Month: June 2011

The Atheist Hymnal

I’ve long regretted that atheism seems to inspire much less in the worlds of art and music, but my mom tossed a video up on my Facebook wall a few days ago that gives me hope! (Not really, but it’s entertaining.)


How to Get 40% Off Xbox Live. Today.

Microsoft has a long history of trying to rip me off.

Just a few days ago, I received notice that my Xbox Live subscription was scheduled to be automatically renewed in July. When I purchased a 12-month subscription this time last year, the price was $50/year. Then in November of last year, Microsoft upped the price to $60/year.

Now, I’m reasonably willing to pay 4 to 5 bucks a month in order to play games online with my friends in different parts of the country. But Sony’s Playstation Network allows its users to do exactly the same thing for free. With that in mind, paying ANY number of bucks per month for the same service makes me grumpy.

So I called Xbox Live’s customer support to complain. They immediately gave me 40% off.

The following is a step-by-step guide to getting your Xbox Live subscription reduced by 40%:

  1. Be a current Xbox Live customer
  2. Get mad that Microsoft is ripping you off
  3. Call Xbox Live customer support (1-800-4MY-XBOX) any day of the week
  4. Tell them you would like to cancel your subscription after it expires (whenever that is for you)
  5. When they ask you whether it’s because you won’t be able to use it or because of the price, tell them the price is too high and that Sony gives their members free online gaming
  6. They will immediately give you 40% off
  7. Enjoy your hard-earned and well deserved $25

That’s really all there is to it. There is no reason for you to pay $60 for Xbox Live. They started my new 40% off subscription the day I called in to complain and prorated me (at the pre-discounted rate) for the month I had left. That means (I assume) that you could do this even right in the middle of your 12-month subscription. No need to wait till later to save a bit of cash.


Give ’em What They Want

Someone asked me recently why so many of my posts deal with religion. It’s a fair question, considering religion comes last in my tagline.

When I began blogging more frequently, I had actually envisioned spending quite a bit more time discussing East Asian politics, Chinese history and literature, Sino-American relations, and other China-related topics that my education gives me somewhat more authority to discuss. I’m no foreign policy expert, and my Chinese isn’t at the point where I peruse PRC white papers over breakfast, but I thought with my penchant for things Chinese and my mild ability to relate international affairs to practical living, maybe my readers would find it worthwhile.

To my dismay, however, my few posts on Chinese culture and sayings are among my least popular posts. Even recent and flippant posts like “Weiner’s Weiner” have received more all-time hits than “Pulling Shoots to Help Them Grow“, which is still one of my favorite posts.

Judging by my stats page, what readers really want are abrasive rants on religion. My posts on religion receive many, many more on-site views, comments, and syndicated views than posts on any other subject. And the more I stray from dispassionate reasoning and toward impassioned raving, the more hits and feedback I receive.

So why do I write about religion so frequently? Here’s half the answer:

STIRFRIES hits per day. The arrows indicate new posts (red for religious posts and green for other posts).


And here’s the other half: I was taught to pray before I learned to ride a bicycle. I know more religious songs than most people know secular ones. I graduated from a 4-year religious seminary and attended a religious university where part of my general education was regular classes in scripture and doctrine. I spent two years as a missionary in Taiwan, where I was taught to feel guilty if I thought about anything BUT religion. And all told, I have spent over a year of my life inside a church building—and that’s excluding classrooms at BYU, all of which are dedicated to God and most of which are used for religious observance on Sundays.

Since I was a child—and until only very recently—my social and family life has revolved around religion. Doubting Thomas and perpetual critic that I am, I have spent thousands of hours considering the role of religion in my life, in society, in human history, its benefits, its drawbacks, its consequences, its veracity.

Religion is what I know. More specifically, doubting religion is what I know. If a few hundred hours of study and a piece of paper that says I know Chinese language, literature, and culture qualify me to comment on Sino-American anything, then a lifetime of theological study, indoctrination, and private criticism give me the right to say a few words about religion.

In the Mood for Cuban? Skip Havana Central

Since moving to Manhattan, I’ve been overwhelmed by incredibly tasty food.

Most of my favorite foods from Taiwan can be found near Canal Street or St. Mark’s Place, and for a while it seemed like I couldn’t get through a full day without an intimidatingly massive slice of Koronet’s cheese pizza.

The bibimbop in K-town is amazing, and the fried chicken and gravy over syrupy waffles I had once in Harlem still make me salivate.

In fact, the only sort of food I’ve had and actively disliked in Manhattan is Cuban food. My first experience (a few months ago during restaurant week) was terrible. My bland jumbo prawns seemed the only meat dish on the table not overcooked by hours. The pork was hard and chewy, and the chicken was dry as a mouthful of sand.

But I figured we just had a bad experience. There was another Cuban place, Havana Central, not too far from Columbia. I wanted to give Cuban food another go. As hesitant as I was, it was regularly packed to the brim of happy diners, and I had a coupon, so what did I have to lose?

More than I expected, it turned out.

Here’s the shortlist of grievances:

  1. Our waitress was inattentive.
  2. My pineapple chicken tasted like it had been on a forgotten warming rack for 30 minutes and, trying to salvage it, the chef had decided to pour a bit of canned pineapple over the top and serve it.
  3. My girlfriend’s steamed shrimp could just as easily have been purchased pre-cooked at the supermarket across the street and warmed in the microwave.
  4. An obnoxiously loud group of students at the table next to us yelled at some friends passing by on the street (we were seated outdoors), and their two foreign friends then proceeded to step over the barrier and stand with their butts nearly pressed against our plates while they guffawed drunkenly with their friends at the table. Despite being unable to serve the tables beyond ours for the students standing in the aisle, the waitress said nothing and did nothing but wait. It wasn’t until I’d had enough and asked them to “stop sticking [their] asses in our food” that they finally left.
  5. I gave the waitress my coupon before we ordered, but she still gave us the full tab and had to be reminded that we’d given her the coupon.
  6. Havana Central, apparently assuming that it is worthy of immense tipping, adds an automatic after-tax gratuity (that we only just caught before adding our own tip).
  7. Worse, the receipt (see the photo at the right) even gives suggestions for how much more gratuity you should give (we gave none).

Needless to say, I’m done with Cuban food. And if you must try Havana Central, skip the food and order a mojito.

Weiner’s Weiner

In case anyone missed it, I was right. It WAS Weiner’s weiner after all.

This afternoon, Rep. Anthony Weiner (of recent weiner fame) finally admitted that it really was his weiner in the tweeted photo.

In a statement, Mr. Weiner said, “To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent it. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife Huma and our family, and my constituents, my friends, supporters and staff.”

Apparently realizing that denying this incident only made it worse, he also indicated that this is not the only lewd photo he has shared with women on the internet. He denies any extramarital affairs, but multiple women have claimed to have received dozens, if not hundreds, of texts, photos, and even phone calls from Mr. Weiner.

Am I surprised? No.

Should you be surprised? No.

Should this be news? Sure.

Ironically, his constituency (slightly more conservative than most of their neighbors) might be one of the few in New York City where extramarital sexting DOESN’T increase his street cred–and, by extension, his electability. He’s been in office since 1999 and is up for re-election in 2012. We’ll see if it matters.

That MIGHT Just Be My Weiner

Rep. Anthony Weiner

All he had to do was say ‘no’.

Instead, Rep. Anthony Weiner indicated that he cannot say “with certitude” whether the bulging underpants in the lewd photo sent from his Twitter account are actually his.

Which is to say that the photo is most certainly of Mr. Weiner—and also that Mr. Weiner is an idiot.

Does the weiner in question belong to Mr. Weiner?

The photo (which you can see here if you don’t mind looking at men in underpants) was sent to Gennette Cordova, a 21-year-old college student in Seattle. It’s a top-down shot taken from about shoulder height and only shows an obviously aroused man in gray underwear.

Either Mr. Weiner has taken a photo like this or he hasn’t. That he says he can’t tell “with certitude” whether it’s a photo of him is politician for “I have taken photos of myself in exactly that position.”

So the photo is definitely of him. Otherwise, there is absolutely no reason not to deny it.

Did Mr. Weiner send the photo, or was his account hacked?

Mr. Weiner joked about his account being hacked and has since insisted that he’s looking into the incident privately, calling the incident “a prank”.

Again, Mr. Weiner is lying (poorly). In order for someone to hack his twitter account, someone relatively close to him would need to find the picture on his personal device (laptop/camera/phone/whatever) and either upload it from there or steal the file and upload it from somewhere else. If this were the case, Mr. Weiner would have been immediately outraged that someone (presumably on his staff) would illegally rifle through personal files and publicly embarrass him to this extent. The possibility that this could be a career-ending embarrassment alone should have sent him into a fury. That it did not, and that he is treating it like a private prank, should be evidence enough that he made a stupid mistake, got caught, and is doing an amusingly poor job of covering it up.

I’m entertained to no end. But it could be worse. Instead of Anthony’s weiner, we could be reading about Barney’s frank.