Snowboard Fail

>> 30 December 2008

For our second day on the slopes, I went with a snowboard. BAD IDEA! I managed to get the snowboard attached to my feet and I managed to stand up, but from there, things got ugly. My reasoning was something like this: I can skateboard, I have snowboarded before (9 or 10 years ago), so I should be great at this. Alas, this was not the case. After standing up, I began to slide forward until I ran over the back of Rochelle's skis and fell down. Not to be discouraged, I got back on my feet and ran over the skis of a woman who didn't seem to pleased with me. This was not the end though; I got back up and started going down the hill. Things were finally working out until it came time to turn. I tried to dig my edge in to turn, but the only effect this had was to pivot me around 180 degrees so that I was now pointed down the mountain with my right foot. I ran into the deep snow, took off the snowboard and walked back to the rental shop to trade in for skis.

After that, I didn't fall.

My decision today was momentous as it marks a step forward on the path of uncoolness. I wish I were a rad snowboarder, getting mad rutty on the ramps, flipping the diggie, and just doing all manner of stunts in the air and on the ground, but as it turns out, the minute I attach a snowboard to my feet, I become a danger to myself and others. Oh well.

I'll attach pictures later.


Vote for my Demise!

>> 28 December 2008

I am in Utah, on a ski trip with my family. I am not a very good skier; in fact, the best word to describe the way I ski is, dangerous. I am pretty good at standing up, but not so great at turning or stopping (which turn out to be pretty important when skiing).

Since I'm not a particularly good skier, I've been thinking about trying out snowboarding on this trip. So my question for you, dear internet, is which should I do, skiing or snowboarding?

Vote in the poll and then please leave your words of advice or warning in the comment section.


If Grammar is Your Pet Peeve, You are My Pet Peeve

>> 24 December 2008

Are you a grammar snob? Let's find out. Read the sentences below and see if they bother you.

  • I hope their not angry because of my grammar. [their, there, they're]
  • Where are you going to? [dangling participle]
  • It's important to always do your best. [split infinitive]
  • The tree is tall. It's limbs are long. [it's, its]
  • "How are you doing?"... "good" [adjective v. adverb]
Now, believe it or not, there are people who get upset when they hear or read sentences like those above. They say things like, "Jeez, learn to spell, idiot!" or, "Really? You're doing good, not well? Are you running around fighting crime or something?" These grammar snobs also say things like, "I can't stand it when people mistake it's and its. It drives me crazy."

To which I say, "Really?" Is a split infinitive really that distressing? There are literally PIRATES pillaging things off the coast of Somalia, and your (just're) upset about dangling participles? Of all the things to be concerned about!

Side Note: In one of my classes this semester, I wrote a paper about the sonnet cycle, Astrophil and Stella, it was returned to me with the following grade and comment: B+ Needs more Grammar.

In conclusion, the next time someone asks you how you are doing, don't think about it; just say "good" and get on with things. And if their (just kidding...they're) upset by your bad grammar just tell them this: "If grammar is your pet peeve, then my pet peeve is you!"


Best of the Year: 2009

>> 20 December 2008

Now, in an ill-advised attempt at prescience, I will predict the best things of the year 2009.  One year from now, we can check back and see if I was right.

  • Best Movie: Twilight 2: Vampire Remix
  • Best Album:"Whiz Kidz" by Whiz Kidz (a supergroup consisting of Common, Lupe Fiasco, GZA, and Neil Sedaka)
  • Best Invention: Teleporter
  • Best New Apple Product: iphone 2.0 - same as normal iphone but available in multiple colors.  Still drops calls.
  • Best new catchphrase: "Flip that Diggie!"
  • Best Nut: Cashew
  • Best Deer-In-The-Headlights-Blank-Stare: Haley Joel Osment
  • Best Thing that Didn't Actually Happen: End of Recession
Side Note:  If there are any time-travelers reading this e-blog, I would encourage you to post a comment revealing whether or not these predictions turn out to be correct.  Comments from non-time-travelers will also be accepted, though perhaps with slightly less enthusiasm.


Best of the Year: 2008

>> 18 December 2008

This time of year, everyone starts making "Best of the Year" lists.  Best movie, best TV show, best album, best haircut, etc.  These lists are sort of nice; they give us the chance to look back and say, "Yes, some things happened this year that were different from other years."  Let's get this out of the way, then:

  • Best Movie, not about Batman: Wall-E (Seriously.)
  • Best Movie, about Batman: The Dark Knight
  • Best Album: "Fleet Foxes" by Fleet Foxes
  • Best President of the United States: George W. Bush (Don't worry Obama, your* time will come)
  • Best President-elect of the United States: Barack Obama (Told you your* time would come)
  • Most irritating phrase: "lipstick on a ______"  Pit bull, pig, you name it.
  • Best Olympics: Summer, Beijing
  • Best Thing-that-didn't-actually-happen: Scientists discover that cashews cure cancer.
*Disclaimer: I address Barack Obama in the second person, as if he were a reader of this e-blog.  As far as I know, he does not read this e-blog, and the second person reference was a literary device only.  I'm sorry if this was misleading for anyone.


Cashews: The Greatest Nut?

>> 14 December 2008

If there is one thing which we, as Americans tend to take for granted, it's cashews.  While shopping at Costco this week, I purchased a huge tub of cashews.  Let me tell you what - the cashew is a great nut.  Here is a list of nuts, from best to worst*.

  1. Cashew
  2. Pistachio
  3. Almond
  4. Peanut
  5. Hazelnut (known in some places as a "Filbert")
  6. Brazil Nut 
  7. Pecan**
  8. Walnut
  9. Raisins***
A few clarifications: *This ranking is based on the tastiness of a roasted, salted, version of the nut.  **The fact that pecan pie is delicious doesn't move pecans up the rankings, because they're not great by themselves.  ***Technically a raisin is not a nut, but I think it still belongs on this list for obvious reasons!  I didn't want anyone to come away from this e-blog post thinking that walnuts were worse than raisins.

What do you think of my list?  Post your own list below.


Ask an Expert: Robot Edition

>> 03 December 2008

This past week, I received three very good questions about robots, which I will not answer expertly.

Courtney wrote:

Dear Expert Joel:

What are your thoughts on Rosie, the robot maid on "The Jetsons?" Is she an accurate representation of the robots of the future?
Thanks for the question, Courtney. The short answer is no. Rosie, looks like a microwave. Robots in the future will look like ipods. They will be designed by Steve Jobs and will come in six different colors so that everyone can have a robot that expresses his or her individuality.

Kelley wrote:
Mr. Expert,

Which child-robot was more annoying: Haley Joel Osment as "David" in A.I., or "Chip" from Not Quite Human??

Wow. This one really had me stumped. I initially went for HJO, but then I thought about it some more and started leaning towards "Chip". In the end, I went for Haley Joel Osment, though it was close (In HJO's defense, he does a mean blank stare face, as seen in The Sixth Sense, A.I., Forest Gump, and Pay It Forward). Aside from the aforementioned blank stare -- which has brought him fame and notoriety -- and his rad middle name, this kid is mildly irritating. He is even worse as a robot.

[side rant] In The Sixth Sense, how does Bruce Willis not realize he's (Spoiler Alert!) dead? Nobody talks to him except this little kid! What, does he think his wife is mad at him for getting shot? "Why aren't you talking to me, honey?" "Oh, I don't know, Bruce. Maybe it's because you got shot, you insensitive jerk!" Does he not notice that he has no clients except the blank stare kid? Seriously. I liked the movie, but come on! [/side rant]

Lisa (and company) wrote:
Was Mia correct in thinking that Robert really was an alien in disguise and could at any moment unzip his outerwear? I mean honestly can any "human" impersonate a robot that well?

This question refers to the first video in this post. Thanks for the question. The dangerous thing about robots is that sometimes they are very difficult to distinguish from humans. For instance, there is widespread speculation that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a robot similar to the one he played in the Terminator franchise. Others suspect that Joe Biden is a robot, but is keeping things quiet in order not to upstage Obama's "first-African-American-president" thing with his "first-non-human-vice-president" publicity. There may be robots all around us. In fact, it is possible that I am a robot (please spread this rumor!)

The other possibility is that Robert really is just a talented human. Is it harder for a human to act like a robot, or for a robot to act like a human? Answer: I know from personal experience that it's harder for a robot to act like a human (please spread this rumor!).

Well, that's it for this edition of "Ask an Expert."  In the coming days I'll make a post to accept new questions!  Leave your comments below!


BREAKING NEWS: Santa Claus is not a Home-Wrecker!

>> 30 November 2008

For many years, I have thought that "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" was one of the strangest Christmas songs I've ever heard.  I was always greatly disturbed by the implications of Santa Claus going around kissing people.  It's not merry if she's married, Santa!  But finally, after years of thinking that this song described a very strange (possibly sick) scenario, I have learned the truth.  Rochelle, explained to me that in the song, "Mommy" is not actually kissing Santa Claus.  Instead, she is kissing "Daddy", who has dressed up like Santa Claus.

The good news is that this means Santa Claus is not necessarily a lecherous monster.

The bad news is that the situation described in this song is still really strange.  There are two main interpretations of the scenario described in the song.

  1. "Santa" = Santa.  If the person identified by the singer as "Santa" really is Santa Claus, then this is, without a doubt, the most horrifying song ever written (yes, even worse than "Fergilicious").  The thought of Santa Claus traveling from house to house, smooching all the married women along the way is not a pleasant one.  It would imply that Santa Claus is a home-wrecking skirt-chaser.
  2. "Santa" = Daddy.  If the person identified by the singer as "Santa" is actually Daddy, dressed up like Santa Claus, then this is, without a doubt, one of the strangest families in the world.  First: is it normal for parent's to dress up as Santa when they go to put the presents under the tree?  I can't speak for everyone, but I don't think this normally happens.  Second: the singer claims that his parents thought he was "tucked up in his bedroom fast asleep".  If this is true, then who was the costume for?  Think about that...then shudder!  Third: how stupid is this kid?  What was his thought process?  There is a man in a red suit who looks like my Dad, kissing my mom...OH MY GOSH IT'S SANTA CLAUS!  Idiot.  And finally: this song does not have a happy ending.  The resolution is that the kid still believes in Santa, AND, believes that his mother is cheating on his father.  He'll probably cry when he thinks about what's going to happen in a few months when the Easter Bunny comes around.

I know the song is supposed to be cute - the boy doesn't understand that [SPOILER ALERT!] Santa doesn't really exist - but seriously, this song goes too far.  Is it worth preserving this kid's belief in Santa when it comes at the expense of him thinking that HIS MOTHER IS HAVING EXTRAMARTIAL RELATIONS WITH A MYTHICAL CHARACTER?!  Come on!

In conclusion, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" is the most disturbing Christmas song ever.

Did I miss any possible interpretations of the song?  Post 'em!


Ask an Expert pt.2

>> 24 November 2008

I am now taking questions for the next "Ask an Expert" post.  This time through, things are going to work a little bit differently.  This time I will only be accepting questions about robots and robot-related sub-categories (i.e., robotics, cyborgs, artificial intelligence, etc.)

I will select the best three questions to answer next week.

And speaking of robots, please enjoy these videos.  The first features a human who dances like a robot (check out the part around 4:30).  The second video features robots that dance like...well, robots.

For questions about doing the robot, you can visit

And please leave your questions below.


How To Waste Time on the Internet

>> 22 November 2008

The internet is FILLED with How-To's and most of them have this thing in common: you'll read the article and then never do the thing it purportedly taught you how to do!  In recent days I have read articles on wikihow about subjects as diverse as, how to make flan, how to make a coin appear to go through your head and out your mouth, and how to ride a unicycle.  But what will I do with this new-found knowledge?  Nothing.

And that's the problem with most how-to articles.  Which is why I have come up with one that is guaranteed to work!  HOW TO WASTE TIME ON THE INTERNET!  The following websites will make you waste your life away.
  •  This news aggrigator is constanly updated with things that you don't really need to know.
  •  This website, along with webcomics in general can guarantee that you laugh your way out of a hard day's work
  •  Watch TV for free!  TV on the internet = DOUBLE TROUBLE!
  •  This is basically Risk for free online.  Play against strangers or invite your friends to slack off with you!
  •  These games about rolling balls and swinging pendulums are embarassingly addictive.
  •  In this free online game, you manage a soccer team in a league where you compete with other human-controlled teams.  You don't actually play - you just oversee the training, tactics, signings, etc. (warning: high soccer nerd factor)
  •  Free online soccer where, unlike hattrick (see above), you actually play against other people.
  •  This place is a blackhole...budget at least one hour for each visit because you will click on and read the linked articles.
  • Google Reader  Subscribe to e-blogs of interest and read them all in one place as soon as they're updated!
  • Facebook  Face it (pun!), the novelty has worn off a little, but I still waste plenty of time when I start looking at someone's new photo-album before I realize that it has 150 pictures!
So there you have it: a bunch of new ways to waste time on the internet and a how-to guide that you might actually use!

I know I must have missed a lot of internet black-holes.  What are you favorite time wasters?


Phun With Philosophy: Freedom

>> 20 November 2008

When I tell people that I am studying philosophy, they invariably ask me the same question: "What do you want to do with that?"  Followed by this astute observation: "I can't think of many jobs that pay you to just sit around and philosophize."  I usually hem and haw a little bit and give some sort of self-deprecating answer.  But not any more.  The next time someone asks me, "what can you do with a degree in philosophy?" I will answer proudly...Write about it on my e-blog!  So, with that said, welcome to the first installment of Fun with Philosophy!

The question of whether individual freedom exists is a classic in metaphysics.  But what does it mean to be free?  Consider this example:
Dirk, a brilliant neurologist, decides to do a little experiment on his room-mate Tom in which Tom plays solitaire without stopping until he wins a game.  Dirk has installed a device in Tom's brain which, if Tom at any point stops playing solitaire, can be triggered to hijack Tom's brain and force him to keep playing solitaire.  If Tom stops playing, Dirk will use the device to make Tom play. 

So, they run the experiment, and, as it turns out, Tom loves solitaire and plays it enthusiastically for twenty minutes before he wins a game and the experiment ends.  Dirk doesn't have to use the device because Tom didn't stop playing.  Tom wanted to play and so he did.
Now, the questions is: Was Tom's playing solitaire an action which he did freely?  On one hand, it seems like it was a free action because Tom was doing exactly what he wanted to do.  But on the other hand, it seems like his action was not free because he could not have done otherwise.  If he had tried to stop playing solitaire, Dirk would have triggered the device and hijacked Tom's brain, forcing him to keep playing.  Does freedom mean being able to do the specific things which we choose to do?  Or does it mean being able to do anything which is physically possible?

What do you think?  Was Tom's action free or not?


Christmas Music

>> 19 November 2008

Yes, it's true.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  I have already started listening to Christmas music.  It's not like I listen to it all the time or anything, but it's creeping into my rotation.  Unfortunately I don't have a whole lot of Christmas music.  My catalogue of Christmas music:

  • Bright Eyes Christmas Album (sort of irritating except for "Blue Christmas")
  • Clay Aiken Christmas (Exactly what you'd expect)
  • Brian Setzer Boogie Christmas (It's amazing how many Christmas songs can accomodate a rockabilly guitar solo)
  • Seven different Sufjan Stevens Christmas CDs (he did one a year for a while and they're all pretty awesome)
  • James Taylor Christmas (pretty solid)
So, as the holidays get closer, I'm going to need some more material to listen to.  What are some of your favorite Christmas Albums (or individual songs) leave them in the comments so I can keep the Christmas spirit going until Dec. 25th!


Ask an Expert: Answers

>> 15 November 2008

Last weekend, I introduced my new, "Ask an Expert" segment, in which you, the internet, submit questions to this e-blog for me (the expert) to answer.  There were some very good questions posted, and I hope that my answers are sufficiently expertly.

Q: Noel wrote: Dear Expert, Why is Kanye West obsessed with the auto tune machine?  It's really bothering me.
A:  Thanks for the question Noel!  First, a little bit of background for the readers who are not familiar with this.  Auto-Tune is a program which can be run in digital recording studios to make pitch corrections to audio files.  In other words, it can make an out-of-tune singer sound in-tune.  The parameters of this program can be set so that natural variations in pitch get "corrected" to a fixed note, producing the effect you hear in this Kanye West song:

Now, as to why he is using this technique - the answer is simple.  He wants to officially join the elite ranks of musicians who have successfully used auto-tune.  The list is formidable: Cher (who's single, Believe, is the first notable use of the technique), Kid Rock (Only God Knows Why), Daft Punk (One More Time), Lil Wayne (Lollipop),  Jo-Jo (Too Little Too Late), T-Pain (every song).  In other words, by using this technique, he is hoping that people will consider him a part of this highest eschalon of musical ability.

Q: Anonymous asked: Which aspects of TimeCube make them the greatest rock band of the 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd, centuries?
A: I will answer this question with a question so you can see how silly it truly is.  What is the best thing about Angels?  Duh!  They're perfect, so how can you single out one aspect for consideration?  What color is a rainbow?  Um...let me see...every color!  TimeCube is the best band in the history of the world and will fight anyone who claims otherwise.

Q: Mary wrote: I refuse to ask you question (sic).  Instead, here's a statement of fact: I will win our e-blogging contest.
A: Remember, "ONE MAN'S FACT IS ANOTHER MAN'S FICTION!"  Think about that for a while!

Q: Greg Vlazny wrote: Dear Internet, how will my son react to having a new baby sister in the house next week?
A:  First of all, congratulations!  Second, this was a trick question because your new baby is actually going to be a boy.  Sure the doctors may say it's a girl, but let's face it...they can't be absolutely certain until the baby is born, and I'm predicting a suprising twist: IT'S A BOY!

Q: Teri wrote: what are the chemical reactions that take place to allow a material (namely in food applications) to increase its viscosity in response to an increase in shear rate?
A: I have two things to say about this.  First, I DO understand the question.  I want everyone to be totally clear about this!  Second, this question overlooks the more important questions of why there are CHEMICAL REACTIONS GOING ON IN OUR FOOD!  I think it's a shame that we have grown so complacent about eating chemicals.  For instance, tomatoes contain high doses of chemicals like L-ascorbate, B-3 Niacin, and potassium.  WHAT THE HECK PEOPLE, ARE WE GOING TO STAND FOR THIS?!?  From this moment forward, I intend to eat only those foods which contain no chemical-compounds.  The one exception is water - I will consume that particular chemical compound, but none others - and only if I drink it from a trendy water-bottle which is made of chemical free aluminum.  So in conclusion, be afraid of science!

Thanks for your questions!  Post your questions for the next "Ask an Expert" session and I'll answer them in one week's time!


File this under "WHAT?!"

>> 14 November 2008

President George W. Bush poses with members of the Arizona State University Men's and Women's Track Team Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008, during a photo opportunity with 2008 NCAA Sports Champions at the White House.
First, it's pretty cool to have a picture of yourself with the president.  Second, it's even cooler to have this picture of yourself with the president.  My advice to the people in this picture: have this sucker enlarged to an 8x10 format, print it on quality photo-paper, go to a craft-store and purchase an inexpensive frame (matting optional), put the picture in the frame, and then find a place to hang the framed picture.  That way when people come over they'll be like, "Whoa, is that you with the president, making some sort of gangish sign?"  And you can say, "Yeah.  That's what it is."

Anyway, that's what I would do.

post count +1


Introducing: "Turning Points"

>> 13 November 2008

Whenever I ask people what they want to see more of on this e-blog, they invariably give the same answer: thematic continuity in the form of reoccuring features and segments.  Earlier in the week, I addressed this issue by introducing the "Ask an Expert" segment.  I now offer a second segment for your e-blog pleasure: "Turning Points"

This series of posts will essentially consist of me looking at the week's news and identifying the "turning points" where nations, individuals, or institutions go from worse.  In other words, this segment is an analysis of the decisions which make the difference between an honest mistake and downright slap-in-the-face stupidity.

The inagural "Turning Point" comes to us courtesy of Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia.  Now, a bit of history to put this in context: during a campaign stop in Colorado, Barack Obama mentioned that he felt the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps needed to grow.  He then made the following comment:
"We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."
This statement is rather strange, and Rep. Broun was probably right to bring it up and even object to it.

But wait, there's a "turning point" and boy is it good!  Rep. Broun said: 
It may sound a bit crazy and off base, but the thing is, he’s the one who proposed this national security force. I’m just trying to bring attention to the fact that we may — may not, I hope not — but we may have a problem with that type of philosophy of radical socialism or Marxism. That’s exactly what Hitler did in Nazi Germany and it’s exactly what the Soviet Union did. When he’s proposing to have a national security force that’s answering to him, that is as strong as the U.S. military, he’s showing me signs of being Marxist.”
Here's what we can conclude:
  1. Paul Broun does not really know what a "Marxist" is.  The word he was thinking of was "totalitarian".  Dictionary, homeboy.
  2. It is a bad idea to make a press statement that begins with the words, "It may sound a bit crazy..."
  3. The distinguished representative does not know what "comparing" means.  "I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential of going down that road."  I'm no expert but that sounds like a comparison I am an expert and that is a comparison.
  4. The whole thing is a tad crazy.
Rep. Paul Broun faced a "turning point", and I think it's safe to say he took the least expected turn.

If you have any good examples of "turning points" that you would like to see discussed, feel free to share a link to the news story.


NBC Doesn't Believe in Physics

>> 10 November 2008

There is a new series on NBC, called Crusoe, which tells the story of Robinson Crusoe.  You may be wondering: how long can they really stretch this series out before it just gets irritating?  And that would be a valid concern - how many times can we watch this guy fail to build an adequate raft and still care?

Anyway...this is a clip from the show, in which Friday, Crusoe's native-helper-friend, falls down a hole and gets pinned down by a heavy log.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the hole is slowly filling with water, and it appears Friday will DROWN!  They spend the next ten minutes trying to figure out how to rescue Friday from the rising water.

In the end, Crusoe builds a little catapult thing that launches the log off of Friday and allows him to escape.  But there's a problem - WHAT KIND OF LOG DOESN'T FLOAT IN WATER?!  The entire time - during what was supposed to be the most suspenseful scene - I couldn't stop thinking about why the log wasn't floating?  Even if it didn't float enough for him to swim under, the boyancy of the wood should have at least made it possible for him to lift the log off.  I guess on TV they are not clever enough to figure out that wood floats.  DANG!

Also, don't forget to post your questions for the first ever Ask an Expert.


Ask an Expert, pt. 1

>> 09 November 2008

I am introducing a new feature of this e-blog.  It's called, "Ask an Expert" where I take questions from you, dear internet, and answer them.  Technically, there are very few subjects about which I am an expert, however, what I lack in expertise and knowledge, I make up for in taking-myself-seriously, so I feel confident that I will be able to answer any and all questions - if not accurately, then at least enthusiastically.

Submit your questions during the week, and I'll answer them next weekend.  For this first round of Ask an Expert, I'll be accepting and answering questions about any topic.  So, submit away, and I'll look  forward to answering any and all questions.

Remember, this can't work without your questions, so FIRE AWAY!


Proposition 8

>> 06 November 2008

Warning: boring political post to at your own risk!
So, many of you have probably heard about the passage of Proposition 8 in California.  Proposition 8 is an amendment to the state constitution of California which prevents gay marriage by defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman.  The debate was heated (to say the least) and the measure eventually passed.  And I'm still not sure what to think about it.

On one hand, this can be seen as a clear victory for the traditional family.  It's no secret that a good family is a very important factor in child development, and while I'm sure gay couples can make good, loving parents, it's not clear what impact this arrangement would have on children.  We read all the time about the struggles of children who grow up without a father to serve as a male role-model, and in a family with two mothers, it's not clear how this situation would be resolved.  (Although, gay couples are allowed to adopt children, even if they are not married and there doesn't seem to be any way of preventing a lesbian couple from getting pregnant and then raising the child together).  In any case, there is a strong case to make for the traditional family.  For many people, there are also religious reasons for opposing gay marriages.

The flip side of this argument is a slightly heady question about the role of laws in our society, which, although it is slightly abstract, is nonetheless important.  As far as I can determine, laws may be one of two types: 1) laws which exist to protect individual freedoms and property and 2) laws which exist to guarantee that citizens behave in a morally acceptable way.  For example, laws against murder fall under the first category because these laws protect a basic right of the citizens of this country.  Helmet laws, for instance, are an example of the second kind of law; if I choose to ride a motorcycle without a helmet it is a foolish decision, but my decision is not directly infringing on the rights of anyone else.  If I were killed in an accident while riding without a helment, it would cause great distress and sadness for my family and friends and for the other driver.  In light of this sadness, we can say that it is unethical for me to ride without a helmet.  Even so, it does not violate anyone's rights; sadly, we do not have the right to avoid sorrow.

I think that in general, laws ought to be construed as means to protect individual liberties, and that actions which do not directly infringe upon the rights of other should be legal, no matter how foolish or morally repugnant we find them.  By this line of reasoning, drunk driving should be illegal because it can violate the rights of others, but being drunk, while not exactly an honorable thing, should be legal, so long as the "drunkard" does not harm anyone.

My qualm about the passage of Proposition 8 is that it seems to be a law of the second category.  It limits the freedoms of a certain minority group (in this case, homosexual couples) without protecting anyone else's rights.  Or in other words, gay marriage, which does not, in any obvious way, infringe upon the rights of others, was made illegal because the majority of voters consider it wrong.  Even if it is wrong, I'm not sure it should be illegal.

Let's consider a parallel example.  Mormons are a religious minority in this country, so presumably, for most non-Mormons, a wedding performed in a Mormon temple (aka, a sealing) is really no big deal.  For members of the LDS church, however, it is extremely important.  What if the majority of voters in CA, for some reason, decided that they thought temple-weddings should be illegal and voted to amend the constitution to define marriage as "the union of a man and a women that is not performed in a Mormon temple"?  Sound far fetched?  It is.  It is very far-fetched and there's no way it's going to happen, but it is a parallel example.  The simple fact is that in the case of Proposition 8, we have an example of the majority dictating what is allowed and what is not allowed based on their beliefs.  It may seem fine as long as you're in the majority who's calling the shots, but it's a raw deal if you're in the minority.

The US Constitution has typically been amended to either address some procedural question or to grant more freedom and rights to the citizens of the country: 1-10 - the Bill of Rights, 13 - the abolition of slavery, 15 - sufferage not restricted by race, 19 - women's sufferage, 26 - lowers voting age to 18.  The 18th amendment, which enforced the prohibition of alcohol, restricted freedom, but did so across the board, to all citizens of the country.  Now, Proposition 8 was an amendment to the state constitution of CA, and not to the US Constitution, but nevertheless, I worry that it sets a bad precedent to use the constitution of the state to target and restrict the rights of a minority group.  I hope that the minority groups (religious, political, etc.) to which I belong are never suppressed by the constitution of my state.

This post is a little out of keeping with the general tone of this e-blog, I know.  But I have been thinking about this a lot.  I think, in the end, the big question is not whether gay marriage is right or wrong.  The big question we have to answer is whether or not it should be legal to do things that are wrong, provided they don't violate the rights of others.  Should the majority have the right to decide how the minority should live?  I'm not sure, but I worry that Proposition 8 may have set a dangerous precedent.

Think I'm way off base?  Any thoughts to share?  Leave your comments below.



>> 05 November 2008

I am in the computer lab at NC State right now, trying to do anything other than finish the paper which I have to turn in in two hours. Perfect time for an e-blog right? Here are a few updates:

  • Erik's home. My brother Erik just got back from being a missionary in Colorado. He went back home to California, but we got to see him last weekend in Atlanta.
  • Speaking of Atlanta - while we were there we went to the Coca-cola museum and got to try sodas from around the world. Here is my listing of continents (not N. America) in terms of the quality of their soft-drinks: Asia --> Latin America (close second) --> Africa --> Europe.
  • Barack Obama is our new president
  • How do you become a pollster? What a great job title! But pollster just a fun way to say statistician?
  • Mary is using serious surge tactics and I'm not sure if I can hold on to win the e-blogging award for prolific posting. I will try though, even at the risk of my posts becoming increasingly banal.
  • If anyone wants to volunteer to write my paper about Astrophel and Stella, please contact me ASAP. If it is after 12:25 PM, then don't worry about it.


Our Heroes are Dead

>> 28 October 2008

With the campaign for the White House becoming increasingly hostile -- staggering levels of vitriol and unfounded accusations -- and Washington embroiled in corruption scandals --Sen. Stevens' convition -- one must ask, where are the true heroes?

FAKE OUT!  You thought I was going to talk about politics, but I'm actually going to talk about something far more important: TV.

The first season of Heroes was pretty rad, but since then, it has plummented to astonishing lows.  Apparently, the writers of Heroes actually hate their audience and want to make the show's most loyal followers suffer for their allegiance.

There are two problems with the show: Time Travel and the characters are all idiots.

In the current season, for instance, the plot revolves around a secret formula that can be used to give ordinary people powers.  Apparently, this forumla will destroy the world because everyone will have hero-powers and will kill each other.  So, this formula gets released when Hiro, the character who can time-travel, receives a recorded message from his deceased father, who tells Hiro never to open the family safe because if he does it will destroy the world.  As soon as the message ends, what does Hiro do?  He opens the safe and take the formula out.  It is then stolen by a super-fast evil-hero girl.  So what does Hiro (the TIME TRAVELER) decide to do?  Rather than travel five minutes back in time to warn himself not to open the safe, he decides to travel several years into the future to see if the world really gets destroyed (it does).  And the idiocy doesn't end there.  None of the characters on the show are capable of rational decision making.

Peter Petrelli, who has the time-travel powers of Hiro, as well as the ability to read minds, teleport, regenerate, and fly -- still, somehow manages to get trapped, time after time.  Wow.  What an idiot!

Anyway, I hereby officially and publicly renounce Heroes and declare my intention to never again watch the show.


Famous Last Words

>> 22 October 2008

Think about this:  Everyone who is now alive will someday die.  With very little exception, no one knows how or when they will die.  This being the case, most people don't know what their last words will be.  I figure that for someone like me and most of you - not elderly and in pretty good general health - the most likely way to die is in some sort of accident.  Now, the most likely fatal accident that you could suffer would be some sort of car accident.  So, in order to have some degree of control over what your last words will be, I suggest that any time you leave any place (home, work, church, etc.) you say something "last-word-worthy" before you go.  Just in case.

Say for instance, that I am at work and preparing to go home for the weekend.  On my way out I say something lame like, "See you guys at the staff meeting on Monday."  Then, on the way home, I accidentally drive my car into mine-field and get blown to bits.  I would spend the entire after-life regreting those boring last words.  But what if I had said something awesome like, "BULLETS CAN'T KILL ME!"?  That's much better as far as last words go.

So, with that in mind -- here are some good last words to keep in mind.  Say these things just before you head home from work, or leave the house to go to the grocery store, or after your Sunday-school lesson.
  • This is only the beginning
  • I have no regrets
  • You may never see me again
  • You will never ever see me again (this one is riskier)
  • See you in another life, brother (in a Scottish accent)
  • Bullets can't kill me
  • Everyone dies -- not everyone truly lives
  • The dude has got no mercy!
  • I will come back to haunt all of you
  • Rosebud (whispered)
The list could go on for a long time, but those are a few things that I think are worth saying as last words.  Have any others to add to the list?  Share them below in the comments.


Amazing Goal

>> 19 October 2008

NYRB v. Columbus this weekend.

This blew my mind.  Incidentally, Danny Cepero (the Goalie who scored in the video) was playing his first professional game that night because the starting 'keeper was suspended for taking a banned dietary supplement.  With the win his team (NY Red Bulls) gains likely play-off berth.  What a way to start your career!  


Erik Comes Home!

>> 18 October 2008

Lock your doors!  Bar your windows!  Erik will be returning to "civilian" life next Friday (Oct. 24th).  Presumably, he won't have the bushy hair or the wild chops that you see here, but we won't know until we see him.

Anyway, here are some pictures of him playing strange instruments to celebrate his home-coming.


Behind the Scenes at the Debate

>> 16 October 2008

Good News!  We got an exclusive interview with Internet-expert and widely-ignored political analyst Jordan "Jojo" O'Mara (shown -->).  Jordan "Felony" O'Mara was at the presidential debate last night and has agreed to give us his insights (as well as some exclusive photos).  Here it is:

Me: In your opinion, who won the debate?
Jojo: The terrorists.  Here's why: Nobody threatened to kill Osama bin Laden.  Next question.

Me: In your opinion, who lost the debate?
Jojo: Barack Obama lost, because he had fewer interruptive outburts.  John McCain made a brilliant move when he shouted, "ZERO?!"  Check and Mate.  In this country if you want to get anything done you have to yell.  Next question.

Me: In your opinion, which candidate was balder?
Jojo: Listen, I have three degrees in political science, not 'biology'.  Bald is as bald does.  Next question.

Me: Based purely on racial stereotypes and jokes about old people, which candidate do you think would win a game of one-on-one basketball?
Jojo: Barack Obama is an elitist and only plays lacrosse.  John McCain has alzheimers and does not remember the rules to basketball because it was invented well after he had aged past the sports playing age.  Therefore - stalemate.

Me: That was not the answer I expected.
Jojo: Well, sometimes the truth is shocking.  Next question.

Me: Who will win the election?
Jojo: I just took a representative sample from my workplace.  Bob Barr will win the election with 100% of the vote.  As a political scientist, I understand how to conduct surveys in a statistically sound manner.

Me: You didn't let me finish; I meant the North Carolina gubernatorial election.
Jojo: Oh.  Let's talk about the IT gubernatorial election instead.  Philip Rhodes.  He is a risk taker.

Me:I have no idea what you're talking about. Is this elitist insider jargon?

Me: Wait, wait.  I'm sorry.  What was the best moment of the debate?
Jojo: When McCain announced he was also a member of the Alaska Secessionist Party.

Me: What was the worst moment?
Jojo: Well, there was no dancing.  Barack Obama can break it down and he chose not to and I think that says a lot.

Me: Going beyond the debate now, what's the happiest thing?
Jojo: The happiest thing is spinning out from combining lethal amounts of alcohol and caffeine.

Me: Follow-up question: what's the saddest thing?
Jojo: Excellent question.  I did not think that far ahead.  The saddest thing is a band whose sound engineer abandons them for a state with no immediate redeeming qualities.

Me: Can you explain what is occuring in this picture? (-->)
Jojo: I know, but I'm not allowed to explain it for security reaons.

Me: I understand.  Say something crazy about the debate.  I'm looking for a sound-byte to finish up with.
Jojo: Can I just leave you with a youtube clip?
Me: Sure.
Jojo: This succinctly sums up my opinion of the debate.

Thanks, Jojo, for your stunning insights.  And thank you, internet, for reading.  Feel free to leave your thoughts about the debate or this debate analysis.


tweet this

>> 14 October 2008


USA 6 - Cuba 1

>> 13 October 2008

For all of you loyal e-blog readers who also enthusiastically follow international soccer (all four of you) I thought that today I'd include some highlights of the USA's thrashing of Cuba in their latest World Cup qualifier match.  Cuba isn't exactly a world power, but Saturday's game featured at least one world class team!



Presidential Debate

>> 08 October 2008

I learned something about each candidate as well as something about the moderator.

Obama:  Cannot begin a sentence with any word other than "Look" (I'd love to hear him say, "look, listen.")

McCain:  Cannot talk to anyone without calling that person "my friend"  (he might even slip up and say this if he were talking with Osama bin Laden...a chilling thought).

Tom Brokaw:  Is obsessed with keeping time.  He said "Time Limit" over a billion times.


I'm Watching the VP Debates

>> 02 October 2008

The Vice-Presidential debate can so far be described in two words:


Apparently Sarah Palin does not understand questions and Joe Biden does not understand that he looks creepy when he smiles.  A few interesting facts I learned in this debate:
  • Alaska feels global warming more than other states (I would have thought that the temperature would increase fairly regularly across the board).
  • Sarah Palin has a "diverse family" -- does that mean it includes both males and females?
  • Clean coal is not as dirty as dirty coal.  (Thanks Joe Biden!)
  • It's Nucular -- not nuclear (apparently)
  • Israel has a history of successful peace negotiations.
I can't take it any more.  Sarah Palin will not answer a single question.  Biden doesn't answer very articulately, but at least he tries.


Google Searches That Will Lead You To This e-Blog

>> 30 September 2008

People always ask me: Joel, if I want to find your website by abstruse and roundabout means, what are some Google searches that will lead me to your e-blog?  So, to answer everyone who has been asking this question (and anyone who has never asked this question) -- here is a list of Google Searches that have led people to this e-blog.

  • calculatior (sic)
  • copmuter is great (sic)
  • hairy dudes
  • radical chops
  • ten worst computers
  • why did linux call his invention the internet
  • wrestling hairy
  • you diggie the most
Unfortunately, internet, I am not making any of this up.  This information comes straight out of Google Analytics.  Basically, my status as an internet celebrity (self-proclaimed) is the consequence of Google searches gone terribly awry.


The Weirdest Fortune Cookie in the World

>> 24 September 2008

You probably heard about China during the 2008 Summer Olympic games.  But,as it turns out, China has been around for a long time before the Olympics.  In fact, many of the things that we use everyday were invented in ancient China:
  • Paper
  • Printing
  • The Compass
  • Kung-Fu (as well as the lesser known wushu)
  • Gunpowder
  • Noodles
  • Accupuncture (pseudo-science)
  • Silk
  • Paper walls
  • Chopsticks
  • Forks (No joke.  The fork was invented in China long before chopsticks were)
  • Fortune Cookies (especially fortune cookies!)
This evening, after I finished my "House Fried Rice Special" from Beansprout Chinese Restaurant, I looked forward to opening my fortune cookie.  So, imagine my COMPLETE AND UTTER ASTONISHMENT when I read this fortune:

"The Master doesn't take sides same as your spouse."

What?  I assume that a captialized "master" is God.  All punctuation here is the same as it was on the fortune.  I have been trying to add my own punctuation to decipher this fortune.  Here are my best guesses:
  • The Master [God] doesn't take sides, same as your spouse.  The implication being that God does not take sides and neither does my spouse.  This shouldn't make much sense to anyone who has read the Bible because it seems that God sometimes does take sides! (Destroying Angel anyone?).  And Rochelle (my spouse) also takes sides, though without the same dire consequences of God's taking sides against Egypt.
  • The Master doesn't, take sides same as your spouse.  In which case, the message seems to be that if you don't know what God's will is about a particular question, then it's best to be on the same side as your spouse - practical and prudent.
  • The Master doesn't take sides same as your spouse.  With no punctuation added, my fortune seems to say that God never takes the same side as my spouse - which leaves me with a tough dilemma in which, no matter which side I pick, I am going to be facing some wrath.
So anyway, if there is anyone out there on the internet who can help me solve this dilemma, I welcome your input.  What does my fortune mean?  Are fortune cookies 100% accurate?  What's the strangest fortune you've ever gotten?  HELP ME INTERNET!



>> 21 September 2008

This Thursday, billions of Americans from all over the world are going to pick up their remotes and turn on their TVs and change the channel to NBC and then wait until nine o'clock (eight central) PM to watch the season premiere of The Office.  And I'm going to be one of them.

Seasons 4 was not my favorite and I'm hoping that the show
 rediscovers its early form.  The first season was short, but this guy  -->.  The second season focused on the romantic tension between Jim and Pam, culminating in this...

In season three, Jim and Pam were still not together, but by season four, they were officially (pun!) in love.

While this was a great relief to most fans of The Office, it left us all wondering: what next?  The one thing that we all cared about had been achieved; what comes next?

Season four didn't really have anything next and while it had some very funny moments, was slightly directionless.  So, here are my predictions/hopes for the new season...

  1. Michael and the new girl hit it off and drive everyone crazy.  (Duh!)
  2. Pam goes to NYC for graphic design stuff.  Jim stays behind and things get rocky.
  3. Dwight builds a robot.
  4. Angela actually does marry Andy.
  5. Phyllis takes up Tae Kwan Do, improves self-esteem.
  6. Creed gets a stapf infection.
  7. Oscar and Kevin have an arm-wrestling match but are so evenly matched that neither can win, and they just stay at their desk for hours, engaged in this epic struggle with niether able to gain the upper hand.  They both die from the exertion.
  8. Stanley does a crossword puzzle.
What are your predictions?  What do you think of mine?



>> 17 September 2008

I am in the Computer Lab at NC State, waiting for my next class to start. I thought that this would be a good time to work on one of the several papers I have to turn in next Monday, or maybe it would be a good chance to get caught up on some reading. I could read and respond to my email. There are many things that I ought to be doing right now.

But instead I search youtube for videos of people crashing on Segways. Ouch.

I hope that you are more productive than I am, but just in case you're not, here are a few of the best videos I have come across.

I am laughing like an idiot right now and getting dirty looks. Enjoy.


Election '08: The Results are In

>> 14 September 2008

If readers of this e-blog ruled the world, then Barack Obama would rule America.

Here's the breakdown of our election:
Obama / Biden - 41%
McCain / Palin - 37%
Undecided - 12%
Third Party (Wasted Vote) - 8%

So, technically, Obama's victory is not guaranteed because the 12% who were undecided could ultimately vote Republican and give McCain the win.

So, based on the results of this e-blog and my own growing disappointment with John McCain's new tendency to lambast Obama and praise Sarah Palin instead of talking about things that affect Americans: the $311 Billion spending deficit (for the first half of 2008), the housing crisis, the ballooning cost of the war in Iraq, etc. - I am predicting an Obama victory.  I am calling it here.  It's called.


People on TV Can't Hold Their Breath

>> 11 September 2008

People always ask me, "Joel, if you were in a TV show, created by J.J. Abrams, would you have what it takes to survive?"  After having watched the pilot episode of FRINGE, the latest show from the guy who invented Lost and Alias, I feel pretty confident in my ability to survive on one of his shows.  Here's why:

  1. Guns do not kill people in his shows.  Anyone who has ever watched an episode of LOST knows that guns are for two things: pistol whipping and giving Sawyer (-->) a chance to take his shirt off while the wound heals.  So, I'm pretty sure that no gun could kill me if I were on a TV show.
  2. Even when you die, you're not fully dead.  Again, any fan of LOST knows that dying is really only a two or three episode hiatus.  And according to FRINGE, a dead person's brain waves continue to...well, wave...for quite some time - long enough that a "dead" person can be interrogated by computers.
  3. I can hold my breath.  Check out this scene from FRINGE.  Maybe while you're watching it, you can try this little challenge: the moment the pillow goes down over homeboy's face, start holding your breath.  Then, see if you could "survive" this smothering.  I really think you'll be able to do it, although if it gets close, and you feel like you might die, go ahead and breathe - it would not be worth risking anything dire.]

Congratulations, you (and I) have survived (y)our (I shouldn't have started with the parenthesis) first TV SHOW MURDER ATTEMPT!

Tell us how your survival experience went; leave your comments below!


Election '08

>> 07 September 2008

Who will you vote for?  I'm just curious.  Please vote in the poll (on the right-hand side of this page) and in the real election and feel free to share your political insights in the comments section if you wish!



>> 05 September 2008

Unless you live in a cave (or unless you are a very well-informed cave-dweller) then you know about Twilight.  These books have become a huge sensation, reminiscent of the Harry Potter Series.  There are four books in total: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn.  And while I have not read all four, I have read the first one and am now stuck with the question: WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?!

At the risk of offending anyone who likes the book, I have a few issues to discuss.
  1. The first two-hundred pages of the book can be summarized in one sentence.  "Bella moves to a new town and meets a very good looking boy named Edward, who acts very strangely around her, leading her to fear that Edward dislikes her."  NO JOKE!  It takes two-hundred pages to say this!  The last one-hundred pages are decent - they tell about how this super-vampire (he's a "tracker" so watch out!) tries to eat Bella and fails - but a three hundred page book should have more than one hundred pages of story!
  2. This book was written for middle school girls, but it sounds like it was written by a middle school girl.  Here is a typical scene:
"Edward," she said, staring up into his too-perfect eyes.  "Promise me you'll never leave."
Edward grimaced and said, dangerously, "I shouldn't be here.  I shouldn't be talking to you.  This is too dangerous."  He smiled dazzlingly.  "I would never forgive myself if something happened to you," he said threateningly.
She gazed longingly at his body; he was like a greek god.  "But I love you," she said, enigmatically.
He didn't answer, he just got in his too-perfect Volvo and drove away at a speed of 200 mph.
Bella flushed with rage.  She couldn't speak.  She shook her hands angrily.  "I love you," she said tenderly as he drove away.  "And I always will," she said ominously.  "Until the day I die," she said, even more ominously than before.

My point is this - I wouldn't be suprised if Cormac McCarthy
 ate a bowl of alphabet soup and barfed up writing better than this!  And I'm not a book-snob.  I loved Harry Potter.  I liked the Da Vinci Code.  I'm not some guy who only likes James Joyce (pictured with eye-patch).  But I have my standards and Twilight is almost unreadable.

3.  I can't believe Edward doesn't bite her and turn her into a vampire like she wants him too.  That was extremely lame and was only done so that she could have a reason to keep writing books and making more money.  I don't have a problem with her making money, but when she RUINS her story just to cash in on the franchise a little more, I think there's a problem.  (Spoiler Alert).

SO...I'd be happy to hear from any fans of Twilight who can tell me why I'm wrong.  Maybe the next books are better; maybe they are "too-perfect" (Stephanie Meyer's favorite vacuous adjective).  But I just don't see what the fuss is about.


Top Ten Numbers

>> 01 September 2008

A lot of people ask me: "Joel, what are the best numbers?" This is a tough question for two reasons. First, there are infinite numbers, so picking just ten of them becomes challenging. Second, I don't know all the numbers!. Sure, I know most of the basic ones, like seven, eight, million, billion, thousand, etc. but there are plenty of them which I don't know, so it's not easy to definitively compile this list. It's like someone asking me whether it's better to get hit in the face with a tennis ball which has been soaked in gasoline and set aflame, or to vacation in a five-star resort. Since I have never done either of these things, I'm not really qualified to judge, but oh well.

So, without any further delay, here is my list of top ten numbers.

  1. one
  2. two
  3. three
  4. 867-5309
  5. pi
  6. six hundo
  7. one billion
  8. six (sum of factors yields the original number... just have to respect that about six)
  9. c (speed of light 299,792,458 m/s)
  10. thirteen (makes the list with the dubious honor of being the unluckiest number)
What do you think internet? Did I miss any important numbers? Share your thoughts below!


Methods of Transportation (Ranked Best to Worst)

>> 29 August 2008

  1. Teleporter
  2. Hover-craft
  3. Tamed Velociraptor Mount
  4. Motorized Wheelchair (unless you are paralyzed -- then it's sort of a no-win situation)
  5. Mule
  6. Donkey (The swiftness of the mule is sacrificed for improved sure-footedness.)
  7. Hamster Ball (scaled up to human proportions)
  8. Bike
  9. Unicycle

Mule shown KILLING A MOUNTAIN LION; donkey shown dangling from his harness like a failed pinata. Seriously -- mule beats donkey every dang time.


Guttentag from Wien!

>> 25 August 2008

Hi Internet; I'm in Wien! For anyone who doesn't know (which is basically everyone, including myself before I got here), Wien (pronounced V-ee-n) is the Austrian name for Vienna! Well, I hope that was exciting for you to read as it was for me to write. Until next time, auf wiedersehen


Funny Picutres

>> 14 August 2008

Courtesy of I got a laugh or two out of some of these:

see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwnd pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwnd pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

So I realize this post is basically just an email forward in e-blog form. I didn't think it would ever come to this; I am truly sorry.


Gold Medal for the Internet!

>> 07 August 2008

Ever since I was a baby, I have been saying two things about computers:
1. The internet is a computer that other computers can use.
2. Internet is the new TV.

When you think about it, the internet and TV are very similar:

  • They both have educational content, which can, theoretically, be accessed, but generally turn out to be simply fun and addicting ways to waste time.
  • They both operate by mysterious technology which no one completely understands. People suspect that TVs are more analog, and internets are more digital, but beyond that, we know virtually nothing about them.
  • YOU CAN WATCH THE OLYMPICS ON BOTH OF THE THEM. NBC is very stingy with their "bandwidth" when it comes to their regular programming, making you wait up to a week after the initial air-date of a show before you can watch it online. Fortunately, they are pulling out the stops for the Olympics. I am currently watching INTERNET OLYMPIC SOCCER, on my computer. HEYO!
The link is, the internet is the new TV, and the picture that comes up when you search for "Gold Medal for the Internet" is,

What's your favorite sport/event of the games? Leave it in the comments!


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