Fond Memories of the Stick

Mario Kart makes me want to break things. I have had more juvenile outbursts playing this game than I have in a very, very long time. The funny thing is that when I go online, I can actually hold my own against the real people around the country (despite the game’s lack of any good online interaction…Nintendo, please add a “PWN3D!” message button that you can just hit during the race. Mua ha ha). My problems with the game arise when playing against the computer. It’s freakishly frustrating.

Last night I was about to finish a grand prix and got so angry at the system that I just shut the power off. A similar occurrence happened very often back in the days…of the Casbah.

Let’s drift off into memory. It’s story time, kiddies! My Sophomore year in college, I lived at a house in Morris, MN that my geek roommates and I had lovingly named “The Casbah”. It was not a party house, as we lived right next to the Sherriff. We participated in our share of shenanigans, though, and had a lot of hazy, delightful, drunken old times. There were a total of five of us that lived in the house. Of the five, I still talk to two on a regular basis. Of the five, three went on to law school. These are just factoids, not really terribly important details.

This was the fall of 1996. It was a happy time. I was a strapping young lad of twenty summers. Almost every night, we would shirk our homework duties and gather around the magic box: The Super Nintendo. See, the N64 came out that fall, but none of us could afford one. So we played oldschool games on one roomie’s SNES, and it was a ton of fun. One of these games was the original Mario Kart, and as it supported not one but two people playing at the same time, that was often our game of choice.

The SNES didn’t have a remote control like modern consoles. Oh, no. It had two big purple sliders on top of the box, one marked “power” and one marked “reset”. Frustration with @#$%@ Mario Kart became the mother of invention, and the owner of the SNES (in his mighty wisdom) came up with a brilliant device that stayed by our couch for the duration of the year: The Reset Stick.

The Reset Stick was…a stick. It was a broom handle, actually. However, it was a wonderful way for us to remain comfortably seated on the couch whilst resetting the SNES in our frustration. It was amazing. In fact, I like to think that it was the Reset Stick (and other similar methods likely concocted all over the gaming dens of the world) that led to this bold new renaissance of remote console. I thoroughly enjoy being able to turn off the power to the Wii whilst comfortably seated on my couch, turning purple with rage. Stupid Mario Kart. Why must I love you so?

The Inner Sanctum

Those of you that know me (which I have to assume is all of you…heh) know that I tend to have really crazy dreams. This morning, during a thunderstorm, I was drifting in and out of sleep, and ended up having a really interesting one. OK, not that interesting, just vivid.

I was in class, just waiting for the professor to point his finger at me and make me answer a question from an assignment that I had not read. So, in my dream, I just got up and walked out. I went to my car and drove around the street. (This isn’t so important, but in my dream William Mitchell was situated perpendicular to the way it is in real life…not important to the story but weird in my dream and hard to explain). I got in my car and drove around the corner, and saw police, out of their cars, in a heated gun battle with some criminal types. I promptly turned my car around to avoid them, and decided to go back to class.

I was on a side of the building that I was unfamiliar with, and in my dream the building was much much bigger. I couldn’t get back to the parking lot – something to do with the gun battle. So I parked my car and went into a door at random. I found myself in a hotel that was attached to my school. It was kind of like a hotel/daycare, but there was a concierge/reception desk with a receptionist. Just outside, there was a playground and a swimming pool. The swimming pool was filled with kids around 2 to 3 years old. It was thundering in my dream (and in waking life as well, I later discovered). I told the receptionist to get those kids out of the pool, because it was raining.

Relying on my deft sense of direction, I chose a door that I thought would lead me back to my class. It opened into a darkened section of the building. Have you ever been wandering around a part of a building that you know you’re not supposed to be in, but just couldn’t help exploring a bit? That was the situation in my dream. I started looking around this back area. There was a sink, and a bathroom. I could hear someone in the bathroom, and I glanced to the right and saw that it was the Dean’s office, and presumably the Dean was taking a pee break. I turned around. Down a hallway I heard voices, so I investigated.

At the end of the hallway was a board room, with a board meeting going on. I didn’t want to get caught, so I turned around and went back toward the first door to the reception area. On a table, I spied some dirty dishes. I picked them up and put them in the sink. Then I woke up.

Yep, no clue what that one means.

Back to real life: I got myself a cork, so I made my mead last night. I’m fairly positive that I wrecked it. OK, I’m always positive (read: paranoid) that I’ve ruined beer. Every time I brew it, I think I’ve done something that will wreck it, only to find that it’s still good. This time, though, I think I’ve got a problem. I really thought that the carboy I was using was clean. It looked clean, and smelled of cleanly goodness. I had washed it with a powder cleanser thoroughly after using it last time. I rinsed it out and sanitized it last night. As I filled it with my freshly made honey-water, though, I noticed a spot, maybe a ½ inch square, of crusty old krausen that was still clinging to the side of the carboy, just under the surface of the might-someday-be-mead substance. DOH. That sucks. I’ll let you know in a month, I guess, when I rack it.

Fancy dinners and Star Wars elitism

Kerry and I had a nice dinner last night, in celebration of our seven-year anniversary. We went to Bacio, an Italian restaurant near Ridgedale, and stuffed ourselves silly. It’s amazing how much I now appreciate going out for a nice dinner with just my wife, after having a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gwennerz to pieces and love spending time with her, but it’s very nice to take a break every once in a while. Anyway, if you want a nice dinner I recommend the place, the food was excellent.

In my hasty weekend update I forgot to mention that Kerry and I took Friday off to go see the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum. It was really neat, but we weren’t able to spend as much time there as I had thought we would. That’s fine -- I got to see everything I wanted to see. Perhaps I’m a bad person, but I started feeling a little bit elitist about the whole thing. I liken it to the feeling that a person who went and saw Jerry Garcia play with the Grateful Dead 120 times must feel when he sees a 13-year-old kid wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt. Kind of a “Move over kid, and let me see Chewbacca…I was there, man, I saw it live” thing. I mean, there was a kid – about six years old, I’d say -- listening to his grandmother tell him about the Millennium Falcon. She was saying, “Ooh, this is the space station from the movie,”. GRRRRRR DOUBLE-FAULT! Now this kid (who wasn’t even there, mannn!) is being poisoned by the drivel coming out of the mouth of his ignorant grandmother (who also wasn’t there). Sorry for the rant, these things are dear to me.

Also -- and this is a note to parents everywhere – I am taking a picture of Darth Vader. I am not taking a picture of your kid. Your kid doesn’t know better, but you do. Kindly remove your kid from my Darth Vader shot, otherwise it will completely ruin my ability to capture the look of scorn and hope of redemption from his glossy visage.

One last gripe -- the Omni Theater showed a movie with the Star Wars exhibit. This movie was called "Special Effects". It was from freaking 1996 or so. It showed the filming of "new scenes for the Star Wars movies" and "a new blockbuster called Independence Day" and movie magic from freaking "Kazaam" starring Shaq. Seriously people, that stuff is over a decade old. Science changes in that time...especially the science of special effects. Come on, Science Museum. You can do better.

Keeping on the subject of being a dork, I was in Borders the other day and simply could not resist picking up a copy of “Shadowdale” by…some author. It’s a Forgotten Realms book. Yeah…I’m a dork who occasionally dips really deep into the murky pool of genre novels, but D&D books are good clean fun that can’t be replicated by…well, by better writers, really. Back off, man. I love it. Yes, I’ll lend it to you when I’m finished. ;^)

Last but not least, I got me a cork for my bunghole. That is seriously funny to me. So…maybe some mead will be made tonight. We’ll see.

The Weekendy Weekend

Well hey, whaddya know, today is my anniversary. Kerry and I have, as of this day, been married for 7 years. I’m trying to say this as romantically as possible…ok here I go.

I just wanna give a shout-out to my sweet sugar mamma, who’s been wit’ me all of these years. Baby, you so sexy. Awwwwww yeeeuh. Thanks 4 makin’ this pimp’s heart all a-fluttery.

Sorry sweetie, that’s the best I could do with this early A.M. timeframe. I love you, wifey.

Moving on! The weekend was pretty rad. Well, it started out un-rad, because I was back in class on Saturday morning. That wasn’t such a big deal. It’s an interesting class with an interesting professor, so it should be ok. After class got out, my girls and I went to my Grandma’s birthday party. Gwen had an absolute blast. She got to hang out with her cousin and my youngest cousin…the three of them are all within a few months of each other in age. They had a very good time running around like maniacs, playing ball, and riding on Grandpa Don’s shoulders.

Sunday morning I decreed that we were going to the MN State Fair. So, we hopped in the car and did just that. After causing my lovely wife of seven years to nearly have a heart attack from my driving “skills”, we parked and went in. Gwen had a ton of fun looking at sheep, horses, and cows. I managed to hungrily consume my greasy fair food trifecta: Cheese Curds, Pronto Pup, and Mini Donuts. The deliciousness is still oozing from my pores in the form of batter-fried sweat.

Our fair day was awesome – perfect weather and good times – until we got back to the parking lot. It turns out we had a completely flat tire. I have some sort of back-right tire curse, because this is the third one I’ve had to change in as many years. The other two were on my other car, though, so once again I had to figure out the silly little tire-iron and jack that came with the vehicle. Luckily, even though these items are small and hard to get out of their hidey-holes, their basic function is pretty straightforward. I’m also happy that my Jeep has a full-sized spare tire, because donuts suck (except state fair mini donuts, as previously mentioned).

My WoW experience has become much, much faster, as I am now the proud owner of an epic flying mount. Awwwww yeah.

So last night I was going to brew up my first batch of mead, and I couldn't find my spare BUNGSTOPPER! (seriously, a word like that has to be in all-caps. Sorry.) So, I've gotta hit up the beer store again for an extra one. (oh darn.)


Ugh. I’m really down and disconnected this morning. I grant that it could have been the beer consumed last night at the Flock of Kobolds rehearsal, but I have no physical symptoms of that action. I’m going to chalk it up to being the first night of school. I’m happy to be going back and getting it all done once and for all, but there is still a ton of stress involved with the whole situation – leaving the girls at night, studying, and general preparation for the huge life changes that will be associated with graduation. I know that I should really focus on one thing at a time, but there’s a lot to think about: packing up stuff and getting the house ready to sell, finding a house to move into, moving, starting a new job in a new town…all of these things are a long time away, but I’ve seen firsthand how fast years have started going by, and I know that this one will be like a rocket.

I’m not all that worried about school. I pretty much know the drill there, after three grueling years. There are little things about it that are bugging me, though. First off, it’s hard to go back to having no free time. Second, it’s always rough (as mentioned before) to be leaving my family every night. (Thankfully I actually managed to get two nights off per week this semester. That will be nice.) There’s also the stress involved with graduating this year – you know, making sure that I’ve actually managed to satisfy every requirement. Finally, there’s the bar exam looming over me next summer. Tackling that will be no small feat.

Last night’s practice was super fun, but there was kind of an air of…I don’t know, some sort of disconnectedness, maybe? Discontent, perhaps? I’m sure a ton of it was in my own head because of stress in other areas of life, and if that came through into band practice I apologize, guys. Anyway, hopefully we’ll be able to get together again soon, because it’s hella fun to play ancient ballads and whatnot.

Kobolds and Kart

Well, tonight’s the night that I get to start studying again. Blech. It’s always an awful feeling. I would have put it off until tomorrow night, but I’m going to be far too busy playing Irish music, work songs, pirate ballads and songs from the wood to busy myself with a schoolbook. So there you have it, a Flock of Kobolds shall invade tomorrow evening. May the world tremble.

I picked up MarioKart for the Wii the other day. The game does the franchise proud – it’s incredibly fun. One especially cool feature is the ability to play online with friends. However, there are some gripes I have.
1. Far too many of the tracks involve places that you can fall off. It gets annoying.
2. All of the weapons cause you to lose your weapon when you’re hit. That’s LAME. The fun of the old versions was having that red shell in your arsenal for that moment that the jerkwad that hit you with the shell passes you. Lightning bolts aren’t supposed to rob you of your defenses.
3. The addition of motorcycles and different karts for each character was unnecessary. Come on, each of the characters is different from the others…there’s no need in my opinion to clutter the game with more choices to make.
4. Online play is fine and dandy, but Nintendo should REALLY think about some sort of voice chat or typing thingamajig or something. There is simply no way to communicate with your friends while playing this game, and that’s who I want to play with: My friends. I don’t care to test my mettle against the kid in Beijing. Nope, he can have the trophy, he’s way better than I am. But I want to be able to actually converse with my friends during online play, rather than resort to canned messages that I point at with my wiimote in between games. The only alternative is to have Skype running on a nearby computer, which neither of the dudes I was playing with last night have.

That’s all I’ve got, really. Despite my grumblings, the game rocks.

Small World

The following story might seem a bit convoluted, but if you follow me to the very end, it will all come together. Kind of like the movie Memento, which is awesome and I highly recommend seeing. On with the show.I went golfing last night with Kristian and Ryan. More on that later.

Just after getting out of the car, I got a phone call from Kerry. She told me that she had just gotten a call from her boss, who relayed to her that he was vacationing with some friends on Madeline Island. Said friends have known Kerry for years, as they are residents of the town she works in and frequent the nature center that she works at.

Making a long story very short, it turns out that they own the building that was the one-time residence of none other than Creepyguy himself. Yep. They’re his landlords. Crazy small world. They also confirmed that he no longer lives there, which is reason in itself to cheer and whoop and celebrate.

So last night’s golfing was fun. The night started well for me, but soon some darkish clouds started inching their way across the sky. By the fourth hole we started to hear some thunder rumbling, but the three of us pressed on, trying to convince ourselves that the thunder was far away and that there was no lightning.

By the end of the fifth hole, the lightning was becoming a bit obvious, and the sky was looking a little grim. The horn blew as we were on the tee box from the sixth hole, which signified that the course was closing. The problem was that that tee box is literally the farthest point on the entire course from the clubhouse and parking lot. So, we three brave golf warriors set out across the wide open course, dodging lightning bolts all the way to the parking lot. OK, all except the part about the lightning bolts.

We hopped into the car and drove off, and not two minutes after we started driving it started POURING. It was an absolute deluge, to the point where other cars had pulled off the road because they couldn’t see the road. It was an adventure, to say the least. That would not have been fun to have been stuck in.

After that I went home and played a little Starcraft with Reuben, who fell asleep. I stayed awake way too long after that, playing poker online (for fake money). I discovered this fun little browser-based site, which unfortunately screws up every once in a while. I blame Safari, Apple’s browser, which has some nice features yet still gets all wonky from time to time.

Pirate ballads = the new bluegrass

Years back, the Cohen bros released the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and billions of people bought the soundtrack…myself included. It was filled with old timey bluegrass music, and was quite good. I enjoyed it.

A year or two ago, I saw an ad for an album in Relix called “Rogue’s Gallery”. It’s a 2-disc collection of pirate ballads and sea shanties. I just got it, and it’s freaking amazing. I have a number of friends who are also thoroughly enjoying the collection. It was actually put together by Johnny Depp, who got into pirate songs (you guessed it) after doing the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. So anyway, once again a movie (or three) becomes a medium for releasing old fashioned music on the populace. I care not a whit for the musings of the populace, but I’m quite happy that I got the music.

This, of course, is all because of the infamous aforementioned Flock of Kobolds, who will soon be adding pirate ballads and sea shanties to their ever-growing pub-friendly repertoire. Fal riddle da, wack fol the riddle timmy roo dun dah.

This weekend was pretty uneventful, but fun. Kerry worked on Saturday, so I chilled at home with my lil’ girl. She was quite adorable, as usual. On Sunday the three of us (well, Kerry and I…Gwen didn’t have much input) tried to think of something to do and couldn’t, so we went to the park. Gwenner LOVES slides. She had a great time on the playground equipment.

Last night I got together with Ryan and Corey and we brewed some friggin’ beer. I love brewing, especially outdoors in the summer time. The smell of the wort is just fantastic, and sitting in the driveway tending a boiling kettle gives a sense of peace that can’t really be described, it’s just a good feeling.

The idea behind last night’s brewing is that the beer will be done and ready for drinking just in time for Rhyno’s bachelor party. We’ll have some blond ale a la Ryan, some Scottish ale courtesy of Corey, and some Honey Amber ale by yours truly. Yum times three.

Ootlawed tunes on ootlawed pipes

I’ve been kicking around this idea for at least a year: The idea was to get together a bunch of rowdy guys and make a band that plays Irish music. Well, this idea came up again last week during a conversation with T-Rav, Rhyno, and Lundo. It expanded a bit to include some earthy-type rock music and some sea chanteys and the like. Anyhow, it finally happened last night. The name of this new acoustic superpower is “A Flock of Kobolds”.

We played through a bunch of tunes in Ryan’s basement, and actually ended up with semi-decent recordings of eight songs. The recordings were just into an open microphone, which resulted in some fairly loud cowbell and keyboards and some kinda quite guitars and vocals, but the whole endeavor was fantastically fun. The moments that really made us all go, “Yeah!” were on the choruses of songs where all of us in the room (including Brian, our audience of one) were singing at the same time. Another highlight was the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, where we went around the room with a new singer each verse. Good good good times. However, it turns out that all of us really suck at playing the bagpipes.

It’s a pretty effortless band, too. I don’t doubt for a second that we could play one of the Irish pubs around the city. It’s just a matter of getting all of the little details worked out, after the garishly big detail of preparing the music to the point that an audience, not just the players, would utter the collective, “Yeah!”.

I’m daring to get my hopes up here, but we haven’t seen Creepyguy since Sunday. I think that he actually did move away. I hope that he actually moved away. We’ll just have to see.

The summer is flying by at a horrific pace. I start school again in just two weeks. Yikes. That sucks. However, it’s my last year of school EVER, and that is quite a lot of awesome.