Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Lesser Relocation Project

When I first moved here, my employer gave me 45 Days in my temporary housing. Now, it's not like I'd be kicked out on day 46, but I'd have to start paying out of pocket for my room at the local inn, and that gets expensive quite fast. Not helping the matter was that housing in the Bridger Valley, whether a rental or purchase, was a lot higher than you'd think it would be in a rural area. Demand was high and supply was low, for this was before the sub-prime meltdown. There was a waiting list for availability at the local town housing complex.

Thankfully, a member of the church that I started to attend referred me to someone that was looking for a tenant. (It pays to know people.) I signed a lease, moved into a decent sized house, and I got out on the last day of my temp housing, a feat that's uncommon at my company. The rent isn't what you'd call cheap, but it was under four figures, which is what some people were asking for monthly rent at a house. As I saw it, I was getting ripped off at a lesser rate than a lot of other people.

18 months and a housing implosion later, my lease has expired, my options are free, and a coworker tells me that a friend of his, who is also a former employee from our IT department, is building a new duplex, or I guess a quadplex, of apartments just on the South end of Mountain View, and is looking for renters.

I met with the owner, and looked around the apartments... after I helped her wrangle her stray horse back inside the fence.

Viva Wyoming!

Rent is about $125 less per month, and includes water/sewer, garbage, and Internet. All I pay for is electric. (the heating is electric, not gas). Additionally, I'm not mowing a lawn, which was a condition of the lease that I signed at the first place, a stipulation that I have regretted especially this summer; we had one of the rainiest springs in memory out here.

So in summation, it's cheaper, better insulated, and no lawn work required. Win.

I have one less bedroom, so now the gameroom and guest room are going to have to be combined. My commute will double from 1 mile to 2 miles. (My Pittsburgh friends are probably scoffing at that remark, for they still have to commute several miles to get to work, and stop at several traffic lights. The arousal of your jealousy was intended! :-)

Now, I have to decided what makes the move. I didn't bring much from Pennsylvania, but I've since accepted donated furnishings and purchased one secondhand futon. It filled up a 3 bedroom house just fine, but might be a bit much for the apartment. At least I had the foresight to keep the boxes from the first move, along with most of the boxes from things purchased from woot and amazon.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Road Quiz

Question 1: While going 60 MPH on the highway under construction in moderate traffic, a shredded tire from a semi truck appears suddenly from underneath the car in front of you. You have less than one second to react to this road hazard. Do you:

A) Swerve to the right and sidswipe an SUV
B) Swerve to the left and crash into a Jersey Barrier
C) Brake Hard, probaby run over the tire anyway and get rear ended for your troubles
D) Brace for impact, and run over the tire

Question 2: One week after running over a shredded tire, your car is overheating. In this situation, what is the most likely cause of this problem? EXTRA CREDIT: How much will it cost to repair/replace?

Question 3: True or False - Manuafacurer Warranties cover damage sustained from road hazards.

Time's up, put your pencils down, check your ansers against mine below.
əslɐɟ (əəɹɥʇ ;008$ 'ɹoʇɐıpɐɹ pəʞɔɐɹɔ (oʍʇ ;p (əuo :sɹəʍsuɐ

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's a Wicked World that We Live In...

In 2002, a band called The Transplants wrote a song called "Diamonds and Guns". It's a surprisingly catchy song for the subject matter. From what I can interpret, it's about a drug deal or a black market diamond deal gone bad, and the consequences that comes from the life choices that led to said deal.

Some of you know which song I'm talking about, some of you may not. But all of you have probably heard it before when Garnier licenced it to sell their shampoo. Any of you who may have not heard the song in it's entirety, will recognize it by the first 5 seconds.

And now, may you think of gritty thug life when you buy hair care products, which is only fair because now when I hear this song, I can't help but think about healthy lustrous hair with shine and bounce.

Woo Woo!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fallout 3 - Surving the Post-Nuclear Capitol Wasteland

Yeah, I haven't posted much in a while, but after three travel weekends, (Origins, Steamboat Springs, and a day trip to Ogden) I'm taking things easy for a while. I like to spend a weekend bumming around the house now and then.

The only things of interest happening right now are work related, and I can't discuss those any more than this: We discovered an expensive problem with something, and there another thing going on right now that were doing to expand our service, but working with the other company involved is proving to be frustrating for several reasons.

So instead, I'll discuss a little PS3 game I've been playing in the evenings and on weekends called Fallout 3.

Here's the deal: The story is sort of an alternate time line of 1900's history where WWII never happened, and instead, the United States gets a face full of Nuclear Warheads detonated on them, mostly in the Capitol. in the 1940s or 1950s. Millions die, but some of the population make it into underground bunkers called Vaults (Built by the Vault-Tec corporation). About a hundred years pass since the apocalypse, and you decided to go out for a stroll in the devastated DC area, hearby named The Capital Wasteland.

For rest of the game you walk around shooting mutants and Mad-Max Style Raiders, while trying to scrounge up ammo, Medical supplies, food and water, and Nuka-Cola Bottle Caps, which are the defacto currency of the Wasteland.
The Art direction is interesting, with 1950 style advertising and naming conventions displayed all around, music that I'd have to say is from the 1940s and early 1950s, and your wrist-computer (big, clunky, and named the Pip-Boy) prominently displays cute illustrations involving this guy to the right.

I'm not going to painstakingly explain why the game is amusing, so I'll just leave it at this little anecdote. As you progress in the game, you may choose special abilities that suit your tastes and play style. These abilities (called Perks) have odd names and descriptions. There's the one called Lady Killer, that gives you some unique dialogue options when dealing with the opposite sex, and deals %10 more damage to female enemies.

Some of these perks are only acquired through in-game actions. I found one today, after I successfully performed a speech where I convinced the perky inventor lady that she ought to stop writing her Wasteland Survival Guide that she's been working all her life. It took the wind out of her sails, but she agreed, and I got the perk Dream Crusher. The description: "Something about your prescience dampens others' desires to exceed. Any enemy's chance of getting a critical hits is reduced by 50%." A game that rewards you not just for saving the world, or shoot things, but dashing the hopes for somebody's life's work. That's just deviously clever.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Not Really Seafood

A coworker, his family and myself went to dinner at the new BBQ place in town. Pretty good ribs and brisket.

So guess what we had for an appetizer?

Rocky Mountain Oysters

Rocky Mountain Oysters. Hereby moving Raw Oysters (real seafood) down to the number 2 spot on the list of "Strangest things I've ever eaten."

They tasted alright, but it's difficult to get over the fact that you got the gonads of a ruminant in your mouth.

Again that's bovine testicles.

In your mouth.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Independence Day in Steamboat Springs

So, back in 1997 or so, some of my family's friends moved from Western Pennsylvania to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Back then, it might have well been Mars, for the other side of the country seemed like a strange and dangerous place. And it was SOOOO FAR AWAY!

Ten years later, I make a move of my own and end up a mere 4.5 hour drive away. In western traveling time, that adjusts down to about two hours. My parents mention my relocation in the Chirstmas Card Letter and and a few days later I get a call from these folks, saying they'd love for me to visit. Between my job, my life, and my total lack of vacation time, I'm unable to make the time for the first year. This year, I take advantage of the long holiday weekend and go for a drive to visit Jennifer, Mike, Jaquie, and Leah.

Five hours later, I pull into town. Pretty place, but it has that snooty feeling, like it's crawling with White People. I think it was mostly from the tourists and Granola munchers, though. I then pull in to look upon people I haven't seen in a long time. Most of them haven't changed much, except for the total assimlation into Western Life. Jaquie's a Registered Nurse working the graveyard shift at the Steamboat Hospital, Mike's an Engineer for the Peabody Mining Corp., Jennifer works part time at the local school and runs a few church and/or social events, and Leah has been working the past three summers at the local ampitheater's box office. Seeing her again was a little akward, because she's sixteen years old now, and the last time I saw her, she was two. I feel old.

So did I spend my weekend?

Shopping at F.M. Light!

Yay, Free Rodeo Tickets!

Hey, did that banner say "Free Rodeo Tickets?" Sweet! Let's go!

An evening at the Rodeo - Bronco Riding

Cool. Next time I attend one, I'll be able use the old figure of speech "This ain't my first Rodeo!"
So how do you top that? I dunno, how about we watch the Rancher's drive the Cattle right down Friggin' Main Street? (In this case, Main Street is Lincoln Ave., but has the same significance). This is how we roll out here.

Rodeo Cattle Drive

So there you have it folks! There's a lot more pictures from my trip at Flickr, and don't miss the Baggs, Wyoming Pit Stop!

I love the west a little more each week. Happy Trails!

Cloud over Steamboat Springs

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Independence Day Weekend

Two major weekend trips in a row! My inheirited aversion to travel is reeling, and I hope at this rate will that it'll be pronounced dead by the end of next summer! I'm still captioning and uploading pictures (and there are A LOT of picutres), so I'm not going into grand detail just yet. But the short version is that I was visiting family friends, other Pittsburgh Ex-pats, that have made the move west about 10 years prior to me. Here's a quick picture for location identification purposes:

Steamboat Jewelers

Until then, may you experience the joys of answering the Call of the West!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Origins '09 - Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

After we returned from White Castle, we returned to the hotel, where I proptly recieved a call from my Brothers in Arms (Mito, Tyler, and Kress) letting me know they have arrived. So instead of sleeping, we stayed up, and played a few games of MTG and Acquire, except Tyler, who doesn't have the fortitiute of consiousness to do be up more than 20 hours at a time.

A note about the Acquire game: I purchased one of the old 1968 era versions of the game that I had been seeking for a while now. This is the one with the wooden tiles instead of the plastic ones, but you can still tell that the graphic design was very 1960's era, and not the hippie psychadelic style. More like the stodgy boardroom style. Rather bland and minimalist. Still, I think it's cool. I also got a free copy of Stonehenge with that purchase, which is an anthology boardgame where 5 different designers were given the Stonehenge themed playing pieces and told to make a game around them. I'll have to give it a closer look later.

So, the next morning we fought off fatigue, and returned to gaming. I learned how to play this Dominion game everyone keeps talking about, and demanded to know why no one told me about it sooner. How it works is everyone gets a deck of 10 cards that consists of 7 coins and 3 victory points, and each turn they must draw 5 cards from this deck, and use those cards to buy more stuff, and eventually more victory points.

What I don't understand is the constant comparisons people make to Magic the Gathering. Sure each player has his own deck of cards, and you have to build that deck, but the mechanics and means of doing so are wildly different. It's like comparing Acquire to Monopoly, becuase they both use paper money, or to Scrabble, becuase they both have tiles that are placed on gridded board. And don't even get me started on the people who have compared Settlers of Catan and Risk. Not. Even. Close.

So after learning one awesome game, I decided to learn another: Munchkin Quest.
Munchkin Quest

The orginal Munchkin card game was essetially an abstract mock-up of a typical Fantasy Role playing session, modeled after what some of the sillier games degenerated to: Burst through doors Leeroy Jenkins style, recklessly kill whatever lived inside, take their stuff, and maybe steal something from your friend. Or stab him in the back.

Munchkin Quest lessens the abstraction by giving you a real dungeon, with all of the humor, oddball items, and silly monsters we've come to expect.

Munchkin Quest - Close up
click to enlarge

After that, I wandered around the vendor's hall to covent some wicked-cool furniture before my next game which was Risk 2210, which I think I've mentioned before, so I'll not discuss further. But seriously, the Table I saw in the exhibit hall. Wow.

Game Table - Sultan Model

After Risk 2210, we returned to the hotel again, and got some actual sleep, lest we pass out on Saturday.

Saturday, I played a little Dungeons and Dragons and Chess with Mito, which was good times. Mito's certainly getting better at chess, as he mangaged to beat me yet again (but I still got best of 3).

I also tried another game which was similar to Munchkin Quest in gameplay, called Descent:

Descent - Up Close

This is like an advanced version of HeroQuest, if anyone has everplayed that when they were a kid. It's made by Fantasy Flight games, who are know for making LARGE detailed boardgames with Large, detailed pricetags. I've often seen this one retail for 80 bucks! they also make the Starcraft Boardgame which I got for a friend a year or two ago, and I think he's played it, like once. It's not something you bring out unless you and at least two more people are prepared to spend a day playing it. Oy.

Anyway, Sunday got cut short between us sleeping in, having difficulty with Kress's vehicle, and Delta bumping my flight forward two hours. But we did make time to go to Buca di Beppo's for lunch, which was tasty as always. With a few minor, and one major exception...

In an order to consolidate the look and feel of all the Bucca di Beppo franchises, they standardized some of the pictures and art on the wall (It's still mostly the same, I didn't notice it until the waitress brought it up.), the paper placemat menus have been replaced by more professionally printed full color menu (I prefered the rustic touch of the placemat-menu, but no big deal) and they no longer make their own limoncello, but instead serve Danny DiVito's Brand (RAGE!)

Danny's brand is more harsh tasting, which is something that I usually wouldn't mind in a strong liquor, but not limoncello. It tastes like a bunch of lemons steeped in antifreeze, and Danny DeVito's sweat. Basically, I'm in agreement with these folks at the A.V. Club. Bleh. I'm still amazed that he landed this marketing deal by showing up drunk (or with a hangover) on the View.

So, that's how I spent my summer vacation. And now, I think it's high time to begin looking to do something outdoorsy before the season draws to a close. Get a little fresh air in me. Maybe it doesn't burn as much as they say. :-)

Munchkin Guy!