Monday, September 8, 2008

The hole a cat makes

Our cat, who was finally starting to turn into a mostly likable creature, has disappeared. He had long taken it in his head to be an in/out cat. He never strayed far away that we knew of. We had heard of him getting treats from a neighbour 3 houses down in one direction, and chicken from our Vietnamese neighbours next to us. But he often met us when we returned from somewhere, sitting by the car when we arrived. Or, if he was out all night, he'd be at the door first thing in the morning when I let the dogs out.And he never missed meal time, always showing up around feeding time - or at least easily enticed inside with the sound of dry food in his bowl.

He hasn't been seen by either of us since I left the house to go to the office yesterday afternoon. No amount of calling and treat container rattling (usually a sure bet when he was out) have brought our little black beast out of hiding.

Mrs. Spit fears the worst, that he's been hit by a car and is dead. She's called all the usual places for when your animal goes missing. She wanted a cuddly cat, which he most definitely wasn't. But he would grace us with his presence, sleep between my legs, lie in a lap, or just stare at you with a cat's condescending contempt.

I hope he comes back ok, but will miss him if he's gone. Max the cat, free from a lady at the Rona, seems to have disappeared, and it's leaving a hole in our little family.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sometimes, the rule enforcers suck

It's been a Sunday of ups and downs today.

See, I'm a long-time fan of Formula 1 racing. I blame it on a friend of mine who introduced it to me in 1995. I've been hooked ever since. Getting up terribly early in the morning to watch races live in Europe and around the globe. How early? Normal is 6 am, but sometimes it's all over the map. The races in the far east are the best, as I get to watch those on Saturday nights.

So this morning I get up to watch the running of the Belgium Grand Prix, held at the Spa track. It's one of the best tracks of the season, and both fans and drivers alike love it.

I've been a fan of British Drive Lewis Hamilton ever since he stepped onto the F1 stage last year. As a result I've been cheering for Mclaren. Ever since Jacques Villeneuve was canned from his drive, I haven't had a clear favorite driver. But I can't help but like and admire Lewis' poise and ability.

Yesterday I watched Lewis storm to a pole position time 0.3 seconds ahead of second place. In F1, this is a HUGE gap. It turns out that he was slightly lighter on fuel than second place qualifier Massa.

Today's race was epic. A track that was damp to start caused some consternation for some drivers. The Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen ran up from 4th to 1st, and continued to lead most of the race. However, in the third to last lap it started to rain. Dry tires really don't work in rain. The drivers were skidding all over the place, with Raikkonen spinning off into the wall in the penultimate lap. This put Lewis into first place. A place he held onto while skidding around the track for the last two laps. So we finished with Lewis winning with Massa, of Ferrari, coming in second.

Later in the day, I see the following headline "Massa handed victory as Hamilton is penalized". Of course the team is going to appeal, but this rarely produces anything as the stewards word is generally final.

The big problem I have, is that for years it has appeared from the actions of the stewards and the FIA (governing body of world motorsports, and F1 specifically) have it in for Mclaren whist simultaneously treating Ferrari like they are the favourite child who can do no wrong. How convenient that by imparting a penalty for a race incident that was resolved on THE TRACK, that Mclaren loses points while Ferrari gains points.

They claim that Lewis "gained advantage" from being RUN OFF THE TRACK by Kimi, forcing him to cut across the chicane, putting him in front of Kimi temporarily. Immediately afterward Lewis slowed so that Kimi could take the lead again - as he is required.

I'm just burned that the honest hard is being penalized in so capricious and biased a manner. Was there a penalty for Kimi for dangerous driving? Did he have a penalty for an earlier incident where he drove into the back of Lewis? Oh, right, he drives for Ferrari - we can't see them get a penalty! Especially as Kimi was already fined 4900 euros earlier in the weekend for speeding in the pitlane. Once again showing that Mclaren is being punished while Ferrari can do no wrong.

The only good thing is that the most arrogant and teflon-coated driver in the world - Michael Schumacher, is retired. At least we have a competitive race series again. Even if we still have shams like today's little incident!!!

I saw this news article up this evening. Good to see other people saying the same thing - in print.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

It's hard work being a book worm.

Let me start by saying that Mrs. Spit is a very, very patient woman.

Our dining room shelves used to look like this – 4 IKEA Billy Shelves:

Notice the large empty space on top of the shelves. This used to have ‘stuff’ on it before we cleared it off ahead of the tear-down of the ceiling. As we have 9’ ceilings on the main floor, we both saw this as wasted space that could be used for BOOKS!!! This was just over a year ago.

Fast forward a year, and here’s where the status of my living room and dining room lies:

Living room storing lumber, with all of our books stacked behind the couch, and random tools, scrapbooking, books etc scattered through the room.

View into the dining room.

Dining room… lumber for next phase up where the dogs can’t WALK on it and leave claw marks.

...and lastly, the shelves as they were yesterday:

This is the major renovation in our dining room. It will be followed by painting the shelves, the walls, colouring the ceiling, installing crown molding, and doing molding over the windows.

It's taken a very long time. Why? Well, in part is my job keeping me away from home a lot. In part in me being tired, and a certain amount of laziness. And a part lies in the fact that just over three months after I started ripping down the dining room ceiling, I had my son die.

It's now time to finish the job and take back the lion's share of the main floor of our house to have livable, usable space once again.

*update* sorry about the formatting, blogger isn't playing nicely with me and my photos.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Jumping in with both feet

I have to start off by saying that I've always been a computer gamer. I've had games on my computer ever since my Commodore 64 in 1983. From there I graduated through different PCs with better and better games. But then my funds started to find priorities elsewhere (read 'home renos') and my home computer kept getting more and more out of date. Games on the PC keep pushing the limits of technology, and my computer is well past it's 'best before' date for new games. Of late I've resorted to using my much newer work laptop for my gaming.

In all of this time, I'd been a believer that, since I gamed on my computer, it would be a waste of money to have a dedicated gaming console. And my friends have always been in the same boat with me. As a result of this, I've gotten about zero experience with gaming consoles, other than hearing the hype that swirled in the media when the big new consoles were released - always prior to Christmas when the demand for such silicon crack is at its highest.

As I surfed through Future Shop, Best Buy, or any other store that I've always checked out for computer games to pine after, I'd notice that the real estate given over the consoles keeps growing. This was distressing as it meant that the developers of games were putting more effort into consoles, and less into 'ports' - i.e. games brought over - ported - to the PC market.

Speaking of ports, I bought Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 last year (like the auto industry, they don't understand what year they are in) for my laptop. I've had golf games on every computer I've had since the C-64... it's like an addiction, what can I say? The website extolled the many new features. When I bought it, I expected to see some of them that sounded especially interesting. Imagine my disappointment when they were not there! Checking more closely, I saw that I had been had. The new features were for the next-gen consoles only.

Earlier this year I started to look into the world that is console gaming. It's bloody confusing when you're a total neophyte. First, you have to choose a platform. It's not called a 'brand', it's a 'platform'. I think this is a ploy to prevent people over the age of 25 from getting too excited, we hear 'platform' and think 'elections'. And then it's a question of which one is best suited for me. Words get tossed around like 'casual gamer', 'enthusiast', and of course 'hard-core gamer'. Why does it seem to me like a 'hard-core' gamer is a 20-something guy who lives in his parents basement? And why, to have one of the next-gen consoles, do you have to consider yourself a hard-core gamer in order to qualify for the best technology?

After I had put aside the money to get the console that I wanted - a Playstation 3 (PS3 in the venacular), Mrs. Spit and I paid a visit to our nearby Best Buy location. Imagine my surprise when I was told that "We don't have the 80Gb system that you're thinking of." Huh?!? Turns out that the backwards compatible system is not being sold any more. Good thing I don't have a raft full of old PS1 and PS2 games that I need to maintain compatibility with! After some contemplation over my decision (as the 80 gig was priced the same as the 40 gig machine) I decided to get the PS3.

Alas! There was a fly in the ointment! Mrs. Spit was hoping to play some Mario Brothers when we got the console home. Imagine her surprise when the nice kid (he looked about 16) told her that Mario is only available on the Nintendo systems. Well, this brought around a casual walk over the the Wii section of the store. Aha! Mario is available on the Wii. But this is a whole different console. I had planned on getting one a while after the PS3. There are more 'casual gamer' games on the Wii that Mrs. Spit and I could play together.

So after some more discussions, consternation, waffling (mostly on my part) we broke down and bought the consoles. Yes, you did see the plural there. We bought both the PS3 and the Wii. Plus an extra controller for both. Plus games for both. Plus the service plan for both (in case they break - which the fine kid at the till told us happens a lot). Which games? Well, on the Wii we have Lego - Star Wars Complete, and Super Mario Paper. It also came with Wii Sports. Over on the PS3, I got the game I really was wanting - Gran Tourismo 5 Prologue (actually a demo you pay for of the real GT5 coming out later this fall) and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09.

Yes, you can picture us as a couple of kids in a candy shop that just got handed $50 and told to 'have fun'. But what I want to know is, does having consoles make us cool yet? We asked out new 15 year old neighbour, but she wasn't talking much at that point. I think she smiled shyly though... it could have been the 20 minutes we had spent trying to get her to string more than three words together.

Now we need to go replace our hand-me-down 27" CRT TV with something that will actually let us use the BlueRay high-def 1080p capability of the PS3. Yeah, there's another kettle of fish yet to be cooked!