Thursday, January 17

Don't use Rate My Professors

Easiness, helpfulness, clarity, reader interest and red peppers. Those have become the five modern pillars of grading the effectiveness of an educator.

Throughout my college career, I used Rate My Professors often. When faced with numerous options, classes and profs, I turned to that website for guidance when choosing my classes. If you don't know, Rate My Professors is a site that allows anyone to search a professor, give them a rating, write comments and see what others have said in the past. The site calculates the averages and gives you an overall rating, which also could include the vaunted red pepper, signifying the professor's good looks. 

This is a horrible system. I realized this too late into my career and made several mistakes using it. Here's why.

A majority of people who use the website are disgruntled students looking to extract some form of revenge on a prof for numerous reasons. Its their way of sticking it to the prof without actual confrontation. One of my favorite responses of all time was "If I had one hour to live, I'd spend it in his class because it feels like an eternity." A person who had a good experience is far less likely to go on the site and sing the praises of someone who they loved.

And who are these people leaving comments? Do you know them? Do you know their study habits? Do you  know their attendance? IQ level? Some people are lazy, and might deservedly get terrible grades, but you would never know that from a review that called the professor "the dark prince" would you? There is no way to get the details of the person posting anonymous ratings.

Clarity: 1.1
Truth is, we all respond to different teaching styles in different ways. What works for one student might be a disaster for another. Statistics is hard for me, and no professor could fix that. However, some people would still choose to blame the professor for their own poor study habits, unwillingness to meet with profs and simple lack of mathematical wizardry. 

Also, professors are constantly improving. That't why we fill out official surveys at the end of each semester. A semester-old review might be out of date, as a professor my have learned from their mistakes, changed their teaching style or implemented new techniques.

And the pepper is a joke. I'd take a gremlin-esqe teacher who helps me learn over a swimsuit model with no ability to teach, any day of the week. The pepper seals the deal for Rate My Professors when it comes to academic credibility. No website that takes reviews seriously would include a metric to rate the hotness of teachers. My education isn't a beauty contest. (It's actually the opposite, if you look at the vapid people who participate in said contests.)

My advice is to talk to people you trust when it comes to selecting a professor. People who have similar study habits, goals and expectations for themselves are going to give you a far better idea of who to take, instead of a random person from five years ago who wrote an ALL CAPS REVIEW OF HOW THE WHACK PROFESSOR DIDN'T LIKE SNICKERS BARS, YO. Don't depend on emoticons for your educational choices. And don't trust anonymous people online, especially when it comes to your education or your girlfriend. I can't even imagine what Te'o believed about his world history professor. 

By Aaron Brandt, 

Monday, January 14

Man finds brain in his KFC Chicken

A college student recently found a "brain-like substance" in his KFC the other day. Horrifying. I stopped eating fast food when I saw Supersize Me, and this really strengthens my case against such food. KFC immediacy came out and said it was probably a kidney, but is that any better? Of course all cooked parts on a chicken are edible, but when I order chicken, KFC should know that I don't mean brain/kidney.

Alleged brain/kidney substance.
Here's a few headlines I might be tempted to write if I were the editor of a newspaper.

  • "Chicken brain" no longer an insult; now a KFC menu item.
  • "KFC introduces 'Brain Chicken' for its cerebral patrons"
  • "Chickens don't 'think' KFC menu is a 'smart' idea"
  • "Man finds brain in his chicken; he doesn't mind"
  • "Man literally picks KFC's brain while eating"
  • "KFC introduces new Walking Dead promotion"
  • "Mind over brain matter at KFC"
  • "Kentucky Fried Chicken changes name to Kentucky Fried Brain"
  • "Our chicken is smarter than yours," said a defiant KFC.
  • "At least our kidneys don't have stones" said a defensive KFC.
  • "We weren't using our heads," said an apologetic KFC. "Well, technically we were."
  • "Eating at KFC no longer a no-brainer"
  • "KFC now brain lickin' good"
  • "Kidney waiting list at KFC only two minutes"
  • Chicken brains at KFC "still taste like chicken" according to scientists.
  • "Bad chicken! Mess you up!"

Check out my definitive ranking of Monopoly pieces here, and follow me on Twitter.

By Aaron Brandt, Chipotle eater.

Thursday, January 10

Throwback Thursday: LA Gear

For today's Throwback Thursday, I present to you a commercial from the 90s for L.A. Gear, a shoe company.


This commercial is so awesome I don't even understand it. First, you have a bunch of young kids who materialize out of nothing in the middle of a desert and walk towards each other in trance-like fashion. Then one boy picks up a random black stone and pulls a slingshot out of his pocket, AND HE SHOOTS THE SUN!!! THE SUN EXPLODES!!! Shards of the sun are raining down on earth!

"Let's make a cheap Air Jordan replica"
Fade to black and a deep voiced man says, "You gotta own the light, if you want to own the night." Chills went down my spine. The kids still appear to be in the desert, only it is dark out, due to the fact that bowl-cut boy obliterated the sun with a rock. However, the moon still curiously shines, reflecting light from an unknown light source. (Maybe the shoes?) Apparently LA Gear thinks the moon is a light source on its own.

The kids walk single file into the distance, as their shoes light up and dust blows dramatically across the shot. The LA Gear logo pops up on the screen and the commercial ends. How did kids who saw this not run out and immediately beg their parents for these shoes?

So to rehash, if you buy LA Gear shoes, you can meet up with your friends in the desert, destroy the sun with a slingshot and walk home under the comfort of moonlight and the light of your shoes unscathed. Greatest shoes of all time.

By Aaron Brandt, moonlight expert.

Wednesday, January 9

Dallas Cowboys Twitter gaffe

Yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys, an overrated football franchise, got in a tangle with the Dallas Stars, the local NHL team. Someone named Josh Ellis excitedly Tweeted that pitchers and catchers report to the MLB in six weeks. The Cowboys jumped at the opportunity and said:

The Dallas Stars fired back, saying: 

The Tweet was in reference to the fact that the Stars' number 9, Mike Modano, actually won a title, while the Cowboys number 9, Tony Romo, has struggled when it matters, especially in the post season. The Cowboys later deleted the Tweet and responded with: "@dallasstars our sincere apologies for the inappropriate tweet posted accidentally to our account. Good luck this season."

An accident? That's a terrible apology. This should never have been typed in the first place. The fact that someone in the Cowboys PR department even thought to type this is a mistake, not an accident. Sure, he could have easily clicked the wrong account in Hootsuite and tweeted from the Cowboy account instead of his own, but that is still his fault, not an accident. You can't blame technology you don't know how to use for your own gaffes.

This just shows how careful organizations really need to be when using social media. There is no taking this back, as there are hundreds of screen captures of the Tweet. And the fact that the Stars slammed them back and pointed out the Cowboys' shortcomings as an organization at the same time is even more of a reason to be careful. In the end, people will forget about it after a few days, but who knows, the next "accident" could do serious damage to the Cowboys reputation. What's Tony Romo's playoff record again?

By Aaron Brandt, Twitter user.

Monopoly token rankings

Part 1 of 2.

Hasbro Gaming, the fine people who make the board game called Monopoly, announced that they would be getting rid of one token from future board games. Fans can vote for their favorite existing tokens, and the token with the least amount of votes is scrapped for a new piece, which you can also vote for online. Click here to vote.

In order to help you make an informed decision, here are the official Swimmers Itch power ranking for Monopoly tokes. Handle with care.

Current Pieces:

  1. Car. This is my go-to piece. Fast, streamlined and ready to rip up and down Park Place, this token is the most dependable token out there. While other tokens have become obsolete, the car has only gotten better with age. I'd drive this souped up derby car right now if I had the option.
  2. Battleship. The fearsome battleship strikes terror into opponents' eyes as it menacingly patrols each property. The world of property and speculation is cutthroat, so why not have a cutthroat token? Battleships can travel long distances, shoot at stuff and turn into cool museums when they are retired. Win-win-win.
  3. Scottie Dog. Dogs are loyal, friendly and they can help you acquire all the orange properties. While other tokens are inanimate objects with no feelings, the dog loves you, cares about you and wants you to build a hotel on Virginia Ave.
  4. Wheelbarrow. The Wheelbarrow is hard-working, durable and can take a lot of crap. Literally, you can fill it full of crap and it won't say a word. It also has a wheel, so it can handle long journeys around a square playing surface.
  5. Iron. The iron is from a simpler age without electricity and probably pants. It is durable, composed of solid iron and is a very good blunt object in case the British redcoats attack. But it is dated, it drags on the ground and it has a tiny handle that only small children can grasp. The iron is the child's token. I play Monopoly like a man.
  6. Hat. These kinds of hats are only seen in black and white movies where the protagonist finds himself in a gust of wind and his hat blows away. Or at comic book conventions, worn by people who think Anime is real life. Hats are not durable either. I wouldn't be mad if a gust of wind blew the hat away for ever.
  7. Thimble. I can't stand that the thimble doesn't actually fit on any fingers. Like they couldn't make it 20% bigger? And who uses thimbles anyway? I doubt many people even know what a thimble does. 
  8. Boot. Death to the boot! Monopoly needs to get rid of this old, floppy boot as soon as possible. All the other tokens at least look new; the shoe looks like something that you might find at the bottom of the Detroit River. And no laces? Were there budgetary concerns that stopped Hasbro from making laces? Boots were not meant to be seen without laces. Boots were not meant to be in the game of Monopoly. Give the boot the boot. HA.
Tune in tomorrow for my complete ranking of the new Monopoly tokens, which include a robot, diamond ring, cat, helicopter, guitar and RGIII's kneebrace. 

By Aaron Brandt, who isn't stupid enough to waste money on Boardwalk or Park Place. Play the percentages, people.

Friday, January 4

Mother's strict cell phone rules

I've seen about five people post/tweet the story about the mother who made eighteen rules for her son's cell phone use. Read the story here and the laundry list of rules he's supposed to follow here. Warning, this makes the Patriot Act look like a sunny day at the beach. And if you posted this online, this isn't an attack on you personally, just my opinion.

This photo is called "smug mother, embarrassed child"
A 13-year-old does not need a cell phone, let alone an iPhone. What is he going to do, call from wherever he can ride his bike or scooter?  The fact that a kid needs eighteen written rules to own a cell phone proves the fact that he isn't old enough to have a phone in the first place.

And he has an iPhone? I don't have an iPhone. My mom has a flip phone. My dad might have a color screen on his archaic brick. But this 13-year-old needs an iPhone? Parenting red flag alert; middle school students don't need iPhones. It's not like he needs Siri to navigate in the car or Yelp to decide where to take a girl on a date. He probably just needs to have a connection with his parents in case he needs to get a hold of them.

But of course he's banned from taking it to school. I mean, what could possibly go wrong at a school? So if he can't take it to school or use it at night, what is the point of having a phone? Paying a ton of money so your kid can use a phone for 3.5 hours a day under militaristic rules seems pointless. First world probs, I guess. Hashtag that, Janelle.

Why not start him with a contract phone? Then he has to learn how to budget minutes and texts, there's no web connection, the cost is waaayyyyy less and his parents don't have to worry about him abusing it. But that child needs an iPhone? Have fun with that phone bill.

Android owners are smarter.
You also shouldn't have to put in writing that your child must use good manners. That should simply be taught and observed. If he is well-mannered, chances are he will continue this trend on the phone. If he isn't, then sit his disrespectful butt down for some Manners 101 and don't give him a phone. And blogging to the world about the embarrassing consequences of sexting is pretty embarrassing on her part, right? Some things were meant to be kept offline (this also includes daily ultrasounds and "my baby is as big as a mildly ripened Amish gourd" pictures on Facebook).

Why not raise your child the best you can, teach him morals, good manners and right from wrong, then trust he will utilize those skills when he first experiences independence? Instead of helicopter parenting over this sap like he's texting CIA secrets to North Korea, set up some basic rules and let him at least figure stuff out on his own. He's thirteen, he's going to break one of these rules within the first week. Then what? I recommend sending me the iPhone he can't handle; I can get a lot for it on Ebay.

People are commending this mother for taking a stand, but in reality, she is caving to the illogical social pressure that a kid needs a premium phone at such a young age. She gave in, and gave in with dramatic, self-promoting fashion. Taking a stand would be saying "umm, no Gregory, you don't get to have a phone because you are barely potty trained" and telling him to "deal with it, stinkin Gregory, welcome to life." Taking a stand would not be self-righteously blogging about some rules you set for your kid.

Like this 13-year-old ever  needed a phone to have a good time.
And finally, here's a wild idea. Make this kid pay for it himself. If he wants a phone so bad, he can save his pennies or get a job and work for it. Amazing how your perspective on things changes when you actually have to pay for goods and services (subliminal political statement alert).

Rule of thumb; if you feel the need to make a Levitican list of rules for your child's cell phone use, he's too young for a cell phone. Case closed. Using parenting for pageviews doesn't seem like good parenting. I can't remember my dad blogging about my bed time... Wait until your kid is tall enough to ride the Millennium Force before you hand him a $600 device.

By Aaron Brandt, who bought his own cell phone when he got a car. Seems pretty fair and simple to him.

PS, Gregory, if you play Words With Friends, there's a chat feature that you might be able to sneak past your mom so you can make rude comments about the newest Pokemon or share the best Madden cheat codes and yo-yo tricks. But you didn't hear that from me.

Thursday, January 3

Throwback Thurs: Urkel visits Full House

Throwback Thursday is something all the kids are doing on the interwebs, but instead of Tweeting pictures of my gangly ninth-grade self, here's a video dripping with early 90s glory.

I love this video. Right off the bat, we get Steve Urkel's cousin, un-ironically wearing a pink sweater with a hashtag on it. What I wouldn't give to own this sweater (I wouldn't give more than $10, actually). There is absolutely no reason for an article of clothing to ever have that symbol, especially in the 90s. Then she complains that her annoying cousin is "in town" for a science fair. You know, because it's totally normal for a 13 year old to travel from Chicago to San Francisco for a science fair. Like Carl Otis Winslow would have ever allowed that. Please.

Of course Steve shows up moments later and jumps right into his gig as the ultra-confident nerd. He immediately bonds with undisputed 90s cool guy, Uncle Jesse, and the studio audience can't get enough. Cue the standard rising action, complication (involving ugly glasses) and extremely creepy resolution with an extremely creepy Uncle Joey. Seriously, what's the deal with Uncle Joey. I just used a period instead of a question mark for emphasis on purpose, people. Of course Urkel offered some "be yourself" and "be unique" advice along the way and everything was rainbows and Golden Gate Bridges.

But the more I think about Steve Urkel, the more I realize he would absolutely not be considered a loser/nerd/freak in real life. The kid is the most confident person in the world,  he's quick witted and funny, he is good at sports, he's a genius and he is clearly wiser than his age suggests. Couple that with the fact that he immediately becomes bros with the coolest man on television since the Fonz, and I am left questioning the entire premise of Family Matters.  I don't buy the idea that everyone bullied Steve and threw him into all kinds of elaborate traps involving his own suspenders. Steve Urkel was cooler than cool; ice cold.

Next up, I analyze the literary merit of the chain letters Corey Matthews and Urkel sent each other in a spectacular crossover episode of Boy Meets World.

By Aaron Brandt, who thinks it's a rare condition, this day and age, to read any good news on the newspaper page.