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March 20, 2006

Break

I have a passel of projects that I need to start, advance, complete, or abandon, and I'm going to devote the remainder of March to sorting out which are which.

defective yeti will return April 3rd. In the meanwhile, the favorite posts page has been updated for your perusing pleasure. See you soon.

[ link | dy]


March 17, 2006

Friday Afternoon Scrachpad

Practice What Your Preach

Today I saw a guy in a "Rage Against The Machine" t-shirt angrily slapping the side of an ATM.


Venomous Verdict

Dear Peoples of Teh IntarWeb: you can stop sending me this quotation for inclusion in the Bad Review Revue:

"If it had been called V for Vasectomy I could scarcely have found it a less enjoyable experience." -- Jonathan Ross, BBC
Though I appreciate everyone who did.


Carefree Throws

I love that there's a Basketball team called The Cavaliers. I like to imagine their courtside huddles go like this:

Coach: Okay, guys: there's only forty-three seconds left on the clock and we're down by five. We're going to need some major hustle to win this.

First player: Oh, it's always "win, win, win" with you. There's more more important things than winning, you know.

Second player: Seriously. It's just a game, coach -- chill out, already.


The Doctor Is Back In

Someone must be sending around the link to my Dumbass M.D. post, because I've recently received a spate of email from folks begging for the answer.

Well, I kept you in suspense for two and a half years ... I guess that's long enough.

Go read the puzzle, try and figure it out, and, if you get stumped, highlight the following paragraph:

Cut all three pills exactly in half, taking care to keep the two groups of halves separate. Take another Pill A, cut it in half, and add one half to each of the groups. Each group now contains two Pill B halves and two Pill A half. Take one group of halves today, the other group tomorrow.


Three Games

  • flOw: Hypnotic little game, beautifully made. Reminiscent of the forthcoming Spore. Browser-based flash.
  • Dumb: The Game: Forty-four puzzles to solve, ranging from laughably easy to I-don't-even-know-where-to-begin difficult. Browser-based php.
  • Truck Dismount: Sadistic & addictive. Download.

All via Jay Is Games.


Dollars & Scents

Sean "Diddy" Combs has come out with a new scent called Unforgivable.

As The Queen will attest, I too have produced some unforgivable fragrances in my time -- especially after jambalaya night -- but I never once thought to bottle and sell 'em for $25 an ounce. I guess that's the difference between me and Mr. Combs. Well, that and his impressive collection of risible nicknames.

March 16, 2006

Games: Colossal Arena

Despite my 2005 Good Gift Game Guide, my post naming the 2005 G4 runner-ups, and my list of my favorite games of last year, I somehow failed to mention Colossal Arena. This was a rather grievous oversight, as Arena was my game group's favorite of last year. (At least until I taught them Tichu ...)

First, a word of reassurance. Colossal Arena bills itself as "the game of titanic battles," and the art on both the box and the cards would have you believe that the game is one of fantasy melee, a raucous brawl complete with unicorns and trolls, mages and demons. Yes, that is the ostensible theme. But you won't have to roll up a character or dust off your 30-sided die to play -- Colossal Arena is, despite the RPG trappings, a traditional card & gambling game, albeit an exceptionally clever one.

Eight Monster cards are placed into a row before play begins. The main deck consists of 11 cards for each Monster (ranked 0 though 10) and 11 wild cards (called "Spectators," also of values 0-10). On a turn, a player may place a bet on one of the Monsters and must play a card. Cards are placed below the corresponding Monster, and the value of the card dictates the Monster's current strength. Spectator cards may be played onto any Monster. Players may put cards on top of cards already in play -- a Titan 2 could be placed onto a Titan 8, for instance, thereby lowering that Monster's strength by 6. This continues until every Monster has at least one card associated with it, at which point the weakest Monster dies and all bets placed on it are lost.

After the death of a Monster, a new round begins with a new row of cards. The game ends after five rounds and five causalities, leaving three Monsters alive. Bets on the survivors pay off, and the player with the most points wins.

There are plenty of twists to liven up play: secret bets, Monster powers, and a risk/reward system in which bets placed in the early round (when they are the most perilous) pay-out higher than those placed near the end of the game. But the heart of the game is the playing of Monster cards during a round, and the tension that builds as a round progresses is delicious. If you hold a low card for a Monster that your opponents have bet on, playing it late in a round can cripple that creature and ensure its ouster. The other players will be trying to hamstring your favorites, of course, so you must play strategically to avoid giving them the opportunity to do so.

Colossal Arena is a remake of the out-of-print Grand National Derby, which simulated horse racing. I wish Arena's theme was as prosaic, as the violent and fantastic artwork masks a game that is perfectly suited for casual card players and families. Indeed, nearly everyone I have taught the game to has wanted to play it again and again. It's also especially good (best, even) with three-players, which is something of a rarity in strategic card games.

You can read more about Colossal Arena here, and see a PDF of the rules here.

March 15, 2006

Hey Hey Hey!

I haven't written about politics much recently. Of course I haven't written much about yams recently either, another thing that typically makes me want to throw up. Go figure.

Let's see, what's going on? Today Bush met with Jason McElwaine, the austic kid who scored 20 points in four minutes for his basketball team.

"I saw the video and just had to meet this kid," said the President. "In front of all these cameras," he added. "Because Rove made me."

Later, he explained motivation for his visit. "As I am clearly unable to inspire this nation, I though I'd come stand next to someone who could."

Also today, Pew Research released the results of a poll in which they asked people to use a single word to describe Bush.

We need to pull Casey Kasem out of retirement so he can count these down "America's Top 40" style. "And now a newcomer to the countdown, but a rising star. It's number 10: ass."

It's weird that "sucks" only appears in February of 2005, and "ass" now shows up outta nowhere. Maybe seven people wanted to says "sucks ass" last year but, when they found out they were limited to a single word, they decided to parcel their reply out in annual installments.

And I love that six people describe the President as "President." What, did they conduct this poll at a National Association of Literialists convention or something? Man, I hope they include me in the 2007 poll so I can say "bipedal."

Democrats, meanwhile, continued to demonstrate their unwavering commitment to vacillation by reacting to Sen. Feingold's proposal to formally censure Bush the same way my cats react to a vacuum cleaner.

Feingold's censure motion appears to be mostly grandstanding, granted, but at least someone in the opposition party has decided to give opposing a whirl. Or perhaps it's all a clever ploy on Feingold's part. The Republicans responded to his proposal by issuing a set of talking points headlined The Debate Is Over: Dems Find Their Agenda. And Democrats were all, like, LOL WE TOTALLY TRICKED YOU -- WE HAVE NO AGENDA!!

Actually, that's unfair. The Democrats clearly do have an agenda: don't say or do anything that could be construed as controversial by anyone anywhere. Who says they aren't the party of religion? Quite the contrary, they seem to have adopted Jesus's prediction that "the meek shall inherit the earth" as their official 2006 midterm election strategy.

"I don't know the key to success," Bill Cosby once said, "but the key to failure is trying to please everybody." It's pretty sad when a political party needs to take tips from Fat Albert, but there you go.

March 14, 2006

Corleone? Corleone? Corleone?

I watched a DVD over the weekend. First time I'd ever seen this film. Obscure little flick, you've probably never heard of it. What was it called, again? Oh God! Book II or Grandma's Boy or something?

Oh, that's right: The Godfather. Little known fact: the movie stars Marlon Brando, before he hit the big time by appearing in The Island of Dr. Moreau.

So, yeah: my first time seeing it. And I'm pleased to report that it holds up just fine, even after 30 years of imitation mob movies and television shows. In fact, I'd call it one of my favorites ... were it not for one niggling little detail that worried away at the back of my mind for the duration of the film. You see, I'd never really seen young Al Pacino or young James Caan before. And, regrettable, I could not get over how similar they looked to Matthew Broderick and Will Ferrell.

I spent the entire film trying to reconcile the fact that New York's most ruthless and bloodthirsty Mafia family was being run by Ferris Bueller and Buddy the Elf.

March 13, 2006

Material Girl

It's the first sunny day Seattle has seen in a season, and a man in the park is doing tai chi. He performs some maneuvers slowly, methodically, concentrating on his every move. Then he settles cross-legged onto the grass and closes his eyes. His muscles go limp, the emotion drains from his face. He recedes into himself, severing his ties to our world, ridding himself of his Earthly burdens.

He reopens his eyes just as a pretty girl walks by. He cranes his neck to watch her pass. Suddenly the material plane ain't lookin' half bad.

March 10, 2006

Tick-tock

"Happy birthday!" cries my father. "How old are you, now?"

"Thirty-five," I reply.

"All right," he says. "Halfway there!"

Apparently he knows something that I do not.


Shirk The Violet

Today is my birthday, and it looks like Sony Pictures has sent me a gift.

"Warns someone: 'Don't overthink it.' Sage advice for anyone masochistic enough to watch this pile of poorly pixelated vampire poo. Yet it's impossible to take: Crank your brain to its lowest possible idle and you'll still overthink Ultraviolet. " -- Scott Brown, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

"Unscreened for critics and unfit for consumption. " --Jack Mathews, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

"In opening voiceover, a superhuman killing machine named Violet warns the viewer, 'I was born into a world you may not understand.' Boy hidee, she ainít kidding ..." -- Kimberley Jones, AUSTIN CHRONICLE


"Ultrastupid, ultra-incoherent, ultrasilly - and way, way ultraboring." -- Lou Lumenick, New York Post

"A film to be enjoyed only by science-fiction movie completists and middle school boys with extreme cases of attention deficit disorder." -- Peter Hartlaub, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

"Her sword is red, her eyes are blue and her movie is horrible." -- Lisa Rose, Star-Ledger

"Uwe Boll would be proud ..." -- James Berardinelli, ReelViews

Current score at Rotten Tomatoes: 8%.

March 07, 2006

The Bachelor-Ate

Let's face it: dating reality shows have gotten boring. That's why I think they should really push the envelope, with a new show called "Black Widow." The program would begin with one woman and twelve suitors. But instead of voting one of the guys off at the end of each show, once a week the woman would, after having sex with one of the men, kill and eat him.

See? Now that's something I would tune in to watch.

March 06, 2006

Panning The Gold

The Bad Review Revue is vacationing over at The Morning News today.


Research Day: How Much Does An Adult, Male, African Elephant Weight?

It's not often that I shout "holy shit!" while listening to NPR alone in my car, but that's what I did a few weeks along when All Things Considered aired the story of Osama the Hippopotamus. "He's believed to be a male," the reporter said of the hippo who has been terrorizing villagers on the Congo River, "though no one has really gotten a good look at him. A full-grown male hippopotamus can weigh up to 8,000 pounds ..."

What?! That can't be right, thought I -- he must have meant eight hundred pounds. What an embarrassing gaff to broadcast on national radio. Later he said that hippos are considered to be "the most lethal animal in Africa, killing more people each year than lions, crocodiles, and elephants." That struck me as almost equally improbable. I thought hippos were cuddly. And only attacked marbles.

But I figured I'd doublecheck before sending an email to NPR starting "Dear dumbasses," and did so as soon as I got home. "How was work?" The Queen asked as I walked in the door; "No time for chit-chat!" I exclaimed, "I gotta go look up hippos in Wikipedia!"

And whatta'ya know? "Hippos average 3.5 metres (11 ft) long, 1.5 metres (5 ft) tall at the shoulder, and weigh from 1,500 kg to 3,200 kg (3,300 to 7,000 lb) ..."

I sat there at my computer for a moment, trying to process this information. Then it occurred to me that the elephant, world's largest land animal, must somehow be even larger.

I braced myself and surfed over the the Wikipedia page for Loxodonta africana. "The Savanna Elephant stands on average 13 feet (4 meters) at the shoulder," it said. "And weighs approximately 15,400 pounds (7,000 kilograms) ...." Subsequent research revealed that Wikipedia's estimate is on the high end of the spectrum -- The Columbia Encyclopedia has them down for an average weight of seven tons (14,000 lbs.); Britannica pegs their maximum weight at 16,500 lb; Encarta says they "weigh up to 7,000 kg (15,400 lb)." My guess is the person who did the Wikipedia entry came across that "up to 7,000 kg" figure, mistaken cited 15,400 lb as their average weight, and that 14,000 lbs. is more accurate.

But still: 14,000 lbs! That's just insane. And I don't even understand the physics of it. If you hollowed out a male, African elephant, I can't imagine you could fit seventy 200-pound human beings inside the skin, even if you ground those people into slurry and poured 'em in through a funnel (free Science Fair project idea right there, if any kid are reading this).

Now, I'm notoriously bad at estimating things: population of cities, miles of a road, number of beers it takes to get myself drunk, etc. But even so, I had a hunch that just about everyone would get this one wrong when asked. So last week I slapped together an poll to see what people say when asked the average weight of a male, African elephant. When I'd amassed a little over 2000 votes, I made some graphs, thereby transmogrifying this exceptionally haphazard experiment into SCIENCE!

And how did you all fare? Oh my goodness, not well at all I'm afraid.

Average guess: 4964.60 lbs. -- i.e., close to a third of the actual weight. It probably would have been a lot lower, but there were a few 50,000 lbs. and one 65,000 guesses. The top five most common guesses: 2,000 lbs (1/7 of the actual weight), 4,000 lbs., 3,000 lbs, 5,000 lbs, and 2,500 lbs. Eighty-one people guessed 12,000 (it was the eighth most common guess), eleven guessed 14,000, and another eleven guessed 15,000.

I'd always heard that, on questions of estimation, you could expect to see a bell-shaped curve around the correct response. Obviously that wasn't the case here. I've convinced that it's because the weight of an elephant is so incredible -- by which I mean, it honestly strains credibility. Two thousand pound is a good guess for weight of "animal that is extremely large and yet still real"; 14,000 pounds is a good guess for the weight of, like, "dragon," or something equally as chimeric.

By the way, the largest elephant ever recorded weighed 12,000 kilograms, or nearly 26,500 lbs. I'm glad they didn't mention that on NPR, or I probably would have driven off the freakin' road.

Thanks to Squant and M-J for fancy graph assistance.

March 02, 2006

Fifteen Of My MetaFilter Comments, Taken Out Of Context
  • Once again Jesse Jackson heroically hurls himself between the givers and the receiver of publicity.
  • The website doesn't specify the source of the findings, but I strongly suspect they have been drawn from the scientific discipline commonly known as "making shit up."
  • Dear sir, I don't wish to brag
    Of my wealth but I've hit a small snag.
    These fund I must move
    So would you approve
    Of a cut of Nigerian swag?
  • Check out, the comma usage, in the linked, page. It's like listening, to someone who, just climbed some stairs, and is out, of breath.
  • The porn industry was one of the driving forces behind the invention of photography, as they were tired of having to describe blowjobs to patrons. True fact, look it up.
  • Some of you younger kids might not remember this, but there was a time in America when people acted stupid for free! It's true, they just gave it away! People acted like utter dopeity dopes and never received a penny in compensation. But then someone figured out that acting stupid could net you a fortune, by, say, pretending like you were honestly and completely unaware that eating fattening foods would cause you to become fat, or claiming that you thought cigarette warnings only applied to other people. Now stupidism accounts for over 13% of America's economy, and this clever exploitation of a previously free resource is exactly the kind of Horatio Alger-esque ingenuity that makes America great.
  • You may think that life without men would just be one giant party. But the first time all the women in the world went out to do karaoke and realized that "Islands in the Streams" was no longer an option, they would be very, very sad.
  • If this backfires, the scandal will be called "Conju-gate".
  • I discovered the identity of my girlfriend's next-to-last lover with AntePenUltiMate™!
  • The next time I get coffee in my office's Break Room, I'm going to take one sip of it, spit it out, and loudly exclaim "Jesus Christ! This tastes like a tree-dwelling marsupial ate the ripest and reddest coffee cherries, and then somebody made coffee out of the beans, which were excreted fairly intact and still wrapped in layers of the cherries' mucilage!"
  • If you believe in evolution you can justifiably call any US citizen an "African-American"
  • Of course Courtney Love is in favor of file sharing. The whole concept of taking someone else's good songs for personal use was the essence of Hole.
  • I just like that the word "Extreme" is now associated with two things: (1) People engaging in athletic events which require a staggering amount of physical prowess; and (2) People sitting on their fat asses and imbibing a staggering amount of cola.
  • Moral of the story: DON'T FUCK WITH THE EBERT!
  • I am sickened by the sheer ignorance of the people on Mefi in general and in this thread in particular, and that is why I'm leaving for good. No, I'm totally serious this time. I just removed my bookmark. And when everyone belatedly realizes what an important member I was to this community and rallies to my defense and publicly chastises those (and you know who you are) who brought me to this point, I will unfortunately never ever know about it because, as I mentioned before, I am not coming back. Even if someone emails me privately (jqm1213@hotmail.com) to let me know that everyone wants me to return and that the site has basically gone to shit since my departure, it won't matter because I'm done with you all. I mean it. I'm using UnInstall Wizard right now to remove my browser. Goodbye.

March 01, 2006

Twos, The Terrible

It's been 24 months since The Squirrelly barreled into our lives, though The Twos -- the Terrible ones, specifically -- began months ago. The kid's a flaming ball of id these days, a Lil' Bacchus who enjoys nothing better than good food, a long nap, lively music, and an invigorating poop.

And he's as garrulous as ever, yammering away at every available moment. You'd think the perpetual narration would provide us with some clue as to what was going on in that head of his, but, more often than not, but he still catches us off-guard with non sequiturs. "Do you want a snack?" You'll ask him; "I'm a dog," he'll reply, "Ruff! Ruff!" Honestly, I have no idea how to respond to someone who says something like that (unless it's the guy sitting next to me on the bus, in which case I respond by hastily moving to to another seat).

Occasionally he'll seize upon a word or phrase that's particularly fun to say and just holler it out at random moments. "Edamame!" and "avocado!" are favorites, as are "down the hatch!" and "all right, kiddo!" He also likes to recite the line from The Cat In The Hat that goes "So all we could do was to sit! Sit! Sit! Sit!" But he, like most toddlers, lisps a bit, so it sounds like he's shouting "shit! shit! shit! shit!" like he's frantically trying to flush contraband drugs down the toilet before the cops bust through the bathroom door.

He hasn't adopted any real obscenities yet, something that can be attributed to luck rather than any effort on our part to moderate our language. Unfortunately, he has learned the worse four-letter word of all: "want." Someone told us that a sure-fire way of reducing frustration tantrums in a toddler is to teach them to express their desires, so we foolishly went ahead and taught him the w-word. And it's true: he has fewer frustration tantrums, no doubt. Now we instead get the tantrums of outrage, when we have the impertinence to question one of his edicts. "Want oatmeal," he'll say. "Dude, there's oatmeal in the bowl right in front of you, eat that," I'll reply. "WANT OATMEAL!" he'll shriek and throw himself to the floor, where he kicks and screams for approximately six seconds before deciding that it's not worth the effort, climbing to his feet, and announcing "I'm a dog! Ruff! Ruff!"

So, yes, we're having the standard toddler War Of The Wills, but, fortunately, The Squirrelly is exceptionally easy-going. His tantrums are infrequent, and rarely last more than a handful of seconds. When we took him in for his two-year checkup, the pediatrician asked "does he ever have tantrums that last longer than half an hour?" and we were all, like, "Half and hour?! Fuuuuck no -- if he did we would have just left him in your elevator, sprinted back to the car, and driven to Ontario at 85 miles an hour."

We also learned, at his 24 month exam, that his future career as an NBA center has been nipped in the bud, as he is now in the 50th percentile for height (instead of the 70th, where he was at a year). It's just as well, as he clearly has his sights set on some sort of musical career. We bought him a toy piano for his birthday, and he loves plunking the keys and singing the the "ABC Song." He really seems to enjoy music so we thought we'd encourage it -- it was only after the fact that we realized that we're probably setting ourselves up for 12 years of elementary, junior high, and high school band concerts. Dear lord, what have we wrought!

Oh well. If the next 16 years are anywhere near as fun as the last two it'll all be worth it, even the "Cleaveland Middle School Spring Ensemble." Plus, hearing loss runs in my family, so I might luck out.


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