Archive for September, 2008

Weekend roundup

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

GUY: Which is hotter, mild or medium salsa?
GIRL:  I don’t know!  You always ask me, and I can never remember.

“Once people reach 18, the age of consent, in terms of society, and its values and expectations, people are, in theory, able to make rational decisions and choices.”

“There were very few kids above the 95th percentile in body mass index back in 1970, about 5 percent, shockingly enough.”

Unclear on the concept

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

WOMAN (irate and completely serious): This was really poor taste.  I went to a Twins game and someone was wearing a T-shirt that said “Fuck-U-Dome” on the back.  Why on earth would it say “Fuck-U-Dome”?

MAN: No, that’s FOO-koo-doh-may.  Fukudome.  He’s a Japanese outfielder who plays for Chicago.

Academic literature

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

“Many intellectuals and economists use obscure language when they write as a way of disguising that they are not saying a heck of a lot.”

Gary Becker, Nobel Prize recipient (economics)

Four years of not reading academic literature has brought my tolerance for a lot of the b.s. way down. I just finished slogging through a chapter that was heavy on favorite academic pastimes of making lists, categorizing factors (there are three levels of environmental influences – the microsystem, the mesosystem, and the exosystem, oooh!), referencing lots of studies in an unfocused manner, and pointing out in overly verbose language that every professional field is “influenced by a variety of other disciplines, dynamic, has made lots of progress in the last 50 years, and still has many challenges and unanswered questions.” Duh, duh, and duh.

Within these lists and categories, there are many references to vague factors/influences/settings/etc. that might be important to something. THIS ISN’T TELLING ME ANYTHING. To make a useful point, you have to tell me what factors actually DO matter and why. Look at these ugly sentences:

“The model proposed by Booth and others (2001) identifies twelve behavior settings in which eating commonly occurs, ranging from home and work to automobiles and shopping malls. A multidisciplinary panel proposed sixty-three environmental influences in these behavior settings that could affect eating.”

Wow. Your blue ribbon panel categorized why and where people eat. I wish I could say that the text went on to make a useful point about eating habits. But the paragraph finished like this:

“Because of the large number of potential influences on eating behavior, models that help to set priorities for action and that can place a large array of diverse variables in a coherent framework are likely to be particularly helpful.”

No. This writing is not helpful to me at all.

Numbers

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

CUBS ANNOUNCER: I don’t really pay attention to magic numbers until they get down to around 5 or 6.
BOB BRENLY: I don’t bother with numbers period. Makes my head hurt.

(one minute later)

BOB BRENLY: Aaron Harang was 2-6 with a 3.5 ERA in 11 starts before his relief appearance on May 25. He pitched four innings of relief three days after a start. Since then he is 2-9 with a 7.39 ERA.

Anybody watching the Republican National Convention?

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

RUDY GUILIANI: Every four years, we’re told that this is the most important presidential election in our lifetime.
QM: Hooray! Someone pointed out the overuse of a meaningless phrase. Wait a minute, how is he going to follow this up? He’s not going to say that this is the most important election in our lifetime, is he? Oh shit.
RUDY GUILIANI: This year, with what’s at stake, 2008 is the most important election in our lifetime.

Prior to that, a spat between Alaska and Delaware was perpetuated by the governor of Hawaii.

“Democrats have said that (Palin) comes from a small state. Well, last time I checked, Alaska has the same number of electoral votes as Delaware (Joe Biden’s home state), and the state of Delaware could fit into the state of Alaska 250 (?) times!”

Our red state can eat your blue state!

I was initially impressed with a group of delegates who appeared to be wearing John McCain hockey jerseys. Then the newsman explained that they were actually the Michigan delegation wearing bastardized GOP Detroit Red Wings jerseys into the Xcel Energy Center. Boo. Hiss.

We get it, Detroit, your hockey team is awesome. They are even better than the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. Your players are all native Michigonians, a testament to the superior hockey culture present in your state. Your fans are all extremely knowledgeable in regards to the game, many of them having played it themselves, and their ability to wave and throw octopi is a testament to their higher cultural ideals. Steve Yzerman is the greatest warrior ever, and is to hockey what Brett Favre is to football. You rock.

Back when sports were fun

Monday, September 1st, 2008

Modern professional sports, while still producing the occasional blooper reel or odd story, have become scientific and predictable to the point of boredom. I don’t mean predictable in terms of who wins or loses, but in the motion of the games themselves. Before the age of ten different replay angles and electronics that allow the result of a race to be determined instantaneously, even though it was decided by a fingertip, we had far more colorful characters and events.

Take as an example 1904. Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Rube Waddell set the (still unsurpassed) American League record for strikeouts in a season by a left hander, but was “odd and unpredictable, including a bad habit of leaving the dugout in the middle of games to follow passing fire trucks to fires, and performed as an alligator wrestler in the offseason. He was also easily distracted by opposing team fans who used to hold up puppies and shiny objects which seem to put Waddell in a trance on the mound.”

In that same year, the St. Louis Olympics were held, which took place over four months and were a sideshow to the (simultaneously occurring) World’s Fair. The games featured (no joke) “Anthropology Days”, in which indigenous people of the world competed in events such as tree climbing and mud throwing in a sort of racial experiment. The track events apparently did not go so well as participants struggled with the concept of a starting gun and stopped short of, or ran underneath, the tape at the finish line.

And then there was the marathon. Viewers disturbed at the puzzling circumstances of the 2004 Athens marathon, in which a defrocked priest attacked the lead runner, would be even more baffled by the account of the 1904 race:

The marathon was the most bizarre event of the Games. It was run in brutally hot weather, over dusty roads, with horses and automobiles clearing the way and creating dust clouds.

  • The first to arrive was Frederick Lorz, who actually was just trotting back to the finish line to retrieve his clothes, after dropping out after nine miles. When the officials thought he had won the race, Lorz played along with his practical joke until he was found out shortly after the medal ceremony and was banned for a year by the AAU for this stunt, later winning the 1905 Boston Marathon.
  • Thomas Hicks (a Briton running for the United States) was the first to cross the finish-line legally, after having received several doses of strychnine sulfate mixed with brandy from his trainers. He was supported by his trainers when he crossed the finish, but is still considered the winner. Hicks had to be carried off the track, and possibly would have died in the stadium, had he not been treated by several doctors.
  • A Cuban postman named Felix Carbajal joined the marathon. He had to run in street clothes that he cut around the legs to make them look like shorts. He stopped off in an orchard en route to have a snack on some apples, which turned out to be rotten. The rotten apples caused him to have to lie down and take a nap. Despite falling ill to apples he finished in fourth place.
  • The marathon included the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics; two Tswana tribesmen named Len Tau (real name: Len Taunyane) and Yamasani (real name: Jan Mashiani). But they weren’t there to compete in the Olympics, they were actually the sideshow. They had been brought over by the exposition as part of the Boer War exhibit (both were really students from Orange Free State in South Africa, but this fact was not made known to the public). Len Tau finished ninth and Yamasani came in twelfth. This was a disappointment, as many observers were sure Len Tau could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by aggressive dogs.