Sunday, July 30, 2006

Kosherland


It's like Candy Land, but for Jews! Don't forget to say your prayers...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

This is pretty funny

A video in which Darth Vader has become Chad Vader, a day shift manager at a supermarket. Also, I recommend checking out the cover article from today's New York Times Magazine. It is about the "Brand Underground." Basically, among other things, it is about how hipsters rebel by becoming self-made brands and the like, instead of conforming to major brands already out there.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Shout About Games

I am an idiot for not finding this earlier, but here is the official website for the Shout About games such as Shout About Movies and Shout About TV. There is some great stuff here, particularly in the Videos section where you see a kind of behind-the-scenes look at the making of the games. The only thing missing is information about when the new games are coming out!

I may be a little behind on this

But in reading all this about intelligence, I couldn't help but find it fascinating. Here is an interview with Charles Murray, a man probably most famous for a very controversial book he co-authored, called The Bell Curve. The ideas (that I was able to glean from reading about it, not from reading it) from this book made some sense to me, until I read this comprehensive review of the book by Howard Gardner, and I re-thought things.

For example, Gardner writes:

To understand the effects of culture, no study is more seminal than Harold Stevenson and James Stigler's book The Learning Gap: Why Our Schools Are Failing and What We Can Learn from Japanese and Chinese Education (1992). In an analysis that runs completely counter to The Bell Curve, Stevenson and Stigler show why Chinese and Japanese students achieve so much more in schools than do Americans. They begin by demonstrating that initial differences in IQ among the three populations are either nonexistent or trivial. But with each passing year, East Asian students raise their edge over Americans, so that by the middle school years, there is virtually no overlap in reading and mathematics performance between the two populations.

Genetics, heredity, and measured intelligence play no role here. East Asian students learn more and score better on just about every kind of measure because they attend school for more days, work harder in school and at home after school, and have better-prepared teachers and more deeply engaged parents who encourage and coach them each day and night. Put succinctly, Americans believe (like Herrnstein and Murray ) that if they do not do well, it is because they lack talent or ability; Asians believe it is because they do not work hard enough. As a Japanese aphorism has it, "Fail with five hours of sleep; pass with four." Both predictions tend to be self-fulfilling. As educator Derek Bok once quipped, Americans score near to last on almost all measures save one: When you ask Americans how they think they are doing, they profess more satisfaction than any other group. Like Herrnstein and Murray, most Americans have not understood that what distinguishes the cultures is the pattern of self-understanding and motivation, especially the demands that we make on ourselves (and on those we care about) and the lessons we draw from success and failure--not the structure of genes or the shape of the brain.

Even after reading this review, I am still fascinated by Murray's new ideas from his book In Our Hands. I am sure that you all (specifically Dan, Tom, and Finnegan...and Mom and Dad) have opinions on this way of eliminating the welfare state. Basically, every adult in America over 21 gets an annual $10,000 untaxed cash grant from the government. Everyone has to buy health insurance and is encouraged to put some money in the bank for retirement, but after that, people can do what they want with the money. A dangerous idea? Most definitely. A good idea? Maybe, maybe not.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Interview with Alex and more

Check out this interview with our boy Alex. As lively as ever...if only poker fans got to see him play Shout About Movies!

Also, Slate writes about the absurd war on internet gambling. What a waste of time and money. Sometimes it amazes me that Jim Leach and others like him actually have any say in what I can and cannot do. Just legalize gambling everywhere, but tax it heavily and regulate it somewhat. Simple enough, right?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Am I the Only One?

A two-part post:

1. Did anyone else ever read The Dark is Rising series? I absolutely loved these books as a kid and I will now probably buy the entire series for just $16 on amazon.com. Will the wonders of the internet ever cease? But seriously, these books were highly entertaining when I first read them and based on what I have read about them now, I imagine that they will hold up fairly well.

2. Most people who know me know that I love to finish other people's dinners. Now I would never do this until someone else is COMPLETELY done eating. Anything else would be rude, but once this situation has occurred, I usually politely ask my friend if I can finish his/her food and my friend says, "Sure." A similar, but slightly different situation took place tonight. The people at the table next to us ordered a huge sushi and sashimi platter. After finishing roughly 1/3 of their meal, eating by taking fish off the platter and putting it onto their plates, they paid the bill, got up, and left. I noticed this of course while I was waiting for my own main course. Sitting just out of my reach was the center cut of a beautiful platter. There were perfectly manicured pieces of both tuna and salmon. They looked absolutely delicious. The question is: should I have made a move and eaten these untouched pieces? I really wanted to, but I was too far away, Dan was in my way, and my entire window was probably 4 minutes, so I didn't have the guts to pull it off. Did the food get wasted (this would make me sick)? Or did the kitchen staff get to eat it (this would make me feel better)? Thoughts? Comments?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Puzzles!

Finally, a reason to visit Indiana.

Science and Religion

Science and religion go head-to-head and end up arm-in-arm sometimes.

My favorite quote from the article:

On the other hand, as the (atheist) physicist Steven Weinberg has famously put it, and as Drs. Dawkins and Dennett remind their readers, good people tend to do good, evil people tend to do evil, but for a good person to do evil — “that takes religion.”

Room 101 just got a whole lot scarier

Check out this fascinating article about some Soviet genetic experiments being continued today.

Also, imagine this conversation between a couple of Hollywood writers:

Writer #1: Hey man, you ever think about what your Room 101 would be?
Writer #2: Not really, but maybe it would involve being buried alive or forced to eat at Arby's every day. Something like that.
Writer #1: Well, my greatest fear was always being on a plane full of snakes.
Writer #2: Really? That's weird...no wait, that's brilliant! We should make a movie called Snakes on a Plane!

You can imagine where it goes from here (no, he does not fix the cable).

Monday, July 24, 2006

How often do people really "blog"?

Thanks to some people who continue to blog... The survey of blogging habits that Dubner links to is a little old, but I think that it still has some merits.

Comics

I generally like a lot of comic books (and comic book movies). On the other hand, comic strips in newspapers are generally terrible (Boondocks seems like it might be decent). Internet comic strips are usually much better.

Also, read this about the (crypto-?) fascists at the RIAA.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

More Updates

You people may not deserve this (well, a few of you might) but in the name of professionalism, I made the restaurant guide a little better by properly separating Downtown into different neighborhoods. Check it out here. Here are two of the six newly added reviews:

Fried Dumpling [99 Allen St. (bet. Broome St. and Delancey St.) 212-941-9975]
So cheap it's silly. $1 gets you 5 dumplings. Or 4 pork buns. Or two huge pieces of a Sesame Pancake. And so on and so forth. The dumplings are solid, but unspectacular. But did I mention that they cost $1 for 5?! If you really like them, you can bring 30 of them home for $5 and cook them yourself.

Caracas Arepa Bar [91 E. 7th St. (bet. 1st Ave. and Ave. A) 212-228-5062]
From what I have read, this tiny place might be the only authentic Venezuelan restaurant in the city (except for its To Go sister cafe next door). Caracas offers a variety of Venezuelan specialties, but the arepas (think stuffed english muffin, but made of corn flour) are the signature dish. Along with my assistant, I tried the De Guasacaca (guacamole and cheese), the Reina Pepiada (chicken and avocado), and the De Pabellon (beef, black beans, plantains, cheese). All the fillings were fresh and tasty. The arepas themselves were good, but a little too hard for my taste. If they were a little softer, things would have been perfect. As it was, we still had a very nice meal at a very nice price.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bodies: The Exhibition

If you live in New York, you've seen the advertisements. A human face staring out at you with eyes, but no skin. Muscles, but no movement. It might even creep you out. But Bodies: The Exhibition is a fantastic learning experience and an opportunity that should not be missed.

To actually be up close and personal with real, exposed human bodies and organs is a rare thing for anyone outside the medical profession. The exhibit is extremely long and detailed, teaching visitors about all facets of human anatomy in engaging and inventive ways. After you see the comparison between a healthy lung and a smoker's lung, you will never look at a cigarette in the same way again.

On a lighter note, one thing I noticed about the exhibit struck me as very funny. All the full bodies on display are male until you reach the section about fat in the body, and you see a nicely cross-sectioned woman. As if women were not self-conscious enough! Meanwhile, almost every male body is put in a positive pose such as throwing a baseball or composing a symphony. There may be some latent sexism in here...

But again, I can't recommend this exhibit highly enough for anyone and everyone. Especially if you have an interest in what the human body is really made of and how it works.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Did you know?

The NHL drew almost as many fans as the NBA last season? An interesting fact. Minimal TV coverage, but some seriously devoted fans (and I know that numbers are somewhat inflated by free tickets given away by NHL teams).

Watch Out

Hey Alex and Ariel, you better be careful not to be beaten at the World Series of Poker by Mikey the Chimp!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Amazon Seller

From a search through a seller's feedback:

5 out of 5: "If only my husband was this reliable, I wouldn't have had to divorce him."
Date: 7/12/2006 Rated by Buyer: Ryan O.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Elevator Behavior

Why do people so often feel the need to press a button that has already been pressed? This happens especially often on the way down in an elevator. If I am in the elevator going down, of course I pressed Lobby! Oh, and it's lit up already too. This scenario also occurs often when waiting for an elevator. In this case, someone always makes sure to re-press the up or down button as if that might make the elevator come faster.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A closer look at friendship

A good review of a (good?) book on the subject.

WNBA All-Star Game

After attending last night's 10th anniversary game, I feel as if I can say this: Remember when the WNBA's slogan was "We Got Next"? Well I hope that they don't think that they have next at Rucker Park or West 4th Street or the local YMCA. Because if they do, they may not last another 10 years...or 10 minutes on the court. Look below and you will see the game about to tip off. Notice 7'2" Margo Dydek, who is head and shoulders above the rest of the players. Too bad she plays like Gheorghe Muresan, a female Gheorghe Muresan!



I had other thoughts about the game as well:

-Many players were injured, so they did not suit up for the game. They were forced to wear business casual dress. Boy did they look uncomfortable. I guess they prefer the comfort of tank tops with shorts. Not such a bad thing.

-Why was there so much dancing? During every timeout (luckily not so many), there would be an insane amount of dancing on the court. First, it was the Liberty Torch Patrol (the regular cheerleaders, a mix of men and women), then it was the Lil' Torches (the junior dance team of kids 10 and under it seemed), and finally a dance off featuring the Timeless Torches (a bunch of old people). I guess women and families like this stuff? It seems hard to believe.

-The make up (zing!) of the audience became even more clear to me when I tried to go to the bathroom. I had to walk halfway around the stadium because a men's room had become a women's room!

-12,998 people attended this game, way more than the usual 15 fans. Ok, I kid, there are normally 8,000 fans or so at a WNBA game. I guess it's good for families because tickets are so cheap and readily available. A little like minor league baseball.

-WNBA salaries appear to range from $30,000 to $90,000. Seems perfectly reasonable.

-Now, finally, to the level of play and my impressions there. First of all, there is zero doubt in my mind that a good high school boys team would run a WNBA All-Star team off the court. Oak Hill Academy, for example, would win by 30 points or more probably. The level of play was shockingly low. I know that it was an all-star game, so people were fooling around a lot, but good basketball players do not miss shots like these women missed. A bunch off the side of the backboard, others missing rim entirely, it was not pretty. The West shot 36 % from the field against a half-effort defense. The turnovers (36 total in 40 minutes) were often of the ugly variety as well. To be fair, these women are generally pretty good at one thing: spot-up shooting. They shoot open jumpers fairly well. But make them move around and things change in a hurry. There were a few pretty passes and nice drives to the basket, but on the whole I was unimpressed with these players to say the least. The ugliest part of the game was the last 20 seconds, when it became a dunk contest. Not like an NBA dunk contest where players do cool moves. Three different women simply tried to dunk, period. One woman barely made it on her second try (and got way too much applause), while the other two didn't really come close.

-I did enjoy the game however as a spectacle and a learning experience. I leave you with a photo of a shot that probably didn't go in.

Is it real?

Apparently, this is a good question to ask yourself about anything you see in Russia. Even a photo of your Russian friend at the Great Wall of China!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

How to Make a Better World

I've been thinking about this for awhile (ever since I first heard "We are the World"). One idea that I came up with would be to make the typical work day start earlier. For example, instead of 9-5, shouldn't people normally work from 7-3? Of course, events at night would have to be moved up as well so that everyone could go to sleep at a reasonable hour. This way, people could take more advantage of daylight hours and generally live happier lives. At least that is what I think would happen.

Also, my friend discussed the idea of working in shifts. Why doesn't every job have people constantly at work? Wouldn't this be much more efficient? One secretary works from 7-3, the next from 3-11, and the third from 11-7. Lather, rinse, repeat. Phones are always being answered, lottery tickets are always being played, houses in Staten Island are always being used. Obviously this would be more significant for people with important jobs, and it would have to be done by a lot of people to make it more effective in terms of increasing business productivity. Just throwing it out there though.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Big Baseball Quiz

See how you do on this one. I scored 39 out of a possible 50.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A man can dream

Perhaps Man vs. Beast will make it's much-awaited return to television soon on the Fox Reality Channel? More info on the show is available here (spoiler warning), and I have written about it before of course.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Elevator

The scene: A post-lunch elevator ride

The players: Me, An Overweight Woman

The story: As the woman clutched a take out bag from McDonald's in one hand and a soda in the other, we both looked up to see what was on the Captivate Network (Editor's Note: For those who don't work in office buildings, the Captivate Network is simply a small TV screen in every elevator that gives workers updates on weather, news, sports, etc...and allows people to look at something besides each other during awkward silences. See more here.) As it turned out, the screen was showing a story called "Mowing for his health." It was about an overweight Minnesota man who had figured out that mowing the lawn was the best exercise that his fat ass could manage to drag itself outside to do. In fact, he loved it so much that he decided to offer his services to his neighbors for free, in an effort to lose weight and get healthier. God Bless America! When this woman got off the elevator, I truly wonder what was going through her head (probably something about her Big Mac). I know what was going through mine: "Hey lady, you better go home and start mowing some lawns! You might get famous. Although I don't think that you will get any skinnier."

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Penny Lottery

I wrote about the potential abolition of the penny a few weeks ago. Also, thanks to a great comment on the previous post, you can read this article as well.

When I first wrote about the abolition of the penny, I was fortunate enough to have lunch with The Actual God shortly thereafter. It was then that we discussed how best to go about this abolition. This is the idea that we came up with:

Our plan would be both fun and a potential money-maker for the government (I think...)

The basic idea is that every person who wanted to would bring all his/her pennies to the local bank and for each penny that he/she turned in, he/she would get a lottery ticket. Once all the pennies in the country were collected (over a month-long period to build penny fever?) for the lottery, or simply exchanged for bigger denominations and taken out of circulation that way, there would be a televised drawing determining the lucky penny lottery winners. There are two possibilities we came up with for the lottery. Either simply choose 10 (or 25? or 50?) winners stepping up in prize from bottom winner to 1st place (a huge prize it seems...something like $100 million?). This would be one 2 hour TV special. Or to make it even better for TV, the first group of 100 winners (or whatever) could be chosen. Every person here would win a prize. Then there could be shows whittling down the number of people eligible for the Grand Prize, before we finally had a winner. The excitement would be unbelievable!

Either way, the government would take a cut and make a lot of money off this venture. It seems like everybody would win. Especially the lottery winners.