is trying to make is up to us to figure out -- is he pouting about the loss? Making a mockery of institutional awards? Who knows/particularly cares?

My current favorite hypothesis is that Banksy, who has managed to somehow maintain the anonymity necessary to be a tagger despite international fame and being the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, is actually that little girl and this is how she has chosen to reveal her identity to the world...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Athletes Are Great Students! (Well, Actually Some Are, But Not The Ones We Want You To Think Of)

If you follow college athletics at all, sooner or later you'll hear the justification from the NCAA or a particular school that "student" athletes get better grades and graduate at a higher rate than the average student population. This, they'll inevitably go on to say, not only disproves the stereotype of the dumb jock, but also shows how good college athletics are for the "student" athlete.

And this is actually true, if you combine all athletes. The problem is, the ones getting those good grades and graduating are overwhelmingly in those sports you will never once see on television and are usually women. But of course, such defense of college athletics citing these statistics are rarely made during a women's lacrosse meet.

No, these arguments are usually made during events like nationally-televised football games. The problem is that this sample of athletes is in no way representative of the greater population. Major football programs tend to graduate somewhere between 50-75% of their players. And the numbers aren't so low because people are going pro; even the most elite football programs have at most 10% of any given class go on to play a single professional play. The rest typically drop out because they're injured or performing poorly and their scholarship is rescinded.

Yet even beyond on these factors, athlete grades are boosted by dozens of  perks, both legal and not-so-legal. For example, most athletes are provided with free tutoring, supposedly because they have demands other students do not. Cynically, one could say this is because they need to keep their grades up to make the university look good. And even looking past the seemingly annual event wherein it's revealed the "tutors" were actually doing the work for their charges at one school or another, there's all sorts of other semi-legal, mostly-shady tactics to keep athlete grades up.

For instance, it's recently been revealed that Stanford, universally lauded for making its athletes maintain the same standards as the rest of it students, was distributing a list of easy classes to its athletes that they could take to boost their GPAs. Standford has defended the practice by saying it's not about how easy the classes are, but instead about classes that might better fit into their unique schedules, which isn't much of a defense, since the school publishes its list of available courses by time offered already. Now would it explain why only a few classes from the given time periods were listed as "courses of interest" rather than all classes from that period, since you know, it's only about the schedule, not about how easy the classes are.

But then again, I guess this is all just based on the outmoded notion that universities are places that exist to educate people, so I suppose none of this is really a problem...

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

I Don't Know What It Is, But I Know It's Associated With Moo-Slims!

So a recent trend around the nation, and especially in the South -- America's racist uncle that you have to invite to Thanksgiving dinner but you hope doesn't say anything -- is the introduction of bills in various state government to ban the implementation or consideration of Sharia law (the former of course being something we're very much in danger of, and the later being something that's used mainly to settle divorce cases).

Of course, what these bills are completely missing is that Sharia law is not a written set of rules, but rather a way of interpreting religious tradition, so it's pretty difficult to ban it. It would be like banning math because you don't like to pay your taxes. But we all know this isn't about fear of an interpretation of certain Islamic traditions, but instead about making sure the scary brown people know we don't like them.

In that spirit, one of the more entertaining developments in this little cycle is that the legislator who introduced one of these bills in Alabama doesn't even know what Sharia law is. Not only was most of his bill directly cribbed from the Wikipedia article on Sharia law, when reporters asked him about it, he couldn't even speak about the most basic aspects of Islam, such as the difference between Sunni and Shi'i.

I'd say trying to ban something when you don't even know what it is just because you're vaguely aware it's associated with a group of people you don't like is probably the height of racism, but at the rate this country is going, somebody will do something even more insane in about a week or two...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

More About Wisconsin

In the latest development I've been able to find, it turns out folks are no longer being allowed to camp out inside the capitol, but many are merely moving their sleeping outside (which is pretty bad ass this time of year).

There seems to be little movement toward any type of resolution from either side, with union's still not wanting to give up the one thing out of the laundry list of concessions they've already agreed to that defines them as an organization, and Walker and Co. not wanting to give up being assholes.

In other developments, Michael Moore eventually got around to showing up and gave a great speech about the lie going around that Wisconsin/America is broke and the only way to fix it is by slashing social programs and destroying unions.

In eve more exciting development, thousands of farmers from around the state are planning on driving their tractors to the capitol to join in the demonstrations. They are also putting a call to taxpayer/friend of the farmer Willie Nelson to come join them, so this has the potential to get supremely awesome...

Sunday, March 06, 2011

I'm Bored and Have Nothing Better To Do With My Time

Have you ever wondered what Holy Diver would sound like as an acoustic ballad? Than you are in luck:

For those of you not in the know, here's a reference point:

Friday, March 04, 2011

Why I Kinda Sorta Like College Basketball

I'm not much of a basketball fan. Probably because I was short and slow growing up, which is a combination that is perfectly suited to suck at basketball. Short and fast? Plenty of roles for you to fill. Tall and slow? No problem. But short and slow, no dice. So I was terrible at it and probably developed some sort of resentment for it.

And professional basketball these days is so boring. I'll avoid getting into the tired tropes everyone lists as why they don't like pro ball, but my complaints center on how no one appears to be trying outside of the marquee games and it's all just isolation one-on-one plays every time down the court.

But because of my beloved plucky mid-major Panthers, I started following college basketball toward the end of my college career. And while I think the game in general is better at the college level than the pro level (they do things like run plays), I think the real reason I like it is the fans.

Because unlike pretty much every professional sport, in college basketball actual fans can get good seats near the court for somewhat affordable prices. So unlike pro games where the first 30 rows are all business executives who may have a passing interest in the game or, in some places, celebrities just there to be seen, in a college game the crazy dedicated fans are right up on the action.

And as such, they're a lot more creative and entertaining. For example, the great pics below from when the BUY Jimmers visited SDSU. As you're probably aware, BYU is a Mormon college, so the SDSU student section all dressed up like Mormon missionaries (complete with bike helmets!) and had some great signs poking various levels of inappropriate fun at BYU.

You will never see signs like this at a Lakers game..

Thursday, March 03, 2011

How iTunes Made Me Hate Elvis Costello

Seriously, fuck this guy

I suppose it's not very original, or even necessary, at this point to say that the ability to (legally?) download pretty much any music one could want has dramatically changed the way most of us consume music. Whereas once you might hear about a band or artist you want to check out and then remember that person/band the next time you're at the record store and decide whether it's worth wasting your hard earned money on said band's/person's album, these days you can download an album before you're even done reading a review.

Once I was compelled to do this with Mr. Costello. He's one of those guys that most people whose taste in music I trust seem to like, and I was reading some sort of music blog that highly recommend several albums by him. So I downloaded them and plopped them into iTunes along with most other music I own in the theory that as they came up randomly, I would listen to them and grow to fill in this lacuna in my musical knowledge.

Now I don't have as much music on my laptop as I do on my desktop, but still, according to iTunes' count, I have 5.8 days worth of music (or 139.2 hours). And according to iTunes I have 6.1 ours of Mr. Costello's music on there, which would be roughly 4.3% of all of the music I have on there, for those keeping track at home.

Yet despite what Apple claims to the contrary, there's no way the iTunes algorithm doesn't favor Elvis Costello on my laptop for some weird reason. Because I have equally large amounts of Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, Dr. Hook, and Drive By Truckers (and a few others) on there, and yet I can go entire days without them coming up on my random shuffle. Yet it sticks out as unusual when I'm able to sit there for even 20 or 30 minutes without an Elvis Costello song coming up.

And as such, not only have I not come to appreciate his music, I've come to despise him. Now, pretty much any time one of his songs comes up, I almost instinctively skip it, even if it's one I like, just because he comes up so often in what is supposedly a random shuffle.

I realize this is completely irrational of me, but it's not my fault. My iTunes apparently has a crush on Elvis Costello and is determined to make me listen to him at any cost. And there's few things I react to more negatively than someone (or thing) trying to force their musical tastes on me.

So I've gone from completely indifferent to angrily annoyed with Elvis Costello, ironically because of my quest to appreciate him. And it's all the fault of iTunes' poorly programmed shuffle algorithm.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Easily More Impressive Than Their Final Four Run

I've posted college band videos before, such as this awesome video of the Hawaii marching band forming a giant football player kicking a field goal, but this one easily beats all others.

It's video of the George Mason pep band playing a mash up of Rage Against The Machine's "Killing In The Name" and "Bulls on Parade." And apparently their director has made the arrangement available for anyone who wants it, so if you're conducting a pep band somewhere, get in touch with this dude...

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Why The Tea Party Exists (To An Extent)

So I know it's a complex phenomenon, and there's lots of reasons the tea party exists right now and its members share the crazy ideas they do (like I'm sure it's just coincidence all these crazies happen to come out when we get our first Black president).

But one of the major reasons so many people think Government spending is crazy or stupid is because they don't understand it. It's really not their fault, as 40+ years of anti-tax activism by far-right nutjobs has people pretty convinced about 97% of federal spending is free welfare for drug abusing teen moms (when in reality, free welfare for drug abusing teen moms is a relatively small percentage of federal spending).

And of course it isn't just that. But what most people don't realize is the many ways they benefit from government spending. For example, a recent study by Suzanne Mettler of Cornell University found that the vast majority of people will report that they don't get any government benefits, despite the fact that most people do.

For instance, she found that 60% of those claiming the home mortgage interest deduction claimed they don't use any government social programs, despite that being a government social program. 53% of people with federal student loans, 52% of those claiming the child or dependent tax credit, 44% of social security recipients, 43% of unemployment recipients, the list goes on and on -- so many of these people said they receive no government social spending despite the fact they're all getting (fairly large sums of) government social spending.

This helps explain a lot about Americans. For instance, why people can look at the public unions trying to hold onto their collective bargaining power in Wisconsin and think they're trying to get fat off of government money. Or why people can fool themselves into thinking they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps without anyone's help.

Because they simply refuse to believe (or fail to recognize) how much help they've gotten and continue to get