QT: Gas Station of Dreams

>> 30 November 2009

Every now and then you come across a gas station that stands apart from the rest - a special place where you can refill your car, your stomach, and your heart. The QT (short for QuickTrip) gas station chain is such a place. Rochelle and I stopped at one of these on our way through Atlanta, en route to Birmingham. I loved it so much that I insisted that we stop there on our way home as well, and I took these pictures to document the experience. I got a few odd looks for taking pictures in a gas station, but it was well worth it. I didn't take any pictures in the bathroom because I thought that might be against the law/creepy for people in the bathroom. So, without any further delay, I present to you my new photo-essay,QT: Gas Station of Dreams.

Rochelle standing in front of the coffee machines - and I wasn't even able to get the whole row in the frame!

Slushies, Slurpees, and other frozen delights.

22 varieties of soda plus cherry and vanilla add-ins. Quick quiz: can you name 22 sodas off the top of your head?

The lids. If it has liquid in it, QT has a lid for it two hundred lids for it.

Corn Nuts: the corn-snack of choice for discerning travelers.

The DVD/magazine section. I bet your iPod doesn't have this kind of variety!

Can I offer you a rotisserie burrito?

Burrito not your thing? How about a savory taquito (or two for $2.00!)?

Hot dogs, sausages, bratwursts, and those red hot dogs as well.

Me, squatting beside the QT trash-can. It was a very good pit-stop.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. Have you ever seen a better gas station? (This is rhetorical because no one has actually seen a better gas station than this.)
  2. Can you name 22 sodas without the aid of a Google-search?
  3. Which of the three flavors of Corn-Nuts would you have gotten: Original, Ranch, or Barbecue? Which do you think I got?


My "To-Read List"

>> 27 November 2009

I always have a lot of books that I want to read, but recently I have started keeping an actual list. Unfortunately, it takes me many hours to read a book, and only a few seconds to add a new one to the list. So, I've decided to put this list on the old e-blog to see if you, dear internet, have any advice or recommendations about these books. Here they are, in no particular order:

I am currently reading The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, and it will take me a while to finish, but I like to plan ahead so that I can reserve a book at the library.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. Have you read any of these books? If so, can you recommend one?
  2. If you were going to pick by title alone, which book would you choose for me to read next?
  3. Any suggestions that aren't on this list?


I <3 White Falcon

>> 20 November 2009

Thanks to Tim for introducing me to this doozy: the Gretsch White Falcon (read about it on wikipedia).

So, if you are having trouble finding a gift for that hard-to-buy-for, guitar-playing friend of yours (and you are willing to spend several thousand dollars to show your love), then one of these might make a perfect gift.


This is Why Soccer Needs Video Review

>> 18 November 2009

With this blatant handball, France goes to the World Cup and Ireland stays home.

FIFA has resisted video reviews in soccer for many years now, arguing that such reviews would break up the continuity and flow of the matches. Apparently, FIFA also feels that it is more important to ensure that the flow of the game is not interrupted than it is to determine the legitimate winner of the match.

It would have been possible for France to advance even without this handball. Before this illegal goal, the two-match series was tied at 1-1. The game would have gone to penalty kicks and France could have legitimately won.

France will not make it far in the World Cup; despite a phenomenal depth of talent, they are poorly coached. Their success in the 2006 World Cup can be attributed to Zinedine Zidane's master-class on 'how to carry your team to a World Cup Final.'

Shame on you FIFA.

[edit: here is a still picture of the handball]


Worst-Case Scenario

>> 17 November 2009

Consider the following exchange:

Tom: The forecast calls for rain this afternoon; do you still want to go to the baseball game?
Bob: I think so. Worst-case scenario: we get a little wet and we have to leave early.

How many times have you heard something like this? Worst-case scenario: we stop for dinner at Taco Bell. Worst-case scenario: you get a little rash. Worst-case scenario: I stay an extra hour at work.

The fact is that most of these supposed worst-case scenarios represent a serious lack of imagination. If the worst possible outcome that you can imagine for some event is that it rains at a baseball game, then you certainly have a rosy worldview. [You would also make a pretty lousy science-fiction writer].

So next time you are tempted to make a 'worst-case scenario' claim, consider the following:
  • Am I being chased by killer bees?
  • Did I forget to put on deodorant this morning?
  • Follow up question: can I smell myself?
  • Am I watching Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen?
  • Has a sink-hole opened up, swallowing the entire city?
  • Have my fingers fused together to form a sort of 'hand-paddle'?
  • Am I experiencing disorienting vertigo?
  • Is there no joy left in my life?
  • Are my socks wet?
  • Has the earth been subjugated by a cruel race of telekinetic aliens?
If you answered 'no' to any of those questions, then I would posit that you are not actually talking about a 'worst-case scenario.'

Now, there may be some kill-joys out there who complain and say, "Joel, when we say 'worst-case scenario' we don't mean the worst of all possible outcomes, just the worse of two outcomes, one favorable, one unfavorable (for example: rain at the baseball game, or no rain at the baseball game)." To them I respond: Not my problem. This is still not a worst-case scenario.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. What is the ultimate worst-case scenario?
  2. What is worse, a sink-hole or a tsunami?
  3. Or an alien invasion?


Some Good Names for a Frozen Pizza Brand:

>> 11 November 2009

Tostoti's - (pronounced, toast-oh-tees)
Lil' Tastees
Cheeze-slingers - (a brand of miniature frozen pizzas, meant to appeal to tweens) - (Could also be a form of frozen grilled cheese sandwich with the crust removed)

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is your favorite brand of frozen pizza? (I am a Freschetta man).
  2. If you were in charge of marketing at a frozen food company, what would you name a new line of pizzas?
  3. Are you concerned that most of the pizza names sound Italian? Is this racism? What if we called one of them "Javier Hernandez Pizza" or "Olaf Angstrom's Pizza", would that help?


"Good Catch"

>> 04 November 2009

Here is a list of compliments that I frequently get, from the least common to the most common.

  1. "You are tall." I choose to take this as a compliment.
  2. "Those glasses make you look smart." Note the subtle difference between the use of 'smart' versus 'smarter.'
  3. "Good catch!"
I would say that my most widely regarded and appreciated talent is my ability to catch things that seem uncatchable. A few recent examples:

Last week, to celebrate Rochelle's successful dissertation defense, we went out to dinner to celebrate. As we were moving salad bowls around, trying to accommodate the main courses, my fork was pushed to the edge of the table and then...over the edge. The waitress gasped and turned her head. Rochelle grimaced in anticipation of the awful din of silverware on tile. I didn't have time to think - that fork was on its way to the ground (and accelerating at a rate of 9.8 m/s/s) - so I lunged to the side, stretched out my hand, and felt the cold metal tines of the fork (slick with balsamic vinaigrette) land gently on my palm.

"Nice catch," the waitress said. I didn't say anything (I save my self-aggrandizing for this e-blog), but I knew she was right. It was a nice catch!

Earlier in that same week, while in the break room at work, I caught a woman's bagel (already sliced and cream cheesed) when she knocked it off the table in her rush to answer her cell phone. "Good catch," she told me. I'm not sure if she ate the bagel, but she totally could have. I got it by the non-cream-cheese side, so there weren't even any finger marks.

I caught a guy's iPhone when he dropped it in the stairwell. He was on the steps higher than me, talking on the phone with his arms full, when the phone slipped out from under his chin, bounced off the rail, and landed safely in my hands on the lower tier of the steps. (See my representation of that event below)

Unfortunately, this talent hasn't translated to any special athletic prowess. I played baseball for a few years, but I was always a bit timid about getting under the high fly balls. I think this is due to the peculiar nature of my talent. I don't catch everything; my talent manifests itself in the only the most extreme circumstances - circumstances in which all hope for the falling object has been lost.

Anyway, there it is, my most remarkable talent. My second most remarkable talent is how clean my plate is after I eat. Seriously, it looks like it hasn't been used. I don't know how I do it.

Questions for Discussion:
  1. Which of your talents elicits the most comments from your friends and associates?
  2. Can you derive a concept for a superhero from your talent?
  3. Anyone want to challenge me to a drop-and-catch competition?


Review: Sophie's World

>> 01 November 2009

Sophie's World, by Jostein Gaarder is a novel about the history of philosophy. The first half of the novel deals with a young Norwegian girl named Sophie who begins receiving mysterious letters from an unknown sender. These letters constitute what is essentially a correspondence course in the history of philosophy. Beginning with the Pre-Socratics, such as Anaximander, Empedocles, and (everyone's favorite) Democritus, Sophie's mysterious teacher takes her through the history of western philosophy.

The second half of the novel takes a very strange turn, as Sophie and her teacher realize that they are characters in a novel and set out on a course to escape from their fictional world. Meanwhile, the novel's author begins to wonder if he too, isn't the product of some other author's imagination. By the end, it is a massive meta-fictional jumble of Disney characters and pixies and magic geese (sadly, this is not a joke). Despite this rather insane turn of events, I still enjoyed the novel.

In truth, I often found myself skimming over the 'novelish' parts of the novel because, frankly, they weren't that great. Perhaps it was a translation issue (which I doubt), but the story parts of the novel were pretty dull. I kept slogging through the 500+ pages of this novel, though because I so thoroughly enjoyed the philosophical sketches presented by Sophie's teacher. Most of the major philosophers in history were discussed: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Hume, Locke, Spinoza, Kant, Berkeley, Kierkegaard, etc. The only really notable absence was Leibniz. The philosophical systems of these individuals were presented in a very accessible way. Gains in accessibility are often made by sacrificing accuracy. In some cases - the chapter on Kant, for example - the novel misses some fairly major points. For the most part, however, Sophie's World does a commendable job of presenting the philosophical systems with a decent degree of accuracy.

I am giving this novel a rather inflated grade, I admit. But for someone interested in reviewing the history of western thought, or someone learning about the history of philosophy for the first time, Sophie's World is a pretty good place to start.

Grade: 4/5


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