Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dreary Saturday Tops Off a Bleak Week

That'd be the headline if there were a newspaper article written about me and this previous week's activities. It's just been one of those days where things don't quite go right, then they go even more wonky, then other things get thrown into the mix, then your stress level starts to eat at you, then nothing seems to fall your way, and then to top it all off there's that existential yearning underpinning everything and sucking the meaning out of anything you do.

It's harvest time, and every year around harvest time I long for being on the farm, being around the machinery, watching as the fields provide everything they've grown all summer to the farmers who have cared for them. I don't even care if I'm involved in the harvest process, I just like being around it.

When I lived with my parents, I didn't get to do any of the important tasks like driving the combine or running the grain trucks. Instead I usually ended up chopping stalks (which is a process where we take a gigantic lawn mower thing over the corn fields to shred up all the stalks) or plowing. It was pretty boring and I was completely isolated out in the fields that had already been harvested, but I felt like what I was doing was contributing to something bigger. I was participating in bringing food to the world.

My current job (and every job I've had other than working on the farm) has never brought me the same amount of fulfillment. What I do now is more challenging and I don't mind what I do, I simply don't get that same deep-down, intrinsic happiness from it. I don't see how what I do contributes to anything outside of a small function for the company I work for.

I deal with it, though, and once winter sets in this longing again subsides. It's not all that bad dealing with the longing, but when other things start to weigh in on you, that's when it starts to suck. It was a long, stressful week this week at work. Fighting a cold after getting back from vacation, I had a lot of things I needed to get through at work. It was stressful, but I dealt.

Being sick is never fun, but in the middle of this week, I ended up having a migraine that knocked me the hell out on top of already feeling like ass. And don't even get me started about my lame attempts at trying to exercise. It just doesn't work when you're sick, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself you can do it.

And now, this morning, as I tossed in the towel on the week, chalking it up as a loss, I tried to smile and march on. But then I did my morning errand running at Target... and found they didn't have a few of the items I wanted, one of my credit cards didn't work, and it started to pour out as I was leaving. Wonderful. Some days you just can't win.

So now I'm here sitting at a local Caribou Coffee shop, catching up on some work, and hoping that I'm finally out of the woods because I'm getting sick and tired of crap not going my way.

Seattle Pictures

20070919 - Seattle 132

Finally, after having to deal with Comcast taking a giant dump all over our internet service here at home, I have uploaded all of my pictures from our Seattle vacation. Check out the gallery here. I'll probably be adding some more later when Caleb gets his pictures off of his camera. For now, however, enjoy what I have up.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wisconsin Dells - In Pictures!

Not too many pictures, though, at least from me. I only took a few, but my mom snapped a bunch. It's fun to look at the pictures now and remember the laid back, fun time we had in Wisconsin. I'd kill for that right now since work is doubly busy. We have a lot going on, priorities have shifted, and I'm still catching up from taking two vacations this month. Guess I'll just sit back in my chair, sigh a little, and imagine that work was somehow as fun as vacation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Seattle, Day Five

Our final day in the city of Seattle started off slower than the rest. Being it was the last day, we didn't want to rush anything so we woke up, got some breakfast, packed our junk, and lounged around in the hotel lobby or our room until about noon. At that time we had to check out. After checking out we stowed our bags at the hotel's baggage room and headed off to our first activity.

This activity happened to be the Experience Music Project and Seattle Science Fiction Museum. They are both a part of the same building, which was created to look like a sketch that Jimi Hendrix had drawn at one point in his life. It was a really unique structure.

We spent a significant amount of time at the two museums, with most of my time being spent in the sci-fi half being the geeky nerd that I am. It was really a classy, wonderful museum that treated science fiction seriously. It wasn't just a bunch of old Buck Rogers toys tossed in a display case, but instead was galleries upon galleries of different aspects of sci-fi history, literature, culture, and subjects. It was a shame that they didn't allow photography because I would have filled up my camera with geeky pictures.

The Experience Music Project was interesting, especially the history of the guitar section, but the galleries on Seattle hip-hop and Seattle bands of the early to mid 1900's didn't interest me as much. There was also a significant shortage of grunge information and displays. I had hoped for a little more.

After exhausting ourselves there, we grabbed some food, wandered around the Seattle Center (if you're there, check out the International Fountain as it's pretty cool), and then moseyed to the Seattle Art Museum's sculpture garden along the shore. It was an interestingly set up garden, but there was a shortage of art and what was there wasn't all that interesting to me.

By the time we had finished looking at the gardens, Randy needed to head to the airport to catch his flight home. He headed out with one of his friends, Alan, that had hung out with us while we were visiting. Once he took off, a couple of my friends (Alex and Crystal) came and picked up the three of us that were remaining.

They took us up to a beach in the area and showed us their place, which has a wonderful view of Lake Union. Later, before we also had to head to the airport, we had some Mexican food at a wonderful restaurant in Ballard. I believe it was called The Matador. The entire town or village of Ballard was very interesting and unique. We walked around for a bit and there were a ton of very neat, homey shops that hadn't been eaten up by your standard tourist shops.

Finally, it came time to head home so we hopped on our 1:00 am Seattle time flight (which is 3:00 am Minnesota time) and got back at 6:15 in the morning -- just in time to head in to work for the day. It might not have been the best idea as it took gobs of coffee to keep me going, but it saved me a vacation day to use later on.

All in all, this was a wonderful vacation and I hope this group can get together and travel again next year. It'll just be a matter of figuring out where to go!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Seattle, Day Four

Day four was our second to last day in the city. Since we'd been going going going for the first three, we slowed down a little and took things somewhat slower for the day. We didn't actually leave the hotel until a little before noon. We spent the morning sleeping in, catching up on news, eating breakfast, and taking some time to decide what we wanted to do.

After leaving the hotel, we strolled up Queen Anne Avenue, which led up to Kerry Park. Talk about an uphill walk. It was a long haul and we had some pretty tight, tired thighs and calves by the time we got up to the top. We were greeted with a wonderful view of Seattle and the bay. It was extremely beautiful and we got a few good pictures of the group with Seattle in the background.

We then walked through the Queen Anne neighborhood checking out the ridiculously expensive houses. Seriously, I can't even imagine how much some of the houses there cost. We looked at a couple of the condo for sale brochures and for a 1 bedroom, 1,000 square foot condo, it would run you around $350,000 so imagine what a beautiful, 3,000 square foot house would cost? Insanity.

Once we finished marveling at the houses, we hopped a bus up to the Ballard Locks in the hopes of seeing some salmon coming back home to breed. There weren't as many salmon as we had thought there would be, but as we watched we saw plenty of fish jumping up the Ballard Locks ladder. The ladder is a series of pools of water that the salmon can take upstream to get back to their breeding grounds since the locks were created and cut off any other way for the salmon to return home.

While we were there we checked out the locks, saw a couple of seals, watched a history movie on the locks, and checked out the displays about the history of the locks. It was all pretty interesting, although I'm sure many people would think it was pretty dry.

On our way back to downtown, we stopped by Lake View Cemetery to visit the graves of Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee. Both of the headstones were very tasteful and not overly huge or gaudy. While we were there we also explored some of the areas of the cemetery and checked out some of the more interesting looking and older headstones. It was a beautiful cemetery with a nice overlook of Lake Union.

For the rest of the evening Randy met up with some of his friends while Caleb, Kristi, and I went out to a spectacular Thai restaurant. We all reconvened at the hotel later on in the evening, once again ready to get some good, quality sleep.

And now, today, we have our final day in the city. It's time to pack up, see the few things we may have still wanted to check out, and head back to the airport to fly home and, for Kristi and I, head back to work as soon as we land.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Seattle, Day Three

All right. Day three is done and over. It was another busy one, but we're here not only to relax, but to see as much of the city and what it has to offer as we can. We started off the day once again with the badass breakfast they have here at the Quality Inn.

Once we were satiated, we started our walk for the day. Our first stop was at the REI flagship store. It was a pretty impressive building and had an amazing climbing wall setup. It wasn't so much a climbing wall as it was a climbing DNA-strand looking thing. The landscaping outside of the building was also very pretty.

Moving along we headed down to the piers and grabbed a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Kristi had had it recommended to her (but we can't remember by whom), so that helped us decide which ferry to ride since there's ferries to a lot of places. Riding the ferry was actually pretty interesting... and cold. Being on the water the wind really rips through and made the 60 degree weather feel like a cozy, blowing Minnesota winter day.

On Bainbridge Island, we walked through the touristy area they have set up, full of shops and eateries. We grabbed some ice cream at one of the cutest and quaintest parlors I've seen. It's nestled in a little wooded area at the back of a one-way road, completely out of the way and peaceful. It was also very expensive, but oh so tasty.

We grabbed some food at a local pub that overlooked the harbor. Wanting to get some seafood while we were out here, Kristi and I split a cod dish and Caleb had some Asian shrimp. Again, the restaurant was very quaint and quiet. The whole town seemed that way.

On our way back to the ferry, we walked along a waterfront path to notice two things--there are a crap ton of spiders that have webs in the trees and bushes (big spiders, but not quite the size of some of the larger barn spiders we have at home) and the water is so toxic, you can't eat anything from that bay. All of the sea life in that bay contains paralytic bacteria.

Upon returning to Seattle, we visited some of the shops in Pioneer Square, including Seattle's Mystery Bookshop. It was a pretty neat little bookstore that had a predominant focus on mystery/thriller books and local authors with lots of signed books for sale. It's too bad I'm not a huge mystery/thriller reader or I would have picked up a couple of books.

Once our shopping was finished, we went to the Seattle Underground Tour, which gives you a tour of the old underground portion of Seattle that was present before the Seattle fire in the late 1800's. It was pretty interesting seeing the parts of the city that are now underground, but what was more interesting was learning about the history of the Seattle and Tacoma area. It was well worth going to.

The rest of the evening we spent chilling in local bars and pubs in the Pioneer Square area. We hit up the Underground Bar, which was a pretty great place and really cheap, much to our pleasure. We also hit up an Irish Pub (I forget the name) that was definitely more expensive, but had some live music (a band called Vote for Pedro who played mostly indie rock cover songs) so it was ok in the end.

Having finally exhausted ourselves, we made the long walk back to our hotel (although it felt like Kristi was sprinting and pushing us all to keep up even though she felt she was going at merely a walking pace) and hit the sack. Another day behind us.

This morning we're taking a chance to catch our breath and decide what to do. We still want to go to the Experience Music and Sci-Fi Museum and potentially go see where the salmon are coming back to breed (I guess it's that time of year). There's also the possibility of the Seattle Symphony and just hanging out with some of the people Randy and I know here in Seattle. I do think that today will be a little more laid back than that last couple.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Seattle, Day Two

Well, our first full day in the city was yesterday. We tried to pack in a bunch of wonderful touristy stuff and hit some of the major sights. After stuffing ourselves full at the cafeteria style breakfast at the top notch Quality Inn & Suites we're staying at, we put on the footwear and headed out for a walkabout in the city.

Our first stop was at the Pike's market. You know, the place where they throw the fish? It was interesting enough. Saw some fish and crab tossin' and looked at all the local market shops and realized that everything was way too expensive to buy, so this will most likely be a souvenir-less trip.

While down in the market, we saw a full size pig statue made of, I'm guessing, bronze or some other copper tinted metal. After seeing it there, we saw all kinds of plastic pig sculptures throughout the city. I really don't have any clue why they're around and most of the people I've asked have no clue either. I'll probably have to consult the internets and ask that google guy what the deal is.

After checking out the market and the view over the harbor from the city side, we made our way up to the post office to mail some post cards. Right across the street from the post office is the symphony hall of Seattle (or some musical performance venue, I forget the name). While we are here, the symphony is doing their tribute to sci-fi with narration by none other than George Takei. I would really like to go, but I'm having a hard time convincing the rest of the crew.

Once the post cards were sent on their way, we continued our adventure towards downtown by stopping at the library, which is pretty trippy. The architecture is awesome. As much as the building doesn't seem to be that good of a use of space, everything we read about it inside points out how naturally sustainable the building is. We tried to go to the roof (Randy's idea), hoofing it up the stairs all the way to the roof access only to, obviously, find it locked. While we were up there we went down one floor to the 10th floor (and top floor accessible by the public). It was pretty neat and there's one overlook point where you can look straight down to the basement. It was awesome to look down, but very disorienting as well.

Next up, we met Alex in the Columbia Center, which is the tallest building in Seattle. While we were there, he showed us up to the observation deck, which gave us a perfect view of the city and surrounding areas. It was a little overcast so we couldn't see Mount Rainier or the Microsoft campus. It was still amazing to get to look over the entire city.

We then ventured into Pioneer Square to grab some food at a bar/grill that was built back in the late 1800's. It was a great bar atmosphere and had pretty good food to boot. It filled us up for the long bus ride down to the Museum of Flight.

One of Randy's friends who lives in Seattle met up with us at the Museum and used his membership to get us in. It was really an awesome place to visit. Tons of planes (replicas and full size versions) to see with the two biggest attractions currently being a Concorde jet and a retired Air Force One. Both were quite fascinating, as was the entire museum. I have tons of pictures that I'll get up when I get back.

As the day started coming down, we visited a local mall just to see what Seattle's malls are like... well that and Caleb had forgotten to pack enough clothes for the trip. Anyhow, after clothes shopping, grabbing some food, and relaxing for a bit, we headed back to the hotel and chilled the rest of the evening, making sure to watch some re-runs of American Gladiators on ESPN Classic before nodding off.

Now it is day three. Who knows what's on the agenda for today...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Seattle, Day One

Yesterday was our first day (or half day, I guess) here in Seattle. Our plane got in about 4:30 local time. We took the bus down to our hotel after getting in (thankfully Kristi noticed we were waiting for the right bus, but going in the wrong direction). We're staying in a very hotel-ish area that's north of downtown and about 5 blocks or so from the Space Needle.

After getting in, not knowing what to do, we decided to just go grab some food and figure out our game plan for the rest of vacation. Oh, yeah, we're a rag-tag group of four out here on vacation. Kristi, Caleb, my brother Randy, and myself decided to make the trip. Anyways, we were going to try to eat at a local restaurant (The Bone Fish Grill), but it was pretty spendy so we decided to save a little money and go to the Bucca di Bepo's next door. It was pretty much a carbon copy of the Buccas that they have in Minnesota.

Afterwards, we met up with some friends of mine who moved out here about a year ago. It was great to see them and they also were able to drive us around and show us some of the interesting sights. We saw the bridge troll sculpture, the statue of Vladimir Lenin, went to the shore opposite the city to see the skyline, drove by the two sports stadiums, and ended up in a part of town that felt very much like the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis.

After hanging out at a local bar and catching up, the time lag started to get to some of us. It was only around 10 local time, but after midnight our time, so we headed home to hit the hay and get rested for today.

On tap for today... we don't really know! I think we're going to check out downtown, maybe go to the Museum of Flight, and then figure something fun out to do for the night. Let the first full day begin!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Going Away

Well, I'm off to Seattle for a little 5 day vacation starting today. I'm looking forward to taking in the town and seeing what Seattle has to offer. The weather looks like it'll be ok, mostly in the 60's and overcast with only a slight chance of rain.

The only thing I'm not looking forward to is coming back... I'm taking the red eye home Monday morning, which leaves at 3 am Monday morning and gets me back to Minnesota at 7 am... at which time I'll take the light rail to downtown and stroll into work at 8. I'm sure that I'll need at least two pots of coffee to get through that day, but it'll be worth it to save that vacation day for using later on.

Ok, with that said, I'm off!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good Call, Mr. Reznor

I've been a lifelong fan of Nine Inch Nails. I'm no fanatic like some folks are, but I've enjoyed each of Trent Reznor's released under that moniker. I've also purchased some of his albums as well (The Downward Spiral twice because it got stolen in college). I don't mind buying CDs of artists that I enjoy and actually do like to support them, but recently in light of the ridiculously inflated CD prices that Australian fans must pay for Nine Inch Nails releases, Trent Reznor urged people to steal his music instead of buying it.

I'm all for sticking it to the RIAA as they are an outdated organization full of bad ideas, so I'm completely behind Reznor on this one. The thing is, one artist isn't going to make a difference really. And the way that the idiotic masses in this country buy up millions of copies of the latest 50 Cent and Kayne West and Daughtry and Hinder, no matter how many good artists want to give away their music it's not going to matter when the RIAA keeps force feeding people crap and the people being fed it don't ever look for anything else to listen to.

Part of the reason I like being an editor at Decoy Music is that I'm constantly finding out about new artists doing unique things in music. And we like to push those artists and give them the exposure that they deserve, but can't get because they don't make crappy-ass, cookie-cutter music.

Part of what is really interesting about the smaller bands out there, who actually do deserve our money and support, don't really give a crap if someone downloads their CD. They don't make that much money from CD sales anyhow. Unless an artist sells tens or hundreds of thousands of copies, there isn't much profit going to the artist--it all goes to the label. Smaller bands get all of their money when kids come out to shows or buy t-shirts or other merch.

I kind of like that method of music distribution. Lord knows just about everyone downloads most of the music they listen to. If you don't, you're a liar. Simple as that. The thing is, when you stumble across a band that you really like that you've downloaded, why not throw a few bucks their way by buying a t-shirt from their website or ordering their CD from Amazon or CDbaby or something? Maybe kids today don't understand that bands need to make money one way or another and wouldn't support bands but would only take all they could for free, but I like to believe that some kids would support what they enjoy.

But what do I know? I'm no musician. All I know I like to support bands I like. They deserve my money. Major label poster children don't. End of story.

The Benzene Ring - Breathing Water in a Dream CD Review

To start off, when reading the bio of The Benzene Ring, I stumbled across this little tidbit of “information”:

”The Benzene Ring play big Smashing Pumpkins guitar rock, dreamy Danny Elfman fantasies, prog rock largesse à la Tool and Yes, and rich emotional Sunny Day Real Estate textures.”

Now you have to admit, by proclaiming the above, The Benzene Ring set the bar pretty damn high for themselves. Has there really been a band in all of the existence of music to blend each of those items together? And even if there were such a band, would the music said band created have been done well? I’m thinking the odds are pretty much against it, but that doesn’t mean The Benzene Ring won’t try to be that band, however.

After reading the above, I checked out the song titles on the album. From the looks of the first couple of tracks (“You and Me in the Absence of Predators” and “An Old Man Dies and Finds Himself in Hell”) and their respective lengths (7:22 and 5:59), it was looking like the pretentiousness potential on this album was quite high. Trying to push all of these preconceived notions aside, however, Breathing Water in a Dream was given my full attention… and oddly it was pretty decent for a pretentious indie rock affair.

For the most part this album is primarily an indie rock effort, but there are many other small flourishes that venture into some prog rock and post-rock territory. And to clear things up about the band’s claims to their sound above, you are not going to hear much of anything that sounds similar to The Smashing Pumpkins or Tool. There are some definite Yes and Sunny Day Real Estate moments, though, with most of the Sunny Day Real Estate moments occurring in short bursts. The Benzene Ring have a few moments on the album that fall into the emo realm the aforementioned band was so famous for.

The fuller, longer, flowing compositions on this album are where this band truly shines. The first two tracks are a wonderful one-two opening punch of mature (at times post-rock influenced) instrumentation, progressive songwriting, and artistic expression. The songs may meander just a tad bit too long, but it doesn’t detract from the overall impact of the songs. “Help is on the Way” is another strong track and is also the longest of the album. It feels very similar in tone to later The Mayan Factor songs with a bit of a more upbeat tone, at least for the first half of the song. The track takes a drastic shift in the second half, morphing into a classic rock and Rush inspired piece. The transition was a little abrupt, but still was workable.

What ultimately detracts from this album are the short snippets of songs found throughout the effort that masquerade as full compositions. “Treasure in the Straw” and “Shuffling the Deck” are two tracks that amount to nothing more than noise on each side of the interestingly put together “Magical Road”, which feels like something off of an early Sleepytime Gorilla Museum album. In total, five of the eleven songs on the album fall into this “snippet” category and disrupt much of the flow that the longer compositions create.

Given some more focus, possibly a little better production, and some streamlining, The Benzene Ring will have things flowing perfectly. As it is now, they are a flawed band filled with a ton of potential that needs some guidance and molding in order to reach the next level.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Holy crap, where has the first half of this month gone? I feel like August just got over. Looking back over the last couple of weeks, though, I can see why it has gone by so quickly. There was Labor Day weekend, which I spent traveling to Wisconsin for a friend's wedding. This effectively used up that Sunday and Monday, leaving me with a one day weekend over a three day weekend break. It's not a bad thing, but it kept me from feeling like I actually had a holiday break.

Then I was on vacation with my parents in the Wisconsin Dells, and I don't know about anyone else, but when it comes to vacations, my body doesn't seem to register them when keeping track of time, so essentially that week was a vortex of timelessness. I started vacation on a Friday and the Monday that I got back felt like the next Monday right after the weekend instead of a week and weekend later.

Now this week I'll be heading to Seattle for another quick vacation so I'll register even less of September passing so before I know it, October will be here and I'll just be getting ready to register September as occurring.

It's nice to have vacation time to kick back, though, especially since I haven't had one since January when I went to Jamaica. And I anticipate after Seattle I probably won't have another vacation for a while, although I'm sure I'll have to take some days off here and there lest I lose them or approach my vacation day bank limit.

Oh, and to keep things sort of busy in September, I've been playing in a kickball league and fall league ultimate frisbee has started up. On top of that I'm going to try to get my weekly poker game going again since it got suspended during summer because there was just WAY too much going on. I'm sure I'm not the busiest person out there, but every now and again I feel like it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Twitter - WTF Does Anyone Use It For?

Ok, so just for the heck of it I signed up for a Twitter account. I've also added a box on the left side of this page that has my latest Twitter "posts" or "comments" or what-the-heck-ever you can consider the 140 character or less narrative fragments that you type into it are. I really have no clue why I signed up for it, but it seems like everyone in the online writing world is jumping all over it.

I don't get the appeal. You can't really put anything of substance in Twitter posts. The presentation of Twitter posts is relegated mostly to sections of websites or blogs, such as what I did, or to mobile devices. Maybe it might be useful to keep track of exactly where you are if you're traveling or what you are doing if you, for some odd reason, don't have any other way of keeping track of things.

When I mosied on over to the Twitter page and installed a Twitter plug-in for Firefox so that I could see what the Twitter "community" was doing, I was astounded by the sheer amount of just ridiculous, stupid, nonsensical gibberish that makes up the majority of Twitter posts. You'll have some random string of words, a half-ass sentence fragment, a series of random symbols, some reference to some other Twitter-er, or maybe (just maybe) you'll get an interesting quip.

Really, I have no clue why Twitter even exists or why it has caught on. I'm baffled.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


How do you deal with it? It's a part of our everyday lives, especially when it comes to work. We all have horribly frustrating times at work now and again (some way more than others). If you somehow don't get frustrated while at work, I hate you and you should be tossed into a wood chipper. Well, maybe not, but I'm at least jealous.

Of all the things I hate dealing with at work, frustration is the thing that sets me off the most. Boredom doesn't really get to me. Having to do busy work isn't all that bad (as long as it's not the only thing I do). Being constantly micromanaged I can handle, but don't really like. Being overwhelmed is not all that fun, but it can be managed. Frustration, however, sets me off like no other thing.

Most of the time, when I get overly frustrated one of two things happens--I either give up on what I'm doing because I can't focus or I dive in headfirst, trying 10 times as hard, and bust my ass to beat whatever was frustrating me.

For a portion of this afternoon, I was dealing with the second case. Being totally frustrated, I went headlong into my to-do list wanting to knock a bunch of items off of it. To keep me focused, keep my juices flowing, and not let outside distractions get to me, I cranked up some of the heaviest stuff I had to listen to at work (which happens to be August Burns Red and The Red Chord) and went nuts. Once I got out of my focused phase, I realized that anyone walking past my office could probably hear my headphones I had them turned up so loud in our crypt-quiet work environment.

When I work from my home office, I tend to do the same thing--find some ridiculously heavy, breakdown filled music and turn it up as loud as my stereo will go as I dive into what I'm doing. It seems like angry, loud music is one of the outlets that actually alleviates some of my frustration. It's odd that something so abrasive would counteract such a charged feeling of frustration. Maybe it just takes fire to fight fire because I know that some lame ass Enya crap sure ass hell wouldn't settle me down.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Way Too Many Chances

I don't know why I do it, but I keep giving Audible more chances. They've pissed me off so many times in the past, but I still keep coming back, mainly because I don't have an iPod (so buying audiobooks through iTunes is out) and there aren't any other good resources for legal audiobooks online. I know I can illegally get audiobooks just about anywhere, but I like to actually pay for things I enjoy instead of illegally attaining them.

Why does Audible get another chance? A few reasons actually. The first is that I picked up a 1 GB Sansa m240 on Woot a little while back for $18. My previous mp3 player stopped being recognized by Audible's software after their last upgrade, leaving me out in the cold with no way to listen to the books I purchased. $18 seemed like a low enough price to pay to get at what I've already bought.

This leads me to a side note, however. It only cost me $18 for a 1 gigabyte player, which will hold like 10 audiobooks. Why doesn't Audible simply give out a player for free with a subscription to their service? I know they had promotions in the past that were similar to that, but it was usually "get a free mp3 player or 4 free audiobooks". Most people who already had mp3 players would take the free books, as I did. If the mp3 player was simply a part of the package, it would make so much more sense and Audible would know that users always had a player that could play their software.

The second reason Audible gets another try is the length my bus rides to and from work have grown to. With the 35W bridge gone, my bus route is more traffic packed so it takes me like 35 minutes or sometimes more to get to work and the same to get home. My bus has also gotten way more full, with the bus filled to capacity and having tons of cramped standers jammed in by the time I get downtown. So reading an actual book or playing my PSP is hard to do as cramped as I am. And besides, when I get on going home sometimes I have to stand, so it is simple to just listen to my audiobooks.

The final reason I gave back in is that I was sick of having to split mp3 files and organize them appropriately when I downloaded ripped copies of the audiobooks from Suprnova or Oink. It was just no fun having to do that extra overhead work to listen to books I'd already bought.

So Audible, you get one more shot. Let's hope you don't piss me off again or I may give up on audiobooks altogether.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Continuing Housing Woes

It's pretty apparent that the housing market is far from turning around. In reading some analysis over at The Motley Fool, existing home sales are down over 25% from last year. That's nuts. When you couple that with the fact that there are more and more houses coming onto the market because of foreclosures, the glut of available houses is just amazing. I thought I had a lot of choices when I was looking during the winter. And I also thought I had lots of bargaining power then. In thinking about it, the people that are going to benefit from this housing hurt are first time homeowners (who can actually acquire mortgages) who know how to negotiate.

Thinking back to when I was looking, there were many houses I was looking at and I put in an offer on a few. I was willing, at times, to pay up to 94% of the list price for a house. One house I even came very close to closing on at about 95% of the list, but didn't pull the trigger because I felt I could do better. I did. I ended up getting a house for a little more than 80% of original list, which was great. Sure, my house is losing value every day as the market plummets, but I don't plan on moving and I did get a good deal as it was.

Part of the reason I was so fussy with buying a house is the enormity of the purchase. A home is the single largest purchase an average person can make. You're signing up for hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. That's pretty daunting. Because of this, I took a very cautious, get educated approach to purchasing my home, especially when it came time to decide on a mortgage, especially since there are a lot of choices out there for what type you can take.

What gets me is that some people hardly pay attention to what they're doing when they sign up for a mortgage. It's evident by the sub-prime fallout we're currently experiencing, but it's also evident in how many people Ameriquest had tricked. They are now no more, but the fact remains that tons of people got themselves in a lot of trouble financially through them.

I'm hoping that one of the positives to come out of the housing problems that seemingly everyone is experiencing is that you need to pay attention and be smart when it comes to buying a home. You can't overextend yourself, get a free lunch, or hope you'll be better off in the future because, more than likely, things won't turn out how you expected and then you're screwed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mini Golf Mania, Part Two

Vacation is over and it's back to work. It was bound to happen, but at least I had a great last couple of days in the Wisconsin Dells. The mini golf tournament, as expected, continued on with even more competition... and no more victories for me sadly.

After the first three rounds were played, we ventured out for four more rounds. The first of these four was played on Pirate's Cove's hardest course. A couple of holes killed me and tossed me out of contention for the win. The next round was close and I finished close behind my mom for second place. The third of the four was a disaster for me. I finished very far in last place, more than a dozen strokes off of first place. The final round was another competitive one, but I again fell to Kristi's late blooming mini gold prowess.

You might think that a vacation made up solely of sitting around talking, making camp fires, doing a little shopping, and playing tons of mini golf might be boring, but it was perfect. With my last vacation having come in January, this was a well needed, relaxing break. Now I only have a week and a half until I fly off to Seattle for another vacation. That one, however, will be a little more busy as I try to see and do as much as I can while I'm out there.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Mini Golf Mania

Right now I'm on vacation with my parents in the Wisconsin Dells, a tourist trap town (in a good way) filled with water parks, go-karting, random man-made sights, and (most importantly) mini golf. My family, having never been much for the kitschy haunted houses, "event sights", and water parks, usually takes in plenty of mini golf whenever we come to the Dells. This year is no different.

Once again, my family splurged and we purchased the full 90 holes of golf--that's five 18 hole forays. So far we've been through three courses here at Pirate's Cove. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, our family is a tad bit serious about our mini golfing. Since none of us are any good at real golf, we get competitive with mini golf with the winner of each round getting gloating privileges until the next round. The overall winner for the vacation gets gloat privileges until the next vacation.

With three rounds done, I've played decently well. The first round I shot 2 under par and won the round. The second round I came in at 1 over par for another win. The third round, however, I got dominated by my dad as I finished a horrible 5 over par. With two rounds left, all I need to do is win one of them to be the overall winner. With dad catching fire and my game slowly going downhill, it should be a close race. And there's always the chance that my mom or Kristi might win a game... a chance :-)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Best Snack Food Evar!

So... usually when food companies do a spin off food based on one of their popular brands, it isn't nearly as good as the original and only stays on shelves for a couple of months and then disappears. In most of these cases, I could care less, but recently I've stumbled upon something that I hope never disappears--Oreo Cakesters.

Imagine an Oreo turned into a Ho-Ho type of cake-y treat that is a little squishy, a little like an Oreo, and all yummy. I think I've probably bought 8 boxes of these things in the last couple of weeks because they're so darn good.

Anyways, just wanted to proclaim to the world that Oreo Cakesters are probably the bestest, tastiest, awesomest snack food to be created in the last decade... besides the cookies & cream Twix bars that have since disappeared, but that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Some Great Movies

With the Labor Day weekend, I watched a few more movies. I added them to the full thread here.

The Bourne Ultimatum (8.5/10): The Bourne movie trilogy is probably one of the best of my generation (barring The Lord of the Rings trilogy). It takes the archetype of James Bond, removes all the gimmicks, adds a ton of grit, and pours on the badassery. I prefer Supremacy and Identity to Ultimatum, but Ultimatum only barely trails those two. Again, you get a smart, visceral, real feeling action movie that doesn't pull any punches. The only thing keeping this movie from surpassing the first two is a weaker than expected climax. It is the big reveal and I didn't feel as if it was all that big, even though it answered the question Bourne had been asking since the start of the first movie--"Who am I?"

Fracture (6.5/10): I had high hopes for this movie and even when it was over I wanted to like it, but I just couldn't warm up to it. Both Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling turn in good performances. The movie keeps you interested. The dialog is well written (if a little over dramatic towards the end). However, the plot has some pieces that really irked me, such as not being able to really pull all the pieces of the movie together until the big reveal (not all of the clues are made available to the viewer). Also, the first part of the film was pretty slow moving and the subplot of Gosling's character and his new boss was pretty terribly written. However, the movie is entertaining if you don't think too hard.

Marie Antoinette (6/10): What's the point of this movie? Really, I'm still trying to figure it out. The whole thing was basically a biopic about Marie Antoinette that lacked any substance. Sure, you saw what her life was like, but without getting any insight into the character or meaning from learning about her. The whole movie, as pretty as it was, felt hollow.

Sunshine (9.5/10): This is easily one of the better sci-fi movies I've seen in ages. There are not nearly enough sci-fi movies hitting the cinema today, and this one was hard enough to track down as its release was pushed back multiple times and then it was only released to a limited amount of theaters, so when a sci-fi movie does get released it's a heck of a treat to have it be this good. As opposed to most recent sci-fi films, Sunshine is a tense, smart, and somewhat hopefully depressing movie. It feels real. And that is essential to having a good sci-fi movie. The tone throughout the movie is very similar to what I got from The Fountain. A sense of hopelessness permeates the characters, but within that hopelessness embodied in the characters is a collective hope for something better, beyond the characters. Danny Boyle has given us this year's sci-fi favorite.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Day Off

Having been at a wedding in Wisconsin this weekend and since I'm heading back to Wisconsin tomorrow for a vacation with my parents, I decided to just take today off as a day to hang out at home and just catch up on whatever. And it was good. I really haven't had a day to do just whatever it was I wanted. I can't do that during the week where I spend the majority of my day at work and most weekends I have have things going on, so it was very refreshing today.

I still got up at a little before 6 am, but I was wide awake and got a ton done this morning... if you can count watching a couple of episodes of West Wing, reading for an hour, then watching the movie Sunshine getting a ton done. I eventually got around to going for a run, doing my laundry, mailing some packages, paying some bills, and running some errands, but this morning just being able to sit and veg out for a while was so needed.

Really, I'd recommend to anyone to just take a day to totally relax and do nothing at whatever pace doing nothing comes at. It helped me to realize how busy I am every day rushing to work, rushing home, cramming in a run and chores, and then trying to find time to do something fun when I'm simply beat. We run ourselves ragged without really enjoying ourselves. Life shouldn't just be about work, but unfortunately because of where we live and how we live, it ends up that way. Even so, take some time to kick back. It'll do wonders for you.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Comics For Sale!

I have tons and tons of comics in my collection and in order to keep room for new acquisitions, I need to sell older portions of my stash. Since Ebay is ridiculously evil and charges way too much to list low cost items, I'm just going to list my comics here and hopefully some interested people will email me and buy some of these great reads. So, without further adieu, here is what I have for sale. Please feel free to ask questions if you have any.

All comics listed are full series runs unless otherwise stated and are for sale for the price noted. Shipping will depend upon how much you want to order. Also, if you want, feel free to email me an offer because I'm more than likely to consider it.

  • Tomb of Dracula ($2)
  • Punisher: War Journal (around 30 issues) ($8)
  • Namor (issues 1-40) ($9)
  • Night Thrasher (around 10 issues ($2)
  • Sleepwalker (full series 1-33) ($8)
  • Rogue ($2)
  • Ghost Rider: Hammer Lane ($3)
  • War Machine 2.0 ($2)
  • Avengers: Terminatrix Agenda ($2)
  • X-Man (around 15 issues) ($4)
  • Blaze (around 10 issues) ($2)
  • X-Men Unlimited (second series) ($8)
  • Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (around 10 issues) ($3)
  • New Mutants (around 35 issues) ($10)
  • Gambit (around 20 issues) ($8)
  • Pryde and Wisdom ($2)
  • Ravage 2099 (around 10 issues) ($2)
  • Dark Angel (around 10 issues) ($2)
  • Marvel Team-Up (second series) ($12)
  • Sisterhood of Steel ($2)
  • Fallen Angels ($2)
  • X-Men / Alpha Flight ($1)
  • Darkhawk (full series 1-50) ($12)
  • Magik ($2)
  • Nomad (full series 1-25) ($8)
  • Warlock: Special Edition ($3)

  • Scarab ($2)
  • Batman: Shadow of the Bat (1-45) ($20)
  • Challengers of the Unknown ($3)
  • Angeltown ($3)
  • The Patriots ($2)
  • Bugs Bunny ($2)
  • Batman (around 20 issues) ($8)
  • Star Trek (around 10 issues) ($3)
  • Millennium Fever ($2)
  • New Guardians ($2)
  • The Brave and the Bold ($2)
  • Timber Wolf ($2)
  • Vigilante (full series 1-50 ($15)
  • Wanderers ($3)
  • Cyber Force (around 10 issues) ($2)
  • Stormwatch (around 10 issues) ($2)
  • Youngblood (around 10 issues) ($2)
  • Phantom Jack ($3)
  • Avengelyne ($2)
  • Sci-Tech ($2)
  • Fused ($2)
  • Nameless ($2)
  • Hazard ($2)
  • Doom's IV ($2)
  • Beyond Avalon ($2)
  • Detonator ($2)
  • Youngblood: Strikefile ($3)
  • Cy-Gor ($2)
  • Shadowhawk (full series 1-18) ($4)
  • New Shadowhawk (full series 1-7) ($2)
  • Headhunters ($1)
  • The Pact ($1)
  • Regulators ($1)
  • Megacity 909 ($3)
  • DNAgents series 1 (around 20 issues) ($3)
  • DNAgents series 2 (around 20 issues) ($3)
  • Sable (around 20 issues) ($3)
  • Random Encounter ($2)
  • Defex ($2)
  • Little Star ($3)
  • Phage: Shadow Death ($2)
  • Breakdown ($2)
  • Blade of Kumori ($2)
  • Infantry ($2)
  • Magnus: Robot Fighter / Nexus ($2)
  • The Solution ($4)
  • Rook ($2)
  • Eliminator ($1)
  • Freex ($4)
  • Exiles ($1)
  • Jonny Demon ($1)
  • Symbiotes ($2)
  • Battlestar Galactica: Journey's End ($2)
  • Wrath ($2)
Grab Bags
  • I also have an assortment of single issues that I'll mail out for pretty much the price of shipping, which means you can get about 20 comics for $5, 40 for $8, or 60 for $10.
List last updated: 9/1/2007