Archive for October, 2007

#916

10:41 pm, Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

I drove to the Tri-Cities last Thursday, returned yesterday afternoon. My dad and sister were in California for a thermography workshop so my mom and I ate out a lot. Thursday we did Sushi Mori in Kennewick for dinner (bento and a caterpillar roll), Friday was IHOP in the morning (crêpes, yum) and Thai Spice in the evening (honey pork stirfry–good but boring, service wasn’t great), Saturday we had IHOP for brunch (steak omelette and pumpkin pancakes), Sunday we went to Cinco de Mayo (enchiladas and deep-fried ice cream), and on Monday Andi and dad came home so mom made spaghetti for lunch.

Saturday night was Logan’s birthday party. He and Amanda took a whole bunch of us bowling at Atomic Bowl — Jones, Heather, Blaze, Ed, and a couple other nice folks whose names escape me at the moment. It was fun. I averaged 95 over four games.

Played a ton of games this weekend, though it was mostly just Jones, Heather, and I since Logan and Amanda were busy most of the time dealing with a weeaboo moonspeak class, Magic players, Warhammer ppl, and assorted Richland rabble. I meant to play in the booster draft, but I forgot it was Saturday and didn’t show up till like 1:30.

Tongiaki at AU this past weekend

We got to play a few new games though. I picked up Zombie Fluxx, Infernal Contraption, and Talisman. Some thumbnail reviews:

  • Zombie Fluxx — Not quite as freeform or streamlined as regular Fluxx, but fun in a slightly different way. The “Groaning Required” card can make playing in a public place a bit embarrassing. Great warm-up game — doesn’t require too much thinking.
  • Infernal Contraption — A little tricky to learn on your own, but really worth it. I love games that let you build something. In this one, you design a machine (by arranging cards sort of like dominoes) that, one way or another, ensures you’re the last person with any cards in your “Parts pile.” Probably the best new card/board game I’ve played this year. (Pictured below.)
  • Talisman — Really disappointing. The game is essentially Candy Land with dwarves and magic. I suppose I’ll have to give it another try sometime, but my current view is that it’s tedious and depends too much on luck. The art’s good though.

Heather, Jones, and I playing Infernal Contraption

Saw a couple movies while I was over there — 30 Days of Night and Fido. I enjoyed 30 Days quite a lot, even though some of the dialogue was really lame (e.g. “the citations let him know he’s a part of this town”). It was an interesting spin on the zombie apocalypse/survivalist horror genre.

Fido was just… nice. Amanda described it as “Frankenweenie stretched to 90 minutes” — I think that’s very apt.

Drawn Together has been almost watchable lately. I liked the recurring Carousel of Progress joke last week and this week’s Muppet Babies parody was pretty decent.

Some almond chicken with butternut squash Brett and I made last week:

Almond chicken with butternut squash

I got a Quadradius membership again. I’m on there as “sushirobot” if anyone wants to play a match.

My General and Special Elections ballot showed up in the mail while I was gone. Filled it out and sent it off this afternoon.

King County General and Special Elections ballot

Blarg, I’ve hit my blogging limit.

#915

12:38 am, Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Bulleted lists are cool because you don’t feel guilty about failing to segue. Since I have a lot of unrelated stuff to talk about, and because I’m lazy, I’m gonna use one. Talis qualis:

  • OiNK is dead. Here’s an article the BBC ran about it. An interesting tidbit — when the article first went live early this morning, it contained this quote:

    “Members paid ‘donations’ via debit or credit cards, ensuring their continued access to the site.”

    Which is, of course, a lie. (Users’ memberships were only revoked for repeatedly breaking the guidelines or falling below the required ratio after the 14-day grace period. Donating didn’t get you anything useful.) They edited that out later on.

    This really sucks. OiNK was the best source (in terms of variety and quality) for music on the net.

  • Watched Year of the Dog on DVD today. Not very good. I actually liked almost everything about the movie except the plot. Nice sets, decent dialogue, interesting characters. All the actors were great except for John C. Reilly, who was badly miscast as the next-door neighbor — he was too goofy for the role IMO. I like that they managed to involve divisive things like militant veganism, PETA, etc. without taking sides, or even encouraging critical thought about the issues. It’s about the mentality of an obsessive/activist from an objective point of view — the beliefs of the main character were immaterial to the story.

    I can’t quite decide what the film’s overall message was… I think it’s “be passionate about something, even if it’s a bad idea.” Or maybe “it’s better to live for an ideal, even a foolish one, than to devote yourself to the mundane minutiae of everyday life.” It was kind of stirring in that sense, in an abstract way, but the actual movie just wasn’t entertaining. Year of the Dog is thematically similar to One Hour Photo (which I enjoyed) — if you’re only going to see one, watch the latter.

  • My current wallpaper:

    Weighted Companion Cube wallpaper

  • They don’t use thumbs-up/thumbs-down on Ebert & Roeper anymore. WTF is that? They took the most iconic symbol of movie critic reviews and ditched it. Apparently it’s all Disney’s fault — they claimed Ebert withheld its use, but Ebert says Disney made the decision. (And I’m a lot more likely to trust Ebert over Disney.) From Ebert’s response:

    Contrary to Disney’s press release, I did not demand the removal of the THUMBS. They made a first offer on Friday which I considered offensively low. I responded with a counter-offer. They did not reply to this, and on Monday ordered the THUMBS removed from the show. This is not something I expected after an association of over 22 years. I had made it clear the THUMBS could remain during good-faith negotiations.

  • Some odd search terms that have brought visitors to this site in the last month:
    • hate blog on gail simmons
    • video gay hitler
    • “steamboat terminology”
    • monk banana
  • Hey, did you know Adam Savage (from Mythbusters) is a MeFite? I found that revelation very amusing; even better than when I learned Charles Stross is a user.
  • Brett got a new phone — one of those prepaid Virgin Mobile dealies. Specifically, the MARBL. I’m amazed at what they’re able to produce for only $20 — it’s full color, has a web browser and speakerphone, weighs less than my RAZR, and is only slightly bulkier. They must sell those things at a loss and make their money back on the “Top-Up” cards. (Which are still a good deal considering their equivalent cost per minute is only about 13% more expensive than what Cingular was charging him — i.e., $40 for 250 min./month.)
  • We cleaned the house on Sunday. I find myself deriving an unhealthy amount of satisfaction from having well-vacuumed carpets and spotless tabletops.
  • Did you know Chuck Palahniuk’s Rant was the first book in a trilogy? We won’t see the second for a while though — the next novel he releases will be Snuff (due out May 20th, 2008).
  • Here’s a funny cartoon about a cat.

Time to prepone some newbs in TF2 before I go to bed. Gotta remember to drive my sister to the airport tomorrow.

Worked out 10/22.

#914

11:48 pm, Friday, October 19th, 2007

I finally fixed my bed. IKEA sent me the replacement parts a while back (free of charge, actually — very generous of them considering the package weighed 47 lbs.) but I was lazy about putting things together. Anyway, my back feels loads better. I hadn’t realized how bad sleeping on two mattresses could be for your lumbar whatsits. And the fitted sheet stays on better now, so that’s good.

Yesterday Brett and I drove up to Spokane so he could get his brakes repaired. His dealership sure treats its customers well — 60″ TV in the waiting room, leather sofas, and a courtesy shuttle that drops you off and picks you up anywhere in the city. Since the repairs were supposed to take about three hours, we had the shuttle take us to a sushi place Brett’s friend Al recommended (Bluefish).

Don’t eat at Bluefish. Their menu is extremely limited, the tables and chairs are crammed into small, awkward spaces, and the food is mediocre. Whoever runs the place obviously cares far more about style and decor than cuisine or comfort. We each ordered the “lunch sushi buffet” which turned out to be nothing more than a pot of miso soup, some salad, and a sorry platter of maki that tasted like it came from a grocery store. Less than ten minutes after sitting down, I asked for the check and we walked a few blocks to Raw (a sushi restaurant we’d eaten at once before and liked).

Raw was much, much better. The only thing I wasn’t wild about was their Philly roll — the smoked salmon kind of overpowered everything. But the nigiri (salmon, tuna, albacore, snapper) and the rest of the maki (caterpillar, bomb, crunchy) were great. Here’s a picture:

Maki rolls from Raw

I would’ve snapped one of the nigiri, but I forgot (and we ate it before the maki arrived).

Some home meals we’ve had this week:

Steak, zuchinni, cornbread    Boneless pork chops, corn, pasta   Brett's almond chicken

From left to right: Ribeye steaks with steamed zuchinni (I tried grilling some, but I guess my heat was too uneven) and homemade cornbread, boneless pork chops (baked with fresh thyme and garlic) with corn and pasta, and tonight’s dinner of almond chicken over basmati rice. The last one was all Brett’s doing — he found some great recipes for real almond sauce and a beer batter. You know most “almond” sauces don’t contain almonds? Apparently a lot of them rely only on chicken broth and a few spices for their flavor. Anyway, I think it was the best thing he’s ever cooked. Definitely better than any almond chicken I’ve had in a restaurant.

I installed and played Portal last night. It was amazing. And tremendously funny in a way that only an immersive media with a silent protagonist can be. Nightchrome from MetaFilter said this about the game:

Portal was absolutely fantastic, one of the most amusingly entertaining games I have played in awhile. Also the first game in a very, very long time to make me actually want to buy merchandise based on it.

I totally agree. Who wouldn’t want a Weighted Companion Cube? Fortunately, it sounds like Valve will be producing some sort of Companion Cube toy for sale around Christmas. Can a Companion Cube Mini-ITX computer case be far behind? I’d buy one. Heck, I’d mod my Shuttle into one if I knew how to machine aluminum.

Anyway, great game. Extremely short (I beat it in about three and half hours), but totally worth the 2.38 GB download. After finishing it I felt the same way I did after seing Grindhouse in the theater — energized, jubilant. And that ending theme! I knew it was by Jonathon Coulton, who I love, but I didn’t know it’d be that good. Funny, catchy. Just awesome. I immediately hunted down the MP3 and listened to it for like an hour straight.

Delicious, moist cake from Portal

I hear there’s going to be a Lorwyn booster draft Magic tournament at Adventures Underground tomorrow at noon. I’d really like to participate, but I’m going to be driving down next week to do payroll anyway and I don’t want to go back and forth so much in such a short period of time. That drive is so boring. It erodes a person’s soul.

My current Mafia game, Mini 506: The Siena Syndicate, has been having a rough time; low activity, lots of players replacing out, a small surge in craplogic… But things are looking up. I bit the bullet and did a big PBPA-ish post that I was quite pleased with. It was a risk, since I had to make some firm declarations about my suspicions against some players with a fair amount of Whuffie but it seems to be working out okay. I’m starting to realize that what really appeals to me about Mafia isn’t so much the logic and deduction, but the rhetoric and “spin” aspects. Sadly, I haven’t been able to focus exclusively on those since I’ve gotten townie roles every time I’ve played so far. I mean, they’re a part of the game for every player, but it’s the mafia that get to devote themselves fully to that ambosial, subtle art of manipulation.

#913

12:20 am, Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Got back from the Tri-Cities last night. Brought some of my mom’s chili and cookies home with me along with a bunch of groceries. (Can’t wait to grill those huge ribeyes we got at Yoke’s.) When I got home I found Brett had just arrived with some New Garden takeout (special chow mein, sesame chicken, and egg foo young) — very tasty. Oh, and on the subject of food, I went to Apollo (the Greek place in Richland) with my parents on Sunday. Tried something new: The pasticio. Also very good. I was surprised how well the cloves and cinnamon went with the red meat sauce.

Oh yeah, and I saw Sean again on Sunday morning! By some coincidence he’d picked that weekend to visit some family in the Tri-Cities and swung by to say hi to my parents (who were out of town for that wedding, but arrived while he and I were shooting the breeze).

Did a lot of gaming this weekend. Some pics:

Beer Money    HackMaster    Tongiaki

Munchkin Cthulu plus S Cape and Cowthulu expansions    Heroscape early game    Heroscape Endgame

The five of us (me, Logan, Jones, Amanda, and Heather, who was down from Spokane for the weekend) played some games Friday night; Beer Money and Munchkin Cthulu, I think. After Amanda went home we broke out the minis and dice for HackMaster (Jones GMed). It was Logan and Heather’s first time role-playing, but I think they liked it. We ran through module B1: Quest for the Unknown with an elven battlemage (me), a half-orc berserker (Logan), and a human fighter (Heather). It went pretty well — we averaged ~2,500 XP and ~1,700 gold pieces each. Munz’s Bolt of Acid plus Photographic Memory plus the Speed Reading skill is uberwin in a dungeon. Hopefully next session we can get started on module UK1: Porpher’s Enchanted Garden.

I also picked up a bunch of TPBs at AU — Knights of the Dinner Table BoTs #15-17, Mouse Guard series 1 (which Jones has been pimping for the past few weeks), a couple Futurama collections, The Goon vol. 5, The Goon Noir, and Penny Arcade vol. 3. Oh, and I got the Cowthulu (56 cards) and Narrow S Cape (110 cards) Munchkin expansions, which we used for a late-night game on Sunday.

Also on Sunday, we met this guy named Caleb who’s apparently part of a local Magic: The Gathering group. He spectated for the last third of the Tongiaki match we were playing, then joined us for a 4-player 250-point army HeroScape battle (pics above). It was pretty epic. Logan had robots, Jones had Tarn vikings, orcs, and Grimnak, I had Nakita agents and Syvarris, and Caleb had samurai, Krav Maga, and Raelin. The orcs and samurai engaged first with the robots attacking both from a distance a turn later. I tried to get to the fray, but the chaotic terrain in my part of the map made movement difficult. I ended up killing 75% of the vikings and a scrawny ninja. Eventually it came down to me vs. Logan. Thanks to a few bouts of bad luck on his defense dice, I won. (The bottom-right pic shows the final board state.)

Some randomish stuff (not that this post has had a coherent theme thus far):

I saw Resident Evil: Extinction on Saturday. It was pretty much what I expected — cheap (but slick) zombie splatterpunk with ample startleshock. I enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll pick up the DVD.

Last week’s Office episode was great. Best part: Andy’s three-man, speakerphone-assisted acappella performance of ABBA’s Take a Chance on Me.

Did you know CBS almost made a cop drama about zombies? The pilot was shot in the summer, but never aired. You can download it through BitTorrent though.

Team Fortress 2′s “vtex.dll” spray-import bug is really annoying. Why haven’t they fixed that yet? I did some googling and figured out a workaround, but you need to have CS:S or Half-Life 2: Deathmatch installed (which I don’t). Having a “?” beside your name on the scoreboard just looks so lame…

Team Fortress 2 spray-import bug consequences

“Prepone” is my new favorite word. From bobdotorg’s Slashdot post:

One can also expand their English vocabulary by working with Indians. Took me a while to figure out WTF ‘prepone’ meant. As in (say with your best Apu imitation), “We need to prepone the meeting an hour or so.” Prepone being the opposite of postpone.

Have you heard “teh n00b song”? (3.39 MB MP3 free for download here.) It’s dumb and cyberjocky, but I like it. Especially the weird accent the singer has. What is that? I’d call it “inbred Canadian.”

#912

8:09 pm, Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

I downloaded Team Fortress 2 as soon as Valve made it available through Steam last night. 1,379 MB @ 179 KB/s still takes a long frickin’ time — didn’t actually get to play it until today. But it’s awesome. I love the character models. The maps are awfully complex, but at least you can still find things quick because the signage is so well placed. It was weird to play through the new 2fort map… dredged up a lot of half-forgotten memories of playing the same level in the Quake 1 mod almost ten years ago. A couple screenshots from my inaugural run:

TF2 Hydro screenshot    TF2 Sniper screenshot

Also been playing Geometry Wars (via Steam) a bit. Current high score: 109,275.

Here’s a neat Flash game I learned about on MeFi: Launchball. It’s sort of a very simplified, very granular version of Armadillo Run that focuses more on machines and non-kinetic energy. I beat all the regular levels but haven’t tried any of the extras yet. (A lot of MeFites are saying that the Pinball Wizard extra level is impossible to beat. Fortunately you don’t have to do those ones in sequence.)

Launchball reminds me a bit of Manifold. (I thought I’d mentioned it here before, but Google says I haven’t. Of course, those “site:upsidaisium.com” searches aren’t always that accurate. Dunno why.) Anyway, it’s a cool little game where you shoot gravity-altering balls at things. Fun and easy. Doesn’t have enough levels though.

Have you seen the Echochrome trailer? That’s some really mind-bending stuff.

Made Mexican lasagna for dinner last night. We’re still eating the leftovers. I got the recipe from my mom who, I think, got it from my aunt Faye. I baked a two and half pound pot roast, shredded it, and simmered it in enchilada sauce and mild red taco sauce for an hour till it had soaked up all the liquid. Then I made up a lot of cornbread batter and spread half of it on the bottom of a 9×13″ baking pan. After that, layered on some grated Colby-Jack, the spicy shredded beef, 4 oz. of havarti cubes, more Colby-Jack, and another layer of cornbread batter. I wish I’d remembered to include a can of creamed corn like my mom did — it could’ve used the extra moisture and sweetness. Still, mine came out okay. The top cornbread layer is a little dry so it helps to put some butter on it before eating.

Cornbread/Mexican Lasagna

It’s hard to get a good picture of this stuff. Real cornbread is usually too crumbly to make for a nice presentation.

Started reading The Dark Side of the Sun (1976). So far I’m not impressed. It’s too space opera-y and not really humorous. Makes me glad Pratchett moved on to fantasy.

New Top Chef (reunion), South Park, and Sarah Silverman Program episodes tonight. Woo.

Worked out 10/9.

#911

10:02 pm, Monday, October 8th, 2007

Yerg, missed blogging for a long time again. Stuff keeps coming up.

Food porn:

Homemade cheeseburger    Canapés    Devilled eggs

On the left, one of the cheeseburgers I made last week. The two on the right are of the dinner we had Saturday night: Nothing but hors d’œuvres! The first plate is a bunch of canapés, variously consisting of smoked oysters, Huntsman cheese, almond pesto (homemade), Inglehoffer stone ground mustard, Gruyère, grated parmesan, and salmon. The second plate is devilled eggs. I make mine pretty simply: Egg yolk, pepper, mayonnaise (I like Best Foods), a little sweet mustard (it’s easy to ruin the filling by using too much), and paprika sprinkled on top. (Fill with an A.B. pastry bag, AKA Ziploc-with-the-corner-snipped-off.)

Welp, Top Chef season three is over. I’m glad Hung won and not Dale. Before the finale, I kept telling Brett that if Dale won I wouldn’t watch next season — the guy skated by for almost the whole competition and only got good (lucky?) in the last couple episodes. I still think Casey deserved it most though. She didn’t do great in the last challenge, but she was more consistent than the other two and her presentation was almost always the best.

Finished Permutation City. It was really good; not quite as fun as Schild’s Ladder, but better than Teranesia. Definitely more “paradigm shifting” than either. I really liked the “dust theory” concept (which was a little hard to grok at first), but I never quite got why the Garden-of-Eden packages were necessary. If all the states of a given process exist somewhere in spacetime, why did they have to launch anything? Wasn’t it already running (and would have ran even if they’d never decided to launch)? I really disliked that the Thoms Riemann storyline ended so bleakly. I mean, the (Elysium-based) Peer & Kate subplot was sad too, but at least it had a hopeful, if twisted, ending. It echoed the Maria/Paul stuff well.

Ohhh… actually, now that I think about it, all the couples (Peer/Kate, post-launch Peer/Kate, Paul/Maria, real-world Paul/Maria, Thomas/Anna, Paul/Elizabeth, Aden/Maria) were just different permutations of the same relationship. Even the Francesca/Maria relationship, with Francesca refusing to get scanned, was part of the same thread. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. Fundamentally, all those stories were about people being separated because of their ideologies. And the last permutation of Peer & Kate (where he disolves into the inhabitants of a new world to make her happy) sort of demonstrates an interpersonal version of dust theory — even though all these people eventually moved apart in some way, they were still together. The Copy of Paul “lobotomizing” himself to please Maria just brought it full circle. Man, just about everything I read of Egan’s leaves me in awe.

Anyway… Sean came over on Saturday. We played a bunch of games (Wii darts and Jenga, mostly) and caught up with each other. I can’t believe he’s flying radar planes! And living in the south! At 5:30 we had lunch with his sister and a bunch of her friends at Nuevo Vallarta. The food was okay, but not as good as the Mexican places back in the Tri-Cities.

Boy, DreamHost’s abbazaba server is sooo much better than virgil. Check out these uptime stats (and compare to last month’s):

Uptime stats for Oct. 2007

99.96%! That’s actually better than what Krunk’s getting, according to Pingdom. (Haha, sorry Krunk!) Not quite as good as Peter’s uptime though (100.00% for as long as I’ve been monitoring it at 1 minute intervals). Anyway, I’m actually happy with DreamHost again. Guess I’ll renew my contract with them. I sent ‘em a thank-you note via the ticket system and got this back:

Excellent! I’m glad to hear this is working out for you!! =) As is the case with many problems in our system, they tend to be localized (We have over 2000 servers currently). If you ever need any additional assistance, let us know.

I drove to Moscow today to deposit a check for some web design I did back in May… guess who forgot banks are closed on Columbus Day? Really sucked because the road construction delays on ID-8 were longer than usual. Criminently! How long are they going to be widening that highway?

What else? Bender’s Big Score is coming out on November 27th; already pre-ordered it through Amazon. Team Fortress 2 (non-beta) will be out on Steam the day after tomorrow. Looking forward to that. Oh, and I’m going to be in Pasco this weekend — gotta take care of my parents’ animals while they’re in Buckley for Jenny Nearhood’s wedding. I’ll probably leave Friday and return Sunday unless the AU crew is planning to do anything special Thursday night. (There’s been talk of HackMaster and I wouldn’t mind playing some more Bang and/or mega-ultra-Carcassonne — I’m thinking about adding another set.) For once there won’t be any digital radiography stuff hanging over my head; got it all taken care of on the last trip.

A neat site I found via MeFi: One Sentence. It’s like a more readable version of grouphug.us, or Twitter-meets-PostSecret if you’re not familiar with the former.

Worked out 10/3, 10/5, 10/7. (Didn’t do upper body on 10/5, right arm was hurt.)

Some imageboard gems to make up for my absence:

Sideways ladder photo trick    Bad road overhang    Cartoon skulls

Photo with taken with Flash    TinTin card    Too much tanning!