Observations

 

June 02, 2009

Protip

If you are in a gas station convenience mart at 1:00 in the afternoon, and woman enters wearing a terrycloth bathrobe and slippers, having left a 1989 Chevy Blazer idling five feet from the front doors, it's best not to position yourself between her and the cigarettes.

December 15, 2008

My Workplace Celebrates Diversity

 

My workplace celebrates diversity

 

July 08, 2008

Back in the Day When We All Thought We'd Die

I have a love-hate relationship with KNHC, Seattle's local "dance music" radio station. Well, honestly, it's more love-love (though that fact alone induces in me no small amount of self-loathing). The music these guys play is to street cred what plaque is to tooth enamel, and yet I can't help but tune in from time to time. C89 was, after all, voted "Coolest Radio Station" by my graduating class in high school (narrow edging out K-Plus FM), and is one of the first frequencies I recall listening to on a regular basis, as I alternated between 89.5 on the FM dial and 1600 on the AM (RIP, KJET*). Given that C89 adopted the "dance music" format in 1983, it's fair to say that I've been listening to them for a quarter century now. Ugh. In retrospect I really wish I hadn't done the math on that one.

The nice thing about C89, though, is that they only have 15 songs in the rotation at any given time, so you can keep up-to-date with their playlist just by listening for a few commutes every other month or so. I did so yesterday, and was treated to a new ditty by Madonna & Justin Timberlake:

Warning: Awful.

Apparently--and this will no doubt surprise you as much as it did me--Madonna and Justin only got 4 minutes to save the world, only got 4 minutes, wika wika, 4 minutes. And I hear this song and think, "wow, that's a powerful and socially-relevant message they got there, as they are no doubt referencing the Doomsday Clock and are rallying their young listeners to the cause of greenhouse gas reduction, reminding them that climate change is at pressing and urgent issue that threaten catastrophic destruction if left unchecked."

Honest to god, I thought all that.

To confirm my hypothesis, I checked songmeanings.com when I got home, to see how others interpreted these lyrics pregnant with symbolism. Here is a smattering of the speculation I found:

Does anyone know what this song is about? It makes absolutely no sense.

I think its pretty meaningless, just about dancing in a club ("Grab a boy, Grab a girl").

There is simply no meaning to this song. Justin Timberlake wrote some of it, so that's no surprise.

Simply just about lust or some crap like everyone sings about nowadays.

isn't it "we only got four minutes to SAY THE WORD?" i have no idea why the would say save the world.. that doenst make sense.

How is old is Madonna already? Like 70? And JT is still only in his teens? Hello! With all the female 40-something teachers having sex underage boys, you'd think Madonna and JT would be more responsible!

well if they only had 4 minutes to save the world, i guess we should all be dead right now, cuz this song sucks -_-

Oh. Uhh, okay. Perhaps I overanalyzed.

See, but here's the thing: back when I was your age, every third song on C89 was on the theme of IMMINENT APOCALYPSE, typically of the nuclear variety. If a song entitled "4 Minutes to Save the World" had been released back then, you can bet that the subtext would have been, "LOL there's no way to save the world sike."

And it wasn't just top 40 radio, either. In the 80's, the idea that we were one flock of geese away from Fiery Death From Above permeated pop culture, from television to literature to video games to comic books to movies and movies and movies.

But you have to sit down and watch a television program, read a book, travel to the theater to catch a film. Pop music was everywhere, and served as our perpetual Harbinger of Doom back in the 80's. One minute Bobby McFerrin was urging you to not worry and be happy, the next Sting was musing aloud as to whether the Russians loved their children too. (Confidential to Gordon: Apparently they did--more so than Americans it seems, as they at least did not subject their youth to your terrible song).

And so, a muxtape for you. Relive those halcyon day when we all thought we'd die. Or, if you are a younger reader, experience them for the first time--they were a blast!

* Great Scott, a KJET tribute station?! Oh NetarWeb, is there nothing you can't provide?

June 18, 2008

We're Here To Pump {Clap, Clap} Some Gas

You can tell my gym is situated in the suburbs because it has no bike racks out front, instead boasting an enormous parking lot in which SUVs and Hummers endlessly circle as the drivers search for a spot close to the entrance to minimize their walk.

May 14, 2008

My Microwave Has a Setting for Everything

 

I hit some secret combination of buttons and unlocked Witch Mode.

May 05, 2008

Superhero Movie Pet Peeves

This post contains massive spoilers for Iron Man, and pretty much every other superhero movie of the last two decades.


Reverse-Flash
Harnessing the power of dumb
As I mentioned in my review, I thought the new Iron Man movie was fantastic ... except for the parts that involved Iron Man, which lacked a certain je ne sais quoi (French for "Robert Downey Jr.").

I was particularly unimpressed with the Big Climatic Fight Scene, and a little irritated that it fully embraced one of my Superhero Movie Pet Peeves and flirted with a second. To wit:

Pet Peeve #1: The bad guy has exactly the same powers and abilities as the good guy Honestly, this drives me nuts. Who thinks this is a good idea?

Lots of comic book writers apparently. Back in the day when I routinely read comic books (late 80's), it seemed that every hero had his evil twin as his archnemesis. Flash fought Reverse-Flash, who was as fast as The Flash but bad!. (I previously ranted about Reverse-Flash here). Green Lantern fought Sinestro, an ex-Corps member who also possessed a Power Ring. Wolverine fought Sabertooth, Spider-Man fought Venom, Superman fought Bizarro, and so forth.

Of course when the two people fighting are of exactly equal power and ability, it kind of doesn't matter how "super" they are--Captain Marvel scraping with Black Adam is really no different from two five year-olds trading blows over a package of Necco wafers, two grandmasters playing chess for 17 hours before ending the game in a draw, or a couple of pissed off roosters in a cockpit.

Much more interesting, to my mind, are the asymmetrical rivalries. Batman is in peak physical form; The Joker is frail (in the hands of most writers), but utterly unpredictable, even to a master strategist such as Bruce Wayne. Superman v. Luthor is another good one, with the discrepancy between their (physical) power and adherence to morality even wider. Perhaps the greatest asymmetrical skirmish in literature is also one of the most engrossing: J. R. R. Tolken managed to squeeze over a thousand pages out of the Frodo vs. Sauron cagematch.

But in Iron Man, the movie (this is where the spoilers start), Stark winds up battling: another Iron Man. A bigger one, sure, but the whole thing pretty much degenerates into Robot Slugfest '08. People, if I'd wanted to watch Transformers, I woulda downloaded it from Mininova like everyone else.

Worse, it looks as if the upcoming Hulk film is going to follow exactly the same pattern.: from what I glean from the trailer (which was pretty much everything), the climactic battle in that film is Hulk Vs. Reverse-Hul- I mean "Abomination". I know Marvel Studios also has "Captain America" and "Thor" films slated for next year--are we just going to see the same formula played out four times in a row, followed by "Avengers Vs. Vengers" in 2010?

Pet Peeve #2: The whole story is self-contained This is when the hero causes the very problem he is fighting to solve, or is just struggling to save his own miserable skin. In Iron Man, the power source and armor that Tony Stark creates while in captivity fall into the hands of his bad-guy business partner, and his heroics revolve around his attempts to destroy them. Fortunately there's a bigger issue at stake (Stark's desire to turn his company around), because, without it, the audience might think, "well, hell: if Stark had just been killed in the first 10 minutes of the film, there'd be no need for an Iron Man, as his own designs wouldn't have become a threat to world peace."

I understand the point of making the final battle personal for the protagonist, but these circular plots often seem like the hero is more motivated by a desire to undo his mistakes or avenge his dead parents (see 1989's Batman) than do anything, you know, heroic. I get enough frantic ass coverage and settlement of petty grudges at the office, thanks.

April 07, 2008

defective yeti's Kost Kutting Korner

Tip #22: Limiting your weekly showers to one or two can save you a lot of money on water, soap, shampoo, and dating.

January 17, 2008

Social Skills

Raising an autistic child is a little different than raising a neurotypical. For instance, the other day The Queen and I had this exchange:

Me: Squiggle is getting really good at talking to strangers.

The Queen: I know, isn't it great?

And today there was this:
Me: How was the library?

The Queen: Okay, but there was little boy about Squiggles age playing with the puzzles. And when Squiggle tried to play with him, and the boy said "No, go away" and Squiggle cried.

Me: My son got his feelings hurt and cried in public? Yes! High five!!

In other words, we work hard to inculcate in Squiggle the same behaviors and emotional responses that the mass media seems determined to eradicate from everyone else.

January 15, 2008

Heavy Petting

 

These Fancy Feast commercials are essentially porn movies for lonely librarians. The idea that your cat would condescend to sit in your lap and be cuddled after receiving some cod-flavored glop is about as far-fetched as the Comcast guy having sex with a beautiful woman because he fixed her cable.

December 20, 2007

God Bless Ye Merry Syngamy ...

If life begins at conception as so many evangelicals insist, shouldn't we be celebrating Christmas around April Fool's Day, when the Big Guy first knocked Mary up?

Update: Apparently it's called Annunciation and falls on March 25th. Man, those Christians think of everything! For the whole day celebrants mark the occasion by writing sentences without periods

December 07, 2007

Bulimics Press Their Own Coin Return

I think vending machines are a race of parasitic, interstellar robots that has adapted to Earth by evolving a digestive system capable of metabolizing coins and excreting 2.5 oz. bags of Cheez-Its.

November 08, 2007

Elmo Loves You!

Watching Sesame Street today with Squiggle, it suddenly occurred to me that every time Maria hugs Elmo, some lecherous muppeteer is copping a feel.

October 05, 2007

Brave New World

Opened my mailbox yesterday to find this catalog:

Dystopia

The dystopia envisioned by generations of science-fiction writers arrived at some point, but no one really seemed to notice.

September 14, 2007

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 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.

August 29, 2007

The Hoax
CORRECTION

An earlier version of this article quoted from a blog entry purportedly by the Rev. Al Sharpton. MSNBC.com has determined that the blog is a hoax ...

No. No. No, no, stop it. I swear, "hoax" is rapidly becoming the most intentionally misused word in currency.

The above was taken from an MSNBC article about Michael Vick that included a lengthy quotation taken from Newsgroper.com. Newsgroper is devoted to "Fake Parody Blogs, Political Humor, [and] Celebrity Satire," a fact stated right in the titlebar. It makes no attempt to pawn its stories off as real.

Which is, of course, a key component of a hoax: intent. Merriam-Webster: "hoax, noun. 1: an act intended to trick or dupe; 2: something accepted or established by fraud or fabrication."

You could argue that the articles on Newsgroper are fabrications. But how do you justify "SUBSTANCE FOUND AT IKEA PROVES TO BE A HOAX," the headline on a New Haven city webpage, describing the incident in which a running club sprinkled flour in an IKEA parking lot to guide joggers, only to have local authorities react like it was the season finale of 24? The substance itself was a hoax? Someone somewhere had to fabricate the flour, I suppose--wheat doesn't grow on trees, you know--but where, exactly, is the trick, dupe, or fraud?

Hoax's reign as the scapegoat du jour dates back to the Boston "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" debacle in February of this year. "Two plead not guilty to Boston hoax charges" the CNN headline read, and the Boston authorities used the word "hoax" to describe the incident as often as they could. The advantages of labeling something like this a hoax are obvious: you didn't massively overreact to a situation that the average person recognized as harmless, you were tricked into doing so! You didn't just take a quotation from a clearly phony article on a random webpage and build a story around in, you were duped! You're not an idiot, you're just easily gulled! (This argument reminds me of the Democrats claiming that they voted in favor of the Iraq war because the White House tricked them into doing so ... not that getting outwitted by Bush is any less embarrassing than getting outwitted by flour.)

If you want some example of legitimate hoaxes, you need look no farther than those bandying around the term. These are the people who intend to trick or dupe, to hide their own culpability behind a malapropism. Whenever I hear the word "hoax" leave the mouth of someone in power, I like to imagine it wearing a little t-shirt reading "I'm With Stupid."

Update: The City of New Haven updated their page about an hour ago, changing the headline. The original is cached here.

August 23, 2007

Atonal

Just to clarify, that last post was wholly invented. I still do not have a cellphone.

I have, however, been thinking a about ringtones a lot in the last two days, trapped, as I am, in a jury holding area with 200-odd other Seattlites. When you take a random sampling of the population these days, you also get a random sampling of ringtones, and I've been treated to snippets from everything from rock to pop to classical to Star Trek sound effects.

I find it funny that people don't change their ringtones for certain occasions. The same guy who gets all dressed up in a suit and tie to jury duty thinks nothing of arriving with a cellphone set to "Quacking Duck."

June 08, 2007

Shawskank Redemption*

I was watching CNN this afternoon, and someone was talking about Paris Hilton's hearing. Because cameras weren't allowed in the courtroom, the "reporter" held up artist sketches of the heiress as she spoke, having apparently forgotten that we Americans now have a portion of our brains devoted to Paris Hilton imagery. So all she really need to do was just say some keywords--"Paris sad," "Paris indignant," "Paris naughty bits"--and the corresponding visual would involuntarily flash before our mind's eye.

Scientists believe that the "Frontal Hobe" is an evolutionary adaptation, similar to the camel's hump, allowing us to weather those stretches of 30 to 40 seconds when CNN accidentally covers actual news.

* Thanks, Daily Show!
May 14, 2007

Bike To Work Week

May 14-18 is Ride Your Bike To Work Week. So if you've been meaning to do that, you should probably do that.

If the route to your workplace involves riding in traffic for any length of time, I would doubly recommend you make the effort--especially if, like me, you are a middle-class, heterosexual, thirtysomething, college-educated, healthy white American male. It breeds humility, spending an hour each day at the absolute bottom of a social hierarchy.

May 09, 2007

Big Cac

I saw a billboard this morning that featured the McDonalds Southwest Salad and the motto "Less Dangerous Than Eating A Cactus."

At least, I assume that's a motto. On further consideration, though, having to compare the consumption of their food to the eating of cacti might be some sort of FDA-mandated warning label. Like, maybe it was originally supposed to be, "McDonalds: Less Dangerous Than Eating A Cactus; More Dangerous Than Eating Pretty Much Any Thing Else" but the crack Micky-D legal team managed to plea bargain down to just the first half.

May 03, 2007

Al-Qaeda Incorporated

The US says it has killed yet another "senior al-Qaida leader". Not bin Laden, someone a few boxes down on the org chart.

You can tell that the folks running this war have spent their entire lives in politics or the military. If they had spent some time in the business world, they'd know that the quickest way to cripple an organization is to increase its ranks of middle-management, not thin them.

Instead of firing laser-guided missiles at these guys, we should be sending them laser pointers and complementary copies of Powerpoint.

May 02, 2007

Pitchforks And Permalinks

As the previous post illustrates, "blog" is pretty much just "mob" spelled backwards.

April 30, 2007

Trifecta

I like riding my bicycle to work. By the time I arrive at the office, my body is flooded with my three favorite substances: adrenaline, endorphins, and self-righteousness.

April 11, 2007

Egged On

The vending machine at my work contains Hershey's Ultimate Soft-Baked Cookies.

From a marketing standpoint, I guess the name "Soft-Baked Cookies" is catchier than "Undercooked Pastries." Though not as clever as "Salmo-Nilla Wafers."

March 26, 2007

More Odorous Than A Flowering Gardenia
 

I'm actually kind of impressed by how many ways this offends me.

Curmudgeon: With crap like this on the market, I'm beginning to think Marx had a point.

Father: I'm going to pass on having my three year-old son smell like musk, thanks.

Nerd: Superman is DC, not Marvel! Dude, don't even talk to me if you can't keep your comic book universes straight.

January 29, 2007

A Hashbrown Named Desire

The following post was inspired by the eighty-second suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Tom Fakes of CRAZ8.

I bought some frozen hashbrowns. The cooking directions say "Microwave for 90 seconds, if desired."

I'm glad they specified that they should only be cooked when desired. I can't tell you how many times I've taken a plate of streaming hot hashbrowns out of the microwave and thought, "Man, I wish I was hungry. What the fuck am I going to do with these?"

January 16, 2007

Synergy

I remember the first time The Squirrelly saw a photo of a fox. I had just picked up a book called "Foxes and Their Dens" from the library and, upon arriving home, handed it to him. He looked at the cover and said "dog!" Then he appeared unsure of himself. After a moment's consideration he tentatively ventured "kitty?"

"No, it's a fox," I told him.

He looked at me confused, as if to say "Wha-?! It's a dog and a kitty in the same animal?"

 
December 20, 2006

WTFFFF?

I've noticed that people have started writing "actual LOL" in emails and on message boards, to signify that they are not just using the term figuratively, but that something really caused them to laugh. Of course, it's only a matter of time before this phrase is also acronyminized and becomes ubiquitous, forcing people to take their calcifications to the whole next level.

Man, I feel sorry for the IM'ers of the future, who will have no choice but to type "Actual AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALOL!" and "O RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY RLY??!" They will look back on the era of three-letter acronyms with the kind of heartwarming nostalgia we feel when we reminisce about the Atari 2600 and polio.

November 13, 2006

Three Things

1. Today Bush attended a a study group; next week he'll be going to Vietnam. Maybe he's having a midlife crisis or something, and frantically trying to do all those things he didn't do as a youth.

2. Am I mistaken in my belief that duct tape doesn't actually stick to anything? I was lugging a roll of it around with me yesterday as I did home repair stuff, and was amazed at the wide variety of surfaces and textures it steadfastly refuses to adhere to. Duct tape is like the Paris Hilton of hardware: it has this huge reputation, despite having never done anything useful.

3. Back when I was in middle school, it seems like I used the phrase "pop a boner" at least two or three times daily. Now, despite my best efforts, I am only able to use the phrase in casual conversation or work email a few times a month. Oh, where have those carefree days of youth gone?

September 27, 2006

Survival of the Spinest

The spinach / illness outbreak has been traced to a company called "Natural Selection". I bet their mission statement reads "Use Darwinian techniques to create a breed of E. coli-resistant homo sapiens."

September 05, 2006

I Like Like

This afternoon my local NPR station had a program devoted to language -- specifically, which words people love and hate. As with most things in this world, the hate:love ratio was skewed heavily in favor of the former. For every person calmly rhapsodizing about the beauty of "loquacious," there were half a dozen Angry Grammarians incensed by "very unique" and railing against "I could care less."

I'm amazed by how worked up people get over this stuff. Yes, I have long disliked the misuse of "literally," dating back to my first day of college when my English 101 professor said the school had so many new student that it was "literally bursting at the seams," but my emotional response pretty much tops out at "slightly annoyed". Some of the folks calling into the program, meanwhile, sounded like they were ready to knife the next person to mix up "imply" and "infer." And nearly all of them claimed that their linguistic pet peeve drove them crazy or drove them nuts. After a while I felt like calling in and saying, "You know what drives me crazy? People who equate the steady deterioration of mental health with a mild irritation over the use of "irregardless."

The usual whipping boy in these lexical bitchfests is the word "like." Everyone lambasts the word as meaningless filler, abused by unintelligible mumblers who can't string together three words without having to stall for time. It's ironic* that a word meaning "affection" gets so little.

Me, I like like. I think it's a great word. And I suspect that those who dismiss it as vacuous are not listening to how it is actually used.

In truth, like has a fairly well-defined a widely understood meaning when used in conversation. It signals that the facts being related are guesswork and hyperbole, or that the dialogue being recounted is a paraphrase at best. It serves as a warning to the listener: Caveat Emptor.

Really, "like" is more than just a word -- it is practically a auxiliary verb that puts the entire statement into a new tense. Call it the "Past Approximate." If someone tells you they once ate fourteen eggs in one sitting, you recognize that is a boast; if someone says they ate, like, fourteen eggs, you know instinctively that the number was probably closer to five.

Critics of "like" point to it's excessive use by youth as proof that every successive generation is getting dumber. The must be used judiciously, to be sure -- I also like the word "callipygian," but wouldn't want to hear it six times in a sentence (well, depends on the sentence, I guess).. But perhaps widespread use of the Present, Past, and Future Approximate tense actually demonstrates the opposite, that kids today are more comfortable with nuance and subtlety than their forefathers, more aware that anything communicated by something as clumsy as speech can only come within spitting distance of reality.

* Send enraged screeds about my inappropriate usage of "ironic" to johnmoe@monkeydisaster.com.
August 25, 2006

Brash Machine

My local ATM has become aggressively informal. At first it was just small things, like saying "Sure" and "No, thanks" instead of "yes" and "no" when asking if I want a receipt. But now it's completely out of control. Now it's all, "Howdie-ho, neighbor! Hot enough for ya? Well golly gee willikers, what can I do you for?"

Obviously some bank honcho thinks that patrons will respond favorably to this folksy, conversational style, but I find it repellant. I don't even like it when actual-human colleagues call me "Matt," so I don't really need a freakin' machine chumming up to me like we've just spent the evening polishing off a half-rack of Coors.

And it seems to be worse every time I go there. At this point, pretty much every question and menu option has been meticulously phrased to be as laid-back as possible, and they've even revised some of the older, breezy responses to make them more casual. God knows where it will end.

 
August 17, 2006

Threat Level Bershon

According to an article in today's New York Times "behavior detection officers" at airports are now keeping an eye out for persons wearing the following expressions:

In other words, in addition to having to forgo your iPod and hair gel you will now be required to check in your teen prior to boarding.

I understand they've carved out a little space for the youngsters down in the cargo hold, where they will be serving Hi-C and showing The Apple Dumpling Gang. Oh, that sounds delightful!

July 17, 2006

I Guess We'll Need A Sitter After All

 

July 10, 2006

Crude and Oil

Best Ann Coulter interview ever.

I've recently started listening to the Adam Corolla show in the morning. I couldn't stand The Man Show or Loveline, but Corolla is well suited to freeform, topic-less rambling and raving. He seems like he might be jerk, but he's a highly-intelligent jerk with a trigger-quick wit and a wizard with the ad-lib analogy. He is flanked by Affable Goofball Dave Damesheck and Remarkably Good Sport Teresa Strasser. Here is a snippet of typical banter .

Much of the show is sexist, racist, mean-spirited, and just plain boorish, and I occasionally have to switch to NPR reassure myself that I am still an liberal elitist. But my commute is only 10 minutes long, and that's usually the perfect dose of these guys. (Though I will then sometimes listen to them on my walkman again later in the morning, as I use the ecliptic trainer at the gym. It was there that I heard the above Coulter interview, and could not stop guffawing.)

Speaking of Corolla, this morning he spoke with Chris Paine, writer and director of the film Who Killed The Electric Car?. They talked a bit about the various conspiracy theories surrounding the auto industry, pointing out that GM introduced an electric car in 1990, only to later recall and destroy nearly all of the vehicles the moment the law requiring 10% of California cars to be electric was repealed.

That's a pretty good conspiracy theory, as these things go. But I think mine is better. I don't think cars run on gasoline at all. I think that, after the crisis of the 70's, car manufactures figured out how to make their products run on air, but when the oil companies objected they agreed to hornswoggle consumers into believing that gas was still necessary: A fuel hole that goes nowhere, a device in the useless tailpipe that produces smoke, and a mechanism that shuts down the car if the gas needle ever reaches "E."

Think about it: you never actually see any of the purported "fuel" you put into your Chevy: you put a nozzle into your gas tank hole, you wait a few minutes, you take it out, and then you gotta pay thirty bucks. (60's era comedian, with a scotch in one hand and a cigar in the other: "Sounds a lot like my love life.")

July 01, 2006

On England V. Portugal

Penalty kicks are such a stupid way of deciding a soccer game. Over 120 minutes of a team sport with final score determined by a series of mano a mano face-offs.

Penalty kicks are so dissimilar to regular soccer that it's almost a different game entirely, like the outcome of a tied Cavaliers v. Timberwolves basketball game settled by LeBron James and Kevin Garnett playing Twister at mid-court. Come to think of it though, that, unlike penalty kicks, might be interesting to watch.

June 22, 2006

Slammin'

When Coca-cola debuted it was sold in 6 oz. bottles. Six ounces! Today the thought of drinking a mere 6 oz. of Coke seems unfathomably quaint, like riding around in a carriage or steadfastly refusing to believe it's not butter.

I remember buying the 8 oz. "half cans" of Coke at the local market when I was a kid, but the 12 oz. can reigned supreme for the last few decades. No longer, though. Now the standard unit of Coke (here in the Northwest, at least) is 20 oz. -- you can no longer find the smaller-sized cans of soda at gas stations or convenience stores, and even vending machines now dispense plastic bottles.

When Coke sold in 6 oz. bottles it was billed as the "pause" that refreshes. Now it's a motherlovin' sabbatical.

You'd think that there would be a logical upper-limit to the amount of cola soft drink companies could pawn off as the "standard." You'd think that, but apparently you'd be wrong. Wendy's, for instance, is currently renaming its drink sizes, and what was once a "Biggie" Mountain Dew is now a "medium." In other words, their "standard" size contains 32 oz. So does the 7-11 "Big Gulp" -- and it's the smallest of the Gulp family, which includes the Super Big Gulp (44 oz.), the X-Treme Big Gulp (52 oz.), and the Brobdingnagian Gulp (a Coca-cola syrup canister with a straw stuck into it). We can't raise the minimum wage in this country, but the minimum serving size of Sprite just goes up and up and up.

"Sure," you might argue, "but those are fountain drinks, which are 50% ice anyhow. But the standard size of soft drinks sold in stores can't possibly get any bigger than 20 oz." Au contraire, Mon Pèpper! Here's the side of a vending machine I saw today, photographic evidence that the cola companies are already laying the psychological groundwork for future increases:

I'm just growing accustomed to drinking 20 oz. of soda in a single sitting, and now I'm told that such a quantity is suitable for "slamming" "quickly?" Um, you go first. For some reason I find the thought having my esophagus lining stripped off by carbonic acid unappealing. But I'm sure it gets easier over time, as the scar tissue builds up in there.

I think the cola companies have one simple goal: to only have to make their product in a single size -- perferably a size they already produce so they won't have to modify their existing facilities. And they're well on their way. All they have to do is increment the "standard" a few more times over the next few years and, by 2010, drinking a two-liter bottle of Coke with your lunchtime Reuben will be considered the norm. We're gonna need some bigger cupholders.

June 15, 2006

Break A Leg!

My favorite aspect of the World Cup is the theatrics. You know, like the way that any two players that pass within 70 ft. of one another will immediately drop to the ground, clutch their right knee, and writhe around in unbearable agony -- and then, five seconds later, and completely irrespective of whether the official calls a foul or not, leap back to their feet and charge back into the action. There is more dramatics in a 90 minute soccer game than an entire season of your local repertoire theater. In the off season I bet these guys supplement their income by going to the local Piggly-Wiggly, pretending to slip on a wet spot on the floor, and doing their "Sweet Jesus I've torn every ligament in my thigh!" routine until the liability lawyers come a-running.

I also love the way how, after the ball goes out-of-bounds or there is foul, each player involved will stop, stare directly at the referee, and act out the call he wants the official to make. And then the ref goes ahead and makes whatever ruling he was going to issue anyway. It's as if every team were made up of the galaxy's most ineffectual Jedis.

June 13, 2006

My Arms Being Tired Implies That I Flew Here Without Mechanical Assistance

Over dinner Saturday night a four year-old told me this joke:

Him: Knock knock.

Me: Who's there?

Me: Undies.

Me: Undies who?

Him: Undies pants!

Yes, it lacks some of the surreal sublimity of the jokes found in the Achoo'nior repertoire, but y'gotta give the kid credit for having The World's Funniest Word (underpants) as a punchline and using a synonym for it (undies) in the setup. That youngster knows what the audience craves and, by gum, he gonna give it to 'em.

Speaking of jokes, I saw an ad for The Simpsons on TV the other day, which featured this snippet of comedy gold:

Home: You're sure spending a lot of time with Moe.

Bart: Yeah, he's like the father I never had.

{Beat}

Homer: Wait a minute: I'm your father!

It's so nice to see that the writers on The Simpsons have, at long last, adopted the Joke 3.0 format.

To put this in context, I'll need to give you a quick primer in the history of the joke.

Jokes originated in ancient Egypt, though the earliest consisted of only the straightline.

Sphinx: What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?

Ramses II: I don't know.

Sphinx: No one does.

{Awkward silence}

Ramses II: I really think you should get that thing on your nose looked at.

Jokes persisted in this form for thousands of years. They were particularly popular with Zen monks, who would ask each other "What is the sound of one hand laughing?" or "What is the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the west?" and then collapse into hysterics.

Then, in 1882, George Washington Carter revolutionized comedy with his invention of the punchline.

George Washington Carver: What do you call four nuns and a bicycle with no seat?

Nick Fury, who has been sent back in time to assassinate the grandfather of Benito Mussolini: I don't know, what?

George Washington Carver: Peanuts!

It took a few more years of combining various straightline and punchlines to refine the formula ("What's brown and sticky? Arr, it's drivin' me nuts!"), but soon the "joke" as we know it was perfected.

But did we Americans rest on our laurels? NO! In the late 20th century we pioneered Joke 3.0, which added a third line -- the explainline aftermirth -- to the equation. Pioneered by such ground-breaking shows as Home Improvement and the comic styling of Gallagher, the explainline aftermirth finally made humor accessible to everyone, even mooncalves like you and I.

Oh I get it: Homer is his father! It's funny because it's true!

So next time you tell your favorite joke, don't forget the explainline aftermirth:

Why are fish so smart?

Because they live in schools.

The word "school" could refer to either a group of fish or a place where children are educated!


Did you hear about the psychic in San Francisco who specialized in predicting bad breath?

Her sign read "Super California mystic, expert: halitosis."

The people in California are so dumb they elected Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor -- you can't help but laugh!


Supreme Court Justice One: Who's there?

Supreme Court Justice Two: Undies.

Supreme Court Justice One: Undies who?

Supreme Court Justice Two: Undies pants!

Supreme Court Justice One: I'm afraid I'm still not entirely clear on who you are.

Supreme Court Justice Two: "Underpants" is the world's funniest word.

Supreme Court Justice One: Hahahaha!

And remember: it's innovations like Joke 3.0, born of pure Yankee ingenuity, that have made our nation the "shining city on the hill" it is today.

That's sarcasm. In truth the United States is not highly regarded in the International community!

May 25, 2006

The Most Loneliest Jack of My Life

You know who the most boring people in the world are? People who describe television commercials to those who haven't seen them.

And yet ...

So there’s this television commercial running here in Seattle for a radio station called "Jack FM." (Note: I only saw the ads once, so everything that follows is a Dramatic Recreation, and could be 100% misremembered / wrong.) It features a guy throwing his Nirvana and Pearl Jam CDs into a dustbin, while a voiceover says: "Tired of hearing to the same old music, Seattle? Jack FM is liberating listeners from the same-old same-old." And, to illustrate the point, Joan Jett’s "I Love Rock And Roll" kicks in at that moment.

Omigod, "I Love Rock And Roll" by Joan Jett! Boy, that sure takes me back. All the way back to the last time I heard that song, which, at any given point in my adult life, has never been longer than 72 hours.

I actually listened to Jack 96.5 once. I was tooling around the FM dial one afternoon and stumbled across this bizarro station that featured "the best of the 80’s, 90’s and today" and no DJs whatsoever. They played a series of hits so familiar that you could belt out any one of them at karaoke even after imbibing several gallons of sake, and occasionally, between songs, a prerecorded voice would come on and bellow some nonsensical phrase, usually a cliché with one random word replaced with "Jack" (e.g., "A fool and his Jack are soon parted!" or "A Jack and his money are soon parted!" or "A fool and his money Jack soon parted!")

In other words, Jack FM is just about the farthest thing from The Same-Old Same-Old Liberation Front imaginable. I’d speculate that the music was programmed in a nondescript building somewhere in the Midwest if I thought it was programmed at all; instead I’m guessing there’s an 500-song iPod somewhere hooked up to a radio antenna and set on perpetual shuffle-play. And yet here's this ad, promoting Jack FM as the Really Real For-Real Alternative Radio Station, bold enough to play those songs that have been heard at every single wedding reception since 1979. You could pretty much hear the same playlist (with none of the commercials) by locking yourself in the bathroom of your local grocery store.

If George Orwell were like George Lucas (and less dead), constantly going back and inserting new material into his masterpiece, he'd probably add "CONFORMITY IS REBELLION" to the list of Oceania's Party slogans. YES IM SO INCENSED I HAVE NO RECOURSE BUT TO MAKE A 1984 REFERENCE!!

(After writing the above I checked out the Wikiepedia entry on Jack FM, which reads "The stations are officially classified as the Variety Hits or Adult Hits format ... but listeners sometimes refer to the stations as random radio or an 'iPod shuffle.'" WTF -- I though I came up with that "iPod shuffle" line. Apparently you can't even talk about Jack FM without becoming banal. And here's an article from Business Week on the Jack FM business model, in case you're interested.)

As long as I'm in Cranky Old Man mode, here, have you heard "Lonely Day," this new song by System Of A Down? I'm not one of those people who reflexively badmouths Top 40 music -- I own both a Blink 182 and a Third Eye Blind CD, for crissakes, and have even defended Creed in my day -- but Great Grandmother of Cher is this song ever bad.

The music itself is forgettable, but the lyrics would probably sweep the Bulwer-Lytton contest. Here's how it starts:

Such a lonely day
And its mine
The most loneliest day of my life

Such a lonely day
Should be banned
This day that I can't stand

The most loneliest day of my life
The most loneliest day of my life ...

You heard the man, kids: "most loneliest." I have no objection to a songwriter sticking an extra word in here and there to make a line fit the meter, but we're talking about the motherloving chorus. And each line of the chorus contains eight beats, while the phrase "the most loneliest day of my life" contains nine. That's right, the signer shoehorns a superfluous "most" into a line that would otherwise have been both grammatically and metrically correct, and then rushes through the word "loneliest" to compensate. (You sort of have to listen to the song to appreciate this, but -- let me state this plainly -- I am not recommending you do.)

I'm willing to overlook the fact that he begins by rhyming "mine" with "life" since it's well nigh impossible to find any words that rhymes with either. And I assume that the misuse of the word "its" in the second line above is the fault of whomever transcribed the song's lyrics onto the website I stole them from. But, honestly, this song is so awful I can almost hear the apostrophes's absence when it comes on the radio.

It's no "Brass Monkey" by the Beastie Boys, but it's a bad one for the ages, that's for certain. If you haven't heard it yet, don't you worry. I'm sure it will be in heavy rotation on Jack FM by 2015 or so.

May 16, 2006

There's A Hole In Your Business Plan

Every day during my morning commute I pass a store called "Westernco Donut" and marvel that it is still open.


You'd think they'd have sold that donut by now.

May 15, 2006

Because It's Easier To Write Short, Pithy Truisms Than Actual Blog Posts

Laugh and the world laughs with you;
Weep and the world laughs at you.

May 11, 2006

Announcement

I think the secret to happiness is to care a lot about people who care about you, and to not care too much about anything else.

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.

February 21, 2006

Plane Speaking

I'm in DC this week. I flew in yesterday. As the plane left the ground the stewardess came on the intercom and told us that this would be the captain's last flight, and he would be retiring tomorrow. Not comforting. I've seen enough cop movies to know what will happens to the the grizzled old veteran (and presumably everyone on the grizzled old veteran's plane) when someone mentions, in the first act, that it's his last day on the job before retirement.

I had a window seat above the wing. On the engine I could see a red circle, with a pictogram of a man inside it and a line crossing him out. I wasn't sure if this was to warn people from getting too close, or if the captain was an ex-WWII ace and was keeping a record of his kills.

Also: I must be getting old, because I now firmly of the opinion that members of a flight crew should not refer to one another as "bro."

February 06, 2006

Humbug

The fact that an "Everything But The Girl" song is being used to hawk Hummers makes me want to go Amish.

January 31, 2006

American Priorities

Funny Joke: what's the difference between breast milk and steamed milk?

A: You can sell steamed milk for 10¢ an ounce!

The full text of the billboard -- which can only be read by standing directly below it -- is "Babies are made to be breastfed." The URL below the slogan -- really, the entire point of the PSA -- is completely blocked by the building.

And lest you think that the sign is only obscured at this angle, here is the view from the street.

January 18, 2006

Catch 3.14

I notice that that Guinness Book of World Records has an entry entitled Most accurate value of pi:

As continuation of a long-running project, Yasumasa Kanada of the University of Tokyo has calculated the number pi to 1,241,100,000,000 decimal places.
Observation: You can't call it "accurate" unless you verify the number by independently calculating pi out to the same decimal place; if you independently calculate pi out to the same decimal place then Kanada calculation is no longer a world record.

Also: Most Popular DJ-Simulation Video Game? Most Latex Feet Made For a Movie? Farthest Spaghetti Nasal Ejection?! Come on. By that standard I probably set the record for "Most Ounces Of Poached Egg And Corn Beef Hash Enjoyed By a Matthew Scott Baldwin On January 18, 2006" just this morning.

January 09, 2006

And Therein Lies The Problem

I start most mornings by jotting a quick Todo List on a piece of paper. The other day, while shuffling papers around on my desk, I found a hidden cache of older lists. Reviewing them, I realized that a typical list consists of about ten items that involve starting projects and about three items that involve completing projects begun on a prior date.

January 04, 2006

Mr. Manners

I had this epiphany the other day: the word "please" is just shorthand for "pleas." So instead of going through the bother of making actual pleas when you want something you just say "please" instead, and I guess that's supposed to be sufficient. It's like walking into a car dealership, saying "Toyota Corolla, negotiate," and expecting them to immediately knock $800 off the sticker price.

Well, screw that. The next time I'm in Arby's and the teen behind the counter say "can I take your order, please?" I'm going to be all, like, "Pffft -- you'll get my order when I hear some actual pleading, slacker."

December 29, 2005

False Advertising

Apparently a Las Vegas bodybuilder and his wife killed their personal trainer, put the body in the trunk of a Jaguar, and set the vehicle ablaze before fleeing to Boston. I heard the story on the last night's news.

I knew that whole "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" slogan was a bunch of crap.

November 23, 2005

Monster of Rock

Of all the dinosaurs I think Troödon is my favorite. I don't know what it looked like or anything about it, but it must have been totally awesome to get named under heavy metal band nomenclature.

November 03, 2005

Lovelocked

I saw two neohippies with dreadlocks strolling down the sidewalk and holding hands. If they live together I bet they are very compatible housemates. No chance of getting hair-care products mixed up, at any rate.

September 27, 2005

Berried Alive

One of my vices is a predilection for shitty cereal. Most mornings I start the day with a bowl Cheerios or whatnot, but every other month I splurge on a box of some sugary abomination and then proceed to demolish it over the next three days or so. I feel like I owe it to my ten year-old self, who promised he would do exactly this when he became an adult.

I am not a connoisseur, however, so I always buy the store-brand knockoff cereal instead of the original. Froot Hoops. Honey Snacks. Earl Chocola. Fortunate Tchotchkes.

This week I picked up a Cap'n Crunch clone called "Berry Crackles," complete with the obligatory cartoon animal mascot.

Except the longer I looked at Crackles the Squirrel, the more I became convinced that he was actually a Surgeon General mandated warning, illustrating what will happen to your children if they eat this stuff.

The only thing missing was some accompanying text.

Warning: Berry Crackles contains more sugar than the island of Cuba, and should not be taken internal by persons under 14 or above 10 years of age. Consumption may result in clenched teeth, asymmetrically bulging eyes, dialted pupils, double vision, accelerated fur- and tail-growth, and sucrose-fueled hyperactivity. In case of accidental ingestion, induce vomiting and place child in front of "Antiques Roadshow" until sedated.

September 14, 2005

Signs

In front a field near my house there is a sign reading "Strawberries / Blackberries / Blueberries: U-Pick."

Oh man, that's the greatest racket in the world. "My dirt made this -- pay me." I'm going to buy a wooded tract of land and post a sign reading "Chairs / canoes / homes: U-Bild."

Also near our house is a handwritten sign reading "Will wash windows, $1*" and then, at the bottom, in a tiny scrawl, "* per side" Ha! The Queen thought it was a waste of money to get those fancy Möbius windows installed, but I knew they would eventually pay for themselves.

September 09, 2005

Aging Is Dumb

Saw this sign in the liquor store today. (Well, the top half of this sign, anyhow.) Kids who were born in 1984 are legally drinking Yam Daiquiri these days? That's just ridiculous.

This whole "21 years" law is a crock. Drinking should be illegal for anyone who (a) has never worn a Member's Only Jacket, (b) has never used the word "rad" in a non-ironic manner, or (3) was unaware that David Hasselhoff starred in a TV series prior to Baywatch.

August 09, 2005

Three Many Dating Truisms

1. No woman, in the history of courtship, has ever uttered the phrase "he's a really great guy" and not followed it with the word "but."

2. Getting involved with a girl who has stuffed animals in the back window of her car is rarely a good idea.

3. Unless otherwise specified, the correct time to microwave something is three minutes.

Update: Some readers are asserting that the final one is not, technically speaking, a "dating" truism. And, okay: I'll grudgingly cede the point.

In its place, though, here are some other dating truisms from the comments:

  • Alkelda: It's a terrible lapse in judgement to kiss a guy who thinks making Donald Duck sound effects is cool.
  • theinsider: If a guy introduces you to a girl and says, "We were just good friends," they weren't. Watch out, they probably still aren't.
  • Joy: Never date anyone who's 'getting his band together.'
  • Stephanie: Never date outside of your political party in an election year.
  • Erin: Don't ever be the "other people" in "We're seeing other people."

August 05, 2005

PIC 20

One of the sponsors of the geek-a-thon I'm attending is, inexplicably, Gibson Guitars. While all the other vendors were handing out software and flash drives at their booths, Gibson gave out picks.

I dunno -- this doesn't seem like the target demographic for Gibson. If we were guitar players we would have had girlfriends in high school, instead seeking solace in our Commodore 64s.

July 27, 2005

Everybody Else Uses Checking

Every day on my morning commute, as I pass by an sign reading "Only Jesus Saves" posted on a telephone pole in front of a bank, I think "Well, at least someone will have money for retirement..."

July 25, 2005

The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

I think it's ridiculous that "attempted murder" carries a lesser penalty than "murder." We should be encouraging people to excel in their professions, not rewarding them for failure.

July 19, 2005

Excercise Tip

If you are a jogger and currently over your desired target weight, avoid running down steep inclines. Your additional mass will put undue strain on your knee joints and ligaments, greatly increasing the chance of injury. Also, you will feel every ounce of your surplus fat shake as you jounce down the hill, and that's a huge fucking drag.

July 12, 2005

White Wedding

You kids today have it so easy. Back when I was in the dating pool, if you were speaking to someone you'd just met at a bar or a party and wanted to assertain their availabilitiy, you had to wait until they looked away and then surreptitiously glance at thier left hand to see if they were wearing a wedding band.

Now, of course, you can determine someone's marital status immediately, and without ever looking away from their face. You just ask yourself, "did this person have his or her teeth whitened in the last 12 months?"

June 29, 2005

MILF

I've been reading a lot of Winnie The Pooh books to The Squirrelly, and, I gotta tell you, Kanga is looking pretty fine. Got some junk in the trunk, if you know what I'm sayin'. And makes blueberry muffins at the drop of the hat.

There doesn't appear to be a Mr. Roo in the equation. Gets a guy to wondering ...

Update: Contrary to the baseless assertions of a few emailers, I am not a quote-unquote "furry." I'm just a guy who wants to have sex with an anthropomorphized marsupial, okay? Apples and oranges, people.

June 24, 2005

Special Double Entendre

If they do it's going to be a major victory for advocates of gay-marriage and polygamy.

June 15, 2005

The Big Chill

I was thumbing through the yellow pages this morning and I saw an ad for "Universal Refrigeration." Man, those guys must be awesome. Keeping the whole ball of wax at zero degrees kelvin can't be easy.

It would be fun to get a space heater and turn it up to "high," just to fuck with them.

June 02, 2005

Twenty-five Things I'm Glad I Am No Longer Required To Do
  • Show you the money
  • Wake up and smell the coffee
  • Want a piece of you
  • Sit on it
  • Keep it real
  • Wang Chung tonight
  • Get all up in your grill
  • Think outside the box
  • Be there (and/or be square)
  • Talk to the hand
  • Take it up a notch
  • Kiss your grits
  • Get jiggy with it
  • Catch you on the flipside
  • Open up a can of whoop-ass
  • Gag you with a spoon
  • Keep on truckin'
  • Get with the program
  • Eat your shorts
  • Take it easy
  • Give mad props
  • Bring it on
  • Touch base
  • Quiero Taco Bell
  • Not go there
May 31, 2005

Why Was I Not Notified?

Hey, are we no longer calling them "Freedom Fries?" Because recently, when I order them that way at the Burger Barn, all I get is a blank stare.


Oh Those Women Drivers!

In case you missed it:

Robby Gordon accused Danica Patrick of having an unfair advantage in the Indianapolis 500 and said Saturday he will not compete in the race again unless the field is equalized.

Gordon ... contends that Patrick is at an advantage over the rest of the competitors because she only weighs 100 pounds. Because all the cars weigh the same, Patrick's is lighter on the race track.

"The lighter the car, the faster it goes," Gordon said. "Do the math. Put her in the car at her weight, then put me or Tony Stewart in the car at 200 pounds and our car is at least 100 pounds heavier. I won't race against her until the IRL does something to take that advantage away."

Wow, Mr. Gordon must feel very strongly about the importance of weight to a racecar (palindrome!) driver, since he's willing to stake his entire career on it. I guess that's why he's 5'10" and 200 lbs. Of course, I'm sure his extra cargo is all muscle. Or, at least, one muscle. The one you use to turn a steering wheel slightly counterclockwise.

Actually, I'm not sure his complaint has any merit. I mean, okay, she weights 100 lbs. But she must be wearing at least 45 lbs. of advertising.

And besides, it's not as if males don't have physical advantages over females in some sports. When the Amazons decided to compete against men in archery they lopped off a breast; it seems like the least Gordon could do is forego a Kristy Kreme once in a blue moon.

Yes, I realize that the I5K is already over. But I feel it's our duty, as an Internet, to heap as much ridicule on this guy as possible, even after the fact.
May 18, 2005

The World According To Lucus

Fool me once, shame on you.

Fool me twice ... well hell, I've already endured two of the miserable fuckers, I guess I better go see Revenge of the Sith.

May 04, 2005

Tragedy Of The Commons

In the lunchroom at my work there's a quarter-full bottle of Diet 7-Up that's been sitting on the counter for two days. On it is a post-it note reading "Free Soda! Help yourself!"

Why communism doesn't work, in a nutshell.

May 03, 2005

Don't Look Down

I took the Squirrelly to the pediatric dentist yesterday. The receptionist was a girl in her mid 20's wearing a push-up bra and an unconscionably low-cut top. She remained seated as she reviewed the papers I had to fill out so I had to look down at her, except when she would briefly stand, lean way over the counter, and point out some clause on the medical waiver form.

Dear Women on Earth: please knock this off. Maybe you think you're doing us men a favor, that anything that increases the net sum of cleavage in the world is A-OK in our book. And I'm sure that's true for some. But for those of us who were raised to believe that openly gawping at the breasts of a woman two feet in front of you is rude, your heaving bosoms -- while no doubt a real treat under other circumstances -- are an undue burden upon us. You have no idea how exhausting it is to concentrate on whatever you're saying about my son's dental coverage while 85% of my mental resources have been diverted to my eyeballs to prevent them from drifting southward; you have no idea what a drag it is that, in order to go from looking from your face to looking at the paper in front of me, I have to detour all the way around your chest -- feigning a glance at a wall clock en route -- or move my head so quickly that I risk whiplash.

Don't get me wrong: I loves me some cleavage. In a bar, at a party, on the beach. But at the pediatric dentist? Come on. That's practically entrapment. I mean, who's your target audience here? Rule of thumb: if you're in a profession where you routinely interact with married men toting one year-olds, we'll take your mammalian credentials as an article of faith -- no need to flash 'em.

April 20, 2005

Repopelican

New pope intervened against Kerry in US 2004 election campaign:

German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican theologian who was elected Pope Benedict XVI, intervened in the 2004 US election campaign ordering bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters including presidential candidate John Kerry. In a June 2004 letter to US bishops enunciating principles of worthiness for communion recipients, Ratzinger specified that strong and open supporters of abortion should be denied the Catholic sacrament, for being guilty of a "grave sin" ...
Hmm. You have to wonder what Ratzinger received in return for this favor. I mean, let's look at the facts:
  • Karl Rove "went on vacation to Italy" three weeks ago.
  • Shortly thereafter a new group called Noah's Ark Veterans For Truth springs out of nowhere, and begins airing commercials questioning the character of nearly all of the cardinals except Ratzinger.
  • Likewise, Ratzinger is the only cardinal not mentioned by name in the book, released one week after John Paul II's death, entitled Unfit For The Popemobile.
  • Ratzinger has never explained the mysterious bulge that was seen in the back of his frock while he delivered his homily last Friday, nor why he shouted "now let me finish!" in the middle of it.
  • Ratzinger frequently mentioned the crucifixion of Christ in speeches and even went so far as to wear a cross around his neck in a cynical attempt to capitalize on the tragedy for theological gain.
  • Also notice that Satan was almost never mentioned by Ratzinger, despite the fact that he remains at large and is unlikely to be captured any time soon.
I'm not saying it was payback, but it sure looks suspicious to me.

Of course Rove may have helped just to stay in practice for 2006.

March 23, 2005

It's Just Arsenic, Walk It Off

When you call my doctor's office, you are greeted by a recorded message that begins:

Thank you for calling. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, or if you have splashed poison in your eye, please press 9 to speak with a nurse.
Note to self: splashing poison in your eye and having a medical emergency are distinct events. Good to know.

March 10, 2005

Ah, The Ravages Of Time

Speaking of birthdays, today is mine. But I've been feeling old for a week.

Last Tuesday I travelled to the KUOW office to record my bit for The Works. The studio is located in the University District, and I have always enjoyed going up there because The Ave is invariably teeming with pretty college girls, always a delight to behold. Especially on a warm and sunny false Spring day.

Alas, something appears to have changed over the last year. Maybe it's becoming a parent, or maybe it because most co-eds now fall outside the half-your-age-plus-seven formula for me. But for whatever reason, they all looked too young for me to appreciate. Kids, really.

They are still pretty, to be sure. But it's similar to when I go to an art museum and look at the Van Goghs: I can recognize that I'm looking at a fine piece of work, but it doesn't really do anything for me.

Stupid aging. I feel like a gourmand who has been striken with ageusia.

March 07, 2005

Indistinguishable From Magic

I bought one of those tiny USB flash drives to shuttle files between by laptop and desktop PCs. It's incredibly handy, but have to make sure I don't leave it laying around the house so The Squirrelly can't get ahold of it.

I honestly never thought I'd see the day when a hard drive could constitute a choking hazard.

February 25, 2005

checkout -d belly burgers fries cola

I was in Washington DC for a few days last week, and noticed that the McDonald's there are under CVS.

I think that's a pretty good idea. That way they can quickly rollback to an earlier version of the menu a few weeks after introducing some abomination like the McRibs.

Note: If you don't get this joke, consider yourself lucky that you're not as big a nerd as the people who do.
January 19, 2005

You've Got Litigation!

Our son's current favorite toy is the Laugh & Learn Learning Home*, essentially a big, plastic, electronic facade. Dear Fisher-Price: please fire your entire marketing department and hire some guys who can at least think up a product name that doesn't use the same word twice in a row.

Every part of this toy makes noise. When you open the door there's a creaking sound, and a voice cries out "hello!" a tone so impossibly cheerful that it makes me want to go goth. When you open the shutters it sings "How Much For That Doggie In The Window?" And the Squirrelly enjoys nothing more than to press the doorbell thirty thousand times in a row ("ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong! ding-dong!"), until mama and papa are so irritated that they find themselves in a screaming match over whether "meatloaf" is one word or two.

Also, when the mailbox is opened it says "you've got ... letters!" I'm probably imagining the slight hesitation between "got" and "letters," but in that illusory pause it almost seems as if I can hear the Fisher-Price voicework woman thinking "oh man: if I say 'mail' AOL is going to sue me so hard that even my tattoos will be repossessed ..."

* Gratuitous hyperlink to product page to ensure mention of this post on Daddy Types.
January 12, 2005

Windows Pain

Wow, two anti-Microsoft posts in the last week -- what's up with that? I'm usually not a MS hayta -- I'm a linux and firefox guy myself, but I like Word and Publisher just fine. But driving home from work yesterday I heard a story on the local NPR station about how Microsoft was announcing yet another "critical" safety flaw in Internet Explorer, and I remember thinking, "Jesus, haven't I heard this exact same story, like, twice a month for the last four years?"

That's one bummer about living in Seattle: everytime there's a new vulnerability found in Windows we hear about it on the local news. At this point, the NPR affiliate probably just has a standard 30-second "Internet Explorer" piece that they use whenever they need to pad out their show a bit.

January 05, 2005

Going To The Dogs

Today I went to the pet store and saw that they were selling kitty litter for dogs.

The world is changing in ways that I find frankly terrifying.

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.

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.

September 24, 2004

Haiku O' Truth

Events featuring
"Veggie Party Platters" are
Not, in fact, parties.

September 21, 2004

Points To Ponder

Language is a funny thing. Take the words "crone" and "cone," for example. It’s only the absence of an "r" that prevents us from eating ice cream off withered old women.

September 20, 2004

Wizeguy

I found this on the ground in a parking lot:

There were no vehicles anywhere near it, so I don't know what the author was referring to. But the phrase "we would never have children" makes me wonder if this is a message from a wife to a husband.

September 07, 2004

Big Media May Or May Be Dumb

Two stories on the morning's wire: Clinton Absence Spells Either Boost or Bust for Kerry and Cheney May Help or Hinder Bush's Chances.

Wow, that's some hardhitting investigative journalism, right there. Who's writing this stuff, Two-Face? Typically to find this kind of detailed analysis about how Thing X could possibly affect Thing Y in one of two ways, you'd have to get stuck making chit-chat with a coworker in the elevator. I don't know why they don't just run one big Bush Or Kerry May Win Presidency article and wrap up their election reporting a few weeks early.

August 16, 2004

Holding Back The Giggles

Confidential to the guy in sunglasses and muscle shirt who was driving around downtown Seattle this afternoon in a tricked-out, bright red convertible with the top down: your Herculean efforts to look cool are being largely negated by the fact that you are blasting Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years" at volume 11.

July 27, 2004

Rabid 'Bout Reading

Waiting for a bus in downtown Seattle, I see a disheveled and possibly deranged man with an enormous duffle bag sidling down the sidewalk, stopping to bellow "Are you going to the library?!" at each and every person in turn. Most ignore him until he moves on, but some -- out of compulsive politeness, or because they have somehow mistaken this raving for a sincere query -- begin to reply "No, I'm waiting for my --" at which point the man cuts them short with an impassioned and spittle-intensive "GO TO THE LIBRARY!!!"

I dunno. Call me cynical, but I just don't think Seattle's literacy program is all that effective.

June 30, 2004

Would You Like Pepper With That?

I think it would be fun to be a waiter because whenever you gave a customer his food you could poke him in the chest with your finger and shout "You got served!" That joke would never get old.

June 23, 2004

Side-By-Side In Sisterhood

Now that I've regained my masculinity, I guess I can start making sweeping sexist generalizations again.

What is it about women that make them constitutionally incapable of walking Indian-Native American file, even for the briefest of moments? I have a number of running partners, many of whom are female -- The Queen, her friends, some coworkers here at the office -- and one thing that's always struck me is that while men will quickly assemble into a line when the trail narrows, women will often steadfastly refuse to deviate from their side-by-side formation, even if it means slowing to a crawl, hunching their shoulders forward, and moving within picometers of their companions to navigate a bottleneck.

And it's not just on the run: in the mall, on the sidewalk, on the escalator... Is it because women are so egalitarian that no one wishes to assume the lead? Or are they so independent that they refuse to literally "fall in line"? For whatever reason, the behavior seems endemic to the whole sex. I've noticed this phenomenon so often that I've started to wonder if it is, in fact, the origin of the phrase "walking abreast."

May 06, 2004

Bully For You

I saw a bumper sticker today that said "I Love My Wife!" It's a noble sentiment, I guess, but it got me wondering about the circumstances under which this guy would buy such a thing. Apparently legally binding himself to another person till death-do-they-part in front of his friends and family wasn't enough, he had to notify public transportation commuters of his commitment as well.

Maybe the driver bought this in lieu of a second honeymoon: "I wanted to take you to Hawaii for our thirtieth anniversary but finances are kinda tight, so how about I put this on our SUV instead?" Or maybe it's the opposite: the guy is having an affair and is trying to craftily throw his wife off the scent. "I know I've gotten home late from work three times this week, Hon, but if you go out in the driveway and look at the back of the Trailblazer, I think you'll be in for a pleasant surprise!"

April 19, 2004

Cosmic Dirge

If you see the glass half-full, you're an optimist. If you see it half-empty, you're a pessimist.

When I first saw the New Scientist headline Big Bang glow hints at funnel-shaped Universe, I though it said the universe is "funeral shaped". I'm not sure what that makes me.

(Perhaps it makes me Stephen Crane.)
April 13, 2004

Practice What You Perk

My barista is jittery and high-strung. I find this comforting, like a barber with well-coifed hair.

April 07, 2004

Quality Check

At the grocery store today I had a bagboy named "Perfecto." And yeah, okay: he was pretty good. He put the heaviest stuff at the bottom of the bags and everything. But I still felt like there was some room for improvement.

I'd give him an 8, but I suppose the name "Ocho" doesn't have the same ring.

February 12, 2004

Meets Expectations

A friend of mine was an officer with the Seattle Police Department, and one thing that always amazed me was that he and his coworkers voluntarily hung out in donut shops while on duty, despite the widespread stereotype that police officers hang out in donut shops while on duty.

I was reminded of this a moment ago when I saw a firetruck go by and noticed that each and every fireman inside had the stereotypical "fireman mustache."


February 05, 2004

D & Dean

I think reading this paragraph (from a New Republic article about the Democratic primaries) provides a pretty definitive geek test:

As a result, the only way Edwards catches on is a) if Kerry makes a huge mistake; b) if Edwards manages to stick around long enough for the press to savage Kerry; c) if Dean draws blood against Kerry with all those $100 donations he's planning to turn into rhetorical RPG attacks.
Real men immediately recognize "RPG attacks" is a reference to rocket-propelled grenades.

Guys like me, on the other hand, first summon a mental image of Dean sitting at a table, acting out a fiery denunciation of Kerry, and then rolling a 20-sided die against his CHR attribute.

P.S.: By my reckoning, the stats work out to be about:
Howard Dean

STR: 11
INT: 13
WIS: 9
DEX: 10
CON: 12
CHR: 13

Wesley Clark

STR: 14
INT: 12
WIS: 11
DEX: 12 (-4 when trying to dodge questions about his platform)
CON: 14
CHR: 10

John Edwards

STR: 10
INT: 13
WIS: 10
DEX: 12
CON: 10 (+2 for Forehead of Perpetual Youth)
CHR: 13

John Kerry

STR: 10
INT: 13
WIS: 13
DEX: 9
CON: 10
CHR: 9

January 12, 2004

Pushing Daisies

I rarely care enough to send the very best, but I recently saw this card at Hallmark and considered picking up a few:

Wow, talk about useful! I mean, that's got to be one of the subtlest death threats I've ever seen.

December 18, 2003

Texas Justice

Have you seen that program Texas Justice? I just started watching it and, man, it's great. I usually don't like these daytime judge shows, but it's always fun to see a defendant in a squabble over garbage cans get the death penalty.

October 24, 2003

Art: A Fact

I don't think I would ever do art for art's sake. Well, maybe for a martial art, if it wanted me too -- but only out of fear. I wouldn't want to piss off kung fu.

July 09, 2003

Clack Attack

I was at the gym today, running on the treadmill, and the TV directly in front of me was showing a new televised atrocity called "First Date" or "Date Time" or somesuch. Judging from what I saw they might as well call it "Single For A Reason"

It was showing on TLC, which I thought was supposed to be "the woman's network," but you'd never know it from the guy they had on the show today. He was to women what bovine spongiform encephalopathy is to cows. When he first met his date -- and I mean, like, the moment he met his date -- he pulls two of those whattayacallums, those plastic stick things that have the two balls attached to them, that you can kinda twirl to make the balls bounce off of each other? You know what I'm talkin' about? They're called "clackers" or something? Anyway, he pulls two of those out of his pocket and thrusts one at the woman and says "Here, take this and start clicking it!" with alarming alacrity, and then he starts twirling his own and the balls start clacking and he's urging her to do it too, "Come on, start clicking!," and after a few moments she remembers that the producers of "Date-aster!" (or whatever it's called) aren't paying her to stand around and look ossified, so she starts twirling her clacker and the balls start colliding, and after about twenty seconds of this the guy says "Great! Now we can say that we clicked at the very start of our date!"

The woman made a face like she had just swallowed a herring smoothie.

I, meanwhile, watching this train-wreck of an opening gambit while running in a crowded gym, could not prevent myself from loudly exclaiming "Oh my crap!" in horror.

Everyone turned to look at me, and, embarrassed that I had gotten caught watching "Dates Of Wrath" (or whatever it's called), I quickly adverted my eyes from the screen to the wall mirror. Which, in retrospect, was probably a mistake, since it made it look as though I was shouting vulgarities at my own reflection.

So, anyway, yeah, I looked like an ass. But, y'know, you gotta put these things in perspective. Everyone at the gym thinks I'm a lunatic now, true. But it could be worse; I could be on a televised date with The Clicker. Thank god for small mercies, that's what I always say.

Update: Apparently it's called A Dating Story. Do not watch in public.

May 22, 2003

The Lockjaws: Graduation Day

Since first professing my love of The Lockjaws (see: Finally, A Place Where People With Lockjaw Can Meet Online!), people from all the world have been sending me updates to let me know how they've been doing. For example, I recently received word that The Lockjaws were purchasing a home and pursuing the America Dream together.

Well the great news continues to roll in. Today Mike Wolfe wrote to tell me the latest event in the life of The Lockjaws: their children are graduating from college!

America is truly the land of opportunity. Kids, never let anyone tell you that an infection of the bacillus Clostridium tetani can stand between you and your dreams.

May 06, 2003

Update: The Lockjaws

Hey, remember The Lockjaws? (If not: "Finally, a place where people with lockjaw can meet online!")

Well I just heard some fantastic news! According to an email that's currently circulating, they are now purchasing a home together!!!

What a great country, where a couple of people afflicted with tetanus can meet online, fall in love, and pursue the American Dream.

May 01, 2003

[And This Is My Platinum Crapper]
Close Captioning for MTV's "Cribs" is provided by the US Department of Education
As the nation's deficit continues to swell, I'm guessing that there's at least one Federal position America could survive without.
April 30, 2003

Bars

Maybe you've seen this, which has been floating around the Internet for some time now:

Wow, just so much to wonder about with this photo.

But the thing that I always ask myself upon seeing pictures such as this is "What's with the black bars over the eyes?" Presumably they are there to preserve the anonymity of the persons depicted, but does simply blacking out the eyes really prevent folks from recognizing the people shown?

By way of an experiment, I snagged a bunch of headshots off of IMDB and photoshopped black bars over their eyes. Do you have any trouble identifying them all?

If black bars can't prevent you from identifying 12 people you've never even met, can they really keep someone from recognizing an "anonymous" acquaintance in an embarassing photograph? I'm guessing not. In fact, I suspect the whole "bars over eyes preserve anonymity" idea is little more than an urban legend. But if anyone can find any studies on its effectiveness I'd be interested in reading them.

April 10, 2003

The Unfairness Of It All

Oh sure: you pull down a Baghdad statue of Saddam and you're celebrated worldwide as a hero, but you drunkenly urinate on a University of Washington statue of Galilio ONE TIME and they ban you from the campus forever. Like that's fair.

Also, according to NPR today's weather will be, and I quote, "rain, showers, and possible thudershowers." Woo Seattle!

April 07, 2003

February 12, 2003

Bad Neighbor
CNN - While testifying at a Senate committee hearing in Washington, CIA Director George Tenet was asked whether North Korea had a ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast. "I think the declassified answer, is yes, they can do that," Tenet said.
Oh fabulous -- I just bought a house here in Seattle, and I'm sure that's gonna do wonders for the property values. THANKS A LOT NORTH KOREA!!!
January 29, 2003

Astute-like Observation

I love how the media is describing "Sapphire" as a "virus-like worm".

For future reference, "virus-like worm" = "We didn't know if it was a virus or a worm, so we asked our IT department to explain the difference between the two and couldn't understand a damned thing they said, so we're just going to call it both."

January 01, 2003

Bait and Switch

Hmm. This feels suspiciously like 2002.

December 16, 2002

Monday Morning Yada Yada Yada

One of my favorite lunchtime eateries is a nearby deli called Honeyhole Sandwiches. They have great food, but I think we'll all agree that "Honeyhole" is the dirtiest sounding name of all time. I'm even embarrassed to tell my coworkers I'm going there. "Hey boss, I'll be in the Honeyhole for an hour ..." -- yeah, not likely. The worst thing about the joint is that it puts me in this mode where everything sounds dirty. I was there last Friday and, looking over the menu, phrases like "Skirt Steak Sandwich" and "French Dip" were making me blush. After lunch I stopped at the pet store an picked up a "Sparkle Tickler" for my cats. For an hour after my return I had to sit at my desk and meditate before I could concentrate on work again.

Speaking of work, our break room suddenly contains "Butterfinger Hot Cocoa Mix." "Chocolatey!" the box boasts. "Peanut-Buttery!" Yes, this is what America needs: an even easier way to injest candy. Now you don't even have to expend calories to chew.

I saw an A.P. Headline over the weekend: Rumsfeld Says No Doubt, Iraq Has Banned Weapons. Oh my dear God! It's bad enough Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, but now Gwen Stefani has them as well?!

I have fallen way behind in book reviews, making this Super Magic defective yeti Book Review Week ... of Terror! So brace yourself for that.

December 03, 2002

What I Learned On My Thanksgiving Vacation

  • When visiting with relatives, I use alcohol less as a crutch and more as an entire vehicle.
  • The maximum number of "buffet-style" restaurants you can enjoyably patronize in a single 24-hour period is one.
  • Californians drive like they are currently on fire and are headed to a swimming pool.
  • My grandmother adores my wife for a multitude of reasons, one of which, she announced, is that The Queen "turned me around". (I had no idea what she meant by this declaration and was afraid to ask for clarification.)
  • Caddyshack is not even remotely as funny as I remember.
  • You can socialize with family for three days and be happy, and you can forego exercise for three days and be happy, but you cannot both socialize with family and forego exercise for three days and be happy
  • The sense of pride you get after using the word "axiom" in a Scrabble game is not sufficient to overcome the sense of shame you'll experience when you ultimately come in last place.
  • I had always wondered how my family came to have an inexhaustible supply of humiliating stories about things I did when I was a youngster, but it finally -- finally! -- dawned on me that, when telling amusing stories about things your younger blood relations did when they were four, you can totally just make shit up. They don't remember! And other family members, afraid to reveal that they now have a memory like a slotted spoon, will back you up like they recall whatever fictional yarn you spin.
    Me: Have you heard about the time when Eric was six? And dropped the Thanksgiving pie on his foot?

    Girlfriend of younger blood relation: Yeah, I think you told me about that.

    Me: And the other time, when he was seven? And hid all those bananas in the glove compartment?

    Girlfriend: Uh-huh. I heard that one too.

    Me: And the time he was five? At the Christmas parade? When he fellated the mayor?

    Uncle: Hmm? Uh, oh yeah! Tell 'er that one.

  • The cuter the child in the airport, the louder she will howl when she's seated in the row behind you.
  • When making small talk with relatives of another generation, t'is best to avoid topics such as politics, economics, music, sex, technology, entertainment, the weather, life, death, or any other topic of conversation which would necessitate the use of nouns and verbs.
  • November 21, 2002

    American Paperboy

    Apparently UPN is doing some sort of a show where a bunch of people compete to become a Supermodel. It called "The Supermodel Show," presumably because their target audience would get confused if it was called anything more subtle. This follows on the heels of Making The Band (where people competed to be in a rock group), American Idol (where people competed to become a pop star), and The Bachelor (where people competed to look like a moneygrubbing publicity whore on nationwide tv).

    In the future this is how all job interviews will work. The Wal*Mart Teller Show. Making The Nike. You and 11 other teens will apply for a position at Hot Dog On A Stick and have to go through twelve weeks of televised elimination rounds. Ultimately the American viewing public will get to decide if you spend your days serving $7.00 cups of lemonade to mall rats.

    Holy Smokes! The Flash intro to the Hot Dog On A Stick website is longer than The English Patient! (Although somewhat more engrossing.)

    November 12, 2002

    O, Canada

    The Queen and I went to Canada for Veteran's Day weekend. I love Canada. What? Because you can't legal wed a sovereign nation, that's why. Besides, I love Canada as, you know, a friend. Remember Duckie from Pretty in Pink? Duckie was the nice, responsible, smart guy, who was madly in love with his best friend, Andie? And Andie only had eyes for Blaine -- the big, dumb, sexy guy -- even though he infuriated her? Well, Canada, you see, is Duckie. And the US is Blaine. And the rest of the world is Andie. And Quebec is crazy, crazy Allison Reynolds. No wait: Allison Reynolds was in The Breakfast Club. Well, whatever. That was kind of a dumb metaphor anyhow.

    Fun Facts That Are Simultaneously Fun And Facts!
    • Canada is the world's fourth largest country!
    • Canadian Prime Minister Jerry Glark won a bronze metal for the javalin in the 1972 Goodwill games!
    • Canada has more Maxim subscribers than any other nation!
    • Canadians have over 60 words for 'snow' and another 18 for 'camel'!
    • I am just making these Fun Facts up!
    Crossing the US / Canada is always a chore, because Canada is terrified of guns and the US is terrified of drugs. You could take a .22 south over the border, rob a junkie at gunpoint, and return to B.C. with his heroin, but not vice versa. (Tip: if you are a passenger in a car that gets stopped and searched at the Canadian border, do not shout "shotgun!" when they allow you to reenter the vehicle.) For some bizarre reason it was relatively calm this weekend, though. When the Canadian customs lady asked me "purpose of trip" I managed to not say "Republican take-over of Congress," and so we got through with minimal fuss.

    After that it was two days of relaxation. Even the drive to our destination was pleasant, what with all the polite drivers and such. It's nice knowing that, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you don't have to go through the bother of tailgating them and running them off the road and pulling them from their vehicle and beating them senseless with a tireiron, because even if you do nothing you'll soon receive get a lovely, handwritten note in the mail apologizing for the infraction.

    Also, the metric system rules. It's too bad Americans are too egocentric to even consider adopting it. Maybe if we gave all the units pro-US names we could sneak it in. We'd call a meter a "patriot" and a gram a "eagle" and a liter a "constitution," and then people would be all psyched to use them, and would routinely boast about jogging in the 10 kilopatriot "These Colors Run!" roadrace.

    Update: Many of you, like myself, have been wondering why I suddenly had the urge to visit Canada. Now I know. A "Krackel" wrapper has been sitting on my desk since Halloween. Yesterday I picked it up, tilted it just so, and discovered a Canadian conspiracy of X-fileian proportions.

    Now, if I could only stop liking hockey ...

    October 31, 2002

    defective yeti's Halloween Tips
    • It's not enough to just dress like a Cheez-It, you have to really act the part.
    • Many women use Halloween as an excuse to dress up in skimpy, sexy outfits. You should not be one of them.
    • Make sure your "Human Torch" costume is flame-retardant before setting it ablaze.
    • To avoid breaking fingers while stealing candy, grip a roll of quarters when punching other children.
    • Prevent stomachaches by eating no more than one Snickers bar per minute.
    • Stop sending me that jpg of the vomiting pumpkin or I will kill you.
    • Only put safety razors in apples.
    • It's always a good idea to write your incantation down backwards on a piece of paper and keep it handy during the ritual, just in case you need to do a hasty unsummoning.
    • While Trick-or-Treating, it's best to wear a bright, reflective vest over your Spider-Man costume to ensure that you look totally lame.
    • Oh my god! Get out of the house! The killer is calling from upstairs!!
    I kinda stole that last one from this great Whole Lotta Nothing entry.
    October 29, 2002

    IHT In The Making

    It's vaguely exciting that we Americans are getting to watch the making of an Inscrutable Holiday Tradition. IHTs are those celebratory things you do for no fathomable reason, like kissing someone under mistletoe at Christmas, or dyeing eggs on Easter, or giving security guards wedgies on New Years Eve. At some point there was probably a reason (or at least justification) for doing these things, but the rationale has been lost to the mists of history.

    Well on its way toward joining them is the Inscrutable Holiday Tradition of buying two bags of bite-size candybars in October. Of course, it isn't Inscrutable yet. We buy them to give out to those Trick-Or-Treaters who come to our door on Halloween night. But if your neighborhood is anything like mine, Trick Or Treaters are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Kids these days go to malls or stay home playing "X-Treme Trick Or Treating" on the Xbox or something, I dunno. At any rate, they don't come to Chez Baldwin any more; we get fewer each year, and this year we aren't expecting any. But we still bought two bags of candybars. If we hadn't, and a T-o-T'er were to show up, we'd have to give him cans of lentil soup and beer coasters, which is the functional equivalent of tp'ing your own house.

    I'm guessing that this will convert into a Full-On Inscrutable Holiday Tradition over the next 30 years or so. In 2032, families will purchase bags of bite-size candybars on October 1st without having the slightest idea why they are doing so. They will then, in accordance with tradition, dump the sweets into a big bowl and set it by the front door, where it will remain, untouched, until the end of the month. On the evening of October 31, everyone will dress up like bunnies and ballerinas and the Inexplicably Still Living Strom Thurman and watch holovision until they fall asleep. And on the following morning, everyone will gorge themselves on syntho-chocolate, having completed the annual Halloween ritual. And then they will get in their HoverSUVs and telepathically listen to Jenna Bush's State of the World address while they commute to their office on Phobos, the end.

    October 25, 2002

    Same As It Ever Was

    Do you know what the greatest thing is about the Western Lowland Gorilla? I shall tell you. The greatest thing about the Western Lowland Gorilla is that his full, scientific name is -- I kid you not -- "Gorilla gorilla gorilla". That is simply awesome.

    In other news, I'm having one of those days where everything I do is steeped in deja vu. I started a write an email this morning, and then spent 10 minutes searching my "sent" folder to make sure I hadn't already emailed that exact same message. And at the meeting I just went to, I swear I could have predicted every word that was said by the participants. (This is the case at almost any meeting, true, but the feeling was especially strong today.)

    I think The Fates fucked up and gave me a rerun today.


    Clotho: Okay, the sirens have this room in 20 minutes, so let's keep things moving. Matthew Baldwin. Lachesis?

    Lachesis: Yeah?
    Clotho: What's in store for Matthew Baldwin tomorrow?
    Lachesis: How should I know?
    Clotho: Because tomorrow's Friday.
    Atropos: And you're doing Matthew Baldwin on Fridays, now.
    Lachesis: Whoa whoa! I did him last Friday, one time, as a favor. That's all I agreed to.
    Atropos: Well I didn't schedule anything for him, because you said you had him covered.
    Lachesis: That is such bullshit.
    Clotho: All right, knock it off you two. It's too late to come up with a game plan, now. Lachesis, just take one of his days from a few months ago, change a few of the details, and give him that one again. His short-term memory sucks, he'll never know. Moving on! Who's got Betsy Sein?
    The most unsetting thing about the deja vu is the constant sense of --

    Hey, wait. Have I posted that Gorilla thing before?

    October 17, 2002

    For Every Season, Turn, Turn
    Reasons To Lament The Passing of Summer
    Reasons To Celebrate the Advent of Winter
    Can no longer drink ale with lemon in it without looking like a nancyboy
    Can begin drinking stout with the viscosity of motor oil and the alcohol content of brandy without looking like a drunk
    Realization that I have gone another year without once riding my bicycle to work
    Realization that I again have the opportunity to become an avid snowshoer
    No more warm days
    Opportunity to swaddle scrawny frame in layers of bulky clothing
    Possibility of snow
    Possibility of getting out of work due to snow
    Can no longer barbecue
    Can begin using fireplace
    Fewer daylight hours makes running in the evening more difficult
    May now dismiss excess 10 lbs. as "winter weight"
    No more baseball
    No more wasting 10+ hours a week watching baseball
    Wife and cat become moody due to lack of sunshine
    [There is no upside to this]
    Impending holiday season brings with it an onslaught on unchecked consumerism
    Unchecked consumerism results in my receiving presents
    Goodbye, women wearing sundresses
    Hello, women wearing sweaters
    October 15, 2002

    Sugar Daddy

    Have you ever gone to buy a candy bar out of the snack machine and done that thing? You know, that one thing? Where you put your money in, fully intending to buy a Kit Kat or a Snickers or something, but then, just as you go to press the buttons, you suddenly feel kind of sorry for the unpopular candy bars, like the Big Hunk or the Bit-O-Honey? So then, in an impulsive fit of sympathy, you actually wind up buying one of the often overlooked treats? And a few moments later you're, like, standing there, masticating your Payday and wondering what the hell got into you, why on earth you found yourself inexplicably rooting for an inert hunk of milk chocolate and caramel?

    Never? That's never happened to you? What, you mean not even once?

    Well uh, yeah, of course that's stupid. That's what I'm saying. What? No. No, of course I've never done that, ha! No, this was strictly a, whatayacallit, a hypothetical. I mean, I've heard of some people, some stupid people, doing that, but not, you know, me personally.

    What, this? I, uh. I happen to, you know, like Idaho Spud Bars, that's all.

    October 02, 2002

    Your My Pithy Observation

    This quotation from Mimi Smartypants is so funny that I'm just going to post it here and pretend that I wrote it.

    [Here's] a very weird subject line for spam: Watch Me Film Myself Masturbating. Whoa. That's pretty removed from the subject/object consciousness. Can't I just watch you masturbating? I have to watch "the making of" you masturbating?
    I'm hoping that, over time, I will come to believe that I wrote this myself. I'm pretty sure this will work, because I've recently noticed that I treat other people's stories and ideas the same way I treat their CDs. When I first borrow someone's CD I'm very careful, when taking it out of my player, to set it off to the right side of my desk, far away from the pile of my CDs on the left side of my desk. But one day in my haste to listen to the new Creed album, I take the borrowed CD out and just leave it in the middle of the desk. And then, on some later date when I'm straightening up, I pick up the uncategorized CDs in the middle and throw them into my pile, making a mental note to sort them out later. And from that point on it's pretty much my CD. I'll even create an entire backstory in which I purchased the CD myself using an Amazon.com gift certificate.

    Same deal with borrowed experiences. At first, when I'm recounting something that happened to or was thought up by someone else, I take great care to properly attribute it. But then one day it occurs to me that it's a lot quicker to say "me" instead of "a friend of mine I went to high school with" after the opening "A funny thing happened to". And after the next mental straightening-up the great story gets integrated into my own biography and the great idea becomes something I dreamed up years ago. It's better than the CD scenario, though, because you never have that awkward scene where the original owner demands you return the perloined goods, and you're all like "screw you, dude, this is totally my Swimfan Soundtrack," and then there's all the punching.

    Wow! That's a pretty great analogy that I just made and/or read somewhere!

    September 11, 2002

    Firestorm: World's Dumbest Hero

    I read a lot of comic books when I was younger, including some of the worst ever invented. Cloak and Dagger. Blue Devil. At one point I even started collecting Power Pack, fer crissakes. But even amongst such illustrious company, Firestorm: The Nuclear Man still stands out as the one of the most spectatularly ill-conceived heroes of all time.

    For the uninitiated, Firestorm was a major DC character back in the 80's: he had his own monthly series, was a member of the Justice League of America, and even appeared on the Superfriends from time to time. He also had the world's most ridiculous power. But before I describe this ability to you, let's briefly discuss the scourge of "Power Inflation," shall we?

    Power Inflation occurs when a superhero has a nebulous or poorly-defined set of abilities. Take, as a counterexample, Green Arrow (or "Hawkeye" if you will). Here you have a guy who can do one and only one thing: shoot arrows really, really well. Writers can try and spice up his series by adding a bunch of crazy new missiles, like the Boxing Glove Arrow or The Arrow That Makes A Delicious Tamale Pie, but ultimately the main character is the same arrow-shooting dude issue after issue after issue.

    Then, on the other hand, you have characters like "The Flash". The Flash has what seems to be a fairly unambiguous power -- he can move really fast -- but Power Inflation eventually caught up with even this dynamo. At first all he did was run around and disarm crooks before they could fire their guns. But then writers began to allow him to do all sorts of other stuff, like run on water and run up the sides of buildings (on the premise that gravity wouldn't have time to affect him before he reached the other side of the pond or the rooftop). Then someone announced that The Flash could vibrate his molecules so quickly that they (the molecules) could pass unhindered through solid matter. And it was all downhill from there. Given the ability to "vibrate his molecules" at different frequencies, Flash was suddenly able to travel to other dimensions, to travel through time, to swim in lava, etc. Furthermore, writers kept stepping on his acceleration pedal, to the point where The Flash was a light-speed-moving molecule-vibrating time-traveling force of nature.

    You can see how this could be a problem for a writer. First of all, the average length of a Flash comic should really only be one panel, as he wraps up the entire story in .00000056 seconds. Second, they had to keep introducing more and more powerful villians just to keep things interesting. One day they just gave up on standard villains and introduced "Reverse Flash," who was just exactly like Flash except -- and this was the crucial distinction -- bad. (You could tell he was bad because his costume was the opposite colors of The Flash!) Reverse-Flash became Flash's arch-nemesis, and so now you had these two guys with the exact same powers duking it out month after month, making the whole thing about as interesting as a fist fight in a parking lot.

    Eventually they did what they always do when Power Inflation gets out of control: they killed the hero and started over. After The Flash kicked the bucket a new Flash took his place, this one with a speed limit. (The new Flash could only run at the speed of sound and couldn't do any of that new-fangled molecule vibratin'). Later they killed Superman, and then resurrected him all humble and stuff; Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) -- who, by this time, was pretty much invicible with his Magic Ring O' Kickass -- went berserk, after which they brought in a new, inexperienced, depowered Green lantern to take his place; Heck, they even bumped off Green Arrow and replaced him with someone who could shoot arrows less really really well.

    Okay, so: Firestorm. "Firestorm: The Nuclear Man's" power was "the ability to rearrange the atomic structure of matter". That's right. He would point his finger at a gun and the gun would turn into a Rubix Cube. His "weakness," supposedly, was that he couldn't affect organic matter, meaning that he couldn't just turn a jaywaker into a mango. But he could (and did) "rearrange the atomic structure" of the air around bad guys so that they were suddenly standing in a cloud of sleeping gas or a giant iron cage. And the prohibition against organic matter didn't extend to his own body, so he could rearrange his own molecular matter to turn into, you know, whatever -- a tank or huge butterfly net or The Flash. Oh, and he could fly. And he could alter the density of objects, including himself. And he could shoot bolts of nuclear energy. And absorb radiation and explosions, theyby rendering them harmlessly. He was, in short, "Firestorm: The He Can Do Anything He Damn Well Pleases Man".

    He reminds me of no one so much as this guy

    The writers of Firestorm eventually just threw up their hands and said "Ahhhhhhh, okay: he's a God," at which point he became even more powerful (although I dunno how -- maybe he could now flawlessly filter spam or something). And then a bunch of stuff happened after I stopped reading comic books. And now he's an alcoholic underwear model. I kid you not.


    Flee Circus

    Check out the caption for this AP photo Why is "flee" in scare quotes? I'm no expert of fleeing, but I don't think those folks are just pretending.

    September 05, 2002

    American Idol is Over Already?!

    What the -- American Idol is over already?! Ah man, I was just getting into it. At first I thought it was kind of stupid, you know, how so many people were getting killed in such a small town? But one day I just decided to go with it, and after that I was totally hooked. Angela's great (although I don't know when her character found time to write books!), I like Sheriff Metzger a lot, and the endings always surprised me. But then, today, someone tells me that the last American Idol episode was yesterday. What a bummer.

    Oh well, at least my other favorite show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is still on the air. I love dolphins!

    August 30, 2002

    Axe To Grind

    Do you think run-of-the-mill murderers get upset about the undue recognition axe murderers get? Man, I would. It's all so unfair. You shoot someone and you're not a Gun Murderer, or you cook your roommate some Drano Waffles and you're not a Household Cleanser Murderer, but you whack one measely guy with a hatchet and suddenly you're in a class of your own. I guess cannibals get singled-out too, but, you know, if you're willing to go that extra mile and eat someone, I figure you're entitled to some extra credit. Axe murderers, though -- those guys are getting something for nothing. They're a bunch of glory hogs, that's the real problem.

    August 09, 2002

    Seven-Dollar Watermelon

    The other day I bought a seven-dollar watermelon. That seemed pretty expensive until I realized that it came with a free band name.

    April 09, 2002

    All Your Basedow Are Belong to Us

    Most afternoons I go to the gym to to get a healthy dose of exercise and an unhealthy dose of daytime tv. They have six or seven sets on the wall, which means you can watch pretty much anything from "Fifth Wheel" to "Lou Dobbs Moneyline." (Note: Watching C-Span while listening to the audio of Jerry Springer, or vice versa, is vastly more entertaining than watching either of the programs in their original forms.). The nadir of daytime tv, of course, is daytime tv advertising, a huge wasteland of Shady Characters Trying To Sell You Stuff You Obviously Don't Need. Garlic choppers, 14-volume "Best of the 80's" CD sets, liability lawyers -- you know what I'm talkin' about.

    Of particular interest to the patrons of the gym are the endless ads for "Get Fit Fast!" schemes and paraphernalia . You can't help but feel a sorry for some chump who would buy a geegaw in the hopes of losing twenty pounds in two weeks, when you yourself have lost half that amount by using the stationary bike every day for six months. And everyone in the lockerroom gets a big laugh out of those vibrating whatsits which, when strapped to your stomach, promise to melt away the fat like it's a crayon on the dashboard of a Louisiana Hyundai.

    But then there's John Basedow. His commercials run all the time on every station, and they never fail to strike fear into the hearts of everyone in the midst of working out. The man looks, for all the world, like a living, breathing, poorly-done Photoshop job: the head of the class geek clumsily pasted onto the body of the class jock. He is a terror to behold. And whenever his visage appears on the television screens, you can almost hear people in the gym thinking "Good gravy! Am I going to look like that when I'm totally ripped?!," as they set down their barbells and slowly back away from the Nautilus machine. Men stop in mid-sit-up and head to the showers, realizing that the ladies would prefer them with beer guts rather than looking like something Frakenstein stitched together from the corpses of Bob Saget and Rambo.

    January 17, 2002

    Who, Me?

    The front page headline in today's Seattle Times reads Gates: Make Software Secure. Huh, I wonder who Bill is talking to, there. Jesus, I hope it's not me because I'm, like, already totally busy this month.


    Bloodquake

    At the gym I frequent there is series of televisions mounted on the wall, so if you find running four miles to be insufficiently taxing you can also watch "Fifth Wheel". All the programs have captioning at the bottom, allowing you to read the dialog as it's being said. Noises and other non-verbal communications is shown in brackets, e.g., "I think, like, Terry is, y'know, totally hot and [giggles] like HOT!"

    Today I saw an ad demonstrating a new X-box game called "Bloodquake." During the entire commercial the caption read "[Sound of guns firing]".

    January 14, 2002

    Catchy Name

    I'm terrible with names, but I have no trouble remembering the name Enron . Maybe the origin of this moniker is trivial -- the founder's name being Karl Enron or something -- but I like to imagine that, like many big corporations these days, the energy company let a cabal of marketing guys intentionally cook up a name that would be easy to say and impossible to forget. And it's thanks to those guys that people like me, who know very little about the specifics of this boondoggle, can still say "What's the name of that company, the one that imploded and implicated the Bush administration of all sorts of shady dealing? Oh yeah: Enron!"

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