Friday, December 31, 2010

Icons of Badassery: Darth Vader

Icon of badassery: Darth Vader (David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones)

Record of badassery: Star Wars (1977), Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Synopsis of badassery: Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, was the terror of the Star Wars galaxy, second in command only to the Emperor. His presence was intimidating both visually and audibly: his tall, cyborg body was encased entirely in stylized black armor and a flowing black cape, and he had a deep, commanding voice and robotic breathing apparatus that made ominous whooshing sounds. A fearsome warrior and powerful proponent of the Dark Side of the Force, he had once been a noble Jedi, but turned against his former brethren. Vader helped the Emperor systematically hunt down and execute the Jedi and solidify control of the galaxy. He wielded his power with impunity, killing enemies and even his own generals in cold blood, and using fear and calculating precision to drive those under his command. His control of the Force was absolute, allowing him to choke someone from a great distance, move large objects with his mind as if they weighed nothing, and deflect blaster fire with his hands. He was also one of the best fighter pilots in the galaxy, and a master of light saber combat. In the end, the unconditional love of his son was able to make him see the error of his ways; he died a hero from wounds suffered while killing the evil Emperor, showing that even the most reprehensible person could be redeemed. Star Wars creator George Lucas later botched the Darth Vader mythos with an unnecessary and nonsensical prequel trilogy, but in the original films, every moment of Vader screen time was electrifying.

Badass quote: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Badass website: Time Capsule: Darth Vader 1980

Badass clip:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Icons of Badassery: The Fonz

Icon of badassery: Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler)

Record of badassery: Happy Days (television series, 1974-1984)

Synopsis of badassery: The Fonz was the coolest of the cool in everything he said and did, a 1950s era personality who became one of the 1970s’ most beloved characters. Fonzie was an auto mechanic and all-around “tough guy” with a heart of gold, serving as mentor and protector to the kids who hung out at Arnold’s restaurant in Milwaukee. He had a penchant for leather jackets and Harley Davidson and Triumph motorcycles, but he didn’t smoke and mostly set a good role model. He had a way with the ladies and anything mechanical: he could make a juke box play his favorite song just by bumping it with his fist, or make girls jump to his side just by snapping his fingers. He was a man of few words, often saying just “Aaayyy!” or “Whoa!” or giving his signature thumbs-up sign. Several episodes revolved around Fonzie performing dangerous stunts on his motorcycle, and in one infamous episode he ski-jumped over a tank filled with sharks.

Badass quote: “Sit on it!”

Badass websiteWhat Would Fonzie Do?

Badass clip:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Santa Corp. Factsheet

Founded: 1840

President & CEO: Nicholas “Kris” Kringle (a.k.a. “Santa Claus”)

Headquarters: North Pole

CEO residence: Korvatunturi, Finland

Manufacturing facilities (year built): North Pole (1869), Antarctica (1954), China (1998)

Employees*: 22,312 elves, 398 reindeer, 62 yeti, 4 humans, 1 snowman

Annual revenue*: $90.4 billion

Revenue sources: licensing deals (for example, use of the Santa Claus image by companies like Coca-Cola), patent fees (Santa Corp. owns patents on everything from the game of checkers to the technology behind Xbox Kinect), defense development contracts (stealth and project management technology for the U.S. military), toy manufacturing contracts (Hasbro, Parker Brothers, Tyco and others)

Annual charitable giving*: $59.7 billion

Annual corporate taxes paid*: $0

Distribution: “Santa's main (North Pole) distribution center is a sight to behold. At 4,000,000 square feet (370,000 square meters), it's one of the world's largest facilities. A real-time warehouse management system is of course required to run such a complex. The facility makes extensive use of task interleaving, literally combining dozens of distribution center activities (putaway, replenishing, order picking, sleigh loading, cycle counting) in a dynamic queue... the elves have been on engineered standards and incentives for three years, leading to a 12% gain in productivity...The WMS and transportation system are fully integrated, allowing (the elves) to make optimal decisions that balance transportation and order picking and other distribution center costs. Unbeknownst to many, Santa actually has to use many sleighs and (teams) to get the job done Christmas Eve, and the TMS optimally builds thousands of consolidated sacks that maximize cube utilization and minimize total air miles.” (source: SupplyChainDigest, December 16, 2004)

Controversy: “Occasionally you run across an adult who doesn't believe in Santa Claus, which of course is just foolish. Santa's existence is well-documented by forensic scientists, and there are several new sightings by credible sources every Christmas Eve. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is even able to track his movements globally with the aid of a sophisticated, multi-billion dollar tracking system built specifically for that purpose. Santa is elusive to be sure, but the evidence is there. In the 1950s and '60s, teenagers in the U.S., and later in Great Britain and elsewhere, began spreading rumors that Santa was a hoax. Why these allegations were able to gain traction is beyond me, although it should be noted that smoking was also popular among teens during this time, so apparently they were willing to believe anything. That the rumors persist to this day speaks to the deep, underlying cynicism in our society - no doubt attributable to those adults who were naughty enough as children to never enjoy the magic of getting presents from St. Nick to begin with. And of course, the role of the major toy companies in perpetuating these rumors cannot be discounted, for while Santa is now heavily invested in them - and indeed directly manufactures many of their toys at his North Pole, South Pole and China facilities - there was a time not so long ago (the Great Toy Recession of 1972) when that relationship was severely strained.” (source: Wull Street Journal editorial, April 11, 2009)

* Source: 2007 Santa Corp Annual Report

Friday, December 17, 2010

Icons of Badassery: Michael Knight and K.I.T.T.

Icons of badassery: Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) and K.I.T.T. (voice of William Daniels)

Record of badassery: Knight Rider (television series, 1982-1986)

Synopsis of badassery: Not even being shot in the face could stop undercover cop Michael Long from fighting crime. With the support of a mysterious benefactor (dying millionaire Wilton Knight, chairman of Knight Industries), he received a new face, a new identity – Michael Knight, and the resources he needed to target criminals who operated “above the law.” He was aided by K.I.T.T. (Knight Industries Two Thousand), a virtually indestructible, fully automated, talking supercar. K.I.T.T. was one bad-ass vehicle: a sleek, black, customized Pontiac Trans-Am that was superfast and loaded with cool gadgets like flamethrowers and infrared sensing devices. Best of all, K.I.T.T. was programmed with advanced artificial intelligence and displayed a fully rounded personality that made the car as compelling a character as its driver. The show was kept exciting by the genuine bond and engaging banter between laidback Michael and uptight K.I.T.T., as well as by fantastic stunts and memorable villains (such as K.I.T.T.’s evil doppelganger, K.A.R.R.).

Badass quote: Michael: “K.I.T.T., they’re still shooting at us!” K.I.T.T.: “Why, thank you, Michael, but I’ve noticed myself.”

Badass website:

Badass clip:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Twisdom 4

Every once in a while, I tweet something that stands on its own. Sometimes it's poetic, sometimes silly and sometimes just a little observation that has a kernel of wisdom in it. Here are some of those tweets.

Bumped my knee and now it hurts. That's not cool. You know what is cool? A fire tornado.

The interior decorator at the Salt Lake City airport apparently had nothing left to live for.

I lose faith in humanity every morning during rush hour.

I only have two speeds: "balls-to-the-wall" and "off."

There is no such thing as a "Chocolate Frosty." It is either a "Frosty" or a "Vanilla Frosty." A "Frosty" is chocolate. End of discussion.

I hate food.

I want to die in outer space.

Is it wrong that I feel like I wasted my time voting, because I didn't get a sticker?

God invented sweet potato fries just for me.  :)

i retract my previous statement - there is no zombie ninja government conspiracy - i HavE onLy resPect for the governMEnt

Every time someone gets a text message, an angel gets its wings.

Lois Lane dies. In his grief, Superman flies so fast he reverses the rotation of the Earth - killing everyone else on the planet. The end.

Yuck, Diet Pisspee.

I'm smarter than I look. And better looking.

I'm using my powers for evil today.

fejujenbkd... this time of night no longer sane... if ever... not sure what I need... try sleep again... not disney channel... suite life...

Was just listing Life Savers flavors, and I was doing ok at pep-o-mint and wint-o-green, but I think I took a wrong turn at butt-o-scotch...

Everybody gets a monkey!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Way out of the office

If you email me while I’m out of the office, you’ll usually get a bland, functional reply:
I am out of the office on business. I will be checking messages, but may not be able to respond immediately. I will return (date) and will respond to your message at that time. If you need immediate assistance, please contact (alternate contact) at (alternate contact’s email address), or call me on my mobile phone at (number).

Best Regards,
(my name, fancy title and contact information)
Yuck. How drab. As a marketing person, I think I can do better. Here are three new out of office messages I am thinking of trying out…

1. Anachronistic:
Thank you for your too kind message. I assure you that it breaks my heart not to be able to respond right now, as I am away. Please have patience and strength as you await my reply, unfortunately delayed. I will return to the office two days hence and will be overjoyed to converse with you by electronic mail at that time.

Your Humble Servant,
Rico Detroit
2. Bacchanalian:
Thank you for your email. Unfortunately, I am on a corporate boondoggle and not in the office right now. I am not checking email this week, just living large on the company dime. (Carpe diem!) I’ll be back in the office on (date), but to be honest it will probably be such a bummer to be back that I won’t feel like catching up on email, and I’ll probably just “recycle” my entire inbox. (Oops!) Why don’t you hold onto your thought and email me again in a few weeks, once I’ve sobered up. If they haven’t fired me by then, I promise I’ll think about emailing you back.

Go Saints!
Rico Detroit

3. Cheeky:
I am not in the office right now. I will return on (date) and will answer my emails in order of priority at that time. To help me do this, I am using automatic prioritization software. For example, use of the following terms will increase your email’s priority: beer, football, naked, taco, Vegas and Xbox. On the other hand, use of the following terms will lower it: efficiency, meeting, optimize, romantic comedy, return on investment and team-building. The program’s algorithm will also raise your priority if you sound “hot,” but lower it drastically if you’re an asshat. (I don’t know how it knows, but it knows.) If I take longer than a week to respond, assume the latter.

Rico Detroit

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cow or alien?

This is how the seemingly innocuous cow mask was intended to be worn:

And, having stumbled across it, this is how my eight-year-old assumed it should be worn:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Alien Robot Zombie Skeptic's Law

Just about everyone is familiar with the bit of folk wisdom known as Murphy’s Law:
Anything that can go wrong, will.
And many of us add Finagle’s corollary:
…at the worst possible moment.
I got to thinking about this recently and realized that while Murphy’s Law can’t possibly hold true every time, there is a certain undeniable kernel of truth to it. You see, there is a reason that truth is stranger than fiction and that underdogs overcome seemingly impossible odds all the time. That reason is statistics.

When you have billions of billions of people living their lives day after day, hour after hour, even ordinary activities are bound to generate extraordinary results once in a while. And, of course, nothing limits us to ordinary activities. Hence, the Guinness Book of World Records. And the kid you knew in second grade who could blow boogers out of his eyes. And the fact that somebody invented Jello. And all of the things that people do with Jello to get in the Guinness Book of World Records. Including that booger kid.

The next time you hear someone ask, “Can you believe…?” – stop and think seriously about the question for a minute: is it really so inconceivable, given the endless possibilities of our theoretically infinite multiverse?

Indeed, our entire existence demonstrates the principal. Biologically, it is the one-in-a-quadrillion principal that makes evolution possible. Cosmologically, it accounts for the great diversity of star systems, including ours having a planet just right to foster life as we know it. Put them together and – BAM! – no more dinosaurs.

This leads me to a “law” that gets to the heart of why Murphy’s Law is true even when it’s clearly not:
Whatever can happen, will (eventually) happen.
I’m just going to let that one hang out there. That’s an infinite universe truism and as such is difficult to discuss without getting overly conceptual. But here is a variation that applies to the finite universe: that part of God’s creation that we can directly observe and start to comprehend:
Whatever people can do, they will (eventually) do.
By “people” here, I don’t mean that every single person will do every single thing – just as Murphy’s Law doesn’t necessarily come into play in every single situation, even though it seems to. But overall, as a species, I think this law holds more empirical weight than Murphy’s Law ever did and the implications are stunning. Human beings exist to push boundaries. At its worst, this means we get genocide and Flavor of Love. But at its best, we get a cure for cancer and interstellar travel.

Make no mistake: at a very basic level, everything that can go wrong, will – somewhere, somehow. But everything that can go right, will, too. The good thing for all of us is that we are capable of learning, so innovations like crop rotation and transistors don’t necessarily die with the unstable genius that was crazy enough to think of them.

But there is another implication of this law; namely, whether or not something is “ethical” doesn’t make a bit of difference on the large scale: somewhere, someone will do it if given the chance. That means that human cloning is inevitable, and most likely human-animal genetic hybrids and human-robot cybernetic hybrids as well. And a lot of other things that we can’t imagine yet. But we will. And in hindsight, we will call at least some of them “progress.”

Well, at least until we cause the alien robot zombie apocalypse.

Friday, November 26, 2010

25 random things about me

This started as a Facebook meme a while ago. After you write your list of 25 things, you are supposed to tag 25 people, and then they’re supposed to write their own lists, etc. If you haven’t already done this, you probably should, as it was actually one of the best things that ever went around Facebook. (That and Farmville.) Most people’s lists were pretty interesting and entertaining. In the spirit of narcissism in which blogs are intended, here is my (slightly edited for public consumption) list.

Rules: once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 (or so) people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you. (To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people - in the right hand corner of the app- then click “publish.”)

  1. I’m writing a book titled Three Perfect Minutes: Milestone Recordings in American Music. It’s coming along slowly, but I’m pretty proud of it.
  2. I have pretty well-developed ideas for at least three other books I’d like to write. (Any one of them would have been an easier place to start than the one I actually chose to write first!)
  3. I hate winter, but the Blizzard of ‘78 is one of my favorite childhood memories.
  4. I am trying to embrace winter, partly to survive it and partly to give my son the chance to have his own memories.
  5. I’ve been to 48 states. (Still trying to get to Alaska and Hawaii.)
  6. I don’t belong here in Detroit: all cars look the same to me. Don’t say, “look at that Acura” to me, say “look at that green car.” Because I don’t know what an Acura is.
  7. I am Celiac: my body can’t process gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. I can’t eat bread, pasta, beer, anything cooked with flour, etc. It’s not exactly an allergic reaction, but that’s the easiest way to think about it. I found all of this out by a happy accident in late 2007 and have been gluten free ever since. It has made a world of difference for me. (Celiac is pretty common: in the U.S., about 1% of the population has the condition. Unfortunately, only about one in 30 of us has been properly diagnosed, but awareness is spreading.)
  8. I try to be patient, but sometimes you wheat-eaters just annoy me.
  9. I was completely unable to cry until two things happened in quick succession: 9-11 and the birth of my son. Now I find myself sometimes tearing up over really stupid things. (Does this mean the terrorists won?)
  10. I want to be a pirate. (Not a real one, mind you.) Yar.
  11. I’ve never been any good at sports (at all!), but I really love to play them, especially basketball. In 1991, I played basketball 363 days. I carried a collapsible shovel in my trunk in the winter, so I could clear off the court.
  12. I didn’t have my first drink of alcohol until I was 21-1/2 years old. Then, on a dare, I traded shots of Mohawk vodka with my best friend until the bottle was gone (11 shots each). Then I projectile vomited all over his carpet. That was a valuable lesson in moderation, one I’ve never forgotten.
  13. I always hated taking pictures, but lately it's been one of my favorite things to do. What changed? I stopped "following the rules" and started just doing what I liked and focusing on the things that interested me. My favorite thing to do is find unexpected perspectives of ordinary things, little hidden slices of beauty in the finite universe.
  14. When it comes to movies, science fiction always gets my attention, but it never makes me happy. (Well, the first two Star Wars movies did, but then...)
  15. I’ve never been a big TV watcher. Despite that, I was completely addicted to Seinfeld (despite not even own a TV at the time) and Lost. Other guilty pleasures: The Simpsons, Futurama and Melrose Place. Mostly, though, TV is so bad it’s depressing. Especially the cable news channels.
  16. I witnessed an unexplained phenomenon a few years ago: some glasses slid themselves neatly from one side of a cupboard shelf to the other. I’m highly skeptical of paranormal mumbo jumbo, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how to account for it. Was it an anal retentive poltergeist? God’s tiniest miracle ever? Seismic activity? A gluten-induced hallucination? (That’s not a symptom…) I’m really at a loss.
  17. I know my job as a parent is to help my kids grow into happy, well-adjusted adults. But there are days when I just want to freeze them at their current, innocent ages forever.
  18. I am not a morning person. I am happy to stay up late, but I will do just about anything to not have to get up early.
  19. My life has been first and foremost a spiritual journey. I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve or claim to have it all figured out, but my relationship with God runs pretty deep.
  20. I’m totally OK with the gay thing, and I really don’t see what the big deal is. Can we just treat gay people like people and move on to more important topics?
  21. When I was about eight years old, I nearly drowned. I thank God every day for each day.
  22. I love the smells of diesel, jet fuel, asphalt and roof tar.
  23. I can pronounce "Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg." (Yes, I'm a word nerd.)
  24. I have about 32,000 songs on my iPod right now. That doesn’t include podcasts, books or holiday music. There are no duplicates and very little filler (I tend to keep only the good tracks). I’ve got about 5,000 more songs on my desktop that wouldn’t fit.
  25. I don’t have enough music on my iPod.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cool movie titles don't lie

Last year, I wrote of my excitement for an upcoming movie, based solely on its title: Cowboys and Aliens. The first trailer was just released, and it confirms my earlier excitement. Check it out...

Also, for good measure, here's the new Green Lantern trailer...

And the first Thor trailer...

In addition to these two movies, we will also be treated to Captain America, Transformers 3 and Sherlock Holmes 2 in 2011, while 2012's crop of movies includes The Avengers, John Carter of Mars, Star Trek 2, The Dark Knight Rises and first part of The Hobbit. So yes, I'm pretty stoked. Some of these will surely end up sucking, but with this many cool-sounding movies in production, some are bound to be awesome. The alien robot zombies have clearly taken over Hollywood.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Evidence of time travel captured in 1928

Irish film buff George Clarke recently discovered evidence of time travel in a 1928 Charlie Chaplin film called The Circus. An old woman passes by in the background talking on what is clearly a cell phone. As she talks into the device, she seems to be suddenly caught off guard that she is on film and hastens away. You can view the full video from YouTube below.

Now, I know what everyone is thinking: how can she be talking on a cell phone in an age that had no cell towers? And who is she talking to? There are easy explanations for those questions. In the first place, we're talking about future technology here. Secondly, I think it's safe to assume our time traveler was not alone!

In fact, this probably wasn't an old woman at all, but a future space commando in disguise (look at those man hands!), part of a crack team sent from the future to capture the time traveling alien robot zombies...

P.S. - Further evidence of time travelers using cell phones can be found here.

P.P.S. - By the way, there was some great music being made in 1928.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Short fiction: "Fishbowl"

My best friend is a millionaire. Some would say it was years in the making, but I think he would agree with me that it was pretty much an overnight thing. One day he was a normal guy, tinkering with his computers, and the next he was a genius inventor, a revolutionary thinker. A patent and several lucrative licensing agreements later, my friend emails me that he is moving to Chicago. The details are fuzzy. The chain of events dizzying.

I step off the train and am instantly embraced. It has been a long time since Larry and I have seen each other. How long? How long? The money has not changed him at all at first glance. His shoes are well-worn. His hair needs cutting. He has lost weight, I think. He tells me that he tried growing a goatee, but shaved it off his last day in Denver. You should have waited to let me see it, I say. Don’t worry, he says, I took Polaroids. (Yes, he says Polaroids.)

I can’t remember if we walk or take a cab. Larry babbles about his kids, his business, quantum mechanics. I babble about my life to him, my career change, my divorce. I keep trying to remember how we were when we were 14 and I helped him with his paper route after school. How much have we changed?

I didn’t know they had apartments in the John Hancock Building. Larry is renting a penthouse suite. Modern furniture. Everything black. The entire south wall of the living room is glass. We are giants and Lake Michigan laps at our toes.

The lights are dim. There is faint music in the background. Tortured, beautiful. A woman’s voice, dry, cracking. Barely audible above the music, there is no sign of emotion in that voice, no anger or tears. Unfeeling but fully resolved she repeats over and over, I can give you no more. I can give you no more.

Larry returns with my drink. He finds me with my forehead against the cold glass, my breath clouding over the stars. Looks like a storm, I say, noting the lightning dancing among the skyscrapers.

What people don’t realize, Larry says, is that there is almost always some lightning up this high in the city. It’s just not bright enough to be seen at ground-level.

Beautiful, I say. And it is. Below us, the great lake stirs restlessly and waves roll in and crash silently against the shore. The wind howls. I sip my Scotch slowly.

This is living, says Larry, as he sinks into a huge black chair and puts his feet up. I don’t move from the window. I hear Larry humming to the music. I have no more. I can give you no more.

The waves are growing in size. I see the lights of the city below. Floating. Blurry. The toy cars are washed from Lake Shore Drive, their headlights dancing, bobbing in the waves before sinking into blackness.

I turn to look at Larry. He is babbling again about Colorado, about his kids. When are they coming here, I ask. His reply is vague.

The waves continue to grow. Streets are swiftly becoming rivers. The roar of the rain is deafening. I can feel the building shake. There is mist on the window, and the electricity flickers.

It’s all right, Larry says, we’re not in danger. But I am not concerned. Ahead of me and to my right I can see the top few floors of the Aon Center, illuminated by lightning, battered by waves. Nothing else is visible beneath the cold, black water.

And then we are covered completely, and there is water coming in around the edges of the window. Larry laughs about building codes. Do you know how much I am paying for this place? He is laughing hysterically. Too much, I think. He is laughing so hard he is choking. I close my eyes and try to let the crashing waves drown out his voice.

Cracks widen in the walls and ceiling, and we are tossed about the room by the invading water. I lose my drink. My grip on it was too relaxed. I know I must brace myself, but I feel indifferent.

And the water is not so cold after all.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

10:10:10 10-10-10

This message is posting at 10 seconds past 10:10 AM Eastern Daylight Time on October 10, 2010.

Happy Binary Day.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


I spotted these all over Detroit Metro Airport.

For the record, it's only "litter" if you DON'T put it in this can.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Random list: 10 good articles on has become one of my favorite time-wasters. The website is full of irreverent, humorous and occasionally thought-provoking articles, mostly in the form of "top ten" lists. Here is a random assortment of some of my personal favorites.

5 Mind Blowing Ways Your Memory Plays Tricks On You
Your brain doesn't want you to read this.

5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen
Get ready.

5 Species That Seem to be Trying to Take over the Earth
If the zombies don't get us, the dolphins will.

6 Time Travel Realities Doc Brown Didn't Warn Us About
"One thing time travel movies never address is the fact that the Earth moves..." I was totally going to write this one.

6 Words That Need to Be Banned from the English Language

7 Classic Star Wars Characters Who Totally Dropped the Ball
"Tarkin instead elects to throw the parking brake on the Death Star and just wait for the moon to come to him..."

9 Words That Don't Mean What You Think
Hmmm, isn't that ironic?

The 10 Most Important Things They Didn't Teach You In School
Success requires three things: talent, hard work and "randomly meeting the right people and not pissing them off."

Fastfood Meals for Failures
I laughed so hard, Double Down came out of my nose.

So You Wanna Design A Company Logo?
Make sure you have someone with eyes look at it first...

Bonus: two good videos on

The Internet Party -- powered by

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Icons of badassery

On the Alien Robot Zombie Skeptic facebook page, I recently started a photo collection called "Icons of Badassery."

Here is just a small sample, in no particular order, of the faces you'll find there...

[Update: I've started a Pinterest page as well, including photos of all entries. Click here or select "Icons of Badassery" from the menu at the top of the blog.]

  • Michael Knight and K.I.T.T.
  • The Fonz
  • Darth Vader
  • Batman and Robin
  • King Kong
  • Ultraman
  • Chuck Norris
  • The Bandit
  • Frankenstein's Monster
  • The Terminator
  • Bigfoot
  • Godzilla
  • The Wicked Witch of the West
  • Mr. T
  • Indiana Jones
  • Axel Foley
  • Bruce Lee
  • Boba Fett
  • Charlie's Angels
  • James Bond
  • John Shaft
  • Ellen Ripley
  • Chewbacca and Han Solo
  • Samuel L. Jackson
  • ...and many more!

(Note that I decided to excluded myself so as not to overwhelm the others listed.)

Click through and check out the whole list.

So what do you think? Who is missing? Leave your nominations in the comments below.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Only natural

I recently saw a new soda called "Sierra Mist Natural" for sale. Apparently, the only thing that differentiates this beverage from regular Sierra Mist is its use of real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. I'm a marketing professional, so I know all about choosing the version of the truth that is most flattering to you, but I fail to see how this makes the drink more "natural."

Most "real sugar" in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, which require processing to extract the sugar, just as corn does to yield corn syrup. And like the production of high fructose corn syrup, this processing induces reactions that partially change the chemical composition of the sugar. (Sugar from sugar cane is also treated with various chemicals during the refining process and may undergo some molecular change depending on the amount of refinement.)

So are beets inherently more "natural" than corn? (No wonder corn growers are so desperate to change their product's image.)

The truth is that most food products we buy are heavily processed in some way or another. Apple juice doesn't just rain down from heaven to be caught in the leaves of plastic bottle bushes. The apples must be picked and pressed and the juice strained and bottled. While I'm all for trying to minimize the amount of unnecessary refining that's done to our food, some processing is necessary. If we all became organic locovores today, most of us would starve to death tomorrow because of lower crop yields and quicker spoilage.

But back to Sierra Mist. Even more unbelievable than the claim that corn is artificial is the claim by Diet Sierra Mist that it contains "100% natural flavors," despite the fact that it contains the artificial sweetener aspartame. Several other aspartame-sweetened diet drinks make this same baffling claim.

Is "sweet" not considered a flavor now? Or are they really trying to tell us that aspartame is somehow more natural than corn?

I beg to differ. In fact, here is a list of ten things more "natural" than aspartame, and  at least as natural as any other ingredient in Sierra Mist. (Yes, all of these are legitimately naturally occurring.)
  1. Arsenic
  2. Asbestos
  3. Botulinum toxin (a.k.a. Botox®)
  4. Crude oil
  5. Estrogen
  6. H1-N1
  7. Hemlock
  8. Opium
  9. Plutonium
  10. And, of course, bull shit
Well, to be fair, that last one may not be in the Sierra Mist bottle (I hope!), but it sure can be found in Sierra Mist's advertising...

Friday, September 10, 2010


I wrote this in high school. It was published in a school paper and a lot of people really went crazy for it. Still not entirely sure why. I thought it was ok. Anyway here it is.


     hohum humdrum

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rock snob quiz

Ten questions to test your rock knowledge... and taste. (Answers below - don't peek!)

1. What is the best Pink Floyd album?
a) The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn (1967)
b) Meddle (1971)
c) The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)
d) Wish You Were Here (1975)
e) The Wall (1979)

2. On which album did Led Zeppelin become mortal?
a) Led Zeppelin III (1970)
b) Houses Of The Holy (1973)
c) Physical Graffiti (1975)
d) Presence (1976)
e) In Through The Out Door (1979)

3. Which of these acts did Gram Parsons not record with?
a) Blind Faith
b) The Byrds
c) The Flying Burrito Brothers
d) Emmylou Harris
e) The International Submarine Band

4. The original lead guitarist of the Beatles was...
a) Pete Best
b) George Harrison
c) John Lennon
d) Paul McCartney
e) Ringo Starr

5. According to famous graffiti, which guitarist (then age 20) "is God"?
a) Jeff Beck
b) Eric Clapton
c) Jimi Hendrix
d) Jimmy Page
e) Pete Townshend

6. The Fillmore East and Fillmore West were located where, respectively?
a) New York and Los Angeles
b) New York and San Francisco
c) Philadelphia and Chicago
d) Philadelphia and Los Angeles
e) Philadelphia and San Francisco

7. Which of these band names is the most outrageous if you know the reference?
a) Buffalo Springfield
b) Derek & The Dominos
c) Jefferson Airplane
d) The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
e) Steely Dan

8. The best solo album by a former member of the Beatles was...
a) George Harrison, "All Things Must Pass" (1970)
b) Paul & Linda McCartney, "Ram" (1971)
c) John Lennon, "Imagine" (1971)
d) Paul McCartney & Wings, "Band On The Run" (1973)
e) John Lennon & Yoko Ono, "Double Fantasy" (1980)

9. Bob Dylan...
a) is overrated
b) gets better with each listen
c) is producing the best records of his career now
d) is a great writer, but can't sing at all
e) is simply the best rock artist of all time

10. Which of the following artists is seriously underappreciated?
a) Big Star
b) Can
c) Nick Drake
d) The Modern Lovers
e) All of the above



1) d - actually any answer other than e is acceptable (The Wall is fantastic, but it pales in comparison to some of their other albums)

2) d - the first six albums were almost flawless (we can overlook "The Crunge," can't we?)

3) a - the father of country-rock (seriously, go buy a Gram Parsons anthology)

4) b - trick question: Pete Best was the original drummer

5) b - fact

6) b - today, there's a bunch of them, including one in Philadelphia

7) e - Google it

8) a - disregard the jams on the final third of this otherwise Beatles quality triple album

9) b - really, any of these answers is defendable, but give listening a try

10) e, and a lot more - I'll write about the significant contributions of all of these artists eventually...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Five megaconferences

When the Big Ten announced it had added Nebraska and would realign itself into two six-team divisions, the sports talking heads all proclaimed that this was just the first step. Most of them predicted that the Big Ten would continue until it reached 16 teams, and that this would start a chain reaction that would eventually leave five 16-team mega-conferences.

Like all things, these proclamations should be taken with a grain of salt. But if it does go down that way, here is what I think those five super conferences would look like (schools new to a conference are marked with an asterisk*):

Big Ten

East: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh*, Purdue, Rutgers*, Wisconsin

West: Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri*, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame*

The Big Ten is in the driver's seat: they can have just about anyone they want, although Notre Dame is always a wild card. These four new schools are all already on the Big Ten's radar. Rutgers gives them an "in" on the East Coast and is a good fit academically and philosophically. Pitt is a good fit as well (academically and geographically), and also has great football and basketball programs. Notre Dame is a great fit - they practically are a Big Ten team - and if the Big East is no longer around, there is little option for them otherwise. Missouri is a good fit geographically and not bad academically; plus, they're a natural rival for Iowa and Nebraska, and they have a Big Ten quality sports program.

Pacific Coast Conference (former Pac-10)

East: Arizona, Arizona State, BYU*, Colorado, Fresno State*, Nevada*, San Diego State*, Utah

West: California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Washington, Washington State

The Pac-8 is reunited in a single division, while the rest of the conference is rounded out by the best of the mountain states schools, plus the two best remaining California schools (all from the Mountain West Conference). This gives the PCC total dominance over the West Coast, with only a few second-tier schools remaining.

Atlantic Coast Conference

North: Boston College, Connecticut*, Louisville*, Maryland, Syracuse*, Virginia, Virginia Tech, West Virginia*

South: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest

After the Big Ten is done raiding the Big East, the ACC gets four of its remaining six football teams. This gives the ACC a stronger toehold in the northeast, not to mention a basketball powerhouse in Connecticut. And at that point, the competitive balance should be kept just fine with a simple North-South split, eliminating the current, clunky "Atlantic" and "Coastal" divisions.

Southeast Conference

East: Cincinnati*, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, South Florida*, Tennessee, Vanderbilt

West: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Houston*, Louisiana State, Memphis*, Mississippi, Mississippi State

The SEC picks up four solid schools in decent-sized markets, expanding as far north as Cincinnati (a natural rival for Kentucky), as far south as Tampa (a natural rival for Florida) and as far west as Houston (opening up the Texas market). It also wraps up the last major school in Tennessee by taking Memphis (a natural rival for the Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee schools), which also has a solid basketball program.

Big West (former Big 12)

North: Boise State*, Colorado State*, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Wyoming*

South: Baylor, New Mexico*, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, TCU*, UNLV*, UTEP*

Having lost three schools, the Big 12 looks to absorb the remaining schools in the next-best conference, the Mountain West, which itself has seen a number of schools flee to the former Pac-10. (I left out Air Force and replaced it with UTEP, a good geographic fit, from Conference USA.) This remains a Texas-centric conference, as none of the new schools has enough clout to challenge Austin's dominance.

Final assessment

There you go. It all leaves a bad taste in my mouth, frankly. I'd prefer more, smaller conferences, but I guess there are pluses and minuses either way. And change is inevitable, so... we'll see what happens.

Of course, a little extra tweaking is still needed to turn the Bowl Championship into a real eight-team playoff field...

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Scientists just discovered frogs in Borneo that are only 10-12 mm long when fully grown.

This is genuine and way cool. You can read the story and see more pictures here or here or here.

I think frogs are good luck and I decorate my house with them. Now I need to get some super tiny ones.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Short fiction: "Streets"

Every day I pass Marv on the street. Only now he has a beard and an accent and he doesn't recognize me. What route did he take to get from there to here? How different he is from me. I grew older and he grew more abstract. I have a hard time holding onto him now, watching him fill holes in the asphalt this week, hammer holes into it the next. He sold me coffee this morning. He looked troubled, distracted. I wonder how he is, and if he has seen me lately, roaming the streets of Tucson or Tuscaloosa. I guess I miss him, but I don't know him anymore. I can feel him slipping away, dissolving into the sea of anonymity around me. And I feel some small part of me is being lost as well.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Seinfeld: what really happened

Sometimes a brilliant series - be it in television, movies, books or whatever - hits a horrible, horrible bump. Sometimes this bump happens in the middle and the series never recovers: that's called "jumping the shark." (For example, the Star Wars series jumped the shark somewhere during script revisions for Return of the Jedi.) Sometimes the bump is explained away by the introduction of something new that negates what just happened: that's called "retconning."

But sometimes, the bump comes at the end and no one ever bothers to fix it; the series just dies along with everyone's hopes and dreams. Such is the case with Seinfeld, a brilliant sitcom with one of the worst finales ever - where none of the characters behaved the way we expected them to and the unspoken "rules of engagement" for the Seinfeld universe were violated.

More than a decade later, I still can't believe how bad it was. I'm obsessed with it like George Costanza was obsessed with the missed opportunity to deliver a snappy comeback. The real shame is that they could have done so much better. Before the finale, I had actually sketched up what I thought was a great plot for the series-ender. And so, without further ado, here is what - in my mind - really happened on May 14, 1998.

First of all, the tone is just like any other Seinfeld episode. The episode may be longer than normal, and have more story lines running at the same time, but it is essentially just another episode. (That's only fitting for a "show about nothing.")

The plot involves a big TV event that none of the characters want to miss. This frees the writers to insert all kinds of jokes about the shallowness of hype for hype's sake, relevant because of all of the hype around the Seinfeld finale itself. One of the catch phrases for the finale is "It's must-see TV!" - making subtle fun not only of the show but of the network it aired on. They can get away with that, because they've earned it.

Jerry decides to hold a viewing party for "everyone I know" and rents a spacious ballroom with lots of screens. This allows you to reintroduce a million former characters, who interact with Jerry and with each other before and at the party. It also lets you replay on the jumbo screens some slips of Jerry's stand-up routines and various videotaped segments from the entire cast throughout the series (for example, George eating a sundae at the U.S. Open, Elaine dancing or Kramer appearing in an episode of Murphy Brown).

Madcap hilarity ensues when Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer get tied up and are running late for the party. After many hilarious hijinks, they all meet up and make their way against all odds to the party, just as the "must see" event is starting. Unfortunately, just as they get there, the power goes out throughout the city - caused, of course, by a chain reaction started by Kramer half-way through the finale. (Coincidentally, the power really did go out in Baltimore during the Seinfeld finale.)

All of the guests leave, and we are left with just our four main characters. George says "Well, I guess we missed it," and Jerry replies, "Yes, it's all over now." After a pause, Elaine adds, "Well, it's just TV." They then all laugh and walk out together as the camera sentimentally pulls away. In the distance, we hear Kramer scheming to fly to Argentina, the one country where the "must-see" event doesn't air until tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stupidity tax

In my neighborhood, you can't park on the street on garbage pick-up day. That's normally not a problem, but I was home sick this past garbage day and absentmindedly left my car parked in the street. This yielded me a $15 parking violation. Fortunately, if paid within three business days, the ticket is only $7. And right there on the back of the ticket it said that I could pay online - what convenience!

I followed the URL listed on the citation, and here is what I found:

That's my tax dollars at work! But wait, it gets better. After some digging I discovered the actual URL. After a few more clicks, the website instructed me that I actually needed to go to to make online payments. Once I clicked through to that site, I made a few more clicks and was asked to enter my "Jurisdiction Code." There was no such code on the citation. Fortunately, however, you can find what you're looking for by making some additional clicks and entering your state, "Payment Entity" (city) and "Payment Type."

That last bit of information is the kicker, as none of the payment types are "parking citation." One of them is "miscellaneous receivables," though, so I selected that one. When I clicked on "Make Payment," I was then kicked over to a different website, my city's "Internet Services" website.

On that page, there is no information about paying parking citations, just a bunch of information about paying city property taxes, none of which is relevant for me:

Notice how it says, "Miscellaneous Receivable invoices and Special Assessment bills may also be paid online," but does not anywhere give a link for doing so. That's "Internet Services" for you.

There is one link on the entire page, and it leads to the county website (yet another website!), but there is nothing there that bears the slightest resemblance to what I was trying to do.

In the end, I wrote my check for seven dollars by hand, slipped it into the yellow sleeve and dropped it in the mail. I had to pay 44 cents for a stamp, as opposed to a 3% fee (21 cents) for processing it online, but in the end it was worth it to be done with it. And I'm happy that my stupidity can help fund the greater stupidity... er... I mean the greater good.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rico Detroit online

I use a lot of automated feeds to update my websites. Anything I post to Twitter, for example, automatically feeds Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Buzz and my Alien Robot Zombie Skeeptic blog. In turn, headlines from both of my blogs automatically generate tweets on Twitter. To keep track of the circular nature of all of this, I recently mapped it all out.

This is what I came up with. The green lines show the flow of content I've generated about music, the blue lines are personal comments (mostly "yo' mama" jokes), and the red lines are all of the alien robot zombie stuff.

Actually, this is greatly simplified. It doesn't take into account sites that I post to / comment on infrequently (like Urban Dictionary, WikipediaYouTube or the nerdtastic, or lesser social networking sites like Yahoo! Pulse or Hoffspace. (No MySpace page for me, though.)

And now that I think about it, the map doesn't show every relationship it should. For example, Flickr actually feeds Facebook and Google Buzz directly. And my record reviews at Rate Your Music now show up on my blogs. But I'm not going to draw the whole damn thing all over again!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Twisdom 3

Every once in a while, I tweet something that stands on its own. Sometimes it's poetic, sometimes silly and sometimes just a little observation that has a kernel of wisdom in it. Here are some of those tweets.

Bagpipes make any song badass

 The teeth of the demon monkey skull, I say.

 Please, someone, use this word in a rap song: "superluminous"

 Those new super-high-speed hand driers don't work any faster than the old ones. They're just noisier.

 They should have "Diet Pepsi Throwback" with saccharine. "Tab Throwback" would also work.

 I have eight arms and a baby shark head.

 I was talking about Amsterdam, and the boy thought I said "hamster dam." Hilarity ensued.

 Change is inevitable (but that may change...)

 You can never safely get into a "yo' mama" fight with your dad - it doesn't bode well for anyone involved

 I think the other superheroes must drive the Flash crazy. Imagine sitting around waiting all the time. "Can we PLEASE hurry this up?!"

 A group of frogs is called an army. It should be called a froggle.

 Seven-year-old physics: "When you talk into a balloon, the helium creates friction which causes static that pulls your voice in and adds weight to it."

 If I were Superman, I would shoot my eye-lasers, like, ALL the time.

 Open up! This is the academic police. We have you theoretically surrounded.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Seven things I learned about seven-year-olds on my seven-day family road trip

  1. Seven-year-olds can concentrate on a video game for hours on end, but cannot concentrate for 10 seconds on what you're saying.
  2. No matter how much fun you have somewhere, what a seven-year-old will remember most about it is the trinket they acquired there.
  3. Whatever word you least want them to say ("badonkadonk") is the one seven-year-olds will say incessantly.
  4. You should never teach a seven-year-old what it means to "moon" somebody.
  5. Seven-year-olds think the word "don't" means "hurry."
  6. Even the best seven-year-olds would be considered psychopaths if they were adults.
  7. Seven-year-olds make any family vacation more fun. Eventually. After they finish complaining about it.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The next Superman movie

Christopher Nolan, the man who brought us Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and is now working on the third and final film in his Batman trilogy, is producing a Superman movie reboot, and rumor has it he will bring his brother Jonathan Nolan on board to direct. As a rookie director, Jonathan is at risk of falling into some of the same traps that others before him (I'm looking at you, Brian Singer) have fallen into. And so, before this project gets too far along, here is some advice that Jonathan should take to heart.

First of all, the superhero genre has been done to death. If we're going to reboot this tired cliche of a character, we're going to need a hero for today's post-9/11, Middle East quagmire, financial crisis world. With that in mind, let's do a movie that examines what it must be like to be an interstellar orphan that no one understands but everybody wants something from. Here's the plot:

After escaping from his emotionally abusive foster parents, he'll join the army and go to war. But once there, he'll discover that he's become a pawn of the government (specifically General Lex Luthor), and that they've been using his special alien "talents" (we'll downplay the silly costume and powers and other comic book elements) to make things worse, not better.

In the movie's turning moment, a young journalist named Lois Lane will be killed as she tells Clark the truth she's discovered. His grief will lead him to try to destroy those who betrayed him, but in the end he'll be crucified in the public opinion, labeled an enemy of the state, and hunted down with the only thing that can hurt him: bullets made from the shards of his ruined home planet.

Mmmm. I smell sequel already...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Unhidden Connection

This is a "party game" I invented. It is very simple and a very effective ice breaker. My company has used it twice at employee meetings (breaking into groups of about 8-12 people), and it can also be used at private parties. It is especially good when the group assembled is not very familiar with each other.

Everyone works together as a team in this game. To begin, everyone forms a circle. (Throughout the game, people do not need to stay in their original seat - they can move anywhere in the circle in order to make the "links" work.)

The goal of the game is to form unique links with the people on either side of you. These links must be something that only those two people - and no one else in the circle - share in common.

The links may not be anything obvious from looking at the people. (For example, the only two people with mustaches or the only two wearing green.) Beyond that, anything goes. For example, in the first game, I formed a link with the only other person who had read Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. (Although I had read an English translation, whereas he was Russian and had actually read it in its original language!)

Even after people form their own links, they can still participate, helping to find common ground between the people remaining. The last links are always the hardest!

For smaller groups, you can optionally have everyone uncover a unique link with every other person playing.

At the end of the game, every person in the circle will have formed two unique links: one with the person on their right in the circle, and another with the person on their left. And the entire group will have learned a lot about each other, which will hopefully keep the conversation going.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ten things iTunes still doesn't do

I've been working on the world's greatest playlist my whole life, but for most of my life technology has been frustratingly uncooperative. When I was a kid, records allowed you to go to any song instantaneously (if you could find the right track without scratching it), but if you wanted to listen to several songs in a row, you were at the mercy of the pre-determined play order. Then cassette tapes allowed you to re-record songs in any order you wanted, but it was a labor intensive process, and you had to fast forward and reverse your way along until you found the song you were looking for.

I used to dream of a jukebox big enough to hold all the songs I would ever want, with a nice computer hooked up to it so I could program different playlists. I thought I'd need a whole room in my mansion for it. Then a few years ago someone brilliant - I'm not sure, but I hope he's got a few Nobel Prizes and a palace full of servants now - invented MP3s. And then the people who cower in fear of Steve Jobs created an overpriced but very chic device to play those little files, and now my wildest dream has been realized and then some.

Using just a regular computer, I can create almost any playlist I can dream of. And I didn't even need the mansion. In fact, I can download my playlists into a device smaller than my wallet and almost as light. (No shit - 32,000 songs and they all fit in my pocket.)

What I'm saying is that the iTunes player is the greatest thing ever. But that doesn't mean that it couldn't be even better. Here are ten easy things that Apple could do right now to make me go double rainbow.

1.  Sub-Playlists

Sub-playlists would allow you to break down your longer playlists (I've got one that's over 2,500 songs long) into manageable sections, or "chapters." For example, segmenting a blues playlist by regional style, or a history of classical music by period or by composer. This could easily be accomplished with the folders iTunes currently uses if they allowed you to sort a folder in order (based on the order of the playlists in it), instead of just alphabetically.

This would allow some cool options by putting different kinds of playlists in the same folder. For example, you could have set-order chapters at the beginning and end and shuffled songs in the middle.

This is the #1 improvement Apple could make, and it should be an easy fix.

2. Artwork for Playlists

When you create a mix-tape - or now an iTunes playlist - you're basically creating a new album. And any album needs a cover. I've some sweet artwork for my homemade mix-tapes in my day. I made one once called "Chocolate and Razor Blades" out of a Hershey's wrapper and an actual razor blade. That was awesome. Right now, my "Surfer Suicide" playlist is screaming for its own artwork.

3. Comments for Playlists

I capture all kinds of data in the "comments" section of my MP3s: when was the song actually recorded, if different from the release date? Who were the musicians? etc. When I go to a concert, I create a playlist to commemorate it and I write down my memories of the day. I should be able to write that stuff in iTunes.

4. Liner Notes for Albums

This is similar to the last one. Why do we only get information at the song level? iTunes should be smart enough to associate songs with an album, just as it associates them with a playlist. (Really, albums are obsolete - everything is a playlist now, but I digress.) And with that being the case, why can't we get all of the essays, tedious thank-you lists and other junk that fills the album sleeve right in iTunes?

5. Word Wrapping

In list view, when you show the artwork, why not allow the text in the other fields to wrap if space is available. There's a lot of wasted space on the screen; why not use it?

6. Find the Right Artwork

iTunes has a "find artwork" feature, but it's a real crap shoot. Half the time, it gets it wrong. It should err on the side of matching the artist listed, rather than throwing some crappy, unrelated K-Tel album cover on all of my blues compilations.

7. Find Lyrics

If they can do it with album artwork, why not lyrics? Why even tease us with a lyrics tab if it's impossible to get them? At the very least, the songs we buy from iTunes should have the lyrics already populated.

8. Separate Field for "Featured" Artists

This is a personal preference, but I hate albums that have the "compilation" box set to "yes" just because there are a bunch of guests artists. I don't care if Jay-Z stopped by to deliver 14 seconds of non-sequitor rap, the song is still by Billy Joel and he should be the only one listed on the "Artist" line. Give me a separate line to list all of the other musicians that participated.

9. Multiple Date Fields

What do you list in the date field: the date the record was performed / mixed? the date it was released? the date it charted? For my purposes, I want fields for at least the first two, and for classical pieces I would also like a field to note the date it was composed. (And while we're at it, let's make the date fields include optional month and day fields, not just year.)

10. Ring Tone Maker

Ring tones are actually pretty easy to make in iTunes, but it's a long process - no doubt because Apple wants to encourage the direct sale of ring tones. That sucks. Don't make us pay again for twenty seconds of a song we already bought, Apple.