Thursday, January 31, 2008

Double-Decker Challenge

On Wednesday when we were at Gameworks for the team outing, things were setup so we could order lunch of the regular menu. One of the items on the menu that turned out to be pretty popular was a hamburger called "The Double-Decker Challenge".

The Double-Decker Challenge featured two one-half pound patties, three bun halves (one in the middle), and double the cheese. If you ordered it and were able to finish it, Gameworks would give you a $10 game card.

That was all it took to convince the entire SysAdmin group to order it. When one of the guys in another group discovered it, he also jumped at the chance to order it. The best part about him ordering it was the fact that after relaying his desire for the Double-Decker Challenge to the waiter, he followed it up with "That comes with fries, right?".

As if a full pound of grilled hamburger wouldn't have been enough. Luckily the burger did indeed come with fries, and all four guys who ordered the challenge finished it all. Even the gristle.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rubbing is Racing

We had one of our team outings (see here, here, here, here and here) at work today, over at Gameworks in Block E. We did some bowling, had lunch and then spent a while playing the video games there. It was a lot of fun.

The bowling lane I was on had 6 people, so we were only able to finish one game. I had a pretty bad game, though still good enough to have high score for my lane. The excuse I and another manager were claiming was that Wii bowling had sabotaged our games. Bowling with a 15 pound ball instead of a 5oz one makes a difference. At least that was what I was saying.

After lunch, my Boss talked two pairs of people from the group into having a Dance-Off on Dance Dance Revolution. The people involved had never played DDR before, but were good sports and so it was pretty amusing.

After that, we spent an hour or two spending the game cards that were provided. Normally I can't stand Gameworks because the games are mostly shooting and racing ones, all of which are stupidly overpriced. But when the money is not mine I was able to find all kinds of games to try.

I played a few shooter games and did OK, but mostly stuck to racing games. The highlight was probably some careful drafting/bumping around my co-worker just feet before the finish line, to win by .02 seconds. He was annoyed. A group of us also tried the $4-a-person 6-person Indy racing game, with little Indy cars to sit in that reacted to what was going on in the game. That was a lot of fun, although I lost the lead on the final corner of the race, when the cars I was nearly lapping had a crash right in front of me and I went into the grass trying to avoid it.

The most popular game turned out to be a 4-person (two teams of two) air hockey table that auto served the pucks to the players and would get multiple pucks in play at the same time. When you get four people flailing at three pucks sliding around the air hockey table, things get pretty crazy.

All-in-all it was a pretty fun team outing.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Where is the Bus?


Boy did I pick the wrong day to:

1) Wear my lighter winter jacket, instead of my double-layer Columbia jacket.
2) Spend an extra 5 minutes joking with a co-worker instead of hustling out to catch the 5:20 bus.

Thus I ended up underdressed, standing around outside in the freezing cold for 15 minutes while I waited for the 5:40 bus.

I was, however, better off then the really cold people who were sans hats and gloves. The guy behind me kept going "When is the bus coming...I thought it would be here by now....I swear there's a 5:30 bus...where is the bus?".


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Monday, January 28, 2008

Alarms

Tonight I was at a loss for something to post, and stumbled across this post about a voicemail left by a new employee for his boss, after setting off the alarm system. I was particularly amused at the sirens going off in the background, while the employee calmly explains the problem. I can only imagine the embarrassment involved in that call.

I've never had to make a call quite like that.

Although on my first day at one job I started where I knew a bunch of people before taking the job, I went out to lunch with my friends and new co-workers. We came out of the restaurant after eating to discover that the truck we were riding in had developed a flat tire. So I had to call my new supervisor to explain that I would be taking a long lunch on my first day in the office. In addition, that also happened to be when I met my boss's boss for the first time. She happened to be going to the same restaurant for lunch and, recognizing some of my co-workers, stopped over to see what we were doing crawling around under the car.


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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Furniture Shopping

This weekend, Linzy and I spent some time in our never-ending search for new furniture. Linzy had big plans about all the pieces we would find but, as is typical when we go looking for more then one thing at a time, we didn't find anything matching what we were looking for.

We tried to broaden our horizons this trip by adding in some places we don't normally try, like Ethan Allen (not enough sofas to pick from) and Room & Board (way too modern for my tastes). We also hit the usual suspects like the Macy's Home Store, Hom Furniture, etc.

We saw a lot of crazy modern furniture, frequently at outrageous prices. Room & Board was selling what looked like plastic 1970s cafeteria chairs for a pretty penny, and the Macy's Home Store broke out of their usual mold with clear plastic resin chairs that looked like deck furniture for a mind-boggling $350 each. Macy's also won the prize for the single most expensive item we saw, a modern $7500 sectional sofa. That was 'on-sale' from the normal $12,000+ price tag.

In the end, about the only thing we could consistently agree on was bedroom sets, but those inevitably sported prices well out of the range that we can afford to spend on an unplanned 'let's go look at furniture' trip. For couches, we faced the usual problem of the physical impossibility of finding a couch that is comfortable for both Linzy and I. I was disappointed that furniture makers haven't discovered how to bend space and time yet. Perhaps in a few months.

[ As far as the picture - I was shocked, shocked I say, to see that they couldn't sell the couch pictured above and had to clearance it out. Apparently everyone's Grandma is already fully stocked with couches. ]

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Recent Media - 1/25

Explanation - Previous Lists

TV: Lost: Season 3 - I finished up the last few episodes of the third season of Lost last weekend and enjoyed them heartily. There were plenty of twists at the end, and the finale left me ready for season 4 (which hasn't even started yet). Alas it will be a while before the next season comes out on DVD, so I'll have to find other shows to amuse myself with.

Books: Mistborn: Well of Ascension - Since I wasn't feeling well last weekend I raced through this book in record time, finishing up the last half of it on Monday afternoon. I really liked the book, perhaps not quite as much as the first Mistborn book, but it was still a lot of fun. Unfortunately I'll have to wait for the final book in the series to see how things wrap up, but thankfully the book is actually done (as opposed to other series I read) and is supposed to be coming out this fall. In the meantime, I started (and almost finished) The Vanishing Tower, another Elric book.

Movies: Cloverfield - Linzy and I went to see this over the weekend on the monster-screen at the Lakeville theater. I had a good time watching the movie, and liked it. Linzy didn't, so your mileage may vary. The shakey-cam filming style didn't bother me at all, and I liked the tension the 'first-person' perspective brought to the film. There wasn't really all that much of a plot, but that is pretty typical for a monster movie. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Video Games (Portable): Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings - I'm into the upper seventies now on completion percentage, so I am nearing the end. My party has swelled with characters that I'll never be able to level up enough to use which is somewhat frustrating. The story also veered well off into insanity for a while, but now it appears they are making a concerted effort to pull things back to something more reasonable. All-in-all I'm still having a good time with it, although I find myself wishing there was more depth to the combat.

Video Games (Home): Rock Band - After a shocking run up in fans last week, my one-man-band has capped out at just over 600,000 fans (630,000 to be exact). After 600k, unfortunately, you can't gain any more without moving to expert guitar and expert vocals; A tough task on most songs. I have a few where I can manage, but for the most part I've just been playing songs and trying to gain stars without worrying about gaining fans. As far as I can tell, I should be able to do the Hall of Fame concert without needing any additional fans. Although that will require finishing some non-gimme songs with a still-difficult expert/hard combination.

I continue to be a sucker for buying downloadable songs. This week the unavoidable purchase was the Oasis pack. Those songs are good, though not particularly challenging. I'm nearly out of Microsoft points now, so it will be interesting to see how long I can hold out on getting any additional songs. Next week they are adding some more Rush and Coheed & Cambria, so most likely it won't be long.

Music: Lots of old Modest Mouse. I'm not quite sure why.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Eagan Don Pablos Closed

I was talking with my Dad tonight, and he mentioned that the Don Pablo's restaurant in Eagan closed. Everyone I've talked to about it finds that very surprising, as the place always seemed packed. Most weekends there was a line for seating, and even during the week it was not uncommon to be nearly-to-completely full.

Linzy and I haven't been there for quite a while. That probably has something to do with the proliferation of Mom-and-Pop Mexican restaurants in the area but mostly just has to do with not wanting to drive all the way up to Eagan.

The closing must have been abrupt, however, as my Dad said there were two letters on the door. One to customers referring them to other Don Pablo's locations in the Twin Cities, and the other to employees referring them to the Don Pablo's website to update their address in order to get their final checks.

You would think that if the closing was known even slightly in advance, the employees would know about it; You wouldn't be notifying them when they show up for work only to find the lights off and the door locked.

It all makes me wonder if there was some sort of financial problem or scandal or something that precipitated the closing, because the restaurant certainly seemed popular. Perhaps the South Metro section in the paper will have something on it in a month or two.

[ Update: Mystery solved ]

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shorts and Boats

It must have been propaganda day today in the skyways, because just in the few blocks between my building and where I was headed for lunch there were six people handing out flyers for various things. At one point there were two young people handing out discount tickets to the boat show this weekend at the convention center. What made it noteworthy was that they were both wearing shorts and t-shirts.

Considering the temperature outside was probably in the single digits, that was pretty noteworthy. They looked like freshman in the UMD dorms: able to walk to class completely indoors and thus totally inappropriately attired (weather-wise, that is).

I suppose the summer-y outfits were supposed to inspire longing for a boat to cruise around the lakes. But man does summer seem a long way off, when the low tonight is supposed to be -18.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cold

Apparently going from 35 degrees in Boston, to -15 degrees at home was not kind to my immune system.

I didn't feel so great by Sunday, and on Monday a cold really kicked in. I shivered through my entire lunch with former co-workers, and then ended up spending the rest of the afternoon reading a book on the couch under two blankets with the dog on my lap. At one point on Monday evening my Mom called and I mentioned that I was cold, despite wearing an under-t-shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, AND a sweatshirt.

Unfortunately this week I have a new contractor starting at work and there is no one else available to train him in. So there will be no sick days. What a bust.


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Monday, January 21, 2008

Challenging

Since it looks like tax software underwent 50% price inflation this year, I was looking at the IRS site today in the vain hope that this year was the year they would see the light and expand free filing services to more then just people making under 54k a year. Alas, they are not, but what did catch my eye was this little banner on the front page:

Making a Career Move?
A challenging job awaits in IRS Appeals. Apply Today!

I think 'challenging' might be understating it a bit, since I can imagine what working in the appeals department would involve. And it probably isn't going to be tax payers calling you up to thank you for the large deduction you found for them.


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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sixths

On Saturday afternoon, Linzy and I went to see Cloverfield. Prior to the movie, I was going to the bathroom and walked past one of the concession stands. As I went by, I overhead this conversation:

Customer Guy: I'd like a large popcorn.
Counter Guy: Ok.
Customer Guy: With butter please.
Counter Guy: Ok.
Customer Guy: And I'd like the butter at sixths.
Counter Guy: What?
Customer Guy: You know, a little popcorn, some butter, a little more popcorn, six times.


Good lord. Besides being about 5 times more butter-flavored heart-attack sauce then anyone should eat, who wants to measure out sixths?

I didn't stick around to see what the counter guy did with the request, but it did make me laugh.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Recent Media - 1/18

Explanation - Previous Lists

TV: Lost: Season 3 & The Office: Season 1- I only got through a few more episodes last weekend (and none this week). I'm almost done, and things are definitely picking up towards the end as the tension rises. Linzy and I also watched the last few episodes of the first season of The Office. That show is so horribly awkward at times, but it does amuse me. And saddens me at times, with its accuracy.

Books: Sailor on the Sea of Fate & Weird of the White Wolf - For my trip, I left the giant hardcover Mistborn: Well of Ascension at home and instead took two little Elric books with. I finished Sailor on the Sea of Fate, only just started WotWW. The books are interesting, and a quick read. They are very short and even then made up of three-or-so sub-books. A few of the sub-books were sort of random, but by the end of SotSoF the tragic story of Elric was starting to take even more shape, culminating in the first sub-book of WotWW. So far they have been interesting, and a nice change of pace. But I will be going back to Well of Ascension soon.

Movies: None

Video Games (Portable): Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings - I am 54% complete with the missions, and the difficulty has definitely ramped up. I've run into several missions I had to bypass and leave for after my characters leveled up a bit further. Unfortunately now I am stuck on a main storyline mission that can't be skipped. Overall the game has been fun, regardless of my poor RTS skills.

Video Games (Home): Rock Band & Super Mario Galaxy - I got another two stars in Super Mario Galaxy, but otherwise the only thing I've been playing is Rock Band. My one-man-band is up to about 550,000 fans (up from ~150,000 last week) which is good, but also means that now I'm forced to play with harder singing difficulties. Plus the songs are getting more difficult in general (both to sing and play guitar), so progress has gotten slow.

I bought even more songs over the past week, some duds and some that are fun. It is a little disappointing to buy a song only to find out that it is not any fun to play. But others, like Gimme Three Steps, Last Train to Clarksville (surprisingly difficult) and Buddy Holly are a lot of fun. I'm also looking forward to the Oasis pack coming next week.

Oh, and I even (barely) passed another 5-7 songs on Hard drums, so I was pretty proud of that.


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Phony Paper

On Tuesday, as I mentioned before, I couldn't check in for my flight until I actually arrived at the airport. Unfortunately the kiosks wouldn't work for check-in either (which wasn't a surprise), so I had to wait in the long luggage check line to get to a kiosk manned with actual people.

After explaining the problem to a sullen NWA employee, she was able to get me checked in. It appeared to take some work on one of the magic computers behind the desk, but she got it done. In the end, she ended up giving me an old-school paper ticket.

It looked sort of like a boarding pass you get off the kiosks, but not really. So when I went through security they would look at it...look at me...look at my license...look at me...look at the ticket...look at me...squint a little...look at the ticket. Etc.

By the fifth glance, I was pretty sure it was going to be straight to the 'special' line. But, instead the security person shrugged, went 'hmph' and waved me through.

Apparently paper tickets aren't so common anymore.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Supervision

I was sitting at the airport gate this morning waiting for my flight, and ended up watching some employees working on washing the floor-to-ceiling windows on the side of the terminal.

As far as I can tell, there was one new guy learning the ropes and two ladies who were training him. The amusing thing was that the two ladies didn't agree on one key point about how to wash the windows: Whether to start in the middle of the top and make a stroke to the left and down or start in the middle of the top and make a stroke to the right and down.

I kid you not.

There was, what appeared to be, a heated argument about how exactly a window was to be washed. The poor guy was doing clockwise washing, under the supervision of Boss #1, when the second lady came running up, grabbed the wand out of his hand and demonstrated (emphatically) that counter-clockwise washing was the way to go. Much discussion ensued. Eventually both supervisors appeared to agree to disagree and moved on to washing their own windows.

Except that both decided to wage a passive-aggressive war behind the scenes by waiting a bit and then coming up and scolding innocent trainee about not doing the correct washing motion. After some discussion, he would begin washing as directed. Only to later have the other boss come over, scold him, and force him to go back to washing the window the alternative way.

Who knew there was such passion about window washing?

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Changes

On Sunday morning, I checked in for my Monday morning 7:15am flight to Boston like normal. I even got to take advantage of my new 'elite status' to pick a better seat for the crowded flight.

Later in the day I was checking my e-mail when I noticed an e-mail from one of the DBAs in Cambridge warning me that they were supposed to have a horrible snow storm on Monday morning, and so suggesting that I change my flight plans. I checked on the Northwest site, and my flight was still scheduled on-time, so I decided to just go with it.

Later that evening, I checked again, only to find that Northwest had canceled my flight and re-booked me on a 7:10am flight to Indianapolis followed by a 1:30pm flight to Boston. Not interested in a 5 hour layover, only to (probably) get stranded in Indianapolis, I had my company's travel people change my trip to Tuesday - Friday instead of Mon - Thurs. It took a bit of doing, but they were able to get it all straightened out as well as get my hotel stay changed.

So this morning when I got to work at about 7:20, I went to check-in for my flight tomorrow, only to have the web site say that I couldn't because my plane had already left. Uh-oh.

So I called the travel people at my company, who said that everything looked correct on their end (which it did from the website as well). So then I called Northwest, got routed around a bit and eventually got someone who said they would resolve it.

So I went back to check-in and about halfway through the process, a message came up saying that my Monday the 14th flight had been removed, and did I want to continue? That made me nervous, so instead of clicking the final 'check-in', I went back to look at my reservations.

There I found a flight to Indianapolis on the 14th, a flight to Boston on the 15th, and one back from Boston on the 18th. So I called NWA back again, to request that they remove the orphaned flight to Indy. Which they did.

So I went back to check-in again. Only to discover that removing the flight to Indy had also, for some reason, removed my flight home from Boston. Another call to NWA, and that flight was back.

So I went back to check-in, only to get a message saying that I couldn't check-in because changes had been made to the E-Ticket since it was originally created. Oh, really? I hadn't noticed.

So I called NWA back once more. That analyst said "jeez, look at all these changes on the ticket. Maybe someone doesn't want you to travel.". To which I must admit I responded without much humor. After waiting on hold for about 10 minutes, they eventually came back and basically said "You can't check in on the web".

In theory, I will be able to check in at the airport tomorrow, or so they assured me. I won't be holding my breath. I figure there's approximately a zero-percent chance that I will be able to get on both flights without trouble.

Even better, after all this work to change things up, Boston is supposed to get more snow tomorrow morning as well as Friday. So even if my tickets aren't screwed up, the weather probably will be.

Here's to probably writing tomorrow's blog post from the Detroit, Indianapolis, or Memphis airports!


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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Like, Totally Rad!

On Saturday morning I was using my elliptical like normal. About 40-some minutes into my workout, the episode of Lost that I was watching ended, so I tried to select the next one in sequence to start watching. Unfortunately, the player locked up. Not wanting to stop my workout to run over and power cycle things, I decided just to switch over to watching some TV instead. Less ideal, but better then nothing.

So I used the universal remote to switch over to the DVR. The DVR happened to be on CBS, which had some horrible show aimed at pre-teen girls on (Cake, part of Kewlopolis, apparently). While trying to change the channel, I discovered that some of the Rock Band wires were covering up the IR port on the DVR, so I couldn't control anything on the unit.

That left me basically trapped, forced to watch 15 or 20 minutes of instructions on how to turn an old plush teddy bear into a 'cuddly cash keeper' by sewing a zipper into its back, while also decorating it with buttons, colorful fabrics, and other flair.

I'm planning to make two this week.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Recent Media - 1/11

Explanation - Previous Lists

TV: Lost: Season 3 - I'm about two-thirds of the way through the season and still enjoying it, although a few things have happened that make me wonder why the characters are so incredibly dense. But I am still anxious to see how things turn out.

Books: Confessor, Mistborn: Well of Ascension

Confessor - How far the mighty have fallen. Some of Terry Goodkind's early books were good. Faith of the Fallen was one of the best. Clearly he is long past his prime, because Confessor was a travesty. It did indeed wrap everything up, but in that lazy "I only have 20 pages left so lets just make everything work" sort of way. I have more specific complaints, but that would involve some major spoilers and if I struggled through the book you'll have to as well.

Mistborn: Well of Ascension - I only just started the book a day or two ago, so I am only a few chapters in. So far it has the feeling of a sequel to a book that didn't intend to. I think it will take some time to build up the conflict again to the point where the plot becomes clear. At this point we are still busy catching up with all of the various characters who survived the first book.

Movies: Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle - I didn't find it quite as funny as most people insist it is, but it was not the worst dumb comedy I've ever seen. There were definitely a few parts that amused me.

Video Games (Portable): Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings - I'm about 40% complete, and still enjoying the game, though the difficulty is a bit uneven at times. There have been series of three or more missions where my characters are getting killed left and right, followed by ones where I can waltz through and hardly lose anyone. I'm also highly annoyed that my healer gets roughly one-third the experience of the rest of the characters. She is as important, if not more, then any other character in my party. It is not even possible for her to attack things, so I don't understand why it is punishing me xp-wise for using her to cast continual curaga spells on my tanks.

Video Games (Home): Rock Band - All Rock Band, all the time. Guitar Hero 3 may never make it back into the XBox 360. I bought a few more songs for Rock Band (Gimme Three Steps, which is a blast to play, and Limelight, which is less so). I'm still having fun continue to struggle through World Tour mode with my band Uno Hombre (where I sing and play expert guitar at the same time). I'm up to about 100,000 fans which is amazing because my singing is horrible.

I spent 30 minutes talking with one of the SysAdmins at work about Rock Band the other day, specifically about how amazing it is that it can be so much more fun then Guitar Hero 3 even just for the guitar let alone when you get a group of people together to play it. I'm sure I will tire of it eventually, but right now it is great.

[ On second thought: Calling Confessor a "travesty" is probably an exaggeration. It wasn't that bad. But it definitely felt like lazy writing to me, and could have been so much better. So travesty, perhaps not, but definitely a disappointment. ]


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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sunlight

I made a concerted effort today to get out of work early (and by that I mean close to 'on-time'). When I left I was surprised by two things:

1) There was no new snow anywhere. The weather people had been predicting snow today for days. Why I was surprised they were wrong, I have no idea.

2) It was still really light out, and was even somewhat light when I got home. That had to be the first time in many, many months.

I looked it up, and the last time the sun set as late as it did today was way back on November 9th. So even if I was home by 5pm then, it has still been two months. And realistically it has probably been longer then that (pre-time change I imagine).

The later sunsets, along with the unseasonably warm temperatures the past week sure make it feel like we are much further through winter then we actually are. That could be a long February.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Going, Going, Gone

Last weekend I finally sold my treadmill that has been collecting dust and cluttering up the family room since the shiny new elliptical moved in (that would be two months ago).

It took a lot longer then I was expecting, but I didn't really try very hard to sell it. Basically I just posted it on Craigslist and waited for New Years to roll around, figuring that with soon-to-be-forgotten resolutions would create some demand. And it did, as I got a resurgence of interest just prior on New Years day.

I am always surprised at the number of flakey buyers you see on Craigslist. People offering ridiculously low-ball offers, writing with an offer and never replying, setting up appointments and canceling at the last minute, etc. I also didn't know there were quite so many 'poor college students' interested in treadmills.

In the end, I found a nice buyer and was able to work out an agreement. The hardest part was that she showed up by herself, which meant that carrying the treadmill around the house and getting it loaded into her somewhat small truck was a challenge. But the treadmill is gone, it that was my goal.

It is amazing how used to the stupid thing sitting on the side of the family room I had gotten and how open the room looks now. Even though it is just back to the way it has always been.


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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hidden Talents

This weekend I discovered that I had an unknown nerdy talent: I can play expert-level guitar and sing at the same time on Rock Band.

You see, the whole problem is that a portion of Rock Band is only available in multiplayer. Specifically for "World Tour" mode, you have to form a band with at least two people. That mode is pretty cool though, as you can build up your band from playing in small clubs to giant arenas, building up a fan base as you go and unlocking vans, tour buses, jets, managers, etc.

But since it requires at least two players, and at this point those player have to be local, that makes it difficult to find someone to play with often enough to unlock things. Linzy and I formed a band, but we haven't played that much. When we were over at Brenden and Allison's recently, we played quite a bit with their band and unlocked a few things (including the jet).

So on Sunday afternoon, in a moment of boredom, I formed a new World Tour band: Uno Hombre (Band motto: Two instruments - One brain) and set about to make even more of a fool of myself then normal.

Surprisingly it wasn't nearly as difficult as I was expecting, at least on the beginning songs. The main problem is actually my complete lack of singing ability, not my inability to keep up with everything. For one thing, expert guitar just isn't that difficult, and I am more-or-less familiar with a lot of the songs so it wasn't as hard to do both things at the same time as I thought it would be. I played through a number of songs with flying colors, and won the Battle of the Vans handily.

Unfortunately, despite my relative level of competence, Linzy still said I looked like an idiot. That was at least partly because we don't have a microphone stand (who does?), so I had to improvise and lash the microphone to the guitar strap with its own cord. Apparently that didn't quite look rock star-ish.

But it was kind of fun, and that is the whole point.


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Monday, January 07, 2008

Disclaimer

I am a big fan of peanuts. I realize they are not good for me, so I rarely have them just as a snack, but I do occasionally put them in a meal (like Kung Pao Chicken). The only other time I have them is when we are up at Linzy's parent's house.

Several years back, Linzy's Mom discovered my complete lack of sensibility around snack peanuts when, over the course of a long visit, I ended up eating an entire bowl of peanuts she had put out. Now, whenever we come up, she always makes sure to put out peanuts and so I am obliged to eat them (like the good son-in-law I am). She also usually gets me a jar of peanuts as a gift for Christmas, as she did this year.

The jar this year was interesting because it had a big heart on it that said "A Handful a Day May Be Good For Your Heart".

Just below the heart was this disclaimer:

Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as peanuts, almonds, pistachios, pecans, & hazelnuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and not resulting in increased caloric intake may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. See Nutrition Information for Fat Content.

Note that they are qualifying the amount of nuts, the fact that you are dropping calories from your diet elsewhere to make up for the nuts, and the rest of your diet is low in fat and cholesterol. And then the best they can do is say that it might be good for you.

Not exactly an unequivocal endorsement.

In fact, it makes me wonder at the benefit of calling out 'how good' the nuts are for your heat, when it means you have to have that long of a disclaimer on the front of the can as well. Of course, the disclaimer didn't stop me from eating the jar, so maybe it doesn't matter.

Also, for the record, according to the nutrition information those 1.5 ounces of nuts would have approximately 33% of your daily allowance of fats and about 255 calories. Ouch.


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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Pippen's Helmet

Pippen has a little rash on her tummy, and so Linzy took her to the vet's today. They prescribed an antiboitic cream to put on the rashes. That comes with the usual plastic shield to keep Pippen from licking the medicine after it is put on and before it dries.


Pippen does not like her new hat.

She can look amazingly pitful after it is put on, although she moves around in it much better then I was expecting. She does have a tendency to bang it on things accidentally, misjuding, I guess, her new girth.

Also, she wanted to mention that punishment will be forth-coming for this latest humiliation, and it just might involve eating us.



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Friday, January 04, 2008

Recent Media - 1/4

Explanation - Previous Lists

It's been a few weeks, and I've had lots of time to read books and play video games, so apologies for how long this is.

TV: Lost: Season 3 - Since we were out of town, and thus I wasn't using the elliptical, I only made it through another few episodes. I'm approximately at the halfway point, and in general enjoying the show. So far the season has felt like setup for the second half of the season, so I am looking forward to the inevitable confrontations.

Books: The Elder Gods, Mistborn: The Final Empire, Confessor

The Elder Gods - I finished the book, but my opinion of it didn't improve all that much over the final half. I may try the next book once my reading queue goes down, if only to see if my opinion was skewed due to more interesting books tapping their foot impatiently to be read.

Mistborn: The Final Empire - I heartily enjoyed this book. It was most definitely not deep, but I enjoyed the action and interesting world the book was set in. I read the last two-thirds in a day or two while up in Duluth over Christmas break. It was engrossing and I am looking forward to finishing the series.

Confessor - 12 pages of a character's monologues over the theoretical underpinnings of the book's magic system *Yawn* Dozens and dozens of pages belaboring the evilness of the bad guys *Yawn* Page after Page repeating these topics, particularly continually referring to the difference in the evil people's philosophy's and the good people's philosophy's.

Yes, they are evil, that's why they are the bad guys. Yes, these other people are good, that's why we cheer for them when they win. And I don't care how 'logical' your invented magic system is. Just give me a break and get on with wrapping up the damn series!

Movies: Ocean's 13, Superbad, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Ocean's 13 - I liked this movie better then the previous one, but it was definitely not as good as Ocean's 11. The movie dispensed almost entirely with any semblance of plot other then a heist. Which was both good and bad. All in all, just average. Though the bickering brother characters rule.

Superbad - Very funny. Awkward and wrong, but funny. I mean, what could be better then a skinny obviously high-school aged kid getting a fake license and choosing "McLovin" as the name on it. His friend's questioning that decision, and how it plays out over the course of the movie made me laugh.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - Oh my, so bad. I thought number two was pretty bad, but they saved the...uh...worst for last.

Video Games (Portable): Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings - Linzy got me the game for Christmas, and it was not at all what I was expecting. It is actually a combination of a dumbed-down Final Fantasy Tactics and a Real-Time Strategy game. I would prefer a turn-based system, but thus far my brute-force mobbing with hordes of characters has been working. I'm about 15% complete, and enjoying it so far.

Video Games (Home): Peggle, Super Mario Galaxy, Rock Band

Peggle - I actually bought this (partly because it was on-sale and thus cheap), and had fun playing it. Linzy accused me of being obsessed, I claimed merely to be naturally good. A fun casual game, I don't understand why it isn't on XBox Live Arcade, I would have bought it long ago.

Super Mario Galaxy - I got this from Linzy's parents for Christmas and played it quite a bit over the days we were up in Duluth. It is very fun. I like the crazy gravity and how you can jump through space and run around small planets. I'm about a third of the way through the main game. However, I do have a few things about the game I didn't like all that much.

First, the control scheme is tiring, which unfortunately seems to be typical of non-casual Wii games. Second, the camera is moderately horrible, and this combines with the crazy gravity to frequently put you in positions where you are upside down and facing a strange angle such that you have no idea what direction to push the analog stick in to move forward. Certainly not a game that will be all that easy to pick up if you aren't familiar with 3D Mario games. Also, some of the levels are not as innovative as I would have liked. One second you will be doing something new and interesting, and the next there will be several very pedestrian levels of swimming or repetitive jumping.

Rock Band - I bought this for myself with Christmas money and a Christmas gift card I got, and it was well, well worth the purchase. Compared with Guitar Hero 3 it is superior in nearly every way. Except difficulty for the guitar parts, which are significantly easier then the most of GH3. I sight-read my way through expert, failing only two songs on the last tier (Molly Hachet's Flirtin' with Disaster once when the solo caught me off guard and star-power-less, and Green Grass and High Tides three times due to a very complicated and super-long closing solo).

However, I'm not even close to done with the game, as I've now moved on to Drums. I've been making my way through Medium difficulty level, which at times has been easy, and at other times been difficult (Green Grass and High Tides, again). I tried a few songs on Hard and discovered that my right foot (kick pedal) and right hand (hi-hat) are inexplicably linked together, so it is definitely going to take some practice to be able to play the more complicated rhythms on Hard.

My only complaint is that the Fender Stratacaster guitar sucks. I hate the mushy strum bar, and the wire. Also, my copy of Rock Band was apparently a launch copy (manufactured on 11/16/07), so I am fully expecting the guitar to break if not both that and the kick pedal.

Anyways, the game is just a blast. There are lots of downloadable songs to pick from (I bought the Metallica pack, which is great fun on the drums). Making your rock star is fun, as there are all kinds of crazy hair/clothes/accessory options. Linzy and I also enjoyed playing some songs together as a band. If you like rhythm games at all, it is definitely worth picking up. Certainly if you have the opportunity to try it at a party, do so.


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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Whoops

On the day after Thanksgiving, while Linzy was out at the gym, I went back to Best Buy to pick up her new TV. After standing in line for a bit in the store to be able to pay for the TV, they sent me around back to pick up the TV.

Back at the car stereo installation bay, two high school guys were taking paid-for tickets and loading stuff into your car. When I pulled up, the guy who had been just in front of me in line to pay for TVs was getting his 42 inch plasma loaded into the back of his SUV. While the high schoolers were bringing out his TV and putting it in the car, I busied myself folding down the seats and getting my car ready.

All of the sudden there was a load crack, a shattering sound, and glass chunks raining down on me.

I spun around to see the rear window on dude's tailgate completely busted out. It turned out that when the TV had been placed in the car, they (that is the high schoolers and the customer who was supervising) hadn't been careful enough about placing the TV into the car. Because of the way the seats were folded down the TV ended up being on kind of an angle across the back and although it was mostly in the truck the top corner was sticking out just a little bit.

Slamming the tailgate down then slammed the glass into the sharp corner of the box and busted the glass. Being safety glass it promptly shattered into a million little glass squares that raining down on me, the stunned employees and dumb-founded customer.

Whoops.

While the one high schooler went to find a broom (and I assume a manager) and the customer stood there shocked, the other high schooler loaded my TV for me. After checking the positioning carefully, I took advantage of that to get the heck out of dodge, so I don't know what ended up happening. I assume the store paid for a new tailgate window for the customer, but who knows.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Linzy's New TV

Back in November, I posted about going to Best Buy in the middle of the night on the day after Thanksgiving to stand in line for the doorbuster deals. At the time, I focused on trying to get a cheap PC for Linzy's parents for Christmas, which was true. However, I was also there for another item, a new LCD TV for Linzy.

This was a top-secret item, as I wanted to surprise Linzy with it in addition to her normal presents. Luckily the TVs weren't in nearly as much demand as the cheap PCs were, so a number of them made it back to my section of the line. Including the cheap-ish one that I had my eye on.

I had been thinking about trying to get Linzy a new TV for the bedroom for quite a while. We had a normal TV in that room that she got as a present a few years back. But it had developed a few issues over time. The most aggravating of which was that it randomly turns on the Spanish closed captions when in use. Obviously you could turn them back off, but it was annoying and they were liable to just turn right back on afterwards. In addition, the remote buttons were starting to not work very well anymore, and the TV took up a lot of valuable room on top of a dresser.

In short, it was time for a new TV. And, since that is the TV Linzy uses more then any other on a daily basis, I didn't think it was unreasonable to replace it with a larger, wide-screen TV that could be mounted on the wall.

Thus there I was at 2:30 am on 11/23, waiting in the freezing cold, hoping for a ticket to buy a TV (in addition to a ticket for a computer). Then the problem became trying to keep it hidden from Linzy to preserve the surprise. I snuck out later on the day after Thanksgiving to pick it up, and then stashed it in the shower/tub downstairs for a week or so before moving it to a friend's house. Then once Christmas got closer, I got it back and returned it to my hiding place.



Since Linzy set the bar high last year with the double-switcheroo for the XBox 360, the pressure was on to try something similarly surprising for her. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to wrap the remote separately as if it was just a normal present, "A new remote for upstairs", which she assumed was just a random universal remote to replace the fading old one. Then, after we were done opening everything, I said I was going downstairs to get the rest of the stuff for the remote, and brought up the TV.

The whole thing worked out like I had planned, and Linzy was completely surprised. The TV even turned out to be pretty nice (which was somewhat up in the air since I was primarily shopping on price). We get a few HD channels upstairs even without a receiver, which is nice.



All-in-all, I was really happy with how everything turned out. It was well worth standing in the cold for an hour.


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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Christmas Day: Pictures

After spending Christmas Eve with my side of the family, Linzy and I drove up to Duluth to spend Christmas Day with her family.

We tried out the new Garmin Nuvi on the trip up, and it worked pretty slick (though the route from Lakeville to Duluth involves roughly one turn and some 'veering'). The unit got decidedly frustrated with us when we took a detour to the Eagan library along the way:

"Recalculating (after we got off the highway)"
"Continue straight to on ramp for 35E"
"Recalculating (after we ignored it)"
"Take left on Duckwood Dr"
"Recalculating (after we ignored it)"
"Take left on...."
etc

Oh, and since I forgot to charge the unit, it ran out of juice just as we were getting into Duluth and it could actually start giving turns again. Oh well.

Christmas Day was a lot of fun, we spent a good portion of the afternoon at Linzy's Grandparent's house, hanging out with her family as they all stopped over to visit. Then later in the afternoon we had a marathon present opening. Once again everyone seemed to enjoy their presents, particularly Larry liked the Pippen calendar we made for him.

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

It snowed in Duluth just about every day we were there, but luckily the snow didn't affect our drives in either direct too much.


Linzy's grandparent's house


Linzy's family loves watching Pippen open gifts.




Linzy and Grandma


Sandy opening one of her presents.


Opening one of the four cutting implements Larry got for me. This one was a cool pair of tree trimmers that can cut up to an inch and a quarter branch.


I also got a nippers, a pair of seven-inch snips, and a tree saw. On which I promptly sliced open my index finger, trying to get it out of the plastic package. At least I know it is sharp.

Linzy with one of her gifts.


Larry and his new Pippen calendar.


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