Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Who the f*ck are "United States Police" and why are they roaming around my neck of the woods today??

Driving in to work, I was following behind two police cars. Upon closer inspection, they had no jurisdiction markings at all. Just white cars, lotsa emergency lights, blue striping, the word "POLICE" and an ID number on the trunk (5505 and 5515), and a gold shield that said "UNITED STATES". As we approached Tyson's Corner VA, I saw another one driving by in the opposite direction. I've driven this route daily for the last 4+ years and this is the first I've seen of them...but three in at a time?

Am I the only one creeped out by mystery "United States Police"? Didn't realize we had a national police force.

Friday, August 27, 2004


So much for the shiny hotness of Blogging. I totally hit the wall. I decided I was probably as tired of writing about my every move as you were of reading it.

So, who knows. Maybe I'll change my whole Blog style. Mabye I'll go back to yammering about everything I do. We'll have to see.

For now, I'll just hit the more interesting points my long looooonnnnngggg ass week:

Monday: Mid workday. Tried to move a free, heavy ass piano with my boy DT. Failed. What were we thinking? Two dumbasses and a 600 pound piano. Sounds like a movie title.

Tuesday: Standard long ass workday, followed by a short work happy hour where I got to see a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Cool. This was followed by a longish ass night side job.

Wednesday: Mid workday. Piano move v2.0. Actually pulled it off this time. Just the two of us and a hell of a lot of huffing and puffing. Got that bastard from the church to the house, up the three (four?) steps and into the living room. Piano wouldn't fit down the hall to the "spare" room. Piano ends up in the dining room. Hope the boss is cool with it!

Thursday: Phone system at work goes tits-up (man, I've been waiting to use that for *weeks*!). I spend the day in chaos trying to orchestrate it's revival by our support people and Verizon. It's a treat. Eventually gain success. Head home at normal time, but the boss calls at 7:30. The VP called him saying the phone system was dead agian. Back to work at 8 meeting with the support guy again. After a few hours, it's figured out that the first support guy called in a major overnight test. During this test, Verizon shuts our phone system down totally. Nobody bothered to tell me this before hand. Thanks. 11pm head home. Had to blow off my side job.

Friday: The day started with more busted phone chaos. Whole office is on edge. We pretty much rely on our phone system. Running in this half-ass mode isn't good. Eventually get Verizon to come to our site and test the lines from there heading out. Seems like it's a piece of our equipment that's failing and causing sporadic problems. Got a new piece being overnighted to the support guy. Supposed to meet him at the office tomorrow (yeah, Saturday) 8am to do the install. End up blowing off my side job guy again for tonight. Possibly tomorrow too.

Also Friday, Ben and I posted our website up on Craigslist under Freestuff. Basically all of our online prints are licensed under what's called the Creative Commons license. People can pretty much have them and do what they want with them, but they have to follow some rules. Got some nice compliments and a few confused questions.

Weekend: Got a couple of friends coming into town from New Orleans this weekend. All I need is my 9-5 job and my side job stacking up and making the time this weekend scarce.

Damn, this has been a long long week. A lot of time has been devoted to researching the new coolness that Canon just announced. The 20d DSLR camera. So much for lusting after the 300d or 10d. I want the big daddy. It's a sweet camera. Hope I can ebay enough crap to afford one!

Friday, August 20, 2004

I managed to drag myself out of the house Tuesday for an honest-to-goodness mountain bike ride. First time in a couple of weeks I've ridden (since my flirtation with bike commuting the other week) and first time in I don't know how long that I've ridden the SS. It felt great! Hit the old standby, Wakefield, on my singlespeed. Got there around 4:30pm and planned on taking a few easy laps then maybe hooking up with the Tuesday beginner ride.

Stuck with Wakefield instead of heading over to Accotink. Rode around the racetrack part for a while then headed out further on those trails, hitting some sections that I haven't ridden in years. Now I remember why...man, was it swampy! Puddles abounded. Many inches deep and full of gumbo mud. It was a mess. I did my best not to tear up the mud and get back to dry ground ASAP.

After the swamp riding, I headed over and did the creek trail a couple of times, then headed over to the Bowl for a lap. Spent a total of about 1.5 hours in the saddle. Gotta start doing that more often.

Riding solo, I had a lot of time to observe the area. One thing I noticed about Wakefield is the amount of trail damage happening. I mean, there are mud pits where there were never mud pits before (for the first two years I rode out there). There are also other sections of the trail that used to be smooth dirt that have eroded down to either washboard roots, or rock gardens. And downhill sections that are rutting out so bad they rival some of the hariy-er sections of Colts Neck. I'm not sure why the trails were fine for a couple of years, and are now dying, but it's disturbing. I don't know how we'll be able to convince parks to keep trails open (to bikers, and everybody else!) when they're suffering so badly. Even some of the new trail section over in the Bowl area seems to be eroding/washing out, down hill. Not sure how to fix things, but it's gonna have to be addressed pretty soon, I think.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Mass Domesticity

Spent the weekend basking in domesticity. Saturday, the new couch was scheduled to be delivered. (The one, according to mom, that homeless people will actually find desireable, I hope). 9:30am the friendly neighborhood delivery guys show up and trade my old nasty couch for a new shiny one. It's nice. Only problem is that I have to keep bar stools and pillows and shit all over it to prevent my sister's hound from funking it up with her dog smell.

On the heels of this life changing event, it was decided that my ghetto hand-me-down-twice-over coffee table was no longer worthy of sharing the living room with my new hotness couch. So Sunday, it was off to Ikea. Score a new coffee table (tho, not the on I origianlly wanted, as the Ikea "in stock checker thingy" on the web site totally lied to me, but I digess....). Home. Assemble. Plant fat ass on couch to test the "kick up the feet" quality of the couch/table combo. Quite nice. Score one for new household products.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

As I sit here waiting for hurricane whatshisname to drench the area (just after tropical storm whatshername did the same), it really isn't worth it trying to get out to do something more interesting than watching movies at home. Therefore I present for your reading enjoyment...

Another movie review: Cold Mountain

Let me just start by saying I'm glad as hell I didn't live during the Civil War. I'm way too big a pansy to have survived that shit.

I really liked this movie on a lot of different levels. The acting is incredible. The battle scenes make you cringe with the pain the characters are feeling as they get stabbed, shot, or blowed up. There were a bunch of actors in it that I like, and that I wasn't expecting: Ethan Suplee, Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Giovanni Ribisi. Portman in particular made it painfully obvious how bad of a job Lucas is doing to Star Wars. In this, her acting is great and totally believable. Completely opposite her Star Wars wooden-plank-in-a-funny-dress role. Good job George.

Being the father of daughter, I really appreciate movies with strong women fending for themselves. This movie shows that well.

The premise: Cute guy lives in backwoods NC town. Cute girl moves to backwoods town. Cute girl and guy start making googly eyes at each other, just in time for the Civil War to break out and cute guy to ship out. Cute girl is left at home to fend for herself.

Cute guy gets busted up in the war. Ends up in the hospital and walks out (of the hospital and the army) near the end of the war, tho not late enough to get out without being called a deserter. Southerners (looking for deserters) are trying to kill him. Northerners (looking for Southerners) are trying to kill him. He's trying to hike his ass all the way to backwoods town to find Cute girl. Throw in a bitter, power hungry townie (who has the job of local backwoods deserter-buster) and his creepy near-albino partner causing havoc and things waiting at home get complicated.

The only annoying part was more "I shall destroy you, but only after I have a conversation with you, giving you enough time to mount a defense and possibly defeat me". Which s totally against item 6 (and possibly 7) of the Evil Overlord's list.

Thursday, August 12, 2004


I decided to pimp my mad computer skillz on craigslist.org to see if I could speed the funds flowing into my DSLR camera fund. Last night, I had my first 'side job'.

A guy emailed me saying he was having problems with his computer; he's on a satelliet link to the net, and running without firewall. He thought it was probably virus and spyware related. Cool, I deal with that all day long.

So I got to the guy's place at 9pm and set to work on his computer. After two hours (and three cans of room-temperature "Milwaulkee's Best" (beggars can't be choosers!)) it was still broken. The software tools I had were able to remove a ton of spyware, and probably a dozen viruses and backdoor files. But I think his problem is more with the operating system dying than with viruses and spyware (Windows ME has a long history of doing that to people). I told him I'd do some research and see what the next course should be...either reinstall WinME (*shudder*) or format the drive and install Win98SE (my preference. It's older than ME, but far far superior). I've dealt with his particular model of HP before, and they're pretty annoying. They seem to be specifically designed for *only* XP or *only* ME, so drivers for other OSs don't even exist. Thanks HP.

Hopefully I'll be able to get it figured out and get paid, bringing the new shiny camera a bit closer to home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Honestly, I didn't watch movies all that much until reciently. But after my local Blockbusted pissed me off, I signed up for a Netflix account and have been steadly watching stuff ever since. Guess it helps that aside from "American Chopper" and "Scrubs" everything on TV pretty much sucks ass!

Touching the Void - Cool ass movie about a couple of mountaineers/ice climbers who (in 1985) attempt a new route up a mountain in Peru (Soula Grande?). It wouldn't be a movie if everything went fine, so you can guess that everything goes to pieces. They both survive the experience, but the one dood is all busted up in the adventure.

I'm not giving anything away by saying "they both survive". The movie is a good mix of on-camera narration by the actual climbers, mixed with actors doing serious climbs. It may sound lame, but it really works well. It's a good mix of adventure movie and documentary.

I've always wanted to try ice climbing (tho, I'm thinking the beginner low-angle stuff instead of the sheer walls these guys climbed), so this movie may hold more interest for me. But I think it works well for pretty much anybody. A definite "A" rating. Also, I highly recommend watching the extra stuff on the DVD. The making-of is cool, but the "What happened next" picks up where the movie ends (basically, the climbers sitting in a tent after reuniting) and tell the story of getting off the mountain, to the hospital in Lima, and getting back to England. Really cool wrap-up to the movie.

The Work and The Story - The new hotness from Utah (according to a friend of mine, Ben, who happens to be Mormon) is Mormon Cinema. Movies made by Mormons, primarily for Mormons (I think). After talking to Ben about this new (to me) genre, I stumbled across "The Work and The Story" on my local video joint's "new release" wall. Since I had one movie and a "rent one get one free" coupon in my hand, I was lacking only the "get one free" part of the equation. I decided to give "The Work" a try.

I must admit...I couldn't make it through it. I tried. Honestly, I did. I might have gotten 45 minutes through it and had to throw in the towel.

Basically, it's styled like a documentary (maybe it *is* a documentary, what do I know?). The premise is that the top Mormon filmmaker has gone missing, presumably lost in a plane crash into the Great Salt Lake, and this movie follows three "up and coming" Mormon filmmakers who hope to take over the role as the "top dog" LDS filmmaker. There were occasional little subtitles that popped up to define things that us non-Mormons might not understand (note to self...ask Ben about Mormon "Hell"). These were helpful, but I still felt like I was missing a lot of what was going on. I think there were a lot of Mormon-centric nuances that were just sailing over my head.

I'll have to talk to my ultra-secret Mormon connection (code name "Ben") and see if he's seen this and what his impressions of it are. Who knows, maybe I picked the worst LDS movie to start with. I'll give it a "C" rating, even tho I couldn't make it through. It's probably a "B" or above if you happen to be Mormon. You'd prolly catch a lot more humor than I did in the film.

1984 - I have to admit right up front that I've never read the book. Yes, I own a copy. I've had it for years. Sure, I know the basic premise of the story (Big Brother, oppresive government, brainwashing, total loss of privacy and self). But I've never been able to drag myself through the book. I know I should. It's on my "to do" list.

Nothing can prepare you for the depressing-ness of this friggin movie. It's bleak, everything is grey and drab. Oppressive. Depressive. Repressive. This movie has got it all! The whole thing just makes you tired. I understand that this is exactly what Orwell was going for when he wrote it. And the director did a great job of bringing the bleak-ness to life. But man oh man. I'd give it a "C-" for watchability, and maybe a "B" for ability-to-get-it's-point-across-ness. But if I ever watch this agian, it'll be because I'm forced to with one of those Clockwork Orange hold-your-eyes-open-things.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Now for "Das Weekend Roundup"

Got back from Cape May, NJ late Friday and dropped the kid off at her mother's place, giving me and the girl the weekend alone. Kinda important detail as this was the girl's birthday weeked.

Saturday, I had made plans to hit the Smithsonian and check out the "Orkin Bug Exhibit" then see the Imax movie "Bugs in 3D". Dunno exactly why, but the girl is a fan of bugs, so I decided to make this a theme weekend. I framed up three 4x6" shots (in a single frame) that I'd taken back during the height of the cicada invasion this past summer, bought her a couple of books on insects and bugs, and planned the Smithsonian/Imax bug outing (among other things...I'm not gonna give away all my secrets, fool).

The outing went well. I found the sooper secret way to get into the Museum of Natural History even during ultra-scary code orange days which I will here share with you, my loyal reader(s): use the back door. Seriously. If you go to the main front entrance, right off of the mall, you're gonna stand in a line of 100 tourists for half an hour as everybody gets their bags searched and sets off the metal detectors a few times. If you go to the entrance off of Constitution Ave (the rear of the building), you walk up, drop your keys in the little basket, step through the metal detectors, grab your keys and you're in. All of about 3 seconds. No lines, no problems. Don't tell anybody else, I don't want everybody screwing up my secret passages.

For dinner Saturday we decided we wanted sushi, but didn't feel like spending outlandish sushi prices, so we went to WholeFoods and got a nice slab of tuna steak, some sushi rice and other fixens and headed for home. Once home, we decided were weren't brave enough to eat the tuna raw, so we tried to flash-sear it for a second, but we ended up cooking it totally. So, while it wasn't sushi, we had tuna and rice and wasabi...which was really good, but didn't fix the craving for sushi totally.

Sunday, keeping wtih the nature/bugs theme, the girl and I went out to western VA/eastern WV and did a hike called "Big Schloss". It was a cool, not too long hike. About 5 miles total. The only suck part was the first long ass section is a solid climb to the ridgeline. Theoretically it's only a 700' elevation gain, but it seems to go on a whole lot more than 700' up. Once on the ridgeline, it's a fairly rolling hike with no harsh climbs. As you get out towards Big Schloss Rocks itself, there are a couple of hidy-hole campsites right off the trail that would be awesome to wake up in. One is maybe 20' from a rock that acts as an overlook over the valley below. Seems like this site has more info than any human ever needs about the mountain/trail. Good stuff, but almost too indepth for me.

There is also the option of going further (12 miles total) to the next mountain. I'm thinking it would be a cool weekend campout to do 6 miles out, camp, and 6 miles back the next day.

Dinner last night, skirting the sushi theme again, we went to PFChangs for chinese food. Evidently it's still the new hotness, since there was a 1.5 hour wait on a Sunday night. So we dined at the bar and skipped the wait. Mmmm...salt-n-pepper calamari...

Friday, August 06, 2004

Das Pre-Weekend Roundup

So the girlfriend, daughter and I left on Wednesday for a couple of days in Cape May, NJ, which, despite being in NJ is actually quite nice. The drive up took about 4.5 hours and thanks to MapQuest and the NJ state route numbering system (47 becomes 477 becomes 47 again, becomes 74 becomes 447, repeat), was an adventure all it's own. I'm never leaving home without my GPS again!

Wednesday and Thursday the weather there was marginal at best. Cloudy, drizzly, not-the-least-bit-beachy. So we spent most of the time wandering around "old town" Cape May. Very elegant victorian homes, lotsa old tree-lined streets, and two city blocks of shopping. Not what I typically go looking for in a vacation, but hell, I wasn't at work! Thursday afternoon we went and hit the Cape May lighthouse. I managed to climb the spiral staircase to the top, but my kid only made it about half way before they height and see-thru metal stairs got the best of her.

Took a bunch of pics (beach, clouds, lighthouse, weird WWII submarine hunter post thing, bird sanctuary), but haven't really spent the time going through them yet. Hopefully one or two will come out.

Friday cleared up and was really nice overall. We were leaving Friday afternoon, and it was a bit on the cool side, so we dicided not to go to the beach. Checked outta the room, packed the car, had breakfast, wandered around a bit more, and decided to hit the road for home.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

rant-o-riffic movie review, v3.0a. Thought I'd post this and then shut up for a couple of days:

First up this week is the new to DVD release, Hellboy. Yet another based-on-a-comic-book-movie, this one does pretty well (far far better than Van Helsing...did I tell you about Van Helsing yet? Just wait for it...). Anyway, back to Hellboy. Entertaining enough. Synopsys: Scary-red-demon-baby brought forth by the Nazis in WWII. Things fall apart soon after he comes through, good guys prevail, and scary demon guy is raised by good guys. Flash forward a bunch of years, scary-demon-boy is now beefy-scary-demon-guy-with-a-six-pack, and he's working for tha man (USGovt) and hot on the trail of other creepies, kickin' they ass. Pretty cool monster fight scenes. Decent plot. A few "I shall destroy you by devouring you with my tenticled, gaping maw...BUT FIRST!...I shall toss you about the room for a while in order for you to gain the opportunity to foil my evill plot..muhaHA!" moments, but they were pretty forgivable. The one masked monster Nazi demon guy is ultra cool. Kinda like GIJoe's SnakeEyes, but more badass. Anyway, if you're a comic book (or comoc book movie) kinda person, I'd give it a solid "B+" grade (in the gradeschool A-F grade scale). If you're not into that kinda movie, you may be less entertained.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: It's been out for a while, so I'm not gonna go into a full-on review (not like my full-on reviews are all that anyway), but suffice it to say this movie kicked ass. Darker, meaner, more grown-upper (made that word up just for you guys) than the earlier two movies. Keep in mind that I'm a huge fan of the books too, and while this movie cuts out a lot (like all movies based on books do) it still works. Solid A/A+.

Lastly, as I type this, I'm sitting through "Hidalgo". So far, it's OK at best. Essentially, it's about a horse race across Arabia. Aragorn plays (unconvincingly, I might add) an Native American/cowboy with a bad southern accent. Moderately interesting special effects. Beautiful Tattoine-esque desert cinematography. A lot of bad-guy double crosses. Pretty textbook. I'll leave it at that unless something interesting happens in the last few minutes. B- and falling due to predictable Native American halucination in the desert/near death scene.
While last week got off to a raging start as far as biking to work goes, this week was less stellar. Actually, I drove in both yesterday (Monday) and today. I wanted to bike it, honestly. But I had a bunch of stuff to haul to the office and back, as well as stuff to do after work, so biking would have been a pain in the ass. Tomorrow, I take off for a couple of days in NJ, and the girl's birthday is this weekend, so time has been tight. I promise I will be biking to work again next week.

Driving in just doesn't make for as interesting blogging.

Monday, August 02, 2004

You people do realize I write these blogs more for my own future reference than for your reading pleasure, don't you? I mean, my short term memory isn't what it used to be, and occasionally I need to refer back to figure out just what the hell I was doing on a given day. Anyway, that said, on with the weekend roundup:

Spent Saturday morning couch shopping. Mom came by the house a few weeks ago and decided that we owned a couch "that homeless people wouldn't want". Not surprising, as the couch was inherited from friends who no longer wanted it cuz it looked like ass. And that was...uhh...4 years ago maybe? And you know it hasn't gotten any better looking in the years since.

I had other places I wanted to put my hard earned dollars than a couch (see all previous posts about the Canon 300d/Digital Rebel), and told mom this. So she decided that if I wasn't gonna buy a couch (that homeless people would want, evidently), she'd buy it for me. Cool. I mean, I'd still rater take the cash and put it towards the dRebel, but what can you do. Mom didn't see the need for a camera that homeless people would want. She's all about the couch.

I, being the not-too-concerned-with-astetics, function over form kinda guy that I am, figured a used couch from craigslist.org would be perfect. Better than what we have, but nowhere near as expensive as a new couch. Mom, being the "you don't know what other people have done on that couch" kinda gal she is, decided we were buying new. Some people have no sense of humor when it comes to stranger's bodily fluids.

The week leading up to Couch Purchase Saturday[tm], mom busied herself with researching every furnature store in the region. Twice. Guess that's the bonus to being retired. Saturday began with her making a nearly unannounced trip to my house at 10am, followed by a trip to the local LayZBoy furnature store. We debated a couple of other places first, but LZB was offering free delivery and free removal of your crusty ass old couch. A bonus.

So ma, the girl and I spent a while perusing around the LZB gallery being shown all sorts of ugly couches. We finally found one that met all of my requirements (pretty basic and comfortable). Sold. Outta stock till mid August, damn. So we're still riding the crusty-couch, but it's days are numbered.

Not having nearly enough fun Saturday morining, the girl and I decide to go to her dad's house and finish up a never-ending Trading Spaces-like project. Luckily her dad was out of town for the weekend, so we could work in peace. It's simple enough project: there are these blinds that cover the sliding glass door and windows (17'4" total). They retract into a white bracket above the glass. Problem is the room is dark wood, so the white blind-holder really stands out and the dad hates it. The Dad contracts the girl to do something artistic for a covering. So after about 4 different proposed solutions, the girl and the dad finally come up with a stained wood/metal bracket mounted to the wall thing that everyone likes. The dad had the girl over a week ago to do the final install, but then The Dad decides it needs a final run through, without actually mounting anything. That's kinda his style. Very cautious in all things.

So with him outta the way, the girl and i (along with my kid) head over, bum-rush the parts, throw in some screws, drill some holes mount some L brackets, and 4 short hours later, the thing done. Almost no bloodshed too.

Sunday rolls around. Mid week, I promised my kid we'd go see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban again before it left theaters. Quick jaunt to our local multiplex (after a tantrum like breakdown by yours truly) and we're in a still packed house for the flick. Awesome movie, even the second time through. Tho, I think that if A) your child needs a running commentary by you to understand what's happening on the screen, or B) your child feels the need to provide a running commentary to everything that's happening on the screen...do us all a favor and wait for the video. That's all I'm sayin'.

I'm sure some other stuff happened, but I'm tired of typing.