Monthly Archives: March 2010


Let’s do it!  This is awesome:

Yup.  Bring it, some guy:

This is not bad, I reckon:

Are you ready to par-tay?

More things that are badass (and that you should watch if you’re not a big Beastie Boys fan):

And one of the finest mashups out there (does it make anybody else think of trivia at the 331?):

a rant.

I know, I know…before I even start, I know what you’re thinking…Jesus F., man…isn’t every single thing you post on this blog some sort of ridiculous rant about something?

Well, yeah, but usually I include a link that nobody will click on or a video or nine that nobody will watch and yeah, that’s right, I’m callin’ you out yet again, Friends of i am whaleman. Click on the damn links, people. That’s why God invented them. Links are for clicking.

But that’s not the rant. This is the rant. And it’s not like I really do all that much ranting anyway (“THEY WERE DONATED TICKETS!”), so I think I’m due. It’s entirely possible that someone said this somewhere already, but I didn’t see it on Twitter, so I’m going to go with that old saw: “If it’s not on Twitter, it doesn’t exist.” I think Twain said that. Or maybe Euripides (that was a guy, right?). Anyway, I know it may be too late for this rant because it relates to something that happened earlier this evening, but here it is anyway:

I have been enraged, over the last few days, to hear all the talk about the Kentucky-Cornell matchup. It started with some jokes here and there about the “brains” and the “jocks” or whatever such 50+-year-old stereotypes, which were interesting for about 15 seconds. Yep, Cornell is in the Ivy League, which is known more for academics. Kentucky is in the SEC, which tends to be known more for their athletics (and yeah, NCAA, I know that there are many thousands of student-athletes out there, and many of them will “go pro” in something other than sports, as your commercials say. But what you continue to pretend doesn’t exist is the fact if you were playing word association, if you say “Florida”, many people think of Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow. If you say “Kentucky,” a great many people think of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins and Calipari and Pitino and Louisville and Rupp Arena and et cetera. And you pretend that doesn’t exist because you want to pretend that you’re not a bunch of old white folks making a shitload of money off of young black men. But you are…and since we’re talking about race, let’s get back to Cornell and Kentucky. Now, I was just going to use my words, but here are some pictures that are absolutely essential to this rant:



Now, I know there’s a prominent token in that Kentucky pic, and Cornell has one too. Here’s the part that really starts to get me riled up as the comments continued to roll in on the Twitter (and elsewhere) about the difference between these two teams…what are we really talking about?

Let’s see…smart white guys go to Cornell and are really smart but they are definitely not supposed to be good at basketball. You know, because they’re white. Stupid black dudes go to Kentucky and they are great at basketball, but everybody knows that there’s no reason for them to even be at “college” because we (and by we I mean white sportswriters and message-board commenters) all know they’re not studying anyway.

Now, this isn’t going to be a conversation about the college and whether everybody should go to it (though for the record, I’d like to be on said record as saying that while I think schools should promote the value of lifelong learning and education, I know that that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone needs to go to a small liberal arts college in the Midwest just because that was my experience. Education is supposed to be training for life, and should continue as life continues. But for millions of people, that means community college, and that’s a good thing. For millions of others it means trade schools which have been pushed out in the rush to try to get every kid to go to “college.” A very small, incredibly lucky few need only to be prepared for a life of great wealth and the only expectation being that they play basketball at an incredibly high level. People get all up in arms about the “farce” that is “college” basketball…but it’s mostly the people who make millions of dollars off of the athletes who they masquerade as students). This is a conversation about how people think it’s really funny to make jokes about how white people are real smart and black people are stupid. Unfortunately, it’s generally true that white kids are more successful in school than black kids. There’s a term for that: the achievement gap. And for the people who are concerned about such things, it’s not really all that funny. Making light of the fact that white students tend to be better off academically than their black peers just isn’t all that funny. It’s a gigantic problem in America, and it’s getting worse before getting better.

There’s a lot of talk about how Obama’s Next Big Fight will be education, and I truly hope that’s the case. Because right now it’s okay for black kids to be stupid…as long as they’re good at sports. And that’s not okay.

npr: bringin’ it

Argh!  Where does my bloggin’ time go?  I officially hate work.  I mean, work is cool and all…today I got to watch a kid stomp a fallen bird’s nest (the nest had fallen, not the bird) then get chattered at by the bird.  The kid then screamed at the bird to shut up, followed by stomping the nest again, followed by the bird chattering at him again. I told him he’d better be careful or the bird was gonna poop on him.  He scoffed at me, but looked awfully nervous as he quickly got out from under the tree and sheltered himself beneath the eaves.  Kids are so silly.

Anyway, going to work totally jacks with blogging.  But fortunately, I have npr on hand to hook me up with some sweet stuff like the following.  Watch until about 55 seconds…this is the sweetest move ever by Dubya.  I now hate him a little less (just playin’.  It is pretty sweet, though):

Also, npr has the new MGMT album.  You should go here and listen to it.

And to round out the npr trio, I highly recommend checking out this interview with South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  I don’t know about you, but it seems to me like South Park stays amazingly funny after 14 years.  Apparently they stay topical by doing every episode in a week, so their material never gets instantly dated.  There’s lots of good stuff in the interview about how Tom Cruise killed their Scientology episode after a single airing and how they made an episode with caricatures of Muhammad but every time Muhammad appeared in the frame, they put Family Guy characters in the frame instead of South Park characters so “they would get bombed and not us.”  In case you need further enticement:

On the importance of fart jokes to third-graders

“That was all you had to joke about because you hadn’t had sex yet. All you have are poo and farts. That was your sexual life. It’s just poo and farts. That’s, like, the biggest thing you have going. That’s the most subversive thing you can talk about.”


feel the thunder!

So last night I was lucky enough to see this amazing program that PBS was showing as part of its pledge drive.  Evidently, people really love this show, because it’s showing again tonight as some sort of “viewers’ choice” close to the pledge drive.  When I say lucky, well, bad luck is a kind of luck, right?  I got to see every moment of it, though, because somebody with whom I was watching tv was really enjoying it.  I recommend that you check out the preview:

Wow.  Isn’t that just amazing?  I mean, first of all, they don’t really even try that hard to cover up the fact that they’re lip-synching…and I’m reasonably certain that the band isn’t even playing live.  There were a couple of dancin’-around violin solos, and there were definitely no mics on the violins.  There’s also an amazing scene where the guy wearing the Britney Spears facemic sings into a different mic for dramatic effect.  Good times.  And around the one-minute mark…there’s no way that voice even belongs to that kid, is there?  That especially, but the entire performance and the way it was so carefully constructed and choreographed reminded me of another group that took America by storm, but were ultimately revealed to be frauds who couldn’t sing.  You know, these guys:

i’ve said it before…

and I’m sure I’ll say it again:

The Japanese are a strange, strange people.

erdős, bacon. bacon, erdős

That’s Erdős as in Paul Erdős (Ehr-dəsh), the Hungarian mathematician with whom I am certain you are all familiar.  Bacon refers to the one and only Kevin Bacon.  I’m sure you know some things about Kevin Bacon, but this Erdős guy may be something of a mystery.  You can listen to a really cool story about him here (In the second section down, the Erdős part starts at 12:00 if you want to skip ahead), but I know most of you are lazy, non-link-clicking so-and-sos (or is it sos-and-so?  Help me, Zombie William Safire!) so once again, it is incumbent upon your old buddy i am whaleman to summarize:

Erdős was born in Budapest in 1913, on the same day his two older sisters died of scarlet fever.  So his mom freaked out and never let him go outside until he was about 10.  Now, both his parents were mathematicians, so they kept him inside studying math all the time.  He says that numbers were his best friends.  And guess what–he became a math genius…and a social imbecile.  He got his Ph.D. in his early 20s, but had to leave Hungary because he was Jewish and it was the 1930s.  He started connecting with people through math, traveling around to math people he heard about, showing up at people’s houses (in 25 different countries) to “do math.”  He couldn’t take care of himself at all, so he required care from whomever he had decided to do math with.  For 20-22 hours a day.  He had some weird skin condition that required him to wear silk clothing which he could not take care of himself.  He banged pots and pans together when he wanted to do math and the owners of the house were sleeping.  But apparently he was some kind of super-genius who people put up with because he was so amazing.  And he published and collaborated on more math papers than any mathematician in history.

So apparently, every bigwig mathematician out there knows his or her (girls do math?  That’s unpossible!) Erdős number.  If one published a paper with him, then that person’s Erdős number is one.  If you published with someone who published with him, you’re a two.  84,000 people have an Erdős number of four.  There are about 200,000 people with an Erdős number.

Now, you’re probably more familiar with the Bacon number, or Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.  You know, the theory that no actor is more than six steps away from Kevin Bacon through various other actors.

Well, apparently several years ago, some of the mathematicians started appearing in films (like Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind).  So now, some of them had Erdős numbers and Bacon numbers.  Hence, the Erdős-Bacon number.  According to some guy named Simon Singh in this article, the current world record holder for lowest Erdős-Bacon number is Professor Dave Bayer of Columbia University.  There’s a list of the known people with Erdős-Bacon numbers here, and the list includes Danica McKellar (you know, from The Wonder Years) and Natalie Portman.

Also, the unofficial record holder is Hank Aaron, who has a Bacon number of two (since he appeared in the movie Summer Catch) and a fake Erdős number of one since apparently he and Erdős once signed the same baseball.  I’d like to think that Hammerin’ Hank is the real record holder here.  And an Erdős-Bacon number of three is a record that, most likely, will never be broken (unless, of course, Kevin Bacon and his Bacon number of 0 co-wrote a mathematics paper with somebody who had an Erdős number of 1.  But it seems like that’s pretty unlikely, unless he enhanced his performance in some way…).

a challenge! (updated!)

Alright, so how well do you know your obscure college and university locations?  If you’re like me, not very well at all.  This game is fun.  And hard.  I consider myself a reasonably intelligent individual, and in four attempts I have cruised through the first and second rounds, but have thus far made it out of the third.  My current high score is 45,687.  Can you beat that?  Can you best the devilish third round?  Sound off with your best effort in the Comments!

UPDATE!  Aaaaaaaaaaand after posting this, I went on for a fifth attempt, thumped the third round, and crushed round 4 on my first try.  83,613.  Beat that!