Archive for November, 2006

#738

11:07 pm, Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Man, faxing stuff at Kinko’s is expensive. I had to send five pages long distance and they charged me $7.07. Ridiculous, no? What a racket.

A couple neat links:

Ballad of Gordon – Awesome Barenaked Ladies video that was on FOX Kids back in the mid 90s. I remember watching this on TV… fantastic song.

Awesometown – The pilot episode for a series that was submitted to (and rejected by) FOX. Jones told me about this a couple months ago, but I didn’t get around to watching it till I happened to spot one of the creators’ other videos on YouTube yesterday. I really liked first half of the pilot, but the last 10 minutes wasn’t as good.

Two of the Lonely Island guys (the creators of Awesometown) have weird names — Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer. The more I think about it, the more I like the name Akiva. Kind of scandinavian-sounding, right? Turns out it’s actually Hebrew though. Apparently it means “heel,” “protect,” or “replaces.” Jorma, OTOH, is the Finnish version of Jeremiah.

I have to go back to the Tri-Cities tomorrow morning. There’s a few movies I want to see, but I think the theaters there will probably only have one of them: Let’s Go to Prison, For Your Consideration, and This Film Not Yet Rated.

Jones grew a beard! Well, apparently he’s already shaved it off. But he looked way different when he had it. Actually, he bore a striking resemblance to my Networking Essentials 1 teacher, Don Humphrey. Very strange.

Jones with a beard

Welp, I’m gonna watch some My Name is Earl, then go play Magic at GameALot.

#737

6:44 pm, Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

We ended up going to Pho Hoang (a Vietnamese place over by Kinko’s) yesterday instead of the sushi buffet. The food was good; we had spring roll appetizers (filled with greens, shrimp, and beef and served with a peanut/oyster dipping sauce — tastier than it sounds) and bubble tea (coconut for me, honeydew for Brett), and I had a bowl of beef soup with noodles. I’m definitely going there again for the bubble tea.

It snowed here last night — a whopping five inches in Federal Way alone. Tons of accidents and road problems followed, of course. I talked to Charlie on the phone a little while ago and apparently it took him seven hours to get home from work last night (that’s over in Southcenter — normally about twenty minutes away). It sounds like I-405 was the worst place to be in the early morning hours today… the helicopter footage showed lots of cars turned every which way there. Just ridiculous. I went to Safeway for sandwich makings today and their parking lot was a certifiable deathtrap: perfectly smooth ice about an inch thick covered every surface. I had to walk like an old man to get to the store entrance without falling down.

So as it turns out, the Monday game was canceled; apparently Keith had to get his windshield replaced on short notice. And Martin called me this afternoon to let me know the GURPS game was off. Probably just as well with the roads being in the state they are. Plus I’d been dreading the drive up that steep hill on Denny Way… that thing’s rough even in nice weather.

I made some great sandwiches for lunch today. After leaving Pho Hoang yesterday, we stopped by a neighboring bakery. We got a blueberry scone, some applebutter, and a loaf of Dakota bread, which is basically a honeywheat with sunflower and sesame seeds milled into it. Anyway, I took that bread and spread cream cheese on one slice, mayonaise on the other, and filled the gap with pan roasted turkey cold cuts, muenster cheese, leaves of romaine, and yellow mustard. Absolutely superb. I even took a picture to commemorate the meal.

Turley on Dakota with muenster

I found this neat little site called Omnipelagos. Its home page says it can find “the shortest paths between any two things.” Sometimes the links are a real stretch, but it’s amusing. Here’re the results of a search I did for the shortest path from pyramids to Frankenstein:

Pyramid
For thousands of years, the largest structures on Earth were pyramids: first the Red Pyramid in the Dashur Necropolis and then the
Earth
[Biosphere] latitude and height above the sea level separates biomes. Terrestrial biomes lying within the Arctic, Antarctic Circle
Arctic Circle
[Plot summary] The novel opens with Captain Walton on a ship sailing north of the Arctic Circle. Walton’s ship becomes ice-bound
Frankenstein

You have to translate that a little bit to see the connections clearly, but it works — in a nutshell, Omnipelagos is saying pyramids are on earth, which is also the home of the arctic, which is where one can find the arctic circle, which is one of the settings used in the book Frankenstein. Kinda nifty, huh? Here’s one connecting dysentery to lollipops:

Dysentery
[Etiology / Amoebic dysentery] Amoebic dysentery is transmitted by contaminated water, and is well known as a “traveler’s dysentery” because of its prevalence in developing nations
Water
Condensed milk is cow’s milk from which water has been removed and to which sugar has been added, yielding a very thick
Condensed milk
[Ingredients] sugar, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, condensed skim milk, cocoa, whey, soya lecithin
Tootsie Roll
[History] New York Stock Exchange in 1922. In 1931, the Tootsie Pop, a hard-candy lollipop with Tootsie Roll filling was invented
Lollipop

So dysentery is transmitted by contaminated water, which is the substance one removes to make condensed milk and condensed skim milk is an ingredient in Tootsie Rolls, which, in 1931, were used to make Tootsie Pops, which are a kind of lollipop. I don’t think that’s exactly the shortest path, but it’s fun to see how the script used Wikipedia entries to get from one subject to another.

#736

1:25 pm, Monday, November 27th, 2006

I just realized that last post reads terribly; that’s what happens when I try to write while watching a DVD. (My dad’s computer is right next to the TV and everyone was sitting around watching You, Me and Dupree.) Anyway, it snowed hard yesterday morning. I was going to leave around 10:00, but the pass reports were pretty discouraging. By noon the alerts had mellowed to a simple “traction tires advised,” so I decided to try. I’m less certain of that decision now — considering I have to drive back on Friday, it might have been better to just bum around Pasco an extra four days. But it’s sooo boring. I hardly know anyone down there anymore and the people I do know seem to be too dysphoric to do anything lately. Plus the movie theaters suck.

Planning to go to the sushi buffet place on WA-99 for lunch today. Haven’t been there before, but if it’s comparable to Todai I’ll be happy. Then I’ll head over to Game-A-Lot around 4:30 or so for the Monday d20 game. Probably meet up with Charlie and the gang around 11:00 for some Magic, maybe some board games. Might kill an hour or two on one of Anthony’s consoles. For sure if he’s gotten his hands on a Wii.

Been working on a new Magic deck (probably black/white, but I might splash blue). While researching cards, I stumbled across a really neat mono-red infinite-damage combo: Izzet Guildmage + Lava Spike + Desperate Ritual. With the Guildmage out, you play the Spike and splice Desperate Ritual onto it. Then, with that altered spell on the stack, you pay 2R to copy it with the Guildmage’s activated ability. You let the copy resolve, dealing 3 damage to your opponent and adding RRR to your mana pool — which you use to copy the original spell again. Repeat ad infinitum. And with a Heartstone in play, this combo can produce infinite mana.

A couple pictures I took Sunday morning (used a tripod and self-timer for the second one):

Parents' front yard in snow    Family photo in snow

#735

8:33 pm, Saturday, November 25th, 2006

Thanksgiving dinner was as glorious as I’d expected. My mom was kind enough to make separate portions of stuffing for me and my dad (he likes it with pecans in it). Good brussels sprouts too.

I got snow tires put on my car — the pass has been pretty bad lately, so it seemed like a good idea. I just have to remember to get my regular tires put back on before March 1.

Also got some new clothes and shoes at Burlington Coat Factory earlier today. Really needed the shoes; my Converse All Stars are nice most of the time, but my feet get soaked if I have to walk through wet grass in ‘em.

Been watching Stargate SG-1 season nine for the past couple days. This is the season where they completely replaced Jack O’Neill (Richard Dean Anderson) with a new colonel. It’s kind of sad that they didn’t take any chances with the cast change — the new guy, Mitchell, is a carbon copy of O’Neill.

Looks like I’ll have to come back to the Tri-Cities December 1-4 to take care of my parents’ pets again. I’ll probably have to miss the Monday game that week, but if the pass is decent I should still make it to the Tuesday GURPS game.

Oh yeah, on the drive down here I started listening to this really great audiobook — Freakanomics. I never realized economics was such a versatile field. It bleeds into philosophy more than I would have expected.

Oban Star Racers

#734

8:47 am, Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

I decided I’d make a post before I tried to drive over the pass to see my family for Thanksgiving. My parents offered to fly me back (after getting a ride from my sister), but I felt a little guilty about the luxury and, besides, I was worried about how the baggage people might handle Looker (she’ll have to come with me since Brett’s going home for the holiday and I think she’s too old (thirteen) to get thrown around in a crate in freezing weather). Anyway, not a whole lot of new stuff going on; been playing a lot of Magic down at GameALot, made some stew, downloaded some new games for the PSP (Loco Roco’s fun, Mega Man Maverick Hunter X is too hard, and Burnout Legends sucks without pressure-sensitive triggers and traffic checking).

I made a new MTG deck; a simple mono-red with cheap burn, suspend spells (Rift Bolt, Keldon Halberdier), mana-concentration, and a couple Scepters. I also finally got my cool new blue deck together — it’s very effective (win ratio of something like 10:3 now) and has about six combos in it.

You know what Matt’s last name is? Everybodytalksabout. Neat, huh? Apparently it’s because he’s Native American and his grandfather had seventeen wives. (Really surprised me — I always thought he was Mongolian.) Just learned that the other night when we were getting McDonald’s between Magic matches.

This week’s GURPS game was held at Torsten’s place in the university district. Really funky house — reminds me of a residence my grandparents rented in Coos Bay about ten years ago. In the email he sent out, he told us we’d recognize it by “the dragon on the fence out front and the Tibetan prayer flags on the porch,” if that gives you some idea. We got side-tracked in the game a lot last night, but we still managed to get some important stuff accomplished. I exercised a little overconfidence with my attacks and nearly paid the price — twelve damage to the torso. Next time I face a thug with a shotgun I’m emptying my whole RoF into his chest.

Missed Chris’s d20 Future game on Monday. Ended up getting too little sleep and decided to spare the group my probable cantankerousness. The fact that the d20 rules for robot PCs are hideously inept didn’t help either. (AIs lose charisma every time they get transferred into a new chassis? Whah?)

Well, gotta get some coffee and hit the interstate. Looking forward to dinner tomorrow.

#733

11:36 am, Friday, November 17th, 2006

It is so good to be back in Fed Way. Getting over the pass was really tricky though — for about a half-hour it was snowing so hard I could only see the tail lights of the semi truck in front of me (which I earnestly followed at 15 miles per hour). Last Saturday I ended up seeing Borat, then (after feeding the dogs) Running with Scissors. Borat was very funny. Not as funny as Clerks II and Little Miss Sunshine, but still great.

Running with Scissors could have been good, but it had no point. Lots of stuff happens, but there’s no real climax or resolution. Every character in the film has some major problem which, in most cases, should have been easy to overcome, but they don’t learn or grow. And it’s not like their suffering is poignant or meaningful, like in Requiem for a Dream… It’s too bad too, because they’re all very interesting people. It’s like the script was written by some brilliant character development specialist who had absolutely no knack for plot. Of course, it’s really based on Augusten Burroughs’s actual childhood, so this probably wasn’t the case. Though the movie kept my interest all the way through, I felt ripped off at the end. It did have a nice soundtrack though.

Been playing a lot of Magic down at GameALot lately. Garret’s been coming around more often, and he’s pretty cool. And Nolan’s decks have gotten a lot better, so overall the game’s getting better. I think there’s a touch of overcompetitiveness creeping into the matches, but it’s still entertaining. And breaking it up with other board games helps relieve that. Tonight we tried the World of Warcraft board game. At first I didn’t think it would be much fun since the rules seemed so complex, but after a couple hours of study and discussion I began to realize how fantastic it is. In our ongoing game Garret and I are playing the Horde (as a shaman and hunter, resp.) with Charlie and Anthony/Willy on the Alliance side (as a warlock and paladin, resp.). We had to suspend the game till tomorrow though so Anthony could go buy a PS3 at 8:00 am.

Actually, the whole PS3 thing is somewhat interesting — basically, I was going to wait in line for a PS3 at Best Buy for Anthony tonight but it turned out people had started lining up there at 9:00 am on Thursday in anticipation of the console release. It’s amazing how high the demand is for these things… they’re going for thousands of dollars on eBay right now. Anyway, Anthony got a hot tip about Target getting eight of them tonight. Around 4:30 am all the GameALot folks went over there so he could get a shot at buying some. So many people showed up that police officers were brought in to keep an eye on them (I guess they thought they might riot or something). Eventually the Target folks announced they’d be holding a raffle for the consoles; they handed out 250 tickets and called out the codes. I had #102 dash. Raymond, this old guy with a long white beard that hangs out at GameALot most nights, ended up winning one of the slots. It’ll be a good deal for both him and Anthony — he gets $50 and a steak dinner, Anthony gets to rent out time on the most coveted video game system in the country. And Anthony was pretty grateful to Charlie, Garret, and I for standing out in the cold for an hour and a half; he gave each of us a fancy leather deck box and two Time Spiral boosters.

I picked up GURPS Bio-Tech a few days ago. I’ve only skimmed through it a little, but it looks really terrific. Tons of crunchy bits. I can already tell it’s going to be way better than the 3e version. Speaking of GURPS, the Seattle game with Martin has continued to improve as we’ve begun to see how he’s tying everything (even events from the very first session) together into a maddeningly enigmatic web. I could write volumes on the game, but I’ll confine my precis to the highlights: We’ve been exiled to a parallel beyond Homeline’s reach by the gods of Riverworld. This parallel diverged sometime in the late 1970s/early 80s with a major nuclear war and proceded to degenerate into a sort of Mad Max-ish post-apocalyptic setting. In the last few years, the ever-present raiders (marauders that prey on the more civilized) have begun to develop a taste for human flesh (possibly à la the “reavers” from Firefly, but also maybe as the result of some partially-aborted zombie contagion). After arriving with our cadre of ressurected time traveling warriors (ancient Aztecs, 15th century Koreans, Slovenians from the 1940s, and one viking) plus a few celebrities of ages past (Bertolt Brecht, Ian Curtis, Odysseus), we discovered a Centrum presence. More surprisingly, we found them cooperative. According to the enemy agent-turned-ally, the zombie contagion is sweeping the multiverse, even appearing in uniquely-Homeline-accessible quantums. And on top of that, we just found a world jumper who’s been kept trapped on this parallel and continuously drugged for God knows how long. (Amazingly, this revelation occured only because I noticed a trivial Simpsons reference that the other players assumed the GM was making out-of-game. I guess it’s a lucky thing Kristian’s character’s first name is Montgomery.)

Oh, and apparently Chris and Keith will be sharing the Monday RPG slot from now on — Chris will be GMing a d20 Future game on alternate weeks. I’m looking forward to it a lot — I’ve hardly ever been able to play in a sci fi setting before. (GMed a bunch of ‘em, but only ever played in a couple short campaigns.) Unfortunately, I’m a little unprepared since I haven’t picked up Future yet.

Starfish