Classic Dishes...

Starlight, Star Bright

The Four Of You know what Starlight Mints are, right? Those little red and white candies that you get with your check at the end of a meal?

Well, after the post office (see below), I drove through Taco Hell ‘cuz I realized I hadn’t had any lunch. And I was delighted to upend the bag when I got home and watch a Starlight Mint tumble out along with my burrito. Back when I was little, when Mom went to drop off Dad’s shirts (My dad has a thing for wool shirts) at the dry cleaner, I used to go in with her and was permitted to select a piece of candy from the dish by the counter, which more often than not contained Starlight Mints. There is hard candy I like more, but I smile whenever I see a Starlight Mint.

So I polish of my burrito, and squeeze the mint from its wrapper, still mildly amused that Taco Hell now takes at least a cursory concern about my breath. I popped the mint in my mouth, and got ONE HELL of a shock:

Starlight Mints are supposed to be PEPPERMINT. Not cinnamon. PEPPERMINT.

Snow? Rain? Heat? Dark Of Night? Hah!

My new Palm took a dump on me last night. Turns on to a white screen. For a while the screen was coming back if I did a hard reset, but now it isn’t even doing that. Plus, it’s turning on intermittently. It is, for all intents and purposes, an ex-Palm.

So, this morning, a couple of phone calls with PalmOne, and I’m off to the post office to schlep the thing off to them so they can (they claim “fix”, but I’m thinking more “replace”) it.

And when I’m sending a $250 piece of electronics through the mail, you bet your ass I’m covering myself, so I bought the insurance, which ended up almost doubling my shipping costs.

And while I’m driving home, I think to myself: what the HELL do I have to buy insurance for? Aren’t I ALREADY paying the USPS to take my package and send it to the location I dictate? Doesn’t it seem reasonable to assume that part of this service would include a) the guarantee that the service so contracted is actually carried out accurately, and b) that the parcel arrives in the same condition that it’s sent in?

If I ran, say, a dry cleaner, and one of my machines chewed up a load of laundry, and I didn’t accept responsibility for the problem when the people came back and received a basket of shredded clothes, I would be out of business before you could say Movin’ On Up.

It’s not their official motto, but it’s on a plaque in front of the main post office in New York, so they should be beholden to it anyhow: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Apparently keeping the package in good shape isn’t a job requirement.

They Write Themselves, Volume 2

Hey, sorry I haven’t written anything in a while. Let’s just say it’s been an…interesting month. As in the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Fortunately, every so often items come along that are too good to pass up. The Four Of You know (often because you’re the ones playing them with me) that I’m a big fan of board games. And a lot of the games I play are European in origin, which means that on occasion the language used in the game’s directions, cards, and such is not English. Sometimes the language barrier requires a little more effort to play a game, and sometimes, the game is abstract enough that it doesn’t make a difference. The latter is the case with Reiner Knizia’s Einfach Genial, which was published in Europe last year. The English translation is “Simply Ingenious”, but the name given to it in the English-speaking parts of Europe is “Mensa Connections”. It is an excellent game, and was one of the five finalists for the 2004 Spiel des Jahres, one of the higher honors that can be bestowed upon a board game.

The Four Of You have probably heard of Mensa, the society open to people who can score in the top 2% in a standardized intelligence test. I have some opinions about this group, and to a wider extent about intelligence tests as a whole, but they aren’t really germane to this piece, so we’ll save them for another time. (Suffice it to say I’m not a member. By choice.)

At any rate, each year a bunch of them get together and play a boatload of games and decide which of them are fit to carry their “Mensa Select” seal, which means they think that those chosen are good games for smart people to play or something. (Where I come from, Select is the rating given to beef that isn’t good enough to be Choice or Prime.)

(I further feel compelled to point out that if you were to take the top 10 games for a given time period as voted on by the Mensa folks, and the top 10 games for that same period voted on by the knowledgable gaming community at large, the lists would differ significantly. Infer what you will from that.)

Anyhow, I direct you to a letter to the editor of the Seattle Weekly, for the week of December 8-14, 2004:

An interesting concept [Gift Guide 2: Mind, Body, Spirit, “Play, Einstein!” Dec. 1]. Unfortunately, Roger Downey missed a major opportunity. Had he gone to the site of American Mensa ( instead of British Mensa, he would have found information about Mind Games and some 75 games Mensans have tested and designated as Mensa Select over the past 16 years. The list includes such games as Apples to Apples, Scategories, the Poll Game (made in Seattle), and many, many more.

The board game he mentions, “Mensa Connections,” cannot be sold in the United States under our licensing agreement. We tested it last year at our games competition and found it wanting. We did not want the Mensa name on the game in this country.

Jim Blackmore
National Marketing Director,
American Mensa, Ltd.

Thank God for the people of Mensa, for preventing me the unspeakable horror of playing substandard mind-rotting games! Oh, and Jim, if you happened across this in a vanity search, get off your damn high horse: The game can absolutely be sold in the States, and in fact has been available in German form for a year. Ya ever hear of this new concept called “importing”? (The fact that you misspelled “Scattergories” is another joke unto itself, but, again, I digress.)

So here’s the punchline: Apparently this year’s Mensa MindGames event came to a close today, and the list of the recipients of the oh-so-coveted Mensa Select rating made its way onto one of the gaming newsgroups I read.

One of the lucky winners? A new release entitled “Ingenious”. Which just happens to be the domestic version….of Einfach Genial.