Friday, June 30, 2006

Leaving Tampa

I am currently in the airport, getting ready to leave Tampa for the last time. I didn't blog much tihs week, which can be blamed on the fact that I had some gastro-intestinal troubles come Wednesday and didn't really feel like doing anything. Luckily, all of that is behind me. I am looking forward to a nice, long weekend (I have Monday off as well as the 4th as a holiday). I'll get to hang out with my friend George and find out how his Mexico trip went, and I'll get to see my folks and most likely actually get some birthday presents, about a week late. My family should be thankful that I am such a zen kind of guy, not being disturbed by their lack of displays of familial loyalty.

I have to admit that there is one thing I will miss about Tampa, though. For whatever reason, Tamps has what might be the prettiest clouds I have ever seen. All sorts of different colors and shapes. It's really nice. Not that I'm going to come back just to see the clouds.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


So I turned 32 today. I celebrated by working overtime. I didn't have a lot of choice, actually. I'm down in Tampa Bay (again), and I'm here to work, so that's what I'm doing. I did go to dinner at a local Japanese/Korean fusion restaurant, and it was pretty good. Specifically, the food was good and the wine (Takara Japanese plum wine) was great. So, go me!

Operation Chaos

Operation Chaos by Poul Anderson, 1971/1999, Orb
Here's another book that I never would have read if I didn't find it for cheap at the St. Louis Book Fair. I don't particularly dislike the writings of Poul Anderson, but I don't particularly like them, either. I have read some of his short stories in the various anthologies that I own, and nothing really struck me as being all that great. Still, the basic premise of a witch married to a werewolf fighting against "The Adversary" (read: Satan) sounded promising, so I figured I'd try it.

Overall, the story was quite entertaining. The setting is an alternate current age where magic re-entered the world around 1900. The story starts with our heroes being involved in a war against some Arab army that has invaded the United States, and goes from there. The author does a great job of actually making the setting totally believable. At first it seemed ridiculous that Chevrolet and Ford would make brooms (like, flying brooms that witches use), but after a while you get used to the concept. I still had a hard time visualizing it all, but it didn't get in the way of the story. The pacing is pretty good, but you can tell that the different parts of the book were written at different times as different shorter stories, as there are significant breaks in time that jar you a little bit out of your suspension of disbelief. You get used to a current situation, and the next thing you know it is 5 years in the future. Never my favorite way of handling

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Business of Hockey

I just got done with 3 hours of NHL draft coverage on OLN. The last time I watched the NHL draft was 10 years ago, 1996, when the draft was in St.Louis and I actually went to the arena to watch the draft in person. I believe that I cared much more this year then I did 10 years ago. The Blues were so bad this year that they locked up the first pick, and in fact that had 3 in the top 31. Considering that they need help pretty much in every position, I hope that these guys can really make a difference in two to three years.

I must admit that I was surprised at myself for staying on the couch for all 3 hours. I did notice that I took much more interest in all of the wheeling and dealing then I usually do. I found the Demitra trade between the Kings and the Wild to be quite interesting, potentially the biggest surprise of the day. There is still more movement that will be made among teams, I'm sure, so it should be a very interesting off-season.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Censorship and Creativity

Scott Adams makes a good point in his recent post about his TV watching habits:
"Of the kid-oriented movies that I’ve seen
in the past year, I’d say I enjoyed 90% of them. When you make a movie without
sex and violence and car chases and infidelity, it turns out that you have to
use actual creativity. Kid movies are

I have felt this way for a while, but I could never really pin down why. Mr. Adams nails it, though; these movies have to be creative and genuinely funny to keep their audience. Most movies marketed towards children have to have enough solid humor to keep the adults taking the children to see the film entertained, so just because a movie is a "kid flick" doesn't mean it isn't worse then the hyper-violent, gang-rape movie playing next door. In fact, it is probably better, because the creators can't just get away with shock value; the movie has to be actually entertaining across a broad spectrum of interests. So, censorship actually increases the entertainment value of the movie? Perhaps.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

We Suck!

The United States Soccer Team has a new motto, ladies and gentlemen! Let's all celebrate the incredible crapitude that they showed this year on the greatest international stage possible. At least we actually scored an actual, honest "we shot it in ourselves" goal in the game vs. Ghana, so it isn't quite the embarrassment it almost was. But, still, now Europe will feel fully justified in laughing at us again, and I can't blame them.

Beware the Six-Fingered Man

...or so goes the famous line from The Princess Bride. Interestingly enough, I met a six-fingered man today, while doing my audit work here in Tampa Bay. He had the normal five digits on each hand, and then past his little finger he had a small, single-jointed finger sticking out of his hand. My first thought was, "how does he wear gloves?" No, I did not actually ask him that question. I know it is not uncommon for people to have random, unusual mutations, but that might be the weirdest one I have personally seen yet. Tampa Bay, the home of crazy police officers who close freeways for no reason, and mutants, too!

It's About Time

The NHL board of governors has approved the sale of the St. Louis Blues, pending finalization of the financing. This means that my team can actually make personnel decisions; like, firing the general manager. Yeah, that boy needs to go away. Other than that, we will have an owner that actually understands hockey and how the game is played. That will be a nice change of pace. So, here's to a great future of glorious victory under Dave Checketts!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Yeah, that sounds about right

My excellent friend Mark Kerlin is way more athletic than I am, and he is a very serious bicycle racer. He doesn't do it for the money, though, because there really isn't any money at the amateur level. Here is his tale of what racing money actually gets you.

It's All Downhill from Here

Considering my recent dental troubles, I figure that i could easily be the one telling this story in 10 years.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sports are sometimes fun for the wrong reasons

The always erudite and classy Benjamin Kepple has a great post at his site about how really bad sporting performances can be quite entertaining. You know it's true.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Congratulations, Doug Weight

The Carolina Hurricanes have won the 2006 Stanley Cup. The Hurricanes picked up Doug Weight from St. Louis in the middle of the season solely to make a run at the Cup, and it worked. Props to you, Dougie.

I Despise Tampa Bay

So I'm flying into Tampa last night. I got there a little late, but not too bad. It is late enough, however, that all I want to do is get to the hotel and get some sleep. Unfortunately for me, the Tampa Bay police decided that they wanted to shut down Interstate 275 outside of the airport. You must realize, this is the only way to go north out of the airport. I need to go north. This is bad. At this point I am being rather un-Christian in my language, as I damn the entire police department to all seven levels of hell. Anyway, I ended up getting some shady directions at a 7-11 and I got a midnight tour of the scary parts of Tampa before finally finding I-4, which got me to my destination. How on earth can you shut down the only northbound exit from the airport? These people are insane.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

First Post!

My brother dropped my new computer off at my place last night, and I set it up this morning. It is super sweet, as all new computers tend to be. 3g Pentium dual-core, twin hard drives in a RAID with Norton Ghost to provide automatic backukps, 19" flat panel monitor with DVI, 256MB video card optimized to play The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, I am set. I even almost have all of my software installed and everything. I can't believe how fast this thing is; it installed all of Microsoft Office 2003 in literally less than 1 minute. That is crazy. The only thing I am re-using from my old box is the speakers, as the speaker that came with my new computer was total garbage. I figured it would be, though, so I intentionally didn't pack away my old speakers.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tampa again

Back in Tampa for a few days, before jetting back to St. Louis for the weekend, where I believe my new computer should be awaiting me. I must admit, the climate change from Albuquerque (0% humidity) to Tampa Bay (100% humidity) really knocked me for a loop. Headaches, nosebleeds, lots of problems. Good times! I have entertained myself by watching Stanley Cup hockey (game 5 was crazy good; that atmosphere was electric) and hitting the local B&N. Yes, there's nothing like new manga and books to make one feel better. Oh, and I have done some work, too. This current project might actually be the first time in my 2 1/2 years at PwC that we actually gave ourselves enough time to get our work done on schedule. After this week, I will have 2 weeks remaining in Tampa, and it will probably take me 1/2 week to get my work done, and then I get to review other people's work and other important stuff that we usually don't provide enough time for. Wonders never cease.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Watching Anime, Reading Manga

Watching Anime, Reading Manga by Fred Patten, 2004, Stone Bridge Press

It is unlikely that anyone outside of Japan knows more about Japanese animation than Fred Patten, who has been following it consistently since the 1970s, and was involved in the first fan club for Japanese animation. Mr. Patten has met and become friends with famous anime and manga creaters, including Osamu Tezuka and Monkey Punch. This book is a collection of articles that Mr. Patten has written about anime and manga over the years, no more and no less.

The fact that this book simply reprints previously published articles is both a strength and a weakness. The strength comes from the incredible breadth of coverage that this provides. You will read about early manga, the problems with romanizing character names, and the problems of getting anime into theaters in America. You will read about Japanese wartime propoganda animations, the different ways that comic books developed in Japan as opposed to America, and early attempts to get anime on American television. The weakness comes from the fact that many of the articles cover similar information. You will read that Osamu Tezuka was the god of anime and manga a good dozen times, and you will read different articles about early TV anime almost as many times. This is simply a weakness of the format, and thankfully it is acknowledged up front. While it is annoying, you can either skip over stuff you have already read or you could simply look for slight differences between different articles, as more information comes to light and earlier errors get corrected.

Interestingly enough, the articles that provided the most new information for me were the articles about manga in Japan, especially Mangamania! from a 1984 edition of The Comics Journal. That was probably the best overall view of the manga market I have ever read, and I would love to see it updated to bring it into current times. Alas, that wasn't the book's purpose. Bottom line, if you are interested in the history of American anime and manga fandom, this book is priceless. If you are a casual fan, however, this book probably won't hold your interest for very long.

For more of my book reviews, please visit my website.

Vampire Hunter D

Vampire Hunter D by Hideyuki Kikuchi, 1983/2005, DH Press/DMP Books

My first experience with this story was about a dozen years ago when I saw the anime OAV version on the Sci-Fi Channel. Since then, that has been the only way non-Japanese speakers could experience the first story in the very successful Vampire Hunter D series. Last year, however, Dark Horse Comics started a book publishing division to publish translations of Japanese books that would appeal to comic book and manga fans, so now we can all experience the original story in its original form.

Overall, this book is about average. It is noticeably shorter than modern fantasy or sci-fi stories, clocking in at only 240 pages. In addition, the author's descriptions sometimes get over-bearing. For example, the main heroine/damsel in distress is Doris, a teenage beauty living with her younger brother. Too many times there are references to her "maidenhood" or her "maiden intuition" to let you know that she is a virgin. Being a virgin is all well and good, but it gets mentioned over half-a-dozen times, which is unnecessary. The translation is occasionally difficult at times, as well. There is one scene where I honestly couldn't tell what was happening because so many pronouns got used that it wasn't sure which "he" or "she" they were actually talking about. Things like that annoy me, because it breaks me out of the story as I have to figure out what the author is getting at.

On the good side, the story is actually quite interesting. "D" is a vampire hunter (obviously), but the story is set over 10,000 years in the future, and there is a strong sci-fi aspect to the world the characters inhabit. The proper amount of background is given to the reader to allow them to understand why the world is the way it is, but only enough to assist the story, which was nice. This is a long series, and I expect that the secrets of the world will be slowly uncovered throughout. This story involves a conflict with one particular vampire who is after Doris, but enough other characters get involved that the story avoids being one-dimensional. Overall it was an enjoyable read, and I will likely pick up more books in the series.

For more of my book reviews, visit my website.

Back from New Mexico

I have returned from my short vacation to New Mexico. I got to spend all day Sunday with my friends Paul and Mandy Herzog and on Saturday Mark and I ran around some wilderness area where we got minorly lost and I got minorly dehydrated. Whooo!! Seriously, New Mexico wasteland with no tree cover and no clouds really takes it out of you. It was a good trip overall, though, and I will get back to good 'ol Albuquerque at some point. I have today off from work (I didn't get home until 1 A.M.) to recover and pack for tomorrow, when I fly back out to Tampa for the rest of the week.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Hanging out in New Mexico

I flew into Albuquerque, New Mexico yesterday for my late spring vacation, and I have been thoroughly enjoying myself. It has been over four years since I last visited. I am spending a few days with my Aunt Jane and Uncle Sam, and on Sunday I will get to see Paul and Mandy Herzog, old friends of mine from our university days. Yesterday was pretty uneventful for the most part; just me flying into town and my brother Mark arriving by train (a whole day late, but that is his story to tell), though I did put in 1 1/2 hours of hiking around the base of the Sandia mountains. Today we took the tram to the top of the Sandias and spent about 4 hours hiking across the ridge line and down the ski slopes. The weather was great and the views were spectacular, so it was very good. We didn't get to do all that we wanted, because many of the hiking trails are closed due to "extreme fire hazard" because New Mexico gets pretty much no rain. Unfortunate, but safety comes first. Tomorrow we will be heading north to some waterfall that my aunt really likes. Hopefully the trails won't all be closed up there, too.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Not the way I wanted it, but...

...Getting a new computer sure is fun. I ordered my new one from Dell over the weekend. My old computer was a Dell, and outside of the fatal hard drive problem it was always a good computer, very stable, and it just ran really well. So, I'm getting another one. Because my company audits Dell's financials, and does Michael Dell's personal tax return, they let us in on their employee purchase plan. I only saved 4%, but that's better than saving 0%, so I'll take it. I can't really say I saved anything, though, as I just used that money to buy Paint Shop Pro pre-installed on the computer. Where I am really saving money is through a program run by Microsoft. I am not buying any office productivity software for my new computer. Instead, I am getting a full copy of Microsoft Office 2003 for only $20.78, including tax and shipping. Sweet! It's a deal where I can buy software I have on my work computer (like MS office) for only a $19.99 "fulfillment fee." This is saving me over $200, which is a really sweet deal. My new computer will most likely arrive while I am Tampa late next week. Once I get it up and running I will let you know how much I like it.

Oh, I forget to mention that my new computer will come with a dedicated RAID array so that my primary hard drive is constantly backed up to a shadow drive inside the unit. This should keep me from being sidelined by a hard drive failure again, as it will just switch over to the other drive in that case.

Back Home

Continuing the life of the jet-setting playboy (minus the women and the large disposable income), I have returned from Chicago, and will fly out to Albuquerque, New Mexico tomorrow morning. Total time on the ground in St. Louis will be about 34 hours. This provides me enough time to get some work done, get some sleep, do laundry before I leave town again, and make my presence felt in the office so people remember that I still work here. I can tell that I have worked here long enough to be a veteran because this kind of stuff is just old hat to me now. Once I return from Albuquerque I will have another ~36 hours before flying back down to Tampa. I'll say one good thing for all of the airline trips; I get a fair amount of reading done on planes which just doesn't seem to get accomplished at home. You can look forward to a couple more book reviews in a few weeks.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Spring Audit Update

I am in Chicago today and tomorrow for training in my firm's audit methodology. They have us at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL, outside of Chicago. The training is about as exciting as you would expect audit methodology training to be, but the rooms are nice, the food is good, and we're in a resort, with an attached golf course and bowling alley and all sorts of stuff. Now, if I can just find a place where I can watch the first game of the Stanley Cup finals, I'll be set.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The End of an Era

Ladies and Gentlemen, my computer is dead. Specifically, the hard drive is toast. I came home from Tampa, tried to fire up the computer this morning, and nothing happened. Uncool. I called a computer service place and they sent over a nice fellow who ran diagnostics, swapped out the IDE cables, and did all sorts of things which narrowed the problem down to the hard drive itself. Joy! So, I am now looking for a new computer. I will most likely get another Dell, as my old computer was the best computer I have ever had, all things considered. It almost made it 3 1/2 years, which isn't bad for a computer, but I had been hoping for 4. Ah, well.

On the flip side, the technician noticed that I had some games on my bookshelves and asked if he could join my gaming group. So, while I lost a computer, I might end up with a new friend out of the deal. My life is too strange.

The 'ol Sequential Art

As some of you may know, I enjoy the occasional comic book. This includes foreign comics, predominantly Japanese manga, but also the occasional Korean or Italian or French work. Translated into English, of course. Anyhow, with the explosion of manga's popularity around the world the Japanese are now trying to figure out what that really means for them. This article in the Japan Times is pretty interesting, though I think that some of their visual examples are unfortunate.

Tampa Bay is still America

So my first week in Florida is over. I worked a lot, ate some good food, and enjoyed the sun. I was actually working and staying in Brandon, which I guess is a suburb south of Tampa Bay proper. Brandon was exactly like everything else in the USA, except with palm trees. It was chain store heaven, with almost no local flavor.

On the downside, my recently "fixed" teeth really hurt on Tuesday and Wednesday. Serious pain and suffering, man, especially on Wednesday. I think the problem was that I was grinding my teeth really hard on the recently "fixed" guys, as I noticed that I was trying to cut a hole through my mouth guard over those teeth. Yeesh. I give it a couple more years before I have shredded that thing. I do have an appointment next week to get those teeth looked at, as maybe the porcelain cap wasn't set properly or maybe it could be a dozen other things. It's down OK today, though. I do know that it can take a while for teeth to fully recover from major work like I had. Who knows, man.

In other news, my personal computer is dead again. Glee! Stupid IDE cable, why won't you work right?!