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Life So Far

Oh man, Haiti. I thought that yesterday, earlier in the day I heard about an earthquake there and it was just like "Hm, sounds bad for them," and then I think later that night was when the terrible earthquake hit. I'm not too sure at the moment since my head was sort of elsewhere when I heard the news. I admittedly don't know too much about Haiti but it sounds like it must just be hell there...


This week has been feeling weird, sort of like the week before. My parents just recently put their house back up on the market, and my mother is excited about the prospect of finding a buyer and finally being able to move. Today they had people looking at the house, and so they had to kill some time outside, and they dropped by my place.

I guess they were expecting to have some food to eat. But to be honest, I was really running low on stuff since I was hoping to get my reimbursement check from work at least a FEW days before payday. My mother tried to dig stuff up from my freezer, and it actually turned out to be TERRIBLE. I'm not sure it's from staying in the freezer too long, or if it was never good to begin with, but bleh. I think they were pork lumpia. The meat just tasted WEIRD and it was chewy in parts and crunchy in others. We couldn't even eat it.

My folks actually got me a burger from Carl's Jr. because my mother got a gift card from work! And I dropped by the grocery store to pick up stuff to try cooking some stir fry. I only had to grab $5 worth of groceries -- chicken and green onion -- because I had everything else I needed at home. That was perfect because I had exactly $6 in cash in my pocket and I was trying to avoid using credit/debit cards.

And the food actually came out GREAT!! I tried making a Chinese stir fry-style dish, garlic chicken. I found this recipe and made a few modifications:

http://chinesefood.about.com/od/poultryreceo/r/garlicchicken.htm

Instead of sherry, I substituted red cooking wine since that's what I had on hand. I also used a TON more garlic than listed because I've just been feeling in a garlic mood lately...

The marinade called for some soy sauce and sherry, so I used soy sauce and the cooking wine... I also added 1/4 tsp. of powdered ginger and two tiny cloves of garlic (which was probably unnecessary since you're stir-frying with more garlic later). Then the stir-fry sauce calls for the soy sauce and sherry, plus sesame oil and chili paste. I increased the chili paste to a full tablespoon and added a little bit of sugar... Maybe 1/2 tsp.? I also increased the garlic from four cloves to four HUGE cloves and two medium ones. So if you're going purely by clove count, I basically doubled the number, haha...

And I think it came out perfect!! The amount of chili paste was such that I liked it fine as it was, but could've added more to my own serving if I felt like it. And after eating a bunch, I could feel it on my tongue a little! And it was probably garlic overkill... But it was actually exactly what I was looking for. Maybe people who aren't garlic fans would do well with the original amount, though.

My folks really seemed to like it! My mother thought the sesame oil was a nice touch.

I was just so happy with this! It's just IMPOSSIBLE to find good Chinese food around where I live. It's hard to even find OKAY Chinese food. All we have are chains like Panda Express and Pei Wei... Not that there's anything wrong with them, but I can never find anything DIFFERENT and good, and sometimes I'm too lazy to even head out that far. But this was more like... Ah! It's actually more like something I'd order from a decent restaurant!! And of the other things I've tried, like frozen mixes in bags and dry sauce packets, this is by far the best (and most cost-effective) result I've had so far.

You don't really appreciate good Chinese food until it's gone...


But yeah, it was a bit of a weird day. I got my monthly statement from my bank... I have a primary account and a secondary one. On my primary account, I have this free bonus feature where I get cash back on purchases, and it showed I got about a dollar back! Not much, but hey, it's cool. But then I checked my secondary account and found that they charged me an inactivity fee of $1.00. Easy come, easy go...

It's a really minor thing and at least I ended up breaking even, but you know, it just struck me as SO DUMB. I know it's hip and all these days to hate big banks, but ugh, they really do suck. It's not like it's time to consider just cashing all my checks at Wal-Mart and keeping my cash in a mattress, but you know, I understand why some people do that.


Work has been a little weird this week too. Last week I was able to help the other programmers with this project by writing an application that only opened a text file, read its contents, and displayed it in a particular format. We had another program that's outputting text files in this weird format, and it's very VERY picky, and the client kept saying "NOPE IT'S SLIGHTLY OFF", so we really needed this app so we could verify things ourselves.

And it worked! So the other programmers sent me a handful of OTHER similarly weird file formats. I kind of set up my program to handle more than one format, but entering it all in the code is still a pain because I need to enter info for individual data fields and there are HUNDREDS of these fields for each format. So it's just a lot of tedious work that can't be avoided... And it's been a little soul-draining even though this tedious stuff requiring attention to detail is kind of what I'm good at.


Part of it could just be me feeling a little under the weather, but part of it is this stupid thing with my work reimbursement check. So last month, I was told kind of at the last minute that I'd be going on a business trip, December 7-8th. So the drill was, okay, I'd pay for business-related expenses like food and transportation and I'd get reimbursed. But then they also flubbed and made me pay for the hotel room too, which was on the pricey side, promising I'd be reimbursed for that too...

I submitted my expense report two days after I got back. I figured it would take a while because, well, it always takes a while... But I kept trying to check back with the person I submitted the expense report to, and I wasn't getting any responses. Perhaps it was due to the holiday season, and how a lot of people at the office take their vacations around that time... I think it also didn't help that the HR lady had to be hospitalized for a bit and so my direct boss had a few extra responsibilities, both in and out of the office.

Eventually I got a response from someone, "I haven't seen the expense report yet. Maybe it's still sitting on [boss]'s desk?" So I e-mailed him and, sure enough, it had just been SITTING ON HIS DESK for the past month. Ha ha ha... But he assured me, "I'm signing this right now and it's going out today." And I believed him... I was a bit skeptical it would go out in the mail THAT very same day, but I still thought that maybe I'd get it in the mail the same week...

But nope... And it wasn't until Monday of this week that I got an e-mail from the person I originally submitted the expense report to saying "Your check is in the mail :)". It was then that I started thinking that when my boss said my check would be "out today", he didn't say exactly WHAT it was going out of...

But yeah, I thought that if the check was really mailed on Monday, today would be the earliest it could get here and maybe I would get lucky! It didn't quite work out, but I did have my $6 chicken plan for dinner tonight. But it really should get here tomorrow... maybe. I find that person more trustworthy than my boss when it comes to what is happening when.

In any case, my payday is Friday anyway... I was hoping to get that check a little earlier since I had to spend a little more than I expected, booking that hotel room for that trip with my folks and making other preparations. But at least I can always depend on my check getting here on time. Why? Because it's DIRECT DEPOSIT.

So why don't they direct deposit my reimbursement, rather than mailing me a paper check?

THE WORLD MAY NEVER KNOW. But whenever we get anything that isn't a paycheck, it is ALWAYS a paper check and it never goes through direct deposit... Never.



I've been feeling a bit more tired than usual lately. But I have been finding time for some games! I got Borderlands (for 360) and Phantasy Star Zero (for DS) for Christmas and they've been great! Borderlands was just one of those games I picked up for five minutes and then couldn't stop playing. And it's another one of those games where you think, before playing it, "Oh, but I don't really like FPS games..." but it just seems weird to even classify it that way.

"FPS"... Technically, all the components are there, since it's first-person and you shoot things. But it doesn't feel like it fits the normal mold of such a game. Kind of like the Left 4 Dead games... It's the same setup, but it doesn't feel like what you think of when you think "FPS"! It's amazing how you can take familiar game engines and just give them incredibly fresh twists.

L4D has that zombie survival teamwork thing going, which is fantastic, but is also definitely one of those games where you have to be more careful or you can really suffer. Borderlands feels a bit more "loose and fun," as in, you can screw up a bit more and it's a little more forgiving.

But from playing for just the first couple of minutes, you know Borderlands just oozes STYLE. The art style, the style of comedy, the style of gameplay, the dialogue, just every sense of the word "style" pops out and grabs you. It has that comic book-esque graphics style that developers seemed to experiment with a little in Crackdown, but appears to have been perfected in Borderlands.

It's just awesome, fun, with its fair share of challenge, and little to complain about. And it has what looks like awesome multiplayer, though I haven't been able to try this yet because it seems like 360 vs. PC version owners are kinda 50/50. If only it could've been cross-platform like Shadowrun!


Phantasy Star Zero is just... wow. So I used to play a little Phantasy Star Online with friends back in the day, right? But I have other friends who played it a lot more and got WAY more into it. But then Phantasy Star Universe and we kinda thought, "Hey, this will be the new PSO!" And... it wasn't exactly. I thought it was fun and it definitely improved with the patches and some new content, and I would still have fun playing it right now. But it was just different enough from PSO to make you long for the older game sometimes.

So sometimes we'd try Phantasy Star Online again, and for me, it was kind of a mix... For a lot of things you'd think, "Ah, there's that thing I remember!", but I also found a lot of times where it felt dated and I wished it were a little more modern like PSU.

Phantasy Star Zero seems to be inspired more by PSO than PSU, and at first I was kind of worried. Just how similar would it be? PSO had a lot of things going for it, but it wasn't perfect. But playing Phantasy Star Zero just seems plain AWESOME. It seems like they DID do a great job of keeping good things from PSO and updating others.

I'm not enough of a Phantasy Star aficionado to be like, "Oh, this is like PSO, THIS is like PSU, and this borrows from both but is basically different." But it just feels like I can find no fault with Phantasy Star Zero. It looks modern and fun, the gameplay doesn't feel clunky, and it just feels... cool, I guess!

The dodge roll is just... it seems like such a simple thing that you wonder why it wasn't there before. Photon Arts are similar to PSU, as special attacks for each weapon, but ranged and caster weapons now have them just like the melee weapons now. And they're separate from spells! I felt a little boxed in by the character class combinations in the original PSO, but although it's similar in Phantasy Star Zero, I feel a lot more satisfied with my possible selections.

Phantasy Star Zero is just... simply fun!


So the week is halfway over... It feels like a rough week but it could be worse. I think things should shape up by the weekend.

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