Archive for June, 2008

#955

7:48 pm, Thursday, June 26th, 2008

(Warning: The first half of this post is mostly bitching. Skip towards the end for game and movie talk.)

Getting into my new house is taking longer than expected. Amazingly enough, the only obstacle I’m dealing with at the moment is $3.00 worth of fees. In the piles and piles of documentation I’ve given the mortgage people, the one thing that’s given them pause is the fact that my garbage bill accrued $3.00 in late fees over the course of 1 year and 4 months. My other three lines of trade are spotless and I’ve never, ever been late with the rent at the last two places I’ve lived. But I have been a little lazy with my $16/month garbage bill, so obviously lending me umpteen dollars is a dubitable gamble even if the loan is secured by a house of greater value. Well, whatever; my mortgage broker says he can massage the lender into ignoring that single blemish.

Heritage Realty (of Pullman, WA, for any curious googlers) tried to screw me again. It was especially underhanded this time. I had to get them to fill out some “verification of rent” form and, in this document, they noted that my account was in arrears. I was, of course, incredulous. When I asked why they wrote that, the girl produced a letter that said they had not received payment for the month of April. “Why didn’t you notify me?” I asked. She said they did, that they had mailed me that letter. Liar!

Fortunately, I know better than to trust these dishonest people: Every month I come down to their office in person to give them the rent check. I do this so I can get a signed and dated receipt (usually in the form of a photocopy of the check with a handwritten note from their staff). Paranoid enough for you? Anyway, I ran back to the apartment, snatched April’s receipt and showed it to their managerial person. Here’s where they really ticked me off. I’ll try to present the exchange as accurately as I can remember it:

“So here’s a photocopy of the check that your staff made, and here’s your employee’s signature and the date. That red ‘received’ stamp is yours too.”
    “Uh huh.” She scrutinizes the paper for nearly twenty seconds, obviously suspicious.
“You can see the date on the check is the same as the date your staff wrote on it. April 3rd.”
    “Mm.” She’s sure it must be a forgery. She just can’t figure out how I made it in less than ten minutes. “And this check was good?”
“What? Yeah, of course. I checked my bank statement; you guys never cashed it.”
    “Well you should have made sure of that.”
“That’s not my responsibility.”
    “It is your responsibility to make sure your checks clear.”
“What? I guarantee there was enough money in that account. I did everything I was supposed to to pay you.”
    “That’s not what I’m saying.”
“What are you saying? That I’m supposed to make sure your paperwork is in order?”
    “No. But you have a responsibility to make sure your checks are clearing.”
“So I’m supposed to monitor my account and notify you if you’re late cashing my check? That’s ridiculous. All I’m required to do is give it to you on time and make sure there are sufficient funds–”
    “You’re not understanding me.”
“You do realize I’ve been living in a flood damaged apartment for six months, right? Which I’ve repeatedly asked you to fix. And you’re criticizing me for being irresponsible? This is not my fault.” By this time I was livid and Brett touched my arm to remind me to calm down. (I wanted a witness there in case they tried to destroy my only copy of the receipt.)
    “Forget it. It was a joke.” Really? Why would you even joke with someone who knows, who has documented proof, that you’re screwing them? I’m nearly certain she only said this because she realized how absurd it sounds to blame a tenant for the landlord’s incompetence in losing a rent check.

I asked them to correct what they’d written on the form and they eventually complied. We had to wait ten minutes though while the managerial hypocrite did something in the back office. And then, when they finally gave me the form back, they acted as though they were doing me some huge favor by not committing fraud. Heritage Realty (of Pullman, WA) is, by far, the worst company I’ve ever had to deal with.

Incidentally, after this event they started showing my apartment in the mornings. On the notices, they requested two hours instead of one and a half as they had before. A couple times they cancelled the showings and only notified me afterwards.

Okay, so I saw a bunch of new movies (well, new to me) during my fifteen days of non-blogging. Here are my pico-reviews: Wild West Comedy Show (good; the documentary aspect makes the two bad comedians bearable; Caparulo was great), The Hoax (decent; surprisingly lacking in depth, but entertaining), Lars and the Real Girl (very good; might be too schmaltzy for some people, but I liked it), The Happening (horrible; I’m convinced Shyamalan deliberately set out to make this a bad movie, and I say that as someone who actually liked every movie of his from the Sixth Sense on), The Incredible Hulk (awesome), Be Kind Rewind (mildly bad; surprisingly disappointing; I liked the premise and the Jack Black/Mos Def pairing), Walk Hard (good; loved the music in it), Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs (awesome; as good as the first movie, loved the old-timey black & white intro).

Speaking of Beast with a Billion Backs, a bunch of us got together for a screening of it at Adventures Underground on Tuesday night. I brought the projector and my laptop, Logan and Amanda provided everything else (including pizza). We used a different wall as the screen this time; I think the picture had a diagonal of about 14 feet. Worked well. We had to wait for some people to show up, so we watched a season 2 episode of Code Monkeys before the actual feature.

Got (and played) a few new games recently: Pandemic, Ticket to Ride: The Card Game, and Metropolys. Pandemic is really novel; not so much for its mechanics, but because it’s truly cooperative. You work with the other players to cure these four diseases and prevent outbreaks. We lost our first game, but only because we ran out of player cards one turn before we could cure the last disease. (BTW, the diseases in the game are named after their colors. In the rulebook, they have an illustration with the caption, “Here we see an outbreak of black in Algeria.” I don’t know if that’s intentional, but it’s funny in a not-sure-I’m-allowed-to-laugh kinda way.)

Ticket to Ride: The Card Game is good. It’s more like the board game than I’d have thought possible. I like the addition of the “train-robbing” mechanic (which lets you deprive other players of a particular color). Points are more secret in this than in the board game though; it’s pretty hard to tell who’s winning until the game ends.

I liked Metropolys, though not as much as Brett and Amanda. Everyone but me seemed to prefer it to Manhattan. It’s sort of a bidding/secret objective/path-planning game. It’s a little hard to describe. I need to play it more to figure out how much I like it.

We had a couple big Risk games recently. Jones won Mission Risk and I won a six-player Global Domination game. It was epic. On my last turn I was supposed to receive 135 reinforcements.

Oh, and I picked up the Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition Player’s Handbook. There’re hundreds of better-written reviews and analyses of it on the web, so I’ll just sum up my opinion very briefly: Initially, I was repulsed. Making tieflings and eladrin core races (while eliminating gnomes and half-orcs) seemed retarded to me, but I’m getting used to it now. Splitting the wizard spells into easy powers and more-complicated rituals was really clever. And I love that humans now get +2 to any single attribute (main reason I never played ‘em before). The multiclass restrictions are lame. Overall, I think it’s turning into a simplified tactical wargame with a much thinner veneer of mechanics aimed at actual roleplaying. Which is okay, I guess. That’s fun for a while. People interested in real roleplaying are probably using more sophisticated systems anyway.

Yeesh, this was a long post.

#954

9:21 am, Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

I just took these pictures from our front door. It’s snowing here in Pullman. In June.

Snow in Pullman in June 2    Snow in Pullman in June 1

#953

1:16 am, Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

I scanned and printed so many documents today. Stuff for the mortgage. I probably saved like seven bucks by not going to Kinko’s. Worth it? Yes, but only because I had Panic at the Disco’s new album on looped shuffle. Man, it’s nothing like their first album but I love almost all of it. She Had the World is such an awesome song.

I downloaded Metal Slug: Super Vehicle-001 for the Wii virtual console yesterday. Unfortunately, every time I tried to play it my TV would act like it was changing inputs and I’d get nothing but a black screen or, at best, a very faint outline of the opening menu. Sound worked fine, but no display. I called Wii tech support and, after a lot of menu navigation (why is there no clear option for “my virtual console game doesn’t work”?) I got a very friendly, competent Canadian. (“Zed” instead of “zee.”) Turns out some of the Neo Geo games run at 240 lines of resolution which some TVs can’t handle in HD/EDTV mode, so they blank out. But there’s a secret fix to force the game to display at 480 lines: Start the game. Once it’s loaded, press the home button and select Operations Guide. At this screen, plug in a nunchuk attachment and press Z+A+2 at the same time. Bam, 480-line mode!

Anyway, Metal Slug is very cool. Great graphics and animation. Can’t believe I’d never played it till now.

Last Friday I was pretty bored. Jones was sick and Logan and Amanda were tied up with the Friday Night Magic tournament as usual (too many interruptions for proper gaming), so I went to see a movie. I had to choose between Kung Fu Panda and Zohan; the Rotten Tomato scores were 84% and 34%, respectively, so I went with the panda movie even though it looked pretty lame to me. I think the ads grossly misrepresent it — it was much, much better than I was expecting. Not quite as good as Horton Hears a Who!, but very close. There’s an exceptionally awesome three-minute 2D-animated opening sequence where the panda fights off entire armies of evil dark things. That alone was worth the price of admission.

The rest of the movie is great, but I don’t think it made as big an impression. My only major complaints are that Dreamworks cheats a little with their modeling — Po’s patchwork pants that behave like neoprene, complex objects represented by elaborate textures on simpler forms — and some of the voice acting choices were too weird. Like, why was Monkey voiced by Jackie Chan? He says five words in the whole movie and the accent is jarring since he’s literally the only character that has one. And David Cross as the crane just felt surreal. Jack Black was great though.

I also watched Michael Clayton on DVD. It was meh/okay. Decent, I guess. They dribbled out the clues a little too slowly for my liking.

A couple pics:

Buffalo steak with potato    Dining area, chandelier, carpet

On the left, buffalo (well, bison) steak and a baked potato. This is all from the co-op in Moscow. I wasn’t really wowed by the freshness or quality of anything except the sour cream. I got this weird organic brand that I hadn’t seen before. The stuff is fantastic; it’s more like cream cheese, really. Kind of sweet, very light. On the right, yet more house progress! (Anyone sick of hearing about this yet?) It’s all in the Flickr set. It’s amazing how much quieter the house is with the carpets installed.

Boy, gas has shot up lately. It was $4.14 at the Road 68 Shell station when I left Pasco. Pullman still has to catch up; the Safeway has it at $4.05. I think last week was the first time I had personally seen prices higher than $3.99. Hard to believe it was like $1.15 when I was in highschool.

Been catching up on my comics. Jack of Fables vol. 2 was awesome. KoDT #137-139 less so. Still have the latest Fables and Incredible TPBs to get through. Walking Dead vol. 8 is taking forever to come out.

Here’re some neat images that caught my fancy on the imageboards today:

Venture Bros. art    3Dish graffiti    Bomber over Golden Gate bridge

Gotta get up early tomorrow. Heritage wants to show the apartment again in the morning. Also have a metric buttload of packing to do.

#952

5:24 pm, Friday, June 6th, 2008

I’m briefly in the Tri-Cities again. I swapped my car for my parents’ big truck on the last trip; managed to get Brett’s dresser, the big recliner, a bookshelf, a TV and lots of boxes transferred down here. Moving is always awful, but this isn’t as bad as the Fed Way/Pullman move was.

The house is practically finished. All they need to do now is finish the sliding doors on the shower, take the paper off the skylight, clean up their messes, fix a vent cover, adjust the cabinet doors (uneven in spots), put on the pulls and knobs, etc. Minor stuff. I’d post pictures, but the computer I’m on doesn’t have an SD card slot.

Heritage Realty has started showing our apartment to people. You have to love that they notify you only twenty-four hours in advance via notices taped to your front door. Classy. I hope the prospective tenants get a good look at the room with all the flood damage. It’s been six months and Heritage, in true slumlord fashion, still hasn’t fixed it. I posted a little notice of my own to remind them; nothing libelous, just facts. “This is the room that flooded in December 2007. It’s been preserved just as your contractor left it, right down to the torn up carpet. I’ve repeatedly asked you to fix it but nothing has been done.”

Anyway, I’ve been building computers and doing insurance stuff. Turns out Newegg has an exceptionally awesome return policy; can’t believe this is the first time in four years and forty-eight orders that I’ve ever had to RMA something with them.

#951

5:12 pm, Monday, June 2nd, 2008

I’ve been in the Tri-Cities all week, so I don’t have any food pics to share. But here’s a cool dune buggy I saw in the parking lot of the Pasco Wal-Mart:

Dune Buggy 3/4 view    Dune Buggy side view    Dune Buggy rear view

Last Saturday we played games at Adventures Underground. One of the Magic players, Scott, joined us. We did Catan (Scott won, though we messed up the rules a little due to all of us being so rusty), Ticket to Ride (I trounced everyone with 131 pts.), and Streetcar (I won, but it was extremely close). Pics:

Settlers of Catan boardgame    Ticket to Ride boardgame    Streetcar boardgame

House stuff: All the linoleum flooring is in (bathrooms, utility room, kitchen/dining), counters are in, cabinets/drawers are in, carpets are on site (but not installed), and appliances have been delivered. As usual, here are a couple highlights. (Everything else, in full five-megapixel glory, is in the Flickr set.)

Kitchen cabinets and counters    Master bath counter and linoleum flooring

Been working on this major upgrade at the clinic. New hardware for all the non-DR computers, much OS updating, a new wireless network, and a significant update for the practice management software. Also sorted out some of our biometric timeclock trouble. Funny story about the big database migration: The developer promised it’d take less than five hours; it ended up taking more than three days. Also, a workstation died shortly after its upgrade (dead mobo or CPU), so I get to fix that when I next return. Anyway it’s all been a ginormous PITA.

Saw a bunch of movies. Here’re my pico-reviews: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (decent; neat special effects, way too long, annoying CG mice), Nine Months (okay; basically a crappier, ’90s version of Knocked Up), Four Weddings and a Funeral (great movie, but Andie MacDowell is a feckless slut and I thought it was lame that Hugh Grant chose her at the end), Diary of the Dead (very mediocre; horrible acting, clichés upon clichés), Meet the Fockers (meh, but Blythe Danner’s always awesome), and Cloverfield (really awesome).

(The preceding blog stuff was written two days ago. I couldn’t post it because I was getting funky MySQL errors. I’m still getting the errors on some things, but it looks like I can post anyway now. The following text was written today.)

Alright, I’m just about to head back to Pullman. Today’s been wicked busy. Some good news on the house though: My home owner’s insurance is going to be much less than I was expecting — with all my deductions and a $1,000 deductible, it’ll be about $25/month. I thought it’d be around $80; even my mortgage guy projected $35 (which I thought was extremely optimistic).

I saw Horton Hears a Who! last night. I wasn’t expecting much because a lot of reviews I’d been exposed to talked about it “dragging” and being a little dull but worthwhile, etc. But it was fantastic. I think it might be the second or third best movie I’ve seen this year. The animation is all wonderful. I love how they shorthand the detail where it’s unnecessary, like on dirt paths, leaves, and the sides of buildings, but build it up into something absurdly overwrought where it pays off, like with the molting feathers on Vlad the vulture. I also loved the Avery/Jones-ish elasticity of the characters; that’s one thing Dreamworks seems to do better than Pixar, IMO. ‘Course, that’s probably easier to do when you’re working with people like Jim Carrey who’s practically a cartoon already. Oh, and the two 2D sequences were great. It’s so cool when movies mix media like that — like the brownie song in Reefer Madness or the rhino story in The Ten. Anyway, I don’t think it dragged at all. Every minute of it was enjoyable for me.

Oh yeah, the IMBC ended yesterday! Congratulations, Dennis Lever! We’re having a trophy made. We’ll be doing those every year from now on, though who knows if the design’ll stay consistent. I’ll post pics when it’s ready (and hopefully Dennis will give us a victory shot with it after we ship it to him). Anyway, thanks to Tim for helping organize the 2008 IMBC and Beefy and Jones for serving as auxiliary organizers!

Okay, I gotta go. Lots to do. I’ll try to blog more in Pullman.