June 30, 2003

Movies: Catch Me If You Can

Watched this on the plane back from Seattle. Turns out it was lucky Netflix has taken forever to send me this despite it being at the top of my queue for weeks. Enjoyed it pretty much as I expected, which was a lot. Excellent performances from DiCapprio, Walken and Hanks. Only problem was that it needed more Cow Bell (SNL reference). ****

Posted by aarondf at 04:18 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Seattle Trip

Went to Seattle for Global Grid Forum, a work conference after a hectic day at work last Monday between trips. The weather in Seattle this past week was absolutely amazingly nice, a perfect temperature, low humidity, and light till 9:15 - wonderful! The hotel pool and jacuzzi were also wonderful, being on the 35th floor with a great view and I went 4 times in the 4 days I was there.

I also took advantage of the trip to meet with Seattle friends, both met through gaming. Andrew and I went to a really nice but casual restaurant on Tuesday evening after I arrived and were able to sit outside for a wonderful dinner. Afterwards, we had a couple of drinks at a bar across the street and ran into a fellow Microserf ( ;) ) and friend of his and chatted about games and computers. Later in the week, I took the bus out to Redmond (catching a wonderful view of Mt Rainier across Lake Washington on the way) to meet Peter and chat and head over to a barbecue and gaming party. It turned out that amazingly I knew via the net two of the other people at the party including the host - small world. Played a bunch of games including a game of Funkenschlag which Peter won by an amazingly tiny $2 tiebreaker. We then chatted about puzzle hunts till dawn when Peter gave me a ride back to catch a few hours of sleep before my flight in the early afternoon which fortunately went super-smoothly.

Posted by aarondf at 04:10 PM | Events | Comments (0)

Dead Show at the Tweeter Center

I arranged to return from Atlanta in time to meet up with my brother and his family and then go to The Dead (all of the surviving members of The Grateful Dead) show last Sunday. There was unbelievable rain before and after the show but it fortunately took a break during the show although Stefan had managed to get me a pavillion seat so this wasn't much of an issue anyway. The first set wasn't great but the second set was really hot. I left before the Encore in order to hurry out and successfully beat all the traffic and given the monsoon started right up again I was particularly glad of this. Got home exhausted but had a great time at the show and seeing Stefan, Samira and Isaac.

Posted by aarondf at 04:00 PM | Events | Comments (0)

Flights

As I've flown four times in the past few weeks, a few quick comments. All of these flights have been extremely smooth and no more unreasonable security hassles. They are even apparently doing away with showing ID at the gate.

I want to particularly recommend Orbitz for buying tickets and the self-service checkin kiosks at the airports. Orbitz has always had great prices but now they have a vastly improved interface (the carriers/stops/prices table thing in particuarly is great!) and email reminders about your trip at various points. The self-service checkins have so far made check-in delays a thing of the past, even with checked luggage which I never seem able to avoid. Returning from Seattle, this took me probably 7-10 minutes and this was the longest I have yet spent! The kiosks also let me change my seat myself to grab the best available, including emergency exit row seats.

Posted by aarondf at 03:54 PM | Travels | Comments (0)

Games at the Oasis of Fun

Went to Atlanta the week before last for the inaugural Oasis of Fun and it was also my first trip to Atlanta. Had a really nice time, particularly spending time with old friends DavidS and Snoop among others and meeting a bunch of people I only knew through email including Stven, Angela, Dave and Theresa, Gee, MichaelW and many more. Both taught and learned a bunch of games and also did well at the big social games, being very near to winning at both of them.

I also went out to eat a few times and was amazed at the low prices for food near the hotel (which was also extremely inexpensive), particularly the very good barbecue place. We also went for one very nice, long, enjoyable lunch at Einstein's which DavidS knew about. Excellent food and conversation!

I will most likely return next year. Thanks, Stven and helpers, for a great inaugural Oasis.

Posted by aarondf at 03:48 PM | Events | Comments (0)

June 27, 2003

Travelling

I am still travelling this week, in Seattle for work and was also travelling last week for the Oasis of Fun in Atlanta. I'll write more about both trips when I return.

Posted by aarondf at 12:52 PM | Miscellaneous | Comments (0)

June 17, 2003

Set this House in Order - Matt Ruff

I had earlier read Matt Ruff's other two novels, Sewer, Gas & Electric and Fool on the Hill, and really enjoyed both, although they are very different books. This one is even more different, being told from the perspective of a person with multiple personality disorder. Assuming the multiple personality stuff is based on sound research, this book, unlike the others, is set in the present and has no fantastical elements. Still, it is gripping and informative. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the other two but plan to continue to read everything Ruff writes.

Posted by aarondf at 04:59 PM | Books | Comments (0)

June 16, 2003

Spurs win NBA Championship

Well, 4-2 as I predicted. Congratulations to all the Spurs. Watching them celebrate I couldn't think of a more deserving team - Robinson, Duncan and Kerr in particular are such deserving players who play the right way, with skill and passion but not dirty and whining play. Congratulations also to Kevin Willis and Steve Smith after so many years. In terms of the game, Popavich finally did the right thing and left Speedy Claxton in - Parker had played great to get them there but had lost his confidence and Speedy was playing wonderfully. He also left Stephen Jackson in which I thought was wrong but hugely worked out as he hit the most important shots in the game with a 3 to take the lead and another to hugely solidify it. He is a high risk, high reward player and at the end the reward part came out.

Posted by aarondf at 12:01 PM | Sports | Comments (0)

June 15, 2003

Cirque du Soleil: 'O' and Varekai

Last December, I went to see Cirque du Soleil's show O at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and, although, I don't want to compare it to theatre, it was certainly the best and most spectacular production/performance piece I have ever seen. Absolutely Fabulous! Despite paying over $100 for my ticket, I would love to go see it again and think it alone would have been worth the trip to Vegas. One of the reasons it would be worth seeing again is that at all times many things were happening on the incredible stage so I could never watch everything at once. This also kept the show from ever getting boring. The comic clown interludes were also brilliant and incredibly funny. I, who am a very impatient person, was not bored for one second of the performance. The water stage and the amazing things they could do to cover it, fully or partially, were definitely a huge sixth man for the show and I love water. The highlight for me was the Russian Swing towards the end where they did (estimated) 50' vertical launches and 70' horizontal launches of acrobats who did tricks and then dives into the water - Incredible! Simply one of the most amazing things I have ever been to!

I unfortunately did not get to see Mystere due to the time near the holidays and the shows just going dark during my days there so I had to make a choice and only see one.

Anyway, what makes me comment about this now is I just watched on my TiVo the Cirque's new show Varekai on the Bravo channel. After returning from Vegas and discovering all the Cirque stuff on Bravo, I have taped and watched a bunch, including the entire season of Fire Within, the Cirque reality show on the casting and training for Varekai so I was looking forward to seeing this. I quite enjoyed Fire Within.

Unfortunately, as with the other Cirque shows I have seen on Bravo (which is I think most of the travelling shows and not the set shows like O and Mystere), it just didn't work for me. I don't know if it was the show or not being live but really think it is a combination. A lot is lost on TV, particularly as the filming unwisely makes way too many cuts, dissolves, replays, slowmos, etc... that detract from the viewing. However, I also just didn't find this show nearly as interesting as O. Not nearly as much was happening on stage at once and some of the pieces definitely did get boring. The interludes in particular were very poor. Both the singer/spotlight skit and the lightbulb guy skit made it obvious what was going on after 10 seconds but kept with the, not very good in the first place, joke for like 5 long minutes. Nowhere near the fun or interest of the O clowns. Still, there were of course some amazing acrobatics and highlights for me were seeing the people I'd gotten to know in FW, particularly Oleg and Tatianna (sp?), the incredible balancing maneuvers, the mouth juggling and the Russian swing finale. However, the Russian swing, while excellent, wasn't half as enjoyable as the one in O, probably mostly due to lacking the water to dive into and thus allowing more extreme manuevers. I will probably go to see any Cirque show I can but I have a strong feeling I have already seen what for me will be my great favorite.

Posted by aarondf at 06:27 PM | Events | Comments (1)

Games Party

Went to Matt's games party, TrashCon, Friday and Saturday. Played lots of Tichu and a few other things including Rob's trivia game. Nice time. Not quite as many people as recently, probably due to it being Father's Day weekend, but still a very good crowd.

Posted by aarondf at 06:02 PM | Games | Comments (0)

June 13, 2003

Finished Cowboy Bebop

Forgot to mention that I finished Cowboy Bebop over the weekend. I continued to really enjoy it but the end didn't work that well for me. I really liked Edward and Ein and was unhappy when they left with little idea of how they would fare. I also expected more payoff from Ein, figuring there would be an episode focusing on his 'data dog' nature. There was the episode with the game where he was used but I expected something more. The ending also left me unsure that Spike was dead. I think we are supposed to think he is but after seeing other injuries he survived (like in the church battle), I wasn't sure.

Posted by aarondf at 12:15 PM | Television | Comments (0)

June 12, 2003

Movies: Drumline

Finished watching Drumline a little while ago. Not that much to say about it but I really enjoyed it. The cinematography of a difficult subject was particularly excellent with lots of great angles. ****.

Posted by aarondf at 10:39 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

Cook's Illustrated vs Consumer Reports

I forgot to mention this in my last entry. There is an obvious comparison of the equipment reviews in Cook's Illustrated to Consumer Reports and for me CI wins easily. I like CR and subscribe to it off and on but I have two big problems with their reviews. First off, although they select a winner it is never really clear to me how much better it is than the others. There is not enough direct comparison of the top few choices. CI picks a very clear winner and nicely explains why they chose that one. The other big problem I have is availability. With CI, I have never had a problem finding something they recommended (it may be helped that they and I are both located in Boston), usually at Kitchen's Etc.. With CR, OTOH, I often have problems finding things and they don't give any indicators of what stores would be good to find a given model in. I am currently having no luck finding the top scorer in their recent air conditioners review and this is quite annoying. Both are very useful magazines but I personally like CI much more.

Posted by aarondf at 10:37 PM | Things | Comments (0)

Things: Introduction

I had thought about doing this for a while but reading Recommendo yesterday and the related Tools are the Revolution piece finally decided me. I am going to review every once a in a while things I own; tools, art, tech, whatever. I will focus on those things which others can buy but will sometimes review more unique items.

One thing I will generally not talk about is Kitchen stuff and instead will again highly recommend Cook's Illustrated magazine and their accompanying PBS show America's Test Kitchen. This is the cooking show for engineers, where everything is tested and tested again to find the best solution, treating cooking as a science rather than an art which is how I cook. It will be less useful to serious cooking people interested in play in the kitchen. A few items which they recommend and I highly endorse are the Oxo Swivel Peeler (which I found before discovering them and love), the Unicorn Magnum Pepper Mill and the Microplane Zester. All of these won their category's test. I have not yet been steered wrong by their reviews or recipes.

Posted by aarondf at 11:37 AM | Things | Comments (0)

June 11, 2003

Link: Gear Recommendations blog

Just read on BoingBoing about a very cool blog by Kevin Kelly of Wired fame with gear reviews called Recommendo. I'll be going through the archives as I have time but a quick look suggest he has excellent suggestions for stuff. I also highly recommend Cook's Illustrated off the front page and their accompanying TV Show American's Test Kitchen. I also think Froogle is an excellent idea, giving commercial searches for things to buy a separate area.

Posted by aarondf at 12:46 PM | Links | Comments (0)

June 10, 2003

Disappearing post

Hmmm, just noticed that my post yesterday regarding the NBA Finals isn't there. Did I just not publish it? Strange but I am not going to bother to try to recreate it but the series is now 2-1 halfway to my predicted 4-2 result with the Spurs inside game being a bit better than the Nets outside game despite too many turnovers and poor freethrow shooting.

Also, congratulations to the New Jersey Devils on winning the Stanley Cup. I was out at dinner for a friend's 40th birthday and only caught a few minutes of the game on the radio but it was a pretty solid win. I had slightly favored Anaheim but have only ever really followed hockey for a my first couple of undergrad years at Penn when my roommate was a big fan of the Flyers and I got into following them for a while. Still my favorite team but I really don't watch almost any hockey.

Posted by aarondf at 02:27 PM | Tech | Comments (0)

Poker: Fifth Street

Just read a cool article last night from Harper's by a writer who made it to the final table of the 2000 World Series of Poker main event, no-limit hold 'em. He has also written it in book form in Positively Fifth Street which I will probably get out from the library at some point but this apparently also includes a bunch of non-poker stuff which I am unlikely to be interested in. I highly recommend the article as an excellent write-up of one person's view of tournament poker at the highest level. Thanks, Peter and Dave.

Posted by aarondf at 02:20 PM | Games | Comments (0)

June 05, 2003

NBA Finals: Game 1

Not too much to say. Duncan played an amazing second half and the Spurs generally dominated the middle, scoring well and blocking a ton of Nets shots inside. Still, the win while pretty easy was not a dominating one and if NJ can get their fast break game working they could definitely win some games. I think the Spurs will take the series but probably not sweep it. I'll predict 4-2 Spurs.

Posted by aarondf at 02:15 PM | Sports | Comments (0)

June 04, 2003

Movies: The Italian Job

Went to see The Italian Job this afternoon as I am only working
a half day. As expected from reviews, it was quite good and downright fun. All the actors were perfect for their roles and Theron is gorgeous - it is surprising there is no Wahlberg-Theron love scene. My favorite scene was definitely the Seth Green commentary as Handsome Rob is picking up Becky - priceless.

I had initially accidentally went into the Finding Nemo theatre next door and considered staying but was more in the mood for action today - hopefully I'll get to Nemo in the next week. I did get to see the Snowman Pixar again short shown just before Nemo was to start which was fun.

Posted by aarondf at 04:40 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

June 02, 2003

Ordered a Kayak

I went to a Kayak demo put on by Bob Smith's Wilderness House, which is a nice outdoor equipment store just up the street from my office. They had 30 or so boats set up which people could try out on a nice lake for as long as they wanted all weekend. I really can't see any way other than this for choosing a kayak if you don't already know what you want. I tried about 6 boats and while no boat had everything (some of the things I wanted are basically contradictory - speed vs stability and such), I eventually did settle on a favorite. I quickly decided that, if possible, I wanted a boat by Wilderness Systems as they have a seat system that was much more conformtable than other boats I have tried, especially given my lower back problems. Their Tempest 170 was a gorgeous, high-performance boat, but it was also kind of cramped and VERY expensive ($1300 there and $3000+ in Kevlar/Fiberglass). I settled on the Pungo 140 for its great stability, excellent tracking and best comfort of all the boats I tried. It will only be of moderate speed and limited to really basic sea kayaking but on rivers and lakes it should be great. I called the store back on Sunday after I decided and ended up having to order it to get the color I want (Red of course) which will take 4 weeks or so but is worth it to me and I am still getting it at their show discount price which is also less than any price I found on this boat after a quick web search.

I now have to look into buying a paddle, life jacket, kayak cart and other accessories but have a while in which to do that. More later when the boat arrives.

Posted by aarondf at 04:39 PM | Miscellaneous | Comments (0)