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February 28, 2002

Games: Werewolf

Werewolf is a terrific game, made all the better by the fact that it's absolutely free. Before each game you randomly distribute Identity cards -- one player will be the Moderator, one player will be the Seer, two players will be Werewolves, and all the rest will be Villagers. Players identities are kept secret, and you can never show anyone else your card.

The game alternates between night and day. At night, all players close their eyes and then the Moderator says "Werewolves, open your eyes". The two players with the Werewolf cards open their eyes and silently agree upon another player to kill. After they have decided and communicated their pick to the Moderator, they again close their eyes and the Moderator says "Seer, open your eyes". The Seer then points at another player, and the Moderator indicates whether the selected player is or is not a Werewolf. Then everyone opens their eyes and day begins.

At daybreak the person killed by the Werewolves immediately turns his card faceup and plays no further part in the game. The rest of the day is simple: all the living players must now decide who to lynch. As soon as a majority of players give the thumbs down to someone, the targeted player is killed: he flips his card faceup and is out. This continues until the Villiagers win by lynching both Werewolves, or until the Werewolves when the number of Villiagers is equal to the number of Werewolves (at which point the Werewolves rise up and openly slaughter the remainders).

A very simple game, but exceptionally tricky to play. The tension comes from two angles: on the one hand, you never really know who any of the other players are, so picking someone to lynch is tough; on the other, no one really knows who you are, so even if your innocent you may find yourself the target of mob rule. As a Seer you may know the Identities of a few people, but your job is just as difficult: you have to get people to lynch the Werewolves without exposing yourself (and thereby certainly getting killed the following night). And even if you do expose yourself ("I'm the Seer, and I know for a fact that he is a Werewolf!"), that doesn't mean the Villagers will necessarily believe you, since making this very statement is favorite tactic by the Werewolves.

You can play Werewolf with just about any set of cards, or even make your own. When playing with standard playing cards, we use the Ace of Spades for the Moderator, the King of Clubs for the Seer, the Jokers (or the red Jacks) for the Werewolves and then an assortment of cards ranked 2-9 for the Villigers.

[ link | Games]



Explainer

Slate has a regular (well, actually more of an irregular) column entitled Explainer, which is kind of a political Straight Dope with half the wit but three times the relevance. Recent columns have tackled such questions as Can the Phrase 'Let's Roll!' Be Trademarked?, Why Do We Have A Fifth Amendment?, and What Happens To Your Confiscated Nailclippers? An archive of Explainer columns can be found here.

Slate carries another column called Medical Examiner, which is essential just Explainer set in a hospital. Today's entry is riveting, and documents the growing evidence that children can acquire Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder and Tourette's syndrome from that most ubiquitous of childhood ailments, strep throat.

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February 27, 2002

Font-actular!

Nobody -- simply nobody! -- is more passionate about fonts than I.

Except for this guy, I mean.

Seen on jerrykindall.com.

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Midday News Update

Hello, and welcome to Your Local TV Station's Midday News Update! Our top stories today:

  • Now there's a new way to get the great taste of McDonalds! A McDonald's in Sweden comes complete with a snowmobile drive-thru!
  • Heinz is adding three more colors to it's already widly popular "colored ketchup" line!
  • Worried about bad breath or body odor? The solution may be as simple as buying a bottle of pills!
  • And, in Entertainment news, we'll tell you where you can find the new J-Lo album, we'll tell you when you can start purchasing tickets for your hometown team's baseball season, and we'll give rave reviews to this week's blockbuster movies.
All this -- and Consumer News! -- after these commercials.

[ link | News]



Berlitz for Berlin

If you are headed to Germany (and, judging from your lederhosen, you are), be sure to lug along a copy of Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch English-Deutsch. ("Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch" is german for "Humorous Book Review Can Be Found Here.") Some of the indispensable phrases found therein include "She tasted the gravy critically," "This is the least convincing excuse you could offer," and the all-purpose "Good wrist action is his greatest asset."

Courtesy of the guffaw-inducing Deuce of Clubs Book Club.

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February 26, 2002

Dodge Ad

Apparently I wasn't the only one to take notice of that Dodge ad. In fact, someone found an image of the ad online and started a Metafilter thread about it.

After which it was only a matter of time before someone else fired up their Photoshop.

Someone please give Matt Haughey a dollar.

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FBG

I may have to fire my cat. When my wife and I hired our tabby cat Louie through the King County Pound Work Release Program, we didn't draw up a specialized contract -- we just used one of those generic employment contracts you can download off the web. We agreed to provide him with room and board, supplemented by occasional kitty treats and cat toys as performance warranted; In return he agreed to shed on everything we own and sit on any books we might attempt to read. All the standard stuff.

Of course these contracts have fine print as well, like the nondisclosure agreement (he won't reveal that we sing him Duran Duran's "Wild Boys" by substituting "meow meow" for all the words, and we won't reveal that he's neutered). There's also the standard Outside Employment Restrictions provision, which states that he cannot work for anyone else so long as he's under contract with us. It's this last bit of boilerplate which I suspect him of violating. Last Saturday when I got the mail, there was a tiny envelope addressed to Louie with "Federal Bureau of Gravity" listed as the sender. I put it with all his other mail, but, later, when I asked him about it, he said he didn't know what I was talking about, and that he had never heard of the FBG.

Never heard of the FBG? Everyone knows that the Federal Bureau of Gravity was established in 1966 to lessen the dangerously high amounts of gravitation potential energy which had accumulated across the nation. Agents of the FBG seek to reduce gravitational potential energy by assisting objects in reaching their so-called 'zero position'.

Even before seeing the letter I had long wondered if the FBG had our apartment under surveillance. It seemed that every day my wife and I would place objects on tables and counters throughout the household, and then, when we awoke the following morning, we would find them scattered all over the floor. And each time I looked behind the sofa I would find dozens of pens, coasters, knickknacks ... even old tomatoes which had once been sitting on the kitchen/living room divider. At first I just naturally assumed that were were experiencing a 2.3 earthquake every morning at 2:00 AM, but soon I noticed that objects would mysterious find their zero position even during the day. Last Saturday, for instance, I took an afternoon nap and woke up to find that everything that had been on my nightstand was now on the floor.

Now that Louie is getting mail from the FBG, I'm really starting to think he might be pulling down a second income. And it doesn't help his case that the envelope I intercepted bulged oddly and smelled of chicken 'n' rice. It's too bad if it's true. On the other hand, this would only be his first offense, which, according to the terms of the contract, means he just gets a verbal reprimand ("Louie, NO!"), so I'm still optimistic that we can work things out.

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They Fight Crime

I could click this link all day long. In fact, I have. Thanks memepool.

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February 25, 2002

Gluten Bowl

I love that when you search for Glutton Bowl on Google, it says Did you mean: "Gluten Bowl"? No, but that too sounds like a damn fine Fox special.

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Gimmie a Dipshit Sprite

I am fascinated by the psychology of movie theater soda sales. At the core of the issue is one single, indisputable fact: movie theaters want you to pay as much as possible for your soda. I don't mean "they want you to pay as much as possible per ounce," oh no, I mean they want the total sum of moolah you fork over to be as great as possible. Because, frankly, they don't give a flying yodel how much soda you receive in return for your cash. These guys pay, like, thirteen cents per cubic kilometer of soda syrup, and they could probably give it away for free and still make a profit. It's of little concern to them whether you get 8 oz. or 128 oz., as long as your total expenditure is as large as possible.

So a crack team of movie theater psychologists figured out the absolute maximum amount of money an average person will pay for soda, an amount that is currently somewhere around $6.00 or so. Then they figured out how much soda the person would have to receive in return for this outlay to feel like they had made a justifiable purchase, and that worked out to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 52 ounces. And with that they established their "Jumbo" -- 52 oz. of soda for six bucks.

Of course nobody in their right mind would actually desire 52 oz. of soda without some sort of coercion, so here's what they did. The made the "Large" 32 oz, and priced it at $5.50, and made the Medium 24 oz. and priced it at $5.00, and made the "Small" 12 oz. and priced it at $4.50. So you're standing there in line and you're thinking "Jeeze, all I really want is 12 oz. of soda, but for only $1.50 more I can get the Jumbo which contains over four times the volume of the Small!! I'd be a complete mooncalf not to jump at that deal!"

Now I've noticed that some local theaters have taken the next step in this process by eliminating the "Small" altogether, and instead calling the 12 oz soda "Child" -- never mind that no child should ever ingest 12 oz. of Surge in less than a fortnight. So if the phony economics don't talk you out of buying the smallest drink, you will also have to overcome the shame of ordering yourself a "Child-size Mr. Pibb". I think they should just run with this idea and rename all the sizes with derogatory names. Twelve oz. could be the "Asshole," 24 oz. could be the "Dipshit", 32 oz. could be the "Skinflint Pansyboy Who Can Only Drink 32 Oz. of Cola" and 52 oz. could be a "Large". It's gonna happen sooner or later, so they may as well get it over with.


My Microwave is Lame

My microwave is so lame that if you nuke a pint of room-temperature water in it for five minutes, the end result is an ice cube floating in a glass of otherwise boiling-hot water. Incredible but true.

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February 23, 2002

Movie: The Endurance

You know that scene in Fellowship of the Rings where Gandalf 'n' Co. are traveling over the Misty Mountains while Saruman drops lightning bolts and avalanches upon their heads in an attempt to kill them? And even though you've just spent an hour watching hobbits converse with wizards and dead guys ride around on horses, you're still sitting there in theater watching the gang trudge through the snow and thinking "Yeah right - no one could do that!" Well, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition is a lot like that scene. Except it's a documentary of an actual even, which means you don't have the luxury of dismissing the whole thing with a "No way, dude!?

The story begins in 1914, back when a guy hankering for adventure would plan an expedition to Antarctica rather than just climb the rock wall at REI. The South Pole had already discovered, so Sir Ernest Shackleton assembled and crew of men and dogs and headed south, intending to traverse the ... well, see, it really doesn.t matter what Shackleton had intended to do, since he never came anywhere close to achieving his goal. Instead, his ship became trapped in pack ice, thereby stranding he and his mates on the continent of Antarctica with no hope of rescue. He did, however, have a movie camera and a cameraman, which is what makes this film so fascinating: actual footage of the ordeal.

I won?t say more, because the litany of calamities that befalls the men as they attempt to get back to civilization is staggering and makes the film as exciting and tense as any artificial 'thriller'. If it?s not still playing in a theater near you, at least make the effort to see this extraordinary tale on tape or DVD - it's a fairly low-budget film, and will lose little in the transition to the tv screen. That said, I?m glad I saw it in a theater filled with other people, where, by the end, people were audibly groaning and gasping in disbelief each time the narrator (Liam Neeson, by the way) introduced a new obstacle to Shackleton's survival.

[ link | Movies]


February 22, 2002

Skating vs. Gluttony

I watched half of the Women's Figure Skating Finals and half of The Glutton Bowl last night, and, I gotta tell ya, I found the Glutton Bowl to be a vastly more satisfactory viewing experience. No subjective judging or "style points" here, kids -- you either eat nine sticks of butter in five minutes or you don't. Oh, and the Russians think they should have won the third round? Well, how many hard boiled eggs did their contender get down? That's right, only 23; so boo-hoo, here's your silver.

If you somehow managed to miss The Glutton Bowl (and for some bizarre reason didn't get it on Tivo) the astounding Takeru Kobayashi won. If that name rings a bell, it's because he's the same 131-pound Japanese guy who got worldwide headlines last year for eating 50 hot dogs (and the buns!) in just 12 minutes. Sarah Hughes, eat your heart ou ... uhhhh, never mind.

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Best Picture

Who will win this year's coveted "Best Picture" Oscar? The critics weight in:

Moulin Rouge: "Ends up leaving you starved for a single moment of unhyped emotion. ... This is the only time I've been to a movie where the ringing of someone's cell phone wasn't an intrusion. The sound of a human voice in conversation seemed a godsend." -- David Edelstein, SLATE

In The Bedroom: [A] turgid bout of navel gazing. [This has] been done so many times before in the world of independent cinema that it's become a cliché, and if it wasn't for the acting, this would be one of the most forgettable films of the decade. -- Eric Lurio, GREENWICH VILLIAGE GAZETTE

A Beautiful Mind: "It's a tortured-genius movie, and Crowe lives down to the conception with a performance that is possibly the biggest load of hooey to stink up the screen this year." -- Charles Taylor, SALON

Gosford park: "Something goes wrong in the telling of this tale of murder at the Gosford Park house party, circa 1932. That something can be summed up in two words: Robert Altman ... Tedium overwhelms caring well before this endless film finally concludes." -- Richard Schickel, TIME

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: "Like hearing Wagner's Ring Cycle remastered by a genius of the kazoo." -- David Elliott, SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE

February 21, 2002

Create Yer Own Memepool Post

Now you can whip up a link-intensive weblog post just like the pros over at memepool using the Create a memepool Post Tool!


Games: Adel Verpflichtet and Barbarossa

Klaus Teuber is an odd designer. Even before cooking up the stellar Settlers of Catan -- a game that was to boardgaming what Mark Maguire was to baseball -- Teuber already had two prestigious "Game of the Year" awards under his belt: one for Barbarossa and a second for Adel Verpflichtet. This is doubly surprising because these three games couldn't be more dissimilar -- you'd never guess the same guy invented all three.

Settlers of Catan I won't go into -- Lord knows you can find enough information about SoC elsewhere on the web. Barbarossa and Adel Verpflichtet, however, are relatively unknown, despite their award-winning status. I have recently purchased both, and I enjoy them quite a bit.

In Barbarossa, players first create riddles by making tiny sculptures out of clay. These are placed in the center of the board as the game begins. On a turn, a player will move around a circular track and carry out the instructions of the space he lands on. Two of the spaces on the board allow a player to point to any riddle in the center of the board and ask it's creator for a letter -- the first letters, say, or the third. Two other spaces are marked with a question mark, and allow players to ask others about their riddles. A player may ask any number of "yes or no" questions about the riddles -- "Is this edible?", "Do I have one of these in my house?", "Does this have to do with horse?" -- until they get a "no". At that point the player gets a second round of questions, but this time he may try to guess someone's riddle by writing down what he think it is and showing the creator. If the player is correct, a plastic arrow is stuck into the sculpture and points are awarded. If the guesser is the first to identify a riddle, he gets 5 points; if he is the second, he gets three points; once a riddle has two arrows in it, it is "dead" and can no longer be guessed.

What makes Barbarossa interesting is that the creator of a riddle also gets points when his riddle is unraveled. After the correct guess is made and an arrow is stuck into the sculpture, all the arrows in all the riddles on the board are counted. If the total number of arrows is less than five, the creator loses points; if the total number of arrows is 5-10 the creator gains points; and if the total arrows exceeds 10 then the creator, again, loses points. So the trick is to make moderately-difficult riddles -- riddles that are neither to easy to guess nor too hard. In a sense the whole thing is decided before it even starts (while the players sculpt their riddles), but that doesn't stop the game from being entertaining from start to finish. And it's hilarious to see what the other players use as their riddles and what sculptures they make to represent them. (In my last game, my wife made the Kingdome, which drove me crazy because I was certain it was a hamburger ...)

Then we have Adel Verpflichtet, which I played last night for the third time and am truly starting to enjoy. The admittedly paper-thin premise is this: players are rich and eccentric aristocrats, who have a standing bet about who can amass the best collection of antiques. Players all start with four Antique cards. On a turn a player can take one of five actions:

  • Go to the Auctionhouse and try to buy on of the two Antiques on sale there.
  • Send his Thief to the Auctionhouse to try and steal someone else's money.
  • Go to the Castle to show off his collection of Antiques.
  • Send his Thief to the Castle to try and steal someone else's Antiques.
  • Send his Detective to the Castle to try and capture another player's Thief.

Ya get all that? Players first secretly choose where they will go: the Auctionhouse or the Castle. Once the destinations are revealed, first the Auctionhouse players and then the Castle players secretly choose what action they wish to take, and then the actions are reveled and carried out.

In the Auctionhouse, whomever bid the highest amount of money gets to take one of the Antiques, while those who played lesser amounts simply reclaim their bids. Then, if one (and only one) player played a Thief, he steals the winning bid.

In the Castle, all the players who opted to show off their collections do so, and whomever has the best (i.e. the collection with the most Antiques) receives points (as does the person with the second-best collection). Then, those players who played Thieves get to take an Antique from each of the collections on display. And, finally, players who played Detectives send the played Thieves to jail and get points for doing so.

All this makes for a tense game of bluff, think and double-think. The easiest way to earn points is to show off your collection, but every time you do so you risk being robbed. Meanwhile, those who play Thieves in the hopes of robbing you risk having their thugs thrown in the pokey, and so on. How well you fare is dependent not only on your choices, but also the choices of your opponents. If you're skilled at predicting what your opponents will do you will fare well, but if you're equally readable by others you may wind up in the poorhouse. Think "rock-paper-scissors," but, y'know, fun.

I purchased both Barbarossa and Adel Verpflichtet from Funagain.com.

[ link | Games]



Curling

Yeah yeah yeah ... I know I swore that I wouldn't give a rat's ass about the Olympics, but that was before I saw televised curling. It's fascinating! If you don't have the slightest notion what those zany curlers are doing, you can bone up on the rules here.

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February 20, 2002

Worst Lyrics

Hello, Quester! I see from my referrer logs that you have come from the URL

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=song+with+the+dumbest+lyrics+in+the+history+of+western+music

I don't know how that search led you to my weblog, but I suspect you'll find what you are looking for here.

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Rec.puzzles

Every high school math student has, and some point or another, asked "Why do I have to learn this?!" And every math teacher for the last 20 years has replied "Because you won't always have a calculator handy."

It's true, you know. Yesterday, for example, I had to figure out a bear of a problem, and I didn't have a calculator handy. Well, actually I did, but I was too lazy to use it. Instead, I just posted the conundrum to rec.puzzles and, zam howdie, I got my answer in no time. Take that, Mr. Talrico!

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February 19, 2002

The Make-Yer-Own Oscars Pool Poll

The Make-Yer-Own Oscars Pool Poll Page enables you to whip up an Internet-based poll for your Academy Awards party or contest in just seconds. Just plug in your name and email address, distribute the generated URL, and your friends will be able to use your page to send your their Oscar predictions via email. Why? Because you are my best friend. Don't say I never gave ya nuthin'.


Check It Out!

The US Defense Department's has created an Office of Strategic Influence, to help improve the United States' image abroad. Some initiatives the OSI will be pursuing:

  • US will renounce policy of unilateralism and instead adopt a policy of monolateralism

  • Friendly nations eligible to join the "Axis of Awesome!"

  • Hollywood will be pressured to withhold "Super Troopers" from overseas release.

  • Fliers reading "USA: You Gotta Love It!" will be dropped over hostile nations.

  • For each UN vote, one nation, chosen at random from those who vote in accordance with the United States, will receive a Nintendo GameCube.

  • Bush will soon be sending out Evites concerning a bowling and karaoke party the US is organizing for Saturday, March 2nd.

  • Vice President will send card, small gift to each nation on it's birthday.

  • All overseas McDonalds will offer free Super Sizing for a week.

  • NBC will devote three minutes of every hour of Olympics coverage to non-US competitors.

  • US will create humorous, snarky weblog and urge other nations to "come check it out!"

February 18, 2002

Movie: Black Hawk Down

[Movie: Black Hawk Down] In 1982, the blockbuster "Top Gun" was directed by Tony Scott, brother to Riley Scott. In 1986, James Cameron directed the blockbuster "Aliens" -- the sequel to Ridley Scott's own "Alien". Now, in Black Hawk Down, Ridley tries to one-up everyone, attempting to outdo Top Gun in patriotism and Aliens for breathtaking scenes showing endless waves of attackers. While he's at it, he also tries to usurp the Most Gutwrenching War Movie throne held by Saving Private Ryan. All this ambition makes for a movie that's well above-average, but tries a little too hard.

By now you know the story, either by because you've read countless Black Hawk Down synopses, seen the Frontline special or recall the details of the actual event. In 1993 a simple "extraction" mission in Somolia went from frying pan to fire, resulting in scores of US soldiers trapped in Mogadishu, surrounded and beseiged by Somolian milisa. Scott does an excellent job at conveying the out-of-control, chaotic nature of this event, but he just never seems to know when to quit. The first third of the movie centers of the soldiers before the mission, showing their relationships and dedications to the cause. This does a good job of stirring patrotism in the auidence, but he keeps it up until the whole thing begins to tilt towards jingoism. In the firefights sceens -- where a handful of American soldiers defends themselves against hordes of oncoming Somolia gunment -- you are at first mesmersized by the overwhelming odds, but Scott continues until you feel like you are watching someone play "Black Hawk Down' on a Playstation 2. And the "fog of war" is well documented by showing conveys driving around aimlessly through town as the officers try to make sense out of the deteriorating situation, but these scenes go on for so long that I found myself getting bored by the confusion rather than unnerved by it.

In these instances (and other), less would have been more. Scott continually orchestrates the action and suspense until they reach their peak, but then feels the need to drive the point home a few more times, ultimately weakening the power of the imagery. That said, there's no denying that those scenes or incredible and indelible power exists in Black Hawk Down, and they make this a movie well worth seeing.

[ link | Movies]


February 15, 2002

24-Hour Give-Birth Diet
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Hello! Shut Up!

Hey, if you are one of the approximately 55 billion people in North America that are, right at this very moment, talking about the Olympic Canadian/Russian figure-skating "scandal", could you please do me a personal favor and shut up, already? That'd be great, thanks.

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February 14, 2002

B.A.G.E.L Report

B.A.G.E.L.: Last night was gamenight (with special guest-start, Jessamyn West), so B.A.G.E.L. gathered to drink the beer and play the following games.

You're Bluffing: My second time playing, and I fared slightly better than my first (in which I lost by a score of 7200 to 10 -- no kidding). The deck has 40 cards -- ten sets of animals, with four cards in each set. Each animal has a value ranging from the Horse (with 1000) down to the chicken (worth only 10). Player start with $90 in money cards. On a turn, a player can do one of two things: auction off an animal, or initiate a horsetrade.

To start an auction, a player simply flips over the top animal from the draw pile. All the other players then bid on the animal, with the active player serving as the auctioneer. Once someone has made a bid that no one else wishes to beat, the auctioneer has two choices: she can either sell the animal to the high bidder (by taking his money and giving him the card), or she can buy the animal herself by taking the animal and giving the bid amount to the high-bidder. Purchased cards are displayed face-up in front of a player.

Once two or more people own the same animal, an active player may initiate a horsetrade on his turn instead of conducting an auction. To do a horsetrade, a player selects an animal card owned by someone else (but which the active player also has) and makes a bid on it by putting any number of money cards facewdown. The other player now has two choices: he can either accept the bid (sight unseen) and give the active player the selected animal card, or he can counterbid. Making a counterbid is just like making a bid -- a player puts any number of cards facedown -- and, afterwards, the two involved parties swap bids. Each announces aloud how much he received from the other, and whomever bid the most takes the other person's animal card. The swapped bids are kept.

This continues until all the cards are owned and in sets of four. At the end of the game, you receive points for each of your quartets in accordance with their value (so the four horse will earn you 1000 points), and then you multiply that sum by the number of sets you own. So while obtaining all the chicken cards will only net you 10 points, it will also double all the points you acquire from other sets.

Simple rules, but it sure makes for a tense game. When bidding in an auction, you can bid high in the hopes that the active player will give you the money and take the card -- but if he opts not to, you have to fork over the cash yourself. And the horsetrading is especially devilish. Say someone makes a bid on a card you own by putting three money cards face down. You could just take the money and give him the card, but what if the total is only $20? So perhaps you want to counterbid. But what if the bid is really $140 and you counterbid $120? After swapping bids he will still get your card, and, here again, he only paid $20 for it -- but this time you could have had all $140 if you just taken the money in the first place. Agonizing.

Still, I quite like this game -- in fact, I even liked playing it during the 7200 to 10 rout (but perhaps liked it a little bit more this time, when I eked out a victory). The simple rules combined with the tough decisions make this a game I'll be playing often in the future.

I purchased my copy from the magnificent Magic Mouse Toys in Seattle's Pioneeer Square.

Take It Easy: This award-winning game is like a cross between a jigsaw puzzle and bingo. Each player starts with a board and a set of 27 tiles, and one player is selected as the Caller. On each turn the Caller randomly selects one of the tiles; each other player then finds his corresponding tile and places it in any empty space on his board. The object is to create ...

... uh, y'know what? Never mind. Just go here and play a round or two online. It'll probably take less time for you to play an entire game than for me to explain the thing.

Times Up: The rules to Time's Up are simple. Forty cards form a central draw pile, and each card bears the name of a famous person: Pythagoras, George Harrison, Luke Skywalker, Johnny Appleseed, etc. Players break into teams of two. In the first round, a player draws cards from the central pile and tries to get his partner to guess the indicated name by saying anything he wants: "This is the guy who came up with the famous theorem stating that the square of two sides of a right-angle triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse...". Two restrictions, though: a player cannot pass, and only has 30 seconds to accumulate as many cards as possible. If a player gets a person he doesn't know (I didnt know Clarence Birdseye, for example) he will have to describe the name as best he can. ("First name is also the first name of Supreme Court Justice Thomas; last name is what a robin uses to see".). Play continues until all the cards have been claimed, at which point the teams get one point for every card they got.

In the second round the teams use the exact same set of forty cards. This time, however, they can only say one word ("hypotenuse!") but may use as many gesture as they like. In the third and final round, players cannot say anything, and must rely entirely on gesture (*pantomime of a triangle*). While the second round is usually pedestrian, the third round is unfailingly hilarious.

This is the best party game I own, and I own quite a few. Don't even joke about buying someone Disneyland Monopoly as a gift if there are any copies of Time's Up available anywhere on Earth.

[ link | Games]



Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day.

And if I could only impart one piece of wisdom to you on this Valentine's Day, it would be "After eating French onion soup, thoroughly clean your spoon before using it on banana / mango yogurt."

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February 13, 2002

Don't Touch My Cheez-Its

Okay, look. I wasn't going to say anything, but this is, like, the third time this has happened in a month and I'm getting pissed off. I just got back from the gym and found that the Cheez-Its I left here on the weblog are gone. I dunno who took 'em, but, listen, whoever it is: if you just buy me a new box and leave them here before tomorrow then, y'know, no harm no foul. No questions asked. But don't forget that I can just check the referer logs to see who was here while I was gone if I have to.

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Meanwhile, On Earth 2

Those seeking to prove the parallel universe hypothesis need look no further than here:

  • White House Is Backing Foes of Finance Bill [nytimes link, reg required]: "The White House is working through the Republican Party to scuttle campaign finance legislation before the House this week..."
  • Meanwhile, on Earth 2, Bush Says Proposals 'Make Progress': "On the morning of a historic series of votes on campaign finance reform, President Bush broke with House Republican leaders today and said through his spokesman that both of the leading proposals 'make progress and improve the system'
Incidentally, if you know how to exorcise Abba's "Mama Mia" from my head, please contact me with all possible speed.

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February 12, 2002

Truth In Advertising

It's always refreshing to see some truth in advertising. This evening, for example, I saw an ad for Northwest Dodge Dealers, which showed a gargantuan vehicle and the slogan

It's like a juicy cheeseburger in a land of tofu.
I'm glad to see at least one dealer is willing to fess up about how unhealthy SUVs are by coming right out and admitting that they are a leading cause of shortened lifespans and fat-assedness.

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PowerPoint

Please read this facsinating article from a recent New Yorker about how Microsoft Powerpoint is changing the way we convey information.

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2002 Noxious Weeds List

As you've undoubtedly heard, the nominees for the "2002 King County Noxious Weeds List" were announced earlier today. This year it looks like a real horse race -- I don't think we're going to see a single weed sweep all the major categories this year, as Giant Hogweed did in 2001.

Overall I think the nominations are a good bunch of choices, although I must admit I'm surprised that Garlic Mustard is up for Best Noxious Weed (I though it was pretty good but ultimately didn't live up to the hype) while Velvetleaf got snubbed. It's also disappointing to see those weeds which bloomed early in the year get almost completely overlooked. This is only going to perpetuate this cycle where weeds bloom as late in the year as possible -- sometimes blooming just briefly in late December before going dormant and re-emerging later in the following year -- in an attempt to stick out in the Weed Board's notoriously short memory.

A couple of things make this year's nominations stand out. Last year, you'll recall, there were some mutterings about the lack of diversity in the nominations, and, perhaps in response, this year we see an Italian nominated for best Thistle, as well as the Syrian Bean-caper for Best Shrub. The nomination of Bighead Knapweed is also curious -- almost no one thinks that this weed deserves to be nominated on its own merits, and this is seen mainly as an acknowledgment that the genus Centaurea is long overdue for an award.

Well, I guess we'll find out in March who the 2002 winners are. I understand that Whoopie Goldberg will be hosting this year's Noxious Weeds ceremony, which is too bad because I though Steve Martin did a great job last year and I would have liked to see him return.

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February 11, 2002

Ginger

I'm in a bar. I hand my driver's license to the bartender.

"I dunno," she says, scrutinizing it. "In this picture you have a full beard, and here you are clean shaven. I dunno. I'm gonna ask someone else to look at it."

She calls over a waitress, Ginger. I stand off to the side, quietly singing along with the song playing over the sound system: "I need an everlasting love. I need a friend and a lover divine..."

Ginger takes one look at the licence, one look at me, and says "Oh yeah, it's him. Same smile."

"Besides," she adds, "the guy knows all the words to this Howard Jones song. He's over 21."


Games: Button Men

Button Men is a quick and clever little dice game from Cheapass. In the basic game, both players start with five dice of varying sizes (6-sided, 12-sided, maybe even a 20-sider or two) and begin by rolling all of them, with the player rolling the lowest single number going first. On each turn a player must, if possible, capture one of his opponent's dice. This can be done in one of two ways. When making a Power Attack, the active player uses one of his dice to capture any opponent's die that shows a number equal to or lower than the attacking number. If making a Skill Attack, the attacker choses two or more of his own dice which, when totaled, exactly equal the number shown on an opponent's die. In either case the targeted die is captured and the attacking die or dice are rerolled. The other player then takes a turn, and so on until someone loses their last die, at which point the round ends. At that time, each player scores the full-value of any captured dice (so a 12-sided die would be worth 12 points, regardless of what number it bore when it was captured) and score half value for any of their own dice that remained uncaptured (so an uncaptured 6-sided die would be worth 3 points). Highest score wins the round; first to win three rounds takes the match. To read more about the game, click here.

If you'd like to try Button Men, please visit Dana Huyler excellent online adaptation. After you've created an account, feel free to challenge me to a game (I go by the username Shadowkeeper), or you can click here to send me a player mail. The next time I'm on the Button Man site I'll be more than happy to give you a tutorial of the game, as well as a thrashing you'll never forget.

[ link | Games]



In the Weeds

The bad news is that I am terribly, terribly behind at work. The good news is that time flies when you are in a perpetual state of borderline panic due to impending unmeetable deadlines.

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February 10, 2002

Superhero Ideas

Incidentally, if you're an aspiring but frustrated comic book writer in search of inspiration, here's some great ideas I have for for some new superhero titles:

  • The Flabbergasting Adventures of Kit and Caboodle
  • The Taste Buddies: Salty Dog, The Sweetheart, Bitter Pill and Sour Puss
  • Induration and Erythema vs. The Lesion of Doom
  • Janet and the Reno-vators
  • Interminable Tales of Calvin Judder, A Guy Who Really Likes Watching Antique Roadshow
  • The Justice League of God, Starring The CataKiller, Sergent Stiffneck, Salmon-Man and Christina the Astonishing!

February 09, 2002

Kurt Busiek and His Detractors

I love superhero comic books, even though I never read them. I used to be a voracious comic book reader back in junior high (my favorite title at the time, for reasons I can't for the life of me recall, was "The Flash"), but at some point my interested waned and I went cold turkey for about a decade. Then, while I was in Bolivia as a Peace Corps Volunteer, my girlfriend (now my wife) sent me the first issue of Untold Tales of Spider-man. I think she sent it more as a joke than anything else -- it was just thrown into a care package along with a lot of other Americana reading material, Entertainment Weeklys and the like -- but she sent me every single issue thereafter, right up until the series got axed at issue #25. Later I discovered the real reason she had been buying them: she had read issue #1 before sending it to me -- perhaps the first comic books she'd ever read -- and had herself got hooked on the series.

The writer of that series was Kurt Busiek, and, since then, I have gotten hooked on another of his projects, Astro City. The Asto City stories have been collected into a number of trade paperback editions, and if you have any interest in the genre at all I'd highly recommend picking up Life in the Big City. Very enjoyable.

Recently I discovered this remarkably unsettling page devoted to Busiek. It's written by one Darren Madigan, an aspiring but frustrated comic book writer who knew Kurt in college and once carried (and seemingly continues to carry) a torch for his wife. It begins with a short and snarky message that Madigan posted to a newsgroup, and continues with a reply from Busiek himself. Then, in response to this 12-paragraph rebuttal, Madigan weighs in with a six-page screed, in which he analyzes Busiek's response line-by-line -- and often word for word -- and seasons liberally with hyperbole and fat jokes. I read the whole damned thing; it is truly fascinating in its awfulness.

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February 08, 2002

Remember: I Care. Psyche!

And don't forget that Defective Yeti is your Official Olympics Apathy Station. So stop by often for breaking, up-to-the-minute news on who could not possibly care less about this historical event.

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MTUR

Have you seen the trailer for John Q? Have you seen it dozens of times? The first time I encountered it, several months ago, I turned to my wife and said "Wow, we gotta see that." And I meant it at the time: the premise was intriguing, the star (Denzel Washington) is amongst my favorites, and the direction -- from what you call tell from a trailer, which admittedly ain't much -- looked pretty good.

All of that is still true, but I'm afraid I can no longer see it. Why? Because John Q has run afoul of my Movie Trailer Ubiquity Rule; to wit: "If the total amount of time I have spent involuntarily watching a movie's trailer equals or exceeds the running time said film, it shall be removed from my Must See In Theaters list." I'm not sure of the exact running time of John Q, but I'm betting it's less than the approximately seven hours worth of "John Q" trailers I've seen thus far. Sadly, the MTUR prevents me from seeing Rollerball as well, so you'll hafta let me know how it is.

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Best. Alkaloid. Ever.

Best. Alkaloid. Ever.

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February 07, 2002

Jetpacks

Jeezum Crow: you leave town for a few days and what happens? You come home to find people flying around on personal jetpacks, that's what!

Well, I'm back from Canada. I had gone there to attended a five day Datafax Users Group Conference, which was colloquially referred to as "DFUG," which sounds to me like a mid-century dance or a word a junior-high school student would use in place of an expletive. Essentially, it's one of those deals where a company sells you a product, and then they hold these conferences where you pay to go and learn how to use the product. Good work if you can get it.

The conference was held outside of Montreal. I'd love to give you the low-down on what life is like in Eastern Canada, but, frankly, I haven't the slightest idea. Upon arriving at the airport we hopped in a shuttle and drove straight to the conference site, which was tucked away in the countryside surrounded by number of ski resorts numbering roughly one infinity. Our hotel was one such resort, the Fairmont Tremblant, and was a literal snowball's throw away from a skilift. Nice for the skiers in the crowd, no doubt, but a tad brisk for those of us convinced that we mammals evolved war-bloodedness for a damned good reason. The upshot to all this is that the atmosphere of the joint was much more ski-lodgie than it was Quebecian, so any report I tried to give on the lives and habits of Eastern Canadians would conclude that they have a brewpub on every corner and a serious Gore-Tex fetish.

Still, French was the first language almost everywhere you went, so that was an interesting change from my norm. I'd walk into a restaurant and the host (or, as they say in Quebec, "maitre'd") would approach and say "bonjour". And then I would point to myself and say "AMERICAN! NO PARLAY FRENCH!" and he would say "Right. Table for one?" and that would pretty much end my cross-cultural experience. Although I did still have the option to watch tv in French. They had, like, a dozen stations: a third in English, a third in French, and a third originally in English but dubbed. This last category was actually the most fun, as you could watch "Tout le Monde Aiment Raymond" or listen to The Simpsons banter in French. (Marge: "Ce n'est pas un singe."; Homer: "Le D'OH!").

The accommodations were guilt-inducingly sumptuous. My room was so large that, had pushed the two twin beds against the wall I could have played raquetball in there. And the housekeepers had apparently been trained by the Special Forces, because I couldn't go get a Coke from down the hall without returning to find the beds made, the towels restocked and the end of the toilet paper folded into a lethal point. Plus, I also had the best of all possible views: right outside my window was the beginner's ski hill. It was like having a 24/7 feed of "Quebec's Funniest Home Videos" at my disposal.

Anyhow, I had a good time. But I'm glad to be back in a state where most thermometers have no need for a minus sign.

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February 04, 2002

Canada: Refrigerate Unused Portions

I only have 15 minutes of web access, so pay attention.

  • Everything sounds better in French. Yesterday I watched an all-time personal record of seven (!) minutes of "Sleepless in Seattle" simply because it featured Tom Hanks speaking in French. Also, I love that the exit signs (which are red, by the way) read "Sortie".
  • Somebody won the superbowl. I'm pretty sure it was a team. Hooray for them and everyone who bet on them.
  • If you like puzzles and/or food, please take a moment to read the recap of my 2001 Treasure Hunt.
I must go.
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February 01, 2002

Off to Canada

I'm off to Montreal for a week, so depending on my web-access you can expect to see (a) no postings whatsoever, or (b) long, rambling screeds with titles like "Holy Frijoles, Am I Ever Cold" and "Misery At Minus Ten Degrees".

You are required to play minigolf until my return.


Greetings from Canada,
Wish I Were Warm!
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Any Key

Computer guy Stewart Hayek writes.

Saw your Compaq link to "Any Key" FAQ. To add to that we once received a shipment of cases that had your standard set of stickers for the back of the computer(serial, printer, monitor mouse etc) and in amongst those stickers was an Any Key sticker to put on the keyboard. Originally we thought it was just a joke but we wisely saved them for use on computers being purchased by the customers we deemed most likely to call with that question.
I think it would be fun to put a sticker on one of the keys that said "Delete All Files".

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The Bad Review Revue

The Bad Review Revue.

[A Walk to Remember] "If you don't know every single plot point and twist after the first twenty minutes, you've done the sensible thing and left after the first ten." Walter Chaw, FILM FREAK CENTRAL

"To regard The Mothman Prophecies merely as two hours of your life that you'll never get back is to miss the larger affront it poses." Bruce Newman, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

[Birthday Girl] "A mess, from its clangingly false emotional manipulation to the silliest 'suspense' music ever composed on a kazoo." Gregory Weinkauf, Los Angeles New Times

"The marketing weasels over at Disney deserve to have their beady little eyes gouged out with flaming icicles for the fast one they've pulled on audiences with Snow Dogs." Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle

[Slackers] "A shit stain on the genre." Peter Travers, ROLLING STONE