Thursday, June 28, 2007

AI War, Die Hard, and the Best Cheeseburger in Los Angeles ...

Bantam doesn't want AI War, but is willing to sell it back to me for $14K and change. I should be able to work with that. We've got a lot of legal bills at the moment (or to put it another way, Alan Rodgers persists in being the biological father of my older 3 kids) -- but court's going fairly-well-so-far, and my finances have gotten a lot better recently. I left fulltime employment and went back to consulting work 6 weeks ago. Amy's got a job lined up for September, when Connor goes to kindegarten, that includes first-rate medical insurance. Consulting is risker -- too risky for almost the entire time we've been together, with small children and the threat of astonishing medical bills, with Amy unable to work much because of babies and toddlers. (Someday I will tell the story of my son Connor's 5-week premature birth, the $300K medical bill from that, and how desperately both I and the insurance company tried not to pay it ... while the web boom was collapsing around me ...)

The last several years have seen a return to form for the industry. It's not late 90s boom days, but it's not 2002 either, and my phone rings once a week or so with someone looking to hire me for SQL Server contract work: there are some benefits to having had the same cell phone # for the last decade. So in March Amy and I decided I'd go back to contract, offering my time at $150 an hour, carrying Cobra until Amy's new job starts. I gave two months notice on my job -- data architect for a popular website, not to be named because Alan Rodgers keeps fantasizing in public about getting me fired from my various jobs -- and now I'm doing long-term contract with them and a couple other clients. So far it's gone well -- I've not quite doubled what I was making on salary.

Just in time for Alan to reappear in our lives, in fact. Ah, well. :-) Even with lawyer bills and Cobra, we're in the black on the move. When Amy goes back to work and the Cobra goes away and she starts getting paid, life will be better.


Saw Live Free or Die Hard last night. Best movie of the summer by a lot. It's not as good as the original Die Hard, but that's sort of like me saying that Larry McMurtry's other novels aren't as good as "Lonesome Dove" -- duh: regression to the mean is a bitch. There can only be one best of anything, and Lonesome Dove is the best novel I've ever seen, and Die Hard is the best action movie. Die Hard 2 was a misfire, Die Hard 3 I just watched recently and it's better than I remembered, though not in the ballpark of the original. Live Free or Die Hard approaches the original in places, which is high praise. It goes over the top at the end, though it's a lot of fun to watch even then -- good action movie cartoon is OK by me, but up until then I'd been in the movie, not outside it appreciating the effects work.

I won't go see it again this summer, but I'll certainly rent it on DVD when it comes out.


The Best Cheeseburger in Los Angeles ... is not the Kobe Burger at the Crocodile Cafe.

The Crocodile Cafe has changed its menu lately, though it does still have the classic Oakwood Cheeseburger on the menu. On Tueseday we were in court in downtown, so when we got done earlier than we expected, I took the family to lunch at the Crocodile Cafe on Lake Avenue in Pasadena. Rather than ordering the Oakwood Cheeseburger (though I was relieved to see it still on the menu) I got crazed and optimistic and ordered the Kobe Burger. I keep having a fantasy that someday I'll eat a great Kobe Burger that's going to rock my world -- I like the idea of great beef inside a burger -- but it hasn't happened yet, and maybe won't. The Croc's Kobe burger came with smoked Gouda cheese, Prosciuto ham, Cayenne mayo (which I quite liked -- I might order that with the Oakwood Cheeseburger next time I'm there.) Spinach greens, tomatoes, on a bun made of some good cut of bread I didn't quite recognize, but liked.

A serious disappointment. I ordered it medium rare, it came well done. The Gouda was OK, but cheddar would have been better, and the ham completely overwhelmed the taste of the burger. That Oakwood grill taste -- a 900 degree oak grill chars the burger like nothing else -- was there, and still superb, but even that couldn't compete with the taste of the ham. A 5. A sad, disappointed 5.

A few days prior to that I ordered the Fatburger on my way home from a long night onsite at a client's, 50 miles from home. There's a Fatburger open to 2 AM not far from where I live, so I hit it right before closing and got the basic Fatburger cheeseburger, flame grilled. This is the key to Fatburger: they make an OK fried burger. But they keep a flame grill off to the side of the frying grill, and it improves the burger substantially. No Fatburger variation is a 10, but there are several flame-grilled 9s, and this is one: relish, pickles, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, white bread bun, excellent flame-grilled patty. A consistent 9, I've had this burger several times a year for years now. The only kvetch is price -- In'N'Out can make a superb $1.65 cheeseburgert, and Fatburger charges roughly twice the amount for similar quality. A 9 anyway.


quarkwright said...

Have been checking back since Monday for updates. (:p Yeah, I have no life).

Sounds like good news on AI war!

md5 said...

Thanks for the tip on the new Die Hard...I wasn't holding out much hope myself, but now I think I'll give it a shot.

As for AI War, have you thought about accepting donations to offset the cost of reclaiming the rights? I personally couldn't put up a chunk, but I'm willing/able to put up a piece -- and I bet I'm not alone on that. Take care.

Tom said...

I thought that I'd read in an earlier post that bantam had put up a message saying that the rights had reverted, what was up with that? Wouldn't that make selling it back to you problematic? Ah well, it's good to hear that they're willing to sell it back to you at all. Joyous even.

As far as Die Hard is concerned, I enjoyed the movie, but that's about it. I'd rank it right next to the third film, fun, but not really special.

Dan Moran said...

I'm not looking for donations. People keep offering, and thank you, but no.

I suspect the "rights are reverted" thing was simply a mistake by some website person over there -- I spoke to an editor over there, and they want money.

Re Die Hard ... some people argue with me about cheeseburgers, too. Can't understand why ...

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear the news about AI War. I will keep checking back on your blog while in the sandbox!

Steve Perry said...

Back in the day, forty years ago, the best burger in L.A. was at the original Tommy's. Off Alvarado, if I recall correctly. Tiny stand, huge parking lot, there'd be a line at two a.m.

You got to the counter, told them how many you wanted -- no options as to fixings -- and they handed you the thing, slopped with Greek chili, a slice of fresh tomato, and wrapped in waxed paper.

Took a lot of napkins to stay clean while you ate the thing.

They franchised the place, and I tried one a few years back. Not the same.

emefarr said...

Looking forward to seeing Die Hard 4.0 later this week and to testing your burger recommendations later this month when we're in Angel City. Was going to ask about donations to fix the "rights are reverted" issue but I see you've addressed that. If you change your mind, however...


Bryant Durrell said...

I'm the guy who dug up the old Spectra FAQ page claiming the rights were already back with Dan, and I have no trouble believing that it was an intern-level error or some such. The page hasn't been available in four or five years, so it's not like it's a conflict in current information.

Good luck with AI War.

dduck said...

I'll buy it.

Bought two paperback editions of EE, paperback editions of all the rest, plus the limited editions. Finally being able to read AI war after all these years will definitely eclipse HP & the Deathly Hallows as my most anticipated book experience ever.

Very good to hear that you are back on track wrt writing again.

Neil Angelo said...

Oh my GOD, please....
Make it that you can get AI war published.
I have been waiting for so long it feels like another life lol
Hope it works out!