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Mike Pirnat

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The Feline Singularity (and Other News)


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Originally uploaded by mikepirnat.

Our cats have so completely taken over my desk chair that they are collapsing into one another into a sort of feline snuggle singularity, an adorable two-headed mass of sleeping fur so dense that only cuteness can escape. This makes it somewhat difficult to do much of anything in the proximity of my computer.

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In other news, I am now hooked on Rome (thanks to the local library), am enjoying Lego Star Wars 2 (thanks to a CompUSA store closing discount), and I am now included on the official Planet Python feed (yippee!!).

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Good, Bad, and a Little Funny

Good: Got first big chunk of big project delivered on time and more or less working as desired. Business folks are generally happy with what our team produced in the limited time available.

Bad: Had to miss the holiday party at German class in order to get there, so no Sekt and no beer for me.

Good: It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! We have the tree up and decorated, presents wrapped, and I cashed in some iTunes credit to pick up the new Twisted Sister Christmas CD (so deliciously, horribly addictive, it transcends awfulness, leapfrogs novelty, and lands, perhaps a bit teeteringly, just within the realm of totally kick-ass). Here's what I've basically been doing since then: \m/ >_< \m/

Bad: Thanks to global warming (or a giant cloud of liberal claptrap, take your pick), it sure doesn't look like Christmas... It's December in Cleveland; should we be having temperatures close to 60 degrees? I'm not the biggest fan of snow--especially when I have to deal with idiots who don't know how to drive in it--but do we really only get one week of winter this year?

Good: The Lost Room. Check it out in reruns or the inevitable DVD if you missed it.

Bad: The Lost Room left the door wide open (yes, a deliberately awful pun, deal with it) to become a full-fledged series. I'm not sure I have time to be obsessed over another long-form serial.

Good: New firmware for my router, maybe it'll solve my streaming audio throughput issues!

Bad: New router firmware makes streaming audio around the house even worse. My (admittedly venerable) SliMP3 now chokes after 9 seconds instead of 37. Bah, humbug!

Good: My tire was repairable, and still under warranty to boot, which means it was free! Yay!

Funny: I got a job offer from a headhunter today, very excited that I had Python experience. Turns out he's trying to place me into the company where I already work. (Woops!) After quite nearly LMAO, I shot back a polite rejection. I wonder what my boss would say if a headhunter slipped her my resumé...

Speaking of my resumé... where exactly should I list being named Time's Person of the Year?

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Back From SFO

Just a quick post for now... We are back safely from San Francisco. Thankfully, the house is still standing--no exploding water heaters, no massive wake of feline destruction, nothing. I suppose it's a good thing we got in when we did, as the news now tells us a plane got diverted to Cleveland as a result of some security scare. That would have fouled our return to kitties but good.

The remainder of our time in wine country was simply marvelous, and filled with a delightful lack of televisions, internet, and cell phone coverage. High points include our romantic lodgings atop the oceanside cliffs of Albion, tour at Handley, visit to the indulgent "Bubble Room" at J, and utterly perfect dinner at The Girl and the Fig in Sonoma. I suspect that I'll get around to writing about it a little bit sometime soon (which probably means I'll never get to it, based on my track record).

Don and Kai are married (for a whole day now). Hooray for them, and about time too! I ended up standing in for a replacement groomsman, which was a pretty good time overall. I got taken to my first football game (with 72,516 in attendance), enjoyed hanging out with Don and his friends, and generally did my best to keep Don from either jumping off of or passing out and falling down the cliffside behind the wedding site. Ah, good times. :-) Anyway, we wish the two of them heaps of all that good marriage stuff, blah blah blah. Not that they need my additional blessing, as they are about as perfect together as any two crazy kids could be, but I figure good mojo is always welcome.

Lots of photos were taken. Coming soon: maybe I'll find the time to sort and upload some. Stranger things have happened!

Too much new stuff on the Tivo this week: Galactica, Dr. Who, Lost, Eureka, Studio 60, The Office, Robot Chicken, etc. etc. I think I need a vacation day to catch up with everything... :-P

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Germany Photos: Intermission

Bloody hell, it's been almost twelve days since I've posted any new photos from the Germany trip. Harrumph. I guess that's what happens when I let myself get distracted by other things: houseguests, complete disassembly of the office/computer space to prep for painting, work, catching up with Tivo (I can't believe I've gotten Liz hooked on "Eureka", woot!), catching up on long-overdue library DVD's (Paradise Now, Munich, and, somewhat embarassingly, Aeon Flux, which at least I didn't have to pay for), slogging bravely through Neal Stephenson's The Confusion, and going to Oktoberfest with [info]geoffimusprime.

Today was part one of the annual two-day company pep rally thing for this year, which, on one simple fact alone, instantly qualifies as the best so far: free beer coupons for happy hour. Hooray, beer!

I have at least rated, retouched, and sorted the remainder of the vacation photos; hopefully I'll get around to posting them over the coming days. And then I'll have to find something else to blog about for a while. ;-)

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Being Uncle Mike

My recent vacation photos hiatus is in part due to spending last weekend being all responsible and grown-up and stuff--Laura, one of my nieces, came to visit us for the weekend. Note the use of the word "my," a big step for me, as for most of the past seven years, the girls have been "Liz's nieces." Maybe they're just growing up to the point at which I can relate to them, but they're really, finally feeling like family.

So! Laura braved the increased airport security, water bottle fascism and all, and arrived last Friday. Liz picked her up, and after getting settled in at the house, took us all out to lunch at Phnom Penh; to my amazement, Laura loved her loath chha! That evening we hit our local Winking Lizard and then went out to Will Farrell NASCAR movie (hilarious, recommended), got ice cream on the way home, and stayed up far too late playing Munchkin. Saturday we caught up on "Monk" and "Psych", then went out to friends' for their Wild Game BBQ, where there was much delicious food, frosty beverage, and wacky croquet fun, then zipped down to Blossom to chill out under the stars and experience the Cleveland Orchestra playing the scores to Bugs Bunny cartoons (and incidentally seeing a lot of folks that we don't always bump into). Sunday we had brunch downtown, spent a few hours at the science center (note to self: don't try the "virtual hang-glider" right after eating...), tried to get Laura hooked on "Firefly", and played a lot more Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

Laura was up and out the door early on Monday to get to her flight on time; by all accounts she made it back home safely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around her pronouncement that I'm "an awesome uncle," but for the most part I guess that's pretty cool. The entire experience has left me a lot more optimistic about the idea of being a parent, a mental paradigm shift that is simultaneously comforting and scary as hell.

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Weekend, Surprises, Verbosity

After far too much not-blogging, I think I'm hitting the point where the withdrawal is really starting to bug me, so I guess I'd better take care of that.

Work is fairly unmentionable; I pulled a few 12-hour days last week, which I should probably stop doing if I'm going to be the only one (as usual) trying to put in the extra effort to keep the project on schedule. Hah. I am Jack's insane work ethic.

Far more mentionable is the weekend that just whooshed by in a bizarre combination of gosh-that-went-too-fast and cheerful, languid laziness.

Friday started out with one of the few rare instances in which I am proven right, but I was unfortunately too right. I don't know crap about cars, but I've listened to enough "Car Talk" to recognize the clicking sound that Liz's car was making every time she turned left as her CV boot. I felt somewhat vindicated when the issue turned out, indeed, to be her driver's-side CV boot, but as it happens I am karma's bitch--she needed to get both of them replaced. Somehow the old "why buy one when you can have two for twice the price" philosophy doesn't really feel so great in practice. Not the most auspicious start to the day, and it'd come at the end of a week far too long.

Liz quickly turned the tables on my week, though, starting with dinner at Nemo. We sat in the tiny little "Lover's Lane" nook, an odd little space barely large enough for a two-top table, and strangely, delightfully echoey. We had a great conversation, luxuriated in the sensations of food and wine (my Sangiovese was utterly fabulous with rack of lamb and mushroom risotto), and enjoyed the tumult of rain, thunder, and lightning outside.

We spent Friday night, Saturday night, and half of Sunday parked in front of the TV, breezing efficiently through the final season of "Six Feet Under" on DVD, a sudden arrival on seven-day loan from the library. The season had some weak spots, but overall it was a fitting conclusion to a great show, and a nice farewell to characters that have managed to become like family. It's definitely worth your time if you haven't seen it; if you can put up with the ever-present background morbidity, it's quite interesting, often hilarious, and surprisingly uplifting.

Much of Saturday managed to be simultaneously relaxing and off-kilter. Now, Liz and I had laid out a moderately elaborate plan for Saturday, consisting of all of our necessary and desired weekend errands in the proper order of timing and fuel economy, but the cats managed to completely throw it into disarray by nine o'clock in the morning as Julia came bounding up onto the bathroom counter, leaving a path of bloody pawprints in her wake. Realizing what was going on came in little quanta of sudden understanding: there is a cat here; there is something on the counter; the something on the counter is blood; the blood is from the cat; the cat is bleeding; oh crap oh crap the cat is bleeding all over; what has the cat done now? Liz was a shower and full set of clothes ahead of me, so after we corralled Julia in the bathroom to assess the damage and clean up her wounded paw, Liz and Julia zoomed off to the vet while I stayed behind to get dressed, look for more blood, and be someone for Valentine, the likely culprit, to howl confusedly at. Luckily, the bleeding--caused by a puncture wound to one of the pads on her left hind paw, either claw or fang--had stopped fairly quickly, and no stitches were required. The patient returned home promptly, along with a prescription for a week's worth of liquid antibiotics. The details of administering liquid meds--specifically pink liquid--to a fussy cat are best left to the imagination, but suffice it to say that Liz is now down one white shirt, and we had to add a trip to the dry cleaner to our Saturday agenda.

But! Our bloody cat had the good taste to get hurt, get better, and get home in time to let us get to our 10:30 appointment to peruse tile flooring options for the laundry room (a moderately long story in its own right that I won't get into here). From there, though, all of our errands seemed to start getting out of order, and the flow wasn't working, which unfortunately makes me a tiny bit fussy, even though I got a bunch of CD's from the library, got a haircut, and spent some nice time wandering around shops in Rocky River with Liz.

What really got to me was Liz's suddenly-announced, last-minute need to be on a conference call at two PM, right in the middle of when we were supposed to be tasting wine and getting groceries. Which then got rescheduled to three, allowing us to stop by Grady's to taste wine and nosh on little wine-friendly nibbles. But the vital trip to the grocery store had to be deferred. I sat upstairs and listened to music while Liz waited for her call. The cats hung out with me in the open window, relishing the fresh spring air and staring greedily at passing birds. When three o'clock came and went, I went downstairs to harass Liz about this call--shouldn't she call in or something?--and, rebuffed, I retreated back to the office to sulk and ponder whether we'd ever attend to the rest of our errands while I listened to Jethro Tull and Peter Gabriel. Slowly, there came a deep rumble, as the biggest semi I've ever seen trundled cautiously around the corner. Great, I thought, who's the asshole driving a giant truck through our neighborhood and ruining this perfect spring day? The truck pulled a little further around the corner, and I was able to see the Room and Board logo on the trailer. Liz and I had spent a day in downtown Chicago last winter trying to find a leather chair for me that was up to Baby Bear's "just right" standards, and had after several hours succeeded in filing an excellent candidate away in my permanent wish list. Swell. Somebody's getting awesome furniture and it's not me. I'm never going to get my chair.

Right about then, a lot of things happened at once. First, the truck whuffed and sighed to a stop directly across from our driveway. Valentine and I shared a dumbstruck moment of incomprehension; according to Liz, the look on my face was priceless. Liz closed the office door to keep the cat contained. And then, to my complete and utter astonishment, the delivery guys started unloading my chair, while, by complete coincidence, the Peter Gabriel CD I'd picked up at the library blasted out "Shock the Monkey."

After assessing that all was well and functional in the land of new things that recline, we did a quick furniture rearrangement in the living room, and since then I've been taking every opportunity available to test out my new manly man chair. I've covered one of the really long chapters of Head First Design Patterns; I've chilled with the iPod; I've enjoyed sitting by the open window with the cats; I've sipped wine and listened to Pink Floyd; I've passed out and drooled on myself; I've (now) blogged. So far, it has passed all of the important tests with flying colors. Well, almost all--the cats are still a bit scared of it, but I expect that with time they'll show it the same indifference that they usually show me.

So, yes, Liz's "conference call" was a lie, a ruse, a deception, a clever means to have me home so that she could see my reaction, and I completely, totally, thoroughly fell for it. In a way, that makes it all the sweeter. (Right?) In case I haven't correctly sung the praises of Liz lately, let me declare here that I totally love my wife, that she knows exactly how to spoil me, and that she is damn good at being awesome. My silly manly man chair is beyond excellent, unneeded, and unexpected. Thanks, hon!

Other than that, life is quiet here; lots of work, lots of studying, and as much slacking and irresponsibility as we can get away with. Gotta keep things in perspective, after all.

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Dr. WTF?

I grew up watching "Dr. Who" on the PBS station out of Albuquerque, usually late at night, and in my earliest experiences, with my hands over my eyes to protect me from those damned terrifying Daleks. My inner four-year-old can still hear the cries of "EXTERMINATE!" echo in the darkness of my childhood bedroom. As I got older, I got hip to exactly how low-budget the FX were, and love replaced fear. Sure, the scripts were pretty dreadful, the sets and effects worse, but the show had a charm and earnestness that were really endearing, much the same way that the first Star Wars or the original "Star Trek" did. It was goofy, geeky, cheesy, but it had soul.

I was pretty upset when the BBC, in its infinite wisdom, decided to cancel the good doctor, and I had almost completely given up hope of it ever starting back up again after years of on-again, off-again rumors (and one made-for-TV film that was too flawed and too off-mainstream to have ever gone anywhere, despite some glimmers of potential). When I heard that there was to be a new series, and that it would run on the Sci-Fi Network--so I wouldn't even have to worry about being an evil internet pirate, g'yarr!--I leapt to the Tivo with all the glee of being a little kid again...

A little kid who was about to get his childhood crapped all over.

So... Gosh. Wow. I watched the premiere on Friday night, and I'm simply stunned by its awfulness. It's the sort of thing that makes Jar-Jar Binks seem like a pretty good idea.

The new version of the theme music strikes me as pretty bad, and it runs on top of a really ugly opening sequence that looks like a cross between the time-travel sequences in the Bill & Ted movies and the giant, swooshy block letters of Superman. There's almost constant incidental music throughout the entire show, and it is reliably inappropriate and awkward throughout; the least offensive stuff is like a Casio keyboard demo on speed, while the worst is, quite literally, a Britney Spears track. The effects are just as low budget as before, but instead of having the well-intentioned, practical charm of prior incarnations, we are now treated to bad CGI in diarrhea-like abundance (highlights include a character being attacked and eaten by a hungry rubbish bin and the Doctor arguing with a giant mass of molten anger that sloshes around a lot). And the acting... I will admit that the original series were far from great acting, but there was an honesty about it that made you not care. The cast of this latest go-round is pretty well-rounded in its not-very-goodness, but the new Doctor is simply terrible, played completely cartoonishly--and not the good kind of cartoon like the classic Bugs Bunny who has some wit and guile about him, oh, no; this Doctor is Pokemon-grade, Ash Katchum as a Time Lord. And, if you'll permit one more fanboy rant after all that, I am really tired of having the TARDIS set changed every time someone wants to try reviving "Dr. Who." The interior of the TARDIS was what gave the show a needed sense of continuity between regenerations; this "new Doctor, new TARDIS, new music, new everything" approach is just tacky.

Everything about the new show is unconvincing and artificial, a through-and-through phony attempt to cash in on decades of fan support for a beloved and much-missed show. In short, it's missing a soul. Perhaps that was the price of its resurrection.

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Galactica

I broke down and picked up the first season of the new "Battlestar Galactica" show on DVD as a bonus Christmas gift to myself, using a coupon attached to the Serenity DVD as an excuse. In the past week and a half, we've blown through both the season 1 DVD set as well as the season 2.0 set, and I am now thoroughly addicted. I've even managed to Tivo the new episodes from the past couple of weeks, so I am almost completely and totally caught up, and ready to feel the pain of having to wait a week or more between new episodes.

I don't have time or energy to launch into a big, deconstructive "why it's great and you should watch it too" post, but I will say this:

It's like an entire series of End of Evangelion.

This statement will probably make more sense if you've seen Evangelion; if you haven't, you should watch that too.

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