1:11 am, Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Some cool stuff I’ve found recently:

  • Outlet Shirts > District Threads. District Threads is my absolute favorite brand for casual shirts and sweaters. Till now, I’d bought them from Andrew Christian via Amazon. But Andrew Christian sucks — they charge too much, don’t tell you what’s out of stock, delay shipments for weeks without explanation, and employ some people with poor English skills. Outlet Shirts, on the other hand, is cheap and responsive.
  • Glukoza. Really great Russian singer. Listen to her Schweine song and tell me that’s not catchy. Everything on her Moskva album is pretty good.
  • Cube Farm, Hamsterrolle, Polarity, Unexploded Cow, Jacob Marley Esq., Agricola, Treehouse. Some board games I picked up. Here’s a Flickr thumb of Cube Farm:

    Cube Farm

    Oh, and I started tracking my board game collection — see the new link under “Stuff” in the sidebar?

  • World of Goo. Awesome game. They just released it on Steam today. It’s like a real-time version of Armadillo Run with Gish embellishment. Or if you’re not familiar with those, it’s like Loco Roco with bridge building. Right now I’m on the second level of Chapter 3 and my Goo Corp. tower is 17.5 meters tall. The music is great too, very Danny Elfman-y.
  • Little Britain USA. Hilarious continuation of the BBC series. It’s on HBO — the third episode aired last night. They’ve had some neat cameos; Paul Rudd was on the last one.

I’m going to Coos Bay, OR for four days on Wednesday. My mom and I are taking a train to Portland (at 5:30 AM!), then switching to a rented car for the second half of the trip. I’ll take lots of pictures.

Heather made some really fantastic taquitos for dinner tonight. I’m not normally big on them, but these were excellent. Especially with the sour cream, lettuce, and guacamole. (Lettuce and guac? I never would’ve thought of combining those with taquitos, but turns out it’s very yum.) Also, my mom made some terrific turkey pot pie for lunch today so I ate especially well.

Oh! Hanwool came down the weekend before last! He moved to Redmond (from Los Angeles) cuz he got a job with Nintendo and he came to visit for a couple days. It was great. We played games pretty much nonstop and brunched at IHOP. He even played in our Saturday night D&D game (and picked up the 4th edition rules really quickly). A couple pics:

Bunch of us playing TTR    Hanwool smirking

Also, Logan made me this amazing painting about a month ago. It took a while to get it framed, but now it’s hanging in the living room. He said he got the idea from my blog’s header art. Pretty great, right?

Logan's Upsidaisium Painting

Speaking of art stuff, here’s a Venture Bros. commission I got from Stephen deStefano (art director/storyboard guy on the TV show):

Venture Bros. commission by Stephen deStefano

And some random Jenga/my new desk pics, why not…

Matt and Logan playing Jenga    Built-in desk in the den    Matt and Logan playing Jenga 2

What else? Brett and I staked (guywired) all the trees because we were having some big winds a little bit ago. I really like making stuff with 3/32″ steel cable and ferrules. Did you know a bolt cutter works just as well as a swaging tool? The trick is to crimp with the metal stop. Alright, time for bed.



1:05 am, Saturday, October 4th, 2008

The sod is all in! Pics in the Landscaping the New House Flickr set. It was a lot of hard work. My parents and Brett helped a ton. Most of me still aches. But it’s done. Now I just have to finish the fence and a little brickwork and the exterior projects will be finished.

It’s a good thing we got it finished before the 7th. In the city of Pasco you have to meet certain landscaping requirements within 90 days of the start of occupancy. Pasco Municipal Code

At least 50 percent of the required front yard area for all residential property including right-of-way but, excluding driveways, shall be treated with live vegetation.

I took some photos of a praying mantis today. Flickr thumbs:

Green Mantis 3   Green Mantis Head-On   Green Mantis 1   Green Mantis 2

Also, Jones, Heather, and I did some pumpkin carving.

Oh, and after three weeks (a month?) of delays, we’re finally resuming our Saturday night D&D game! I love 4th edition. For what D&D is supposed to be — easy, fun, single genre, and coarsely granular — it’s fantastic. Right now I’m running an 8th level human wizard (“Malfeasance”) in Jones’ Forgotten Realms game. The rest of the party is made up thusly: Logan’s a dragonborn warrior, Matt’s a human warlord, Heather’s an eladrin ranger, and Freddy’s a tiefling rogue. It’s been awesome so far. There were some minor issues with slow combat early on due to sloppy record-keeping, but we had those ironed out by session three.



1:42 pm, Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

The trees are planted! Digging the hole for the sweetgum in the front yard was horrible — the dirt was just shy of becoming sandstone. But it’s done. I put a mix of mud and manure (my mom brought me some primo stuff from the arena next to the barn) at the bottom of each hole; I think that’ll help a lot. Here’s a Flickr link to the photos.

Oh yeah, and I built an HTPC during the summer — got most of the parts for my birthday. This Flickr set has pics and stats. It only has an 80 GB HD, but that’s okay cuz it streams everything off the 750 GB NAS. That Antec case (Fusion 430) is so fantastic to work with; quiet, sturdy, compartmentalized. Next time I rebuild my main system I think I’m going to use another one of those. It’d be nice if they made one without the VFD and volume knob, but with the thick aluminum bezel and a second external 5.25″ bay.

K, gotta run to the bank. 4,800 sq. ft. of sod arrives tomorrow!



8:59 pm, Monday, September 29th, 2008

It’s been a while since I last posted. Rather than write a massive post recounting all of what’s happened in the last two months, I’m going to ease into things.

Been super busy with the new house. The past few weeks have been mostly irrigation work for me. Running the ditcher, digging out the short spurs by hand, gluing pipe, wiring the valves, burying everthing. It’s almost complete now; all I have left to do is fill in the hole around the valve/manifold box. The coverage is really good — we used way more individual sprinklers than the professionals used on nearby houses. More overlap. I started out wanting to do the whole thing with PVC but quickly changed my mind — PVC mainlines with funny pipe risers work so much better. Only downside is attaching the funny pipe connectors is murder on your hands. Seems like a good way to induce arthritis.

Also poured some curbing for the fence and the brick walkway out front. See, there’s a 5′ x 22′ area next to the driveways on most of these houses that gets walked on a lot. Two cars in the driveway leaves very little room for foot traffic. Some of my neighbors have filled their gap with concrete, gravel, flagstones. A few have done plain red brick, but always in a basketweave pattern. I used a herringbone pattern and four different colors of Holland pavers for mine. Here’s the finished product:

Brick walkway, herringbone pattern

Picked out trees at Job’s nursery today. I got an American Sweetgum for the front yard and a Shirofugen Cherry and Lavalle Hawthorn for the backyard. Also got five boxwoods for the front of the house, along the southern wall of Jones’ room.



12:55 pm, Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

Buncha stuff’s happened. My dog died, we moved into the house, Heritage Realty is trying to screw me over one last time, and I learned how to rewire a dryer. Also spent a hojillion dollars at Lowe’s, painted four accent walls, did a Costco run, went to Logan and Amanda’s barbecue, and started hanging out with Derek Watts again (ran into him and Infinite Frontiers Dan at a Hancock showing). I’m probably leaving out more things of major significance, but that’s all that comes to mind at the moment.

Been massively busy. Only in the last four days or so have things started slowing down to a normal level. And it’s kinda weird having a full social calendar again after so long in Pullman. I’ll blog more once I’ve got my main desktop up (gotta build a desk first).



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.