Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Eve: Pictures

Christmas was an enjoyable holiday again this year. Linzy and I spent Christmas Eve with my parents, Sister, and Brother-in-law, and had a very good time. We played a bit of Wii Sports, opened presents, ate a fabulous dinner, and went to Christmas Eve church service.

Everyone seemed to like their presents, so that was good. Sarah & John, and Linzy & I both got fancy Garmin Nuvi 360 portable GPS/navigation systems from my parents, which are pretty cool. Linzy managed to find me five Elric novels on Half.com, which should be cool as now I can finish reading that series (why they haven't been re-released in a single anthology like the Amber novels, I don't understand).

Read on for some pictures, or check out the whole album.

Linzy excited over her new Vikings ornament.


Pretending to shake a gift, while Pippen says "It's a candy bar dummy...I can smell it from here".


When Linzy and I arrived, Sarah and John were out sledding in the front yard.


Hungry?


Making Miis for everyone.


Dad and John boxing on the Wii


Dad and Mom opening one of their gifts from Linzy and I (symphony tickets I think).


Linzy and Mom getting ready for dinner.


Sarah and John


A snow angel John made in the backyard.


The family.



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Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

Linzy and I will be spending Christmas Eve with my parents, Sarah and John, as we usually do. Then, we'll be spending Christmas Day and a few days afterwards with Linzy's parents and family. I'm really looking forward to it, it should be great.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ingredients

The other night when I wasn't fighting for my dinner, I noticed something interesting at the Davanni's fountain pop machine. Below each of the types of soda there was a small sticker listing the ingredients of the drink.

One in particular caught my eye. Below the Fanta Orange label, the ingredients were listed as:

Calories, Carbohydrates, Sodium

That's it. While certainly true, and perhaps a more accurate way to list them then usual, I thought it was amusing.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Worst Update Ever?

I was relatively excited a couple weeks ago when the new XBox 360 dashboard update came out. Honestly, most of the time the updates are pretty pedestrian, but this one was supposed to add support for AVIs and the mpeg4 codec.

That means the 360 would finally be able to play DivX and XVid files. Meaning that I could finally retire the XBox completely and thus clean up the family room a bit. Unfortunately the update is quite possibly the worst update ever.

First off, as far as I can tell the new mpeg4 support doesn't work at all. In addition to all kinds of problems getting Windows Media Player to catalog the files and make them available to the 360, I can't get any of them to actually play. They all give some error about the connection with PC being dropped, and exit. At that point I can't do anything else with the videos (not even browse to another directory) without restarting the PC. Yes, the computer upstairs. It's awesome.

Anyways, it wouldn't be so bad if the mpeg4 support just didn't work. But they also changed the way the dashboard works when it initially starts. Instead of immediately showing you the blade interface, it spends all kinds of time thinking before it displays any interface.

I assume it is downloading something, but instead of transparently doing it in the background like it used to, they force you to wait. That sucks. Instead of firing up the console and being able to jump right into Guitar Hero frustration, I have to sit and wait while Microsoft makes another penny or two from showing me ads.

I suppose things could be worse, the update could remove my boot.ini file. But still, it seems like a major step backward to make the interface less responsive and ship new functionality that doesn't work.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Recent Media - 12/21

Explanation - Previous List

TV: Lost: Season 3 - Its been quite a while since I watched season 2, but the first two episodes made me recall how much (in general) I enjoyed it. I've heard discouraging things about the third season from others, but I can hope they were exaggerating.

Books: The Elder Gods - Ugh. Here Mistborn is sitting right next to my nightstand, patiently waiting for me to get around to reading it, and the first couple chapters piqued my interest. Instead I have to read 100 pages of David Eddings retelling the previous book from another character's point-of-view without adding any new insights. Apparently his editor was asleep at the wheel, to let that slide by. It didn't add any depth to the story. Very disappointing.

Movies: The Fountain - A very strange movie. In theory it is about a character searching for the tree of life across the centuries. And it was....sort of, but at the same time it wasn't. The story telling was a bit weird, as to how the three stories were interwoven. I did like the organic fluid special effects. We probably should have watched Ocean's 13 (the runner-up in our choice of what to watch), as it was virtually guaranteed to be more upbeat.

Video Games (Portable): Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past & Metroid: Zero Mission- I finished A Link to the Past earlier this week, and thoroughly enjoyed it. My reflexes must not be aging gracefully, as I had a lot more trouble with the final temple then I recalled having when I was younger.

I also finished Metroid Zero Mission, though that was from my last saved game 4 hours into the game. In the end it took me a little over 5 hours total, so only a couple bus rides to finish the game. The game has basically a fake ending at 4 hours, followed by a tacked on section where they take away all your equipment (doesn't that happen in every Metroid?). All in all I wasn't that impressed, the game was too short and didn't really add anything that wasn't already in Super Metroid.

Now in the spirit of finishing another game I never previously beat, I'm thinking of playing Trauma Center again. That will be interesting, since I recall being very frustrated with the 'save five people in 10 minutes' mission I was stuck on.

Video Games (Home): Rock Band & Guitar Hero 3 - Okay, I only played Rock Band one night, but I only played GH3 twice so they get equal billing. Rock Band is a lot of fun and so, much to Linzy's hatred of more toy instruments littering the house, I will definitely be getting a copy at some point. Though perhaps not until the instruments are sold separately, so I can avoid the wired guitar.

On GH3 I still haven't beaten Raining Blood. I've gotten to 83% twice, but both times failed immediately on the "Flood!" section at the end. I've also developed some sort of a mental block where I screw up getting the star power early in the song, forcing me to quit before even getting to the hard parts. That doesn't help matters at all. On the plus side, I've got five stars on virtually every song on hard and at least half the songs on expert.

Music: Not much - Meetings, meetings, and more meetings at work this week.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mine! Mine!

The other night Linzy and I were out to dinner at Davanni's for some pizza and salads. For those not familiar, at Davanni's, even though it is a sit-down restaurant there isn't really a wait staff. Instead you place your order at the front counter when you come in, and then they call your name to come pick up your food when it is done.

In our case, this meant I got called twice, once for the salads and once for the pizza. Normally you just walk up, grab your food and take it back to your table. Today I inexplicably had to fight off not one but two psychos when going to pick up my food.

That is, both times I went up to get my food there was someone else already there trying to take my food for themselves. And neither backed off when I claimed the food as my order. It was mind-boggling.

I mean, they call your first name and last initial when the order comes up, that should pretty much eliminate problems right there. But just in case you had some question, you can inspect the food to see if it is yours and ask which name was called.

The first time there was some lady there arguing about the salads having the wrong dressing on them. Which was, of course, because they were mine not hers. Luckily that delay gave me time to get up to the counter and say "What are you doing?" To which she replied "These are mine". "Oh really? Is your name Steve E? I think I'll be taking them". "But I was here first". "Uhh? I doubt it, but that's not how it works, regardless." (She was, incidentally still wearing her jacket having just come into the restaurant).

Then, virtually the same thing happened when I went up for the pizza! There was some old guy up there pawing my pizza. Again, I had to argue my right to the order. "What are you doing? Why are you touching my pizza?" "This is my pizza!" "Uhh, I don't think it is. I'm Steve E, that is my pizza". At that point the guy running the counter asked the idiot what sort of pizza he ordered, "A large pepperoni". To which I said "Well, this a medium sausage-mushroom-onion" and took my pizza.

I've never had that happen before, let alone twice in the same night. It would be one thing to go up to the counter and ask what name was called, but to argue about it after the counter person repeats the name and someone else is there claiming it? Good lord.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Powdered Milk

On Saturday, in addition to our normal selection of groceries, Linzy and I also picked up a bunch of food items for the local food shelf.

This year we halved the budget for each other's stockings and used the extra money for a donation. After some thought, we decided to pick something that would have a direct impact close to home, and decided the food shelf would be good.

Cub actually sells pre-packaged bags that you can buy to donate, but that bothers me for a number of reasons, including questioning the ethics of promoting those bags if they are making a profit on them. But mostly the bags suck. Right now, they are still offering ones filled with more-or-less Thanksgiving items, but how many cans of pumpkin filling (and no crusts) can the food shelf really need now that Thanksgiving is more then 300 days away.

So instead we picked out items that were listed on the food shelf website as being needed. We were able to get a surprising amount of stuff for the budget we had. It was amazing how far the money went when you don't get anything perishable. Our selections included a variety of items, some that were pretty normal, some that I wouldn't be a big fan of, and then powdered milk. Ish.

Milk should not come in a box. Even a bag is questionable, but a box is definitely not right. Now, I like skim milk, but I have a feeling that doesn't even come close to how watery powered milk would be. Powdered milk is also ridiculously expensive. I suppose a gallon of milk just keeps getting more and more expensive, but I wasn't prepared to pay $8 for the small box of powdered milk.

Things would have to be pretty dire for me to resort to powdered milk. But, at least some local people in need will have the opportunity to get some if they so choose.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Game Night

On Saturday night, we had a number of friends come over for a short-notice game night. Gerard, Wes, Mike, Dan, Nikki, Phillipa, Felicia, and Angel all came over to spend a while hanging out and playing games.

We started the night just catching up, and eating some spinach cheese dip Linzy made, and then played a number of games of Catch Phrase. That game always seems to go over well, and everyone appeared to have fun playing it. The worst thing with Catch Phrase is usually how to rule on the hand-offs between players/teams as time is expiring. As usual, there were a few minor arguments over those exchanges, but for the most part the game went smoothly.

After Catch Phrase, a bunch of us went downstairs to play Rock Band, which Gerard had brought over. Rock Band was just as much fun as I was expecting. I tried the drums for a bit, and had a lot of fun playing them (though it took one song to get the hang of the tricky foot pedal). After three songs, I gave up the spot to Linzy and never got it back.

Overall, the consensus on the drums was that they were fun, but very difficult. Even on 'Easy' difficulty, you have to deal with the pedal and all four tom-toms. On the guitar, they ease you in by only making you deal with three buttons, but on the drums they throw you right in the deep end.

We had a great time playing Rock Band, which unfortunately meant that we didn't get back to playing board games. Still it was a fun night, and good to see friends.


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Monday, December 17, 2007

Downforce

I was driving home from my parent's house the other day, and this bus was in front of me. Why does it have a spoiler on the rear?

Does the back end get a little squirrelly during high speed cornering? Are they worried about the bump-pass? Is it to make it look fast, kind of like putting Honda stickers on it?


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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pippen the Non-Explorer

One morning earlier this week, Linzy woke up feeling rather cold. I had already left for work, and the dog was not hanging out in the bedroom which seemed odd. So Linzy got up to investigate and found that the house was cold because the front door had blown open at some point.

Since it was like 10 degrees outside, cold air was just streaming into the house faster then the heat could keep up. Linzy also discovered Pippen sitting in front of the wide-open door shivering like mad.

We are not sure if that was shivering with excitement at the possibilities of getting outside unsupervised, or with the chills that would come if you sat in front of an open door on a 10 degree day for as long as it takes the cold temperatures to reach the back bedroom upstairs.

While Pippen doesn't have much sense, apparently she had enough to realize that going exploring when there is a foot of snow on the ground and it is cold outside isn't quite as fun as doing it during the summer.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Fixed

The other day at work, the sink in our copy/beverage area was leaking. Even with the hot handle turned completely off a little stream of water continued to pour out of the faucet. There was sign on the wall above it saying that someone had called it in to be fixed. A day or so later someone showed up to fix it, and I didn't think about it again.

Then, the next day I went to clean out my coffee cup, only to find that there was no hot water anymore. Apparently they 'fixed' it by just turning off the hot water.

Now that's quality work.


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Friday, December 14, 2007

Recent Media - 12/14

Explanation - Previous List

TV: Sopranos Season 6 Part 2 - I finished the series last night with a double-shot of the last two episodes. Up to that point, I had actually been somewhat bored with the last few episodes. Entirely too much moping around for my tastes.

Then the second-to-last episode caught my attention and I had to see the finale despite the fact that I was done exercising. The finale wasn't anywhere near as horrible as I was expecting based on all of the hubbub about it back when it aired. It was not what I was expecting, or perhaps hoping for, but it was OK. In all I really liked the series, although I think in general it was much better in the beginning then it was towards the end.

Books: The Elder Gods - I finished this book over the weekend. It was OK, but there just wasn't much depth there. I'm hoping things pick up in the next book now that some of the background has been covered. Otherwise, since I don't own the third book and have Mistborn coming from the library, it is entirely possible I will drop this series.

Movies: Golden Compass and Into the Blue - First, not even Jessica Alba in a bikini for 50% of the movie could save Into the Blue. Bad, and watched only because it was on Showtime and 'free'. Golden Compass on the other hand was fairly decent.

The special effects were pretty cool, and I liked the general plot of the movie. Thing did drag a bit at times, and it might have been a bit stronger at 90 minutes instead of 118. Linzy really liked it, so that was good. Unfortunately it didn't do well at the box office, so chances of the second and third movies getting made seem low.

Video Games (Portable): Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - I'm nearly done with the game, and have been enjoying it other then some frustration with the infamous ice palace's level of difficulty. At this point I've finished all 10 dungeons and am on Ganon's tower. It won't be long now, which should raise some interesting complications next week as to what I will play on the bus. I guess I'll have to recycle some other old favorite.

Video Games (Home): Guitar Hero 3 - My only accomplishment this past week was completing 'One' on expert. That leaves only Raining Blood (and of course the final Boss battle), and I'm starting to lose faith that my 30-year old hands will ever be able to finish it. Frustration has definitely set in, so on the couple occasions where I was actually able to play lately, I stuck to replaying songs trying to improve my rankings. Unfortunately the low-hanging fruit there is all gone, leaving only songs where getting 5 stars is difficult to impossible.

Music: Not much - Lots of meetings this week. For the most part I've been alternating between the new Dashboard Confessional and Mastodon.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Not Living Right

This past Sunday, our fantasy football regular season came to a close. The terrible luck that I mentioned a few weeks ago continued and my team ended up out of the playoffs. Part of that has to do with there only being 4 out of 12 teams in the playoffs, the other part has to do with monumentally bad luck this year.

I finished the regular season 7-7 but with the highest total points in the league. I finished with 1162.78 points over 14 games, 41 points more then the next closest team and almost 250 points more then the first place team. That means I averaged about 83 points per game, where as the 10-4 first place team averaged only 65. Clearly I am not living right.

Strangely, even if I had played the first place team's schedule instead of my own, I still wouldn't have finished as well as Whitney did: I would have been 9-5 (and in first or second place). With my schedule, she would have been 4-10.

I'm frustrated for two reasons. One is, of course, that I hate to lose. The other, less obvious reason, is that for the first time in years I actually liked my team. I had a good quarterback, a veritable fleet of good running backs, a good defense and decent kickers. I can't remember the last time I had more then one solid running back, and this year I had four.

What was lacking obviously, was a superstar receiver. I had decent enough receivers, but they didn't put up crazy multiple touchdown games, settling instead of 90 yard-no touchdown games which through the fine-print of our scoring system were only good for 4.5 points (where as 100 yards-no touchdowns was worth 10).

Oh well, I suppose it is just the cycle of things, since I won the title in last year's league. There will always be next year.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Miscellaneous Photos

Who says it is too cold in our basement?

In our basement's (somewhat tenuous) defense, we had just come back from driving around on a bunch of trips too short for the car to ever warm up. And I put on the hat for the picture. Linzy, on the other hand, didn't.

The otter family at the Minnesota Zoo, with their two new four-month-old pups playing in the family nest. And by playing, I mean rubbing themselves through the straw.


84 of the 86 Christmas cards ready for mailing. We split the work, but Linzy does all of the hard work. She addressed all of the envelopes (no one would be able to read them if I did), signed all of the cards (ditto), and assembled some of the cards. All I had to do was write the first draft of the letter, watch the printer, fold the letters and stuff envelopes. Easy, relatively speaking.


Could there be a more comfy spot to catch a quick nap? Apparently not if you are a monkey.



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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Two-Year Old Gifts

On Sunday, Linzy and I went over to our friends Paul and Laura's for their son Evan's second birthday party. The party was fun, it was nice to see everyone.

Evan got all kinds of gifts for his birthday, however one was clearly his favorite: the wrapping paper. He loved tearing it, throwing it in the air, sliding through it, waving it around, and anything else you could think of. It amused him for probably at least 45 minutes, and even then only because we had to make him stop.

The paper even beat out Evan's normal favorite: bows. He ran around initially with a bow yelling "Bow!" to anyone who would listen, but once he figured out how great the paper was, the bow never got any more attention.

So, as my public service for the week: if you are attending a two-year-old's birthday party, don't bother with any Elmo, Bob the Builder, or LeapFrog gifts. Just bring a big bag filled with half-torn-up wrapping paper. For extra points, slap a bow on it.


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Monday, December 10, 2007

Author Chosen to Complete Memory of Light

Brenden, always on top of the Robert Jordan news, e-mailed me today to point me to this announcement saying that they chose an author to complete Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

Tor Books announced today that novelist Brandon Sanderson has been chosen to finish the final novel in Robert Jordan’s bestselling Wheel of Time fantasy series. Robert Jordan, one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th and early 21st centuries, died September 16th after a courageous battle with the rare blood disease amyloidosis.

The new novel, A MEMORY OF LIGHT, will be the twelfth and final book in the beloved fantasy series which has sold over 14 million copies in North America and over 30 million copies worldwide. The last four books in the series were all #1 New York Times bestsellers, and for over a decade fans have been eagerly awaiting the final novel that would bring the epic story to its conclusion.
[snip]


I've never heard of the author they chose. Apparently he was hand-picked by Robert Jordan's widow, based on the strength of his Mistborn series. Never heard of it? Join the club.

Turns out to actually only be two books at this point, the third is still in progress (and I imagine delayed since the author will be otherwise occupied). Those two books, and two other books appear to be the sum total of Brandon's body of work.

I have to admit that is a little concerning. But on the other hand, I'd be happy for any sort of wrap-up at this point. And with some notes and recorded conversations with Robert Jordan before he passed away, who knows....

I assume that even if Brandon Sanderson is not getting a dime for writing a Memory of Light, this will still be a huge financial windfall for him as millions of rabid Robert Jordan fans run out to check out the Mistborn series. The first book in the series has already gone from #4830 on Amazon at 4:30pm today, to #2,824 at 9:30pm.

Linzy already reserved it for me at the library, because she's an awesome wife like that.


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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Forty Nights

I made it back safe & sound on Friday from my trip to Boston. This trip not only marked my last trip for this calendar year, but also a turning point in what I have been working on in the Cambridge office: we finally have a fully staffed team there.

With this trip, I also just barely made the lowest level of frequent flyer with the airline. I'll finish the year with just under 26,000 miles for work (and ~500 miles from the crazy Milwaukee limo ride/flight this spring). The good thing is that I will keep that status all of next year, so that I will be able to pick better seats for those flights. Since most of my trips have been booked last minute, I inevitably end up in the last or second-to-last row in order to get an aisle seat.

In all, I spent 40 nights at the hotel in Cambridge this year. Unfortunately that is a mere five nights shy of 'inner circle' status, which would get me (among other things) free upgrades to a suite whenever possible. Alas, I wasn't willing to pack two more trips in, just for room upgrades. The regular rooms are plenty nice enough for me.

Looking back, my stays actually ended up more spaced out then I was expecting when we started the every-other-week rotation for Cambridge trips:

DatesNights
2/15 - 2/216
5/29 - 5/312
6/4 - 6/73
6/18 - 6/213
7/11 - 7/187
8/6 - 8/93
8/20 - 8/233
9/20 - 9/266
10/22-10/253
12/3 - 12/74


In theory the every-other-week rotation started with the 6/4 trip (the 5/29 was an emergency trip to communicate the plan), but with the way weekend outages were scheduled and holidays fell I ended up making fewer, longer trips to cover multiple weeks, and after August I reduced the trips to once a month or so.

Counting my Miami trip, I ended up away from home 44 nights this year. Depending on how you calculate things, that is somewhere between 16 and 20% travel. That added up to quite a bit, considering the bulk of my travel didn't start until the second half of the year.

It will be interesting to see what the next year will bring, and whether the number of travel nights next December will be higher or lower.


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The Best

The other night I had a particular restaurant in Boston in mind to eat dinner at, and so needed a taxi to get there. As I was walking out to the hotel's courtyard, a taxi happened to just be pulling up. I joked with the doorman about my psychic taxi-calling ability, and as he was opening the door the doorman said "Oh you're in luck, it's our best taxi driver - Wally."

Wally then proceeded to spent 15 minutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic only to find out that the road he wanted to turn on was closed. Then spent 10 minutes backtracking, only to end up in bumper-to-bumper traffic in another area. Then told me he would knock $3 off the price of the ride due to the screw up...and didn't. Then spent the second bumper-to-bumper wait complaining about how he was really coming into the hotel only to use the bathroom, and how he was going to have to spend 'forever' getting back to Cambridge as he wasn't allowed to pick people up in Boston without risking a $500 fine.

Apparently the bar for 'best taxi driver' is low. Very low.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

No More Comp USA

I saw yesterday that Comp USA is finally admitting defeat, closing all stores and liquidating everything.

This shouldn't surprise anyone. They were in an untenable position of trying to compete with Best Buy and Circuit City for computers and higher end consumer electronics, Target, Wal-Mart and everyone else for low-end consumer electronics, and NewEgg and the rest of the internet-only places for random computer parts.

Comp USA wasn't going to win any of those comparisons. They can't compete on price with anyone in that list because the others are either bigger, more efficient, or both.

I guess those electronic keyboards didn't work out for them...

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Recent Media - 12/7

Explanation - Previous List

TV: Sopranos Season 6 Part 2 - I've watched half of the episodes of Sopranos so far, and they have been interesting. Not the series' best work, but entertaining enough. It is only a matter of time before characters start dropping like flies. Oh, and I still fear the (supposedly) horrible ending.

Books: The Jansen Directive - I was nearly done with this book, before I had to leave to go out of town this week. In that typical spy-novel way, things were finally coming together (though two of the twists were totally predictable). I was anxious to see what happened. But instead I am reading The Elder Gods. Which has been OK, but makes me feel bad for David Eddings, who is shamelessly trotting out characters with similar traits and behaviors to characters in his more famous series. Sure those series were good but....

Movies: None - Linzy wanted to go see the Golden Compass, except it didn't open until today. The question is whether we will see that, hold out till next week for I Am Legend, which she also wants to see, or see them both. I think seeing at least one is a foregone conclusion at this point.

Video Games (Portable): Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past - After finishing the Phantom Hourglass, I was basically out of games to play. Buying new games this time of year gets me in trouble, so that put me in a slightly difficult spot. I decided to replay A Link to the Past for probably the fourth time. There was a saved game already done with the first four dungeons, so I picked up there and am working my way through the next couple. It has been fun.

Video Games (Home): Guitar Hero 3 - Just after I posted last week, I finished Number of the Beast on expert. Unfortunately that leaves only Raining Blood and One on Tier 8, both of which are very difficult. Raining Blood is basically impossible, and One is frustrating because I can play the solos (more-or-less) in practice mode, but haven't been able to put together a good performance when it counts. The frustration level is reaching Rock Band-purchasing-level. Hopefully the fact that I basically didn't play at all this week will help.

Music: None - I've been out of town all week, and that coupled with non-stop meetings has resulted in no music listening.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Side-Effects

I was watching TV the other night and there was a typical name-brand drug commercial on. I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention, but then they started naming off the side-effects:

The most common side effects include nausea (30%), trouble sleeping, changes in dreaming, constipation, gas, and/or vomiting.

Yikes. Not that nausea, vomiting, constipation and gas are a walk in the park, but what in the world do they mean by changes in dreaming? There aren't many ways that I can think of that going well.

It probably also explains the 'trouble sleeping' side-effect, since it sounds like a euphemism for horrible nightmares to me.


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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chance Encounter

On Monday morning after I arrived in Boston, I was checking into the hotel. While I was standing at the counter, waiting for my key, I happened to notice the person next to me. It was none other then my co-worker from Minneapolis.

Now, that wouldn't be worthy of mention, except that I was supposed to be the only person in town this week. I just assumed plans had changed. But after talking about it, it turned out that he and his wife just happened to be in Boston for the weekend on vacation and were checking out.

Even more strangely, he wasn't at the normal hotel because he had earned a free night through staying there, but just because it happened to be a good rate on Travelocity. How random was that?

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Long Time Coming

On Saturday while Dan, Brenden and I were playing Game of Thrones, Linzy ordered us some pizza for lunch. It was snowing a little outside, but didn't look all that bad. Still, we planned ahead and ordered before anyone was starving (a clear sign Linzy was in charge). Then we waited and waited, and waited some more.

I assumed it would take a while because of the weather, and so scoffed at the 30-40 minute estimate that was given. However, I wasn't expecting it to take the nearly two hours it did. After all, the Papa John's is like 2 miles away. And while it was snowing, the roads didn't seem all that bad. Certainly not 1 mile-per-hour-bad.

It all reminded me of a time long ago when Brenden and I lived in an apartment over in Eagan. There was a big snowstorm one day, and so I decided to work from home. Brenden decided not to go to the University. That morning I found out that Moen had braved the snow to go into work, which happened to be around the corner from where we lived. Somehow I talked Brian into coming over for a while over lunch to play some multi-player Tetris with us.

Around the same time, we discovered there was absolutely nothing in the apartment for lunch, so we were going to order a pizza. That pizza place was more realistic in their delivery estimates and said it would take 3 hours (or some similarly ridiculously long time). Which of course would put the pizza's arrival long after Moen had to leave and into the time when we would have descended into Donner-party behavior.

The 'solution' was to have Brian go pick up the pizza on the way to the apartment. He had a four-wheel drive SUV at the time after all. I don't recall exactly how we arrived at the solution. Hopefully Moen volunteered, or at least didn't protest too much.

Regardless of how much coercion was involved, we did get our pizza in prompt fashion that day, and so could enjoy 30 minutes of the multi-player glory that was The New Tetris.


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Monday, December 03, 2007

Game of Thrones Board Game

On Saturday Brenden and Dan came over to play the Game Of Thrones board game that I got for my birthday. There were supposed to be five of us playing (the max for the game), but Gerard and Wes canceled at the last minute, and so we were left with the minimum players for the game.

The game was new for all of us, and turned out to be a lot of fun. Dan won, completing his sweep of the 2007 boardgame season, with previous wins at Risk and Twilight Imperium. Clearly we won't be inviting him next time. :)

I really liked the Game Of Thrones board game, and would definitely like to try it with all five players. With three players there was quite a bit of unclaimed space on the map which made the first turn or two a land grab. With two other players rather then neutral armies who didn't move that would have been much more difficult. It would had also made bidding for power more complicated.



Still it was a lot of fun. The game mechanic of picking out all of your moves at once in secret makes planning tricky at best, as you have to try and balance all of the possible threats against what you are trying to accomplish. Since that is the hallmark of any good strategy game, I was not disappointed.

The rules weren't too complicated, we had the board all set up and everything was ready to go in under an hour. The actual game took about three hours. Significantly less then the marathon game of Twilight Imperium we played back in March.



I started as the Lannisters, who ended up sandwiched between Brenden and Dan in the middle of the board. Brenden was House Stark, and so had a very strong starting position with basically the entire north half of the map to himself. Dan was stuck on an island, which could have been awkward, but he built a strong navy and was able to secure a strong position in the south.

There were lots of good territories to occupy near my starting position but Brenden and I butted heads on turn two and spent the rest of the game beating each other up and trading ownership of one area. Meanwhile Dan quietly took over the whole south, made a surgical strike into the North for a key territory and won an instant win victory by owning eight strongholds at once.



It was a lot of fun to see my friends, and get to play a new and interesting game at the same time. Every time we play we say that we should try to do it again soon. Hopefully the next session will be sooner then the nine months that elapsed between the last two gaming sessions. Perhaps 2008 will be my year to dominate the strategy games. I can always hope.


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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cosetta's

On Thursday a group of my co-workers and I went to Cosetta's in St. Paul for lunch. It was originally intended to be our quarterly outing, accompanied with a trip to the Science Museum to see the Ring of Fire movie at the Omnitheater. Unfortunately, things at work went south so we were only able to do the lunch part of the outing, not the Science Museum.

Anyways, I had never been to Cosetta's before, and since everyone talks it up I was looking forward to it. The restaurant was not quite what I was expecting. It is a combination Italian market and restaurant. The restaurant portion was more of a cafeteria-style line that you moved through and selected what you wanted. When people were raving about the food, I associated that with a sit-down style place.

The food was pretty good, particularly for a place where everything is prepared ahead of time (or at least prior to your order). However I wasn't all that impressed, as far as comparing the place to more traditional restaurants. That comparison might not be particularly fair, but since my expectations were top-level food thats what I was expecting it to be on par with.

Cosetta's was absolutely packed. The line for ordering went basically all the way to the door, and we spent at least 15 minutes waiting to pick up our meals. Seating was plentiful upstairs, the parking outside was not. I was lucky and found some parking across a side street, as the parking lot was overflowing.

In a strange coincidence, while waiting in line I ran into my former boss's boss and another former co-worker. They both work nearby, but considering I work in downtown Minneapolis and they work in St. Paul it was a pretty random meeting.

Overall I thought Cosetta's had tasty food. It just wasn't quite what I was expecting, when I went in imagining a high-end Italian restaurant. The food was certainly good, but anything served cafeteria-style can't really compare with a quality sit-down place. Considering we didn't end up going to the Science Museum afterwards, it turned out to be quite the trek for a quick piece of lasagna.


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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Original

Notice anything strange?



New York brand Texas Toast croutons..The Original?

Somehow I doubt it.

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