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.