Holidays Archives

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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July 4, 2003

Doctor StrangeCrash...or How I Learned to NOT Love IDE RAID

Well, my great idea of using an IDE RAID controller to mirror one of my servers blew up in my face today, when the primary harddrive failed the system slowly died. Sadly, the IDE RAID controller decided to stop mirroring drives months ago, so I'm left with only backups...and those were works in progress, so I don't have everything. *pouts* What is especially troubling...I can't get physical access to the server until Monday 'cause of the holiday weekend.

UPDATE: Everything but a few personal files have been restored...whew!

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": 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": 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": 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": travels quite a bit for his "business":, 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".

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 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 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.

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 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 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.


  • 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 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


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

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 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 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 9, 2004

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”

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 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

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 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..." »

December 19, 2004

Still holding out hope...

…for a white Christmas.

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


Yes, that’s a HIGH of 0 on Thursday.

December 23, 2004

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.

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!

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.

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 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.

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!

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 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 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!

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 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.

Continue reading "2005 State Fair: Visit 1" »

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.

Continue reading "2005 State Fair: Visit 2" »

December 6, 2005

Christmas List 2005

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

December 14, 2005


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 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 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!)

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.

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

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

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”

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