Friday, May 28, 2004

Van Hel-suck

Wow, I'm pretty sure that this is the first time in a really long time that I've actually managed to post each day of the work week. It seems that at least one day of the week I end up too busy doing something else that I don't have time to post, but not this one. Either that or I've just simply been a little more motivated to write. I'm hoping that as I start to write more, I'll gain a few new readers, especially since my journal has been getting a little more exposure through blog hot or not and blogshares. What would be really nice is if my blog was recognized by some other bloggers and was linked to off of their sites. I've noticed that most of the blogs I've stumbled across I've found through links on other blogger's sites. It's really about getting noticed by others in the blogosphere (as it's so wonderfully called by so many bloggers).

I'd love to get as much readership as some of the blogs listed to the right, and when I started this site almost two years ago, I kind of figured I would have a nice big fan base by now, but it really hasn't taken off like I thought it would. Maybe I need to add a trackback function to my posts so people can respond to my posts... but then again when I had my message board up on this site there was rarely any activity on it, so I'm torn. I don't know if I want to go through the trouble of coding a trackback function or of moving my site over to yet another new format if no one would use it. I've got enough web programming to do in the future since Kingland wants to potentially move the corporate website over to running on an Apache server, specifically Tomcat, instead of IIS, which it currently runs on.

To do this I'd have to change all of the asp pages to jsp's and implement all of the asp code in java. It'll be a nice learning experience for me, but before I start on it, I'd like to get a new company computer because my 500 mhz celeron just isn't cutting it and trying to run the Eclipse IDE along with photoshop (for reslicing the web content) will cause some serious choking whenever I do anything. I'm surprised that photoshop even runs period on my current computer, but it somehow does.

Well, since I'm somewhat bored and out of important stuff to talk about for the week, let's talk movies! So recently I went to see Van Helsing. Interesting fact that I later found out about the writer and director is that he is a St. John's graduate, which matters to me because I am also an SJU grad. I think I remember reading something about him back when Scorpion King came out as well, but I magically forgot since then. Anyhow, being that he's done The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, and The Scorpion King, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from the movie. I was slightly hopeful that it might be good since it had Wolverine... err, Hugh Jackman in it, but sadly this turned out to be one of the worst movies I've seen in a real long time.

The first thing that got to me was the sheer inconsistency of so many concepts in the movie. The biggest was the deaths of the harpies. The first two were killed by Van Helsing and upon death faded away to ash. The last was killed by Kate Beckinsale's character, but instead of melting to ash like the other two, it exploded into a big bunch of green goo. Huh? Why the difference? I might not have minded if it was explained, but there was none given. The audience was just expected to take it in without any justification.

Another thing that pissed me off was the inconsistency of how much punishment a person could take before being hurt. Beckinsale's character, up to the climax, took a TON of beating, even falling from the top of a tree hitting just about every branch in it on her way to the ground, yet she was ok. Later on, towards the end, she takes some moderately hurtful hits and she's almost down for the count.

Yet one more thing that was disconcerting was the actual character of Van Helsing. Why was he doing what he was doing? Well, I suppose because the church told him to, but why the strong dedication? Oh, he was found by the church. Ok, that's nice, but that doesn't explain why he turned into their personal terminator. Either there had to be some other motivation or else the church is pretty damn good at brainwashing people into becoming killers.

Beyond these caveats with the movie, there are even more problems, such as the sheer amount of scenes that caused me to roll my eyes because they were completely unlikely to happen. Take the end of the movie where Beckinsale's character must get Van Helsing some magic formula to save him. She swings from one tower across a gigantic gapping chasm to another, her rope being the perfect length and being placed in the perfect position so that she would enter the other tower at just the right height to break through a window where Van Helsing just happened to be.

This happened with only a few scant seconds to spare before Van Helsing would have turned into a werewolf. Oh wait, I forgot how she actually got the magic serum. As she was swinging from tower to tower, Van Helsing's partner just happened to be on a bridge between the towers with the serum and he just happened to toss it oh so perfectly to Beckinsale as she was swinging between towers. Ugghhh.... come on! Everything about this scene, and most of the movie just screamed implausibility.

Sure, it's a big budget monster movie. Monsters are implausible so why can't the scenes in the movie? Well, I guess that's a valid argument, but if that's the case, why didn't the writers go all out and have Van Helsing create a gigantic recreation of the board game Mousetrap to catch Dracula? It would be just as plausible and then it would be so over the top that I might have actually enjoyed the movie. When will we get a big budget Hollywood movie, other than Lord of the Rings, that doesn't suck?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

My Tremendous Comic Order

In an idea stolen from Grotesque Anatomy, I decided that I'd take a look at what I order in a month of comics. So without further adieu, here is my May previews order. I'll be getting these comics in three months. Yay!

X-MEN #159

So what do I notice when I look over this list? Well, first, that's a lot of titles that I order every month (and there's even a few series that didn't have issues solicited this month so they're not on the list). The other thing is that there are a lot of Superman and X-Men related titles. I really didn't know I got that many X titles, but I guess I must have been suckered in by Marvel's X-Men Reload event. I'm sure that a few of the X titles I'm getting will end within 8-14 issues, so when that happens my list will be cut down some.

As for the Superman titles, well, I've only within the last year or so really gotten back into liking the character. With the emergence of the tv show Smallville, Superman having some awesome creators assigned to his titles (minus Chuck Austen, of course), and him being Kristin's favorite superhero, he has become one of my favorite superheroes to read about, especially in Loeb's Superman/Batman title.

As for the rest of my titles, well, there are definitely some diverse titles, but the one thing they all share is that I think they're darn good. Walking Dead, The Losers, and Supreme Power are probably my three favorite reads month in and month out. I find it interesting that my favorite three titles are each from one of the big three.

The other thing I notice is that seven of the titles are mini-series. I've decided that in the future I'm not going to buy mini's anymore because I enjoy the ongoing format so much better. That should help cut down on the amount of titles I buy each month as well. I also don't really like mini's because a writer has to attempt to cram in everything they want to tell in 4-8 issues whereas with an ongoing things can take a long time to develop and, if you have a good writer, the longer development of the plot makes the characters and situations so much easier to relate to. Supreme Power is a perfect example of this. Over the first 7 issues or so there hasn't been much in plot development, but I feel like I actually know Hyperion.

So am I buying an extravagant amount of comics every month? In my mind, obviously not, but in my parents' it seems like I am. Even Kristin thinks that I spend a little too much each month, but I usually manage to keep my budget under $80 (this month cost me $82, but I bought two graphic novels which drove the price up) and I can usually do it using Hopefully I'll be able to justify my comic spending in the future when I can sell them off and maybe at least get back what I paid for them. That's really all I hope for in the long run. If not... *shrug* I enjoyed reading them and collecting them and that's what matters to me!

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Crazy Man!

I've never actually considered myself to be 100% sane. I know there's got to be at least like 0.763% of me (give or take 0.045%) that's completely, certifiably nutso. This is a good thing, however, because it helps me to stay entertained in situations where I would usually have nothing to do. For example, let's say that I'm stuck in a doctor's waiting room for an extended period of time. Instead of getting antsy or bored, I can just stare at the wall and let my mind wander into it's crazy realm. Most people will think I'm just zoning out, and for all intents and purposes they are right, but I am actually lost in my own little crazy world.

My small niche of insanity seems perfectly ok, doesn't it? It just helps to keep me entertained. Now, on the other hand, there are some people who are crazy and end up hurting people, property, or animals. They are definitely not ok and need help. Now in between those two categories is another type of crazy--the unbelievably weird, yet non-threatening type of wacko. I have actually had a chance to study one of these "in-betweeners" while at work.

Every day that I am at work I see this overweight man in our parking lot. This is nothing out of the ordinary in and of itself, but when you see him out there every day, multiple times during the day, and for extended periods, you know something is up. I'm guessing he works in the office next door since I've observed him go into the building on occasion, but I can't even begin to guess at what he actually does for a living. Really, I don't care. I'm just interested in the entertainment value he brings to my day at work.

My cubicle faces a window, so all I have to do is stand up to be able to see into our parking lot. I often stand up to "stretch" or "go get coffee", but lately these have simply been excuses to take a peek at crazy man (as Karl and I have nicknamed him). At any given time he is doing one of four things, some more amusing than others, but each entertaining in their own way.

Scenario #1: Crazy man is walking around holding some papers. He'll usually pace around his motorcycle that's parked in the lot (at least I'm assuming it's his) while leafing through the papers. They must be very important because he'll occasionally grimace or turn up his nose while reading them. Personally, I think they're all blank sheets of notebook paper that he grabbed from a dumpster somewhere.

Scenario #2: Crazy man is walking around while talking on his cell phone. This seems normal enough. So far this is the only scenario for which I have actually mistaken him for a sane man. Don't worry, I didn't actually forget he was whacked out of his gourd. When on his cell phone, however, he would still walk around his motorcycle while talking. It is starting to seem like he has an unnatural attachment to his motorcycle.

Scenario #3: Crazy man is standing by his bike and groping it. Yes, you read correctly, he would constantly touch his motorcycle. He had nothing else with him. He would simply stand by his bike touching it, almost in an examining manner. The affection that he shows his bike is almost like that of a father's love for a child... in that illegal, incest sort of way.

Scenario #4: Crazy man is standing by his motorcycle mumbling to himself, sometimes even forming coherent phrases. This is the most amusing scenario. I thought for a while he was simply talking on his cell phone using an earpiece and microphone, but upon closer inspection no such hardware was present. He was simply talking to himself. Well, talking is a somewhat strong word since most of it seems to be unintelligible mumbling.

What makes all of these scenarios as interesting as they are, besides the fact that they are all odd to see in the first place, is that he'll play out these scenarios for 15-20 minutes (or more) at a time! I've started to wonder if he spends more time in the parking lot or in the office next door.

This crazy man obviously needs further observation before a proper conclusion can be drawn about how insane he truly is, but after my preliminary findings I can easily say that this guy is more than 50% insane. I will keep you informed of any further developments.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Get Out of There!

I was talking with Kristin briefly over instant messenger today about a situation that involves one of our friend's friends. The situation goes something like this: Some friends are hanging out, getting high and drunk. In the room, on a table in plain sight, is a handgun. A guy, we'll call Bob, shows up and proceeds to get drunk and high as well. In their collective inebriated stupor, one of the people there starts fiddling with the handgun and shoots Bob in the face, killing him.

That's the story that was told to me. It may not be a 100% accurate, but it is a decent enough story to start me thinking. Kristin said she felt bad for Bob since his life was so tragically taken from him. I disagreed with her, at least to a point. It might be because I'm simply callous or maybe I'm just a jerk, but I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for our pal, Bob.

The first thing I thought when I heard this story was, "Why did Bob stay? Why didn't he get the heck out of there?" If I showed up at a friend's place, saw that they were high and drunk, and noticed a handgun just sitting on a table in the middle of the room I'd think it was time to leave. You see, for me alcohol + marijuana + guns isn't equal to a fun time. I would see that as a recipe for something terrible to happen, which it did.

So should we feel sorry for the guy? I'm still divided. On one hand it's too bad that he got killed, but on the other hand he knew the people were inebriated and saw the gun. The only reasons I could see for him staying would be sheer stupidity or the people there must have been some damn good friends. So do either of them make a case for having sympathy for the guy?

Well, if he stayed because he thought of the people there as his really good friends, I would question the type of people you were hanging out with. If your group of friends routinely hung out with guns around, I'd be a little sketch. If they did that AND got wasted, I'd really take a strong look at the character of your friends. There should be alarms going off in any normal person's head that your friends are a little odd if they just sit around, drink some beers, smoke some weed, and leave guns on the table. I don't think it matters how close of friends they are, any drunk/high person combined with a gun is a bad situation waiting to happen.

So is stupidity then an excuse? Absolutely not. I don't think that stupidity should ever be an excuse for anything. End of story.

Huh...... I took a break while writing this and I now forget where I was trying to take this. I'm sure I'll remember after I post this, but one thing is clear in my mind--it's too bad Bob was killed, but willingly put himself into a very high risk situation so I have very little sympathy for him.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Inattentiveness Rears its Ugly Head

The summer starts here. Well, at least it does for Kristin and myself. I moved her down to our place this weekend. She's taken Ryan's room upstairs since he sleeps on the floor in the basement. I'm hoping it will be a fun summer with her around. If it's not, well, I guess that'll suck a lot, but I'm betting it won't. There has been one small snag so far and that involves Kristin's job.

When she interviewed with Hiawatha Homes earlier in the year, they made it seem to her that she would be working a 40 hour work week during the day, much the same as my schedule. We both assumed that Hiawatha thought that because Kristin told her she would be commuting with me. I guess they assumed completely different since they scheduled her to work nights. What's amazing is that the person who set up her schedule is the same one that interviewed her and was told that she'd be in Roch during the day while I worked. This was a little disconcerting.

Apparently they attempted to work something out so that she can work my schedule, but she was told she probably won't be able to get a full 40 hour work week in. Total bunk! They were the ones not paying attention and g'funked up the schedule. I guess I'm a little bit pissed, as is she, no doubt. It's really too bad that they had to mess things up right off the bat, but I suppose it was too good to be true that her job would work out as wonderfully as we thought it would. We'll have to see how things go. Maybe on the days off she'll get to work on the farm and see how it was for me growing up!

On a side note, I finally finished Dracula. For the most part it was a good novel, but I wasn't the biggest fan of the writing style--way too over the top. Every time anything that was even remotely important was going to happen, one of the characters, usually Van Helsing, would jump into a rather elongated and heavy winded speech. It was interesting at first, but as the book drug on, I came to realize that the thing would be about half as short as it is if Bram Stoker would have simply cut down the speeches. It almost made it feel like the novel was one long broadway play--tons of overly dramatic dialogue about every little thing. Now that I've finally finished it, I've started reading Cicero's The Nature of the Gods. It will be refreshing to do some philosophical reading once again, even if it isn't something very complicated.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Ebay's Lust for Money Strikes Again

I think I have finally reached my boiling point in dealing with Ebay. I'm extremely close to just closing my account altogether, and that is an account sitting at a little over 560 positive feedback. I don't think I'll close my account altogether, but I will close the Ebay Store account I just recently opened.

I've actually done most of my selling through Ebay's sister site, It was a really nice way to list my cds, dvds, and video games for free and then only be charged a flat commission fee after something sells. I ended up making a good amount of money back by selling cds and dvds that I had sitting around the house that I didn't listen to or watch anymore.

Ebay, in its infinite wisdom, decided that it no longer wanted to keep Half open, probably because it was becoming a moderately good sized competitor to Ebay itself, but I can't see it as being that big of a competitor considering the size of Ebay. Anyhow, in order to not piss off Half sellers too much, Ebay offered to set up Half sellers with a free Ebay store and migrate over all of their items for free. Sounded like a pretty sweet deal to me, so I opted to do it. Besides, if I didn't, all of my inventory would just disappear in the middle of June when becomes nothing more than a redirect to Ebay.

I signed up for an Ebay Store. It went pretty easily without too much hassle. I then let Ebay's automatic migration tool attempt to move all of my items over. This is where the first of my troubles with Ebay started. I had about 300 items in my Half inventory. When Ebay migrated them over, they only got about 130 of the items moved. The rest they said they "couldn't do" and they would have to be moved over manually. What? I have relist 170 items on Ebay myself? Whatever. What is also bad about that is when I relist all of those items, I'll have to pay listing fees, whereas the items Ebay migrated over itself had the listing fee waived. There is catch #1 to their supposedly "friendly" offer to help out Half sellers.

Catch #2 is the real kicker, however. In an email that was sent to me by Ebay after the creation of my store and the migration of my items, I was informed that... wait, I think it's better if I give you a direct quote. Here is what I was told from Ebay (emphasis mine):
The easiest way to accept payment on eBay is by using PayPal. Further, as part of the inventory transfer program we have set all your listings to accept only payments from PayPal. So having a functioning PayPal account is a must!
Unbelievable! I can only actually sell my stuff if I open a PayPal account. That's absurd! I know why Ebay did it that way, though--because they own PayPal. What better way to make sure that they get back any money they may potentially lose by offering Half sellers a storefront for free (for the first month) and free migration (of less than half your items). I refuse to use PayPal because most of the items I list only sell for around a dollar or two so after you figure in Ebay's listing fees, Ebay's final value assessment fee, Ebay's store fee, and Paypal's transaction fees you aren't making any money at all.

After receiving this "information" from Ebay, I shut down my store immediately. This was also a hassle since there is no direct way to find out how to close your store and the help page that details how to close your store refers to the old way in which Ebay's MyEbay portion of the site was set up. I had to dig around for about 20 minutes on my own to finally find the page for closing my store.

It's simply absurd how much money Ebay is getting on each item that is listed and sold. Because they get so much money on each item, I figured that their offer of a free month's subscription to an Ebay Store and free migration might have actually been out of the kindness of their hearts, but instead it was simply a ploy to gouge even more money out of people who are forced to use their service. I'm starting to hate Ebay almost as much as I hate Dynamic Forces......

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Riddled with Bullets

I've lived in a rural area my entire life. Even when I went to college I chose to go to St. John's University which is isolated out in the woods near St. Cloud in Minnesota. The city life has never been for me. Sure, I enjoy going to the occasional T-Wolves game, dance club, or concert, but the life that comes along with living in a city just won't work for me. One of the things I thought that you wouldn't have to deal with when living out in the country would be drive by shootings. Really, have you ever heard of a drive by shooting in farm country? I sure haven't... up until yesterday, that is.

My family farms. My dad and his two brothers farm about 1500 or so acres of land (I'm not sure on the exact number right now because they've added some more land in the last couple of years and I'm not quite sure how much). Before you plant in the spring, you usually dig up the ground and get it broken up after a long winter. We do this with a nice, big digger. New this year to the digger is a roller that is pulled behind it to firm up the ground a little bit after it has been torn apart by the digger. When the night came to a close two days ago, my dad parked the digger in one of our abandoned building sites, not expecting anything to happen.

When he came back yesterday morning to start digging again, there were bullet holes through the tires of the roller and the reflectors were shot off. From the angle they were shot off at, it was pretty easy to tell that someone was shooting at it from the road, no doubt using the reflectors as targets. After they had been shot off, whoever was busting caps in our machinery's ass must not have been satisfied so they drove into the building site, got right close the roller and digger, and put a whole bunch of rounds into the tires.

Seriously, who the hell goes around shooting out tires and reflectors of machinery that's out in the middle of freaking nowhere?!?!? I've got a very strong suspicion that whoever was doing this probably hung out with the lame ass idiots who were setting buildings on fire last month. Do kids' parents in our area not keep tabs on their children? I really don't understand it and it pisses me off to no end to know that there's a bunch of little wannabe punk gangsters, who are really nothing more than white trash hicks with no future, going around lighting stuff on fire and shooting things.

For punishment, if whoever did it is ever caught, the culprits will probably only get some type of probation or a fine or some stupid crap like that (especially if they're only juveniles). I propose a different style of punishment--shooting them in their bare asses with a high powered BB gun. It should have just enough power to hurt like hell, but not pierce the skin. For as many shots as each one took, they get that many BB's to the ass. I think it's only fair. I also think that more drastic punishment will help deter the little punks from doing similar stunts in the future. Really, does putting a kid on probation change him? In our area, no. Throughout high school, and from what my family tells me about the kids in the area since I've left high school, the same kids keep causing trouble over and over again no matter how "punished" they are by the juvenile system here. Maybe I'm just bitter that some punk ass kids were shooting up our stuff, but I really think there needs to be some stiffer punishment for kids who are causing trouble in the community.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I'll Probably Be a Nickel Stock Forever

As I strolling through the internet today, I managed to stumble upon an interesting blog related site--BlogShares. It has an interesting concept in that each blog on the internet equates to a stock on the stock market. The blog increases in value the more it is linked to or the more that people buy the stock. The blog can help provide value to other blogs by linking to them. It's neat, but if you don't know much about the stock market, it may be a little bit daunting at first. There is a lot of information tossed at you as soon as you start participating. Oh yeah, you don't have to own a blog to play the blog market. You can just register for free and start trading blog shares. If you do register, buy a bunch of stock in my site!

You'll also probably notice the little link to blogshares on the right of this page. I've put that there along with links to some other blogs and sites that I visit frequently. I figure that I think those blogs are good reads so maybe the few people that read this site will think they are good reads as well.

Speaking of good reads, I've almost finished Dracula. Hopefully over the next couple of days I can dedicate an hour or so to polishing it off. I'm kind of anxious to start a new book since I've been plugging away at this one for so long. Some authors on the top of my to read list are Cicero, Chekhov, Ibsen, and Kafka. I'm not sure which I will go with, but I'm leaning towards Cicero at the moment. I haven't read any philosophy in quite a while so I thought now would be a nice time to get back into it.

Last week I finally got around to planting this summer's garden. My grandpa usually grows a garden on one of our old building sites every year, but this year he decided not to. Since it was just going to sit there and not be used, I took it over for the summer. So far I've planted some sweet corn, radishes, carrots, string beans, onions, pumpkins, gourds, and watermelons. Ambitious, I know, but I usually have to plant a lot to get anything to grow. Many gardeners have a green thumb, however I possess the black thumb of the plague. I partially blame the soil at our house for my past failures, but even so I think I simply have bad luck with plants as well. Case in point: my pepper plants in the house.

So it might not be completely my fault, or even my fault at all, that my pepper plants were murdered a little over a week ago, but I do feel somewhat responsible. I had some bell pepper and jalapeño pepper plants growing in pots in the house. They were getting to be about 2-3 inches tall when our house kitty, Sam, decided they looked appetizing. Now there is only one pepper plant left in one of the pots. Some others are coming up now, so it wasn't a total loss, but I learned that cats will eat pepper plants if you leave them out.

To teach Sammy a lesson, I might let the jalapeño plants grow to the point where they have pepper buds that are nicely spicy, at which time I will then let Sam eat one of the plants if wants. That should teach him that pepper plants are no-no's to eat. The only thing I would dread would be the icky, liquid cat poop that he would no doubt produce. Still, it would teach that cat a lesson!

Monday, May 17, 2004

Why Do Girls in Horror Movies Always Fall Down?

Oy, things have been busy the last week or so. Tons of stuff to do at work. Plenty to do at home. Things breaking that need fixing. Only 24 hours in a day. 8 go to work. 1.5 go to driving. 7 go to sleep. The other 7.5 are divided up doing chores at home, eating, attempting to fix my computer, and possibly getting a little free time to just relax. Lately, the last thing on that list hasn't been very prominent. Fortunately, I had this last weekend to unwind.

I took off for St. Cloud to go visit Kristin and bring some of her stuff down to my place since she'll be moving in to Ryan's room next weekend and starting her job the Monday after. It'll be nice to have her around, about 50 steps from my room, instead of 175 miles away. My family is also quite happy about having her come stay, which is very comforting. It would suck to the extreme if they didn't want her around.

So this weekend while I was up in Cloud, Kristin and I took in a couple of movies, unfortunately neither of them being Troy (although I am a little leery about seeing it because of many of the negative reviews it's gotten). Instead we saw Secret Window at the cheap seats and Texas Chainsaw Massacre in her basement. Secret Window was a pretty good mystery movie. The plot was a little predictable and offered few real surprises, but Johnny Depp was phenomenal as usual (he was actually the only reason we went to see it).

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the updated version) was also an ok movie. I wasn't expecting much, but for a horror movie, it didn't really suck too bad. Of course, there are still plenty of clichéd moments like having a hot chick with big boobs running from the antagonist in the rain in a white t-shirt and then tripping over something so that the bad guy can catch up and then she just barely escapes. Also include plenty of moments of gross torture, maiming, and killing. There, now you have your basic horror movie, which this definitely was.

On a positive note, the assload of prototype .jsp mockups that I was working on last week are done... for the moment. They're being looked over by whoever needed to look them over and then they'll tell me what I need to change (hopefully nothing). Since that is done, it's back to writing another user manual. It's kind of funny that as busy as I was last week, it was nice to be doing a little bit of lazy programming (doing html and jsp work) instead of writing. I needed a change for a bit, and that worked out nicely.

What hasn't worked out nicely is my desktop computer. Turns out that not only is one of my hard drives bonked, but it appears as if my motherboard or an attached component may be hosed as well. My guess is motherboard since it's the oldest component and all it does is beep like R2D2 at me whenever I try to start it up. I checked all my connections to make sure they're sound and that I have all of my jumpers set correctly. I haven't changed them since I installed my DVD burner around Christmas, but I thought I should check anyhow. Maybe some evil computer gnomes had decided to play a trick on me. I really didn't know. Still beeps over and over. I'm thinking it's pretty much a goner.

Thankfully Kristin sent Betsy, her computer, home this weekend so at least I'll have a desktop to use to throw my dvd burner and hard drives in so I can get at my stuff. Wouldn't it be nice if laptops had external IDE connectors? If they did, I could just hook my drives in to my laptop instead of having to attempt to overtake Kristin's computer. We'll see how the surgery goes tonight. I plan on transplanting my DVD burner and my hard drives over to her computer in place of her CD burner and CD-ROM drive. Let's pray that it works and that nothing else breaks on me.

Lastly, here's some linkage to a few bands that I've recently been in love with. First, Demon Hunter has a new disc out that everyone should get. Next, on May 24th everyone should pick up the new cd from 4Lyn. It's a wonderfully unique brand of metal unlike most of what's out there. Third, you should go out to your local record store tomorrow and pick up Out of Your Mouth, another unique metal band that doesn't take themselves too seriously. Lastly, if you haven't picked up Dead Poetic's cd New Medicines, then you need to do it right now. Oh, one more thing, if you haven't been reading, you should be since I write reviews for them. Shameless plug, I know, but go there!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Thank You Computer, Thank You SO Much!

Things are just going from plain bad to worse. Really, I thought with all of the crap that happened to me last week, culminating with the death of my great grandmother, things might start to look up. I guess I assumed that enough things had gone wrong for me to hit the bottom. I was wrong. Here's the latest and greatest of what's now happened to little, old woeful me.

I was working on my computer (my desktop) at home a couple of days ago when it started getting all freaky on me. Any time a program would try to access my storage hard drive it would freeze or give some weird errors. When I tried working with the drive itself, it started acting goofy and not showing me exactly what was on the drive. Before I knew it, Windows told me it had an update to install. I thought maybe this would help my problem. As I was letting it install, I got some way funky error and my computer instantaneously rebooted itself. When it came back up, my storage drive was listed, but completely inaccessible because of "an I/O error". Crap. This wasn't looking good.

I tried Windows update again, and once more it crashed, but this time when it restarted something was different--it would flash a gnarly error message at me right after the Windows XP boot screen and then reboot. Grand. I was way happy. I needed to redo my Windows install soon anyways since it was getting cluttered with crap, so I figured this was my computer's way of telling me to do it right now. As I was reinstalling Windows, I had it examine my storage drive. When it did, it couldn't decipher what type of file structure it was using or what was on it. Looking even worse for that drive.

I reinstall Windows and everything works like a charm once again...... except for the fact that now I have to reinstall everything which is a huge ass chore in and of itself that'll take me a couple of weeks (I reinstall stuff as I need to use it). My storage drive still showed up and was still inaccessible because of "an I/O error". I don't know what to do. I can't get at what's on the drive and I don't want to try reformatting it. I would if it didn't have so much stuff I wanted. My entire mp3 collection, which took me FOREVER to rip (I had around 400 cds I owned that I ripped) and about 30 gigs of fansubbed anime that I was going to watch are on this drive. I really, REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don't want to lose this stuff.

For the time being I just took the drive out of my computer and hopefully some computer guru who has more knowledge than me can help me recover my files. Maybe if I put it in a Linux box it could read the drive or at least try to? I dunno, but I really want my stuff off of it.

Also, work has been extremely busy. One of our customers needs a whole boat load of page mockups for a new program we might be building and our team doesn't have a whole lot of time to get it done so we're all cramming to finish them this week. I hardly even have a chance to check my email during the day. Hopefully by the end of next week, everything should be slowed back down and at a normal pace. I really hope so because then Kristin will be here. YAY!!! She'll be living down here at my family's place for the summer working in Rochester at Hiawatha Homes.

Well, I'm going to go attempt to fix my computer for a while and try not to be pissed that the world seems to be conspiring against me and not letting anything swing in my direction. At least this site hasn't crashed while I've been working on it. Hip hip hooray for the internet not sucking.

Friday, May 07, 2004

It Could Save Your Life

It is very important that you wear your seatbelts whenever you're in a car. The research has been done, the data compiled, and history has shown us--always buckle up when you're riding in a car. I wouldn't want anyone to lose his or her life because of the irresponsibility of not fastening a seat belt upon entering a vehicle. I would also not want someone to stain their nice white shirt while drinking coffee and driving at the same time. That's right, I have had first hand experience of a seat belt saving me from a modern atrocity--a coffee stained shirt.

Every morning I go through the same routine. Wake up. Meander upstairs and put on some coffee. Brush my teeth. Hop in the shower. Get dressed and grab all my crap I need to take to work. Grab my coffee and hop in my car for the 40 minute commute. During my commute, I usually polish off my mug of coffee. Well, yesterday was no different. I was on my way to work and as I was putting my mug up to my mouth, I hit a nasty bump which caused my coffee to slosh out of my mug and right down onto my chest. Being that I was wearing a nice, white, button-up shirt I was not expecting a good sight when I glanced down, but miraculously, all of the spilled coffee ended up on the seat belt and soaking into it instead of my shirt. My seat belt had saved my shirt's life. See, it does do you good to wear it!

On a completely random tangent, I was thinking about my first few weeks of high school, oh so many years ago (and just as a note, in the little hick town of Hayfield where I went to school, high school started at 7th grade). The sheer amount of bullcrap that the older kids fed you when you first arrived in high school was amazing. They would tell you wrong class times, wrong locations for classes, and any other underhanded falsity they could. They also warned you of the dreaded "swirly". Yes, you may have heard of it before. This even happened when you were ceremoniously taken into the bathroom by the upper classmen and had your head dunked in the toilet while they flushed it. When you'd come out of the toilet, your hair would be in a swirl, hence naming the activity "swirly".

I dreaded ever getting a swirly. It was probably my biggest fear. I didn't care about fitting in, or doing good in class, or finding my way around. I just wanted to avoid the swirly. Well, as time went on, I noticed that no one was ever wandering the halls with a wet shirt or swirled hair. Hmmm..... maybe what I've been told wasn't true. Then one day I saw it. One of the poor eighth graders came out of the bathroom after some of the older kids and, sure enough, his shirt was all wet and his hair was soaked (although it did lack a swirl...) My fear reinvigorated my body. I was on edge for the next couple of weeks until I realized that what I had witnessed was probably an isolated incident. From that day on I put my fear of the almighty swirly behind me. Looking back, I'm amazed that I was initially led to believe that I would get one simply for being a 7th grader. Man, I was dumb.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Another Ending...

I made an interesting realization last night, one that I hadn't noticed before, but one that makes sense to me now. You are either in the mood for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 or you're not. There is no in between. On Monday, I had started watching the MST3K episode, "Hercules vs. the Moon Men" and got about half way through it. I wasn't really enjoying it so much. I figured it was probably just one of the crappier episodes, but as I finished the movie last night, I simply realized that I wasn't in the right mood for an MST3K feature. I don't think there was enough sarcastic and cynical attitude running through my veins on Monday. So, with that figured out, I now know that I have attitude based prerequisites for watching MST3K and if they aren't there, I need to remember to save the movie for another day.

On another tv related note, I recently started watching the anime series The Vision of Escaflowne. I'm up to episode 8 out of 26 and I must say that it is simply enthralling! I'm really digging this series. It manages to cover all of the traditional anime bases. There's the main character who has a special power, but doesn't know how to use it yet. Then you have the two brothers fighting on opposite sides of the battle, each trying to convert the other. There's a revenge quest. There's giant robots. There's swords and flying cities. There's dragons and fantasy elements. It's amazing that this series isn't simply a train wreck because of the amount of disparate elements that are being integrated into one series. I'm really anticipating watching the rest of the series.

Besides watching anime and MST3K, I've also been reading a solid amount of comic books lately. I really, really wish that I was more gung-ho to read actual books (I'm still finishing off Dracula in case you're curious, but I'm close to done) in my spare time, but it's so hard to get motivated to do it when I'm writing documents and reading documents all day long. My eyes just need a break from straight text, so that's why I turn so heavily to comics--they have pictures to go with their words!!!

So over the last couple weeks, I've been reading the Marvel series Exiles, and I can say that I was impressed at how Judd Winnick managed to cross an X-Men style team book with the concept of What If? and had it not suck. Don't worry, the book eventually reached a low point of suckiness, but it occurred after Judd left and Chuck Austen took over. In the 30 or so issues that Judd wrote, I was captivated by the series, usually just to see the different alternate universes that he came up with, but in only a few issues Austen managed to characterize almost every member of the team completely wrong and write a completely asinine plotline before Judd came back for a small stint. Unfortunately, Austen later took over again, but his run has come to an end with Tony Bedard taking over with the current issue. Thank goodness that Austen finally got his untalented paws off of this book, one that Kristin and I both equally enjoy.

Further explaining what I do in my free time, how could I leave out video games. I've devoted a lot of time to Knights of the Old Republic for the Xbox lately. Before playing this game it had been quite a while since I'd played a role playing game and I am now realizing why I haven't--they take forever to play. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, because I like the immersive storylines and level building your characters, but I have less and less time to devote to video games so for me to beat an RPG, it could take a month or so. Luckily, Knights is good enough to keep my attention and I want to keep playing it, even after putting in 15 hours over the last two weeks or so (and according to some of the people I talked to, I'm only about a third through the game). I'd easily recommend this game to any RPG fan, and I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel even though I haven't beat the first one yet!

Well, I suppose I've distracted myself long enough. I might as well say what I've been avoiding saying, and that is that my great grandma Ziemer died today. I didn't feel like talking about it right now, so that's why you were treated to my rambling about video games, tv, and comics. Yay for filler! Boo for the grim reaper!

Monday, May 03, 2004

Don't Touch Me... Something will Break

You know, I really hope that this next week goes a lot better than the last. I don't really know what the deal was this last week, but it seems that everything around me seemed to either break, not work, or die. It was pretty sad, actually. This is a new week, though, and I can only hope that it gets better than the last. If it doesn't... well, this is going to be one long and unfun week.

My troubles started last week with the breaking of my company laptop on Wednesday. I took it down to Clear Lake to try to have some problems it was having displaying to an outside monitor resolved. After looking it over with the control center guys down there, we concluded that it just wasn't going to output to a monitor right. Ok, I suppose that wasn't so bad. I'd just have to use the laptop screen instead of a monitor. I was prepared to deal with that until an hour later when the bottom 1/4 of my laptop screen decided that it was going to display nothing but psychedelic colors in random patterns. No matter what I did, the thing wasn't going to work. Yippee. Since that was the best of the leftover laptops, I was downgraded to an old IBM Thinkpad that's running a Celeron at 550 mhz and an ATI mobility graphics card that has a max resolution output of 1028 x 768. Ugghh.

After that whole debacle, I am now working jointly using my laptop and my desktop at work. One is my display for interfacing with the program I'm writing the manual for and the other is my composing computer. I had finished the most recent user's guide, so I wanted to convert it to a pdf for distribution, but no matter what I did, acrobat always crashed when trying to convert the document. I tried version 4, 5, 6, and 6 with a patch but it always crashed. It turns out that Microsoft screwed up how it does intra-document cross-references since its previous versions so that now acrobat won't output a pdf if you use them. Crap. I couldn't get anything to work, but I think I finally found a conversion tool that might know how to handle Word's funky coding and output a proper pdf. I have yet to try the retail version, but the demo of Click to Convert seems to work. I've decided that the next product I write a manual for, I will use OpenOffice instead of Word to compose it. I'm done goofing around with Word's horrible problems that crop up when making complicated and long documents.

Later on in the week, I wanted to go for a run outside since it was a relatively warm day out (I hate running when it's cold), so I changed into my running gear and grabbed my mp3 player and headed out the door. As I turned on my mp3 player, it simply stuck at the boot screen and wouldn't do anything else. I turned it on and off multiple times, gently "tapped" it a few times, and even switched the batteries around. As I listened closely to the player while it was starting I could hear the read/write head of the hard drive clicking. No doubt it must have been stuck. To check, I left the player on and after a while the boot screen changed to a HD Error message. Sure enough, it was dead.

Thank goodness for service plans. This was the fourth mp3 player that has broken on me in the last five years, and each time I've had a service plan on it so I could get it replaced. When I traded this one in, I managed to go from a 5 GB Archos to a 40 GB RCA Lyra. I'm amazed at how much I can now store and take with me running or wherever. Aesthetically, the Lyra looks pretty much like an iPod clone, and it actually functions somewhat similar. I like it and hope that this one can last me a little longer than a year.

I was hoping that my midas touch of breakage would be over by the weekend, but I was wrong, although I don't think that this last event can be chalked up to my bad luck... I hope. Anyhow, on Saturday while I was mowing lawn, my mom motioned for me to come up towards the house. I could see she was holding something, most likely an animal. As I got to her, I saw it was a little bunny. I thought she might have found it in our woods or something, but she told me that she had gotten it from Gizmo's mouth. He had caught it but didn't outright kill it and eat it. He just held it in his mouth for a bit and my mom heard it crying.

The little bunny (he could fit in the palm of my hand) seemed to be ok, but simply phased. My mom and I took turns holding him and cuddling him. He fell asleep for my mom so we set him in our dog carry cage. I finished up the piece of lawn I was mowing and then came in. I watched the little guy sleep, but my mom noticed there was a little blood all of the sudden in his cage. We took him out and found that underneath the blanket he had bled a lot more. Since he wasn't bleeding at all when we found him, we figured one of the dog's teeth must have punctured him and it was plugged with fur or something and as he moved it unplugged it. We washed off the wound and bandaged it up, then tried to give him some water with an eye dropper hoping that we had fixed him, but it seemed like we were too late.

He started to twitch a little while I was holding him and became somewhat unresponsive to my touch. I held him close and hoped and hoped and hoped, but he eventually went limp in my hands. My mom then took him, not sure if he had passed away, but after a little bit we could tell he was. We tried to save him, but only a few hours after we saved him from Gizmo, he died anyhow.......

It was an oddly traumatic event for me. Having an animal die in your hands is quite disconcerting. I was sickened and sad at the same time. I've never been one to take death, in any form, very well so to have an animal die in your hands, one that you tried so hard to save, really pulled at my heart-strings. Digging his little grave and burying him didn't help matters either. I had hoped that this experience would help me to cope with my anxiety over death in its many forms, but instead it simply reinforced how much I hate the concept, even though it is inevitable.

Being so moved by having a small bunny that I only knew existed for a few hours when it died makes me wonder how I will ever be able to handle the death of a loved one, a friend, or even one of our pets. Let's just say that I'm not looking forward to the day that any of those things happens. Life, in all of its forms, is such a precious gift, and it's a terrible event any time that life is lost.