Life In Progress


In my non-existent spare time:

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 for me.

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 running through.

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 vampire dilemma.

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.