Monday, October 31, 2005

an open letter to civic planners

Dear Civil Engineers,

What in the Sweet Holy Eff is wrong with you? Is there something in your All-Purpose Civic Rulebook that states:

Rule 9.) Any government building housing Traffic Court must be one of the hardest buildings in the city at which to find parking.



- Jesse Harlin

Serieusement. I got my traffic ticket taken care of; but it was annoying to try and find parking. As was the case when I had to go to the Hall of Justice in LA. As was the case in New Jersey. As was the case in Philly.

By the way, classiest part of my trip to traffic ticketland? The people standing in line behind me who were looking through mugshot books for people they knew.

And finding them.

Classy, kids. Classy.

Friday, October 28, 2005

some things are universal

No matter what religion you are, no matter what Higher Power you're speaking to for a big ol' cosmic free pass, the two inescapable truths seem to be Death and the DMV.

I spent an hour at the DMV today waiting to change my address and renew my registration. While there, I saw these three gents.


The pic might be hard to see in its small form. Click on it for the larger version.

You're looking at three Buddhist monks sitting in line at the DMV so as to renew the registration on the MonkMobile or something.

It's moments like that that I have a camera phone for.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

canned evil

I went to get myself a soda out of my Diet Cherry Pepsi Fridge Pack today, and instead I pulled out this:


Yes, I realize you're thinking "Wow. You went to get a soda and pulled out ... a soda? Way to go, genius." But, what the picture doesn't show is that:

1. The can is severely dented.
2. The top is completely sealed. And
3. The can is completely empty.

Not a drop of soda in it. I was kinda' baffled and showed it to my friend Harrison. He decided that it must contain some kind of curse, as though I'd stumbled onto Pandora's Pepsi Can.

I have to say, I understand Pandora's dilemma. I'm dying to open this thing ever since he told me it might contain something evil.

Maybe there's a genie in it? I guess I'll never know. If I open it up, it just becomes a dented can. With it closed, it's a mystery.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

i rool skool

From now on, you can call me Sensai 'cause I'm Master of the Bejeweled Dojo.

I know I was talking a bit before about the timesuck that is Bejeweled and how I had been in "The Zone" earlier. Eff The Zone. The Zone is nothing compared to the Zen-like state of oneness I achieved with Bejeweled last night.

I was getting ready to leave work, was waiting for everything to shut down, etc., when I fired up Bejeweled to kill some time. What I didn't know was that I had just begun a 2-hour game of Bejeweled that would shatter my 18,750 high score.

Two hours of sitting in my office so long with only my thumb moving that the motion sensitive lights kept turning off on me ... Two hours of getting up and heading down to my car with the game paused, then trying to pick it up again to convince myself that my office didn't have special powers that would allow me to reach such great heights of Bejeweled. Two hours where I realized I could run down the battery and perhaps kill the game without having it ever record my high score.

Two hours with one game of Bejeweled when I should have just driven home and hung out with Amanda. My high score is now 89,520. One day, The Sensai will break the 100,000 point barrier.

But, you know, maybe when I have 3 hours to spare.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


I don't know what causes it. Maybe it was due to the half moon last night? Who knows. What I do know is that last night - on my way home from work - everyone around me was driving like assholes. It was odd. Everywhere I went on my way home, people were driving dangerously: cutting each other off on the freeway, merging at breakneck speeds into stopped traffic, etc..

Here were my two favorites.

"Scene 1 - In Which Asshole Alpha Takes The Long Route"

So, I pull up to a stop sign outside our office (see figure 1).

Figure 1.

As there's a car coming up the other way - without a stop sign - I wait like a good little driver before I can make a left turn (I'm the green car). Well, Asshole A decides to slow down and approach the intersection by wiggling their car slowly back and forth a bit. After coming to a stop half turned in the middle of the intersection, I decide to go. Once I'm gone, they then wiggle their way past me straight down the rest of the road they were on. (see figure 2).

Figure 2.

"Scene 2 - In Which Asshole Beta Does Some Rethinking"

Later, while driving through some of the backroads of the Presidio, I find myself driving down a little two lane road. Coming the opposite way is some car with his high beams on. That makes them an asshole to begin with.

However, I notice that I'm somehow not getting any closer to them. Disorienting as it is, I eventually figure out that they're reversing up the street at about 30 miles per hour. The end result is that I'm not passing them and their high beams continue to blind me. Eventually, they do a three point turn in the middle of some intersection and go about their merry way.

I mean, honestly ... one of those weirdos driving on the road in a night would have been enough. But both of them within 5 minutes of each other? And then everyone else being weird on the freeway? I just don't get it.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

oh, how the mighty have fallen

Manda and I went out Friday night to the movies and saw Chicken Little, Disney's newest animated film and the first in their attempt to make a CG film comparable with Pixar.

If I were Pixar and saw this film, I'd probably send Disney a letter afterwards that read:

subject: holy eff, man...

Dear Disney,

We here at Pixar knew you guys were fucked when we said we weren't going to renew our contract with you. But, man o'man ... we had no ideajust how fucked you guys really were! Thanks so much for making the "Disney Is So Undeniably Mega-Fucked Demo Reel" known as Chicken Little as a means of clarifying. We appreciate it.

Drinking champagne and dancing in the streets,
- Pixar

Seriously, this film was ass. Once the greatest animation company in the world and an innovator in every sense of the word, Disney has fallen to the ranks of 9-th rate imitators. They try to do a little bit of what everyone else who has made a CG film in the past 5 years has done, but without really achieving any one element. The end result is a hodge-podge of unfocused slop.

Honestly, watching the film is like watching a series of board room meetings. Five minutes into the film you can see the meeting where someone said "We must use licensed pop music frequently, just like Shrek." Ten minutes in you see the "Pixar is all about heart-warming Parent/Child conflict stories" meeting. After about an hour, there's the "You know what was great? The old Warner Brothers approach of making jokes that only the adults in the audience will get, while still making it entertaining for the kids" meeting.

The problem though is that - like anything else - if all you're trying to do is emulate other people's work and creative energy, you can't possibly recreate it sincerely. And that's where the whole movie falls apart. The sad thing is that all of those other animation companies were inspired by the work Disney did successfully for 70 years. Now the innovator is trying to play catch-up in a world that passed them by years ago.

Chicken Little isn't the answer. The script sucks, the licensed music soundtrack sucks, the basic execution of the whole thing sucks. Somebody over at Disney better stop analyzing A Shark's Tale and start innovating again. Until then, Disney is just going to continue crapping on their legendary name.

fill in the blank

Driving home last night from work, I found myself behind a car with a bumper sticker that read "BUSH KNEW." It hit me at that point how sad it is that I had no idea what the bumper sticker was trying to say. Which of the many things was it trying to tell me Bush knew?

- Bush knew in advance about the 911 attacks?
- Bush knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
- Bush knew that Iraq had nothing to do with 911?
- Bush knew he was lying when he made his case for war?
- Bush knew in advance about the Valerie Plame outing?
- Bush knew about plans to oust Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez?
- Bush knew the war wasn't over when he declared "Mission Accomplished?
- Bush knew that you can't successfully win a war against a noun like terrorism, drugs, or poverty?
- Bush knew well in advance about the severity of Hurricane Katrina?
- Bush knew Michael Brown didn't have the qualifications to head FEMA?
- Bush knew oil company revenues would sky rocket during his administration?

There's probably more I'm forgetting. Point being, it's sad. The words "BUSH KNEW" are trying to be so powerful and poignant. Problem is, there are so many things that it could refer to that it almost loses all of its meaning.

Feel free to add any more you think I'm forgetting.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

if you want to be happy for the rest of your life ...

Manda and I have found a wonderful new hobby that we enjoy spending together. No, it's not one of the typical couples hobbies (antiquing, wine-tastings, being old). No, instead we've discovered the joys of blowing up cars.

Lest anyone think that Demo discs don't work for video game sales, here's a nice little story. Manda and I buy some Official Playstation Magazine Demo Disc so that we can check out Sly Cooper 3 and Rachet: Deadlocked. Sly Cooper = more of the same. Rachet = a radical change to something oddly more akin to Republic Commando than any of the other Rachet and Clank games. Regardless, we were luke warm on both of them.

Now, Amanda decides to select the demo for Burnout: Revenge. Personally, I couldn't have cared less (note to idiots: the phrase is "I couldN'T have cared less" as in "I care so little, there isn't any less that I could care about the issue at hand." Not "I could care less" which means "I care to some degree." and goes against the snarky point you're trying to make). I don't like racing games. Never really have. Something about trying to just get a car around a track as fast as you can without crashing seems to put it somewhere between chess and fly fishing in terms of excitement for me.

But not Burnout, baby. I didn't realize that the entire point of Burnout is to smash cars up as much as possible. Knock your rivals into walls. Fly off of jumps and land on traffic. Drive an SUV into oncoming traffic with the only goal being to create the greatest amount of monetary damage possible.

This game rules. The physics are rad. Taking out rival cars with a well-placed shunt into a wall results in a slo-mo cut away shot of them smashing in a ball of fiery vehicular wreckage. Hoo nanny; it's fun.

I guess the moral of the story is, "The couple that smashes the shit out of rival sports cars together, stays together."

That's my relationship advice for the day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

people to watch out for

Bits and pieces of things today. Here's a list of things that you might want to watch out for:

- Southwest Airlines is policing our t-shirts now.
- Anti-video game lawyer Jack Thompson has lost his mind and is now designing games himself.
- The nation's grandmothers are organizing against the Army.
- China's cheap labor costs are causing some seriously nasty requests from US companies to their workers.

And on top of all of this, another Category 5 hurricane is hurtling towards Florida.

Bad times.

Monday, October 17, 2005

totally illogical

I bought a $20 upgrade for LogicAudio Pro 7. I did it to stay up-to-date with the current versions.

You know what though?

This thing is trash. Total trash. Apple totally fucked up Logic in this version and it's pissing me off.

Oi, Apple, stop messing with Logic and fix what you broke, jerks.

I mean it. This sucks.

Friday, October 14, 2005

handing out awards today

My neighbor officially wins the 2005 Worst Freakin' Car Alarm Award.


(Kudos to Ry for the Photoshop update on the trophy.)

Anyway, congrats, Jerk. So what set you over the top? Well, for one thing, it's the fact that your car alarm was the loudest I've ever heard. I mean, it's like they actually think some one two states over will hear it and think "Holy Crap! Those poor folks in California! Someone's stealing their car! I'd better get over there fast!"

Add on top of that the actual tone of the alarm. Now, most alarms are just a monophonic "HONK! HONK!" or "WHOOP! WHOOP!" Whatever. This jerk's car is breaking new ground with a polyphonic alarm. Two pitches playing together in harmony alerting the world that someone nearby slammed a door too hard.

Now, harmony is new for car alarms. What are you going to do with a polyphonic car alarm? What interval do you use? Good question. Whoever invented this car alarm, however, apparently decided to go with one of the most obnoxious intervals of all time: The Tritone!

For those who don't know, the tritone - or diminished 5th (or augmented 4th) - is a very dissonant interval. It tends to grate on the nerves and was even known in the Middle Ages as "the devil's interval" because they hated the sound of it so much.

So, with a volume firmly set at 11 and the siren's call of "TRITOOONE!!! TRITOOOONE!!! TRITOOOOONE!!!", you - Neighbor Jerk - are this year's winner of the Worst Freakin' Car Alarm Award.


Thursday, October 13, 2005

trimming the fat

I've been listening to The Beatles white album a lot today. I found it tucked into someone's iTunes list on our network.

I gotta' say, it's always been one of my least favorite Beatles albums. It's just always felt to me like it was all over the place and extremely disjointed. But, not in a good way like a Beck album. More in a bad way like ... well, like the white album.

Anyway, I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but today I decided to just start unchecking the tracks I don't like. Lo and behold, I was left with an incredibly solid single album's worth of Beatley goodness. It's got some really great song writing, really great production work, etc.

One of my favorite moments? Track one, Back In The USSR. There's just something so "eff you, Brian Wilson" about it. As if Paul felt the need to say "Brian, mate, you're trying so hard to do what we do; but look how easy it is for us to do what you do." Snarky.

Only downside? Though she's never bothered me before (with the exception of some stuff on "Double Fantasy" [Kiss Kiss Kiss anyone?]), Yoko's voice is really starting to grate on my nerves.

Anyway, in case anyone's interested, here's my proposed track list for the white album:
Back In The USSR
Dear Prudence
Wild Honey Pie
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
Happiness is a Warm Gun
Martha My Dear
I'm So Tired
Rocky Raccoon
I Will
Mother Nature's Son
Sexy Sadie
Helter Skelter
Revolution 1
Good Night

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

another round, ner vod

Just finished a little interesting task. I got an email from Ryan Kaufman, game designer/author/and Mandalorian Language Beta Tester. Turns out that he'd written the first Mandalorian folktune out of all of the work Karen Traviss has been doing on creating the Mandalorian Language for a number of her upcoming Star Wars books.

Ryan emailed me and asked if I could plunk out the tune on the piano and send it to Karen so that she could hear it. "Not a problem," says I. Thing is, once I started, it was too hard to just leave it at just the melody; so I figured out the accompaniment for it, too.

It was nice to get to return to the good old mando'a days of Republic Commando, if only briefly and peripherally at best.

Still, it was nice. Ryan wrote a nice folk tune and it was fun to hammer out the harmonization.

If anything, it convinced me that I haven't lost all of my musical knowledge over the span of the past 12 months of spreadsheets and Williams editing. So, that's a good thing.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

not nearly as entertaining as "A Bug's Life"

We have ants in our apartment. As far as I can tell, they are entering our apartment through a hold in the wall behind our behemoth of an entertainment center, marching their way around the living room rug, and then disappearing into some sort of worm hole near the sofa. Try as I may, I can't seem to follow them to any sort of destination. They march halfway around the rug and then ... turn around and go back the other way.

So, now I need to go buy ant poison. Fun.

I didn't sleep well last night. I had two stupid ideas, both of which worked beautifully in concert to give me a restless night's sleep.

Idiotic Idea 1.) Leave the door open to our room to create a cross-breeze.

I've been really hot at night ever since ... well, ever. I'm just hot at night always - at least, when I try to fall asleep I'm hot. So, I leave the window open and turn on a fan and then by about 3 in the morning I'm cold. But initially, I'm really hot. Some mornings I wake up to find that my t-shirt is soaked with sweat (TMI, I know). Anyway, I thought that leaving the door open would allow for a nicer cross-breeze and I would be able to fall asleep easier.

Didn't work.

Idiotic Idea 2.) Let the cat sleep at the foot of our bed.

I thought, "Well, if I want to let the door stay open, then maybe the cat will come in and snooze on the foot of our bed like she did all day Sunday." I don't know why I wanted this. Maybe just due to the inherent Normal Rockwellness of it all. Regardless, our cat sleeps during the day, not the night - and I should have thought about this.

At 5:30 in the morning, she climbed up onto my chest and wanted to play. When I was tired and grumpy at being woken up, she climbed off of me and started to mess with Amanda. Luckily, I was able to get the cat out of the room before Manda woke up.

The moral or the story is: Jesse doesn't know what he's doing when it comes to sleep.

Monday, October 10, 2005

back in the saddle again

Vacation is over. The housewarming party is over. All were good. We got a lot of nice compliments on our apartment and on our decor which felt nice since I'd been cleaning, painting, and whatever all week long.

Some odds and ends:

1. It came to my attention this weekend that not everyone knows the word "spum" yet. Fair enough, since I invented it only a few years ago. I guess it takes longer than that for a word to work its way into the culture at large. None the less, for those who don't know, here's the def:

spum ('spuhm) n. Unwanted food or waste - typically liquid or gelatinous in form - that clings to one's clothing without their notice, putting itself at greater risk of spreading to other clothes/people/tablecloths/etc.

I just ruined my favorite pants because I didn't notice that there was some spum on my shirt sleeve.

There you go.

2. Eyezmaze has some great little time sucking games on it. My favs happen to be the GROW series. Originally, there was simply Grow. Well, I'm happy to say that there are now three different versions of Grow: Grow, Grow Cube, and Grow RPG. Good stuff; they're all very fulfilling to beat.

3. The Blogger spell check is retahded. I spell-checked my post here to find that I had typoed the word "originally" as "origially." Doesn't look all that tough to me ... but to Blogger, it was suggesting "Wriggling," "Heroically," or "Wrigley." Lame.

'Kay. Time to listen to "Rocky Raccoon" while I dig through a week's worth of piled up eMail.

Friday, October 07, 2005


house warming party tomorrow. cleaning today. no time for capitalization or full sentences.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

emergency planning 101

I don't know why, but I've had a very Zombie-filled vacation so far. While doing various art projects, cleaning projects, and art cleaning projects, I've occasionally been turning on HBO or On Demand for some background noise.

And I've ended up watching three different Zombie movies this week: Night of the Livin Dead, Resident Evil 2, and Shaun of the Dead.

Here's what I've learned:

1.) In case of a Zombie infestation, get in your car and head for the highway. Zombies are slow and don't drive. If you make it to the highway, you're totally safe.

2.) Head to Hove Mobile Park, ND. What is this place? It's a tiny little town in North Dakota that has an official population of 2, according to the US Census. That means there's a lot less people to have to keep a watch on.

3.) Invent and/or bring along a sniper rifle that shoots flaming bullets. Aparently, guns and fire are your best friend in case of Zombie attack.

4.) Aim for the head. I don't know why this is, but it just seems to be so. For some reason everything in a Zombie can continue to function when reduced to dead tissue. Something freaky and ugly will reanimate them and they'll just keep on keepin' on no matter what you do to them - unless you obliterate their brain.

"But Jesse," I hear you ask, "Isn't the brain just as much dead tissue as the rest of the Zombie? Doesn't that seem to not make any sense?" Believe me when I say "true dat." That said, if Zombies do start to attack my little Hove Mobile Park safe haven, I'm not really going to try and have a philosophical debate with them.

Anyway, that's the plan. Highway, North Dakota, Flaming Sniper Rifle. Clearly my vacation is being used to really figure out some heavy-duty stuff that benefits all of Mankind.

I'll let all ya'll know when I figure out the plan for Vampire Mummies.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

the continuing saga of bungled-up bench

I'm heading north again right now, back up to West Elm for the second day in a row.

I picked up our new storage bench yesterday, brought it home, and started to build it. Now, I'm an IKEA veteran. I've got a black belt in hex key and majored in modular furniture construction in grad school. At first, I was uber-impressed with West Elm's instructions. Everything was well labeled. All of the parts were well labeled. All of the steps were written out in clear and concise English. Kudos.

Unfortunately, when I got to Step 2 I found that the instruction diagrams no longer matched the pieces of furniture in front of me. As we continued to put it together, Amanda and I discovered that Wooden Dowel Hole (B) was drilled too far down and caused two dowels to push against each other at a corner joint. End result? Broken bench due to wood buckling and splitting.

I was pissed.

I called West Elm this morning. I asked for the sales lady who helped me yesterday. After treating me like a stalker ("Sir, we're not allowed to give out information about our employees' work schedules."), we chatted about the effed up piece of bench on my living room rug.

Much to their credit, they offered to 1.) replace it for a new one, and 2.) build the new one for me so that it'll just be waiting for me to pick it up when I get up there.

So, I'm taking broken-old-bench #1 to replace it for nifty-new-bench #2.

We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

found lots of Johnny Bench baseball cards, though

Vacation. It's typically a treasured word. I'm in the middle of one right now; and yet, I barely care.

See, I got to a point at work where I hadn't taken any vacation time and was about to max out on my allotted amount of stored vacation hours. So, rather than simply work without getting any vacation time, I'm taking this week off so as to allow myself another week's worth of hour storage. There's no feeling of needing to decompress for a stressful period at work. There's no feeling of relaxation, freedom, and escapism. I'm just burning vacation hours. Woot.

So! My "vacation" so far? Totally focused on fixing up our apartment in preparation for the Housewarming Party we're having on Saturday. Manda and I have been hanging pictures, painting pictures, shopping for lighting and home accessories, etc.

Speaking of that, I spent two hours last night poking around online trying to find a nice bench we could put in our living room. I was shocked at how long it took and how difficult it was to find something. I've become so spoiled in the Google Era of the Information Age that I get frustrated if I can't find the information I'm looking for in under a minute. To search for something for two hours is nearly unheard of for me these days. I'm clearly not a research scientist.

Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Pier 1, Cost Plus, Macy*s, Sears, JC Penney, a dozen random online furniture stores, Scandinavian Designs, Craigslist, eBay, Ikea ::shudder:: - none of them had anything. It's not like we were looking for some ridiculous bench that no one else has. I just wanted to find a nice, simple black or dark wood bench, preferably with some storage, for about $200. Apparently, though, that isn't what sells, because the world has got some freakin' tacky taste in benches.

Take, for instance, All ugly. It's an entire website devoted to nothing but benches and I couldn't find a single, simple black bench. Am I nuts to expect that to exist?

None the less and frustration aside, Froogle eventually came through after two hours and a billion permutations of search terms and I discovered a cool modern furniture store that I didn't know about before. West Elm has the perfect storage bench that we wanted. Ry, you might be interested to know that the prices for their modern stuff are relatively reasonable and they have a store in Santa Monica.

So, today the house work continues. I'm headed up into Marin to pick up the bench and some other little things like a shower curtain and a floor lamp.

It's not the most fun vacation in the history of ever. But it's getting stuff done, so it's good.