Saturday, October 3

My Latest Addiction


I found the above picture at

That's right I am hopelessly and pathetically addicted to the facebook application / game FarmVille. In fact, I even submitted a definition to urban dictionary for FarmVille Alarm which isn't up yet but should be in the next couple of days. (I will forgive anyone for stopping reading this post here)

The concept of the game is simple enough, and the strategy is not exactly complicated. You play as a farmer who constructs and nurtures his own farm including crops, trees, livestock, buildings, vehicles, and other decorations. There are two different resources that are relevant to daily play, those are experience points and cash (in coins). Your crops, trees and livestock all generate variable amounts of these payouts in a given number of hours. Nothing complicated here. It's this very simplicity, though, which inspired me to pursue one of the most monumental works of worthless nerdery in my recent past, and that is to document the possible payout potentials and opportunity costs so that I could make quality decisions about which strategies to employ.

As I said, the game play is exceedingly simple. This is in large part due to its lack of environmental / independent variables. In fact, they even tell you most of the critical information right up front. For example, if you want to plant strawberries FarmVille tells you that the seeds for one plot cost 10 coins and will sell for 35 coins once harvested in four hours. It will also generate one experience point (XP) upon planting. So anyone can approximate the profit margin on the fly. However, that wouldn't do you a ton of good because you actually want the profit margin per hour (which is still doable). Even then though, that's not going to help you out too much because each plot of land requires that the plot be plowed for a cost of 15 coins also yielding one XP. With this information we know how much profit is earned per hour compared to XP per hour. Unfortunately that doesn't really allow us to cross compare between categories like strawberries versus dairy ranching because it doesn't consider our last scarce resource which is physical space on our farm. These are the kinds of deeper level comparisons I was hoping to explore. That is to say, these are not difficult, but definitely more complicated than I wanted to retain in my short term memory. Thus, I started my FarmVille Spreadsheet.

I will present a select few of my more interesting findings here.

FarmVille Crops
Aloe Vera3.33.333.104

The first table shows the top earners as rated by profit/hr/area/xp. Two things stand out to me when I look through these data. First, I noticed that chronology of unlocking really doesn't have much bearing on crop quality based on this standard. That was very surprising to me as I would normally assume that the most recently unlocked crop is the one I'd like to focus on. Next, I was shocked that raspberries (which generate no XP when planted unlike all other plants) actually dominate this chart based on that unit of measure. Of course, this was nearly impossible for me to glean from the raw data because the hidden XP of plowing plots is very difficult to see until it's laid out in front of you.

A similar problem occurs in decoration costs when trying to decide which decorations will yield maximum XP at a minimum cost. Largely, XP is priced in decorations at 100 coins per XP (at least superficially), however when you consider the hidden costs of sale price and size a slightly different picture emerges. I'll allow you to examine those data at your leisure. However, these findings are less interesting because of two outstanding options. The absolute cheapest XP is that received for plowing plots. At a cost of 15 coins, one could plow his field, delete his plowed plots, and re-plow for maximum XP garnering at minimum cost. (Of course, helping neighbors is cheap and produces a relative ton of XP, but you may only do this occassionally and should be done whenever possible). The second cheapest XPs can be gleaned from uncolored Hay Bales which actually cost only 19 coins per XP. Another advantage of Hay Bales is that they can be purchased repeatedly without returning to the shop which is a nice feature although they must still be sold individually.

I would at this point like to point out a resource to those of us who also suffer from a FarmVille addiction. It is the site, FarmVille Villiage, and they have tons of tips tricks and analysis of the FarmVille game. However, I only found them after my entire spreadsheet was nearly complete, and I decided not to use any of their data. They do some of the same deeper looks at the numbers as I do, but I prefer my strategies and findings.

My last chart I would like to share concerns itself with currency costs of FarmVille decisions. You see, another question I have had throughout is how to compare currency ie. FarmVille Dollars (FV$) which can only be purchased for real money (USD) versus coins. Some items can only be purchased with FV$, so it's hard to compare their costs with other items. So through establishing a conversion rate I was able to translate FV$ into coins or USDs, whichever served my needs at that moment. I used the "Farmer's Best Buy" prices for coins and FV$ in USD to establish the conversion rate. Obviously, if we were not to buy such quantities at a time conversion rates to dollars would weaken causing USD costs to raise. Therefore, if anything I feel that my approximated USD costs are understated if anything.

FarmVille Currency Costs
ItemCost CoinCost FV$Cost USD
Acai Tree7,94327$4.50
Lime Tree7502.55$0.42
Hay Bale1000.34$0.06
Barrel Wagon4,00013.60$2.27
Rest Tent10003.40$0.56
Red Barn40,000135.98$22.66
Fuel Refill8823$0.50

I think hope that these are a little interesting at least. I particularly like the fact that buying 5 refills of fuel is like buy a real gallon of gasoline that you can put in your car and drive 20 miles (unless you are a green freak then it's much farther, or unless you're a real farmer, and then it's much shorter). In fact, one of my goals, which I might pin down a little more with an actual longitudinal study, is to establish the actual Gross Domestic Product in USD for the entire FarmVille Population. That will be a bit of a chore as most of the community is inactive and I am definitely not a representative sample of the average active user. However, off my cuff I would say that I produce at least 80,000 coins of production per day. Let's call my personal GDP conservatively $45 or $16,425 per year which is ridiculous.

I hope that at least some of you have enjoyed this post, even if for nothing more than laughing at me. I'd like to especially thank Sydney and Erox for sowing the seeds of interest in this game through their early adoption and repeated attempts to evangelize me. Also, Kari for inviting me to play, and to Adam for helping me cruise through the early game with lots of bonuses and free gifts.

Tuesday, September 29

Suck it Apple

I largely love apple, though own none of their products as I find them generally overpriced. However, my disdain for snooty, white-colored consumerism drives me to point out the following.

“I have worked in the usability field since 1983: my first projects were with text-only UIs on mainframe computers.

I then proceeded to mainly work on graphical user interfaces. For example my students and I did a lot of studies of early Macintosh software which was not always as great as people have idolized it to be.”

- THE Jakob Nielsen, taken from an interview on Webdesigner Depot

PS: This is not it Alex

Monday, September 14

Where were you?

Too soon? Not for me. However, no one I knew died.

Friday, August 21


Oops, I forgot the biggest reason I wanted to post tonight. I wanted to suggest that you all check out the following link: These are too cool.

I guess these are all by a person who goes by HumanDescent check him out if you like him like I do. Awesome.

Beat Dan to It

I remember a fantastically cool post from Dan Jenkins a while back which featured an amazing graph from The Economist. This graph illustrates the US military expenditures compared to the rest of the world. Check it out in his post entitled “The Long Lost Ally”.

Well, I thought I'd beat him to this one. It's not so earth-shaping and politically charged as his was but more of a "Wow, this is twice as funny because it's on The Economist."

I have a lot to talk about obviously, since I have been remarkably absent for so many months, but those will have to wait since I am getting tired. For now let me only recommend watching this remarkable interview with Mitch Albom about the film incentives here in Michigan.

Thursday, June 25

Quickie Before Bed

Sticking with the loosely veiled innuendo suggested by the title of this post, I present to you the newest Trojan commercial for their new Ecstasy brand condom. I think it's marvelous.

Also, I have been meaning to share my overwhelmingly positive opinion for the new best value in fast food - the Grilled Chicken Burrito from Taco Bell. For 89¢ this avacado-ranch laden monster is tremendous, and has definitely edged out the 99¢ McChicken for the much sought-after title. As you all no doubt remember, the McChicken stole the title in a not so hotly contested battle when Arby's upped the price of their 5 for $5 roast beef/Arby's melt/etc. deal which had held the title for a while since it was relinquished by the failing Hot N Now who offered a bag of burgers for as much change as you happened to have in your pockets. Really though, you should try it, it's quite good.

Good night.

Wednesday, June 10

Movies, Secret Santas, and More

I came home yesterday to quite a surprise. I opened my mailbox to find it absolutely stuffed full of stuff. I was worried because there seemed to be a somewhat large package jammed in there, and I was concerned that the maillady had broken it. My first thought was that I recently subscribed to National Geographic magazine, so I thought maybe my first issue had arrived. When I grabbed it though I knew it wasn't that as it was hard, and well-packed into an envelope. The package was addressed to me from Best Buy. I was getting a little irritated as I walked down the stairs to my apartment door. I had had a rather horrible day and just never really got things going, so I was disappointed that Best Buy had messed up an order I had made to ship my Mother Darius Rucker's amazing album to her house. I didn't really want to deal with getting my money back from them that evening.

However, walking in the door, I was able to tear the package open. Inside I was surprised to find a copy of Quantum of Solace which I had by no means ordered. My absolute initial reaction was confusion, but I was immediately overwhelmed by laughter at the realization that someone had played a delicious trick on me. I'm not going to say who it was, but it could only be one person in the whole world, and I'll give you a hint… he likes Star Wars… and running

Anyways, he had teased me twice previously about my last blog post where I listed the things that I was grudgingly giving up to save money. Quantum of Solace was among them. A few days after I wrote that he shared with me that he was in fact just sitting down to watch it with Joshe. He also called just the other to jab me about it again. Well, of course, he is the only one that could get enough gratification from the gag of sending me an anonymous treasure to justify the hassle of actually ordering it.

Well I would just like to say, I sure liked it, and I'll tell you what there wasn't a better day for me to get that pick me up either. I really needed it, so thank you anonymous. Mindy and I watched it immediately. It was good, no Casino Royale, but it was fun, and there were definitely some good signs that the series will continue at it's currently high quality. First of all, you can really see great emotional vulnerability smashed so contradictorily with inhuman brutality that made the previous film so wonderful. When Bond, loses his friend Mathis, holding him as he takes his last breaths, and then tosses him in the nearest dumpster directly following his passing. It really gives Bond some character, makes him crunchy and interesting, as opposed to the flat, cliche that he tended to be in the lean years. I think this focus on Bond's development (and some excellent story direction) allows the writers to continue to pursue less far-fetched super-villians who can keep the film feeling more real, and allow us as viewers to not be constantly reminded that we are in a theater watching a ridiculous work of fiction.

After that, Mindy and I watched Seven Pounds. I had not seen any reviews or heard any buzz since it had entered the theaters last year. However, I remember being very interested in the trailer. I think that Will Smith is a fantastically talented actor, and very underrated as a dramatic character. Anyways, I was enthralled from the opening scene. Unfortunately, Mindy and I balled our eyes out, but it was a wonderful movie and carries my full endorsement, easily four or five stars.

In similar news, I have just finished reading Watchmen. It was my first graphic novel, and I must say, I really enjoyed the experience. There are really some interesting mechanics involved in digesting a graphic novel, plus the plot was worthwhile if somehow less than earth-shattering. I was blown away with the unique ability to experience multiple (three in this case at times) distinct stories absolutely simultaneously which is completely impossible in other formats. A book can share multiple plot lines, but you are forced to experience them serially. Movies are more capable in this regard, as we can have one plot occurring graphically with another present in narration, however the dialogue is limited to one track and the graphical presentation may also only be digested one at a time (excluding split screens which don't really tend to work all that well). I was also pleasantly surprised by the prose sections which served as chapter breaks. For example, we find Rorschach's police and psych reports in between some of the chapters, an excerpt from one of the books mentioned in the comic in another, and a scholarly essay written by one of the characters published in a journal. This level of immersion was similar to the experience of reading the many histories of Middle Earth while experiencing the LoTR series.

So I really enjoyed it, and was happy that Joshe let me borrow his copy, after taking me to see the movie last time he was up. I think that my first foray into graphic novels was greatly lubricated by my having seen the movie. I think it definitely takes some different focus to understand what is going on in a comic than do other media. However, as I've said, overall I was very happy with it. The author is obviously psycho, and I kind of hope he is dead because I think there is a good chance that he was on the cusp of becoming a serial-killer. He clearly has some deeply seeded mommy issues which really shine through his work, although they were less prominent in the film adaptation. I have attached a picture as proof. You will have to take my word for it that these are mommy issues, but I think a less than subtle fear of women is clearly evidenced by the super-monster at the end (sketch and final product).

If not for anything else, Dr. Manhattan's chapter about time, and the way that it capitalizes on the strengths of the graphic novel experience is jaw-dropping and worth seeking out.

I'd lastly like to highlight two photoshops from Erox that are really really awesome.

Tuesday, May 19

Ask and You Shall Receive

So things have been going pretty good for me recently, just wanted to share my cornucopia of blessings.

Last weekend, and the one before, I had the distinct pleasure of using Dave's grill. I have not really been able to grill much in a safe environment for tasting, but I've been really excited about the flavors that you can bring out with a grill and an open flame. Two weeks ago, I made about a billion barbecued chicken breasts, with a monstrous side of potatoes and onions and colored bell peppers, also done on the grill, while inside Mindy and Julie helped me to prepare pork pot-stickers (which as it turns out Mindy and Joshe love… ask them). So I seemed to have not messed that up too bad, as everyone seemed to enjoy it.

So I decided to try a little more adventuring on the grill this last Saturday. I made six Hawaiian chickens (teriyaki chicken with grilled pineapples like I love at Logan's). Also, six more with a super secret ingredient which I cannot yet divulge. I also grilled half inch slabs of red onions marinated in the Hawaiian chicken marinade, and super yummy bushels of asparagus. If that wasn't enough, I boiled corn on the cob and finished it on the grill. I learned a lot from this experience, not the least of which is that gazillions of asparagus are hard to keep from falling down through vertical grates when you have so many to watch. Also, the Harding's on 9th street, however friendly a market, is not a good place to shop for meat or produce.

Wrapping up, I had a lot of fun, and I was very thankful to Dave for sharing his grill and utensils with me, and I can't wait to grill more. I actually told him that I was thinking that I might need to go out and grab a little charcoal grill to leave in my garage for grilling on weekends. I told him though that I'm going to have to wait because I'm trying to not buy anything that I don't absolutely need for one year. Of course, a few things that I will not be surrendering are good food, golfing, and Griffin's tickets. Things I will be giving up or severely cutting back on computer parts, dvds ([cry] Quantum of Solace), eating out at lunch, extravagent purses, and everything that Mindy likes. In the words of Lord __________ (a movie villian), "That is a sacrifice that I am willing to make."

As always, please comment with either the name to fill in the blank or another quote from this movie, so others can keep playing.

Long story short, as is never true with me, I came home and found a sunbeam gas grill - big one - sitting next to the garbage, as someone had moved out that weekend. I haven't had a chance to see if it the propane delivery system works, but I can at least convert it to a charcoal grill if I wanted to. I was amazed at how my needs are provided for.

In addition to grilling, Mindy and I fell in love with our future wedding location. You should read all about it on her post about it. I would ask you to remember that we have not put any money down yet, so don't get too excited about the date which Mindy haphazardly posted therein. But the pictures really don't even do it justice, and I think Mindy's pictures are quite stunning. It just really blew us both away, but I'll let Min explain that to you.

Monday, May 11

In the spotlight

This past weekend Mindy and I ventured to Holland to watch our very first Tulip Time parade. We had of course both marched in it several times, but it was a cool experience being able to watch Eric in it for the first time.

Holland was a lot of fun, and the carnival food was to die for. Every cart seemed to have something more amazing than the last. When Mindy and I were sitting sharing an enormous elephant ear we witnessed a hilarious jumbo (footlong) corndog that looked like a penis. Mindy refused to photograph the event for you loyal readers, but you will have to use your imaginations and trust me that it was indeed hilarious.

As it turns out, we actually ended up in the background of the news. Some might think that it was the beautiful black baby in front of us that lured the Fox 17 interviewer to our location, but I would argue that it is the imperceptible yet powerful gravitation pull produced by my exceptionally large nose. Whichever the case it turns out that we were on the news, I'm the one in the faggy yellow windbreaker and the long trashy hair. Not only for those reasons, but I was super worried because after I had blown my nose in a completely hillbilly half paper towel, only then did I recognize the fact that a news camera had been there all along. So for the rest of the day I was worried that I would be blowing my retarded nose on the news. Excitedly, we waited for the NASCAR race to end (which was won by old-balls Mark Martin). Tulip Time and the adjoining Right to Life float banning was the lead story. You can see the result below. Notice how many times you think… "Well, Benn is certainly out of the woods now. There is no way they'll show him… No wait, I guess there was."

Anyways, thanks to all of you who slugged through my epically long last post. And especially to all of you who helped me with the questions I posed therein.

As a parting note, I was behind a jeep with an awesome license plate the day of my big post, but it slipped through the cracks until now. This was an Iraq Veteran plate, what's vanity read "H8SAND." (How do you like that Grandpa, I agree that we need to use the non-personal subordinating conjunction "what's").

Wednesday, May 6

In other news

In this post, like the local news, I will unapologetically jump from one topic to the next in most cases without even the faintest attempt at segue.

So, my lappy finally gave up the ghost. First it was the wireless card which fried, then the sound card, now I think the video card is fried as it fails to display anything on the screen even though it seems to turn on just fine. It also does not show up on the local network however, so I'm not sure but there may be other problems not as simple as just a video card. I have had the roughest time with that piece as it is only a few years old. I am planning on trying to plug it into an external monitor to see if I can fire it up long enough to extricate my precious data from the clutches of it's hard drive, but I assume the worst. Fortunately, I have backed up most of my data, like my pictures, and my music, and my old essays and such, but there were some things - notably my new blog design that I was working on from scratch - and an interactive wallpaper that I was hoping on debuting as my first tutorial on my new blog when it launched. But alas, I could have easily had worse luck.

However, that does provide me with a similarly difficult choice as to another I recently faced. I have been concerned about an exit strategy for returning the nissan 240 back to my uncle Tim who graciously has allowed me to borrow it for the past several years. I cannot explain what a blessing that has been to me to have (generally) reliable transportation through this time. Anyways, I've been growing increasingly concerned that I have been abusing his generosity and should get a plan for getting a new car. However, I run into a problem because I believed that he didn't really want it back, and I couldn't really just up and sell it, so I wasn't sure what to do. » Flash Forward ».

Maybe about two weeks ago, Uncle Tim and his son, Ryan, my cousin, were having dinner at BW3. In the very short time they were having dinner, Ryan's super-old GMC pickup truck was stolen right out of the parking lot leaving Ryan with absolutely no transportation. As Mindy's mom has kindly loaned Mindy a car, we could still have one and a half vehicles including my bike as a half. As much as I was sad to not have a car of my own, I became increasingly confident that I really wanted to be able to help Ryan out as his dad had been there for me when I was in a pinch. It was a hard decision at the time, as many of you reading this blog probably had a conversation about it with my as I was trying to decide what to do. But since I've given Ryan the car, not having it has not been one ounce of trouble and in fact, has helped me to keep a little closer to Mindy as we do more things together. It has actually been kind of nice. Fortunately, the thieves ended up just recently abandoning Ryan's truck at a gas station, just as Uncle Tim predicted they would (upon these grounds I now suspect Uncle Tim of having participated in several "boostings" in his day).

Anyway, that was a very difficult decision for me, as is the decision to by a new computer or not, and whether it should be a notebook or a desktop. Since this rotten luck with my late lappy, and my discontent with the long term performance of the one before that, I had sworn off laptops. I was hoping to build my own desktops from now on so that they were fully upgradable and built to my exact specifications. As I have been learning however, in the face of plummeting manufactured pc costs, building a computer is more of a luxury now where it used to be a good way to save money. So here is my dilemma. At the time of this writing I have the following assets:

  • Mindy's two laptops which I hate both of them but they can allow me to at least check my mail on the road
  • The old desktop on which I am writing this post running brand spanking new ubuntu distribution with a 2.5 Ghz processor and a 500 Gb hdd but a lowly 512 Mb of RAM
  • An empty but exceedingly geeky brand new case which looks like a transformer that I got free with the purchase of a sidewider laser mouse and matching light-up keyboard with removable, magnetically-docking numpad
  • And an enigma of a lappy

Now three things are important to note here. First, my job as web designer, graphic artist, software manager and advertising executive means that I literally spend 100% of my time on the computer. If I am not on the computer, I am doing something that I shouldn't be doing. In fact, my graphical and video duties are best performed on a reasonably high performing machine (notably RAM). Second, most things I do for fun, like blogging, reading blogs, and working on at home web-design projects were up until recently performed on my lappy possibly watching tv with Mindy. Third, it has been the case that we have been travelling ceaselessly. We are at the in-laws every weekend for this thing or that. We both like to be home a lot, but even if we didn't between our two or two and a half families there is some family function nearly every weekend. The above circumstances basically necessitate me having a computer, and because of our travel make a laptop an attractive choice.

Also, thanks to an amazingly well-thought out and incredibly effective attempt however well-meaning attempt at saving our economy, yours and my tax dollars have furnished me with an economic stimulus windfall of around $500 of unearned revenue. Go Government(ha)! Therefore, we have roughly enough cash to cover one computer of either type, but it is really, really, really nice having some extra money which allows us to finally get away from literally month to month. Did I mention how nice having even a very small amount of extra money is. I also will be getting somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000 after taxes over the next few months between the profit sharing and bonuses that Kirk is paying out in installments every two weeks. I would love to save that for a car or the wedding instead of buying a computer but we will see. I've decided that I will try it for a month and see how things go which may slow my new blog development, but the only one that's going to bother is me…

To dispatch with that topic I would ask the following (here's looking at you Dan, Jackson, Adam?, Brad, Alex, and Ben). This Dimension 8200 has something called RDRAM or Rambus Kit RAM which is obscenely expensive and quite hard to shop around. While DDR is very popular and can be found very affordably like here on Newegg. I've been looking around to see if it's compatible but I haven't been able to find a definitive answer. More RAM would significantly ease my woes with this desktop and make it much more appealing as a medium term option. If I recall correctly, I believe Jackson might have had this exact model throughout college so maybe he can be of some assistance though my confidence in Dan is pretty high too.

Let's get on with the show with a bit of observationalist ranting. Investigate the diagrams below.


wtf… are computers and telephones seriously
trying to make my life hell?

As a few of you may remember, I was approached by a videographer on YouTube who had asked me to create a logo for his company, and I had taken on the project and promised to show all of you my work. Take a look and tell me what you think in the comments (remember that criticism is much more helpful than compliments, so don't beat around the bush). I made two possible logos, so that he can choose based on his tastes, as I was not actually able to meet with him to brainstorm. I like them both but I think I might like the energy-wave Z more for his company as there is more vivacity and motion, though the top one is nicely corporate. I also tried to make three copies which is a trick I learned from reading many logo design blogs because in a business setting you are not always able to have your logo in full color, as in faxes or stationary, so you should make it in a grayscale copy and a 2-color copy because there are actually some very minor design changes that should be made to maintain readability for those media.

CraZay Video Productions Logo

I also played around for two of my last three posts on the blog with some cool stuff. My favorite was using pre-packaged layer styles to turn our stencils, and one with custom colors designed by yours truly, into pretty cool images which I could see as logos for tat companies or whatever.

I'm a Pirate by bennthewolfe, on Flickr

Mindy and I had a few weeks ago looked around at athletic clubs to join. I was hoping to find a nice track to run around on, and maybe somewhere to shoot hoops on occasion. We looked at the gym right next door to TAT but the muscle-head who ran it was kind of a turn-off though his gym was very nice, and well priced as I learned. We then went to the YMCA up the road. It's brand new and had a ton of super cool stuff. A few of the stand-outs were a medicine ball up and down put them through the cylinder that lights up game, a two-bike virtual simulator where you pedal and steer through an environment and race against your neighbor and your personal best time, a pool (Y standard), and A BATTING CAGE. Not only that, but this place had a very nice atmosphere that was attractive to both of us. However, gyms are quite pricey and at $78 and $98 per month we will have to put those off for some time.

So instead, Mindy and I have been focusing on exercise on the weekends. For example, last Saturday we went over to KVCC played tennis for a few hours, then ran the track for a while, came home and ate, then played catch with the softball, and then played 9-holes of golf after watching the amazing upset at the Derby jockeyed by that charmingly incomprehensible southerner. I hope that we continue to have such lovely weather on the weekends so that we can plan a rally match for nearly every weekend. That is still in the works for those of you who are interested, which should be all of you living in West Michigan.

So if you are still reading this post it must mean you are very interested in the goings-on of my life. So in that vein, I have a couple of suggestions for you. First, you may have noticed on my sidebar at right, Mindy has made a blog which documents the progress of our upcoming wedding. If you have not read that, make sure to hop over there and get all the hot inside information ( If you do, make sure you leave a comment, as she is very excited to show off her blog since she has gotten it all working and installed, picked the theme, customized it, and written every post all on her own, and I think she's doing a fantastic job. The posts are funny and informative, and we plan to be hosting an eRSVP there and dispensing other important information there.

Finally, I have been mulling over writing a post on torture, but as the window has slightly passed. I would like to point you to a couple of wonderful items. First and foremost, please please please check out Jackson's FAQ on torture over at hisConsiderations blog. Also, make sure to watch the Shepherd Smith's passionate response to the topic. As I think is clear from an earlier post of mine, The Worst Show on Television that I couldn't agree more with him. I doubt that we have heard the last of this debate… sadly.

Friday, May 1

So Behind

It's so hard to get back on the horse once you get behind. You don't want to blog because you feel like you don't have the time to dedicate to get everything in that you need to. So I decided that I'll do whatever I can tonight and then whatever else I still want to write about later.

So, first of all, congratulations to Mindy on finishing what was a very difficult semester for her and, happily, will be one of her last. To celebrate, she wanted to go out to Charley's Crab which overlooks the Grand river downtown. We have wanted to go since we first saw it, and remembered every day we went to a D-Zone game because it's very close to Van Andel. So, Friday was our perfect opportunity. So she and I hit it down there in our jeans (and she was even wearing a “I ♥ NY” shirt).

Charley's Crab, Grand Rapids

When we arrived it was not very busy, but our hostess said that it had been because some schools were having their proms that night. She brought us all the way to the back of the restaurant, and we sat with a beautiful view of the river right next to a wall of windows. The only better location would have been the patio but we didn't want to ask. The inside was awesome anyways, they had cool wallpaper and these incredibly large mirrors which really gave it an open feel. Charley's crab is owned by the same restaurateur as is the Gandy Dancer in Ann Arbor.

Charley's Crab Interior, Grand Rapids

The bread they brought us before our appetizers was delicious. They had these poppy seed rolls that tasted a lot like Charley's twists for those of you hip to the old Ann Arbor scene. They were really good. They also brought crackers that were very brightly flavored wheat with poppy and sesame seeds. With all of this they brought the standard whipped butter but also this deliciously savory smoked salmon pate which was great on the crackers. As a bonus, (since I never eat just one basket of bread) our waitress threw some fabulous jalapeno cheddar biscuits in the second basket. They were sooo good. Biscuits seem to be a seafood standard, but I always hate them. I am not a biscuit fan, but I am telling you that these were unbelievable. The sneaky jalapeno heat really brought out the hidden sweetness of the cheddar (I know, go figure). Delicious.

This brings us to the appetizers. We got two. Of course we got the Calamari which was just okay, but actually included the tentacles which Mindy had never had. They were served lightly breaded with an onion and bell pepper sauce that was so strong it almost tasted pickled. It was definitely interesting. By far the best thing we had all night was the Macadamia nut encrusted coconut shrimp. Not only have I never seen such large, meaty shrimp, but the Mango salsa garnish was absolutely amazing. I am not at all surprised that they offer this appetizer as an entree option on the menu also. This shrimp was a dream!

Then it was time for dinner. Mindy is on a Reisling kick thanks to my lovely cousin Vicki. So she was excited to try a Columbian Reisling as she had only had American and German varieties. It was soooo sweet that even I conceded that it was okay. For dinner, Mindy ordered the surf and turf which was a lobster tail and maybe an eight ounce steak. It also came with these incredibly huge asparagus and mashed potatoes. She also got the dynamite sauce as a topping for her steak which was a mistake - very much undelicious. All told her entree alone came to $53! I thought that I should try their crab cakes as at many places this is a signature dish. I really didn't like them, in fact I barely made it through one of my two. Not to say most people wouldn't like them, but I definitely didn't.

After dinner we had a dessert of delectable blueberry cheesecake which was quite lovely.

Charley's Crab
63 Market St. S.W.
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Table 418/1
Guests: 2
Reprint #: 1




Coconut Shrimp App
Sicilian Calamari
G1 RS Columbia
Mozzarella Caprese
Surf & Turf
Dynamite Topping
Crab Cake Dinner
Dessert Special 2




Balance Due

Replica receipt as I am too broke for a scanner

Thursday, April 16

Serious News

Two days ago, my uncle Mike died.
Two days before that he barely struggled through his last shower.
Two days before that he drove to work like any other day.

The above timeline was inspired by the actual words of his wife, my aunt, as she described the voracity of the cancer that was in the process of consuming her 42 year old husband. I was really affected by her telling of these events, and I hoped that I could capture it so you could feel the torture and confusion that filled her words Easter day.

Last weekend, Mindy and I were working at a home show in Novi when I got a call from Stacy telling me that my uncle Mike had cancer. In fact as it turns out, he was riddled with it. His lungs, his liver, his lymph nodes, his bones.

It really exposes the future for the empty illusion that it is. Remember to keep your life in order everyday. Remind someone you love what they mean to you today because that's the last thing they might have from you.

Tuesday, April 14

Stumbled Onto this Gem

So I stumbled onto this little gem the old fashioned way. I am trying to work on that guy's logo and I wanted to pursue a sound wave angle so I did a google image search for sound lines, and I found this (make sure to click to see full size).

Sound Wave Lines

I almost missed it, even though I was looking at it, I was so intent on analyzing the clarity of the sound waves, that I almost missed the point. Fortunately, I didn't quite overlook it. Thank you, and no StumbleUpon necessary.

Friday, April 10


So you need to watch this. I guarantee you'll chuckle at this shithead, that's what I guarantee. If could use a laugh make sure to read this article where I found this video on WOOT.

*Quick note: (check out youtube's new themed embedding options, brand new as far as I can tell)

The radio has delivered to little gems also that I am kind of embarrassed that I love. The first is a commercial for a show that's coming to DeVoss Hall on April 15. I know sounds sophisticated… What's more, it's performed by the Grand Rapids Symphony and Choir no less. I know, I know what you're asking. “How Benn, could you be embarrassed that you'd want to attend this?” Well, I'll tell you how. Because it's Distant Worlds, the score from the hit, epic video game phenomenon, Final Fantasy. So that's one thing, but in addition Nobuo Uematsu, the composer, will actually be in attendance. Finally, they will actually be projecting some of the most epic scenes from the video game series on the big screens behind the symphony. Check it out here if you'd like, I know I would.

The second thing I love that the radio has delivered to me is a deep and fulfilling enjoyment of the folky-rock band Kings of Leon, particularly the single Sex on Fire. I'm only embarrassed about this because my desire for folky sounding rock and roll is insatiable and completely predictable. I suggest, if you like me burn with lust for this genre, take a listen.

Oh and lastly, the glories of socialist economic stimulus payments leftover from last year rain from the heavens like mana.

Wednesday, April 8

Thursday, April 2

Thanks to Mindy, I Have to Post This

So, sadly, thanks to Mindy leaking information on facebook. I guess I have to post this.

As it turns out, I too had an e-mail read of the FreeBeer and HotWings morning show (the best show on the planet). Unfortunately for me, it went over a little less well for me than it did for Mindy. Much to her amusement.

FreeBeer is having some issues surrounding whether or not he wants kids. His wife told him as she walked out the door that she wanted to adopt this year, which kind of threw him into a bit of a spin, as it would many men. All in all he's not sure what he wants to do, and he talked about it on the radio.

I know for a fact that he thinks very highly of his father, in my opinion, exceptionally highly, and I thought that while it's easy to see how much you will miss playing video games all day long and driving awesome cars, it's harder to see the benefits to having children. So, I thought that if I asked him to think of how much his father means to him and then think about how special that would be to have a son or daughter who thinks that of him. I know that that is part of the reason why I look forward to having children of my own.

Unfortunately, I clogged that up with a bunch of other stuff in the e-mail which I think distracted him from that message. Which, as it turns out, lead them to flame me pretty well.

Of course, they seem to have been able to extract some amazing insight into what an asshole I am from a very short e-mail.


If the above player, doesn't work click here: My Email

Mindy wanted to share that her favorite part is when HotWings does his impression of me, and I simply wonder how he knew I have such a gay voice and am a gigantic dork… we will never know.

I wanted to share that everytime I listen to this it's like getting punched in the throat while standing in front of my high school class naked.


Tuesday, March 31

Kids Write the Darndest Things

(about horses)

I have no idea how this ended up on Business Pundit, but I'm sure glad it did.

Thursday, March 26

Why I'm Happy I Didn't Go to Harvard

Check this out. A Harvard Economist's explanation of how Twitter caused this economic meltdown.

My response is best explained by the following XKCD comic.

Correlation by XKCD

Tuesday, March 24

1337 sauce

Subtitle: Hilarious Geek Joke

So, I'm just going to show you a picture I took at Meijer today, because my horribly geeky friends will think it's hilarious, I'll explain it to the rest of you after that.

Hilarious Geek Joke

So, I found this at Meijer tonight way way way in the back, on the discounted alcohol rack. Anyways, that's about a thirty dollar bottle of alcohol, but as you can see someone printed a pricetag for it at 999.99. Which is funny of course, but it's extra funny because geeks about my age use the number 999 to stand for infinity. Basically, it comes from many video games which don't exceed three digits in certain critical categories like hit points, energy, damage, …etc. So if you are at 999, you have reached the absolute pinnacle of achievement, and your powers are nigh godlike. Therefore, we can use 999 to substitute for and denote all other superlatives.

For example:

“After working through the night last night, my boss gave me a 999 raise.
Big roll for mad l00ts!”

Of course this is extra comical because I'm fairly confident that this alcohol is gross and completely unrefined. I didn't take a picture of it, but the pricetag on the Jose Cuervo tequila Cocoa said 99.99, and it's a whopping $14.95 bottle. It's always cool to find these Easter Eggs.

I'll see if I can get 999 added to I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 23

Fire Water

There was an interesting news story tonight. It's about a couple in Colorado whose water is flammable. It's intense. Of course, it isn't technically accurate to say that their water is flammable, but the natural gas mixed in it sure is. Check it out. I also wanted to show off a cool service called QUIETube which is an awesome service with a bookmarklet that creates a blank page for the sharing of any youtube video. It's great for emailing and everything because it eliminates all the extraneous junk. They say that it's youtube without the distractions.

You can watch the fire water video here.

If you are not sure what a bookmarklet is, feel free to read this article by yours truly on the blog.

Thursday, March 19

Hilarious JetBlue Ad

You guys have to check this out - very clever, very Steven Colbert feeling to me. I found it on Ad Freak if you'd like to read their take on it.

There was also an interesting Canadian PSA campaign that seems valid, and uses some awesome photoshop.

Cancer Motel
Cigarettes Smoke People

Logo CraZayness

Check this hilarious article of business logo parodies out here.

You guys have to check out Dan's latest blog post, particularly the American military spending graph as published on the Economist's website. That is simply mind-blowing.

Also, I was strangely approached by a stranger on youtube to design a logo for him. His business name will be "CraZay Video Productions." At first blush I wasn't going to do it, but then I thought about it and figured that it might be fun. So I'll try to have that for him in the next couple weeks, and if I need any help I'll definitely be asking all of you.

Wednesday, March 11

I don't remember why this is funny

This is a completely unfunny product I found at a quirky kitchen supply store in Kalamazoo. It was a lovely store, and I wanted about a thousand things there, you can check it out at Lakeside Merchantile. Sadly, I have since forgotten why I felt compelled to stop in my tracks, and snap a picture. If you figure it out let me know in the comments.

Thursday, March 5

Mindy's Radio Fame

So travel back in time with me to an episode from last month maybe two weeks ago.

Well as it happens, I am sitting at work, as normal on a Thursday night, when I get an IM from Mindy who is usually doing what ever she can to not kill herself from boredom in her late COMM class. This instant message was pretty unusual however, as it read "OMG! It's Len O'Kelly. Golden throat is here in our class talking to us! OMG! I can't believe it."

The Most Stunning Eyes in the World

Okay, so we have to peddle the way-back machine a little while further.

Len O'Kelly is a morning show host on a local oldies station. He works with FreeBeer and HotWings in their radio cluster with a few other morning shows. Anyway, at one point FreeBeer and HotWings had him in their studio to do what is called "ramping" a record. That's where DJ's attempt to "hit the post" which is fill airtime with interesting information, and stop talking exactly when the first lyrics are beginning. So one day, when they got some new mics they decided Len O'Kelly, who they affectionately refer to as "Golden Throat," should try out the mics. (Sidenote: he was awesome).

Flash forward to Mindy's class. She's losing her mind - starstruck. When I finally got home she was still pumped up about running into a local celebrity! She decided that she simply had to write an e-mail into FreeBeer and HotWings relaying her experience.

When we woke up Friday morning, I wanted to get to work because we would be leaving early for the D-Zone game, but she said she absolutely had to check her e-mail to see if any of the guys responded. I was alerted by a shrill chirp that FreeBeer had in fact responded.

The rest of the day unfolded without much incident, until we arrived at the game.

As it turned out, the Griffins decided to enforce two hands, two beers rule, which caused quite a commotion when the "beer she-nazi" would come down to us and confiscate unmanned or over-the-limit beers. This forced FreeBeer to spend most of his time talking with the fans in our row about the incident. I of course had some opinions about that situation, so after talking to him about that, I knew that I could embarrass Mindy by bringing up that she was the one who had sent the e-mail the night before about Len O'Kelly. To Mindy's great surprise, he informed us that they had actually READ HER E-MAIL on the air, while they had Len in studio that morning.

That brings us to the following, enjoy.

If the above player, doesn't work click here: Mindy's Email

Pay special attention to the fact that Zane muses that she sounds "rather smitten" and FreeBeer announces very softly at the end "writes Mindy."

Monday, February 9

Weekend Awesomeness

This weekend we celebrated Andy's birthday at a surprise party at his house. It was just wonderful. Happy Birthday Andy.

Interestingly enough, Luke came out to our house last weekend, and during the course of gabbing we happened to talk about one of our classmates, Maz, from highschool. So as it turns out, he ended up being our server at Seva this morning in Ann Arbor. How about that?

I would like to point out to anyone who may be curious about any twittering from friday that each beer is 21 oz... Just FYI. [*cough]lightweight.

As a sidenote: Andy and Vickie rule the world.

Friday, February 6

Potty Mouths Turn Me On


Mature Audio Warning

Someone may take himself a little too seriously. He is my absolute tippy top man crush though. He seems to be a serious, serious asshole - which only makes me like him more. I never knew Batman had such a potty mouth. Speaking of potty mouths, I can't wait for hockey tomorrow.

Here's a little something for the older crowd…

PS - I still have a very cool huge multimedia extravaganza post on the way about copying

"Let's talk abou' it." - Best Cheaters quote ever

Monday, January 12

The Worst Show on Television

My very live and let live sensibilities are rarely offended. In fact, I often scoff at arguments which focus on the desensitizing effects of music, movies, video games, television, and other media including the news. The crucifixion of Marylin Manson and games like Doom, as contributors to the senseless violence that occurred at Columbine High School, was obscene and sensationalist. However, I will abandon my normal arguments for one show - one show which I feel truly does more harm to the world than all of the others combine. That show is 24.

Now don't get me wrong. There are a lot of good things going on in 24. Not least of all is the incredibly innovative show structure which makes use of the physical reality of the show (notably that it spans one hour), and mirrors that through the plot and action of the show. Also, 24 does a wonderful job of providing incentive to repeat viewership through cliff-hangers, twists, and playfully incremental character development. No, my problem with the show, is none of these things, but for me actually overrules all of these things. My problem is with the themes of the show which through its hero, Jack Bauer, glorify and thoughtlessly perpetuate some of the most heinous errors from humanity's past. Not least of which when Jack Bauer repeatedly defies international law with one barbaric torture scene after another. The writers sing us a lullaby which reminds us to fear technology, savage foreigners, the rule of law, and just as sad, our friends. 24 drops us in a world, that it tells us is our world, where the only rule that matters is kill or be killed.

Don't get me wrong, I am not so naive so as to believe that everything can be taken care of by talking it out, and not all boo-boos can be healed with Barbie band-aids. Violence, espionage, black opts and the like all play crucial roles in the world we all live. Likewise, I realize that our liberties are threatened more than any of us wish to know by threats like terrorism and war. However, when you exploit the deepest fears of Americans and exaggerate the some of the most corrosive racial / cultural stereotypes unrelentingly and then hand them a messiah of amazing violence, distrust, and lawlessness, I feel that you do humanity a disservice. And I am not the only one who feels this way…

Please take a moment to read an article that Jackson Woods pointed out to me from the New Yorker last year, Whatever it Takes. In it Jane Mayer, explores the possible damage done by the show, and some of the positions of its smug co-creator Joel Surnow. Particularly enlightening is the section dedicated to documenting the personal visits Joel has received from the DEAN of West Point, asking him to limit the torture in the show on account of their very real and perceptible negative affects on prospective military officers. Not only do such scenes spit in the face of international law, but torture in real life has been proven to be very ineffective in garnering accurate intelligence. In fact, he cites several more effective methods that are actually used in the field which could conceivably provide Jack with more reliable information and not trample humanitarian efforts while doing it.

I know it's quite long, but please take a chance to read the article Whatever it Takes.

One thing that occurred to me while watching the newest episodes tonight (I wanted to watch Helvetica on PBS in the same timeslot, but Mindy really likes 24) is that we have rightly thrown shame and venom towards our outgoing President while we hail the throne of the great Jack Bauer, and worship him with the voting voice that is viewership. Honestly, at its core 24 tells us that the ends justify the means, and that liberty and decency should be desecrated when we can protect innocent American lives, but yet we are appalled by Guantanamo, we were outraged at the unconstitutional, causeless tapping of our phones and records, and we will put to trial certain Blackwater operatives who may have overstepped or neglected the rules governing combat. Well I say make up your damned minds. I hate Jack Bauer, and I am saddened by the terrible world it helps to create.

Now I understand that there are times when Jack and the other characters of the show consciously deal with these issues. For example, in this season, Jack is standing in front of a congressional panel where he is forced to answer for his black past. He even sometimes edges towards regret for the things that have to happen for him to keep the world safe. If I remember correctly, I believe Jack was even forced to kill his own brother which he found very regrettable. Unfortunately, the answer built by the writers is resoundingly that these things after all had to be done, and secondly, that there was no other way to produce the results he needs. So in effect, we are left with a Socratic argument which asks questions to which the answer is always pain, violence, and torture. In my opinion, instead of tempering the case the for violence, these moments of thoughtfulness actually strengthen the case and redouble the damage done to society.

I also realize that you may sense some hypocrisy in that my favorite show on tv, Dexter, features a homicidal forensics officer who kills savagely and completely without remorse. He too is the hero, and you might think is an excellent mirror of Jack, who also does "whatever it takes." Additionally one of my favorite movies is the Boondock Saints wherein two brothers and eventually their father go on a rampage of righteous killings, freeing the world from the very worst of our criminals and deviants. However, there are many many good arguments for why these shows are wonderful and 24 is disgusting beyond belief. I shall enumerate just a few of these reasons here:

  1. Our heroes don't / rarely torture - killing is legal, and actually deemed appropriate where torture is strictly forbidden by our Constitution and countless other documents
  2. Our heroes have clearly developed and explicit codes which means they respect the rule of law
  3. Our heroes are much less wreckless - they deal out justice much less trivially
  4. Finally, our heroes are not cast as America's last chance - or the only way to safety

I would urge you to consider the multitude of other shows which deal with similar threats completely differently. A 24 contemporary that I like very much for example, that even shares a broadcast night is The Unit.

I understand that these arguments might not hold water for you, and in that case I encourage you to flame me in the comments. But I hope to have at least brought 24's senseless violence one step forward into your consciousness where it is unable to harm your conception of how the world really works.