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November 30, 2002

Thanksgiving 2002

Well, I wasn't sure I was up to it, but in the end it turned out absolutely wonderful, if I do say so myself!

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February 16, 2004

Valentine's Day

Well, I'm on my own this Valentine's Day, but I got two *GREAT* gifts anyway, also got out some besides! First, Mel got me my very own pouch of "Jack Links Fully Cooked Ground Beef":http://www.jack-links.com/home.php. I couldn't believe my luck! She had first told me about Wal-Mart stocking this a few months ago, but whenever I'd go search for one for myself I always came up empty handed. I couldn't believe it when she handed it to me. It has now taken the honored position next to my can of "Armour Potted Meat":http://www.dialcorp.com/index.cfm?page_id=125 at work for all of my coworkers to marvel at in amazement! Fully cooked ground beef that has a shelf life of almost two years! That flying car must only be a few more years away at this point! Second, my parents picked me up a six pack of my favorite Creme Soda and Root Beer in the world, from "Northwoods":http://www.northwoodsbrewpub.com/ in Eau Claire, WI. I got hooked on this stuff way back when I was dating Nikki while she was going to school there, and I hadn't been back in years. My "dad":http://curtis.durandfamily.org travels quite a bit for his "business":http://www.eyespyfloors.com, and they knew how much I loved Northwood's stuff. *MMMMMmmmm!* I've been careful not to suck them down too quickly...but I already know I'll be wanting more before long. I saw two movies this weekend, too. _Big Fish_ This was a movie I was very eagerly anticipating...I was pleased with it overall. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting from the previews, which was a dark comedy of sorts. This was a story about life, coming to terms with a father you've written off on his death bed, trying to understand who he was and what he had done, learning to love him again. It caused me to experience almost every emotion, it was quite the rollercoaster, but it was all done to good effect. _Lost In Translation_ This was also a movie I was very eagerly anticipating, but I wasn't nearly as pleased as I was with _Big Fish_. This was more about a fading movie star's mid-life crisis and a woman's search for herself in a dead-end marriage. The two of them come together in a hotel in Japan, flirt, bond, and then go back to their separate lives. I thought the pacing was slow, but some of the content was good. The acting was superb, but I came away with the feeling that this was a film that went out of its way to be "artsy".

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

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.

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 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 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.

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.

October 7, 2004

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.

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.

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.

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!

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 28, 2004

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.

November 4, 2004

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 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.

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.

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 22, 2004

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 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…

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 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.

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 :)

December 17, 2004

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!!!

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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 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

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!

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.

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Big Brother In Da House" »

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 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 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 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 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.

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 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 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 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!

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 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.

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.

Continue reading "The Story" »

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.

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…

Continue reading "Wanna Catch Up? Pull Up A Chair!" »

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.

Continue reading "Pledge Drive Story Ahead!" »

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?

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 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!)

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 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 LucĂ­a”. 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.

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.

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