New content every weekday. Sometimes.

Month: November, 2014

My Latest Grant Proposal

by Melissa Chiasson

Title: Boxers or Briefs?: Understanding the comfort-design matrix of male underwear

For as long as man has existed, he has endeavored to improve the comfort and fit of male underwear. Prussian scientist Hans von Erkstein invented the brief in 1745 in the hopes of providing men a snug fit that afforded them a measure of protection against testicular torsion (henceforth known as the “Erkstein factor”). The brief proved wildly popular and would serve as a fount of inspiration for centuries to come (e.g., John Grisham’s The Pelican Brief). However, in the 1940s, boxer shorts, underwear that just looked like shorts you wear under another pair of pants, were garnering attention. Boxers, while offering a significantly reduced Erkstein factor, were quickly adopted by many youths across the globe. The frosty relations between brief and boxer wearers would come to be known as the Cold War. Luckily, reconciliation between the two parties was achieved in 1991, when the hybrid boxer brief was invented.

Now in the 21st century, the modern man is faced with an even greater landscape of underwear styles. The ambivalent can spring for boxer briefs, the self-conscious for body-slimming shapewear, the masochistic for thongs. Faced with all of these choices, it is extremely difficult for a shopper to make an educated decision. Currently there is no hard data on the characteristics of different styles of underwear, and there is no universal rating system in place to compare underwear across styles or brands.

Therefore, I propose to do the first definitive study of male underwear to better understand the determinants of comfort and implement a rating system by which consumers could decide what pair of underwear is the right fit for them. This study will require significant collaboration between myself and male underwear models, all of whom will have six packs and call me “Dr. Chiasson.” I hope to empower these young men by playfully hitting their rock-hard abs while collecting vital data on underwear fit and design.

Aim 1. Test various underwear styles on study participants and gauge level of comfort and feel.
In this aim, I propose to buy a lot of underwear, have totally ripped male models try that underwear on, and then ask them questions about the comfort of that underwear while laughing at everything they say, no matter what it is. I plan to buy a range of underwear, from skimpy to generous, and arrange it artfully on my entryway foyer. (These studies will be taking place at my apartment to afford the study participants sufficient privacy.) For recruitment of said participants, I will only be accepting men between the ages of 22 and 30, and no barbed wire bicep tattoos will be allowed. I will be asking some sensitive questions, so ability to communicate your needs (and desires, as the case may be) is crucial.

Questions will include: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how supported do you feel right now?”, “Is the shirt you’re wearing interfering with this process?”, “Is the shirt I’m wearing interfering with this process?” After preliminary data is collected, certain subjects might need further follow-up to determine how perception of underwear comfort changes over time. This will require more sessions at my apartment in which additional data may or may not be generated.

Aim 2. Design and implement a universal rating system of underwear fit and comfort.
After the thrilling aim 1 data collection sessions, I will prepare myself for the decidedly less-exciting portion of this project. I will design some algorithms that aggregate all the data and return statistics on the underwear, you know, data analysis stuff. I will stare wistfully at the photos of the study participants, here in a wet t-shirt, there doing push-ups like I told him to. Memories.

After I have a working version of my rating system in place, I will invite over a select few of the study participants to try out some underwear designed using my specifications. If a participant wants to buy me dinner as a way of celebrating my scientific achievement, I’ll let him. If he wants to just hang out at my apartment shirtless, all the time, I’ll let him. If he wants to be a co-author on this paper, I’ll giggle coquettishly, lean in so that I’m inches away from his face, and say, “Try me, son, I dare you.”

Intellectual Merit
My systematic study of male underwear will result in a system that every consumer can use to adequately assess the qualities of any undergarment. This will lead to more educated shoppers and a better streamlined method of underwear design. Concurrently, I will teach young male models about the beauty of science while rubbing their shoulders and asking how much they work out. They will fall in love with me, because that’s just how these things go.

Tip of the Day #191

by Jordy Greenblatt

If you buy a pork pie hat, try to get one that is not made of pork pie. Otherwise it is worth investing in a fly swatter and some sort of anti-seagull measure.

Records Listed in “Unbeeten: A Book of the World’s Most Incredible Beets”

by Lincoln Sedlacek

  • Reddest
  • Oldest
  • Largest (by volume)
  • Largest (by mass)
  • Most Difficult to Peel
  • Best Beet/Goat Cheese Pairing
  • Most Misshapen
  • Best in Class: Red Widow, Bloody Mary, Crimson Tide
  • Best Beet-Related Pun
  • Runniest (Boiled)
  • Runniest (Fresh)
  • Most Likely to Be Mistaken for a Radish
  • Best Borscht
  • Longest Without Water
  • Most Closely Resembling Jesus
  • Sexiest

-Jordy Greenblatt, Lincoln Sedlacek, and Melissa Chiasson

Just a Thought: Family Pictures

by Lincoln Sedlacek

Whenever my family takes a photo together, I’m always tempted to pants one of my siblings or throw a pie in my dad’s face. It’s not that I want to humiliate any of them, I just think that would make for a better picture than “that time we all stood together and smiled disingenuously.”

Ask Some Girl Who Is the Only One Alive Who Remembers the Prophecy

by Lincoln Sedlacek

Hey there, GWIOOAWRP,
I was at the store yesterday, and this guy came up to me and started talking to me. I’d say he was flirting with me, but it was hardly even flirting – he was actually trying to have a real conversation with me, you know? Anyway, he seems pretty great, and at the end of the conversation he gave me his number! I want to call him…but a small, silly part of me feels like he seems too good to be true, and I don’t want to soil that perfect experience by meeting him again later and finding out about all his flaws. Am I just being ridiculous? Or is there something reasonable about wanting to keep a perfect experience with someone pure by leaving it untouched by future interactions? And, most importantly: should I call him?
All the best,
Preserving Pure Perfection

Dear Preserving,
Bless the Goddess Above and Below – this is the man mentioned in the stories of old! Many moons ago, it was foretold that a beautiful man would approach a young woman between the sections of produce and dairy and talk to her of things other than her own appearance, before finally giving her the number of his telephone. The prophecy says the woman would call him, and they would have many more conversations, until one day, they would meet and have an enjoyable afternoon in a small Greek diner. So go! Call the number the man gave you…and the prophecy will be fulfilled!

How’s it going, GWIOOAWRP?
Every year at my college, the Electrical Engineering and Chemical Engineering departments compete in a friendly game of baseball. I’m team captain, and my best friend is shortstop. The other day we actually had a team practice, though, and to be frank, he’s awful. The game’s no big deal – I care a lot more about our friendship than winning – but a lot of the people on the team say that I should replace him with Natalie, who actually played on her high school softball team. What do you think? Should I risk hurting my friend by telling him he’s not up to snuff, or should I just take a “let’s all just have fun” approach and risk annoying a lot of the other people in my major?
Calculating Captain but Faithful Friend

Dear Calculating,
Bring her to me, this Natalie. Play her in your game of balls and bases, for it is clear, now, that she is the one who is mentioned in the prophecy! Many have foretold – and more forgotten – of a young girl, one who has played many games of balls ever-so-soft, who will come to a team of electrical engineers in their time of great need. Seventeen outs will come to pass by her hand, including the last, which will bring you and your engineers glory, just when it seems beyond your grasp. So have her pitch for you, fulfill the prophecy, and bring you and your comrades victory!

Lately I’ve been noticing that no matter what settings I use on the dishwasher, the dishes almost never come out completely clean. I’ve been trying to get the kids to rinse their plates off before they put them in the sink, but Jenna (my wife) thinks that I should just try using “Clenzer,” the brand-name dish detergent her mom used when she was a kid. Do you have any advice? Should I have the kids put in a little extra work, or should I spend an extra fifteen bucks a month on a fancy dish detergent?
Parent with a Plate-Peeve

Dear Parent,
I scarce believe my ears. Surely I must be dreaming, for where, but in dreams, would any say they had heard even the faintest rumor of Clenzer, the dish detergent spoken of in the prophecy! Long ago it was foretold that one detergent would rise up and stand against the might of even the most devilish dirty dishes. Waves of its divine suds would crash over casserole dishes and froth and flow around pots and pans alike, washing away their filth and leaving them as dishes reborn. This detergent would be a savior to scrubbers enslaved by stubborn specks of stew, and a guardian against the most egregious grime. Now, it appears that our detergent has come at last. It is Clenzer… Defender of the Dish Washers!

Last May, I graduated from Princeton with a degree in Economics. Now I’m three months into a consulting job at Bain and Company in Boston, MA. The money is good and I love the city, but when I left college, I think I had expected to my life to have a bit more purpose. I always thought I was supposed to change the world. I’m considering leaving my job to do something with a bit more meaning, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m just being foolishly sentimental. Can I really make a difference in the world? Do you think, just maybe…I’m even meant to?
Pleading for Purpose

Dear Pleading,
That is the stupidest, naivest, vainest fucking thing I’ve ever heard.

This Outward Bound Trip Has Taught Me a Lot About Human Weakness

by Melissa Chiasson

When my mom told me I had to go on this Outward Bound trip or go to boarding school, I was like, ok, sure, I’ll spend a few weeks in the wilderness with some losers and learn to kill a deer with my bare hands. If I had known that, 15 days in, I would be at 0 deer kills and 22 conversations about what responsibility means, I might have chosen differently.

What I have learned from these conversations: responsibility means keeping promises and building trust. What I have not learned from these conversations: how a quick severing of a deer’s cervical spinal cord with a knife fashioned out of flint ensures a rapid and relatively painless death. When I asked Brock, our trip leader and renowned responsibility expert, when we would learn to filter and drink our own urine, he told me maybe I should think more about why I was here and how my actions have hurt the people I love. I said it sounded like someone was scared of drinking his own urine.

Brock does not like me.

The other people on this trip do a whole lot of journaling and crying. My tentmate, Kylie, told me she’s here because she doesn’t get along with her stepmom and that she really misses her younger sister. I told her that I’m here because I want to take down a bear, construct a cape from its bloody fur, and then saunter around the forest, challenging other bears to fight and inevitably climbing the bear dominance hierarchy. Kylie then revealed that her sister’s favorite animal is a bear, at which point she started sobbing. I patted her arm gently and told her that once the bears accept me as one of their own, she and her sister could come visit any time, she just needs to give me, like, two day’s notice.

My mom sent me on this trip because I have trouble expressing myself in a productive way. I would much rather be productive by training a wild falcon to do my bidding than by drawing how I’m feeling on a piece of paper to share with the group (for the record, it was a sketch of a wild falcon doing my bidding). Imagine how proud my mom will be when I show up at her front door, slathered in ursine fat and bearing gifts of fresh deer meat.

I told Brock he has T-24 hours to start teaching us some hardcore wilderness skills or else I’m striking out on my own, IntotheWild style. He said it was obvious I had neither read the book nor seen the movie.

I said it was obvious he hadn’t noticed the bear bait I put in his tent.

Tip of the Day #901

by Lincoln Sedlacek

While a school of piranhas can devour a human in under a minute, they’ll settle for a quarter pounder if you make sure to leave off the pickles.

Thesis Topics My Adviser Refused to Fund

by Jordy Greenblatt

  • Low Viscosity Solutions to the Maple Syrup Stain on My Good Jeans
  • A New Algorithm for Finishing That Level of Yoshi’s Island Where You Fight the Frog From Inside Its Stomach
  • Optimal Temperature for Serving Revenge
  • Random Walks in Large Open Domains Just to Get Some Air
  • An Upper Bound on the Number of Times I Can Hear the Question “Will This Be on the Final” Without Having a Breakdown
  • A Complete Characterization of Knots That I Learned the Hard Way Won’t Keep My Dog From Chasing After Squirrels
  • Solutions to Jay-Z’s Fourteenth and Ninety-Sixth Problems

Tip of the Day #877

by Jordy Greenblatt

The best way to make your voice heard in the democratic process is to go to your polling place and scream outside the door until you are escorted off the property.

Ask Some Guy Who Only Gives Advice Through Anecdotes From “The Land Before Time”

by Lincoln Sedlacek

A month ago, I met this really amazing guy. He was everything I’ve ever wanted in a man, but as the weeks went by, I started to feel like there was something missing. We just didn’t connect; we shared the same values, but none of the same interests. Anyway, we recently went our separate ways, and I just can’t help but wonder…is there something wrong with me? I mean, he seemed so perfect for me; if I couldn’t manage to connect with him, will I ever really connect with anyone?
Needing encouragement,
Drained from Dating

Dear Drained,
Your situation sounds like that scene from the beloved children’s movie The Land Before Time, where Littlefoot, Cera, Ducky, Petrie, and Spike are all looking for the fabled “Great Valley” and find a small valley filled with lush, green trees. They all think that they’ve found their destination, but then a group of hungry longnecks rush into the clearing and eat everything. But you know what? That wasn’t the Great Valley; the Great Valley was still out there. And the person who’s right for you is still out there, too. You just have to keep searching for him.

Me and my roommates have always gotten along perfectly, but a few weeks ago one of them said some pretty nasty stuff to the rest of us, and we kind of all mutually agreed that he needed to move out. He’s been living with his boyfriend while he looks for another place, but these past few days the rest of us have been wondering if we overreacted – he said some mean stuff, but then again, we did, too. We think we’d like to give living with him another chance, but we don’t really know how to welcome him back into the fold. What do you think: how do we tell our ex-roommate we want to be friends again, after we literally kicked him out of our home?
Awaiting your advice,
Regretful Roomie

Dear Regretful,
Fights occur in every friend group: for example, I remember when the friend group in The Land Before Time had a fight, and all of the other dinosaurs ended up leaving Littlefoot to try to their own way to the Great Valley. But what you have to remember is that at the end of the day, Littlefoot ends up coming back to the other dinosaurs when he sees that they still want him there – specifically, because they need to be saved from falling into molten lava, sinking into tar pits, and being mauled by territorial dome-heads. I’m sure if you show your ex-roommate that you want him to come back, he’ll return, too.

My 6-year-old son always loved watching the movie We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story. It’s about a group of intelligent dinosaurs in modern-day New York and get into all sorts of antics – you know the drill. But about a week ago he broke the DVD, and I can’t find a new copy anywhere, not even online. He’s been really upset; do you think there’s any new children’s movie that he might enjoy enough to take his mind off how much he misses We’re Back!?

Dear Movie-Mother,
Your son seems like he’s probably experiencing the same loss Littlefoot experienced in The Land Before Time, when he saw his mother get attacked by a carnivorous Sharptooth, sustaining several neck and back injuries before finally passing away. However, even though Littlefoot really missed his mother, he’s still able to find a loving family in his friends, and also his grandparents, who he’s reunited with in the Great Valley. Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that your son will eventually find another children’s movie that makes him as happy as We’re Back! once did. Have you considered Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey?

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