|<< September 2004 | October 2004 | November 2004 >>|
October 29, 2004
No Draft If Bush Reelected Say Officials
Seeking to assuage fears amongst young Islamic extremists, top Al Qaeda officials vowed that the draft will not be reinstated if George W. Bush remains president of the United States. "We don't see the need, frankly, given the debacle in Iraq, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and the rising tide of anti-Americanism around the globe," said Al Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Khayr at a press conference today. "A second Bush term should ensure ample recruits for our cause, and allow us to continue to fighting the War For Terror using an all-volunteer jihad." Khayr also cited the wide variety of terrorist organizations that have now joined forces in opposition to US policies, and expressed confidence that, if given four more years, Bush would continue to serve as a uniter, not a divider.
Okay, well, I was joking about stealing The Squirrelly's flu shot in that last post. But one thing I mentioned is true, as imposible as it sounds: it's been eight months since the kid up and got himself borned.
And guess what he figured out how to do last week. Here's a hint: now when I set him down at some spot in the living room and wander into the den to play Diablo II for 20 minutes, I return to find him on the other side of the room and licking a light socket.
Yes, The Squirrelly has discovered the joys of locomotion. Naturally, he immediately used his newfound superpowers to make some minor revisions to the household pecking order.
The first day home from the hospital
"Vengence is mine!"
Possibly the only critters in the house less thrilled with this development than the kitties are The Queen and I, since we had decided to forego babyproofing the house in favor of steadfastly pretending that this day would never arrive. So now we have to, like, put padding on the edges of coffee tables, and I can no longer keep my collection of obsidian arrowheads in bowl on the living room floor.
And what did The Squirrelly do two days after learning to crawl? That's right: he started grabbing onto things and pulling himself into a standing position, getting ready to start walking. JEEZE STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES FOR A SECOND WHY DON'T YOU KID?!
Oh well -- maybe if he's an early walker he'll also be an earlier talker, and we can put him into kindergarden a year early, and then he'll skip a few grades here and there and and start high school at the age of 10 and get all A's and receive a full scholarship to some college and move out of the house when he's 14 and then The Queen and I can start seeing movies again as early as 2016! Oh man, that's gonna be great.
"Lookit me crawl! I'm your worst nightmare!"
October 28, 2004
Candy From A Baby
Being a new father is a lot of hard work, but it's not without its advantages. My eight-month old son is eligible for the flu vaccine that I and the vast majority of other Washingtonians cannot receive, for instance. So today I took him in to the doctor, and, just as she was giving the shot, I quickly thrust my arm between the needle and my infant. Booyah, innoculated!
I knew that fatherhood would be a rewarding experience, but only now am I truly starting to see the benefits. ENJOY THE FLU CHILDLESS SUCKERS!!
Update: Dear The Onion, Jinx! You owe me a coke!
Comments = Broken?
I just upgraded to Movable Type 3.1, but despite that fact that I have the "Enable Unregistered Comment Moderation" field unchecked in the configurations, it's still insisting that I approve all incoming comments. Has anyone else had this problem, and did you find a solution? If so, drop me a line ... or tempt fate by -- ha! -- letting me know in the comments.
Update: Fixed! Thanks to everyone who tipped me off to the MT 3.x / mt-blacklist 2.x incompatibility -- that was, indeed, the problem.
October 27, 2004
There is a woman at my bus stop who, at least once every week, wears a t-shirt reading "If you don't like my attitude, STOP TALKING TO ME!!"
I've often fantasized about making and wearing a t-shirt that says "I don't like your attitude so much I'M NEVER GOING TO TALK TO YOU!!" But in my heart I know I won't do it.
October 26, 2004
Games: San Juan
As long time readers of this site know, I used to review board games in this space fairly regularly. These days, though, it's pretty rare to see a here -- not because I am playing less (although The Squirrelly does crimp my ability to stay up until 3:00 am playing Risk and drinking Pabst), but because most of my board game reviews now appear in the magazine Undefeated. (Uhh, did I ever mention that I now write board game reviews and strategy articles for Undefeated? Maybe not. But I do. You should subscribe!)
A quick trip through my game review archive will reveal that my favorite game of approximately forever is the strategic powerhouse Puerto Rico. So it was a no-brainer for me to pick up San Juan, a card game based on Puerto Rico and by the same designer, Andreas Seyfarth.
As with it's progenitor, the players of San Juan are trying to produce commodities and construct buildings; unlike the complex Puerto Rico, though -- which comes equiped with game boards, money, colonists, ships, goods, buildings and plantations -- San Juan is played entirely with a deck of cards. The cards depicts buildings and can be played as such, but, in an ingenious twist, can also be used as money (as you will see below).
On a turn, a player chooses one of five Roles. Each Role permits everybody to take a certain action, with the selecting player receiving some modest advantage. When someone chooses the Builder, for instance, each person may play a building from their hand and pay for it by discarding a number of additional cards equal to the building's cost, with the person who chose Builder paying one less for his building. Other Roles allow players to produce goods, sell those goods to acquire more cards, or take cards directly from the deck. The game ends when someone builds their twelfth building.
The buildings are the heart of the game, and come in two varieties: Production Buildings and Violet Buildings. Production Buildings are used to generate commodities for later sale, while each Violet Buildings confers some special advantage onto the player who has it in his city. A players with a "Smithy," reduces the cost of all Production Buildings for one, for example, while the owner of a "Tower" can hold up to 12 cards in his hand (the usual limit is seven). With 24 different Violet Buildings in the deck, the players can acquire a wide variety of benefits, and some of the cards interact in powerful ways. Discovering interesting combinations is part of the fun, and the myriad of building permutations allows for plenty of strategies for players to pursue.
Halfway through my first session of Puerto Rico I felt "the buzz," the sense that the game before me was something an extraordinary. I have never felt the same about its little brother. That said, I enjoy San Juan quite a bit, and I'm always eager to play it. At first I liked S.J. because it "felt" like Puerto Rico in half the time. Now, after repeated playings, it no longer feels like P.R. at all -- and that's a good thing. Now view San Juan a fine game it its own right, and not just the card game equivalent of a tribute band. Yes, the game is quicker than P.R., and lighter, and more dependant on luck, but there's quite a lot of room for skillful play, and the decisions to be made over what to build, what cards to discard when building, and what Roles to pick are always compelling.
San Juan is also one of those rare games rated from 2-4 players that actually works well with two players. And the art on the cards and game box is really rather handsome. Sure, it's no Puerto Rico, but that's a mighty high standard to hold any game too. Judged on its own merits, San Juan gets high marks as a solid, medium-weight strategy card game, and that's good enough for me.
October 25, 2004
Sales of my Impeach Dean bumper sticker have become inexplicably sluggish in the last couple months, so I'm trying to think of a way to recoup lost revenue. With the election so close, though, it's almost impossible to predict which way it's going to go.
One thing is certain, however: regardless of who wins, approximately 46% of the population is going to be really pissed off about it. That's why I'm thinking of marketing this all-purpose exculpation:
Or, for my principled customers:
Who possibly object to that sentiment? Ass = covered.
October 22, 2004
Bad Review Revue Extra: Surviving Christmas Is Awesome!
The critics are raving about Surviving Christmas:
"Absolutely awesome in its relentless mediocrity." -- Desson Thomson, WASHINGTON POSTOne a scale of 1-100, Rotten Tomatoes currently has it as a 7.
Thanks to Daniel Jacobs for calling this train wreck to my attention.
October 21, 2004
I can go months without hearing a good joke, but yesterday, while trawling the Internets, I came across three that made me chuckle and/or openly weep.
Q: How many Spaniards does it take to screw in a lightbulb?Note: Hundreds of more jokes in the comments.
Nobody Likes A Homonym
Worst news I heard yersterday: I was in the kitchen doing dishes and The Queen was out in the living room watching TV. Suddenly, I remembered that the Red Sox / Yankees game was on. "Quick, flip to KSTW and see what the score is," I hollered. I heard the channel change, and The Queen shouted, "the Yankees won!"
Best news I heard yesterday: Then the Queen continued, "... and the Red Sox eight, bottom of the sixth!"
October 20, 2004
Cars And Kismet
If you had to pick a single word to describe me, and "callipygian" was for some reason disallowed, you couldn't go wrong with "lucky." I consider myself to be an inordinately fortunate guy. And I don't just mean in the passive sense of having a wonderful wife and a great kid and two awesome cats and living in the best nation on Earth, although all of that is certainly true so long as you replace "awesome" with "worthless." No, my luck is more active than that -- or, rather, reactive. It seems that, just when I need it the most, fate will step in and save me from one disaster or another, usually of my own making.
This story is just one such example. Truth be told, the Cosmic Cavalry pulls my fat from the fire fairly often. And lest you think this phenomenon is all in my head, let me assure you that other people have noticed it as well. Once, back in college, I spent my last $5 on a ticket to a movie ticket, even though my next paycheck was two days away and I had nothing to eat in my house. When I told The Queen this -- whom I had just begun to date, and had accompanied to the film -- she marvelled at my idiocy, but I assured her that it would all work out. And sure enough: before the movie began an usher came out and announced that they were going to hold an impromptu raffle. He pulled a ticket stub from a bucket, and when I stood up to announce that the number matched my own he said I'd won a free meal at a local pizzeria. To this very day she begrudges me that.
Anyway, last Saturday my car ran out of gas. Do you like the way I used the passive tense there, like no one was to blame, despite the fact that I'm the only one who drives this vehicle? Anyway. Halfway across Washington's famous floating bridge, the car gave one last, hearty "vrrrrRRRRRRMMMMMmmmmm" and coasted to a stop.
Now, his was all sorts of bad. For one thing, I don't own a cell-phone, as part of my plan to eventually become a cranky old geezer out-of-touch with modern technology . For another, the shoulder of the bridge is just a smidge wider than a single car-width, so by abandoning my Toyota there I was running the very real risk of it getting hit by some passing vehicle. And, worst of all, I was at least a mile from the nearest gas station. I knew that, in the time it would take me to jog to Mercer Island, purchase a gas can, fill it up with fuel and return, my car would almost certainly get towed.
The shoulder was so narrow that I couldn't exit on the driver's side without stepping into traffic, so I clambered over to the passenger's side and squeezed out the door. Only after I locked and closed the door behind me did I realize that I'd left the keys in the ignition.
Now thoroughly dispirited, I trotted to the nearest town (about two miles away), called The Queen, told her the situation, and asked that she come pick me up. Twenty minutes later she arrived. We stopped at a station, filled up our gas can, and hopped back on the freeway.
Nearly an hour had passed since I had ditched the vehicle, and I had no hope that my car hadn't been hit or towed in my absence. Sure enough, when we reached the bridge we could see flashing police lights ahead, right where the car had died.
"They must be towing it right now," I groaned.
"Maybe we can get there before they take it away," The Queen replied, but I shook my head. "Once the tow truck arrives, they won't let you get your vehicle until they've towed it to the depot," I told her. "We're going to have to pay for the towing no matter what."
Then, as we got closer, things looked worse. Not only was there a cop car stationed there, but was a huge tanker truck parked on the shoulder as well, a few feet behind my vehicle. The obvious reason for it being there, of course, was that it had hit my car. "Aw, crap!" I told The Queen. "It looks like the Baldwin luck ain't gonna save me this time."
We pulled over to the shoulder. I grabbed the gas can, exited, and trotted up to the police car, where a cop stood waiting for me. Because the tanker filled the shoulder I was unable to see my car, and therefore didn't know what damage the collision had done to it.
The officer saw me approaching. "Do you own the Toyota?" he asked.
"Yeah, that's mine," I confessed, bracing myself for the worse.
"Okay," the cop replied replied.
I waited for a moment, before saying. "Uh, 'okay' what?"
"Okay, go ahead and fill up it up and leave," the cop said.
"Leave?" I was confused. "Didn't this tanker hit my car?"
I then occurred to me that the tanker might carry gasoline. "Are you guys refueling my car or something?"
I couldn't think of any other explanations for the situation. Finally I asked, "So, does this tanker have anything to do with my car?"
"Nope," said the police officer. "He overheated. It's just a coincidence he pulled over right behind you."
I nodded and headed towards my car. As I passed the cop he added, "Lucky for you, too: if we hadn't been so busy dealing with this guy, we would have towed your car half an hour ago."
October 19, 2004
Romance In Checkstand Three
While standing in the checkout line at the grocery store today, I noticed that the guy in front of me was purchasing three items: a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and a 12-pack of condoms.
It took all my willpower not to lightly punch him in the shoulder and say "Good luck, there, champ!"
October 18, 2004
"Hey, whatcha reading?"
"Oh, you know: a book about corpses."
I'm tempted to immediately reread this, just so I can keep saying that.
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is 300 pages about dead people. Or, rather, it's not about the people at all, but what they leave behind. In fact, one of the first things author Mary Roach does is emphasize the distinction between the quick and the dead.
But once she has made her point -- that that "dead people" are best regarded as 100% dead and 0% people -- she launches into a gleeful account of what ghastly things are done to their remains. She begins by covering what most people think of when they consider life postmortem: medical research and organ donation. But from there she catalogs some of the more exotic adventures a cadaver could undertake during it's detour from the morgue to the graveyard. Car manufacturers, for example, have yet to build a crash test dummy that simulates a human body as accurately as a, well, a human body. And when trying to determine what kind of footwear mine sweepers should use, nothing works quite as well as an actual, severed foot.
The most interesting chapter, to my mind, covers about the role in corpses in determining the cause of plane crashes. By noting the composition (and decomposition) of the bodies, investigators can infer a remarkable amount about what transpired in the final moments of a doomed flight. If some (but not all) of the cadavers have burns, for instance and they can identify the remains, the can use the blueprint of the plane and the seat assignments on the tickets to determine where the charred passengers were located, and perhaps pinpoint where an explosion or fire began. And did you know that people who fall from a certain height or higher will have all their clothes knocked off when they hit the ocean, while people who fell from below that height will be recovered clothed?
Despite the macabre nature of the subject matter, Stiff is remarkably funny. Yes, you heard me: funny -- even, at time, snort-out-loud-while-riding-the-bus funny. Throughout the book, Roach employs a tone that's breezy and matter-of-fact, and throws a joke or two into every paragraph. But this doesn't mean the book is light: in fact, it struck me as so meticulously researched that I found myself questioning the sanity of any author would delve into a subject to such a depth. But by injecting liberal amounts of humor into her narrative, Roach makes what could have been a grim and depressing tome into a eminently readable page-turner, the kind of book you could read and enjoy on vacation. (In fact, I took Stiff along during my recent trip to D.C., and even wound up reading the chapter on plane crashes while on the plane.) More impressive still is the fact that the use of humor in no way detracts from the profound sense of respect for the people who donate their bodies that the author manages to engender in the reader.
By the end of Stiffed I kind of felt like Roach was padding the book a little (a chapter on cannibalism goes into an extended digression of how the author was sent on a wild goose chase by an urban legend, for instance), and the humor occasionally gets a little wearying, like reading a forensic textbook written by Dave Barry. But by and large Stiff manages to blend informative and entertaining prose into an engrossing read (emphasis on the "gross"), and it's the best non-fiction book I've read this year.
October 15, 2004
Ghost Stories At A Guide To Visitors
Hey Seattlites, I'll be one of the storytellers at Monday's A Guide To Visitors "Ghost Stories" show. Information at aguidetovisitors.org.
The Bad Review Revue
Taxi: "As entertaining as watching a potato bake." -- Marc Savlov, AUSTIN CHRONICLE
Ladder 49: "Bearable only to people in deep mourning and vulnerable to emotional coercion." -- John Anderson, NEWSDAY
What the *$%# Do We Know?: "Like being stuck at a science fair, with a 5-year-old on one side asking questions and his hippie parents on the other fumbling to answer them." -- Jon Niccum, LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD
First Daughter: "Just one hackneyed, inauthentic, predictable scene after another." -- Michael O'Sullivan, WASHINGTON POST
Shall We Dance?: " [The original] Shall We Dance? was a wry and touching comedy perfectly at home in its Japanese setting. Now, forcibly deported to Chicago and peopled with American stars, the same story is huffed and puffed and squeezed into an entirely different cultural context. Guess what? Sayonara sushi, hello turkey." -- Rick Groen, GLOBE AND MAIL
October 14, 2004
Some Notes About The Debate IV: The Final Chapter
Transcript here; the comments are open
October 13, 2004
Me and The Squirrelly went to the library yesterday. At the check-out counter, the woman behind the desk said "Oh my god, he's so cute! He looks like an 80 year-old man!"
So if you are an octogenarian reader with a librarian fetish, drop me a line and I'll give you the 411 on the last person who considers you cute.
How To Identify The Other Nerd In The Car
When you are driving around with a group of friends and see a young woman precariously tottering down the sidewalk in four-inch heel platform shoes, exclaim "Jesus, she looks like an AT-AT walker" and listen for the person in the vehicle who snorts appreciatively at your analogy.
Update: Dear Internet, stop sending me email about the AT-ST walker. Nerds.
October 12, 2004
Saved By The Bus
Woman One is standing at a bus stop; Woman Two, carrying a stack of Watchtower magazines is walking by. Woman Two recognizes Woman One and stops in her tracks.
Woman Two: Well, heeeeey!
The Works: Humor Sites
I'm on KUOW's The Works tonight at 8:00, talking about the history of humor on the Internet. Here are the sites we mention by name:
October 11, 2004
I Made A Bumper Sticker
Last political post until Thursday, I promise.
I came up with what I thought was a great idea for a nerdy bumpersticker. I even made a copy and put it on my car. Alas, I appear to have been too clever for my own good: when I showed it to my focus group, most confessed to not getting it.
Oh well, I still think it's funny. Here's the image -- if you have label paper for your printer and a secret desire to be inscrutable, you can print one out and slap it on your Honda.
Update: Okay, everyone is writing me to say they don't get the sticker. Here's a hint: the red squiggle is what editors and proofreaders use to indicate "remove this letter." I probably should have mentioned that this was "grammar nerdy," not "tech nerdy."
Update: Reader Patrick Kent envisions the conservative's rebuttal.
October 08, 2004
Some Thoughts About The Debate III
I was in the car for the bulk of tonight's presidential debate and listened to it on the radio. Consequentially, I have very little to say about it. After all, mocking the candidates' facial expressions and mannerisms has pretty much been the mainstay of these posts, and, lacking that, I got nuthin'. Well, maybe I got a little. We'll see.
* Well, actually it was some NPR guy's brilliant insight, but, you know, I'm sure I would have come up with the same thing if he hadn't blurted it out.
Transcript here; comments are open.
October 07, 2004
Some Thoughts About The Debate II
Overall I thought things were kind of boring, but I did like the ending, when Cheney cut off Edward's hand and then revealed himself to be his father.
Heh. Okay, just kidding. Here's my real thoughts:
October 01, 2004
Autos and Aircraft
I'm thinking about donating my old car to the Seattle Council For The Blind. But I have some reservations because, you know, I'd feel totally bad if some blind guy got in an accident while driving a car I donated.
Mount St. Helens is erupting and, judging from the above, I've run out of funny things to say, so I guess that's my cue to fly to the East Coast. I'll be in D.C. on Monday and Tuesday of next week, and updates will be sporadic.