Aug 272007

As this was brokenbryan‘s last weekend before shipping off to Canuckistan for school, the three of us spent all weekend hanging out and going places. Friday night after the wall of storms swept through the area, we got our sushi on at Little Tree in Royal Oak. Aaron and I, with much self-restraint, limited ourselves to one Mad Chef roll each. A Mad Chef roll is basically a California roll that has been tempura-battered and fried. We’ve never found it at any other sushi place, and we’ve tried. Usually when you get a tempura roll the shrimp, or whatever, inside the roll is battered, but not the outside. We dropped by the Starbuck’s at 15 Mile & Coolidge to get a food coma antidote and to let Bryan say goodbye to the staff there, since he occasionally took shifts at that store. We were too full and lame to go anywhere else, so we vegged at home and watched The Fellowship of the Ring on TNT, which was showing the trilogy over three nights in HD. It was nice, but way too many commercials, and from the way they were hawking them every two minutes, you’d think they only had two shows: The Closer and Saving Grace. Enough already!

Saturday after his last workday at Starbuck’s, we went to the Gibraltar Trade Center in Mt. Clemens, which is a giant indoor weekend flea market. There’s also a location in Taylor. Every form of kitsch, schlock, tchotchke, and NASCAR merchandise can be found there, in addition to the largest public display of chromosome damage in Michigan. I had spent plenty of time in the Taylor location when I was friends with/dating Matt, as he had a booth there to sell his candles, so I was no stranger to its “unique atmosphere”. The grub from the food court was surprisingly good, though. Bryan made an impulse purchase of roller shoes, but he never did find a 5 year old to teach him how to skate on them. Maybe he’ll find a tutor in Canada.

Afterward we drove aimlessly around the Mt. Clemens area, down to Metro Beach, then down Gratiot Ave. to Jefferson Ave. in search of a waterside restaurant. We had to go all the way down to Detroit to find one, but we were seriously under-dressed for it, so we landed in Greektown instead. We tried Fishbone’s, but they had seriously raised their prices since the last time we were there, so we asked the waiter for a couple minutes before we decided on drinks, and slithered out the door when he left. New Hellas Cafe was much more reasonable, and tasty as always, followed by a stop at Astoria Pastry Shop for baklava and biscotti. The evening was concluded with The Two Towers.

Yesterday we decided to trek out to IKEA in Canton and left around 10:30am to try and beat some of the crowd. We just made it, and the crowd started streaming in about five minutes after we made it upstairs. Luckily it never got too crazy, but we didn’t manage to escape before spending $150. We got some glass globe accent lights to put under the side tables on both ends of the sectional, but I’m not sure if I like them yet. We also replaced the red rug under the coffee table with a new, heavier, red rug. The old one from Target was so light and stiff that it wouldn’t stay put and constantly buckled up. Finally got sick of straightening it several times a day. I got myself a small Money Tree plant for my desk at work, but forgot to grab it on my way to the doc’s this morning.

After IKEA, we spent about an hour walking around the Art on the Lake festival. As usual it was a mix of interesting yet expensive art that we weren’t going to drop hundreds of bucks on, and craft-type things that we wouldn’t be caught dead displaying in our home. We walked back, then Aaron wrote some work articles while Bry napped and I talked to Mom until her phone battery died. Dinner was carry-out from Red Robin and The Return of the King. Called it a night around 1:30am after Bry was done packing and we’d taken out all the trash.

I said my goodbyes this morning before leaving for the doc at 8:30, and Bry left at 10am to meet his parents in Windsor. He’s got to get his student visa before heading to Toronto and his new apartment. It’s good that his parents can drive with him, since there’s no other way he’d get the futon that my mom/we gave him there. So now the house is going to be much emptier and quieter (and cleaner! ;o)), but it’s going to be lonelier for awhile. He needed to leave to move forward with his life, and we were all getting on each others’ nerves more and more often as the summer progressed, but I’m still gonna miss him terribly. It hasn’t really hit me yet, since I left before he did, but I’m sure it will when I get home this evening.

Aug 202007

This weekend was pretty eventful. I had Friday off due to the Summer Hours program at work, where every other week I work 10 hour shifts Mon-Thur, then have Friday off. The long days are a killer, but the three-day weekend makes it worth it.

My original plan to slump in my office chair and play City of Heroes all day Friday was foiled by a long list of errands I wrote myself. It felt good to be productive instead of wasting all day saving the world, though.

Saturday was roadster_guy‘s birthday and after sleeping late and having breakfast we caught the 1:20 showing of The Bourne Ultimatum, which rocked. We had just rented The Bourne Supremacy using WideOpenWest’s video-on-demand on Thursday(?), so it was fresh in our minds when we saw the third one. Afterwards we worked on my chainmail coat until brokenbryan came home from work, and headed down to mrimp and odysseyseven‘s place in Detroit for dinner at Xochimilco’s in Mexican Town. I hadn’t been there in years, and it’s still some of the best Mexican food I’ve had.

For dessert we had cake and ice cream, and Aaron opened his presents: a 3-stage electric knife sharpener from me; a Starbucks gift card from Bryan; a bottle of wine and an as-yet unnamed gift from the h’otters. The Wusthof knives Aaron has were already, in the words of the saleswoman at Crate & Barrel, “Bedy, bedy charp!” but I think this sharpener has them approaching monomolecular width.

The biggest event was after Bryan had left for home, as he had to be up at 6 for work. I was flopped on the bed on the phone with Mom, and Eric came in to prepare his surprise for Jamie. He took the ring we had shopped for on Thursday, put it in the mouth of Archie, the otter puppet we had bought them as a souvenir at the St. Louis arch, and took it back to the living room. He showed Jamie and said, “Archie has something he wants to show you.” He dropped the ring into his hand and Jamie just stared at it for a few seconds in confusion until Eric dropped to one knee and said, “Will you make me the happiest man in the world?” Then the shock set in, and Jamie was literally speechless for a good five seconds. Fortunately, he recovered enough to say “yes”. 🙂

Yesterday was low key and spent mostly on chainmail, the gym, laundry, and some shopping. Bryan and I went to Somerset to spend the Express gift card he’d given me. I tried on six pairs of jeans in various sizes and styles but, as their pants are all made for skinny twinks, none of them looked good on me. I did end up with a nice grey zip-up ribbed sweater, so it wasn’t a total loss. I’ll get a pair of jeans from Gap, since I know those look good. Of course I had to duck into the Apple store, which was packed, to look at the new iMacs. They’re pretty damn spiffy, even though I only got about 5 minutes on them before Bryan’s boredom drove me out. I couldn’t decide if I liked the glossy display or not, but in our office it wouldn’t be an issue. The only direct light that would hit the screen would come from the window in the bedroom directly behind me, and closing the blind takes care of that.

This week is a regular work week, but after a quitting time of 5:45pm all last week, 3:45 seems like a half day. I gave $5 to the United Way fundraiser at work to have our CIO “slimed”, Nickolodeon-style, at some upcoming event. In exchange I got a certificate allowing me to wear jeans the rest of the week, so after the gym I’ll hit the Gap to get a new pair. As of now, I have one. (I’ll also get to play with the iMacs a bit more without a time crunch. I wanted to try out the new iWork apps a little.)

Jul 312007

In medical news, all systems are nominal and auxiliary support hardware has been withdrawn. *whew*

Despite being on call, it was a quiet weekend: not a single work page. Saturday roadster_guy and I met our friends Kristen and Adam for breakfast in downtown Detroit, at the Detroit Breakfast House, which was really good. If this place is a sign of Detroit’s renewal, I actually have hope for the city.

In the afternoon we hit the movies to see Sunshine. We’d both been looking forward to it, but Aaron didn’t like it and I thought it was “ok”. It started out really good but, at about the halfway point, the plot holes started accumulating too rapidly. Great visuals though, and of course Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans are always nice to look at.

At 6:30 the three of us (including brokenbryan) had reservations at Europa Bistro in Rochester. We waited an extra half hour for outside seating but, since it overlooks Paint Creek, it was worth the wait. The smoked duck and cranberry ravioli in pecan and port demi-glace did not suck.

Then mrimp, odysseyseven, and _kosh_ joined us at our place for cake, ice cream, and Snatch, which was a great movie. I’d never seen a Guy Ritchie movie before this one. It could have used subtitles though; the English accents were so heavy it was like another language entirely.

Sunday was dedicated to City of Heroes and finishing the last Harry Potter book. Eight of us attempted the Statesman Task Force, and started out strong, but called it quits at the Thorn Tree. We couldn’t seem to get organized enough to weaken all the thorn vines before killing them and the whole mission devolved into constant character deaths. Next time we’ll have a better plan. At least I got a good enhancement recipe (Glimpse of the Abyss) and a piece of rare salvage (Magical Conspiracy). I also respeced Screamcore to drop Siren’s Call (sleep cone) and take Shout (single target attack), since we got a free respec yesterday and the ones given by the devs don’t stack. I’m still not sure if I like it better, since sleep comes in handy when soloing. The higher damage output is nice, but Shout needs a range boost when I hit 33.

HP7 was really good, and almost completely different from the bootleg copy I downloaded a couple months ago. So either I had found a very early draft of the book, or a very well-written piece of fan fiction. There were some similar scenes, and some of the same characters died, but it was really two totally different stories. The problem was that I kept wanting to associate what I’d read in the bootleg with the real story, as if the bootleg was the previous book. Got a bit confusing at times.

Yesterday we found out that my credit card info had been compromised, and multiple charges had been made to various websites to the tune of about $1300. Luckily two of the companies had not posted the charges yet, had already marked them as possibly fraudulent, and were very helpful and responsive. One of the three $109 charges to has already dropped off, just waiting for the other two plus the $900 charge to Unfortunately a $100 charge to has already posted, so I’ll have to sign an affidavit at the bank that we didn’t make the charge so they can investigate and return our money.

Needless to say, I cancelled my card right away and ordered a new one with a different number. In the future I’m going to keep much closer track of which websites have my credit card info, and tighten up our home network security. We do regularly run anti-spyware and anti-phishing tools, but it’s almost impossible to stay ahead of the bad guys.

Jul 242007

Spent a good deal of the last three weekends with my sister and her kids Sydney and Gavin, who made their first trip back to Michigan in about two years. Surprised them at my Mom’s house on Saturday the 7th when they arrived, thinking I had gone to Toronto. We hung out and caught up, and the kids quickly got over their shyness of me, as it had been nearly two years since I’d seen Syd, when Gavin was a newborn.

The following weekend the six of us spent at roadster_guy‘s parents’ beach house near Port Huron, where a fine time was had by all. Despite not getting to the gym for four days, I got plenty of exercise chasing after a 4 year old and a 20 month old: innumerable piggy-back rides across rocky beaches and through waist-high surf; endless overhead presses so they could reach up and touch the ceiling of the house or be splashed through an incoming wave; many laps around the back yard chasing after Sydney the Rock-Star Cheetah; panic-sprints whenever Gavin toddled too far away and straight toward water or roads… The Navy SEALs should add “Child Care” to their physical training curriculum, but I think the dropout rate from exhaustion would become unacceptably high.

Yes, Sydney decided that for the entire trip to Michigan she was a rock-star cheetah, and I was the designated cheetah chaser. Granted, she had never even seen a cheetah until I showed her some pictures and video on the intartubes, but no matter! There was a permanent catch-and-release program in effect all weekend. Sadly, however, I was informed that upon returning to California she will assume the form of a horsey and leave her cheetah days behind. Alas, Acinonyx jubatus, we hardly knew ye.

Last Tuesday Mollie and I went out to dinner at Mongolian BBQ, which she had no access to in the Mojave Desert (shocked I am!), then saw the new Harry Potter movie, which we both really liked. The first half did kind of drag a bit, but once the action picked up toward the end it was worth the wait. The battle in the Department of Mysteries, especially between Dumbledore and Voldemort, just rocked. On that note, agent00groovey stopped by last night to drop off HP7: “Harry Potter and the Truckload of Money”. I wasn’t really going to read it anytime soon, because I had found a bootleg copy of a draft of the book about a month ago and read it already. However, after reading a couple spoilers posted by my flist, turns out that the version I have has significant differences from the final version, so I need to actually read it now.

Saturday we had planned to have the family come up to our place, then go on to Quake on the Lake (hydroplane races) at some friends’ parents’ beach house. That fell through when Mom had to work that day and had no ride home if Mollie had the car. Aaron was disappointed, but we canceled going and I spent the day with them while he stayed home. We went to Bishop Park in Wyandotte and met up with Mollie’s friends Kelly and her sister Lisa, plus Lisa’s kid. I hadn’t seen Kelly since our wedding reception, where she was the date of my buddy Jim. We chased the kids around the park for awhile, then went to Stroh’s for ice cream, finally stopping at the fountain on the corner of Biddle and Eureka. Everyone got soaking wet running through and around it, but it was a blast.

Sunday I trekked back down to Brownstown to go with them to the airport, and got a gate pass so I could help haul their stuff to the plane. I didn’t even know it was possible to go to the gate without a ticket, but apparently they make exceptions for one person under certain circumstances (like being five months pregnant and traveling with two small children). After endless questioning, Sydney now knows nearly everything there is to know about airports and airplanes, and how they work, and probably repeated it all to my sister throughout the entire flight. You’re welcome, Sis. :o)

I was overeager to get home and got busted doing 75 mph in a 60 mph construction zone. Fortunately, the cop didn’t give me an actual speeding ticket, as that would have been double fines and double points, but instead gave me one for “impeding traffic”. Coincidentally, the $150 fine is equal to the birthday money I got from my in-laws, so happy birthday to me. I didn’t REALLY need new clothes for work, or a contribution to my Mac fund, did I? :o(

Warning: Medical TMI Ahead! You have been warned!

Apr 052007

 is off at the NY auto show this week, then staying with

 for the weekend. I’m usually ok with him being out of town for a couple days, but more than that and the silence and emptiness of the house starts to get to me, and I start getting depressed and morbid. So, I’ve been keeping busy in order to stave that off.

Been playing a lot of CoH, both with

 on the main servers (Screamcore hit 23, and is now only one level behind Submissivus!) and on the testing server, trying out the features of the upcoming Issue 9 content patch. Tuesday, I took the bike out for a nine mile ride, not quite making it back to the house before getting soaked by the rainstorm that blew up.

Yesterday I went and got a haircut, then stopped at Kohl’s to find Aaron a replacement jacket for the one he left in a cab in NY. He was out of luck, since they were all out of the style he’d bought recently. This is why he can’t have nice things. I, however, snagged new track pants to replace the ones I’d blown the crotch out of at the gym. I tried on a medium and a large but, oddly, the medium was bigger than the large. I ended up taking the large pair because they didn’t seem as baggy as the medium. I wore them around the house for a bit to get a feel for them, because they fit a bit strangely and seemed to strain at the crotch. I wish I could claim credit for that condition, but I digress. I finally looked more closely at the tags and discovered the reason: I’d accidentally bought womens’ track pants. Why this one pair was hanging on the mens’ rack, when the womens’ section was clear on the other side of the store, I have no idea. Luckily, I had left the tags on them and kept the receipt, so back they go after work. It’s a shame; they made my ass look good.

It was strange going back to the gym last night (in my other track pants) after nearly a three week hiatus. First of all, it was hard to even motivate myself to go after so long away. Second, it was hard to get back in the groove of it. The exercises felt strange, like I was doing them for the first time ever. I waited until 8:30 to go, thinking it would be less crowded, and I could get back in the swing of things with less distraction. HA! The eye candy was still swarming like it was prime time, and I nearly got a neck spasm trying to keep from turning my head at everything that walked by. My Concerta was wearing off by then, which made it even harder to stay focused. I got through it though and, while not a stellar workout, wasn’t too shabby.

Afterwards I watched my favorite scenes from Kung Fu Hustle while I ate, then worked on the Exalted campaign for awhile. Tonight I have the first Tai Chi class that Aaron and I signed up for at the Community Center. Friday and Saturday I’m hanging out with Bryan, and Sunday Mom’s over for brunch at Bon Vie.

Right now I’m trying out a new browser, built on Mozilla, called Flock. It’s got some interesting features, like a photostrip at the top that links directly to Flickr or Photobucket, and a “web snippets” bar at the bottom. You can highlight and right-click text, or an image on a web page, and send it directly to LiveJournal or other blogs, or drag those things to the web snippets strip to build up a collection before posting it. You can also drag and drop thumbnails, or larger versions, right off the photostrip and into a blog entry, like so:

without having to go to Flickr first. You can also open photostrips from anyone else on Flickr, set favorite users, and be notified whenever they post new pictures. Pretty clever. It’s a very new browser, and I’m curious to see how it develops.

Oh, btw, this current cold and snowy weather sucks. I’d mentally switched gears to spring already, teased by last week’s warm weather. Now I had to break out the Ellenwear again, but couldn’t find my gloves. Bleah.

Mar 152007

Guess I’m overdue for an update, lest I forget the events of my own life. I like to think of LJ not only as a social networking site, but also as Alzheimer’s insurance. Someday when I’m sitting in the home I can review my past entries and recall my own identity, until the nurse removes my neural web interface and wheels me to lunch. (“GOOD MORNING MR. GRAY, YOU LOOK VERY NICE! TODAY IS THURSDAY! WE’RE HAVING PUDDING!”)

Referring to the title of the post, I went with mrimp and odysseyseven last Sunday to see 300. The visuals and the Spartan eye candy was very impressive, especially some of the bullet-time combat moves, but as an epic story it was a bit thin. I don’t really find the lead, Gerard Butler, all that attractive (despite the awesome body) but, in certain scenes and framed a certain way, with his helmet, cloak, and shield all goin’ on, I got a bit weak in the knees. Overall, though, this should have been a throwaway summer action flick, like an ice cream cone on a hot day: consumed, enjoyed, and quickly forgotten.

I spent most of the afternoon on Saturday with Mom. After a decent lunch of ribs at Famous Dave’s, I spent the next several hours trying to wipe and reload her aging PC, with little success. After encountering a corrupt system setup file, it was almost two hours before I could break the reboot cycle, get to a DOS prompt, and format the drive. By then I needed to get going, as we were meeting some friends at Kennedy’s Irish Pub in Waterford for a sort of pre-St. Pat’s gathering. It took me most of the next two days to get the system completely reloaded, due to visitors and distractions.

The Gaels were playing at Kennedy’s, as they’ve done for the last 35 years, and were as entertaining as always. Our friends Richard and Alex were visiting from Toronto for the weekend so we dragged them along with us, and they seemed to enjoy themselves. Richard and I both wore our kilts, as did our buddy Scott who was already up there with his girlfriend Pam. At one point lead singer asked everyone in kilts to get on the stage and sing along with “The Kilted Scotsman” (or whatever it’s actually called). Four of us were up there, two in tartans, I in Utilikilt (“This one has no tartan!” “I’m a clanless orphan”), and Richard in pleather.

The singer exclaimed, “This one’s a real man, he’s got a leather kilt!”

Scott leaned over and told him it was actually pleather.

“Pleather?! He must be from Ferndale!”

This generated a lot of laughter from the crowd, but poor Richard didn’t have a clue. (For those not in the know, Ferndale, MI has one of the highest gay/lesbian populations in southeast Michigan.)

My workout routine has kind of stalled so I’m trying to get it kickstarted again. Turns out that, per my trainer, 80% of the program is diet, and I’d long ago slacked off on eating as much and as often as I was supposed to, so I wasn’t making any more gains and was actually starting to lose ground in how much weight I was lifting. Now I’m trying to get back to eating every 2-3 hours in the proper amounts, but we desperately need to go grocery shopping to stock up. I can tell it’s working because now, right on cue, I start getting hunger pains at about the three hour mark, which means the metabolism is staying ramped up. I also feel slightly too warm.

I’m still trying to get the Exalted game going, but some of my players (and you know who you are) need a boot in the ass to finish their characters. :oP

This weekend Alex and brokenbryan are visiting again, and we may drag them back to Kennedy’s for the actual St. Pat’s party, which starts at 6 a.m. and goes til at least 2 a.m. Once again the gang will all be there, but we don’t know how long we’d want to stay, since it’s standing-room-only.

Feb 192007

It was a pretty low-key weekend, with a birthday party up in Bay City on Friday night. It was good to see that most of the crew could make it, and many strange alcoholic combinations were tested and approved for general consumption. We discovered that sparkling raspberry wine and sparkling peach juice both make great additives for a pint of Guinness, much to our surprise. Despite all the experimentation, we sobered up in time to drive back that night, not wanting to drop money on a motel.

Cut for the Exalted-impaired/uninterested

Dec 132006

We had a decent time in Toronto last weekend, even though it was pretty low-key. Other than food, gas, and a couple drinks, we really didn’t buy much of anything. I bought an Aero bar, a foamed chocolate delicacy that Canada cruelly witholds from the Hershey’s-eating savages lurking on their southern border. It’s probably for the best that we DON’T have them here, or I’ll have to spend most of my waking hours in the gym, working off the chocolate.

On Monday my staff manager from my contract house took a bunch of us to lunch at Mongolian BBQ. Those things are always so awkward. In a group of usually 7-10 people, maybe 2 of them work together. The only thing any of us have in common is our employer and our office location, and our only common point of contact is the staff manager. Invariably, lunchtime consists of eating and awkward silences, with a background whirring of mental gears as everyone desperately tries to think of something to say. I made an effort to get some conversation going about the holidays, the various changes at Mongolian BBQ since they first opened the chain, and other trivia, but without continuous maintenance it lapsed back into meditative silence. I managed to get a few laughs with various witty remarks, but the conversational inertia was too great to overcome. Still, it was free food, and I stuck to only one bowl so I wouldn’t succumb to food coma.

After the gym I caught up on last Friday’s BSG episode. It was almost as intense as the previous one, but I don’t really like Kat’s character all that much, and the focus was on her. The scenes with Baltar and the Cylons were really intriguing, especially the bit with the hybrid that controls the base ship. It was also a relief to see Baltar finally acting clearheaded and confident instead of perpetually on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Later I was kept distracted by the marathon of The Lost Room miniseries which, despite being confusing initially because we didn’t see the first couple episodes, turned out to be really good. The final episode is tonight at 9pm, so I’m going to try to catch it. I’m kind of glad it’s a miniseries instead of a regular show, otherwise they’d spend years dragging out the main character’s quest to rescue his daughter, and that kind of thing gets tedious after awhile. Still, the premise would make for a great RPG story, possibly using GURPS or World of Darkness.

One more week til Aruba!

Nov 302006

Turkey Day at the in-laws was a pleasant affair. The drive to Gettysburg took about 8 hours. At night. In the rain. Through steep mountain roads. It was fun, actually. 🙂 My sister-in-law and her husband have a very nice house north of town, and there was plenty of room for all eleven of us for dinner. Aaron had a much bigger kitchen to work in this year, and everyone stayed out from underfoot except for the dog. Dinner was excellent, of course. Lindsay and Chris have a nice home gym and treadmill in the basement, so I was able to keep up on the workouts and burn off the holiday food.
But wait, there’s more…

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