Wednesday, December 29, 2004

My life as a shutterbug

It begins today. I returned home to Delaware from Reading today with some money that I got for Christmas, and wouldn't you know it, my route takes me right past Best Buy, Circuit City, and CompUSA. So what could I do but buy a digital camera?

I came away with an HP PhotoSmart 635 camera--2.1 megapixel, optical/digital zoom, good flash settings and picture modes, and 16 MB of built-in memory. I sprang for an extra 128 MB SD card (it now takes 109 pictures at the highest resolution) and a carrying case, too. Looks like I might have to start paying for some extra upload capacity on my Flickr account.

Jerry Orbach, 1935-2004

A sad day for Law and Order fans everywhere.

Rest in peace, Jerry.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Christmas Wrap-Up

A few more bits of Christmas miscellany:

-I've added a few more photos from the second half of our family's Christmas celebration in my Flickr photo gallery.

-Here's a funny little story that only World of Warcraft players will find funny: A World of Warcraft Christmas Carol

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas!

I hope all my readers have had a Christmas as enjoyable as mine! I'm at my parents' house in Reading, right on schedule. In keeping with a five-year-old Christmas tradition, I went out to Barbon's Tavern with my brother and a couple of our friends last night. Now the presents have all been exchanged (I had quite a nice little haul, including a 512 MB MP3 player) and the roast beef is a-cooking. Tomorrow it's off to Honesdale, PA for turkey and a second Christmas with my mother's family.

I put some of the pictures my mother took up in a Flickr photo set. I'll see if I can add some more later.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Bah Humbug.

Nothing will kill your Christmas spirit faster than Christmas shopping. I was actually pretty good and started my shopping about a month ago...okay, okay, I only bought my mother's present that night. She, my brother, and my maternal grandmother were pretty easy--it was my father and paternal grandparents who were a challenge.

What was so bad about Christmas shopping? Well, the weather, for one thing. The temperature wasn't bad (close to 50 degrees, which is actually pretty darned nice) so much as the wind and the torrential downpour. From what I saw on the news, most of the eastern seaboard got their world pretty well rocked by some sort of precipitation today. Add in the fact that I took vacation today specifically to finish my shopping (that and get my hair cut), thinking the stores would be deserted during daytime hours (you know, when most of the world is working), but was dead wrong. Everywhere I went was packed--crying kids, pushy adults, the whole ball of wax. I must have been bumped into about fifteen times today without so much as an "excuse me". And that's not counting brushing past someone in a narrow aisle. I'm talking NFL-caliber shoulder blocks. And when I went to the local beer and wine superstore*, I was hit by at least three shopping carts. Lastly, a big "fuck you" to the waste of flesh who parked his Silverado diagonally across two parking spots. I saw this guy getting into his truck as I was leaving the wine store, and he looked just like the kind of horse's ass who'd do a thing like that--dirty sweatpants, big ol' beer gut (not a little one like mine), trucker baseball cap, vacant drooling inbred stare.

*I'm not kidding when I say "superstore". This place is nearly as big as a Wal-Mart, bigger than some K-marts that I've been in, and it's all dedicated to beers and wines. I think they have hard alcohol somewhere, but truth be told, other than the various styles of whiskey, I'm not a big liquor drinker.

Blog updates will likely be spotty for the next week and a half or so. I'm going to my parents' house in Reading, PA tomorrow for Christmas with them and my paternal grandparents, then it's off to Honesdale, PA on Sunday for a second Christmas with my mom's side of the family. After that, it's back home to Claymont to ring in the new year with a few good friends and a lot of good food and drink. I'll post as often as I can (with pictures if possible), but if I don't get to post between now and then (I'm taking my laptop but won't be able to get online from Honesdale), I'd like to send my best wishes out to all my readers for a very merry Christmas and happy and prosperous New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Warning: not-safe-for-work content in some of the links in this posting.

I've been a fan of the Opie and Anthony Show since 2001. It wasn't always that way--when they first came to the Philadelphia market, I couldn't stand them, but they were always on the local rock station in the afternoon, and being too lazy to dial surf when (at the time) I had only a five-minute drive from my office to my apartment, I'd leave them on, and after a while, they really grew on me (like the virus they claimed to be). When I moved to my current house (which is a bit further from work) in July 2002, I was actually looking forward to the 30-45 minute drive home from work...longer commute=more O&A=more gooder! Unfortunately, that was only true for about three months. Then the infamous Sex for Sam (better known by many as the "Sex in St. Patrick's Cathedral" incident), and they were gone from the air, seemingly for good, after a barrage of protests from a vocal minority and an FCC investigation.

They're baa-aaack...on XM satellite radio, uncensored and free from FCC regulation. They're also free from Viacom/Infinity Broadcasting management, leaving them free to talk about a ton of things that went on when they were syndicated from WNEW that they couldn't talk about at the time, mainly relating to Howard Stern. They've brought comedian Jim Norton along from their old show, and these guys are great. They involve the audience, both live and online, in their bits and gags--in fact, a good portion of the show is targeted to 'Net addicts and video game geeks like me. The first day I listened to them, in fact, their listeners invaded the message boards for the Tony Danza Show and got them shut down--hilariously. They also get pretty good guests--B-level celebrities, but still entertaining, especially when they subtly ask questions full of insider references that are funny because the celebs don't get it. This is a great show that's gotten even better on satellite radio; if you're planning to make the move and are torn between Stern on "the doggy network" and these guys on XM, I'd strongly recommend the latter.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Fantasy playoffs

Well, I lost one of my fantasy playoff games, but won the second. Of course, even my losing team plays in a "consolation" game for third place this week, and if my winning team wins, I'm into the finals in the league where I'm commissioner. Not bad for a first-time fantasy football player.

It really does change the way you watch the games and root for your players, but I've had a great time with it. It makes just about every game interesting to watch--convenient when you live in Eagles-land like me and seldom get to see your team play.

My own Christmas tradition

Every year, about this time, there's a particular book I like to read. That would be Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Now, I'm a fan of his legal thriller/legal drama line of books, but if you're not, don't let it deter you. This book is nothing like anything else he's ever written. It's a comedy, and a comedy of errors at that. It's bitter, cynical, and pokes fun at everything that's wrong with the Christmas season in America...and upper-middle-class America in general, while he's at it. But it has a fantastic ending, too, that will really leave you "in the spirit" while delivering a Grisham-esque twist.

For the record, it's now a movie: Christmas with the Kranks with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis. I haven't seen it, but I've heard awful, awful things about it.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Weekend football

Giants-Steelers, kickoff in about 12 hours. I've got my lucky Giants shirt and a fridge full of beer--I'm all set for game time. I have no illusions...New York is going to get killed. The best part about this game? The Giants loss will be over by 5:00 Saturday night, so I can get over it and get on with my weekend. The early game time means less anticipation and less disappointment.

Cut from the womb

I hate isolated incidents that make sensationalist headlines, but I just couldn't let this case pass without comment.

Holy shit, what a sick bitch. One woman shows up on another, pregnant woman's doorstep pretending she wants to buy a dog, then strangles the pregnant woman and cuts the baby right out of her womb. The details that have been released indicate that the woman who committed this horrible crime had lost a pregnancy previously. Too much Law and Order watching make me wonder if this isn't leading up to some type of insanity defense. If so, I hope the twelve people on her jury aren't dumb enough to buy it. It's called "sociopathy", may be a mental condition, but it isn't an excuse for murder. Strap this sick bitch down and put a hot shot in her arm. And thank the Lord above that this baby was found alive.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Chicken soup

I made a chicken on Saturday and had plenty left over, so in honor of my WoW character crossing the 100 mark in his cooking skill, I decided to make some chicken soup. It came out well enough that I'll share my "secret recipe" with my blog readers. My soup has rice and noodles in large enough quantities that it's almost stew-like--no need to eat this soup with crackers.

Leftovers from 1 whole chicken (if there's not enough meat left on the bones, you can add more meat from prepackaged chicken. When I bake a chicken, I usually season it with Emeril's Essence to make it nice and spicy)
10 cups water
10 ounces baby carrots, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped, leafy parts removed
2 cups rice
1 cup egg noodles
McCormick HotShot!, to taste (you can substitute black pepper if you wish)
(Optional) Salt, to taste

In a large pot, put in the chicken and pour the water. Bring the water to a slow boil. While the water is heating, chop the carrots and celery. As soon as the water begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the carrots and celery to the pot; cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Don't let the soup return to a boil. If the fat forms a film on the top, remove it. With about 25-30 minutes to go, add the rice. With about 12-15 minutes to go, add the egg noodles. After two hours, carefully take the chicken out of the pot and separate the meat from the bone, gristle, skin, and fat. Return the meat to the soup and season with HotShot and salt to taste. Serve piping hot on a cold winter afternoon.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Playoffs, baby!

Fantasy football playoffs, that is. I made 'em in both leagues--Brian Westbrook didn't score enough points to beat me, and Drew Bennett had a career night (over 200 yards in the FIRST HALF, folks) and beat Trent Green by almost 20 fantasy points (even though the Titans lost), so I'm playoff-bound in both leagues. Of course, one of those games is against my friend Pat, so the trash talk e-mail barrage has already begun. I can't wait for the weekend.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Weekend update

Still here, still bloggin' away.

I'm not blogging much lately, I admit. I've been caught up in World of Warcraft (WoW) for much of this past week. I've taken a dwarven hunter up to level 13 (complete with pet wolf) on the Azgalor server. I've also been playing an excellent World War II strategy game called Combat Mission via e-mail with my friend Matt (aka Faxman). We've got two battles going in the Beyond Overlord version of the game, though in the past we've also slugged it out on Barbarossa to Berlin. There's a third installment called Afrika Corps, but neither of us has that one yet.

I did some consulting work for a law firm one night this past's always nice to have a little extra income during Christmas shopping season. I've got my mother and grandmother taken care of, but I still have my father, brother, and grandparents to buy for. Hopefully that'll get done this week/weekend.

My friend Mike R. came down from Reading for a visit this weekend. Plenty of drinking and bad horror movies for us. I actually fell asleep less than halfway through Dawn of the Dead, but hey, it was after two in the morning when we started watching it, and WoW had been cutting into my sleeping time all week. A shame, too, because I was really enjoying it. Oh well, I guess I'll have to watch it some other time--when I haven't had quite so much to drink. We went to a couple of different bars, scouting locations to ring in the new year. After last night, I think we've settled on Scratch Magoo's, a cool little beer-and-jukebox bar in Wilmington's Trolley Square area. We got primo real estate (seats right at the corner of the bar) on Saturday night, and even did a shot (whiskey) with the bartenders when the late-night rush started to come in. I go there semi-regularly, and most of the staff knows me by sight if not by name.

My football-watching buddy Mike B. also stopped in for a little visit on Saturday. He'd been in the Caribbean for his sister's wedding last week, and he brought me back an early Christmas present: a bottle of Bushmill Black Bush Irish whiskey. I cracked it open while cooking Saturday dinner, and man-oh-man, is it ever good.

The Giants suck. How they ever got to 5-2 is a mystery to me. That's all I'll say on the subject.

But on a positive football note, my fantasy teams both have a decent shot to make it into the playoffs (which start next week). In the league where I'm commissioner, my team was on the bubble, but 8 of 10 teams make the playoffs, and the #9 team has lost all-but-officially (unless Tony Gonzalez can make up 50 points tomorrow night--very doubtful), so I'm almost a lock. Plus, I've got my own game in that league almost won--unless Brian Westbrook can make up 10 points (that's 100 yards, 40 yards and a touchdown, or two TDs) in the last 9:45 of the Eagles-Skins game. Again, that's not likely, so it looks good for me. The league run by my friend Pat, on the other hand, is a bit trickier. Only four of ten teams go to the playoffs there. I'm in the #5 position right now, but with positions 2 through 5 battling each other, if I win this week's game, I make the playoffs there as well. I'm currently leading by 13 points, but my opponent has the dangerous Kansas City QB Trent Green going against streaky, hit-or-miss Tennessee WR Drew Bennett for me. This one could still go either way. The one benefit, win or lose, is that it'll add some interest to an otherwise meaningless Monday Night Football game.

Oh, and the best part of this weekend? As far as I'm concerned, it's still going on. I'm on vacation tomorrow--four day week for me. Now...Sims 2 or World of Warcraft?

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Games 'n' Books

I hate MMORPGs. (That's Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games, for the uninitiated). I had a subscription to Everquest once, a few years back. It sucked. You kill monsters so you can get points so you can raise your character level so you can get better gear so you can...kill more monsters. Lather, rinse, repeat...always repeat. Actual roleplaying? Hah! Forget about it--most people run around speaking in acronyms designed to inflict maximum confusion on new players. And it's ridiculous to dish out $40 for a box of software, then still get socked with a fee every month to continue playing.

So why, then, am I hooked on a new MMORPG?

The game is World of Warcraft, and it's not at all like I remembered MMORPGs. I was going to let this one pass just like all the others, but was talked into it by my gaming group, as well as one of my co-workers. It took a lot of convincing, but they were was worth it. There's a huge variety of races, classes, and skills to choose from, and though I've only created one character so far, it seems like the early expriences are customized based on what race you choose to play. Once you get powerful enough, it's out into the big mixed world with you. And the kill-level-equipment-kill circle? Warcraft busts it wide open. Oh sure, you can spend all your time just roaming around killing random monsters, if that's your thing. But don't count on levelling up too quickly. Quests, baby...quests are where the big prizes (experience points and equipment) are at. There are so many of them that you'll never finish the ones that come out of the box, and they've got programmers working full-time on new ones to add in. Let me also add that the graphics are beautiful on my Athlon XP 2700 with the 128 MB Radeon 9500 Pro, but the game also runs acceptably with the settings turned down a bit on my iBook G4 with a 32 MB ATI graphics card. (It warned me that my 800mhz G4 didn't meet the game's system requirements, but it allowed me to install anyway.) This is a great feature inclusion by Blizzard--PC and Mac versions in the same box means I can get in a quest or two over lunch, or in bed before I go to sleep (now that my house is wireless), or wherever. And I probably will--this game's hooked me in good. Look for Droxel on the Azgalore server--a crack shot dwarf hunter (marksman).

And lest you think my life has become completely consumed with video games...OK, well, it has, but I've also been reading some good books. I recently finished two of the latest from one of my favorite authors, Jeffery Deaver (best known for writing The Bone Collector, an excellent book that became a mediocre movie). The first one is a collection of short stories called Twisted, a very apropos title for a collection of thriller stories that have endings worthy of O. Henry, or at the very least, Law & Order. The other is a tale of assassination in pre-World War II Nazi Germany, called Garden of Beasts. It's highly recommended to people who like historical fiction--Deaver took great care to get the cultural details right, although he did take some liberties with some of the historical figures and their activities. There's also a subplot with a German police detective worthy of Bobby Goren that feels tacked on, but stick with it, because he's likable enough, and his presence makes sense at the end.

Monday, December 06, 2004

BFOB 12.05.04

Observations as I watch tonight's Big Fat Obnoxious Boss episode:

-That little short guy is pretty annoying ("Waah, I can't sell junk to people")...but that's what makes this show so funny. I actually hopes he sticks around for a while.

-Awwww, man...Whitney WAS the hottest one on the show...until she took her shirt off and revealed the obnoxious tattoo on her back. Definite negative points there. Tattoos are usually not attractive on women. (Nor on men, either, I wouldn't think, but I wouldn't know about such things.)

-I thought the rewards were supposed to be as bad or worse than the punishments? I was hoping for a revelation that the pate that the winners were eating in the expensive restaurant was actually Fancy Feast or something equally nasty.

-They got rid of the least attractive woman on the show this week. So far so good. Now it's time to start picking the guys off one by one.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

"24" previews

I saw a lot of different commercials for 24 while watching football today. Only a month or so left until it starts up again, and I for one can't wait. I've been a fan since episode 1, and from the various bits I've seen in the commercials it looks like this season's going to be a really good one. (I thought the last season was great after a somewhat disappointing Season 2, though "disappointing" only refers to comparison with other seasons. Even Season 2 was better than 99% of the stuff out there.) I'm going to miss some of the people who've left the show--especially Dennis Haysbert as President Palmer--but I recognized Nestor Serrano, a good supporting actor, as one of the new villains, by the looks of the ad spots. I guess the new episodes of the various Law and Order shows can get me through until Day 4 gets going. Or I could break down and get the DVD sets...although I can't really see the point of that, since I'm never going to sit down and watch an entire season, and it isn't the type of thing that I'm going to watch one episode here or there (which I might do with a Law and Order DVD set--now those I'd consider buying.)

Hard drive woes

Great--just great. It looks like one of the hard drives on my "main" (gaming) rig is circling the bowl--it refused to even power up at first, and when it did, it ran for about an hour and quit. That's the bad news.

The good news is that it's actually the second hard drive in the machine, so other than having to reinstall most of my games and losing a few save game files, there's really no data at risk. Hard drives are cheap--having limped along with a pair of 30 GB drives for the last couple years, I can more than double its capacity, probably for about fifty dollars--well within my price range. And hopefully, I can keep the ol' 30 gigger running long enough to use Symantec Ghost to copy the contents to the new drive.

More good news: since it's Sunday, I really won't even miss the computer until I can get to Best Buy tomorrow. It's a trip I needed to make anyway--I've got some Christmas shopping to take care of.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Italian Evening

I love Saturdays. I slept until 11 this morning, cleaned my kitchen top to bottom, and went to the grocery store. There, I found littleneck clams on sale, so I bought a bag, and found a great recipe to use them in--Clams with Capellini. Simple, yet really, really good. I added a whole bunch of red pepper flakes to it (I must have been shaking the jar for about 30 seconds before mixing them in) and added butter to the pan leavings to create more of a sauce, and...not to toot my own was pretty freakin' good. Add a glass of Australian chardonnay (five bucks at the liquor store on the corner--not all good wine is expensive), and I had myself a great meal (with plenty left over for another meal one night this week). To complete the evening, I'm watching F. Gary Gray's take on The Italian Job. So far, so good (I'm only about 20 minutes into it as I write this). I've never seen the original, but I love caper/heist/scam movies, so I think this one'll be right up my alley. I'm not the world's biggest Mark Wahlberg fan, but the supporting cast is excellent (particularly Jason Statham from The Transporter and Edward Norton, most famous for Fight Club, though my favorite movie that he did is American History X).


Taking the afternoon off yesterday was the right thing to do. Whatever my illness was (flu, bad cold, sometimes I can't tell the difference), today it devolved into a standard breathing-through-one-nostril headcold. By the evening, it was almost completely gone. I watched Spider-Man 2 tonight--that movie kicks ass. I can't wait for the third--watch it and it'll be obvious they've already got their villain picked out.

Thursday, December 02, 2004


It's 1:00 on a weekday afternoon, and I'm sitting on my couch in my fleece robe and flannel pants. Unfortunately, it's because I seem to have caught whatever flu bug is making the rounds in my office. I toughed it out yesterday, but just couldn't make it through today. Now I'm preparing to medicate thoroughly and get through as much paperwork as I can before the medicine makes me pass out. I just hope this flu bug or whatever it is goes away in time for the weekend.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Light bloggin'

Another week with very little worth blogging in my life. I went home for Thanksgiving weekend, saw my parents and brother, and some friends. When I got back, there was a present waiting for me: a wireless router. I signed up for a new one-year commitment on my Verizon DSL service and got a $5 per month break, and a new 802.11b/g router for free. Not a bad deal, considering the router was something I had been planning to buy for myself anyway. Too bad I ran out my laptop's batteries following my fantasy teams over the weekend and left my charger at work on Wednesday. Now I've got to wait until tomorrow to really give it a whirl.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Signs of the Apocalypse, Part II

Execution video for sale

Just what the world needed...snuff films, available in a video store near you. I don't care that the producers claim it's to "counter Fahrenheit 9/11" or any such bullshit. This is just sick--making a fast buck off other people's suffering, death, and grief. After all, despite all their claims of nobility, I didn't see any mention that one thin dime of the money they're making selling this crap is going to the victims' families, armed forces/veterans support groups, or any other worthy cause. This is just another get-rich-quick scheme that happens to be spun in anti-Michael Moore silk.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Signs of the Apocalypse, Part I

As I get ready for work in the morning, I nearly always watch Fox and Friends on the Fox News Channel. As I was coming out of the shower this morning, the guest was NL Cy Young winner Roger Clemens. But he wasn't there to talk about baseball--oh no. He was there to talk about his commercial for the newly merged AT&T/Cingular Wireless company. Oh, and to plug the fact that most of his relatives were going to be getting some sort of Cingular "Razor" phone for Christmas this year. Are you really that hard up for cash, Rocket?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Eli Manning to replace Kurt Warner as Giants' starting QB

It's about time, says I. After abysmal perfomances three weeks in a row from Kurt Warner, I was actually hoping coach Tom Coughlin would make this move before last week's game against the Arizona Cardinals. I didn't get to see that game, but reliable posters in the Giants newsgroup said that the main reason Warner was sacked six times on Sunday was that he was essentially hanging onto the football in the pocket until three additional hairs of his stubble turned gray. Kudos to Coughlin for making a change before the season became a complete writeoff. I don't hold out a lot of hope--the defense (and specifically the pass rush) are in a world of trouble with Strahan gone for the season. But if Manning can avoid mistakes and perform even marginally well, maybe he can rally this team around him and inject a dose of enthusiasm into a squad that's lost three of their last four games, yet is still in contention for a wild card spot. Good luck, kid. Hopefully you can show us that you were worth our team mortgaging their future on you.

Another new link

Hanging out with Squidly on Saturday, I didn't just come away with a paintball gun...I also came away with a cool new website under my belt. The Squid clued me in to a personal photo repository site called Flickr. There are free and for-pay accounts available--I'm sticking with the freebie for the time being. That allows me to upload up to 10 megabytes of photos per month, which is plenty for me, since I don't own a digital camera of my very own. (I took yesterday's paintball gun photo with an older Kodak DC280 that I borrowed from work.) Add in the ability to add little tags to annotate the photos, and you've got a very cool website for the extremely reasonable price of absolutely nothing. (There are tons of other features that I haven't even begun to play with yet, too.) So yet another neat site finds its way into my permanent links section.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Bushmaster pics

Here's a picture of my new baby:

Click it for a closer view.

Big Fat Obnoxious Boss 11/14

This episode was even funnier than the first. I hope the winner enjoys the cash prize, because none of these people are going to be able to get a job in the business world after this. It's not even that they're put in stupid situations--the reactions and idiotic things that they say about these stupid situations is what makes this show so funny.

They eliminated Christine--I say "good". All the whining about not wanting to fib even a little bit to sell their soup really got on my nerves. Plus she's not nearly as hot as Whitney or Elli. Hopefully, they'll get rid of Tonia next (on top of being unpleasant on the eyes, she seems like a bossy know-it-all), then whittle down some of the guys. (Hey, I'm a straight guy; I'd like this show even more if there were no male contestants at all.)

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Chili Time!

I found a great chili recipe on a site my friend Faxman introduced me to, Beer Advocate. (I've added the site to my permanent links collection.) It looks really good, so I'm trying it out--with a few minor modifications of my own, of course. I just took a sample far, so good!

Paintball Gun

I've been waiting for this for a long time.

Over the spring, some friends and I took up the sport of paintball, and after my first time out of the gate, I was hooked. I started with a Kingman Spyder Victor II. It's a semi-auto marker with a CO2 propulsion system. It was a pretty nice gun...really, not bad for entry-level, and I wouldn't hesistate to recommend it to a new player starting the sport. It works quite well for woodsball, but once I started playing speedball, some of its limitations became all too clear. Variations in the velocity caused my shots to frequently be inaccurate--it was OK for body shots on an exposed player, but if a player only had a head, or foot, or pod sticking out of the bunker, forget it--my only hope was to "spray 'n' pray".

At the start of the summer, Squidly got an Angel Speed, and his play got noticeably better immediately. Of course I wanted one...but his budget was a bit higher than mine. I read some other reviews, but couldn't find anything that looked good in my price range. What was I to do?

Another friend of mine came up with the answer. In August, my other paintball companion Faxman got a Bushmaster BKO from Indian Creek Designs. It's a LOT less expensive than the Angel, and performs amazingly well for the price. (In fact, it's been referred to as the "poor man's Angel". So I waited...and bided my time.

Once I had the funding together, it was time to talk to Squidly. He's got some friends at his local paintball shop (MI Paintball in South Jersey), so he was able to get me a bitchin' deal on this gun. I went up there today, and came away with a red 2004 BKO of my very own. While I was there, I color-coordinated it with a red gun cover, a red bottle cover (this gun uses a low-pressure nitrous system--exceptionally accurate for those pinpoint shots on heads, hoppers, shoes, etc.) and a red Empire speedball jersey (which was on clearance to make room for 2005 apparel. If you're in the market, now's the time to buy.) We topped off the afternoon with lunch and a quick pint at Squidly's local sports bar. A big thanks to him for arranging the deal and taking time to go with me and hook me up. Look out, Faxman--I'm comin' for ya!

Now...I can't wait to give it a field test. Anyone know any good paintball fields in Delaware?

(Look for pictures this week.)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Pressure Chief

I love all different sorts of music, but there are two or three bands that I put above most of the rest, and it's always extra-exciting when one of them comes out with a new album. One of my absolute favorites is Cake, and I picked up their latest, Pressure Chief. If you've never heard Cake's music before, they're really hard to shove into a category; about the closest I can come is alterna-bluegrass-country-funk-rock. A few of their songs got a bit of radio airplay; their biggest hit was "The Distance" from 1996's Fashion Nugget. From my experience with them, their albums are great, their concerts less so. I had a chance to go see them a couple years back at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, and was extremely disappointed, though my disappointment had little to do with their performance.

It was a decent crowd, and a lot of people were yelling requests (including me--I wanted to hear "Mr. Mastodon Farm" from their first album). But after a little bit of the first set, their lead singer, John McCrea paused in between songs to say, basically, "We've got our set list planned, so stop yelling requests because we aren't going to play them." Then he got pissed at the crowd later in the show because the crowd wasn't very into the show.

That aside, I still love Cake's music, and I'm really digging this new album. Without a doubt, it's better than Comfort Eagle, although Pressure Chief is nearly as short (just under forty minutes). Acoustically, it sounds a lot more "polished" than the band's earlier works, and that seems to have been a trend as the group goes along. Prolonging the Magic is very quiet, and you have to crank the volume to really hear it. From there, they seem to have increased their production values a little more with every release. And this isn't a bad thing at all. They remain very true to their original sound (and their sound, in turn, is very original). They bring in some interesting instruments from time to time (if I'm not mistaken, I believe I heard the return of the musical saw from Prolonging the Magic). There's not one particular track that jumps out at me as "ready for radio airplay", but I'm especially partial to "Wheels", "Take It All Away" (Cake's take on the breakup song), "Dime" (a really clever song, even before you start thinking about the dime as metaphor), "The Guitar Man" (a great ballad-about-life-in-music), and "End of the Movie" (a song about getting older). A great album--a must-have for Cake fans, and worth a listen for anyone looking for something a little different.

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day, and I'd just like to take a minute to say "Thank you" to all of the brave men and women who've served in the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces to keep this country free.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Surreality Television

Let's get one thing clear: I despise reality TV shows. I watched parts of some of the early seasons of The Real World, but it didn't take long for me to get bored with even that. But last night a friend talked me into checking out the premiere of My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss.

And I admit it: I'm hooked. I was hooked ten minutes into the show. This is one of the absolute funniest things I've ever seen.

You see, the people they've chosen to be contestants competing for an alleged "dream job" all seem to think they're God's gift to the business world, not to mention the opposite sex (although I'll admit, most of the female contestants are pretty hot.) But in fact, they're vapid, naive, and just generally idiotic (at least in a common sense kind of way).

And the actors portraying the corporate execs expose them every step of the way.

In the opening cocktail party, for example, they passed off discount-rack sparkling wine and appetizers made from Oscar Mayer bologna, Spam, and Cheez-Whiz as fancy hors d'oeuvres. These empty heads were heard making comments like "The champagne tastes expensive" and "Some of the appetizers were obviously more sophisticated than I was." And the punishments just keep coming.

I only have two complaints: the decision of who gets cut each week is made by a "secret mystery boss" that it looks like they probably won't reveal until the end, and they're promising the "biggest revelation in reality TV history" when they finally do. C'mon, guys--this is supposed to be a parody of "traditional" reality shows. Not taking your own show too seriously is one thing; becoming an inadvertant example of self-parody just cheapens the comic value. (And for the record, a friend and I talked it over a bit, and the "surprise boss" guess we came up with is George Steinbrenner.) The other problem is that while the job isn't real, the substantial cash prize is. I'd laugh all the harder at the show if I knew none of these bozos went home with any compensation at all.

Stupid Giants

(I think I've used this title for a blog post before.) I didn't get to see the Giants-Bears game yesterday...I contemplated going to a sports bar, but after the outcome and everything I've read, I'm pretty glad I stayed home. Sloppy play, turnovers, penalties...I thought that was Fassel-ball and Tom Coughlin was supposed to take care of that. This is the same crap we've seen for years--the Giants sometimes get "up" for the big games against tough teams, but always seem to play down to the level of the competition when faced with games they should win easily. When they were 4-1, they had me fooled into thinking they might be a good team. Wrong. Good teams don't lose games to the Lions and Bears. They might luck their way into a wild card berth, but it's time to make some changes--specifically at the quarterback position so we can start getting Eli Manning ready to play next season.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


And of course, I'll still be making boring old "regular" posts like this one in between Campaign Trail Tales.

One of my fellow volunteers steered me to a great political poll site called RealClearPolitics. It has just about every poll on every government official that you could ever want, and more. Zogby, Gallup, Rasmussen--they're all there, along with a whole bunch more that I've never even heard of. Most of it is probably only interesting to those who work in the industry and nerds like me who like to look at charts and graphs. Nevertheless, I'm entertained by it, so it gets a permanent place in my Links section.

MIA Blogging

I haven't done any updates for a couple of days because I've been back in the town where I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania, doing some volunteer work for the Bush campaign. See, living in Delaware as I do, there was never any doubt that my vote was going to be cast for a losing cause. So when I found out that an old friend had a job working for the county's Republican party headquarters, I told him that I'd be interested in volunteering, especially during their "72 Hour Initiative" (which actually runs for 96 hours, from Saturday morning all the way through until the end of Tuesday evening. (I didn't work Sunday, though--I took a break to watch the Giants with my folks.)

It'd take a long time to write everything I saw, did, and learned, so rather than try to cram it all into one entry, I'm going to break it up into sections and post it here throughout the week. Names, of course, will be changed to protect the innocent, and a few things may be left vague to protect area-specific campaign strategies, but I think it'll be an interesting read nonetheless. If you're interested in the process and what goes on behind the news coverage you're probably watching as I write this (I'm currently flipping between the different network and cable channel coverages, spending most of my time on Fox News, with no less than five different Safari browser windows open to election coverage sites), then you really won't want to miss the next week or so of entries here.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Pokey the Penguin!!

Pokey the Penguin is probably my favorite web comic, and now that it's being updated again, it gets a permanent home in my Links section. Whoever draws these seems to get tired of them after a while, and lets the site go for months on end without adding anything at all to it, then goes rapid-fire for weeks. As for the comic itself, you'll either get it or you won't. If you get it, you don't need it explained to you, and if you don't get it, it can't be explained to you. Take a look and see which category you fall under.

(Note that if you don't get it, it's probably because you're too smart for it, not because you aren't smart enough.)

World Series

Damn Red Sox.

I guess if you're going to go on an eight-game winning streak, the ALCS and World Series is as good a time as any.

The worst part is I have a couple of friends who are legitimate Red Sox fans, one particularly die-hard. Now I'm going to have to hear about this at least until April, and probably until next October.

My only hope now is that the Eagles don't win the Super Bowl in January. If that happens, then I'll know that God truly hates me.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Dark Tower

Over the weekend, I finally began reading The Dark Tower, the seventh and final book in Stephen King's masterful epic fantasy of the same name.

For my money, King is probably the best fiction author since Shakespeare. All of his stories, horror or other, just have a way of putting the reader inside his characters' heads in such a way that they seem true to life and really stay with you after you've finished the story. This is such an exceptional gift, and even moreso in a fantasy work like the Dark Tower series, where the characters are less like anything readers would find familiar.

I read the first book in this series (The Gunslinger) when I was not quite twelve years old, so I've been waiting for quite literally 14 years for the end of this story. (And it was first published in 1980, if my memory is correct--so a lot of folks have been waiting even longer than I have.) Amazing, really. I can't think of any other stories from when I was that age that still hold my interest to this day. (Star Wars might be the exception to that. Might.)

In fact, Star Wars is even a valid comparison--last year, King went back to to the beginning of the series, and revised, expanded, and updated it to bring it in line with the rest of the series, both in terms of "voice/theme" (vague concepts that I'm fairly sure only English majors can define in words, but most readers notice if a book is lacking in either of these) and to fix some errors in continuity with later works. So of course, I had to start over from the beginning of the series, just to make sure all the details were fresh in my mind before beginning the tale's end, and I'm pleased to report that unlike George Lucas's meddling, King's changes will probably not piss off a significant portion of his fan base. The plot is left unchanged (a few small incidental scenes are added, but there's no "Greedo shooting first"-style nonsense) and the "flow" (another one of those abstract terms) is much-improved, but that's about it.

For those who haven't delved into this series, I heartily recommend you start, especially if you're a fan of King's other works, because a good portion of them (well over half, I'd estimate) overlap with this series in at least some small way. Four in particular are "must-reads", however, for this series. I'd recommend reading The Talisman and Black House together (both are co-written with Peter Straub, and the latter is a direct sequel to the former) between the time you read The Waste Land (Book 3) and Wizard and Glass (Book 4). 'Salem's Lot is a must-read before Wolves of the Calla (Book 5), as there are parts of Calla that follow directly from 'Salem, making it a sort of half-sequel. And before entering the final volume of the Tower saga, be sure to read Hearts in Atlantis. Atlantis is really four novellas that follow along a story thread, and Dark Tower 7 follows one of those stories closely enough to be called a true sequel to that book, as well as to the other books in its own series.

I'm only about halfway through Volume 7 at this point, but without giving anything away, it's every bit as good as I expected. Highly recommended to King fans as well as sci-fi/fantasy junkies.

Monday, October 25, 2004

John Kerry, Sports Expert

I'm sorry, but this guy is just so easy to make fun of.

I've already showed you John Kerry, Soccer Star. And I'm sure you've already seen this picture of John Kerry, football hero.

As a diehard lifelong Boston Red Sox fan, he introduced the world to his favorite player, Manny Ortez.

And who knew that the Green Bay Packers' home stadium wasn't named for Earl "Curly" Lambeau? In fact, Kerry tells us, they play at Lambert Field.

John Kerry: a great American sportsman.

Sunday, October 24, 2004


I'm not big on drug references, but am I the only one who finds it funny that the distance to the centerfield end of the Green Monster is 420 feet?

Friday, October 22, 2004


I found a link to this on the control panel when I went in to do my first blog entry last night. It's National Novel Writing Month. The challenge: to write a 50,000 word novel between midnight November 1st and midnight November 30th. I can't help thinking, from time to time, that I must have at least one hack mystery rattling around my head somewhere. I'm seriously thinking about signing up.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bring it on...

It seems that one of the main political parties in Egypt (another of our supposed allies) has a high-ranking official who's endorsing the attacks on American soldiers and hostage-taking in Iraq.

Not much else to say about this. There are a lot of Islamo-fascists who hate us, and they're not restricted to any one country. Our only hope is to stop them, at any cost, before they can make prophecies like this come true.

Hat tip to Choozoo for the link.

Whoopsie daisy...

Cuba's Communist leader is apparently trying out for a position in pratfall comedy.

I wonder if they'll get Chevy Chase to play him on SNL one of these nights.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Still thinking of voting for Kerry?

Come on, now.

Do you really want this guy to be the most powerful leader in the free world? (hat tip to Abaddon)

Stupid announcing

In the last two nights, I've watched 27 innings of the Yankees-Red Sox series. That's enough extra innings to make a third game. And in that time, I've learned something. Tim McCarver is a big douchebag. Game 6 of the ALCS is tonight, and I'm going to be keeping track of all the idiotic things he says and will post them here for your edification.

And Joe Buck is no great shakes either. But at least he did those funny Budweiser commercials with Leon.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Beer Buy

I love the little liquor store on the corner near my house. Good prices, decent selection, and a staff that knows me by sight. And every once in a while, I find a pleasant surprise like the one I found this weekend.

They're offering microbrews for $12 a case--that's only a little more than the likes of PBR and Old Milwaukee, and cheaper than "mainstream beers" like Miller and Bud. I ended up with a mixed case of sixpacks of Abita Turbo Dog and In Heat Wheat and Old Scratch Amber Lager from Flying Dog Brewery.

My G-Men have a bye this week, but I'm still going to enjoy these great beers while I root against the hated Eagles and cheer on the players from my fantasy teams.

Thursday, October 14, 2004


Double your reading pleasure today, with links and my own unique brand of commentary on not one but two, that's right, TWO stories about regular firearms (not assault weapons, about which even I have a few misgivings) and the wacko politically correct crowd that would like nothing more than to see anything that shoots melted down into toasters, microwaves, and other kitchen appliances.

First, we go to Londonderry, New Hampshire, where a student's photo has been banned from the senior section of his high school yearbook simply because he was posing with his shotgun in a traditional safe pose with the gun broken open (and unable to fire in that position). Now, I grant you, the picture does make him look like a bit of an ignorant hillbilly, but that's his choice (and after all, there's a little bit of ignorant hillbilly in all of us). This is a hunting weapon that he obviously uses for sporting pursuits. If he was pointing it at the camera and his caption was a hit list, that would be one thing. But this, as Bill O'Reilly would say, is ridiculous.

Then, in Pine Bush, New York, a student has been suspended from his school for having his Civil War costume in the trunk of the car he drove to school. The reason? The costume included a replica musket. That's right, a replica--designed to shoot blanks. I couldn't find a story that indicates it could even fire a real bullet.

Removed from a yearbook and suspended from school simply because of their hobbies...what's the nation coming to?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Who's Your Daddy?

The Yankees are up 1-0 in the AL Championship Series against the hated Red Sox. (This is a good thing, too, since I've got money on the Yankees to take the series.) And if you want one more reason to root for the Yankees and not the Red Sox (who, by the way, will lose the series, since Babe Ruth's house was demolished yesterday--this can only piss him off and strengthen his curse), here's another one: their fans are such crybabies that Major League Baseball is recalling a particular Yankees T-shirt.

See, over the summer, Sox ace Pedro Martinez lost a game against the Yanks, and after the game told reporters, ""Call the Yankees my daddy. I can't find a way to beat them at this point." So really, Pedro brought the shirt on himself (and on his team, for that matter.) But Boston's fans "reacted negatively" (my translation: responded in a manner that makes the pacifier on the shirt appropriate), MLB pulled the shirts, and now they're selling on EBay for way more than they're worth.

And in the wake of all this controversy, Pedro has to start tonight. In Yankee Stadium. All you fans going to the game tonight...give him a chant for me. I'll cheer along from my couch:

"Who's your dad-dee?" *CLAP* *CLAP* *CLAPCLAPCLAP*

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Party games

I ran across this neat little game while browsing the Wikipedia last night. I might have to try it out the next time I have a big party. Of course, at my house, it'll be turned into a drinking game.

Tribes: Vengeance

Last week, I finally got my hands on a game I've been waiting a long time for--Tribes: Vengeance. The original Starsiege Tribes was one of the first multiplayer games that I ever participated in, and in fact was the beginning of my association with the August Knights. I was a full-fledged member by the time Tribes 2 was released, and I got many, many hours of enjoyment out of that one. T2 was my first experience playing organized ladder competition--we had a ladder team that did fairly well, especially considering that we only practiced once or twice a week. The first two games were a very unique blend of action and strategy, with a myriad of potential kit loadouts, vehicles, deployable objects, and an atmosphere that, to me, was more like a sport (Capture the Flag was the most popular game variant) than an actual shoot-'em-up. The maps were huge, and some servers had 50 or more people playing on each side.

T:V is actually a prequel, and for the first time, there's an expansive single player mode. It does a good job of giving you a chance to practice various skills ang game types, and the story is pretty good so far, if a little cliched. But of course, T:V is first and foremost a multiplayer game, and that's where it really shines. The maps are a bit smaller this time around--it's designed to have fewer players and faster paced play, and it certainly delivers on that count. All the classic variants are there--Capture the Flag, Capture and Hold (similar to the Conquest game type in the Battlefield series of games), Rabbit (when I was a kid, we used to play a game similar to this with a football called Smear the Queer), and, for the first time, a football/soccer hybrid sort of game. There are lots of new weapons and vehicles, and a lot of old favorites are back. The graphics are great, and it doesn't require a big honking hog of a system to run nicely.

The only major negative for my money is the lack of deployable objects. In Tribes 1 and 2, setting up a sensor web and turrets was a key part of flag defense. There are deployable mines and turrets, but I've really missed the deployable objects that have been removed. Fortunately, it looks like the mod community will be able to operate full-force on this game; hopefully they'll be able to add a bit more of the complexity that made the first two games so great. I'm also not crazy about the way the backpacks work (each one has a passive mode and a VERY short-lived active mode that can be triggered on demand), but I think I'll get used to that in time.

This one's definitely worth a look.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Reviewed: Chili Beer

I finished off the six-pack of Chili Beer yesterday with the Giants game, and I have to say, it really wasn't bad. My friend Faxman posted a link to some awful reviews of it over at Beer Advocate in Friday's comment section, but I didn't find some of the problems others mentioned. Let me first make it clear that I'm not a beer connoisseur. I certainly enjoy a good microbrew or other expensive, tasty beer, but I usually end up drinking the common brands you see advertised during football games, if not even cheaper beers (PBR, Milwaukee's Best,Old Milwaukee, etc.)

But I did enjoy this beer. Some of the Beer Advocate reviews indicated that the peppers weren't fresh, and had sunk to the bottom of the bottle by the time the beer was purchased. My peppers were floating in the necks. The beer was OK quality, and it certainly wasn't the spiciest thing I've ever tasted. I wouldn't recommend drinking more than one or two in a single sitting, because it is spicy enough to give you heartburn if you're prone to that sort of thing. At $8 for a six pack, it's a neat novelty, but it won't be on regular purchase list. One last plus: I kept the beer-infused peppers in a baggie in my fridge. Those little peppers will come in very handy this week when I make chili!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Chili Beer?

I made it home from work, and I'm about to kick off my Friday evening ritual: a Scotch (currently it's Scoresby), a relaxing album (this week, it's Ray Charles's last album, Genius Loves Company), and a book (my current ambitious project is to re-read Stephen King's entire Dark Tower series to date, culminating with my first read of the final volume, The Dark Tower). But before I do, I wanted to post something interesting I found when I stopped off at my local liquor store for a six-pack: Chili Beer.

That's right, Chili Beer. From looking at the bottles and the website, it looks similar to Corona...only instead of a lime, you're supposed to drink it with the chili pepper that comes in each bottle. I'll probably drink it later tonight, and I'll let you know how it turns out.


I've had this site linked pretty much since the beginning, but my friend Hylander has come up with a pretty neat use for his web site. Instead of being a typical little-of-everything style blog (like this one), he's created a really neat daily journal of online privacy and security issues. The reason it gets a plug today: Hylander has posted an antivirus and malware primer guide. It's a worthwhile read, whether to learn as a beginner or to brush up as an expert.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Friday Night Fights (aka Debates)

Who was the genius responsible for scheduling the next presidential debate for a Friday night during prime time? I mean, come on, if great shows like Firefly, Dark Angel, and Boomtown couldn't get anyone to tune in on Friday nights, what chance do a couple of politicians arguing with each other have? Add in the fact that the debate is going directly up against a playoff game featuring the New York Yankees (who have arguably the largest bandwagon fan contingent of any single sports team), and it'll be a miracle if anyone tunes in at all.

Thank God I have TiVo--I can watch it on Saturday morning while I recover from Friday night...and post my thoughts here, of course.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

So much for the draft...

If you get as much spam e-mail and forwards from friends and family as I do, by now you've no doubt seen the one predicting dire tidings, especially for men around my age, due to the return of the draft to fight the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Actually, I would probably be at very little risk for any draft--I'm 25 years old and out of shape. The military would probably want me about as much as the NFL would.) It's fairly obvious that the forwarded e-mails floating around the 'Net were dreamed up by some liberal to scare undecideds who are draft age themselves or parents of draft age children into voting against Bush come November.

Well, you can put those fears to rest. The bill (which was actually introduced into committee by Congressman Charles Rangel, a New York state Democrat, as a protest of the war in Iraq) was forced to the floor and voted down, including by one of the House Democrats who co-sponsored it.

Good riddance to a lousy piece of potential legislation that did little more than spark inflammatory rumors and rhetoric.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Ho hum...

There's a vice presidential debate tonight, but I won't be watching. Frankly, I don't care much for either Cheney or Edwards. Bush could have deflected a lot of criticism of his administration by changing VP candidates for this election. His loyalty to Cheney is admiriable, but I do think that a lot of the criticism of Cheney is justified. As for Edwards, well, slick trial lawyers aren't my idea of good politicians.

Besides, the first game of the Yankees-Twins AL division series is on tonight.

Monday, October 04, 2004


I saw an ad for a cool little invention in the ad pages of Maximum PC magazine. It's called the Liberator, and it's a nifty little gizmo that turns those big bulky AC adapter blocks into regular sized power plugs, allowing maximum capacity on your outlets and surge protectors. CyberGuys has them for $9 for a five-pack (admittedly, with shipping, it probably ends up in the $10-15 range). I'm thinking about picking some up for my computer room; I've got several bulky plugs up there.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Sunday football

My Giants won again today. If you'd have told me at the beginning of this season that they'd start 3-1, I'd have called you an optimistic fool. They looked terrible over the entire preseason, and really didn't play all that well during week 1 against the Eagles. But they looked great today; in fact, if it wasn't for a few struggles near the end zone and two missed field goals by Steve Christie (more on that in a minute), they could have won by even more than seven points. Warner has played great football so far, and Tiki Barber went over 180 yards rushing today, winning Tom Jackson's Prime Time Player on NFL Prime Time tonight. You can help him win this week's Sunday Stud award...just go here and vote--the poll is about halfway down the page near the right side.

There was one dark cloud in today's win, though, and his name was Steve Christie. Late in the game, when it would have really taken a lot of pressure off the D, he missed two field goals from 30 and 33 yards. I've been sour on him from day one (and, in fact, I called my father after the game to give him a "told ya so"). He doesn't have a strong leg, he's over the hill, and in fact had planned to retire before the Giants picked him up. Hopefully Tom Coughlin's level of patience with him will be as low as mine. I wonder what Todd France is doing. I'll bet Coach Coughlin is wishing he hadn't cut him at the end of the preseason.

My fantasy teams did better this week than they did last week, but the final score is in for my team in my friend Pat's league. I lost by just under 20 points, thanks in large part to the awesome performance by his New England Patriots defense--they earned him 23 points, including 8 on the fumble recovery TD late in the 4th quarter. My team in the August Knights league is faring a little better. At the kickoff of tonight's Rams-Falcons game, I was up by about 33 points. But that's been cut down some since then--my opponent has Marc Bulger and Marshall Faulk playing tonight, and Tony Gonzalez and kicker Matt Stover playing in tomorrow's Monday night game.

I guess maybe it's just the fact that I'm a rookie to all this fantasy football stuff, but man alive, do my teams ever need a shot in the arm. I've made a bunch of personnel changes (most of them due to injury), but I'm particularly weak at the wide receiver position, and I only have one running back in Pat's league that I can count on for a consistent performance. Does anyone have any ideas about who I could pick up or trade for to salvage this season?

Parking Spots

Here's an odd little site of photos of Matchbox cars taken to look like they're parking in spots for real cars.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Home Improvement Saturday

Whew! Busy day for ol' Beastie today. I started out by repairing one of my dressers--one of the crosspieces that supports the second drawer from the bottom fell off, so the drawer was kind of hanging out there. A couple of wood screws and a couple of minutes with my cordless drill/screwdriver (my favorite tool), and the job was done.

Next, on to the fridge. As I mentioned on Thursday, the shelf rails for my fridge door arrived, but they were too long. So I attached the sawblade to my Ryobi reciprocating saw (my second favorite tool), measured twice (my high school shop teachers would be proud), and cut 'em down to size. It's amazing how much space I freed up just by adding two shelves on the fridge door and one on the freezer door. It went so well that I'll probably order more rails to finish out the fridge door...I've got the site bookmarked.

Last stop: my enclosed front patio. The latch on the storm door has never worked quite right ever since I bought my house, but over the last couple of months, it broke completely. It wasn't a big deal at first, but when the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne passed through here on Tuesday, the door blew open no less than five times. That was the last straw, so off I went to Home Depot to buy a new latch. A simple easy off, easy on job, right? Of course not. The spring in the catch was apparently shot for a while before I moved in, but rather than replace it (or even replace the entire latch system), the previous owners attached a block of wood to the doorjamb so that it would stick out far enough to catch. All well and good, but when I installed the new latch, it protruded far enough to prevent the door from closing. After a mighty struggle (my drill and its backup battery both ran out of juice during the process), I was able to remove it, but then it didn't protrude far enough to catch at all. A desperate search of my basement (as a last-ditch effort before a return trip to Home Depot) turned up a thinner piece of wood that I cut down to size with my Ryobi saw, and voila!...perfect fit.

I even managed to get the low-hanging TV and Ethernet cables running through my basement more or less out of the way!

So it's time for my little reward--a takeout sushi dinner (complete with a six-pack of Sapporo and Return of the Jedi on DVD. (I watched A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back last night, but was just too tired to watch RotJ.) Then tomorrow it's off to Dave & Busters in Philly with some friends to watch the Giants-Packers game. I may get cracked with a bottle, what with being in Philly and all, but I'm going to wear my Giants T-shirt. Go G-men!!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Blogging the Debate

Since I've planned on watching the debate tonight, I decided to get out my laptop and note my thoughts as I watch.

-I like the concept of the lights. Each candidate has a box with a green, yellow, and red light on their podium (familiar to fans of Law and Order from Jack McCoy's frequent visits to the appellate court). If they go over time, the red light blinks; if the red light blinks three times, a buzzer goes off. Brit Hume from Fox News told us that it was so loud during the pre-debate testing that it made President Bush jump. Kind of like the Gong Show.

-The president hasn't reached out to the Muslim world? What do you call bringing democracy to two Muslim countries so far, Senator?

-President Bush is not a good public speaker, especially when he has to go off the cuff like he's doing tonight. He was very eloquent during the Republican National Convention, but already tonight he's pausing awkwardly and stumbling over words. This, I think is where the "Bush is a moron" camp gets most of their ammunition.

-Kerry is attacking Bush for using Afghanis to make the attempt to get Bin Laden in Afghanistan rather than Americans (the best trained troops in the world), yet he's also criticizing him for the continued participation of the same American troops in Iraq rather than transitioning more of the antiterrorist operations there to Iraqis. You can't have your cake and eat it too, Senator.

-Way to divert a debate ostensibly about national security to debate the tax cuts, guys.

-Half an hour into the debate, and I'm about ready to throw something at the TV if Kerry tries to tie his speeches back into his Vietnam service one more time.

-We didn't go into Iraq with our allies? What do you call Britain, Poland, Japan, and the approximately 30 other countries who sent troops or aid workers?

-...and there's our first Halliburton reference from Kerry. "Enron!" and "Halliburton!"...the battle cries of a liberal who's losing an argument.

-"Let me finish"--Mr. President, take my advice--you DON'T want to remind the folks at home of Ross Perot.

-"Is the liberation of Iraq worth the cost in American lives?" That's hardly a fair question. Bush fielded it as well as anyone can--"Every life is precious." Of course it's not worth the cost of lives. But is doing nothing worth the cost of the lives we will lose by not battling terrorism, not establishing allies in the Middle East?

-We need to convince Iraq we don't have designs on it? Right, we put in one of their own as prime minister and scheduled elections for January because we're getting ready to make Iraq the 51st state.

-Oil, oil, oil. Yes, Mr. Kerry, we invaded Iraq to get its sweet, sweet oil. And we've taken so much of it that our gas prices should be dipping down into the 80-cents-a-gallon range any day now. Riiiiiiight.

-One concession I'll make to the Kerry camp: Bush saying if we hadn't invaded Saddam immediately, we'd "rue the day". I've said before that I don't believe Bush lied to or misled us about WMDs, but the intel so far has turned out to be false. Although Saddam himself may have believed he had or was building WMDs, all indications currently are that he wasn't. My gut tells me this is because his own people were embezzling from him. That takes more balls to do over there than it does over here...embezzle in the U.S. and you'll get six months at Club Fed; embezzle in Saddam's Iraq and you'll get six minutes (to live) in Club Head (as in "Off with his...")

-The thing to remember about my last point is that it's easy to say that now. Our intel at that time said he had WMDs, possibly even nuclear weapons, and it was backed by reports from MI6 and Israeli intelligence. Based on the intel at that time, action was required. And the removal of an evil dictator (and Saddam was nothing less than that) is ALWAYS a noble goal.

-"Nuke-yu-lar." George, you sound like an ignorant rube. Get a speech coach, play subliminal learning tapes while you sleep, whatever it takes. Eliminate that pronunciation from your vernacular.

-Bunker-busting nuclear weapons don't make sense? Right, a weapon designed to bring down the structures where the terrorist leaders live, hide, and plot our downfall makes no sense at all. Why don't we just go back to rocks thrown from catapults?

All in all, it was interesting to watch, but it didn't change my positions any. I still know who I'm voting for come November 2nd.

Project: Refrigerator Refurbishing

When I bought my house a couple of years ago, the sellers included their major appliances in the purchase price. This was a good thing, since I didn't have any appliances in my old apartment. The washing machine and dryer are fairly new and work great. So does the fridge/freezer unit, except for one thing: it's missing most of the railings that allow you to keep food on the doors. As a result, since I moved in (back in 2002), my fridge and freezer have been overcrowded to say the least. I hunted and hunted for a way to fix this, and over the weekend I stumbled onto a site called PartsDirect. I placed the order for two of the longer rails and the brackets to mount them on Monday evening (the cost was about $75 including the cheapest shipping possible), they shipped on Tuesday, and to my surprise, they arrived today. I checked the brackets, and they fit the fridge perfectly. Unfortunately, the rails are just a bit too long (a note included with the package alerted me that this might happen). So it looks like I have my first project for the weekend--put the hacksaw blade on my Ryobi power saw and chop 'em down to size.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Madden 2005

I loaded up a copy of this game on my system last night just to give it a whirl. My love of football dictates that I have at least one such game on my computer at all times, and from everything I've seen and read, this series remains the best. I've played every version since 2000 (I've had my own copy of all of them except for 2002, which I played on a friend's PS2), so I've got a fairly good background of knowledge on the subject of the Madden games.

Graphically, the game looks a lot like the 2004 edition, and that's not a bad thing. The "TV-style" graphics have some neat new features; my favorite is the "current drive" info box showing number of plays, yardage, and time that pops down between plays when you get a good one going. The helmets look more realistic than ever, and that's a nice touch. The jerseys, unfortunately, are a different story. They've gotten so well-rendered that you can see the individual meshing on each player's shirt. On the colored "home" jerseys, they look great. On the white "road" jerseys, though, my poor old Radeon 9500 Pro graphics card doesn't render the shirts correctly what with the shadow effects, and the difference is similar to the difference between HDTV versus regular TV. I'll probably end up playing with the detail settings and turning them down a bit to fix this problem. Oh, and the cheerleaders seem to get a little bit better each time. This year: realistic bouncing breast action!

As for the sound, my only complaint is that by default, the crowd is too loud and drowns out the commentary, but you can fix that (or not, as your little heart desires). Very few complaints about the audio, except that for the past few years it seems like John Madden has been recording less and less original commentary and relying on the recordings he's made in past years. This probably isn't as big of a deal for newcomers to the series, but for "oldbies" like me, it seems to make the commentary get repetitive more quickly. During franchise mode, you now have the option of playing an episode of the Tony Bruno show. He's got fictional callers and actual interviews with real NFL coaches, as well as telling you about things going on that pertain to your team. So far, I think this is a pretty innovative feature, but time will tell if it gets to be repetitive and annoying. Of course, if it does, I can always turn it off and play the music. The music is about what I've come to expect from Madden, alternapop and nuMetal mixed in with the occasional spit-words-out-so-fast-you-can't-understand-it rap song, although I enjoyed the inclusion of "retro throwback" track "From Out of Nowhere" by Faith No More (though I think "Surprise You're Dead" would have been even more atmospheric, beginning with the cowbell as it does and all--it just sounds like something they'd play at a stadium.) I wonder how many teenaged Kid Rock/Limp Bizkit/Linkin Park fans are going to say "This sucks" and fast forward right on through it without realizing how these guys paved the way for their favorite bands.

As far as gameplay goes, the on-field action is virtually identical to last year's game. Supposedly there's a "hit stick" feature that allows you to put an extra pop on ballcarriers to try and force a fumble (or to injure them, though EA doesn't explicitly say this), but it appears you have to have a control pad with an analog stick in order to use this feature. My gamepad is a really old Sidewinder from the late '90s, before analog sticks were commonplace, so I'll either have to buy a new gamepad or do without the bone-crunching hits. For franchise mode, all the fun (if sometimes annoying) owner mode stuff is there. Player attitude is introduced this year, so you have to contend with the Terrell Owenses of the world taking your locker room apart from the inside. There are position battles for starters during the preseason, you can get e-mail with key points to focus on before each game, and there are local and national newspapers to give you the scoop on the happenings with your team and around the league.

My recommendation is to pick this one up if you're a football fan. It'll probably get a whole lot more of my gaming time than Star Wars Battlefront.

Cooking for Engineers

This was already posted on last week, and I didn't want to steal it from him the same day that he posted it, but Cooking for Engineers (a fellow member site) is such a cool cooking site that I, too, just had to add it to my links.


"Hurricane" Jeanne blew through my neck of the woods last night, although it was far from a hurricane by the time it got here. Oh, it got windy, and it sure did rain a lot, but I didn't see any damage in my own neighborhood to speak of. No water in my basement, no downed tree limbs, even the traffic backups only cost me about ten extra minutes getting home from work last night.

Oh, and despite wind and rain and all of the dire warnings from Comcast (my local cable company), as far as I can tell, my satellite picture never missed a beat. Screw you, Comcast. Nyah.

Did you miss me?

I'm betting not...but for the curious, I took a long weekend (Monday was a day of vacation for me) and went to Reading, PA to visit my folks. The fact that my father has DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket package and the Giants game wasn't on in my area had absolutely nothing to do with it...riiiiiight.

Three days to lounge around, drink beer, and eat great food that I didn't have to prepare. I was going to do some blog entries up there, but I forgot to pack the power cord for my iBook. Oh well.

But now I'm back. I'll try not to leave my audience (however small it might be) abandoned without warning again.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Star Wars Battlefront

I got a few good hours of playing time in on this game the other night, and my verdict is a solid "Meh." It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, it just left me wanting something a little more. I actually saw TV commercials for this game (which is rare for a PC-based game, although this one is available for PS2 and XBox as well) and was expecting something more than just Battlefield 1942 and Battlefield Vietnam rehashed in the Star Wars universe. It's more "capture and defend the points on the map" fun, which I enjoy, but I've been playing this sort of game for over two years now, and I haven't found any innovative features that this game has added. The graphics are well done, and it's neat that it covers battles from both the original trilogy as well as the newer "saga" films, but I've found multiplay to be inexcusably laggy (my 768K DSL has no trouble with either of the Battlefield games from EA) and there are a couple features from the Battlefield series that are missing: you can't capture a point by parking a vehicle on the flag, the flags don't seem to turn any faster by having additional soldiers sit on the capture points, and you can't pick up new weapon "kits" from fallen soldiers, friend or foe. But the new maps and vehicles are neat, the battles are certainly grand in scale (although even in online play, a good number of the combatants are AI-controlled), and unlike in EA's masterpieces, the AI soldiers are slightly smarter than the average head of cabbage. My verdict on this one: thumbs squarely in the middle. This should keep me occupied until Tribes Vengeance comes out later this fall, at any rate. Some of my online pals over at the August Knights have bought it as well, so we should be able to get some quality multiplayer fun out of it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Today is going to be a big day, entertainment-wise.

As soon as I get done working, I'm heading to Best Buy...both the Star Wars Trilogy DVD set and the Star Wars Battlefront PC game come out today. I'll probably try to get some playing time in tonight with my online gaming group and post some first impressions tomorrow.

But I probably won't get time to watch the DVDs until at least the weekend...the new season of Law & Order kicks off tomorrow with SVU, two hours of the mothership on Wednesday (I'm especially looking forward to seeing Dennis Farina's performance; I've seen several of his movies and have a feeling he's going to have us saying "Lennie who?"), and the Criminal Intent premiere on Sunday. I'm addicted to all of these shows--it's a good thing I have TiVo to catch them all for me.

Monday, September 20, 2004


Saddam Hussein is depressed.

Poor little deposed dictator.

He's still not even close to knowing how the people he and his thugs killed, raped, and tortured felt.

Rot in hell, you son of a bitch. I hope you experience a lot more fear and depression before you're released from this life.

Iraq war debate: Kerry vs. Bush

More sparring from the presidential candidates today on the war in Iraq.

Salient points from the article:

"Kerry said Monday, 'Is he really saying that if we knew there were no imminent threat, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaida, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is no because a commander in chief’s first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe.'"

Yet a bit further down, even MSNBC (which I consider to be a slightly left-leaning source) concedes that "Kerry, a fourth-term Massachusetts senator, voted to give Bush authority to wage the war and he said in August he still would have voted that way had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

What really gets me are the accusations that Bush lied to or mislead the American public into believing that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. In my mind, the proof is conclusive that he was relying on the best intelligence available to him...intelligence that came from American, British, and Israeli agencies, and intelligence that was reliable enough to persuade numerous other nations (Great Britain chief among them) to join in our efforts. The information available now indicates that Saddam Hussein himself believed that he had or was developing weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence was wrong, but Bush was neither misleading nor lying when he trusted in it and used it to make the decision to invade Iraq.

Giants catch a "break"

My New York Football Giants will be playing the Cleveland Browns this coming Sunday without rookie sensation tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who could miss the rest of the season with a broken leg.

I certainly hate to see guys get hurt, but I've got to admit, between this injury and Cleveland's miserable performance against Dallas yesterday, I like the Giants' chances.

Candidates, memos, and military service

So CBS is admitting that the memo that allegedly calls President Bush's national guard service into question is more likely than not a fake. Good. My only hope is that now this "story" can die the death it deserves and everyone can move on to more important issues. Between this and the swift boat veterans controversy, I'm sick of it all.

Not that these things aren't at least worth touching upon--these men have both brought their service backgrounds into their campaign, and this is an issue that should be examined. After all, the integrity of the candidates should be first and foremost in every voter's mind as they enter the voting booth. But does every little factoid need to be page one news every single night?

While we in America demand greedily the details of things that happened thirty years ago, terrorists are kidnapping and murdering Americans. Which is more important? I know what my answer to that question is.

And the war on terror isn't the only thing more important than past service records. How about the FCC's crackdown on "shock jocks", the environment, or the death of fair-use? There are a hundred things that actually matter because they affect the future, not the past, but yet never seem to get talked about on the news.

Come on, George and John. Keep the past in the past and talk about meaningful, current issues. Don't make me vote Libertarian.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Great weekend

It's nice any time you have a Friday off from work, and this weekend was no exception. I got my grass cut, my grocery shopping done, my kitchen cleaned, last night I made one great dinner (sauteed veal with a spicy Cajun pasta) and prepared another dish for tonight (a baked sort of spaghetti-lasagna hybrid). Now I'm sitting on my couch, drinking a cold PBR with jalapeno poppers in the oven, watching my Giants beat up on the hated Washington Redskins, and following the score as my Yankees beat up on the Red Sawks. Does life get any better than this?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Street naming

There are streets named after sports stars, war heroes, and popular entertainers. But this may be the first street I've heard of actually being named after a TV show.

It is fitting, though.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Cool little statistical site.

Hat tip to Hylander.

NFL wrapup

I watched the Monday night game very intently last night--one of my fantasy teams was winning by a mere 9 points, and the only player who played on Monday for either team was Stephen Davis for my opponent. Fortunately, the Green Bay defense played an excellent game, and I held on for the week one W. (Don't ask about my other team--not only did I not win, but I scored the fewest points out of all ten of us. Strange, considering my two teams had a lot of players in common.)

And thank God I have fantasy football to keep me interested this season, because I have a feeling it's going to be a long season for me and my fellow Giants fans. They looked like a million bucks on the opening drive against the Eagles on Sunday, but after that--nothing. I think it's best summed up by this picture, which one of my fellow fans posted in the Giants newsgroup that I frequently read.



In the name of all that's holy, please no.

Monday, September 13, 2004


I got my first link from a fellow blogger that I know of over the weekend--from my paintball-playing buddy Squidly. I'm in the B's under his Blogroll.

In Memoriam

Nothing worse than an author who stakes out an address, starts a perfectly nice little blog, then abandons it, never to post again. I won't do that, I promise.

Unfortunately, I was out of town this weekend. My grandfather passed away on Sunday the 5th, and was buried on Friday the 10th. I wasn't going to even mention it here, simply because I didn't want this blog to take a down tone too early on, but after giving it some thought, this is something important to me, moreso than just about anything else I'll post on this site. In fact, I can tell already that I'm going to ramble on for longer than I originally intended when I started this entry.

My grandfather was just short of his 87th birthday. For about 85 of those years, he was blessed with good health, and up until about six months ago his health problems had been very minor. Lately, his quality of life had begun to slip, as he'd just had surgery the Monday before his death to remove two tumors from his lungs. (He was the only one of my grandparents who still smoked by the time I was born, but even he'd given up the habit fifteen or twenty years ago. The story, as I'm told, is that one evening, he finished the last cigarette in his pack, crumpled it up, and said "I quit." And he never smoked even one again. That was the kind of person he was.)

The funeral was small, at a Catholic church in Honesdale, Pa., where he lived and my mother grew up. (In fact, my grandfather lived his entire life in the house where he was born.) It was a nice service, and he was remembered fondly. My brother, two cousins, my father, an uncle, and I served as his pallbearers. That wasn't something I was looking forward to, but in the end, I was honored to be one of the ones to bring him to his rest.

It was a very surreal family gathering. The mood really wasn't as mournful as I originally expected, and I think my grandmother gets the credit for that. She really is an amazing woman, coping with the death of her constant companion for the last 55 years as well as she is. Fortunately, she won't be alone--two of my aunts and uncles still live right there in town.

On Saturday afternoon, we gathered to watch the Notre Dame-Michigan football game--my grandfather graduated from ND in 1938 and watched just about every single Notre Dame game he could see. My grandparents even travelled to a couple of bowl games in better years. Of course, anyone who knows college football expected Michigan to hand the Irish their own heads, but I guess my grandfather has already found someone's ear to whisper in up there, because it was, in fact, Notre Dame who outplayed their opponents in just about every way.

In memory of Jack G. Rickert, 1917-2004.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Odd scam

My friend Hylander has received an odd phone call.

Stinks like scam to me. They're aiming low in terms of dollar amount solicited, but that doesn't make it less likely to be a scam. For an example of this, read Frank Abagnale's Catch Me If You Can, or even see the movie.