- December 28, 2008
- Forgive me, Interwebs, for I have sinned. It has been over a year since my last
posting. Haha, yes it has been that long since the last update, but I'm doing fine.
Consider this a highlight reel. Oh yes, my folks and I survived hurricane Ike
pretty well, just a wee bit of fencing and roofing issues at the family home, and
some backyard work. So, over the year I checked out several places in Austin and
Houston, plus a couple during a DR (disaster recovery) trip to Bryan, Texas.
- Houston: I enjoyed a great cowboy ribeye at Del Frisco's in the Galleria, excellent
Indian fare and cocktails (including lassi) at Yatra downtown, and not too far away
at The Grove I was introduced to the teres major cut of beef as well as their custom
cocktails. I also got to enjoy the Houston Rodeo BBQ Cookoff, that was a fun afternoon
and a lot of walking to enjoy the designs and themes of all the tents. Fung's Kitchen
had some good authentic meals, I did return to enjoy their dim sum, the braised
chicken feet and squid curry are particularly wonderful. The new Chuy's in
Kingwood/Humble had decent food, but the service needs work. I didn't like the pho at
the new Vietnamese Bistro in that area (Pho An is much better), but their other entrees
are great. Pho May, near 1960 and Ella, has great pho.
- Austin: Aside from the usual excellent grilled steaks and concoctions at Casa Webb
and Chateau Fellin, highlights included the wonderful butterfish at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion,
good Thai curries at Madam Mam's, great dim sum selections at Shanghai, a delicious meat
coma at Fogo De Chao, and great seafood but bad midnight champagne service (New Year's) at
McCormick and Schmicks. There's also a fairly new Asian dining plaza up north near Lamar and
Braker, I liked the Cantonese selections at First Chinese BBQ, also the seafood pancake and
beef jabchae at Korean Grill. Caught a flick at the new Alamo Ritz, decent service despite
seating issues. Cypress Grill had some good cajun, Halcyon offered a great late-night
respite with their coffee infusions, Maudie's had a very satisfying Tex-Mex brunch,
and Maiko's Sunday sake special and appetizers capped a long weekend well. The food
was uneven at Chinatown, my evaluation of their dim sum still hangs in the balance,
but the bulgogi burger at Burger Tex was great. Lambert's had a good hanger steak,
Jerusalem had good schwarmas and gyros, and Yume had wonderful fusion sushi selections,
too bad they disappeared. I also got to catch the Video Games Live music concert at the
Long Center, it was as great as before, and I think I preferred that venue to Jones Hall
in Houston, at least for this concert. I loved the burgers at Five Guys, the Korean food
and service at Chosun Galbi (just next to Shanghai). I must admit, the Belmont offered
a good New Year's meal, but yet again fell through in servicing their clientelle for the
witching hour. The Flying Saucer has provided a fun diversion as per our needs, and
moreso in the case of a few, 0
- Bryan: My favorite stop was actually a combo: Murphy's Law is an Irish pub with a
German restaurant adjoining. We enjoyed a pint on the pub side one evening, then a
dinner on the German side another night. The pub was quite comfy with some good
beverage selections. The German side had great food. I enjoyed the schweinshaxen,
very tender and savory, as well as the dumplings. I will be returning to sample some
more from both sides, especially since I have yet to try the Irish food. Also had
great chicken fried steak at River Bridge, and decent pizza from Mr G's.
- My cell phone was stolen in March (always put it back in your pocket), replaced quickly
with the AT&T Tilt (8925).
It's decent, 3 megapixel with panorama, GPS, more internal memory, Windows Mobile 6.1,
and I added a 8GB microSDHC (reliable higher capacities are hard to find). Runs smooth,
only need to recycle the OS two or three times a week. In my truck I also use a power/audio
splitter cable and a mic with call interrupt, so I can plug the 3.5mm audio into
the car stereo's aux input while the phone battery is recharging. Then I added a nice
ground loop isolator from Crutchfield that cleans up noise very well. Basically the phone
has replaced my little iPod shuffle for music on commutes, plus I can use the car stereo
for phone calls so I don't need a headset either. The music skips occasionally, probably
from a mix of caching and road bumps, but I can live with that. I think in some
areas of technology convergence over clutter is a good thing. I look forward to seeing
how the Tegra and the Atom fare in the next couple years. In the short term I will
replace the Tilt with the Fuze in spring 2009.
- I read Steve Martin's Born Standing Up, lots of great insights about comedy, mixed
with a whirlwind sampling of his life. Not bad overall, though the whirlwind
sampling could have used a little more focus and pacing in the second half.
- Over the spring and summer I have added to my home theater: a Samsung HL61A750 (61" led
dlp hdtv) and a PS3 (the 80GB model that can also play PS2 titles). The PS3 was mostly
to handle blu-ray media. I got a Toshiba HD-A35 for HD-DVD, though once its exclusive
titles get relicensed to blu-ray it will just be a nice upscaling DVD player. All of
this - plus my Wii and cable HD DVR box - now sits on a Sanus AFV48B stand. It was a
solid upgrade of my shaky little 32" generic stand. The Samsung is screaming gorgeous
in the visuals, though range of view is limited, but that's not an issue in a small
bedroom. I did run DVE's HD Basics tests and surprisingly only had to make a couple small
adjustments. I was eyeing Onkyo's 805 receiver and a couple sets of speakers, but
I decided to wait until I move into a townhome. That will probably be in
less than a year, depending on the real estate markets. For now I will settle for
swimming in incredible HD imagery.
- Flicks: I'll be brief, considering the count.
Hitman had nice action, but could
have been more substantial. Ratatouille was beautifully funny and warm, Patton really
grabbed the role and ran with it. District B13 was a tight kinetic action flick. The
Golden Compass was a lush epic with an enjoyable ensemble. National Treasure 2 was
fun but felt a little wooden. Ocean's 13 was a better sequel, lots of smart heist and
con action, basically the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, but with a wink
to close out the series. Alien Vs Predator: Requiem was pretty bad. A couple nice
action bits, and we get to see the Predator homeworld, otherwise a trite small-town
invasion cliche, certainly not as good as its predecessor. I Am Legend was a substantial
adaptation, a good dive into Neville's psyche, a bit of deus ex machina to end act two,
nicely realized overall. I avoid politics, so I'll only say that I enjoyed Charlie
Wilson's War in terms of great storytelling and casting. I finally saw the entire Fast
Times At Ridgemont High, I guess I can understand the cult appeal though I didn't
realize it was more of a cautionary tale. 28 Weeks Later was a good sequel, nice
atmosphere and stark visuals to maintain the creepiness. Sideways was a good adult
relationship piece, a great ensemble at work. Cloverfield was probably the best
use of shakycam "reality" shooting I've seen, a great effects flick. Dragon Wars
(D-War) had good effects and tried very hard, but ultimately didn't work out well for me.
Casshern was a visual treat but the story failed. We Own The Night was so heavy it sort
of fell into itself. Reno 911 Miami was great humor if you appreciate the series.
30 Days Of Night was a nicely structured and atmospheric vampire film. 3:10 To Yuma
was a good prisoner gauntlet piece, though I haven't seen the original to know if it's
a good remake. Iron Man was a great meld of comic-book story, great cast, action
and effects, a fun adventure overall. Blades Of Glory had lots of quirky humor, great
use of the leads. Redbelt was heavy but cathartic. The Great Happiness Place was an
insightful doco, nice setup. Prince Caspian was a more adventurous and better
constructed continuation. Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull was
longer than its name, lots of good adventuring and nostalgia but a hokey climax.
The Brave One had great character work. The Darjeeling Limited stretched a bit but
had a lot of personal nostalgia for me. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story was excellent
parody, lots of highlights. Kung Fu Panda was also a bit of funny parody, great use
of Jack Black. Wall-E was brilliant, lots of polish and a funny look at social and
scientific evolution. The Incredibly Hulk was very different than Ang Lee's Hulk,
more of a smash-and-bash comic book showcase, enjoyable in that sense. Wanted was
great in the stunt department, story was decent. Hancock was an interesting look at
the brokedown superhero, though a bit hokey near the end. Hellboy 2 was a bigger
sequel, more fantastic creatures and a fun ride overall. 10000 B.C. had a nicely
realized environment, rudimentary plot and some fun action. Eastern Promises was
a solid Russian mafia piece, Viggo is excellent as usual, Naomi held her ground too.
The Simpsons Movie felt like a long episode, but funny throughout. The Dark Knight
was easily one of the best this year, great acting all around, wonderful atmosphere.
The X Files: I Want To Believe was solid, not as otherworldly as the previous film,
and good work by Billy Connolly playing against type. The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon
Emperor was a okay closer though a bit cheesy at times. Maria Bello pulled off a
hard transition well. Star Wars: The Clone Wars was a cool way to show more stories
from that universe, though the dialogue and characters was a bit hokey, and the farting
baby was a little too kiddie-oriented. The Bank Job was a solid true British heist flick,
with a nice dose of inernational intrigue. Quantum Of Solace picked up right where
Casino Royale left off, and carried the same style and gritty feel. It felt just a
tad more dense since they were packing a lot in a short timeframe, but a great ride
nonetheless. Shoot 'Em Up is a weird parody, very over-the-top, nutty characters,
dialogue and action. I liked most of it, but it's not for everyone.
- I got a new graphics card, an ENGTX260 from Asus, mainly because the 200 series is
a decent leap forward for Nvidia architecture. It's been pretty fluid so far, it
should be able to handle everything for the next few years.
- Music: Over The Rhine's Trumpet Child is a tour de force, straying into many modes
and moods, remaining a regular on my commutes. Aimee Mann's @#%&*! Smilers is pretty
good too, though a couple tracks feel a bit generic. Teitur's The Singer has a few
gems but the rest of it falters. Asura's Life^2 is just brilliant,
rhythmic ambient. I picked up the re-release Gas 0095 to get a better feel for the
earlier stages of electronica. Most of it is cool though there is a bit of experimentation
that could've used some polish. Coldplay's Viva La Vida is a great release, with
a little branching out that does have polish. Morrissey's Ringleader Of The Tormentors
is mostly uneven, but "Life Is A Pigsty" is golden. Manilow's The Complete Collection
And Then Some is indeed exhaustive, but there are really just a handful that I enjoy.
The Very Best Of from the Eagles has a lot more enjoyable tracks I had not heard before,
and Bob Segers' Greatest Hits Vols I and II also has many classics. Dido finally broke
the last few years of silence. Safe Trip Home has her signature mellowness, but it also
feels more mature, a solid release.
- Games: Picked up WiiPlay on an Austin trip, some fun variety for casual partying.
I was much happier that they added Cybernator to the virtual console, it's a great
bit of nostalgia and still fun to play. I tried Rock Band at a friend's place, it's
fun for groups, offering more options to those tired of guitars.
Warhammer Online is my new focus, I even joined
a guild after years of soloing. My shadow warrior slinks about on the Azazel server.
I pop into 2142 now and then, the 1.50 patch included an updated Wake Island, which
is okay, and Operation: Shingle, a sniper's dream and a good successor to Tunis. It's
almost a blend of Tunis and Cerbere really, but on a huge scale. The Gib is still my
home, but nowadays I look for servers doing a Gib/Shingle combo. I've at least dived
into Titan Quest for a bit, and taken a few ships out for a safe tour of Eve's slick
new updates, the certificate system is a major addition to skilling. I enjoy a bit
of Mario Kart Wii and tried out the Wii Fit. On the PS3 both Metal Gear Solid 4 and
Bionic Commando Rearmed are waiting in the wings.
- November 19, 2007
- Welcome to the Fall Quarterly Report. Seasonal highs and lows as expected,
with general trending in the midranges. Still seeking the path of moderation,
I think that's progressing well now. Identifying weaknesses and gaining
perspective is always helpful. I did a little fall cleaning. Back in April
I bought a couple of Elfa wheeled drawer sets but only assembled and used one
of them, for audio CD storage. Last week I finally got around to assembling
and using the other, for anime DVD storage, though it looks like I'll need a third
to complete the job. This also helped with organizing clothing so I have some
floor space in the bedroom now. I think I had been approaching an otaku level
of various stacks all over the place. Once I organize the computer furniture
and tech gear in the living room things should be much better. The bedroom closet
remains a dark and messy place I dare yet not enter. I fear something dwells
within, though I know not its name.
- Had a fun time in Austin at the end of August. Dined at the Belmont, and enjoyed
the scenery on its side patio and rooftop terrace. Then another fun Sunday brunch
at Berry Hill, though the brunch buffet is no longer there. Back in Houston,
spent a Saturday in midtown. Guest at a morning wedding at the Rainbow Lodge,
then the comfy patio of Komodo's near Pierce and Baldwin, lost a game of pool at
the Tavern on West Gray, enjoyed some Riesling and good film chat with a couple
locals at the Corkscrew on Washington Ave, then another visit to Komodo's to close
out the evening. It's an interesting area, good people and cool places to hang out.
Back in Dallas for work at the end of September. This time along with the requisite
dinner at Big Buck's we also spent time on Main St in Grapevine. Great live music
and local scenery at Willhoites, good food and the jazzy blues of Zach Harmon at
Main St Blues Room, then some fun at the lounge next door. In mid-October I checked
out Ibiza Lounge in downtown Houston. Warm decor, great international scene but
rather crowded and the side patio was horrendously tiny, I suggest only staying for
the early part of the night, or mid-evening if you're an early closer. Tried to
visit the new Drake lounge across from the Corkscrew, but the door management was so
terrible they wouldn't even let people back in! It made even less sense when I heard
about its financing, hopefully they'll smarten up quickly. The Belvedere at Post Oak
and 610 was much more accomodating, a nice patio, cool interior design and friendly
staff to maintain the vibe.
- I started looking at properties in north Houston to buy a home, and there were
some good choices, but I've decided to wait another year. My apt manager is offering
decent renewal terms and I think the buyer's market will still be good next fall.
Most likely I will get something closer to Kingwood, or just a tad north of there
along 59, to get the lower property tax in Montgomery county.
- Flicks: The Host was an excellent monster film from Korea, great effects, good crowd
scenes, engaging characters and story, I definitely look forward to more like it.
I haven't read the Harry Potter books but I do keep up with the films, and Order
Of The Phoenix was quite enjoyable. It delved further into school politics and
obtuse sub-plots intertwined with family history, and felt more like a prelude to
the war, but still entertained. Hot Fuzz was interesting, a small town British
comedy that halfway through delineated into the heavy action of the American buddy
cop films it was parodying, with a dose of detective work in the middle. The leads
are reliable though it ran a bit long for what it was trying to deliver. Superbad
was brilliantly funny, if you enjoy teen coming-of-age comedies, heavy on the awkward
sex humor and stereotype contrasts. I would even say it's a new classic in that
arena. Shaun Of The Dead was not bad, a British zombie comedy with the same two leads
as Hot Fuzz, occasionally flat but worth a ride. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was
great old-school fun, kind of answering the "where are they now" question and
capstoning that with a save-the-world scenario. The CG allowed more freedom and
versatility in capturing the martial arts and acrobatics, and the cinematography
framed it nicely throughout. Breach was possibly Chris Cooper's best work so far,
just solid stuff as Hanssen. Phillipe was decent but I don't think he reached the
bar set by Depp in Donnie Brasco (a similar role). It was a slow-paced, methodological
piece, fascinating to watch as they poked and prodded Hanssen's psychology. Death
Proof was Quentin's half of the Grindhouse double feature. It suffered a bit from
his signature dense dialogue, leading to several stiff scenes, but Kurt soldiered
through and the female leads were decent for the most part. In essence it worked
as a 70's B-movie tribute, I guess I just expected a little more after Kill Bill.
Planet Terror was Rodriguez' half, though it was a bit overshadowed by the scandal
of his affair with McGowan while his wife was producing the film. El Wray was a
great action lead, there were some fun moments and great bit parts, though the
plot was sketchy at times, all part of the B-movie feel I guess. Ridley has finally
answered Scorcese with American Gangster, and I think he did a great job of it.
He captured several facets of Denzel's Frank Lucas and Crowe's Richie Roberts, and
moved deftly through the growing drug trade and police corruption of the time.
The ensemble got a little crowded at times, but it was all part of the story, and
there were some solid actors in there too. Beowulf was Robert Zemeckis' second mocap
animated film, and the technical work seemed much improved over the bits I've seen of
the first (Polar Express). I caught it in digital 3D, and even the 3D effects were
nicely woven in. The action was great, characters were compelling, and the dialogue
was only stilted a few times. It's a morality piece, I remembered the essence of it
from reading it in my school days, and that aspect is well-presented. Overall a great
film, I will not soon forget Grendel's howl, or the battle with the golden dragon.
- I picked up some Coldplay recently, thought I'd check out more of their work since
I liked a couple of their chart hits. Pretty solid across three albums so far, I'm
not disappointed in adding them to my collection. Also got Over The Rhine's Ohio,
most of it is not as intimate as Drunkard's Prayer because it has different goals,
but it is just as enjoyable in its expanses. In particular, "Suitcase" and
"Professional Daydreamer" are very nostalgic to me.
- Battlefield 2142 remains my top gaming addiction, though I have updated LOTRO
and Dungeon Runner, and keep skilling in Eve. I tried the new Highway Tampa
map in 2142, it feels too much like Sidi, not really fun for an urban sniper
role. The other changes in the 1.40 patch feel more cosmetic, really wish they'd
add a kick reason option.
- August 9, 2007
- Okay, almost three months since my last update, this is fast becoming a quarterly.
I'll try to pick up the pace again. I did hit Austin for Memorial weekend.
Don't remember too much, though we did get a noise complaint at Casa Webb, hehe.
June was mostly work, including a disaster recovery training trip to Dallas. That
was a long weekend, but affable coworkers are always a plus on long hauls. I did
go to Branson, Missouri, as well. A coworker described it at "Vegas for seniors"
and he wasn't too far off. If you like dinner theater, country music, outlet centers
and souvenir shopping, then have at it. Then Austin again at the end of July,
including a 1am visit to Boomerz, a great Brazilian dinner at Estancia Churrascaria,
and Sunday brunch at Berry Hill in good company. Oh and another new drink invented:
the Yuletide Johnny, email for details. Another Dallas DR trip in early August,
this time with more festivities, though the work pushed into Saturday evening.
We enjoyed Bone Daddy's and Carrabas, plus quick trips to Boston's and Steak 'n
Shake, with Carrabas easily providing the best food. Meanwhile in Houston I had
great food and ritas at Jalisco in Humble, a few visits to Zaza and my local
Bennigan's, good tempura at Azuma in the Rice Lofts, and the comedy stylings of
Patton Oswalt and Janeane Garofalo. Patton rocked as usual, Janeane took a little
more to get into but was ultimately enjoyable.
- I was becoming a LOTRO fan but I've found myself jumping back into 2142 more often.
Oh, and some Wii action. Mostly just Wii Sports for fitness, waiting for a big
block of time one weekend to jump into Zelda, and Metroid will be here in a couple
weeks. It's a nice little console, though I still don't have a lot of playtime.
The Virtual Console part is fun nostalgia (Adventures of Lolo, anyone?), but
I really wish there was an option to shrink the view screen. NES games at 256x240
are very pixelated when blown up to 480p on a 24" widescreen LCD, they probably
look even worse on 60" HDTVs.
- Flicks: I'm not a big horror fan, but was pleasantly surprised by the quality of
28 Days Later, enough to look forward to the sequel. Beer League was pretty bad,
I understand the atmosphere they were going for but it came out rather clumsily.
Guillermo proved his skills again with Pan's Labyrinth, easily tops in atmosphere
and character work. Knocked Up took the dramedy approach fairly well, though not
very memorably. Accepted carried the torch decently for college hijinks. A Scanner
Darkly was interesting to watch but sometimes a bit muddled. The new Transformers
was a big leap from the old series, great visuals and kinetics but occasionally
bad dialogue. Die Hard 4 brought McLane back in fine form, the action keeps
ramping up and the great quips are still there. Blood Diamond was pretty intense
and involving, very fine work by the leads. Sunshine was easily the best sci-fi
I've seen in a very long time. The Bourne Ultimatum delivered an intense and
well-shot conclusion to most of the main story, though I hope they make at least
one more, as a capstone with an epilogue. In some ways Fast Food Nation covered
hamburgers the way Traffic did drugs, a great though grim dissection, filled with
good character work.
- Grooving to Over The Rhine these days. Drunkard's Prayer is very solid and intimate
work, I'm looking forward to Ohio. Also got Best of the Best, Vol I. Some fantastic
tribute pieces in there, I hope there are more volumes to come. And I'm still waiting
for KFSS Studios to put out their next album, they always rock.
- May 15, 2007
- April was a bit busy, and now we're almost halfway through May. I did hit Austin somewhere in
the middle there, including dinner at the Salt Lick, and dim sum at T&S. In the Galleria area
I got to sample the food at Bice, not bad at all. Also tried Buddha Lounge and Vogue,
two cool clubs near there. Celebrated Cinco de Mayo at a friend's birthday, partly at Cyclone
Anaya's. I'm becoming a regular for Friday happy hour at the Bennigan's a block away from
my apartment. That'll ease up soon as I'm trying to live healthier, or at least in moderation.
- I've taken a break from 2142, trying a bit of Lord of the Rings Online lately. Between all the
deeds, questing, crafting and swashbuckling I'm a pretty busy little hobbit minstrel, and it's
an engaging world so far.
- I got a new phone (same number), switching from Sprint to Cingular. It's the Cingular 8525,
running on Windows Mobile 5. Pretty good so far, though some third party apps are buggy and
can crash it. Trying Flexmail 2007 for IMAP and Outlook management, but I still haven't found
a good notification system for work alerts so I have to use my work Blackberry for on-call weeks.
- Flicks: Crash was a dense and involving drama, good ensemble work there. The Reaping was a
surprisingly good throwback to the old cult horror flicks. The Devil Wears Prada was a charmingly
funny modern fairytale and estrogen-heavy empowerment flick, I prefer grittier stuff but got
some laughs anyway. On the retro dial, I never saw Hundra in my younger days. It was a fun romp
that was only a bit preachy at times, and had a lot of Conan nostalgia built in (literally).
Beerfest was funny college humor, a bit cliched at times. I enjoyed the adventurous Eragon,
though with the low ratings and box office there may not be any sequels. I don't like time
travel films much, but Next at least tried to use logic and stick to its rules, the performances
were good, as were the effects, overall good but not terribly memorable. Rise Of Taj was not
as good as the first Van Wilder film, but it had plenty of its own great moments. Spiderman
3 was long and a bit stuffed with plot and characters, but still a good ride.
- I picked up a couple more Leona Naess CDs, a self-titled and I Tried To Rock But You Only Roll.
The self-titled is a little too maudlin but I'm slowly getting into it, the other is just awesome.
Also got a couple compilations, Albedo and Oxycanta, plus Sync24's debut, Source. The
compilations are a nice mix of grooves so far. Source is its own feel but I dig it.
Sync24 is Daniel Ringstrom from CBL, so it's a bit familiar and different.
- The BenQ monitor has been working pretty nicely so far, just had to tweak the settings a bit.
I do see brief banding from the stabilization during fast video and gaming sequences, but it's
configurable and not much of a bother. It's nice having two different application windows
side by side and still have enough room in each to really use them. And now I have the real
estate to really give my graphics card a workout.
- March 28, 2007
- Rolling along pretty smoothly into spring here. It was March of last year that I had that
little hospital stay, I think I'm doing much better this time around. :)
- My Casio Databank finally became too faded and peeled, so I picked up a Timex 1440 Sports
Worldtime Calculator watch. It's been pretty great so far, except for unequal lug ends
(16mm and 13mm). So I'm having a tough time replacing the black resin strap with a decent
metal one, may need to use a custom jeweler on this one.
- Caught a little bit of SXSW (South By SouthWest) in Austin, Mar 16-17. I didn't have a
badge or wristband, just wanted to see what downtown Austin was like, especially considering
that Sat was also St. Patrick's Day. Chilled at a couple clubs, most places were crowded
and hard to get in. Parking was crazy, I ended up using a valet. I'll plan ahead a bit
more next year. Did get to see most of the Austin crew, so that was good.
- Flicks: The Marine was adequate for popcorn action but the lead is pretty wooden so it's
not that fun sometimes. Robert Patrick and crew make a good effort to counterpoint that.
Lady In The Water was a nice bedtime story, but stretched out to sustain a whole film makes
it a bit tenuous. The textural and character elements help a lot, I guess in the right
mood it's a fun trip. Black Dahlia was a great dark and twisted noir piece, reminds me a
lot of Torso, which I believe Fincher is trying to film. 10th And Wolf was quite
disappointing, just a mess of a mob film. Lucky Number Slevin was much more fun, quirky
characters and a good story to follow. The Astronaut Farmer was not bad, a small, intimate
character piece with a cute story. I signed up with Netflix, mainly to check out films I'm
either not planning to buy or aren't sure about yet. First up was My Super Ex-Girlfriend,
an interesting twist on the romantic comedy. Some good laughs, spotty effects at times,
and a nice part for Izzard to play with. Back at the cinema, Zodiac was a solid piece,
great leads and an intriguing story, though it feels a bit long. 300 was just gorgeous,
like moving paintings at times. Great characters and story too, though it takes a little
poetic license with history. I picked up the new special edition of Black Rain, still a
great film, and Ridley's commentary was pretty interesting at times.
- Went out to a shooting range with some coworker friends. Got a chance to try out several
rifles and a pistol. Pretty neat, though I need more practice for accuracy and recoil.
- It's weird how, after enough months of playing FPS games regularly, now when I sit down at
the keyboard my left hand fingers sometimes move into the WASD position instead of the
normal typing placement I've used since the 7th grade.
- Got new glasses, it had been a couple years and the anti-fog coating had worn off one lens.
The new pair are Flexon 429 black chrome frames, with Transitions lenses, so technically
they work as sunglasses too. The only caveat is that the Transitions process reacts
to UV, so it doesn't work well inside vehicles that have UV protection in their windshields.
- I just ordered BenQ's FP241WZ. Yes, I know last month I decided not to, but it turns out
the stabilization is modifiable and can even be turned off when needed. Plus its 1:1
aspect ratio match is hard to get on the non-Z version, and the cost is only a smidge more
than the non-Z version. Had to use TigerDirect this time, looks like Newegg is sitting on
a large stock on non-Z's with older firmware. Now I just need to clean up my computer desk
to make room, it's like a nest within a nest.
- February 11, 2007
- So yeah, January shot by without an update. Lots of work and little else, really.
I did enjoy the Brazilian carnival in Austin, Feb 3. Lots of feathers and airbrushed
body art, pretty fun scenery to watch, though I'm not much of a dancer.
- Chilled with the folks for Xmas, got some cool CDs and DVDs. Enjoyed mom's
Belizean tamales, pork this time. They're not like the Mexican tamales
that are better known in the U.S., much larger and different in taste and texture.
Then I had a few days of work, skeleton crew with many issues to face. Then a four-day
New Year's weekend in Austin, alternating between partying and recuperating. Enjoyed
the back patio of Gingerman in downtown Austin for the midnight cheer. Good times with
good friends, a little champagne, some fireworks, etc. I guess it was a good way to round
out the year. There never seems to be enough time to do everything and see everyone
that you want. But all is good, and only six more years to go. :)
- Flicks: Denzel was pretty solid in Deja Vu, a good sci-fi film, surprising
because the trailer made it look like it was a weird psycho thriller. Hannibal Rising
was much more in that vein. Hopkins was quite missed, otherwise it did a good job
of fleshing out the early Lecter backstory. Borat was crazy, funny and unsettling in
various doses. Little Miss Sunshine was less edgy but still funny and dark. A very
restrained Damon pulled off a good lead in The Good Shepherd, an engrossing De Niro spy
epic. Rocky was a wonderful capstone to the series, a lot of heart and history there.
Memory lane was D.A.R.Y.L., still a fun bit of sci-fi. Children Of Men was pretty heavy,
gritty stuff, well done throughout. Primeval did have a lot of the popcorn fun of
watching a killer giant croc, with a heavy dose of African human rights thrown in.
- Grooving to CBL lately (Carbon Based Lifeforms), a Swedish ambient group. I guess
after BT and a couple other pieces in the past I'm leaning to the chill side these
days. I may try Ultimae's Fahrenheit Project compilations next, to get more exposure
to recent groups.
- Not much in the computing front lately. I did pick up Pa-Software's Disc Image Pro.
I can mount multiple often-used CDs and DVDs so I don't have to do as much swapping.
Doesn't work on every software title, but enough to make it worthwhile. I finally dropped
my McAfee subscription, McAfee's customer service was pretty nice about it. Windows Live
OneCare has been working pretty well so far. I guess they could add some more advanced
management options and better reporting. Also grabbed Prey (Ltd Ed), Paraworld, Dungeon
Siege, KOTOR 2, XIII, TMNT 2 and Pariah, though I'm being more careful these days to avoid
titles using Starforce encryption. I'm holding off on getting the Habu, too many user
complaints about buggy driver installs. It should be fine in a couple months. I'm also
skipping BenQ's FP241WZ for now. Turns out the image stabilization has a cost in brightness,
plus some other issues, so I'll just get the cheaper non-Z version ($750 at Newegg). It's
always a risk with new tech (Vista being the biggest current target), I'm sure in a couple
years the image switching will be totally ready. The only caveat about the FP241W is the
lack of a 1:1 aspect ratio match, the monitor munges all 16:9 images to its native 16:10.
Newer models have a firmware fix for this, hopefully Newegg will come through in the clutch
- December 23, 2006
- Rockin to the end of this year, ready for even more in the next. Lots of changes
coming, some already happening, just going with the flow. I'll be partying in
Austin for New Year's weekend: having a little shindig at Casa Webb on Friday,
resting up on Saturday, then downtown Sunday for the festivities. It will be
much needed after spending this week on-call (including Xmas weekend). In Houston
I have had some fun lately at Roc Bar (in Bayou Place), and Azuma (by the entrance
of Rice Hotel), but I haven't really had time to get out much. I did catch a hilarious
Patton Oswalt show in Austin (Dec 2), it was great to finally hear him live.
- Besides eating too much holiday candy at work, I got a couple special treats.
At the company lunch my door ticket got me a couple tickets to the company suite
for a Rockets/Lakers game (Tue Dec 12). I'd never been to a pro basketball game,
or the Toyota Center. Although I'm still not a basketball fan it was really fun
and the suite was pretty snazzy. Then at the department holiday lunch my door ticket
got me an iPod Shuffle. So now I'm slowly ripping my CDs. Also bought some songs on
iTunes, and picked up an audio jack for my truck's stereo, so I'm getting pretty close
to mainstream yuppie. iTunes is music mana for cost-conscious impulse buyers. Just
wish they had higher quality MP3 compression. 192 is much nicer than 128, so my CD
rips are that way. The Sound Check feature does fix volume differences but it also
takes most of the life out of the music, so it's a lost option.
- As if those prizes weren't enough, I won a quiz contest at Tom's Hardware, and a
couple new Gigabyte motherboards arrived this week. One is Intel (965P-DQ6) and the
other is AMD (GA-M59SLI-S5), so I have some tinkering to do. I'll use the Intel board
for my upgrades, and the AMD for my folks' system, because I'm more of an Intel guy.
- Battlefield 2142 is my gaming diversion of choice lately. I'm a Camp Gibraltar sniper
with almost 10000 points, and there are still so many other facets of the game left to
try. I have my eye on the Wii and the Xbox 360, but I have some PC and TV upgrades
to do first. I'm waiting for the BenQ FP241WZ to show up in the U.S., though I'm also
dreading the MSRP, so I may just settle for the FP241W. I was planning to go to Vista
Premium around Feb or March, then I heard about the audio issue, so that's on hold.
- Flicks: The Prestige was great, a dark period piece with a good mystery and lots of layered
character work. Bowie as Tesla was an inspired choice. The Omen felt a bit flat throughout,
though it tried to capture the feel of the original. Hellboy: Sword of Storms was pretty fun,
Perlman did the voice and the stylized art worked well for it. Still hoping for a live-action
sequel though. Nick Nolte was completely at home in The Good Thief, the ensemble did a good
job. Casino Royale brought Bond back in style. Good story, intense characters, great action,
and a nice subtle thread of adult humor lacing through. I heard there were a lot of
inaccuracies regarding Mayan culture and history in Apocalypto, but I enjoyed it regardless.
There were only a couple times when the digital camera work and lighting made the scenes
look flat and unpolished.
- IE7 is pretty, but less functional than IE6, so I have to use Firefox to view some pages.
In IE7 some pages with embedded media won't load, and it has trouble with some SSL certs too.
- It took a while because I had to find and import it from Japan, but Goldfrapp's Black Cherry
arrived. The title song is amazing, and I'm grooving to the rest. Aimee Mann's One More
Drifer In The Snow also showed up. Nice renditions and a couple originals, but I'm not
really into Xmas music so I only really like a couple tracks. I used Otokichi Premium to
track down a couple Yadamon soundtrack CDs. They're pretty good about finding older stuff,
and the cost isn't too bad.
- October 18, 2006
- Time flies when you're having fun. I was hoping to update this page on Sundays but my
weekends seem to be pretty packed lately, both for work and fun.
- Sampled the Houston club scene last Saturday night. Started off at Ra, a sushi joint
with a great bar (sake bombs ftw), moved on to champagne and fiber optic disco balls at
XO, patio cocktails at Epic, etc. Haven't partied in downtown in a while, good times.
- Picked up Goldfrapp's Supernature last month. Lively sexy grooves, a bit different from
Felt Mountain. Plus, the attached dvd has both DTS and Dolby settings, so I could test
my computer's surround sound. I have an Audigy X-Fi Elite Pro and a Klipsch ProMedia 5.1 set,
so it was pretty nice. I ordered Supernature with the Black Cherry import but I guess
Amazon is having a harder time getting that. Also enjoying Teitur's latest, Stay Under
The Stars. I heard him live fronting the Aimee Mann tour last year, good stuff. Speaking
of Aimee, I just pre-ordered her Christmas album, One More Drifter In The Snow. I'm not
a big xmas music lover, but I'll follow her trail any day. Currently I'm exploring Brian
Transeau's This Binary Universe. Just picked it up on a whim (no, I haven't seen Monster
yet). Cool ambient techno meditations, with elements of industrial deconstruction
- Flicks: Firewall felt very tired, like Harrison needed the paycheck. The Sentinel was
a solid thriller about the Secret Service, sometimes broadhanded but quite engaging.
Finally saw Malkovich's stab at Tom Ripley in Ripley's Game, a very nice turn in a
subdued European pastiche, Dougray Scott was pretty decent too. Pulse was a boring
letdown, I much preferred Silent Hill. I'm not big on the horror genre, but the latter
had a better story, more interesting characters, and some fantastic effects. Crank was
a slow burn of increasing absurdity, which kept my interest primarily through the dark
humor of it all. The Wicker Man, while a decent effort, was not as good as the original.
The raw intensity and creepiness felt toned down, tamer I guess. The Protector could
have used better film stock, to better display the excellent martial arts and stunt work
Tony Jaa and his crew were putting out. Another slow burn, though this time in
increasing intensity and brutal technique. Of course, if you're into martial arts,
Fearless is just stunning. Jet Li put five years of development into it, and it paid off
beautifully, both in action and theme. Poseidon had a decent ensemble, great sets and
effects, a nice popcorn night. Night Watch was a great Russian horror epic. It dragged
a little by having to define its world quite a bit, but the cast is great and the pacing
picks up nicely later. Wonderful use of subtitling too. Waiting is a great sophomore
comedy, with a cast that knows its milieu and pulls it off nicely. A Sound Of Thunder
has good intentions but fails in the execution. Val Kilmer's John Holmes keeps Wonderland
going, with nice runs from Lucas, McDermott and Bogosian. The Departed was pretty good,
dense atmosphere and solid work throughout. I also enjoyed the original, Infernal Affairs.
Checked out Hell's Angels, courtesy of a friend at work. Great aerial stunts and inventive
camera work, with a decent romance setup on the ground, and a great intro to Jean Harlow.
- Had another Dallas run on Tuesday, Oct 10. This time it was just me, driving up
in the morning in the middle of a heavy storm (had to pull over for a bit), then
setting up a server, then driving back in the afternoon. Eight hours of driving,
with plenty of Jo Hisaishi/Ghibli sountracks in the background, but I still haven't
had a chance to explore Dallas nightlife much.
- I got the first season of Airwolf on DVD, and just pre-ordered the second. The minute
I heard the howl I was thrown back to childhood. Watching it now I can see all the
wooden acting and lower production values, but it still has a solid backbone and is fun
to watch, and I'm picking up new elements with older eyes. I'm also currently engrossed
in the anime series Monster. Very nice setup and character work, though I've only seen
a few episodes so far.
- Had a blast at AWA (Atlanta, GA), Sept 22-24. Tried some great ribs at Jack & Jill's,
partied at Dessloktoberfest and several other shindigs until dawn, met a lot of East
coast friends I don't see very often, and Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re, picked up Tim Eldred's graphic
novel, Grease Monkey, which looks hella fun and I hope to get to it soon. I'm definitely
looking forward to going back next year.
- Hit Austin the following weekend. Partied with a few friends at the Casa Webb patio,
enjoyed vindaloo and mango pina coladas at the Clay Pit, dim sum with the gang at T&S,
and caught Fearless, which I mentioned above.
- If you're a gamer and missed the South Park World of Warcraft episode, you missed liquid comedy gold.
- I finally ordered some food from Bavaria Sausage, they're Wisconsin-based and make good
German meats the old-fashioned way. I got some Black Forest ham, Kaiser brats,
Nurnberger brats, and regular weiners. Shipping and handling is higher
($25 on that order), because they cold-pack and overnight it, but it's worth
the taste. The preparation methods create very dense and rich flavors, so you
have to get used to it, maybe lighten it with some bread and veggies. Great for
an occasional treat. My friend Walter Amos cued me in to Rieker's, a great German
deli in his area, so I'll try them soon as well.
- Sunday evening (Sept 3) I enjoyed a good Labor Day weekend bbq at my folks' place.
The extra bonus is that I got to take some back to my apt so I got more meals
out of it during the week. Kudos to my brother for his grilling skills, and my
aunt and sis for the prep work.
- Playing a bit of Battlefield 1942 lately. A few coworkers and friends play it
and the anthology was just $20. I had originally tried it out a couple years ago,
so I was quite rusty. The Desert Combat Final mod adds a lot of nice touches, it
is a fun experience though I'm still learning.
- September 1, 2006
- Dallas was a bit tiring because of the long work hours, but we did get some
decent food and had a little fun. Didn't get to explore Deep Ellum or other
similar areas, I may do A-kon next year just for that.
- Gulf fishing trip was cancelled last weekend due to weather. Too bad, I
haven't gone gulf fishing in at least a couple years, and it's doubtful we'll
get another chance until next year sometime.
- Looking forward to Labor Day weekend. I'm on-call this week so I can't go
out and party much, but I'll enjoy a good bbq at my folks' place on Monday.
Speaking of cooking meat, I tried some beef at the Super Target grocery section
recently. It was grass-fed, no chemicals, etc. It tasted quite strange. I
haven't eaten natural meat like that since I was in Belize about 20 years ago,
so maybe I just need to get used to it. I guess it was just weird for domestic
beef to have such deep natural flavors, I've gotten used to the processed stuff.
My folks do sometimes get whole packaged chickens from the Asian supermarket
(Hong Kong Food Market on Scarsdale), and those taste different too, both in
flavor and texture. I've gotten used to that and prefer it now.
- Thoroughly enjoying Agassi's final run at the U.S. Open. Very intense and
exciting stuff, I was yelling at the TV in his fifth set tiebreaker against
Baghdatis. I guess I've been rooting for Andre about 15 years now, from the
flippant and brash youth to the focused, considerate sportsman he is now.
And he is still incredibly agile, running decently against the new kids on
the block. It would be nice if he went out with a bang by winning this Open,
but Nadal or Federer will probably take it.
- Caught several flicks on DVD this week. Sahara is still a great action/adventure
outing on a second viewing, I think it deserves a sequel, and it is
based on a series of books. The Rocketeer doesn't quite have the magic it did
the first time I saw it in '91, but it's passable. Inside Man is a solid and
nicely played heist film. The intercutting of the interrogations is a bit
jarring at first but works well later on. Stealth is a series of great special
effects scenes mixed with weak plot and character development. Domino is a
downward spiral of characters making mistakes and digging the hole deeper, I
don't enjoy those types of films. A few fun scenes though. Sky Captain holds
up much better than The Rocketeer, it's just such a strange, ethereal world on
screen, and the characters and story just flow right through it.
- August 16, 2006
- Off to Dallas for work tomorrow. Haven't been there in a while since I've
missed the last few A-kons, plus this will be in a different part of town,
so hopefully I may get to explore a little.
- Got a good dose of nostalgia a couple weekends ago when I went to see 'Miami
Vice'. The movie was too different from the original series (darker and
grittier, edited differently, great work though) to do that, but the theater
was the AMC Loews Spring 10. It looked, smelled and functioned exactly like
the Loews Bay Area I used to haunt in my high school days. It was quite
surprising, because I remember when the AMC and Cinemark multiplexes began
their domination and the small neighborhood Loews and GCC cinemas began
shutting down and being converted to other stores. I'm a Cinemark man, but
it was fun, I may go back once in a while for the convenience, it's only a
couple minutes from my apt.
- Rental goodness: 16 Blocks (solid piece, Mos Def was surprisingly good); The
Matador (great riffs by Pierce, nice dynamic with Kinnear); Natural City
(stunning visuals and atmosphere, decent story and characters).
- Also caught Talladega Nights last weekend, laughed so hard I cried.
- I won a copy of Clean on dvd from Landmark's Houston email newsletter contest.
Haven't seen Maggie in a while so it should be interesting. I did catch a bit
of Quitting (Jia Hongsheng) last night but it didn't give me a good vibe. The
Wisdom of Crocodiles was pretty good though, Jude did a nice take on the
- While still just skilling in Eve-Online, I have been slowly plowing through
Republic Commando. Single-player campaigns, lots of fun, good mix of
difficulty. Also whipped out my collector's edition of Warcraft III. Will be
playing that next, and I've already ordered and received the Frozen Throne
expansion, so I'll be in there for a while. I saw the dragon teaser for
Project Offset this week, it's quite amazing. Another example where in-game
object models and environs have reached the level of pre-rendered cinematics.
They've secured an Xbox 360 deal, hope that doesn't impact the PC version.
- July 27, 2006
- Goldie, what up? Climbing Felt Mountain, finding Utopia.
- Austin rocked, Clerks 2 is frickin hilarious,
and I invented a new drink: bubblegum banana rum (email for details).
- Also rented Ultraviolet and Wedding Crashers (Uncorked Edition). Ultraviolet
is the Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium) action vehicle for Milla Jovovich, not the
awesome Jack Davenport Brit vampire miniseries. It has some issues in plot
and pacing, but visually is incredibly vibrant and inventive. Wedding Crashers
is pretty funny and warm, though I much prefer Clerks 2.
- July 18, 2006
- Tech Ed was awesome, lots of new stuff from Microsoft, Boston dining, great Train concert at Fenway Park.
- Loved the VGL concert in Houston (July 14), although the lighting needs some work
and they hadn't added Shadow of the Colossus yet.
- Rockin the casbah in Austin, July 21-23, hopefully catching Clerks 2 with the gang as well.
- Loved Superman Returns, Pirates 2 was fun.
- Rental goodness: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, The Ice Harvest, A History Of Violence,
The New World, The World's Fastest Indian, Elizabethtown, Empire Of The Wolves.
- Rental not-so-goodness: Dave Chappelle's Block Party (most of the music just wasn't to my taste),
The Cave (some thrills but hokey), The Pink Panther (tiring), The Aristocrats (a few gems but
mostly one crass joke pushed too far so it gets stale).
- May 14, 2006
- Prepping for Tech Ed in June.
- MI:3 is pretty good, shades of Alias in the editing.
- April 26, 2006
- It's a busy year, life's good though.