Duck and cover

Everything about today told me I should go home and curl up into a little ball underneath the protective sheets of my bed. I began the day by discovering that my cat had filched my USB pen drive—meaning that there was a slim chance in heck that I’d ever find it again.

Then my shower towel gave off a mildewy smell when it got wet, and my skin started itching where it came into contact with the towel. (Yes, that was pretty much everywhere.) That led me to discover that our washing machine is part of a class-action lawsuit involving failing electronics and motors—and, of course, for growing mildew that infects the stuff you wash.

I arrived at work to discover the gal who sits at the front desk with a big grin on her face. This has been a pattern all week: every time I walk in the door, I’m presented with something broken in the project I’m working on.

Today it took five hours (!) to figure out what was wrong: there’s a bug in Microsoft Word. Curse you, Gates!

[The issue, though I doubt anyone will really find it useful (but perhaps Google will prove me wrong): I had a text file that has LF (line feed) line endings, and I needed it to have CRLF (carriage return/line feed) endings. So I wrote a VBA script that did some other prep work, and then supposedly did a “replace all” to swap the LFs for CRLFs. The darn thing would do that for some 2177 lines, and then started replacing LFs with plain CRs. The solution? Do two replace alls: one to swap LFs for CRs, and the next to swap CRs for CRLFs. Silly, but it worked.]

Partway through my five-hour Word ordeal, I tried to refill my water cup from a filtered water pitcher. I succeeded at that. And then I poured a lot of water on the counter.

My lone thought, after I stared at my new lake for a few moments longer than I want to admit: Eh?

I suspect that it was a miracle I survived the day. I mean, I had to drive to work to be able to pour water on that counter. Eep.

This evening was a bit better: the first ballroom dance practice of the term was rather lightly attended, but it was attended by a good number of people I know. Jay dragged a gal onto the dance floor with the dubious line, “You know how to swing? Then you know how to hustle!” Nihal fell asleep in the corner during a waltz; Barry declared that we had a man down! I then talked Barry into bending over backwards far enough to hurt himself (I’m that persuasive!)… he didn’t really hurt himself. That much.

What I’m really looking forward to, though, is Marco’s West Coast II class tomorrow evening. Yay dance!

Brain dump

This last week has been extremely frustrating. I spent most of my time at work trying to get dumb databases to work, and most of my time at home arguing with my sister about the scanning that got put off because of the time I spent on those databases.

Others are bitching about me being behind on scanning, too, but don’t have the courtesy to do it to my face.

I’m getting frustrated just thinking about the last week, so I’m just going to drop it.

Saturday I carted a bunch of books that were gunking up my room into the Book Bin, and sold them for money. They actually accepted a good number of my old texts—something I didn’t expect at all—and all the manga I wanted to dump—which I guessed they would. I didn’t get a whole lot back (they have quite a racket, if they can sell the books they buy), but it was still more than I would have gotten otherwise.

Last night I watched Brian bake a cake from scratch (as I told him, in my usual circuitous way, it could have been a lot worse) and chatted with Albert and Evrim. They all introduced me to the concept of Turkish Revenge (I forgot which movie it’s from, but I’m sure that Brian will be able to fill in that blank). In Turkey, according to this movie, stabbing someone above the waist is considered an attempt to kill them, and is thus forbidden. Stabs below the waist, in contrast, were just fine. Turkish Revenge, therefore, is stabbing someone in the butt.

This concept was news to Evrim, and she’s from Turkey.

[3/28 Update: Brian has reported in: the movie’s name is Midnight Express. Though “based on a true story,” Brian also notes that the movie apparently has some major differences from the book it was based on.]

Last night Brian and I also watched a speed demo of Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. More impressive to me than the demo (which featured a couple hilarious “run right by the guard as he’s turning around” moments, and generally was impressive) was the fact that my powerbook could actually play it. I had never even bothered trying to play DivX files on the powerbook—an old Pismo (“old”) model—as I figured that it couldn’t decode them fast enough to be usable… I was wrong. It handled the file well (though, admittedly, couldn’t handle anything else at the same time), and I even managed, with no fuss, to mirror the display on Brian’s TV and output the audio through Brian’s receiver. Good times.

Today Andy called, and the newly-released PSP came up in the course of our conversation. Andy pointed out that the PSP can run programs off of memory sticks—meaning that it’s only a matter of time before we have NES and SNES emulators for the PSP. (Three systems—at least—in one!) Combined with the gorgeous screen the system is supposed to have, as well as the drop in price that should occur before any emulators are bug-free… and we’ll be all over it. In a year.

Lastly, I just tried opening my Access database on my dad’s PC. It seems that Microsoft’s idea of security is to make you navigate a maze of dialogs verifying that you really really want to open a file, before you can actually open that file. Each time I opened the database, I had to wade through three dialogs. The first was legitimate, but the second two were terrible: “Opening files can be dangerous. Do you really want to open this file?,” and “We’re not kidding about the danger of opening files. Are you double-damn sure you want to do this?”

I made the frickin’ file! If it trashes my computer, I have no one to blame but myself!

Shaolin slugfest

Friday was set up to be the day I saw an all-out brawl between Brian and Eric. The scene: Hollywood Video. Both have rather particular ideas of what a movie they want to see is like, you see, and their ideas don’t always overlap. On Friday, Brian was leaning towards Shaolin Soccer; Eric’s pick was Anchorman. I abstained, because I was interested to see how they’d resolve this. (Is that cruel?)

It was a bloodless fight. I was robbed.

Brian went for the jugular first-thing: he pointed out that he was planning on paying the rental fee for Shaolin Soccer, and asked if Eric was willing to pay, if we took his movie. The answer, almost immediately, was “no.” (Eric would make Scrooge McDuck proud.)

So, Shaolin Soccer: hilarious movie. Most of it makes no bloody sense—but that’s OK! As Albert noted mid-movie, it contains soccer matches that are actually interesting to watch. Well worth a rental; don’t be off-put by the serious-looking cover.

And definitely watch the “Original Chinese Version,” and not the hacked-up American theatrical release.

Saturday was mostly a haze of random stuff interspersed with Metal Gear Solid 2. Long story short: I still suck at tactical espionage, but at least I have my habit of incessantly saving on my side. Today (Sunday), in contrast, saw an inordinate amount of productivity out of me: tonight was the first time in ages that I was able to cross off multiple lines off of my to-do list. It feels good to be moving forward again.


After some critical self-examination, I have determined that I use the words dude and totally far too often in casual conversation. I am also fond of peppering my talk with allusions to Metal Gear Solid (“Rookie eyes!,” or “She’s green, but as tough as they come!”) and programming databases in Access (mostly plays off of the term “dangling reference”).

This totally has to stop. Right here. Right now.

I’m one adoption of a term (namely, “like”) into my lexicon away from having to commit suicide. It would be a simple matter of honor: back in high school, I swore to myself that I’d never abuse those words (you know: like totally, dude!). Now, in my more pragmatic years, I’ll settle for not abusing all three words at the same time.

I place the blame for my abuse of “dude” at the feet of l33tsp34k: I’d never touch “dude” with a ten-foot pole, but I find “d00d” hilarious. “Totally,” on the other hand, is entirely my fault.

Tonight Brian managed to talk the cashier at the Beanery into giving him a sixteen ounce Pooh’s Picnic. (The “Pooh’s Picnic” is traditionally a children’s drink.) This took two attempts: “Could I get a sixteen ounce Pooh’s Picnic?” failed, but “Could I get a sixteen ounce hot chocolate… with whipped cream… and little graham cracker teddy bears?” actually worked.

I can’t really describe how amused I was when the guy making Brian’s drink reached for the box of graham cracker bears.

Fair warning

For reasons I myself am not totally clear on, I’ve decided to tempt the gods and transfer my domain name to a different registrar. I understand that these things usually aren’t that big a deal, but I’ve gotten burned for trying lesser things. If the site goes mysteriously dead (even more dead than the rest of the site already is), then that probably has something to do with it.

Aspirations & comics

Tonight I spent some of the precious time that I don’t really have (especially if I think about it) to start playing around with my newest toy. Hopefully I, with the possible aid of Brian, can pull some magic and have something fun for y’all to download in the not-too-too distant future. We’ll see.

I hope for either artistic pretension, or complete falsehood, to characterize my work.

Over the weekend Brian lent me two books: a manga, Phoenix (specifically, A Tale of the Future), and a comic compilation, Flight (volume 1). I stayed up late Sunday night reading Flight, and stayed up late Monday night reading Phoenix. Both were quite good, but I think I’ll point y’all towards Flight first. When I sat down to read it, I figured I’d blaze through the book—it’s not all that big, when you look at it. I got dragged in, though, and spent a small eternity (eternity comes quickly when you get into the past-midnight hours) within its covers.

A good number of the stories fell flat for one reason or another—it’s certainly not perfect—yet I wouldn’t mind buying this thing at full price. (To have Brian lend it to me is like having a tiny treasure thrust in my hands.) It’s durn pretty to look at, too—a coffee-table book for those with small coffee-tables.

And, best of all, volume two is coming out in a week. I’ll probably have to cough up for it.

So play already

I’m not sure if a MegaTokyo strip has ever resonated with me as much as this one.

I’m also not sure if that’s something I should really admit in a public forum like this, but there you have it.

Mission In-Progress

I wish I could say that this last week was horribly productive for me. Instead I fought with VBA programming for an Access database during the day, and then in the evenings found out that Raiden is a whiny crybaby whenever he has to do something he didn’t first do in simulation.

Yes, that’s right: I’m now sucked into the world of Metal Gear Solid 2. The Metal Gear franchise is a rarity for me: intriguing plot, and 3-D graphics that don’t make me toss my cookies. My casual conversation with Brian is now peppered with talk about single-tapping people in the head; this gets even worse when we’re on top of buildings—namely, eating on the roof of the downtown American Dream Pizza.

Brian’s been an invaluable aide to my addiction to help with MGS2, as he’s the sort who plays around in a game’s world and tests its limits—and then tells me about it when I play. I tend to play through for the story alone (I’d be a terrible beta-tester), and so would have missed all sorts of little touches that the designers added to the game.

Other than Brian watching me get mo’ murder on enemy soldiers, and me watching Brian fight Olga repeatedly on European Extreme difficulty (wherein one shot from Olga would kill you; though in general you take three shots to die), we also hooked up Brian’s receiver (“plugged in lots of cords”) and played a round of disc golf. The disc golf was frequently ugly, but also frequently surprisingly good. It was my first time out in many months, and I didn’t suck anywhere near as constantly as I feared I would. That was nice, because the course was as full of people as I’ve ever seen it—something about the sunshine, I guess.

My official dance career at OSU is now finished. For the last time, even. I would be sad, but my unofficial career continues unabated: next term Marco will be offering a not-for-credit west coast 2 class, and I’ll be all over it. (I’d be crazy not to; each class is $2, and I don’t have to be a student—i.e. pay tuition—to attend. A steal!)

Meanwhile, I have lots going on behind the scenes (*cough*) here. Lots to do, and either no time or no energy (pick one) to do them. Some might even bear fruit that y’all could download, someday. Maybe. In the meantime, some random links to peruse:

Speed Demos Archive: download videos of people hauling ass through games

AIM’s sucky new terms of service: damn do they suck, but (theoretically) only for those who didn’t have an account years ago. Still… where’s my encryption program? (hat tip: Greyduck)

Mission Complete

Over the weekend I finally defeated the terrorist plot to launch a nuclear weapon, got the girl, and drove off into the Alaskan snow. Yes, that’s right, I actually beat Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. My stats, if you’re interested:

Rating: Hyena

Game Level: Normal

Play Time: 13:31:05 (…)

Save: 58 times (I’m a careful fellow)

Continue: 22 times (Not unrelatedly, I’m also an unlucky fellow)

Alert Mode: 46 times (Something like half of those spent running in circles in the nuclear storage building where you can’t use weapons)

Enemies Killed: 133 (Single-tap to the head gets ’em every time)

Rations: 73 (yum!)

Since I seemed to play the game much better towards the end than at the beginning, I figured my skills had improved. To test this, I tried playing again from the start.

Despite the fact that I’m wearing a so-called Sneaking Suit, I (still!) can’t sneak worth a damn. And since I have no weapons at the beginning of the game, I can’t single-tap people in the head. In short: I still suck at tactical espionage.

Shades of gray

The good news within the bad of current ginormous gas prices is that the Chevron people feel obligated to clean both my front and back windshields when I come in to fill my tank. I guess that’s supposed to make me feel like paying over $2.13 a gallon isn’t as bad a deal as what it might otherwise be.

The bad news within the good within the bad of current ginormous gas prices is that clean windshields make me even less inclined to actually wash my car. Ouch.

It can only be attributed to human error

It’s 2:50 am. An hour ago I finished watching 2001: A Space Odyssey with Jay, Andrew, Nihal, and Ashley. It was my second time through (though I’d mostly forgotten it from the first time I watched), and it made about as much sense as the first. I was much more impressed with it this time around, as Jay reminded me that it was made in the late sixties without blue screens—which makes some of those space scenes damn impressive.

As we all dance (and, indeed, I was invited to join them after a west coast swing lesson), we had fun imagining dancing a viennese waltz to one of the movie’s ten-minute songs. (Choice comments from me: “there better be people waiting to give you cups of water throughout the dance,” and “you darn well ought to get a standing ovation if you make it all the way to the end.”) Nihal nodded off to sleep a couple times throughout the film, so we got to experience portions complete with “person got bored and fell asleep” sound effects. Good times.

This went down in Weatherford Hall, so I got my first look inside the renovated building. They did a pretty damn nice job fixing up what was once a dilapidated shell of a residence hall.

As for the west coast swing workshop… I learned a sequence of moves that I’ll only remember because I bothered to write them down afterwards. I still won’t be able to do those moves reliably, as they start off with a free spin for the leads (to which I, like Pedro, say NOOOOOO!) that ends with the lead getting an arm around the follow’s back. Spinning is bad enough, but trying to get into a specific position in time for the next lead… oy. I surprised myself by not sucking every time I tried it—even I can spin successfully, if I’m lucky.

Kira said she liked watching the leads suffer, for once. I could do nothing but cry silent tears.

Liability, defined

The last half-hour of my west coast swing class was spent watching professional dancers do their thing (on DVD, of course). Having been totally blown away the first time I watched professionals, I wasn’t anywhere near as affected this time around. (Sidenote: one of the dancers was a guy that Barbara remembers taking Ballroom I from her, some three years ago… amazing what three years can do, if you actually practice.)

Then, behind us: THWACK!!!

That’s as close as the written word can represent the sound of a tile falling from the ceiling, and landing right where people would have been dancing. Judging from the amount of noise it made (the room is two stories tall), that would have been enough to take someone out.

The last time this happened (yes, tiles have fallen before), I was in the bathroom when the tile fell. This time I know why people were frozen in fear.

Barbara had fun with it though, and got all of us to sign the fallen tile—making it into a bizarre trophy. I can now say that my name is on a piece of OSU memorabilia.

On blogging

x180 brings up a good point about blogging: it gives you a very skewed perspective about a person. Reading my blog, you might think that I’m a dork with interests in anime, macs, and ballroom dancing. I usually end up watching movies or playing Soul Calibur II (or, even better, Twinkle Star Sprites) with my friends on the weekend, and I’m perpetually tired.

Actually, that would be pretty damn close to right. (I also have a potty-mouth, but that waxes and wanes over time.)

Of those listed, the biggest filter on what you read in my blog, it seems to me, is do I have time to write about this right now? Quite often, the answer to this question is hell no. When you read a post, it’s often because I’m putting off sleep to try and write… and, suddenly, my perpetual sleep-deprived state doesn’t seem so mysterious to me.

Still, I sometimes wonder what impression this blog gives to those who haven’t met me in the flesh. I generally have something to talk about, however mundane, when I post—whereas I’m frequently at a loss for words in day-to-day conversation. (Admittedly, my posts seem to elicit as much reaction from people as my conversational attempts….) Any thoughts about myself are tinted by my perspective, and I am my harshest critic. Also, I know who I am—and so I might assume knowledge about myself that others might not have.

Additionally, I absolutely love ellipses, em-dashes, and parenthetical statements when I write; while the editing process usually reduces those for any formal papers, these posts are lucky if they get read-through once.

I’m sure this fact pains Brian, my unofficial editor, even though it probably doesn’t surprise him.

For those who do know me, I’d be surprised if anything I’ve written has really changed your impression of me. Okay, maybe a few of you have thought something along the lines of “I’ve never seen Brent drop fifty F-bombs in one paragraph,” or “Brent talking about dancing is like a fish talking about walking,” or “sumbitch owes me money.”

Nevertheless, for those who know me, I figure this is the next-best thing far superior to actually having me in your lives.

Ultimately, though, this blog is a memory-aid for my sieve of a brain. That gives it a slightly different purpose than most blogs have; while it’s nice that(/if?) you want to read along, it would still exist in some form even if you didn’t. If you find it mostly boring, that’s because my life can be pretty dull at times—but I’m all right with that. (I have two expectations of my life: that it will be long, and that it will be boring.) You’ll have to look to the next guy to stick his head in a lion’s mouth while freefalling at ten-thousand feet after having jumped out of an exploding helicopter (extreme!); I’ll find (less-extreme) pleasure in my daily interactions with others.

And inasmuch as blogs have given me another way to interact with others—however flawed—they’re pretty damn nifty.

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