Friday, July 30, 2004

Final Fantasy Origins

I have to second Brenden's frustration with the price fixing on Final Fantasy Origins.

I too have been wanting to get the re-release of Final Fantasy I & II since it was originally released. But I refused to pay $30 for a Playstation game that came out years after the PS2 had already pushed the PS One into obscelence. So I dutifully watched all the local stores for it to go on sale. Alas, for over a year, they all insisted on keeping the price exactly at $30, even though they would clearance out all the games around it.

Finally in early June, Buy.com dropped the price to $14.99, and with shipping I was able to get it for under the magic price of $20 (18.89 as it happened). Target was rumored to have also dropped the price at the same time to $20, but no stores around here seemed to have a copy (although it sounds like Brenden found a copy in Bozeman).

Now the funny thing was, while we were in Target tonight getting wireless network cards, they had a random copy of Final Fantasy Origins sitting on the shelf for ....$30. Insane.

Anyways, my Final Fantasy Collection is basically complete. It includes:
Final Fantasy I (as Final Fantasy Origins)
Final Fantasy II (as Final Fantasy Origins)
Final Fantasy IV (as Final Fantasy Anthology)
Final Fantasy V (as Final Fantasy Chronicles)
Final Fantasy VI (as Final Fantasy Chronicles, and Final Fantasy III for SNes)
Final Fantasy VII (For both PC and Playstation)
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X-2

So I am missing only FF3 (which has never been released in the US), The original NES version of FF1, the Original SNes version of FF4 (or FF2 if you like the lame American numbering scheme), and Final Fantasy XI.

FFXI is an interesting case, because I would really like to have it, but I refuse to get MMORPGs from the standpoint that they scare me. It would be way too easy for me to get sucked in and never see any friends again. It certainly has happened to other people who start playing a game where the whole point is to keep you hooked, so you keep paying the monthly fee. It is hard enough the way it is now. I'll have to wait and get it on clearance with no intention of ever playing it.

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WiFi

We were at Target tonight picking up a few last minute things for the party. As we were leaving, I wandered over to the clearance video game section. Because you never know when a good RPG might be clearanced out for $5. On the shelf next to a few uninteresting games were two Microsoft 802.11g wireless PCI cards. They were marked down to (what ended up being, after tax) $20.58. Granted they aren't 'Xtreme G' cards, but 54Mbps is nothing to sneeze at.

Once we got home, I ordered a D-Link DI-624 Wireless Router from NewEgg.com.

The plan is to put wireless cards in the new computer, and the old computer which will become the MP3/AVI/ROM fileserver. Then the XBox can jack directly into the router downstairs, for easy access to the network without the overpriced XBox wireless adapter.

All in all it should be infinitely better then the current setup using 9-year old 10-base T cable, and 7 year old 100-Base T adapters (which were $200 back in the day). Not to mention the horrible SohoWare router that needs to be rebooted everytime I turn around. But that was the only $100 router with a hardware firewall and VPN pass-through back when I bought it.

The icing on the cake is that I found out today at work that I will be getting a new laptop, which should be Centrino, so that will be able to take advantage of the wireless network as well.

Total cost, less then half what I paid for my original SMC 10-Base T card back in 1995 (which I still have, I might add).

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Thursday, July 29, 2004

Star Wars DVD

So it sucks enough that Lucas is only releasing the terrible special edition on DVD. But now it looks like there might be some more changes. Including one really, really, really bad change.

Oh the horror (Spoilers, obviously)

I'll just pray that it is all a sick joke by someone with too much time and video editing software on their hands.


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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Software Patents & Doom 3

As every self-respecting geek knows, Software Patents are the work of the devil.

If you had any doubt, check out the latest on Creative Labs strong-arming id software into including their EAX technology (which Carmack has been somewhat negative about) into the Doom 3 engine.

It hardly seems fair that someone can sit down all alone and come up with an improvement to a 25-year old shadowing algorithm but then get screwed by someone else who came up with the same improvement at roughly the same time, but patented the algorithm even though they had no intention of using the algorithm for anything. Especially when Carmack has been so open with everything that he has been doing related to stencil shadows and the 'Carmack Reverse'.

People suck.

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Party Planning

As I alluded to earlier, this weekend we are having a little get-together here are the Eck Ranch. It was a bit short notice, but we sent out the requisite mass-email around 2 weeks ago. Then we spent the last two weeks doing what amounts to the most work of any party: trying to figure out who is actually coming, and then how much of everything to buy.

It is a delicate balance between running short on food and beverage and having someone have to eat their brat minus bun with only chip crumbs as accompaniaments, and having 30 frozen hamburgers in the freezer (which we don't eat except when people are over) for the next 5 years, and having 6 pounds of uneaten potato salad stinking up the fridge.

So far out of the four or so full-on planned 'parties' that we have had here since we moved in, only 2 had appropriate amounts of food and beverage purchased. The other two erred on the side of 'a whole extra keg of beer', rather then the 'eat quick or go hungry' side of things. That is OK I suppose, I would rather have too much then have someone go hungry.

We did get colored plastic cups, because you can't have a party without those.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

GNR: Slash interview

When I was in High School, I had this theory that was based on sort of graphing a person's knowledge. The sum total of everything a person knew basically was the area under the line connecting all points representing how much they knew about various things.

So a person who knew just a little bit about a whole ton of subjects might have a graph that looked like a really wide short rectangle. Someone who knew a whole ton about just a small number of subjects would have a graph that looked like a really tall, skinny rectangle.

Anyways, the theory was that, even though over time you might be able to increase the overall area that you 'knew' (effectively getting smarter), most of the time you just shifted area around. This could be due to a variety of factors, say for example that while you studied one area in depth, your knowledge in other areas was becoming more dated. Or say for example, that you would slowly forget details about subjects you hadn't studied/used for a while (I.E. Who could sit down 10 years later and pass even a simple calc test. Probably only people who are using high-level math on a daily basis).

At this point you are probably asking: "Ok, that's probably enough about the crackpot theories, how does this relate to a subject line of 'GNR: Slash interview'?". Well, it's a review titled This Much I Know. Apparently Slash is the 'Tall-Skinny Skyscraper' type, rather then the Renaissance 'Wide-short rectangle' Man.

Still, this little nugget of wisdom made me laugh (Mainly because of all the Spinal Tap jokes Brenden and I were making about the Bass at the Oakenfold concert):

Never watch Spinal Tap before you go on stage either. I had a guitar that had the knobs go to 11, and Axl said, 'Is that what you're going to use tonight?' I said, 'Yeah!' And he had a fit. He went crazy.


Oh and BTW, the interview isn't completely work-safe...
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Monday, July 26, 2004

Oakenfold

On Sunday night, Brenden, Steph, Linzy and I went to see Paul Oakenfold and Sandra Collins at the Quest.

The concert was great, all the DJs (even the house DJ Kid Icarus) were very good. Each DJ played for 2 hours, with the order going Icarus, Collins, Oakenfold. Personally I thought Oakey did the best job, slightly better then Collins, as he interacted with the crowd a bit more and his music flowed together smoothly. Sandra Collins was no slouch either though.

I only had three complaints:

Apparently I am getting old, because the music was pretty dang loud. You know it is loud when Oakey puts on some high-pitched, but instead of creating some musical tension it actually feels like your head is vibrating and your eyes might explode. I was pretty jealous of the people who were smart enough to bring some ear plugs.

Second it was unbelievably hot in the Quest. It wasn't that bad at first, but by the time Sandra came on, and the place was starting to get packed, it started to get uncomfortably hot. And it only got worse after a few hours of dancing.

Finally, 6 hours of chest-vibrating, head-pounding bass and non-stop dancing is a bit much for me. By the time Oakey came on, I was pretty worn out and foot sore. So I don't think I enjoyed his set quite as much as I could have if Icarus and Collins had played for 1.5 hours instead of 2.

One thing that was kind of funny was the only full-on dance-off that I have ever seen. It was a bit ridiculous, with one crazy-drunk backwards-kangol and powder-blue baseball jersey wearing idiot versus a big sweaty, smelly, break-dancer guy. Captain PowderBlue was being an moron and trying to 'run' the center of the dance floor. Lieutenant Smelly Breakdancer took exception to this, and instead of a reasonable fist-fight, or even a stabbing, they took up their differences over some not so smooth dancing. The Breakdancer wasn't that bad, although he only had about two moves, but PowderBlue had only one move, what Brenden describes as The Epileptic fit.

I also saw quite possibly the ugliest hair cut ever. What I dubbed the Skull-Mullet. After some quick google research tonight, it appears to actually be termed the Skullet. Trust me, it doesn't look any better in person then it does in the picture.

Overall it was a fun night, I just wish I had worn some more comfortable shoes and some ear plugs.

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Books: Keep of Fire

While I was up in Duluth playing at construction worker, I did find time to finish Keep of Fire, the second book in The Last Rune series. It was pretty good, although I was a bit confused during the early portions because it has been at least a year or two since I read Beyond the Pale.

Still, it was good enough that I picked up The Dark Remains and Blood of Mystery, as the next books to read.

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Sunday, July 25, 2004

I made it

Well, I made it back from Duluth alive. It was a long week, we put in 10-12 hours a day working on Larry's house. For the most part, we were working on removing the old siding, old vapor-barrier, old insulation and putting in new insulation and plywood.

The old inuslation and vapor-barrier combined in non-nice ways to trap moisture in the plywood/siding. This eventually rotted the plywood (though suprisingly not the underlying studs, because the craft-faced insulation was actually working as designed to keep moisture out of the studs).

It was quite fun, let me tell you. I'm not sure what the old insulation was made of (my money was on asbestos, but Larry insisted otherwise) but it sucked, a lot. It was sticky, itchy, and really dusty. Since the old plywood rotted, it was a joy to remove as it crumbled and tore and generally made a mess. Better yet were the approximately 8,000 nails that stuck in the non-rotted studs after the plywood tore off. All of which had to be removed by hand so the new plywood could be put up.

And I haven't even mentioned the 400 pound cast iron tub that we had to tear down a whole wall to get out and into a dumpster.

I'll try to post some more stories from the week soon, as I get time. Until then, here are some pictures of the construction:

Back of the house with siding off.


Plywood under vapor barrier


Old craft-faced insulation that had to be removed. That's Larry tempting death by standing on a stepstool on top of 16 foot 2x12 planks, suspended across only partially secured 2-story scaffolding. (The scaffolding mess deserves a whole post of it's own)


Back of house after replacing insulation and plywood, all ready for Typar and new vinyl siding.


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Sunday, July 18, 2004

What will you do without me?

I'm headed to Duluth tomorrow to assist my father-in-law with re-siding his house. Actually it is more then that, because the vapor barrier has to be replaced as well, which means the plywood/built-rite's gotta go too.

I'll be up in the north woods for a full week, with (as I described it to my co-workers) no internet access, no cell-phone service, and fully out of pager range. I'm thinking it will be kind of nice (although I could go for some internet access, just without any VPN capabilities, so no one can expect me to work).

You'll have to wait for any hilarious and fascinating stories from the Oakenfold concert tonight until next week. And even then, if you are seriously waiting for hilarious and fascinating stories, you're probably reading the wrong blog.

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Doom 3

If you haven't ordered your new X800 yet (or new processor for that matter), better get on it quick. August 3rd is roaring up on us.

Don't take my word for it, watch the justification for a $400 video card yourself.

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Will Smith Movie Extravaganza

So this weekend unintentionally became a Will Smith movie extravaganza. Last night I watched "Bad Boys II" on some pay-movie channel, and today we went to see "I, Robot".

I, Robot

Now I know what you are saying, I was just as horrified as the next guy the first time I saw an "I, Robot" trailer. I couldn't believe what they had done to Asimov's book (which I have read BTW). But then we saw the trailer a few more times, and it started to grow on me a bit if I could forget about raping and pilaging of a classic story. Then the relatively good reviews started rolling in. What finally sold the deal was when I was reading in one review about how they weren't trying to claim that it was the same story as the book, or even a similar story, just that it was suggested by Issac Asimov's book. After much persuading, I talked Linzy into going to see it today.

It turned out to be pretty good. Linzy said she enjoyed it, and I thought it was pretty decent for a summer action/sci-fi flick. The CG robots were impressive, particularly 'Sonny', the robot accused of murder. The various effects related to making the world look 'futuristic' were also pretty good. Will Smith wasn't near as annoying as some movies. While he was playing effectively the same character that he always plays, he wasn't quite as smart-alec-y. The plot was good enough to hold the movie together, and the 'mystery' of who killed the doctor was complicated enough so that you didn't necessarily know what was going on until closer to the end. Overall I enjoyed it.

Bad Boys II

Bad Boys II also turned out to be better then I expected. Much better then I expected actually, because I was thinking it would be pretty damn bad. I was flipping through the free pay-channels we are getting and noticed that it was just starting. Since I recalled the trailers looking vaguely tolerable, I was forced to take the opportunity to watch it.

It is, of course, an action movie. So there was little plot beyond what was necessary to guide you from one car chase, to a shootout, to a car chase, to a...well...shootout, etc. But some of the scenarios were interesting and fresh. Particularly I enjoyed the car chase down the freeway in a Ferrari (what kind of cop can afford a Ferrari BTW), while the crooks tossed cars off the back of their stolen big-rig, and plummeting down a hill in an H2 through a shanty-town of cocaine-shacks. The freeway chase did get a little long, but the effect of one of the cars bouncing over the Ferrari while Martin Lawrence was hanging out the window was quite neat.

The humor was inconsistent, one second grating and repetitive, the next LOL funny. The laughing-out-loud while watching a movie at 11:00pm by myself is a bit wierd, but I thought Martin Lawrence after taking too extacies was pretty funny, as were a few other moments.

Anyways, the movie was good, though not spectacular. Worth a rental, but I'm certainly glad we didn't go see it in the theaters.

Considering I'm not the hugest Will Smith fan, I was pleasantly suprised by the two movies I saw.

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Friday, July 16, 2004

Eck Humor

My family, particularly my Dad and I, have always had slightly strange sense of humor. And being over-competitive like all Ecks, there is a continual sort-of one-upping each other with jokes and crazy observations.

Luckily Linzy 'gets it', so sometimes when we get together with my parents, she has said her sides hurt afterwards from laughing so much.

Anyways, to give you a sample of this, below is a transcribed e-mail exchange between my dad and I regarding electronics recycling.

First, a necessary bit of background. When I was a kid, we had an Atari and Commodore 64 for playing games on. They were great, we had tons of fun games to play and you could even do some BASIC programming on the C64. Anyways, one time when I came home from college I was thinking of taking the Atari and Commodore back up to school with me, to play some old school games with college buddies (we had a ton of free time in those days). Since the Atari and Commodore were just collecting dust in the basement at this point it seemed like a good plan. Except when I got downstairs, the Atari and Commodore 64 systems were gone. Apparently in a fit of cleaning frenzy (this happens to my mom from time to time), my parents had decided the two consoles were no longer needed, and either threw them out, or donated them somewhere. I was very disappointed, and its been a running joke ever since, about how they sacked my childhood memories for a tax deduction.

After all that build up, this exchange will surely be a letdown, but here goes:

-------------------------------------------------------------
To: Warren Eck
From: Steve Eck
Subject: recycled electronics

Office Depot is apparently taking old electronics for recycling for free starting next week:

http://money.cnn.com/2004/07/13/news/fortune500/recycle_pc/index.htm

I don't know if you still have all those old computer parts, but you might be able to get rid of them.

Steve
-------------------------------------------------------------
To: Steve Eck
From: Warren Eck
Subject: Re: recycled electronics

Thanks for the info. I'll have to rummage around in the catacombs and see what I can find. I got rid of some junk at the recycle center in Eagan, but you have to pay to do that so if I can find some more and get rid of it for free that's an even better deal.
--------------------------------------------------------------
From: Steve Eck
To: Warren Eck
Subject: Re: recycled electronics

I heard they are really looking for old Commodore 64s, and maybe even Ataris. :)

Steve
--------------------------------------------------------------
From: Warren Eck
To: Steve Eck
Subject: Re: recycled electronics

So are you saying this whole deal is really a front for someone to swipe valuable antiques from unsuspecting victims? I can't imagine anyone who would just trash a Commodore 64 or Atari, can you?
--------------------------------------------------------------

And there you have it. If you can imagine 4 hours of that sort of banter, you can imagine what dinner with the 'rents is like. :)

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Xenogears - Disc 2

After a mind-boggling 45 hours of gameplay, last night I reached the long-awaited "Please insert disc 2" screen in Xenogears.

The game has, by far, one of the most confusing and bizarre storylines I have ever seen in a video game. And I have played some mighty strange RPGs in my day.

I can't imagine that the second disc will take another 45 hours to slog through, at least I hope it doesn't. All my main characters have learned all the possible combo moves, and most have only one more 'spell' they can possibly learn. The story is slowly getting more focused, so hopefully that indicates I should be able to breeze through disc 2 in under 20 hours (just a complete guess).

At my current glacial pace, 45 hours in 4 months, that would still put completion 2 months away. 6 months of gameplay for $20. Insane.

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Thursday, July 15, 2004

StupidBloggerEx

Well, originally I was going to write a post saying how much nicer the new blogger editing interface is.  It finally has some somewhat of a professional look to it, rather then an interface that looks like it was designed by the programmer who wrote it.

Except that it doesn't work for shit in Firefox.  I mean, every time I click Publish Post, or Save as Draft, FireFox crashes.  It appears to actually do the command, but the browser crashes.  And the text wrapping on the published-while-crashing-post is ridiculously stupid, all my lines had hard newlines in them, rather then wrapping nicely.
 
So now I am reduced to using IE to post, for at least the second time in a week.  Sigh.
 
Too bad Livejournal has such lame addresses for non-paying customers, and an even worse interface then Blogger.  Otherwise livejournal.com/users/soeck would maybe have taken off.  Of course Livejournal has been having performance problems of their own lately. 

Apparently the annual cost of 'free' doesn't get you as much as it did in say...1999. :)



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Jackpot

Linzy and I were running around town tonight picking up a few uninteresting things like furnace filters, when we stopped in Best Buy.  The intention was to pick up The Bourne Identitiy DVD, as it is only $17.99 and comes with a free ticket to the Bourne Supremacy (which opens next week I think). Now I've never been able to stop in a Best Buy and not go browse through the console games section looking for cheap old RPGs. So what did I find tonight?

.Hack Infection (#1) and .Hack Outbreak (#3) for a mere $4.99 each! How could I pass up the chance to spend $10 and get not one, but two RPGs that I will never play. And PS2 RPGs at that.

I'm pretty happy with my luck, although now I will be forced to search high and low for similarly priced .Hack Mutation (#2) and .Hack Quarentine (#4). And probably will have to start checking Best Buy's console game selection on a more regular basis, because they had a dozen or so 4.99 and 9.99 games in the PS2 section.

We did end up getting the Bourne Identity DVD as well. :)

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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Local news

Last year the Star Tribune started running a special section on Wednesday's tied to particular regions of the Twin Cities. So for me that means we get a section of fluff news about the South Metro. The past two weeks they have actually had stories that hit close to home (so to speak).

Last week they had an article on the Crossroads development which is taking over the cornfield that used to be right next to my house: Church without boundaries

This week they had an article on my old Junior High (and High School) Chess instructor Ed Zelkind: Risk leads to rewards for chess instructor

The funny thing about the Zelkind story (which doesn't seem to be on the web yet) is that the picture on the front page is of Zelkind using his crazy old magnetic chess board. And I was thinking to myself as I carried in the paper, "Man, whoever that is uses a magnetic board just like Zelkind used to". Then looking closer I see that it IS Mr. Zelkind. I wonder if some of the pieces still slide off the board....

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Monday, July 12, 2004

Full Schedule

So, sort of along the same vein as my recent Overtime posts, I sure doesn't seem like I have been seeing many of my friends lately.

We have friends who are nice enough to have us over for dinner, or invite us to their parties, but lately we haven't been able to make it to all the things we would like to go to, and also haven't found a good time for inviting people over. When we were at Convergence a bunch of people were asking when we were having another party (the last one was last Labor Day I believe), and Linzy got asked about a party by more people on Saturday night when she was over at a friends house. Then you throw on all the people that have invited us over and we haven't seen since, the social obligations have definitately been getting the short end of the stick.

On the other hand, we've been pretty busy: Linzy started school, I work all the time, and weekends get filled up with chores or other things. This weekend would have been perfect for a party, since Brenden might be in town and we just stained the SOB of a deck, but I have to work on Saturday. Then next week I head to Duluth for the week + weekend to help re-side my father-in-law's house. Follow that up in August with a trip to Chicago, another weekend of work, the Renassance Festival and in September with a cousin-in-law's wedding, a weekend at a cabin, and yet another Saturday for work. It starts to look like we are pretty much booked. Practically till October (when I work again, heh).

I guess any party that we try to have will be either the 31st of July, or the 7th of August. Mark your calendar's: Appearing for one night only, Steve and Linzy! We might as well live in Montana or Philly.
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Hours of Work

After my last post about the overtime I worked last month, I got asked by a couple people what kind of hours I have been working lately. They aren't nearly as gaudy as 68.5 hours (I originally posted 66.5, but I was off).

6/27-7/1 I worked 46 which doesn't sound like much until you consider that 6/27 is Sunday and I worked 5 hours that day. Leaving 41 for Mon-Thursday of that week, or about 10 hours a day, with Friday a holiday. Then I only worked a couple hours of the 4th of July weekend (I was too busy at Convergence). We had Monday off as a holiday as well, and then I racked up just a bit under 10 hours a day Tuesday-Friday. Seeing a pattern yet?

So the last two timecards went in at 54 and 48.5 with 8 hours of holiday time each week.


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Sunday, July 11, 2004

Weekend

Not much fun to report from this weekend, since Linzy and I spent most of the time doing my least favorite summer chore, staining the deck.

There are lots of things I have to do during the summer that are more physically strenuous (say putting in 7 tons of rock), but staining the deck just sucks. Most of the problem lies in the fact that staining railings is ridiculously tedious and that my deck is on the second floor of the house. So with a walkout the ground is sloping away from the deck, so the furthest away corner is roughly 15ft off the ground. Staining the outside of the railings involves innumerable trips up and down the ladder, and I don't like heights. The good thing this year was that Linzy was able to help so it was significantly less work then the last time I stained the deck. Still it took a couple hours on Friday night, and basically all day on Saturday. I finished up in the pitch black at around 10:00, just in time to let the stain dry a bit before the storms rolled in at 4am.

On Sunday we did a few miscellaneous chores like laundry and house cleaning before my parents came over for dinner. Steak-kabobs on the grill, and build-your-own sundae bar, Linzy out did herself, mmmm.

Oh, and I spent a while on Sunday talking to Frosty while returning his powerwasher about how we figure that offshoring at least part of our DBA group marches inevitably closer. Talk about depressing, I figured I had years yet before having to worry about that sort of thing, but it isn't looking like it. Not that I would be in the first wave, but how long before they decide even a 'safety net' isn't necessary anymore.

Looking for an extremely good Oracle DBA and/or infrastructure programmer?
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Thursday, July 08, 2004

Stupid Blogger

WTF is the deal with Blogger/Blog*Spot lately? It is slow, and I can't seem to successfully post in Firebird. It reloads the 'post-in-progress' page a few times and then dumps me at a completely blank page. Posting in IE seems to work fine (albeit slowly).

Anyways it is pissing me off. I don't want to have to use IE to post, nor spend 30 minutes futzing with the posts, publishing, changing something, publishing again, etc.

I did manage to battle through posting Convergence: Friday and Saturday. Check them out.
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Convergence: Saturday

This is a continuation of my previous entry Convergence: Friday. Also, more pictures are here.

Saturday

Saturday morning not a lot was going on (surprise, surprise), we wandered the convention a bit, checking out the silent auction and the dealers room, etc. Eventually we decided to head over to Southdale center for Lunch and to the Edina theater to see Spiderman 2 (quickie review). Apparently people in Edina make New York-money, because even the matinee shows were a full dollar more then the Lakeville theater (and Carmike Apple Valley for that matter). The Edina AMC was a nice enough theater, but certainly nothing special, or worth the increase in prices.

Anyways, after the movie we came back and wandered the convention some more. In the best discovery of any Convention ever, we stumbled on a talk by Crist Ballas a makeup/prosthetic artist from the Twin Cities. He's worked on all kinds of famous movies and TV shows, like Batman & Robin, the 13th warrior, Double Jeopardy, etc (see his resume). His talk was really interesting. He basically showed some of the pictures that are also on the front of his website, and talked about what he had to do for the make-up, funny stories about the actors (like Arnold in Batman & Robin), and other little tidbits of info. One of the pictures on his site (here) is of one of the stunt men for Arnold. Apparently it is really expensive to have Arnold on set, so if there is a non dialogue scene, or a distance shot or something, they actually use a stunt man in makeup/prosthetics to look like Arnold. He also told a story about how Arnold didn't want his Mr. Freeze dummy heads to be made from lifecasts because it makes your skin look like it is sagging. So instead of having a 45 minute life cast, they spent 2 hours measuring every part of his face, and sculpted a head instead. Of which Arnold apparently has two of in his house (one in Mr Freeze makeup, and one painted normally, WTF do you do with two heads of yourself?!) If you couldn't tell, the talk was great and I really enjoyed it.

After that, Linzy took a nap and I watched some TV, and heard a great homerun call while watching Sportscenter. I'm sure its used all the time, but I hadn't heard it and it struck me as funny. As Barry Bonds hit a home run, news dude goes "Bonds has got 99 problems, but that pitch ain't one".

After dinner at Chilli's (right across the road from the hotel), we stopped by Gerard's room for more boozing. Gerard and Tom dressed as Wario and Waluigi this year, to somewhat less success then last year. Apparently Waluigi is not well known judging by the number of "Oh look its Wario...and some other guy" comments. Not surprising I guess, considering his mere 3 game appearances. Also Wario was not all that well recognized, more then once I heard someone say 'Oh look, its Mario...except the color is wrong'. Hehe.

The rest of the night was similar to the previous with a few exceptions: No famous authors were endangered. I won 2 out of 3 air hockey games to take the second night championship. Gerard was not being as smooth as he might have liked with the ladies. Jim showed up, got perhaps a bit drunk, and ended up playing 3 person 'spinner' with Vanessa and Jackie. Where the spinner game involved spinning this...well...spinner, and having to do whatever it stopped on. The choices were a lot of things like 'Give person X a kiss', 'Give person Y a backrub', 'Give person Z a kiss above the waist and grope below the waist', etc. (I won't post the pictures of that :) Finally, there was a disturbing amount of pirates roaming around. Yo-Ho!

Overall, it was quite a good time, mainly because of the chance to hang out with friends. It will be interesting to see the official attendance numbers, because the convention felt much less crowded then in previous years (especially versus the horror that was Convergence at the St. Paul Radisson).

As I say every year immediately following the convention "I'm not sure if we will be attending next year". But, we'll see...
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Convergence: Friday (The wordy edition)

I had a great time at Convergence this year, probably as much fun at Convergence as I have ever had, despite the fact that we did very little convention-wise. For more pictures, see my previous entry.

Friday

On Friday Linzy had to work until early afternoon, so we checked in around 4:00 or so, and spent a bit making trips up and down to our room on the 21st! floor. At this point the hotel wasn't very crowded, so it wasn't hard to get an elevator, but later in the weekend it was a royal pain to try to get an elevator (particularly going down since we were on the second to the top floor). Our room was quite nice, and it had one of the new "Sweet Sleeper" beds Sheraton put in when they bought the Radisson South.

After watching a bit of TV and calling around to see where everyone else, it turned out no one was around, nor would be around for a while. So Linzy and I went up to Davanni's for dinner and then zipped all the way downtown to the Quest to pick up tickets for the Oakenfold concert on 7/18. That was actually extremely painless, considering I had no idea how to get there coming in from the west side of the cities. But we found the place right away, got the tickets, and found our way out in hardly anytime at all.

By the time we got back to the hotel at around 6:30-7:00, things were starting to pick up. Calling Gerard he sounded a bit torque'd up already. Everyone else was over in the 'North Tower' where they have bigger suites, because they had gotten their rooms starting on Thursday. So we headed over to Gerard's room, and once we showed up it turned out he was drinking his drinks out of a gargantuan 64-oz Big Gulp cup. And had already finished off a good portion of his Bicardi Vanilla bottle. We hung out for a bit in the room, playing some Defender and Everything or Nothing on the GameCube and had some drinks.

The rest of the night we spent wandering the pool area where they had the cabana room parties, playing air hockey (Gerard won 2 out of 3 for the first night championship), and generally causing trouble. Including Gerard almost hitting Guest of Honor (and famous author) Larry Niven while throwing a little plastic ball back at me after I instigated a war.

I split out the Saturday Convergence write-up because this entry got way too long. Check out part 2...
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Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Movie Reviews Hyper Alpha 2

We saw a couple movies this weekend:

Spiderman 2

I wasn't a huge fan of the first Spiderman, but I was pleasantly surprised with the 2nd. I thought they did a good job keeping the action interspersed with the requisite heart-sick mooning over an unsatisfied love.

I enjoyed J.K. Simmons and the over-the-top performance as J. Jonah Jameson (the boss at Daily Bugle). Oh and Bruce Campbell's cameo made me laugh.

I was almost setup for disaster with all the good reviews, but I persevered and kept my expectations suitably low.


Dodgeball

I enjoyed Dodgeball quite a bit. It wasn't a comedic masterpiece, but it did have quite a few laugh-out-loud moments and very few cringers. Rip Torn and his crazy 'training' was hilarious.


Through the magic of inscrutable cable pricing and the power of calling to complain, we have every pay channel available until the end of the year. For less money then we were paying before (don't ask, I can't explain it but I wasn't going to argue). So I've been watching quite a few movies on HBO/Cinemax/etc as well.

Bruce Almighty

I thought Bruce Almighty wasn't very good. I recalled seeing previews for it last year and thinking it looked like it could be good. But alas, it wasn't very good. Jim Carey completely overacted his part (now there's a shocker). And instead of feeling sorry for him when he lost Jennifer Aniston towards the end of the movie (it was a romantic comedy after all), I just felt sorry for her at having to put up with his stupid antics. I'm just glad I didn't go see it in the theaters.


The Transporter

I was pleasantly surprised by the Transporter. Dan had mentioned a while back that it was worth a rental, and it was certainly worth 'free'. The driving sequences were pretty cool, and Handsome Rob was suprisingly convincing in the martial arts sequences. One of the cooler things towards the end was a whole fight sequence in an oil slick. Regrettably I only saw parts of the ending because Behind the Music: GNR came on.


I've also seen parts of some other movies that were bad enough I didn't even finish them (that's the trouble with having 30 movie channels, it is way too easy to switch to some other in-progress movie). The partial movies were (in no particular order): Insomnia, The Tuxedo, Rollerball. In Insomnia's defense, it wasn't that bad, I just wasn't paying enough attention to keep up with what was going on. The Tuxedo and Rollerball have no such defense.
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Behind the Music: GNR

Last night I watched quite possibly the worst Behind the Music I have ever seen. I don't watch the show religiously, but I have caught a number of them. Usually they are interesting as they chronicle the early years, the descent into snorting Scarface-sized piles of cocaine, and the inevitable comeback at the end of the show.

Behind the Music: Guns and Roses had virtually none of this, which is a head-scratcher when you consider that at least the coke-buffet would have applied.

The neon-flashing signal that this BTM was going to be bad was the fact that they couldn't even dredge up half the original band. I mean, no one expects Axl to come out of the looneybin, but at least you could dig up the rest of the guys. Nope, all they got to interview was Slash and Steven Addler. For the later years they added Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke. Given that Steven Addler was crazy strung-out after about 1987 (and looked to be for the interviews too), and by the time Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke got involved things had already started to implode, the only person providing much of a first hand account was Slash. Throw in the fact that Slash was stupid-drunk..well...all the time, he didn't have as much to add as someone who can actually recall anything from 1988-1994.

The other disappointing thing was that practically immediately they jumped right into everyone being in GNR and being scumbags. There was no "Indiana Farmboys seduced by the evil Holywood temptations", no "We stole Tracii Gun's band name and then kicked him to the curb", nothing.

Finally, towards the end of show when you expect the 'new album coming out in a week/comeback reunion tour/arrested for heroin possession after supposedly being sober' type of thing all they had was Axl's ~10 show canceled tour failure with a completely new lineup and Velvet Revolver. Admittedly Velvet Revolver's album has been doing well, and Scott Weiland hasn't tried to escape from court-ordered rehab lately, but for a wrap-up it was a bit less then satisfying.
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Sunday, July 04, 2004

Convergence: Friday

I haven't had time to write up anything long on Convergence, but here is the 30-second overview of Friday night:

It's 7 o'clock, do you know where the first half of your Bicardi Vanilla is?


Well, its in my 64-oz Big Gulp cup of course.


It's 9 o'clock, do you know why your friend is demonstrating how to walk like a baboon?


Well, probably because that same cup is now empty. And because it was pretty damn funny.

It's 11 o'clock, if that same bottle is now empty, what is the rest of your night going to look like?


Well, blurry probably covers it.

As a side note I am really disappointed the last picture came out so blurry it would have been a good one....

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Metallica: Some Kind of Crazy

Is it wrong to think that Some Kind Of Monster could be vaguely interesting? Certainly not something that I would be paying $8.50 to go see on opening night, but maybe something I'd watch if it was on HBO when I flipped past.

I also thought this article was somewhat interesting, the Metallica guys have gone kind of crazy. Although that shouldn't be any suprise after the giant stinking turd that was St. Anger.
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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Convergence

Tomorrow we are off to Convergence for the weekend. No new posts for a while, although hopefully I will come back with a few stories.

To tide you over, I stumbled across this picture of my friends Gerard and Tom dressed up last year:



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Books: Assassin's Quest

I finished Assassin's Quest, the last book in the Farseer trilogy, last night. It was quite good, in line with the other two books.

Assassin's Quest dragged a bit during the middle section. The beginning was pretty interesting, and it had the typical breathless conclusion in the last ~75 pages of a three book trilogy. Overall I enjoyed it, and am looking forward to reading more Robin Hobb. It might be a bit before I start in on more of her books, since so far I have only acquired the 2nd book in the Live Traders trilogy (the second trilogy written by Robin), and the third book in the Tawny Man trilogy (the next series with FitzChivalry, the main character from the Assassin books) is still in hard cover.

Thus I'm not sure what I will read next. I had been thinking of re-reading the Song of Ice and Fire books, but that would probably be more appropriate as the 4th book becomes closer to reality. George R.R. Martin is apparently in a dead heat with Robert Jordan for slowest author ever. Martin might even have the title, since I looked in Storm of Swords and it came out in 2000. I don't recall any of Jordan's books taking more then (a admittedly mind-bogglingly long) 2.5 years. A Storm of Swords was a damn good book though, so I am willing to wait for A Feast for Crows.

I guess next up will be The Keep of Fire
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