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April 27, 2006

I Can't Wait For My "The New Built To Spill Album Kind Of Sucks" Check!

People often complain that they don't know what Democrats stand for. Thankfully, there is no such ambiguity regarding the Republicans. Today they again reminded the nation of the bedrock principle that their party was found upon: giving voters $100 each in an election year.

They are calling the swag "gas rebate checks," because it's supposedly to reimburse citizens for the high gasoline prices they have been subjected to over the last year. Never mind that subsidizing the purchase of gasoline will increase demand and lead to yet higher gas prices.

But there's no obligation for the recipients of these checks to actually spend the cash on fuel. In fact, as near as I can tell there is no connection whatsoever between the money and gasoline prices -- I presume that bicyclists will be getting the same amount as truckers -- except that the checks will probably have the words "Republican sponsored gas rebate" in the "memo" field.

Frankly, I think Congress is missing an opportunity for a more targeted approach. What they should do is ask each American what he or she is most unhappy about, and then label the checks accordingly. There could be "gas rebate" checks and "cable rebate" checks and "dadgum Mexicans taking our jobs" checks and "dudes kissing dudes" checks. That way, Americans will know that Republicans care exactly $100 worth about whichever issue concerns them the most.

The whole thing would seem kind of silly if the government were just giving us back the money we paid in taxes; it would like a bank touting their generosity every time you withdrew your own money. How fortunate, then, that the United States has long since exhausted its cash on hand. Now the cost of funding the program will get tacked onto our already obscene national debt, and it will be the poor saps down the chronological line that will get stuck with the bill. In other words, it's 100% completely free money!!

In fact, they should just call this the "Five Dollar Bill in the Birthday Card Preimbursement Program." Here's how it works. First, we give you $100 now. Then, after your grandchild is born, you include $5 in every card you send them on their birthday -- iIf you stop sending them cards before they turn twenty, you get to keep all the extra money! Then your grandchild joins the workforce, gets burdened with astronomical taxes, and struggles to pay down the gargantuan debt we saddled him with. It's like your adult grandchild is sending $100 back in time to you, who is then sending it forward in time to your adult grandchild's younger self. How totally awesome is that? It's pretty much exactly like The Terminator!

All in all I think the "giving voters $100 each in an election year" program this is the greatest things to come out of Washington since prohibition. It's so clever that I can't help but wonder where Republicans got the idea. Lord knows no one has ever given a Republican a bunch of "no strings attached" money in the hopes of influencing their vote.

April 26, 2006

Pretty Sneaky, Cyst

I started a new job on Monday. Halfway through the New Employee Orientation I glanced down and noticed that my ganglion cyst had vanished, despite being there as recently as the evening before. Man, the health benefits at this place are fantastic!

Anyway, updates may be a little sporadic for a while.

[ link | dy]


April 25, 2006

In Praise Of Loopholes

Today in The Morning News I have an article entitled In Praise Of Loopholes.

Thanks to Rebecca for telling me about the Anal Motion (well, if you weren't planning to read the piece, that probably piqued your interest), Катюша for the tip-off on Eruvs, and Torrez for reminding me of "Pudding Guy."

April 24, 2006

Take Your Best Shot

Conversation with a fellow dad over drinks:

Me: How old is your son, now?

A: Five and a half.

M: Going into kindergarten next year, then?

A: Yeah. That's kind of a hot topic of debate at our house these days. He's currently going to Montessori, and we have to decide if we're going to put him in public school.

M: Right. And you, bleeding heart liberal that you are, are advocating public schools. Because you want to give your child a ruinous education and score a few cheap political points.

A: Exactly. In fact, that's kind of the problem: the Seattle school system is actually pretty good, so it's not even like we're throwing him to the wolves. It's more like we're throwing him to a bunch of puppies. It doesn't burnish our liberal credentials at all.

M: That's rough, man. Well, look at the bright side: the way things are going, I'm sure the "Indeterminate War On Terror" will still be in full swing 13 years from now. So you can always encourage your son to enroll him in the military after high school, thereby proving some sort of political point or another.

A: Hmm, that's a thought. Of course, if we don't put him in public school he'll probably wind up in a specialized military academy for Montessori graduates. They'll be all, like, "We're not going to tell you who to shoot. Just get out there on the battlefield and express yourself."

April 21, 2006

Mice & Men

I thought I'd see if i could get a list published in McSweeny's.

Why, apparently I can.

April 20, 2006

You Are What You Antique

My Farrell recollections (see previous post) came to me while watching Antique Roadshow the other evening. I presume you're familiar with Antique Roadshow. It's that program on PBS where a bunch of people from the Dakotas bring their junk to a big convention and a Antique Roadshow expert will look at it and drone on and on for a hundred minutes about how the brand of lacquer on the frame was only used in 1867, and finally he announces that this particular hunk of useless would probably fetch "in the two thousand to three thousand range," and the owner gasps and says "rilly?" half a dozen times before announcing that, while she no idea it was worth so much, she would never dream of selling it because it's been in the family for years, but later, after taking it home and deliberation for three days, she lists it on Ebay, whereupon someone from the other Dakota buys it for thirty-five bucks. That program.

Anyway, I was watching Antique Roadshow and doing what I always do -- namely, wondering why the hell I was watching Antique Roadshow -- when someone got an appraisal on some Ye Olde Tymey Ice Cream Parlour paraphernalia, and, bang, just like that I was thinking about Farrell's. One of the greatest things about Farrell's was their "Pig's Trough," a two-bananas, six-ice-cream-scoop sundae so large that, if you finished it, the entire Farrell's staff would come out and sing a song about what a pig you were. It was every kid's dream to one day earn the Pig's Trough ribbon of completion.

Now that Farrell's is out of business, I think Antique Roadshow should adopt the "Pig's Trough" model. I mean, occasionally someone must bring in worthless crap, and they desperately need to do something to break up the monotony of that show.

Appraiser: ... and, see this shoddy worksmanship? You don't see that kind of indifference to quality until the late 20th century. I'd estimate this was made in 1977, maybe early 1976.

Owner: Oh ...

Appraiser: It's also worth noting that the "up" button doesn't work at all, and the lower switch is permanently jammed in the "Pro 2" position.

Owner: Yeah ...

Appraiser: Taken as a whole, I'd estimate this Mattel handheld electronic football game would sell somewhere in the neighborhood of nothing whatsoever.

Owner: Aw, nuts.

Appraiser: But, I'm willing to make you a special Antique Roadshow offer. If you can eat the entire thing in one sitting, we will give you this huge and ridiculous-looking blue ribbon.

Owner: I'll take it!

{Forty-three minutes later.}

Owner: I can't do it ... I can't ...

Appraiser: C'mon now. Just one more swallow.

Owner: I can't ...

{Owner swallows. Antique Roadshow staff members spring from everywhere, clapping and singing.}

Antique Roadshow Staff: Oh, he's a certain special someone! Oh, he's just so darned unique! He's a piggy, piggy, piggy! And he ate his whole antique!

April 19, 2006

Sundae Drive

When I was but a wee lad, the coolest place in town was Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour, a deserteria that featured a number of obscenely gargantuan sundaes that they literally dared you to eat. I attended countless parties at Farrell's, and my folks would take my sister and I there on occasion. I remember the place as perpetually packed full of kids and families, with bells ringing and sirens wailing and gongs forever being stuck, all in recognition of some momentous event (a girl's sixth birthday) or another (someone ordering one of their famous "Zoo Sundaes").

All of the local Farrell's abruptly vanished in the late 90's. Apparently the founder left, the chain was sold, and the new owner's plan to turn the franchise into nondescript family restaurants (rightfully) ended in disaster. But I didn't care. By that time I was in High School, and Farrell's no longer held the appeal it once had. Still, I had fond memories of the place, and vividly recalled how exciting it had been to go there when I was younger.

Shortly after graduation my friend got a job at the local mall, in a store adjacent to where the local Farrell's had resided. Both his store and the new business that occupied Farrell's old building had entrances and windows facing the parking lot, so, as he worked, he could see people arrive in their cars, park, and walk toward the mall.

This was two, maybe two and a half years after Farrell's had gone under. But about once every other month, he told me, he would see a car park nearby, the doors fly open, and a gaggle of insanely happy children tumble out. They would race to where the Farrell's used to be, their smiling parents ambling behind. The kids would eventually leave my friend's field of vision, though he could still see the laggard parents chatting amicably as they moseyed toward the entrance. Then, inevitably, one of them would glance up -- perhaps in response to a shout from of the children -- and the smile on his or her face would falter and fade. Then they too would disappear from view.

A minute or two would pass. Then the family would reappear, the children slouching and crestfallen, the mother anxious and apologetic, the father perhaps carrying a sobbing youngest on his shoulder, as they solemnly trudged back to the car.

April 18, 2006

I Like Me

I'm totally hooked on Brandon Hardesty's re-enactment series. The Battle of Wits from The Princess Bride was widely circulated in the blogosphere, but my personal favorite is this scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles. His impersonations of Martin and Candy are so spot-on it's downright eerie.

Hardesty says he is no longer taking requests, but I suppose he might be open to suggestions. Can you think of any well-written, dialog-heavy scenes involving two actors who display a range of emotions but don't interact physically (thus making it possible for Hardesty to perform both)?

April 17, 2006

The Buddy System

I don't think the government should get involved in gay marriage. But, on the other hand, I don't think the government should be involved in straight marriage either.

That might sound like a strange sentiment coming from a happily married guy like me. But The Queen and I, not religious in the slightest, got married only because it was the only option available to us. If we could have gotten civilly unionized, we probably would have gone that route. Instead, we just made it as secular an affair as possible, with a retired judge as the officiant and a ceremony held in the Seattle Aquarium.

The fundamental problem with "marriage" is the word, not the institution. It means different things to different people, which largely accounts for the acrimonious debate over gay marriage that grips the nation every election year. For some "marriage" is a religious arrangement, where two people are joined together by God; to others it refers to the purely secular tradition of pledging fidelity to one another in the hopes that your friends and relatives will give you DVD players and ice cream makers. Until the two sides in the gay marriage debate agree on a common definition -- something unlikely to happen anytime soon -- we're going to just go around and around in circles on this issues for decades to come.

The gov needs to get out of the marriage business altogether, ya'ask me. Separation of church and state, yo. It should relinquish claim to the word "marriage" altogether, let it revert to its original, religious meaning, and wash its hands of the whole thing. Don't get me wrong -- I still think there should be a secular equivalent. Just don't call it "marriage." And don't call it "civil unions," either -- that term is sullied by those who have been trying to pawn it off as some kind of bargain basement matrimony.

I think the United States should adopt the Buddy System.

Here's how it would work. When a citizen reaches Buddying age, he or she will receive a charming, hand-written note in the mail from the government. This is what it will say:

Hi there! Welcome to adulthood. You've had it relatively easy so far, all things considered: what with the parents, and the no job, and the not paying taxes, and the ability to eat an entire Italian sausage and black olive pizza without feeling like crap the following morning. Sure the whole puberty thing sucked, no argument there. But by and large life has been pretty sweet.

Unfortunately things get a little trickier from here on out. You might have to work a job you don't particularly like, or find yourself with all kinds of obligations you'd just as soon avoid. Maybe you'll feel your idealism leech away, and your patience for the status quo dwindle. Perhaps the people who signed your yearbook "2good + 2b = 4gotten!" will move away and 4get you, and your opportunities to meet new, fun people will become increasingly limited. And -- trust me on this one -- no TV show will ever seem as cool as the ones you enjoyed when you were 13.

Yeah, adulthood is a drag sometimes. And that's where the Buddy System comes in. At some point, you may find it useful to Buddy up with another person, someone you will watch over and who will, in turn, watch over you. Like the earlier version of this system you may have used at school or at camp, your Buddy's job will be to make sure you don't get lost. But less a literal "don't get lost in the forest during a dayhike" and more a figurative "don't get so lost working at a crummy job that you forget how much you like gardening." Or, you know, whatever.

So, at some point, feel free to take a Buddy. Or don't: whatever works for you. But iIt's a scary world out there, and sometimes a Buddy is just the thing you need to make it seem a bit more manageable.

Also, couples wishing to Buddy would be required to have their ceremony somewhere awesome, like a waterslide park or a Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert or the Seattle Aquarium. And an open bar would be mandated by law.

I think this is a compromise the whole nation could all get behind, don't you?

April 14, 2006

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

Overheard:

Guy One: Today is Good Friday.

Guy Two: What's "Good Friday"?

G1: It's the Friday before Easter; the day Jesus was crucified.

G2: And it's called "Good Friday?" That doesn't sound very good to me.

G1: I guess "Bummer Friday" didn't have the same ring.

April 10, 2006

Uri Nation

I'm not much of a "car decal" kinda guy, but I thought up this one on my morning commute and could envision it on the back of my Corolla.

 
April 07, 2006

Head & Shoulders

Many parents track the height of their child by having them stand next to a designated wall every year or so and making a hashmark just above their head.

I'd use this method, if I trusted myself to remember to do so every 12 months. Fortunately, I have figured out an alternative way to track The Squirrelly's growth. Whenever I have him on my shoulders, walk through a doorway, and hear a "Twump!" from above, I just stop for a moment and jot the current date on the wall next to the frame.


The Bad Review Revue

Benchwarmers: "Aimed at second-graders and anyone else who thinks farts are still funny."

Final Destination 3: "There's nothing fresh or off-beat in Final Destination 3, no talent that is struggling to get out. The only thing struggling to get out was me from the theater." -- Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

Stay Alive: "Stay Alive has none of the vicarious thrills of, say, 'Konami: Silent Hill 2.' It's barely even Pong unplugged." -- Marc Savlov, AUSTIN CHRONICLE

Doogal: "It'd take more than potentially lethal amounts of alcohol to make this derivative trash endurable. " -- Nathan Rabin, THE ONION AV CLUB.

Basic Instinct 2: "The accidental comedy sensation of the year!" -- Ty Burr, BOSTON GLOBE

April 06, 2006

Games For Two

I've received a number of requests for two-player game recommendations in the last few weeks. So here ya go, IntarWeb.

  • Lost Cities: This is my default recommendation for a two-player game, unless I know the person well enough to suggest something more specific -- and even then it's often my recommendation. Lost Cities is a very clever (and remarkably fun) rummy variant, which makes immediately accessible to non-gamers. The rules can be explained in three minutes, an entire game takes about thirty. Plus, chicks dig it. It's considered politically incorrect in gaming circles to imply (or state outright) that one sex prefers certain games over others, but, I'm tellin' ya: girls like rummy (see also: Ticket To Ride -- another game based on Rummy that women enjoy.) All and all, Lost Cities is just about the perfect "couples game." If you're looking for something with a smidgen more strategy, check out its sister title, Shotten-Totten (sold in the US as Battle Line). And they can be tried-before-they're-buy'd at Flex Games, which has online versions of both.

  • Lord Of The Rings: The Confrontation: Easily one of my favorite two-player games (read my full review here), LotR:tC uses the classic Stratego mechanism of having pieces visible only to their owner. The Light player wins if he gets Frodo (and the One Ring) all the way across the board and into Mordor; the Dark player wins by catching Frodo or overrunning The Shire with bad guys. Each character has a unique ability, and although a whole match can be played in 20 minutes, each game has its own narrative: in one, Aragorn sacrifices himself so that Frodo can trudge forth to victory; in the next, Wargs beset the ringbearer just as he descended from the Misty Mountains. And a Deluxe edition of the game was just released, doubling the number of characters and special powers in play.

  • Another Stratego-esque favorite of mine is Hera & Zeus. Some complain that the game is too "fiddly" -- that is, there's a lot of special cards to keep track of, and a lot of shuffling of the cards -- but, amongst experienced players, I think it's a tense and exciting battle. A bit more a learning curve on this one than the prior games, though. You can read my full, (and, by Internet standards, ancient) review here.

  • Jambo also takes a game or two to get the hang of, but has been one of the most well-received two-player card games in recent years. Players are merchants in a Swahili market, trading wars and occasionally siccing pumas on one another. Read my full review here.

  • Though most of the Carcassonne games can be played with up to five players, they also work exceptionally well with only two. They also number amongst the best "gateway" games of the market, perfect for those new to the boardgaming hobby. Players take turns adding tiles to a shared map, trying to create various landscapes. There are a lot of games in the Carcassonne line, but I'm of the opinion that Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers is the best for those new to the series. There is also an exclusively two-player version called Carcassonne: The Castle, which is a bit more strategic (and, in my opinion, a bit more fun) that the rest.

  • Another "works for many and works for two" game is San Juan, The kid brother to Puerto Rico. I think the game works best with three, but two is also quite good. Read my full review here.

  • There are, of course, no shortage of two-player wargames, but many of them require the players to memorize a 104 page rule book and dedicate every weekend for a season to playing a campaign. Memoir '44, on the other hand, allows you to recreate the pivotal battles of WWII in about 40 minutes a scuffle, using a light, intuitive combat system. An even simpler wargame -- albeit one with a fantasy bent -- is Heroscape. Though clearly aimed at the 12-year-old boy market, I know a lot of adult game players who swear this is one of the most fun games ever released.

  • I'm not a huge fan of abstract games, but even I think Travel Blokus is a blast. It's a very quick, very light strategy game -- almost like a snack. Try it out online at blokus.com/. Or, if you are in the market for something meatier, try the titles in the GIPF series, a collection of abstract, two-players games that have been getting rave reviews. YINSH, the highest rated of the bunch, falls somewhere between draughts and Reversi; DVONN was named GAMES Magazine's 2003 "Game of the Year;" and ZERTZ is like Chinese Checkers with an IQ of 145. Check them out at the GIPF Project homepage.

April 05, 2006

defective yeti Xtreme Makeover!

When we first interviewed this week's subject, it confessed to feelings of low self-esteem and general dissatisfaction with its appearance, describing itself as "doughy," "a big loaf," and "day old."

Fortunately, we knew just what to do. The dyXM team swung-or-possibly-swang into action, giving it an Xtreme Makeover it will never forget!

Warning: some of the following images are graphic in nature

First we put the subject under the knife, to trim away some of that excess bulk.

A vast improvement, I'm sure you'll agree. Already the subject is looking good enough to eat.

Next we addressed the subject's pasty complexion, placing between two heating coils to give it a rich, golden tan.

And then our team went to work with the cosmetics, first slathering the subject with a foundation to cover up imperfections.

And then applying some color, to ensure that it would stand out in a crowd.

And because a beauty is nothing without a wardrobe to match, we ditched that plain, uninspired and put it on something with a little more pizzazz!

Scrumptious!

Thanks for joining us on defective yeti's Xtreme Makeover. Join us next week when we peel the years off our subject, giving it the youthful appearance of a baby.

Next Week on defective yeti Xtreme Makeover
Before & After
April 04, 2006

My College Days Are Official Over

I lost a pair of pants about two weeks ago. One day I had them, the next they were gone. I looked for them everywhere, but they were nowhere to be found.

Today The Queen walked out into the living room holding them. "Are these yours?" she asked. "They were in my drawer. I must have put them in there by mistake."

Damn. I'd been holding out hope that a hazy memory about a Jägermeister-fueled bender would eventually surface and account for their absence.

Oh well, at least I got my pants back.

April 03, 2006

Undercooking Light

The Queen and I subscribed to Cooking Light magazine last year. Great recipes, as long as you're aware of the algorithm they use to encrypt them and can translate them back into Actual Cuisine. For those not in the know, here's the secret: before you begin, run your finger down the list of ingredients and quintuple the amount of any foodstuff that you look forward to ingesting:

Cooking Light amountActual Cuisine amount
2 tsp. butter3 ½ tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 endive, washed and torn1 endive, washed and torn
1 egg white3 eggs
¼ cup sugar1 ¼ cups sugar
½ tsp. capers½ tsp. capers
4 cups chopped chicken2 chickens

I stumbled across the secret one evening while making a recipe that called for "1/8 cup cheddar cheese," a quantity as wildly improbable as "17 ounces of black pepper." "One cup" is the fundamental, atomic unit of shredded cheese -- did the editors of Cooking Light think we would not know this?

Another thing you need to increase by an order of magnitude is the recipies' cooking time for anything that involves meat. Maybe the guys who write Cooking Light are all vegans and have to guestimate on matters of carnivory or something, but the directions are always, like

Add ginger, minced lemongrass, garlic to pan and saute until browned. Add soy sauce mixture, cook for 3 minutes on medium-high heat. Add raw chicken, cook for an additional 30 seconds stirring frequently, serve over rice.
I know that you are supposed to increase cooking times at high altitudes, so I can only assume that these recipes were field-tested by a race of svelte merfolk dwelling on the floor of the Pacific.

I will say that I have lost a considerable amount of weight using Cooking Light's recipes. Eating undercooked pork three days a week will do that to a guy.