Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas List 2009

I know several people want to see this, so for the first time I thought I'd just put it here, so I can simply send around a link.  As usual, I do not expect to get all the things on this list, I just try to give people a lot of options if they want ideas.  Also, since I'm a recent college graduate getting by on what freelance jobs I can get for the time being, cash is clearly greatly appreciated as well!

Computer-y Things...
Rain Design M-Stand
Stylish and functional stand for more easily using my laptop on a desk.  (Solid aluminum - the whole thing acts quite nicely as an enormous heat-sink!) More information here:

USB 2.5" SATA Drive Enclosure.
Needs to work with SATA (not IDE or ATA) drives, and needs to be bus-powered.

iTunes Gift Cards
Not only music, but I can also buy apps for my iPhone using these.  Small ones are really all that's necessary - I wouldn't know what to do with $50 in iTunes credit!

Star Trek on Blu-Ray (the new movie, just came out in stores)
Yes, there is a Blu-Ray player in the house now.  Blu-Ray is pretty.  :-)

Watchmen (5-disc deluxe set.  DVD is probably fine for this.)

XKCD Volume 0
Geeky web-comic thing.  I couldn't explain if I tried.
Can be purchased here:   ($18)

A few from Steven King's "Dark Tower" series
Haven't read any of them, but heard great things.  Been around for a while - can probably even find them in used bookstores.  Probably best if I read them in order, so the first few are the best bets.

  1. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982)
  2. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three (1987)
  3. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands (1991)
  4. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass (1997) - Locus Award nominee, 1998[1]
  5. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003) - Locus Award nominee, 2004[2]
  6. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah (2004) - Locus Award nominee, 2005[3]
  7. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (2004) - British Fantasy Award winner, 2005[3]

And of course, last but not least...

The Pie-In-The-Sky-Impossible -Wishlist!
(wherein I dream of things I most definitely shall not receive.)

New Video Camera!
"Low-end" option:  Canon HV-30 or HV-40  ($600-$800 probably)
"High-end" option:  Canon EOS 7D  ($1900... plus the accessories to turn it into a viable video solution.  aka - audio adapters, shoulder mounts and the like)

A post-production job!
'nuff said.

An apartment!

Monday, October 26, 2009

RIP GeoCities

I'm probably going to bed soon, but I just had to note this.

Randall Munroe has created what is undoubtedly the best possible tribute to GeoCities on the date of its final shutdown, in the form of today's redesigned  (link updated to point to, for posterity -3/21/14)

That is all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What Was I Saying About Twitter?

A little bit ago.  And now, from a friend of mine from Syracuse...

My count...

Responses from people who want to follow him:  2.

Responses that are sarcastic or dismissive about Twitter itself:  4.

And one of the people who wants to follow him is slightly snarky about it as well.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Unsung New Feature in iTunes 9: Video Tutorials!

Along with some modestly (though interestingly) updated iPods, on wednesday Apple introduced a new version of iTunes. They've done a pretty good job of hyping the headline new features of this release - iTunes LP, Home Sharing, a redesigned iTunes Store, and so on. However, there seems to be one new small feature I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else:  video tutorials!

This new window pops up the first time you launch the program after upgrading, but can also be called upon any time by choosing Help -> Welcome to iTunes from the menu bar.

This is genius, especially for people like my mother, who haven't been using the program since (virtually) the beginning, and can barely put together a playlist without some help. My only question is - why did no one think of this, oh... 8 versions ago?

Another interesting note for other geeks like me:  The video playback controls in this new version seem to bear a strong resemblance to the ones in QuickTime X - even on my poor, not-yet-snowy 10.5 system.  Huh.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Re: Social Media Revolution

My father is the General Manager of WDUQ-FM, the NPR-affiliate public radio station at Duquesne University. Over the last few years, he's been bombarded by people in his business worried about "what's happening" with social media, and where traditional media fits in. A few minutes ago, he e-mailed me a link to this video, noting that he'd "love your reaction to this."

Here's my reaction (posted on my blog, for that extra kick of "meta"-ness!):

Personal computers have been used to improve communication almost from the beginning. Even a lowly, non-networked IBM PC with a word processor and a spreadsheet improves the efficiency of crafting office memos and accounting reports drastically over that of a typewriter and a ledger. Networks made computerized communication faster, and spread it farther. The internet kicked things into high gear.

The biggest mistake people make when talking about digital communications, is in calling things "revolutionary." Technology as a whole is the poster-child for evolutionary thinking. Unfortunately, to the uninitiated, there appears to be more going on than that, because the rate of evolutionary advancements taking place also increases.

Perhaps the biggest advantage held by people my age, who grew up with all of this well into full swing, is our ability to take it in stride. Sure, we use facebook on a many-times-a-day basis, but we don't fawn over it. Already, we usually give it little more thought than previous generations did to how many times a day they used the telephone. (Though, like them, we do still retain the ability to, once and a while, marvel at how ridiculous it is that you can actually do this. Tech is cool.) We don't analyze how each new innovation is going to change the entire world and the nature of humanity - we just use it. If it works for us, we keep using it. If we get bored, or it doesn't seem interesting to begin with, we move on. Are there downsides to this approach? Certainly. But I do think we have a more level-headed appraisal of things.

I think growing up in the nineties has tended to create a perspective that is difficult to impress anymore, when it comes to the internet. "Things are suddenly happening twice as fast and in twice as many ways as before? Ok... this is supposed to shock me? It's been that way for most of my life."

The internet, like people of my generation, is a product of the nineties, and in many ways still operates like it. On a recommendation from my girlfriend, I recently read Douglas Coupland's Microserfs. It was lauded as a portrait of a cultural microcosm specific to its time and place, but honestly, I didn't find the world all that different from the one we live in today. "Dot-Com" start-ups have been replaced by "Web 2.0" start-ups, but the tale is largely the same.

One more thing about my generation - having lived through the "Dot-Com Era," we have grown to truly loathe transparent buzzwords. Seriously. "Socialnomics (tm)" actually made me cringe.

I'm not sure where exactly I'm going with this, (commentary on the stream-of-consciousness web I find so little unnerving about?) but I've already ranted for much longer than I intended to, so I'll leave it at that.

Also: I've always liked that Fatboy Slim track. (also a product of the 90's...)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Twitter Isn't Cool (at least not traditionally)

It's something of a truism in technology: teens and other "Young People" discover a new technology, embrace it, weave it into their lives... and then the over-35 crowd eventually comes late to the party, desperately trying to "monetize" a phenomenon they don't even understand. This basic fact is so well known, so undisputed, that many companies now actively seek out the next big thing, not just to cash in, but because they're desperately afraid of becoming "irrelevant" if they don't get hip with all that jazz the kids are talkin' about these days. Nobody wants to be a square!

But there's a problem with this new mentality - the "real world" is now so hell-bent on calling out the next internet fad, that they keep jumping the shark before it even learns to swim! Tortured metaphors aside, the bandying about of the term "Web 2.0" to describe anything and everything is endemic of this trend, and it's latest casualty is Twitter.

To hear some tell it, Twitter is the communications medium that's going to change the world. Everyone needs to get on it right now, or they will lose all connection to the younger generation and, as naturally follows, the world.

Funny thing about that; As Ars Technica reports, there are more Twitter users over the age of 55 than under 25. If you're shocked right now, then you've bought into the hype.

It really shouldn't come as much of a surprise that my generation hasn't really latched on to Twitter. I mean let's face it; I just graduated from college. I've been using Facebook for 4 years now, and AOL Instant Messenger for the better part of a decade. Most of my friends are in the same boat. Do we really need another status message to update?

Now, I'm not knocking Twitter. It's intended purpose is pretty limited in scope, but it does it well, and simplicity is often a good reason to use a tool. And I know I'm going to end up getting an account myself at some point, if only to keep in touch with a far-flung friend who's embraced it wholeheartedly. (Of note: There is only one such friend. Most of them use Facebook.) But I'm not excited about Twitter, the way I initially was about, say, Facebook. And I know very few people my age who are. In fact, I know many more who are openly disdainful about it, including my girlfriend, as well as a few friends from college jokingly threatening to disown each other for getting accounts. (Naturally, these threats were made on Facebook...)

I guess my point is... stop trying to make grandiose statements about technology that "Is The Future". The evolution of internet culture has plainly taught us two things: It makes little sense, and it does what it wants.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen = Biggest Second-Weekend Drop in Michael Bay's Career

I saw an opening-day midnight showing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Like many I was, shall we say, less than impressed. Other similarly disappointed friend noted ruefully that it would still probably make boatloads of money. This is true. For a film like this, the audience is more or less built in. It can't not make money.

However, that night I also claimed that if Team America: World Police came out next year, they wouldn't be singing about how much Pearl Harbor sucked anymore. I predicted that once the build-in audience had done their duty, and word spread about how bad it was, we would see the largest second-week slump in Michael Bay's career.

Called it.

Transformers 2 had an opening weekend gross slightly shy of $109 million. The second weekend saw that figure drop to a bit over $42 million, for a week-to-week change of 61.2%, placing it currently ranked #252 on Box Office Mojo's list of the Biggest Second Weekend Drops - the highest of any Bay-helmed movie.

(Also worth noting: Those figures only count the actual weekend part of the first weekend. They do not include the more than $91 million made on that previous Wednesday and Thursday. If those were included, the drop would be even more severe)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Non-Specific Thoughts and Worries

Lately I've found myself feeling kinda antsy. Like there's something sneaking up behind me, and I'm not ready for it. I can't quite pin it down.

I could certainly point to a lot of factors. Money is definitely one. Today I went through the required online "exit counseling" for my student loans. While mine are relatively modest compared to many others, seeing the number I owed staring me in the face was still a little intimidating. Last month my dad took me down to the Blue Cross/Blue Shield office on McKnight to get me on my first in-my-name medical insurance policy. The monthly fee for that is pretty low, all things considered (the statistical benefit of being young, male, and more or less healthy), but it's still another recurring expense to consider (albeit one that my dad has generously covered the first couple months for).

There are other expenses looming in the future as well. It's highly likely that I'll be purchasing a much-needed used car from my grandparents in the near future. They're willing to let me pay it off in installments, but that's still an additional expense, not even considering state-required auto insurance, maintenance, gas, etc.

Naturally, all of these money woes tie into my job search. I've made a few bucks doing the odd freelance video job on Craigslist, but that is anything but sustainable over the long-term. I need a job. And as time goes on, my "stockpile" of money from graduation and my available credit line will only continue to diminish. (And starting in September, that credit card will start accruing interest - further incentive to pay it off sooner rather than later) My chosen industry is an interesting one. Checking for job openings is highly unlikely to actually find anything. While there are a number of post-production shops in Pittsburgh, they don't exactly plaster openings all over the internet and wait for resumes to roll in. The name of the game is networking - and as of yet I don't have too many "ins" to that game. However, I have recently thought of some ways I might leverage my existing contacts to put me in touch with the right people. We'll see how that goes.

Additionally, as I alluded to a couple posts back, Christine and I are both looking at our futures, hoping they will coincide in Pittsburgh - and hoping that will be soon. We're both tasked with finding jobs here. (And of course, moving out of my parents' house also carries the obvious cost of finding a place to live, something I'm currently trying to "feel out.")

I'm also definitely feeling the universal, powerful urge shared by nearly all college graduates, to "escape" my childhood home and live more or less on my own. (The half-sheltered experience of independence at college, of course, being the "tease" that cannot be forgotten). But I won't go too in-depth with this on a public blog.

All of these are legitimate concerns, but none completely describe my anxiety. Anyone who knows me remotely well knows I can be a pathological worrywart. I'm never wanting for things to fret about. (Not all too long ago it was finals, a professional certification test, and a housemate who seemed to be doing everything possible to get the landlord to evict us. But that's another story altogether...) Something is making what I feel now "different" from my usual worries.

Last night I was thinking about this, and I think I've put my finger on it: It's the slow, subconscious, terrible realization that this is my life. Up till now, I've essentially been traveling on a train. At some stations, I could choose which of several tracks to guide the train down. While I'm onboard, I could choose to get up and go to the dining car, look out the window and enjoy the scenery, or even just sit back and take a nap. But regardless of what track I was on, or what I did within the train... my life was still on rails.

Now it's the end of that line. There isn't another train. From here on out, I'm in charge of where I go, how I get there, who I go with, and what I do when I get there. There's no printed up timecard of upcoming stops. There's no track to follow to the horizon. There's just me, and the world I live in.

Yeah. I think that might have something to do with my anxiety. Just a little.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Re: Post-Election Iran

Reposted from a friend of mine from the middle east:

If anyone is on Twitter, set your location to Tehran and your time zone to GMT +3.30. Security forces are hunting for bloggers using location/timezone searches. The more people at this location, the more of a logjam it creates for forces trying to shut Iranians' access to the internet down. Cut & paste & pass it on.

I don't have Twitter, but I do have a blog. Done and done. (and yes, this means my time-stamps will be horribly wrong for the near future.)

UPDATE September 2009: I have since reverted to the proper timezone. After this much time has passed, the likelihood of this sort of tactic still helping is minimal at best.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Farewell, Analog TV

Yesterday was the final (oft-delayed...) cut-off date for the end of analog NTSC television broadcasts in the United States. From here on out, the only free over-the-air TV that will be available is digital.
The original date for this had been back on February 17, but Congress got worried that too many people were still unprepared, so they fast-tracked a bill to delay it until now. Stations were still allowed to shut down on the earlier date if they wished, and many across the country did. (it's rather expensive to keep an extra transmitter running...) When they did, many stations did something special on their analog feed right before shutting it off, to mark the occasion. I wondered whether any of the Pittsburgh stations would do this last night, and KDKA didn't disappoint: (you may have to fast-forward)

According to YouTube commenters, KDKA were the only ones to do anything like this around here. WTAE and WPXI just unceremoniously cut to snow at midnight. Come on, you guys. This is a moderately significant moment in geeky television technology history!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Steam Still Bugs Me Sometimes

When Half-Life 2 came out in 2004, I had a healthy level of teenage nerd-rage going over the fact that it required Steam, Valve's online content-delivery platform. Over the years, Steam has matured into something I can live with, and even like. (Using Steam Chat to launch into a game of Left 4 Dead is delightfully seamless.) I bought HL2 at retail because I insisted on having a pretty box and physical CD's if something went wrong, but every Valve game I've bought since (and a few others) has been an online purchase through Steam.

However, sometimes it still bothers me, like with the problem I ran into a couple days ago. I think I've narrowed it down to a freak network issue, but nonetheless: No matter what has gone wrong technically, I see no justification, none whatsoever, for ever showing a user this message:

...regarding a locally-installed game!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thrust Head-First into Reality

Two weeks ago, I graduated from Syracuse University.  I am no longer a college student.

The transition was a bit delayed since I didn't actually move out of my apartment until last Friday, and then zipped off to Albany with Christine for the weekend.  I returned to Pittsburgh monday night, and am only now starting to get settled back into the house it no longer feels appropriate to call "home."

So now I'm on my own.  A college-educated, presently unemployed, adult living in his parents' house.  It's a perfectly expected and nigh-inevitable situation, but a sobering one nonetheless.

I have no idea why I'm writing this so formally.  I guess I just have some need to make it sound as important/scary as it feels right now.

In any case, here I am, trying to figure out how to make the transition and find some sort of job in my desired field, nebulously-defined as that is right now.  I have a few possibilities:
  1. Leverage my old contacts from my internship last summer to try getting more PA / low-level production work.
  2. Try to get into a post-production / visual effects house in Pittsburgh.  I've found a handful online, and this is definitely more what I'd like to do.  But I have no idea if I'm qualified enough, and I definitely don't have any "ins" anywhere.
  3. Start my own shop or do freelance videography.  I've thus far been unsuccessful in using my past unpaid and not-for-profit work with WDUQ and the LWV to springboard into additional work, and all conventional wisdom suggests that trying to start up a post house without first having experience working in one is a bad, bad idea.  (Not to mention, I obviously don't really have the capital to do it properly right now.)
  4. Throw my hands up in the air and just try to get any kind of job.  Best Buy, GameStop, Arbys... something, anything with a paycheck.
Of course, the other option I haven't mentioned yet is looking outside of this city for work.  Particularly, the standard-operating-procedure for my peers in my major to make a pilgrimage to New York, or especially Los Angeles.  For one thing, I'm not really enamored with the popular idea of moving to a very expensive city with the one-in-a-million hope of landing a fortune once you get there.  I'm also unsure I'm comfortable with the amped-up professional politics that seems to go hand-in-hand with working in either city.

But there's no denying the other reason.  It's true that my short-term life goals are now no longer just about finding a good job.  I want to find a job that not only allows me to enjoy myself, make a living, and start my own life... I also do not want to go on living about 500 miles (or more) from Christine.  She has a job in Massachusetts lined up for the summer, but come September her future is as uncertain as my own.  Pittsburgh is a city we both like, and has a relatively strong showing now in both film production (for me) and theater (for her).  It seems to be our "best bet" at the moment.

So that's where I stand.  I still haven't decided which of those bullet points is the best option at the moment, so right now, I'm going to try working on things that I need to do for any of them.  For now, that includes doing the necessary "phone interviews" with the Newhouse career center to complete their job search program and gain access to the alumni database, taking advantage of as many non-paying production stuff as falls my way so I can build my "professional" experience, continuing to do post work on my own to gain more familiarity with the tools (before graduating I picked up Lightwave 3D with my academic discount, so I can get back into that), and probably most importantly:  finish my demo reel(s) and my website, as they are liable to be my calling cards for most anything I might do.

I don't know where I'm going, but I need to get there soon...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I finally did it. I know some of you have made fun of the Twitter service in the past, but come on, it really is the future. Plus, ever since I saw how Jeph Jaques uses a flash embed to show his tweets, I realized how easily I could tie Twitter in to my existing website.

Thus, behold!

Once I figure out how, I'll probably be incorporating this box into the sidebars of both this blog, and Directionless. Heck, given my poor history in actually updating the blog itself, this can probably stand in for times when I'm not otherwise posting!

Are you as excited about all this as I am? Then Follow Me on Twitter!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

When "Targeted" Ads Fail

I've been hearing a lot of talk lately about Google's decision to start using AdSense to deliver ads that are targeted not only based on a web page's content, but also on each user's history and interests. The tactic isn't new, only the pervasive, widespread reach of Google is.

The privacy concerns of this have been talked about endlessly, and I'm not writing to add to that discussion. My question is: privacy aside, how many companies actually have the intelligence to even use such a system effectively? Theoretically, the more information you have on someone, the better your targeting should be. Given this logic, a service like Facebook, which knows a lot about me, should have very-well-targeted ads.


I mean, come on. This isn't rocket science, people.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Now I Can Track My... Pizza?

Earlier this afternoon I decided to pre-order some pizza for the Superbowl later (Go Steelers!).  I wanted to make sure my order was in early so I'd get my pizza despite the inevitable madness that will ensue around 5-7ish tonight.

I placed my order through the Dominos web site, and after it was submitted, I saw this:

Wha-  I can even get tracking info on my pizza now?  I did some Googling, and it seems like most of the reporting on this new feature is relatively negative.  The verdict in a nutshell:  Their pizza sucks anyway, and the only people who will use this are antisocial web-addicts with no life and nothing better to do for 30 minutes.

Obviously, I can't speak to the taste issue - to each their own.  But to throw my two cents in, I'd say this is a nice reassuring feature to have in a case like mine, where you place your order several hours before you want to see your food.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Media and Technology: An Interests Showdown for Obama

Last tuesday, like most people at Syracuse, I watched elatedly as Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.  It was a historic moment any way you slice it, and all eyes are on Obama now as he attempts to live up to the hope over 66 million of us placed in him last November.

There's been no shortage of news speculation as to how he will handle one pressing issue or another.  However, being me, I've been wondering about another angle.  Perhaps not the most important or pressing, but one which greatly interests me.

Aside from the pomp of the ceremony itself, two things about President Obama's inauguration day struck me. First:  the new website at, which went live before he had even finished taking the Oath of Office.  Second:  The star-studded "Neighborhood Ball," hosted by ABC, which kicked off the string of events he and Michelle danced at.  These two events stood out to me because they highlight two "interest groups" among which Obama has strong support;  the wired world of the internet, and the glitz and glamor of Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Barack Obama ran what is widely hailed as the most technology-savvy campaign in history.  With the small but passionate exception of Ron Paul supporters, the "internets" as a whole loved him for it, and looked forward to a presidency that understands and embraces new technology.  So far, signs that Change has come to the members of the executive branch are good.  The new White House website is every bit as fancy as the Obama team's previous online works, and having a weekly video podcast of sorts sounds like a great way to engage the populace.  Later in the week, we heard about the complaints staffers have been voicing over the archaic I.T. infrastructure in the White House - a lament all to familiar to any geek who has found themselves thrust into the bureaucratic technology morass that typifies most established institutions (50 meg mailbox quota for Syracuse students' e-mail, anyone?).  Heck, even the fact that the president fought to keep his Blackberry shows that he's a new breed of president - one who "gets" technology.  Let the Tubes rejoice!

However, the "Neighborhood Ball" I saw tuesday night on ABC demonstrates Obama's clout with another group: the entertainment industry.  During the campaign, one of the first widely-talked-about attack ads from McCain was directed at Obamas "celebrity" appeal.  His life up to this point reads like an Oscar-winning screenplay, and like most Democratic candidates, he had his fair share of supporters among the Hollywood elite.  That ABC would get together with chart-topping recording artists to throw the first of his presidential balls further proves Obama's appeal among the entertainment industry,

Clearly, both groups are looking forward to a plethora of wonderful changes our new President will bring.

One problem though:  These two groups are currently at war.

Media piracy is one of, if not the biggest issue facing the content creators in the film, television, and music businesses.  It is also at the forefront of the freedom-loving culture of the Internet.  Media companies view tech-savvy consumers as criminal scum, and brilliant programmers worldwide take pride in cracking every new protection scheme the entertainment industry can come up with, either out of belief, necessity, or (I suspect most of the time now) out of sheer spite.

In the last decade, this issue has become the defining conflict for both sides, and both no doubt would like to look to Obama as their savior.  I'm very curious as to how he will navigate these waters, not least of which because I often find myself straddling the same fence.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Christmas 2008 and New Year's 2009

Monday night I got back at Syracuse for my last semester of my undergraduate career. After that, it'll be time to face the Real World.

Side note: Aaaaaaaaaah!!!

Classes don't start until next week, so for now I have some time to sit around in my apartment, get work done, and... oh yeah! Update this blog!

Winter break went pretty well for me. I sat in on a meeting with Fitting Group, the design firm for the revamp, and that appears to be moving forward rather well. The design looks great, and I think the Joomla developer they hired understood the issues I raised that need to be addressed before we go live. By the end of this month or next, I should be helping the DUQ staff with porting over content.

I played with my new N64 a fair bit, and picked up The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for it, which seems pretty great so far.

Christmas was good as always. As always, my family cut our own tree at a tree farm in Butler County and, also as always, it was rather large.

My presents were nice, including a very nice TERABYTE external hard drive from OtherWorld Computing, and a new 250 GB internal drive for my laptop as well, both of which should be very useful. Although tearing my current laptop down and replacing the non-user-replaceable hard drive does seem to be turning into an odd holiday tradition for me...

However, as should be expected, the highlight of the break for me was Christine coming to visit again. This time around, I deliberately left the schedule of "things to do" a little more open so we could spend more time just hanging out together, but there were a few fun excursions, not least of which being New Year's Eve.

Yes, for the first time I decided to go "out" with my girlfriend for New Years' eve. Not for a fancy black-tie dinner and play, but to a club on East Carson Street. Specifically, the "Bliss" New Year's Eve party at Diesel Club Lounge. I've been to a couple small clubs in Syracuse, and more than a couple bars, but this was the first time either of us had gone to an all-out Club with the focus on a big dance floor and whatnot. Needless to say, we had a great time. The DJ was pretty good, the alcohol wasn't too expensive (with one exception noted below...), and the lighting system was very well put together. (even Christine thought so, and she's the expert!) Naturally, Christine looked beautiful, and I think I pulled off a respectable outfit as well, given my usual inability to properly dress myself. (We both wisely decided against trying to keep track of our cameras in the crowded club, so I unfortunately have no pictures from the night.)

As I said before, the drinks weren't too expensive considering it was a New Year's Eve party at a popular nightclub, except for Christine's ten dollar appletini. (Which, she points out, wasn't even the best appletini she'd had. That honor belongs to the eight dollar appletini she got at Ohm in Syracuse last semester. The only other nasty surprise that night came when we realized that, as this was the only club or bar we'd been to outside of New York State, smoking was permitted! It didn't bother me too much, although our clothes definitely needed a good washing the next day!

Getting to and from Diesel went pretty well, all things considered. I knew from the start that I didn't want to drink and drive (just say no, kids!) so transportation came down to busses or taxis. The busses in Pittsburgh don't seem to run much past midnight, so I knew we'd have to get a cab home, but we tried to save a little money by taking the bus system downtown. This was a success in that we only ended up paying $2.50 a piece (actually, my mom payed. Thanks for passing us the bus passes on the way out the door, mom!) but we did have a little trouble find the right stop downtown for the transfer to our second bus. Aside from some very cold feet, no harm done there.

Getting home was more interesting. We left diesel at around 1:30 AM, and I tried to call a cab. When I finally got through to a dispatcher, we were told that the estimated wait to have a cab sent to us was over 3 hours... but that "we're sending a bunch of taxis through that area tonight, so you're best bet is to hail one." Sounded good, but there were a few hundered other people trying the same thing within a few blocks of us, so our odds didn't seem so great. Fortunately, there was a great pizza place across the street where we could eat and pass the time while the crowds thinned out.

After that we tried again for a cab to no avail. Christine randomly contracted a case of the hiccups, so we stopped in another small restaurant to get some water. This happened to be the "Cambod-ican Kitchen," a decidedly strange little place. They served up oriental food of some description, but had a running joke throughout the establishment about serving cat. I doubt this was the case in reality, but there it was nonetheless. Over the ordering counter there was a Garfield stuffed toy with "Eat Me!" cleverly scrawled across it's belly in permanant marker.

The owner of Cambod-ican kitchen (or at least we assume he was) was a sight. Orange camo-pants with a Leatherman strapped to his belt, and a cowboy/Crocodile-Dundee hat started off an image that finished with a witty t-shirt touting "The Best Pussy You'll Ever Eat!" After getting two bottled waters, Christine asked where the restroom was. She was then handed the ladies' bathroom key... which was chained to a huge black rod, vaguely reminiscent of The Club. He instructed her on how to most usefully hold said ludicrous object while unlocking the door (Answer: like a shotgun). The key to the men's room, it should be noted, was tied to a simple wood block, easily held in one hand. Don't ask me.

We eventually returned outside around 3 AM, and teamed up with a guy in an ugly red and white striped shirt to hail a cab. He and a girl from the group he had gone out with went back to their hotel, and gave me more than enough cash to cover their part of the fare. (thanks, Red Shirt Guy!) We then continued back to my parent's house, where we collapsed into bed and pretty much didn't get up until the following afternoon.

In the end, it was an incredible night in my opinion. For the rest of Christine's visit we went out to eat, spend a fun day at the Carnegie Science Center acting like 7-year-olds, saw another couple laser shows (not as good as the ones over the summer, but still fun), and spent some much wanted time just sitting around the house spending time together. I've alluded to it before, but I don't think I've ever come right out on this blog and mentioned how much I love this girl. (Hai bb!) Next week we'll have been dating for a year, and I couldn't be happier.

However, one thing I'm not incredibly happy with is how long this post has become, and especially how late I have been up writing it! Time to sign off for tonight. Have a great 2009, everybody!