Thursday, November 30, 2006

My First Ever Shooting

In comparison to New York, Chicago, Detroit, and many of the other big metro environments in the US, Minneapolis is not really known for having a ton of violent crime. Statistically in the Minneapolis metro area it has been on the rise, but we're far from the levels of many other cities in my mind.

Which leads me in to last night. I met up with some of the members of my work team that were in from out of town last night to have dinner at Fire Lake Restaurant. My manager and myself had drinks for a while and were later met by the partner that was leading our project for dinner. We ate and were later joined by another member of our team for post-meal drinks. It was all very fun and relaxing.

On our way out as I was headed home and everyone else was headed to their hotel rooms, we stepped outside of the restaurant only to see a group of squad cars surrounding two buses across the road from us. Two more police cars zoomed in while we were standing there while one that was there took off at top speed.

We had no clue what was going on and I was cold so I walked back to my car and didn't think anything of it. That is until this morning when one of my team members asked if I had seen the news. The ruckus that we watched the night before was the aftermath of a shooting that left one person in critical condition. Crazy, huh?

So on second thought, maybe violent crime in Minneapolis is a little more pervasive than originally thought. *Shrug* I still would rather be here than in some other big city.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Remember When Toys Were Cheap

It's getting close to being Christmas time. Heck, it's less than a month's time away. And with Christmas comes Christmas shopping. I usually like to have all of my Xmas shopping done before Thanksgiving hits. If I don't have everyone's gifts bought and wrapped up by the time I'm eating turkey and passing out while watching football I get a little antsy.

I have a good chunk of my shopping done this year, but not all of it. Since I don't like battling the pre-Christmas rush crowds at the malls and such when I'm just window shopping a lot of the time, I've switched over to browsing and other online sites to look for things that might make good gifts.

Today I was looking at some of the Lego kits that they had on Amazon when I ran across this $160 Lego Star Wars Star Destroyer kit monstrosity. Who in their right mind is going to spend $160 on a gigantic Lego toy for their kid? I remember getting big ass buckets of Legos when I was young and they were like $20 for a couple billion of them. Sure, sometimes we might have got Megablocks instead of Legos, but they were basically the same thing.

Nowadays toys are ridiculously expensive. I can't imagine having a kid clamoring for stupid expensive toys for the month or two before Christmas. I'd probably go insane (and broke)! When did we need to spoil kids so badly? I was fine playing with wooden guns out on the farm that we made out of pieces of 2x4's in the farm's shop. Kids need more imagination and less instant gratification.

HR = Incompetence

Last month was our open enrollment month for benefits at work. I had no real changes to make to my benefits except for one--I was going to enroll in our legal services benefit for next year. I've been thinking of buying a house and real estate legal services are covered in our company's legal services benefit. For only about $180 on the year, I'll have access to all the legal services I need, which is way cheaper than if I went out and had to find a lawyer to work with for setting up a mortgage and preparing housing purchase documents.

Oddly, the sheer amount of time I had to waste to get into the benefit at work was ridiculous. I was first informed by the HR department that the legal benefits were not available to opt into on the benefits interface that we used on our company intranet. I'd have to go through the actual legal services website and sign up. No problem, right?

I ended up searching through the legal benefits website for about an hour going through just about every page that was ever created on it and found no way to sign up for the services. I eventually found a cryptically worded form that sounded like it might be used for signing up, so I filled it out and submitted it. This form, indeed, was used for signing up, but upon submitting it, I was presented with a page that told me they were glad I was trying to sign up for the service, but I needed to do it through my company.

So I called our company's local HR team to get this figured out. I asked for cost, if it was pre- or post-tax, and where it was exactly I needed to sign up. They told me they had no idea and forwarded me on to the national HR team. The national HR team then informed me they did not have the information and I needed to find it out from the legal services site.

At this point, I decided to take a day off from pursuing this because I was about to murder someone in a blind rage. The next day I told the national HR team that I did go through the site of our legal services benefit provider only to be directed back to my employer. I left a message telling the person I was contacting to call me at home as I was out of the office for the day.

So what does she do? She calls my office and leaves a voice mail. At this point, I decided that it must be a prerequisite for working in HR that your IQ must be lower than 80. I called the lady who incompetently couldn't call me at the right number and asked her to get this figured out. She informed me that she wasn't paying attention when directing me in what to do and let me know that the benefit was available on our HR intranet website. And because I had been told the wrong information, she told me she would in turn take time out of her day to show me how to sign up for the benefit. How nice of her, eh? Seriously, she screwed up and shouldn't think twice about helping, but instead she tried to make me feel guilty for wasting her time that she could have probably been better spending playing Spider Solitaire on her computer or chewing gum and seeing how big of a bubble she could blow.

Thankfully, I finally got everything ironed out. Now I just need to wait for my benefits package confirmation to see if everything went through correctly. If not, the entire HR department should expect to catch hell like they've never caught it before.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Black Friday

Almost all of my friends avoid shopping in any capacity on the day after Thanksgiving, and for good reason -- it's a mad house trying to shop anywhere on that fabled Friday of each year. And then there are the people like myself that make each year's black Friday something to look forward to. Just like the last 6 or 7 years, I was up bright and early in line outside of Best Buy waiting to get some of that doorbusting goodness.

Most years there is one big item that someone in my family needs to get for some reason or another on black Friday, with this year being no different. My little brother, Ryan, needed to get a laptop for college so. He may have needed something, but I really didn't. That sure didn't stop me from getting up at 2:15 am and driving to the Rochester Best Buy with my other brother Randy, my mom, and my cousin.

When we arrived at Best Buy around 3:10 am (it's a 45 minute drive from my parents' house to Rochester) there was already hundreds of people standing in line. The night before, luckily, my other brother Ryan (who needed the laptop) came with one of his friends to came out at around 9:00 pm. Even being there 8 hours before the store opened, he was about 75th in line. People were lining up around 1:00 pm on Thursday. Crazy!

So I waited two hours to get in, spending part of the time talking with my brother Ryan and his friend at the front of the line about the people who were driving by the night before to heckle them, claiming they had no life. Think about it, though. The people driving around at 2:00 am heckling people in line to shop must equally need lives if they have nothing else to do. The rest of the time was spend listening to my trusty MP3 player and being thankful that it was above freezing this year, as opposed to last year when it was ridonkulously freezing out.

Since I was there so early, I needed to justify to myself the lack of sleep, the time spent in line, and the drive into Rochester. So... I bought a TV. Right now my place only has one communal television so we sometimes end up wanting to use it at the same time and someone has to go to their room to do whatever they wanted to do. Not any more! I purchased a 32" LCD widescreen HDTV doorbuster special. Oh yeah! Check out its hotness:

It's really pretty. I think it'll make a great TV. I've already spent time watching football on it while one of my roommates played Xbox 360 on the other television. I'm still amazed at how clear the new LCDs are, even when displaying a standard analog cable signal.

Oh, and I also picked up Table Tennis for 360. So far, it's worth every penny of the $18.99 I spent on it. Go grab yourself a copy and come play me on Xbox Live. I'm not that good... yet!

All in all, it was a very successful black Friday shopping experience yet again. If you've never done it, you should try it out next year. Or not. You might not be as deranged as I am. But hey, shoppings fun, isn't it?

More Movie Action!

I caught a couple of movies lately that should be added to the thread.

Waiting (8/10): I know that not many people will enjoy this movie since it is basically a very low budget, potty humor, stupid type of comedy, but Ryan Reynolds is just too hilarious. Combine that with the "penis showing game" and some pretty decently funny dialog and you have the ingredients for a cult classic comedy. Being that I've probably watching this movie 5 or 6 times now and haven't gotten sick of it says something. Watch it for the dumb humor. Watch it for Reynolds. Watch it if you've ever worked at a restaurant. Then you'll really enjoy it.

Casino Royale (9/10): Before seeing this movie, I considered Pierce Brosnan the epitome of James Bond. He was sly, sexy, smart, witty, and able to be violent when he needed to be. Seeing the trailers for Casino Royale had me fearing for the Bond property as I didn't think Daniel Craig could be a good James Bond. He'd been great in every movie I'd seen him in, but I couldn't picture him as Bond. Then I saw Casino Royale. I now wholeheartedly endorse his portrayal of Bond. Hearkening back to the Sean Connery days of Bond, we see Craig portraying a Bond that is ruthless, brutal, and even a little sloppy. Heck, he even shows some emotional attachment (which plays a definite role in the plot). To top off Craig's performance, the story was involving with only a little bit of a lull in the latter third of the movie. That and there were some great action set pieces. Do yourself a favor and toss out your preconceptions about Bond and just go see this.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Turkey Day

Go eat too much and pass out from a food overdose while watching football. That's my plan!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Radio Rebellion Tour 2006

Does it strike anyone else as horribly ironic that for a tour labeled the Radio Rebellion Tour, which would seem to imply a showcase of bands that are "underground", would have some pretty high profile sponsors in Nike, Hot Topic, and Hurley (among many others)? I know being confronted by the Nike logo throughout the venue was a little bit weird. Regardless of this fact and the lame name of the tour, the crowd was actually presented with a very solid package… well, except for the opener.

Bless the Fall started off the show in quite the underwhelming fashion. There was not a damn thing unique or redeeming about this band. They’re the epitome of fashionable mallcore metalcore garbage. There are five guys, all in girl pants and trendy band shirts, sporting their pasty white looks and 120 lbs of size to the crowd while squirting out boring, unoriginal breakdowns interspersed with lame melodic vocals and clichéd back up screams. Oh, and don't forget they use a keyboard for like two songs and try to pull off a couple of interesting riffs but fail miserably in sounding talented at all. Is it wrong for me to point out that I feel sad for this band?

What makes Bless the Fall even more sad looking is being followed by the metalcore juggernaut of Misery Signals. Truth be told, the thick, meaty, wall of sound found on Mirrors didn’t translate to the live environment perfectly, but damn if they still sound crushing. Playing a healthy combination of fan favorites from Of Malice and the Magnum Heart and the new album, the crowd wasn’t given too much time to rest, but there were a few times where the band wandered into the more introspective portions of their songs, which was good to see. Other bands would be tempted to cut out anything lacking intensity in order to keep the crowd churning, but Misery Signals played to their full range.

In breaking from the metalcore vibe the show had going, Fear Before the March of Flames hit the stage breaking right into some of their new material. I will say this for the band, even though I am not their biggest fan, I found their set to be quite good. In fact, in comparison to the last time I saw them, which was about two years ago, the band has come a long, long way. Instead of thrashing away on stage just making noise, they have managed to pull together actual songs and play them live to great effect. You have to give a band credit when they come around and improve as much as FBTMOF has.

With the three opening bands out of the way, you could feel the audience salivating for Between the Buried and Me, and for good reason, as you don’t often have a band of their caliber coming through town. Once the lights dimmed within the venue and the band members took their places, there was a small pause and then 45 minutes of sheer amazing-ness ensued. Seriously, this band is phenomenal live. The precision with which they play their instruments is something to behold, both visually and audibly. BTBAM know how to play. There is no doubt about it. Especially memorable were their performances of “Selkies” and “Backwards Marathon”, both including amazing guitar solos. The only slight setback experienced during the set was their cover of Queen’s “Bicycle Race”. Now I’m using setback in the sense that it only broke the flow of the set, but their performance of the song was still ridiculously good. Kids, this is a band to see if you ever get the chance.

Closing the show was Norma Jean. As much as I would have wanted to see another hour of BTBAM, Norma Jean put on a relatively good show. The good majority of their set was spent playing new material off of Redeemer, but they took the time to throw in a couple of songs off of the unbelievably underrated O God, the Aftermath and ended the show with “Memphis Will Go Down in Flames” off of Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child. In deference to other bands in this genre, the boys in Norma Jean didn’t come out in scene clothes but instead performed in what I like to term “Dirty Woodsmen” gear. Wearing old work clothes, mostly jeans and flannel, while having fake dirt and refuse on them, the band looked just like they sound — rough, abrasive, and violent.

With that said, I did have some problems with Norma Jean’s set. The biggest was the second drum kit and drummer that they had with them. I was wholeheartedly expecting some rad dual drumming techniques, but instead the second drum kit and drummer were there mostly for show. The auxiliary drum kit's cymbals weren't even mic-ed up and the mixing had the secondary drumming so low in the mix you couldn’t even hear them. It was all for show. The other problem with their set was the simple fact that, much like their albums, there is very little differentiation between any of their songs. Sure, each song was loud and aggressive, but by the end of the set it felt like the same 5 riffs had been repeated a billion times over, just at slightly different tempos.

At the end of the day, this is definitely a show to go to, if for no other reason than to see the intense live experience embodied by Between the Buried and Me. The rest of the bands, except Bless the Fall, were all also wonderful performers and deserve your well earned cash and attention. Get out there and catch this tour while you can!

Click here for pictures from the show.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stupid Rich Kids

Thank you for giving me another reason to hate rich kids. Showing me all of the really expensive, neato, tricked out, totally rad, and totally gratuitous toys that are out there for this holiday season makes me want to find every rich kid I know or knew when I was a tyke and kick each and every one of them square in the face. Then I could steal their toys and laugh at them for crying from a heel to the face. Stupid kids.

Seriously, though, who the hell needs a life sized Batman made completely out of Legos for $27,000? Or how about a genuine seven foot tall Robby Robot? It'll only set you back a cool $49,999.99!

I think for Christmas I'll settle for some new socks, boxers, or just being with my family and friends. As bad ass as the life size Batman would be, I think I can pass this time around.

But if I happen to ever meet a kid that got the life size Lego Batman... he better be prepared for a heel to the face, lots of laughing, and being short one life size Lego Batman.

Monday, November 20, 2006

That's Why I Own a 360

In reading most of the coverage from big media outlets, the Playstation 3 hasn't been talked about in too bad of a light. Most of the focus has been on the violence surrounding getting one, the extreme prices paid on Ebay to own one, and the competition with the Wii. There hasn't been too many articles actually talking about the PS3 but then, in the oddest place of all, the NY Times gives us their coverage of the PS3 and it is very far from flattering.

Everything I read about the PS3 makes it sound like a really rushed, broken, half-assed version of an Xbox 360 with an untested, hard to program for core processing system. One developer has even commented that for all the horsepower that the PS3 has, it just won't be able to do what a 360 can because of the architecture differences.

I'm sure I'm beating a dead horse here, especially since I already own and love my Xbox 360, but the PS3 was horribly underwhelming as it was being hyped and now that it is out, the price doesn't even come close to justifying the shoddy piece of junk that it is. Who'd have thought I'd be cheering for Microsoft at this point?

A Few More Movies

So here's three more movies to add to the review thread.

Over the Hedge (6.5/10): For animated CGI fare, this movie wasn't that bad. The previews made it out to be a little more funny than it actually was, but I'm sure the target audience of kids didn't notice as there was plenty to keep them interested. The story is your run of the mill "evil character redeems himself after the people he tries to screw become his friends" plot, but there are enough clever one liners and colorful animation to keep you from nodding off. The voice work was pretty tame as I was expecting a lot more from the colorful cast (William Shatner, Steve Carell, Eugene Levy). Watch with your girlfriend or kids and you'll be fine.

Monster House (6.5/10): Another animated CGI movie, but this one had a slightly more adult tone to it. The animation also wasn't the standard CGI type, but instead had a definite claymation feel to it, which was refreshing. There were some definitely funny one-liners and some great tension building moments, but what brings this movie down is the ending. I found myself hoping for more creativity towards the end, especially since the house monster was so concerned with only being seen by kids that the tossing out of that convention at the end really turned me off. Otherwise, this was an acceptably done film that was entertaining enough.

Cold Creek Manor (3.5/10): Talk about a slow ass moving movie. I have no problem with slow paced, pot-boiling mysteries, but this movie went absolutely nowhere for the first 80 minutes. The "mystery" about Stephen Dorff's character also isn't that much of a mystery and even the most obtuse viewer will be able to pick out the end ages before it is revealed. There isn't really a good reason for anyone to watch this film as all of the performances are pretty average as well. Well, I suppose if you were having trouble falling asleep this would be a good movie to flip on, but that should be about it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Xmas Gifts

Christmas will be here before you know it and I know that many of you still have tons of Christmas shopping to do (and if you want to get a little something for me, here's my wish list... no pressure). Sometimes it might be hard to find exactly what you want to get for people on your Christmas shopping list and sometimes it is hard to find things cheap to get people. Money is always tight around the holidays. So why not check out

I recently found out about this site from Jared. We were talking about buying Playstations and Xboxes and other geeky hardware when he showed me this site. The gist of it is that the site has one item for sale a day and keeps selling it for their discounted price until quantities run out. When it does, the sale is over for the day. It's cool. Something new and cheap every day.

Then there's woot-offs, which is what the site is doing right now. A woot-off is where they run a deal until all of the stock for that item is sold out, then they put up a new item until it is sold out and so on until the woot-off is over. It's awesome. I find myself refreshing the page all day and doing my best to keep my mouse finger from clicking on the "I Want One" button.

Check it out and prepare to get addicted... and to see your credit card bill increase!

So Who Didn't See This Coming?

Today is the day that the Playstation 3 was unleashed to the masses. Getting one, however, is pretty much an impossibility right now unless you want to pay upwards of $3,000 or more on Ebay for one. Crazy, huh?

What's even more crazy is all of the violence that has surrounded the launch of the Playstation 3. From various articles found on the internet (like this one from there have been robberies, riots, fights, and even a shooting as people line up to get one of the few Playstation 3's that are available at most retailers. Most of the larger department and electronic stores (ie: Best Buy, Target, Circuit City, etc.) were only going to be stocking between 4 and 40 at each store. Most of the time it was in the 8-15 range.

Because of the limited number and the unlimited demand, I could see how that 16th or 17th person in line might get a little testy knowing they're right on the cusp of getting a Playstation 3 and, probably, access to a couple of grand pure profit in their pockets within a week or two once the item gets sold on Ebay.

I thought about camping out at the Target next to our house, but then didn't really want to (that and my roommates didn't want to either). It probably would have been worth it, however, to stand outside in the cold for 8-10 hours to make a couple grand. That's a pretty nice profit for a day's worth of work doing nothing but sitting in line reading a book, sleeping, or listening to an audiobook.

This all reminds me of when the Xbox 360 came out last year and how everyone was lined up for them. I wanted one so badly at the time and also figured that the claimed shortages were overhyped. So when I showed up at Target a few minutes after they opened looking for a 360, they told me that there was a line outside that morning and they were all gone within minutes. Eventually I got one from a friend who didn't want it any more and sold it to me with his PSP, but it really sucked not being able to get it when I wanted it.

I can only imagine all of the poor Sony fanboys that won't be getting their prized PS3 on launch day. I don't know, but after reading all of the "blah" and negative reviews about the games for the PS3, I'm not too sure it's worth all the money, waiting, or hype. It's like a way more expensive version of the 360 with a Blu-Ray player and wi-fi (if you get the $600 version, that is).

If you ask me, the Playstation 3 is probably going to do ok in the long run, but I think the Xbox 360 is poised to take the 6th gen video game crown. Mark my words, Xbox will be king by this time next year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Holy Freakin' Lord

Anyone who pays attention to politics, especially during this last election, will have noticed the barrier that we progressive Minnesotans have broken. This last election we elected Keith Ellison to Congress. Why does this break some barrier? Well, because he is the first Muslim to be elected to Congress.

I really applaud him for making it and I adhere to a lot of his ideals. If I wasn't too busy wasting my votes on independent candidates, he would have received my vote. But now, instead of receiving any type of positive media coverage or being asked normal, political questions, CNN Headline News is asking him to explain to the rest of the United States that he isn't somehow "working for the enemy". Ridiculous. I like how Ellison handled the situation, but he shouldn't have to be subjected to crap like this.

Glenn Beck, the man interviewing Ellison, even goes down the road of insinuating that the large Muslim and Somali population in Minnesota might be "the enemy" as well. I cringed watching the video at the link. When will people in this country stop being so damn closed minded? Thank God, or Allah if that's what you believe or Buddha or whatever (does it really matter in politics?), that Minnesotans at least were progressive enough to look beyond the religious affiliation of a political candidate and vote on political leanings. At least that's the reason I hope the majority of us voted for him.

Not all politicians are terrible, filthy bastards. Just people like Glenn Beck. Here's to hoping you serve us well Mr. Keith Ellison.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Go Get Fat

It has been a fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) timing that I recently came across two wonderful buy one, get one free coupons for two places that I most definitely love to go.

First, if you want your ice cream fix, click this link to get yourself a buy one, get one free coupon you can use at Cold Stone Creamery. Usually when I go there I just buy one of their freakin' huge buckets of ice cream goodness, but with the use of this coupon it's definitely a nice, reasonably priced way to take someone out on a date or to just get twice as much ice cream for your money.

The second coupon is for my coffee shop of choice, Caribou Coffee. Click here for the buy one, get one free coupon. This one you need to get using quick, however, as it expires on the 22nd. I know I'll probably use it daily since there's a Caribou in my building. What I do is order one of their cold drinks and one of their warm drinks. I stash the cold drink in the fridge for later and drink the warm one right away. If you want to get the Rick combo, order a large campfire mocha and a large chocolate coffee cooler. So yummy... and so many calories... but so much caffeine too!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Black Friday Shopping

Every year for the past, I don't know, probably 8 or 9 years I have run the gauntlet at Best Buy on the Friday after Thanksgiving to secure myself the hottest deals of the year. I'm sure this year will be no different than the last, but after looking over the ads of some other stores over on Black Friday Ads, I find myself wanting to shop at other places instead of my usual standby of Best Buy.

Take a look at Best Buy's ad and you'll see a ton of good deals, yes, but none that really interest me. There's obviously some great deals, like the 50" HDTV for $700, some of the computer systems, and whatnot, but I only find myself interested in the following items:
  • Table Tennis for Xbox 360 for $19
  • The Outfit for Xbox 360 for $10
  • 7" Digital Photo Frame for $80
  • 250 GB External Hard Drive for $70
  • Some of the $5 DVDs
  • Prison Break Season 1 for $20
So as it stands right now, I'm not exactly looking forward to getting up at like midnight (or just not going to bed) to drive to Rochester (which is 45 minutes from my parents' house) to stand in the freezing cold to maybe not even get those few things. I'm sure I'll go as I think my brother is planning on getting a laptop before he heads off to college and my other brother always finds things he wants, but for me there's no "holy crap, that's an awesome deal and I need it" item or items jumping out at me.

I actually wish there was a Circuit City in Rochester because after looking at their ad, I find myself wanting more stuff in their ad, like the following:
  • Some of their $3 DVDs
  • Infected and Ape Escape for PSP for $10 each
  • Quake 4, Gun, and Full Auto for Xbox 360 for $17 each
  • Some of the 2 for $8 DVDs
  • House Season 1 for $13
  • Boondocks Season 1 for $19
  • 250 GB External Hard Drive for $40 (way better price than Best Buy)
  • Digital Projector, 92" screen, and subwoofer for $450 (I probably wouldn't actually buy this, but it's pretty cool nonetheless)
I'm almost tempted to drive up to the Twin Cities from my parents' place Thursday night and go to a Circuit City... but I probably won't. Would be nice to have those deals available at Best Buy, though.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's Odd What You Find

This weekend I was taking some time to clean up in my room. This wasn't just the normal vacuum and dust, take out the trash, toss the odds and ends clutter in the closet type of cleaning. No, I actually didn't do any productive cleaning, but instead decided to go through some of my drawers, cabinets, and other storage units.

As I was rifling through junk I'd tossed away ages ago, I found a ton of crap that was ripe for the tossing. It was amazing some of the crap that I decided was worth keeping whenever I put it where I did. At times my inner pack rat comes out and I get the urge to save things that no sane being would ever imagine holding on to. That or I thought, in some crazy state of mind, that whatever I hid away I would eventually use for something later on... which I obviously didn't since it's still hanging around unused and taking up space.

While I was cleaning out my computer's cabinet, I ran across something interesting--a small wad of cash. Now it wasn't very much money. In fact, it was quite the small sum. Seven dollars to be exact, coming in the form of a fiver and two ones. Wracking my brain, I tried to come up with a reason as to why I'd tuck away a few scant dollars into my computer cabinet. That it dawned on me, it was a gift from back in the day. A gift that has a somewhat interesting back story.

So you know how guys are expected to do really nice and sweet things on Valentine's Day? They're supposed to buy expensive crap for their girlfriends, take them out to nice places, and treat them like goddesses. I've never had a problem with that mentality as I like to do nice stuff for girls on Valentine's Day, but along those lines I also would expect a little something on that day as well, even if it is only something little and cute, as long as it's heartfelt.

As you probably guessed, the seven dollars was a Valentine's Day gift that I got from a girl I was dating at the time. It was mailed to me in a card with a ripped off portion of notebook paper with something like "get something fun on me" written on it. Now in defense of the girl who sent this, we weren't able to get together on Valentine's Day as we were in different cities at the time, but with that being known, imagine for one second what would happen if a guy had sent that as his Valentine's Day gift.

I could totally see the girl opening the card, seeing the rumpled up odd amount of money, the scribbled note, and start fuming instantaneously. What girl would ever let a guy get away with this? I'll tell you--none. But since I was a guy, somehow I'm guessing the girl thought it would be ok because guys don't like Valentine's Day or something. I don't really know, but I remember getting it and being simultaneously disappointed, furious, and overcome with laughter.

So with that little story told, what's the worst or oddest gift you've ever received? Bonus points if you got it on Valentine's Day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Couple Good Graphic Novels

Originally I had plans for this Friday night and Saturday daytime, but because of a blizzard that decided to ravage its way through Rochester on Friday, my plans (which were in Rochester) kind of fell by the wayside. With some free time opening up, I took the opportunity to open up a couple of graphic novels and knock them off of my "to read" shelf (which is getting to be larger and larger every month). Both of the books I read were very enjoyable and come with my ringing endorsement for you to spend your money on.

The first graphic novel I plowed through comes from the small-ish publisher, NBM Publishing, and goes by the title War Fix. I ordered this in my previews order a couple of months ago based solely on the premise--the story of an embedded journalist that comes to hate and love war simultaneously. He's a war junkie, but he doesn't want to participate. Throughout the book, you get the feeling of war voyeurism.

The tone is very contemplative and somewhat simplistic, yet darkly attractive. As we see the main character go from living a life as a normal journalist to becoming a journalist focused on war to becoming a journalist right in the middle of the Iraq war to a journalist who gives up everything to be surrounded by war. The transformation is accompanied by many anecdotal scenes of what war is like in today's modern Iraq. The book kept me very interested throughout and at the end of it all, it didn't feel heavy handed or trite like so many war books seem to be nowadays.

The second graphic novel I got to was one that I picked up a while back, actually, and let linger on my shelf, mostly because I find I have to be in a very particular mood to really enjoy a Howard Chaykin story. Mighty Love tells the tale of two superheroes who happen to run into each other when working the same case and slowly fall for each other. The rub, however, is that their alternate personas hate each other in real life and are working against each other at every turn.

Truth be told, there really isn't anything groundbreaking or awe-inspiring about this offering, but it's just interesting enough to keep you turning from page to page and then before you know it, boom, you're done. Chaykin's artistic style may not be something everyone can appreciate, but I find most of his work to be of an interesting, if somewhat simple, style--thick lines, slightly exaggerated characters, and simple coloring. It works, though.

So if you're looking for a couple of decent graphic novels to pick up and read as the temperatures start to drop and snow starts to litter the ground, feel free to give these two a shot.

Friday, November 10, 2006

World Championship Tour 2006 Show Review

There’s nothing like a rock show on a Wednesday night at a new, trendy dance club, right? With one of the main venues for rock shows in Minneapolis still undergoing some reconstruction work, many of the concerts coming through town have been routed to other venues in the area. This show, which was originally scheduled to run at The Quest Club was sent to The Myth, which is in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities. It’s a dance club by trade, but will host shows as well. With that in mind, the crowd was treated to a show with production values light years ahead of what you’d find in most rock venues in the area.

The show started late, no doubt because the tour didn’t have to accommodate the From First to Last set, which is good because I’d much rather listen to the tunes that were played while the road crew set things up than suffer through a half hour or more of FFTL attempting to perform. After the prolonged wait, Chiodos hit the stage, greeted by cheering from most of the crowd. Much like the last time I saw them, Chiodos showed they have a very strong Minnesotan following.

One of the main downfalls of the venue being a dance club in nature is that the sound system is geared towards thumping out techno and trance music, not metal. As such, while the levels were getting adjusted throughout Chiodos’ set, the majority of the middle tones were somewhat mute in comparison to the deep, muddled bass and the highs of the keyboards. A few songs in, the sound levels adjusted nicely, just in time for the band to break into “Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek” and follow it up with “The Words ‘Best Friend’ Become Redefined”. The latter of those two songs is always a highlight of any Chiodos’ performance, with its razor sharp opening and the progressive song structure throughout the remainder of the song. Closing the set, the band played the crowd favorite “There’s No Penguins in Alaska”. They put on a solid performance, as they always do when they come through town, and the crowd ate it up.

Playing the middle slot for the night was Every Time I Die. Quite unexpectedly, they had what was easily the best sounding and tightest set of the night. The nature of their style of metalcore doesn’t usually lend itself to tight playing, but every song was spot on and sounded phenomenal. Playing a solid mix of tunes from both Hot Damn! and Gutter Phenomenon their set was a good combination of aggression and fun. Their somewhat southern tinted form of spastic metalcore got the kids to both circle pit like a bunch of rabid monkeys, as well as hardcore dance to the groovier moments.

During their set, ETID tried to resurrect the outdated and quasi-cool (at best during its prime) Arsenio Hall dog pound hoot. Seeing the pit stand staring at the stage doing the dog pound hoot was a laugh and a half. Isn’t it amazing how a crowd is so utterly captive to the performers on stage and will do just about anything they are told to? Once the stage banter was complete, the band finished out their set on a strong note, riling up the kids for the headlining, scene kings, Atreyu.

Now I’ve seen Atreyu three times previous to this performance, each time being totally underwhelmed. In their defense, I reasoned to myself, the places I saw them didn’t have ultra high class sound systems like The Myth so maybe this time would be different. It wasn’t. For some reason, Atreyu routinely fails to put on a good sounding show. The guitars are never quite high enough in the mix and everything feels kind of loose. This was the case yet again, and it was only exemplified by the ultra-tight performance put on by ETID moments before.

Atreyu went through their usual set list except with a little bit more focus on material from A Deathgrip on Yesterday. One of the songs they played from Deathgrip was the atrocious “The Theft”. On disc that song is horrible embodied. Performed live it killed any energy the room might have had. I don’t know why they wrote that song in the first place and am doubly confounded that they even contemplated playing it live, let alone actually doing it. Outside of this big sidestep, everything else was typical Atreyu fair, complete with closing songs “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Lip Gloss in Black” which every last scene kiddie ate up.

By the end of the night, the show felt a little short with only three bands being on the tour, and I don’t know if all the kids felt they got their full $25 to $30 worth. I’d recommend this tour for Chiodos and Every Time I Die, but not necessarily for Atreyu. There are some better tours coming around right now that it might be a better bet to save your hard earned cash and go to some other shows. If money isn’t a factor, though, then give this gig a whirl. It’s decent enough.

Click here for photos from the show.

Gears of Freakin' War

Holy chainsawed alien face, Batman, Gears of War is ridiculous. Seriously. If you own an Xbox 360 and don't buy this game, your 360 should be violently removed from your household and given to a gamer that knows what's what.

So I threw down my $60 on Gears of War yesterday and as soon as I got it delivered to my house yesterday (thanks Kristi) Jared and I jumped right in and started a two player campaign. Awesome is really not good enough of a word to describe my initial reaction. The hype is real, everyone, this game is gorgeous and it feels like a big budget blockbuster movie as opposed to a series of levels connected by cut scenes. You smoothly transition from "level" to "level" if you can call them levels.

We only played for about 45 minutes, but the entire time I was totally engaged. I'm sure we'll put in way too many hours on this game over the weekend, but that's fine with me. I have to get my $60 worth one way or another.

I also managed to put in a couple of games of online play and was also quite impressed. It's quite noticeable right from the first match that if you don't work as a team, you're hosed. The design of the game makes it almost impossible to succeed on your own, unless you are a GoW god. The dynamics make it a little deeper than your usual run and gun shooter. I'm sure I'll also play way too many games online, getting pwnd like a noob.

Go get this game, everyone. And if you don't own a 360... buy one!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A 12 Hour Bug?

I rarely get sick. Maybe once a year if that. In the past five years I think I've been sick about 4 times total, with only two of them being real drag down, knockout affairs. Somehow I ended up with a really good immune system that treats me well. Occasionally, I'll get a little sniffle or something, but it's barely noticeable. Last night and this morning, however, I had a little bout with some weird type of short term, but somewhat intense, bug.

During the Atreyu / Every Time I Die / Chiodos show that Jared and I were at last night, I could feel my throat getting a tickle and it was somewhat painful to swallow. In checking my lymph nodes, I found they were pretty swollen. I figured I was in for some type of battle against a sickness that was invading my system.

When we got home, I had a nice big glass of milk and took a couple of cold pills to help with my throat and jumped into bed. As I was trying to fall asleep I found myself shivering and feeling extremely cold. So much so that I turned my heated mattress pad up as high as it would go, put on some flannel pants and a t-shirt, and covered up in a huge comforter after I wrapped myself in another blanket. Still, I was shivering and freezing. Eventually I fell asleep, but no doubt in a popsicle state.

Upon waking up this morning my head hurt, my upper body felt tight, and my sinuses were blocked up. As I moved through my morning routine in a zombie like state I conceded that I would be in for a terribly long day of feeling like ass and not wanting to continue existing. The bus ride in was no fun. Walking in the cold helped wake me up. Slogging down my morning coffee helped me wake up a bit. I wasn't feeling any better, though.

And then, magically, I was. Around 11 this morning I found myself feeling ok. My sinuses cleared. My throat didn't hurt. My headache was gone. I was cured. And I've felt great since... well except for the fact that I have to work, but I feel good! So what the heck hit me and hit me so hard, but only for a short, short time? I'm not quite sure, but I'm glad it worked itself through my system because I wasn't prepared for a prolonged fight. Thank you, immune system. You're the best!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Buh-Bye Rummy

Yep, That's My "Accent"

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland

The Northeast


The South

The West


North Central

What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


comcastI've made mention in the past about the troubles that I had with Time Warner cable and Roadrunner internet services. Well, we no longer have either in St. Louis Park. Instead we have only one option--Comcast. They bought out Time Warner/Roadrunner for the community. Along with the buyout comes terrible service (of both the customer and internet/cable type) and a lack of any alternatives.

We have continued to have troubles with our cable card not working and our internet just losing signal, at which point we have to reset our router for service to pick back up. On top of the continued troubles, our promo package that we had with Time Warner has run out so now Comcast wants to charge us nearly $100 a month for service.

I called them to see what's up and after about a half hour of arguing over how ridiculous it is that I should be paying so much for service that blows harder than Katrina did, the woman I talked to agreed to have an upper level technician come look at our setup since we've had 6 previous visit from technicians that didn't know jack and didn't fix a damn thing. She said she would call that evening with a time that the tech could come visit.

I didn't get a call that night or the next morning so called Comcast again. I got a different person since the woman I talked to was out that day. He said he would get something scheduled and call me back. There was no call that night... or all of Friday... or all of the weekend... or on Monday... so I called them again.

I got another new person because the other two were unavailable. It escalated to a senior service person, finally, and we went through everything AGAIN. By this time I'd wasted a couple of hours on the phone between all of the different calls. We finally got a tech scheduled to come look at our place.

So, Thursday night will be the big night as I informed Comcast that if they don't resolve all of my problems that I was going to cancel my cable and go with satellite. Time Warner never fixed anything and I highly doubt that Comcast will get anything done either so I'm prepping myself for the switchover to DirecTV. Dealing with Comcast's "Comcastic" service is driving me bonkers.

This is why cities should not allow cable companies to have a monopoly over an area. The same thing happened to me in Rochester where Charter was the only option in town and they seriously sucked hard. When there's no competition, what's the point in even trying to help out your customers? They're stuck with you regardless of how crappy you are. And that is terrible.

If a candidate on today's ballot had a strong stance on taking down shitty cable companies, I would vote for him or her in a second. Who cares what their stances on Iraq or social security or immigration or any of that other crap is? I want them to kick Comcast in the taint and give me some better options. Crack down on the monopolies!

Do It

Get out there and do it. If you live in the Minneapolis area, you have until 8 pm in most areas, so that leaves you about 9 and a half hours from right now. Go get 'em!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Championship in the Bag

After the self destructing mess that was the playoffs for the summer league ultimate frisbee team I played on, where we were undefeated going into the playoffs and then lost all the way out the playoffs, the fall league team I played with walked away with the fall 2006 crown! This is the first time I've played with a disc club that's managed to make it to the big show and pull it off. There have been a few times where a team I played with got close, but never was the peak of Mt. Championship climbed until this last weekend.

It was a really great feeling to win, as expected obviously. Who would feel bad about winning a championship? The funny thing about it, though, is that for a while afterwards I kept thinking about the small mistakes I made and the things I could have done better when I should have been enjoying the moment instead, right?

See, our semi-final game was against a team that hasn't lost a game in over two years and we only ended up beating them by one. It was a really tight game towards the end and a few more errors or a couple of amazing plays on either size of the disc could have easily turned the game. Knowing that, it kind of puts the mistakes that were made into a very bright light and I still find myself focusing on them. I shouldn't have made that throw... or I should have made a stronger inside cut in the end zone on the point where we turned it over on the goal line... or I should have played defense a little more on the hip of the guy I was guarding instead of giving him as much space as I did. It's these little things that can make or break a really tight game and I know I wouldn't want to be the person responsible for those mistakes.

But whatever, we won the championship and got a chocolate trophy. Go team! I just need to find a winter indoor team that will take me in.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Salute: Chairs in a Bag

In the house I live in, we don't have much for movable sitting arrangements. In our living room on the main floor we have a couch and two recliners. In my room I have an office chair and a big, gnarly looking, green, puffy chair. In our basement we have a leather couch. The only movable sitting apparatuses that are in the house are the rolling chairs around the dining room table. This causes trouble when more than three people want to watch TV in the basement or we have a larger than six person poker game.

One evening I was playing host to an inordinately large poker game of 10 people. This meant we'd need to have two games going at the beginning and merge into one at the end. Not knowing how I was going to seat everyone, I went to Target in a mild panic. It's there that I remembered the magical items that are chairs in a bag.

I bought four of them, we set up a game in the basement and one upstairs. It worked wonderfully. And when the game was over, the chairs went in their bags and sat in the corner with the poker table and chips, hardly taking up any extra space. We now have more chairs for when people come over to watch football on the big 57" or want to watch a movie. We can also have more than a couple of people lounge around up in my room... although I don't remember there ever being more than like two people in my room for more than 10 minutes. But still.

Chairs in bags, you make life so easy. I salute you.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lazy Business People

While walking from the bus stop to our work buildings the other day, my roommate Karl and I came to a consensus on a modern day annoyance - people who walk to work with roller bags. Now I'm not talking about business people walking around downtown with big ol' suitcase roller bags, usually on their way to or from hotels or on the way to the airport. I'm talking about what is basically a glorified mini laptop bag with a long ass handle thrust out of it and a pair of little wheels on it.

Are people that lazy that they need to roll, at most, 10 pounds? I have a backpack for carrying my laptop and work gear to and from work. It works fine. Most people have briefcases. They work fine too. Others even have messenger bags, which are great as well. But, for the love of all that is holy in this world, why would you need to take a briefcase and drag it behind you? It's probably more work to extend the legs and drag the bag behind you than it would be to sling a briefcase strap over a shoulder or put on a backpack.

So, in conclusion, if you have a mini roller bag that you haul around downtown Minneapolis, don't be surprised if I walk up to you, kick your bag, and call you wuss-face.

Cat Captions

I never thought I'd laugh so hard at a bunch of pictures of cats with random captions. Go to this link to experience more funny cat fun. Yay!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Dead Poetic - Vices CD Review

Four Wall Blackmail put this band on the map. Their invigorating blend of post-hardcore and Thursday worship was perfectly timed. New Medicines catapulted this band to the top of the new wave screamo genre. The maturation of their earlier sound combined with a more refined songwriting ability allowed the band to create an undeniably forceful release. Vices will be the album that paints a picture of a band persevering through adversity and coming out on the other side stronger than ever before. This album, without a doubt, shows the band coming together to create their most mature release to date and, at the same time, shows that they're not concerned with riding along on the wave of the popular genre of the day.

Strip away what you previously knew about this band. This isn’t a screamo release. This isn’t a scene-centric CD. This isn’t a cliché ridden album. This isn’t like their last two efforts. What this album is, is a straight ahead, solid, rock record. I’m sure that to many fans this is the worst news in the world, but to those of you can look beyond a band's looks and past, those of you who simply enjoy good music, this is as solid of a release as you will find in the rock arena.

The biggest change that people will notice is the lack of screaming. This really shouldn’t feel like that big of a change, however, as it is easy to see the natural progression of the band from their inception to the current day in regards to this piece of the band. Their first record was raw and emotional, with a moderately heavy focus on screaming. Their sophomore effort had considerably less screaming as the focus was more on using it to augment passages of songs as opposed to being the focal point, with there even being a couple of songs that were found on New Medicines sans screaming. With the complete removal of screaming, the band is now able to focus more on creating cohesive songs that have more musical depth. Besides, Brandon Rike has one of the more infectious and striking voices in modern rock, so why take away from his vocals by overlaying them with extraneous yelling?

Musically, there is a stronger consistency in the songs on this album. Whereas in the past there was a strong distinction between the band’s softer, intricate moments and their heavier, quicker songs, Vices has a smooth consistency that is rarely broken. Yes, there are definitely slower and quicker songs, but the flow between them feels natural. The only slight misstep the band may have taken is overloading the second half of the disc with slower numbers. Within the first seven songs there is only one down tempo number, “In Coma”, whereas in the second half you have “Paralytic”, “Animals”, and “Copy of a Copy” sporting slower and more mellowed tempos.

One criticism that is sure to crop up is the length of the album at 50 minutes over the 14 tracks laid down. Really, this isn’t much of a criticism as there are no wasted tracks, no boring interludes, and no true filler. Each song differs enough from any other on the album, as well as explores different territory than the band’s past releases, that you don’t get the feeling of being bored.

Once you dig into the release, you’ll see that the band has managed to soar beyond the expectations set upon them. Take, for example, what could be argued as being the best track on the CD — “In Coma”. Taking on a slower pace with guitar tones similar to previous songs “Glass in the Trees” and “The Dream Club Murders”, the band creates an introspective verse structure that leads into an emotional and strong chorus, yet tender enough to not feel like it was forced. All the while Rike croons what is some of his most mature and deep lyrics to date. It’s great to see Rike able to create as open and creative lyrics as he does because when all the vocals are sung, you can’t disguise bad lyrics by simply yelling them incomprehensibly.

The majority of the heavier rocking tracks on this release sees a lot of modern alternative rock influence, most notably a nod to mid-career Blindside, Obsession era Eighteen Visions, and late career Deftones mixed with the late 90's rock appeal of bands like Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam. The band doesn't so much sound like the latter two groups, but the structuring of the songs and the straight forward nature of the tracks hearkens back to such bands, if only they were given a modern facelift.

Notice should also be given to the guest appearance by Chino Moreno of Deftones fame on the track “Paralytic”. This is another strong song and the addition of Chino’s backing vocals helps to give it that extra punch, even though the song is one of the more melodic tracks, sounding very close in feeling to something out of A Perfect Circle's catalog.

When all is said and done, this is Dead Poetic at their best. This album is not going to be what you expect if you go into it with any pre-conceived notions of what to expect. There are still elements of their sound present, but they’ve grown up and walked down their own path instead of following in the footsteps of what’s currently trendy and popular. Classic rock, modern rock, hard rock, melodic rock, whatever you want to subclass it as, the only thing you really need to know is that this is at its core just wonderful rock music. Period.

Movie Time

Check out the ever growing thread of movies being added to!

Nacho Libre (5.5/10): You know, I thought for sure I'd get into this movie considering it's Jack Black and a Napoleon Dynamite styled script combined into one. However, there just weren't enough interesting and funny moments. Yes, there were some truly hilarious moments, but a lot of the movie was pretty middling and kept me at an arm's length from the characters since they were so stereotypical, even with Black injecting his patented humor into some of the scenes. I would only recommend this to die hard Black fans or people looking for a non-offensive comedy for the wee ones to watch.