Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

We're off to a New Year's party with friends at a local hotel.

Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

When lawyers rule the earth...

One of the gifts I got for Christmas from Linzy was a copy of Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls. Yes it is Yet Another Copy of a game I already own, but it's for a portable system and I like old-school RPGs for long trips.

Anyways I was checking out the back of the box and noticed a disclaimer I have never seen before:

Basic reading abiliy is needed to fully enjoy this game.

I kid you not.

Who exactly is that warning for? Obviously if you lack basic reading ability you aren't going to be able to read that warning either. Could you sue claiming that the warning wasn't in a form you could understand? Perhaps they should have put a little voice that activates when the box is picked up that says 'If you can't read, you won't be able to enjoy the game'. And then I suppose have a braile version for those blind people who are unable to read.

Continuing this stupidity, the screen shots contained sample dialog from the games (for which you would require those difficult to master basic reading skills). The dialog box reads:

You alright too, Guy?
But wait... Where's Leon?

Apparently basic grammar skills weren't required for the translator positions at Square. Could that seriously be the best screenshot of dialog they could come up with?

The games have been re-released twice since their original release in 1987. They updated all the graphics for the first re-release and added a new dungeon for the Dawn Of Souls re-release. Couldn't they have made a pass through the dialog one of the times?

Maybe they did, and figured any errors would slip past their players lacking basic reading skills. Only to find out their legal department had gotten involved and cut out that lucrative market by adding a disclaimer to the back of the box.

I'm not sure if I am more disturbed by the thought that people would be dissapointed that they have to be able to read to enjoy a game, or the thought that a company would think it necessary to reiterate that to their customers.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

RIP Jerry Orbach

Wow, I was suprised to read tonight that Jerry Orbach died. I wasn't even aware he had cancer, the last I had heard he was working on a spin-off Law & Order show.

I always liked him on Law & Order.

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Movies: Ocean's Twelve

Linzy and I went to go see Ocean's Twelve this afternoon. She is on winter break and I have the rest of the week off, so it seemed like the perfect time to catch a matinee.

I have seen Ocean's Eleven several times and really enjoy it. So I was very much looking forward to the new one, despite the somewhat negative reviews.

Alas, they were right. I didn't like it very much at all, although Linzy did.

My main complaint was the somewhat threadbare and jumpy plot. It never really let anything develop and I felt like we were being led around by the nose. Where as the first one had one job, with extensive planning and build-up to the actual heist this one had a mish-mash of plans, heists, and preparation. I really didn't feel like it flowed well.

On top of that, it is supposed to be a robbery movie. I expect to see some fantastic intricate heist executed at some point in the movie. In Ocean's Twelve, we really don't get any of that.

Finally the character build-up was non-existent. Where as the first movie they really took advantage of the eleven personalities, in this one there were characters that were hardly used at all. For example the bickering brothers from the first one were hilarious. In Ocean's Twelve they have maybe 15 lines.

All in all I was very disappointed. Not that it was the worst movie I have ever seen, but it didn't hold a candle to Ocean's Eleven.

For the record, Linzy doesn't agree and really enjoyed it.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Green with...Something

As I mentioned before, CEO is a good job if you can get it. Today's evidence.

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Fantasy Football: Playoffs (Round 2)

In this week's playoff round the Arena Football All-Stars were facing the odds-on favorites to win the championship, the Mayville Cows.

After Friday's games things started looking bad, as the Cows had two players put up 31.2 points total. On Saturday the All-Stars got a good performance out of suprise starter Larry Johnson, but still ended up trailing when the Cows got a staggering 24.2 points out of their fricking Tight End (he had laser beams, I think).

With the games on Sunday the Arena Football All-Stars managed to pull within 28 points of the Cows, with 2 players left to play on Monday night. Those two players happened to be Torry Holt and Brian Westbrook. Holt is capable of putting up some good performances, and Westbrook has been a steady performer all season (minus the game he missed with a broken rib). So the All-Stars were cautiously optimistic.

Monday rolled around and it turns out Westbrook is a last minute scratch from the lineup, as Philly decided to rest all their stars!

So the All-Star's fate was sealed, and they fell into the consolation bracket.

Even if they had known Westbrook wasn't playing, it still wouldn't have been enough for the All-Stars. They would have lost 143.35 - 137.2. In a fitting irony the All-Stars lost this week despite putting up enough points this week to beat any other team in the league, since they won the regular season with the 5th lowest point total.

The Arena Football All-Stars play a game next week for pride (and third place) against the Horicon Beavers, who ruined their chances at a championship when their owner got cocky and bragged on the message board that they were going to repeat. The Beavers followed that up by losing to a team playing without a quarterback and one running back. Whoops.

The Beavers tend to be heavily dependant on how the Vikings play in a given week, so the game with the All-Stars could go either way.

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas Day

After our busy week leading up to Christmas and very full Christmas Eve, it would have been nice to sleep in a bit on Christmas morning. But, there were things to do and lots of stuff to get ready for the party later that afternoon.

First though, it was present time! Linzy and I didn't exchange gifts this year, but we did get stockings for each other, with a spending limit. It turned out the spending limit was a bit high, so it was pretty much like exchanging gifts, but we tried to keep things in check.

After that, Linzy made a nice brunch for us, and then shortly afterwards Larry and Sandy arrived safe and sound from Duluth. Then it was time for round two of presents, as we exchanged gifts with each other.

By the time we finished with that, it was time to start getting the ham ready, house cleaned up, and things ready for the party.

The party went great, 13 people were able to come. Everyone seemed to have a good time, so that was a relief. The food was terrific and other then ham, we didn't have an excessive amount of leftovers.

After dinner and desert, most everyone ended up watching a copy of Zombies of the Stratosphere that Sarah and my Mom got Dad and I from

I had forgotten how funny that movie can be, if you are in the mood to laugh at the ridiculous 1950s plot (what there is of one), silly special effects, and unbelievable cliff-hanger endings to each episode.

By the time people left around 9:30, we cleaned up and then pretty much vegged out for the rest of the night.

[ Pictures available here ]

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Christmas Day: Pictures

Santa made it!

Larry got some help with his packages from Pippen.

Linzy modeling her new pink coat she got from her parents.

Larry watching the world go by, with his grand-puppy.

The parents and Linzy being social.

Table for 13, please.

Some of the McBrides, talking in the living room.

The food is on, come and get it.

Everyone watching Zombies of the Stratosphere.

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas Eve and the day before

We had a terrific Christmas, I hope yours was good as well (if you celebrate it).

... ...

Thursday when I got home from work, I discovered the dog was sick again (she had initially gotten sick earlier this week). So I spent quite a while cleaning up the mess and called the vet, who was concerned and wanted us to come in on Friday. Then I started in on the first chore of the day, polishing the silver. Which took forever. If you ever have a choice between polishing silver and...well...anything else, choose against polishing.

While I was applying silver foam, letting sit, washing, rinsing, and drying, the dog had been sitting at the top of the steps watching the world go by. Or so I thought. When I stopped halfway through to take her outside again (just to be safe I was thinking), we ventured downstairs to discover that she had found time to head down there and make a huge mess near the door.

So polishing was derailed while I cleaned up downstairs. Eventually I was back to polishing and Linzy came home. When I finally completed my epic battle with the silver polish, I went downstairs to switch the laundry (I was washing the new table cloth, napkins, etc). Only to find that the dog had made an even bigger mess. The amount of liquid that can come out of an 8 pound dog is mind-boggling. It appears that while things were shooting out she was running crazy circles around the room. Either, going 'Oh my gosh, I am going to be in so much trouble', or 'Wheee! This is fantastic!'. Either way the end result was that I spent a good portion of the rest of the night soaking various concoctions into the carpet and blotting dry.

The rest of the evening was spent cleaning the house and preparing for the party we were hosting on Christmas day.

On Christmas Eve (Friday), we spent the morning finishing the last of the cleaning. I also took the dog to the vet and spent a few hours there. It turns out she has Pancreatitis. She probably would have been hospitalized if it hadn't of been a holiday weekend, and the fact that Pippen was still reasonably active. They send me home a couple hundred dollars lighter in the wallet, but with several pages of instructions, 3 bottles of medicine, and a bunch of cans of special dog-food.

Then everyone headed over to my parent's house for Christmas Eve festivities. We had snacks and watched the Vikings-Packers football game in the afternoon. The Vikes stunk up the field yet again, so it wasn't a whole lot of fun to watch.

For dinner we had our traditional Christmas Eve meal, always one of the best meals we eat all year, New-York strip steaks on the grill, twice-baked potatoes (my favorite), homemade rolls, grated carrots in some unknown kind of delicious sauce, and tossed green salad. It was outstanding as always.

After dinner we opened presents and stockings, and then headed to candlelight church service at 10pm. We eventually made it home at around midnight, to catch some sleep before the Christmas Day festivities.

[ Pictures from Christmas Eve are available here, if you so desire. One bad thing I realized today while going through them, we don't have any pictures of everyone dressed up for church. You'll just have to take my word for how good-looking we all were. :) ]

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Christmas Eve: Pictures

The Eck clan.

Dad and Mom enjoying snacks in the remodeled family room.

Tristan (Sarah and John's dog) was having a good time checking everything out.

Pippen on the other hand, wasn't feeling well and had spent a couple hours at the vet in the morning. So she was just wishing everyone would sit down so she could get some sleep.

Me, Linzy and Pippen, showing our support for the loser Vikings.

John and Tristan, reveling in the Packers' victory.

Sarah, enjoying the day.

I am the world's slowest silver polisher, so this pile cost me ~2 hours of my life I will never have back. [ This is actually from Thursday evening ]

Mom and Linzy in my parent's kitchen.

Dad cooking the year's best steaks, in completely inappropriate attire for the below-zero temperatures.

Sarah and John, opening presents.

I got the Return of the King Extended Edition, and it is mine, all mine!

Sarah and John, checking out Sarah's new CD while Tristan takes a nap.

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Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas

Have a safe and happy holiday!

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Real-Time Traffic Reports

I was reading the paper during breakfast today, and saw a review of the new Acura RL.

The RL is Acura's top of the line luxury model, meant to compete with the BMW 5-series, the Audi A6, Cadillacs, etc. It was redesigned this year, and looks somewhat like the TL that was redesigned last year.

What caught my eye in this review was that the RL is the first car to integrate real-time traffic information into their in-dash navigation system.

That seemed really cool and useful. I can just imagine hopping into the car in the morning and getting an instant view of if I should take Cedar-35E or Pilot Knob to work based on current traffic conditions. No flipping through the radio hoping to stumble across someone giving traffic updates, or just plain guessing what the roads might be like.

Alas the car starts at $48,900.

I was reading the expected target market is male, with a median household income of 150,000 a year, in professional, executive, or business owner positions.

So, I'll probably never own one, but it gives me hope that someday real-time traffic navigation systems will be available in cars I can afford.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Daddy needs a new Bentley.

Linzy and I were in Cub tonight buying a few last minute Christmas groceries.

Now, it's pretty common at the Cub near our house that some group of kids is offering to bag groceries to raise money for some cause. Sometimes it's for a charity (say the Red Cross), sometimes for a church trip, sometimes for a sports team trip, etc. So it wasn't suprising that there was a rather large group hanging out at the registers ostensibly helping bag groceries and looking for donations.

Linzy went over to give them some money and find out what cause they were supporting. Meanwhile I bagged up the groceries, so I never got a chance to hear what it was for.

On our way out I asked Linzy 'So what charity was it for?'. She said 'Well, it wasn't for a charity. They go to private school and are taking a trip'.

Say what?

It seems to me that if they are going to some expensive private school (and they all are outrageously expensive), the parents can't be that hard up for money. After all, we do provide pretty decent public schools around here, so there isn't much reason to go to a private school.

It seemed wrong to me, to be hitting up Cub shoppers to pay for your private school trip to Washington D.C. when the poor guy from the Salvation Army, a legitimate charity, is standing outside in the -2F degree weather ringing a bell for donations.

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Fantasy Football: Playoffs (Round 1)

The Arena Football All-Stars performed exactly as was expected last week. That is, terribly. Their point total was the 4th lowest in the league that week, 84.55 points.

However, the Duluth Dingos must have been over confident, or perhaps out drinking with Charles Woodson, because they put up an even worse showing, 76.25 points.

Interestingly, the All-Stars could have had over 40 additional points if they had played every player on the bench instead of a starter. Not exactly a coach-of-the-year performance.

Regardless the Arena Football All-Stars live to play another day, facing the 9 and 6, Mayville Cows next week.

It will be another interesting match-up as the Cows are a high-powered team with Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, Marshall Faulk, Tiki Barber, and Tony Gonzalez.

The All-Stars players do have more favorable defensive match-ups this week, so hopefully they can put together a few more points then last week. Still, the all passing offense of the Colts will make things tough.

Consolation bracket here I come!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Dude, You were in what movie?

Did you realize that Jennifer Garner is in Dude Where's My Car??

I didn't either, or had forgotten.

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Free Money

We got a nice piece of mail today (other then the usual Christmas cards and letters), free money.

A few months back, after checking our credit report at [which, I wouldn't suggest anymore since you can get a free credit report once a year starting next year], Linzy and I finally decided that we should consolidate our two credit cards into one. Up to that point we still each had a credit card from college. I was on Linzy's account (because I had to call and complain one time), but didn't have a card. Linzy wasn't even on my card, and in addition neither of our cards had any special offers, they were just run-of-the-mill credit cards.

So I did some checking around and we decided against getting an airline miles card and instead found a Citibank card that offered cash dividends based on your purchases with no annual fee.

The best part was since my card was a Citibank card I was able to just call up, switch the account over to the new type of card and add Linzy with absolutely no hassle.

The dividend card is pretty cool, we get 1% back on everything and 5% back on purchases at gas stations and grocery stores. You do have to request the check when you want your money, and you have to wait until you have at least $50 stored up in dividends. But there isn't an annual fee.

Today we got our first check, and so basically got $73 for free.

One potentially bad thing about the card is that the interest rate is probably higher then a normal card (although it was lower then what my old card was). Since we don't ever carry a balance, that doesn't matter to us. But if you are the type who does it probably would make a big difference.

All in all it has turned out to be quite a good deal for us. We don't pay anything per month/year, can both use one account (so I only have to make one payment a month), and we get free money.

Oh, and they mentioned on the letter with the dividend check that they are upping the payback to 2% and 6% for the next 90 days. Little do they realize we could have two quarters of Linzy's college tuition to run through the card in that time period. Suckers.

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Present Wrapping

This year I must have set a new record for earliest completion of all holiday shopping and wrapping all of those gifts.

Now, I am not one of those Christmas Eve shoppers (I need that time to be over at my parent's house pestering my mom about when we can open presents). But I usually hold out until late, especially when it comes to wrapping gifts.

This year I wrapped the last of my gifts tonight, a full 4 days before they are needed (and even further in advance for gifts going to friends I'll see on New Years Eve).

Of course, my hand was somewhat forced, as we need somewhere to store all that ham.

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Icy Roads = Driving Mayhem

It's been a strange winter so far here in chilly Minnesota. Normally by this time we would have some snow on the ground, but this year we don't have any (at least in the Twin Cities). In fact we've only had snow once, over Thanksgiving, which is really strange.

However that was all supposed to change last weekend and the beginning of this week, when we were supposed to get small amounts of snow adding up to around 6 inches total.

As usual, weather forecasting was proven to be hard, and we didn't get any accumulation of snow. It did however get pretty cold and windy. When I went to bed last night they were still insisting we would get some snow overnight.

Thus this morning I got up a bit early (5:23am) thinking that I might have shovel the driveway a bit. But there was no sign of any snow, so I had an uneventful trip to work.

About 7:30 Linzy called me to say that she was stuck on the highway, going 10 miles an hour. It turns out that just a bit after I got to work it started to rain, and then freeze into sheets of glare ice. Luckily I missed driving on it, because it caused 173 fender benders (read one car running into another because they couldn't stop), and 23 injury accidents. 196 accidents in the 3-4 hour morning rush hour. That is insane.

By the time I left work the salt crews had been working like mad, so the roads were pretty clear of ice. My car was another story. It had a nice 1/2-inch layer of solid ice covering it.

So I got to spend a while with the defroster on full-blast, chipping away at the ice trying to get the windows clear enough to see out of. Actually it wasn't the worst I have seen, and I had things cleared up fast enough that I felt bad for the lady parked next to me. She had been working on her car since before I got out there and still wasn't done by the time I was. So I helped her clear off her car too.

Right now they aren't forcesasting any snow until Saturday, so it is likely we will have a brown Christmas. Looks like that snowblower I bought this fall is working its no-snow magic.

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

It must be Christmas time... (pt 2)

...when you have 24 pounds of ham in the fridge.

The past few years Linzy and I have split our Christmas holiday between the two sets of parents. The last two years in particularly we spent Christmas Eve with my family, and then headed to Duluth on Christmas day to spend a few days with Linzy's family.

In the past this worked out pretty well as Christmas Eve is when my family has most of our traditions, and Christmas day worked well with Linzy's family's traditions.

This year however, I am on-call on Christmas and have to work on Thursday and Monday, which put a crimp in any travel plans.

On Christmas Eve we will be heading over to my parent's house to spend the evening with them and my sister and brother-in-law who are coming in from New Hampshire.

Then for Christmas Day, Linzy's parents agreed to come down and visit. So we are hosting the festivities here. In fact, my sister and brother-in-law decided that they don't want to do all the running around between here and his family's place in LaCrosse, Wi so they will be coming over as well. Since that is the case, we decided to invite John's family to come over as well. That included his sister and her partner, as well as his parents and younger brother. Then, it was discovered that my sister's husband's sister's partner is an only-child and we might be depriving her parents of their chance to see her over Christmas. So they got invited as well. To be honest, I get a kick out of saying sister's-husband's-sister's-partner's-parents as a relationship chain.

Anyways, if everyone comes, that would be 15 people. Which would be way more then we have hosted here for anything formal (we've had roughly that many at previous parties, but never anything where everyone would expect to sit down to a meal at the same time).

So, that almost explains why we would have an excessive amount of ham in the fridge, but 23 pounds? Well, as you may be aware, Linzy can't pass up a good deal. And neither can her Mom. So what happened was:

Linzy heard on the radio that Cub was selling bone-in Hams for $.99 a pound in the middle of last week. So she went over after class and bought the biggest one she could find, which was actually a half-ham, weighing 9.5 pounds. We were thinking that wouldn't be big enough, so the plan was to pick up another smaller half-ham later in the week (and then try to figure out some way to get them cooked at approximately the same time). Instead, when Linzy went to a different Cub for groceries, she found a full 15 pound ham. That was the perfect size (or close enough), so she bought it intending to return the original ham. However, she mentioned this to her mom who insisted that she wanted the half-ham because she couldn't find one in Duluth.

So, there you have it, the round-about explanation of why our refrigerator is currently packed to the gills with enough ham to feed a small army.

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Friday Night

Last night Linzy and I met up with a bunch of her friends from college at the Mall of America. We met Heather, Katie, her boyfriend Sal, Brittany and her boyfriend Tony at Kokomo's Carribean Cafe. The plan was to eat dinner/appetizers there and then head out to a nearby club.

The mall was crowded when we arrived, which is to be expected the last wekeend before Christmas. We were only able to find parking on the very top (outside) of the ramp. However, there was quite a bit of parking available on that level, so it wasn't the most crowded I've seen the mall.

As usual we were the first to arrive, so we got a table and sat down to wait for everyone else. The resturant wasn't particularly crowded and there were plenty of tables available. When we sat down and ordered our drinks, the waiter wanted to know when the rest of our party would arrive. I said they were supposed to be here anytime now, and thought it was a little odd. About 5-10 minutes later the hostess came back to ask if we needed to call anyone to let them know to come. We were like 'What? No, they're coming, we don't have to call them'. So a bit later (about 15 minutes after we sat down) Linzy went up front to see if anyone were there yet. The hostess asked her again when the rest of the party was going to show up. Meanwhile the waiter stood on the otherside of the room and stared at me.

About 20 minutes after we arrived, Heather, Brittany and Tony showed up. The waiter came by again to get their drink orders and then wanted to know if we were going to order 'yet'. We were like 'Uhh, no, we're waiting for the rest of the party'. But we did decide to order some appetizers. About 5 minutes later Katie and Sal came.

The waiter spent the whole meal hovering around, trying to take plates away (while there were still food on them), and bringing our check before people had even finished eating or finished their drinks.

All in all it was really wierd. I could see them being worried about how long we were going to be there if they were really crowded and we were taking up a big table and they had people waiting. Or if we were the only table in the waiter's section and he was forced to stay around just for us. But they weren't crowded, and the waiter had at least one other table.

I didn't understand their need to hustle us out of the place (especially when our bill was pretty spendy since it was a big party and we had appetizers and drinks, and some people had entrees).

Eventually we got tired of it and left.

Then we headed over to Little Ditty's Piano Bar. We had a good time there people watching and listening to the hilarious versions of songs that the two piano players were performing.

Little Ditty's has two piano players that take requests and play pretty much any song you could imagine. The variety is amazing, we heard Beatles songs, AC/DC, Sir-mix-a-lot, Lita Ford, The University of Michigan fight song, crazy made up songs, the Peanuts theme, Lynard Skynard, and all kinds of others. They also tell dirty jokes, and bring various people up on stage and embarress them (if it is a birthday or anniversary, or you just ask them to). At one point they had two birthday girls sitting on the two pianos, and they brought up 8 guys out of the audience (including an 85 year-old guy) to seranade them with 'You've Lost That Loving Feeling'. It was pretty funny, and everyone had a good time.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Fantasy Football: Playoffs

After starting the regular season 5-1, the Arena Football All-Stars had a tough second half of the season, finishing 9-5. They did manage to win 3 of their last 4 games (which really shows how bad the middle of the season was). A two game win-streak to close out the regular season locked up first place going into the playoffs.

The Arena Football All-Star's regular season record was a bit strange, considering that they are not what you would call a high-powered team. In fact, they finished the regular season with just barely the 5th highest point total (out of 8 teams).

Management's lack of confidence in the squad showed itself by being the only team still making personnel moves after the week 14 games. The entire defense was fired despite having put up a touchdown in the final week. Also, oft-injured (and already cut once from the squad this season) Tyrone Wheatley was dropped in favor of Larry Johnson.

Despite finishing first in the league, the Arena Football All-Stars have a tough draw for their first playoff game, having to play the last place Duluth Dingos. Despite their 4-10 record the Dingos are dangerous, having won 3 of their last 4 games of the regular season. The Dingos' manager was quoted as saying:

Don't look now, but I am the hottest team(tied) in the league.

And they are tied with? None other then the Arena Football All-Stars.

Making things even more interesting is the presence of Todd Heap on the Dingos roster. I drafted Heap and played him until he got hurt in the second week. He was supposedly only going to be out 2-4 weeks. Which stretched on to more like 6 or 8 weeks when I finally dropped him in disgust. A week later he finally gets back in the Baltimore line-up, the Dingos pick him up, and he scores three touchdowns in the final two weeks!

There's a bit of bitterness on the All-Star's part about the whole situation, if you couldn't tell.

So it should be an interesting match-up this week.

Honestly I'm not real confident as a lot of my players are facing tough defenses this week. On top of that, the normally dependable Edgerrin James has the misfortune of playing on the most likely all-pass offense of the Indianapolis Colts this week. The best I can hope for is Manning to break Marino's record early in the game, so Edgerrin can get some touches.

It could be a quick exit for the All-Stars. We'll see.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

And the Feud Goes On

On Wednesday during my drive home I heard on the radio that Dimebag Darrell's family turned Phil Anselmo away from his funeral.

Which seemed like a tacky thing to do.

Sure Phil is insane, disgruntled, and has been saying all kinds of stupid things about the Pantera breakup over the years. But the guy came out to Dalls for the funeral and issued a statement that seemed suitably remorseful.

On a side-note, when I originally wrote the entry about Darrell being shot on stage I had ended it with something like 'No word on if it the shooter was a crazy Phil Anselmo fan'. I decided it wasn't really appropriate, so I took it out.

Turns out it was a crazy Pantera fan upset that they broke up. Sad.

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It's Not Your Parent's Car...

I was driving home from work on Wednesday when I saw a Scion tC up ahead of me.

Just in case you aren't familiar with Scion, it is a new label (or Marque as they call it) under which Toyota sells cars. They use it for their 'hipper' cars targeted at younger buyers then their other cars, like the Camry, attract.

They make the xB, a very boxy, and thus trendy, combination SUV and station wagon. Sort of like a mini Honda Element. They also make an xA which is like the really small sedans you see in London and Dublin. About the size of a Geo Metro, if not smaller. Finally, the tC is their mid-size sedan.

Scion is marketed towards young buyers who think of themselves as hip. In fact the Scion mission statement is "To satisfy a trend setting youthful buyer through distinctive products and an innovative, consumer-driven process."

Wednesday was the first time I had seen a tC (that I recall), so I was looking it over as I pulled up alongside it (this was on the highway). I couldn't really see the driver, other then his red Kangol cap.

Imagine my suprise as I pulled up further and realized that the driver was in fact 80 years old, if he was a day. Yep that's right, a grandpa was driving the brand-new 'hip' car marketed at young adults, while wearing a red kangol hat.

Can you imagine little Suzy bragging to her friends about her brand-new Scion, only to have someone say 'Oh yeah, my grandpa has one of those'.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Lost in Translation

While I was waiting for the ISO necessary to fix my XBox to download last night, I played a bit of Dark Cloud.

At one point I acquired enough pieces of the Fortune Teller's house to put it all together. As a 'reward' the lady offered to tell the main character his fortune. Predictably he asked about the Moon Orb, which was ostensibly the reason I was even bothering putting this podunk town back together.

Anyways, out of the blue the fortune teller yells "Pumpkin Panty Fortune Telling!" and leaps on my characters head. And not 'leaps on my characters head' like she was standing on top of it. More like the character's head ends up under her skirt and roughly at the height that you might imagine the lady's legs are wrapped around Toan's shoulders.

Then proceeds a random cut-scene and some nonsensical dialog about a pumpkin (that is really the moon orb mixed in with a cart of fruit).

The whole thing was completely, totally bizarre and unexpected.

I sure hope it was funny, ironic, clever, or at least sensible in Japanese. In English it was just weird and uncomfortable.

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ODB Autopsy

I was shocked, shocked I say, to see that ODB died of an accidental overdose of cocaine and tramadol (a prescription pain killer).

Ok, I was suprised that it was not just straight up cocaine, but not very much.

Ms. Bee Knees said it best, and I agree that I will miss reading about ODB's insane antics.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Today's Lesson

Your regularly schedule post tonight was derailed by my spending hours trying to figure out why the XBox refused to boot with an Error 21.

Sure I put in the Star Wars DBD Set Special Features disc knowing full well it force-updates your dashboard software. Sure I was vaguely aware that this might screw things up, but what are the chances, right? Ha.

There the update screen was, frozen at 20% complete. Uh-oh. When I restarted, with fingers and toes crossed, the update looked like it was going to complete. But alas it wasn't meant to be as the XBox dashboard refused to boot from then on. Helpfully complaining in 5 different languages that you needed to call customer service and tell them you had an Error 21 (very helpful, yes?).

The lesson to learn from this (other then you're hosed if the dashboard update craps out in the middle) is don't spend hours searching the internet, extracting files from an ISO, renaming and manually copying files around, and endlessly power-cycling the xbox to see if "this time it's gonna boot".

Just burn the ISO to CD-RW, put it in the XBox and choose to reinstall the dashboard.

DON'T think you can save time by extracting the ISO and manually copying all the files over to the XBox. You won't.

Apparently the installer does a bit more then just copy files, since even though I copied what seemed like every conceivable file, nothing worked right until I ran the install option off the ISO.

But nonetheless, I eventually prevailed and the XBox once again functions properly.

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South Park - Create a character

Me, as a South Park character (apparently an angry one).

You can amuse yourself here.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Books: Mad Ship

Last night I finished Mad Ship, the second book in Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy.

I enjoyed this book more then I did the first book in the series, Ship of Magic. It had many more interesting plot twists, and significant character development.

Initially I was leary of the pace of the book, because the back mentioned characters "anxiously awaiting the return of their liveship", and that filled me with dread of having to read 200 pages of characters sitting around waiting for something to happen. But, I was spared that Robert Jordan-ism and the book moved along at quite a good pace.

Mad Ship weighed in at 850 pages, just slightly more then the 809 pages for Ship of Magic, but it was a pretty fast read. I started it over Thanksgiving, and have been plugging away at it since. So it didn't take very long to finish, but I did get a significant chunk done while in Duluth.

When you are talking about fiction books, one of the sure signs of a really good book is when each chapter deals with a different set of characters. And when you come to the end of a chapter (usually a cliffhanger of some sort), and the next chapter focuses on a different character, you think to yourself "Oh come on, I want to know what happens to character A?". Then by the time you finish the next chapter and the following chapter swaps to yet another character, you are saying "But wait, what happens to character B?"

By the end of the book, Mad Ship definitely had that page-turning quality to it. I am heartily looking forward to starting Ship of Destiny tonight.

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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Would you like some coffee with your whiskey?

I was in Target today picking up some Christmas gifts, when I found myself in the 'Holiday Gifts' aisle. This is the aisle that is home to all the fruitcakes, Santa-shaped gum drops, Reindeer flavored coffee sprinkles, jumbo gift-packs of cocoa and other items everyone gets at Christmas, but no one wants.

As I was waiting for the family of 20 ahead of me to get all the kids moving in the same direction, I noticed an 'International Gourmet Coffee Gift Pack'. Since I had nothing better to do at the time, I picked it up to look at.

To my surprise, this was no ordinary sampler pack of coffees. No, this contained nothing but alcohol flavored coffee. Yes, that's right. This pack was home to Jack Daniels coffee, Southern Comfort coffee, and a variety of other grain-alcohol flavored coffee grounds.

Say What?

I'm pretty sure the only people who wake up in the morning and are like 'Yep, you know what taste I'm really craving this morning? Jack Daniels' are rock stars.

The packages were labeled as containing no alcohol, but can you drink that stuff at work? What happens when your boss wanders into your office and says 'Man, it reeks of Southern Comfort in here'? Do you glibly reply "Yeah, that's my coffee"? How long is it going to be before the HR cronies happen by to check if you are aware of the company's self-help program?

And where do they get off billing it as 'International'? Last I checked, Jack Daniels was made in Tennessee, and Southern Comfort was made in Kentucky. I can't recall the other flavors, but I'm pretty sure they were US whiskeys.

All in all it seemed like a strange combo to make whiskey flavored coffee.

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Dioxin = Bad

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Saturday, December 11, 2004

It must be Christmas time...

...when there is some guy riding his Harley in a full Santa costume.

He was just cruising the parking lot of a local strip-mall, and one that doesn't even have a Santa the kids can visit. Apparently he was just doing it for fun.

I was impressed in one way: It was a windy, cloudy feels-like 22 degree Farenheight day today. Not exactly what most people would call motorcycle-riding weather.

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Friday, December 10, 2004


I was amused today reading the ticket Mike Tyson received after he got stupid drunk and jumped on some poor guy's car hood a few days ago.

Most amusing line from the report (After Mike Tyson jumped on the car hood while screaming and hitting it with his hands):

Alikadic got out of his vehicle and got back in after he saw who it was. He stated he did not want any problems.

Can you imagine the guy getting out of his car all pissed off that some looney is pounding on his car, and then is like 'Holy shit that is Mike Tyson...Umm nevermind man, pound on the car all you want...just don't kill me', and climbs back in the car.

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Amateur Plumbing

Close to two years ago, our dishwasher died a horrible, watery death. It happened just a couple months before our wedding, when we were in hard-core saving-money-mode.

Since we had all kinds of other expenses coming up, we decided not to get a new dishwasher right away. The plan was to wait until after the wedding when we would have a bit more reserves.

As time went on, the dishwasher purchase kept getting put off. I don't recall all the specifics, but some major purchase would come up and we would end up spending money earmarked for the dishwasher on a new coffee table, or a snowblower, or some other random item. Each time we would weigh our options and decide that it really wasn't that hard to wash dishes for two people each night by hand.

That was fine, until we found out that we are hosting upwards of 15 people at the house on Christmas Day. The thought of having to wash all those dishes by hand makes my knees weak.

So, when Sears was running a decent sale last weekend we decided to break down and finally get a new dishwasher. The sale actually turned out to be even better then we thought, but they wanted an outrageous $140 for installing the dishwasher. That seemed a bit excessive for hooking up a pipe and a waste-water hose, so I decided to install it myself.

Thus on Wednesday night there my dad and I were, spending a couple hours working on installing the dishwasher.

In theory it was supposed to be easy. Like most things I get involved in, it was somewhat more difficult then I thought it would be.

The main problem was after everything was all hooked up, the water supply pipe wouldn't stopping dripping out of the compression fitting. After some investigation, we determined that the fitting must have been damaged at some point (or perhaps was the reason the previous dishwasher decided to say 'Goodbye Cruel Word'). By that point it was getting late, so we left it for the day.

Today I spent another few hours making multiple trips to Home Depot and Menards to get all the parts I needed, and getting the new water-supply pipe installed. The multiple trips were because on the first trip I managed to pick out the wrong compression sleeve. That was smart.

Nonetheless, eventually I succeeded, and we once again have a dishwasher. Hurrah.

[ Incidentally, if you are looking for a most-likely perfectly good dishwasher, I have a spare one in my garage. ]

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Loonies are everywhere

Did you see that some crazy man charged the stage at a DamagePlan concert in Ohio and shot and killed 4 people?

Among those dead were the guitarist Darrell Abbott, former member of Pantera. It sounds like his brother, DamagePlan drummer, Vinnie Paul survived the shooting.

And then there is always Mike Tyson.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Today's Sign Of The Apocalypse

Green Day is nominated for more Grammys then there probably are chords changes on their album.

Of course I kid. American Idiot is not a bad album and I like most of their other cds too.

For the record Green Day was nominated for 7 Grammys: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Producer of the Year, Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Best Rock Song, Best Rock Album, Best Short Form Music Video.

Seriously, who comes up with these categories. What is the difference between album and record of the year? Do they really need separate categories for Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group with and without vocals? Are there really two more categories for the best solo performance with and without vocals? And when did the Grammys start giving out awards for music videos?

I'm just biding my time until they start offering Grammy awards for best solo blog entry on grammy nominations by an author named Steve living in Minnesota. I think I've got that one locked.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Haynes Books

After my debacle of a car repair a few weeks back, I resolved to learn more about cars and the repair thereof. To that end, I decided to pick up a Haynes book for my car.

Previously I had checked out the Haynes manual for one of my co-worker's cars that he brought in for me. It looked like something that would be useful, and I indentified a few items that seemed within the realm of possibility for me to start with. The first was the PCV valve replacement, which basically involved disconnecting a hose, taking out the valve and replacing it. The second was the fuel filter replacement, which was only midly more difficult, requiring you to first relieve pressure in the fuel system (by turning off the fuel pump and then running the car).

A few days ago we needed to run up the amount of an order from Amazon in order to get it above the $25 mark for free shipping. So it seemed like the perfect time to order up the Haynes manual (they are only like $15).

The book arrived late last week and I have been dutifully reading through sections of it to get a better idea of how parts fit together. However, I was highly dissapointed to discover that the 'easy' tasks I had picked out for myself are not quite so easy for my car.

For example, that PCV valve replacement that was so easy on a 1989 Mazda 626 is still the same basic idea, the problem is that the PCV valve is only accessible once you remove the upper AND lower plenums of the intake manifold. A process that involves (apparently) disconnecting numerous hoses, removing countless bolts and replacing a couple of gaskets. Granted once you get the plenums out of the way, the actual valve replacement is just taking a hose out and putting a new valve in, but it is still a bit daunting.

The fuel filter replacement is also very similar to what I was expecting, but yet somewhat more difficult. In this case, the fuel filter is under the car near the rear differential, requiring the car to be jacked up to get access to it.

Still, once I pick up a few additional tools I'm planning on attempting the repairs. We'll see how it goes.

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Blog - Just another word for personal webpage

Is anyone else tired of hearing how blogs are going to change 'everything', as well as make traditional news obselete?

With the recent release of MSN Spaces and the announcement that Blog was #1 lookup at Meriam-Webster this year, there have been a slew of copy-cat pieces on the 'Blogging revolution'.

Give me a break.

Blogs are just today's version of 1995's personal homepages. Oh, they are lot more accessible and easier to maintain (at the expense of being a bit boilerplate), but the core content is still the same:

What did Steve listen to while at work?
Have Sarah's shelves arrived from Ikea?
Just how left-over was that grilled cheese Brenden ate?
Where did Moen get those cool shoes from?
Why does Kylie wear gym-shorts?
Here are silly pictures of my dog.

Certainly my self-centered rambling is never going to contribute to replacing the newspaper/tv/ as the 'real' source of the news.

Now, lets be clear. I find most blogs interesting to read, especially the ones I picked on above. Even a random person's blog can be interesting, at least the ones that aren't Livejournal "OMG! I H8 mY parents" Blogs. Most tend to be cool in that voyeuristic 'reality TV' sort of way. Admit it; You like looking through pictures and reading about people you hardly know (or don't know at all).

And I think blogs are a pretty good way to stay vaguely in touch with what is going on with your friends/family. Some even have vaguely work-related qualities, enough that I don't feel guilty reading those at work.

I am just questioning all the talk about blogs as the next major news media. I just don't see it. But then again, I'm not the visionary.

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Word of the Day: Haute Couture

Alas, if you are looking for obscure insults, today's entry won't help you.

Today at dinner Linzy described something or other as 'Hot Ca-tour' (to my ears). I went 'huh?'. Linzy explained it was like 'trendy/popular, but more glamorous'. I may have made a few comments implying that it wasn't really a word.

Whoops, it is actually a word. defines it as:

Etymology: French, literally, high sewing
: the houses or designers that create exclusive and often trend-setting fashions for women; also
: the fashions created

For reference, the pronunciation should be "Ot-ku-'tur.

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

Dad's Cabinets - Mega Update

Wow, I haven't posted any pictures of my Dad's cabinets since 11/21, even though I've been over there quite a bit recently helping out.

While Linzy and I were relaxing over Thanksgiving, Mom and Dad were working like dogs trying to get everything finished up that needed to be done before the carpet came.

They were able to get everything completed in time, and then after the carpet was installed in the family room we were able to bring all the furniture back into the room for the first time in ages. A couple days later new carpet was also installed in the living room and dining room, so Dad and I moved all the furniture out of those rooms, and then back after the carpet was installed. No backs were injured, but dang the china hutch is heavy.

Since then Dad has been working on cleaning out space in the basement so he has somewhere to work on the remaining tasks (like painting the doors, varnishing the cabinet doors when they are done, etc), and installing the lights in the cabinets.

If you are interested, you can read on for a bunch of pictures I took during some of my trips over there.


The family-room cabinets with 2 coats of varnish.

The TV stand with two coats of varnish.

The hutch with 2 coats of varnish.

The bookshelves with 2 coats of varnish.


The cabinets fully varnished (3 coats), with the new carpet, paint and baseboard trim.

A better view of the new paint on the walls, the baseboard trim, arch trim and Mom's leg.

The new trim looks really nice.

The office bookshelves, fully varnished (3 coats) along with new carpet, trim, and wall paint (a color called Herbavore).

The TV nestled in it's custom-designed TV stand. Eventually the shelf where the DVDs are currently sitting will be the home for the center, left and right speakers, and covered over by speaker cloth on a wood frame.

There wasn't much room to spare when we crammed the larger pieces of living and dining room furniture into the kitchen so the new carpet could be installed on that level.


The mantle with the halogen puck lights working. The lights make the bricks look really cool.

The family room is finally starting to look a bit more normal.

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Saturday, December 04, 2004

Doggy Thoughts

When I was a puppy, I could sleep on mommy's size 6 slippers.

But then they started putting me in the crate to sleep. I hate the crate.

I prefer sleeping in the sun, even if it means having to wedge myself onto a step.

I'm only 8.5 pounds, but they have to buy me bones for a 50 pound dog, because otherwise I finish them in a day or two. This one is so big I can barely carry it around, but I love it!

In addition to chew bones, I need lots of toys to play with.

Otherwise your plants might feel my wrath.

In fact, maybe you should just do what I want, or your precious fingers might have to be taught a lesson.

[ Today's post was brought to you by the boss of this house (in her mind at least), Pippen. ]

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Friday, December 03, 2004

Who's using steroids?

I'm sure everyone was shocked to see that Jason Giambi testified to using steroids. Ok, so maybe you weren't. I remember seeing an article from before this season where the reporter was commenting on how much thinner/smaller Jason looked before this season (coincidentally the first season that steroid testing was enforced). Jason's response was that he had lost 5-10 pounds. The reporter's response was 'From which bicep?'

Anyways, that came to mind again when I was looking at some pictures of Bonds from early in his career. Compare the picture in this article to the pictures in this collection.

No steroid use there. Nope.

Oh wait, he just didn't know that they were steroids he was taking. Yeah, that's it.

Somehow I'm guessing he might have had some inlinking when he started getting muscles on his muscles.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

This is harder then it looks

Back in the dark ages when I was in high school a bunch of my friends decided to try out for the Quiz Bowl team.

Quiz Bowl is basically like any trivia game show you have seen. There are two teams of 5 (I think) players and anybody from each team can buzz in at any time. If the player gets it right then the team gets a point, if they get it wrong no one else from the team can buzz in on that question. No discussing between team members is allowed, except on some special 'team' questions. The team with the most points at the end of some time limit won the match.

Anyways, since all my friends were trying out, and since I happen to be pretty good at trivia-type games I tried out too. The tryout was just a written trivia test. I don't recall how many people tried out, but I did pretty well on the written test and ended up handily making the team.

I spent the rest of the season learning exactly how big a difference there is between knowing a lot of trivia, and being good at Quiz Bowl.

Even though I knew tons of answers, I was never good at thinking them up in time to buzz in. And for whatever reason I never got the hang of buzzing in before I knew the answer and then using that extra time to come up with the answer. I also tended to way over-analyze the questions.

The perfect example of this came during a bus ride home from one of our matches. A friend who played in a different set of players (I believe we had 2 teams of 5 players) relayed a question that he was sure I would get since it was vaguely computer related:

What is a FIFO?

I went something like:

Oh, that is a chip they use for buffering in a computer. Like on a serial port, so you don't flood the modem with more data then it can send at a time. It makes it easier for all the programs talking to the modem because they have to worry less about what speed the modem is and..<blah blah more stuff about flow control>. And you really want a 16550 UART, versus a 8250 or 16450 UART because it can buffer up to 16 bytes. The others can only buffer 1 byte at a time. And that isn't anywhere near enough to keep a fast 9600 modem sending at maximum speed. [whoops, that dated this conversation, didn't it?]

At that point I think I stopped to take a breath and he went:

Umm, sure. But the answer was FIFO is First-In, First-Out.


Oh....uh...yeah...I guess that makes more sense as an answer.

And that is exactly why you'll never see me winning 2.5 million dollars on Jeopardy.

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Only 3 More Weeks

You know it's Christmas season when John Denver and the Muppets are playing on the stereo and the $15 Menard's tree makes its appearance.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Video Games: Grand Theft Auto 3

Well, I was going to upload some pictures tonight and write about something else, but Hello+Blogger appears to be broken. So you'll get video game ramblings instead.

In addition to getting a bunch of reading in, the other thing I did over Thanksgiving break was finish Grand Theft Auto III.

... ...

I started the game a while back, when Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas came out, in a way to prevent myself from having to run out and buy an over-priced band new game.

GTA: III was as fun as I remembered it being. There is just something about racing around the city smashing into things that amuses me. It does get a bit repetitious as I recalled, as well. There are only so many ways you can setup a mission to 'drive here, pick this up, drive over there and deliver it, then drive over here and...OMG, get ambushed'. I was always shocked, when I would drive into some tiny alley and suddenly 6 guys with uzis would jump out from behind a dumpster. Yep, completely shocked.

Also the difficulty level is all over the map. One mission will be ridiculously difficult, requiring endless retries and different strategy attempts, and then the next will take 3 minutes and a single try.

But still GTA:II is a lot of fun, and was well worth playing again. It certainly scratched my GTA itch.

Now I moved onto Dark Cloud (which I picked up for a bargain $8). So far I have really been enjoying the game. It reminds me a lot of ActRaiser for the SNES in that it alternates action with town building. In this case, Dark Cloud features very Zelda-like action with a very basic town building system. I've heard it gets stupidly repetitive by the end (the last dungeon has 100 levels or some similarly silly number), but so far it has been fun. We'll see if I stick with it to the end.

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I Wanna Rock!

Finally, the perfect accessory to that Air Guitar you haven't had out since Twisted Sister's Stay Hungry tour.
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