12.30.2005

The Zen of Pudding

There are many questions that husbands fear to be asked by their wives. Some of these questions may be “does this look all right on me?” or “do you mind going over to visit with my great aunt’s sister-in-law’s roommate for 6 hours?” among other things. These questions don’t terrify me, nor do they throw me off. But the one question that will get me into trouble over and over again are the four words “What are you thinking?”

Ladies, why do you do this? Men don’t think. And even when we do, it’s about something mundane and un-exciting like spark plugs, external hard drives or even pulled pork. Unless you have an inane interest into one of these genres, then by all means continue to ask, otherwise assume that we are okay, we love you and all is right in the world. Sadly, my wife knows better. What’s worse is that my mind can and has done some very random thinking on topics that usually people do not dwell upon. I use “dwell” loosely, because this holds no effort for me. For example, my lovely wife and I were on a road trip back down the highway to Kansas – the breadbasket of America. I don’t know why it’s called that since eastern Kansas seems to be thriving with Chinese restaurants. Apparently, “sweet and sour pork basket” of America lacks Midwestern charm. Anyway, it was on a lone stretch of highway that my wife asked the question of all questions “What are you thinking?” This was indeed unfortunate because, for reasons unknown to even me, I was thinking about pudding. Yes, pudding. Was I hungry? No. Did I just see it on a billboard? No again. In fact, I was just thinking about the nature of pudding and why pudding was pudding. In short - why pudding is. This seemed to confuse my wife because the furrow in her brow returned and you’d think after so many furrows, she’d stop provoking this type of behavior out of me. She has confessed that she asks this question for entertainment purposes, but the answer invariably disappoints, confuses and subtlety upsets her. I imagine the subtext of her thoughts go as such: “Why is he thinking about pudding? Is he hungry? Do I not make enough pudding? I have a husband that thinks about pudding while driving.”

In my defense, useless as it is, I was just mainly analyzing that pudding seems to be a quasi-dessert – neither solid nor liquid and unlike its brother known as “filling” – it is not part of another dessert genre. You can combine pudding with “crust” and get another dessert called “pie,” but pudding can stand-alone while “cream filling” by itself is left wanting symbiotic relationship. This explanation should have satisfied my wife, but it didn’t. After stating this, I was ready to prepare and oral essay on my thought with references to Dickens, folklore and Bill Cosby, but all she did was turn up the radio. Will she ask what I’m thinking again? You bet! Will she regret it? Most likely, but the one thing she can take comfort in is that I am honest.

12.23.2005

The Unofficial "It's a Wonderful Life" Boardgame

I enjoy making board games. It's a dream job of mine that doesn't really add a lot of value to this world. Nevertheless, I do it anyway as a hobby. Since this is Christmas time, what better way to celebrate than to share with you.
The Unofficial
Board Game!
(These rules and game structure are copyright to me, 2003. All characters are property to whoever made them - No, I didn't make any money on this. Don't sue me. All we all okay? Good.)
Relive the joy, trauma and entrapment of George Bailey with family and friends. Do you have the mettle to stand up to what he went through? Guide your token through Bedford Falls and be the one with the most friends to keep Old Man Potter from bringing you down!

2-6 Players
Ages 8 and up

CONTENTS
1 Unofficial “It’s a Wonderful Life™” Board Game Instruction Booklet
1 Unofficial Game Board
1 Die
6 Tokens
26 Very Interesting Situation Cards
6 Choice Cards
40 Friend Cards
24 Asset Cards
30 Potter Cards
15 Clarence Cards

GOAL

Your goal is to try to get George out of Bedford Falls with as many friends as possible.

SET-UP

1. Each player chooses a token and places it on START

Tokens:
George’s Model T
Potter’s Wheelchair
Ernie’s Taxicab
Harry’s Plane
George’s unused suitcase
George’s Hat


2. Shuffle the Friend, Asset and Clarence Cards together
3. Deal out 7 cards to each player.
4. Reshuffle the deck and include the Potter Cards, Situation Cards and Choice Cards.
5. Place the deck on the Draw Pile rectangle
6. Have each player roll the die to see who goes first.

BEGINNING A TURN
1. To begin a turn, roll the die and move your token that many spaces and draw a card.
2. Follow any instructions that are on the card.

There are 6 different types of cards described briefly here:

Very Interesting Situation Cards
Some are good, some are bad, but are all will be very interesting to deal with. After you experience the situation, place it on the discard pile.

Choice Cards
These cards will give you a golden opportunity that you can take . . . or not. Place it on the discard pile after you make your choice.

Friend & Asset Cards
These cards help you during the Very Interesting Situations you’ll experience throughout your life. They are collected in your hand.

Potter Cards
These cards stay on you and harm you in different ways. Place these cards in front of you. If they are removed (described later), they are placed in the discard pile.

Clarence Cards
Clarence cards are here to help you out of some tight spots. They also are collected in your hand.

3. After completing what the cards say to do; play then goes to next player on the left.

NOTE: There is no limit to the amount of cards you can have in your hand as the game progresses.

When the draw pile is depleted, reshuffle the discard pile and place it on the draw pile rectangle.

WINNING
The player, who has the most friend cards once everyone is out of Bedford Falls, wins. When a player reaches the end, through a choice card or reaching the last square, that player must discard 3 friend or asset cards (or a mixture) for every Potter card they have. Any unused Clarence cards count as 2 friends. Unused Asset cards count as 1 friend card.

THE CARDS

VERY INTERESTING SITUATION Cards

George’s life, while wonderful, is full of interesting situations that are both good and bad. These cards will affect your progress through the board as well as the number of cards in your hand.

The Board votes Potter down
Potter’s greedy hands are slapped back once more!
Advance 2 spaces.

Harry is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
“I guess they do those things.”
Local morale is up, advance 3 spaces with pride and draw
another card with gusto.

Bailey Park vs. Potter’s field
“Potter’s Field is becoming exactly that!”
You get more people out of Potter’s slums.
Advance 1 space OR draw another card.

Potter offers 50 cents on the dollar
“Better half than nothing!”
This offer is strong in the ears of your customers.
Play an asset card to advance 4 spaces otherwise go back 4 spaces.

Mary is stuck in the hydrangea bushes
“A man doesn't get in a situation like this every day
... Not in Bedford Falls, anyway.”

You decide to sell tickets. Move ahead a space.

Freddie & Mickey plot against you
“Did you know there's a swimming pool under this floor?”
Immediately discard this card . . .
and while you’re at it, discard a friend card too.

The Swimming Pool Opens at the dance
“They’re cheering us! We must be good!”
Roll the die
Even – You stay dry; Stay where you are.
Odd – You fall in; Move forward 2 spaces; draw 2 cards.

There’s a run on the Bank
“If you close your doors before six P.M. you will never reopen.”
The town is uneasy. What are they going to do until
the bank reopens in a couple of days?.
Use 2 asset cards to stay where you are otherwise go back 2 spaces.

The $8000
“One of us is going to jail! Well, it's not going to be me!”
Play 5 asset cards; OR one Sam Wainwright card to stay where you are
OTHERWISE discard all cards and move back 5 spaces.

FOR SALE: 320 Sycamore; Minor Repairs Needed
“Welcome Home, Mr. Bailey.”
If you have Mary’s card, advance 3 spaces.
If you have the Dream Home Asset card, discard it now.

You wish for a million dollars
“Hot Dog!”
Advance 1 space.

Mr. Welch
You get punched at the bar after saying a prayer.
Move back 5 spaces OR play two friend cards to move back only one space OR play Mr. Martini’s card to stay where you are

The Bank Examiner Has Come
You should have called him yesterday; now he’s here.
Move back 1 space

Business Partner - Uncle Billy
Roll the die
1 – He forgets to call the Bank Examiner again, lose a turn.
2, 3 – He does an o.k. job, move ahead one space.
4 – He can’t remember where he left $8000, move back 4 spaces to go help look for it, keep this card & roll the die again for another outcome.
5, 6 – He’s doing a lousy job, keep this card, move back 1 space, discard an asset card and roll the die again for another outcome.

Potter issues a warrant for your arrest
“Go on home! They’re waiting for you!”
Discard all Friend cards, if you have no friend cards – you lose 2 turns to take time to straighten everything out with the Sheriff.

The Battle of Bedford Falls continues
The War is on! You keep your head while everyone squabbles over necessities. Advance 1 space & discard a friend card. If you have no friend cards, you’re disgruntled, move back 2 spaces.

The Second World War
You can’t even get out of Bedford Falls to risk your life in battle! You get involved in different roles in town.
Move back 3 spaces and draw a card.


CHOICE cards
Choice cards allow you to get out of the game early to avoid any more perils or pitfalls; of course you could get more friends and assets too if you stay in the game. If you accept a choice that leads you away from running the Bailey Building & Loan, calculate your number of friend cards as you would if you have reached the end of the board. You then sit out with your total and wait for the other players to reach the end.

Harry offers to take over the business
“You’ve been holding the bag here for years, George.”
If you have Harry’s card, advance 3 spaces
before you make your decision.
If you stay, move back 1 space.

The Board wants you to continue the business
“They voted Potter down! They want to keep it going!
But there’s one condition . . .”
If don’t have Uncle Billy’s card, discard 2 asset cards
before making your decision.
If you stay, move back 2 spaces.

Potter offers you a job in his company
“Oh, confound it, man, are you afraid of success?!”
If you have Mary’s card, move back 5 spaces before
you make your decision.
If you stay, token does not move.


ASSET cards
Assets are all that you have (or have the potential to have), besides your friends. These cards can only be used when a situation occurs. Manage them wisely.

Travel Money

College Money

Honeymoon Money

Insurance Policy

Dream Home

New Car

Ground Floor Investment in Plastics

Zuzu’s Petals

FRIEND cards
The more friends you have, the less of a failure you will be – at least in this game. Some friends have special capabilities while other friends are just there in your hand, hoping to help out someday. These cards can only be used when a situation occurs. Play these cards carefully.

Bert & Ernie
Counts as two friend cards

Mr. Martini

Mary
When you use this card, advance 2 spaces plus the number
of Potter cards against you.

Uncle Billy
Move back 1 space
whenever this card is used
Mr. Gower

Annie

Zuzu
If you have Zuzu’s petals, her card counts as two friend cards

Violet
If you use this card while you have any Potter cards
Move back 1 space.

Sam “Heehaw” Wainwright

Random Friends
Value equals 1 plus the amount of Potter cards you have against you

Harry

Marty

Nick

Mrs. Davis
She only wants $17.50!
This card can be used either as a friend card OR as an asset card.

Cousin Tilly

Cousin Eustace

Mr. Partridge

Peter Bailey
This card counts as 1 friend card AND 1 asset card together.

Mrs. Bailey



POTTER cards

Old Man Potter is at it again! The richest and meanest man in town! He stays on your back without a moments rest. When you draw one of his cards, place it in front of you. The effect of his cards stays until they are removed by Clarence’s cards OR by sacrificing 3 friend cards and 1 asset card for every Potter card you have.


Potter Speaks
He tells you really depressing stuff and you believe it.
As long as this card is in play, the farthest you can move is three spaces per turn.

Potter Deals
He makes you question your own motives and calling.
Whenever Friend cards are played on your turn; you must play an additional one. If you do not have the needed amount of Friend cards, go back 1 space.

Potter Plots
He has all the time and money in the world to plan your demise.
Whenever Asset cards are played on your turn; you must play an additional one.
If you do not have the needed amount of Asset cards, go back 1 space.

Potter Buys
Potter starts buying every business in town to apply more pressure on the Building and Loan. Discard down to 4 cards. You can only carry up to 4 cards as long as this card is in effect. At the end of every turn be sure to discard down to 4 cards.


It is possible to have more than one of the same Potter card affect you. Place each one in front of you. Only “Potter Deals” and “Potter Speaks” create extra problems by having you cast off even more friends and assets.

CLARENCE cards
Clarence Odbody AS2 is here to help you. Keep his cards handy. A Clarence card can be played at anytime during your turn. Because George is a little slow to catch on to what is happening, only one Clarence card can be played during your turn.

Truth
“You see, George, you really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?”
Removes one Potter card and advances you two spaces

Innocence
“Mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves.
Off with you, me lad, and be lively!”
Removes one Potter Card

Faith
“Now look, you mustn't talk like that.
I won't get my wings with that attitude.”
Ignores effects of the last card you drew
Whether a situation, choice or Potter card – place it on
the discard pile.

The Great Gift
“You've got your wish. You've never been born.”
For two turns, the effects of your Potter cards are cancelled

Hope
“No man is a failure who has friends.”
Removes all your Potter cards
And there ya go. A great Christmas to all and to all a good Christmas.

12.16.2005

Holiday Yuck: How to hate your mouth

It's that time of year again. Jones Soda company has done it again with another batch of holiday travesty.


A group of us at work decided to dive into this delectable horror so we could say "I did it." Only after this did we decide that there should have been cash as a reward, but oh well...

Here is a fast breakdown of our experience. I ranked them from least foul to diabolical evil against all that is right and wholesome. Enjoy!


Cranberry Sauce – Not bad. In light of the other sodas, it is the nectar of the gods. On its own, it’s just plain iffy. Not something you would willingly try the third time. The second try is basically for the “did I taste that right?” confirmation.

Pumpkin Pie – Sweet Moses, this was bizarre. It tasted like a pumpkin exploded in my mouth, lodging rotten pumpkin seeds into my nasal cavity. The carbonation seemed too strong and that just added to the pain. There is no second try there, because this experience was starting to taint my enthusiasm.

Turkey and Gravy – I must admit that this seemed to be the dullest of the flavors. It may have been that my palate was already tainted and so I couldn’t get the full effect. I was quick to realize that this was a blessing. The taste of gravy soda was not something I really wanted to fully experience. Hopeing that this would be how the other flavors would pan out showed how young and naive I still was.

Wild Herb Stuffing – For the love of all that is pure and holy, why? Oh heavens, what have they done? The bottle looks like it is lemonade – or dishwater, but the contents hold one of the most devious and destructive contents known to man. The smell isn’t that bad and the initial taste is just bad, but the evil comes into the aftertaste. Like a time bomb, it waits for its ever-coming havoc. Just when you think you’re ready to move on, it assaults your very own soul with a reeking butter flavor that makes you want to rip your throat out.

Brussels Sprout – No. No NO. If sin had a taste, this is it. Actually, I take that back. Satan would probably try to break all theological bounds and repent if threatened with this. I would not wish this on Bill Parker, the bully from 8th grade who use to flick staples at my ears. Bill would probably start to try it and I’d say “Dude, no – don’t do it. I care about you on the basic sense of humanity.” It looks awful to start. A gritty dark green liquid rarely tastes anything but putrid and it stays true to form here. The smell will keep the most hardy away and several of us almost lost it here. Only by pinching my nose could I get it down and then the realization that at some point one has to release your nose so my nasal senses could add to the experience. This is pure evil of an evil that you never knew existed. It’s the Emperor to its Darth Vader. It’s Melkor to its Sauron. It’s the embodiment of Wrong. This is what the world could unite under a banner of peace and say “This is the enemy.” Who knew that peace on Earth could be achieved through soda?

Thankfully, that was the last one. We realized that we were scarred for life - or at least the rest of the day. These are not meant to be ingested, but people will do it anyway. I guess human nature likes to see what it can do to itself.

For the bravery of those 4 that tried all 5 of these bottles of swill, I made the following badge:

12.09.2005

Do we really wish you a Merry Christmas?

Christmas is almost upon us now. As I type this, I have a radio tuned on an AM station at my place of business playing Christmas Music 24 hours a day. That sounds really cool – and it is . . . until you realize that they have a limited music selection and that the play list consists of 24 different versions of only seven songs.
But hey, it’s Christmas, almost!
However, upon listening to this music for five days in a row, I have a problem with the traditional carol of “We wish you a Merry Christmas.” This is a fun carol that is very jolly – at least the first verse:

We wish you a Merry Christmas (repeat 3 times)
. . .and a happy new year!

Then there is the chorus:
Good tidings to you and all your friends*
Good tidings for Christmas and a happy new year

This is what everybody sings, but there are traditionalists out there that demand all verses be sung. I thought only Baptists did that, but there are some hard-core Christmas police out there who lead choir members into this land of unfamiliarity. Without these people, we would have never found the evil feeling that this song generates as a whole.
This “fun” carol takes a dark and twisted turn. The writer was obviously distracted by either hunger or a selfish lust for sweets, because the second verse goes:

Now bring out the figgy pudding! (repeat 3 times)
And bring it right here!

Some later renderings of this verse are “We’d like some figgy pudding” or “We want some Figgy Pudding And we’ll wait right here.” This obviously was an attempt to tone down the abruptness of the second verse, but all versions still depict a need for pudding. The original work is still intact and sung around America today. The rest of this article will dissect the original intent of this dastardly song.

On a historical note, pudding was once a traditional food at Christmas** – it was difficult to make and yielded a taste that was far duller than the sweets we have now.*** This pudding apparently was a fig pudding, that is - a pudding made with figs – maybe a lot of figs therefore rendering it “figgy.” I will admit that it is a funny word, much too funny to sing formally yet people still do it anyway. In my five days of continuous listening of Christmas music, one version stated “Christmas pudding” in place of “Figgy pudding.” This singer was obviously very much embarrassed at the thought of using his professional talent to say the word “figgy.” Yet he was the only one that did not say “figgy” while the six other versions kept the word “figgy” and because of their bravery, he is now rendered a wuss in my mind. But my argument does not lie here in the figgieness of the pudding.

The writer of this carol is very driven to get this pudding. Her/His tone is very adamant at the maker of the pudding. “Now bring out the Figgy Pudding!” almost sounds like “I’m tired of this holiday junk! Now give me pudding!” This could be from the perspective of a child rebelling against his/her mother’s suggestions to wish the visiting guests a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – that would be the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is that the singer is a guest invited into the warmth of a host’s home and demands the pudding he/she thinks they are hiding. This could be the playful ruse that some friends put on to lighten the mood, but we have no clues to indicate this type of relationship.

If that wasn’t enough, there is a third verse that is more extreme that sucks all the holiday cheer out of the room that the host would desperately try to perpetuate. The third verse is as follows:

We won’t go until we get some! (repeat 3 times)
. . .so bring it right here!

We can only infer that the host did not respond to the guest’s initial request to bring out pudding. Perhaps the host was so offended that they refused to listen to this guest. The arrogance of the guest is apparent now as he holds the party hostage until said pudding is revealed. This guest is indeed extremely selfish because not only do they want immediate pudding, but they are not wanting this pudding placed at the table, or the buffet, for all to partake in; the guest says “bring it right here!” which we can only interpret as “my lap.” I must point out that this verse also uses the pronoun “we” which leads to two possibilities as to the identity of the caroler(s):
1. A couple. A very rude and selfish couple OR
2. The entire party in attendance.
I’m assuming it’s the entire party since this song is traditionally sung by choirs. Imagine with me the poor hosts of this party; their home being held hostage by a ruthless mob that demands pudding. Not just any pudding! Figgy Pudding! Aren’t figs rare in this part of the world? The whole situation probably started with one guest, right after the 2nd round of Pictionary, and the number of participants grew until the whole party started chanting in unison “We won’t go until we get some [pudding].” To state such a phrase would indicate that it is getting pretty late in the evening. If that is true, then the only reason the pudding hasn’t been brought out yet is that the host doesn’t have ANY pudding to give! Whether the host tried to explain this rationally to the mob or not; we’ll never know. We can only imagine the horror as the hosts are hiding in the kitchen, huddled over their children, as the mob tears apart the living room and starts to chant in unison. The promise that the guests won’t leave until they get pudding, along with the absence of pudding in the home of the host creates an embarrassing situation for both groups. In fact, in Miss Manners Party Etiquette Manual, both Host and Guest have met all conditions that the only inevitable conclusion is a violent outburst of anger.****

After the third verse, the first verse is repeated, but at this point, we know it is only a taunt. Their Christmas will not be merry, because the tree and all the family’s presents were IN the living room when the thrashing riot began. Little Billy’s toy horse is now dismembered from a hefty guest’s booted foot. Susan’s Barbie phone will be found broken on the lawn next morning. The tragedy that this carol conjures is evil and in poor taste for such a holy holiday. I, for one, wish you a Merry Christmas, and I mean that.

*or kin; presumably if you had no friends. According to this carol, it already seems that if you have neither then it is not their wish for you to have good tidings despite your loneliness. This is due to the condition of the greeting being for both parties exclusivley.
** After all, it’s mentioned in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, isn’t it? I only saw the movie and they had some there – they made a big deal out of it.
*** C’mon, why do you think we don’t eat it anymore here in the U.S.A.?
****Don’t bother looking it up, just trust me.

12.02.2005

History Lesson #1

This week I will share a bit of history. It's fun to see how the present and the past are united together, rooted in something common that is ... well, commonly common as something rooted to two different things such as present and past really aren't that different ... but they are. Maybe that is uncommon ... hmmm

The History of "Thumbkin"



“Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin?”
“Here I am! Here I am!”
“How are you today, sir?”
“Very well, I thank you!”
“Runaway, Runaway”

There are some different renditions of this little song, but I have explored the origination of this song and its original meaning. First, I need to show you the first clue and that is the use of wiggling the thumb when two are singing this song (or one person using two hands if you are the only person in the room.) This comes from the signal for the underground resistance of France between the periods of 1940-1941. Thumbkin represents the youth of the resistance who will rebuild the world once the war was over. The question of the older person is “Where is [the future leaders of our country]” and the youth respond “Here I am!” It is no doubt that this song was a morale booster during the time of Germany’s Occupation of France. The next line “How are you today, sir?” is an important one. The old is calling the new “sir” signifying that Older France will follow the Younger leaders toward a new era of peace and longevity. The next line “Very Well, I thank you!” is the acceptance of such a role from the younger generation. They thank the older generation for their confidence in their youth as a symbol of respecting the elders that came before them. The last phrase “Runaway, Runaway” has also been seen rendered as “Run and Hide, Run and Hide,” in either case, it is a reminder that the war is still going on and one cannot trust that their current position will not be found. The resistance must survive!* This is a very patriotic song to teach to all young children everywhere.



*unless your resistance movement is evil. Then shame on you! Go and choose a different song like ... oh I don't know ... maybe "Have you seen the ghost of John"

11.23.2005

Comments

Hi. uh... We just noticed that we had the comment thingy locked down real tight so no one could post anything unless they gave a DNA sample. So we had a guy click on something and maybe it did something. If it did something other than what we thought the something would do, we'll do something else.

Sillybear Inc. Tech Support Team Alpha J-2
Sillybear Inc.
A division of Nabisco

Happy Thanksgiving 2005

It's an early post for the Turkey Day Holiday so we can all get off the computer and spend some time with other humans.

For your holiday cheer, I want to share a Thanksgiving story that happened last week. A local ministry group was hosting a Thanksgiving meal for the International students at the University. This was going to be a great time to meet and welcome the students; a time to teach them about American Thanksgiving and learn about their culture to see if there was anything similar. (Who knows? You know? Because I can tell you I don't - at least not right now) Well anyway, that’s what was supposed to happen, but my experience turned out differently.

Once we got there, we saw a wonderful setup and there was food everywhere. This was going to be fun and yummy - no doubt. Upon the start someone grabbed my arm and said “we need help carving turkeys.” No problem. I enjoy helping out and look forward to doing it when I can. Leaving my wife at a table of Ukranian friends, I approach the scene and quickly assess the situation. The eating of turkey was about to commence and we had 12 turkeys, 6 people, and 4 knives already starting their surgery. I attempted to do some math in the sense of an equation.

If you have 200 people who each will eat 4 ounces of meat and you have 6 people carving at roughly 1 ounce every 3 minutes, and the average consumption rate at the buffet line is .25 ounces a minute, how long do you have before people start complaining?

Unfortunately, if I was going to sit down with pen and paper at this moment, the other volunteers would stare at me in disbelief not knowing that my calculations would be a boon to their task, but since I’m bad at math I dived into the turkeys.

Ah, the knife problem - or I should say, "problem of knife lackage." Yes. Upon inspection of the utensils available, we saw that carving knives were indeed lacking. There were plenty of serving spoons that could have been sharpened, but the lack of a stone grinder prohibited this line of thinking. I had been watching a lot of MacGyver lately and the brief thought of rigging a box fan to a screen door to produce a turkey-o-matic processor did pop into mind, but I chose a more rational line of thinking considering our impressionable guests. A journey to the buffet line produced two things: a sense of awe at the amount and variety of food and treats and a group of plastic forks and knives. Equipping myself with plenty of supplies for myself and my fellow knifeless carvers, I journey back and plunge with new resolve and hope into my first turkey. If my plasticware could talk, they probably would have said “Dude, what are you doing? Are you high? We’re plastic!” To which I would have said “I know boys, but these people depend on us, I’m with you in this to the end.” To which they would have said "You are high! You're talking to plasticware." And then I would deny it repeatedly and the organizer would then ask me to sit down at a table away from everyone. But the knife and fork didn't say a word - which is probably for the best for all three of us.

The interesting thing about turkey is that within a short period of a few minutes, you can go from craving it with mouth a-waterin’ and then be entirely repulsed by it as if it were camel spit in a matter of minutes. Luckily, my inability to eat the turkey due to duty staved off this effect. My new friends volunteering were an inexperienced lot and I wasn’t much better, but speed was essential and “careful cuts along the grain” was long abandoned to “meat-off-bone-now!” We all came to the realization that turkeys are made out of a lot of turkey. Just when you think you carved enough out of it, there was a whole section untouched, mocking you. We were convinced we were carving demon turkeys that were respawning in their own juices, rebuilding their tasty morsels to ungodly strengths to eventually take control of us all. Either that or we were just not as diligent as we thought we were. It was around my second turkey that my equation from before broke down since I did not consider the “dark meat” factor. People started coming to our carving table for fresh warm dark meat. This was fine, because they were going to get turkey anyway sooner or later – why not here? It was learned quite quickly that turkey was being consumed at a much larger rate that previously estimated. My equation, if applied, would have generated a turkey deficit that future generations would still be paying off, not to mention a “dark meat” quotient that would send energy prices soaring.

Sorry grandkids, Papa only had a plastic knife.

But at the end of all things, we had (when combined) 3 turkeys left over and nothing else. I retreated with some dark meat that was no longer appealing (through no fault of its own) and bits of corn left from the demolished buffet line and partook in some great fun with our Ukrainian friends. Even though the festivities were almost over I was able to reflect on what I was thankful for. I was thankful to help and thankful to be around some great people. Most of all, I was thankful for the existence of ham.

11.18.2005

New Horizons in Food (for me anyway)

I had my first pork rind this week. While waiting in checkout lines, I like looking at the displays nearby, with all the tabloids and candy and soap opera digests and then there's the beef jerky and the pork rinds. I'm always curious about beef jerky and pork rinds, but I don't want to go "down a notch" by actually buying them in front of my wife when we go shopping. So I bought them at work.
Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I paid 60 cents for a small package of Crispy Porkies® Fried Pork Rinds. The mascot was the head of a very excited cartoon pig in a chef's hat with a "Come on! It's fun!" expression on his/her face. Since the ingredients said only "Pork Skins and Salt" I figured I was getting a real deal. No artificialness at all. Maybe in this case it wouldn’t have been a bad idea. After holding one in my fingers, you do get a sense of "don't do it" because it doesn't really resemble anything one would commonly consume. Maybe a deformed cheese puff that hasn't been "cheesed" yet, but that's it.
After eating one, I got the feeling that I've been had. Mostly that it has the volume of a polystyrene packing peanut - hardly any substance to justify a markup to 60 cents. And then the flavor ... well, not what you'd expect. I'll admit that I didn't know what to expect, but whatever I did expect wasn't what I actually experienced. I ate half the bag to try to figure out if I liked it or not. Too actually go through such a process would indicate that I didn't like them. And now my stomach is agreeing to that logic. I have thrown the rest away giving up on wondering how to regain 30 cents of my investment.

Someday I'll try the beef jerky...

11.11.2005

James Bond - Worst. Spy. Ever.

It's November and it's usually around this time that a new James Bond film comes out every other year. There isn't one this year so you can safely say that I don't give into hype that much. Or you could just say "Why are you talking about it now?" I really don't know, it was just on my mind.

Some would consider James Bond to be the greatest spy character of all time, but this is clearly and undeniably wrong. The mere fact that we know his name excludes him from this category. Generally, a spy is someone who assumes an alias, infiltrates the enemy “sector,” gathers intelligence and then leave without a trace to report his findings to his (or her) superiors in cold, drab executively gray offices. James Bond accomplishes none of this. First, he doesn’t assume an alias. In fact, he makes it a point that you fully understand his identity. “My name is Bond, James Bond. That is my name is James Bond. First name James, last name Bond B-O-N-D. I will be your spy this evening.”

Secondly, his infiltrating is mostly done on women rather than the enemy headquarters. Sure, he could say that he needs her to get close to the enemy, but … James, really – every mission? When Jimmy finally gets around to the enemy compound, he is usually captured, bound and led to the head boss-evil-guy. Now, this could be his intention, but routine is always risky – especially in his line of work. One would think word would get around on Henchmen websites or Diabolical Leader Forums to inform others that if a guy introduces himself as “Bond, James Bond” just pull out your gun and get it over with and not to play verbal chess with a dude who has a laser in his watch. Nevertheless, Jimbo bites and claws his way out only to realize that there are roughly 23,000 fiercely loyal security guards after him. He should not be surprised by this. Nor is he. In fact, he shows no concern for his mission or his surroundings. The number one goal now is for him to stay alive – no matter the cost. During his routine “escapes” he tends to rack up 14 to 28 million bucks in damages – not to mentions the billions of “missed” bullets from both parties hitting innocents off screen as they chase each other on impossibly durable snowmobiles in downtwon Paris in mid-June. Think of the savings he could have had if he had employed the most basic of spy techniques that my wife uses daily.

1. Be cute – This is in and of itself an alias. Who could not trust those sweet pretty eyes, button nose and sunshiny smile?
2. Listen to your surroundings. My wife can hear me chew from the other room. Granted, it’s not that hard to hear me eat, but it’s important to pay attention to who’s around you.
3. Don’t get caught. Do you see my wife being chased by enemy agents? No, James, you don’t. Maybe if you held your cards a little closer to your chest, your insurance deductible wouldn’t be so high.

My confusion with all this is that the English government keeps using James Bond for the most sensitive assignments. How they try to justify his wanton abandonment of stealth and secrecy is beyond me. My only consolation is that when he is helicoptering his skis off a cliff in a bright yellow snowsuit, he is more of a target than my wife who would have already found the “Scoripo Missile Codes” on a Google internet search.

11.04.2005

An Audience of One


At no other time in history has an invention made people more rude and invasive into the privacy of one’s own world than the telephone. Well, maybe the leaf blower, but much has been said about that already by others. The word “telephone” comes from the Sanskrit root words “tele” which means “bringer” and “phone” which means “of evil and terrible things that will take away everything you hold dear.”
Yes, the telephone revolutionized the world, but it also revolutionized rudeness. This rudeness is subtle, because it happens all the time and it is hoped by the by the rude-ers that it will be accepted by the rude-ees. This rude behavior is displayed when a person representing someone (or something!) dials random numbers to talk to people they don’t know to get them to do something they most likely don’t want to do. Ah yes! You guessed it! I am talking about telemarketing, BUT I am not going to rant about how evil the practice is as much as how to deal with it.

“ONLY SAY HELLO ONCE”

The first path to take is not to get involved. You may pick up a ringing phone and say “hello” once and then if someone doesn’t answer right away – HANG UP QUICKLY! I have warned my friends and family that they should constantly scream my name after they dial my number just so my swift reflexes don’t cut them off. Those that constantly stay on the phone and say “hello” just deserve to get money sucked out of them, because this is what happens:

(Computer dials phone number)
(Phone rings)
Honest Hard Working American: Hello?
(Computer picks up signal that someone answered)
HHWA: Hello?
(Computer relays call to National Telemarketing Firm of Evil)
HHWA: Hello? Is anyone there?
(NTFofE gets notice of call and relays notice to one of their thousands upon thousands of underlings)
HHWA: Hellooooooooo?
(An underling gets the notice and screeches of joy from surrounding underlings of “We got one!” are loud and devilish until the underling of choice quiets them down.)
Underling: Yessss. Iz Mizter Smith available? gollum
HHWA: This is he.
Underling: (suppressing joy) Mizter Smith, I am authorized to offer you a credit card with a
50% APR, a $25 annual fee, with a credit line of up to $4. Now, I need to confirm your information that you live at . . .

The conversation goes into the Underling telling Mr. Smith everything about himself, like some sort of freelance psychic forcing his craft on you. This is largely passed up as normal and very legal. What one should do is say phrases like:

“How did you get this number??” and “How did you know that? Who do you work for?!!!!!”
It is important to sound as paranoid as possible. If they continue to talk to you, try shouting away from the phone saying:

“Riley! Johnson! We gotta move! We’ve been located! GO!” and then hang up OR add the following Hollywood-sounding vendetta:

"So, you found us, huh Jackson? Well, we’ll see who will be laughing when the Alatarzycophlox is activated! Tell your partner I hope he enjoyed his CHEESEBALL! Bwaa Ha Ha Haaaaaaa!!!!”


“DO NOT USE CREDIBLE THREATS”

Do not mention actual existing weapons such as bombs, mines or guns. Also, only say something that is pretty vague that could be taken several different ways. There is no need to have your phone number flagged by the NSA and a government kill-truck on route to your door. It’s just not worth it.

Now, if you have time and you are ready (which most of us don’t and aren’t) you can entertain the person of the other side with your keen wit and charm to annoy them to no end. Telemarketers are trained to talk fast and to keep you from saying as much as possible, so whenever they *have* to let you answer, begin this way: (Country accent optional) “Well, gee, this is a coincidence, because I was just talking to Marge and she said that she got a call like this about two weeks ago. At first I didn’t believe her that someone would just randomly call her and offer her a credit card, because after the Ackersons moved out of her duplex, she got into a lot of money problems, but the compensation checks from the Workman’s Comp agency did really well to help keep her on her feet after the accident that tore her rotator cuff and …”
It is extremely important to try to keep this up in a constant stream of banter because any sudden stop will invite them to interrupt. Now it is possible to interrupt them back by saying “I wasn’t finished!” but they will most likely ignore you can give you a 1-800 number to call if you are interested in what they have.

“REPEAT THE NUMBER INCORRECTLY”

After getting it right after the third time, say (sans country accent) “Hey wait! That spells out 1-800-HOT-CHIK, just what kind of thing are you trying to pull, I lead a Sunday school class for crying out loud! You aught to be AH-SHAAAAMED of yourself, MIS-TER Onion Picklesworth!” At this point, you don’t have to hang up, but I recommend it. Sometimes, if you’re strong enough, you can try to go for their reaction as your reward, but you will most likely be disconnected when you start tittering. It’s a much better end if the freak (you) leave first in the whole cannon of the conversation.

You can then hope that your confrontation with the underling will discourage them from such a line of work and maybe take up a more dignified profession such as Professional Wrestling or wearing costumes in front of Auto Dealerships.


10.28.2005

You can’t reason with a Zombie - a Hallowe'en pondering

In celebration of Halloween or All Hallow's Eve or Candy Day I present the following pondering. (and you thought that I forgot to post - bwa ha ha)

I’m not a fan of horror. I don’t like “the dark side” and I prefer never being scared by things of an underworld nature. It’s not worth it to me. Some people may enjoy that “high” of being scared or startled, but let’s make one thing clear – these people need help. From the occasional gut tossing rollercoaster to the gaudy faux-haunted house complete with vac-formed tombstones, people really need to find another device for excitability.
Like cross-stitching. Tedious it may seem, but the thrill of seeing a picture come to life from dots of yarn … well, one really can’t describe it fully to do it justice. I want to be clear in stating that I don’t suggest you cross-stitch a zombie on a throw pillow. That would be very off-putting for Grandma. Just keep the weird devil stuff where it should be – in large discount bins at Halloween Express-o-ramas. While you’re at it, seal it off and don’t go near it. You may think you are getting a good deal on a “Demented Dentist” starter kit, but in the long run your investment will depreciate on several levels.
Which brings me to zombies. Do we really need them? The very idea that something would slowly seek you out, without rest, no matter how far you traveled away only for you to be overcome by the feeling of inevitability is creepy enough. But why a zombie? Why not a gym coach? Or a telemarketer?
I remember my older brother trying to explain the “undead” to me. It went something like this:
Ricky “They aren’t alive, but they aren’t dead either.”
Me “Then what are they?”
Ricky “They’re undead.”
Me “Doesn’t that prefix just prove that they are alive?”
Ricky “No, they aren’t alive”
Me “But they move?”
Ricky “Yes”
Me “They talk?”
Ricky “More or less”
Me “They’re not dead though”
Ricky “No”
Me “Why not call them the ‘un-alive’”
Ricky “Because that would be stupid”
Me “Ah…”
I then started to think what I could do if I was approached by an undead zombie (as opposed to an un-alive salesman). If you can’t kill something that is already dead, by logic, your work is done and you can go make yourself a sandwich. However, you have to do something about it still moving un-logically toward you. If you lack the stamina and equipment and the stomach to hack it into itty-bitty bits you have only two options:
1. Revive them – yes, if the thing coming toward you is undead, then you must restore their health so they will stop their advances. Of course, to attempt this you would have to approach the zombie quite closely. An unfortunate prerequisite. Start your procedure by force feeding several vitamins and pain medications into the zombie’s mouth. Next apply a warm gelpack around the neck and start up the defibrillator. Should you succeed, the subject should be just plain dead and not be in this spooky undead condition.
2. Hold a debate – Explain calmly to the zombie that, logically, they cannot be this way. If the zombie will not move his position but would rather try to grab you, state your closing argument while running away.
Needless to say, my conversation with my brother did not bear any fruit on how to deal with zombies, but it just pointed out the idea of them. It’s always around this time of year that the subject comes up somewhere and people become more aware of the unrealistic but nagging possibility that maybe … perhaps … one is in your basement. Now, why this time of year? I don’t know. One would think that if you really wanted to scare someone you would do it around June 27th or some other unsuspecting day.
But then again, zombies don’t take to reason very well.

*the author is now spooked and will be thinking happy thoughts for the remainder of the day

10.21.2005

Oranges Poranges

The following is a true story. The office this took place in is a place of former employement where I worked with my wife. In no way could this happen where I am now for I would not have as much privacy to duplicate this without a pondering audience.

I bought an orange today. I rarely buy fruit, but in a moment of healthy thinking, I bought it with the intentions of eating it at work as a light snack. Upon my desired snack time, I retrieved my orange from the company refrigerator and became perplexed by a problem. How do I eat this orange without covering myself in orange juice? Eating the oranges in slices, with skin intact, would be the best bet. Fruit with wrappers want to help you. Looking for a knife in the office kitchen yielded no results and an orange peeler was out of the question. All I found was a plastic spoon. Innovation? Ready for a challenge to do something different, I marched back to my office with my orange and spoon-that-wants-to-be-a-knife.

Placing the orange on a half stack of Post-it® notes for easy cleanup, I began making an incision with the plastic spoon. My progress was very encouraging, although the spoon made more of a curved cut rather than the straight one that I required. To deal with this I just simply cut a circle about the size of a nickel and lifted up the skin.

Now I had an orange with a hole in it. No turning back now or I lose 68 cents and would have to explain to my wife where my orange went. Things like this she notices. My first circular cut turns out to be too narrow for my spoon so I elongate the cut into an oval, trying not to spill the juice that is squirting in abundance now. Wishing I had a grapefruit spoon, I remove the next portion with a little more effort but nothing to severe. Now my orange has a large oval hole. My Post-it® note base is stained but stable. I now have ample room for my spoon. But just what am I suppose to do now? I don't know. I once stuck a straw in an orange like they did in TV commercials (that doesn't work by the way) and had some success if I pre-mashed the inside of the orange. So, with this knowledge, I start to stab the innards of my orange repeatedly. Once enough pulp was loose, I fixed my mouth around it and tried to drink my orange. Knowing that my wife was away in her office and my boss was at the dentist, I figure I'm in the clear although this mash-slurp-repeat method is not very efficient.

Fearing that anyone will come by, I tear with my fingers at the orangy rind. I throw the spoon away, labeling it a traitor. As I make progress on one side, I decide to eat it like an apple. I'll be darned if there's one way to eat an orange! The juice starts coming in full force. Remembering my Tangerine staining incident from a month ago, I hunch over my trashcan frantically trying to eat my orange, deflect juice, and dislodge rind bits into the trashcan. I have become an animal.

Now that my hands were drenched in Vitamin C, it dawns on me that my phone could ring or that someone would come by. Could I answer my phone with my elbows? - were those footsteps? Without shame, I eat the last two slices as anyone else would in this world and walk to the restroom with hands outward, sticky sweet with orange pulp. I wash my hands with odd-fragranced berry hand soap and return berry soft to my orange aroma-ed office. Sitting at my desk I hear my wife come around and take some papers off the laser printer and then go back again. Safe. I look into my trashcan and see the mutilation that took place moments before. Unceremoniously, I cover the pieces with some discarded envelopes. I tear off the stained Post-it® note and begin my work anew.

I have snacked.

10.14.2005

Falling for Spring

It is time for Fall once again. Or is it Autumn? Autumn seems to be the correct, more appropriate term for this season, but how did it become known as “Fall?” The most obvious explanation is that is what the leaves and confused quarterbacks do in the time of Autumn, but I have another theory. Spring is the only season that has one syllable and it needed to find a mate - all in an attempt to not feel so lonely amidst the two-syllable seasons. Spring has co-dependency issues; did you know that? Well, Winter refused to be called “Cold” “Gift” or “Gray” and summer wasn’t going to change to “Hot” “Sun” or “Mow.” Winter and Summer both felt they were meant to be together and were secure in their relationship. Meanwhile, Autumn shuffled its feet and said “Okay, I’ll change, but what should my name be?” Autumn never stands up for itself like a season should, but it has a good heart. They got together at a food court in a mall outside of Tulsa and thought up, but quickly rejected, names like “Orange” “Plump” “Food” and “Sneeze.” Then, in a moment of cuteness, they both said “Fall” at the same time and giggled. The county registrar happened to be in that afternoon and after paying $15, it became legal. This transformation never really convinced everybody, especially those in Europe, but at least our two seasons know the truth in their hearts.

10.10.2005

A little extra sumpthin'

Tron: A remembrance


The year was 1982. For me, it was a golden age of video games, synth rock and the occasional Santa Claus-esque visit from the Ice Cream Truck Guy. But one of the best things that came out of that year for me was a simple movie known as ...


Okay, sure. It wasn't a very popular mainstream movie, but for those who ever made weekly (or daily) trips to the bliss-filled havens known as Video arcades, this was the film that was our banner to prove to the rest of the world that we were cool. Sadly, it just cranked the geek-o-meter to 11. Somehow, the idea of a computer hacker trying to find evidence of his stolen game ideas, while battling a computer who looks like a relative of the Kool-Aid guy, didn't appeal to a lot people in 1982.


Cousins?

Movies that involve computers really are reaching when they try to bridge a chasm of two worlds. Tron and The Matrix somehow tried to make you believe that slim, good looking guys are computer-chic techno geeks. When you see hollywood's computer hackers looking slick like this:

In real life, they are actually more like this:


Now, in sharing childhood memories with my wife, I had asked if she wouldn't mind watching this movie with me. Cautious and pensive, my wife reluctantly agreed. (Yes, I am a Tron Fan AND I have a wife. It IS possible my friends, shaky, but possible!) The main selling point was that I mentioned that it starred Bruce Boxleitner of Scarecrow and Mrs. King fame. My wife is a huge "Scarecrow" fan. Although, I think nothing could have softened the blow in her mind to see him go from this:

to this:

I don't blame her. It can be a jolt if you have no history with this movie. I had no history of Scarecrow and Mrs. King and have been watching the episodes lately. Since I never watched "SMK" before, I cuddled up to the idea that while in pursuit of an enemy cold war agent, he could throw a glowing disc at him or trap him in a square of jet walls from his lightcycle/Porche. But going from Scarecrow to Tron proved to be a bit more jarring on her. Some of the things going on in her mind were easily summed up by the constant furrowing of her brow through the entire movie. The experience left her with sore forehead muscles for the remainder of the evening.

Welcome to my world, baby

Now, I do have my own personal problems with Tron as far as storytelling. I'm not alone with others who know that this computer lingo they speak hardly ever makes sense.

Five bucks says that he'll get a syntax error

Sark, buddy, the MCP will not blast you into a "dead zone." A bad cluster, maybe, but not a "dead zone," sheesh.

The feel of the outside world is very dated now, but one thing we all agree on is that we want this desk:

It's shiny, black and frickin' huge!

Another sign that this is a movie made by geeks for geeks is that there's only one female with lines. Place technological double entendre here

"Heh Heh! Girl!"

Well, anyway let's hatch the plot: Our hacker friend sneaks into his former employer's laser lab armed with a forged group 6 access to try to find evidence of his stolen video game ideas. Everyone with me so far?

This shot always gave me the heebie-jeebies. Why place a terminal in front of a LASER that looks like this?

Or any laser for that matter?

Well, let's keep going: Flynn gets cocky and throws code at the MCP to try to distract him, but the MCP gets him back by zapping his null unit into the computer.

Compact Disc technology test goes awry!

Welcome to the Geek Lair! New to Role Playing, are we?

I love this movie. So Flynn is now in computer-land and meets a whole sort of friends and foes.

Friend

Foe

Friend

Foe

Friend

Foe: See a pattern?

Outsourced Union Temp

So anyhoo, Flynn and his new band of cohorts play a series of games which include:Lightcycles...

Yeah baby!

And Ultimate Frisbee...

Remember, in here, there is no reset button

They then break out of the game grid and assault the Master Control Program and his right hand man, Sark, with a little help from Whamo!®


C'mon, who didn't try to play this in the backyard?

OWNED!

Through a cooperative effort, Flynn and Tron destroy the MCP and the system becomes free from the tyrannical grip of Microsoft XP. Flynn is sent back into the outer world and the info he was looking for prints out on a ridiculously heavy dot matrix printer.

Yes, but will it hold up in court?


I've been scared of that terminal ever since

The next morning the Senior Executive who stole Flynn's ideas, sees that the MCP has crashed, the secret's out and realizes that he is about to get fired.

That's the "I-better-steal-the-towels-out-of-the-executive-washroom-before-I-put-my resume'-in-at-Steak-n-Shake" look

And within the course of 5 minutes or less, Flynn is placed in the top position of the multi-billion dollar company - with a free helicopter. No questions asked. Yeah. It must have been settled out of court.

A Winner is You!

The movie then ends with a time lapse on the cityscape to show how we and the electronic world are very similar, even though I've never been forced to wear tights.

We are all programs! BWA-HA-HAAA!!!!

Now order some neon wire and make your own costume.

You know you want to...


You can find this article of mine also at http://www.retrojunk.com

10.07.2005

Introducing

Several people have asked me (okay, only me talking to myself) if I should host a web page. My first thoughts are where do I invite one? Would the web page like to come to my house? Would it have time to spend an evening with me? I imagine that when I would invite the web page into my home, I’d take off its coat and put it on the bed, have it sit down, get it a drink and have some sparkling conversation capped with a rousing game of Catch Phrase™ and a light dessert. We’d then wind things down and I’d hand it the recipe for the cheesy ranch dip my wife had set out as the snacking medium for the evening. As the web page would leave, Carrie and I would wave through the glass door until it would turn the corner. With a sigh of satisfaction and a buzz of good cheer, I would think that I hosted that web page fairly well.

OR

I would awkwardly usher in the web page and tell it “Just put your stuff anywhere. . .No, not there! There!” and then leave it to return to my television viewing schedule for the evening. The web page would shyly follow me into the room and stand. On the second commercial in the break, I’d say “You can sit down, you know.” Then quickly and nimbly it would sit down stiffly and stare at the television. Maybe the web page would try to initialize a conversation. “Say, those Battle Bots are something else, eh?” I would then generate a “mmph” sound from somewhere around my head. All immediate hope for the web page would then vanish. As the show would end, the web page would look over at me for the next “phase” of our evening only to be answered by a continuous cycle of channel surfing. “A bloopers show was suppose to be on . . . let’s see here . . .” The phone would ring and I would pick up and it would be an old college buddy and we’d talk for a long time. Most of the conversation would come from the other end so that the web page would have not a hint about what was being discussed. After I’d hang up near the end of a “Hee-haw” reunion show, I’d remember something vaguely about someone talking and look around. I’d see no one, shrug my shoulders, and fall asleep during “JAG.” That is being a bad host of a web page.

So here, I've come across this. Yes. A place to post ...things. Things that have come across my fuzzy head and would like to share.

And I give you a ...
100% Clean Guarantee

That's right. No cussin' here! Nosireebob! And nothing inapppro- inappropi- rude either. You can come in and relax and I'll probably have something posted once a week to make you smile. That is, attempt to make you smile - on the inside at least.

And if you want a cheesy snack dip, you can email a request. Meanwhile, I'll try to be figuring out these dohicky web things.

Cheers!

Eric of Sillybear