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Friday Afternoon Scratchpad

Annual Call of Slacker Guide Items

I'm working on my annual Holiday Survival Guide For Slackers for The Morning News, and I'm looking for suggestions. So if you know of some stupid crap available for purchase on the intarweb, please mention it in the comments of this post or drop me an email. Thanks!

Previous Slacker's Guides

LtROI is my Anti-Twilight!

My review of Twilight has been getting a lot of link-love since the corresponding movie was released. If my assessment of the novel deterred you from seeing the film, (a) you owe me a doughnut of gratitude, and (b) may I recommend Let the Right One In, now playing at your local art-house theater. (You know, the one with all the cats? Where they put nutritional yeast on your popcorn?) It's definitely one of those the-less-you-know-about-it-the-more-you'll-like-it kind of deals, so just close your browser now and go see it. But I will tell you this: it is so great that it actually made me glad to have read Twilight, because now I can say that I have experienced both the nadir and apogee of vampiric fiction.

TMN Annual

Speaking of The Morning News and my less-you-know-the-better-it-is philosophy regarding entertainment, the TMN Annual is now available. In it you will find a long essay, written by me, regarding my loathing of spoilers and the white-hot rage they kindle within in. WHY YES, "ITS A SLED" WOULD BE A HILARIOUS COMMENT TO THIS POST, THANKS!!!

Great Shakes

So a few weeks ago I'm at the counter of a local diner, eating a breakfast of french toast and trying to read a novel, when an elderly man sits on the stool two down from me. He came armed with a copy of The Seattle Times and, after averring to the server that he'll have "the usual", began summarizing the articles aloud in an attempt to draw me into conversation. "Yeah, I don't know about this big bank bailout deal," he would declare in my general direction, while I did my best to ignore him. "No one is offering me a bailout," he'd add.

Eventually his food arrived, which meant (I thought) that he'd clam up a bit. But just as I let my guard down, he abruptly turned to me and said, "I guess they were talking to Joey Cora about maybe managing the Mariners next year." Caught by surprise, I accidentally said "oh, really?" and, having breached my defenses, the man launched into a long and convoluted tirade about our local and abysmal baseball team.

For the first 15 seconds I politely nodded and uh-huhed in response, frantically trying to concoct an exit strategy. But then I noticed something fascinating: as the man spoke to me, half turned in his seat and facing my direction, he was also shaking pepper onto his breakfast. And I don't mean he was giving the shaker a few desultory jiggles now and again, I mean the entire time he spoke he had the mill in an elliptical orbit over his food and was moving it up and down as rhythmically as a piston. This went on for so long that I could only assume that he was doing so absent-mindedly, unaware of the huge volume of seasoning that was raining down on his eggs and hash browns.

So then I tried to keep him engaged as long as possible. "I was always a fan of Joey Cora," I said truthfully. "How likely is he to take the position?" And that got the guy going for another 20 or 30 seconds, shake shake shaking all the while.

Then, having reached a stopping point in his analysis, he abruptly set down the shaker and grabbed his fork. And I was all, like, "oh man, this is gonna be GREAT!" But then he began wolfing down eggs without any apparent discomfort. Not even a Scooby-Doo style sneeze. Rats.

Anyway, I thought of this guy the other day when I first tried Nabisco brand Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuit. Maybe Old Man Rambler works at the factory that makes these or something, or maybe someone dozed off and slumped on the "Pepper Dispenser Lever" when this particular box was trundling down the assembly line, but this is like a joke snack, something you'd order out of the back of a comic book, surreptitious swap with a real box of crackers when an unsuspecting victim wasn't looking, and then guffaw loudly when they are rushed off to the ICU with acute peppercorn toxicity syndrome.

All told I think I ate four of them. After the first I swore I'd never touch them again, but I kept drifting back to the box. It was like one of those arcade machines where you see how long you can hold on to an increasingly-electrified handle before your instinct for self-preservation kicks in. I imagine there are tribes in indigenous people in Brazil where, when a boy reaches puberty, he must eat a 20 of these in a row before they will consider him a man.

Ow! My mouth!

And I love how the "serving suggestion" has you topping the cracker with a tiny piece of cheese, a little tomato, a sprig of green, and more pepper! That's like ordering a pizza and having, as your three toppings, pineapple, Canadian bacon, and another pizza. My serving suggestion is that you just keep a few in your pockets at all times, in case you are ever on the lam and need to throw some tracking dogs off your scent.

Posted on December 12, 2008 to Scratchpad


I am totally addicted to those Triscuits. In fact, I affectionately call them Crack Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuits. It is true that sometimes one box has a heavier pepper coating than others but I love a handful of them as a snack anyway.

Posted by: Jessica on December 12, 2008 3:06 PM

Ha! The next time I order a pizza I'm going to order pizza as the topping.

Posted by: Susan on December 12, 2008 4:16 PM

Pizza with pizza as the topping is called a calzone. It's yummy.

Posted by: Jeff on December 12, 2008 4:33 PM

damn, Jessica beat me to it.
But she's right - Nabisco puts *crack* in those babies - they are SO tasty.

PS - the topping you see is a traditional Italian snack - fresh mozzarella, with tomato and basil which is HEAVEN on one of those Triscuits.

Send all your CPOT to us.


Posted by: operagal on December 12, 2008 5:17 PM

I have a love/hate thing with salt and vinegar chips - I am pretty sure I either love them more than anything that's ever been in my mouth, or I hate them with a deep abiding passion, but I can't quite tell which. So I keep going back for more on the off chance it's the former.

Posted by: SMurph on December 12, 2008 5:35 PM

Regarding the slacker guide:

Is electronic yodeling pickle dumb enough for you?

Posted by: Jason W. on December 13, 2008 12:06 AM

Some people will try anything with the word "crack" in the title.

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on December 13, 2008 3:09 AM

That pepper story totally cracked me up.

Posted by: Clay on December 13, 2008 8:50 AM

A great gift idea. http://www.britishblogs.co.uk/theme/palm-pistol-seniors-dexterity-9mm-firearm/ I Heard about this on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me. It's a handgun for people who don't have the finger strength for a normal gun.

Posted by: James A. on December 13, 2008 9:23 AM

Possibly a good idea for the slacker: http://www.giantmicrobes.com/

You too can give your friends...or enemies, your favorite virus, or infectious disease! Or even some white blood cells to help them battle said illnesses.

Posted by: mairead on December 13, 2008 11:45 AM

This is the best thing available on web 2.5 I've seen in recent memory: The Smartpen. Pretty much a must see if you are one of those pen people; learning a new language; are a student; are forgetful; like gadgets; are tired of dragging a laptop around for the word processor; take notes at speeches, lectures or anywhere context impacts meaning.

This link gives a nice demo of some of the things it can do:
This one is where you can purchase one for yourself:

Posted by: Sam on December 13, 2008 12:03 PM

JAVA pen. Amazing idea for students or anyone who has to take notes for any reason. It records audio as you write and translates whatever you write to a digital language, making it all searchable, translatable, organizable and best of all, you can hear what was said at the time when you were writing that particular note.
DEMO: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4G3T7b8pKM
PURCHASE: http://www.livescribe.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/Catalog.woa/wa/getItem?id=APA-00002

Posted by: Sam on December 13, 2008 12:08 PM

You're way off on those Triscuits, buddy. Way off. Those things are incredible.

Posted by: M. Olsen on December 13, 2008 4:18 PM

That has to be my favorite food review ever.

Posted by: mamacita on December 13, 2008 11:04 PM

Those Triscuit things are horrors. You take one out of the box and shake it and this cloud of flavor dust descends upon the room and two days later your birds are dead. I don't know what is up with internet people but you can see how the notion of cooking bacon and eating it as like an independent meal got started.

Posted by: brandon on December 14, 2008 2:19 AM

The bumper dumper from last yea'rs column made me think of the Whizzy - http://whizzy4you.com. I remember reading about it in the Utne Reader of all places. It's for gals who Reeeeally wanna be able to pee standing up. Maybe a nice stocking stuffer for grandma.

Posted by: Jen on December 14, 2008 6:11 AM


Oh. Well..um..err...


Posted by: Lost Poke on December 15, 2008 6:43 AM

I LOVE those Triscuits, I don't know what you're talking about. Also, I am that girl in the diner unscrewing the cap to the pepper and liberally dumping it on everything, including my iced tea.

Posted by: sarah on December 15, 2008 6:50 AM

There's something about those Triscuits. They seem to be the big hit of this holiday season. I like them, but Spouse absolutely LOVES them. We have attended three grocery stores in the last week in an effort to complete our holiday entertaining preparations. In each store, there is a gi-normous gaping hole on the Triscuit shelf where the many boxes of Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Triscuits formerly resided, prior to flying out of the store at warp speed. All that remains are sad boxes of everybody's second choice Triscuits who suddenly can't really cut it as a first-rate snack. It's depressing, if you care about crackers.

Posted by: Junior on December 15, 2008 6:52 AM

I like the idea, though it makes me uncomfortable at some deep dark level, that kids' cereal ads have always endeavored to convince us that the occasional mutation of that cereal was caused by a wacky accident at the plant that makes the cereal. Obviously, these wacky accidents are rare because wacky is rare, and fortuitous because it gives marketing the opportunity to say that, for a limited time, the cereal will have more of what you like, and less of what you said in various focus groups that you didn't like.

But like evolution, you figure for every good accidental mutation, there are 97 that worked against everything, and 2 are terrifying horrors that should be quietly settled with payoffs and gag orders and never spoken of even in private.

But I have questions! With all these accidents, some horrifying and others wacky and fortunate, how these factories manage to maintain suitable levels of health and safety both for workers and for products? Also, are unions to blame for the occasional high-seniority two-weeks-to-mandatory-retirement-and-generous-pension codger falling asleep and accidentally dialing-up the pepper dispenser, or the marshmallow quantizer or whatnot? What sort of screw-up in shipping caused that much olive oil to show up at the plant in the first place? Can the pepper supply even bear these sorts of abberrations?

Posted by: LAN3 on December 15, 2008 9:21 AM

No to the cracked pepper kind, but HELL YES to the rosemary kind, even though it's weird rosemary-flavor-dust. I WILL EAT THE WHOLE BOX, I kid you not. Especially good with pepperjack cheese.

Posted by: Meredith on December 15, 2008 5:52 PM

He's dead.

Posted by: Steve on December 15, 2008 8:34 PM

You are so funny and so are your commenters. You all crack me up. I love imagining you keeping the diner guy talking while he was dousing his food with pepper. It was sort of a science experiment. I have a friend who slathers mayo on everything and it's hard not to say something. Like "eww."

Posted by: Tabatha on December 16, 2008 2:54 AM

Suggestion for your Holiday Survival Guide For Slackers: the "Say A Blessing" keychain from PrankPlace.com (found this while looking for an item from a previous year). Compact, cheap, offensive and promotes utter indolence -- how could it get any better?

"Tired of saying the boring old "Lord's Prayer" or the ridiculous "Rub a Dub Dub" grace at the dinner table? Then why not pick up this great "Say a Blessing Keychain!" This special keychain contains 8 buttons of Jewish blessing that go with any meal. And if that isn't enough for you, there's even 2 extra buttons of bonus prayers! You'll be "Baruch Atah-ing" wherever you go! "


Posted by: Thinkerer on December 17, 2008 4:35 AM

I would go for the Snuggie for this year's hot gift item: http://www.getsnuggie.com

Hideous. Absolutely hideous.

Posted by: Smith on December 17, 2008 7:25 AM

I used to love the Newman's Own salt + pepper pretzels... they would literally feel like your face was getting blown off from the heat.

Posted by: pantaloonfan on December 17, 2008 7:40 AM

Oh god I love those Triscuits SO MUCH. Especially with one of those Laughing Cow cheese wheel things. MMmmmmmmmm.

Posted by: Ellen on December 17, 2008 8:06 PM

Oh, I was also going to mention the Snuggie. I see that unsettling commercial for it on the bus everyday.

Posted by: M. Olsen on December 18, 2008 5:52 PM

Oh fer chrissakes, now I have to call you out as a Grade A pussy. Triscuits? Too much pepper on yer friggin' triscuits? Say wah? I went through a phase where we used to go to this restaurant up in N Seattle - just past 175th- The Singapore. (Burnt down years ago - arson - porn store next door... who knows?) Where's the pepper? Oh, here we go... shake, shake, shake....OK anyway, the Singapore... what was I sayin'? Oh, yeah, The Singapore made pretty good food, and you could order it 1 to 5 stars... shake, shake, shake... and I mean 3 stars would put a good sweat on your upper lip, and 4 star would start this ringing in your ears and... shake, shake, shake... and the chef's name was Frank. Uncle Frankie we called him. Anyway, 5 stars pretty much set off some weird sort of endorphin rush while you were sitting there barely able to hear, and with sweat pouring down your face with this stupid grin on your face... and anyway... so the point of the story is that we got to a point where we were asking for 6 star! I mean we were lucky the place burned down, now that I think about it...

Posted by: Jim in Missoula on December 18, 2008 7:49 PM

I hadn't been to Defective Yeti in a long time, but "That's like ordering a pizza and having, as your three toppings, pineapple, Canadian bacon, and another pizza," just had me rolling at work. I got weird looks.

I'm back, baby.

Posted by: brittney on December 19, 2008 2:04 PM


and for more models


Posted by: waterloobob on December 21, 2008 7:42 AM