Tuesday, March 26, 2013


There's this girl I dated briefly in college. She was a free-spirit, hippy chick. Someone that could sleep as comfortably on the street as she could in a bed. Someone that was into all sorts of drugs, the Beatles, dreadlocks, etc.

Really, someone that I probably should have never been with in the first place, but those sort of people are incredibly charismatic and she wanted guitar lessons from me... one thing led to another... we dated briefly and obviously crashed and burned... and we're both better off.

Anyway, before I went on that tirade... the reason I'm talking about this girl is that since she left college a few years back, she's been traveling to the most insane places.

She taught in Korea for a few years. Did a bike riding trip across central America. Spent 3 weeks in Jamaica on their beautiful beaches and rain forests. She's currently in Ecuador  hiking to remote mountain villages and seeing volcanic craters.

Sallie and I haven't taken a real vacation since we got married. We've been pining for a real honeymoon and have talked about some dream destinations for some time, but have been unable to get the money together to do anything.

I just wonder, how does this person that hasn't had a steady job since getting a psychology degree get to travel to all these exotic places but Sallie and I with full time jobs can't even get to wine country for a week?

Are we doing something wrong? Is she finding good deals? Or is she just good enough at being frugal that she can get to these places for almost no money?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dreams are Weird Man

Lately I've been having some incredibly strange dreams and not sleeping well. I've since rearranged our room to hopefully help me sleep and not to have such a creepy subconscious.

Like last week, I had a dream that I wrote the Wallflowers' 1997 hit "One Headlight."

I was pissed because I knew as a band, if this song was released, I would never have another hit again. I kept trying to convince the record label to scrap it and even tried to destroy the masters.

Or what about last night. I had a dream I was still living in North County on Comet Dr. and we had a small skating rink in our back yard. The Anaheim Ducks rented our backyard for their new practice facility and paid me to bring them drinks and make them sandwiches.

One reoccurring dream is of Sallie in an alternate time line where we didn't meet. Sallie and I talk about this sometimes, like, how would you be living if we never met?

I would probably be living in my mom's basement because I couldn't afford student loans on my own and have a place of my own. Or, maybe I would've forced myself into what I was originally planning, grad school in Ireland. You know, really rack up that debt something fierce.

Sallie would most likely be living in a small apartment, cluttered with her messes everywhere, takeout boxes stacked to the ceiling, working for a paper in Colorado making $12.50 an hour.

But I have these dreams where Sallie is sort of in a 1990s sitcom (a la Friends) and going on dates with these other dudes. And in my dream, I'm stuck as a spectator and I'm constantly screaming, "He's not the right type for you! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" And then I wake up feeling jealous and tired.

Dreams are weird man.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Resident Evil 1.5

One of my favorite game series of all times is Resident Evil.

Origin Story
It was 1996, my cousin Ryan got a Playstation for his birthday. He had Ridge Racer and another car combat game that escapes me right now. We played them non-stop for a full month.

Eventually, Ryan saved up money and it was time to get another game. We ventured out to the KB Toy Store in Jamestown mall. (Both of those things are pretty much non-existent today) We looked at all of the game boxes and saw this beautiful cover (see below) of a guy looking scared with a shotgun and two giant spiders on either side of him. (Turns out, that character isn't even one in the game)

He gladly plopped down $60 and we entered the world of survival horror. 

The World of Survival Horror

The plot of the game is a Special Tactics police squad venture out into a forest near a midwest town to investigate mysterious deaths of a bunch of hikers. Turns out, a large pharmaceutical company has a black lab hidden in an old rural mansion where they've been creating zombies and other creatures for years. 

Some of my best memories are of me riding my bike over to Aunt Laura's house on Friday, getting some Steak N Shake or pizza, and Ryan and I sitting in his dark room desperately trying to survive and figure out puzzles meant for adults. It took us 4 months to beat what turned out to be a 3 hour game. 

To this day, I still play through the original Resident Evil every time the weather starts turning colder in the fall. 

The Rumors

Shortly after Resident Evil 1 came out, rumors of Resident Evil 2 started swirling. There were even screen shots released and I of course was incredibly excited, ready to reignite those late nights in a new scenario. 

When the game was about 80% complete, the director decided to scrap everything because it was too similar to the first one. Capcom decided to start over and ended up creating what is largely considered the best Resident Evil in the series. 

Well, as internet connections got faster and more available, you would see posts of people claiming to have a copy of the original version of Resident Evil 2. (Now dubbed Resident Evil 1.5)  Burned copies of it would even show up on eBay every now and then and sell for thousands of dollars. (Before inevitably getting taken down for Copy-write infringement.) A few years back, someone even posted 15 minutes of video of them playing it.

There were different places, difference characters, different items, it was this lost piece of history that I desperately wanted to play. 

Especially as I feel older and travel further into adulthood, these few precious memories of childhood that I can relive become treasured moments. So getting to play a game that was made in 1997, that I never got to play, but feels like that time, is perhaps one of the greatest time capsules ever. 


In the past 3 years, Capcom changed the Resident Evil franchise fundamentally. Instead of being a slow moving, low ammo, puzzle game, it was now a full on machine gun action game. Still fun, but not the sort of game I grew up loving.

Well, some programmers got a hold of a copy of Resident Evil 1.5 and are currently in the midst of finishing the game. They basically said all the dialogue and movies were there, it was mostly busted menus and items that need to be fixed. In the meantime, an unfinished copy of the game has leaked. 

I wanted to keep from downloading and playing it, but I couldn't help myself. Last week, I booted it up and got chills when I selected "New Game." I only played for a few minutes, just to make sure this wasn't a dream and shut it off. 

Now knowing that my Holy Grail is only months from my hand is exciting. I'm actually considering taking a few days off of work (assuming I have PTO left) just to sit in the dark again, stay up late with a pizza, and play the game. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Speed Up

I don't typically like to post articles from Mother Jones because they are an extreme left wing organization. When I talk about things, I don't like to immediately be discredited because I posted a blatantly obvious bias. But this article about the Speed Up of American workers was passed around in some of my circles and it hit home for me.

The gist of the article is that businesses had to lay off a bunch of people during the recession and ask the workers that remained employed to pick up some of the workload. The un-spoken agreement being that once the recession was over, those missing employees would be rehired.

This, for the most part, hasn't happened.

When we graduated college, it was only a few weeks before the major dip in the stock market. Having several entry level jobs between the wife and I during this recession, I can say that the article might not be far off.

For instance, the job I have now used to strictly be content creation and updates with no time on the phone.

We've lost many full time employees to other positions and companies in the past few years and haven't hired a single full time employee in at least 2 years.

Instead, we use contractors. They are easy and don't have strings attached. You bring them in for at max 18 months, lay them off, bring in new contractors.

Problem is, fewer contractors are being brought in each round even though there's the same amount of work. Its as if they are testing to see how few people we actually need to just scrap by. This changes the customer service immensely. If you call, there's a good chance you have to wait on hold for a few minutes. We can only spend a certain amount of time with each caller, so that we can answer the next call that's waiting in queue. And god help you if you need to transfer a ticket to another resolver group. That hurts your stats, so many people will misinform the user, just so they don't take the hit.

To back fill some of those missing guys, they asked support teams of the help desk (like my current team) to take calls. So now, I have to spend half of my time doing help desk stuff and half of my time doing content creation. Basically, I'm working that 60 hours that the article discusses condensed into my normal 40 hour work week and I'm not making a ton more from what I was 5 years ago.

All the while, some positions are being outsourced to India and the Philippines and my company reports record profits every quarter. And I've asked around, we aren't the only company that is doing this. My wife has witnessed similar deeds in the paper industry. Most of my buddies that work for major corporations have the same things happening.

I try to ignore all of this around me sometimes, but every now and then I think about the future of America, and we're setting ourselves up to be a nation in trouble. Cost of living goes up, but salaries don't. Take more credit and loans, can't pay the bills. You think about the terrible shape that Greece is in and I can't help but wonder if we're headed the same way.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Going Deaf

Apparently my entire body is rejecting my existence right now.

Since Monday the 18th, I've had this ringing in my left ear. Sometimes its so faint, I don't notice it unless I really strain to hear it. But others, like after spending an entire weekend in loud movie theaters, the ringing blasts my brain like a heavy metal concert.

It doesn't necessarily feel like I'm going deaf. I mean, I guess I wouldn't know, so its very possible I'm going deaf, but when I'm in the shower or out in the cold (extreme temperatures) I can feel just gunk in my ear canal down my neck.

So I looked up, "Ringing in Left Ear."

After I sifted through the internet extremes of "you probably have a tumor in your ear" I found that it can be a few things.

I could be permanent Tinnitus which is a fancy way of saying I'm going deaf at age 28.

It could be temporary Tinnitus that can actually last up to a few months and then just go away. This is caused by things like going to concerts, which, I haven't done in a long time.

It can be caused by extreme stress, changes in diet, emotional stress, etc. Basically, everything that happened from December 14th until now.

It can also be caused by inner ear infections or impacted ear wax, which are both the most likely reasons.

Basically, there are so many things that can be causing it, that there's no way of knowing without going to a doctor, which I am on Friday the 15th. By then, I will have been dealing with this annoying ringing for 4 weeks. I just hope, the doc is able to stick something in my ear and rip whatever is causing it out.

Monday, March 4, 2013

All Good Vacations Must Come to an End

I had a dream about work Sunday morning, which must mean vacation is coming to an end. I had a fantastic time, but when we go to Columbia, we hit it hard, and I think I'm ready for it to be over.

Just as a fair warning, this is going to comprise of lists, so if you don't care, go ahead and skip this one.

We saw 12 films this year, which is probably the most we've ever seen. As a testament to me getting older, the seats seemed to bother my hips and knees much more than previous years. After our forth film on Saturday, I was done with being in a theater.

The theme this year should've been Death and Despair. Somewhere around half the films were about former Soviet states on the brink of civil war or entire villages going bankrupt or people / animals dying.

So, in order of best to worst film this year:

  1. Crash Reel - About a former snowboarding champion and overcoming an accident.
  2. Twenty Feet to Stardom - About backup singers that have been on just about every major recording in the past 60 years. 
  3. After Tiller - Humanizes the last 4 Late Term Abortion doctors in the country.
  4. The Moo Man - A British farmer has a unique way with his cows.
  5. I Am Breathing - A Scottich man documents and deals with losing control of his life while dealing with a motor function disease. 
  6. Secret Screening Gold - Can't tell you anything about this one, which is why its secret. 
  7. Which Way is the Front Line from here? - Portait of a combat journalist who died on site.
  8. Winter Go Away - 10 film makers show the political climate in modern Russia from different views. 
  9. Northern Light
  10. Computer Chess
  11. Village at the End of the World
  12. The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear

And arguably the more important portion of our vacation, we like to hit up all of our old favorite places to eat and drink. We always miss out on one or two places, but this year we came down a day earlier so that we could hit everything. 

The highlight being the return to C.C. City Broiler. This is the fancy restaurant I took Sal to the night I asked her to marry me. We figured for our five year anniversary, it was time to return... and my god... the steak... it just melts in your mouth... and lobster mash potatoes ... and I swear, the best baked potato I've ever had... and that salad... basically, best food ever.

So, if you want to know our guide to Columbia, here are the essential places (AKA, everywhere we went while here)

  • Bangkok Gardens - Best Thai food I might have ever had. 
  • C.C. City Broiler - HOMG... the steak, the lobster mash potatoes, the baked potatoes, the salad... it all just melts... basically digests itself
  • Ernies - Best breakfast you can get. I had 5 different things and my meal was less than $5. 
  • Kampai Sushi - This is a newer place we discovered two years ago. 
  • Gumbi's Pizza - My favorite pizza in town.
  • Uppercrust - An old mainstay, Sallie's old place of employment. 
  • Flatbranch - I have some of my best memories at Flatbranch. Unfortunately, quality has taken a slight dip in past years. 
  • Noodles and Company - Not my favorite, but we didn't have a ton of time to eat anywhere else.
  • Addisons - Been off the regular rotation for a few years, but I think its earned its spot back.
The only place we didn't get to eat that we normally do is Tellers. We just ran out of time and didn't have as much time between films this year as we normally do.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Taking Off the Memory Glasses

Every year, Sallie and I look forward to our budget vacation to Columbia. Where with adult jobs and $300 in pocket, we're able to eat and drink what we want for a four day trip of films, beers, and memories.

But, every year we come here, I'm painfully reminded that we float ever farther away from those relatively carefree days of our youth. As my knee seems to get weaker and slower, and my ear is ringing, and my tolerance for the sheer amount of people depletes, I look at the college kids, thinking, "My god, that's exactly what they look like to me, kids."

This goes hand in hand when I realized the very same hockey players I root for are no longer these guys I can aspire to become because they no longer are guys 15 years older than me, they are now guys, younger than my youngest brother.

And I was never going to be that alumni, coming back for the football, telling tales of how Harpos used to be a classier joint where you could get quarter draws on domestic beer (it was a terrible place when I went to school, but still a favorite of the alumni) or how Shakespears has the best pizza in town (it never did) while drinking cold but flat beer out of a keg thrown in the back of a student's pickup truck in one of the tailgating lots.

Instead, I'm the guy that seeks out the tastes and atmosphere of my time in Columbia. I will always go to Flatbranch and order the chicken bacon wrap while sucking down a Katy Trail Pale Ale. I'll do this with a smile as I look out the large windows overlooking the Flatbranch office lot, but in the back of my mind I always remember the wrap being a little better and the beer bursting with a little more flavor.

And one by one, the old stomping grounds seem to close and are replaced by more youthful, free-range  all natural, juice bars, with names like in·gre·di·ent (yes, that's a proper noun that starts with a lowercase letter) when sometimes all you want is that greasy burger you gladly ate after a night of drinking or that quick deli sandwich you grabbed on your 40 minute class break.

And then you wander into Brady Commons and the Journalism school, mere shadows of their former selves. Students, sitting there with their new Macbook Airs, totally oblivious that these buildings barely resemble their former selves. These kids will never know the joys of sauntering down into Brady's dank, mildewy basement, and ordering a Sub while listening to bowling pins falling and old arcade machines sing their Midi symphonies.

Every year, I feel a little bit older, a little bit more disconnected to this place I expected to live in my heart the rest of my life. Every year, the downtown landscape is changed by another skyscraper and I find myself feeling more and more like another tourist.

But then I think about the near future and I can't imagine not coming back. Because a new tradition is starting. The adventure of going to Columbia for three days, forgetting all the student loan payments and future surgeries, and discovering something new.