Monday, July 2, 2007

My baby, er, my baby

On Saturday Natasha and I went to check out this store we saw that was called, simply enough, stuff. I figured they might have some stuff. So we head in, and oh my fucking god, this place is a gold mine for me. It's not so much random stuff as it is used electronics. Speakers, receivers, digital cameras, laptops, Ipods, DVDs, all used, all cheap. Ah, but that wasn't the best part.

They had a game section.

SNES, N64, Playstation 1, Playstation 2, Xbox, Gameboy, Gameboy Advanced. And they had games. I wasn't sure what to do. Should I just explode? Or maybe I should wait awhile and then implode into a super-massive black hole and suck all the cool stuff into a little ball of awesome with me at the center.

And then, there it was, a NES. I bought it, plus Super Mario Bros.

Oh, I was so excited. I took it home, hooked it up to the TV, and turned it on. Natasha was excited too, because she used to play Super Mario when she was a kid, and it was the only video game she ever liked.

Flash, flash, flash. No go. Even when the cart was out. Reset, no go. Try another TV, no go. Fuck.

I took it back the next day. I was going to buy N64 at the same place but they had no memory sticks and I wanted to be sure I'd be able to get one without to much hassle. Then I remember, hey, there is a used games and CD show down the road I live on. Head down there, BAM - N64 for twenty-five dollars. I bought Starfox 64 with it and I have Mario 64 on the way.

The stuff store had Zelda: Ocarina of Time for 10 dollars, so I'm going to pick it up after work tomorrow. This should keep me held over until the next round of good 360 games come out, because as cool as The Darkness and Overlord look, they don't look 60$ cool. I learned my lesson after Star Trek: Legacy. Fun game, for 40 dollars. Not for 60.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Kitten Pictures

I said I'd post pictures of the kitten, so here we go.

First, here is a picture of Purrball, who is still very cute and likes to find things to hide in.

And now, pictures of the new kitten. Her name is Tonka, because she is so damn tough. Purrball has been after her, as you might expect, but Tonka doesn't run, she gets revenge. I want to take a video of them because it's hilarious to see an almost full grown cat being chased by a 9 week old kitten. Not to mention Tonka will take Purrball's blows and just look at her like she's stupid, then attack. This might have something to do with the fact that Tonka has her claws and Purrball does not...

Tonka is a riot, and gets into everything. Right now she is biting my computer, and whenever I write she likes to help by standing on the keyboard and typing kkkkkkkkkkkkkjjjjjjjjjjjijjjjjjj. The next great American novel, for sure.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Scoundral!

So I started working at my part-time temp. job Monday. Saying I do writing would be, well, a lie. Most of what I do would be far better described as Data Entry, that which isn't Data Entry would be best described as copying shit. That's fine by me. Writing isn't something I want to do as a 9-5 career, it's merely something I'm good at and therefor probably able to make more money at. Writing business plans is not something I have any innate concern for. It's only the money people might pay me to do that sort of writing which is exciting. But anyway, my new part-time job at Wells Fargo isn't to complex so far, but it does have it's entertaining moments. It's a decent enough environment, and I wouldn't mind be hired into it permanently, but it's far from clear if that will happen.

I'm working with Customer Correspondence, which is a fancy way of saying Customer Service, and though I'm not doing any actual customer service, I do get to see all the shit people mail in. A lot of stuff is Date-of-Death balance inquires, which are basically inquires into how much money a dead relative has left them. These are sorta interesting because they include a death certificate which tells how a person died. Turns out, everyone dies of natural causes these days - not even accidents are something to worry about. It's also interesting to see the occasional millionaire, and wonder if the surviving relatives know just how much they're about to get.

By far more interesting, though, are the complaints people send in. Most of them are mundane, and concern nothing more than overdraft charges which appear to have been resolved by the company without much further problem, though some people seem snubbed by the idea, as if Well Fargo was their close friend and went to a dance party without telling them, much less inviting them. We also get mail from prisoners that need to do something to their account, and these letters are, surprisingly, very apologetic about the whole ordeal.

Some, however, are truly amazing. There seems to be a patriotic theme among certain customers - that is to say, these customers are not only angry that Wells Fargo has performed a certain action, but they have had their sense of nation offended. These customers go on rants that have been spiced up with patriotic language, and they insist that Wells Fargo's particular offense against them is part of what is wrong with America today. One guy even said, and quote, " is scoundrels like you who tear at the fabric of our great nation". Indeed! I guess dubs has it wrong - we don't need a war on terror, rather, we need a war on banks. But that's not the best of it. The best of it was undoubtedly a sue-happy patriot who began his complaint by detailing how hard he was going to sue Wells Fargo (really, really hard). He then listed a number of evils which Wells Fargo has committed, combined with some demands concerning various amounts of cash he felt needed to be given or returned to him. Then comes the big, fat cherry on top of this compliant sundae - he insists that he is going to call Bill O'Reilly because "He goes after the big guys for the little guys", and then he declares that if Bill O'Reilly doesn'tcome after Wells Fargo on his show, he is going to sue Bill O'Reilly for false advertisement! I wanted so badly to bust out laughing at that one, but I had to maintain my composure.

I post any other notable stories I have from the place.

Oh, guess what? We got another kitten, for our max of two pets per apartment (not that I'd want anymore). She doesn't have a name yet, but I'll post pictures soon.

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Big Move

Two days ago I promised a big update with photos, and here it is.

March 14th, 2007:

The Jeep is packed and ready to go, crappy U-haul trailer in tow. We hit the road around 5:30 or 6:00, after spending a few hours hanging out with George. As we head north I can't help but notice that the Jeep refuses to go faster than 55 miles per hour, and that it is running hotter than it should. But what the hell can I do about that? We made it to Lacrosse, WI, that night and checked into a Microtel hotel, and after a covert operation to sneak the cat in, went back downstairs to get some things out of the back of the trailer. But aha! Here the first of many fun problems begin. See, when I put the lock on the trailer, I neglected to notice that it had become stuck in an angle that made it impossible to put the key into the lock. The key was just to be to fit. But we were tired, so we shrugged it off and waited for the next day.

March 15th, 2007:

This day really sucked. We left around 9:00 and spent about another hour trying to find some way to solve our lock problem. I thought about buying bolt cutters but I was a little afraid the thing might fly off and kill me or something, since I'd never used bolt cutters before and didn't have any eye protection, or any protection of any sort, really. So then we tried to get the top of the key shaved off so it would fit into the lock, but Home Depot was baffled and refused to do it. So we gave up and left. The hill going up towards the plains nearly killed the Jeep right there, but we manage to make it - only to find that the Great Plains had a headwind of about 25 to 40 MPH, which meant the Jeep, which had been going about 55, now could only go about 45. It was slow going and the engine remained hot for most of the time.

Luckily, the cat at some point decided to be cute and relieve the tension.

Purrball was great for pretty much entire trip. She wasn't scared at all of driving, in fact, she seemed to be very curious about everything, including why the shit outside was moving by so fast. She ran around the Jeep a little, but for the most part slept the afternoons away in the back.

Around noon we stopped for food and noticed a mechanic's shop, so we went to see if there was anything that could be done about the heat. The mechanic said that the thermostat was broken (this apparently isn't what feeds the temp gauge, but rather what decides when the engine is hot enough to need additional cooling) and he replaced it. Which took two fucking hours. Natasha got Purrball out and let her run around inside the shop, and we also found a place to shave off he key so we could get into the U-haul. After two fucking hours we were back on the road, but the problem was not solved. Lucky for us, the wind started to die down, and the rest of the day actually went pretty smooth. We stopped for the night somewhere on the west end of South Dakota.

March 16th, 2007

The day started off well. The wind wasn't bad. There wasn't much remarkable except for the badlands, which were a change of scenery. But our luck didn't hold, and around 4 or 5, somewhere in Wyoming, the Jeep's temp went into the red and we had to stop for awhile. The hills were becoming more severe and the Jeep was having a hard time handling the load. In addition, it hadn't shifted properly, putting extra strain on the engine. We got going again and made it half-way into Montana, starting to get into the rocky mountains. The weather was cool and I wanted to just drive the night, so we could get out of the mountains before day-break and the resulting increase in temperature. But then I noticed the GEN light was one, and Natasha informed me that actually, it'd be one for awhile - woops. What GEN meant was that the engine wasn't generating electrical power like it should, and so the battery was draining instead. Since we needed our headlights this was not a good thing. Plus the battery indicator was at this point very close to red = dead. I turned around and made for Big Timber, the last town we'd passed. The Jeep was just not going to make it. But a-ha - there was some hope for us yet, because the Inn we stayed at was right next to a U-haul place. We decided to get up early and visit it the next day.

March 17th, 2007

We visited the U-haul place as soon as it opened. Actually, it wasn't a U-haul place so much as it was an auto glass company, but it had U-hauls as a side operation (and why not, it's easy money). The guy was ULTRA friendly, he even charged up our battery. But there were some problems. We wanted to rent a truck and tow the Jeep behind us, but the glass company didn't have any tow dollys, and only had two 26' Super Mover trucks. The place 35 miles up the road did. I decided that with a full charge and no need for headlights, making it that far shouldn't be a problem, so we reserved the only two things the U-haul place had - a 17' truck an a tow dolly for the front two wheels. Obviously, that truck was bigger than we needed, way bigger, but it was the smallest the place at Livingston had.

We arrived in Livingston without problem. But they had a surprise for us - the 17' truck was already rented out. So instead, they were giving us this thing for the same price.

For those who didn't know, the trailer the Jeep was pulling was 8" long and 4 1/2" wide. Now we had this beast. This is what our stuff looked like once we had it all loaded inside.

Yeap. It was huge. We could have actually driven the Jeep into the back of the thing, if only it was legal. Anyway, we were ready to hit the road. But what is this? Another problem! The tow dolly we have has a busted fender which could come off at any moment. So the U-haul in Livingston refers us to U-haul in Bozeman, which has a repair center for these sorts of things. We take the big fuck-off truck up there and give them a visit. A guy named Lance comes out and tells us he'll be fixing it, and h he pulls the truck into the garage.

That's Lance. Lance is sort of a quite guy. And he doesn't speak very clearly. But grease monkeys often don't. The best mechanic I ever had was a guy named Guy. He was 65 years old and was almost entirely incomprehensible, but damn could he fix a car. So Lance deserves a shot. Now, it does take him about forty minutes to fix it, which is twice as long as he estimated. But whatever. Sometimes a problem arises. You just gotta roll with it. Eventually Lance gets it done and informs us we're ready to roll.

Indeed! We drive about an hour before stopping at a rest stop for a quick piss break. I'm worried about the Jeep falling off the dolly, so I go back to check and make sure everything is secure. And what do I find? The new fender, which also includes the tail light, has completely fallen apart. The tail-light is entirely gone - who knows where the hell it is now - and the top part of the fender has been dragging the road. At this point I don't give a shit, I just want to get to Portland, so I duct-tape the fender back into place and we hit the road.

After that, everything was smooth. The mountains provided beautiful scenery and we cleared them by the end of the day. The cat yet again provided entertainment by sitting on the dashboard.

We stopped in some random town which included the nicest Best Western I've ever scene, and we stayed there for the night.

March 18th 2007 - The End!

This day was unremarkable. Nothing went wrong. I had a great peanut-butter milkshake at some mom-n-pop place by a gas station. We arrived in Portland at around 3:00 and were shown to our new apartment.

The outside:

The view from our tiny deck:

Our Living Room:

Our Kitchen:

The apartment is great. Portland is great. The people are friendly and there are a lot of random little places to go. Just today we visited a little village with neat toy-store and a great candy shop. There are many places like this. And a mall with a skating rink, which is awesome.

Natasha and I now have our new cars. Hers is a 2005 Kia Rio.

Mine is a 2001 Saturn SL2.

Oh, and my job - I'll soon be starting part-time temp to hire work as a proof-reader and form letter writer at Wells Fargo. It sounds a little boring but not entirely boring, and if I get hired full-time it'll provide a decent amount of income. I don't know much more about it yet because I haven't started. They have to do a background check, which takes about 5 days. Hopefully they won't see the pictures of me with the stuffed hippo's decapitated head. Besides that I'm also looking for server work, because you get paid a min wage of 7.80 + tips here, which means servers do very well for themselves here. Working only 3 nights a week + my PT at Wells Fargo should provide more than enough income for now.

And that's about all I have. Everything is up to date now. So I won't be doing any more monster-posts in the near future. Or any at all.

Halo 3

I bought crackdown the day it came out, and so I was one of the lucky people that was eligible to play the Halo 3 beta. Unfortunately the majority of the Beta period was the time in which I was moving, and I THOUGHT that by the time I came back from visiting Natasha's relatives in Boise, the beta was over. But I just found out today that it was extended a tad bit longer, so I downloaded it.

I went in without expecting much either way. I loved Halo but thought Halo 2 was only so-so. I wasn't sure what to expect. But after playing about five matches tonight, I have to say it looks like Bungie is at the top of their game.

The flow of multi-player is amazing. The weapons are various, fun, and well balanced. The maps are nicely designed, and some of the not-so-useful but still fun things add some spice, such as the ability to pick up machine gun turrets and carry them as a weapon, and the nifty ATVs which are useless on High Ground (it's so small, why add transportation) but still throughly fun to drive. Dual-wielding has been toned down, the assault rifle is here and behaves like it should, the carbine is as much fun as ever. And the we have the spiker guns - those things are mutherfucking glorious!

But the real evidence, I think, that Halo 3 will live up to expectations are the little things. The game is fairly pretty to look at, but when the action revs up it really has it where it counts. The bullet effects are intense - seeing bullets fly in front of your nose is now as scary as the rocket launcher in Halo 1&2 - and the splash effects of bullets and grenades are top-notch. The explosions? They're the best I've ever seen. And what's even better is that the sound effects go along with it. A close-call sounds as scary as it looks.

So I'm excited about Halo 3 now. I certainly like the multi-player a lot better than the boring Gears of War. My only concern is the single-player. The plot of Halo 2 was inane. Hey, let's add in a talking Venus Fly-trap! Let's make a Gorilla the villain! Let's give the Covenant a player character exactly like the Spartan! Not to mention the ending. Ugh. It was still decent in spite of these problems, because no one knows how to make a level epic quite like Bungie, but I really hope they shape up the plot for Halo 3, because they have a lot of shit to resolve.

Anyway, I've got to go cap some bitches.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Isn't it Ironic?

After several weeks of research I left the house at around 10:00 am this morning with the intention of getting a vehicle. I was looking at the Ford Focus, the Saab 9-3, and Saturns of various kinds. I was very excited about a number of Saturn L200s - they had all the bells and whistles, above average gas mileage, and I liked the way they looked, too!

But before I left today, I doubled-checked (I mean, quad-checked) reliability and found out something horrible. Although Saturns are generally good cars - those in the 98-02 range in particular, before Saturn tried to get more hip with the new and crappy ION, not to mention that shit-tastic SUV, the L200 has been plagued by problems with the timing chain. It turns out that the timing chain sometimes breaks, and as a result sends shrapnel all over the top of the engine, ruining it and requiring a complete engine rebuild. Consumer Reports ranked it as one of the worst used cars to own, period, because of this frequent and very costly defect.

But not every Saturn on my list was an L200, so I went out and checked some other vehicles. First I looked at a 2002 Saturn SC2 with 87,000 miles ($5,995) Looked good outside, the engine sounded lovely, and it had all the bells and whistles, including a power sunroof! But weight - what's this? The power sunroof doesn't close! And the power window on the right side doesn't go down! The salesman said "Don't let that stop you from getting the car, we can fix it for you", but since the place was, honestly, sketchy as fuck anyway, I said yea right and left.

So what next? A 2001 Saturn SL2 with 66,000 miles (4,995). This was the last year Saturn built the SL2, which was a great car, but the exterior looks a little old now (see: not that cool). Still, I liked the color, and besides some fine scratches it was actually in better condition then the SC2 I looked at before it (which actually had a few inch-wide dints, strange for a Saturn, since their exteriors are made not to dent). The exterior and interior were obviously of an older design, but were in good shape. It had no power options and the interior light decided it didn't want to quite stay in place. Yet it drove very well. I was surprised by how quite it was, and although the ergonomics were obviously that of a 2001 car, it drove like it was brand-new. I Was impressed, but I still was unsure about the lack of options. It didn't even have a passenger side-airbag. That model year is rated very high in crash tests, but still.

Next I looked at a 2003 Ford Focus with 72,000 miles (6,250). Being the newest vehicle I looked at, it had the obvious advantage of looking and feeling the most modern. The interior was a bit more spacious - in fact I had to bring the seat up to get into a comfortable driving position! - though the back seats looked like they paid the price for this. On the outside, it was a very sexy car. White, four door, no dents or scratches. On the inside, it was similar, though I didn't like everything. The steering wheel seemed strangely small, and the huge air-bag compartment made it look like some sort of insect. And the air-conditioning vents were weird oval compartments that were placed in all kinds of strange places. I think Ford was trying to be a little to modern, but still, it defiantly felt newer than the Saturns. Under the hood was dirty, though - another used car dealer that doesn't bother to fully check and clean their cars beforehand, I guess - and there was a definite shudder in around 55mph which became more pronounced when breaking as these high speeds. The wheels would need balancing and aligned, and if it'd been like that long enough, it would need new tires. The tires defiantly did look more worn than those on the Saturns.

Then I went to look at a Saab. As I was heading this way, I noticed the battery gauge on the Jeep was getting really low. One it's problems is that the alternator doesn't always work, but typically it kicks back in before the battery starts to die. Not this time. It was going down quick. I stop at the Saab place and quickly test-drive a 1999 convertible with 90k miles (6,995). Oh yea, this baby is loaded. But not perfect. Despite all it's options, the exterior and interior conditions seemed to be slightly worse than the other vehicles I looked at. A few more dings, and it was the only car I looked at which had problems with the interior quality (the leather on the passenger seat was cracking in places). Yea, it had power everything - yea, it was convertible - but yea, it was 2,000 more than the Saturn SC2 and promised to be less reliable, as far as I could tell. And I new the gas mileage would be worse.

The Jeep barely started when I left. As the gauges went out as I crossed the Sellwood Bridge, which is approximately 4 miles from where I live. No MPH, no RPM, fuel and oil pressure still worked, though. The radio died and the clock went out too. Fine, I thought - as long as I could keep it moving, it'd be okay - but I couldn't. I had to stop to get on Mcloughlin, the street I live on, and in response it nearly died. It wouldn't die completely - but without power to help it idle, it wasn't wanting to get back up to highway speed. I nursed it over to a side-street and parked it, then called Natasha to pick me up. It's still there right now. There's no fee for that street and no postings for time limits to park, so I'm just going to wait till tomorrow and then get AAA to tow it back to the apartment for me.

Of course, the Jeep's breakdown meant I had no trade-in worth mentioning. This sorta made my decision for me, since I didn't want to go much over 100 on monthly payments, and without a trade-in most the vehicles I looked at or were going to look at were now out of my price range. After a brief double-check of carfax and reliability ratings to make sure the SC2 2001 was solid, I had Natasha take me back to it, and after another test-drive and a check of various parts to make sure they were working, I told them I wanted it. Now it's just a matter of financing, but I can't get that until Monday.

Overall, I'm happy with my purchase, even though I was pushed towards it. The low price and low miles combo was hard to pass up, plus it drove better than any other vehicle I'd driven. Yea, it doesn't have any bells or whistles besides a CD player. I wish that wasn't the case. But I need something to get me around.

I'll post a big update soon, even bigger than this one, after I get the vehicle. It will include all sorts of neat stuff like pictures from my trip across the country, pictures of the apartment, pictures of OMG CUTE CAT, and pictures of me and Natasha's new rides. I'll also talk a little bit about the new job I'll be starting.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Death of a Hero, the Birth of a Monster

Last night the Jeep was not dead, but certainly it was in critical condition, and struggling on much like the guy you occasionally on TLC with the knife in his head. So many problems. Overheating. Not shifting properly. Then something shit out that made the battery stop recharging. I realized this at about 11 last night as we left a town called Big Timber, and I had to U-turn and rush back. We found a room in this crappy hotel called River Valley Inn (where the river was, who knows) and were checked in by an old lady with pink-tinted glasses. Amazingly, even that strange little hotel had wifi, but I was to tired and concerned to post anything.

But there was some light to the tunnel - the Inn, as it turned out, was directly next to a Uhaul place. So we woke up at 7 and went over to find out if we could get a truck and tow the Jeep. Which they didn't have - but the guy was nice enough to charge up the battery so that we could get to the next town, which had a larger Uhaul place. We were set up for a 17' truck, pretty big, but whatever.

But go big or go home, right? We arrive and find out that they already promised the 17 footer to someone else, so they hook us up (for the same price) with a 24 foot super-mover. I mean, the thing is almost a semi-truck. And so much room inside we didn't have to stack a single thing, plus we put the bikes in. Then we hooked the Jeep up to the tow dolly and hit the road with our fatass truck.

Of course we couldn't get going without on more thing going wrong - one of the fenders on the tow dolly was broken and flapping around, so we went to a Uhaul place to get it repaired real quick (it's just a piece of plastic). Unfortunately the mechanic who did the job is a complete and total idiot who is unable to even properly deal with pieces of plastic, because as soon as we left the Uhaul place the part of the fender containing the light came right off. Yea, bolting things down is HARD. But I didn't care at that point. We duct-taped what we could and drove on.

It's actually a lot of fun to drive, except for being horribly bumpy. But it's nice to be able to look the truckers in the eyes for once, although I can't help but believe that they think Uhaul trucks are nothing but impostors, manned by civilians, of all things!

The fatass truck hauled us through the mountains, which were beautiful. Now we're in Washington, at a place call Ritzville which consists of three hotels and a McDoanlds. The best western we're at is actually pretty plush for a interstate hotel, big fridge, microwave, pool+sauna, and really big continental breakfast complete with waffle maker.

Tomorrow, to Portland! Finally.