Monday, October 31, 2005

We can send a man to the moon, but...

Why - Do so many items designed for the bathroom RUST? Don't the designers know that the bathroom is a damp, steamy, moist and dare I say it wet place? Or are the items created with planned obsolescence in mind?

Why - Does using the air conditioner in my car result in a trickle of water dripping condensation from the AC, creating a messy puddle once I park? The designers know this is going to happen - can't this water be captured and funneled into the radiator overflow tank? I'd need to top off the coolant less often this way, and there would be less mess. Or hey, here's a concept - insulate the AC, so there's no condensation.

Why - When using squeezable bottles of ketchup, does the little nozzle make a sound as if someone passed gas - can't we invent a spout that's designed like a duck call? When you're making a sandwich, hearing "Quack! Quack!" would be a lot more appealing to the appetite, even if it would make sneaking a midnight snack more difficult.


New book review posted!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Wes Craven's New Nightmare

The scene is dark, horror-movie fog clings to the floor.

A dark form moves in from the left, stooped and misshapen.

Foreboding music begins to play.

A dim light fades in, just barely illuminating sharp eyes under craggy brows.

The voice comes, shockingly normal: "Hello, I'm Wes Craven."

The light builds until we can see Wes fully - he is wearing a burgundy smoking jacket and SpongeBob-print pajama pants.

The music builds to a suspenseful climax and fades to the faint, eerie notes of a backwards-cranked jack-in-the-box.

Wes takes a puff from a dainty brown cigarette.

"So I woke up last night from the weirdest dream. I was locked in this shoe store, right? Only there weren't any shoes, instead the shelves were covered with frogs."

"This was one of those high-class stores, and so the sales guy kept trying to put frogs on my feet. The other customers were walking around on frogs, and the little wet and chunky, froggy organs were squishing out everywhere, but I was the only one who noticed."

"I mean, people were slipping and falling and they had no idea why. And their first step on the frogs - it was like still alive, and it lets out this horrible ribbety scream, you know?"

"And my brother was there, wearing a big bonnet right out of Little House on the Prairie. He acted like this was perfectly normal, and was pouring mimosas for everyone, but the oranges, they could feel the juicer cutting into them and they were laughing maniacally and speaking in tongues."

"Um. Yeah. Weird one, right?"

Friday, October 28, 2005

Dear Apple,

After hearing about the lawsuits regarding the easily-scratched iPod Nano, I decided to come forward. When you have to treat a $200-$250 piece of electronics with care for fear of damaging it, it's time to blame the company that designed it.

I'm going to have to sue as well. I'm having issues with my iPod Shuffle. It's become - how to say it - stinky.

I've been using the Shuffle in a completely normal way for the past nine months, and suddenly a decided FUNK has begun to emanate from the unit.

Has the battery spoiled? Was it made of inferior materials? Was I supposed to keep it refrigerated? The instructions didn't say anything about refrigeration.

After wearing it every day to the gym, the cloth neck strap has recently begun to reek with a sour vinegar smell. I take a shower every day, so clearly the smell isn't coming from me.

Perhaps the strap should have been impregnated with anti-funk nanocrystals or some such. I haven't found anything about stinky straps on the Apple Forums. Am I the only one with a problem? I doubt it!! So I can only assume Apple is keeping this quiet by deleting all mention of the issue.

I mean - if this got out, if the public knew that they would be expected to wash, protect and otherwise care for their electronics, Apple would be in big trouble.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Any excuse to get a puppy!

For some people, OCD is a real problem. To be sure, there are some benefits but any behavior that you're not fully in control of can be worrisome.

Since it's hard to modify ones programming, I have a solution that has multiple benefits: Dogs. That's right - why do something yourself when you can train another creature to do it?

There are already dogs that can sense and warn when people are about to have a seizure, and dogs that can smell cancerous cells earlier than most medical tests can diagnose them. It's time for Behavior Modification Dogs!

Here's a scenario: Let's say you check the front door lock sixteen times before you go to bed at night, four cycles of four checks. You turn the latch to the 'locked' direction, then wiggle the knob, then make sure the latch is turned to the locked direction, wiggle the knob, etc.

Enter the Behavior Modification Dog! After watching you check the lock twice, the dog would nip your ankles and herd you (like a sheep) away from the door. You'd either learn to break the OCD cycle or start wearing boots.

(Unless we accidentally teach our compulsions to the dog, as seen in the movie
As Good as It Gets)...

The dogs that perform this job wouldn't need to be as large as the ones used as seeing-eye dogs, so a lot of the cute little pups currently in shelters could be trained as a Behavior Modification Dog, and would be spared getting put to sleep.

I could use one of these dogs - I don't have OCD (unless you count snacking) so his job would be to keep me out of the kitchen at all times.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Credi-Bull #3

Credi-Bull - a news item that might be fact, or might be fiction.

The Institute for Sleep Science in Helsinki has published preliminary data suggesting a tie between the time you are born and the best time to get up in the morning.

Using myself as an example, I was born at 5:26am, and so my optimum wake-up time is between 5:16 and 5:36.

The study found that individuals that followed this 'Birth Time' waking schedule displayed 33% less daily stress when subjected to standard testing.

Real or Fake? (Check the 'comments' section for the answer)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

First Annual Joint MC/IL NaNo Contest!!

Hello Writers!

(I've stolen this entire post from Invisible Lizard, word for word, because I would have simply restated the terms, and he said it better than I would have anyway).

Invisible Lizard and I have decided to up the NaNo stakes a bit this year and we invite you all to join us. We're putting a little money on the venture. Here's the idea:

Those who win (meaning, those who complete the 50k words) get a prize. Maximum pay-out is $40. The amount you have to pay out is $40 divided by the number of people playing. You pay out that amount to every winner. (We sort of landed on the idea of sending an email gift certificate, and $40 seemed a not too big, not too small number as well.)

For instance, if it's just the two of us, and if we both win, we send each other a $20 gift certificate. If IL wins but I crash and burn, then I send IL the $20 and he sends me nothing.

We'll start with just the two of us but we hope more will want to play along. Any and all are invited, but we'll always calculate the payout as the number of people playing divided into $40.

If we get 4 people, each person will pay out $10 to the winners. If we get 40, each will pay out $4. Might get tricky if we have, say, 7 people, but that's what calculators are for.

The caveat is that you have to join before the start date of November 1. And once November 1 rolls around, you can't back out.

Oh, and everyone who participates has to promote the winners on your blog even if you are one and especially if you're not. Should I fail at this attempt, I will be the first to pay gratuitous homage to those of you who succeed. I will place you on pedestals and gaze up at you in awe and reverence while eating stale biscuits.

Let's see... is that everything? Just email me or IL if you want to get added to the group.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Things I've Absolutely Never Said in an Elevator

"Excuse me, but you smell fruitalicious!..What fragrance are you wearing?"

"I've heard people decide if someone they've met is sexually attractive within three seconds of meeting them... "..WINK

"That soup smells amazing, can I have just a tiny sip?..Just pour some in my coffee cup, here let me chug this first...Are those breadsticks?"

"I knew you'd wear red today!..It took me three months, but I cracked it - you wear the nanometer-calibrated wavelength color based on the square root of the day of the month!..Marry me, we'll have a prime number of children."

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ten Years Ago Today

EASAS Archives - Oct 22, 1995

I just bought my first operating system - called Windows 95. I don't know about this whole GUI thing, I'm gonna miss DOS. Windows 95 has 13 floppy discs for the install, whew! And I thought Mechwarrior 2 was bad! Brian Eno composed the start-up sound wav, which I think is super cool.

I read a story today about global warming. Alarmists! According to the story, 'Dozens of cities, most notably Chicago, Illinois and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, set all-time record high temperatures. Hundreds in these and other cities die as the July 1995 heat wave reaches its peak' I think this year was a fluke.

In ten years, we'll all laugh at the idea of global warming.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bloggin Aint Easy

Blogging's a tough business these days, competition is fierce. There's a lot of pressure to make a good product and stay afloat from month to month, (as we all know).

Of course any time there's a product, there's a seamy underbelly. The bloody noses and broken legs of back-alley politics that are kept out of sight by those who would
incite revolution and remake the realm in their own image.

On a completely unrelated topic, get a load of my new checks!
Fizzy Pop is da bomb! (They didn't have Rainbow Brite, bastards)!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mis-Taken Indentity

Since I am eponymously distractable, I very often consider changing the title of this blog. I'd probably change the name monthly, but the idea is to gather readers, build name recognition, get millions of hits per day, swim in ad revenue ala Scrooge McDuck and retire to Alaska.

(Don't tell Cindy this plan - she has a strange aversion to snow - I'll have to slowly ease us northward over a decade or two).

Changing the name constantly would be wacky chaotic fun, but the kind folks who link to me would be annoyed, having to change their link text all the time. Or worse, the links would have the wrong title - terrible!

One thing I wonder about is the use of Etch-A-Sketch in my title. What happens if
The Ohio Art Co. (who own the trademark) sends me a letter one day, insisting I cease and desist referencing their product in my blog name?

"I'm using it as an adjective" I'd say. The Etch-A-Sketch is a cultural phenomenon, has become a piece of Americana, and so if I am like an etch-a-sketch, that's different than saying I am an etch-a-sketch. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Hmn, Might be a good idea to use a name that doesn't infringe anything legal. Something I can put on a t-shirt and not get sued. To the world of high fashion - brace yourself for a new major player.

How about:

Ouija Magpie (Oops, Parker Bros owns 'Ouija')


Magpie at Keyboard
Me Like Shiny Things
Marooned at Weather Station 402
Synapse Soundbytes
Ideomotor Effect

On second thought, maybe suffering a little legal action is worth it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Secret Family Cookie Recipe

For the last 20 years, I've been trying to get the top secret classified Date Pinwheel Cookie recipe from my Great-Aunt Laura (she could totally kick your Great-Aunt's ASS) and I finally got it.

I had to take a few blood oaths, there was some chanting in archaic Dutch and signing of documentae in ichor, but I got the recipe!

Yummy!We're not a big baking household, so I had to buy all the ingredients, including sugar. Considering I bought fresh dates (as fresh as dates come - had to go to two stores to find them) and everything else required, including a rolling pin, they were some pretty expensive cookies.

I should have just flown Aunt Laura out here and watched her make them.

I made them myself! Considering I've never baked from scratch in my life, I think the cookies were amazingly good. There are already lots of little things I know to do differently next time.

Can a real man bake cookies and not lose Manly Points?
Yes. Yes he can. The leather apron and blacksmith mitts help.

The cookies are too tasty not to share, so here is the recipe: (Takes days to prep, and less than 10 mins to bake, crazy! Actually, I think the overnight freezing has no part in the chemical process, but it does make the dough easier to cut into cookie rounds).

Below is the recipe as she noted it. I'm planning some modifications, and will post my modified recipe once I have it (cause this is turning into a baking blog, surprise)!


Date Pinwheel Cookies


1 cup - - - Margarine (Softened)
2 cups - - - Brown Sugar
3 Eggs
4 cups - - - Flour
1/2 teaspoon - - - Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon - - - Salt

Mix and then chill dough in the refrigerator for 1 day.



1 cup - - - Sugar
2 1/4 cup - - - Dates, chopped and blended
1 cup - - - Water

Simmer 10 minutes and allow to cool to room temperature.


Divide the chilled dough in 2 halves for easier handling.

Roll dough about 1/4 inch thick.

Spread filling over dough.

Roll dough up into swirly log and wrap in wax paper.

Store in freezer for 1-2 days, or until fully chilled.

Once fully chilled, cut dough into 1/4 inch slices

Place slices on a greased cookie sheet

Bake at 375 for 8 minutes.

Devour cookies with milk, glee and zeal. Gusto is optional.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Selected Owies and Boo-Boos

Stealing from the quiet genius of the one and only Lindsey Quinn, I present for your enjoyment a list of dangerous incidents in my life.

July 23, 1974:
Sitting in my little red wagon, I speed down a hill towards the high speed traffic lanes while Mom chases me, rightfully afraid for my life. I giggle with enthusiasm, and Mom seems pretty excited too.

December 10, 1976:
I trip and cut my knee on a mysterious sharp thing. Seven stitches and lots of blood. They said the scar would go away BUT THEY LIED.

August 3, 1984:
I careen down a mountain of gravel at a fifty degree angle on my bike - I'm unhurt but the bike requires hardcore welding, like only the pro's can do. I get to watch and it's cool.

September 3, 1992
Speeding along a twisty forest road in northern Arizona in a 1978 Toyota Corolla, I rocket from the asphalt, spin the car 180 degrees in midair strike a tree at six feet off the ground and then hit the earth. My nose is smashed into over 100 pieces, my face and throat slashed with flying glass - result - hospitalized for 12 hours and lots of bitchin scars.

April 18, 1993
I stub my toe on a cute cast-iron turtle doorstop, electric nerve agony jolts up my leg, and I spend a week in bed and hopping back and forth to the bathroom.

May 21, 1995
Speeding along on a motorized pallet lifter laden with 2500 pounds of candy bars, the battery begins to die and I give the throttle a goose, only to be hurled with decisiveness against a full pallet of Circus Peanuts, breaking my leg. I walk on the leg for three days until I am dragged to the doctor, who tells me it's a damned good thing I didn't put any weight on it, or I would have needed pins and screws to fix it.


Also, I wrote a new
short story.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Same Thing We Do Every Night, Pinky

My most excellent roommate brought home a great game last week, and I've been playing it every day since.

It's called Destroy All Humans, and as you might have guessed from the title, it's not Homo-Sapien Friendly. You play as a Grey alien (NOT a green, let's get this straight) race known as Furons who are bent on the destruction of Earth. Or at least, Earthlings.

You spend time on foot as well as in your flying saucer, and can deliver satisfying amounts of damage in both modes. The combat is somewhat repetitive, but the strength of this game is in the writing and voice acting, which is what is keeping me playing.

Your player character Crypto is voiced in a fun, sardonic Jack Grand Theft Auto, but with AliensNicholson fashion (he could sue, really) with fun one-liners that don't get old, even after you've heard them five times. Crypto has a fun assortment of weapons and four psychic abilities.

The invasion is directed from the alien mothership by Pox, a great character in his own right, voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz, the voice of Invader Zim. The writing for the Pox character is very much like Zim, so if you miss the show, here's a good way for a new fix.

The entire game is full of a great personality and character - you spend a lot of time scanning average human minds, and the thought-soundbytes you receive are grin-and-shake-your-head funny, with a few that are laugh-out-loud worthy. I tried to find some wavs to link to for your enjoyment, but couldn't find any. I might capture a few myself, to share.

I managed to freeze/crash the game twice, and had to restart the PS2, losing my mission progress... but breaking games is what I do. It's sad to find such easily reproduced crash bugs in a released product, however. The frame-rate also suffers when there are many moving characters on-screen, but the environments are so huge, I can forgive this.

There's a lot of texture-popping and distance-draw issues, (objects flickering in and out of existence, depending on your POV) which are glaring but don't really break anything.

Some of the AI is questionable - for example: One scientist I was assigned to shadow repeatedly got hit by a car while crossing the street, and so I failed the mission. (Protecting the man's life was not one of my objectives). I ended up using Crypto's telekinesis to nudge cars out of the street to protect him.

The missions are set up in an all-or-nothing fashion, and if you fail the mission near the end, you have to play again from the very beginning. There really should have been objective checkpoints, since re-playing through long sections of stealth missions to reach the fun carnage at the end gets frustrating.

The soundtrack is drawn directly from Plan 9 From Outer Space, which modern audiences are likely aware of thanks to Tim Burton's film Ed Wood. The soundtrack uses lots of wavery, spooky theremin pieces, which really drives home the feeling of the pulp sci fi era.

Great game, lots of fun, play it!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Scary Thought

There are things that just feel so right in this world.

Snuggling with my Sweetheart - I was meant to do this.

Writing / Blogging - I was meant to do this.

Excel - I was meant to do this.

I mean, when you find yourself at home, thinking "The best way to do this would be with an excel sheet" and you spend your own time working up a macro to factor in everything from groceries to your pron budget...

Yeah, it's bad.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


To the girl at the gym who thought I was checking out her cleavage - no, it was your iPod Nano that held my rapt gaze. Because let's face it, I've seen breasts before.

If you think you're getting the last bagel... Mister, you're dreaming.

To that guy at the restaurant all those years ago, who thought I spit on your food - I did not. But I did take a bite of your chicken.

I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV.

To the girl who got on the elevator at the third floor, no that wasn't me - it smelled like broccoli farts when I got here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Doing Less - To Serve You Better!!

a parody of the always entertaining BASF commercials

At ETCH, we don't make the post,
we make it hipper and bloggier.

At ETCH, we don't make the puns,
we make them punnier.

At ETCH, we don't make the bon mot,
we make them more Gallic.

At ETCH, we don't make a lot of the blogs you read,
we make a lot of the blogs you read Etchier.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hot Food is Good

We've all sat down with our microwaved bowl of food goodness, scooped a forkful to our mouths, and chewed with frustration as half the bite is cold, and the other half is steamy.

True, this effect is minimized if you obey the directions and stir thoroughly, and let the cooked food rest for a minute or two before devouring.

chicken leg, undercookedThis is the 21st Century, dammit. If we can't invent a microwave that cooks evenly - how about an infrared camera built into the box?

There would be a handy screen for viewing the results - the blue, orange and red blobs on the screen would tell us at a glance if the food was warmed consistently.
GE, get to work. Thank you.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Get Your Write On!

November is National Novel Writing Month!

The goodly folks over at NaNoWriMo have a yearly ritual where they encourage us would-be writers to actually finish something for a change - to write write write without our bothersome internal critics nit-picking everything to a standstill. The idea is to finish and then edit the work to your heart's content.

The goal is to write a short novel of 50,000 words within 30 days. (1666.6 words per day, easy!)

This diabolical plan is assisted by a fun how-to book, 'No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days' by Chris Baty, the man who founded the program back in 1999. The book is a quick read, and I'd recommend it to all writing procrastinators.

NaNoWriMo is a pretty cool web site, there are forums where the writers encourage one another, you can post your current word count, and you can even meet, greet and gather in person with NaNoWriMo writers in your area for writing sessions.

What's not to like? I entered last year, and made it up to about 20,000 words I think. I hope to do better in 2005.

One of the few ways the idea could be improved would be to run the program more than once a year - in November, and also in May. The folks who work retail like Cindy don't have any spare time during the Christmas season.

The illustrious Invisible Lizard has posted on this topic as well, in far more detail - check it out!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Help Us - - Help You!! (Golly!)

*Earn valuable coupons!
How can Etch-A-Sketch Attention Span be improved?
More Full-Frontal Zombie Carnage
Pod-Casts! I just know Etcher has a sexy voice.
More Long Rambling Invention Ideas
Fewer Nude Pictorials from Glamour Shots
Here's a thought - Pick a THEME
This blog is perfect as-is
More essays promoting the proletariat
Fewer research papers about economic recession
Ask Cindy to do ALL the writing (cause damn)
Wax poetic about body hair in nether-regions

Free polls from
*Not valid on Planet Earth

WikiPedia Wiki Wiki Wow Wow

If you have not yet found your way to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia - I highly recommend you head over there and spend some time reading.

"A 'wiki' is a web application that allows users to add content, as on an internet forum, but also allows others (often completely unrestricted) to edit the content."

This means if you find a mistake in an entry, you can correct it. If you have something to add, you can do it. You would think this would lead to a lot of sloppy writing and soft facts, but the site has a nominally high quality and is very informative.

The main page opens with a featured article and interesting news of the day, stuff I don't see over on CNN. I also like the 'random article' button, it's lots of fun.

But then, I was the kid reading the dictionary for fun, so my opinion is questionable.

In a fun twist, there is a bizarro twin of Wikipedia called Uncyclopedia, and it is full of utterly wrong facts. Thoroughly entertaining wrong facts. It's where you'd send your evil stepsister when she asks you for help on her report.


Holy Crap! I won the writing contest!! Thanks to everyone who voted for me, I guess my constant harassment finally paid off. This will only encourage me, what were you thinking?

Those of you who didn't vote, Ha Ha! I won despite your cruel inaction, thpppt!

Thursday, October 06, 2005


You can be a totally buff and manly man, and still walk into the gym with a real, live squawking and talking parrot on your forearm without losing cool points.

Loving Tenderness - three hundred thousand dollars. Being able to say "Who's Your Paternal Progenitor, Female Canines?" - Priceless.

Frosty cold grapes are an excellent contrast to toasty warm cinnamon swirl waffles.

Voting is the shizzle. Even Aristotle thought so, and who are we to argue with ole A-Totle? (like P-Diddy but Old School fo Reals)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Credi-Bull #2

Credi-Bull - a news item that might be fact, or might be fiction.

A man walked into a bank and handed the teller a note that said he had a bomb in his mouth. Things went badly for the would-be robber - He ended up on his knees, handcuffed to a pole with a robot probing his mouth for a bomb. There was no bomb.

Real or Fake? (Check the 'comments' section for the answer)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Will Write For Food

Yet another news story about music and copy-protection today. I can appreciate the millions of dollars lost by labels and artists - they're in a very uncomfortable place.

For decades, we've all been making copies of music onto cassette, (I'm loathe to admit remembering 8-Track) and later onto CDs - but the internet is the real problem when it comes to copying and sharing. Instead of making one copy for a friend, thousands of people can download an album from your server.

The labels and the more outspoken bands opposed to file sharing get a lot of flak thrown their way from consumers, but illegal downloads are, yes, illegal.

The capacity for paid internet downloads of music is wonderful - the idea that a band no longer needs a corporate label is amazing. They don't need to compromise to a producer's vision, surrender to a committee's opinion - the artist can share their own vision with the world and earn money with their art.

I hope to write professionally at some point, and once books are fully popularized in electronic form, (with some sort of quality handheld reader - yo, Apple - get to work) sales of novels are going to face the same problem that music, DVDs and CD audio books do right now.

Why spend $30 on a new book when you can download it illegally for free and port it over to your handheld reader? (Reading books on a screen doesn't really appeal to me, but they are making great advances with electronic paper. Imagine a re-usable 'blank' book that becomes whatever novel you want).

Since authors are paid an advance based on expectations of how well a book will sell, and then a pittance per copy sold, you can see where 10,000 illegal downloads will make a big difference for the writer. It could mean the difference between writing full time or trying to fit it in on the weekends.

For the majority of largely mediocre written works, we might shrug and say "Oh well." But there are those rare writers who so completely define an era, whose works are true art - it would be a crime to lose these books.

The move toward e-books isn't happening that quickly and part of the reason might be it's better to just wait and find a solution for copy-protection first. But there is no solution that can't be cracked. No matter how safe publishers make their media, someone will learn to break through.

In the developed world, within the next 50 years, the majority of the labor-intensive jobs that can't be outsourced to Indonesia will be done by robots.

Humans will be squeezed more and more towards the arts (and robot repair) which is great. John Adams said: "I must study politics and war that my sons have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry and music." Sounds good to me.

I'm fine with the barter system when it comes to art - I'll give you my newest short story for your latest music single. But what about food and housing?


Speaking of writing, I just wrote a new short story.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Issues with My Expectations of "Grown-Up"

Contemporary "Grown Up" roles aren't what they were 50 years ago. It's now perfectly acceptable to be a 40 year old man, collect toys and comic books, and proudly admit this to one and all without fear of a blanket party during your next trip to the bathroom.

I do work in the video games industry, but it's still odd to be at work and:

a) My boss just sang a few lines of "Who Let the Dogs Out" in a completely justified and work-related manner during a business meeting.

b) The work fridge is filled with equal parts junkfood and alcohol.

c) We discussed '
We Love Katamari' for at least twenty minutes and got paid for it.


Have you voted yet?