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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feudal Mario

There is a lot to like about the artwork of xiaobaosg (see it at his deviantart site and blog or buy it on his Etsy shop).  Although he is a self-described amateur artist, I am not really seeing how the quality of the artwork lines up with that amateur status.  Given his location on this planet (as best I can discern it), it is not surprising that his work all carries a heavy influence from traditional Asian/Chinese drawings.   True, his artwork has a bit too much panda for my taste but an interesting choice and one that plays out quite interestingly in some of his communist propaganda pieces.  But really what really got me excited about his work are the two pictures of his that are below.  A Mario and a Contra re-imagining in feudal China.  Sure, the Mario take is a bit of a new one but certainly there is no shortages of Mario art on the web.  But to do Contra?  That is a home run.  It is one of the few video games I have actually played all the way to the end (I clearly remember battling the level boss in the picture).  A true classic of the old blow on the cartridge Nintendo system.  That just rocks.  Really, after finding this fine piece of art I am only left to ask, why not more Contra pop-art on the interwebs?

This blog post is sponsored by Oscorp Technologies.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Tonight, we turn our pen review skills toward Genome Quebec's entry into the competitive field of free novelty pens.

Genome Quebec is the regional franchise of the much larger Genome Canada research organization.  Genome Canada, a non-profit organization supported by public and private money, is pretty much the Canadian version of our National Human Genome Research Institute except they devote a much larger portion of their budget to the genetic engineering of the perfect maple syrup.  So what happens when Canadian brains and tax dollars turn to creating the perfect give away?

The Genome Quebec pen is not just a pen.  The top hides a blue highlighter.  The two in one utility is of this item is a nice, frugal touch but it does cause some problems with functionally .  The pen has the curved contour to fit comfortably in your hand when you are writing but flip that puppy around to use the highlighter and suddenly you have square peg/round hole syndrome.  Additionally, the highlighter is positioned where the button for extending the pen tip should be.  If you don't put the plastic cap back on (or more likely you lose the cap), you find your self with a blue thumb the first time you instinctively try to click this pen.  As a result, the button for extending the pen tip got moved down the body of the pen to the curve that typically rests in the crux of your hand.  If you are planning on doing any marathon scribing, this is not the pen for you as that cheap little grey piece of plastic will start to chafe.

Speaking of cheap, the overall quality of the pen's construction is not high.  It is your typical pen exoskeleton.  The kind that if screw the top and the bottom of the pen together one turn to far, you get a Liberty Bell crack up the side of the pen.  This pen is not made for endurance.  A misplaced step by a ballerina will crush this pen into more pieces than can be found in a Reese's factory.

Final topic to cover is the color because of the symbolic meaning it has.  This "Canadian" pen passes on the classic red and white color scheme of maple leaf flag for the baby blue of the Quebec fleurs-de-lis.  Sure, this may make sense given this is Genome Quebec pen.  But these seditious separatists are now using their pens to passive aggressively state their belief that French Canadians deserve a homeland.

In the end, this pen is not that flattering for the Genome Quebec group.  Like all Canadians, they will try really, really hard to provide everything that you need.  They will conduct genetics studies with their Canadian pedigrees.  They will attempt find drugs for their Canadian diseases (Maple Syrup Urine Disease).  In fact, they will go over the top to show that, yes, our cute little neighbors to the north how to use both a centrifuge and a PCR machine.  Bless their little hearts.  But in end, they just can't match up with the utilitarian functionality, quality, and productivity of the American scientific industrial machine.  Also, French Canadians can not be trusted.  They will sabotage your experiment in a second if it means they can look better in the eyes of the boss.

Free Pen Rating - 5.7*

* Rating includes the standard Canadian bonus point that all Americans give when considering all things Canadian.  They are just so cute.  Like Ewoks.  But it loses 0.5 points for being French Canadians.

This blog post is sponsored by Holden and Charles Corporation.

Breaking News - I Can See The Future

In what can only be called transcendent clairvoyance, I, me, the guy typing these words, correctly predicted the final point total of the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.  Just how rare and amazing is this feat?  ESPN has no fewer than 71 of their finest "experts" guess the final score of the game and not a single one of them had the Giants final score as 21 points.  How was I so incredibly on the mark when so many others were so horribly off-base I am sure you are not asking.  Well, it is my proprietary, neural network-based algorithm which incorporates chaos theory, the anti-life equation, and the number 42 that I have honed and refined in my 53 years of intense football studies.  My Dartboard 5000 system is without equal.  So, now you are probably not asking yourself, how to I get access to the Dartboard 5000 so I can take down all of Vegas like the crew of Oceans 11 (but not Oceans 12 and 13, those movies were terrible)?  For a limited time only (which is from the moment you decide to give me money to the moment you decide to stop), you can have the keys to kingdom for only $9.99 a month (plus shipping and handling).  You get all of my sure-fire, can't miss predictions as soon as they come out of my head (predictions not guaranteed to be right, just guaranteed to be predictions).  Sign up now and watch the money to start rolling in (to my bank account).

(For clarity sake, we will not discuss my predictions for the New England Patriots final score or the winning team.  We wouldn't want to confuse the message.)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

While We Are On the Subject

Now seems like the perfect time to wrap up all of our football related writing so let's go ahead and tackle my annual round-up of college bowl games with my usual focus on the interconference competition.  And from that perspective, this was the worst year yet in a long line of really disappointing years of college bowl games.  I guess it wasn't surprising though.  After a string of mid majors embarrassed the champs from the power conferences, the powers that be decided that if you can't beat them, take your ball and go home.  Even though their were small conference teams that arguably deserved a shot at the national title, they didn't even get a single BSC invite.  Boise State in the MAACO Bowl against a 6-6 Arizona State is an embarrassment.  It is amazing that any watches these games.  One thing that can be said for little guy is that they took their lemons and squeezed them into the cuts of the big boys.  In the 4 games that matched a power conference teams with an underdog conference team, the underdogs went 3-1.  What I love about this result is that the argument against including the mid-majors in the bowl games is that their high win totals are artificial.  They just benefit from weak competition.  That the 10th best SEC team would get 10 wins in the Mountain West.  Well, guess what?  The talking heads are wrong again.  These results once again show those tropes to be horribly wrong.  Penn State came within a win of taking the Big Ten and they got destroyed by Houston.  Wouldn't an LSU/Houston match-up have been ten times more interesting than what we got in the championship game?

So what did we learn from a bowl series that just paired mid-major against mid-major and power conference against power conference.  Nothing really new.  The ACC is clearly the red-headed step child of conferences.  They finished dead last in this years games (tied with the WAC) and further secured their basement position in the overall standing for bowl games since I started tracking these things.  My question is how is that the ACC stood strong through all of the conference realignment tumult while real football conferences like the Big 12 were on the verge of death.  The best thing we can do for college football would be to just disband the ACC and give their automatic berth to the Moutain West which is clearly more than just Boise State.  At 18-7, the MWC is second to only the SEC over the last five years.  Speaking of the SEC, I guess I have to give this one to the talking heads.  Yes, the SEC is the best football conference out there, although it does help when you get to play five of our bowl games against the Big 10 and ACC.  If only they had the guts to play the MWC.

One final note on this.  I will be starting the cumulative conference win totals over next year.  There has been so much realignment at this point that the conferences of next year will bear little resemblance to those that were part of my first 2007 round-up.  So crediting 2012 Pac-12 wins to the 2007 Pac-10 would make as much sense as saying, "I can't understand why the Pirates are so bad, they have Willie Stargell and Barry Bonds."  These conferences got plastic surgery, new identities, and entered the witness programs.  I mean West Virginia was last seen crossing the Rio Grande with a fake mustache.  So, we will start fresh.  That is if I even bother to care next year.  College football is horrible.

Final College Football Bowl Standings

Conference W L GB
Big12 6 2 -
SEC 6 3 0.5
MAC 4 1 0.5
C-USA 4 1 0.5
Big East 3 2 1.5
MWC 2 2 2
Ind 1 1 2
Sun Belt 1 2 2.5
Big10 4 6 3
PAC12 2 5 3.5
ACC 2 6 4
WAC 0 4 4

Bowl Season Performance - 2007-2011

Conference W L GB
SEC  30 16 -
MWC  18 7 1.5
Big 12  22 14 3
Pac-10/12 15 14 6.5
Sun Belt 6 5 6.5
Ind.  5 4 6.5
Big East  15 15 7
C-USA  14 15 7.5
Big Ten  18 23 9.5
MAC  7 15 11
WAC  5 15 12
ACC  15 27 13

This blog post is sponsored by Burt Johnson Construction.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Think There Might Be a Game on This Weekend

With football dominating the national conversation one last weekend, now seems like a good time to revisit my beginning of the season predictions for the National Football League.  Here is what I predicted versus the actual, deeply flawed real life outcomes.

AFC East           Predicted      Actual
New England       13-3             13-3
New York Jets    11-5              8-8
Miami                  4-12             6-10
Buffalo                 4-12             6-10

AFC North
Pittsburgh            14-2             12-4
Baltimore              9-7              12-4
Cleveland             7-9              4-12
Cincinnati             4-12             9-7

AFC South
Houston              9-7               10-6
Indianapolis         8-8               2-12
Tennessee           8-8                9-7
Jacksonville        3-13              5-11

AFC West
San Diego          13-3             8-8
Denver                7-9              8-8
Kansas City        6-10            7-9
Oakland             2-14             8-8

NFC East
Philadelphia             13-3       8-8
Dallas                      11-5       8-8
New York Giants    10-6        9-7
Washington              4-12       5-11

NFC North
Green Bay              14-2       15-1
Minnesota                8-8        3-13
Detroit                     7-9        10-6
Chicago                  3-13        8-8

NFC South
New Orleans          13-3       13-3
Tampa Bay             10-6        4-12
Atlanta                     9-7        10-6
Carolina                  3-13       6-10

NFC West
St. Louis                 9-7         2-14
Seattle                    8-8         7-9
San Francisco         7-9         13-3
Arizona                  5-11        8-8

With a Super Bowl of San Diego over New Orleans.

Overall, I have to say I didn't do too terrible with my first public attempt at playing NFL oracle.  Although both of my Super Bowl picks were wrong, I got 4 of the 6 AFC playoff teams and 3 of the 6 NFC playoff teams right.  I did put both the Giants and the Pats into the playoffs and even on the playoff teams that I missed with, I wasn't embarrassly off.  Probably my biggest mistakes were St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Cincinnati.  St. Louis and Tampa Bay turned out to be bad teams that capitalized on a weak schedule the year before only to return to form this year.  Cincinnati, I would say, is this year's version of St. Louis and Tampa Bay.  I fully expect Cincy to be a losing team again next year.   On the good side, I picked Houston's first ever playoff appearance.

The one lesson I learned from this exercise was not to try to pick final records based on individual game match-ups because it is impossible to pick the upsets before the season starts.  What you end up with is your really good teams with too many wins and your bad teams with too many losses.  Once you realize the top and the bottom of the league are too out of whack you end up just randomly picking upsets to better balance wins and losses.  And that kind of defeats the purpose.  Next, your I will just pick final records based on realistic exceptions of what NFL record distributions look like.

One final note just because I like to say I told you so.  NFL parity is no more real than Bigfoot and compassionate conservatism.  The conference championship games featured 3 teams that have been the most winning teams of the last decade and the 4th team was one of the most successful franchises of all time that just happened to fall on hard times of late.  And now the Super Bowl is the same exact set of teams that were in the Super Bowl four short years ago.  In fact, in the last 9 Super Bowls, only 3 different teams have represented the AFC in the big game and only 4 teams in the last 11 championship games.  You do see that kind of repetitiveness in a league dominated by parity.  I think it is time to put that one to bed.

My pick for the winner of Super Bowl XLVI - New England Patriots 32, New York Giants 21

This blog post is sponsored by Bach Worldwide.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Presidents The Way They Should Be

I continue to envy those that are skilled at the creative arts.  I like to pretend that I have some capacity at creative writing (I have the great American novel in me if only I had the time to write, I say to myself in my most delusional moments) but even my skewed self imagine doesn't allow me fool myself into thinking I can create anything that would be considered art.  Of course my definition of art is flexible.  Typically, the type of art that I appreciate most is that which allows us to visualize what ordinarily would only exist in our imagination.  And this is the kind of art I want to try to highlight every Thursday.  First up is what I think is a perfect example of the kind thing that I would create if I had any real artistic skill.  Jason Heuser created a series of posters that show us how our greatest president's would have responded to such real world issues as zombie outbreaks and Sasquatch invasion if they would have faced them while in office.  This is the world I want to live in and I appreciate those that can bring it to life. 

This blog post is sponsored by Schrute Farm.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Science Like Substance

After the kids saw this ad during this past week's My Little Pony episode, they were demanding that they get Taq Polymerase for their next birthday.  Bio-Rad knows how to market to the kids.

In case you didn't see the theme in last five sponsors (including today's), farewell to Chuck.  You won't be missed and barely, if ever, remembered.  Your lightweight storytelling that completely wasted the great Jayne made you immensely ignorable.  But hey you stayed on air for 5 years by selling your soul to Subway, so that has to count for something.  Congrats on that. 

This blog post is sponsored by Orange Orange.


You can tell a lot about a company from the free pens they pass out at conferences. So let's be judgmental about unrelated products and services based the quality of their associated novelty writing instruments.  First up is Kreatech Diagnostics, a biotech company that primarily sells dyes for conducting karyotyping (counting your chromosomes in order to figure out what is wrong with you).

Let's start with the color - orange.  Brilliant choice.  Only the best color in the rainbow.  I also appreciate the novel design of the clip.  The Swiss cheese design with an aluminum finish gives it the faux-industrial feel that we all enjoy at our local Chipotle.  The thick body of the pen provides for solid gripping for your most challenging writing conditions.  The big button for retracting the tip is responsive and its size means thumb injuries from missing the button in instances of emergency tip withdrawal will be limited.  The overall look of the pen is hurt by the semi-opaque nature of the pen.  The shadow of the inner workings of the pen show through disrupting the otherwise clear lines of the pen.  Also, it shows a lack of commitment on the part of the pen designer.  Either hide the spring and let your spring flag fly.  Don't play cutesy with me.  Finally, the heft of the pen is wanting giving it a cheap feel despite the otherwise slick appearance.  It may be made of flimsy plastic but it shouldn't feel that way.  Put a rock in that thing.

So what does that say about Kreatech and their products?  In my opinion, based on their pen, Kreatech is a company of all style and no substance.  They pretend that they believe in corporate transparency but they are really have a lot of dirty secrets that attempt to hide.  They make up for the poor quality of their products with pretty packaging.  You know that extra chromosome 21 you thought you had?  Turns out it was just a French Fry that Kreatech accidentally packaged in their reagent.  See what a free pen can tell you.

This blog post is sponsored by Carmichael Industries.