Saturday, June 24, 2006

Zippity Zap Zip Zip Zap

Originally posted June 24, 2006

Know how I can tell Im getting old? Its easy. When I turn my upper body well within my normal range of motion, I suddenly feel like someone has ground one of my vertebrae into a fine powder, as I did this morning. Oh, and cuz I cant remember stuff no good neither.

A while back I bought Vicki a RadioShack ZipZap Monster Truck. For those of you that dont know about ZipZaps, they are tiny little remote control cars that charge on the remote controller. I also bought the tire and engine upgrade kits for the little truck. It was a fun novelty for a while, Vicki would make me chase her around the room playing tag with it. Last week, we had to go to the mall to get Stacy a new pair of glasses. While she was bartering with the Lenscrafters, I took the girls into the RadioShack next door. They had a large Cars display right in the front, complete with three ZipZaps based on characters from the movie. Can you guess how long it took the girls to ask for them? I relented; theyre cheap little toys and I have a soft spot for RC cars. Vicki picked out Sally, the blue Porsche and Zoe picked Lightning McQueen, the stock car. I accidentally picked two different frequencies, thank goodness. No upgrade kits, but that just saved me money.

Creepy Uncle Phils ZipZap

I put the cars together for the girls the next day. They had a great time zipping around the living room. Kylie, a girl Stacy babysits during the week, tried to use the old monster truck but was having trouble. Upon examination, I realized that the truck and Sally operated on the same frequency. Durn it. I also found that the ZipZaps found every bit of dog hair on the floor and directed it straight to the gear assembly on the axle.

Hair collection, the ZipZap way!

Yesterday, I got a call from Stacy asking if we could get spare parts for the truck. After all the abuse it had taken months ago, one of the girls dropped it and broke a strut. By the time I got home, Lightning McQueen wasnt responding to the RC. The truck was unsalvageable. A piece of the strut and the spring was missing. Lightning McQueen was completely unresponsive. So we packed the kids into the van and headed to the local CrapShack to exchange McQueen and get a new truck. Our local RadioShack is located in a very ethnic-oriented part of town.

After the Manassas city beautification project

Stacy didnt want to get out at first, but I assured her that with my gruff exterior and the fact that she was carrying a baby were big deterrents for anyone wanting to start some trouble. We headed back to the ZipZap section to find that all of their McQueens were on the same frequency as Vickis Sally. No good. We also discovered that in their infinite wisdom, RadioShack only produced two frequencies in their ZipZaps. That meant that any truck I bought would conflict with one of the girls cars. No truck for me. Zoe picked out a Herbie ZipZap from Herbie Fully Loaded and we exchanged the McQueen. Extra bonus: Herbie was half-off.

Sadly, Herbie wasnt driven by a miniature Lindsay Lohan

We made a stop for ice cream, with hilarious reactions to every drip off the cone (considering the heat, there were plenty of those.) Then we headed home. After the girls were in bed, I put together Herbie. Turns his price wasnt the only thing that was half-off. He used half the batteries and had half the power as the other ZipZaps. Ah well, Zoe certainly wouldnt notice.

Zoes first, second, and third cars

To end on a bright note, that crushing pain in my back has extended through my body and into my chest. Woo hoo!

The only thing that gets rid of my back pain!

Pain in my Ass pt 2, Recent Movies, and Thunder Storms

Originally posted June 23, 2006

I had a few things I wanted to share about last week that I just didnt get to. One of the first things I did as a bachelor after my work week was go to the surgeons office and get my pre-op checkup. Turns out that the surgeon doesnt think I have a problem. He examined the area around my tailbone and said he wasnt even sure I had a cyst. Naturally, I had already finished my antibiotic regimen at this point. I wasnt supposed to have any outward signs of the cyst. When I explained everything to him, he treated me like some hypochondriac that looked up the information on a pilonidal cyst and decided I had one. I patiently explained that this was my fourth such flare-up and that I had to have two of the three before lanced by a physician. He maintained that I did not need the surgery and that it would be wholly elective. I elected. So Ill be going under the knife (more aptly put, the knife will be going under me) on June 28th. Poor Jon will be without my sparkling personality for the following two weekends as I recover.

Exciting bachelor life, right? Yeah, not really. I did find my inner chef while Stacy and the girls were gone, though. I grabbed a few interesting recipes from the Interweb thingy and headed to the grocery store for the goods. I ended up cooking a few gourmet dishes that turned out pretty good. Two favorites were Grilled Portobello with Sun-Ripened Tomatoes & Mozzarella and Mahi Mahi in Macadamia Nut Crust. I was able to share my culinary delights with my family since Stacy and the girls came home last Wednesday on schedule.

I wanted Stacy to stay out there as long as it took to help her family member, but she decided she was doing more harm than good. I was not sorry that she came home early at all. I concluded long ago that I am not cut out for the bachelors life. Although I did enjoy the additional free time that it entailed, I did not enjoy going to bed alone at night. I developed a severe case of insomnia during the short time Stacy was in Utah. It was nothing that Stacys return and some Excedrin PM couldnt resolve.

As I was en route to the airport to pick up my girls, Jon called to see if I wanted to go to A Prairie Home Companion. With the OK from the wiff, whom I did not want to abandon the day after she got home, I told Jon Id be there. Stacy and I decided to take the girls to see Cars on the same day. Thats right, I got to hit the double feature. Its been years since Ive gone to a double feature, mostly because actual double features do not exist anymore. Going to two movies in a row are about as close as you get.

A Prairie Home Companion was good. The ensemble cast did a great job of working together with no real grandstanding. By far, my favorite character was Kevin Klines Guy Noir, the bumbling, down-on-his-luck private eye that was moonlighting as the VP of security/head of security/sole security guard of the radio studio. For those of you who are not familiar with A Prairie Home Companion, something I was only in passing, it is a radio show headed by Garrison Keillor (GK in the movie.) It is a variety show complete with musical acts, stories from Garrison, sound effects, and fictional advertisements for things like Buttermilk Biscuits, look for the big blue box with the biscuit on the front. What I didnt realize as I was watching the movie, but that Jon educated me about later, is that most of the characters behind the scenes of the radio show were the fictional characters that Garrison would tell stories about on the actual radio show. Many of them were originally voiced by some of the movie cast members that were playing themselves. Its all very confusing in writing, but it made for an entertaining movie. I would give A Prairie Home Companion 4 out of 5 stars.

Afterwards, as Jon and I were discussing Kevin Klines brilliantly subdued buffoonery, Jon wondered why Kline wasnt tapped to play Inspector Clouseau in the latest remake of the famed Pink Panther movie instead of Steve Martin. I later found that Kline is in the movie, but only as Chief-Inspector Dreyfuss, the poor man that is the butt of most of Clouseaus mishaps. I think that one reason Kline may not have been chosen for the lead role is that his French accent is not nearly outrageous enough. Throughout his performance the dramatic resonance of his almost sing-song delivery of lines paved over any attempt at a foreign accent. Martin, on the other hand, did no better as Clouseau. His accent was outrageous, but his performance was barely amusing at the best of times. The only redeeming factor was Beyonce Knowles as Random Sexy Lady That Is Not The Leads Romantic Interest. Specifically during the final sequence wherein Beyonce does what Beyonce does best, singing and shakin it. Said shakin occurred in a slinky evening dress sans bra. Verry nice. Unfortunately, not nice enough to save this movie. I would give Pink Panther 1 out of 5 stars.

Enough about Beyonces jubblies, on to Pixars latest contribution to the CG glut of kids movies, Cars. It was entertaining in a completely different manner than A Prairie Home Companion. Where the latter gave us humor in the Americana of a dying radio show, the former gives us car-related puns and a few humorous gems for the parents. While I did find the movie endearing overall, I do have a complaint about the talent. I dont remember where I read it, but someone recently commented on the trend of celebrities voicing CG characters and how it tends to detract from viewer enjoyment. How often have you heard a voice over and wracked your brain to figure out who it is while the action continues on screen? Perhaps even more annoying is when a voice over is performed by an actor you despise. Case in point: Lightning McQueen, Cars lead role as voiced by Owen Dicknose Wilson. His smarmy delivery of lines is made only slightly more tolerable by not having to see his insincere, Im very sincere facial expression that accounts for half of his emotive repertoire (the other half being his all-too-sincere smug expression.) What was the purpose of having Paul Newman voice the older car? What did that bring to the movie? How about Cheech Marin as the stereotypical hydrolic-lifted, custom-paint-job, low-rider Impala? A few of the voice-over artists actually brought something to their roles, such as Tony Shalhoub as the Italian Fiat 500 or George Carlin as the stoner hippy VW Minibus. I still maintain that actors doing voiceovers has gotten out of hand. When the movie is a vehicle (no pun intended) for the voice over artists rather than the story, the superb animation, or a myriad other things that should take precedence, then the experience is cheapened. Id give Cars a middling to fair review, I guess 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Other stuff happened, but I think Im just going to bring this blog up to date with a pitiful story about my daughter, Zoe. I had taken my sleeping pills early on last night so I could get my sleep schedule ready for the weekend. Stacy had gone to a Tupperware party and left me to put the girls to bed. No big deal, it was done within an hour. I was drifting off to sleep despite the screaming infant in the cradle next to my bed by the next hour. Suddenly, I was awakened at 11:30 PM. It only took a few seconds to realize why. Rain was hammering down on the roof and sides of the house while lightning flashed and thunder pealed in machine-gun bursts. It was loud and close. Judging from the lack of a full second between lightning and thunder, it was hitting within a mile of our house. Stacy had not returned by then. I was slightly worried with the storm outside and Stacy missing, but I figured I would have gotten a call from her if anything was wrong. I lay there awake, drowsing, as I waited for the inevitable cry from the girls room as one or both of them was awakened by the storm. In-between a lazy blink of my eye, a shadowy figure loomed out of the dark, illuminated from behind by the flashes of lightning. I freaked. Hazy memories of The Exorcism of Emily Rose flashed through my mind. It took me a second to realize it was Stacy. She had come home a couple of hours ago and was just waiting in the office for one of the girls to wake up. Minutes later, Zoe did just that. The poor girl was so terrified of the noise from the thunder that she had her hands clutched to her ears no matter what we did. Stacy passed her over to me while she was getting into bed and those hands did not even budge. I found out from Stacy this morning that Zoe kept her ears covered tightly even after she fell asleep. Poor kid.

I'm going to end on a note about this blog's location. With Myspace patchy blog performance, I am thinking about moving to blogspot or a similar blog host. Watch this space for a link.

Game Boys for Everyone! OR I'm Nintendo’s B!@ch

Originally posted June 16, 2006

So Im watching some TV as I fold laundry on Monday and on comes a commercial advertising Nintendos latest addition to the Game Boy family (11 strong now.) The bastards just keep on piling them on. Let me take you through a brief history of Nintendos efforts to wrest away my time and money.

- First came the Game Boy in all its off-white body and spinach-green screen glory. It was big and bulky by todays standards, but a remarkable piece of technology by 1989 reckoning. Tough too, it could withstand floods and sand storms according to natural disaster victims and Desert Storm veterans. This I know courtesy of Nintendo Powers letter columns (Nerd! I know.)

- Next, in 1995, came the exact same Game Boy hardware with new colored shells. Anyone remember Play it loud! No? Me neither. This was my entering point into the world of handheld gaming. I bought the black one. Little did I know how insidious Nintendo would become.

- Not long after, in 1996, Nintendo unveiled the Game Boy Pocket. It was miniscule compared to the old one. By that time I wasnt playing much, so I didnt buy one.

- Japan got the Game Boy Light, a backlit version of the Pocket in 1997, meh.

- Fast forward a couple of years to the Game Boy Color in 1998. Same size as the Game Boy Pocket, but instead of spinach-green graphics, the system was able to display multiple colors, even for the old monochrome games. A new batch of games that could take advantage of the color capabilities came out. I couldnt resist. I bought the second and third Game Boys, one for myself and one for my new wife, Stacy.

- A couple more years pass quietly before Nintendo drops the next bomb, the Game Boy Advance, in 2001. It had the capability of surpassing the Super Nintendos abilities, a new form factor, physically smaller games, and backwards compatibility. This thing had my name written all over it. I was dismayed by the craptastic display, though. Without perfect light, there was no way to see the on screen action. Being the retard I am, I even shipped my Advance to a fly-by-night company that promised to install a backlighting solution for a fee. I never saw that Game Boy again. By then, Nintendo had announced the follow up to the Game Boy Advance.

- The SP, released in 2003 (SP stands for SPECIAL, like me!) This was not only backlit, but it folded in half. I had to have one, and have one I did. That sucker could fit into my pocket with ease. Finally, a portable game system that could actually fit in my pocket! I was so cool. Nintendo had to remedy that situation.

- Along came the Game Boy DS in 2004. This behemoth eclipsed the Game Boy Pocket in size, almost giving the original Game Boy a run for its money. However, it was a clamshell design that when unfolded, revealed two screens (The DS stands for Dual Screen,) the lower screen being touch-sensitive. This opened up a whole new arena for stylus-driven games. Nerd heaven! Of course I bought one!

- Perhaps sensing the public dismay at the size of the DS, Nintendo reformed their Game Boy Advance into the Game Boy Micro in 2005. This tiny system could fit in a shirt pocket without showing.

- Sometime in 2005 Nintendo also improved the brightness of their Game Boy SPs. It was about this time that I attempted to subjugate the rest of my family into Nintendos Game Boy slave ring. See, first they pull you in, then they use you to convert new subjects. I bought Stacy a Game Boy DS and my two daughters their own Game Boy SPs.

- Just scant months later, Nintendo has done it again, this time with the Game Boy DS Lite. It is considerably smaller than the DS with considerably brighter screens.

None of this takes into account the many Game Boy accessories like the Game Boy players on the Super Nintendo and Gamecube. Like I said, theyre bastards. What do you think I did? I bought one of course. Yes, Im Nintendos b!@ch (but New Super Mario Bros. looks fantastiiiiiiic!)

Nintendo (Game Boy Division): 10

Scott: 0

PS. Thank you Wikipedia for the release dates and the tidbit on the Japanese Game Boy Light.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig or, I'm the Asshole

Originally posted June 9, 2006

I flew into Washington/Dulles International Airport yesterday. While it is good to be back in NoVA, I miss my family. Stacy and the girls will be staying in UT for a few weeks while she helps out a family member.

I generally pride myself on my airplane manners. I don't make a lot of noise, I keep to myself, and I do not encroach on my fellow passenger's space. That is probably the reason it irks me so much when other people don't use any manners. Case in point: a family of six sat in the row behind me. I was in the window seat, and one of the sons was in the middle seat behind while his dad was next to him in the aisle seat. I put the boy somewhere between 9 and 10 years of age. As soon as they sat down, the son began screaming everything he says at the top of his lungs. I was annoyed, but I thought to myself, "Just live with it. As soon as the plane is cruising I can break out my laptop and noise-cancelling headphones." So that's what I did. For the next three hours I listened to music while I did some school reading and watched a few episodes of Justice League Unlimited kindly provided by Jon. Everything was fine until the pilot told the passengers to stow all electrical devices to prep for landing. As soon as my headphones were off the aural assault began. I gritted my teeth and picked up my book. Ever try to concentrate on reading when the voice of a kid that is the equivalent to an air raid siren is washing over you? It's difficult. "That's it," I thought, "At the very least, I can spare us all 15 minutes of quiet as we land." I turned in my seat and politely asked the father, "Is that your boy?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Would you mind asking him to quiet down a bit?" I asked nicely.

"No. I can't, he's autistic!" he replied, eyes widened in defensive shock and anger.

Yes, I'm the asshole that told the autistic kid to shut the hell up.

Okay, I'm the bad guy. I can handle that. What I didn't get was the father's angry response. I didn't know the kid was autistic. Was I supposed to assume? Should I have asked him? "Hey, is your kid autistic or are you just a bad father?" You think he'd appreciate me assuming that his boy didn't have a condition. Aren't we all supposed to view people with handicaps as being handicapable?

So, as the plane taxied to the terminal and gently nuzzled up to the jetway, I performed the Walk of Shame out of the gate. I could feel the father's angry stare as I slung on my backpack and made my way up the cramped corridor between the seats. On the way out I tipped over an old lady in a wheelchair because she was going to slow, kicked the crutches out from a girl with a broken leg because she was in my way, and spit on a little boy with cerebral palsy because he couldn't fight back. Go me!

Something that Pains and Something that Rocks My Ass

Originally posted June 3, 2006

Its been too long since Ive written here and Ive got a lot of things to say. So pull up a chair and relax.

Item 1: Life is a Pain in My Ass

I have suffered from pilonidal abscesses since 1998 or 1999. If you want detail on the condition, check out the link over here. Heres the nitty gritty, some people have a cavity just under their tailbone that can become infected and very painful. Sitting is uncomfortable and can move to excruciating in a matter of minutes. I have had a recent flare-up as the result of extended bouts of improper posture throughout my Red Hat training days and work weekends. As a person that spends an inordinate amount of time on his ass, this condition fills me with various emotions, all of them negative and most I would not describe in polite company (which is what were in now, right? The Internet is all about manners, right? No? Well, lets pretend just this once.) After a couple of weeks of pain, I could no longer pretend that I just bruised my tailbone. I sought medical attention. My doctor examined the area (Ill spare you the gruesome details of that examination) and decided it was not suitable for lancing (and definitely will spare you of details about that procedure.) The good news is that since this is my fourth flare-up, my doctor refers me to surgery to have the cavity permanently removed. Before you ask, I dont know what goes in the place of the cavity, if you remove something, doesnt it leave a cavity? In the meantime, on to antibiotics I go. A week and a half later and I am still in pain. My pre-op appointment comes in about another week and a half. Ill see what they have to say about my tender tailbone then. A couple of days ago Stacy clued me in on what I have to look forward to for the surgery. They will give me a spinal block. Awhuh? I say in consternation. Thats right, a spinal block. That means a needle. A needle in my back. A big needle in my back while Im awake. ::shudder:: Whether they give me anesthesia or not, I may be passing out. I dont do well with needles and the idea of having one squirming around in my spine fills me with a sense of dread akin to waking up at 3:00 AM and thinking about Emily Rose. DAMN THAT MOVIE!

Item 2: X-Men 3: Last Stand Rocked My Ass

I am a comic book nerd and I liked X-Men 3. Do I need a support group? The creators of the movie took such massive amounts of artistic license with the characters I grew up with that I should have hated it. Perhaps their various and sundry licenses combined in a pleasing chunky stew of awesomeness and potatoes, I dont know. Dont get me wrong, there were parts that upset me, but they were eclipsed by the parts that made me want to curl up into a ball, wrap myself up in the warm embrace of the cellulose, and snuggle my back issues of X-Men as I fell asleep. Does that make me weird? Jon wrote a good review here that echoes many of my sentiments. I warn you now that if you havent seen the movie and are planning to remedy that woeful state, you may encounter spoilers below.

First, the bad:

Jons sentiment about the Dark Phoenix aspect is spot on. Varicose veins and funky eyes do not a Dark Phoenix make. Scarlet spandex with golden phoenix emblem and golden sash? Now youre talkin!

Glen Angus Painting

Was Angel lame or what? Okay, hes always been lame, except for that stint with the Blue Man Group and his knives-for-feathers make-over. Imagine the spectator on the street. Oh wow! That guy can shoot beams of pure force from his eyes! That guy has claws and can heal super fast! That chick can fly, pick up cars, and drain lifeforce! That chick can fly, call down lightning, and control the weather! That guy Oh, hes got a bazooka, I guess thats cool. Hey! That guy can turn into ice, make ice slides, and freeze anything! You get the idea. However, in all my days of reading the comic, I never questioned Angels ability to fly. Hes got a huge set of wings, of course he can fly! Seeing him up on the screen for the first time made me wonder. How does he steer? Hes got no tail feathers! What does he do, wiggle his legs? For the No-Prize one of my brothers (sorry, conversation was fast and loose, I forget which) said that it must be that his mutation was that he could fly, the wings are just for show. Regardless, Angels onscreen appearance was not as awe-inspiring as his namesake should be. Maybe I never had a problem in the comics because all we ever got were still shots of him flying. Meh.

Juggernaut was a mutant. In the comics, Juggernaut (Marko Cane, Xaviers half brother) obtained invincibility and super strength from absorbing the Ruby Gem of Cytorrak. His powers being of a mystic origin, Leech would not have had much of an affect on him. However, this irritation is overrun as if by a juggernaut by a) Juggernauts now classic line, Im the Juggernaut, bitch!

and 2) aforementioned Leechs affect on Juggernaut as he comically bashes his head into the wall with the requisite CLANG sound effect.

Wolverine talked down Dark Phoenix. Alright, it made for a powerful cinematic moment, but that was a complete departure from the original story. Rather than sacrificing herself in front of the man she loves (Cyclops, not Wolvie,) in a moment of clarity and supreme tragedy. Our favorite adamantine-infected hirsute talks her out of her homicidal rage with a passionate speech about his love for her, ending in the now cheapened sacrifice for the greater good. I know that presenting the Dark Phoenix Saga as it was written would have been entirely too much for a Hollywood movie, but including more elements of the original rather than giving Wolverine yet another stretch in the limelight would have won my support.

It looks like a lot, but the above problems did not detract so much from my enjoyment of the movie. What rocked? Im glad you (didnt) ask.

Old comic book favorites transferred flawlessly to the silver screen. First, we get a post-apocalyptic scene with the X-Men fighting an out-of-sight sentinel. My first thought was of the Days of Future Past Storyline wherein the beleaguered X-Men had been reduced to just a few members by the sentinels and were forced to hide from the murderous sentinels. And what was the crowning moment of the sentinel battle? The good old Fastball Special! For the uninitiated (shame on you!) that is when Colossus in all his organic metal glory swings and tosses Gimli, oops, I mean Wolverine discus style. We get treated to this spectacle not once, but twice in the course of the movie. How awesome is that?

Not as awesome as Kelsey Grammar knocking the role of Beast out of the park! When I first heard he would play Beast I thought, That wont work, it will just be Frasier with blue skin and fur. I was so deliciously wrong. Our introduction to the warrior-thinker of the X-Men was his classic hanging-from-the-ceiling-while-reading-intellectual-type-stuff. Beast proceeds to show us his upper-crust diplomatic side as a cabinet member of the President of the United States. Frasier, oops, I mean Grammar shines as the intellectual, but what about the acrobatic furball of rage that is the Beast in action? Through the space-age wonder of science, the special effects guys deliver as if rolling Silly Putty across the pages of the classic comic books and magically transferring the action onto the film. Beast begins battle with a blood-curdling roar before crushing, leaping, spinning, and generally maiming everybody with which he comes in contact. It was marvelous!

Speaking of marvelous, how about seeing Bobby Drake transform into Iceman for the first time in three movies? Out of the furnace of hell that was punk-ass Pyros conflagration shoots the crystal-clear, ice-cold fists of Iceman. First, he freezes Pyros jets, and then the rest of him emerges from the steam. He stayed icy long enough to deliver a scathing one-liner, which eludes me at the moment, to Pyro, before reverting to flesh and blood, but it was long enough.

Magneto lifts the friggin Golden Gate Bridge (I think) to walk five feet onto Alcatraz Island. How badass is he? Ill tell you how badass. A black car, a black SUV, a black truck towing Mystique, two more black SUVs. What would you do if you were the Master of Magnetism? If you said, Crumple the first car like spent Kleenex, then do the same to the second and toss both aside before flipping the other two SUVs off the road like Hot Wheels and then pitching the truck end over end over my frickin head while I stop the trailer two feet away from smearing me into well-dressed jelly, then youd be spot on. If you also would do the above with the aloof air of someone idly cremating a hopelessly inferior chess player in the world championships, then give yourself two hundred fifty points out of ten for style and start monogramming all of your stuff with a big fat M. The badassery (I smell a new word!) does not end there. Oh no. Magneto, rid of his mutation by the Leech-derived cure still has enough power to move a metal chess piece. Have we heard the last of Eric Lensher? No, hes to badass.

Finally, all of the neat plot threads tied up. Magneto already explains how all of the cured mutants will get their powers back, wanted or not (Im talking to you, Rogue. Now get off your swamprat behind and drain Marvel Girl of her powers already!) In my mind, the various deaths caused by Dark Phoenix are already taken care of. Do we know what happened to the people and things that were apparently disintegrated? Cheesier things have happened in the comics to bring back dead people. Characters don't die in comic books. They go to that great waiting room in the sky until their dramatic resurrection. When Phoenix rises again, and she always does, she can simply tap into wherever she sent them and reconstitute Cyclops (in all his whiny glory,) Prof. X., and all the no-names she wiped during the climax. No biggie. Would Patrick Stewart come back for a sequel or claim that resurrection cheapens his death? He will if he knows whats good for him. Dont think I wont sent Juggie after you, Stewart. Hes unstoppable, you know.

I had a couple of more items, but its really late and I just wrote way more about X-Men 3 than I thought I would. If this were the school paper I have due this week, I would be waaaaay over my requirements. Im going to spare those of you that made it this far in the entry (you gluttons) and say goodnight.


Gut-Shot Desks and Busted Tailbones

Originally posted May 10, 2006

I am sitting here at work, whiling away my last hour before I abandon ship for the day. Jon is in training today with Brian. They're learning all about RedHat. I'm not sure if either of them will subject themselves to the rigors of the RHCT test after this week's class. Jon might, but Brian is leaning towards the side of the department that doesn't require RedHat training, so he may not. This is the first day in years that I've had to work the desk solo. Five stations and one person make for a lot of wheeling around in my chair. I can't complain too much. There have been busy hours, but nothing overwhelming. This just confirms my fear that our desk is not long for this world. I'm hoping I can get transferred to another help desk in my department before that happens.

On the lighter side, I have to go to the doctor on Monday. Wheeee! I've got a persistent pain in my tailbone that I fear is going to need medical attention before me and the fam fly out to Utah in June. It's bad enough sitting at work for 12 hours, at least here I can stretch my legs and adjust my seating position. Four hours on an airplane will not be so forgiving.

So I guess you could literally say that this day has been a pain in my @$$.

RedHat Blues

Originally posted May 12, 2006

It's been a week now and the thought of it doesn't depress me quite so much, so I might as well write about it now. Last Friday I took the test to become a Red Hat Certified Technician (RHCT) at the Red Hat training facility in Tyson's Corner.

I failed miserably.

The first half of the test is compulsory. If you don't get 100Àyou don't get certified no matter how good you do on the second half. I didn't get 100àThe worst of it was that I overcomplicated one of the problems to the point of impossibility. I was one step away from getting it right. Further, it was a step I knew about and was postponing because I thought I had to do other things first. I never completed the step because I never completed the impossible steps I created first. The other one I missed because I did not go as far as I should have in the solution. Again, I could have got it right if I had just done what I knew needed to be done.

Why am I being so vague about the problems? It is not because I worry that my readers won't understand. I am sure quite a few of you would. No, it's because I signed an NDA. Given MySpaces' track record in legal issues (teacher screws underage student, murderer blogging, etc.) I don't need to incriminate myself. I now return you to your regularly scheduled self-pity session.

I only needed 70n the second half of the test to pass. It didn't matter for certification at that point, but I wanted to see if I could have been certified had I passed the first half. I got a whopping 63.7àI don't know what was more depressing, failing or getting so close to succeeding.

University class, 10 straight work days, family life, and a general funk have prevented me from posting any new blogs until now. I think I am over it. I am scheduled to go to the next level of Red Hat training for the engineering certification in July. If I pass the RHCT portion of the test, regardless of the results of the RHCE portion, I will be a certified technician. My goal is to pass both, of course. Not only will having an RHCT and RHCE help me get further in my current job, but if I am ever laid off, I'll have those certifications on my resume. I actually plan on going farther than the engineering level. I would love to become an architect. There are only about 50 of those right now. Unfortunately, that certification requires 5 or 6 more courses with their own tests, each costing a couple thousand to attend. My employer will only pay up to the engineer level. I will be footing the bill for anything further. We'll see how far I can get myself.

Star Crash, It Ain't Star Wars but They Hope You Won't Notice

Originally posted April 20, 2006

Another quick entry:

I just followed a link from the ever hilarious Michelle Collins to Thighs Wide Shut where I saw the following trailer.

Suffice it to say, it is my new life's mission to watch this movie.


Originally posted April 20, 2006

I received an excellent email from my friend Jon that made my day. It seems he is interested in offering fantasy portraits for a reasonable fee and wanted to build a portfolio first. I am honored to be his first subject. You can see the results in my picture gallery as well as my default profile image. Behold the glory that is Cap'n "Scabrous" Scott Hawks, Privateer of the Internet High Seas! Yarrrr!

Now I've just got to convince him to draw Stacy as my wench.

New Word!

Originally posted April 14, 2006

Welcome to our second installment of New Words You Must Use!

scroom - verb/noun contraction.
Contraction of the words "screw" and "them". Also applies to "screw" and "him" or even "screw" and "her". Generally used when expressing noninterest, specifically in someone's opinion on a matter.
Usage: "They don't like my beard? Scroom!"

There! Go, my dear readers, and pepper your daily speech with my anacronysm. I command it!

Pringles, Pins, and Balls

Originally posted April 8, 2006

You're going to think I'm crazy. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant to what I'm about to share with you.

Go buy yourself a little can of Pizza-licious Pringles.

They're Pizza-licious!

Pop the top

WAIT! Don't eat one yet!

First, visualize a bowling alley.

Smell that?

Okay, now eat one.

Well? Jon and Brian didn't believe me when I told them either. Now, they're singing a different tune. ("Next Time I Fall in Love" by Peter Cetera last I heard.)

Lycksele BS is Pizza-licious!

Danny Glover is a Dirty Old Man

Originally posted April 5, 2006

Why is it that when I look at this picture, I get the feeling that Danny Glover got caught checking a congresswoman out?

Glover checks a sister out

The whole article is here

Sorry Honey, You Can't Go to Disney World because Daddy had to Buy His Car Again

Originally posted March 31, 2006

My mechanic and Kelley Blue Book agree, my car is worth about $1600. We have known for some time that something big was breaking on my 95 Ford Probe. We had avoided doing anything for mainly monetary reasons. More recently, the brakes had become very soft and the car had developed a disturbing shimmy at speeds in excess of 60 MPH. As Jon has mentioned before, our roads here are either parking lots or grand prix racetracks, sometimes both. Bad brakes and the sensation that your car is about to become one of those break-away models do not a good combination make.

My car after 15 minutes of driving south on route 28.

Sunday night found us dropping my poor car off at our favorite mechanic. We waited nervously for the dreaded phonecall on Monday. They treat us right at this shop, but I knew things were not going to be good. Stacy answered the phone, responded with a couple of uh-huhs and yeahs, then said, "Do it." Ugh. It was another four days before the car was done. All told? Take a look for yourself:

ItemQuantityDescriptionUnit PriceAmount
Tire2Kumho 2055515$89.41$178.82
Mount2Mount and balance tire$15.00$30.00
Tire Disposal2This is what it costs us to get rid of your tire.$3.00$6.00
labor/fronts1Front Brake Service Labor$136.00$136.00
Front pads1Premium front brake pads$68.78$68.78
Front Rotor2Front brake rotor$67.51$135.02
Hourly Labor4Renew driver's side lowere control arm. Replace both drive axles. Replace driver's side sway bar link.$78.00$312.00
Lower control arm1Lower control arm$141.32$141.32
Drive axle2Drive axle$110.61$221.22
Axle seal1Axle shaft seal$9.85$9.85
Transmission fluid1Transmission fluid$6.00$6.00
Sway bar link1Sway bar link$43.03$43.03
VA Safety1Sublet Inspection$20.00$20.00
Hourly Labor1Renew passenger side wheel bearing and hub$78.00$78.00
Wheel bearing1Wheel bearing$80.62$80.62


Total Amount$1,671.86

I knew a couple of my tires were bad. I was hoping they were cupping and that was causing the shimmy. I was wrong. Yes, that was two drive axels! Oh, and let's not forget the brake rotors and shiny new hub! For comparison:

1995 Ford Probe Hatchback 2D
Good: $1,595

Hey, it's paid for. So, in the immortal words of Jim Carrey, "So l'm gonna piss and moanlike an impotent jerk and then bend over and take it up the tailpipe!"

To which my happy mechanic said, "You been here before,haven't ya?"

Laptop the Size of a Small Country

Originally posted March 24, 2006

My computer came this week. It must be a she, because it was a tease before it even got there. I was tooling around on my desktop when I saw the UPS lady pull up from my window. I stashed the dog in his kennel and met her at the door, certain that my new lap warmer had arrived.

Powered by a small nuclear reactor

Alas, I was wrong. She had me sign over for a box that was definitely too small for a laptop. I could tell right off that the poor UPS lady was having a bad day. As I began to close the door she charged back up the steps. She had forgotten to scan the package (insert lame package joke here.) The box was from Dell, so I opened it. It turned out to be my laptop backpack. It is by far, the nicest backpack I have ever owned. It has 1,576 pockets and tons of padding on the back. Vrry nice. Five minutes later, I spot the UPS lady zipping back in front of the house. I figured my digital signature didn't save or some such annoyance (does anyone's signature not look like it was written by a retarded orangutan on those things?) Lo and behold, it was a bigger box from Dell! With my apologies on the continuous of her bad day, I signed the UPS lady's scanner and closed the door once more.

This time, when I opened the box, I was greeted with a slab of high tech plastic and metal. Sleek and polished, it practically radiated computing power in its quiescence. I tenderly removed it from its cardboard confines and admired its silvery promise of the days ahead, of high-resolution, fully textured polygons, of lightning fast digital editing, of the hours we would spend with gazes locked in a symbiotic partnership of computing bliss. With a hand shaking in anticipation, I slid the power adapter home and unlatched the lid. The glossy black screen of potentiality reflected my nerdhood back at me. I didn't care. I exultantly pressed the chrome power button and descended into paradise.

Okay, okay, I took the thing out of its box and turned it on. No big deal. This thing is sweet. It's friggin' huge, quiet, and its screen is sharp as a razor's edge.

Note: screen cannot actually cutchoo, man.

I messed around on it, cleaning up some of the junk that is always present on a new computer. I installed a couple of programs like AOL Explorer and Winamp. Then, I ran into my first, and so far, only snag. I have a nice wireless network. It is based on Linksys' SRX technology, offering 108mbps to computers with the appropriate equipment. I had said equipment in the form of a PCMCIA card. I popped out the slot spacer in the new laptop's PCMCIA port. The spacer was oddly shaped.

Just like this, only people don't live on it

Shrugging, I put the spacer aside. Those of you that know your hardware already know where this is going. I slid the card in. Well, to be more accurate, I tried to slide the card in. It stopped about halfway. I grunted like Oog encountering the OoGhiJ MIQtxxXa. Peering into the slot, I could see why the spacer had the chunk missing. There was a square of plastic installed in the port and the actual connecters were sized to fit. This time I grunted quizzically in a bad Tim Allen impression. Hours of struggling with Dell customer support (hint: normal Dell support doesn't cover people that use the employee purchase program) and some savvy Internet research revealed that I did not have a PCMCIA slot. I had a PCMCIA Express slot. Riiiiight. There is not an option to order a PCMCIA slot for my computer to boot. Luckily, I couldn't deselect the built-in wireless adapter when I ordered the computer. I'm on 802.11g, which ranges from 24mbps to 54mbps. It's not perfect, but I can deal. Other than that hiccup, this new system is sweeeeet. I ran Half-Life 2 at 1920x1200 with full detail and x2 anti-aliasing. I haven't grabbed my actual fps yet, but it looks fantastic. Oh, and did I mention that it's friggin' huge?

Lacking a small country for size comparison, note the DVD in the corner

The Longest 3 to 5 Days Known to Man

Originally posted March 19, 2006

Logged into my mail today to find this lovely message:

Public Sector
Order Support
Product Support
My Account
Contact Us
We're pleased to inform you that your
order was shipped on 03/18/2006!
Please take this opportunity to verify
your delivery information shown below.

Woo hoo!!! [does a little happy dance]

The Buyer's Remorse and Chocolate Fondue Fountains are of the Dev-il

Originally posted March 16, 2006

Taxes suck, but tax refunds are friggin' awesome. Stacy and Nicole finished our taxes on Wednesday, revealing that we would get more than enough money back to fund the trip to Disney World we'll be taking in October. This in turn freed up my bonus from last year which was pending approval from the Mistress of Finance to be blown on the purchase of a hefty laptop. Said laptop:

Order detail - order placed 2006-03-15 19:53:29

Inspiron E1705
Intel(r) CoreTM Duo Processor T2600 (2.16GHz/667MHz FSB), Genuine Windows(r) XP Media Center Edition 2005
Qty: 1
Unit Price: $4,054.00

    Inspiron E1705
  • Processor
    • Intel(r) CoreTM Duo Processor T2600 (2.16GHz/667MHz FSB)

  • LCD Panel
    • 17 inch UltraSharpTM Wide Screen UXGA Display with TrueLifeTM

  • Memory
    • 2GB Shared Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz

  • Video Card
    • 256MB ATI MOBILITYTM RADEON(r) X1400 HyperMemory

  • Hard Drive
    • 80GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive

  • Operating System (Office software not included)
    • Genuine Windows(r) XP Media Center Edition 2005

  • Network Card
    • Integrated 10/100 Network Card and Modem

  • Adobe Software
    • Adobe(r) Acrobat(r) Reader 6.0 So what?

  • Combo/DVD RW Drives
    • 8x CD/DVD burner (DVD /-RW) with double-layer DVD R write capability

  • Wireless Networking Cards
    • Dell Wireless 1390 802.11g Mini Card (54Mbps)

  • Office Software (not included in Windows XP)
    • Microsoft Works Suite 2006- Includes MICROSOFT WORD plus much more!

  • Anti-Virus/Security Suite (Pre-installed)
    • I chose McAfee included with the Starter, Silver, Gold or Platinum Package.

  • Primary Battery
    • 80 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Primary Battery

  • Carrying Cases
    • Large Backpack Carrying Case

  • Hardware Warranty
    • 4Yr LtdWarr, At-Home,CompleteCare,30Day DOC,PC Training, 2Yr AntivirusSuite

  • Dial-Up Internet Access
    • 6 Months of America Online Membership Included Can't get away from AOL

  • Wireless Personal Networking Card
    • Dell Wireless 350 Bluetooth Internal(2.0 Enhanced Data Rate)

  • Additional Battery
    • 80 WHr 9-cell Lithium Ion Additional Battery

  • Operating System Re-Installation CD
    • Genuine Windows(r) XP Media Center 2005 Edition re-installation CD

  • Dell Digital Entertainment
    • Starter Entertainment Pack - Basic digital Music, Photo and Game experience

  • SAVE $150 (After mail in rebate) w GOLD BUNDLE which includes 4Yr Limited Warranty, 4Yr At-Home Service, 4Yr
    • Hardware Warranty Support, 4Yr CompleteCare, 90 day Training and 30 day HelpDesk How-to Assistance
    • Expires on 2006-12-01 12:59:59

  • Dell EPP/FSS Customers: Save 20ff select Inspiron systems!
    • Expires on 2006-03-16 12:59:59
    • - $810.80 Oh Yeaaas!

  • Creative Labs CB2530 Digital Wireless Headphones w/ Bluetooth
    • Qty: 1
    • Unit Price: $100.00

  • Logitech MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse
    • Qty: 1
    • Unit Price: $80.00

    • Dell EPP and FSS Customers: Free ground shipping on select Inspiron systems.
    • Expires on 2006-03-16 12:59:00
    • - $49.00 All right!
    • EPP/FSS Customers: Free Ground Shipping on all E&A orders over $49.
    • Expires on 2006-03-23 12:59:59
    • - $8.00 Every little bit, right?
    • Time Warner Employees receive additional 5iscount system price $449 (before tax, shipping & handling)
    • Expires on 2006-04-29 04:59:59
    • - $150.62 Mm-hm, that's right.
    • Dell program members receive 12 off systems priced $1600 and up with 3/4 yr At-Home service.
    • Congratulations, you are receiving the maximum member discount.
    • Expires on 2006-09-26 22:59:59
    • - $410.78 Hallelujah!

Sub-Total: $2,861.80
Shipping Discount: -$57.00 Little bit at the end.
Shipping: $0.00
Tax: $140.63
Total: $3,002.43 Ohhh, now I have the Buyer's Remorse.

Ah well. Once I receive the laptop (4-5 days after the proposed ship date of 4/4/2006) I will probably forget all about the vast amount of money I spent on it. That is, until Stacy reminds me again. That's alright though, I'll seek solace in the cold glow of my 17 inch UltraSharpTM Wide Screen UXGA Display with TrueLifeTM display. Ye be a harsh mistress, hardware upgrade.

In retrospect, I wish I had taken pictures of our continuing struggle against the evil chocolate fondue fountain. There were a couple industrial strength fondue fountains at our last company party. I could hardly tear my nine-month-pregnant Stacy away from them. When we found a smaller version at the local Wally's World, we snagged it thinking of the endless nights of cascading chocolate over delectable dippables. Chocolatefalls of tasty goodness drizzling over sumptuous treats. We bought a big bag of chocolate chips (Works with any type of chocolate! the garishly bright package boasts) and a few things to dip.

Can you hear it cackling with its metalic, evil laugh?

  • Day One:

    1. First try: Scott ineptly burns the chocolate in the microwave, filling the kitchen with a faintly pleasing yet contradictingly offensive odor and proving that he should not be allowed in the kitchen alone.
    2. Second try: Stacy melts the chocolate successfully in the microwave with the cup of vegetable oil (UGH!) that the instructions suggest. Scott contemplates the deviousness of the fountain, inserting such an unappetizing ingredient in the actual instructions. Mixture is too thick for the auger, rendering the small motor in the base useless as it buzzes impotently until turned off. Scott adds more oil to thin the mixture. The oil causes an unforseen chemical reaction, creating instant chocolate paste. Stacy adds increasing amounts of milk to thin the chocolate. Milk cools and thins the chocolate so much that it runs down the teirs with no sheeting and will not adhere to any of the dipping items. We succeeded in making chocolate milk. We have experienced defeat on the first day.

  • Day Two:

    1. Third try: Scott buys 10 bars of Cadbury Milk Chocolate, operating on the principle that the higher cocoa butter content translates into less added vegetable oil. Scott and Nicole melt chocolate in double boiler. Chocolate still too thick. Nicole adds butter, operating on the principle that it tastes better than vegetable oil. Chocolate seems to thicken(!) more. Scott adds milk, same unforseen chemical reaction as with the added oil in the second attempt. Chocolate congeals into something resembling what my dog does a few hours after he gets into the trash. Nicole proclaims it fudge. Disposed into double-bagged grocery sack (will not record what Nicole did with said bag.)
    2. Fourth try: Scott melts remaining Cadbury bars with no additions. Chocolate still too thick for the auger. Stacy heats some milk to prevent the previous congealing. Unsuccessful, chocolate congeals instantly on contact with heated milk.
    3. Fifth try: Scott places remaining heated milk over double boiler and melts chocolate chips slowly until mixture seems thin enough. Mixture is amazingly smooth. Chocolate is still too thick for auger. Stacy pours vegetable oil into mix (ugh!) Appears moderately successful, chocolate moves up through auger, but still will not sheet over teirs. Nicole adds more oil. Still no sheeting. Chocolate tastes and smells of vegetable oil (ugh!) Attempt devolves into rejected science project after Nicole dumps half a large bottle of vegetable oil into mix. Vegetable oil drips off of chocolate dangling from teirs and seperates in the base. Appetite ruined, day two goes to the fountain.

  • Day Three

    1. Sixth try: Stacy purchases more Cadbury chocolate. Scott melts one bar with 3/4 cups of shortening, operating on the same principle as the added butter in the third try. Scott and Stacy slowly add more chocolate bars until viscosity is just right. Seeming success! Chocolate runs up auger and drips down teirs. After a few minutes, top teir begins to sheet, bottom teir continues to drip. Scott and Stacy commence dipping. Chocolate tastes faintly of shortening. After a few more minutes, bottom teir sheets intermittently. Mixture seems to need further thickening. Scott melts another Cadbury bar and adds it slowly after cooled to the same temperature. Continue to dip, ignoring shortening flavor. Bottom does not fully sheet. Scott goes to double boiler to melt another bar. Meanwhile, Stacy reports that mixture is thickening on its own. Scott completes melting, returns to fountain to find the chocolate cooled and thickened so much that the auger had stopped. Fountain retreats, day is declared a draw.

Don't believe the pictures, chocolate does not do that.

We have saved the remaining chocolate for another day. I think with a little more thinning agent it will work continuously. The onboard heater is supposed to allow the chocolate to continue to flow after being added to the fountain. We are ordering some cocoa butter online for authentic chocolate flavored thinning. We will emerge victorious in the end!

[small, evil, metallic voice] You will never experience this chocolaty nirvana!

And for My Next Word...Blogtastic!

Originally posted March 11, 2006

I thought of a new word to describe the weather. And yes, before any of my non-existent readers point out, I already know that it is a normal word.


It can be used to describe weather that is not unseasonable, but nonetheless annoying.

Usage: "It's been unreasonably cold this January," or, "that McDonalds coffee I just spilled on my lap was unreasonably hot."

You can file that one up there with, "It's colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra," or "It's hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement." It does not, however, belong anywhere near Jon's, "Snowing when it's warm is like the devil beating his wife."

Houseguests and People That Just Won't Shut It

Originally posted on March 10, 2006

So, Stacy's good friend, Nicole, flew into town from Utah yesterday. She'll be staying with us for the next week. Her 5 year old, Jon, has a piano recital in the MD on Saturday (long story.) To celebrate her arrival, Stacy invited some of Nicole's old friends to dinner at Joe's Crab Shack.

I'm going to preface this next bit with a little story. We have two parking spots in front of our house. We have two vehicles. This generally works out as well as you'd expect. We have a guest lot for, you guessed it, guests. That lot is behind the townhouses kitty-corner to us. In the ultimate wisdom of our HOA, there is no footpath from the guest lot to the town houses. Instead, they've installed a state-of-the-art mudhole complete with the latest in slip-n-slide terrain technology and the hottest European low-hanging brush. One day a few months ago, I came home after a particularly brutal day at work to find that my parking spot was taken by a guest of one of Stacy's Creative Memories events. I stewed and cursed as I slogged my way through the guest lot mudhole, arms laden with the detritus of my work day. I was furious, unreasonably so. I stalked into the living room and growled out a few snarky comments about my parking spot to the general gathering. Apparently, I terrified one of Nicole's friends, Kim. For some reason, a gruff, biker-bearded, overweight man storming into the house and snarling didn't fill her with a sense of security.

Kim was one of the people that showed up for the celebratory dinner last night. Honestly, I felt bad about my behavior that night months ago. Justified maybe, but bad. She ended up sitting between Nicole and I. I offered my apologies for my rude behavior and she dismissed it as the venting from a bad day. I still felt somewhat guilty, so I endeavored to be as nice as I could to her for the evening. This was difficult. It was difficult in the way that giving a cat a bath is difficult. She immediately took hold of the conversation and strangled it like Homer does The Boy. I hate shop talk. I hate office politics talk even more. Let's just say my digestion was not aided by the continuous stream of work-related drama flowing forth from the inexhaustable fountain that was Kim. By the time dessert arrived I had finally managed to tune her out. I think I did my penance last night. I have been washed clean! PRAISE KIM!

Old Floor, New Floor

Originally posted on March 3, 2006

My wife has wanted wood floors since we moved into our town house about two years ago. Well, now she has them. Sit back and enjoy the photo montage of our flooring saga!

Way back in 1985 it was considered stylish to
paint your dining room with Pepto Bismol.

New floor and aesthetically pleasing paint

Yup, those are pink hearts on the wallpaper

New wood floor, meet old wood cabinets

Can you make out the ratty hard wood entryway?

Pay no attention to the debris. That floor is DONE

That's Vicki in a corner, that's her in the spot...light

Contrary to appearances, this is not an ad for Dyson
Vacuum Cleaners (although if it were, I would say
something like, "It's the best vacuum cleaner EVER!")

New Home

I'm moving all my posts from my blog over at Myspace here. This will be my new home for the forseeable future.