Spring Pop Quiz!

1. Effecting change within a large organization has been compared to getting a supertanker to do a 180º turn. If a supertanker takes 34 minutes to go from a dead stop to its top cruising speed of 17 knots, which of the following are true?
A) It takes at least 34 minutes for a supertanker to do a 180.
B) The harbor master should be contacted before any such tomfoolery.
C) My dad was in the merchant marine back in the day.
D) I get nauseous on large seagoing vessels.

2. Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was just convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Early in Hernandez’s brief pro career, Partriots coach Bill Belichek devised an unusual play, “Triple dog 9, reverse flare, hash left,” to take advantage of his unique talents. Which, if any, of these statements, describes what makes the play unusual?
A) Upon the snap, the interior tackles slant right and the action follows in that direction.
B) The interior tackles slant right as a feint and the action goes left.
C) The play called for Aaron Hernandez to garrote the middle linebacker when no one was looking.
D) The one time the Patriots planned to use the play in an actual game, they were penalized because Hernandez was caught lining up offside, with his foot down the throat of the opposing team’s cornerback.

3. The European Union is threatening to fine Google billions of dollars for alleged anti-competitive practices. Which of the following statements are true?
A) Very few Europeans could hack it for even one week in the office of a major American corporation.
B) In Europe, “winning” is a synonym for “anti-competitive practices.”
C) The European Union will use the money to buy Albania and shut it down.
D) “Don’t be evil,” Google’s founding ethos, was never meant to apply to Europe.

4. Hillary Clinton finally announced what everyone already knew, that she was running for president. Which of the following statements about her candidacy are true?
A) She will represent the lesser of two evils.
B) She will represent the evil of two lessers.
C) If she blows it this time, they ought to just give her the presidency in 2024, as a combination 97th birthday present and retirement gift.
D) Even if she wins, I may still threaten to move to Canada, but never follow through on it.

5. Racial injustice in the U.S. has been brought into stark relief by a continuing string of incidents in which white police officers kill unarmed black men. Which of the following policy recommendations are likely to reverse this trend?
A) Adding a “gamification” element to the problem by erecting large signs in communities throughout the country saying, “The United States of America: Now Celebrating __ Consecutive Days without a White Police Officer Killing an Unarmed Black Man.”
B) Arming all black men.
C) Equipping all police officers with body-worn moral consciences.
D) Equipping all police officers with guns that, when fired, raise little flags that say “Bang!”

 

Is it skepticism or cynicism? How a radio ad helped me figure it out.

Do you know the difference between being skeptical and being cynical?

How would you put it into words?

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Not bad, not bad.

As for me, while I’ve implicitly understood the difference in my own mind, I’m not sure I would’ve had a good way to explain it to someone else. Hearing a radio ad yesterday helped clarify it for me.

First off, I’ll say that I’ve been called a cynic a lot in my life. Back in the day, that was probably true more often than not. But these days I work hard to try to be a more positive person. I tell myself it’s OK to be skeptical, just don’t be cynical. But what does that mean?

Yesterday, I was listening to a Houston Astros baseball game on the internets radio, as it will be my wont to do almost daily from now through September (and, God willing, maybe even into October).

In between innings, I heard an ad* for a Houston jewelry story, narrated by a sultry-voiced female announcer.

This announcer talked about how meaningful it would be for our ladies if we, the male listeners, bought them diamond engagement rings. As she bullet-pointed the arguments to counter our mental objections to this sudden idea of our spending a shit-ton of money we don’t have to buy diamond jewelry we know nothing about, she emphasized a final point: a “lifetime diamond quality guarantee.”

I immediately thought, “Oh, yeah, right, like someone is going to give his fianceé a diamond engagement ring and someday she’s going to return it because it doesn’t sparkle enough. That’s going to happen!”

And I thought, “That’s skepticism.”

And then I questioned, “Or is it cynicism?”

Which is it?

It’s skepticism. Skepticism is the questioning of received wisdom. Skepticism says, “This may be a good place for me to buy a diamond ring, but is the ‘lifetime diamond quality guarantee’ likely to ever be meaningful to me? Probably not. So as I evaluate whether I want to do business with this jeweler or not, I should not give the guarantee much weight.”

(By the way, as a native Missourian, skepticism is my birthright. Missouri is the “Show Me” state, and “show me” is nothing if not the skeptic’s mantra. That’s why, to my horror, every once in a while I will actually hear the words, “Well, I’m from Missouri, so you’re going to have to show me,” come out of my own mouth. Who am I, my mother?)

So when does skepticism cross the line into cynicism?

Where skeptics question the truth, cynics assume bad faith. Cynics believe that all human behavior is a zero-sum game. A cynic says, “if you want me to do X, it must be because it will be good for you and bad for me.”

Again, my skeptical response to the radio ad was, “Oh, yeah, right, like someone is going to give his fianceé a diamond engagement ring and someday she’s going to return it because it doesn’t sparkle enough. That’s going to happen!”

If I were a true cynic, I would also tack on, “Because the people who run that jewelry store are lying scumbags who are only trying to rip me and everyone else off.”

When it comes to the store in question, I don’t assume that cynical take is true. I’m pretty sure the reason they mentioned their “lifetime diamond quality guarantee” is because they know how hard it is to get radio listeners to consider buying from them versus all of their competitors, much less versus simply doing nothing. They don’t expect the guarantee to move me to buy a diamond ring from them. But they do hope that maybe it will make me a little more likely to step into their store if and when I ever want to shop for a diamond ring.

A skeptic asks, “Is this information true? And even if it is true, is it meaningful for me?”

A cynic says, “That’s definitely a bunch of bullshit, because all people are totally rotten all of the time.”

*I have never done a blog post about the dehumanizing, mind deteriorating poor quality and unremitting repetitiveness of the advertisements that run on the Houston Astros Radio Network (HARN). But with enough therapy, some day I will. For now I’ll just mention that the first couple of games this season, the MLB internet feed of the HARN broadcast was muting out the ads between innings. Silently, I prayed to God—that guy whom I only seem to believe in when I want something—asking that this practice be maintained all season long. What a huge quality of life enhancer it would have been! But, skeptic that I am, I questioned whether it would last.

However, because I am not generally a cynic, I did not assume, “It won’t last, because everything about baseball sucks.”

Now that the ads—God bless ‘em—are back, I’m assuming that they’ll stay there, but not cynically. As I cringe to hear Adam and Diego from the Citgo Fueling Good Road Team in the same ad for the 3rd season in a row, for the 9989th time, I believe it’s possible that whoever was cutting out the commercials in the first few games might start doing it again. I really, really hope so. But, yes, I am skeptical.

 

Where in the World Is Edward Snowden: Test Your Geography Skills

Edward Snowden just slipped out of Honk Kong!  His friends at the National Safety Agency want to find him so they can keep him safely. I mean, keep him safe. And help him “get his mind right.”


Only you can help the National Safety Agency find Edward so they can keep him safely—I mean safe, darn it. How? By answering these multiple choice questions:


1) If Edward left Hong Kong by rowboat, which of these bodies of water did he NOT cross?

A. Dadong Bay

B. Mawari Bay

C. the South China Sea

D. Lake Michigan


2). If  Edward was rowing due east really, really fast when he left Hong Kong, his boat would shear off the tip of which nearby major island nation-state?

A. Atlantis

B. Missouri

C. Oz

D. Taiwan


3) According to Wikipedia, Eddie grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina. Which of these potential hiding places is CLOSEST to there?

A. Moscow

B. Pyongyang

C. Beijing

D. North Wilmington, North Carolina


4) If Edward wanted to blend in with the men of the local populace, in which he country would he most likely be in if he donned a shalwar kameez?

A. Ireland

B. The Hamptons

C. Paris

D. Afghanistan


5). Edward is hungry, so he goes to the fridge in his safe house. In the fridge is a container of leftovers marked “shrimp from the barbie.” Where is Edward most likely hiding now?

A. Outback Steakhouse

B. Peru

C. Des Moines

D. Australia


Answers: D, D, D, D, D

Even stupider punny eatery names than Coat and Thai

If you eat here, you are supporting lame naming. I saw this food truck on S. Congress here in the ATX the other day and got incensed. I mean, could there be a lamer, less relevant pun for a Thai place? Even “Thai One On” would be better. So I decided the world—or at least this blog—needed a list with more of these gratuitous, first-pun-that-comes-to-mind restaurant names. Your contributions are welcome, of course.

Waffle Tired
Wings and a Prayer
Henry Fondue
Circus Greek
Too Couscous for Comfort
Kick in the Nuts
Meat the Parents
Mojave Dessert
(unless located in the Mojave Desert, in which case OK)
Vegetative State
Plate in My Skull
Pancake Makeup (borderline passable)
Stackin’ Cheddar
Filet Lady Filet
It’s An Egg-sac Science
A Thin Linguine Between Love and Hate
A Persistent, Annoying Wine
It’s Da Bombay
A Gustatory of Wind
The Fate of the Planet Is at Steak
I’m Nacho Mother
Date Crepe*

*A tip o’ the Oblogatory trilby to StitchLab goddess Leslie Bonnell for this excellent capper. 

The Oblogatory "special" ingredient quiz

When I was a kid, I used to be interested in TV commercials for products touting a “special” or “secret” ingredient. Even back then I knew these ingredients weren’t all that special—they were often just a trademarked name for a combination of two or more normal ingredients. And once product labeling requirements made ingredient lists mandatory, they weren’t secret either. But since I remember some of these decades later, there must have been something to them as a marketing strategy. And this definitely had something to do with the old, naive idea that if something sounded scientific, it was probably good for you.

See how many of the products on the left you can match to their secret ingredients on the right. (Names marked with an * are the un-fancified names of actual ingredients. They must’ve sounded so exotic by themselves that they didn’t need made-up trademarked names.)

1. Certs with… A. Ammonia D

2. Di-Gel with… B. Chlorinol

3. Windex with… C. Zantrate

4. Lavoris with… D. Tetrahydrozoline*

5. Comet with… E. Retsyn

6. Colgate with… F. Aluminum Chlorhydrate*

7. Crest with… G. Gardol

8. Clorets with… H. Simethicone*

9. Visine with… I. Fluoristan

10. Sure with… J. Actizol

ANSWERS: 1, E; 2, H; 3, A; 4, C; 5, B; 6, G; 7, I; 8, J; 9, D; 10, F

Mice in the music—the Oblogatory quiz

Image from the Hagen Renaker Online MuseumFor years it’s given me a headache trying to keep track of all the mice in the kids’ music. Check it out—at the very least you got your:

Modest Mouse
Dangermouse
Eek-A-Mouse
Mouse on Mars
Deadmau5


But I finally go them all straight. So, here’s a little quiz to see how well you know them. Mmmkay? Let’s begin.

1. Which mouse act listed above is a German electronica duo?
2. Which includes (or included, at least) a former Smith?
3. Which co-founded Gnarls Barkley?
4. Which performs in a giant mouse head?
5. Which is from Canada?
6. Which artist worked in the Jamaican sound system scene?
7. Which had a hit called “Dashboard?”
8. Which got a big career boost from a Jay-Z/Beatles mashup?
9. Which has been around the longest?
10. Which act’s first record was called “Vulvaland?”

NOTE: All facts are from the web, so you know they are accurate and unbiased.


HERE ARE THE ANSWERS—DON’T CHEAT, OK?

1. Mouse on Mars
2. Modest Mouse
3. Danger Mouse
4. Deadmau5
5. Deadmau5
6. Eek-A-Mouse
7. Modest Mouse
8. Danger Mouse
9. Eek-a-Mouse
10. Mouse on Mars

Involuntary mnemonics from The Wire

I have one of those brains that just needs the slightest reminder of something to flood my mind with something related, usually tangentially, and often a song or a scene from a movie. For instance, when I watch a college football game and an announcer mentions that a player is in his freshman year, I hear the song Frankie the Freshman, which I only know from Warner Bros. cartoons, because Carl Stalling used it in the score for dozens of shorts. 

Well, it’s no secret that I love The Wire. I’ve watched each season multiple times. And there are a couple of routine life events that ALWAYS bring certain scenes from the show to mind. I’ve clipped two of them here.

The first is this scene from Season 2, Episode 2. I hear Frank Sobotka say this every time I see a shipping container:

The second instance, and the one that inspired me to write this post, is this scene from Season 3, Episode 4, which I see and hear every time I start the lawnmower:

Does this happen to you?

Oblogatory Qulture Quiz #1

1. Katy Perry and Russell Brand were married for approximately how long before he filed for divorce?

A. 385 days
B. 350 days
C. 285 days
D. Who?

Answer

2. How much did a website offer any man who could provide verifiable proof that he had sex with Marcus Bachmann, the pray-away-the-gay counselor and husband of soon-to-be ex-presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann?

A. $5,000
B. $10,000
C. $25,000
D. $100,000

Answer  

3. Who did an ad in the Austin Chronicle ask to come forward with details about their sexual peccadilloes with soon-to-be ex-presidential candidate Rick Perry?

A. Grannies, trannies, homos, bobos
B. Strippers, escorts, young hotties, gay people
C. “Democrat” officeholders
D. Marcus Bachmann

Answer

4. On a recent date night, what did Rosie O’Donnell and fiancée Michelle Rounds pound?

A. Alternating shots of Jaegermeister and Red Bull
B. Artisinal vegan BBQ
C. Alaskan king crab, pork belly skewers and Wagyu beef
D. The face of an intrusive paparazzo

Answer

5. TV actor Corbin Bernsen is one of the world’s leading collectors of what?

A. Corbin Bernsen memorabilia
B. Stuckey’s placemats
C. Rare coins
D. Snow globes

Answer 

 

Seeding a shitstorm: my guess at Rolling Stone's Top 10 Guitarists

At Wilco’s show last night, Boss Wilco Jeff Tweedy mentioned that Nels Kline, the band’s hotshit guitarist, ranked 82nd on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Rock Guitar Players, just after Lou Reed.

I don’t know if this list has been out for a while or if it’s due to be released soon or what. I have never seen the list and I hadn’t heard about it until last night. But as soon as I knew Rolling Stone compiled a list, I started trying to imagine whom THEY would put on it, and how that would differ from my list. I’m not going to search out their list until after I post this. At some point, I’ll post a follow up to see how well I did.

I’m assuming Rolling Stone’s criteria are some combination of:
  • Fame
  • Success
  • Influence on other guitar players (how much they’ve been ripped off)
  • Respect of other guitar players (how much other guitar players would like to rip them off if they only had the chops)
  • Technical proficiency (how much they are Steve Vai)

I’m also assuming songwriting alone doesn’t enter into their evaluation, and that they didn’t include bassists, so no Beatles in the top 10. I suppose Harrison would have to be in the Top 100 among guitarists, and obviously McCartney would rank at or near the top of a list of top rock bassists.

First, my guess at Rolling Stone’s list:

  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Eric Clapton
  • Keith Richards
  • Chuck Berry
  • Jimmy Page
  • Eddie Van Halen
  • Les Paul 
  • Duane Allman
  • Jeff Beck
  • Pete Townsend

Les Paul wasn’t a rock or R&B guitarist, but I’m guessing his technical innovations earned him a spot in their top 10.

Hedging my bets: others who may have been in Rolling Stone’s top 10:
  • Bo Diddley
  • Billy Gibbons
  • Slash
  • SRV
  • Dave Davies

OK, now onto my list. I’m basing mine more heavily on influence, so I’m including more blues and R&B guys.

  • Hendrix
  • Robert Johnson
  • Elmore James
  • Bo Diddley
  • Hubert Sumlin
  • Muddy Waters
  • Chuck Berry
  • Keith Richards
  • Jimmy Page
  • Johnny Ramone

Also thought about including Blind Willie Johnson, Ike Turner and Lightnin’ Hopkins.

Have at it. Tweet me at @richie_boy or comment on Facebook.

Spot the difference: field of tulips

There are 5 key differences between these photos. Can you name them? Answers below.
No peeking!

Answers

1. The most prominent tulip in the lower right quadrant somehow has more shimmer.
2. There’s a bee behind the tulip directly in the middle of the sixteenth row.
3. Same row, 12 flowers to the right, this tulip dropped a petal (not seen).
4. One of the tulips in the lower left quadrant has a guilty conscience. 
5. The tulip three flowers below and four flowers to the left of the very centermost tulip changed colors and then changed back again just before this was posted.

Scores
0-1 Keep trying! No one thinks you’re stupid.
1-3 Great! Try again to see if your score improves!
3-4 Hey, watch where you aim that brain!
Perfect Score—How may I serve you, o leader?