Wednesday, 27 January 2010

TI PocketMate 300

pm400cdbSlowly chipping away at my unpacking.  The office has been the most interesting.  Some of these boxes haven't been unpacked in the last two to four moves.  The box filled with all the goof ball stuff I had on my desk at Deere was good for some laughs.  But the stuff from my desk at Tigercat was a real trip down memory lane.  Tigercat was my first job out of university so we're going back 10-12 years.

I dug through day timers and notebooks and newsletters and finally came across this gem of gadgetry.  The Texas Instruments PocketMate 300.  Before the smartphones, before the ipods, before the palm pilot and handspring, I had the PocketMate 300.  I believe it was a gift from my parents and I loved this thing.  It was basically an electronic day timer but I used it mostly for the contacts management.  I had every dealer, sales rep, office, and supplier number for Tigercat in this thing.  Numbers were instantly at hand.  It was fantastic.

I remembered how much use I had gotten out of it before shinier, faster, more functional gadgets passed it by.  I wiped off 10 years of dust and crud and thought "What the hell" and pushed the on button.

And the friggin thing turned on!

I couldn't believe it.  Dormant for at least 10 years and it pops back to life like I just put fresh batteries in it yesterday.  My cell phone can't last 10 hours on a single charge let alone 10 years.  Amazing.

So my unpacking came to a grinding halt as I flicked through the contacts that were once so important to me.  Strange feeling to run across my current employer whose gear division supplies transmissions to Tigercat.  I was once the angry customer calling up the supplier to give them hell for something or other and now, 10 years later, I work for that supplier.  Weird.

There was only one entry in the Notes section and, again, I laughed because it was labeled "TASC Ideas".  Back then I did my best to highlight the lameness of our employee social committee by launching my own after-work gathering of employees dubbed the Tigercat Anti Social Committee.  Activities were mostly of the beer drinking variety but membership was strong and enthusiastic.  This was before I had any kind of web presence so when it came time to write up planned TASC activities, I put them in a newsletter which was called the Really Angry Newsletter for Tigercat (RANT).  I'm pretty sure the note on the PocketMate was referring to potential article ideas for the RANT.  Below are the contents of that note:

  • New Year's Resolutions

  • Holy Fuck I'm the only one at work edition

  • Tyson's Sense of Beer (a reference to the 1997 classic Smilla's Sense of Snow)

  • All the Freaks in Freakville

  • Bonus Comment - Best Parents in Brantford (reference to the barfly and companion who would constantly bring her kid into our favourite bar while they drank their faces off)


Brought a smile to my face as I remembered what I was going to write for each of those topics.  Good times.  If anyone's interested, the only surviving copies of the RANT newsletters were scanned and e-mailed to me a while ago and I've posted them here.  The file's a bit big (14 mb), just a head's up.

Anyways three cheers to Texas Instruments and their PocketMate 300 for brightening my day.  They don't make 'em like they used to.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Championship Weekend

Fewer games this weekend but the quality more than made up for that.  First, the colts looking pretty ordinary to start their game against the jets but then coming back to beat them.  And the Saints and Vikings?  Man, what a friggin game.  Back and forth, up and down, awesome.  But the important thing is it's the result I wanted.  Saints win!  Looking forward to the Super Bowl!

And Favre, please do me a favor?  Go back to your little backwater burg and shut the fuck up.  Please.

Tim Horton's Charity Work

I think it's awesome how Tim Horton's does so much to help find employment for the mentally challenged.  I just think putting them in charge of your ad campaigns may be a little too charitable.

Wheel of Donuts?  For fuck's sake.

Friday, 22 January 2010

TBone's Stolen Movie of the Week: The Orphanage

large_orphanageThe modern world has many good things going for it.  But instant movie gratification isn't one of them.  Checked Roger's On Demand and Itunes and couldn't find this movie.  So, fuck it, I stole it.  It always makes me laugh when I read a news article saying how some studio doesn't want to distribute some movie on-line for fear of piracy.  It's already pirated you dumbasses!  I would have given you money if you had made it available but instead I went to sweet mama bit torrent to get this film.  Smooth move jackasses.

Anyways, the deed is done.  I guess I could have tried Blockbuster but at this point in the week I wasn't near sober enough to walk to the movie store, let alone drive.

The Orphanage is a movie I'd heard about on several review sites and podcasts.  I'm not a big fan of subtitles but there was so much positive buzz for this Spanish film, that I decided to give it a whirl.

And it really is a great, tension filled, movie.  Reminded me of The Others in tone and style but without an M. Night Shamalamalon style "twist" at the end.  Some seriously creepy scenes in this one and a powerful ending.  I'd recommend to anyone who enjoys a good scary movie.  I didn't even mind the mysterious character with sack mask that seemed to be in every single horror movie of the oughts.

Definitely worth a rental, especially if your conscience forbids stealing.  I may buy this one outright as a mea culpa for my theft.  Check it out.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Wally Golf

Dilbert.com

Dilbert once again nails my existence.  Courtesy of Dilbert.com.

Landlords

Got a call at work today.  My landlord from Haileybury.  Kind of surprised.  I left a bunch of stuff up at the old place and I meant to go pick it up but a snow storm (and a raging hangover) kept me from completing that task.  I figured that was the reason for the call.  That was part of it.

First she wanted to know if I still had the key.  I did.  She gave me her address and I agreed to mail it to her.

Next, she noted that some of the carpet had been picked apart and wanted to know if that was done by my cats.  I said that could have been but I hadn't noticed given the large stains and worn out sections that were there when I moved in.  She wanted to know if I would give her some money for the damages.  I said "No".  And reminded her that the carpet was already crap when I moved in.

Next came the cleaning bill.  She said she had to get a professional cleaner there was so much cat hair and the fridge was full of mould and the oven was filthy and the closet was full of some dark marks or something.  I was surprised.  I'm not a tidy person by any means but I thought I'd actually done a pretty good job.  I'd vacuumed but apparently not thoroughly enough.  I did clean the fridge but I guess if you turn off a fridge you're supposed to leave the door open so nothing starts growing.  The oven I barely even used.  The closet?  Beats me.  Kept shoes and jackets in there and that's it.

What really started to tick me off was she was talking to me like I was some deadbeat who had really stuck it to her.  Now way back in my university days I'll admit I left a few residences in less than pristine conditions.  But I was a student and I felt that that's what was expected of me.  Plus, that's what security deposits are for.  Since graduating, I think I've been a model tenant wherever I've rented.  Rent is always paid on time, I'm relatively quiet, I don't have big parties, and I've never skipped out on my two months notice.  The only problem is I do have two cats.  Two hairy cats.  Two hairy cats with claws.

So I felt a little guilty about what they'd done.  But words can't describe this shack that I lived in for two and a half years.  It smelled of mould from day one.  Structurally, it was questionable.  A strong wind would cause enough shift in the framing that the back door would pop open.  There was no grout left in the shower tiles which let water seep into the walls and I'm sure a forest of fungi was prospering in between the studs.  The flooring, as I mentioned, was shot when I got there.  The rear deck had a load bearing capacity of one person and one bbq and that's it.  And then there was the basement flooding, and the water tank exploding, and the furnace dying in the middle of winter.  All things that could happen to anyone but happened at this place because the owners were incredibly cheap.

So to have someone track me down at my place of employment to yip at me that I hadn't done a good enough vacuuming job in this shit hole was somewhat irksome.  But my initial reaction was to laugh at her.  She didn't like that.  But whatever.  I said I'd chip in on the cleaning bill to absolve my conscience of whatever the cats may have done.

Hopefully that's the end of it but I do get the feeling they're grubbing for whatever money they can get since they haven't rented the place out again.  For me, anyways, that's the end of it and the end of thinking about that horrible place.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Glenmorangie - Nectar D'Or

glenmorangie-nectar-d-orI've made mention of Glenmorangie's range of specialty bottlings before.  Gimmicky, I think I described them.  And "Nectar D'Or" sounds about as gimmicky as it can get.  There should not be any french on the label of a single malt scotch.  But it was different and I was in need of some anger meds.

Besides the flamboyant title, the box also described the scotch inside as being aged in bourbon barrels and finished in something called "sauternes".  A google search finds that this is a French dessert wine.  So.  The french titling is making a little more sense.  Anyways, I bought the damn thing, gotta find out how it tastes.

The smell is strong, a base of wood and citrus with a slight medicinal note.  Different but very interesting.  The taste is similarly strong and the bourbon background really comes through.  This is a scotch with definite body, almost syrupy thick.  The alcohol blooms and burns from nose to stomach but leaves the initial flavour intact.  And that flavour does linger.  Not a bad thing but it does hang around.

All in all a very different ride from the usual.  I'd recommend it for a pleasant change of pace.  The ticket price is too high to be in regular rotation but once in a while I can see myself taking this trip again.

Bourbo-licious.  4 shots!

Football!

The best weekend of football.  It's been said many times over the past week but it's true.  After the wildcard wieners are weeded out, these four games over two days have the best chance of being the most competitive and entertaining games you'll see all year.

While 3 out of the 4 games weren't very competitive, they were at least entertaining.  Some random thoughts I had while watching this weekend:

  • Who dat?  Good to see New Orleans finally bring some game.

  • Reggie Bush was impressive and finally looked like he's worth the hype of 4 years ago

  • Can't blame Warner for the Cardinals' loss but won't miss him too much if that was his last game either

  • Looks like resting their starters didn't hurt the Colts any.  Maybe the media can shut up about it now.

  • I like Baltimore.  Especially after handing those fucknut Patriots their ticket out of the playoffs.  But I'll pull for Indy if the Dolphins aren't in it so I has pretty happy when they got through.

  • The Minnesota-Dallas game was a hard one to watch.  I'm not a fan of either team.  Dallas, because they seem to be the Toronto Maple Leafs of the NFL.  They expect the Super Bowl to be delivered to them every year based on heritage and fan base alone.  I don't really hate Minnesota but I friggin detest Brett Favurrah.  Wasn't always like that but his petulant retirement act showed what kind of guy he really is.  I wasn't going to like whichever team came out on top.  It turned out to be Minnesota.  So be it.  I look forward to watching Drew Brees light them up because I will not watch a Super Bowl with Brett Fuvruh in it.

  • Man, those Chargers don't have much luck.  A pro bowl regular season kicker who misses 3 field goals as soon as he hits the playoffs.  Gotta give the Jets credit though.  They really shut down that Charger offense.

  • Good on the Jets but that's far enough.  Indy should make short work of them to get back to the Super Bowl.


A Colts/Saints Super Bowl seems inevitable.  I'll watch next weekend's conference championships but I'm already looking forward to the clash of the titans on February 7!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Grease 'n' Groceries

Canadian Tire near my house now sells groceries.  Yup.  Not a big area and no fresh produce but there's 5 or 6 aisles of dry and frozen goods.  Just seems...wrong.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Beer

My buddy Schmeck told me about a beer sampling event at a Cambridge local brewery, Grand River Brewing.  A cool little place whose products I sampled now and then when I was down for a visit.  They had organized 3 tastings once a month starting in January, each focusing on a particular style of beer.  I like beer so I asked Schmeck to sign me up too.

Now I like beer but I'm no connoisseur.  I've consumed more than my share the last 20 years but it's given me no insight into the subtlies of flavour or the nuances of the brewing craft.  I can't pick out regional elements or tell if a given beer is an ale or a lager.  My more eloquent reviews of beer run along the lines of "mmm, good" or "burp".   So I'm not bringing a lot of ammo to this showdown but I'm more than willing to learn.

There was some confusion (on my part) on what the actual day of the first tasting was, and further confusion (also on my part) on who was picking up who and when but we all got there eventually.  This tasting was focusing on India Pale Ales with five representative beers.  Two from Ontario, one from Scotland, and two from up state New York.  The only IPA I'd really had before was Keith's so it was pretty surprising to find out that Keith's is the weak little sister of IPA's.  Do you know what an IBU is?  I didn't either.  Apparently it's an International Bitterness Unit.  Keith's has an IBU of 7.  True IPA's have traditionally started at 55 IBU's.  Yup.

Aside from some interesting beers, what I found even more interesting were the stories of the craft brewing industry and the insider scoop on breweries like Steam Whistle and Mill St.  There's a lot of interesting beers out there and it's more than a little disheartening to find out the challenge of getting those beers to taps in local bars.  90% of bars and bar & grills have contracts from a large distributor that dictates what beers can be made available.  There's no possibility of having a "sampler" tap that would feature a local craft brewer because that would violate the contract.  I really did find it fascinating.

Of course, as with any gathering of people, there were assholes to contend with.  In this setting it was the beer nerds.  There were one or two at each table that only asked questions to demonstrate how truly involved they were in the "craft".  But they were minor distractions.  It was a cool event and it really changed my attitude towards standard beer offerings.  I'll be going out of my way to get these beers from the smaller breweries.  And, if you're in the area, I highly recommend checking out the Grand River Brewing Company.  Great people and great beer.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Rickard's

"Take the best day of your life...and put it in your mouth."

Good god.  That has to be the worst tag line attributed to any product, at any time, in any place.

I like the Rickard's line of beers.  Been a long time Rickard's Red drinker.  But I don't think management was really paying attention when they green lit this ad campaign.

Guy walks into a bar, curiously devoid of ANY women, and asks for something unique.  The bartender suggests a Rickard's.  And then three of the creepier bar patrons I've ever seen proceed to try and one up each other in the description of the beer.  Why?  What are they trying to do?  He's already bought the beer.  Why are they so intent on convincing him he's about to consume the liquid form of Nirvana?  So while they've got this bewildered customer pegged to the wall with their haunting and wanting stares, the bartender comes up with the winning line I started this post with.

Gah.  What if the best day of my life was narrowly escaping a goring while running with the bulls of Pamplona, or catching a monster bass on a sweltering summer day, or escaping Shawshank prison by crawling through a river of shit to come out clean the other side?  Sweet Jesus, those might be great moments but I'm sure as fuck not putting them in my mouth!

Anxiety

I go through this every single time I start a new job.  I show up, there's a whole bunch of shit to learn, I have no idea what's going on, who to talk to, what's expected of me, who's full of shit, who isn't, what's the infrastructure, what are the standards, basically how do you go about getting shit done.  And while I'm frantically trying to sort all this out in my head, I'm also doing my damndest to give the impression I've got it all under control and this is exactly what I expected on my first day.

I live by the words "It's better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt".  But I get these panicky urges in new job situations to blurt out things to prove I know what I'm talking about and that I can participate and that I belong, all to show that they made the right choice in hiring me.  And at the same time I can hear myself and realize that I sound like a douche bag.

But then you get that first review.  Everything's great.  Glad to have me aboard.   Appreciate my contributions and looking forward to working with me in 2010.

So.  Fooled them!  Like I said, it's the same pattern everywhere I've been.  Once I know the snow job has been effectively applied, I can relax and figure out all the other shit.  The pattern has also been that I eventually get disgruntled and quit but that's gotta be at least 6 months down the road.  For now it's good times.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The Macallan - 12

macallan12It's been a bit of a holiday for my scotch tasting.  Holidays, travelling, drinking beer, drinking previously reviewed scotches, and then Mucous Fest 2010.  It all kind of got in the way.  But the airways are clear and the temper is up and it's time to get back in the game.

My sister and brother-in-law got me this bottle for Christmas.  Checking the LCBO web site I see it was a very generous gift.  Not very classy to check the price tag on your gifts but I had to find out to give it a proper rating.  They cleverly used this web site to find scotches I had given high ratings too and then got a similar brand that I hadn't tried yet.  So here it is, The Macallan 12 Year Old.

The aroma is a dominant sherry with a subtle caramel undertone.  Very interesting.  The taste is smooth and again mostly sherry but solid with a light fire going down.  The aftertaste is dry and woody that clears the chamber for the next round.  Awesome.

Overall a very satisfying drink.  The ticket price is a little high and it's a bit too much sherry to get top marks but a great way to get back on the horse and get the liver prepared for 2010!

Happy New Year!  4 shots!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

2010

So, all the Christmas drama and stress is over with, I'm back to work, and it's time to set a course for this new year.  I'm not a habitual resolution maker but I hear the Mayans are predicting apocolypse in 2012 so I better start getting some shit taken care of.  No point in wasting any time, those Mayans were clever mo-fo's.  So here's my no-holds-barred New Year's Resolutions - 2010!

  1. Unpack all my moving boxes.


Whooo!  Yah, I'm probably setting myself up for some disappointment but I think with some extensive planning, scheduling, commitment, and possibly bribing my niece and nephew to do some of it, I have a real shot at getting this list done before the end of the year.  Then I'll have all of 2011 for the whores and drugs.

Well, no time like the present.  Better get started.  "Pitter patter, let's get at 'er", as the Mayans say.

But first, maybe a nap...

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Star Trek: The Old Next Generation

star-trek-crew

Finally got around to watching the latest Star Trek movie.  This was supposed to be a reboot of the original TV series but restaffed with a younger, hipper cast to tell their origin stories.  I was skeptical when it came out in theaters.  Figured it was a shameless 90210-ification of a franchise that needed to move forward not backward.  But the reviews have been relentlessly positive and its been included in many end-of-the-year movie top tens.

So, I'm home alone with a cold, figured I'd try out the Rogers On Demand movie delivery.  Now, I've never been a real "trekkie".  Sure I've seen all the movies, own the technical guide to the star trek universe, was addicted to TNG, and have given each new series since TNG at least half a season to prove itself worthy, but I don't own a klingon dictionary or my own set of ferengi ears.  What I'm trying to say is I didn't have a lot emotionally invested in whether this latest Star Trek offering was good or not but I was kind of hoping for good.

And it exceeded expectations.  This movie is good times.  Great pacing, good special effects, funny bits here and there to keep it from getting too serious, and awesome casting.  Everyone seems to hit those quirks that remind you of the old character but don't devolve into caricature.  The guy who does Dr. McCoy was especially good.  And Simon Pegg is an awesome choice for Scotty.

It's not perfect.  It does involve time travel.  And I fucking hate time travel as a plot device.  It's lazy fucking writing.  And they were a little too obvious in pointing out how the time travel in this movie frees them up to do everything different than the original tv series.  The only movies that manage to make time travel work are the ones that realize how ridiculous it is and have fun with it.  See Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Back To The Future.

But beside that minor detail, I'd recommend this movie to just about anybody who wants to watch a fun, adventure-type movie.

So, that was the content.  How was the content delivery mechanism?  Let me put it this way: Rogers can blow me.  High Definition my ass.  Every scene where there was the slightest bit of action became pixelated and was very NON high def.  And no 5.1 stereo.  And what did this VHS experience cost me?  Eight fucking dollars!  The same high def movie from iTunes costs 6!  A DVD would have been a better choice and I can rent one for a god damned DOLLAR from the movie cube at the grocery store!  And you know what's even less expensive?  Bit torrent.  Why would I not just download the movie for free and at least get a decent viewing experience.  Un-fucking-believable.  Rogers bought themselves some good will with the free netbook I got for signing up but it's just about used up right now.

So, to summarize:

Star Trek  = Awesome

Rogers = Fucknuts

Board Games

trivial-pursuit-board-gameI like board games.  Monopoly, Risk, Pictionary, Cranium, and, of course, Trivial Pursuit.  I like most of 'em.  When I was a kid, it was a fun way to spend an evening or rainy afternoon.  This was obviously before playstation.

These days, there's the occasional games night with friends but the family trivial pursuit throw down is a very rare event.  This Christmas I thought it would be fun to revive the family games night.

A couple months ago some friends of mine bought the Team Edition of Trivial Pursuit and it was a great change-up to the tried and true TP gameplay.  I picked up a copy, wrapped it up, and under the tree it went.

Boxing Day turned out to be a good day to give it a whirl.  My aunt and uncle were up from the states and my sister and brother-in-law were over for dinner too.  First step was to read the rules.  And that's when the trouble started.  The rules are different from the traditional TP.  Not extraordinarily different.  Not difficult to grasp.  Just different.  This posed a problem for a few of the older, male, participants in the game.  I gave it a couple attempts but I eventually had to suggest that we just start the game and try and explain as we went along.

I shouldn't have suggested that.  I should have suggested that we just put the game back in the box and go back to watching tv.  But I didn't suggest that.  I forged ahead, thinking that I could overcome the stubbornness and seemingly willful usurping of the god damned rules by patiently explaining and demonstrating again and again and again.

Eventually the gameplay progressed to an almost bearable pace but then I was reminded of all the reasons we don't play board games as a family any more.  Taking forever to answer a question then complaining about how long the other team is taking, the creative interpretations of the rules, the debating of points awarded, the heated arguments of whether "Rosebud" is the same answer as "Citizen Cane", distracting side conversations about unknown relatives and their current health issues, and the inability of some people to put a card back in a pile without somehow fucking it up.  GAH!

Every button was pushed and I was bubbling over with a tense rage that I usually reserve for John Deere corporate officers.  I made it through the game though.  And then someone suggested we play again.  I got up.  Went to the fridge.  Got a beer.  And then left for the living room to play blocks with my niece.  I could hear the second game of Trivial Pursuit continuing without me but equal parts of alcohol and my niece's winning personality got me to put the whole thing behind me.

I know my sister reads these things so I want to be clear that she did nothing to contribute to any of these rage triggers.  But it will be a long time before I suggest a board game at a family get together again.