FedEx of the damned!!

I got my positive reviews, and so I purchased a MacBook to replace my ailing PowerBook. It shipped on the 19th, and was last scanned in Portland on the 22nd. When it failed to arrive that Wednesday, as it was scheduled to, I started making phone calls—FedEx “ran a trace,” and came up short.

I bet somebody stole my computer.

Apple kindly set up another order for a $0 MacBook, which dawdled along until the 27th, when it shipped via FedEx.

It was last scanned a day and a half ago, in Anchorage. I’m starting to wonder if this one will also wind up missing, although I can’t do much about it until after it fails to arrive on its scheduled day.

Next-morning update: FedEx has pulled through; overnight my computer arrived in Portland and was swept to my door. Crazy.

In short, Apple needs to stop putting giant steal me messages on its computer boxes. Something about large product photos clues people in to the value of the contents, I guess.

Must be getting chilly down there

Circumstantial evidence that things aren’t quite right with the world:

1) When attending the (originally sparsely-attended) west coast swing dance two weekends back, I full-on nailed a break in the music. Last Wednesday I half-hit another break. These events are unprecedented, people! I never stop on breaks!

2) While making a purchase at Best Buy this weekend, I interacted with a cute, friendly, competent cashier. (Is it love?) Usually, if you’re lucky, you can pick two—if not one—of those three.

Circumstantial evidence refuting the above:

1) I played a game of Taboo with friends at Nate’s birthday party this weekend. I was on Team Awesome (with Nate and Nick), playing against Team Queerbo (names picked by Nate, not me!). Team Awesome failed to live up to its title; furthermore, it seems that Nick isn’t really a fan of losing*.

[*I jokingly threw the game at the end, when we needed to get something like ten correct answers to tie the other team, before I realized that Nick really wanted to win. Oops.]

2) My allergies, originally seeming relatively mild this year, have all but knocked my socks off; today was the Worst Day Evar to be my nose. (Shood me dow.)

I cannot speak the names of my hard drives

I’ve been naming my hard drives after anime characters for the last couple years—and would use coinciding icons to spice ’em up. (Of course, names are cheap and icons are scarce, so I usually end up picking icons and naming accordingly.) The problem with this is that many anime icons are difficult to make out and/or just plain ugly when reduced in size.

My favorite historical hard drive names/icons? Chiyo-chan and Osaka. (Chiyo-chan was, of course, the smaller drive.)

While searching around for new icons that didn’t look horrid when scaled down, I stumbled across a set of Keroro Gunso head-only icons. Perfect!

Keroro and Giroro

Only catch is that I can’t say these names without either tripping over my tongue or slowing down to enunciate each syllable carefully. (Maybe it’s just me being stupid; “keh-row-row” just doesn’t sound right to me, and for whatever reason I also tend to slow down when I say “row.” Thus I’m left slowly saying something that feels wrong… and feel dumb for it.) I’m almost tempted to take advantage of the whole Japanese L/R thing and pronounce ’em Kelolo and Gilolo, just because I can say those at full speed.

Tangent: remember the NES game The Adventures of Lolo? I do! I always hated getting shot by a Medusa, because the noise was loud and I—almost certainly—wasn’t expecting it.

I’m going to have to start daily pronunciation exercises or something.

Dance-related exploits of late

On Saturday I attended a sparsely populated west coast swing dance, where I realized (soon after entry) that all the west coast knowledge I had was completely unaccessible to me. Envision the brain fog of Joe Versus the Volcano. My initial discomfort of not remembering anything and not knowing many people eventually faded, as I was able to dredge my memory for a few moves and more people arrived as time passed…. Danced a fun dance with Emerald, which was made fun entirely by her skill as a follow—some people are really quite impressive dancers. (I’d be happy to settle for being a competent dancer.) Janis showed up for the final hour of the dance, claiming that she was threatened bodily harm by others if she didn’t make an appearance.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of my friends (less Andy and, of course, Eric) were attending a Brew Fest at the fairgrounds. I met up with them afterwards, and we wound up watching The Big Lebowski late into the evening. Fun movie; I’d heard references to The Dude abides, but had no idea what was being referenced.

Tonight’s ballroom dance practice packed quite the mix of emotions. Judging from her behavior—which pretty much mirrored mine of a month ago—Britta’s grandmother passed away sometime in the last week (last I had heard, things weren’t going well). Jenny and I got to sass each other a bit, and hopefully cleared up some uncertainty about whether or not each of us liked—as opposed to “don’t like”—the other. (Sometimes when I’m more withdrawn, I somehow set off a negative spiral of body language where someone else and I end up suspecting the other doesn’t like ’em for absolutely no actual reason… and that’s no fun.)

Ben is apparently leaving for Korea, which is a darn shame. Though I really don’t know him, I’ve always enjoyed watching him lindy hop—he exudes complete joy when he dances. I’ve not seen that anywhere near as strongly in anyone else, and I’ve watched a fair number of people dance over the years. Per birthday and leaving-for-good tradition, he got a “spotlight” dance with all the follows who lined up to dance with him. Also per tradition, he was a blast to watch. I was happy to see Janis, who showed up for her “once a term, hour-long appearance” at the Wednesday night practice. She decided that I was trying to force her out the window while we were dancing (I protested, because she never even hit the wall or windowsill—and while I might not actually be able to force her out the window, if I were trying to do so, I’d at least get her in the approximate area of the window), and then during the next pass attempted to move herself closer to the window.

The thing about west coast (and, actually, all partner dances) is that you lead by maintaining a (relatively) rigid frame with your arm, and allow changes in your body’s center of mass to be communicated through movement of that frame. This requires a bit of tension between the lead and follow’s arms: when Janis attempted her pre-suicidal move, I simply met the additional tension in her arm (as a result of trying to move backwards) with more tension in my own, and (because she performed her job as a follow) kept her from accomplishing her ends. Hah.

Also danced a wild cha-cha with Ae-Young, as has somewhat become tradition. (Ae-Young loves to spin, and I let her—so she discovered that she could perform double-spins for all my single-spin cha-cha moves, and we’ve continued practicing from there.) Tonight her spins were exceptionally energetic (how she does that boggles my mind; I have a devil of a time trying to spin once), and consequently tended to throw her a bit off balance afterwards—and I was able to keep her steady without losing my own balance. This is the first evidence I’ve had that my lifting weights has had any effect whatsoever; my historical self probably would have been pulled off-balance, courtesy of non-existent arm muscles.

(The above does not mean, however, that I have much arm muscle.) Now if I’d only see some results from the rest of my exercise…

Metal Gear 24

I’m convinced that 24 is the television version of Metal Gear Solid. (Keep in mind that I’ve only seen the fifth season of 24, so I only know so much.) It’s a bit confused, because (supposedly) Solid Snake’s real name is David—but Raiden and Big Boss’ names are both Jack, so I’ll work with that (meaning that I’ll pick and choose and/or mix and match facts from the three MGS games as they best suit my case).

Exhibit A: Both feature sneaking missions against terrorists. Bauer never uses a tranquilizer gun, however, whereas the only time my Solid Snake kills anyone is when he’s shaking the guy down next to a cliff, and accidentally drops him over the edge. That, or else when he runs out of tranquilizer rounds. I had an acid flashback while Bauer infiltrated the gas processing plant (a.k.a. the Big Shell), and another when Bauer snuck around the submarine (the Tanker).

Exhibit B: Both feature grandiose plots that spiral out of control as time passes. To 24‘s credit, however, I don’t believe they’ve ever had Bauer running around naked and crippled in combat because he had to cover himself while running through the bowels of a bipedal nuclear robot. Literally.

Exhibit C: Both feature a host of colorful supporting characters. Bill Buchanan:Colonel Campbell, Chloe O’Brian:Mei Ling, and Audrey Raines:Rose. Probably a good thing Bauer never contacted Audrey while kneeling in front of a toilet in the women’s restroom, or else he might not have been able to save for a while. Not sure who the Otacon of 24 is, however—perhaps he got axed for bringing up issues too hot for TV. Shooting people in the face is one thing, but Otacon’s family relations… damn.

Exhibit D: Both have a shadowy group (the Patriots in MGS; no idea what they’re called in 24) that seems to run the United States in secret.

Exhibit E: Torture at the hands of the Chinese (24), versus torture at the hands of the Russians (MGS3)? Same difference! [5/23/06 Update: Brian correctly points out that both MGS and MGS2 also had scenes of torture interrogation; I assume interrogation has been a repeated feature of 24 as well.]

Based on this overwhelming evidence, I suspect that in season six we will be introduced to Jack Bauer’s evil twin brother, Daniels Bauer. [Liquid + Jack => Daniels] Eventually we will discover that they were two of three (!) children born under a project code-named les enfants terribles. Ex-President Charles Logan will eventually be revealed as the third, Jackus Bauer, and will end up fighting his son on the roof of Federal Hall.

Also, my Magic-8 Ball says that “it is certain” that the cyborg ninja will make an appearance next season. About bloody time.

They did it. They actually did it.

I just saw a TV trailer for 10.5: Apocalypse. As in the sequel to 10.5.

10.5 got a sequel. Think about that for a second.

I mean, even I couldn’t sit through all of 10.5—I was gasping for air within ten minutes, I was laughing so hard. And what’s the story going to be, this time? Is the President (Beau Bridges, who I will forever fondly remember as one of the two adults found ramming their cars into each other in a crucial scene of The Wizard) going to once again not listen to the crackpot scientist who—amazingly enough—was right about the first (…words cannot express how much I hate having to distinguish these…) 10.5 earthquake?

Or is it going to consist entirely of scenes of matchbox cars diving into a model ocean off of a model Golden Gate Bridge?

The mind boggles.


I was walking to my car after my WCS class this evening, accompanied by a friend and follow in the same class. A random lead from the class was walking behind us, not too close—but close enough to hear what we were saying. As we were going along, some guy in what appeared to be a dune buggy with a roll cage drove by. My friend was excited by this bizarre vehicle: Brent! Brent! Buy me one!

I responded: You have a boyfriend; get him to buy you one!

She then told me that she was probably going to break up with her boyfriend (of over four years), because he recently told her that he could never love her.

At this point, the guy walking behind us busts up. Literally doubles over with laughter.

[“I would be that guy,” said Brian when I regaled him with this tale.]

There’s more to the story than that (none of which changes my initial assessment of “well that’s probably a pretty good reason to break up with him”), and I actually feel really bad for her… but, I have to admit, it actually was hilarious.

Who the hell actually dates someone for that long, and then tosses ’em those kinds of lines?

5/20/06 Update: in alterna-world, where I actually told her “well that’s probably a pretty good reason to break up with him” immediately after she told me what her boyfriend said, and the guy walking behind cracked up at my response… Brian would be that guy. My apologies for the confusion.

5/20/06 Update #2: Aw heck, maybe alterna-world is actually the way it really went down. I’ve been seriously sleep-deprived lately, and my memory is even spottier than usual… damn. I’d appreciate my sass if I actually pulled that, though I’d question my ability to regulate what thoughts I vocalize.

MacBook ahoy!

Apple has finally released the new MacBook computers long-rumored to be the iBook’s replacement. This is fortuitous for me, as I’m in the market for a laptop that doesn’t lose my data.

The new computers’ specs are actually quite impressive; I doubt anyone expected 1.83 or 2.0 GHz Core Duo processors to grace the lower line of Apple’s portables, and I didn’t expect a full-size MacBook Pro trackpad to be present. The new “chiclet” style keyboard looks weird (but initial reports seem to find it passable), and the new “glossy” finish on the display sounds a bit sketchy in light areas… but I think I’ll manage. (Rough calculations, and Apple’s marketing—never trustworthy—say that the new machines are 15–20 times faster than my current portable. Hehe.)

(Charging extra money to get a black—instead of white—MacBook, though? HA! That’s one Apple Tax I can sidestep.)

The only thing that’s hard to swallow, for me, is the fact that these machines use Intel Integrated Graphics chips. You can count me firmly in the camp of people who would prefer a real, discrete, graphics card… but you should also count me in the camp of people who don’t really need that in a laptop. This is an important thing for me to come to grips with (am I not a power user?), as not doing so would result in me spending hundreds of extra dollars for something that’s really not going to affect me much.

Yes, I’ll most likely have a copy of Windows on this computer at some point (it’d be the most capable PC I own)… but I’m not going to be playing games on it. (At least, not 3D games… something about a tendency towards motion sickness.) And, besides, the build quality of the MacBook Pros continues to be a bit suspect.

Now I just need some dependable reviewers providing some positive reviews…

NCIS spoilers

So my family (less my sister, who is on homework duty) gathered around the TV this evening to watch another wholesome episode of NCIS, followed by another not-quite-wholesome episode of House.

What did we get, instead of entertainment? We got sucker-punched. Gibbs is leaving the show? Like, the main character? The reason we watch?

I mean, I like Tony, Ziva, Tim, Abby, and Ducky… but they’re not the heart of the show, despite being essential in their own ways. The show has lost its father figure, and now the kids are left to fend for themselves. Not good.

I actually tried (much to CBS’ delight) searching around for blogs that covered NCIS, and failed horribly. So, I stand in their place, with their message:



Drunken dancing

Friday evening was a disaster of epic proportions. The situation: I was expected to arrive at Brian’s at any time. Brian had to work Saturday, and so couldn’t stay up late, and I was tied to my computer waiting for it to crunch video for a DVD—primarily because that DVD was to be the evening’s entertainment.

Turns out that, while my mammoth tower has more than enough power to deal with the everyday humdrum tasks of life, it still chokes mightily on video processing. (I was horribly, blissfully, ignorant of that shortcoming.)

So there I was, at 11:30 pm, sweating bullets because Brian had turned off his computer while he awaited my arrival and because my thing was going to take a bloody eternity to finish processing… not fun. I eventually had to punt and convert my videos into a format that my powerbook wouldn’t choke on playing, and lug my powerbook over. Yeesh.

Brian was gracious about my extreme tardiness, thankfully.

Saturday was chock-full of hilarity at Barry’s expense. I arrived at the ballroom dance just moments after Janis arrived, and discovered a smaller-than-usual crowd in attendance. (Crowd size wasn’t a real issue, though; there was critical mass, at least.) Not present—or so I thought—was my friend Barry. My misperception was corrected when I headed to the water fountain and saw Barry asleep on a couch in a room connected to the ballroom.

If I had a camera, I’d have been all over that.

I later ran into Barry’s friend Bobby, who informed me that Barry wasn’t just asleep—he was passed out. At that point I remembered the conversation Barry and I had the previous Wednesday, wondering if we’d be better dancers after having a beer or two. I guess he decided to find out.

The answer, in case you weren’t paying attention, is no. Not if you drink enough to pass out, at least.

On the other side of the dance floor was a gal who kept dancing by herself. It struck me as really weird and somewhat off-putting—everybody else who isn’t dancing is a wallflower (or is chatting), and that, it seems, is the behavior I expect—but Janis saw it as the cry for “someone ask me to dance” that it really was. She then encouraged me to ask this gal to dance, and threatened that my “coolness points” would go way down if I didn’t.

She tricked me. I never had any “coolness” points!

I did lose “listening” points by asking Janis to dance to a psychotically fast west coast swing (I suspect it was Daniel Bedingfield’s Gotta Get Thru This [quadrupletime mix]); we were actually generally able to keep up with the music, which was a pleasant surprise. Danced the last waltz with Ae-young, who likes (I don’t mind; it’s fun) to hijack my “cuddle” lead into a neverending string of spins. I was golden until near the end of the song, though, because she kept spinning in a counterclockwise direction—and I can get her to stop spinning in that direction with a well-timed hand on her back. The final spin wound up being clockwise, however—and, as far as I know, there’s no human way to stop a spin in that direction without getting slapped.

Sunday I don’t actually recall much about. Odd. I think it was a giant waste of a day, but I can’t even be sure about that.

Today, at last, was not only bloody warm—it was also humid. Craptacular! Only now is it nice outside; I think I’m going to take my powerbook out on the deck and continue to hack at this “cover letter” I need to finish up. (Yes, I’m slow.) I always end up writing here’s what I’ve done, which implies what I can do for you instead of just here’s what I can do for you. Not a good start.

New math

Just heard on CNBC that four pennies are worth more than a nickel. A nickel is apparently also worth more than a nickel.

Physically worth more, that is. What happens when the material your money is made out of is more valued than the money it represents? I guess we get to find out.


Back into the swing of things

I’ve been distracted lately, trying to get things done that needed to be done a while back. Most notable among those tasks is an application for an in-town job that sounds like a great match for my skills/knowledge; it’d be a full-time job (huzzah!), and I could keep maintaining my old project after-hours. It’d really be win-win-win (me/new employer/current employer)… now all I have to do is apply. For whatever reason, I’m really bad about getting off of my duff, even when things seem perfect.

I was pleasantly surprised by the Nintendo E3 presentation; despite the name, the rest of the Wii seems like a compelling platform. (Of course, the fact that the Wii should be the only console that isn’t priced sky-high helps to make it compelling…)

And by that, I mean that I think Nintendo has a good chance to smack down both Sony and Microsoft in this next generation. Andy noted, and I agree, that Nintendo was quite deft in releasing the name of its console a couple weeks before E3; their presentation went over much better than it would have if everyone was just starting to choke on “Wii.” (For all Nintendo’s deftness, though, I still think they chose a clunker of a name.)

Despite my video-game talk, I don’t really play video games all that much (I can count the number of hours I’ve played video games in the last month on one hand, and all of that was playing Mario Kart Double Dash with friends). I guess not being a “gamer” doesn’t preclude me from being a fan… It’s quite an odd position to be in, if you think about it. Ex-gamer. Sidelined due to motion sickness and the realization there was more to life than video games. Even if I haven’t blogged like that, recently.

For your surreal and/or hilarious link of the moment, check out a six-minute video on The Evolution of Dance (Link found via kottke). It’s not ballroom dance, so fear not—y’all should be able to identify with this.

The next generation?

What is it with the video game triumvirate? I’m beginning to think I respect the 360 as the most balanced next-gen console in terms of price/performance/gameplay, but there’s no way in hell I’m going to buy one—it has absolutely no games I want to play.

(Okay, okay—I might make an exception for Kasumi. She’s still not a very good reason to buy the console, though.)

Nintendo? Apparently waving a stick in the air is going to revolutionize wiily shake up the way I play games. Never mind that a stick will never really feel like a sword, or a racquet, or a fishing pole. (I read somewhere that the Wii is partially designed to appeal to non-gamers; perhaps the bizarre controller will do that.) Nintendo has a good chance to take the lead in this next round of video game consoles, simply for the fact that it might not charge an exorbitant price for its console.

For all my snarky comments, I’m actually willing to give the Wii a chance. Nintendo, by not competing in the A/V arms race, is betting the farm on making fun games—so, if they want my money, there better be some fun games to play on the console. (Mario and Zelda and Metroid will only go so far—and, frankly, that’s not far enough, these days.)

Total tangent: the Wii controller better be more ergonomic than the DS is. My hands experience sympathy cramping just thinking about the hour I spent trying to play Mario Kart DS.

Sony? Rips off the Wii’s motion sensing abilities and the 360’s online store—and charges a hell of a premium for doing so. 500–600 dollars for a video game machine? Hot damn! The only thing tying me to Sony are the games: I’d like to play Final Fantasy XIII (and perhaps its Versus variant), and I’d kill sombody… in front of their own mama… to get a ten speed play Metal Gear Solid 4.

Speaking of which, the MGS4 trailer that Sony featured looked sweet. The fact that just about everyone from the earlier games returns gives the thing a the gang’s all here sense that was last featured in… uh… Lethal Weapon 4.

But, yeah. Barring MGS4 and various incarnations of Final Fantasy, I move that we stay on the current generation until prices fall and various innovations either prove themselves or die out. It’s certainly more cost-effective, if not as exciting.

Actually, scratch that. I move that developers resume developing for the SNES, when games were actually good.

Holding pieces

My grandma died a week ago Tuesday. I haven’t really been sure how to address this in the blog (I’m still unsure, to be honest), so I’ve been putting off posting about it. This grandma was the one I really grew up knowing—she and my grandpa lived five minutes away from us; my other grandparents lived a few hours away—so the blow has been quite hard.

Though we had an idea that there would be trouble in the long-term (she had some heart problems) we didn’t expect it to happen anywhere near as soon as it did. On the positive side, she died peacefully and without pain; the other death she was looking at would have featured neither of those things. Nevertheless, it’s been a long, long week; moving forward has been quite difficult.

In the meantime, we’re left dealing with all of my grandparents’ worldly possessions—mostly the cruft of life. And while a bit of it is nice, there isn’t a single damn thing you wouldn’t trade in a heartbeat to have your grandparents back. It’s really a raw deal, if you stop to think about it.

I’ve never been terribly religious, and I’ve never really bothered trying to pin down what I think happens when we die. The closest I’ve ever gotten is a basic application of my general rule: assume the worst, hope for the best. If there is a heaven, though, then my grandparents are finally reunited—and should be taking care of Cricket, Maxi, and Dusty for us.

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