Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wedding Cake

This afternoon I returned from lunch to a full email inbox. I thought somebody had spammed me, but it turned out to just be Julie with a plethora of wedding cakes to look at. Through the miracle of Gmail chat I was able to provide instant feedback on the many designs.

Me: holy crap I am getting email bombed

Jules: tell me if you like any of these cakes

I attempt to pause long enough to provide appearance of careful cake perusal.

Jules: oh yeah there is one more

Me: magnificent
a marvel of cake design
I love it
best of the bunch
saved the best for last
the apogee of cake achievement

Jules: it was a grooms cake in another wedding

Me: never before has the world seen a cake of this excellence
this will be the gold standard of all cakes to come
this cake is the zenith of the wedding cake field
like TS Eliot's "Prufrock", it will be a standard that will haunt this designer their entire career

Pause, I assume I am off the hook.

Jules: do you have access to a color printer?

Another pause as I consider how best to answer this question.

Me: yes

Jules: oh, can I send you the cakes and have you print them?

Another pause. Panic. I choke and leave the door open.

Me: how many cakes are we talking

Second flood of cake spam begins.

Felis Silvestris Catus

So last week we got a cat.

We couldn't just get any cat though. Jules and I had been searching for weeks on Petfinder and whatnot for orange, already declawed cats.

"Declawed". Yes, a word rife with controversy and consternation. I had no clue.

When we went to the National Adoption Weekend being hosted at the local Petsmart and mentioned that we were looking for an already declawed cat, I immediately had several pamphlets and accusatory looks thrown my way. Apparently cat lovers do not take kindly to the declawing process.

Naturally Julie tried to hold her ground with the ladies at the Petsmart who were explaining to us how cruel the whole thing was, and equally naturally I made it my job to make the situation even more of a mess.

Jules: We're looking for an already declawed cat so we don't have to declaw a kitten.

Me: Babe, look at this pamphlet. Did you know that they cut the whole bone off? This looks terrible!

Helpful Cat Lady: Yes, it's so cruel what they do to the poor kitties.

Jules: We don't have a choice, it is in the lease. We have to get one declawed because of the hardwood floors.

Me: (gesturing to the pamphlet) And look at this!! It's not even legal in a lot of European countries! It's considered animal cruelty in England!

Helpful Cat Lady: Yes, we're working hard to see if we can't make it illegal here too.

Jules: This is the landlord's decision, not ours.

Me: Look at this list of countries it is illegal in: England, Israel, Australia...

Jules: (getting angry) We're not declawing one, we're getting one already declawed...

Me: ... Turkey, New Zealand... did you know capon is illegal in England too? Aren't we serving that at the wedding?

Helpful Cat Lady: (narrows eyes)

Me: Japan and Brazil too, and they'll let you get away with a lot of stuff there. It must be really bad.

I was about to mention to the lady that Julie had wanted to declaw the cat because it makes them more tender when you cook them, but I thought that might be going too far and clearly I was already getting in hot water.

Anyway we eventually were able to get a nice older cat named Pumpkin through an adoption agency called Forgotten Cats and the ladies were very nice.

Here you can see her plotting whether to poop inside the litter box or right next to it.

Like I said, we couldn't just get any cat. We had to get one with a sordid past.

Apparently Pumpkin first lived with an owner who became an alcoholic and got rid of her. Then she lived with a family whose kids tortured and tormented her, including keeping her from getting to the litter box on purpose. For the last sixth months she had been with Forgotten Cats in a foster home in a large cage and had licked/chewed most of the hair on her back legs off due to stress. I think they had largely given up hope that she would find a permanent home because she is an older cat and folks typically adopt kittens.

Naturally with this sad story I immediately wanted the cat because yes, I am a sucker. When we were at Petsmart I wanted the old blind cat that probably had about three months to live and the gigantic diseased one that had kitty AIDS (I was prevented from doing so by the claws).

So anyway Pumpkin is old, overweight, missing fur on her back legs and has some dependency issues due to past treatment.

Needless to say, I love this cat.

Resident Evil 4 - Amazing Progress

After a tactical lesson on how to properly play the game from one of my kindly neighbors, I managed to finally get past the opening sequence of Resident Evil 4.

I racked up somewhere between 50-100 pitchforks to the face before making it into the first town. I then racked up about a dozen chainsaw decapitations before finally finishing the sequence.

All told it took me a little over a month to get past the very first combat sequence in the game. The satisfaction was palpable.

And then, like the beginning of a movie, the words "Resident Evil" appeared on the screen.

Yes folks, the sequence it took me all those hours and deaths to get through was the INTRODUCTORY SEQUENCE, designed to take a few minutes to get you acclimated to the controls.

This is going to take awhile.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Four Things Meme

Got tagged by DM Osbon for this blog meme all the cool kids are into. Now that I am doing it, that almost certainly means it has ceased to be cool but I'll give it a shot anyway.

Four Jobs I have had in my life (not including current job):

  1. Shopping Cart Pusher - I collected shopping carts in the lot part time one summer at a grocery store. I actually witnessed more rampant drug use at this particular job than any other place I worked, including waiting tables. Once I also saw a couple guys throwing boxes of cereal up into the ceiling fans in back. That was absolutely spectacular. Me, I just pushed carts for four hours straight with a fifteen minute break somewhere in the middle. Time has never, ever moved more slowly than it did that summer.

  2. Waiter - Did this for years at various establishments after my first stint with a defense contractor. The funny thing about waiting tables is working in cash all the time. You kind of worry walking home late from the bus stop that somebody is going to rob you and take all your income for the day. Fortunately I only ever got robbed once and that was on the way TO the bus stop, and all I had at the time was a couple bucks for bus fare and some smokes. So there's a handy tip for all you prospective thieves out there - rob the waiters AFTER their shift!

  3. Help Desk Guy at University - I worked sometimes on the weekends as one of those help desk/computer lab guys at college who basically sits there and can't answer any of your questions when your paper gets destroyed by pieces of junk that pass for computers. In case you can't tell from editorializing, yes, that job was frustrating. I genuinely did want to be able to help people out but the computers in the labs quite literally could potentially catch fire at any point and the garbage laptop that the school recommended (along with the garbage setup package for connecting to the school network) made certain that every last person who didn't know computers inside and out would have to call the help desk or bring their laptop in. The only upside to this job was that very occasionally you'd make a house call to some cute girl's room. Unfortunately any remote chance of getting a date was crippled by the fact that you were the "computer guy" the second you walked in.

  4. Sacristan at a Catholic Retreat House - Before the job I have now, this was definitely the coolest job I had. I got this job when I was 13 or so, and it involved staying for the entire weekend at the retreat house while all these older folks (usually men only) from various groups/churches would come up to pray. All I had to do was set up microphones and other stuff for the occasional Mass/talk and the rest of the time I could do what I pleased. I could eat whatever I wanted from the fridge in the gigantic kitchen, and there were plenty of spaces where you could set up a TV to watch movies.

    The coolest part of this job though was that the place was so big they usually had TWO sacristans there, which meant it was basically three days of raising hell with whatever buddy was there for the weekend with me. At night we would take the golf carts they had there for the older gents that had trouble walking and we'd race those carts up and down the hills of the place.

    Sometimes though, there would only be one sacristan and those weekends were just as cool: you had time to sit and chill on the beautiful grounds and catch up with a book or something. I'm not a religious fellow but there was definitely a sense of peace on those weekends at that place (except when it was time to race the carts or if the Charismatics were coming... that was just odd and frankly a little creepy, although the people were usually pretty friendly when they weren't twitching on the ground and speaking in tongues).

Four Films I have watched again and again:

  1. Blade Runner (Director's Cut) - I've watched this movie more times than any other. I used to actually watch this movie on a weekly basis my second year of college. Still waiting for the super deluxe special anniversary edition which has been rumored to be in the works for awhile now.

  2. Lord of the Rings (Extended Editions) - The best movies ever. EVER. The only reason I haven't watched these more than Blade Runner is I haven't owned them as long.

  3. Ali - This one might surprise. I'm a big Michael Mann fan and this is definitely my favorite movie of his. I am almost guaranteed to put this on if I am home on a sick day or something. For a variety of reasons I find the movie to be extremely uplifting and inspirational, and the boxing choreography is very true to the original fights if you compare them with old footage.

  4. Downfall - I can't stop watching this movie. If you've never heard of it, it's a German film about the last hours of the Third Reich. It is based on an eyewitness account from Hitler's secretary of the final hours in the bunker. You can watch the actual interview with Hitler's secretary in the documentary Blind Spot, but the actual bringing to life of the events is both disturbing and riveting. Julie is constantly making fun of me for always watching these World War II movies, especially the ones about Hitler, but it is just so fascinating to me to see how easy it is to fool yourself into believing you're doing the right thing. I think it's important to remember that as we get older and more set in our ways, we don't necessarily get wiser: it's more likely that we get tunnel vision.

  5. Tommy Boy - Okay I know this is #5 but honorable mention has to go to this hilariously idiotic movie. I don't actually own this movie but I'll watch it every time it comes on TV.

Four Places I have lived:

  1. Richmond, Virginia

  2. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

  3. Exton, Pennsylvania

  4. Storage, USA - For a couple months there I was in such disastrous shape financially that I actually technically lived in a storage garage. Now that's a bit misleading because I very rarely slept in the box, but I was sort of in between places to live and... actually, the less said about this, the better.

Four Programs I love to watch:

  1. Battlestar Galactica - Best show on TV. Nothing else is even close. Of course I say this watching very little TV of this kind (usually only sports), so perhaps my opinion on this matter is worth even less than usual.

  2. Simpsons

  3. CBS Sunday Morning - C'mon, who doesn't love Charles Osgood?

  4. Uh.... - I seriously can't think of anything else not sports related. I used to watch Baseball Tonight almost nightly but that hasn't been true this year - the new lineup on that show is absolutely terrible. I like Scrubs and Law and Order, but I don't go out of my way to watch them, they just always seem to be on whether you want to see them or not.

Four Places I have been on vacation:

  1. London, England

  2. Various Cruise Ships - This is really my vacation of choice these days. You get to visit a variety of destinations, everything is taken care of for you on the boat, and you don't have to worry about trying to organize your schedule because they'll do it for you. Plus it is just extremely relaxing to sit on a boat and read a good book. I sleep better on a cruise ship than anywhere else. Let it never be said I have crass tastes!

  3. Williamsburg, Virginia - I know what you're thinking. "That's not even remotely exotic or interesting," you're mumbling to yourself right now. Well, knock it off. Somebody might catch you mumbling to yourself and have you committed, and then where you be? Well, in an institution I suppose.

    So yeah, Williamsburg. This place is awesome. There is an amusement park here with a ton of roller coasters, there's cool historic nonsense so you can claim you went there for a reason OTHER than roller coasters, and last but certainly not least there is this unbelievably sweet Wine and Cheese shop there. I would like my ashes stored here at this shop in the off chance I could come back as a ghost and just consume everything in the store. Not like Slimer in Ghostbusters though, I'm thinking more of a badass ghost like the one in the Grudge that just killed everyone for their wine and cheese. (Note: this may not have actually been depicted in the Grudge, but I believe it was implied.)

  4. Hershey, Pennsylvania - This place rocks in the winter. First of all, you've got a town that smells like chocolate. Second of all, everyone there wants to feed you chocolate. Third of all there is a ride you can go on that explains how chocolate is made. Fourth of all they give you chocolate at the end of this ride. Fifth of all the ride is free and there is no limit to the number of times you can receive free chocolate.

    I love going to this place around Christmas time. My parents used to take the family there at Christmas and I have a lot of great memories at the Lodge. The last time Jules and I went to the Lodge the place was completely overrun with screaming kids, but I would still go back again because there are other places to stay besides the Lodge. Plus the Candy Lane always looks right purty lit up with all those lights.

Four Foods I love to eat:

  1. Jambalaya - Julie makes this awesome jambalaya with chicken and sausage. I could eat an entire pot of this stuff.

  2. Green Curry - I am completely hooked on this green curry at a nearby Thai place called Sweet Basil. If you ask for it to be made so that smoke is coming out of your ears, they will actually oblige. Sure, the morning after is slightly painful, but that doesn't matter when it tastes this good.

  3. Pizza - Here's one of the great things about pizza: the boxes can double in a pinch as furniture. I once lived in a house with four other people and we used to host the weekly Dungeons & Dragons game at our place. We'd play in the basement. There were so many pizza boxes down there that I stacked them up and actually used them as a table for my dice and books.

  4. Mac & Cheese with Tuna - This is still probably my favorite thing to eat. This is especially good with Velveeta. Funny story about Velveeta, in that same house with the pizza box table I once lived for a week on a jumbo block of Velveeta cheese. Like the storage garage, the less said about this the better.

Four Drinks I love to consume:

  1. Beer

  2. Maker's Mark - Rather than list "bourbon" I'm just going to list this because it is my favorite hard stuff.

  3. Coffee - I drink more coffee than water. It should be fairly obvious at this point that I lead a very healthy lifestyle.

  4. Mountain Dew - It's like liquefied Pixie Stix. How can this possibly be a bad thing? By the way, that sound you are hearing is my heart struggling to free itself from my ribcage.

Four Places I would rather be right now:

  1. Baseball Game - I love baseball. When I retire I want to be one of those old dudes that shows people to their seats at a minor league ballpark. I'll get to complain with the other old men about how the kids today don't play the game "the right way" while getting paid to watch.

  2. In Bed - It was a pretty rough night last night. I think living in a town with a lot of bars in walking distance is starting to take a toll. Hmmm, you know, I'll bet a little nip of something would take the edge off...

  3. On a Cruise Ship

  4. Nowhere - Maybe it's cheesy, but actually I really love where I am right now. I love my job, love my neighborhood, love my friends... I'm loving life. Seems like it would be pretty silly to mess with that right now.

Okay, so now I'm supposed to tag four other people. That means LastBestAngryMan, chornbe, jclark, and Mansorium, you are all it. Get crackin' or the collective karma of the internet will hurl its mighty weight at you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Full Review of Dragon Wars

A full review from one of the gents who saw Dragon Wars. I can sadly take no credit for this.


If it were possible to award a movie Zero Star, I would have done it. This review is to serve more as a dire warning than as an assessment: avoid this stinking pile of garbage covered crap at all costs.

The characters are distant and their actions as convoluted as the confuddled plot line (or lack there of). They seem devoid of all human emotion (other than selfishness) and motivation. I don't know if it was just sub-par performances, direction, or casting (or all of the above), however the poor writing (luuk mawmy, I writez uh moovey 4 duh 3ird grayd showkase) does nothing to pull this haggard shell of a "too-long video game cutscene" out of a kamikaze tailspin into the Ocean of Despairingly Bad Movies.

The story is great!!! "Great" if, say, you enjoy being cinematically lobotomized by a highly caffeinated, rabid wolverine wielding a rusty turbo-charged chainsaw with the word "plot" on it. It seems to me that the writer frequently got himself into situations while devising the script where he would ask himself "I wonder where I should go with this" or get himself into jams and say "wow, I wonder how I can get the characters out of this mess?"

The answers apparently came from the world famous writer's reference "How to Avoid Writing in a Coherent Manner at All Costs." This valuable treatise, of course, suggests frequently inserting large computerized cobras to take the attention away from ridiculous plot holes and unbelievable scenarios.

The aforementioned ridiculous plot holes and unbelievable scenarios are so atrocious in nature, in fact, that they are actually truly truly insulting to the movie-goer's intelligence. The director makes such insane requests for suspension of disbelief that it actually makes the audience cringe at points. Several times throughout this film I heard others around me gasp or giggle at the shear nonsensical madness taking place on-screen. I also heard many of them talking about trying to get their money back after the movie. Several questioned how it got funding to be produced in the first place.

One shining ray of light in this movie, however, was oh who am I trying to kid, there wasn't anything even remotely redeeming about this asphyxiatingly fecal production. Nothing could have salvaged this train wreck Power-Rangers meets "Reign of Fire" meets Dr. Seuss disaster save the Movie Execs handing out $1,000,000 to all twelve people in the audience who made it through the entire showing.


My anticipation for the film could not possibly be any higher at this point.

Stirring Movie Reviews

A couple of my weekly gaming buddies went to see Dragon Wars over the weekend and came away with the following reviews:

"This movie made the Dungeons & Dragons movie look like Lord of the Rings... the second Dungeons & Dragons movie."

"It left me wanting something more: a high powered rifle to end it all."

Obviously I've immediately added this to my Netflix queue.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Blood Bowl - The Original Fantasy Football

I will never forget one year for Christmas as a young lad I asked for a copy of the enormous board game Blood Bowl. The first edition of this massive game was released in 1987, so I was probably about 9 or 10 when I asked for it.

I never did get a copy of the game, possibly because:
a) It was probably somewhat difficult to explain the high price tag for this board game when your parents are used to buying bargain copies of Monopoly and Life
b) The cover of the box indicated a delicious level of violence that probably would have clashed mightily with the Christmas tree
c) A game called "Blood Bowl" doesn't exactly scream "healthy pastime for a 10 year old" to most parents

To this day I still don't have a copy of the board game. It can cost over $100 if you try to get it online. You can't really get a new copy, you need to buy it secondhand off someone.

The basic gist of this game is that you put together a team of elves, dwarves, orcs, and other fantasy staples and have them play a game of bastardized American football against each other on a huge game board. There are rules for playing entire seasons where you have injuries, player aging, and even fatalities. There's a great summary on the basics on Wikipedia.

A combination of classic fantasy and American football? How can you possibly go wrong?

Well, the learning curve is a little bit on the tough side for the average Joe, and even if I were to finally get a copy of the board game now I have no idea who would actually play the game with me. It takes about 2 hours to play an individual game, and with "campaign" options and the like it would have to be a regularly weekly occurrence. There are online leagues and whatnot that have Java clients, but those players really know what they are doing and just end up destroying newbies like myself.

There is hope, however. A French developer called Focus Home Interactive is developing a PC version of the game.

Perhaps, almost 20 years later, I will have a chance to sink my teeth into this one.

Furniture Shopping, or the Fourth Circle of Hell: Part I

Thus we descended into the fourth chasm,
Gaining still farther on the dolesome shore
Which all the woe of the universe insacks...

Here saw I people, more than elsewhere, many,
On one side and the other, with great howls,
Rolling weights forward by main force of chest.

They clashed together, and then at that point
Each one turned backward, rolling retrograde,
Crying, "Why keepest?" and, "Why squanderest thou?"

Thus they returned along the lurid circle
On either hand unto the opposite point,
Shouting their shameful metre evermore.

  -- Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy - Inferno

About a month ago Jules and I moved into a new place. I'd use that as an excuse for not having posted in awhile, but the real reason is that I've just been extremely lazy.

So yeah, we moved into a bigger place into a cooler town. You can tell it is cool because people like to actually go there, as opposed to the apartment I used to live in where people tried to go the other direction.

You have one or two shootings and a carjacking and all of the sudden everybody thinks you live in a dangerous area. Sheesh!

Anyway with moving into a larger place comes the problem of having to furnish the new areas.

Different Tastes

I discovered the hard way just how different Julie's and my tastes are in furniture a few months ago. We were out on a Saturday afternoon running some errands. Normally I'd try to weasel out of running errands on a Saturday afternoon, but in this case I was persuaded by the possibility of going to see The Transformers movie.

We had taken care of all chores except one with about an hour to spare before the movie. Jules wanted to go to Bed Bath & Beyond to put a couple of things on the wedding registry. The movie theater was right next door so with an hour to spare I figured it wouldn't be a problem.

First, let me just say that Bed Bath & Beyond is really not a bad store when other people are paying. In that sense it is like Williams & Sonoma. It is one of those stores I would never, ever, in a million years spend my own money in because you can find the exact same items for half of the price with a little legwork, but the selection adds a lot to the convenience factor and I think that's why you pay a little extra. They also have some cool square china, which I'm a big fan of.

Julie, however, is not. Julie is very into traditional designs when it comes to furniture, plates, and... uh... well pretty much anything from an aesthetic standpoint.

Me, I hate traditional stuff. I like to be reminded when I walk into a room that I live in the 21st century, not 1950. If they sold robots or jetpacks in furniture stores I'd put them on the registry.

Julie had put a shower curtain on the registry via the internet that she wanted to take a look at in person. One look was all you needed to tell you this was the ugliest shower curtain in the store. The puddle of vomit and various clawed out eyeballs nearby were also a tipoff. It was like Medusa, except looking it in the eyes provoked a gag reflex, immobilizing you as you tried to expunge from your body all trace of having seen the monstrosity.

Also, nothing else that Julie had picked out matched this thing, probably because "Projectile Vomit Inducing Ugly" was SO last year.

However, we were approaching a half hour or so until Transformers started. The question became: do I mention this to Julie?

In the end I couldn't help myself. I mentioned that the towels she had picked didn't match that shower curtain.

With those words any possibility of attending the afternoon screening of Transformers vanished. Like the tortured souls in the Fourth Circle pushing great weights up against each other for eternity, we held dozens of different colored towels up against different shower curtains in an effort to find the elusive perfect match, ever just beyond our tortured grasp.

At one point we were becoming so frustrated that we started asking hapless, unsuspecting nearby shoppers, who looked at us with confusion and horror and we proffered them towels and curtains, tears streaming from our eyes.

I still have yet to see Transformers, by the way.