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The weekend in review

Long time no post, folks. So, here's what happened over my past weekend...

Shelly was out of town for the weekend on a very rare and well deserved time away from us. But this meant I was forced (FORCED) to care for our children.

Julie was invited to a b-day party at a nearby roller rink on Sat. The girls have never roller skated. And, it's been almost 30 years for me since I last put roller skates on my feet. Needless to say this was hilarious (not). Actually it was cute and fun. The girls did as well as can be expected for their first times on skates. I was trying as hard as hell to remember how I learned to skate and couldn't. So, I basically sequestered them to a little practice area. I felt bad for Julie as she couldn't be out skating (or trying to) with her friends/classmates. However, the girls still said they had a good time, regardless. I tried not to freak out too much whenever either took a spill. Julie came home with some nice looking bruises too. We'll have to try and get back so the girls can try skating some more.

Yesterday was pumpkin carving time. I apparently let them pick designs that may have been a bit more difficult considering neither has done the actual carving before but they managed to do a pretty good job.

It's going to be a chilly night for them tonight but at least it's not snowing like it did 20 years ago.


OMG! a new LJ post! LOL

I picked up Rocksmith (Ubisoft) for the 360. This is not just another music rhythm title. You don't use toy controllers with buttons to approximate playing an instrument. You need a real guitar (any as long as it has a pick-up and has a quarter-inch jack) to play this "game". There is a bundle that includes an Epiphone Les Paul Jr. (I think), but I bought the "regular" version which is the game, a specialized instrument cable, and a page of numbered stickers that you can put on your guitar fretboard (for beginners). I already have a guitar, a PRS Hollowbody II. Well, actually, I have three guitars, but we won't really go there...

More on the game itself in a bit. I want to talk about this cable. It has a 1/4" connector on one end (like a traditional guitar cable) and a USB connector on the other. Between these two ends, there's a fast-disconnect section so you don't accidentally yank your console onto the floor if you unwittingly reach the end of the cable (11' in total length) and an in-line ADC (Analog to Digital Converter) of some sort. It converts the analog signal coming out of the pickup(s) to digital signals that get used in the game. What's cool is that you can use this same cable to connect your guitar to your computer via USB and then record your guitar with any audio recording app. that lets you switch your input to the USB device. When plugged in to Win7, the cable showed up as "Rocksmith USB Guitar (something something)" in the Device Manager. Pretty neat.

Back to the game, it's still a rhythm game in so far as any song requires following the rhythm to play along with it. But, where it deviates from traditional rhythm games, is that you are eventually playing along to the song with the real notes, riffs, and chords if you're able to play well enough. The game automatically adjusts the difficulty level dependent on your progress as you play along to a song. The first song I played in my "journey" (aka career mode) was The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction". At the start, I had to just alternate between the F# and A notes in the song's opening riff. If I could hit each note correctly, as the song moved on, it kept adding more notes of the riff a note or two at a time. By the end of the song, I was playing that riff in tune and on time along with the song.

This is the kind of game I had hoped would eventually come along when games like GH and RB started coming out. They seemed to have nailed it pretty well. Hopefully, they can get more songs as DLC. Maybe they can convince those artists that looked askance at GH and RB because they still seemed too game-like to reconsider for this game since it's also basically teaching you how to play a guitar to some extent.

Just you and I

Shelly had to take Sophie to a birthday party yesterday afternoon so that left Julie and I to our own devices. Julie kept hinting that she wanted to go out for lunch and then make a stop at the American Girl store at the "Maul(ing) of America". (DEAR GOD NO!)

As Shelly was leaving with Sophie, I tried to remind her to leave Julie's booster seat but didn't get the words out in time. I figured she'd either think of it on her own or not. And, if not, we'd figure something else out. Like, sitting around for two hours glaring at each other. You know... fun stuff.

Well, turned out there was no booster seat left behind. What to do, what to do? I told Julie what the deal was and that if we were to go out to eat, we would have to do it by bike. And, she was up for it. She suggested we stop at the library on the way home. So, we biked to Chipotle and then biked to the library before returning home. She did really well on all of it. Never complained and generally seemed to enjoy all of it. Mileage-wise, not as far as a round trip to Lake Calhoun and back. But, all the same, I'm just happy to see her enjoying something as active as biking.

Later on, while Sophie watched an "Olivia" DVD, Julie started watching the first episode of the History Channel's "The Universe" series from a few years ago. The first ep. is about the sun. I kept looking at her face to gauge whether it was interesting or over her head. I thought I caught her looking sleepy or bored so I asked if it was boring. She said that she was enjoying. Unfortunately, we were only able to get about 40 minutes into it before dinner was ready.

The fastest decade ever.

Ten years ago today, my wife and I promised that we would love and care for each other in front of our friends and family. That ten years has come and gone in a flash. We've definitely had our ups and downs. But, I can definitely say that I love her more than ever before. She's been a stellar mother to our children and puts up with all of my BS!

What more can a guy ask for?

Testing 1, 2, 3...

Testing out the official LJ android app.

What's new out there, kids? It's been a long time since I've blogged anything meaningful. Looking back it looks like it was way back in October... Wow. That's like a lifetime ago.

Let's see...

The whole family spent 10 days in Hawaii in December to attend my brother's wedding. We had a great time. We got to see old friends again and met some friends for the first time. We also got to spend time write my brother's new in-laws. His wife's family were very nice people.

Once again, and it may have to do with visiting during the winter, I wondered what it would take to move there. Heh.

The only sad thing that happened was that Shelly's last remaining cat, Daisy, passed away. We were sad at the loss but weren't completely surprised as she was an old cat.

Christmas came and went.

Thanks to RandomCub, we now have a dog as of january. Fred is a rambunctious five month old chocolate lab. It's really like having a hybrid infant/toddler in the house again. Something that I hadn't considered when we got him.

Sophie turned 5 in February. She'll be starting kindergarten in the fall. No, I don't know where the time went either.

Julie continues to truck along at school. She's academically ahead of most of her classmates so we've (meaning "shelly and julie's teacher") have worked hard to keep her engaged to prevent boredom. Julie is also playing the lead character in a little school musical.

My work life is still very much an unending to-do list.

And on and on it goes...

See you next time.

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.


Gaming goodness.

OK. I apologize. When I last posted I promised an additional post with more. And, of course, I got lazy and never got around to that. Sorry. I am going to make a more concerted effort to post more. Just as I am making a concerted effort to get back to the gym again. (But, no going to the gym tonight, I have a bad neck. LOL!)

So, I mentioned I'd post more about what I've been playing in terms of games lately. Here's the poop, Scoop!

  • The Witcher: Enhanced Edition (Atari/CD Projekt; Steam; PC)

    I purchased this game from the Steamservice at least 6 months ago (and probably longer back than that) when it was on sale for an unbeatable price. Fun fantasy RPG. I have some minor quibbles with the camera but it's not enough of an issue to spoil the time I've spent with this game so far.

  • Torchlight (Runic Games; Steam; PC)

    Another game I purchased through Steam. A dungeon crawling hack and slash title with lots of loot drops. (Did I really just type that string of nerdy stuff?) The art style is cartoon-like but the game play is fantastic (for those who like these sorts of games). I think the general recommendation was that this might be right up the alley for those who were fans of the "Diablo" games.

  • MLB 10 The Show (SCEA; PS3)

    I first played MLB 07 The Show on my PS2 a few years ago and found it to be a very well done MLB game. The "Road to the Show" mode was the deciding feature. In the "RTTS" mode you get to create a player and take him up through the minor leagues and, hopefully, get him into the majors. The version for PS3 is a lot better looking which you'd expect. The game still plays well and the "RTTS" mode still makes for a fun take on playing baseball video games.

    The player I created was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. He's currently struggling his way with the Orioles' AA affiliate, the Bowie Baysox. He ain't doin' so hot either. Well, he's actually very decent as a fielder. He's just very very inconsistent as a hitter. He'll have a 0-4 night (usually 4 Ks) and then he'll have a 3-4 night a couple games later. More bad nights than good, though.

  • Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar; Xbox 360)

    The basic description is "GTA 4" crossed with a spaghetti western. This is a pretty good, though basic description of the game. "Red Dead Redemption" is so much more though. The world that Rockstar created seems so much more expansive than the world created in GTA 4. Rockstar also got all the little details right too. The NPCs (non-playable characters) that populate the world seem more real than the NPCs in GTA 4. The main story mode seemed to go on forever which made playing the game more enjoyable. But, part of that may have also been due to how I play games. (I tend to wander around and explore quite a bit.) I think the thing that really stuck with me was the first time I was out riding my horse at night with a clear sky. The night sky was just beautiful to look at.

OK. There is more that I've played since I last made any mention of games. But this post is getting long... and I need to play The Witcher some more (see what I did there?)...

Another test...

Oops, I sent the last one before I had saved my changes. Yes, I am still waking up!

I bet this gets posted twice.

I'm guessing that this will get posted twice...

(Testing FB and Twitter Connect features for LJ.)


End transmission...

New Toy!

While attending a couple recent shows, The Wedding Present and The xx, I attempted to take some pictures with our Canon PowerShot SD1000.

While the shots from The xx show turned out OK (The xx Flickr set) because I was right at the front. The shots from The Wedding Present show didn't (The Wedding Present Flickr set). Partly because of my distance to the stage and partly because the Canon just wasn't cutting it in the low-light environment.

I enjoyed taking photos at the show but I knew the Canon wasn't really up to performing well in that type of environment. I have to admit I was jealous of my wife's new Canon DSLR (sorry, model escapes me). I wanted something that would perform almost as well as a DSLR but not be a burden to carry. So, I got the bug for a micro four thirds camera. I was willing to live with any image quality and manual control compromises if it meant I'd get a better performing camera that was still relatively compact.

But which one to get? At this time, I think the only candidates are either from Panasonic or Olympus. I didn't really have $800 or more to spend so I was willing to compromise on some features. Plus, I wanted a built-in flash. That left only one option, the Olympus PEN E-PL1.

Olympus PEN E-PL1 (lens collapsed)
(taken with my HTC Touch Pro)

Due to some good timing, Best Buy had the camera and kit lens marked down in a recent Sunday sales circular. Perfect timing! Then, on Monday, while at work, I received Micro Center's mailer that had the camera and kit lens marked down even more than Best Buy. Sold!

But, you know what? I didn't go to either place. I went to a local store that specializes in camera and video equipment, National Camera Exchange and Video. I knew they had a price matching policy so I was OK on pricing. The biggest benefit to buying from them is that any new camera purchase includes free entry into four of their photography seminars. I would get some lessons on getting the most out of my new camera that I would probably never get around to really doing on my own.

They offer 3 classes on DSLRs but my vouchers can only be used for the first two levels. Which ended up working out to my advantage again, because Shelly and I are going together. We'll both get to learn more about our respective cameras.

The first-level seminar that fit into our schedule isn't until the end of June. But, in the meantime, I've been taking any chance I can to play around with my camera. I've been doing a little bit of reading to at least understand the rudiments and just generally messing around.

It's been fun so far.

I'm unable to really talk about the show that I saw this past April without talking about when I first heard The Wedding Present's album Bizarro. By the way, I'm going to sprinkle some pictures I took at the show. I apologize for the quality but the Canon SD1000 is terrible at higher ISO levels and has a stupidly slow shutter. So, you'll see more than a few pictures that may look grainy or with a lot of blur in them. I blame the camera. Also, due to where I was standing in the club, the other guitarist to Gedge's right was pretty much behind one of the house PA speakers for me. In any case...

How big of a music nerd and fanboi is Joe?Collapse )

I had been aware that The xx were scheduled to play a sold out and highly anticipated headlining show at the Varsity Theater in Minneapolis on this past Friday. But, I hadn't planned on attending since it had sold out before I became aware of the show.

So, it was lucky for me that my friend Kathie contacted me early last week to inform me she had an extra ticket for the show if I was interested. Needless to say, I was very interested. And, so I found myself waiting with everyone else in line before the doors opened with Kathie.

The XX (Varsity Theater, Mpls., 2010-04-09)

I had never been to the Varsity Theater for a live show. I had been to the venue the past couple of years to attend the annual Asian Media Access Lunar New Year gala. So, it was (a) interesting to see the venue set up for a show and (b) to order an alcoholic beverage from the bar. I was a happy camper to find that the Varsity served my favorite beer, Surly Brewing's Furious. So with Furious in hand, we settled in at a spot at stage left (which was separated from the crowd by a metal barrier by about four feet).

Nosaj Thing

First up was Nosaj Thing.

By the way, he was recently interviewed by Giant Robot magazine in issue 63 (I think). Nosaj Thing's current album, "Drift", comes highly recommended. Especially if you're a fan of hip-hop beats-based electronic music. If you're interested in hearing it, I would recommend signing up for a free account on Lala.com and streaming the album once for free.

Here are some images from his set:

Nosaj Thing (Varsity Theater, Mpls., 2010-04-09) Nosaj Thing (Varsity Theater, Mpls., 2010-04-09)

Excellent set, by the way. I think he played for about 35-45 minutes. It sounded great and I enjoyed watching him manipulate whatever controller he uses for live performances even though I couldn't see exactly what he was doing.


Next up was jj.

I had listened briefly to their release jj nº 2 about a month ago, but was otherwise pretty unfamiliar with them. When their set started, there was a woman sitting on a stool with an acoustic guitar who played a couple songs. At that point, she stepped over to an Apple MacBook Pro and proceeded to start a video presentation which was displayed on a screen at the back of the stage and backing tracks to sing to. The video was comprised of slow motion video of the group members, the group's performances, and miscellaneous other bits of video.

At this point, the other person in the group would come on stage at seemingly random points, pick up the guitar, strum it for a little bit, put down the guitar, and then wander off the stage. All the while, the woman was singing but not much else. A couple of times, the guy came out, spoke some words to her, then wandered back off the stage.

Needless to say, without knowing what exactly was going on, I wasn't all that impressed.

The xx

At this point, a large white curtain that blocked our view of the stage was lowered (it had been raised the entire time for the supporting acts) as they set up for The xx. At this point, Kathie mentioned that the venue looked pretty packed. I hadn't really turned around much once the musical acts started to perform so I was pretty surprised when I turned to look at this point.

Soon, the lights went out and a bright white light was lit from somewhere behind the stage. My view looked like this

The XX (Varsity Theater, Mpls., 2010-04-09)

The band started playing with the curtain lowered. I think they started with "Intro". But, in dramatic fashion, it dropped to the floor as the band went into their next song. And, of course, the crowd ate it up (me, too).

The XX (Varsity Theater, Mpls., 2010-04-09)

The xx started as a four-piece but became a three piece late last year. Though, honestly, I didn't notice anything lacking in their current configuration. The music sounded great live and the bass was loud, strong, and deep (which also felt great).

The XX (Varsity Theater, Mpls., 2010-04-09)

They played all of the songs that have been released as singles thus far, plus other material from the album.

The XX (Varsity Theater, Mpls., 2010-04-09)

The XX (Varsity Theater, Mpls., 2010-04-09)

All in all, I was very glad that I got a chance to see these guys perform. Thanks again to Kathie for the ticket!

(BTW, clicking on any image in this post will take you to the Flickr page for the image. All photos from this show can be found on Flickr here.)

My favorite music of 2009

OK. This is pretty late in coming. Also, normally, this list would have been provided to the fine folks at the Atomic Books blog before it got published here. The problem is that I just couldn't come up anything to really say about the stuff on this list so it didn't go to them this year. Hopefully, I'll do better next year.

So here, in no particular order, is a list of what I really enjoyed listening to in 2009...

  • Altar of Plagues "White Tomb" (Profound Lore)

  • Krallice "Dimensional Bleedthrough" (Profound Lore)

  • After hearing their impressive self-titled debut in 2008, I was very anxiously looking forward to their follow up when I learned it was due in 2009. When my friend Derik informed me that Profound Lore were offering it up as an advanced order on their website (two weeks or so before the actual release date), I went ahead and bought the CD. I think this was one of two CDs that I bought this year (the other being the Dethklok follow-up "Dethalbum II").

    If you checked out the debut album, you should definitely get this one too. And, if you do pick up the CD, be aware that the CD-TEXT titles for the tracks are not the same as the tracklisting. They're an alternate set of track titles. I don't know who was responsible for that idea, but I love it. Great way to give people who purchase physical product a little something extra.

    I also had the pleasure of seeing them live at the Triple Rock Social Club last year (they opened for Wolves in the Throne Room) with Derik and Kathie. Krallice were impressive live.
  • Wolves in the Throne Room "Malevolent Grain"/"Black Cascade" (both on Southern Lord)

  • It (2009) was a good year for the US Black Metal scene. Not only did it see a follow-up from Krallice (see above), but it also included two releases from Wolves in the Throne Room. "Malevolent Grain", a two track E.P., came first in February of 2009. "Black Cascade", a four track full-length, followed in March. After having been introduced to the band in 2008, I was very excited to hear "fresh" material from them as it was coming out. I wasn't disappointed in the least.

    As previously mentioned, I had a chance to see them headline at The Triple Rock Social Club with Krallice in support. That was an awesome show (even though it was very late for this old fart).
  • Camera Obscura "My Maudlin Career" (4AD)

  • I also saw them live at The Cedar Cultural Center last year with Kathie.
  • Mastodon "Crack the Skye" (Reprise)

  • I think "Crack the Skye" was Mastodon's "break out" album. Most likely their most accessible (and I don't mean that in a negative way).

    I ended up seeing Mastodon twice last year. The first time was at the Fine Line Music Cafe when they first toured for this album with their video display (support was by Intronaut and Kylessa). The second time was as part of the Dehtklok/Mastodon "cavalcade" (with Converge and High on Fire). Both were excellent shows.
  • Mos Def "The Ecstatic" (Downtown)

  • Nosaj Thing "Drift" (Alpha Pup)

  • The xx "xx" (XL)

  • Converge "Axe to Fall" (Epitaph)

  • Definitely my favorite Converge album. I strongly recommend checking out the Doomriders' album. Doomriders is the band of Nate Newton (bassist for Converge).
  • Behemoth "Evangelion" (Metal Blade)

  • The Beatles Stereo Reissues (all)

  • So awesome.
  • The Stone Roses "The Stone Roses (20th Anniversary Legacy Edition)" (Sony Music UK)

  • Portal "Swarth" (Profound Lore)

  • Metric "Fantasies" (Metric Music International)

Happy birthday, Ms. Sophie!

Sophie turns four today! We had a fun bowling birthday party yesterday with her friends and our family.

I can't believe she's already FOUR!

Sophie at 4.
1. Two weeks and change., 2. Pffft!, 3. Smile, 4. 20060507Sisters2, 5. Sophie in the Jumperoo 1, 6. What of it?, 7. "Workin hard" (or "Hardly workin"), 8. Sophie and Me, 9. Monkey and Dragon, 10. Certified Pre-Owned... Not!, 11. Dressed to the (Korean) Nines..., 12. Sophie & Lil' Big Toe, 13. No, YOU da man now, dawg!, 14. Hugs!, 15. Almost halloween, 16. GR Secret Santa 2009


And they're finally out!

Julie's bottom two front teeth have been loose for the past couple of months. The two permanent teeth have been coming in behind her baby teeth. The loose baby teeth finally came out last night while Shelly and I were at my company's holiday party.

We're bummed that we weren't here for it but we're also glad that it's finally over with. Heh!

Finally out!