Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

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The Puzzling Ethics of Chutes and Ladders

February 21, 2012

Here’s how Chutes and Ladders works (just in case you’ve been living your entire life hidden away in some place where you have not had an opportunity to play the board game Chutes and Ladders): The objective is to make it to the last space on the board, and along the way, you’re hindered by slides (“chutes”) and aided by ladders (“ladders”).

But the real point of the game is to teach you lessons.

The “lessons” part makes a lot more sense if you play Snakes and Ladders (which I used to think was a third-party knock-off of Chutes and Ladders, but — according to leading scientists and Wikipedia — Snakes and Ladders was played in ancient India, a period that, in my opinion, predates 1943 America).

Snakes makes more sense than chutes because climbing a ladder will always be kind of a drag, but it’s a whole lot better than being gobbled up and pooped out by a giant, neon-blue python.

Chutes and Ladders, on the other hand, sends mixed messages. This is evident while playing with The Princess, who, like most four-year-olds, is a world-class cheater. She moves to whatever space she desires, regardless of what the spinner says.

This, I can handle. But the problem is, she “cheats” by landing on as many chutes as possible because going down slides is fun.

THE PRINCESS (spinning the spinner): Three!

She zig-zags her pawn two rows down and four spaces over so she can land on top of the longest slide on the board.

ME: No, no, you have to go up. Don’t you want to go up so you can win the game?

THE PRINCESS: Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The problem is further complicated by the final space, which, in Chutes and Ladders, isn’t all that enticing. In the original, Indian version of Snakes and Ladders, the final space (“100”) represents Moksha — eternal union with God or the highest perfection of existence.

In Chutes and Ladders, the final space is a blue ribbon that says “winner.”

The next best thing to the highest perfection of existence

But, more than anything, it is the lessons themselves that makes the ethics of Chutes and Ladders so confusing.

In Snakes and Ladders, each ladder represents a different virtue (Faith, Generosity, Knowledge, etc.), and each snake represents a different vice (Theft, Lying, Murder, etc.). This leaves little room for ambiguity. (Murder is bad. Go back 30 spaces.)

There are no such labels, however, in Chutes and Ladders. Rather, the lessons are graphically depicted — each chute or ladder a two-act morality play. For instance, one chute begins with a boy who is reading a comic book instead of doing his homework. At the bottom of the slide is his punishment — he is forced to sit through a mind-numbingly boring birthday party.

Only a dunce would go to such a lame party

Not every chute or ladder, though, is this clear-cut. Indeed, in most cases, there seems to be no rhyme or reason regarding the degree of consequnces or even whether or act should be considered a virtue or a vice.

For instance, one chute shows a girl eating a box of chocolates and becoming sick. So sweets are bad for you. It goes against everything this blog stands for, but fair enough — I can see where they’re coming from. But then, what’s the reward at the top of two separate ladders? A heaping vanilla/chocolate/strawberry ice cream sundae and an entire freaking cake. WTF, 1979 Milton Bradley Co. Version of Chutes and Ladders?

All for ME!

What follows is a breakdown of all the chutes in Chutes in Ladders (1979 ed.) from shortest to longest. One would think that the longer the chute, the more dastardly the deed, but as you’ll see, that’s far from the case.

Chutes

Act Consequence Spaces Lost
Stomping barefoot in a puddle A cold 3
Screwing around on a bike A broken arm 4
Reading comics instead of studying Wear an awesome, pointy hat 10
Coloring on a wall Wash the wall 20
Breaking a window while playing baseball Pay for the window 20
Grabbing a cat by the tail Get clawed on the arms and face 20
Skating on thin ice Death 21
Eating a box of chocolates A tummy ache 38
Putting away too many dishes at once Broken dishes 43
Sneaking into a cookie jar on a shelf Falling down and breaking the jar 63

So, according to Chutes and Ladders, breaking a cookie jar is three times worse than (literally) skating on thin ice and crashing through to a watery grave.

(What’s that — we don’t know for sure the kid drowned? Yeah, great point — you win. Okay, kids, next thaw, find the nearest lake and skate away! Strawman says it’s all right!)

I also find it curious that the two longest slides both revolve around broken dishes. Apparently, broken kitchenware is worse than a broken arm, pneumonia, and death.

I would analyze all the ladders next, but I already discussed a couple of the dubious rewards, and the rest are pretty boring (things like, if you plant flowers, then you will get flowers and if you eat food, then you will become at least as tall as a yard-stick).

It is worth commenting, though, on the longest ladder in the game (56 spaces). Those familiar with the game know that, in just about every version, the longest chute and longest ladder are positioned close together on the same rows, so that it’s possible to enter into an endless loop of climbing and falling, sometimes even in consecutive turns.

And in the 1979 version, they are linked thematically as well — namely, by when it is and isn’t okay to climb something. Compare.

Longest Chute

Spaces Lost: 63

Act: Climbing up on a four-foot shelf to sneak a cookie from a cookie jar

Consequence: Falling down and breaking the jar

Longest Ladder

Spaces Gained: 56

Act: Climbing up a thirty-foot tree to “rescue” a feral cat

Reward: Rabies

* * *

Okay, that’s all. Next up in Ranting About Specific Versions of Board Games: The castration of Gloopy and the occasionally ambiguous connection between Middle East and East Africa.

— Reinman

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New Banner

February 5, 2012

(Look up)

As loyal readers have likely noticed, the primary content of this blog has changed quite a bit over the past several months.

So, the Jilb and I figured it was about time to update the banner in order to accurately reflect what this blog is primarily about — namely, amateur Photoshopping and varying shades of blue rectangles.

— Reinman

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Look and Feel

January 12, 2012

Last week, I could feel a zit forming on my nose. I couldn’t yet see it, but I knew it was there because it hurt like a madman. (Like a madman who was punching me in the nose.)

So, I tried to nip the problem in the butt, as they say. I squeezed the crap out of that zit. Actually, I wish I had, in fact, squeezed the crap out of that zit. Instead, what happened is I squeezed and squeezed and nothing happened.

With the bridge of my nose still throbbing, I took drastic measures and began digging at that nasty, invisible little zit with my fingernails until I was certain that it had been excavated.

Also, if you don’t like reading about gross things, you should probably skip the preceding paragraphs.

Unearthing the zit, of course, left a sizable scab on my nose. It didn’t hurt, but for a few days, I looked like a rather well-known, red-nosed creature.

Anyway, the whole ordeal left me reflecting on the fact that I often will trade appearances for comfort. In other words, I was willing to walk around with a clown-nose for a few days (poor appearance) if it meant relief from the newly forming zit that hurt slightly if I poked at it in just the right place (comfort).

It’s the same reason I never wear “skinny” jeans, and why “sweat” is my favorite variety of pant (provided sweatpants are even remotely socially acceptable, given the occasion — taking out the garbage, midnight runs to Walmart, my sister’s wedding, etc.).

It’s why I wear glasses instead of contacts. I’d rather look like a dork in glasses than have to regularly endure the uncomfortable sensation of touching my own eyeball. Also, shut up — my mom says glasses are cool.

Some would say this is why I wore Velcro shoes during my freshman year of college. But I didn’t wear Velcro shoes because they were any more comfortable than shoes with laces — I wore them because they were so incredibly cool. Like glasses.

I blame this — my preference for comfort over appearance — for why I didn’t exactly kill it with the ladies in high school. (Also this, this, and this.)

One exception, though, does come to the top of my head — mostly, because I wear it on the top of my head. I put on a thin, silver and black stocking cap when I play football in the winter. I have other hats that are warmer and/or more comfortable, but I wear this particular hat because it matches my silver and black Randy Moss Oakland Raiders jersey (which, according to jersey-experts, is the fifth-most popular Moss jersey ever sold).

Why do I make this one exception? It’s because if there’s one thing I know about guys who play football, it’s that they would mercilessly ridicule me if my costume were not perfectly color-coordinated from head to toe.

Uniform. I meant to say uniform.

Or, my special playtime outfit.

— Reinman

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How to Make Custom Nerf Darts

December 19, 2011

Thirty-six Stefans

It’s a good time to be a Nerf enthusiast. The N-Strike series — with its interchangeable parts and array of clip-fed, semi-auto, and fully automatic blasters — has sparked something of a renaissance in the art of shooting one’s friends with little foam darts.

But not all is happy in Nerfville. Years ago, Nerf stopped producing Mega Darts — the most common ammunition used in first- and second-generation blasters. This, of course, is frustrating for owners of old Nerf weapons — like, say, the beloved Nerf Crossbow (“the most sought after Nerf gun out there“).

Nerf Crossbow (with just a couple, minor modifications)

To make matters worse, Mega Darts are getting increasingly difficult to find in secondary markets. (I conducted a quick search this morning and came up empty on both Amazon and eBay.) And, even if you are lucky enough to find a website that sells them, a six-pack of Mega Darts typically sells for around $20, and no one could possibly be that desperate.

All Nerf fans, therefore, should know how to make their own darts. Custom darts not only keep your blasters from becoming obsolete, but they also tend to fly straighter and farther than stock Nerf darts.

Here, then, is a step-by-step process for making your own custom darts.

(Note: Custom Nerf darts are commonly referred to as “Stefans.” I can only assume this is in reference to Urkel’s smooth-talking clone on Family Matters.)

Materials:

  • Foam backer rod
  • Ruler
  • Razor blade
  • Pillowcase
  • Clothespins
  • Nail
  • BBs
  • Hot glue gun

Directions:

1. Obtain foam backer rod. Backer rod is typically either 1/2” or 5/8” in diameter. Try to find 5/8” rod, if possible, because the original Mega Darts were 5/8”. If you are only able to find 1/2” rod, you can wrap the tip of your dart in a layer or two of electrical tape until it “fits” correctly in your blaster (sometimes I’ve even had to do this with 5/8″ rod).

Foam backer rod

2. Use a razor blade to cut the foam into 12″ sections.

Curvy

3. Place the sections in a pillowcase, shut it with clothespins, and dry the pillowcase in a dryer (on high) for 20 minutes.

Spider-Man and Star Wars pillowcases are also acceptable

4. Remove the sections from the pillowcase. They will likely still have a slight bend to them. Straighten them out by hand.

Straight(ish)

5. Cut each section into six separate 2″ darts. (The length of the dart, of course, can vary. Some people, for instance, swear by 1.5″ darts — but those people are morons.)

Proper, two-inch darts

6. Use a nail to poke a hole in the front of your dart.

Hammer optional

7. Place a BB in the hole. (Even though I’m about to glue it in, I still try try to bury the BB somewhat deep in the dart because I don’t want the BB accidentally coming loose and flying out during a game. After all, my friends and I aren’t savages. This isn’t Airsoft.)

Update: Two BBs may work even better, provided your Nerf blaster shoots with enough force. The key, of course, is finding the right balance — you want enough weight so that your dart flies straight, but not so much weight that it starts losing distance. The best approach is to experiment with a few different weights and see what works best for you.

The BB (not yet safely buried)

8. Hot glue the BB inside the dart. I recommend keeping the hot glue gun on the “low” setting to avoid melting the foam. Also, add some extra glue to the top of the dart in a “dome” shape — this will make your dart a little more aerodynamic.

Glorious

9. Keep your darts upright and let the glue dry overnight.

Congratulations — you’ve just made your own custom Nerf darts! Now all that remains is to go shoot the rest of your man-child friends in the face.

Next up: “How to Explain to Your Wife Why It’s Acceptable for a Grown Man and Father of Four to Still Be Horsing Around with Nerf Guns”

— Reinman

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That Other Blog

November 8, 2011

For the past few months, I’ve been maintaining another blog for an online class I’m taking.

I haven’t mentioned it until now because that other blog is dumb and boring.

But, in the off-chance that you’re at all interested in the history of blogging, I recently posted a long and boring article on the subject. (Sneak preview: this post is the closest Reini Days has come to matching the original purpose of weblogs.)

There are also some other posts over there. The best is probably Cheeky Behaviour. It’s mostly about cheeky behaviour.

— Reinman

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The Ecstasy of Defeat

September 17, 2011

I’ve been watching the Boise State / Toledo college football game off and on throughout the evening. Why? I would say it’s about 5% interest in Boise’s pro-prospect QB Kellen Moore (so far, impressive, though the doughy, bullfrog-like facial features don’t exactly inspire confidence — but on the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger has gotten away with that look for years) and 95% the fact that I’m still, after all these years, mesmerized by sports in HD.

(“Look at that definition — it’s so…so…high,” I am often heard remarking to no one in particular. By the way, this is the part where I’m supposed to make a joke about HD being so awesome that I’ll watch any sport as long as it’s in HD — including curling. But that’s just not true — curling sucks, especially in HD. No, I pretty much just stick to the four majors: football, baseball, basketball, and jai-alai.)

During the game, I noticed something that I’ve seen during a number of other sports broadcasts — something that invariably leaves me feeling a mixture of annoyance, mild amusement, and general discomfort (or as I like to call it — the Vikings Fan Experience! Hey-oh!).

This particular instance happened during the third quarter of tonight’s game. Toledo, trailing big for much of the contest, just intercepted the ball and returned it inside Boise State’s 20. The home crowd was going nuts, sensing that this was the last opportunity to get back into the game. But on their second play, Toledo fumbled the ball, Boise State recovered, and it was, essentially, game over.

If you are a Toledo fan (and, really, who isn’t at this point?), it was a devastating moment, punctuated by those crowd reaction shots we’ve all come to expect — the guy with the painted chest clutching his hair, the wide-eyed young lady holding both hands over her mouth. It was during one of those reaction shots — a group of undergrads staring forlornly at the field — when one of them, a blond-haired girl, looked up and noticed that she and her small group were on the jumbo-tron. And then the craziest thing happened — she was no longer forlorn.

Her face lit up, and she started jumping and waving like a crazy person, and a split-second later, the rest of the group joined in her in a jumbo-tron induced frenzy. I guess the fumble and the nationally televised beat-down of your favorite team wasn’t so bad after all, eh blondy?

In those moments, I always feel for the broadcast production team. There they are, doing their darnedest to capture the agony of defeat, when those obnoxious fans have to go and spoil the whole thing. It’s almost, in an odd way, as though those fans are breaking the fourth wall. The “story” says they’re supposed to looked shell-shocked and depressed, but once they see thesmselves on screen, they “break” character and start behaving like buffoons — ruining the carefully unfolding narrative in the process.

My only solace is how most broadcast teams refuse to reward those morons. The director will linger on an unaware, depressed fan for a good five or six seconds, but as soon as the fan notices he’s on the screen and starts jumping up and down like a three-year-old high on Pixie Sticks, the director can’t cut away fast enough. It’s like, Hey Tubbs — if you wanna stay on the TV, keep with the saddy sad.

In the case of tonight’s game, though, I’m willing to cut the fans a little slack. They were, after all, cheering for Toledo. Maybe being on TV for a split-second was more important to them than allegiance to their nationally-irrelevant football team. Which is why such buffoonary is even more perplexing at major events like the World Cup.

(Side note: These “sad fans noticing themselves on the jumbo-tron and instantly turn into smiling, waving lunatics” shots are only possible at certain types of games/stadiums. You’ll never see this sort of shot at an NFL game — not because the fans aren’t buffoons, far from it, but because NFL stadiums have their own, internal production teams for the material that’s shown on the jumbo-tron — material that is different, of course, from the broadcast you’re watching at home. The “buffoon” shots, then, are only possible in venues that aren’t set-up for internal television production, and thus, those venues show the national broadcast on the jumbo-tron. Such venues typically include lower-tier college stadiums, World Cup sites, etc.)

Anyway, buffoon shots are especially annoying during World Cup broadcasts because soccer fans are supposed to be the craziest, most die-hard sports fans in the world — the sort of fans so passionate that their version of doing The Wave is to flip over a row of cars and light them on fire. They’re so dedicated that their version of chanting “Let’s go team!” is to murder an opposing fan.

But hey, who cares that you traveled halfway around the world only to watch your favorite team go down 3-0 in the final, knowing that they won’t have another chance at this for another four years, if they’re lucky enough to even make it this far — who cares about any of that because look! You’re on the big Tee-Vee!

Just once, I want to see a depressed-looking fan notice himself on the jumbo-tron, blink once or twice, and then return looking dejectedly at the field. For me, that would be the most exciting moment in television history.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a big jai-alai match on next. Rekalde’s been coming on strong as of late, but it will be difficult for him to counter Arregui’s wicked backhand.

— Reinman

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You Never Can Tell with (the) Bees (blog)

September 10, 2011

Without delving into the boring details, I’ve been permanently locked out of my old Blogger account. (I’m not the only one.) And so, when Blogger threw me lemons, I recreated the entire “You Never Can Tell with Bees” blog on WordPress — and I did it using nothing but freshly squeezed lemon juice (and text).

You can see the new and improved Bees blog here: www.reinmanblog.wordpress.com.  And by “improved” I mean “noticeably crappier.” For instance, some of the formatting was lost in translation, and I haven’t yet moved the comments over. But the original posts are more or less intact, in all their bee-hating, wiki-bashing, movie-self-promoting, Wii-chasing, yourethemannowdogging glory.

A few scattered thoughts:

1. I had forgotten how bee-centric the first few months of the blog were. I mean, I wrote about bees, likea lot. That must have been back when I cared about things like “theme” and “focus” and “quality writing.”

2. I complained a lot about crappy television in 2004.  And looking back, it makes sense — 2004 was a pretty bleak year. Reality TV was beginning to fully hit its stride (bad), The Simpsons was starting to stink (bad), and that was about it. If only I had known a television renaissance (Lost, The Office, 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Battlestar Galactica, Mad Men, Parks and Rec, Community, Modern Family) was just a year or two away. (And yes, it was my own fault for not catching on to Arrested Development sooner.)

3. Going through the old blog, post-by-post, was kind of like going through photo albums with the Jilb and the Princess. It’s weird realizing how much of my life I’ve already forgotten. For example, the Jilb and I got engaged smack dab in the middle of the Starting Tomorrow shoot. Who knew?

4. As the night wore on, and as I continued tediously copying and pasting post after post, I began getting mad at my old self. “Stop posting so much!” I yelled at my old self.  That was right around May 2006. Mercifully, my old self listened.

5. My old blog was so self-referential it was nauseating.  Thank goodness I made it through that phrase.

— Reinman