Damon's terribly exciting OfficeCam

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Work and OfficeCam Related Entries

February 29, 2008

Leap

Happy Leap Day everyone!

February 11, 2008

And Finally, He Rested

The annual KVSC 50-hour marathon trivia contest is finally done, I can rest now. We took 5th, which was a bit of a disappointment, but we played the game the best we could with the resources we had.

Since Christmas, most of my free time has been devoted to getting ready for the contest for various reasons. This year saw a large jump in the IT needs of The Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, but I managed to rise to the challenge and delivered a solid performance as the IT department for our team. I can’t really elaborate here for strategic reasons as to what all the preparations involved, but the end result was, in the words of one of my team members, the lowest level of stress she’s ever encountered during the 50-hour contest. Everything performed reliably, and other than we could have used even more bandwidth than we already had provisioned, everyone local and remote was happy and had a great contest.

It feels weird sitting at home after my normal workday with little, if anything, pressing to do. ‘course, there is only 250 or so days until we start the preparations all over again. I can’t wait.

December 9, 2007

This thing still on?

I’ve been really lame. I haven’t been updating this at all. Although life has been kinda run-of-the-mill, there are plenty of things I should have written about but didn’t. So, to catch things up…

  • Ended up going to the Minnesota State Fair a total of 7 times
  • Had a wonderful day at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival
  • Enjoyed a 10-day vacation to Disney World
  • Took a weekend trip up to the North Shore
  • Celebrated the birth of my coworker’s son, Devon
  • Went to Sever’s Corn Maze
  • Spent a bunch of weekends (and weeknights) working on my sister and brother-in-law’s new tile floor (all 500 sq. ft. of it)
  • Had a wonderful, bountiful Thanksgiving
  • Started learning a new programming language that I’m falling in love with, Ruby on Rails

All that, and our first “real” snowfall happened about a week ago, so everything is all nice and white.

Otherwise, I’ve been working too much, projects are piling up, what’s new there, eh? Soon Christmas will be here, then New Year, then the KVSC 50-Hour Trivia Contest. Maybe I’ll take the time to drop an update here about those? We can all wish, can’t we?

August 23, 2007

Fairday 1: Soggy and Foggy

I escaped work around 1:30, and off to the fair I went.

Sure, I knew it was raining, but it was the first day of the fair! Not to mention, Ryan Shupe and the Rubberband was performing at the Leinie Lodge, the free stage across from the Food Building. And the Pronto Pups were calling my name. And the Bull Bites.

Continue reading "Fairday 1: Soggy and Foggy" »

Fairtime, It's Fairtime!

I’ve been to the Minnesota State Fair every year of my adult life, most of the time more than once in a single year. This year is no different - I’ve already planned 6 days of visits…starting on opening day, today. Sure, there are the days when I’ll be playing the dual role of tour guide/navigator, or Monday night when I’ll be heading down to attend the Weird Al concert, but then again there’s also my visit today, which will be completely unattached and unencumbered by schedules. Just time for me to do all the people-watchin, pronto-pup-eatin, commercial exhibit display-viewin that I cherish so much.

If you’re gonna be down there, drop me a line, maybe we can meet up and compare notes on the new foods…I sure hope the Sloppy Joe-on-a-stick is better than that gross Spaghetti-on-a-stick I was so unfortunate to have tasted a few years back.

And if you’re not planning to go…well, you’re missin’ out. Don’t take it from me, take it from Bonny Wolf, commentator for NPR, who flies in from Washington state every year to partake in the Minnesota State Fair.

August 21, 2007

iPhone Database Details

I’m a digital (as well as physical) packrat. I have all my emails going back to 1994, most of the documents I’ve created in that time (as many as allowed by my previous employers) and a whole collection of IMs. The text messaging on my phone has always been a missing bit of data - until now there’s been no good way to get it off of my phone.

As details have emerged on the iPhone’s internal data structures, I realized that there might be a chance to extract those text messages and archive them offline. Also looks like voicemails can be archived in a similar fashion. I’m almost ready to share the utility with the world, but until then I thought I’d share my iPhone database structure notes. For those geeks interested in such matters, click through to the extended entry. (Thanks to Erica Sadun for porting sqlite3 to the iPhone - made this whole thing much easier)

Continue reading "iPhone Database Details" »

August 1, 2007

I-35W Bridge Collapse

To anybody wondering, looks like everyone in the immediate circle of friends and family were safe from the bridge collapse. I almost said unaffected just now, only to realize there’s no one in the twin cities tonight that is unaffected by tonight tragedy. We’ve all driven over that bridge plenty of times, walked and biked under it many times, too. It could have been any of us.

To those that lost someone they care about tonight, my thoughts go out to you and your loved ones.

June 30, 2007

It Lives Up To The Hype

All I can say is, it really does work. The virtual keyboard. The full-page rich web browser. The pinching UI fingertip motion. The double-tapping to zoom in/out. The new iPod interface. (With built-in speakers…finally I don’t need to share my earbuds!) Mail viewing. Everything the hype said it would do, it does flawlessly.

Two let-downs so far? For some reason, if you overzoom the Google Maps application in satellite view, it responds by filling your screen with “No Images” messages. Second? Lack of mail rules, but I should have been doing those server-side this whole time anyway, so I setup procmail this morning and I’m good to go. So, in replacment of mail rules, I’d nominate the lack of wide-screen mail viewing. For fixed-width 80-column mail messages, such as system reports, the portrait mode just doesn’t cut it.

June 29, 2007

I Waited, I Saw, iPhone'd

I finally got out of work today around 3:45. The past two weeks have been 12-18 hour days, it was good to escape…especially because I had succumbed to the hype and decided to treat myself to the a new geek toy. The iPhone was to be mine.

The long story is included below. The short story is I got one, activation went flawlessly, my existing number has been ported and I love it! Indeed, I’m writing this post from my iPhone while sitting on the couch.

Continue reading "I Waited, I Saw, iPhone'd" »

May 22, 2007

Gas Stations Need Proofreaders, Too!

On the way back from lunch on Tuesday, I forced my coworkers to sit in the car while I filled up with gas, so I didn’t have to do it after work. What did I find on the pump?

In Cash of Fire, Spill or Release

So, do they need proofreaders, or do they just need someone with half a brain who cares enough to check the stickers before they are placed upon every single pump? You’d think with today’s gas prices, they’d have enough profit margin to double-check these things before putting them up for everyone to see.

May 16, 2007

Lunchtime NTN

What happened to me today?

My coworkers and I went to Joe Senser’s for lunch today. I hadn’t been there for years…the inside looks completely different than it did the last time I visited. They also seemed to have added NTN since the last time I was there. Rock on, just what I wanted over lunch, a trivia quickie!

I asked for a Playmaker, thinking I’d just play a little in the background while chitchatting with coworkers over our meal. Low and behold, the first full game I played, I ranked 21st in the entire network. Sadly, they only show the top 20 on the big screen, but I took first at our location. I was still pleased…I’ve never placed so high in the network standings before.

What happened on the next full round? I ranked 5th in the entire network. I only missed 544 points the entire round. My name (SRLOIN) was up on the big screen. I expected balloons to fall down from the rafters, noisemakers rattling, bells sounding, but all I got was the congrats from my coworkers.

May 1, 2007

The Ironman Sunburn 2007

I tried to get a picture of my sunburn, but the camera refused to take the picture. It couldn’t handle opening up its shutter, the red glow was just too bright. *smirk*

Truth be told, the sunburn on my legs was quite impressive. The horizontal position really gave them quite a bit more sun than the upright bicycle’s vertical position (who would have guessed?) and I’m paying the result even today.

Liberal applications of aloe gel didn’t help, neither did the milk treatment. Other than draping cold packs over my thighs and knees, the only real relief has been a good thick spray of Solarcaine every few hours. I try and time it when I know my shorts will be rubbing against the top of the sunburn, as the exposed section on the top of my knee on my lower thigh seems to have gotten hit the worst.

I got a bit of sun on my face as well (I sweat too much for anything to be really effective there) but the pain there has been manageable, and it seems that it is already starting to peel.

Sleepless nights, waking up every time I roll over onto a sunburned side-of-leg, and painful days, cringing every time I stand up from my desk and feel my shorts scrap the sunburn, are nothing compared with the success I feel from finishing the 62-mile Ironman Bike Ride again. It is all worthwhile.

Now, ask me when it gets all itchy and peeling…well…

April 29, 2007

The Ironman Bike Ride 2007

The weather forecast was promising. Sunny, high around 80. Compared to the last two years (2005, 2006) of the Ironman Bike Ride this year was going to be a piece of cake. I had spent many weeks preparing my new trike for the ride, sometimes to the detriment of my own training, but I felt comfortable that if I just took it easy, I could overcome the metric century (~62-mile course).

The short story is, I did it. Although the weather was much better this year, I was riding a bike that weighed twice as much as my previous ride. Here’s the overview of my ride over at MotionBased as my GPS saw it. You can read more details after the break…

Continue reading "The Ironman Bike Ride 2007" »

April 25, 2007

My Life With Polly(wog)

Life has been good since I got my Sun EZ Tadpole. ‘course, most nights have been spent working on said bike, but I have to admit I’ve been learning a lot. Spent so much time staring at the bike I had to give it a name…Pollywog would be her official name, but everyone know she’s Polly for short. Fitting for a tadpole bike, dontcha think?

Continue reading "My Life With Polly(wog)" »

March 26, 2007

A Week Trekking With Trike

A week with the new trike. I have to say, it has been a blast. Almost like learning to ride again. Different muscles, different techniques, different habits. 17 miles doesn’t seem like a lot (my total according to MotionBased), but I’ve spent more time working on the trike than riding it in this first week.

Continue reading "A Week Trekking With Trike" »

March 22, 2007

Trivia For Boobies

Our Team Photo Team Boobylicious is TwoDolla’s Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk team. This will be her third year, each year I’ve supported her with monetary donations and buying cookies from their Christmas cookie fundraiser (better than Girl Scout cookies!).

This year they picked up on a fashionable trend and decided to hold a Bar Trivia fundraiser. I sent out emails, pulled together a team and we made the trip down to Hubert’s Bar and Grill. My sister, brother-in-law, his parents (visiting from Austrailia) and Kelly combined to create the team, “No, You’re a Boob”. First place was 49 points, we managed to pull in 44, not quite sure where that put us. Still, it was a blast, and evidently only the first “Trivia for Boobies” night…it was such a success, on May 1st Team Boobylicious will have a Bar Trivia night at the most appropriate place in town… Hooters. Be there, or be square!

March 19, 2007

My (New To Me) Recumbent Trike

I made the trek down to Madison (275 miles each way) on Saturday to pick up my trike. This brings a journey to an end. For my 30th birthday (last June), my parents gave me a large sum of money to buy a new bike. I put it in savings, contemplating my options.

I thought about getting an upgraded upright road bike, ‘cept it appeared that with my weight most of the “upgraded” bikes weren’t suitable. Next, I entertained going to a 2-wheel recumbent. No matter what equipment I used, riding my upright was a big pain in the butt, both literally and figuratively. 300 pounds pressing down onto a tiny little seat…you don’t need an engineering degree to figure out how poorly that works out. Recumbents provide a full, comfortable seat, complete with back support and a big padded seat. The 2-wheel models vary in size and shape, but they all provide a much more aerodynamic riding position with a much more comfortable seat. More than likely, I’ll still end up getting a 2-wheel recumbent here in the near future, but I took a test ride on a trike a few weeks ago and immediately fell in love. The only way I can describe the ride…it doesn’t feel like a bike at all. Instead, the ride is much more similar to a go-kart, albeit human-powered. You corner like you’re on rails, no leaning over, simply steer and you turn. Add to a go-kart independent braking for each side as well, adding another method of controlling a turn.

Continue reading "My (New To Me) Recumbent Trike" »

March 15, 2007

Reasons I'm Looking Forward to the Weekend

March 14, 2007

When 7th Place Rocks

Considering all the other distractions as of late, I was originally going to take tonight off of pub trivia down at Leaning Tower of Pizza. My sis and bro-in-law are busy getting ready for his parents’ visit, I’ve got a bunch of work I could be doing and need to plan my trip down to pick up my new bike this weekend. However, when Kate told me that Dean already was down there, had saved us a table, I decided I should push myself to go out.

Yeah, we placed 7th this week, a very poooooor showing. (If you were a big American Gladiators fan, you would have received 8 big points in the picture round by identifying your favorite gladiators by their mug shots…I managed to score two of the names, but we assigned them to the wrong players) The fun? Our favorite trivia reader sat down and played the game with us this evening. What a blast having him on our side for once! Usually we just heckle him (our team name is always a play on his name) and give him grief…tonight we could just relax and socialize a little between questions.

Even more fun? After the game, we ended up closing the place, talking for hours and hours. Everything from how electricians can diagnose problems using such clues as the way electricity smells to stories upon stories about what acid trips are like and how ‘shrooms can be prepared and used most effectively. Also in the preparation category, feel free to use an empty toilet paper roll to cook your egg rolls in the microwave. And, most importantly, just how humorous people can be when engaged in any of the previously listed activities. I actually got a side ache from laughing so hard. (Evidently, I could likely look forward to the same side-ache effect if I were ever to partake in ‘shrooms, from what I’ve gathered tonight)

March 12, 2007

First Ride of 2007

According to my MotionBased account history, I haven’t gone for a ride on my bike since August 8th, 2006. I got caught up in moving to the new pad, and before I knew it winter was upon us and the bike was put away. Work and a number of other things got in the way, too, but knowing how much I miss it I’ve determined that I’m going to try and get back into decent condition so I can attempt again the 62-mile, if not the 100-mile Ironman Bike Ride this year. I’ve got my work cut out for me, tho, based on my quick ride today. Today, about the same time as last year, I begin my path to Ironman…albeit with more of a whimper than a bang, as I just rode to/from work, but it was a start!

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March 6, 2007

Cosmic Blobs

Apple Store Kids Station Whenever I find myself visiting my local Apple Store, I just can’t resist those wonderful kids stations. (Assuming there are no kids there…I’m not gonna chase them away, but if a station is free, why not play?)

Most of the time when I sit down at one of those stations there is already some game already loaded up. A few months ago I was lucky enough to stumble across Cosmic Blobs. Imagine virtual Play-Doh, ‘cept you’ve got an unlimited supply of every color imaginable, it doesn’t bleed together if you don’t want it to and your hands never get that weird Play-Doh smell.

I broke down this weekend and picked up a copy. After I finished work late tonight, I wanted to relax a little, finally got around to playing around with it…already I’ve created a cool spaceship, matching moon and used the animation functions within the program to make my own movie! All in under an hour. Neat-o!

Click on the images below for closeups and the movie

February 28, 2007

Cyborg Grandpa

My Grandpa had surgery today to install a defibrillator.

Prior to surgery, he shared with me a pamphlet that explained the procedure, what to expect, etc. We shared with each other our amazement of modern medical science, how they had created a device like this that could be implanted and hardly noticed. After the procedure, the pamphlet explained there would be an overnight stay, that he would be sore and tired after the procedure.

I head over to the hospital after work today, walk into the “Care Center” section (post-op recovery) expecting to find my Grandpa laying in his hospital bed. Instead, I find my Grandpa sitting up on the edge of the bed, chowin’ down on some great-smelling food, alive, awake, alert, discussing politics with my Sister and Brother-in-law. Four hours after surgery, he’s bouncing around as tho he was ready to go on one of his daily 2-mile walks around the mall.

He’s not only alive upstairs, as I’ve mentioned before, again and again, but his awake, alive mind evidently leads to a very healthy body as well. Or maybe it is the other way around. (He does walk 2 miles everyday) Either way, having my Grandpa around is a great inspiration to live life.

February 27, 2007

Expert Testimony of My Ninjahood

As I’ve mentioned before, I have mad ninja skills. Besides my mad ninja programming skills, I also am a master of disguise; an expert at keeping a calm, yet alert mind; and I make a mean lasagna. (You had no idea lasagna was so core to the ninja lifestyle, did you?)

I can now add one more highlight of my ninja skills. My ophthalmologist informed me this morning that I sleep with my eyes open. Now, what types of people are referred to as “sleeping with their eyes open?” Trained assassins, that’s who! We’re not talking some optometrist, or an optician, we’re talking a full-fledged board-certified 12-years-of-post-secondary-schooling ophthalmologist. This guy is an expert…and when dealing with experts, you should listen to what they have to say!

February 26, 2007

A Little Change of Color

Old Website Screenshot I’ve had the orange and blue design for a few years now (According to this old post, I rolled it out on October 7th, 2004) and I had been meaning to make a change for a while now. I had looked everywhere for inspiration, but eventually found most of what I wanted on The Style Archive in Newsline.

The Newsline style needed some polishing to fit my site, but eventually I’ve massaged it into shape as what you see here. The main thing that I’ve always looked for when contemplating redesign options is a variable-width layout. There are simply too many different resolutions people view the web at nowadays, having a static-width layout could leave a large amount of a user’s web browser window unused…or even worse, on a small screen you may end up having to scroll back and forth just to read the entire thing! The second thing major thing that drew me in to the Newsline style is that it didn’t rely heavily on graphics to get things done - it was a neat, polished style with few graphic embellishments. The fewer the graphics, the easier it is to mod a style in my opinion.

There is still some work to do on the site, I’m thinking I need to bring back a menu again for easy access to OfficeCam and the other major areas of the site, but for now I’ve created a “Features” heading on the sidebar. Also need to reformat said OfficeCam page for the new CSS stylesheet, as well as many of the other static pages. For now, tho, most of the main site is rendering just fine.

February 22, 2007

Name The Man Who Said "Snagglepuss" On KARE-11 News

Damon On KARE-11 News As I mentioned in my post about The 2007 KVSC Trivia Contest, KARE-11 News sent Boyd Huppert to do a sweeps feature for his Land of 10000 Stories news segment. Tonight the story finally aired.

Looks like they did a great job of giving everyone on the team a bit of face time. I’m featured more than once, from various angles. (And from the editing, it looks like I’m in both rooms at once. How’s that for magic? When they show the first half of the basement, I’m in front, long white t-shirt, back to the camera…when they show the second half of the room, I’m sitting on the couch in a striped polo shirt) You can see my sister and Davin in numerous shots as well, and Kelly (who only joined us for 2 hours of play) is even in the clip calling in the “101 Dalmations” guess. My biking partner Kate, who is the one responsible for hooking me up with the team, is in there sticking out her tongue and calling in the answer “Paco de Lucía”. Tim, the captain of the team, who was there when I met Kate on the Tour of Saints is the guy in the black t-shirt shouting out, “OK, we got number 1”. Dean, who Kate and I often play trivia with down at Leaning Tower of Pizza, is featured leaning in to listen to the radio during the Big Question, which is fitting considering his specialty is music.

All in all, I’m amazed at how well the piece came together. You can view the piece here on KARE-11’s website, or contact me if you’d like to see it in higher-quality, as I’ve got a number of clips of it saved off of the Tivo.

My Bag o' Crap

Picture of Bag/Box O' Crap As I mentioned before, I was awaiting with much anticipation for my Woot Bag O’ Crap. I received my Bag, er, Box o’ Crap about a week ago, I opened it upon my return from my trivia break. Just today I finally got around to taking a snapshot of it all.

As you can see, for my $3 + $5/S+H I was given the following items:

  • Virgin Pulse 2.4 Ghz Cordless Phone w/Caller ID (Model VP-12)
  • Samsonite Ultra Protective Camera/Camcorder Bag (Model AS1.5)
  • 3 Cross MicroPens
  • RCA Chipper Keychain Doll

I don’t have a landline, so the phone will be either eBay’d or given to someone I know who can use it. The camera bag I may keep for myself, it looks like just the right size to carry my cell, GPS and camera all in one neat little belt-attachable bag. I know plenty of people with PDAs, so they’ll get the MicroPens, and the keychain doll will make a great stocking stuffer. All in all, not too shabby for $8.

You Got A Better Answer?

I got an email today from Accounting Nicole, forwarded from her husband, that made me laugh out loud with delight.

I actually have considered answering this before during a particular difficult geometry test, which makes this one especially funny.

More below the fold…

Continue reading "You Got A Better Answer?" »

February 21, 2007

All Hail Totino's Party Pizzas

I went to my local friendly neighborhood grocery store to pick up dinner tonight. One of the joys (and pains) a single diner has is what to eat. I wanted a night of relaxation, so I decided I’d go to my old standby, a Totino’s Party Pizza. Easy to pop in the oven and enjoy minutes later.

Picture of Totino's Party Pizza Box What to my surprise do I find splashed upon the front of the Totino’s Party Pizza box? A big, bold announcement that I was eating “America’s Best Selling Frozen Pizza”!

Evidently, I couldn’t have made a better choice if I wanted to feel a sense of community tonight while I sat like a hermit in my humble abode walking my way through my Tivo’s Now Playing list.

February 16, 2007

Quotations Provided by Area Mall

I’ve read Desiderata before, but this quote displayed at the mall tonight particularly caught my attention:

You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

February 15, 2007

Life Continues...

Now that all the work associated with this year’s KVSC Trivia Contest is behind me, it has been a busy week getting back into life. Trivia takes quite a toll, weeks of preparation, multiple trips up to Saint Cloud, weekends consumed with setup, nights consumed with computer imaging/building. That’s all over now…

‘course, coming back to work on Tuesday, I spent the first day and a half just getting caught up with everything that happened while I was gone. (I was gone for 2.5 days, keep in mind, but at the speed we’re moving chasing new business that was like 2.5 weeks) Carbon Leaf concert on Tuesday night, which rocked as always, then all the excitement over Valentine’s Day on Wednesday. Tonight I worked late, finishing up a project, then came home and finished my self-review around 11pm. (It was due at midnight)

This weekend? Sister’s birthday celebrations, need to go test ride the two options for my new recumbent bike, some much needed laundry and rest, I think. The chances that each of those will really happen? 100% on the first, 60% on the second, 50% on the third, 10% on the fourth.

Aren’t we Minnesotans supposed to stay inside, huddled around the TV during the winter months, only to emerge once the world thaws out? How can I be so busy!?!?

February 12, 2007

KVSC Trivia 2007: Around the World in 50 Hours

Every year, KVSC, the student radio station of Saint Cloud State University in Saint Cloud, MN, puts on a 50-hour trivia contest. Last year I participated in the contest for the first time, had a blast, so this year I was even more excited.

The short story is that we took 3rd place (out of 80), down a bit from our first place showing last year. We fell behind early in the contest and never managed to catch back up to first.

You don’t just want the short story, tho, do you…

Continue reading "KVSC Trivia 2007: Around the World in 50 Hours" »

February 5, 2007

120 Minutes Love

Relive your adolescence.

Collected Playlists from MTV’s 120 Minutes

February 4, 2007

Why I *Heart* The Electric Fetus

Serving the Minneapolis music hunter since 1968, The Electric Fetus has been my preferred location to pick up CDs since I was 18, working downtown and just discovering the joys of music. I’ve prbly purchased 60 CDs over the years from that great store…I continue to do so, to this day, even tho it often means I’m making a special trip downtown just to CD shop.

As I was ripping my newest purchases for iPod transfer this evening, I thought I’d take this moment to outline the reasons for my love of this fine establishment:

  • Selection, selection, selection. The Electric Fetus has everything you’d ever need or want: CDs from all genres, local groups, rarities, imports, concert tickets and gifts.
  • 10% Off each regularly-priced CD when you purchase 3 or more.
  • Not only does the store smell of incense, but your CD does when you get it home, too!

February 3, 2007

January Woot-Off

I’ve been the occasional Woot watcher for about a year and a half now. One of my habits is to bring up the site on my way to bed (the product of the day launches conveniently at Midnight CT, my favorite time zone) and see if I find it interesting. I’ve picked up a few items in the past, but the majority of things would just find their way into a junk drawer, and I’m just plain out of junk drawers. However, once in a blue moon Woot delivers.

Woot-offs are especially exciting, not only for the smorgasbord of products, but for a chance at the coveted Bag O’ Crap.

Not only did I pick up a few choice items during the Woot-Off this month, such as the LeakFrog and the Pig, but I managed to score my first-ever “Bag O’ Crap”. I’ve gotten through the ordering steps before, but have always been thwarted in the end, being told there were no more craps to go around.

This time, tho, I managed to receive my order confirmation, confirming crap was on its way. Accolades from my coworkers (who have, themselves, attempted to grab a “Bag O’ Crap” before but have been thwarted many times) followed.

Now we all wait and see what the Woot gods will deliver.

January 30, 2007

Belated Holiday YouTube Action

Why didn’t I see this before Christmas?!?! Oh well, direct from the YouTube mothership…

“Charlie Brown Christmas - Performed by the Cast of Scrubs”

January 28, 2007

Minnesota RollerGirls 2007 Season: Bout 1

Last night at The Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium we got our first taste of the new “local” Minnesota RollerGirls season. (The first half of the season were “traveling” games, where we pit our best players against teams from other cities.) The Garda Belts, my favorite “local” team, put up a good fight, but they lost to the Atomic Bombshells.

Continue reading "Minnesota RollerGirls 2007 Season: Bout 1" »

January 25, 2007

The Department of DUH!

I realize now, looking back, that I forgot to mention back in November that I finally bought my iMac. A beautiful 20” iMac. I had survived on hand-me-downs from work for my home computer for quite some time now, years in fact. I finally realized that between my iTunes, video and photo libraries I was in need of a home media management workstation.

Tonight I finally completed the final transition, moving my PC’s iTunes Library over to the Mac. I had moved over my photos and video files earlier, figured out how to get my PasswordSafe and OpenSSH keys moved over. NeoOffice installed for any necessary MS Office work, Safari setup the way I wanted. Adium configured for all my IM accounts. BootCamp installed so I can switch back to Windows if need be, such as to load maps on my Garmin GPS.

However, I had been putting off cutting over iTunes. Not only was I not looking forward to the >100GB file copy, but I’m very sensitive about losing any of the metadata iTunes had collected since I started using it on November 2nd, 2003. I had attempted to move over my iTunes library file once right after getting my iMac and lost all of my “Date Added” information, valuable when you’ve got Smart Playlists setup to use that field for filtering/collection purposes.

As it was, I found out I had been overcomplicating the whole thing. I had read a procedure online for moving iTunes libraries from PC to Mac that involved copying the “iTunes Library.XML” file from the PC to the Mac, zero-ing out the binary “iTunes Library” file on the Mac and then letting iTunes rebuild the binary file from the XML file.

Come to find out, that’s not necessary in the slightest. Simply copy the iTunes folder from the PC’s My Music folder into the Mac’s Music folder. iTunes will try to fix the file locations to match their Mac equivalents, but if all else fails it looks for the file in the /Music/iTunes/iTunes Music folder on the Mac. Simply move your PC’s iTunes library into their and viola!, you’re good to go.

So, yeah, lesson? Don’t overcomplicate things. Someone’s already thought about your problem.

First song played on the iMac? “Awoo” by The Hidden Cameras.

January 18, 2007

If I Had A Million Dollars...

Well, I’d buy you a green dress (but not a real green dress, that’s cruel!)

I wouldn’t buy you this book, Hedge Funds For Dummies. I have to reiterate what Michael Gartenberg said so eloquently, “If you really are in the target market for this book, perhaps the hedge fund is not the best way for you to invest.”

January 17, 2007

Things I Wish I Could Invent

(I’m open to others doing the inventing/creating…but then let me buy it!)

  • An inkjet cartridge replacement that printed chocolate instead of ink. Can you imagine printing a message to your sweetie in chocolate? It also could be used as an anti-spy device… if you fall into enemy hands, just shove the document into your pocket. Muahahaha!
  • A chair that would measure your foot-to-knee length and thigh length as you approached it and then adjust its own depth/height to match your measurements exactly for a perfect fit. I could also use this option on a couch. Nothing is worse than sitting in a chair that doesn’t come close to supporting your legs, or forces you to stick your legs out at 45 degree angles just so that your thighs are supported and your feet are resting on the ground.
  • I want an option on my programmable thermostat that allows me to “override” the program one-time if I know I’m going to be going out for the evening, or if I’ll be coming home early. My schedule varies quite a bit every week, some nights I’m out late, some nights I’m in early. Regardless, usually when I leave in the morning I know when I’m going to return. Allow me to tell the thermostat, “Override your default programming for this evening, I won’t be coming home until 11pm, don’t bother heating up the house until then.”

January 15, 2007

I Need a Muse Like Suzanne Verdal

How did I get through life this far without encountering “Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen before now?

Thankfully the DJs at 89.3 The Current got my back. This is one amazing poem/song. The only words that come to mind… “Haunting Love”

…You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy
But that’s why you want to be there…

No Blanket Immunity...

You know those studies that claim that the more optimistic you are, the less likely you are to get sick? Well, I’m often held up as the poster boy around work. I’m hardly ever sick…and when I do get sick, my body usually forces me to bed early and the next morning I’m up and ready to go.

Evidently, I must have been really pessimistic sometime in the past week, or this must be one helluva bug. In either event, I felt the throat tickling on Friday night, by 3pm on Saturday I’m fully loaded on Nyquil (the real Pseudoephedrine kind, not the wimpy Phenylephrine formula) and popping Luden’s like they are going out of style. Nose blowing commenced shortly thereafter, then the deep cough and then the inevitable runny nose. Sunday night I’m beginning to feel better, but after a night filled with more awake time than sleepytime, I gave into the cold’s power and called into work sick today.

Having nothing better to do, my mind came to a few revelations today…

Continue reading "No Blanket Immunity..." »

January 4, 2007

Bye Bye Beetle, Hello Honda

I had been looking quite a bit over the past few months at different vehicle options. My current ride, the 2000 Blue VW Turbo Beetle, had treated me well but was definitely aging around the edges. I will forgo the laundry list out of respect for its years of service - suffice to say it had 130,000 miles on it and was beginning to show it.

What would replace it? I had been looking at such disparate choices as the Honda Element, Pontiac Solstice, Scion xB, Pontiac G6, Nissan Maxima and Chevrolet SSR. I wanted something under 30k, with a good selection of comfort features, flexibility for hauling people and equipment (bikes) and wouldn’t sacrifice too much in terms of economy from my current Beetle.

Continue reading "Bye Bye Beetle, Hello Honda" »

January 3, 2007

Overlooked Songs of 2006

Like the Overlooked Songs of 2005 list I put together last year, I thought it appropriate to once again highlight a number of tracks that didn’t get up in the playcount for one reason or another, and as such didn’t make it on the main Songs of 2006 list. Maybe they got added to my library really late in the year. Maybe I fell in love with the album instead of the tracks, resulting in much lower playcounts for all involved.

Whatever the reason, there are a number of songs that should have been highlighted for the year that didn’t, so I will list ‘em here. Not all of these songs were released this year… in fact, more than a few of them are songs that I rediscovered or finally picked up the long-put-off CD. They were all, however, added to my iTunes library in 2006.

Continue reading "Overlooked Songs of 2006" »

December 31, 2006

Songs of 2006

As I’ve done at the end of both 2004 and 2005, I present my list of my most frequently listened to songs across 2006. As always, since I use my central iTunes library to keep track of my statistics, the playcount of a song is only increased if I listen to it in its entirety.

For the second year in a row, “The Boxer” by Carbon Leaf is the top played in my library, at 36 recorded plays over the past year. “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service slipped to 2nd place for all-time plays, falling one play short of “Life Less Ordinary” by Carbon Leaf at 134 plays, the new leader.

iTunes Library Growth Over Time:

YearTotal TracksTotal PlaysTracks Played >0
2004650578612084
20059484178104703
200610524254645317

This year’s stats (and my listening habits) might have suffered from a few more repeats than previous years since I put playlists on my iPod representing the Songs of 2005 and Overlooked Songs of 2005. These were often my “goto” playlists when I wanted to listen to something familiar and comfortable. This meant I was shuffling my entire library less frequently, meaning playcounts were concentrated on previous top placers. Also, podcasts really came around this year, so a good deal of my time was spent listening to non-music.

Continue reading "Songs of 2006" »

December 21, 2006

A White Christmas After All?

Picture of snowclump from today

It started off with rain this morning…then sleeting a bit after that…then shortly after our potluck lunch, all of a sudden, we got these ginormous snowflakes coming down here at work. (Yes, Virginia, that’s an actual single fallen snowflake!) An hour later, professional productivity had dropped to zero. The parking lot was filled with the circular tracks of donut-doers and snowballs surrounded the vehicles that were used for target practice.

Looks like we might have a white Christmas after all, if it doesn’t all melt. I’m so excited!

Preview of the falling snow movie

November 30, 2006

Working Way Too Much

‘nuff said.

One of these days, I’ll find the magic balance. There always seems to be a reason why I need to work just a bit later, just a bit harder, carry just that little bit more of a load.

I need to find something else to believe in…

November 23, 2006

Christmas List 2006

I hope Santa sees this list in his RSS aggregator…

  • Subscriptions
    • Dell Math and Logic Puzzles
    • Scientific American (Renewal)
    • Science Museum of MN Membership (Dual)
  • Lego Mindstorms NXT
  • TurboNet card for my Original Tivo
  • KNG America FUNKit
  • Slipstreamz Cycling Earphone Covers
  • Heavy-Duty Electric Wok
  • Weber Performer Charcoal Grill
  • Gift Certificate/Directed Money towards Bedroom Set or new Couch
  • Nintendo Wii or Playstation 2
  • Electric shaver
    • I have had a rechargeable Panasonic wet/dry razor for a while, had good results, but would like a newer model, better battery, prefer the wet/dry use.
  • Recumbant Exercise Bike or Elliptical
  • Bluetooth headset for biking with my iPod
    • Mono, covering one ear only, a2dp protocol support

Also, you may find some additional items on my wish lists at Amazon and ThinkGeek

August 31, 2006

Apple IIgs: Geek Nostalgia

The long version of the back-story will have to wait…but the big news will not. My childhood Apple IIgs and are back together, at last!

Continue reading "Apple IIgs: Geek Nostalgia" »

August 29, 2006

Why I'll Never Be Backwards

The fact that my name, backwards, spells “Nomad” has always fascinated me. At times, I’ve taken it to mean that I’m destined to stay in one place. This past month has only reinforced that idea.

I’m not meant to be nomadic. Damonic, maybe, but never nomadic. I’ve simply have too much stuff to fit on the camel and/or horse. I filled up a 16’ moving truck once, four round trips with a full Twinkie, 3 round trips with a full minivan. That’s easily the equivalent of a 24’ moving van, I’m sure. Sure, maybe the Trojan horse would fit all my stuff, but that’s the only horse that would do!

Everything is finally done, tho. Keys are handed over to the old apartment manager. My final walk-thru is completed. My multitudes of things are in my new place, either packed in the garage awaiting the decision as to their final destination (trash/storage/give-away/placement inside the new pad) or have already met their fate.

Some words of wisdom:

  • Don’t buy a king-size bed until you’re done moving for a while. We would have been hoisting it through the upstairs window ‘cept the two-story living room made the process a tiny bit easier.
  • When moving said king-size bed, find yourself an old queen-size sheet (or, I suppose, a worn-out king size) and wrap up the king-size mattress with it like a diaper. Not only do you get a handle on each side, but you can slide it down hallways with no worries about damaging the mattress itself.
  • When you make your list of “must-have” things to sleep the night at the new place, shower in the morning and get dressed to go to work, remember the shower curtain.
  • Rubbermaid utility carts you borrow from work make great sofa moving aids.
  • CDs are heavier than they look - don’t fill up a complete box and expect it to stay in one piece.

Overall, the move went great. I’m glad it is done, for sure. Now the real fun begins…can I get my second garage stall emptied of boxes before first snow…?

August 7, 2006

Attention All Stalkers

After noon on August 31st (and quite possibly sooner) I will be changing my place of residence. Trust me, the new location will be much more stalker friendly. No more climbing up trees, employing periscopes from ground level, repelling your way down the side of the apartment building or using your feminine charms to get past my security guards. Now you’ll be able to simply drive-by. What could be easier?

August 2, 2006

Ah, Blue And Orange Again...

When I upgraded/changed servers a few months ago, I had the best intentions. I replaced my old, comfortable, reliable stylesheets with new stylesheets and templates that promised all kinds of wonderful new features. I thought I’d make time to nuture that new style into something wonderful.

Turns out, I didn’t need those new features, and I didn’t make the time. So, for now, I will return you to the relative comfort of my old style. Love it.

June 23, 2006

30

Sometime in the next few hours, my belly button will turn 30.

I’ve enjoyed the ride so far…thank you to everyone that has shared it with me over the 30 years.

April 30, 2006

The Ironman Bike Ride 2006

(This is a seriously post-dated entry. Deal with it.)

After a great bike-riding start, the weather turned into a horrible mess. Rainy, cold…snowy even! I persevered, but while I don’t mind riding in rain, or riding in the cold, I refuse to put up with both! I managed to get one decent training ride in last week, but even that ride was interrupted when I stopped by the bike shop for what I thought would be a simple derailleur adjustment that turned into a full rear wheel and axle replacement. For the last week leading up to the 2006 Ironman Bike Ride I didn’t get to ride once, indoors or out.

For those that want to skip to the end of the story, I managed to finish the 62-mile ride in the face of a day of rain, cold and wind. Here’s the summary and a link to the MotionBased activity I recorded with my GPS. If you want all the details, read after the break…

Continue reading "The Ironman Bike Ride 2006" »

March 11, 2006

31 Miles In 3 Days

I took off early from work on Thursday to go biking, rode to/from work on Friday (4 miles each way) and went out for a ride this morning. I left off 2005 with 1737 miles on the ol’ bike odometer…after these past 3 days, it now reads 1768 miles. Sure, it is messier on the roads this time of year, least compared to when I started the 2005 biking season, April 14th. However, I’ve got a goal in mind (doing the 62-mile Ironman) and a little more than a month to prepare for it, so I don’t care. Time to bike!

For Christmas this year, my parents gave me the gift of a Garmin eTrex Vista C, along with a bike mount. I wanted to bring a bit more of an analytical slant to my biking and a GPS seemed like a great tool. In my search for analytical software, I came across the hosted service, MotionBased. MotionBased offers you an opportunity of uploading your tracklogs and then it performs all kinds of analysis against it and offers you the results right through your web browser.

I’ve been waiting every since Christmas to try this setup out, so on Friday morning I mounted the GPS to my bike and used it to track my commutes to/from work. Both times, I completely misunderstood the GPS setup directions and recorded absolutely nothing of any use.

Finally, during my ride today, I finally got the hang of it and got a great tracklog of my recorded route. I uploaded it to MotionBased; you can see the overview they put together below. If you click through to the website, they offer all kinds of great ways to look at the data, from comparing your elevation/speed, comparing it against the weather, to a SVG-enabled method of watching your progress visually, like a movie.

March 9, 2006

First Ride 2006

It’s been a busy few weeks, to say the least. Sure, last weekend I did a bunch of chores and found some good time to relax, but first thing Monday morning I was thrust back, neck-deep, into my professional life.

I didn’t get to leave for lunch until nearly 1pm today…only to find out it was a great day outside. High of 50 or so, the slightest breeze, sunny sky as far as the eye could see. Got back to work around 2pm…by 3pm, I realized that my heart just wasn’t into working anymore. I couldn’t concentrate; everything seemed to be blending into one gigantic task.

What’s a guy to do? I packed up my laptop, grabbed the nearest blank sheet of paper, wrote “Gone Biking”, propped it up on my desk and took off. Got a good feel for the temperature on the way home, threw on some warmer biking clothes, inflated the tires and headed out.

Before I knew it, I was down the big hill on East Bush Lake and proceeded along my “normal” route, around Lake Normandale, down Normandale Blvd, across on Old Shakopee. I was thwarted on my attempt to take the trails in Hyland Park Reserve, so I turned back out to the street, over to Bush Lake Road, then back up East Bush Lake Road to the apartment. 10.5 miles in almost exactly an hour’s time. Sure, not the speediest run, but that wasn’t the point - it was just to get out there and see what I still had left in me (and my legs) after a winter kept me indoors.

I’m thinking the 62-mile Ironman ride is within my grasp this year, which would be a great start to the season. 55 days to get myself there…even with all the spring weather, I’m sure I can do it. Last year I did 30 on the ride, and I started more than a month later.

March 6, 2006

We Bicyclists Do Our Spring Cleaning Early

A wonderfully productive weekend.

  • Did a bunch of reading
  • Brought order to vast portions of my apartment
    • (still have the kitchen and bathroom to clean/organize, but these are traditionally the two rooms that get cleaned the most frequently, so I doubt they will remain messy for long)
  • Went down to the Bike Expo
    • (Registered for the Ironman at a discount, met the representative from the Tour of Saints who commented on my blog here, got some information about “sprint triathalons” from a representative of the Twin Cities Triathalon Club and saw a crazy six-person bike!)
  • Still found time to put together a bunch of new playlists on the iPod and listen, listen, listen!

Just what I needed, for sure. Felt so good to wake up and not worry about parrying around items littering the floor in order to make it to the bathroom! Now I just have to get training…less than 8 weeks until the Ironman ride…and this year I’m going for 62 miles _(over last year’s 30 miles).

March 3, 2006

My Fortune (Cookie)

Somewhat fitting, as I was sitting at work tonight (late, but not nearly as 5am late as Tuesday night/Wednesday morning) helping a customer out with some data migration work.

“You have an unusual understanding of the problems of others.”

‘course, I’d like to think it is just as applicable in my personal dealings as my professional life. I wonder what they mean by “unusual”, tho…hrm.

February 28, 2006

Another Busy February?

It is funny. Last year I had this great February project planned, but wasn’t able to carry it out because, for the most part, I was way too busy.

This year I was even busier than last year, strange as that might be. I wonder what it is about February…it doesn’t seem like it would be a busy month, especially here in Minnesota, considering it is the dead of winter.

The month started out with a mad rush and many, many trips up to Saint Cloud for the annual KVSC 50-hour Trivia Contest. Then it was off to Las Vegas for a much-needed vacation. Back home, back to work, busy busy busy, culminating in a action-packed February 28th.

I Thought I Could Relax Once I Made It Back Safely To Work!

(Continue reading about the trip)

The true sign of managing your job at work, at least to me, is that when I’m gone on vacation I don’t come back to piles of work that built-up while I was on vacation. Otherwise, vacation time is really just “delay time”. I was generally pleased, other than a few projects/tasks I knew were going to be waiting for me once I got back, I wasn’t deluged. Of course, that didn’t mean that the first week back would be a cakewalk. Nope, of course, a huge proposal needs to be sent off by the end of the week, tying up a huge portion of my days (and some nights).

Things haven’t really slowed down since then, underscored by the fact that on the night of February 28th, as if it was February’s way of giving me a send-off, I end up going out after work for an absolutely wonderful dinner, only to be called back to work at 10pm. Working until 4:30am the next morning, and having to be back into the office by 9am, it certainly was a long final day of the month. Made me wish I could create a leap-year-on-demand!

February 19, 2006

Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Miss Your Flight

(Continue reading about the trivia weekend)

6 hours after I arrive home with the first carload from the Trivia weekend teardown, I awaken; to find out I had overslept. (Gosh, what are the odds of that, operating on 7 hours of sleep over the weekend!?) I rush to unload the front seat up to my apartment, drop off all 10 monitors at work and then head back up to Saint Cloud to collect everything else. When I pull in, everyone knew I was in a hurry to make the flight, so they all chipped in, helped load me up and within 15 minutes, I was leaving the PigPen again with a full car. I drop off a bunch of stuff at Kelly’s house, pick up her and her bags, then sprint back down to the cities. A quick repacking once I arrived home (less than 10 minutes) and my coworker, Theresa, picks us up and delivers us to the airport with almost exactly an hour to check-in, check our bags, pass security and rush down to the gate. Of course, one of our bags is overweight, so we had to move stuff around, only delaying our progress.

Continue reading "Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Miss Your Flight" »

February 12, 2006

Opening Question 1, for 14095 Points!

Every year the Saint Cloud State Student Radio Station, KVSC, organizes a 50-hour long trivia contest. I had wanted to play for the past 4-5 years…only I’d realize this when I heard the winners announced every year. This year, I got to join the team “Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women” since Kate, my biking buddy, has been a member of the team for years. They run an amazing organization, have a great playbook (which I’ve been sworn to secrecy not to reveal!) with all kinds of great strategies proved over their many, many years of playing the trivia game. I had been looking forward to the contest for over 8 months since I first met Kate and found out she played…

Continue reading "Opening Question 1, for 14095 Points!" »

January 26, 2006

Mine, All Mine!

Remember when I was crowin’ about my Beetle passing 100000 miles? Well, another Beetle milestone was passed today…the last payment on the loan for the Beetle cleared my account. It is now 100% mine! Yay!

Continue reading "Mine, All Mine!" »

January 18, 2006

Link Love

Some web entities that I wanna send some link love to:

  • TikiBar TV: TikiBar TV deserves to be on your podcast subscription list. Even if you don’t know or care about podcasting, visit this site often to watch their hilarious videos. I can’t get enough of ‘em. Amazingly high production values for a podcast…only a matter of time until they get picked up by some enterprising broadcast/cable network.
  • Nyssa J Brown: Nyssa did me a great favor a few days ago, even tho she had never known of me prior to me asking her for the favor and being half a world away. Until her website comes back online, go give her some love on her deviantART site.
  • Dictionaraoke.org: Imagine midi files, mixed with vocals provided by online dictionary pronounciation samples. This is hilarious! I can’t stop listening…like a car crash, you gotta look!
  • Team Boobylicious: Wendy and her 3-Day Breast Cancer walk are at it again…this time, homemade chocolate truffles, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Even if you don’t like chocolate, you can always directly donate to her cause here… Go support boobies again!
  • Jean’s ‘Walk To Cure Diabetes’ Effort: My good friend, Jean, is walking this weekend for an 8 year-old boy with type 1 diabetes. No team action here - she’s doin’ it all on her own.

Brain: Full

**Warning: This self-reflective diary-type post is intentionally vague. Those that know why know why, those that don’t know but care can feel free to ask.

The past few weeks here have been filled with all kinds of wonder. Coming off a very enjoyable holiday season, events transpired to complicate life in a big way. Not entirely unexpected, but definitely unexpected in their magnitude and scope. I’m excited about it, tho, and I think the changes that have been set in motion will be a good thing, especially in the long run.

My brain has been working overtime for the past few weeks, tho, thus the “Full” indicator above. Lots of things to process…my dreams have been absolutely cray-ZEE! Popular wisdom says that we don’t use almost 90% of our minds…I’m sure I’ve been using more than 10% for the past few months now, but in the past few weeks I feel like my brain’s landscape has been in the middle of transformation similar to that occurring in today’s downtown Beijing. Construction everywhere, old buildings being demolished, new, tall skyscrapers being erected with all their steel scaffolding. Buildings empty for now, structures waiting to be filled. An air of opportunity envelops the downtown of my mind. I can’t wait for the new ideas to move in, fill up all those structures and take up shop.

I haven’t felt like this in years…I’ve missed it. I’m not content with static life…give me change, opportunity and experience.

January 5, 2006

Overlooked Songs of 2005

I’ve been reflecting on the Songs of 2005 list I put together based on the automated iTunes libary data. The thing is, while using the new year as a measuring point is useful, it completely overlooks a number of great songs I listened to over time. Sometimes, I only obtained the song near the end of the year, so whle it was on heavy rotation it didn’t have a chance to build up a high enough play count to appear on the list. Other songs get penalized because they are a non-workout song released during the summer months, when I’m mostly listening to upbeat groovy music.

Regardless of the reason, I put together another playlist this year called “Overlooked Songs of 2005”. There’s a number of great tracks in this list…and very little fat, as this play list was hand-selected by a team of specially trained monkeys. (OK, so there was only one monkey, me, and I have very little training in this regard!)

Enjoy!

Continue reading "Overlooked Songs of 2005" »

December 31, 2005

Songs of 2005

One of the best things about the music setup I have, with my iPod, the Tivo/AudioFaucet/Airport Express and my JBL On Stage is that iTunes automatically tracks all of the songs I listen to for playcount stats. Of course, it only counts it as “played” if I listen to it all the way through, but analyzing the data can still yield some meaningful information on my listening habits.

I’ve listed my top played tracks from 2005 below. The track I listened to the most this year, “The Boxer” by Carbon Leaf, had 64 recorded plays, but the most listened to track in my library of all time remains “Such Great Heights” by The Postal Service at 104 plays.

At the end of last year, I had 7861 total plays across 2084 unique tracks out of a total of 6505 tracks. This year that number rose to 17996 total plays across 4703 unique tracks out of a total of 10322 tracks. (With the addition of Podcast support in iTunes, I probably should add that I have 838 podcast tracks in my library, responsible for 186 total plays)

Compare it to my list Songs of 2004 from last year.

Continue reading "Songs of 2005" »

December 27, 2005

Christmas 2005 Passes On

Today was the last day of my 5-day extended holiday weekend. Tomorrow I go back to work - by the calendar a “short” week, but, in actuality, it will be a very long, intense 3 days of work getting a new project out the door and into our customer’s hands. We’ve been working on this for more than 3 months now; it will be nice to see the fruits of everyone’s labors coming to fruition.

The weekend was go, go, go, with multiple Christmas parties and other family events taking up almost every last moment. I loved it. Sure, a few times it got tiring, or frustrating, or complicated, but all in all a wonderful weekend. In the gift department, I took in all kinds of wonderful prizes, some things I wished for, some things I didn’t even know I wanted. Got to play with many of the new toys today…what else is an extra vacation day like today good for? ☺ (OK, so I shopped the malls and then came home for a nice nap, too…but playing was foremost on the agenda!)

December 22, 2005

How Do You Keep An Idiot In Suspense?

Only tell him part of the future. Least the part I got was very, very pleasant.

December 20, 2005

Shopping 2005

For a reason I won’t disclose here, I ended up having very limited time this weekend to get some of my “Shopping To-Do’s” done. Luckily, all of the projects on my plate at work have reached milestones, allowing me to escape for my annual “Day of Shopping”. I enjoy taking off a day in the middle of the week, shortly before Christmas, to not only finish off some last minute shopping, but take some time to people-watch as they scurry around trying to finish off their shopping. I’ve done it each of the past 3 years, although I remember doing it selectively, on and off, for at least 10.

Today was a non-event, really. Slept in, combed through my list a few times, checked on the delivery status of all my online orders and then hit the road. As has often been the case, I drive up to Albertville, work my way through the outlet shops, then follow Interstate 94 back towards the cities. There’s an amazing variety of shops along that 40 mile stretch of road…and since you usually end up driving back towards town at the same time everyone else is trying to head out of town after their workdays, traffic is rarely a problem. (Try it sometime…I doubt you can find a more relaxed day of shopping anywhere else with more variety)

December 15, 2005

Team Boobylicious Cookies!

Twodolla and the rest of her “3-Day Walk” group Team Boobylicious decided to have a cookie fundraiser.

How can you beat the price, about $4/dozen? I ended up ordering way more than I ever needed, 4 dozen sugar cookies, 4 dozen chocolate chip and 4 dozen peanut blossom cookies. Got them this morning…shared them around the office, most of them are going home with me, some destined to be frozen for an easy holiday party potluck offering, others to be gobbled up over the next few days. They are soooo yummy…

Go support boobies!.

December 14, 2005

Ketchup

Wow, I’ve only posted 4 times since November 1st. What’s wrong with me? Has my life become that boring?

Yes, in many ways I suppose. Been busy working on a huge project at work…been taking up the vast majority of my time. A few weeks over the past month-and-a-half I’ve been only at home to sleep, shower and dress.

There have been a few highlights of the past few weeks, tho. The project referred to above is quickly coming together, I’m nearly done handing over the project to our operations group, letting me move on to other things. Thanksgiving went wonderfully with everyone together, the turkey turned out perfect, the rest of the food was equally delicious. Continued good luck at Pub Trivia nights, even took a second place after a bitter triple-elimination following a three-way tie for first. Went to the Barenaked Ladies Holiday concert, along with everyone I know…least it seemed that way. Got Gumby/Pokey installed finally this past weekend…which is why you’re seeing a new style here. Still need to tweak it, add the menu back, get the rest of my pages fixed, but it will do for now.

There have been a few lows as well. My Beetle ended up needing to make a visit to the car doctors at Westside VW. The oil pressure light began flashing whenever it was running faster than idle…the cause was a clogged oil pickup tube. A couple hundred for the diagnosis and fix…but I can’t complain too much, only have 2 more payments left, then the car is completely mine. I figure for 2-3 months worth of payments I can restore my good ‘ol Beetle back into a decent shape, ready for another 50k miles or more.

December 6, 2005

Christmas List 2005

May I never be the recipient of a big ceramic barnyard animal…

November 15, 2005

A Trivia Win

We’ve been slowly working our way up the ladder at Pub Trivia night at the Leaning Tower of Pizza. We started in 5th place the first week, since then we’ve fluctuated between 5th and 12th. Over time, we’ve picked up a few members along the way…but considering we only took 3rd place in the “70’s Trivia” last week (realize, our team’s average age is about 37) I thought the #1 spot would elude our grasp until we grew in size to match the 10-or-more member teams.

Of course, just to prove me wrong, this week our team of four took 1st place! The categories (Blue Things, Child Stars, On The Runway, Band Frontmen, The Tonight Show) still had an “older” slant, but regardless we were the lucky recipients of the $30 gift certificate.

Yay!

Snow Once Again

As I left work today, my walk to the car was accompanied by the first snow I’ve seen since last winter. It doesn’t sound like we’ll be getting the massive snowfall they first predicted, but the fluffiness falling down was a wonderful sight…the reward I’ve been waiting to see since the sun started cutting its daily visits short.

Welcome, winter!

November 11, 2005

Time Flies

A thousand pardons to everyone out there who cares to review, on a regular basis, this little corner of cyberspace.

Work has been crazy, and I mean CRAZY, busy.

Over the past month or so, I’ve had almost no social life outside of work. Working late almost every night - even had to work a few hours this past weekend. Trying to make a deadline that was unreasonable, but I knew I had to make it nonetheless, otherwise the next few months would be boring. (‘cause no one announces new products in December!)

Luckily, as of 7:30 last night, my crazy assignment has finally been turned down from a rolling boil to a simmer. This happened just in time, as tonight was my Mom’s birthday celebration at Kincaid’s. Not only would I never miss my Mom’s birthday celebration, but I’d never miss a meal at Kincaid’s, either!

Now that the meal is over, I finally had some time to get around to bringing three items out of draft, and there will be a few entries I’ll be writing over this weekend. Hopefully, they will include installing the new Gumby server into production. That’s what I’m working on now. ‘course, considering that it has sat here languishing in the server stack near my desk for most of the past month, I now need to upgrade things before I can even contemplate putting it into production. Oh well, might as well test the upgrade process before I put it into production, right?

October 27, 2005

New Janine

I’ve been checking CompUSA every day for the past week or so, waiting for them to receive their first shipment of 60GB iPod with Video units.

See, Janine, my 40GB 3G iPod, filled up about 6 months ago. Since then, I’ve had about 8 GB of my music library ripped from CD, yet kept outside of iTunes ‘cause I didn’t want to turn off auto-syncing. As I’ve unchecked the songs I didn’t care to carry around with me, most of that space has been filled up with new CD purchases, podcasts and other miscellaneous MP3’s. Couple that with a slowly decaying battery (still under warranty, but who wants to do without their iPod for the days it takes to have the battery replaced by some Oompla-Loompa’s in Cupertino) and I knew I was ripe for an upgrade.

I was tempted to pick up a 60GB 4G iPod, but I kept on putting it off. The rumor sites kept on foretelling that a new, revised iPod was just around the corner. Would it have video? Built-in wireless? I honestly didn’t care…I had pretty much decided to pick up the biggest 5G when it came out.

As luck would have it, they did include video, a much nicer screen, improved battery life, doubled the cache RAM and made the package even smaller. I could have ordered it right away, but I love taking advantage of CompUSA’s 6 months no-interest plan.

So, now I’ve got it. A brand new white 60GB iPod with Video. Yay! I can’t wait to play with it, run it through its paces. And, with the new arrival, the old Janine will get a chance to get a new battery without leaving me without tunage.

October 26, 2005

ScanR

My new cell phone came with a 1-megapixel camera, takes great pictures, saves me from having to carry around a camera for those “candid” shots I want to capture as I wander through life.

A great convenience, but I think I wouldn’t have missed it if I hadn’t gotten it. However, the new service, ScanR, is the killer app for cell phone cameras.

  • Say you’re finishing a meeting; a whiteboard of notes sits in front of you that you would normally have to scribble down into a notebook. Instead, just take a picture with a one megapixel (or greater) cell phone, send it to the service and a few moments later you have a PDF file of the whiteboard sitting in your inbox.
  • Next, you’re at a cocktail party. You’ve just been introduced to someone you might want to do business with, but you’re worried about leaving his business card in your shirt pocket ‘cause you always forget to empty it before you send your shirt off to the cleaners. Instead, snap a photo of the business card with your cell phone, send it into ScanR and a PDF of the business card will be waiting for you first thing Monday morning.
  • Finally, you’re in the library researching a quote. You finally find the quote, but you can’t check out the reference material. Instead of copying it down into your notebook, just snap a photo of the book’s page and send it into the service. Once again, you’ll find it in your inbox.

The best thing about all this? You can optionally give the service a different email address, or even a fax machine number and they will transmit the resulting PDF to those destinations as well.

As a whiteboard user, visual thinker, I just know my love affair with this service will continue, even after they eventually get around to charging for it. For now, feel free to try it - you’ll love it.

October 25, 2005

Keep On Beetle'n

Picture of 100000 Mile Odometer Tonight, as the clock rolled into the new day, another milestone was passed - my 2000 VW Beetle official went into 6-digits territory as its odometer passed 99999 and turned to 100000.

Now, I know automobiles roll past 100000 all the time, but just because we all have birthdays doesn’t mean there’s no need for celebration.

Continue reading "Keep On Beetle'n" »

October 20, 2005

Pledge Drive Story Ahead!

It is pledge time again…the local public media outlets are filling the airwaves, rolling out their most impressive programming, trying to hook people into contributing or renewing their memberships. Every time this happens, I think back to a potentially scarring incident that occurred in my 10th, maybe 11th year, here on this Earth. Luckily, for MPR, the incident didn’t really affect me, since they count me as a contributor today, but as you will see it so easily could have scared me away from public media forever.

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October 19, 2005

Wanna Catch Up? Pull Up A Chair!

Things have finally calmed down, whew!

Monday night I took one complete night for myself. Cooked up some party pizzas, listened to music, did a crossword puzzle, read a bit, napped a bit. Absolutely beautiful in contrast to the hectic schedule I had kept up for the past few weeks. Tuesday, I biked to/from work, even tho the ride home at 11pm was absolutely bone chilling. Tonight was dinner at Buca and some computer shopping with a friend, very relaxed.

Ah, but Damon’s relaxation doesn’t make for good reading you say? Well, lemme tell you about this past weekend then…

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A Competitive Giant?

A quick aside/story related to the wedding reception I attended on Saturday.

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October 13, 2005

I Felt Like Bustin' Up Somethin' Alright...

I spent the last week purposely avoiding all M. Doughty-related music. (Standard operating procedure for me before a live show - I like to go into the show ready to hear the performance, not involuntary spending my brain cycles comparing it to the recorded versions!) I looked forward to tonight’s concert at First Ave ever since I snagged a ticket. It was going to be great. I’ve been a fan of M. Doughty since Ruby Vroom. He could play anything from his catalog and I’d not only recognize it, but also know every last lyrical line of goodness.

I regret to say that, nevertheless, I was disappointed.

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October 12, 2005

Well, I Guess They Do Mind

I thought that just posting one Far Side cartoon when talking about the The Complete Far Side 1980-1994 gift wouldn’t be a big deal, but as you can read below, they take it very seriously.

So, the “Midvale - School For The Gifted” Far Side cartoon I put up has now been removed.

Sorry folks.

Continue reading "Well, I Guess They Do Mind" »

Happy Days Are Here Again

Life’s been busy, sorry I don’t write. Good things are happening, tho.

Today, of all days! Tonight I go see M. Doughty.

Happy M. Doughty Day!

October 5, 2005

M y Ke y boa rd!

So, a few weeks after I got my new Dell I noticed the backlight wasn’t balanced appropriately. I emailed their support with a URL pointing to some pictures I had taken of the issue. A few hours later, I received a note back explaining that I would need to send my laptop back for repair. I had figured they could just send me a new screen and I could do the swap myself. Because of the 5 day turnaround, I never really took them up on the offer. (The backlight would balance after a few minutes of warming up)

That was almost a year ago. About 3 weeks ago my spacebar started sticking when I’d type. I removed the key cover, thinking that something had been jamming it, only to find that the little metal clips the plastic key springs fit into were bent/missing. I reassembled the spacebar as best I could, but it sat forever more at an akward angle and stuck down about 3 seconds between keypresses. Finally, a few days ago the spacebar stuck down and has been stuck down no matter what I do. Now there’s no travel at all…brush your thumb against the spacebar and you get a random number of spaces.

So, now I cannot put off service, back off to Dell my D800 will go. Now I have to figure out some time I can do without it for a few days…too bad I don’t have a vacation coming up or anything like that. Hrm…until then, please excuse any additional spaces you might see…

October 3, 2005

A Fortnight Away...

It’s been 2 weeks since I last wrote…what have I been up to?

  • Been busy working on Gumby/Pokey, the new server(s) meant to replace Red and Farmer. I really should have done this months ago…in another month I won’t care that the two old servers put out more BTUs than my furnace. (The new machine(s) puts out about 25% less than the old two). Most of you couldn’t care less about this…but it is a Big Deal ™, I assure you.
  • Work has been busy. Real busy. Don’t even bother to open up my IM client busy. The good news is, most of the projects that have been keeping me busy are either coming to a close or have reached a breakpoint. The bad news is, there are lots of other projects waiting in the wings, more than likely leaving my IM client unstarted for many more days, if not moons.
  • I’ve taken some time out of the busyness to get the apartment even more organized. Good to have the nest a bit less cluttered before winter arrives.
  • Celebrated two birthdays over the past 2 weeks.
  • Managed to make it to the first Minnesota RollerGirls roller derby bout of the second season. Love their new digs (they are now at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium) and the show is really becoming much more polished and entertaining.

There’s more, but those are other entries…

September 20, 2005

Involuntary Vehicular ManBunnyslaughter

I finished my ride tonight (lights come in handy in these fall months) and needed to head back to work to pick up my effects. I had left my clothes, laptop and other such items in at work so I didn’t have to lug it around on my ride.

As I was driving down Highwood towards 169, on my way into work, I spied a bunny hopping around along the side of the road. As soon as my headlights hit it (I was coming around a curve, heading up an incline towards it), it stopped in its tracks and stared back into my headlights. I slowed up a bit out of caution, but just as I thought I was in the clear, at the last second before I passed the bunny, it jumped into the street…I was upon it almost instantaneously and I heard a telling double-thump on the bottom of my car.

I knew, at that moment, that I had accidentally killed another living creature. I don’t know if wild bunnies are safe to pick up or not…but in any event, by the time I recomposed myself and drove back around to check out the scene the bunny had been smooshed flat.

I’m not a violent creature by any stretch of the imagination…I don’t even kill spiders or other bugs I come across in the house. (They are usually moved out of the way or outside, depending on what kind of creature they are) When I bike, I try to brush off any bugs that get caught up on my sweaty skin instead of smacking them dead. I know it was an accident…however, that doesn’t seem to completely soothe my guilt in this case. I generally follow a code that only allows for killing other creatures that pose a threat to me. This bunny, obviously, was of no threat to me. Had I changed to the other lane, instead of assuming the still bunny would have remained so, I prbly would have avoided hurting the bunny.

I will be biking by the location tomorrow morning on my way into work…and I mean this in all seriousness: I wonder how one atones for an accidental bunny death?

September 14, 2005

When 4 Inches Is A Big Deal

I’ve calmed down quite a bit since my last post. The irritation was easy to put out of mind once I got to sleep…how, you might ask? Well, yesterday I spent all day in a meeting with some board members, last night playing trivia at Leaning Tower of Pizza again, this morning on a sales call, this afternoon in meetings, and finally got to do some real work the last hour or so of the day, which hit a milestone in an ongoing project that had stalled with all the distractions of the few days.

After all that, I gave myself the treat of a bike ride and Totino’s Party Pizza for dinner.

There were other happy events over the past few days, too. I had to wear pants for the first time since April 15th or so for the sales call this morning. After going through all the pairs of pants I had, the pair that fit the best was still about 4 inches too big around the waist. Even tho I haven’t seen any drop on the scale most of the summer, at least it means I’ve dropped those inches. Yay!

September 13, 2005

Don't Look Directly Into His Eyes!

My mood matches the storm outside. Flashes of lightning, rumbling thunder, hard hard raindrops pelting everything in sight.

I can only hope that my anger and disappointment are washed away like pollen on the wind as the storm passes.

September 11, 2005

Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour, The Sequel

I was a bit trepidatious this year…I was still nursing the ankle injury I picked up on my 60-mile ride, I had rode a few times but I was worried about agitating it again and having to sit out the remainder of the season. Still, the allure of repeating the Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour for a second year, being able to compare my performance from last year and enjoying the beautiful ride, was irresistible. I signed up, made my plans, and gave myself plenty of rest.

I only rode a few times last week, and those times I did ride, I took everything really easy. I did get a chance to get used to the new gearing on the bike, tho, and I have to say I’m very pleased with the change. It still may need a little adjustment to shift correctly (it only seems to want to upshift in multiples of 2 on the rear wheel) but I like being able to do more than coast down the steep hills I ride around my apartment.

The morning of the ride, I was up by 7am. It was going to be getting warmer and sunnier as the day moved on (75 around ride start, 90 for a daily high), so no need to risk any more sunburn than I needed to! I picked up my bike at work and drove off to Saint Paul. I was on my own this year, which meant that I had to break the pledge and drive myself down to the ride. (They want you to carpool or ride the bus) Anyway, I parked about a mile away from the starting/ending point, got geared up, and headed over to the staging area around 8am.

My dad and I had run into his cousin on the ride last year, so I snuck a peek at the registration list when I was checking in and saw he had registered. I kept my eyes open for him over the entire ride, but I didn’t see him. Next year I’ll have to try to get a hold of him beforehand and see if he wants to ride together, or if nothing else meet up at one of the rest stops.

Map Of Ride Route Since I had done this ride once before, I was able to pace myself quite effectively. I wore my heartrate monitor and managed to keep myself pretty much in my target heartrate zone for most of the 2 hours and 10 minutes I rode. As one would expect, on the three steep hill climbs I did break out on the top side of my zone a bit, but unlike last year I didn’t need to stop and catch my breath at the tops - I just kept on going, confident that I could recover while keeping up a steady pace.

In the end, I pulled into the finish just under 2 hours and 10 minutes, giving me an average speed of 14.0 miles per hour over the course. This is a great time, considering that last year I only averaged 12.5 on the same course, and I often don’t pull in anything more than a 13.5 during a nightly ride, which is often shorter (yet has much more hill work).

September 8, 2005

Some Notes For Googlers

WARNING: PURE GEEK POST AHEAD. CONSIDER TAKING EVASIVE ACTION.

Over the past week I’ve setup two different heavy-iron machines (or, at least they were when they were initially purchased) with FreeBSD. Uncharacteristically, I’ve run into a few issues I thought I’d share so that others will not waste all the time I have troubleshooting, since this post will inevitably make its way into Google’s index.

Continue reading "Some Notes For Googlers" »

September 4, 2005

2005 State Fair: Visit 2

Delayed by the rain yesterday, I finally made it back to the Minnesota State Fair for my second visit today. Knowing I wouldn’t be returning on the last day, tomorrow, I knew I had to arrive with eyes wide open, and the belt loop one-notch looser, in order to squeeze in all that fair goodness.

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September 2, 2005

Real Life Disaster Recovery/Management

Here’s a blow-by-blow blog of a REAL disaster management/recovery situation, direct from New Orleans.

http://mgno.com/
If that link doesn’t work, use
http://www.livejournal.com/users/interdictor/

Starting back on Tuesday, you can read all about their efforts to keep their data center up and running. Obtaining fuel for the generators, figuring out maintenance on said generators, physical security, upstream bandwidth availability, employee’s safety and family updates, even such secondary activities as payroll and webcamming views outside of the offices.

Otherwise, I have nothing else to say. My mind is filled, has been filled, will be filled with thoughts for those people who are living this disaster first-hand. Most people knew this kind of disaster was coming, but that doesn’t make the absolutely horrific situation down in New Orleans any easier to swallow.

September 1, 2005

My Week

  • Monday was spent giving my ankle time to recover. It seemed to do the job…Tuesday I took it easy, avoiding stairs by riding the elevator in the apartment building…by Wednesday morning I woke up with no pain or stiffness at all. During the moving on Wednesday night, I stressed it out a bit, but this morning (Thursday) it still seems fine.
  • Tuesday was a busy day at work in the morning, but by afternoon, it had calmed down a little. Dropped the bike off at Erik’s to get the loaner freewheel replaced with a new part and get the new chainrings installed to increase the gearing. Then it was off to trivia for the evening, then driving home I noticed I had a quarter tank of gas remaining and felt kinda guilty about filling up, considering I didn’t really need it yet.
  • Wednesday I had lunch with Sneebish, dropped off coworker New Theresa at the airport for her long-distance booty call and then over to Incense’s apartment to help her move. To her credit, almost everything was boxed up by the time I got there, but it still took us almost 5 hours to move her less than a quarter-mile to a different apartment building in the same complex. She did provide plenty of pizza and drink, tho…although my ankle sure didn’t like walking up and down all those stairs quite yet.
  • Thursday was cleaning day at the workplace. I’m notorious for letting piles of papers accumulate on my desk, intermixed with all the desk toys anyone could want. The CEO came in and gave JManDoo and me an order to have the Development office cleaned up by the end of this week about 3 weeks ago…I’m glad to say I didn’t wait until the last day! After performing one pass to remove all of the loose paper, and sorting those papers into a “To Be Shredded” pile and a “Dispose Normally” pile, I then worked my way throughout the day disposing of the remaining items. Still have a few piles around the desk, but I think most people would now find it as sanitary and comfortable as a workplace desk could get. Now if only I could work the same magic at home! After work I’m heading back over to Incense’s apartment, need to help her assemble her Ikea dresser and share a proper meal together.

Hopefully, the upcoming weekend will be a relaxing time. Another visit to the State Fair…and I’d really like to do some biking, too. We’ll have to wait and see if the ankle continues to be happy before I’d do anything, tho. I’d rather err on the side of caution, since I don’t want to miss the 30-mile Saint Paul Bike Classic next weekend.

August 30, 2005

Cooperative Trivia

With my ankle slowly on the mend, neither Kate nor I had any desire to go biking when we got together tonight, so instead we went to one of her old hangouts, The Leaning Tower of Pizza. Located in/near Uptown, it is your typical neighborhood pizza joint with one difference - Tuesday nights @ 8:30pm is a restaurant-wide trivia game.

Unlike NTN Trivia, this is all done with sheets of paper and pens. You go through a number of rounds, each consisting of 8 questions. Our rounds tonight were: State License Plate Mottos, Presidential Pets, I Love The 90’s, Automobiles and one round of pictures of semi-famous people where you had to put a name to the face.

Kate, a friend of Kate (I think her name was Rita…but after 3 Guinness and 1 Scooby Snack, I’m not 100% sure! Ruth) and I teamed up and adopted the name, “Katrina on a Stick”. We placed 5th with 28 points, there was a tie for first place at 31 points between two teams, each with at least 7 people on ‘em. This is certainly a game where larger teams sure come in handy, since you have plenty of time to debate answers, as the time limits are very relaxed.

I let down the team once…I totally got the model of Wayne and Garth’s car wrong…Pacer, NOT Pinto! Jebus!

Anyway, it was a blast…hopefully we can do it again sometime soon. Woo-hoo!

August 29, 2005

My Ankle, My Friend

It’s been 48 hours since I did whatever I did to my ankle. I stayed off of it for most of the day yesterday, other than a leisurely mile walk around Centennial Lakes in Edina after lunch. The only real pain I felt was when I went up and down stairs, although towards the end of the day yesterday my ankle felt like a bunch of rubber bands, stretching and rubbing against each other.

This morning it seems to have healed up nicely - still a bit stiff, but no pain to speak of at all. I don’t plan on going out for a marathon, nor will I ride my bike today, but I think I’m out of the woods.

I’ve got today off of work…will I go to the fair? Will I sit on my bootay all day long? Will I come up with the answer to world peace? Stay tuned…

August 27, 2005

2005 State Fair: Visit 1

After riding 60 miles, I knew I basically had a free pass to go to the Minnesota State Fair and consume large quantities of deep-fried-on-a-stick goodness!

Tonight was a food excursion, plain and simple.

I dove right in and started off with a new food, the “Carolina BBQ Pork Baked Potato”. There’s a food court restaurant at the Mall of America, Col. Muzzy’s Texas BBQ, which does a much better job at this, but it was completely acceptable fair food. Served hot and delicious, it was a great way to start off the consumption. A bit of lemonade, out of one of the refillable “souvenir” bottles washed it all down.

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Woodbury Days Bike Ride (60 MILES!)

I had been looking forward to the Woodbury Days Bike Ride for a few weeks now, ever since I noticed the flyer at Erik’s. I did 50 miles a little under 2 months ago on the Tour of Saints, and with all the riding I’ve been doing, I figured a 60 would be a great accomplishment to get under my belt.

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August 25, 2005

Mistakes Happen...The True Measure Is How They Are Handled

I headed over to Erik’s last night to pick up my bike.

The bill surprised me…they were able to true my rear wheel, everything looked good, so the only thing above the labor charge was a new chain. Quite the deal.

Since I had budgeted for a bit more, I talked to Dave about changing out my gears. I spend almost all my time in my hardest-pedaling gears…I often take anything flat or more declining in my final gear. Because of the design of the bike, he suggested it would be cheaper and easier to swap out the chainrings in the front than attempt to do any magic in the back. We ordered the part, and then I was off on my way.

Even tho it was overcast, and was going to be dark in a little bit more than an hour, I thought I would drop my car off at work and bike home. No sooner was I on the bike and I knew something was amiss…now when I was in my final gear, any amount of real power applied would cause the chain to slip. I hobbled home, content with just being able to ride again, even if it was without my final “overdrive” gear.

Continue reading "Mistakes Happen...The True Measure Is How They Are Handled" »

August 23, 2005

Dinner Wih Grandpa

I had dinner with Grandpa last night. I think he was in a reflective mood, which worked well considering that I was in that kind of mood as well. We talked a bit about our normal subjects…politics, catchup on life’s activities, iPods. After that, tho…

The remainder of the evening was filled with all kinds of wonderful conversations on life. Talking about the way my family (I talk here of not only my parents, but my grandparents and aunt as well) raised me, how thankful I am that I had the influences, freedoms and liberties I had when I was growing up. However, in the midst of all this pontification, my Grandpa uttered what I think is a great observation…

“The thing I miss most without your Grandmother around is having someone to share the curiosities in life. Whenever I’d come across anything new or different or interesting, the first person I wanted to share it with was your Grandmother. I think that might be a measure of love.”

We talked through my Grandpa’s point a bit, exploring how different “levels” of love/friendship might lead you to the same kind of experience with a friend. For example, I know there are many times I have uttered something like, “Oh, I can’t wait to show [insert friend here] this [cool new gadget]” It certainly isn’t a cause of love…but it maybe a symptom?

Knowing someone who has a similar curiosity about life…certainly not your exact same curiosities, but similar enough so that you can share discoveries with someone…seems to be quite a sign of a loving bond at some level.

I love my Grandpa so much. I’m glad he’s still with us…he never seems to run out of things to share.

This Just Handed To Me...

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I Would Bike 1500 Miles and I Will Bike 1500 More

I passed by the 1500-mile mark on my bike sometime last week. I had no idea I was so close to such a milestone, otherwise I might have thought to watch where it occurred. No matter - after getting off to a very slow start at the beginning of the season, I’ve picked up my pace and look to surpass easily the number of miles I’ve ridden in each of the past two years.

I guess after carrying me 1500 miles, anything deserves a little break and a some TLC. Last Friday, I thought I’d take a spin around town after work to try out the new, taller seat post I had just installed. After riding a few blocks down the road, it soon became apparent that my bike wasn’t happy.

Continue reading "I Would Bike 1500 Miles and I Will Bike 1500 More" »

August 22, 2005

Nike's "Real Women"

I meant to write about this a few days ago, but life got busy. However, the Salon article “Thigh the beloved country” has stuck with me for the past few days and I thought I should write about it here, so that others may pay it the proper attention. (It is worth watching the Site Pass to read…I promise!)

Basically, it is a write-up on a new Nike ad campaign that emphasizes a more “real” looking women achieving their training goals without letting society’s prejudices alter the vision of success. For example, here’s a spread that appeared in the September issue of Glamour magazine (click for a bigger version):

Nike "Butt" Ad

Over the many women I’ve dated, many of them have felt awkward because of their size. Too short, too tall, thighs too big, tummy too big, arms too big, etc. Many of these women have been fairly fit - it wasn’t that they did not feel out of shape, nor were they really; they just imagined they were because of society’s near-constant reminders of “the perfect form.” Hey, the average dress size for women in America is somewhere around 12-14…so why must we constantly see size zeros?

I’m a guy who has been told he carries 300 pounds as though it is not a hair over 250. I may have a tummy, but from all the biking, my legs are lean, mean machines. I don’t get out of breath walking up stairs - I’m happy with my general physical health, and so is my doctor.

As such, I’d rather see someone with curves, not all bones! Yeah, baby, nothing sexier than a woman with elbows that look as if they could pierce their way through the skin at any moment! Get real. Gimme more proud women with proud butts! Gimme thighs of justice!

Pandora's [Streaming?] Box

OK, I love my iPod. I love my iTunes, which will stream to my Airport Express/stereo, all controlled by iSee iTunes on my Tivo. I love my 400+ CDs, all lovingly displayed in my living room, ready to be played. (Why would I do that considering almost everything is ripped to iTunes and is a remote click away now I don’t know, but whateva!)

However, in less than 12 hours, Pandora has rocked my world. Run, don’t walk, to this service. (I have invites if anyone wants to try it!)

The idea is straightforward, although not simple in the slightest. A bunch of music geeks got together and classified, on a song-by-song basis, their huge libraries of music. (Least that’s the story…) For example, here’s the description of Soul Coughing’s “True Dreams of Wichita” as provided by the service:

“featuring electronica influences, mild rhythmic syncopation, major key tonality, groove-based composition and mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation”

What do they do with all this data? You login to the service and you can create 100 streaming “radio stations”, each seeded with either an artist or song title. From the seed, the service automagically creates a stream that closely matches your chosen seed artist/song. You can emphasize songs you particularly like in your stream, or you can eliminate songs from ever being played again. Everything is streamed via Flash applet (cross-platform yumminess) at 128kbps to your web browser, out your soundcard and into your ears. Album cover art is displayed for the vast majority of songs, and each song/artist is merely a click away with the built-in Amazon and/or iTunes store integration. You can also share your “channels” with others, so once you find your perfect stream you can share it with others.

I’ve already created a Carbon Leaf channel, a Beulah channel, a Soul Coughing channel, a Ben Folds Five channel and a Barenaked Ladies channel. Each one of the channels does accurately match the seed so far…and by nudging the “Soul Coughing” channel a bit I’ve slanted it a bit closer to Ruby Vroom Soul Coughing instead of their later stuff. Who knew how great “Derelict Organ” by Lenola went with Soul Coughing, let along some Talking Heads thrown in next? I’d never even heard of Lenola before today…now I’ve got them on my list of CDs to pick up!

I’ve used some of the other “customizable” streaming services before. I’ve always been disappointed with their selection (not nearly deep enough) and their lackluster DJ algorithms, but so far Pandora seems to have all of them beat. It will be interesting to see if I’m this excited about it a week from now…if so, the $36/year they plan to charge (after the beta period is over) will seem like a small price to pay for the service.

August 16, 2005

BW3 = Buffalo Wild Wings?

OK, so one question has puzzled everyone I’ve asked. I’ve even queried some of the servers at the establishment in question.

Why is Buffalo Wild Wings referred to as BW3?

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Feeling Better Than James Brown

Remember when I declared that “The Project” “handled its first real-world challenge with only minor coding changes”? Yeah, well, “The Project” had been languishing in this quasi-state of beta for the last 4 months or so. A few live users, a bunch of internal load testing and quality assurance testing.

Most of the bugs found in the beta phase have been relatively quick fixes because of the code segregation methods I followed when doing the original coding. The problem with the coding method I followed is that the “big” bugs are terribly difficult to track down…and as you might guess, the primary “big” issue was the lack of stability. There are simply so many things going on at once even with a very verbose log file it is nearly impossible to know the state of code at any one time. Compound this with the poor, poor handling of ADO calls on the part of Microsoft and you end up with one frustraited Damon.

Well, today I’m pleased to share that I officially have released code to our Operations group that has zero defects, according to the current bug reports. There are some feature enhancements still missing which are forthcoming in version 2, but every bug has been squished. They load tested it this morning…everything behaved wonderfully!

So, I turned on the celebratory christmas lights lining the office door and have been on cloud 9 most of the day. In the words of Was (Not Was), “I feel better than James Brown.”

August 11, 2005

Overheard

Yesterday in the office…

Worker #1: “I see on Slashdot there’s a story, “Games Should Be Like Female Orgasms”.”
Worker #2: “Games are a myth?”
Worker #3: “Aren’t games already a huge waste of time and effort?”

Worker A: (to Worker B) “I’ll get that to you in a minute.”
Worker B: (shouting) “55…50…45…40…”
Worker C: (interrupts) “You know, I don’t think the entire office wants to know how long you can last when trying to satisfy your woman”

August 9, 2005

Car Wash Comes To YOU!

Am I lazy because I purposely parked my Beetle out in the middle of the parking lot in order to get it washed?

This morning I heard the forecasters say we could expect some heavy storms this afternoon. I thought if I parked my car out in the middle of the lot, any rain that was released by the storms would have a clear shot at washing some of the grime off my car.

Judging from the lightning I can see a few miles away, with dark-as-night clouds as a backdrop, I think they got it right.

[Updated: 3:44pm]: Car is sparkly clean, thanks!

August 8, 2005

Collections

How do I live life more with less?

I moved into my apartment 2 years ago as of the first of the month - other than a short-term stay in a tiny little apartment just down the hall, my only previous residences have been my 3000+ square foot house in Hudson and my parents’ basement.

I don’t really consider myself a “too much stuff” kinda guy. Nevertheless, when I moved from the huge house to my 1100 square foot apartment, I really felt the pinch.

Besides the normal assortment of “stuff” indicative of a middle-class lifestyle, I’ve got three major “collections”. I call them collections ‘cause, frankly, the three categories of stuff just exist to accumulate more stuff. Kitchen gadgetry doesn’t count, ‘cause I can honestly say I’ve used everything for its intended purpose (and many unintended purposes) over the years, even if I don’t have tons of room in my kitchen here at the apartment. I’ve got tons of books but, once again, all of them have been used for reading at one point in another, and I appreciate keeping them around as a reference or to loan to curious others.

No, my three collections are much less utilitarian than either of those examples. The first is my Toy Story collection. I started collecting everything Toy Story I could get my hands on when the movie first came out. Due to the lack of enthusiasm for the Disney-distributed Pixar film prior to release, very few merchandising deals were made, making it relatively easy to collect a majority of the original set. Most of the items bigger than an action figure still have their boxes, but almost all of them have at least been removed at one point or another to be played with and/or exhibited. However, almost none of the toys are currently on display here in the apartment…I just don’t have the room. Well, I might have the room, but if you combine this collection with the next two, I’m just plain out of space.

The second collection is my desk toy collection. Working, as I have, since I was 16 years old at a desk job, I’ve already collected an entire lifetime of fun desk toys. I’ve got stuffed characters of all types, snow globes, action figures, time wasters, curiosities, etc. Right now, almost all of these items are stored away in the closet in file boxes. About 10 file boxes, to be exact. What does one do with all of these? I’ve already tried recycling some of them into my current work environment…if I kept my desk clean there I imagine I’d find more success. Instead, they just get added to the existing items decorating my current desk and add to the clutter.

Third, my collection of old computer hardware/software/books for the Apple II series (and a few other older systems) takes up more space than any of the previous collections. Taking up a good portion of the unused floor space in my second bedroom, the wide assortment of old machines, and their accompanying accessories, is something that has a meaning so nostalgic to me that I really can’t imagine ever getting rid of them. I’ve got both my original Apple IIe and my second computer, my Apple IIgs. Both of these computers set my parents back a pretty penny in their day…and both of them together are often referred to as “the best investments in [my] future they’ve ever made.” I’ve also got an even older Apple II+, piles of software, most of the Nibble magazines published and enough spare hardware to make sure things will continue to run long into the future. That is, if they are ever powered up. Most of the systems are still in the boxes we packed them into when we retired them.

Without any of these three collections, my apartment would be furnished, but not crowded in the slightest. Instead, I’ve got a storage closet filled with desk toy boxes and Toy Story toys, a spare bedroom mostly filled with old computer equipment and piles of things that could be better stored away in an organized way in the living room awaiting their final destination due to overcrowding by the collections. Do I just get rid of all three? Do I decide on one to stay with and dump the rest? Each of them pull at my memories in a different way…representative of a portion of my life, breadcrumbs leading to who I am today.

Something to ponder…

August 4, 2005

Real Men Don't Wash Their Elbows

Work’s been, frankly, work the last few days. Haven’t had much time to work on the answer to world peace…with activities both Tuesday and Wednesday I was really looking forward to tonight, another exploratory trip around Minneapolis with Kate. Be good to get out, show my allergies who’s boss and get my second chance to try out the new pedal system.

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August 1, 2005

The Story

The culmination of a three-part series on my clipless pedals/shoes buying experience…it was just too much info for one post!

Last week, as you might have read here, was one of those weeks where biking just didn’t work out. When I did finally have some time over the weekend, I ended up trying to move from one air-conditioned space to another, avoiding the pollen floating around in the air.

Meanwhile, Erik The Bikeman has had my shoes and clipless pedals waiting for me to head over, pick ‘em up and get ‘em installed. For those of you who don’t remember, my Grandpa gave me my choice of pedals and shoes for my birthday. I had ordered everything almost 3 weeks ago…but just as the shoes came in, Erik’s started up their summer sale…and while I appreciate the prices during their sales events, the service is lackluster due to the large quantity of people vying for the attention of the salespeople. I wanted to have a nice relaxed time getting the pedals installed, getting the most out of the wonderful service Dave B. at the Eden Prairie location usually provides. I’ve never had clipless pedals before…I knew I’d need as much help as I could get!

So, tonight was the night. Tomorrow and Wednesday I’m busy with non-biking activities, and Thursday I’m supposed to pick up a ride with Kate. Biking over after work, get the pedals installed, absorb the training and tips Dave would offer and then take a nice ride back home to get used to it before Thursday.

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The Shoes

Second in a three-part series on my clipless pedals/shoes buying experience…it was just too much info for one post!

In the shoe department, the choices were a bit more limited. I wear size 15/16 shoes, depending on the style. Believe me you, I realize how hard it is to find regular shoes that fit me, let alone a biking shoe. Dad had alerted me to SIDI, which manufactures shoes in my size. Low and behold, when I presented Dave, my sales guy at Erik’s with my shoe situation he brought up the SIDI website right away. We evaluated my options, talked through the different tradeoffs and compromises each shoe brought to the table, including price. The pedal choice limited our options a bit, but in a good way. I wanted a shoe that I could occasionally use off-bike, say to pick up things at the grocery store or Target on the way home, without tap dancing down the aisles.

We settled on the SIDI Bullet 2. ‘course, this was a special order, so I put down my 50% and waited for the call.

Photo of SIDI's Bullet 2 shoes

By the way, just an FYI in the very unlikely event the SIDI web designer might ever come across this information. Side-scrolling websites are damn annoying. What’s wrong with scrolling up/down? Thank you.

The Pedals

First in a three-part series on my clipless pedals/shoes buying experience…it was just too much info for one post!

I went into Erik’s thinking I wanted a pair of Speedplay’s but Dave, my favorite sales guy at the Eden Prairie location, sold me on the benefits of the Eggbeater design. I picked out a set of Crank Brother’s Eggbeater sl’s, which Erik’s had in stock. Lighter weight, upgradeable (you can bring the Eggbeater sl pedals all the way up to the level of the Eggbeater 3ti by purchasing one part at a time) and very low maintenance. The cleats are formed out of a weaker metal than the pedals, which should lead to an increased pedal life. The 4-way pedal design was a welcome comfort for a newbie like me, and the 2-year warranty was also a big selling point.

Photo of Eggbeater sl

July 31, 2005

Quickie Ketchup

I know I haven’t written in almost a week. Gosh…it isn’t like I haven’t been doing anything noteworthy…nor is it that I’ve had no time to update. Guess I’ve just lazy…oh well, just to catch everyone up.

  • Spent Monday night and Tuesday night up at my parental units’ abode. They had to attend a funeral…my father’s mother’s sister’s husband passed away unexpectedly last week. They drove down, with the rest of the local Durand clan, to Kansas to attend the funeral, while I housesat and watched their dogs, bird and fish. (This usage of the word ‘fish’ is meant to be plural, for those playing the home game) The housesitting went well…Beaker, my parents’ bird, had confused me with my father…which meant that he was much more friendly than he normally is when I visit.
  • Wednesday night I went out with my old friend, Jean. Realized that we’ve known each other for at least 10 years now…seems like only yesterday we were making fun of “Bumble-Bee Girl.” Been quite the rollercoaster…but anyone who can stand 10 years of me certainly deserves some kind of medal and/or recognition.
  • Noticed that the chainsaw noises I heard out my window earlier this week were not just my imagination or lucid dreaming. There is now a wide path cut into the forest behind my apartment…I’m guessing it is part of the work to put in the new bike path along East Bush Lake Road. Looks like it will be set back just enough so I can continue to sit in my apartment (semi-)naked and stare out at the forest without getting some kind of indecent exposure complaint.
  • I’ll make an announcement regarding a new website, DodgeGolf, in the near future. For now, does anyone have suggestions as to what the best way is to fix divots in commercial-grade carpeting?

Did stuff the rest of the week, too. However, as the week went on my allergies got worse and worse again…meaning things slowed down quite a bit as I coasted into the weekend. Dunno if I’ve got two allergies, one that struck earlier in the season and then another right now, or if it is something constantly there and I’m doing something else to bring it on. Wash the sheets, hermitically seal the apartment and start dropping allergy meds like they are going out of style. No messing around this time, tho…if more than a few days go by with no relief, I’m off to the doc to get this officially diagnosed and treated.

July 24, 2005

Playing With Dirt

Last year, I took Kelly down to the Minneapolis Aquatennial’s Milk Carton Boat Races and Sand Castle Competition. It was a hot, sunny day…but she was won over by the wonderfully executed sand castles and made me promise we’d do it this year.

Well, low and behold she actually remembered this pledge…and when the time came around she began asking about it. Between the weather forecast (hot hot and muggy again!) and her being diagnosed with strep on Friday, it seemed that our participation was in doubt. Nevertheless, Kelly persevered and exclaimed that nothing would keep her from the 10 by 10 foot square of beachfront property. This left us on Saturday night with a will, but no plan or way.

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July 23, 2005

A Great Time Was Had By All

Last night was the end-of-season party for the inaugural season of WAKA TC. We had space set aside for us at Grandma’s Saloon and a $600 division-sponsored budget for the evening.

LMP met up at Jason’s Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner before heading down to the party a few blocks away. Jason’s restaurant in downtown Minneapolis is well managed (he is the manager of the restaurant, so we’d hope so!) and the pasta base was perfect for a long night of many alcoholic libations.

LMP got down to Grandma’s around 8:30 or so. There was already a volleyball game going on, people finishing off beers, etc. I took some pictures and then joined in the volleyball action. I hadn’t played since high school…but it reminded me how much I loved to play. Maybe after I lose a few pounds (so my shins don’t leave my body in protest) I should join a non-competitive adult league. I digress…

After volleyball, the division president, Amy, distributed the drink tickets, someone ran across the street to buy cups and we started flipcup. The setup was less than ideal…but we managed to cobble together 3 hightops along a wall and got quite the game going. Most participation all year, I’d guess. Anyway, we must have played for 3 or 4 hours with only periodic potty breaks…the competition was intense. At one point, we even had a non-English speaker battling it out from the non-kickball crowd nearby. No real champions of flipcup were crowned at the event…contrary to Nick’s post I remember no two-cup showdown flipcup. I congratulated him on finally drinking BEER in his flipcup, but otherwise it was team action all night long.

I realized about halfway through the night that I was the only photographer in attendance, which sucked since I knew my camera had been acting up recently on close-ups. Most of the pictures came out just fine, tho, you can check out the gallery here. I had come to the party with two charged batteries and four memory cards, which meant I was busy snapping pictures (and a few movies) most of the evening. Even managed to score a posed shot with the president of the division, Amy, handing over the TC division trophy to the winning team, the Sexy Ball Kickers.

Around 1am, Amy once again called everyone together and convinced many of us to head down to the basement’s dance floor for some hot booty-wigglin’ action. Jason even gave some of us white boys (and girls) some great dance lessons. At least now I can say I suck less than I did at the beginning of the event! There’s even a shot of Jason, myself and Josh dancing to the Run-DMC track ‘It’s Tricky’. Heh.

The house lights came up around 1:45; we slowly filtered out and walked back to the cars. We made plans to get together again this next Thursday as a team, just for a social event. Plans were also made for a possible fall WAKA TC kickball season…hmmmm…

I can certainly say that the kickball season sure went much better than I ever imagined. It certainly wasn’t what I imagined it would be when we started out…I thought it would be kickball with drinks. This certainly turned more into a social outing as the season went on…friendships were made, new skills (flipcup, the importance of keeping the ball on the ground) were forged and I was introduced to new media (Chappelle’s Show, Entourage) that I will continue to enjoy long after the season fades. Hope to see everyone next season…until then, in the words of LMP’s captain, Josh, “Stay Classy!”

July 22, 2005

Quest for Glory

LMP’s season came to an early, unexpected end Thursday night as they lost in the first round of the Twin Cities Division of WAKA’s inaugural season championship.

As you might have read elsewhere, LMP had its sights set on the finals. Many observers expected LMP to easily overcome Number One Spot, which they beat twice in the regular season. However, Number One Spot came out onto the field in tip-top shape, got a lead early on some great ball kicking, then kicked us in the balls with their great defensive skills. (Heh, been waiting all season to use that line!)

After our loss, being the perennial good sports LMP has been all season long, we stayed around and watched the semi-final game and the championship game. In the end, the team who won the regular season as well, the Sexy Ball Kickers, won the playoffs.

The remainder of the evening was spent at Williams playing flipcup. Nate Nick and I had a chance to settle our 2-on-2 flipcup matchup…he pulled out a win, breaking the tie and can sit smugly in victory until the next season…when he will, I repeat, he will be goin’ down!

Tonight we’ve got the end-of-season party. $600’s worth of free beer…that’s a good amount of flipcup, that’s for sure. In addition, we’ll be getting a good base in the tummy by stopping off at Jason’s Old Spaghetti Factory for a meal beforehand…should be awesome.

Pictures available here. Enjoy!

July 21, 2005

Kickball Playoffs Tonight

Tonight we’ve got the WAKA Twin Cities Division division playoffs.

We finished third in the division, which will mean we’ve got to play two games before we get to the finals. (Had we won last week, we would have gotten a first round bye) The first round we play the Number One Spot, which we beat both times we played them in the regular season. The second round is against the Godless Whores. We lost early in the season to them, but beat them the second time we played.

If we win both those battles, we’re up against the Sexy Ball Kickers for the division final. (Unless, of course, they lose in the second round to their opponents) We barely lost to the Sexy Ball Kickers in the season finale but this time around, they promise to have their full team on-hand.

July 18, 2005

IAI Reunion

Tonight was the big IAI reunion I mentioned in this post about a month ago. I didn’t get down there until almost 6:15 or so because of traffic (it started at 4), but there were still plenty of people hanging around Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis when I arrived. The weather was wonderful…none of the stinging heat we’ve been treated to as of late, just a breezy, sunny evening around the lawn bowling greens on top of the pub.

I find it amazing that almost all of them still have jobs in the financial industry, many doing either the same job or a similar job with more responsibility/status. I guess this is how things go for the most part…but I certainly felt like an outsider when it came to many of the discussions, ‘cause I just wasn’t tuned into that sector anymore. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to reconnect with many of my old coworkers. Some brought their kids, some brought along pictures. Even those who couldn’t attend were the subject of discussions…”I knew someone who knew someone who just talked with them the other day!”

I have to admit…during my employment, and especially near the time I left IAI, many people pointed out just how much I grew up at IAI. When I compare my high school reunion to the IAI reunion, I think the IAI reunion left me with way more warm fuzzies in my heart afterwards. I really did grow up there; many of the people at the event were my mentors, team members or close confidants at some point in my tenor at the firm.

July 17, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Minnesota Zoo’s IMAX Theatre on Sunday afternoon with Kelly. The place was packed…indeed, the combination of the 95+-degree weather outside and the number of people inside caused the theatre to get a bit warm by the end of the show, but I heard no one complaining. We were all fully immersed in the movie’s experience.

I say experience ‘cause it wasn’t just an entertaining movie from the plot/character perspective…it was also a beautiful film to watch. Glorious colors filled the screen when we moved from room to room in the factory…the chocolate waterfall room, filled with the greenest grass and the brightest candy apples…to the television room, which was the whitest white you could ever imagine. Outside the factory, things were drab in their drabbiest way…especially Charlie’s home.

I appreciated that this film wasn’t exact remake of the previous version with Gene Wilder. There were no remakes of the classic songs from the originally, which meant I wasn’t sitting there singing along to a song which “didn’t quite seem right” and I thought the new music matched the visuals perfectly. I felt that the characters were better developed as well, especially Willy Wonka. I actually understood why he was behaving the way he was - in the earlier version, I was confused as to why he had behaved in many of the ways he did. I got the “creepy” vibe from Depp’s performance, but not in that “Michael Jackson” kind of way everyone was so worried about. I also appreciated the way the characters had a much better understanding of what was going on around them. For example, after a particularly entertaining Oompa-Loompa song that mentioned Augustus Gloop by name, Willy Wonka had to deflect questions from the characters about why the song seemed “so well rehearsed” for something that was an apparent accident.

While I’m sure there will be plenty of people disappointed by this new interpretation of an old classic, I for one enjoyed it quite a bit. In a lackluster summer movie season, I think I can safely say that this has been my favorite general-release movie so far.

July 16, 2005

70 More Miles

Sure, I did 50 miles on Sunday. However, if I just took the next two weeks off it wouldn’t be that amazing now, would it?

Well, just to squelch any of the naysayers:

  • I did 26 miles on Wednesday (including the morning ride into work) with Kate. We explored a bunch of wonderful riding on both the east and west sides of the river near Lake Nokomis, Minnehaha Falls and Fort Snelling.
  • 26 miles on Thursday after work, too. Rode over to Erik’s, down the LRT trail to the White Castle in Saint Loius Park, and then back home.
  • This morning I woke up, hopped on the bike and did my usual tour around Lake Normandale and the Hyland Park Reserve for a total of 22 miles.

July 13, 2005

San Francisco Nights

I’ve been listening to San Francisco Nights by The Animals for the past few days…I remember listening to this tune back while I was in high school one summer.

My dad and I were installing some new carpeting and tile for a local high school at night. In the heat (the high school didn’t run the air conditioning in the summer…especially at night!) all we had were our knee pads, fans, flooring products and this old cassette player to get us through the night. The Animals were one of the tapes my dad had on heavy rotation, mixed in with a smattering of old 60’s and 70’s tunes. (I was really into both decades around that age) I hadn’t heard the song for years, until I stumbled across it in iTunes one morning.

So, in honor of this, one of my favorite songs, I’ve included the opening of the song below…cause, well, it is my favorite part of the song. The rest of the song has this beautiful folksy sound…but this passage is read at the beginning of the song in a sort of “radio announcer” style…

“This following program is dedicated to the city and people of San Francisco.
Who may not know it, but they are beautiful. And so is their city.
This is a very personal song, so if the viewer cannot understand it, particularly those of you who are of European residence, save up all your bread and fly Trans-love airways to San Francisco, USA. Then maybe you’ll understand the song. It will be worth it. If not for the sake of this song, but for the sake of your own peace of mind.”

July 10, 2005

Tour Of Saints (50 MILES!)

Earlier today, I rode the 50-mile Tour of Saints bike ride. The Tour of Saints describes itself as “not a race…a heavenly little ride.” It has both a 35-mile and a 50-mile course winding in and around the towns near Collegeville. My favorite part of the ride is that you didn’t need to decide which route you are going to take until mile 31. Considering that I had never ridden more than 34 miles or so in a single day, this option was a welcome part of the tour…I’ve always wanted to attempt a longer course, but my confidence wasn’t quite there to choose it right out of the gate.

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July 8, 2005

My Bubba And Me

Yesterday I got talked into going to the Great Satan by a coworker on the way back from lunch. (Regular readers/friends realize that I usually try and avoid Wal-Mart at all costs…but it was suprisingly free of the regular Wal-Mart annoyances like crying babies during this visit) While she was dropping off some film to get developed, I got to take a peek at that row that greets you when you walk in every Wal-Mart. Right there, for $5.92 I found a wonderful new drink holder, a Bubba Keg.

Picture of an orange Bubba Keg The Bubba Keg (my model does NOT have the big “20” shown here…just a plain stainless steel band) is a huge insulated mug holding 52 ounces of your favorite fluid. It promises to keep cold drinks cold and warm drinks warm for hours on end. I found an orange Bubba Keg, verified it was in good shape (the first orange one I picked up was cracked) and headed for the cash register.

I did some initial testing here at work. The entire top of the Bubba Keg unscrews from the body, allowing plenty of room to fill it with your favorite beverage. No complicated spigots or other hard-to-clean items on the mug…everything is easy to wash and keep clean. When the sipper is closed with the flip-top cap provided, nothing spills out of the Bubba Keg at all.

The real test was the kickball game. I loaded it up with a full tray of ice, filled it to the top with water and sealed it up around 6pm. Once I got down to the game, I sat down and enjoyed some nice cool refreshing water from my Bubba Keg. It sat out in 85-90 degree weather for a good 3 hours until our game was finished, when I carried it back to the car I could still hear some ice cubes and water sloshing about inside. Drove over to the bar, parked in the shade and went inside. Upon my return around midnight, the Bubba Keg still had a few ice cubes floating in the water.

I think the Bubba Keg is a great product…certainly performs as advertised, has plenty of capacity (but not too much, it isn’t too heavy to carry at all) and has a good design. Now only if it came with a bike attachment…

Kickball: Game 8

We went into our final game still high off the previous week’s victory over the first of the undefeated teams in the division, the Godless Whores. This week’s game, the last game of the regular season, was against the other undefeated team, the Sexy Ball Kickers.

The first game ran really late, so in celebration of Michelle and Debbie’s birthdays we all consumed a few alcoholic beverages before heading over to the secondary field for our game. Upon arrival, we discovered that the Sexy Ball Kickers were short one girl. (League rules dictate that you must have at least 4 boys and 4 girls making up your squad each game) This would normally force a forfeit, which would have secured another win for LMP, but our team decided that we’d rather play our final game of the season, so we decided to let them play. Usually that would be the end of it, but considering they are undefeated, we added a compromise that they would automatically receive one out at the bottom of their batting order and have to field with only 10 people.

We lost the rock/paper/scissors, so we ended up batting first. We pulled in an amazing 4 runs in the first inning, totally pumping us up towards another win. Due to some fielding errors and questionable calls by the refs, they also ended up scoring 4 runs in the bottom of the 1st, tying us all up. A few more runs were scored, a few more errors made in fielding, a few more questionable calls (both benefiting us and penalizing us) and we entered the 5th inning down by a run. We managed to pull it in, but in the quest to bring in the go-ahead run we made a bad move and kicked on what would have been a walk forcing a runner home, bringing an end to the top of the inning. In the bottom of the inning we were unable to hold them back, they scored their one run to break the tie, and the game was over.

Certainly, we made some errors, but overall it is great to see how the team has come together over the course of the season. LMP certainly has grown and gotten better over the season, and I look forward to the playoffs where we may again meet the blue team again for the division championship.

After the game, we made our way to Williams. Flipcup was just getting organized (with plenty of cups this week, since even people not “responsible” for the cups brought a few packs) so I sat down and ordered some snacks to fill up my stomach. After chitchatting with the team, I was called over to the Flipcup table and ended up on the SUCKY side. Ugh! After we brought on some help from other non-kickball playing bar patrons, we did finally manage to pull in a win.

Nick and I had a rematch of our 1-on-1 2-cup Flip Cup deathmatch from my birthday night, only I went down in a best 2 out of 3 in 2 straight games. I’ve won one match, he’s won one, so look forward to another update for who will take home the season title!

People cleared out early again…I hung around with some members of Your Team Sucks and chatted a bit. Most of them are U of M ACM members, which makes it easy to explain what I really do for a living when asked.

Playoff schedules will be forthcoming…it sounds like the word on the street was that we would be first playing against the Number One Spot, which we beat twice during the regular season. If that’s the case, then our first playoff game should be a snap. *crosses fingers*

July 1, 2005

Kickball: Game 7

I scored [against a] Godless Whore last night!

Yes, readers, I finally scored! Game/Week 7 and I finally scored. Sure, I had crossed home base before a few times…but each time it was just after the third out of the inning.

While LMP was in good spirits, we were all acutely aware that we were going up against one of the two undefeated teams in our WAKA division. The Godless Whores (otherwise known as “The Angels”) were 5-0-1, their tie coming from their game against the other lossless team, The Sexy Ball Kickers. The weather was miserable…it alternated between a light mist and a heavy drizzle for 30 or so minutes before gametime, leaving not only the fields slick but the ball wet as well.

We built up a huge lead early in the game, which thankfully gave us some cushion room when The GW’s came out with legs a kicking in the 4th inning. I was supposed to sit out the inning, but when it was discovered that an oversight left right field open I got pulled back onto the field. What a mistake!

I usually like to play my right field position fairly far back. Due to my biking, I have a good deal of sprinting ability, but I’m not nearly as flexible as most people. By playing back, I can usually run up at the ball, allowing me to catch it in front of me without having to twist around.

After the first kicker dropped a ball right behind our first baseman, Josh pulled me in from playing so far back. ‘course, then the next kicker kicked the ball back beyond my position, meaning I couldn’t make that play either and ended up bobbling the ball. (Never mind the rain/mist that made everything slippier than normal!)

So, yeah, I shouldn’t have been in the 4th inning, but whatever. We still ended up pulling in a huge win!

The afterparty at the bar wasn’t all that and a bag of potato chips, but it was still fun nonetheless.

Next week is our final game…against the other undefeated team, the Sexy Ball Kickers. Hopefully we’ll have just as much (if not more) luck than we did this week and pull in another victory for the season.

June 28, 2005

iPodcasts

I’m not sure what prompted me to get up early this morning, but I did. I followed my usual Tuesday morning ritual - startup iTunes and download the weekly free songs. Only today, I was greeted by an ad embedded in the iTunes music store bragging, “Podcasts are here!”

I’ve written about my love of Podcasts before, but up until today I had been (unhappily) using iPodder. iPodder is always fussy about its connection to iTunes…sometimes songs wouldn’t get imported properly, and they almost never got labeled properly as a “Podcast” for integration into my assortment of Smart Playlists. Just as these things were getting on my nerves Jobs announced the integration of podcast support in iTunes 4.9…I had been eagerly awaiting the upgrade ever since.

Apple sure didn’t disappoint…while things are still a bit rough here and there, and the lack of “enhanced Podcast support” on my 3G iPod is somewhat disappointing, I think Apple has scored another win. Within minutes, I had moved over all my subscriptions into the iTunes interface, synced up the iPod and I was ready to go. All of the podcasts are organized efficiently in a separate view with collapsible headings and a slightly different UI. The modified UI allows you to download manually anything you might have skipped over or otherwise excluded in the Podcast preferences section. The only thing I’m missing is per-feed aging and syncing preferences…but overall, this is a limitation I can live with considering how clean the rest of it is.

June 25, 2005

...And The Celebration Continues!

Had my birthday with the family today…we ended up hitting the Machine Shed for lunch, and then we went and saw Bewitched. I’m happy to report that not only was the company wonderful, but that the food and movie were great, too!

After both, we went back to my aunt’s house to open presents. Got all kinds of goodness…my Parents got me an Apple Airport Express, which will allow me to stream my iTunes library out to my stereo (and upgrade the wireless in the apartment up to 802.11g) along with a birdfeeder for the deck outside my apartment and a number of books from my Amazon Wishlist. An assortment of DVDs (Simpsons Seasons 4 & 5, Big Fish) and gift cards from my Aunt, and my Grandpa gave me money to go out and buy my clipless pedals and shoes for my bike. And, although they couldn’t be here, my Sister and Bro-In-Law got me Lumines, a new puzzle game for my PSP.

A sentimental highlight was a gift I received from my Aunt. When we had gone to Disney World when I was young (10 or so, if I recall correctly) my late Grandmother and her had picked out a luminescent Goofy portrait for me. It had been packed away and forgotten until my Aunt unpacked a box a few months ago. ‘twas a neat reminder of my Grandma at the party…

We ended the day with the traditional blowing out the candles, song and cake. This year’s cake was a white cake with yummy whipped topping. Mixed into the white cake were little bits of lemon puddin’. It tasted so wonderful. Mmmm!

June 24, 2005

A Stunning Gift

When I picked up the wrapped birthday package from Kelly, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I thought for a moment that it was something made of cement. Or marble. All I could tell was that it was large and heavy - very very dense.

When I finally unwrapped it, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I am now, after admiring it whenever I spotted it at a bookstore since its release, the proud owner of The Complete Far Side 1980-1994 (2 Volume Set). Weighing in at 1272 pages (or 20 pounds, whichever you prefer), these two volumes catalog every Far Side panel ever published.

Those of you who have known me for many years remember the ever-present Far Side calendars on my desk at work throughout the 90s. I was always a big fan of the series, starting from the first panel I remember seeing when I was still in elementary school of the child trying to push open the front door belonging to a school for the gifted. (Someone had replaced Midvale with Westwood, which was fitting considering we were the gifted/talented program magnet for the district)

So, a big public Thank You to Kelly for the wonderful gift. Woohoo! I will treasure it always…

[ed: I was asked to remove the Midvale cartoon originally included in this post. See here for more details.]

June 23, 2005

29 Years (and Kickball: Week 6)

Although I think all two readers of this blog wished me a happy birthday already, I’ll make note of my 29th birthday here for posterity in case future cockroach archeologists dig up this blog after the nuclear holocaust.

My official birthday (it sounds like it may stretch out into a weekend-long celebration) was wonderful.

I worked today, but that didn’t mean that any fun was lost! JManDoo and his wife made me a cake, while I received many candy gifts from other co-workers as well. Lunch took the form of an outing to the Chic-fil-a Express down at the U of M, which was just as yummy as always. I shared my cake around the office, turned on the celebratory lights and put the finishing touches on a project that had been sitting on my plate for way too long.

My kickball games are always on Thursday night…tonight was no different. Even tho the temperatures at game time were over 95, both my parents and Kelly came to the game. My parents, besides bringing big “Happy Birthday” balloons to tie to their chairs, also brought little party-favor squirt guns for everyone on my team (I got a huge super soaker since, well, it was MY birthday!) Considering the temperature, the party favors were the perfect choice, since when not shooting each other they could be used to cool oneself down a bit!

The Lake Minnetonka Purifiers brought home an absolute victory over “Your Team Sucks”, which was absolutely the best gift the kickball team could have given me for my birthday! At the bar following the game, I also managed to avenge my team captain’s loss a few weeks ago to one of the black-shirted “Your Team Sucks” members in a 1-on-1 2-cup Flip Cup deathmatch. Even better!

Birthday with the family is on Saturday…stay tuned!

June 22, 2005

Biking Update

Well, this year has been a major headache for my biking program. Bitterly cold, rainy, the combination of the two…one just can’t win.

I have managed to get out a few times…last Friday night I did a full 31-mile ride after work and tonight I did 17 miles.

Considering I can now do 31 miles AFTER work and still not wake up in any pain the next morning, I think I’m ready to attempt a 50-mile ride like the Tour of Saints. I especially like this one since, unlike the Ironman where you had to decide 4 miles into it if you wanted to take the long route, this course allows you to delay that decision until mile 31, which seems perfect to me. That way, you can do most of your ride, and if you’re ready to attempt the full challenge, you may do so after evaluating how well you’ve done thus far.

June 21, 2005

Father's Day

This year for Father’s Day, we all headed over to the Minnesota Zoo’s IMAX Theatre to see Batman Begins. The place was packed, concessions were slow (on Father’s Day you may want to have more than one poor woman working the concessions!) but the movie presentation was flawless. I still believe that the UltraScreen where I saw Star Wars is bigger (and probably better) but the IMAX screen was still great.

On top of that, I think Batman Begins is an excellent feature. It basically had the same job Star Wars Episode 3 had…explain how we get from point A (Bruce Wayne’s parents are shot when he’s a child) to point B (Bruce Wayne as Batman, defending the city of Gotham)…but it did it in a much more entertaining and thoughtful manner.

Afterwards, the clan headed over to El Loro (review), had a great mexican meal and opened presents. Both my Dad and Grandpa took in quite the haul, but the highlight was certainly my Grandpa getting his very own iPod Mini. I don’t think he quite knew what to make out of it at first, but if you’ve read any of my previous articles on the man, you’ll realize that my Grandpa is still a gadgeteer at heart.

I went over to Grandpa’s house on Tuesday night and showed him the ins and outs of iPod usage. He picked it up right away, as I might have guessed, and only got tripped up by the hierarchical menu system. (I have a feeling, if the display could handle it, he’d be well served by standard breadcrumb navigation at the top of the screen)

Happy Father’s Day to both my Dad and my Grandpa. (Picture from YEARS ago, obviously!)

Picture of my Grandpa, Father and Me back around 1991

June 19, 2005

Kickball: Week 5

Josh was gone this week for the game, and so was our first week’s captain Jodi, so the honorable Dan Rothstein was our captain for the evening. During the week, I had setup LMPKickball.com, your source for authoritive LMP kickball coverage. As part of that effort, I put together a little Questionnaire to help complete each player’s bio page on the site. While we were waiting for the game to start, a few people took advantage of the downtime and filled out their questionnaires…the rest promised to submit them over the next week. I threatened that anyone not doing so would be punished by having a completely false bio put together…we’ll see how many people take the threat seriously.

This week we played the Uncle Rico’s Raiders, captained by the division president, Amy Ciardiello. As an added bonus, my parents made it out to the game to take in everything WAKA kickball is about (as much as they could without playing, of course!)

The game started off in a bad way for LMP, but in the end we managed to eek out a tie. Amy got semi-violent (you know she was that way ‘cause a beer went flying up in the air!) when the ump made a questionable call for the 4th out of an inning, but otherwise the game went off smoothly.

My mother’s comments were great…

“Whoever the captain of the green team is sure has a potty mouth!”

My parents and I took in a wonderful meal at Kinh Do and I headed over to Williams afterwards. The flipcup games had already began, so after visiting with the team (and picking up my first 2-for-1 drink special, Scooby Snacks, please!) I joined in and played my heart out as you may be able to see if you browse through the selection of pictures on the league’s photo album.

The mid-season party was on Saturday as well…sadly I wasn’t able to make it. Word is, tho, that the LMP members who did make it performed admirably in the “Flipcup Cup”, taking the grand prize. Way to go LMP! Yeah!

June 16, 2005

PSP Funness!

Well, the few days I’ve with my PSP have been fun. I honestly wouldn’t have ever purchased the PSP myself with my own funds, but getting it free was awesome.

I do have one gripe, not so much on my account but from the perspective of someone who just shelled out $250 bucks for a PSP. Why doesn’t it come with at least ONE game? The “Sampler Disc” it comes with only has game previews on it (little videos of the gameplay) and not one playable game.

Because of this, I had to rush out the very next day and pick up something to play. I picked up two games and a USB cable (which, coincidentally, can both connect the PSP to my computer to use as a memory card reader/writer but ALSO can be used to charge the unit from my laptop’s USB port).

The first game is Hot Shots Golf, which is a hilarious little golf game. JManDoo and I played wirelessly against each other (he ran out and bought a PSP over lunch the day I brought mine in) and had a blast. Seems like everyone around the office has taken in a few holes, it is a hit across all ages and skill levels. As you play more and more, they reward you with different items…shirts, hats, better clubs, different characters, etc.

The second game I picked up is ATV Offroad Fury:Blazin’ Trails. I’ve always wanted to go riding on ATVs…this is as close as I think I’ll get for a while, considering how often I crash into things or fall off my ATV. Games like this usually disappoint me, due to the complexity of controls. I don’t want to spend the time learning all the different key combinations in order to play the game, but in this case the training mode helps out quite a bit, and the key combinations are intuitive and easy to use. This game, too, has a local multiplayer option, but since JManDoo didn’t buy this game, we couldn’t play against each other. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but it has an Internet multiplayer option as well.

Finally, the USB cable I purchased allowed me to use the utility PSP Video 9 to convert a few video clips I had available onto my PSP. Even at the lower quality settings (due to the limited 32MB size of the included memory card, which I certainly someday will want to upgrade) the video was clear, crisp and easy to watch on the gorgeous PSP screen.

All in all, I’ve had a lot of fun with my PSP so far. Considering my relative dislike for computer gaming, the PSP so far has exceeded all my expectations. Still not quite enough for me to say I’d have paid $250 bucks for it, but I certainly enjoy what I’ve been given.

June 15, 2005

89.3 (The Current) Founding Member CD

Cover Art from the KCMP 89. The Current Founding Member Vinyl CD I went down to my post box yesterday, pulled out the mail and felt something rather stiff and substantial. Upon closer inspection, after noticing the Minnesota Public Radio sticker on the packaging I realized it was my Founding Member CD. A note inside explained that the matching vinyl was taking longer to produce than they anticipated, so they thought they would send us out the CD to satiate our hunger.

The tracklist was already announced here, so there’s no need to repeat it here. All of them are live in-studio performances - it really is kinda fun to hear some of the songs that first graced the 89.3 frequency. Gives you that heartwarming feeling inside, too, knowing that you were there and supporting the station since the first sounds of Atmosphere were broadcast that cold February morning.

June 14, 2005

End Of An Era

Last night, with the mere flip of a power toggle, IAI’s IT systems ceased operations.

[Who's IAI, you might ask? More info on the history of IAI and my history with them below the fold]

Fifth Third had been slow to replace the IT operations of Paladin/IAI after the acquisition - the staff had continued to use many of the same systems they had beforehand. As systems were replaced, things were turned down, but the “core” of the Novell, Microsoft NT and Lotus Notes networks continued to operate. Last night, after one final replication off the Notes server to a spare workstation, all three networks ceased operations. Servers were turned down, UPS power turned off, cables unpatched and cleaned up.

Together we pulled out all the KVM units, at least 100 network cables, 8 phone lines, and 8 or 9 leftover server chassis. We had a chance to tell stories, stack up all the leftover equipment, even took a moment to admire the hack job we performed on move weekend years ago to finish the wiring job the electrician didn’t do in order to get the UPS up by SOB Monday morning. Mike Anderson had the honor of turning off THOR and ZEUS, the main Novell and Microsoft NT servers, respectively, and I turned off the UPS power. Thus was the end of the IAI IT Infrastructure.

It is fitting, tho, that there is going to be an IAI reunion party next month. Perfect timing? I certainly think so! In the lead up to the party I’ll be writing a bunch of nostalgic pieces about IAI…there are so many stories I was reminded of last night that I’ve never put down into words.

Continue reading "End Of An Era" »

I'm A Winner!

Circumstances at work yesterday required me to man our booth at the NAMB 2005 National Convention here in Minneapolis at the convention center. I ended up going in the place of our Director of Operations. As you might imagine, I was none too pleased with this outcome…but I came to grips with my lot in life and off to the convention I went.

After a bit of time in the booth, things get old quickly. So, I told my coworkers I was going to go look around at the other booths and made my way over to “Aisle 100” and started walking up and down the aisles. Being a vendor at the show and having only limited cargo capacity, I judiciously chose which chotchkies I picked up as I walked from booth to booth. I saw some amazing products…there really is quite a bit of domain expertise in the mortgage space, and a lot of it was on display as I walked the show.

As I’m walking the show, I notice a bunch of people in an obviously confused state over at the big Ellie Mae booth. They were trying to get the buttons Ellie Mae was giving away to flash. I stopped to contribute my problem solving skills to the situation…eventually we figured out that the light would start flashing once you clasp the pin portion of the button, completing the circuit. I pinned the badge on my chest, with the little LED flashing away, and continued to walk the show.

The next aisle over I had noticed a neat little giveaway that I figured I could use as an iPod holder here at work. I approached the booth, and out of nowhere, completely unexpected, I hear this shout from behind, “You’re our first winner!” I turn around and there are three representatives from Ellie Mae. I’m sure they saw the confusion on my face…I found out the explanation for the situation as they pointed to my Ellie Mae badge which I had put on minutes earlier. They invited me back to their booth and we proceeded back.

I still had no idea what I had won at this point…as we walk up to the booth I see a sign posted above the container I had fished my flashing light button out from earlier…

Be seen wearing this badge, win a Sony PSP!

My heart skipped a beat, I’m sure. I’d never really considered buying a $250 portable gaming system, since I’m not really a big computer gamer, but getting one free was certain exciting! I shook the VP’s hand and posed for the picture as he handed me my PSP, smiling from ear to ear. I spent a short bit of time discussing with one of their salespeople the issues we had run into when we tried to get Encompass to run in our environment, found out they were hosting the product themselves (with the same code fixes we thought would be necessary to make it cost-effective) and walked back to our booth, grinning, still a bit in disbelief over what I had just been given!

I’ll write more about my new PSP later on…suffice to say, today was unexpectedly a great day!

June 10, 2005

Kickball: Game 4

After our first week’s romp over the Number 1 Spot, the Lake Minnetonka Purifiers went down two straight weeks in a row to both the Sexy Blue Kickers and the Godless Whores. We were hungry. And, considering the messed up schedule our division put together, luck gave us another shot at the Number 1 Spot again. (Even tho we still haven’t played Your Team Sucks or Uncle Rico’s Raiders) A perfect meal?

Josh, Jason and I ref’d the early 6:30 game between the two undefeated teams, the previously mentioned Uncle Rico’s Raiders and the Godless Whores. The game started late, and ran even later. In the final inning, the Godless Whores pulled in just enough runs to end the game in a tie, leaving both teams still undefeated!

We grouped up and realized we only had 11 people show up this week. (The same number we had show up for the first game of the season against the same Number 1 Spot team) Luckily, it broke down that we met the minimum number of both boys and girls so we good to go. We lost at Rock, Paper, Scissors, which meant we were up first.

We totally had our game on, even with our reduced numbers, and pulled out an 9 to 3 victory, bringing our season record to 2 wins, 2 losses (on the kickball field). After the obligatory “good game” handshaking/high-fiving line, we were off to the bar.

Josh Takes Him On The flip cup games weren’t well organized or played…and once again, the beer provisioning left much to be desired. However, our team captain, Josh, finally got to take on the wise-talkin’ member of the Your Team Sucks on a 4-on-4 showdown on flipcup, and bested him 2 out of 3 games. [Video Provided Here]

June 9, 2005

Disconnected

I felt so off balance yesterday when the servers were down. No personal email, no blog, no shell access. I missed 10 or so emails over the course of the day…the senders only knew my personal address and/or website. Considering that both of these were down until 4pm when they finally restored power at home, I didn’t get the message until nearly the end of the work day when email finally came trickling back into the servers.

Amazing how reliant one can become on their technology.

June 8, 2005

Power...We Need More Power

I finally drifted off to sleep last night around 2am. As my eyelids began to droop, I got to watch quite the show outside as the winds and rain battered the outside the apartment window. Lightning all over, trees being whipped back and forth by the wind, it was all there.

I wake up around 6:30am. I can’t read the clock…not all that unusual in the morning, due to the light coming in the window glaring off its display. Walk over to the bathroom…the light doesn’t work! Sure ‘nuff, the entire apartment is out. I checked the only wall-powered mechanical clock I have in the apartment, on the stove, and find out the power went out shortly before 4:00am. To eliminate the possibility that the power issue was contained within the apartment (circuit breakers, etc) I opened the door to the hallway…yup, only the bright red EXIT sign illuminated the hallway.

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June 2, 2005

Kickball: Game 3

The day was perfect…a bit muggy, but the Lake Minnetonka Purifiers were ready for battle against the dreaded “Sexy Ball Kickers”.

I called upon my trusty chariot Twinkie to travel down to kickball tonight. Twinkie hadn’t been on a long drive in some time…and considering the wonderful weather we had for the game today, it seemed like the perfect vehicle to ride into battle. I found a spot right next to the battlefield, parallel parked with haste and headed over to watch the 6:30 battle already in progress.

After the forces collected themselves, the traditional rock/paper/scissors contest decided we would be on the offensive first. Our captain, Joshua, revealed his plans to his troops for the battle. With our order set, positions assigned, we proceeded engage the enemy.

It was a bitter battle…balls were thrown, kicked, caught and then thrown again. In the end, the Lake Minnetonka Purifiers fell in battle 4 to 7. Wounds were bandaged, scorn was leveled, defeat was admitted. Then everyone retreated to the Williams Pub to negotiate the next stage of battle…flipcup. We did no better in flipcup than we did kickball this evening…the Uncle Rico Raiders finished us off in 3 straight team versus team flipcup matches.

The question on everyone’s mind - how does one pay for beer which is handled in a community manner at the flipcup tables? Should everyone bring their own beer? Should each team be responsible for their own tabs? These and the actual questions relating to the Lake Minnetonka Purifiers’ kickball performance will all be answered in time…we hope.

Also up for consideration…given how central flipcup (and by extension, beer drinking) is to the kickball experience…how long can Damon continue to categorize these entries in the “Fitness” category?

May 27, 2005

Janine is FULL

A few months ago, I audited the contents of my iPod, Janine, against my collection of CDs and pulled out all of the CDs that needed to be reripped to complete the complete digitization of my CD library. I finally got down a few weeks ago to working my way through the CDs yet to be imported and watched my music library grow in size as I imported them into iTunes.

I knew it was going to be close…but with 50+ CDs left to go, Janine finally complained she had all that she could handle. The entire 40GB had been filled up at 8399 MP3s. (I rip my tunes using LAME with —alt-present standard which usually yields a 170kbps to 210kbps VBR file)

I managed to fit everything I had my using the “Only update checked songs” option in iTunes and unchecking the Holiday music and old podcasts. However, if I’m gonna squeeze in the remainder of my collection I’ll need to get the ratings in order so that I can sync based on ratings, which to me seems the best option at this point. I’ve already got a headstart on this…I’ve rated most of the music I’ve ever listened to, but there are many, many tracks I imported in my mass ripping efforts that hadn’t been listened to yet, and thus, doesn’t have a rating.

Continue reading "Janine is FULL" »

May 26, 2005

Kickball: Game 2

The second week of WAKA kickball was a promising outing. My team, the Lake Minnetonka Purifiers, was hot off a 12-2 blowout of the Number One Spot team from game 1. Our captain, Joshua, would finally be joining us after finishing his finals at school. All of our team would be in attendance (we only had 11 of the 17 people on the team at the first game). The outlook was incredibly hopeful.

As you might guess from above setup, this week’s game against the Godless Whores did not go as well as our first outing. We managed to pull in 5 runs, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 6 runs the GW’s brought in. Disappointing, to be sure, but luckily we’ve got many more games yet to play during which we’ll be able to prove our unmatched kickball prowess…

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May 20, 2005

Kickball: Game 1 - The Day After

Well, the old adage, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should” certainly applies to me today.

Sure, getting to tell stories of great diving catches, lunges back towards a base after an overrun and bringing home the first game in the “Wins” column were quite ego-boosting, walking around like a crippled old man wasn’t all that great!

My muscles aren’t sore…I think I have my biking to thank for that. However, the impact of a bike ride is nothing compared to running full speed towards a base, only letting up at the last minute and having all 300+ pounds of me push down on my legs when I try to stop on a dime. It feels like each of my joints are crying out in pain today!

In other news, the Twin Cities WAKA League photos from Week 1 were posted today. Frustraiting you can’t download full resolution photos from the gallery site, but they did manage to catch quite a few great shots (including some of yours truly, as you’ll see below!)

Continue reading "Kickball: Game 1 - The Day After" »

May 19, 2005

Kickball: Game 1

Tonight was the first game of the inaugural season of WAKA Kickball here in the state of Minnesota…and the City of Lakes, Minneapolis specifically. I had signed up a few weeks ago and had been waiting with great anticipation ever since.

WAKA Kickball Photo WAKA, or the World Adult Kickball Association, has been around since 1998 and has been spreading around the US ever since. Our division, the MN Twin Cities Division has 6 teams, all averaging around 18 players. We play over on the soccer fields near Lake Calhoun, which makes for a beautiful setting and easy access for me via the bike routes if I ever chose to commute to the game via bike. Our season is 8 weeks long, plus a playoff event afterwards. You can find me/us at both 6:30pm and 7:15pm each Thursday night. I was assigned to the “Lake Minnetonka Purifiers” team, headed by a veteran player from one of the many DC divisions. (The league started, and is particularly popular, in the DC/Virgina area as you can see on this page over at the WAKA site which lists all the divisions)

Early Kickball Game Photo I got to Lake Calhoun Park a bit early, which was perfect since I got to see the previous game between the “Uncle Rico Raiders” and the “Sexy Ball Kickers”. It looked like everyone was having great fun playing…and I was eager to get out onto the field, if for no other reason but to get a better chance of getting blown by some wind to keep the gnats away.

As the first game wound down, our team gathered together and did introductions. We got our official team jerseys and picked out our starting positions. (We’re the white team, which means I’ll be giving Era a workout this season in an attempt to keep the t-shirt nice and clean!) Soon we were walking over to the playing field and prepared for play.

After the referees read a standard rule and disclaimer, a game of rock/paper/scissors was used to decide who would kick first and who would field first. We won the toss and chose to kick first. Our kicking order was decided in rough alphabetical order, which placed me, the left fielder, second in the line-up between our center fielder and pitcher. Jason, the center fielder, kicked a single, and I kicked a single as well. Now we were rollin’!

We went through the first two innings with hardly any scoring pressure. I think we were all trying to establish our bearings after not playing for 10, 15 or 20 years. It wasn’t until the third inning that our batting order choice finally clicked in just the right way. We scored 9 runs in the top of the third, unanswered by our opponents when they were up to kick. In the fourth inning, we picked up an additional 3 runs and limited our opponents to 2 points in the bottom of the inning. The fifth inning was scoreless on both counts, leaving us with a point in our “Wins” column with a final score of 12 to 2.

On the defensive side, I only dropped two fly balls; otherwise, I think I must have caught 5 or so fly balls during the course of the game. In one particular case, I lunged forward to catch the ball as I ran up to catch it right behind the third baseman and felt it slip through my hands. I did manage to deflect it under my body, came down hard on it but had it wrapped up underneath me. I heard my teammates yell for me to send it to second, so I rolled off to my side, located second base and threw it over leaving just enough time for the second baseman to catch the ball and tag the runner.

After the game, we went over to the Uptown Bar and Cafe, the league bar and tossed back a few drinks over conversation. They have certainly got the best hot dogs I’ve had in a long time…and at $3.50 for a hot dog and a cold Grain Belt the price was certainly right, too.

Of course, now I’m paying for all the crazy plays, moves and lunges I performed over the course of the game, but it was so totally worth it. I enjoyed every last minute of the game…the team I’m on has great chemistry right out of the gate, and I really loved getting to play kickball again after all these years. I had forgotten how wonderful it was to play - all of the excitement of reaching home plate, watching that pop-up just drop right in the pocket gaining our team a base hit (kick).

Star Wars Funnies

Considering the current Star Wars theme around here as of late, which is likely to change after tonight’s inaugural WAKA Kickball Twin Cities game, I thought I’d take a moment to link to a few wonderful nuggets I’ve been introduced to in the lead-up to Episode 3’s release.

First, we have StoreWars. This is a wonderful spoof of the original Star Wars movies from the same group that brought us The Meatrix, both of which attempt to inform the viewer about organic and family farm issues.

Secondly, there is The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster. A blog written from Darth Vader’s point of view, set in the original movies once again. Quite humorous at times, other times quite informing.

Amazing what fans will put together when they really set their minds to it. Just like Troops from years ago, fan work is sometimes more entertaining than the original work.

Star Wars! (Yes, this one deserves an exclamation mark!)

No spoilers, in deference to all my friends who haven’t made it to the movie yet.

Judging from the quantity of toys I have from my childhood, I used to be really into Star Wars. As I grew up, the toys were put away and I moved onto other interests. When Episode 1 came out back in 1999, I realized that there were still many, many people around me who still were into it - much to my surprise.

I went to the midnight opening of Episode 1 with my then girlfriend, Briana, Alanna and her buddy. Alanna and I were originally gonna go together…but when I fell head over heels for Briana, and she told me how excited she was about Episode 1, I knew we’d have to be more inclusive. Alanna took this pretty well…spent most of the evening making fun of Briana and/or myself…least I know I deserved it after Briana dumped me a week or so later…but that’s a whole other story.

Alanna At The Movie So, it was quite cool when she sent me a message about a week ago explaining she had an extra ticket for Episode 3’s opening midnight show at the the Marcus Cinema’s Oakdale Theatre 17 on the UltraScreen. Alanna and I always get along really well when it comes to movies…best movie buddy I’ve ever had, I think. We have similar interests, but we’re always exposed to different films than the other, so we drag the other along to it.

We got there about an hour before the show…they had costume contests, trivia contests and lots of lines. ☺ Alanna managed to score us some pretty slick seats in the UltraScreen theater while I was out getting some snack bar items. Around midnight a manager came in, thanked us for our patience and explained to us that there were over 3000 people at just that theater alone watching Star Wars at midnight. Then the house lights dimmed and the previews began.

Star Wars Beginning Rolling Text The showing was flawless…I can’t say enough about the UltraScreen theater. You could actually feel the concrete under your feet vibrate just before a big star cruiser came onto the screen. All the normal surround sound, all the normal big-screen viewing, just more of both!

Like I said before, no spoilers here. Nevertheless, I will say that I really enjoyed the movie as well as the presentation. Answered just enough questions to tie everything up in a neat package…but still quickly paced and action-filled. I look forward to going to see it again… ULTRA or not! ☺

Star Wars Episode 3

Closeup Image of Movie Sign

I just got home from the midnight show of Star Wars Episode 3. Alanna, my long time movie buddy, and I went to see it on the UltraScreen at Marcus Cinema’s Oakdale 17.

I’ll do a full write-up tomorrow…but I agree with much of what I’ve heard from critics and the few fans that got a sneak peek alike…this is, certainly, the most exciting and fun Star Wars movie of the most recent 3 episodes.

It was a great show. I’m no huge Star Wars fan, (unlike my Bro-In-Law, who wrote up this thoughts here), but I do plan on seeing this one again. ‘specially on the ultra, Ultra, ULTRASCREEN! Heh heh heh…

May 4, 2005

Tivo Payback

I got my Tivo as a Christmas gift back in December 2001. Since then, I’ve convinced my Parents, Sister & Bro-In-Law, Aunt, Grandpa, Mike, coworkers and many other people to get Tivos.

When Tivo introduced the Tivo Rewards program about a year ago, I signed up and started racking up points. Got a referral from my coworkers, two from Mike, one from Grandpa.

Tivo sent me an email offering me a number of 140-hour new Series 2 Tivo units for free. (All I had to do was pay for a 12-month gift subscription or product lifetime subscription for each unit!) I’ve been pondering an upgrade to a Series 2 unit for a long, long time. My first and current unit, a Sony SVR-2000 is a Series 1 unit…allowing for a lot of hacking, but not quite as advanced as the Series 2 units sold nowadays.

I’m so excited…a brand-new toy! I can’t wait to use all the new Series 2 features, including the new custom applications people have coded, such as the iSee iTunes plugin which allows your Tivo to control Apple’s iTunes/Airport Express remotely!

A Rollerderby Wipe-Out

OK, so it has been a week since I’ve posted.

No, I’m not dead.

I got stuck in one of those logjams again like I did a few weeks ago…all over writing up the trip to the MN RollerGirls. So, to break the logjam, I will quickly recap the experience…

  • I had an excellent time
  • We sat right on the floor, next to the rink, right on the line. While my legs suffered for it (I had just completed the Ironman Bike Ride earlier in the day) the action was awesome.
  • Got to see Cruel Ella, who commented on my post from last month’s event!
  • Also got to see Twodolla, although we didn’t recognize each other at the time.
  • Once again, buy the tickets that night…sure they are more expensive, but the line is shorter, you get in uber-quickly!

Can’t wait for next month’s season finale!

April 27, 2005

Snow?

There are tiny snowflakes falling here in Eden Prairie right now.

None of them are sticking, of course…but, I mean, WTF?, mate! Here we are, days away from May 1st, and we still have snow?

April 25, 2005

The Ironman Bike Ride

Picture of 30-mile Ironman Ride Route Short story: I survived 30 miles with only a week and a half of training!

It was a cold (47 at start, 57 at the end), windy day. No rain, luckily, but the wind’s effect on the event could not be overlooked. My guess would place it somewhere between 20-25 mph, which when trying to bike down a path adjacent to huge farm fields becomes quite the challenge.

Because of the temperatures, I wanted to get to the ride as late as possible, so I’d be as warm as possible throughout the ride. When I arrived at 9:30, parking was quite the issue…until, as luck would have it, I tracked down someone leaving (I guess they had already completed the ride!) so I got a spot right next to the entrance to the high school. This allowed me to leave the bike in the trunk of the Beetle until I got registered and all ready to go, which made the process much easier than having to not only bike to registration, but also securing the bike while I went into the high school to register.

The ride started off really hilly. Besides a mile route around the Lake Marion, the first half was completely up and down, one hill and then the next. I’m used to this kind of hill-intense biking around my apartment’s area, but after the Saint Paul Bike Classic’s fairly level course, I was expecting something a little bit less demanding, especially near the start. As luck would have it, most of the inclines were into the strong winds, which made it even more demanding. ‘course, as the website for the event explains,

“The Minnesota Ironman is not a race - but it is quite the test of personal strength, stamina and your commitment to cycling. The tradition began back in 1967 when the first IRONMAN Century was held, and named IRONMAN because of the time of year, the obvious lack of training, and the probability of inclement weather…”

After a rest stop around mile 18 that was well provisioned with lots of food and drink, I was off on the course again. The next 6 miles or so were mostly on nice, smooth trails with fairly level riding…with the wind to my back, I ended up easily cruising at a speed of 25 mph or more. Besides the final, huge climb in the last mile, which was only made difficult due to the proximity of the finish line, the most strenuous sustained pedaling was from mile 20 - 28, which was run alongside farm fields that provided no cover from the strong headwinds.

I finished the route in almost exactly 2.5 hours, which gives me an average speed of 12.4 mph, since the route was 31 miles long, according to the map/organizers. (I only registered 29.4 miles on my odometer…so I have made a note to check the calibration on the unit) Once I returned to the high school, I took down my bike, packed it back in the Beetle and went in to check back in. I picked up my t-shirt, gift bag and gobbled down some cookies on my way back out to the car.

I look forward to doing the ride again next year. I don’t know if I’d attempt the 60-mile ride without upgrading my bike, but I can certainly envision training better next year and attempting to quicken my pace now that I’ll have the experience of my first ride to guide my efforts. If I manage to not only upgrade my bike this year to a road bike, but also get a further head start on training, I certainly would love to attempt the 60-mile ride. The sag support, even on the 30-mile ride, was excellent and would be a welcome safety net on a longer ride. The rest stop was well organized, staffed and stocked to provide all the support necessary for the riders.

Kickball!

Newsflash!!!

The entries on the Ironman Bike Ride and last night’s MN Roller Girls will be forthcoming…but this news just couldn’t wait!

I’ve signed up for the upcoming season of the World Adult Kickball Association’s Twin Cities Division.

More details soon!

April 23, 2005

I Will Know I've Arrived When...

Someday I want to be in a position like the military generals were in old movies.

I want to be able to pick up the phone and shout out, without pause, the phrase “Get me the President!” and have it actually work.

Sure, right now I can do that at work…but all I hear back is dialtone.

I know for this to work there would have to be someone there, waiting for me to shout out the order, 24/7. Heck, I’d even take 8/5 availability.

When I have a job where that works, I’ll know I’ve arrived.

UPDATE: OK, so I know this is nearly a dupe of this post, but I just couldn’t help but mention it again!

April 20, 2005

4 Days to Go

4 days to go until the 30 mile Ironman Bike Ride!

Since I started the biking season last Thursday, I’ve biked as often as I could (considering we’ve had quite a bit of rain as of late). I started with a 17-mile day last week, followed by another 17-mile day Friday. (Friday also saw my odometer roll over 1100 miles as well!) Monday, I took a wonderful ride on the way home past the video store to drop off a movie, which brought me all around the construction going on around Highway 169 and a 12.5-mile day. Finally, today I broke 20 miles between the commute into work this morning and a nice tour around Normandale Lake and Hyland Park Reserve this evening.

More than 66 miles so far? I think that’s a great start…and I should be able to squeeze in some riding over the next few days as well.

I also stopped by Erik The Bikeman last night and went over a bunch of stuff. I brought in my Arkel Briefcase Pannier and explained to them how difficult it was to pedal properly when your feet are so big. (My foot hits the bag if I pedal on the ball of my foot, so I often pedal from the arch, a big no-no!) I think we decided the best approach was a front wheel rack, which it looks like they can order for a reasonable charge. My pannier will then hang off of the side of the front wheel instead of the back, which the bike guy assured me would take me only a few blocks to get used to once it was installed. Getting my pannier out of the way also lets me think about picking up some clipless pedals, which is something on my list for this year.

In addition, I complained to the guy about the difficulty I was having getting a comfortable riding position this year. It might just be that I’m pushing myself harder than I normally do at the beginning of the season, but this year I definitely don’t feel as comfortable in the saddle as I have done previously. He suggested I take the plunge and get myself a good pair of biking shorts to replace the cotton shorts I predominantly wear while biking which have seams in the wrong places, no padding, etc. I chose a pair of Mt. Borah Mens Baggy Shorts which I wore today much to the relief of my booty bones. :)

Weather is looking up for Sunday…I’m excited, it will be great to get a 30-mile in this early in the season. Speaking of weather, I have dumped AccuWeather after their horrible site redesign and have switched back to Weather Channel. Weather.com not only offers a spyware-free desktop weather applet, but you can customize the information depending on your needs. My Weather.com profile is setup to not only give me one-click access to hourly weather (important when you’re trying to figure out when the rain will really arrive) but it gives me a wealth of information such as sundown, daylight left, humidity, clothing suggestions, etc, which is perfect for an outdoor fitness enthusiast like myself.

My Regnal Name

So, a new pope has been elected. His given name is Joseph Alois Ratzinger - although he chose the name of Benedict XVI for his papal reign.

It had me thinking…why did he change/adopt a new name, and why is that fairly standard practice for popes?

Well, after a bit of investigation, I found out that it isn’t just popes who do this. Other monarchs do it as well. Prince Albert Edward became Edward VII, Prince Albert became George VI. Sometimes the regnal names are chosen to honor a previous monarch, sometimes they are chosen to keep a pattern (such as the Dutch kings William I, William II and William III) and sometimes they are just chosen to avoid an unpleasant/inappropriate name from being used as a monarch’s title.

Some monarchs don’t create a regnal name at all…for example, this passage from the wikipedia entry explains how Queen Elizabeth felt about changing/adopting a new name…

When Princess Elizabeth as Heir Presumptive became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1952, she was asked what name she wished to use, and she responded, “Why, my own name what else?” There had been speculation that she would take the name of her grandmother, the queen consort Queen Mary, and reign as Queen Mary III. (Her given names are Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.)

After all this research, I’ve determined that I need to come up with my own regnal name with utmost urgency. Just in case I’m called into service to act as a monarch, I need to have a regnal name already picked out.

Color-Blind Descriptors of Color

Should I have to make up for color-blindness on the part of some ancient nature-surveying biologist?

JManDoo tells me that the bird outside our window is a “Red-Breasted Robin”. I explain that the bird is clearly orange in color…thus I proclaim it an Oriole. “‘cause everyone knows that Orioles are orange!”

I think I’ve finally convinced him that the bird was clearly orange in color. Beyond that, I couldn’t care less what scientific classification the bird fell into…all I know is, that bird was NOT red!

April 16, 2005

Celebrations (Some Big, Some Small)

  1. I just received a letter in the mail that the Mazda is officially paid off
  2. Twinkie’s battery problems have been overcome, is now parked at work and available for lunch and rainy-day support during the bike commuting season
  3. Rolled over 1100 miles on the bike’s odometer Friday night, making my two-day start-of-season total nearly 30 miles
  4. Got my confirmation number for next Sunday’s Ironman Bike Ride
  5. Raises went into effect on this week’s paycheck
  6. Profit sharing was paid out from last year

The last item deserves a bit of comment, I think. It is so wonderful to see the business finally get turned around…and wonderful to see our corporate leadership (CEO, the Board) not only recognize their own contributions, but realize the role every employee played in the accomplishment. From very large projects which save us hundreds of thousands of dollars, to the little efforts like making sure all the lights are turned off when on one is around (“Hey, you’re spending MY profit sharing on those unused lights!”) we all performed together to bring in a great year.

So, for all the reasons above and more, I am in a celebratory mood. I forecast many Oreos and Northwood’s Creme Sodas this weekend…

April 14, 2005

Biking Season Begins

So, here I was prepared to write up an entry complaining how I was getting a late start this year on bike commuting, until I went through my archives and found this post from last year. I’m actually starting on the exact same day I did last year…how cool is that?

‘course, last year I didn’t have the 30 mile Ironman Bike Ride scheduled before the end of this first month! (Sunday, April 24th to be exact!) I’ve got my work cut out for me as I try to get myself ready for the same length of ride I finished the season with last year.

The West Bush Lake Road bridge over 494 was finished over the winter, which means that I can take either my original route from two years ago or the alternate route I used last year to add a bit of variety to my commutes. The options will be invaluable this year as I have already decided I’m going to attempt to ride much more often to work than I did last year…the flexibility of having two running vehicles should make that goal a bit easier to achieve. (Twinkie is one of said vehicles…making transportation of my bike much easier than squeezing it into the Beetle every time I want to take it somewhere!)

April 13, 2005

Proof That Gadgeteering Never Wanes

I had dinner with Grandpa tonight. We discussed our usual topics…politics, religion, money, the relative tastiness of fat-free sharp cheddar. The highlight of the night was my Grandpa’s presentation of his new gadget.

Before I explain the product, I need to explain my Grandpa. My Grandpa turns 81 this year, although I doubt anyone would guess he’s anywhere near 70. Does the following list of attributes sound like an 80 year old to you?

  • Loves his Tivo
  • Is on his third digital camera
  • …and second photo printer and scanner
  • …and third computer in 8 years
  • Thinks iPods are rather slick
  • Watches The Daily Show with Jon Stewart every night (thanks to Tivo)
  • Has On-Star and knows how to use it
  • Has made whole CDs filled with scanned photos from the family’s past
  • Has outwitted squirrel after squirrel in defense of his bird feeder’s stock of seeds
  • Will go to church as long as he always gets his jelly-filled donut
  • Walks 2 miles a day
  • Loves Applebee’s Riblets and Uno’s pizza

You’ll notice all the gadgets in that list…I can’t even begin to enumerate all of the gadgets he has for fishing, cooking, home maintenance and anything else you can think of!

So, it prbly shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, that my Grandpa tonight showed me his latest gadget, the Humminbird SmartCast RF20. This device is similar to a depth finder…it uses sonar technology to map the lake, its bottom and any fish swimming around. However, this device is much more than a normal depth finder…you attach it to a fishing pole/line, allowing you to cast it out away from the boat. The bobber contains all the sonar technology; it scans the lake and transmits the data wirelessly to an LCD display device you attach to your fishing pole.

My Grandpa was quick to point out the beauty in the design of the product. Like any good gadget, the little touches are what make it even better. The bobber has two exposed terminals…when placed in water, a circuit is closed in the bobber and it begins pinging and transmitting the results to the display. When you reel in the line and take the bobber out of the water the circuit opens again, saving the bobber’s battery life. The display device has a number of different attachments, to fit any size rod. Heck, I’m not an angler by any stretch of the imagination, but even I could see the beauty in this design. All for a street price of under $75 bucks!

So, yeah. I come from a long line of gadgeteers. My Grandpa, my Dad, myself. Someday, hopefully my children as well. The continuing love of new things, not only accepting change but also driving it oneself is surely a sign of an awake mind. It brings me no greater joy than to see my Grandpa still alive in this way…it gives me hope that I’ll never lose my spark, my love of change.

April 11, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Weird Sightings

I’m home sick today…got a nasty, late-season sore throat. While I mostly slept and enjoyed the comfort of my bed, comforter and the sound of rainfall outside, I did get a chance to off-load the pictures from my recent trip to Texas.

Amongst all the regular pictures of family, new lawnmowers, projects completed, there were three oddities I captured on film, which I present now for your amusement:

Picture of snack package
The first was on the package of the snack they passed out on the plane on our flight down to Texas. I read the warning…and imagined what a factory would look like that manufactured peanuts. Processed peanuts, sure…but manufacturing peanuts sounds just plain wrong!

Picture of Huggies box
Here we see something even curiouser…are we to assume that there are non-baby shaped Huggies available? Why in the heck would you not make your baby diapers “Baby Shaped”?

Picture of Toilet Seat Box
Finally, both my Sister and I got a chuckle out of this tagline on the boxes for her new toilet seats. “The Leader in Bathroom Seat Merchandising” I didn’t catch it in the picture, but the new toilet seats are made in the U.S.A. I’m so thankful we have an American company, with American workers, leading the bathroom seat merchandising sector. I don’t know what I’d do if we had a bathroom seat merchandising gap with the Russians, Japanese or French! Whew!

April 9, 2005

Happy 26th Birthday Kelly!

Picture of Kelly

Not only is it the first day of Kelly’s 26th year here on planet Earth, but I’ve known her for a little over a year now, too.

We’ve had our ups and downs, for sure, but overall she’s brought so much joy, happiness and laughter into my life I had to celebrate her birfday with an entry. (She says she has always scans the posts looking for her name…wonder if she’ll see this one?) Threats of nipple-twisting aside, her playful attitude is a welcome addition to my life, and her stories of times at the KIDSTOP are always good for a laugh or two. She was there when Twinkie was launched (and had to drive behind Twinkie when it was all stinky driving down the road) and she was there when I got home from my 30-mile Saint Paul Bike Classic Tour. She’s always been supportive of me in my aspirations - and understanding when I need my space to reflect and continue to grow myself into a grown-up. :)

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you!
You look like a MONKEY,
you smell like one, too!

*laughs* MONKEY!

April 6, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Heading Home

Well, we didn’t end up going out to do anything…instead, we hung out at the house and finished a bunch of things up.

We had purchased a lawnmower and a trimmer/edger earlier during my stay…today was the day we set it up and give them both a spin around the lawn. The lawnmower my Sister and Bro-In-Law picked out a Craftsman 6.5HP Self-Propelled Rear Bagging model, which came almost fully assembled. (Just screw on the handle and away you go!) The trimmer/edger was even easier…just twist a guard into place, plug in and go - the nylon line was already installed for the buyer at the factory.

Also had a little cookout with the new grill my Parents got Michelle and Davin as a housewarming gift, which necessitated a trip to Central Market, which is always a wonderful excursion while in Texas. It is an amazing place as I wrote about previously during my last trip. 10 different kinds of freshly prepared bratwursts and sausages, 20 different kinds of pickle relish - everything you need for a cookout!

After Davin made lunch, it was time to pack up and head to the airport. I said my farewells to Michelle and Davin, told them I’d see them again soon and walked into the terminal. Flight back was uneventful…even fell asleep for a portion of the flight.

While it was a great time, and I’m glad I went down to visit and help ‘em out, I’m very happy to be back home and in my own bed once more. :)

April 5, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Sis and Me...Just Like Old Times!

Today Davin had to work from 1pm to 10pm at the library, so my Sister and I had almost an entire day to ourselves.

This morning while Davin was still around we did a thorough cleaning of the kitchen, unpacking the remaining boxes and finding a place for everything. I collapsed any empty boxes from the previous three days’ work and prepared them for recycling, while my Sister and Bro-In-Law sorted out what they wanted to do with their reading area. They have close to a thousand books, by my estimate, and it appeared that the existing bookshelves they had would be insufficient to display all of the volumes.

We had lunch together at Sonny Bryan’s BBQ, which was a wonderful choice. Everything prepared wonderfully, bottles of BBQ sauce (each served in an empty beer bottle, oddly enough) and “Big Red”, a childhood favorite of mine, on the soda machine. Afterwards, Davin went to work while Michelle and I drove over to Lowe’s to pick up a variety of items we needed for the day’s projects.

Today’s projects included:

  • Installing a peephole in the front door. This was particular difficult for two reasons. One, because it is a hollow metal door, once you drill into it the loose styrofoam insulation on the inside comes spraying out all over. And two, it is very difficult to cut the thin metal making up the door without making it blister out or cave in. I merely provided guidance and support to my Sister, who took on the project and had quite a bit of fun, I think, drilling through her front door.
  • The installation of the new doorbell, to replace the “ghetto” doorbell my Sister disliked so intensely, wasn’t so successful. She purchased a replacement yesterday that sat flush against the wall, whereas with the brick finish on the outside of the house was made for one that sat out from the wall in a housing. We didn’t realize this until she had completed all the rewiring; she should be able to do it just fine on her own after she finds a suitable doorbell.
  • Unpacking more and more books, placing them on the bookshelves in the reading room and placing said bookshelves in their proper locations. We were fairly successful in this endeavor, although our attempt to purchase another matching bookcase from Target today in order to fill out the reading room was stymied because Target had altered their supplier/design. My Sister said she would attempt to find another online to make sure they all match.
  • New toilet seats. The previous owners had those annoying squishy foam toilet seats…not only annoying to sit on, but considering they were prbly years old a pain to look at, too. Out with the old, in with the brand spanking new!

My Sister and I were on our own for dinner. After much contemplation, we decided to go to On The Border for some Mexican food. On The Border offers a “Build Your Own Burrito”, which I took advantage of in order to create my perfect burrito creation. Roasted pepper tortilla, shredded beef, Mexican rice and caramelized peppers - prepared as a chimichanga and covered in ranchero sauce. Yum!

We spent most of the evening, both at dinner and once we got home, talking about our jobs, life and the universe. It is so wonderful to be able to still connect with my Sister, talk about our achievements without engaging in competition and share our theories and thoughts about life and our family. It is amazing to me to consider my Sister a “friend” after all these years and miles, only on a much higher level than we were as children. We’ve each matured and saw many different parts of the same world over the past few years…but we’re still connected in that way long time friends often are.

I leave tomorrow around 4pm, and tonight my Sister seemed to lean towards doing something fun tomorrow before my departure. It will be difficult to leave, knowing there are still so many projects my Sister and Bro-In-Law want to attempt around the house and the fun we’ve had doing many of them together over the past few days. However, I know that part of the joy is doing some of these things on your own, making the house a home. I envy them…apartment living isn’t a home, no matter how hard you try to make it such. Seeing their new house down here, doing all the projects around the house reminds me so much of the house I owned with my ex-wife out in Hudson. Someday I’ll have that again, I know, but having a home is certainly something we all crave. I hope that I’ve given my Sister and Bro-In-Law a head start into making their own house into a home.

April 4, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Anchors Away

Today was “Wall Day” at Casa De Durand.

“Why Wall Day?” you might ask.

Well, almost the entire day was spent hanging things up on walls.

  • New vanity lights in the master bathroom. This required a bit of electrical as well, but anchors came into play in order to provide a solid mount for the new pair of silver 4-bulb lights, one for each washbasin. Mimicking the previous day’s efforts with the motion sensor lights, I installed the first light while my Sister installed the second.
  • Hanging new shelves in the study. After Davin and I planned out the placement of the supports, he did most of the work hanging the rails from which the cantilevers hook into to support the shelving. We got away with only one set of anchors being used for the middle rail…the remainder were all installed directly into studs, providing much better support for the piles of books planned to be shelved in the office.
  • The previous homeowners left behind most, if not all of their window treatments. All of them had been taken down to facilitate the painting that had been going on around the house over the past week or so. Considering the forecast for tomorrow is for a warmer day, it will be nice to have shade from the sun beating down on us.

Besides the vertically orientated projects, we also found time in the day to go buy Michelle and Davin a new lawnmower, compliments of my Aunt and Grandpa. We also returned the unused motion-sensing lamp from yesterday, exchanged it for a variety of lawn and garden implements. Davin and I also finished off the custom-cut MDF shelves for the rails we installed earlier in the day by ironing on the finishing trim on the cut sides.

Davin and I got some one-on-one time when my Sister left for a bit to attend a work-related function. It is so wonderful to have him in our family. I never had a brother while growing up, but I’m so comfortable around Davin it seems like we’ve known each other for a long time now. My Sister could have picked any number of people to marry, I suppose, but I doubt anyone would have fit so well, not only with her, but with the rest of the family as Davin.

Lunch was another visit to Chick-fil-a, which suited me just fine. I love the fact that Michelle and Davin are such great fans of the chain as well…makes it easy to visit ‘em many, many times during my visit. Dinner was pizza from Cafe Tuscana, an Italian restaurant here in Carrollton. I didn’t care too much for the sun-dried tomato and goat cheese pizza Davin and my Sister ordered, but I loved the canadian bacon and fresh tomatoes that I ordered. Yum!

We finished the day consuming pizza while watching the “Space Mutiny” episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, my favorite episode of the entire run. Both Davin and I were in stitches as we reveled in the blaring continuity errors and horrible “com-PUTE-r” graphics. Ha!

April 3, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Painting, Weinerdog Sensors and More!

Today was a busy day around the Texas Durand Family Compound.

First off, Michelle and Davin unpacked the kitchen. Since I really didn’t know where anything went, I asked for a project to keep myself busy and was handed the task of priming and then painting the pantry shelves.

As many readers know, painting is one of the least enjoyable tasks I can be assigned. I’ve never been able to get the hang of it, I guess. I either put on the paint too thick, too thin, leave unpainted corners, spill the paint…if you name the painting-related malady, I’ve experienced it. Luckily, the assignment consisted of some simple MDF pantry shelves, none of which would regularly be seen by anyone (including Michelle and Davin) since they would be covered by foodstuffs almost immediately after installation.

By the time I finished both the primer coat and the paint coat, I felt a bit more confident in my painting abilities. Having a forgiving project took the painting job from being a detail-oriented job and turned it into something I could experiment with a little. I tried both using a roller and a brush, lots of paint with infrequent fill-ups, a little paint at a time, different patterns, etc. In the end, only one shelf came out less-than-ideal…not too shabby if you ask me, considering the confidence I had going into the project!

There were many other tasks to be done around the house. I helped my Sister piece back together their home office desk, installed switchplates throughout the house (which had been removed during all the painting that Michelle and Davin had done prior to my arrival) and explained how the sprinklerheads could be adjusted on their in-ground sprinkler system.

The most notably install of the day were the motion sensor-activated lights in the backyard for both humans and dogs at night. Michelle and Davin had previously picked out three different lights with the idea that each light would cover a third of their L-shaped backyard. They already had some “craptacular” external lights right next to either end of the L, which made installing the lights in those locations a piece of cake. I did the first light, explaining what I did to both Michelle and Davin, then Davin put up the second light. Later after dark, Michelle made the executive decision upon auditing the install that a third light at the angle of the L wasn’t necessary.

We finished off the busy workday with a hearty dinner at Babe’s and a viewing of Orgazmo. We had Babe’s the last time I visited, back in November, and it was just as good as I remembered. Excellent chicken, perfect mashed potatoes and wonderfully creamy gravy. MMMM!

April 2, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Big Brother In Da House

First off: I was rudely awakened this morning by a call from 888-587-0496. Therefore, I will rudely awaken this entry with the following message: 888-587-0496 is the phone number for the automated schedule notifier/Care Alerts for Orbitz.com. They don’t tell you this anywhere, nor do they make it available for reverse lookup on the usual sites. I’ll put this here in the hopes that the great Google may look highly enough upon this poor blog post to index the information for others to share.

The trip down to Texas this time came out of an offer to help my Sister and Bro-In-Law move from their apartment into their first house. Although they closed on the house a few weeks ago, waiting for me to visit didn’t really end up being too onerous of a wait. First, the previous homeowners ended up renting the house back from them for a few days while they finished their move out of the house. Then, the remainder of the time my Sister and Bro-In-Law spent painting many of the rooms, getting a fence installed for their dogs and doing other assorted chores best done before you need to move everything in and live in a home.

Continue reading "Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Big Brother In Da House" »

April 1, 2005

Aunt's 50th Birthday

Today is my Aunt’s 50th birfday!

We celebrated by picking her up in a limo at work, went for a ride around the lakes and then went to dinner at Kincaids.

My Grandpa, DiAnne (a friend of my aunt) and I all attended the night’s festivities. My Parents provided the limo (they are off on holiday) and my Sister and Bro-In-Law sent a wonderful floral bouquet making sure everyone knew at my Aunt’s work that it was her big day.

We had a wonderful ride, a marvelous meal and listened to many stories from my Aunt’s 50 years in this world. Kincaids sure took care of us…even offering us a bottle of wine when dinner was slightly delayed in arrival.

So, it took two cards to do it justice in real life, but I wanted to say “Happy Birthday” to my Aunt here, too. Here’s hoping she has another great 50 years ahead of her!

March 30, 2005

Highlights of the Day

  1. I finally got around to checking out the Best Buy Weekly Ad and I found out that Orgazmo was finally released on DVD! Picked it up over lunch…watched it after I got home tonight. I’ve rented it so many times over the years I know the movie by heart…it is wonderful to finally have a DVD version with all the extras.
  2. Review today at work. Went well, very few surprises. As my boss said, he’d tell me well before now if I had been doing something incorrectly or inappropriate. Received very high marks on both communication and problem solving - considering I feel these are my two strongest professional aptitudes I was happy to see that they were recognized.
  3. Waking this morning to a great spring rainstorm was refreshing. Great to see all the leftovers of winter get washed away, everything getting ready for growth once more.
  4. Getting ready for a busy next 72 hours:
    • Drop off my parentals at the airport 5:00am Friday morning
    • Aunt’s 50th Birthday celebration Friday night after work
    • Leave Saturday morning for a quick trip to Dallas to help my Sister and Bro-In-Law move into their new home

March 28, 2005

Springtime!

3pm, Mostly Cloudy, 64 degrees!

I left for work this morning driving my Beetle. I didn’t even make it a block down the road before I turned back, unlocked Twinkie and drove it into work instead. Windows all open, breeze running through my thinning hair, the wind causing the sleeve of my shirt to flutter.

Absolutely beautiful day…ahhhhh.

Welcome spring…I can’t wait to get the bike lubed up and hit the pavement. woot!

March 23, 2005

Album Sorting In The Age of iPod

I like having my CDs out for visitors to peruse through - or for the occasional listen without the aid of my iPod.

A curious thing struck me this evening. Months ago, I sorted most of the CDs in library order: artist’s last name, then first name, then album name. This has worked out well…until tonight.

Continue reading "Album Sorting In The Age of iPod" »

Facial Hair: 2005

Picture of my goatie FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The 2005 Facial Hair Experiment is Over

Bloomington, Minnesota (PRSOURCE) March 23, 2005 - With a pull of the razor, Damon Durand’s accumulated facial hair was removed this past weekend. “I haven’t looked back,” Damon exclaimed today in an interview.

Reviews and polls were mixed during the two-week trial - most people responded that Mr. Durand looked good with facial hair, but they also indicated that he looked good without it, too. Among those that expressed a preference, only 15% of respondents indicated Mr. Durand looked better with the manicured facial hair growth.

“Considering the upkeep and my facial hair’s ability to capture bits of almost everything that came in contact with my mouth, I thought it best my facial hair and I parted ways,” Mr. Durand explained at a press conference.

For those still interested, Mr. Durand advises that they can still tune into OfficeCam most Thursdays and Fridays - most weeks he lets his facial hair grow unchecked. “Most weeks I let it grow out during the week,” Mr. Durand explained, “cause frankly, even daily or semi-daily shaving just seems to be too much work that early in the morning!”

March 22, 2005

ROLLERDERBY!!!

MN Roller Girls Logo About a month ago, I read about the season opener of the Minnesota RollerGirls on twodolla’s blog. That same weekend the Strib had a big front-Variety-page article on the league, its formation and the players in the league. Going to see the bout didn’t happen for a variety of reasons…but this weekend all the stars aligned and I got to go!

Continue reading "ROLLERDERBY!!!" »

March 19, 2005

Wow, What a Logjam!

The previous post sat in draft state since Monday, jamming up the portion of my brain responsible for blog updates. I knew I had to get it out there, and nothing else pending wasprocessed until I got that status toggled to “Publish”. So, an update on the previous week:

  • I found my digital camera. There was much rejoicing amongst fans around the world when I found my digital camera in a pile of holiday decorations here at home. I had thought it lost for the past few months while I searched hi and low for the elusive camera. You know they say you miss things the most when you don’t have them…well, over the past few months I’ve time and time again been bitten by the desire to snap a photo of something. Now that I’ve found the camera, of course, I expect all photo desires shall immediately cease.
  • The 2.6 GB bittorrent download of the free MP3 collection from artists appearing at the South by Southwest Music Festival finally completed. Get it while its hot, there are some great gems in there.
  • I got my premier issue of Make. I meant to sign up well before the initial issue hit the streets, but it wasn’t until it did that I finally got up the courage to sign up for a year. So far, I’m nothing but pleased. It is a tinkerer’s dream - tons of projects and neat tricks to keep the curious entertained.
  • Booked tickets to fly down to Dallas to help my Sister and Bro-In-Law move into their new home. I expect a lot of work…but I also expect a lot of Chick-fil-a!
  • Speaking of Chick-fil-a, if you examine the container from an 8-piece order of nuggets you’ll notice there are punch-out holes for “N”, “S” and “K”. While all participants of our visit to the U of M - Twin Cities campus (the only Minnesota Chick-fil-a location!) on Monday for lunch agreed that the “S” stood for “Strips” and “N” for “Nuggets”, JManDoo hypothesized that the “K” stood for “Knuggets”. (Neither the “K” nor the following “n” are silent, according to JManDoo). Research later revealed the “K” must have stood for “Kids”, since the kids meal at Chick-fil-a has a 4 or 6-piece nugget option. JManDoo is still sticking to his theory, tho.
  • My review was due yesterday at work…so I sent it in at precisely 11:59pm last night. Double-B (the boss) did say I had until midnight to send it in. I hope I’m not the only one who sees humor in it, tho!

That’s not everything (my life isn’t THAT dull and boring!), but it is the stuff I found blogworthy over the past week.

March 14, 2005

"New" Republicans

My Grandpa, to this day, speaks of his many years in the Democratic (DFL) Party here in Minnesota, and more specifically, the southern Minneapolis precinct. He, and to an even greater extent my late Grandma, were very active in school board, union, and DFL politics for a good part of 35 years.

Often times, when we find ourselves lamenting over the Neo-Conservative agenda that prevails in the Republican Party as of late, he talks of the differences between “Old” Republicans and “New” Republicans. The story he uses to illustrate the difference is something similar to this:

The “New” Republicans are all about lowering taxes and reducing government. They believe the money can be better spent by businesses and/or constituents in order to employ people, produce products and drive the economy. You often here the mantra, “It’s MY money - I earned it” They take a very shallow view of their lives. They didn’t get a check from the government every month - thus they don’t see all of the support they received to get to the place they are today. Did they drive on a road to get to work everyday? Did they receive a public education? Did their employees receive a public education? Do they rely on the police to enforce order?

The truth is they only earned the money because of the entire infrastructure provided by taxes and their government disbursers.

The “Old” Republicans would certainly look to reduce the size of government, but would realize that government is more of an enabler of business than a tax upon their business. Instead of just looking to reduce taxes, they would look at the value obtained for the money spent and try to direct it where it could benefit his business constituents the most. You need to spend money to support infrastructure: businesses needed good roads and highways in order to move their product efficiently, businesses needed good schools in order to get graduates to employ, businesses needed police and social welfare to ensure order so consumers felt safe spending their money, etc.

My grandpa goes on to explain that, at the time, it was this shared belief between the Republicans and Democrats in making government WORK instead of just shrinking it made it much easier to come to compromise and use the tax dollars that were collected efficiently.

This post over at iamericka linked to this wonderful interview over at City Pages with Dave Durenberger. In the interview, he laments over the very same change from an “Old” Republican’s perspective. It was incredibly fascinating to see a perspective from inside the Republican party over the same change my Grandpa has identified time and time again as one of the reasons we see politics devolving over the past 10-15 years.

It’s a measure of how far the Neo-Cons have infiltrated the GOP since Durenberger, who left the Senate only a decade ago, says he could never get the endorsement of the GOP today to run for office.

March 9, 2005

The Egg Turner Mystery

I received a catalog in the mail yesterday from Agri Supply. “Why?” you might ask? I have no idea…but it was specifically addressed to me, here at my work address. I can assure you, I’ve never ordered any farm equipment, especially delivered here to work!

I’m not the only curious person here at my workplace; even Accounting Nicole stole a peek when she dropped off the mail. I paged through it a little bit upon first receipt…however, I was disappointed when I found nothing “unusual” in the catalog. Once I got past the initial disappointment, I started showing off my unusual gift (just on the basis of it being an agricultural catalog itself) to coworkers when they would stop by my desk.

I don’t remember who found it first, but one of my coworkers found a listing for an egg incubator and its accompanying “egg turner”. None of us even considered the need for turning eggs during incubation. The item might have soon been forgotten, had the “47 eggs” not stuck out of the item description.

Continue reading "The Egg Turner Mystery" »

March 8, 2005

New iPod Firmware

So, I applied the new iPod Updater 2005-02-22 firmware a few days ago to my old trusty 3G iPod. I read about Apple putting the Shuffle Songs option in the main menu, just like it was in the 4G iPods, but it wasn’t until this morning when I wanted to create an “On-The-Go” playlist that the firmware basically upgraded my 3G completely to a 4G!

This means that not only do I now get Shuffle Songs on the main menu, but I can now put the Clock option on the main menu, too! Makes setting the Sleep timer much more convienient. I also get the ability (finally!) to delete songs from the “On-The-Go” playlist, and I can save the playlist directly on the iPod rather than having to wait for a sync event to save it.

‘course, one wonders if keeping the 3G and 4G feature sets apart this whole time was just an Apple ploy to get people to upgrade to the 4G. Now that everyone who would upgrade has, they collapse the feature sets together so they only have to manage one firmware?

I’m not complaining. I learned a long time ago when I bought my Newton that when you buy an Apple “consumer electronic product” you are buying the exact feature you see at the time of purchase. That’s the consumer electronics mentality, and just because Apple is also a computer company doesn’t mean your electronic device is/will be upgradable. ‘course, it is wonderful when they do (I do love my On-The-Go playlist editing!) but ‘tis nothing to be expected.

March 7, 2005

Celebrations of the Day

  1. I finally got my book, “The Road To Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe
  2. From 43 Folders’s feature on rules of thumb, If you dont know what you want, its probably sleep.
  3. Cheap generic lemon sandwich cookies totally hit the spot
  4. Mailinator has been my friend for a while now…and it deserves your friendship as well
  5. There is and always will be a 5…or, rather, “5ves” by the Heiruspecs, my #1 chart-gainer in the month of February in the iPod playcount list!

Continue reading "Celebrations of the Day" »

The Road To Reality

I heard Roger Penrose back in February on “Science Friday”, which is the Friday mainstay of NPR’s “Talk of the Nation”. The interview was rather short, but the name of his most recent book stuck in my mind. A few days later, I was killing some time at the Mall of America’s Barnes and Noble and saw his book sitting there on the table. I picked it up (all 1136 pages) and read the jacket copy.

Now, I tend to support brick and mortar bookstores because I value their ubiquity and browsability. I think it is a wonderful luxury of this day and age to be able to travel a very short distance, walk in and purchase a book whenever the mood strikes me. (Much better than waiting for a monk to transcribe the book from an original) I also love the ability to review the books before I purchase them…read a few pages, a few chapters, whatever I need to do in order to gauge the value of the book and compare to its purchase price. These reasons mean I am usually willing to pay a slight premium in order to keep my favorite bookstores around.

This book, however, was $40. Not a showstopper, but when I had nothing to go on besides a 10 minute radio interview which only touched lightly on the book (along with only enough time for a cursory examination of the title) I was a bit leery of an impulse buy. (It also didn’t help that I found the book at Barnes & Noble…my least favorite bookstore) I knew I should look into this book a bit more before committing to such a purchase. I put it back on the shelf and made a mental note to check into it when I got home.

After I got home, I did a little more reading on the book. The more I read, the more interested I became. Penrose spent 8 years creating the work. Positive reviews all over the place from both laymen and experts. I also found a full website devoted to errata and problem solutions from the book, a sure sign of a quality technical work. I checked Amazon for its price - $26 bucks. That price, combined with Super Saver Shipping, made it a done deal. I thought I could wait patiently until it arrived.

Of course, I spent the next week and a half tracking the shipment as it moved around the country. I got really excited last Friday, since it seemed it would arrive at work just in time for the weekend. Sadly, it didn’t arrive until Saturday, which considering we don’t receive mail at work on Saturday, meant that I didn’t get it until this afternoon’s delivery.

One of the reviews I read compared the book to two independent study courses: one on the intersection of geometric and algebraic mathematics, the second on the history (and future) of physics. Reading the prologue and foreword, I have a feeling the reviewer was right, at least when one considers the amount of effort it will take to consume and understand the book. The first portion of the book is devoted to teaching you the mathematics you’ll need to understand the remainder of the book…maybe I’ll finally understand vectors and matrices! As the author writes in his introductory text, “It is always the case, with mathematics, that a little direct experience of thinking things over on your own can provide a much deeper understanding than merely reading about them.”

Once Again, I'm The Last In Line

As I continue the struggle to emerge from the month-long hiatus from all things cultural, I came across this wonderful new Burger King TV commercial for their Tendercrisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch chicken sandwich.

I can’t stop laughing. It has Hootie singin’ this promotional song about the new chicken sandwich to the tune of Harry McClintock’s goofy hobo song, “Big Rock Candy Mountain”. (Here’s a link to my favorite version, by Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers)

Quite catchy…and the sexual innuendo is subtle in a very obvious way. Watch it. Enjoy it.

March 4, 2005

Dinner With Grandpa

I’ve written about having dinner with Grandpa before, but after tonight I just had to celebrate it again. I ended up getting out of work a bit late, so I didn’t get over there until almost 6:45. He greeted me chipper as usual; we hopped back in the warm car and drove off to dinner. Uno’s was the place of choice this week (the last few weeks we’ve been going to Applebee’s, he loves their riblets, so we thought we’d head back to Uno’s again for a change).

It never ceases to amaze me just how great of a man my Grandpa is. Not only does he have (still, at 80!) the intellectual and reasoning capacity, but he’s got such a wealth of experience to draw upon he never fails to be an entertaining and rewarding conversationalist.

Tonight’s highlights included:

  • retirement planning
  • my grandpa’s love of his new Tivo
  • oil change patterns and the whole synthetic/natural oil debate
  • the possible labor-related causes of foreign manufacturer’s larger engine oil capacities
  • the oddity of 7’1” men bringing 7’0” women as guests to church services
  • if we accept that the big bang really happened, what was here before it and, more importantly, why was there a big bang?
  • the “bump” method of lock picking
  • the wonders of a truck stop gift shop
  • arch support and heel replacement on shoes
  • the need for another family board meeting next week after my aunt returns from her tour of England
  • the home price bubble

3 hours. 3 flavored iced teas, each. (His were raspberry, mine mango) A wonderful evening all-around, once again reminding me of the joys of having such a wonderful Grandpa!

March 3, 2005

I Finally Get Podcasting...

OK, so I’m guessing I’m the last person in the world to hop on the podcasting bandwagon.

That might not be true, I guess, considering I first installed it months ago. At the time, tho, I didn’t really find anything interesting…but another look after reading this month’s Wired article on Adam Curry and I’m finally excited about it.

Not only can I get one of my favorite NPR programs, “On The Media” via a podcast, but there’s also a fascinating podcast called “open source sex” which is wildly entertaining. Nothing like listening to a quick reading of some erotica on my 5 minute drive into work in the morning. *laughs*

Those of you without iPods, don’t fret. Just because it is called podcasting doesn’t mean you need to get an iPod to listen. Just download iPodder or one of the other podcast clients and give it a try! I’ll be here enjoying my podcasts and holding out hope that “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” or “Marketplace” will be podcast soon. I end up missing both of those on a regular basis ‘cause they are aired at crappy time slots on MPR.

March 2, 2005

A Day Off After A Busy Month

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been working quite a bit more than I’m used to as of late. Therefore, I took today off from work to let my mind rest a bit.

Last month was incredibly busy at work. I knew most of it was coming - yes, I even knew that considering the stress I’d be under I’d prbly get sick, too. (I did, of course) Nevertheless, it was exhilarating to participate in such a huge project at work, seeing everyone put in the effort that they needed to in order for things to go off with hardly a hitch. We changed almost everything over the course of the previous month; almost every customer was affected. To have only one customer encounter a major issue with the change is quite a testament to the skills and hours everyone contributed to make it a success.

The rest of life has been pluggin’ along as well. The biggest surprise involved a change in the management here at my apartment building. Mary, who’s been here for over 4 years, moved next door to me just before Christmas. It was a mixed blessing - it was wonderful to know I had a responsible tenant next door to me after the previous two were so horrible. Then for Christmas I get a new surround sound system and I then I worry about disturbing her!

All of a sudden, in the middle of the second week in February, I leave my apartment to head off to work and there are 4-5 movers carrying things out of Mary’s apartment! I peer inside, see no one moving about and begin to wonder. On my drive out of the parking lot to work, I notice a huge moving van in the circle with “Northfield” written all over it. “The manager is moving out?” I say to myself incredulously.

I keep an eye out for Mary in the office, only to be disappointed time and time again. I begin to wonder if she had passed away or something similar, since it was all so sudden. Eventually I catch a glimpse of her working in the office, but that then makes even less sense. Finally, nearly 3 weeks later, just before the end of the month, posters go up inviting everyone to her going away party.

Come to find out, she bought a place down in Northfield a few months ago. She advised the management company she was moving, gave plenty of notice and thought they would make some kind of announcement to the residents about her leaving. She didn’t tell anyone in the meantime, hoping that it would be a smoother transition. When her final day approached and there was still no announcement, she took it upon herself to let all of the residents know what was going on, still not knowing who would be replacing her. She’ll be missed, for sure.

Today’s agenda has three things on it:

  • Finally finish Gumby, get it into the guinea pigs’ hands
  • Finish laundry
  • Get my haircut

Seems like a good list of things to do on a day off, doesn’t it?

Grade "F"

Well, I can’t really give myself passing marks for the February Project I set out on at the beginning of the month. I only made it up to the letter F, and that post didn’t even make it online until the 21st of the month.

A lack of planning was the primary issue I ran into while trying to keep up with the entries. While I had come up with the subjects for a few of the entries (of which “M”, “S”, “T” and “X” never made it online), I didn’t write any of the entries in advance. I didn’t think this would be much of an issue, considering I usually write about an entry a day. I didn’t take into consideration that my daily entries are usually far less structured than the February Project would require.

Writing up some of the entries in advance also would have been a good idea considering we had a gigantic project at work this month. Although the workload was heavy almost the entire month, February 16th - 23rd were so heavy I hardly had time to sleep:

  • Wed 16th: 7:30am - 6pm, 11pm - 4am
  • Thurs 17th: 9am - 6pm
  • Fri 18th: 9am - 6pm
  • Sat 19th: 1am - 4am, 9am - Sun 7am
  • Sun 20th: 2pm - 5pm, 8pm - 11pm
  • Mon 21st: 6am - 6pm
  • Tues 22nd: 9am - 6pm
  • Wed 23rd: 9am - 5pm

Before things got all crazy on me, I certainly did enjoy being able to get some of my thoughts written up on the site for others to react to, both privately and publicly. Maybe next year I’ll attempt the same thing, only plan things out a bit more in advance.

So, for now, back to the simple blogging I am used to doing (and love so!) and which I missed so much during February.

February 7, 2005

Feb "F"

[This entry was going to be about FAILURE, since it is now the 21st and I’m two weeks behind. I’ve only had a few spare moments over the past two weeks, limited mostly by my obscenely busy work schedule. Now that work has mostly calmed down (project done, customers happy, OK!) and I’m actually enjoying a night at home for the first time in a week, I think I will attempt to complete the task I set forth upon at the beginning of the month. The posts may not be timely, but they will be here for the sake of completeness.]

FAMILY

Continue reading "Feb "F"" »

February 6, 2005

Feb "E"

[Sorry about this MAJORLY late posting…a combination of work and lack of inspiration contributed to the delay!]

EQUALITY

Continue reading "Feb "E"" »

February 5, 2005

Feb "D"

DIVORCE

Continue reading "Feb "D"" »

February 4, 2005

Feb "C"

CHALLENGE ME

Continue reading "Feb "C"" »

February 3, 2005

Feb "B"

BOOTYS, BOOBS AND BRAINS

Continue reading "Feb "B"" »

February 2, 2005

Feb "A"

[Sorry about this late posting…pulled an all-nighter at work last night, spent most of today recovering]

ACCEPTANCE (and forgiveness)

Continue reading "Feb "A"" »

February 1, 2005

February

February is a rather unique month. Not only does it change its length every few years, but it also has the fewest number of days of all the months in a given year. In addition, it has two valid pronunciations (courtesy Dictionary.com):

“Usage Note: Although the variant pronunciation (feb-yoo-ary) is often censured because it doesn’t reflect the spelling of the word, it is quite common in educated speech and is generally considered acceptable. The loss of the first r in this pronunciation can be accounted for by the phonological process known as dissimilation, by which similar sounds in a word tend to become less similar. In the case of February, the loss of the first r is also owing to the influence of January, which has only one r.”

Like many months, February’s name comes from Latin, Februarius mensis or “month of Februa”. Februa, or Februalia, was a month-long festival celebrating the god of purification, Februus. Homes were cleaned and blessed, offerings of reparation were given and peace was made. (A perfect thing to do as the winter months wind down, don’t you think?) Februus and his festival became so important to the Romans that eventually they named a month after him.

Although my research isn’t quite clear on this, eventually you get around to some of Februus becoming associated with the god Pluto, ruler of the Underworld, and other parts become identified with Juno Februa, the goddess of fertility and passion. The same festival continues, tho, celebrating Juno Februa. Years later, the early Catholic Church comes up with Saint Valentine’s Day in an attempt to bring all of the pagan festivals and celebrations under Catholic control.

Now that the history lesson is out of the way, and we all understand (sorta) how we got to February being about love, why am I posting about it?

I’m gonna try something that has been percolating in the back of my mind since December. From the first time I told a girl she liked me (I “dropped” a note to her during pass time in second grade…she laughed at me and made fun of me with her friends) to when I got married (and later divorced) I’ve collected a number of experiences I’m going to share this month. Some will be celebratory, some lessons to learn, some will simply be amusing stories. I hope that everyone will enjoy them (and share their comment-love!)

Considering I’ve already used February 1st for this post…and there are 27 days left this year, I’m gonna try to up the ante a bit. Considering there is 26 letters in the alphabet…that leaves one letter, per day, with the final summary post being featured on the 28th. Brilliant! Stay turned for tomorrow…

January 26, 2005

Gimme A Break

I got 3.5 hours of sleep last night ‘cause of work-related issues.

Gimme a break, k?

In other news, I’m very happy that 89.3 / The Current / KCMP has been continuing its strong performance. My iPod use has been cut dramatically while driving, for sure. (I may even be able to part with it long enough in order to get its battery replaced) Not all of the music is my favorite, but the variety is perfect. I actually get the feeling that a higher intelligence (rather than computer) is mixing up the tracks. Last night I heard a Soul Coughing tune (a live Casiontone Nation) spun right before a Madvillain track (Money Folder). The two worked perfectly together…woot!

January 24, 2005

89.3 / The Current's Launch

With the playing of “Music By Beethoven” WCAL, from Saint Olaf College, went off the air after 84 years…to be replaced by The Current, brought to us by MPR.

The first song was MOST excellent. Sure, some people had ideas what they wanted…Left of the Dial, Dave Matthews Band, etc. But what the staff chose was perfect. A great song, I had never heard brfore, but totally fit. This is why I’ll tune in and others will as well. That’s what radio is supposed to be about. Being exposed to new music that’s familiar but that you’ve never heard before. A DJ should MIX the tracks, one leading to another almost as if they were giving a speech.

I’m excited. I first got “into” music when KJJO was still on the air spinning some up some of the great early “Alternative” tracks. REV 105.1 came around after that and filled the void. I tried Radio K for a while, but it was too young and unpolished. Cities 97 was too old and too predictable. Drive 105 tried, and honestly was all I had to turn to, but it didn’t seem “right”. Too much repetition…and not enough variety.

I’ve heard four tracks so far. The first was awesome, a hidden track by “Atmosphere” off of their “Seven’s Travels” album. The second I didn’t like too much…but the most recent two were great. That’s what it is supposed to be about, tho. I won’t like everything…but even what I don’t like will be somehow familiar, fit with the songs played around it.

Here’s the lyrics from that first Atmosphere song…

Continue reading "89.3 / The Current's Launch" »

January 23, 2005

Alton and My Chicken

A few weeks ago, I was possessed to go visit Alton Brown’s website. I didn’t really go up there looking for anything in particular…I think I had just finished watching an episode of Good Eats and thought I’d check it out. I noticed an AB on Tour link and clicked through. Low and behold, Alton was coming to Minneapolis to promote his book! I added it to my calendar…and thought I’d forget about it until shortly before.

However, even with the stress of the last two weeks, I’d often find myself looking forward to the book signing. I checked the website a few days later, noticed that an independent bookstore, Bound To Be Read had been added, decided that’s where I’d go.

Continue reading "Alton and My Chicken" »

January 21, 2005

On The Weather

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

I don’t think I’ve seen this much fluffy snow fall so far this year here in the great state of Minne-snow-ta. It is so wonderful to see everything all white and pristine…makes all the bitterly cold temperatures worthwhile when you get soft snowfall like today. I feel like throwing on the snowpants, running outside and making a snowman. I wonder if it is sticky enough snow to make snowballs? Might have to test that out tonight as people leave work…heheheh.

"Nailed It Shut!"

One more quote…then I swear I’m done! Quoteth Mr. T:

“I love it when a plan comes togetha!”

I think we all loved it today. “The Project” proved itself to be every bit as valuable and extensible as I designed it to be, and it handled its first real-world challenge with only minor coding changes. (I might bump up the version to 1.0 just to celebrate!) The mad ninja code I wrote in a matter of three days (including a complete rewrite because of a silly Microsoft undocumented feature) plugged in beautifully - and with the rewrite it ended up working even more elegantly than I had originally thought possible. In the end, the customer project was finished only 3 hours late (3pm instead of noon) but we still got it done today thanks to some last minute scrambling by JManDoo and I. (Truth be told…not that we need excuses, mind you, but I should point out that we lost 3 hours yesterday because of some Fishwall issues…so we really came out right on time!)

It felt good to see everything working like we had planned…even moreso after we were told in no uncertain terms by “people who know” that what we wanted to do was impossible. IMPOSSIBLE Muahahahah!

January 19, 2005

A Very Mad Ninja

The mad ninja programming skills are getting quite a workout these past few weeks. (It seems to me I gave up programming years ago…why am I still doing it today?)

It seems that there are portions of the Win32 API (Specifically, IPHLPAPI.DLL / IPHelper) which do not respond well to impersonation calls. I’m sure someone somewhere at Microsoft thought this was a great idea…but it has caused me and JManDoo much aggrevation for many hours tonight. Now I’ve got to take a nice, straightforward piece of code and slash it to bits to make it work without impersonation.

January 17, 2005

Another Busy Week Ahead

As mentioned here, this week is another busy week in the land of Damon. Got a bunch of projects at work all coming to a head this week. Indeed, I put in the equivalent of a full work day yesterday as I hacked away at Fishwalls project trying to get it into a state where I can hand it over to our operations group.

Still have hardly started on the project due on Thursday at noon for one of our clients…ugh.

January 11, 2005

New Female Tech Support Rates

While my existing rates remain unchanged for men, I have created a special new rate structure for women looking for help with their computer. I am your one-stop shop for all your computer setup, maintenance and installation needs. Contact me today!

Meet the IT Gigolo!
from Sync Magazine, Oct/Nov 2004

34-year-old systems engineer “Ray Digerati” enjoys fixing computers. And having sex. So he combined the two.

How long have you been a tech-support manwhore?
A few months. This really attractive friend was having trouble connecting to the Internet, and the idea popped into my head: “Wow, it would be nice if I could get sex for this.” I placed an ad on Craigslist that read, “WILL FIX COMPUTERS FOR SEXUAL FAVORS.” The response has been overwhelming.

This scam actually works?
Yeah. Most of the calls I get are for spyware removal and viruses. One girl didn’t even wait for me to finish the virus scan - she just grabbed me and gave me a b.j.

Do you have a set, you know, pay scale?
No, it’s up to their discretion. One girl didn’t want to have intercourse, so she offered a massage and then finished me off with her hand. It’s all about the time I spend. If I’m working for one or two hours, I’d like a hummer. An orgasm for every two hours of service is fair. If it’s something simple that I can fix in 15 minutes, I’d like to get a foot massage.

Do you see photos first? Ever rescind your offer once you saw the girl?
I’m pretty open-minded. I’m a stickler for hygiene, but I don’t discriminate.

This is sort of awkward, but my hard drive keeps crashing and…
No guys. I mean, I’ll help you out for money. But if you know any ladies who need help, I’m ready, willing and able.

January 10, 2005

System Busy - Try Again Later...

Coming off the heels of a very busy week at work, I received word late on Friday that my life will be consumed with work over the next few weeks. A big project, under a deadline that only crazy people like JManDoo and I would attempt to make, will combine to make for a very busy few weeks.

I wouldn’t have it any other way, honestly. I love, if not thrive on, the stress which comes from this kind of work. I’m excited…it isn’t just a wham-bam-thankya-ma’am install, we’re talking about a pretty major install with all kinds of new things involved combined with a hack that, when it works, is quite elegant and beautiful, considering the pain which it solves. (That’s quite the sentence, isn’t it?)

January 7, 2005

Pity the Morons, Part II

I don’t play the lottery (it is a tax on people who didn’t pay attention in math class) but I’m thinking I might want to go out and pick up a ticket. I mean, what are the odds…

Back around the end of October, I found myself unable to drive my car to my assigned parking spot because there was a car blocking my route. I had to push the car back in to the spot, out of the driveway, and use a sandbag to block the driver’s rear wheel so that it wouldn’t roll back, blocking my way once more.

Well, a little more than 2 months later, I found myself doing it again. I was just returning home for the evening, turned the corner inside the garage and found my route blocked with a completely different car in a completely different spot. Upon inspection, I realized it was the same situation; they had forgotten to set their parking brake.

I marched down to the previous spot, found the original bag of sand and returned to the new spot, bag in hand. I pushed the car back in, slid the bag behind the wheel and scribbled a note for the careless driver.

This morning, as I was leaving for work, I noticed the bag had been moved just out of the way (potentially blocking the next parking spot over) and the car was gone. My guess: the driver was in just as much of a hurry this morning as they were last night!

Seriously, tho, what are the odds inside of 2 months I end up rolling a car back into its spot twice!? Mind boggling, I tell you! Mind boggling!

January 6, 2005

Chosen Mindful Distraction

Gravity by homokaasu.org.

There is something ultimately beautiful watching the comet streak through a moving planetfield. The graceful arcs as it flies across the screen. The joy you get when the comet enters an almost perfect orbit around one of the objects…and the excitement when you see it get pulled away from its peaceful orbit by a passing planetoid.

Save it locally using your favorite method (I prefer Page Info trick in Firefox) and you can blow it up to a full-screen version which is a joy to play, even when you’re not connected to the net.

Sure, high scores won’t be sent if you run it from your local machine. But who are you really competing against, anyway, besides yourself?

January 5, 2005

Trying "Puzzles"

I’ve only posted about our daily Mensa Puzzle Calendar habit at work a few times, but I get a bunch of traffic each day from related queries.

In the interest of giving the peeps what they want, I’m gonna try to get something going related to puzzles. It may be a discussion about HOW to get a solution for the Mensa Puzzle Calendar, a related puzzle or simply some random puzzle I have on hand.

So I don’t clog up this blog (hey, that rhymes!) I’ve spun it off to Puhzlur. Check it out!

January 4, 2005

Beginning A New Year

The only reasons I left my apartment, from 00:00:00 01/01/05 until my departure for work this morning, were related to obtaining food stuffs.

I had visitors. I slept. I ate my “Holiday” Fruity Pebbles, which I got on sale for a buck a box at Cub Foods on New Year’s Eve. I watched a little TV. I read. I spent hours updating, cleaning up and resyncing my iPod back to my central music library. I lost at Trivial Pursuit, this time to only one opponent. I listened to lots of music. I made amends with some, reconnected with others and generally feel like I’m entering the year on solid footing.

Welcome to the 2005 rollercoaster of life. Hang on for the ride; keep your hands, feet and other objects inside the vehicle at all times. If you feel dizzy or overwhelemed, close your eyes; the feeling will pass with time.

December 31, 2004

End Of Year Quiz

Neil does this “end of the year” quiz…sounds like a good idea to me. (Least it did before it took me almost two hours to write it up!)

Moo!

Continue reading "End Of Year Quiz" »

Mensa Calendar Hint Service?

I’ve been keeping an eye on the server logs. I guess I’ve become some sort of Mensa Puzzle Calendar answer source…since for the last month, at least once a day, I receive a hit from someone obviously looking for help on the puzzles. (Even on puzzles I’ve never posted about!)

Accounting Nicole purchased the 2005 version of the calendar; JManDoo, her and I are really looking forward to it.

Now, I certainly can’t post each question over the next year. But I’m thinking it might be fun to post a hint each day regarding the calendar. For those of you playing alone, you still get the enjoyment of figuring out the puzzle after a slight nudge.

I’ve been looking for a content-specific blog. This certainly wouldn’t be that…but it might be a nice sideblog, no?

December 30, 2004

Songs of 2004

It is about this time of year that people start putting together lists of things from the previous year. Since I don’t have time for such trivial things, I spent about an hour and a half going through my iTunes library, picking out the songs which “made” 2004. These may not be my favorite (indeed, some of the songs suck big donkey balls) but even if years go by before I hear them again they will, indoubtedly, remind me of occasions and occurances in the year 2004.

TitleArtist
Such Great HeightsThe Postal Service
You’re the Only OneMaria Mena
The ReasonHoobastank
Light & Day/Reach for the SunThe Polyphonic Spree
“Been Missing Work Lately?”Office Space
ChemistrySemisonic
Life Less OrdinaryCarbon Leaf
Hey Ya!OutKast
SlowlyMax Sedgley
I Miss YouBlink-182
HallelujahJeff Buckley
This LoveMaroon 5
Good ThingsThe BoDeans
Mad World (Theme to Donnie Darko)Gary Jules
She Will Be LovedMaroon 5
Homer Simpson “SMRT”The Simpsons
Way You WalkPapas Fritas
Accidentally In LoveCounting Crows
Geek LoveFan_3
PalomaCarbon Leaf
Be Bad for MePaul Westerberg
What About Everything?Carbon Leaf
See A Little LightBob Mould
RighteouslyLucinda Williams
Float OnModest Mouse
Either WayGuster
Eyes Like SparksGrandpa Boy
Cinnamon ParkJill Sobule
Can’t Let GoLucinda Williams
Mary MacCarbon Leaf
BoomboxMosquitos
In the Shadows (Radio Edit)The Rasmus
The BoxerCarbon Leaf
HomesickKings of Convenience
DianeGuster
The MermaidMark De Gli Antoni
Where Do They Make Balloons?They Might Be Giants
Gin And JuiceSissy Bar
Staring At the SunSimple Kid
Pear Shaped GirlSissy Bar
I Met A GirlWheat
Happy Holidays (Beef Wellington Remix)Bing Crosby
Any Day NowJustincase
We Like to PartyVengaboys
Milkshake (Radio Edit)Kelis
Deck the HallsThe Roches
Maybe KatieBarenaked Ladies
Against All OddsThe Postal Service
Hot ChocolateTom Hanks
(Don’t Fear) The ReaperBlue �yster Cult
Spoken Word BanaphoneUnknown
Minnesota BusinessThe Brave New Workshop
EndOfTheWorld.swf SoundtrackUnknown
Elf’s Lament (with Michael Bulb�)Barenaked Ladies
AmsterdamGuster
Lebanese BlondeThievery Corporation

December 29, 2004

Garden State on DVD

Picture of Garden State DVD Cover I totally forgot until NewT and I were at lunch today discussing Scrubs that Garden State came out on DVD yesterday! I made her drive me over to Target so I could pick up a copy before coming back to work. Yay!

December 28, 2004

Yamaha the Hydra

So, finally, after much teeth gnashing and a few cramps in my fingers my new Yamaha YHT-450 is finally installed, sans the rear center speaker. (I’ll have to hook up the remaining speaker after I get a mount for it, but the wiring is already run so it should be nearly mount ‘n play!)

Took me about 6 hours in total, from 3pm in the afternoon Sunday to 9pm that night. All six speakers needed to have their speaker wires cut, split and stripped from one gigantic spool provided with the system. The rear three speakers caused a bit of head scratching, until I realized that I could run the wires on top of the blind valences over my two patio doors. That hid the speaker wires quite well, and kept them out of the way, and as it worked out the provided spool gave me almost the exact amount of wire to accomplish this setup.

As I hooked up my components, I decided to switch back to my previous DVD player, my old reliable Toshiba SD-3109. I had purchased a new Samsung DVD player a few years ago, since I wanted to be able to read burned CDs and the Toshiba is unable to handle any burned CDs. Over the years I haven’t amassed the large number of burned DVDs I thought I would have - and the annoying layer transition pause on the newer DVD player is around a quarter second. The old Toshiba accomplished its layer transition almost instantaneously.

Because I wanted to “experience” the cool Dolby/DTS sound with my new system, I picked up an optical cable for my DVD player from Target. A word to the wise - I managed to get a 12 ft optical cable from Target for 40% less than Best Buy was going to charge me for a 6ft cable! (And that’s the non-Monster cable versions!)

After getting everything hooked up, I was pleased to find out that the Yamaha remote had all of my components covered but one - the Tivo. No problem, I thought to myself, since the Tivo remote could be programmed to support controlling the A/V system. The “supported” solution allows you to control the mute and volume controls through the A/V system. There is also an “undocumented” solution that SHOULD allow you to power on/off the A/V system with the TV. Unluckily, due to either the specific Yamaha codes necessary or the fact that I’ve got a Sony-made Series 1 SVR-2000 Tivo I can’t get this trick to work with my setup. Luckily the volume and mute still work, at least.

After going through the setup, I “initiated” the system with Fantasia 2000. A perfect disc to highlight the new audio setup, and boy, did it make a huge difference! It really makes a huge difference in the soundtrack! Yay!

Last night I watched the Matrix, my first DVD and the reason I got my first player back in ‘99, in the full surround sound setup. Absolutely wonderful! It was almost as big of a change as when I saw my first DVD after watching VHS the rest of my life.

December 26, 2004

Christmas Play Day

Well, it is the day after Christmas morning. The apartment is filled with evidence of the recent holiday. On the one side, I’ve got piles of wrapping paper, tissue paper, shirt boxes, price tags and tape. On the other side, I’ve got my home theater system, boxes filled with all the booty from the Christmas gifting.

Usually, being the good geek I am, I have to take off the day after Christmas from work in order to play with all my new toys. This year I’ve got a natural day off in order to do just that!

So, away with the pre-Christmas preparatory wrapping paraphernalia!

In with the treasure!

December 23, 2004

Unplanned Parties Are The Best!

Work devolved after lunch into a social event/impromptu party that was wonderful, actually. The less formal affairs always seem to be much more meaningful than some official gathering. We had a great time visiting, gabbing about the year past and talking about the big pile of work coming up in the first quarter.

I also got to give my presents…

Everyone loved what I got ‘em. JManDoo was especially pleased, since he had been lusting after the Sealab 2021 DVD for quite a while now…however, his wife would always talk him out of getting it when they went shopping!

B2 took JManDoo, myself and a few other coworkers out to eat at Redstone for lunch. We had a great meal…I got this gigantic open-faced turkey sandwich. Yum!

We all ended up leaving a bit early today, which was just fine by me. I made my way to the mall, picked up the few remaining items I needed and got home by 6pm! Tonight’s schedule: Present wrapping, holiday music and relaxation.

An OfficeCam Christmas

Picture from OfficeCam wearing my antlers I picked up these antlers many years ago…just the perfect thing to wear around the office as we approach Christmas!

As you can see, the holiday celebration is in full swing here at the office. I’ve got my holiday lights up, causing epileptic seisures for my coworkers who look upon them all day long. Holiday music has been blaring, too! Yay!

A Week Excuse!

This last week has been a hectic one - not only have I not been keeping up my site but I’ve fallen woefully behind keeping up with everyone else’s blogs. Bloglines 920 articles that are unread. Ugh.

What’s been keeping me busy? Well, between finishing all the chores leading up to the holiday AND work-related projects coming to a head I have hardly had time to keep up with real-life communications.

For those of you wondering…this also means the home theater system mentioned previously has yet to be opened. Which is just as well…it will be more proper to open it up after I open up the rest of my gifts. Something about it being a Christmas gift just screams to me not to open it early.

I’ve got some really exciting presents I just can’t wait to give this year…but I must not write about them here. Least not yet. The receivers may find out what they are getting before they get it - which would be rather unfortunate from the surprise perspective.

There’s also some exciting things in store for Damon’s Daemon in the new year. Right now, the first feature will be starting Feb 1. My mind is already a flutter (in its spare time) thinking about the wonderful things I’m gonna try to write. Hopefully I’m gonna get close to the NaNoWriMo total of 50,000 words.

Now I lay me down to sleep. Got a lot to do tomorrow, even tho I thiink most of my retail shopping visits are over after the grand tour I made tonight. Whew! Smooth sailin’ from here.

December 19, 2004

Still holding out hope...

…for a white Christmas.

In the meantime, I’ll be freezing my booty off!

 HighLow
Monday349
Tuesday12-7
Wednesday4-7
Thursday0-8
Friday114

Yes, that’s a HIGH of 0 on Thursday.

December 18, 2004

Baby it's cold outside...

Last night my parents called…they wanted me to drive Twinkie up to their house sometime before Christmas. They were otherwise silent as to the purpose, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some kind of Christmas-related activity requiring either A) Twinkie itself or B) Twinkie-style transportation. I explained that Saturday I could come up sometime in the early afternoon, not only for this über-secret activity, but also to give my Dad a little in-service on his newly received iPod.

Now, the other thought through my head was…um, Twinkie isn’t exactly a cold-weather vehicle. Not only should it not be driven in the winter (salt, sand, etc all work to ruin its finish) but we never completed getting the heater hooked up this summer. Why rush it, since I don’t drive Twinkie in the winter anyway? Considering that my parents were the people who helped me fix up Twinkie this summer - so certainly they understand the situation. If they are still asking me to bring Twinkie up, it must be for something good.

I woke up this morning and saw the weather forecast. BRRR! I took a nice warm shower before leaving, put on a few extra layers, zipped up the jacket and drove up to my parents’ house. I didn’t get really cold until a few minutes before I got up there. When I arrived, I drove up to the spot where Twinkie had been parked for all those years, turned off the car and proceeded to grab my stuff to walk up to the door.

Continue reading "Baby it's cold outside..." »

I Would Walk 4000 Songs...

Well, last night I sat down and started rebuilding my iTunes library. Just finished a few minutes ago. (Yes, I did sleep during that time, too!)

Why did I need to do this, you might ask?

Continue reading "I Would Walk 4000 Songs..." »

December 17, 2004

Today's Weather Report

Melancholy today. Partly bored yielding to mostly confused as the day progresses.

On The Origins of My Love For Grocery Shopping...

Am I the only one in this world who enjoys grocery shopping?

WARNING: Extremely long remembrance of grocery shopping ahead!!!

Continue reading "On The Origins of My Love For Grocery Shopping..." »

December 16, 2004

My Annual Weekday Holiday Shopping Day 2004

Today is the day I usually take off work each year to attack the shopping list.

I prefer to take a weekday off so I can enjoy all the shopping, rather than have to battle the even larger crowds on the weekend. (Not that I usually get it all done today…most of the time I end up battling the crowds on the weekend anyway. But getting a bunch of it done today certainly helps the sanity on the weekend.)

As an added bonus today, I’m going to meet Sneebish for coffee today. Haven’t seen her in real life for 8? years or so. Should be a good break in the middle of the shopping excursion.

Full steam ahead!

December 15, 2004

Comments Fixed, Now Back To Lunch

Commenting has been restored. I will now return to eating my:

Chipotle Barbacoa Burrito

  • Rice
  • Pinto Beans
  • Tomatillo-Red Chili Salsa
  • Cheese
  • Lettuce

Be sure to keep the liquid nearby…that salsa gets hot after a while!

Comments Are Broken

About 4 or 5 times this morning some idiots decided to comment spam me at a rate of about 30 comments / second. Took me a while to track down what they were doing, considering that they were blacklisted so the comments never showed up.

I turned off the commenting script for right now, until I have a chance to track down the IPs and block them at the apache level. (It looks like all of the comment spam was coming from a handful of IPs repeatedly)

Their activities caused a number of timeouts for other Thingamabox hosts as well…sorry ‘bout that everyone!

Meme of 3ees

Jodi’s challenge has not gone unnoticed…

As Tim says in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ‘ere the other side he see!”

3 Names you go by
Damon
Damon Curtis Durand
Damon Durand, Destroyer of Worlds, Master of the Third Dominion

3 screen names you have
DamonDCD
Sir Loin
N1njaHamster

3 things you like about yourself
my optimism
the ability to appreciate a wide variety of music
my well-being

3 things you dislike about yourself
my frequent nosebleeds
my seasonal eczema
my inability to hang upside-down

Continue reading "Meme of 3ees" »

December 14, 2004

OfficeMax's Holiday Gift

I don’t see many ads with the Tivo, but during one of the holiday shows (I think it was “A Charlie Brown Christmas”) I saw the OfficeMax Holiday Rubberband Man Ad. I hadn’t seen any of the previous “Rubberband Man” ads OfficeMax had produced, but the holiday one was slick. They filmed it in that stop-motion animation style made popular in all those holiday TV specials. Even the Rubberband Man had been modeled!

The thing I fell in love with the most was the choral version of Rubberband Man featured in the ad. JManDoo used his black voodoo and isolated the track for me (and you, coincidentally)! Enjoy!

Holiday Choral Rubberband Man Ad Soundtrack

OK, So Maybe Boohbah Isn't 100% Evil

I’ve come across the only hint of goodness I’ve found so far to spawn from the evilness of Boohbah:

Boohbah is now code word for, Hightail it to the bedroom, weve got roughly 17 minutes.

December 13, 2004

Barenaked Glee

I just got back from the Twin Cities performance of the Barenaked Ladies Holiday Tour down at the Orpheum Theatre. I had purchased tickets for my parents to come along as well, since they got such a kick out of seeing them the last time they came to town. (Last time I had two spare tickets, since I had gotten closer seats nearly the date of the performance, so I let them take my original two) We met for dinner and then drove down there together.

The seats I picked up turned out great (Main Floor Section 4, row N). We had two guys in front of us with a seat between them for a little 3-year-old boy. A family of four (two teenagers, the mom and dad) were seated to the right of them. To our right we had another family of four; immediately to my right (I was on the right end of our seats) there was a couple who came in after the concert started smelling of booze. On our left we had, what appeared to be, a group of four college friends who had come together to attend the show. Behind us, we had more families. Overall, this certainly was a “family” show. (I’m used to all ages at a BNL show, but this was obviously something many families attended together)

The beginning of the show started off with the Shakopee Junior High School Choir singing a few Christmas carols. (I captured one of them with my smuggled-in iTalk and iPod; I’ll link to it tomorrow HERE [Updated 12/14 11:15am] after I get a chance to convert it. I listened to it on the way home, it didn’t turn out half bad!) Then the band came on stage and did a wonderful group sing-a-long with the choir. As the choir left the stage, the guys launched into another holiday tune. Just when I got to thinking it was going to be a strictly holiday concert, they played one of their non-holiday songs and the audience just rocked out. Everyone was moving, shaking, bouncing, doing whatever one can do in the foot-by-foot space provided by the chair boundaries.

About halfway through the concert Steve introduced Sean Cullen and gave him the stage instead of doing an intermission. I thought this was a neat touch…Sean ended up telling us the “untold Christmas story” about how upon Jesus’ birth (named coincidentally after Joseph and Mary’s Mexican gardener) a big robot came down and engaged Jesus in a battle to the death. Wacky beyond belief!

After the came back on stage the band played a bunch more songs, including one where the audience chose who was going to play the drums for the next song. We chose Kevin; he hopped behind the drums while Tyler came out and sang Feliz Navdidad. It was a lot of fun seeing them mix it up a little.

There were two encores, and then the venue lights came up and we all shuffled out like good little cattle.

<rant> Seriously, I wonder where and when the whole “encore” thing became so manufactured that after the concert the audience goes wild (while being kept in the dark) until the band comes out. When they leave the second time, either the lights come up or they stay dark - that’s your hint if it is time to throw on the jacket and sprint for the door or you should continue to scream for more. Not like you’re really demanding anything…since they control the lights, the control how much you get to hear. </rant>

It was wonderful to see my parents so into an act that I appreciate so much. Hearing my mom shout out the “A llama…or an emu!” line from “If I Had $1,000,000” in that BNL-style of mispronunciation was awesome. So was the way they leaned into each other and swayed back and forth to “Call And Answer”. At the end of the performance, my mom exclaimed so happily, “They played EVERY one of my favorite songs!” Even my dad was energized by it, even tho his favorite, “Be My Yoko Ono”, wasn’t played.

An excellent concert, as always. I’m planning to pick up the live recording of the show through the band’s website. The last time they came to town it was right before they made all their shows available online - should be an interesting way to support the band as directly as possible. And while, at times, the holiday music was a bit distracting, I certainly would love to sit through that concert again and again :)

Direct from the Disappointment Department, Part II

Today’s “Mensa Puzzle Calendar” reads:

“Which of the scrambled words below is least like the others? The difference has nothing to do with syllables.
THOUGHT GNU BRIGHT BEGIN

First off, we thought, “Oh, cool, a bunch of one word anagrams!” We came up with GUN for GNU and BEING for BEGIN. But we were stumped on the other two…after a few minutes of pondering possibilities, “The Billpayer” peeked at the answer and announced, “They aren’t scrambled.”

That set us down the path of which word was least like the others…which came to us all rather quickly.

I think it is true that the calendar is getting easier during the month of December. Is this to motivate you to buy another calendar? “Wow, I’m rocking at this now, I must be getting smarter…I need to buy next year’s calendar!”

Meanwhile, the rest of us wallow in the simplicity which is the Mensa Puzzle Calendar’s December series of questions…

December 11, 2004

Are You a Lonely NeoCon?

If so, the LieGirls are waiting for your call.

Continue reading "Are You a Lonely NeoCon?" »

December 10, 2004

AOL Finally Owns Up To AIM Issue

I’ve got upwards of 10 accounts across the major IM services. Since I’ve been using Trillian since its early days, this has never really been a problem. I simply defer to my friend or coworkers for which service they prefer to use and give them the appropriate screen name to add to their lists.

All of a sudden, last Friday morning the AIM account I’ve had for ages, DamonDCD, was suspended by AOL. Trillian reported an error code 17, which linked to a webpage on AIM’s site that listed the reasons for suspension - none of the reasons seemed to apply to me. I tried to connect with the real AOL client, still didn’t let me connect.

This was OK, tho, since I had a backup account that had every buddy my DamonDCD account listed. Other than some mild confusion over some of my AIM buddies receiving messages from this long-forgotten account, it was only a disappointment on my part because I lost my DamonDCD account.

Nonetheless, by Sunday, I realized how silly this was. Why had my account been suspended? I only talk to 2-3 people on AIM…none of them would have blocked me or given me some kind of warning. There was no reason my account should be suspended!

I scoured AOL and AIM’s website, looking for some way to contact support and see why they felt my account should be suspended. I read to the FAQ…the only help it offered me was the same message I got when I tried to connect. The only avenue for support, it seemed, was to fill out a bug report. Even tho I could choose “Problem connecting with account” from the list of errors I wished to report, I found I could only submit a report if I checked a box next to the following statement:

Check this checkbox to indicate that you understand this is not a place to get support, and that you will not receive a reply to the information you entered above. You may not submit a bug report unless you check this box. If you need help solving a problem, please visit our FAQ page instead.

So, while I filled out the form, I was pretty certain I could count on getting nothing in response. I managed to track down a live online customer support website - they just referred me back to the same FAQ. I tried calling AOL’s 1-800 support number, only to be read the same information on the website. When I explained I already knew all that information, that I was curious WHY it had been suspended, the account rep just referred me back to the AIM site again.

I removed DamonDCD from my auto-connect list in Trillian and decided that I’d have to wait for the account to expire in a few months, at which time I could recreate it, re-add all of my buddies and move forward.

Then, this morning, I popped up Slashdot and was greeted with this story on the main page, which read, in part:

“According to a story on eWeek, AOL has mistakenly suspended a very large number of AOL Instant Messenger (one of the most widely used IM programs) accounts, by mistake.

I tried reconnecting with DamonDCD and viola!, everything worked just dandy.

I don’t know what was worse…

  • being suspended in the first place
  • being given no notice why it was suspended
  • having no avenue to get the account reactivated when it was obviously a mistake
  • finding no one who would own up to the mistake they made when it was a huge system-wide issue

December 9, 2004

New Data Center Rules

RULES AND REGULATIONS

  1. All food and beverages allowed
  2. No ear protection required
    1. This rule may be changed if a game of Lacrosse is in session or JManDoo is playing one of his WB TV show soundtracks
  3. Cell phone use allowed
  4. Because of the proximity of working areas and lack of ventilation in the data center, please practice proper personal grooming before entrance
  5. There is no number 5
  6. Only ones and zeros are allowed to be processed in this data center
  7. Due to the lack of a raised floor, all cables shall be managed using the �Ninja-spaghetti� style upon the work surfaces
  8. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200
  9. There are no cages to be opened, so don�t ask for the key
  10. If you walk your robot dog, be sure to clean up after it
  11. Robot dogs and all non-technical employees must be kept on a leash at all times
  12. This area has been designated as a fallout shelter
  13. In the event of an emergency, raise your hands above your head, run around screaming �Help me, help me!� and pray to your chosen deity
    1. If you have no chosen deity, feel free to borrow one from the provided deity cubby
  14. Any explosives or hazardous materials must be kept in your pockets
  15. Management bans guns on this premises � but we don�t care if you use them anywhere else
  16. At some point, you can get too many items on a list

ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY

Only authorized parties can access this data center, including but not limited to:

  • Booty Rap Dance Parties
  • Pool Parties
  • Development
  • Operations

Expressly unauthorized parties include:

  • Management
  • The Carrot Top Ragtime Band and 1-800-Collect Banjo Players
  • Boobahs

Where's the Sun?

I haven’t seen the sun for DAYS!

Where did it go? I’m guessing it is somewhere above all the fog, clouds and general uckiness outside.

Least if I don’t get the sun, I want snow on the ground! Seeing all the brown leafless trees above ground and the semi-green grass on the ground doesn’t help brighten things up at all, either!

*sings in his deepest Bing Crosby voice*
“I’m…dreaming…of a whiiiite Christmas”

Dilbert

My boss left this waiting for me on my desk when I got into work this morning:

Dilbert cartoon featuring ones and zeros

My boss loves to refer to any kind of development, engineering or programming as “those ones and zeros”. (Considering he’s got an accounting background…one wonders how many ones and zeros he works with on a daily basis?) He’ll utter, “Why don’t you go back to working with your ones and zeros?” if I stick my nose into some sales activity too far. He’ll walk into the development office and query, “How are the ones and zeros today?”

Now that I’m thinking about it…I wonder if he’s calling us zeros? Hrm…

December 8, 2004

I Miss My Whiteboard

Whenever I’m at home and wanna sketch out an idea, I find myself missing my nice big whiteboard at work.

Why isn’t there some kind of application for a PC which emulates all the good things of a whiteboard? I use Visio all the time, but you can’t use that to sketch. Could I just use something as simple as Paint if I got myself a tablet?

I dunno…but right now I’ve got ideas I wanna get down on paper and work out…and the concept of plugging it all into Visio doesn’t excite me at all. Off to find paper and a pen.

Direct from the Disappointment Department

Today’s “Mensa Puzzle Calendar” reads:

“Start with the number of letters in the answer to 7 × 3, subtract the number of letters in the country just north of the United States and multiply by the number of letters in the postal abbreviation for the state of Florida”

Um…is this really a Mensa-level question? Did they get this far into the year and run out of challenging questions?

December 7, 2004

AIBO? Ah...NO!

MONTHS ago, I got a postcard in the mail from Verisign, offering a copy of their brochure, “A Guide to Securing Your Web Site For Business”. I wasn’t all that interested in the guide; I almost threw away the postcard. Before I did so, I noticed another tidbit on the postcard…the first 125 people to respond to the offer got a free robot dog!

The instructions led me to this site; I entered the code they wanted, filled in my mailing address and clicked submit. This was, I repeat, MONTHS ago, if not almost a year ago.

Up until today, I had forgotten all about it. When I got back from lunch, I was greeted by a medium size box on my chair from Verisign. At first I considered that it may be a bomb…we had moved all of our SSL certs over to Thawte a few months ago. Maybe this was an attempt to scare us back into buying over-priced SSL certs.

I tentatively opened the box and found a copy of the guide AND MY FREE ROBOT DOG. He is a Biocybie Dog by Geospace. The blurb from the product catalog reads as follows:

Picture of the Biocybie Robot Dog“Say “HELLO” to BIOCYBIEDOG, the interactive robot dog from GEOSPACE®. He is animated and can see you, hear you and even feel your touch with his built-in interactive sensors! BIOCYBIEDOG will bark, pant, and whimper as well. He also moves forward, backward, and spins around. He performs over 15 commands and functions and interacts with other BIOCYBIEPETS. Includes infrared controller. Requires 9 AA batteries, not included. Ages 6 & Up. Case Pack: 12 Pieces. Package Dimensions: 15” × 7.75” × 8.75” Price: $35.00.”

While we were removing him from the package, we got a chance to admire the great workmanship that went into his design and production. One of the ears was loose, the battery covers were held in place with a twisting tab-like peg and his legs were completely hollow. Upon further inspection, we found two drive wheels on his underside, along with two free wheels hidden under his rear feet. The designers simply took a tank toy, replaced the tank shell with a plastic dog shell, added a motion sensor and shipped it.

Nonetheless, we were eager to get the dog powered up. We collected 9 AA batteries from the pager stash, slid them into him and powered him up. He sprang to life, barking and panting his way around the table. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a silly toy after all.

Oh, how wrong we were. The controls are so sensitive that it is impossible to make the dog move forward. (This would involve pushing both joystick controls forward, as if you were driving a tank!) Hit the button for him to bark, he’ll think about it. Hit the play button…or feed button and the robot dog will run around as if he was rabid. The only way for you to control him is through the infrared transmitter, which only seems to work after you’ve sent the command 3 or 4 times.

We went back to the website, in total disbelief that this dog would cost ANYONE $35 dollars. Upon re-reading the catalog entry, it became obvious…

“…Ages 6 & Up. Case Pack: 12 Pieces. Package Dimensions: 15” × 7.75” × 8.75” Price: $35.00.”

The $35 dollars is for 12 robot dogs! Of course! I can believe that this dog would sell for $3.

We’re currently debating what to do with this dog that cost more to ship to me than it did to produce. For a few moments, we thought we could turn him into a guard dog for the development office here at work…but upon testing the “guard dog” feature we found the motion sensor was really only a light sensor…and a poor one at that. You basically have to cover the hole in the plastic dog shell that the sensor is behind in order to get a response out of the guard dog.

December 6, 2004

Holiday Music Season Opener

Today is officially the start of the Damon Durand Holiday Music Season. The long relegated iTunes playlist, “Holiday Tunes” has been playing most of the day today.

Throughout most of the year, “Holiday Tunes” is only referenced so that its songs can be excluded from my other smart playlists in iTunes. Any holiday-esque music is added to this list; almost all playlists exclude any songs appearing on this list. This works out great for playlists like “Played > 10”, which as you might guess, lists any songs which have been played more than 10 times. Many of the holiday songs would normally fall into this playlist…but most of the year I don’t really care to hear them when I’m shuffle-playing.

(Actually, for those interested…I have two playlists: a regular old playlist “Holiday Tunes (Manual)” which I can add individual holiday tunes to, then a second “Holiday Tunes” smart playlist which includes anything in the genre of “Holiday” and includes any songs which are in the “Holiday Tunes (Manual)” list. I then use the “Holiday Tunes” list as an exclusion criteria for almost all of the smart playlists which may encounter frequently played music.)

December 4, 2004

The Return of Significant Others

Earlier today, the Tivo picked up the entire premier season of Significant Others on Bravo. I guess Bravo decided to re-air the episodes today since the premier of the second season is tomorrow night. I caught most of the first season episodes back in March, after the Tivo picked it up the second episode as a “suggestion” for me. I fell in love and setup my season pass to catch all the rest.

Basically, the show starts with each of the 3-4 couples featured in the show in a therapy session. The session is filmed as tho you’re the therapist, looking at the couple and listening to them babble. Each couple sets up one or more issues for the episode and then we’re off to live it. In the main event, we’re presented with snippets from each couple’s life together where the issues play themselves out to much hilarity. Finally, we return to a second therapy session, where we sometimes reach a conclusion over the issues at hand…or not.

From a production perspective, the show is shot in the “quick-cut” method so very popular in the modern shows of today. In both the therapy sequences and the “life” sequences, we hop from story to story, no more than a minute at a time. It definitely keeps the laughs up, and keeps you flirting with the disasters you quickly see approaching in all of these couple’s lives. According to the Bravo website, the show is improvised by the actors and actresses as it is filmed…although I have a feeling only the therapy sessions are improvised - the “real life” sequences seem scripted to match the improvised material from the therapy sessions.

This show was a $99 Special from the Slamdance Festival. NBC picked it up to pilot it for its prime-time line-up, but the show got pushed off to Bravo for airing. Doubtlessly, it was a bit too racy for prime-time…it deals with a LOT of adult themes. I’m glad it was picked up; this is certainly one of my favorite shows on TV right now.

December 3, 2004

Christmas List 2004

Every year each person in our family puts together a Christmas list. We’re supposed to have it done in time for Thanksgiving…but my questionable health and the trip down to Texas delayed me from putting it together.

Here’s my list for this year:

  • JBL Creature II Speakers
  • Sony MDR-EX81SL Earphones
  • Replacement Sony Tivo Remote (RMT-V303)
  • Replacement Aiwa Remote (RC-TN330)
  • Sonos
    • (Has been delayed…won’t be out in time for Christmas, but I’d love to have a head start towards saving up for it!)
  • Tuner/Speakers for Home Entertainment System
    • I’ve already got the Tivo, TV and DVD player…just looking for something to tie it all together (and the iPod/eventually Sonos)
  • Polar Fitness Monitor
    • I’ve already got a bike computer that works just fine…looking for more of a general model which will monitor my progress even when I’m not on the bike, but when I’m working out on the machines and whatnot
  • Dension Ice>Link Plus
    • This allows my iPod to hook up to my built-in stereo’s CD changer port and I can control the iPod through it
  • GiantMicrobes
    • Aren’t they cute?
  • Tivo CacheCard
  • There’s no place like 127.0.0.1 Door Mat
  • Homer Simpson Cubicle Signs
  • BSD Sticker
  • Utili-Key 6-in-1 Tool
  • Bedroom Set (Headboard, Footboard, Nightstands, Dresser)
  • VW Beetle
    • Replacement Driver and Passenger Side Front Floor Mats
    • Replacement Fliplid for the Trunk
  • VW Bus
    • Replacement Window Seals
    • Driver and Passenger Retractable Seatbelts

December 2, 2004

On French Dressing...

Those of you who have visited a few restaurants with me already know this, but I consider myself a french dressing connoisseur. I’ve tried french dressings of all varieties…the spicy, the rich, the sweet, the thick and the runny.

Of all of the french dressings, my favorite french dressing of all time is the french dressing on Ruby Tuesday’s salad bar.

It has just enough sweetness, with a hint of tartness, to make any salad perfect.

Least, it used to be. Ruby Tuesday’s changed their french dressing about a year ago now to something incredibly yucky. It went from #1 to almost the bottom it was so horrible. The only explanation I received upon asking why they switched was that they wanted to offer a lower-carb variety for people on low-carb diets.

I lamented…why must low carb dieters affect the ability for me to obtain the most wonderful french dressing in the world! Damn them!

I eventually overcame my disappointment…but it certainly decreased the number of visits I made to Ruby Tuesday’s!

Today, the lunch gang decided to go to Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch. I reluctantly ordered the salad bar with my meal, resigned to the fact that I would have to pile on the cheese and ham in order to mask the horrid french dressing.

When I got to dressing buckets, I noticed the terrible french dressing (it looked horrible, too!) had been replaced with something which appeared to be the original favorite of mine! I poured it on the salad, raced back to the table, stabbed at my salad and lifted the fork up to my mouth. As soon as it touched my tongue, I knew they had returned the yummiest french dressing in the world to me!

This, of course, brings the rankings back into alignment. The new top 4 are:

  1. Ruby Tuesday’s
  2. Outback
  3. Mama Maria’s Italian Restaurant in North Hudson, WI
  4. The Machine Shed in Lake Elmo, MN

Salon on Geek Cooking

Salon has an article on geek cooking. It talks about my favorite show, Good Eats featuring Alton Brown, as well as a show that Davin and Michelle introduced me to during my recent trip down to visit them, America’s Test Kitchen.

I totally agree with the article’s point, that these two shows are a refreshing change from the normal “Bam!” showmanship of many of the cooking shows you find on TV. I wouldn’t be so into cooking as I am if it weren’t for finding Good Eats years ago. It explains the “why” of cooking. For example, there was an entire show where Alton made chocolate chip cookies. He started with the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, then explained 4 or 5 different changes you could make to the standard in order to alter the final result of the cookies to your liking. It was a great show, I feel more comfortable in the kitchen when I understand what’s going on in the mixing bowl of mine.

America’s Test Kitchen takes more of a hacker approach to cooking, which I found equally enjoyable, especially after I had a decent exposure to the hard science from Good Eats. In the particular show Davin shared with me, they made 20-some odd different kinds of white rice. They covered all the different types available, used various cooking methods and came up with 4-5 samples that they then used to explain the differences. They take a more qualitative approach than Good Eats, but it is equally as entertaining and interesting.

December 1, 2004

Geek Love

As mentioned in 28 Things, number 24, my geekiness is aged like a fine wine. It is only fitting that the first trace of me on the Internet was in regards to my first major geek purchase (paid with my own funds), my Apple Newton. I’ve since moved on…Newton 2000, Ecosphere, OfficeCam, BeetleCam, Libretto, Rio PMP300, Rio Receiver, Series 1 Tivo, iPod.

Tonight I saw the next thing on my geek horizon.

Sonos

Sonos mixes up a few of the previous geekly gadgets (Rio Receiver, iPod) and adds in a dash of wireless to the mix.

It streams your music library from a central server to a remotely connected unit, which then powers speakers, much like the Rio Receiver. However, the Rio Receiver was plagued by a very small screen, controls attached to the remote unit and the inability to create “whole-house audio” by streaming to all of the Rio Receivers at the same time. Sonos splits up all of the components, which creates a far better experience in the end.

  • You connect one Sonos ZonePlayer to your “server” computer, which has the Sonos server software loaded. Each Sonos ZonePlayer has a mute button and volume controls, along with the following ports on the back:
    • Standard AC Power
    • Speaker Outputs
    • RCA In/Out w/Subwoofer
    • 4-port Ethernet Switch
  • You connect each ZonePlayer (including the one connected to the computer, if you desire) to speakers or an audio system of some sort. The stations can be connected via Ethernet, but you can just connect them wirelessly as well.
  • You control Sonos through a handheld wireless remote. It’s about the size of a Gameboy Advance, a bit heavier, but still comfortable to hold in one hand. The remote has the iPod interface - a scroll wheel with limited, yet effective buttonage. A 3.5 inch color backlit screen makes it a breeze to read and control, and the queueing functionality is leagues ahead of the iPod.

I spent about 45 minutes tonight playing with Sonos. I was excited about the product before I got a chance to use it - now I can’t stop thinking about how exciting it will be once I get my hands on one for my own use! Everything works the way you expect it to in a well-designed audio system. The audio is excellent. Unless you’re a zealot, you’re sending audio generated from lossy files anyway; the lack of optical outputs isn’t a dealbreaker for me. The ZonePlayers take a minimalist approach from a control perspective, providing only volume controls, but the real power is in the remote.

The remote is a work of art, pure and simple. The screen is easily read; the control displays and menus intuitively laid out and a fine example of usability design. Within a minute I was manipulating the “live” queue, adding and removing songs with absolutely no thought. A few minutes more I had already started streaming a live Internet radio feed to the Sonos ZonePlayer in the other room while moving to a more upbeat song on the Sonos ZonePlayer which I was listening to right next to me. I could instruct the server to rescan the server’s music library, which was a nice touch for those of us who sometimes add music to the library without wanting to or having the ability to fire off a scan at the time. iTunes intergration was supurb - all of the iTunes tracks (minus protected AAC files from the iTunes Music Store - but we’ve all got hymn now anyways) and playlists showed up in the Sonos interface.

The price tag is a bit spendy - for two ZonePlayers and the controlling wireless remote you’re looking to be set back about $1200. But it sure beats the systems I use now - either a long cord running from the top of my iPod over to the my stereo across the room or a staticy iTrip-enabled FM modulated signal. Even more so, it whips the Rio Receiver’s bootay with its far superior usability and portability.

Sonos has an answer for everything I’ve always wished for from a audio delivery system. I can’t wait to get my hands on one for myself!

Dentist Again

Went back to the dentist today to finish the root canal they started two weeks ago. The root canal went off without a hitch…although it looks like the tooth has decayed to the point where a cap would be a good idea.

Because of the holidays and everything else, I won’t go back in to have that looked at until mid-January. This works out just fine, since in the meantime I’ll get my teeth all cleaned up, which will make the work on the cap proceed that much quicker when the time comes.

NaNoWriMo

Well, the end of the month passed. I’m sorry to say I didn’t manage to write the next great American novel. I didn’t even manage to get past the 2000 word-count. I did prbly write about 5000 words, when you consider the false starts I made toward the effort and then scrapped when the story didn’t work out.

I found I had no issue coming up with characters for the story. Nor did I have an issue coming up with the setting for the story, the location, the time, etc. Creating time to work on it wasn’t a huge issue, either.

The issue I came across was creating a plot I found compelling. I can create stories with the best of them…but one which has enough complexity to cover 50000 words is really a bigger challenge than I suspected.

I’ll have to keep the event in mind for next year, tho.

November 30, 2004

Smorgasbord of iTunes Downloads

Ever since iTunes allowed you to save 30 second snippets into local playlists, I’ve maintained a “AAA Store Wanted” playlist. This is a dumping ground; a set of bookmarks which I use to keep track of songs which intrigue me, songs I may want to pick up in the future or tracks from albums I may want to pick up in a physical store.

Today I went bonkers, went through the list and downloaded a bunch of tracks I’ve been saving up:

  • Mr. XCitement - They Might Be Giants w/Mike Doughty
  • Countdown - Lindsey Buckingham
  • Homemade Bombs In The Afternoon - A. C. Newman
  • Against All Odds - The Postal Service
  • Naked As We Came - Iron & Wine
  • In the Waiting Line - Zero 7
  • Carol of the Meows - Guster
  • Lebanese Blonde - Thievery Corporation
  • Dreaming of You - The Coral
  • Skittish / Rockity Roll EP (5 Tracks of Goodness!) - Mike Doughty

Yummy! 99¢ is a wonderful thing!

November 29, 2004

Does This Count As A Career Goal?

Someday I want to have a job with power like they do in all the old movies featuring the military or senior business professionals.

I want to be able to reach over, pick up the phone and instantly be able to utter, “Get me the President!”.

‘course, the “President” part of the statement could be changed to almost anything…the important thing is that my time is SO important that there is someone constantly listening for me to pick up the phone and request to be connected to someone.

I wonder if this was merely a dramatic device or if it was reflective of the state of affairs at the time. Were there really people who had so little time on their hands that their secretary was listening for them to utter a connection request with no notice at all?

Regardless, I want this kind of job!

November 28, 2004

An Interesting Idea

An interesting idea as written up by Joshua Micah Marshall on Talking Points Memo:

“Giving legislators a reasonable opportunity to review a bill before they vote to make it law is the barest of bare minimums, especially now that bills are often coming out of conference in a dramatically new form. But why should only legislators get a chance to look at the bill? … Why not make bills publicly and readily available (and I emphasize ‘readily’) for three days before they can be brought to a vote?

I think this is a great idea. Right now, all the public knows about is what the lobbyists and/or journalists can piece together about bills as they are moving from committee to committee. Why not publish the bills for a few days, so that concerns citizens, public advocacy groups and other interested parties can READ what they may want to voice an OPINION over?

Those of you who know my politics also may be thinking that my celebration of the above idea would move us further away from my thoughts on the importance of a representative democracy (rather than the direct democracy we seem to be moving towards). I disagree.

An effective representative democracy requires that we hold our representatives accountable. It is a widely reported poll statistic that while a large number of people believe congress as a whole is doing a very poor job, they believe their representative is doing an excellent job. These two ideas stand in contrast with each other, but I believe they can be traced to a common cause. Everyday we are barraged by mainstream media with sound bites and bills who seem to have been named by a media relations firm. Some of us try to pay a bit more attention, read between the lines, exercise a critical eye. However, many of us don’t, or don’t have the time.

All of this effort to summarize complex bills in one or two sentences (or even a single bill name, like the No Child Left Behind Act) hides a lot of detail we need to know in order to judge our representative’s effectiveness in promoting his or her constituents ideals and desires. Hearing someone say, “I sponsored the No Child Left Behind Act” sounds wonderful to those of us who believe in public education. Surely, the bill must provide lots of money in order to pay for many of the improvements the bill calls for. If you had read the bill, you’d realize it doesn’t.

If one had read it in advance, you must imagine that someone would have had the foresight to realize that the funding needed to be attached to the bill from the get-go. Hopefully, the people who DID decide to call in to their legislator to support the bill might have had second thoughts had they had a chance to review what the bill really provided. After the bill was passed, the sound bite was obtained; the proverbial feather could be placed in the reelection campaign’s cap. Since the representatives already had what they needed, the funding never came. Now we’re stuck trying to clean up the mess, trying to find the funding necessary to meet all the requirements of the bill.

Information wants to be free…but in any kind of democracy, information HAS to be free in order for it to work properly.

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 5
Homeward Bound

This morning my parents and I ran like clockwork, got done and down the lobby at 8:45, 15 minutes early. We loaded up the car and then waited for Michelle and Davin to arrive. After they got to the hotel, we all piled into her Toyota Matrix and made the 3 mile drive over to the Galleria.

We spent the next two hours walking this gigantic mall. It wasn’t as big as the Mall of America, but it still kept us plenty busy. It was the stratification of the mall shops that I found particularly interesting. Sure the Mall of America groups certain shops near to each other…all the “Teenie-bopper” shops are near each other, etc. But, the floors at the Galleria were laid out as follows:

  • Floor 0 - The “Skating Kids” Level - Here’s where you find the ice skating rink, which fills the floor of the center rotunda of the mall, along with all the supporting shops and a simple food court.
  • Floor 1 - The “Posh” Level - Filled with shops like Versace and Louis Vuitton. I do believe there were signs that said, “You can only shop on this level if you have no idea what your credit limit is!”
  • Floor 2 - The “Upper-Class” Level - This level was filled with your normal upscale shops for shoppers which lots of discretionary income. Bath and Body Works, Starbucks, Gap, etc.
  • Floor 3 - The “Peasant” Level - This is where you’d find things like Lunar Mini Golf, the kids’ play area, the dollar store, etc.

The thing was, the layout of the mall is one long run split across two sides of an open space from floor to ceiling. You could sit up on the peasant level and watch people on each of the lower levels do their shopping. It was rather interesting to see the different classes so segregated.

At 11, we scooted over to the Grand Lux Cafe, a restaurant by the same people who brought us The Cheesecake Factory. The styling is very similar inside, if not a bit brighter, and the menu is approximately filled with the same huge variety one has come to expect from this style of restaurant. The food was marvelous, with generous portions, truly a great meal.

We all piled back in the Matrix, drove back to the hotel and said our goodbyes. I gave my Sister and Bro-In-Law the gifts I had brought along for them and they seemed to love all of them. Then we hopped in our car and proceeded to head out of town. Final departure time was 12:45pm.

We headed up I-35 and decided to stop at the Oklahoma City National Memorial since we were driving right by it. The memorial is amazing - all of the thought that went into it is readily apparent and appreciated. There is a chair for each person who lost their lives that day, all arranged by floor and their approximate location in the building at the time of the blast. Children have smaller chairs than the adults do, which makes itself apparent when you see all of the little chairs on the second floor - the location of the daycare. The reflection pool is a thin film of water cascading over granite recovered from the building, which is a really wonderful effect. Everything was thoughtfully done, a fitting memorial for such a tragedy.

We hopped back in the car and proceeded north again on I-35. We drove, spent time listening to music on the iPod, talked, had a great drive. Stopped at Sonic for dinner, otherwise we just stopped for gas/potty breaks when we needed to. I had the last shift, so I took a short nap in the backseat on our way through Kansas. I drove the last four hours, during which time my dad and I both saw a shooting star over the road in front of us, and we arrived home around 5am. My parents dropped me (and my bags) off and then headed home themselves, another half hour drive.

The drives were exhausting, both there and back. Even tho we made it in a day, it wipes you out the following day while you recover.

The trip itself was great. I had a great time seeing Dallas, where my Sister and my Bro-In-Law live, seeing Dealy Plaza and enjoying Thanksgiving with my family. Now it’s back to the real world…lots of work to do (both professionally and in prep for the holiday season) in the next few weeks.

November 26, 2004

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 4
Fort Worthy of a Visit

After sleeping in again today, we headed over to my Sister and Bro-In-Law’s apartment around 11. We were all incredibly hungry, so we went to Cafe Brazil. If you ever get a chance to have breakfast or lunch here, do so! The menu is amazing…I ended up getting a Chicken Tender/Corn/Cheese omelet with a side of rosemary potatoes and toast. Very yummy. Everything our party ordered came out perfectly cooked and prepared and was luscious!

After breakfast we went to do some walking around one of the many parks. We picked up my Sister and Bro-In-Law’s two dogs to bring along. Had a great walk - it was good to get a little bit of exercise in for the week.

We thought about going to see “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” but we ended up changing our mind and deciding to head over to Fort Worth for their Parade of Lights. Michelle and Davin had never been, so we didn’t really know what to expect. We got caught up in traffic, but considering we were heading for the halfway point on the parade route, we knew we had a little extra time.

We managed to find excellent parking, walked two blocks and found ourselves at the parade route. After scoping out a few locations, we found a parking garage wall with an excellent view of parade route. We ended up right down the road from the announcer’s location, so we heard the introduction for each float a bit before they made their way by us.

While the family looked on, Davin and I turned our attention to making fun of the floats as they went by us. The highlight of the evening was one of the church floats…the lights were fading in and out as they approached us. I turned to Davin and whispered, “Power is going out!” He guffawed, and I followed with a “Someone better start praying the generator doesn’t run out of gas!” Shortly thereafter, as luck would have it, they did run out of gas, leaving Davin and I with sideaches from laughter.

After the parade, we headed over to the Corner Bakery, a new upstart chain kinda like Pantera bread. We had a wonderful meal considering how busy they were and the later hour.

We headed out to take a peek at the newly lit Christmas tree in the Sundance Square, then toured the shops around the square. My Sister made our first stop Schakolad, which had a wonderful chocolate selection. I picked up some gifts there, then we headed around the square to Retro Cowboy where I picked up some more gifts for the folks back home.

After shopping, we walked back to the square. Rusty, the local paper’s mascot and stock-picking longhorn steer was out raising money for a local children’s charity. I gave him a few bucks and got some wonderfully kitschy Christmas cards to send out to friends this holiday season. :)

Considering how late it had gotten, we walked back to the car and drove home, dropping Michelle and Davin off on the way. Came back to the hotel and packed, since tomorrow after lunch we’ll be heading out and marathon driving back to MN, to arrive around 3am. Tomorrow we’ll visit the newly renovated Galleria before leaving, which will conclude the visit. May stop by the Oklahoma City National Memorial on our way back, otherwise we’ll just hurry home to our waiting winter wonderland.

November 25, 2004

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 3
Turkey Time!

We decided to sleep in this morning…but considering all three of us (my parents and myself) need to share one bathroom we still needed to get up at a semi-reasonable hour in order to get over to Michelle and Davin’s house around 11am. On our way over we stopped by Starbucks…my mom wanted coffee, and I like their “Iced Lemon Pound Cake”. A yummy treat.

We got over to the apartment and were greeted by a wonderful scent permeating the air. Davin had been cooking and preparing our Thanksgiving feast for hours…all kinds of wonderful smells were about, the ham was in the oven being glazed and bathed in various sugary substances. The turkey was still out on the patio being brined, snacks were out and we all began our day of grazing.

My mom and Davin are VERY into football; my dad and sister are into it as supporting spouses; so we flipped on the games and that filled up most of the attention in the room. I spent some time on my laptop, reading books, paying a bit of attention to the game and the conversation around me.

Around four we sat down to dinner (and told the Tivo to finish recording the afternoon game). We had a great meal - Davin did a wonderful job. The ham was especially well done; he had used the cola method of cooking it, combined with a glaze made from cherries, sugar, etc. It was soooo wonderful. The rest of the meal, including but not limited to the turkey, dressing and wild rice soup was excellent. On top of it all, it was made even better by the fact that Davin did all the heavy lifting/work…I just sat back and enjoyed the meal.

The rest of the night we cleaned up, visited, watched “The Bourne Identity” since I had forgotten I had seen it. (I had seen it…just missed parts of it for some strange reason) Around 11 my parents and I left - it was obvious that Michelle and Davin were beat.

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the world, even those who don’t celebrate the holiday.

Every year on Thanksgiving I take time to reflect on the previous year…there isn’t much time with all the holiday events over the next few weeks to do so, and before you know it it’s New Year’s Eve and you’re looking forward to the next year.

  • Life. I’m thankful that I’m here, alive, living my life in every way I can. It really is the best ride around…I highly suggest partaking in it if you get the chance.
  • Family. I’m incredibly thankful for the wonderful family I am blessed with in this life. They always say you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. I can’t imagine choosing a better family if I could!
  • Friends. I find myself with a plethora of friends, gaining more all the time. I’m thankful for each and every one of them. I’m thankful for those who have come and gone from my life, those that have been with me for years and those who I’ve only just met.
  • Work. I’m lucky to have the job and career I have found which pays me well in both dollars and experience. I love the people I work with and providing a useful service to the customers I serve.

OK, now the little/not so little things that add the spice to life:

I’m thankful for:

  • Vanilla Tootsie Rolls
  • Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel
  • Northwoods Microbrew Creme Soda
  • MN State Fair
  • The Tools of Personal Media Management: iPod & Tivo
  • This (And Everyone Else’s) Blog
  • Twinkie
  • Little Debbie White Christmas Tree Cakes
  • Vanilla Coke
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
  • Scrubs
  • Completing the 30 Mile Bike Tour
  • 47 Inch Waist
  • New King Size Comfy-Bed™
  • Canadian Bacon Totino’s Party Pizzas

November 24, 2004

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 2
In Texas, You Gotta Make Your Own Smashers(tm)

Woke up at 7:00 this morning. My sister and Davin would arrive at 7:30 to pick me up from the hotel so we could go to Central Market and pick up a bunch of items. We got to Central Market a bit earlier than we thought, since we took the George Bush Tollway out to Plano. After picking up some Starbucks, we headed over to it. It wasn’t quite what I thought it was gonna be. Listening to my sister and brother-in-law talk about it all the time it made it sound like a farmer’s market. This was just a gigantic supermarket.

Least that’s what I thought before I stepped inside. (I hadn’t looked at the website, which would have clarified things quite a bit, I suppose!) When you walk in you land in the produce department, like many supermarkets. But this really was like a farmer’s market inside. The produce department was unfinished, kept around 65 in order to ensure the produce remained fresh. The selection was huge - it really rivaled many of the farmer’s markets I’ve seen. Everything was properly presented, either on ice or room temp, cranberries floating in a “bog”, etc. You’d select your produce, put it in a bag, then walk over to one of many stations. At this station you’d put the produce on a scale, punch in the produce’s number and a sticker would print with all the price information on it.

You then moved into a gigantic butcher area, which rivaled any butcher’s shop. They not only offered ANY cut you wanted, they would steam your seafood selections for you while you finished shopping. Then you walk into a huge wine section with row upon row of fine wines and champagnes. Next up is a huge section of bulk dry goods, then a huge bakery with every type of bread I’ve ever seen (and many I hadn’t!) Top it off with your ethnic foodstuffs, spices, imported goods, florals…I could go on. It is an amazing concept - I can only hope we get one (or someone starts a similar concept) in the Twin Cities area soon.

We then headed back to their apartment, hung out, played a little XBox and read passages from “America: The Book” which I brought down since I saw it on their Christmas list and wanted to give them a little taste of it since I had picked it up a few weeks ago when it first came out. It was a huge hit…we all ended up reading a few pages aloud over the course of the day. Michelle and I checked into work, then my parents arrived and we started the tourism day.

We picked up lunch at Cheddar’s. I was excited…if you know me, you know how much I love Cheddar’s “Smashers”. My sister claimed to eat there all the time, ‘cept she had never heard of them. I didn’t believe it, but sure enough, it wasn’t on the menu down here. I’ve had it in the Rockford, IL, Ann Arbor, MI and Des Moines, IA locations…unbelievable. I managed to get a close second…a chicken tender platter with mashed potatoes and gravy for dipping sauce.

After the meal, we headed down to Dealy Plaza to visit the Sixth Floor Museum. It was a truly moving experience, which I’ll write more about later I think. We spent most of the afternoon there, even viewed the display on presidential TV advertising, which was upstairs on the 7th floor. I really enjoyed visiting such an important place; you could feel the grief still floating through the air 40 years after the fact.

We then scooted home, relaxed around the apartment while Davin did some cooking, I took care of a bit of work that cropped up on our way home and the family visited. We headed out to dinner at “On The Border” which was excellent chain Tex-Mex. Yum. After visiting some more back at the pad, my parents and I said our goodbyes for the evening and headed back to the hotel.

Quite the wonderful day. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, obviously, so the feast is the primary focus of the day. Hopefully we’ll get some gaming in as well…I have a feeling Trivial Pursuit is in our future! Yay!

November 23, 2004

Texas 2004: A Thanksgiving Oddessy, Day 1
Can I Say That In Texas?

What can I say about the car trip? 15 Hours. We stopped a few times, only for food, stretching, changing drivers. I managed to play Soul Coughing’s “True Dreams of Wichita” while driving past Wichita at 3:15 in the morning. Got my Dad hooked on my iPod, he got hours to play with it in the car and I think he’ll be getting one for Christmas. When we stopped at the McDonald’s in Percell, OK, for breakfast, the family in line before us coincidentally had left Minneapolis at 5:30 the night before, just like we did, and had made identical time. How freaky is that?

The last two hours of the trip were the most stressful. I was going on my 7th and 8th hour driving and we were beseeched by a horrible horrible down pouring of rain which made it impossible to see more than 50 feet. Luckily, the sun had come up by then, which made dealing with it a bit easier, but it was still very stressful. Because I had to be on a conference call with work right as we pulled in, we swapped drivers about 20 minutes out and I had a bit of chill time before having to work the phone.

Upon our arrival, Michelle met us at the front gate to her complex, let us follow her in and we parked and exchanged hugs. I had last seen my sister back in August, so while we’ve gone longer without seeing each other before, it was wonder to see her on her own turf for a change. We went inside and had pastries (beignets, I think they were, along with hot chocolate, mmm!)

We sat around playing with their dogs, Molly and Pogo and saw the apartment. They have a beautiful place, beautiful view. Really feels like a home. Pictures all over of family, friends, their marriage, pets, etc. Really nice place.

We got to go to Chic-fil-a for lunch, it was even better than I can get at home with a much bigger selection. Yum! We then went home, Dad and I had a bit of work to do while Mom and Michelle visited. (Davin had to work today/tonight, but he’s got the rest of the weekend off!) Around 4 Mom, Dad and I left their apartment, found our hotel and checked in. We’re staying at the “Wyndham Dallas North”, so far the room is comfortable, the help has been wonderful and cheerful. All three of us unpacked, took showers.

Michelle called; we decided to go to “Babe’s”. Babe’s is a very cool and folksy restaurant. Your party is seated at a simple table, but each of them is about 6 inches away from each other, so it has a mess hall feel. You choose from 5 meats (tonight’s choices were pot roast, country fried chicken, fried chicken, fried catfish, chicken tenders) and then they haul out these huge bowls of the homemade cream corn, mashed tubers, gravy, green beans and a nice salad. Other than the meat, everything is all you can eat. We each got a different meat (I got the country friend chicken, my sis the chicken tenders, my Mom the catfish and my Dad the chicken) and shared that a bit, too.

During dinner, I was trying to calm my sister after a potentially sharp tease directed in her direction and said in an “inside” voice that “I’m a sensitive guy…I can hug a man and not have it make me any less of a man”. She immediately turns to me and utters, “You can’t say that in Texas…there are conceal/carry laws here!” This became the catchphrase of the night…I would ask her all kinds of asinine questions about everyday things phrased like, “Can you _______ in Texas?”

Afterwards, we went and picked up a showing of “The Incredibles”. The theatre was great…even tho they did mention at the beginning of the show, “Please place any refuse at the end of the show in the white trash receptacles on your way out of the theatre” We all found that utterly hilarious. As for the movie, it was excellent. I had heard good reviews from friends, but even with those slightly heightened expectations it totally surpassed them. It is a bit darker than other Pixar films have been, I think, indeed there is human death in this…even human death at the hands of the heroes of the story. Maybe this means that after Pixar’s split with Disney we’re gonna see them going at more of the adult market? That would be an interesting strategy…are adults willing to accept such a film as more than children’s fare?

Now I’m back in the hotel room, need to be up at 7:00am tomorrow so I can meet Michelle and Davin tomorrow morning at 7:30 so we can go to Central Market and pick up some things for the Thanksgiving feast. Should be fun…they have only incredible things to say about Central Market, it will be interesting to finally see it. Off to sleep…

Arrival in GWB-land (Texas)

Well, we just got here around 10 o’clock.

More news will be filled in as time allows.

For now, I’m off eating beignets with the family. woot!

November 22, 2004

Back...to the Workplace!

Finally made it back to work after feeling yukky most of Wednesday afternoon, out almost all of Thursday and half of Friday. We’ve got a new customer turning up on Wednesday night, which considering I was going to be gone after 3 today I knew we had to get sealed before the end of the day. Managed to squeeze in a quiet 30 minute lunch at Noodles with New Theresa which about my only downtime of the day. Otherwise, I moved from project component to project component making sure everything was lined up (or at least could be by the remaining staff after I left). Finally got out at 4, ran home, packed until 5 minutes before my parents arrived.

Got on the road around 5:15, out of town and traffic by 6, didn’t turn out too bad. We stopped for 45 minutes or so to have Famous Dave’s in Owatonna, otherwise we’ve been driving down I-35, the spinal column of America! The back of my dad’s 300M is absolutely perfect for me and my Dell laptop, just enough room to flip open the screen to just the right angle and everything works great. Indeed, I’m writing this (and all the backentries) from said position.

It’s great to finally have some downtime after the past 5 days or so. Either I was sick or completely running on adreniline and stress in order to accomplish something on time. As I told people from work…after the past few days, it might be nice to just throw on the headphones and stare out the window. Which is what I plan on doing next.

Dispatches from the Front

I’ll be writing a bunch of journal entries as I have time and getting them up as soon as possible.

Headlines:

  • I’m feeling about a 9 out of 10. Still tender, still feeling a bit rundown.
  • Durand Family Turkey Day was a hit. Had issues with the turkey and the cranberry sauce, as well as being disappointed a second time with the gravy.
  • Excited to leave for my trip
  • Got a lot of crap to do before I leave. 1.5 days of work I missed plus my work today condensed into 6 hours.
  • Still need to pack, but everything should be washed and dry by the time I get home.

November 21, 2004

9.5 Hours

Well, after I made the decision at noon today that the Durand Family Turkey Day was still going on I finally got myself cleaned up and going around 3. Made my way over to Bed Bath & Beyond for some supplies, then over to Cub for the foodstuffs. Found everything but the vegetable stock and french bread at Cub, which is about par for the course. (Had the same problems with this two years ago, the last time I produced this event) After driving around to a few stores, I once again found the remaining items at Byerly’s and I was good to go.

After dinner, I came home and set to work. Tonight’s items included the white roux for thickening the turkey drippings into gravy, the orange-cranberry dipping sauce and the brine creation.

Everything was going well until I went off recipe and did something very silly…ended up smashing the cranberries in the pan before they were done reducing. I didn’t think this would be a problem, but it created a problem under the surface. The smashed cranberry husks had stuck to the bottom of the pan, then burned themselves with a sugary glue to said bottom. When I took the cranberries off to puree them, I ended up hand blendering the burned husks off the bottom and into the gelatinous mass of cranberries, basically ruining the entire batch and my stainless steel stockpot. After a few reboils of just plain water, I was able to scrap free most of the burned on cranberries, but by then it had gotten too late to attempt another batch. (I was out of cranberries at this point as well, which would have necessitated another trip to the grocery store) Considering myself lucky that I had saved the cooking vessel, I put the odds of a dipping sauce being on the table significantly. I might run out tomorrow morning while the turkey is brining and pick up some more cranberries and do it again, but I highly doubt I’ll have time. Oh well.

I finished the brine and got it in the refrigerator to cool. Off to bed I go…need to be up in four hours to start the turkey. Ugh.

November 20, 2004

7 out of 10

Well, I made it through the night last night using only ibuprofen instead of the vicodin I had been using. Still not sleeping well, but I have been managing to keep food down and the rest of my digestive system is slowly working again.

I made the call at noon today that I was gonna go forward with the Durand Family Turkey Day tomorrow, so now I’ve got some catching up to do in that regard. Need to do the grocery shopping I was gonna do on Thursday night, get all the food stuffs, defrost the turkey, prepare the cranberry sauces and roux tonight. Then get to bed early so I can get up, brine the turkey and get everything going tomorrow so I can still make it to the movie in the morning while the turkey is cooking.

Be a hectic afternoon and evening, but I’ll be much happier tomorrow when everyone comes together and we get to celebrate together before we have to split up.

‘course, tomorrow night I’ll be busy packing for the trip, since I leave for that on Monday at 4pm. Seems like the weather will be beautiful down in Texas, can prbly get away with wearing shorts most of the time. (Much to the chagrin of my sister, I suspect, since it’ll be obvious I’m from up north when I’m walking around in shorts in 70 degree weather!)

November 19, 2004

Recovery

Woke up every four hours last night, took my vicodin, a glass of water and went back to sleep.

I haven’t been able to keep any food down for the past 2 days or so. I picked up some bananas on my way into work, been eating them here at my desk. So far, so good, they are staying down just fine. I feel a bit of energy returning, too. I’ll have to move up to something with more substance here this afternoon, try and get some food into me so I’m not dragging so much.

Swelling has gone down a good deal, but it is still there. Hopefully the antibiotics (which I’ve also been able to keep down) will help out in that department.

If 10 were perfectly normal, 1 was on my death bed, I’d put myself around a 4 today. (Which is up from a 2 yesterday afternoon)

November 18, 2004

Getting Better

I’m slowly getting better. Replacing gauze every few minutes is starting to get old, but I’d rather do that than taste that awful crap oozing out.

I think I eliminated the amoxicillin as the cause of the throwing up incident earlier, too, as I threw up again on my way to picking up my second type of antibiotics (and hadn’t taken the amoxicillin again since earlier). Managed to get the car pulled over to the side of the road just in time to jump out and let loose all over the road. Let people try and figure out what THAT puddle was from!

I’m gonna head to bed here shortly, as I think the need to replace the gauze has ceased for the time being. Hopefully the doc was right and I’ll be back on my feet happy go lucky tomorrow morning. Here’s hoping!

Toothache Solved (Sorta)

Went into the dentist this morning to have my toothache looked at by a professional. I decided to go to the Park Dental in Edina; they had a cancellation so I grabbed a 10:00am appointment with Dr. Berg. I had gone to the Park Dental in Eagan for my crown, so I thought it would be handy to stay within the system so that my records would transfer over.

Got in, had to fill out all the new patient forms anyway. I’m guessing this is just a precaution, as I know they could access my old records so they could call me about the cancellation. (I hadn’t given them my phone number when making the original appointment) Mandy was the assistant who walked me back. A few x-rays later they had pinpointed the cause of my pain…had an infection inside the root of my #7 tooth had spread up and down my jaw and in the soft tissue. They were rather taken aback by how advanced the progress was considering the pain had only started yesterday around noon.

I’ve never really had a lot of dental work done…my teeth are generally in pretty good shape. I had one filling about 10 years ago, another couple of fillings about 4 years ago and then the crown on my rear molar 2.5 years ago. When I heard root canal I began to get a bit concerned…everyone seems to dread them, and considering my pain tolerance being so low I was worried what I had gotten myself into. Dr. Berg had really good chairside manner, explained what he was gonna do, showed me the x-rays and then added in a little humor to relax me a little. The worst pain was the novocain injections…after that it was just listening to the drill and hearing the file sliding against my tooth enamel.

After the root canal was done and the temporary filling in place I still had quite a bit of tenderness in my gums. Dr. Berg decided to slice open the gums to allow the infection to drain a little bit quicker. The taste was awful…luckily, Mandy was ready with her suction and got most of it out before it got too bad. I left with a bunch of gauze rolled up in my mouth where the incision had been made. I took the prescriptions over to Target, picked up some soup and waited for the prescription to be filled.

(Warning, vile details ahead)

On my way out to the car I began to shiver…mostly in my jaw, but my body began to shiver as well. I turned on the heat, warmed myself up and drove to work. Once I got to work, my shivering continued…I realized I needed to get some water and food in me ASAP.

I started telling my story to my coworkers; about how unexpected the root canal was while I cooked up my soup and drank a bunch of water. Got back to my desk, took a sip of the soup and put it to the side. It just didn’t taste right. I swallowed my painkillers and amoxicillin, tho, and tried to get to work.

Had a meeting at 1, which I forced to be moved when I couldn’t make it in this morning. I began preparing for the meeting…when all of a sudden I exploded. This awful brown liquid came shooting out of my mouth, all over the laptop and desk. When the second urge kicked in, I managed to grab the trashcan and direct it in there. Sadly, JManDoo and another coworker got first row tickets to this amazing display. This is the first time in my adult life I’ve thrown up…I hope it is the last time. I wiped down the laptop and desk, packed up and came home. On my way home, I called up the dentist and asked for an alternate antibiotic.

He wasn’t sure if it was an allergy to the antibiotic or if it was because I had swallowed so much blood and infectious material from the gum incision, but he thought getting a second antibiotic would be a good idea nonetheless. I came home, ended up napping for a few hours.

I’m hoping that the pain will subside as the good doctor told me it would over the next few days as the antibiotics kick in. Ouch.

What Geek Decade Am I?

I haven’t done a meme in a while, but this one I picked up from Neil seemed like a lot of fun.

Along with 8055 out of the 46473 people who took the quiz, I’m a:

90's geek. Cool, confident, and very powerful, you're the sexiest geek ever! Buckle in, your decade is one hell of a ride.

November 17, 2004

Toothache!!

Right after lunch today I came down with a horrible toothache.

I highly doubt a Chicken Ceasar Salad from Fuddrucker’s would have injured me. I’m guessing it is some kind of cavity or something previously undiscovered but lurking - waiting for the worst possible moment to surface. (Got a busy few days ahead of me, getting ready for the Durand Family Turkey Day and the trip down to Texas over Thanksgiving!)

Can’t get into the dentist until tomorrow…luckily I still have some pain killers from my trip to the ER earlier this year, so they’ve been helping me through it. (Advil didn’t really help at all!)

More on this story as it develops…

November 16, 2004

The Art of Pregnancy

I’m not sure how I ran across this tonight when I was browsing, but it is great.

I not only wanted to promote it to my friends who are pregnant right now or recently given birth, but bookmark it for the future:

The Art of Preggo

November 15, 2004

A Night (and more) Wasted

I totally accomplished nothing tonight (and have very little to show from the weekend) on my list.

I didn’t finish cleaning the pad.
I didn’t get my iPod resyncing correctly.
I didn’t get the Durand Family Turkey Day shopping done.
I didn’t get the kitchen cleaned.
I didn’t finish building Gumby/Pokey.
I didn’t get anymore words written for my Novel.

I did finish two loads of laundry…but there are at least 5 more loads yet to be done.
I did listen to a bunch of CDs and waste time playing Wings of Fury on my Apple IIe emulator.

Oh well.

We Interrupt This Blog...

Right now, I’m really angry, disappointed and hurt by someone who shall remain nameless.

I won’t waste space on them here, even tho I know they read my blog from my logs, beyond this:

Either you’re incredibly selfish and irresponsible OR you’ve got some issues you really need to take care of. In either event, your behavior has no excuse; you’ve had plenty of time to work on and get over either of the reasons. I pity you.

Pinings for Caluj Ejumacashun

I used my dictatorial powers over lunchtime-decision making today and we all went down the U of M to pick up Chick-fil-a.

Every time we go down there, I’m reminded of the fact that I skipped college. Sure, I got a taste of it my junior and senior years in high school, but I never got to go full-time in my post-secondary life. While I wouldn’t change my life at this point, I really wonder how things would have been different had I gone the normal route and spent a few years attending some institution of higher learning. Seeing all the socialization taking place, all the ideas being exchanged, pure learning without the pressures of the corporate world.

November 14, 2004

Toothpaste and Orange Juice

Earlier today, I found myself lamenting the unpleasantness which came about whenever one followed tooth brushing with a glass of orange juice. I was on my way out the door, and I wanted to enjoy a cool glass of orange juice on the way to my appointment. I couldn’t. I knew what awfulness would come about if I grabbed a glass of orange juice for the road, so instead I went without and ended up taking water instead. A really poor substitute early in the morning!

Tonight I got a bit curious why the taste was so bad. After a bit of research using your friend and mine, Google, I came across the answer.

According to New Scientist’s Last Word the reason you get that nasty taste in your mouth is that toothpaste’s detergent, usually sodium lauryl sulphate, affects your taste sensors. This page put together by a TV science program in Australia says that the sodium lauryl sulphate desensitizes the “sweet” taste buds and and enhances the “bitter” taste buds.

As it turns out, there are some people who believe the sodium lauryl sulphate isn’t good for you, so there are companies who make toothpaste without it. The sodium lauryl sulphate is really only used for the foaming action people are accustomed to while brushing their teeth - so the absence of it won’t affect the performance of the toothpaste.

I’m thinking this may be worth a test.

November 13, 2004

Desk Toys

I spent a few good hours today going through The Boxes™ which have been filling my living room for almost a year now. Besides the known quantities of holiday items (suitable for decorating a house when I have one again) I found an inordinate amount of desk toys.

When combined with the 4-5 boxes of desk toys I have in my storage closet I come up with about 10 copier paper boxes filled with desk toys. Considering I’ve been working at a desk now for more than 12 years now, it prbly should surprise no one that I’ve got so many. But the question is…What does one do with that many desk toys?

My current desk has about 2 more boxes worth of desk toyrs. So, we’re looking at about 12 total. I’m never gonna have a desk that big, obviously. Do I eBay all of the items, at least get it down to a managable amount of items which I may use once again someday in the future? Do I just throw most of them out? Do I give them out as holiday gifts?

November 12, 2004

Weekend Chores

A list of the weekend chores:

  • Eliminate at least one of the big piles of boxes still taking up space in my apartment.
  • Finish all laundry, clearing out the second bathroom for the repair man next week.
  • Finalize plans for Durand Family Turkey Day next Sunday and email information to family participants.
  • Go grocery shopping to pick up required items for above-mentioned Durand Family Turkey Day.
  • Work on the Novel.
  • Finish Pokey build for testing next week.
  • Line up tire replacement next week.
  • Find some time to relax in the midst of all the pressing matters.

Phrases of the Day

Last Friday, the phrase of the day was, “Lemony Snickets”

Monday it was “Lab Work”

I’m pleased to announce the phrase of the day today is “Binomial Nomenclature”

Spread it far and wide. Announce it from the rooftops. Celebrate its wonderfulness.

November 11, 2004

Happy Birthday Mom

Happy Birthday to my MOM

Picture of my mom and me making a snowman My Mom has always been my favorite mom. (She’d always point out at this point that she’s my only mom, but that’s not important to me!) Her love has never wavered; she was my first best friend and has always been there for me whenever I’ve needed her. She is there to celebrate with me when times are great, she’s there to support me when times are trying.

I love you Mom.

Sunny Days Are Here Again

Yesterday my mood reflected the weather: Overcast, sporadic showers, daily high reached in the morning.

Highlights of my day included:

  • Taking three Advil and feeling my headache disappear around quittin’ time.
  • NOT needing to give Best Buy my name, address, phone number, social security number and naming rights to my first born when I returned CDs I had only purchased 15 minutes prior. (Borders had much better choices)
  • Having a fun exchange with the cute Borders clerk about the silly “Reading Bear” they are offering for $7.95 to customers who spend more than $50 this holiday season.
  • Falling asleep blissful, yet aware that today was gonna be a very busy day.

I hope that my day today reflects the weather outside, too. Calm, cool and sunny.

November 10, 2004

"I Voted" Winner

I sponsored a second prize in Wendy’s “I Voted” contest last week. She’s randomly picked the winners and I’m pleased that my award is going to Bonnie.

She slipped in with a My Vote Counted sticker, which I guess is pretty standard in the state of Michigan from what I’ve heard from other friends who live there.

Congrats to Bonnie and to the winner of Wendy’s prize, Kara

Thanks to everyone who entered!

November 9, 2004

Pimp My Ride

One of my fellow Wizmo-nians alerted me to this week’s premire of the MTV show Pimp My Ride featuring a VW Bus restoration.

I set it up on the Tivo (with the necessary 5 minutes of padding on either side since experience has proven to me that MTV loves to run late/early) and waited for it to appear on my Now Playing list.

Tonight I come home and checked it out. The VW Bus was a splitty but was in horrible shape. Rust all over, windows missing, hot-wired ignition. It looked like the kid had tried to do some restoration work, but we found out during the show that his family had some problems come up and had given up his restoration money to help out.

A 40-inch LCD flat screen, Playstation 2, electric surfboard rack, electric dryer and loads of body work later he ended up with one sweet ride. They gave the splitty a very classic paint job on the outside, complete with safari windows and an original bright green/white combination paint job. Definitely gave me some great ideas for Twinkie - including the installation of a retractable stop sign on the body similar to a school bus crossing sign. I think something like that is definitely gonna make its way onto Twinkie eventually. (I don’t think I’d have mine say “Chill” tho)

The MTV style and the length of the half-hour show didn’t lend itself to lots of detail about the work involved beyond a all-too-quick discussion about the electrical demands of all the equipment on-board but it was still worth a viewing. You could tell the kid loved his VW a lot even before the pimping…which makes me glad they did it for him since he’ll get years of enjoyment out of it. Although now he’ll get even more enjoyment out of it - since I have a feeling the TV in his Bus is prbly bigger than the TV in his living room!

Election Visualizations

I found the Election Result Map site by Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi and Mark Newman at the University of Michigan particularly fascinating.

They have created a number of visualizations (like the above) of the election results using a variety of methods which account for the population density differences throughout the country. Sure seems more accurate and telling than the area-based maps I’ve seen thus far in most post-election analysis.

The Joys of iPodding

I had one another one of those joyful iPod moments last night.

I read this post, saw the lyrical reference to Maggie May and was reminded of Suzanne Vega. I hadn’t listened to her in months, prbly years.

I was the biggest fan years ago, saw her in concert numerous times, but when she took off from performing to raise her child she faded into a background interest. Reading the post I was immediately struck by a desire to hear her wonderful voice again.

iPod to the rescue! I scrolled through my library, selected “All Songs” under her Artist entry and set it on shuffle. Spent the rest of the night (and today outside of meetings) listening to many of my old favorites.

Immediate gratification is great!

November 8, 2004

Dot Matrix Printers

I went grocery shopping and it made me pine for the days of my Apple IIe/IIgs, Paint Shop and my ImageWriter II. The receipt printer used at the grocery was an old impact printer type. Made me think of the old dot matrix printers we used when I was growing up.

Why?

Well, back in the good old days of computers you had these dot matrix printers which used “Continuous Tractor Feed” paper. Those of you who are old enough to remember Apple IIe’s and Apple IIgs’s don’t need any more explanation, I’m sure. For those who don’t remember these, the paper looked kinda like this:

The dot matrix printers of the time produced really lackluster output in comparison to today’s ink jets or laser printers. However, the continuous paper had one big advantage.

BANNERS

When I was growing up, it didn’t seem like any welcome home gathering or birthday would be complete without a banner being printed and put on display. Unless you chose the “Outline” font in Print Shop, you’d usually use a ribbon up by doing this. Of course, your ribbons usually ran you all of a few bucks to replace. (Compare that to today’s 30-some bucks for each inkjet refill!)

I miss those banners. I’ve got my old Apple IIgs sitting here next to me, along with my old ImageWriter II and Print Shop GS. I’m thinking I may set it up just to print out a few banners for old time’s sake.

Now to find a ribbon which hasn’t dried out.

On Co-Pays

I spent most of the weekend getting over this nasty cold/sinus infection/sore throat thing going around. For those of you playing the home game, that means that I’ve been sick twice already this cold season! What happened to my insanely great immune system? It’s still there…the only people I could have gotten this from have had it much worse that I have. Indeed, current thinking is that I’m gonna get better before they do!

Why don’t I just go to the doc? Certainly, there is a belief of youthful invulnerability influencing the decision a bit, but it really comes down to the co-pay. Here I am, fairly well paid; I can easily afford the co-pay. Nevertheless, I sit here just waiting for the yukkiness to pass - since I’ve gotten tired of going into the doctor only to be told it is a virus and there’s nothing to be done. Why pay for that kind of advice?

Might I benefit from some antibiotics? I really don’t know. I know if I get REALLY sick I’ll go into the doctor in a week and complain, and end up with some major illness.

To the health insurer, I’m sure the risk is one they end up saving money on in the long run as millions of people are pushed into the same decision.

However, one of the biggest reasons for companies to provide their employees health insurance - so that they can be more productive workers - is invalidated in this situation. I end up taking more time off work, spreading the disease to others, decreasing productivity as I move through my days waiting for my immune system to win the battle.

It might be interesting to take a holistic look at the cost/benefits of raising the co-pays in an employer-sponsored health plan. Especially one where most of the employees are younger, single workers. (As opposed to plans where most of the employer dollars go to sponsoring family coverage)

November 5, 2004

JManDoo's Joke

While we were out at lunch today, JManDoo offered up this great joke. I believe that this joke may be the best humor litmus test of all time:

A woman’s pet duck falls ill, and she brings it in to her local veterinarian.

“Doctor,” the woman exclaims, “my pet duck has fallen ill. Can you take a look at him?”

The doctor immediately takes the duck back to the examination room. A few minutes later the doctor emerges and says,

“Ma’am, your duck is dead.”

The woman is crushed. She doesn’t believe this is possible.

“I brought my duck in and he was only ill. I cannot believe he’s dead! Surely, doctor, there is something you can do!”

The doctor reluctantly lifts a dog up onto the examination table. The dog sniffs around the duck, nuzzles against it a little, licks it a bit. After a minute or two of this, the doctor picks up the dog and puts him back down onto the ground.

“No, ma’am, your duck is dead.”

Still considering this impossible, the woman again pleads with the doctor to do anything he can to save her duck.

The doctor picks up a cat this time - places the cat onto the examination table. The cat nuzzles against the duck a little, licks his head, paws at it a little. The duck doesn’t move.

“Ma’am, I don’t know what else to say. Your duck is dead.”

Finally, the woman relents…”What do I owe you?” she asks the doctor.

The doctor takes out a slip of paper, scribbles on it furiously, hands it over to the woman.

“150 dollars for you to tell me my duck is dead? How can you get away charging so much?”

The doctor responds, “Well, if you hadn’t made me do the lab test and the cat scan…”

JManDoo and I both find this joke incredibly funny. Do you?

November 4, 2004

Proud To Be A Minnesotan

This article in the Star & Tribune contains one of the biggest reasons I’m proud to be a Minnesotan:

“…Minnesotans turned out in enormous numbers on Tuesday, leading the nation in voter turnout and making it the strongest showing in the state in decades.

Seventy-seven percent of eligible Minnesotans voted on Tuesday, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State. Nationwide, 59.6 percent of eligible Americans voted for president, according to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington, D.C.

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Elections website the actual percentage is 77.32, meaning 2,828,476 votes were cast out of a estimated 3,658,000 possible. This was the highest since 1960!

Great job everyone! Your voice was heard.

An Old Story

Reading the end of this entry on iwilldare.com reminded me of a story I remember from my childhood.

It was one of those really long trips in the car you always seem to remember taking in your childhood. Not quite sure where we were going, but my parents were struggling to keep us occupied in the absence of natural light sources.

Mom: Why don’t we try and play a game?
My Sister and/or I: What game?
Mom: The quiet game.
My Sisyer and/or I: How do we play that?
Mom: Well, we see who can stay quiet the longest.
My Sister: OK.
**GAME BEGINS**
**I THINK TO MYSELF…”This isn’t fun at all!”**
Me: Whoops, I lost! Darn!
**EVERYONE ERUPTS INTO LAUGHTER ‘CEPT MY MOM**

November 3, 2004

The Morning After

Lessig writes:

“Bush has won the popular vote. And it would take a freak of nature to imagine the 220,000 provisional ballots would fall strongly enough to shift Ohio. He will win the College. He is our President legitimately, and credibly.

Our criticism of this administration must now focus narrowly and sharply: on the policies, not on the credibility of the man.”

I couldn’t agree more. While I let go of the credibility thing a long time ago, it seems like most of the president’s critics would all too often fall back on the “he wasn’t really elected” in order to prove their point. I hope that this election will silence the criticism and now we can get down to the business of a real political debate.

What shouldn’t come out of this election is the belief by anyone that they have a mandate. I heard a Republican speaker, when boasting that Bush has received the most popular votes ever in an election, that he had some kind of mandate from the people to pursue his policies. Let’s get this straight - the electorate is narrowly divided. And while I’m not advocating four years of idleness, we do need to figure out WHY we’re so divided and figure out what kind of country we want to become.

We risk turning into a country of polarized voices; where everyone is so concerned with standing their ground rather than coming together towards common goals using rational thought and spirited discourse. I’m fairly liberal when it comes to my political views, but I fully respect thoughtful conservative voices who interpret facts in a different way than I do. This is more of what we need - not entrenching ourselves in the mud, unwilling to give any ground else our beliefs become weak.

November 2, 2004

First Ave Closing?

As I heard on the radio today, and mentioned in this Star & Tribune article, First Avenue closed its doors today.

For those of us who have been paying attention to the saga it comes as little or no surprise. I’ve been reading for months all of the bickering back and forth between all the parties involved. It seems that Fingerhut finally let go of the tug of war rope and everyone is trying to negotiate their new positions now that he’s taken his action.

This club needs to remain in operation. Its name and location have been connected to so many music legends and events it is impossible to imagine it can go away due to contract and ownership disputes.

Considering all the efforts Minneapolis has put forth to salvage the Hennipen Avenue Theatre District, one would think they would consider putting together some kind of package to keep the First Avenue we all know and love open and contributing to the local arts scene. While First Avenue certainly didn’t make its mark in the same way the theatres did, it most definitely has made a huge impact on the music environment here in Minneapolis (and the entire state) and deserves to be valued by the city of Minneapolis in the same way the theatres have been over the years.

Presidental Election Recollections

  • Twelve years ago today I was a sophomore in high school. I remember wishing I could vote…my Dad and I would go out to dinner once a week to this Chinese place near our home while Mom was off doing something else. (I don’t remember what it was, sadly, maybe she can fill me in) It was great - I got to drive to/from the restaurant with my permit, practicing my driving through rain, sleet and snow. We’d sit there for hours talking about all kinds of things - I remember being energized about the election and asking my dad who he was gonna vote for…and being relieved at the choice he made.
  • Eight years ago today (give or take 3 days) I remember sleeping in like I often would do, with only the slightest concern for my timely arrival at work. I slept in, got dressed for work and voted on my way in. It had been 2 years since I had set foot in the high school - felt so akward walking in to vote with all these kids around me. I voted and proudly wore my sticker all day at work, even to the date I had that night.
  • Four years ago today (give or take 5 days) our day was just finishing up on the Wedding/Honeymoon cruise Briana and I took with the rest of my family. We had all voted absentee, since we’d be out of the country. Briana and I still hadn’t changed residence to Wisconsin, but I remember the dread I felt as I voted for what I thought was the last time as a Minnesotan resident. We went down to the large ballroom onboard the ship where the cruise company had thoughtfully setup a bunch of big screen TVs to show the coverage of the election results. Everyone knew the race was tight - but I don’t think we really thought it was going to be as tight as it was. We went down expecting to just spend a few minutes - instead we spent the next few hours down there watching the conflicting reports. The next day we turned on the TV in the stateroom to catch up on the results and found out just how big of a mess it had turned out to be. The cruise company replaced one of their channels on the closed circuit TVs with round-the-clock feeds of CNN in order to satiate the appetite for people on the cruise for their fixes on the recounts. Even with our return and all the distractions of closing on the new house, moving in, etc I still remember tuning in every day to get my recount updates.

What will it be like this year? We’ll soon know I guess.

"I Voted" Contest

As mentioned previously, Wendy came up with a, um, “contest” which required you to go get an “I Voted” sticker and send it in for a chance at winning a prize. You don’t have to vote, of course, but you do need the sticker. (Anyone lame enough to want to cheat at this contest deserves the hit to their karma)

I had wanted to do something like this myself - but when I heard about the problems Michael Moore had when he offered college students a pair of clean underwear to go vote I ended up not doing it. But, Wendy came up with the idea of using the stickers, which I think is an acceptable way to get the reward across without running into problems with the law.

So, I’ve decided to up the ante a bit; I’ve contributed my own prize to the mix. So now there are two prizes up for grabs.

Go follow the instructions here to submit your photo. Good luck!

Voting Today

I got a late start this morning, but still managed to make it to the polling location, my local firestation, by 9am. I’ve voted at this location for the past two years; this was the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen. (Which makes sense, of course, since this is the first presidential election I’ve participated in while in this precinct) The city, thinking ahead, covered all the “No Parking” signs along the main road. But the cars even spilled onto the side street.

Picture of Polling Place

I walked inside, expecting a long line, but found only a tiny little line. As I stood in the line to get my ballot (which didn’t take longer than 2 minutes) I noticed 3 people over at the registration table. All of them were younger looking; I’m sure from the looks of things this was the first time they had voted. After I got my ballot I listened to the instructions (I’m sure as bored as I am having to repeat the instructions the exact same way all day long is even worse!) and walked over to my “booth”.

Picture of me and my sticker After voting both sides of the ballot, I walked over to the optical scan machine, slid in my ballot, got my sticker and walked off.

Was in and out (including marking the ballot for some 20-odd judgeships) in under 15 minutes.

GO VOTE!

I Voted sticker I cannot stress this enough…

GO VOTE

If the idea that exercising your right to participate in the governing of the nation isn’t enough to convince you to go…go check out Wendy’s offer. (Especially now that she fixed it so she won’t go to jail)

November 1, 2004

Today's Haiku

Daylight Savings Time
has left us for the winter.
I miss end-day sun.

OK...I'm Not A Republican!

OK, I just got my second phone call today from the “Vote for Bush” folks.

The previous call, mentioned here came from 651-785-6244. This most recent call came from 651-785-3082.

They didn’t use my name this time…but how many times are they gonna call me? It is obvious it is the same call center. Don’t they realize they’ve already called me?

I’m thinking of changing my outgoing message.

Current Message

Hi, you haven’t reached Damon Durand at 612-xxx-xxxx. If you leave your name, number and a brief message, I’ll get back to you as soon as it is humanly possible. Thank you, and have a great day!

Proposed Message

Hi, you haven’t reached Damon Durand at 612-xxx-xxxx. If you’re calling me on behalf of the Bush campaign, this is on purpose. If you’re not, feel free to leave your name, number and a brief message. I’ll get back to you as soon as I exercise my right to vote. Thank you, and have a great day!

I'm A Republican?

So, I laughed quite a bit earlier in the year when I got an “autographed” picture of the shrub and his wife in the mail unsolicited. It was a “gift” I was told, as a token of appreciation for my support of his campaign. Then, in the very next breath I was asked to donate money back to them as a pledge of support.

Now, consider that I do find some situations where I support Republicans. I supported Arnie Carlson for Minnesota Govenor years ago because I felt he was the best candidate, even tho he was running as a Republican. (Well, at the time, he was an “Independant Republican”, just like his challenger was a “Democratic Farmer/Labor” party candidate)

But in no way shape or form could I ever support Bush no matter who was running against him. I find his policies awful, his decision making lacking, his sense of morality flawed and his choice of bedfellows downright scary.

Anyone who “knows” me knows this. So I couldn’t help but chuckle that the letter was written as if I were Bush’s best friend.

I thought about sending the postage paid response back with a brick, but in the end just threw it away.

So, somehow I got sorted in some big database as being a Republican supporter. I’ve decided that it was just based on where I lived - an upscale luxery apartment complex in the western part of Bloomington.

But a curious thing happened over lunch today. My phone rang, I didn’t recognize the number so my rule is I don’t pick it up. I check the voice mail afterwards and low and behold it is some volunteer calling me to remind me to go out and vote for Bush/Cheney tomorrow.

I never give out my cell phone. If anything, my work number goes down on the slip so that I don’t get annoying telemarketers calling me.

And they called me by my name. So I know they aren’t just randomly calling.

Somehow, I got on a list of Republican supporters. They’ve got my name, my address and my unlisted, unshared cell phone number. How crazy is that? Do I tell ‘em next time they call, or do I just let them waste their money trying to contact me?

October 31, 2004

Monthly: 58/28

Well, in the month of October 2004 I racked up an impressive 58 posts, with at least one post every 28 days.

I almost doubled my public, published posts from 71 to 129.

Hopefully I don’t get too bogged down in my NaNoWriMo effort this month to go back to sporadic posts.

There’s a lot to look forward to this month:

  • Getting 1.0 of “The Project” out the door and into the hands of beta testers at work.
  • Having Thanksgiving at my apartment on the 21st.
  • Going down to my sister and brother-in-law’s place in Texas for the official Thanksgiving feast.
  • Having 50,000 words somehow assembled into a coherent fictional story.
  • and the normal assortment of unusual happenings, thoughts and reflections.

Lund's Idea of Chicken Kiev

After the movie earlier tonight, I walked next door to Lunds Grocery Store and picked up some food stuffs for dinner. As I was walking by the meat counter, I noticed some prepared Chicken Kiev calling my name. I asked about the preparation requirements, since I knew it was already late and I was hungry. The staff person explained my buttery chicken pleasures were a mere 30 minutes away, so I picked up two.

I got home, prepared some roasted red potatoes and slid them in the oven. A few minutes later I added in the Chicken Kiev. I glanced at the ingredients listed on the label just out of curiosity and noticed cream cheese. “What’s cream cheese doing in Chicken Kiev?” I thought to myself as I set the assorted timers and returned to the laptop.

After 25 minutes, I went back to slide in my thermometer and set the timer. I noticed, along with the usual buttery runoff from the chicken there was this chive-infused cheese oozing out. Thinking they knew something I didn’t I went back to the couch, waiting for the temperature timer to go off.

I have to say, the cream cheese did serve to keep some of the buttery goodness in the chicken longer - but it gave a sour taste to the chicken upon consumption. I would have rather cut up the chicken, dredged it through the buttery spillage and enjoyed the tastes.

Next time I’ll just have to make it myself, the long way.

What the #$*! Do We Know?

I don’t remember where I saw the preview. However, about 6 months ago I do remember hearing about the movie What the #$*! Do We Know? and thought it would be something to see when it came out. As luck would have it, I was looking up the showtimes for Primer and saw that What the #%*! Do We Know? was starting in 15 minutes. So, I threw on some clothes and drove down to the theatre.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I sat down. I knew I had heard about it before; that it dealt with the combination of science (mostly quantum mechanics, with a little bit of neurophysiology thrown in) and philosophy.

Possible Spoilers Ahead

Continue reading "What the #$*! Do We Know?" »

Morning Woods

No lucid dreaming this morning - I woke up with a splitting headache. Must have been dehydrated or something.

Anyway, one of the most wonderful aspects of living in the particular apartment I do is my two sliding glass doors look out to a large wood. During the summer, the entire windowscape is filled with green leaves - as winter approaches the leaves change color, fall down and expose all the barren branches.

You might expect the beauty to disappear at this point until the snow visits us and everything turns white. While certainly the snow is a welcome relief from all the brown, the fun part of this time of year is watching Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel collecting everything they need for the upcoming winter months.

See, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel live in the tree hollow right outside my apartment. I only see them in the summer when they make the trek down the tree trunk to visit the ground. However, in the fall, winter and early spring I see them jumping from tree branch to tree branch performing their daily chores (and hopefully playing a little at the same time).

This morning Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel were busy collecting leaves for their drey (another name for their nest) when they got a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Blue Jay, also frequent visitors to the trees outside my apartment windows. There was a bit of bickering back and forth - doubtlessly Mr. Blue Jay prbly forgot to bring the hot dish Mrs. Blue Jay made as a gift for Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel. Poor Mr. Blue Jay. They quickly left and Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel went back to their day.

October 30, 2004

*knock knock* Housekeeping!

Spent most of the day today cleaning and picking up the place.

The highlight/biggest chore of the day was the 3.5 hours of work I performed in the kitchen area. As much as I love this apartment, the kitchen is always been a bother. It’s just simply too small. Coming from the Hudson house with its 650 sq. ft. kitchen the apartment’s 250 sq. ft. kitchen simply doesn’t have enough storage nor counter space to hold all of the kitchen gadgets I’ve accumulated over the years, nor enough counter surface to prepare a meal. Couple this with a dishwasher which rarely gets the dishes clean to my satisfaction and things end up piling up pretty quickly into a mess.

Still got a lot of work to do before November 21st, when I’m holding Thanksgiving here at the apartment. (I’ll have the party room, too, but since none of my family has seen the new pad I think it is only proper that I make this place presentable as well!) Still need to work my way through the clutter which is my living room/dining room area, sort through the 1000’s of photos/other memorabilia which came over in Twinkie from my parents’ house and decorate the blank walls a bit.

Lucid Mornings

Well, I woke up way later than I thought I would today. It wasn’t the weather or anything else; it was the lucid dreaming one can do after your body has had all the sleep it needs. You push yourself back to sleep after a night spent letting your consciousness rest…then let yourself be entertained by the resulting combination of your subconscious and conscious minds’ thoughts. They come up with some pretty great stuff, lemme tell you!

October 29, 2004

Time to Unwind...

It’s been quite a day today at work…time to coast into the weekend and unwind a little. To get the ball rolling, I decided to follow Neil’s quiz.

  1. What is your Full Name?
    Damon Curtis Durand
  2. What color pants are you wearing right now?
    Yankee blue jeans
  3. What are you listening to right now?
    Amsterdam by Guster
  4. What was the last thing you ate?
    A Whopper w/Cheese from Burger King for lunch
  5. If you were a crayon what color would you be?
    Orange
  6. How is the weather right now?
    Unusually humid and warm
  7. Last person you talked to on the phone?
    JManDoo
  8. First thing you notice about the opposite sex?
    Eyes
  9. Do you like the person who sent this to you (or posted it)?
    Sure
  10. How are you today?
    Been really on fire today. Everyone’s been pissing me off it seems. Just finally calming down now.
  11. Favorite Drink?
    Strawberry Pop
  12. Favorite Alcohol?
    Sex with an Alligator
  13. Favorite Sports?
    I’m not huge into sports. If I had to say something, I’d pick some esoteric sports like lawnmower racing or trick billiards.
  14. Hair Color:
    Blondish/brown (not much of it left!)
  15. Eye colo(u)r:
    Depends on what I’m wearing and lighting…moves between blue and green.
  16. Do you wear contacts?
    Nope.
  17. Siblings:
    My sister, Michelle, 2.5 years younger than me.
  18. Favorite Month:
    October
  19. Favorite Food:
    My family’s recipe for lasagna
  20. Last Movie you watched:
    Team America: World Police
  21. Favorite Day of the Year:
    Feburary 29th
  22. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
    Sometimes, depends on the woman.
  23. Summer or winter?
    Winter. You can always put on more layers, but you can only take so many off!
  24. Chocolate or Vanilla?
    Vanilla
  25. Do you want your friends to write back?
    Remember to trackback!
  26. Favorite card game:
    Slapjack and Go Fish
  27. What did you do last night?
    Durand Family Board Meeting
  28. Favorite Smells:
    Vanilla, fresh baked bread, right after a rain, fresh-cut grass
  29. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
    Nope, just short.
  30. What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
    Wow, I must have had some exciting dreams!

October 28, 2004

BoDeans Pre-Sale

Anybody want to go see the BoDeans perform at First Avenue on December 26th or 27th?

I’ve never seen them in concert, but over the past year or so I’ve discovered many great songs they’ve recorded over the years:

  • Closer To Free
  • Fadeaway
  • Good Things
  • Dreams
  • Pick up the Pieces
  • Only Love
  • If It Makes You

There’s a pre-sale tomorrow starting at 10am.

Pity the Morons

…or Today’s Honorary AssBeaver1:

About a week ago I followed a very, very poor driver about 2 miles back to my house. The driver pulled through an intersection from a “Left Turn Only” lane. He was completely oblivious to his error and the fact that he was cutting off everyone who was in the proper lane. Then the driver proceeded to drive up the big hill at a turtle’s speed (the car could easily have taken it much quicker), make a right turn without signaling at the top, signal AFTER the left turn in front of the apartment complex and then spend 2 minutes while I remained stopped behind him - the whole time spent digging for his garage access card or something. Finally, he pulls in (I follow after being a good boy and sliding my access card in to restart the garage door timer) and I have to wait a bit more while he pulls into his parking spot, then pulls back out, then back in to realign.

I dismissed him as being distracted, a moron, or both. I didn’t think it would really matter.

So, tonight I pull into my parking garage after returning from the Durand Family Board Meeting. As I turn the final corner, here the guy’s car is parked in the middle of the driveway. I pause for a moment, looking for the driver to once again be realigning his car and noticed no one was sitting in the car.

I pull my Beetle off to the side, ponder what to do next. I go back out and look, there is no way I’m gonna get my car around his and down to my assigned spot. I look inside, see the flashing red light indicating the alarm is set (It is a Jetta, VW uses the same components in many of their vehicles) and I notice the parking brake isn’t set and the car is in neutral.

Yes. This man parked his car, hopped out, set the alarm and walked away as it rolled back into the driveway. From the looks of the positioning of the concrete pylons, I’m guessing it bumped against one of the pylons as it rolled out in the middle of the thoroughfare, then came to rest right in the middle.

I thought about pulling my car back out into the parking lot and parking it there for the night. ‘course, that would mean I’d have to carry in all my stuff in the drizzle. Never mind the fact that there were 4-5 other spots empty past the car where I’m used to seeing parked vehicles, meaning others would be inconvenienced as well.

I decide we shall not all suffer because of the acts of a single moron.

I gave the car a test push and it rolled easily enough. The wheels were aligned perfectly to roll right back into the assigned spot just fine. I knew it would just roll back out if I left it unblocked, so I knew I had to find a block for the wheels.

I went walking down to my parking spot, looking for something I could use to block one of the rear tires (better make it big so the guy will notice he’s blocked in) and found one of those tubes of sand. (They were in my parking spot when I moved in…no one’s ever claimed them, so I just leave them forever in the community property area) I pull the tube of sand down the 120 feet or so to his assigned spot and line it up so I can slide it quickly underneath the rear passenger tire.

I give the car a push up and back into the parking spot, move to the side and push the bag of sand behind the wheel. After making sure the car came to a complete stop, I hop back in my Beetle and drive down to my spot.

I consider the ineptitude this guy has displayed on not only this but the previous occasion and decide I better leave a note - else he think someone put the bag of sand there as a decoration. I find a scratch piece of paper; leave him a note written in absolutely most simplistic language I could manage. I wish it were possible to express myself monosyllabically, since I have a feeling this would be the moron’s preferred vocabulary, but I figure if he can’t read it he can ask someone to help him:

“You forgot to set your brakes on your car. Found it rolled out in the middle of the garage, blocking traffic. Rolled it back into the parking spot, put a bag of sand behind the rear passenger wheel.”

I thought about adding in a comment about his intelligence, but decided against it. Prbly should have added that this was his second strike in my eyes, but I have a feeling he’s got a lot of strikes built against him already.

1 JManDoo and I decided that all poor drivers would henceforth be referred to as assbeavers. We even registered the domain AssBeavers.com, thinking we’d establish a clearing house for reporting assbeavers you may encounter on the road. You can identify an assbeaver by the following behaviors (this IS not meant to be a complete list!):

  • Driving really slow in the left-hand lane
  • Pacing cars in other lanes - hindering any attempts to pass
  • Incorrect use of turn signals/indicators
  • Over-compensating for weather-related road conditions
  • Generally being a poor driver

Durand Family Board Meeting

Tonight I’ve got the irregularly scheduled Durand Family Board Meeting to attend.

I’m looking forward to hearing about Grandpa’s fishing trip, creating plans for the Turkey Day celebration, and catching up with everyone.

In today’s busy world a lot of people don’t make time for their family…I’m glad that even with two Board members in absentia, we can still make time to get together on occasion and touch base.

October 27, 2004

Finale of Gumby Day

Well, Gumby didn’t get completely finished tonight. There were a few problems getting Gumby up and running to begin with…then Mike and I got distracted numerous times chitchatting about all things geek.

Good progress was made. And it was great to spend a geek afternoon/evening with Mike.

Gumby Day

Sounds like Mike is going to have some free time today, so I’m taking a half-day and we’re gonna work at getting the new Gumby server up and running.

I’ve had the new server for the last 5 months or so, but I’ve been putting off building it up until the FreeBSD 5.x series was marked stable. It looks like this is a reality, or at least will be shortly, so we should be able to build up the box and start tracking 5-STABLE with it.

All kinds of goodness will come forth from this…more disk space, new versions of all the hosted software, including MovableType 3.1x for the blogs. Yay!

Updates throughout the day. Not sure if we’ll cut over to the new box or we’ll just set it up and schedule switchover a few weeks out. Depends on how seamless we can do it.

October 26, 2004

Watch-ing Spam

Total Spam Blocked
Apr 20048796
May 20049110
June 20049102
July 20047682
Aug 20048626
Sept 20047495

We do quite a bit of spam filtering here at Thingamabox.

Even with blocking all of those messages, we continue to get spam in our inboxes daily.

For the last few weeks, almost every piece of spam I’ve received has involved somebody trying to sell me fake Rolex watches! Lay off already! I’ve already got the fake Rolex my Grandmother brought back for me from Mexico years ago. I don’t need two!

[Updated 7:30pm]

I finally got around to reading my daily news, and noticed the Register just happened to run a story on this Rolex/Spam phenomena here.

The Vanilla Tootsie Roll Famine Returns

Went to Target to purchase another bunch of Vaniilla Tootsie Rolls.

They were all out.

I even asked one of the employees who was busy stocking the shelves with new candy treats. He explained they were all out, there had been a run on them when Tootsie Rolls went on sale, priced at 2 for $3, on Sunday.

So, here I am, treat-less.

And I would have paid full retail price.

Sleeping Through A Storm

I went to bed too early last night I suspect. I was incredibly worn down, but I had these unusual dreams all night long. Not quite nightmares, but I could definitely see and hear that my subconscious was trying to explain something to my conscious. I know I left a lot of unfinished business up in my brain last night - I didn’t get to spend the normal time I do in reflection before drifting off to bed.

October 24, 2004

Family Photo

The first of the 82 photos has made its way up to the website. I skeleton of the Family pages have been uploaded and are ready for your consumption.

Pay special detail to the imagemap…ugh. Took me almost an hour to imagemap that photo!

Also pay attention to the photo…it is proof that I come from a long line of goofy people!

The individual bio pages will be filled out as time allows. I’ve got a huge stack of scanned photos and digital shots which are just waiting to be mated with words and added to the pages.

October 23, 2004

Phrase of the Day

Today’s phrase is:

“You don’t have to like yourself completely - but you do need to love yourself completely, including the things you don’t like”

It seems like there is an overwhelming urge inside of us to think we must like everything we love. This just isn’t the case. We can love without obsession - we can love without being blind to the negatives. I may LOVE Buca’s but not the burping all the garlic causes me to do afterward. I LOVE myself, but I really don’t like the fact that I still weigh more than 300 pounds after two full seasons of biking.

It’s come up multiple times today…and I thought I should immortalize the phrase in an entry. Heed its advice, readers!

October 22, 2004

Thanksgiving SOLVED!

As I discussed here, it looked like we had the need to have two Thanksgivings this year.

Becky suggested, upon reading my post, that it might work to split it up into two Thanksgivings. Much like one sometimes has to do when they get married. After pondering this a bit I came up with an even better solution than if everything would have remained the same.

The big party room at my apartment complex has a full kitchen, big screen TV, couches, dim lighting, dining room table, etc. But it is always reserved every year for Thanksgiving well in advance. As luck would have it, the Sunday before Thanksgiving isn’t taken. So, making lemonade out of lemons, I’ve reserved the room and will do Thanksgiving this year for the family like I did two years ago.

We can have the Thanksgiving we always have had…just a few days earlier. And that should clear things up for making the trip down to enjoy Thanksgiving with my sister and parents.

Now, the real question…will taking on all this flood my November with too many activities to successfully write my novel?

We’ll see! I’m stoked if you can’t tell!

Spam Spam and More Spam

While I’ve gotten a bit of comment spam here and there over the past few months, it was nothing like what I was greeted with this morning when I got into work and opened up my email. Every entry on my blog had a spam comment added to it.

I started deleting comment after comment but soon realized there had to be a better way. 15 minutes later, I removed all of the comment spam in one action with MT-Blacklist. Worked great! I’ve heard others talk about it, but I guess it wasn’t until I got picked up by Google that it became a huge problem.

October 21, 2004

Scanning the Past

After work today I snuck over to my Grandpa’s house and scanned a bunch of old (and new) pictures.

84 in all.

There were many more I wanted to scan, but I wanted to get enough material together to put together the About Me and My Family pages for the website.

Look to see many of the pictures either incorporated in those pages as I put them together or I’ll feature individual posts about them.

"BABY" is the Word of the Day

Today over lunch we finally hooked up with Jodi, an old coworker of ours.

She left us when she had Nahlah, her daughter. It was great to catch up with her and to finally see Nahlah in all of her baby-like splendor.

Nahlah Looking

Nahlah and I had a few moments to talk with each other, too…we watched the other people in the dining room, looked out at the trees swaying in the wind, drooled excessively. (Well, only Nahlah did the last one!)

Nahlah and Damon

I’ve been eager to have a kid for a long time now, but after seeing Nahlah I’m even more baby happy than usual.

October 20, 2004

Thanksgiving Decisions

So, I need to decide what I’m going to do for Thanksgiving.

The two options are:

  1. Travel down to Texas with my parents to have Thanksgiving down at my sister and brother-in-law’s place. Since my sister and brother-in-law are not coming up to visit during the holiday season this may be the only chance to enjoy some family time with them for some time to come.
  2. Stay here in town and have Thanksgiving with my Grandpa and Aunt.

Thanksgiving for me is a really important holiday for me. One time a year everyone comes together, sits down around a table and shares a homemade meal. We all bring items to share, someone cooks the big giant turkey. Before we dig in, everyone takes a moment and shares what they are thankful for over the past year. I love hearing what everyone comes up with…and taking the time before hand to reflect on the previous year and come up with what I’m going to share.

But this year, due to circumstances beyond my control, I’m stuck choosing between the two options above. Sure, there will be phone calls to each other I’m sure, but with either option I’m missing people very close to me with whom I want to share my Thanksgiving.

I still don’t know what I’m going to choose, although I need to decide shortly so that each of the groups can make their plans. Of course, the NaNoWriMo decision further complicates the decision…the time down with my sister would be busy visiting, I’m sure, leaving little time near the end of the month for crunch time on the writing.

Playlist: Fall Colors 2004

As fall turns into winter, I thought I’d put together a playlist of the memorable songs of the fall. I’ve done this in the past, kinda cool to see how things change over time.

This year’s fall playlist is heavily slanted towards Carbon Leaf. It’s been 2-3 months since I first ran across the band on AudioLunchbox and I just attended their concert here in town a couple of weeks ago. I love the great variety of sounds they produce - the lyrics are great, too. Lots there to identify with, regardless of mood.

Other “new” tracks come from a variety of sources. iTunes and its browsing/suggestion capabilities have yielded such gems as “Way You Walk” by Papas Fritas and Weezer’s “Island in the Sun”. “New Slang” by The Shins was something I really didn’t consider purchasing from iTunes until I heard it in Garden State, which is by far my favorite movie of the fall.

The second half of the list is dominated by a bunch of “classic” Damon tracks. Soul Coughing makes a big splash in this part of the list, not only because I picked up a bunch of their live shows on CD, but I’ve run into a few old fans of their music over the course of the fall. Similar reasoning behind the inclusion of such hits as Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” and “Righteously” by Lucinda Williams.

I’ve attached the playlist to the remainder of this message…

Continue reading "Playlist: Fall Colors 2004" »

October 19, 2004

Sicky: The Finale

Well, it seems I’ve finally shaken the bug which had been pestering me for the past week or so. I haven’t had a trace of a sore throat so far today.

So, while I’m not going to rush out and hang a banner declaring Mission Accomplished before I’m absolutely positively sure the war is over, I do believe my body’s defenses have saved me from a slow, debilitating death from sore throat.

Hooray!

October 18, 2004

NaNoWriMo

That’s National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated.

I first read about it in this Slashdot article.

I thought of jodi and sent her a link to it, suggesting she try it. She takes her writing very seriously, has taken classes, edited not only high school newspaper and yearbook (who didn’t?) but her college newspaper as well.

After a bit of cajoling back and forth, I (along with the help of others) not only ended up convincing her to do it, but I signed up for it, too.

I haven’t written much since I graduated from high school (due to skipping college entirely) other than technical papers related to my job. (Which I just did a scan through and found the longest at 20 pages - including gratuitous bulleted lists!) How I’m going to accomplish 50,000 fictional words in a month I’m not sure - never mind making it somewhat readable and interesting.

I put a hold on the book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel by Tom Monteleone at the library. I imagine I’ll have to move it to the top of the “Books Waiting To Be Read” pile and start planning for November 1st now. I don’t even have a plot in mind; luckily I’ve got two weeks to come up with one.

This should be an interesting experiment…

Home Ward Bound

Decided that I needed to try and lick this cold/strep once and for all and stayed home today. Really wouldn’t have helped to go into work anyways, as I can hardly talk. All weekend it fluxuated between getting better and getting worse, I finally broke down last night and took some Nyquil. Funny, I know some people who get knocked out by Nyquil, can hardly make it back to bed before they are deep in slumber. For me, it seems like a mere suggestion - I still had a bit more difficult time than usual falling asleep, and I woke up plenty over the course of the night.

So, today is to be spent resting, not speaking and reading Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective by Mark Epstein. It is an amazing book, and deserves an entry of its own after I complete it.

Team America

So, went to see Team America yesterday.

While I enjoyed watching the puppetry, and some of the basic satire presented, it seemed like a less-than-stellar performance for Trey and Matt.

I’ve been a South Park fan since the show started. I saw Orgazmo and BASEketball in the theater and rental numerous times. I’ve always loved the irreverant wit and outrageous satire presented by these guys.

Team America, by contrast, seems like something which could have been presented in under a half hour but instead stretched out into something which became so thin at times it broke apart.

It had its funny moments, but overall I just thought the jokes came too far and in between for my liking.

October 17, 2004

Brave New Workshop: Electile Dysfunction

I finally got down to see the new political Brave New Workshop revue “Electile Dysfunction; or Two Johns, a Dick and a Bush”. I haven’t seen a show since the spring (which means I missed the Das Bootylicious revue) and went into this show expecting a great bunch of election and political satire.

While I will not say this is the worst show I’ve seen in the 8 years I’ve been going to BNW shows, this certainly wasn’t the best, either. The musical numbers seemed sloppy and unconnected to the rest of the show, whereas the jokes seemed to be less of the subtle satire the BNW usually presents and more of a one-liner festival.

Shanan Wexler and Katy McEwen carried the show on their shoulders. Shanan with her tremendous vocal talent led the entire cast in a wonderful “Schoolhouse Rock”-style song about the Electoral College, which was definitely the high mark of the evening for musical numbers. Meanwhile, Katy really hit the mark with her portrayal of a “Mr. Wizard”-type professor trying to create the model politician by using a combination of bacon bits and a Taser gun.

All in all, still worth the price of admission, but unlike some of their previous shows, I didn’t leave wanting to go back and see it again. I do look forward to the upcoming holiday show, “A Very IKEA Christmas”, which opens mid-November. I only hope this show was an exception, rather than a precursor of shows to come.

October 16, 2004

Barenaked For The Holidays

Managed to pick up tickets this morning for the BNL Holiday show on December 13th, 7:30 pm at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Also picked up the CD at Target today, too. (I couldn’t find it at Best Buy for some reason…dunno if they were sold out or not carrying it?)

I’m not sure how I feel about the CD yet. Maybe it is just too early to really get into holiday music…maybe I expected more vocal work. We’ll see how it grows on me as the holidays get nearer. As of right now, all of my holiday music is currently in my “Never play” playlist on iTunes so I can avoid it whenever I play “All Songs” randomly. Its exile will end come November 15th or so, which should give me plenty of time to get into the holiday music swing before the concert.

LiveJournal Syndication

As I warned in this previous entry, I have turned off the LJCrossPost plug-in which posted entries to my old LiveJournal account. I’ve now setup a syndicated feed on LiveJournal under the damon_durand account.

If you want to continue to have my entries appear on your friends page, you’ll need to add the damon_durand account to your friends list.

My old account will no longer be updated.

October 15, 2004

"Suck it", Dick (100th Post)

A great big “Suck it” to the RV/Sport shop owned by Dick in Durand, Wisconsin. (Whom I won’t link to or name, since I don’t want to increase its Google page rank in the slightest)

For years my homepage was the first hit when you searched for Damon Durand on Google. About a year ago I got bumped into number two spot by the previously mentioned site. When I tried to increase my rank through the use of Meta tags and submitting my site for search at Google’s Add URL page I disappeared from the Google index entirely. (Not just demoted; if you searched for any trace of my site you wouldn’t find it at all other than external links pointing to it) A few days ago I noticed that GoogleBot craweled my site once again…I knew it was only a matter of time until I’d be relisted.

I signed up through Google Alerts and waited. This morning I got the first matching alert, switched over to Google and did a search. I’m not only back in the list now, but I’m the first hit, too. Yay!

On a quick aside, this is the 100th post on my weblog. I’ve picked up the posting pace over the past few weeks, so hopefully the 200th post will be here in much less time. I’m sure the blogging activities have helped matters a bit, too, since Google loves linked content and I’ve been doing much more of that as of late, too.

Sicky Pt 3

OK, so maybe driving in the cold last night in Twinkie was a bad idea.

Sore throat hasn’t gotten any better. Finally broke down and administered 600mg of ibrophrophen.

Everything else feels absolutely wonderful today.

Frozen Twinkie

So, Mel wanted a ride in Twinkie.

The temperature outside was below 45 at drive time.

I braved the cold, with no working heater, and drove Mel to dinner and back in Twinkie.

Thankfully I remembered my gloves. That big bus steering wheel does not warm up EVER!

New rule: no driving Twinkie below 50 degrees F!

October 14, 2004

Sicky Pt 2

Throat still hurts, but other than incredible thirst I have no other pains or signs of sickness.

Had to come into work today because I’ve got two client meetings. Luckily, one of them includes lunch. Yippee!

October 13, 2004

Meme-orable

everybody join in!

15 years ago today, I would have been…
1. 13, 8th Grade, living with my parents in Spring Lake Park, MN
2. Finishing my sixth and final year in the Metropolitan Boys Choir with a tour of Germany and Austria the following June
3. Had my first serious girlfriend, Jennifer Burnett. We would always sit together at lunch and play footsie.

10 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Just arrived at GMI in pursuit of a computer engineering degree
2. Logging into ISCA BBS for the first time
3. Figuring out how to forge email From: addresses

5 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Contemplating leaving Investment Advisers Inc. after 7.5 years to go work for Agiliti
2. Finishing up Y2K Compliance documentation and testing
3. Driving Twinkie through downtown Minneapolis in a shirt and tie, commuting to work

3 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Going to couple’s therapy
2. Refinancing the house
3. Preparing for the worst

1 year ago today, I was…
1. Trying to keep all the plates spinning
2. Moving Wizmo HQ across the street
3. Finishing up the first summer of bicycle commuting

So far this year, I have…
1. changed my hairstyle
2. fixed up Twinkie
3. dropped 4 inches around my waist

Yesterday, I…
1. worked a full day
2. cleaned the apartment
3. reconnected with 2 long-lost friends

Today, I…
1. sat in meetings all day
2. had dinner with the ‘rents
3. fixed my Dad’s computer

Tomorrow, I…
1. meet with customers
2. take Mel for a ride in Twinkie and have dinner
3. call for new tires on the Beetle

Sicky

So, last night I felt a bit of a sore throat coming on while I was cleaning up the apartment, but I just shrugged it off. I thought it a bit unusual that I was so thirsty before bed, but once again I shrugged it off.

Woke up this morning with a full-on sore throat. I came into work, all full of energy and chipper, but by lunchtime I could already feel myself getting worn down.

For those of you playing the home game, you’ll know I hardly ever get sick…so I’m fairly certain this was a super germ engineered just to target me. (No one else around me is sick in the slightest!)

Agents have been dispatched to track down who gave me this bug. So far everyone’s alibis check out, but my agents won’t rest until they’ve figured it out.

Order in the Court

Tonight I came home from work and started work on restoring some sense of sanity to the apartment.

I’ve made efforts over the past year or so to unpack from the house, get rid of what I don’t need or want and make some space in here for the things I love.

I spent most of the night picking things up which were already unpacked, although I did manage to make a small dent around the dining room table as well.

A trip to the Hennepin Country Hazardous Waste Center (computer recycler) this weekend should help clear out some space…I’ve got a bunch of old computers that are just sitting in the middle of the floor gathering dust. 486DX/66’s, a Pentium 60…even an old CompuAdd 386/25! The Apple IIgs I had while growing up will stay, along with all the currently used boxen.

Tomorrow night I’ll try to finish off the kitchen and the books.

Getting these three things out of the way first is important - I know I need storage in all three areas, otherwise things will fall back into disrepair rather quickly. The rest of the stuff is assorted junk which will need to find its place - but the first three need to establish their places first.

October 12, 2004

An Announcement

Cost models get me HOT

"Square" Chinese Chicken

Many of you have heard me rant about the lack of quality Chinese-style food near my apartment. There were a large number of great establishments which could be found in downtown and uptown when I worked down there. There was also Dragon Pearl out in Hudson where I used to live. Once in a while I really get in the mood for some good ol’ Chinese food. I’m no connoisseur; but I don’t want something as “Americanized” as Leeann Chin or the buffets which serve jello and some strawberry/banana concoction right next to the chicken fried rice.

Picture of chow mein Close-up of square chicken

As an example of my pain, I submit to you a picture I snapped of the top of a freshly opened container of chow mein from a local establishment. NOTICE THE SQUARE STRIPS OF CHICKEN Where do they get such perfectly formed strips of chicken?

Judging from the consistency of the pieces (and the little air bubbles in the chicken-like substance itself) I suspect they puree the chicken in some central factory and then pour it into molds. From there the molds, filled with gelatinous chicken, are cooked at a temperature which would kill any harmful bacteria. After removing the now cooked chicken from the molds, it is weighed, bagged, and then distributed to area Chinese-style restaurants. Because it uses all the icky parts of the chicken (the stuff that’s one grade above hot dog filling) they can get it really cheap and they don’t have to worry about all the mess from dealing with live (or still-in-one-piece) chickens.

Similar mass-produced ingredients such as sweet n’ sour sauce, fried rice, egg rolls, etc. are handled in much the same way. (You think it just happens that all of these restaurants make their eggrolls the exact same way, perfect in shape and filling every time?)

October 11, 2004

LiveJournal Syndication

For the past 8 months or so I’ve been using LJCrossPost to syndicate my website into my existing LiveJournal account. It has worked very well, although it has its limitations. As I’ve been doing more and more with MovableType I’ve found the delays necessary for the RPC-XML send up to LiveJournal upon each page rebuild to cause timeouts and other errors. Not to mention the imperfect “backdating” functionality.

Tonight I resubscribed my LiveJournal account for 2 months to add a “syndication feed” to LiveJournal under the damon_durand account. In the near future I will disable LJCrossPost, which means my existing account will no longer be updated. If you want to continue to receive my entries on your friends page, you’ll need to add the damon_durand to your friends list.

My name is Damon Durand and I approve this message.

Do Elephants Laugh?

OK, so now I’ve moved back towards the other way. Only I know why.

For this brief bit while I’m on this side of the pendulum’s swing, the question which came to mind was about laughing.

Do we know why we laugh? I mean, people laugh when they are nervous, when they are happy, when something funny happens…I’ve even seen people laugh when they cry.

I’ve personally seen monkeys and other species laugh. Dolphins seem to laugh, although I don’t know if this is a trained behaviour or a natural one.

I’ve heard reports of elephants mourning their dead. Do they laugh, too?

Investigations forthcoming…

Screenwriter's Blues

I can’t concentrate today.

I don’t know if it is the weather outside (absolutely beautiful for October 11th in Minnesnowta) or the weather inside my head (partly cloudy with a chance of showers at times) but I keep on thinking of the weirdest things. Flashbacks to dreams I’ve had, daydreams about future plans. What to do…

I guess I’ll just go back to trying to figure out the beast “The Project” has turned into. I give it identical input, I should get identical output, shouldn’t I? It IS a computer program! I’m guessing it is a timing issue somewhere, but those are notoriously difficult to track down when you’ve got five different things going on at once. (And this time I’m just talking about the code…not including the things in my head)

October 10, 2004

A Life Less Ordinary

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the 400 Bar to see a performance by Carbon Leaf.

Who’s Carbon Leaf may you ask?

Continue reading "A Life Less Ordinary" »

October 9, 2004

Technorati Profile

I just signed up with Technorati. Not quite sure what it does for me yet, hopefully this post will generate a ping and I’ll get to see it in action.

October 8, 2004

"Don't Vote" Part 3

Well, the riddle brought up in this entry and this entry has been answered early.

According to this article from the Star Tribune the “Don’t Vote” billboards were part of a radio ad campaign for KDWB-FM.

At least one of the 15 billboards was updated Friday in downtown Minneapolis. It now says, “Don’t Vote for Dave,” a reference to morning radio host Dave Ryan of KDWB-FM.
The sign tells viewers to “Make your vote count!” next to a photo of Ryan, wearing an Uncle Sam outfit and giving the thumbs up.

Kind of disappointing, if you ask me. There is certainly a small segment of the non-voters out there that might have been pushed to vote just on account of someone telling them not to do so. Oh well!

MENSA Puzzle Calendar Today

JManDoo, Accounting Nicole and I have a ritual of solving the MENSA Puzzle Calendar each day.

Today’s puzzle was particularly notable:

GIGANTIWORD

FILL IN THE BLANKS TO COMPLETE THE WORD BELOW:

F _ _ B _ E _ _ I _ I _ _ E T

JManDoo actually got close, even tho none of us had ever heard of the word before…

Continue reading "MENSA Puzzle Calendar Today" »

Another Dilbert Hits Close To Home (Or Work, Rather!)

Dilbert from October 8th, 2004

"Don't Vote" Part 2

In a previous entry, I talked about this curious sign which can be seen around the Twin Cities. The subject of the previous entry, as well as this picture, is taken at the intersection of Washington Ave and Lowry Ave, just north of downtown along Interstate 94. I’ve also seen other billboards with similar messages in downtown Minneapolis across from the Dome and in Saint Louis Park near Highway 169 along Highway 7.

I mentioned my fascination with these signs to my mom tonight, she referred me to a Star Tribune story from October 3rd, 2004. In the article, we do indeed find out these billboards are not sponsered by a political party or candidate. (Which would explain the absence of a “This Message Was Paid For By The Re-Elect So-And-So Committee) All will be revealed on October 11th, according to Lee Ann Muller of Clear Channel Communications, which owns the billboards.

October 7, 2004

28 Things

  1. My name is Damon Curtis Durand; I’ve never had a nickname that stuck.
  2. I shamelessly stole the idea for this list from Jodi.
  3. I rode the short bus to early childhood education when I was younger, my bus driver’s name was Betty.
  4. A few years later, Ed Rimkus decided I was gifted.
  5. I plan on retiring from professional work when I’m 45 and becoming a K-2 teacher or a professor.
  6. According to the Social Security Administration, I’ve earned enough credits to qualify for benefits.
  7. Besides college classes in high school, I’ve never attended college full-time, nor been granted a degree.
  8. I will never stop learning.
  9. I collect cool toys.
  10. I buy hardcover books.
  11. I am close to my family.
  12. There is an intersection in Rochester, Minnesota which connects Damon Court with Durand Court.
  13. I’ve been to Canada, England, Wales, Netherlands, Germany (East and West), Austria, Switzerland, Iceland, and Saint Martin. All but the first and last country I went to, without my family, between the ages of 10 and 13.
  14. I’ve been to 35 of the 50 States.
  15. I’ve been married before. I look forward to getting married again.
  16. I consider kids the ultimate toy. I look forward to having some of my own after I complete item 15.
  17. I love trivia and puzzles.
  18. I have 6182 songs in my iTunes library, 652 of them which have been played more than once since October 26, 2003.
  19. I remember the name of every girl I’ve kissed.
  20. I’ve never smoked, never used illegal drugs, and never been drunk.
  21. I practice Just-In-Time™ laundry.
  22. Boxers.
  23. I rarely eat leftovers.
  24. The first trace of me on the Internet (according to Google Groups) was at 4:14am CST, November 13th, 1993.
  25. I’ve been in complete darkness 2400 ft below the surface of the Earth at the bottom of the Soudan Mine.
  26. I still get excited about checking the mail.
  27. I’m generally a very happy person.
  28. If there is a reason for me being here, I believe it is in order to leave the world in better shape than I found it upon arrival.

Gettin' Grub with Grandpa

Met my Grandpa for dinner last night. We had a great time, as we always do.

When I was growing up my dad’s parents were like a second set of parents to my sister and I. (More on that on the family page when I get it done) My Grandpa’s always been a great adviser and a hero of mine.

I got to take Grandpa for a ride in Twinkie on our way to the restaurant. He had contributed funds to Twinkie’s restoration, so I wanted to show off that we finally had her running. Once we got to the restaurant (Uno’s) our discussions really began.

Now this is one of the greatest things about my relationship with my Grandpa. Ever since I can remember, my Grandpa and I have always had these great intellectual discussions. I vividly remember this as far back as junior high. I would go up and stay with my Grandparents in Grand Marias every summer for a few weeks - each day my Grandpa and I would walk into town to pick up groceries or perform some kind of chore while my Grandma stayed back at the cabin to get showered, dressed, etc. During our hour or so walkabout we’d discuss all kinds of things; politics, religion, math, puzzles, human nature, breadmaking, woodworking, fishing, personal histories, family history. You name it, we prbly said something about it. I learned a lot in those summers - I think my Grandpa did, too.

Fast forward to last night. Besides the old mainstay of politics, which often dominates our discussions, we touched a bit on religion as well. (Spurred by my reading of The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene) We’ve discussed this before - I knew my Grandpa and I had similar thoughts on the matter - but this time it was different. More substance about the “Why’s?” instead of concentrating on the “How’s?” Seemed like more of a philosophy discussion than anything else - but with the kind of reasoning two rational, analytical minds bring to the table.

While I’m sorry my Grandma isn’t alive anymore, I’m thankful that my Grandpa is still here and I can share meals like this with him.

iTunes/iPod Trending

So, now that the new website is running I thought it would be cool to do something with all the metadata which sits on my iPod and in iTunes. I could do something like a “Currently listening to…” in a sidebar on the website, but something which would be even cooler would be to do some trending of usage.

iTunes has fields for play count, last played date, date added. Therefore, my thought was that a simple routine could be run periodically against the library which would pick out the current play count for each track and store it in another database with a timestamp.

Then I could run reports…which tracks were the most popular in the last week? Which ones had fallen from favor? Then to complete the cycle, it could use the iTunes API to create a playlist with the results.

The problem with this whole setup - there’s no unique ID which one can use to match between iTunes sessions. All of the Apple documentation I’ve been able to find reiterates over and over again that the trackDatabaseID, which one would think would be what I was looking for, is only guaranteed to be static during an iTunes session.

Now, I suppose I could try and create a unique ID by storing something in an ID3 tag or using a combination of other attributes, and I may just do that. But it still is kinda a pain.

Welcome to the new design!

I’ve been playing with different designs over the past few weeks, finally decided on using a fixed width layout based on the one I found at Neil Turner’s site. I played with variable width sites, since I use an ultra-wide screen resolution things look goofy when they are pegged for an 800×600 screen, but since I also like using floats it presented a bunch of difficulties trying to get the CSS to render correctly. I figure most of the people I know browse my site at 800×600 or 1024×768, so I set the fixed width around 750. I apologize in advance to anyone browsing on a smaller screen - if you wanna help me convert the existing CSS to a dynamic width layout I’m open to it!

Continue reading "Welcome to the new design!" »

October 6, 2004

A Now, A Word From Our Donor

As you may have picked up from reading the Twinkie entries, Twinkie was the lucky recipient of a transplant engine from a 1973-1974 Super Beetle. My dad purchased the engine through eBay back before Christmas, which meant the feedback had to be sent before we could get it in and working. After we completed our work, he sent another message to the seller sharing our success with an invitation to go to my website and read all about it. Here was his response (from a week or so ago, his location is obvious when you consider where all the hurricanes have been hitting this year):

From: Shawn Knight
To: Curtis Durand
Re: eBay Item: VW BUG SUPER BEETLE 1600 MOTOR ENGINE

That’s just great, can’t wait till my son is old enough to do similar projects! He’s only 5, but I’m already planning! Your son, a teenager I assume, writes very well. Very interesting reading, though I had to cut it short as we are now up to 50 mile an hour winds during our weekly hurricane test!! Will catch up with you when I can, gotta hunch the power ain’t gonna be on much longer, best wishes to you, your family and most of all Twinkie!!

Well, I dunno if I should be happy that he thought I was a teenager or not (for those of you playing the home game, I’m 28 this year) but it still is cool to connect with the donor in this way.

Twinkie Update

Last night I drove Twinkie out to Woodbury to have dinner with Jean. This was the longest trip so far, just over 40 miles. Twinkie handled it just fine, the new engine is holding up well. We had a lot of fun going over the huge hump in the road at Lake and Wooddale Drives at high speed…it even felt like Twinkie caught some air on it, believe it or not!

A few things I’ve learned:

  • You can’t check the oil when the engine is hot, such as when you fill up with gas. Best done in the morning before you leave for the day. That way, after you add the oil you can check it right before going to lunch or leaving for the day, at which time the engine should be cool once more.
  • If you just open up the driver’s window the movement of the air past the window sucks exhaust in through the heating ducts. If you, instead, open up the sliding door fan windows at the same time, you get a nice cross breeze and everything is much less stinky.
  • Trying to talk on the cell phone necessitates putting in the clutch and coasting…which is OK when you’re on the freeway, but in stop and go traffic it makes things very complicated!
  • Driving such an old beauty gets you lots of looks…of both contempt and of admiration. How you choose to interpret those looks is up to you.

All in all, it is great to drive Twinkie again. Just filled up the third tankful of gas since Twinkie began moving again, hoping that the weather remains good for a bit so I can enjoy Twinkie a bit more before I have to park it for the winter.

October 5, 2004

Tootsie Roll Relief

Picture of Vanilla-Flavored Tootsie Roll Midgees

After lunch we walked over to the Target in Eden Prairie Mall.

They’ve restocked the vanilla-flavored Tootsie Roll Midgees!

Yay!

So, in a great example of self-control, I purchased 5 bags from Kimberly, my favorite afternoon cashier. If she’s working, she’s my preferred checkout over the noon hour. The first time I purchased a few packages of the vanilla-flavored pellets she commented how she’d have to try them, since they were her favorite, too.

This time I caught her right after she came off of break. She admitted she had just consumed a bunch over her break, removing the wrappers from her pocket as proof.

I’m telling you…they ought to remove the “Limited Edition” threat on the packaging and regularly package them this way. Yum!

Burn responsibly

I’m up looking at the weekly iTunes free download and I see an ad for Green Day Collectible CD-R’s.

I’m not a huge Green Day fan, but I admire the band for putting together something like this. I mean, how cool? Professionally silkscreened artwork, perfect for your “Best of Green Day” collection.

My old boss, Jim, used to buy those Verbatim “Vinyl” CD-R’s at a premium for creating his compilation CDs for all the bands he used to listen to back in college. Neat, I thought, but at the premium they were priced over standard CD-R’s I didn’t necessarily think they were worth it.

But, combining the two options, wouldn’t it be kinda neat to go hit a website, browse a catalog of CD-R silkscreens and then order a bunch in quantity? I use my iPod most of the time, but it would be neat to burn some of my favorite mixes off to a neat themed CD-R. Not necessarily artist-themed, but more generic. I could imagine, for example, burning one of my workout soundtracks to a CD with a bike on it…or burning my “August Joy” CD to a CD-R with a big crayon drawing of the sun.

October 4, 2004

A Public Service Announcement

Totino’s Party Pizzas, specifically the “Canadian Style Bacon” variety rock my world. Heat at 425 until cheese is browned and non-gooey, remove from oven, slice and enjoy!

A second, limited time runner up to the Tootsie Company for packaging their heavenly “Vanilla-flavored Midgees” in their own huge bags. (Usually, they are only available in the “mixed” flavor bag including cherry, lime, orange and lemon flavors) I can only assume they were as big of a hit as they thought they would be - I purchased three bags two weeks ago, just went back for more but they were all out. I’ve since checked three Targets and two Cub Foods locations, none of them have any bags on the shelves, either!

Is it something wonderful or just indigestion?

I don’t know if I’m entering a new phase of my life or what. For the past few weeks I’ve had this feeling growing inside of me that some big change in my brain’s wiring was about to occur. With each passing day this feeling grows larger and fuller; even lackluster accomplishments like presenting “The Project” seem to fuel this feeling. I haven’t felt this energized to “create” for many, many years.

October 1, 2004

Fire and Ice

This just handed to me from KARE-11 Your Weather:

“Tonight: Freeze warning. Clearing and cold. Wind: NW 10-20(diminishing) Low: 27”

Funny on a such a cold day JManDoo and I have been working on firewalls!

Thanks to the efforts of Max Laier we got a pair of CARP/PF/PFSync FreeBSD 5.3-BETA6 firewalls up and running. Just completed the rest of the configuration today, everything appears to work great. We’ve got a simple lab setup running, but we’re eager to throw some real load at it next week.

September 29, 2004

The L-I-B-R-A-R-Y

On Sunday Kelly and I went over to the new Eden Prairie / Hennepin County Public Library. The library had been built in the old Lunds supermarket. I had watched them building it out over the past two years or so with great anticipation. I had been in the old library located just down the road a few times many years ago - in fact, I’d guess that it would have been the last library I had set foot in, 8 years ago.

We walked inside and I was immediately struck by the architecture. This didn’t look anything like the supermarket which had been here before. The inside was completely renovated; skylights had been added all over the place, making everything nice and bright.

Then I started looking around for a librarian in order to get my library card. Walked right up to the front desk, got my card in less time than it took Kelly to use the restroom. Upon her return we set ourselves adrift in the sea of books.

The second big thing I noticed was all the computers. Realize, the last time I had been in a library was 8 years ago, even longer if you only consider regular visits. (Before you assume I’m some kind of bibliophobe, I have kept up the regular visits to my favorite bookseller, Borders, so I still consider myself well-read!) The amount of change which has gone on was astounding! Everywhere I looked I saw computers. Certainly I remember the move from the actual card catalog to the terminals we had right around the time I entered high school. But here were over 100 computers, all setup with not only “card catalog” access but full Internet access as well. I use “card catalog” loosely because I’m not sure you could call it that anymore - the computers basically just access the same website you can from home.

The benefits are extraordinary. Not only can I see instantly on a computer screen which books match my criteria, but I can scan the entire Hennepin County Library system at the same time. From there I can see which physical libraries have the book on the shelf or put a hold on the book (either the specific copy or any copy of it in the system) which will be delivered to my local library in a few days for pickup. The Internet access helps immensely, too. Instead of having to rack my brain trying to remember that book I put on my Amazon wishlist, or read about on some blog, I can instead bring up another window, visit the Internet site, get the author’s name and search the library system immediately.

The next thing which struck me was the number of librarians. Four by my count. A few helpers moving amongst the shelves putting books back, but four actual sitting-at-a-desk-waiting-to-help-you librarians. One might think this number is low, but in actuality I don’t think it is at all. Normal library patron tasks (looking up books, locating, reserving, and checking out) are all automated - now they are simply there to be asked the questions they would probably prefer to receive. I walked up to one, looking for the Dewey Decimal number for “problem solving” books. He began to explain to me how to search on the web interface, but when I explained I had searched and got a bunch of different numbers he was able to clarify which one was the best one to browse in. He walked me right over to the section and even offered up a suggestion from the available books before he walked back to his desk.

When the announcement of the closing of the library in 15 minutes over the PA, Kelly and I found each other and walked up to the checkout. No lines, no busy library patrons running around at the last minute trying to get that one last book. Instead we found ourselves at a wonderful little machine. Slide in your library card, scan each book, remove the library card and it prints out a receipt with the due dates for each item listed.

All in all, it was a great experience. Indeed, I just got an email today letting me know that three books which I had put holds on were waiting to be picked up at the local library. (They were located at a different library in the system when I looked them up on Sunday) Even picking up a reserved book is automated - simply walk in the library, goto the designated “reserve” section, pick up the books from the shelf, and check them out at the automated booth!

I’m excited about going to the library again! *snickers*

Which books did I pick up, you might ask?

Besides the three books which are waiting for pickup:

  • Automated Alice by Jeff Noon
  • Pollen by Jeff Noon
  • Passage by Connie Willis

I picked up:

  • A New Kind Of Science by Stephen Wolfram
  • The Riemann Hypothesis: The Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics by Karl Sabbagh
  • Math Mind Games by Heinrich Hemme

"Don't Vote"

Tonight I’m driving up to my parents’ house for dinner, and I see this billboard just north of downtown Minneapolis on Interstate 94. Had I not been in a rush to get up there for dinner I would have stopped and grabbed a picture of this billboard and inspected it for some kind of “Paid for…” notice. It read, in a very patriotic red, white and blue:

Don’t Vote

A particularly good billboard. The largest voting block in the nation remains the portion of the electorate which doesn’t vote. Maybe some reverse psychology will work on them. Certainly all the signs reminding/asking them to vote don’t do the trick!

Happy Birthday

A rare diversion today…for someone very special.

Today, 32 years ago, an old friend (and lover) of mine was brought into this world.

She and I no longer talk, but I wanted to acknowledge her with some kind of public tribute today - her birthday.

I was truly blessed to have shared the portions of my life with her I did. She was always there for me, loved me with everything she had. She was patient. She was kind. She was loyal. She was honest.

After years knowing each other, I forced her away from me last year. And although I’m incredibly sorry for the circumstances which led to that horrible decision, I realize that even in her absence she has continued to teach me things about myself I would have never encountered on my own. I am a better person today for knowing her. I am more self-aware, I am more careful with other people’s feelings and I am taking better care of myself. I’ve finally broke the self-destructive cycle I had been following through life. All of which I was brave enough to come to terms with because of her.

Having her in my life was a wonderful gift - the old adage is true, “You don’t realize what you have until it is gone.” On this, her birthday, I can only hope that she receives as much back from life as she lovingly gave me. My only gift is this acknowledgement, which I record here both as a reminder and message in the hope that sometime in the future she may read it - I find that my respect for her has only grown over time, even as we’ve gone on to lead our separate lives.

I consider myself lucky that we found each other - sad that we lost each other.

September 28, 2004

"The Project"

Had my first demo of “The Project” today. All did not go according to plan, but the fix list is short.

Which is good. Worked all night (and I mean literally all night). Time for rest. It wins this round. But the battle is not over.

September 26, 2004

Playtime Diversions

Now that “the project” at work is coming to a close and Twinkie is running just fine, it looks like I’ll be able to return to having spare time on my hands again. Here’s a list of personal projects which have piled up over the past few months… which one to start first?

  • Restore order to the apartment
    It would be really awesome to be able to not only restore the dining room table to being used for its primary purpose instead of just holding boxes of junk on it, but then restore the kitchen to some kind of sanity so I could cook meals to enjoy on said dining room table.
  • Restore order to the iPod
    One of the unadvertised “gotchas” about converting your iPod over to manual sync is that you lose the ability to sort your playlists on metadata. I use this ability on a lot of my playlists, such as “Top Rated / Least Recently Listened” which lets me listen to songs in my library which I haven’t listened to in ages. Or sorting the “Purchased Music” playlist by “Date Added” which gives me a quick, direct way to bring up my most recently purchased tracks.
  • Finish loading said iPod
    I’ve got over 400 CDs last time I counted; I’ve only ripped about 200 of them onto the iPod. Missing some of my favorites, too. (This will more than likely require efforts to remedy the next item on the list)
  • Re-catalog all of my CDs
    Since the divorce, I haven’t had the opportunity, with all of my CDs in one place, to re-mate the CDs to their cases and see which ones I still have and which ones “went away”. Right now I’ve got literal piles of bare CDs and empty cases just waiting to be reunited.
  • Finish Gumby
    Gumby is the new server for Thingamabox.com hosting. Right now we’re running on servers which are builds from over 4 years ago. I’ve kept the FreeBSD OS on them current and patched, but running both of them (especially the Compaq Proliant 4500) keeps my electric bill sky-high since I’ve started hosting them out of my apartment. Gumby is a new server I picked up from work which has more than enough horsepower to eliminate both of the old servers AND it is much more energy efficient which will lower my electric bill considerably.
  • Catalog all of my books
    For the first time in 10 years all of my books are in the same place. I’d like to get them cataloged since I’m sure there are a few which I’ve purchased over the years which have slipped through the cracks and I never got around to reading.
  • Update my website
    I’ve been running MovableType 2.661 for a while now for not only laziness reasons by I wanted the 3.x series to mature, stabilize and for Six Apart to figure out the licensing system. I’ve noticed quite a few people upgrading to the 3.x series now; I’m thinking it is time to hop on the bandwagon. I’d really like to roll this out as a general content management system for all of the websites hosted on Thingamabox.com, since with the move back to one server security will need to be tightened down again. Besides technology, I’ve also got a bunch of content updates I’ve been meaning to do to make my website a bit more interesting, too…and attractive - I’m tired of the current color scheme.
  • Get in-apartment MP3 streaming working again
    Before the iPod, there was the Rio Receiver. While this wasn’t portable, it did allow me to listen to my MP3’s when and where I wanted inside the house. I miss being able to fall asleep to whatever music suits my fancy and mood. This project may necessitate the purchase of one of those new Airport Express boxes from Apple, since iTunes and iPod integration are so important to me now, but I have concerns about the remote control abilities in the product. (I’m used to being able to select songs at will from the comfort of my bed - the Airport Express is driven from iTunes, which is, up to now, nowhere near my bed)
  • Little fixes to change the apartment from good to great
    I’m fairly content with the apartment I’m in now - I’ve got a beautiful view of Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel in the forest behind me, plenty of room to live in and play in. But there are a few inadequacies with the apartment - the kitchen is too small, the second bathroom is more often than not filled with laundry and unusable as a bathroom and I’m tired of all the white and beige. What I’d like to do is:
    • Add some kind of external cabinet to store some of the least-used kitchen machines and clear off space on the kitchen work surfaces
    • Get some kind of rolling cart to help manage laundry a bit better and get it off the shower rods and countertops of the second bathroom
    • Paint the walls! I’ve also got some posters I’ve had in boxes for years…those should go up too, no?

Gosh. I knew I had really been putting things off while I was concentrating on the other two projects of the summer, but I didn’t realize the playlist had gotten so long!

September 24, 2004

What I bought on eBay

I finally found the Sissy Bar CD, Statutory Grape, which I had been looking for over the past few months. Rare, out of print CD, $2.95 + $3 for S&H.

The case was busted up (can just transplant all the cover art to a good case) but the CD inside is flawless. CDEx is ripping it to LAME MP3 right now, then onto the iPod it will go. I can’t wait. I’ve only had the two songs I downloaded as single tracks through iTunes to hold me over until I managed to find the CD.

Nothing like a screaming punk girl band to start the weekend off right!

September 23, 2004

Twinkie: Captain's Log

Well, I just passed the 50 mile mark on the rebuilt Twinkie engine today. On the whole, it is great being able to drive Twinkie around. Knowing that my Dad and I put together the engine propelling me down the road makes the joy of driving Twinkie that much sweeter. The big huge steering wheel makes driving the non-power steering vehicle a lot of fun, as does the tempermental transmission which loves to play tricks on you when you’re in stop-and-go traffic. Hearing the roar from the engine in the back (which modern drivers pay thousands of dollars in custom exhaust parts to duplicate) also brings a smile to my face.

The biggest headache (sometimes quite literally!) right now is the exhaust fumes in the cabin. Either due to the amount of fumes coming out of the tailpipes OR the method my Dad and I used to vent the heater boxes the cabin gets quite a smell at times. I guess it is even worse in the back, according to the passengers who have braved the seatbelt-less lands of the rear cabin. I’m sure a bit of noodling and some experimentation will solve this problem, tho.

Speaking of passengers, here’s the list of brave souls who have dared to ride so far:

  • Kelly
  • (New) Theresa
  • JManDoo
  • B-Squared
  • Lana Banana

In other non-engine related news, I popped up the camper top for demonstration purposes at work on Tuesday. Even tho the top hadn’t been opened in 3 years, the canvas walls were still in great shape. Didn’t see any damage in the slightest to the canvas by pests or other creatures who love to eat fabric. Yay!

The only other thing I’ve really noticed - I’ve been having an issue using pronouns with Twinkie. Is Twinkie a he or a she? Right now I find myself mostly thinking she automatically, so she Twinkie may become.

September 22, 2004

English Usage?

Some of you have checked out my Dating Application. For those who haven’t, now’s a great time to give it a try. (Not that I’m looking, mind you, but it is still a fun 5 minute distraction from the real world!)

While I certainly do not consider myself an American English expert, there are a few pet peeves of mine which involve proper usage of our beloved language. I put the first one in the previously-mentioned dating application, “funner”, but I’m thinking of adding two more.

First off, the phrase “these ones” is just not right, people! For example,
“What about these ones over here?”
is not proper! You can certainly say,
“What about this one over here?”
or,
“What about these over here?”
if you’d like, but combining the two is just not a good idea.

Secondly, why do people continue to use “good” as an adverb? For example,
“You really nailed that down good!”
Since you’re describing how you nailed it down, you’ll need an adverb. (As we all learned on Schoolhouse Rock) “Well” is the adverb I think you’re looking for in this case!
“You really nailed that down well!”

Both of these errors in usage make my hair stand on end whenever I hear them said. (or, even worse, when I say them!)

September 18, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 7

Kelly and I slept in today, headed up to my parents’ house around noon. We picked up lunch on the way, which gave everyone time to socialize before my dad and I headed outside.

Once we got outside the first thing to get out of the way was adjusting the timing. My Dad had set it “about right” on Tuesday night for the engine test, but this time we got out the timing gun. Attach it to the battery, place the sensor over the spark plug wire for cylinder 1 and test. Set it right around 28 degrees offset from TDC above 3000 RPM.

Next step was the air cleaner. We fitted the tube which ran from the air cleaner to the carburetor, set the air cleaner in place and measured its height. Since the bracket the air cleaner would normally set on had been removed by a previous owner, when they converted Twinkie to dual carburetors, we had to fashion our own.

My Dad had picked up two “L” brackets and a straight length of angle iron. It took us about an hour and a half, but eventually we came up with a solution. The rear “L” bracket was folded to the proper height and bolted to the body as far back as possible on the passenger side of the engine compartment. The forward “L” bracket just happened to fit perfectly on one of the rear engine shroud’s bolts. The straight length was placed diagonally across both “L” brackets, and then we bungee-corded the air cleaner to the angle iron. The air cleaner is level, placed perfectly out of the way, and we still give ourselves room to remove the battery.

Next was adjusting the automatic choke. Driven by the engine thermostat, it alters the idle speed of the engine. While we were adjusting the speed back and forth we didn’t realize there were two pools of oil forming underneath the engine. In the process of cleaning up a few tools we saw the spots and the worrying began a new. What if the engine was a lemon? All this work for nothing! But, we set our minds back to work, resolved to fix our problem, just like had with every other “issue” we encountered during this effort.

Rather quickly the cause of the first oil pool was tracked down to the valve cover over cylinders 1 & 2. After closer inspection we realized it was the valve cover on which we didn’t replace the seal when we were overhauling the engine. It was thought, at the time, that the existing rubber seal would be just fine. No problem - we still had a spare seal - we replaced the seal and replaced the cover.

The second cause was a bit more difficult to track down, since oil seemed to be all over the bottom of the engine and around the dipstick. After cleaning off the oil already on the engine, we restarted the engine and found the oil was spraying out around the dipstick. With the dipstick out it just gushed. After a moment, my dad realized that the problem was actually a capped off crankcase breather vent which we had capped off due to an incompatibility with the Type 2/Bus air cleaner. (Remember, the engine came from a Bug!) We added an item onto our “future” checklist to obtain the necessary adapters in order to connect the air cleaner and crankcase breather and left the cap off for now.

Now back in the game, we finished connecting the rear engine compartment shroud and started the engine up again. Twinkie was alive. All that remained now was to perform the pre-flight checks.

After checking the lights, we called out Kelly and Mom for the launching ceremony. My Dad brought out some champagne, we all had a toast and we christened Twinkie with a pour from the bottle. I hopped in the driver’s seat, turned Twinkie over and got ready to back Twinkie out of the driveway for the first time in 3 years.

I found reverse, let out on the clutch and back I went. After a small correction to avoid giving myself WAY too much distance from the other cars in the driveway (and driving into the yard) I made it down to the street, turned into traffic and sputtered away.

Finally, after three years and an entire summer of work on it, here I was driving Twinkie down the road.

I took Twinkie around a few blocks and then pulled it back into the driveway. Hopping out, I asked my Dad if he wanted to take Twinkie for a ride and he hopped in himself and drove away. (Once again, after a small course correction, this time to avoid the cars in the driveway!)

He got back; we all stood around and admired the accomplishment. Kelly even hopped up in the driver’s seat (although she didn’t want to drive Twinkie around at all) and admired the large, round steering wheel.

We attached the rear bumper, removed the front license plate (it was an old plate) and cleaned up. Mission accomplished!

I’ve posted some photos from the day here.

September 14, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 6.2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Twinkie Test Successful

Spring Lake Park, Minnesota (PRSOURCE) September 14, 2004 - Tonight, with little fanfare, an ignition test was performed on Twinkie, Damon Durand’s 1968 VW Campmobile. This was a major milestone for the TwERP.

Durand Engineers, with tactical assistance provided by Kelly Industries and Pamela Logistics, have spent many weekend man-hours rebuilding Twinkie’s engine over the past 3 months. Due to parts being sourced from around the nation for such a grand effort, delays were encountered and project schedules had to be pushed back.

A few weeks ago, a no-go condition was raised by the engineering project team due to a malfunctioning fuel pump. Curtis Durand, the Lead Consulting Engineer for the TwERP, led the effort in testing both the primary and backup units but found faults in both which could not be remedied. Luckily, due to the TwERP engineering team’s early design decision to use as many off-the-shelf parts as possible, a third unit was obtained and put into service. Component testing was performed on the new fuel pump and the no-go condition was removed, allowing the project to move forward once more.

Tonight after dinner, Lead Mechanics Engineer and Pilot Damon Durand entered the command compartment and strapped into the pilot’s seat. Lead Consulting Engineer Curtis Durand supervised the engine itself, while a representative from Pamela Logistics was on-hand to supervise safety systems.

Pilot Damon Durand inserted the key into the ignition and turned it to the start position, which engaged the starter motor and began the engine boot sequence. Simultaneously, a throttle up maneuver was made with his foot via the accelerator pedal, per established cold start procedures.

After a rough timing adjustment by the Lead Consulting Engineer, the engine turned over. Quickly thereafter, the pilot moved the key back into the “run” position, which disengaged the starter motor, and a self-sustaining idle condition was obtained. The engine test continued for approximately one minute. Samples were taken of the engine exhaust during the test by a HAND, but there was no oil burning detected by any sensor.

This marks a major milestone achieved by the TwERP. After work is completed on the intake air cleaner system, the TwERP team’s efforts will be completed.

Twinkie’s launch, subject to a possible safety inspection delay, is currently scheduled for September 18, 2004. Another launch window is also available the following day, September 19, 2004, with two more windows the following weekend.

More information on the Twinkie Engine Rebuild Project(TwERP) can be obtained by visiting the project’s webpage.

###

Contact:
Damon Durand
Durand Engineers
twerp@durands.com

September 12, 2004

Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour

This morning my dad and I did the 30 mile Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour. I’ve never done a bike tour or ride; my dad hadn’t done one since 1971! But, we hitched the bikes up on the rack and drove down near University of Saint Thomas, the starting (and ending) location. We got about a half mile from the University, parked, and rode in.

At first things seemed to be in disarray. There were thousands of bicycles and the riders moving around every which way. But, as we approached the big tent we found the signs directing us where to sign up and did so. About 10 minutes and we were off.

Most of the beginning of the ride was downhill, which made for a very smooth start. All of the streets were closed off, intersections controlled by VERY friendly police officers who were not afraid of giving the bicyclists multiple green lights at a time while traffic waited to cross the route. The route had tons of signs, explaining each turn, rest areas, reminding slow riders to ride to the right, etc. The ride along the river was beautiful. While I had driven the river portion of the route many times before in my car - it wasn’t until this ride that I was able to truly appreciate it and see all the wonderful scenery.

The organizers of the ride claim:

“Is the course difficult?

Ramsey Hill, on the short route, is quite steep and many folks will need to walk their bikes up. On the long route, there are three moderate uphill climbs.”

Both my dad and I agree that while there are three SEMI-moderate inclines, that there were 4-5 other inclines where you still huffed and puffed to get to the top. During the race my dad and I were unsure where the “third” moderate incline was, but upon further reflection I’m guessing we overlooked the first one which was just past 35E on Shepard Road. We agreed that the other two were the ascent as you approached Highway 61 on Warner Road and the climb highlighted on the map on Wheelock Parkway. The other “smaller” inclines were still quite the workout, to be sure.

After we hit our pace, we realized that my dad was quicker on the descents (his bike is much more rigged up for road riding, smaller tubes, etc) and I was quicker on the inclines. It didn’t take us long to adopt the whole “meet you after the hill” idea where we could each go our own pace and end up together again after the course leveled back out.

When I had checked in I noticed my dad’s cousin had also signed up for the race. We kept our eyes open for him, knowing that the odds we’d pick him out in a crowd of so many bikes were next to none. But, as luck would have it, right as we got onto Mounds Parkway we came up upon him and had a great chat as we biked our way to the rest area.

We didn’t stop (other than for quick breathers and to chit-chat with the relative) until we hit the Como Park Pavillion, which at about 23 miles in the ride is a perfect place to stop, get some snacks and refill the water bottles. We got back on the road again and headed for the finish line, completing the 30 mile route in about 2 hours and 25 minutes, or 12.5 miles per hour.

We picked up our t-shirts, rode back to the car and drove on home.

I really enjoyed the ride - certainly the weather couldn’t have been better considering it was 65-75 the entire sunny day with just enough wind to keep things cool. At 31 miles (including the mile to/from the car) it was the furthest I had biked in one day ever. While there were hills, much like the riding I do around the apartment, there were also great level runs which made the ride great for everybody. And I’m so glad my dad came along - being able to chit chat and pace myself with someone I knew made everything that much more enjoyable.

My dad and I both agreed we’d meet again next year and do it all over again. :)

September 11, 2004

1000 Miles

This morning I passed the 1000 mile mark on my bike. A great milestone to meet right before I attempt the 30 mile Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour tomorrow.

September 6, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 6.1

I just got an update from my Dad. It looks like the new fuel pump he bought turned out to do the trick - we’ve got good fuel flow and everything looks good. Guess both of the old ones had gone bad - what are the odds of that?

As for the air cleaner, Dad spent about an hour walking through Beisswenger’s Hardware and thinks he’s found a combination of parts we can use to secure the air cleaner to the body.

Things are certainly looking up. We’re waiting for the air ducts which will route the filtered air from the air cleaner to the carburetor, but in the meantime we can do the once over of the remaining systems (brakes, suspension, etc) so that once the air ducts arrive Twinkie is ready to rise again!

August 29, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 6

With our normal Saturday timeslot taken up with a trip to the Minnesota State Fair with Kelly’s folks, we ended up working on Twinkie this weekend on Sunday. It turned out to be the perfect day; overcast with a few sprinkles throughout the day to keep things cool.

We started off moving the engine back onto the workbench. (Wow, it was heavy!) Fixing the spark plug cables was the first thing; we shortened the cables for cylinders 1 and 2 and attached the additional boots on all four cables to protect things a bit better. (They were included but the manual didn’t explain how they went on…or if they were even needed…we only realized after we got all the wires assembled how they fit onto the wires!)

Next step was to finish putting on the final few shrouds. We installed the two pieces which surround the drive pulley, then we installed the fan belt and torqued down the drive pulley. Next step was to move the spacers on the fan pulley until we got the 1/2 inch of give on the pulley, then we torqued down the fan pulley as well. We wired the heater boxes open (since Twinkie has an electric fan which draws the hot air in from the heater boxes, instead of using the engine fan to push it through) and brought the heater box air intakes up above the rear engine shrouds to avoid any exhaust fumes from being sucked into the heater boxes (and eventually into the passenger compartment!)

Finally, it came to the point where we had to figure out the electrics. A lot of the electrical cables are connected to the body of the bus - those we will worry about later - but there are a few which run between things on the engine block. (Such as between the carburetor, generator, alternator, and coil) Luckily, we had taken pictures of things before we removed the old engine, so we popped up the pictures on one of our laptops and tracked down which wire went where.

Before we reinstalled the engine, my dad showed me how to adjust the valves, since it would be much easier to learn on the workbench instead of upside down under the bus during an oil change. .006 inch was the desired gap; we found all but cylinder 4 was set perfectly. After a few adjustments, everything was ready to go.

We positioned the engine back onto the jack, wiggled it back and forth to get the back engine support brace up and around the support’s body brackets and slide it back onto the transmission. We positioned the rubber supports on said support brackets and got ready to bolt the transmission to the engine. Then we noticed that we forgot to pull the accelerator cable free from the transmission, so we had to pull back off the engine, pull the accelerator cable out and then slide it all back together. Luckily, after we got the accelerator cable out we were able to unbend it and guide it through the fan housing for later connection to the carburetor’s throttle arm.

Next up was the “four big bolts” which hold the engine onto the transmission, which now that the accelerator cable was clear, fit together like a hand in glove. We tightened down the top driver-side bolt with the 17mm nut and then went to work on the top passenger-side. This side has a locking head, but the 15mm nut you need to tighten down is back and behind the fan housing in the engine compartment, making it very difficult to access. After a few minutes with the crescent wrench, I found just the right combination of socket and driver to clear everything back there and make comparatively quick work of the bolt.

After getting both of the top bolts fastened, we went to work on the bottom two bolts. After a glance it became apparent that we were missing two studs which should have come off the engine block, through the transmission housing, so we could use two 17mm nuts to lock things in. Looking at the old engine, we found the two studs, released them from the old engine block and got them to both just barely fit past the transmission housing and set them into the new engine block without having to undo our work on the top two bolts.

We secured the rear engine support to the body with out two remaining 17mm bolts, which completed the process of mating the engine back to Twinkie. We installed the two heater ducts which span from the heater boxes to the ductwork on the body. Then we removed the fancy transmission support (a sawed off 4×4) and lowered the jack.

Only a few more things left to go before we got to finally try to turn the engine over. We attached the accelerator cable to the throttle, connected the generator to the on-board electrical system, attached the fuel line, and plugged in all the low-voltage electrics for the gauges. The only extra wire we had left over was the cylinder temperature gauge, which we couldn’t fit onto the new engine, so we tied it up and out of the way.

The old engine had dual carburetors, so we couldn’t use the air filters from that engine. We also couldn’t use the air filter which came with the new engine, as it was designed for the Beetle body. Thinking ahead, my dad picked up an air filter for a Type 2 from eBay. We were puzzled how it would fit onto the engine, since it is quite a bit taller than the Beetle air filter, which was already much taller than would fit inside the engine compartment of Twinkie. After a bit of investigation online, we managed to find a picture which detailed how the new air filter would be connected, off to the side of the engine. The shelf which was supposed to be there had been cut off of Twinkie, presumably when the dual carburetor engine had been installed. Realizing we would at least need to buy some new hoses, we put the air cleaner to the side for now and made plans to install it the next time.

Finally, we installed the battery, fresh off the charger. Being a negative ground system, we connected the battery cable which had two wires to the positive battery terminal, then connected the grounding strap to the negative terminal. My dad roughly set the timing and we double-checked everything. I unlocked the driver door, hopped into the seat while my dad sat in the back and watched the engine as I tried the ignition. The starter engaged, I could hear the engine trying to turn over, but it never started rumbling away.

My dad went and got some starter fluid, sprayed some into the carburetor, and sure enough, the thing would purr away until it had exhausted its supply of the starter fluid.

At this point, we knew we were looking at a fuel delivery problem. We followed the troubleshooting in the Muir book - we heard the bubbles in the gas tank and siphoned some down the fuel line from the tank, but the pump wasn’t pumping. After substituting the old engine’s fuel pump, we still had the same problem. We checked that the shaft coming up from the inside of the engine was pistoning up and down, which should have driven both pumps to pump fuel. At this point we had basically eliminated everything but the chance that both pumps were bad!

It was 7:30pm, Kelly and my mom were getting hungry and impatient (we had been working on Twinkie since 10:30am) so we cleaned up. This meant we were left with two problems we had to solve before we got to checking the brakes and getting Twinkie back on the road.

  1. We need to come up with a mounting solution for the air filter, as well as purchase the necessary tubing which will hook it up to the carburetor.
  2. We need to figure out what’s wrong with the fuel pump, or get a new one!

But, overall, there was lots of progress made. It was wonderful to hear Twinkie purring back to life after so long asleep in my parents’ driveway. Hopefully we’ll overcome the two problems from today, checkout the brakes and suspension and I’ll be driving Twinkie again soon!

August 27, 2004

An Amazing Essay

This is an example of one of the reasons I’m on the Interesting People mailing list run by David Farber. You get some really thought-provoking things in your inbox.

This is an amazing essay by Garrison Keillor, according to the notes included in the message, which is excerpted from his new book, Homegrown Democrat.

Looks like I’ve got another book to pick up at Border’s in the near future.

Continue reading "An Amazing Essay" »

August 24, 2004

Biking Update

Well, I just turned over 920 miles on my bike earlier tonight. Due to construction, I’ve been trying out different routes, kinda like the variety. Falling a bit behind my goal for the season, but I’m hoping that the long term weather forecasts are correct and that we’ll have fewer rainy days throughout the rest of the autumn which will allow me to pick up at least a few more hundred miles.

Some things I’ve noticed:

  • I can’t say enough about my Arkel Briefcase Pannier. I picked it up last year, got it for about half of its current price from a bike shop here in town. I’ve been using it over a year now; I don’t think I would have nearly as wonderful of an experience commuting if it weren’t for the bag.
  • Secondly, the iPod has been a great toy to have this year, as I’ve been biking much more on trails than commuting. I can setup playlists with varying tempos, beats and lengths to match the ride I’m expecting. It fits just fine bungee-corded onto the handlebars, in the dirt bag under the seat or in my pannier.
  • Third, the Lobeman has been an even greater partner on my rides. It fits perfectly over my right ear, leaving my left ear open for the environmental noises. I listen to the iPod (paired with my iTrip) or my favorite radio shows. I especially have gotten in the habit of getting my Marketplace at 6:30 on the evenings I bike. Comes in loud and clear.

Of course, no list would be complete without talking about the bike. My Specialized 2004 Expedition Sport is doing just dandy, even tho it has surely taken a beating this year while being driven through mud and rain and a pretty rough wipe-out. About the only thing I’d change is to increase the gearing a bit - I often find myself in 21st gear (3 in the front, 7 in the back) and I want to shift it even further.

This year I don’t have the luxury of shower facilities at work, which I knew would decrease the number of commutes I’d make to/from work. I’ve also had the temptation of a fully working car all season, too, whereas last year I only had a bike while my car was in the shop for about three weeks. But I still had a goal to surpass the bike mileage from last year by at least 100 miles. (About 20%)

I’ve got two remaining goals for the rest of the season, both of which will contribute to the original goal of putting on more miles on my bike this year than I did last year. The first is to participate in the Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour on September 12th. I plan on doing the 30 mile route; I’m really excited to get an opportunity this year to try it out.

Assuming that all goes well, the second goal is to bike all the way up to Saint Cloud. I’m still researching the best route to take, but I plan on doing it a week or two after I validate my abilities on the 30 mile Saint Paul Classic ride. (The longest ride I’ve taken so far this summer was 22.5 miles after work a few weeks ago)

August 21, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 5

OK, now that we had the parts in hand, it was time to really get rocking on the new engine. My goal for the day was to get the engine back into the bus. We had a tight timeline - while I got to my parents around 8:30 I had to leave no later than 2:30. Then I would zip back to Saint Cloud and help Kelly and her mom bring what was left from the garage sale to the local thrift shop.

The first thing we ran into was that the adapter we waited so long to get was missing the bolts necessary to actually mount it to the rear engine support. On the old engine block, three threaded posts came out of the engine block and would get bolted onto the rear engine support. The problem was that the adapter just included the holes for said three bolts, not the bolts themselves.

Off to Beisswenger’s Hardware. My dad has been going to this place for years; the phrase on their website explains it all: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it!” I got a crash course in bolts…Steel, Grade 5, Grade 8, and others. We decided on grade 8 bolts, picked up the sizes we thought we’d need and went to the checkout. We picked up the requisite snacks from the “2 for $1” items near the checkout and waited in line. (My dad and I both picked out the same snack - Tootsie Rolls - imagine that!) While in the checkout line my dad and I were jovial as usual - for a while the person ringing us up kept on getting distracted with our humorous banter and charged us $770 dollars for one bolt! That just led us to more laughs.

We drove home and found out that the oil pump plate Dune Buggy Supply gave us was slightly off from what we needed to squeeze over the oil pump mounting posts. After 15-20 minutes of filing away by hand, we managed to make it fit. Another 15 minutes and we had ourselves an engine compatible with the rear engine mount. Yay!

From there we went about securing the rest of the chrome air shrouds and ran the throttle linkage through the fan housing.

Now it came time to mount the exhaust. After relaxing the intake manifold’s bolts attaching it to the engine block, we were able to squeeze the exhaust onto the exhaust headers and around the heater boxes. After a quick pry with a screwdriver and the handle of a ratchet we squeezed in the metal seals between all the parts and began bolting things down. The seal between the exhaust headers and the exhaust itself is a pinch-type seal. We had a few issues on the passenger-side of the engine (the heater box was getting in the way of the engine mount and exhaust making for a tight fit) but after a quick lunch break things went together just fine.

After re-securing the intake manifold, we finished more shrouding and tightened down the ring securing the generator to the fan and the fan housing. Just that one bolt itself took 15-20 minutes to tighten down - it is in a very confined space, making for a bunch of little tiny turns of the nut.

I assembled the spark plug wires and we went about routing them around the engine block. When we got ready to fit the distributor cap we realized we needed to move the engine to TDC so we could correctly attach the spark plug wires.

This became much more of an ordeal than we first thought. Usually, whenever my dad has worked on VW engines before he’s been very careful to avoid moving the engine from TDC. This makes for quick reassembly, but with a new engine and our love of combining the best parts of each to make a better whole we couldn’t rely on the previous setting. The Muir book came in handy again. After some noodling, we managed to get the engine reset to TDC and the distributor cap correctly positioned, which allowed us to attach the spark plug wires 4-3-2-1 in counter-clockwise order from the plug located the furthest rear of the engine.

At this point, we were very close to 2:30, so we began packing up. The engine was certainly heavy before we added on the exhaust, fan and shrouds today, but now it was even heavier. We moved it to the side of the garage and stashed the rest of our parts in the corners and recessing surrounding the garage, allowing my mom room to park.

We didn’t get the engine in, but all we’ve got left are the electrics and then we should be able to slide it back in. I can’t wait, each step we get closer to the end I can feel myself getting more and more excited and filled with anticipation.

August 20, 2004

Diebold Voting Machine Help Desk Call

Someone who has access to a time machine sent back a Diebold help desk call recorded on Election Day, November 2nd, 2004.

Listen to it here.

For those of you who haven’t been clued in, Diebold sells electronic voting machines. There have been a number of questions raised as to how securely and accurately they count votes because of backdoors in the software, the lack of a paper trail for recounts, changes to the software in the middle of voting without getting it certified by authorities, etc. While other companies making electronic voting machines have had many of the same issues raised in regards to their products, Diebold has been picked out in particular because of comments made by the CEO of Diebold that he is “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.”

My grandpa and I still don’t understand what’s wrong with the optical scanning systems the State of Minnesota uses in many locations. Quick tabulation, ease of use, paper trails, seems like everything you’d need to avoid the “hanging chad” debacle of the 2000 election cycle.

August 19, 2004

5 Minute Distractions

There are many times during the day when I need a quick 5 minute distraction.

Sometimes this takes the form of intensely listening to a song, or maybe striking up a conversation about something completely unrelated to whatever I was concentrating on with someone nearby.

The last few days, this has been my distraction of choice: The flash-based game of Bubbles

I don’t even remember where I ran across this first, but it looks like the creator of the game has a website here. I downloaded the game to my desktop after playing it just one time, so it is always ready for a quick game without needing to connect to a remote site. The music is fun, graphics are cool, and there are lots of different ways to play. I especially love the “Druggie” bubbles!

Enjoy!

August 10, 2004

Cuddle Parties

So, I guess the new fad on the coast is going to “Cuddle Parties”. Now, I guess I’m down with this, but there is one part of the story which struck me as really odd. See if you can spot it from the Reuters article below:

Cuddling Strangers Latest Craze for Singles
Mon Aug 9, 2004 09:59 AM ET

By Herbert Lash
http://www.reuters.com/printerFriendlyPopup.jhtml?type=ourWorldNews&storyID=5912350

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It’s not about sex and all about the touchy-feely experience of snuggling up to perfect strangers wearing pajamas.

The grab fests are called cuddle parties, and since they started in New York in February, hundreds of people have paid $30 each to touch and embrace others in intimate gatherings.

Everyone needs to be cuddled, especially in lonely New York, say creators Reid Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski who say it’s a good way to meet new and interesting people.

But the rules are clear. The PJs stay on the whole time and participants are reminded of Rule No. 7: “No dry humping!”

In case things get too steamy, a small chime is kept on hand. Before the cuddling begins, the chime is struck several times so everyone gets the message.

“We’ve never used it,” said Mihalko, who said sexual arousal does occur, and that participants shouldn’t be turned off or scared by erections. “They happen.”

The idea for cuddle parties loosely came about after Mihalko, a 14-year masseur, began giving massages to other masseurs who never got the chance to receive them.

Signs that people need to be touched were brought home one day when Mihalko said he noticed a woman bawling from the emotional release that a massage provided her at an outdoor stand in midtown Manhattan.

“It started out as a joke,” said Baczynski. “Now we talk about cuddling all the time. It’s just been amazing.”

MOOOOO!

Curiosity is a big driver for people who attend cuddle parties, and it is a better way to meet people than going to a bar, getting drunk and spending the night with someone just because of the need for some affection, she said.

A cuddle party is really about communication and not therapy, say the organizers.

Before any touching begins, participants gather in a circle to hear the rules and voice any questions or concerns. The first rule is that the event is not clothing optional, pajamas must stay on and sex is not permitted.

Participants team up into pairs and to ensure the boundaries of what is permissible are clear, they practice saying “no” to the question, “May I kiss you?”

An introduction to cuddling ensues, first by hugging three people. People then get in a circle on their hands and knees, rub shoulders and moo like cows. After a bit of swaying, everyone falls to their side, which puts them into an easy cuddling position.

Cuddle parties are intended for people who are emotionally sound. People in therapy or who are seeing a mental health professional are asked to consult their doctor before signing up for a party and to tell organizers of their situation.

‘PLAYING THE DOZENS’

One group on an overcast Sunday drew a mix of mostly single people in their 30s and a smattering of older people.

A repeat customer who called herself a born-again Christian said it was good to cuddle up to another person, albeit a perfect stranger, after a hectic week.

“I felt good. I had a particularly stressful week,” said the woman, who did not wish to be named.

Friends had warned her that the parties would be nothing more than thinly disguised preludes to sex, but she dismissed those worries as alarmist and unfounded, saying, “It’s not about sex.”

Like others, the chance to meet someone was a consideration in attending a cuddle party.

“People in a way are looking for a connection,” said Fernando. “It’s weird, but not unusual.”

A man named Dwayne H., who described himself as introverted, said he thought the parties would help him relax before strangers and help him express his feelings.

“I have a problem showing emotion,” he said.

Yes, that’s right. You have to get in a circle on your hands and knees and moo like cows!

Can someone tell me what in the heck acting like a cow has to do with cuddling?

August 4, 2004

Retro-Encabulator

I can’t wait to get one of these…I bet it will increase the battery life of my iPod by 200%, increase my gas mileage by 300% and wash all my dishes for me in half the time!

Tell me about the Retro-Encabulator

(Courtesy of eBaum’s World)

Continue reading "Retro-Encabulator" »

July 27, 2004

Snack Food Conspiracies

As part of pulling the all-nighter on the project on Sunday night, I purchased the last bag of Bugles from CUB for my snacking pleasure.

Yesterday, we got to talking about the practice of putting them on your fingertips and pretending you were a witch or some other pointy-fingered character. Funny thing is, it is nearly impossible to do this now. Did all of our fingers become that much bigger, or have Bugles become smaller/flatter?

As another aside on Bugles, you may try going to the link above. As of this writing, it redirects to itself for some strange reason.

I believe this is incontrovertible proof of a Bugles conspiracy, possibly rising to the highest levels of the snack food world government! Beware snackers of the world!

July 3, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 4

This entry has been backdated

Whoops! I forgot an update for Day 4. Here ya go (what I remember after a month!)

We started putting things back together on the new engine:

  • Replaced the rear oil seal (which is actually on the front, but I just confused people when I tried to order a replacement)
  • Put back on the manual transmission flywheel and starter gear
  • Mounted the intake manifold
  • Installed the carburetor
  • Attached all of the engine shrouds and the fan

At this point, the Muir book advised installing the rear engine support. Only problem - our engine came from a Beetle, which lacks said support. This meant the engine block we had did not have the correct mounts. This brought a halt to the effort until we could find the adapter. We finished up by cleaning things up and were a bit disappointed over the prospect that a solution may not be found and all the effort on the new engine would be for nothing.

After a day or so, I managed to find an adapter (who would have guessed they would make such a thing?!?!) at BusDepot.com. My dad placed the order for the adapter and some other miscellaneous parts.

Well, the next weekend arrives, but no parts. We get a shipping notification from them, but the adapter is the one part on backorder. After another round of communication, they come forward and disclose they can’t give an estimate for when the part will come in so they can fulfill the order.

Back to the drawing board…do some more looking online, nobody else has one. My dad calls up the local Dune Buggy Supply and while they believe they have the part, they are in the process of moving locations and cannot find the part to sell to us.

Two weeks go by; finally I give Dune Buggy Supply a call back. They have completed moving, the guy who answers the phone is sure they’ve got the part, so I take a break from work and drive up to their new location. I walk in; explain the part I need and about 5 minutes later the owner comes back in from the parts shed with the mounting adapter and the modified oil pump cover. $10 gets me the set!

June 29, 2004

The National Map

The National Map is a great example of government serving the people. In my quest to better characterize my bike trips, I wanted to figure out how steep the hills were leading up to my apartment. I did some quick searches on the web, but all I could find was poorly scanned images of topographic maps or maps for which you had to pay.

I had finally resigned myself to purchasing a map, thought I’d go to the US Geological Survey and see if I could purchase it directly from them. After a few clicks, I found The National Map, which is a compendium of most of the topographic data the USGS has on the US. You can overlay features, click between two points and get the difference in distance and altitute and all kinds of other great information. Found out I regularly bike a 5% grade to/from work (The Highwood Hill) which, at times, exceeds 8%. Found out, over my entire trip to/from work I actually go down about 50 ft, which helps explain why it always felt like I went up more hills in the evening than I did in the morning!

General Fitness Update

So, last week was a difficult one to bike, considering all of the activities going on. I managed to get my 16 miles in (two days of biking to/from work).

The really cool thing from last week, tho, has to be that I managed to make it up the Highwood hill all in one go. No stopping at the bottom to rest before the attempt, no stopping at the top once I made it. Last year I had managed to make it up without stopping by taking Telegraph Rd (which is a much easier incline) and then just finishing the top of the Highwood hill. It felt good to make it all the way up without stopping, another accomplishment!

I didn’t bike yesterday, but already this week I’ve racked up 22.75 miles. I rode into work normally (although even there I broke the 13 mph average speed I had been struggling with so far this season) and then took the long route home with an extra loop around Normandale Lake.

BTW, here’s the long route:

Long Bike Route Map

I also signed up for the ePHIT program through Medica, my health insurance provider. Not quite sure how well I like the site yet, but I’ll be giving it a try this week to see what kind of features it offers. Looking for some guidance for working on the upper body, since I’m a bit worried about being a bit unbalanced with all the working of the legs I’ve been doing.

June 26, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 3

Third real weekend of work on Twinkie. Made good progress. Although, I will say, this has turned into more than a straightforward 8 hour job like we originally thought. Oh well, good things come to those who wait (and put in the effort!)

Since the previous post, dad determined that the intake manifold was cracked on the new engine. Have no idea how, but it meant a replacement. As it turns out, a “new” used one became one of my birthday gifts. My dad sourced it from JAC Auto Repair & Sales up in Anoka, Minnesota. My dad tells me he had a great experience, anytime I need parts it sounds like that’s the place, locally, I should go!

The first part of the day we spent getting the flywheels off of both engines. This was necessary mostly due to the fact that the new engine came from an automatic transmission and Twinkie is a manual. The bolt holding the flywheels on is torqued at assembly to 245 ft-lbs.

After it became obvious that using a simple breaker bar with a pipe extension wasn’t going to do the trick on the old engine we took a length of an old bedframe, drilled a hole in the end, attached it to one of the six bolts around the outside of the flywheel. After heating up the bolt with a torch and arranging the bedframe angle iron so it was pinned against the ground, I could stand on the engine, holding it against the ground, while dad pulled on the pipe/breaker bar combination and it popped loose.

It sounds difficult, and it was - but it was nothing compared to the new engine. The automatic’s flywheel doesn’t have the six bolts on the outside. It did have slots in it, tho, so we improvised a rachet handle as a pin, wedged it into one of the slots on the flywheel and repeated the same process with the pipe/breaker bar from the old engine. As we pulled, the metal on the automatic flywheel bent and snapped. Obviously, different measures were necessary. The Muir book was of very little help, he didn’t have any details about this kind of flywheel, so we repeated the heating process we performed on the previous engine. It still didn’t give way, and since I had to hold the rachet handle as a pin while dad pulled, we enlisted the support of my mom to stand on the engine block and stop it from flipping up. Finally, the bolt snapped free.

It didn’t end there, tho. The flywheel is supposed to be able to be backed off from this point by prying it slowly on opposing sides. No go. We ended up having to use a pulley puller to pop it loose, then it came off with little fuss.

After removing the flywheel, we noticed a little bit of oil leaking from the rear engine seal. The Muir book recommends replacing the seal anyway if you get to this point, so I went off to the local auto parts stores to pick up a new seal, engine cleaner (the new engine was filthy) and new spark plugs and wires. Dad stayed behind and cleaned up the new engine as best he could.

Found out we’d have to mail order most of the parts, so I came back with the engine cleaner and went to work on the intake manifold while dad continued to clean the new engine. Got far enough to figure out we didn’t have the right size seal for the carburetor to mate with the intake manifold so we set to work comparing the oil pumps. Found out from the JAC Auto guys what we had to look for on the oil pumps, it seems that both of them were of the same type. My dad later figured out how to coax the gears from the new engine into the housing for the old engine (automatics have an extra port on the oil pump housing) so we saved ourselves a bunch of bread there.

Rest of the afternoon was spent cleaning up, moving parts from the old engine to the new (power pulley, alternator, and oil cap).

It seems like it is finally coming together. Can’t wait to see Twinkie running again. Everyone at work is not only amazed that I’m doing this project, but they are eager to see my drive up in Twinkie to work sometime soon. As am I!

June 16, 2004

Computing the speed of light with common household objects

Marshmallows-A Take-Home Lab
Courtesy of http://www.physics.umd.edu/ripe/icpe/newsletters/n34/marshmal.htm

Robert H. Stauffer, Jr., Cimarron-Memorial High School, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

I have heard that at 16 years old, Albert Einstein constantly wondered what it would be like to ride on a beam of light. Students in physics always seem to be fascinated by the properties of light. However, speed-of-light demonstrations often require extensive preparation or expensive equipment. I have prepared a simple classroom demonstration that the students can also use as a take-home lab.

The activity requires a microwave oven, a microwave-safe casserole dish, a bag of marshmallows, and a ruler. (The oven must be of the type that has no mechanical motion-no turntable or rotating mirror. If there is a turn-table, remove it first.) First, open the marshmallows and place them in the casserole dish, completely covering it with a layer one marshmallow thick. Next, put the dish of marshmallows in the microwave and cook on low heat. Microwaves do not cook evenly and the marshmallows will begin to melt at the hottest spots in the microwave. (I leaned this from our Food Science teacher Anita Cornwall.) Heat the marshmallows until they begin to melt in four or five different spots. Remove the dish from the microwave and observe the melted spots. Take the ruler and measure the distance between the melted spots. You will find that one distance repeats over and over. This distance will correspond to half the wavelength of the microwave, about 6 cm. Now turn the oven around and look for a small sign that gives you the frequency of the microwave. Most commercial microwaves operate at 2450 MHz.

All you do now is multiply the frequency by the wavelength. The product is the speed of light.

Example:

Velocity = Frequency * Wavelength

Velocity = 2450 MHz * 0.122 m

Velocity = 2.99 × 10^8 m/s

This works in my physics class, often with less than 5% error. Then the students can eat the marshmallows.

June 15, 2004

Biking update

Well, 2 months of bike commuting/riding.

Yesterday I passed the 700 mile mark on my bike in grand style with a 15.5 mile bike ride. Started down to Normandale Lake, around a few times, then down Normandale Blvd to 94th. At the light I took a right down into the residential area, then hugged the border of Hyland Lake Park Reserve down to Old Shakopee Rd. Finally hopped into the park, rode the trails back to East Bush Lake Rd, then the short 1.5 mile jaunt up East Bush Lake Rd back to the apartment.

Today I repeated nearly the same route, instead of starting at the apartment I commuted back from work. This time it totalled 16.5 miles, bringing the total for the week (including the 4 miles into work this morning) to 36 miles.

Both are new records for non-stop biking for me, and today is definitely a new record for single-day biking. Feels good to be able to pump away for 16.5 miles up and down all the hilly terrain around here.

I don’t think I’ll be doing the MS 150 or anything in the immediate future, but I look forward to the day where I can do 30 miles in a day effortlessly!

June 12, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 2

Second weekend of work on Twinkie. Today we attacked the old engine.

Started off easy enough. Label all of the wires coming off of the engine so you can reconnect them to the new engine in the proper order. I have to say - I think we need more colors. Keeping track of the different wires was an exercise in naming. Red w/Black, Red w/Blue, Red, Black, Blue, Blue w/Yellow, etc.

The John Muir book, How To Keep Your Volkswagen Running guided the rest of the process for us. The book really does live up to the hype - it is amazing how the author goes into just the right amount of detail for you to get the job done, but explains things well enough that you understand WHY you’re doing WHAT you’re doing.

The only things we ran into which were not covered in the book were:

  • Twinkie seems to have a 15mm nut on the transmission bolt on the passenger side of the engine compartment
  • The heater control cables were not hooked up
  • Due to the type of engine in Twinkie, the driver side engine compartment bolt is reversed - you remove it from underneath the vehicle
  • The Muir book doesn’t mention the cross-brace which supports the engine in the rear - we removed the bolts holding on the entire brace and removed it along with the engine rather than try to work around it

Otherwise, the only other notable event was when we went to disconnect the gas line. Next time, make sure you’ve got something much bigger than a pencil handy. I probably got about a quarter gallon of gasoline which ran down my arm while I tried to use a pencil to block the line. Yuk!

We hooked up the existing battery to the charger. It was taking a charge when we left it - we’ll know next week if we need to get a new one or not.

June 5, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 1

This Christmas I got a new engine for Twinkie. My mom decreed that June would be the month of Twinkie, that she’d like to see it up and running before it got cold outside again. My dad and I made our plans, and today was the first official day of the rebuild. (We’ve looked over the engines before, but today was the first down and greasy day)

We decided today we’d take apart the new engine, test it out, make sure it was gonna work out for Twinkie. While there was generally very little concern about this, one can never tell what you get on eBay. Also, considering the engine came from an automatic transmission, and Twinkie is a manual, we knew we’d have a little bit of work to do in order to get the conversion back to manual for the transmission worked out.

We started by putting the engine up on a workbench so it was at our height. We noticed immediately that one of the heat exchangers was completely rusted apart. Normally not a worry, as I only drive Twinkie during the summer, but some of the other shrouds around the engine were on their way to Rustville as well. The oil pump did, indeed, have the port for the automatic transmission, so we made note that we’d have to either move the old one over from the old engine or get a new one. Otherwise, everything with the engine (we stripped it down to a short block) appears just dandy. Yay!

The engine’s serial number is AH383063. This translates to a 1600cc dual port engine from 1973-74.

Next weekend we’ll take the old engine out of Twinkie, which I’ve been told mostly consists of removing four bolts.

The Week’s Shopping List
* New set of engine gaskets
* Possibly a new oil pump (there is a bit of concern that the pump from the old engine may have been contaminated from the engine breakdown)
* New driver side mirror
* New battery

May 5, 2004

Today is Cinco de Mayo

In honor of Mexican Independence Day, we bring you the following bit of little-known history.

In 1912, the Hellman’s Mayonnaise Company was shipping 12,000 jars of its product from England to Vera Cruz, Mexico. The first leg of the journey was in the cargo hold of the Titanic.

Obviously, the shipment never made it. The Mexican people were devastated by the loss - so much so that they declared a national day of mourning, which is still observed today. It is known, of course, as Sinko de Mayo.

(Courtesy of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Calendar / Workman Publishing)

April 14, 2004

Finally, bike commuting!

Finally the weather has cleared up and the rest of the planets have aligned to allow me to commute to/from work for the first time today. Here’s the new route:

Bike Route Map

Even tho it is a tad bit longer than my old route and the roads are a bit busier, I think I’m going to like this route (necessitated by the construction of the new West Bush Lake Road bridge) a bit better. First, instead of two major hills you get a bunch of smaller ups and downs, which adds a bit of variety to the commute. Second, part of the commute goes around Lake Smetana. This morning I saw some bunnies, a squirrel and a bunch of birds. Wonderful way to start your morning.

Also, the absence of showering facilities at the new office wasn’t really a problem, either. I leave a bit early so I can make sure to do some cooldown laps around the parking lot, then when I get in I stay in my biking clothes for a bit longer than normal until I’ve “cooled down”, using some towels to aid in the perspiration removal. A bit of body spray and a fresh set of clothes finishes the cleanup. No comments from the coworkers today! Woo!

April 13, 2004

Re: *** THINGAMABOX MAINTENANCE NOTICE: MONDAY 04/12/2004 6PM ***

The move was completed as of 11:45 this evening. Everything went according to plan, there were no serious issues encountered during the move.

I (along with others located around the Internet) have completed a quick Q/A check of the servers. It appears that all services, websites, etc are operating correctly and are able to be accessed from all of the testing locations.

Please let Mike or myself know if you have any questions or if something isn't working correctly. Otherwise, thank you for your patience. Within the next month or so we'll be sending information on some of the new "features" which come along with our new hosting arrangement. If you've got any requests, please feel free to let us know!

Damon & Mike

April 9, 2004

*** THINGAMABOX MAINTENANCE NOTICE: MONDAY 04/12/2004 6PM ***

For 6 years, you and the other people who share the Thingamabox servers have received free hosting, courtesy of first IAI (thanks Chris), then Paladin Investments (thanks Mike and Keith).

Due primarily to the sale of Paladin, we will need to find an alternate home for our servers.

After doing a lot of research, it appears that the most cost effective way to host the servers at a near T1 speed is over a DSL line out of my apartment. Mike has arranged for us to take the servers we are currently running on, which means that this will, initially, just be a move from one Internet provider to another.

This move is scheduled to occur Monday night, April 12th, beginning at 6pm CDT. Portions of the move have already been performed - the DSL line is installed and tested, DNS changes have already been put in place in order to facilitate as seamless of a move as possible. Since we are moving the physical servers, there will be downtime associated with the move - service should be restored by midnight. Arrangements to cache email have been made until the move can be completed, so Tuesday morning you should notice nothing different and no mail should be lost or bounced.

Once we complete the move, we're looking forward to being able to be even more flexible with the types of things we can offer. FrontPage extensions should return, easier access to update your websites through built-in Windows functionality, blogging software, hosted photo albums and an idea I'm kicking around about working out a way to provide unlimited email storage are just for starters.

All of this is not without cost - at the very least since we will now be paying for the Internet access instead of getting it for free. We haven't yet decided how we will cover these costs - we're certainly open to suggestions, tho.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me or call me. (Mike's busy enough as it is!) We will send out another status update after we've completed the move on Monday night.

April 1, 2004

From Jim Wizmo's files...

Jim has been going through his files in his final days here at Wizmo. He ran across an old email he saved which I sent to him one morning as an excuse for not being at work…read on!

Continue reading "From Jim Wizmo's files..." »

March 24, 2004

Beautiful Day

What a beautiful day today!

Got to take the bike out for a spin this morning. Identified a bunch of stuff I wanna get at the Bikemania Sale at Erik the Bikeman, also need to get the bike in for a general tune-up. There are a bunch of squeeks that weren’t there last fall!

Hopefully will be able to bike commute to work tomorrow…I’m kinda bummed since we lost our shower in the move. I’m definitely open to any ideas as to the best way to continue to commute in the absence of showering facilities. I’ll try it tomorrow and see how it works showering before I leave for work. I’ve read that getting rid of all the germs beforehand makes the situation a bit more managable at the end of the ride. Should also be aided that it shouldn’t be more than 50 degrees tomorrow morning on the ride in, should keep me cool.

March 23, 2004

One of the great cosmic jokes...

Am I the only one who thinks it is one of the great cosmic jokes that snow is white, especially in the springtime?

I mean, it is white. A white color indicates that it is reflecting most of the light frequencies it receives. Doubtlessly, this includes any infrared heat energy.

Just what the poor snow needs in its quest to become water!

Only the real dirty snow, with lots of suspended black yukkiness gets to melt sooner. Why must snow consort with dirty dirt in order to melt quicker?

March 18, 2004

Daily diversion

I was reading Slashdot today, like I do most days. Today they had a discussion regarding the “Save” icon. Currently, almost every application uses a picture of a floppy disk to denote the icon, the subject of the discussion was what, if anything, should replace this now that so few people use floppies on a regular basis.

That’s not what I’m posting about…what I am posting about is that there was a website one of the people in the discussion posts which has a very unique way to deal with all of your excess 3.5inch floppies.

Turn them into Star Trek Enterprises!
mirrored here because the original content was hosted on a slightly-less-than-family-safe site

March 17, 2004

Ban DHMO NOW!

Ban DHMO NOW!

March 12, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 5

Time to head home.

We woke up, took one last drive down the strip and drove over to the Thrifty car rental return. The return process went very smoothly. Everything settled, we hopped on the shuttle and off to the airport we went.

Since Las Vegas is one of America West’s hubs, they had plenty of self-service check-in terminals. These have to be the greatest invention since eTicketing. I always use them over going up the desk if given the choice - getting to see a nice graphical representation of the airplane’s seating arrangements allows me to pick just the right seat. (They should figure out a way to do this for concerts!) The flight was full on the way from Las Vegas to Phoenix, but I managed to move my seat to the last remaining aisle seat on the plane. The second, longer leg of the trip from Phoenix to Minneapolis I was able to secure a nice second exit-row aisle seat (the second row of the over-the-wing exit rows have reclining seats!) Both flights were wonderful - service was perfect!

Got home, checked the car out of the off-airport parking. Came home, unpacked a little, caught up on email, then went back to the airport, picked up Krista, went out to dinner then brought her home.

What a great trip. I think if I get another chance to go in the near future, I’d definitely schedule some time to go out to Hoover Dam. It might be kinda neat to go see the Grand Canyon, which I hear is nearby, also take in a bit more of the nightlife. The Zumanity show looks slick, as does the Blue Man Group. I didn’t think staying at the Stratosphere was all that inconvienient, even tho it is all the way at the end of the strip. Definitely would need to get a car if I stayed there again, without it the trips around town would have been much less convienient. Finally, staying at Paris may be something fun, too. Especially if the room faced the Bellagio, so you could watch the fountains, without having to pay the huge price of a Bellagio room.

March 11, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 4

Woke up this morning, decided we didn’t want to try and get out to Hoover Dam. Instead, we’d have breakfast at the Stratosphere, then go up to the top and take the tour. Then we’d go visit the Rio so we could see the Masquerade Show in the Sky parade and show, then over to the Venetian. If we had time we’d pick up stuff from the secondary list of things, such as “The World’s Largest Gift Shop” and seeing “The World’s Largest Stock Car” at the NASCAR Cafe in the Sahara Hotel and Casino.

We got our tickets to go visit the top of the Stratosphere, then went down to the buffet. We were a little bit later than we were last time, so they had a few more lunch entrees on the buffet. Once again, not the best by Las Vegas standards but it sure beat the pants off of Old Country Buffet here at home.

Up to the top of the Stratosphere, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States and the tallest structure west of the Mississippi. They walked us through metal detectors and took our tickets on the third floor of the casino, then we shot up 857ft in 30 seconds to the enclosed observation deck. Here we took the audio tour, which was similar to the one offered at the Shark Reef, punching in code numbers to hear the tour based on the way you were looking out of the 360 degree view. The glass angled outward, which meant you could look down at the ground. (As long as you ignored the signs advising, “Don’t lean on glass”) After walking around the entire deck, we walked up the stairs to the outdoor observation deck.

This is up at 869ft, and your reward for climbing the stairs is an even better view. The only other times I’ve been this high on a structure were the few times I went up to the roof at U.S. Bank Place in Minneapolis, during tours given by the building management. The other times, it was incredibly windy - but on top of the Stratosphere I detected nothing but a slight breeze. I’m guessing it is either a combination of the design of the tower which does not have a solid base (it is made up of three support legs) or the fact that there are no other buildings of a similar size clustered around it.

The full height of the tower, 1149ft is only reached by riding the “Big Shot”, one of those air pressure-powered launching rides that have become so popular over the past few years. I’m not particularly a fan of having my stomach contents being flipped upside down so I skipped that, although the roller coaster looks like it would have been fun. (Curiously, they make you buy the tickets down at ground level for the rides on top of the tower, precluding any spontaneous decisions to go for a ride)

The final ride is the X-Scream. I think they should automatically enroll anyone taking this ride into a mental health program. It is basically a teeter-totter on top of the tower, one whole side of which hangs over the edge of the tower’s top. As the teeter-totter falls down on the side over the edge, the cart of 8 people go zooming over the edge of the tower, suspended as they stare down below to the ground. Then the teeter-totter pulls them back over the tower, then back over the edge again. Right before the end of the ride, as they are sitting out of over the edge of the tower, the ride drops them another 10 feet or so, making it feel like something broke and they are freefalling. Ugh!

So, after watching a few morons ride the X-Scream, we decended back down the tower to the shopping mall area. Picked up a treat or two, then made our way down to the car. On the way over to the Rio we stopped by Bonanza, the “World’s Largest Gift Shop” Indeed, I hadn’t seen a gift shop this large anywhere before. Store upon store, filled with everything from gag gifts to Las Vegas potholders.

Onto the Rio. As we walked through the casino on our way to the “Masquerade Show in the Sky” show, it was fun to watch the little “impromptu” performances that the casino staff made on these platforms sprinkled throughout the casino floor. Some of them were really quite good! We grabbed some ice cream and some pretzels and staked out claim in the balcony to watch the show. A few minutes later, the show started, floats moving all around, stage show going on, it was all very impressive. And then the bead-tossing commensed…we managed to get about 6 strands between the two of us. Woo!

We skipped the buffet at the Rio, thinking that the Venetian would have a great buffet. We get in the car, drive on over to the Venetian, walk in, look at the directory - no buffet. DOH! We weren’t really dressed for any hoity-toity dining, so I asked one of the casino employees and they directed us to the Grand Lux. Think of it as one step up from a Cheesecake Factory. (I say this, since they are owned by the same company) A huge menu to choose from, huge portions, great service make this one restaurant that I would come back to again on a subsequent visit.

After dinner, we went out and took a gondola ride in the outside canals. The gondola driver did a great job entertaining us, sang wonderfully and even managed to stretch out our ride a little bit. It was a perfect night, a slight breeze, got a great view of the new Treasure Island casino’s sign as well. Didn’t realize until I stared at it for a little bit that the letters don’t just change color, they actually change color and patterns. Must be screens like a Jumbotron which they can show anything they’d like.

Knowing that we had to get back to the hotel and pack, we ended the day. We barely squeezed everything into our suitcases, over the course of the week we really picked up a lot of stuff.

March 10, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 3

Got a late start today due to being so worn out after yesterday. Decided to make it an easy day, we ended up sleeping in and then heading over to the MGM Grand for the buffet. The buffet was everything I remember from my previous visit - yummy food, a good mix of fresh fruit, old buffet standbys and a few exotic dishes to mix it up a bit.

Afterwards, we stopped by the MGM Lion Habitat and watched the trainers play with the lions. The lions didn’t seem all that happy about playing with the trainers, but once the trainers got out the lions’ blue ball they played with that for a bit. After watching them and going to the obligatory gift shop, we continued over to the MGM Studiowalk. Thought we’d see something cool down at Television City, but alas, other than sitting through a test screening there wasn’t much to see.

After finding our way back to the car, we drove down the strip, headed towards the Las Vegas Outlet Center. Got ourselves a snack at the Great Cookie Company and shopped a bit. The outlet mall’s claim to fame is that one of the food court eateries, The Beanstalk, was featured in the background during a scene with Julie Roberts in The Mexican. Otherwise, the outlet mall was very similar to others I’ve seen around the country.

Once again, hop back in the car. Krista had O tickets for the 10pm performance, so we decided to head back to the hotel to rest up and allow her a chance to change clothes. We decided to have dinner after the show, since we had the buffet so late after sleeping in it seemed like the best plan. While Krista went to “O”, I took the time to go out and admire the Bellagio fountains.

At night, the shows run every 15 minutes, meaning that often you’d have only a few minutes between each show. I sat there for almost an hour, watching the water plumes wave back and forth, being lit up from beneath so it almost looked like a fountain of light. I’ve never seen anything which mixes power and beauty and majesty so perfectly. They’ve got to produce a DVD of these things someday, until they do, I urge anyone reading this to get to Las Vegas to see these things…

After watching the fountains, I walked up the strip all the way to the Mirage/Venetian. On the way I got an Oreo ice cream shake from Baskin-Robbins, sucked that down along with a Big Mac from the second-floor McDonalds on the strip. The night was beautiful, too, I was in shorts and it was just the perfect temperature.

Made my way back to the Bellagio to meet Krista at the end of the “O” performance. Popped $20 bucks into a slot machine while waiting for the end of the show, played for about 20 minutes. Once she got out, she shared her amazing stories of the show the rest of the night - it was just like I was there, she’s a great story teller. We ended up eating back at the Stratosphere at Lucky’s. I definitely wouldn’t suggest this place - granted it was 2am but the service was spotty, the food was yukky and while the prices were not quite as bad as room service, they were similar enough that I’m guessing this is the place where food service food comes from after-hours, too.

Off we went to bed, with the realization that we had a lot of things we still wanted to see the next day, which was the last “sightseeing” day of our trip!

March 9, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 2

Woke up this morning and plotted our course. Enjoyed the wonderfully designed shower…ahh!

Had breakfast at the Stratosphere’s buffet. As we walked up to the buffet, the chandelier was dripping water. We pointed this out to the hostess, she admitted that the suite above the buffet entrance had left their bathtub running and locked themselves out of their room! Bozos! Anyway, the buffet was pretty good, the custom omelette bar was kinda slick, too. Tons of fresh juices (serve you’re own, so no tipping necessary..woo!)

Then we were off to the Bellagio. We went through the Conservatory, all of the floral displays were very beautiful, huge swans made of ivy floating in the pools. Then we went outside, stopped to watch the fountains on the way over to Paris. I really enjoy those fountains, I should see if I can find a DVD of them or something. I could watch them for hours and hours. Maybe I’ll go see ‘em tomorrow night while Krista is at her O show.

So, then we walked across to Paris. I hadn’t seen this casino the last time I was in Las Vegas, this was a real treat. A half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower intersects the building, so when you walk out on the casino floor there are the legs of the tower coming through the ceiling down to the floor. We went to sign up for the tour, which included a trip up to the observation deck at the top of the tower. You could see quite a ways up and down the strip. The thing that struck me was how still the wind was that high. I’m only used to being that high in downtowns, and the few times I’ve been outside that high up it has been horribly windy. This was so peaceful.

After the tour, we went to a little ice cream shop, Lenôtre and got some ice cream for a snack. Yum! All sorts of fresh fruit toppings. Then we walked out, checked out the 2/3rd scale replica of the Arc D’Triomphe on our way down the strip towards The World of Coca-Cola and M&M World.

“The World of Coca-Cola” was somewhat disappointing. It was basically just one giant gift shop with a soda fountain. And the gift shop stuff has been so minimized, even since my last visit a year ago, that I don’t think I’d go back again. The “International” samples were pretty much the same as last time, too.

Then we walked across to “M&M World”. This, just like the Coca-Cola place, is one giant gift shop. But they’ve got quite a bit more to keep you interested, starting with the Colorworks display. Imagine 24 different colors of M&M’s, all ready to be purchased in bulk bags for your enjoyment. The standard colors are there, as are the colors which are only available certain times of the year. It was kinda cool to see all the colors, considering M&M’s current ad campaign where they’ve removed all the colors from the M&M’s you can get in the store. Speaking of which, I thought it a nice touch that they repainted the giant M&M’s on the outside of the store to go with the current campaign. We also checked out the 3-D, interactive movie on the third floor, “I Lost My M In Vegas” starring Red & Yellow. What a blast!

After that, we walked back down the strip towards the Bellagio/Paris, where the car was parked. On the way we stopped by the Harley-Davidson Cafe for dinner. They have a huge 2-story American flag made of painted chain, it was a neat backdrop for the rest of the Harley-Davidson paraphanalia adorning the restaurant. Good food, besides!

So, after returning to the car and resting our tired feet, we started driving back to the Stratosphere and call it a night. On the way back, realizing it was nighttime, it seemed the perfect time to check out the Fremont Street Experience, in the old downtown Las Vegas. They’ve got a huge screen which is built over the street, every half-hour they have a beautiful sound and light show. I hadn’t seen it the last time I visited, I’m sorry I didn’t. It was great. Between shows we walked up and down Fremont Street and stopped in at one of those places advertising 99¢ daquiris. Only we couldn’t find the 99¢ ones, so Krista volunteered to pick up a round in the souvenier containers…before she knew that it was a $20 round! They were good…but not quite THAT good!

So, we walked back to the car, sipping on our golden daquiris. Headed back to the hotel, completely spent. What a busy day!

March 8, 2004

Las Vegas 2004: Day 1

Well, the flights went well. Krista’s was delayed a bit, but it all worked out in the end. Thrifty upgraded us to a PT Cruiser, so we’ll be driving around in style and comfort all week long.

We left the airport, I knew that the Stratosphere was at the end of the strip. So, we headed towards it, then drove back down the strip. Parked at the Luxor, went in and had their buffet for lunch. Pretty yummy, great service (I don’t think my pop ever got below half full).

Then we caught the tram over to Mandalay Bay, walked over to the Shark Reef exhibit all the way on the other side of the casino resort! What a walk! You’d think they would get you at least a little closer to their star attraction. Oh well, waited in line about 30 minutes (they only let so many people in at a time) and then entered the attraction. We each got a little handset which we could enter code numbers located next to each tank and get a bunch of detailed information about the aquatic life located in said tank. It let you proceed through the exhibits at your own pace, in small groups, spend as much time as you wanted looking at the life in the tank after you got done listening to the audio tour.

The tour concluded with three special exhibits. The first was a petting tank which had stingrays and horseshoe crabs which you could touch and feel. I managed to get a touch of the skin of a stingray, quite slippery smooth. The second was a giant tank of jellyfish, lit with a black light. Quite a beautiful sight, lots of floating purple.

Finally, there was the “sunken ship” tank. It was filled with over 10 different kinds of sharks, some green sea turtles, swordfish, stingrays and other miscellaneous fish. I really enjoyed watching the sea turtles floating around the tank, they were so graceful in their slow speed swim around the tank. The highlight of the display was the only hammerhead shark in captivity in the US. While it was only a young one, it was already 6 feet long. It was something else to see, I had only seen a hammerhead shark before in cartoons!

The gift shop was incredibly disappointing at the Shark Reef, it was as if the gift shop owners had never been through the exhibit. So, we picked up a few things, but the hightailed it out of the shop and back to the car.

Then it was back to the hotel, where we checked in. Got upgraded to a room with a view up the strip, 20 floors up and went up into the room and got settled. Quite a great view. I was pleased the the shower was installed by a non-midget plumber, plenty of pressure and just the right height. A digital thermostat for the room temperature was a nice touch, too. We ended up heading to bed kinda early, since it had been a busy day and we had plenty planned for the next day.

March 7, 2004

Las Vegas, Here We Come!

Well, it was a spontaneous decision, but I’m off to Las Vegas for a week-long vacation. Krista’s already got the room and whatnot, I just have to get myself out there. Found a cheap fare through America West so everything is lined up.

Here’s the short list of things Krista and I brainstormed we wanted to see:

  • Eiffel Tower @ Paris
  • Shark Reef @ Mandalay Bay
  • Dancing Fountains @ Bellagio
  • Pirate Show @ Treasure Island
  • Volcano @ Mirage
  • Gondola Ride & Madame Tussad’s Wax Museum @ Venetian
  • Mascarade Parade in the Sky @ Rio
  • Coke Museum
  • M&M World
  • Liberace Museum
  • “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” Sign
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Bonanza, the “World’s Largest Gift Shop”
  • Downtown / Fairmont Street Experience

Krista also has a ticket to “O” @ Bellagio…I’ll have to find something to keep myself busy while she’s seeing the show. Hrm, Bellagio…isn’t that the place with the wonderful fountains I like to watch so much?

Well, off to bed…busy day of travel tomorrow. Woo!

February 26, 2004

Movie: The Passion of Christ

So, Alanna dragged me to the new Mel Gibson movie, “The Passion of Christ”.

The place was packed, but not full to the brim. As always, Megastar 16 at Southdale Mall came through, great picture, great sound.

I hadn’t really heard too much about it prior to the film, other than a few bits on the radio about the worries some people had about it inciting anti-Semitism. I guess it had quite a bit of coverage in the popular press, and I heard from a church-going friend that they had really been talking about it at church, too.

(attempt to be spoiler-free ahead)

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February 23, 2004

MovableType Conversion Complete!

So, I had converted almost all of my website (OfficeCam, Resume, etc) over to being managed through the MovableType admin interface but moving Gallery into it was a bit more difficult than I first suspected. I first tried using the skin functionality present in the newer versions of Gallery, but it just didn’t work. It didn’t give me enough control over the stylesheets and item placement.

Finally, I stumbled across this site’s entry while looking up some other MovableType-related things I had been investigating. The instructions worked like a charm! I created all the templates as described, and with a little bit of tweaking to the stylesheets it looked great!

Now that Gallery has been integrated into MovableType, everything on my site is now managed through one easy-to-use interface.

Now I can concentrate on adding more content. I think getting my recipe database online will be the next project - need to decide how to best organize it. Also need to finish the family page - but to do that I need to scan in the newest family portrait.

Should be fun!