The Legend of Hand Pants Man

If you happened to read the comments on the porcupine entry a few days ago, then you know about the legend of Hand Pants Man (HPM for short). HPM was the Vice President of the Vanderbilt DKE chapter. After one of his pledges was arrested breaking into a federal courthouse with a bag of stolen mail, HPM was called upon to interview for a local news station.

Then hilarity ensued. You see, HPM was not cut out for being on camera. He got a little nervous. And then he shoved his hand down his pants. Front and center. Apparently he found this comforting, for there it rested for the remainder of the interview.

The video was an instant hit on AIM as Vanderbilt students sent the link around to all their friends. But then the video was lost and Hand Pants Man drifted into the realm of legend.

Until now. Thanks to the foresighted archiving of my friend Julian and the generous hosting of The Slant, that notorious interview is once again available for your viewing pleasure.

Ladies and gentlemen, we now present the Hand Pants Man.

In the True Spirit of the Games

Lots of bloggers are making fun of this: the 2004 Olympics’ ridiculous “Hyperlink Policy.” The Olympic Internet Department (I can’t type that without giggling) apparently thinks it can control precisely who links to their webpage and how exactly they do it. “For your protection and ours” they require potential linkers to follow three simple rules.

a) Use the term ATHENS 2004 only, and no other term as the text referent

So, for example, linking with the word “wombat” would be strictly off-limits.

b) Not associate the link with any image, esp. the ATHENS 2004 Emblem

This one’s a little trickier since they later on say that you can use the officially sanctioned banner images. Linking with a picture of George Wendt, on the other hand, would be very bad form.

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c) Send a request letter to the Internet Department stating:
Short description of site
Reason for linking
Unique URL containing the link (if no unique URL than just the main URL)
Publishing period
Contact point (e-mail address)

Once the request has been mailed, interested parties can proceed to include the link and will only receive a response if ATHENS 2004 does not accept the link.

This last rule is very important and absolutely must be followed. The Olympic Internet Department does not take kindly to excuses like, “My request to link with the word “wombat” and a picture of George Wendt must have gotten lost in the Greek mail system.” Nope, not kindly at all.

Please keep these simple rules in mind as you blog about this year’s exciting Olympic games.

Eternal Recurrence: Elementary School Edition

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“However, no matter how hungry I get, I won’t be peeing on my food anytime soon.” — Court

Considering that that quote comes from the woman I share eating utensils with, I suppose that should make me happy. My epicurean flatmate broaches the subject in light of new dehydrated foods for soldiers that can be prepared with the addition of very dirty water or, indeed, their own urine. As Richard Riordan says, “That’s nifty.” This is one dining innovation that thankfully won’t be rated on the Court-wishes-she-was-a-food-critic scale.

Conversation about the food’s possibilities led naturally to talk of a related subject: the phenomenon known as “asparagus pee.” Some readers will have no idea what I’m talking about. Others will know exactly what I mean. All of you probably want to stop reading right now. Read on, for the topic turns out to have a rich and fragrant history.

A little research — consisting of Googling the phrase “asparagus urine gene” — reveals that the first known reference to it is in a 1731 book by Queen Anne’s physician in which he notes that “asparagus… affects the urine with a foetid smell (especially if cut when they are white) and therefore have been suspected by some physicians as not friendly to the kidneys; when they are older, and begin to ramify, they lose this quality; but then they are not so agreeable.” By 1866 the Grand Dictionnaire Universel could declare that “tout le monde connaît l’odeur fétide qu’elle communique à l’urine.”

However, publicity in the United States had to wait for Babe Ruth to turn down an offered plate of asparagus at a dinner party with le bon mot, “…asparagus makes my urine smell funny.” Yet only half the guests laughed at his remark. Was the Babe too subtle for them or were they simply unable to understand his reference?

Scientific studies have since revealed that significant parts of the population lack the ability to detect the odor, no matter how extreme (myself included, in case you were wondering, you little freak). This “anosmia” may be genetic and vary across cultures, reaching as high as about ninety percent in an Israeli sample.

Less clear is whether or not the production of the odor is universal. One study found that only half of Brits produce it, whereas nearly eighty-percent of Americans do. People still on the France-bashing kick will be glad to know that the odor appears universally present among French asparagus eaters. Additional studies (and the subjective nature of urine evaluations) raise the possibility that the early studies were flawed and that the trait exists in all humans.

The chemistry behind all of this remains somewhat in doubt. However, it is suggestive that the first reports of the odor occur at roughly the same time as fertilizers containing sulfur were used on asparagus plants. In fact, the substance asparagusic acid — which contains sulfur — has been shown in laboratory tests to have the same effect as eating asparagus. It may be the causal agent, but further studies must be done to show this conclusively.

That is probably more than you ever wanted to know about asparagus pee. If it’s not, you should read this excellent article by Dr. S. C. Mitchell. It’s is the source for almost all of the facts cited in this entry.

Finally, my research into this lovely topic also turned up this, yet another example of the state’s heavy hand putting a creative entrepreneur out of business.

Storm battles Fire on Staten Island

No, it’s not the plot of X-Men III. It was the sporting event of the summer and it happened two weeks ago when professional cricket arrived in the United States: the New York Fire was extinguished by the New Jersey Storm in the 20-over pre-season match.

Alas, the crowds were sparse at this historic event. Just over 150 fans attended, despite free admission. Add to that the lack of recognition from the ICC, the excessive organ music, and the loss of right-hand batsman Darren Ganga and it’s apparent that America Pro Cricket, LLC didn’t bat a sixer here.

Yet with the pitch cleared, the final wicket fallen, and the trombley officially jogged, I can’t help but feel that the event was not, as they say, “an utter croft.” After all, we did get to see star Indian one-dayer Ajay Jadeja before he puts down his bat, pads, flannels, and droms for the last time. And watching Nikhil Chopra step back from the crease to score eighteen was a treat even for the uninitiated.

While I am happy that this great sport is finally making its way into the U. S., as a purist I’m a bit worried about some of the alterations (no, corruptions!) the APC has made to render the game acceptable to American tastes. Twenty overs limits matches to a mere three hours, while a change equivalent to baseball’s designated hitter provision lets one bowler from each side avoid going to bat. What next, eliminating leg-before-wicket, the off-corners rule, and flying the binge? What would Henry Blofeld say to that?

So I guess one can’t have everything. At least my city has its own team, the D. C. Forward, so I may be able to catch a few matches in person.

Thanks to Tim Boyd (of course!) for sending me the update. If you, too, would like to become a learned cricket devotee, check out Tim’s lucid guide from The Slant. You’ll be out of the corridor of uncertainty faster than a whistling seamer. Heck, you may even be able to write about the sport as if you had some idea what it was about, without having to make up half the words like I just did.

Of tacos, couches, beds, and Thomas Friedman

Its been five days since I last posted and Im running out of lame excuses for my unprolificity. But I havent run out yet, so heres one more: tomorrow morning I head to Brown University to work the IHS Globalization and Poverty Summer Seminar. Thats the one I went to as a participant last year. We have a very smart, very well dressed faculty lined up, so I know the lectures will be good. Supposedly well also have Net access, so I may update from the road.

I have about two weeks of couch hopping behind me, the highlight of which was the Giant Chalupa Couch in my housemates old living room. I call it that because the places other occupants have a habit of dining on Taco Bell there late at night, letting copious amounts of cheese, tomato, and occasionally entire gorditas fall between its cushions. Thus, if one is desperately hungry in the night, one need only reach into its depths to emerge with a well-preserved (if dusty) midnight snack. I was never that hungry, but it was nice to have the option. Im sure Taco Boy would have loved it.

Fortunately, Im now in my own room with my own bed. I bought it at Ikea. Up to now, all I knew of the company was its blatant abuse of eminent domain law. They were defeated in that venture, and now I can say I like their store. They have exactly the business model they should for modern consumers who are looking to buy inexpensive furniture: online catalogue, their stock of items networked and connected to a database, and most of their pieces ready to take home right away.

This is in stark contrast to my attempt to buy a mattress at a local chain. This place had no idea what they had in stock, having to go into the backroom and check for every little thing. They had to call each of their other stores individually to see if any of them carried an item that was out of stock. And if one mattress wasnt available, the wait was about a week to get it delivered. The manager was an ass, too. I left thinking that if I were Thomas Friedman, or even if Id just had a fake bushy mustache handy, I would have put him in his place.

Sir, youre still trying to sell mattresses like its 1989, Id have said. Thats when all the walls came down. I know youre the biggest discount mattress company in Virginia, but you have to learn to adapt. Youd better put on the Golden Straightjacket, or youre going to wake up one day and find yourself asleep in the Duvet of Despair. You dont believe me? I was eating lunch with Prince Hassan of Jordan the other day, and he said that the American mattress salesman is a thing of the past. Theres an Electronic Herd out there, and its ready to trample your precious box springs and lay down on a Sultan Fngebo. Id have kept that going till closing time, even if no one were listening. Not really. But I do think that mattress company needs to get with the times.

Now that Ive wasted the last minute of your life (last indicating previous, not final, I hope), I will bring this post to an end. With any luck a week at an IHS contest will inspire something more profound for the next one.

Smooth talkin’ Jaro

Actual conversation with the girl at the table next to me at Common Grounds today…

Her: “Could you tell me the time again?”

Me: “Sure, no problem.”

*awkward silence*

Her, repeating: “Could you tell me the time?”

Me: “Oh, you mean now.”

There are a few things I could say in my defense, but I think I’ll just leave it at that.

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In other news, today was my first day on the job. And you know what I found on my desk? A one pound box of rubber bands. Associates from my previous internship know that this is a bad, bad, very bad idea.

Eli Manning: Leet skillz

[Update: Oops, when I first posted this I had mislinked the image files. They're working now. I guess that'll teach me for mocking someone else's Web production abilities!]

Yesterday my buddy Zhubin linked to the webpage made by Eli Manning for his introductory computer science class. (For people as ignorant about football as I am,* Eli was this year’s number one draft pick and is the younger brother of Peyton Manning.) It was a fun site. As Zhubin noted, “I especially like how you apparently e-mail ESPN to ask for the NFL scores.” The random Mr. Spock picture was cool, too.

Unfortunately, the University of Mississippi took it down before I could write an entry about it. What gives? Are they not proud of the way they educate their athletes? Do they think they can hide this man’s accomplishment from an adoring world?

If they do, they’re wrong. Thanks to Google’s cache and Eli’s rather unoriginal selection of pictures (2 out of 3 are from the standard MS clipart library), it was easy to recreate this marvel of the Web in perfect detail. Voila! Now it can stand forever as a monument to America’s jock education. I wonder what his grade in the course was?

*That’s pretty darn ignorant. For example, I was in D. C. for at least a month before I realized that the Washington Redskins were based there and not in the state of Washington. I learned the truth when a coworker asked me if I was “going to watch the Skins game this weekend?” and I replied, “You mean the golf tournament?” That’s the kind of ignorance I’m talking about.

The Post-Reductio Challenge

The Hemingway Star returns with this exclusive report on the growing nanny state, “Congress passes USA LOWFAT Act of 2004.” Satire? Of course. Made up? Not entirely.

Back in November of ’03 Radley Balko published an op-ed called “Post Reductio America.” He argued that we’re in a time where what would have been a reductio ad absurdum a few years ago is a commonplace today. For instance, back when the class action lawsuits against tobacco companies first got started, asking why we didn’t sue fast food companies for making us fat seemed like a good reductio argument. Now it’s really happening.

To see how much reductio creep we’ve suffered, I decided to try writing this fake article with as many real quotes as possible. Read it first, then come back here and continue reading to see what’s made up and what’s real. It’s not always easy to tell them apart.
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Ugg, what a dilemma

I knew that my return from Washington, D. C. to Vanderbilt would carry with it some culture shock, but nothing could have prepared me that first week back for the newest trend in VandyGirl fashion: the ugg boot. Im officially declaring ugg boots the nadir of VandyFemme fashions during my four years here. While I can see the appeal in, say, the Australian outback, they just look silly in Nashville. They look even sillier paired with an expensive short skirt and shaded into pastels, sometimes giving one the distinct impression that the footwear has been recently excavated from an abandoned ABBA show trunk.

In this photo, Kate Hudson does a pretty good VandyGirl impression. Just make the boots baby blue, change the plastic cup to a Nalgene bottle, and give her a Kate Spade bag with sorority letters embroidered onto the side and youve got the picture. Multiply that picture by several hundred women per acre and youve also figured out why Ill be in therapy someday.

But that still leaves me much better off than the traditional Australian ugg cobblers, who are under attack by corporate America. The American Deckers Outdoor Corporation has trademarked the word “ugg” and is threatening to sue Australian manufacturers who continue to employ it. Thus my present dilemma: on the one hand, anything that stems the tide of uggs flooding over our borders cant be a bad thing. On the other, I feel sympathy for these Down Under craftsmen, who know not what their bonzer work hath wrought on Vanderbilt fashion.

I ponder this important question and recall that as the Nashville spring arrives the race will be on among the VandyGirls to wear as little fabric as possible hopefully including the swaths of sheep skin that currently prevent their treadmill-toned calves from catching the eyes of passing frat boys. So I must side with the makers of the original, genuine, dinky-di uggs, and fly this banner of solidarity:

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Best of luck, mates.

[Thanks to Adam for the article link.]

Mr. Blobby

Everyone say hello to Mr. Blobby. Isn’t he cute? He sort of reminds me of an unhappy Ziggy — unhappy because he’s just been decapitated.

I found Mr. Blobby when I was searching for pictures of a fangtooth, a deep sea fish with fangs so big they’d impale its own brain if it didn’t have special head sheaths for them. The kind of fangs you don’t mess with. The kind you’d use to catch a Ziggy fish. Scary, huh?

Why the sudden interest in fangtooths? (Or is it fangteeth?) Because a friend sent me this article about deep sea creatures newly discovered in the Tasman Sea. The article describes the very strange sexual practices of a certain angler fish, even stranger than the orgasm faking trout. We’re really into the sexuality of fish, my friend and I. It’s a thing we have.

More denizens of the Tasman Sea can be viewed here.

Online dating fun

Via Court, it’s the Match.com Physical Attraction Test. I can’t say I learned anything I didn’t already know, but it’s an interesting test. And yes, what my friends have always told me is hereby officially confirmed:

“It’s official: You’re “picky.” The fact is you are drawn to the most beautiful of the beautiful. You know what you like in women and are more selective than most men your age. Your tastes seem instinctual. You’d make a great casting agent, because you have a good eye for women who have “star quality.” In real life, your high standards may be an obstacle for you. It’s hard to find a woman with the strong features you like, who’s also well-rounded in other ways. Still, you know the importance of a real physical “spark” in a relationship, and aren’t willing (or able) to settle for less. The challenge is finding a woman who really wows you physically, even if she’s not the most attractive woman in the room.”

According to the test I’m among the top 1% of men in terms of selectiveness, ranking every photo it showed one or two points below the average. Maybe that’s the “Vandy glasses” I’ve acquired after nearly four years here. Unfortunately, four years of VandyGirls haven’t caused a corresponding decrease in selectiveness for women with depth, so the “well-rounded” part remains difficult.

Apparently I also have something of a repressed Asian fetish: “Your choices show a consistent interest in a wide variety of Asian women.” Well then, it’s a good thing I decided to go to school in Nashville, TN!

The test is right in finding that I’m attracted to “ecto-mesomorphs” and “mesomorphs.” These scientific labels just make me think of GhostBusters, but they boil down to strongly-defined, angular features (a common preference).

The test only covers the physical, so I guess it’s up to me to describe what I like in a woman’s personality. I’m looking for someone with panache, chutzpah, spunk, moxie, and that certain je ne sais quoi.

And by “je ne sais qoui” I mean Asian.

I didn’t know Milkbone makes biscotti

Half of my posts since returning to Vanderbilt have been about coffee shops. This one is no exception.

My shop of choice tonight was Fido, which used to be a pet store but is now a part of the Bongo Java Roasting Co (home of the infamous NunBun, the cinnamon bun that looks likes Mother Teresa). The store kept the neon dog sign, has a dog in its logo, and names all of its specialty drinks with dog terms, like the Rollover or the Pink Dalmatian. This historical digression is relevant because it explains why Fido is the only coffee shop I know that also sells dog biscuits. Not just any dog biscuits, but really big dog biscuits, each half-covered with white icing and colorful sprinkles. I don’t know if this actually makes them more appealing to dogs, but they look pretty darn good to me.

As evidenced by tonight’s incident, I am not the only one who salivates at the sight of these tasty treats. While I was examining the menu, trying to decide what would go best with writing a paper on evolutionary theory, a young Asian man approached the counter to ask the barista a question. Gesturing toward the large glass jar of iced dog biscuits, he asked, “Are these for dogs or for people?”

“Those are for dogs,” answered the barista, a bit surprised by the question. “Ohhhh,” said the customer. It was at this point that the barista and I looked down to see in his other hand a fragment of dog biscuit. “Did you just… eat that?” I asked him. Indeed he had.

It turns out that he was not the sole biscuit eater that evening. Happening to sit down next to his table, I realized that he was with a date. They sat across from each other, each with a cup of coffee in front of them. In front of the coffees, two napkins. On each napkin, the remainder of a dog biscuit. Yes, he had not only eaten a dog biscuit, but he had fed one to his girlfriend as well. They made it through the iced portions, stopping several bites into the plain halves (for the record, the guy ate more of his than the girl did of hers).

All’s well that ends well, however. The girl got cheesecake, which the guy presumably recognized as fit for human consumption by its pie-like shape and the fact that it comes on a plate. The guy can now point to the brand new Post-It note on the biscuit jar that reads “Not for humans” and say, “You see that? That’s there for me!” And us? We learned that when you’re really hungry, frosted dog biscuits with sprinkles make a semi-delicious dessert.

A wireless Year in Review

Live from my bedroom: the aforementioned connectivity problems have been solved, thanks to a wi-fi router and a new laptop. The laptop is an eMachines M5312. eMachines used to have a reputation for making cheap, crappy computers. Now, as laptops have become increasingly commodified, theyve stayed cheap and overcome their crappiness. This one has a 54g integrated wireless LAN, widescreen monitor, DVD/CD-RW, and plenty of memory and speed. Normally selling for $1250, Best Buy has a $250 rebate offer that takes the price down to a hard to beat $1000 (good through Jan. 3). Give this model a look if youre in the market for a notebook computer.

Im counting on wi-fi to improve my productivity this semester. Since I work far better in coffee shops than I do at home or in a dorm room, this should increase my blogging action and decrease the number of papers begun at 1 am the morning before theyre due.

I suppose its sadly fitting that Im posting New Years Eve about my improved relationship with my computers rather than with a woman, but such has been 2003. Fortunately, other parts of my life saw more success this year. Highlights:
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A gay time with Antonin Scalia

Last night I was at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s 50th Anniversary Gala. The food, drink, music, dancing — all great. The speakers were a mixed bag, with Mitch McConnell and William F. Buckley, Jr., being the highlights.

Senator Rick Santorum being asked to lead the audience in saying the Pledge of Allegiance was an omen that not all would be as pleasant, and the remarks by Justice Antonin Scalia proved this expectation true. Despite a request for no visual media coverage, the AP has published this report of the event complete with photo.

The article is good, but by focusing only on what Scalia said about the recent Lawrence decision it misses the more astonishing and alarming quotes — such as Scalia calling the Bill of Rights an “afterthought” to the “real Constitution.” He wasn’t just being overly literal; throughout the speech he derided the liberal emphasis on individual rights as opposed to majority rule.

I’m sympathetic to the idea that our current view of the Constitution is more liberal rights oriented than the Founders’ was (see Akil Amar’s The Bill of Rights for an interpretation like this), but Scalia takes this view to absurd lengths. What, after all, makes the “real” Constitution so good except that it checks a government’s power over minority interests by enumerating and separating powers and establishing a federal system? (Fed 10, anyone?)

Scalia seemed to undercut his own argument when he concluded by praising ISI for bringing conservative minds together. He noted that this is important since people’s thoughts are effected by what the people around them think, which strikes me as a reason to be skeptical of majority rule.

The lesson of the night: hearing Scalia in front of a room full of supporters is a frightening experience.

Road trip

In which libertarians descend upon Brown U., Cato interns pass through NYC, and the Pontiac Aztek takes a few more knocks
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Greetings from the new apartment

Finally, Net access in my D. C. apartment! Ive been here since Friday night and have greatly missed being connected, getting by with a few short trips to a Net caf and Kinkos. Life is good, and here are a few lessons Ive learned so far:
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The first post – jumping on the bandwagon

After nearly a year spent using and updating a site built with MS FrontPage, I’ve leapt onto the bandwagon and converted my website to blog (short for weblog) format. Besides looking a lot better (see “My Other Pages” linked at the left), the Movable Type software adds many new features to the site: it’s easier to update, I can do it from any computer hooked up to the Internet, and it automatically archives everything posted.

More importantly, the new site is interactive, so feel free to add comments to anything posted. Now if I write something stupid, you can point that out in public instead of just sending me an e-mail!

I’ll continue to post links to articles and humor as I did on the old site, along with news, interesting finds on the Web, and mini-reviews of various things. With the greater ease of use and interactivity I’ll probably be updating it more frequently than I did in the past, too. Check back every once in a while, and I’ll do my best not to make it a complete waste of time.

Let me know what you think. Also, if you’ve got a homepage not linked on the left it’s not because I don’t like you, but because I don’t know about it. We can fix that with an e-mail.

Enjoy the site!