May 08, 2009

The Office - Personas

Just for kicks I wrote a script for The Office. You can read the whole thing at http://www.defectiveyeti.com/theoffice/TheOffice-Personas.pdf.

I was inspired by two events, both of which took place in March. The first was an eight-hour Project Management seminar that I attended for work. At the end of the day I was reviewing my notes and realized I'd been handed an Office storyline.

The second was the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. As followers of The Office know, Dwight is a huge Battlestar fan, mentioning the program often.

I half-expected a subsequent episode of The Office to note the end of Battlestar, but it hasn't happened yet. Thus, I decided to write my own.

"Personas" is set around the time in season five of The Office when BSG ended. Specifically, it falls between "Golden Ticket" (S05E17) and "New Boss" (S05E18). In other words:

  • Andy is on staff.
  • Toby is back.
  • Ryan is missing (supposedly in Thailand).
  • No one in the office is in a relationship, except Jim / Pam (engaged) and Andy / Dwight (mortal enemies).
  • The Charles Miner / "Michael Scott Paper Company" storyline has not yet begun.

One last thing. Forty pages struck me as pretty long for a 30 minute show, but "E-Mail Surveillance" and "The Carpet"--the two scripts of The Office I could find online (at http://www.dailyscript.com/tv.html)--clock in at 44 and 43 pages respectively, so I used those as a guide. Having never before written a script for an existing show, I figured I'd stick to precedent.

Anyway, here's the teaser. I don't really plan to do anything with this (it was more of an exercise than anything else), but if you have any feedback I'd love to hear it. You can email me at matthewbaldwin@gmail.com.

Update: Someone asked if this contains BSG finale spoilers. Actually, it contains no BSG spoilers whatsoever, so go nuts.

The Office

              COLD OPEN


      Michael is at the front of the room and the rest of the staff
      is paired up. Each group has a flipchart, on which they have
      jotted down descriptions of fictional people: names, ages,
      sexes, occupations, etc.

      PHYLLIS, paired with MEREDITH, is standing, addressing the
      room, wrapping up her presentation.

                Gerald's primary paper needs are
                eight by eleven white bond for the
                printer and number 10 security

                Excellent. Good work Phyllis.

                     MICHAEL (V.O.) (CONT'D)
                Personas are a top-level project
                management tool used by business
                experts around the world. 


                What you do is you make up
                characters and pretend that they
                are your customers. And then you
                ask them for advice on how to
                improve. And that way you don't
                have to talk to real customers.


      Dwight is completing his presentation. The flipchart looks
      like a Dungeon and Dragons character sheet, complete with
      stats on the left-hand side and a sketch of a barbarian.

      STANLEY, his partner, sits nearby, engrossed in his puzzle

                ... when in a beserker rage,
                Rivenheart can attack twice per
                round but is unable to defend.

                Dwight, you -- Missing the point.
                Why does your persona need paper? 

                He doesn't need paper. His history
                is written in the lamentation of
                his enemies.

                Okay sit down. Just-- Sit down.

      Dwight does so as Michael wrestles with his irritation.

                     MICHAEL (CONT'D)
                Who's next? Jim and Kevin.

      KEVIN looks at JIM with a giddy smile; Jim nods confidently.

      Kevin stands and gestures at his flipchart, on which he has
      written a series of bulletpoints describing his persona.

                Our persona is "Mark L."

      His pronunciation of "Mark L." is almost identical to
      "Michael", and he pauses expectantly. When there's no
      reaction, he continues, struggling to maintain a straight

                     KEVIN (CONT'D)
                Mark L. is in his mid-40's. Single,
                no family, no girlfriend. Dead-end
                job as regional manager in a dying
                industry. This guy is going

      Titters around the room as people recognize the gag. They are
      laughing with Michael, assuming he'll catch on at any moment. 

                     KEVIN (CONT'D)
                He tells a lot of bad jokes. His
                favorite is short, but he knows how
                to use it. 

      Jim hears his prearranged cue. 

                That's what she said!

      Michael laughs.

                Good one, Jim! Nicely done. Okay
                Kevin, let's keep this moving.

      Kevin looks uncertain. 

                He's always walking around the
                office interrupting people's work
                with pointless stories. Or
                insensitive remarks. About their
                weight. And baldness ...

                Ugch. Why would you even invent
                this guy?

      Kevin at a loss. Desperately trying to clue Michael in, he
      deviates from the flipchart.

                Owns a "World's Best Boss" mug?
                Drives a Sebring? His birthday is
                March 15th? No, nothing?

      In a burst of inspiration, Jim leaps to his feet.

                I think Mark L.'s worst trait is
                his utter lack of self-awareness.
                He wouldn't even recognize a
                description of himself.
                    (beat; then slowly)
                Wouldn't even recognize a
                description ... of himself.

      Michael looks pensive for a moment, on the verge of
      realization. But then he shudders at his mental image of Mark
      and says:

                And what are his paper needs?

                    (to Jim; accusatory)
                You said this would be funny.

                      END COLD OPEN

You can read the whole thing as either a PDF (best) or as HTML (with some lost of formatting). An .fdr files is also available upon request. Enjoy.

January 07, 2009

In Memoriam

In the early hours of January 1st, 2000, my friend Jamie Babcock took his own life.

I'd known Jamie for at least 15 years, though I'm not sure exactly when we met. I do recall that, at some point, he was the "new kid" at my elementary school, where he was soon celebrated for his ability to draw a near perfect Garfield--quite the marketable skill in an early-eighties fifth-grade classroom. His other claim to fame was that he had come in second at a big Pac-Man competition in whatever town he had moved from. According to his telling of the story at the time, he lost by only 10 points. As I got older I eventually recognized the whole thing as a tall tale told by a transplanted kid trying to impress his new classmates, but let's be honest: in those days we all lied about our video game prowess.

And I'm not sure when we actually became friends either, but here is a clue: I gave Jamie the first "Weird Al" Yankovic album as a birthday present. This was shortly after the record's release in 1984; thus, we were familiar enough to exchange gifts by '85 at the latest. In fact, this interaction is my first vivid memory of him. He ripped the wrapping paper off the a cassette tape I had given him and his face immediately fell. "Oh," he said. "I thought it would be something cool like Van Halen, but thanks."

We were buddies by the end of our Freshman year of high school though, and had become close friends by graduation. In some way this was inevitable: Hazen High school teachers preferred to seat kids alphabetically, so he and I were adjacent in every class we shared. But even beyond proximity we had a lot in common. In fact, although he (unlike myself) was muscular and good-looking, Jamie was, in many respects, even more geeky than I. He was a huge Star Trek fan, for instance. And he was fanatically devoted to those comic books he followed, Sandman foremost amongst them. Every Wednesday we we would bike to Warlord's (our local comic book store) to pick up our favorite titles from the newest shipment.

But (again unlike me), Jamie also had many non-nerdly pursuits. He was on our school's wrestling team for instance, where he competed in a weight class that was seemingly five pounds under what his body thought was ideal. Consequentially, he was forever depriving himself of food, trying to keep his poundage just under the limit. I think his perpetual diet made him genuinely unhappy at times, but he also joked around about it. Once, during a class, he made a production of tearing a piece of notebook paper into tiny scraps; he then drew a piece of food on each (a slice of pizza, a cheeseburger), and spent the remainder of the hour eating them, one by one, to the restrained laughter of myself and the others around him.

That was Jamie in a nutshell. Whatever happened he just kind of took it in stride. Once, when we were driving around in his VW Rabbit, I set a half-unwrapped Peach-flavored Jolly Rancher Stix on his dashboard while I put on my seatbelt; when Jamie tapped the brakes a moment later, it slid into a ventilation slot, never to be seen again. He shrugged and never gave me shit for it, even though his car smelled of peaches from that day forward.

After high school Jamie and I went our separate ways, he to Washington State University in Spokane, I to Evergreen in Olympia. We still got together during holidays and breaks, but less and less frequently. Even so, I would still refer to him as "one of my best friends", and mean it.

Jamie joined the police academy after college. Physically and athletically he was perfect for the job--his experience as a wrestler would surely come in handy when "taking down a perp" or whatever--but I'd never heard him express any interest in law enforcement, so the news came as a surprise to me. Of course I hardly ever saw Jamie by this point, so what did I know? Shortly thereafter I joined the Peace Corps and lost all contact with him for a couple of years.

He was an officer by the time I returned to the States in 1997, so one evening I joined him on a "ride-along". Jamie patrolled North Seattle, and we spent much of the night cruising around the U-District, with occasional jaunts down 50th or 65th to get to the scene of some fracas or another. He pointed out all the drug dealers and petty criminals we passed (which, at 1:30 AM on University Way, was nearly everyone), reciting their dates of birth from memory as he did so. He stopped a robbery at a convenience store, subduing the thief with the threat of pepper spray. He pulled over someone for speeding, but let them off with a warning because they had a "Pedro the Lion" sticker in their back window.

At one point we were called to the apartment of two college girls, who claimed that someone had broken into their house and rifled through their stuff. They were drunk or high or both, and their story was profoundly confused. They couldn't point to any one thing that proved that their stuff has been messed with, but they were certain that it had; and they knew that someone had broken into their house because, well, their stuff had been messed with, and how else would someone have gotten to it?

I assumed we'd turn around and leave, but Jamie patiently listened to their rambling and often contradictory tale, jotting notes as he did so. He asked a few probing questions but never showed the slightest sign of disrespect. By the end of their account they were clearly embarrassed that they had summoned the police, but Jamie waved away their apologies. "You were right to call," he assured them, and they looked relieved, and everything was cool.

It's probably unwise of me to speculate on what kind of police officer Jamie was based on this one night, but I'm going to anyway. I think he was exactly the kind of cop you'd want to show up when you were in a jam, someone with a good sense of humor who nonetheless took you seriously, someone who made it clear that he was on your side.

There was one incident in Jamie's childhood that hinted at an impulse-control problem, a time when he had put his fist through a window in anger and nearly bled to death before they could get him to a hospital. I think this happened before he moved to our neighborhood and, for all I know, it may have happened just after he lost that "Pac-Man competition", if you know what I mean. He definitely had scars on his hand, though. Truth be told, those scars were the only evidence of impetuousness I ever saw in him.

By all accounts Jamie's decision to take his own life was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. He didn't think about doing it, he just did it. Also bear in mind that this took place in the early hours of New Year's Day, so I assume that alcohol was involved. He could drink, that guy.

I was told the news about 10:00 that morning, called by a mutual friend of ours from high school. There was some bitter irony in the timing of the news, as we had all spent the evening prior worrying about the Y2K bug. No sooner had learned that civilization was not going to collapse than this punch-in-the-gut arrived. And we were, like, what's the point of the world continuing if folks like Jamie aren't going to be in?

I hardly saw Jamie at in the years between the ride-along and the funeral and, in retrospect, I obviously wish otherwise. But when I think of him on New Year's Day--and I always think of him on New Year's Day--it reminds me to appreciate my current friends to the fullest.

That's a gift you left behind for me, Jamie. I would have preferred something cool like Van Halen, but thanks.


April 24, 2008

Afternoon Sealight

Two things of interest I discovered while searching the Internet to craft the Darwinian language in the previous post:

1. The Coolidge effect is the tendency of males of every tested mammalian species to perform at their sexual peak when introduced to a new receptive female. The term comes from this old joke:

President Calvin Coolidge and his wife visited a poultry farm one day, and, during the tour, asked the farmer how he managed to produce so many fertile eggs with such a small number of roosters

The farmer explained that his roosters performed their duty dozens of times each day.

"Perhaps you could point that out to Mr. Coolidge," replied the First Lady in a pointedly loud voice.

The President, overhearing the remark, asked the farmer, "Does each rooster service the same hen each time?"

"No," replied the farmer, "there are many hens for each rooster."

"Perhaps you could point that out to Mrs. Coolidge," replied the President.

2. This photograph:

You can go here to see what the actual caption is. I prefer to think it reads "A mated elephant seal pair, having consulted the Kama Sealta, decides to give the missionary position a whirl."

[ link | Misc]

April 22, 2008

Bit of Free Verse That Popped Into My Head At Three O'Clock This Morning

Somewhere in the annals
of European history
Is a man by the name
Of Al Dente.

Who served to his guests
Plates of undercooked pasta
And then stubbornly insisted
He had done so by choice.

[ link | Misc]

February 27, 2008

Still Swamped, But ...

... if you have time to kill, you could read this short story I am working on for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and give with the constructive criticism. You could totally do that. It would be swell.

At 6,500 words its of a print-out-and-read-on-the-bus length, but y'all provided such great feedback last time that I thought I'd return to the well.

Update: Ha! Yeah, okay: the New York Times Sunday paper doesn't have a comics section. You got me there. See, this is why I run things past you guys first.

A big thanks to everyone who provided feedback. Those who missed it--well, with any luck it will be in print someday ...

November 19, 2007

Odds and Ends

I'm busy working on a thing for a guy, so I'm going to fall behind the reading schedule for a few days. Will get caught up over the Thanksgiving break.

In the meantime, here's a fascinating article about why Heller's original title for the novel, Catch-18, was changed. A warning for those participating in NaNoReMo--it looks like there might be some spoilers in there. I don't know for certain, because, at the first hint of them, I skipped ahead to the origins of The Postman Always Rings Twice and My Man Jeeves. Thanks to Zan and David for passing the article along.

Also, you may recall that I recently urged Democrats to please oh please not vote for Clinton. Now Eric Berlin explains why Republicans should steer clear of Gulliani. Seriously, Dems and Repubs should just make an agreement in advance: we won't nominate our New Yorker if you won't nominate yours. I don't know how, in a time when the United States desperately needs unity, we wound up with the nation's two most polarizing figures as front runners in a Presidential election.

September 18, 2007

Suddenly: Haiku!

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

[ link | Misc]

September 11, 2007

Re Rill

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

[ link | Misc]

August 09, 2007


I like taco salad because you get to eat tacos and say you ate salad.

[ link | Misc]

July 25, 2007

2007 New Year's Resolution

Stop procrastinating.

[ link | Misc]

May 22, 2007

Pinnacle Quiz

I was just on the website for Pinnacle Foods, and discovered that these guys own a crapload of the most well-known food brands. I also noticed that every product page on their site featured a logo for a brand, and a piece of clipart that presumably portrayed the target demographic for that food. Can you match 'em up?

April 12, 2007

I Got A Scanner!

Further cementing my reputation as a "tardy-adopter," today I bought a scanner, only a single decade after they became mandatory for any self-respecting geek.

First picture scanned:

Dad and I

My father and I, October, 1971.

Not only is Pa Baldwin an all-around great guy, but he's also a regular reader of this site. Hi dad!

Update: "Don't you have a similar picture of you and the Squiggle? I think a side-by-side comparison would be nice here."


Extrapolations: every generation of Baldwin will have shorter hair, a higher BMI, and more ridiculous headgear.

March 09, 2007

A Selection Of Articles "Speedy Deleted" from Wikipedia in February 2007

February 1: Ball Sweat

February 2: Fiction Deaths

February 3: Assorted Bargains

February 4: Chinese muslims studying overseas

February 5: How to Successfully Complete Online Offers for Free Stuff

February 6: Fog pump

February 7: Air Poo

February 8: Influence of Music

February 9: Ultramaterialism

February 10: Polydimensional industrial bio-cosmic psychology of microscopic bacterium

February 11: Saturday (Carpenters song)

February 12: Random Article

February 13: Temple of the Jedi Order (Real)

February 14: Clown Suit

February 15: FIFA World Cup 2022

February 16: Characters in Sonic Riders 2

February 17: Scouting in Greater Manchester East

February 18: Jabba and slaves

February 19: Goatsurfing

February 20: Sigil Studio

February 21: The Angry Video Game Nerd

February 22: Medieval crimes and punsih ment

February 23: Dark Super sonic the hedgehog

February 24: Workin Title (Myspace Comedy Series)

February 25: Cheesemonger

February 26: Straid Lazed

February 27: Ape jazz

February 28: Pewter Report (magazine)

[ link | Misc]

March 01, 2007

Odds and Ends

February 21, 2007

And Ten For Good Measure

Here's a self-working card trick my dad showed me when I was but a wee lad. It sounds pretty uninteresting in the telling, but try it out--in practice, people are amazed at the outcome.

  1. Take a standard, 52 card deck and randomly discard ten cards. I prefer to do this before the trick starts and never tell the audience, but you can do it in the middle (step 6) if you're feeling honest. These ten cards will play no part in the trick.
  2. Deal the 42 cards into piles using the following method: Flip the top card from your deck face up, announce the value aloud (e.g., "seven!") and place it on the table as a foundation of a pile. Now continue to deal cards onto that pile, counting upwards with each card, until you hit thirteen. So after putting the 7 card face up, for instance, you would deal five cards onto it, counting "Eight", "Nine," "Ten," "Jack," "Queen," "King!". If the foundation card is an Ace you will create a 13-card pile; if it is a King it will constitute a pile unto itself. When a pile is complete, turn it face down and start a new pile with the next card. If the final cards in the deck do not make a complete pile (e.g., you flip over a "Three" but only have five cards remaining) set them aside for the moment.
  3. Ask your audience to pick three of the face-down piles. Take all the unchosen piles, combine them with the remainders from step 2 (if any), and hand the deck to your audience.
  4. Tell your audience to flip over the top card on one of the three, face-down piles. After he has done so, tell him to discard that many cards from his deck. So if he flipped over a 9, he would discard nine cards from his deck.
  5. Tell your audience to flip over the top card on a second pile and, again, discard that many cards.
  6. Only if you did not remove cards in step 1: tell your audience to discard ten more cards "for good measure".
  7. Tell your audience to count how many cards he has left in his hand. Then tell him to flip over the top card on the last of the three face-down piles. If you've done everything correctly, the value of the card will equal the number of cards he holds.
The best thing about this "trick," I've found, is that there's is no trick--it's just math--so you can feel free to reveal the secret when you're done (where "secret" = "just take out 10 cards before you start and do what I did."). This is especially good for kids because, requiring no sleight of hand or misdirection, it is virtually un-screw-up-able, so long as they follow the recipe.

If, on the other hand, someone is dismissive because it is "just a formula," hand him all 52 cards and challenge him to recreate the trick. Assuming they don't know to take out 10 cards ahead of time, their attempt will end in gloatworthy failure.

February 12, 2007

Seattle Crime / Mystery Writing Circle?

I used to write stuff for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine back in college, and I'm thinking about getting back into it. Does anyone know of a crime / mystery writing circle in the Greater Seattle area?

Until I find one, though, I guess you guys can serve as my writing group.

I've posted a short story here, and I'd appreciate your constructive criticism.

Update: I got a ton of great feedback--thanks to everyone who took the time to comment. If you'd still in the mood for crime fiction, may I recommend the archvies of Thuglit.

October 31, 2006

Halloween Odds & Ends

The Vanishing Date

I wrote one of the many ghost story endings appearing in The Morning News today.

Encyclopedia Brown For District Attorney

Speaking of The Morning News ..

TMN and I are holding a contest, in which we're asking participants to make a display campaign paraphernalia for fictitious candidates. And while the event has attracted considerable notice on Teh Intarwebs, it grieves me to report that submissions have been scarce.

The deadline for submissions was supposed to be today, but they have extended it to November 3rd. Also, all participants now get buttons!

I've heard a few people say that they would participate, but they lack a "large-format printer." The assumption, apparently, is that I used one of these new-fangled contraptions to print out the examples. Honestly, I don't even know what a large-format printer is. My signs were mocked up in Microsoft Publisher; printed out, section by section, onto normal-sized pieces of paper; and then taped onto a real political sign that I had appropriated from a local median. (Fun fact: in Seattle it's illegal to place political signs on medians, traffic circles and other conspicuous roadway locations, so if you filch one from one of these locations, you are actually enforcing the law.) I realize that sounds like a lot of work, but, honestly, I made all three signs shown in less than an hour. And you don't even have to go this route, if you don't want to: handmade signs are welcome. In fact, my favorite of the signs we've received thus far is a pen-on-posterboard affair.

Also, you are not limited to political signs. Although that's what I made by way of example, the contest calls asks you to create a "sign, banner, flier, etc," so less ambitious stuff is certainly acceptable.

Anyway, I know you guys are a literate bunch, so please send something in if you have the time and inclination. Plus, TMN gets a lot hits and they'll include a link to your site along with your entry, so this is a perfect way to simultaneously showcase your creativity and drum up traffic.

A Modest Proposal

Last week I heard a radio commercial for Fred Meyer advertising Christmas decorations. They spent most of the 30 seconds justifying their decision to unleash the yuletide juggernaught in October. "As you get older, your family gets bigger," the announcer said. "Which means you need more time to prepare for the holidays. So, see? We're only hawking these dancing Santas nine weeks early as a favor to you!"

Sure enough, I stopped by Fred Meyer this morning to grab another bag of candy (I ate all the ReeseSticks -- saw-whee), and found the "Seasonal" aisle cram-packed with wrapping paper, artificial trees, and wreaths -- and no candy, except for a few picked over bags of sugarfree gum and Hershey BigYuk Bars (semi-sweet chocolate with creamy asparagus filling).

American holidays have become like suburban strip malls, expanding outward to the point where they've merged into one continual year-long festivity. I have no doubt that the Fred Meyer guys have Peeps and Easter Basket grass all queued up, ready to put on display come November 12th.

Why don't we just make up a new holiday: Tomorroween. Tomorroween is the holiday which, regardless of the date, falls the day after today, the one where people exchange gifts, eat candy, send cards, drink alcohol, bake pumpkin pies, set off fireworks, plant trees, put colored lights on the eves of their house, wear costumes, buy roses for their loved one, and fly the flag. Stores could just have an aisle devoted to Tomorroween merchandise, and never have to rotate their stock; the guys who make M&Ms could stop changing the color of their candy every three months (black & orange in October, red & green in December, shades of pastel in March).

And maybe, in exchange for Tomorroween, we could ask the stores to keep their mitts off our Holidays. Wouldn't that be a treat?

Squirrelly in the Punk'in Patch

October 26, 2006


Apparently I have been "tagged" with an "Internet" "meme." I don't generally do these, but the tagger, Mother Reader, was kind enough to play along with my silly little game, so I feel obliged to reciprocate.

Five Little Known Things About Me

  1. Upon taking the first sip of carbonated beverages, my body responds with a little hiccupy-spasm. When I was young and still getting used to this quirk, I would routinely take a swig from a Big Gulp and then do a Jack-Tripper-like spit take, spewing Pineapple Crush onto all nearby. Now I take a small sip and wait out the reaction before quaffing the rest.
  2. I refuse to watch trailers for movies I intend to see. If, while in the theater, they show a trailer for an upcoming movie that I have the slightest interest in, I will turn my head away from the screen, stare at the floor, and aggressively think about Catherine Keener in an attempt to avoid hearing the dialog. I have, in my travels, met two other people who also do this, and we cannot figure out why the rest of you don't. "Who'd want to see the best scenes before the movie comes out??" we ask each other rhetorically, and then sadly shake our heads.
  3. I do not pronounce my Ls correctly. I make the sound in the back of my throat, rather than by touching the tip of my tongue to the roof of my mouth. I was given speech therapy as a child but, as with the soda spasm, I eventually just figured out how to work around it, and when it got the point where no one could tell the difference they stopped trying to correct it. Still, it has a few practical ramifications: when choosing names for our child we steered cleared of those that contained Ls. Curiously, I make the L sound correctly when singing, reading aloud from a book, and shouting "Devil! Devil! Devil!' at passing cars on the corner of 5th and Pine.
  4. I think hate crime legislation is stupid. If one guy punches another it's assault and should be treated as assault -- I don't care what words he was saying at the time. More to the point, hate crime legislation pegs the severity of the punishment to what the assailant is thinking at the time he commit his crime, and I don't think the government should be in the business of regulating thought -- even the thoughts of ignorant idiot assholes. This fact is "little-known" about me because, whenever I mention it while around my liberal Seattle friends, they're heads tend to asplode. And that's a total drag, as most of my clothes are dry-clean only.
  5. Speaking of assault ... (Fun fact: all the best stories start with the phrase "speaking of assault"). I have only once, as an adult, punched a guy. Except, I didn't. I was in my early 20's and working on a Conservation Corps crew. We all gave each other copious amounts of shit -- heaping slander and slur upon each another in the name camaraderie -- and no one ever took offense at anything. But one time my coworker Paul said something that made me see red. I don't recall what it was -- in fact, I can even imagine what it could have been, given the stuff I do remember simply laughing off at the time. Whatever it was caused me to go berserk: and I took three quick steps toward him, cocked my fist back, and started to throw a punch. But then the tiny part of my brain that was still rational pointed out that this would almost certainly result in the loss of my job, and not having a job seemed like a bad thing at the time. (What can I say? I was young and foolish.) So I arrested my swing and, instead, kicked him in the shin like an petulant, eight year-old, be-ponytailed-girl. And Paul, who could have easily kicked my ass (did I mention he was an ex-con?), looked down at his shin for a moment, dumbfounded, and then looked at me, and said "Dude, what the fuck?" And I was, like, "Whoa! I do not know what just happened to me there!" And then we laughed and went to work. Because, in the best of worlds, this is what young men do.

October 24, 2006

Senior Song

Do all graduating high schools classes have a "senior song?" Or is this just something we did out in the suburbs to compensate for the lamentable fact that were we raised in the suburbs?

My buddy Matt and I lobbied hard for "Road To Nowhere" by the Talking Heads. But, in the end, the popular kids convened a secret meeting and chose this.

I'm not bitter. But I would like to point out that our selection has proven to be more considerably accurate than theirs.

October 18, 2006

Didn't See That Coming

I'm going to write a psychological thriller for the blind. It's not all plotted out yet, but I have a great, surprise ending: the last Braille letter will be replaced with a thumbtack.

[ link | Misc]

October 10, 2006


Apparently Iceweasel -- a fork of the popular Firefox browser -- is in need of a logo. So I thoughtfully created one for them. What a nice guy.

[ link | Misc]

February 07, 2006

Shares Of ACME Corp. Plunged In After-Hours Trading

No more dropping pianos onto the heads of infidels, alas.

[ link | Misc]

September 02, 2005

Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans?



President reassures horrified nation: "Trent Lott's home will be rebuilt."

* * * * *

Regular readers of this website know that I am no fan of the Bush Administration, but the situation in New Orleans beggars belief. I'm so outraged I can barely think straight. Bad enough that the White House (again!) ignored repeated warnings of impending disaster and (again!) diverted necessary resources to its wealthy patrons and ideological hobby horses, but the federal response to the catastrophe is like a goddamned cabaret show.

Conservatives often justify the slashing social programs to fund corporate tax cuts by saying, "A rising tide raises all boats." Well, the tide rose folks, and this is the result.

August 12, 2005


I'm glad that the act of giving birth has not come to be known as "going number three."

[ link | Misc]

May 05, 2005

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

On this day in 1862, the fine people of Puebla invented mayo -- or, as we call it in English, "mayonnaise."

Thanks Mexico! Without you our turkey sandwiches would be a lot drier.

[ link | Misc]

May 04, 2005


Just for the record, I, Matthew Baldwin, as of 7:30 AM, May 04, 2005, still do not own a cell phone.

I want to document this fact in case, at some future point, there's a dispute about who exactly was the last person on Earth to acquire one.

[ link | Misc]

April 19, 2005

The Twelve Man / Thirteen Man Problem

If you enjoy Sam Loyd, you may also want to check out my post Sam Loyd's Trick Mules. - MB

Every few years the "twelve man / thirteen man" puzzle makes its way around the Internet. And every time I see it I am baffled.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here. That's an animated gif, so keep watching until things move. When the image first appears, count how many men there are. Then, after the top halves swap, count them again. The first time you should count twelve; the second, thirteen.

I've long suspected that I could figure out the trick if I really applied myself but, slacker that I am, consistently given up after a minute or so.

Well, I came across the "twelve man / thirteen man" illusion yet again today. But this time there was an accompanying image by Matthew Sturges, one that colors the men and shows both their start and end positions. I took his image, added numbers, and finally think I can see what's going on here.

There's two reasons this is so hard to wrap your mind around, I've concluded. The first is that the drawings look unrefined, which both disguises the fact that the solution is very subtle, and gives the viewer few key features to use as reference. About the only clearly identifiable body parts are heads, torsos, arms, legs, crotches, and feet. Note that their hands are all hidden behind their backs -- crafty, that.

The second reason this illusion tends to defy analysis, I think, is because there is no "smoking gun" solution to it, something you can point to and say "Aha! Here's where the 13th man comes from." That's because the thirteenth man comes from all twelve of the others.

Look at the start configuration and note that there are twelve of each body part: twelve heads, twelve torsos, twelves pairs of legs, etc. Now look at the end configuration and note that there are thirteen of each body part. That makes it seem as if a thirteenth person has somehow materialized.

But now narrow your focus. Instead of looking at the whole pictures, just pick a single body part. Pick a man in the first picture, look to see where your chosen body part is, and then look to see where it ends up in the end configuration. Now repeat this for all twelve of the men. In all cases -- and this is the key point, kids -- one of the twelve instances of a body part in the first picture is bisected and used twice in the second.

For example, let's look at faces. Man #1's face in the first picture is below the divider, so it remains with man #1 in the second picture; man #2's face (along with the rest of his head) goes to man #9; man #3's face goes to man #10. So far so good. Now look at man #4. His face is split in half, with the top half going to man #11, and the bottom remaining with man #4. In other words, the single face owned by man #4 in the start configuration is now two faces in the end configuration; in other other words, where there were twelve faces there are now thirteen.

Pick another body part, do it again, and again you'll see that one of the body parts in the first picture is split and used as two in the second.

Here's the breakdown:

  • Hair: #1 -> both #1 & #8
  • Face: #4 -> both #4 & #11
  • Arms: #2 -> both #2 & #9
  • Torso: #9 -> both #5 & #9
  • Crotch (i.e., point where legs meet torso): #5 -> both #5 & #12
  • Legs: #12 -> both #7 & #12
  • Feet: #10 -> both #6 & #13

So in the second picture we get a new head of hair, a new face, a new pair of arms, a new torso, a new crotch, a new pair of legs, and a new pair of feet -- all of which adds up to an entire new person. But these parts are distributed amongst thirteen different composites. Thus, you can't point to any one person in the second images and say "he's the new one."

[There used to be a few more paragraphs here describing which men in the first picture contributed what to whom in the second, but Jon's illustration, in the update below, neatly summarizes everything.]

If you're still not getting it, take a look at this simplified version of the illusion, where I magically turn five lines into six:

The "twelve man / thirteen man problem" operates on exactly the same principle, although it's cleverly convoluted to make it seem like there's more going on. Notice, for instance, that, on the average, the men in the second picture are shorter than the men in the first, as is the case with the lines above.

Incidentally, this is a variation on Sam Loyd's famous "Get Off The Earth" puzzle, which you can read more about here.

Update: Good gravy, I can't believe I'm got to spill yet more virtual ink on this. But I did say I wanted this to be the definitive page on the subject, so here we go.

Some folks in the comments and claiming that the 12-13 Man Problem is waaaaay more straightforward than I am making it out to be. "Look," they say, "you have 12 men in the first picture. You split them into 24 halves and recombine 22 of those halves into 11 people. Then -- and this is the entire trick -- you point to the remaining two halves and claim they are full people. 11 + 2 = 13 men. In the final configuration, the two 'half men' are #1 and #13, each of which gives up a half and doesn't get one back."

They people making this argument are absolutely right: that's how the trick works in principle, and I said as much in giving the illustration of lines. But they are ignoring the key element that makes the 12-13 Man Problem different from the line example. If you bisect a line you can truthfully call each of the resultant halves a "line," but if you cut a person in half you can't claim that you haven't really done anything because each of the two halves is a person itself. (Believe me, when I used this line the police were not impressed ...)

The 12-13 Man Problem is so baffling because each of the final thirteen men looks like a full person, even the two "half-men." And it's not just #1 and #13 that are involved: if you were to take the missing half of #1 and the missing half of #13 and put them together, one of your men in the final configuration would consist of nothing more than a scalp on a pair of feet.

No, all the men are altered. And luckily for me, Jon over at Corporate Superhero has created an image that shows how:

In his words: "Basically, the puzzle works by cutting each person in two, taking a small slice of them (1/12 of their height) and passes it over to the right until after 12 people you end up with a whole extra person. Then the creator mixed up the order of the people so that you couldn't see what he did."

Thank you, Jon -- your picture is worth several thousand of my words.

January 18, 2005

How I Spent My Day Off

[ link | Misc]

January 03, 2005

Belated 2004 Recap

Biggest Event Of The Year: Up and borning a kid.

Second Biggest Event Of The Year: Finally getting "Who Let The Dogs Out" out of my head. ARGH NOW ITS IN THERE AGAIN FUCK!

Favorite Movies Seen In The Theater: Lost In Translation (Yeah, it's a 2003 film, but I saw it early in 2004), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (ditto), The Incredibles, Garden State, Shaun of the Dead.

Most Disappointing Movie Seen In The Theater: Didn't see any real duds this year, although the headache-inducing shaky-cam style of The Bourne Supremacy prevented me from really enjoying it.

Best TV Shows (Seen On DVD): Freaks & Geeks (so great!) and The Office (so great!).

Movie I got on DVD and didn't watch for weeks because I was scared that it would be godawful and ruin my fond childhood memories of it, but turned out to be pretty good: Ghostbusters. Dan Ackroyd's delivery of "I couldn't help it, he just popped in there" is one of the funniest moments in cinema.

Movie I Watched On DVD That Inspired The Aforementioned Dread By Being Awful And Fond-Memory Ruinous: Tron.

Favorite Fiction Books Read: You know, I can't say that I read any particularly outstanding fiction books in 2004. Recommendations for 2005 in the comments, please.

Favorite Non-Fiction Book Read: The Elegant Universe, The Last American Man, Stiff.

Book I Read The Least Of: Foucault's Pendulum (text on back, first paragraph)

Favorite Album: I listened to the Garden State Soundtrack a lot, despite owning almost all the CDs the songs were taken from.

Only Show I Went To: Sondre Lerche.

My Review: "The best show I saw all year!"

Favorite Board Games: Ticket To Ride, Attika, Hansa.

Video Game Tried At A Friend's House That Made Me Want To Devote The Remainder Of My Life To Playing: Katamari Damacy. Exhibit A as to why I don't own a video game system.

Life Lesson Learned Playing Panda Pang: If you see a bomb on the ground, do not pick it up.

Thing That I Really Like That I Continued To Really Like In 2004: Beer.

Thing That I Really Hate That I Continued To Really Hate In 2004: Powerpoint.

Worst Ramification Of The Presidential Election: Bush wins second term.

Most Astute (And Depressing) Observation Made After The Presidential Election: "I feel rotten for wasting so much of my spare time reading political blogs. It's like when I got hooked on the OJ Simpson trial -- I could have learned a foreign language or written a book in the block of time I allocated to OJ." -- my dad

Best Ramification Of The Presidential Election, And A Direct Result Of The Above Two Items: I haven't paid a whit of attention to politics since November 2. I'm so much happier! I'm like a born-again apathetic!

Longtime Goal That I Actually Met in 2004: Started riding my bicycle to work.

Longtime Goals That I Failed Meet In 2004: The rest.

November 29, 2004

Weight Loss Tip For Dieters

Baking soda contains no calories; eat as much as you want!

[ link | Misc]

August 18, 2004

What A Waist

I bought a new pair of jeans, and, after wearing them for about a month (not continuously), I've come to realize that they are too big for me. I'll probably need to gain another 15 pounds for them to fit comfortably. And, yes, this means I'll have to drink more alcohol, increase my consumption of carbs, and stop excercising altogether, but I don't really have an alternative. If I don't, the thirty bucks I spent on these pants will be, like, a total waste.

[ link | Misc]

July 13, 2004

Three Items That Have Pretty Much Nothing In Common
  1. Seattleites! Here's a Excel spreadsheet listing Happy Hours of local watering holes. Don't say I never gave you nuthin'.
  2. New fathers! Whoa, Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook For New Fathers is a great, great book. When I saw it at the library I almost left it behind because it looked too jokey, but it actually turns out to one of the most useful new parent guides I've read thus far. New papas: read it; new mamas: pick it up for the spouse. For more info check out this review from Daddy Types.
  3. People who have just taken drugs! This is perhaps the most mesmerizing animated gif of all time.

May 11, 2004

The Race-ists Club

Some of of my of friends banded together to form The Race-ists Club. Every Sunday two of them run a 200 m. foot race to see who will win, and, afterwards, everyone heads to a local pub to celebrate the outcome. Although members aren't technically required to be out-of-shape when they join, they are prohibited from training for their race in any way.

This was the exciting photo finish to last Sunday's match, in which Matt (or, as he's commonly known in Seattle, Drunk Of The Week) squeaked out a victory over Race-ists Club founder Reuben.

[ link | Misc]

May 10, 2004

Odds and Ends

  • Over the weekend I saw a woman driving while talking on her cell phone. She cut off another car in traffic, and the man in the second vehicle clearly wanted to honk his horn or make an obscene gesture in anger, but was unable to because he, too, was talking on a cell phone.
  • Yesterday I ate asparagus for dinner. Today, in the men's restroom at work, I considered turning to the guy at the urinal next to mine and apologizing, but concluded that this would probably be a breach of etiquette.
  • Spam Subjectline: " Is GOLD ready to EXPLODE?" Man I hope not, or some of the people I ride the bus with are going to need some major dental work afterwards.
  • [ link | Misc]

    May 03, 2004


    This was my dream.

    I arrived at the start of a 10K race clad in shorts and running shoes, and was surprised to discover that I was the only apparent participant. Even so, the race officials were very eager to get me started. They urged me to get behind the start line and fired the starter's pistol the moment I had done so.

    I trotted off all by myself while the spectators cheered me on. I wasn't familiar with the race's route, but occasionally saw crude arrows chalked onto the pavement and followed those. These seemed to be keeping me on course, as there were still throngs spectators around. But as I reached the third mile or so, the people stopped cheering and began to get impatient. "Come on!" they started to yell. "Hurry up!"

    Finally I found myself running inside a shopping mall, unable to find any more arrows to guide my way. Just as I became frustrated, I saw a race official and jogged over to him.

    "First of all," I asked, "How come no one else showed up for the race."

    "Actually, thousands of people are running it," He told me. "But instead of running the race all at the same time, everyone is running it sequentially, in alphabetical order. As a 'Baldwin,' you were the first." (Apparently Pamela Anderson was not participating.) "They are waiting for you to finish so the next guy can start."

    "Oh, great!" I cried. "And I don't even know where I'm going. I can't find any more arrows."

    The official gestured toward an Old Navy bag that was lying on the ground nearby. I went over, picked it up, and looked inside. It contained hundreds of jigsaw pieces."

    "When assembled," the official told me, "the puzzle will show your next destination."

    Psychoanalysis we will leave as an exercise for the reader.

    [ link | Misc]

    April 20, 2004

    Dear Me

    Dear Journalists: Please stop describing each and every confluence of events as a perfect storm. I think we're pretty much done with that. And don't get tricky by putting 'perfect storm' in scare quotes or by calling it a so-called perfect storm, because we all know that's just secret code for "couldn't come up with my own analogy."

    Also! Dear TV Sitcom Commercial Writers: I'm pretty sure that "putting the fun into dysfunctional!" joke has been made before. Sorry.

    Likewise! Dear TV Drama Commercial Writers: Your assertions notwithstanding, there probably are some things that could adequately prepare me for the shocking finale.

    In conclusion! Dear everyone on Earth: Stop scuffing your feet when you walk, fercrissakes. What are you, seven?

    [ link | Misc]

    December 31, 2003

    Obligatory "Best Of 2003" List

    Favorite Movies Seen In The Theater: Return Of The King (Review pending, honest), The Station Agent (ditto), Talk To Her, The Pianist, Kill Bill Vol. 1.

    • Caveat 1: I somehow never got around to seeing Lost In Translation, but I have a hunch that it might have been up there.
    • Caveat 2: Only an exceptional year in fictional movies could keep documentaries off my Top 5. That said, a Top 10 probably would have had Capturing The Friendmans and Spellbound in the 6 and 7 positions.
    Most Disappointing Movie Seen In The Theater: The Matrix Reloaded, duh.

    Movie That, Had I Seen It In The Theater, Might Have Challenged The Matrix Reloaded For The Title Of 'Most Disappointing Movie Seen In The Theater': That would be The Hulk.

    Favorite Movies Seen On DVD: About Schmidt, Y Tu Mama Tambien, About A Boy (yeah, I was surprised too).

    Worst Movie I Watched The First 20 Minutes Of On DVD: xXx.

    Favorite Fiction Books Read: The Hours, Empire Falls, Look At Me.

    Favorite Non-Fiction Book Read: The Armchair Economist.

    Favorite Album: Give Up by The Postal Service. Predictable but true.

    Favorite Game: Age Of Steam.

    Stupidest New Trend Witnessed: Drivers talking on their cell phones via "hands-free headsets" while still holding the cell phone in their hand. I have not the words.

    October 08, 2003


    Why I am bummed.

    1. Yesterday I heard the song "Pictures Of You" used in a commerical for digital cameras.
    2. Today I saw this.
    It's enough to make boys cry.

    Update: Also!

    1. I can only savor my Internet crush on Mighty Girl -- whose blog served as an inspiration for my own -- for two more days. As of Saturday she is a married woman.

    [ link | Misc]

    September 24, 2003

    The Quencher

    When I first saw the USA Today headline reading Flame Retardant Found In Breast Milk, I thought they had found a natural substance in there that could be used to put out fires. And I was all, like, "Damn -- isn't there anything that stuff can't do?!"

    [ link | Misc]

    August 14, 2003


    I just noticed that my office has a light switch on the wall behind the file cabinet. Kind of a a wierd place to put one, and I have no idea what it does. Only one way to find out, I guess.

    Update: Shit! Sorry!

    [ link | Misc]

    August 13, 2003


    Do this:

    • Make clockwise circles on the floor with your right foot;
    • Now, without looking at your foot, use the index finger on your right hand to draw the number "6" in the air.
    Did your foot change direction? Yes it did, you liar.

    A big thanks to TTT for pointing out that I am unable to control my own goddamned body

    July 01, 2003

    June 16, 2003


    After years of forking over $30 every other month so that strangers could make my hair look bad, I finally realized that I could make my own hair look bad for free!. So I picked up some clippers from Target, handed them to The Queen, and told her to go nuts. This is the result. (And, for purposes of comparison, this is what it often looked like before.)

    It looks as good (read: not very) as the professional cuts, my shampoo usage has plummeted, and I won't have to get another cut for months -- win-win-win!

    I'll freely admit, though, that I got a little nervous when, in the midst of shaving my head, The Queen started whistling Sinead O'Connor.

    May 20, 2003

    Slogans and Subjectlines

  • Lean Cuisine's new slogan is "It's not just lean, it's cuisine". Apparently consumers were unable to deduce this from the name. In other news, Coke's new slogan is: "Coca-Cola: it's a beverage for drinking."
  • Free joke for your stand-up routine! "Election season is starting to heat up: Bush has filed for reelection and the Democrats have held two debates. And both parties announced that they will be running on Clinton's 1994 slogan, although each will emphasize the half that they feel is their strong point -- the Democrats will highlight the 'It's the economy!' part and Bush will focus on the 'Stupid'."

  • Today I was rummaging around in my spam-filter folder, and came across an email entitled "HERE ARE YOUR GANGBANG PICTURES!!!". But when I opened the email it turned out to be some complete stranger's gangbang pictures instead (!!). Oh boy, what an embarrassing mix up. Anyway, if you recently got my gangbang pictures by mistake, drop me a line so can get this all sorted out. Thanks.
  • December 18, 2002

    Dunkin Do Nots
    1. In a fit of nostalgia I tracked down and listened some Kris Kross songs yesterday. DO NOT DO THIS!!!! Specifically, do not listen to this mp3 of "Jump". That song is evil infectious -- and I don't mean "infectious" in a good way, like laughter, I mean "infectious" in a bad way, like Pink Eye. You know how your cat, when he senses you're going to take him to the vet, slinks under the couch, and when you try and fish him out he keeps moving to different, remote, unreachable spots, and then, when you finally move the whole sofa away from the wall and grab him by the nape and try and pull him out, he digs his claws into the carpet so the entire extraction process is accompanied by a loud ripping noise? That is what "Jump" will do to your head. I have been singing the chorus non-stop for two days now, inserting every element of my mundane life into it as I go.
      The Queen: Don't forget to send your grandmother a Christmas card.
      Me: Grandma'll make ya: Jump! Jump!
      The Queen: Why are you doing that?
      Me: Kris Kross'll drive ya: Nuts! Nuts!
      The Queen: You'd better knock that off.
      Me: My wife is gonna: Punch! Punch!
    2. Also! DO NOT SEE WINDTALKERS!! I had the misfortune of viewing this alleged "movie" over the weekend and, lemmie tell ya, it's terrible. It's worse than terrible. It's whatever comes after terrible. It's petable. The credits said that it took two people to write the screenplay. Presumably one person sat in front of his TV watching every cheesy war movie ever made, while a second guy sat at a typewriter, and occasionally Guy One would shout to Guy Two: "Okay, here's a scene that's been in the last dozen films; write this down." I mean, this had them all: The Placid Scene Just Before The Soldiers Meet Their Doom Where They All Casually Discuss What They Are Going To Do When They "Get Out," The Scene Where The One Racist In The Platoon Who Constantly Belittles The One Minority In The Platoon Is Saved By The One Minority In The Platoon And Changes His Ways, The Scene Where Some Guy Gets Shot (actually, Windtalkers contained this particular scene approximately one infinity times). It really did a good job of conveying the horrors of war, though, as I am now under the impression that combat is the most boring activity imaginable.
    3. Also! If you read some great idea here on the yeti, and then you later discover a news article about some joker who used that same idea to make a bajillion dollars, DO NOT TELL ME!!! (I'm talking to you, Jonathan Harris). I prefer to believe (a) I am the only one who comes up with these schemes, and (b) the reason I am not a millionaire is because I am a Pisces, and certainly not due to any lack of initiative on my part. I have worked for years to hone and maintain my current state of blissful ignorance, and I don't need you screwing it up with reality.
    November 04, 2002

    Pray For Matthew

    I hate football, but tonight I am going to an "Official Packer Backers" sports bar to watch Green Bay play the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football.

    So if the year is 2007, and you are reading my site, and this is the last entry I ever made ... well, that's what happened to me.

    [ link | Misc]

    July 31, 2002

    Matt LeBlanc

    I never ever ever watch Friends. But when I do, I like Joey the best. Actually, I just like Matt LeBlanc -- he's a great guy. I know this for a fact because I've seen him on tv.

    Excerpt from an Entertainment Weekly interview:

    Q: When you meet people, do they always make you say [your catchphrase "How you doin?"]

    A: Yeah, and they get really pissed off if you don't. I'll do it for kids almost every time. A little kid, man -- you just can't say no to a little kid. But like if there's some meathead in a restaurant, "Hey, do it! Gimme one! How you doin?! Just do it! Come on!" I just say [acting confused], "How you doin? What? What do you want me to do?"

    [ link | Misc]

    January 11, 2002


    My brand new keyboard has a "Euro" key. I don't have the slightest idea what I'm going to do with it, but that hasn't stopped me from boasting to my co-workers.

    Speaking of which, don't, for the love of all that's holy, eat your Euro notes. Note that the reporter says that "eating more than 400 new euro notes could make you ill" (i.e. you can safely eat 400), when in fact the doctor clearly states that "there is a product in the ink which, if you ingest 400 notes, become toxic" That's the kind of sloppy reporting that's going to get someone killed!

    [ link | Misc]


    This was driving me craaaazy. I could vaguely remember exactly two lines from a year-old pop song called "Kaitlin" or "Caitlin" or something. Finally, in desperation, I wrote my local radio station:

    Early in 2001, there was song getting lots of play on the radio. It was a poppy little tune about a girl, and some DJ said that it had actually been written by the lead singer for his daughter. The daughter's name, as near as I can remember, was "Kaitlyn," or some variation thereof (e.g. Catlyn), or something similar (e.g. Kathrine).

    Two lines of the chorus when something like

    "When everything just falls to bits
    I think of you, my own Kaitlyn ..."

    ... or somesuch ...

    The band was not a well known one. This song rapidly faded into oscurity. [The radio station] Star 101.5 may have been the only station in the Seattle area playing it.

    Any clue?

    And, moments after hitting [send], it came to me. "Cailin" by Unwritten Law. Boo-ya!

    [ link | Misc]

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