Last week was rough. We’ve been ramping back up at work to a point closer to full capacity and as a result all the workstations that had problems that were never reported, because the user just moved to an open station, suddenly we’re being reported. Plus I was training our new tech at the same time. It was stressful enough that my lower lip broke out with a cold sore that makes me look like I got into a serious fistfight with someone. People keep coming up to me and asking me whose ass I kicked.
The one highlight of the week was getting to meet and spend time with SEB regular Zilch, who was in town for a few days during what sounds like a whirlwind tour of the U.S.. We hung out Wednesday and Friday chatting up a storm and eating dinner out. Friday I drove him all the way up to the wilds of Otisville to see my folks for a bit. It was also a chance to show off a bit more of Michigan than just Ann Arbor, even though Otisville isn’t the tourist mecca of Michigan. The ride back took us through a major thunderstorm that started off with beautiful Anvil Crawler Lightning, a phenomenon that Zilch says he had never seen before, and ended with a torrential downpour that made driving hazardous for the last leg of the trip. We made it back in one piece though and in the morning I treated Zilch to breakfast at Denny’s. Because you can’t come all the way from Vienna, Austria and not get stuck eating in a Denny’s at least once.
Didn’t do much for Father’s day. I saw my Dad on Friday and gave him his card and gift then and we had dinner with my Father-in-Law last night. Courtney called me on Saturday to wish me a happy father’s day and ask what kind of fudge I like. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, I was going to make a big blog post out of it at one point and didn’t, but she’s working in a fudge shop all the way up in Mackinaw City on Mackinaw Island. A job I wasn’t all too keen for her to take as she plans on missing the first semester of college this fall as it requires her to stay through October. That and the fact that she’s some 274 miles away—about a four drive from Ann Arbor—which makes helping her difficult if something goes awry, but I was more concerned about the skipping of school. Anyway, she wanted to send me some of the fudge she’s made so she asked what kind I liked so she could send it along for Father’s Day. Trouble is I don’t like fudge other than the occasional bit of hot fudge on a sundae or banana split. I told her to save her money and just send me a card.
The rest of the weekend was spent either playing video games or watching movies with my cat and/or wife (depending on whether it was Saturday when she worked or Sunday when she didn’t). Barely checked email, didn’t blog or twitter much at all. Pretty much switched the brain off and recuperated. Now it’s time to start another work week. Here’s hoping this one is a little less stressful. Though with my midterms in class this week chances are it won’t be.
I had a three day weekend thanks to Big Dot.Com deciding they like taking bank holidays and, other than Saturday, it ended up being a rather busy weekend. Saturday was the lazy day as Anne was working and I was naughty and spent a little money picking up a couple of cheap video games. First up was Flower on the Sony PS3 by ThatGameCompany. I’ve been keeping my eye on this one for awhile and all the reviews I’ve read said it was excellent and with a price tag of only $10 it was hard to pass up. It’s really more of an interactive art piece masquerading as a game and it’s an absolute wonder to play considering the entirety of the controls consists of pushing one button and using the tilt sensing of the PS3 controller to move around. The last game to use the SIXAXIS motion sensing to steer your character was Lair and it was terrible and probably a large part of why the motion sensing feature is used as sparingly as possible in most games. Flower makes you wonder what the hell was wrong with the Lair programmers that they couldn’t get it right.
The other game I picked up was Valve’s zombie co-op shoot fest Left 4 Dead for the PC. You and up to three other players are dropped into zombie movie with the goal of making it across the map to the rescue point while hordes of zombies attempt to munch on your gooey, chewy, brains. I plan to write up a review on this and Flower later so I won’t go into much detail now other than to say that L4D is hugely entertaining and it was on sale for $24.95 this past weekend if you bought it through Valve’s digital distribution service called Steam. Again, too good of a deal to pass up so I didn’t and I spent a good chunk of Saturday online blasting the crap out of zombies or, even more fun, playing in the 8 player versus mode where you get to be one of the zombies attacking the survivors.
Sunday was spent visiting with family friends where we had a great meal and I spent some time putting in a new video card on their PC so they can play World of Warcraft on it. Then I showed them how to get started in the game and by then it was very late so we headed home. Yesterday we got our taxes done so we won’t have to worry about them come April, plus we needed to know what we earned last year in order to reapply for another Pell grant for school. Not sure we’ll get as much of a grant, if any, this time around (I was unemployed the last time I applied), but it never hurts to try. I did have class last night, but a minor issue at home kept me from going. I sent my teacher an email and will have to make some time to make up whatever I missed when I can.
So that’s what kept me busy all weekend. What have you guys been up to?
As I mentioned previously we stayed home this year due to Courtney and Anne both having to work the holiday. Anne made up a very traditional and yummy Thanksgiving dinner which we ate as a brunch before she headed off to work and then I had seconds with Courtney once she got home. After that I figured out how to carve as much of the remaining meat off the bird to put into a ziploc bag for the fridge. This was a first for me and I believe I did a decent job at it. I spent most of my day alone at home either playing World of Warcraft or working on my sister’s PC which had died awhile back.
Saturday started off OK, but saw me slowly sliding into a funk as the stress of trying to hold onto my job, get through Krismas without going bankrupt, new car problems, and my health started to build up. You already know about how I recently had to apply to keep the job I’m already doing as they’re converting it from a contract to an internal job so I won’t go over that again. The Krismas issue is the standard one of not having enough money to do all the things I’d like to do in part because there’s all these other problems cropping up. I don’t even have a new artificial tree yet and I have a feeling I’m going to end up buying what I can afford as opposed to what I would like to have and that happens so much these days that it’s really frustrating.
The latest car problem involves the driver’s seatbelt. Something has gone wrong with the latch for the belt such that simply sliding in the tab doesn’t latch it and I end up having to repeatedly ram the tab into the latch to get it to, well, latch. Obviously this doesn’t affect how the car runs, but I’ve been in enough accidents to understand how driving without a seatbelt puts me at risk of more than just a traffic ticket. I have no idea how much it’ll cost to fix it, but I’m sure it won’t be cheap.
As for health problems, well I’ve mentioned previously how I’ve been having a problem with my arm muscles for about a year now where if I stretch too hard to reach something it feels like I tried to rip my arm off. In my right arm this has gotten progressively worse to the point where it’s now constantly sore with a dull ache and even simple efforts like reaching to my back pocket to pull out my wallet while sitting in the car causes excruciating pain. I have no idea what could be causing the issue. Perhaps a blood clot or a vitamin deficiency, it’s hard to say, but I’ve gone ahead and made a doctor’s appointment for this evening to have it checked out. Trouble is I’m sure it’ll be the sort of thing where I’ll need to have all sorts of tests done to figure out what the hell the problem is. Tests that’ll probably only be partially covered by my crappy insurance.
Add all of that up and I’ve not wanted to do much of anything over the past several days which is part of why I haven’t blogged like I had intended to. I tend to be fairly laid back so when I do get stressed I tend to really over-stress and as such I ended up being awake all Saturday night into Sunday morning. I finally went to bed about 8AM, was back up in an hour to drive Anne to work as she got called in on her day off, went back to bed an hour later and slept until 2:30PM. I’m feeling a bit better today, but not quite back to normal. I was depressed for about two days and now I’m just kind of out of it. Which means I’ll probably be back to (what passes for) normal tomorrow.
So Friday was Halloween and it’s a good thing that my in-laws dropped that bag of candy off as we actually had a few trick or treaters this year. Not a whole lot, the one bag still had a fair amount left over when it was done, but enough to make us feel like we actually got to participate for a change. Another cool part of the evening was getting to meet at least one of our neighbors who were also giving out candy. It was their first Halloween in the townhomes as well and were just as curious as to whether or not we’d see any trick or treaters. Ended up chatting with them (I’m not mentioning their names because I’m not sure if they’d be comfortable being blogged about) for a good part of the evening well after the ghosts and goblins retired for the night and we had a lot in common. I’m looking forward to hanging out with them from time to time.
Saturday was spent running about for the first half as Courtney worked early in the day and then Anne worked in the latter half. About the time Anne went to work Courtney was ready to come home so after dropping the wife off I hurried over to pick up the kid. She was upset because her paycheck was a lot less than she expected it to be so she called work when we got home and discovered that she’s paid weekly and not biweekly like she had thought. So we got back in the car and went up to her job so she could pick up the second paycheck she didn’t know about. Then down to Fantastic Sams so she could get her hair cut. We were back home for about ten minutes when my phone rang and it was Anne asking if I could run a book up to her place of employment. She’s working in an assisted living facility for folks with traumatic brain injuries and had been assigned to sit and monitor a client who had been having trouble. That meant a lot of time sitting in the room doing nothing. So I grabbed the book she’s been reading and piled into the car and ran it up to her job. Fortunately all of us work within five minutes of where we’re living these days so this wasn’t as much running around as it seems. I had a massive headache by the time I made it back home, though, and spent the rest of the day zoning in front of the TV and playing WoW with Courtney.
Everyone had Sunday off and we spent it being mostly lazy. Anne worked on the laundry and we all sat around and watched the Marky Mark movie Shooter during dinner. Other than laundry not a lot was accomplished yesterday.
That’s what we’ve been up to, how about you guys?
I had intended to get some blogging in this weekend, especially after seeing headlines that the Big Three might become the Big Two which would be huge news for us Michigan people, but I couldn’t think of what to say that would be all that interesting. In fact I’ve been in a bit of a blogging malaise lately. Maybe I’m just burned out from all the political drama what with the upcoming election and all, I’m still astounded that the Presidential race is going to be close, or maybe it’s the changing of the seasons. Not sure, but I know several of you have sent me some very good links lately hoping I’d write something on them and so far I’ve had little to nothing that seemed worth saying. It probably doesn’t help that I’m currently participating in both the Wrath of the Lich King and LittleBigPlanet beta tests and both ate up a good chunk of my weekend. So I’ll write a little bit about those for now:
With regards to Blizzard’s expansion to World of Warcraft all I can say is: Wow! As far as I know they haven’t updated the graphical abilities of the client in any way, but you’d almost swear that they did with just how gorgeous the WotLK expansion looks. The designers have really learned how to squeeze every last drop of goodness out of the client. If I had to guess I’d say that most of the improvement comes from improved texture use, but it’s also clear that they’ve learned a few tricks to making the low-polygon models look like they’re more detailed than they really are. Of particular note are some of the special effects. Fire, for example, has always looked a bit cheesy in WoW so when I first stepped foot into the Ember Clutch and saw all the trees caught in the midst of a fairly realistic looking forest fire I was, to say the least, impressed. There’s another effect when fighting the ghosts of a Norse looking race new to the game on the beaches of Riplash Ruins that caught my eye immediately. When the ghosts die they explode into a pile of seaweed. The expansion just looks fantastic all the way around and the variety in landscape is higher than I thought it would be given the frozen theme of the expansion.
It’s also obvious that Blizzard has learned a lot over the years in how to tell a story in a MMO and make people feel a part of the world. The main villain of this expansion, Arthus aka The Lich King, shows up early and often rather than just sitting in his dungeon waiting for players to get high enough to take him down. Not only do Death Knights interact with him quite a bit during their first two levels of experience—you have to go through a quest line to free yourself from being his slave—but he also shows up in at least one of the two starting zones for people arriving in Northrend. Reportedly he shows up through various quest lines all the way through the different zones of the expansion. Did I mention the expansion is huge? I’ve been playing the beta since shortly after it opened up and I’ve only gotten to level 72 on two of my characters, my hunter and my mage, and I’ve only made it to three of the different zones so far, not counting Dalaran which I got portaled to at one point. I’m sure someone will power level their character to level 80 in just a day or two, but for those of us who actually play the game for the content it should take a couple of months at the least to get to 80. It’s amazing to see how much stuff they’ve crammed into the game and I’m looking forward to seeing client 3.0.2 drop tomorrow bringing a good chunk of the user interface and game changes along with it. It’ll basically contain everything except for the new Northrend content to the current game.
The LittleBigPlanet beta has been a blast. The first few platform levels you’ll go through teach you everything you need to know about how to play the game and control your sackboy as well as getting you started on your collection of items you can use to customize the game. It feels a little simplistic at first, but it quickly becomes apparent that it has a lot of hidden depth. Already there are a ton of user created levels available all of which it was recently announced will be carried over to the live game. The game is as gorgeous and cute as the screenshots have shown and it can be surprisingly difficult to snag all the collectibles in a level. I’ve not created much of anything myself yet, but I’ve had a blast seeing what others have come up with. One person managed to put together a fully functional electronic calculator in the game using the available parts. It’s a surprising creation that leaves one to wonder what else might be possible. I think this one is going to sell a lot of PS3s.
So that’s what I did with my weekend. How about you guys?