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The Games People Flay

If you’ve read any of my other blog entries you may find this difficult to believe, but I have friends.

No, really.

Stop laughing.

Two of my oldest and best friends, both of whom are named Chris, have been tolerating me since High School.  When we were younger, we would do all sorts of stupid, albeit nerdy, shit together, but those are subjects of future blog entries.  As we all got older and, more importantly, married, we started playing party games whenever we got together.

And that, my friends, is the subject of today’s blog entry.

I am not talking about drinking games, for you see, none of us drank.  No, I am talking about your standard run-of-the-mill, very tame party games.  Ones which do not involve the loss of any motor function or the removal of any articles of clothing.  Games like Charades, Taboo and Pictionary,

Oh my, how I loved Pictionary…

The problem, however, was that my wife Karrie and I were way too good at it.  We would almost always win, and were frequently accused of cheating because of this.  But I swear we never cheated; we just know each other very, very well.  I think the best example of how ridiculous we were was when I had to draw “David and Goliath”.  I drew the following:

DavidAndGoliath

And Karrie guessed it on the first shot, blurting it out before I was even finished drawing.

Sadly, nobody wanted to play Pictionary with us after that, and so we were forced to move onto other games.  Over the years, we experimented with many, but two of our absolute favorites were called Beyond Balderdash and Wise and Otherwise.

The gameplay for both of these games is very similar, the only difference being the content of the cards.  I’ll start with Beyond Balderdash, and explain the basic premise.  Each player gets a pad of paper and a pencil.  One of the players draws a card, and reads an entry from it.  These entries fall into five categories “Words”, “People”, “Initials”, “Movies” or “Dates”.  Each player has to write down either a) The actual meaning of the word/who the person is/what the initials stand for/etc. for the entry that was read, or b) A believable lie.  The player that read the card writes down the actual answer on their pad, collects all the other slips of paper, shuffles them and, finally, reads them.  Players then vote on which of these they believe to be correct, for you see, that is how you get points.  If anyone votes for yours, you get a point.

If you look back at most of my submissions, many of which I kept, you would be absolutely convinced that I missed the entire point of this game.  I didn’t try to garner the true essence of any of the items that were read to me, nor did I make any attempt at believability, as is illustrated by the following typical submission:

Figgum

 

As you can see, my attention to detail slips a bit when I only have a minute to work with.  But if you can get beyond the poor spelling and horrible handwriting, you may notice that three people voted for my submission.  It is important to remind you here that none of us were drunk.  These were three fully-grown adults in complete control of their facilities.  Based upon these results, it would appear that I could make up the wildest crap, and people would actually believe it anyway.

Any of you readers that are salespeople are probably laughing at me right now.

Anyhow, I used this tactic to great effect over the years, and won many games.  I used not even a single thread of truth to weave a fabric of lies, which I used to sew a hood of deception to slip over the heads of my unsuspecting victims.

I was an unstoppable force in the world of party gaming.

That was… until one fateful day, when one of the Chris’s drew a card with the word “Cockatush” on it.  That’s when things took a sharp turn for the worse.  You see, there’s a fine line here that cannot be crossed.  On one side of that line is creative, and surprisingly believable pretense.  And on the other side are fabrications that, while amusing, are only believable to to people who have recently suffered blunt head trauma.  But what was I supposed to do?  I am not made of stone!

I kept the original slip of paper from the game so that, many years from now, archeologists can unearth it and use it to show precisely where my downfall began:

Cockatush1

 

Yeah, I know I spelled Cockatoo wrong.  Don’t rub it in.

I only got one vote there, and I am honestly not sure how that’s even possible.  The person responsible for reading it was unable to read the entire submission out loud without collapsing into a giggle-fit despite the fact that it was only five words.

And, that’s not the worst of it.  I blame Cockatush for ruining the game for me.  From that point on, for me, all entries no matter what they were, somehow involved the nether regions of exotic birds…

Cockatush2

 

I had hit rock-bottom.  A voteless entry.  A truly sad day…

Cockatush3

 

Aw, c’mon!  That sounded believable!

This pattern spilled over into our other favorite game Wise and Otherwise.  As I said, this game is played in almost exactly the same way.  The difference was that instead of the five categories on each card, there were five partial “old sayings”.  So, for instance, one of the choices might be “There’s an old saying: A bird in the hand…”, and everyone has to finish the saying.

With the right group of people, this game is obnoxiously fun.  With the wrong group of people, you get entries like this:

Cockatush4

 

Although my words rang true, it would seem that I was doomed to remain vote-less.  Shortly after the game with that submission, we stopped playing.  We grew apart, they stopped calling, moved away, changed their names, etc.

No, seriously, we still see each other, but don’t play these kinds of games anymore.  This is mainly due to the fact that most of us have kids now and, for obvious reasons, don’t feel that it’s appropriate to play these games around them. (“Daddy?  What’s a Cockatush?”)

Heed me readers.  If you play games like these, don’t fall into the trap.  Learn from my sad example. 
Nobody could have predicted the impact that a single word would have on the promising career of a talented party gamer.

Go figgum.

Dungeoneering for Non-Nerds

I pointed out in a previous post that, like any self-respecting nerd, I have played Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). I played it quite often when I was younger.  I own quite a few of the books, and an impressive collection of figurines.  But it occurred to me that, while most people have heard of it, not everybody has had the pleasure of actually playing the game.

You see, while my friends and I were holed up in my basement surrounded by books, dice and tiny figurines, many of you were probably enjoying other, more popular forms of teenage entertainment such as “beer” and “sex”.  Therefore, it is unlikely that you know precisely what goes on at a D&D session.  Well, my chemically enhanced brethren, you are in luck.  For today, I am going to enlighten your remaining brain cells about this fascinating game.

Let’s start with some of the people involved in playing the game.  These people fall into two basic categories:

The Players

That’s you (and some of your friends).  But this is not the version of you that runs away, screaming like a school-girl, from angry Chihuahuas.  This is a bigger, badder, butt-kickinger you.  This version of you is a Hero!  And you need to do heroic things.

You know… traveling the world with nothing more than what you can fit in your backpack.  Saving big-breasted, eternally grateful damsels in distress.  Pummeling dragons until they are reduced to naught but a handful of loosely-coupled dragon molecules.  Stuff like that.

The Dungeon Master (DM)

Oh, he may look like just one of your friends.  But don’t be fooled.  When he chose to wear the mantle of Dungeon Master he became the god of your sad little fantasy world.  And he is an angry god.  He is your friend no longer.

The DM is the narrator of the story, the keeper of the rules, and the arbiter of disputes.  He also plays every other character in the story aside from the players themselves, which means that he needs to either be very talented, or mildly disturbed.

But how is it playedD&D is remarkably difficult to explain to people that have not played it.  I think part of the difficulty stems from the fact that it is called a “game”, but does not actually work like any game that normal people are familiar with.  I remember my Mom frequently entering the room we were playing in (usually to deliver some pizzas) and asking “Who’s winning?”.  This is not that kind of game.  People don’t “win”, although they can lose in a rather spectacular fashion (aka. dying).

I guess, if I had to sum up how D&D was played, I would say that it is “A group of people, sitting around, talking.”.  Wait… that’s not entirely accurate.  I suppose, to be more specific, it’s actually “A group of people, sitting around, pretending that they are someone else… talking.”.  It is called a “role playing” game, after all.  The whole point is that you play a role; you act like someone else…. right?

In reality, unless you have a budding thespian in the group, this doesn’t tend to be the case.  More often, each character begins to act much like the player that is playing them.  So, you end up acting as… you.  But in this case, you act as a you who has a sword and is well versed in the art of buttkickery. It’s all very visceral, but totally harmless.

Of course, there are some that disagree…

<insert harp music here>

So there I was, a young Junior High School kid, sitting at home with all my Dungeons & Dragons books arrayed before me on the dining room table, when the doorbell rang.  It was a plumber.  Apparently, my parents needed something… plumbed.  Anyhow, he walked in, saw what I was working on, and immediately went back to his truck.  He returned a few minutes later, and presented my parents with a pamphlet entitled: “Dungeons & Dragons: Only a Game?”.

This document was intended to inform my parents of the danger that this “game” posed to young impressionable children like myself.  He patiently explained to them that I was in dire peril. That, at any moment, the game could possess me and make me a potential danger to myself and others.  My parents, instantly grasping the gravity of the situation, gave the pamphlet to me and went back to watching TV.

I bet you think that I tossed it in the trash as soon as they weren’t looking.  Well then you, my friend, are a fool… I read it.  I read the whole thing…

I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say that this is the finest document ever written in the history of the human race. I was personally moved to tears by the following paragraph:

DnD2

Wow!  I wanna go to those games!  I mean, sure, sometimes we would talk about murder (“Eat that last slice of pizza, and I will kill you!”), and maybe toss out an occasional cannibalistic comment (“I will eat the last slice, and you can eat me!”), but… sexual perversion? gambling? desecration? That sounds more like college.

I get the feeling that the folks over at Christian Life Ministries picture a typical D&D session going as follows:

DM: Ok, let us begin.  Player1, did you bring the sacrificial dagger this time?

Player1: Yes Master.

DM: Good.  We don’t want a repeat of last time.  The virgin escaped while you searched for something sharp enough to carve out her still-beating heart as an offering to the Dark God we worship.

Player2 shifts uncomfortably.

DM sighs:  What is it Player2?

Player2: It’s just… it’s just that Player1 always gets to carve the still-beating heart out of the virgin.  When will we get a turn?

Player3: Yeah.  I want a turn too!

DM: Ok, ok… we’ll take turns… there are enough virgins to go around…

What great imaginations they have over there!  Haha… I bet they have some wild parties over at the Christian Life Ministries.  But, while that is fascinating, that’s not typically how a game goes.  Our sessions consisted of alot of talking, and rolling dice, and talking more.  There was pizza, and alot of soda.  And the only virgins were the players.  I remember game sessions going more like this:

DM: …from the rim of the valley, you can see the castle in the distance….

        *The DM deepens his voice*

        It’s dark presence fills you with foreboding…

Player1: Do I see anything I can shoot with my bow?

Player2: Asshole, the castle is miles away.  Put the dice down, you douche.

Player1: Nevermind.  I see something I can shoot.  I aim at Player2.

Player3: Did we order the pizza yet?

Ahhh… such immersion.  If you close your eyes… you can almost feel like you are there.

So, you see, D&D is all about the DM telling a story.  And you, and your other fellow players, listening and interacting with that story.  These interactions are referred to as Encounters, and can take two forms.  Non-combat Encounters, and… you guessed it… Combat Encounters.  Us players generally live for the Combat Encounters.  We fast-talk our way through all the wussie non-combat crap just so we can get to the good parts.

But, occasionally the DM foils our plans and tries to ruin the fun of the game. Some DMs think that, since this is a Role Playing Game that everyone needs to be an actor. You’re just waiting for them to scream “Again! This time with feeling!”…

DM: …suddenly, a group of Orcs comes around the bend…

Me: I want to stab the leader-

DM: Don’t tell me what you want to do, tell me what you are doing.

Me: Um… I stab the lea-

DM: You are 50-feet away!  You are stabbing him from there?

Me: …I walk over and sta-

DM: You just waltz right up? In broad dayli- *glack*

Me: *cleans knife on his shirt*

We went through so many DMs that way.

Where was I?  Ah, yes… Combat Encounters.  Let me first explain something here.  Not only are you a hero, but you are the bravest damn hero ever!  When faced with a group of creatures, you jump into the fray with nary a concern for your well being.  You wade into their midst bellowing a battle cry!  You do this even if you are wearing a loin cloth and armed with only a pickle.  You do this because doing so amounts to rolling dice.

You want to hit a filthy Orc with your pickle?  Simply roll a 20-sided die, and if you roll over a certain number, you hit them!  Then roll some more dice to figure out how badly you hurt them. And finally, sit back and enjoy the DM’s description of how the miserable wretch dies.

DM: You swing you pickle around your head with alarming force leaving a trail of brine and the faint smell of dill as it passes.  It connects solidly with the head of the lead Orc and barely slows down as obliterates his skull and tears through his brain.  The, now headless, Orc remains standing for a few seconds and then falls to the ground with a sickening thud.  Your pickle is now covered in gore and no longer kosher.

Me: I attack the next Orc with my throwing gherkins!

String a bunch of encounters like these together, and there you have it!  A D&D game!  A group of people, sitting around, trying to act like other people, but really acting like themselves, rolling dice, and talking… alot.  Believe it or not, it’s more fun than it sounds.

Maybe some of you may even want to try it someday.  If you do, just let me know…

We play every Friday night over at the Christian Life Ministries.

Don’t forget the sacrificial dagger.

The Gauntlet

My wife’s name is Karrie, and she is the most wonderful woman on the planet.

And, lucky for me, I happen to know for a fact that she loves me very much.

I know this, because she said “yes” when I asked her if she would marry me.

I know what you are thinking… many people say “yes” to marriage proposals, and still don’t truly love each other. Well, those people likely proposed to their (ex)wives in some pansy “traditional” way. All suited up… in a fancy restaurant… on bended knee… pleading with the object of their affection… blah. Honestly? I am surprised most marriages outlast milk.

Personally, I made my bride-to-be run the gauntlet before “popping the question”.

But more on that in a second. First, some background.

Karrie and I had been dating for seven years before I proposed. We already knew more about each other than people have any right to. We were, and still are, best friends. At that point, in my opinion, marriage is just paperwork. Yeah, I am sure that just takes all the romance out of it for many of you, but that was the reality of the situation. I mean, there really was no question in either of our minds that we were going to be married. The question was… when would I ask… and how?

As I said, Karrie knew me very well at that point. So, she knew that there was NO WAY that I would ever propose on a traditional day, like Christmas Eve, or New Years. That’d be too cliché for me. She knew to “expect the unexpected” from me. So… I proposed on Christmas Eve.

Here’s how it went down.

Karrie came over to my house so that we could exchange gifts. She gave me my gifts first. I am embarrassed to say that I don’t remember what they were, but in my defense, I was about to propose here, so there were other things on my mind at the time. Anyhow… after I finished opening my gifts, I presented Karrie with four, identically wrapped gift boxes. And I asked her to pick three.

As you might imagine, at this point she was already thoroughly confused.

She picked three, and I took the remaining box and tucked it under my arm. I then told her to start opening them. And thus, she opened the first one, which was…

Gift1

I could almost read her thoughts as if they were printed on her face… “What an odd gift.”. For those of you that don’t know me very well… I am not what you would call “normal”. And Karrie was well aware of that, so the unusual nature of this first gift certainly wasn’t enough to deter her. So she continued on and opened the second box, which contained…

Gift2

The confusion deepened. The ring holder was one thing; she had rings after all. But, a baby toy? Still, she continued on… determined to discover the contents of the third box, which was…

Gift3

At this point, she probably wanted to get me a CAT Scan. What was I thinking? Soup? How were any of these… things considered Christmas gifts? It wasn’t until I said “Better luck next year” that she started to put it all together…

“ring”… “ring”… “ring”…

Her eyes opened wide, and her head snapped towards me.

And then… her eyes slowly narrowed until they were slits.

“What’s in the last box!?”, she rasped.

A battle ensued.

I will spare you the details but, suffice it to say, I defended the remaining box as bravely as I could. She had, after all, made her three choices. The contents of the last box, such as they were, were not for her. Not that year, at least.

But, in the end, she proved stronger than I. And she eventually foiled my defenses, and wrestled the box from my hands. After a cursory check to ensure that I was still alive, she stared down at the spoils of her victory.

The last box.

This was it.

What she had been waiting for.

In this box was something with the power to change her life.

In this box was her future.

She tore it open

In this box was…

Gift4

I think she came close to the edge of her sanity at that point. But it was then, while she was curled up in the fetal position rocking back and forth mumbling to herself, that I finally pulled the ring out from my pocket and proposed to her.

So, you see, if she said yes after all that? She must love me.

Oh and, by the way, I ate the Ring Dings.

A Very Bad Sport

I have to get something off my chest.  Something that has plagued me since I was a child.  I have a dark secret that makes me different than many of you…

I don’t like sports

There… I said it…

I dislike almost every sport that I can think of.  In fact, I can’t even say I want to like them, because I don’t.  I am quite content being immune to their seductive dance.  I don’t feel as if their absence has left a gaping hole in my life.

Ok, this really isn’t really that much of a secret.  I am actually quite open about it with everybody I meet.  But, no matter how honest I am, it is a concept that never ceases to confuse sports fans.  You see, they cannot seem to comprehend a world without sports.  To them, it’s like saying you don’t like Oxygen (the element, not the channel).

Sports Fan: You see the game last night?

Me: No, sorry, I don’t watch any sports.

Sports Fan: …you mean… you didn’t watch any sports… last night, right?

Me: No… I mean, I don’t watch any sports… ever.

Sports Fan: I… I… don’t understand… so what do you do while you’re drinking beer?

Me: Yeah, I don’t drink beer either.

Sports Fan faints

I don’t know… Perhaps there is an area of the human brain that allows (even forces) men to like sports,  If so, then that area of my brain is stunted, missing, or has been overwritten with more important data, like the proper spelling of the word “frottage”.  As you can see in the diagram below, I have an otherwise normal male brain:

MyBrain

It’s more complicated than a simple dislike of sports; I cannot even comprehend how anyone else can like most of them.  Watching Football, Soccer and Baseball is almost tolerable.  But Golf?  Fishing!?  NASCAR?!?

Me: So… They go around the track… how many times?

Sports Fan: Five hundred.

Me: And… you… watch this… the entire time?

Sports Fan: Yes, now shush, they are changing tires, this is my favorite part.

Me: *glack* (the sound of me stabbing myself in the eye with a pen)

Whenever I am forced to attend a sporting event of some sort, I always feel completely out of place.  Like I am visiting a foreign land.  One where the “natives” paint their bodies, speak a very strange language (“…batta batta batta SWING batta batta…”) and gesticulate wildly over seemingly ordinary things.

It is because of this that I often feel lost when I am around sports fans.  Like I am unable to communicate with these “natives” in a meaningful way. I find myself looking at the people around me in order to figure out how to do the most mundane things, like cheering.  I am fearful that if I don’t cheer at precisely the right time they will all point at me and screech in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” fashion, identifying me as the heathen interloper as they all converge on me.  This would, naturally, then be followed by them all fighting over the choicest bits of Craig-meat which they would later use to feed their hungry sports-loving brood.

So, when I am around the more enthusiastic sports fans, I have learned a trick that masks my dislike.  I am always a fan of the rival team.  They are always way too angry to realize that I have absolutely no idea what I am talking about…

Sports Fan: Dammit!  The Rangers lost last night!

Me: Who were they playing against?

Sports Fan: The Islanders

Me: Well, then it’s not surprising that they lost, the Islanders are a much better team.

Sports Fan dies from a massive cerebral hemorrhage.

Sure… it may, one day, get me killed.

But it beats watching Golf.

Literal Thinking

Ok, I’m serious here people.

The word “Literally” is not used for emphasis.

You were not literally “hanging by your fingernails”.

You have never literally “flown through the air”.

Sadly, you will never literally “die from starvation”.

And, thankfully, it is unlikely you will ever be literally “scared shitless”.

Please stop it.

I don’t want to have to literally kill you.

I am Incredibly Retarded

Allow me to introduce the next example of “Words that are technically being used correctly, but don’t make any damn sense”. I introduced the concept in a previous entry with the word “Terrific” (which is just like “Horrific”, but somehow… good).  Today’s word is:

Incredible.

I am sure you use it, and hear it used all the time.  “You’re incredible”, “That movie was really incredible”, “Craig Coffey is absolutely incredible!”, etc.  The meaning, in this context, being “amazing” or “awesome”.  But… look at the word!  No, wait… first, let’s look at some other similar words:

    • inedible – not edible
    • intolerable – not tolerable
    • infallible – not fallible
    • inscrutable – not scrutable
    • insane – not sane

Ok, now I am sure that even the slowest members of the audience can see where I am going with this.  There is no question about it, “incredible” means “not credible”.

I don’t know about you, but when someone says that something is not credible, I generally consider that a bad thing.  But, somehow, somewhere along the line, incredible changed its meaning to: “so amazing as to be unbelievable”.  Sure… you can see the connection, but c’mon… this is a stretch.  As with the word “terrific”, it does open up some possibilities for insulting people to their face without them knowing it though…

Me: You are terrific!

Boss: Stop… I’m blushing.

Me: No! I mean it… you really are incredible!

Boss: Here… have a raise.

That might come in kinda handy.  Like a verbal weapon, to be used in those rare situations where it is not a good move to say things like:

“I hate you!  I hate you more than mere words can describe!  If each ounce of hatred were a grain of sand, my hatred for you would be a galaxy filled with dessert planets all baking under an angry sun!  I hope your car breaks down on the way home, and you are eaten alive by hungry squirrels!”

What can I say?  I have the soul of a poet (I keep it in a jar).

Granted, the word “incredible” doesn’t quite provide the same level of satisfaction, but it helps take a bit of the sting out of some situations.  And, as a bonus, you get to remain employed/married/alive/etc.

Now, as valuable as it is to use a good word in bad ways, I cannot help but wonder if it’s possible to twist a bad word into a good one using the same logic.  Put differently, would it be possible to insult somebody and make them believe it was not insulting?…

Co-worker: I heard what you said about me!

Me: Oh… You’re welcome.

Co-worker: That’s right! You better apolog– wait… what?

Me: I said, you’re welcome.

Co-worker: But… you told everyone that I was retarded!

Me: Yes, but “retarded” means “delayed”, and “delayed” means “deferred”, and “deferred” means “Committed or entrusted to another”.  So, you see, I was merely pointing out that you were worthy of our trust.

Co-worker: Oh… um… ok… um… thanks then.

Me: You’re welcome, retard.

Haha… that would be great!  This type of English anomaly is totally cool!  It’s like having a language within a language; one that only we understand.  I suppose we could just speak Latin to each other, but that might just make us seem like pretentious douchebags (and we wouldn’t want that!).

Besides… I don’t know Latin.  So I guess we’ll just have to stick with Plan A.

But I can’t keep referring to everyone that I dislike as terrific and incredible all the time.  I am certain that even the densest of them might begin to catch on after a month or so.  Thus, our path is clear.  We need to find more of these wonderfully malleable words.  Perhaps one day, we will build an arsenal of oratory stealth weaponry with which to wage battle against our enemies.

Until then we will just have to persevere.

Or just use standard insults.

Whichever.

Texas Ho’hum

In my youth, I used to play alot of Poker — and, by Poker I am referring primarily to 5-card draw, which is Poker as God intended it.  For a while there, my friends and I played cards almost every weekend.  We’d gather at my friend Dave’s house, order up some pizzas and spend the entire night taking each others money.

Although 5-card draw was my favorite, we played other Poker variants, like 7-card stud.  We introduced a few others over the years, but we generally stuck to the basics.  It wasn’t until we were all much older that one of us introduced Texas Hold’em into the mix.

In a moment, this will become abundantly clear, but I’d like to state it plainly…

I really hate Texas Hold’em.

It wasn’t until I began writing this entry that I realized why it is that I hate it so much.  I mean, I love poker, right?  So why would a particular variant piss me off so damn much?  Let me see if I can properly explain.  My loathing falls along a few lines…

First, although there are multiple ways to play the game, the one that was made popular by the World Series of Poker TV program is called “No Limit”…

I have to stop here for a second.  I thought the human race had reached a low point in it’s history with the widespread popularity of “reality” shows.  But, what kind of horrible strain of “stupid” has infected the people that watch the World Series of Poker?  I mean, holy crap… you are actually watching people playing cards!

Ok, sorry, back to the topic… where was I? Oh, yeah, “No Limit”.  This is a great concept for a tournament, but for playing at home?  Wow does this suck:

Me: Ok, I’m all in!

Player: I call.

Me: Ha!  Bad move.  I have a Full House!

Player: Fool!  I have a Royal Flush.

Me: Dammit! That was only the first hand, and I am already out of chips.

Player: Whatever.  Loser.  Hit the road.

Ha!  What a friendly game.  I can see why so many people like it.  I sometimes wonder if I’d be better off simply hurling my “buy in” onto the front lawn of my friends house as I drive by, just to save time.  I wish that was the worst of it, but unlike other poker games, this game has spawned it’s own vocabulary.  Let see that same conversation in hold’em-ish:

Me: Ok, I’m all in!

Player: I had the nuts on the flop!  And you are short stacked anyway, so I call!

Me: Ha!  Bad move… wait… what?

Player: Fool!  I had broadway on the turn!  And you were probably drawing dead all the way to the river!

Me: I… um… are you high?

Player: You totally sucked out!

Me: Can I go home?

You can see how this would make playing the game even more tedious.  But Hold’em players did not stop at creating their own language.  No, alas, they went on to creating their own system of math as well.

I am not questioning the realities of the situation here.  The cards that come up are based upon sound statistics and probability principles just like any Poker game.  They are well documented and well tested, but not even remotely understood by Hold’em players.

These are not mathematicians we are talking about here.  The average Hold’em player needs a calculator for flash cards.  At one point it was suggested to me, by one of these mathematical marvels, that if I shuffled the cards too much, I would unshuffle them.  Then again, this is the same person that insisted that “8, 2 unsuited is the best starting hand in the game” (No, I am not kidding.  Sadly, neither was he).  Genius.

But now, suddenly, they are all experts in statistics and probability; able to instantly and accurately calculate the odds on every hand.  Let’s have a shot at that conversation one more time:

Me: Ok, I’m all in!

Player: Since I had the nuts on the flop, there is a 65.2% chance that I have you beat, so I call!

Me: Ha! Bad move… wait, 65.2%? Where the hell are you getting that from?

Player: Fool! I started with a 52.4% chance of winning, and then I made broadway on the turn, increasing my chances by 25.3%!

Me:  Asshat… That doesn’t even add up.

Player: I am going to kick 35.2% of your ass!

Me: Bring it!  Bitch!

For the few times that I have suffered from a colossal lapse of judgment — the kind brought on by severe head trauma — and have actually agreed to play Texas Hold’em, this last mock conversation seems like a fairly accurate account.

So, if you play Texas Hold’em, I wish you well.  May your hand be free of rags, and your flops full of nuts.  I, however, will stick with good old 5-card draw… at least 86.7% of the time.

A Nerd Is Born

I am a nerd.

I have been one since way before it was cool.

Now, I figure that a statement like that cannot go without some foundation of facts, and so, here is my story:

The first 12 years of my life were fairly uneventful, nerd-wise, so I will skip to the “good” parts.  I got my first job at the tender age of 13 so that I could save up enough money to buy my first *real* computer…

The Commodore 64

<insert sound of a choir of angles singing here>

But that was a long time coming. First, I had to work like a small, highly-motivated, slave in the Southside Fish Market

…I think it’s important at this point to mention that, at the age of 13, I had not had my “growth spurt” yet.  That didn’t happen until 9th grade, where I started the slow and steady growth that eventually shot me up to the ridiculous height of 5’9″, making me the tallest member of the family of midgets that adopted me.

But I digress… back to the fish market.

So, there I was, barely even a teenager, and much smaller than the average one.  And I had the job of busboy. There was a restaurant as well as the fish market and it was, and likely still is, very popular. Clearing the tables of dirty dishes, although dramatically unpleasant, was the least of my worries while I worked there.  You see, they had a “Clam Bar”, and behind this bar was a large kitchen garbage pail.  Every night, this pail contained a nights worth of discarded clamshells, and nothing else. They didn’t like to take up valuable space with anything less dense, it seemed.  And, every night, it was my job to take it out to the dumpster.

Because God is frequently benevolent, I was supplied with a hand truck to get the garbage pail to the dumpster.  But, because he also likes a good joke, emptying the pail into the dumpster meant lifting it over my head. The difficulty level of this task may be a bit hard to grasp without visual aids, so…

 Dumpster

As you can see, this job required me to ignore several fairly important laws of physics; gravity and I are still not on speaking terms.  But, somehow… I survived the experience, made enough money, and actually purchased my own Commodore 64 <insert more singing angels here>!

My parents, I am sure, thought it was great.  Here I was, 13 years old, and already grasping the importance of making and saving money, and for what?  A computer no-less!  Fools!  That computer, once I learned how to use it, became responsible for the formation of just about every bad habit I have today.  It did more damage to me than any “bad kids” ever could have.  If my parents had only known, they probably would have willingly given me crack-money.

Behind that sexy brown keyboard I learned:

    1. How to chat without using any English words.
    2. How to carelessly flout Copyright laws
    3. How to get many, many pictures of naked women
    4. How to spend countless hours in a chair only moving to get snacks, and to pee.
    5. And much, much more.

NOTE: My current computer allows me to do those same things, only much faster (except the peeing part).

…and all this before the Internet even existed!

As far as computers go, approximately the next 10 years of my life followed a rinse and repeat kind of pattern.  Get another job… save for another computer.  But, then I graduated from college, and got my first real job.  And that’s when the pattern changed…

Me: Well… I guess it’s time to get a new computer

Employer: Since you use it for work, we’ll buy one for you

Me:

Employer: Are you ok?

Me:

Employer: Are you crying?

I was now a fully-grown nerd-man.

My Rite of Passage into a mature adult nerd was not only paved with computers.  My life was filled with the usual nerdly fare.  I watched Star Wars and Star Trek.  I played Dungeons & Dragons.  I developed an unnatural love of Coca-Cola.  I had the social skills of a turnip.

That was long, long ago (last week), and today I enjoy a more well-rounded existence (I watch Firefly too).

But, I’ll save the details of my other pursuits for future entries.

They may frighten you a bit.

Not afraid?

You will be…

You will be.

It Just Doesn’t Add Up

Frequently, when I come home from work, and after Karrie and the kids are asleep.  I retire to the Meditation Chamber (the Living Room) with some nourishing brain food (let’s just assume it’s Cheetos here) and enter my Thoughtful Position (nearly prone, on the couch).  This position allows for the optimal flow of blood to the brain, thus enabling me to calmly reflect on the days events and prepare for those of the coming day.  Plus it allows me to use my belly as a snack table for my Cheetos.

It is in such a state that I come up with ideas for what I would actually like to write about on this blog.  Mentally flipping through those ideas right now, I see a common theme emerging: Education (or the lack thereof).  Don’t get me wrong, I am not always the sharpest knife in the drawer, but some of the things I observe make me wish there was a vaccine for “stupid”.

In the interest of organizing my observations, I am going to focus this entry on Math.  The fact that lotteries exist, and are popular, says enough about the math skills of the average person.  But it never truly hits home as much as when I actually hear people engaging in wanton acts of math.

One evening, while commuting home on the Long Island Rail Road, I was subjected to a conversation between two vacuous, yet attractive young women.  I don’t recall exactly what they were talking about, but I remember the following part word-for-word:

Ditz 1: Are you sure?

Ditz 2: I am, like, ninety-nine point nine percent sure.

Ditz 1: Oh my gawd.

Ditz 2: Yeah!  The only reason I am point nine percent NOT sure is…

At that point, my brain forcefully blocked the remainder of the conversation for it’s own protection; Kinda like a circuit-breaker for the absurd.

So, you see, we are not talking about Calculus here. Still not convinced?

Ok, how about this actual conversation overheard at a Subway (the fast food joint, not the train station) down near Union Square:

Clerk: Welcome to Subway, may I take your order?

Patron: Yes, I’d like a twelve inch meatball hero.

Clerk: I’m sorry.  We only sell six inch or foot long.

Holy sweet mother of all things idiotic! I mean, I will grant you that putting sliced meat(ish stuff) on bread probably doesn’t exactly require a Mensa membership.  But knowing how many inches are in a foot seems like a standard piece of common knowledge to me.

One Terrific Entry

Let’s get something straight right from the start.  I was not an English Major in college.  I would spell many words incorrectly were it not for the advent of the spell checker.  I use semi-colons with reckless abandon. I am a huge fan of run-on sentences, and I use entirely too many commas, and ellipses

Therefore, I am not trying to imply in any of my rants that I am the pinnacle of English perfection.  It’s just that there are WAY too many examples of the English language gone horribly wrong for me to ignore.  It seems evident to me that during its long journey through time English frequently zigged when it should have zagged.

As a responsible English-speaking citizen, I feel it is my duty to bring these departures from normality to light.  Which brings us to our first victim, the word: “Terrific”.  This simple list demonstrates my dilemma:

    • Horror = Bad
    • Terror = Bad
    • Horrible = Bad
    • Terrible = Bad
    • Horrific = Bad
    • Terrific = Fabulous

Dictionary.com confirms the problem, since it’s definition sounds distinclty bi-polar:

    1. Very good or fine; splendid: a terrific tennis player.
    2. Awesome; astounding: drove at a terrific rate of speed.
    3. Causing terror or great fear; terrifying: a terrific wail.
    4. Very bad or unpleasant; frightful: a terrific headache.

Sure… there are days that I feel “very good”, and others (far more frequently) that I feel as if I am “causing terror or great fear”.  Come to think of it, it is damn convenient to be able to use the same word to describe either mood…

But that’s not the point!

The point is that this poor word was lead astray.  At some point, “Terrific” was abused in a way that forever altered it’s meaning… but not all the way… it was doomed to be stuck in this limbo state.

Once, long ago, it was there, cheerfully being used exclusively to describe gruesome accidents involving brutal dismemberment and disembowelment:

Person A: Oh my God! What a terrific accident!

Person B: Is that a spleen?

And then one day it wakes up and BAM! It’s ALSO being used to describe the tangy flavor of Aunt Bea’s potato salad:

Person A: Aunt Bea’s tangy potato salad is just plain terrific!

Person B: Is that a spleen?

I say we embrace the ambiguous nature of this word, and use its power for good! Just think about it!  Insulting people is so much more fun when they aren’t even aware of it!

You’re saying “You are terrific!” to someone you dislike and smiling, because you know that what you really mean is “You are very bad, unpleasant and yes… even potentially frightful” and yet they are none the wiser. Try it… they may even THANK you!