Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fan Fix

For those who are dissatisfied with the rate of output from the Land of Yajeev, I encourage you to consider that which has brought satisfaction to readers who have wanted more from their favorite literary universes than the authors have provided (e.g. Rowling's Hogwarts, Cuse and Lindelof's mystical island, Albert's Molecular Biology of the Cell): Fan Fiction.

I authorize you, dear loyal readers, you heartbreaking few who visit the blog twice or thrice daily in hopes of espying a new (mis)adventure from your humble narrator, to imagine for yourselves and document the antics in which I might find myself. Feel free to take liberties as to the (alternate) universe(s) you imagine me to inhabit and negotiate. Crossover interactions with characters from other narratives (e.g. fantasy novels, blogs, reality shows, scholarly research) are wholeheartedly endorsed.

Monetization of the Land of Yajeev without Yajeev's written consent is expressly prohibited. Please be charitable in your extra-canonical depictions.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Response to Recent Comments

In the great blog post drought of 2010, I have received many comments that have, until now, gone unaddressed. Here, I will respond to a representative few.

My November 16, 2009 entry entitled "Dear Bob Gunton..." generated a lot of buzz in the comments section. Anonymous wrote:
Hello, I think this is the coollest blog I`ve seen. I really like your theme.
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Anonymous, thank you for your kind words. I know you've read a lot of blogs with a variety of interesting themes. To think that mine is the coollest you've seen really means a lot. Best of luck with your online Tramadol sales.

Another anonymous reader commented on the same post:
Hello! Excellent site, keep up the good work!
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Thanks, Anonymous! I will do my best not to let you down. I'm sorry it's been so long between posts. Best of luck with your cheap Accutane sales.

A third anonymous respondent shared:
I usually don't post in blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful !
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Anonymous, I don't know what to say. I am honored that, after reading my blog, you felt compelled to share your positive feedback. Might I say that I admire your creative punctuation usage. Best of luck with your cheap Ultram sales.

The December 13, 2009 post, "A Cold Day in Hell" resonated with a lot of readers, many of whom left comments.

オテモヤン wrote:
I'm speechless. オテモヤン, I hope you know that you are welcome to comment here any time, but please remember that this blog is family entertainment, so keep it clean.

Anonymous wrote, quite flatteringly,
nice post. I would love to follow you on twitter.
You're in luck, Anonymous. During my extended blog hiatus, I have been sharing 140-or-fewer-character morsels of wit and wisdom. Check it out here!

Yet another anonymous commenter chimed in:
Hi all. How are you?
Hello. I am fine, thank you. How are you?

Finally, Mark wrote:
Isn't that the final irony of life -- isn't it????
Mark, I have no idea what that even means. In the future, if you wish to comment on the blog, have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the reader.

Thank you, everyone (except Mark--you can do better), for your comments. It brings me great pleasure that such high-caliber conversation continues at the Land of Yajeev even when new blog posts aren't forthcoming. The comments section at the end of each post represents the leading edge of intellectual discourse of our society. Keep your comments coming!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Inaugural Post of the New Year

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2010. I meant to write this a few (hundred) days ago, but you know how crazy things get after the first of the year. Thanks for standing by. My New Years Resolution is to post at least one entry per week for the duration of this calendar year. Here goes nothing.

I’m sure you’re wondering how I’ve spent the first three hundred sixty-two three hundred sixty-fifths of the New Year. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but here are a few highlights.

I’ve tweeted slightly more regularly than I blogged.

I consumed more than 10,000 calories over the course of three epic intra-departmental eating contests. I won two out of three (details to follow).

I went for several walks to the Connecticut River and back.

While my two fantasy football teams (The Fighting Fungi and The Hartford Wild Yeast) performed miserably, my little lady took home the virtual trophy after her Independent Variables won this weekend’s championship match-up. I’ve never been prouder.

Also, I’m caught up on Dexter.

That about sums it up, but the year is still young. I can’t wait to see what blessings and surprises 2010 has in store for me.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A cold day in hell

“I’d like to wait inside a little longer. I lost my dad,” I explained Thursday night to the security guard attempting to herd straggling Cleveland and Pittsburgh fans through the stadium exits. Probably because it was 14 degrees outside (the news said it felt like six below with the wind), the bundled enforcer had mercy on me.

I circled the stadium concourse, hoping to find my father who had come to the game almost completely prepared: long underwear, two pairs of pants, two jackets, a shirt, a Hines Ward Super Bowl replica jersey, gluten bread, a blanket, his Terrible Towel, scarf, hat, gloves, and video camera. One thing he lacked, however: his cell phone.

I was similarly cloaked but still felt especially vulnerable to the 40 miles-per-hour wind ripping through the stadium after an unimaginable 13-6 Browns victory. I had brought my cell phone, but it was worthless in locating an off-the-grid father. One moment, I had been standing next to my dad and on the phone with my mother to coordinate a stadium pick-up. The next, I had hung up to find that Dad had wandered off, distracted by some flashing lights or tantalizing mirage of warmth or bratwurst.

I circled the stadium in the opposite direction, still unable to find my dad (or a suitable replacement). My phone rang. It was my wife. She was crushed by the Steelers’ loss. “I can’t talk,” I interrupted her. “I lost my dad!” I shouted over the rumpus of rowdy Browns fans (class of the Midwest) chanting “Pittsburgh sucks!” and other assorted non-bloggables.

I was tired and cold and inexplicably carrying two commemorative Cleveland Browns travel mugs that Dad and I had received with the hot chocolate we bought during the third quarter. “I don’t want to keep this,” I had said to my dad at the point of sale. “I want to save them,” my dad insisted. “I’ll cover the Browns’ logos with Steelers’ logos!” Against my better judgment, I acquiesced, and now I was wandering the halls of Cleveland Browns Stadium clutching two Browns’ mugs. Enthused Brownie lovers attempted to high-five me, assuming I was a rank-and-file member of the Dawg Pound. “No thanks.” “No way, man.” “I’m not celebrating.” “No high-fives for you.” And so on.

My phone rang again. It was my mom. Having attempted to meet us at the stadium entrance, she had found herself inextricably locked into the flow of exiting traffic with road closures and police officers directing all vehicles away from the stadium and onto the highway. “I’m on the interstate heading to Erie!” she shouted. “I have to go!”

“I’m in no hurry,” I comforted her. “I lost Dad.”

I returned to the spot where I last saw Dad and waited for several minutes, hoping he might appear there. He did not. I scanned the faces of the now thinning crowd of football patrons. None belonged to Pops. Mom called again. “I’m on the highway heading back to the stadium. Have you found Dad?”

“Not yet,” I reported. “Call me when you get closer.

Another ten minutes elapsed. My phone rang anew. It was Mom. “Good news. They found Dad.”

“Found Dad? Who found Dad?”

“The police. He’s in the West Third Parking Lot.”

“Isn’t that where you were parked before you tried to find us?”


“I’ll meet you there.”

I found Dad, blanket-swaddled in a police car, his gluten bread nestled snugly in his lap. Oh, God, they’ve arrested him, I thought. When I got closer to the car, Dad rolled down the window and said, “You left me! I had to fend for myself! Get in the car.”

I got in the backseat of the car, and Dad explained that when he lost me, he began to wander through the stadium concourse. After a few minutes of searching, he aggravated a previously pulled groin muscle and fell to the ground, where he sat for several hellish minutes, sans cell phone, unable to call either me or my mother. Not a single good Samaritan was to be found among the Browns fans (big surprise) to help him to his feet. Finally, a stadium employee came to his assistance. Dad told him that his ride was waiting for him in the West Third Parking Lot (though, unbeknownst to Dad, his ride was actually heading away from the stadium toward Pennsylvania in a sea of traffic). The employee fetched a wheelchair and pushed Dad around the stadium to the indicated lot, whereupon he deposited my father saying, “This is as far as I can go. I need the wheelchair back.” Dad stood up, and the man and wheelchair were gone. Dad, believing that Mom was somewhere in the West Third Parking Lot and not on her way out of state, limped pathetically to find her. After several minutes, a police officer had mercy on my father and offered him the use of his cell phone and warmth of his car.

About ten minutes after I found Dad, Mom showed up (fortunately, she thought better of skipping town). The only reason my mom had even come to Cleveland was to make the adventure a little simpler for Dad and me. The plan had been for her to drive us to the game (which she did), deposit us at the stadium before the game (which she did), work in the heated car during the game (which she did), and retrieve us near the stadium after the game so that we would have minimal time walking to and from the stadium in the bitter cold (which she did... not). Altogether, Dad and I spent nearly 90 minutes post-game wandering the streets and stadium of Cleveland and were among the last few fans to escape the elements on one of the coldest nights of the year.

Thanks to Dad’s friend Jeff who let us use his season tickets for this game. Thanks to Dad for braving the cold. And thanks to Mom for attempting to make our lives a little easier.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dear Bob Gunton...

Dear Bob Gunton…

As I’m sure you’ll agree, it was a pleasure to meet at the Atlanta International Airport a little over a week ago. I hope you don’t mind me saying so, but as handsome as you appear on 24 and in the Shawshank Redemption, you were even more striking in real life. Once again, I apologize for so eagerly approaching you. As a blogger with tens of readers and a yeast biochemist with ones of individuals who are familiar with my research, believe me, I know what it is like to be harassed by the adoring masses.

Thank you for the sage advice to continue to “tune in to 24” for “another exciting season” and to “keep cheering for Ethan” (your character, the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States). Had our encounter not been so late at night, I’m sure we both would have had more interesting things to ask and say to each other.

Below is the picture we took in the airport. I figured you’d want it for your scrapbook or facebook page (which, oddly enough, I couldn’t find—please be sure to add me as a friend as soon as possible!).

I’ve told all my friends about our chance (nay, fated) encounter. I’m sure you have as well. Keep up the great work, and I’ll do the same.

Keep in touch,

P.S. I was so glad to see that you were completing sudoku puzzles on the plane. They say it really helps to keep the brain sharp.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wildest Fantasy

This football season, the wife and I have been introduced to the all-consuming obsession that is fantasy football.

For those who are unfamiliar with this nifty little pastime, here is a quick explanation. Each member of a fantasy league is the "owner" of a fantasy professional football team comprised of actual professional football players. Prior to the opening game of the real NFL season, league owners assemble (in person or, more commonly, via the interwebs) for a draft, wherein teams are assembled as owners take turns selecting players to fill out their rosters. As the real-life players compete on the gridiron, their fantasy counterparts score or lose points accordingly. Quarterbacks, for instance, earn points for total passing yards and touchdown passes but lose points for interceptions or lost fumbles. Every week, your team goes head-to-head with another in the league, and the winner is the owner with the most accumulated points on his roster. Throughout the season, adjustments can be made: benching players (you don’t want to be the idiot who plays an injured athlete or a guy on his bye week), making trades, etc.

I dove headlong into this venture, joining two Fantasy Football leagues in this inaugural year of my participation. In keeping with the central theme of my life’s work for the past six years, my teams are the Hartford and New Haven Wild Yeast. The wife, a bit more prudent in her fantasy expenditure, is coaching just one team: The New Castle Gangstas. Her mascot is a hooded sweatshirt—which is about as gangsta as the little lady gets. Other teams in our leagues include the Angry Muffins, Community Organizers, Fighting Boobies, and Casey Hampton Fit Club. Additional teams have family-blog-inappropriate monikers.

Allegedly, smacktalk abounds in fantasy football, with an online "smackboard" provided for each game. We have been terribly disappointed by the dearth of smack. We do our best to egg on our opponents (insulting their players, their mothers, their players' mothers, their mothers' players, etc.), but none have taken the bait.

We now watch football in a new way. No longer do we simply cheer for teams to win or lose for the simplistic reason of liking or disliking them or for the impact that their performances will have on the standings of our beloved Steelers. Now, we switch from game to game, cheering members of our own squads while wishing fumbles and interceptions and missed field goals on our opponents’ athletes. Each week, we scour the statistics and make our best predictions for who will be the highest point getters based on past performance, conditions in which they thrive (or not), who their opponents are, etc. and make trades and select starters accordingly. We read columns by dedicated professional fantasy football analysts, track each player’s projected point total throughout the week, and monitor our adversaries' lineup changes, logging in to the league pages several times per day. So addictive is fantasy football, I have not yet found time to assemble my McDonald’s Monopoly game pieces or enter the winning codes online (no worries—I'm confident that I’ve won—my winnings will be waiting for me whenever I get to them).

Fantasy stats and potential roster adjustments are always on my mind. Last night, the wife was describing to our friends an educational research study she would like to perform for her PhD dissertation. Part of the proposed investigation involved tracking individual students’ academic performance by monitoring the grades of each pupil over time. As she described her plans, I interrupted her; my new idea was of much greater import than whatever research-statistical-significance-improving-education-and-bettering-mankind mumbo jumbo she was spouting, so I blurted out, "We should have a fantasy student league! We could pick students and get points for their grades and stuff!"

The moment passed— only minor interest was generated by my proposition, but I believe my idea is truly innovative. Last night's friendly get-together might not have been the appropriate venue in which to expand upon my scheme, so I will elaborate upon it here. At the beginning of a school year, members of a fantasy student league ("fantasy teachers") would draft a classroom. To make educated decisions, fantasy teachers would have access to dossiers on each potential pupil with information such as: past academic achievements and failures, grade-point-averages, athletic accomplishments and embarrassments, birth order, religion (you wouldn't want to draft all Jewish pupils, for instance, as you'd have an empty fantasy classroom on Rosh Hashanah and a dreadful score for the week!), attendance records, classroom participation statistics, medical charts (you'll want a fully vaccinated classroom roster), relationship history, and job data (you might not want to draft a student who's working 20 hours a week at The Gap).

Each week, your classroom will compete with another assembled from students in the same school or district and you will earn or lose points as appropriate to your students' performances. Below is a proposed scoring schedule for students in such a league:

Performances on Quizzes and Tests:
Grade of D or F: -3 points
Grade of C: 0 points
Grade of B: +1 point
Grade of A: +2 points
Grade of A+ or 100%: +3 points

Homework completion:
No assignments turned in complete and on time: -3 points
All assignments turned in complete and on time: +3 points

Classroom participation:
Every 3 questions or comments: +1 point
No questions or comments for the week: -2 points

Participation in a fight:
Wins the fight (and is not caught): +3 points
Loses the fight: -3 points
No decision (or caught fighting): 0 points

Consequences of Bad Behavior:
Missing Recess: -1 point
Detention: -3 points
In-school suspension: -5 points

Awards and Recognition:
Make the honor roll: +4 points
Student of the Week: +3 points
Earn a pizza through Book-It: +3 points
Win a spelling bee: +2 points
Win a game of Around-The-World: +1 point

Extracurricular Activities:
Weekly participation in recognized extracurricular activity: +1 point
Being a member of a winning athletic team: +1 point
Being a member of a losing athletic team: -1 point
Winning in a solo sport: +2 points
Losing in a solo sport: -2 points

In a relationship: +1 point
It's complicated: -1 point
Dumping: +4 points
Being dumped: -4 points

It would be prudent to disallow participation of "fantasy teachers" in districts in which their children attend school. 'Twould be a real shame to have a parent sabotaging their child's in-class performance to gain a competitive advantage over an opponent who has that student on his or her roster.

Depending on how successful the Fantasy Student League becomes, we can roll out an entire lineup of Reality-based Fantasy competitions. I've got a few in mind already, admittedly inspired by my own life experiences. In the Fantasy Science League, for example, participants would act as virtual funding agencies, drafting a lab of professors, post-docs (such as myself), graduate students, technicians, and undergrads. Points would be distributed for successful experiments that yield novel findings, authorship on papers in peer-reviewed journals, book chapters, and pretty western blots; points would be deducted for broken equipment, scientific fraud or misconduct, poor mentoring of younger scientists, and being scooped by competing labs.

Following naturally from Fantasy Student League is Fantasy Higher Education. In Fantasy Higher Ed, players earn points for academic achievement in proportion to the average amount of years it takes for an individual to make such achievements (4 points for bachelor's degree, 2 for a master's degree, 5 for a PhD, 3 for a JD, 1 for an LLM, 1 for each year of postdoctoral fellowship training, etc.). In contrast to most fantasy games, this fantastical competition, of course, would take much longer than a single year, as players would be tracked for the duration of their academic pursuits.

Perhaps the ultimate in Reality Fantasy contests is Fantasy Life, in which fantasy players ("gods") draft a team of real-life people as their own mock creations. Points are earned for life successes such as getting promotions, finding love, making babies, or purchasing hot tubs and detracted for missteps like going bankrupt, committing felonies, or traffic violations.

What Reality Fantasy competition would you like to see and how would points be allocated? Leave your ideas in the comments section!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A face only a mother could love

“Don’t be alarmed,” I said calmly, standing in the doorway of the living room.

My wife turned her head, and upon glimpsing the monster that I had become, jumped from her chair and took two steps back. Even the dog didn’t recognize me. Aroused from his slumber, he leapt to a sitting position, cocking his head perplexedly. Not until after he tentatively licked my face did he become convinced of my identity.

The reactions at work were no less dramatic. One person burst into laughter. Several didn’t recognize me until after I had spoken. “Who the hell is that guy?” I heard one say. Each acquaintance I passed in the lab stared, wide-eyed. Those with whom I don’t work intimately mistook me for a new guy on the floor and greeted me warily, but politely.

The truth is that, staring in the mirror after my metamorphosis, I was more startled than the others. The beauty-to-beast transformation was remarkable.

After nearly ten years, I had finally put razor to chin. The face that had spent a decade in hiding (and protected from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation) had been unveiled for the world to behold. The bush on my face was no more. An hour earlier, my wife had removed ten inches of hair from what was recently described as my “half Jew-fro” (my mother is a gentile). Hair that had most recently resided at or above neck level now overflowed a plastic grocery bag.

As I held the razor in my hand, memories swirled through my mind like cookie bits in a B/blizzard. My father had recently asked me, “How long will you be allowed to look like...this?" (“This” I gathered designated the furry mask and shaggy mane that I had borne for so long.) When I first met and wooed my wife, I had donned a stylish, trimmed goatee and well-trimmed locks. Over the course of our relationship, the goatee blossomed into a sweet garden of beardedness all over my face and the short locks into a tangled mop of ringlets. Indeed, until last Saturday, she had never laid eyes on my face. (“I didn’t know your lips looked that,” she told me after staring for several minutes.) I recalled the sensation of wearing a scarf during the dog days of summer, living under the oppression of matted tresses and thick facial hair, sweat rolling down my face, reflecting off of my hairs like a Plinko chip on the Price is Right.

Someone asked me if this reflected some kind of quarter-life crisis. In truth, my 30th birthday lurks around the corner. In less than three months, I will leave behind the rollicking exuberance of my late twenties and enter a decade of maturity and solemnity. I will be faced with the decision of what it is I actually want to do when I grow up.

But, this molting was no quarter-life crisis, nor was it a more realistic 39%-of-life crisis. I simply decided that I would like to know what I looked like. Now I know. I’ve taken a good hard look at myself, and I’ve decided: It’s time to grow my beard back.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Allium in the family

The produce section of our grocery store has useful descriptions printed on cards above each variety of edible vegetation. For instance, naval oranges are "seedless and easy to eat". Jalapeno peppers are "delicious in salsas", and mangoes are "sweet and pulpy."

Novice that I am in all matters vegetarian, these twitterish descriptions were quite helpful the other night as I ricocheted semi-stochastically from one plant product to the next, warily collecting the (mostly green) items on my shopping list prepared by the wife.

While I may be inexperienced in the ways of cabbages, onions, and serrano chili peppers, I am no stranger to the strange and wonderful bulbousness of garlic. I appreciate a good garlic naan (and hyperbolic vegetable characterization) as much as the next guy, but even I was dubious when I read the description: "can be used in any recipe".

Seems a bold claim: "any recipe". Garlic in salsa? Of course. Pizza sauce? Oh yeah. Fruit salad? Perhaps. Chili? Why not? Sure, garlic can be used in "any recipe" in the strictest sense of the description, but I'm betting 2-1 against this anti-vampiric being a welcome additive to Grandma's lemon fluff dessert or the wife's strawberry pie.

But, as Aunt Josephine was fond of repeating, "To each his[/her] own." Just don't kiss me after enjoying your garlic-spiked lemonade.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

This little piggy had naan.

I have never been more proud to be an American.

Congratulations to Joey Chestnut, a true American Idol and model citizen, for his exemplary athletic performance this weekend. He outperformed long-time Japanese rival Takeru Kobayashi in an Independence Day classic. Chestnut is a living testament to how beating your body into submission, years of dedication and preparation, and family support (his mother helped him train) can enable a person to reach his or her dreams. He is a paragon of intestinal fortitude, a competitor nonpareil.

The skeptics said it couldn't be done, but yesterday, Joey Chestnut surpassed his own personal best, setting a new world (and likely galactic) record in the Super Bowl of competitive eating. The beast of feast consumed a mammoth 68 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes to take the championship belt at Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island, New York.

A hero of mine, Chestnut inspires me to consume more than is believed possible, to perpetually strive to improve upon past dietary achievements. A few personal bests I aspire to beat: 70 Quaker Steak & Lube chicken wings in one sitting, 4 consecutive nights of India Oven chicken vindaloo (with cheese and garlic naan), eating main courses from every restaurant on the main drag in my hometown in the course of one New Year's Eve celebration (thanks, Dad!)...

I may be no Joey Chestnut, but I will never cease striving to be more like JC.

Thursday, June 11, 2009