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April 30, 2003

Bars

Maybe you've seen this, which has been floating around the Internet for some time now:

Wow, just so much to wonder about with this photo.

But the thing that I always ask myself upon seeing pictures such as this is "What's with the black bars over the eyes?" Presumably they are there to preserve the anonymity of the persons depicted, but does simply blacking out the eyes really prevent folks from recognizing the people shown?

By way of an experiment, I snagged a bunch of headshots off of IMDB and photoshopped black bars over their eyes. Do you have any trouble identifying them all?

If black bars can't prevent you from identifying 12 people you've never even met, can they really keep someone from recognizing an "anonymous" acquaintance in an embarassing photograph? I'm guessing not. In fact, I suspect the whole "bars over eyes preserve anonymity" idea is little more than an urban legend. But if anyone can find any studies on its effectiveness I'd be interested in reading them.

April 29, 2003

Brush With Disaster

This morning I was running a little late, so I tried to hurry my routine a bit. Rushing into the bathroom, I grabbed my toothbrush with my right hand and began squeezing toothpaste onto it with my other. But apparently, in my hastened and groggy state, I was unknowingly pushing down on the bristle-end of the brush with the tip of the toothpaste tube, and compensating by applying a little more "lift" to the handle end. This I discovered when the toothpaste tube slipped off the brush, the bristle-end flipped upwards, and the toothpaste catapulted directly into MY EYE! IT BURNS OH GOD HOW IT BURRRRRNS! THE BAKING SODA AND PEROXIDE ARE WHITENING AND BRIGHTING MY CORONA, DEEP CLEANING EVEN THE HARD-TO-REACH SPACES BETWEEN MY EYEBALL AND SOCKET!

I did the classic, cinematic, mook-with-a-gun-getting-shot maneuver: cried out ("Aaa!"), staggered backwards, clutched my wound and slumped into the wall, all while the dropped toothbrush dramatically clattered to the bathroom floor. It would have been just like a scene from a Mike Hammer novel if Mike Hammer had been in the business of removing tarter.

Pick your moral:

  1. It is very important that all activities you perform before the consumption of coffee be done in exactly the same manner, order, and speed that they are done every morning, or ruination shall surely befall you.
  2. There really ought to be a warning on toothpaste that reads "DO NOT FLIP INTO EYE!"
  3. Fuckin' Tuesdays.

April 28, 2003

Love Means Never Having To Pretend You Care

In a restaurant where music is playing over the sound system.

Me: Jeeze, I've heard this song three times in the last two days.

The Queen: What is it?

Me: "Last Train To Clarksville," by The Monkees

Q: Are you sure it's not the Beatles? It sounds like the Beatles.

Me: No, I'm certain it's The Monkees. I listened to a lot of Monkees when I was in high school.

Q: You're kidding me. The Monkees? I thought you liked Talking Heads and The Smiths and stuff.

Me: I did, but ... well, there was this girl that I was friends with in high school, and she really liked the Monkees, so I listened to a lot of Monkees too. That's how I was, then -- I just listened to whatever my close friends liked to so we'd have something in common. I listened to Talking Heads because my buddy M. liked them, and I listened to The Smiths because my friend J. liked them, and listened to The Monkees because this girl was way into The Monkees, and so on. I mean, when it comes to music I've always been a poseur -- but I know I'm a poseur and I don't pretend that I'm not, so I guess that makes it okay.

Q: I have to pee.

Me: You have to ...? I spill my guts, I reveal this fascinating insight into my personality and psychological makeup, and all you can say is "I have to pee"?!

Q: So it seems, poseur.


I'm A Poet (And Now I Know It)

The theme for the Metro 2003 Poetry On The Buses 2003 project is "Lost and Found," and a poem I wrote is included.

April 11, 2003

Hasta El Mayo

I am on the verge of Blogger Burnout (this was your first clue). I'm not quite there yet, but I kinda feel like the yeti has been treading water for a few weeks, so I'll do us all a favorite and take a break before my posts become nothing more than announcements that I have nothing to say.

I have updated my favorite posts and added a few new blogs to my sidebar (check out Izzle Pfaff -- it rocks like Samanatha Fox), so read those in my absence.
Or you could just stare at this this mesmerizing animated gif for hours on end. Lord knows I have.

I'll be back on May 1st. See ya.

[ link | dy]



Friday Afternoon Scratchpad

In A Slump

April 24th is "Bring Your Kid To Work Day," which is, like, a total rip-off because I, personally, don't have a kid. I thought about bringing my four-year old nephew to work that day and introducing him to my coworkers, because it would be fun, when my colleagues said "I didn't know you had children," to reply "Yeah, well if my wife asks: I don't!" But then I remembered that I don't have a four-year old nephew, so that plan is shot all to hell.

Lacking an actual or surrogate child, I figure I should be allowed to do something else special at work that day. And I've been meaning to take up swooning as a hobby for some time now. So on that Thursday I think I'll just spend the day passing out at the slightest provocation.

Supervisor 1: This report looks great, Matthew.
Supervisor 2: Yes, the Ballard division loves. it. Except ...
Me: Yes?
Supervisor 2: Well, they wanted to know if the date could be right-justified.
Me: Right-justi --?! Ohhhhhhh... [slumps sideways in chair, falls off to floor]
Victorians used swooning as an additional punctuation mark, a kind of super exclamation point used to indicate overwhelming surprise, love, or large-hat wearing. But it's since become something of a lost art. That's why I'm going to do my part to revive this tradition on the 27th. In fact, it occurs to me that swooning could even have some practical applications:
That One Guy I Work With: [Coming into my office uninvited] Yo Matthew, did you catch 'American Idol' last night?
Me: Listen, I've told you a dozen times that I don't have the slightest interest in --
That One Guy I Work With: Kimberly -- the blond Kimberly, not the other Kimberly -- was supposed to sing this one song, but then Clay --
Me: Please let yourself out when you're done. [slumps sideways in chair, falls off to floor]
If you are likewise kidless and your office has thick carpets, consider joining me for Swoon With Alarming Frequency At Work Day, April 27th. I'll be printing up "Swooners Do It In A Crumpled Heap On The Floor" bumper stickers shortly.

Memo To The Teen In The Elevator

You probably think that your t-shirt reading "Pimptown University" makes you look cool. And yet, despite the fact that I myself have remained steadfastly uncool for approximately 32 years, I can assure you, with absolute confidence, that it does not.


A Cutting Remark

My first job was as a meat carver at a buffet-style restaurant -- you know, those guys who stand at the end of the line with an enormous knife and half a cow, and, upon request, will give you a slice of beef approximately seven microns thick? Yeah, that was me.

One day I recognized the big, burly guy coming down the buffet line as Mr. S, my second grade teacher. He had been one of my all-time favorite elementary school instructors, because was always cracking bad jokes and allowing me to skip classes to play chess with a friend of mine. I hadn't thought of him in years, but, now that he was here, I was excited to meet him again as an adult.

I wondered if he'd recognize me a decade after I had been in his class. I assumed not, so as he approached I opened my mouth to greet him, to announce that I had once been his student. But before I speak he looked up, saw me, and cried "Whoa! That is a big motherfucking knife!"


Links

Bad beers reviewed.
Hive, an addictive, two-player strategy game, now has an online demo.
Defense Department 'Iraqi's Most Wanted' Playing Cards. [pdf file]


Five Games You Can Play With Your Iraqi's Most Wanted' Playing Cards

  • Operation Iraqi Freecell
  • Gin Rumsfeld
  • Hearts and Minds
  • Haliburton's Lucrative Contract Bridge
  • War
  • Update: in the comments, Duane added "Go Fish For Weapons of Mass Destruction"

April 10, 2003

defective yeti Parenting Tip: Smoke Crack Today!

The Queen and I are putting some thought into a yetiette, so we bought a few books about what prospective mothers (and, hypothetically, fathers) need to do before getting pregnant. The advice for women is usually, like, 330 pages long; the part for men is typically a few paragraphs tacked on before the index.

Allow me to summarize each parent-to-be's pre-pregnancy duties:

Mothers-To-Be
Fathers-To-Be
Get a complete battery of physicals
Stop consuming alcohol
Stop consuming caffeine
Stop smoking
Eat a well-balanced diet
Take vitamins
Exercise more
Reduce stress
Keep testicles away from plutonium and heavy machinery

Needless to say, The Queen's a little bitter about the inequity of the preparations. She's gotta swear off coffee and red wine and cheeseburgers, she has to visit the doctor and the gym, she has to take pre-natal vitamin supplements that contain more minerals than The Museum Of Geological History, and meanwhile my job, when it comes to conception, is essentially "show up".

I have become a teetotalist, because some of the books recommended that prospective fathers forego the sauce. But the reasons they cited were pretty lame, of the "well there's really no proof that alcohol has any effect whatsoever on male fertility, but if we don't tell you to do something your wife is gonna be way annoyed, so why don't you put the kabosh on the Schlitz Tallboys for a spell, okay?" variety.

Actually, there is one thing all the pre-conception books advise fathers-to-be to do: stop using illicit drugs. Sadly, this doesn't apply to me. Which is a shame, because if I had a nice, unhealthy addiction to something, I could quit cold turkey and then I would get beaucoup credit from The Queen, what with the agonizing detox and horrific withdrawal process, etc. But that's the thing about living in Seattle, you know: you always mean to get hooked on heroin, but you put it off and put it off because you figure you can do it any time you want, and then next thing you know the opportunity to get strung-out and score major Queen Kudos has passed you by.

But don't make the same mistake as me! If you're male and thinking about having a kid someday, take my advice and smoke some crack today! You may not feel that a crippling drug addition is really the right thing for you at this stage of your life, but, you know, when it comes to parenthood you gotta look to the future. That's the thing.


Here's A Free One For You, Leno

"Did you see the footage of the corporal who put the American flag on the statue of Saddam? Did'ja see that? Apparently the Pentagon thought it was bad for PR, so a superior officer immediately ordered him to take it down. The marine who set up the nativity scene in Baghdad's Central Square was reprimanded as well."


The Unfairness Of It All

Oh sure: you pull down a Baghdad statue of Saddam and you're celebrated worldwide as a hero, but you drunkenly urinate on a University of Washington statue of Galilio ONE TIME and they ban you from the campus forever. Like that's fair.

Also, according to NPR today's weather will be, and I quote, "rain, showers, and possible thudershowers." Woo Seattle!

April 09, 2003

Marks The Spot
Triple-X Syndrome: A rare chromosomal aberration characterized by the presence of three female chromosomes. May result in learning difficulties, delayed acquisition of certain motor skills, and inhibition of speech development.
Well, that would certainly explain Vin Diesel's performance in xXx.
[ link | Movies]



Books: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Our modern idea of the cape, cowl & tights superhero is often traced back to the 1938 debut of Superman. There were plenty of "superheroes" before then, of course, but we didn't recognize them as such: Zorro, Gilgamesh, Hercules, etc. But clever, clever Alan Moore has rounded up a bunch of these pre-Superman fictitious heroes and given them their own comic book entitled The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; the first six issues of said series (which constitute a complete story) have now been compiled into a trade paperback, which I read over the weekend.

And what a great read it was. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen begins in 1898 (one century prior to the comic book's publication), and the "heroes" are taken from the literature of the time: the swashbuckling Allan Quatermain, the mysterious Mina Murry, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin, and both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (If some of those names fail to ring a bell, don't worry: half the fun of the story is discovering who each person is as the tale progresses.) The five are recruited by Campion Bond, agent of English Intelligence and emissary of a cryptic figure known as "M", who has assembled the team to save Britain from a threat as dangerous as it is enigmatic. And so begins a series of adventures which brings the team into contact with Auguste Dupin, Fu Manchu, and a host of other characters throughout the Europe of the late nineteenth century.

The wonderful thing about the heroes in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is that few of them are heroes, and most don't even qualify as "gentlemen". Quatermain is an opium fiend; Mr. Hyde is a (literal) monster; Hawley Griffin is, frankly, an asshole. They act not for love of England (Nemo, in fact, loathes the Empire and all it stands for), but for private motives and personal gain. In other words, the characters in the comic books are every bit as complex and interesting as the literary figures they are based on. Furthermore, the story told in the first six issues is what would have been called a "ripping good yarn" at the time, full of humor, drama, and more twists than the Thames river.

I have quite a few graphic novels and trade paperbacks on my bookshelf, but most date back to the era when I was an avid comic book reader: The Dark Knight Returns, Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunter and the like. In the last ten years I have picked up a few more, but it's been rare to find one as good as the Silver Age classics (although a few have qualified, such as Kingdom Come and the Astro City compilations). And none that i have acquired in recent memory have risen to the level of The Watchmen and V For Vendetta, my two favorites. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, however, now joins their ranks, giving Alan Moore a hat trick as he sweeps my top three. If you are a comics fan -- or even if you once were and want to re-experience the thrill you used to feel when reading a first-rate series -- this is one to pick up.

Postscript 1: Quick! If you're gonna read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, do so now, before the movie comes out and fucks it up!

Postscript 2: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is only one of a number of new series that Moore is writing for America's Best Comics, and I have read the trade paperbacks for a few of the others. Although none were as marvelous as League, I would still recommend Tom Strong, which is something of a homage to the golden age of Superman. I wasn't gaga over either Top Ten or Promethea, though.

April 08, 2003

Bellwether

I broke down and got one of those Razor Scooters. I waited a little while before buying one because I wanted to make sure that the whole scooter thing wasn't going to turn out to be just a passing fad or something, but I finally couldn't wait any longer. Ya gotta strike while the iron is in the fire, you know? Anyhow, I rode it to work today -- man, it's totally sweet. I loved the way it felt when the wind was blowing through my goatee. I didn't see anyone else was riding one, which is cool because I hate it when things like this get all popular and shit, where everyone is doing it. But it looks like I'm still ahead of the curve.

Also, the other day I bought this decal that was like the, whattayacallit, Christian fish thing, the Jesus Fish or whatever, except this one had legs and it said "Darwin" on it! I'd tell you where I bought it but I don't want, like, everyone to rush out and get one.

[ link | Humor]



Five Links
  1. Oh so very, very funny.
  2. Remember this guy? Now he has his own blog. And it's way bloggy, let me tell you.
  3. HOORAY I AM AN IDIOT!!!!!
  4. "In times of emergency do not panic, take your neckwear and look for a safe escape path." (Thanks, Joshua.)
  5. By popular demand, I made the AMAZING PATRIOT ACT 2 thing a little more linkable. So, um, go nuts.
    1. [ link | Links]


April 07, 2003


Plastiophilia

Our cat, Edgar, is a full-on plastiophage: shrink wrap, Ziploc bags, bubble paper, shower curtains -- if it's plastic, he'll eat it. Grocery bags fear him. Coke bottles tremble in his presence. When we put strips of double-sided tape on the back of our couch to deter the kitties from scratching it, he immediately pulled it off and wolfed it down. Per annium, Edgar consumes more petroleum than an SUV.

The thought of this stuff navigating his digestive tract makes me wonder if we should consult a vet about this. On the other hand, having each of his feces individually wrapped in cellophane makes cleaning the little box quite a bit easier, so I guess I'll let it slide for now.

April 04, 2003

AMAZING PATRIOT ACT 2!

Amazing Patriot Act 2! Click Here!

(By the way, here's an excerpt from the aforementioned First American, a letter that Benjamin Franklin wrote to Pennsylvania Governor Robert Norris:

How odious it must be to a sensible manly people, to find him who ought to be their father and protector, taking advantage of public calamity and distress, and their tenderness for their bleeding country, to force down their throats laws of imposition, abhorrent to common justice and common reason! Why will [he] make himself the hateful instrument of reducing a free people to the abject state of vassalage; of depriving us of those liberties which have given reputation to our country throughout the world?
Feel free to cut and paste that into your email to the White House concerning the Patriot Act II legislation.)

[ link | Humor]


April 02, 2003

Books: The First American

When strangers on the street approach and demand that I list my heroes, I can usually only cough up Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and The Guy Who Got Into The Guinness Book Of World Records By Eating a Bicycle before I start to founder and resort to fictitious characters like The Powerpuff Girls and God. But thanks to The First Amercian, I can now tack one more name onto the litany: Good Ol' Benjamin Franklin.

The First American is a book about Franklin, but it's also a book about the creation of the United States -- indeed, it would be impossible to write one story without telling the other. Franklin was born in 1706, at the moment in history when the first fissures of discontent were beginning to appear between Britain and her New World colony; he died in 1790, shortly after the Constitution of the United States had been ratified. Franklin almost seems like the physical embodiment of the revolutionary spirit, the very incarnation of America's evolution. Had Franklin not existed, historians would have had to invent him as a literary device.

But Benjamin Franklin was very much a flesh-and-blood human being, and his world apart from politics was as fascinating as his role as statesman. Author H. W. Brands covers all aspects of Franklin's life: his siring of an illegitimate son (who later went on to give Franklin an illegitimate grandson), his rise prominence through his work with electricity, his assorted occupations (printer, postmaster, diplomats) and inventions (the lightening rod, bifocals, daylight savings time), all the way up to the various medical afflictions that plagued him over the last years of his life. All this serves to portray Franklin as a human rather than simply a mythical figure. The Queen recently started reading the acclaimed biography John Adams, but soon gave up, complaining that author spent so much time lauding the man that she never felt like she got to know him. This is not a flaw that The First Amercian shares.

In the epilogue, Brands points out the the title of the book has a double meaning. Franklin was the "First American" chronologically, because he was perhaps the first person in a position of power to recognize that the United States would eventually have to break it's bonds with the Old World. But he was also the "first" in the sense of being "the first among equals," a man committed to egalitarianism despite his extraordinary gifts. Franklin was the prototypical Amercian writ large: intelligent (though sometimes too clever for his own good), proud (sometimes to the point of arrogance), steadfast (sometimes to the point of stubbornness), convivial (sometimes to the point of carnality), and, above all, protean enough to take everything fate handed him and maintain a sense of humor.

I've always had an affinity for Bennie F., because, of all the forefathers, he always struck me as the most accessible to an everyday shmoe like me: Washington seems too militant and noble, Jefferson seems entirely too smart, John Adams seems a bit too politician-ie, etc. But in Benjamin Franklin we have a man who not only served as midwife to the nation, but also wrote folksy almanacs, coined (and often stole) clever sayings, and was always willing to admit his character flaws even while urging others to overcome their own. Franklin may have been a great thinker and unparalleled diplomat, but he was also America's first "guy". That's someone I'm happy to cite as a hero.

April 01, 2003

Weekend

Sometimes I have what I believe to be a moderately humorous idea, but when I actually write it down it turns out to be a bit funnier than I anticipated.

And then, other times ...

See, Saddam is, like, totally dead, right? But the Iraqi leadership doesn't want people to know that. So it's just like that 80's movie, you know, about the two guys and the corpse? So -- hah hah! -- if I take the poster from that flick and PhotoShop Saddam';s face onto it, ho boy, that's gonna be a ri-ot!

Yeah, some thing are funnier in theory ...

Update: Ha! Proof positive that no joke is so flaccid that someone won't claim it as their own. Oh well, you know what they say: getting ripped off by a Live Journal User is the highest form of flattery. And his version looks better than mine, so more power to 'im.

Update: Upon closer inspection I realize that I have been ripped off by a Xanga User, which is only the eleventh highest form of flattery. I guess I won't be mentioning this on my resume after all.

Update: Dear Lord! I traced the "plagerized" image back to its source, and found it posted here three days ago! I suppose this could be construed as evidence that my "joke" was unoriginal in addition to falling flat, but I'm sticking to my "rip off artists / time travel" theory all the same.

Update: Thievery!!!

[ link | Humor]



Common Courtesy

The light switches to "Walk" and I step off the curb. A third of the way across the street, however, I catch some rapid movement out of the corner of my eye and, upon turning my head, see a large, SUVish vehicle bearing down on me at a speed best described as "worrisome". As I quicken my pace and prepare to leap out of the way, the man behind the wheel (Jackie Chan, from the looks of him) notices the red light, slams on his brakes, and manages to arrest his behemoth a foot or so from my left hip.

Somewhat shaken I continue crossing, but glance backwards just in time to see the driver lean out his window, gesticulate at me furiously, and yell "YOU'RE WELCOME!!"