Monday, October 27, 2014

And Now I Can Say I've Been to Twin Falls

Three trips in three months. Geez. First, Calgary in August. Then, England for the third time in September. And now, at the beginning of October, the exciting town of Twin Falls, Idaho.

Since I'm a horrible person and was kind of fed up traveling with my coworkers, this trip was awesome because it was solo. Just me. It created a whole bunch of fun new stressors like driving a rental car and navigating a new city all by myself, but those sorts of things just make you stronger.

And it was a near flawless trip. All my flights were on time. I never got lost. No one lost any of my reservations. The robot set-up had no problems. It was awesome.

Since there wasn't much to do in Twin Falls, I spent my little bit of down time eating at great restaurants and taking in the river and the falls.

This was my view from Elevation 486, a fancy restaurant on the Snake River. I ate baked brie and butternut squash ravioli while enjoying the colors of the canyon during sunset.

On my free afternoon, I traveled up to Shoshone Falls. There wasn't much water following over the falls, but the leaves were just starting to change.

And to prove I didn't just google "Shoshone Falls", here's one with me, too.

That night, I ate myself nearly sick at Jaker's, watched hours of 'Love it or Leave it' on cable (which I don't have), and tried to get to bed early for my ridiculously early and my ridiculously small flight out of the Twin Falls airport the next morning.

My nerves were on fire of three days straight because I was on my own. So many things could have gone wrong, but I had so much fun. It was an adventure, ableit a small one. Who knew you could have so much fun in a tiny town in Idaho?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Ten Rules of Having Your Friends Help You Move

Yes, this post comes a little of you left-field. Recently I left a comment on Jessica's The Lovely Side website and she rolled it into a whole post. I personally haven't moved in a while, but I have racked up a lot of experience with it in the last few years.

Since I'm in my late twenties (that hurt me to type), I've helped my friends move quite a few times now. It's like weddings, every couple of months, a friend promises pizza and beer in exchange for moving their stuff across town. We all do it. We're too cheap for movers and you can't say no to friends.

I haven't moved in over three years now, but here's a lovely picture of me from that day. It was August in Arizona. I got an asymmetrical sunburn from how the boxes pulled my shirt neckline down. It was a terribly hot and long day, but it would have been much worse if I hadn't coerced all my friends to help.

In the years since, I've returned the favor numerous times. Just like weddings, there are good moves and bad moves. Here are the ten rules of having your friends help you move so that they will still be your friends by the end of the day.

  1. HAVE YOUR STUFF PACKED UP BEFORE YOUR FRIENDS SHOW UP. This is first and in all caps because it has happened to me waaaay too often.  Your friends don't want to help you pack or clean, they just want to move boxes in and out of vehicles. Don't be that guy.
  2. Clearly label on boxes and furniture what room you want it put in. On a sofa, it can be as simple as a piece of painter's tape with 'LIVING ROOM' written on it in marker. The less people have to ask you questions, the faster everything will go. 
  3. Have a truck/trailer/moving van ready. Again, this should be pretty much common sense, but don't try to make all your furniture fit in people's cars. 
  4. On that same note, have a spatially aware person in charge of fitting all the furniture and boxes together. Having to unpack and repack a moving truck because the mattress doesn't fit is miserable. designate a person to tetris everything into place to keep people from just throwing boxes in the back of the truck. The more stuff you can fit in each vehicle should minimize the amount of trips you'll need to take. 
  5. Pack boxes with breakables and fragile items you couldn't stand to lose in your own car. Don't put that pressure on your friends. Let them take big bags of clothes and boardgames and books and anything else that they probably won't damage. 
  6. Give a piece of paper to everyone with the address of the new place. Asking people just to follow you is not OK. They should have the address, general direction on how to get there, and maybe a description of what the house looks like. Helping a friend move, he transposed two of the numbers in the address, wanted us all to follow him, proceeded to pull over for things falling off the back of the trailer, and lost most of us. I refuse to speed through a yellow light in a crammed car full of your belongings.
  7. Have food ready and waiting at the new place. When we moved, I sent my sister ahead to pick up pizzas and sodas. That meal midway through should give you a good second wind to unload everything. Trading food for moving doesn't count if it's some future promise of food another day.
  8. Just like weddings, you get one, maybe two, moves tops our of your friends before they refuse to help you anymore. I have a friend who moves roughly once a year. Once his lease is up, he's sick of his place and he's out. If you choose to move that often, calculate the cost of movers into your budget because your friends are over it. 
  9. Make sure the utilities are turned on at the new place. When I moved into my first apartment, my roommate hadn't gotten the electricity turned on yet, which she did not tell me until I had arrived at the apartment with all of my stuff. She thought I was being whiny because there wouldn't be AC. I was upset because I didn't want to move in in the dark. We had roughly 30 minutes to unload four vehicles before night fall. Then, I had to dig through all the boxes to make an overnight bag to stay at Dan's place. There needs to be electricity, water, and working heat/cooling. Also, toilet paper.
  10. Try to make it fun. Play some music. Dance around. Jump in the pool for an impromptu pool party at the end of the day. It will be a long day, but it can be a great memory with your friends if you smile through it.
Moving is so incredibly stressful, just make sure to follow these rules so that you aren't stressing everyone else out as well.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tucson Meet Yourself:2014

Every October gets crazy in Tucson. It's our one month of Autumn so absolutely everything happens at the exact same time.

Usually the highlight of this insanity is Tucson Meet Yourself. Somehow, though, I forgot about it this year. Thankfully, my friend David reminded me and we organized a big group outing to fill ourselves to the gills with food from all over the world.

For those not in the know, Tucson Meet Yourself is a cultural festival that takes place annually in downtown Tucson. It's three days of musical performances, crafts, and food stalls celebrating the diversity of Tucson.

The nickname of the event is 'Tucson Eat Yourself' because everyone who goes does so mainly for the food. It's ridiculously cheap and the portions are huge. If you aren't stuffed by the end of the night, you did something wrong.

In order to keep track of how much we ate, I took pictures of everything we had.

Potato and Cheese Pierogis
Dan's Chicken Adobo
Vegetarian Pancit
Hawaiian Ice, Dan's favorite
Pineapple Ginger Juice
Freshly made Cinnamon Sugar Mini-Donuts
It's also a great place for people watching. Where else do you see an almost pirate with a giant macaw?

It's so much fun every year. I would have been incredibly sad if I had missed it. A reminder will be set in my calendar from here on out.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fan of Friday: Week of 10/10/2014

Maybe it's because I've been a real engineer for 3+ years now, but Dilbert is starting to make scary amounts of sense to me. This first one is my favorite.

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Since I've been traveling more than usual lately, I managed to read most of the books in the house. However, Dan has a half dozen comic strip anthologies of Dilbert.

The best part is that all the books are from like 1994 so the technology references are so out of date that it adds a fun new element to the strips as well.

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Also, things at work are becoming so muddled by bureaucracy that it's nice to read some mockery of the process.

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I heard an anecdote once that if your job starts to resemble a Dilbert strip, that's a bad, bad omen. I like to think now that Scott Adams is just a genius and every job, no matter how great, eventually gets exposed for the Dilbert strip it is. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Project House Update: Hot Hot Mess

Look how much progress we've made on the fireplace!

Yes, it looks like a bit of a mess right now, but it's changed a lot since you last saw it four months ago. Here's where we last left it:

Now, you can barely see any of that terrible orange-y brown. All the sheets of tile are up. What Dan ended up doing was fitting and placing full, unaltered sheets on the fireplace and coming back later to fill in the edges with individual tiles. He did a row at a time, letting them completely set before going onto the next one.

The only real challenging one was the one that bridged the opening. It took two sets of hands and was almost a disaster. If we were to do it again, I would set them in the spanning row until it just reaches the opening, let them dry completely, then do the thinner bridge pieces.

The lefthand wall edge and the gas key hole (what the hell is that called?) are done, but the righthand wall and the fireplace opening are still left to do.

My job in all this fun is to clean the tiles. That's what all those weird, ugly dark spots are. Just wet, clean tiles. I sit for an hour every evening on that tiny stool and remove the extra, messy mortar that Dan accidentally got on the tiles when installing them. I've worked out a pretty good system with a bowl of warm, clean water, a stiff bristled toothbrush, and tooth pics.

Since it will be impossible to fill in all the gaps and get the edges perfectly smooth, Dan found a grout in the identical color of the tiles. The plan is to just it to fill in all the tiny little gaps, the ones that are big enough to see, but not big enough to tile. We may end up using some of it to line the opening of the fireplace. And there's still the interior of the fireplace to do, too. They make black thermal paint for things like that, right?

We're finally in the home stretch. Once all the tiles are installed and cleaned, carpet can be reinstalled. Since tiling is such a dirty process, no point in installing carpet until the fireplace tile is 100% done. And once there's carpet, there can furniture again. Maybe in time for Thanksgiving so my dining room doesn't look like this anymore:

Although it worked great for getting out of hosting last year so maybe it's best not to rush.

Monday, October 6, 2014

TV Round Up: 2014

In both 2011 and 2012, I wrote a post on almost every single new show that debuted in the Fall. It was A LOT of posts, which is why I grew tired of it by 2013.

However, this year, every single show will be reviewed in one big post.

television 2014

If you get bored and go back and look at those old posts (you could start here), you'll see that my ratings were surprisingly accurate. Anything I gave a B- or higher survived the full season. I'd like to say that my ratings also correlated to which shows also got a second season, but TV executives are stupid (I miss you, 'Go On').

A to Z - Let me put this up front: I do not like 'schtick'. Off of the top of my head, I can't name one 'schtick' show that has succeeded in my eyes. The closest, before the end of last season, would have been 'How I Met Your Mother' and the fact that they went back to the schtick at the end ruined the show for me. That being said, I don't like the 'schtick' of this show. I like Zelda, she has depth. Andrew, however, is an annoying wimp. I'm not calling 'romantics' wimps, just this guy. Maybe this says a lot about my view on people and relationships, but I really want Zelda to force Andrew to grow up a bit before dating him. He's naive and selfish. The two leads weren't even my favorite characters. I found the bearded best friend to be the most endearing character. And the British female best friend. B
Bad Judge - I like Kate Walsh. I like feisty mess Kate Walsh even better. It's got a well-rounded cast. It may not have much of a direction right now, but I much rather start watching a show without a direction than one with one that's poorly executed. For this show to last, though, it's going to need more of a larger story, like the development on 'the Mindy Project'. B
The Mysteries of Laura - Couldn't make it more than five minutes. Left to take a shower and came back. Basing a hole show on one barely likeable character was not a smart decision. It would have been much better if they had just eliminated the family aspect of the show and only focused on the police department. C-

Blackish - The cast has great chemistry. It seems to rely a little too much on popular sitcom tropes rather than being its own show. The voice over was a bit over the top and the screen labels and the visual hyperbole. It's probably just over the top since it was the pilot, but if they reign it back a bit, it could be interesting. B+
Forever - First series to get a hulu favorite of the new bunch. Good fit for ABC, it felt very much like Castle. I like the idea of a big villian, but shows become so disappointing after the big villian is resolved (aka Red John on the Mentalist). I like the backstory on Abe, it's a nice twist. I wish, though, shows wouldn't pair opposite sex partners just for sexual tension. Why couldn't they just be platonic? I really wished the secret would have been revealed to the lady cop by the end of the episode, too. And why does his former wife look like she's 17? Probably to prevent her from looking older if the series run for several years. The showrunners better hope the main guy doesn't age poorly. A-
How to Get Away with Murder - This pilot sucked me in more than I thought it would. The final twist was pretty great. However, I don't think I'll be watching this show. I have a hard time trusting Shonda Rhymes. Her shows start out enticing and quickly escalate to absurdity. Also, I really wanted the guy from Harry Potter to play his character British. Why couldn't he have an accent? If you're going to burn and bury a body, wouldn't you dig the hole first and then burn it in the hole? That way it reduces the risk of someone seeing the fire and you don't have to move burned guy into the hole? It'll probably be great for people that like these types of shows, like Scandal and Revenge, but it's not for me. A-
Manhattan Love Story - Ok, another sitcom based around a schtick: internal dialogue narration. The only reason I want to like this show is for Analeigh Tipton. She's adorable. However, the show tries to turn her into a blonde version of Jess from 'New Girl', but shyer and less quirky. It's endearing, but not believable. And the male lead could be interesting if they focus on him growing into a better person from being around the female lead (not a good sign when you don't know the character names). This could be a better show if they round out the cast and make it more of an ensemble. Purely focusing on two characters who have loud thoughts won't be enough to save it. C-
Selfie - This show got so much bad press before it even debuted that I decided I needed to like it without having seen it. I love Karen Gillan (redheads got to stick together) and any show John Cho has been on has been great (I MISS YOU, GO ON and Sleepy Hollow is just insane, yet genius). However, it's another show based on a 'concept' of John Cho mentoring Karen Gillan until she's a better person. When will writers learn that you can't sustain a show on these concepts? You're just setting yourself up for failure. Hopefully, it will evolve, but for now, I'm skeptical. C+

NCIS: New Orleans - I like spin-offs. None of this clunky character introduction. Strong cast. Soft spot in my heart for the guy from 'Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift'. Nothing remarkable about this show. It's just like watching an episode of 'NCIS: Los Angeles' set in new Orleans. B
Scorpion - I'm really not a big fan of the 'I'm so smart that I can't function in normal society' schtick. Why do people believe that geniuses can't take care of themselves? I know they try to explain it away, but I don't buy it. Also, "I have a high IQ" "I have a high IQ" "I HAVE A HIGH IQ". Ugh. I could become a fan of this show if they flush out the supporting characters. You know I'm all for a well-rounded female mechanical engineer on TV, as long as they make an effort to round her out, not just immediately make her a romantic interest for someone. And I love Robert Patrick, I don't know why though... C+
Stalker - I wanted to like this show. I have such admiration for the way Maggie Q plays strong characters. This show is terrible, though. It starts off thinking its viewers will buy whatever they sell. A car wouldn't explode like that. Period. It's not how cars and gasoline work. I don't like when shows use 'the news' to talk about the case, but says things that the real news would never say, like 'burned alive'. Also, Dylan McDermot's character has absolutely no redeeming qualities. He's a misogynistic, obnoxious asshole and any attempts by the writers to get me to feel sympathy for him will go over like a lead balloon. I read a review which talked about how much this show hates women and I have to agree. Maggie Q strength unfortunately is not enough to balance out the harm this show does to women. D

Gotham - I want to like this show, but I'm fearful that they're trying to do too much to live up to the mythology of the characters. It felt like they were trying to tie too many characters into the premiere. I would have been fine with them waiting a few episodes or even until the second season to introduce characters like Catwoman, the Penguin, Poison Ivy, and the Riddler. I do like that they made Alfred rough around the edges. B
Gracepoint - Well shot, the opening tracking main street shop is quite impressive. However, that's not enough to draw me in for a ten week mini-series. I can't say anything other than the filming struck me as good during the episode. If I didn't see episodes 2 through 9 and only saw who did it in episode 10, I would be okay with that. C
Red Band Society - This show has potential, but I have a hard time seeing right now how you stretch the premise into a whole season, let alone several seasons. And I found myself poking apart the show. If Leo is going through chemo, which is why he is bald, shouldn't he not have eyebrows either? Also, couldn't they hire an actor who is actually missing his leg? Bright spot: childhood crush Thomas Ian Nicholas, aka the 'Rookie of the Year'. Ugly spot: Astro, the punk from X-Factor who should just go away. This could be a good show, but I don't know if it's for me. B

I can't get the CW at my house. I may start watching some of their new shows once they're up on Hulu.

That's every show released by the time I post this! Well, minus 'Cristela', 'Mulaney', and 'Madam Secretary'. Perhaps the lack of review speaks more than a review itself. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fan of Friday: Week of 10/3/2014

Lately, I've been very into Sean "Day9" Plott. It's actually quite odd if you know anything about what he does.

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He hosts several gaming themed shows on Youtube.

He hosts a show on 'Magic'. I've never played 'Magic' before not do I have any desire to play it.

He hosts a show on 'Starcraft'. I'd never heard of 'Starcraft' before seeing his show.

While the games he plays are completely foreign to me, it kind of makes sense with my history of gaming. I really just enjoy watching other people play games. Growing up, I didn't play that many, but I love watching my dad play. Even now, some Sunday dinners turn into us all sitting around the living room, yelling instructions at him as he shoots aliens or Nazis. 

I don't know exactly how I got started watching his shows, but it's worth it because he's so good at weaving a story. He goes off on tangents quite often and I usually find the tangents the most entertain part of the show. It's amazing when you consider he shoots everything live.

My favorite show that he does is called 'Mostly Walking', where he and two of his game design friends play old adventure style games. You don't have to know anything about games to enjoy some humorous people play drinking games about the ridiculousness of the dialogue of a game that's 20 years old.

He's quite addicting, so be careful before you get drawn in. At least he films like three hours of footage a day so you won't run out of things to watch any time soon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Stock a S'mores Party

Over the weekend, we had our annual pool party. Yes, I know it is technically already Fall, but since the pool was still 80+ degrees, no one cares.

In addition to the traditional swimming and barbeque, this year I made a S'mores bar. Here's what you need to build your own s'mores bar:

Graham Crackers:
  • Regular graham crackers
  • Chocolate graham crackers
  • Cookies (I accidentally bought some soft baked ones. They didn't hold up well for s'mores. Pick drier, harder cookies.)
  • Plain marshmallows
  • Flavored marshmallows (Chocolate brownie were tasty)
  • Peeps! (We didn't end up using Peeps because I couldn't find any. We did have a very spirited debate at the party if the sugar on the outside would burn before the marshmallow inflated.)
  • Hershey bars
  • Reese's
  • Filled or flavored chocolate squares (these Lindt ones were a bit small, but quite tasty)
  • White chocolate
  • York peppermint patties
  • Dark chocolate
Other fillings
  • Fruit, like strawberries and bananas
  • Spreads, like peanut butter and nutella
Tools You'll Need
  • Long skewers (short, wooden kabob skewers worked, but I really thought my hand would be medium rare by the end of the night.)
  • Paper plates (So you don't have to clean up afterward, just into the fire they go!)
Part of the reason we had so many options is because we had so many dietary restrictions. One of my friends can't have chocolate, so she used white chocolate. Another one of my friends can't have dairy, so she used dark chocolate. And a third friend can't have gluten, so he brought some gluten-free cookies.

It was an amazing success. We spent the night gathered around a firepit, debating the best way to toast the marshmallows, and trying so many types of s'mores until we couldn't move.

If you'd like to watch a bit of video one of my friend's filmed of Dan trying to build the fire, it's quite entertaining. Thankfully, he didn't burn down the house. Not bad for his first real fire.