Monday, January 30, 2012

Somehow, I Managed To Skate

I mentioned last week that I had gone ice skating. Just before capturing the video of the ice skater hitting the wall, I was recording my own video on trying to skate. I found it difficult to do, initially, because of the pain in my ankles and the amount of effort it took for me to actually stay balanced. Thirty minutes in, I was sweating bullets and practically having a heart attack on the ice. I decided to tough it out as much as possible and eventually got the hang of it.



I learned a lot about ice skating that day. Here are some ice skating tips that might help you if you're just starting out on the ice:

  • Don't be afraid to fall. It's going to happen eventually, so try to fall on your ass. Keep your wrists, elbows, hips and knees from hitting the ice first. If you end up falling forward, try to keep your chin up. 
  • Start out with your left skate behind you at a 45 degree angle. Keep your knees bent with most of your weight on the left skate and push off with your left skate while moving your body weight onto the right skate. 
  • As your forward motion begins to slow, being your left foot in next to the right. Shift your weight to your right skate and push off with it.
  • To stop, turn one skate at a 45 degree angle and drag it behind the other skate. Lean back a little and shift your body weight onto the skate that is being dragged. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

An Interesting Dream

I had an odd dream last night. 

My daughter and I were checking into a hotel with my grandmother. Everyone there looked familiar. From the lobby to the front desk to the hallways, everyone had a face that I was sure I knew but couldn't quite place. We got to our room, set our bags down and my grandmother make some remarks about my daughter, how she looked like me and had good feet (she always said women need to have small feet).

A knock came on the door, and I opened it up and it was my old college friend Courtney. She and I had been very close in college and, although she was my friend, I had always seen her as something of an authority figure. She was always trying to focus me and keep me on task and was never afraid to tell me when I was acting out of line. After my initial shock at seeing her wore off, I screamed "COURTNEY!!!" and threw my arms around her. She said she had seen me in the lobby and followed me up. I said I was surprised she had recognized me after all these years. She simply replied "I just looked for the guy who looks like Robert the Bruce" (she always said she thought I looked like Angus Macfadyen from Braveheart).

She smiled at me and told me that our friend Lucas just happened to be in the hotel too and asked if I'd like to see him. My grandmother said she'd watch my daughter and Courtney and I walked down the hall. We chatted about how our lives had been going since we last saw each other. I told her I was sorry to hear about her sister and that she'd always be that goofy little 15-year-old girl to me. Courtney smiled at me and told me her sister was in a better place and that, from her perspective, she was just checking in too.

We arrived at the door to a ballroom which I could tell was buzzing with activity. Courtney told me Lucas was hanging out in there with a lot of other people I knew. I opened the door and saw a room filled with friends and family, some of them I knew were long gone. It was then that I realized that I couldn't remember how I had gotten to the hotel. And that's when it hit me. I was dead. We all were. I looked at Courtney and hugged hear and woke up crying.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Skyrim

I broke down and bought The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim for the PS3 the other day. It's a lot of fun, but a little heavy on the fantasy aspect for my taste. It's basically Fallout 3 meets The Lord of the Rings. But, it's so incredibly fun to play that I don't really mind being inundated with lore from every NPC.

After buying the game, I wandered to toy section in order to pick up a Lego kit that my daughter had been wanting. It was then that I heard a little girl shouting and giggling. As I walked down the Lego aisle, she came running out holding a Nerf sword, Captain America shield and Thor helmet. She saw me, then turned and shouted "FUS RO DAH!". Recognizing that these are the words used in Skyrim that summon a powerful concussive force, I threw myself backwards, knocking some toys off the shelves as I fell.

I regained my composure, looked at her surprised and said "You must be Dragonborn!"

She smiled and said "Don't worry. I'm a good guy!" and then ran off to continue her adventures.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ice Skater Crashes Into the Wall

I took my date ice skating this past weekend. I figured it would be a good activity for us to do together because we both hadn't been on ice skates in about ten years. As I struggled to keep myself upright, my date skated as if she'd been at it for months. She was immediately graceful while I struggled to keep coordinated. She was skating rings around me.

It took me a while to get the hang of it, but I eventually got to the point where I could skate pretty well without having to hug the outside rail. In fact, I was doing so well, I decided to make a little video of myself skating and describing how I had progressed from clodhopper to semi-graceful in about 30 minutes. While I was filming myself, I saw out of the corner of my eye a skater speeding towards his friends. He was intending to stop hard and ice them. He hit the wall instead.

I managed to get a snippet of the video starting right when he hit the wall.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Small Redesign

Looks like the place got a fresh coat of paint, doesn't it? It's a little different, but still familiar, I hope.

I spent a good part of the day today bringing the site into compliance with the new Blogger advanced templates. Doing this will allow me to better analyze traffic and see which specific posts are being frequently viewed. Doing this will also allow me to finally break free of web hosting from GoDaddy and ship all of my content to Google. It's going to take a little time to bring back in all of the content that pre-dated the creation of this site as all of that exists on the GoDaddy host.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DC Universe Online Is Free To Play

Damnation: Criminals Be Damned!
MMORPGs are like crack to me. I can get addicted really fast under the right conditions. And, on the surface, DC Universe Online seems like it would fit the bill. What geek worth his Master's degree hadn't ever dreamed of being a superhero fighting alongside iconic heroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman? With DC Universe Online offering a free to play option now, I downloaded the game onto my PS3 and prepared to skulk in the shadows of Gotham City.

I started out creating a hero modeled after Batman whom I tried to name Damnation. That name was taken. "Damn Nation" was ruled invalid because of the word "damn". Really? I'm not allowed to use a word that is used fairly often in DC comic books? Fine. I went with Danmation, but felt pretty cheap about it. Gameplay is light and breezy and, although combat is repetitive and predictable it's still a lot of fun. I really enjoyed playing through the Scarecrow quest line and was jazzed about getting an assist from Nightwing at the culmination of the Bane quest line. The quests don't offer much that's different from any other MMORPGs. I do wish that there were randomly generated events that would let me stop a mugging or a bank robbery or something like that. I want to patrol and stumble upon random crimes. Maybe that sort of thing exists, but if it does, I have yet to run across it. I would chalk that up to the crowded world. DC Universe is overrun with wannabe heroes which causes its share of problems.

My biggest complaint with DC Universe Online is its craptacular interface. In order to access my inventory, I need to hold START, roll over to the icon, hold X (while still holding START) and then roll over to my bag. That sort of motion has me holding the control like a spastic. I shouldn't have to hold START. What's worse is that you cannot pass through other players. Other players can actually stand in front of corridors and keep you from getting through. This happens often enough where it has become an issue that needs to be addressed.

As much fun as DC Universe Online is to play, the above issues are what keeps me from wanting to play often. At the moment, I'd call it a nice change of pace, something I'd play maybe once a week after getting bored with rampaging through Fallout 3. I suspect, once I buy Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, I won't have any desire to play DC Universe Online.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Slip Sliding Away

During yesterday's minor snowstorm, I was forced to see how well my Ford Mustang would perform in the snow on roads that were not well cleared. The Mustang is light in the rear, with fat tires, rear wheel drive and lots of torque which makes driving a Mustang in the snow a harrowing experience. I drove as carefully as possible yesterday and even I, a driver who was seasoned on plowing through many Chicago snowstorms over the years, had a very difficult time. At one point, I spun out and did a 180 in the middle of the road.

All the above being said, people drove real wheel drive cars in inclement weather for decades before front-wheel drive and ABS became standard. And even now that it's the norm, I still see those sort of cars in ditches. It's the driver of the car as much as it's the car itself that determines how well the commute in the snow will go. I sought out some advice from some fellow Mustang owners who often drive in the snow and here's what I have come up with:

  • Always keep at least a half tank of gas in the car. This adds much needed weight to the rear. 
  • Invest in some snow tires. 
  • If you're driving an automatic, when you come to a stop on slippery surfaces, shift to neutral. This will take the engine drive away from the rear wheels and make braking more effective.
  • Be careful if you decide to add weight to the trunk. It may cause you some problems on corners.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ben Folds - The Best Imitation Of Myself

I  always worry when artists that I like release a retrospective album. It usually means that they're running low on inspiration and are on the verge of creative bankruptcy. After Ben Folds' last mediocre effort, an anthology might be just what Ben Folds needs in order to find some perspective get back on track. 

Best Imitation Of Myself is a 3 CD set packed full of hits, live tracks, outtakes and some new offerings. Disc 1 is a "best of" offering and, while it may not include the sort of tracks I would have expected to see on a "greatest hits" CD, it's still a solid effort covering Ben's commercially successful songs along with cuts that spans his diverse musical range. Disc 2 is a compilation of live tracks. I've never had the pleasure of seeing Ben Folds live, but he is known to be a silly, energetic performer who always delivers a good show. These cuts make me long for the day when I can see Mr. Folds perform in person. Disc 3 offers a number of rarities and there are some real gems on there, my favorite being "Break Up At The Food Court".

In short, Best Imitation Of Myself is a good buy for the casual listener looking for the highlights or the hardcore fan hoping to pick up some hidden gems.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oops! Wrong Number!

I got a call recently from some poor telemarketer looking to conduct some business with a commercial construction company. He obviously had the wrong number, but I kept him on as long as I could, which, I am sorry to say, was not long.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No Internet And No TV Makes TommyMac.....Something Something

I woke up on New Years Eve to find that my cable modem had quit functioning. Despite several desperate attempts to revive it, the modem just would not power on. Because of this, my internet and phone were out as well as any television in my home connected to a converter box. I could still get television directly through the cable, but that just completely sucked. I had been so looking forward to watching Dick Clark further waste away during New Year's Rockin' Eve.

I called my cable provider on New Year's Day and was routed to a tech support shop in the Philippines. Their approximations of American accents were very good, but it was obvious that they were reading from a script. I asked if I could pick up a new cable modem from my local office on January 3 and was told that I would have to have someone bring it out to me. I was told that it had to be done this way so that my old modem could be inspected for signs of intentional damage.

Okay, fine. So they arranged to send someone out today to look things over. And nobody showed up at the appointed time (a four hour window). A quick call to my cable provider revealed that the work order didn't process correctly and that I would have to wait another week. Unacceptable, right? Screw that. I resolved to call the competing provider and get service from them instead. They've got a two week waiting list.

Meanwhile, I have rented just about every movie available at any of my local RedBox kiosks. Once I got around to watching the dregs like Green Lantern and Bad Teacher I was ready to kick puppies. Had it not been for the delicious Cameron Diaz shamelessly flaunting herself in Bad Teacher, I might have sued the RedBox for emotional distress. I'm at the end of my entertainment rope.

Some good has come of this. I've spent more time actually cooking dinner rather than heating up dinner or ordering dinner. It has been fun making calzones from scratch or trying to perfect my recipe for fried chicken. Since I've got another week to dally around, I think I'll attack jungle of overgrowth on the edge of my back yard property line. This means power tools. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Angry Birds

A close friend recently told me that she was going to San Francisco and planned to visit Chinatown. Knowing that she's a big animal rights activist, I sarcastically asked her to send me a picture of some chicken cages. I don't think she was quite prepared for the sight of live animals for sale, for she said that the sight of these squawking chickens flapping about in their own filth made her want to rip open the cages and scream "Amnesty! Amnesty!".

A number of animal rights activist groups have been working for some time now to ban the sale of live animals in San Francisco. This sort of move is often seen as a cultural attack, as 1 in 5 residents of San Francisco is Chinese and the Chinese traditionally buy poultry to slaughter at home for food. Something to note here when looking at these caged animals is that live poultry vendors have to adhere to standards of cleanliness and are often subject to inspection by the Department of Public Health. The chickens that you see caged in the storefronts of Chinatown are treated much more humanely than the ones that are kept in slaughterhouses, far from the eyes of tourists. After all, it's easier to get outraged by an atrocity that you can see in front of you

Monday, January 2, 2012

I Witnessed A Murder....Of Crows

I called the dogs to go outside for their hourly potty-break last night. Something was up with them. They usually jump at the chance to spend a little time outdoors, but, this time, they weren't having it. I had to drag both of the dogs outside, and as I placed them on the lawn, I looked up to see what had been troubling them. A large murder of crows circled overhead. There were easily hundreds of them and they were flying around like they were pissed off.

Crows are known for their intelligence and are often seen as harbingers of death. I personally see them as harbingers of a dive-bomb crapping attack. In fact, when I surveyed my neighborhood the next morning, I could hardly walk on the pavement without having to avoid clumps of crow droppings. My poor Mustang, along with all other cars left outside overnight in the neighborhood, was covered in crap. It should be no wonder that there was so much shit laying around as the typical crow eats 11 ounces of food on a daily basis and the waste has to go SOMEwhere.

This whole experience hasn't given me a newfound respect for nature, nor has it made me learn to appreciate the power of the animal kingdom. All it has done is motivate me to buy a car cover for my convertible.