Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Manhood

It's not very often that a man has the need to question how much of a man he really is. We're too busy flaunting how much more of a man we are than any other male in our direct vicinity that we don't need to worry about questioning how much of a man we really are. However, I was recently forced to contemplate my manhood, or lack thereof, with the results proving to be quite depressing.

Last week, I found some Home Depot gift certificates in my wallet that hadn't ever been used. I don't remember where I got them or how much they were for, but when you find gift certificates, you have to use them, right? I knew we needed some caulking for the windows at my house, some hanging hooks, and fuses so I took a visit to the local Home Depot on Friday. When I asked how much was on the gift certificates, the lady helping me told me there was $50 on each of the three cards I had. That's $150 of free spending power at Home Depot I just found! Awesome, right?

Well, it wasn't so awesome when I thought about it. If the gift certificates were to just about any other store, such as Best Buy or Target or Barnes & Noble or Gamestop or Sportmart or whatever, I would have known exactly what I was going to spend the money on. With Home Depot, however, I found myself staring at the rows and rows of home improvement supplies and couldn't think of a damn thing I wanted to buy outside of the caulk, fuses, and hooks I came to pick up.

Home Depot is a man's store and being a man, I should have had a list of a bajillion things already enumerated in my head that I would buy if given the chance. Instead, I found myself strolling up and down aisles wondering if there was anything there I might possibly need. In the end, however, I just bought what I came for and decided I needed to think about what I would use the remaining $125 on.

This experience was quite a blow to my manhood and makes me wonder about what it will be like when I own a house of my own. I hope that by that time I'll have that list of a bajillion things in my mind and will want to make home improvements and renovations. Until then, however, I'll probably just use the gift certificates on house essentials. Pathetic, I know.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Tribute: 3M Command Hooks

People need to hang things. It's just a fact of life. Be it coats, clothes, pictures, swords, or the occasional award, you're going to need to hang something up sometime somewhere. It used to be that you'd hammer a nail into the wall and hang whatever it was you were going to hang on that, but if you ever wanted to move it or take it down, you'd either have a nail stuck in your wall or you'd have a hole from where you took the nail out. It sucked.

Then there were sticky hooks. They were plastic hooks with adhesive on the back that you could stick to the wall. This way you wouldn't be putting holes in the wall and you could get hooks in different shapes and sizes, unlike nails which were pretty much in one style - long and pointy. The problem with the sticky hooks was that if you moved them you either ripped off the paint or wallpaper on the wall or you ended up leaving a bunch of sticky goop on the wall. This was always a pain in the ass to take care of in college because they'd charge you extra at the end of the year if they had to clean any residue off of the walls.

Thankfully, the wonderful people at 3M came up with their Command Strips. These marvelous strips allow you to attach hooks to your walls and then later, remove them simply by tugging on the adhesive strip. As you tug, it stretches away from the hook and the wall, leaving no residue on either. You can then reuse the hook somewhere else with a new Command Strip. Seriously, this is amazing stuff.

The house I now live in doesn't really have any place to hang things anywhere. When the last people who lived here moved out, they stripped the place of anything on the walls and painted everything white. This makes for two problems. First, we needed to put some stuff up on the walls so it didn't look like we were living in some type of insane asylum. Second, since the walls were white and residue or holes is extremely noticeable and I don't know about my roommates, but I want my security deposit back when we leave. Because of this, I think my lucky stars for Command Strip hanging hooks.

3M, today, I pay you my Friday tribute. God bless and God speed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bullet for My Valentine

The touring combination of Drop Dead, Gorgeous, Bullets and Octane, and Bullet for My Valentine struck me as somewhat odd because of the different crowds that each band naturally plays to. Drop Dead, Gorgeous are definitely geared towards the modern scene kiddie crowd. Bullets and Octane are a punk infused rock band that plays like it is still 1989, thus attracting the older, rock crowd. Then there’s Bullet for My Valentine who will attract scenesters, but also lend themselves to the radio metal and older metal crowd. With this in mind, the St. Paul stop of the tour at Station 4 was sold out, with each of the aforementioned groups of fans making up a healthy chunk of the crowd.

Opening up the show was Drop Dead, Gorgeous with their brand of scene trendy metalcore. All of the 14 year olds in girl pants and eyeliner were apparently here for this band as they started to jump for joy as six undeniably fashioncore kids took the stage. The kiddies definitely enjoyed their set, but it needs to be noted that the band played extremely sloppy. The only time you could hear any semblance of a song structure was when the band was in the middle of a clichéd, over-the-top breakdown or when everyone stopped playing so the keyboardist could peck out a simple melody. Every song sounded about the same as the last – muddled guitar playing with a simple rhythm section leading into a breakdown for the kids to hardcore dance to. The band was also very uninteresting to watch as they all stood around looking scene, with the occasional movement to and fro on the stage. It was all pretty boring to watch and hear.

Thank the Almighty Spaghetti Monster above that the follow up to a band that should drop dead was the always rocking Bullets and Octane. Every time I see these guys, they’re just as fun as the last, if not more so. With a packed front row crowd of little scenesters, the majority of the people didn’t get into the punk flavored rock and roll of B&O, but there were a few of the older rock crowd that beat down the little kids to get up front and sing a long, which is something you can actually do with a B&O song seeing as their lyrics are understandable. Plowing through about 40 minutes of songs, the band was consistently captivating and jokingly messed around with the crowd on their in between song banter. This band is fun. End of story.

After an abysmally long 45 minute set change break, the headlining Bullet for My Valentine took the stage and ripped right into their set. Because both of the guitarists and the bassist all perform various vocal duties, there weren’t many opportunities for the band members to move away from their respective mic stands, but they still managed to rock the crowd out. It was a sight to see when the hardcore dancing scene kiddies got in the same pit as the older, heavier, heavy metal kids. There was much violence to be had, along with a couple of small fights to behold.

Bullet for My Valentine’s style of 80’s thrash shredding mixed with modern breakdown laden Gothenburg worship actually works quite well in a live environment with songs such as “Hand of Blood” and “4 Words (To Choke Upon)” getting the largest response. The slower songs “Tears Don’t Fall” and “End” actually worked to change the pace of the show up, and give the band a chance to slow the shredfest down. Ending the show with “End” might not have been the best choice in the world, though, but it worked well enough. The band ended up playing a good majority of their release, The Poison, throughout the 50 minutes they were on stage.

Given the diversity of this tour, you’re bound to like at least one of the bands, hopefully one of the last two, or both of them even. It would be nice to see a little more love for Bullets and Octane on some stops as there was not nearly enough at the St. Paul stop. It’s worth the money, people, so get out to see this tour when it rumbles through town.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

George Washington... Badass

This has to be the funniest thing I've seen in... well, a really freakin' long time. Go George Washington! And screw those British children.

If the above doesn't play, here's the link to the video.

I Love the Fall, I Hate the Fall

Fall is easily my favorite season of the year. Being a Minnesotan I actually have four fully distinguishable seasons to choose from as my favorite, whereas if you lived in Alaska you have two - ass freezing cold winter and those two brief months of only sorta hypothermia enducing cold. Or if you lived in Texas where you have sweat your balls off roasting summer and then sweat a ball and a half off roasting winter. Here in Minnesota we get a full four seasons - ridiculously cold winters, humid and 90 degree baking summers, squishy cool springs, and dry beautiful falls.

Emphasis should be given to the dry part of fall as it is the only part of the season that I really hate. Oh, and the revoking of daylight savings time. Why don't we just stay on daylight savings all year round? I hate it when I'm done with work at 5 and it is already dark but when I want to be sleeping in the morning it's light out. Is that really the way the world should be? No!

Anyways. Fall. Dry. I hate it. Mostly because my eyeballs have a hard time adjusting to the lack of moisture in the air. Because of this it feels like my eyes are coated in sponges that absorb any moisture in the air or from my constant blinking and shuttle it away somewhere behind my eyes so that the portion that is exposed to the air feels scratchy and dry. I can't count the number of eye drops I put in throughout the day and how often I contemplate punching myself in the nose just to make myself tear up.

The good thing is, my body should be adjusted in a week or two. Until then, however, I have to keep rubbing my eyes and sitting at my desk taking 2 minute re-hydration breaks where I close my eyes and rub them in an attempt to coax some moisture back out of that resivoir behind my eye sockets.

Oh, and I have to use a lot of moisturizer on my face and hands if I want my skin to actually stay attached to my body instead of peeling off in gargantuan amounts. Fall, you're a beautiful season, but why can't you be just a little more humid?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Keith Olbermann with More Words of Wisdom

You know, I don't know what I'd do without Crooks and Liars. They manage to capture all of the news clips that I hear made mention of but that I don't ever end up watching on TV. Thankfully they capture them in all their wonderful glory for me to download onto my computer to watch. Usually, there will also be a transcript so if I'm on the bus or something, I can just read the news clip's transcript on my blackberry.

Anyways, I've mentioned before how much I enjoy Keith Olbermann and his common sense take on the schenanigans of the Republican party. He recently had some poignant commentary on a Republican ad that has been running where the party uses terrorist footage to further their agenda of fear. I find it sick and distasteful that the Republican party endorses such despicable tactics. And what is scariest is that there is a significant cross section of this country's population that buys into these fear tactics. Like I've said to many people, politically 2008 can't get here soon enough.

Beyond the Citadel of Coup de Grace - Touché CD Review

Remember your first real date that you were oh so stoked about? Everything about that night was going to be perfect, and you were going to damn well see that it happened just right. You spent hours checking out how you looked in the mirror, doing your hair just right, putting some of your sister’s makeup on that big zit on your chin, and thinking about the night's events. You knew exactly what you were going to say and knew how she would respond -- laughing at your jokes, smiling at your heartfelt sentiments, and brushing her hair out of her eyes to look into yours. It would be perfect. You had it all planned out in your mind and everything else around you was completely secondary. But then the actual date happens... and everything you imagined would come across so perfect to your date falls flat. Before you know it, everything hits the fan. This date, however, despite how terrible it was, would teach you quite an important lesson -- don’t try too hard. You just need to go with the flow and play to your strengths instead of trying to be something beyond what you are capable of being.

Beyond the Citadel of Coup de Grace, welcome to your first date. Touché may have been the perfect introduction you thought you could give the metalcore world, however, as much as you planned for it to rocket you into the stratosphere of the mature music world, things won’t happen that way on this first date. Metalcore is your thing and you do it well when you’re focusing on it. It’s everything else on this album that is screaming out, “Run away!”

For example, including not only one, but two, tracks of complete silence does not make you seem artsy, but instead creates a reeking smell of pretentiousness around this effort. This is especially the case when one of the silent tracks is over 12 minutes long and followed by what, I hope, is a joke track. These two silent intermissions, coupled with four other interludes that consist of minimalist ambience, now scream out to the listener, “We are so artsy and so hip and so much better than every other metalcore band because we have a keyboard and interludes that you can't help but love us!” Unfortunately, this doesn't keep a listener listening, it shuns them.

Now if you are to focus on the few actual songs that are here, you’ll find a pretty decent metalcore version of Chiodos mixed with a little modern Gothenburg riffing a la As I Lay Dying. However, this strength is rarely played to with the main focus instead wasted on trying to be "kewl".

Let’s not even talk about the last two “songs” in which one consists only of the singing of “We are Beyond the Citadel of Coup de Grace!” and the other being some terribly bad whiteboy, cheese-filled rapping. Guys, this would just embarrass you to tears if you knew how bad it really made you look.

So after all of this is taken into account, it leaves the listener with about four-ish songs to actually listen to in between interludes. These songs, as mentioned before, are very promising metalcore tracks, but when the listener spends the majority of the CD wading through blank space and meandering ambience, you can’t fault them for leaving Touché sitting on the shelves. The good thing for you, however, is that this is only the first date. Learn from it and your next date might not be such a disaster.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Movie Time

Here comes another one to add to the thread.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (7.5/10): I think I might have enjoyed this film even more than I already did if I were on some sort of mind altering drug. The imagery, the dialogue, and the scenes were all wonderfully drug induced, but the plot... well, was there really one? If it wasn't for Benicio Del Toro and Johnny Depp being as phenomenal as they were, I don't think this would have been that interesting of a movie. Yes, it gives a wonderful glimpse into Hunter S. Thompson's drug filled life, but beyond that there isn't much to take away from it. Still, a great flick to watch at least once.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I mail a lot of packages. Let's get that out there right off the bat. Being an active book trader, barterbee user, and yahoo auction seller, I have to mail a lot of stuff. Needless to say, I make a trip to the downtown Minneapolis post office in the Roanoake Building at least weekly. Most of the time I have the same clerk, but last week I had someone that must have been filling in, and in attempting to do her job, showed her complete lack of metal faculties.

Just as usual, after all of my packages get marked up and have appropriate postage assigned, the clerk tells me my total for the eight packages I brought in. Again, like usual, I hand over my debit card (I don't carry hardly any cash and don't usually keep my checkbook with me). She turns it over to the back and tells me she can't accept it.

"Why not?"

"It says 'See ID' on the signature strip. You're supposed to sign there."

"Don't you just check my ID? That's what every other place I go to does."

She looks at me with a you're-crap-outta-luck look and tells me, "I'm sorry sir, we only can accept cards that are signed. It's a security measure."

"Excuse me, miss, think about it for a second. Checking my ID to make sure it matches my card is actually an added security check. That way, I couldn't have stolen someone's card and either done my best to copy their signature or, if it was a fresh card, signed the name in my handwriting so it matches. If I was a thief I would have had to not only have stolen the debit card, but stolen the ID as well."

She still has that vacant that's-too-many-words-for-my-small-brain-to-understand look on her face as she tells me, "Sorry, I just can't do it. Do you have another card?"

"Yes, that I do, but guess what? They all have 'See ID' on them."

"You can pay with cash or check as well."

"I don't have enough cash and don't have my check book."

"You know, you can just sign the card so that way I can take it."

"Wait one second. If I sign the card, right here in front of you, then you'll take it? That's ludicrous."

I don't think she understood and voiced as much, "What do you mean?"

"Well, think about it. If I sign the card now, however I sign the name on the card is obviously going to match how I sign the receipt."

"But if the card is signed I can take it." Her brain must have been getting close to exploding from the sheer amount of common sense I was throwing her way.

"Ok, let me have your pen."

She gives me her pen and after I rub off the 'See ID' that was on the signature strip, I sign my name and hand her the card. She runs it through and hands me the receipt to sign. I do so and hand it back to her.

"Can I see your ID?"

"What for?"

"I need to check it against your debit card."

"No, you don't. It's signed. You don't need to check my ID. Remember how I told you that's why I put 'See ID' on there in the first place? To make you check it against my ID? As an added security measure?"

"I need to check your ID sir."

I glance over at the other cashier and ask her, "Miss, do I need to have my ID checked if my debit card is signed and the signatures match?"

She looks back, grins a little because she's been listening in, and tells me, "No, we don't check IDs if the card is signed."

I glare at the woman who is making my morning a living hell, "Can I have my card now?"

"Ok, here you go."

In a final moment of frustration I have to let something out, "Do you realize the lunacy of what just happened? If this card was stolen I would have just successfully gotten around your 'security measures' and ripped whoever I stole this off from for $20. Policies only work if they're enforced in a way that makes sense. I might have stolen this card and gotten away with it thanks to you. Think about it. You might have just helped me rip someone off. This could very well be a stolen card. You know what, I think I remember now that it was. Huh. And I got away with it. That's great. You made my day. Thank you!"

I don't think her brain could digest the irony of the situation so I left in a huff. The woman cashier next to her was chuckling to herself as I headed out, however, so at least I know there was one competent person working that day.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

How Serious Does It Need to Get?

I usually try to avoid talking about politics within the confines of what I write here as it seems to only polarize people (left or right) and lead to name calling and closed-minded blathering. People nowadays have their minds made up and rarely openly think about what is so ingrained into their ideologies that it is worthless to think that I can convince anyone of anything by what I write.

That being said, with the signing in of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 to law, I felt compelled to say at least a little something. I have been far from happy with the Bush administration over the last 6 years, as have many people. I've grimaced as the administration has done stupid thing after stupid thing, praying that 2008 would get here as fast as possible. I've tried to be supportive of the soldiers caught up in a senseless occupation overseas. I've tried to bear with our government and the constant scandals. It's been tough, but that's part of the game. The majority spoke and wanted this. However, the line has to be drawn somewhere and giving the government the ability to suspend Habeas Corpus and selectively ignore the articles of the Geneva Convention goes to far.

I do not understand how we got to this point as a nation. Is the average American really that unaware of what is going on politically? Obviously the answer has to be yes, and that answer rings resoundingly throughout our nation as more people care about what happens on the latest episode of Deal or No Deal instead of how our rights are continually being stripped away from us.
One of the few people I actually look up to in the political realm, Keith Olbermann, has said in a beautiful, haunting, and almost poetical nature here what this nation should be feeling. Instead, there is a collective shrug of apathy. What does this country need to happen before we start to care again? A war on our soil? A military state? Another invasion? It seems like no matter how despicable or evil an atrocity is performed, it is resoundingly responded to with silence.

What is more disheartening, the fact that such things as the suspending of Habeas Corpus are allowed to now happen or the sheer amount of apathy put forth by the citizens of this nation? It's a tough call.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Twelve Tribes - Midwest Pandemic CD Review

Ferret Records are honestly on one hell of a roll and, if you look at their list of releases this year, have a ridiculously good crap to quality ratio. For every lackluster release, such as discs from Heavy Heavy Low Low and Remembering Never, there have been at least double the amount of good releases. Look at the high caliber releases from Misery Signals, Dead Hearts, Zao, and In Flames that have recently hit, and on top of that you can expect a new Chimaira effort early next year. With such gargantuan footsteps to follow in, Twelve Tribes had their work cut out for them. They may not have been able to live up to Mirrors or Come Clarity, but Midwest Pandemic is still as solid of a release as they come.

Building on the momentum gathered after releasing The Rebirth of Tragedy, Twelve Tribes puts forth a more mature and thicker form of metalcore this time around. All you Hot Topic kiddies be warned, there is nothing “scene” about this release, despite the metalcore tag. To start to describe the contents of Midwest Pandemic, imagine, if you will, Tear from the Red era Poison the Well. The song structures that were used on that effort were revolutionary for their time. Twelve Tribes, instead of following current trends of simple songs structures created solely around build ups to breakdowns, have hearkened back to the type of metalcore structuring used by early Poison the Well, but instead of simply copying the band, they’ve added dimensions all their own.

The thickness of Twelve Tribes’ sound is the biggest differentiation present in regards to today's scene. Playing with older metalcore templates in place, a solidity of guitars, much akin to label mates Misery Signals, transforms something old into something fresh and new. In stark difference to the unending wall of noise that the aforementioned band is so ridiculously good at, Twelve Tribes safely (not “playing it safe”, mind you) changes up tempos and is able to introduce passages of contemplative musical introspection. Yes, those three words were just used together in a sentence describing a band other than your post rock band du jour. It’s a given that the songs here are not as complex as that, but in comparison to their peers (ie: It Dies Today or Four Letter Lie), it’s definitely a valid description.

Rest assured, there are plenty of blisteringly heavy moments that are sure to get your adrenal glands leaking, most notably the opening 2 minute track, “National Amnesia”, which is (if you believe it) merely a prelude to the bruising “Muzzle Order”, which not only establishes the tone of the album and the ability of the band, but brings out some subtle early Deftones overtones. This influence will creep up throughout the album, usually in the vocals department during the rare melodic moment, and only adds to the potent fusion of modern and classic metal and metalcore sounds.

Before the disc is done, you’ll have heard the past, the present, and even glimpsed at one potential future for the metalcore genre. “The Recovery (In Three Parts)” closes the album with a nearly 9 minute culmination of everything that Twelve Tribes brings to the table —- a progressive leaning, the ability to be barragingly heavy, and the smarts to know how to make a song work without resorting to common scene clichés. Ferret, you can put another checkmark in the win column.


Oh God, I don't know what to do. I'm panicking. My hands are getting sweaty. I can't stay focused. I can't think about anything else. My legs are jittering away under my desk as I type this. How did I ever reach this point? How did something this catastophic ever happen?!?!?!

Seriously, how does our pop machine run out of Diet Coke? What am I going to drink all afternoon? I only drink coffee in the morning. I don't like having it in the afternoon any more. I could make hot chocolate, but there's no caffeine in it. Tea is another option, but unfortunately all tea is gross. Water? Come on, who drinks water any more?

There is other pop in the pop machine, but I don't drink fully loaded Coke because it makes my teeth feel like they're rotting away as I drink it. Sprite lacks caffeine. So does that crappy Orange pop that's in there that I'm sure no one drinks. Root Beer tastes like crap. So it looks like I'm in for a liquid-less afternoon. Let's all pray that they get the machine restocked. It has to. I don't know how long I can hold out...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Philosophy and... Action?

Not many people in the world, if any really, think of philosophy as flashy, exciting, and action packed. I know because I majored in it and liked it and everyone I talked to about it definitely did not think of philosophy or philosophers as exciting. Heck, I didn't even think of philosophy as excitement filled. But, in less than a two day span I stumbled across two instances of action and philosophy being combined.

The first was when I was stumbling through Amazon looking for some interesting reads. What did I find when I was looking at independent graphic novels? Why, Action Philosophers, of course!

Amazing. A whole book dedicated to making quasi-superheroes out of classic philosophers. It turns out that there is also a volume 2 of Action Philosophers coming up this winter as well. I ordered volume 1 and preordered volume 2. Rockin'.

On top of graphic novels about philosophy, there are also philosophy action figures. Well, they're not actual action figures, but they're images and descriptions of what action figures for particular philosophers would be. A lot of the major philisophical players are covered over at Philosophical Powers. My favorite would definitely have to be "Vindictive" Wittgenstein, pictured below.

Wittgenstein was such a pain to read. Language philosophy in general is a headache to read. Although, I think I enjoyed Wittgenstein slightly more than Kripke, but that's just me.

It's too bad that these aren't actual figures, because I know for sure I'd order them just so I could see a steel cage match between the tag team of Kant & Hume (the philosophers that make the most sense) against Leibniz and Spinoza (the philosophers that are ridiculously off their rockers). It would be the cage match to end all cage matches.

Only Two of Me

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Looks like there are two people in the US with my name. I already knew that there was at least two. The other Rick Gebhardt had a website at rickgebhardt.com, but from looking now it seems like he let it expire. Maybe I should snatch it up and point it here so that I have both the .net and .com version of my domain.

What was interesting is that Rick is the 427th most popular first name in the US. That's a lot of other names that are more common than mine. And I am also happy to report that 100% of the people with the first name Rick are male. It would suck to find out that the majority of the people with my name were female. How weird would that be?

And apparently there are 4,140 people in the US that are Gebhardts. That's a lot. Outside of my little family clan here in Minnesota, I don't think I'm related to anyone in the states directly. Who knows, though? Not me.

Update: So I also did a search for Richard Gebhardt and found that there are 35 Richard Gebhardts in the US. I also found that Richard is the 8th most popular name in the US. That is really surprising to me. I didn't think it was that popular.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Two Totally Non-Related Movies

Watched a couple more movies this weekend, so let's add them to the thread.

V for Vendetta (8.5/10): The graphic novel was a phenomenal read so I was really worried the movie wouldn't hold up, but it did. With a focus more on mystery, contemplation, and mood than on action and explosions, you couldn't help but be drawn in to the discontent of the time, the political commentary on the current state of things, the struggles of Evey, and the ideological push of V. The only weak point of the movie is the climax, where things get a tad bit over the top, but beyond this, V for Vendetta is a superbly good movie.

Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (8/10): What a wonderfully cute movie. I had never watched any Wallace & Gromit before seeing this, so I might have missed out on some of the inside jokes geared towards long time fans, but with being said, this was still funny as all get out, in that British dry humor sort of way. A lot of the comedy comes from quirks and oddities relating to particular situations throughout the movie as opposed to the usual set-up, delivery, punchline type of humor present in the majority of today's comedies. This is a great movie for all ages.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Happy Friday the 13th!

And it came in October too. Just think, within the span of about two weeks, ghosts, ghouls, zombies, monsters, and the undead can spread their reign over the world twice! It's quite possible the best month for spooks in years and years and years. Everyone should celebrate.

I really thought that something was bound to go wrong today with it being Friday the 13th, but so far so good. I woke up and I was not hideously deformed. I took a shower and didn't get soap in my eyes. I got dressed and my clothes didn't start on fire. Work has gone surprisingly well with nothing breaking or blowing up. I ate lunch without choking to death or projectile puking. It's been pretty darn alright around here.

And pretty soon Jared will be home, at which point we'll be heading over to the Triple Rock for a concert. Shai Hulud, One Dead Three Wounded, and Twelve Tribes coming at ya! Should be a rockin' good time. Hopefully we don't have to beat up any little kids who think they're all 'core doing their hardcore dancing and being obnoxious. I'll let yout know how it goes.

Enjoy your Friday the 13th!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mother Nature Wins Round One

You know how it was freezing ass cold in Minnesota yesterday? I decided it would be a good idea to take on the cold and go for a run. My brain was telling me that I needed to get my body used to the cold as I still have a month or two of fall league ultimate frisbee, along with a tournament or two, yet this year. It's not getting any warmer out, my brain tells me. So I listened to my brain because it sounded like it made sense, got in my cold weather running clothes, put on my MP3 player, and jumped outside for my run...

...at which point every fiber of my body screamed at my brain that it was f'ing cold out. It wasn't just that it was in the low 30's outside, but it was also moderately windy. My brain assured the rest of my body that once I was into my run, I would feel warmer. About a mile into my run, I wasn't that much warmer. In fact, 2.5 miles later when I reached the gym, I was still pretty damn cold.

Then, to make matters worse, after I was done working out at the gym, I had to run the half mile home covered in a layer of sweat. Not my smartest moment, believe me. The entire way home I think I was propelled along by shivers. Actually, for being tired and really tight after lifting, I ran home about as fast as I ever have.

Mother Nature, I concede this round to you, but beware. In the future I'll be prepared. I realize now that shorts and a long sleeved shirt under a short sleeved shirt are not enough to protect me from your nipple densening cold winds. I'll dress warmer and I'll beat you. You just wait.

Another Movie Entry

Here's another one to add to the Movie Review Thread.

Inside Man (8.5/10): What surprised me most about this movie is that it was a Spike Lee joint. Instead of having a heavy-handed race relations message, like most Spike Lee movies do, we're presented with a clever heist flick that has a few race related nuggets tossed in here and there. As a "how are they going to pull this off?" heist movie, I was definitely interested all the way through, however, there is one glaring flaw - you never know how the "criminals" know the information they do. The whole heist revolves around a secret piece of knowledge that only one man knows. How the criminals also know this information is never touched upon and leaves an empty hole that I wish were filled. If you ignore that one piece of lacking information, this was a supremely enjoyable heist movie.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tonight's Match Up

cold weather

"For today's fight we have Rick in the blue corner and the newcomer, Winter, in the red corner. Rick hasn't been in a fight since March. Winter has been dormant for a few months but has suddenly slammed himself back into the fight world, recently knocking out Summer and Fall in a 4 round TKO. This should be a good, drawn out, heavy fight. Let's head down to ringside."

"Ok men, I want a good, clean fight this time. Last time you two went up against each other it got pretty ugly. Winter, try to avoid ice storms, 20 degree below zero temperatures, and taunting with 45 degree days in the middle of a cold spell. White outs are fair game. Rick, let's not have any excessive whining over not being able to run in the cold or attempting to let your driveway go unshoveled. Howewver, celebrating white outs is acceptable. Alright, let's see a show tonight gentlemen. FIGHT!"

Darkest Hour - Archives CD Review

Here we are again, presented with the inevitable cash-in re-issue release by a label looking to capitalize on a band after they've garnered a significant amount of popularity. Instead of seeking out new talent to cultivate, which is what a smaller label like A-F Records should be focusing on, there’s always the re-package and re-release “out of print” material route to take. Darkest Hour, having created the awesome Undoing Ruin for Victory Records now has a fanbase much larger than what they did when they were releasing EPs in their Washington DC area, and deservedly so, because Undoing Ruin was a monster of a metal disc. That being said, how many current Darkest Hour fans really need to or want to hear the rough version of the band from their first days, nearly 10 years ago?

Archives is a collection of Darkest Hour’s first two EPs (The Prophecy Fulfilled and The Misanthrope) along with an unreleased song and alternate versions of the songs from their EPs. Any uber-fan of Darkest Hour is going to have the original EPs so the alternate versions and unreleased track would be the only reason to pick this disc up, and it’s just not worth it.

Before touching on the new material, however, it should be pointed out that the remastering of the two EPs from their source tapes was at least tackled with a little bit of care. The songs, despite their age, come through to the other side sounding very good. Of course, with these tracks coming from the beginning of the Darkest Hour history, it is apparent that they were still finding their sound, at times trying to take on an epic, death metal feel while at other times focusing more on shredding and their more classic metal elements. The biggest difference between today’s Darkest Hour and yesterday’s is in the vocal department. You’ll notice a stronger focus on the deathy, pseudo-scream growls on this re-release. Many times, unfortunately, they feel forced and unnatural, such as on the song “This Curse”, but when you’re still finding your direction, that is to be expected.

Now, to take a look at the alternate versions of “This Side of the Nightmare”, “Reflections of Ruin”, and “This Curse”. First, you’ll note the clarity in comparison to the originals. There is a stronger audible differentiation between the various instruments on “This Side of the Nightmare”, but on the other two the recording quality is merely a slight bit better, still being a little murky. The differences between the versions of the songs is very, very slight with really the only thing being done are a couple of re-worked small passages within the songs. There are no real overhauls to be found, just small tweaks.

The unreleased track, “Faith Like Suicide”, isn’t truly unreleased as it was featured on a vinyl split with Groundzero, but the likelihood of anyone actually owning that is pretty small, so you can sort of think of it as unreleased. Oddly, this track is by far the best thing to be found on this disc. It has a very epic metal feel to it that sounds very mature, despite its age.

Again, in the end when confronted with a cash-in release such as this, it just isn’t worth the money, even if you are a fan. The old stuff is out of print for a reason — it wasn’t necessarily all that good. And the bonus alternate and unreleased tracks that are tossed on aren’t all that great either. Go spin Undoing Ruin a few more times because this would be a disappointment and waste of your money.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Spellfire is Still Alive!

When I was an early teen, into my middle teens, and even (I think) through my first couple of years of my third decade of life, I played the collectible card game Spellfire. You've probably only heard of it if A) you are a massive nerd, B) you are a Dungeons and Dragons nutcase, C) you played Magic: The Gathering, or D) you are a massively massive nerd.

I played Spellfire, which is essentially a Magic knockoff, with my brothers on countless vacations. For some reason it was our game of choice when we were traveling. Randy and I were both, unfortunately, pretty big Dungeons and Dragons nerds. We never got to the point where we sat down and played the pen and paper AD&D games, but we had all of the old gold box AD&D computer games and played D&D knockoff board games like Hero Quest.

For a while I thought that Spellfire would come and go like many other knock offs of popular fads, like pogz or trolls. Somehow it held on and there were expansion set after expansion set released. When we stopped playing I think that the game was on its 11th or 12th expansion. With each expansion being 100 cards and there being 400 cards in the initial run, that gave us about 1300-1500 cards to work with. And boy did we have a lot.

We mostly played with the first series cards and the first 5 or 6 expansions. We had some later run cards, but from the first five sets we had almost all the cards. In total, we must have had a thousand or two cards that we'd play with. It eventually got to the point where making a deck was way too complicated so we modified the rules.

Instead of playing with a regulation deck, we'd play with all of the cards we owned with our game being one perpetual war. We took all of the limiting rules and either jacked them way up or threw them out altogether. It got to be pretty wild and half the time we'd have to make up what certain cards would do at certain times because things would get so nuts, but it was fun as hell.

For the heck of it, I did a search on Google to see what came up for Spellfire and it seems like there is a fanbase for the card game. It's been well over a decade since the game was created so I didn't expect to find much, but quite the opposite was true. Now I know that Magic is still popular, but I figured it to be the only collectible card game that made it through the 90's and still was played. I was wrong.

The first thing I found was the official Spellfire website. It contains rules, news, and other things you'd assume to be there. What is interestingly present is four complete expansion sets that were custom created by users and posted online. You could print them out and use them for games. I don't know how you'd do that, exactly, so that they'd match the rest of the cards, but it's cool that the cards were made nonetheless.

Of course, there's the Wikipedia page for the game. It doesn't really offer up much information, but it did turn me towards a couple of other Spellfire related sites. The first is the Spellfire community page. It appears to be pretty dead, however, with the last relevant post coming earlier this year. I was hoping for throngs of players, but it does look like traditional players of the game are rare.

With the death of the actual card carrying and playing member is the rise of online play. Yes, you heard it right, someone has taken the game of Spellfire and made an online component called Crossfire. I didn't look at it too closely, but it looks like a way to play Spellfire online with other Crossfire users. Interesting.

So... that's probably way more information than you'd ever want to know about a card game I used to play in my youth with my brothers. Now if I could only figure out what triggered my memories on the topic.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Cats Hiding

Pooh and Stitch
That's what my cats do about 95% of the day while I'm at work. Heck, they sleep away probably 90% of the time I'm home as well. It amazes me on a daily basis how utterly lazy cats are. Can you imagine spending the majority of your life just sleeping? The only way I could see that being interesting is if you had some really kick ass dreams. Every now and again, however, I find my cats sleeping in odd areas that aren't my bed or the couch, which is where they usually are.

For example, as I was packing up for a business trip one day, I left my suitcase open on a chair while I did laundry. When I finally came back up to my room, I saw that Stitch had fallen asleep in my suitcase:
Stitch Sleeping
Either it was a really comfortable place to sleep or else my little baby wanted to come travel with me. I wish I could take him with to keep me company while I'm bored in hotel rooms.

Another time, again while I was in the process of taking care of my laundry, I found Pooh in a very intesting place, my underwear drawer!
Pooh Hiding
For whatever reason, he thought it would be fun to burrow underneath my boxers and socks while I went downstairs to get my second load of laundry. I came back up, put my clothes away, closed up my drawers, and went to do some reading... at which point I heard meowing coming from my closet. When I went in, I heard it come from my underwear drawer, so as I opened it I noticed a pair of eyes in the back of the drawer.

What could possibly possess anything to want to sleep amongst my underwear and socks? I know they're clean, but still...

Colombus Day

Talk about a crap holiday. Do banks and post offices and government organizations really have to have the day off to celebrate Colombus Day? And if it is somehow a necessity that those places close down, why the hell can't we have all other businesses (especially accounting firms, like the one I work at) shut down for the day as well?

I call shenanigans. SHENANIGANS!!! This is unfair and I'm pissed. I want to be at home right now. I want to be vegging out watching the Upright Citizens Brigade. I want to microwave some Domino's pizza for lunch and then take a nap after I eat it. I want to sit around in my freakin' boxers and a wife beater. I don't want to be at work.

So in conclusion, screw you Colombus. You suck eggs, dillweed.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Getting Put In My Place

When I travel for work, I often find myself with chunks of time to kill as I wait for taxis, wait for planes, wait on planes, hang out in my hotel room, walk from my hotel to work, etc. In this time that I have to kill, I often take the opportunity to play on my PSP, which I usually don't get to goof around with otherwise. I just have other things that I'd rather be doing when I'm at home than play my PSP, but when I'm traveling it often becomes a #1 priority in my down time.

I am just getting through Syphon Filter: Dark Mirror (I have like one level left) so I thought I'd start up a couple of new games, one of them being Maverick Hunter X, which is basically Mega Man X with updated graphics. I remember playing the Mega Man games when I was a kid and totally kicking tons of robot ass at them, but now, in my old age, I'm getting my ass handed to me by the robots.

Initially I thought maybe I just wasn't used to playing a game that required quick reactions since Syphon Filter and Popolocrois don't exactly require split second reactions, but even after turning the dificulty down and playing through levels a few times, I was forced to turn my PSP off in frustration. I was getting beat up on repeatedly.

So does this mean I'm getting old? Am I soon going to only be able to play RPG and strategy games? I sure hope not because I don't have time for RPGs and strategy games bore me to tears. Hopefully Maverick Hunter X is just one of the harder side scrolling games on the PSP, because if not, I may have to hang my head in shame and admit I'm just not as good of a gamer as I was in my earlier years. Getting old blows, kids.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Candygram for Mongo - The Red Pill CD Review

Cute name. Seriously. I’d rather see bands naming themselves after fun quotes from Mel Brooks’ movies any day instead of calling themselves some combination of dark, angsty words that really make no sense when put together. So the band gets points right off the bat for being named after a quote from Blazing Saddles. Sadly, those are the only points that this band will get throughout the course of this review.

You know Lemmy? That guy that can’t sing from Motorhead? Combine his no-talent ass with an even less talented version of The Ramones who don’t do anything more than ape some basic Circle Jerks riffs, throw them against the wall alongside some laughable punk-ized Beach Boys and Red Hot Chili Peppers moments and you’d have Candygram for Mongo shooting out your stereo speakers. It’s like this band decided to listen to all of their favorite CDs, take the lamest parts of each one, slap them together, play it half-assed, record it, run it through Garageband on their home iMac, and sell copies of it at the local Legion on Friday nights.

There is no denying that this band is basically emulating their influences and trying their damndest to make a good tune, but there isn’t anything even close to maturity to be found in these simple, forgettable, and lazy songs. Yes, surely the band put a lot of time into creating this CD, and it is no doubt their baby, but when it comes to listeners spending their hard earned money… it’s just not worth it.

Save your money to buy a couple of $5 tickets to the local punk show for you and your lip ring sporting girlfriend. You’ll be glad you did.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


So I saw the epitome of gluttony while at caribou. There was a guy so fat that he had his shirt tucked in and the way his belly hung over his pants it looked like he had stomach boobs because his belly button depression was at the bottom of his overhang. And it jiggled like a couple of sacks of pudding were in his shirt.

You always see the weirdest people at the airport, don't you? I know I do. I often wonder if anyone actually imagines I'm a technology specialist for an international company by looking at me, mostly because I don't dress in my dress work clothes while I fly.

When I fly I wear baggy ass jeans, a t-shirt, and usually sandals. For entertainment I people watch, email on my blackberry, play my PSP, and read the oddest assortment of crap, usually boring books and graphic novels. Doesn't sound like your usual business class person, does it? So when I people watch I like to imagine every scrubby guy or gal is well off and every business person is a poseur wishing they were as well off as their clothes made them look.


Well, I'm off to Chicago in a little bit for work. I'll be there the rest of the week. I'm hoping it's nice out while I'm there so that I can spend some time in Millennium Park. If not, I'll probably just end up sticking in my hotel room working and watching DVDs. Trying really hard to finish off the fourth season of X-Files. Seems like I've been working on it forever, but then again I took a break to watch the second season of The Office and the first season of Boston Legal. Watching two complete series in the middle of the one you're working on can make it seem like you've been working on it forever.

I think I'm finally starting to get used to flying, but I obviously don't like it any better than I used to. Really, what gets to me now is being away from home and living out of my suitcase. I hate packing, unpacking, repacking, and all that jazz. It's like getting punched in the face over and over again. Eventually you get used to the pain and then you simply get annoyed by having a bloody nose all the time.

I hope Stitch will be ok when I'm gone. His ear has retained a little blood in it and is still drooping, but is hasn't swelled back up. He's been taking his meds pretty good, but today and yesterday he was not wanting to eat his pill wrapped in cheese. Maybe Jared will find a clever way to get him to take his drugs while I'm gone. He also doesn't like the ear goop that I have to give him. I actually have to sit on him and hold his head to do it. Let's keep our fingers crossed he doesn't give Jared that much trouble.

Anyways. Me. Travel. The rest of the week. The end.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

SJU Homecoming 2006

Homecoming... the yearly reminder that I'm yet another year further away from college. Hard to imagine sometimes that I've been out for nearly 3 years. Regardless of the melancholic feelings it routinely induces, it's still good to go back, if for no other reason than to see what has changed since I've left.

There've been a few changes to St. John's and St. Ben's that are new since the last time I'd been on either campus, which was probably quite a few months ago. There are some new buildings going up on both campuses, living residences at SJU and a new bus stop structure (I believe) at CSB.

Anyways, the homecoming game... It really brought to light how old I am, developmentally and age-wise, in comparison to the kids who are currently attending SJU. Sitting in the student section with Jared, his sister, and Kristi it was amazing to listen to the conversations that were going on around us, as well as getting solid eye fulls of people watching.

I don't know if it was this was when I was in school, but it seems like the majority of the students we were sitting around were so vapid, vain, high maintinence, and shallow that it was almost painful to listen to them talk. Every 2 minutes girls had to take pictures of the people they were with doing hugs or something, not to mention doing it over and over again and then looking at how they looked and if it wasn't perfect, they'd have to do it again. They need to look good on Facebook, you know.

Which brings up another interesting change since I've been in college. It seems like almost every conversation had mention of Facebook, or even revolved around the social networking website. Students would talk about putting pictures on Facebook, what someone said on someone else's Facebook, what was meant by a certain update to someone's Facebook profile, how they needed to go home and join a new Facebook group, or how they hadn't spent enough time browsing their friends' Facebook profiles. Come on, is it that hard to actually get together with friends and talk with them? I don't even want to think about how much time kids in college nowadays are spending behind computer screens tweaking Facebook profiles.

When I tuned everyone out, however, it was pretty easy to enjoy the perfect day that mother nature graced us with. The football game was the usual--a Johnnie win. Jared got some good pictures of the game and the beach, which I stole and put below. I'd take pictures myself as well, but I can't find my damn battery charger...

Two More Movies

Here are a couple more movies to add to the Movie Thread.

Jackass Number Two (8.5/10): How can you not laugh your ass off at 90 minutes of guys doing ridiculous crap, beating the hell out of each other, and all in all just getting hurt in hilarious ways? I know I couldn't stop myself from constantly laughing... and laughing... and cringing... and then laughing some more. If this movie were graded simply on laughs per minute, it would be an 11 out of 10.

Steamboy (6/10): I had some really high hopes for this movie, but it was weighed down by an overly heavy-handed theme that was beaten into your head repeatedly. Yes, I get it, technology should be used to help mankind, not used for wars and conquest. The animation was phenomenal, however. There are some great battle scenes and lots of nice steampunk imagery.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Vets are as Bad as Doctors

About a week ago, well, a little over a week ago, my roommate noticed something was weird about my cat's ear. After examining Stitch, we found that he had either an abscess or hematoma growing on the outside of it. I didn't think too much of it because these things will tend to heal themselves up if they don't get too big. I'm pretty sure that from as much as my two cats fight, they've given each other small hematomas here and there, but they heal up fine.

This one was different. It kept growing. I still felt that it would eventually heal itself, especially since it didn't appear to cause Stitch any pain. It was more of an annoyance for him walking around with this gigantic blood pustule on his ear. Eventually, however, it got so big that it was pretty much closing his ear shut completely and was pulling his ear down it was so big.

This left me with three choices--take him to the vet, let it keep growing, or do some surgery on it myself. Each had its upsides and downsides. I thought about it for a day while I was at work, not knowing exactly what would be the best.

If I performed the surgery on his ear myself I would get it taken care of and it wouldn't cost me anything, but I'd have a cat who would be significantly pissed off at me, I'd potentially get bit and scratched apart, and we might have a cat flinging blood all over the place after I openned up his ear.

If I let the hematoma take care of itself, there was again the added benefit of not spending any money for vet fees. I would also not get bit or scratched. However, Stitch would be pretty uncomfortable and his ear might heal up all funky weird, hurting his ability to hear for the rest of his life. That wasn't very appealing.

The last option was the vet. I'd get everything taken care of by a professional. Stitch wouldn't hate me. He would heal up better than if I did it. There wouldn't be blood all over the house. But I'd have to shell out a nice chunk of change for what is a pretty simple procedure.

I went with the vet. My pocket book took a $154 hit, but Stitch seems happier. His ear is still healing and has some blood still in the gigantic skin pocket that had formed, but he's getting along ok. We have to give him steroids twice a day in a piece of cheese to help him heal up, as well as put some cream in his ears since they found he had an ear infection while they were working on him. He doesn't mind the steroids, but the cream isn't so much fun.

The first couple of times he didn't seem to care that I was squirting a bunch of goo in his ear and rubbing it around, but it has gotten to the point where I now need to sit on Stitch and hold his head down while I apply the goop into each ear. He's really getting sick of it, but it should hopefully be helping him heal.

So, in the end, it was good to get Stitch taken care of so he could get better, but I made the decision that next time I'll brave the claws, teeth, and cat fury to take care of the hematoma myself, especially since the vet said once a cat gets one, the likelihood of him getting another at some time would be increased, especially if he fought. Great. I'm preparing myself for the future bloodbath...

Flatulence Bear

I think I very well may have stumbled across the absolute bestest teddy bear ever invented, ever, in the history of teddy bear invention. It's a teddy bear that, when you press a button on a remote control, makes farting noises. How is that not the frickin' coolest thing in this universe? Or any universe for that matter? The awesomeness embodied in this bear supercedes the boundaries of the cosmos.

And right now, at this link, you can buy it for less than the price of a stuffed crust pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut... which, incidentally, is also so awesome that its tastiness supercedes any taste boundaries artificially imposed upon it by the vast cosmos.

This teddy bear does raise some highly philisophical questions, however. For example, if you click the fart button and the bear is in a room where no one can hear it, does it still make a fart noise? And does the bear have a soul (stemming from the postulate "I fart, therefore I am")? Where do we draw the line when it comes to creating beings that possess A.F. (Artificial Flatulence)? Today it's a teddy bear, but tomorrow it might be a Barbie. Can we handle that?

Regardless, someone created a remote controlled farting teddy bear, and that is undeniably awesome.