You a should give me a lot of money, because I have an absolutely fabulous idea for a business. Now, I know the heyday of Venture Capital is pretty much over, but you should nonetheless invest heavily in this scheme. Why? Because unlike the multitude of hare-brained, half-baked, poorly-thought-out ideas that swarmed yesteryear like stray cats on a dumpster full of albacore, this particular idea absolutely cannot fail!

It’s called: See? You love it already.

Ask yourself: what’s the typical lifecycle of Crap in the United States? (And you know what I mean by Crap: Yoga videos, bread makers, double matted art prints of cheetahs, musical picture frames … all that stuff that you see on tv or glimpse on a website or spot in a catalog or find in the checkout lane of a supermarket and, without thinking, buy.) Well, I’ll tell you what happens to this stuff. It arrives at your home, and you set it on a kitchen counter, and then a month later you put it in a drawer or closet, and then seventeen years later you haul it off to a storage unit. And why shouldn’t you? It’s the American way.

But what a hassle — not to mention a waste of space! Unpacking the UPS boxes from is a chore, and taking carload after carload of Crap to your storage unit can really eat away at your valuable time. That’s where comes in. Instead of buying that battery-operated self-cleaning litter box directly from the retailer, you will instead place the order with me. I’ll then order the item on your behalf, unpack it when it arrives, and drive it directly to your storage unit! No muss, no fuss! Then I’ll send you an email letting you know that your brand new six-pack of passionfruit-scented candles are right where they were eventually going to wind up anyhow: at U-Stor. And I’ll do it all for a mere $12 per transaction.

Plus, I’ll also set up a sister company called for those bleeding-heart types. It will work exactly the same way, except I will take the Crap to local thrift stores.

Please make million-dollar checks out to “Matthew Baldwin.” That’s “Matthew” with two-Ts.

Opposite Day

Bush Declares March 27 ‘Opposite Day’

President George W. Bush declared March 27 to be National Opposite Day. “For too long, now, ‘No’ has meant ‘no’, ” Bush said during the nationally televised address. “But today, at long last, ‘no’ will mean ‘yes’ … and ‘yes’ will mean ‘no’.”

Furthermore, Bush explained , until midnight all statements would mean their logical opposite. “For example: Saddam Hussein, we’re not coming for you!” he announced with a smirk.

Democrats lashed out at the proclamation, calling it ‘absurd’ and ‘paradoxical’. “Just by saying that today is Opposite Day, Bush is, in effect, saying that’s it’s not Opposite Day,” Senator Maria Cantwell pointed out. “If he’d made the announcement yesterday then, yeah, sure, that works. But by saying today is Opposite day .. that’s just dumb.”

“Or perhaps I say: that’s just not dumb.” Cantwell asked, rhetorically.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer later dismissed the criticism, saying that it “sure doesn’t sound like pseudo-intellectual ivory-tower elite-speak to me!” Senate Republicans also supported the President’s decision, saying “This is not a great day for America.”

Although right-handed, Bush signed the proclamation with his left-hand, which, while kind of in the spirit of things, didn’t really make sense to anyone. Afterwards, Bush said his tax cuts were designed to help the impoverished, agreed to campaign finance reform, said that we would see “Middle-East Peace in our lifetimes,” and asked Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle “Do you want me to hit you?”

Lexically Scoped

Yersterday eveing I stayed late at work to finish up a big ‘n’ complicate perl script I am working on. Then, last night, I had crazy dreams in perl. In one I wanted to tell someone my name, but everytime I tried I would get an error because I had not declared my $name and it was therefore not yet lexically scoped.

Bonus: Calculate your Geek Quotient! Check all that apply.

I can relate to staying late at work to finish a program
I can relate to dreaming in a programming language
I know what lexically scoped means
Upon reading the above post I felt no urge to find you and beat you up
I checked the source code of this document to see if these checkboxes really serve any function
I have a calculator in hand and I am using it to compute my score as I read this

Scoring: Dude, you’re a geek and no test is gonna tell you otherwise.

Books: Word Freak

It takes Stefan Fatsis 114 pages to acknowledge what readers have already come to suspect. “Right now,” he writes, “Scrabble is the most important thing in my life.” He’s got plenty of company. In “Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players” Fatsis documents the lives and travails of those for whom Scrabble-playing is a way of life. That alone would make for an interesting read, but what makes “Word Freak” even more compelling is that, well before the midpoint of the book, Fatsis has already joind the ranks of the Scrabble-obsessed.

Competitive Scrabble, it becomes rapidly apparent, is a wholly different game from that which families play on their dining room tables. For one thing, it’s always a two-player, head-to-head affair. For another, the World Famous Crossword Game isn’t really about words once you reach the upper echelons of play — it’s more about memorization, visualization and the ability to do absolutely astounding anagramation on the fly. Because players aren’t required to know the definitions of the words they play, they often make no effort to do so and instead opt to simply memorize the thousands and thousands of letter combinations which just happen to be in an approved dictionary. Really, the “words” could just be string of numerals — it would all be the same to these guys.

It also becomes clear that the best Scrabble players in the world are not just really good causal players — like chess grandmasters, these folks are a breed apart. What do you make of a group who, in their free time, hang out in cafes and challenge each other with anagrams. (“What’s TRANSMEDIA plus a V?” cries one. “MAIDSERVANTS!” a second replies a few moments latee.) They play and discuss and analyse and ponder Scrabble to the exclusion of just about everything else, using their spare moments to reviews lists of five-letter words and recreate historical Scrabble matches on their computers. Indeed, it’s unlikely that Fatsis could have found a more colorful cast of characters in any sport as he found here.

Although I am a board game enthusiast, I do not much care for Scrabble (or word games in general). But, even so, I quite enjoyed this book. Fatsis is a very good writer, and is introspective enough to recognize and report his own strengths, weaknesses and emotional upheavals as he participates in tournaments alongside the masters. At 350 pages the book is perhaps a little overlong given the subject matter, but is generally a fascinating and enjoyable read.

I purchased by copy of Word Freak from


Correction: In an earlier entry I said that “I bought a house”. Actually, I merely convinced a bank to allow me to live in their house. In exchange, I agreed to subsist on Top Ramen, forego movies and never purchase anything more expensive than Pez for a period of thirty years, after which the house will become mine. defective yeti regrets the error.

Maxims of Long Distance Running

I ran the Mercer Island Marathon. Here’s what I learned.

Ten Maxims of Long Distance Running

  1. People who tell you that the hill you are climbing “ends just around the corner” are filthy liars.
  2. People who stand on the sidelines and yell “Run! Run! should be forced to do so at gunpoint
  3. People who tell you that “it’s all downhill from here” are filthy liars.
  4. If you insist on continuing to run while you try and drink your dixie cup of water, you are not only a damned fool but you will shortly be a damp fool.
  5. People who stand at the finish line and yell “Nice try!” to the finishers should be boxed about the head and shoulders.
  6. I’d much rather run a marathon than be the guy who sits at the microphone at the end and reads off the names of the fifty-seven gazillion participants, one by one, as they cross the finish line.
  7. People who stand on the sidelines and yell “All right, stay together!” should be pulled aside and asked what, exactly, they mean by this. They should be asked if they understand that this is a race, and it would be a terribly boring one if everyone “stayed together.”
  8. People who stand on the sidelines and yell “You’re doin’ great! You’re lookin’ great!” are filthy liars, and doubly so.
  9. This is not what you want to hear from the person behind you:

    Okay, so here’s my worst race story. I was in this race in Belgium, and I was totally out of shape so I was stuck at the back of the pack. And running right in front of me was this overweight guy wearing a single-piece flesh-colored Spandex bodysuit. And I couldn’t get away from him — I couldn’t run any faster, and if I went any slower I’d be walking. So I just had to look at this guy for mile after mile. And then … he started to sweat…

  10. People who tell you that they ran the Mercer Island Marathon are filthy liars. (It was actually a half-marathon.)

Marathon Training

Saturday I will be participating in the Mercer Island Marathon. Sunday I will be watching the Academy Awards. One is a true test of endurance, in which only those with exceptional physical and mental stamina will make it to the end. The other involves a lot of running.