Butt Dial Plus

Thursday night at the bar, I had to confirm to a friend that I had butt-dialed him, and he sent back a text that said, "I thought I heard your ass" and while I assume he was speaking metaphorically, I had consumed a fair amount of beer, so he might not have been speaking metaphorically . . . and even if he hadn't literally heard my ass, and was only joking, I am sure there has been-- at some point in the history of cellular phoning-- a flatulent butt-dial, and that is wonderful.

Watching the Matrix Inside the Matrix

We were watching The Matrix last week in my senior composition class, and we had already covered the philosophical implications of the film: we connected early scenes to Plato and Camus (The Allegory of the Cave and "The Myth of Sisyphus") and so all we had left to discuss was the ending, when conflict and drama inside and outside the matrix build in masterful intertwined lock-step . . . Neo appears to be dead in the simulation, the sentinels have breached the hovercraft, Morpheus is about to detonate the EMP, and Trinity finally uses her oracular knowledge and some tongue to resolve things; this is when I used my brilliant analogy-- and analogy almost as brilliant as Plato's cave . . . I explained that the final structure is analogous to when they are in class-- the matrix-- pushing the rock and trying to live and succeed in the false reality of academia, and their cell-phone is buzzing, bring them information and messages from the real world, the world outside the matrix-like environment of school, the world which they desperately want to learn about and enter . . . but they're not supposed to be using their cell-phones in the school, they're supposed to ignore the outside world, stay inside the cave and focus on the shadows on the walls, but they want to graduate and see the light and fly around in the sky with cool sunglasses to awesome heavy techno music (and they're going to be sorely disappointed).

Ballsy Bootlegger

When we got home from soccer practice last night, Catherine greeted Ian with the statement: "I found something in your bookbag" and Ian immediately went with the classic contraband trope-- he threw his friend under the bus and said, "I was just holding it for X so he didn't get in trouble with his parents" and I said, "Okay, no problem, we'll just call X's parents and straighten it all out" and after a moment of reflection, he walked over to my wife and told her the two giant bags of gummy candy were his-- he had bought them at Rite-Aid-- and, after the usual web of lies, he finally admitted they were just for his own gluttonous consumption-- so we confiscated the bag, gave him the perfunctory lecture about sugar-- we had just been to the dentist the day before!-- and then I advised him that if he had just bought a little bag of candy, consumed it, and threw away the evidence, no one would have been the wiser, but three pounds of candy was rather excessive-- dealer level weight-- and then we thought we were in the clear with parenting dilemmas, as the long weekend was almost upon us, but today Ian used his green hair paint to spray a giant pair of green genitals in the boy's locker room (the frank and the beans) and he not only had to clean the school locker rooms but he also did a bunch of manual labor around the house to atone for his profane vandalism . . . I guess I shouldn't have let him watch Superbad last weekend (although he did nice job weeding and mulching . . . not that I want him to get in trouble, but it is a big help with the chores when he does).

Manchesters Fictitious and Real

Although it is well-acted, impeccably structured, and beautifully filmed, watching Manchester by the Sea is about as much fun as following the Manchester Ariana Grande bombing . . . but since Manchester by the Sea didn't actually happen, why put yourself through unnecessary tragedy?

Did I Finish This Book?

If you're a fan of big data, breezy writing, fun facts and sex and sex and sex and sex, then you'll certainly enjoy Seth Stephens-Davidowitz's new book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are . . . his theories and information are extracted from the digital confessional, the place where people are the most honest, the place where people think no one else is listening . . . he studied massive troves of Google and Pornhub searches; here are some of the things you'll learn about:

1) how racist America really is . . . and where the racists live (closer than you think)

2) the truth about Freudian slips and phallic dream imagery (neither means shit)

3) the six most popular story structures (as determined by an algorithm)

4) why 99 percent of teenagers who reported having artificial limbs on academic surveys were pulling the researchers' legs (pun provided by Dave!)

5) why parents wonder if their son is a genius and their daughter is overweight;

6) why were not as polarized as we think (Stormfront users love the NY Times)

7) how we are lying about how much we want to judge and keep up with our friends, how much we care where and how products are produced, how much we want to watch midgets having sex with porn stars, and how much we want to learn about political policy;

8) how most people are overestimating the amount of sex they are having per week (male and female estimations don't add up, and even more damning, the condom sales don't add up)

9) the ethics of using all this data . . . we don't want to end up like Minority Report, with precogs predicting crimes before they happen and then pre-crime units preemptively abrogating people's rights-- or . . . if we could avert something like the recent Manchester bombing . . . maybe we do;

10) why non-fiction conclusions don't matter (most people don't finish non-fiction books).

Decisions in Basketball Have No Bearing on Decisions in Life

Pick-up basketball night is all about making quick decisions with the ball, and my son Alex is certainly getting better at that-- he made a couple of nice outlet passes and is getting better at catching and shooting the ball in one motion-- but his decision making off the court has improved not so much . . . before we left for the gym he was hungry so he put a bunch of cereal in his pocket, so he could eat it when necessary-- and when my wife and I questioned the rationality of this strategy, he told us: "these are clean shorts!" and when he got home, he filled a cup with cereal and milk, and went into the living room while drinking his concoction-- and he's got terrible allergies right now-- so he ended up choking and spitting cereal and milk all over the place (and he's got poison ivy on his face because he fell in a bush during Nerf wars and he also nearly asphyxiated at his soccer game on Sunday because his allergies were so bad-- we had to take him at half-time and the doctor gave him a steroid shot-- not that he can control his allergies . . . but he's quite the thirteen year old trainwreck right now).

The Test 87: Brothers From Another Mother

Another brilliant and creative test idea from Stacey this week, and she thought of it all by herself . . . without the help of a man . . . astounding; first you'll have to endure our tales of curing cancer and Cunningham's perplexity about a disgusting mystery of the human body, but this is a sun-dazed episode the whole family will enjoy (and kids might perform better than adults) so give it a shot, keep score, and see how you fare.

Applying the Bard to the Beautiful Game

We had a low turnout for this morning's travel soccer game in Flemington; we were missing several key players and had only one substitute-- who was not only sick, but had a sore quad from Saturday's game-- and we were playing a team with several big, fast players and an eleven year old goalie the size of an adult (he could punt the ball nearly the length of the field and he caught everything cleanly) and we were down 1 - 0 at the half so I paraphrased Shakespeare's St. Crispin's Day speech from Henry V to inspire them: I began with the mathematical division of glory . . . the fewer the players, the greater the share of honor, and then reminded them that they had showed up and and if they did something remarkable then those players who were not in attendance "should think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap" and then my very tired crew went out for the second half and immediately gave up a goal, so we were down 2 - 0 and things looked hopeless, and then they got inspired by something-- whether it was my speech we'll never know-- but they came back and tied the game and came damned close to winning it . . . if it wasn't for that giant goalie, but it was certainly a David vs. Goliath performance . . . the other team had eighteen players and we had nine and a half, and I was very proud of their effort.

It's Saturday and It's Raining . . . Again

Last week one of my students said, "It rains every weekend" and I pedantically pointed out how irrational her logic was-- how the weather does not possess consciousness and can't possibly be aware of what day of the week it is-- although it is Saturday and it's raining again, and we have a soccer game and I need to build a new gate for our fence and my wife is getting soaked at a bike rodeo and so my evidence may be anecdotal and also suspect to confirmation bias, but I'm starting to believe her.

R.I.P Grunge

I am usually unmoved by celebrity deaths but Chris Cornell's death is more symbolic . . . grunge is now truly dead: Cornell joins Kurt Cobain, Scott Weiland, and Layne Staley-- and while I've seen the meme about protecting Eddie Vedder at all costs, as he is the last remaining frontman of grunge, I never considered Pearl Jam a real grunge band, they're more of a pop act and most of their songs annoy me-- anyway, the age of grunge was the last time I could listen to pop radio and enjoy it (my friends and I saw Soundgarden and Circus of Power in Asbury Park in the late 80s-- the Louder Than Love tour-- and it was as billed, so LOUD, we couldn't hear for days afterwards and in a few short years grunge was everywhere-- Nirvana was ubiquitous and in 1993, the fantastic, extemporaneous and acoustic Alice in Chains album "Jar of Flies" reached number one on the charts . . . signifying something awesome about that time period . . .Dave was 23 and Kim Thayil said, in some interview in a guitar magazine, "It doesn't matter if you're playing a major or a minor chord when your sound is this loud and distorted" and all that is over now, especially for me, as I can't take loudness these days and if grunge resurfaced I wouldn't be able to tolerate it).

The Sixth Grade Scoop

I'll warn you at the start, this is hot stuff, salacious even, so put on your oven mitts and handle it with care: last night my son Ian and I went to the sushi place for dinner together-- Catherine and Alex went to the Asian place a few doors down-- so it was just me and my younger son, a sixth grader who is 11 going on 12, and while usually his older brother Alex dominates the conversation, this situation gave Ian a chance to air some things that were baffling him . . . he mentioned the fact that some people in his grade were "going out" and that "these things usually didn't last long, only a week or so" and that his buddy "wasn't doing that well" because he had a fight with his girlfriend, and so I asked him what they were fighting about and he said, "Shoes" and so I pressed him and he explained,"You know, if his shoes were cool or not" and I said that sometimes women cared about fashion-- that wasn't uncommon-- and Ian said the consensus among the sixth graders was that girls are "a complicated species"-- he used those exact words-- and I said that was certainly true, and he said that kids are also using the term "third wheel" for someone who is hanging around a couple, trying to get in on the action, they called it "third wheeling" and I said that isn't so uncommon either, and sometimes it's okay to be the third wheel and sometimes it isn't and then he said that his friend had "hugged his girlfriend when he was over her house' and her parents brought the hammer down and banned all hugging and hand-holding and Ian said he was not interested in partaking in any of this stuff in any way, shape, or form and I told him that was fine and that he had plenty of time before he needed to get involved with the "complicated species."

That's Recycling!

I haven't put together a will and last testament yet, so this sentence is going to have to suffice: when I die, I want to have a sky burial . . . I had never heard of this practice until yesterday, when a student of mine who had been to Tibet and seen it firsthand described it-- apparently, after you die they drag your corpse up onto a mountain, put you on a slab of stone, and let the scavenging birds eat you, so that your immortal soul and your decomposing flesh get to fly around in the sky for a while (and then get defecated back to earth, I suppose) and this environmentally friendly, chemical and flame free burial really appeals to me . . . if you want to see a video-- and warning, it is very gross, click here-- otherwise, when I shuffle off this mortal coil, someone needs to make this happen (and if you do, you can have my CD collection).

Thucydides Saw It Coming . . .

The South China Sea may end up being a battle between the submarines and the "slum encampments on stilts," between China and the rest-- and American Cold War dominance, relatively simplistic national game theory, will "likely have to pass . . . a more anxious complicated world awaits us" a world where, according to Thucydides, the real cause of the Peloponnesian War was the build-up of Athenian sea power, which made Sparta very nervous . . . so read Robert Kaplan and try to sort out Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific . . . you're going to have to understand the Law of the Sea and how it applies to land masses and the nine-dashed line, and how we should react to the nine-dashed line and the domestic politics that the countries affected by the nine-dashed line (Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, The Philippines, China, etc) and how they will react to our reactions and so on . . . the book may make you throw your liberal ideals out the window and start thinking in Realpolitik terms like Kissinger and it will certainly make you aware of the complexity that is modern southeast Asia (plus it has a few good maps at the start of the book, which I needed to look at constantly . . . there's a lot of countries and islands packed into a small area!)

Rationalize This

The home mortgage income deduction: a ridiculous subsidy to upper middle class and rich folks that will probably never go away because upper middle class and rich folks-- myself included-- will bend over backwards to rationalize it (although Britain managed to phase theirs out over a twenty year period).

The Test 86: Movies in Five (That's Three Sir)

This week on The Test, Stacey presents a brilliant set of cinematic puzzles, but despite the high quality of the quiz, a peeing dog, low batteries, and my newfound psychic abilities send this bad boy into uncharted waters.

Dave Uses the Scientific Method

Thursday night, I was offensively flatulent, and I blamed this-- by process of elimination-- on something in the taco meat; Friday, my wife and kids took off on an overnight band trip, leaving me alone in the house with the dog, and so after going to happy hour with some teachers at Bar Louie (at the mall . . . absurd) where I only drank Guinness, which never gives me gas, I decided to conduct an experiment and finish the leftover meat and see if my intuition was correct . . . and it was . . . something in that meat-- perhaps extra garlic in the spice packet?-- wreaked havoc on my stomach, and due to my inspired scientific zeal and endeavor, I am now close to certain that my hypothesis was correct (and my gassiness has subsided and my wife and kids won't be home until 7 PM so the only people to experience discomfort because of this experiment were me and the dog).

Adrian McKinty Does It Again

Mercury tilt bombs, Castle Carrickfergus, Jimmy Savile, the Troubles, Belfast, Coronation Road, atrocious scandals, a locked room murder, copious pints of beer, plenty of illicit substances, Steve Reich and other obscure minimalist music . . . this all adds up to another excellent Sean Duffy crime novel: Rain Dogs.

Robert Kaplan: More Analogies!

When my wife and I lived in Syria, it made sense for me to read a lot of Robert Kaplan: Balkan Ghosts, An Empire in Wilderness, The Coming Anarchy, Arabists, The Ends of the Earth . . . then we returned stateside, bought a house, had children, and our travels to exotic overseas locales ended . . . as did my obsession with the most literary of geopolitical analysts-- because reading Robert Kaplan takes a lot of concentration, it's not like breezing through a Thomas Friedman book-- but just because I forgot about Robert Kaplan, doesn't mean he stopped writing, and I've decided to catch up: I picked up Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific in a used bookstore in Vermont and I'm wading through it, trying to sort out analogies like this: "Whereas Hanoi is Vietnam's Ankara, Saigon is Vietnam's Istanbul."

Deer Beer Diary . . .

The lady at the beer store in Ludlow said I should start a beer diary so I could better remember what I like . . . but Gary Taubes told me beer contains quite a bit of sugar, in the form of maltose, and apparently sugar is the enemy-- which makes me very sad-- but now I understand why I gained eight pounds over spring break in Vermont . . . anyway, here are some of the beers I sampled, the remains of which are still hanging about my midriff:

Idletyme Joy and Laughter . . . delicious;

Fiddlehead IPA . . . hoppy and delicious;

Trout River Rainbow Red Ale . . . smooth and delicious;

Farnham Red Ale . . . even better than the Trout River;

Terrapin HI-5 . . . typical;

Idletyme Zog's American Pale Ale . . . another good one;

Uncanny Valley Burlington Beer Company . . . weird cloudy grapefruit juice;

Whetstone Big 'stoner . . . awesome;

Whetstone Down South . . . way too smoky;

Whetstone Off the Rails . . . black but not heavy;

Farnham Double India Pale Ale 78 . . . a better version of the Uncanny Valley cloudy grapefruit juice;

Miller64 . . . nope.

The Enemy is Delicious

Fat is fine, but that's the only good news: the enemy is everywhere, and the enemy is addictive and the enemy is sugar . . . if you want to know why, then listen to the new Sam Harris podcast (but it might be better if you didn't).
A New Sentence Every Day, Hand Crafted from the Finest Corinthian Leather.