Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Adventures in Brideland, Part I

A successful bride needs awesome bridesmaids. Good thing I can pick 'em. With my two big sisters currently unable to cross the Pacific to be my slaves my pillars of womanity, C and K stepped in.

These two ladies share my deep and abiding love for food. We're friends for other reasons, obviously, but food is the main one, let's face it. And by that I mean that they have both fed me on numerous occasions, and I have liked it every single time. Such a bond cannot be broken! As a Leo born in the year of the dog under the moon of the Philippines, the way to my adoration is through my stomach.

But enough about me. This post is about my bridesmaids...helping me. Er, yes. Here's how they did it:

#1: They Helped Me Buy My Dress

C beckoned us to a place called Vows in Watertown. We went during a weekend, and the place swarmed with brides, their entourages, and camera crews. Turns out they're filming for reality TV! Possibly due to her glowing face, C got interviewed.

"Are you the bride?" they barked at her.

"No, I'm a bridesmaid," she replied demurely.

"What's the bride looking for?" they demanded.

"She doesn't know!" said the honest C. "But she has very opinionated bridesmaids!"

And thank goodness I do! C and K patrolled the rows of dresses and stuck pink cards labelled with my name onto the likely candidates. Then a Vows rep stepped in, grabbed said dresses, plucked a few to add to the pile, and trooped us into one of the dressing rooms. The rep unzipped dresses for me, zipped me up after I stepped into them, and guided me onto a pedestal so we can all do our synchronized, "Oooohhhh!" Then it was on to the next dress.

It ultimately became a choice between [REDACTED] and [REDACTED]. Sorry, dear readers, Husband-elect reads this blog, too, so let us help him continue to believe that I will be dressed like Xena the Warrior Princess, which I totally am, honey, I'm glad you support all my decisions.

In conclusion: I ordered the dress after only one hour. It'll be here early next year in my size, for tailoring.

Wedding Dress Level: Cleared. Time Bonus: Unlocked.

#2: They Helped Me Fix My Face

My idea of makeup is a paper bag. By contrast, C and W know what the face needs.

They took me to Sephora while we were out shopping for their dresses. K led me to a brand of foundation that she liked. The rep came over and was immediately like, "No way are you using this for your wedding. For one thing, this has ethyl methacrylate copolymer because it has SPF. It also contains mica. Light will just bounce off your face. Your face will look paler than your body in photographs. You want this," and here she marched us to a tiny bottle that screamed "I cost ridiculous amounts of money!!!" and handed it to me with authority. Then she told us that we must--must!--schedule an appointment so a makeup expert can put on my wedding face while K observes.

Then she led us to another lady who assured me that so-and-so premoistened pads will make my face resemble a human's. Then the new lady pointed me to a night cream that will restore my oils as I rest after an exhausting day of non-remunerative blogging.

Bottom line: I bought three tiny items, and they totaled over a hundred bucks. It'll be worth it if I stop looking like the moon and all its craters. Now I need to schedule that appointment.

Makeup Level: Incomplete. Weeping Credit Card Trophy: Unlocked.

#3: They Got Their Dresses in Under an Hour

We couldn't find bridesmaids dresses at the mall, so we went to David's Bridal in Natick. It had even more dresses on display than Vows! But their dressing rooms are less private. But they have more mirrors!

I like pink, so the rep got an array of shades for us to look at. We immediately nixed the ones that were too purple or peach. C and K proceeded to try on dresses, and had decided by the end of our 45-minute appointment. They looked adorable in all the ones they tried on, so it is quite a feat! They'll get their dresses by early next year, too.

Bridesmaids Dress Level: Cleared. Time Bonus: Utterly Violated.


In case you mistakenly thought that life = breeze, let me inform you that there will always be that troglodyte who will ruin your day just by existing. Currently, FedEx holds that loathed position. Blame FedEx for your still-missing Save the Date card.

See, Wedding Paper Divas had FedEx ship the cards almost two weeks ago. The driver got confused because he didn't see my name on the door, even though he had the right street address. So he left without leaving a sticker. Same thing happened the next day--no note saying that FedEx stopped by.

Yesterday I wondered what the heck was taking so long, tracked the package status, and promptly blew a gasket. "Delivery exception -- could not locate recipient," the website trumpeted. Whoever does this route sure is unique, since this has never happened before. So I called FedEx, confirmed that they had the right address, identified the major streets near the house, and gave them my number. They assured me they would have it to me the next day.

Did the package arrive? Of course not. Same error message: "delivery exception." This is the third time FedEx has tried, and if I do not find a sticker when I go home today, why, I shall eat and drink more than is healthy for me to sublimate my rage! That'll teach FedEx!

AND!, as Miriam Defensor-Santiago would say with a vigorous finger-shake, it turns out Wedding Paper Divas specifically instructed FedEx not to hold the package in one of their facilities so I can pick it up after work! I'm sorry, was I supposed to be barefoot in the verdammt kitchen while my beautiful Save the Date Cards were being delivered to me? I wish!

Husband-elect nobly volunteered to stay at home tomorrow to wait for the package. This will save us a fortune in lawsuits because my flying kick would have greeted the FedEx man when he finally rings the thrice-damned doorbell.



The mild profanity above is brought to you by my mom, who objected to my swearing on this blog, notably when I cussed out AT&T Customer Service.


There you have it: the first installment of the exciting and once-in-a-lifetime series, Adventures in Brideland. Stay tuned for the next episode!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Snuff (2011)

Snuff follows Sam Vimes, Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch, as he attempts to enjoy a peaceful vacation in his country estate with his family. The lands belong to him courtesy of his wife, Lady Sybil Ramkin, she of the spectacular bosom and other body parts of planetary proportions. However, seasoned readers will immediately know that Vimes' vacation will be anything but quiet, since a central tenet of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series has to do with crime finding policemen, and vice versa. There's also the fact that the reasonable tyrant Lord Vetinari sends Vimes off into the countryside. Vetinari is always out to "fix" something, and Vimes is usually his unwitting hammer of choice.

What follows: tension between "noble" and "common" men; a discussion about goblins as vermin; surprising discoveries in the darkness; philosophical musings about the nature of the law; and of course, a variety of interesting minor characters. Pratchett introduces unique humorous tics in every novel, and in Snuff, we have the sea vessels hilariously named after women. For example, Black-Eyed Susan is apparently almost as fast as her namesake, and The Wonderful Fanny always finds her way to safety in the most treacherous waters. There's also Young Sam's keen fascination with poo, spurred by a popular children's book author whose name sounds like a shout-out to the last Harry Potter book.

I understand that Mr. Pratchett suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's disease, so I was pleased to pick up his 39th Discworld book. I'm delighted to report that Snuff has all the trademark Pratchett turns of phrases, the ones that make me do involuntary ab crunches from guffawing. The story plays out like a combination of JingoThe Fifth Elephant, and Thud!, meaning Discworld fans have seen a lot of the main themes before. Those themes include Racism Sucks, the Law is the Law, Innocence versus Cynicism, Slavery is Bad, Coppers are Awesome, and Some Nobles Think They're All That. This is also probably the densest novel I've read in the series. You know that quote by Blaise Pascal, usually attributed to Mark Twain--"I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time"? Reading this book kind of felt like that. There could have been more editing on Vimes' inner thoughts and his incredibly long speeches to the bad guys.

Anyway, I was gratified to see that my girl Delphine Angua von Uberwald has been promoted to Captain! Now she is totally equal with her man, Captain Carrot, and he's royalty and she's a werewolf noble and they will make adorable puppies together. Or whatever hybrids result from that hopefully inevitable union.

Of course, all City Watch novels come with our favorite slacker pair, Nobbs and Colon. Wee Mad Arthur and Cheery Littlebottom also show up. But the best secondary character award has to go to Willikins, Vimes' butler, who can reduce a man to tears by threatening to comb his hair. Sweet.

Let me end with a weird joke based on the book: How do you know when a chicken is complicated? When it lays square eggs.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Comic Book Review: Fullmetal Alchemist

Fullmetal Alchemist follows the Elric brothers, Edward and Alphonse, in their quest to regain their complete human bodies after a failed alchemical experiment. They had attempted to resurrect their dearly departed mother, and paid the price -- Ed lost his left leg, and Al lost his entire body. Since the core law of alchemy is "equal exchange," Ed sacrifices his right arm to transfer his little brother's soul into a suit of armor. The neighborhood granny takes them in, but word of the brothers' prodigious skill in alchemy has reached the military. The ambitious Col. Roy Mustang comes in person to recruit the boys, unaware of their condition. Meanwhile, a group of superhumans named after the seven deadly sins works secretly to incite bloodshed all over the country. So it begins...

For me, one of the bests part about this manga series is the perfect balance between action-packed confrontations and physical humor. You get everything that manga delivers: contorted limbs, tortured facial expressions, fangs, pools of blood, ridiculous fighting, and so on. The use of alchemy in the story requires suspension of disbelief, of course, but the writer uses the invented principles consistently and with a grounding in reality, which helps. For example, Ed has to fight Greed, whose body turns into impenetrable armor. But he makes the mistake of telling Ed that all superhumans have forms with the same elements as human bodies, which helps Ed realize that the "armor" is really just rearranged carbon. So the Fullmetal Alchemist transmutes a weapon to counter! Science! Or pseudo-science? You decide!

The characters are awesome. Edward starts out in the manga as a 15-year-old who hasn't hit his growth spurt yet, so he's under five feet tall. The military assigns him the title "Fullmetal" Alchemist (boring ol' "steel" in the original Japanese), but he's so tiny that everyone assumes the title goes to his brother Alphonse, whose armored body looms at almost seven feet tall. Ed also can't stand up to his childhood friend Winry, who often beats him up with a wrench. Then there's Major Alex Armstrong, a mustachioed muscleman who takes off his top at every opportunity while the panel sparkles with his manliness. And his beautiful yet terrifying sister, Major General Olivia Armstrong, gets sparkles, too, whenever she's threatening someone, which is pretty much every time she opens her mouth. The bad guys mostly play it straight, although one of them acts pretty goofy until readers figure out he's a villain. Then it's all murder-murder-kill-kill.

I was delighted to confirm my suspicion that a woman wrote Fullmetal Alchemist. I got the idea when Ed swears to beat up a thief, and when Al points out that she's a girl, Ed shouts, "Equality of the sexes!" Another clue: the best villain (IMO) is Lust, who remains calm and efficient when instigating violence and finishing off loose ends. Meanwhile, the best supporting character is either Lt. Lisa Hawkeye, a super-competent sniper, or Major-Gen. Olivia Armstrong, who keeps readers guessing about her true motives. Male mangaka (comic artists) usually underdevelop female characters' personalities and overdevelop their boobs. Tite Kubo of Bleach, I'm staring straight at you! Stop attaching Momo and Rangiku to their men! Geez!

I thoroughly enjoyed the manga. It read like a video game I would totally play. Hiromu Arakawa-sensei did a great job. I probably won't check out the anime, although I might YouTube some of the key scenes, like when Hawkeye gets her throat slit (spoiler: she gets better!) and Mustang cradles her in his arms and it's so romantic because they care about each other sooooo much. Anyway, at 27 volumes and four chapters per volume, it's maybe an 8-10 hour read. If you like manga, check it out!

Oh, and TGIF!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let's Talk About Sex...ism

Today, BBC News covered the story of Dana Bakdounis' unveiling, which I'll use momentarily to segue into my favorite topic: me. But first, the background: Dana had been following the Uprising of Women in the Arab World page on that scourge of humanity Facebook, and posted an image of herself on the site, unveiled and holding up a photo of her veiled self with a note in English that read: "I'm with the uprising of women in the Arab world because, for 20 years, I wasn't allowed to feel the wind in my hair and my body." Verily, a powerful expression of freedom and courage, from a young woman raised in conservative Saudi Arabia.

Side note: One of my friends lived in Saudi Arabia as a kid and the other kids threw rocks at her because she wasn't an Arab, even though she's Muslim just like them. Religion: not quite the unifying force of your imagination!

I hope the coverage of Dana's story continues. In the meantime, I remain grateful for my boring life, where the worst I have to deal with is being told to my face that:

  • I should never get fat, because all I have to offer my future husband are my face and body;
  • I should stop reading, because it's unattractive;
  • I'm only marrying Husband-elect because of his credit card;
  • I need to get married right away because my value will diminish as I get older.

So awesome!

I've also received backhanded compliments, like how I think like a man so I can be told certain secret manly things. Love the secret manly things! Like, did you know there are websites where guys calculate their chances of landing specific types of women, based on results reported by guys who've already gotten those women? Science!

I'm going to stop right now because I'm going to give myself a rage heart attack. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so in honor of the Native Americans who so kindly shared their resources with the pilgrims, I give a message of thanks to all men who respect men and women equally. Thanks for believing in us and supporting us as we struggle to lead good lives in a world that often isn't fair. Thank you, and please pass on your values.

And while you're at it, pass the turkey leg and stuffing. I'm hungry.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Company Bake Sale

I like working for Proposals R Us, the development arm of Enhancing Lives, Inc. (Disclaimer: Names changed to protect blogger.) My boss doesn't mind my needy cries for supervision; free sandwiches abound; and the benefits can be pimp if you choose the right combination, like a Happy Meal. Cheerful greetings echo in the kitchen as we elbow each other out of the way in our desperate quest to reach the coffee/tea machine. It's super awesome compared to what I endured while working at BOOBS (the Best Organization Of Boston Society, in case you've forgotten).

Today we're having a bake sale. Proceeds go to our charitable foundation, and the CEO has pledged to match the raised funds. My distaff coworkers rolled up their sleeves and got to baking. In my ruthless campaign against the size of my inbox , I had deleted all invitations to bake for a good cause. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Anyway, we had scrumptious, homemade delights such as peanut butter cookies ("Prohibitively expensive!" I complained, at $2.50 for two tiny ones -- truly, I am my parent's spawn); pumpkin cheesecake squares; apple pie; muffins; salted caramel brownies; pumpkin bread; chocolate cookies; and the winner of manliest cake on the table: a vanilla cake with Italian lemon meringue frosting. It won because a man baked it. Oh, and see the muffin-looking things at the bottom left of the photo? Also manly. Diversity!

The point is, I'm trying hard not to scarf down what I bought for me and Husband-elect, who wanted apple pie. However, the whole pie is on sale, so I got him a li'l brownie instead. The brownie came with pretty wrapping paper and a ribbon, unlike my pumpkin cheesecake square. I guess, if I must, I'll eat the cheesecake so it doesn't make a mess in my bag. That's my other story and I'm sticking to it.

Tomorrow in Other Dietary Moments of Note: Husband-elect and I dress up and have lunch at the Downtown Harvard Club's formal dining room! But what if there's no space? Will we eat at the Crimson Pub instead? Oh, the suspense!

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Come with Me if You Want to Live...On the Edge."

Hello and happy Friday. Let's get down to business.

In the event of a zombie apocalypse or some other civilization-ending catastrophe, you'll want to surround yourself with people who regularly demonstrate competence. Emotional and mental stability would be a happy bonus, but that usually goes out the window once people start losing loved ones. Ideally, you'd find the right individuals to form the traditional five-member team capable of surviving the odds: the leader, the lancer, the big guy, the smart guy, and the chick.

Let's look at the pros and cons of having me in every position.

The Leader
When I feel like it, I can be charismatic, level-headed, and capable of making decisions based on ruthless reason. I am also very nosy, which allows me to understand the strengths and weaknesses of my fellow survivors, meaning I can deploy you to perform the task that probably won't kill you. I can strike heroic poses at the drop of a hat. Finally, I have no problem being bossy.

The Lancer
I could be your second-in-command, if you are somehow  more awesome than me. I will keep the rest of the group in line, hold your secrets close, and I've got your back no matter what. I'm a Leo born in the year of the dog, so you know I'm super loyal. My sarcasm and snark are second to none, making me ideal for this role.

The Big Guy
My sisters call me "Amazona," because I am oddly strong for my size. While working at a non-profit, I often upended five-gallon jugs of water into the office cooler. I go to the gym and lift weights. Give me a baseball bat, shovel, or other object to swing at the hips with, and nothing will stand in our group's way. I get tired easily, though, so you will need to feed me more than the other members of the group.

The Smart Guy
I was summa cum laude at Middlebury and I got my M.A. from The Big H. Those zombies are dead if there's ever a standardized test competition or if we have to be graded on an essay about Japanese war reparations. I mean, the zombies will be more dead.

The Chick
Yes, I am.

Now that I've buttered you up with my superior qualifications, I'd like to insert some caveats in our survival plan. First, I will always insist on bringing Sheba. She's only six pounds, and no, she is not an emergency snack. I will refuse to eat her, and likely kill anyone who tries to do so. Second, Sheba is really loud. She will attract zombies, monsters, aliens, and even sentient plant life with her plaintive wailing. Again, any threats to her life will be met with extreme violence. Third, Sheba could probably end someone's life with her toxic poop. I recommend that the group not eat her poop, if we're reduced to eating that.

Why bring the loud, smelly, inadvertently homicidal cat?, you ask. Because while we run, Sheba will serve as the constant reminder of our collapsed civilization. As we hide, shaking in fear, from the zombie horde that shambles past, her muffled meows will call out to the gentleness of our souls. In quiet days, we can all take turns petting her as we talk wistfully about all the ones we've lost. And as we bloody our hands in our fight to survive another day, her terrified cries will inspire us to fight harder to keep her safe. In other words, Sheba will be our rock. Our tiny, soft, adorable rock.

Sheba, the Rock.

I'm glad we had this talk. If there's one thing I'd like you to take away from it, it's that the cat comes with me. Even in a zombie apocalypse. Good day, madam, I said good day!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: Snow Crash (1992)

I didn't want Snow Crash to stop. I wanted to read more about Hiro Protagonist, Y.T., Uncle Enzo, and the other characters who made up this spectacular universe. I hoped Neal Stephenson would go on about his brilliant premise that combined history, archaeology, computer science, cryptography, and religion into a mind-bending knapsack of hidden delights that I continue to unpack in my mind, even now. Alas, every story must end. But getting there is just the beginning.

The novel opens with a vivid description of a post-government America. Private corporations and franchises operate as autonomous entities within the former states, and it's a dangerous world out there. The two main characters, hacker Hiro and courier Y.T., meet under adverse circumstances. The two reunite when they realize the other would be a terrific partner for all sorts of moneymaking schemes: Hiro can program anything, and Y.T. is a tiny escape artist and speed demon. Meanwhile, a new drug called Snow Crash begins to circulate among the hacker community, and unlikely alliances form to combat a threat to both reality and the virtual world of the Metaverse.

Snow Crash immerses readers in a world of high technology and brash characters. In the book, computer users can plug into the virtual world of the Metaverse, where hackers like Hiro steal information to sell to the highest bidder. While the Metaverse is cool, and Stephenson nailed it--in 1992!--with his descriptions of avatars in virtual reality, the best technology in Snow Crash has to be the Rat Things. They're robot guard dogs that have a long tail like a rat, and whenever they come into a scene, the narrative voice switches over to their point of view. For example, here's Fido: "Once there was a nice girl who loved him. That was before, when he lived in a scary place and he was always hungry and many people were bad to him. But the nice girl loved him and was good to him. Fido loves the nice girl very much."

Spoiler alert: Since Rat Things are surgically augmented pit bull terriers that can run 700+ miles per hour, you better hope you're the nice girl, and not the villain threatening her.

Snow Crash also treats readers to a unique interpretation of the legend of the Tower of Babel and the development of human languages. I recommend picking up the book to read about Asherah, Enki, and their ongoing battle through the ages--biolinguistic virus versus neurolinguistic hacking, this time in the form of Snow Crash and its eventual counterprogram, Snow Cone. Just kidding. The antivirus is called something else.

The novel culminates in two separate chase and fight scenes, as Hiro and Y.T. become separated. Both scenarios are exciting, well written, and have satisfying resolutions. I'm a huge fan.

My first Stephenson novel was Cryptonomicon, because Husband-elect practically launched it at my face via cannon when he realized that (a) I read sci-fi, and (b) I'm from the Philippines. Cryptonomicon differs from Snow Crash in that Stephenson wrote in absolutely everything that could be written about the central theme of cryptography and hidden war gold. By contrast, Snow Crash is a compact, if dense, narrative about language as code.

Finally, unlike when after I finished Cryptonomicon, I do not demand a reward for completing Snow Crash. This time, I demand a reward for not rushing to Stephenson's home in Seattle and begging him to write more.

For now, I'll just have to make do with Diamond Age, the rest of the Baroque Cycle series, and Reamde.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Movie Review: Skyfall (2012)

Pack your bags, we're going for a ride! The latest Bond features all the regulars: rooftop chases, brutal hand-to-hand combat, sniping, flirting, dry witticisms, and of course, a sex scene that would have involved the police if it happened in real life. Skyfall also packs an emotional punch that easily tops the one in Casino Royale.

The movie opens with 007 and his partner (Naomie Harris from 28 Days Later) pursuing a stolen list of embedded MI6 operatives in terrorist organizations. Bond does his badass best, even using a backhoe to prove that he doesn't just specialize in small and sexy gadgets. Alas, a shot goes awry, and the missing list remains a crucial plot point.

After the credits, the first hour and a half of Skyfall is predictable. MI6 comes under attack by someone who hacks into M's (Dame Judi Dench) computer and warns her: "Think on your sins." Her loyal 007 returns to her side and hunts down the villains. It all unfolds in a paint-by-numbers thriller sort of way, until Bond meets Silva (Javier Bardem). I joined the rest of the audience in shrieking in delight at Bardem's delicious line delivery. You'll know exactly what I mean when you watch it. Bond brings Silva into the new MI6 quarters, stupid things happen with computers (Husband-elect, software engineer, barely stopped himself from yelling at the screen), and then the movie transforms into a masterful showdown of shadowy good versus insane evil.

This movie belongs to Dench. Her M remains steely and completely committed to the mission of covert intelligence. M becomes the core of a story about how the reverence for technology frequently obscures the fact that human players deploy it, which makes the human element foremost in any war. The new Q, whose youth gets an incredulous stare from 007, represents the principle of innovation frustration; that is, whatever edge you think you have by developing the latest and greatest will always be susceptible to becoming obsolete by yet another innovation that builds on yours. Bardem's Silva, who mocks 007 throughout the movie for his old-fashioned fighting tactics, underlines the theme of the old ways versus new methods, in a world where computers offer near-unlimited possibilities to those with skills and a lack of scruples.

The first climax of the film occurs shortly after M faces the Prime Minister and other officials to defend the very existence of MI6. M has a candid moment as she makes her statement, revealing in broad sketches the world of shadows into which she sends her people, where she believes the fight must be waged. Then she delivers a knockout blow by reciting the last lines of Tennyson's "Ulysses":

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Skyfall proceeds to become beyond awesome after that point. I want to watch it again, and cuddle it, and whisper to it that everything will be all right.

With that, I present to you the Skyfall drinking game:

1. Drink whenever M says, "Where the hell have you been, Double-Oh-Seven?"
2. Sip whenever Bond flirts with someone.
3. Chug when Silva [redacted].
4. Empty every bottle in sight when M [redacted].

Seriously, watch it. You'll understand. WATCH SKYFALL RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW.

Friday, November 9, 2012

My First World Problems, Let Me Share Them

Everyone in this great country has problems, and usually a bitch is one. But since I'm a bitch ("A little bitch," assured an ex), I have other issues. Namely, these:

1. Guys who spend endless minutes finding the perfect weight-lifting song on their iPhones.

Not only am I surrounded by enormous sweaty sausages at the gym (down, gays!), they have the gall to sit at the space, legs splayed apart like they have hernia, and go through their entire playlist before picking just the right Taylor Swift song to pump iron to. How do I know the artist? Because it's blasted through their earphones so loud I can hear it over the gym speakers.

Side story: Tonight, Husband-elect approached me after I secured a spot at the rowing machine, and I swept my arm grandly at our surroundings. "Behold," I proclaimed, "sausages!" Husband-elect smiled comfortingly and said, "Don't worry, I'm here," then thought about that for a bit before saying, "...to add to them." He then walked off briskly.

Guys: make your playlist before you hit the gym. Save time, and reduce the chances of my accidentally flinging a 10-lb weight at your knee!

2. Genetics

I scrub my face with exfoliant face wash, dab on astringent, and then slather on night lotion, whereas Husband-elect will go straight to bed after a day of sweating over manly engineer model things. Yet his face remains blemish-free, while I look like a pizza-faced teenager. Why? Whyyyyyy? Science, you have failed me!!!

3. Chips

Why are they so delicious when they're so awful for you? Technology, this is your fault!!!

4. Office Internet Filters

My office network immediately cockblocks all my attempts to watch kittens, puppies, and other wholesome streaming media. I can't even listen to internet radio! Although, this may not be an entirely bad thing, since I suck at muffling my laughter. I watched Obama's Anger Translator Respond to Clint Eastwood one time on my phone and everyone avoided me for fear of being fired by association. So okay, given the stuff I tend to watch online, I guess this one is more of a plus than a minus.

5. Super Expensive Cat Food

An 8-lb bag of special good-for-the-kidneys bag of kitty kibble costs over 50 bucks. That's more than P2,000 for my darling Filipino readers. And wouldn't you know it, both cats love K/D so much that they gobble it all down in a couple of weeks. Sure, they're seniors and need better food and care. But wow are they spoiled.


There you have it. Wahhh, my life is sewwww hard.

Now get out of here! It's Friday! We're watching Skyfall tonight! Wooo!


Could someone please remind me to write my review of Snow Crash? kthxbai

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Drink for Each Elector!

Note the disproportionate number of drinks we needed to down for California. 
Our election night shenanigans occurred in Greentown Labs, a work space for energy entrepreneurs (= nerds). We honored the electoral college by providing a unique drink for each state and having shot glasses that corresponded to the number of electors there. For example, Hawaii had 4 Pina Coladas, California had 55 Cabernet Sauvignons, and Indiana had 11 Indiana Joneses. As the night wore on, we looked thirstily at Ohio, which had 18 Bloody Marys on offer. We attacked near midnight, and boy was it worth the wait! In fact, it easily rivaled the tastiness of my first drink of the night: a White Russian courtesy of Alaska. Props to the drink mixer.

Husband-elect had the time of his life. He wandered around, beer in hand as a chaser, and talked to everyone. At one point, he attempted to wrest control of the microphone from the organizer. He eventually succeeded when said organizer got so hammered that he went off to flirt with his girlfriend; at least, I think they were together. Anyway, Husband-elect seized the mic and made a toast:

"Thanks to [name redacted] for putting this all together! Here's to everyone who works really hard! Here's to everyone who supports start-ups!"

Here, here! We drank to that, and then C and I prowled around to see if there were any leftovers. The burgers, dogs, and chips had been devoured by the civic-minded crowd hours ago, but luckily someone had ordered out and didn't like the refried beans and rice they got. Score! I also gobbled down a hamburger so burnt that it blended right into the black plate. Clearly, this ninja burger had been saving itself for me. No untoward gastric aftereffects so far.

We cheered mightily when CNN announced the winner, laughed at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's live antics, and then trooped out into the bitter cold. Husband-elect kept saying, "I'm so drunk, I'm so drunk," which I'm pretty sure means he was really drunk. Men are so mysterious.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to detoxify my liver for 2016.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fuck You, AT&T Customer Service

Last month, I bought the iPhone 5 and decided it was time to get a new number, too, a Boston number to reflect my current location. I'd had a Philadelphia number before. I stayed a loyal AT&T customer, and what do I get? They're scamming me an entire fucking month for a phone I no longer use. Fuck you, AT&T.

Backstory: I happily activated my new phone, with its shiny new number. I called AT&T Customer Service and spoke to Jason, who then passed me on to Michelle. I explained to Michelle that I had a new phone (Boston), and since the contract on my old phone (Philadelphia) had expired, I wanted to terminate that line. She assured me that the Philadelphia line would be cancelled at the end of the next billing cycle. I confirmed the date -- October 26, 2012 -- and she said there would be no charges after that day, that there would be no more wireless bill for that number, and it would simply stop working as a cell phone.

Today: I plug in the old phone to check what OS it has, and the "AT&T" text shows up on the cell bar. Confused, I called my mom. It fucking rang. The phone still fucking works, nine days after it's supposed to be a brick. WTF. I checked online for the wireless bill. Oh, look they're charging me for the next cycle, which runs from October 27 through November 26. I'm paying for a goddamned phone I'm not using, that I told them specifically that I'm not using, would you please terminate it.

I called AT&T and spoke to [mumbles], who then passed me on to someone else. Here's how it went down:

Furious Elephant: ...and I was told that this phone would stop working last month and I wouldn't have to pay anything. Now I'm seeing charges for the next billing cycle.

Customer Rep: Unfortunately, your request did not go through.

Furious Elephant: I want this line cancelled. Is there a way to backdate the cancellation?

Customer Rep: Unfortunately, I can only future-date the cancellation.

Furious Elephant: So I'm paying for two phones on AT&T, one of which I'm not using?

Customer Rep: Yes.

Furious Elephant: That seems foolish.


Furious Elephant: Look, I just want to make sure this line gets cancelled. Will it stop working on November 26?

Customer Rep: That's correct.

Furious Elephant: And is there a way for me to confirm that? Should I just call you guys again?

Customer Rep: No, you won't need to do that. It won't be able to make calls then.

Furious Elephant: Okay. What's your name?

Customer Rep: Robert.

Furious Elephant: Last time I was helped by someone named Michelle. I didn't know her last name, either.


Furious Elephant: All right. Do I need to do anything else to make sure this thing gets cancelled?

Robert: No, that's it.

Furious Elephant: Well, thanks very much.

Robert: Thank you (choking) for being a valued customer of AT&T.

- 0 -


Well, lessons learned:

  1. Get the customer rep's full name and any other identifying information to improve chances of correct perp getting screamed at for being incompetent.
  2. Kick it up to the supervisor as soon as it becomes clear you won't be helped.

I would've done the above, but I was so upset I couldn't talk. Next time I'm making Husband-elect deal with this crap. He's very good at loudly yet politely informing people that they suck at their job. That's how we got complimentary cheese and champagne at the Westin.

In conclusion: GRRRRRRRRR.


UPDATE: 11/08/2012

I sent a furious yet polite email to AT&T right after the call. I wrote out the issue and asked them not to make me call customer service again, since that doesn't work.

I guess a higher-up read the email, because the line has disappeared from the billing statement, and we got a credit for it! Hurray!

Thank you, AT&T!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Game Review: The Last Story (Wii)

The Last Story has a terrific soundtrack, boring characters, fun gameplay, and a derivative story. A veteran JRPGer can breeze through this game in under 24 hours, maybe with some reloading of saves due to a surprise learning curve during boss fights, especially toward the end. Overall, this game disappointed me.

As background, The Last Story mainly takes place on Lazulis Island, known as a shield for the Empire because of its Lazulis Cannon. You know what they say: the best defense is a gigantic high-tech cannon! Your player, Zael, and his fellow mercenaries have been hired by Count Arganan, ruler of the island, to investigate a cave and wipe out lizard-people in the process. The leader of the group, Dagran, takes the job hoping to gain the Count’s approval and eventually have everyone raised as knights. Meanwhile, Zael flips out in the cave and receives a mark on his hand that attracts enemies and also heals downed allies. Later, he meets a mysterious girl hiding in a cart, falls for her, then finds out she’s the Count’s niece. Let the adventures begin!

The excruciating predictability of the plot appalled me. The stereotypical characters and their cliched speeches added to the pain. I called out every single story development, with one exception: one guy I expected to fight just croaked. Oh, well! Everything else telegraphed itself -- the villain monologues about awful humans, the hero speeches about just wanting peace, the identity of the real Big Bad, the noblewoman getting kidnapped, and so on.

I understand that taking elements from tried-and-true games and adding a unique twist to them can help create a masterpiece. The Last Story is not a masterpiece. Look, if you want a JRPG where...

...the villain is a large humanoid monster and you fight him in a place with a dramatic reflective surface -- play Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

...the decline of nature serves as a major theme -- play Secret of Mana.

...the princess can actually fight well beside you -- play Chrono Trigger.

...you run around in dungeons wearing scandalous and impractical battle outfits -- play Vagrant Story.

...the main character is a pretty, androgynous young man -- play any Final Fantasy game from VII onward. XIII counts because Lightning is super manly.

...the reveal of the true antagonist genuinely surprises and has emotional impact -- play Ys Seven.

...your mind gets blown by the sheer epic scale of it all -- play Xenoblade Chronicles.

You get the idea. All the games listed above are superior to The Last Story.

That said, I did enjoy the gameplay. Highlights include the easy sidequests and the combat system. For example, I love that Zael can duck behind things and unleash a powerful slash at unsuspecting foes. Also, being able to  issue commands to allies, and diffuse spell circles, in the heat of battle saved my neck plenty of times. Sometimes the battlefield blazes up in all sorts of colors because of the spells flying around, obscuring everyone else, but running away from the action usually works in those instances. I’m a fan of the level up visuals, as well.

The Last Story takes place in a contained world that boasts the best graphics the Wii can offer. Lazulis Town offers fun exploration time, thanks to the mini-map and the rewards waiting for curious players. As for the Arena, it’s a good place to get some EXP and cash. To upgrade to the truly beastly weapons, you need rare items, which can be acquired in dungeons and the debris floating around town, if you’re fast enough. The color palette in the dungeons can get dark, so I compensated by having all my characters wear the same shade of hot pink.

The only other quibble I have with the graphics has to do with the scripts for Zael’s and Calista’s movements -- 1) why does Calista always have her arms in an “X” over her chest, which makes her look like a vampire with a muscle condition, and 2) why does Zael walk like an exhausted penguin?


Finally, the soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu rocks. All the scores play in the background as a complement to whatever happens on screen. My copy of the game came with a bonus CD, featuring the tracks “toberu mono” (Things that Fly), “shikoshima kedamono” (Wicked Beast), “kizuna” (Bonds), “machi no onshoku” (The Timbre of the Town), “yorokobi no koe ga kikoeru” (I Can Hear Happy Voices), “chitsujo to konton to” (Order and Chaos), and the main theme. I especially like “machi no onshoku,” which uses wind instruments and the harp to convey a wary peacefulness, as though something dark lurked beneath the surface of the everyday.

I recommend this game for newcomers to the genre. Look elsewhere if you’re an experienced JRPGer. The lame plot will have you pulling out your hair, as your mind fondly wanders back to the time when you played the classics -- Chrono Trigger, Tales of Phantasia, Breath of Fire II, Legend of Legaia, Xenogears -- and the story elements were new and exciting. You may also be unable to restrain yourself when a certain nobleman appears onscreen and reminds you very strongly of a psycho in FFVI. He’s got the perfect theme music, though. Again, props to Uematsu-sensei.

Bottom line: A light snack of a JRPG. May satisfy some.