Saturday, December 31, 2005

Puzzle Pimping

Let me take a break from my regularly scheduled blog to tell you all about the thing that's been sucking my time and life away like water for the last couple weeks.

Back in college, I (and nearly every one of my friends) got totally addicted to a puzzle game for the Mac called "The Fool's Errand." It was back in the days of black and white Macs--we were all sportin' SE's or Classics then, running system 6.5--and the game was a series of over 100 puzzles, connected by a plot based on the traditional Rider-Waite tarot deck. The game was authored by Cliff Johnson, and featured crisp silhouette art and a nice level of challenge. In those days of liberal software piracy, we all had a copy, and all worked feverishly on Fool's Errand when we should have been writing papers and studying. It was glorious. Right before we graduated, he came out with "3 in Three," a similar game but mind-blowingly difficult. I'm not sure any of us solved it before graduation.

Fast forward to a month or so ago, when my friend Alex in Chicago casually mentioned that Cliff Johnson is coming out with another puzzle game! Not only that, but there are freeware versions of the two games I played in college, plus another one I'd never seen called "At the Carnival," downloadable on his website. And they'll work on OS 9! Verily I rushed to download them. Fool is still entertaining, 3 is still painfully hard, and Carnival has kept me up til 1 am on multiple nights this week when I should have been doing other things. It's just like college all over again.

So here's the pimp. If you like puzzles, go to Cliff Johnson's Website, and download any or all of these games. They will play on both Windows and Mac machines, with a little work (the later two require 256 colors rather than our current default setting of "buttloads," so you have to do a little workaround. For Windows you need a special extension installed; both of these are also available on the Fool's site.) If you love them, and want to thank Cliff for all those late nights of time-sucking brain-pounding agony, (and have $50 to spare) you should pre-order his new game, "A Fool and His Money." The game won't be out for months and months... but you did just get three fabulous games and hours of entertainment for free.*

* the hint books are also available on the site for free. Not that you'll need them.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The War on Hanukkah

Let me tell you, I've had about enough of this nation's War on Hanukkah.

It seems like I can't walk down a street this year without seeing evergreens and reindeer, hearing carolers grinding out that damn song about the drummer boy, and being wished a generic Happy Holiday by the clerk at Wal-Mart. What gives? Is it too much to expect the great window displays of Judaica from days gone by? The animatronic children in Marshall Fields' windows playing dreidel on the carpet in front of the fire, surrounded by piles of chocolate gelt and stacks of steaming latkes? What happened to Macy's traditional celebration--where all Jewish kids look forward to wending their way through a mock-up of the hills near Jerusalem before finally crawling into the lap of a costumed Judah Maccabee to whisper him their deepest Hanukkah wishes? What's wrong with America?

The holiday flash is what first attracted me to Judaism--as a convert in the making, I enthusiastically anticipated doing my Hanukkah shopping this year. I looked under "Judaica" in the yellow pages of my large midwestern city, and found.... nothing. Under "Religious Articles" I found 8 Christian bookstores, and one Religious Objects merchant. They do carry menorahs, so I called to ask them what their hours were tomorrow. "Sorry, we're closed on Christmas," they said.

I told a friend I'd buy my wrapping paper from her kid's school this year--but every roll in the huge catalog had holly and/or santas on it. I bought a bag of assorted bows, but it contained 6 red, 6 green, 6 gold...and 2 blue, suitable for the chosen colors of the holiday. I went out to rent a holiday video, to see something affirmative about the Hanukkah message of Jewish strength in adversity. The clerk at Blockbuster seemed a little puzzled by my request. "We've got 'Yentl'," he offered.

This war is insidious. You'd almost think people had forgotten what this season is all about. I wished a stranger a Happy Hanukkah, and he looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. Even the president has generified his cards to acknowledge the existence of other faiths this season. Come on, George, stand up for Hanukkah, and give us a big SHALOM for the holidays!

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Voice of the People

OK, so it appears that the function that would let me just link you to my survey results on the Monkey is a "Pro Subscribers Only" feature. That's not gonna happen; so I will publish here the highlights reel for your enjoyment.

First off, the vast majority of you know me. 2 people googled my real name, which reminds me I need to change the name on my Flickr account. 1 found me via snarky comments, and several came via other friends' sites or clues. The vast majority are nerds (15) with blondes a distant second (7.) 10 are from East, 7 from Indiana, and a scattering elsewhere--I've no idea who you southerners are, btw, nor the furriners except Alex.

I am dismayed to find that nearly all of you want more stories of my personal injuries and embarassments. I fell down the stairs the other day--happy now?? Seriously, any time I do something dumb or clumsy, my first thought is not "where is the nearest hospital?" but "will I be able to type?" You guys are my first priority.

The major trend in the final question was that I should keep the blog funny, with occasional forays into politics and quiz memes. (The president's an idiot, and if I were a lunchmeat I'd be corned beef. That should hold you for a while.) And the dead people question richly rewarded me for any time I've ever made anyone else laugh with this thing; you guys are hilarious. Sick, mind you, but hilarious. Here are everyone's answers to question #5:
1. Dorothy Parker, although I supposed that'd be more drinking than eating. I don't think about this question much, and I suspect I'd want to research eating habits as well as personality, before I made a real choice.
2. Thomas Jefferson, a variety of boring reasons
3. Jimmy Stewart--he's sweet, handsome (well, when he was younger), and entertaining. I bet he would have some amazing stories.
4. Julia Child because she could really cook!
5. Eleanor Roosevelt. We'd bond.
6. I find fictional characters more companionable, so I claim Bertie Wooster, because a) I'd be waited on by Jeeves, and b) Bertie really is quite gallant and charming as long as he stays away from aunts and soppy females.
7. Thomas Jefferson, because I'd ask him to make sure that there were parts of the declaration of independence and constitution that would have prevented G.W. Bush from going to war with Iraq.
8. Albert Einstein, he seems like he would have been both enlightening and entertaining.
9. Lord, I don't know.
10. I would ask Jimmy Hendrix what it was like to asphyxiate on your own vomit?
11. Snide answer: A Mummy. They're unlikely to smell. ... I'm sorry, did you think there was going to be a non-snide answer, too?!
12. I don't want to have dinner with dead famous people. and to comment on #4, I want more stories involving animals as long as they're not animals-in-peril stories. This is why I'm not going to see King Kong.
13. Yuck! What kind of sicko are you? I don't want to eat dinner with some corpse you dug up!
14. Ew... don't they smell kinda bad? :)
15. Marlene Dietrich, because I think she would taste good.
16. Several people to choose from, but because I'm feeling randy just now let's say Marlene Dietrich. I'd want to go to dinner with her in the hopes of a one night stand afterwards. (duh)
17. Warren Zevon, of course. Why? Because I think he'd be a more fun dinner date than H.P. Lovecraft, the only other serious contender.
18. dick cheney, because then he would be dead (does that make me a bad person?)
19. Katherine Hepburn because she's just so cool.
20. Dame Phyllis Frost (google it)
21. You said this would be a quick quiz.
22. Jesus. And I'd totally be buying, to pay him back for all those times I symbolically ate him

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Can't Talk. Grading.

Remember when I said I hadn't begged for the sweet release of death yet? Actually I still haven't, but I came close on Monday night when I was up until 2 grading freshman essays so that we could return them and clear the way for freshman exams. Now I'm grading those; easier than the essays, because it's clearer when the student has no fucking clue what they're talking about. The essays can be more obscure in that respect. (I did read the WORST ESSAY EVER around 11:30 pm on Monday; while I would hesitate to make fun of a student on my website, I will say that they tried to draw an artistic connection between the Venus of Willendorf and a Bon Jovi song.)

23 responses on Survey Monkey so far; it's been so entertaining that I think I may have to do a "survey of the month" from here on out! I'll post choice results later; suffice it to say that most of you know me personally, and nearly all of you are nerds. Oddly, no one reports as being "north of Indiana,"--Joe and Steve, are you dissing on my survey here? And for the person who was worried--"accidents involving animals" refers MY tendency to get bitten, stomped on, or otherwise pratfalled by my pets or the animals I care for at the zoo. The animals themselves always survive unscathed, it would seem. So no fear there! Catch you later, I'm back to grading exams.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Survey Says....

Weird though it seems, I want to ask a favor of you, my 3 or 4 loyal readers. I'm trying to get familiar with a web-based statistics program called SurveyMonkey, so I started a free account and made up a survey. To fully explore the capabilities of the program, I need some people to actually go take the survey. It's 6 questions, all of them kind of silly; it won't take you long, and you'll be helpin' me out bigtime. So go, take The Cautionary Survey! You'll earn my undying gratitude. And maybe valuable prizes! Or not.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I celebrated the arrival of cold weather by caulking around every window in the upstairs of my house this weekend. I discovered a couple of things while doing this. 1) Caulk isn't idiot-proof, and 2)..... well, 2 was even dumber than #1. Let's just say, if you happen to be moving into a new house with recently installed storm windows, and you suspect that the prior owner might have installed them himself despite a vast incompetance in other areas of home repair and modification, do NOT wait til you've shivered through 4 winters there to realize that he had the top sash on the bottom and vice versa. This results in a gap, invisible to the eye from the interior of the house, through which all the heat in your house will escape every time the temperature drops below 30. I always thought the draft around the windows was because they were badly fitted into the slightly skewed frame of my 80 year old house. They are, but that wasn't the only issue; and it never occurred to me that it mattered which sash was on top as long as they were closed. Yeah, like I said. Dumb.

The caulking wasn't so bad except that I think I cut too much off the end of the tube. I thought I wanted a bead about 3/8", and that resulted in a nice clean line of caulk behind the tip as I went--along with a mountainous glob of goo being propelled along in front of the tip, picking up paint chips and tiny, fleeing spiders as it rolled. I'm pretty sure that 96% of the caulk that was originally in the tube ended up gobbed on damp paper towels in my wastebasket, while 3% is protecting me from frozen doom. (1% ended up on the couch, the window, my clothes, and the cat.)

Semester's drawing to a close. All semesters should be like this--only one internship report to write, and 100+ art history papers and exams to grade. I haven't wished for the sweet release of death even once yet!