Dad/Step Dad of the Year

Well...the contest at work ended today at 5:00PM. And with 9 referrals, yours truly was declared the winner. Which meant that going home with me today was an XBox 360 (core system).

Needless to say the kids were jazzed (I called Jen at her mom's to tell her). Dude....it's amazing. Yeah, there's a buttload of hype. But from the two games I've played so far...it's well deserved. Of course I'm only saying that because I didn't have to pay for it (no way would I spend $350 on a new game system, I've NEVER bought a new game system).

We swung by Giant Eagle after the boy's B-Ball practice and rented P.J.'s King Kong and Need For Speed:Most Wanted. Holy crap. I havent' seen the movie, but it felt like I was in it. And the racing game nearly made me hurl it was so realistic. If it had a first person view, I'd be spewing right now.

Since it's the core system, there is no memory card or hard drive, so it's limited as far as what we can save. But a guy at work said he'd sell me his extra (unused) harddrive, so that's cool. Until then, no saved games...but other than that, no biggie. And hey, it was free. So that's cool!

Alright I need to head to bed now. If I stay up too long, I fear I'll get sucked in to 360 world again.

Nitey Night.

Why Sam Ash Sucks

You may remember that I recently got my first electric guitar back from Bob yesterday.
Last night, I posted an ad on Freecycle to get a little practice guitar amp (I used to have a little fender and marshall practice amp, but I don't know what happened to either one of them).  But I figured if someone had one on Freecycle, that'd be cool.
I got a hit back almost instantly. Someone had an Audio Centron H15P that they wanted out of their basement. I had thought that AC was into PA's but I was game.
I picked it up today and my suspicions were confirmed-It was a 15" cabinet for a PA. But, I figured I could unload it at Sam Ash or Guitar Center (since both were on the way back to work) and trade it for a little $40 or $50 practice amp. 
I lugged it to Sam Ash first (the friggin' thing is heavy).  I waited 10 minutes for someone to even acknowledge me...and when they did, the visible sneer was enough to know that my visit was going to go poorly. The pro-audio guy came up to the front of the store and took one look at the cabinet and gave me a look like.. "Dude, wtf?"  I tried to explain Freecycle and how I was looking for a little practice amp and just wanted some leverage to do a trade.
He wasn't having any of it. He gave me this story about how he couldn't sell a single cabinet. And how it wouldn't match up with anything. And how he couldn't clean it (apparently they were fresh out of compressed air). So, whatever. I lugged it back out to the car....remembering with vivid detail what it was I hated about Sam Ash.
They're f***in' snobs. Oh...they were more than eager to help in 2000 when I had a couple grand to drop on gear...but dude...they couldn't get me out of the store fast enough. He didn't even plug it in to let me know if it worked (up to this point, I hadn't even heard it)...or try to get me with a guitar guy to look at practice amps (you never know, I might have taken one anyway)....nope. Just a thank you and good night.
So, I loaded back up and headed the 2 miles down the road to Guitar Center. And once again lugged it back in.  And right away there was a difference.  Interest. The dude at the door greeted me right away. He helped me in. He got the dude (also named Todd) from the Guitar dept. to come over and help me. Todd asked what I was looking to do. "Trade in this beast for a practice amp." No sneering...no nothing. Just a "cool. Let's see what we can do." And he picked up the cabinet and took it back and hooked up an Amp head to it to see what condition the speaker was in.
Turns out the low end was shot...not horribly, but a little blown. Enough that they wouldn't be able to give me anything for it.
And that's cool. At least I knew the status. The mids and highs were pretty cherry on the speaker (so it can still be used with the Yamaha powered mixer to rock the block parties this summer). So...after Todd was so helpful (even showing me alternatives and different options), I wanted to walk out of the store with something. So, I picked up the Danelectro Fab Metal distortion pedal. It'll give me just enough crunch, and it was only $16 out the door. 
All in all, I can say that from now on, Sam Ash won't even be an option. Mr. Ash and his band of snobs are dead to me. Any gear I need will either come online or from Guitar Center.  It just felt better.
And, seeing's how the amp was free and I was only out 16 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers, I don't have too much to complain about. :-)


Deeeeeeeeamn Boyeeeeee!

OK...for a long time now (years maybe?), I have wanted a reel to reel 4 track recorder. It just seemed so old school. So....right, ya know?

And thanks to Bob's moving into a new house, I have one.
An Akai, no less.

Behold (this is a stock photo of it, but you get the idea, as this is the exact model now in my possession):

It's the Akai GX-636DB, circa the 80's. From what Bob tells me, it's practically flawless. He even threw in some reels to go along with it (classic rock-it's like he knows me!!). I also have the reels from when Radio Shack was getting rid of all of their stock.

I'm pretty jazzed for this, for primarily one reason. My dad has reels from his deck when i was a kid. I'd like to transfer these over to CD before they're gone for good (or get too brittle to play anymore).

Plus, I'd like to just have at it with a 4 track, reel to reel style (even though my cassette 4 track isn't getting a whole lot of work right now)...but it's just the principle of saying "I can do it, bishes."

so, yeah. That's my other woody of the day.

Dude. That's Sick!

A trip into the community fridge at work can prove quite frightening. Oh sure...it looks innocent enough.

But think back. When was the last time anyone at work ordered Donato's?

Well...lessee....we had the pizzas in class last week. So...could be that. No, wait a minute. Those were just pizzas. this is clearly a sub. Maybe someone brought it from home.

But...if not...the last time subs were ordered in was November.

This couldn't be that old, could it?

Well...actually, I guess it could be.
Oh...that definitely looks like a 2+month old sub. A quick peek under the bun confirms it.

In other news, a piece of my musical past came back into my life today. This lovely Sam Ash wannabe fender was my first electric guitar. Purchased for $100 +tax in the summer of 1998.

A year or so later, I sold it (gave it? maybe sold it) to a guy at work. He's had it ever since. Until today. Turns out that this weekend he moved into another house and was looking to clean house a little bit.

So the Carlo Robelli comes home to papa. And I have to say...it's kind of a piece. of. sh. No, really it is. I mean, sure, for $100 8 years ago, it was OK. And it seems to have held up fairly well (after I goo gone'd all the sticker residue from the body). Before stripping off the 8 yr. old strings, I plugged it in to the Alesis io|2 and plucked around on it. Either the 8 yr. old cable is touchy or the cable jack is. Either way, there was a bit of hum and feedback and interference as I did my best James Dean.

I stayed clear of the whammy bar (I took it off before snapping the pix), because everyone knows that whammy bars on cheap guitars will cause strings to go way out of tune very easily and cause your strings to wear a lot faster....right, Darrin?

But I have to say, it's still nice to have. Now I can have either the accoustic or the electric on music projects. I would eventually like to pick up a little pukey 10watt amp (nothing too fancy, because the guitar doesn't deserve it), or maybe just a crunchy distortion pedal to get some tonal differences when recording (I should have gotten one at MediaPlay during their last week-for $30 it was almost too good to be true...and $40 for a wah-wah...oh well, that's what eBay's for). Either way, it's good to have my first 2 guitars back home.

And before you ask....no, I did not eat that sub (or even a little bit of it)...dude! That's just sick.


With Apologies to Leonard

Man...I can't tell you how long I've been waiting for Fuddruckers to go redneck. And they finally have. Noting says "Kiss yer cousin, Bubba" quite like Buckets of Beer. Although to be truly authentic, they should have said Buckets O'Beer.

No buckets were ordered, but the burger was tasty.

Came home and finished cleaning out my side of the garage (now I can pull my car back in-a feat that seems not too big of a deal in 60 degree days, but is a blessing on 16 degree mornings).

I also finished placing everything in the (again) redesigned studio. (cue choirs of angels)..And now I present to you....

TwistedZen Productions 2006:

On the table you can't see (to the right of the desk) are the Sony turntable, the Yamaha 4 track (which may get a new home soon) and the 2 Casios from Christi.

To celebrate the opening of the studio I decided to record something that should have the Jazz Police beating down my door any minute.

I used the Roland EM-10, Alesis SR-16, Alesis io|2, Alesis Nanoverb and Adobe Audition to give you Jazz Puke.

No need to thank me. You're welcome.

And now I've got to go.
Someone's at the door.


Nick of Time and Then Some

Portions cross-posted in TZP Projects

Dudes and dudettes, What a wild night!!

Last week, you may remember, I ordered this lovely (and tad bit sexy) piece of hardware:

OK. you may not remember. I don't know if I mentioned that I sold one of the turntables and the DJ mixer to get this (but I did).

It's the Alesis io2 a nifty little piece of gear that connects to the USB port on my laptop and handles MIDI, 1/4", XLR, and sPdif.

I got it yesterday and up until about 15 minutes ago, I was about to send it back to the eBay shop I bought it from (they have a pretty liberal return policy).

I was having horrible latency issues. Not to mention playback was totally screwed and the soundcard on my laptop decided to take 5 when I used the thing.

And then tonight, I unraveled the mystery....friggin' CubaseLE! I've got a 1.8Ghz laptop with 512MB of RAM and there was a good 1-2 second latency on anything and the MIDI was just taking a huge dump. All of the stupid sync and buffer tests were failing. I have to say I wasn't too pleased.

So, I unloaded everything. And fired up Adobe Audition. Set up the input as the io2 and the output as the soundcard on the laptop. And it worked. Like a freakin champ!!

Did the same thing in Acid.

Now I know that Adobe Audition and Acid may not be as robust as Cubase (but maybe as robust as LE), but they are certainly less bloated than Cubase.

So, all this to say I'm jazzed. I did a few tests with the mic and the keyboard and it's SO much better...a lot less noise...than trying to use the 1/8" jack on the laptop (not to mention the soundcard on the laptop is very basic and not really designed for the level of audio I want to use it for).

So...if you have a laptop and you're planning on recording, I'd drop the scratch if I were you.

Speaking of dropping scratch...it looks like I may come into a little extra in the near future and I found the SWEET deal on B&H's site. It's a Panasonic 3CCD camera and accessories for around $700. I will finally be in the land of the 3-chips and that coupled with the io2 really seals the deal, studio wise. There's little else I can honestly say I need now. Possibly a "real" light kit at some point, but until then, my halogen work lights will be just fine. I may try to figure out a way to put them on a dimmer so I can control the temperature a little more.

I did some more digging on the documentary front, too. It's gonna take a lot of digging and prep work before I even make the trip to D.C. I talked some more to one of the people that I'm working with on it and am going to get some more contacts locally to work with on it, too.

I found out something about myself yesterday. The fact that when I want to make a movie, I want to make it NOW :-) but it doesn't quite work out that way, does it? Don't bother answering, I know the answer :-)

I also made some headway on the DDR short. I cast the main lead for the father. Someone I work with who actually plays the game (a plus).

Other than that, there's not much new on the TZP front (but thanks for tuning in all the same) :-)

Now, on the personal front, it looks like work is sending me to the User Conference in February. It will be the first one I've gone to (I came to the company in '98, they started doing conferences in '99). I'm not going to get bitter or say anything bad about the company or the job. I'm doing very well...the company is doing well, and I'm finding that working with the system is taking me a lot further than pissing and moaning all the time. Now, don't get me wrong-if I get a major movie deal, there's no question as to where my passion is...but work is good.

And home is good, too :-)

It's kind of funny. I used to use my Livejournal and Blog to whine and complain about how miserable things were in my life. But to be honest....they haven't been miserable at home (or work) for a long time.

Funny how that works, isn't it :-)

Ooh!! And I've also lost a few pounds and I'm riding my bike every day. So-that's good, too.

So-enough about me...how have things been with you?


Funny Money and a Saturday Night Smash-Up

The rodeo's in town. Or so it would seem by the dozens of people walking past 2 Nationwide Plaza as the Mrs and I finish up our yearly dinner at Morton's (courtesy of the gift card from my generous employer). We like to look at it as pretend money. Since it's on my boss, we don't flinch for a second at the $45 steak or $26 salmon. We just order. And split the $8 baked potato. It's our one time of year where we like to pretend that money doesn't matter.

As is the custom, we payed the $5 for valet parking.

What we didn't expect was the added bonus of seeing the valet back into a big red pickup truck.

Yes, you heard right.

He backed into the truck. To be fair, there was a lot of traffic. And the P does look a lot like the R on the dashboard. But dude....c'mon.

Here's the damage that the camera picked up:

Doesn't look too bad. But I'm always amazed at what something as simple as a cracked taillight assmebly and scratched (ok, gouged) bumper will actually cost to repair.

It's actually kinda funny. The corner of the bumper was actually crumpled in (imagine if an object, say a truck bumper had just pushed in the corner), but as we were standing there, it just made this weird noise and popped back out, a la Christine.

The really funny thing was, as we were waiting for the pimply faced valet to bring our car around in rodeo traffic, both Nancy and I were thinking to ourselves, what would happen if the valet jacked up our car. This kind of thought power needs to probably be contained...it's just creepy what happens when we both unknowingly think the same thing.

So, 30 minutes later, we were on our way home. With a slight detour to distract us from the recent after-dinner events.

Let's see....what's a good way to put it all out of our heads. Yes, I think you're right. A jaunt to the thrift store is exactly what the doctor ordered.

I vowed to see if the "Thanks Jeff" creepy dead chick t-shirt was still there (it wasn't. which leads me to ask-who in the hell would buy that??)

So, while my shirt wasn't there, plenty of comedy gold was.

Lucky you.

As if the whole Tickle-Me-Elmo phase wasn't bad enough...now you have to guess where he's ticklish?? No. Seriously, no.

No trip would be complete without the "Is it His or Hers?" shirt game.

Clearly the answer here is....both.

I only have one question about this. What the hell is so intimidating about a turtle?? And apparently a blind one, at that.

I really question the random drug testing policy over at Barbie HQ when I see toys like this. It's obvious it's not working.

The Baby Medusa Doll wasn't quite the 'must-have' toy that Mattel was hoping for.

"Um. No. I've never worked in fast food before, sir. But I did have the McFlurry Maker as a kid" Great! You're hired.

This toy hasn't changed in 38 years. 38 years!! Rock on, Spirograph. Rock on.

At first glance, a missing piece would indicate that this game is in fact, not perfection.

Until it pops!

Now that's perfection!!

And here we have the Amish version of Perfection. Not much pop here.

And now little Timmy can make blended drinks just like his old man!

By far one of the worst tie-in toys ever. If you look closely, you'll see the Choking Hazard warning. It should actually be Gag warning.

And now on to the clothes. This one says "One Size Fits All."

Umm. Clearly not.

This is only funny if you can hear the voice on the commercial saying "JEGS...." and then going into some gibberish about Fram auto filters or something.

It would have been funnier if they had said "Chuck and Cindy" but you can't have everything. What was more interesting to me was the back.

And un-hitched in 2006! Seriously. How sad is it to find these at the thrift store. No sentimental trip when looking at them in the t-shirt drawer. Just something to toss away. Ah. Good times.

...but I hate his %#@@*) t-shirt!

I can't put my finger on why this thing cracks me up so much. It looks like someone's chinese uncle out for a day of golf.

I love finishing up a great night of thrifting with some Stinky Hot Feet!!


Bye Bye Miss American Pie

There is a subtle sadness in the air. Media Play-the goliath that once challenged other retail outlets for entertainment media supremacy- is on life support. And they're about to pull the plug.

In three days.

Basically everything is gone. There's one shelf of PC Games, a few are even from the last year or so. A shelf of magazines that nobody will buy sits across the only copy of TRON on UMD that I've seen (or may ever see). And display books (each defective-with something wrong, the sign says) beckon to be taken home for a mere $3. The bookshelves, however are free.

At first glance, it's tough to really spot the change. But a closer look, or a mere shift to the right reveals the extent of the desolation:

Everything must go. And will. Not to my house, of course, but someone will buy one of the 45 remaining copies of Into Thin Air on DVD for a mere $6.

It makes me a little sad. I liked Media Play. It was the pre-practice (and sometimes during and post-practice) diversion before meeting up at Darrins to pound keys in Devilcake. And it was a quick lunchtime jaunt from work.

But what it really was was an alternative. An alternative to BestBuy. I'm not a huge fan of BestBuy (I mainly consider it a necessary evil). Media Play's prices weren't all that much better, but every now and then you could catch some sweet deals on cut-outs or used items. And spending an hour in Media Play wasn't nearly as draining as spending an hour in BestBuy. I liked browsing there better.

The people at BestBuy obviously knew this, so rather than let the 2 chains co-exist, it was easier to purchase Media Play and kill it off. They will of course, leave Sam Goody and Suncoast Video alone. After all, they are typically found in malls and are of a different market segment.

Fare thee well....well, actually, you won't fare well, will you, Media Play?
Piss off, then. It was good knowin' ya.

Reese's Pieces and the Fall of an Empire

Alright sportsfans, I've kept you in suspense enough.

In my recent post, I laid the challenge for the following picture:

250 points if you can spot it* . Extra points if you can tell me exactly WHY it was such a disappointment.

*It, of course being the biggest turd in the entire Atari2600 catalog.

Darrin didn't chime in, so I guess I'll have to spill it.

Without further ado, here is the biggest dump Atari ever took:

That's right. A mere 5 years after it's release, the Atari2600 had just put the final nail in it's own coffin with this rush-release.

The backstory is this-
In a rush to get the title out by Christmas, Atari scrambled to secure rights to the widly popular movie about a pudgy space alien addicted to sugary sweets that had taken America by storm.

(Mistake #1 was the sheer amount of dough they forked over to get the rights).

Then, to make matters worse, they had a ridiculous timetable. 6 weeks to design the game. That's nuts. Sheer madness.

(Mistake #2-apply insane amounts of pressure to your programmers)

So....everything's in place. The money, the programmers. What's left?

Oh yeah-let's produce 5 million units of the game to sell by Christmas. This was larger than the number of Atari2600's available.

I'll give you a minute to read those last 2 sentences again.

Yes. They made more cartridges than game systems to play the cartridges. Even in the fuzzy math world of the 80's, that's just bad business sense.

So, it tanked.

In a big way.

Only 1.5 million units were supposedly sold. Not a bad turn by anyone's records, but still nowhere near enough to cover the expense of getting such a shitty title to market.

And it sucked.

It was hard. It had nothing to do with the movie (you had to keep ET from falling in to a pit...where the hell was a pit in the movie???). And it sucked.

I played it when it came out and I hated it.

It was so bad that Atari tried to bury it's mistake. Literally.

Millions of ET cartridges (along with a few hundred thousand PacMan cartridges) were smashed, mixed with concrete and buried in the New Mexico desert.

And now for the bonus round...what (other than what I mentioned above) was really disappointing about the game?

A: It was a major letdown because it came from the mind of the programmer who gave us (arguably) one of the best games for the Atari2600--Yar's Revenge. So...one man gives us the best...and the worst.

It's no wonder a fat plumber was able to sneak in and wrench the crown away from the video game goliaths.

Long live the 2600!

*UPDATE* After looking at the picture of the 2600 carts again, I concede that, had you said "PacMan" you would have gotten partial credit. I feel very strongly that while ET is the worst game and the reason Atari lost its edge, I will argue that PacMan was the single worst arcade game port that was done on ANY game system past and present. So, it's right up there on the turd chart.



2006 is already fast becoming the year of change. MediaPlay is closing in....4 days. Thanks BestBuy for buying them and closing their doors. Of the two overpriced media outlets, BestBuy certainly wins in its mega-ness, but it's the little quirks about MediaPlay that I grew to love. And now they're about gone. But I am assured that my replay card will still be good at SamGoody and SunCoast Video should I choose to pay even more than the BestBuy prices on media. They are now at 70% off of anything left in the store. I'm eyeing some of the electric guitars....they're down to $80. Of course I still can't play it for shit. Well, ok, I can play a few things and can get off sounding like most other dudes my age who tried to use the guitar to impress the ladies in my college years. But still-it might be nice to have an electric lying about for whenever I got the urge to wail.

Speaking of wail...wtf is up with this Santana/Steven Tyler duet?? Seriously. Dudes. Santana doesn't go off and comes off sounding like a bad Joe Perry impersonator. And Steven...does he really need the boost that comes from a single with Santana? I mean, really. It's not like he's Rob Thomas or Everlast or anything. His career is doing just fine. I can see it now..."You don't want to do my song Joe? Fine! I'll get Carlos to play on it. And just to piss you off, we'll put it on HIS album."

But I digress.

The real reason for the season is the thrift.

I really wasn't going to thrift tonight (and in retrospect, I should have stayed with that inclination), but due to the pleadings of one of my 4 regular readers, I decided to hop back in the saddle.

I headed over to OhioThrift after work, and let me tell you-conditions were not optimal for thrifting. Yet I pressed on.

I set the goal of finding a brass napkin ring (it's always good to have goals because you find the coolest sh*t when you're looking for something else). This goal was not to be met tonight. But I got more.

Oh so much more.

I could tell as soon as I walked in that something was different. A smell...a feel. Something.

And then I found it. And I knew in that instant I was right to be worried.

Oh no. The .99 cent candy was organized on a (dare I say it) retail display. Crap. The candy had always been scattered at the registers. Left in disarray by cranky toddlers still pissed that their moms didn't buy them that secondhand BluesClues doll.

This was a bad omen.

But hey. No worries. For a mere $13.13, I could be a freakin' all star quarterback beyotches!

I was kind of fried after a day of Reports Training, but I wasn't too tired to appreciate the irony of this doll:

For years people have argued that if Barbie were real, she'd fall on her overinflated bosom because her feet were too danged small?? Well this is the polar opposite. This kid's feet are so freaking big that someone's gonna get squashed.

Uh-oh. You're all in for it now!! I can be a BUTTON-MAKER!!!
OK. Not really.

What little Billy didn't know was that the Ninjas were REAL!! Only he couldn't see them unless he had the goggles on. And no one else could see them-ever.

It wasn't until much later that I realized that this was probably a Pokemon toy of some sort. My dreams of Hef making toys would have to go unrealized another day.

Take a left at the Gingerbread House and go through the Candy Cane forest on your way to the Gum Drop Meadow (Yes, I'm fully aware that it was a loooong way to go for a Candyland reference).

Chapter 1: Eating Magma

When reaching for magma, you should make sure to wear an oven mitt. And an LL Bean hunter cap.

Good boots are always important, too.

There was some other book about "Beating the Streets" written by some white guy who looked like he'd never even been on the streets. It was just too easy.

OOH! I know! I know!
Your candy is up front!! I mean MY candy.
This was killing me. This shirt was XL. It was sooooo me!!

THIS shirt did come home with me. Mostly because I'm as curious about the answer as apparently God is. I may wind up giving it to my brother. He'd probably where it before me.

Designer Shoe Warehouse.

The irony is...they did wind up being about 1% short. 1% of the customer account data did wind up short.

You know, one frog shirt just isn't enough. I need THREE! Lucky for me I know where I can find some for only ninety-nine cents!

This particular find made me sad. For several reasons-the main being that the Atari2600 was no where in site. The second was that these cartridges were $1.91 EACH. Dude. They're almost 30 years old. They shouldn't be two bucks each.

But what's really sad was amongst some of the really GREAT titles (Defender, Pitfall, Q*bert, Frogger) was quite possibly the biggest turd of ALL Atari games. EVER.

250 points if you can spot it. Extra points if you can tell me exactly WHY it was such a disappointment.

Disney started the lies a long time ago. There's nothing I can think of about telling time that would be remotely considered fun.

Pop Quiz: What's TCP/IP stand for?
If you can answer that question, the LAST thing you need is a For Dummies book.

I saw this and had one thought-how funny would it be to make money with my idiot's guide...and be sipping rum and cokes in Cabo and rubbing elbows with the people who merely inherited their money.

Hey! I'll never have to excercise EVER AGAIN!!! I can just plug in and sit on the couch and zap the pounds away!!!!

Look. It HAS to work. It worked so well that the guy who had it before didn't need it anymore.

It's the book of indecision.....for kids! Or maybe not.

I can't tell you how much Bear in the Big Blue House creeps me out. I think it's the eyebrows. And now that he's helping teaching kids how to take a dump?? This disturbs me.

Well, I had a couple more pix, but apparently Blogger's turding out on me. So I won't. Suffice to say the last three pix evoked references to Karate Kid, Roots, and stinky feet. I guess you'll just have to use your imagination, eh?

I walked out with the Godshirt, some fruit chews, a package of Stinky Feet...and something else, but I forget what it was...oh yeah-microwave popcorn.

Alright-off to watch the crazy bare-footed druggy on American Idol.---Holy crap!! They sent him through!! What the heck??

*And now to explain the subject-I have always thought that Scotty had a secret stash of dilithium crystals hidden in his quarters somewhere just to mess with James T. Kirk.

Failing NaNo - 4 Years and Counting

I looked, Dear Readers, and noted that the last time I saw fit to let the words fall from my brain bucket and onto these virtual pages was o...