Record Leftovers: Heroes and Villains

Some outtakes from the most recent issue of The Yale Record.

 

The League of Slightly Extraordinary Gentlemen

Chaos: Can generate perfectly random numbers using only his mind. Never needs to flip a coin to make a decision.

Firebrand: Can light a match on the first try, every time. Currently battling Stage 2 lung cancer after a lifetime of looking really cool while smoking.

Puberty Boy: Able to increase his body mass by seventy percent in only three years.

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The Badass Baby Name Book

My girlfriend and I like to talk about baby names.

Some people think this is strange, since neither of us is planning to have children anytime soon. But I think that baby names are one of the perfect small-talk topics, and not just with the person you love.

Consider:

  1. Every day, we see and hear dozens of names, whether they belong to the people around us, people featured in the news, or characters in books and movies.
  2. Names have deep emotional connections for us. When we meet someone who shares a name with our childhood best friend — or a childhood bully — we often view that person differently as a result.
  3. Choosing someone’s name is a massive responsibility. Names change the course of our lives; they influence how people perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves. (The introduction of this book explains some of the ways that name selection can go wrong.)
  4. The average American will eventually choose two names for their own children, while also weighing in on the names of grandchildren and the children of friends.

Names aren’t just interesting to talk about — they have serious practical importance for the lives of our future children. As a discussion topic, it beats the hell out of the weather.

 * * * * *

The sad thing about baby names is that too many of them are boring.

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Increasingly Alarming

Yale’s Environmental Health and Safety office recently sent an email to all students with the headline “The Dangers Are Real”.

While the email included useful information on important topics like “the history of pedestrian right-of-way in Connecticut”, this was my favorite part:

“Distracted pedestrians are being injured at an increasingly alarming rate.”

“Increasingly alarming” is a beautiful phrase.

The Yale Environmental Health and Safety office does not imply that the rate of injury among distracted pedestrians is increasing — only that the employees of the office are becoming progressively more alarmed.

There are many reasons this could be happening. Maybe the injury rate really is increasing. Or maybe the injury rate is decreasing, but the average injury has gotten worse.

It is also possible that the author of this email is suffering from unrelated feelings of alarm, but attributes this alarm to the current rate of distracted pedestrian injury in Connecticut, whatever that rate may be.

* * * * *

The phrase “increasingly alarming” can be applied to literally any set of time-series data while remaining subjectively accurate.

For example:

  • “The global temperature is rising at an increasingly alarming rate.”
  • “Bears are attacking Canadians at an increasingly alarming rate.”
  • “George Clooney is aging at an increasingly alarming rate.”

And so on.

I feel like this phrase ought to have an Urban Dictionary entry, or at least a national holiday in the United States. On “Increasingly Alarming Day”, citizens would go about their business as usual, but would feel slightly more anxious than on other days.

Already, the idea has support from doctors, environmentalists, and Piers Morgan. I sense the seeds of a grassroots movement.

Our slogan?

“Increasingly Alarming”: Your one-stop solution for statistically dubious panic.

Two Muffins

“Two muffins are sitting in an oven…”

In the vein of The Aristocrats. This time, built around a joke that was popular with my fifth-grade classmates.

*****

Here’s the story. 

Warning: Contains profanity, and one instance of extreme pain.

*****

If you know of any jokes you’d like to submit to this treatment, send them to aaron at gertler dot com. These are pretty good writing exercises!

20 Things I Wish I Knew At 20

I may be only 20 years old, but there are many things I wish I knew.

So, in honor of these endless lists:

1. Who wins Super Bowl XLIX?

Vegas is already accepting bets. I could use the money.

2. Which of the 715 books on my Amazon wish list are worth reading? 

I just know I’m going to waste weeks threshing my way through all the chaff.

3. When will the next big earthquake hit Los Angeles? 

Frankly, I’m shocked that this wasn’t on the other lists. If I knew this, I could save thousands of lives. Think big, people!

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Queer Eye for the Ivy Guy: Stover at Yale

I got a copy of Owen Johnson’s classic novel Stover at Yale for Christmas. The university was different in 1901 (for one thing, the football team relied more on their rushing game), but some things were pretty much the same.

 

A sophomore teaches the freshman protagonist a lesson:

“No fooling around women; that isn’t done here — that will queer you absolutely.”

 

The protagonist is invited to a courtship dinner:

“Confound Bob Story! Why the deuce did he get me into this? I loathe females.”

 

The protagonist, now a junior, meets an adoring freshman in his entryway:

“Why do you wear pink pajamas?”

The little freshman, face-to-face with his first great emotion, blurted out: “Don’t you like them, sir?”

“Keep them on,” said Stover.

 

Later, the adoring freshman (Wookey) gets life advice from Stover and another drunken junior. At the end of the night:

“The two took solemn hold of each other’s hands and rolled over on the cushions. Wookey, in the pink pajamas, covered them with a rug, and stole out, like a thief, carrying away a secret.”

 

Junior Stover chooses senior roommates:

“The four of us are all different enough to make just the combination we need. I’m tired of bunking alone. I want to rub up against someone else.”

 

1 in 4, maybe more, since 1901.

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The Floodgates Open: Variety Show Edition

Most of the rest of my widely-available online work. Some pieces available only on paper, or whose links have broken, will be published later, in full.

Topics include Michael Grunwald’s The New New Dealmy weightlifting routine, potential trespassing, and how I wound up mentoring a stranger in China.

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