I Read Stuff!

Hanlon's Razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

Friday, June 29, 2007

High School vs. Reality

This story was sent to me by my brother quite a while ago, but high school drama, just like its students, doesn't age.

Remember your own high school graduation? hey warned us for weeks that air horns were strictly not allowed. Anyone caught with one would have their diploma withheld. An interesting threat, and really the only tangible power the administration holds over graduating seniors. Of course the theory is that a graduating senior is now an adult. An adult that doesn't need to be threatened to behave in a civilized manner, but I digress.

Air horns made their presence known on graduation day, as expected. The administration rolled they're eyes and handed out everyone's diplomas. Everyone was happy and went about their separate ways.

Not so in Illinois.

At Galesburg High School, the administration decided that they wanted to 'restore graduation decorum' by outlawing... wait for it...

Cheering

Yes, this administration decided that cheering wasn't dignified enough for a high school graduation. A ridiculous rule, especially when attempting to apply it to some kid's out-of-state relatives. The expected thing happens, people's kids walk across the stage, and there was some cheering and clapping in the audience. This time the administration actually followed through, and denied 5 honors students their keepsake diploma.

The best part is the administration wants the 5 students to hunt down the 'cheering culprits' out of a crowd of 2000 people.

Hilarious!

In the American tradition, everyone is suing everyone else in an attempt to fix the situation.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Baby's First Star Wars Con

Monday, June 25, 2007

Shun The Unbeliever!

Now that vacation is over, we'll return to our regularly scheduled program.

I'm not sure how old this is, but it's pretty damn funny. It's about pretty pretty unicorns! and their adventures!! YAY!!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Friday (Day 7)

This is our final day in the City. The flight leaves early so we only have time for one more thing! Pergamino's breakfast. Mmmmmmmm tastes so good.

We drive to the airport to dump off the rental. Obviously we've got time for one more piece of good luck. When we'd picked up the Van, we had agreed to let them fill the gas tank. Basically this means we return the Van empty, and they fill it up for the ridiculous price of $3.50 a gallon.

Well, during our stay the price of gas had risen to the insurmountable $3.75. We were actually going to get gas cheaper at the rental! Well, rather than go through that embarrassment the company 'forgot' to charge us for gas at all. Even better. When this was pointed out to them they told us to forget about it. And that's the story of how we got free gas. Thanks Enterprise!

The return trip on the airplane was standard fair. I would like to point out one very important thing. When flying Midwest out of a city that is not their hub, it is imperative that you order milk with your MEAL. This is because they will actually run out of milk before they come back with the complimentary chocolate chip cookies. Learn well from my mistake, lest you make it as well.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Build A Better Mall

It was dinner time when we arrived back at the hotel. Rather than risk baby meltdown by going somewhere, we hit the hotel sports bar Knuckles. A tasty enough place with one little quirk. I had ordered a personal supreme pizza for myself, and the pizza that came out certainly had a bit of everything on it. In particular it had garlic, whole cloves of garlic. Each slice had 3 to 4 cloves cooked to the texture of a mushroom. My breath was a force to be reckoned with.

Now armed to repel an army of vampire invaders, we caught a night trolley to Union Square for a peek at the night life. In particular I wanted a quick tour of the Metreon. I wasn't really sure what it was, but I knew that Netopia had done its WiFi as a publicity stunt.

The Metreon, is a collection of stores that represent the geekiest parts of me. It's as if they asked me what stores would motivate me to shop in a mall. Obviously Clair's and The Buckle aren't going to make an appearance. No, this store had multiple table top gaming stores, comic book stores, a PlayStation store, a Sony Electronics store, and a ridiculous spy gadget store. To top it off there was an Open Source Java convention being hosted on the third floor.

It's Holy Ground, giving Geeks and Immortals alike, sanctuary.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fish!

A longish drive ahead of us, we head off to Monterey Aquarium. I'm not sure why fish are so fascinating, but I would argue that an aquarium is better than a zoo. Maybe it's because I've been to so many zoos that I've seen just about everything they have to offer.

In any case the Monterey Aquarium is fantastic. We spent a ridiculous amount of time touring the place. We saw penguins, sea otters, sting rays, sharks, octopuses, birds, and the only naturally grown kelp forest in the world.

The stars of the show for me were the jellyfish and the deep bay. The largest jellyfish exhibit in the world stretches almost the entire building. Every shape, size, and color are presented in an eerie phosphorus glow. Poor Dale Chihuly's art was outclassed by nature.

The deep bay was an awe inspiring experience. It was very simply a long glass window in a dark hallway. The window looked into a featureless expanse of deep blue water. Then a 6 foot sea turtle glides by followed by a school of tuna, each as large as I am. It's quite a humbling experience when faced with so many creatures larger and faster than you.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thursday (Day 6)

Once more to Washington Square, but this time we're on the hunt for breakfast. The Hyatt Concierge once again earned her keep by recommending a place called Mama's. Easily one of the most decorated venue I've ever eaten. I'm not talking about drapes and knickknacks. I'm talking about awards. Every surface of the tiny restaurant was covered in magazine articles and plaques declaring Mama's to be the best breakfast spot on the planet. It was tasty, but I still prefer Pergamino.

While we dined we had a full view of the Square. It was around 8:30 in the morning, and there was a group of older folks out doing Tai Chi. A man was leading the group of about 15 people, but they weren't alone. Scattered through out the park were individuals following along. They were standing alone in the strangest places so they could see the leader.

I was immediately reminded of The Life of Brian. Here was the crowd shouting 'We're all individuals!' while being desperate to follow a leader. To complete the picture, in the center of the park was a lady screaming "I'm not!" She was doing her own Crazy Lady Tai Chi. It was an incredibly unique dance that contained some imitation Tai Chi stances, but it was clearly an impulsive product of her imagination.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Wednesday (Day 5)

More adventures in San Francisco driving, this time we headed over to the marina and the Presidio. We were attempting to visit the Exploratorium, but apparently finding the entrance is part of the show. During our search for the entrance we saw some very nice houses where the Rolls was kept on the curb. We were wondering what was in the garage?

The Exploratorium is my kind of place. It's a science museum designed to teach through hands-on exhibits. Basically it's a bunch of physics toys that you get to push and pull on as much as you like. We spent the whole morning 'learning'.

Once they pried me free of the exhibits, we drove out to Muir Woods. Muir Woods is one of the last stands of Redwoods in the world. Needless to say the trees were awe inspiring. We did a half mile walk through of trees that were over 1000 years old.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Mob

Our Hotel Concierge recommended an Italian restaurant in North Beach as some of the best food in the area. I eagerly awaited the name of this North Beach restaurant, but as classic Costello I didn't quite get it.

North Beach Restaurant marks our second adventure to Washington Square. It took us a second to find it, since it's not directly on the square, but happiness was only a half block away.

The waiters and hosts were all Italian men in very nice suits. We were perhaps a little underdressed in our jeans and T-Shirts, but no one seemed to notice.

Once seated our host dropped off a taste of one of their wines, it was exquisite. I asked our waiter for a glass, and he opened the wine menu to point out the wine I had tasted as well as the other selections. As much as I enjoyed the wine, I wasn't going to drop $22 on a glass. Props to the waiter for showing me the error of my ways without making me look like a cheapskate. I selected another variety and ordered their Wood Fire Oven Lasagna.

Truly some of the best Italian I've ever eaten. I can't emphasize enough how great the food was.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Anchor Steam

If you brew beer, the Anchor Steam tour is a must. I've read more than a little bit about brewing beer, and there are a few things that you do not do because your beer will taste like a shoe. Anchor Steam breaks those rules and ends up with one of the most popular micro brews in the country.

They start with an all grain mash which is cooked with hopes and strained into a fermenter. First crazy thing, this fermenter is an open air fermenter like what they use with sewage, only cleaner. This madness encourages oxygenation both of hot wort and wort that has begun fermenting. This can produce lots of diacetyl which causes a buttery to very stale cardboard taste.

The second crazy thing, is that it's lager yeast that they pitch into 70 degree wort. Lager yeast works below 50 degrees while ale yeast works around 70. High temperature brewing produces nasty alcohols that burn the tongue.

After 3 days of fermentation they move it into a normal secondary fermenter through a whirlpool filter. That is followed by 'the crazy' number 3. They mix their beer with another batch that has only fermented for one day to capture lost carbonation. This re-adds a lot of the nasty chemicals they got rid of in the whirlpool filter.

After weeks of fermenting they homogenize it and bottle it. It tastes great which just goes to show that they know more about this stuff than I do.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Embarrassing Moments

We didn't really plan this trip. Instead we had flown out there with some general ideas of what we wanted to do. Since no itinerary existed, we basically put together each day's activities the night before. I had the guide, so I generally would come up with something and pitch it to the rest of the group.

The plan that I had come up with was to drive to Union Square, walk over to Anchor Steam, do lunch, do the tour, walk back to Union Square, and call it a day. This was all very reasonable based off of our previous day's adventures.

The catch was in the map supplied by the guide. On one page was a map of the Chinatown, North Beach, Fisherman's Wharf walk we had done the day before. On the next page was the map of Union Square and Anchor Steam. The difference, and this is crucial, is that the scale of the map changes dramatically.

Off we go, on our walk to Anchor Steam. It feels fine at first, but things start to feel very wrong about our progress. It takes us forever to get to the half way point, and it goes through this interesting area call the Tenderloin.

Wiki describes the Tenderloin as thus,

"Squalid conditions, homelessness, crime, drug sales, prostitution, liquor stores (over 60), and strip clubs give the area a seedy reputation."

The homeless are sleeping on in the middle of the sidewalk. You have to walk through the broken glass strewn grass to get by, which is probably why they are on the sidewalk. We got to see actual dumpster diving and other fun touristy sights. We walked for 3 miles through this area to reach the brewery, because I failed to see the scale change.

Oops.

After the tour we took the bus back to our car in Union Square.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tuesday (Day 4)

Our only scheduled day. I had us lined up for the Anchor Steam Brewery Tour at 1:00. I got us in the tour 6 weeks previously and Tuesday was the only day available. It's in a bit of demand.

But getting there was a bit of an adventure. We got the car out of Valet impound and drove to Union Square. On the way we popped over to Lombard Street to walk and drive the crookedest street in the U.S. In reality, it's the most luxuriant garden you can drive through.

Union Square is a neat shopping district with a strange mixture of shops you can afford and shops that have high class personal security guards for their jeans (I'm looking at you Louis Vuitton).

In the center of the square, is an open courtyard where business people in designer outfits display themselves and eat their lunch. It was kind of like going to the zoo, except instead of exotic birds, you're looking at humans in their unnatural habitat.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tours Are Super

We talked about doing a number of tours. The conversation usually went like this.

Someone: Oh look another tour.

Someone Else: Yeah, look at how unhappy the people are.

Someone: That's because sitting in a bus for hours learning about the
founding of a 7-Eleven is boring as hell.

Someone Else: Let's not do a tour.

Everyone: Agreed.

We did actually take a tour. However, it had a couple of things none of the other tours had. It was less than an hour long, no perky tour guide, and it was on the water where we couldn't walk.

Well worth the money, they just dump you on a boat with a bunch of people. They run you out under the Golden Gate Bridge for the best photo opportunity available. No trees, no traffic, no guard rails, and you are up close and personal.

Then they do a quick loop of Alcatraz, supplying you with what amounts to a lightning tour of the place. I can tell you all kinds of info about the prison, and I didn't waste half of a day walking it.

After the tour we scored some North Beach Pizza. I know it's crazy, but pizza made by Italians tastes pretty damn good.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Arsenic, Good for the Skin

Wandering into North Beach was a night and day difference. Not only a drop in the number of people, but also a sharp increase in the quality of shops and housing. In the middle of the area is Washington Square which is one of my favorite San Francisco places.

This being our first visit to Washington Square we decided to just hang out in the park. We wandered over to the playground and crawled all over it with the baby. That was until the baby's mother notice a sign.

Warning: Treated With Arsenic

We're staring at this thinking, what the hell? Why would you treat a children's playground with a notoriously poisonous chemical? We vacated immediately. Later we learned that Arsenic was used in the 70's and 80's to treat outdoor building martial to prevent it from rotting and to stop insect infestation. It's no longer allowed.

You would think, that San Francisco of all places, would hunt these places out and replace them with non-toxic materials. Nope, they just put up a sign saying, don't eat.

Thanks.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Monday (Day 3)

A historic day, as we venture forth to ride the Trolley. I can't really explain why these are better than buses. There must be something about being open air and outward facing. I don't know, but they are definitely preferable than riding a bus.

We stopped off at the Trolley museum to watch the engines that pull the cables. Fun Fact, they use to coat the cables with pine tar because it would remain viscous while the cable slid by the trolley. As soon as the trolley latched on, the tar would vaporize and allow a solid connection.

Outside the museum we entered our first Chinatown. It was jam packed and dirty which gave it a Mardi Gras feel without the party atmosphere. It was here that my wife discovered that she'd "rather smell cow, than fish."

Walking the Pier

After returning from our outdoor adventure we made a special trip to Pier 39. Pier 39 is the central attraction of Fisherman's Wharf, but we had motivation outside of just seeing all the sites. We were going to Bubba Gump Shrimp.

The seafood version of Hard Rock Café, but with two distinct differences, it was really good and actually fun. The highlight of the meal was us trying to figure out which came first, the movie or the restaurant. It would seem obvious that the movie came first, except they had 'Est. 1975' posted in a number of different spots.

Turns out it was created in 1996, by the Forrest Gump people. Tricky Tricky...

After we ate, we checked out the sea lions who are encouraged to sun themselves next to the Pier. There were easily 300 of the suckers flopping around in the comical way a water animal takes to land. Pretty amusing for us, but I'm sure their continuous barking has been the source of numerous employee psychological problems.

We then discovered Del Monte Square where they have live music on a daily basis. It's also a great place to sit around and taste a few of their 62 beers on tap, and we did.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Sunday (Day 2)

We were up and out of the hotel by 8 am, which was sleeping in for us Midwesterners. We wandered down to Pergamino to determine for ourselves the worthiness of their World Famous Breakfast. We arrived and were treated like family. We got jokes and mango in our OJ. The waffles were World Famous and the sinful cinnamon rolls were to die for. We decided we would make a special trip to eat there again.

It was such a beautiful day we decided to hit Golden Gate Park. A massive expanse of greenery, the park is full of things to do. We managed to see about a quarter of it. We began at the Japanese Tea garden which was beautiful and highly photogenic. However, I think we were too full of energy to truly appreciate the Zen like ambiance.

We proceeded to hike up and around Stow Lake with our eye on some paddle boats, but bailed on the idea of keeping the baby out of the water. Instead we rented a 4 person surrey. They had closed off a section of the park to cars just so bikers and surreyers(?) could tour the park. We set off for Sharon Meadow which is conveniently located right next to the Haight-Ashbury district. Due to it's proximity we were able to witness an authentic hippy drum circle. I'm sure Cartman has been notified.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Salvation from a Cup

We'd been in San Fran for a couple of hours. We'd eaten and settled into the hotel. It was obviously time to go get more food, specifically ice cream. Ghirardelli Square Ice Cream has to be some of the best tasting substances on the planet. I say substance because it is clearly not made by human hand, but instead spontaneously called into existence by God himself so that we may know what heaven tastes like.

After experiencing Nirvana we walked the beach taking in the sites and getting acquainted with the area around the hotel. The baby immediately decided that sand was not for her. It was declared 'ucky'. Her proclamation was heard far and wide. So far and wide that 3 days later while boarding the hotel elevator the baby was recognized as 'The child that didn't like the sand.'

Since the lady's were stuffed with ice cream they allowed us to choose a sea food restaurant for dinner. The wise internet pointed us to The Franciscan for some fresh Dungeness crab. It was good, possibly excellent, but I think I'm jaded about such things since my parents use to live in a Dungeness crab port. In any event, it was some tasty crab and a good introduction to the wharf.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Lucky Us, Round 2

All satiated, we headed to the hotel, the Hyatt at Fisherman's Wharf. This turned out to be a great location. It was basically a block from the Docks, Trolleys, and Ghirardelli. Most of the places we ate at were just a short walk away.

The hotel also has a valet service that's not cheap, but it is convenient. I'm not use to such luxuries, so I had to look up how to tip a valet. After reading a few recommendations we decided to give the guy a $5 when he parked our car the very first time, and every time he picked it up for us. The valet seemed pleased, and we got good service.

And now for our first disaster, the hotel failed to book our room with 2 beds. They only have 2 rooms of the size we requested, and the one with 2 beds was currently filled. We were downgraded to the smaller room. Our room price was dropped $100 a night, and we were shown to our room.

It was huge. I'm not really sure what size we had originally ordered, but I'm sure we didn't need it. The room we got was plenty large with its wide screen LCD TV and L shaped couch. A giant room for $600 bucks cheaper than we expected is a great deal.


Games
GameInterestRelease Date
Civilization IV1
C&C 31
Company of Heroes1
Half Life 21
Half Life 2: Episode One1
Supreme Commander1
Call of Duty 22
Darwinia2
Dungeon Runners2
Dungeon Siege II2
Far Cry2
Galactic Civilization II2
Hitman: Blood Money2
Jade Empire2
Neverwinter Nights 22
Prey2
Psychonauts2
Sam & Max: Episode 12
Titan Quest2
Dark Messiah Might and Magic3
Defcon3
Heroes of Might and Magic V3
Indigo Prophecy3
KOTOR II3
LEGO Star Wars3
Marvel Ultimate Alliance3
Space Rangers 2: The Rise of the Dominators3
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl3
Stubbs the Zombie3
War Front3
Warhammer: Mark of Chaos3
Infernal35/8/2007
Shadowrun25/9/07
Pirates of the Burning SeaM6/1/2007
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars?6/5/2007
Two Worlds?6/26/07
Sins of A Solar Empire?8/1/2007
BioShock18/21/2007
Mass Effect19/7/07
Age of ConanM10/30/07
Crysis1Fall 2007
Elveon?Fall 2007
Half-Life 2: Episode Two1Fall 2007
Portals1Fall 2007
Spore1Fall 2007
Stranglehold?Fall 2007
Tabula RasaMFall 2007
Team Fortress 22Fall 2007
Dragon Age?Winter 2007
Fable 2?Winter 2007
Field Ops?Winter 2007
Halo Wars?Winter 2007
Gods & Heroes: Rome RisingMWinter 2007
Haze?Winter 2007
Hellgate: London1Winter 2007
HuxleyMWinter 2007
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men?Winter 2007
Left 4 Dead?Winter 2007
The AgencyMSpring 2008
Empire Earth III?Spring 2008
Guild Wars 2 MSpring 2008
Jericho?Spring 2008
Sacred 2?Spring 2008
Savage 2?Spring 2008
Time Shift2Spring 2008
Universe at War: Earth Assault3Spring 2008
The Witcher?Spring 2008
CellFactor?2008
Darkest of Days?2008
On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkeness: Episode 122008
Warhammer OnlineM2008
Alliance: The Silent War??
Alone in the Dark??
Assassin's Creed??
BioWare MMO??
The Crossing??
Dungeon Hero??
Fallout 3??
Lego Batman??
Mythos??
Overloard??
Space Seige??
Culdcept SagaPC??
Gears of WarPC??
God of WarPC??
Beautiful KatamariPC??
OkamiPC??
Resistance: Fall of ManPC??
Odin's SpherePC??
Castle CrashersPC??

1 - I will buy it
2 - I'll buy it at discount
3 - Other people think it's good, but I wasn't interested when I first heard about it
M - Mainly Multiplayer. See if friends get interested.
? - Find out more about this game
PC? - Will it be released on the PC?