Ear, Nose and Ducts

Earlier this year I began doing the Insanity work out. And then I quit doing the Insanity work out. Last year, around November-ish, I started feeling not-well. I hedge a bit at using the word “sick” because for the longest time I was never full-blown sick. It was mild (and I mean really mild) congestion with the feeling that something was stuck in the back of my throat. Coughing and the constant swallowing in an attempt to dislodge whatever was stuck there resulted in frequent sore throats, and as time went on it got worse, but never really horrible.

I stopped doing Insanity because it seemed to get really bad while working out. I’d end up way more out of breath than I should be and coughing, and I’d get more congested. When I stopped doing the work outs, it got better.

On Halloween this year, we had a guy come out to inspect the heating and air units in the house. As usual, he changed the filters. The filters were really really filthy, especially in the second unit, the one that handles the basement/media room. When he popped that bad boy out and started changing it, he started coughing and so did I. That night I had a terrible sore throat and a head ache to go with the coughs, and by the next day I was is horrible shape. I stayed home from work the rest of the week recovering. While I got better, I never got well. I didn’t even return to the pre-Halloween me.

I went to the doctor and got some medicine to treat bronchitis, which I may or may not have had – but since I haven’t been given antibiotics for anything in nearly a decade I don’t think my taking some now is going to hurt anything. However, even with the meds, the coughing didn’t go away. So it was time to try something else.

On Sunday morning last week, I woke up and made a concerted effort to stay upstairs. Within a couple of days I was coughing less. It didn’t go away entirely, but it lent credence to the theory that the problem was allergy related, and that I was allergic to something downstairs. So, we called up a company that cleans out air ducts to come and clean ours.

They came on Wednesday and cleared a handful of trash bags worth of stuff from the vents. Dust and mold (probably the culprit), and nails and bottles and cans… it seems that when they built the house many years ago, the construction guys would drink a soda and then just put the waste in a nearby air duct rather than throwing them away. You’d think that perhaps a duct cleaning would occur when the house was finished being built, but apparently not.

With all that out of the way, I found myself breathing a little easier. And yet, I still have the feeling that there is something stuck in the back of my throat. I decide to give in to my 21st Century Internet tendencies and go to WebMD. For over a year I’ve been telling doctors that I have this feeling, and they’ve continually told me to take allergy medication. Over on WebMD though, I find that this is also sometimes a symptom of acid reflux. You see, acid gets out of your stomach the wrong way and into your esophagus, and your esophagus tightens to prevent it from going further or something like that, hence the feeling that something is stuck in your throat and why coughing doesn’t help (coughing is air coming from the lungs, and while air and food go in the same hole, there are two different tubes they travel down, so no amount of air from the lungs will help a problem coming from your stomach). I get myself some antacids which WebMD recommends to combat acid reflux, and lo and behold I’m feeling better. I wish I could get back the money I spent on doctors and prescriptions. Oh well.

And I’m feeling better just in time too! I’ll start exercising again this Friday… after Thanksgiving.

Earth Day 2010

Reduce, reuse, recycle.

This is the mantra of the efforts to “save the planet”.  Now, while I’m the first to deride people over that particular turn of phrase (I mean, seriously, the planet is not really in danger – the ecosystem humans require to live in is, but until a comet lines us up in its cross hairs the planet is doing just fine), I do actually agree with many of the methods and goals of environmentalism.

I’ve blogged numerous times about reducing junk mail, and I’m about to do it again.  I simply cannot say enough about the program that was called Green Dimes, then Mail Stopper and is now called Precycle.  Back when I first bought my house we were getting a mailbox full of junk nearly every day.  There was so much wasted paper that it was a pain in the ass to bother dragging it to a place that would recycle it.  It seemed like such a no-brainer that better than recycling junk mail was to stop it from coming at all.  Combining the use of this service plus switching over to eBilling for nearly all my bills, I have an empty mailbox three or more days a week.  The junk is just gone.  So, not only do I not have to deal with it coming in, I also don’t feel guilty about throwing it out because I’m too lazy to recycle it.  Win-win.

We’ve switched over almost entirely to drinking water (or Crystal Light which is just water with some powder mixed in), so this means less cans and bottles.  Much like the Precycle above, not having things to recycle is better than recycling.

We also tend to buy in bulk when we can, which reduces the amount of packing materials.  Combined with the stopping of junk mail, I almost feel ripped off paying for weekly trash service because we only cart the can to the street once a month (more often if it’s stinky).  I say almost because driving to a dump and paying per bag ends up costing about the same, and since a few dozen of my neighbors use the same trash service (and more often than us) I wouldn’t be saving anything by cancelling our curb pickup.

Over the winter, the wife an I experimented with a space heater.  Rather than heat up the whole house we kept the thermostat relatively low and then just heated up the room we were in.  It worked out fairly well and we managed to save a little money.  It’s a plan we are going to try this summer as well with the use of fans.  Though while a heater is a heater, a fan isn’t an air-conditioner, so we may be met with limited success.

All in all, I really do feel like I’m doing my part.  I encourage everyone to take a look at their lives and see where they can make changes, not just for “the planet” but for themselves and their own pocket books.  Saving the environment is good.  Saving money is great.  When you can do both at the same time, that’s awesome.

Movie Round-Up: September 25th, 2009


In 1980, Fame hit the screen with a story that followed four students through the New York City High School for the Performing Arts.  I remember seeing it years later on HBO or Cinemax, sneaking a rated R film while my parents were out.  I watched the TV show too.  Part of me was excited to see the remake, and part of me dreaded it.  This new 2009 version of Fame is fun, but dumb.  Frankly, there are too many characters in the foreground here.  You don’t get to know any of them well enough to care about them, and while the musical numbers are interesting to watch they stand out so much from the bland non-musical parts that they primarily serve to remind you of how lame this new Fame is.  If I rated with thumbs, this would be a thumbs down.


I love me some haunted house movies.  I especially love it when the house in question is a space ship.  Add on top of that Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster and  I would see this movie in a heartbeat, if not for…


This is going to be my must see movie of the weekend.  Firstly, its Bruce Willis, and I pretty much love every movie he’s ever done, especially the action films.  Second, the plot here just looks to be awesome.  So, my hard earned $10 will get spent here.  Hells yeah.

Who needs phone books?

Face it.  The world is changing.  I moved out of my parents’ house back in 1994, and in all the years since I have received a full batch of anywhere from six to ten phone books, yellow and white pages, every year.  And in all that time, I can recall perhaps five or six times I ever used them.  Nowadays I can find anything I might possibly need a phone book for on the Internet.  Or rather, I’m going to use the Internet and any business that isn’t out there is probably not going to get my dollars.  Even the Yellow Pages themselves have opened up YellowPages.com, and if you happen to live in a state serviced by AT&T you can even browse an online version of the printed phone books.  I’m sure more services are out there as well…

So, given my penchant over the last couple of years to stop junk mail, you can imagine how I feel about my annual stack of phone books that appear on my door step.  True, I simply drive them over to the post office where they have a dumpster for phone book recycling, but the printing of the books is just a giant waste to begin with.  (Yeah, yeah… I know, “In Case of Emergencies”, but I keep written down all the emergency phone numbers I would need, especially the ones I would need if I had no power or Internet access.)  That’s why I was very happy when I got an email from Green Dimes about Yellow Pages Goes Green.

I’ve signed up to have them stop sending me phone books, and now I just have to wait and see…

Fast versus Slow

One thing I have found in a few places in comments about the new game Left 4 Dead is disappointment that the zombies are fast zombies instead of slow zombies.  Sure, Dead Rising had slow zombies and it worked fairly well, but then again it was also an entirely single player game with a storyline that lasts for many many hours of game playing time.  Each of Left 4 Dead’s scenarios can be completed in about an hour (more or less depending on your difficulty setting and the people you have chose to play with).  I’m not sure I’d want to play Left 4 Dead in a story that lasted for twenty hours of play.  I mean, the story as it is is “four people wound up hiding together and have decided to make a run toward [insert possible rescue destination here]”, and it works for the time it takes to play it.  Dragging out a single run to rescue for twenty hours would likely be horrendously repetitive and tiring… just like Dead Rising is if you choose to just hang around for the helicopter, killing zeds and run none of the missions and stories (heck, even with the missions, sometimes Dead Rising is kinda dull… but I still love the game).

But could a Left 4 Dead style game work with slow zombies?

I think it could, however, it would require a number of mechanics changes.  For one, little piles of ammo, guns and grenades would be out.  As would the unlimited ammo pistols.  We wouldn’t have to remove guns, but we would absolutely need to slim down the supply of them.  We’d also need to add in melee weapons, real ones, not just pushing zombies back with your gun, but bats and shovels and other things.  Each melee item would have a power rating and a weight, swinging one would cause you to get tired.  The more you swing, the slower you swing, unless you rest up.  These things combined would allow for the encounters with slow zombies to be more tense.  If you have unlimited ammo, you can just shoot them all and walk your way to the end (if you have never seen the remake of Night of the Living Dead, one of the major changes from the original is Barbara actually putting to use the idea of “they are just so slow, you could walk right past them” and she leaves the house on her own with a pistol and walks to safety while everyone else dies inside the house), while the “tired bar” makes you sometimes choose to use your limited ammo over your melee weapon in order to survive.  The game would also need more “monster closets”, because as is Left 4 Dead avoids the monster closet by having hordes of zeds randomly show up climbing over fences and whatnot.  In order to maintain a level of creep and dread with slow zombies, you’d have to play up the idea that meeting them in large numbers is dangerous by occasionally forcing the players to deal with large numbers of them… open a door and wham, twenty five zombies are in that room you need to walk through.  Oh, and all zombies must be killed by removing the head or destroying the brain, shooting one in the leg just makes him limp when he walks, shooting both just makes him drag himself along the ground.  Did I not mention you’d need to watch out for zombies pulling themselves around at ankle level?  In fact, the game might be more focused on avoiding the zombies instead of Left 4 Dead’s plow through attitude.

While fighting slow zombies might still be made fun, I’m not sure that playing one could be.  You’d stumble around, you’d be slower than the players, and your only method of attack would be to get close enough to grab at them and bit them.  And if the players shot off your legs, you’d essentially be spending the entire rest of the map dragging after them with little hope of catching up.  However, without the obstacle of the special infected running around and keeping the game entirely co-op, you could have infection.  A player who gets bit is infected.  They will die, and they will become a zombie, how fast that happens depends on how badly they get hurt.  The game would have no health bar and include no healing, so that even the infected himself couldn’t warn his teammates.  So the other players in co-op would need to decide… shoot the infect guy now or wait until he turns?  Sure, killing him now makes you safer since you don’t have to worry about him turning, but killing him now also means that you are going to be short one gun or club as you move forward.  You start the game with four and it tunes for four, so if you have to off one of your own, you are down to three playing a map tuned for four.  Or two on map for four… or all by yourself.  To ease the sting of that, I’d probably keep Left 4 Dead’s survivor closets where you can recover a fallen friend, and from map to map within a scenario all players would get put back in.

Slow zombies in a first person shooter could definitely work, but it wouldn’t be the same game at all.

The Instance and The Bench

Reading this post over at Clockwork Gamer got me to thinking about why raiding in most recent MMOs never excited me.  Back in my days of EverQuest, when I would lead raids, I often would take anyone and everyone who showed up.  Some of my “raids” were silly, intended to train people for raiding.  I took five groups into the Mines of Nurga (before they revamped the zone) and made them form up groups, main tanks, pullers, heal team, etc.  Just like a huge raid, but everyone was around level 30.  Many of those same raiders would show up later when I started doing Epic raids, smaller hits for pieces to Epic Quests.  Places like The Hole, City of Mist, etc.  Of course, I also lead some dragon raids, and some Hate and Fear, Chardok, a few bits in Velious, and even some Planes of Power raids.  It was all great fun.

The only raid I never got off the ground was the Plane of Sky.  The reason for this is that the islands in Sky gave out random numbers of keys, and the zone had a very very long respawn time for most spawns.  In order to take a large raid to Sky, you needed to use complicated corpse summoning to get from island to island.  It was easier on a small raid, but small raids, due to the difficulty of the zone, needed to be very regimented, certain amounts of certain classes.  I’m sure its not so hard now.  Sky can probably be single grouped, or even done as a duo.  But “back in the day” it was much more difficult.

In EQ2 and WoW (and other games), raids are often (always) instances, with caps on how many people can go.  One thing I never like to do is bench people.  If a personal is capable of surviving the raid, I’ll take them… I mean, seriously, I did raids in EQ with 90 people.  Of course, in EQ2 and other more graphically intensive games, I couldn’t imagine 90 people being in the same place and having the game be even playable.  Even WoW can struggle.. just try going to the auction house in Ironforge. (I might be showing my age here… is the auction house in Ironforge still crowded?)

I seriously don’t like the idea of raid caps.  Having 25 people show up to fill 24 slots… I’d rather not.  Over in this thread at the Nerfbat forums, I put forth the following:

I’m all for removing hard caps on content. I realize that a developer may want to design his content to be optimally experienced by 5 people, or 25 people, but it really sucks as a player to keep running into the wall because I have 6, or 29, friends and we have to repeat content not just for the loot, but simply so people can experience it. Game devs should consider ways to remove hard caps and instead reward soft caps. Design the content for 5 people, but allow any number to go in, however have the reward scale upward as you approach the “optimal”. That way, people who want to min/max content for the best possible reward can do so, but also people who just want to play can experience it as well without having to jump through extra hoops just to play with their friends.

I’d love to see a game at least give that a shot.  And I wouldn’t even mind going back to the flagging model of EQ, where you could bring any number of people to the raid, but only X number would get the flag.  You’d still have to repeat the content, but at least you could repeat it with the entire raid group instead of playing musical chairs mix and matching your raiders in order to be able to do the raid with only X number of players.

Maybe.  Someday.  Perhaps.


Some time later this evening, shortly after eight I think, I will have officially survived thirty-three years of life.

Yay me.

I’m not the kind of guy who believes in omens, or the kind to prophetically announce that this will finally be the year that Fink beats the Stomach, but I do honestly believe that things have to change. I am officially a job burnout. One thing I have prided myself on over the years (well, at least after high school) is my work ethic. I go by the following rules:

  1. A job worth doing is worth doing well.
  2. A job that pays a decent wage is worth doing.
  3. If I accept the job for the offered wage, it must be a decent wage.

By those rules, if I take a job for the money they offer, I’m going to do the best job I can. Right now, though, I am just going through the motions, doing enough work to not get yelled at. I am Peter Gibbons. Even worse, I have noticed myself engineering situations with coworkers to properly lower their expectations so that I can do even less work.

Its a bad situation all around, and honestly its not because I care about the company I’m contracted at, it is because at the end of the day I am disappointed in myself. Add to that, I am officially thirty-three pounds overweight. Maybe I need to be putting a little more stock in these omens and signs and stuff.

My general down turn of attitude has also crept into other aspects of my life. I want a new job, but getting a new job takes effort and I’ve been avoiding it. I have at least a dozen unfinished projects around the house that could have easily been finished by now. I’m sure there is more, but I don’t have the energy to do a full self evaluation right now.

So, my goals for thirty-three:

  • Stop being a lazy shit and get my work ethic back.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and exercise to get my waistline back.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and find a new job that engages and excites me.
  • Stop being a lazy shit and finish some of these projects around the house.

I’m seeing a theme here… guess its time to stop being a lazy shit.

Intent versus Action

I admire the sentiment, and I even respect the effort… but seriously, who are they kidding?

The parts that I like about it is that people should do more to conserve. I recycle, I replaced as many lights in my house as possible (and tolerable) with low energy bulbs… I try, and I’d like to think I succeed, even if just a little. My ongoing battle with junk mail isn’t just about trying to stop getting junk, but also doing my part to reduce how much of that wasteful crap they print. At least with junk email, there is no real waste, except the couple seconds a week I spend reviewing the junk folder before deleting it. And any effort to raise awareness has its merit.

The line that really gets me, though, is this one:

Organizers say the concerts will be as green as possible, with a tally of energy use being kept and proceeds from ticket sales going to distribute power-efficient light bulbs and other measures that will offset the shows’ greenhouse gas emissions.

This is what I mean by “Who are they kidding?” Directly from their quote, they will be distributing power-efficient light bulbs as part of their emissions offset. That’s a laugh, because 90% of the bulbs they give out at the concerts will be left on the ground or tossed into the trash (ironically, creating more waste than if they’d just not handed them out at all), and of the 10% that make it home with a concert goer I’d guess that maybe 10% of those will actually get used. So we are looking at 1 in 100 bulbs given out being put to use. That’s 99 bulbs in the trash or sitting unused in a garage or closet.

That’s almost as bad as the idea of buying emissions credits. “Well, we’d really like to help the environment, but rather than change our product or production, we’ll just write a check each year to pay for the offset.” Umm… what? The only possible way this works is if the money used to purchase credit is spent preventing or removing the exact amount of or more pollution the credit is buying. Otherwise, you just end up with the same pollutions and a bunch of money sitting in someone’s bank. I feel like I should have heard about buying emissions credits on Snopes where they would promptly debunk it as yet another email chain letter like that Nigerian gentleman who wants to give me millions of dollars.

It all just doesn’t make any logical sense…

No Means No

When I began to undertake my quest of removing unwanted junk from my life, I guess I never considered how much other people might want to send junk to me. While I would never ever in a million billion years shop at the Golfsmith and would prefer to never get catalogs or coupons from them, they apparently think that sending me unwanted catalogs and coupons is worth the expense to hedge their bets on the minuscule chance that I might change my mind.

My previous experience with them was that I contacted them directly and asked for my address (with my house’s old owners name) be removed from their mailings because I did not want them. And I thought I was successful because the mailings from them (sometimes two or three a week) stopped. But lo and behold, I reach into the mailbox today to find a new Golfsmith catalog. The only change is that it is now addressed to me instead of the old owner.

Obviously, since I’m already not a customer, ignoring me and treating me badly won’t hurt them… or will it? Like the website says… Probably not. I don’t wield enough consumer power to hurt their bottom line, but I can say for certain, at this point, even if I one day do decide to pick up the game of golf I will never shop at the Golfsmith. They’ve lost any chance of ever winning my business.

Right now, I’m experiencing a respite in the deluge of junk mail. My efforts appear to be working. I think I’ve only thrown out maybe two or three pieces of junk this week. But is this Golfsmith ad a sign of things to come? Will I never be able to escape the junk since they will send it to me even when I ask them not to? And do I have any recourse if they continue?

For now, I’ve emailed to the Golfsmith again asking them to remove me from their mailing list. We’ll have to see what happens next.

Welcome to 2007

So, how did you ring in the New Year?

Me? I went to my brother’s house because he and his wife were having a party. I was introduced to Dead Rising, which, honestly, was just plain mean since I don’t own an Xbox 360… now I’m going to have to go buy one. And I got to witness the Wii in person… now I’m going to have to go buy one of those too. There was food and drink, and there was karaoke. All I have to say is… I rock. We watched Dick Clark count in the last seconds of 2006, and mostly we were, as always, amazed by his recovery and saddened by the fact that he’s now a huge buzzkill for festivities.

Now that it is 2007, what does that mean?

Well, it used to mean putting the wrong date on my checks for a couple months, but I’ve switched over to electronic billing for everything but my garbage collection, and I only have to pay them every three months. As with every year, despite my loathing for New Year’s Resolutions, I’m still making a couple… mostly the same ones I always make. But I figure, if I have almost a dozen friends and family who have decided to quit smoking, I think I can manage working out three times a week and eating a little less crap.

Also in 2007… I think I’m almost done with PC games. Frankly, the alure of MMOs is finally wearing off. New games just don’t appeal to me much. WoW has been fun, and I still might pick up the expansion to play around, but most games on the horizon my computer can’t play (I’m in the Vanguard beta, or rather, I got accepted but I haven’t been able to log in and actually create a character), and rather than paying two thousand plus dollars to upgrade my and my wife’s machines, I think I’ll just invest that same money into a Wii, a 360 and an HD projection TV. And hey, bonus, the new TV makes watching movies and television shows better too. The list of non-MMO PC exclusive games has practically vanished, and with the consoles you never have to worry about compatibility issues.

I’m still interested in MMOs as a theory and design, but nothing out there for the next year is really gripping me. Largely it looks like the same old grind, and if I’m going to play in a fantasy world, I’d rather be sitting around a table with a half dozen friends these days instead of staring at my monitor pushing buttons for rewards.

It looks like 2007 is also going to bring a flood of superhero books to the market. I’m guessing the successes of Hollywood and both Marvel and DC’s initial forays into paperback books have paid off enough that it seems like a new book is coming out from somebody each week. Though, the landscape is still lacking in original material. Its all book adaptations of existing characters from the comic books. Perhaps in 2007 I’ll work toward changing that and actually finish a writing project or two.

And on the business front… lets just say that aught seven is looking pretty good.

Finally, we come to the end of my ramblings and musing, and I welcome you, heartily, to two thousand seven.