Friday, July 30, 2004

Thoughts About Being Married While in College

I've been so busy with other things and writing about other things, I completely forgot about the wedding that Kristin and I went to two weekends ago. This was a wedding for one of her college friends, so there was a bunch of SJU and CSB people there, which was nice because weddings where you don't know anyone tend to suck. What I find most interesting about the couple getting married is that the bride will only be a junior in college. Can you imagine going through your last two years of college being married? I sure can't.

Being married will mean you have to miss out on a lot of things. Now I'm not talking about getting drunk and making out with the freshmeat... err, freshmen, but lots of other little details. You wouldn't be living on campus, which would be a big thing for me. The bride, Vanessa, will be living with her new husband in a town about 15 minutes from college. I couldn't imagine going to college and being outside of the atmosphere that comes with it. Hell, I miss the college atmosphere like you wouldn't believe right now and I'm not even in college. I think part of that may come from Rochester being a very boring town, but I digress.

I had so many interesting nights where, if I wasn't living on campus, they wouldn't have happened. I'd be sitting in my room playing video games or doing homework and someone from the apartment down the hall would come over and just hang out or convince you to go do something stupid. Or I might have been reading and someone would call wanting to order Gary's Pizza and watch a movie across campus. Or I'd be walking to Sexton, SJU's quasi-student commons, only to meet some people walking home and we'd decide to go play some DDR for a while. These things that happen by chance wouldn't happen if I were living way off campus. Sure, people could still call me to go do things, but it would have to be scheduled because I would then have to drive into campus from where I was living to do anything. I'm sure after a little bit of time, my friends would probably just give up. The college atmosphere is about spontaneity, not planning (that's what this supposed real world I'm in is supposed to be for).

The other thing that I wouldn't enjoy was not having something to look forward to after you finished college. Of course, you could say that having a kid or buying a house or doing a multitude of other things could be looked forward to, but my mind doesn't really operate that way. I've always had this notion that the event that comes after college is marriage. Don't ask me why I feel this way, but without that to look forward to, my outlook on post-college life would have been much more bleak.

I can also imagine that people would, ever so slightly, treat you a little bit differently. There would be a stigma attached to you if you were married and in college (and the average college age). People would think you rushed in, you didn't think it through, you were too impulsive, or that it wouldn't work out. I wouldn't want to have those things thought about me.

Marriage, to me is always something that just happens after college. Yes, I know that I'm done with college. I'll get around to it eventually. Just give me some time :-)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Warped Tour 2004 Part 2

Yesterday you got read my bitching about the things that sucked about this year's Warped Tour, but today you get to hear about the actual bands (applaud here). I think that this year I saw more bands than any other time I'd been at Warped. I'm pretty sure the reason for this is that I actually got in on time and the thing didn't get rained out at the end. One of these two things had happened each of the previous 3 years. I'm not going to promise that the order in which I talk about the bands is the order I saw them, but I'll try to stick close to how it happened. My memory is going in my old age. Now, onward!

Upon entering the Metrodome's parking lot, the first thing on the agenda was getting the band schedules. This didn't work out so well since there was a throng of people in front of the schedule. I just caught when the first band I wanted to see was at and then figured I'd write down the rest later when so many people weren't around.

The first band I saw was A.D.D., or as they're sometimes called, Another Damn Disappointment. I've never listened to them in the past but they were on before FATA so I gave them a chance, but to me they actually weren't that good. Kristin thought they were all right, but I wasn't a fan.

Anyhow, next up was one of the bands that I was stoked to see--From Autumn to Ashes. Unfortunately they were the first band on their stage so they had a bunch of technical problems while they played. Halfway through their set, however, things got fixed. Their brand of melodic metalcore was just what I needed to start my day. I loved every minute of their set and could have spent the entire day listening to them.

After FATA, it was off to the Smartpunk stage to see Underminded, but before they came on we caught Small Town Born. They were pretty generic pop-punk and neither Kristin or myself were very impressed. One small note, the lead singer of this band is one of the most feminine men that I have seen in a long time.

Underminded was another great band to watch. Aaron from Decoymusic has been hyping them up like crazy so I was interested in seeing them. I didn't expect a lot, but I was pleasantly surprised by their great metalcore set. There was no melody from these guys, just screaming, grinding metal. Good stuff even if Kristin didn't dig it all that much. Oh, and during their set there was a crazy guy dressed in pink doing a bunch of hardcore dancing. It was interesting but most of the crowd was just weirded out by him.

Next on the list was Simple Plan. Kristin likes these guys. I've never had a big problem with them like most of the people that usually go to Warped do. They played all their radio hits and crowd favorites. I'm pretty sure it was the exact same set as last year, minus their usual Bad Religion cover (because Bad Religion was playing at this year's Warped). They weren't too interesting, but they seemed to be having fun.

After Simple Plan came on Coheed and Cambria. I am not a huge fan of theirs but I enjoy their cd well enough. The reason I have a hard time getting into these guys is that their vocals are extremely high pitched. Live, they sounded like a mix of Rush, Styx, and modern rock. For the most part they were pretty uninteresting, but their last song was unbelievable. It was about 10 minutes long and encompassed jazz, ska, punk, reggae, and a few other genres. If it wouldn't have been for that I would have written these guys off as simply boring.

Before walking around to some of the merch tents we caught a little of Lars Fredrickson and the Bastards. They're the "punk" punks of this tour. Their music was standard punk in the vein of Lagwagon or Bad Religion. I wasn't too impressed, but they weren't terrible.

We also caught some of Atmosphere while walking around and I was unimpressed by them as well. Too much talking about shooting people in the faces and crap like that. Honestly, we aren't 12 years old anymore. Stop trying to be so "bad ass". Talking about shooting people or "fucking people up" doesn't make you cool, it just makes you sound stupid.

After taking a break we prepared for the onslaught of main stage bands that would take up the rest of our day, leaving us with no down time, we went over to see NOFX. I've never been a huge NOFX fan, and their set didn't make me one either. This is the first time I'd seen them live and they were good, but they did too much screwing around that it didn't seem like they cared much about playing for the crowd. They had some funny anti-Bush tunes, though, which made their set somewhat interesting.

Bear with me for a quick aside here. The majority of the bands, and the main vibe of this year's tour, was very anti-Bush and anti-government. At least half of the bands that I saw had something to say about our current president, and none of it was good. I'm not saying that this is bad, but I didn't come to hear about different bands' political standings, I just wanted them to play music for me. I skipped Anti-Flag just for this reason (and because I think they're one of the worst bands around). So, yeah, I think there was a little too much political posturing for my tastes this year.

Now, back to the bands. After NOFX was Sugarcult. I've always had a soft spot for these guys, even if they are extremely poppy. They know how to write catchy hooks and can pull off their very melodic form of pop-punk in concert quite well. Most of their set consisted of songs from their major label debut instead of their newest cd, which is actually good because their new cd is not nearly as good as their last. Even if you don't usually care for pop-punk, I would recommend seeing these guys because they are very good at what they do and can easily make their songs stick in your head all day long.

Once Sugarcult was done, I needed to get some more water so I only managed to catch part of Taking Back Sunday's set. From what I saw, I didn't miss much. I watched them play about three songs and they seemed somewhat sloppy in how they played and they definitely lacked the punch that their cds have.

Once I got some water, I made it back in time to catch Yellowcard. They put on a great set of bouncing, fast-paced, violin laden punk songs. Of course they played mostly their well known songs, like "Ocean Ave.", but unlike the other bands who only play their singles and hits, I didn't mind because they played so tightly. Most of their songs were very true to how they are on cd, which is always a plus for me. I hate it when bands end up sounding like crap in comparison to their cds.

After Yellowcard another one of the bands that I really wanted to see was up--Story of the Year. They were great--energetic, bouncing all over the stage, and playing their hearts out. They slowed it down for a little bit to play "Anthem", but before it and after it, there was nothing but mosh-inducing screamo. Great band, great set.

Next up was Bad Religion. I am not a huge fan so we caught part of their set, which was ok, and then also caught most of Over It's set. I like Over It and their infectious form of pop-punk, but the stage they were on had the bass overpowering everything else so they sounded somewhat muddled. As it was, though, they were a decent band to see.

As the day was coming to a close, the last two bands were New Found Glory and Flogging Molly. New Found Glory played in the same manner they have every other year on this tour--crappily. They never manage to sound nearly as good as their cds, especially in the vocal department. Also, they didn't really play anything outside of their hit songs, all of which I'd be fine never hearing again. I think Kristin enjoyed them, so that's a plus. I, on the other hand, still think they're a terrible live band.

Lastly, but certainly not least, was Flogging Molly. Two words: Freakin' Awesome! Really, they were worth the $30 ticket price themselves. Every time I see them, they have so much energy, play so tightly, and manage to get the crowd moving like crazy. It's unbelievable how well their form of Irish-pub-square-dancing-hobbitish-punk music comes off as so good. The talent in this band also abounds. Managing to have your standard guitar/drums/bass/vocals setup accented by an acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, tin whistle, and accordion and not sound like crap is quite an accomplishment in itself.

Since Flogging Molly was also the last band to play, they were asked to play an extended set for us since the Minneapolis stop has gotten screwed up in the past few years (see my previous post). We ended up then getting to listen to Flogging Molly play for about 50 minutes instead of 30, which was more than fine by me.

So, in the end this year's Warped Tour was another fun outing. Some of the bands sucked, some were awesome, but most fell somewhere in between. I would have liked to have seen a little more diversity, but I can't really complain too much for only it only costing $30. If Warped is stopping by your town, take a day and go. It's well worth it.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Warped Tour 2004 Part 1

Vans Warped Tour, a staple event of my summer for the last 4 years. Each has been a wonderful adventure and an audible pleasure. This year was no different. Oddly, though, this year didn't seem quite as good as the last, and I believe there are two main reasons for this. First, the venue was organized quite crappily and second, there was definitely a lack of variety in the bands that performed.

The Warped Tour was held in the parking lot of the Metrodome this year, as opposed to being at Floate Rite Park in Wisconsin or at some lame-ass park in the middle of the cities. This was supposed to be the site of Warped a couple of years ago, but it was changed about a week beforehand to the aforementioned lame-ass park.

When Warped was at the lame-ass park two years ago, the stages were spaced out nicely and there was plenty of open room. It was this way when it was in Wisconsin as well. The only thing that sucked about lame-ass park, MN is that there were four single-file gates to let everyone in through. Needless to say, it took forever for everyone to get in. I waited in line almost 3 hours myself.

Before we went this year, I thought that the Metrodome parking lot would be a crappy venue and I was proven right as the day went on. Simply put, the parking lot was way too small to house all of the stages and tents that come with the Warped crew. People were shoulder to shoulder everywhere, not just at the stages themselves. It was terrible. Just traversing from one stage to another was an exercise in pushing through people. What helped to make it even worse was that they put a bunch of the tents up only a little ways out from the stage so there was a very narrow lane for everyone wanting to see the bands, buy merch, meets bands, and move between stages to use.

Another thing that was pretty subpar this year was the technical aspects of the stages, namely the techs not getting the sound working right on a few of the stages. Come on, it's not like we're the start of the tour. Setting up the stages and equipment should be a breeze at this point. One stage had only the bands monitors working so only the crowd directly around them could here. Another stage had the bass overpowering everything else. Yet another stage had the sound muddled. The first two stages eventually fixed their problems, but the stage with the muddled sound, which was also one of the main stages, stayed that way the entire day. It was very frustrating to listen to some bands I really wanted to hear only to have it sound like the sound was being pumped through a 10 foot thick mattress before it got to my ears.

Lastly on my annoyances list is the way people there dressed. Do people not look at themselves in the mirror before they leave the house? I cannot even begin to count the number of overweight (and some just plain FAT) girls that were wearing tube tops or bikinis or other such inappropriate dress. To compound that, most of these girls were probably not even old enough to drive yet. I know if I was a parent, there would be no way in hell that my daughter would leave the house in shorts only slightly larger than her underwear and a bikini top only large enough to cover the mosquito bites that pass for her breasts. Parents, I'm telling you right now--regulate what your daughter wears out in public!!!

I can understand where it gets hot out and you want to be cool, but it wasn't that terrible out. I was tempted at times to go talk to some of the more extreme girls who were either severely underclothed or severely overweight (and wearing little in the realm of clothing).

"Excuse me miss. Can you tell me what your favorite band here is?"

"Sure. I really, really love Simple Plan and New Found Glory. In fact, I even held up my cell phone during both of their sets so that I could record my favorite songs to my voice mail and listen to them later. They're SO punk. Anyways, I really like Simply Plan."

"That's cool. You know, since you like them so much, I think you should show them your support by going to buy one of their shirts right now. Make sure it's a little big because it might shrink in the wash, but don't wait to wear it. Put it on right away! You'll be the coolest girl in your clique."

"Good idea, Mr. Dressed in Actual Clothing. I was getting kind of cold wearing next to nothing. You're smart."

"Thank you. Now go buy that shirt."

Lastly, like I said before, the only other gripe I really had was the lack of variety in music. The last few years have had bands from all kinds of different genres represented, but this year the majority of the bands were your standard pop-punk fare with a few screamo bands tossed in. There was hardly any hardcore, one rap group, a couple metal bands, and not really any off the wall bands. The main stages were the worst as most all of the bands on them shared basically the same sound. I guess I just wanted a little more variety to choose from, but what was there wasn't too bad.

Now tomorrow, since I've managed to get all the ranting out of my system, I'll actually talk a little about the bands I saw. There were quite a few decent ones, a few really good ones, and a bunch of alright ones. Thank God there was no Andrew WK this year...

Friday, July 23, 2004

Concrete Play Time!

Wednesday was a day filled with fun outdoor activities, mainly waiting for cement trucks, praying more things won't break, and playing around with concrete. No, I wasn't just goofing around with some Tonka trucks in the sand box, but instead I was helping out in pouring the concrete foundation for a new grain bin to be put up on the family farm.

We did this last year or the year before (I'm not sure which, my memory is fading fast in my ripe, old age) and it went pretty smoothly, although we ended up a little short with the concrete so we had to drop some big rocks into the poured cement to get it up to the proper height. Anyhow, I was expecting it to take a couple of hours, much like last time, but what did happen wasn't quite what anyone had planned.

To assist in pouring the cement this year, we also hired a pumper truck. The cement trucks would dump their load into this truck and the pumper would guide the cement to the area we wanted it. This is a heck of a lot better then simply having a cement truck dump its load on the edge of where we're pouring and then all of us having to scoop the cement to the far edges.

We were supposed to start pouring the cement at 1:30 pm, but the first of the cement trucks (we had four coming) didn't get there until almost 3. They didn't think they'd have to come because it was raining... in Spring Valley. That's where they are based out of so they must have just thought that since it was raining there it must be raining everywhere. Idiots. We told them it was fine where we were so they got on their way.

When they finally arrived, everything went pretty smoothly, for the first three trucks worth of cement. We poured the outside just fine and half of the surface with the first three trucks, while the fourth would finish off the entire slab.

We were handling the cement pretty good and it was going to be finished wonderfully in no time. At least it would have if the fourth truck hadn't blow a tire on the way to the farm, and it had to blow the tire about a mile away from where we were. So, what were we going to do? With the sun beating down, the temperature rising, and the breeze nonexistent, the cement was hardening up pretty quickly.

The cement slab was only half done. If the cement didn't get there quickly, we would have a crack down the middle of the slab and where the slab met the concrete on the edges. Over time, if that happened, the bin on top of the slab would push the two sides down and the foundation would split. Not good. Especially since we were going to be having 35,000 bushels of corn sitting on top of this slab.

The company providing the cement was going to send a truck to fix the tire on the cement truck, but they were probably an hour off. That was getting to be too long. In order to try to get the truck here as fast as possible so we could get the cement in and bonded to what was already down, we sent some guys down to try to do what they could to help the truck along.

What they did was chain up the axle that the bad tire was on so that the rim and tire didn't drag on the ground. This allowed the cement truck to get moving again, but at a very slow pace. Thank goodness there was only a mile to go to get to the farm. When the cement truck was about 500 yards, maybe less even, the repair truck shows up and decides to do the dumbest thing--fix the tire right then and there.

Why couldn't they wait until we got the truck in our yard so we could unload the concrete? Why? Sure the tire needs to get changed, but it could wait another few minutes. Instead it took them another half an hour to change that tire and then they got into our yard and started pouring.

To help the new cement bond to the already poured cement (which was pretty firm at this point), we used a vibration tool that helped to integrate the old with the new. We also had to pour the cement fast so we could do the finishing on the surface before the concrete go too hard. For this reason, we were all really busy and no one got a chance to snap some pictures with my camera of us working on this load of concrete.

Once we finished off the platform for the bin, we had some concrete left over that we used to put in a small walkway for one of our shops. That went pretty well and we managed to get all of the concrete poured, worked with, and finished by about 8 pm. Thanks to all of the things that could go wrong (including a grain cart breaking in our pea field, which we had to deal with as well while we were pouring the cement) a job that should have taken a couple of hours took about 6 and a half.

*Sigh* It was a long, warm, frustrating day, but it managed to turn out all right in the end... we hope.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Thinking About Vacation

Everyone takes a vacation to somewhere during the summer. It's just a given. When summer gets here, you take some time off and go somewhere. This is especially true for Minnesotans because, well, it's the only nice time of the year. From October to April the weather is usually cold, wet, overcast, and dreary. However, when May hits you get a nice stretch of about 5 months where you can actually enjoy the outdoors without having to wear multiple layers of clothes. During this time, we Minnesotans get the urge to move around and go somewhere. My family is no different.

On Monday we tried to figure out what we're going to do about vacation this year. We have reservations at a camping resort we are members of for August 9th through the 15th. Unfortunately, this is a really bad time for vacation this year. It would have been nice to go earlier, but my mom couldn't get off of work any other week than the one she did. It might not be possible for Kristin, Randy, or myself to go this year.

Kristin has to be back in St. Cloud by the 11th so someone has to take her. That's right in the middle of our vacation, and it's obvious that I would have to be the one to take her home. I really wish that it would work out for us both to go on vacation, but it's looking somewhat bleak. I could take her home early and then go on vacation, but it would be really nice if she would come with.

Randy, on the other hand, doesn't really have an excuse for missing vacation--he just doesn't want to be out there that long. He might come out there for the beginning of vacation and then leave early. Woot. That's real awesome. (note sarcasm) It just seems so weird coming from him because he used to give me hell if I ever even thought of missing a family outing, activity, or holiday. Now when the tables are turned he doesn't seem to care. I wouldn't mind him missing vacation if he had to work or had college orientation or something like that, but just not wanting to go because you'd rather do something else is a pretty lame excuse.

So what's going to happen for our vacation this year? Will it just be my parents and Ryan going? Will Randy go at all? Maybe for a little bit? Will Kristin and myself get to go with? I don't know, but we really have to get this crap figured out soon.

While thinking about our vacation plans, I had an odd thought dawn on me. When you're on vacation, you always dread the day you'll have to go back home and return to the grind. You don't want vacation to end and you sure as heck don't want to go back to work, but you know that it is inevitable so you just try to deal with it. One day it'll just happen and you'll have to go back to work.

It seems that most people feel the same way about death. You know that it's coming and there is nothing you can do about it so you just deal with it. So what if our time here is only a vacation from some other terrible place that we don't want to return to? Maybe it doesn't even have to be a terrible place, as some people don't mind their jobs, but it could just be a place that's not nearly as enjoyable as the vacation that is our life.

The reason I am thinking this way is that my feeling of dread when the end of a vacation approaches is pretty much the same feeling I have when I think about death. Coincidence? More than likely, but the thought that maybe this is as good as it gets is sort of disconcerting. This would, however, help to explain my extreme fear of death. Why would I want this vacation on earth to end?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Aww, Poop

Anyone who has a cat knows that their crap smells something fierce. Their poop is easily the most rancid of any animal in existence. If you've never smelt cat dookie, then just take my word for it, it's nasty. With that in mind, I have a wonderful little story to tell you.

Two nights ago I was getting myself ready for bed, snuggling myself under my covers, and preparing for a peaceful night of rest. Like many other nights, the family dog, Karma, was spending the night in my bed. She usually snuggles up right beside me at the small of my back, sometimes trying to steal the entire bed (which is quite a feat for such a small dog). I turned out the lights and proceeded to fall asleep.

Later on in the night, at about 4:30 am to be a little more precise, I wake up for some odd reason. As I wake up, I feel fur on my left arm. Reaching over to it with my right arm, I feel that it's our little kitten, Stitch. I think to myself, "Aww... how cute. The kitten came in to sleep with me tonight." About five seconds later another thought went racing through my head, "What is that rancid smell?"

As the fumes hit my nostrils for a second time, I knew what I was smelling--cat poo poo. Considering that I hate the smell of cat crap, I rolled over to turn on my lights. As I rolled over, I felt something mush onto the back of my boxers. Sure enough, when I turned on the lights and looked at my bed and boxers, there was the cat dung--smack dab in the middle of my freakin' bed.

After I realized I had cat crap on my boxers, I quick changed out of them, threw the kitten to the floor, ripped my bed apart, grabbed my sheets and kitten, and headed up stairs. The sheets were thrown in the laundry and the kitten was thrown in the litter box.

Once I got back down to my room, I thought the whole ordeal was over. Oh, how I was wrong. I had forgotten that cat crap possesses the ability to let its smell fester for hours wherever it has been. I don't know how long the cat dung was sitting on my bed, but it was long enough so that the smell had entrenched itself in my room. About fifteen minutes and half a can of air freshener later, I had managed to mask the cat crap smell from my room.

By the time I had done all of this, I was no longer that tired and I was a little disconcerted by the fact that my cat crapped on my bed. Did I do something to the poor thing? Maybe I rolled on him during the night and he got pissed off so he let some doo doo fly on my sheets. Maybe I didn't feed him enough that night. Maybe I've given the cat some crazy psychosis from making it repeatedly jump into the floor as it tries to pounce on my foot. I don't really know. All I know is it crapped on my bed and I wasn't happy.

I finally saw a movie that didn't utterly suck yesterday! I was wondering if I was going to go through the entire summer without seeing one decent flick. I was a little tepid going into I, Robot, but it managed to be a decent movie. It was far from being a truly great film, but the special effects, moderately involved story, and fine acting performances made it a respectable film. I was disappointed that pretty much the only thing this movie shared in common with the Asimov stories was the movie name and the three laws of robotics, but even so the movie was watchable.

On the video game front, Kristin and I *finished* Brute Force yesterday. I tentatively say "finished" because I think we found a bug that doesn't allow us to beat the last level. We've followed tutorials, walkthroughs, and faqs to the letter and still one part of the mission we cannot complete.

Basically, you have to get the shield down that are protecting the end boss so you can kill him. We have destroyed the shield generators and flipped all the damn switches we're supposed to, but no matter what we do the shields are still up around the end boss. I figure that we somehow did something so that our save file got wonky and now it won't let us beat the final level. Considering the story kind of sucked anyways, we just consider the game finished for all intents and purposes.

Now that we have that game beat, Kristin picked up Prince of Persia to play while I continue playing Breakdown. When we want to do some co-op play, we're going to start Hunter: Redeemer. Hooray for video games!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

I Dare You to Throw a Sword at Me

After reading this blog posting about what comics appeal to different demographics, I got to thinking about what Kristin and I enjoy when buying/reading comics. I know that not a lot of my usual readers read comics, but I thought I'd take a look at how we spend our money anyways, if just for personal enjoyment.

First, there are some common comics that we both like to read. One of the biggest commonalities is the X-Men universe. I am an X-slut and purchase just about every X-Men comic that comes out (minus the retarded Jubilee series that will be starting soon). At the moment, I get almost 10 different X-titles a month including X-men, Astonishing X-Men, Excalibur, Wolverine, Cable/Deadpool, New X-Men: Academy, and a few others. Kristin and I both read most of these.

Thinking about it now, though, I wonder why I continue getting a lot of the X-titles. For the most part, the writing contained in many of them is just horrible (Chuck Austen being the main perpetrator, but Chris Claremont has been sucking it up too lately). Kristin still enjoys them for the most part, however, but I think that's because she has more of an attachment to some of the characters than I do.

We also like reading fantasy comics. I recently picked her up the first Tellos trade paperback from Image and she seems to be enjoying it. We'll probably also read the Dragonlance: Legend of Huma mini together once all of the issues come in. I might also try to pick up a full run of Sojourn now that Crossgen has gone under (driving the prices of their back issues way down). Fantasy seems to be a genre that transcends the genders, as many of you may have noticed from the swarms of women attending all of the LOTR movies.

The rest of the comics we differ on. I like to get some lesser known, grittier comics such as Fallen Angel and the Losers from DC, Patient Zero, Sword of Dracula, and the Walking Dead from Image, and Conan from Dark Horse, to name a few. I like the more mature nature of these titles as I don't feel like the writers are pulling any punches like I feel they do when writing mainstream titles.

Kristin has never really gotten into these titles, but instead has formed a love of manga. Over the summer she's read the first 9 volumes of Fushugi Yugi and I'm ordering Demon Ororon for her. She tends to lean towards the mystical manga titles, probably because of her love of fantasy.

As for superheroes outside of the X-men, she doesn't really get into any (although she loves Superman, just not the comics). I have some that I like to read, such as Batman, Superman, and The Outsiders, but most of the others (ie: Spider-Man, the Avengers, and most Marvel superheroes) just don't do it for me.

Hmmm.... all of the sudden I have no idea where I was going with this. Well, at least now you have an idea of what kinds of comics me and the gf like just in case you want to mail some to us... or something.

On a side note, you can't throw swords! I was talking about this topic with a coworker over the past few days while we discussed King Arthur. It seems like every movie that has a sword in it has to have someone throwing it. Have you ever tried to throw a sword? If you actually have, you'll know first hand that it just doesn't work. A sword is not weighted for throwing--it's weighted for easy handling when hacking and slashing.

If you were to try to throw a sword, it would be extremely hard to keep the point forward. A sword is weighted so that an equal amount of weight is in the hilt and in the blade so that if you were to balance the sword, at the point where the hilt meets the blade, on your fingertip, it should balance perfectly (Orlando Bloom does this in Pirates of the Caribbean, if you remember that scene). When thrown the densest portion of the sword is at the rear. This causes the sword blade to veer off as the densest portion of the sword makes its way towards the front of the flight path. Unless the sword was thrown absolutely straight, it would hit its target at an odd angle, most likely not an angle that would cause damage, and most definitely not an angle that would lodge the blade into someone's flesh.

So Hollywood, if you're listening, knock it off with all of the lame ass sword throwing. It just doesn't work.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Atari Lynx, Where are You?

While browsing one of my favorite 80's nostalgia sites today, I found one heck on an interesting commercial. It's an advertisement for the Atari Lynx...... you know, their failed handheld that got its ass whipped by the Gameboy (and to a lesser degree, the Game Gear). In the ad, a kid is playing some game where he shoots stuff as a robot. For some reason he's playing this game in front of a brick wall. Maybe ghetto kids were the target market for this unbelievably expensive gaming machine. Who knows?

Anyhow, as he's playing this game, there's a comment made about how real and authentic the sound is with the Lynx. While that comment is made you're treated to a bunch of neat whirs and blips. Awesome! When the camera pans back to the kid after showing a screenshot, you see the kid against the brick wall again, but this time with a bunch of bullet holes through his chest. He looks around confusedly and, if I intuit correctly, also appears happy. He has bullet holes in his chest and is happy. This was an advertisement for the Lynx in the 80's. Un-frickin-believable. "Buy a Lynx now! It's like taking 4 slugs to the chest, without the fuss of actual blood loss and death!"

I have an update on the comic book situation that stemmed from my great grandmother's estate auction. The buyer who was allowed to buy the comic books before the auction has graciously decided to sell what comics he still has back to my family for the price he paid for them. My mother contacted him last week, told him about the situation, and let him think about it. Today he sold the 30 some remaining books he had back to my mom for $60, the amount he paid for them. This is a good thing, but there are also a few other details that give me pause about all of this.

Harlan told me that he only sold 33 comics to the outside buyer, who we'll call George. George told my mother that he had already sold a bunch before being alerted to the situation. These were no doubt the real money books--the superhero books Harlan said were worth nothing. So how could George still have over 30 books left when he was only sold 33 and sold a bunch already? Something doesn't add up. I'd put my money on Harlan lying yet again to me.

Compounding this situation is an interesting interaction my grandmother has become aware of. Last week Harlan and George were both the Legion in Hayfield and George slipped Harlan $100 for getting him such a good deal on the comics. This fact is pretty damning evidence that Harlan was simply out to fuck me over and make some money on the side.

It's interesting what comics are left that George sold back to our family. Most of the comics were no-name cartoon character funny books, but there were two that deserve note. One early issue of Action Comics was included (very beat up) as well as a very early Daredevil (which is actually in decent condition). The first proves there was Superman books sold to George, which Harlan claimed there wasn't.

Even more damning evidence that Harlan is trying to screw over the family estate in favor of making himself a buck is the fact that on the final assessment sheet that detailed the sale of all of my great grandma's possessions, none of the money collected for the comic books is listed. For all we know he could have just told me that sold them for such a pittance to George. More likely George sold the money books for Harlan on the side. Harlan and George then each get a cut. The $100 that was given to Harlan at the bar should have gone on the assessment sheet as well since it was in payment (this might be a stretch, but it seems logical) for the comics. It wasn't there.

So what do I do now? I guess I live with what I have and move on. I'm happy that at least I was able to get some of my great grandmother's comics back into the family, but the fact that Harlan so viciously attacked me personally by abusing his power as the executor of the estate still remains. If I could, I would pummel his scraggly, wrinkled, old body to near death and leave him to live as a crippled waste of life. That's more than what he deserves.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Rick Gebhardt vs. Best Buy

So, apparently Best Buy doesn't like it that some of their customers are "taking advantage" of them. Here's the story. I really don't feel sorry for Best Buy at all. The way they treat their customers they deserve to be cheated over and over again. I've had more stuff break on me that I've bought there than anywhere else. I'm starting to wonder if they possess some curse or something. It's gotten to the point that I will never buy anything major there without buying into their extended warranty because it is almost a guarantee that it's going to break. Let's look at what I've had break on me that I bought at Best Buy:

  • First, there's my family's computer from way back in the day. It was a Pentium 100 mhz or something like that. The motherboard fried on it so they replaced it only to have that motherboard fry the first time we turned it on. They then fried another on their own and finally gave us a new computer. We were without a computer for 2 months when they said it would take a week to fix it tops. My dad was forced to do all of the farms accounting and taxes in a week because Best Buy didn't give a crap about getting our computer back.
  • When I was on vacation in California a few years ago my digital camera broke. It just up and died. I took it to a local Best Buy and they said they could mail it in to get fixed and have it back to me in a couple weeks. I explained that I was on vacation, but they didn't care. The person helping me even had the gall to tell me to just buy another camera and then return it when I got home. I asked about the restocking fee and he told me that it was a small price to pay. I went and bitched to another manager and eventually got them to exchange my camera for another one.
  • I've had 4 MP3 players break on me. First my 64 mb Rio died so I exchanged it for another Rio. That one then quickly died so I traded up for a Nomad 128 mb player which soon broke. I then spent a little more cash and bought an Archos 5 GB player. That lasted almost two years until it broke. I now have a Lyra 40 GB jukebox. Let's hope it lasts a while.
  • I used to have a lot of mp3's on cds so I bought a discman that also played mp3 cds. It broke unbelievably fast. I think it was 2 weeks. I took it back and got my money back on that one. Didn't even bother with an exchange.

Now that I've gotten my personal beef with Best Buy out of the way, let's look at this article in all of its ridiculousness. The main quote that I have a beef with is this (the author is talking about unprofitable or "bad" customers):

Like a customer who ties up a sales worker but never buys anything, or who buys only during big sales.

I can see how it would be annoying to have someone constantly bothering your sales staff just for the sake of finding out information, but knocking people for only buying during sales? Why have sales then? I am one of those people who usually only buy things when they're on sale or if I absolutely need them. Maybe marketing should work on making other items more appealing than just the sale items. If they did maybe people like myself might grab more impulse buys when buying sale items.

This next quote is priceless and drags my view of Best Buy even further through the mud:

Larry Selden calls them "demon customers."
Mr. Selden, a consultant who works for Best Buy, co-wrote Angel Customers & Demon Customers.

Why would you ever admit that you have hired a consultant that refers to some customers as "demon customers". So, customers that seek out bargains and participate in sales, thus diminishing the amount of money you suck from their pocketbooks, are evil because they aren't freely throwing money your way. Smart shoppers for Best Buy are nothing more than the enemy. Amazing.

Now when I think of demon customers, I guess I don't automatically think of bargain shoppers. I would probably think of a moderately sized dragon wearing khakis and a flannel shirt with his wife in tow. They would look around for the best deal, calmly asking questions of the workers. Upon finding what they needed, Bartlby (it's as good a name as any for a dragon wearing flannel) and his wife would check out. When asked for payment, Bartlby would simply flambé the cashier and walk out of the store. Now that would be something for Best Buy to be pissed about, not customers who like to shop smartly.

King Arthur--the movie that could have been. This is yet another film that's stuck in the category of "so close to being good". You could easily chalk that up to it being a Bruckheimer film, but I don't want to say it was ALL his fault. I left the theater with a very strong sense of ambivalence after sitting through what is supposed to be the definitive retelling of Arthur and his knights.

My biggest gripe with the movie is that it was basically a very hollow version of Braveheart. The battle scenes were decent, but the lack of blood and actual, gritty violence made it feel like it was a bunch of elementary kids playing knights and Saxons during recess. The acting was ok, but there were some cheeseball moments. Keira Knightley played the exact same role she has in every other movie she's been in. Seriously, she is the same basic person as she was in Pirates, but this time her boobs are deflated. Really, what happened to her boobs for this movie? They pretty much disappeared.

With the passing of King Arthur, I'm still waiting for there to be a truly kick ass movie this summer. Van Helsing, Day After Tomorrow, Chronicles of Riddick, and whatever else has come out this summer that I've suffered through just hasn't cut it. Riddick was entertaining, although very, very shallow. Maybe I, Robot will be good...... whoa, I can't believe I thought that, it's so going to suck. Maybe Collateral or Alexander will be good. Let's hope so.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Cell Phone Elitism

I've never been a fan of cell phones in general. If they are used in a decent manner, then I don't have so much of a problem with them, but more often than not people are complete boobs when it comes operating their cell phones.

In college at St. John's it seemed like cell phones were used as a tool to separate the "elite" people from the common college attendee. You need to understand that most of the people attending our private, moderately expensive, Catholic university were born and bred to be exclusive. Most everyone went to private high schools, often some of Minnesota's elite. I, coming from a small public school in the middle of nowhere, was in for quite the shock when I arrived at college.

Everyone had the coolest stuff, and I'm talking just about everyone. There weren't many of us that didn't have totally awesome stuff in our dorms. N64's and nice TV's and brand new computers and Playstations and sweet mountain bikes and other such things were in abundance. The only thing I could lay claim to was having a pretty decent computer and knowing how to actually use it. You wouldn't believe how many kids had a hard time operating their computers.

At one point I wholeheartedly exploited some of my dormmates' computer idiocy. One of the better pranks I pulled caused the prankee to continually restart his computer, call tech support, and then leave his computer in frustration to use the lab computers. What's really funny is that it's such a simply prank to pull. Right after the computer starts up, I hid the mouse cursor on the side of the screen and took a screen shot of the desktop. I then set that screenshot as the background of the computer. Next I took the Windows taskbar and shrank it all the way down to the bottom of the screen so that you could not click on it. After that I took all of the icons on the desktop and moved them into a folder on the hard drive.

When the computer is then booted up, it looks like the icons and taskbar are still there because of the screen shot that is now acting as the background. It was beyond funny watching him click on the icons and taskbar knowing that they really weren't there. The sheer amount of explicatives that were elicited from this prank were worth it alone.

The only thing that was somewhat nerve wracking about this prank was not laughing my ass off while I tried to "help" him get his computer up and running. I actually chuckled a few times and had to cover it up by saying that I heard someone yelling something funny from the hall.

A little while after he managed to baffle tech support with his problem and left, I "fixed" his computer. For being such a nice guy he bought me supper. Only after the semester was over did I tell him the prank I pulled on him. Needless to say there was much cursing directed at me.

Now that I have enlightened you with a wonderful prank to try on your friends, I want to get back to cell phones. Everyone that had a cell phone at college used it as a tool to show that they were better than other people around them. No matter what the social situation was that a cell phone toting student was in, it was paramount that their cell phone be answered if it was ringing. It was as if the world would end if somehow the person that was calling was redirected to *gasp* voicemail. I've had more than a few completely head-scratching moments where I've witnessed students answering or using their phones at the most inopportune times:

* In the middle of class while my professor was giving a lecture one student heard his phone go off and answered it in the middle of class. Now this wasn't some huge lecture class. No, it was a 20 student, upper division philosophy class. Not only did this student answer the phone but he talked on it for about 45 seconds before he even thought to get up and leave the classroom.

* I was in the middle of a conversation with a classmate and her phone went off. She immediately answered it while I was in mid sentence and started talking away. I actually turned and left before she hung up and tried to talk to me again.

* On the bus that transports students from SJU to CSB one student called another that was standing right outside at the bus stop. Two minutes later she got off the bus and continued her conversation in person. Why not wait 2 minutes and forego the use of the cell?

Anyhow, I detest cell phones, but a cell phone was the cheapest way to keep in contact with my parents while I was in college because our long distance rates were atrocious. As time went on AT&T ended up selling off all of their towers in the area of Hayfield, MN where I live so I couldn't use my phone without it being in roam. Since I was locked into a two year contract I couldn't get out until yesterday. I am now free of my cell phone and I can't be happier! I'm going to enjoy slowly roasting my phone over the fire.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Is Being Gay So Wrong?

Last night my pastor came over to talk with Kristin and myself about religion. You see, I'm Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and she's Catholic. This has often lead to some interesting debates and since we both have many questions about the other's religion, we've often tried to experience each style of church. Talking with my pastor only seemed a natural extension of this. I was also very curious to talk with my pastor about some topics that are heavy on my mind as well, or that might need some clarifying.

Kristin and I do agree on a lot religiously, but it's usually the small details that we argue over. We both are Christians. We both believe in consubstantiation. We believe in the message of tolerance, love, peace, and forgiveness that Jesus taught. We believe that Jesus was God. None of these "big" details are ever in question. It's all the "little" details that do cause trouble, though.

Traditionally Catholics and Protestants both oppose homosexuality and the practice of having women priests/pastors and women as deacons/elders. While being brought up in the strongly conservative environment of the Missouri Synod church I also, of course, came to believe these things as true. As I've grown, experienced the world, examined more of the human experience, and learned I come to see that maybe I don't wholeheartedly believe in these things anymore. Last night helped to rekindle many of the lines of reasoning that I had let fall by the wayside since I graduated college. I am now in an environment where I am not expected to question everything all the time like I was in college in our philosophy program. I am somewhat ashamed for letting my mental stimulation lag, but I hope last night is a stepping stone to reawakening a lazy part of my mind.

The main topic that was focused on last night, after talking about the general church things, was homosexuality. This has become a very tender area of discussion for Kristin and myself. She is a strong advocate for the homosexual/bisexual community and does not see their practices as being something wrong. I, on the other hand, have always thought that homosexuality is something wrong--something that shouldn't be practiced. Growing up I never questioned why I believed that, but because of Kristin and the college environment I have been forced to, and I am thankful that I was.

I was always taught that the Bible said homosexuality was wrong so there was no question, it should never be practiced. Now, after doing some research, it seems like the Bible isn't so clear cut about what it says. Sure, there's a few passages that appear to directly address homosexuality, but each of the verses have been translated in many different ways, how are we to know what is the correct translation. Over the years in the passing down of the Bible, who's to say exactly which translation is the definitive version. In some cases there is no way to directly translate a word in one language to an equivalent word in another language. A word that's close, but not exactly meaning the same thing, has to be used. I often think of the example of the Eskimos who have a myriad of words for snow and we have one. It would be very hard, if not impossible, to translate each word for snow into a different conceptual word in our language.

There has also been the argument that homosexuality isn't natural. It's an aberration. If it's such an aberration, then why does is proliferate in some species of animals as well? If it goes against what is "natural" then why does nature practice it? In my studies of sociobiology at college, which I could talk on end about but won't, there were many examples enumerated for the subsistence of homosexuality in nature ranging from genetics to providing a positive benefit for evolution through group selection. So is homosexuality really all that unnatural?

I've also been told that homosexuality is wrong because no life can be created from a homosexual union. I've always found this the weakest argument against homosexuality simply because then marriages or unions between infertile people or with a woman past menopause are wrong because no life can come from it.

In looking at the topic right now, I'm not completely sure exactly how I stand. I still have a hard time seeing homosexuality as something that is perfectly acceptable, but I also can't seem to find a concrete reason to think it's wrong. I by no means am trying to say that I dislike or will disassociate myself from homosexual people, but at the moment I am not sure I can actively condone what they are doing either. It's confusing. My feelings have definitely been quite conflicting as of late, especially when reading the thoughts of someone who is openly gay (I hope none of this offended you Lily) and seeing things through the eyes of someone living the lifestyle I've always been taught to disregard as simply being wrong. I've been taught to see it as wrong no matter what, but now I have a hard time justifying that notion. I really can't find a truly justifiable reason to say that homosexuality is wrong. This is a tough spot to be at mentally because, for once, I don't have a strong opinion in one direction on something. It's also tough religiously because it kind of, well, really conflicts with what my church believes.

On a completely different note, I finished reading Kafka's Metamorphosis the other day. I'm now trying to figure out what exactly was the point of the whole story. Is he trying to tell us that if you ever wake up as a bug, kill yourself quick so that your family can move on? Is it somehow metaphorical for saying that we are sometimes burdens to others and don't realize it? What was the reason for the transformation? Why did it happen? Obviously Kafka didn't think that the answers to these last two questions were essential at all. I just didn't take much away from this story. Enlighten me if I'm completely missing something here.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

A Belated Happy 4th

Well, since I took Friday, Monday, and the weekend off, I have a lot of updating to do, don't I? It was nice having a solid four day weekend and I enjoyed every last minute of it! Thursday night Kristin and I headed up to St. Cloud for the weekend so she could see her family, which she hadn't seen a whole lot of since she's been living with me in Rochester for the summer.

While we were up there I managed to put in a round of frisbee golf with Vu at Riverside. We would have went to Calgary, but they neutered that course last year, taking it from an 18 hole course down to a 12 hole course. The six holes they took out were also the six most enjoyable holes to golf on. As it was, I got showed up pretty bad by Vu. It was pretty apparent I hadn't been out in a while (and that I use an approach disc as my driver). Seeing Vu again and shooting some disc golf was really refreshing. I missed hitting the courses up there.

While at Kristin's house I also took plenty of time to relax and read a few TPB's that I've been meaning to for a little bit now. I first read Batman: The Long Halloween by Loeb and Sale. It was a pretty interesting look at Batman's encounters with the gangsters and first meeting of Two-Face, but the whole thing felt extremely padded. There was a definite lack of dialogue on each page. It would have been pretty easy to condense this book from the 350+ pages it was down to around 250 or less. As it is, though, I found it interesting and I'll hopefully pick up the sequel, Dark Victory, sometime soon.

Along with The Long Halloween, I also read Inhumans by Jae Lee and Paul Jenkins. As I started reading this book, I felt like it was jumping around and not really going anywhere, but about a fourth of the way in things started tying together and I found myself hooked. This is one of the best Marvel TPB's I've read in a long time. That may not be saying much since most of the Marvel comics I've read recently have not been so good, but really this TPB was a marvelous read. Lee's art is stunning, as usual, and by the time the story draws to a close Jenkins manages to create a tale that pulls at the heart of what it is to be a leader. Never has the campy phrase, "With great power comes great responsibility" rang more true than in how Black Bolt leads his people.

Since I mentioned Spider-Man's trademark phrase I might as well give my thoughts on the movie. Frankly, I thought there were way too many eyeball rolling moments, but if I were to ignore them, it was an enjoyable film. The fight scenes between Spider-Man and Doc Ock were simply amazing and Molina playing Doc Ock was perfect casting. These two things are what kept this movie from completely failing. Maguire and Dunst cannot act... at... all. There were so many terribly played out scenes between the two where they did nothing more than look at each other and eek out a word every few seconds or so. Most of the time I wanted to punch Maguire in the face because I hated his portrayal of Peter Parker. I know almost every critic and every person that went to see this movie loved it, but I'll stand firmly in the minority and say that it wasn't nearly as good as all the hype said it would be.

Now for the fourth I was back here at home. My family, grandma Meyer, and Kristin went to Rochester for the fireworks. They were very good, like every other time we've went, except for the grand finale. For some reason there must have been something wrong because the finale was broken up into about 4 mini-finales. Every other year the grand finale would end with a whole bunch of loud, flashy banger fireworks. When the finale initially ended this year there were no bangers. It just ended after a long volley of red, white, and blue sunbursts. I chalked it up to the people in charge just doing something a little different this year.

As is rarely the case, I was wrong. As we started putting our chairs back in their travel bags another mini-finale went off. It was funny to watch everyone as they were putting things away or walking towards their car suddenly stop whatever they were doing to stare up into the sky at the new batch of aerial explosions. Once they were over there was another round of applause as we continued to put our stuff away and head towards my grandma's van. As we were crossing the street there was another volley of fireworks. Now I started to suspect something must have not went right with the show. Later as we were driving away there was yet another dosage of fireworks, this one being the last.

It was interesting to have all of these little fireworks displays, but I would much rather have preferred having one uber-finale instead of the screwed up little finales they had this year. It was still a great fourth of July, however, and I enjoyed spending the evening with my family watching things explode.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

I Want Free Comics!

Now that I managed to vent out many (well, maybe not many, but at least a few) of my frustrations about the auction of my great grandmother's estate, I want to forget about it for a little bit and focus on more happy topics, like Free Comic Book Day!

Yep, Saturday, July 3rd is free comic book day. Stop by a local retailer and grab a couple of free comics. While you're there, pick up a graphic novel or a few comics to support your local comic book store. I'll probably try to pick up a couple of graphic novels that I've been wanting to read, like Batman: Dark Victory or The Final Night, to show some support for the local comic industry, even if I'm not the biggest fan of the St. Cloud comic shop. The owner is kind of a prick, but having a comic shop, owned by a jerk, to go to when you miss an issue is better than no shop at all.

On another positive note, I was finally able to have my first movie night of the summer! It was a pretty small crowd with it being only Caleb, Kristin, and myself, but it was an enjoyable time nonetheless. Chris was supposed to come over, but apparently he "forgot" that I told him we were starting the movie at 7. He instead called at 8:30 wondering when we were going to start. I reminded him that we started at 7 and we were already halfway through Pitch Black. He sounded disappointed that we didn't wait, but we can't always sit around and wait on his schedule.

Pitch Black was a lot better the second time around. I had watched it when it first came out on dvd a couple of years back and didn't think it was all that great. I must not have been in the mood for it back then because this time I enjoyed the flick immensely. It was moody, well shot, and had Vin Diesel putting on his best acting performance. It's too bad he hasn't matched it since. The only other movies he's done that I've even remotely enjoyed have been Chronicles of Riddick (because the action was cool--the story sucked) and Saving Private Ryan (and Diesel had a small role in that one). XXX and The Fast and the Furious were utterly terrible and I can't believe that they were as popular as they are. Goes to show you how dumb the average moviegoer is.

While I'm talking about stupid moviegoers, I'll be one of the many millions seeing Spider-Man 2 this weekend. I'm not expecting much since I hated the first one, but I am hoping the special effects are pretty sweet, especially considering the assload of money they threw into this film. From what I've seen in the trailers, it doesn't look all that great. Spider-Man still looks extremely fake, but maybe it'll look better on the big screen.