Babies: Packed up. Old Ladies: Grabbed.

Mom and Dad enjoyed the Neil Diamond concert a great deal. I’m told he did a two-and-a-half hour set with two encores and no opening act. Mom says that he’s “still got it.” I was also informed that he dresses very well. Maybe next time Mr. Diamond is in town I’ll get five tickets so Laura, Laura’s mother and I can go, too (my father-in-law has indicated that he’s not interested).

The rest of the weekend went down something like this…

Thursday evening, we ate dinner at Willoughby Brewing Company. ((Willoughby Brewing Company shares a rather small parking lot with Gavi’s, a popular Italian restaurant. As a result, parking spaces are often at a premium. To make the experience a bit more painless, both restaurants offer valet parking, for a small fee. I had no intention of taking advantage of the valet, particularly since a woman parked three spaces from the door of the Brewing Company got into her car just as I was coming around the end of the aisle.

So I waited for her to pull out of the space.

She started the car and made a call on her cell phone. I waited. She didn’t move. I waited some more.

In a parking lot, a minute seems like an eternity to wait for a space. As I loathe the creature I call the “Parking Lot Vulture” and do not like to “vultch” (yeah, I made that up) myself, I pulled forward to the valet. The woman was still sitting in her unmoving car when we entered the restaurant.

Fast forward 90 minutes or so. I had a brief moment of panic after dinner when I couldn’t find my keys, until I remembered the valet. I handed him my ticket and he dashed off (valets always run when they’re fetching your vehicle, and they should) to retrieve the MVoD.

He didn’t have far to run. The MVoD was parked in the very space that I’d been waiting for earlier. Thirty feet away from the front door.

Money well spent.)) Dad and Laura sampled seven or eight beers, while Mom and I stuck to sours (brandy and whiskey, respectively). We all split the Brewer’s Platter, a tasty assortment of sausages, cheeses and other appetizers. The meal was excellent and afterward we went home and watched Sideways.

I had planned to leave work at 1:30 Friday afternoon but didn’t hit the road until 3:30. Laura’s niece and nephew were still at our place when I got home. Mom was reaching the end of the last book she’d brought and we didn’t want her going into withdrawal, so after dinner (leftovers) we went to Half-Price Books and Barnes & Noble in Mentor. I grabbed a copy of The Once and Future King, Dad got a couple of books about the Great Depression, Laura picked up some smut a historical romance by Bertrice Small, and Mom got a couple of suspense/thrillers and some kind of feel-good novel along the Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Travelling Bees veinEDIT: I almost forgot the booze book. Dad bought Mom a copy of Playboy: Bartender’s Guide from Barnes & Noble. Quite the handy guide, the book covers everything from glassware to the proper use of ice and contains rather a lot of drink recipes (including the Chumbawamba, which contains whiskey, vodka, lager and cider). I expect that this ten-dollar purchase will eventually translate into Dad building a wet bar in the basement (and needing $2K worth of new tools to complete it). Time will tell..

Bob and I did almost 13 miles on the bicycles Saturday morning. Bob pulled a Knievel heading down a long hill near the turnaround point, but escaped without serious injury. I returned home to a very subdued house and much of the afternoon was spent napping and reading. After dinner (burgers), we stopped by Noosa for dessert (they’ve got the best crème brûlée Laura and I have come across) and then visited my in-laws at their new hacienda.

Dad wanted to see the pipe organ at the Painesville United Methodist Church, which he may or may not have read about in a woodworking magazineWhether or not Dad read about a pipe organ in a woodworking magazine isn’t up for debate. Whether or not it was, in fact, this pipe organ remains questionable.. Mom, Dad and I drove out to Painesville intending to sit in on the 10:30 service Sunday morning. The service, however, was being held in “the Circle Room,” so we had the sanctuary all to ourselves. We wandered up to the balcony and Mom took some pictures of the pipes (there are 2,871 in all) as well as a couple of the stained glass windows. Afterward, we bade God a pleasant morning and stepped next door for a bite to eat.

During the pre-concert napping, I destroyed many humans with an alien death ray and then attempted to atone for my deeds by saving the world from time-travelling super villains. Oh, the dichotomy.

‘Rents in the hizzie!

Sometimes, MapQuest is not your friend. A couple of years ago, Laura and I wound up on the wrong side of Ravenna (?) looking for a street that didn’t exist (in that location) thanks to MapQuest. We eventually found our way to the proper area, but only after much driving around and unpleasant muttering.

MapQuest steered my parents toward Columbus yesterday, and though they realized the error quite quickly it threw them for quite the loop. I understand there was some unpleasant muttering before they stopped and called me to lead them the rest of the way to Casa Johnson. Fortunately, they’d managed to get pretty close and I knew right where they were.

So they didn’t have to spend the night in a Denny’s parking lot.

Mom’s birthday is today. She’s old enough to be my mother, and I’ll leave it at that. On Sunday, she’ll be seeing Neil Diamond in concert for the first time. Dad is going, too, though I understand that he’s been telling people that mom will “buy him a ticket when [they] get there.” Not so. Both tickets have been sitting in an envelope on Laura’s desk for a month or so.

Though both my mother and my mother-in-law (who has seen Mr. Diamond in concert multiple times) are fans, I don’t think the latter has ever played her Diamond CDs at a volume severe enough to shift tectonic plates. In 1993, “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show” was responsible for southern Ontario and northern Upper Michigan drifting apart by no less than 3 inches (7.62 cm). ((As of this writing, the 1986 earthquake that rocked northeast Ohio has not been officially attributed to “America,” a Neil Diamond song of which my mother-in-law is particularly fond. Nonetheless, there are unconfirmed rumors that the epicenter of the quake coincided with the location of the Sperry residence.))

Last night, we watched Meet the Fockers, which proved to be quite entertaining and apparently skated in beneath dad’s Bullshit Threshhold (apart from the ending, which he thought was somewhat stupid). I was quite amused at the idea of a yappy little dog being flushed down a chemical toilet. PETA and the SPCA might feel otherwise.

In other news, work is work today. I hope this doesn’t signal the start of an unpleasant trend.

Pirunpaska

If you grew up in my childhood home, you shouldn’t have any trouble parsing the Finnish word for asafoetida, a particularly pungent resin made from wild fennel.

Pirunpaska.

I very nearly laughed out loud.

Master Chiefs and Minute Men

HALOHALO (Xbox)

Chalk up another one in the “W” column. Miscellaneous G™ and I made the final push to complete HALO last night, thus finally finishing the first game I ever purchased for the Xbox. The journey was hectic and often frustrating (jumping sucks in this game) but the outcome was quite satisfying. I was a little surprised with the brevity of the closing cinematics, however. After slicing through the Covenant and the Flood like a hot knife through so much screaming, writhing butter, I expected the finale to be a little more… dramatic.

Afterwards, I installed a new driver for my Radeon 9600 and fired up Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich. I was able to play through the entire “Hunt for Red Oktober” mission without incident, so it would appear that the problem has been resolved. The members of Freedom Force will have little time to celebrate their victory, however, as it appears that Nuclear Winter has pulled a snow job on Red Oktober and plans to bring about an atomic apocalypse. Now that she sees the truth, the witch is only too eager to see her former colleague brought to justice and has provided Minute Man and his cadre of courageous compatriots with details regarding the Russian rogue’s sinister scheme.

In other news, the ‘rents were in Toledo last night and should arrive sometime this evening. I should stop and pick up some of that “Crime Scene – Do Not Cross” tape to put across my office door. Thankfully, untidiness is only a misdemeanor.

Freedom Force vs. CSI

Freedom Force vs. The 3rd ReichFreedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich (PC)

After dinner and an episode of CSI ((I have a love/hate relationship with CSI. On one hand, criminal forensics is fascinating. On the other hand, the show takes ridiculous license with what can and cannot be accomplished with some evidence, particularly photographs. For instance, gleaning the color of a person’s eyes by interpolating the colors from a single frame of black and white security camera video. Huh? Or maybe enhancing a blurry photograph to determine not only who the subject of the photo is, but also that there is a porthole behind the photographer. That’s right, a blurry 3/4 body shot is sharpened to such a degree that the forensic detective is able to zoom in on the subject’s eye and pick out the detail of a porthole in the reflection!

And then there’s the silly stuff like last night’s crossover with the crew from CSI: Miami. During a scene in which a diver is going in to find a submerged car, David Caruso is standing by with a rifle to fend off alligators. Jump ahead 10 minutes and the same diver is now going after a gun. No David Caruso. No rifle. Apparently no fear of alligators.

Watching CSI makes me feel like I’m turning into my dad. Why? Because there’s apparently a limit to how far my disbelief can be suspended. Several years ago, watching Speed with my dad, I rolled my eyes after he said, “There’s no way that bus is still going fifty miles per hour after hitting those barrels!”

Dad, I know how you felt.)) last night, I installed Freedom Force vs. The 3rd Reich. The installation went smoothly, so I launched the game… and two hours disappeared. This is exactly what would happen when I played the original Freedom Force. After taking a brief break, I returned to the game again and another 45 minutes slipped away and it appeared that I was well on my way to losing another two hours.

And then the game crashed.

Well, it more than crashed. The video changed from a group of stalwart superheroes battling belligerent bad guys to a blank blue screen. The audio stuttered on the last two seconds of music and dialog. No amount of Alt-Tabbing or Control-Alt-Deleting made any difference whatsoever. My computer was completely locked up.

So I reset my computer and tried again. Same mission, identical crash. There may be a pattern here, I thought. The keen observational powers of my well-honed analytical mind are not to be underestimated.

So I did the unthinkable: I read the ReadMe file for the game. In the section labeled “Known Issues” I learned that there are some problems with ATI video cards running outdated drivers. As it so happens, I recently installed a new ATI video card in my computer and neglected to update the driver afterward. That’s right, I’m using the driver that came on the installation CD! My computer geek license ought to be revoked.

Before going to bed, I started downloading the latest driver from ATI’s website. When I got up this morning, I verified that the download completed successfully (as far as Firefox can tell, anyway). Tonight at some point, I’ll install the driver and try the mission again.

It is imperative that Minute Man, The Green Genie, Bullet and El Diablo locate Nuclear Winter’s new partner, the witch called Red Oktober. We must learn more about their fiendish plot! The fate of the world may hang in the balance!

For Patriot City!

While at Target after lunch today, I happened to notice that Freedom Force vs. The Third Reich was on clearance for ten bucks.

Given how much I enjoyed the original Freedom Force (it’s one of a handful of PC games that I’ve played all the way through), I simply could not pass it up.

Games I’ve Finished (in alphabetical order and probably not a complete list):

  1. Armed and Dangerous (Xbox) – A lot of fun. Love the shark gun. Way too short.
  2. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance (Xbox) – Cooperative multiplayer rocks.
  3. Crimson Skies (PC) – Why is there no PC sequel to this game?
  4. Deus Ex (PC) – Excellent game. One of my all-time favorite first-person shooters, this game has a very cool skills customization mechanic.
  5. Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes (Xbox) – More cooperative multiplayer. I like these games.
  6. Freedom Force (PC) – Pseudo Golden Age Superheroes. Check. Cheesy narration and dialog. Check. Cool Powers. Check. Nazis. Check.
  7. Full Throttle (PC) – Back when adventure games didn’t suck.
  8. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC) – Technically, I completed 60% of the stuff there is to do in this game, but I played the main storyline through to its conclusion, so I’m counting it.
  9. Hunter The Reckoning (Xbox) – Zombies, vampires and werewolves, oh my! The biggest problem with this game was the camera angles.
  10. Jedi Academy (PC) – I haven’t finished Jedi Outcast, but I tore through this one in about a week.
  11. Return to Castle Wolfenstein (PC) – I admit it: I got bored with this game toward the end and turned on god mode to complete it. I loved the “infiltrate the base and steal the secret spy plane prototype” missions and hated the “oh shit, zombies!” missions.

Most of the Xbox games I’ve finished I’ve done so with the help of Miscellaneous G™ over the course of many Tuesday evenings.

Games I’m Terribly Close to Finishing:

  1. Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (Xbox) – One of the best Xbox games I’ve ever played. I’m literally on the last mission, which has proven to be slightly beyond my skill to complete.
  2. HALO (Xbox) – Cooperative multiplayer first-person shooter! Two missions to go and maybe I’ll be able to justify purchasing HALO 2.
  3. Red Dead Revolver (Xbox) – Just one mission to go. As first-person shooters go, this one is just about my favorite on the Xbox. Great story, great setting, lots of fun.
  4. Rise of Nations (PC) – At last, a real-time simulation. I am one scenario away from complete dominance of the world! So why haven’t I played that scenario? Well, mostly because I don’t want to lose.
  5. Splinter Cell (PC) – I’m pretty sure I’m close to the end of this one. A great game with at least one excellent sequel (I haven’t tried the second sequel, Chaos Theory, yet). I haven’t fired this game up in a while. I wonder if my saved games are on a non-dead hard drive…

If I were a true nerd, I’d have all this information in a database…

But whenever Monday comes…

Here’s a quick summary of the weekend:

  • Rented Destroy All Humans for the Xbox. If you’re reading this, I clearly haven’t been able to destroy all humans. Yet.
  • Bought and installed a new blade for the lawn mower. Saved the old blade in case I need to pull a Billy Bob Thornton on Dwight Yoakam can get it sharpened. New blade: $13.80 w/tax.
  • Mowed the lawn. Was much pleased with the performance of the new blade. Bagged about 30 pounds of clippings.
  • Got the oil changed and the fuel filter replaced on the MVoD. I’m not going to mention how many miles overdue the oil change was, but it’s probably safe to classify what they drained out of my crankcase as “vintage.”
  • Attended the Mentor High Class of 1990 15-year reunion. Felt guilty for not helping Nick organize the event, though I graduated a year later from a different high school. Way to lay a guilt trip, Nick.
  • Rode nine miles on the bike for the first time in a month. I am not the Lance Armstrong of the heavyweight division. That’d be Bob.
  • Weeded the front flower bed. It had gotten a bit out of hand, you might say. Henry Stanley didn’t have to hack through that much jungle when he was searching for David Livingston.
  • Watched Bloodsuckers on the Sci-Fi Channel. Vampires in space. How bad could it be? Pretty bad.
  • Played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. I lost all my saved games when my hard drive crashed last year. Does that mean I absolutely must play the entire game from start to finish again? Yes. Yes, it does.

I didn’t get around to cleaning my office, which looks like a Nerd Bomb exploded in it about three years ago. This will have to be addressed before the ‘rents arrive later this week. Or will it?