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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

V-eye-agra

A few days ago it was announced in the BBC news that about 34 different users of Viagra reported going blind. 24 million people have been taking Viagra since it was first released. 34/24,000,000 = a tiny, tiny fraction of the people that take Viagra.

Big deal right? Apparently not, according to the stock market. The day after the news was released about the Viagra/blindness link, Pfizer, the company that makes Viagra, lost a small percentage of its stock. This shows the dumbass paranoia that is bred by the media's hunt for eye-opening headlines.

Besides most guys would rather go blind than not be able to use their penis. Published in the June issue of Men's Health magazine are the answers to it's online survey of the question: "Which body part would you least like to lose?"

The percentages according to the 3742 people who responded:

Penis 52.8%
Eye 20%
Leg 8.6%
Tongue 7.4%
Testicles 4.5%
Arm 4.4%
Other 2.3%

With the naughty bits occupying a whopping 57.3% of most cherished body parts, I'd say that having a few guys go blind from Viagra isn't a big deal. Only 20% of the respondents said that they would least like to lose their eye compared to the 52.8% that would rather hold on to their penises. And even if you take into consideration that the survey only mentioned losing one eye, you could still presumably double the percentage for that one eye to account for the other. At this rate, then, still 12.8% more people would prefer to keep their penises then their eyeballs.

So Viagra makes a tiny percentage of people who take it go blind - big deal. Besides more guys would prefer to have a fully-functioning set of twig and berries than the ability to see. And maybe that's the problem, because what isn't being seen clearly here is that the statistical significance of these reports is zero to none.

Grad School

Just got a call today that i've been accepted into the Marriage and Family Counseling program at Governor's State University. I'll begin studying for my Master's degree in August.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

"Fraud Alert!"

A few days ago I logged onto my bank account online with the University of Illinois Credit Union. Waiting for me in the inbox was a message sent out to all of the bank members from the bank's central office. After reading the title of the message, "Fraud Alert!", I was left with the immediate sensation that I had something to do with all of this.

As I have graduated and moved out of Champaign and back to Chicago my apartment back down south is going unused. Now i'm paying rent for the set of bedsheets and dust-bunnies that I left behind. Of course this wasn't the original plan.

Originally I was hoping to sublet my bedroom for the remainder of the summer. I placed an ad in the Daily Illini and followed through on the plethora of inquiries I received with descriptive e-mails and links to the sublet webpage. Many nibbles, no bites.

Then I received an e-mail from a man named Thomas Pink.

Hello, My name is Thomas Pink,Am from Greece.I saw ur advert on ur room for rent ,and i took interest in it.i would be coming to the US on a business trip which will last for 3 months. i would like to know if its available.If so i will like to know the total amount for the room for 3 months
Thank you.

Thomas' lack of punctuation and grammatical correction convinced me that he was really from a different country. Eager to get to business I sent him a follow-up e-mail several days later explaining to him the cost of the apartment for the summer and payment methods. I didn't hear back from him and, for a while, thought I lost a deal.

Then after a while he wrote back with urgency:
SORRY FOR NOT HAVE GOTTEN BACK TO YOU FOR SOME DAYS BACK.I WAS CALLED ON A FORTNIGHT AGO THAT MY FATHER DEVELOPED STROKE SUDDENLY IN THE EVENING,THEREFORE I HAD TO RUSH TO SEE THINGS FOR MYSELF, INFACT HIS CONDITION IS VERY CRITICAL...

Thomas' father was in trouble and he had to rush to the UK to "see things for himself." I sent my condolensces and told him I would wait for the money orders that he had already sent.

Now here's the tricky part. In a future e-mail Thomas would later explain that he had a business contact in the states that owed him money. This business contact was to send me the money that he owed Thomas plus the money that Thomas owed me for the apartment. I was then to deduct my portion of the total in rent and fees and wire the remaining balance to England. Now, this remaining balance wasn't going to Thomas but to his agent in the UK whose name was "Salami Hamed."

Salami Hamed.

With two cold-cuts in the same name, I knew that something wasn't kosher. I brought up the story to my family at the dinner table the day before cashing the money orders. My stepfather's mom said, "Maybe it's a terrorist that's trying to use your apartment to establish a terrorist cell in the U.S. You know how many young, smart, and foreign people there are at your university..." I sensed the paranoia creeping within my mom and considered her exhortations as the mandatory warnings of a concerned parent but little else. I was going to cash those money orders and make me some money.

Sure I thought something was up, but to a broke college graduate every little bit counts. While in line at the bank waiting to cash the thousand of dollars in money orders my thoughts were divided between how I was going to spend the surplus and whether or not the FBI were tracing me right then and there. Would they shove me into a non-descript minivan as I walked out of the Union? Or would I walk away a freeman and finally be able to afford that laptop i'd been eyeing?

I gave my money order to the banker. She stared at them, flipped them over, looked at them closer, and flipped them over again. "Aren't you going to give it a whiff?" I almost wanted to say before she slipped it through a machine. "Sweet," I thought, "iBook here I come." She ran it again through the machine and looked at the money order some more. Something was wrong. She told me to remain in place as she went to the back of the Credit Union for her supervisor.

It's not going to be that bad, I thought. What, six, seven months in prison for attempted fraud? Besides it would probably just be minimum security. I could play cricket with the rest my fellow inmates before our daily rations of bologna sandwiches and jello-cups. They could teach me computer hacking tricks and I could show them how to burp the ABCs.

The banker returned with a portly woman who carried herself with the air of one who is the supervisor, of one who means business. I remembered watching the shows about those guys who cheated the Vegas casinos on the History Channel and thought to myself that I too was about to be "back-roomed" like they were. I wondered what my masked silhouette would look like on-screen as I related my story of crime some odd years later. I would have to make sure that the voice-alteration wouldn't make my voice sound too robotic or high-pitched.

"Please step into my office," the supervisor said to me and we made our way forward. "These money orders do not appear to be real money orders," she explained as we sat across from each other in her office. Spurious, dubious, counterfeit, not real. I explained to her my situation with complete honesty. She suggested that I go to the cops. I was relieved enough that she didn't call them on her own and told her that I would try to see to it when I found some free time after graduation, which was only a few days away at that time. Now instead of getting hustled by internet thieves i'm hustling the system working weird hours and scoring better employment on my own. I'M MAKING MY OWN LOOT AND NOT STEALING IT FROM OTHER NATIONS,THOMSA,YOU FOERIGN MISSPEELING SCUMBAG.

And, after instances just like mine i'm sure, the Credit Union has responded with mass e-mails and flyers posted all over their offices. Hopefully no one else get played by Thomas Pink the Fink.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Geeks USA

Recently i've gotten back into playing video games online thanks a new broadband connection back here in Chi. Halo 2, it's been awhile.

The online play at Halo 2 is generally populated by pubescent teenagers, young racists (mostly white), and creepy older guys. I fall into the creepy older guy category but it's ok! - Zach Braff from Garden State and the guys from Incubus play Halo 2 online as well!


Zach Braff


The drummer and DJ of Incubus

User "Ljikrogs" from Microsot online service Xbox Live reflects on his chance to play against Incubus:

I got the chance to play against Incubus. They were cool and fun to play with ... Thanks to Xbox Live for setting this up, and thanks to Incubus for taking the time to get smoked by me.
Lolz.

When Napoleon Dynamite said that girls like guys with skills ("... you know, like computer hacking skills, numchuck skills, bow hunting skills...") he should have added "pwning foolz on Halo 2" to the list.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Working Downtown

Now that college is over I have begun working for the department of JPMorgan Chase which is responsible for processing INS applications for U.S. Citizenship. I verify what is on the applications by typing in what I see on the scanned copy of them on a computer screen. Despite the weird hours (11pm-7am) the job is not very demanding. As we are allowed to wear our headphones during work i'm basically being paid to listen to eight hours of music every weekday. Oh and the view getting to and from work in downtown Chicago is mesmerizing.

The people at work are what make the job fun. Once one of the girls nearby mentioned her problems with perspiration. This then turned to a discussion of sweaty crotches and undersides of breasts. They sometimes talk about tampons or penis size "Girl why you swimmin wit a fish when you know dey so many whales out there?" or the latest happenings on General Hospital. Other times they talk about their man problems, "Girl he will just never have that motherly instinct. It's not the way God intended." And as I wonder to myself how anyone can even know what God intends I stop myself and realize that i'm on an episode of a really bad daytime talk show. This is the point where I raise the volume on my iPod.

At 5am everyday when there are only two hours left to work our supervisor leads us through an energizing round of coordinated calisthenics. She boosts up the radio on top of a computer monitor and puts in a CD that has about 20 different versions of the "Cha-Cha Slide" on it. So far I think i've heard about half of them.

At first I was afraid (I was petrified) to dance but after a few minutes on my first day began to clap and turn and jump and stomp and cha cha with everyone else. The rest of the warehouse/sweatshop enviously gathers nearby to peek at the 20 or so of us typists all moving together in a mostly coordinated fashion for nearly ten minutes.

Most of the time during work i'm listening to music on my iPod and pounding away at the keyboard. In between albums, though, i'll pause the music to catch an earshot of the latest soap opera gossip or relationship advice from the black girls nearby. And as the night subsides and the day rolls in i'll be sure to keep my eyes on the clock for 5:00am - for the cha-cha slide and the shuffle and the percolator. Despite the 40-hour week and odd hours i'm managing to adjust to this new lifestyle - one without the non-stop nagging of papers, lectures, homeworks or tests. What i'm still trying to get used to, though, is not having a lovely lady to wake up next to.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars

Sometimes I stop to wonder what the fuss is about the new Star Wars movie. No wars are being ended, no children have been saved from starvation, and no huge tsunamis are sweeping over entire populaces. Nothing is really happening.

Sure big time producers are making truckloads of money and millions of people are spending time truly enjoying themselves - there probably is lots of good that can come out of the release of the new Star Wars movie. But nothing is really happening.

It's a movie, a fantasy, a fairy tale. It's a fictional distraction from the harsher and sometimes more mundane realities of quotidian life. Nothing is really happening and that's the whole reason to celebrate the movie. There are no strings attached, no historical or political ramifications. We payt ten dollars to watch a movie where everything happens a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away and walk away happy. Considering the world that we live in here and now maybe that's just what we need.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Skirts

There are many things that I will probably miss about college. One of those things are skirts - skirts and the girls that wear them.

Girls wearing skirts in the the early spring were always a pleasant reminder of the warm weather to come. Even if I was too numb from drin- er, studying all night long, girls in skirts served as a heads-up that a brighter day was yet to arrive. Once the summer drops skirts are in seemingly endless supply. Even that girl that isn't supposed to be wearing skirts wears one. As they eventually become a standard during the warmer weather skirts provide a much needed distraction from the lecturing professors during those hours-long summer session courses.

Then the fall rolls in and the shift in focus moves away from the skirt as more and more students wearing Illini sweaters and jogging pants begin to resemble shapeless blobs of soft cotton.

But then out of nowhere come the skirts in the winter. Nothing says party-time like a group of like-legged girls in line for a bar and huddled in a circle with their hands buried in their armpits and knees wobbling to and fro, their high heels clattering against the ground like the hooves of a horse that's ready to run. It's the middle of December and girls still want to take off more and more clothes in order to compete with other girls. More power to them. I tell myself that it must take a lot of courage to wait fifteen minutes en queue shivering to death outside of a bar while being subject to the myriad catcalls and craning necks of all the drivers, passengers, bikers, and pedestrians creeping by at a suddenly slower pace. It's even better once inside the bar. All the drunk guys constantly slobber over the exposed legs and those that aren't drunk yet double-up on the shots. Either way they want to strap on those beer goggles a little tighter or still need to get the courage to approach the girls and slobber a little bit closer.

"They're either really brave or really stupid," I told my roommates as we began to suddenly drive at a slower pace past a group of skirted girls in line at Clybourne's. I'd like to think that they're a bit of both - kinda like the rest of us.

Last Day of Classes

Today I was walking out of the Psychology building after class when my academic advisor popped out of his office and called out behind me, "All done with classes, Martin?"

Considering the volume of students that David Skadden academically advises, I was surprised to hear that he actually remembered my name. What was even more surprising, though, was realizing that today really was my last day of classes. I'm forever done with five years of lectures, discussions, dialogues, and debates at the UIUC.

I noticed this sign outside of the English Building as I was walking into the downstairs computer lab just now. It said "Congratulations Seniors!" "Congratulations" - I like that. It sounds a lot better than "Took you long enough." How about "Job Well Done"? I like reading that a lot better than "Good luck finding one with your degree!" Or even today in Psych class someone wrote on the chalkboard "We'll miss you a lot Jenny!" "We'll miss you a lot" is music to my ears compared to hearing my student loans constantly whispering to me for next few years, "We'll always be with you."

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Martin Cortez: Victim of Gang Violence

Martin Cortez has been stabbed in the leg and bashed in the ribs with a steel pipe, according to a story about a violent altercation between rival Hispanic gangs a couple of weeks ago in Pennsylvania. Latinos in Pennsylvania? From the article:

Garcia-Nino stabbed Martin Cortez in the right leg with a tire iron, police said, and then struck him in the right kneecap. Garcia-Nino then dropped the tire iron, according to police, armed himself with a steel pipe and hit Martin in the ribs.