Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Random list: 10 good articles on Cracked.com

Cracked.com 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 Cracked.com

The Internet Party -- powered by Cracked.com

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...