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December 24, 2004

Merry Whathaveyou

Well, apparently I am taking this week off. And I'll probably take next week off as well. I kind of feel like my muse is on winter break, or that I depleted my year's allotment of creativity a few weeks early.

But I'll be back on Januray 3rd. In the meantime, Happy Holidays from The Queen, The Squirrelly and I.

December 22, 2004

2004 Holiday Gift Guide For Slackers

My third annual Holiday Survival Guide For Slackers is now available at The Morning News. It's not easy upping the cynicism on these things year after year, but somehow I seem equal to the task.

And a big "thank you" to everyone who sent me links to the most brain-numbingly stupid crap available for sale on the Internet. It's readers like you that truly make Christmas the most magical time of the year.

December 17, 2004

Official Sponsor Of The Big Bang

I understand that hyperbole plays a central role in any corporation's ad campaign, but claiming to have invented the most abundant element in the universe is a bit much.


Research Day: Urban Legend Purge

Once upon a time I was known as the go-to guy for urban legend debunking. I'd read all of Jan Harold Brunvands's books and could spot a foaf-tale at 100 yards. My friends and family were forever calling me up and saying, "my friend Sally said that her aunt bought the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe for $250 -- that ain't true, is it?"

These days, of course, there's snopes.com, so my bullshit detection services are no longer in high demand. But I still consider myself something of a minor authority in the subject. But let's face it -- even someone who makes an effort to keep abreast of urban legends can occasionally get suckered. So this month, I've rummaged around in my mental file cabinet full of "beliefs" and flagged a few that, despite my having quoted them as fact for years, strike me as suspicious.

Bottlers in Washington State are prohibited by law from printing alcohol content on beer labels: This is the belief that prompted this urban legend purge. Some drinking buddies and I were recently in a local tavern, and I noticed that the alcohol content for the microbrews were listed in the menu along with the descriptions. So I asked my friend J., a bartender by trade, how they could do that when they can't print alcohol content on bottles and cans.

"Why wouldn't they be able to print it on bottles and cans?" J. replied.

"Oh, it's some old Washington law," I informed him. "Apparently when they were worried that brewers would get into an alcoholic arms-race if they were allowed to put the alcoholic content on the cans and bottles -- you know, each would try to outdo the others by jacking up the potency and proudly advertising this fact. So they made it illegal, and the law has never been overturned."

"I don't think that was ever a law," said J. "And I'm sure it's not now." He pointed to the label of my own bottle of beer, where, in tiny letters, it read "5.1% alcohol by weight."

Buh-wha?!

The next day I wrote an email to the Washington State Liquor Control Board, and they confirmed that there had never been any such law.

I have no idea how that "fact" came to be lodged in my head, but it had been there since college.

Honey never spoils: I learned this in one of those "10,001 Amazing And Poorly Researched Facts!" books I read as a kid. But given that these are the kind of books that perpetuated the great lemmings myth, re-evaluating those "facts" is probably a good idea. And this one strikes me as particularly bogus.

But it appears to be true all the same. According to Wikipedia: "Honey does not spoil. Because of its high sugar concentration, it kills bacteria by osmotically lysing them. Natural airborne yeasts can not become active in it because the moisture content is too low. Natural, raw, honey varies from 14% to 18% moisture content. As long as the moisture content remains under 18%, virtually no organism can successfully multiply to significant amounts in honey."

That is amazing! But it's too bad it's honey, which I don't particularly like. Everlasting corned beef, though -- that would pretty much rule.

Cher had a pair of ribs removed: Having not thought about Cher for a decade or so, this isn't one I've mentioned recently. But I do recall, at some point, telling someone that this was a for-real fact. Alas, no. Snopes has the goods on this one: "In 1988 the chic magazine Paris Match announced Cher had .. two ribs [removed] ... Cher sued the magazine, but the rumor gained even wider acceptance after being picked up from the Paris Match piece and run in other papers. That these stories were later corrected didn't do much to mitigate the impact of the rumor's first finding its way into those pages as revealed fact."

Dude, I came this closed to getting sued by Cher!!!!!

If you'd like to play along, pick one of your own beliefs that you are having second thoughts about, research it on Google, and post your findings in the comments.

December 16, 2004

One Stop Shopping

Speaking of holidays gifts, here's one from the dy mailbag!

Hey yeti. Thanks for your board game guide but i don't think my parents /sisters would really go for a board game. Can you suggest somenpresent that everyone on my list would like? peace, kn


Dear K.N.

Before the era of rampant consumerism, a question like this would never have been asked. Until recently, gifting was not viewed as an obligation but a courtesy, and presents were expressions of gratitude or intended to symbolize the close personal bond between giver and recipient. And because the value of a gift was measured in sentimental rather than monetary terms, they tended to be small and handcrafted.

This year, why not revive this tradition and use your inherent abilities to create personalized gifts for those you love? If you are skilled in quilting, for example, you could make a blanket for someone toward whom you feel great warmth. Or if you are more artistically inclined, a brief poem describing the depth of affinity you feel towards the receiver would certainly be treasured for years to come.

Hah hah! No, I'm totally kidding you, man. Seriously, just get 'em one of them Michael Crichton books or whatever. People wolf down that horseshit like it's raspberry sherbet in a waffle cone.

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Desperately Seeking Stupid

It's that time of year again: time to ask dy readers to send me stupid shit you can buy on teh Internets for inclusion in my annual "Holiday Survival Guide For Slackers." Examples!

The Little Whizzer Liquor Dispenser is a small, plastic statue of a toddler that pees gin into your tonic. The Spencer Gifts Web site describes this as ‘A great conversation piece with a purpose!’ I have no idea what that purpose could be. Freaking me the hell out, that’s my guess. Guaranteed to elicit exactly one forced guffaw from the gift recipient before he opts to store it in the farthest reaches of his crawlspace.

You hate her on radio; you hate her on TV; now you can hate Ms. Schlessinger in the privacy of your own home with the Dr. Laura Board Game! Sure, you could play by the rules, drawing ‘dilemma cards’ and trying to predict what advice Dr. Laura would give, but I find it much more entertaining to simply invite over my favorite gays, feminists, and ‘mixed-marriage’ couples, set the game on the kitchen table, gather ‘round, and hate it. All components 100-percent flammable!

Those were taken from my 2002 guide, and last year's is available here.

if you have any suggestions for the 2004 installment, please drop me a line at matthew@defectiveyeti.com, or mention it in the comments of this post. Thanks!

December 15, 2004

Miss American Pie

Meagan Sukys, local NPR personality and the woman who interviewed me yesterday on The Beat, has one of the most dulcet radio voices you are ever likely to hear. Sadly, I am no longer able to appreciate it.

I first met Megan about a year ago at a A Guide To Visitors show. At A Guide To Visitors, folks get up on stage and tell "party stories" -- y'know, those anecdotes that you find yourself recounting after a third beer at a table packed with friends. I told of how Darth Vader made me cry. It's a pretty good story, but I was in the first half of the show. Megan, meanwhile, was the last of the evening, a slot typically reserved for the best story of the night.

She told us of the time she participated in an honest-to-goodness pie-eating contest and became rather monomaniacal about victory. After a bit of build-up -- recounting how she had been bamboozled into participating, and outlining the pie-eating strategy that she had devised in preparation for the event -- she described the actual contest. And where a lesser storyteller would have said, "and so I ate the pies really fast and won, the end," Megan actually reenacted her performance right there on stage. "MMMRRAGHR MRARGHMMARGH MRAGH MMMMRAARGHHMR!" she bellowed, holding an illusory pie up to her face and twitching her head like she was in the midst of a seizure. "MRRAGHRRR MRAARGH MRARRAGHGH MMMMRHHMR RMM MRARRAGH MRARRAGH MRMM!"

It was one of the best stories I've ever heard. But it came at a price. Because now whenever I hear Megan Sukys on the radio -- or even when I'm sitting in a studio with her during a live broadcast, and she's across the table asking me questions -- I know that she's articulating words and sentences, but all I hear is "MRRAGH MRAARAGHMARGH MRAGHGH!!"

December 14, 2004

Boardgames On The Beat

I will be live on KUOW's The Beat this afternoon at 2:00, discussing my 2004 Good Gift Games Guide, the year's other notable games, and the Seattle gaming scene. You can also listen to the show online.

December 13, 2004

defective yeti's Excrement Adventure

I knew that fatherhood would involve poop. I had no idea of how much, of course. If I had, I might never have signed on for this gig.

Parenting tip:
Eggshell = healthy,
Sunny Lime = sick.
But you get use to it -- blasé, even -- a fact that is disquieting in its own right. Worse, the diaper changing procedure involves so many herbally scented creams and lotions that, after a while, you begin to a conflate the aroma of fresh poop with a host of other, previously pleasant fragrances. They just all get lumped together in a region of your brain labelled "things you smell while changing diapers," which your mind eventually just abbreviates to "crap." I can't tell you how many times I've caught a whiff of some emanation from The Squirrelly's nether regions, whisked him off to the changing station, undressed him, found him clean, and only then recognized the offending scent not as human excrement but of lavender.

Sadly, once you reach this state you pretty much smell poop everywhere. One day you find yourself in a restaurant sitting near a guy who just received a cup of chamomile tea and thinking, "Jesus Christ -- something in here smells like shit."

Update: From the comments:

"But have you memorized the different colors and textures of snot and what they all mean?"
No, but The Queen has. She doesn't even use a thermometer any more. We picked up some paint cards from the local Home Depot, and now, when she wants to know if The Squirrelly is sick, she holds those up against his nose one by one until she finds a match.

December 09, 2004

Freedom Of Speech Is Cancelled!

My comments are broken at the moment, with every submission resulting in a "500 Internal Server Error." I have no idea what the issue is, but dy will be a one-way transmitter until I get 'em fixed.

If anyone has seen this before with Moveable Type and knows how to troubleshoot it, drop me a line.

Update: Switched from the Berkley db to mysql, comments are again working.

December 08, 2004

A+++ I'D EAT IT AGAIN AND AGAIN!!!!

My harrowing account of frozen microwave pizza wrasslin ("a drama .. in real life!") made it onto This Is Broken, but several commenters said they had never encountered this kind of box. So I went to the Lean Cuisine website to see if I could find an image. (I'm not saying that the pizza in question was a Lean Cuisine, though the circumstantial evidence certainly points in that direction.)

I was unable to find an illustrative picture, alas. But I found something better: pages and pages of "customer reviews" for the various Lean Cuisine products. Maybe it's just me, but the unfettered enthusiasm and wanton exclamation pointal abuse in these reviews struck me as both vaguely suspect and terribly amusing. A sampling:

Shrimp and Angelhair Pasta: "OH MY GOD THAT WAS SO GOOD! WAHOOO!!!"

Macaroni and Cheese: "These are my favorites! I just bought 20 of them today."

Cafe Classic Salisbury Steak: "Simply put on a scale of 1-10, this Cafe Classics Salisbury Steak is a 15!Enough said!"

Chicken a L'Orange: "THIS ENTREE HAS IT ALL !! IT GOES GOOD WITH ANYTHING, SALAD, BREAD, ON ITS OWN, ETC. IT HAS JUST THE RIGHT SWEETNESS AND SLIGHT SALTY TASTE TO SATISFY ANY TASTEBUD. DELICIOUS !! THE PERSON WHO CREATED THIS ENTREE IS A MODERN DAY GENIUS !"

Curiously, my review for the Four Cheese Pizza ("The box was complicated.") has yet to appear.

Update: I'm getting a surprising number of emails about this (four) so I'm turning the comments on.

December 07, 2004

An Open Letter To The Frozen Microwave Pizza Makers Of America

Today for lunch I had a microwave pizza. To cook it I had to pull a strip on one side of the box and then carefully lift the lid making sure that the sides of the box came apart on the perforated lines and then remove the pizza from the box and then turn the box upside down and fold the lid all the way back so that the a square of metallic-color paper affixed to the inside of the top of the box was now resting on the outside of the bottom of the box and then remove the pizza from it's plastic wrapping and then set the cooking-platform-née-pizza-box in the microwave and then set the pizza on the square of metal paper and then slightly lift the lid to read the cooking times that were now hidden below it and then cook the pizza.

Attention microwave pizza makers! If I'd been born with the intelligence and perseverance necessary to perform complicated tasks like this, I would have gone to medical or law school and would now have a job that paid so well that the mere thought of eating frozen microwave pizza would make me grimace.

Please re-evaluate your target demographic and revise this design immediately.

December 06, 2004

The 2004 Good Gift Game Guide

My 2004 Good Gift Game Guide appears in The Morning News today.

In my games archive you can find full reviews for three of the games mentioned: Ticket To Ride, San Juan and Hansa. You can also see previous G3 Guides for the years 2003, & 2002, 2001, and 2000. Enjoy the broken links and images!

Other Good Games

This was a pretty good year, and I had a tough time narrowing my choices down to ten. Here are some worthy of honorable mention:

  • High Society and Razzia (Society: Uberplay; Razzia: Ravensburger; Both: 3-5 players, 30 minutes, $20): Two of Reiner Knizia's classic games, High Society and Ra, have been out of print for a while. Both were rereleased this year, although Ra has been given a new name (Razzia), a new theme (Mafia) and simplified rules. Players are obscenely wealthy in High Society, purchasing yachts and mansions while dodging the taxman; gangsters divvy up their ill-begotten booty in Razzia, and try to secure getaway cars and drivers before the cops arrive to shut their operation down. Both games have ingenious auction systems at their heart, and are perfect for families or friends at a pub.
  • St. Petersburg (Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $28): Hire craftsman, build buildings, and recruit aristocrats in eighteenth century Russia. St. Petersburg was considered by many to be the best game of the year, but I find it a little to mathematical to make an effective G3. Thematically similar to San Juan , and the "gamier" of the two.
  • Attika (Rio Grande games, 2-4 players, 45 minutes, $33): I got totally addicted to Attika for a while, but the game is too abstract (and the rules a smidgen to convoluted) for make it suitable for gift-giving. Expand your city across the Greek Peninsula, beating your opponent to best building sites and making the best use of the available resources. Although rated from 2-4 players, I find that it really only works well for two. That said, it was my favorite two-player game of the year (aside from Memoir '44).
  • Hoity Toity (Uberplay, 3-6 players, 60 minutes, $35): While not a new game -- it was first released in 1990 and promptly won the German Game Of The Year award -- this is the first English edition in a long time. In Hoity Toity, players purchase antiques and earn points by showing off their collections to others, while dispatching burglers to swipe the valuables of opponents and employing policemen to capture rival thieves. This game uses a game mechanism called "blind bidding" which is one of my least favorite, so it's a testament to Hoity Toity's quality that even I think it's terrific fun.
  • 10 Days In The USA / 10 Days in Africa / Europa Tour (10 Days in *: Out Of The Box; Europa: Schmidt Spiele; All: 2-4 players, 30 minutes, $20): The same game (with minor modification) set on three difference continents. Despite the frightening "educational game" appearance, these arefirst and foremost ight and fun rummy variants -- learning the capital of Tunisia is strictly a fringe benefit. Another of those rare games that plays up to four but works wonderfully well with two.

The Canonical G3 List

All of the games listed at The Morning News and above were released in the past year. There are, of course, hundreds of great G3s from year's past. Here a sampling from the Canonical G3 List:

Family Board Games

  • Settlers of Catan: Now and forever the #1 G3.
  • Carcassonne: This is "the original Carcassonne" mentioned in The Morning News article.
  • TransAmerica: Looks similar to Ticket To Ride to the untrained eye, but they are two entirely different games.

Family Card Games

  • Bohnanza: A game about bean trading. For real.
  • Mamma Mia: A game about making pizzas. For real.
  • 6 Nimmt!: Recent rereleased as "Category Five"

Two-player Games

Party Games

Second Opinions

Don't trust the yeti? Here are the highlights of some other "best game of the year" lists:

Spiel des Jahres (a.k.a. "The German Game Of The Year"):

International Gamer Awards:

GAMES Magazine's game of the year:

Gamerdad's Unplugged 2004 Game Guide.

Gamefest's Gift Games Guide.

Where To Find

If you live in Seattle, check out the stores page of SeattleSpiel, which lists all the outlets for these games in Puget Sound. Online stores are listed there as well, for those readers who live elsewhere.

December 03, 2004

The Burdens Of Parenthood

The Queen:

"I took The Squirrelly to the hospital today for his second flu shot. After he got it I was out in the waiting room getting ready to leave, and there was this old lady sitting near us. And she starts asking me all these questions, like 'how old is he?' and 'how much does he weight?' -- but not in a friendly way, she was all aggressive about it. So I got all ready to go, and stood up, and started rummaging around in the diaper bag for his hat, and she totally yells at me, "you need to put a cap on that baby!!" And I turned to her and started to say 'how about I put a cap in your ass?!' But I stopped myself. Because, you know: I'm a mother now."

December 02, 2004

Auld Lang Resigned

I'm going to make my New Year's resolutions today and strive to break them all by the end of the year.

By getting all my capitulation out of the way now, I figure I can keep 2005 100% failure-free.


911

There is a woman just outside my office door who, for the last five minutes, has been talking to someone on a cell phone about (a) what order they are going to "hit" the various stores at the mall when they go shopping this weekend, and (b) how they are going to dress their dog (??!) for an upcoming Christmas party. IF ANYONE WHO WORKS IN MY BUILDING IS READING THIS BLOG PLEASE PULL THE FIRE ALARM IMMEDIATELY!!!!

December 01, 2004

Advent

It's finally December, and you know what that means: only one more month until I can* buy a Boris Vallejo Scantily-Clad Buxom Women Of Fantasy 2005 Wall Calendar at the local Waldenbooks for 75% off!

It is truly the most magical time of year.

* Unless a certain someone ruins everything by giving me another "Pi Digit Of The Day Desk Calendar" for Christmas again this year.
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