Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Help! (post by Alana)

Okay...somebody needs to help the southern chick with the butter tart issue.

I made them Friday night. A huge mess, flour everywhere; I had a crust-wrestling match, the whole shebang. But they tasted...not bad.

They were better Saturday, as the filling had set properly. We had friends over, and forced butter tarts on them. Nobody died.

But on Sunday, the strangest thing happened. They started forming this solid sugar disk in the bottom of the tart. Allan joked that I'd accidentally made Scottish tablet as a byproduct, but I have to tell you, this is making me mad. All that work (and lard) to end up with rocks in the bottom of the tarts? Ummmmm...no.

Poll your Canadian friends and neighbors. If someone knows what I'm doing wrong, I'd appreciate some advice.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

So, so wrong... (post by Alana)

I have a confession to make.

Today, I bought something that should be illegal. Not drugs or guns, or anything so exotic, but deadly just the same. For the first time in my entire life, I bought...lard. I found it in a dark corner of the grocery store, on the bottom shelf, right next to the diced kittens.

Allan's dietitian might kill me. My doctor would surely have a stroke if he knew. We might as well load the stuff on trowels and plaster it to our innards.

The culprit in all of this? A Canadian delicacy known as the butter tart.

Allan hasn't seen butter tarts in years. I tried once to make them, but they were runny, and didn't look right, and I wasn't happy with them. (And they didn't contain lard.) So he put out feelers on RPG.net recently, and a few kind souls (or makers of Tricor) responded. And one of the posts caught my eye. When the first line reads, "For the pastry, we just use the recipe on the side of the Tenderflakes lard package," you know you've got trouble.

So I looked at other recipes. Many other recipes. Read reviews. Debated AND contemplated. Finally, I decided that there are still 30+ million Canadians up there despite Tenderflake's efforts, and to just get on with it. So I bought it, earlier this afternoon. I had my child with me, and I went ahead bought lard, setting a bad example for all time.

It's still sitting on the counter in its deceptively cheery little green and white package.

Since getting home, I've made a batch of the mother of all appetizers/artery blockers--sausage cheese balls. Sure, I feel guilt over those. They're awash in fat and cholesterol, and have no redeeming nutritional value whatsoever. But they don't contain lard. Technically. Not listed in the ingredients. I know there's pork fat and dairy fat and god knows what else in them, but the word 'lard' is nowhere to be found.

What IS it about that word? It's so tainted now that it's hard to think about cooking with it. Shortening is bad enough; I haven't had it in the house in years. Butter is awful for you, but it's pretty damn tasty. But lard? Really?

I swear I'm going to try to make those tarts tonight.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Uh-oh....nothing since Gen Con?

Well then, it's time for me to step in and update.

Allan's been busy working (his job), working (writing), and working some more (an Excel project). If you then count the time he's spent with Logan on his math homework, I think he's running into negative hours for sleep and such.

Logan is adjusting to junior high: the aforementioned, much dreaded advanced math class; learning to play French horn; and running from one end of the school to the other in the allotted four minutes. (When did they start getting FOUR minutes to do this? We went to his open house--it's a big school, and I can't fathom him having time to get from class to class, let alone stop at his locker.) Add in school dances, football games and soccer tryouts, and he's staying pretty busy as well.

I've spent the past couple of months job-hunting, after a stint with the U.S. Census Bureau. I worked there from March to August of this year, and oh, the stories I could tell...except for the fact that they'd put me in jail. At any rate, I'm now finding out that the job market is worse than ever. I've had a few interviews, but nothing solid, and it's getting really discouraging.

Another very recent event here concerns Allan's health. He went to the doctor last week for a routine check-up, and got a call back this week with some unsettling news--he's diabetic. This isn't new territory for us, as I'm diabetic, but it's really hard to wrap your head around just how life-altering that one word is. There are most certainly other, more frightening things to hear from your doctor, but this is a nasty one. I know it's going to be difficult for him, but I hope in the end we'll make changes that are better and healthier for us all.

And let's hope that some day, somehow Cadbury will make a better-tasting sugar-free chocolate than Hershey has managed.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

GenCon 2010: The last two days

You might be wondering what happened to my blog posts about GenCon. Turns out, I got busy on Saturday and didn't have a chance to post anything more from the con.

Saturday morning I spent some time in the booth, then it was off to run a game of Godlike. The game was "Sinking the Lutzow", and it was my first time running it. It worked pretty well. Ironically, I thought it was going to be the stronger of the two Godlike games, as it had way more potential for roleplaying, what with lots of French contacts, Berber encounters, and Nazis. In actual play, the players were more interested in getting to the the shooting bits. It was fun, but not quite as intense as I had expected.

Afterward, I ate supper at Steak 'N Shake and then it was back to running a game. This time it was the second running of "Repo Men" for Wild Talents. I had two players show up with tickets and two with generics, even though the game was sold out. Ah, Saturday night, you temptress. One of the guys with generics wandered off to get something to eat, and was never seen again. (Dude, you could have just told us you got distracted, so we wouldn't wait for you!)

I recognized two of the players. They were a father and son. I ran a game of This Favored Land for them in 2008. It was the first time that the father had ever played a roleplaying game. They bought my book and now they were in my Repo-Men game. The game started a little slowly, but once it picked up it really picked up. There was plenty of mayhem and insanity. The three players figured out the central mystery, but it took until near the end. There was much cheering and everyone enjoyed themselves, which was the best praise a GM can receive.

I made my way back to the hotel, talking to Alana. While there, I got a call. The rest of the Arc Dream Team was at the Embassy Suites about to play Fiasco. I'll write more about Fiasco later (it's a story telling game). It was about 4 hours of intense insanity and enjoyment. We got to sleep around 3 am.

Next morning, I spent more time at the booth, and picked up a die for Alana to replace the d8 she bought last year mistakenly (it got mixed in with the d10s she bought). Then, off to my final game. This was "Sinking the Lutzow". The group was a bit smaller, 4 players instead of the previous 6. But it played very well, with two players having played Godlike before and two as newcomers. They sunk the ship, stopped the Nazis, and escaped Casablanca following a short E-boat chase. Good times.

Back in the dealer's room, I tried to buy Fiasco, only to find it had sold out largely due to a positive tweet by Wil Wheaton. Then, the show as over. We started packing up the booth, and then Kevin and I were shooed out as we only had GM, not exhibitor, badges.

I crashed briefly at the hotel, then we went off to dinner. The Alcatraz (San Fran themed restaurant) was hideously slow. The food wasn't bad and the company was wonderful.

Several of us helped finish packing the rental truck with pallets of product. We retired to our room for an hour or so of yapping, then it was off to bed.

Monday morning we were up early (5:30 Eastern) for the trip home. I dropped Ben Baugh (of Monsters and Other Childish Things and Kerberos Club fame) off at the airport and then I drove back home, listening to the rest of Use of Weapons on audiobook and singing to The Tragically Hip.

All told, a very good, fun convention. But I'm glad I'm home, so that I can get some sleep!

Here's the stuff I got at the con, which is a bit less than previous years as we were on a budget:

  • Setters of America: Trails to Rails board game.
  • a box of 15mm Black Devils Brigade figures
  • Death Angel, a Space Hulk card game
  • Psi Duel. This is a two player card game by a small company who was stuck in the worst part of the dealer's room. It was inexpensive and it's apparently a good little game.
  • Progenitor for Wild Talents
  • eCollapse for Wild Talents
  • Kerberos Club for Savage Worlds
  • a Monsters and Other Childish Things t-shirt
  • Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity (I had pre-ordered this)
  • Bigger Bads for Monsters and Other Childish Things (I had also pre-ordered this)

Friday, August 06, 2010

GenCon 2010: One of the best adventures ever

I had a blast playing Wild Talents today and Godlike yesterday. But today's game of the Sessano scene from The Black Devils Brigade was the best convention game I'd ever played. The group just clicked, they had some horrible misadventures due to bad dice rolls, they did some awesome stuff, and within the last half hour of the game they lost 3 characters to enemy action (one had their head knocked off, one had their head blow away with 20mm shells, and the third was shot through the forehead). But everyone had a blast, and in the end they killed all the German ubermenschen.

I played my "Repo Men" game for Wild Talents earlier. It was a lot of fun, too. They did some awesome stuff, and managed to bankrupt a major super villain while not destroying the city of New Orleans. I run that one again tomorrow night.

Other than that, not a lot that I could get into. I had only about 30 minutes in the dealer's room today. I bought the new Settlers of America: Trails to Rails board game. I also found 15mm scale First Special Service Force miniatures, which I'd only been looking for for about a decade!

The convention centre is buzzing right now (where I'm typing this), but it's hard to get into anything. I cruised through the board game section. All the games were full up and in progress, and no one was looking for an extra player. If I had some other people around I'd maybe pull out the new Settlers game and give it a try. It's a little frustrating being around all this action but not being able to get involved.

It's after midnight now, so I think I'll head back to the room and see if I can get up a bit early. I was so exhausted from yesterday that I slept in until 8:45 today. Yikes! That's no way to go to a convention!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

GenCon 2010 - One down, five to go

I ran the first of my 6 games today. This was from the upcoming The Black Devils Brigade book. The players took on the Germans in the Italian town of Sessano. Though they almost lost a character due to a nasty German superman, they all survived intact. I believe the entire group (7 of them, which is 2 more than the stated capacity for the game) were all friends. It was a little different running the game for a large group who all knew each other, but it was a lot of fun.

And now I'm beat! Time to go to bed.

GenCon 2010 - That was a little weird...

...and by weird, I mean watching someone else run a roleplaying game that you wrote. Kevin Pezzano ran the first part of my Black Devils Brigade book. He did a really good job, but it's kind of weird seeing someone else run "your" game. The players appeared to enjoy it, even if it did devolve into Inglorious Basterds at one point (perhaps even because of it).

I made it through the dealer's room for a first pass. I stood in line for 15 minutes at Fantasy Flight to buy Death Angels, the Space Hulk card game. That was way down from earlier today when there was a big rush to buy some of their new games.

Other than that, I picked up some dice for Dustin. There are a few things I'm curious about. I'm debating picking up the new Settlers of Catan game; it looks good, but it's a little pricey.

Anyway, I'm done eating (Steak 'n Shake has free wifi). Now it's off to grab my stuff for my evening game.

GenCon 2010 - Free stuff

Made my lunch after showering this morning. This is something new I'm trying: packing a lunch each day at GenCon.

After that, I traipsed down to the convention centre. There is a massive throng waiting to get into the dealer's room already (and it doesn't open for another 20 minutes).

I'm sitting in a lounge area. They did not lie, they have free wifi! Woohoo (again). I don't have an exhibitor's badge this year, so I have to wait in line like the other peons. While I wait, let's look at this year's free swag.

Well, you can certainly tell there has been an economic downturn. Not much of any worth in the GenCon bag.

There's a free 6-sided die by Crystal Caste. They make a commemorative dice set each year. I bought one 2 years ago. Didn't get the set last year, as I didn't care much for it. This year's is okay, so I'm on the fence on it. (They do this deliberately, of course: one free die to coax you into buying the entire set.)

Mayfair have a free little draw string bag advertising Settlers of America, part of their Settlers of Catan line. I plan to get this, as we are big Settlers fans. I'm hoping the little bag is actually useful for the game.

Other freebies include a card for the Universal Fighting System CCG and a Dungeons and Dragons comic.

That's it for free stuff in the bag. The rest is an oversized Magic, The Gathering card (not sure the use in that, except that it is apparently a "plane" card, and so it might actually be of use in the game). There is a bunch of advertising that's going to get trashed forthwith. And, there's a coupon book.

The coupon book isn't bad. There are a couple of really cheap or actually free things in there, but you have to swing by a specific booth to get it. For instance, Paizo is handing out Pathfinder buttons. They are free, but you have to get them from the booth. That's a smart idea.

Some of the other coupons look useful, most aren't. A couple of standouts:
  • An ad for free downloads from DrivethruRPG.com
  • A free set of 10 train tokens from a company that sells Eurogame card sleeves. This might be for Ticket to Ride, so I'll swing by there.
  • 20% off a Settlers of Catan "gaming surface and storage case". Looks interesting; probably expensive.
  • A starter set of The Spoils CCG for $5. I think they had the same deal last year, but I missed it. Might look at that.
  • Ah, good ol' Troll and Toad. They are an online game store that has a lot of old games. They also charge collector's prices on said games. ($110 for Glory I from GMT? I don't think so.) If you spend $20 there, they will give you a free game worth $30 from a specific list. One of the games they list is Vapor's Gambit, a hoverboard (like a flying skateboard) race game. They were selling these for $15 last year... then $10... then $5... and then at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday they started giving them away for free. I have a copy (unplayed) from last year. Now it's a "prize" worth "$30". *L*
Now it's 4 minutes until the dealer's room opens. Time to post this, grab a convention guide book, and head inside.

Ciao for now...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

GenCon 2010

I'm at GenCon!

Once again I'm in the Westin – hope the elevators work okay this time. Once again, they want to charge you $10 for wireless internet in the room. The Red Roof Inn in West Monroe charges $49.95 a night with free wifi. The Westin charges $150 a night (fortunately, since I'm sharing with a bunch of other Arc Dream guys I'm here for free), doesn't have rollaway beds (I brought my inflatable) and still wants to charge you for wifi in the room. I think there's free wifi downstairs. I may get to use that. There is supposed to be free wifi in the convention hall itself.

The trip was long, 12 hours long to be precise. I made good time up until the traffic jam in Illinois and the bad weather in Indiana. The police are thick on the ground in Illinois. I saw more police in Illinois than all other states combined. This is staggering as there were four police cars in Louisiana as I left, Mississippi is usually pretty bad for them, and Memphis police are notorious for pulling over vehicles for minor infractions.

I noticed that the parking has gotten incredibly pricey in Indianapolis. I went to an Indy web site before coming here to find cheap parking. There were a few lots listed, but the prices are out of date. It looks like a bunch of them recently bumped the price up to $20 a day. I'm not parked at the hotel, as they want $22 a day. Sounds cheap, but I'm going to save between $8 and $10 parking in another lot, the same lot that 2 years ago charged $12 a day. *sigh*

Otherwise, it was a good trip. I listened to Iain Banks' Use of Weapons on audiobook. I'm about 2/3 done.

Ben Baugh and James Knevitt are running a game of Monsters and Other Childish Things tonight as part of a prize for some folks who bid extra money on one of Arc Dreams' ransoms. John Marron and I are chilling in the room.

Tomorrow, I have the whole day free until 6 pm, when I run my first game (an adventure from my upcoming The Black Devils Brigade campaign book). I'll see what I can get into, do some face time at the booth, and probably cruise the dealer's room. Need to get some sleep, soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How Sony nerfed the PSP

I really enjoy my Sony PSP (Playstation Portable), which I've had for two years now. It's a portable game device, but it also acts as a video and MP3 player, and you can connect online through wifi.

Unfortunately, it is a victim of bad timing and some poor decisions by Sony. The timing part can't be helped. Some of the decisions could be changed, but I don't see that happening, and that's a pity.

Stuff That Can't Be Changed: Hardware

Here is a picture of the PSP:

(For what it's worth, mine's silver.)

The PSP's form factor is dictated by the large screen. When I hold it a comfortable distance from my eyes, the screen is larger than a 32" HD TV would be 8 feet from the couch. (After a half hour or more of staring at the screen, I have trouble re-focusing my eyes. It sucks getting old.) To protect such a large screen you need a protective case. The best one I found was by Logitech; it's clear (though you can put a skin on it) and padded. It works very well, but it adds another 1/4" all around, and a little more weight. It has gaps for head phones and controls when sealed, making ideal for playing MP3s.

Games are loaded into a hatch in the back. The games are on an optical disc in a U shaped plastic housing, called a UMD. Sony, ever the fan of proprietary media formats (remember Betamax?), anticipated folks buying movies on UMDs and watching them on their PSPs. (You can get a cable to plug the PSP into a TV, but the image quality is not up to DVD standards.) This never really panned out, so you can pick up a bunch of movie UMDs cheap. I have several. I haven't watched many of them, but they certainly came in handy the last time I had to fly.

The optical disc format allows a good deal of storage, but it adds weight and is cumbersome compared to the Nintendo DS, which uses cartridges.

One very important feature of the PSP is its ability to take flash memory cards. Again, unfortunately, Sony's love affair with its own formats comes into play. It uses Memory Sticks (specifically, Memory Stick Pro Duo). I won't go into the technical aspects (there are web sites claiming Memory Sticks are not as good/fast as SD cards). I can read SD cards in my computer and can use microSD in my phone but can't with the Memory Stick. If you buy a Sony computer, you might be able to read the memory sticks. I think the Memory Sticks can be used in the Playstation 3.

I will note that Memory Sticks are more expensive than similarly priced SD cards. I picked up a couple of 4 GB cards when they were US $18 each. I just checked, and Office Depot has the 4 GB sticks on sale for $18 again. By comparison, they have a 4 GB SDHC card by the same company (Sandisk) for $12.99 and a 16 GB SDHC card for $40. Memory Sticks are still way cheaper than the PS2 memory cartridges, which still sell for the extortionate price of $25 for an 8 MB cartridge.

All of those decisions are understandable. I don't mind the optical drive, though it's a pain having to buy special plastic cases to keep them safe. And Sony can't be faulted for failing to anticipate the rise of downloadable content. In fact, the latest version of the PSP, the PSP Go, doesn't have the discs. It is strictly operated through downloadable content.

Sony can be faulted for the asinine power switch. It's a spring-loaded slide on the side of the device. You flick it up and release to turn on the device. That's okay. To turn it off, you have to flick it up and hold it for about 5 seconds. If you just flick it up briefly, you put the PSP into standby mode. This is so natural a thing to do that for 3 days after getting the thing I thought the battery was bad, as it kept dying on my quickly. Turns out that I kept throwing it into standby instead of shutting off. On standby, it's still using power. I have to double check it every time Logan uses it, to make sure he shut it off. You can't switch the PSP off from Standby. You have to turn it on then turn it off. Annoying.

If you flip the switch down, it puts the program into Hold mode. This stops any of the other keys from working (which is what you want when listening to music). If you aren't careful when turning off the Hold you'll flip it from Hold to Standby, which is also annoying, especially if all you wanted to do was turn on the display to see how much time is left on an audio track.

The battery life kind of sucks on the PSP. You get maybe 3 hours out of playing a game, if that. The display is the culprit. I can go about 10 hours on music alone (which isn't great, but is livable). You can buy a better battery. It's bigger, and comes with a new battery cover due to the bulge it creates. I've thought of picking one up. You can run the PSP from a USB connection to a PC or through a power converter to your car's power outlet. This is ideal for playing music on long trips.

Stuff They Did Right

There is some amazing stuff in the PSP. You can view several video formats, including .avi. You can listen to audio files. You can view images (I know for a fact it handles .png and .jpg). You can install a free file manager, but I just plug it into my computer and treat it like a flash drive. It attaches to the computer through USB.

With the recent upgrade, you can read digital comics. You have to download a reader, though, so I haven't bothered. This is the same issue with the Internet radio, which also requires a downloaded program that is stored on a memory stick.

The PSP has wifi built in. This morning I upgraded the operating system via our wireless router. You can pull down RSS feeds, play internet radio, use built-in Skype (if you get a microphone headset), and use a built in web browser. This is all through a wifi hotspot; it's not an iPhone.

Stuff That Can Be Changed: Software

Two years ago, at GenCon, I tried to use the browser at the Conrad hotel. I couldn't connect due to the log in screen the hotel was connecting through. The PSP ran out of memory. This just happened again this morning, as I tried to read my blog using the browser. It popped up with an out of memory message. I don't know why it ran out of memory, as there is half a gig available on the memory stick that's in it right now. It's safe to say you won't be using the browser for much more than gmail. I need to try it with other free wifi hotspots. I'd still rather use our netbook, as it's a pain to type out even a short e-mail with the PSP. It has a control that's not much different from a regular cell phone.

I use the PSP for music. In fact, I use it more as an MP3 player than as a game player. It plays music. It can run tracks back-to-back without a gap. You can fast forward, reverse, shuffle. You can store music in "groups" (folders).

On the downside, the PSP is missing some pretty basic abilities found in pretty much every MP3 player on the market. I can only assume that this is so that the PSP doesn't cannibalize Sony Walkman sales.

What's missing:

  • You can't play songs by artist. You can save songs from one artist in a folder and play them as a group.
  • You can't play songs by album. You can save the songs from one album in a folder and play them as a group. However, if you do that, you can't play by artist (see last point). You can do it one way or the other.
  • You can't shuffle across all your songs unless all the songs are in a single folder. You can shuffle within a specific group, but not across all groups. So, for instance, if you put all your songs in groups by artist, you can't shuffle among all your songs. You can put all your songs in one single group to allow random shuffling, but now you can't play by album or artist.
  • The PSP doesn't keep track of where you last left off if you turn off the device. It keeps track while on standby, but not if you power down. This is a major pain when playing audiobooks. I had to keep track of where I was when listening to Stephen King's Under The Dome in a little notebook.
  • The PSP isn't loud enough. You have to really crank it up to get decent volume.

Except for perhaps the volume issue, this could all be fixed with a software update. In fact, someone has created a better player for the PSP. Sony doesn't want you to be able to install apps on the PSP, so they locked it out through security. That didn't stop hackers, who figured out how to beat the security system. One way is using something called a "pandora battery". Hackers figured out how to crack security with an alteration of the battery (the battery is queried by the software, so apparently this was the source of a security hole). If you don't upgrade your PSP to to the latest software (and some PSPs come with it already updated enough that you can't use these hacks), you can download apps and run programs. This is how people can run pirated games, which is what Sony is trying hard to stop with their security model. Latest games require the latest upgrade, but some hackers are finding ways around those requirements. Note that hacking the PSP voids the warranty and may "brick" it (i.e. wreck it so that it can only be used as a paperweight).

The fact that the PSP can run apps, that third parties have created a better MP3 player, is the biggest failing of the PSP. Or, rather, Sony's inability to support apps is its biggest failing. Apps are what truly make the iPhone, the Touch, and the Android. Sony isn't interested.

Take PDF viewing, for instance. Reading PDFs on a PSP is a popular request. It has a big colour screen. Reading documents is tempting. Would it kill Sony to develop, with Adobe or someone else, the ability to read a .pdf file? Apparently it will.

[There is a way around the PDF problem. There's a utility that will convert PDFs to .png files. Using another utility, you can convert the .png files into .jpg files (or just leave them as .png files, but the PSP is slow to render big graphics files). Then you can read the PDF as a collection of pictures. It's clunky, but it works if you really need it to.]

The PSP is way behind the Nintendo DS in sales. The games look better on the PSP, but Nintendo has done a better job of producing a wider range of games. The DS is much easier to carry around, as it's smaller.

What could save the PSP is pushing its other abilities: MP3 and video playback, and perhaps adding a wide range of apps. I doubt very much that we will see any movement in that direction. A pity, because the PSP is a really nice device with a lot of unused potential.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Review of a new TV pilot: True Blue

I had the opportunity to view the pilot for a new ABC TV show, True Blue. This might actually be the first review of the show. Warning: I give a way a lot of spoilers. If you plan to watch the show, you might want to stop reading now. But don't say I didn't try to warn you, both about the show and the spoilers (you can probably guess where I come down on the thumbs up or thumbs down scale).

I got to see the episode through eRewards, the online opinion survey site. You are sent a survey, for which you get eRewards dollars that you can spend on a list of rewards (the best is $15 from Borders book store, but you can only get that once a year; mostly it's free game or movie rentals, or a bunch of magazine subscriptions). If you qualify for the full survey you get the full reward amount. If you don't qualify — you don't fit the survey's demographics — you get a fraction of the points as a "sorry but no thank you" gift.

eRewards sent me a survey dealing with a new TV pilot, a cop show called True Blue. The rewards were $20 in reward "bucks" if you filled in the survey, $2.50 if you didn't qualify. Given that you have to watch a 44 minute pilot, it's a fair amount of time expenditure. I filled in the demographic information and they said I qualified. Then, I had to download a plug-in. I watched the pilot, and clicked the "Next" button, expecting to get to the actual survey. No dice: I got the message that said, "We already received enough responses" message. Normally this happens after the demographics part. I didn't expect it after wasting an hour of my life watching the show. So now they'll presumably pay me the small reward amount and not the $20. I wrote to complain to eRewards, but I doubt I'll get a response.

So that it's not a total waste, I thought I'd post a review in case the show makes it to air.

The premise: a group of seven close friends, who rose through the ranks of the San Francisco Police Department, drifted apart over the years, but are brought together when one of them is killed.

It could have been an interesting basis for a show, if it didn't try so hard to be "Grey's Police Academy". It's obvious from the get go that we're supposed to care more about the relationships of the friends than the actual cases they solve. This might have worked, if it hadn't been for the rotten writing and the inept casting.

The pilot begins with Kevin shot to death with that favorite of TV cliches, a single gunshot. Apparently if you are going to knock on someone's door late at night and shoot him in the chest, you only want to use one bullet. Kev dies in a pool of blood. TV pistols never miss in cases like this.

Next we meet JD, played by Marc Blucas (Riley Finn from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). He's having an erotic dream about his ex-wife when we meet him. There's a knock on the door, spoiling the good part. Irony of ironies, it's his ex-wife! Of course we already know she's there to tell him about dearly departed Kevin. Oh, but there's more: the ex-wife, Katherine, is now a police captain. They broke up because JD couldn't handle her promotions, and he was incapable of sharing his feelings. They'd been divorced for two years.

She wants JD to head up the case to find Kevin's killer. JD agrees, but only if he gets his friend Walker to join in the investigation. Walker is a member of this group, but he was recently suspended due to a drinking problem. JD also wants Peter, who used to be a cop but is now an Assistant District Attorney, to prosecute the case. TV cop departments have never heard of the term "conflict of interest". Sure, the dead guy happens to die in the jurisdiction where a friend was the captain, and she calls in her ex-husband and friend of the deceased to investigate, and he calls in a friend of the deceased to help, and a friend of the deceased to prosecute. Any ambulance chaser could get any suspect off on the technicalities this would present, alone.

We meet two other characters, Malcolm and Maureen. Malcolm makes a dark joke about the deceased, showing that he's unconventional and crusty. He used to be Kevin's partner. I think Maureen is now an administrative clerk or something. I don't think she is a detective. She's there because she's one of the friends, she works at the department, and she used to sleep with Kevin. Later we find out that Malcolm "settled" for his wife, while he really loved Maureen. Maureen, on the other hand, never settled down and doesn't have a regular boyfriend or anything. It's during this reunion phase (even though they see each other daily) that Malcolm expresses his love for Maureen, just before he heads home for the woman he settled on (who would do well to kick his sorry butt to the curb).

Now, JD and Katherine have been divorced for 2 years. JD regrets their breakup, and Katherine even admits that part of her still loves him. So, of course it's at the funeral that we, and JD, learn that Katherine has been going out with Peter for several months. Neither of them had found the right time to tell JD. Instead, it comes out at the funeral in an incredibly cliched scene that has JD asking who the boyfriend is while Peter stands in the background, followed by JD slowly turning around and staring at Peter in realization.

Cliche. That's the best description for the entire episode. It's just one cliche after another. When JD and Walker interview a suspect, the suspect makes a passing remark about the deceased Kevin, and JD throws the guy up against a wall. Saw that one coming a mile away. When Peter and JD meet at the pub where the wake was held, you knew one of them was going to slug the other.

Malcolm, the crusty detective, is given a new female partner. The show breaks for a commercial after he learns his partner is, "A woman?!?" You know, that sort of thing would have worked in, oh, 1983. It's the 21st century. We're supposed to believe this guy is going to freak out about a female partner when his own captain is a friend and a woman? The new partner has to prove herself to him, when she should have said, "I earned this detective badge, jerk. Deal with it!" Malcolm makes a couple of snide, unprofessional remarks. Instead of telling him to stop being a jerk then, she waits until near the end of the episode to tell him off and call him a "douche". The use of this word is to show how "edgy" and contemporary the show is, and not saddled with writing that was worn when Hill Street Blues was airing. Anyway, upon hearing this Malcolm smirks with a new found respect for his new partner. "It normally takes them weeks to figure that out," he says. Yep, it's the old, "Ah, she realizes I'm a jerk. Now I'm beginning to like her," ploy. It was old when Star Wars used it in 1979.

The dialog was awful. The story was no better. The cops focused on two murders, Kevin's and the death of a woman found by her "dog walker". The woman ran a "sex and the city" type blog. She had a pillow underneath her head, proving the killer knew and cared for her. This kind of profiling plot was a big deal in the early 90s, so it must have seemed revolutionary to the 80s throwbacks who wrote this drivel.

Both plots are wrapped up in the episode, not with CSI's Scooby Doo ending ("I would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for you meddling crime scene investigators!") but with something pretty close. And neither case was solved with much brain power, or much evidence. The dead woman's killer would have been found in 10 minutes if the woman's gay friend (inserted, I'm sure, simply because the show is set in San Francisco) had bothered to let them know one crucial piece of information. I mean, really, you don't think if someone is found dead you might say, "Did you talk to her neighbor, who was also her lesbian lover?" Oh, God, lesbian lovers! That's real edgy... again, in the early 90s. Nah, probably the 80s. When was The Crying Game, again? Don't expect any GLBT respect here (it's ABC, after all).

At least the gay killer lawyered up before she could give the Scooby Doo confession. Kevin's killer is found in just as stupid a way, and with no physical evidence other than the fact he smoked a cigar. He was obviously guilty, though, because he pulled out a gun and shot at JD. This guy killed Kevin with a single shot at night but couldn't even wing JD in a brightly lit room. Chase ensues, bad guy gets caught. This ended the last interesting tendril of a plot. They could have done something with the show if the first season was about tracking down Kevin's killer. Now, it's just about the relationships.

The relationships might be worth sticking around for if the casting wasn't so horrible. None of the actors is all that interesting. Worse, there is no chemistry among any of them. No wonder these losers drifted apart, they had nothing to keep them together in the first place. JD seems more like a creepy stalker ex-husband than a potential suitor. It would be a better show if he was supposed to be a creepy stalker, though that wouldn't explain why he stays at the precinct after Kevin's death is solved. Apparently JD's actual superior has no time for him, as you don't get even a whiff of there being a problem with the transfer. There's no clue what any of these losers saw in each other. Maureen slept with Kevin and Peter. Peter had the hots for Katherine, who was married to JD. Malcolm pined for Maureen. The only one who comes out looking the least bit like an adult is Walker, which is odd since it is painfully obvious that he's the token African-American in the series.

The only thing the show had going for it was that it was set in San Francisco, a seriously pretty city for a TV show, what with all the hills and the old street cars and stuff. Even then, the city looked listful, as the episode was filmed when the sky was overcast.

I hope that those people who managed to make it to the actual survey savage the hell out of the show. With luck, no one else will have to see this drek.

Longhorn Steakhouse overrated, underwhelms

Monroe/West Monroe is in need of a good steak place. The Hobnob used to be good, but it sucks now (see my earlier review, and I've since heard others complain about it). The Lone Star — the first place I ate steak in the area — has been going downhill for years. Most folks round here go to Outback, which I've always thought overrated and overpriced.

A few months ago we noticed a Longhorn Steakhouse open near the Best Buy. Sure, it's another chain, but I've been to chain steak places that are good. Maybe this one will be worth while? It's certainly busy enough.

I got there about 5:15, Alana got us on the list about 10 minutes before that. Even still, we had about another 15 minute wait to be seated. As I said, it's really busy, which is usually a good sign (the Outback is busy, too, so there goes your proof).

We actually brought the average age of the patrons down when we entered. They were obviously seniors with a little bit of income, as the prices while not shocking ($18.99 for Alana's entree, which was the more expensive of the two) weren't exactly a bargain. We saw very few families, let alone young families.

The decor is the sort of warm-toned HGTV decorating show look you come to expect in your modern restaurants, but accompanied by pictures of cowboys and the open range. Paintings of manly men on horseback doing manly things look down on you while country music blares away in the background (and, occasionally, the foreground). It's impossible to find a steak place in the South that doesn't believe the music has to be country. I guess us alt-rock fans aren't supposed to eat steak? Or somehow listening to wailing and twanging makes you more in the mood to devour a cow? But why does it have to be audible? Anyway, that's just a pet peeve.

We ordered the Firecracker Wrapped Chicken for an appetizer. Alana asked for the Outlaw Ribeye as her entree, I went with the prime rib (we came into a little bit of money recently, so we splurged). We both had the garden salad. We skipped the soft drinks; they were Coke products (yay!) but without a price on the menu (boo!). That's usually a good indicator that we'd be paying $2.50 to $3.00 for watered down bar Diet Coke, so we passed.

The Firecrackers were supposed to be a stuffed pastry with chicken in them. I thought they tasted remarkably like Melvin's "mini tacos" (something Logan loves, from a local sports bar/restaurant), which are deep fried tacos with refried beans in the middle. I thought this on my second Firecracker. The first one had some sort of seasoning salt on the outside, so my first impression was of a Tex-Mex spring roll that was dowsed in salt. Alana didn't have the same issue, and the too much salt thing was only evident on two of mine.

These "firecrackers" were little hollow tubes with some refried beans in the middle. Not as good as Melvin's mini tacos, too salty, and too pricey. They were "spicy" but while they had a mild kick when you first ate them, the kick went away quickly.

It was a little later that Alana pointed out that they were supposed to be stuffed! And with chicken! She found a slight string of chicken in one of hers. I don't recall seeing any chicken in mine. Seriously, I thought they were supposed to be little hollow tubes of fried pastry with a little refried bean paste, because there is no way you could adequately call these things "stuffed". We're talking false advertising here. Either that, or something happened and the insides melted out before they were served to us.

Next came the salad. "Garden salad" in this case meant "lettuce and crouton salad with a little diced tomato and a piece of what might have been cucumber covered in dressing". It was edible (the lettuce was nice and fresh), though Alana pointed out that there was more diced tomato on the Firecrackers as a garnish than were in her salad. Nothing to write home about. If you want a real salad, try Olive Garden.

The steaks arrived. I had mine with a sweet potato with butter and cinnamon. The chef forgot the cinnamon, but the waiter caught it right away and brought me some without me having to ask. I honestly didn't know sweet potatoes came that small, but, really, I didn't need a bigger one.

My prime rib was okay. It was perfectly cooked, it just didn't have a huge amount of flavor. The outside was heavily peppered, but the meat wasn't marinated. Now, it's hard to get a good prime rib with flavor all the way into the meat. Usually that's what the au jus is for. Properly flavored au jus adds to the prime rib. In this case, the au jus wasn't flavored, other than mildly with salt. This was a little disappointing. The beef was a good cut, and cooked to perfection (medium rare, if you were wondering). It just didn't have much flavor.

Alana's Outlaw Ribeye (18 ounces, with the bone) was more flavorful. That is, the parts that weren't gristle were more flavorful. A good third of her steak was too gristly to eat. We figure she got about 10 ounces of actual edible steak out of it. We should have known better than to order what the waiter suggested. He recommended the Outlaw. Waiter recommendations are usually indicators of what they'll make the most money on. In this case, it was a cheap cut of steak with delusions of adequacy.

Alana's steak was cooked properly, though, and it was flavorful in the middle bit that was edible. It had that going for it.

Still hungry, we ordered the cheesecake. I have never been greeted by such a huge piece of cheesecake! It must have been a good five inches tall. Our smiles turned to scowls when we bit into it. The cheesecake was frozen. The strawberries and whipped cream were canned (the strawberries had a subtle metallic taste). We should have brought the Firecrackers to the waiter's attention. We did inform him that the dessert was frozen and that we wanted to go boxes so we could eat it at home, when it had thawed. He went to the back, returned with the boxes, and apologized. He said the chiller was set too cold. He would have replaced the cheesecake for us, but they were all that cold. He thanked us for bringing this to his attention. He did not remove the cheesecake from the bill.

As positives, the service was good, the meals came out on time, and the staff was friendly.

For the price, the meal was decidedly sub par. Granted, Alana and I know a good steak when we bite into one, and we may be a little pickier than someone just looking for a slab of properly cooked cow. When you combine the price and the inexplicable popularity of the place, it's not worth it.

The Longhorn Steakhouse is in Monroe, Louisiana, near the Best Buy and Kohl's. Save yourself the horrendous wait and eat elsewhere.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Downgraded our cable due to copy protection

Alana and I just downgraded our cable TV service.

Last month, our cable box started acting up. The sound would break up on 4 channels, and the channels would pixellate. I used Comcast's online chat several times, but in the end they told me I had to replace the cable box. That's cool, electronics fail.

This morning I discovered that although I scheduled our DVD recorder to record Australian Grand Prix qualifying on Speed Channel, nothing recorded. The error message said that the program was copy protected.

The new cable box prevents us from recording channels above channel 120 or so on our DVD Recorder. Problem: I record Formula 1 on Speed because the races are at ungodly hours. Tonight's Australian Grand Prix is on at 1 am. Usually coverage starts at 6:30 am on Sundays. The Asian and Australian races are usually in the wee hours. Each season Fox runs several races (and butchers the time-shifted ones to fit in commercials), so there's only one race on Speed that is on live at a half decent time, the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Speed and BBC America are the only two channels we regularly watch on that tier (BBC America isn't copy protected, but Speed is, so not all the channels are considered worth protecting; for some reason, Speed is). There are others I'd watch from time to time, like IFC, if I remember to look down there for a show, and if it happens that there's something on at the time — this is the same issue I have with HBO.

So, my options:
  1. Watch the races live when I can.
  2. Pay extra money and get Comcast's DVR. (The offered it to us for $5 a month for 6 months, but then it bumps up to $16 a month).
  3. Drop the Preferred tier entirely and download the races.
  4. Stop watching F1 entirely, except for when Fox carries it. Given the snorefest that was Bahrain, this isn't much of a hardship.

Note that the FIA is woefully behind the times when it comes to access to F1 races. I can watch edited versions of the races a couple of days after the fact. Of course, to do that I have to go to the F1 site, which loudly proclaims the last race's winner. And you don't get to see the whole race. (In the case of Bahrain, that's not such a bad thing.) Oh, well. It was only my favourite sport.

I'm still deciding what to do, but we canceled the Preferred tier. We can watch Top Gear episodes online, which is about all we were watching BBC America for, anyway. The extra money can come in handy. Things are tight, though Alana is back to work (temporarily, for the Census Bureau). Reducing our bills by $16 a month helps.

So, by stupidly applying copy protection against someone paying legally for the channel — and who was only recording in order to time shift — they lost $16 a month and a viewer. Proof, again, that copy protection schemes mostly harm paying customers. Thanks for the "help", Comcast.

Oh, and the cable box is still messing up. So the replacement didn't even help, and I have to run it up there and get another replacement.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Alana and I are extremely close in our thinking, and our likes and dislikes. There is, however, a slight generation gap, as I'm *gasp* 5 years older. It usually doesn't show up except in the songs we liked in the early 80s, mainly I suspect because "the 70s" doesn't usually come up much in conversation. I was Logan's age in the middle of that decade, while Alana was still just a little tyke. So, I offer this web site to her as a connection to my tween years.

PlaidStallons is a blog about the 70s. Primarily, the blogger posts pictures from 1970s catalogues, with an emphasis on clothing and toys. He occasionally posts links to 70s TV shows (I just came across a three-part episode of the old sci-fi garbage man show, Quark), and other items of 70s pop culture.

If you know me, you know what I'm primarily interested in. That's right, the toys (and, oddly, more often the packages) They trigger major episodes of nostalgia ("I had that!", "I remember that!", and, most frequently, "I wanted that!!!").

Here's a picture of the G.I. Joe Field Training Center. I believe my brother had this, though we shared as we were both huge Joe fans:

Plastic model kits were huge in the 70s, probably because there were no real video games until the ned of the decade, and then they were horribly expensive. At some point I had all of the models on this page. (I hadn't thought about the one in the bottom, right corner since, oh, the early 80s? It wasn't tied to an actual TV show, it was just a cool spacecraft. Oh, and the plastic was glow-in-the-dark green.)

The 1970s were a period of transition, style wise. By 1978, casual clothing wasn't that much different than it is today. The early 70s, though... oh, man, it's like everyone was clothed by a costumer from a bad sci-fi flick. I distinctly remember having not one, but two polyester leisure suits during this period (one was maroon, the later one was beige).

I mentioned the packaging earlier. This hit home when he posted a pic of a Halloween costume in a box. You don't see that now, but the cheap, superhero costumes of the 70s, made of some vaguely plastic-infused material with a thin plastic mask (I can still smell the plastic as it off-gassed) came in cardboard boxes. I completely forgot that. The box itself triggered deep memories that the costumes did not. Weird how our memory works.

There's some pretty obscure stuff on this site that I hadn't thought of for decades. I mean, like, Crazy Foam, a bath foam/soap alternative that shot out of a can painted like a superhero's face.

The blog really hits me personally because the blogger is Canadian. For instance, he mentions Uncle Bobby, the host of a kid's program that everyone in Ontario of a certain age will remember. I never cared for the show, myself, and always found him kind of creepy. That makes me feel bad, now, as Bobby Ash (the actor) was apparently a nice enough guy.

The blog has pictures taken from Consumers Distributing and Shop-Rite catalogues. CD and Shop-Rite were catalogue stores. They had display cases with jewelry, watches, and the like, and they had the occasional big item on the display floor. Everything else was in the back, on shelves. You walked up to a bank of catalogues and pulled out an order form. You filled in your name, the page number where you saw your item, and then the item number. You handed it to someone at a counter, and they went back into the warehouse section. Minutes later, your item was sent down a roller track, where someone picked it up and took it to the cash register. You got to inspect it at that point.

The Wikipedia entry on Consumers Distributing mentioned that there was a perception that things were always "out of stock". That's a fair description. It was frustrating to fill out the form, stand in line, only to find that the item was gone. They partially blame Wal-Mart in Canada for CD's demise, but I don't recall Wal-Mart being that big in Canada when CD went into bankruptcy. I worked at Kodak Canada in the 90s, and I heard some "interesting" things about how they treated their vendors. In the end, when they started to run into problems, none of their vendors were really willing to extend them much credit.

Of the two, Shop-Rite was my favourite. It didn't last as long, and it was considered a lesser chain compared to CD (even though it was owned by the Hudson Bay Company). What I liked about it was that Shop-Rite sold Avalon Hill wargames. I still have a couple, including a copy of Panzer Leader (my first wargame, 35 years old this year) that came from Shop-Rite. Now that I think about it, for a while you could buy SPI wargames at The Bay. Ah, memories...

Anyway, check out PlaidStallons for a trip down memory lane, or for a pop-culture tour of an unfairly forgotten decade.

Thanks to Shane Ivey for mentioning this site on Facebook.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Olympics

I love the Olympics. The competition; the sense of pride in your country; the stories of the individual athletes; the pageantry. I teared up when they sang "O Canada" at the opening ceremonies, and it's not my national anthem.

And of course I like Canadians. How can I not? They're nice people...and I'm married to one.

However, the past two weeks have been a little awkward. I'm so used to Allan and I thinking alike and generally being of the same mind on whatever issue that I find myself in shock as we watch the games.

We're not on the same side.

I don't remember this from the last Olympics, and he was here then, too. Perhaps I have selective amnesia, but I really think it stems from where the games are being held this year. Forget the polite reserve; from curling to bobsled to ice dancing to hockey, I think Canadians mean that "Own the Podium" thing. Really. With teeth bared and maple leafs flying--and that's just the spectators.

So it's been a little hard to get into cheering for the Americans without stepping on Canadian toes. I can't gloat over the American men's hockey victory over Canada, and he can't cheer too much as the Canadian women trounce the Americans in bobsled. As much as I love watching the games, it'll be something of a relief when they're over. This slight unease is getting to me.

I'm just glad I'm not married to a German.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow Day, part 2!

It snowed last night. Like, really snowed. Some 2 inches of the stuff (by my crude "sticking my finger in the snow" method). The snow was heavy, wet packing snow, the type that's perfect for snowball fights.

This is the view from the apartment as I was letting the dog out this morning:

Snow Day 01 - 2010-02-12

The vehicles on the end are ours. This is the first vehicle I've owned in 9 years that's been covered in snow!

It wasn't until later that I remember: I don't have a snow brush! I had to use a Swiffer wet mop as a squeegee to clear off the car, while having a snowball fight with Logan.

This is the view of a neighbouring apartment through the trees behind our apartment:

Snow Day 03 - 2010-02-12

Neighbours made a little snowman this morning. Sabine checked it out:

Snow Day 04 - 2010-02-12

She was still unsure of this snow stuff, as it made her paws cold (no doubt) but she had a bit more fun this morning than last night as she bounded through it and sniffed everything.

Sabine wasn't the only local who had trouble figuring out how to handle the snow. Here are a couple of local kids with the day off. I must be getting old, as all I could think about for the kid on the right was, "Put a coat on, already!"

Snow Day 08 - 2010-02-12

Took this picture of a cemetery on the way to work. I had forgotten how much snow bleached the colour out of everything.

Snow Day 05 - 2010-02-12

The railroad bridge over the Ouachita River (from the Monroe side):

Snow Day 06 - 2010-02-12

The Endom Bridge, spanning the Ouachita River. They closed the bridge this morning as it's mostly metal and cars don't have any traction on it when it snows. You don't even have a choice of shooting past the barriers when the swivel it (I guess so that if the power goes out it won't impede barge traffic on the river).

Snow Day 07 - 2010-02-12

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow day!

Logan doesn't have school tomorrow. Why? Because it's snowing out.


The observant among you will notice that the cementy parts of the ground aren't actually covered in snow. So why does Logan have a snow day? Because that's what happens in the South. Seriously, it was poring a few days ago to the point where water was pooling up to the axles of the car and the schools stayed open. Snow accumulates on the ground — even if the roads could be best described as "moist" — and it's "Close the schools! The kids aren't safe on the buses!"

I can understand if there was a threat of freezing rain, but no.

And they decided to close tomorrow at 1:30 p.m. today. This is because they let the kids out early today. Because of flurries.

Seriously. It wasn't even accumulating like it is now until about 6:30. So they let the kids out early in anticipation of... snow blindness? Your guess is as good as mine.

But I understand them deciding to close the schools tomorrow early this afternoon. I mean, you can't blame them. How else could they communicate the fact that schools were closed tomorrow? It's possible that kids might actually try to get to school because their parents didn't hear about the closure on the radio. Or TV. Or in an e-mail. Or by phone...

And the daycares are closed tomorrow, too. So one of my peeps has to work from home to watch his child. (I don't mind, but it means I'm unlikely to get to go home early; I was hoping to, as I've already logged 40 hours this week. Maybe we'll luck out and all of our clients will be snowed in, even those in Florida and Texas.)

Anyway, here are a couple more pictures of the snow (as best as I could take with our digital point and shoot).


The best part of the snow is Logan's delight. He's wanted snow for ages. And now he has it! Of course, it didn't take him long to start complaining about it, starting with the way it blows into your face.

I don't think he actually believes me about the existence of "snow brushes", though.

I don't have pictures of it, but a little bird was stuck in the front balcony of our apartment. It was completely disoriented by the snow. I think the falling snow (pretty big flakes of wet packing snow) threw it almost literally for a loop.

Our dog Sabine didn't know what to make of it, either. She was curious about the snow and sniffed it a lot, but she did not like how it made her feet cold. Or at least that's what I suspect was happening. She spent a lot of time sniffing snow and keeping off the snow covered grass. It was quite funny watching her run on it. Wish I had the video camera with me at the time.


If the snow sticks around until tomorrow, I'll take some more pics. Just to prove that yes, about once or twice a decade, it really does snow in northern Louisiana.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Of bagged milk and ketchup chips

I sometimes suspect that Alana thinks I'm pulling her leg when I talk about cross-cultural stuff. For instance, when I talk about "milk in a bag" she looks at me as if to say, "No, Canada boy, you've gone too far this time." Or maybe she's just thinking "How/why would someone sell milk in bags?"

I tried to describe bagged milk, but pictures (and video) do much better than I could. So, here's a video from the Canadian desert vlogger "pincstuff" talking about bagged milk:

A few comments.

First, she doesn't mention the little "knee thump" I learned from my Dad when seating the milk in the jug. This helps drop the milk to the bottom of the jug, causing a tighter seal.

Second, cutting the corner might be "crucial" but after you've done it a few times the actual size becomes second nature. Her video makes it seem like it's a disaster waiting to happen, but it's not all that bad.

Third, we never bothered closing off the milk bags. Maybe we always went through it quickly enough, I don't know.

She also doesn't mention that bagged milk is more space friendly in the fridge (the jug with the milk stays on a top shelf and takes up much less space than a gallon plastic jug here in the U.S., and the rest of the bags can lie, or be stacked, in the bottom of the fridge). Nor does she mention that you can actually freeze milk, though you have to be sure to mix it well when defrosting it.

Bagged milk comes in the usual varieties: skim (I can't remember what they call it here, no fat I think), 1%, 2%, and — I'm not making this up — homo. (Homo stands for "homogenized milk", known as "whole milk" in the U.S.) Oh, and I seem to recall that you can get bags of chocolate milk, too.

While we're at it, this vlogger also has a video about ketchup flavoured and dill pickle flavoured potato chips. I was never a big fan of those, but the very idea that they exist seems to frighten Alana. Here's proof of their existence:

I personally was never a huge fan of the ketchup potato chip. My personal favourite is Ruffles All Dressed potato chips. I also like Lays salt and vinegar, but while I can get those in Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida, except for a weird two month period I haven't seen them here in northeastern Louisiana.

Finally, here's a video from an American band who went up to Vancouver, and while there sampled Canadian chips. You can see what they thought of ketchup chips, though the All Dressed did get a thumbs up.

So there you have it, bagged milk and All Dressed potato chips, the best Canadian inventions since the Robertson screw:

Friday, February 05, 2010

Death by candy


There we have it, folks. A gummy bear bigger than a football--all 12,600 calories of it. Five pounds of gummy goodness.

And I want one.

Nevermind the fact that I'm diabetic, and that it spells instant coma. I want one. The red one. Now.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The "Aints" No More...

Forty-three seasons. Untold numbers of paper bags. Aerial shots of the 'dome, missing most of its roof.

Last night was a long time coming.

Last night was also the latest in a season-long series of sports-induced heart attacks...but somehow, they did it. The Saints are going to the Super Bowl.

Maybe 2010 is going to be a better year.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Year In Review -- Alana

When I mentioned doing a post of this nature, I meant "we" should post...as in doing a post together (Allan writing; me making snide remarks in the background). Now it seems I'm obligated to post as well, although Allan's beaten me to the punch on most items worthy of notice.

The biggest thing to happen to any of us this year was the publication of Allan's book, This Favored Land. Logan and I were thrilled for him, and his work deserves the many comments I heard about it at GenCon (and other places). He put an incredible amount of time and care into the book, and I'd like to thank Shane Ivey and the other guys at Arc Dream for their belief in Allan's writing.

Healthwise, it hasn't been the best of years. 2009 proved to be better than 2008 for me, but only just. There has been gradual improvement, and I'm thankful for that. (If I never see the inside of another hospital, it will be too soon.) The only good thing to come of all this is the knowledge that Allan is an absolute rock. There's no way I could have made it through the past couple of years without him, and I love him more than ever for always being there.

Our trip to Indianapolis this summer was a good one; the first SF-type con Logan and I have been to, and for Logan, well...he was in the same town as Peyton Manning, and not much tops that. Getting stuck in the elevator somewhat dampened his enthusiasm for big cities, but we had a good time overall, and hope to get to another convention soon.

For me, not working this year has been strange, and somewhat of a mixed bag. I *need* to be working and contributing to the family--but it's been nice, being able to participate more at Logan's school, and being home when he gets here each day. After years of Logan complaining that I worked and couldn't be there every day to help with homework, etc., I think the boy might have changed his mind. I've seen more of his homework than he ever wanted me to, and he's tired of his mom showing up at school to help.

At any rate, I'm now babbling.

Let's all hope that 2010, however you pronounce it, turns out to be an improvement over 2009. I wish for a happy and healthy New Year for each of you.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in review - Allan

Alana suggested that we blog a "year in review". I have a sneaking suspicion that she this is just a way for her to coerce me into "writing content", but so be it. I labeled this post with my name in the hope that Alana ends up posting, too.

It's been an interesting year. I wouldn't say it was a great year, but it certainly was an interesting one.

The highlight was the publication of my book, This Favored Land. It was such a treat seeing something I'd written all laid out, and with cool art.

The lowlight was Alana's health at the beginning of the year. It took her a while to recover from last year's surgery. Fortunately, things turned a corner by the end of June. I haven't mentioned it much on here, but I was pretty worried about her. I get a special charge when she turns to me and smiles, now that she's feeling better (but is still not 100%). I'll leave it to Alana to add more on this subject if she wishes.

My own health has been okay, not wonderful but not awful. I hate New Year's resolutions so I'm not making one, but I really need to lose some weight. I'm hoping my new allergy meds will help with, well, my allergies (ah, d'uh), as my allergies have been almost debilitating recently. In truth, the allergies aren't the debilitating part, the Zyrtec that knocks me on my ass is the debilitating part. I lost three weekends of writing to illness back in November, one from allergies and two from some sort of virus. Oh, and on Monday I broke a tooth; waiting for dental insurance to kick in before I get that seen to. (And, I might need sedatives, too, but that's another story...)

I can't believe how much Logan has grown in the last year. There was one day he came back from his father's after a week long visit and I swear he was noticeably taller! He did great in school last year. We had an... incident, scholastically, earlier this school year, but we think we've nipped it.

Logan continues to be obsessed with football. Unfortunately, he's not really cut out to be a guard, the position he played on his team this year. He has it in his mind that he'd make a great quarterback. Let's just say that Alana and I are... skeptical. On the plus side, he's now reading for enjoyment. We've been encouraging this. It's great to see him with his face stuck in a book rather than playing yet another variation on American football on his Wii or Xbox.

Work has been busy, occasionally frustrating, but generally good. I pull long hours, which tends to affect my writing, as there are only so many after work hours in a day. Odd that my most rewarding job in my career has the longest hours, lowest pay and crappiest benefits.

On the gaming front, I ran games at three different conventions. The best one, overall, was GenCon because Alana and Logan attended. I think, though, that if I can only do one convention next year (and I'm hoping for two, but we'll see) I'd go to DragonCon. It's closer, and either that much bigger than GenCon or so much more cramped that there's a frenetic energy about it.

We have a local gaming group now! That's pretty cool. We've been playtesting The Black Devils Brigade and playing board games. We haven't played Delta Green since October, but we play to get back into it in January. I need to contact everyone and set up a time to play.

So, as I said at the top of the post, not a great year but not a terrible one either. Kind of a mixed bag, really. To paraphrase (i.e. butcher) Dickens, "It was the okay-ist of times, it was the meh-ist of times."

See y'all in "Twenty Ten".

History Magazine's "Life During the Civil War"

On the news stands right now is History Magazine's "Life During the Civil War" by David A. Norris. This is a perfect bound book the size of a softcover RPG supplement. I recommend it for This Favored Land players. It's also useful for games set in the Wild West period and mid-19th century Kerberos Club campaigns.

This book — it really does look more like an RPG supplement than a magazine — covers a lot of ground that I wanted to cover in This Favored Land, but which I couldn't for space reasons.

It begins with a two page dictionary of Civil War terms, most of which did not appear in TFL. Other topics are of particular interest to roleplayers: 19th century hotels; music (a blatant omission in TFL); humor and social commentary; army laundresses; army pets; fund raising; war artists; newspapers; telegraph; mail.

About half the book is information that wasn't touched on in TFL. The rest is in TFL but with more detail. The discussion on currency, for instance, breaks down army pay by rank. Railroad travel has a short explanation of "women's cars" and the food (or lack thereof) provided on rail cars. There's a wonderful single page full of common medicines and what they were used for.

The book has been on the stands for a couple of weeks. At 95 pages (with only 2 pages of ads) for $9.95, it's a bargain.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Canadian SF author beaten at U.S. border

I'm asked every now and again if I intend to become an American citizen.

Alana is cool with her "Canada boy". Logan asks occasionally, but it's more out of curiosity than anything. He knows I already say things "funny" anyway.

There are downsides to becoming an American. Yes, I'd get to vote, but I live in a monoculture where my vote simply would not make a difference, and it would make me eligible for serving on a jury (I wouldn't mind, but this is more an annoyance than a benefit). I could apply for federal jobs, though there really aren't that many around here. One big downside is that if we ever left the U.S., the IRS wants a chunk of my income in another country! (Yes, your taxes in that other country are deductible, but who really wants the hassle?)

What I'm missing is a sense of belonging. I'm a foreigner in this country, and will continue to be as long as I'm not a citizen. (I probably would be even after I became a citizen, but at least I could bitch with more "authoritah").

As a legal resident, I'm protected under the law. I've been here more than 5 years, so I could now apply for social assistance if I needed it (not that I plan to). Of course, I've been contributing with my taxes. As I like to point out to people — particularly those of a "Tea Party" persuasion — I have taxation without representation.

The main advantage I'd get being a U.S. citizen is in not having to renew my green card every 10 years. Not only does this require an out of city trip and a fair bit of money (over $250 last time), I discovered in a post on RPG.net the other day that if I tried to cross the border after my green card expired, I could get kicked out of the country with no recourse for getting back in!

That revelation came in a topic about a particularly nasty incident at the U.S. border this week. Canadian science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts — who is a friend of friends I left back in Canada — was beaten, arrested, and charged with assaulting a border guard last week. Peter was going back home to Canada, after helping a friend move to Nebraska, when he was stopped by border guards. He got out of his car and asked why he was being stopped. The guards allege that he resisted arrest, while Peter denies this.

Here is the incident via Cory Doctrow at BoingBoing:

(Full disclosure, Cory's article quotes David Nickle, a friend of mine.)

Peter's original description of the incident is here:

An update is here:

And, of course, here's his web site, for ongoing news on this:

If you would like to donate to Peter's legal defence fund, you can do so by sending a contribution via Paypal to donate@rifters.com.

It's incidents like these, and some wingnut things that have been happening post-millennial America, that have me seriously wondering, "do I want to be associated with this by citizenship"? On the flip side, citizenship would offer some (little) protection against this kind of insanity. I suspect they wouldn't be quite as likely to do this to a U.S. citizen, one who could maybe even wield some political power.

For now, my thoughts go out to Peter. Now if you'll excuse me, I want to make a note of the exact date my green card expires.

Friday, December 04, 2009


It's been snowing here most of the afternoon. I called Allan at work, as Logan and I and half our neighbors stood out in it like giant frozen idiots; he was not impressed.

It won't stick; it won't last...but it was really pretty for a while. And it snowed! Here! In December....

Maybe it will again on Christmas day.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Epic spam fail, or best scam e-mail ever?

I received this in my spam folder recently.

It's one of the more amusing scam e-mails I've read. I guess this is what people in third world countries write instead of really bad Star Trek slashfic. (The formatting, punctuation, etc. is from the original.)

From Sgt Herman Hansley
Camp MXP-512 Third Infantry Division
Abul Uruj, Baghdad, Iraq.

I am Herman R Hansley, a native of Iraq. I am a Military Contractor with the America troop currently serving in the third infantry division Unit in Iraq.

I am currently on duty break. My partner Darren D. Braswell,36, of Riverdale, Ga., died Jan. 7th near TalAfar, Iraq, when the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter in which he was a Passenger crashed. Braswell worked For the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, before his death We secretly moved some abandoned cash in a mansion belonging to the former president, Saddam Hussein and the total cash is US$20,200,000.00 Twenty Million two hundred thousand Dollars.

As I write this letter to you, these boxes are in Security Company as I secretly moved it out of Baghdad to safe place.

Sir I seek your consent to help me move this money to your country location.

You do not have to be afraid of anything as no one else knows about this and everything is safe. I would be pleased and grateful to you if you could assist me and my late partner Darren D. Braswel in receiving this boxes for us on your behalf as I will be heading back soon to camp in Iraq to join my colleagues. Of course, I shall compensate you with an attractive percent of the total funds for your role/efforts. We have limited time now as you know that our evacuation agreement is been negotiated by the USA and IRAQI government, kindly get back to me immediately.

Moving the funds out of the security company is not going to be much of a problem as arrangements are being made towards that. All I want from you is your trust,

Please get back to me with your full name
Contact phone number

Preferable without delay and let’s negotiate terms.

Your response will determine our subsequent correspondence.

You can read more on this website for more information and explanations: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/2988455.stm

Yours in Service.
Herman R Hansley

The link, by the way, is to an article on the BBC News web site about a stash of $200 million found in Baghdad in 2003. Evidently this is some of the money that turned up missing.

The writer missed his calling. Instead of sending this out as spam, he should have sent it to Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Black Friday update: aborted attempt at TRU

Alana and I went to Toys 'R Us this evening. Their Black Friday sale starts at midnight.

If you check the timestamp on this post, you'll see that we didn't stay...

The line up was up one side of the plaza, down the other, and around the corner. There were hundreds of people in line.

We only had one thing we were looking for, for Logan, and it wasn't a toy. TRU has a good price on it, but nothing we couldn't get elsewhere.

Alana was in shock when she saw the line up. I believe her words were, "Is that the line? That's not the line!"

So, with a "Hell, no!" shouted out by both of us, in unison, we came home.

This also means we're not going to bother getting up, as a friend of Alana put it, at the "butt crack of morning", as we didn't really see anything we couldn't live without.

We'll probably go out in the morning to see if some of the stuff we could use is still available, but we're not going to do the crazy this year.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Black Friday is getting earlier and earlier...

For folks not living in the United States, Black Friday is the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving. In spite of its name, it's considered a good thing. The day after Thanksgiving is the traditional start to the U.S. Christmas buying season. Stores started offering deep discounts on some items as loss leaders.

It's called Black Friday because for many stores it's the day, or the start of the period, where they make enough money to break even or make a profit.

(In recent years Black Friday is followed by Cyber Monday, the first day back at work when people had access to a good broadband connection and could order Christmas presents online.)

This is a uniquely American experience. Canada's Thanksgiving is a month and a half earlier (because Canadian harvests are brought in earlier) and so Canada doesn't have the same starter pistol-like start to Christmas buying. Canada makes up for it with Boxing Day sales, but that's another story.

Stores began opening their doors earlier and earlier. That's the point of this post.

When I first moved down here, I'd never actually participated in the craziness that is Black Friday. My first was in 2004. There was a bunch of good stuff to be had at Target. The night before I said something like, "So, we'll get up around 7 or so, get dressed, and go out to the store?" Alana just chuckled. "We have to be there for them opening. At 6 a.m."

I have to admit, it was fun. Tons of people in the early, early morning, after only a little bit of sleep, the air pretty chilly (at least for Louisiana). There was a charge in the air. We enjoyed it. I think Alana most enjoys the culture shock look on my face.

Now I get to the point of this post.

Monday night we were watching TV, and one store mentioned opening at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. That's, like, the traditional opening time. It's not the earliest. A bunch of stores open at 5 a.m. Then, Kohl's, the department store, ran an ad explaining that they are opening at 4 a.m. I turned to Alana with a WTF look on my face. "What's next, Black Friday on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving?"

I was joking. I shouldn't have.

K-Mart is opening on Thanksgiving Day. Black Friday on the Thursday of Thanksgiving.

And then today I received an e-mail from Borders. They are offering "early bird" access to their Black Friday sales to Borders Rewards members. Their sales start... today. Black Friday on the Wednesday.

I wonder how long it will take them until they take a page from Stupid Canadian Retailing and convert "Boxing Week" [sic] sales into "Black Friday Week". You heard it here, first!

Are we going to brave the elements, and the crazy people, Friday morning?

We're not sure. We haven't done it in a couple of years. Two years ago we were moving into the apartment. We went out shopping around 9. Last year there really wasn't anything worth getting.

This year's early ads don't really inspire much hope, either, though there are a couple of tempting items for Logan. One's at Wal-Mart, which we really don't want to go to on Black Friday. However, I understand that we might be able to get it at Walmart.com without having to rush out to that horrid place.

I didn't see much at Best Buy that grabbed me. Target had a couple of things, but nothing really "Wow!". Office Depot has a couple of things, but nothing that screams "5 a.m.".

I'll post an update later.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comcast and repetitive music

I like having music on when I write. Unfortunately, we get horrible reception in the house (but okay reception in the car) for the only radio station worth listening to in Monroe/West Monroe, KXUL, the local college station.

So, I listen to Comcast's Alternative digital music station.

What's with Comcast and the small stable of artists they play on this channel? Are they getting payola?

Right now "Kings and Queens" by 30 Seconds to Mars is playing. I like the song, don't get me wrong. But I am guaranteed to hear it at least once in a two hour session. It never fails. And they'll play another 30 Seconds to Mars song within another couple of hours.

Earlier they played She Wants Revenge. No problem with the group, but, again, I'm guaranteed to hear them once every couple of hours or so, sometimes more often than that. Because it's on the television, they have graphics for the bands they play, and these graphics tend to stick in your memory.

I guess maybe they want me to jump to another channel, one that pays them more. If I'm going to do that, I'm going to turn off the TV and plug in my PSP (as an MP3 player) or put on some CDs, none of which lets me hear new music.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Searching for an HTML editor

This shouldn't be so hard...

I'm searching for a freeware HTML editor. I code almost all of my HTML by hand (for instance, my web site) so I'm looking for a text editor that can make my life a bit easier.

I mostly need it for work, where I'm writing help files in HTML Help format.

Back in the late 90s I used a program called Arachnophilia. It was a pretty good program, but it had some warts and needed some additional options. Unfortunately, the developer changed it from a Windows program to a Java cross-platform program. I say "unfortunately" because he mucked about with the interface and made it much slower. I saw, recently, that there was an update. I downloaded it, installed it, and uninstalled it within 15 minutes.

(The guy also has a screed against Microsoft on his web site. Now, I'm not exactly pro-Microsoft. I thought the U.S. Justice Department gave them a slap on the wrist when much more was necessary. But it doesn't exactly make one feel comfortable downloading software from a guy who apparently wrote his app in Java in part to get back at Redmond.)

As I'm po', I'm looking for a freeware program but I'd purchase a program if it fit my needs. Unfortunately, most of the straight text editor programs are written by small companies and are somewhat buggy, and I can't afford the full blown programs — like Dreamweaver — which are complete overkill for what I do, and way too expensive (hundreds of dollars).

Here's the wish list of features:
  • Colour coding of the text compatible with HTML or XML, and cascading style sheets.
  • Ability to easily add links and graphics. Specifically, if adding text or graphics from your own web site, the program allows you to select the file and it will insert the correct link and image tag.
  • A function for easily adding special characters, such as the cents sign, etc. Preferably, it would display a set of special characters that the user clicks on to add to the text.
  • Allow the creation of macros or snippets, etc. This allows the user to create functions for easily adding repeated text to the document.
  • A spell checker.
  • Allow search and replace across multiple documents.
  • HTML tag reference for ease of entering new tags.
  • Preview your web page from within the program itself.
  • Cold folding (where you can close part of the code to make it easier to read and debug your code)
For the last several years I've used a program called HTML-Kit. The build 292 version is the last freeware version. Technically, I guess, it was shareware. Anyone could run it, but the developer encouraged people to register (at a cost of US$65, or there abouts). Sometime a couple of years ago the developer stopped working on the free version (though it's still available) and announced the release of HTML-Kit Tools. This version is only available for registered users.

I registered HTML-Kit to get HTML-Kit Tools. I'm not very happy with this decision. HTML-Kit has all my wish list items except code folding and search and replace across all documents. The search and replace it does have is a little annoying. There are also some bugs in the software. If you span across paragraphs and hit the backspace key to delete text, the program deletes too much. I made it crash the other day by typing too fast. It doesn't have an auto-recover during a crash.

The bugs were annoying, but I figured these were fixed in HTML-Kit Tools. They were, but now there are different bugs. The developer actually created a new version due to a crash bug I found.

Worse, it's missing an important feature of HTML-Kit, the spell checker. The search and replace is much worse on the new version (I really dislike it), the macro/snippet function is far less intuitive than the old version (and the old function wasn't exactly intuitive), and when you preview a web page it leaves a preview copy hanging around (I have to check to see if there's a way to shut it off). The interface has been simplified to look more like the ribbon in Microsoft Office 2007 products. The interface is cleaner, but it doesn't look as professional.

So, overall, I'm not that happy with HTML-Kit Tools. In fact, I went back to the old program.

In the meantime, I tested a few other programs (roughly in order of testing):
  • Notepad++: This one gets lots of good reviews. It's a generic code editor, and works with multiple languages. It is well supported, with lots of add-on modules. But, it doesn't have a way to easily add links or graphics to HTML, it doesn't have a spell checker, you can't preview within the program (which I can live without, to be honest) and it doesn't have a special character preview.

  • PSPad: I stumbled across this. It has most of what I want, including a spell checker, but it doesn't have a link/graphic function, it doesn't have a feature for adding special characters, and it doesn't do code-folding.

  • Notetab Light: This is the free version of a line of products, so it's possible that a "for pay" version has the features I'm after. The free version doesn't have colour code, nor does it have a spell checker, or code folding. It does have the other items on the list, and it's very good at search and replace (I keep it around for that reason).

  • Aptana Studio: This is the most professional looking of all the programs I tried. I really like the interface. I really want to use this. Again, though, it has some issues. I can't make the spell checker work, if it comes with one (it has a section under preferences that suggests it does have a spell checker, but I can't make it work). So far my question to their support forum has been unanswered. It has most of the other features. It does not have an easy way of inserting graphics and links, but if you find the file you want you can copy the link into the clipboard. So, we'll say that's about 1/3 what I'm after on that feature.

    As I said, I want to like this one, but I'm not getting the warm and fuzzies from their support.

  • CodeLobster: This is another freeware program. When I first ran it, it looked like it had everything I wanted. Digging a little deeper, it doesn't have a spell checker, it doesn't have a way to do macros, and it automatically saves your page when you go to preview it. They said today they are planning the macro feature and then, later, the spell checker. When this has a few more features it looks like it could replace HTML-Kit, but it's not there yet.

There were two other small programs I didn't keep around for long.

I'm also looking into Microsoft's Visual Web Developer Express tool, but I don't have much faith in it. It requires a whole web development environment. Then, it wanted to upgrade Visual Studio on my computer (it uses a version of Visual Studio) before it would proceed. Unfortunately, it took over an hour (!) to download the update and it's now taken more than half an hour to install it. All for something I think is going to end up being hideous overkill.

So, if you have any suggestions for HTML editors, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A head for lyrics

Sorry for the absence of blog posts. I've been incredibly busy at work, writing our help file, and at home I've been writing The Black Devils Brigade for the Godlike RPG. It's been hard to fit in blogging.

Last night brought to mind something I wanted to mention. I was doing some writing with the TV on in the background. The channel was one of the VH1 channels, and they were running a concert with various alt-rock groups performing songs by The Who. I was a huge fan of The Who. I even stood in line for several hours 27 years ago to get tickets for their first farewell tour.

While watching, I started singing along to some of their songs (completely destroying the whole point of spending the time writing). Alana turned to me, smiled, and asked how I can fit in all those lyrics in my head.

This goes back to our trip home from GenCon in August. We forgot to bring music with us (other than what was on my PSP, and we don't have a way of hooking up the PSP/MP3 players to the car's stereo), so we had to rely on local radio. On the way home, we tuned in to some classic rock outside of Memphis.

Now, I'm not one to listen to classic rock stations at home. We generally listen to KXUL, the local college station, which plays commercial free alt-rock. I like classic rock. I was listening to it before it was classic (as a very small child my mother had to break a vinyl 45 rpm record of The Beatles' "She Loves You" because I was driving her mad wanting to hear it all the time). However, they aren't making any more classic rock. It's the same two decades worth of stuff they play all the time. And, this being the U.S., you hear very little of the Canadian classic rock I grew up with (April Wine or Chilliwack, anyone?). I like listening to classic rock every now and again for the great nostalgia factor, but it soon becomes tiring. I was training users in northwest Tennessee in August and they played classic rock in their offices. I didn't hear Emerson, Lake and Palmer, or The Guess Who, or even that much Rush, but they were sure to play Van Halen at least twice every single day. But I digress...

So, we listened to classic rock until we got into the depths of northern Mississippi where there's not much more than country and western, or gospel in the wee hours of the morning (until we could pick up more classic rock outside Jackson). Early on, while we were still in Arkansas, Alana made a comment that I knew a lot of song lyrics. In fact, she seemed to think I could sing along with a staggering number of songs.

The radio had just started in on a three song set of The Who.

Just as she said this, a song from the album Tommy came on.

I looked at her, smiled, and sang, "Welcome to the camp, I guess you all know why we're here. My name is Tommy, and I became aware this year."

It was obvious from the look on Alana's face that she'd never heard the song in her life, and here I was singing every word.

It just served to prove to her that, yes, I was insane.

I never really thought about it before, but it's haunted me since: I really do pick up a lot of song lyrics. In fact, when I like a song I have this deep seated need to learn the words.

I'm not as good at it as Alana thinks I am. There are still some old songs that I don't know all the lyrics to, even 30 years later, in spite of trying. I have trouble memorizing all the lyrics to songs by The Tragically Hip, but The Hip's lyrics tend to the poetic and don't repeat themselves much. They're often hard to learn, and maybe deliberately so.

But, yeah, looking at it objectively, I know the lyrics to a huge number of songs. Unfortunately, I also like to sing them even though I couldn't carry a tune if it was strapped to my back. I sing a lot when I'm alone in the car; I try not to inflict it much on the people around me, except maybe when we're on long car trips and I'm getting a bit punchy.

Now, if only I could wipe out some old Loverboy (*shudder*) lyrics and remember my security alarm number at work. I think it starts with a 5...