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September 29, 2003

Hugo House Annual Inquiry: Games

There will be few (if any) posts this week, because I am working on a side project: the Hugo House Annual Inquiry. But if you are a Seattlelite (or will be in town next weekend), read on -- this may be something you'll be interested in attending.

Hugo House is a Seattle-based non-profit somethingorother that focuses on literacy and the arts. Every year H.H. hosts a big event called a "Cultural Inquiry," where they pick a theme and host a number of activities and installations related to that theme. Two years ago the theme was Maps; last year the theme was Surveillance. This year, the Annual Inquiry is all about Games. As it turns about, a couple of the folks over at H.H. read the yeti and know about my fondness for games and hornswoggled talked me into participating.

There's a lot of really great stuff going on (check out the schedule), but here are the pies that I have a thumb in:

  • Friday, 10:00-11:30 pm -- A Guide To Visitors Story Slam: I am a frequent participant in A Guide To Visitor's storytelling shows. The theme of this evening's tales will be "Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave: the way we use others as pawns and the mind games we play on each other." I helped arrange this, and there's a fair chance I will also tell a story.

  • Saturday, 2:30-3:30 pm -- "Break The Safe" Tournament: Local game company Forrest-Puzan Creative will be showcasing a new game they designed by throwing a "Break The Safe Tournament." Break The Safe is a very-cool cooperative boardgame where the players work as team, finding keys, disarming booby-traps and evading guard dogs. (More details on the game here.) The winning team will win an seminar on the art of locksmithing sponsored by Broadway Locksmiths, which is so cool that I wish I wasn't disqualified from winning (although I'll probably try to finangle myself into that seminar just for helping put this thing together). The tournament will include a tutorial on the game, so even if you've never heard of it you are still encouraged to participate. If you're interested in joining, assemble a team of four and register by either emailing tournament@forrest-pruzan.com or calling Wendee (206-547-7155 ext. 106). (Please note the caveat mentioned below, though.)
  • Saturday, 10:30-midnight: Late Night Lying Game and Gamenight: Come watch me sit in front of a crowd of people and lie my fool head off. Afterward I will be participating in the Hugo House's casual gamenight. And by "participating in" I mean "drinking".

  • Sunday, October 5th, 10:30 am -- Treasure Hunt: I'll be hosting a Treasure Hunt similar to those I hold for my friends every year. (See this as an example.) I'll have a semi-official page up for this later today or tomorrow. The hunt will be run in teams of three or four and should take around 90 minutes. If you want to participate, I'm asking that you let me know in advance (Again, see the caveat).
The Caveat: To participate in any of above events (including the Break The Safe Tournament and the Treasure Hunt), you have to pay that day's admission. That the bad news. (Well, it's not really "bad," since all the $$ goes to a good cause -- namely, Hugo House.) The good news is that once you pay the admission, you get access to all of the events that are held during that time frame. And, like I mentioned before, there's a lot of good stuff going on. Sherman Alexie will be talking about "Dungeons and Dragons" (seriously), James Ernest (the guy who is Cheapass Games) will be there giving game design seminars and talking about high-stakes poker, there will be a couple of panel discussions about video games and society ... it's gonna be cool.

You can get ticket information over on this page. Hope you can make it!

September 26, 2003

Squirrelly Update
September 25, 2003

Draft Clooney Movement Gains Momentum

Four days after its inception, the "Draft Clooney For President" (DCFP) movement has received a groundswell of support from democrats dissatisfied with the 10 candidates currently seeking the nomination.

Martin Morch, DCFP chairman and webmaster of draftclooney.com, initiated the drive Monday after becoming disenchanted with General Wesley Clark. "I was a big Dean supporter before he got all popular, so then I became active in the Clark recruitment. But now I think that George Clooney is what the nation needs. And there's a pretty good chance he's a democrat."

Clooney benefits from the waning of enthusiasm for Clark that followed the general's official announcement of candidacy. "Voters are weary from Clark's non-stop, one week of campaigning," said Joanne Hutter, professor of political science at Idaho State University. "And we've seen his poll numbers plunge since it was discovered that he has 'flaws' and 'positions'. The thrill is clearly gone."

Clooney supporter Kathy Teck agreed. "Clark is so last August." Teck was asked which issue convinced her to back Clooney. "He could totally win," she replied.

In a phone interview, Clooney denied that he was seeking the nomination or had any knowledge of the movement to draft him. In related news, a Reuter's poll of registered democrats had the actor leading all actual candidates by a margin of 22%. DCFP insiders say they are ready to launch draftjustintimberlake.com the moment Clooney declares his intention to enter the race.

September 24, 2003

Hell Mouth

The Queen: While you're paying bills online, could you take care of this dentist bill too?

Me: Sure. [Takes bill] Wha-? Geoffrey Strange? Your dentist is "Dr. Strange"?

Q: Uh-huh.

Me: Who does he have as dental hygenists, the hoary hosts of Hoggoth?

Q: ...

Me: Uhh, never mind. That was kind of a nerd joke.

Q: I assumed.


The Quencher

When I first saw the USA Today headline reading Flame Retardant Found In Breast Milk, I thought they had found a natural substance in there that could be used to put out fires. And I was all, like, "Damn -- isn't there anything that stuff can't do?!"

[ link | Misc]


September 23, 2003

Letterman Is For Glovers

To understand this story, you must first watch this video [windows media player].

That's Crispin Glover on Late Night With David Letterman. If you can't see the clip, or you just want to immerse yourself in the sheer lunacy of the appearance, check out the transcript of the "interview" over at Waxy.org.

Anyhow, I saw this episode when it first aired in 1987, and, at the time, it was pretty much my only exposure to Crispin Glover (aside from his role as the father in Back To The Future, obviously). My best friend, on the other hand, was a big Glover fan: he would tape all of Glover's television appearances (which is how I saw this Letterman bit); he would see any film that had Glover in any role, no matter how minor; and he would occasionally subject me to portions of Glover's record, including the nightmare-inspiring Clowny Clown Clown.

So fast-forward a few years to 1991 and the long-delayed release of Crispin Glover's film Rubin & Ed. My buddy is psyched because not only is Rubin & Ed premiering at Seattle's own Grand Illusion Cinema, but Crispin Glover himself will be on-hand to answer questions after the movie. Sensing that I will become infinitesimally hipper by attending this event, I agree to go along.

But I still don't really know anything about Glover, aside from his freak-out on Letterman. So I prepare by reading up on Glover, hoping to learn enough to ask an in-the-know-sounding question during the Q &A. And one of the things I discover in my research is that Glover has offered an explanation for his bizarre behavior on the Late Show. According to an interview he gave later, he was "in character" throughout his appearance on Letterman, behaving not as himself, but as Rubin, the titular character from Rubin & Ed.

Armed with this one fact, I go to the premiere of Rubin & Ed feeling like a true fan -- after all, while thousands of people saw the Letterman interview, I am one of the few people that knows The Secret True Story behind the event: that Crispin was having one over on those gullible American to unhip to know the truth. And Rubin & Ed totally validates this theory: the Rubin character wears the same clothes that Glover wore on Late Night, he exhibits the same mannerisms, and acts every bit as deranged as he did on the talk show.

The movie ends and out comes Crispin Glover. The crowd becomes all humble and respectful, and I quickly realize that I am the only phony in a room full of True Believers. Most of the questions are phrased not so much to elicit a response from Glover, but to showcase the knowledge of the asker; e.g., "I noticed that the sound engineer on your album Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be also served as the gaffer in your movie Twister, so I was wondering blah blah blah." That kind of thing.

As the Q&A session is drawing to a close, I am amazed that no one has yet asked Glover about Letterman. Maybe, think I, maybe I am the only one in the room who knows The Secret, that it was not a disaster but, in fact, a brilliant piece of performance art. So I raise my hand and resolve to prove myself equal to the other Crispinphiles in the room. Glover calls on me almost immediately.

I stand, and say "Is it true that, when you appeared on the Letterman show a few years ago, you were simply practicing the Rubin character we saw here tonight?" Of course I already know the answer -- of course it's true, I read it! -- but I just want to show off the one bit of knowledge I know.

Glover suddenly looks profoundly sad. There's a long, expectant pause, and he says "I -- I don't, don't like to talk about that show ...."

Every person in the room turns to me and scowls. You made Crispin sad! You asked about the Letterman show, the very show that he doesn't like to talk about! What the hell kind of Crispin Glover fan are you?!

I sit down in my seat and sink as low as I possibly can.

September 22, 2003

Designated Derider

At the grocery store.

Checker: I'll need to see some ID.

Me: What, for that? It's non-alcoholic beer.

Checker: [Flustered] It is? Oh, uh. Well I still need to check your ID.

Me: What, you think I'm a 19 year-old trying to buy non-alcoholic beer?

Checker: [Recovering] No. But I won't sell you non-alcoholic beer if you're over 21. It's the principle of the thing.

Oh-HO!

You win this round, Mr. Smartypants checker guy.

September 19, 2003

This Looks Like A Job

If Wesley Clark wins the Deomocratic nomination, I think he should pick Senator Kent Conrad as his running mate. With any luck, the 70% of Americans who still think Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 will vote for a "Clark / Kent" ticket thinking they're gonna put Big Blue in the White House.

September 18, 2003

Blog Entry ... With Animals!

I went and visited my Grammy last night. We chit-chatted for a while and then got down to the serious business of watching TV. Grammy has, like, 700 cable stations, of which she watches four: PAX (the default), the FOX Sports Network (when the Mariners are playing), whatever station shows those reruns of Golden Girls, and Animal Planet. Tonight it was Animal Planet.

Lacking cable myself, I'd never seen Animal Planet before. What a weird network. We watched this show called Animal COPS, where they ride around with some Humane Society guys and pretend like they are as exciting and dangerous as the police officers profiled on COPS. In fact, everything on Animal COPS mimics the original COPS format: they show the time and location at the start of a segment, the officers give little philosophical monologues while driving around, and the whole thing is set to an unrelenting gloomy-action-adventure-techo backbeat specially designed to keep you on the edge of your seat while the Humane Society Guy herds a possum into a box.

Most hilariously, the show has a narrator who always speaks in this ominous and deadly-serious tone of voice, doing his level best to make the essentially boring routine of these guys seem fraught with peril.

First Humane Society Guy: Well, here we are.

[Humane Society Guys get out of car.]

Narrator: Getting out of the vehicle is a crucial step in any Animal COPS crime scene investigation.

[Humane Society Guys nonchalantly approach front door and knock.]

Narrator: The Animal COPS cautiously edge towards the front door, bracing themselves for a confrontation.

[Man answers door.]

Man: Yeah?

Narrator: Suddenly, the Animal COPS find themselves face-to-face with the perpetrator.

First Humane Society Guy: We're here about the pigs.

Man: Oh right. They're around the side of the house, follow me.

Narrator: The officers received a tip that the perpetrator is keeping pigs as pets, an act that's not only illegal in this county, but also against the law.

Then, as they arrive at the crime scene, the case takes an unexpected turn.

Man: Here they are.

Second Humane Society Guy: Oh, so they're pot-bellied pigs, then.

Man: Uh-huh, pot-bellied pigs.

Narrator: Reeling from this unforeseen twist, the Animal COPS struggle to regain control of the situation.

First Humane Society Guy: Well, like we said on the phone, we gotta take 'em.

Man: Whatever.

The show after Animal COPS was called The Planet's Funniest Animals, which was exactly like America's Funniest Home Videos except ... with animals! And I saw an ad for a show that was like Survivor ... with animals! In fact, that seemed to be the theme of every program: Well-known Show ... With Animals! Lord knows what else they have in this vein.
  • Sex And The Kitty
  • Law & Order & A Three-Spined Stickleback
  • The Gilmore Squirrels
  • Everybody Loves Raymond's Ferret
  • Mad About Ewe
  • JAG (uar)
  • Murder She Wrote, "She" Being A Cockatoo
Update: From the comments: "Buffy The Canine Spayer" (BillB), "Who Wants To Be A Millipede" (Greg), and "Welcome Back Otter" (Geena). But Tom pretty much wins with "Queer Eye For A Pig Sty."

September 17, 2003

Research Day: VPs and Teenage Girls

Can You impeach the Vice-President? I don't mean you, personally. Although, if you can, go nuts.

No, but what I mean is: what if, hypothetically, in some bizzarro, alterna-universe, it was discovered that the Vice President of the United States was receiving compensation from a company that landed a bunch of questionable, no-bid contracts in a nation that the US had recently invaded largely at the Vice President's instigation. Could Congress just impeach the VP, leaving the Commander in Chief in place?

In answer this question, I went to the site I always turn to first when I am in the market for some rock-solid, unbiased information: LaRouche In 2004 (dot net). "You cannot stop this process unless you get rid of the Cheney factor," LaRouche says in an essay about Cheney's machiavellian influence on the administration. "So, therefore, " he continues, "various people are conducting investigations aimed at impeaching Cheney on grounds of his financial dealings with Halliburton and so forth ... there's a movement to impeach the Vice-President of the United States, a movement that may not succeed in getting an impeachment, which is intended to break the White House free of control of the influence of Cheney." (Dude, why not change your name to Lyndon LaRun-on?)

Well, if there's really an "Impeach Cheney" movement afoot, then it must be legal. But a Google search for the phrase impeach Cheney doesn't really turn up anything of the sort, leading me to wonder if LaRouche isn't a nut. (Y'think?) Still, such a movement could exist, according to this online copy of the Constitution. Article II Section 4 states, "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Hey, speaking of the Vice-President ... I know Bill Clinton is constitutional barred from running for President again, but could Al team up with Hillary and form a "Clinton / Gore in 2008" ticket? Setting aside the fact that Al and Hillary aren't exactly chums, and that neither would ever agree to be subordinate to the other, is there anything that prevents Gore from serving more than two terms as a Vice-President? This was a pretty easy one to look up, since I just had to find the text of the Twenty-Second Amendment. The amendment states that "no person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once," but never once mentions the vice-president in any context.

Why don't we just make this an All Vice Presidents Research Day? Sure, what the hell.

Who was George Washington's vice president, and what else did he do? Well, let's see. A Google search for "first vice-president" reveals that Washington's second in command was ... oh, it was John Adams. Shit, I knew that. Seriously: I totally knew that. No, for real. I knew that. I did.

Whoa, that was embarrassing! Let's quickly distract the readers by talking about breasts: Okay, I don't really know how to do research on this without getting arrested for sexual harassment, so I'll just throw the question out and maybe one of my readers can shed some light on the subject. What's the deal with teenage girls walking around with their arms folded? In the last year or so I've started seeing this everywhere, and it looks profoundly unnatural. The girls usually have they arms folded under their breasts, which makes me think this is some idiotic "Cosmo Girl" technique that supposedly makes the walker look more buxom or something. Anyone? The comment are open, so give me the lowdown if know the scoop on this regrettable trend.

Update: In the comments, Kelly says "Funny you should mention it, a friend explained this 'technique' to me just the other day. Apparently the crossing arms thing is for girls with low self-esteem who want to make sure that no one sees that their stomach is not completely flat in tight tee-shirts. The crossing of the arms serves as a physical reminder to suck in when walking past cute guys in the hall. " Thanks, Kelly!

Previous Research Days


Pogo

Apparently a new study claims that your sleeping position reveals your personality.

That may be true, but I've always found it easier to judge a person by how they dance.

September 12, 2003

RIAA Files Suit Against Share Bear

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) continued its legal campaign today as it filed suit against Share Bear in federal court. The cuddly, anthromorphic teddy bear whose stated mission is to "teach people how to share" could face penalties of up to $150,000 and six months in jail. RIAA spokeswomen Lily Stadel defended the decision to procecute the adorable moppet. "We're not talking about Funshine Bear or Love-A-Lot Bear, here," she noted. "Share Bear has set up an entire B2B [bear to bear] sharing network, and not only knows how much fun it is to give some of her good things to others, but has often been heard encouraging others to 'do your share of sharing!' Clearly the RIAA cannot just stand by and allow this behavior to continue." The announcement came just days after the arrest of Pirate Smurf on similar charges. Share Bear's favorite color is lavender.

[ link | News]



Kahn'd

I ate at a joint called "The Mongolian Grill" the other day. The table tent featured "The History Of Mongolian Barbeque," with the first sentence reading "Mongolian barbeque was introduced to China by Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century."

I love that word "introduced." Apparently China was just sitting around one day watching "Genghis Khan's Living" and he was all, like, "Not sure what to do with that leftover mutton in the fridge? Here's an style of cooking that's both simple and delicious!"

[ link | Humor]


September 11, 2003

9/11

At 8:46 this morning, a voice came over the intercom system of my office building and asked that everyone observe a moment of silence in memory of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, the speakers on my floor are broken, and, when in use, give off a constant and very loud buzzing noise that sounds like the alarm of a cheap digit clock. Furthermore, the announcer left the intercom on throughout the "Moment Of Silence."

So we sat in our offices and endured a full minute of this grating cacophony, unable to concentrate on anything whatsoever.

In some respects this seemed like an even more appropriate tribute.

September 10, 2003

Dem Debate

Didn't see the Democratic debate Tuesday night? Yeah, me neither. But for some perverse reason I read the whole freakin' transcript. You could read it too, but I'll save you some time and just tell you that most of the Q&A goes like this:

Q: Candidate X, what do you think about apples?

A: Well, that's a good question. But another good question is, "What kind of audience reaction will I get to this unrelated but guaranteed laughter-and-applause-getting bumpersticker slogan?"

[Laughter]

[Applause]

But to address your question. The thing we all need to remember is that apples have cores. And the core issue facing Americans today is oranges. But when it comes to oranges, the Bush administration has completely failed to ... [remainder of time spent discussing oranges, apples never again mentioned]

Also, if you saw last week's debate or have seen the candidates on talk shows, you've pretty much heard everything they said during the debate. The participants were given 60 seconds to respond to questions, and, in nearly every case, they would spend the first 15 segueing from the actual question to some related issue that they already had a prepared response to, and the last 45 delivering their boilerplate rhetoric. Gephardt repeated his "miserable failure" bit a few more times; Howard Dean's closing statement was a paragraph that I'd heard almost verbatim at his rally; when asked what their favorite songs were, most candidates just picked their campaign theme. Memo to John Edwards: Dude, nobody's favorite song is John Cougar Mellencamp's, "Small Town."

(The journalist who asked the "what is your favorite song" question prefaced it by saying "this is for the Gen X crowd". Hey, nice job there, using my entire generation as justification for your industry's obsession with irrelevant and trivial hoohaw.)

Best exchange of the night:

Q: Frankly there's been some concern that because of the racial makeup of Vermont, about 0.5 percent black, that you will have a difficult time connecting and really understanding the concerns of minorities, in particular African Americans.

Dean: Well, if the percent of minorities that's in your state has anything to do with how you can connect with African American voters, then Trent Lott would be Martin Luther King.

Second best exchange of the night:
Q: [Some guy] recently said that the way that the Democratic candidates are talking about President Bush and this administration amounts to hate language. And I wonder if you would agree that this is hateful, demagogic talk about the president of the United States.

Sharpton: It doesn't matter if it is Republican or Democrat. If they're wrong, we can call them out, not out of hate but out of love for justice and what's good for the American people.

Can I get an amen? Well, I probably can't. But Sharpton sure can when he's in full-on rhetoric mode. Sharpton had a lot of great lines, actually. He has about as much a chance of becoming president as I do of becoming a gold medalist in the luge, but they should let him participate in all the debates, even the Republican ones.

Of course, these aren't really "debates" right now anyhow, not in the sense of there being any actual discussion of the issues. With nine people on stage, the best they can do it toss out broad questions and allow each person the opportunity to cough up some soundbites and catchphrases. And with some 70% of the populace unable to name a single democratic candidate, these debates are more American Idol than anything else: each contestation is belting out a few verses of a popular tune not to win, but just in the hope of making any impression whatsoever on the judges.


At The Dean Rally

I attended a Howard Dean rally a few days back. Here is my report.


Thanks Louie

Sunday evening I took a load of clean laundry out of the dryer and dumped it into the overstuffed chair we have in our living room; As is his wont, Louis The Cat immediately leapt onto the pile of warm clothes, burrowed into the shirts and socks, and promptly fell asleep. I had intended to fold the clothes shortly thereafter but was overcome with slackerliness, so Lucky Lou remained ensconced in the laundry all night long. In the morning, though, as I rushed around the house slightly late for work, I extracted Louie from the laundry, shooed him off, grabbed my gym clothes from the pile and shoved them into my duffle bag.

Several hours later I was in my gym's locker room and naked as a jaybird, having just stripped down in preparation for a shower. The Unwritten Rules Of Locker Room Etiquette For Guys dictate that, once you are naked, you have to be All Business: no talking, no eye contact, no calling attention to yourself, etc. So I solemnly shoved my clothes into my locker and pulled the towel out of my bag.

As I did so, though, something flew across the room, ricocheted off the mirror, and skidded to a stop on the tile floor. Everyone looked to see what it was. Not knowing myself what I had just flung from my bag, I trotted over to retrieve it, and was aghast to find this laying before me.

The whole incident was rather embarrassing. Still, it was nice of Louie to pack me a lunch.

September 09, 2003

Weight Of The Law

Overheard from the woman sitting behind me at a theater.

"If lawsuits helped you lose weight, I'd sue everyone I know."


Hello EDTEC 470!

One of the most fascinating this* about blogs is the ability to respond in "real-time" to events around the world, especially those that occur in what we quaintly refer to as "the blogosphere". For example, I had no foreknowledge whatsoever that my blog was going to become part of a class reading assignment, but my referrer logs seem to indicate that many people are currently visiting because they have been assigned to do so in an college course. If defective yeti were a traditional publication -- a newspaper, say -- I would have to wait until the next print run to send a big "shout out" to my new readers. But the nature of blogging is such that it allows me to do so moments after I first discover that I have been linked. This sense of immediacy is certainly one of the many factors that have contributed to the phenomenal popularity of blogging in recent years.

Another thing that sets blogs apart from "old media" is their interactivity, so feel free to leave a comment.

By the by, I have no doubt that your professor is doing a crackjack job, but you can find out more about blogs over here.

(* sadly, the downside to immediacy is a woeful lack of proofreading ...)

September 05, 2003

The Kiss!

Holy smokes, did you see the Democratic debate last night? What an opening! I mean, I was pretty shocked when John Edwards and Richard Gephardt came out dressed in those white bustier wedding dresses and sang “Like a Virgin," but when Howard Dean came on stage in that leather-and-spandex tux and open-mouth kissed them both – wow! That was just too much!

I thought Chris Rock did a great job moderating, too. But it's too bad he didn’t press 50 Cent to clarify his position on NAFTA.

September 04, 2003

Games: Hippodice

Yo: If you have a game group and would be willing to playtest a prototype that I am working on for the Hippodice Competition, drop me a line.

(Note: If that didn't make a whit of sense to you, you were not the target audience for this post anyhow.)

[ link | Games]



Games: Fresh Fish

I played a prototype of Fresh Fish years ago at a friends house and declared the game to be broken. I was certain the bizarro rules couldn't possibly work, despite the fact that we had just successfully finished a game. Later, when there was a limited release of the game in Germany, game enthusiasts snapped up all available copies and hailed it as one of the most brilliant and unusual games available, leading me to conclude that the game must work after all.

So when Plenary Games re-released Fresh Fish earlier this year, I knew I would have to get a copy and see if I had misevaluated it. Now, after several more plays, I realize that I had, and Fresh Fish has become one of my current favorites. Unfortunately, it's also nearly impossible to describe. But here goes.

The 10x10 grid on the game board starts empty, except for four Factory tiles -- a Harbor, a Game Store, a Nuclear Power Plant and a Petroleum Depot -- which are placed randomly before play begins. Each Factory has corresponding Outlets, with one of each kind of Outlet Tile for each player in the game. In other words, a five-player game will have five Fish Stores (for the Harbor), five Game Stores (for the Game Factory), five Nuclear Waste Dumps (for the Power Plant) and five Gas Stations (for the Depot). These tiles are mixed with a similar amount of Generic Buildings tiles to form the draw pool.

Each player also begins with $15 and six Reservation markers. On a turn, a player does one of two things: places a Reservation Marker on any vacant space on the board or flips over the next tile from the draw pool. In the former case, the player's turn ends after he has placed his Marker, but what happens next in the latter case depends on whether a Generic Building or an Outlet is revealed. If a Generic Building, the player simply places it in a space when he has a Reservation Marker and concludes his turn. But if an Outlet is turned over, all players who don't already own that particular Outlet bid forthe right to own it, with the winner placing it in one of his reserved space.

Some spaces will become Roads as the game progresses, and, at the end of the game, you add up the number of Road Tiles you have to traverse from each Factory to arrive at your corresponding Outlet. The lowest score wins -- after all, the closer your Fish Store is to the Harbor, the fresher the fish you'll have for sale.

It's road placement that makes Fresh Fish so unusual -- and so difficult to explain. Players don't place the Road Tiles, you see -- the game places the Road Tiles. There are two overarching metarules which determine where the Road Tiles go. Firstly, at the end of the game there can be only one road, so you can't place a Generic Building or an Outlet in a square that would prevent two or more road segments from eventually joining. Secondly, all Factories and Outlets must have road access by the end of the game. So if a Game Store in the middle of the board has buildings adjacent to it on three of its sides, the space abutting the fourth side must contain a Road Tile (because if a building were placed there, the store would never gain road access). A corollary to the second metarule is that empty spaces on the board also cannot become isolated, because they could, hypothetically, contain an Outlet on a future turn.

Don't understand? Don't worry - no one does at first. Although the two metarules are simple to state ("there's only one road, and all Factories and Outlets need access to the road"), it's very difficult to wrap your mind around in practice. After each turn, players must check to see if the placement of a building in any of the remaining empty spaces would violate either of the metarules; if so, the space in question is immediately "expropriated" and a Road Tile is placed therein. After a few games this becomes automatic (although even experienced players will occasionally miss one), but the first few times it will feel like your brain is in a garlic press every time you try and work this out.

So it's not enough to simply place your Fish Store close to the Harbor; you also have to place other buildings around the Harbor to ensure that the road connecting the Factory to your Outlet is as short as possible. It's entirely possible to place a Gas Station three squares away from the Petroleum Depot, but to wind up with a 12 Road-Tile route because other players placed buildings in such a way as to make the road leaving the Depot snake all around the board before arriving at your Station.

I enjoy Fresh Fish and am always eager to play it, but I haven't the foggiest idea why. Even though I can now see at a glance where Road Tiles need to go, I still have no clue how to bend the road to my will. Plus, the game is mentally exhausting - afterwards I typically feel hungover, and on two occasions the play of the game has given me a headache (no joke). But Fish pushes the same, perverse "spatial reasoning" button as jigsaw puzzles, Tetris and Ricochet Robot (another migraine-inducer). It's like watching a good horror movie: throughout you are miserable, but afterwards you say, "that was fantastic! I can't wait for a sequel!"

It's hard to recommend Fresh Fish on the basis of "fun," because it's certainly not for everyone. Furthermore, playing the game without someone who can instantly spot where the Road Tiles go can be a chore - often you will realize that you missed an expropriation several turns after the fact, and "rewinding" the game is nigh impossible. On this point, all I can say is that I went from disbeliever to fan after three plays, and many of my friends enjoy it as much as I do. But I can recommend the game without reservation on one point: if you're in the market for something unlike anything you've ever played before, Fresh Fish is unlikely to disappoint.


A Promise Kept

"I'm a uniter, not a divider." -- George W. Bush

* * * * *

Q: What about Arabs coming in from other countries?

A: Well, it seems to me -- and the weight of evidence indicates -- that Arab Islamists have fully joined the Iraqi resistance in Iraq ... Iraqi is gradually but steadily replacing Afghanistan and Bosnia as a magnet for many Jihadi recruits to confront the forces of the so-called "unbelief". And it seems to me that anti-American forces must now feel that US forces are very vulnerable in Iraq and could be bogged down in a prolonged guerilla war. If this particular resistance continues I feel you're going to have many more Jihadi fighters joining the Jihad in Iraq against the American forces.

Q: So the US occupation is, in a negative way, uniting the forces that normally wouldn't have anything to do with one another.

A: Absolutely.

-- NPR Interview with Fawaz Gerges,
a Middle East and international affairs professor
at Sarah Lawrence College

September 03, 2003

VIRUS ALERT!

To: all@paragonindustries.com
From: Matthew Baldwin <matthew@paragonindustries.com>
Subject: VIRUS ALERT!

Hey everybody. I guess I got a virus, because last night my computer emailed this companywide mailing list without my knowledge. So if you find an message in your Inbox this morning with the Subjectline "YOU ALL CAN GO TO HELL!!!!!!!" you should DELETE IT IMMEDIATELY! Do not open or read the email, as that will immediately give your computer the virus.

If you've already read it, you may have noticed that it contained a whole bunch of complete gibberish, like calling Carmen a "screechy kiss-ass" and Peter a "moronic alcoholic gibbon". Apparently the virus picked random names from my address book and included them in the text or something, I certainly wouldn't know. That's why this virus is so dangerous, and why you should delete that message (and this one) as soon as you can.

I got some new anti-virus software that scans my attachments for the phrases that appeared most often in that email ("I quit," "very drunk," "you bastards," etc.) so the problem should be taken care of. And I heard on NPR this morning that the worst of the virus is over, so you probably won't get it from anyone else, and there's no reason to think that only getting it from me was strange. Anyhow, sorry to put you all through that -- as you well know, I really, really love working here and think you guys are the greatest!

Matthew

P.s. Does anyone have any aspirin?


The defective yeti Coworker Lunch Theorem

If spontaneously organizing a coworker lunch outing without a predetermined destination, the number of minutes that will elapse between the first suggestion of the event and the group actually leaving the office will be equal to

n2 + 5
Where n = the number of persons involved.

September 02, 2003

Operation Squirrelly

Well, I promised you some news, so here you go. Operation Squirrelly -- previously alluded to here -- is a success.

We've known for a while. In fact, we knew almost immediately. But it wasn't until The Queen came home from her first Nurse / Midwife appointment with sonogram in hand that the truth really sunk in: I was now the proud father of what appeared to be a packing peanut. Wow," I said upon looking at the image. "You get 50 more in there and that uterus is ready to ship!" (Note: do not say this to your wife.)

I don't know what I expected to happen next -- maybe we'd get a few more of these ultrasound pictures, like postcards from the womb, and then nine months later The Squirrelly would just show up in a taxi or something. Little did I imagine that the next step would be for us to start eating like hippies. The Queen purchased a book called Every Woman's Guide to Eating During Pregnancy (A.K.A. How To Make Your Husband As Unhappy As You Are During Pregnancy) and began whipping up the sort of dishes that make vegans giddy. Seriously, the first meal she made involved red chard. Do you know what chard is? Do you know why you never eat chard? Well, I'm here to tell you that once you eat chard, the reasons why you never eat chard become abundantly clear.

(I was recently talking to someone at work about Operation Squirrelly and mentioned that The Queen had just entered the second trimester. "Ah," said my coworker, "She's entering the salad days." I was immediately seized by fear, thinking she meant that, during the next three months, we'd be eating salad more often than we already do! Thankfully, the opposite has been true: now The Queen eats seven meals a day, two of which usually involve The Outback Steakhouse, so I can pick and choose which ones to join.)

Either because of or in addition to the chard, the first trimester was rough on The Queen. Apparently placentasmithing is hard work, and she was pretty much exhausted all the time. I told her she should write down her daily caloric intake, estimate how many calories she was getting out of the deal, and write the difference in a ledger. Then, when The Squirrelly gets older, we can make it pay us back in chores. "You're not going anywhere this weekend," we'll say. "You've got 23,800 calories worth of lawn to mow."

But The Queen's been feeling much better now that she's entered her fourth month. Now I feel sorry for the cats. Since the addition of Edgar to the household it's been a monkeys-vs-kitties stalemate, with each team having equal members. Team Monkey really only holds power by virtue of the fact that we can open doors and cans. But throughout the first trimester, I think the cats thought they had a defector. After all, The Queen has begun to exhibit some distinctly feline qualities, namely (a) sleeping 19 hours a day, (b) becoming exceptionally finicky about food, and (c) occasionally throwing up without warning or provocation. I'm sure they were thinking "Once we convince her to start pushing beer coasters off the coffee table, she'll be our!" Little do they know of the monumental act of treachery The Queen has in store for them, when, in six months, she not only rejoins Team Monkey but brings on the reinforcements.

Anyhow, that's the news. The due date is February 21st. But I need everyone in the Internet Community to spend three minutes a day hoping for February 29th. It would be totally fun to torture The Squirrelly three out of every four years by saying "Sorry, no birthday presents again this year. I don't make the rules, I just follow them." That's gonna be awesome.