Some random thoughts:
I'm really looking forward to the weekend. First of all, I'm still buzzing from Obama's victory in Iowa last night, and I think those positive vibes will be propelling me forward.
Second, we are at the start of one of the biggest Bay Area storms in years. I really like storms. So far, it doesn't seem bigger than the worst storm of any given year in the Midwest, but it's quite impressive for the generally placid Bay Area.
The one downside is that I won't be doing my typical hike tomorrow. The offsetting upside, though, is that I should have all my new PC parts here by the end of the day, and so I will be able to spend tomorrow geeking out on that without any guilt. I'm looking forward to plugging in my very first SATA cable, my very first PCI-e card, and setting up the new Ubuntu system.
For a while there, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to do this tomorrow. I'd ordered my parts on the 30th, paying an extra $3 for rush processing and the standard amount for 3-day shipping. As of when I went to bed last night, some of my stuff still hadn't shipped. This morning, there was an email when I woke up: the package had shipped from Tennessee, where they upgraded my delivery to next-day air for free. It's now left Oakland and is heading for Los Gatos. I was prepared to write a post about how disappointed I was in NewEgg, but it looks like they've come through yet again. It was even worth paying CA sales taxes for!
Other random small notes:
"Paprika" is one of the best movies I've ever seen. It combines what I like best about "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" with what I like best about "Millennium Actress." Can someone remind me again why the Academy didn't give it an award?
I'm a few stories into "Blind Willow Sleeping Woman" by Haruki Murakami and am darn impressed. There's a really touching introduction where he talks about his attitude towards short stories and novels, and it actually made me feel a little guilty for liking his novels so much. The best story so far is probably "New York Mining Disaster," though I also loved "Birthday Girl." And "The Mirror" almost gave me nightmares, no small feat for a story that's just four pages long and in which arguably nothing happens.
Finally saw "Hot Fuzz" after the rest of the civilized world, and I officially add my voice to its chorus of praise. I enjoyed most of the movie, but the finale took me by storm, and made everything that happened before seem all the funnier. We need more movies like that, and I can't wait to see how they follow up this and "Shaun of the Dead."
Oh, and a while back I finished "Clash of Kings," book 2 of "A Song of Fire and Ice." I'm still really digging the series. Martin continues to keep everyone on their toes, and I really like the way he keeps an arms-length distance from the mystical.
I never thought that I watched much television, so I'm a little surprised to feel so deprived by the writer's strike. I'm very curious what The Daily Show and The Colbert Report will feel like next week. It would be amazing if Colbert spent the whole show doing Formidable Opponent, and Stewart just read the New York Times.
Back to the election: I really hope Obama's momentum keeps him going. One cool quirk of the California primary: even though we vote on Super Duper Tuesday in February, they start mailing absentee ballots early next week. Every California voter is automatically an eligible absentee voter. Around 44% of all voters are expected to vote early. With a fresh Obama win in their minds, that could bode well for an upset here. Last I heard, Clinton held a 15% lead, but that's been steadily shrinking.
Right on our doorstep is Nevada the one early Western state. I really should volunteer to help the campaign there, but I can't help feel that I'd do more harm than good.
On the gaming front, I'm loving Guitar Hero 3. They haven't messed much with Harmonix's winning formula, so you don't really feel their absence. The song list has been really strong so far. My favorite tunes to play are probably "Even Flow" and "Welcome to the Jungle."
They need to rethink their "Legends of Rock" thing, though. I mean, the basic idea is cool. But come on, Tom Morello? Don't get me wrong, he's very talented, but if I don't know his name, he probably doesn't count as a "legend." I recognize that many of the true legends are dead, but what about Jimmy Iha? Keith Richards? Pete Townshend? The Edge? Johnny Greenwood? Freaking Eric Clapton? I just think their title bit off more than they could chew. Nice work on Slash, though. That was well done... not only does he deserve the title, he's a perfect boss.
I'm also playing Final Fantasy XII, and can't decide whether I like it or not. For a while I felt like, from a pure gameplay perspective, it's the best entry in the system. Most FF devotees hate the gambit system, but I love it. It takes care of mindlessly pressing "O" hundreds of times when you fight through endless battles, letting you focus on strategy instead of mechanics.
Where I am at the game now, though, it's just aggravating. I'm at too low a level to comfortably advance in the plot, and all the interesting side missions are too challenging. In order to have more fun, therefore, I'll need to spend several hours grinding through monsters for experience, loot and license points. People have unfavorably compared the game to an MMO, and I can see where they're coming from. The mechanics as such don't bother me, but the emphasis on nonstop combat and leveling does. In this respect, it feels like a step backwards from FF X. In that game, for the first time in an FF universe, I felt like the game was designed to advance my characters as they progressed through the story; I rarely needed to take a break from what I wanted to do in order to level up. I hate it when games make me do work.
On a related note, this week I will be sorely tempted to get a new game to test out my new computer. I'll try to hold out, but if I cave, it'll probably be for Half-Life 2. It's a few years old, but that means my setup will be able to soar with it. Best of all, I won't lose the months of my life that getting Oblivion would demand.
Update: Whoops! It looks like Paprika may be eligible for the Academy Awards this year. Cool. Ratatoille probably has it sewn up, so I won't be too bitter, but I hope it at least gets nominated.
Corrections have also been made in the text above regarding the proportion of absentee voters in California. One other interesting thing about our primary: the Democratic party, but not the Republican, allows non-affiliated voters to vote in their primary. That means that independents will be heavily recruited for this primary... and, as Iowa has shown us, Obama is strong among independents. I doubt he'll actually take the state - he has a bit lead to overcome - but if he splits the delegates here and continues picking up smaller states, he could be in a great position.