Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fifty People, One Question (New York)

Fifty People, One Question: New York from Crush & Lovely on Vimeo.

New Orleans version

(Gingerbread) House Party; Or, The Death of a Joke

So there I was, just sitting there minding my own business when suddenly I receive a text message from our good friends, Max and Chris. The text message stated that we were invited to a gingerbread house party.

I texted back that I planned on making a gingerbread Kidd N' Play.

Son of a ... Max and Chris didn't get the joke either. (To be fair, Max and Chris are nearly a whole decade younger than us. House Party came out in '90 making them about 3 or 4 years old at the time. Maybe not that young, but you get the gist.)

Look, Kidd N' Play were these rappers in the late 80s who made a movie called House Party. And as a former English teacher the structural ambiguity of the phrase gingerbread house party struck me as funny.

Obviously, Max and Chris' message was stressing the two words gingerbread house and that it was going to be a party where the construction of said houses will occur. But I chose to put the stress on the two words House Party, bringing to mind the comedy stylings of Kidd N' Play.

The joke was dead before I hit send. I felt like Quagmire trying to explain the TV show Wings to Peter, Cleveland, and Joe.

You know, from Family Guy. Oh come on!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


No Thanksgiving is complete without the annual viewing of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You Throw Like a Girl

TOKYO -- The knuckleball -- the fluttering, hard-to-hit pitch that's rare in the major leagues -- is propelling a 16-year-old girl to the pros in Japan.

Eri Yoshida was inspired to learn how to throw the knuckler after seeing a video of Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield. On Monday, she broke the gender barrier by being drafted for an independent league team as Japan's first female professional baseball player.

"Hope I can see her pitch one day," Wakefield said in a message he texted to the Red Sox that was relayed to The Associated Press. "I'm honored that someone wants to become me. I wish her the best of luck. Maybe I can learn something from her."

Eri Yoshida wore her high school uniform at the news conference, but the next uniform she gets to put on will be that of a pro baseball player.

The high schooler was chosen by the Kobe 9 Cruise in the Japanese League, which starts its inaugural season in April.

The Cruise are a far cry from Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants. Making the squad is more like earning a tentative slot on a farm team than warming up in the bullpen for the Red Sox.

Even so, the 5-foot, 114-pound Yoshida has smashed the glass ceiling with her unorthodox, sidearm pitch in baseball-crazy Japan, where women normally are relegated to amateur, company-sponsored teams or to the sport of softball.

"I'm really happy I stuck with baseball," Yoshida said in a news conference after she was chosen with 32 other players in the new league's draft. "I want to pitch against men."

Yoshida is hoping to find enough success to one day challenge the likes of the long-established Central and Pacific leagues, home to the best and brightest Japanese players and increasingly a fertile ground for talent headed to the majors in the United States.

Yoshida said she wants to emulate Wakefield, who has built a successful major league career throwing a knuckleball, which is difficult to learn and even harder to throw with success.

Wakefield and Seattle's R.A. Dickey were the two most prominent pitchers who were primarily knucklers to appear in the major leagues last season.

Eddie Cicotte of the Chicago White Sox was the first highly successful knuckleballer and won 20 games three times in four seasons before he was kicked out of baseball following the 1920 season for his role in the Black Sox scandal.

Three Hall of Famers relied on the knuckler: Hoyt Wilhelm, Phil Niekro and Jesse Haines, and the pitch also was associated with Tom Candiotti, Charlie Hough, Joe Niekro, Steve Sparks and Wilbur Wood.

"It's funny that I've reached that point in my career that people want to emulate me," Wakefield said. "I'm glad I had people like the Niekros, Charlie Hough and Tom Candiotti that I could look up to. I am deeply humbled that it is me this time."

Yoshida started playing baseball when she was in the second grade, tagging along with her elder brother, now 19, and played first base on a boy's team in junior high school. She also joined her high school baseball club, but quit because the training was too tough. Then she joined a private club.

According to media reports, Yoshida was inspired to throw knuckleballs when her father, Isamu, showed her a video of Wakefield pitching. She thought that she could do it, too.

"She must be doing something right," said Dave DeFrietas, a scout in Japan for the Cleveland Indians. "She got signed. I hope it's because of the way she plays, and I wish her success."

Her manager agrees. "Her sidearm knuckleballs dip and sway, and could be an effective weapon for us," said Yoshihiro Nakata.

The news of Yoshida's signing -- she was chosen in the seventh round -- was met with some skepticism that the league might be trying to grab headlines by naming a woman. In that, they certainly succeeded -- Yoshida's photo was all over the morning news Tuesday, and she was featured in a profile in the prestigious Asahi, a major national newspaper.

"I think her recruitment is in part for the publicity," said Toshihiko Kasuga, the director of the Women's Baseball Association of Japan. "It would be extremely hard for women to squarely compete against men in any sport."

But Kasuga said Yoshida's success could encourage other female players, whose population has surged since little league teams opened their doors to girls about 10 years ago.

Baseball history in the United States has occasional examples of women taking the field with men. While pitching for the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees, Virne Beatrice "Jackie" Mitchell Gilbert struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in succession. In the last couple of decades, at least three women have pitched in independent minor leagues.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

The Cutest Girl on the Internet

Must. Look. Away. Cuteness.. Slowly.. Killing me...

Once upon a time... from Capucha on Vimeo.

How to Get Lucky

Scientific proof that you make your own breaks.

For centuries, people have recognized the power of luck and have done whatever they could to try seizing it. Take knocking on wood, thought to date back to pagan rituals aimed at eliciting help from powerful tree gods. We still do it today, though few, if any, of us worship tree gods. So why do we pass this and other superstitions down from generation to generation? The answer lies in the power of luck.

Live a Charmed Life
To investigate scientifically why some people are consistently lucky and others aren't, I advertised in national periodicals for volunteers of both varieties. Four hundred men and women from all walks of life -- ages 18 to 84 -- responded.

Over a ten-year period, I interviewed these volunteers, asked them to complete diaries, personality questionnaires and IQ tests, and invited them to my laboratory for experiments. Lucky people, I found, get that way via some basic principles -- seizing chance opportunities; creating self-fulfilling prophecies through positive expectations; and adopting a resilient attitude that turns bad luck around.

Open Your Mind
Consider chance opportunities: Lucky people regularly have them; unlucky people don't. To determine why, I gave lucky and unlucky people a newspaper, and asked them to tell me how many photos were inside. On average, unlucky people spent about two minutes on this exercise; lucky people spent seconds. Why? Because on the paper's second page -- in big type -- was the message "Stop counting: There are 43 photographs in this newspaper." Lucky people tended to spot the message. Unlucky ones didn't. I put a second one halfway through the paper: "Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250." Again, the unlucky people missed it.

The lesson: Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they're too busy looking for something else. Lucky people see what is there rather than just what they're looking for.

This is only part of the story. Many of my lucky participants tried hard to add variety to their lives. Before making important decisions, one altered his route to work. Another described a way of meeting people. He noticed that at parties he usually talked to the same type of person. To change this, he thought of a color and then spoke only to guests wearing that color -- women in red, say, or men in black.

Does this technique work? Well, imagine living in the center of an apple orchard. Each day you must collect a basket of apples. At first, it won't matter where you look. The entire orchard will have apples. Gradually, it becomes harder to find apples in places you've visited before. If you go to new parts of the orchard each time, the odds of finding apples will increase dramatically. It is exactly the same with luck.

Relish the Upside
Another important principle revolved around the way in which lucky and unlucky people deal with misfortune. Imagine representing your country in the Olympics. You compete, do well, and win a bronze medal. Now imagine a second Olympics. This time you do even better and win a silver medal. How happy do you think you'd feel? Most of us think we'd be happier after winning the silver medal.

But research suggests athletes who win bronze medals are actually happier. This is because silver medalists think that if they'd performed slightly better, they might have won a gold medal. In contrast, bronze medalists focus on how if they'd performed slightly worse, they wouldn't have won anything. Psychologists call this ability to imagine what might have happened, rather than what actually happened, "counter-factual" thinking.

To find out if lucky people use counter-factual thinking to ease the impact of misfortune, I asked my subjects to imagine being in a bank. Suddenly, an armed robber enters and fires a shot that hits them in the arms. Unlucky people tended to say this would be their bad luck to be in the bank during the robbery. Lucky people said it could have been worse: "You could have been shot in the head." This kind of thinking makes people feel better about themselves, keeps expectations high, and increases the likelihood of continuing to live a lucky life.

Learn to Be Lucky
Finally, I created a series of experiments examining whether thought and behavior can enhance good fortune.

First came one-on-one meetings, during which participants completed questionnaires that measured their luck and their satisfaction with six key areas of their lives. I then outlined the main principles of luck, and described techniques designed to help participants react like lucky people. For instance, they were taught how to be more open to opportunities around them, how to break routines, and how to deal with bad luck by imagining things being worse. They were asked to carry out specific exercises for a month and then report back to me.

The results were dramatic: 80 percent were happier and more satisfied with their lives -- and luckier. One unlucky subject said that after adjusting her attitude -- expecting good fortune, not dwelling on the negative -- her bad luck had vanished. One day, she went shopping and found a dress she liked. But she didn't buy it, and when she returned to the store in a week, it was gone. Instead of slinking away disappointed, she looked around and found a better dress -- for less. Events like this made her a much happier person.

Her experience shows how thoughts and behavior affect the good and bad fortune we encounter. It proves that the most elusive of holy grails -- an effective way of taking advantage of the power of luck -- is available to us all.

(From Reader's Digest)

NXE Today!

For my readers who are cool enough to be gamers, today the Xbox Live environment gets its much talked-about overhaul.

Called the New X-box Live Experience, Microsoft is targeting the Wii crowd by making the dashboard a lot more cutesie and "fun." For example, now we get avatars which are little cartoony representations of ourselves in the virtual world of Live. This feature will be fun for about a week.

Don't get me wrong - I think the new environment will be great. From what I've seen it looks awesome. Definitely 3G, if you know what I mean.

But what I think is going to be the biggest draw to this new dashboard is the incorporation of Netflix. Members will be able to stream (stream, not download) movies directly onto their TVs from Live. This is huge. Like how the Playstation 2 gave DVDs a kick start in '99, the Xbox will be a major player in the move towards streaming movies electronically onto our televisions (something Apple couldn't do successfully).

As luck would have it, I'm at work right now not downloading this wonderful new experience. Let's hope the Microsoft servers don't crash when me and the rest of the adult gamers get home from work tonight and all download NXE at the same time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Apples and Bananas

I bought an iPhone this weekend. For those of you who are thinking, "But Jason, you rag on Apple fanboys all the time!" let me say this: I will continue to rag on you Kool-Aid drinking, smarmy bastards until you stop acting like Steve Jobs is the friggin' Second Coming of Christ.

Let's get something clear: I am a PC. When it comes down to computing, Apple has yet wriggled its way into my daily life. Face facts: The world runs on PCs and Windows.

Before you start blaming me of fanboyism, I used a Mac all through college. So, ha.

Anyway, the iPhone - I bought one because I think they're real cool. I've played with a few and really wanted one since they've been on the market. There were two things holding me back: The cost and Verizon.

Second point first, I was in a Verizon contract. Breaking that contract costs $175.

The other point, when the iPhone first came out it was something like $600. So in order for me to get one I'd be nearly $800 in the hole. No thanks.

But new shit has come to light. For starters, the iPhone only costs $199 now. And I was ready for a phone upgrade anyway and had planned on getting the new Blackberry Storm this week.

After some research, I decided it would be more cost effective to break my Verizon contract and buy the iPhone.

So now that I have the iPhone I have to say it really is a very neat thing. I plan on using mine as a PDA mostly. There's also a built-in GPS with Google Maps which works like a dream. And texting on it is so easy and fun. And, equally as important, it's thinner in my pocket than my last cell phone.

Did I mention it has Air Hockey on it? It totally does. Two player, even. So awesome.

Friday, November 14, 2008

President Pizza

Mr. President,

Please force them to open up shop in your new neighborhood. Please. The pizza here sucks. It's sad because the people who live here have no idea. I'm sure ignorance is bliss, but dammit I miss pizza.

BTW, I'm being serious. There is not ONE pizza place here that can make anything resembling pizza. It's all shit (sorry, but I think the s-word is in order.)

Obama's favorite pie

Happy Friday, Everybody!

Hi. It's Friday. You should be happy. The long week is over.

If you're a Cubs fan (which I've been reported to be), it's a bittersweet day: Kerry Wood was let go by the Cubs yesterday. Even though I've been saying they should have gotten rid of him a long time ago, I will miss him. It was always exciting to see number 34 on the mound (Probably because it was a rare sight considering he was hurt more than not.) For me personally, Kerry Wood's rookie year was the same year I began my love affair with baseball, 1998. He and I share that year. In June of '98, he struck out 20 batters in a single game. And my respect for him grew this year when he decided to step down as a starter and pitch in relief. So, whatever team ends up getting him, I'll be slightly jealous.

In honor of Kerry Wood, let's make a list of cool things:

1. Possible Arrested Development movie? That would be cool.
2. Making the perfect omelette. It's all about the right pan.
3. Rum and ginger ale. My new favorite drink.
4. Not getting laid off. In today's economic climate, keeping a job is like getting a job.
5. Donuts. Even now, after all the exercising and healthy lifestyle changes, you still can't deny the power of the donut.
6. Video games. A whole slew of new games just came out: Call of Duty World at War, Gears of War 2, Fable 2, Fallout 3, LittleBigPlanet...
7. Red sweaters with one horizontal stripe going across the chest.
8. Detective Comics. The art is fantastic and the covers blow me away.
9. The new Blackberry Storm. I'm so getting one.

You got something cool to add to the list? Just post a comment here, turkey.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Blue Virginia

I'm proud to be a Virginian.

Charles Meets Barack


Election Night, Washington DC

Sweet Home Chicago


I'm an American

This feeling is so new and strange. This pride I have... I can't compare it to anything. I feel like I just won something. Or that I just found that new way home I didn't know existed. I have strong urges to buy photos and posters of my new president and hang them in my house. I want to walk around a congratulate everyone. I want to stop what I'm doing and pay attention to the TV every time my president speaks. I want to celebrate. I want to (finally) hope for a better country rather than fear a worse one.

Fired up! Ready to go!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Love Christmas

John McCain Fine Gold

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Saturday Night Live has been red hot lately. Their political sketches are spot on. Senator McCain made an appearance on SNL over the weekend and it was funny. (Extra points for Cindy.)