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September 28, 2007



[ link | Humor]

Tricks of the Trade

Jeannie Yandel interviewed me on KUOW's Sound Focus today about Tricks of the Trade.

For the record, I have no idea what a Rat Rustler is.

September 27, 2007

You Will Not Enjoy This

A board game based on 300 is soon to be released. I can only imagine.

300 - The Board Game

[ link | Games]

September 26, 2007

Ten Great "Two-Minute" Card Games

The last few games I have fully reviewed here (i.e., Twilight Struggle and Power Grid) have gone against the grain of the type I usually cover. Both are long, complex, and not immediately accessible to the casual player.

To make amends, here's my top 10 "two-minute" card games. "Two-minute," in this instance, alludes not to the length of time they takes to play, but to the fact that the rules to each of these simple (but engrossing) games can be explained in 120-seconds flat.

Many people are reluctant to try new games because they dislike learning rules; as you can get a group up an playing these games in a matter of moments, they are perfect for Converting the Unwilling, Great for bars too, when everyone already has a beer or three under their belt.

Slide 5: Curiously, many of the most enjoyable games are those that provoke the most agony in the players. Slide 5 (previously called Category 5 and, before that, Take 6!) is a prefect example. The deck contains cards numbered from 1 to 104. Every round begins with each person playing a card from his hand face down. After all are revealed simultaneously, the cards are added to rows in the center of the table in ascending numerical order. But if your card winds up as the sixth in a row, you take the other five as points--and you don't want points. Also: Turn The Tide is a very similar game, with a few more rules and a smidge more strategy. (But note that Turn The Tide is only playable by up to five people, while Slide 5 goes all the way to 11! Well, no. Actually just 10.)

No Thanks: My go-to filler for the last couple years. Great fun, despite having, like, one rule. Read my full review here.

For Sale: Round one: everyone uses chips to purchase a variety of homes, from a cardboard box to an orbiting space mansion. Round two: everyone resells their houses for checks ranging in value from $0 to $15,000, and the mogul with the most money at the end wins. It's like playing two separate games, but whole thing takes about 15 minutes in total. For Sale was one of the titles that got me hooked on German Games a decade ago; it has recently been reprinted, as is again available to all.

Lost Cities: My default two-player game recommendation is perfectly suited for this list as well. Lost Cities is essentially rummy, but with a specialized deck and the tension-quotation set to overdrive. Despite its simplicity, I routinely cite it as one of my favorite games of all time.

Battleline: First cousin to the aforementioned Lost Cities, Battleline is both a little simpler and a little deeper. Assemble nine three-card poker-hands, while your opponent does the same. Every time one of your hands beats the corresponding hand of your rival, you capture a flag; capture enough in a row, or enough overall, and the battle is won. A full game only takes 10 minutes to complete, but you'll find it hard not to play two or three in a row.

Coloretto: The cards come in seven different colors; your goal: collect as many of them as you can ... in three colors only. All taken cards in suits beyond the third count as negative points, and can accumulate quickly if you are not careful. The central mechanism of Coloretto is so clever that the designer recently built a board game around it (Zooloretto), which earlier this month won the prestigious Game of the Year award.

Loco: On your turn you first play a card from you hand to one of the five piles, and then you take a chip of any color. I have just explained 90% of the rules to this game, honest to God. And it works! And is fun! I don't understand!

The Bottle Imp: A strongly themed trick-taking game, if you believe it. Based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson, players vie to collect as many points as possible, without getting stuck with the Bottle Imp at game's end (as doing so results in everlasting damnation ... and also a point penalty). Though the rules to The Bottle Imp can certainly be explained in two minutes, playing well takes a few games. Thankfully, it's well worth the practice.

The Great Dalmuti: One of the oldest games in my collection, but one that still gets played today. (I just bought my third replacement deck a few months ago.) More of a drinking / party game than a card game, really, but one that will have you playing--and cracking up--for hours. See my discussion of it, and other "Climbing Games," here.

Guillotine: Okay, I'm going to level with you: I kinda hate this game. But many, many people love it (as half a dozen people in the comments are going to attest). Each round has a dozen nobles lined up for the guillotine; on your turn, the guy at the front of the line gets the axe, and you get his value in points. But wait! First you can play cards to rearrange the queue, perhaps swapping the worthless Piss Boy with the 5-point Marie Antoinette. I don't like Guillotine because it has lots of luck and a distinctive screw-your-neighbor flavor; others adore it for these very reasons--go figure.

Apples to Apples: Technically a party game, but played with cards and dirt simple so I'm going to cheat and sneak it into slot 11 on this top 10 list. The Judge turns over an adjective card, like "Soft" or "Respectable;" everyone else slaps down Noun cards from their hands as quickly as possible. The Judge then decides which played card best matches his own--if the description is "Slimey," will he select "Frog," "Used Car Salesman," or "Bill Clinton"? Perhaps the most accessible and laughter-inducing party game I've ever played--and I don't even like party games!

September 25, 2007

Cliche Rotation Project, Round II

The second round of the Cliche Rotation Project is complete. (For details on the CRP, see http://www.defectiveyeti.com/crp.)

A big thanks to everyone who contributed. Here are some of the best I received.

Old Cliche Replacement Contributor Note
Seeing the world through rose colored glasses Reporting from the Green Zone Brett  
Sweep it under the rug Clear the cache Ryan Murphy  
Timing is everything Timing is the difference between salad and garbage Anonymous  
Not the sharpest crayon in the box Not the brightest LED in the house mantaworks Fully y3k-compliant.
Sometimes, you just have to roll with the punches. Sometimes you just have to park your car beneath a bird Dave  
Rain on your parade. Stick a boot on your wheel. JMT  
The grass is always greener on the other side of the street The line is always shorter at the Starbucks up the street Penni Prominski  
It's not rocket science It's not Advanced Squad Leader zosa This is in reference to the infamously complex wargame ASL. Typical rule:

2.2401 GUN DUELS: Vs a non-concealed, non-Aerial DEFENDER's declared Defensive First Fire attack on it, a vehicle may attempt to Bounding First Fire (D3.3) its MA (/other-FP, including Passenger FP/SW) at that DEFENDER first, provided the vehicle need not change CA, is not conducting OVR (D7.1), its total Gun Duel DRM (i.e., its total Firer-Based [5.] and Acquisition [6.5] TH DRM for its potential shot) is < that of the DEFENDER, and the DEFENDER's attack is not Reaction Fire (D7.2). Neither the +1 DRM for a Gyrostabilizer nor the doubling of the lower dr for other ordnance in TH Case C4 (5.35) is included in the Gun Duel DRM calculation. The order of fire for non-ordnance/SW is determined as if it were ordnance [EXC: TH Case A can apply only if this unit/weapon is mounted-on/aboard a vehicle that is changing CA; all such non-turret-mounted fire is considered NT for purposes of TH Case C, and; A.5 applies to any type of FG]. If the ATTACKER's and DEFENDER's total Gun Duel DRM are equal, the lower Final TH (or non-ordnance IFT) DR fires first - and voids the opponent's return shot by eliminating, breaking, stunning, or shocking it. If those two Final DR are equal, both shots are resolved simultaneously. Any CA change the DEFENDER requires in order to shoot (5.11) is made before the ATTACKER's shot if the DEFENDER's total Gun Duel DRM <= the ATTACKER's; otherwise its CA changes (if still able to) after the ATTACKER's shot. After the initial Gun Duel had been fully resolved, and if otherwise able and allowed to, that DEFENDER may announce another attack vs that ATTACKER who in turn may declare another Gun Duel; this time the printed ROF of one firing weapon on each side may be included as a -DRM in that side's Gun Duel DRM calculation. Only the ATTACKER may declare a Gun Duel [EXC: not if the DEFENDER has done so per 5.33].
Hit me with your best shot Shock & awe me aaron c  
Dumb as a post Dumber than shoes Megan Coughlin  
A watched pot never boils A watched microwave never pings Suezboo  
All the tea in China All the porn on the internet Danny D and the Defects  
Busier than a one-armed paperhanger Busier than a sailor on shore leave RustyBadger self-explanatory, I think!
A stitch in time saves nine. Enable Autosave! Carmen  
No shit, sherlock. Does a one-legged duck swim in a circle? Anonymous  
Kill two birds with one stone Steal two elections with one candidate Pete Stine oh, you KNOW who I mean.
Gone without a trace Gone 404. Ryan  
Stuck out like a sore thumb Stood out like a miniskirt in a monastery Lung the Younger  
Like a knife through butter Like a chainsaw through cheesecake Lung the Younger  
keep your eye on the ball Track it like NORAD Michael  
Nice guys finish last James Dean died young Ben Ide  
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Always the fluffer, never the porn star. Richard From my wife while trying to fluff a houseplant back into shape after a disastrous repotting.
Forgive and forget Flag and move on Cior  
Born with a silver spoon in his mouth Born with a venture capitalist in the family Cior  
As slow as molasses. Like Baldwin posting a Cliche Rotation Project update. Bill Braine Molasses flows very slowly because of its inordinately high viscosity. The very slow pace of this flow is reminiscent of the pace at which Matthew Baldwin, author of the popular blog "Defective Yeti" posts updates to his Cliche Rotation Project series of entries. Thus replacing the old standard simile "as slow as molasses" (used to describe the pace of change in a very slow process or the pace of physical movement of a particularly slow object or individual) with "like Baldwin posting a Cliche Rotation Project update" presents the listener/reader with a cognitively appropriate and mildly amusing (because of the tiny effort/reward of decoding the dynamic) new simile, perfect for use as (nerdy) parties.
September 24, 2007

Fetal Attraction

I'm going to write a thriller about a knight who returns home after a year in the Crusades, and finds his wife six-months pregnant despite wearing a chastity belt. It will be a locked-womb mystery.

September 18, 2007

Suddenly: Haiku!

He's so garrulous
To get a word in edgewise
Requires cloture

[ link | Misc]

September 17, 2007

The Oregon Pundit

I can't imagine anyone desiring a higher-caliber of poltiical commentary than the below, but, in the off-chance you do, check our my father's new blog, Oregon Pundit, where you'll find much, much less comma-abuse than exists in this sentence.

[ link | Links]

Second Ally To The Right, And Straight On 'Til Morning

In his recent speech on Iraq, Bush said "We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy."

This assertion--that there are as many as 36 nations aiding in the Iraqi war--has some calling the President delusional. Aside from the US and the United Kingdom, who else is really involved?

Responding to those who question his grip on reality, Bush today enumerated all 36 countires:

  • United Kingdom
  • Australia
  • Ukraine
  • Poland (don't forget!)
  • Denmark
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • Czech Republic
  • Macedonia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Latveria
  • El Salvador
  • Slovakia
  • Narnia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Bulgaria
  • Romania
  • Estonia
  • Quendor
  • The Shire
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • United Federation of Planets
  • Cimmeria
  • Mongolia
  • Sodor
  • Singapore
  • Dagobah
  • Oz
  • Mypos
  • Brobdingnag
  • Albania
  • Loompaland
  • Where The Wild Things Are
  • Lithuania
  • Mario World 2-3

Bush added that these allies are also aiding us in our struggle against Eastasia, with whom we have always been at war.

[ link | Lists]

September 14, 2007

The Bad Review Revue

License To Wed: "There's bad, there's awful and there's horrible, and then somewhere beyond that, in its own Kingdom of Lousy -- where all the milk curdles and the jokes aren't funny -- is License to Wed." -- Mick LaSalle, SAN FRANCSCO CHRONICLE

The Brothers Solomon: "The not-funniest comedy of the year." -- Michael Phillips, CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Death Sentence: "Kevin Bacon's performance is six degrees of ham." -- Jack Mathews, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

War: "What is it good for? Absolutely nothing." -- Jim Ridley, LA WEEKLY

Daddy Day Camp: "Has an amazing amount of CGI - Cuba Gooding Incompetence." -- Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST

Shouldn't Have Quit The Day Job
Sing, sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things not bad
Sing of happy not sad.

Sing, sing a song
Make it simple to last
Your whole life long
Don't worry that it's not
Good enough for anyone
Else to hear ...

Wait, what?

Hearing this song moments ago, I suddenly realized something: the lyrics are "don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear." That.

Ever since I was a kid, I've thought the word was "if." As in: "Don't worry if it's not good enough". As in, it was possible that my song was good enough. A longshot, perhaps, but there was at least a chance.

Come to discover, after all these years, that my song is not, in fact, good enough for anyone else to hear. It's not good enough now, and it never was.

I feel like I've been punched in the gut. I need to go lie down.

September 13, 2007

Book And Movie: The Prestige

Some people like books about cats that solve mysteries. Some people like books about rugged individuals wandering post-apocalyptic America. Me, I like books about magicians, escape artists, and mediums, set in eras when such professions were respectable. Thus my fondness for The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Carter Beats the Devil, Girl in the Glass (and why I will presumably love Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, if I can ever overcome my crippling fear of its sheer enormity and actually attempt to read it).

So picking up The Prestige was a no-brainer. Feuding magicians in the late nineteenth century, each desperate to discover the secret of his rival's greatest illusion? What's not to like?

After a brief introduction set in modern times, the novel is epistolary, supposedly the journals of Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier, illusionists who plied their trade in turn-of-the-(last)-century London. An altercation between the two men in their youth snowballs into lifelong tit-for-tatism, each oscillating between desire to see the other ruined and remorse over how prolonged and petty the grudgematch has become. Each man has a signature trick that involves teleportation: in The New Transported Man, Bordon steps into one cabinet and instantly emerges from another across the stage; during In A Flash, Angier disappears in a surge of electricity and re-enters the theater moments later, from the back of the galley. Though the tricks are nearly identical, their central mechanism are starkly different; the crux of the book is that each man is ignorant of how the other does his version of the illusion, and is haunted by the knowledge that his opponent might have a "superior" method.

Having quite enjoyed the novel, I picked up the DVD for the 2006 film and prepared for disappointment. Surprisingly, the movie was as good as the book, as the screenwriter and director chose to adapt the story for the screen, rather than slavishly adhere to the source material. The framing device for the book (a man in contemporary time who is given the journals to read) is jettisoned entirely, and some aspects of the relationship between Borden and Angier and changed as well. I wouldn't say that the film's revisions were necessarily better, but they are certainly more cinematic. Thus, neither pales in comparison to the other, as both are sufficiently distinct to stand on their own.

Still, despite their difference, both the novel and the film tackle the same central question: what will a man do to be the best in his profession? In the case of Borden and Angier, it's not only a question of what they will sacrifice to perfect their own illusions, but to what lengths they will go to destroy their rivals. Like master magicians adept in misdirection, both author Christopher Priest and director Christopher Nolan have crafted thrillers that keep you so engaged that you don't even realize the profundity of the questions they explore, until you find yourself ruminating about the story in the days and weeks to follow.

September 12, 2007

Kevin Meuller, Not So Much

This was a non-commercial commercial I heard on NPR yesterday:

Last year, 6,000 teens were killed in drunk driving accidents. We at Allstate Insurance think that's 6,000 teens too many.
Not bad at communicating the message "we care," I guess. But truly great ads are thought-provoking. If they had instead said "we think that's 5,992 teens too many," the listener would really start wondering about the other eight.

September 11, 2007

Re Rill

Still, to my mind, the most astonishing September 11th tribute of all time.

[ link | Misc]

September 10, 2007

Scare Tactics

I'm going to start 991, an emergency hotline for people who have the hiccups. "Oh my god!" I'll scream at the people who phone in. "A killer is calling from inside your house!!"

I'm also going to start a support line for People Who Do Not Currently Have A Song Jammed Into Their Head. It will just play this, 24/7.

September 07, 2007

One Hit Wonders

What ever happened to Exploding Lad? I reveal the answer in The Morning News today.

September 06, 2007


We're trying to get The Squiggle to say "I don't know" when he doesn't, well, know something. It's rough going, because it turns out that he's a bluffer par excellence. If he doesn't know what something is, he just makes something up. But there's no hint of deception. He really sells it.

{I hold up a Hotwheels.}

Me: What's this?

Squiggle: It's a car.

M: That's right.

{I hold up a mug.}

Me: What's this?

S: It's a cup.

M: It is a cup, good job!

{I hold up an huge binder clip.}

M: And what's this?

S: It's a flongle.

M: It's a-- what?

S: A flongle.

M: Look, if you don't know what it is, just say "I don't know." What is this?

S: I don't know.

M: It's a clip.

S: A clip.

M: Exactly.

{I hold up a pair of needlenose pliers.}

M: What's are these?

S: Those are jemplons.

Hopefully we'll be able to break him of this habit soon.

On the other hand, we're going to feel like idiots if we later find out that flongle and jemplons are the words for clip and pliers in Aramaic .

Reading the Dictionary Squiggle reads the dictionary,
in preparation for another round
of What's This?
September 04, 2007

Scent Of A Woman

Squiggle and are in the grocery store. We enter the aisle containing laundry detergent, and are immediately assaulted by the cloying scent of lavender.

"Hoooo-wee" I say to Squiggle cheerfully. "Something stinks!"

A woman nearby shoots me a dirty look and hastily stalks away. Only after she's gone do I realize we'd been smelling her perfume.

September 03, 2007

Elsewhere Me

My short story "Customer Service" appears in issue 19 of Thuglit. Also in that issue is a story by Linda Sharps of All & Sundry, who says she was inspired to submit it by my Web Noir essay that mentioned Thuglit. Sweet.

Speaking of The Morning News, last week they asked the contributing writers to recommend a bottled beverage. You can find my response, along with the rest, here.

I have a short article in the September issue of Seattle Metropolitan Magazine, describing my adventures in busking.

As threatened, Eden has wreaked her revenge.