Give Blood…

May 27, 2005

Mood: Headachy.
Music: Give Blood, Pete Townshend.
Game: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Guild Wars.
Book: Hell’s Angels, Ralph “Sonny” Barger
Muffin: None.
Punchline: None.

Got to work a bit before 9am today. Been feeling a touch headachy…vaguely headcoldish. Probably just a weather change. Was warmer and very sunny this morning.

When I got in, my boss was nowhere to be found. I’d expected him to be in before me, already working on this claim. Yes, we’re still grinding through this claim.

Instead, he’s nowhere to be found, and so I set up, get ready to work when my Nextel chirps. He says he’s been trying to reach me. Whatever…Nextel reception borders on sporadic. On the good side. On the other side is patent crap. Anyway, he was called in to donate blood at 8am this morning, or something. Special antigens or whatever. He’s gonna be in around 10am. That’s fine. I have enough to keep me busy.

Then I kinda thought about it…I don’t think about it much, because there’s not much I can do about it. I can’t donate blood.

I can’t donate blood because I lived in the UK during the whole BSE scare, and I lived in Hong Kong during the SARS thing…just to reinforce the “No fucking way, pal” on my blood.

I’m sure it’d still be useful for research or whatever…but apparently, since 9/11, they have plenty of people donating blood. So since I’m considered high-risk, they won’t let me donate. I suppose I could try again…I haven’t tried in about two years. It’s possible that they’ve lightened the restrictions. Maybe I’ll try again.

I did have dinner with Mike…and he’s still Mike. Had a great time. I’ll write about it some other time when I don’t have to get this work done so I can get out of here and clean my house…because there’s a Fookus coming tomorrow morning, and we can’t have a dirty house for a visiting Fookus.

Have a happy Memorial Day, all.


Will the real Hunter S. Thompson please stand up?

May 24, 2005

Mood: Pretty good.
Music: Blow Me Away, Breaking Benjamin.
Game: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Guild Wars.
Book: Hell’s Angels, Hunter S. Thompson
Muffin: Strawberry-Apricot.
Punchline: I dunno.

Well, after I fixed the leaking AC unit in the server, I was sitting at my desk, reading mail and vaguely thinking about server configurations for the office, when my mobile phone rang.

My mobile phone probably gets the least use of any of my gadgets…and this is because I can be found sitting next to a phone in most circumstances, and when I’m not, I don’t carry my phone. It should be noted that I carry my personal mobile phone along with my work Nextel, and while I get chirped on my Nextel a bunch of times a day, it’s never a personal call. I don’t give out my Nextel number to friends or family, and I don’t give my personal number to people at work. I just prefer it that way.

In fact, there are really only two people who call me on my mobile phone: Colin, since he can’t ever remember to put my home phone number in his mobile phone, and Jenai, because she only calls me when she and I are at work, and usually to arrange dinner or something. Adam insists that he calls me on my mobile all the time, but records show that he’s called me exactly once in the last 4 months on my mobile phone, and that was over a month ago.

Occasionally, I get calls from Jenny Lee to let me know that she’s running late to (dinner, the movie, the place we’re meeting) but she’ll be there shortly.

Basically, it’s a seldom-used device.

Yesterday, I picked up my mobile phone and answered it like I answer my work phone…with my name. Odd thing to do on my personal phone, but whatever…I was sorta in work mode.

Whereupon I got asked if I was interested in going to Hop Kee. Glancing at my phone, the area code was 406. 406…familiar…sorta.

Mike Finkel. He was at the airport in Montana, was coming to town, and wanted to know if we’d recreate the ritual we created oh so many times while we were living on 19th Street. I said “of course.” He explained that he was in town for a reading of a book he’d just finished, and he was also going to be on a morning show of some repute, and so on…but he really wanted to get together and catch up.

Mike was, and most likely still is, one of the great human beings of our time. I could dismiss him as an adrenaline junkie, which he certainly was…but it was more that he was a man in search of adventure. Mike was a writer…sort of. He travelled around the world to do things no one had done, then wrote about them for Skiing, Times Magazine, National Geographic and others who would foot the bill. He got more free junk from gear manufacturers than anyone I know…mainly because he was crazy, and if crazy people use your gear, it carries cred in the world of adventuring. In short, Mike was Hunter S. Thompson, but less drugs and firearms and more activity and outdoor adventuring.

Anyway, Mike wanted to catch up. He asked if I knew anything about the book…I replied that unless it was one of the books he was writing when we were living together, I didn’t.

He paused. And then explained that no, it wasn’t one of those…but that it was truly the strangest thing that had ever happened to him.

That gave me pause. And I replied “That’s a pretty serious statement.”

While I was living with Mike, he had run off to Iceland, found a crazed Icelander named Orn who had built his own airplane from a bathtub and a large motor, and convinced Orn to fly Mike and his skis to the top of a pristine glacier. Orn agreed, landed on the glacier, and managed to keep from pitching off the other side by throwing a boat anchor from the bathtub, which caught in the ice and snow. Mike then got out of the flying bathtub, strapped on his skis, and skiied down the glacier, which no man had ever stood on. The ultimate freshies.

We used to have various and sundry kindred spirits sleeping on our couch, bathtub, or floor…people who Mike had met on his many expeditions, and said “Hey, if you’re ever in NYC, come crash on my floor.” Our dishes were always done, and the assortment of trinkets, bottles of wine, and photos in thanks grew to epic proportions.

Mike once skiied down Mount Kilimanjaro because he thought it was a nice twist on literary history.

I once bailed him out of a border arrest while he was coming back from Canada. Long story.

When it stormed in NYC and we were living together, Mike grabbed me and my camera, and had me shoot a photos of how city dwellers could cross-country ski in Central Park. It was published in Skiing magazine.

We covered the World Pinball Championships together for Sports Illustrated…me with the glass, him with the words.

He was currently living in Bozeman, Montana, raising chickens and writing when the mood struck him, last I heard…still travelling around the world.

When Mike says it’s the strangest thing that ever happened to him, it definitely had reason to give me pause.

We had a brief conversation, and I promised to have dinner with him on Wednesday, and we’d catch up…whereupon I felt obliged to find out what I was in for.

It took about 30 seconds…the web is good like that, if you know where your towel is at.

It seems that Mike was fired from the New York Times Magazine’s staff quite unceremoniously for fabricating details in an expose of child slavery in the African chocolate trade. I shrugged at that. You could argue that Hunter S. Thompson lied and fabricated details all the time…when it suited his basic premises, and when it amused him to do so. But this was 2000, and this was the New York Times, not Rolling Stone in the late sixties, Mike was not Hunter, and the NYT was not amused in the slightest.

I suppose it could have been that he was just trapped in a story without facts, and decided to push it…but Mike knows the trade, and had to know that he’d be caught. I prefer to think it was just Mike’s way…he’s not a liar…but he IS a storyteller.

This would have been pretty straightforward, and wouldn’t have surprised me but for the rest of the story. It seems that some insane man went out and slaughtered his family, then went on the run…which is sad…but where things get truly Mike-Proportioned is that the murderer then decided to pose as Mike Finkel, reporter for the New York Times.

Mike found out about this when a reporter called, asking Mike for details, and Mike said “About the New York Times?” and the reporter paused and said “No…about the murders.” It only got stranger as Mike got in touch with this murderer and carried on a long correspondence with him.

Anyway, that’s what Mike’s book is about. It’s called True Story…and I will be picking up a copy. He always could write well.

Now…I expect dinner tomorrow night to be VERY amusing.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hungry, tired…

May 23, 2005

Mood: Monday.
Music: The sound of dripping water.
Game: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Guild Wars.
Book: Hell’s Angels, Hunter S. Thompson
Muffin: Was closed when I passed by at 7am.
Punchline: “And the flowers are still standing!”

Woke up this morning and was a bit sluggish getting out of bed. No reason, really. Just didn’t really feel like going to work. But I peeled myself out of bed and headed into work anyway.

Knew it was going to be a bad day when the subway was packed. It’s never packed like this. People nudging me the whole ride when all I wanted to do was sit down and nap. This lady kept poking me in the back with her bag. I kept looking at her, and she kept looking back, as if somehow I should stop bumping her. Whatever.

I couldn’t even get a seat on the 7. Ridiculous.

Got into work, and the partners are in a meeting, so I can’t get right to work on the claim I’m supposed to be working on. Instead, I decide to go to the server room to change the backup tapes…and the drip pan for the AC Unit there is filled with 4 inches of water. It’s my very own indoor swimming pool. Lovely.

My boss and I “fixed” the AC unit last week because the condensate pump (the doohickey that pumps the water away from the AC unit and prevents it from dripping onto the floor) managed to get filled with rust and sediment and such, and needed to be fixed. I removed the pump, cleaned it, and got it working again. We reassembled it, the pump was working, and everything was fabulous. Except that when we reassembled the machine, apparently, we forgot to retighten the drain line, because it was spitting water directly into the pan. Lovely.

Except that I didn’t SEE that before I disassembled the machine, so I disassembled it, confirmed that the pump was working…just in time to see the fitting on the drain line leaking. So I grabbed my adjustable and tightened it up. What do you know? No more leaking. So I reassembled the machine, got the wet vac, drained the drip pan, and turned the unit back on. With any luck, it’s really fixed this time.

It’s not even 10am yet…and I don’t even have a muffin.

I hate Mondays.

And that’s six and out.

May 20, 2005

Mood: Pretty good.
Music: For The Love of Big Brother, Eurythmics
Game: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Guild Wars.
Book: Watching House of Flying Daggers on the PSP…
Muffin: Was closed when I passed by at 7am.
Punchline: Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.

So, I took off early from work yesterday, and saw Star Wars with my mom.

I don’t really consider myself superstitious. I don’t worry about black cats or the number 13, or anything. (I don’t walk under ladders…but there’s some pretty sound reasoning in that. Take it from a guy who walks construction sites.) But there was something in my head and gut that said that I really should see Star Wars on opening day with my mom…and I did. It’s kind of odd that I felt that way…but it was important, and it was good to pull mom out of work and take off and see a matinee mid day.

Anyway, I’m not going to fill this blog with spoilers and such, but I will comment in general.

I have always been impressed with directors who are able to make a movie interesting to watch, even though you know the outcome and most of the story before the first frame comes up. My prime example has always been Apollo 13, directed by Ron Howard.

Howard somehow took a very well documented historical event, and made it not only compelling…but nerve racking. That was no mean feat, because you KNEW they got home OK. The ability of the director and writer to hold that suspense and make you worry and care about characters you knew in your head were going to be OK is no easy task.

And this pretty much explains why George Lucas is a horrific director.

You know what happens to Anakin Skywalker. You know what happens to Amidala. You know what happens to Kenobi…and every other character in the movie. You know their arc. You know where they’ll end up. But instead of worrying, caring, being upset that it happens, you just watch it unfold, and think “Yup. That’s what happens.”

The unfortunate part of this whole thing is that as attractive as Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen might be to the world at large, they cannot act to save themselves. And this is truly unfortunate…because this story is as rich as any of the Star Wars storylines. The passion between Solo and Leia is obvious…you can feel it. There is no passion between these two. They might as well be carved of wood. “OK…Natalie, you cry now.” “OK, Hayden, give me your conflicted look.” Not a thing they did was believable…it all felt hollow.

The true disappointment is that the fall of Anakin Skywalker could have been a glorious conflicted slide from light to dark…it could have been an illustration of how a good man becomes bad…and all through the best intentions. But instead, it becomes some hollow facial expressions and some inexplicable actions and behaviors.

None of this takes away from the great fights…(and I mean epic lightsaber duels…) and the movie is eminently watchable for that reason alone.

But what a missed opportunity due to insipid acting, and some teeth-gritting dialogue. Truly unfortunate. No CGI is going to change this…because if it could have, Lucas would have done it.

Go see it. With your mom, if you can.

Alt this.

May 19, 2005

Mood: Sleepy.
Music: Too early for music. Silence is working for me.
Game: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Guild Wars.
Book: The Village Voice…finished my book. Need another.
Muffin: Was closed when I passed by at 7am.
Punchline: Someone tell me a joke, please.

A bunch of the fellas over at ijsmp have started alts in World of Warcraft, as Guild Wars really hasn’t found its mark with a lot of them.

Through their blogs, and on the forums, they’ve been marvelling at how enjoyable it is to play their alts…and how much more fun they’re having.

The reasons for this are a well-known phenomenon for the veteran MMORPGer:

– You know the game now. Content that was challenging when you first started playing, because you had no idea how the systems worked, is now trivial…and easy to accomplish. You’re whipping through the initial content, and earning rewards quickly. Advancement comes easy in the early levels…and carrot after carrot is always fun. Especially the happy ding sound.

– You don’t have any false perceptions of what each class does…and you’re able to play the game you actually want to play it, rather than trying to force a class archetype into your style of play. Initially, when you choose a class in a new MMORPG, you have a perception on how it ought to be played, and you try to find a class that you think meets your style of play…for me, I need to be up close and person with monsters. I can’t do the blaster/magic thing. Never could. Either I’m beating ’em soundly, or I’m sitting back and healing. I don’t do ranged damage, and any ranged damage class is right out. This eliminates over half my choices…and I’m OK with that. When I start a new MMORPG, I take a warrior or a rogue. Might not stay there, but that’s where I do most of my feeling out. Many new players don’t have that knowledge of their play style…and when they’ve chosen the hybrid pet class, and they’re really happier doing blast damage or being up in melee, they’re likely to not really enjoy the game as much as they could…because the game isn’t playing the way they thought it should. Hybrid classes are not beginner classes, and shouldn’t be chosen in the first release of a game in any case.

– Everyone starts at ground zero. That means that the party dynamic of abilities gets reset. Everyone likes a fresh start at being the guy everyone relies upon to do X. It’s a nice change from “I’ll hang out back again and shoot things.” When everyone is equal again, everyone feels like they have a say, and can contribute.

– The early game is full of hooks. The beginner game is designed to pull you in to the world, and sink hooks into you so that you’ll stay to level 60. The game has less and less hooks as you go up in levels, because they’ve already got your time invested, plus other things. But at level 1, all bets are off. So they keep trying to hook you. Getting rehooked is fun.

– Lastly, who doesn’t like a fresh look? You’ve been looking at the back of an undead warrior for the last 8 months, and now you’re looking at the back of an orc. New armor styles, new gear…new models. It’s a change of pace.

Overall, I view the alt as a refinement in thinking of your initial character choice, if you’re not fully in touch with your play style and if you’re not 100% sure you know the roles of each class in a new MMORPG.

It’s why the fellas are enjoying their alts. They’re finally playing the class that they should have chosen in the first place…and doing so with the knowledge that it’s what they want to do and how.

Only Tuesday?

May 17, 2005

Mood: OK.
Music: Poison, Alice Cooper.
Game: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Guild Wars.
Book: The Real War, Jonathan Schell.
Muffin: Was closed when I passed by at 7am.
Punchline: Not a whole lot funny lately, it’s true.

I hope this week goes a bit faster. I suspect it will.

I’ve been getting to work before 8am. In an attempt to jumpstart my attitude, I’m trying to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. So far, I’m not leaving work any earlier…which is what I suspected. But I do feel a bit better waking up earlier, and going to bed earlier, getting more sleep overall. It’s definitely putting a damper on my muffin intake, however.

I think mentally, I’m in a pretty good place. Getting more rest helps. Things aren’t exploding at work on a regular basis any more…although I’m holding servers together with chewing gum and baling wire right now. I’ve been doing specific tasks at work, and accomplishing them.

And I’ve decided that I’m going to cut out of work early on Thursday and catch a matinee of Star Wars with my mom. I think that’s pretty important. My mom’s moving to Florida soon, and I’m not going to be able to do stuff like this much more often.

Months ago, ‘Phyxie mentioned that I write much better when I’m pissed off at something…and I guess I see his point. I suppose I’ve moved from anger to general resignation on a lot of things, which is probably impacting my writing. I do enjoy writing…I should do more of it….

I meant to get a book started this year…and the year’s almost half over. I suppose I should get started, then…shouldn’t I?


May 16, 2005

Mood: A bit tired, but not bad.
Music: J-E-N-O-V-A, Black Mages.
Game: World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Guild Wars.
Book: The Real War, Jonathan Schell.
Muffin: Was closed when I passed by at 7am.
Punchline: “Early to bed and early to rise…makes people boring.”

This weekend was supposed to be a polish my resume, clean my house kind of weekend.

Instead, it turned into a “think I’ll just indulge my laziness and play games and cook” weekend. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Usually, when I play games all weekend, I get frustrated at some point, angry and people and what not. Didn’t happen this weekend.

Saturday, I played World of Warcraft and ran BRD with Smitty, Thorn, Sloggie, and Abyss. (Ryan, Paul, Matt, and Drew…but the first set of names sounds more like a group of gaming geeks.) Seven and a half hours later, we actually ended up having completed the instance. First time for me…and in a five man, no less. We worked well together, and had fun. Not to say there wasn’t plenty of death…but it just didn’t matter. And that was great.

I should point out that during that run, I was supposed to have gone out to meet Adam, Colin, Mei, and some of her friends for some park action, then dinner at Two Boots, not that far from my house. Obviously, during each call, I was deep in the throes of trying to stay alive, and said “In the middle of something, go on without me and I’ll try to catch up.” By the time we finished, my friends were long gone. Oh well.

Which is probably a good thing, because immediately after that, I had a CoD TWL match. Which we won. But they gave us a far better fight than the previous two opponents. Was Chateau. I love that map…although the British weapons can be VERY tough to deal with. The first round, we took ’em by about 30 points, the second round, we took ’em by over a hundred. Wasn’t the 900 point blowout we had last time. Played on their server, too. They all took off immediately after losing without even a “good game” afterwards. Must have been mighty pissed.

After that, watched some more Deadwood. I’ve been watching my way through the first season…and I have to say I like it a lot. I like a lot of the HBO series’. Funny, considering I don’t watch TV…although I do seem to rent entire seasons of TV series and watch them in a row. Whatever. I’ll watch the last episode of season one tonight. Go Go Netflix!

Sunday was a Deadwood and Guild Wars kinda day. Mainly Deadwood. Was a gorgeous day out…all my windows open and racked out on the couch. Made a yummy pork sammich for lunch, and between episodes of Deadwood ran inside and played some Guild Wars for a few hours. Did the dishes, did a general house clean up. Still need to vacuum. Probably do that when I get home tonight.

This week, the goal is to get the resume up to speed, and get it out to a few places in Seattle. I also need to get my Corporate Taxes done for Limewear, and close the business entity. Not going to pursue it here right now. I don’t have the time or money with which to do it. I’ll leave the site up, and sell through Cafe Press…but as far as bank accounts and taxes and such…just ain’t worth it.

All in all, a pretty good mental health weekend.

I’m feeling a bit antsy about not having tickets to Star Wars on Weds night…but nothing I can do about it now. Guess I’ve moved down a notch in the geek scale this week. Not that I couldn’t use a few points down after a weekend of gaming online.