Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's a little drafty in here.

So, I watched most of the NFL draft yesterday, and I cannot begin with the complaints about the talk about Brady Quinn until I post my excitement about Gaines Adams, Defensive End from Clemson University going to Tampa Bay. I might have to purchase a jersey, and from what I hear I'm not really the sort to buy jerseys. This isn't a sports blog, I realize, so I'll try to lay off the sports heavy material and only focus on the general complaints of the viewing experience.

First, the NFL can never ever allow the draft to go as long as it did yesterday. That is, if it expects to keep viewers. It was the longest first round in the history of the draft, which means it was like 1.25 times more boring than usual. I understand it takes a certain kind of fan to watch the draft (of which I am one), and if it's like this again next year they can count me out. 15 minutes is the amount of time between picks, and typically, only bastard teams use all 15 of those minutes. Most of them did this year, because of that bastard quarterback Brady Quinn.

I want to quote one of the soulless commentators (I don't remember which one, but none of them have souls), who has obviously lost touch with what it means to be an actual person: "I'm starting to feel bad for Brady Quinn." For those of you who don't know, Brady Quinn was the quarterback for Notre Dame, which is a school in Indiana that has an inexplicably large amount of attention paid to it. He had an average career with very impressive statistics. The kid was going to a very prestigious and expensive private school for free, and as the starting QB for ND gets on TV every Saturday. As a result, girls will, inevitably, want to sleep with him. It doesn't hurt that he is going to be a professional football player and make in the tens of millions of dollars. The reason that the soulless TV guy felt bad for him was because the difference between the #10 pick, where he might have gone, and the #22 pick, where he did go, is like $25 million.

Sure, it sounds like a lot of money, and it is. But he's 22 years old. If he's any good (which he may or may not be), that amount that he lost in the first contract will be about as insignificant as Joe Biden in the presidential race. He's a college graduate now, and he's falling into this job. It's hard, really, to sympathize about him losing $25 million in four hours. Yes, it's a little traumatic to watch as they show this kid on the screen, but he's going to be a millionaire. Like next week. For sports fans, it's more aggravating than people who pronounce "ASAP" because we've been hearing about this slightly above average quarterback non-stop for like two years now. I know that it's never really a good idea to enjoy somebody else's misfortune, but I think it's ok when that misfortune is a kid who's younger than me getting a $15 million contract to throw a ball.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Stick 'em up

I don't like the feeling of sticky things on my skin. I never have. I can't explain it, but it's one of those things like when people say, "I don't like mayonnaise," and if you ask, "Have you tried it?" and they say, "No. I just don't." I'm not going to interrogate you any further about your mayonnaise (even though it really makes sandwiches scrumptious), don't try to get me to explain about sticky things. Because I can't. Even though I will concede that mayonnaise doesn't make a lot of sense as to why it is good; it's whipped oil and egg yolk. It doesn't seem like it should be good, but it is. I was trying to think of a funny analogy to follow this up with, but the first thing I could think of was a computational model that we talked about in class the other day that works but has no theoretical basis. Good Lord I need to get out more.

You know when you pour Coke into a glass with ice in it, and the bubbles fly up like a foot above the glass? If you hold your arm over the glass in the path of the bubbles, they get the syrupy sugar on them. That feeling happens with a variety of food/drink spillages, and I will practically take a bath in the kitchen sink if it happens to me. The worst is when you have a small spill on the counter top and you have to clean up with a rag or paper towels or something; I end up washing my hands like three times between each stage because I don't want to accidentally get sticky on something in the kitchen, lest I touch it later. I need to put the sticky under quarantine. I do admit, though, that I feel a little like a psychopath when this happens.

This isn't just limited to food. I also hate (though I can tolerate) sticky name tags. I generally try to avoid them if I can. I don't always want people knowing who I am anyway -- in case later I decide I want to be a superhero. Band-aids are also to be avoided, but sometimes they just can't be. I really have to struggle with that, though, if the cut is really worth it. It's really an agonizing time when I accidentally miss the onion and hit my thumb for a variety of reasons.

Every once in a while, I'll step on something, and the bottom of my foot will inexplicably be sticky. I think this can happen with other appendages as well, but the feet get into places that others don't. Who knows what's on floors! I sure don't. But right now, there is something on my right foot that sticks a little bit to the carpet, and I hate it. When I run my hands over my foot (not the best solution, because I might be spreading this horrible symptom, but sacrifices have to be made), I feel nothing. It's like this particular stickiness knows I'm coming. I'll get the last laugh, though, when I shower. That's like the atomic bomb in this situation, and I'm not afraid to use it.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Another one that's not supposed to be funny

I was offered space for a final column a few days ago, as a generous offer from my editor to say goodbye to the paper and the campus that has been my home for the past two years or so. I said ok before a college student decided to make diabolical history on the campus of Virginia Tech, before the Hokies went from a hated sports rival to people whom when they arrive in Death Valley next year, will be shown a little extra helping of Clemson hospitality.

I have only been to Blacksburg once. It was on the tour of visiting possible places for grad school that eventually led me here. The entire city, much like Clemson, is almost completely wrapped up in the school. It’s a pretty little town, where the gray uniformity of the Hokie stone buildings gives the unmistakably erudite feel of a university, while the consistent effort of drivers on campus to stop for pedestrians, even when they were not at a crosswalk, made me feel welcome in a place I had never before been and be waved across the street by a student with a smile.

Universities are interesting like that. There is an unusual combination of family and anonymity that binds every student who attends. There are people who work in the same building I do that I’ve never met, but when I go home and wear my orange, I’m not surprised anymore to hear a “Go Tigers!” from a stranger in Florida. While universities try and usually do a pretty good job of trying to foster and grow that sense of family, it is still easy to get lost in the anonymity, and to lose people in it.

This one college student, who got so far lost in that anonymity, finally did find a way to escape it forever. 4/16 will be one of those horrible dates that people in Virginia remember for the rest of their lives, stained forever with the corrupted memory of this student who would have otherwise been forgotten. Hopefully, the memory will not be restricted to just Virginia, because this is one of those horrible days where the evil ought not be forgotten. We owe it to the victims, people like Jarrett Lane and Juan Ortiz, who, if given then the chance, may have gone on to be remembered for something less tragic. Or Professor Liviu Librescu, whose last actions were block the door of his classroom with his body in an effort to allow his students a better chance to escape danger. It is moving to read about heroism like that, but awful that it must be revealed in such a tragic circumstance.

It is awful that this will inevitably be co-opted by political activists trying to take advantage of the death of thirty-three members of the Virginia Tech family to push some sort of agenda. It has started already; go read the letters to the editor in the New York Times or Washington Post on this event, and there are volleys being fired about how we need more gun control or more guns, depending on the writer’s point of view. There are questions that will need to be raised, of course, but not yet. It is not fair for parents and wives and husbands to hear things like claims that the administration should’ve been able to stop this madman, especially with as much information that has come out so far. It is still time for grieving, and there is likely nothing that would have been able to prevent this. It was, unfortunately, one of those heartbreaking days where nothing makes sense.

So, what we can do is work in good faith to try to enhance the sense of family while minimizing that anonymity. We can pray for those in Virginia whom this has directly affected, the parents throughout the world who have lost children on 4/16, Virginia Tech as a school and colleges in general. We can offer our condolences to a friend in need. We can continue to smile at strangers and say hi. Those are the things that we can take away from this. We should be vigilant, but not at the expense of the sense of community that makes places like Clemson, South Carolina and Blacksburg, Virginia the places that they are. Places to which it is hard to say goodbye.

Originally published in The Tiger.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Who is this?

Is there anything quite as depressing as a wrong number? It has really been revolutionized with the advent of nearly universal caller ID, where the quiet mystery of getting a phone call is stripped from the act, declaring the caller right there on your phone before you pick up the phone. Except I guess a phone call isn't really that quiet.

If you see a number you don't recognize on your lcd for your fancy phone (or if you're like me, dot matrix style display for the Ol' Soviet Mark II) it could be anybody! It could be somebody offering you a job or saying they enjoyed your most recent witticism or asking if you'd like to get a surprise lunch. It's hope itself, all wrapped up right there in an unknown telephone number in your phone. The sad part, though, is that it's so frequently dashed as a wrong number just seconds later.

"Is this Roger?" The crazy thing is I almost invariably ask, "Who?" as if perhaps I misheard my name as Roger (which doesn't sound much like Roger) or maybe it's somebody I know. I don't know Roger, and he doesn't live here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Setting things right

I need to do something that I have allowed to go unfinished for far too long. I need to tell you, if you don't already know, which webcomic is the best one of them all. I have only sampled maybe ten, but my search is over. Before I reveal the answer at the end, I will explain to you the ones I have looked at and why this one is better than all those other pieces of digital crap.

There are a few that I try to keep up with on a regular basis (in addition to the best one), and they're not bad. Questionable Content isn't bad, and I read it everyday. This one and GPF-Comics which actually kind of sucks, both fall into the category of "I started with them and at this point I might as well keep up with them." Particularly the second one. If you go there, and leave me a comment saying, "Why do you read this? I enjoyed your writing until I found out that this is the sort of thing that you read," don't, because I acknowledge that I hate it. I just can't escape. Penny-Arcade is actually pretty funny, but I don't keep up with it as well because I don't actually know how often they update. It's a comic for nerds though. I only get about 70% of them because I don't really play nerd games anymore. I tried to grow out of that sophomore year of college. Now I only play tough games. Like poker with grenades instead of chips and Russian roulette.

I have tried to read Achewood once upon a time, but couldn't get into it. I also tried to read Sam and Fuzzy and Diesel Sweeties during the period between the end of college and actual graduation (that's really when I started on all of these) when I didn't have a lot to do. Sometimes they were ok, but I gave up on all of them. None of them were as good as Fruit Cakes.

The best one, though, is undoubtedly Dinosaur Comics. I wish Dinosaur Comics was a blanket so I could wrap myself up in it while I watch tv.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nobody uses pill in its slang form anymore.

There is a commercial that irritates me to no end that I haven't publicly skewered on my blog yet. I am going to do that now. It's Nexium, the "Little Purple Pill" that solves every sort of problem related to acid reflux disease. You know, you don't just feel better after taking it, you are better. So next time you're standing around talking about all the charity work you do with your friends, the guy who volunteers at the soup kitchen has nothing on the guy who takes Nexium. Because he is better.

That's not even the part that bothers me so. It's the one with the father (presumably) of a family whom everyone in said family refers to as "The Finisher." Which is a load of hogwash because the examples he cites, "Finish your homework! Finish Your Vegetables!" involves asking other people to finish things without actually doing any finishing himself. Then, to tie it together, he says, "There was something I thought I [the Finisher!] was finished with." See how that comes full circle on itself? No? That's because there has never existed a more contrived plot device ever. Not even the history professor in Monty Python in the Holy Grail, which was contrived on purpose, can exceed it. I hate this commercial. I would prefer to suffer with acid reflux disease than take this drug on principle.

I know that writing an ad for a drug would be hard. There's not a lot to work with, and there's usually a lot of jargon. But I can't really say I think that advertising drugs to the public is a good idea in the first place, but if they're going to do it, do it better than this. There are Geico commercials or ads with fast cars or explosions whose spot you're taking with this nonsense. The kicker to writing these ads being hard, though, is that the people who write them are professionals. In order to get paid for your work, typically you need to be kind of good at it. If not, well, I'd be making money doing second rate work writing ads for gullible pharmaceutical companies. In case there are any gullible pharmaceutical execs reading this, here's my suggestion. If you like it, leave a comment and I'll tell you where you can mail the check.

[Fade from purple]
Explosion, rocket car flies across screen. Cut inside of car, where man in World War I aviator style clothing is seated next to a smokin' hot woman wearing something sexy. She says, "That was close!" He clutches his chest. "Oh no, not your acid reflux disease!" Another explosion, then goats with machine guns parachute on screen. The man says, "I need something better! This, this purple pill might be just ticket! Fortunately, I had a prescription written and filled for Nexium before this battle began!" He takes the Nexium. He sits upright, shoots the goats with the lasers and missiles from his rocket car. The girl says, "The Nexium worked! And you saved humanity! My hero!" She hugs his arm and rests her head on his shoulder. He smiles, turns to the camera and says, "With only headache, diarrhea, and stomach pain as side effects for Nexium, there is no question. Nexium is the balls. Talk to your doctor right away."

It can even be a cartoon, like Erin E-sruance. That'd be ok, but they better finish it soon.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

In the pits

I ran out of deodorant this morning halfway through my application. Fortunately, like the Emperor, I had foreseen this. I bought some Right Guard or Gillette or something that was really cheap because it was being discontinued. I almost hope I don't like it because I won't be able to get more. It's the kind that has the little blue spheres in it; I think they're the kind that can stop Terrell Owens from coming over.

Because I ran out of my old stuff halfway through, my right underarm is rocking a different scent than the left. It's kind of weird -- asymmetrical deodorant leading to asymmetrical smells. The good news is they both smell fresh (I believe the new one is "Surf" scented -- whatever that means -- I always try to get ocean or water themed soaps and shampoos because I want to smell like home, but tragically, these things bear no resemblance to the way the ocean or surf smells. People not named Kramer take showers to get that smell off of them) so it's not like left good right bad.

Some people have more active sweat glands on one side of their body. Not me, though, when I sweat I barely stink at all. I'm immune to that, in the same way that I'm immune to the siren's call of American Idol. It's magical. But I wondered for the people who have one side more intense than another, do they vary their deodorant applications accordingly? Like five swipes instead of three? Or an entirely different, more powerful deodorant altogether? Am I just venturing into the lifestyle that these other, tragically misunderstood people live everyday? Oh, and does shaving your armpits really make you stink less? I wouldn't know, because regardless I don't stink anyway. The magic, remember.

Monday, April 02, 2007

I can't think of a dumber idea... that's not completely true.

I can't help but notice that people who cover basketball games (which, by the way, is a sport typically played indoors when it's on tv) make some silly decisions. The one that really strikes me as absurd is the aerial coverage, usually (but not always) by a blimp. Don't misunderstand my opinion of blimps; blimps are fantastic. If I could figure out a place to park it, I think I'd buy one. It seems really versatile since it can carry a bunch of stuff, like a pickup truck, but also can be really luxurious on the inside. Like a Lexus SUV for the sky.

The criticism I have is that, with your standard optical camera, it is very hard to see inside of a dome from the view of a blimp. So CBS has presumably paid some blimp pilot (...are they called pilots? Drivers? Skippers? Blimpists?) to fly around Atlanta tonight and take video of the Georgia Dome. You know, when Corey Brewer is hitting a three or Greg Oden is looking inexplicably older than his 18 years ought, I do feel like my appreciation of the action would be augmented by a shot of the arena viewed from above. And you know what? It looks like every other dome. Round.