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March 31, 2004

Hit Of The Year

Also, I heard actor Jim Caviezel will reprise his role for the next film in the series. Hopefully he'll only appear in flashbacks sequences or play his twin brother or something. I mean, the whole "bring the lead character back to life in the sequel" thing is so played.

[ link | Movies]

March 30, 2004

Books: Never Threaten To Eat Your Co-Workers

Wow, this Best of the Blogs book is pretty good! In fact, I'll go out of a limb and say that of all the books I have reviewed here on defective yeti, it's the one I am the most in.

But don't let my staggering lack of impartiality dissuade you from buying several dozen copies. After all, my posts only comprise, like, 1/300th of the text. The bulk of the book is made up of entries from a bevy of my favorite blogs, such as Choire Sicha and Dooce and What's The Fuss. (The only bummer about being in a book with Choire and Heather and Mrs. Kennedy is that the book is not erotica.) And I've had these sites on my sidebar since forever, right? So, in a sense, it's as if I endorsed this book way before it became wildly inappropriate for me to do so.

Plus, it's got Wil Wheaton in it, the guy who was in that one movie you saw that one time! And if this book sells really well maybe they'll turn it into a movie and cast Wil Wheaton in the role of me, although I guess he would be busy playing the part of himself unless they got another actor to play the part of Wil Wheaton, maybe George Clooney, which would be totally cool because I've always wanted to be in a movie with George Clooney, except I guess I wouldn't technically be in the movie since Wil Wheaton would be playing ... okay, now my head kind of hurts.

In summary: purchase!

[ link | Books]

Sing Me To Sleep

I learned a lot of stuff in preparation for The Squirrelly, but, alas, the words to popular lullabies were not among them.

I know the melodies to most of the classics, but I can usually only remember the first verse of words; after that I have to resort to improv. I figure it doesn't matter what I say, as long as I sing it softly and keep the beat. Unfortunately, this philosophies results in calamities like the Brahms Lullaby sung as:

And goodnight
La la blah blah
Blah something
I think this song
Is in German
Eins zwei drei vier funf

Girls gone wild
Where's the beef?
I've got Pacman fever
Four score and
Seven years
Bingo was his name-oh.

The great thing about this strategy is that you can tailor your lyrics for the situation.
[Fifteen minutes and six made-up "Brahms Lullaby" verses later:]

No, for real
Go to sleep
Or we'll sell you
On E-bay ...

Of course, coming up with words to lullabies off the top of your head takes some mental acuity, something I am often lacking at 2:30 in the morning. Then I resort to singing the only songs I know by heart: (a) 80's tunes that I listened to so frequently as a teen that they are indelibly etched into my synapses, and (b) 80's tunes that I learned the lyrics to by reading them off of a karaoke screen while drunkenly belting out them out in a bar. Unfortunately for The Squirrelly, the these two categories combine in a playlist suitable for the Worst Mix Tape Ever:
  • Careless Whisper by Wham
  • Love Cats by The Cure
  • Kiss by Prince
  • Stay Up Late by the Talking Heads
  • Just a Gigalo by David Lee Roth
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Bennetar
  • Happy Hour by the Housemartins
  • True by Spandau Ballet
  • Stragelove by Depeche Mode
  • Forgive me, but, yes, Two Princes by the Spin Doctors
These work pretty well for calming the kid down but they don't really help him doze off. Getting carried around by a guy bellowing Bizarre Love Triangle is not exactly Nature's Narcotic, it turns out.

Last night, having run through all my pop tunes and at the end of my rope, I resorted to singing the only song in my repertoire that approximates a lullaby: Asleep by The Smiths.

Well, it worked -- he drifted off about halfway through. But we'll probably have to pay it off in therapy bills somewhere down the line.

March 29, 2004

Happy Birth, uh, Minute?

Junkies ... On The Bus! (Another in a series ...)

JotB1: You got any kids?

JotB2: Yup, two boys. They're twins.

JotB1: Oh yeah? How old?

JotB2: Martin's 25 and Brian's 24.

March 25, 2004

9/11 Hearings Summarized

I case you missed 'em ...

March 24, 2004

Research Day: Carpool Lanes and Outdoor Survival

Do infants count toward the carpool lane? Driving on 520 the other day, The Queen urged me to use the HOV lane. "The carpool on this freeway is for three or more people," I told her. "We are three people," she rejoined. "You, me, and baby."

I said that I was sure the baby doesn't count. "The whole point of an carpool lane," lectured I, "is to reduce the number of drivers on the road." The Queen reiterated her belief that I was wrong; I challenged her to our standard bet ("one beer") and then moved over to the HOV lane all the same, since. As with many husbands, I have long since learned that the key strategy for harmonic spousal relationsis is "make your point and capitulate."

But I still wanted my brewski, so I looked it up on the Washington State Department of Transportation webpage. What do thay have to say about the issue?

Damn it!

From the FAQ:

Why are parents with kids younger than driving age allowed to use HOV lanes?

HOV lanes have simple objectives: to maximize the number of people that can be carried on the highway and to provide a reliable trip to as many people as possible. Developing and enforcing a more complicated definition of who is eligible to use HOV lanes would be difficult to explain and enforce and would reduce the number of people who benefit from the reliability that HOV lanes offer. Allowing adults with children to use the lanes enhances enforcement, simplicity, and efficiency.

Fah! Allow me to translate: "People are too dumb to understand rules, so we accommodate them by making rules dumb."

Wouldn't you know it: the one time government opts to eschew bureaucracy and it costs me a beer.

What's the story behind Outdoor Survival? In gaming circles, Outdoor Survival has an almost mythical reputation as one of the worst games ever, a kind of Plan Nine From Outer Space of boardgames.

The game has the players lost in the wilderness, relying on their wits (and a bevy of favorable die rolls) to survive. As they struggle to make their way to the edge of the map, they must find food and water to stay alive; typically they do not, and the whole game becomes one of slowing starving to death. In a USENET discussion entitled "Worst Game", one poster described Outdoor Survival as "sad, depressing, and frustrating." As another fondly recalled, "we always referred to it as 'that one where you die'." It's like Hi-Ho Cherry-O, except, in the end, raccoons eat your desiccated corpse

According to rumor, the game was literally invented on a dare and designed in a week. It's a fun story, but it sounds too good to be true. So I wrote the designer, James Dunnigan to get the scoop. To my surprise, he told me the the legend is essentially correct, writing:

I told [then head of Avalon Hill] Tom Shaw I could design a game on any situation and he challenged me to do one on "getting lost in the woods." He said if I designed it, he would publish it.

It took several weeks, but I only spent a few hours a day even thinking about it ... Considering how busy I was at the time, I believe there was assurance of publication, otherwise I would not have wasted my time.

Curiously, Outdoor Survival went on to become one of Avalon Hill's bestselling games, not only because many people genuinely enjoyed playing it (as with most "worst evers," its reputation for awfulness is largely exaggerated), but also because the first edition of Dungeons and Dragons specifically mentioned the enclosed map as a good player aide for outdoor scenarios. Adds Dunnigan, "It also became popular with hikers and campers. D&D made it a best seller, otherwise it would have simply been a success (made a profit)."

March 23, 2004

Still Getting The Hang Of This Job

The Queen puts The Squirrelly in the stroller and sets out for a half hour walk. Ten minutes later she returns.

Me: Back so soon?

The Queen: It started to rain, and I didn't want the kid to catch cold.

M: Aw, that's too bad. I know you really wanted to get a walk in.

Q: Yeah.

M: Well, why don't you and I go for a walk, just the two of us?

Q: Because we can't just leave him home by himself, that's why.

M: Oh, right: he's a baby. I keep forgetting.

Domo Arigato

Email from a friend:

An elderly and perhaps indigent woman sat next to me on the bus the other day.

She was repeating the following phrase to herself, over and over in a calm tone: "Mmmm, Mmmm Good. Mmmm, Mmmm Good."

She did this for a little while before stopping and saying, "That's the sound a robot makes when it turns itself off."

March 22, 2004


Today was my first day back at work after a four week hiatus. My group moved in the interim, and my office is now in an entirely new building.

Before my departure I was asked if I wanted to go over and see my new digs, but I declined, thinking the visit unnecessary. I was also asked if I wanted the building coordinators to arrange my desk and chair so that I was facing the door or facing the back wall. Again, thinking this an inconsequential decision, I opted to face the wall.

But moments after waltzing into my office this morning, I realized that I had made a grave error. The entire back "wall" of my office is, in fact, a window, one which looks out over the building's central atrium. This open area contains a huge, winding staircase that employees use to traverse the five floors.

Because this window serves as a backdrop to my monitor, I need only move my eyes a few millimeters to instantly transform between Guy Diligently Working On A Program and Guy Watching People Walk Up And Down The Stairs. This is a problem for a host of reasons, the two main ones being (a) I'm almost certainly afflicted with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, and (b) my new building boasts a seemingly inexhaustible supply of pretty girls, all of whom, at any given moment, are either walking down the stairs to the Expresso stand in the lobby or walking up the stairs as they return to their desk. If I had a webcam perched on the top of my monitor today, a viewer might well conclude that I was watching the French Open.

I asked my office manager if I could manhandle my desk into the center of the office, turn my computer around, and position my chair so that my back would be to the window. He said I could not. To get the office rearranged, I was told, I would have to submit a special request; If approved, the building coordinator / furniture movers / feng shui experts would come and do the deed in the dead of night.

I'm not sure I want to go through bureaucratic channels to get this problem resolved, but I picked up an Office Reconfiguration Form all the same. In the "Reason For Request" box, I plan to write "Women."

March 18, 2004

The Bad Review Revue

Welcome To Mooseport: "A comedy so devoid of wit and point that not mentioning the actors trapped in this rathole would be an act of charity." -- Peter Travers, ROLLING STONE

Agent Cody Banks - Destination London: "As family entertainment, it constitutes child abuse." -- Lou Lumenick, NEW YORK POST

Twisted: "Would be offensive were it not safely neutered by its own stupidity. " -- Scott Brown, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Taking Lives: "The film's finale is a laugh-out-loud combination of ludicrousness and sadism that someone somewhere probably found scary, assuming they never saw a thriller before." -- Luke Thompson, DALLAS OBSERVER

Club Dread: "About as funny as malaria." -- Desson Howe, WASHINGTON POST

Dirty Dancing - Havana Nights: "One of those rare films for which a blooper reel would be redundant. " -- Elvis Mitchell, NEW YORK TIMES

March 17, 2004

Best Dog-Park Pickup Line Ever

"They say that people look a lot like their pets. And you've got one fiiiine lookin' beagle."

March 16, 2004

The Ballad of "Cannonball" Baldwin

First of all: a metric gazillion thanks to the countless people who wrote email and posted notes of congratulations after the birth. It was all quite overwhelming. I plan to print out the comments from announcement and save them so, when The Squirrelly gets older, I can show them to him and say "I know this is going to be hard to believe, but on the day you were born, this is how many people were surfing the Internet instead of doing work."

The authors of several of the aforementioned emails kindly notified me of some finer points of etiquette. When announcing the birth of a child, for example, you are apparently expected to mention specifics like weight and height, not just post pictures of your newborn preyed upon by roving packs of felines.

Who knew? Allow me to make amends.

The Squirrelly, a boy, was born at 2:42 AM on February 22nd in the Seattle Group Health Central campus. His birth weight was 7 lbs and 6 oz., he was 19.5 inches long, and, right from the get-go, it was clear that he'd inherited his father's boundless reverence for breasts.

The Queen's rhythmic contractions began just before midnight on the night prior. (The mathletes in the audience will have already deduced that this adds up to a three-hour labor, but let's not ruin the ending for everyone.) She had been feeling irregular contractions for days, but at 11:30 PM they become so eerily punctual that I, with the stopwatch, was soon telling her when they would begin. ("Okay, we're at three minutes, fifty-five seconds, so you're going to get another contraction in four, three, two, one ...") We had been told to go to the hospital after an hour of this, but after 30 minutes we were so certain that this was for really real that we declared ourselves above the law and hit the road.

Now, in movies, when a father drives an expectant mother to the hospital, he is invariably zooming along at 85 mph and blowing through stoplights. In reality -- at least for me -- the exact opposite was true: that was probably the safest, least reckless 15 minutes of defensive driving I have ever embarked upon. I would not have been any more scrupulous if a cop had tailed me the entire way. I imagine that if, in college, I had once smoked a lot of pot at a party and then drove back to my dorm at an average speed of little over one mile an hour, this would have reminded me a lot of that completely hypothetical time.

To put this next part in context, you need to know that a woman dilates during labor, culminating in a dilation of approximately 10 centimeters, at which point the baby can make his jailbreak. Most women arrive at the hospital at around 5 or 6 centimeters dilated; those who are less than 5 centimeters are often told to go home and return later.

So when we arrived at the maternity ward, the nurse checked The Queen's dilation to make sure we belonged there. Upon completion of the exam, she looked at us with an expression of amazement and said, "Okay, I'm not even going to tell you the results until I do it a second time, " After the second pass she said, "Yeah -- so, you're nine centimeters dilated."

(When retelling this part of the story to my relatives in the sleepless weeks following the birth, I consistently misstated the exam results as 9 inches of dilation, which was always good for a gasp and some bulging eyes on the part of the listener.)

After that it was just a whirlwind of birthin'. We were whisked to the Delivery Room where things progressed at a furious rate. The question of whether to use pain medication -- something we'd been debating for months -- was already moot, since the whole point of an epidural is to get you to eight or nine centimeters -- a step The Queen had apparently taken care of during the car ride. Likewise, most of the stuff we I had learned in our Childbirth Class was rendered equally irrelevant. I'd say "okay, at this stage you're s'posed to take short, distracting breaths," and The Queen would say "too late: now I feel the urge to push." So I'd say "Uh, okay then, at this stage we were taught to ..." and the doctor would say, "Too late: here comes the head!"

And so, at 2:42 AM, The Squirrelly made his grand debut. He celebrated the big event, moments after entering the world, by pooping. Maybe that's what all the rush was about.

Anyhow, yeah: babies. Crazy. I'll be sure to give you the scoop on this whole parenting scam over the next couple weeks. The Queen and I have already worked out a pretty good formula for the division of labor: Mama's in charge of what goes into baby, Papa's in charge of what comes out of baby. As for what's going to happen with this site, expect more of the same, although perhaps not as frequently updated (for a spell) and with a renewed emphasis on poop.

Confidential to Dooce: Labor story jinx! You owe me a coke.
March 05, 2004

Selective Memory

The Bush team unveils the central message of its reelection campaign:

I'll resume regular dy posting on March 8th. Maybe.