Monday, October 30, 2006

Sports Roundup

Alright, so it was a pretty eventful weekend for St. Louis/Missouri sports, at least for me. The obvious component of that is that the Cardinals won the World Series, defeating the Tigers four games to one on Friday evening. Needless to say, the town has gone bonkers. This is probably the most rabid baseball fan base of any place I have lived, so when the Cardinals win it is a big deal. Conversely, when the lose it is also a big deal, so exorcising the demons of two years ago is feeling very good for many people. And, for those of you why wonder how the Cardinals, who barely finished the season over .500 and barely got into the playoffs, could actually win it all, you must consider that this is essentially the same team from the past few years. The big difference is that rather than having a good stretch run and having everyone get injured right at the end of the season, and thus not having them for the playoffs, everyone got injured 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through the season this year. The result was that we had a lousy end to the season, but everyone got healthy for the post season, and thus the entire team was available for the post season for the first time in a number of years. So, yes, good times.

Then on Saturday I drove out to Columbia to attend the Mizzou/Oklahoma football game, which was essentially a travesty. The tigers did not play well, and frankly deserved to lose. I was at the game with a bunch of coworkers, and we decided to leave the game right before half-time and start the tailgating early, which frankly was more fun that staying to watch the game would have been. I also got to see my friend Angela, which was cool.

Lastly, I just got off the phone with my account rep. and I have purchased a limited season package for the Blues this year. It was a close-drawn thing, but they are actually winning games this year and I just couldn't restrain myself anymore. The package included the night when they will retire Brett Hull's number, and I couldn't really miss that evening.

Friday, October 27, 2006

New Comic Reviews

New comic reviews are up at my website.

Someone Actually Reads this Thing

Yesterday I recieved in the mail a thank you letter from a staff person at the Civil War Preservation Trust, a battlefield preservation group I belong to. The letter thanked me for my recent contribution. The odd/cool thing, though, was the hand-written note on the lower right side that referred to me as "Midwestern Wanderer." I have never actually written an email to CWPT, nor have I ever written about the CWPT on this blog before, but somehow this fellow found out that I was the blogger using that moniker. Crazy, man. Yet more evidence that when you put yourself out on the Internet pretty much anybody can find you.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Phule's Company

Phule's Company by Robert Asprin, 1990, Ace Books

I picked up this book on the cheap at a local book fair. I am somewhat familiar with the author's previous work through the Thieves' World series he helped edit, but that was it. I figured that this book would be a good way to sample some of his other work. In the end, I must admit that I was underwhelmed. There just wasn't really anything here to capture my interest. There were some interesting characters, but they weren't actually doing anything interesting, and because of that I found it very hard to finish the book, as I simply always had something better to do.

The basic plot is that our protagonist, Willard Phule, is put in charge of a bunch of washouts on a backwater world. He whips the unit into shape, gains face in a contest with an army unit, and fends off an alien "invasion." The invasion and battle with the army unit take up 40 pages, though, so we have a good 190 pages of Phule's interaction with the members of his unit. I found this very boring, and it was almost like the author was secretly writing a management book about getting the best out of your people by focusing on their strenghts. There wasn't any real action, there wasn't any adventure, it was just funny little stories about these quirky people in the unit. Very much not my thing. Other stories in the series are supposed to include more action, but I doubt I will be giving them a try anytime soon.

Livin' Large

So I haven't really written anything in a week. I would claim that I have been too busy to write, but that would be a lie. The truth is, I have been on vacation and have been not spending much time on the Internet at all. Some time was spent working on my deck, and I also have gotten around to finishing off a book I should have finished reading months ago. I also took the opportunity to go to the Jars of Clay show last night, which was good, though the drums were miced so high you couldn't understand what Dan was singing if you didn't already know the songs. The highlight of the show, however, was one of the opening acts, Matt Wertz. It has been a long time since I have seen someone have that much fun putting on a show. I got the sneaking suspicion that he has that much fun all the time, which is so totally not fair.

In other news, I have ordered a new pair of eyeglass today. My current pair is now 2 1/2 years old, and my eyes have continued to deteriorate, so it was time to upgrade my prescription. When I got my last pair of glasses, I was on Davis Vision for insurance, and my glasses were awesomely inexpensive. $135 for glass with UV treatment, scratch resistant coating, and Transitions tinting? Oh, yeah. Now I am on Eye Med, and let's just say that it is costing me noticeably more to get basically the same lenses. Like, over $100 more. Thanks, PwC HR cost cutters! Thanks a lot!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Go Crazy, Folks

So I went to the Mets/Cardinals playoff game in St. Louis last night. I had never been to a playoff baseball game before, so it was quite an experience. I was not prepared for how loud the place got. People were going nuts over every little thing that happened. Yes, some of it was due to the case of beer that each person (on average) was consuming, but everyone was very much into the game. Considering that the Cardinals won, there were many happy people at the ball park last night.

On a critical basis, the Cardinals played a very, very good game. Weaver once again pitched above his usual ability, and the bullpen kept the Mets scoreless. They threatened in the 8th, but were unable to get anybody home due to some key strikeouts by the Cardinals' relief pitchers.

It was a good time, but I didn't get home until after Midnight, and that made my 5AM wakeup time more painful than usual.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Games of All Kinds

Friday night I went to a charity poker tournament that my company was running. We all pitched in $20 to a local charity that helps people with mental handicaps, and then we got 50 chips to play in the tournament. I lived up to my standard, being the 7th guy out at my table of 10. I didn't make it to the championship round, but I made a good showing for myself, which is really all I can expect to do, considering that some of my coworkers play at least once a month at the local casinos and know poker strategies way better than I do. It was a good time, though.

Saturday morning my Dad came over and helped me work on my garage door, which had gotten out of whack. That is one of the benefits of living in the same area as the rest of your family; you can get your Dad to come over and use his experience to help you fix your problems. It turns out that I probably need to have part of my garage door replaced. This helps explain why I haven't saved much money this year: my car repair ($1,500), my dental work ($750), fixing the A/C unit ($375), and who knows how much the door will cost. But as my financial advisor told me, at least I didn't have to put it all on my credit card, as I have the money to pay for it.

I then spent Saturday afternoon playing Dawn of War: Dark Crusade, the latest expansion for the Warhammer 40K RTS computer game. It is great, but the original game was great, so I wasn't expecting much different. They did add a new campaign game that is fun, though, so I have been enjoying playing the game again. Definitely one of the best RTS games ever. Saturday evening was another Shadowrun session. I didn't do too well, to be honest with you. I think my character isn't quite up to snuff. He is the first character I have ever designed for the system, though, so I didn't know all the ways to properly bend the rules to make him super powerful. I'll eventually get him there, if he lives. For now, though, I get to watch everyone else do cool stuff while my guy gets shot. Yeah! So much fun!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Dave Checketts Should Guarantee More Wins

So, the Blues won their first game of the season last night, which was also their first home game of the season, after starting 0-2-1 on their West coast trip. The new owner, Dave Checketts had guaranteed that the team would win their first home game back in August. Considering that they didn't even score their first goal until over 56 minutes into the game (that's less than 4 minutes left, for those of you who don't know hockey), he was probably getting a little nervous. Sure enough, though, Lee Stempniak scored 2 goals in the remainder of the game, including the winner in the shootout, so secure the victory. That kid has turned out to be better than expected, and was probably the only real bright spot to come out of last season.

So, now that we know we can win a game, let's win some more, eh?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Yeah, that sounds about right (again)

An amazingly insightful post was put up yesterday at Thomas P. M. Barnett's blog discussing the long-term strategic scenario we find ourselves in dealing with all our lovely "axis of evil" and how badly the current administration is botching it. Key item:
In East Asia, would I have a Six-Party forum on North Korea? No. I'd have an X-party forum on creating an East Asian NATO, within which I'd most deliberately set China up as the mainland mainstay. I'd get them as comfortable as possible strategically, and then I'd talk about North Korea with them within that context. I wouldn't keep up the
Taiwan charade. I wouldn't invite Japan to join my defense guarantee on that. Frankly, I'd tell the whole region that I'm seeking strategic alliance with Beijing and that I want them in on that most important discussion. And when Kim got nervous and jumped up and down, I'd look him in the eye and say, "Don't worry, we're going to get around to you soon enough." And then I'd let Kim's desperation and paranoia set the timetable for the rest of what needed to be done to create an East Asian NATO. But I would most definitely lock in China at today's prices, and travel through Beijing to get to Pyongyang--at a speed of China's choosing but enabled by my rapid embrace of China as a strategic ally.

Yeah, it doesn't jive with much current political thinking that China is the new Soviet Union, but they don't really act like the Soviet Union so why treat them as such? Check out the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Change is In the Air

Yes, friends, autumn is upon us. My favorite time of year, as the weather changes and winter approaches. I have always liked autumn, partly because of the wonderful tree colors, but also partly because when everything dies my allergies get better. It's a "win, win" situation! the photo up front is of the tree in my front yard. I find it interesting how it goes red on the south side before the north side changes. I also like how it turns yellow before it turns red, so I get all the fun autumn colors in one tree. Just don't ask me what kind of tree it is, as I don't know.

Another good thing that is happening this autumn is due to the fact that I am no longer in the Systems & Process Assurance group at work. See, back in the old days, from September to December was "busy season," where we were expected to have at least 55 chargeable hours per week. If you don't count weekends, that is 11 hours per day, not counting any administrative stuff you may have to do. To put it bluntly, it sucked really hard. Now that I am in Internal Audit Services, however, I don't have a busy season, so I just get to work really hard all the time! Uh, I mean, I don't have to meet an artifical chargeable hours limit. Anyway, however you look at it, it means less stress, and that is good.

Friday, October 06, 2006


So, I seem to have left my laptop power adapter at the client yesterday. No big, I can just get a new one from our IT guys, as I am working in my own office today (a shocking change, I realize). So 5 seconds of conversation gets me a new power adapter, wonderfully boxed and packaged with lots of Chinese labeling (it is a Lenovo, after all). I'm not sure that I needed to know that my new adapter was tested and packed in the Futian Free Trade Zone Branch of International Information Products (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd., but there you go.

The thing I found most interesting, though, was the User's Guide. Come on, people, it's a power adapter. You plug the two-prong end into the wall and the one-prong end into your computer. Do I really need a 49 page (literally) user guide for a power adapter? No, I do not. To be fair, the user guide is in just about every language in the EU, as well as Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Russian, Japanese and something else I don't recognize, but it's a power adapter. The half-page visual instructions on p. 3 were plenty fine all on their own. I honestly have to wonder why they would actually print that large user manual for a power adapter. It seems like a waste to me, but maybe it is possible their customers are so ignorant they can't plug something in without help.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The New Year has Begun

Yes, I realize that the calendar year begins on January 1, and Lunar new year is in late January or early February, but does that really matter? No, it does not. What matters is that hockey season started yesterday. I watched part of the first game, but not the whole thing, and it looks like I missed some real excitement. Ah, well, such is life. I can't watch everything. I also didn't re-up for partial season tickets this year with the Blues as I didn't like any of the packages they were offering. I'm sure I'll make it to a few games, though. I'll probably do 5 or 6, that is about the right frequency for me.

Is What You are Doing Important?

The ever insightful Seth Godin had a great post today, about how busy we all are and how meaningless it can get. I suffer from this malady, myself, as I believe most people do. Yes, I have a lot of stuff to do today, but how much of it is really important in the long run, and how much of it just seems important at the time? And how much do I let my illusion of busyness keep me from really connecting with people around me? Probably a lot, to be honest with you, and that likely isn't a good thing. When I find out how to counter all of the busyness, I'll let you know. :)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

(Not) Reaping What you Sow

So the Washington Post is reporting that farms and orchards in California are not able to harvest all of their crops due to a shortage of labor. Specifically, of immigrant labor, often times non-documented and illegal. I can't say that I am too upset over all of it, as I see it as a maturing of the labor market, as many of the people that formerly did agricultural work part time during harvest season are now getting full-time jobs in construction or hospitality that pays more overall. This is pretty basic economics, where people are assumed to take jobs where they can make the most money. I agree with the farmers that there should be some sort of ability for non-residents to come to the USA part time and legally work at various jobs, but it is also true that if you can't find people to do the work, you must raise your wages to attract people to actually do the work. Yes, this might mean you have to raise prices on your customers, to cover your costs. Yes, this might mean that your fruit isn't really cost-competitive against fruit from, say, Chile. OK, deal with it. Tell me why I would want to buy your fruit, anyway. What makes it better? Is it? If not, then your choice is clear, you just don't want to face it. Historically, food in the US these days is really inexpensive, as a portion of total expenses we have. Maybe this historical aberration is getting ready to end?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Pledge Drive Season Again

Yes, folks, it is once again time for the KDHX pledge drive. I volunteered again yesterday, answering phones from 8 AM to Noon. A good time was had by all, and I got to meet a couple more show hosts that I didn't meet in the spring. After that I went to my folks house and celebrated my brother's 29th birthday. His birthday was actually 7 weeks ago, but this was the first time he was back in town, so there you go. I got him a soundtrack CD from a Japanese animated TV show (look for the review soon on Anime Dream!) and a reproduction of an ancient Greek painted plate, with some god or something on it, as you can see below. Mark likes that kind of thing usually, so I figured it was worth a shot. Anyway, Happy Birthday, bro!

New Comic Reviews

New comic reviews (yes, I know it's been like 2 months) are up at my website.