Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Week

Most people would only celebrate Thanksgiving by eating unhealthy amounts of food on Thursday, but I decided to make a week of it. Not the eating part, but the rest of it. My company's local office in St. Louis gave us all Wednesday off, and I already had Thursday and Friday off as holidays granted by the firm nationally, so I decided to take Monday and Tuesday as vacation days. I spent the week sleeping in, cleaning, playing games (naturally), and catching up on reading. For example, I finally finished that Hobby Games Top 100 book (which will be written up shortly), and I also caught up on some comic books that had been hanging out, unread, on the end table in my living room. Stuff like that. It really is amazing how fast the days fly by when you sleep 10 hours a day. Still, everything on my long "to do" list for the week got completed, with the exception of re-arranging the furniture in my bedroom, which wasn't a required item, just something I've been thinking about for a while.

Anyway, on Thursday my friend George joined my brother Mark and my parents for dinner, and then we played Illuminati (a card game where each player represents a secret conspiracy and tries to take over the world; very fun) and Cosmic Wimpout. Quite a bit of Cosmic Wimput, actually. It is a dice game where you choose when to stop rolling the dice and accumulating points, as if you keep rolling you will eventually roll a "wimpout" and lose all of your points.

On Friday I swapped George for my other brother, Christopher, and his wife, Amy. More food was eaten, more games of Cosmic Wimpout were played, and then Mark and I went downtown and watched the Blues beat up on the hapless Vancouver Canucks. I despise the Canucks (not all Canadiens, just the hockey team), so that was a lot of fun. Since both of my brothers live out of town, now, it was good to get to see both of them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Soundtrack Reviews

After a very, very long wait, I have a couple new anime soundtrack reviews up at Anime Dream. You may check them it if you are so inclined.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Old Boss Speaks

Well, not "boss" in a direct report way, but as most of you reading this should know, I used to work for the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and I have always respected Dave Walker, the Comptroller General under which I served my country. And what he has to say about our national entitlement programs is certainly worth paying attention to, whether you agree with every suggestion for improvement or not.

Certified Internal Auditor

One of the things I had on my schedule this week while in Dallas was to take the first part of the Certified Internal Auditor exam, which when I pass all three parts I have to take will give me professional certification in my current line of work. There are actually four parts to the exam, but since I am already a Certified Management Accountant, I can waive part four (I still have to pay the fee for it, but they assume I already know that stuff). I had to catch a ride at 7:00 A.M. (requiring me to skip breakfast) out to the University of Texas - Dallas campus, and then I had the exam from 8:30 until about 11:15, when I got finished with it.

Honestly, I found the exam itself to be easier than the study questions I used to prepare for it, so that should be a good thing. I feel like I did well on it, but I won't actually find out for about 2 months or so, since it takes them waaaaaaaaay long to grade all of the exams from around the country. This was also the first time I had to put answers on a Scantron form since I took the GMAT back in 1996. When I took the CMA exam back in 2001 - 2002, it was all computerized, and you got your score within 10 seconds of submitting the exam to be graded by the computer. The Institute of Internal Auditors is still living in the Twentieth Century, though, so it is all graded by hand. Or, graded by a computer that has to be fed by hand. Something like that. Next year they are finally moving to computer-based testing, so I won't have to deal with this again, but it was an interesting blast from the past.

But, bottom line, I feel like I did well, so I am now free to enjoy myself the rest of the week.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mashed Potato Bar

Greetings from the Adam's Mark hotel in Dallas, TX. I am here all week for training, provided by my company. We've probably got 1000+ people here in the conference center, learning how to do our jobs better. It is about as exciting as these kinds of things can get. Last night five of our partners from across the country formed a band and played songs for us, generally covers of songs from the seventies and early eighties, including the occasional song rewritten to make the lyrics more "relevant" for us as consultants. I'll let your imagination work with that one for a while. Then tomorrow I have the first of 3 exams I need to pass to become a Certified Internal Auditor, so once that is out of the way I will be able to actually relax and enjoy myself.

But none of that is what I wanted to write about. No, I want to write about something that I had never encountered before in my life, before last night. At dinner last night, the conference center had prepared for us a mashed potato bar. A dozen different mashed potato confections awaited our palates. There were garlic mashed potatoes, sour cream mashed potatoes, purple mashed potatoes (no, I don't want to know), sweet mashed potatoes, and the list goes on. It was very, very bizarre. Good (I had the sweet potatoes), but bizarre. They even scooped the potatoes into these fancy desert dishes like you would get raspberries and cream in. Totally crazy. Is this a "Dallas" thing? Does anybody know?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

St. Louis Military Gaming Meetup

Yesterday I spent the afternoon out at South County Mall at the Game Nite store for the inaugural meeting of the St. Louis Military Gaming Meetup group, a sub-group of the St. Louis Boardgame Meetup group. It was organized by a fellow I met a few months ago, Chris Fawcett, and it turns out he is an IT auditor locally with RSM McGladrey, and we have run into each other at IIA meetings, before. He owns around 800 games, which is completely crazy and I highly respect him for it. Anyway, it was a really good time. I played Wings of War (world war I aerial combat) for the first time, and it is a pretty fun game, especially with the miniatures. I also played a little bit of Tide of Iron (world war II ground combat), and it looks good but probably isn't something I will be picking up. Lastly I played a few rounds of Rise of the Luftwaffe, probably my favorite WWII aerial combat game ever. I played pretty much all afternoon with a good guy by the name of Bill Cronin, and we are going to try to get together over the next couple months to play through a Rise of the Luftwaffe campaign, which would be great, as I almost never get to play the campaign games.

Lastly, I ran into Dave Moeller at the meetup, which was cool. I haven't seen him in over 2 years, and we promised to get together and play some games over the Christmas holiday. We'll see if that actually happens or not, but it is looking likely.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Does Your Name Determine Your Fate

I came across a rather fascinating article today that posits the theory that people's initials have an impact on the decisions they make. For example, if you first name begins with a "J" you are more likely to marry someone with that same first initial, to live in a town whose names starts with that initial, and so forth. Researchers also found a link between people whose names start with a "C" or "D" and them getting grades of that score in school. While I realize that there is actual study behind this, rather than it being pure supposition, I must admit that it seems rather daft. Just because a name might begin with "D" can't mean that I am more inclined to aim for that score in school, can it? And if I look at my own decisions in life, the only time this plays out is that when I moved to the Washington, D.C. area I lived in Arlington, VA. However, that was because it was the first place I found a suitable apartment within walking distance of a Metro station. Perhaps, however, I am just not really enamored with my own name, and therefore the link doesn't apply to me. In the end, I am forced to go back to my old statement: "I can't believe we actually pay people to do this for a living."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Annotated Dragonlance Chronicles

The Annotated Dragonlance Chronicles by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, 2002, Wizards of the Coast

I have been a gamer for over 20 years now, and a lover of fantasy fiction for basically as long, but I had never read the Dragonlance books. Part of it was that I never played the Dragonlance role-playing games, and part of it was that I was really enjoying reading other stuff, so why bother? Well, a couple months ago I decided that the series was popular enough, and was approach classic status, so I probably needed to read the original trilogy. At my local bookstore I found this book, a giant (over 1300 pages) omnibus edition of the original trilogy. But there's more! It's called The "Annotated" Chronicles because the original authors (and their helpers) have margin notes all throughout the book. Sometimes the margin notes recount humorous stories from the old days of writing the books (or the game adventures), or what the inspiration was for a specific poem, stuff like that. Other times, the margin notes point you towards other books or short stories that expand on events only hinted at in the books. I personally found it all quite interesting, even though I have never read the stories before.

So, what of the actual story? I thought that it was good. In parts it is great, and in parts it isn't. I didn't really like the ending, for example; it had too much deus ex machina, where things just magically work out, for me to be happy with it. I think I have to agree with the original authors (as denoted in the margin notes) that the second book in the trilogy is the strongest. It just flows great, and has a ton of good character development in it. And, really, that is where the book shines the brightest. All of the main characters show a lot of thought and ingenuity, and I really came to like most of them by the end of the book. For others in my situation, who like heroic fantasy but haven't read the Dragonlance books, I can recommend this one as a good way to enjoy the original trilogy while getting a bit into the mind of the creators. It was a fun ride.