Friday, December 27, 2002

Hopefully silent night.

Well, folks, didn't even get to a third house. No. After Christmas Eve at the aunt's house, whatever bug that had been trailing me for the couple days before nailed me just as I was finishing putting the last tags on the gifts. Wham. Flat on my back, with occasional standing, nausea, and emergency gastrointestinal evacuations. My mother claims she can tell exactly how sick I am by the level of darkness under my eyes. Well, at one point I noticed that I was so dark under the eyes, and so pale otherwise, I looked like the gray aliens had dispensed with trying to breed with humans, and had gone after a raccoon.
The one good thing about this year's holiday is that I didn't spend Christmas Eve at my apartment, instead I ended up having this all happen at my parents', enabling me to get a traditional Christmas dinner of broth, tea, and Jell-O. This made opening gifts extra interesting, as my family tends to compensate for the fact that we all have too much stuff we don't use anyway, by giving food products. It's really hard to be appreciative of a gift of a Tabasco gift pack while your stomach is going "Do not bring that thing in my house! No! Talk to the duodenum!"

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

First of all a happy holiday(s) to all. I never remember to send out cards, so this will have to do. Off to do the Christmas visiting rotation. (Four, maybe five houses in 36 hours.)

But before I leave some oddity:
Joe saved Christmas for my family, I can't elaborate until after the holiday, but I appreciate it.

I probably put myself on a naughty list somewhere. While entering the grocery store last night, I saw that a sticker had fallen off of one of those stuffed toys with a voice chip inside. "Squeeze Me, I TALK." Naturally seeing this as an opportunity for mischief, I picked it up. I initially thought about putting it where it could do the most damage, one of the cacti in the flower section, but I restrained myself, and merely put it on a 4-pack of Charmin.

This is of course not the best holiday chip fun. My friend Ryan topped it all one year at a Target. While passing through the toy section, he happened across "Talking Pooh and Tigger" Each one fired off in response to noise from the other, making conversation. Of course, there is a fatal flaw in this toy; namely that they forgot that if you put two Pooh's very close to the Tigger, both will fire off, and likewise two Tigger's close to the Pooh. (Incidentally, why does "Two Tiggers Close to the Pooh" sound like a Pogues album? Or is that just me?) And now Mr. Wizard will give you all a lesson in feedback and chain reactions. Ryan went right down the line, and fired all the Poohs at the same time. Overload. Not only did the Tiggers go off, but then the Poohs behind them, and then the Tiggers, and by that time, the Pooh in the front had stopped and were restarted. Soon the entire section was overcome.

Meanwhile, I lost out in the final of fantasy football. Simple reason, same thing that's haunted me all year. Daunte or Trent, Daunte or Trent. I went 9-4-3 on picking the right one going into this week, and just whiffed. However, Byko did the same, choosing the wrong two recievers to bench, so it all balances out. Congratulations, Byko.

I don't usually comment on baseball that isn't the Pirates, but this one demanded it, and it's been in my head ever since I saw it.

Scene: the set of Card Sharks
Jim Perry: "Okay, we asked 100 rotisserie baseball commissioners, if a trade of Kevin Millwood for Johnny Estrada needed your approval, would you block it? How many fantasy baseball commissioners said 'Yes, they would block that trade'?"

Peace on Earth folks, except in the toy aisle.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Yesterday's popculturejunkmail answered one question that's been troubling me for several years. "Yes, DEK, one of your students for whom you're trying to teach math, is in fact trying to smell like a cake, on purpose. It's not a happy accident."

On Tuesday, Mark went into a little more detail about the sort of thing that I mentioned as making sense at the time at Trashmasters. TiVo and Amazon have similar ideas about data collection (I think they might even share databases), where they use previous known views/purchases to supply a set of upfront options for you, because the software thinks you might like them. Applying this logic to quizbowl, and specifically to what you answer in a trash tournament, however, would result in remarkable stupidity. Especially after playing with teammates who are faster than me on a lot of things that we all know, leaving that very extreme tip of "knowledge without shame" as my primary contribution. It would probably bear a frightening resemblance to Smithers' Amazon wish list (were such a beast to exist.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Butter is made of cream and salt.

The new item in the vending machine this week: Cracker Jack Butter Crunch. Apparently they realized that, having really cheesed out on the whole "prize inside" think with regular Cracker Jack, people need to be brought back to the product by reducing the amount of popcorn in it. Thus Butter Crunch, or "Nothing but the stuff you'd gut a guy like a fish to obtain." Incidentally, this is perhaps the first product I've seen with the warning CONTAINS PEANUT AND MILK INGREDIENTS on it. Just for those of you who saw "Butter Crunch Candy Coated Peanuts" on the label, and thought it was not one but TWO clever ruses in one. It also has the odd phrase on the ingredients "BUTTER (CREAM, SALT)". Well, yes, but I think an intermediate step is lost in the listing. Maybe I'll just stick to the all-Muppet diet. [Show 202, or search for "Eating Muppets"]

Meanwhile, for the second time in its run, 24 pulled off an episode which completely shuffled the deck. Now we have to wait 3 weeks for the next hour. Grr. Incidentally, I think this show has cured me of one possible gift plan. Ain't nobody getting a gift card from me this year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Death to Betty Crocker...

I'm tantalizingly close to being done with holiday shopping, and now wondering whether I need to do certain small things to cover up some holes in the purchasing. Having done the office internal audit on the purchasing department this week, I'm also wondering if some of my shopping could be accomplished on the office's dime. Probably not, but it just looked like a hole to be exploited.

My amazing levels of cheapness may now know no bounds, after pulling off a trip to Heinz Field without spending a dime downtown. (Last minute use of the tickets that would go dead, and Pittsburgh's insistence that parking be free during the holiday season, to boost shopping downtown. The fact I didn't spend a dime downtown kinda pokes a big hole in that.)

The main moment of the game I'll remember will probably be Nick Goings dropping a pass. Actually, not even dropping the pass, more like looking at the pass with disdain and choosing not to even effort catching, while it hit him in the arms. For that we dub him Bartleby the Third Down Back.

Joe gave me props for winning this weeks fantasy football matchup, but really it was all Daunte and Marvin. There will be no lording over, especially after I witnessed one of the most disturbing bits of fantasy football. While at the bar watching the late games, I had to take leave to the rest room. About a minute after I got there, I saw a guy run in, and begin banging on the doors of the stalls. Finally, after a guy whose voice he recognized called out for him to stop, the guy screamed over "Dude, your Cowboys' defense are killing me." I'm pretty sure harassing people on the john is cause for an intervention.

Monday night was the traditional decorating of sugar cookies. This is the one paramount family tradition. Cookies must be sugared, and not just a single color coating. No, these get filled out so that a tree looks a tree. Complete with lights, star, and trunk. Thus it is written, thus it must be. And so, it still falls to me, since the next likely candidate to do it is all of 4 weeks old. Tradition also dictates that we leave about 30% unsugared, so that we can ice them. Herein lies the above fatwa.
From the time I was first able to do this until the time I was 12 we had cans of Pillsbury Decorator Icing. It came in a nice pressurized can about the size of a pump bottle of hairspray, came in the four key colors (red, green, yellow, and blue), and when we were done, it was hard enough to withstand being stacked up in a big can. Pillsbury apparently discontinued the stuff in the mid-80's, and since then we've tried everything that's come out, and nothing, save mixing some specialty cake frosting, has managed to be of structural grade. This year, we found a 3-can set of Betty Crocker decorator icing. We thought we had it made. It even had the key sign of quality, the fact that the first icing out of the pressurized can comes out like an invert sugar bullet, with a stopping power recommended by the NRA. Sadly, after about one quarter of the cookies were iced, we noticed the small print on the cans, "Not stackable." Bite me, Betty Crocker. On to the hate list you go with Delta Airlines.

Friday, December 13, 2002

I shouldn't cook on Fridays, or something.

While making dinner tonight, I shredded the fat of my hand with a slicer. Dumb. This is now the second cooking related accident I've had on a Friday, compared to being a paragon of blade safety the rest of the week. Very odd.

Last night, instead of finishing off the tree, I ended up staring slackjawed at the spectacle of a 1983 film, Cocaine and Blue Eyes. Your standard issue pseudo-pilot oriented TV movie level film. The star, O. J. Simpson. Looking for the real killers. If you ever get to see this, I defy you to get through this without thinking that, because there isn't anything else to think about in the movie. It's almost completely plotless. And ironically, O. J. seems to know this. He's just walking through scenes, stuff happens near him, people don't really give him any information, his mere presence just seems to drive people to do stupid things. And then someone asks if he was a boxer, or a basketball player, or whatever. It's the sort of movie written to be attacked by Crow T. Robot. O.J.'s car gets mangled by thugs, he'll have to get a rental from Hertz! Lots of low-hanging fruit to pick. Recommended only for that purpose.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Things that only made sense at the time, from last weekend's Trashmasters:

World War II was won by tow trucks.

Not all bats fight crime.

The GEICO Gecko does not appear in Double Indemnity, but he should have a role in the remake.

On a similar vein:
Celebrity Boxing: Gecko vs AFLAC Duck, with the Serta Sheep refereeing

Craig Barker is not anti-monkey; his opponents made him out to be.

The concept of outcome-based hangman is not really a good idea.

If you dumped the things you buzz in with into a TiVo, the results will have little resemblance to your actual personality.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Notes from the weekend:

I'm not flying Delta ever again, if I can avoid it. The fact it took me longer to fly to Chattanooga than it would take me to drive there was enough of an annoyance.

The tournament was all right, though I think I'm losing my sense of wonder at such things. We did what we could, and while I would have liked to win, third place wasn't a failure. It was good to see all the people there.

Craig brought up a point on his weblog, that kind of relates what I've been thinking is happening with trash. Namely, the trash circuit is approaching the point that ACF and NAQT have hit in the past, where it is impossible to facilitate both the high level player, and the entry level player, with the same set of questions. The good thing is that I think that the trash circuit got to see the NAQT growing pains and is taking a similar approach. Trash has a three-fold problem here in that not only don't the top players retire, but they have a fairly different set of priorities as to what they feel makes a balanced packet, as compared to newer players. This, when combined with the natural experience gap, and the specialization of players into either trash or non-trash play, make a three-headed monster of a problem.
I guess I'll be revisiting this in future.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Quick bits, I've got a flight to catch.

Level 1 disturbing: Realizing you're watching the movie with someone who's killing time before graduation working at the Chuck E. Cheese in a rat suit.
Level N disturbing(for large values of N): Realizing the movie you're watching is Meet the Feebles.

Mike's Nobel Committee has its first confirmed kill. And so does Bigfoot.

Interesting reading: I found this after doing a google while reading the liner notes to Elvis Costello's "Let Him Dangle". Can't see a way to turn this into a question anytime soon.

Those of you going, see you at Trashmasters.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

The Onion in one article sums up exactly why comedy is hard. And yes, it smacks a little too close to home. For the record, I don't take notes for football comedy, quizbowl writing is different.

Meanwhile, I think we can sum this one up best as: I am Jack's morbid sense of meta.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Okay, the "Annual Progressive Lunch" (Could we have made that phrase any blander and non-offensive? And I'm still trying to figure out what's progressive about it.) is occurring in two weeks at work. Rules of the game: Each member of staff is requested to bring a meal course representative of their family's holiday traditions. Additional rule, everyone in my wing of the building is supposed to bring an entree. Okay, in a nutshell, I'm screwed. As you've seen from the list from Thanksgiving, there is nothing unique about my family's holiday entrees, we were assimilated into the game early and often. What originality is left stays strictly in the side dish and leftovers. (Tonight's my third night of turkey mole pablano, though last night was my mother's scalloped turkey). The only traditional stuff I can even reasonably think about making is mince, and frankly, when you've got co-workers who come from India, Pakistan, China, Japan, Chile, France, Hungary, Russia, and Thailand, ain't nobody gonna go nuts for a big helping of boiled ground beef and mashed potatoes. (I like it, but I'm not going to inflict it on non-blood relations.) Now that I think about it, I seem to spend most of my cooking time running away from my family's entrees, and my mother does too. So I'm stuck. Maybe I can pickle a chicken...(No, Dwight, that would only further the stereotype.)

Monday, December 02, 2002

Weekend hangover.

Two totally unnecessary covers. Just in time for the holiday season, the Thanksgiving Day parade was telling us who's going to be a "teen sensation". And their choices were people covering "Kids in America" and "Just a Friend". It says something when people feel it necessary to besmirch the legacy of Biz Markie. No reason for that.