Thursday, October 30, 2008

I Can't Wait

Tomorrow is Halloween. For different people that means different things. For some people, it means free candy, for others, it means partying all night long, and for many it means an affront to Christianity everywhere. For me, Halloween this year means that I get to have a mustache. I have a van dyke right now, and I'm growing very tired of it. Tomorrow morning, I am shaving everything from my mouth to my neck, and dressing as Borat (despite the fact that I am offended by his inaccurate portrayal of mustachioed men).

This will be my second mustache. My first was in April, when I shaved a beard I had been growing since "No Shave November." This time, I only have two months of growth instead of six, so it will be slightly less glorious, but I'm still going to love it. It's very difficult to describe the feeling of having a mustache, but it's a very good, and slightly empowering feeling. This video describes it better than I can. I'd say everything in it is true.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Strong Island

One of my good American friends in Italy is from Long Island. She's very sweet, and I enjoy hanging out with her, and I don't like to be called culturally insensitive, but sometimes it's hard to withhold judgment. A few of us went to meet a cousin of mine who lives in Milan. I had never met him before, so I was very excited. He turned out to be very cool and a great host. At dinner, he pulled out his phone/PDA/camera/dealy and showed us a picture of himself from when he was in the military. Long Island looked at it and said "Ooh! Ray Bans!" We all stared at her, and I said "actually that's an M16." She insisted "No, he's wearing Ray Bans." I thought about explaining that she was missing the point, but eventually gave up. We come from two very different cultures, and I don't know if I'll ever understand hers.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am a horrible friend

I am spending a semester in Italy with a group of 30 Americans. I really like 28 of them. (Perhaps I should say 27, so as not to include myself). The guy and girl who I don't like, nobody else likes either. That isn't a cue to feel sorry for them. They aren't the nerds we've all decided to pick on. We all tried to be friends with them, and each individually decided that they are obnoxious, and not worth our time. Most of the group is going on an overnight trip to Turin this weekend. We have to decide with whom we want to share a room for a night. I haven't asked the powers that be, but I think they expect us to share rooms with people of the same gender. Of the seven guys in the group, one is going to Amsterdam. Three of us had class together on the day that the rooming signup sheet appeared. One of them asked me if I wanted to room with him, and I said "yes." The other one, a few minutes later, told me I was rooming with him. I wasn't sure if this was a question or not, so I apologized, and told him I already had a roommate. He explained that we were living in a triple. That leaves three guys unaccounted for. After a minute, I realized the implication of this: A good friend of ours was going to be left in a room with the obnoxious one. Moreover, the jerk hates this friend of ours a lot, complained about him ceaselessly in the beginning of the semester, and has talked about how much he would like to beat him up (he is physically capable, but as far as we know, he probably would not.) I couldn't help but laugh. I told everyone why I was laughing, and they started also. One of them said "You know what this means? Cage match!" Then, I remembered that there would be a sixth guy on the trip, and maybe they would also end up in a triple. He is pretty neutral regarding any conflicts within our group. He doesn't seem to hate anybody, and certainly nobody hates him. I'm not sure if he even knows about the animosity between his roommates (he joined the group somewhat late, and they've been able to avoid each other pretty well for a while). He speaks very loudly, very colorfully, and with a Brazilian accent. The story just became funnier when we realized that whatever does happen in that room will be recounted to us by him. In conclusion, I was going to phrase the title of this entry as a question, but upon reflection, there is very little doubt.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I am a stupid American

When I was about 14, I saw a Paul Frank T shirt that said in Japanese "I am a stupid American." I laughed out loud, and wanted to buy it, but alas, it only came in small. I told my Japanese teacher about it, and she also loved the idea. She offered to pay me back if I bought it for her, but I couldn't find it anywhere anymore. (Side note: I found a different shirt that says the same thing.)

Fortunately, I recently found such a shirt in Italian. Even better, I've been wearing it in Italy for 2 months. Little did I know that by advertising my love of Hunter S. Thompson and Flying Dog Beer, I was wearing a shirt that said "IDIOT" and nothing else, in large capital letters on the front. Nobody ever bothered to tell me that "gonzo" is also an Italian word. I'd like to give a friendly warning to any of you who are planning trips to Italy, Monaco or southern Switzerland (Have I left anything out?) in the near future: leave the Gonzo shirt at home.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Daylight Wasting Time

Today, we fall back one hour. If anyone can give me a convincing argument as to why we do this, I will give them five dollars. To clarify, I'm not against the falling back in October as much as I'm against the springing forward in April, as it causes me to lose an hour of sleep. I don't really see any possible benefit of daylight saving time that wouldn't apply to the whole year. In other words, if daylight saving time does help us, why not abolish it, and make everything start earlier, so we'll always have more sunlight in the afternoon and less in the morning? I know I'm not original in complaining about this, but if everyone complains, why do we still have it?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Binger

The Binger
(apologies to Edgar Allen Poe)

Last night, upon the Broadway dreary, I was stumbling, drunk and leery,
Seeking booze and easy women, but dorms and bars had closed their doors—
While I rested, idly crapping by some bum who had been napping,
I thought I heard a kegger happ’ning, happ’ning at the frat next door—
“Tis a sausage fest,” I muttered, gazing at the frat next door—
“Only dicks, and nothing more.”

Wand’ring on my lonely trek, I wiped my ass with nearby Spec,
And each separate party rumor brought my drunk ass to their door.
Sadly, all were out of mixers—and, with haste, so went the liquors—
So I did with a quick-fixer—fixed a NyQuil of shots four—
Ay, four shots of blue elixir—till I sputtered, “Please! No more!”
Then I woke up on the floor.

On the street, the night less younger, thereupon me came a hunger
For that yellowed, greasy slab of pizza, stuff of local lore.
So to Koronet, with haste, along the sidewalk there I raced,
Till the stinging bilious taste—waste from all those shots before—
Throat eruption, green and vile, belly drained and throat quite sore!
I then smelled Tom’s and puked some more.

Presently my head grew lighter, too weak, it seemed, for this all-nighter.
And as my liver plead in anguish that I not tax it anymore,
With my stomach, rotten, leaden, suff’ring gastric Armageddon,
And my horniness unsated, (unsated, still, for evermore),
I fell asleep and wondered whether there’d be dorm parties anymore?
Quoth the ResLife, “Nevermore.”

Physics Poem α

My school has a semiannual party for all the physics students. It's quite a rager. We all go to the observatory dome, chat with professors, and read poems that we wrote about physics. This was my first. Freshman fall, I registered for a modern physics course, having no idea what I was getting myself into. I'd like to think that this poem describes the madness that ensued.

Newton was the physicist
Who wrote down the entire list
Of laws that govern we.

If once at rest
You'll stay unless
A force applies to thee.

Such force dictates
Inverse to mass. You see?

The force on you
Is equal to
The backwards one on me.

But these three rules
Just govern fools
Said Einstein once, with glee.

He ruined all of our good fun
And set to write step number one
Far from the apple tree.

"Half m v squared is hardly E.
It's gamma m times square of c.
Don't get me started on P."

Said Albert, then.
And who knows when
We'll understand his lunacy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pan and Scan

I was recently at a bookstore looking at DVDs (Why do we go to bookstores to buy DVDs? I don’t care.) I overheard a woman ask a salesman about the difference between widescreen and standard. When he explained, she said “so, this one [standard] will give me a bigger image, right?” The salesman said “yes” and she bought the DVD. I wanted to scream “No! That one will cut off the left and right sides of the screen! Buy widescreen. Yes, you’ll see a slightly smaller image, but you’ll be able to watch the whole movie as the director intended. With standard, also known as ‘pan and scan,’ you’ll only see the 75% that some high school dropout thinks you deserve to see.” There should be warning labels on pan and scan movies, bigger than the ones on cigarettes, explaining that the DVD does not contain the actual film advertised on the case.

With the increasing popularity of widescreen TVs, maybe pan and scan DVDs will eventually cease to exist. Unfortunately, it’s a huge pain to get the aspect ratio right on those TVs. With 4:3 TVs, it was easy to put a movie in and immediately watch it in the proper aspect ratio. On my parents HDTV, every time I want to watch a movie, I have to go through every setting on the TV at least twice to make sure everything looks right. Too often, I’ll lose half of somebody’s face, Mary Kate Olsen will look fat, or John Goodman will look anorexic. We’re going through a period of transition right now, and I can’t wait until this all gets figured out and the TV will know how to show movies correctly again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Few things bother me more than people walking slowly in front of me. When a sidewalk is wide enough for four people, that doesn't mean that you and three of your idiot friends can take up the whole thing and act like you don't know the meaning of the word hurry. Some people have places to be, and don't enjoy having to dart around twenty of you every minute. If you plan on walking slowly, please try to stay to the right.

What's even worse is when these people at the beach take up the whole bike path. I propose that there should be a walking path next to the bike path. What's more, I propose that in order to prevent bikers and rollerbladers from riding on the walking path, it should be covered in some sort of material that slows down wheeled vehicles. Perhaps, the walking path should be made of sand. We should have top men working right now on a wheel resistant walking path next to the bike path at the beach.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Fire Safety" - An Oxymoron?

I was caught remaining in my dorm during a fire alarm, and my punishment was to write an essay on fire safety. Here it is.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-Robert Frost

It is important to know and obey fire safety rules. These rules are put in place for our protection. Those who fail to observe them endanger their lives and the lives of others. Much like the Terminator, "[fire] is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!"

Unfortunately, fighting fire is not always the best modus operandi. Depending on what fuels the fire, water can exacerbate the situation. Sometimes, even fire extinguishers fail to put out a flame. Sometimes extinguishing a fire can cause even worse problems. Bromochlorodifluoromethane is one of the most effective fire retardants known to man, but also causes untold damage to the ozone layer. So, in some cases we will be faced with the dilemma of saving a building or saving the planet. When Billy Joel claims "We didn't start the fire. No we didn't light it, but we tried to fight it," perhaps, instead of eschewing blame for starting said fire, he should elaborate on the measures he used to fight it. I certainly hope that he didn't try to fight it with bromochlorodifluoromethane. Forest fires can be a necessary event in nature. If forests are not allowed to burn occasionally, brush will accumulate, and entire forests can be lost to uncontrollable conflagrations. Following the advice of Smokey the bear, mankind almost brought about the extinction of Sequoias, a tree that can only reproduce in the presence of fire. Thus, sometimes, the best course of action is evacuating a fire, rather than extinguishing it.

Yet, we cannot let the fire win. As General Patton said, "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." So too is the case with fire. We cannot let the enviornmental dangers of fire fighting discourage us. We must not sacrifice ourselves to the flame, even if it might benefit the planet. We must continue to fight the good fight. Instead of extinguishing fires with synthetic chemicals, which can have consequences even more devastating than the fires themselves, we must prevent them. As the adage goes "A gram of prevention is worth an eighth of cure." We must fight the fires before they start. We can do this by not using extension chords and not smoking indoors. We must not stop until fire ceases to exist.

Fire is dangerous, and should never have been introduced to earth. It was not the will of the gods, and Prometheus deserved what came to him for bringing this evil upon us. In conclusion, there is no such thing as fire safety. The only safe fire is one that's already out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

World's Worst Intersection

This is the height of Italian engineering, from those wonderful folks who brought you the FIAT. If you can find a worse intersection, I'd like to see it.
While it may not be immediately obvious what is going on in this picture, there is an intersection that leads people into the middle of the street. In my town we call that rude, and it's a good way to get kicked out of the Boy Scouts.
Perhaps this is an elaborate prank, and I'm on a hidden camera show in Italy

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ballad of the Desperate Procrastinator

I wonder if the internet
Will offer something new.
I haven’t seen it in five minutes.
Ten since I’ve seen you.

We talk for hours, though we know
We’ve heard it all before.
And when I next should study math,
I’ll hear it all once more.

Priorities have never been
A forte of yours or mine.
I’ve always been eluded by
The management of time.

Ironically, we talk about
The work that must be done.
You ask me how much I have started.
I reply with “none.”

Vodka, vodka, every where,
That would taste good I think;
Vodka, vodka, every where,
Nor any time to drink.

We sat down here at nine p.m.
And now it’s half past two.
I’d love to stay and chat with you,
But I’ve so much to do.

My bastard teacher only gave
A week to do this work.
I now must stay up all night long
Because he’s such a jerk.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I’m in Italy with a bunch of American college students. One day, eight of us made plans to go to the beach together. Due to a communication breakdown, three of us got on one bus, while the rest got on another. We agreed that going to some strange beach by ourselves would be an adventure. I went so far as to make a joke about the movie Hostel. We laughed because we didn’t know. Within five minutes, a man walked onto the bus and sat behind us. He weighed in at about 250 pounds, was wearing about 50 cents worth of clothing, and had a few tattoos, some of which had been blacked out. He heard us speaking English and asked us “are you yanks?” We said yes. He then sat down across the aisle from us, next to a somewhat miffed Italian girl who got off at the next stop. As it turns out, this was a Scotsman. He was so happy to hear English, because he does not speak Italian. We heard the better part of this man’s life story. He has been in Italy since 1999. As far as we could tell, he had not shaved, showered, gotten a haircut, or brushed his teeth since he got here. In fact, it seemed as if it had been that long since he had found another English speaker. He talked for a while about film. One of my friends later said that he thought I was going to “film buff it up with him.” I explained to him that despite being a bit nuts myself, I have enough discretion to know when not to get too involved in a conversation with someone who is clearly out of his mind. The closest I got to actually conversing with him was to say that I too liked Se7en. Our tastes in movies did not overlap very much. By chance, there were a few good movies that he liked, but his preferences seemed to have less to do with quality than genre. He loves movies about serial killers and movies about jail. His favorite movie is Saw 3. I spent a while wondering if there were any chance he was not homeless. Eventually, he explained that he was a homeless hippy who sells watches. It was around then when I noticed that he was wearing two of them, one on each wrist, and would periodically look at both of them to check the time, but I don’t know where he was in such a hurry to be. In addition to movies, he talked about politics. He asked why so many people hate George W. Bush, and when we offered a reason, told us he had not heard of any war in Iraq. He said that he prefers McCain, another Scotsman, to Obama, a “half caste”. He also told us his views on Italians. He complained that the Italians don’t understand English well enough for him. He told us that a guy would have a better chance of having sex with Winona Horowitz (Ryder) (the hottest girl after Sandra Bullock and Halle Berry, another half caste) than with an Italian girl. He also used the word “wop” (not actually accurate in Italy) a lot more than one probably should when in Italy. Then, he told us about his views on blowjobs. Apparently, black and Jewish girls give the best ones, and could teach classes on the subject. Eventually, as all good things must, the bus ride came to an end. We said goodbye to him, were careful not to shake hands with him, and went on our way to the part of the beach that he told us he didn’t like.
We talked for a few minutes about how ridiculous that was, and then we saw him, walking along the beach in our general direction, trying to bum a cigarette. Like ostriches hiding from a predator, we all instantly lay face down, in hopes that he wouldn’t recognize us. Naturally, he did. He sat down in the sand near us, and started talking some more. We noticed that one of his watches was gone (probably sold), but he still looked at both wrists to check the time. He warned us about the gypsy sitting 100 meters away, and told us she would try to rob us like she had tried to rob him. He didn’t want something like that to happen to three good looking boys like ourselves. The time frame of this alleged attempted robbery was unclear, considering that he had certainly not walked past her since we got off the bus. He talked some more about politics, telling us that when Obama wins the election, (a certainty), the Jews will assassinate him because he is Muslim, just like the Jews assassinated Kennedy. We were quiet, and tried to let the conversation die, but this man hadn’t talked since 1999, and had quite a lot to say. He had a lot of stories about getting in arguments with Italian police and yelling at them in English. Apparently, the police were naïve enough to believe 20 witnesses over a creepy Scotsman when he was accused of starting fights. He believes Italy is too lenient on murderers because they only get ten years in jail, and Italian jails are like hotels with TVs. He thinks that the death penalty in the US is too harsh, but 30 years would be just right. We decided not to ask how he knows what happens to murderers in Italy and what Italian jails are like. Eventually, he put his bag down and asked us to watch his stuff while he went to ask for a fag. We told him that we were leaving soon, and would not be there to watch his stuff. He said that was okay, and he just wanted to be sure that nobody stole his stuff. We spent about ten minutes explaining to him that we would not be there to make sure of anything, and the gypsy would probably steal his stuff while we were gone. Finally, he took a hint, and took his stuff with him. We quickly got up and power walked to another part of the beach to wait for the bus. We agreed that we would use the safe word “cosa facciamo” (what are we doing) if one of us saw him coming our direction, and the contingency plan would be to stick together. Eventually, we saw a bus come to the stop 20 minutes earlier than we had expected. I went to ask the driver if he was going to our stop and when. He said “si” (yes) and “adesso” (now). I asked him if I had two minutes, and he told me to hurry. I ran back as fast as my sandals would carry me, apologized to some Italians for accidentally kicking sand in their faces, yelled “COSA FACCIAMO,” and told the guys we had to haul ass to get on the bus. If we missed it, we would have had to wait an hour for the next one, during which time our friend would probably have returned.
The whole time we’ve been in Italy, we (and, to a much greater extent, the girls) had been watching out for creepy Italian guys wearing banana hammocks. We never expected to have a run-in like this with a Scotsman. For me, one of the most intriguing things he said was that he has a sister who goes to UCLA. I tried to imagine any of the girls I know at UCLA having a brother who travels around Italy, not speaking the language, selling watches on the street and hitting on young boys. I tried to think of a way I could get his sister’s name without giving him mine, but eventually decided to give up on that.
Once we got on the bus and had time to calm down, we did the math and realized that he had been in Italy for ten years. That’s a long time to live in a country he doesn’t like with a language he doesn’t speak. Thus, there must have been something very important detaining him in Italy. If only we could think of something that would keep a man in one place for ten years against his will. I suppose we’ll never know. I don’t think anybody knows.

The following evening, two of us, still shocked, were walking to dinner with a couple girls we know. We were passing a food cart when my friend whispered to me “Look at the cart! Cosa Facciamo!” I turned and saw that the Scotsman was standing less than ten meters away from us. Without talking anymore, the two of us bolted. We hid behind the next building and waited for the girls to catch up with us. They were baffled by what we did, but we explained whom we saw. Having already heard the story, they didn’t need much explanation. Having my camera with me, I decided that we needed a picture of this man. Neither of us who had met the Scotsman were willing to encounter him again and risk him recognizing us. I asked the girls if they were willing to go back and take a picture. I explained that they were under no obligation and it might not be a good idea. They, however, were more than willing to do this. It was dark, and without my glasses I couldn’t see very far. My friend looked at the girls periodically and told me what was happening. They got the picture, then made friends with the guys working at the cart, and hung out with them behind the counter. After a while they came back with some great pictures.
See if you can guess which one of these men nearly gave me a heart attack.

The Launching of Blog 49

I don't really know how to start a blog. I've always been opposed to the idea of bloggers. I've been getting positive feedback on things that I've written recently, so I decided to put them online to see what the blogosphere thinks of my work. This blog doesn't really have a theme, so I'd be surprised if it gets popular. I'm majoring in economics, and was hoping to get a job in investment banking after college, but that might not be an option by the time I graduate, so I'll have to see if my writing is good enough to get me anywhere.