In college, I was introduced to a little game that people play before meals: it’s the “Thumbs-Up” game that determins who’s going to get stuck and have to pray for the meal.

Here’s how to play: you sit down with a group of people at a table, about to eat. Everyone looks around the table with the common thought running through their minds: “who is going to pray?”

Generally, the person who really doesn’t want to pray starts the game by sticking their thumb up. Others who know how to play the game quickly follow suit. The object is to stick some poor sucker who wasn’t paying attention or doesn’t know how to play the game with praying before the meal. Basically, whoever the last person is who doesn’t have their thumb up has to pray. The group knows who that person is.
That’s the game in a nutshell. It has been a fun little tradition that we practice in the Yuen household ever since, frequently suckering poor, unsuspecting visitors in to praying before the meal… just my way of getting even for having been stuck to pray before meals over the years.

We introduced this game to my nephew, Matthew… and as seven-year-olds will do, he’s inventing his own rules:

The Do-Over: Sometimes, in life, we all need a “Do-Over.” Critical “Do-Over” events are typically just after a tragic event like a car accident, falling down the stairs, losing big in the stock market or maybe just after picking a chocolate with coconut in the middle. For Matthew, a critical “Do-Over” event in life is when he gets picked to pray as a result of poor reflexes in the Thumbs-up game. When he loses, he says, “let’s do it again!” Then, when he loses again, he says, “one more time!” This goes on until someone puts him out of our misery and prays.

Come to the table prepared: No one ever said Matthew wasn’t a smart kid. He wakes up in the morning now with his thumbs up and doesn’t put them down until dinner-time, after someone else has prayed.

Start the game while Uncle Paul’s in the bathroom: He likes to start the thumbs-up game before everyone is at the table, sticking someone who hasn’t even gotten to their chair yet… usually me.

That being said, in order to keep things fair, I’ve come up with eight easy rules to keep the playing-field level:

Rule #1: Remember that prayer is a priviledge, not a punishment.
I think that initially the game was developed so that people who weren’t comfortable praying in a mixed group or in front of people had a way to excuse themselves from praying for the blessing of the food.Since no one in our household is uncomfortable praying, the game has simply evolved into a a competitive way to start meals.

We still recognize that prayer is a priviledge… especially for people with slow thumbs.

Rule #2: The game doesn’t start until everyone is seated or at least waiting to pray.
A Jump-Starter is someone who starts the game before everyone is ready. This includes those who come to the table with their thumbs already up. You know who you are. Nobody likes a Jump-Starter. By default, the Jump-Starter will have to pray.

Rule #3: The game doesn’t start until whoever cooked is ready.
This goes hand-in-hand with waiting until everyone’s ready. How fair is it to the cook, who’s slaved over the meal all day and is still serving food to everyone to get stuck because their hands are full of food and serving tools? C’mon!

Rule #4: In the case of a tie, a vote is cast.
Sometimes, with more experienced players, the results can be incredibly close. Without the ability to slo-mo a replay at the dinner-table, everyone at the table votes until a decision is made. The individuals involved in the tie have no voice in the vote.

Rule #5: The first to volunteer to pray renders the results void.
Regardless of who wins or loses at the Thumbs-up game, if someone at the table simply volunteers to pray, the game is void and that person prays.

Rule #6: The host or hostess reserves the right to assign someone to pray.
Regardless of the game’s results, if the host or hostess asks someone specific to pray, that person prays. Penalties for ignoring this rule are severe.This is especially true if you’ve just been asked to pray by the host or hostess. The person who is asked to pray and then sticks their thumb up to try to initiate a “Thumbs-up” game receives “The Scourge:” they still have to pray, get no food, have to wash dishes and serve dessert, followed by 39 lashes.

If it was good enough for the Romans, it’s good enough for me.

Rule #7: No contesting the group vote.
If, after the Thumbs-Up game is played, the loser has been picked by the group, that person cannot contest that they lost… even if they don’t know the rules of the game… everyone learns…

…everyone learns.

Rule #8: Your thumb must be clearly visible to everyone.
If the group decides that you are the loser and you pull your thumb out from under the table and say, “but I had it up the whole time,” don’t expect any sympathy. You’re going to end up praying.

Here are some tips to help you win at the “Thumbs-Up” game:

Pay attention! This is a “ya snooze, ya lose” game that preys on the unaware.

Practice! Practice! Practice! You want the motion of the thumb to be smooth as butter, especially if you’re the initiator of the game. The more discreet, the better. Those who are aware will pick up on your clue… remember, the object is to stick the one who is most unaware. Practice in front of a mirror!

Develop the speed of your thumb-flick. Speed and agility seperate the men from the boys in this game. When you can flip a man-hole cover as effortlessly as a quarter, you’re ready for the pro’s.Start slow. Try tying a full can of coke to your thumb and spinnnig it around, simply by flicking. Work your way up to soup cans, then car batteries. Keep at it! Eventually you’ll get there.

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by experienced players. Even the most experienced and aware players still have to pray at meals every once in a while… but they never forget Rule #1: it’s a priviledge.

Misdirection is a wise tactic. It’s just like cheating at cards: you want peoples’ attention anywhere but on your hands.Good techniques are asking, “what time is it?” and putting your thumb up while all eyes go to the clock. The same technique can be utilized by pointing at a dish on the table and saying, “boy, that looks good!”

Keeping these rules and tips in mind, you too can be a master at the “Thumbs-up” game.

i hate today

Where to start…

I bought a new Gateway computer last year. It has about half the memory in it that I want/need, so I went online and found some memory for it on Ebay about a month ago.

I have four available slots, two of which are used up with 512 megs. I’d like to have a gig of memory, so I bought a gig stick on Ebay… hey, if a gig is good, then 1.5 gigs is better, right?

I got it home and tried to install it, only to discover that my computer requires that memory be installed in pairs… thes means that the one stick that I bought is no good by itself and I have to have another one like it.

I found that the same seller on Ebay was selling more of the same stuff, so I bought another one. Ok… so if 1.5 gigs of memory is better, 2.5 gigs of memory will be spectacular!

I got my other stick of memory only to find out that my computer is set only to allow Dual Channel memory, which means both sticks have to be exactly identical… same manufacturer, same model, same configuration… I had two gig sticks, but they weren’t by the same manufacturer, and they weren’t identical in any way.

So, I threw myself upon the mercy of the seller and asked him if I sent back my memory, would he send me back a matched pair of memory.

It’s against their policy, but he consented.

Yesterday, I got my matched pair of memory and anxiously looked forward to installing them to watch my computer become a super-hefty beast of a machine, able to leap tall buildings and conquer entire continents.

What I discovered instead was that my computer does require a matched pair of memory, but also there is one specific configuration of memory that it doesn’t support… guess what kind I got.

I thought maybe I’d try to switch it out with my computer at work, beefing up my work computer to 2 gigs and at least getting a gig of memory out of the deal for my home computer. My work computer is a Dell, and Dells seem to be able to do anything you ask them to. Turns out, my work computer takes PC4200 memory and my home computer takes PC3200 memory. They’re incompatible. You can’t fit a round peg in a square hole without a bigger hammer.

So, it looks like I’m either stuck with this memory and have to sell it on Ebay or find someone who can trade.

Frustrated over my predicament, I helped myself to some chocolate chip cookies that I brought from home…

…only to discover about an hour later that I dropped a chocolate chip on my lap which fell onto my chair and melted under my butt.

I hate today.

Tape deck for sale.

Today was a ridiculous day.

It started on Sunday when I got a phone call between church services from a frantic, frustrated sister telling me that she needed a ride to the second service because her green 1995 Grand Am wouldn’t start.

“Apparently, something seems to be wrong with the fuel pump… on top of a leaking radiator, leaking hoses, suspension problems, misalignment and several other miscellaneous and asundary problems.”

From there, it was all about trying to decide whether to get her old 95 Grand Am with a troublesome quad-thinger fixed or simply go find her a new car.

So what to do? She can either fix an eleven-year-old car that has multiple problems or get something that is likely to have fewer problems.

We decided to opt for the latter… so yesterday evening, we all went out car-shopping.

First, we went to the local Auto Imports dealer to see what they had. While there, I wanted to go check out the new Toyota Yaris Liftback that I’ve recently fallen in love with. It’s kinda like Toyota’s answer to the Mini Cooper; complete with MP3 player and socket for you to plug in your own audio sources. She gets 40-42 miles to the gallon and looks like just a plain-ol’ fun car.

My skepticism was mostly that it would have terrible visibility. That happened to me when I fell in love with the PT Cruiser six years ago. Turns out, the visibility is just right… and come November, I’m gonna try to snag myself one in black, full options, with a few little extras to boot.

The one they had in the showroom was the only one they had, so it was their display model. Incidentally, it was also sold. So while I was making a mess on someone else’s dashboard, drooling all over it, kicking someone else’s tires, slamming their doors and trunk, and generally envying some other person I don’t even know, my cell phone rang.

Apparently, the rest of my party was done looking at their used cars and were all stuffed in the car, calling for me to come out.

I wiped the drool from my mouth, slammed the driver-side door in envy one last time, got in my car and we proceeded to caravan around a few scary parts of town, looking for another auto dealership.

Finally, we found one that looked promising and we all piled out. The dealership was closed, but that’s ok. We weren’t really wanting a pushy checkered-suit salesperson to bug us too much during our preliminary search.

Ruth found a 98 Honda Civic, a 96 Infinity G20, and an 02 Nissan Sentry. They were all comparably priced within her range, so we wrote down their features, mileage and VIN numbers to do some more indepth comparison research for later at home.

While we were out there looking around, a salesman, who happened to be passing by, drove up and began talking to us.

…and talking and talking and talking to us.

About a half-hour later, as we pulled away, glad to have been helped, but even more glad to have escaped the ever-talking salesman, we compared notes and began processing the evening’s find.

We got back and immediately began looking up the three models of cars that we found, looking for information that would help us limit down to a single and best-choice.

We found that all three had stellar reliability ratings, were fairly priced at their age/mileage/feature ratios and all got about the same mile-per-gallon rating. Great. Now what?

I decided to look up the vehicle histories on Carfax, so we bought an account and began looking stuff up… that really helped to bring things into perspective. The Honda had been in 5 previous accidents, one of which was rated a “moderate” collision that impeded its functionality. The other two had been in minor dings or scrapes, but otherwise looked like healthy picks.

So this morning, we went to the car dealer to test drive our favorite picks and see if we could get the ball rolling on getting Ruth a car.

We got there around 9:30, but no one was there, even though the sign said they opened at 9:00… not a good sign since both Ruth and I took the morning off to get this done.

Fortunately, the guy we spoke with… er… listened to from the night before gave us a business card with phone numbers on it.

Unfortunately, one of the numbers seemed to be out of service.

Fortunately, the other one was in service.

Unfortunately, no one answered.

Fortunately, around 9:45, someone finally rolled into the lot to give us some help.

He pulled in, wearing a bathrobe, yawning and scratching himself and asked if anyone had helped us yet… this was just adding insult to injury to our already great day.

Ok, it wasn’t *quite* that bad with the bathrobe and everything, but in Paul-land, some things get exaggerated.

9:45 is not an exaggeration.

Moving on… we test drove the Nissan, followed by the Infiniti.

After a bit of deliberation, weighing pro’s and con’s, Ruth decided the Nissan was probably the best fit.

We had the guy draw up the paper-work, noted a couple of things we wanted them to take a look at on the Nissan and headed off to get some lunch, while we waited for everything to get approved and fixed.

After a satisfying lunch, we headed out to the parking lot, only to discover that keys had been locked in the car.

Fortunately, we owned a set of spare keys.

Unfortunately, the spares were left in a laptop bag.

Fortunately, we happened to bring the laptop bag with us that day.

Unfortunately, the laptop bag was locked in the car.

So, as we peered in through the windows, hands spread out on the glass, earnestly willing the keys to NOT BE IN THE INGITION, I called my roadside assist guys and had them come rescue us.

I was supposed to be to work by 1:30 that afternoon for a meeting, but since the keys had been locked in the car and the paper work was still not finished being prepared, that was not going to happen. Embarrassed, I called in to work to have them move the meeting time for me and we went on about our day of signing more papers seeing to it that repairs were made to our satisfaction and getting me to my rescheduled 2:30 meeting.

All that to say this: we now have a 1995 Grand Am tape deck for sale in front of our apartment, if anyone’s interested. Incidentally, a green 1995 Grand Am comes pre-attached… $1 or free.