30 April 2002

There was an onion article a while ago about a guy devising a strategy for surviving prison, should he ever wind up there. Unfortunately I cannot find the article, but here's a site that will assign you a prison nickname. (The nicknames tend to cluster around the same theme.)

What's my nickname, you ask? Weed Whacker.
Alright, so I was out of town and couldn't defend myself against attacks on my reading habits. Sue me. Yes I subscribe to the Economist because it talks about Gens. Chavez and Musharraf and the like... though the articles about economics are good too -- including the article Noah posted about why he has a chip on his shoulder when it comes to height and my favorite, the deadweight loss of Santa Claus. (Unfortunately I can't link to it because the Economist has a paying website, yet another reason to subscribe).

Anyway, I thought they might have something to say about the college squirrel rankings that Alec posted a couple of days ago. One of the main criteria for the rankings was the willingness of the squirrels to accept food from strangers. Now, I'm no biology expert, but I think a campus where all the squirrels are fat and unfit from people feeding them is not the best place for squirrels. I bet the Economist would agree with my logic. As for Harvard's ranking, I can't say that I see many people ever feeding the squirrels; mostly tourists chase them to take cute pictures. Harvard's squirrels might be faster as a result, but I don't think Harvard's squirrel rating (as determined on the squirrel website) would adequately reflect that.

Alright, I've said the word squirrel enough times for it to sound really weird to me too.

28 April 2002

Top five speechless movies (defined, not necessarily by my inability to speak, but by my inability to interact with anybody coherently after the movie was over):

1. Saving Private Ryan (only movie to utterly reduce me to tears, regardless of how you feel about that last scene)
2. The Last Temptation of Christ (the last half hour still kills me every time I see it)
3. Vertigo (actually gave me hallucinations that I was the main character...not a pleasant experience)
4. Dancer in the Dark (the most emotionally cathartic movie imaginable)
5. Fallen Angels (for once, speechlessness not because of grief, but because of how utterly perfect the ending was....I still get chills when I think about it)
Alec's serious poem of the day (courtesy of the lovely Larissa Chernock):

by Constantine Cavafy

And if you cannot make your life as you want it,
at least try this
as much as you can: do not disgrace it
in the crowding contact with the world,
in the many movements and all the talk.

Do not disgrace it by taking it,
dragging it around often and exposing it
to the daily folly
of relationships and associations,
till it becomes like an alien burdensome life.
"The Answer is... 42"
--cnn headline


and may Douglas Adams rest in peace.

27 April 2002

Hmmm, I'm still thinking about my top-five "speechless" movies. Alas, the social conventions of going to the movies make it close to impossible to maintain a discreet silence coming out of the theater: custom dicates that you talk about the movie you just saw, as was aptly noted in Step Twenty of How to ask a girl out on a date.

I've often wished that one could temporarily dematerialize after the ending of a movie to avoid that awkward post-credits chat, perhaps meeting up at a coffee shop a half-hour later once one's emotional response had stablized somewhat. Oh well.

In other news, I just found out that Chungking Express is finally coming out on DVD next month! 'Bout time.
I found a new online put-put golf!

This one is significantly more difficult in terms of number of strokes, but the par ratings are a lot easier. My first time playing i got a 3-under "albatross" on one of the holes (par 5 in two shots). On the other mini golf it is physically impossible to get a 3-under.

I also prefer the game play on the other one, the ball moves too far too fast and doesn't slow down quickly enough on this new one.
I tied my topscore in put-put golf

28 strokes, for a sizzling 20 under par. This time i only got 9 hole-in-ones (the other time i shot a 28 i had 10 hole-in-ones).

3 Eagles
14 Birdies
1 Par

The eagles came on the easiest holes to eagle (1, 2, and the par four 8), while the lone par came on the par two 5th. To compare the other time i shot a 28, i had 5 eagles 10 birdies and 3 pars...
I tried to post this last night, but the site wasn't working...

I'm surprised Nat "I not only read but actually subscribe to the Economist" Chakeres hasn't put in his two cents on that topic yet...

Speaking of lists, here's a good question:

What are the 5 movies which left you the most speechless. By this i mean literarally speechless, like when we saw that japanese movie on the afterlife and Ezra refused to talk to anyone on the walk home. Of course i don't just mean went the longest wihtout talking about it... but anyway you get the idea.

i'm not sure what mine is yet, but i'll post it tommorow.
Another random thought: the word "squirrel" sounds stranger and stranger the more you think about it.
Alec's link of the day: Jon's World o' Squirrels, which I found through an article on Yahoo about random squirrel attacks at Stanford.

Sadly, there's no rating for Harvard in Jon's "Campus Squirrel Listings." (Stanford gets four squirrel heads out of five.) Perhaps we could drop him a line?

26 April 2002

At dinner just now, some of our friends were ragging us for having visited this site, a listing of the twenty-five most famous breasts of all time. What I should have mentioned in our defense, however, was that this isn't a breast fetish we're talking about, it's a list fetish. At this point, I think Noah and I would read an article on the "25 best" of just about anything, whether it's movies, breasts, or riding lawn mowers. Blame High Fidelity, perhaps, or just some weird masculine top-ten-ranking mentality, but it ain't just breasts we're talking about.
Oooh, look at me, I read The Economist!

"The social and cultural stigma" of being a short 16-year-old. Man, that's harsh.
It all comes from short girls dating tall guys:

The Economist

25 April 2002

Albert Belle is the last person I would ever badmouth in a book. He gets my nomination for "baseball player most likely to come to your house and kill you if you badmouth them in a book." For basketball, the honor goes to...Latrell Sprewell. Who gets the honor in football? Remember, the guy's gotta come to your house, so wanton aggression isn't sufficient -- there has to be a bit of premeditation too. Warren Sapp perhaps?
Omar Vizquel serves up a real zinger:

Noah's Link of the Afternoon:

Strange Search Requests
Interesting story from News of the Weird:

"According to a March Washington Post Magazine feature, a deaf Bethesda, Md., female couple recently gave birth to a child whom they had conceived by artificial insemination and specially designed to be born deaf. (They had used sperm from a man with a long family history of deafness.) The couple said they merely want their son to be like the rest of the family, including their older daughter. The boy is deaf in one ear, but the other ear may still develop hearing. [Washington Post Magazine, 3-31-02]"

Something you probably don't know about me, when we adopted one of my younger brothers we were specifically looking to have a Deaf child (my father works as an intepreter between english and american sign language, and also works with Deaf pastors and Deaf churches accross the country). It turns out he started hearing (probably his brain shut down the portion related to hearing due to some early childhood trauma)... Its definitely a great thing for Deaf people to have a whole Deaf family where they can all communicate in their first language.

I wonder how many degrees of seperation I have from this couple. As the ASL saying goes (sorry for the bad translitteration, but its the way it would be written on TTY or email i bet) "Deaf world small." (There's no to be verb in ASL, its indicated by a facial change.) I ought to ask my dad if he's heard about it, i bet i'm no more than three degrees of seperation and probably only two.
For those of you watching at home, perhaps a slight explanantion of why the mystery of "camel toes" came up at all... The other day i was reading some random blogs, and on one of them (i forget which but its one of the ones linked to on the delightful site Random Blog Quotes) the person was very confused that 4 people had stumbled accross his site googling "camel toes." I took this to mean that people google the craziest random things, but as alec has pointed out, its just that a lot of seemingly random pointless things are actually just people satisfying their own little fetish.
Hooray! The internet is close to realizing its full potential. There are now organized online strat-o-matic leagues. Strat, as it is affectionately known, is only the greatest baseball simulation game ever, and now closet strat fanatics everywhere will be able to see how they match up against each other. The hitch? You need to pay to participate...I'm confident, though, that sometime soon people will start organizing free leagues that will flourish like countless other online games.
In other news, the mystery of "camel toes" is solved here. Possibly not safe for work.
Hmmm, good answer. However, let's assume that your mother is a widow.

There are two answers. The clever answer is that if you're both children of Abraham and Sarah, you're technically siblings, and thus can't get married. Unfortunately, this also implies that converts can't marry one another at all, so the rabbis dropped this one after a while.

The real answer is, basically, that the Gentiles will get the wrong idea if we allow you to marry your mother. So while it's technically permissable under Jewish law, you shouldn't do it, because it would undermine the reputation of Judaism. Shows you that the rabbis are quite capable of being pragmatic when they have to be.
Well... i'd have to say the obvious answer is, no she's still married to your father...

Of course if they've divorced i don't really know how jewish law deals with divorcees...
So here's today's fun question of Jewish law, courtesy of my Div School course on Midrash:

Technically, when a Gentile converts to Judaism, he becomes born again as a child of Abraham and Sarah, and hence loses all ties to his biological parents. The question, then: if I convert to Judaism, and my mother also converts to Judaism, can I marry my mother? Why or why not?

Hint: the solution ain't that complicated.

24 April 2002

funny away message:

"Mathematics is like checkers in being suitable for the young, not too difficult, amusing, and without peril to the state."
- Plato
Here is the script for that episode of Seinfeld, by the way. Even in text form, it's pretty funny.
"Sure, I've read novels like Unbearable Lightness of Being, Love in the Time of Cholera, Eugene Onegin, and I think I've understood them...."
The beginning of that Pushkin stanza really reminds me of the line from High Fidelity:
"She loved me. She loved me. She loved me. Or at least i think she did..."
Okay, here's mine, from Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. (Pushkin is delightfully easy to memorize, at least in Falen's translation. I didn't even mean to memorize this stanza, but I did.)

Yes, he was loved...beyond deceiving...
Or so at least in joy he thought.
Blessed is he who lives believing,
who takes cold intellect for naught,
who lives within the heart's sweet places
As does a drunk in sleep's embraces:
Or as, more tenderly I'd say,
A butterfly in blooms of May.
And wretched he who's too far-sighted,
Whose heart is never fancy-stirred,
Who hates each gesture, each warm word
As sentiments to be derided:
Whose heart...experience has cooled,
And barred from being loved...or fooled!

Nice, huh?
Noah's Answer:

I suddenly realized the other week while reading an old email that i had memorized a poem and completely forgotten that i had. Fortunately the moment i remembered I also remembered the whole poem, its funny the way memory works like that, all you need is the key. Anyway, sophomore year i had written a poem which i left up on my desktop and realized that if i left something on my desktop i'd soon memorize it with no effort, so i tried with a poem i was particularly fond of:

by Elizabeth Bishop (via my memory, which is not infaliable)

The moon in the beaureau window looks off a million miles
and perhaps with pride at herself though she never never smiles
on beyond sleep or perhaps she's a daytime sleeper
by the universe deserted, she'd tell it to go to hell
and find a mirror or a body of water on which to dwell

So wrap up time in a cobweb and drop it down a well
into that world inverted, where left is always right,
where the shadows are always the bodies,
where we stay awake all night,
where the sky is as shallow as the sea
is now deep, and you love me.
Question of the day:

Have you memorized any poetry? If so, what?
Sports quote of the day, from ESPN:

"Is there a pitcher in baseball more prepared than Curt Schilling? If you've noticed it seems kind of dark in Bank One Ballpark when Schilling pitches, it's because he requested that the club close the roof for all his starts because he thinks the ball carries farther with it open. And this spring, he made five Cactus League starts against the White Sox because he didn't want to face any National League teams until the season started."

It's gotta be great to be so good that you can be that quirky and people will still listen to you...

In response to Nat's remark on memorizing the instructions, i think that's what makes those instructions more appropriate for math majors than autistic people, because math majors certainly have no problem memorizing lists...
Those instructions seem rather complicated to remember. Someone might need to print them out and carry them on the date, which might look awkward and violate the rule that "it is important that you make a good impression on her." Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George has to write Jerry's "move" on his hand because he can't remember the whole thing.
Judging from the rest of the site, that "Asking a Girl on a Date" link looks genuine. Unfortunately, the rest of the "Living Skills" section is temporarily closed: I'd be very curious to see what other step-by-step instructions they provide....

For us non-autistics, here's my dating tip of the week: When you break up with someone, be sure you know the reasons why. Write them down on a piece of paper. Put it in a safe place. Because a year later, you'll probably have forgotten. Why does this tip occur to me now? Uh, no reason.
Today's gem from Blogdex: Asking a Girl on a Date. I'm not sure whether to laugh or to cry, this is one of these things that are so odd they can only be real. I almost want to post it around the math department... (btw, i'm about to be a math grad student, i'm allowed to say that.)
Speaking of British music, here's a rather depressing item from Yahoo: apparently, for the first time in forty years, there isn't a single British artist on the Billboard Hot 100. And that, my friends, is a damned shame. The big question is, will the new Pet Shop Boys album break this sorry trend? Answer: No.
Hello world, I'm glad to have something marginally more productive to do with my time then play put-put golf .

Alec, I must agree that "Release" is an undeniably cool title, and not simply because it allows for great puns. However, thinking about the title puts me into Encore mode and I want to think of all the other musical things which I associate with release. I'll leave it at one though, my favorite Pearl Jam song was always Release (last track of Ten), the lyric sheet just has the title sort of bleading down the page...

Despite what these first two posts might suggest, we won't be talking about music mostly...

Anyway, here's my link of the afternoon. This is a regular posting by one "Adam Masin" on "The Fray", Slate's discussion board where he criticizes the articles on Slate for a given week. The name is a variant on Slate's regular column "The Best of the Fray." The thing I find most amusing about this is how close in tone it is to the journalism on slate itself. Slate is, as you probably know, a sort of meta-news site which spends most of its time writing columns on other news columns, this "Worst of the Slate" really could be a regular column there, it has the right tone and the right sort of subject matter.

Now, back to writing a paper on "Newton's Laws of Motion and Morrison's Beloved"... No that is not a joke...
Just bought the new Pet Shop Boys album "Release." My verdict: Definitely has the coolest title of any PSB album to date. The CD is well-produced, with a greater emphasis on guitars than before: the result is a kind of Britpop, introspective Oasis-type sound, courtesy of the contributions of former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. However, despite some stellar tracks (especially "I Get Along" and the witty, sexy, I-hooked-up-with-Eminem track "The Night I Fell in Love"), I'd say this is one of their weaker albums: the lyrics aren't particularly distinguished, and the rock feel, while tastefully done, lacks a lot of the energy and richness of classic PSB efforts. The Pet Shop Boys have made some of the most moving, exciting, intelligent dance albums of the past fifteen years (notably "Introspective," "Behavior" and "Bilingual"), and while I'm looking forward to seeing them at their upcoming concert here in Boston, I'm hoping for a return to classic form for their next album, whenever (and if ever) that happens.