February 28, 2005
"when they anticipate the time, let
them be put to death without mercy;
when their reckoning is behind the
time, let them be put to death without
-the marquis of yin, pronouncing
sentence on hsi and ho, ministers
of astonomy, for miscalculating an
eclipse in 2150 b.c.
from the rough and tumble salad days of astronomy, when peer review was slightly harsher.
compromise no longer, typing public, the interrobang has arrived! tired of cobbling together two separate forms of punctuation to convey the emotion of an irritated question?! i know i am. that's why i'm all keyed up about the hottest new symbol for today's irritated-questioner on the go. by overlapping a exclamation point and a question mark they've set the punctuation world abuzz. and what's more, the interrobang (hottest new symbol of 1962!) has been there all along. its under wingdings 2, as `, ^, ], or _. how i've been living without it for so long i have no idea.
February 25, 2005
...in non fidem
i was beginning to think god was punishing me for not believing in him with a recent string of bad luck. i had my wisdom teeth impacted, causing constant headaches that caused a lousy midterm grade and a trip home in the middle of the term for surgery; a constantly busy and oft complaining girlfriend; the recent crapulence (yes i know it doesn't mean that...but it should) of the file-sharing program here; a week without solid food; and to cap it off, a horrifying hour-long ordeal in an mri machine (for a $40 psych experiment i had to look at rapid-fire pictures of very ugly people while the device i was in made a piercingly loud chirping noise. my heart was pounding, my eyes were under constant assault by transvestites and fatties [not that there's anything wrong with that] and all i could think about was how the magnetic field in there is on the order of the strongest produced by nature [by pulsars, freaking pulsars!]). and the kicker? yesterday i had my wallet stolen.
there i was, cursing my luck. thinking that maybe god finally caught up with my sober analytical view of the universe, premarital sex, and general dislike of george bush. when i realized i had to calm down, take a step back, and place my faith in the non-existence of a higher power. law of averages ryan. some good stuff will randomly happen sooner or later too. and as soon i "gave up my heart" (all evangelical-style) to the unlikelyness of the stories in the bible and the fact that i had never seen anything to suggest that any religion is correct, something appeared before me.
...on my computer screen. it was an email, someone had found my wallet.
and today i got my $40 for looking at ugly people, ate a bunch of non-liquid food, and a call from my dad to tell me that we might be able to get green monster seats at a fenway game.
yes, my atheism had been tested, and it survived through its darkest hour. my rabid, sometimes evangelical non-belief in anything bigger than myself had shown me the way and rewarded my lack of faith. hallelujah!
so any time i hear one of those dopey stories about someone getting over a life crisis through prayer and religion, i'll have this short tale waiting on the back burner for them. good things do happen to "bad" people, if you will. and this brings me to a bigger point; it seems that it is considered taboo to ever talk up the merits of atheism. i've seen the 'miracle of faith' described hundreds of times on tv and in movies, but never once heard a kind word towards not having any. (i'm talking about god here, not certain world-series-winning teams...much different).
but i get a lot of the same benefits as the religious do. atheism gives me strength in times of weakness, just the way everyone says faith is supposed to. i can tell them about how not believing in anything makes me feel relaxed and confident about my own life. all of the worries about morals and thorny philosophical questions and social conflict in the world today don't matter because we go away when we die (or something). and eventually the world will end and the universe will either explode or get really cold and none of today’s problems or tragedies will matter then. it might sound depressing at first, but when you give it some thought you get a wonderful feeling of freedom. daily trifles don't matter, the pressure is off. you can live in the moment, so to speak. it’s almost the kind of thing some eastern religions teach (but most of them have other parts that are phony). and if you're a scientist (or an aspiring one) you can enjoy the beauty of nature for what it really is, incredible complexity evolving out of a small number of mysterious rules. and you don't have to stop at "god made it that way," there is nothing beautiful about that. you can find out the real reasons things are the way they are, and have the joy of discovery and comprehension that go along with them. the universe is elegant and indiscriminate and completely wonderful in a way that a religious person can never truly understand.
unfortunately, nobody ever talks about that. it’s considered offensive to promote atheism publicly the way christians do, and in a way it makes it a smarter philosophy because everyone has to figure it out for themself (instead of being told exactly what to think), but clearly it's a little unfair. it gives me just as much personal satisfaction as any religion can. and a better appreciation of life, not because someone says that it's 'sacred' but because it's wonderful that a few self-reproducing molecules can multiply and change over billions of years to fill every niche and use every possible means of survival. to evolve to the level of complexity where these big heaps of atoms can marvel at the nature that created them. and fortunately, i'm a physicist in training so i get to see all the gears turning up-close, and draw assurance from how over the years science has pushed the 'god of the gaps' back further and further. seeing that at every time in histery there have been people saying "but you need religion because you can't explain how the solar system is stable!" and every time science would go to work in the back room and come out a little while later with an "I find no need of that hypothesis" just as laplace (who solved that problem) famously told napoleon. now we have pushed god all the way back to 10^-35 seconds after the big bang and it's nice, but there will always be enemies to science. and we have to collect as many of these wallet stories as we can to push them down.
February 22, 2005
while waiting for the providence-boston bus this afternoon on my way back to school i spotted a small stryrofoam box with a bright orange sticker and a manila envelope on top. it was sitting on top of a trashcan. i elbowed my father and pointed to it saying "hey dad, check it out, an organ transplant. yeah, they decided that's the fastest way to get it there. organs via greyhound!" we had a good laugh about that and as my bus arrived i bid him goodbye. but while boarding i noticed a man in a windbreaker outfit nod to the driver and place the box in the luggage compartment. then he walked away without getting on. when he had moved the container it was turned around, revealing annother bright orange sticker on the opposite side. in large capitals it read "human eyes."
and if that wasn't enough, when we arrived in boston the driver took it out, put it on annother trash can and went about his business. the human eyes waiting unattended for their next windbreakered escort.
when did "amazing" become the non-descriptive adjective of choice for smaltzy tv and film compliments? have we really run out of meaningful qualities to point out? especially in the single-parent dating setting. the non-parent one has to give some little romantic speech and as they are reeling off reasons the reasons they're in love there is a horrifying moment where they call the kid "amazing" for no particular reason. they showed the little bastard for 5 seconds during a kite-flying montage, but something about him amazed them during that time. it's like the director cut the scene where this toddler was teaching abstract algebra to the adults and we're supposed to make the connection anyhow. nobody would call a completely average 5-year old "amazing" in real life, and it sticks out like a sore thumb in movies. am i the only one who notices this? do people not know what "amazing" means? amazed is the feeling you get during the imax film where they skydive from the space shuttle or the guy climbs everest with one leg or when you convince your girlfriend that derek jeter is gay. is the parent-dater character awe-struck by the way this kid eats play-doh? being amazed isn't an everyday thing, and it certainly isn't a fit description for totally average and boring, though cinematically adorable, children.
while watching the 2003 alcs i flatly told my baseball-ignorant girlfriend that derek jeter was the first openly homosexual player. somehow i managed to keep a straight face as she fell for it, saying things like "now that you mention it, he does look a bit effeminate" and "i think he's wearing makeup." at dinner with a large group some months later a friend brought up the yankees, at which point my earnest girlfriend proudly recalled her bit of baseball trivia "oh the yankees, you know, they had the first gay baseball player!..." that's true love folks.
Labels: Red Sox
February 19, 2005
i once knew a fellow who wasn’t named ryan. not even a little bit. of course most people not named ryan, when asked who they are, say things such as “albert” or “lisa.” some even cut it close with “brian” but they maintain the existence of the “b” in front. this guy, however, was under the mistaken impression that he was different; and unlike the vast multitude of non-ryan individuals he was insistent that “ryan” was, in fact, his name. unfortunately for him though his name, properly pronounced, was “rayon.”
you see rayon, the english language is not at your disposal. simply stringing together a bunch of letters and declaring by fiat that they ought to be pronounced a certain way doesn’t make it so. ryan is an actual proper name with an origin. it’s gaelic. it means “laughing” or "kingly" and, particularly irksome to me, it happens to be my name.
i know that your parents were immigrants. and if r-h-a-y-o-n-n was actually a cambodian name that was pronounced “ryan” i would have absolutely no problem with it. none at all. or, if you wanted to take “ryan” as a nick-name, as many with difficult foreign names often do. either of those things would be fine with me. you’re welcome to use it. the world could use more ryans. and it goes without saying that you can keep whatever exotic spelling of a name pronounced the same way if it’s traditional. but it isn’t. r-h-a-y-o-n-n is just a name you made up. and even that isn’t wrong, if you choose to be rhayonn of your own volition, it’s perfectly acceptable. it’s just that you just can’t say that placing those letters in that order is pronounced in the same way as my genuine, etymologically authentic, not-made-up name. you see my dear rhayonn, ‘r-h-a-y’ can only be said ‘ray.’ it can never be said as ‘ry’ or ‘rye,’ like the bread. and ‘o-n-n’ is, of course, pronounced ‘on.’ so you see, pal, you are ‘rayon,’ as artificial as the fabric which bears your name.
i encountered this character some years ago through a friend's cousin. she did not find it a bit unusual that her swarthy consort had given himself a false moniker with what could generously be described as non-standard pronounciation; and furthermore treated all suggestions to that effect as insults of the highest degree. i never actually heard rhayonn's justifacation for all this, but given what i already know about people who intentionally mispell words, i have a feeling that it is less than satisfactory. strict ryanists such as myself are left to wonder if nothing is sacred.
you do not get to choose what letters mean; it simply isn’t a matter of opinion. being your alleged name does not place it outside the realm of linguistics, and for some such as yourself, the realm of linguistics can be a very cruel place.
February 18, 2005
if i ever become a great scientist and get the chance to name a particle or asteroid or diagram i’ll make it the first word ever to rhyme with orange. that way, my obscure scientific term will be assured of enduring fame as a lexicographic footnote. not to mention that the world will be forever rid of those annoying people who love to point out that nothing rhymes with orange and permanently replaced with a new generation of even more annoying people who will love to point out that “splorange,” a certain energy state of condensed quark matter, in fact, rhymes with it.
February 15, 2005
i don't have a lot in common with most of my friends in school aside from a decent sense of humor. most of them seem to be into a bunch of dumb crap like harry potter, jesus, and economics. (funny, you'd think at least two of those things would be in opposition...). anyway, i recently realized just how much abuse i lay down on them for this and how few people would keep coming back for it. i think they must secretly know i'm right. in any case their resilience is commendable. here's a trifecta of good (and pretty offensive) haranguings:
"yeah, it was great; me and the rest of the young republicans got to march in the parade for his campaign stop."
"wow that must have been impressive. all you virgins goose-stepping along together like that..."
"harry potter is for illiterate fucking 5th graders. you all suck so much right now."
[then in response to an attack on my sense of 'imagination' and 'fancy']
"if you want to talk about imagination how about the author of those insufferable screeds ripping off every single fantasy story ever written and amalgamating them into inoffensive goo designed to make billions of dollars from conformist clods who don't have enough individuality to look past the best-seller list. that's pretty fancy if you ask me."
[me at one of those lame free-food and discussion type-things. topic: church & state]
"public references to religion should be prohibited. they poison rational thinking and stupidify the masses. religious people should be isolated from society and studied for their nutritional value."
[horrified gasps, stifled laughter]
February 13, 2005
it seems to me that the cool kids of today have a bit of an inferiority problem. you see, we're the first generation to grow up in a world full of what can sometimes seem like plastic artifice. when said 'cool kids' were growing up in the 70's and 80's the boom of cheap, fake-seeming products was going on across the board. you know, like tee-shirts with stupid prints or words on them, breakable non-timeless toys, vinyl siding, those metal radiator things that go all along the sides of the room, and generally all manner of flimsy, easily producible, plastic objects made to replace earlier versions of things made out of metal or wood. i don't know what it was, but it seems like during the 70's technology suddenly figured out how to manufacture everything out polystyrene and the whole world switched over completely without miding. particularly offensive in my opinion was that stupid brush-stroke cursive lettering that they put on signs and logos (am i supposed to believe that somebody hand-wrote the name of your business in 10-foot tall letters on this billboard, and if so, why would that make it cool?) for better or worse over the next few decades everything lost a certain element of old-fashionedness.
anyway, all this stuff basically made people feel like they were growing up in a world without substance, getting jipped. when you went to a movie you never used to see the actor dealing with one of those lunch-cooler bags or aluminum baseball bats, they would have a brown paper bag and a wooden bat. i know that i noticed these differences at a certain point and thereafter always sort of wished that they would make buildings to look old (instead of those big, cubical, cement and glass things), that soda bottles were still made out of glass instead of plastic, and that some photos and tv shows were still in black and white. i certainly wish that there weren't baseball teams whose colors were turquoise or purple with, again, that goddamn brush-stroke lettering. eventually i think other people started to be bothered by it too and realized that old-fashioned stuff is often cooler, and so we started getting a lot of movies set in the 30's or 40's and the word "classic" peppered all over the place. and a little after that, kids whose whole existence taken place had been in the age of television and disposable products started wishing that they, too, lived important non-disposable lives, and hence, the birth of the most irritating trend ever: "faux authenticity."
basically the psychological trauma of living in a fake-looking world had two main consequences:
a) people buying stuff that looks old or worn in so that they feel real and important.
b) people trying to pretend that the cheap crap they grew up with was cool, thereby implying that they have always been real and important.
sure, fitted baseball caps are nice, but aside from those (a) has produced nothing but a vast sea of insufferable nonsense. people paying large sums of money for clothes or things that look old and worn out. now, worn out stuff is fine if you do it yourself; it isn't supposed to be cool to other people, just more comfortable or sentimental for yourself. and you certainly shouldn't pay more for it to be that way. just wrong.
but that's not the worst part. the worst part is those goddamn t-shirts with the effin' fake accomplishments. you know what i'm talking about. "abercrombie swim team - junior varsity" or "california joe's bait and tackle." t-shirts made to look like cheap give-always depicting places that don't exist or stuff that you never did. phony life experience. i mean, everyone knows that you just bought a shirt saying you went to "mohasasquamitit summer camp," you're not even trying to fool anyone, so what the hell are you doing? if having a bunch of free t-shirts depicting things you've done is supposed to be cool (which i've never been convinced of anyway), how exactly does declaring to the world that you have to buy such shirts improve your standing?! its just the kind of reasoning i would expect from someone who would drop $40 on a tattered "abercrombie curling society, new mexico chapter."
(b) is the height of insecurity. for this one i always picture one of those insolent, frat-hopping moron types squirming in an interrogation room while he strains to convince the polygraph that he "always thought trucker caps were cool! seriously! oww! [electric zapping noise]."
i'm not trying to go on a diatribe about fashion or anything, its just that i dislike the phoniness of it all. i hate phonies. goddamn. why sometimes i just hate them so much that i wish i could just be, like, a catcher. standing in the rye on the side of a crazy cliff, just catching people if they start to go over...
February 9, 2005
[while watching a rerun of the sox-yankees game 6 with j]
j: hey, what does 2 h-r 3 k mean?
j: on the scoreboard thingy for the pitcher just then. it said '2 h-r 3 k.'
m: that means 2 home runs, 3 strike outs.
j: oh, i thought it meant that he made $3,000 every 2 hours.
Labels: Red Sox
February 8, 2005
this is a momentous occasion. the posting by which all further postings will be judged. so i guess i have to say something witty and smart to will prove that i belong in the land of proclaiming-the-minutia-of-my-life-online-for-the-world-to-see and typing-in-all-lower-case.
i should probably also put in the obligatory "i don't know what I'll be posting on this site, probably just my funny observations that i think i have a lot of right now but which i will run out of in several months. oh, and also, i have an idiosyncratic way of writing where i say random uninteresting things about myself in a way that only i find idiosyncratic and interesting. i think the moon is made of peanut butter. there! just like that!"
yes those blog-happy suckers are going to love me. of course, i doubt they'll be reading this, but you get the idea.