Monthly Archives: July 2008

A page from my autobiography

Here’s a page from my autobiography. It was actually written by Jon Epstein and is an account from his life:

I was walking down the aisle to my seat today, and when I got close to my row, I saw a pretty girl sitting in one of the seats that would be next to mine. But then, when I got closer, I saw that it was actually row 35, three rows ahead of mine. I look three rows further and see a fat man in the seat next to mine. I looked up and said, “thanks, God.”


20 people at dinner

When I was recently invited to a 20-person dinner, the first thing I did was madly type out the following play. I call it, “20 people at dinner.”

As a side note – the actual dinner I went to ended up being nothing like this.

“20 people at dinner”

Guy 1: Aaah, that was good. Let’s figure out the bill. Someone do the math.
Guy 1 hands the bill to guy 2. Guy 2 hands it to guy 3. Guy 3 hands it to guy 4.
Guy 1: Someone just do the math. Guy 4, you’re good at math. You do it.
Guy 4: Why do I have to do it?
Guy that’s not good at math: Here, I’ll do it.
Guy that’s not good at math takes the bill and looks at it.
Guy that’s not good at math: Okay, it’ll be $50 per person.
Guy 4: That’s ridiculous. It can’t be $50 per person.
Guy 1: Guy 4, why don’t you just do the math.
Guy that’s not good at math: Here, let me try this again.
Guy 2: $50 per person? Why don’t you just add up the whole thing and divide by 20.
Guy 3: No no no, you ordered the lamb. I just had a salad I don’t want to have to pay extra for you.
Guy that’s not good at math: Okay, it’ll be $5 per person.
Guy 4: That’s definitely not right. Your calculations just went down by a factor of 10.
Guy 1: Guy 4, why don’t you figure it out.
Guy 3: Guys, I didn’t think we’d be paying this much.
Guy 5 is sitting around being passive aggressive about something. Guys 6-10 are in their own conversation.
Guy 6 (to guy 7): How is it this hard to calculate how much everyone owes?
Guy that’s not good at math: Okay, I subtracted wrong. It should be $15 per person.
Guy 4: At what point in your calculations did you find that you had to SUBTRACT?

Guy 1: Guy 4, just figure it out.
Guy 4: No, I’m not good with money.
Guy 2: It’ll just be easier if you just add up the whole thing and divide by 20.
Guy 3: So what’s my incentive not to order the lobster and champagne if I know it’ll be subsidized 20 ways?
Guy that’s not good at math: Okay, it’ll be $20 per person.
Guy 4: That sounds better.
Guy 1: If you had known all along, why didn’t you just do the math?
Guy that’s not good at math: Who has cash? I don’t have cash.
Guys 5 – 20: Neither do I.
Guy 2: Let’s just ask them to split it.
Guy 3: 20 ways? That’s ridiculous.
Guy 2: Your face is ridiculous.
[The end]

Zimbardo puts an end to San Francisco

goldengate 37 years after psychologist Philip Zimbardo ended the Stanford Prison experiment early, citing problems with ethics, Zimbardo does the same with the San Francisco experiment, citing similar ethical concerns.

For his San Francisco experiment, Zimbardo purchased 100 acres of deserted farmland by Oakland, California in 1972, and populated it with approximately one million participants. Participants were originally paid $15 per day to “live life normally.”

“I had originally set out to set up a psychological experiment on a grander scale when I created San Francisco,” said Zimbardo. “I thought a hilly environment by the bay with great year-around weather would inspire positive social interaction. I regret that I was wrong, and I just produced a city of a bunch of ass holes.”

Study participants will be asked to evacuate so that the land may be reclaimed as a landfill. On the reclamation, Zimbardo comments, “a landfill will be an upgrade from the current cultural wasteland that it currently is.”

Viewer Mail – The Trojan War edition

achilles For today’s viewer mail, we’ve decided to pull a classic letter from our archives from a man named Menelaus. He writes:

Dear Al,

My wife recently ran away with another man, and I’ve kind of started a war over it. I’ve been besieging Troy for about 10 years so far. Is 10 years too long for a war?


Tired in Troy

Well Menelaus, the classic answer is that there’s no right length for a war — it’s more of a matter of what’s a good duration for you. However, in reality, 10 years is a long time for any war. Think about all of the logistics and supplies. It’s also got to be quite wearing on your warriors, especially because the 10 years doesn’t include their trip back. What if one of your warriors commits hubris and challenges one of the Gods who then in turns sends them on a 10 year journey just to get home? It’s bad for your warriors, and it looks bad in the history books.

My advice: end it. Perhaps a peace offering such as a wooden statue of a horse would convince the other man to give you your wife back.

Al Observes Things – A Fortune Folly

panda 001 - small I got a fortune cookie from a local Panda Express yesterday, and here’s what it said:



Here are my complaints:

  1. Caps lock? Is that really necessary on a fortune?
  2. I don’t like self-referential fortunes (unless they’re really clever).
  3. Branding your fortune? …Really? …Really?

I had always hoped that my fortunes were written by some old, enlightened Chinese guy that had nothing better to do except write fortunes for Chinese restaurants after having relinquished all material possessions and achieving enlightenment.

Now, I realize that it’s some guy named Stan that’s trying to earn some cash while he works on his manuscript.

Words of Wisdom – Be Yourself

These words of wisdom were (and the ensuing analysis) were from Andrew Chung. The advice:

Be yourself

The only problem with this is that lots of people tend to be door mats.

Devil Pig: Vaudeville Sam and the Umbrella

This cartoon was originally published in the Columbia Daily Spectator on 10/3/05. Don’t get it? Don’t worry. Neither did anybody else.


Caffeine Free Diet Coke tastes just like Regular Diet Coke!

coke Don’t you wish that you had  a caffeine free diet beverage that tastes like its analogue diet beverage but without that washed down, caffeine free taste? Well I learned today that Coke’s dirty little caffeine free diet secret tastes amazingly like diet Coke, and it doesn’t have any caffeine! How do they do it?

Consider me blown away. This is a great victory for those that appreciate the smooth taste of the diet beverage without the jittery after effects of caffeine.

America’s next top challenge?

An alcohol-free moonshine: Great American spirits without the spirits!

An Original eBusiness – Communal Tax Preparation

0409_manandwomanatlaptop Tax season may be over “per se,” but is tax season ever really over? Once one tax season stops, the next one begins. That’s what inspired the idea for my latest eBusiness: Communal Tax Preparation. It combines Web 2.0, Open Source, and the financial savvy of the average Internet user to make tax preparation easy for everybody.

How does this work? Users enter all of their important financial information (name, address, social security number, income, etc) onto the Internet, and good willed Internet user, likely skilled in tax preparation, files their taxes for them. And the best part? It’s free! We’re completely funded by contextual advertising.

Some may ask, “but Al, isn’t it risky to put all of your financial information on the Internet?”

I say that it’s risky to not put all of your financial information on the Internet. Made up statistics show that 90% of half of all tax returns are audited by the federal government. Isn’t that scary? And really, how can you trust these monolithic, for-profit companies to do your taxes? Wouldn’t you rather have it out in the open for people like you to do your taxes? As the saying goes, with enough eyes, all tax mistakes are shallow.

So when next tax season comes, instead of putting your trust in one guy that you may know that works for a reputable organization, put your trust in a whole lot of people that you don’t know at all.

Woes of Internet Dating

cavemen2Dating has come a long way since the time of the cave man. Back in the paleolithic era, strong dating skills was a sign of leadership and essential for surviving, finding a mate, and eventually reproducing.

But resolution for this type of dating was quite low. Though cave men only needed to date animal tracks as fresh or not fresh, this did little to help them learn more about the world in which they lived.

This changed with the advent of radiocarbon dating, invented by Willard “Scooter” Libby in 1949 at the University of Chicago (go USA!). Radiocarbon dating allows us to find the age of organic compounds by measuring the carbon 14 content, a radioactive isotope of carbon with a well-known half life and decay rate.

Now, scientists post results from their carbon dating to the Internet, giving us Internet Dating. The exact process of Internet Dating begins when someone says, “hey, do you know how old _____ is?” A friend then goes onto the computer, searches it on the Internet, likely ends up clicking on a Wikipedia page, and finds the answer.

Though Internet dating’s contribution to society is that it makes dating accessible to everybody, it has its disadvantages. For example, sources on the Internet may not all be trustworthy. It can at times be difficult to distinguish between a radiocarbon dating expert and a nutball when both have poor Internet publishing skills. Additionally, with more accessible information comes a greater risk of the abuse of what we in the science community call “bullshitting.” This occurs when somebody takes a number such as a date out of context and pretends to know a lot about it, making bad extrapolations.

If you participate in Internet dating, make sure you know what you’re getting into, and don’t let the convenience of the Internet be an excuse to not deploy methods of “real” dating.