Archive for February, 2008

#930

10:03 pm, Monday, February 25th, 2008

Okay, so first, here are a couple pictures from before the Las Vegas trip that I’ve been meaning to post. This is me, Jones, Logan, Amanda, and Laura (a new clerk at Adventures Underground) playing Ticket to Ride on Valentine’s Day:

Jones, Logan, Ticket to Ride    Ticket to Ride board - Feb. 14, AU

I just finished dinner. My mom made peppercorn ribeyes (the super thick ones; seared, then roasted), a shiitake-heavy cognac sauce, a simple green salad, and a fennel & red grapefruit salad (which calls for bee pollen as an ingredient; kinda wacky, huh?). It was very good. Here’s the food porn:

Ribeye, shiitakes, fennel/grapefruit salad

Oh, and here’re some photos of the lot where my house is going to be built. I picked this lot because it was the only one left that didn’t face another yard in the back, doesn’t have an ugly transformer box out front (no power lines, see?), isn’t easily visible from the highway, has a normal shape (all corners 90°), and has a straight fence-line (no indentations for hydrants or sewer access on the Chapel Hill Blvd side). Took these on the way to the home and garden show on Sunday.

Empty house lot on Oliver Dr. 2    Empty house lot on Oliver Dr. 1

The lot, incidentally, is on Oliver Drive. How cool is that? BTW, met with my mortgage broker today. Looks like the closing costs will be about three thousand more than I was expecting, but otherwise everything’s going according to plan. It’s kinda scary to see the total monthly payments laid out with the real estate tax, mortgage insurance, and hazard insurance all added in.

Last night Jones, Logan and I played Munchkin and Manhattan (a new board game I picked up). Manhattan is simple and a lot of fun. Won the 1994 Spiel des Jahres. For me, it’s a welcome change of pace from Gheos and Tongiaki which have similar themes (expansion/control) but force you to worry about defense in an unpleasantly frantic way.

Here’s a quick play summary: Each round you pick out some skyscraper building blocks (which range in size from one to four floors), then build (or steal) towers in six different cities. Each city is a 3×3 grid; the grid squares you’re allowed to build on are dictated by your orientation to the board and a set of four cards you hold. (Each card corresponds to a spot on the grid; upper-left, lower middle, etc. with center (middle-middle) cards being the rarest.) You can build new towers or steal existing towers by capping them with a block of your color (but only if you’ll then own a number of floors in the building equal to or more than any opponent’s colored floors). At the end of each round points are awarded for the highest skyscraper, majority-control of each city, and the total number of towers each player controls.

I really like some of Manhattan’s dynamics, like how rivalries just tend to hurt the players involved and fortification is nearly prohibitive in cost. Anyway, great game. Reminds me of Weinhandler for some reason. I took a bunch of pictures of our two games (winners: Logan, then me) and the box contents and collected them into this Flickr set: Manhattan board game.

After board gaming, we had dinner at Sonic and went bowling at Atomic Bowl. It was late, so we only got in one game before they closed. Lotsa fun though. I scored 127, Jones 88, Logan 135.

Oh, and Logan requested that I blog about how he owes me $10, so… yeah. There’s that.

#929

1:59 pm, Sunday, February 24th, 2008

I’m back in Pasco; decided it’d be easier to just stay here through the 26th instead of going to Pullman only to drive back four days later. Anyway, Wednesday night we all went to the Blue Man Group. It was a lot of fun — the music was good, there were these strobe-animated dancing statues, giant whirling tubes fell from the ceiling, the audience pulled thousands of feet of paper streamers toward the stage… the experience is kind of hard to describe. The only thing that kinda bugged me was the forced “curiosity/sense of wonder” the actors express throughout the show (esp. when we know this is probably their 2,000th performance).

Picked out colors, carpet, and vinyl flooring for the house on Friday. (The exterior will be a darkish slate blue with white trim.) Also ordered Cat 5 in most of the rooms with everything routed to the den.

On Saturday, Jones and I went to see Persepolis. (It’s a black and white, animated, French/subtitled coming-of-age story about an Iranian girl.) I liked most of it, mildly, but the ending was really unsatisfying. I guess that’s usually the case with these autobiographical sorts of things. It kind of reminds me of Ghost World; especially how it ends. Except that in Ghost World the girl’s “expatriation” is uplifting and self-directed.

After that we headed over to Adventures Underground and made Logan play Fluxx, Tongiaki, and Infernal Contraption (with the “Sabotage!” expansion for the first time ever, woo). I think Jones won Fluxx and Tongiaki (I gambled on a new settlement in Hawaii and lost by seven points), I won Infernal Contraption. Oh yeah, and we played Gheos in there somewhere — Jones won that too.

Okay, gotta get going. I’m visiting a lawn and garden expo with my parents, then doing some more game stuff at AU.

#928

7:01 pm, Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

Hey, I’m in Las Vegas. Been going to these really great Shawn McVey lectures. Had a fantastic dinner at the VooDoo Cafe & Lounge on the 50th floor of the Rio — braised buffalo tenderloin with a mushroom demi glaze, asparagus, and potato purée. Saw Penn & Teller (they had a really nifty nailgun routine and another that involved “psychic readings” and joke books). And, even though it’s kind of embarrassing, I played some slot machines with Brett. I turned $5 into $15.45 on a nickel “Deal or No Deal” slot, then used some of that to win $40 on a dollar Triple Sevens slot. I knew I was pushing my luck, so I cashed out and haven’t played since.

Today we walked around the strip some. I took some pictures and collected ‘em in this Flickr set: Las Vegas/Feb. 2008.

Gotta get going — we have reservations at Fleur de Lys for 7:30.

Update: Wow. Fleur de Lys was amazing. Brett and I each had a four course meal. Mine began with an amuse-bouche (compliments of the chef) of smoked salmon over something akin to a savory cheesecake filling, topped with brittle, bacony whiskers. Then I had an ahi tuna tartare over shaved fennel topped with fresh, herby greens. For the fish course, Maine lobster poached in butter with wild mushrooms. After that came the best part: Filet mignon, rare, topped with sautéed foie gras and black truffles, perched on a mushroom trio and a bed of baby spinach in a red wine essence. Finally, for dessert, I had a “fresh fruit minestrone” with raspberries, basil sorbet, marmalade sauce, and a curled poppyseed wafer (or “langue de chat”). And decaff coffee.

Brett had, in short, a veal ravioli with potato, jus, and sunchoke foam; seared scallops with porcini ravioli, apple straws, and a “mushroom tea”; roasted duck breast with duck confit, bok choy, chestnut purée, and potato purée with chives and onion; and a cheese platter with dark apple compote for the dessert course.

Awesome, awesome meal. I think it’s my new all-time favorite. The staff were incredibly skilled and polite too. Totally worth the money.

#927

10:08 pm, Saturday, February 16th, 2008

Yay, I got my loan pre-approved and my lot reserved! I even met the project manager, Bill. Great guy. Now I just need to fill out some more paperwork and pick out colors. With a little luck I’ll be moving in around May 30th.

Played Fluxx and Ticket to Ride with Jones, Logan, Amanda, and Laura at Adventures Underground on Thursday. Had dinner at Fiesta with Brett tonight. I meant to drop by RadCon for some TF2 lannage, but never got the chance.

Flying to Las Vegas tomorrow at 6:00 PM. We’ll be staying at the Excalibur.

Awesome things discovered this week: Uncrustables with grape jelly, Ben’s Brother – Kiss Me Again (Stuttering), and the island’s time discrepancy.

#926

7:10 pm, Monday, February 11th, 2008

Amy was curious about the Kindle’s display, so I took some pictures and stuck ‘em in this Flickr set.

The snow is finally melting here. Man, was it bad. On top of the stuff I photographed last week, we got another five inches. My car gets stuck way too often. Luckily, whenever it’s happened away from home I’ve had Brett with me to help push it out. But mostly I’ve avoided driving, relying instead on my sister (who has a 4WD SUV) and the bus (which has not been running on time).

I watched You Kill Me today. Great movie; Ben Kingsley, Tea Leoni, Luke Wilson. Starts slow, but it builds to something really great. I kept worrying that it’d nosedive into something depressing and grisly, but it didn’t. The beginning kinda reminded me of The Professional. Hey, you know what’d make an awesome triple feature? You Kill Me, then Grosse Pointe Blank, then The Matador. They should totally sell that as a DVD three-pack. The “Likeable Hitmen Threefer” or something.

Here’s what I had for dinner Saturday night — a steak sandwich with a ton of spinach. I made a lot of the sandwich filling at once, so I had leftovers for Sunday too. Went nicely on French bread with some provolone, broiled open-faced for a bit. I made the filling by searing some sirloin and finishing it in the oven, then deglazing the pan with Brett’s 2005 Covey Run Morio Muscat. Simmered some chopped onion in that, then added 8 oz. of sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, some spices (paprika, cumin, pepper, tumeric), and eventually the juices from the cooked sirloin and then the sirloin itself. Really tasty. And, for some reason, I decided it’d be great with a pound and a half of spinach (which it was, but YMMV).

Steak sandwich with spinach    Steak sandwich, open-faced

I found a really awesome app for managing your iPod without using iTunes — Floola. You can use it to organize playlists (even create “smart” playlists that the iPod generates dynamically by sorting out songs based on year, rating, how recently they were played, etc.), upload songs, track your iPod listening habits via Last.fm, subscribe to podcasts… Really great program. I love that I can add MP3s from my desktop without having to sync “properly” (since I only have iTunes on my notebook). Also good for getting stuff off of other people’s iPods (which isn’t fully allowed with the newer models/firmwares).

I’m going to the Tri-Cities tomorrow to take care of my parents’ animals for a while. Then I’ll be in Las Vegas from the 17th to the 21st for the Western Veterinary Conference. Brett and a few people from the clinic are coming too. I’m hoping we’ll get to eat at Ruth’s Chris and/or Fleur de Lys while we’re there.

Umm… that’s about it for now. Been listening to these three songs a lot lately: Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke, McFly – She Falls Asleep (Part 2), and McFly – Transylvania. Transylvania is especially awesome — check out the video.

Edit: I forgot to mention that Brett and I ate at the Moscow Bagel & Deli last week. It was great. I had the “Sweet Midge” (double beef, special sauce, lettuce, onion, and cheese) on a poppyseed bagel. I also had these really good Terra chips made from unusual root vegetables (taro, yucca, sweet potato, parsnip). And the place is open till 3:00 AM! (How am I just now learning about this restaurant?) Here’s a crappy 320×240 cell phone pic of my bagel sandwich (forgot to check my settings):

Sweet Midge bagel from Moscow Bagel and Deli

Afterwards, we hit a couple wine shops in the area. I’m not a fan of wine, but Brett really likes it. He’s got a special 54° refrigerator and everything.

Edit 2: Random YouTubery: Clips of Casablanca, Singin’ in the Rain, and The Godfather re-dubbed by the cast of SpongeBob SquarePants. I roffled.

#925

7:09 pm, Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Okay, time to catch up a little. I just got back from the Tri-Cities. The snow is just awful… three feet in places. I took some pictures here in Pullman and while I was in Pasco — they’re collected in this Flickr set: Snow in E. WA/Winter 2008.

Let’s see, what happened during my blogging hiatus? Christmas… I got an iPod Nano and a Kindle. I’d dropped some hints about wanting a Nano, but the Kindle was a complete surprise. It’s really fantastic though — so far I’ve read five books on it (Fleet of Worlds, Hit Parade, Autumn, Making Money, Stories of Your Life and Others) and I’m partway through my sixth (Stephen Baxter’s Vacuum Diagrams). (Also tried to read Stumbling on Happiness and The Areas of My Expertise, but they just didn’t hold my interest.)

Around the middle of January my car stopped working (couldn’t shift it out of drive/turn it on). Had to get it towed to Jerry’s Auto Repair (the only AAA-certified shop nearby). Cost $700 to fix, but it runs well now. I guess the main problem was a broken shift cable (?). (I’m not really sure what that is. My car know-how is limited to replacing batteries and changing tires.)

Cooked a bunch of stuff, including two huge batches of stew that fed us for almost a week (boy was I sick of stew at the end). Some highlights:

Pork ribs and spinach fettucini    Chili with cornbread and cottage cheese    Chicken, bean, and orzo soup    Beef, udon noodles, snap peas

Left to right: Pork ribs (roasted with a special dry rub, then doused in Longhorn BBQ sauce) and spinach fettuccine in an Asiago Mornay sauce; chili with cornbread, colby jack, and cottage cheese (mixes in nicely); a chicken/kidney bean/orzo soup (with other stuff too, but those were the main ingredients) — kind of an experiment, but it came out good; and a beef, udon, and snap pea stirfry.

I also did some really great steak/tortellini and spaghetti but didn’t photograph those plates.

My pepper ball grinder broke (the lever just snapped off), so I replaced it with this 8-inch walnut peppermill. The mill is way better — easy to load, holds more, smooth grinding action, does many levels of coarseness. Not like that stupid ball which only cranked out ultra-coarse fragments (and took a lot of squeezing).

Got some new shoes at Burlington Coat Factory (leather Skechers slip-ons) and some business-casual attire at Men’s Wearhouse (finally found the perfect sleeveless sweater). How great is their service, BTW? Being called “sir” so much irks me a little, but their salesmen really know their stuff. The best shirts I’ve ever had are their “no-iron” ones. Super comfortable and easy to clean.

I started using TiddlyWiki for my notes and records. It’s a local, self-contained wiki; just a single HTML file, so you don’t need to run a webserver like you do for a real one. I used to Gmail this info to myself, but this is way better. Here’s a screenshot of mine:

My TiddlyWiki

And then the biggest news is that I’ve started looking for a house in Pasco. I’m really sick of renting — it’s such a waste of money if you’re not building equity. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell any of you what a pain landlords can be. (Remember how our back bedroom flooded on December 10th? Yeah, it’s still not fixed. Carpet’s all torn up, all the furniture is still crammed into the living room… Heritage Realty is a slumlord operation, plain and simple.)

I looked at a bunch of places on this last trip, and I’ve decided I really want a yet-to-be-built home out in the Loviisa Farms Phase 8 development. Specifically, the 1,437 sq. ft. 3-bedroom single-level with a den, vaulted ceiling/skylight, and optional bay window. Now, whether I can secure the financing for that is still up in the air. I’m working with a few different lenders. One mortgage broker quoted me $130K, but I need slightly more than that. Hopefully I can figure out a way to make it work. If not, I might have to settle for something in a crappier part of Pasco (though I really don’t want to live east of 20th Avenue). Anyway, this is the floorplan of my maybe-dream house:

1437 floorplan

It looks kind of squished together, but I’ve been inside it and it really feels more spacious than you’d expect.

Alright, that’s all for now. Later: Super-Mega Carcassonne, music, P.F. Chang’s, Sonic, and filthy book-thieves in Richland.