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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Break Breakdown 

Happy Holidays, everyone! Thanks to all our friends who so thoughtfully sent out beautiful cards. We'll be mailing our annual letter soon, so watch for it! In the meantime, I thought it would be simply thrilling to let everyone know what I've been up to during this relaxing holiday season.
  1. Making a website. Many years ago my buddy from ETAN Tom Foley asked me to make a website for his woodworking business. He made this wicked-cool workbench and also sculpts some incredible musical instruments, and it makes sense to make these available online. We're still polishing the thing, but I'll be linking to it when it's all done, so keep yer pants on.

  2. Dragging Eileen through the snow. We're not sure if it's the cold weather or age or what, but the shnozz has been pretty languid lately. A ten-minute walk around the block has become a thirty-minute ordeal as she mopes around, digging into the frozen sidewalk every thirty seconds. We took her to the vet but everything appears to be normal. We're going to take her to a dog therapist next.

  3. Shopping for tile and furniture. Diane's latest stop on her Make Our House Lovely Tour is to refinish the backsplash in the kitchen with mosaic tiles. The people at the tile place were very nice, but it looks like it'll be a few weeks before she actually gets the supplies. (Annoying, since she planned to get it done during the break.)

    We've also decided to get some decent furniture for the living room, since the broken-down Goodwill matching set is losing its charm. After visiting six local showrooms, however, we've come to the conclusion that there's a painful lack of affordable yet intriguingly-designed furniture out there. Everything is either bland middle-American grey stuff, or outrageously-priced Scandinavian art. We're still weighing our options.

    We will most certainly not be buying furniture with drink holders. Have you seen this abomination? Idiot Americans don't get enough time riding around in their SUVs, now they need drink holders in their couches. [vomit noises] If you ever see me sitting on a couch with a drink holder built into it, please smack me with a rotten fish.

  4. Playing some games. I finally got World at War today. It's way fun, but — as others have pointed out — it's just COD4 set in WWII. Which is stupid for two reasons:
    1. They didn't have laser-sight equipment in WWII, and
    2. TPCQ: "Yeah, that's a good idea, Homer, but they've already made some movies about World War 2." "Aw, nuts. Well, what about Dracula?"
    I've also been playing an unhealthy amount of the superb zombie-apocalypse game Left 4 Dead, which is one of the first games to really require co-operative play. So the idiotic shenanigans that define most XBox Live interactions really don't work for this game. And if you can get three buddies to play with, it's really fantastic.

    I also recently gained acceptance into the League of Amateur Gamers, which is a loose-knit group of people like me who don't take their games too seriously. I've only been in for a couple of days, but they seem like a decent bunch.
I have a big stack of papers to grade before heading back into The Jungle, but as always I've got a brilliant plan to get them all done on the Sunday before school starts. What could go wrong?

I think that image there is from one of those insipid Bratz dolls, but I'm really not sure. And I have no desire at all to check. If anyone knows, please keep it to yourself.


FlyGuy is a pleasant bit of abstract fun. Yes, there is an ending. Find it.

Today I'm listening to: Rob Viktum!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow, Songs, and Stuff 

Wow, it's been a long time since I blogged for real. I was just going back through some of the archives (to find the post I wrote about the revolution on the way to the revolution), and I'm impressed by the way I used to post more regularly. Alas, I seem to be getting more worn out by school these days. I ain't no spry youngster no more. NGYAH! (Note for people who didn't live in Sarasota, Florida in the mid-90s: That's the old-person noise Garrett came up with.)

I've enjoyed a nice relaxing 3-day weekend, owing to the big snowstorm. Shoveling my car out is never fun, but I did it before everything got frozen together, so it wasn't too bad. Also, I forgot to bring home papers to grade. Sorry, Creative Writing students! Looks like I'll have some work to do over break. (They're waiting to get back the Big Story they turned in recently.) I must say that snow days are one of the very nice fringe benefits of being a teacher. (The pic there is of the world's biggest snowflake ever. Except it's just a random image of a snowflake used to illustrate the tiny story.)

Making Other People Feel Worse

Another nice benefit of teaching is being able to close out the Open Mic Poetry Slam we have twice a year at the high school. This year's event happened last week, and it was outstanding. Kudos to all of my students who got up on stage; you rocked the house! I finally remembered to bring a camera, and I'm working on putting all the clips together with titles and music and stuff, so hopefully I'll have something to give them before long. (I doubt they — or the administration — would be okay with me posting it on YouTube, but I'll see.)

Speaking of rocking the house, I found a used copy of Rock Band 2 recently. Although I'm irritated by the fact that we have to buy a whole new game despite the fact that there's not much change in how it's played, I must say there are some nice things about the new version:
  • Solo Tour and Bass Possibilities: In RB1, the solo tour was a very stripped-down, limited experience. You couldn't play the bass guitar as a unique persistent character, for example. But in the new game, the solo tour is done exactly the same as the group dealie. You can even put your unique characters into the other slots of NPC musicians. So Diane's freaky-haired drummer is always on the sticks, even when she's not playing. And I got Al Jourgenson on bass. Woo!

  • The No-Fail Option. We haven't used this, but I expect it will be very handy when new folks come over to play. I also like how the loading-screen infobox says: "Hey, kids! Are you tired of having your parents ruin the song by failing out? Turn on the No Fail" option."

  • Freestyle Drumming. Harmonix (the company which makes RB) finally let us play around on the drums, making them effectively a virtual kit. Now you can play an mp3 through the system and drum along with it. No fancy colored boxes, obviously, since that would require a technical sophistication that we're just not ready for yet. But maybe soon..? Meantime, it's great to be able to smash the skins to your favorite albums. (Including Meantime.)

  • Bikini7Tiger. New tracks! Dude, my students are being exposed to Bikini Kill and L7. How cool is that? (Though there are better songs on Bricks are Heavy.) And I know it's silly, but there's simply no way to describe how cool it is to play the guitar parts on "Eye of the Tiger".

    My buddy Dug pointed out, while I was whining about having to buy a whole new game disc, that it's about the same price of a big song package. This is true (especially when a lower-priced used copy can be found), but I realized that I was irked by having to pay for songs that I don't really want (like Shooting Star, gack). But then I realized that there's a really nice upside: In addition to getting songs that I really love, I'm finding new songs that I'd never heard before, which are good musically and fun to play. "Float On" by Modest Mouse, for example, and Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle".
Well, I've got a walk to shovel and a dog to walk. Happy holidays, everyone!


"Eye of the Tiger" from Perspolis. Pure magic.

Today I'm listening to: Scorn!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

More Than the Obvious 

Okay, so you know what this satirical video about Plaxico Burress is going to be like. But there's more than just the obvious joke. Trust me – check it out.

I stumbled onto two interesting video game blogs today: GamePolitics, "Where Politics and Video Games Collide" (mostly piracy issues, but other stuff too); and Terra Nova, leaning to the philosophical and social side. And of course there's BoingBoing Offworld, as well as the XBox Live Nation blogs. The last one is only for diehard Xboxers tho.

Today I'm listening to: Elliott Smith!