Archive for February, 2010
“I cannot self-terminate”? Is there some functional reason for the T-800 not to be able to destroy itself? What if the Terminator’s mission objective is best achieved by self-destructing? Or did we need an excuse to have a slow, heart-wrenching ending?
This post is dedicated to my new mortal nemesis. You’ve met this person before. He probably bumped into you this morning. Or you probably heard her loudly exclaim her surprise and start giggling to her pal every time she was met that rare and wondrous, several-thousand-times-in-a-lifetime event: the train going forward. That’s right. I’m referring to the Person Who Is Always Taken By Surprise When the Train Starts or Stops Moving.
I don’t know what made this particular villain the way he is. Think about how rare it is that on any given train, there’s a grown adult who is riding the subway for the first time ever. That’s the only excuse for stumbling every single time the train overcomes its inertia and locomotes forward, right? And you’ve got to think that even if this non-child, who somehow managed to get his pants on, who ostensibly was able to tie her shoes, who was able pass through the threshold of the electronic turnstile, was in fact riding the subway for the first time, he would be able to infer that A) there are poles and straps all over this moving metal box for some reason, B) everyone around me is holding a pole or a strap for some reason, and finally C) the last time this machine went from stopped to not-so-stopped, I went hurtling backwards for some reason. I’m not even saying that every subway rider should have a basic grasp of Newtonian physics. Just the most cursory understanding of the logic behind cause and effect.
And yet a day doesn’t go by where you don’t encounter the Person Who Is Always Taken By Surprise When the Train Starts or Stops Moving. I had one today. She and her boyfriend were standing in front of me, and at every stop from Kenmore to Park Street, this girl reacted like an innocent newborn first encountering the glory of the bright morning sun. And by that, I mean she was knocked off her feet like she just got checked by Scott Stevens.
Now, precious readers, I understand that in our daily lives, we’re all forced to suffer fools at every turn. And normally, I’m happy to shake my head at some poor, ignorant getting tossed around the train like a plastic bag in the wind. But in a crowded train, where everyone else can muster the physical and mental faculties to steady themselves when an event as routine as a train moving occurs, it’s a certified nuisance when one person is standing on one foot with their hands in their pockets and then bounces around in their own game of man-sized Plinko. Is it too much to ask for people to plant their feet? Or grab the pole? Or, heavens forfend, both?
And if you’re going to flop around the car like a marionette being operated by an angry chimp, could you do the universe a favor and sling your oversized Sherpa bag over your shoulder instead of letting it dangle off your elbow and smash everyone in a five-foot radius? Ugh. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: we’re living in a society, people!
Right off the bat, I’m going to admit that this post is not about monkeys. Hail to the Chimp is just my favorite fake Simpsons movie, and I needed a vaguely presidential-sounding title for this post.
My buddy Nick, the Official Philadelphia Correspondent for Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun, is a teacher, and today expressed to me a concern that he didn’t have the knowledge of our nation’s presidents befitting a professional who could be asked a random executive-related question by an inquisitive young mind at any time. Thus was born the Presidential Challenge. Basically, we both agreed to grab a piece of paper, number it 1 to 44, and try to put all of the U.S presidents in order. No time limit, but no cheating! It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least.
You can view my list to the right. I scored a 33 out of 44 presidents. That’s 75 percent! I think that’s pretty good, but I feel like a made a series of unforgivable errors along the way that unnecessarily hampered my progress. Here they are, in ascending order of egregiousness.
1) I forgot Benjamin Harrison. This isn’t terrible in itself, since all of those Reconstruction-era presidents are pretty forgettable. However, comma, I feel like as an American, it’s the least I can do to be able to name all of the presidents.
2) I forgot John Quincy Adams. I remembered Andrew Jackson, but not his mortal nemesis. And you’ll notice that I forgot the grandson of a president, and the son of a president. I probably couldn’t tell you one of either of those guys’ policies, but I should have remembered them as answers to trivia questions.
3) I forgot Grover Cleveland. Born in Caldwell! New Jersey’s president! The only president elected to non-consecutive terms! How could I not remember! I was seriously considering not even posting my list, because I didn’t want the whole wide Internet world to know that I forgot that Grover Cleveland even existed. But I’m bigger than that, precious reader. You deserve to know.
And because I love you, here’s that chimp I promised.
Regular readers of Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun know exactly what I’m talking about.
Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun’s mommy always told me that it’s rude to let someone clean up after me if I’m capable of doing it myself. Sure, she washed my dishes and did my laundry for a good number of years, but the lesson took! Same thing in the Scouts. You bus your own tray, you clean your own tent, yada yada yada. Combine that with my powerful and innate sense of guilt, and you can imagine how I look sideways at the principle of single-stream recycling.
Boston, along with a lot of towns and institutions, have single-stream recycling. The idea is that you treat your recyclable materials just like you treat your garbage: chuck it in one bag or container and let the truck take it away to, I dunno, whatever magic place turns it back into cardboard boxes and beer cans. The actual process of separating the paper from the plastic from the metal is pretty cool, if you like giant machines and flying garbage. Which I do.
Looks legit enough, but I still feel weird about it. One of the primary and most intuitive virtues of single-stream recycling is that it’s so easy, even a monkey could do it. Check out this list of acceptable materials from the City of Boston. Basically, as long as you put it in a clear plastic bag and it’s not a rod of enriched uranium, the recycling truck will pick it up. Which is great. Recycling is obviously more effective if everyone, even the lazy idiots, do it.
However, comma, I personally don’t feel unduly burdened by separating my recyclables. This isn’t rocketry, folks! And it’s not particularly labor-intensive either. You put the bottles in one bucket, you put your paper in another. Boom. Of course, since I live in a single-stream community, my separating skills have atrophied like so much…I dunno, atrophied stuff.
Here’s the problem. Anyone that lives in New York or Massachusetts or Michigan or any of the other bottle deposit states knows that a significant amount of recycling is done by homeless folks returning cans for the five (or 10) cent deposit. No one disputes this. That’s why, even though recycling is only collected on Friday mornings, it’s feasible to put out a bag of cans any night of the week. Someone will pick them up. Happens every time.
So you can imagine my surprise when, on my way to the T this morning, I saw a familiar-looking bag on the street a few blocks from my apartment. Empty handle of Jim Beam: check. Six wine bottles from Tuesday’s book club meeting: check. Juice cartons and Pringles can: check. It was the bag of recyclables I had put out the night before! Except all the beer cans were gone. I can only surmise that some can person grabbed our bag, sorted out the useful stuff from the dregs, and then dumped the bag. The recycling truck was long gone, so this bag would probably just get picked up by a public works functionary this weekend and get mixed in with the regular garbage. You know, hence defeating the purpose of recycling in the first place.
I refuse to believe that this doesn’t happen ALL the time. Why wouldn’t it? Boston is notoriously bad at distributing recycling bins, so most of the people who recycle things at all are putting their junk in bags. Why wouldn’t a bag man just snag a whole block’s worth of recycling sacks, take them to his base of operations, grab all the goodies, and leave the dreck? It makes perfect sense! How many tons of recyclables are lost to the normal garbage every year? I demand statistics. Does the amount of garbage lost to situations like the one I just described offset the amount of recyclables gained by people being drawn in by the ease of single stream? That’s a serious question. One that this blogger is too lazy to investigate himself, but would be overjoyed should some sort of answer drift through the comments section.
In the meantime, single-stream recycling is still off-putting to me. Did you watch that video up there? We’ve outsourced our sorting to the machines? What happens when the machines stop serving us, and we start serving the machines? I’ll tell you what: Skynet.
# This is obviously excellent news.
# Fire up Boston Blazers! This radio spot has been coming up a lot on Pandora recently, and it’s an effing delight. These days, you so rarely come across a hokey, old-school style jingle. Bravo, Boston Blazers. Dangerous, Dirty, and Unfun salutes you.
# I usually resist things that are so overtly twee as this, but I have a hard time resisting a cute girl and a ukulele. I’m not as big a Neutral Milk Hotel guy as I should be, and I think it’s not unfair to admit that Jeff Mangum has a lousy voice. It’s true! Which is a shame, because once you put his lyrics in the hands of a mellifluous voice, you realize how beautiful they are. Listen to “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” Gorgeous!
# Finally, give me a fucking break, Texas.
Why the hell does Glen Gulia think he can trust Robbie Hart enough to admit that he’s off chasing skirts behind Julia’s back? He doesn’t know Robbie!
. . . just posting a love song for Valentine’s Day weekend. Can’t a guy listen to a little Jeff Buckley without people asking a lot of questions?
Also, in other Valentine’s Day–related news, here are some deep cuts from my tenure as the food columnist for the Heights, the independent student newspaper of Boston College. One on the wonders of fondue, the other on Necco Sweethearts. Enjoy.
I may have mentioned earlier that I’m reading Everything and More, David Foster Wallace’s history of infinity. As with everything that DFW writes, it’s awesome. The problem is, the man is a super genius about everything, including math. And I’m a non-math-doing guy. So the book started off pretty good, with a lot of intellectual history and basic mathematics, it very quickly spiraled into a discussion of calculus and linear algebra and all sorts of advanced concepts that I have no idea how to even begin to describe. Which stinks, because I’d really like to finish the book.
This is all to say that I’m thrilled that the New York Times’s Opinionator blog has decided to commission Steven Strogatz, a professor of applied math at Cornell, to do a series of weekly blogs about the principles of math. Says Strogatz:
I’ll be writing about the elements of mathematics, from pre-school to grad school, for anyone out there who’d like to have a second chance at the subject — but this time from an adult perspective. It’s not intended to be remedial. The goal is to give you a better feeling for what math is all about and why it’s so enthralling to those who get it.
Is anyone else tremendously excited about this sort of thing? Maybe it won’t put me on the path to finishing the history of infinity, but math is very important! And, if mathematicians are to be believed, fun! Eh? Anybody?
Sometimes, in this bleak and depressing world we live in, it’s hard to find evidence that there’s justice. You can’t blame people for being skeptical about a benevolent force that’s guiding the universe in a positive direction. The conduct of daily life serves as a constant source of fuel for crises of faith.
But sometimes, every so often, something happens that gives you pause. Something that makes you believe that maybe, just maybe the forces of goodness and light can triumph over everything that is evil and wrong. Sometimes, the universe plays out like it should.
It’s a great day to be an Eagle!
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