Free DivX

One day only! Hurry up and get your free copy of the DivX Create Bundle during their 5th year anniversary. Sure, I’ve already paid for my copy, but I’m making sure to get a couple extra serial numbers while I’ve got the chance.

I’m still a little miffed at how DivX handled the whole release of version 6, but I’m also somewhat attached to the codec. You see, the Create Bundle comes with a little app the gives you a no frills way to quickly convert videos to DivX6. Unfortunately it was initially buggy as all hell and crashed with the most useless messages. DivX’s response was… nothing. They took about a month to really communicate with their paying customers and rather rudely pointed out how to get refunds since we were so impatient rather than provide us with any real information on when things would be fixed.

But there really aren’t many other options for decent video codecs out there. XviD will never release a standard binary that assures all videos will play properly on different machines. WMV is just way too proprietary and leaves me with DRM nightmares. Quicktime is one of the biggest pieces of crap, and pretty much forces you to install the horrid iTunes along with it. Real… well that goes without saying. Nero Digital looks most promising, and since I paid for Nero I already own it. However, it’s still in limited use and there’s no guarantees I’ll ever be able to play it on my precious DVP642.

That leaves me with the least of many evils… for now.

(thanks to Owen, for the link not the rant)

Baby’s back in business

Oh yeah, I’m sportin’ some fine threads today. After deciding I couldnt’ do crap to help the poor, I figured it was best to finally recruit reinforcements for my rapidly dwindling trouser brigade. Last night, after swinging by Lisa’s school for some prep work, we headed over to Paramus Park for the necessary Chick-fil-A dinner and then decided a stop at Macy’s was in order. What a brilliant move that turned out to be.

I wandered around the “Men’s Store” for a while and, once I realized they weren’t going to sell me a human companion, began searching for khakis. But they make it so difficult with all of the beautiful Kenneth Cole and INC shirts sitting brilliantly out on their racks. But… but… FOR THE LOVE OF GOD I HAVE TOO MANY SHIRTS! That’s a lie. At least in my mind it is. But I must keep saying it until my closet once again obtains a sane shirt-to-pant ratio.

Their selection of pants was sadly filled with my archnemesis – the dreaded pleat. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love a nice pleated trouser. Unfortunately that doesn’t change the problem I have with their look on me. You see, I tend to look formal. Nice clothes that would look casual on most people make me look like I’m going to an interview at a prep school for young Republicans. And that’s just not the look I’m going for.

Yes, I know it could be worse and I could be one of those people that looks like a slob in a suit, but it doesn’t change the fact that I tend to shy away from putting on said pants because I don’t want to wear them to work and suddenly two years go by and I’ve worn said pants twice even though they cost me $50 and actually look great on me. Capiche?

Anywho, where was I? Oh yes, inspite of many inviting possibilities, there was naught in my hands when Lisa finally spotted the mother lode – the Docker’s section. w00t! And with my amazing shopper’s luck, there was a one day sale going on with flat-front twill chinos going for 20 bucks. TWENTY DOLLARS! Four pairs later and I’m searching through the clearance rack for $9.99 specials, too. I ended up with 7 pairs of pants that set me back just over a hundred dollars (plus a $50 jacket), including the ones I’m wearing today. I think that deserves another w00t! Best of all, I’ve now got tan, brown, blue, grey, etc. pairs to give me some variety – and ain’t that the spice o’ life?

Papa’s got a brand new bag, indeed!

My pants are ripped

It’s true. Well, not the pants I’m currently wearing, but the ones I wore yesterday. Hopefully nobody noticed. I certainly didn’t until I was hurrying out the door later than planned. It occurs to me that the pair in question was probably purchased about 5 years ago, and the faded khaki look finally gave out in the wash. Amazing just how threadbare they had become without me noticing.

So I felt a little white trashy yesterday. Thankfully I brought lunch, so I could just hide in my office and avoid any ridicule I deserved. It’s no big deal, the rain kept me out of the mall after work, but I’ll buy a couple new pairs (desperatly needed pairs) of khakis over the weekend. Right now I’m feeling pretty lucky, because I know that I can go to the store and drop $15 – $20 for new pants without sweating it. I might even pay $30 or $40 for ones that really catch my attention and seem worth the extra money. This is an activity that I jut plain take for granted.

Why am I babbling like this? Because last night, after coming home in my tattered khakis and thinking what an inconvenience that the terrible rains would keep me from just getting new pants and then settling down in front of my Dell laptop that needs to be upgraded and turning on my 32″ Sony WEGA that I so wish was HDTV and thinking about how much I want to get rid of my 4 year-old Saturn for a hybrid or TDI car and then debating about what food out of overflowing fridge should become dinner; after all of that, I came across “Being Poor” over on Whatever.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

We have absolutely no clue what we have. No matter how much we pretend to understand we never will. I am so grateful right now that I have ripped pants that can be replaced. I am so thankful that I’m waiting for my next paycheck because our little vacation stretched me thinner this month than planned. I have never truly known what need is in this world, and for that I cannot even begin to express my appreciaton.

Being poor is realising your one parent has given up on themselves but not given up on you.

Last night was a big UGH!

Mark dropped by last night to enjoy with me the frustration that is being an Eagles fan. I’m just happy football season is finally here; those 7 months between the Super Bowl and the opener are just agonizing, even with all of the action that goes on. And while the loss sucks, it wasn’t that bad and we’re only just getting started. If you want to read my take on the game, check out my post over at Philly Sports Net. This should be a regular thing, but I’ll remind you guys anyway.

Also, for games not televised nationally I plan on watching at Dipper’s in Hoboken, along with The Philadelphia Eagles Club of Hoboken as organized by Sean (Furey). I had a blast the couple times last year I met up with that crowd at McMahon’s, and this year I don’t want to miss any games (following football via the Eagles Message Board is really lame and irritating). There’s also an Eagles club at The Yard as well as a big crowd at Willie McBride’s, so I might mix it up and check out other places, too.

I just want to add that as painful as it was losing the Super Bowl, it was also very relieving just being there. I feel like I can go back to enjoying the games more this year – like I’m not just waiting to see what happens in the end. And these things are supposed to be distractions, afterall; they shouldn’t cause us all of this stress.

Back to civilization

Alright, South Jersey ain’t exactly uncivilized. But when your life is so completely wired – an slight deviation causes some serious withdrawal. On our very first night away from home, Chris Rock says, “George Bush hates midgets” on live freakin’ TV; and I can’t check out the blogosphere’s reaction, much less post about it myself. Talk about frustrating. I can’t even remember what actress we wanted to look up while watching Taxi (we were just killing time before heading out for dinner, honest!)

Inspite of my refusal to plan things properly, Lisa and I had a lovely time. The gambling sucked in A.C., but when doesn’t it? Next time I’ll try some tables, but the poker machines just ate our money non-stop this time around. Nevertheless, our first time dining at P.F. Chang’s was fantastic – later gastrointestinal activities notwithstanding. Next year I’m sure we’ll spend another weekend down there, and stick with the Tropicana. Along with the Chang’s, they also have a Cuba Libre, The Sound of Philadelphia, Carmine’s, Red Square, and more. Plenty of possibilities for entertainment in the same building.

Saturday found us searching for Cape May. We stumbled upon the great (and free) Cape May County Zoo, and had a blast until I realized that I forgot the spare battery for my camera. What and idiot! I still got a lot of great shots, and saw capybaras – which rock because they are essentially extra-large guinea pigs.

Attempts to find lodging in either the Cape May or Wildwood areas were futile, and eventually we fled all the way to Millville. But that worked out better, as Sunday we opted to explore the way cool (and nearby) Wheaton Village rather then head down to the beaches. Glassblowing and pottery were far more up our alleys – I even purchased the vase (to be shipped) made during the demonstration we attended. I’ll write more about that experience when it arrives (the vase, not the experience).

The great seafood place we found on Long Beach Island (if you ever find yourself at Terrace Tavern, try the blackened seas scallops) for dinner definitely helped cap off the trip, but it is good to be home. Especially when our little goobers (Jessie, Shadow, and even Boo Boo) are waiting, along with boxes containing cool things I bought. I’ll be sure to model my new shirts sometime soon!

Brief respite

Lisa and I are headed out for a quick three day jaunt down to the Southern parts of this state. We’ll be hitting Atlantic City and Cape May in an attempt to recharge our batteries before she starts her new job next week. While the money will be good, the commute will be great, and the work will be less stressfull; she will regularly be teaching classes on Saturdays. That means we won’t have the opportunity for another vacation for awhile.

Oh well, we could use more money and less stress.

How not to grill

So here’s the thing: I don’t know how to use a charcoal grill. Seriously, they’re confusing and difficult. But this past weekend forced me to use one… not just use one… buy one.

Saturday, as I mentioned, Lisa and I headed down to my parents’ house and then had dinner over at my sister Laura’s place. The plan was a barbeque. Unfortunately, they hadn’t tried used the grill all season. Can you guess what went wrong? After several humorous attempts to light the suspect burners and simultaneously run for cover, my brother-in-law Carlos and I finally has to call it quits. Not a good way to start an afternoon of grilling… you know, without a grill.

Since I’ve been thinking about getting a cheap grill, and since Lisa volunteered us to throw a party on Labor Day, I suggested heading out to Home Depot or Lowes or something and picking one up. Carlos and I headed out to the store. After a few minutes of debating over size vs. price, I decided the 20 extra bucks was worth it to get the larger unit and bought a Weber 22-1/2 inch One-Touch Silver charcoal grill. It’s not even a hundred bucks; it’s a Weber; and it’s a beaut!

Back at their place, Carlos made short work of assembling the grill. I decided to make it easy on us and picked up some of that pre-treated charcoal. You know, the stuff that’s already been soaked in lighter fluid. Yeah, it’s as unsafe as it sounds.

Well, to be fair, there were directions. And when you’re going to light something on fire that has directions on how to do so, it’s probably a good idea to follow them. I think the very first step was “DO NOT USE MORE THAN 3 LBS!” 3 lbs just doesn’t look like much in the 22.5″ grill, and I had trouble even believing that the bag was 8 lbs like it said. Carlos didn’t need to prod me much before I finally dumped the whole bag in. Later in the evening we still couldn’t figure out why I kept listening to Carlos.

So, what do you think happens when you light more than twice the recommended amount? The first thing is you rush to wheel the 3 foot flames away from the tree you inexplicably set it down next to. Then you try to place the lid on top to smother the flames. Well, not so much place as throw. And, not to surprisingly, it fell right off – much to Carlos’s chagrin, as he profusely apologized for scratching the lid of my brand new grill. No big deal, I just forced the lid down and killed the flames. Time to regroup.

Unfortunately, just as I was about to suggest removing some of the excess coals, Carlos decided we should re-light it. Have you ever seen someone make a bad decision, or make one yourself, and you can just keep replaying that one moment over and over again? I saw Carlos move towards the grill with the match, and I my “NO!” just didn’t have enough time.

Don’t worry, Carlos is fine. But man did those flames kick back up real fast. And Carlos managed to singe a good amount of hair off his right arm. Mainly we just couldn’t stop laughing. Even after we put out the flames again, and started the grill for a third time, and put the chicken on, and dove into the margaritas. It was damn funny. Especially considering we could see the little burnt ends of his hair.

In the end, I’ve found it’s very difficult to get the charcoal grill going, and just as hard to keep it going. Very little food actually cooked on it Saturday night – but it was pretty good. And the kielbasa I made on Monday was awesome. But I’m far from consistent, so I wouldn’t take any advice from me… except to always read directions when flames are involved.

So much for a long weekend

Don’t get me wrong. I had a blast this weekend. I got to spend some quality time with a lot of people. But I came out on the other end more exhausted than I started. I’ll write more later, but here’s a quick breakdown:

Friday – Lisa hung out with her family during the day, and then she and I went out with her parents for dinner.

Saturday – We drove down to PA to see my family. After hanging out with my Mom for the afternoon, we all went over my sister Laura’s house for an attempted barbeque. Everything was great but… well, there’s quite a story involved.

Sunday – We stayed the night and had “breakfast” with Laura while waiting for the rest of the family to arrive. After some arts and crafts, we had dinner at my parents’ house before heading back home.

Monday – Another barbeque! This time it was for some old friends of Lisa’s as her “best oldest friend” Angie will be moving to the Left Coast soon.

Yeah, it was packed. At least I’m getting to enjoy some awesome leftover kielbasa for lunch. But now I need a break from my weekend…

Blair’s Death Rain

Towards the end of my work day yesterday, I meandered over to the vending machines, as I am wont to do. To my surprise, there was another new treat dangling just above the coveted potato stix: Blair’s Death Rain Habanero Kettle CookedPotato Chips! Wow, that’s quite a mouthful. All the cheesy package design and promises of precipitous killing intrigued me, so I bought a bag.

Now, let me just mention at this point that I am a world-champion insanely-hot-food-eater. Alright, not really, but I have eaten some of the spiciest food you can imagine without batting an eye. I don’t really say this to brag, but to point out the fact that I’ve destroyed enough of my taste buds that I could probably munch on burning coals without noticing.

Armed with such intense bravado, I thought nothing of tossing a couple chips in my mouth. I can look back at this point and realize the mistakes I made, but perhaps ignoring the “XXX HOT” warnings and “FEEL ALIVE!” taglines was a tad foolish. But does anyone ever take those seriously? The again, the name “Blair’s Death Rain” shows the kind of guts that only a truly ridiculously hot chip could have. And yes, it was that hot.

I spent the next few moments alternately gagging and coughing with a touch of “trying not to vomit” thrown in for good measure. A little bit of water and a bag of the coveted potato stix later, and I was eventually able to choke the bag down. I never thought my world champion skills would be defeated by a mere vending machine snack pack!

Oh well, I won’t make that mistake again… I’ll take my time enjoying this next pack!