January 2005 Archives

Scrumpdillyishus

Last night I got into a discussion with Chris about the pecking order in the frozen drink food chain. The poor man is sadly deluded about the virtues of Coca-Cola Slurpees, a substance precision engineered to induce insulin shock and brain freeze simultaneously. For the benefit of culinary science, herewith I present the definitive hierarchy:

Wild Cherry Icee
Perched at the top of the slush mountain, the Icee represents the pinnacle of the form. Whipped to a fulsome volume in the freezing process, Icees balloon to dramatic heights in the cup to offer two distinct modes of consumption: suction and spoonage. The cherry flavor bursts forth with a delightful tang, yet doesn't overpower with cloying sugary excess. Just as the incorporation of oxygen into cream creates a whipped foam with textural properties surpassing that of cream alone, so too does the Icee's oxygenated and CO2-infused tumble create a product of superior body and mouth-feel.

Cherry Slurpee
The Slurpee aspires to Icee's lofty perch, and indeed once shared it. They are, in fact, one and the same product-- invented by a man named Omar Knedlik in the late 1950's. In 1988, however, 7-Eleven stopped manufacturing its own syrup for Slurpees. Since then, the Coca-Cola Company has been the exclusive supplier of Slurpee syrup and it's been a downhill slide. You used to be able to walk into a 7-Eleven anywhere in the country and be virtually guaranteed to find a Slurpee machine loaded with cherry syrup, its rotating chamber shooting an unblinking come-hither stare from the back wall. Today that machine is far more likely to be loaded with Coke syrup. If I want Coke, I'll buy Coke. I don't need it aerated and frozen, so that with every sip I can feel the enamel on my teeth disintegrating in the chemical acid bath. The beauty of the Slurpee was that it came in flavors that didn't exist outside of the magical, mysterious arctic wonderland of Slurpeetown.

Other Icee/Slurpee flavors NOT based on cola syrups
I ask you: what other drink comes in Watermelon? Genius!

Slush Puppy
The beauty of the Slush Puppy is that it's the salad bar of the slush world. A slush puppy doesn't come pre-mixed and pre-made for you, oh no-- you get to put it together yourself with a few squirts of syrup and a shot of ice slurry. Sure, the handy squirting guide suggests how many squirts to use for your medium cup, but c'mon-- what do they know? Those things are written by the same people who call canned chili "spicy." Pump those syrup nozzles with abandon, chum-- the slush police are on break, grabbing a donut a few aisles down. But drink fast. When this thing melts, you're facing down a cup full of liquid sugar that'll have you singing show tunes down main street.

Icee/Slurpee flavors based on cola syrups
In food parlance, we describe these products as "icky."

Mr. Misty
Ah, Dairy Queen. The Mr. Misty is from a simpler time. A time when scalliwag Dennis the Menace was somehow considered to be the perfect mascot for a purveyor of frozen treats. A time before Blizzards-- the world's most perfect frozen dessert-- rendered all of the chain's other products irrelevant. In those halcyon days, a cup full of crushed ice and flavored syrup was my treat of choice when I entered a DQ. Never mind that I invariably wound up sucking out all the syrup long before the drink was half finished, leaving a metric buttload of plain, unflavored ice in the bottom of the cup. It was a simpler time, and it was enough. Today, if I walk into a DQ you can be damn sure I'm coming out with a large Oreo Blizzard firmly in hand. Nirvana.

Comments (8) | last by KreeMachinE, Jun 20, 6:22 PM

Spinnin' in the Grave

http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-video/Media/video/2005/01/27/golfgti.mov is super freaky. Even weirder, MovableType won't let me include a link to it, or to a TinyUrl (http://tinyurl.com/5v6fc) I made of it. It's like some mystic spell is blocking me from directing you to this link. I blame Dug for pointing it out to me.

Comments (3) | last by Danielle, Jan 30, 11:39 AM

Breaking the Camel

This week's Amazing Race really annoyed me. The producers' strategy of bunching the teams between pit stops is well-known, but usually it happens right out of the gate via airline schedules or contrived hours of operation on the first stop. This week the bunching happened near the end of the episode. There were a number of activities in this leg of the race, but none of them mattered except for the final one.

I don't like the bunching strategy, but I at least understand it. The show is theoretically more exciting if all teams have a roughly equal chance of winning each week. Fine, I'm on board with that. But to bunch them up at the end of an episode instead of the beginning makes no sense whatsoever. Worse, it jerks the viewers around. Am I watching a race, or not? A race doesn't hit the reset button 3/4 of the way through. I felt anger at the producers during this episode. I hope this was just a mistake, some kind of logistical snafu that didn't work out as planned and won't happen again. One of the reasons the show is popular is because of its perceived fairness, relative to other reality shows. Players' own actions get them eliminated, rather than political maneuvering and backstabbing. Except this week a team was saved by The Hand of GodThe Producers. And that's just not cricket.

Comments (4) | last by Eddie, Jan 31, 8:54 AM

How Hard Can This Be?

When it comes right down to it, few products are as simple as a pencil. If you were to sit down and list the priority 0 features of a mechanical pencil-- the things you absolutely must have in your product to satisfy your customer-- you'd probably come up with something like this:

  • Graphite withstands normal writing pressure without snapping
  • Additional graphite can be dispensed to simulate "sharpening"
  • Expended graphite can be easily replaced
  • Top of pencil features an eraser
  • Eraser can be replaced when it wears out
And that would be a pretty good list. Seems to have all the bases covered. Papermate's list probably looked like this when they designed their Top-Notch Grip pencil:

But we all missed something. Something so basic, it's blazingly obvious in retrospect:

  • Using the eraser should not cause graphite to be dispensed

The Papermate Top-Notch Grip-- though it features a delightfully spongy region that makes it comfortable and secure to hold-- utterly fails the basic usability test because erasing is a nightmare. Graphite is dispensed by pressing down on the top of the pencil. Where the eraser is. Guess what happens when you erase something? Suddenly your pencil has Pinnochio Syndrome.

It's inconceivable that this flaw wasn't noticed early in the pencil's design process. If I were the president of Papermate, I'd have called all my people into a room and not let them back out again until they'd redesigned the product so that it worked properly. But these things are still being cranked out today in droves, in iridescent and metallic colors. And apparently they're being sold for cheap, because our office supply room is full of them. And by "full", I mean "if you can find the one supply room in the building that actually still holds supplies in the wake of corporate cost-saving measures which, apparently, include purchasing sub-standard mechanical pencils to save a few pennies and removing supplies from all rooms but one so employees spend valuable time scavenging for basic needs instead of getting work done."

Comment (1) | last by Chris Lemon, Jan 25, 3:31 PM

The phone rang this morning. I answered after the second ring, and heard the tell-tale pregnant pause that heralds a telemarketer. I steeled myself for someone to mispronounce my name and prepared to interrupt at the first pause to inform the telemarketer that I don't like to be solicited by phone and to please remove my name from their calling list.

Then my world turned upside down.

The pause ended and a recorded voice came on the line, said, "I'm sorry," and hung up. A telemarketer hung up on ME. No, worse than that-- the telemarketer's computer hung up on me. Politely.

I'm trying to imagine the business model behind this call. Is the first apology free, is that it? "So, Mr. Sarrett, you liked that politely curtailed telemarketing call, yes? The next one's going to cost you. And we think you'll pay. If you don't, the next call will last a little longer. And the one after that longer still. Soon we'll be calling during dinner, and interrupting your favorite television programs. Yes, we're confident you'll pay."

Or was this a telemarketer trying to weasel his way out of a bit of creative sentencing? Perhaps someone was ordered to call everyone he's marketed to in the past and apologize for his tactics, and instead of doing so himself he set up his automated dialing system to do it unattended.

What kind of Twilight Zone have I stumbled into?

Comments (4) | last by Russell, Jan 26, 4:20 AM

The Apprentice 3

Maybe it was the editing. It had to have been the editing. Because there's just no way any group of 9 promising, well-educated business people could possibly be as incompetent as the "book smarts" team on tonight's season premiere. Nobody made a good decision during the entire task. The "street smarts" team, on the other hand, appeared impeccably on the ball. Given the nature of the teams and the story Burnett obviously wanted to tell, the editing is clearly a huge factor here. But no matter how you edit it, Danny's a loony tune. An incompetent loony tune who had no answers for any of the questions posed by the Burger King executive. This guy cannot possibly be long for the show.

What irked me most, however, was how they never explained how the NetWorth team was able to afford to purchase plane tickets as a promotion and not have it count against their bottom line. Did the teams each get a budget? Because the Magna team sure didn't seem to spend anything. Those kind of details are frequently omitted on The Apprentice, which makes it very hard for viewers to evaluate what's happening. Not that viewers seem to care...

Comments (4) | last by Dave, Jan 21, 11:35 AM

You Got Served

If you caught the faint echo of a whoop of exultation on tonight's winter wind, that was my cheer at the elimination of the abusive Jonathan and shrieking Victoria from The Amazing Race. Rarely have two people risen so much bile to my throat so quickly. Now we can finally watch the show in peace.

Comments (5) | last by jodi, Jan 21, 11:19 PM

I woke up at 5:10 AM this morning to act as a phone-a-friend for someone I know. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is taping at Walt Disney World this week, and apparently their shooting schedule in Florida is a bit different than when they tape in New York. Five freakin' AM! That first call was to make sure my phone number worked and I understood the lifeline procedure. Then I needed to be available from 7 AM to noon (10 to 3 Orlando time) when taping would occur. I'd get a call when the contestant got into the hotseat, then a call from Meredith Vieira if I was used as a lifeline, and then possibly a call to let me know when the contestant left the hotseat.

Except I never got any call at all. And neither did the other phone-a-friends. There's no Fastest Fingers anymore, so our friend was guaranteed a turn in the hotseat. We should have gotten a call when his turn came up. Unless he got the bottom end of the random order and time ran out before he could get a turn.

Still, some kind of phone call to the phone-a-friends would seem appropriate. If can forgive the contestant himself, who might not think of it amidst all the turmoil and disappointment, but not the producers. I don't care how crazy your production schedule is. It would take under 5 minutes for an intern to contact each of a contestant's phone-a-friends and let them know what's happening. It's just good manners.

Comments (5) | last by Peter, Jan 18, 1:51 AM

SarrettAdams

For a couple of years, Michael and I kept saying that we should get together and make some games. But life kinda got in the way. He was already working at a game design company, making virtually every game Cranium's released since the original, and I had a full time job also. We tried to meet every week and put something together in time to bring to The Gathering, but we wound up cancelling our meetings more often than not. It just wasn't happening.

Early last year, Michael's employment situation changed and we got serious. We not only kept our meetings, we increased their frequency. We brought a couple of prototypes to last year's Gathering (neither of which panned out). We created an LLC and got ourselves a Washington state business license. And we sold our first game. This week the first production copies arrived, and last night I played the real thing for the first time.

It's called Tunebaya, it's a singalong party game, and it's available from a new publisher named SimplyFun. They're using the Tupperware business model of in-home sales, so you won't find Tunebaya or other SimplyFun games in stores. Instead, a consultant will offer to throw a SimplyFun game party at your home, where you and your friends can try all the SimplyFun games and buy any that you like. If there are no consultants in your area, you can purchase directly from the SimplyFun web site.

As for Tunebaya, I'm pretty happy with it. Many people recoil when you bring a singing game to the table, but then wind up having fun despite themselves. With Tunebaya, the whole idea is to create a singalong, so it's not about what obscure songs you know-- you'll be singing the songs you think everyone else can join in on. Your bad singing just blends in with everyone else's. The fun isn't in singing on-key, it's in singing off-key with gusto. And the game is short, so it doesn't wear out its welcome. If people are having too much fun to stop, they can always just play again.

We may get a couple more games in the Simply Fun pipeline-- their HQ is ten minutes away, so pitching to them is convenient. And we're psyched about a family game we're developing that more or less sprang to life from whole cloth. Midway through the first playtest we smiled at each other because we knew we had a game. We have little doubt we'll find a publisher for it. It's just a matter of dialing all the variables to the right settings first. The fact that the game worked from day one excites us, because that kind of instant gelling isn't common. Usually we grapple with an idea for a while, folding it this way and that before it finally stands up straight.

The creation of SarrettAdams helps explain why The Game Report has been MIA this year. I'd rather be creating new games than writing about existing ones, so the magazine has stalled out. I'm trying to think of ways to restructure it to get myself jazzed about it again, but it may be a while.

Comments (9) | last by JasonW, Feb 16, 11:51 AM

Time Warp

Due to some apparent file corruption, I had to restore Static Zombie to a backup from just before Christmas. Fortunately, since I got sucked into Half-Life 2 and haven't been blogging, nothing was lost. Yay!

Meanwhile... judging from its new opening credits, it appears the new sales pitch for Alias is "Jennifer Garner is hot, hot, HOT!" And I can't say that I blame them.

Comments (3) | last by Damon, Jan 8, 2:46 PM