The Time Has Come, the Walrus Said, to Talk of Many Things...
  Home  |  Archives  |  Music  |  Software  |  About  |  Contact
 | Community | 

 Mount Athos
 Minutia Press
 | NFL Picks | 

 Lucas: 165-91
 Chris: 160-96
 Sports Guy: 118-129-9
syndicate this page
 August 31, 2002 - 04:31 PM | chris
The other night I re-learned

The other night I re-learned how to play the traditional Chinese game of Mah Jongg. Unlike the Windows version of Mah Jongg, which involved matching stacked tiles, the real game is a lot like the card game Gin in that you want to get groups of three identical tiles or three consecutive tiles of the same "suit". Like most Chinese games, the numbers and characters are in unreadable (to me Chinese characters), and like all Chinese games Pete often makes up rules as we go along.

Pete [after drawing a tile]: Ooh, it's a special combo. Everyone owes me a buck.
Me: But you flipped the tiles face down, how do I know what the combo is or if there is any combo at all?
Pete: That's the rule.

Pete [after I win a game]: No special combos, everyone owes you $2.

Pete [after Pete wins a game]: $2 base plus the Dragon is $16 plus two flowers is $2 plus I was the dealer (keep in mind no one actually deals, people pick their own tiles from the table) and won the last game so that's 2 more dollars. Everyone owes me $22 and I get to deal again.

We don't actually play for money, or else I would take the time to look up the rules and verify that Pete isn't just making things up as it so often seems. The other day when Pete wasn't playing, I won all 3 games. Last night with Pete playing and thinking up new combos fast and furious, I only won once. Although there isn't really very much skill to Mah Jongg, something seems a little off about that.

 August 30, 2002 - 11:57 PM | chris
Only in my home state

Only in my home state of Flore-da would a demolition crew hit the wrong house with a bulldozer.

They already make CDs of cats singing Christmas carols (thanks to Pete's girlfriend Xiaoou for bringing this to my attention last winter), but now they actually make CDs for cats, and they cost almost $20. Items like this really make me wonder if companies do any sort of marketing research anymore.

Executive A: "I have an idea, let's release a CD with the target audience of 'Cats'"
Executive B: "But cats don't have any source of income, nor do they usually purchase CDs"
Executive A: "That's ok, we'll charge $20 each for the discs so we don't have to sell as many to turn a profit"

And in one of the more hilariously-written stories I've read on CNN, N*Syncher Lance Bass plans to pull out his guitar and jam in space but not to "play any concerts or cut any records". What a shame.

 August 30, 2002 - 11:21 AM | chris
A few days ago I

A few days ago I posted about Leonard Nimoy's unfortunate foray into music video-ness and compared it to the original Batman movie. Well last night that movie was on AMC and my roommates and I had the fortitude to catch the last half hour or so of it.

If you haven't seen this movie, it's about even with Superman IV: The Quest for Peace in terms of realism. There is shark-repellent spray, diplomats being completely dehydrated and turned into test-tubes full of colored dust (and then re-hydrated to form people again), Batman being seduced by Catwoman since he doesn't recognize her without her flimsy mask on, The Penguin purchasing a nuclear submarine using the fake name "P.N. Guinn", said submarine launching "Polaris rockets" bigger than the submarine itself (and with the exact same camera shot each time), and many more complete absurdities. This is the kind of movie where every time something happens you just want to scream at the writers for not even attempting to stick to the laws of physics.

It also has some of the greatest movie quotes:

-At one point Batman is carrying a large black spherical bomb with a huge fuse projecting from the top of it around the city in search of a place to dispose of it without hurting anyone. Robin suggests he tosses it into a bar full of drunks, but Batman reprimands him and say: "They may be drinkers, Robin, but they're still human beings." with the corniest of deliveries.

-When Batman finds out that The Penguin used such an obvious fake name to purchase the submarine, he admonishes the seller by saying: "Disposing of pre-atomic submarines to persons who don't even leave their full addresses? Good day, Admiral!" In fact, Batman does a lot of admonishing and reprimanding in this movie, every time with...a delivery where he...pauses between...phrases.

-And of course there is this great exchange at the beginning of the movie:

Commissioner Gordon: "Penguin, Joker, Riddler...and CATWOMAN, too! The sum of the angles of that rectangle is too monstrous to contemplate!"
Batman: "We've been given the plainest warning: they're working together to take over..."
Chief O'Hara (played in the most stereotypically Irish way possible): "Take over WHAT, Batman: Gotham City?!"
Batman: "Any *2* of them would try that!"
Commissioner Gordon: "The whole country?!"
Batman: "If it were 3 of them, I would say yes, but *4*?! Their minimum objective must be... THE ENTIRE WORLD."

Using this logic, what are mafia crime families taking over? The entire universe?

-And finally to end the movie, a line that sums up the entire exercise in the most effective way possible:

Batman: "Let's go...but inconspicuously...out the window"

 August 29, 2002 - 09:54 PM | chris
Overheard while watching Justin Timberlake's

Overheard while watching Justin Timberlake's "solo" performance at the MTV music awards:

David: This just went from lame to lamer.
David: And that usually doesn't happen when they bring the black people out.

 August 28, 2002 - 11:31 AM | chris
It's been awhile since I've

It's been awhile since I've done this, so let's stroll through the news:

-If you name your child Turok you can win $10,000. Says a spokesman from Acclaim, the company that manufactures the Turok video game and is sponsoring the contest: "People for generations have been naming their children for sports celebrities, movie star, musicians, It's a natural evolution ... people are going to start naming their children for video games." Unless the parents continue to get paid large amounts of money, don't expect to see a large crop of kids named Luigi or Sonic anytime in the near future.

-I guess this was inevitable. This is just a bad, bad idea for so many reasons.

-They're looking for Anthrax at the National Enquirer. Apparently the terrorists are now trying to help us rather than destroy our culture.

 August 28, 2002 - 12:58 AM | chris
Like Elvis in his later

Like Elvis in his later days, -273 is becoming larger and larger. We welcome to the fold Full Professor Ron Cytron and his creation, Minutia Press. He has some interesting thoughts about weblogs, particularly his post about there being two types: the emotional (or personal experience-related in an emotional way) and the witty worldview (or personal experience-related in a trying-to-be-funny way). In an outside conversation, he also observed that females usually gravitate towards the former and males to the latter. Looking just at the blogs I have linked up to we see:

-273 (male): witty worldview
Ouranophobe (female): emotional
Erv (male): witty worldview (when he actally posts)
The Chris Hill Festival (male): witty worldview
Mount Athos (male): witty worldview
Ab9 (male): witty worldview
Lightistoobright (female): emotional
Pandaposse (female): emotional, but more of a mixture

Not that the guys are never emotional or the girls are never funny, but the general tone seems to put stock in the Full Professor's claim. This page has been pretty lacking of emotion besides my angered outburst a month back at my relationship situation, and that's probably all for the best. Which category will Minutia Press fall under? Keep reading and find out...

 August 27, 2002 - 02:16 AM | chris
Amy gets all the credit

Amy gets all the credit for this one as she posted about it earlier, but I just had to link to it here also because it's so damn addicting. It is a music video of Leonard Nimoy singing a song about Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit. It features, besides the horrendous vocals of Mr. Nimoy, a group of women wearing "Spock" pointed ears flailing about in what I suppose was designed to be a choreographed routine, a scene where he climbs up a rock and then starts crooning the ballad of Bilbo to one of the women in a goofy "romantic" way, another scene where he is singing on the rock and the women are behind it throwing clothing up in the air in what seems to imply a gigantic orgy, and a part where Mr. Nimoy sings about Gollum's magic ring and twirls a roll of masking tape on his finger before tossing it offstage. This ranks right up there with the original Batman movie from the 60's in terms of intentional comedy that is so much funnier than it even attempted to be.

 August 26, 2002 - 04:26 PM | chris
The Festival has gone corporate,

The Festival has gone corporate, and not by design. Last year I got my picture taken for Hatchet, the WashU yearbook, and after giving copies to my parents and now-ex girlfriend, I promptly forgot about it. Until today. It seems that there are gigantic posters hanging around campus (including smack in the middle of Mallinckrodt center) advertising the yearbook, and they decided to feature my photo prominently in the middle of it. This tells me that not only will yearbook sales plummet to record lows this year, but every time I walk around campus, every single undergraduate (especially the attractive female undergraduates) will point and snicker at me and whisper "there's that dork from the yearbook poster". My life just keeps getting better and better doesn't it?

 August 26, 2002 - 12:56 AM | chris
I forgot one of the

I forgot one of the most important aspects of Disney Channel movies: the kids must all live either with non-parental relatives or with only one parent. The other parent's death, divorce, or disappearance is always a hurdle the characters must cross to discover themselves and/or deal with their new changes.

 August 25, 2002 - 11:38 AM | chris
Have you ever noticed that

Have you ever noticed that Disney Channel original movies have one of only two plots:

Plot A: Tooly guy who does some sort of research all day is put into an academic situation with an attractive girl, who then must choose between him and her jock/rich/arrogant boyfriend. Boy learns how to be more social, girl learns that she doesn't need to be with a popular boy to be happy.

Plot B: Boy or girl undergoes some sort of weird change (meeting someone from outer space, turning into a merman at age 13) and must deal with it while hiding terrible secret from everyone except close friend or possible boyfriend/girlfriend.

Every single one can be grouped loosely into one of these categories, which makes me think that if the whole CS thing falls through I could always become a writer for the Disney channel. Just plugging these formulaic characters into different wacky situations can't be too difficult.

 August 25, 2002 - 12:51 AM | chris
I have been remiss in

I have been remiss in not pointing you in the direction of the newest member of the -273 family. Give a warm welcome to Jim "I'm not Joe" Tucek's creation at The menu bar will be updated accordingly next time I'm in the code-editing mood.

 August 24, 2002 - 05:33 PM | chris
Lucas has beaten me to

Lucas has beaten me to two posts I have been meaning to make: LifeGem and Cleveland Indians utilityman Coco Crisp. It is perhaps time to start utilizing the trapdoor I have to get into his site and make some changes. I will not be scooped...

 August 24, 2002 - 11:56 AM | chris
While I was at home,

Why is it that every small town in America is required to have a water tower? Specifically a water tower with "Welcome to [insert town name here], [insert kitschy pointless town fact here]" printed on it in large block letters. For instance "Welcome to Metropolis, IL, home of Superman" (with a large picture of superman painted on). Why do no large cities have decorative water towers? Don't they need water too? Why don't I see "Welcome to Atlanta. If you can read this, you haven't been gunned down yet" or "Welcome to East St. Louis, Bling Bling!"

Some other observations from the road:

-The city of Atlanta has the most traffic, but St. Louis definitely wins the award for most dangerous highways. That intersection right before the bridge where every highway in the midwest merges together then comes out on the opposite side so that every car has to cross 5 lanes of traffic to get where they're going is absolutely brutal.

-Is there anyone with a southern accent who sounds intelligent?

-Is every town in the country the something capital of the world? Do they really need to advertise this fact on their water towers?

-Does anyone actually see the sign for "National Quilt Museum" and think, "wow, I really don't actually want to get where I'm going, I'm going to stop here for awhile."?

It's a crazy world we live in, one you can only see from the road during an 18 hour marathon.

 August 21, 2002 - 10:16 PM | chris
I was the target of

I was the target of some great searches today including: "Americans are stupid", "monkey bartender", "funny fraternity shirts", "natalie portman's tight see through costume", and of course "cozumel prostitutes". If nothing else, I want my site to be known as the source for funny fraternity shirts.

Tomorrow I begin my own personal Odyssey. No mythical monsters, just a trip through the deep south and the bible belt from south Flore-da back to the Lou. 18 hours of NASCAR fans, wrestling fanatics, animal heads on the wall in gas stations, Shania Twain, Christian Rock radio stations, a Cracker Barrel and Bob Evans at every intersection, and all the other things we all associate with backwater Georgia. I'll be back in my pad on Friday, and thanks to my car shopping extravaganza, the Festival is now mobile. Look for it in a Computer Science classroom near you.

 August 20, 2002 - 03:36 PM | chris
In the past, I have

In the past, I have bitched about Team 31's choice of band's for WILD, WashU's twice-annual festival of drunkenness and hospital visits. Team 31 maintains that the reason they choose crappy bands is because good bands are too expensive or they can't book far in advance, but thanks to vigilant reader Bob Flynn we can now go past the veneer of lies and find out the truth.

This page details the cost and relative timetable for hiring many of today's top artists (and some old dinosaurs looking to make a quick buck) for a performance. If we were a rich (and stupid) school, we could get Beyonce and her two co-stars du jour in Destiny's Child for a cool 250 grand. If we lived in the south, we could get Shania Twain for a whopping 300 thousand big ones. You, too, can "let the dogs out" for the bargain price of only ten thousand dollars. And Tool, a band whose sound can be most closely approximated by Vanessa's air conditioning unit, runs at "$200K plus".

Some other amusing entries:

-We can bring Arrested Devleopment out of retirement for only $10K
-Hootie costs $20K but add the rest of the Blowfish and you're 50 grand in the hole.
-We can ensure that no one gets drunk at WILD by hiring Gilbert Gottfried for $10 thousand, thereby forcing everyone to leave the quad to escape his grating voice.
-DJs are cheap (which is appropriate since they aren't actually making their own music), there is a whole gaggle of them all for less than $15K.
-Dave Matthews costs over $100,000 but unfortunately he doesn't play colleges. I guess he doesn't like our "no smoking pot on stage" policy.

And here's how Team 31 has misappropriated our funds in the past:
-Crazytown: $40K (for that one damn Butterfly song. Sugar. Baby.) + Saliva: $20K + Stereomud: $10K = Complete Ripoff
-G. Love and Special Sauce: $20-30K (I'm sure we managed to negotiate ourselves the highest possible price)
-Outakst: $75-100K (for 30 minutes of music plus a 30 minute sound and microphone check which the crowd mistakenly thought was a song)
-Eve 6: $20-25K (Interesting, the best band we've had has also been the cheapest)

So I urge all of you to find your favorite band on this list, note that chances are they are much cheaper than Outkast, and flood Team 31 with requests and/or complaints. Only together can we expel bad music from Washington University.

 August 19, 2002 - 11:08 PM | chris
Today's topic: Why you should

Today's topic: Why you should quit reading this weblog and go write a self-help book.

If you've ever watched cable television, then you've seen Matthew Lesko parade around in his question-mark suit hocking his book. In it he claims to have sources for billions of dollars of government grant money that people can apply for if they just buy the book and read it. My question is, why isn't Mr. Lesko using these sources to apply for the grants himself? He certainly knows how to apply for grant money, since he has another book out called "How to Write and Get a Grant". The answer is that he's found a more lucrative moneymaking scheme than applying for grants: writing books about applying for grants. Here's a question, which of these sounds like an easier task: a) applying for a government grant b) writing a series of books, getting them published, filming a series of television commercials, paying for them to appear on cable. If selection a were indeed easier or more lucrative, wouldn't Matthew Lesko have taken that path rather than the latter? Just something to think about.

I was listening to talk radio the other day in the car, and there was one of those alternative medicine doctors taking phone calls and dispensing advice. The problem was that he recommended to every single person who called in that they see a chiropractor, regardless of their problem. One guy was having trouble with his pacemaker, and the doctor suggested that he see a chiropractor. Maybe it's because I don't have a doctorate in ginseng and acupuncture, but what the hell does a chiropractor have to do with an electronic device implanted by a heart surgeon? And if this guy is having problems with it, shouldn't he be calling his cardiologist rather than the local quack on the radio? I think Dennis Miller said it best when he said: "Just remember, every once in a while, the untutored maverick whom the medical establishment assumes doesn't know what he's talking about actually doesn't know what he's talking about." There's a reason why there is a whole section at Waldenbooks devoted to "alternative medicine" (apparently performing the acupuncture itself isn't pulling in the G's), but no "Open Heart Surgery for Dummies".

And then there's the Atkins Diet, the latest trendy fad diet sweeping the nation. This one says that carbohydrates are bad, but you can eat all the smoked sausages, bratwurst, cheeseburgers, and sausage and egg mcmuffins that you want. And it works too. Like all fad diets, if you starve your body of one of its nutrients, it compensates by getting energy from stored fat which makes you lose weight. But in case you haven't noticed it's really freaking unhealthy. See, there's this other thing called "cholesterol" which causes your arteries to harden, which leads to heart attacks. Cholesterol is found most often, along with equally unhealthy saturated fats, in same sausages, processed pork products, and fast food. But Dr. Atkins (who also, I might add, is making a tidy sum selling books about how to cram as much saturated fat as possible into one meal) claims that it's ok because he was on the diet and it hasn't given him a heart attack yet. Umm, there's just one little problem. Different people have different risks for heart attack. Maybe Dr. Atkins has a metabolism like a hummingbird that can quickly break down the fat into energy before it takes residence in his arteries, but that's certainly not true for everyone. I will not be the least bit surprised when a few years down the road when long term studies can be done, people will find that, surprise surprise, saturated fat is bad for you, which I believe has already been shown. So go ahead, eat your steak and egg pizza. I'll eat my balanced diet containing both meats and carbohydrates in balanced portions and continue to exercise, and the best part is that I won't be making Dr. Atkins' wallet any fatter.

 August 18, 2002 - 09:49 PM | chris
Did they ever find: -"God

Did they ever find:

-"God Shammgod" insane?
-batgirl costume?
-geico commercial song?
-emo punk guitar lessons?
-geico bobblehead?
-dashboard confessional tattoos?

Because they found this page looking for them.

 August 18, 2002 - 09:46 PM | chris
Things I've learned from music

Things I've learned from music videos:

-If your band brings instruments to school and start playing them in the halls or classrooms (without even plugging them in I might add), then instead of getting in trouble your teachers will dance around, your classmates will love you, and all females in your school will be attractive and making out with someone.

-Metal teeth, rather than being a sign of poor dental hygiene, is a sign of wealth and status. Or a sign of being a villain in a James Bond movie.

-If you are indie or a solo acoustic act, then the world is in a constant state of blurriness, and the sun often shines brightly into your mostly-empty apartment. Do any indie artists own their own homes?

-The attractiveness of a girl is directly correlated to how large her ass is.

-There are no unattractive girls in the world (unless you are singing a song about one particular unattractive girl who is being picked on by her classmates, in which case there is exactly one unattractive girl in the world).

-If I were cool, I would be wearing either a football jersey or a cap of a now-defunct baseball team right now.

-One need not have musical talent to be a successful musician as long as they have a big entourage, long sandy-blonde indie hair, a large gold chain with a dollar sign around their neck, or bleach-tipped spiked hair covered by a visor.

 August 17, 2002 - 10:32 PM | chris
Ever since I have been

Ever since I have been car-shopping, I have been much more aware of car ads on tv. Until now, I've mostly just tuned them out, but now that I've noticed them and understand the car buying process a little better, I see even more clearly just how ridiculous they are.

Car ads fall into a few major groups:

Local Car Ads
These are the low-budget ones that the local dealers come out with. They often feature dogs with clever names like "Barkley" wearing clothing (especially hats), fireworks or computer graphic fireworks, and dealers holding wads of hundred dollar bills in each fist. Local dealerships, judging from these commercials, are in a constant state of having to liquidate their inventories, and are so desperate for cheap acting talent that they often put random family members in their ads.

Toyota Ads
It's fun to buy a Toyota! People play sand volleyball, Lou Bega is mamboing in the background, and there are large quantities of balloons everywhere. I can say with certainty after this week that it is definitely not fun to plunk down half of your life savings with the promise of paying the other half plus interest over the next 3 years for an asset that depreciates in value, and I doubt that the presence of one-hit-wonder musicians would have made it that much better.

Truck Ads
Truck companies are convinced that people want powerful vehicles, so they try to outdo each other in who has the most rugged truck. The latest effort shows a pickup truck towing a boat. Not just a little speedboat but an Icebreaker, a boat that is probably 20 or 30 times as long as the truck and weighs god knows how much more. At the bottom of the screen is the word "Dramatization". This is clearly false advertising, as it should say "If our truck can actually do this, we would be shocked. If you actually try this with our truck, you're a freaking moron". SUVs have similar ads, and almost all feature, at some point, the vehicle driving through a shallow river or streambed or uprooting tree stumps, as if these are common uses for 4-wheel-drive vehicles.

Financing Ads
These can be ads for any car, but they all feature the great financing package you'll get rather than what car you're buying. The latest Nissan commercials, for instance, feature "0% Financing! No Money Down! No payments until 2003! It's a free car dammit!" Well, not that last one, but it makes you wonder what kind of car you're getting when they're advertising the financing plan. I mean, you don't even know how deep of a stream it can drive through.

Infiniti Ads
They don't run these much anymore, but remember that creepy guy? "This is the clock in the J. If the engineers spent this much time on the clock and on finding the spookiest actor they could, then just imagine how great the rest of the car is." This car is targeted towards the segment of the market that purchases Lexuses (Lexuxes? Lexii?), namely the "we don't know what to do with our money, so we spend $40,000 on a car that's probably worth half that" segment.

 August 15, 2002 - 09:45 PM | chris
Buying car insurance is like

Buying car insurance is like betting against your favorite sports team. If they win, you're happy but you lose your money, if they lose, you're sad but you make money. Auto insurance is the same way, since unless you get in an auto accident you're basically throwing your money away. Car insurance is also a lot like gambling, because the house (i.e. the insurance company) always wins.

They ensure this by using past statistics to come up with a wacky formula to decide how much to charge you for a premium, and they apparently have not discovered the meaning of the words "meaningful variables". For instance, in order to determine how much to charge, a rational person might look at the number of past moving violations, the amount of time someone has had a license, and what city they're driving in. Insurance companies look at these things, but they also look at color of your car. Apparently people who drive red cars are more likely to drive fast than people in cars of other colors. Even if said red car is a 1985 Volvo or something of that ilk.

The companies also have arbitrarily decided that at exactly age 25 you go from a reckless speed demon with a death wish on the road to a responsible adult capable of making responsible decisions. Therefore premiums for 24-year-olds are much much higher than 25-year-olds.

Also, and girls you're going to love this, males are reckless drivers. That's right, all of them. Therefore even though a certain female whose name I will not mention was stopped for going 97 in a 65 zone while I have never been stopped for anything, I am forced to pay higher insurance rates just because I was born a guy and decided to stay that way.

All of these rules ensure that there is no way the insurance company can lose money and that the worse driver you are, the better a chance you'll actually see some return on your investment. And then, if by some chance I ever did get in an accident, even if it was the other person running a red light and slamming into my car, I would get hassled and nickled-and-dimed, and then my rates would go up. Because before they just thought I was a bad driver (since I'm a 22-year-old male in a small car), but now they know for sure! Only a reckless teenage thug with no respect for traffic laws would let someone else hit their car, you see.

Meanwhile Mr. and Mrs. State Farm Insurance can buy mansions in Florida and boats with names like "Peg Leg Scurvy Sea Dog" and roll around in a pile of my reckless teenage thug money. But wait, you say, I don't have to buy caviar for Mr. and Mrs. Insurance. There's no law that says I can't drive without it. Yes there is! There is a federal law that all drivers on the road must be covered by collision insurance. So keep smoking your stogies State Farm, the money train won't end for a looooong time.

 August 13, 2002 - 02:06 PM | chris
Those of you who know

Those of you who know me know that I'm in the market for a car. Not that I want a car, by any stretch of the imagination. I want weekly gas bills, maintenance fees, monthly car payments, monthly insurance payments, and the hassle of parking and worrying about whether or not my auto will be jacked in the stealingest city in the country about as much as I want a hole in my head. However, there are certain things I need to live, such as groceries, that cannot be obtained via walking.

The whole car-buying process is unlike buying any other product. Let's say I need a roll of paper towels to clean up some water I spilled on the counter. I go to Wal-Mart and ask a customer service rep where the paper towels are. They point me in the right direction, I find the cheapest ones, I bring them to the register, and I'm out the door in 5 minutes.

Now compare that with purchasing a car. I know I want a late-model used import car (no trucks or SUVs or Hummers, I'm not towing any trains or uprooting trees) with relatively low miles on it and good fuel economy at a fixed price level. So I go to the local dealer and tell him this, and he tries to sell me a new car significantly above my fixed price level. I again tell him what I'm looking for, and he points out that I get $1000 cash back for buying the new car. This still leaves it well, well above my fixed price level. I actually tell him about a specific used car in his lot I want to look at, and on the way to look at it he shows me a new car and says how it is better than the used one.

Using my Wal-Mart example, this would be like the customer service rep answering my paper towel inquiry by showing me the $50 deluxe Egyptian silk bath towels. Sure they both do the job, but I know what I need. I'm not stupid, I know that the dealer gets a kickback for selling new cars. It would be different if I were just browsing, but I'm not. I have specific requirements, and I expect to be shown something that at least fits some of those requirements.

The best part about visiting a car dealer is the stories. In an effort to show you how friendly they are, and how they really want to find the best vehicle for you, they regale you with car stories. Some of the best ones I've heard:

-"I know all the cars in the lot. People will ask me about that Camaro over there and I know that it is misaligned and pulls to the left, and I'll tell the customer that. The car you asked about is perfect, no problems." Right, that's why it has been sitting in the lot for weeks.

-"The guys here owe me a favor [insert story about oil cap damaging a past car here], so I can give you this car a little cheaper than I normally could." This one is like a cliche, and the oil cap story took like 10 minutes, during which I just looked around aimlessly and payed very little attention.

-"Well they made a mistake with the sticker price, I can knock $4,000 off of that." This was actually one dealer's excuse for why a 3-year-old used car was actually priced higher than the sticker price when the car was new. It is amazing how every car in the country depreciates in value the second you drive it off the lot, but this one actually appreciated in value. By knocking $4,000 off, he actually brought the price down near what it's current maximum value is. What a bargain.

-"A woman brought this one back after a week because she didn't like the seat." Regarding a used Lexus with 300 miles on it. $40,000 sticker price is definitely above my fixed price level, but who cares, what a story!

Basically all car dealers want to convince you that every other dealer is a crook, but they are the shining beacon of honesty in a world of slicked-hair, slicker-sales-pitch shysters.

And the dealers are shining beacons of honesty compared to the car insurance folks, more on them tomorrow...

 August 10, 2002 - 10:38 PM | chris
There are three types of

There are three types of people in south Florida: rich people, slobs, and elderly people. The rich people cluster together in exclusive communities with long driveways so you can't actually see their mansions. All you can see are their gates and a sign with some fancy-sounding name like "Odyssey's End". For all we know there could just be an outhouse back there with very very tight security. These aren't even impressively famous rich people either. They are people like Burt Reynolds.

They build their driveways like this to avoid the gawking eyes of the slobs, who make up about 80% of the population. These folks wear ripped NASCAR t-shirts and shorts (even during church and at fancy restaurants), are usually overweight, and for some reason all own boats. There are a number of fishing boats and tour boats you can take around the area, and if you watch the other mariners cruising around in their speedboats they all fit squarely into the slob category. All of their boats have cheesy marine-type names like "It's a Buoy!" or "Surfjammer", and from what I've seen in order to pilot a boat you must be accompanied by a sunburnt, overweight woman in a string bikini and be holding at least one beer. Of course, they are only on the water for about one day per month, with the boat spending the rest of the time being repaired or sitting on a trailer in the front yard. A boat has to be one of the worst investments possible, as I see many more boats rotting in people's driveways than I do actually in the water zipping around.

Then there are the elderly folks. Everything you've heard about them is true. They steal condiments from buffet restaurants, eat dinner at 4 in the afternoon, gamble away all of their money, and can't drive to save their lives. Driving around here is worse than driving in a big traffic-laden city like New York or Atlanta, since at least in the city the cars aren't moving very fast. Here just when you think it is safe to speed up, some 90 year old who can't see will swerve across 4 lanes of traffic and then stop in the middle of the road, waiting to make an illegal left hand turn into a canal.

They don't just restrict their bad driving to cars, though. One day while driving along in the right hand lane of US1, I encountered, in my lane, an old man driving a motorized wheelchair. US1 is not a small country road. It is the backbone of commerce here in Stuart (i.e. it is the one street along which you can find every business in the area), and it runs from Jacksonville all the way down to at least West Palm Beach. It is a six-lane, high-speed-limit road. And this man was traveling at about 3 miles per hour, totally redefining the meaning of the "slow lane".

 August 09, 2002 - 09:42 PM | chris
In Florida, to appease the

In Florida, to appease the elderly people who can't go a day without wasting their money on some sort of gambling, we have a state lottery. It's been here since I lived here (at least 1989), and the jackpots get pretty big now, but of course my grandmother's odds of winning are still infinitesimal and getting worse every day as the population grows.

To justify this great bilking of America's aged, the state donates all proceeds to public education. Every year they come out with stats about how many billions of dollars the public school system is getting from the lottery (read: gullible old people), but at the same time the public school system here is atrocious. Test scores are some of the lowest, and I worked with many of the students at one of the better schools during my tenure at the movie theater during one summer and let's just say they weren't exactly the brightest pennies in the tray.

And then there is the Rocky Point Crew. As an example of the fine young people we have around here, there was a group of 12-14 year olds in my area (called Rocky Point because it is surrounded by water on 3 sides) who fancied themselves a gang. To mark their turf, they would spray paint "RPC" (for Rocky Point Crew) on local Stop signs. I actually witnessed them in action one night on my way back from the movie theater, and one of them was actually standing on the seat of his bike in order to reach the sign to spray paint it. I haven't seen their mark recently, I guess without a rival faction to have turf wars with they just kind of dissolved when they went to high school. This, in a nutshell, is Stuart, Florida. Even the gangs here are half-assed.

 August 08, 2002 - 11:21 PM | chris
I realize that I'm overdue

I realize that I'm overdue for the next post in this week's Florida Week series, but I also realize that it is 12:18 AM and I am sleepy. I'll try to make up for it somehow, but for now you'll have to rest easy knowing that 52 people viewed my site today, but only one searched Google for "For it is the chilling sound of your doom!" to find it.

 August 07, 2002 - 10:04 PM | chris
My archives work again! Revel

My archives work again! Revel in my past!

 August 06, 2002 - 03:29 PM | chris
Today's stroll through the search

Today's stroll through the search stats:

The Festival is:
-#2 on AOLsearch for "Native American porn"
-#3 on Google for "Batman movie neon"
-#3 on Yahoo for "Smuggle alcohol onto cruise"
-#4 on some French-Canadian search engine for "Denise Richards smoking cigarette"
-#2 on Yahoo for "Captain Morgan commercial aerobics"

That's right, these are my readers.

 August 06, 2002 - 03:17 PM | chris
I went outside this morning

I went outside this morning and raccoons had gotten into our garbage again. I'm pretty sure that raccoons are smarter than humans, since they've managed to outwit our tight-sealing garbage cans and use our swimming pools to wash off their food, while most Americans can't find their own state on a map. One early morning a couple of summers ago I awoke in the middle of the night to an awful screeching noise outside my window. After convincing myself that the world was not ending and we were not being burglarized by banshees, I peeked out the window and saw two raccoons hissing and fighting with each other. I banged on the window to scare them, but they turned and hissed at me which scared the crap out of me, so I abandoned my attempts and grudgingly accepted my position below the raccoons in species supremacy.

Florida is also one of the only states in the union where you can see live armadillos. Most armadillos choose long stretches of highway as their natural habitat and therefore occur most often in nature as roadkill. This affinity for the automobile culture explains why I came back late one night and an armadillo actually followed my car into the garage. I thought this was the coolest thing ever and tried to corner it in the back of the garage, but my parents had other ideas and either screamed (my Mom) or chased it with a broom (my Dad) until it returned to the roadway, most likely to be struck down soon after.

The all time greatest Florida animal story, however, occurred last winter. During Thanksgiving break, a lot of fuss was made by the locals when a very large wild turkey decided to take residence in the front yard of a house down the street from me. "Ha ha, it's a turkey on Thanksgiving!," they cleverly noted. But the holiday came and went and the turkey stayed. I would drive past the house multiple times a day and it would always be there, sometimes coexisting nicely with the kids who lived in the house. Obviously the kids had been feeding the turkey, which is more effective than an electric fence for making sure animals never leave the premises. Then, the unthinkable (and inevitable) happened. The turkey, no longer fearing humans, made like an armadillo and strayed too close to the road and was struck and killed by a car.

Normally this would be the end of the story, but the tire tracks from the offending vehicle veered way off the road into the yard, and this was more than enough to evoke the suspicion of foul play. The local television stations did multiple stories on the turkey, ranging from heartrending (showing the young girl playing in the yard with the turkey and their "favorite toy, the oven mitt" as well as the turkey sleeping on the roof of the house) to criminal (interviews with neighbors who claimed to see a white car driven by a teenager swerve off the road and hit the animal). This went on for a few days.

In Stuart, Florida, much like St. Louis, there are many crimes that occur everyday that go unsolved. Houses are vandalized, stores are robbed, people are murdered in the seedier parts of town, and the offenders manage to evade capture because, despite advances in forensics, the police just aren't equipped to handle motiveless crimes. This being said, you can probably guess that the turkey-killing culprit was caught in three days. Normally it takes longer than that for the police just to get to the scene of the crime and look for evidence, but for an important case like this and with great evidence (everyone in this entire state drives a white or beige car) the coppers mobilized themselves quickly.

The culprit, being a first-time offender, was fined and sentenced to a bunch of community service. So let this be a lesson to you criminal-types who come down to Florida to put a hit on someone: make sure you don't kill any pets. Because while murdering innocent people is just a sign of the downward spiral of American culture, killing animals is inhumane.

 August 05, 2002 - 02:17 PM | chris
I really want to play

I really want to play tennis against my uncle tonight, but unfortunately it 'm playing in a tournament down here, so I've got to practice up and I can't do that if it's pouring down rain.

Tennis is a big sport in south Florida, despite the age of the residents. My grandparents live in one of those "old folks neighborhoods" where you have to be at least 55 to move in. There is very competitive bingo every Wednesday night which is open to people not from the neighborhood, although if they ever win then the residents complain that it is a fix and that the "outsiders" shouldn't be allowed to play. They also sometimes arrive 1-2 hours early so they can reserve their "lucky seats" and arrange their bingo cards in a certain pattern. But the craziest thing of all is the tennis. There are people in the neighborhood in their 90s who have had knee replacements, hip replacements, and heart bypass surgeries, who still play tennis every morning even when the heat index hovers around 100 degrees. And they don't just stand there and bounce the ball back and forth, they play hard and even fall down. Then the clock strikes 11 AM and it's time for lunch, The Price is Right, and many heated discussions about the physical ailments of everyone else in the neighborhood.

 August 04, 2002 - 11:26 PM | chris
Now Amy has a lot

Now Amy has a lot of interesting things to say about the bad boy issue. This is all fascinating to me to finally know what the hell girls are thinking.

Today I played cards with my grandmother, which is always amusing because she cheats and then blames it on her "bad eyesight" or "forgetfulness", then pitches a fit if she loses. She makes the best meatballs and cookies, though. Her advice for today was "If you're going to Las Vegas, you have to go with live people". This was in response to a story on the news about a rich gambler getting murdered in Vegas. I love my grandparents, they are both so much like stereotypical elderly people that it is funny.

 August 03, 2002 - 11:02 PM | chris
Rachel has a lot of

Rachel has a lot of thoughtful responses to my recent posts, so be sure you go read them. I don't necessarily agree with her, especially the part about all guys just wanting sex more than relationships, but that's what journalism is all about, kids.

I flew on a plane today, which is never a good thing for anyone involved. I was so late to the gate that they actually asked me "are you Mr. Hill?" before I took out my boarding pass. I was hassled my security once again, apparently because of my foreign looks and unkempt appearance, and I spent the entire flight gripping the armrests in an effort to hold the plane up. I'm not fond of heights, and I'm not fond of not being in control, and when you combine them together you get me practically jumping out of my seat every time there is a noise in the plane, be it landing gear, flaps, the in-flight video, announcements, or children coughing.

In other news, I find myself in sunny, thunderstormy Florida, where the entire economy is propped up by seafood restaurants and the average denizen is a member of AARP. I have decided that in honor of my visit this week will be Florida Week on the Chris Hill Festival where I will expound upon one wacky aspect of this backwater town every day. At least that's my goal. Some topics to look forward to:

-Elderly folks and their unusual vehicular tendencies.
-In which a young girl and her adopted-pet-wild-turkey were headline news for a week.
-The "Rocky Point Crew", a gang of young vandals with high aspirations.

And hopefully later in my visit:

-Chris enters the high-return-on-investment world of car ownership.

 August 02, 2002 - 11:41 PM | chris
I received some advice about

I received some advice about my earlier column about girls which was somewhat contradictory. Person A writes that "girls are fucking crazy". Person B writes that "people are more complex than they appear to be, even after you take that
observation into account. Some people can hide their complexity fairly well, but eventually, the complexity manifests itself.
The part you don't see at first can be due to all kinds of factors you'd never suspect. The part you see at first can be dazzling, but then there can be that other part that lies beneath."

I think part of the problem is that guys and girls think on totally different planes, making communcation impossible. No matter what you say, a girl will think of it in terms of her own plane regardless of what you meant, and vice versa. Elephants and donkeys can't communicate with each other, and neither can guys and girls.

And thus ends relationship week here at the Festival. I'll be going home tomorrow, so my posts will either become less frequent or more frequent depending on how bored I am. I'll try to resume more amusing posts next week, I've had my time to grieve. Goodnight everybody.

 August 02, 2002 - 03:37 AM | chris
Relationship week continues on the

Relationship week continues on the Chris Hill Festival as we ponder that age old question: why do girls go after bad boys in an effort to "bring out their sensitive side"?

Or, to put it in Simpsons terms:

Lisa: "I guess you could say I want to bring out the Milhouse in Nelson".
Milhouse: "But I'm *all* Milhouse!"

Some of my weblogless friends and I discussed it and couldn't really come up with a legitimate-sounding reason. I mean, if you ask a guy what he looks for in a girl, most of them don't say "sleeps around", "sketchy", or "jailtime", but to a girl these traits become things like "free-spirited", "unique", and "rebellious".

Well, I've put in a minimal amount of thought into the subject, now it's your turn. My efforts to make the Festival an interactive experience have mostly failed, but I'm serious this time. You have a number of options for letting your voice be heard. You can post to your own weblog and then give me a heads up so I can link to it, you can email me your thoughts and I'll post them here myself, or you can even IM me at crhill1979.

 August 01, 2002 - 08:24 AM | chris
My about page construction is

My about page construction is nearing completion, as I have finally added a picture of myself (albeit one taken when I'd just woken up in the morning). If anyone has any suggestions of what else to do with this page, let me know.