Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Opening Day

No, not Sawks-Yankees...that's not until Sunday. I'm talking about paintball--my friend Matt and I got out for our first outing of the year on Saturday. We stayed local to me this time, going to ECX, a small field about 20 minutes south of my house.

This field gets a mixed review from our first day of play. The field hasn't been open for very long in its latest incarnation, so I'm willing to give them a little slack, but they seemed pretty disorganized--there was quite a bit of down time in between games on the X-ball field. We played exclusively on the X-ball field--there had been quite a bit of rain for a couple of days before we got there, so the woodsball area was a muddy mess, and the smaller airball field only had half its obstacles inflated, probably so the ECX team could practice on it.

That was the biggest difference between this field and others I've played at. There, most of the other players were recreational players like us. Here, most of the other players on the X-ball field were members of the ECX factory team--semi-pros who eat rec ballers for breakfast. They did a very good job of keeping things even; Matt and I were split between two teams of tourney players, but we still felt a bit like target practice dummies, especially during the early rounds. It was really neat just to watch them play, though--I felt like I learned a lot about the strategy and flow of the game just being out on the field with players of that caliber. I'll definitely go back in a couple of weeks--if they can just cut down on the waiting time between games, this will be a great place to play.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Technical Difficulties

What a night for technology last night. I went to go play WoW for a while--my dwarf hunter is very close to level 51, and several of my friends were online last night and had time to help put me over the hump and then some. But of course, about fifteen minute in, the server started barfing, I got crashed out, and couldn't get back in.

I was a little miffed (these problems have been prevalent lately, and I'm paying a monthly subscription fee to play this game, after all), but went downstairs to watch the NCAA tournament. There was a great game on--West Virginia was taking it to the higher-ranked Texas Tech. I get up, go into the kitchen for a beer, and when I get back...nothing. There's a black screen on the TV. A few minutes later, the DirecTV logo comes up, along with a message saying "Technical difficulties, please stand by." I never did see the rest of the games.

Technology stinks.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Chili Cookin'

I made a nice big pot of hot, hearty chili tonight while I was watching the late-starting NCAA playoff games. A friend asked me for the recipe last week, and plug whore that I am, I promised to post it on my blog when I made it. It's an adaptation of a recipe I linked a while ago off the Beer Advocate website. So without further adieu, here it is.

Beast's Bitchin' Beer and Two-Bean Chili

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 can tomato soup
1 can red beans
1 can black beans
1/2 can beer
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon buffalo wing hot sauce
6 small Habanero chiles, optional; seeded and finely chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Brown the ground beef in a large pot or Dutch oven. Drain fat. Add all remaining ingredients except cheddar cheese. Stir together and bring to a hard simmer. Once the chili starts to bubble, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for at least one hour--the longer the better. If the chili gets too thick, add more beer. Don't worry if it appears too thin--it will thicken when the cheese is added. A few minutes before serving, stir in the cheddar cheese. Serve with tortilla chips and sour cream.

Down With the Sickness

Ugh...another week I've gone without updating this thing. Good thing no one ever reads it.

I caught a flu bug this week--without question the worst one that I can remember. I was fine after my trip to Baltimore, and even had a friend stop by to watch 24 with me on Monday night. I went to bed feeling fine, albeit a little chilly (which is nothing new, since my house dates back to the early part of the 20th century and most of its doors and windows have gaps big enough to put a baby's pinky through). But when I woke up no less than six times during the night in a cold sweat, I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, when I woke up a little before 7 AM, I could barely get out of bed--I was freezing, sweating, and aching all at once. A quick check of my temperature confirmed I had a fever (right around 101), so I called in sick to work and settled down on my couch to get some rest and catch up on my Tivo-watching. Or so I thought.

I was so exhausted that I was asleep for about three hours for every one I was awake. Unfortunately, when I did wake up, it was because my particular flu bug came with a prize: a stomach component that had me...trotting...up the stairs to the bathroom every couple hours. Or at least it would have if I'd been able to trot. I had to more or less drag myself up the stairs--and more than once, I thought I was going to tumble down them, crash through the window at the bottom of them, and not be found until my carcass started to smell.

Fortunately, the flu portion of the bug subsided by Wednesday morning, and I was able to make it the rest of the way through the week. And even more fortunately, my stomach symptoms went away by the weekend, so I was able to enjoy a visit to my parents' house with them and my grandparents. We ate some good food (I get all my cooking skill from my mother) and watched a lot of good NCAA tournament games. I'm not a particularly big basketball fan (I never watch the NBA, and don't watch college hoops until about late February), but watching Bucknell (my father's alma mater, which made the game even more fun to watch) win a huge upset over Kansas and watching West Virginia knock off Wake Forest in double overtime were two of the greatest hoops contests I've seen in a long, long time.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Li'l Jimmy

I took a trip to Baltimore this weekend with a couple of friends. Our mission: to see Opie and Anthony Show regular Jim Norton at the Baltimore Improv. But of course nothing in my life is ever as simple as it should be.

I booked a hotel from a travel site, following a link to the Inner Harbor Days Inn, bought tickets to the show, and got the directions to the hotel from Mapquest. On Saturday morning, we loaded up the car and hit the road. The first clue that something was wrong was when the Mapquest directions took us past the Inner Harbor exits on I-95. But we soldiered on to the exit specified, and immediately after getting off the highway we were greeted by a "Welcome to Baltimore" sign. After a bit of driving around through some pretty rough neighborhoods, we ended up at the hotel--nowhere near the Inner Harbor area. It turns out that the link I clicked on took me to another Days Inn--right in the heart of one of the bad sections of town.

Fortunately, because we got an early start, we had plenty of time to call and cancel the reservation. (Fortunately, my friends have cell phones--I'm pretty sure I'm the last person I know who doesn't.) Then we drove to the Inner Harbor, and were able to get a room at the right Days Inn, and were able to continue as planned. We did a bit of walking around, stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at the Capital City Brewery, then walked over to the Improv to see the show.

And it was a really great show. It was very different from what Jim does on the O&A show, but was absolutely hilarious. Norton has a great act and great delivery, and didn't miss a beat while berating some loud chatty broad in the audience--or when said broad tripped over a step and hit the deck. I was hoping to get a picture with Jim for this site, but the line was just too long--we'd gone to the 7 PM show, so we hit another local microbrew pub for the next couple hours. We also got a chance to size up the crowd coming in for the 9 PM show, and we chose the right one. As my pal Matt pointed out, "I've never seen that many neck tattoos in one place before." Jim Norton puts on a great show, and as long as your sensibilities aren't easily offended, I highly recommend you take the opportunity to see his act if he comes to a town near you.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Remembering Madrid

Today Spain remembers the victims of last year's Madrid train bombings. And what a great way to honor the victims of a heinous act of terrorism--a group of Spanish muslim clerics (mostly Shiites, representing 70% of the mosques in Spain and over a million Spanish Muslims) have issued a fatwa against America's most wanted, Osama bin Laden himself. Frankly, I'm just surprised it's taken this long for the representative majority to start speaking out against the lunatic fringe that gets all the publicity and paints them all with the same tarnished brush. Kudos, and hopefully the rest of Spain can follow this lead and continue to be an ally in the fight against terrorism.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Cat hunting

Are you an avid hunter who'd love to go on a safari hunting lions and tigers in Africa, but can't afford to go? If this guy gets his way, you may soon be able to go to Wisconsin for a scaled-down version...hunting wild housecats.

I can respect the bird-lovers' point of view, but if the cats really are that big of a problem, there are better ways to take care of it--let the local humane society or animal control capture them and either domesticate them and place them in homes, or else put them down humanely. There's too many problems for this to be the best solution--wounded cats (either from poor marksmen or from bed-wetting future serial killers who see the ability to torture cats legally by using a gun as a wounding weapon) suffering before their death, and more importantly, the chance of someone's pet being shot by mistake.

Monday, March 07, 2005


I had a visit from my parents this weekend to help me put in my birthday present--an over-the-range microwave oven. This was something I'd been looking forward to for a long time. My kitchen is small and every spare inch of counter space is valuable real estate, and my old microwave was a very basic (i.e. cheap) one that I originally bought for my freshman dorm room--and that was over 7 1/2 years ago. (It was very durable, however, and still runs great, so with my tendencies toward hoarding, I cleaned it out one last time and put it in my basement--just in case this new model ever breaks down.)

The installation went far easier than anticipated--we were done just before 2:00 in the afternoon after starting at around 11:00 in the morning. We had to take the wiring from the old range hood (which, unbeknownst to me, had an exposed end inches from the back of the metal hood, just waiting to electrocute me) and create a new power outlet box in my cupboard to plug the oven into, but that turned out to be very easy to do (the wire was in good shape; it just hadn't been properly capped). The hard part was finding two wooden blocks of the appropriate thickness to fill out the recess in the cupboard from which we hung the microwave--it took us quite a while to find a piece of scrap the appropriate size. Compounding that was the fact that the templates and directions appeared to have been written by non-English speakers who may or may not have been retarded. But eventually we got it up there and working--it's much bigger than my old one, has a lot of "advanced" features, and my stovetop now has a fan that doesn't make a screeching growl like a cat whose tail has just been run over by a Fiat every time I turn it on. Best of all, it's now on its own circuit, and will no longer cause my TV and Tivo to turn off every time I operate the microwave at the same time as my toaster or can opener. I just don't understand the wiring in my house...the TV and Tivo are in my living room on the north side of my house, while the power strip with my old microwave was plugged into the southmost wall. Oh well--one less thing to worry about from now on.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Weekend in Washington

D.C., that is. I went down to the area to visit some friends this past weekend and had a great time. We went to a bar called The Brickskeller on Friday night. It doesn't look like much from the outside--its one nonadjoining brick wall is covered with graffiti--but it's got a great atmosphere inside, and allegedly over 1000 beers available (although more than one of the beers we ordered from their approximately ten-page-long menu was sold out). Unfortunately, the place was so busy on a Friday night that my dinner was cold by the time it got to me and we didn't get to sample as many of the beers as we would have liked. I'll be curious to try it again some other time.

The main event, though, was Saturday night--we went out for Irish food and music at Murphy's in Alexandria, Virginia. Highly recommended if you're ever in the area, especially if Pat Carroll is playing (that's who we went to see)--if you can get a table. We had a reservation, but whoever answered the phone when Mike R. called on Wednesday forgot to write it down. But they did a good job of making things right, jumping us to the front of the line for the next available table, eventually giving us one right next to the stage. I don't even need to look at the menu when I go in there--meat and potato pie, every time. It's fantastic there.

I'd love to post pictures, but unfortunately I'm an idiot and forgot to bring my camera out with me both nights.