On a lark I registered wriashorstorwe.org last night, and I am in the process of setting it up. Yes, I realize I am the last man in America to still say “on a lark.”

If you are chomping at the bit to post a link to the first installment of your story, you can do so in this thread. But I’d suggest you wait until writashorstorwe.org is active, where you can do it with trackbacks and all that other fancy hoohaw. It should be live this evening. Yes, I realize I am the last man in America to still say “chomping at the bit.”

Update: Needs some work, but wriashorstorwe.org is online.

The Bad Review Revue

Dukes of Hazzard: “The less said about Jessica Simpson’s performance the better. From the neck down she fulfills all the requirements, but, honestly, I think General Lee might do a better job with the dialogue.” — Connie Ogle [ha!], MIAMI HERALD

cry_wolf: “These tropes have already been recycled enough to make Greenpeace proud.” — Marc Savlov, AUSTIN CHRONICLE

Stay: “[Director] Marc Forster takes a maximalist approach to this mumbo jumbo, which means that in addition to lots of wacky angles, shiny surfaces, seemingly endless stairs, and sets of twins, triplets and quadruplets, he deploys the unsettling vision of three talented actors – Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling – straining credulity and neck tendons in the service of serious claptrap.” — Manohla Dargis, NEW YORK TIMES

Domino: “The movie is trash shot to look like art imitating trash.” — Owen Gleiberman, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

Brothers Grimm: “Easily the ugliest film Gilliam’s ever made, a movie shot with a lens someone forgot to wipe. It’s also his loudest: Every scene is amped up to 11, and every line of dialogue is delivered as though it’s a cry for help from the bottom of the well.” — Robert Winsonsky, DALLAS OBSERVER

Waiting: “Geared to 16-year-olds who can’t name the governor of their state. ” — Mike Clark, USA TODAY

Research Day: Red Lights, Brown Crayons, And The Disputed Heavyweight Champion Of The World

If I’m stuck behind a stale red light, is there anything I can do to change it? I used to live in Seattle’s U-district, and, for a period of about six months, I had to drive downtown at 4:45 in the morning every weekday. My commute was between seven and fifteen minutes long, and the five minute discrepancy was completely dependant on the state of the traffic light at the junction of Montlake and 25th. If it was green when I arrived, I would sail through and arrive at the office in no time; if it was red, I could get stuck sitting there for freakin’ ever, despite the complete lack of competing traffic.

I’ve heard two hypothesis about actions drivers can take to actually force (or at least hasten) a stale red light’s change to green. The first says that you can simulating the strobe effect of ambulance and police car sirens by quickly flash your headlights, and trick traffic light sensors that are programmed to automatically turn green when such a vehicle approaches. The second says that, if you are alone at a light, you can roll your car forwards and backwards, repeatedly triggering a pressure plate in the road and tricking the light into thinking that more and more cars are waiting for it to turn green.

To see if either of these were true, I called up the superintendent at Seattle’s Traffic Maintenance Office. She sounded as if she had never heard the headlight-flashing one (which is odd, because pretty much everyone I know if familiar with the ol’ “flash your lights” trick, and, to the best of my knowledge, nary a one of them works for the Traffic Maintenance Office). “That would never work,” she told me. “They would need the code.” She later clarified that “the code” was a signal sent by transmitters in ambulances, which traffic lights are programmed to recognize and turn green when an emergency vehicle approaches. “They don’t respond to flashing lights at all,” she said.

So is there any way to change a stale red light, I asked. The short answer: no. “If you’re the only one at the light it’s possible that you didn’t trigger the coil in the road, so you can try rolling back and forth,” she said. “But in most cases, you’re just going to have to wait it out.”

The coil, by the way, is part of the inductive loop that traffic lights use to detect when cars are present. The “pressure plates in the road” hypothesis is completely wrong, at least in Seattle.

What is brown? When The Squirrelly is coloring, I take the opportunity to teach him basic color theory. “This is purple,” I’ll tell him. “Purple is red and blue. This is green. Green is blue and yellow. This is brown. Brown is … orange and, uh, black? Except black isn’t a color. What the hell is brown?”

Holy smokes, did this ever turn out to be a not-easy question (see this contentious Google Answers thread, for instance). The first place I looked was in the “Ask a Scientist” archives, where I found this answer: “brown color is a color combination of red, orange and green — those colors are not adjacent in the visible colors of a rainbow so they do not combine to form a visible brown. The colors which normally make up the BROWN color, however, ARE ALL PRESENT in a rainbow, but are not present in the color combination we call brown.” Um, okay: I get the “red, orange and green” part, but the rest doesn’t make a goddamned bit of sense to me, dude.

After further research, I think I figured out what he was trying to say: colors only appear on the rainbow if they are a primary color (red, blue, yellow) or if they are a color made up of two colors that are adjacent (i.e., a secondary color). So orange appears between red and yellow, for instance — though I’m still unclear on how “violet” winds after blue, when its other primary color, red, is all the way on the other end of the spectrum. Brown, however, is made up of colors that are not adjacent, which is why it’s not on the rainbow.

In fact, it appears that brown is the result when you mix a color with its compliment, which is the color found across from it on the color wheel. So you could make brown by mixing purple with yellow, blue with orange, or red with green. This is short of a shorthand way of saying that brown is made up of all three primary colors, but in different proportions. All his I learn from a page on how to mix hair dye.

Are there Disputed Heavyweight Champions Of The World? I know nothing about boxing, except that the best thing to be is the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Of The World. But does the word “undisputed” really mean anything, or is it just a rhetorical flourish on an already overlong title?

According to the Wikipedia entry on boxing, there are no less than three international boxing associations: the World Boxing Association, the World Boxing Council, and the International Boxing Federation. If all three agreed that a certain boxer was the “world champion” then he was “undisputed;” but if any of the organizations object, a boxer “world champion” title is considered disputed.

From Boasting To Blubbering In 60 Seconds Flat

From an IRC channel I frequent:

matthew: The cute and at-least-ten-years-my-junior barrista at my coffee shop just comped my afternoon decaf. This may be the first fringe benefit of flirting I have ever received.

matthew: Aside from the wife and child, that is.

torrez: HAHA. Oh yes, them.

tenuki: You go out for decaf…?

dreamattack: i’ve never understood the drinking of the decaf

potentato: she feels bad charging money for decaf

valmunin: Decaf coffee is just hot water…

matthew: It’s was a decaf latte, okay? A latte. But the latte is beside the point. Cute girls are comping my drinks, people. Can we please stay on topic?

torrez: Aren

Fairyland Headline News

Bodies of field mice found in forest
D.A. may seek goon penalty

"Marriage is between a dish and a spoon," says monarch

Baffling code, in which letters are replaced by claps,
has confounded linguists for centuries
"We're pretty sure it's 'Bongo'," says expert


I was poking around on my hard drive last night, and I came across 1000 words of a mystery that I started a few years ago and never finished. It was actually pretty good. Good enough that the thought “hey, I should finish this thing and send it somewhere” crossed my mind. Followed immediately by the thought “aw, who are you kidding — you don’t even have the work ethic to finish a bowl of raisin bran, much less a short story.”

Curiously, this followed just hours after another bout of literary defeatism. Earlier that day I had been at the National Novel Writing Month website, thinking, as I always do this time of year, that I should sign up and finally write my long-planned fantasy novel about obese wizards*. But then I did the math (“let’s see, 50,000 words divided by 31 days — no, wait, November only has 30 days — carry the one, comes out to … 1,700 words a day?! Fuuuuck no!”) and that was the end of that.

So, yeah: writing a novel in a month ain’t gonna happen. Not this year, not for me. But, hmm … you know what I could probably do …?

defective yeti is proud to announce


“The NaNoWriMo For Lazy People&trade!”

(Now with 100% more website)

Yes kids, October 31-November 4 is the blogosphere’s first annual Write A Short Story Week!

Here’s how it works: ummm, you write a short story. In a week. The End.


Wherein I answer questions that have been neither frequent nor, to be honest, asked, given that I just made this whole thing up 15 minutes ago

Q: No for real: how does this work?

A: Your goal will to be to write a short story approximately 5000 words in length over the course of five days. That’s equals 1000 words a day! Even a someone too listless to divide 5000 by five themselves can write 1000 words a day for five days!

Q: What if I want to write a longer story? Or a shorter one?

A: A thousand words, ten thousand words, whatever. Hell, I don’t care if you write it in Aramaic, so long as you have a rough draft by November 4th (unless you are Mel Gibson, in which case I am going to object to you writing it in Aramaic).

Q: Isn’t “WriAShorStorWe” a pretty stupid name?

A: Yes. That’s why it’s funny.

Q: As a blogger I have conditioned myself to only write material that I can then post to teh IntarwWeb and have fawned over by millions of anonymous surfers. I must therefore regretfully decline your offer to participate in WriAShorStorWe.

A: Not so fast, Thomas Nast. On November 4th I will put up an official WriAShorStorWe post here on dy, in the comments of which you can link to your masterpiece. Actually, I think I’ll have a WriAShorStorWe post each day of next week, so that those who want to post their story incremenatally (e.g., “Here’s the 1000 words I wrote today”) can do so.

Q: Is this like NaNoWriMo where I’m not allowed to start writing until the official start date?

A: Nah — start now, if you’d like. Given that I already have 1000 words of my story written, it would be a little unfair for me to disallow other folks from headstarting (<--- just made that word up, you can use it). In fact, my plan is to get my rough draft done by November 2nd and then spend each day of WriAShorStorWe polishing 1000 words or so and posting the thing in installments. Q: What if I plan to actually submit my story to a magazine or something? Wouldn’t posting it on the Internet be kinda dumb.

A: Probably. But your story ain’t gonna get published unless you write it, and if WriAShorStorWe is the only way to ensure that happens (as is the case with me), it’s kinda of a moot point. Just do what I plan to do: save the story as an html file and then specify that webpage in your robots.txt file. This will ensure that search engines do not index it. Keep the story up for a week or so, remove it from your site, polish it up and fire it off to “CO-BALLED: The Magazine Of Contemporary Erotic Fiction By And About COBOL Programmers” or whatever– Google should have no record of it.

Q: If I have questions about WriAShorStorWe, who should I contact?

A: Send ’em my way, and I’ll add them to the AAQ (Actually Asked Questions). Since I’m just making shit up, here, you can expedite the process by including, with your question, an answer, which will then become part of Ye Olde Stardard Rules if consider it consistant with my overall concept of the event and/or I am too lazy to think up a better reply.

P.s. Do not write me if you don’t know how to write a short story and are looking for tips, because I’m just gonna fake my way through this like everyone else. Go here and read until you have an epiphany, that’d be my advice.

Okay, I think we’re done here. So, in conclusion: WriAShorStorWe October 31-November 4, you’re gonna participate, I like pudding, excelsior!

* Totally not kidding about this. Someday I will write it and then you’ll see.


Katamari Democracy

If I could draw today’s post would have been a polticial cartoon featuring Special Procecutor Patrick Fitzgerald dressed as the Prince of All Cosmos, and pushing a katamari which had stuck to it, along with assorted detritus, Karl Rove, Scotter Libby, Judith Miller, and Dick Cheney. And directly in the path of the katamari would be a small and panicky-looking Bush, with the White House right behind him.

Yes sir. If I could draw, that would have been great.