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"