Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Friend's Foolproof Plan to Get into Law School

My friend Travis had a funny idea of how he plans to get into law school that I thought I would share:

I have thought of a foolproof plan to get into the law schools that might not otherwise accept me.

Step 1: I will feign my own death. I'm imagining the scenario something like this: I go on a road trip that takes me through some very rural areas during a blizzard. The car breaks down, and I start wandering aimlessly in the snow. The falling snow covers my tracks, making it impossible for the rescuers to find me. They conclude that I froze to death somewhere. Something like that. In reality, I had a friend follow me, and rode back to their house with them, where I will spend the next couple weeks hanging out in the basement and reading Calvin and Hobbes.

Step 2: I make sure that someone notifies all the schools I applied to. They also request that the schools notify them about the acceptance decision, so that they can say, "He had just been accepted to Harvard Law" or whatever, in the eulogy.

Step 3: The law school admissions people, moved to compassion, decide to grant my posthumous admission. I'm dead; what harm can it do?

Step 4: I miraculously reappear, alive, with a remarkable story about being rescued by a family of wolves during the blizzard and living in a cave for a week, answering the Call of the Wild.

Step 5: The law schools feel obligated to let me in, since they said they had admitted me.
It's foolproof! Nothing could possibly go wrong!

Let me know if you have a free basement I can borrow. And lots of Calvin and Hobbes books.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Study: Eating ice is good for you

After a ten year study scientists and dentists alike from the Smile Happy Council have come to the conclusion that eating ice is not so bad. In fact, eating ice can be a good thing for your health. Some of the reasons cited were as follows:

* Eating ice reduces boredom 
* Eating ice also improves jaw strength
* Eating ice reduces stress
* (Most dentists agree) Even if the ice breaks your teeth, they can be fixed for a nominal fee 
* Eating ice can be a good way to start social interactions with people you do not know
* Eating ice can be a good way to get people's attention
* Eating ice is great for movie sound effects
* If you are agitated at a loved one, eating ice near their ear is a creative way to reprimand

The study had a sample size of 15,000 ice eaters and 15,000 non-ice eaters and was carried outfrom 1999 to 2009. Dr. Klenners, who led the study, had this to say:

"Ice eating has been in my family for generations. It's a family past time really. I started the study to see if it had benefits and to dispel myths about eating ice. I think the results are going to surprise some people. Now instead of 'an apple a day' people might start with 'a tray of ice cubes a day.' It's just wonderful. And such a social activity. I even do it with my dog."
The team who worked on the study highlighted the importance of social interaction with ice eating. Of all the 15,000 ice eaters studied, only 5% said they did it in private. One such outlier, Bob Barnes had this to say:

"I'm ashamed of the way it crunches. Everybody stares at me. I usually just grab a tray of ice and munch it in the closet. That way their beady little eyes aren't glaring at me or my ice."

It was also determined that Mr. Barnes is somewhat of a schizophrenic. Most people who ate ice did so in public so they could share with friends and "spread the joy" of eating ice to those they loved. Some scientists thought this might be a subliminal type of indoctrination strategy, but Margaret Johansen, ice eater extraordinaire, had this to say:

"Eating ice takes the edge off for me. It's like eating something and punching a wall at the same time. That, and if I eat it just before eating super frozen ice cream it makes the experience so much easier. I also love having friends over when I eat ice. We can all sit around in a circle and vent with a bowl of ice in the middle. The crunch soothes as we let it all out."

Margaret's story was in fact not all that uncommon. While women in the study connected their ice eating to stress reduction, men tended to do it because it was "fun" or "crunchy." Sam Steuer, a Packers fan, said, 

"Eating ice is awesome. It's like eating rocks made of water....frozen water. And, when me and my buddies get together for tailgating at Lambeau field sometimes all we have to is buckets of ice. It's what makes us men."

The new evidence of the social, physical, and psychological benefits of eating ice are astounding. Over time the Smile Happy Council hopes to push more ice onto the menus of public schools, local franchise restaurants, and make it more available at grocery stores. Certain wholesale food companies are already toying with the idea of novelty ices with fun shapes like penguins and balloons. Where it all will lead, nobody knows, but, happy chewing!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pickles Destroying the Environment, not really green

Pickles. Delicious, crunchy, succulent, green, great on sandwiches, great by themselves. A treat. Pickles first came about around 4400 years ago in Mesopotamia. The art of pickling was carried out and well known to the Indians, Greeks, and Romans. And, later was taken to the new world by the Jews, who came up with a worldwide sensation with the "kosher" dill pickle. 

The Kosher dill pickle is usually not kosher in the sense that it has been prepared under rabbinical supervision, which would ensure that no non-kosher ingredients were used, and that no utensil in contact with the pickles had ever been in contact with food that was not kosher. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic to the brine (And, a little FYI - all cucumbers that become pickles become so in a vat of brine or vinegar).
However, something startling has come to the attention of many eco-crusaders and climate change experts. Pickles, while seemingly green and innocuous, and in fact quite delicious are in fact causing a large percentage of CO2 emissions that are causing global warming. From when they are planted and harvested all the way to being served on a kaiser roll with pastrami, one solitary pickle produces more devastating amounts of CO2 than even a direct flight from Hong Kong to LA in a 747.
Lenny Badsteubner of Reuben's Deli in the Bronx had this to say:

"Pickles are my livelihood. They are beautiful. They are crunchy. They bring smiles to all the little people's faces. I refuse to believe they destroy the environment. They are the environment in my Deli."

But even with his clever turn of phrases, Lenny might soon be out of work. The NYPD has been formally charged with making a pickle task force in conjunction with EPA officials. Their mission statement is to be, "Green they may seem, but green they are not. Kill the pickles. Let them rot."

Fred McGruff, a local police officer stationed near a deli said:

"I don't know who thought of that stupid mission statement, but even though my brain says, 'whoa, this is rash, you love pickles Fred, don't do this,' my heart and my boss say that it's either the pickles or us. It's come down to the last battle. Either I support an industry that's bound to bring about the end of the world and I lose my job, or I start smashing pickle jars like it's the new prohibition. And it's not like we're getting rid of chocolate ice cream."
Pickles, while delicious, and perhaps even endearing to some, are in fact destroying the world. Just a jar of pickles is said to warm the earth's atmosphere more than a thousand homes with their thermostats set on 90 degrees all winter. Apparently the vinegar and brine solutions are made with the help of very exasperated old Jewish men who exhale more of the stuff than a coal plant. That, and shipping the pickles in hybrid cars only exacerbates the problem. 

"I can't fit more than 3 big jars at a time in one of those hybrids, so I have to make lots of trips. That, and they say it's moot anyway because making hybrids is apparently less green than making normal cars. I'm at a loss. The only solution I can see is to just sell cucumbers on roadsides right next to the patch and call them pickles," said Benjamin Steinman of Kat's Deli said.

Whether the end of pickles has come or not remains to be seen, but, it does not look good. Cherished for centuries, pickles now face extinction. If only the Mesopotamians had known, this all could have been avoided.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Noble Snow Chicken

Today I am dedicating this blog post to a truly noble beast that no one gives its due. It is often referred to as the "snow chicken." And, given that it is winter and there is still snow in front of my house I thought it only fair to give this animal a little honorable mention. Another name it has is the ptarmigan. The 'p' that starts its name is just for show, so it is pronounced "Tar-mig-an." See, the bird is getting tricky already.

The reason the ptarmigan is so tricky is because he has to be. He is the official game bird for Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. So, he's always on the run, usually being chased by backwoodsy types with enormous fur coats. Fortunately, in other places he is more respected, and not made the Josey Wales type. In Nunavut Canada he is the official bird (that seems nicer than official game bird). In America he is called the partridge, and even plays an integral part in Christmas music as you can recall from the Twelve Days of Christmas.

But one good reason we can admire this noble snow chicken is because of his actions. The male ptarmigan's song is a loud croaking (not unlike the Budweiser Frogs) And, if that weren't enough, it turns out that they can be surprisingly tame and approachable. If you don't like the idea of a guard dog, perhaps you should get a snow chicken to croak at would be robbers. Furthermore, they are rough and tumble birds only living in harsh climates like the mountains of Scotland, the Pyrenees, the Alps, Bulgaria, the Urals, the Pamir Mountains, the Atlay Mountains and Japan. They are in essence the mountain men of the bird world.

I personally plan on owning a snow chicken. I will probably get him a spike collar and call him Bruno. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Dangers of Sledding: A How to Guide

Sledding is a very dangerous past time. Almost as dangerous as wearing skinny pants on a regular basis. Let me tell you why in list form:

1. You might fracture a bone in your hand (that's what I did wednesday, yet some how I'm still typing)

2. Cooking eggs with one hand is a challenge.

3. Showering, dressing oneself, and styling one's hair takes some unique creativity with one hand.

4. Peeling clementines and other citrus fruits becomes extremely taxing.

Now, if I may, let me cite some good things about sledding (to the point of breaking your hand):

1. You can't wash your own dishes.

2. You have a good excuse not to tie your shoes.

3. When you slip and fall on your untied shoelaces and break your other hand, women will faun on you.

4. If you're lucky, one of your attractive care takers will fall in love with you due to the Florence Nightingale syndrome.
On this last note I will expound. Let me begin by saying that breaking any bone is a bother. It's inconvenient. It even hurts and itches from time to time (although one of my high school wrestling coaches always said if it's itching then it's healing - but healing or not I want to scratch it). But, even with inconvenience comes benefit. I, for instance, plan to milk this injury as much as possible. I might even dictate blog posts to people, have people read to me, tie my shoes, wash my dishes, and occasionally give me massages. And, even if I get some questioning look from whoever is helping me, all I need to do is grab my hand, wince a little and then look back at them gratefully saying, "I really appreciate it. You're my favorite." In a couple of days or weeks I should have successfully started a romantic relationship. I mean, nothing says romance like spoon feeding an invalid (That's me).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Real Robot Revenge: Part 3

What’s next?

The drive-thru. Some fast food chain is going to try to be even faster. Speak into the microphone, voice recognition technology receives and interprets your order, you insert cash into the slot or swipe your card, and your bag of hot, juicy whatever rolls out conveyor-style at the next window. Untouched by human hands. Completely sterile. You are what you eat.

Autonomous taxi drivers. Robot chauffeurs. You think it can’t happen? If you’ve ever heard of the DARPA Grand Challenge, a competition for driverless cars sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), you might know where I’m coming from. Basically, this branch of the military puts out some big bucks to see smart people build a robot driver to navigate some course. 100% on it’s own. Put it on the start line and flip the “On” switch. The first challenge was held in 2004 on a 150-mile desert course in California. No one finished. Then in 2005, on a different course, there were five teams to cross the finish line. Stanford’s Volkswagen Touareg “Stanley” came in first place. Most recently in 2007 there was the Urban Challenge. The Urban Challenge was held at George Air Force Base in southern California and required the autonomous vehicles to drive some 60 miles in a simulated urban environment in under 6 hours, obeying all traffic regulations while negotiating with other traffic and obstacles and merging into traffic. Four teams finished the course on time, and two more came in late. In three years the concept of autonomous vehicles went from an “interesting engineering problem” to a “really interesting engineering problem…we can solve.”

Technological Singularity. Look it up on wikipedia. More and more smart people are saying that machines may some day, someday soon, be able to improve themselves through artificial intelligence. Taken another way, if the human brain could be thought of as a finite state machine (there are only so many atoms and electrical impulses contained in that skull), then is it just a matter of time before we figure out the rules that an artificial neuro-system would need to operate with to become a sentient vacuum cleaner? Set a place at the table for the Roomba.