Previous “Features” posts

The Weary Affleck

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

At some point in my travels across the internet, I was introduced to this fantastic paparazzi shot of Ben Affleck:

Ben Affleck, alone, looking weary

I believe it was presented as something along the lines of “Thanksgiving with your ex-wife and the kids”. Whatever the actual context, it’s an amazing image that beautifully conveys exhaustion.

In the midst of the COVID pandemic, I found myself identifying with Affleck’s evident weariness, and looked the photo up again. I soon found myself laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of the picture itself. He’s so over absolutely everything!

In an effort to more deeply connect with this, I weighed the idea of making this picture my phone’s lock screen:

Weary Ben Affleck as an iPhone wallpaper

As I do with all of my life decisions, I discussed this with my pal and podcast co-host Amy Jane:

A discussion approving the setting of the weary Affleck as an iPhone wallpaper

After chatting extensively about the picture, I did indeed set it as my lock screen, where it remains to this day. Every so often I notice it, and it gives me such a chuckle. The weight of the world is clearly on Ben Affleck’s shoulders. The man needs a goddamned cigarette and a brief moment of solitude. But can he get it? NO! No he cannot, because a paparazzo is lurking in the bushes. Of course a paparazzo is lurking in the bushes. Welcome to the 21st century.

Much more recently, I received a package from print-on-demand marketplace Redbubble. Having not ordered anything, I was quite surprised to unpackage it and find this:

The weary Affleck on a t-shirt

I guessed correctly that Amy had spotted this shirt and sent it my way. She really gives great gifts. As you can see, the shirt got a little wrinkled in transit. I was thus planning on washing it before wearing it anyway, but that plan became more urgent when I caught a whiff of the shirt. In a word, it stunk.

Packing slip

In case you can’t read that, it says:

The vinegar scent is part of the pre-wash print odor of our high quality, water-based ink and will wash away in the first rinse cycle.

I’m glad they warned me, because the stink was quite noticeable. Doesn’t it seem like once they identified the issue, though, they might actually rectify things before sending out the item?

Anyhow, to thank Amy, I decided to send her a photo of me wearing my new shirt. Naturally, I wanted to do my own weary Affleck pose. It was surprisingly difficult! In 2021, I find I can readily access my own ennui. However, with the camera snapping away, I also found myself repeatedly cracking up. The whole thing was simply too ridiculous! Eventually, however, I think I nailed it:

Not bad, right? In case you’re wondering, I’ve now managed to fit five weary Afflecks into this post, along with one Paul-doing-a-weary-Affleck. I hope you’ve enjoyed it even a tiny fraction as much as I have.

Try

Friday, October 1st, 2021

As you may be aware, I love my dumb digital badges, including those earned by completing the Apple Watch’s monthly fitness challenges. Those goals are individually tailored to you, based on recent activity. This can often be a source of frustration, as no matter what you’ve done recently, the Watch always demands more. So it was that after a summer of extensive running, my September monthly challenge called for me to burn 30,000 active calories in total.

1,000 calories every single day for a month is a lot, but it might have been feasible if not for an injury I suffered at the end of August. That injury led me to take time off from running, which in turn drastically reduced my caloric burn. As a result, I knew from the outset that I wouldn’t be achieving this particular goal. However, it wasn’t until the end of the month that I saw just how short I’d fall.

On Tuesday, September 28, the Fitness app on my phone showed the following:

4,655 active calories in a single day is absurd, let alone doing it three days in a row. Of course, I realized that things would only get more ridiculous as October neared, because my calories burned would be ever farther off the necessary pace. Sure enough, just as the month was ending, the Fitness app was still urging me on thusly:


This screenshot was taken at 10:50 PM on September 30

At that point last night, with 70 minutes remaining in September, I needed to burn 185 calories per minute. But sure, try. What’s the harm in trying? Come on, don’t be lazy. Just try.

I’m Over the Moon Coverage

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021

In recent months, I’ve noticed that the news is crazy for articles about the moon. Every single month, there’s apparently some fancy moon that may never be seen again in your lifetime. This month, it’s the fairly well known “harvest moon”. Multiple times I’ve seen “instructional” headlines, like “How to see this week’s ‘strawberry moon,’ the last supermoon of 2021”.

For the love of…Look. Up. “How to see the moon”!

Listen, the moon is really not very different each month. It will appear slightly bigger or slightly smaller, depending on our orbit, but that’s about it. And that’s fine! The moon is amazingly cool, and a full moon is always neat to see. That ought to be enough.

Perhaps It’s a Clue

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

A headline like “Grand jury indicts Boston teen allegedly caught on camera raping horse” is, frankly, awful. I don’t know if this nineteen year old committed the disgusting crime in question, and I don’t really want to know any more about it at all. However, a small detail in the accompanying photo caught my eye:

Let’s zoom in on that chest logo:

Can we enhance that?

Oh. Oh no. Is it really…?

Yes, folks, a man accused of raping a horse wore a white dress shirt featuring the Polo logo to his hearing. Did no one, no one, suggest that this outfit might be a poor choice?

Siri’s Atrocious Fielding Percentage

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Awhile back, I discovered I could hook up my home alarm system to Shortcuts on my iPhone. If you’re not familiar with Shortcuts, they’re a convenient way to automate things. In Apple’s own words:

Shortcuts let you quickly do everyday tasks, and with the apps you use the most — all with just a tap or by asking Siri.

In my particular case, I created Shortcuts to enable and disable the home alarm. For months now, I’ve activated the system in the evening by issuing the command “Set Home Alarm”, and deactivated it in the morning with the command “Disarm”. It was simple, handy, and it felt like the future. Of course, given the fact that I was using both Siri and my Apple Watch, things were bound to fall apart.

Yesterday morning, my “Disarm” command suddenly started returning this:

Siri on the Apple Watch showing information about a 28 year old Smashing Pumpkins song

I suppose it’s possible I might want information about a Smashing Pumpkins song from 28 years ago that I haven’t heard this millennium. Still, it seems more likely that I want to do the same thing I’ve done every single morning for months.

No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get Siri to run the desired Shortcut. I eventually disarmed the system from the PIN pad like an animal, and went about my day. However, in the evening, I hit a similar frustration:

Siri on the Apple Watch getting confused about what alarm I want

This mix-up is a bit more understandable, and I do occasionally set alarm clock-style alarms on the Apple Watch. Still, when I do, I say “Set an alarm for 7 AM”. I include a time, because that’s the most important part of an alarm. Also, just to reiterate, I’ve been using this Shortcut with the exact phrase “Set home alarm” since July.

I tried being more explicit, mentioning the word “Shortcut”, but still Siri failed:

Siri on the Apple Watch failing despite an even more explicit command

After giving it multiple tries (and documenting it all with screenshots), I once again gave up and handled things manually. On the plus side, all of this stupidity did lead me to listen to “Disarm”, which then led me to re-watch the video for “1979”. That really took me back.

This morning, I tested things again, and it all worked perfectly.

Siri on the Apple Watch working exactly as it should

I’m not surprised, because Siri does have a relatively high accuracy rate overall. Siri probably handles 90-95% of my requests correctly. However, it’s that general reliability that makes the failures all the more maddening.

Ted Williams once noted that hitting in baseball is the only place “…where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer”. For something like Siri, however, the better baseball comparison is to fielding percentage. It’s essentially expected that a fielder will make a defensive play every single time the ball gets to them. All-star players will have fielding percentages approaching (and even exceeding) 99%. A seemingly high fielding percentage of 95% is somewhere between mediocre and lousy. Given the high number of errors Siri commits, it would definitely be sent down to the minors for more work, if not cut from the team entirely.

I Suppose Cars Might Be a Decent Source of Iron

Friday, August 27th, 2021

In and around Detroit, an organization named “Mother Waddles” advertises their car donation program heavily.1 Through this program, one can donate a vehicle that’s no longer needed to Mother Waddles, and receive a tax deduction in return. Mother Waddles will then sell or scrap the vehicle and use the proceeds to help those most in need.

That’s a fine idea. However, I found the billboards they use to be somewhat problematic.

A billboard that reads “Donate a car, provide shelter”, with a photograph of a man holding a sign that reads “Homeless”.

Particularly because of the included photograph, I can’t help but interpret this as stating “We’re going to give your donated car to the homeless, who will use it as shelter”. That’s a terrible way to read it, and it would likewise be a terrible plan. Nevertheless, I saw this billboard frequently on a recent trip through the Motor City, and each time that was the thought which came to mind.

As such, you can imagine how taken aback I was when I spotted this alternate version:

A billboard that reads “Donate a car, feed the hungry”, with a man eating something

Even beggars can be, and should be, choosier than that.


Footnotes:

  1. The organization’s namesake, Charleszetta “Mother” Waddles, seems to have been a tremendous force for good in the world.

    For over four decades, the Reverend Charleszetta Waddles, affectionately known as “Mother Waddles,” devoted her life to providing food, hope, and human dignity to the downtrodden and disadvantaged people of Detroit. Founder, director, and spiritual leader of the Mother Waddles Perpetual Mission, Inc., a nonprofit, nondenominational organization run by volunteers and dependent on private donations, Waddles believed that the church must move beyond religious dogma to focus on the real needs of real people.

    Nevertheless, her name is rather comical. ↩︎

Breaking News: Siri Continues to Be Bad

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

On Sunday, I wanted to know the score of the baseball game between the soon-to-be Cleveland Guardians and the Tampa Bay Rays. I asked Siri “What’s the Cleveland score?”, and it came back with this garbage:

There are times of the year when such a question would be reasonable. Earlier in the year, there were days when the Cleveland Baseball Club and the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team both had a game. However, it’s the end of July, and the Cavaliers played their last game 10 weeks ago:

A Cavaliers game from May. MAY!

This is even more embarrassing than the Cavs’ record.

The Boston Renegades Kick Ass

Monday, July 26th, 2021

Back in 2015, I wrote about the disappointing end of the Boston Militia, Boston’s tremendously talented women’s tackle football team. A few months later, I was delighted to report on the rise of a new team, the Boston Renegades. Since that rebirth, the team has performed at an exceptionally high level, and the world is slowly starting to take notice.

Last week, the New England Patriots and owner Robert Kraft recognized the Renegades ahead of their trip to the national championship. That game took place at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and the Renegades were flown there on the Patriots team plane. On Saturday, they did their jobs and claimed their third straight championship since 2018 (regrettably, the 2020 season went unplayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic). This team is incredibly good, and they deserve much, much more attention than they currently receive.

There will be at least a bit more attention paid in the near future, because superstar Renegades quarterback Allison Cahill’s game-worn jersey will be displayed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


[Photo credit: @BostonRenegades]

That’s a good start, but perhaps we’ll one day see some actual WFA players inducted into the Hall.

Want to learn more about the Boston Renegades and women’s tackle football? Give “Born to Play” a watch on Netflix.

Running for a Cause

Friday, July 16th, 2021

In just under one month, I’ll be participating in a real, in-person road race. Amazing! In celebration of the non-virtual nature of this run, I’m raising money for Stride for Stride, a great running charity. I’m hoping you’ll support me in this endeavor.

Stride for Stride works to make races more inclusive and more diverse by buying race bibs for immigrant, BIPOC, and low-income runners. Everyone should have the chance to enjoy the thrill of finishing a race, and Stride for Stride works to make that possible. Stride for Stride also provides food assistance to low-income families via the Heart to Cart program, which buys supermarket gift cards for those facing food insecurity.

I hope you’ll consider pitching in. You’ll have my gratitude if you do. You can make a donation right here.

Thanks for reading! Your regular absurdity will return on Monday.

A Hot Mic at the All-Star Game

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

During the 2021 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, broadcaster Fox had players wear microphones and headsets during the game. With this technology, they actually conducted live, in-game interviews, including while players were batting. The hardest thing in sports used to be hitting a baseball. Now, it’s hitting a baseball while Fox announcer Joe Buck is nattering in your ear.

Nevertheless, the in-game interviews with players in the field were interesting, if a bit clunky at times. I don’t want to see this come to real games, but the All-Star Game is an exhibition with no real meaning, and it’s a fine place for such gimmickry. However, in addition to not bothering hitters at the plate, broadcasters might want to consider additional modifications. The need for one such adjustment became quite clear thanks to the foul mouth closer Liam Hendriks.

Hendriks came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth inning, looking to protect a lead and give the American League their eighth straight victory. If you know anything about baseball, or have even just seen the movie “Major League”, you know pitchers are often emotional. That goes double for closers, who are tasked with preventing runs in the most pressure-packed situations.

When Hendriks came to the mound, Buck attempted to talk to him. Though Hendriks gave no direct response, the audience could hear audio from him. When he began pitching, this became something of a problem. First came a very loud and very clear “Goddammit” after Hendriks threw a ball to Milwaukee Brewers catcher Omar Narváez.1 If the potential for danger wasn’t obvious before, that expletive certainly should’ve led producers to make some changes.

However, they didn’t cut the mic, or even put it on a delay. As a result, not long after we got an even worse string of expletives.2 It was quite something. After giving up a hit following that F-bomb, catched Mike Zunino came out to talk to Hendriks.

“You’re giving what the people want—you’re miked up,” Zunino said.

“No, it’s not working,” Hendriks replied. “I haven’t heard a thing all inning.”

Whoops! We all certainly had heard some things, because though the headset may not have been working for Hendriks, the mic certainly was. A piece of advice for anyone ever wearing a microphone: just assume it’s on.

“I would have been a little more conscious of (my word choice) if I had heard them back,” Hendriks said. “And it all turned out the volume was too low. Probably my fault. Probably user error. Makes for some interesting TV, I’m sure. Hopefully the bleeping guy was on point.”

Alas, the bleeping guy was not on point, or even present at all.

I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to mic up a closing pitcher, nor who opted not to put that mic on a delay. However, despite the rather disastrous outcome, they might still count themselves fortunate. That’s because Hendriks hails from the nation of Australian, where cursing is often as basic as breathing. Fox is lucky the man didn’t drop the non-cancer C-word on live television.


Footnotes:

  1. That swear is archived here. ↩︎

  2. And that even worse swear is archived here. ↩︎