Friday, September 30, 2005

Thursday Night Magic

Tim postponed our card gaming until tonight, and even brought beer!

Work was strenuous, and it was a relief to do something trivial for a couple of hours. I won several games in a row with a deck I've been trying to tune for a few weeks. It's a multi-color deck that wants to win by playing multiple Hondens, along with a few other good cards. Tim played 3 decks against it and lost all three times, then I swapped over to a mediocre red/blue deck and lost in short order.

I dunno. It's a frustrating game, sometimes. Was the thinking mostly in the play, the deck-building beforehand, both, or neither?

Tim had traded me a Spiritmonger in some trading we did about a year ago. He had put it into his decks for years, and never saw it come into play. During the 3 consecutive games where I beat him, I drew the single Spiritmonger early and held it until I could safely play it and start serving the beats. It's a card game, horribly random at best.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

An open letter to PBS

Dear PBS,

How are you? I am fine. Thank you for airing Teletubbies weekday mornings. My daughter loves them. Kiyou is a timid little kid, and I hate him. Also, the new Sesame Street has too much Grover and Elmo. I know you like Elmo, and since we've been friends for a long time, PBS, I won't try and stop your obsession with a shrill-voiced puppet who craps hundred-dollar bills. You're too attached to that revenue stream. Fine, knock yourself out on Elmo. That's not what I want to discuss with you.

PBS, I know we don't talk much, and you find most of my interests too boring. Usually, I am at my computer or playing boardgames. We used to be friends, back in the day. I know it was one-sided, but old buddy, let's do something we haven't done in a long time: let's watch Dr. Who together. C'mon, PBS. What do you say?

Back in the day, I could turn on the television a couple of nights a week and groove on classic Dr. Who episodes. Tom Baker, any of them, let's travel through time in a wacky British way. I know, I'm immature, but the Antiques Roadshow bores/frustrates/angers the hell out of me. It's practically free to make, sure, and people who collect things probably can barely breathe from the sheer joy of seeing antiques valued by an expert. I'm all for pleasing Cat Ladies with a hundred-thousand cubic feet of Hummel figurines with signed authenticity statements. PBS, I am not one of those people. I'm an enthusiast, not a collector. Also, I don't own any cats and I'm not a woman, but you know what I mean, PBS? Why are you boring during prime time? Why must you suck?

I'll make you a deal, PBS. For each night of the week that I can finish watching an episode of Dr. Who before midnight, I'll send you $25. Heck, if you can make it so I can watch the new 2005 Dr. Who series in prime time, I'll send you an extra $25 for those nights. If it makes you feel better, send me a tote bag or something.

The new Dr. Who 2005 series is great, and it's everything I ever hoped it would be, except on normal network television. PBS, get your head together. No one needs more Antiques Roadshow, not even Cat Ladies. We need Dr. Who, and plenty of it.

Your old buddy,

Todd in Houston

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

At last, a ribbon I would like on my car

Right here.

Mmm, geeky.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hurricane weekend wrap-up

Well, that was about as sucky and stressful as it could be, and still require me back at work first thing Monday.

All my boards are down. I'm still trying to figure out what to do with all the extra plywood.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Shutting down computers soon...

I can only presume we'll lose power later this evening, so I'm going to shut down the computers soon. I am really considering sleeping downstairs so if there are any suspicious dripping noises, I'll hopefully hear them in time to start shifting stuff around.

With Hurricane Alison, we didn't even lose power, and nothing flooded where we're at. I got to sit on my couch watching the rest of Houston flood on television.

The two worrisome vents in the attic have been blocked with plugs made of kitchen garbage bags with old towels inside.

All the windows are covered with plywood. I was hoping to get the pictures downloaded off the digital camera, but I probably won't manage that tonight.

I talked to a lot of people by phone. Most of my co-workers got out of town. I seriously doubt that the office will be up to full strength even by Tuesday. Next week was supposed to be prep for full-store launches the week after that, so those clients may be boned. Dunno, have to wait and see.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Yes, we have no bananas.

Also low on raisins.

We're going to make a wine run and feast on salmon and tortellini!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Storm prep: I own plywood

As we are on the northwest side of Houston, are in a sturdy dwelling, and not in a low-lying or flood-prone area, the mayor says to make preparations and not evacuate to keep the roads open for the people from Galveston who NEED to get out of here.

I went to Home Depot, and stood in line with a cart for plywood. It turned out I had the wrong kind of cart, so I went up front and hung around, helped someone load their plywood, and took their cart to the entrance.

As I came in, the returns desk lady offered me 5 sheets of plywood that had just been returned by some person who evidently realized loading plywood is hard work. I originally had been thinking 7 sheets, and said, "Hmm, not wait in line for 3 hours? Score!"

I snagged it, went back and grabbed the two nice 16' nylon straps with ratcheting latch and two boxes of screws, and a friendly fellow helped me load the plywood onto the Forester. As a reward, he got my cart. I then fought the not-nice ratcheting latches for a good 20 minutes, finally declared, "Y'know, I could be here all night if I keep obsessing. I'll have DAYS where a puzzle like untangling these latches might be all that keeps me sane." I strapped down the plywood sheets as best I could, based on foggy memories of knots I haven't tied in years.

There was a knot where you have a tree, with a hole, and the rabbit goes down the hole, then comes back out, circles around the tree, then goes back down the hole. My rabbits' paths looked like the trips Jeffy from the Family Circus takes, but the knots held all the way back home via the back roads. I have all the plywood locked in my patio. I'm still considering how/where to best apply it.

Tonight's Home Depot total, about $160. The plywood sheets were $17 apiece.

We have a case of water, and have several more large buckets that I'm going to fill as well, plus the tubs. Our icemaker is running full-tilt. We are probably headed to the grocery store tonight for a starting stock-up trip. I'm going to shoot for dry foods able to be eaten cold, plus probably bags of ice to fill the deep-freeze and freezer completely.

I got an email from my boss's boss's boss's boss's boss that told us all to show up tomorrow and at noon they will decide what our official status will be. I only wish I were joking. There are plenty of people in my department who, even as we speak, are en route to San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, et cetera. As his Holiness the Dalai Lama once said: "What are they going to do, fire everyone?"

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Finally, something to do with change, also some FAQ?

This is sweet: Coinstar machines turn coins into Amazon gift cards, with NO transaction fees.

There's a Coinstar machine at my local grocery store, but I never use it. They charge something like 8% as a transaction fee.

My local bank AND my local credit union both give out coin wrappers for free, because they don't accept loose coins. Rolling coins is labor-intensive, so I can understand it.

Today, I browsed through a chapter of a book that was concerned with the cashless society of the future. You know, in case it will involve the Mark Of The Beast.

It was filled with good, actually solid tips on avoiding identity theft in our current, George Jetson present; it was also filled with comical, psychotic fear of the dystopian cyberpunk future to come.

Let me help anyone out, in case they were wondering:
Q: Could implantable bio-chips be The Mark Of The Beast?
A: No. That idea is so retarded, anyone who proposes it should not be allowed to drive.

Q: What IS The Mark Of The Beast?
A: An email address ending with

Q: What's the dumbest thing you've heard someone say at Wal-Mart this week near the Halloween decorations that shouldn't be out yet?
A: "No, honey, you can't have that. We don't celebrate Satan. That's not for good girls!"

Q: What kind of person would say that to a child?
A: A heartless bitch.

Q: Dang, didn't you say anything?
A: I was trying to read the strategy guide to "Destroy All Humans" and didn't want to stop to get in an argument that could have gone any number of sucky directions.

Q: Destroy All Humans?
A: Yes, it's a videogame about an alien has humorous adventures in 1950's America, and goes on multiple rampages.

Q: Sweet!
A: Totally.

Saturday summary: Probably last Houston Gamers meeting before baby#2

We went to the Houston Gamers, hung around without playing anything, and then went down to hang out with Jacob and Julie, who were in town for the weekend.

It took all of my negotiating skills to make that happen. We got fed massive amounts of pizza piled high with everything, and Shiner Kolsch for me. Whee!

Questions: 1. Why would someone invent a tricycle with a dozen LOUD sound effect buttons?

It was good to see them again, and hang out. Jacob and I exchanged tales of corporate folly and Alexis was great.

After we got home and Alexis was safely in bed, I headed back to the Houston Gamers, and played Reiner Knizia's Poison (by Reiner Knizia, all rights reserved to Reiner Knizia), St. Petersburg, and Fiasco. I found Poison to be relatively tedious, enjoyed St. Petersburg on my 3rd face-to-face play, and we were over-stuffing Fiasco. It works well for 2-5 people, and doesn't work at all for 6.

A month or so ago, when I was in Midnight Comics, I talked with John, the owner, about the demise of another one of our friendly local game stores. The upshot was, I told John to talk to the Houston Gamers and offer them a discount. Then they would buy a bunch of stuff from him.

So we all got discounts, both on the stuff in the store last night, and on the upcoming preorder he's going to do. Yay! I got everybody discounts, and made some sales for John!

Since I am weak, I also bought Jambo, Hellrail, and Travel Blokus, all of which I think Lee will like. We already cracked open Travel Blokus, and found it very cool. It has a strong Cathedral feel, and is gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Microsoft Access: I serve the beats

I had a massive data-recombobulating project at work. It sucked and sucked. I spent about 3 minutes gingerly poking at 200+ megabyte Access database, then spent over half an hour brainstorming with one of my esteemed colleagues. Access is one of the things he does better than me.

After adjusting fields, we gave up and called in our senior Access guru. When I had originally gotten the giant file, I was assured that this was going to be easy! He spent more than an hour tinkering with it, while I watched and helped a little.

That produced some hefty text files, which is what I was trying to get in the first place. Again, this is after the better part of two hours of brain-burning on all our parts.

Later on, it turned out that there was even more data in the file that needed to be re-extracted a separate way. Grr-rraaagh! Plus, of course, our initial conversion work on the first big text file turned out to be garbage.

I was able to figure it out from what I had watched earlier in the day; still spent about 45 minutes on it.

It's hard not to see this whole incident as a test of my abilities, to see whether or not I could do it in the first place (I couldn't), whether I knew when to call for help (I could), and whether I could apply what I had seen (I could).

My eyes are all red from staring into monitors all day long.

During all this, I was also frequently interrupted by another guy who has been using the first draft of some instructions I wrote. He's asking really good questions, and I'm glad that my draft has turned out to be helpful.

Victory is mine!

I have successfully reseated the wandering downstairs toilet. The Toilet Terror Awareness Level has been set back on Green, "Probably not going to make you throw up, but hey, sewage-removal devices are tricky. Handle them with care."

That saves me a couple of hundred dollars. The waxless seal was definitely cool. I'm not convinced it's actually hermetically sealed, and so probably a gigantic storm-surge upward out of the drain would be bad. Eeh, I suspect the old wax seal probably couldn't have handled that either.

I didn't replace all the hardware, and didn't replace the linoleum. Fortunately, this new-style seal can also be removed and repositioned much more easily than a wax seal. With the wax seal, once you put the toilet in place, if you made a mistake, the seal is ruined, and the toilet is destined to leak everywhere.

Okay, I am tired of home improvements, now.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Toilet training

I am learning how to re-seat toilets. Specifically, our downstairs Ferguson* sprung a leak at the base, causing me to contemplate my good fortune at having a house at all, let alone electricity and two nearly-working full baths upstairs.

At work, one of my co-workers told me a horrific story of survival he heard from some Katrina survivors who were on a plane with him from Houston to Detroit. It was pretty awful, and I don't think I want to burden anyone else with it.

I bought a no-wax rubber seal at Home Depot, came home, and removed the toilet from his mighty moorings. This was after carefully scooping out all the water I possibly could, then sopping up the rest with a towel. I set the toilet on its side. At that point, I cleaned up some of my mess, and left it. I didn't want to get too far ahead. Next step: remove all of the old wax, and see if the original bolts are going to work. If not, back to Home Depot for a second set.

*Our toilets probably are not manufactured by the Ferguson corporation, but I have nevertheless fixated upon that nickname for a commode ever since viewing a "Married With Children" episode centered around the Ferguson brand. What can I say? I am a slave to almost everything I knew when I was 13, and virtually nothing I have learned since.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Paypal phishing

Almost fell for a fake Paypal email tonight.

It's got a Russian address. Can't I do something to that worthless domain? Has a .ru site ever done anything good for the world?

Based on my limited experience, their websites are filled with:

1. Gibberish.
2. H0t Russain te3nS H0rn 4 U! At least according to some spam I got. We can probably file that under category #1.
3. Paypal phishing sites.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Comment verification is on

I enjoy reading everyone's comments so much, I get disappointed when spammers leave garbage comments. Unfortunately, that means I'm turning on the comment verification thingy.

Spammers, be aware that I'm in Texas, and thus, am not only permitted but required by state law to shoot you repeatedly if I "have cause to believe you have done me wrong." Also, federal law requires me, when I shoot you, to shoot you "in the guts so you die writhing, in prolonged agony, like the slimy rat you are."

Sorry, that's the breaks when the Republicans run the roost. Some would argue this violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

It is neither, on two grounds:

1. Allowing spammers to live is actually more cruel than killing them. Permitting them to live in a subhuman, degraded existence of automated messaging is infinitely worse than filling them full of lead.
2. This punishment is to be applied unilaterally. All spammers, shot in the guts and left to die, all the time. Nothing unusual about that. Many, many lowlife scumbags have been killed in this way.

Send spam, get shot in the guts and left to die. That's a platform everyone, young and old, rich and poor alike can support.


Tim has to duck out on the next couple Wednesdays to finish up a dog obedience class. He's planning to come over on Saturday, and we'll finish a couple of heavy-lifting tasks, then maybe play a game or two.

I've spent the evening reading and responding to emails and posts from friends. Some of the Katrina news has been hard to hear.

I accomplished my only true goal: find the title to the Sentra, so Lee can go seal the deal tomorrow. Wahoo, trading depreciable assets for liquid currency!

Monday, September 05, 2005

Sunday: a summary

I took some stuff over to a nearby church-they had a lot of clothes and household goods getting ready to distribute to families in need.

We went to the Olive Garden for dinner, and then went to Barnes and Noble, where we used the baby harness we got recently. Alexis doesn't mind having it on, and is still great at making eye contact with strangers and smiling.

I read a manga called Bizenghast, which was bizarre. It reminds me of Card Captor Sakura, except with more corpses. Roughly, 'A girl is forced to defeat ghosts or be killed by a nightmarish demon.' I dunno, it hit some false notes for me. If I were going to read a comic book about a young girl facing supernatural forces, the Courtney Crumrin is about as good as it gets. I dunno, I'd pick up and thumb through a second volume of Bizenghast sometime, at least to see whether it got better or worse.

Alexis' second dresser is almost assembled. Having assembled another similar one a few weeks back, all the puzzling over the instructions had already been done. I also wised up and got out the power drill. I don't like using it unless I need extra muscle. Using the drill makes it too easy to mess things up, plus I rush through these projects having not thought them.

It's got 8 cams and about 60 screws. I've done everything but the nails. See, bachelors? One more thing you can do that I can't: assemble furniture whenever you want.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Today: a summary

A friend of a friend installed 2 ceiling fans for us. We have a list of odd jobs which neither of us have done yet, so we'll probably end up paying him to do it.

It was also the last regularly-scheduled Bradley class. We can still keep dropping in for refresher classes until the baby is born. We saw more childbirth videos, and talked more about stages of labor and so on.

On one hand, I really liked the classes, except the Russian hypochondriac. On the other hand, somehow we ended up taking Alexis to the class, which was insanely distracting.

That's it, that's my day.