It's a Fact: Kids Hate Tootsie-Rolls

We decided to tend to the trick-or-treaters until about 6:30 then went down to Crate & Barrel in Bellevue to finally buy the dining room chairs that go with the table we purchased 3 years ago. Yes, we've had a table with no chairs in our dining room for 3 years but that's beside the point.

I'm writing because before we left I combined the two enormous bowls of candy into one disposable aluminum roasting pan and set it on a folding table on the front porch. On the door I taped an orange and black sign that read, "Happy Halloween! Take 2 pieces of candy & leave some for everyone else. Thanks!" So the social experiment was on. I decided to forego hiding a videocamera on the porch but in hindsight I really wish I had.

As many of you know, Kristin and I live in one of those massive planned communities where the homes are all really close together and every house (by law it would seem) has at least two youngsters running around. And if that wasn't enough to get your doorstep walked off every 31st of October, hundreds of families from surrounding towns drive their kids here to go trick-or-treating. Simply driving down our street tonight was a challenge as parked cars lined both sides of the road and an endless stream of traffic was pouring into our neighborhood. We were the proverbial salmon fighting the current. In the midst of this mayhem was a local ambulance parked catty-corner giving out candy and glow-sticks to all the kids. One block down from them was a local church group giving out free hot cocoa. I wasn't able to identify the feeling I had upon seeing such a scene but in retrospect I do believe it was my cockles being warmed.

Kristin and I felt certain that there would be no candy left in the bowl when we returned home. We felt so sure of this that we put the candy in the cheap aluminum throwaway tin because I actually expected someone to simply walk off with the nice plastic bowls I normally use. Kristin actually suspected that our folding snack table may well disappear too.

Well, wouldn't you know that when we returned home after 10pm that there was still a small amount of candy left in the bowl? The sign still hung where I taped it and everything on the porch was nice and neat. I can tell you I set out exactly 10.7 pounds of candy consisting of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, Milky Ways, Kit-Kats, Skittles, Nerds, Butterfingers, and on and on. Over 400 pieces of candy according to the bags! This is what's left:
  • 39 Tootsie Rolls
  • 9 Sweet Tarts
  • 6 Nestle Crunch
  • 1 Tootsie Pop (cherry)
  • 1 Laffy Taffy (strawberry)
  • 1 Baby Ruth
  • 1 Jolly Rancher (cherry)

I always believed based on my own experience that Tootsie Rolls -- second only to Sugar Daddies -- were the most loathsome candy you can give out at Halloween, but this proves it. It's clear the kids picked over the selection pretty thoroughly and, I'm guessing, the large majority stuck by the take-2-pieces rule I posted on the sign. If not, there would certainly not be any Baby Ruths or Sweet Tarts left. Naturally, my science background is warning me against trying to draw any sweeping conclusions from this "experiment" but I can't help but think that this not only proves that kids really don't like Tootsie Rolls, but also that if you trust today's kids with an offering of good will, most will return that trust by doing what you ask. And this sort of shames me, not only because I expected them to steal the candy but because I know damn well that if my friends and I had come across a house with a giant bowl of candy when we were kids, that we would have walked off with the whole bowl. And then we would have fought over who would get to keep it. Sharing? Nonsense! But maybe I say that because nobody ever did trust us with such a scenario. Maybe we would have felt obligated to do what the sign asked?

Or maybe nobody over the age of eight came trick-or-treating while we were gone...

Halloween: The Final Frontier

One of the perks that come with my job is that when I go to bed at night, I don't necessarily need to wake up at any pre-determined time. I eschew the beeps and buzzes of alarms and opt for a more natural awakening. And when I do feel my eyes starting to open and the grip of a deep sleep loosening, I wake slowly, savoring every last second of warmth and snug-ness. It's a truly wonderful way to start the day. Despite this affinity for being a slow riser, there are a few things that could get me out of bed in an instant. For example, I imagine the sound of the smoke detectors would definitely make me leap from bed on a moment's notice. Similarly, if Kristin were to run into the room shouting that someone was trying to break in or that the dogs had gone missing, that too would also cause me to leap into action. But these are obvious reasons to be startled out of bed. I have a new one for that list.

Kristin leaned over to kiss me goodbye before she was headed to work, like she always does, but sometime between telling her I love her and my daily semi-conscious reminder to drive safely, I blurted out "What the hell do you have on?" I was three-fourths asleep, but I had cracked my eyes enough to see that she was wearing a blue jumpsuit with a rather large "NASA" logo on it. She replied that it was Halloween and she decided to wear her flight-suit from Space Camp since they have a costume contest at work each year.

My eyes opened a bit fuller -- in shock mind you -- and I at once sprang from the bed and sprinted down the hall to my office in search of my digital camera. Kristin wanted me to go back to bed, telling me I could take photos of her when she came home. "Oh no" I replied, "I'm taking these photos right now for the blog. It's not everyday my wife pretends to be an astronaut."

Kristin was a good sport and posed for the two photos below. It dawned on me when I was taking these photos that Kristin went to Space Camp in 1988. She was in the 7th grade. I can't figure out what's more absurd -- that she still has the jumpsuit or that she still fits into the jumpsuit. I think it's a toss-up. Regardless, it's got to be the single most unflattering outfit ever devised. But she did get it at NASA and she's very proud of the name badge that is still pinned to it. Apparently the only thing missing from making it a true astronaut outfit is the diaper... but alas, Kristin's drive to work isn't nearly long enough to require that.

As for me, I'll be home playing the wonderful game Overlord while waiting on UPS all day to deliver a new laptop I purchased from Amazon. I'll write more about it later, for certain. As far as Halloween goes, I'm debating whether or not to put all 10 pounds of candy outside on the porch in a bowl with a sign asking kids to please take 1 or 2 pieces each. And I want to hide a videocamera on the porch to record the action. It's not that I don't want to answer the door 100 times tonight -- well, sort of -- but I think it could prove pretty interesting to see how kids react when faced with a massive bowl of free candy. I know the little doorbell-ditching punks (Canadians, no less!) next-door will probably take a few giant handfuls, but I imagine most of the little tikes around here will only take the 1 or 2 pieces. As much as I complain about how noisy the kids on my street are, I have to admit that there are some really nice little kids in the neighborhood. Every day I take the dogs for a walk there's at least a couple little boys and girls who ask if they can "pet the sled dogs". One little girl even gets on her knees and hugs Annana around the neck so tight, I often wonder if she's ever going to let go. On second thought, to hell with the social experiment: I want to see the costumes. The candy will be inside.

Dog Shoots Man

About time the animals started getting even...

From the Associated Press:

DES MOINES, Iowa -- A hunter is recovering after he was shot in the leg at close range by his dog, who stepped on his shotgun and tripped the trigger, an official said Tuesday.

James Harris, 37, of Tama, was hit in the calf Saturday, the opening day of pheasant season, said Alan Foster, a spokesman with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

"He had surgery and is doing pretty well," he said. "He took between 100-120 pellets in about a 4-inch circle to his calf."

Harris was listed in good condition Tuesday, officials at University Hospitals in Iowa City said.

Harris was hunting with a group about three miles north of Grinnell. The group shot a bird, and when Harris went to get it, he put his gun on the ground and crossed a fence. As he crossed the fence, his hunting dog stepped on the gun, Foster said.

The gun was about 3 feet away from his leg.

"The muzzle velocity is so great that the pellets don't have a chance to spread out," he said.

No one else was hurt, and the dog was not injured.

Foster said no citations have been issued.

I was about to post about a guy getting sentenced to 54 days in jail in Michigan for beating a friend with pickles (and a telephone) but an animal shooting a hunter is too good of a story to pass up.

The Price is Wrong

I just caught today's airing of The Price is Right; it was my first time seeing the show since Drew Carey took over for retired Bob Barker. How depressing. I was one of the people who thought Drew Carey would be a perfect replacement for Barker, but if what I saw today was any indication, this show should probably be taken out behind the shed and shot.

I grew up watching The Price is Right nearly every day -- one of the best memories I have of my grandmother on my father's side is sitting with her in their house in Edison, New Jersey watching gameshows whenever I was dropped off there to be babysat. As much as I loved the Whammies on Press Your Luck, Barker's hour-long show was our favorite. I continued to watch it sporadically when I was home sick during my school age years and even occasional throughout college if I didn't have class. And even every now and then over the past 7 years that I've been working from home. Bob Barker was this country's jovial grandfather who always had a smile for you and always knew how to brighten a room. I say that fully aware I never met the man. And although his hair and suit always gave him a somewhat sinister look (or maybe it was that left hook to Adam Sandler's chin I'm thinking of) it was impossible to turn on his show and not feel a fresh blast of California sunshine. It could be the dead of winter in the northeast, yet turning on The Price is Right made it feel like a warm sunny Southern California day.

And now there's Drew Carey. Perhaps he's still mourning the loss of his beloved Cleveland Indians, I don't know, but what I do know is that he shows all the excitement of a 10-year old being forced to finish his cauliflower. He doesn't seem lost necessarily, but he just doesn't look like he really wants to be there. Sure, I imagine going from having a hit show named after yourself to doing daytime gameshows can be a bit of an ego burst, but it's The Price is Right! It's not a gameshow as much as it is a piece of Americana. There's probably a million people who would host that show every day for free. Myself included. And yet, there stands Drew Carey. Glum. Maybe Drew Carey wasn't the right person for the job. Maybe we all loved Drew Carey because hs seemed like a big friendly lovable loser. Do lovable losers make good gameshow hosts? Louie Anderson wasn't too bad during his short tenure on Family Feud, but then again it certainly wasn't the same without Richard Dawson. Hmmm... maybe I just caught the show on a bad day. Maybe Drew Carey is still trying to feel his way through it. Maybe Drew Carey just isn't as good as faking a smile and affection for strangers as Bob Barker was. I don't know the answer, but I doubt I'm alone in thinking that The Price is Right is an institution and that it deserves better than a half-hearted smile from a host who seems like he's always looking down at his feet.

Forbes Talks Taking a Year Off

Saw this on the today, from Forbes magazine.

Anjeanette Rettig was so overworked and burned out from her high-tech public relations job that she wound up in the emergency room from stress migraines.

She needed a break, and a week at the spa wouldn't do. Her husband Kevin Rettig, a software developer, was up for taking one, too -- so the couple traveled around the world for an entire year in 2002, visiting almost 30 countries. When the trip was over, Kevin returned to the company he worked for before, even though they hadn't guaranteed him a spot upon his return.

Yes, you can take a year off without ruining your career (or your bank account). Kevin was able to return to his job because he made all the right moves before, during and after his trip, including top performance reviews, keeping in touch with his boss while abroad and taking a freelance gig with them upon return. That freelance work turned into a full-time position.

The article doesn't offer any especially earth-shattering news for those who have already read books on the subject (Rolf Potts, author of "Vagabonding", is quoted in the article) or who have already begun researching a trip of their own, but it's still a worthwhile read if you're not yet convinced it can be done. What was funny to me about this article is that Forbes is obviously catering to another crowd -- the couple spotlighted in the article set their budget at $100,000. Something tells me they weren't planning on staying at hostels or doing any couchsurfing. Let's just say that the budget Kristin and I are planning is, at least at this point, quite a bit smaller.

Anyway, if you're interested, the full article can be found here.

Halloween at the Mansion

Hugh Hefner's Mansion, that is.

My good friend James emailed me a link to the photos he shot for of this year's Halloween Party at the Playboy Mansion. And some people still think I'm the one with the cool job. As if.

Check out the photos here.

The photos don't reveal any naughty bits, but there is plenty of scantily-clad celebrities and Playmates so consider them probably NSFW, if for no other reason than so the little trolls working in your company's IT department don't get all flabergasted when they see someone visiting at the workplace. Methinks the old adage about you going there "for the articles" probably won't fly.

Nevertheless, if the idea of Playmates and B-list celebrities don't excite you, then I would suggest checking out the photos simply for costume ideas. There's definitely some good looking costumes on display. Yeah... the costumes. That's why you'll be looking at these pics. Sure...

Food Poisoning: Hells Kitchen to Be a Videogame!

From Next Generation:

Ludia Inc. hopes you’re hungry because they’re dishing out Hell’s Kitchen games next year on just about every platform possible.

Yes, Hell’s Kitchen, the reality TV show that sets groups of hopeful master chefs into a cooking frenzy under the watchful gaze and frequent verbal abuse of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey is becoming a videogame. Ludia In.c recently announced a multi-year agreement with Granada to turn the Hell’s Kitchen property into a barrage of games across “as many platforms as possible.”

Why this many pronged attack? Well like the episodes of Hell’s Kitchen where contestants have to turn one food item into as many dishes as possible (say squid quesadillas followed by squid kabobs with squid sorbet for desert), Ludia’s plan is to put the game on as many possible platforms in order to get “content to consumers when and where they want it.” That way if you like the squid but aren’t a fan of kabobs, you can always hit the sorbet.

According to Ludia CEO and founder Alex Thabet, the game, which will coincide with the start of the fourth season of the Hell’s Kitchen TV show in 2008, “will bring the fun of the kitchen boot camp experience from the TVs to the PCs and consoles” and will aim to “engage existing and new fans of the show.Oh, and if the game is the full course meal, there’s also a little mint stuffed into your bill with a recipe book feature. This collection of recipes will be some of Chef Ramsay’s “favorite food concoctions” that players will be able to print and try out for themselves.

Soon you too will be able to experience the “trademark intensity” of Ramsay as he agonizes over your carefully crafted culinary creations. Yes criticism and cooking is served.

First things first, I can only imagine this is how a jobs posting reads at Next-Gen.

Always wanted to be a games journalist, but are afraid you don't have the skills? Worry no more! Not only do we not expect you to know your topic, but we don't even ask you to fact-check or edit! You supply the laptop and we'll supply the press-releases for you to copy and paste. Sure, the pay may be low, but so are the expectations. Apply today!

I'm sorry that's a tad snarky, but come on! Anyone who has ever watched five minutes of food tv knows that the squid-based example above (the part that wasn't blatantly xeroxed from the press release) actually describes the show Iron Chef and not Hell's Kitchen. At all. Hell's Kitchen, if anything, is like Survivor. It's two teams competing head-to-head in a split-kitchen, managed by Gordon-Tourettes-Ramsey. The two separate kitchen staffs try to get through a dinner serving with real (aka General Casting) customers, all the while Chef Ramsey tries his hardest to make each of them cry. At the end of the night, one team wins and gets a reward and the other goes out on the patio to chain-smoke and binge-drink while the best-of-the-worst decides who to nominate for elimination. It's actually quite entertaining, if for no other reason than to watch people made fun of on national tv.

Now, how this will translate to a videogame is beyond me. The Cooking Mama games for the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii are apparently the cream of the cooking crop and are still saddled with scores in the D- range, if we were assigning letter grades (although I have a young cousin who is apparently using them to help teach his mother how to cook. Go figure?). If I had to fashion a guess based on what I know about games, the Hell's Kitchen show, and the myriad other movie and tv tie-in games, this could possibly end up being one of the worst games to ever be green lighted. The only way I would be remotely interested in even renting this game would be if it came with a montage video of every one of Chef Ramsey's temper tantrums from the tv show. Or, better yet, maybe Chef Ramsey will be guaranteed to be online playing with you at a certain time every week and those who log into the game can be ridiculed and berated by the master, himself! Maybe we can use the Xbox Vision camera to show him what we look like so he can personalize the verbal attacks! Now that would be something, wouldn't it you lazy fat, disgusting, pimply, worthless piece of bleep?

Farm Fetish

Every now and then I click on a link to another blog and find something interesting. Like tonight, where I saw this:

In this post I simply point out the ridiculousness of certain politicians, and most of the media, constantly referring to rural small-town Americans as "REAL" Americans (in the cultural sense), considering that according to the US Census and Department of Labor, only 17% of Americans live in rural settings anymore, and roughly 2 million Americans farm for a living. I do this by mentioning that there are more World of Warcraft players in the US than professional Farmers.

Of course, some people have missed the point completely.

Not sure how people could miss the point he was making, but it clearly happened. The author of the Kung Fu Monkey blog goes on to detail just how far off base people were right here. He has some other interesting stuff on the site as well. Worth a gander if you have some time to kill.

Not Quite Ready for the Chill

Six us of us set off from the Redhook Brewery at 6pm last night with a massive full moon seemingly just feet off the horizon to the east and Mt. Rainier in clear view to the south. There wasn't a cloud to be spotted anywhere, the sun was setting, and it was already about ten degrees colder than I thought it would get. Maybe it's because of how warm it was on Tuesday; perhaps it was because the wildfire coverage put So-Cal weather on my mind; or maybe it was because it just sort of looked warm out. Whatever the reason, I had no idea that the temperature was supposed to drop to below 40 degrees last night.

As an aside, I'd like to see the Seattle Times put the weather forecast on the sports page... every one of them. How am I supposed to know it was going to get so cold when they stick the weather forecast on the back page of the Local section... just after the obituaries? I can see putting the broadcast schedule for Matlock and Golden Girls reruns near the obits, but the weather?

Anyway, getting back to riding my bike, it took a good 6 or 7 miles for my chest to get used to the frigid air I was gasping for -- I felt like I was back in the mountains although we were only 300 feet above sea level -- and by the time we hit the halfway point, my toes had already gone numb. I had a rather thin layer of socks on, three-quarter length tights, a short-sleeve base layer and a lightweight fleece longsleeve on with a pair of full-finger glove liners. Other than my toes going numb, I was feeling rather fine. Then it got darker and colder and we hit the 40 mph descent on the Tolt Pipeline trail. Muy frio!

Last time I checked, it's still only October. And, for that matter, this is western Washington. We typically only get a handful of days each year below freezing, but the temp was already into the 30s last night. Again, in October.

I was not counting on having to dig out my winter cycling apparel at least for a few more weeks, but so much for that idea. What a time to buy a new bike! Be sure to wave if you see a fleece and gore-tex mummy pushing a purple single-speed up a hill, as that will probably be me.

Even White Boys Got to Shout

Please don't ask why. Just go to iTunes and spend your 99 cents downloading Jonathan Coulton's rendition of "Baby Got Back".

Even if you absolutely hate Sir Mix-a-Lot's version and, like me, think it set Seattle back a decade in the music scene, you still have to download this song. It's hysterical. And if you do find it enjoyable and want to sample some other Coulton music, I would also recommend "Tom Cruise Crazy", "Pizza Day", "Ikea", and "SkyMall". They're all fantastically catchy and funny and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Just be sure when you search iTunes for his stuff, that you type in his full name "Jonathan Coulton" since typing in just his last name will cause your search results to be polluted by the under-sexed histrionics of the devil itself, Ann Coulter.

Unless you're into that sort of thing, in which case I really hope I don't know you. Seriously, you're scaring me.

Interval Training?

It was a peculiarly nice day yesterday for late October and I just had to get back on the bike. In order to be properly prepared for my nighttime ride at Tolt-MacDonald Park in Carnation, I figured I had better charge the batteries to my light and also make sure my bike computer's battery was charged. Doing so automatically downloads the data from recent rides onto my computer.

How depressing.

Since TransRockies, I've ridden my bike exactly twice prior to last night. Once on August 23rd, a second time on September 23rd. And, for those without a calendar, let me just point out that last night was in fact October 23rd. I assure you this pattern is strictly coincidental, but even if it were intentional I don't believe this sort of interval training would be all that beneficial. Actually, the layer of insulation I've installed around my mid-section since finishing TR would attest to this definitely not being the way to go about training.

But last night was really fun. Erik led us on a good loop through the mazelike network of trails at a steady pace with virtually zero stops. I probably won't be ridig the Moots much more this season, especially once the new single-speed arrives next week, so it was good to get it out on relatively dry trails one last time. Fortunately there was still some moisture lingering in the ground, as I was catapulted over the handlebars and faceplanted into the ground while trying to go over a stack of logs that everyone else walked over. My face landed flush and had the ground have been harder -- or a tree root been present -- I would have certainly broke my nose, if not worse. As it was, I had a mouthful of dirt and wore a mask of rich Washington soil the rest of the night. Good times!

The rain is back today but I'm hoping it keeps to a minimum for tomorrow night's ride. I haven't ridden the Thrilla in Woodinvilla loop in quite some time and although the ride is fun, I'm really jonesing for another Turkey Blast sandwich at Redhook afterwards. Oh, right. And the beer of course...

Top Gear Test Track to Appear in Gran Turismo 5

Okay, I admit it, there's finally going to be a reason for we X360 owners to be ever-so-slightly jealous of those with a Playstation 3. Granted, it's the wannabe driving sim Gran Turismo 5, but nevertheless the test track from the BBC's hit show "Top Gear" is going to be included in the game. "Top Gear" is a fantastic show about cars and driving and airs Monday nights at 8 on BBC America (#264 on DirecTV).

Here's a link to a number of Top Gear segments on

Even if you have little to no interest in cars, this is still an excellent show to watch. Kristin seems to enjoy watching it as much as I do, and she drives a hybrid so that right there should tell you something. Each week, the show's three hosts spend an hour reviewing a new car (anything from a Mazda RX-8 to the new 1001 horsepower Bugati Veyron), comparing a selection of similar cars, and will also often hold a challenge. Recent challenges included making their own amphibious cars; building a Caterham R500 faster than their mysterious race driver, aka The Stig, could drive one home from the factory; and even taking three 20-year old beaters down to New Orleans to see who could sell them for the most money (they ended up giving them away when they saw how ruined the city still was).

One of the best parts of the show, however, is the weekly celebrity interview. They bring in a famous Brit, talk him up for a few minutes, then put him in an utterly normal everyday bucket of bolts car (something hideous and underpowered like a Chevy Malibu or Ford Taurus) and time him on the test track. The guys get really into it because they know their time is going to be compared with the other celebs that come on the show. And the in-car camera reveals how nervous they are while trying to race the car. Very funny to watch... especially when they have to turn and look at the shifter to shift.

Getting back to Gran Turismo 5, the game is going to include the test track that the show uses so now you'll be able to see how you stack up against British celebrities in really bad cars. Or, what I suspect is an even more enticing proposition, is you could take the much nicer exotics out onto the track and compare them with the Stig's times.

A look at the course.

Either way, it's a pretty good cross-promotion between the BBC and Sony. Now if only they would finally get around to adding a damage model to the Gran Turismo series then finally, one of these days, it would be worthy of that "driving simulator" moniker it has.

Our City is Smarter than Yours... and Somewhat Better Looking Too!

Thanks to my sister for posting an article about Philadelphia being rated the city with the ugliest citizens in the country. To those who would argue that ranking, let me be the first to remind everyone that ugly is more than just looks. Philadelphia Eagles fans booed Santa Claus. It doesn't get any uglier than that.

Anyway, I wanted to see how Seattle fared in these meaningless rankings compiled by Travel & Leisure Magazine. The rankings were on a 1-5 scale and included the 25 major American metro areas. Here's a link to the complete breakdown for Seattle. There's a lot of categories on there, but the higlights were that Seattle was rated #1 in intelligence of all 25 cities and 3rd in the overall best people category.

Here's the full article at the magazine, which is designed to help people make travel plans. That said, most people are going to certainly look at it for bragging rights.

What I Learned in Colorado

I spent a few days last week in Boulder, Colorado visiting my brother. It wasn't a particularly memorable visit, but I had a good time. I had some fun Thursday night at a bar with a trivia contest; we drove to Rocky Mountain National Park on Friday but where forced to do the whole windshield-tourist thing due to the weather (yawn); and played three rounds of frisbee golf on Saturday. It a fine trip and my nose has finally re-equilibrated to a normal humidity level and is no longer dried out from the aridity of the greater Denver area.

I did learn a few things about visiting with him that I should share so as to properly warn other family members who may be contemplating a similar visit. I write these not to poke fun or to be mean, but because nobody has ever visited him in the 2.5 years he's lived in Colorado. Consider these comments a report from the great unknown.

1) He will never put on his seatbelt until the car chirps at him. And even then, he'll wait for it to start chiming a second time before he finally gives in. There's no sense in commenting on this, as I believe that is the whole reason he does this -- he wants acknowledgement of his quote-unquote rebellious ways. Don't give in. Just ignore it. But you should definitely wear a seatbelt as his car has no working speedometer. He just sort of drives as fast as he thinks he can get away with.

2) His Ford Focus is essentially without a locking ingnition. There is no place to put a key and no tumblers with which to wrestle with. No, that was all in the way. He drilled them out. He starts his car with a pair of needlenose pliers and has been doing so, I believe, for nearly a year now. Because of this he doesn't carry any keys with him nor believes in locking the doors to his car (I can't blame him for that, nobody is going anywhere with it). But you are advised against leaving valuables in the car.

3) He doesn't believe in showering regularly. He says "It's not what people in Boulder do." Don't worry, you're not the only one rolling your eyes. So, anyway, if you are in close proximity to him for any exteneded period of time you should be prepared for a stink. The odor is dependent on whether or not he chose to go for the au naturale fragrance of body odor or the equally-offensive rank stench of Axe Bodyspray. This stink is given an added complexity by pervasive undertones of marijuana and cigarette smoke of varying subtlety.

4) He's not always listening to you when you talk to him. Have fun with this by throwing in random comments about dogs walking on two legs and the sky being green. Not only is this fun, but it prevents anger and frustration from settling in.

5) Here's another game to play when with him. Walk slowly. Despite his claims of "mellowing out" and being more "hippie-ish" his walk belies these claims. He walks swiftly, angrily, always with his chest arched forward, as if he's ten strides from kicking someone's ass. Even when strolling the outdoor mall, this is how he walks. So walk slowly. Chances are, you won't have to adjust your normal stride to fall behind. Make it a contest for yourself to see how far ahead of you he'll get before stopping to wait for you. I let him get roughly 25 feet ahead on several occasions before he stopped to wait.

6) Don't expect to meet his roommates. He lives with three women, all in their late 20's, but you will not likely see them. I saw one for 3 seconds, a second for maybe 5 seconds, and the third was never there. The two dogs and the house they rent is all very nice though. And there's a great 1.5 mile trail around a lake near the house that is a nice place to walk the dogs. It's a nice place to live.

7) Let him show you his kite. He has a 2.7 meter wide kite that is, admittedly, pretty cool. Watch him wrestle with it on a particularly windy day and you may get to see him hoisted into the air and dropped on his head. It's okay to laugh, he's a tough kid. But, seriously, the kite is pretty cool and he's got a big field to fly it in a block from his house.

8) There are multiple frisbee golf courses in the Boulder area and you should definitely go and play. It's a really fun game (I haven't played in 7 years and miss doing so a great deal) and it's a great way to spend a couple hours and take in the scenery. Especially if you win. Playing billiards is another great way to pass the time while you're visiting.

I think that about sums it up. Boulder seems like a pretty nice place, not a whole lot different than the suburbs outside of Seattle, though. There's a lot of trails and outdoorsy stuff to do there and the population is definitely much fitter than most other places which is nice. I'm not sure what I was expecting in terms of the scenery and all, but I didn't think it was that much different than home, except for the lack of trees. It's definitely a college town and there's certainly no shortage of bars to patronize if you go out, but I'm not sure he like to do anything else so you may be forced to barhop all night.

A [Seasonal] Single Speeder is Born

I shopped victoriously for a single-speed 29er on Ebay today. Not because I really want to ride a single-speed, but moreso because I'm tired of ruining drivetrain components in the winter muck. It's a brand-new 2007 Kona Unit 29er with a RockShox Reba SL 80mm suspension fork and Avid mechanical disc brakes. The bike is steel -- that will be a first for me -- and is a 20" frame so I'll probably have to swap out the stem to shorten it up, but it should be a great -- cheap -- winter bike for what I ride around here in the wet season.

Now that I think of it, I imagine this bike might have something to do with my sleep-talking inquiry into Kristin being kicked by purple penguins.

RE: Answer To Your Question...

No, I was not expecting to be kicked by a purple penguin.

This was the entirety of an email I received from Kristin this morning when I woke up. In the past, she's told me I often sleep-talk to her while she's getting dressed for work. I'm guessing this is one of those times.

The Achievements Microsoft Never Warned You About

Thanks to RG reader, Jeff Carter, for the following list of Achievements he believes Microsoft needs to add to their Xbox Live service. It's clear that many of these could be earned with minimal effort by simply playing just one or two games.

Tolerant of Morons - 20 Points
Earn over 500 GamerScore worth of Achievements in Gears of War in Ranked matches.

Calling The Kettle Black - 25 Points
You’ve been labeled with a racial epithet, even though you are not a member of that race.

Who’s Side Are You On Anyway? - 15 Points
You’ve survived an entire round of any game without being team killed.

The Silent Treatment - 10 Points
You are the only person on your team with a microphone.

Xbox Live Idol - 15 Points
You are treated to an off-key rendition of a popular hip-hop song.

Rated “M” for “Mature” - 20 Points
The pitch of your teammate’s voice clearly indicates that they have not yet entered puberty.

I like where Jeff is going with these and have a few more to add to the list. Yes, these are from personal experience.

Is That What I Think It Is? - 30 Points
One of your Uno opponents just flashed you their genitals over the Xbox Live Camera.

Somebody Call Child Services... Not! - 50 Points
You hear a young player get beaten by their parents for using profanity over Xbox Live. And you laugh.

Make Sexy Time - 20 Points
One of your teammates does a Borat imitation that doesn't suck.

Only Stupid People - 25 Points
You ask a simple question and instead of receiving an answer, are met with comments concerning your race, sexual orientation, nationality, and tales of where your mother was last night.

Truly Inconceivable!* - 1,000,000 Points
You play a Ranked Match of Gears of War without hearing anyone mention the words "host advantage".

*UPDATE: It has been reported that this Achievement is glitched and will not unlock if anyone uses a shotgun during the match.

The Perils of Pissing Off the Customer

As I recently stated on the BBTC Listserve, I'm in the process of finding a cheap single speed 29er to ride in the winter so that I don't muck up the drivetrain on my Mooto-X YBB. When looking around online for deals, Kristin commented that I see if Fabien might have any thing. So I typed in what I thought was the URL for Fabien's shop, Ti Cycles.

Oops. What I found was anything but.

Going to with a hyphen (correct site URL has no hyphen) brings you to the recently posted woeful tale of a very pissed off customer. Complete with photos.

So I didn’t learn my lesson on the first custom bike I order from Fabien and all the delays, promises etc … I was stupid enough to order another one. I didn’t have much choice if I wanted another Independent Fabrications since TiCycles was the only authorized dealer in Seattle at the time. Unless you want con[sta]nt delays from Fabien and cons[sta]nt excuses about your group set being out of stock or the vendor not shipping it for weeks because they suck, DO NOT BUY from TiCycles. FABIEN PICARD is a liar and will screw you.

The rant goes on and I have to say if what he says is true and the photos aren't doctored, the man has every right to be pissed. And I have to say that getting my Moots ordered from Ti-Cycles wasn't a very smooth process. There were numerous delays and lies told (aka "misunderstandings") and I had every reason to believe that the staff simply failed to order parts in a timely manner. My handlebar and seatpost, for example, weren't even ordered until after the frame arrived in April, despite me paying for them back in January. The only reason I never ranted too hard about the crappy service was because I was so thrilled with the end result, I immediately turned the page. I've since gotten some very good service from the mechanics at the shop, but I'm glad I accidentally stumbled onto this site as it was a good reminder of what I had gone through earlier this year. Ti Cycles is a nice shop with good mechanics, but I agree. If you can't get something off the shelf, you might want to look elsewhere.

24 Hours for 120 Gamerscore?

I completed Eternal Sonata tonight and have to say I'm a bit disappointed. Not in the game -- I thought the game was as good as a Japanese-style RPG could possibly be -- but because of the way the Achievements are constructed. All of the Achievements in the game are listed as "Secret" meaning that the name and description are unknown until you actually earn them. This is not that uncommon in games of this type, as the developer's don't want to spoil any of the plotline. And for that very reason, I purposely avoided looking at discussions about those Achievements on message boards. I figured that I would just unlock them as I went, as was the case with Enchanted Arms.


Despite my anal-retentive, methodical, no-stone-unturned style of play that makes me very good at my job as a strategy guide writer, I purposely forced myself to not play so analytically with this game. I looked for secret items and hidden chests, that's half the fun, but not with the exacting precision I would do if playing for work. I've somehow trained myself to simply play for fun when I'm on the couch in the living room, and leave the serious approach for when I'm upstairs at my desk.

Which brings me back to my paltry number of Achievements for Eternal Sonata. Thanks to this not-so-thorough approach to the game I did find two of the hidden chests in the Noise Dunes section of Chapter 7 but did not notice a mysterious door in an oasis. I saw the oasis, but continued on. And then, after five boss battles later, when I was rewarded with the Hero Relic, I knew not what to do with it and continued through the portal that appeared to fight the final boss in the game. Not knowing that what I was supposed to do was return to the base of the tower I ascended, exit out to the Noise Dunes, return through several areas of sand, and use the Hero Relic to open the door which I failed to see. Behind that door was a number of side-quests worth another 170 Achievement Points. To add insult to stupidity, I ceased rotating my game saves through three slots and, for some unknown reason, repeatedly saved over the same save file. Thus, I'm left with one game save back in Chapter 6, near the boss, and another that has the game clear data on it. It was a total newbie move, and I'm pretty embarrassed to be honest.

Not knowing what I had missed at the time, I sat and watched the 40 minutes of eternal drudgery that was the melodramatic conclusion to this otherwise fine, fine game not because I gave a rat's ass about what happened to Polka and Frederic and the others, but because I was hoping that any... moment... now... more Achievements would unlock and I wouldn't have to sit and wonder what I did wrong. That's not entirely true, I did care about how the story ended right up until the conclusion started playing and I was numbed by the nonsensical gradeschool philosophizing the developers chose to bludgeon me with. Yet, still, I waited through two sets of credits and even more cinematic theatrics in hopes an Achievement would unlock...

Nothing. Instead, what unlocked was an animated short consisting entirely of a conversation between a caterpillar and a snail. How appropriate.

The Annual TRU Sale

It's that time of year again; the time for gamers to flock to their nearest Toys R Us to take advantage of the annual "Buy 2 Get the Third Free" videogame sale. The sale started Sunday and runs through this coming Saturday, but you better get there quick, as the pickings are getting a bit slim.

I was going to head down to the Bellevue TRU yesterday but wanted to make sure they received Tony Hawk's Proving Ground so I waited until today (the game released yesterday). I quickly grabbed copies of both THPG and Project Gotham Racing 4 despite having already played through both games over a month ago for work, and then I stood in place and stared at the shelving for what seemed to be at least 20 minutes. Nothing interested me. Initially, I was hoping to pick up a copy of The Orange Box, but they were sold out of it, as well as BioShock, which I may have purchased despite having already played through it 3 times back in July. I wasn't interested in getting Halo 3, even if it was going to be free and while I thought about picking up The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, I know that I'm not going play it for long. It's one of those games that I love the concept of and wish I had the time to spend playing, but really don't have much interest in the actual playing of it.

So I stood and stared at the selection. Finally my decision came down to the new Crash Bandicoot game, Crash of the Titans; the cartoony action shooter, Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal; and the amusement park builder game, ThrillVille: Off the Rails. I really wanted to get the Looney Tunes game but according to the back of the box, it doesn't support online multiplayer which was the key reason I would have wanted it. My love of the ancient Roller Coaster Tycoon games welled up inside me and before I knew it, I was walking out the door with a skateboard game, a racing game, and a game about building roller coasters and, according to the box art, "befriending my park guests to solve a mystery together."

I used to head to the TRU sale and struggle to not come home with 6 or 9 games. But now that I got rid of all of my other games consoles and only play my Xbox 360, it has been much harder to find stuff I want. As it is, there are several games I'm looking forward to that aren't out yet and those that are were already sold out. I might just have to head down there on Day One of the sale next year.

Attack of the Acronyms: THPG and PGR4 Guidebook Giveaway!

It was a rough September, but my sleep deprivation is your gain.

I have copies of my official strategy guides for Tony Hawk's Proving Ground and Project Gotham Racing 4 available to give away to those who want them. I'm willing to ship a total of 5 books so email me the name of the book you'd like and also let me know if you'd like the book autographed. The THPG book covers all versions of the game. I wrote the strategy for the X360 and PS3 versions of the game and Michael Owen of BradyGames covered the PS2 and Wii versions of the game. As for the PGR4 guidebook, let me just let you know right now that we weren't allowed to show/mention any Lamborghinis or GM vehicles in the book due to licensing restrictions. This is admittedly unfortunate, but the strategy guide is still helpful in my opinion. But of course I'm going to say that, right?

Anyway, those who know me and my gaming tastes no doubt know that the Project Gotham Racing series is among my favorite franchises in all of gamedom. I really liked what Bizarre Creations did with the Gotham Career mode this time around and the two years they had to work on it definitely shows. The gameplay, the car selection, and the plethora of new tracks all make the wait worthwhile. Just wait until you see the weather effects in action -- if this game doesn't convince you to buy an HDTV nothing will.

As for THPG, the game is simply massive. It could very well take up to 100 hours for average players to complete every goal in the game. Perhaps more importantly, I have to honestly say that this is the best Tony Hawk game since THPS4 came out five years ago. I'm a big fan of the series, but even I can say my interest was waning these past few years. If you let the THUG games or American Wasteland or even last year's Project 8 turn you off from the series, I would suggest giving THPG a chance to bring you back into the fold. Despite releasing THP8 last year, work on THPG began two years ago and, like with PGR4, the extra time in the oven shows. Here's hoping Neversoft maintains a two-year cycle on these games and doesn't rush the next one out next fall. They've released nine Tony Hawk games in nine years now; let's hope taking over the Guitar Hero franchise keeps them busy for a while. That or they spend some time making a sequel to Gun. Now that's what I really hope they do.

Houston, We Have A Wii Problem

Reports from Japan (via Enterbrain, the publisher of mega-popular gaming mag, Famitsu) and the US (via everybody's favorite website to hate, suggest that 67% to 75% of people who own a Nintendo Wii haven't touched the games console in months. I'm not surprised in the least. I've been saying that the Wii seemed destined to be a fad of "pet rock" proportions since I first laid hands on it at E3 in 2006. And not just because they were letting input devices dictate game development, but because Nintendo has a very long track record going back several generations of not being able to release enough quality software to support their system. It happened with the N64 and the GameCube and now it's happening again with the Wii. Nintendo will no doubt make one or two good games every year or so, but the third party companies just don't think like Nintendo. So what happens? You get regular games shoehorned onto the Wii that require various Wiimote attachments and accessories to, essentially, nullify the console's primary feature -- motion control.

Sure, the Wii is selling tremendously well and has all but made up the 1 year head start that the Xbox 360 had and, together, the Xbox 360 and Wii are destroying Sony's PS3 in sales with 83% of the market split evenly between them. But what good is a console that has nothing to play on it? It's like I said last year, making a console based exclusively around the Dance, Dance Revolution dance mat would be a most stupid decision. Basing a console around the Wii Sports arm-waving Wiimote is proving to be equally daft. The software should dictate the input device, not the othe way around. Guitar Hero is a phenomenal success because the perfect input device was created to compliment a specific game. Not the other way around.

Haleakala Bike Rides Stopped

If you've been to the island of Maui, there's a pretty good chance you've contemplated waking up before dawn and joining twenty or so other people for a sunrise cruise down the paved road on the side of Haleakala Crater. And even if you haven't considered doing this -- you've probably at least seen the flyers advertising the tour. It's an immensely popular thing to do on Maui for tourists. Vans drive riders to the top of the crater, put them on matching beach cruiser-style bikes and send them down the road, descending thousands of feet back to near-sea level. But not anymore.

The National Park Service halted the bike rides down the mountain after the third death in less than a year. Imagine that, you go to Hawaii for a vacation and you get killed riding a bike. I mean, you kind of expect a few tourists to perish every year in the ocean, and they do, but on a sunrise bike ride? That's a shame. One of the people who was seriously hurt from crashing into the rocks was an experienced downhill bike guide. Seems to me that they're probably bringing allowing too large of a group and not doing enough to keep everyone's speed in check.

Park Superintendent Marilyn H. Parris said the so-called "safety stand-down" was effective Oct. 10 for at least 60 days and needed after last week's fatal bicycle accident, the third within a year.

"With three fatalities and several serious accidents within a year, it is important to stop and critically analyze this commercial activity in the park," she said. The suspension affects seven companies that hold permits to operate within Haleakala. The permits, known as commercial use authorizations, were terminated. It does not ban bicyclists from riding in the park on their own. About 90,000 tourists a year pay $100 to $150 for the thrilling ride down the dormant volcano. They are driven by a van to the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala. Without much pedaling, the tourists get on rented bicycles and take a downhill scenic ride for about 38 miles along a two-lane, bending paved highway.

Several of the companies did not immediately comment on the suspension, which is a major financial blow to them. "I understand it's their business. But it's my business to make sure we are providing for the health and safety of visitors who come to the park. It's a core mission of the National Park Service," said Parris, adding the Park Service needs to make a determination if bicycle tours can safely operate in the
park. "Administratively, I feel we've done all we could do," she said. "We required safety plans. We've put more regulations. We've been enforcing more and yet the severity and the number of accidents continue."

Roberta Blake of Amherst, Ohio, was killed last week when she lost control of her bicycle while on a tour and crossed the double yellow line into the path of an oncoming van. Blake, 65, was on a tour with Maui Mountain Cruisers. The vehicle that struck her was owned by another tour company, Maui Downhill.

In March, a 44-year-old woman was killed when she went off the roadway, and in November, a man died after falling off his bicycle, the National Park Service said. Two people were also seriously injured in May in separate incidents when they ran off the road and crashed into rocks. One was an experienced downhill bike tour guide.

Read the rest of the article at the Seattle Times.

I know how nervous I get around large numbers of other cyclists during road descents in century rides and the like, and presumably we're all experienced cyclists. I imagine a lot of the people who sign on for these tours aren't necessarily used to riding in a pack with other cyclists and that it would only be natural to be distracted by the scenery. Factor that in with the 10,000 foot descent and the general relaxed mindset of vacationers and it's almost a wonder that there haven't been more deaths. Hopefully they can sort this out and get those tour companies back in business sooner than later.

Book Notes

I'm not sure what has gotten into me, but I've read four books in the past month. Three non-fiction, one fiction. And they were all pretty good, although to be honest I did read one of them years ago which allowed me to sort of skim sections of it this time through. Anyway, I had to actually go to the bookstore today. I took a look at my bookshelf and, aside from my copy of the Dark Tower VII (which still has a bookmark stuck in it at page 112 from well over a year ago), I had read everything else that interests me. This hasn't happened in a long while, I usually have a stack of books waiting to be read.

I had some time to kill before a meeting with the BBTC Advocacy Team tonight so I stopped by Barnes & Noble and picked up two books I heard good things about in Men's Journal. One is "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan. Unlikes the "Grapes of Wrath" which tells the story of people fleeing the dust storms of the Great Depression, this book is about the people who stayed behind... and survived. They're all in their late 80's and early 90's now and this book tells their untold story. It was a national Book Award winner and boasts a cover-quote from Walter Cronkite that claims it to be "cant-put-it-down history." I'm not really sure quotes from Walter Cronkite really help sell to today's coveted 18-30 male demographic, but hey I was buying it anyway. And that's probably not the targeted audience anyway. And I'm now 32 so what difference does it make anyway? None. Moving right along...

The other book I picked up was "Travels" by Michael Crichton. Yes, the Jurassic Park guy. He recently spent a considerable amount of time travelling and adventuring around the world and wrote a collection of stories based on his exploits. It's supposed to be a pretty good read, especially for people looking to escape for a while, like myself.

In other news, I'm currently working on three strategy guides for BradyGames (two don't release until 2008) and am happy to report that I managed a stunning come-from-behind victory and will be completing my full contract requirements once again. It was looking pretty grim for a while there thanks to so many PlayStation 3 games being delayed, but it worked out in the end. I'm heading to Indianapolis next month to pay a visit to my editors and to talk about next year's contract. Early word is that it will be similar to this year's, which makes me happy.

And lastly, I've finally begun work on my own book. A novel of sorts. I have an 8 page outline assembled (not sure I would use an outline for fiction, but for nonfiction I think it can only help) and am making a point of working on it a few hours a week. That's not much time, but like I said earlier, I am working on three strategy guides too.

The Sweet Taste of Victory

Despite the Seahawks decision to lay down on national television last night and lose to the previously winless team from New Orleans (no, it hasn't changed it's name to K-Ville, by the way), that didn't stop us from tasting Sweet Victory. But we did have to taste some Field Turf and Perspiration along the way.

Why the Initial Caps, you wonder? Because those were the flavors of the limited edition sodas available for sampling by the Jones Soda Company before the game. Qwest Field, home of the Seahawks, is the only stadium in the NFL or MLB to have given the boot to Coca-Cola and Pepsi as the exclusive softdrink provider and gone with Seattle-based independent soda maker, Jones Soda Co -- the company with the black & white photos on the bottles you see in grocery stores and convenience marts. They've recently switched to making all of their drinks from pure sugar cane, so they tend to be a bit sweeter than normal, but they're very good.

Unless you're drinking Perspiration, that is. Jones has a tradition of making some rather questionable flavors of soda each year in time for Thanksgiving. In fact, they make up flavors that taste like Turkey & Gravy, Sweet Potato, Dinner Rolls, Peas, and Antacid. You know, basically all the tastes that comprise our national day of gluttony. But, to celebrate their partnership with the Seahawks, they also created a special package of football-themed flavors including: Perspiration, Field Turf, Dirt, Sports Cream, and Sweet Victory. And they all taste exactly like the name they're given, I assure you.

Kristin tried the Sports Cream flavor, thought it disgusting, and quickly took a sip of the Sweet Victory I was handed as a chaser. Yes, the guy who gave me the miniature cup of Perspiration soda said I would need a chaser. He was right. Kristin managed to actually swallow her sip of sweat-juice, but I spit mine out on the spot. This may be the only soda in the history of the softdrink wars where the guys out there hawking it expect you to spit it out. It was disgusting. It tasted exactly like sweat. Fresh sweat, too, not that sweat that spends a few months locked in the pads of your bike helmet and then finally drips down on a hot summer day. So it lacked the earthy aftertaste I'm familliar with, but it was disgusting nonetheless. In comparision, the Field Turf flavor which tasted like a bag of lawn clippings mixed with plastic wasn't nearly as bad. Sweet Victory is excellent though. Almost like a berry-flavored cream soda, but refreshing. Or maybe it was awful too and my taste buds were in denial from drinking the others, I don't know.

Fortunately, those flavors aren't available at the concession stands in the stadium. There, they sell their excellent takes on standard soda flavors, with each bottle featuring a photo of a different Seahawk player. But the photo on the bottle could be you. Jones Soda is best known for the black & white photos that grace their bottles of soda and for as long as I can remember, they've had a program that allows you to upload a photo and order a special case of soda with your photo on it. In what may be one of the better marketing ideas I've seen yet (not quite on the level of turning 7-11's into Kwik-E-Marts, but close) they sent professional photographers throughout the stadium to take photos of everyone for soda bottles. We were then handed a business card with a website and info on ordering our own special case of gameday Seahawks soda. I'm going to hope they come back again next week because I was yelling at the field during the photo and ruined the photo. Oh well...

Here's a list of other flavors Jones is currently concocting. It's interesting that Jamaican Ginger Ale is one of the flavors as I just learned in "Water for Elephants" last night that nearly 100,000 people became paralyzed from drinking tainted batches of the stuff during the depression. Lets hope nobody else draws that connection, else they might have better luck selling sweat.

Sonics and the Halloween Deadline

J.A. Adande, one of my favorite reporters on ESPN's "Around the Horn", wrote an outstanding article about the situation the Seattle SuperSonics find themselves in heading into the coming weeks. This is the best article I've seen written on the topic and provides a very well-balanced and thorough analysis on the state of the team, the owners, and the litigation and arbitration surrounding the potential/inevitable move to Oklahoma City.

Read the article here. Just be sure to hold your nose when you click the link, as everything about this situation stinks.

First Impressions of the Mapping Kind

I was looking at a volunteer-travel site today called, which seems to give the impressions of a respected outfit that has their worldly scat together. At first...

I was reading the description for their Costa Rica based program:

A decade ago, the government set aside a national forest reserve for the spectacular Carara Rainforest, which borders the village . The villagers love their nature paradise and appreciated the action. However, since then, the tiny village has struggled for sources of income, as their crops are being eaten by protected wildlife. As a first step toward creating sustainable eco-tourism, the community needs help clearing paths, marking trails, learning English, etc. No special skills are required.

Having wandered around Carara just last spring and know of the dirt road leading off towards the village, I became intrigued. Not that I would necessarily want to participate in this project, but I was definitely interested in seeing what they had planned. The article linked to a map of the area. A map that caused both Kristin and I to break out into laughter.

Here is that map.

It's good to know that if Kristin loses her job, that she could potentially put her skills to use working as GlobeAware's cartographer.

You Did Not Carry Water For the Elephants

I started reading Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants" two nights ago, and I haven't gotten a wink of sleep since. Well, maybe one or two, but not nearly as many as I did when I was reading far less interesting books. And it's my sister's fault. She remembered me linking to the carni blog earlier in the year and got me this book for my birthday. And I can't put it down. Last night I purposely went to bed early -- 11:30 -- figuring that I would just read a couple pages and get a good night's rest. I finally willed myself to close the book and turn the lamp off at 2:30.

"Water for Elephants" is the tale of a 90- (or 93, he doesn't know) year old man living in an assisted-living facility and dreaming back on his time in the 1930s when he worked as a veterinarian for a travelling circus. His name is Jacob and, shortly before taking his final exams at Cornell University, his parents are killed in a car crash. They were all he had and it turns out that they sold all they had to help put him through veterinary school. The grief is overwhelming and he suddenly, simply, starts walking. And without giving away any of the details, he walks himself right onto the Benzini Brothers travelling circus -- a wannabe Ringling Bros, if there ever was one.

Gruen has clearly researched this topic well as the telling of this fictional character's experiences drip with authenticity. Everything you never realized you wanted to know about life on a travelling circus springs from the page: the vernacular, the sleeping arrangements, the pecking order, what the animals eat, how people got along and, more commonly, didn't get along. And even how one goes about losing their virginity in the cooch tent. It's voyeuristic reading at its finest, but it's also a really sweet story too. Jacob is extremely likable and you definitely feel his pain as he tries to do right by the animals, even when he knows it could cost him his job... or worse. I dare not continue out of risk of spoiling the story for you.

Normally, at this time in writing about a book like this I would mention that I don't read a lot of fiction. But you know what, I can't say that anymore. I've been reading more and more fiction lately and the good stuff -- the really good stuff -- is phenomenal. I'd put this right up there with "The Kite Runner", "Freddie & Fredericka" and "Life of Pi" as some of my favorite fiction. In fact, I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with as good a story as any of these. "Water for Elephants" is an incredible book. It's well-written and very, very hard to put down as the crusties in the corner of my eyes can now attest.

Link to the book at B&N.

Thanks Jess.


This is awesome. It's a stop-animation film comprised of tape art done on the side of a building. The entire film, including the tape art and recording was done in a 24 hour period. Don't make the mistake the "reviewers" did by watching it for storytelling or plot. Instead, just enjoy the sheer level of creativity and ingenuity that went into making it.

Watch the video here.

My Wife, the Dork

I was reading Kristin an email I received today about a conference call I have at 7am tomorrow morning. The call is to discuss the absolutely massive project I've volunteered myself for and originally I thought it was at 4am. I was sent one of the Outlook meeting invitations that hook up with the calendar component in the program. I've never seen such a thing before and didn't realize that it automatically adjusted the meeting time to meet my time zone. When I saw the 7am time slot, I figured that was the time they were meeting in Indianapolis and that I would have to call in at 4am. I was none too happy about that, I can assure you! Fortunately, Kristin's an Outlook power-user and was able to set me straight. That's not why she's a dork though.

As I so often do, I have digressed yet again.

So I'm reading Kristin this email, essentially for shock value. She knows what I've gotten myself into and that in 7 years of writing for BradyGames, this is the first time I've been asked to participate in a meeting with the entire editorial staff and Publisher. For an hour no less. So what does she have to say about all this?

"Wow, she really puts together a nice meeting agenda."

One month in business school and she's already more concerned with structure than content... down the rabbit hole she slips and slides into a world of synergisms and productizing strategic action-items. Whatever that means.

Somebody get my torch. It's almost time for a good ol' fashioned book-burning!

A Thundercats post? Really?

Congrats to Jerry O'Flaherty who has been picked to direct a new CG-animated Thundercats movie based on the 80's cartoons and toys. I can't imagine there being many thirty-something males out there who don't find this to be very exciting news -- I certainly do -- but you may be wondering who Jerry O'Flaherty is and why I'm writing about him.

I worked with O'Flaherty last year during the couple weeks I spent at Epic Games' offices, working on the guidebook for Gears of War. O'Flaherty was the Art Director for the game and single-handedly designed and wrote the "Art of Gears of War" book that was included with the Limited Edition version of my strategy guide. He also helped guide his henchman through the process of creating the dozens of "pencil-sketch" maps for the guidebook. The maps came out phenomenally well and really showed the game's gritty style. Our goal with the maps was to make them look like something that a COG soldier may have scribbled on a scrap piece of paper from the field, and they completely nailed it. You have to have seen the maps to know how incredible they look.

Anyway, big congrats to Jerry for making the leap. If I recall correctly, he had a number of Thundercats action figures on his desk and shelves -- this must be a dream job for him.

Read the full article at

Warner Bros. has tapped its top Thundercat.

Vidgame vet Jerry O'Flaherty will helm the studio's CG-animated "Thundercats" feature, based on the popular '80s cartoon series, comicbook and toy line. The project marks the first feature directing gig for O'Flaherty, who served as an art director on such bestselling games as "Gears of War" and "Unreal Tournament 3" for Epic Games and the "Command and Conquer" series from Westwood Studios.

O'Flaherty had been looking to make the leap into movies and was considering several projects, even live action. But the "Thundercats" story appealed to him, as well as the fact that vidgames are increasingly incorporating lavish animated sequences that mimic pics, making a toon a much easier transition.

"It feels like a natural thing for me to step into," he said. "Games have come so far now. The last four years of my life have been about bringing the energy of filmmaking into the videogame experience."

The property revolves around a group of humanoid cats who must flee the planet of Thundera, which is destroyed. Once crash-landing on another planet, Third Earth, they must thwart Mumm-Ra, an evil sorcerer bent on killing them off.

O'Flaherty plans to remain faithful to the "Thundercats" franchise, which began in 1983 and spawned several animated series, the most recent of which aired on Cartoon Network; a toy line produced by LJN; and comicbooks published by Marvel and DC imprints. Warner Bros. has owned the rights to the animated series since acquiring Telepictures in 1989.

Cruising by Container Ship?

One of the things Kristin and I talked about over the weekend regarding our RTW trip was the prospect of not using any air-based transport as we made our way around the world. What if, instead, we crossed oceans on freighters or repositioning cruise ships? Personally, I'm not a big fan of cruises but I think if done with an eye towards keeping things cheap and with the goal of achieving surface-level transport and not "vacation", it could be a way to really gain an appreciation for just how big our planet is. Especially in today's ever-shrinking world. After all, if we quit our jobs and sell/lease our house, we'd theoretically have all the time our budget allows.

A quick glance at reveals dozens of possible trips at little more than $100/day per person. Just look at some of these options departing from the east coast of North America to the Mediterranean. There are dozens more that leave from the west coast and circumnavigate the globe. Sure, we'd have to provide our own entertainment and we'd only have 6 to 24 hours in each port (my main complaint with cruises) but if they were ports we wouldn't otherwise even visit at all, then it could be worth it. Especially if, again, we just view it as slow, budget, transport.

There's also cheap last-minute deals to be had on cruises as well. I saw last-minute deals on the QEII yesterday for a 6-day transatlantic cruise from New York to the UK for about the price of a roundtrip plane ticket. Flexibility and a willingness to be spontaneous will certainly come in handy in terms of travelling on the cheap.

More Favre-Like Than Ever Before!

I feel for you, Bills fans.

Never before have I seen a game that so deserved to end in a tie. Dallas quarterback, Tony Romo, whose name can't be mentioned on tv without a Brett Favre reference proved all those comparisons were accurate indeed. Romo was vintage Favre last night. If that vintage was 2004, that is. Romo threw 5 interceptions and fumbled the ball away once for a total of 6 turnovers. Yet, despite the absurd proportions of Romo's ineptitude, the Bills offense proved even more ineffective. Two of the interceptions were returned for touchdowns -- the ever-exciting "Pick-Six" play -- but as for the other FOUR turnovers that weren't returned? The Bills offense only mustered a field goal. That's it. 3 points off 4 turnovers.

Dallas had no business even being in this game, especially considering the Bills also ran back a kickoff for a third touchdown, giving them a total of 24 points. But Dallas, despite the barrage of passes to the wrong colored jersey, chiseled away at the lead and not only scored a touchdown to pull within two, but when they missed the two point conversion with 20 seconds on the clock, the promptly pulled off a successful onside kick to reclaim the ball. They then methodically moved down the field and gave their kicker a chance at a 52-yard game-winning field goal with one second on the clock. The 47-yard kick the guy made earlier in the game was his career long (he's a rookie). He nailed the 52-yarder not once but twice, thanks to Dick Jauron calling for a Bush-league timeout just as the ball was snapped. No wonder he doesn't go by Richard.

Buffalo hadn't hosted a Monday Night Football game in 13 years. The stadium was packed, the crowd was raucous and on their feet waving towels and even singing chanty songs at points during the game. We Seahawk fans take a lot of pride in the whole 12th Man thing and being known as the loudest stadium in the league, but I got to give it to the Buffalo fans, if only for one night. They actually sounded not like a football crowd, but like a futbol crowd. A South America futbol crowd, no less. They were awesome.

I wanted Buffalo to win the game rather badly, but only once the wheels came off Romo's cart. Prior to kickoff, I would have told you I wanted a 42-0 blanking in Dallas' favor. Yep, fantasy football is the reason. I'm in a salary cap league with 15 other people at BradyGames and a big game from Romo and the Dallas Defense last night would have vaulted me to the top spot for the week and won me a little dough. As it was, I still climbed the rankings up to 4th overall thanks in large part to Patriots' tight-end Ben Watson, but I really wanted that victory. But Romo threw it away. Literally.

I Liked it Better When They Ran Away

Four times.

There was a loud knocking and ringing of my doorbell four times yesterday afternoon and each and every time I went to the door, I was met by a kid looking to sell me something. First it was a Cub Scout selling popcorn. I declined politely and saved the comments about their homophobic organization until the door was closed. Then, a couple hours later the doorbell rang again. This time it was some girls selling I-don't-know-what to raise money for I-don't-care-anyway. I told them now wasn't a good time, shut the door, and realized that they'll probably be back tomorrow in hopes that then is a better time. Crap, I'd have to get more defensive.

A loud knock came nearly an hour later. This time it was a pair of boys selling what I can only assume was the same candy/candles/canned-yams as the girls. I didn't wait to hear their pitch. "Sorry, guys, not today." Vamous!

All of this opening and closing of the door was tiring me out. The MNF game was about to come on so I grabbed a beer from the fridge, turned on the game, and promptly fell asleep. KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK! Another one. I wake up and stumble to the door, open it, only to find a mother standing next to her Cub Scout. I kid you not, she looked at me, turned halfway to her son, and used her hands to elegantly present the boy just as the Barker's Beauties have presented oh-so-many vacuum cleaners and jet-skis over the years on the Price is Right. I'm not sure, but I think I may have seen her mouth the word, Tada! as she waved her outstretched hands in front of her son.

"Oh, you're too late. Another Cub Scout already got to me earlier today." It wasn't an outright lie. Another Cub Scout did come earlier in the day. If she wants to interpret my words as meaning I had already been sold popcorn, that's her prerogative. Either way, Scram!

When we first moved in to this neighborhood three years ago, I made sure to buy something from every kid that came knocking. After all, I know they don't enjoy doing it. I didn't like selling popcorn and wrapping paper when I was a kid. I know it's the adults that put them up to it, but I felt like buying something would be the neighborly thing to do. That's how I used to feel. At first. Before I realized that the kids don't ever stop coming.

Well screw that. The problem with buying stuff from these kids it only encourages their parents that it's a viable method of raising money. And in a neighborhood like ours where every house is so closely spaced -- and nearly everyone has kids except us -- if we don't put an end to this soon, they're going to continue mining the entire neighborhood and either one of two things will happen. The entire community will get fat from all of the Girl Scout cookies and candybars they've purchased. That, or somebody's doorbell is going to be rung one too many times by one too many kids and they're going to snap.

And if yesterday had a few more hours of daylight left in it, I may have been that person.

The "No Soliciting" sign has been ordered. Let's just hope these kids know how to read. And the Mormons and Jehovas too, for that matter.

Eternal Sonata

Note: I'm not very good at reviewing games and don't really try to be. The following is just a rather quick summary of what I like and dislike about Eternal Sonata. There are tens of thousands of online reviews for every game in existence. I recommend heading to for a summary.

It's not everyday you play a whimsical role-playing game based loosely around the life of famed composer, Frederic Chopin. The game takes place in a dreamscape world within Chopin's unconcscious mind. He's on his deathbed in the real world, but is alive and well in his dream. There, he's just another ordinary teenager, running around with other youthful characters in a fantastical world filled with strange monsters and people named Polka, Serenade, Allagretto, Beat, Jazz, and Crescendo, among others.

The gameplay is pretty standard Japenese-style RPG, but definitely more fun than the hum-drum menu-based battling of other games in this genre. You lead your party through the landscapes, looking for hidden items, battling countless enemies, and constantly trying to level up your character. Here the action is much more interesting than others in the genre, and your skills will even be tested during the enemy turns thanks to a nifty defense mechanism--time your button presses to reduce the damage you suffer. There are a number of other not-so-subtle features to the battle system that make it a joy to play. Normally I get bored of these style of games after a couple hours, but I'm really enjoying Eternal Sonata and will certainly see it through to the end thanks in large part to the engaging battle system.

There are two other reasons for enjoying this game. The most obvious is the absolutely stellar graphics. The game is simply beautiful. It's like a Norman-Rockwell drawing done as a cartoon with superb animation and special effects. You can see some examples here. The other thing I really like about the game is that it periodically interrupts the gameplay to show you a photo slideshow of real places from Chopin's life. The photos are nice, but what I like even more is that each slideshow is accompanied by one of Chopin's masterpieces as well as a subtitled story that provides more background info about Chopin and the life he lead. It's not often you play a game and get a history lesson.

Of course, no game is perfect. There are essentially two things that make me groan a bit about this game. First of all, the act of taking and selling photos of monsters renders the entire money system in the game broken. I accidentally had taken three photos in the first few minutes of the game that I was later able to sell for a total of $17,000. I'm now 14 hours into the adventure and have never once not been able to buy multiples of every weapon, armor, and item in every shop I encountered thanks to that one-time influx of money. And I still have over $10,000 left. And I never even snapped another photo to sell, but I know if I should end up needing money, all I need to do is take a couple photos and be rolling in dough once again. Normally in games such as this, part of the difficulty comes from having to try and conserve your money and buy weapons and armor wisely. In Eternal Sonata the entire currency and shopping system is thrown off balance by the ability to sell photos at ridiculous prices. Without realizing it, something I did accidentally at the start of the game through off the difficulty for the remainder of the entire story.

The other thing that I'm not a huge fan of is that the game is designed to be played through twice. Sorry, but that's not going to happen. The game contains dozens of items known as Score Pieces that contain a single bar of music. As you meet people in the game world, you'll run into those who wish to perform a Session with you. They'll show you their Score Piece and you select from those you've collected the one that best matches theirs. This is a really fun component of the game as it forces you to look at the sheet music and see which ones are the most similar. Then you play the Score Piece in unison and get graded. The better your grade, the better the prize you'll get from that person. The problem is that most of the people you meet wish to play Score Pieces that you don't yet have, thereby requiring a second play-through of the game. At 20-30 hours per playthrough, that's unlikely. And since this is tied to several of the Achievements, it means that only those who invest upwards of 50 hours with the game will earn all of the Achievement points. This approach is fine with some games, but I don't think it belongs in RPGs. And I have to say that I am kind of annoyed knowing that no matter how thorough I am, that I can't possibly earn all 1,000 Gamerscore from the game without playing through a second time.

That said, these two complaints are rather minor and the game is truly one of the better RPGs I've played. I'm not a big fan of this genre at all, but Eternal Sonata has a lot going for it and I think anyone with any interest in this style of game should give it a try. You can do a lot worse than play this game.

How Bazaar

Kristin and I spent much of Saturday running errands. Fun stuff like picking up a ticket from the airport; collecting the pants I had being hemmed at the oddly-named Lululemon Athletica shop; and going to Macy's so Kristin could use the gift card she's been carrying around for a year. We eventually made our way across the lake to Seattle to wander around REI for a bit and noticed the road was roped off for what a flimsy 8.5 x 11 sign said was an "Ethnic Festival". So after strolling through REI we headed down the road to the festival.

Our first sign that something was a little off was that the rope was strung across the street at waist level and there appeared no way to enter. The second more obvious indication of something askew (one we didn't notice until later) was that there was nobody walking around. We ducked under the rope and continued towards the large white tents in the distance. The first one was empty. The second tent was much larger and had several tables under it. We saw neither food nor crafts. Not even a game of Bingo. Instead we saw a few seniors sitting around, dressed to the nines, staring off into the distance. I promptly grabbed Kristin's hand, turned 180-degrees and beat feet back to the car. I was not going to risk being stuck in a sympathy conversation.

We drove back across the lake and decided to stop at the Salmon Days festival in Issaquah. We've always avoided this festival because of the notoriously large crowds and because we're not much into fairs anyway. But it was late in the day and Kristin was jonesing for an elephant ear. What we didn't realize about Salmon Days is that the festival takes place along the little Issaquah Creek where thousands upon thousands of giant Chinook Salmon return every October. We're talking 15-pound fish everywhere you look leaping over one another, swimming frantically against the current, and spawning right before our very eyes.

We strolled past the first few booths to the fish hatchery and started walking around. A small spillway prevents the salmon from continuing up the creek and the ladders leading into the tanks were currently closed so the fish were forced to hurl themselves against the dam in feeble attempts to clear the unscalable barrier. They would leap onto the spillway and flap around with all their might like a child trying to climb an uphill waterslide against a firehose. It was hopeless. Their efforts were pointless. And the longer I stood there watching this display of futile athleticism, the more ashamed I felt. I felt like I was back in Pitt County, North Carolina paying 50 cents to see the freaks at the county fair.

Fortunately the volunteers were there to liven things up. The hatchery stationed "fish docents" every few feet to answer your questions and fortunately for those of us looking for some comic relief, these guys didn't have a filter between their brain and their mouth. Despite the many kids standing around with their parents listening to the mini-lectures, they had no problem saying how many fish would be "offed" to prevent overcrowding upsteam. A second docent, when asked about the spawning process, pulled a large hook blade out of his pocket and proceeded to mime the way in which the female salmon are relieved of their eggs. The father who asked was clutching his young daughter and appeared mildly horrified. Even I thought it was a little gruesome. Fortunately, a massive chinook hurled itself out of the water of the glass-walled tank we were standing in front of and almost cleared the outstretched barrier. The distraction was our chance to back away from bladed hook man quietly.

We continued down the road past the dozens of craft booths where bored artisans hawked their wares. Having worked a booth of my own at a different festival a few years ago, I know from first-hand experience how annoying it is to have people fawn over your wares and then walk away empty handed. We didn't buy much, but one of the booths we stopped at was that of a local musician, Gary Jess. Gary is an incredible pianist and woodwind musician and had over a dozen different recordings available. One of his albums was apparently the best-selling independent-recorded album for 5 years running. Kristin wanted some new easy listening background music to study to and he had a buy 3 get 1 free deal on his cds, so we stocked up. We didn't buy anything else, but I was very impressed by the photography on display by Ben Babusis.

The rain started to come down a bit more heavily as we continued through the festival, but we were hungry and Kristin really wanted an elephant ear. We walked through the entire "Foods of the World" section and actually uttered a sentence I never thought I'd say: "That sounds good, but we already ate Vietnamese today. I think I might get the goulash instead." I actually ended up with a cajun salmon sandwich. And yes, I do notice the irony in me eating a salmon sandwich not long after feeling sorry for their upstream plight.

But it was damn tasty...

A Hard Habit to Break

Where's Jerry Springer when you need him?

From the BBC:

So badly did relations deteriorate between the sisters of Santa Clara in Bari that the Mother Superior ended up in hospital with scratches to her face. Now the local archbishop has intervened and asked the Vatican for permission to close the convent.

Sister Liliana is on her own there now and says she has no intention of leaving her home of the past 44 years. The Clarissa nuns are regarded as the most austere order of the Roman Catholic Church, devoted to a life of prayer, penance and quiet contemplation.

But at the Santa Clara convent in Bari, the vow of silence was shattered by an unholy row. Sisters Annamaria and Gianbattista say they were driven to distraction by the nasty habits of their Mother Superior, Sister Liliana. They became so angry that during the summer they turned on her, scratching her face and throwing her to the ground. The two nuns have now moved into a nearby convent, leaving Sister Liliana barricaded inside.

Despite the efforts of the Archbishop Giovanni Battista Pichierri to reconcile the three sisters he has been forced to call on the Vatican for help. He wrote to the Holy See telling them the sisters had "clearly lost their religious vocation" and with only one nun remaining has asked for permission to close the convent down. But Sister Liliana is not going without a fight. She has been at the nunnery for 44 years and she is not going to be pushed about now. She has written to the Pope telling him she will only leave when God decides it is time to go.

And since she is devoted to her vow of silence it is not that easy to reason with

I'm speechless. I have nothing at all to add to this.

Rodrigo y Gabriella


I was in the car yesterday listening to KMTT (aka "The Mountain") and suddenly an instrumental accoustic version of "Stairway to Heaven" came on. The primary rhythm was familliar, but there was an obvious Mexican influence underscoring it all. Normally I don't pay that much attention to the radio, but this song had me transfixed. And what really grabbed my attention was the incredible guitar work. I immediately thought back to the classical guitarist we saw at Benaroya Hall last year. The guy we saw that night at the symphony was reported to be one of the top classical guitarists in the world -- his name escapes me -- and this rendition of Stairway showed a talent nearly his equal.

Fortunately I was listening to a station that almost always tells you the artist and song title after every few songs and was quick to write it down. Rodrigo y Gabriella. Remember that name.

They're playing Halloween night at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. I was going to link to Ticketmaster, but after seeing that there are 50% worth of additioanl charges and fees, I decided to not. The tickets are $30 each, hopefully we can get them at the door or off the street.

In the meantime, head to iTunes to check out the reviews and listen to some samples. I definitely recommend listening to the "Diablo Rojo" song. If that doesn't get you tapping your hands or dancing in your seat then this probably isn't for you.

"Traveler's D" Patch in the Works

Saw this in the paper a couple weeks ago, clipped it out, and promptly buried it beneath a pile of stuff on a shelf in my office. Yes, it's about poop.

One of the problems westerners face when travelling to developing nations is that no matter how hard one tries to avoid the water, you have a very good chance of contracting a serious case of the runs, known as traveler's diarrhea. If you don't drink the water, you forget about the ice cubes. If you avoid all ice cubes, you forget to be careful when brushing your teeth. If you use bottled drinks for everything from consumption to teeth brushing, you get it from the vegetables or fruit that were rinsed with local water. It's almost a losing battle and the price for defeat is spending far too much time on the toilet. If your lucky it won't truly strike until you get home, but that's wishful thinking for anyone travelling for more than a few days.

Apparently, Iomai Corp has a skin patch in development that may significantly reduce the chance of contracting the illness by actually delivering a trace of E.Coli bacteria beneath the skin where it readies your immune system to combat the bacteria you have yet to ingest. And that is very, very good news for anyone who'd rather not spend their time in foreign countries staring at the back of the bathroom door. Then again, this could seriously cut down the amount of reading one gets done on the road...

From the Seattle Times.

An experimental vaccine for traveler's diarrhea, administered through a skin patch, prevented many people from getting the disease when visiting Latin America, researchers said.

About 5 percent of people given Iomai Corp.'s vaccine developed traveler's diarrhea when visiting Mexico or Guatemala, compared with 21 percent who contracted the illness while taking a placebo, according to a study of 170 patients presented last week at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Chicago.

Iomai's vaccine is the only one in human testing against traveler's diarrhea, following years of failures, Gregory Glenn, Iomai's chief scientific officer, said. If the finding is confirmed in a larger clinical trial next year, the patch could be the first way to prevent a disorder that strikes 20 million people a year.

Iomai, based in Gaithersburg, Md., estimates the market for a successful vaccine is worth $750 million for travelers from the U.S., Europe, Canada, Australia and Japan.

The patch is designed to work by delivering a toxin from E. coli bacteria beneath the skin, where it stimulates immune system attack against the bug responsible for the illness, Glenn said.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and the University of Texas in Houston, also found that if people on the vaccine became ill that they recovered sooner and had milder symptoms.

Participants wore a skin patch, the size of a nickel, for about 6 hours, took it off, then repeated the procedure two weeks later. No serious side effects were observed, although the patch caused some patients to develop a red spot that lasted several weeks.

Give My Regards to King Tut

Kristin came home from school today with a giant rolled up poster. Unbeknownst to her, the Executive MBA program she's in has an artistic requirement.

Her poster, measuring 6 feet x 4 feet, contains dozens of stick figures, a porcupine, several rainbows, Marge Simpson and Santa Claus. It tells the story of the three most important events in her life that have helped her become a successful leader. If you're chuckling right now, don't feel bad. Do you know how hard it was to write that sentence after listing porcupine, rainbows, and Santa Claus immediately before it? Damn hard, that's how.

I had Kristin give me the whole story of her poster and while I did at times feel like I was Kurt Russel trying to decipher the heiroglyphs in the movie Stargate, it did sort of, kind of, in a way, seem to make sense. I think.

For your viewing pleasure: the poster.

Click to see a larger version.

By the way, my favorite part of the poster is that her weightlifter has not one, but two biceps in each arm!

Oh, and speaking of Kristin's schooling, it's been three weeks since the retreat with all of the rope climbing exercises and one guy's back is still hurt and one of the professors has a cracked pelvis. Good times!