Saturday, February 2, 2013

Reality is a Fraud

Only the truly self-delusional ever believed that most things billed as reality television were true slices of life.  The crazy antics and unlikely situations of “Duck Dynasty” are as spontaneous and genuine as the outcomes of every WWE match.   I guess it is just too much to hope that there are Tiffany Lamps and antique musket rifles dating back to the Revolutionary War buried in every abandoned storage locker.  Yet, it still hit me pretty hard when I learned that one of my favorite 30 minute time wasters had has much integrity as Honey Boo Boo.  “House Hunters” seemed like a format that didn’t really need to be “enhanced”.  There wasn’t staged conflict or outsized personalities.  Someone was buying a house and we got to see a couple of the houses they looked at.  Simple enough.  But I guess not.  It was all a fraud.  A charade.  There was a wizard behind the curtain.  How did I not see it?  All the signs were there.  Just look at this old episode of “House Hunters International”.  Two of the houses they looked at are owned by incredibly famous people who were obviously never going to sell.  As the blogs reported, they were obviously just friends of this episode’s subject who allowed their homes to be filmed.  I bet that wasn't even a real princess.  I guess from now on I will just stick to the TV shows that I know are staged, scripted, and full of lies. Like Presidential Debates.

Monday, February 20, 2012


When I set out to write a blog post a day and laid out thetopics I was going to try to address on a semi-regular basis, I intentionally gave the week day posts subjects that I thought could be handled with very short prose.  To help myself actually achieve my goal, I was going to take the nights that was typically I buried in real, paying work and only do a post for the blog that required minimum time, thought, and verbiage.   The problem that I realized as I was typing out a third paragraph on the subliminal meaning of the baby blue color of Genome Quebec’s free pen is that I have a real problem with being succinct.  I appear to be so in love with my own words that I can’t seem to stop typing them, even when I know I have more important things to do.  Either that or I just decided not to type them at all because I know I won’t be able to limit myself.  But now that I have engaged in this bit of introspection, I am going to pledge to be a better, more concise man going forward.  Monday through Thursday.  Unless of course I have something really, really important to say about the role of free promotional pens in struggles of an oppressed people and their drive to achieve self determination.  I wouldn’t want to rob the world of that brilliant geopolitical analysis just so I can post another web-only add for Bio-Rad

Now, the newly condensed Pen of the Week review.

Company –, website for the hotel giant.

Color – 7 - Black and Silver.  Classy colors gives you the feeling of seriousness and formalness.  Like a pen wearing a tux.   Yet it certainly doesn’t catch your eye.  Never find this in a dark room.  Hard to find when it gets knocked of the table and under the bed.

Tip Ejection – 2 – This pen ejects the tip by twisting the pen.  Once ejected, the pen does not solidly lock into this position.  So the tip could easily withdrawal unexpectedly.  Could have disastrous results if your life depends on writing out the first line of the Declaration of Independence in cursive in under 10 seconds.

Quality of Construction – 1 - Light weight and made of cheap plastic.  Pocket clip is also weak.  Would clearly break off if once you start playing with it during a particularly boring meeting.

Design – 0 - Couldn’t be more basic.  Hyatt went to the promotion pen store and asked for the cheapest pen they have.  Said stick our name on that one.

Writing – 7 – Tested the writing on standard paper on a hard surface.  Ink immediately came out without any pre-scribbling and tip banging.  Once going, wrote smoothly without any breaks in the ink.  Would be willing to use this pen to write my 8th grade essay on the birth of communism in Eastern Europe.

Grip – 3 – Very thin pen.  About the diameter of your average pencil.  No ergonomic enhancements so doesn’t fit in your hand any better or more comfortably than your average number 2.  Because it lacks any heft, you have to do all the work of pushing it on to the paper.  I got pen pushes your hand down on the paper.

Overall Score – 1 – They didn’t even try.  Given this is a hotel pen, it is not surprising they went with the cheapest possible promotional pen.  They expect you to steal it and promptly loss it on the airplane home.  Still this is not a pen you want to stand for your brand.  

This blog post was sponsored by the Primatech Paper Company.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Solitaire Update

Day 60 – 1 of 10 (200.5)
Day 61 – 2 of 7 (200.5, 4, 48.53)
Day 62 – 1 of 5 (201.5)
Day 63 – 1 of 3 (201.5, 4, 48.52)
Day 64 – 1 of 5 (199)
Day 65 – 1 of 3 (199, 4.01, 48.36)
Day 66 – 0 of 6 (199.5, 4.01, 48.34)
Day 67 – 5 of 13 (199.5, 4.01, 48.13)
Day 68 – 0 of 7 (201)
Day 69 – 1 of 2 (201, 4.01, 48.03)
Day 70 – 0 of 2 (199.5)
Day 71 – 1 of 7 (199.5, 4.04, 48.19)
Day 72 – 3 of 8 (202, 4.02, 48.08)
Day 73 – 0 of 7 (202)
Day 74 – 2 of 10 (203.5, 4.04, 48.23)
Total – 108 of 611 (17.7%)

Still logging an uptick in my success rate so I am still unable to say what my true nature ceiling is. Yet I am missing one critical piece of data necessary for providing context to this success rate. I can only tell if my hours and hours of dedicated practicing and playing is powering me to an elevated level of Solitaire consciousness if I know what the statistical chance of any ordinary Joe winning in any given deal of the deck. After a less than thorough investigation of the internet, the best I could find was this computer simulation by Bill. Based on his parameters, Bill calculated that one should be able to win only 8 to 9 times out of every 100 hands of Solitaire. This is of course means that I am way over achieving. Go team me. But there are some caveats. Well, one really big one. It appears that Bill’s simulation model only allows you to go through the deck of cards 3 times. I, of course, do not put this restriction on my playing. Certainly if I do, my success would be much less. For now though this is the best I can do. I will keep looking for something more appropriate but for now I will assume that I am KILLING IT.

Solitaire Vocabulary Update

I am picking of the low hanging fruit with this one. The pile of cards that we draw our codons from will hence forth be known as “The Deck”. Make it so.

This blog post is sponsored by Aperture Laboratories.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Um Bop

This music hits me right in my sweet spot.  A cappella plus sci-fi and cartoon theme songs.  What more could I ask for.

What Does TLC Stand for Again?

I admit, I have never really understood the appeal of “reality” television. These highly scripted skits have similar production value and believability of your high schooler’s production of “Avenue Q”. Yes, I did religiously watch the first seasons of Survivor and American Idol and when I am really desperate for entertainment late at night, you might catch me watching a random episode of Auction Hunters or Pawn Stars. And yes, I will be forced to check out Comic Book Men when it appears. But the moment the focus turns to Chumley’s latest scripted idiocy or contrived foul-up, I check out. At that point the very thin illusion of reality completely melts away and you are left watching regular old, really bad TV. If that is the case, why not watch the latest episode of Up All Night. At least it has a cute baby to distract you from the slowly encroaching darkness of death. Yet, even in the cesspool of reality TV, I think there is a special ring reserved for the shows that TLC puts on the air (and Lifetime, which is essentially the kid sitting at the next desk copying off TLC’s test). For some reason, this channel has decided that the best use of their broadcast time is to televise child abuse. No longer is it enough to sit back and laugh at the revolting actions of “adults” as they interact with other “adults”, TLC has decided to make stars out of people whose only defining characteristic is that they are evil to children. Whether it is by deciding they want to personify the baby-making machine of “A Brave New World” or borrowing all of their parenting techniques from the “How to Raise a Stripper” guidebook, the featured performers know that the secret to their success and fleeting fame is their irresponsible parenting and the more awful a parent they are, the more attention they get. And oh how they need that attention. Apparently though there is an audience for these things. I have heard all kinds of rationalizations for why people would want to revel in a child’s televised misery, but not one excuse has made any sense to me. Then again, I don’t understand the appeal of “reality” TV.

This blog post is sponsored by Dunder Mifflin.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Muppets - This Week on Meet the Press

I am already on record of being big supporters of the Muppets.  Now I have one more reason to continue my life-long membership in their fanclub.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What Soda Works Best For Disposing of a Human Body

A little while ago, the interwebs came alive with news that Mountain Dew could turn a mouse into a gelatinous blob.  Given my quite real addiction to the yellow stuff (if a go a couple days without a hit of the Dew, I feel awful, complete with splitting headache), I was particularly intrigued by this story.   Yet I don’t feel the need to go into detail about how this news effects my ritualistic consumption of the beverage of life because I couldn’t say it any better than this commentary by Chuck Klosterman.  Instead, I decided I wanted to witness these miraculous flesh-dissolving powers first hand.  So, I set up a very modest experiment.

The experimental design is actually quite simplistic.  I took raw chicken legs and wings and put a single piece of chicken into 14 different mason jars.  I chose to use the chicken legs and wings because they would provide I nice mix of muscle, skin, fat, and bone that gets as close as possible to an actual animal without raiding a hatchery.   The next step was to add sufficient liquid to the jars to completely cover the chicken.  Now here is where it gets interesting (at least to me).   The only way to really appreciate the true destructive power of Mountain Dew is to put it up against some of the lesser stomach corroding drinks that we commonly imbibe.  Each of the 14 mason jars got a different beverage.  I tried to include as varied a selection of sodas and soda-like substances as possible.  We know that those artificial sweetners in the diet soda give you cancer but do they eat skin.  Can we answer the universal question of Coke or Pepsi?  Red Bull may give you wings but what does it do to actual wings?  Over the course of the next couple of weeks we will find out.  The final roll call of this experiment is as follows;
  1. Mountain Dew
  2. Mountain Dew Code Red
  3. Mott’s Apple Juice
  4. Schweppe’s Ginger Ale
  5. Caffeine-Free Diet Coke
  6. Coke
  7. Pepsi
  8. Stop and Shop Brand Grape Soda
  9. A&W Root Beer
  10. Sprite
  11. Red Bull
  12. Monster Energy
  13. V8 Splash Fruit Medley
  14. Water (our control for this experiment)
After filling the jars, the lids were screwed on and the jars were placed in our basement.  And there they will sit, undisturbed, while I observe and document the changes that our battery of liquids is inducing in our chicken.  This is of course not a perfect experiment.  The mason jars are not air tight, so the soda will likely lose their carbonation more quickly than a sealed bottle of soda so if the pressure and carbonation is important to the degradation process, we will miss that.  Also, a basement is not exactly temperature controlled so variations in heat could artificially speed or slow the corrosion.  But at least all of the samples will be exposed to the same variations.  Finally, I am somewhat disappointed that I don’t have any quantitative measures for assessing what is happening to the chicken.  The fact that this isn’t the perfect experiment won’t stop us from doing small “s” science though.   Life’s great unanswered questions need to be answered and sometimes the means chicken wings in mason jars in a basement.

This blog post is sponsored by Slurm.