This is Why You’re Fat

This review originally appeared on my blog “Shoot the Sea” when Alison and I still had “We’ve Seen Better” in the works! It belongs here on WSB, really!


I love a good hypothetical situation. I can’t stop myself from forcing absurd questions and circumstances into the minds of those I love. From the ever-excellent game of Whataboutafellow to hypothetical eating contests (sticks of butter, go! Heads of lettuce, go! Lollipops, go! Slushies, go!) to “what would you do if [___]?” and “Imagine if there were a place that [___]” and so on ad nauseam, this has been my favorite game since I could speak.  This amusing comic is me to a T, I freely admit, and I am fortunately blessed with moderately patient friends.

However.

I am sorely disappointed by a popular image blog, because it does not present itself as an honest gross-out contest amongst its fans.

http://www.thisiswhyyourefat.com/

I want the site to be a place that legitimately showcases crazy unhealthy foods that people eat. That is mildly interesting to me (though in practice it winds up being pretty classist, I think!), and it is the way the site seems to present itself. A deep fried mars bar or the KFC DoubleDown are examples of foods that I accept on the site, because they are foods that are bought and sold and eaten.

90% of the content, however, is CLEARLY just fans of the site throwing some bacon and hostess snacks into a hamburger and taking a picture, or deep frying a pile of stuff. And then the readers are supposed to go “Eww, I can’t believe that really exists!!” which is a silly thing to think, because to all effects and purposes, it doesn’t exist. It wouldn’t exist if not for the sake of taking the picture. It’s an entirely different issue than learning there’s a restaurant actually sells a deep-fried pulled pork sandwich or something.

I really don’t care what food you wasted on a rainy Saturday night after a giggling bacon run to the Big Y with your friends, because I know you then either threw it away, split it between your 10 pals, or gamely choked down a few bites before your friends said that was enough to prove you were a man (or woman!). Or maybe you made it alone. 😦 At any rate, unless it is a REAL feature of your regular diet or an item on a menu, I see no reason to go beyond the perfectly entertaining hypothetical attack (“imagine eating GRAVY Popsicles!!! Ewwww!”) and actually waste the cash to make a teetering meter-tall cheeseburger mit pommes frites. The waste is much more sickening to me than the food itself, maybe because I was raised with a “eat every single morsel or you don’t leave the table” mindset. Here are some alternate names for the site:

“This is Why You Need a Hobby”

“Bacon is Hilarious, I am Told!”

“This Would Make You Fat (if you actually ate it)”

“Haha, Gross.”

 

MY RATING: C-

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Million Dollar Money Drop!

This is a shiny new game show which I got to watch a few times with my parents over break. It is pretty enjoyable! Here is how the various elements of the show break down:

1. The GIMMICK

The GIMMICK of the Million Dollar Money Drop is that they are LITERALLY GIVING YOU A MILLION DOLLARS SERIOUSLY IT IS ALL YOURS RIGHT NOW. The stacks of money are lined up right in front of you and you are handling them during the entire game. Then you go through a gauntlet of multiple choice questions, during which you physically place all your $20,000 stacks onto some (but not all) of the answer platforms and in some suspenseful order the money on the wrong answers will DROP INTO A BOTTOMLESS ABYSS WITH SCARY RED LIGHTS.

What I love about the GIMMICK is that it is pure in-your-face psychology designed to make the contestants feel terrible about every choice they make. Working your way down from a million is functionally equivalent to working your way up from zero, but try keeping that in mind while watching a pile of hedge money worth more than you make in a year drop into NOTHINGNESS. In literally every other game show the contestant can be all optimistic and, “Well, $2,000 is a lot more than I came in with!” but this show somehow manages to make $100,000 look pretty damn shabby-just five sad stacks of money that used to be part of a GIANT FUCKING PYRAMID OF CASH.

In the spirit of THE GIMMICK I will give MDMD 100 points to begin with, and it holds on to all of those points this round for sheer nerve!

POINTS REMAINING: 100

2. The Contestants

Also unlike every other game show ever, the contestants are not single individuals, but couples! Well, maybe other shows have done this; I don’t actually watch a lot of game shows other than Jeopardy! and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader. Anyway, this is great. Instead of watching a single person’s facial expressions as they grapple internally with the options, you watch an adorable couple bicker endearingly! However, I will be subtracting ten points for heteronormity and playing into gender roles in general because the categories (they choose between two at each turn) are  often one stereotype or the other, like “Girl Scouts” or “Indy 500” or “Celebrity Couples” or whatever.

POINTS REMAINING: 90

3. The questions

Okay, I am somewhat divided on the questions, because they have one serious drawback and one serious advantage.

The drawback: They are often pretty easy.

The advantage: They are often pretty easy.

Actually, the advantage is not just that the questions are pretty easy, but also the order in which things are revealed: Question category, multiple choice answers, question. This means that with meta-game strategy, I can FREQUENTLY appear to be psychic when watching with my parents by either predicting the obvious question or picking the answer before the question is revealed. And since the kind of question is almost always of the “Which is the most popular ____ or Which is the oldest ____”, you can predict both the question AND the answer before seeing anything! For example, when the category is “Girl Scouts” it is pretty obvious that the answer is “Thin Mints” because the question can only be Which is the Most Popular Girl Scout Cookie.

I like being a fake psychic, but it gets old and winter break is over so now I’m watching the show with my cats, who have higher standards for incredulity. Do I feel good about myself watching this show? Do I feel elated and validated after knowing how to spell “BONO” on a cell phone keypad? Not particularly!

The converse of this is, sometimes I am pretty sure about an answer and it is WRONG, like when I was pretty sure “PASSWORD” was a more common password than “123456”. In the latest episode, the couple lost everything in their mistaken belief that teenagers spend more time on the internet than watching TV. THAT doesn’t make me feel good either, show! All that does is make me despair that I live in an irrational world. In addition, they really stretch out the suspense and deliberating, so there are only about seven questions, per episode. Jeopardy! manages to get up to 61 questions in half the time, which is really like having over SEVENTEEN times as many. Minus fifteen points!

POINTS REMAINING: 75

4. The Time Slot

It’s on at a decent hour, but it comes on right after Glee, which means if I notice that it is on in five minutes I have to either watch another channel and risk missing the beginning of the show OR watch the last five minutes of Glee. Granted, the last five minutes of an episode of Glee are not as a general rule the WORST five minutes of Glee, but that’s not really saying much, is it? Minus five points!

POINTS REMAINING: 70

5. The Host

The host wasted five minutes of my life being vaguely recognizable, so I had to go to IMDB.com to find out where I’d seen him before. I’m still not sure; maybe Doctor Doolittle 2? I’m not proud of that. Otherwise he is fine; not particularly charismatic, but not enragingly irritating, either. He is pretty invisible, and isn’t trying to be Regis Philbin even though the rest of the show is clearly trying to be Who Wants To Be A Millionaire II, so that’s nice. Minus five points for being Not Too Bad!

POINTS REMAINING: 65

6. The MATH

To hedge or not to hedge? As a purely mathematical exercise, there is exactly no advantage to hedging. If you have no clue whatsoever, your expected value is 1/4 (or 1/3 or 1/however many multiple choices there are) of whatever you start with, whether you hedge or not. If you have any intuition or educated guess as to the right answer, hedging will ONLY lower your expected value.

For example, suppose you have options A, B, C and D. You think there is a 40% chance it is A, and a 20% chance it is any of the others. If you are betting $1,000,000 and you put it all on A, your expected value is $400,000. If you put $400,000 on A and $200,000 on everything else, your expected value is a measly $280,000! However, you only get to play the game once, not run a million trials, and thanks to the law of diminishing returns most people would choose to take a smaller (and let’s face it, still insanely huge) amount of money instead of risking it all for mathematically greater rewards.

In addition, the show does not allow total hedging, as the contestants must always leave at least one option free of cash. The options also go down, so on the final question they must risk it all on a 50/50 shot anyway. If you do as much total hedging as possible and never leave the correct answer empty, you wind up with about $4629.62, but you can’t even do THAT because the smallest unit of cash is $20,000 so by Question 4 you are down to 1 or 2 stacks of money.

In case you were wondering, your odds of never accidentally leaving out the right answer in a total hedge if you have no idea about any of the answers is 6.25%, so your actual expected value in this situation is about $289.35, which of COURSE is identical to your expected value if you guess randomly and place the whole $1,000,000 on one answer every time.

Again in the spirit of the thing, we shall wager ALL the remaining points on this final category! Will MDMD lose everything???

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Nope! God help me, I love figuring out math shit. I am going to OWN my financial math and probability courses this semester.

Good work, show! You held on to more than most of your contestants manage to.

FINAL SCORE: 65/10o

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The first Q/A in Marilyn vos Savant’s December 19th, 2010 column

Okay, I’ll try to be objective about Ms. vos Savant, but it won’t be easy. The woman drives me crazy; highest IQ in the world supposedly, and she writes an insipid column for Parade magazine answering questions to which nobody nowadays with access to Wikipedia should ever admit ignorance. Plus her brain teasers always seem to be about what strings of random words have in common, and have answers like, “If you switch the second letter and the fourth, you get another word”, and as a mathematician any riddle that gets lost in translation drives me up the wall. But. She has popularized some very entertaining and counter-intuitive probability questions, like the Monty Hall one, so I will look past my misgivings.

I am writing from a military base in Iraq. We are encouraged to drink a lot of water, and we keep our refrigerator-freezer filled with it. We’ve noticed that if you put a bottle in the freezer, the water sometimes remains a crystal-clear liquid. Yet when you take the bottle out, the water starts to freeze and then turns quickly into frozen mush. Why does this happen?
—John Parrott, Alabaster, Ala.

The phenomenon is called “supercooling.” Ordinarily, water freezes at 32°F, but if your bottled water is distilled or purified—and undisturbed for a while—it may not be able to crystallize into ice, even at a temperature below freezing. Yet move it, and enjoy what happens!

Really, Marilyn? I get that “why” is a neverending descent into an abyss of ignorance, and about three “why”s in we’d be in quantum physics territory, so a detailed explanation of supercooling is probably too much to ask, but her response is basically, “Yes; the thing you described does happen, and here is its name. Glad I could help!” How is this any kind of answer? Why is purified water required? Why is movement required? She must know, it is basic chemistry.

Okay, benefit of the doubt. Maybe she really wanted to do this question justice, BUT those philistines running Parade keep making her downsize her responses. Sure, she spent three times as much space on the question about olive oil, which was simple and could have been sufficiently answered in a sentence, but maybe Parade is making her cater to their housewife demographic. And her column certainly takes up less space than it used to. In fact, if it keeps up I predict by the end of the decade her column will be an actual singularity, wedged between page after page of detailed prescription drug ads.

So, while she didn’t really ANSWER the question, she did give the reader enough information to maybe look up the answer on his own. And she chose to answer the question of an AMERICAN PATRIOT, so +2 points. Maybe she is lazy, but maybe she just needs to put more effort into Fighting the Good Fight.

Either way, her answer gets a: 6/10

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Being Born on Christmas

My co-blogger Anthemyst has suggested to me that I write a review of having a Christmas birthday. Now, normally I would have done this lickety-split, on the day itself, even, but I have been fighting a cold lately. So! A quick review:

Having a cold worsens my day-to-day experiences overall. Drowsiness is combined with difficulty sleeping, for instance. The near-constant snot production is unpleasant, at BEST! Tissues waste valuable trees, and handkerchiefs have limited real estate. Having a cold makes me lose my voice, my favorite personal attribute next to my incredible intelligence, my rapier wit, and my amazing good looks. Having a cold also clouds both my incredible intelligence and rapier wit, and robs me of all but the barest traces of my amazing good looks!

Having a cold: D

However, lots of rest, water, Dayquil, and a constant influx of zinc-filled “Cold-Eez” lozenges has reduced the duration and severity of this particular cold.

This particular cold: C.

I have gotten sidetracked!

BEING BORN ON CHRISTMAS

I was born on Christmas day, twenty-something years ago. This has given me about twenty years worth of Christmas birthdays to judge. I have also had many years to observe other people’s non-Christmas birthdays. In order to produce a fair and balanced review of a Christmas birthday, I must first ignore the qualities it shares with non-Christmas birthdays.

-I get gifts

-I get cake

-People are nice to me.

-I get older (officially)

Three positive attributes and one meaningless attribute.  It is also important for me to discard the qualities my birthday Christmas shares with other people’s non-birthday Christmases:

-I get gifts

-I don’t have to go to work/school

-Great food

-Everyone is all festive

Okay. So with all of that out of the way, I can grade my birthday with a clear conscience.

Here I go!

-My birthday falls on one of a few dates that cause people (DMV workers, doctors, new acquaintances, etc) to go “Oh!” Most birthdays elicit no response unless someone learns they SHARE a birthday. So: It has that going for it.

-While I am ignoring the simple fact that gifts are received, there is actually still room for COMPARISON between my birthday and yours, gift-wise. Studies have shown that “Christmas babies” get fewer gifts annually than other kinds of children, because parents take the normal portion of Christmas gifts and label some of them “Happy Birthday!” (this of course only applies to families that actually celebrate the holiday!) I guess I can believe that? I haven’t made a point of counting my presents or counting my siblings’ annual gift influx, much less that of friends and strangers. And I forget what study said this, so I have no idea if it’s just gift quantity they were looking at, or also gift quality!

-I don’t get birthday PARTIES.

-No one forgets my birthday.

-The day is not 100% about me!

-As a child, I felt like my Christmas birthday made me very important. Childhood is when birthdays matter the most to people, I think.

Tough call! Seems like a Christmas birthday is arguably slightly worse than non-Christmas birthdays: there are fewer gifts, no parties, and the day is not about the birthday boy or girl. On the plus side, the Christmas-born individual is granted occasional small-talk fodder and can imagine their birthday has some significance (when they are very young).

I guess I have to give BEING BORN ON CHRISTMAS a…

B MINUS.

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Stuff I Encountered on My Trip to the Grocery Store Today

1. Nantucket Nectar cap.

If you’ve ever had a Nantucket Nectar, you know that their caps have facts just like Snapple ones, except they have facts about Nantucket instead of facts about anything interesting. If there ever were any legitimately interesting facts, Nantucket Nectars ran through them long ago. The cap on the Half and Half I got today reads:

Many Nantucketers plant native eastern red cedars as protection against the fabled winds.

Now, that cap certainly isn’t A+ material like “There are no skunks on Nantucket” or that one about the special Nantucket tradition of having all the children dress up in costumes in an annual parade at the end of each October. It’s very nearly a boring D, like those ones about the average temperature of the surrounding ocean in July, but it is saved entirely by the word “fabled”. Fabled winds of Nantucket? What fables? Are there winds, or aren’t there? I do rather like the idea of a windless Nantucket filled with superstitious natives who plant the sacred red cedar as an appeal to the Earth Mother to protect them for another year, but actually there is plenty of wind on Nantucket. What’s next, Nantucket Nectars? Facts about the fabled lobsters that haunt the nearby waters? How about the fabled surplus of hydrangea oil paintings, available at any of Nantucket’s fine galleries?

Verdict: B-

2. The balloon that caught my eye in the flower section.

Yes, this balloon exists

I couldn’t believe it. The “OMG” is bad enough, but it’s the “It’s the holidays!” subtitle that really makes it, because it makes NO sense in conjunction with “OMG”. I’m not the hippest youngster out there, I type out complete words in all my texts and messages and whatnot, but I am pretty sure that even though “OMG” is overused to the point of near meaninglessness, it is still inappropriate to use it to comment on the gradual entry into the annual holiday season, which currently lasts from late October to mid January. At least if it were “It’s Christmas!” there would be a definitive moment of excitement, but clearly nobody was willing to try too hard. When an edgy committee of forty-somethings decides to start printing up balloons with net-speak, I’m sorry, I expect at least a little thought. Although, let’s be honest, nobody in the fake target audience of computer savvy kids is going to be buying a balloon with net-speak, no matter how well made it is. No, this balloon is clearly for their parents, who will proudly display it during their neighborhood holiday party and laugh with their friends about how you can’t even UNDERSTAND teenagers anymore, who knows WHAT they’re always texting and twitting about, ha ha ha, and for those people, this balloon is exactly as good as it needs to be.

Verdict: C

3. The romance novel title I happened to notice while trying to figure out where my mother had dissappeared to.

Well? Which are YOU?

So sue me, I like wordplay, especially when it clearly took zero effort. Although it is fun to imagine the author trying very hard to tap into the pun potential of the word “forbidden”. “Let’s see…forbidden…for…bidden. For Bidding? No, too creepy…For Biding? Still too creepy…For Biden? God damn it…” Also, this title affords one the rare opportunity for self reflection. What kind of girl am I? On the inside, in my heart of hearts, am I forbidden or am I for bedding?”

What kind of girl are you?

Verdict: A-

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My Hat-Rack

About 9 or 10 months ago, I was stopping by my local CVS for some reason, and on my way to the register, I passed by the clearance table–that is to say, I did not pass by the clearance table; I stopped. A bargain had caught my eye.

A $4 hat-rack. Could it be true? I picked up the box and inspected it. Yes, it seemed to be true. $4 for a fine, 5’6″ wooden hat-rack, little assembly required. I smirked to myself,  thinking of my classed-up dorm!

At that moment, a woman passed by the table and gave me measured look.

“You be careful with that hatstand,” she said, “I got one of these last week, and it broke as soon as I tried to put it together. They just crack apart. And the pegs fall right out.”

What sort of cryptic portent was this? I bought the hat-rack, but with less boasting triumph in my heart.

Now it is time to assess my hat-rack.

  • It cracked when I tried to put it together, so I used a lot of wood-glue on it.
  • Also, the pegs fell right out, can you believe it! I glued some of them back in, but a couple of them cracked enough that I threw them away in a rage.
  • My hat-rack falls over if I bump it or hang a coat on it.
  • My hat-rack does not serve my needs, as I have like 50 hats and it has like 5 hat pegs.
  • For this reason, my hat-rack does not look classy at all–it looks like a wad of hats and scarves about a foot-and-a-half in diameter, jammed on a stick.
  • It sheds hats on the floor, so I have to rake those hats up and set them on top of the big hat-wad sometimes. What a chore!
  • But it really was a bargain.

TWO STARS!

**—

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Review the First: My Glasses

If you are reading this review NOW, you probably know me in real life and know all about my glasses. If you are reading this in the FUTURE, however, then statistically you are probably one of my millions of fans who has NOT had the pleasure of having met me in real life and inevitably been asked, “Hey, wanna try on my glasses?” oh so casually, because if there is anything that can ruin a mind blowing experience it is anticipation. Anyway, I guess this review is mainly for YOUR benefit, dear reader of the future.

Like all nerds, I am exceptionally proud of my profound myopia, and I delight in games of glasses switching because I nearly always win. If you have 20/20 vision and have witnessed nearsighted friends switching glasses, you may have thought it was just a fun way to pass three minutes. Actually, it is a swift and merciless contest for Alpha Geek, and you never get to be a contender. Sorry, scrub.

When I was younger, I told everyone that what THEY saw when they wore my glasses was what I saw when I DIDN’T, because I assumed the world made sense and had some kind of order and balance to it, but it is not so. If you were to try on my glasses, they would give you SUPERPOWERS. SUPER FOCUSED SUPER VISION. Unfortunately your brain isn’t equipped to handle it at all, but if you ever want to glimpse the fabric of reality, give it a shot.

And the entertainment value of watching people jump back in surprise as they unwittingly enter THE X DIMENSION is quite great if you can think on your feet and grab opportunities as they come. For example, my father asked my mother for her reading glasses at a low-lit restaurant as he squinted at the receipt, and I immediately and wordlessly handed my glasses to my mother, who fortunately knows how to keep a good thing going and handed them to my father without comment. Victory! He put them on unsuspectingly and jumped back MAYBE a foot.

Perhaps at this point you are thinking that getting people to jump a bit after glancing through light-bending ovals of glass would get old quickly, but you would be 100% wrong. It is always fantastic.

Awesomeness factor: A+

Of course, the same could be said about any pair of glasses I’ve had. How do these particular frames hold up in comparison to others?

Admittedly, not great. For starters, the left screw is loose, which means I have to continuously keep an eye on it, and screw it back in when it gets too wiggly, or it will fall out and the left lens will drop and shatter and I’ll step on it and my foot will become gangrenous and I probably won’t catch it in time because I’m a bit lazy like that.

Upkeep/Deadliness Factor: C

The other problem with the left screw is it must be inserted UPSIDE DOWN. This is fine now, since I’m just tightening it occasionally, but when it initially fell out I spent maybe an hour trying to screw it in from the top, feeling more foolish and clumsy and fat fingered every second.

On a related note, the left lens is scratched. I can’t tell when I’m wearing them, but every now and then my mother comments on it and I am reminded of how one time I tried to wipe them clean by rubbing them with the bottom of a shirt covered in beading because I am an idiot.

Shame Factor: C-

Finally, I suppose I should mention that they are BRAND glasses. Coach. This means something to certain types of people that aren’t me. They are pink, though, so as far as I’m concerned they are HOT.

Style Factor: B+

 

So there you have it. A snazzy pair of spectacles that do their best to make me feel bad about myself but never truly succeed because they give me the godlike power of being able to make new people momentarily surprised.

Overall: B+

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