Home Sweet Home

With a little help from my friends, I was able to get everything moved into my new apartment over the weekend. Aside from the usual pain-in-the-ass moving of the 32-inch tube TV set, everything went off without a hitch.

The new place is nice, it has a lot of extras; garden bathtub, ice maker, ceiling fan in the bedroom, washer-dryer connections…the place just rocks. On top of all that its only 5 minutes away from work, which means no more crappy Loop 410 traffic and I can eat lunch at home!

Of course, with any more comes the oh-so-fun transferring of addresses. I’ve already arranged for my mail to be forwarded, but need to give it to various and sundry other people, as well as my new phone number. I recently got a new cell phone, and a new number which I have not memorized yet. People give me odd looks over that, but really, how often do you call yourself?

I’m “off the grid” until Saturday, when my internet gets hooked up at the new place. Sadly, there is no one to l33ch off of, but at least I can check email with my T-Mobile Dash.

So that’s all over with, and now the fun part begins…saving up money for a HOUSE! Woo!

All I Want For Christmas Is An MP3 / Movin’ Man

I woke up early today because I had to exchange two gifts; a DVD player I had purchased for my mother had to be upgraded (or downgraded depending on your point of view) to a DVD/VCR, and the MP3 player I purchased for one of my brothers didn’t work, so that had to be exchanged.

I first thought to myself “OH NOES! The stores are going to be packed, so I better get out early.” and thus hit the road at about 830. Come to my surprise, there were no lines at any of the service desks and I walked out of Wally-mart with a DVD/VCR combo for Mom. The Best Buy was out of stock of the player I had bought for my brother so I went ahead and returned it, thinking I could easily find a similar one elsewhere.

WRONG. Three Wal-Marts, two Radio Shacks, a Target, and a Circuit City later, I had jack and squat. You know you’re desperate when you’re going to Radio Shack. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t find the same model I had bought for my brother, there were hardly ANY mp3 players to be found for under one hundred dollars! I suppose now that mp3 players with 1GB of storage can be readily had for under $100, EVERYBODY and their cat wants one. Granted, there were some iPods, but I’m on a budget. I sheepishly told my brother that I would find one up here or order it online and get it delivered to him.

That (almost) taken care of, I said my goodbyes and hit the road back to good ol’ San Antone, as today is the day I get the keys to my new apartment and start moving out of the dump I’m living in right now. When I do this, I essentially play a little game I call: “How much crap can Randomizer cram into his car?” I currently drive a 2005 Dodge Neon and I’m discovering that it can hold quite a bit. After two carloads I have the bathroom ready to go; I just need a new shower curtain. The kitchen is almost ready, I just need to move over the food from the refrigerator/freezer, and I have some temporary bedding in place until the boys and I get the big stuff moved this Saturday.

I am enjoying moving my stuff over, just the essentials right now, and by New Year’s I expect to have everything major done and be livin’ la vida loca. No more crappy commute or trashy neighbors, just a nice quiet place where I can rock until I drop, then rock some more!

Scrooge and Marley and Randomizer9

I have to work on Christmas Eve. That sucks. Yeah, yeah, I know, so do a lot of other people, but I work in a ‘professional’ setting. The other professionals I know have Christmas Eve off, clients are telling me they have Christmas Eve off, my brother’s kids have Christmas Eve off, but I have to work. It wouldn’t be a big deal if my family was in the neighborhood, but having to make an extra trip just to work (hopefully) a half day on Christmas Eve is a big ball of SUCK. I’ve spent every Christmas with my family and I have no intention of spending a Christmas without them now.

Things have gotten slower and slower leading up to the holiday, and except for a few freaks who contact us on a regular basis because they don’t have anything better to do, its pretty dead here at the office. I can only imagine what Monday is going to be like. I’m trying not to let it spoil my holiday. I currently find myself sulking around in my cube with a big chip on my shoulder that I usually keep in storage except for Valentine’s Day. Once I get out of here my mood will improve, but until then I’ll be quite “Grinchy” until then.

But the Grinch got over his holiday hangups, and so will I…once four-thirty hits. 🙂

Lights, Liquor, and Licks

Our company Christmas party was this past Saturday, and it was held at Mr. and Mrs. CEO’s house. They live in one of the ritzy parts of town, where they not only have a gate, but a guard station to keep the riff-raff (i.e. people like me) out.

That said, the neighborhood had the worst Christmas lights I’ve ever seen. When I lived with my parents, my brother and I would put up the Christmas lights; I like to think we did a good job of it.

My biggest Christmas light pet peeve is the whole “wrap the lights around the trunk of the tree” bit. It is particularly ugly when you do it to a fucking MESQUITE tree where the branches go every which way but straight up. If you are going to put lights on a tree, COVER THE WHOLE DAMN TREE. Obviously you can’t do this unless the tree is short, but when you do, it looks awesome, and yes, I’ve done it. Otherwise, it looks half-assed, as if you had strings of lights left over and didn’t have anything better to do with them.

Anyway, every few houses had trees with lights wrapped around the trunk from about 3-10 feet off the ground. I’m not sure if that was by design, but whomever had the idea should be hung by them.

I met some of the developers that work just around the freakin’ CORNER from me at the party. I find it a little disturbing that I’ve been there half a year and have not met a lot of these people. Lesson learned: if you want to make your developers even more anti-social than usual, give them offices instead of cubicles.

The food was good. Granted, it was a hell of a lot fancier than I’m accustomed to, though. There was also a “white elephant” gift exchange. I had neglected to buy a gift, so I didn’t participate, but it was fun to watch. No company Christmas party would be complete without speeches as well…blah blah blah. They really need to have it somewhere else next year, though, there was nowhere near enough seating for everybody. My feet were hurting pretty good when I left.

Overall, I’d say the company Chrstmas party I went to last year was better. Those who were there may raise an eyebrow, but I’ll take good company and regular food over a fancy-pants setting and unfamiliar faces. Call me nutty, I guess. Of course, the BEST one I’ve ever been to was the one where the company president was handing out Christmas bonuses. Payday is coming up, though, so perhaps that might still happen. -crosses fingers-

As I was leaving, Mr. and Mrs. CEO were at the door handing out boxes of chocolate and bottles of wine to employees as they leave. I don’t drink alcohol at all, but I also didn’t want to be rude, so I take the wine and go on my merry way. I now have a bottle of Chateau Liversan Haut-Medoc 2003 sitting in the kitchen collecting dust until I find someone to give it to. I can only assume its good stuff, all I really know is that it was made in France, but it may as well be a bottle of air as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps when I distribute Christmas cookies this weekend, I’ll find a taker. Does a red or white go best with Oatmeal Raisin cookies?

On Sunday, I went looking around for gifts for my nieces and nephew, as I’ve already got all the adults on my gift list taken care of. I’m agonizing over what to get for the kids, for whatever reason. As part of my trip, I went to Best Buy, where I noticed the Rock Band demo was available. Having been a drummer myself (marching band), I thought I’d give it a shot, and fired up “Detroit Rock City” by Kiss.

Rock Band was damn good fun, and I was getting into it. The drum pads don’t feel quite right, though. When you strike a drum, your stick should bounce. The Rock Band drum pads are hard plastic, and you don’t get that bounce. I don’t expect this to make sense to those who don’t play drums, but it makes a difference. Between that and the hardware issues I’ve been hearing about, I think I’m going to wait until version 2 before I get it, if indeed, I do. Or perhaps I should get a cheap electronic drum set and rock out that way. In any event, Guitar Hero isn’t going away anytime soon!

The Lost Days of Arcade-ia

I think we all have moments in our lives when we get smacked in the face with the fact that we are getting older.

I had one some months ago when I was talking to a coworker who was born during the 80’s. We were discussing games, and I bought up Geometry Wars in all of its seizure-inducing glory, and described the control scheme as being similar to Robotron 2084. He then gets a puzzled look on his face and asks: “What console was that game on?”

I then realized that he was born after the glory days of the arcade, when they weren’t old temples kept alive by Dance Dance Revolution. At that moment, I could almost hear my hair getting grayer and feel arthritis creeping into these hands that have been playing videogames for longer than this kid has been alive!

I then explained that once upon a time there was a place called the “arcade” where one had to go to play real videogames and not the watered-down versions you got on the home systems of the time. We dropped our quarters because the games were fun, they were something new, and they let us pretend to really be racing a car or flying a spaceship if only for a few minutes or maybe longer if you got really good. The arcade was a loud place filled with lots of machines, lots of people, and lots of noise coming from both.

When I read reviews where some kid is gushing over the “BRAND NEW” thing they’ve just discovered, I laugh, because its probably been done before, and we probably did it first. Before there was Gran Turismo, there was Pole Position. Before there was World of Warcraft, there was Gauntlet. Take Missile Command, set it to music, and you get Every Extend Extra. The first commercial 3D game to use shaded polygons was made in 1983. It’s called “I, Robot” and it was made by the original Atari.

We also played to be the best. Even if you were only the best at the grocery store or corner gas station, it still felt good to see your initials at the top of the board. Three letters were all you got, and so you had to make the best of it. If you accidently hit Fire and entered an “A” by accident, you followed up with “SS” instead, snickered for a moment, and then moved on to the next machine. Of course, if your name just happened to start with an A, it was no big deal.

Before there was online with its miscreants and trappings, there was playing head to head with your opponent standing next to you or across a cocktail machine. There was also co-op, even though we didn’t call it that. If you wanted next, you put a quarter on the panel and waited your turn, and if you finished and saw a quarter on the machine, you let the next guy have his turn.

Of course, those days are gone now, but the games are still around in one form or another. I still play them, and they’re still fun to me. I laugh at the repeated, often failed attempts to reimagine them for the New Generation. Much like classic movies, the games are products of their time, and the zeitgeist of that era just can’t be reproduced. These kids are also too accustomed to the overly dramatic stories and dinner-theater drama found in too many of todays’ games. You don’t ask why Pac-Man has to eat all those dots or why the ghosts want to eat him, that’s just the way it is.

No matter what aliases, nicknames or avatars I use in these hyper-connected days, I don’t think they will have more meaning than the three letters sitting on top of the list of the Time Pilot machine in the corner store down the road from my house: