Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


The weeks roll on

First off, thanks to everyone who helped make my birthday so great! Getting all the messages with recipes of all stripes from so many of you was like opening up dozens of little birthday presents. I was positively inundated and it was a delight. I'm still deciding exactly how I want to put the birthday book together, so if you still want to send something to me but were afraid it was too late, please do. I'll finalize the book after Christmas sometime, I think.

We're still in limbo on the heating issue. I have been exchanging e-mail with a plumber who I hope will come and install a pressure gage and a heat exchanger so we can keep an eye on the system and reduce the chances of anything truly catastrophic happening while we limp through this winter (and try to figure out how to get the additional tens of thousands of dollars a full "rip out all the walls" replacement of the existing system).

I swear everything in the house is choosing this time to break down! Not only am I dealing with the heating system BS and coaxing the clothes dryer to limp along for just a while longer but the dishwasher is not getting the dishes clean and it seems to be intermittently leaking. Then his morning when I went to the refrigerator (the refurb fridge I bought a couple years ago when our came-with-the-house fridge died) and the inside was HOT. Not just warm, not "oh, the door didn't get shut all the way" room temp, but hot enough to melt the butter I had on the top shelf. Why? Apparently something broke somewhere and the inside lights were on ALL NIGHT even though the door was closed. The bulbs got so hot they melted the cover of the fixture (which fell off into the fridge) and proceeded to heat up everything else within 10-12 inches. I had to unscrew the bulbs to shut the lights off and they were so blisteringly hot that even working with an oven mitt and (eventually) a leather glove, I still managed to slip and burn a blister on my finger. Lovely way to star the day. Ha.

My mother came up for an unexpected visit after my birthday and it was fun to see her. She sat in the kitchen with me, reading over my recipe books and cooking magazines while I turned the last of the summer tomatoes into marinara sauce and whipped up a dinner from The Herbfarm Cookbook (pork tenderloin so good that Kate had seconds, took it in her lunch, and begged me to make it again within the week). She's driving down to Arizona at the end of this week to be around for my grandmother, who is having yet another medical issue (this time multiple lumps in her breast) on top of her heart problems and failing kidneys from the last two near death episodes. Mom wanted me to drive down with her but I just don't have it in me. I hope I don't regret not going. Grandma wrote to tell me she fully expects "another miracle" but every time something new comes up I can't help worrying that this will be the one. Mom promises to keep me informed.

Meanwhile Pramas and I have been tag-teaming the several hours a day to research the ins and outs and every minute aspect of Dragon Age: Origins now that it's available for the Xbox. When Chris was working on Box Set 1 for the tabletop game he had access to documents with much of this information in spreadsheet or table form but seeing it all put together and working with the visuals and the game play is a different beast and very inspirational. I'm LOVING the game, it's exactly the sort of game I want. The depth of characters, the richness of the world, the ability to do more than just roam from room to room killing things... I'm a sucker for the writing, the voice acting, the development of the NPCs. I adore the refinements to the relationship system with each Bioware release. I'm finishing up my second run through and already plotting my third. In short, Bioware owns me. Good thing we'll soon have the tabletop game out (it's been out for approvals for a while now and I'm biting my nails to nubs hoping we can get it approved and out to stores before the end of the year!) because I'm smitten with the world and want to explore more. Speaking of, I think my shift is starting any minute now. Fereldon here I come.

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And the day was saved...

Kate and her friend arrived home after school and we got them all set up to take over the living room for Sleepover Extravaganza 2007. Furniture was moved, sleeping bags unrolled, Nintendo DSes were plugged in. I braced her for the bad news.

"I have some bad news..." I said.
"You weren't able to get the guitars from Ray?" Kate guessed.
"Worse," I said.
Stricken, Kate gasped, "BUNNIES?!!" (Poor kid, two hamsters deaths have scarred her...)
"No, no, not that bad!" I reassured her. "I wouldn't break news about your bunnies like this!" *sheesh*

I let her know that by "worse" I meant there was no Xbox at all... which meant no games or DVDs for the sleepover. Disappointing but not earth-shattering.

Meanwhile, people had been following along on my blog, where I'd vented about the situation a couple of hours earlier. After reading my tale of Xbox woe yesterday, Mysticalforest kindly offered up the use of his 360 in the comments of my LJ! Not only that but he was kind enough to drive up to my house and hand deliver it. I was soon able to share the happy news with the girls and Sleepover Extravaganza 2007 was saved! Games were played, movies were watched, pizza ordered, popcorn popped. Bunnies frolicked, girls and parents were happy. When the replacement machine was plugged in and booted up, Kate said, "He even uses the same icon I do!" Big Hero Points to Mysticalforest for saving the day.

The girls are crashed out on the living room floor now and I expect they stayed up pretty late. They were still going strong playing Animal Crossing when I went to bed. At some point during the night they pulled chairs up to my computer and were watching Code Monkey videos on YouTube (because that was what was on the screen when I got up this morning). I've been puttering around trying not to be too noisy but I've been up for two hours already and I'm starting to get hungry and want coffee. When the girls arise I'll probably bust out the recipe for pumpkin pancakes and make bacon.

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Anti-Technology Aura and the Xbox 360

Kate is having a friend over tonight. This is a new friend this year and Kate's fairly excited about the sleepover. I took her to Hollywood video so she could rent some movies and Xbox games in anticipation of the event. She picked up Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and gave it a try (and a fairly enthusiastic thumbs up) last night. She also asked Ray if she could borrow his Guitar Hero guitars so they could play Guitar Hero together.

Everything seemed to be in place... except the Xbox is now not working. At all. It was working fine last night but this afternoon it's cold and dead: no power, no "red ring of death", no error messages. Just dead. What perfect timing, Microsoft, thanks! Do you enjoy making girls cry?

After an excruciating 34 minutes on the phone with a customer service agent, I felt despondent. First the woman couldn't understand my serial number. "0-1-5-6..." she'd say, and I would say slowly "NO, 0-1-5-FIVE-6..." only to have her tell me it was not a valid number, it was only eleven numbers when it should be twelve, and we'd start all over again. Finally got past the serial number and then she told me that my phone number was "not correct" (except that the third time I repeated it to her it miraculously WAS correct!) and then that my ZIP code was not correct and did I want her to change it? I had absolutely no confidence that authorizing her to make that change would have been actually correcting a problem and not causing one... but she insisted that my ZIP code was listed as "78XXX" which is somewhere in Texas so I authorized the change. Fingers crossed that she didn't blow up my account for me in the process.

It's bad enough that this will be the second time we've had to send this machine in for repair in less than 12 months. It's pretty ridiculous considering how relatively little we play with the stupid thing, which can go for weeks on end not even being turned on because we're just not hardcore console gamers in this house... But the timing! Does the timing have to stink so bad every time? Here's hoping we have it back in working order before Christmas. Hell, at this rate, I'm wondering if I shouldn't just give up and get a frickin' Wii instead... I don't hear about people having to send those back for repairs on a regular basis!

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Halo 3

I tried playing Halo 3 last night.

I know next to nothing about Halo. What I know I've picked up from occasionally watching Tim and Kate play, or from seeing Red vs. Blue. Master Chief, needler, warthog. That's about all I know. Soldier-guys shooting up Alien-guys. If there's more, I don't know it.

Shooter gamers are not really my thing but I'm getting desperate. Last winter's infatuation with Viva Pinata cooled when I reached the hardcore gamer stage and would have had to spend a week of real time breeding Taffly herds to attract the pinatas I really needed to attract the high-level rare creature I wanted to attract. Screw that, I was done. There's been no new Knights of the Old Republic-style game (KOTOR2 pissed me off SO bad I can't even count it). I haven't had any Guitar Hero action since the "Bonnie Incident" and I'm waiting for the wireless guitar before I get a replacement...besides, Rock Band is just around the virtual corner.

We'd recently been gifted with a copy of Halo 3, though, so I broke it out and gave it a shot, running through on easy. I really don't know what I'm doing, so it's been a learning experience. I don't even know what the plot is (I missed Halo 2 completely), what the evil aliens are called, what one weapon does compared to another. I can barely orient myself or move around without accidentally looking at my feet, or backing up off a damn bridge and accidentally drowning. I realize the Master Chief is some sort of badass but not so much when I'm playing him. When the club-wielding berserker alien was chasing me into corners and clubbing my brains out, I was screaming like the girl I am. Running and screaming. And dying.

Chris watched me for a little while. His only comment was "I guess the immersive experience is working. That guy is scaring the crap out of you." And he was right.

I'm not sure how far I'm going to get in Halo 3.

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Ipanema Grill

Introduced Lemuriapress and bbcaddict to the Ipanema Grill last night. bbcaddict was nice to come out with us even though she's just getting over an illness. We were seated at the same table that hosted our party during the Green Ronin summit in October and weladies were positioned with a view of the big video screen that was playing footage of Carnival floats along Rio's Sambodrome. Carnival 2007 is February 17, 18, 19, 20... there's still time, Lemuriapress.

The meat was particularly good last night, especially if you like it rare. Mmmm, rare meat. I made the mistake I always make in trying the chicken (which is ok but just doesn't compare to, say, salt-crusted tri-tip or steak threaded with cheese). One by one we dropped out, sated and I really thought I was done but revived myself for not one but two slices of grilled pineapple dusted with cinnamon. So good.

After dinner Chris and I headed over to the ZigZag for one drink and to congratulate Murray on his appearance on Playboy's list of the top ten bartenders in America, as it was practically on the way to the bus stop (if you don't count the thirteen flights of pedestrian stairs).

Slept well last night. Safeway is delivering coffee and other staples for life sometime between 10:00 and noon, and then I'm off to get Kate at around 2:00. Sounds like I have just enough time to play a little Viva Piņata on our newly restored and returned XBox 360. Lazy Sunday!

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Viva Pinata

Kate helped me play this ("Look out! Bat!" and "Press X, go to your journal, QUICK QUICK! What does the Doenut need to stay?") for several hours last night. Chris was at Rick's, where I hear they tried out some BattleLore. Kate and I built a garden, attracted animals, romanced the hell out of a tribe of worms, and whacked snails and bats over the head with shovels. What's not to like?

I know that you can do a bunch of things with Xbox Live but I have to say that's the sort of thing that puts me off. Gamer "ratings"? I don't need to know that I didn't optimize my win, or that I took 17 days to get my garden to level 12 when some Korean teenager did it in half the time. Oh, is my score at Bejeweled 2 not within a million points of the hardcore Xbox Live gamers? Whatever.

But the game itself? So far it's good fun. I much prefer these kinds of games (or another game like the original KOTOR) to the shooters or even games like Prince of Persia where I always, always hit a wall I can't jump up or some trick I can't do because I can't time the button mashing just exactly right. I always quit those games eventually because I can't get past the thing, can't trigger the next event, whatever. So far, very little of that in Viva Pinata, especially if I'm willing to let a few of my surplus worms get eaten on occasion.

Maybe I will find a way to make a few extra hours this weekend for Xbox 360 playing after all...

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