Thursday, December 30, 2010

Young Claus and Sharp Claus

"Young Claus" and "Sharp Claus"

Some say my too-lazy-to-shave beard has earned me the appearance of a young Santa (or possibly the ghost of Christmas present). And the cat, well, you maybe can figure out that pun for yourself.

Anyway, Happy Holidays!

I've been asked a few times what that shirt says. It features a Nintendo controller and says, "I have control issues."
...but I like the sentence it forms in the photo: "I have... cat."

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Blind Blinding the Blind

I've had more occasion to drive at night lately, so in addition to dealing with the usual Blind-spot Billy, Cell-phone Cindi, Double-lane Doug, Lane-weaver Lenny and Slow-merge Stella, I get to contend with another faceless freeway stereotype: Nova-beam Ned.

You've seen this guy, right? Who could miss him?

Now, I'm an engineer. I understand and appreciate that the task which falls to headlights is one of cruel difficulty. A car's headlight must illuminate (well into human-eye levels) a relatively flat surface (which is usually black), as great a distance as possible, without melting its surroundings (in fact, there's a nice hot internal combustion engine inches away), from an angle that's approaching zero degrees.

It's a ridiculous job. So, in many vehicles (see: status symbol pickups) the headlights play fast and loose with the low angle. Mount 'em higher, and the other problems shrink. Of course, it means that the driver of that car gets to see better, while the drivers of every other car on the road get two retinas full of blinding glare.

A second (and even more evil) tactic is to replace the light bulb with a dimensional portal, connected via space-time-bending wormhole to a massive star currently going supernova. ...Or maybe it's just a really powerful blue bulb, I guess that's possible. Whatever they are, I hate them, and if you have them in your car, I hate you, and you are a bad person.

Nova-beam Ned: To call you a heartless sociopath would be an insult to the heartless sociopath community. I want to mount a heavy and expensive adjustable parabolic mirror on my car, to reflect the torrent of angry light blasting from your evidently nuclear-powered car down to a fine point, focused like the sun through a magnifying glass, directly into your eyes. Once your irises are vaporized and your corneas aflame, I want to shatter those blue bulbs of death, and grind the resulting mess of broken glass and high-voltage wire right into the raw, bleeding cavities once home to your eyes, wreaking havoc on the remaining nerve tissue and sending unholy wattage into the optic center of your brain.

Do I want to do these things because I'm sadistic? Well maybe. But mainly, I want karma to balance. I want done unto you what you have done unto others. ...Actually, I just want you to use regular non-nova-beam headlights like a sane person. Would that work for you?

(see? So much nicer...)

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Moment of Silence For Cheese

This has been a difficult week for my stomach to ... stomach. Village Inn no longer serves their cheddar soup at all, and Training Table (also known to me as cheese-fries-with-hickory-sauce-place) has closed and is being torn down.

Got plenty of good cheese at home, so life as I know it hasn't fundamentally changed, but what's a blog for if I can't sometimes whine about little things that make me sad?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bad News Is Neutral News

I've gone on about Utah drivers before, but today it got personal. I had to swerve well outside the rightmost lane in order to avoid a very speedy weaver. There was plenty of room in all lanes, but I guess he thought the space I was occupying was where he had to be. In any case my jumpy heart sank as I heard what I was sure was the side of my car scraping against a concrete barrier. Little punk in his little phallic low-rider black car sped off.

When I arrived at the office a few minutes later (in a pretty foul mood), I saw no damage at all. I'm thinking I must have just winged one of those solid-looking-but-flimsy orange drums, and the sound I heard was adrenaline-distorted or something.

Later, I took my wife out for lunch at one of our usual haunts, only to be horrified that my usual Wednesday soup (Wisconsin cheddar) was not on the menu. I guess I could have ordered something that wasn't the lunch special, or tried one of the not-Wisconsin-cheddar soups. But hadn't I been through enough today?

When the waitress came by and I asked if the cheese soup was truly gone, she said no, they did have it today. I was so happy, I didn't even have the presence of mind to find out whether that meant they had it today only or if they'll keep having it every Wednesday.

But I'm alive, the car's alive, and I got my cheese. So, scary moments notwithstanding, I'll still call this day a success. In the words of the great Dr. Zoidberg, "Life was bad, but now it's good! Forever!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


While playing around with bits of a campaign sign, I noticed something I hadn't before. Stars (the shapes, not the flaming balls of gas) come in two varieties. There's the happy right-side-up twinkle-twinkle star...

...and then there's the upside-down, goat-sacrifice, satan-worship star...

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting to see which variety was chosen for each of the major party emblems.

I won't make any further commentary than that. Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Fun

This morning, when my wife and I went to vote, we came across a campaign sign, right there on the public school grounds of our polling place. Across the street on someone's private property, I'd be fine with, but no. Not at the polling location. Not cool. I wasn't about to stand for that. So I knocked it over.

After voting, on our way back to the car, I swiped it.

During the morning meeting at work, my coworkers and I sliced it up and made it better. So, I hereby present our improved campaign signs:

Rodders asked, after we'd had our way with the sign, whether I'd taken a "before" picture. I hadn't, so we pieced it back together as best we could. So in case you're wondering what started this little adventure, here's the sign more or less as we saw it, inappropriately standing outside the polls:

Best of luck to your opponents, Mike. Your supporters have no class.

Anyway, everyone who hasn't already: Get out and vote! Even if it's for this goon. Vote! Do it now!

Monday, November 01, 2010


Life contains but two tragedies. One is not to get your heart's desire; the other is to get it.

Get out there and vote, even if tragedy is inevitable.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Hal`10ween!

It's that time of year again! That time of year we buy up bags of candy "for trick or treaters" put out our cool little flag, and take knives and fire (and, this year, foil) to shapely orange vegetables.

They make a cute couple, don't you think?
After my squarish pumpkin had its face, Kim noticed it looked a bit like Frankenstein's monster. Some extra slices and aluminum foil experiments later, he had neck bolts and some stylish head stitches. Go ahead and zoom in if you like, but don't look too close - I just noticed the bolts are threaded backwards!

Kim's nearly spherical pumpkin got a happy ghost face, and doesn't even seem to mind being checked out by Frankie. It's really enjoying itself; it knows it's a special time of year.

Both of these characters gave us a good supply of seeds too (Happy Ghost's are especially plump); here's hoping we can cook them up as good as last year's.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

eStuff, iThings...

In the '90s, it was eStuff. eBooks, eMachines, eBay, "E" was the little letter to stick on your brand. Then, it was on to the next vowel.

In the '00s, it was iThings. iPods, iMacs, iPhones... Heck, the world's best-selling video game console is nothing more than a "W" with two little "i"s tacked on.

I've got the next one. Vowels are on the way out. I mean, who wants to be seen in public with an oFace or look up their contacts on a uWho? Obviously, the next big trend in naming is ...

π (yes, "pi".)

I've already begun work on the πPod, which obviously will be used to play MP3.14159 files. (You may have already read about that compression algorithm.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

You've been told WHAT?!

Got something interesting (for certain, grotesque values of "interesting") in the snail mail:

If you don't feel like zooming in, the letter begins:
If you're the Republican I've been told you are, then I need you to...
Now I don't know who's been spreading such rumors, and I've been called a lot of things in my life, but never "Republican". That's just low.

A short while ago, my wife got the same insulting letter, and she figured out the proper response (once she quit cursing). Since this was a solicitation for campaign money, obviously the correct thing to do was was to turn around and give money to the Democrats. And so she did. These folks didn't learn their lesson, they sent me the letter, so now I did too.

We suspect our names were collected from the DMV or something. Just because we live in Utah doesn't mean we're Republican. Or Mormon. Oh, and I only have the one wife. I'm white, that's about all you get.

I suppose it could have been worse. The Teabaggers could have written asking me for money. But apparently the rumors about me haven't gotten so bad that anybody's accused me of being an ignorant-as-hell-and-proud-of-it, racist, homophobic, corporate-puppet, doomsday-cult zombie.

Not sure who to donate to if that letter comes.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Two quick ideas for vacuum cleaners.
<accent type="british">Ones that work properly.</accent>

Cordless Upright Vacuum
This one, I could build. I'm tempted to. Get me an off-the-shelf energy-star vacuum cleaner, a home office uninterruptible power supply, some warranty-voiding tools, a few yards of duct tape, and an afternoon, and I'll give you a vacuum that doesn't try to trip you dozens of times with its big stupid clumsy power cord while you use it. Actually I won't give it to you, I'll keep it. Even if it kind of sucks.
(...Did a quick Google search... no, not a little pretend vacuum, not a dustbuster, a real friggin' cordless vacuum. I don't care if it's heavy. I'm as strong as I am clumsy. Lose the wire.)

Spot RoomBot
We don't have a roomba, but the idea is appealing. We do, however, have a spotbot, and it is worth its weight in gold because it cleans up after our runt of a cat, who can't eat anything other than one kind of prescription food, but does anyway. A spotbot which could seek out the next area of barfplops and tailsmears would be worth its weight in ... something else super-valuable.
...This one's quite a bit harder. It would need to be able to refuel itself with water and detergent (and dump out the cat-barf-tainted water) as well as deal with taller solid masses in addition to spill-type floor-level stains. Sign me up for version 2.0 of this one; working out the kinks in this design would be more gross than my current techniques.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Us

Five years ago, this happened:

...It actually happened in color, but you get the idea. A Minnesota girl and a Wisconsin boy got married. They're not usually ones to get all dressed up (he also doesn't normally shave) but they'd fallen in love and grown to mean the world to each other. Five years ago today, they became husband and wife.

Thank you, Kim, for the last five years, for the time we were together before that, and for all the time we'll have from here on out. You're amazing, and you make me feel like I can be amazing too.

Happy anniversary to us!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

On the Preparation of Bratwurst

Years ago I moved from Wisconsin to Utah for work purposes, but you can't take Wisconsin out of the man, it seems - I started up a Brat Friday tradition, to make coworkers happy by clogging their arteries. I have become known as "the brat whisperer", and probably other more colorful names I'm not aware of. Anyhow, folks tell me that the results are good, and I've recently been asked about the process by several people. I think of it more as an art than a science, but for those who are curious, I'll jot down here some notes on my technique (if it can be called that).

Mark of a Wisconsinite #1: The bratwurst itself
It's hard to buy a bad pack of brats. When they're good they're great, and when they're bad, they're still pretty good. (Surely this applies to other things in life too, I leave that as an exercise for the reader.) Small sausage shops (even sausage-and-cheese-shops, or sausage-cheese-and-beer shops) are pretty easy to find in Wisconsin, but a bit more rare in Utah. I've had great luck with Colosimo's. ( Plenty of yummy flavors out there - Italian style, Polish, red wine, apple, but my default is always the original German style. Absent a mom-and-pop sausage shop, supermarket brands are fine too. If they have a deli, ask there first. But even the worst wurst can turn out very yummily.

Mark of a Wisconsinite #2: The beer
As far as I know, the proper thing to do with a brat is to boil it in beer to the point of being cooked before it ever approaches the grill, if indeed it ever does. Time and laziness, however, push me towards substitute behaviour for this step. What normally happens is I'll put fridge-temperature brats in a bowl, slice up a yellow onion into it, then dump in a couple beers. I've had great luck with Cutthroat, but I suspect any pale ale or other hops-heavy beer will have a similarly yummy effect. Any beer will do, but for soaking purposes I'd try not to go too light or too dark. I leave 'em in the beer+onion stew for a while, until the first wave of people get impatient. (Call it a sloppy 5 minutes, no penalty on either side.)

Hint of religion: Starting the grill
I'm not sure what the gospel according to Penduin would read like, (poorly, I'm guessing) but I'm pretty sure one of the cardinal rules would be that thou shalt open thine beer before starting thy grill. Ideally a propane grill would have a bottle opener that serves as its ignition switch. Mormon coworkers tend to overlook this step, but they shouldn't - a grillmaster without an open beer is ill-equipped. Not only is he not fully enjoying life, but he cannot immediately deal with flare-ups in proper, beer-smoke-generating fashion.

Spice of variety: Beans and onions
While the grill is warming up and burning off last week's grease, I'll throw on a pot of baked beans (top rack, give 'em time) and a tinfoil boat of onion slices stolen from the soaking bowl (bottom rack, get 'em tender). Bush's makes several flavors of aptly-named "grillin' beans", all of which are quite good, but a coworker of mine makes the best baked beans himself... they include little chunks of hamburger and bacon, and several types of beans. Anyway if you serve beans with your brats, cooking 'em in the smoky grill is highly recommended. To avoid burning the onions, double-up the foil and soak them in beer. This is another reason the grillmaster must be equipped with an open and non-empty beer at all times; the onions in this foil boat should never go dry, even if a leak springs.

Art of grilling: Meat hits iron
I'm a disciple of Hank Hill, at least when it comes to grilling. I keep the propane on pretty low, because a lazy, slow-cooked sausage is happier and yummier than one that's burnt outside and pink within. I've also used charcoal, which for me just meant moving everything around even more often. No matter the fuel, I'm very hands-on. I turn 'em over often and stand 'em up on their edges to try and darken them evenly all the way around.

Touch of planning: The pipeline
When the first pack of brats is out of the beer and onto the flames, the next pack goes in the bowl. I tend to cook for a decent crowd now, so this is usually a one-way assembly line. When there were fewer packs of brats feeding fewer people, I used to toss brats from the grill back in the drink a time or two before finishing them, operating on the principle that a hot brat will more readily absorb beery, oniony flavor than a cold one. In practice, this probably matters more with weaker/lighter beer. Beer with sufficient bite seems to give the brats enough flavor with just the one soak.

Trial of patience: When to say when
Slow cooked, a brat will be safe to eat for a good while before I call it "done". There's golden-brown, there's brown, but basically I like to call it good right around the time the first spots of black are showing up. I don't want to feed people a lump of charred carbon, but the very ends or the bits that have been over the hottest parts of the flame should be a little blackened, I think. If you try to unbend the sausage to fit it into a straight bun, it should split open.

Ultimate mark of a Wisconsinite: The cheese
Everybody has their own idea of optimal bratwurst garnishing. For me it's simple: put a nice slice of cheese on the bun (pepperjack and muenster are my current favorites) and let the brat melt it once it's wedged in there. I also like to experiment with various mustards; gotta love a good grainy brown mustard. Others like me to grill their bun for a minute first, or to pile on the beer-boiled onions, jalapeno slices, or of course sauerkraut. Some folks will spoon some baked beans right on there. Can't screw it up, really. I'll frown at someone for using ketchup, but I guess I can't really call it "wrong". For the experimental and/or indecisive, segmenting the brat with several different mustards or cheeses is to be encouraged, and rewarded with beer.

I think that's about it. I don't claim to be an expert in the preparation of bratwurst, but at the very least I've been able to fool some of the people some of the time. :^) If anyone actually reads this, post your own grilling stories and suggestions. For grilling is not about instructions and procedures, it's about chatting and sharing stories. And beer. ...Oh right and sausages. Tasty, tasty sausages.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Since I have such a great deal of free time, I have some little side projects going. That there was half sarcasm. I have what feels like no free time at all, and quite a few projects on distant back-burners, most of them having been idle for some time.

Tong, my little brain-hurting game
After "finishing" 1.0 years ago I've added some tweaks and fixes, but I never released a 1.1 because I'm waiting for some custom background music to get finished, and I hate pestering the (very friendly and talented) fellow who was writing it.
Status: long-stalled

Bontz, a much bigger brain-hurting game
So many false starts. I had some wind last year with scanned, hand-drawn graphics and a brand new engine (two new engines, actually, a "real" C one and a "prototyping" Python one), and even threw together most of a spin-off minigame, the 8-bit looking Mucka Munch. Then work kicked into high gear and I haven't been back for months.
Status: stalled

The End, a sci-fi series and/or film
A work buddy and I have a pretty fun concept worked out and I've started work on a proper screenplay. It would be incredibly fun to find some local actors and spend whatever our wives would let us shooting this as some independent project. It would also be incredibly fun if days lasted 32 hours instead of 24, so I'm guessing a series of scripts is as far as this will go.
Status: crawling

Flipnotes, various small animations
On and off I get an itch to make silly animations, and in the tradition of Fantavision and Mario Paint, Flipnote Studio on the DS is a very fun creative outlet with a really big double-edged sword: internet connectivity. Sharing and building on animations as a community is great fun, and I've had a few #1 ranked cartoons, but they're never the ones I'm actually proud of or put lots of effort into.
Status: slow trickle

Megabot, a free and open Megaman engine
I had a little steam and created a handful of graphics, including most of the player animations (all inspired by 8-bit Megaman games but not direct sprite copies) and even built a Python prototype running a slightly-interactive title screen (using a Wii remote, even) but haven't plunged into the tedious blocks of code that lie between getting something happening on-screen and having a workable engine I can add content to.
Status: stalled

WarioWare DIY, various micro-games
This just came out, but it's pretty obvious that I'll be logging a lot of insomnia hours here. Nintendo has gone and made a DS game about making DS games. The mind boggles, and my first collection of random challenges is grilling-themed.
Status: alive and well

This blog, the thing you're reading right now
Three months and change since my last update, which was puny, and another two months from the also-puny one prior. On the odd chance I think I have something interesting to say, by the time I get around to starting to say it I've lost either the interest in whatever I had to say as being share-worthy or the momentum to flesh out something worth reading. I figure I'll tackle the former first and post some crap, and maybe work my way up to read-worthy once I've defeated my digital hermit-ism.
Status: highly neglected