Sunday, March 28, 2010

little league

At some point in my twelfth year, my mother and I both simultaneously forgot that I lack what is commonly referred to as "coordination", and we decided it would be a good idea for me to sign up for Little League baseball. We signed me up with the local league, purchased some dashing gray baseball tights, and I began practicing my batting out in the back yard. And by practicing my batting I mean "getting my brother to throw baseballs at my head".1

All baseball players need a good baseball nickname. There's Babe, there's Shoeless Joe, and, um, Mickey? I sure hope that was a nickname. My teammates bestowed upon me the fear-inducing name of Measles.

Though not a name traditionally associated with baseball or even common decency, it was appropriate, as in the not-too-distant past, my mother and I had forgotten that I lack what is commonly referred to as "tune", and had signed me up for the school's music production. Recognizing a chance to scar me for life, my fifth grade teacher had me sing a solo consisting entirely of the word "measles", sung at a choir-boy-high pitch over and over, typically out of tune.

This part I performed with relentless imprecision, and, as a result found myself without what is commonly referred to as "friends" for the next 4.5 years. My frenemies, though incapable of remembering when assignments were due, somehow managed to pull this dirt on me a year later.

When joining the team, my reputation from soccer preceded me, and the local grounds crew requested I be placed on the fringes of the field, so I could pick the grass they neglected to cut. This duty I performed with gusto, save for those moments I needed to pass through the hazing ritual that is called being at bat.

The probability of me hitting a moving object with a bat is equivalent to the probability of a red convertible being shuttled by a flock of doves into my living room this very moment. My batting coach immediately recognized this, and implied I pray I got walked, or manage to get hit by the ball. As getting hit by a ball would have broken every bone in my body, I chose to stand somewhere north by northwest of the plate, in the area reserved for practicing batters.

My coaches were normally okay with this, and they would spend those formative moments complimenting my "eye". This I found confusing. At the time, any eyes I had were buried under what was then called "glasses". Though the terms are the same, these items are dramatically different from anything you'll see in today's world. First, the lenses were thicker than my thigh. These lenses clung delicately to the end of my nose by a frame of excrement-colored plastic, which frame was connected via paperclips and tape. If anything, my eyes were my most handicapped feature. Nevertheless, I must have good ones.

This I know because I once was walked. I believe I must have set some sort of record, because I went the entire season without touching the ball once in any capacity. Well, maybe I'm misremembering, because I distinctly recall the ball accidentally rolling to me, which required me to pick it up and throw it the full five-foot range that my arm was capable of launching a projectile. My arm also set some records, as I could run the ball faster than I could throw it.

In later years, I was duped into joining a church softball league, where my hard-earned skill of suppressing severe emotional duress was put into solid use again. Softball is sort of like Little League, as you get the same quantity of jeers, but the ball is bigger, and you're missing those dashing tights.2

I would like to here apologize to coach Bechthold for being a complete embarrassment to him, though I'm deeply grateful for his unwavering faith in the impossible.

1. This is a lie. My brother would never throw a baseball at my head. Though he could have, as his arm is remarkably accurate, after years of practice with Monopoly pieces.
2. Which was probably good for my reputation. The most popular woman to ever speak to me in my youth, Sarah, remarked "a boy with legs like yours should wear shorts". I believe she meant that not only do I throw like a sissy, I have sissy legs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

summer employment

As spring slowly wraps its way into summer, the young person's thoughts drift from the futility of finding a spring romance into the futility of finding summer employment. Summer jobs were invented to provide a counterbalance to the ego, that is, to humble and humiliate those approaching entrance to the work force.

All summer jobs can be plotted on what has famously come to be known1 as the "CP-Rorschach-Scientificissimo-Stigmatization-Salary-XW2.3 Indicator Matrix", where social standing is plotted on the y-axis, and the promised salary is plotted on the x-axis. An example of said matrix is given below, along with, what is, I assure you, an entirely random sampling of some of the jobs available to the enterprising young person.

Note that social standing is not necessarily related to promised income. There are jobs that provide very low social standing for loads o' money, and vice versa.

A few other things jump out from this Tufte-loved-and-approved scatter plot. Note the existence of jobs that provide almost no salary combined with seriously-impaired social standing. Only complete fools would take said jobs.2

For example, some may see the job title of "Scout Camp Counselor", and get an image of leading an idyllic existence in a blessed wilderness. Others, upon hearing the title, may involuntarily cringe and recall awkward moments of trying to get out of cleaning the latrine, picking a stage name that happened to be a descriptor of having no clothes,3 and crashing one's bike on the commute home, ending up in a hospital, with a week-long concussion.

That is by no means indicative of the history of anyone I know, just another one of those silly random examples I come across from time to time, which may also cause my eyes to twitch.

The tried-and-true baseball fanatic will view the job of Little League Baseball Umpire with warm and fervent ardor. How can one go wrong, watching the sport that one loves? Well, one could know next-to-nothing about baseball, and one could be bamboozled by a neighbor into putting on the mask and pretending to know something, anything about that foreign sport. One could then also be yelled at by parents for not understanding the intricacies of the "Balk" rule, and one could forevermore fear baseball with the timidity of a man just assigned latrine duty.

This graph also introduces the concept of unpaid servitude in the form of the "Internship". The unpaid internship is the biggest racket running in this town. Take a company that produces a positive cash flow. Introduce no small amount of evil. What results is a job description promising "experience" (i.e., slaving away at menial tasks) for nada. Though interns are at the top of the social ladder when they speak about their summer jobs to their colleagues at school, they are the lowest form of grunt in the company to which they are enslaved. If you are an intern: you have been pwned.

Of course, they have the last laugh when it comes to getting a real job, as they'll have some form of 'experience', instead of putting 'bank teller' on their resume, and getting laughed out of financial modeling interviews.

The alternative to this rat race exists in the form of jobs that promise high wages for taking a serious dent in your social standing. I've never done any of these things myself, as they pay too much. You could do door-to-door security or pesticide sales. Nothing wrong with any of that, as long as you're fine not getting a date for a summer, and then hiding your employment history for the rest of your life, and possibly even assuming a new name.

Or, you could take the route advertised by so many of our nation's job boards, and do task X at home, and earn CEO wages. Never mind that you have never met a single person in your life who made their fortune stuffing envelopes at home, or doing marketing for company Y at home, or any other task that is mentioned on the job ad. Please, ignore your finely-tuned sense of the common, and go to the presentation on the 90s-era phone and fax and internet device, where that strange man dances around trying to sell you on how the thing will change the world.4

And good luck finding that job.5

1. That is, I just named it after myself.
2. And even worse fools would publicly admit to having taken said jobs.
3. Don't refer to yourself as 'Buck' around 10 year old kids. Trust me.
4. It didn't.
5. Thanks to Blair for the excellent suggestion for today's topic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Fearing a lack of inappropriate interactions with strangers online, parents groups have banded together to great the new internet phenomenon, chatroulette. If you haven't seen chatroulette, never fear. I have taken it upon myself to read several random articles about the service by news organizations who clearly believe I live in a hole and have not seen the millions of news articles about the service being thrust my way daily.1

Chatroulette's principle is simple: people enjoy rejection and talking to random strangers, so let's codify that into a web app. You connect, fire up the web cam, and soon you are chatting with ugly men all over the world. If you don't like someone, you can instantly reject them by nexting them, sending them into the oblivion that is non-chatting life (horror!), and move on to the next ugly man.

This obviously has several appeals. Many beautiful women spend weeks accruing enough rejections to apply for the epithet 'rejectress'. In contrast, with chatroulette, you are speedily rejecting men right and left, quickly building up your social capital and self esteem in a matter of minutes.

On the other hand, you could spend your time talking to these people. Maybe you talk about the weather. Maybe you talk about girls. Maybe you spend your time threatening to next them. The point is, I have no idea what you'd actually speak about with these people.

Does nobody else on that site realize that conversations with strangers are nothing but awkward? Have you ever tried speaking to the person next to you in line at the grocery store? Their immediate reaction, honed through years of urban evolution, is to shield their children from you.

My idea of a good web app would be one that removes awkward conversations from your life, not adds them. Hence, I'd like to announce my intentions of possibly thinking about launching mindyourownbusinessroulette, the web app that follows you in your day and speaks to strangers on your behalf, encouraging them to move along, and possibly stop following you while humming.

I invite eager investors to send me an email, text, or some other sort of message that does not require human interaction.2

1. Yes, you read that right, I have not gone near the site. Please, have I not complained already about the prevalence of actual research in many prominent publications these days?
2. I'm totally kidding! I love people! Especially people with money.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

a supreme being

As today is the Sabbath, or at least, the Sabbath for a portion1 of the Christian population2, it may very well be a good time to discuss a supreme being. I realize this is a controversial topic, and one which could very easily get me afflicted with acute lightningitis, but still, in the interest of completeness, we must infuriate all peoples on all topics, and ensure any woman considering returning my phone call(s) refrains from feeling guilty of her avoidance mechanism(s).

Back in the good ol' days, when you could claim divine guidance while conquering empires, the big question was whether the supreme being wanted you to conquer the whole world, or just a portion. On the contrary, the big question that gets asked these days is whether or not the people who believe in a supreme being are completely nuts.

This is the wrong question. Obviously. This question alone is evidence that there do, in fact, exist stupid questions, contrary to what your second-grade teacher told you. She was also wrong to insult you in front of the class by berating your chalkmanship on the blackboard, but that's another story.

It's a silly question because the answer is contained within the question. As a general rule, all people are crazy. That's one of your basics.

So let's take a step back from the intellectual melee, and analyze the evidence that argue both sides. Without examining what type of supreme being may exist, let us first ask, does a supreme being exist?

Evidence for: The law of gravity is perfectly balanced to allow for the creation of long-lasting stars that produce heat and energy for enough time to allow for the evolution of complex life on revolving planets. A little more force, and the stars would burn out too quickly, a little less, and stars wouldn't form.

Evidence against: I really had to go to the bathroom the other day, and there was no toilet paper.

As you can see, neither side has an obvious advantage. The law of gravity may very well have given us stars, but we can all agree it is extremely uncomfortable to be withheld a toilet. Let us examine other evidences.

Evidence for: We find ourselves on a planet that contains chocolate, beaches, flowers, beautiful women, orange juice, and the paragon of all phenomenality: the internet.

Evidence against: The nearest substitute restroom that day was clogged with toilet paper.

Oh, the irony! The willful workings of the universe against my relief! I see the evidence against piling up and overwhelming the evidence for. Let us give the debate one last chance.

Evidence for: I had the thought to take toilet paper from the clogged bathroom, and transport it to the un-papered bathroom, thus combining the two misfortunes into one amazing prodigious fortune!

Evidence against: This was obviously way too embarrassing to actually do.

As you can tell, there is no satisfactory way of resolving this debate. Some people will interpret evidence in one way, while others will cruelly insist I "get over myself".

I wish you luck as you decide what you believe.

1. Seventh-day Adventists: we know. You worship on Saturday. No need to remind us. We still like you.
2. A family member of mine who shall remain unnamed is affiliated with Methodists, Catholics, and Baptists. If only she were thinking, she could have gone for Islam and Judaism for two of the three, and scored a permanent 3-day weekend.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

locker rooms

As perhaps not everyone has had the chance to experience a gym locker room, I feel it a necessity to describe some of the rules and behaviors you should follow while in one.

First off, spend as much time as possible in the locker room. There is a limited amount of space, and it's a very busy gym, but you should ignore these factors, and take your sweet time. More people in the locker room makes life even more joyful, as we all try to avoid bumping in to each other while putting on our pants. You could lengthen the amount of time you spend in the locker room by making phone calls. I, for one, love listening to phone conversations, especially while I'm trying to avoid all human contact. You can heighten the wonderfulness of the occasion by making these phone calls while naked.

Speaking of your birthday suit, stand around naked as much as possible. The human male is not the most disgusting image on the face of the planet,1 so please let us bask in your hairiness. Speak to others while directly facing them, causing untold degrees of awkwardness. Do menial tasks that could easily be done fully clothed, like eating. Sit down on the common benches. This does not then require them to be incinerated to be rid of all of that involuntary-shuddering disgustingness.

Also, the common benches are there for your personal use. Spread your items out as much as possible along the bench. Leave stuff there while you go outside to smoke. Make me change, huddled in the corner, crying, trying to avoid being touched, all while my clothes lie in piled heaps on the ground, as I try and keep them from touching any vile wretchedness that can be found.

Offer people sandwiches.2 This is kind. Let me tell you, there is nothing like working out, getting sweaty, and entering a locker room full of smelly naked men that gives you a ravishing appetite for strange food.

Pick a locker right next to me. There is a room full of lockers, but don't let that dissuade you from finding the locker right next to me. Better yet, magically time it so that when I return from the gym, you and your buddy have lockers right next to mine, and collectively block any access with your sweaty hairy naked selves.

Even even better, pick the shower next to me. You have a room full of showers. There are seven of them. I am in the corner shower, as far away from others' nakedness as a man can get. Please, violate this sacred corner of my world, and come shower right next to me. Not only are the shower stalls see-through, and thereby awkward, but I also get the occasional splash from your washing. This is a most wonderful sensation, and in no way causes me to desire to puke.

I hope your time in the locker room is filled with joy and pleasure.3

1. Though this is sarcastic, I realize there are those who disagree with me. I'm not trying to make any lifestyle judgments, so let me just declare that we can agree to disagree.
2. I still don't know why the dude last night offered me one, but it was strange. Certainly, he is a kind man, but still.
3. Yes, I realize I have personal space issues.