Play 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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April 5, 2003

New Bike, New Commute

Now that I live close enough to work, I went out and bought myself a 2003 Specialized Expedition Sport and this morning was the first time I commuted to work. 4.3 miles, took me a little bit less than a half hour. Woo! The ride home wasn't nearly as pleasurable...seems that it is a bit more uphill on the way home than on the way to work!

January 25, 2004

Curiosities of the weekend

So, this weekend I heard two radio programs which caught my attention..."Studio 360": and "This American Life":

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February 1, 2004

Superbowl Ads Wrap-up

So, once again, another Superbowl under our collective belts. I have to admit - I watched only little bits of the game. Instead, I told the Tivo to do the watching for me, then I merely skipped most of the game, watching the commercials one after another. I think this led to a slightly different experience, since you didn't really have time for the ads to sink in. So, which ads deserved mention in my book? * California Happy Cows / California Cheese: OK, so they are having all kinds of budget problems...state government is in crisis. I understand that these ads are probably produced by some kind of State Dairy Board or something, but I certainly know better than to believe that "California cows are happy" I can see why "PETA sued": trying to get this one removed for misleading advertising, and the judge said that the state is exempt from false-advertising laws! * Tostito's Groom Closet: This is one of those, "use a stereotype, trick people into falling for it then flip it on its head" commercials. Basically, the groomsmen are hidden in a closet, watching the game. Bride and her party burst in, looking pissed, then bridge settles down to watch game. This one is an odd one - while funny, in my family it is the women who are more into football and most sports than the guys. Still, pretty funny. * McDonald's Fabric Softner: This one you had no idea where it was going, then when it did come around, you're busy thinking, "Hrm, I DO love the smell of those breakfast biscuits!" I've often thought that for some of us, a breakfast bacon egg and cheese biscuit is just the thing to get us in the mood. * Cialis / Levitra: OK, I realize I'm not the target demographic. _(I assure you ladies out there; I'm *really not* in the target demographic!)_ But drugs ads are purposely ambigous, the FDA requires the drug company to be that way so that people have to go read the huge ads with lots of small print in magazines. So, when time is of the essence, you want to make an impact (that's what the Superbowl is for, right?) why am I forced to watch these ads? If you know what these products do, then you already know their names, more than likely. If you're like the majority of us, and have no idea, you're stuck reading between the lines and getting extremely confused! * Muppets Pizza Hut: OK, just when I thought Jessica Simpson was overexposed, she appears in the Pizza Hut ad, strategically appearing right before the coin toss, so people have plenty of time in their zombie-like easily-suggested state to call and order pizzas for halftime. Frogs don't like green peppers, I can assure you! And neither did I like this ad! * FedEx Alien CoWorker: I liked this one. I can imagine it will be a sitcom next year. * AOL Top Speed / American Choppers: I have a feeling this was one of the more perfect "campaigns" during the SuperBowl. I know the people in my life who still have AOL...and I know many of them watch American Choppers. The ads explained the new product, had a bit of humor to them, were true to the shows characters. All in all, very impressive. * Van Helsing: I don't like scary movies...but this one looks good enough that I may find someone who I can go with who won't mind describing to me what I missed when my eyes were shut! * Monster Senior / Junior Same Habits: I didn't think this one was really well done...but for some reason, it makes the list 'cause of all the ads I saw, this one stuck with me the most. * Pepsi RIAA Ad: This ad was supposed to be great. Introduce the iTunes promotion, give a little bit of education. Instead of expounding how great the iTunes experience is, why buying music through a trusted distributor saves you time by ensuring quality, it instead showed kids _(sources say that the RIAA forced Pepsi to use actual kids who had been ensnarled by the RIAA)_ after they had been caught, browbeaten and down. With words like CHARGED and ACCUSED flashed up on the screen. Do people realize that these kids were *never* charged with a crime? And none of them were ever accused of _downloading_ ...only making songs available or _uploading_. The law is unclear if downloading is even illegal! Yet if you listen to this ad, it isn't only illegal; you'll go to jail or something! _(Course, for all my ranting, I will probably buy Pepsi over the next few months in greater quantity so I can get some free iTunage)_ * Bud Light Romantic Horse Sled Farting / Candle / Rocket Sled: Very funny...who doesn't like fart jokes?!?! Wait...I already know the answer to this question. * Pepsi Breakup / Waitress Love: Those of you who know me, know I have this thing for food service workers. I think this one spoke to me directly! **laughs** * IBM Linux / Muhammad Ali: I know I was one of the targets of this ad...but I thought it was very well done. Very tasteful, thoughtful, polished. * Chevy New Car / Kid Soap in Mouth Ad: I want one of these vehicles! I don't care about the soap in the mouth, although it was enough to get my attention. * _MTV Halftime / Boob Showing: *STAGED*_ I went back and went over the episode in slow motion...from what I saw, it definitely looked like Justin was doing it on purpose. Now, certainly MTV may not have sanctioned it...'cause we all know they would have no need to cause scandal! * NFL / Tomorrow: "As of tomorrow, we're all undefeated again" I thought this was kinda a neat ad...sweet and funny. * Kid Kemps Ad _(Local, I believe)_: This was cute, introducing the new bottle by having the little kid making a consumer choice over the old bottle. Communicated the ease of handling the new design, brought in the kid thing. * CBS Golf Promo / Tongue Twisters: This was only a 10 second spot, but it was pretty funny. And I'm not even in the golf-watching-on-TV demographic. _(Certainly I've watched it once or twice, but only because I'm too lazy to switch channels!)_ * Bud Light Talking Monkey: Who doesn't like talking monkies?!?!? * Staples Supply Mafia: This was one of my favorites of the SuperBowl. You had no idea where this was going until the punch came around, and then you're laughing so hard 'cause you wish you could do the same thing! * Mall of America Steer/Cow Choice Ad _(Local, I believe)_: This one started off with a bull/steer walking through a pasture. He mosies around, looks generally bored, until he comes upon a huge herd of cows. The ad closes with, "More Choices, The Mall of America" Very funny, effective. * Dale Ernhardt, Jr Nextel Ad: Wide Receiver: While I didn't care for the lipstick one by Budweiser all that much, and considering I don't really care for NASCAR all that much, the NexTel ad was pretty funny. Watching the guys holding onto the car, trying to stop it/block it, then him doing doughnuts in the endzone as a celebration...VERY FUNNY. * Visa Simpsons Ad: Who doesn't like Homer? The way he talked back to the voiceover added to the already present humor. * Shards O' Glass: This was an ad done by Truth, the anti-smoking group. Basically, it showed this popsicle manufacturer talking about how "they realize the only safe way to enjoy their popsicles with glass in them is to not enjoy them at all" much like Phillip Morris and other tobacco companies put disclaimers all over their ads and produce anti-smoking ads. I thought it was humorous, polished, well done and communicated the message very well. * 7-up Slam Dunk Mobile: 7-up ads are always a hoot to watch, this one wasn't their best, but it still qualified for mention. * Jimi Hendrix Pepsi Accordian/Guitar: I thought this one was funny, but the product tie-in was questionable.

February 6, 2004

Hug o' War

A friend of mine reminded me of this poem today...hadn't thought of it for a while, so I thought I'd scribble it down. I will not play at tug o' war. I'd rather play at hug o' war, Where everyone hugs Instead of tugs, Where everyone giggles And rolls on the rug, Where everyone kisses, And everyone grins, And everyone cuddles, And everyone wins. - Shel Silverstein from "Where the Sidewalk Ends"

As seen in the Onion...

Don't want to forget this! *Hasbro Pledges Additional 30 Marbles For Hippo-Hunger Relief* _PAWTUCKET, RI_ - With global famine worsening, Hasbro pledged an additional 30 white marbles Monday to hippo-hunger relief efforts. "To see those starving, starving hippos just lying there, not knowing if they will ever get another chance to click and clack for life-giving marbles - it's too much for anyone to bear," Hasbro spokeswoman Lisa Reiderer said. "We cannot stand idly by while these sweet plastic creatures slowly die. It is up to all of us to get the most marbles for our hippos."

February 7, 2004

Fine Line: Swindle Kings, Billy Johnson's Roadshow, The Nanas

One of my coworkers invited me to go with her to see the Swindle Kings, who's lead singer she knows through her boyfriend. The show was particularly good...a nice sound, a good mix of vocals and instruments. Reminds me a bit of Barenaked Ladies, which is one of my favorite bands, so it worked out really well. Plan on going to see them again. (Haven't listened to the CD yet, although it is on my new toy...more info to follow in another post) My coworker is disappointed by the quality of the CD, so I've been warned. The middle group I didn't really much care for, although I did do a little white-boy dancing to 'em. (I don't consider myself that poor of a dancer, unless I'm not really _into_ the performance, which is primarily the case in this instance) The female vocalist (why she wasn't on stage the whole time) was great...nice, smooth sound. The male lead wasn't my favorite, his stage presence wasn't all that great (although the beer bottle holster was a great accessory for him) and he kinda reminded me a bit too much of the lead singer of The Spin Doctors. They might have been clones! About halfway through the second act (on my way back from the white-boy dancin' show) I met an ex-coworker of mine and her friends, one of whom flew in all the way from Baltimore to see the third act. It was great to catch her up on things, I miss her at work often nowadays. So, the third act took the stage. The Nanas. I had checked 'em out before the show, kinda a folksy rock sound as well. Liked 'em so much I picked up two CDs of theirs on the way out (it was one for $15, two for $20!) Listened to them a little today (once again on my new toy) and liked what I heard. A fun time was had by all (save the woman hauled out dry-heaving with alcohol poisoning half-way through the third act)

February 8, 2004

New Toy

Well, I finally broke down today. As most of the people who'd care to read this know, I've been trying to come up with a way to get around the space limitations of my laptop for MP3 storage. I've tried setting up a streaming service out of the apartment over the cable lines, I've worked on a design which would use a local cache on the laptop's hard drive to keep track of your favorites (which would then stream anything it didn't already have a copy of when requested) but none of the solutions really worked for me. I was almost ready to buy a new hard drive for my work laptop (since the new Powerbook I've been eyeing is a bit out of my price range right now) but I was looking at around $200 bucks just for one which would have the size I wanted. Now, most of you who know me know I hate having anything persistent on my laptop. I prefer to web-enable everything so that I can get to it no matter where I am (and so I'm not tied down by my laptop's battery life, etc) Loading everything locally wasn't that great, since knowing the frequency I've gone through hard drives on my work laptop (4 in 3.5 years) I don't like relying on that option, either. My laptop only has a USB 1.1 connector, no firewire, no USB 2.0, and no burner. Way too many limitations! So, after a little bit of thought, checking my budget, thinking through the management aspects of the decision, I decided to pick myself up a new iPod. I went to Circuit City, even tho I had the budget I took advantage of their 12 month "No Interest, No Payments" plan and picked myself up a nice whopping 40 GB iPod. (As those playing the home game can certainly understand, I plan on paying it off before the interest is charged!) I also picked up a firewire card for my desktop machine (I decided that it would be my sync/management machine) and came home. 4 hours later (gotta let the battery charge) I had myself a iPod ready for loading. Inside of that time I worked on the metadata inside iTunes, fixing as many tags as I could. The first song I played was "Lady Marmalade" from the movie soundtrack Moulin Rouge. Excellent start. It was everything I expected it to be: * Nice, smooth, easy to use interface * Lightweight * Excellent quality (considering the source, these are MP3s you know!) * Exceeding easy to sync So, I went to bed, let it sync. I'm not sure how long the initial sync took, I had about 9GB of music in around 2000 music files. On Sunday morning, I get up, my entire music collection is on the iPod. I clean up the apartment wearing it, then take it with me and, using a cassette adapter, attempt to use it in the car. I decided shortly thereafter (the cassette adapter has WAY too much noise) I stopped by the Apple Store and picked up an "iTrip": . It worked right out of the box, the interface is just as refined as the iPod itself. You have a playlist which contains MP3s which somehow configure the iTrip through the sounds they generate, making it super easy to switch frequencies when you encounter interference. I ran it all the way down to see how much it cut off from a new iPod with an assumable 8 hour battery life and, true to their website's info, I got my 8 hours easily. Took it down with me to the exercise room, too. Worked like a charm. The fact that the hard drive only spins up about once every 20 minutes (long as you're playing from a playlist which allows it to fill up its buffer) I have no concerns about being able to use it while I'm biking outside. Woo! I've started ripping all of my CDs in my collection into iTunes, so I can sync them up to the iPod. Nothing like having any song you want handy all the time, in the car, at work, at home, anywhere! Quite the great product. We'll see how things go over time, but right now I'm thinking the iPod ranks up there with my Tivo in *Gadgets You WILL Love*.

February 12, 2004


So, Jodi and Ann came up with the idea that instead of going out for lunch, that it would be a blast to go out for dinner to catch up. (For those of you playing the home game, Ann no longer works at Wizmo) It was decided that we'd go to "Origami":, Ann's favorite sushi restaurant in the Twin Cities. We ended up going to their new "Origami West" in the Ridgedale Mall. We arrived and immediately you could tell this was a sushi place, you could see the sushi bar, the ultra-modern interior. Upon being seated, Ann polled the table to see who was "in" for sushi. Jodi was unable to have sushi, Jason didn't want to try it, so Jim, Ann and myself went in on it together. Ann recognized one of the chefs, explained she had, "One rookie, one not-so-rookie and herself," knowing that the sushi chef already knew her likes and dislikes. Denver, our waiter, took our drink order...Jim started off with some warm _Saki_, Ann and I split a bottle of the _Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc_ which was a very good choice. Jason ordered his Teriyaki Chicken, Jodi her Mushroom platter, which included portabella, enoki, oyster, straw and black mushrooms, sautÔŅĹed with garlic butter, soy sauce and a splash of sake. I was a bit unsure if I wanted to go in on the sushi with Ann and Jim. I had sushi before on a business trip. Granted, it was in Provo, Utah, but I was told it was the best place in town. I tried it out there, found it very unappetizing. But, I considered, Ann likes sushi and since this is her favorite place I should give it another try. While we're waiting for our food, they bring out some _Eda Mame_, otherwise known as boiled young soy beans in the shell, lightly salted. A very good snack while we waited. Everyone's food arrives. The sushi plate is placed between the three of us, Ann begins to explain the preparation. Poor some soy sauce into the bowl, mix in a bit of wasabi to taste, use it to dip things if you like. The first plate was _sashimi_, in other words, everything was raw, no rice, just the meat nicely arranged with some fresh herbs, lemons, etc as garnish.
I first tried the _Ama Ebi_, or Sweet Shrimp. They were still completely raw, just like everything else on the plate. You pick one up, put it on your _hashi oki_, your "plate" so to speak, and rip the meat from it. Coil it up, pick it up with the chopsticks and eat! It really did live up to its name, a bit sweet on the tongue, nice feel. After you finish, you place the head/body skeleton on the side with the others, and then send it back to get deep fried. (More on that later)
Then Ann suggested I go for the _Maguro_, or Tuna, next. I tried two different types, a _Toro_ which is fatty, comes from the belly of the fish, and _Yellowfin_, which was less fatty, much redder, comes from I seem to remember the back. Both of them were good, I preferred the redder, less fatty variety, but I'd have both again. (Shown here with rice, although ours was just the meat)
After this, Ann suggested moving onto the _Hotate_, or raw scallops. Her serving suggestion was to take one of the lemon garnish and work some of the lemon juice out of it with my chopstick to flavor the scallop. I did, and it was OK. Not my favorite of the plate, in fact, I let the remaider of the scallops be split between Ann and Jim.
Then I tried the _Tai_, or Red Snapper, the _Hirame_, or Halibut, and the _Saba_, or Mackerel. All of them were OK, I was impressed with the variety of mouth feels, tastes, etc. Some of them were fishier than others, but I managed to like each one of them once I got a bit braver about using some of the garnish on my plate to moderate some of the fish taste.

By now, the bottle of wine was gone, so I ordered a glass of the _MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris_. This was a *VERY* good wine. Also about this time the deep fried _Ama Ebi_ skeletons came back. Ann convinced me to try mine, even though it still had all of its tentacles, eyes, etc. But, true to what she said, it was just like a potato chip. I even had half of Jim's when he didn't want his.

Once we finished off the first plate, Jim ordered some Spicy Tuna Rolls and Ann ordered a Crunchy Roll. This was a pretty good dish. It consisted of a roll of rice containing shrimp tempura, cucumber, and spicy mayonnaise wrapped in _Masago_, or Smelt Roe. It was pretty good. First time I had Smelt Roe (eggs), they were really sweet in the mouth. Yum.
The night was filled with fun conversation and laughs. I had a great time. Even though I don't think it will start me on the road to sushi lovin', least next time I go I will know what I prefer, so I can enjoy the experience.

February 19, 2004


So, in preparation for the engine swap _(and return to service of Twinkie)_ I've been reading the "Volkswagen Bible" according to my dad, "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive : A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Complete Idiot": This is, indeed, a great book. Reading it over the last week or so I've become a bit more comfortable with the tasks related to keeping an air-cooled Volkswagen running and moving. I understand what's going on inside the engine now. Like why setting the proper valve gap is important, how it relates to other things going on in the engine, how to identify when your gaps may need adjusting. I really should have read the book more closely when my dad first offered it to me - maybe I wouldn't have had Twinkie sitting in their driveway for the last two years. I'm guessing in the near future my dad and I will swap the engine and I'll have Twinkie back in my life again. *I can't wait!*

February 22, 2004

Google searches

One of the more entertaining (if not a little enlightening) things about hosting your own website is that you get to log all of the accesses to the site and then review the logs whenever you want. One of the things that browsers do is send a “Referrer” header along with the web requests. This usually shows the page a person is coming from when they click through a link to your page. In the case of a search engine, you often get to see the search terms people use in order to come across your pages.

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February 26, 2004

Movie: The Passion of Christ

So, Alanna dragged me to the new Mel Gibson movie, “The Passion of Christ”.

The place was packed, but not full to the brim. As always, Megastar 16 at Southdale Mall came through, great picture, great sound.

I hadn’t really heard too much about it prior to the film, other than a few bits on the radio about the worries some people had about it inciting anti-Semitism. I guess it had quite a bit of coverage in the popular press, and I heard from a church-going friend that they had really been talking about it at church, too.

(attempt to be spoiler-free ahead)

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March 18, 2004

Daily diversion

I was reading Slashdot today, like I do most days. Today they had a discussion regarding the “Save” icon. Currently, almost every application uses a picture of a floppy disk to denote the icon, the subject of the discussion was what, if anything, should replace this now that so few people use floppies on a regular basis.

That’s not what I’m posting about…what I am posting about is that there was a website one of the people in the discussion posts which has a very unique way to deal with all of your excess 3.5inch floppies.

Turn them into Star Trek Enterprises!
mirrored here because the original content was hosted on a slightly-less-than-family-safe site

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.

June 16, 2004

Computing the speed of light with common household objects

Marshmallows-A Take-Home Lab
Courtesy of

Robert H. Stauffer, Jr., Cimarron-Memorial High School, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

I have heard that at 16 years old, Albert Einstein constantly wondered what it would be like to ride on a beam of light. Students in physics always seem to be fascinated by the properties of light. However, speed-of-light demonstrations often require extensive preparation or expensive equipment. I have prepared a simple classroom demonstration that the students can also use as a take-home lab.

The activity requires a microwave oven, a microwave-safe casserole dish, a bag of marshmallows, and a ruler. (The oven must be of the type that has no mechanical motion-no turntable or rotating mirror. If there is a turn-table, remove it first.) First, open the marshmallows and place them in the casserole dish, completely covering it with a layer one marshmallow thick. Next, put the dish of marshmallows in the microwave and cook on low heat. Microwaves do not cook evenly and the marshmallows will begin to melt at the hottest spots in the microwave. (I leaned this from our Food Science teacher Anita Cornwall.) Heat the marshmallows until they begin to melt in four or five different spots. Remove the dish from the microwave and observe the melted spots. Take the ruler and measure the distance between the melted spots. You will find that one distance repeats over and over. This distance will correspond to half the wavelength of the microwave, about 6 cm. Now turn the oven around and look for a small sign that gives you the frequency of the microwave. Most commercial microwaves operate at 2450 MHz.

All you do now is multiply the frequency by the wavelength. The product is the speed of light.


Velocity = Frequency * Wavelength

Velocity = 2450 MHz * 0.122 m

Velocity = 2.99 × 10^8 m/s

This works in my physics class, often with less than 5% error. Then the students can eat the marshmallows.

July 27, 2004

Snack Food Conspiracies

As part of pulling the all-nighter on the project on Sunday night, I purchased the last bag of Bugles from CUB for my snacking pleasure.

Yesterday, we got to talking about the practice of putting them on your fingertips and pretending you were a witch or some other pointy-fingered character. Funny thing is, it is nearly impossible to do this now. Did all of our fingers become that much bigger, or have Bugles become smaller/flatter?

As another aside on Bugles, you may try going to the link above. As of this writing, it redirects to itself for some strange reason.

I believe this is incontrovertible proof of a Bugles conspiracy, possibly rising to the highest levels of the snack food world government! Beware snackers of the world!

August 19, 2004

5 Minute Distractions

There are many times during the day when I need a quick 5 minute distraction.

Sometimes this takes the form of intensely listening to a song, or maybe striking up a conversation about something completely unrelated to whatever I was concentrating on with someone nearby.

The last few days, this has been my distraction of choice: The flash-based game of Bubbles

I don’t even remember where I ran across this first, but it looks like the creator of the game has a website here. I downloaded the game to my desktop after playing it just one time, so it is always ready for a quick game without needing to connect to a remote site. The music is fun, graphics are cool, and there are lots of different ways to play. I especially love the “Druggie” bubbles!


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


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.


Damon Durand
Durand Engineers

September 18, 2004

Twinkie Rebuild: Day 7

Kelly and I slept in today, headed up to my parents’ house around noon. We picked up lunch on the way, which gave everyone time to socialize before my dad and I headed outside.

Once we got outside the first thing to get out of the way was adjusting the timing. My Dad had set it “about right” on Tuesday night for the engine test, but this time we got out the timing gun. Attach it to the battery, place the sensor over the spark plug wire for cylinder 1 and test. Set it right around 28 degrees offset from TDC above 3000 RPM.

Next step was the air cleaner. We fitted the tube which ran from the air cleaner to the carburetor, set the air cleaner in place and measured its height. Since the bracket the air cleaner would normally set on had been removed by a previous owner, when they converted Twinkie to dual carburetors, we had to fashion our own.

My Dad had picked up two “L” brackets and a straight length of angle iron. It took us about an hour and a half, but eventually we came up with a solution. The rear “L” bracket was folded to the proper height and bolted to the body as far back as possible on the passenger side of the engine compartment. The forward “L” bracket just happened to fit perfectly on one of the rear engine shroud’s bolts. The straight length was placed diagonally across both “L” brackets, and then we bungee-corded the air cleaner to the angle iron. The air cleaner is level, placed perfectly out of the way, and we still give ourselves room to remove the battery.

Next was adjusting the automatic choke. Driven by the engine thermostat, it alters the idle speed of the engine. While we were adjusting the speed back and forth we didn’t realize there were two pools of oil forming underneath the engine. In the process of cleaning up a few tools we saw the spots and the worrying began a new. What if the engine was a lemon? All this work for nothing! But, we set our minds back to work, resolved to fix our problem, just like had with every other “issue” we encountered during this effort.

Rather quickly the cause of the first oil pool was tracked down to the valve cover over cylinders 1 & 2. After closer inspection we realized it was the valve cover on which we didn’t replace the seal when we were overhauling the engine. It was thought, at the time, that the existing rubber seal would be just fine. No problem - we still had a spare seal - we replaced the seal and replaced the cover.

The second cause was a bit more difficult to track down, since oil seemed to be all over the bottom of the engine and around the dipstick. After cleaning off the oil already on the engine, we restarted the engine and found the oil was spraying out around the dipstick. With the dipstick out it just gushed. After a moment, my dad realized that the problem was actually a capped off crankcase breather vent which we had capped off due to an incompatibility with the Type 2/Bus air cleaner. (Remember, the engine came from a Bug!) We added an item onto our “future” checklist to obtain the necessary adapters in order to connect the air cleaner and crankcase breather and left the cap off for now.

Now back in the game, we finished connecting the rear engine compartment shroud and started the engine up again. Twinkie was alive. All that remained now was to perform the pre-flight checks.

After checking the lights, we called out Kelly and Mom for the launching ceremony. My Dad brought out some champagne, we all had a toast and we christened Twinkie with a pour from the bottle. I hopped in the driver’s seat, turned Twinkie over and got ready to back Twinkie out of the driveway for the first time in 3 years.

I found reverse, let out on the clutch and back I went. After a small correction to avoid giving myself WAY too much distance from the other cars in the driveway (and driving into the yard) I made it down to the street, turned into traffic and sputtered away.

Finally, after three years and an entire summer of work on it, here I was driving Twinkie down the road.

I took Twinkie around a few blocks and then pulled it back into the driveway. Hopping out, I asked my Dad if he wanted to take Twinkie for a ride and he hopped in himself and drove away. (Once again, after a small course correction, this time to avoid the cars in the driveway!)

He got back; we all stood around and admired the accomplishment. Kelly even hopped up in the driver’s seat (although she didn’t want to drive Twinkie around at all) and admired the large, round steering wheel.

We attached the rear bumper, removed the front license plate (it was an old plate) and cleaned up. Mission accomplished!

I’ve posted some photos from the day here.

September 22, 2004

English Usage?

Some of you have checked out my Dating Application. For those who haven’t, now’s a great time to give it a try. (Not that I’m looking, mind you, but it is still a fun 5 minute distraction from the real world!)

While I certainly do not consider myself an American English expert, there are a few pet peeves of mine which involve proper usage of our beloved language. I put the first one in the previously-mentioned dating application, “funner”, but I’m thinking of adding two more.

First off, the phrase “these ones” is just not right, people! For example,
“What about these ones over here?”
is not proper! You can certainly say,
“What about this one over here?”
“What about these over here?”
if you’d like, but combining the two is just not a good idea.

Secondly, why do people continue to use “good” as an adverb? For example,
“You really nailed that down good!”
Since you’re describing how you nailed it down, you’ll need an adverb. (As we all learned on Schoolhouse Rock) “Well” is the adverb I think you’re looking for in this case!
“You really nailed that down well!”

Both of these errors in usage make my hair stand on end whenever I hear them said. (or, even worse, when I say them!)

September 23, 2004

Twinkie: Captain's Log

Well, I just passed the 50 mile mark on the rebuilt Twinkie engine today. On the whole, it is great being able to drive Twinkie around. Knowing that my Dad and I put together the engine propelling me down the road makes the joy of driving Twinkie that much sweeter. The big huge steering wheel makes driving the non-power steering vehicle a lot of fun, as does the tempermental transmission which loves to play tricks on you when you’re in stop-and-go traffic. Hearing the roar from the engine in the back (which modern drivers pay thousands of dollars in custom exhaust parts to duplicate) also brings a smile to my face.

The biggest headache (sometimes quite literally!) right now is the exhaust fumes in the cabin. Either due to the amount of fumes coming out of the tailpipes OR the method my Dad and I used to vent the heater boxes the cabin gets quite a smell at times. I guess it is even worse in the back, according to the passengers who have braved the seatbelt-less lands of the rear cabin. I’m sure a bit of noodling and some experimentation will solve this problem, tho.

Speaking of passengers, here’s the list of brave souls who have dared to ride so far:

  • Kelly
  • (New) Theresa
  • JManDoo
  • B-Squared
  • Lana Banana

In other non-engine related news, I popped up the camper top for demonstration purposes at work on Tuesday. Even tho the top hadn’t been opened in 3 years, the canvas walls were still in great shape. Didn’t see any damage in the slightest to the canvas by pests or other creatures who love to eat fabric. Yay!

The only other thing I’ve really noticed - I’ve been having an issue using pronouns with Twinkie. Is Twinkie a he or a she? Right now I find myself mostly thinking she automatically, so she Twinkie may become.

September 24, 2004

What I bought on eBay

I finally found the Sissy Bar CD, Statutory Grape, which I had been looking for over the past few months. Rare, out of print CD, $2.95 + $3 for S&H.

The case was busted up (can just transplant all the cover art to a good case) but the CD inside is flawless. CDEx is ripping it to LAME MP3 right now, then onto the iPod it will go. I can’t wait. I’ve only had the two songs I downloaded as single tracks through iTunes to hold me over until I managed to find the CD.

Nothing like a screaming punk girl band to start the weekend off right!

September 26, 2004

Playtime Diversions

Now that “the project” at work is coming to a close and Twinkie is running just fine, it looks like I’ll be able to return to having spare time on my hands again. Here’s a list of personal projects which have piled up over the past few months… which one to start first?

  • Restore order to the apartment
    It would be really awesome to be able to not only restore the dining room table to being used for its primary purpose instead of just holding boxes of junk on it, but then restore the kitchen to some kind of sanity so I could cook meals to enjoy on said dining room table.
  • Restore order to the iPod
    One of the unadvertised “gotchas” about converting your iPod over to manual sync is that you lose the ability to sort your playlists on metadata. I use this ability on a lot of my playlists, such as “Top Rated / Least Recently Listened” which lets me listen to songs in my library which I haven’t listened to in ages. Or sorting the “Purchased Music” playlist by “Date Added” which gives me a quick, direct way to bring up my most recently purchased tracks.
  • Finish loading said iPod
    I’ve got over 400 CDs last time I counted; I’ve only ripped about 200 of them onto the iPod. Missing some of my favorites, too. (This will more than likely require efforts to remedy the next item on the list)
  • Re-catalog all of my CDs
    Since the divorce, I haven’t had the opportunity, with all of my CDs in one place, to re-mate the CDs to their cases and see which ones I still have and which ones “went away”. Right now I’ve got literal piles of bare CDs and empty cases just waiting to be reunited.
  • Finish Gumby
    Gumby is the new server for hosting. Right now we’re running on servers which are builds from over 4 years ago. I’ve kept the FreeBSD OS on them current and patched, but running both of them (especially the Compaq Proliant 4500) keeps my electric bill sky-high since I’ve started hosting them out of my apartment. Gumby is a new server I picked up from work which has more than enough horsepower to eliminate both of the old servers AND it is much more energy efficient which will lower my electric bill considerably.
  • Catalog all of my books
    For the first time in 10 years all of my books are in the same place. I’d like to get them cataloged since I’m sure there are a few which I’ve purchased over the years which have slipped through the cracks and I never got around to reading.
  • Update my website
    I’ve been running MovableType 2.661 for a while now for not only laziness reasons by I wanted the 3.x series to mature, stabilize and for Six Apart to figure out the licensing system. I’ve noticed quite a few people upgrading to the 3.x series now; I’m thinking it is time to hop on the bandwagon. I’d really like to roll this out as a general content management system for all of the websites hosted on, since with the move back to one server security will need to be tightened down again. Besides technology, I’ve also got a bunch of content updates I’ve been meaning to do to make my website a bit more interesting, too…and attractive - I’m tired of the current color scheme.
  • Get in-apartment MP3 streaming working again
    Before the iPod, there was the Rio Receiver. While this wasn’t portable, it did allow me to listen to my MP3’s when and where I wanted inside the house. I miss being able to fall asleep to whatever music suits my fancy and mood. This project may necessitate the purchase of one of those new Airport Express boxes from Apple, since iTunes and iPod integration are so important to me now, but I have concerns about the remote control abilities in the product. (I’m used to being able to select songs at will from the comfort of my bed - the Airport Express is driven from iTunes, which is, up to now, nowhere near my bed)
  • Little fixes to change the apartment from good to great
    I’m fairly content with the apartment I’m in now - I’ve got a beautiful view of Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel in the forest behind me, plenty of room to live in and play in. But there are a few inadequacies with the apartment - the kitchen is too small, the second bathroom is more often than not filled with laundry and unusable as a bathroom and I’m tired of all the white and beige. What I’d like to do is:
    • Add some kind of external cabinet to store some of the least-used kitchen machines and clear off space on the kitchen work surfaces
    • Get some kind of rolling cart to help manage laundry a bit better and get it off the shower rods and countertops of the second bathroom
    • Paint the walls! I’ve also got some posters I’ve had in boxes for years…those should go up too, no?

Gosh. I knew I had really been putting things off while I was concentrating on the other two projects of the summer, but I didn’t realize the playlist had gotten so long!

September 29, 2004

The L-I-B-R-A-R-Y

On Sunday Kelly and I went over to the new Eden Prairie / Hennepin County Public Library. The library had been built in the old Lunds supermarket. I had watched them building it out over the past two years or so with great anticipation. I had been in the old library located just down the road a few times many years ago - in fact, I’d guess that it would have been the last library I had set foot in, 8 years ago.

We walked inside and I was immediately struck by the architecture. This didn’t look anything like the supermarket which had been here before. The inside was completely renovated; skylights had been added all over the place, making everything nice and bright.

Then I started looking around for a librarian in order to get my library card. Walked right up to the front desk, got my card in less time than it took Kelly to use the restroom. Upon her return we set ourselves adrift in the sea of books.

The second big thing I noticed was all the computers. Realize, the last time I had been in a library was 8 years ago, even longer if you only consider regular visits. (Before you assume I’m some kind of bibliophobe, I have kept up the regular visits to my favorite bookseller, Borders, so I still consider myself well-read!) The amount of change which has gone on was astounding! Everywhere I looked I saw computers. Certainly I remember the move from the actual card catalog to the terminals we had right around the time I entered high school. But here were over 100 computers, all setup with not only “card catalog” access but full Internet access as well. I use “card catalog” loosely because I’m not sure you could call it that anymore - the computers basically just access the same website you can from home.

The benefits are extraordinary. Not only can I see instantly on a computer screen which books match my criteria, but I can scan the entire Hennepin County Library system at the same time. From there I can see which physical libraries have the book on the shelf or put a hold on the book (either the specific copy or any copy of it in the system) which will be delivered to my local library in a few days for pickup. The Internet access helps immensely, too. Instead of having to rack my brain trying to remember that book I put on my Amazon wishlist, or read about on some blog, I can instead bring up another window, visit the Internet site, get the author’s name and search the library system immediately.

The next thing which struck me was the number of librarians. Four by my count. A few helpers moving amongst the shelves putting books back, but four actual sitting-at-a-desk-waiting-to-help-you librarians. One might think this number is low, but in actuality I don’t think it is at all. Normal library patron tasks (looking up books, locating, reserving, and checking out) are all automated - now they are simply there to be asked the questions they would probably prefer to receive. I walked up to one, looking for the Dewey Decimal number for “problem solving” books. He began to explain to me how to search on the web interface, but when I explained I had searched and got a bunch of different numbers he was able to clarify which one was the best one to browse in. He walked me right over to the section and even offered up a suggestion from the available books before he walked back to his desk.

When the announcement of the closing of the library in 15 minutes over the PA, Kelly and I found each other and walked up to the checkout. No lines, no busy library patrons running around at the last minute trying to get that one last book. Instead we found ourselves at a wonderful little machine. Slide in your library card, scan each book, remove the library card and it prints out a receipt with the due dates for each item listed.

All in all, it was a great experience. Indeed, I just got an email today letting me know that three books which I had put holds on were waiting to be picked up at the local library. (They were located at a different library in the system when I looked them up on Sunday) Even picking up a reserved book is automated - simply walk in the library, goto the designated “reserve” section, pick up the books from the shelf, and check them out at the automated booth!

I’m excited about going to the library again! *snickers*

Which books did I pick up, you might ask?

Besides the three books which are waiting for pickup:

  • Automated Alice by Jeff Noon
  • Pollen by Jeff Noon
  • Passage by Connie Willis

I picked up:

  • A New Kind Of Science by Stephen Wolfram
  • The Riemann Hypothesis: The Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics by Karl Sabbagh
  • Math Mind Games by Heinrich Hemme

October 4, 2004

A Public Service Announcement

Totino’s Party Pizzas, specifically the “Canadian Style Bacon” variety rock my world. Heat at 425 until cheese is browned and non-gooey, remove from oven, slice and enjoy!

A second, limited time runner up to the Tootsie Company for packaging their heavenly “Vanilla-flavored Midgees” in their own huge bags. (Usually, they are only available in the “mixed” flavor bag including cherry, lime, orange and lemon flavors) I can only assume they were as big of a hit as they thought they would be - I purchased three bags two weeks ago, just went back for more but they were all out. I’ve since checked three Targets and two Cub Foods locations, none of them have any bags on the shelves, either!

October 5, 2004

Burn responsibly

I’m up looking at the weekly iTunes free download and I see an ad for Green Day Collectible CD-R’s.

I’m not a huge Green Day fan, but I admire the band for putting together something like this. I mean, how cool? Professionally silkscreened artwork, perfect for your “Best of Green Day” collection.

My old boss, Jim, used to buy those Verbatim “Vinyl” CD-R’s at a premium for creating his compilation CDs for all the bands he used to listen to back in college. Neat, I thought, but at the premium they were priced over standard CD-R’s I didn’t necessarily think they were worth it.

But, combining the two options, wouldn’t it be kinda neat to go hit a website, browse a catalog of CD-R silkscreens and then order a bunch in quantity? I use my iPod most of the time, but it would be neat to burn some of my favorite mixes off to a neat themed CD-R. Not necessarily artist-themed, but more generic. I could imagine, for example, burning one of my workout soundtracks to a CD with a bike on it…or burning my “August Joy” CD to a CD-R with a big crayon drawing of the sun.

Tootsie Roll Relief

Picture of Vanilla-Flavored Tootsie Roll Midgees

After lunch we walked over to the Target in Eden Prairie Mall.

They’ve restocked the vanilla-flavored Tootsie Roll Midgees!


So, in a great example of self-control, I purchased 5 bags from Kimberly, my favorite afternoon cashier. If she’s working, she’s my preferred checkout over the noon hour. The first time I purchased a few packages of the vanilla-flavored pellets she commented how she’d have to try them, since they were her favorite, too.

This time I caught her right after she came off of break. She admitted she had just consumed a bunch over her break, removing the wrappers from her pocket as proof.

I’m telling you…they ought to remove the “Limited Edition” threat on the packaging and regularly package them this way. Yum!

October 6, 2004

Twinkie Update

Last night I drove Twinkie out to Woodbury to have dinner with Jean. This was the longest trip so far, just over 40 miles. Twinkie handled it just fine, the new engine is holding up well. We had a lot of fun going over the huge hump in the road at Lake and Wooddale Drives at high speed…it even felt like Twinkie caught some air on it, believe it or not!

A few things I’ve learned:

  • You can’t check the oil when the engine is hot, such as when you fill up with gas. Best done in the morning before you leave for the day. That way, after you add the oil you can check it right before going to lunch or leaving for the day, at which time the engine should be cool once more.
  • If you just open up the driver’s window the movement of the air past the window sucks exhaust in through the heating ducts. If you, instead, open up the sliding door fan windows at the same time, you get a nice cross breeze and everything is much less stinky.
  • Trying to talk on the cell phone necessitates putting in the clutch and coasting…which is OK when you’re on the freeway, but in stop and go traffic it makes things very complicated!
  • Driving such an old beauty gets you lots of looks…of both contempt and of admiration. How you choose to interpret those looks is up to you.

All in all, it is great to drive Twinkie again. Just filled up the third tankful of gas since Twinkie began moving again, hoping that the weather remains good for a bit so I can enjoy Twinkie a bit more before I have to park it for the winter.

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

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

iTunes/iPod Trending

So, now that the new website is running I thought it would be cool to do something with all the metadata which sits on my iPod and in iTunes. I could do something like a “Currently listening to…” in a sidebar on the website, but something which would be even cooler would be to do some trending of usage.

iTunes has fields for play count, last played date, date added. Therefore, my thought was that a simple routine could be run periodically against the library which would pick out the current play count for each track and store it in another database with a timestamp.

Then I could run reports…which tracks were the most popular in the last week? Which ones had fallen from favor? Then to complete the cycle, it could use the iTunes API to create a playlist with the results.

The problem with this whole setup - there’s no unique ID which one can use to match between iTunes sessions. All of the Apple documentation I’ve been able to find reiterates over and over again that the trackDatabaseID, which one would think would be what I was looking for, is only guaranteed to be static during an iTunes session.

Now, I suppose I could try and create a unique ID by storing something in an ID3 tag or using a combination of other attributes, and I may just do that. But it still is kinda a pain.

October 8, 2004

MENSA Puzzle Calendar Today

JManDoo, Accounting Nicole and I have a ritual of solving the MENSA Puzzle Calendar each day.

Today’s puzzle was particularly notable:



F _ _ B _ E _ _ I _ I _ _ E T

JManDoo actually got close, even tho none of us had ever heard of the word before…

Continue reading "MENSA Puzzle Calendar Today" »

October 10, 2004

A Life Less Ordinary

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the 400 Bar to see a performance by Carbon Leaf.

Who’s Carbon Leaf may you ask?

Continue reading "A Life Less Ordinary" »

October 12, 2004

"Square" Chinese Chicken

Many of you have heard me rant about the lack of quality Chinese-style food near my apartment. There were a large number of great establishments which could be found in downtown and uptown when I worked down there. There was also Dragon Pearl out in Hudson where I used to live. Once in a while I really get in the mood for some good ol’ Chinese food. I’m no connoisseur; but I don’t want something as “Americanized” as Leeann Chin or the buffets which serve jello and some strawberry/banana concoction right next to the chicken fried rice.

Picture of chow mein Close-up of square chicken

As an example of my pain, I submit to you a picture I snapped of the top of a freshly opened container of chow mein from a local establishment. NOTICE THE SQUARE STRIPS OF CHICKEN Where do they get such perfectly formed strips of chicken?

Judging from the consistency of the pieces (and the little air bubbles in the chicken-like substance itself) I suspect they puree the chicken in some central factory and then pour it into molds. From there the molds, filled with gelatinous chicken, are cooked at a temperature which would kill any harmful bacteria. After removing the now cooked chicken from the molds, it is weighed, bagged, and then distributed to area Chinese-style restaurants. Because it uses all the icky parts of the chicken (the stuff that’s one grade above hot dog filling) they can get it really cheap and they don’t have to worry about all the mess from dealing with live (or still-in-one-piece) chickens.

Similar mass-produced ingredients such as sweet n’ sour sauce, fried rice, egg rolls, etc. are handled in much the same way. (You think it just happens that all of these restaurants make their eggrolls the exact same way, perfect in shape and filling every time?)

October 13, 2004


everybody join in!

15 years ago today, I would have been…
1. 13, 8th Grade, living with my parents in Spring Lake Park, MN
2. Finishing my sixth and final year in the Metropolitan Boys Choir with a tour of Germany and Austria the following June
3. Had my first serious girlfriend, Jennifer Burnett. We would always sit together at lunch and play footsie.

10 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Just arrived at GMI in pursuit of a computer engineering degree
2. Logging into ISCA BBS for the first time
3. Figuring out how to forge email From: addresses

5 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Contemplating leaving Investment Advisers Inc. after 7.5 years to go work for Agiliti
2. Finishing up Y2K Compliance documentation and testing
3. Driving Twinkie through downtown Minneapolis in a shirt and tie, commuting to work

3 years ago today, I would have been…
1. Going to couple’s therapy
2. Refinancing the house
3. Preparing for the worst

1 year ago today, I was…
1. Trying to keep all the plates spinning
2. Moving Wizmo HQ across the street
3. Finishing up the first summer of bicycle commuting

So far this year, I have…
1. changed my hairstyle
2. fixed up Twinkie
3. dropped 4 inches around my waist

Yesterday, I…
1. worked a full day
2. cleaned the apartment
3. reconnected with 2 long-lost friends

Today, I…
1. sat in meetings all day
2. had dinner with the ‘rents
3. fixed my Dad’s computer

Tomorrow, I…
1. meet with customers
2. take Mel for a ride in Twinkie and have dinner
3. call for new tires on the Beetle

October 17, 2004

Brave New Workshop: Electile Dysfunction

I finally got down to see the new political Brave New Workshop revue “Electile Dysfunction; or Two Johns, a Dick and a Bush”. I haven’t seen a show since the spring (which means I missed the Das Bootylicious revue) and went into this show expecting a great bunch of election and political satire.

While I will not say this is the worst show I’ve seen in the 8 years I’ve been going to BNW shows, this certainly wasn’t the best, either. The musical numbers seemed sloppy and unconnected to the rest of the show, whereas the jokes seemed to be less of the subtle satire the BNW usually presents and more of a one-liner festival.

Shanan Wexler and Katy McEwen carried the show on their shoulders. Shanan with her tremendous vocal talent led the entire cast in a wonderful “Schoolhouse Rock”-style song about the Electoral College, which was definitely the high mark of the evening for musical numbers. Meanwhile, Katy really hit the mark with her portrayal of a “Mr. Wizard”-type professor trying to create the model politician by using a combination of bacon bits and a Taser gun.

All in all, still worth the price of admission, but unlike some of their previous shows, I didn’t leave wanting to go back and see it again. I do look forward to the upcoming holiday show, “A Very IKEA Christmas”, which opens mid-November. I only hope this show was an exception, rather than a precursor of shows to come.

October 18, 2004

Team America

So, went to see Team America yesterday.

While I enjoyed watching the puppetry, and some of the basic satire presented, it seemed like a less-than-stellar performance for Trey and Matt.

I’ve been a South Park fan since the show started. I saw Orgazmo and BASEketball in the theater and rental numerous times. I’ve always loved the irreverant wit and outrageous satire presented by these guys.

Team America, by contrast, seems like something which could have been presented in under a half hour but instead stretched out into something which became so thin at times it broke apart.

It had its funny moments, but overall I just thought the jokes came too far and in between for my liking.

Home Ward Bound

Decided that I needed to try and lick this cold/strep once and for all and stayed home today. Really wouldn’t have helped to go into work anyways, as I can hardly talk. All weekend it fluxuated between getting better and getting worse, I finally broke down last night and took some Nyquil. Funny, I know some people who get knocked out by Nyquil, can hardly make it back to bed before they are deep in slumber. For me, it seems like a mere suggestion - I still had a bit more difficult time than usual falling asleep, and I woke up plenty over the course of the night.

So, today is to be spent resting, not speaking and reading Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective by Mark Epstein. It is an amazing book, and deserves an entry of its own after I complete it.


That’s National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated.

I first read about it in this Slashdot article.

I thought of jodi and sent her a link to it, suggesting she try it. She takes her writing very seriously, has taken classes, edited not only high school newspaper and yearbook (who didn’t?) but her college newspaper as well.

After a bit of cajoling back and forth, I (along with the help of others) not only ended up convincing her to do it, but I signed up for it, too.

I haven’t written much since I graduated from high school (due to skipping college entirely) other than technical papers related to my job. (Which I just did a scan through and found the longest at 20 pages - including gratuitous bulleted lists!) How I’m going to accomplish 50,000 fictional words in a month I’m not sure - never mind making it somewhat readable and interesting.

I put a hold on the book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel by Tom Monteleone at the library. I imagine I’ll have to move it to the top of the “Books Waiting To Be Read” pile and start planning for November 1st now. I don’t even have a plot in mind; luckily I’ve got two weeks to come up with one.

This should be an interesting experiment…

October 20, 2004

Playlist: Fall Colors 2004

As fall turns into winter, I thought I’d put together a playlist of the memorable songs of the fall. I’ve done this in the past, kinda cool to see how things change over time.

This year’s fall playlist is heavily slanted towards Carbon Leaf. It’s been 2-3 months since I first ran across the band on AudioLunchbox and I just attended their concert here in town a couple of weeks ago. I love the great variety of sounds they produce - the lyrics are great, too. Lots there to identify with, regardless of mood.

Other “new” tracks come from a variety of sources. iTunes and its browsing/suggestion capabilities have yielded such gems as “Way You Walk” by Papas Fritas and Weezer’s “Island in the Sun”. “New Slang” by The Shins was something I really didn’t consider purchasing from iTunes until I heard it in Garden State, which is by far my favorite movie of the fall.

The second half of the list is dominated by a bunch of “classic” Damon tracks. Soul Coughing makes a big splash in this part of the list, not only because I picked up a bunch of their live shows on CD, but I’ve run into a few old fans of their music over the course of the fall. Similar reasoning behind the inclusion of such hits as Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” and “Righteously” by Lucinda Williams.

I’ve attached the playlist to the remainder of this message…

Continue reading "Playlist: Fall Colors 2004" »

October 21, 2004

"BABY" is the Word of the Day

Today over lunch we finally hooked up with Jodi, an old coworker of ours.

She left us when she had Nahlah, her daughter. It was great to catch up with her and to finally see Nahlah in all of her baby-like splendor.

Nahlah Looking

Nahlah and I had a few moments to talk with each other, too…we watched the other people in the dining room, looked out at the trees swaying in the wind, drooled excessively. (Well, only Nahlah did the last one!)

Nahlah and Damon

I’ve been eager to have a kid for a long time now, but after seeing Nahlah I’m even more baby happy than usual.

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 26, 2004

The Vanilla Tootsie Roll Famine Returns

Went to Target to purchase another bunch of Vaniilla Tootsie Rolls.

They were all out.

I even asked one of the employees who was busy stocking the shelves with new candy treats. He explained they were all out, there had been a run on them when Tootsie Rolls went on sale, priced at 2 for $3, on Sunday.

So, here I am, treat-less.

And I would have paid full retail price.

Watch-ing Spam

Total Spam Blocked
Apr 20048796
May 20049110
June 20049102
July 20047682
Aug 20048626
Sept 20047495

We do quite a bit of spam filtering here at Thingamabox.

Even with blocking all of those messages, we continue to get spam in our inboxes daily.

For the last few weeks, almost every piece of spam I’ve received has involved somebody trying to sell me fake Rolex watches! Lay off already! I’ve already got the fake Rolex my Grandmother brought back for me from Mexico years ago. I don’t need two!

[Updated 7:30pm]

I finally got around to reading my daily news, and noticed the Register just happened to run a story on this Rolex/Spam phenomena here.

October 27, 2004

Gumby Day

Sounds like Mike is going to have some free time today, so I’m taking a half-day and we’re gonna work at getting the new Gumby server up and running.

I’ve had the new server for the last 5 months or so, but I’ve been putting off building it up until the FreeBSD 5.x series was marked stable. It looks like this is a reality, or at least will be shortly, so we should be able to build up the box and start tracking 5-STABLE with it.

All kinds of goodness will come forth from this…more disk space, new versions of all the hosted software, including MovableType 3.1x for the blogs. Yay!

Updates throughout the day. Not sure if we’ll cut over to the new box or we’ll just set it up and schedule switchover a few weeks out. Depends on how seamless we can do it.

Finale of Gumby Day

Well, Gumby didn’t get completely finished tonight. There were a few problems getting Gumby up and running to begin with…then Mike and I got distracted numerous times chitchatting about all things geek.

Good progress was made. And it was great to spend a geek afternoon/evening with Mike.

October 28, 2004

Pity the Morons

…or Today’s Honorary AssBeaver1:

About a week ago I followed a very, very poor driver about 2 miles back to my house. The driver pulled through an intersection from a “Left Turn Only” lane. He was completely oblivious to his error and the fact that he was cutting off everyone who was in the proper lane. Then the driver proceeded to drive up the big hill at a turtle’s speed (the car could easily have taken it much quicker), make a right turn without signaling at the top, signal AFTER the left turn in front of the apartment complex and then spend 2 minutes while I remained stopped behind him - the whole time spent digging for his garage access card or something. Finally, he pulls in (I follow after being a good boy and sliding my access card in to restart the garage door timer) and I have to wait a bit more while he pulls into his parking spot, then pulls back out, then back in to realign.

I dismissed him as being distracted, a moron, or both. I didn’t think it would really matter.

So, tonight I pull into my parking garage after returning from the Durand Family Board Meeting. As I turn the final corner, here the guy’s car is parked in the middle of the driveway. I pause for a moment, looking for the driver to once again be realigning his car and noticed no one was sitting in the car.

I pull my Beetle off to the side, ponder what to do next. I go back out and look, there is no way I’m gonna get my car around his and down to my assigned spot. I look inside, see the flashing red light indicating the alarm is set (It is a Jetta, VW uses the same components in many of their vehicles) and I notice the parking brake isn’t set and the car is in neutral.

Yes. This man parked his car, hopped out, set the alarm and walked away as it rolled back into the driveway. From the looks of the positioning of the concrete pylons, I’m guessing it bumped against one of the pylons as it rolled out in the middle of the thoroughfare, then came to rest right in the middle.

I thought about pulling my car back out into the parking lot and parking it there for the night. ‘course, that would mean I’d have to carry in all my stuff in the drizzle. Never mind the fact that there were 4-5 other spots empty past the car where I’m used to seeing parked vehicles, meaning others would be inconvenienced as well.

I decide we shall not all suffer because of the acts of a single moron.

I gave the car a test push and it rolled easily enough. The wheels were aligned perfectly to roll right back into the assigned spot just fine. I knew it would just roll back out if I left it unblocked, so I knew I had to find a block for the wheels.

I went walking down to my parking spot, looking for something I could use to block one of the rear tires (better make it big so the guy will notice he’s blocked in) and found one of those tubes of sand. (They were in my parking spot when I moved in…no one’s ever claimed them, so I just leave them forever in the community property area) I pull the tube of sand down the 120 feet or so to his assigned spot and line it up so I can slide it quickly underneath the rear passenger tire.

I give the car a push up and back into the parking spot, move to the side and push the bag of sand behind the wheel. After making sure the car came to a complete stop, I hop back in my Beetle and drive down to my spot.

I consider the ineptitude this guy has displayed on not only this but the previous occasion and decide I better leave a note - else he think someone put the bag of sand there as a decoration. I find a scratch piece of paper; leave him a note written in absolutely most simplistic language I could manage. I wish it were possible to express myself monosyllabically, since I have a feeling this would be the moron’s preferred vocabulary, but I figure if he can’t read it he can ask someone to help him:

“You forgot to set your brakes on your car. Found it rolled out in the middle of the garage, blocking traffic. Rolled it back into the parking spot, put a bag of sand behind the rear passenger wheel.”

I thought about adding in a comment about his intelligence, but decided against it. Prbly should have added that this was his second strike in my eyes, but I have a feeling he’s got a lot of strikes built against him already.

1 JManDoo and I decided that all poor drivers would henceforth be referred to as assbeavers. We even registered the domain, thinking we’d establish a clearing house for reporting assbeavers you may encounter on the road. You can identify an assbeaver by the following behaviors (this IS not meant to be a complete list!):

  • Driving really slow in the left-hand lane
  • Pacing cars in other lanes - hindering any attempts to pass
  • Incorrect use of turn signals/indicators
  • Over-compensating for weather-related road conditions
  • Generally being a poor driver

BoDeans Pre-Sale

Anybody want to go see the BoDeans perform at First Avenue on December 26th or 27th?

I’ve never seen them in concert, but over the past year or so I’ve discovered many great songs they’ve recorded over the years:

  • Closer To Free
  • Fadeaway
  • Good Things
  • Dreams
  • Pick up the Pieces
  • Only Love
  • If It Makes You

There’s a pre-sale tomorrow starting at 10am.

October 29, 2004

Time to Unwind...

It’s been quite a day today at work…time to coast into the weekend and unwind a little. To get the ball rolling, I decided to follow Neil’s quiz.

  1. What is your Full Name?
    Damon Curtis Durand
  2. What color pants are you wearing right now?
    Yankee blue jeans
  3. What are you listening to right now?
    Amsterdam by Guster
  4. What was the last thing you ate?
    A Whopper w/Cheese from Burger King for lunch
  5. If you were a crayon what color would you be?
  6. How is the weather right now?
    Unusually humid and warm
  7. Last person you talked to on the phone?
  8. First thing you notice about the opposite sex?
  9. Do you like the person who sent this to you (or posted it)?
  10. How are you today?
    Been really on fire today. Everyone’s been pissing me off it seems. Just finally calming down now.
  11. Favorite Drink?
    Strawberry Pop
  12. Favorite Alcohol?
    Sex with an Alligator
  13. Favorite Sports?
    I’m not huge into sports. If I had to say something, I’d pick some esoteric sports like lawnmower racing or trick billiards.
  14. Hair Color:
    Blondish/brown (not much of it left!)
  15. Eye colo(u)r:
    Depends on what I’m wearing and lighting…moves between blue and green.
  16. Do you wear contacts?
  17. Siblings:
    My sister, Michelle, 2.5 years younger than me.
  18. Favorite Month:
  19. Favorite Food:
    My family’s recipe for lasagna
  20. Last Movie you watched:
    Team America: World Police
  21. Favorite Day of the Year:
    Feburary 29th
  22. Are you too shy to ask someone out?
    Sometimes, depends on the woman.
  23. Summer or winter?
    Winter. You can always put on more layers, but you can only take so many off!
  24. Chocolate or Vanilla?
  25. Do you want your friends to write back?
    Remember to trackback!
  26. Favorite card game:
    Slapjack and Go Fish
  27. What did you do last night?
    Durand Family Board Meeting
  28. Favorite Smells:
    Vanilla, fresh baked bread, right after a rain, fresh-cut grass
  29. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?
    Nope, just short.
  30. What’s the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
    Wow, I must have had some exciting dreams!

October 31, 2004

Morning Woods

No lucid dreaming this morning - I woke up with a splitting headache. Must have been dehydrated or something.

Anyway, one of the most wonderful aspects of living in the particular apartment I do is my two sliding glass doors look out to a large wood. During the summer, the entire windowscape is filled with green leaves - as winter approaches the leaves change color, fall down and expose all the barren branches.

You might expect the beauty to disappear at this point until the snow visits us and everything turns white. While certainly the snow is a welcome relief from all the brown, the fun part of this time of year is watching Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel collecting everything they need for the upcoming winter months.

See, Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel live in the tree hollow right outside my apartment. I only see them in the summer when they make the trek down the tree trunk to visit the ground. However, in the fall, winter and early spring I see them jumping from tree branch to tree branch performing their daily chores (and hopefully playing a little at the same time).

This morning Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel were busy collecting leaves for their drey (another name for their nest) when they got a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Blue Jay, also frequent visitors to the trees outside my apartment windows. There was a bit of bickering back and forth - doubtlessly Mr. Blue Jay prbly forgot to bring the hot dish Mrs. Blue Jay made as a gift for Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel. Poor Mr. Blue Jay. They quickly left and Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel went back to their day.

What the #$*! Do We Know?

I don’t remember where I saw the preview. However, about 6 months ago I do remember hearing about the movie What the #$*! Do We Know? and thought it would be something to see when it came out. As luck would have it, I was looking up the showtimes for Primer and saw that What the #%*! Do We Know? was starting in 15 minutes. So, I threw on some clothes and drove down to the theatre.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I sat down. I knew I had heard about it before; that it dealt with the combination of science (mostly quantum mechanics, with a little bit of neurophysiology thrown in) and philosophy.

Possible Spoilers Ahead

Continue reading "What the #$*! Do We Know?" »

November 2, 2004

"I Voted" Contest

As mentioned previously, Wendy came up with a, um, “contest” which required you to go get an “I Voted” sticker and send it in for a chance at winning a prize. You don’t have to vote, of course, but you do need the sticker. (Anyone lame enough to want to cheat at this contest deserves the hit to their karma)

I had wanted to do something like this myself - but when I heard about the problems Michael Moore had when he offered college students a pair of clean underwear to go vote I ended up not doing it. But, Wendy came up with the idea of using the stickers, which I think is an acceptable way to get the reward across without running into problems with the law.

So, I’ve decided to up the ante a bit; I’ve contributed my own prize to the mix. So now there are two prizes up for grabs.

Go follow the instructions here to submit your photo. Good luck!

First Ave Closing?

As I heard on the radio today, and mentioned in this Star & Tribune article, First Avenue closed its doors today.

For those of us who have been paying attention to the saga it comes as little or no surprise. I’ve been reading for months all of the bickering back and forth between all the parties involved. It seems that Fingerhut finally let go of the tug of war rope and everyone is trying to negotiate their new positions now that he’s taken his action.

This club needs to remain in operation. Its name and location have been connected to so many music legends and events it is impossible to imagine it can go away due to contract and ownership disputes.

Considering all the efforts Minneapolis has put forth to salvage the Hennipen Avenue Theatre District, one would think they would consider putting together some kind of package to keep the First Avenue we all know and love open and contributing to the local arts scene. While First Avenue certainly didn’t make its mark in the same way the theatres did, it most definitely has made a huge impact on the music environment here in Minneapolis (and the entire state) and deserves to be valued by the city of Minneapolis in the same way the theatres have been over the years.

November 8, 2004

Dot Matrix Printers

I went grocery shopping and it made me pine for the days of my Apple IIe/IIgs, Paint Shop and my ImageWriter II. The receipt printer used at the grocery was an old impact printer type. Made me think of the old dot matrix printers we used when I was growing up.


Well, back in the good old days of computers you had these dot matrix printers which used “Continuous Tractor Feed” paper. Those of you who are old enough to remember Apple IIe’s and Apple IIgs’s don’t need any more explanation, I’m sure. For those who don’t remember these, the paper looked kinda like this:

The dot matrix printers of the time produced really lackluster output in comparison to today’s ink jets or laser printers. However, the continuous paper had one big advantage.


When I was growing up, it didn’t seem like any welcome home gathering or birthday would be complete without a banner being printed and put on display. Unless you chose the “Outline” font in Print Shop, you’d usually use a ribbon up by doing this. Of course, your ribbons usually ran you all of a few bucks to replace. (Compare that to today’s 30-some bucks for each inkjet refill!)

I miss those banners. I’ve got my old Apple IIgs sitting here next to me, along with my old ImageWriter II and Print Shop GS. I’m thinking I may set it up just to print out a few banners for old time’s sake.

Now to find a ribbon which hasn’t dried out.

November 9, 2004

The Joys of iPodding

I had one another one of those joyful iPod moments last night.

I read this post, saw the lyrical reference to Maggie May and was reminded of Suzanne Vega. I hadn’t listened to her in months, prbly years.

I was the biggest fan years ago, saw her in concert numerous times, but when she took off from performing to raise her child she faded into a background interest. Reading the post I was immediately struck by a desire to hear her wonderful voice again.

iPod to the rescue! I scrolled through my library, selected “All Songs” under her Artist entry and set it on shuffle. Spent the rest of the night (and today outside of meetings) listening to many of my old favorites.

Immediate gratification is great!

Pimp My Ride

One of my fellow Wizmo-nians alerted me to this week’s premire of the MTV show Pimp My Ride featuring a VW Bus restoration.

I set it up on the Tivo (with the necessary 5 minutes of padding on either side since experience has proven to me that MTV loves to run late/early) and waited for it to appear on my Now Playing list.

Tonight I come home and checked it out. The VW Bus was a splitty but was in horrible shape. Rust all over, windows missing, hot-wired ignition. It looked like the kid had tried to do some restoration work, but we found out during the show that his family had some problems come up and had given up his restoration money to help out.

A 40-inch LCD flat screen, Playstation 2, electric surfboard rack, electric dryer and loads of body work later he ended up with one sweet ride. They gave the splitty a very classic paint job on the outside, complete with safari windows and an original bright green/white combination paint job. Definitely gave me some great ideas for Twinkie - including the installation of a retractable stop sign on the body similar to a school bus crossing sign. I think something like that is definitely gonna make its way onto Twinkie eventually. (I don’t think I’d have mine say “Chill” tho)

The MTV style and the length of the half-hour show didn’t lend itself to lots of detail about the work involved beyond a all-too-quick discussion about the electrical demands of all the equipment on-board but it was still worth a viewing. You could tell the kid loved his VW a lot even before the pimping…which makes me glad they did it for him since he’ll get years of enjoyment out of it. Although now he’ll get even more enjoyment out of it - since I have a feeling the TV in his Bus is prbly bigger than the TV in his living room!

November 10, 2004

"I Voted" Winner

I sponsored a second prize in Wendy’s “I Voted” contest last week. She’s randomly picked the winners and I’m pleased that my award is going to Bonnie.

She slipped in with a My Vote Counted sticker, which I guess is pretty standard in the state of Michigan from what I’ve heard from other friends who live there.

Congrats to Bonnie and to the winner of Wendy’s prize, Kara

Thanks to everyone who entered!

November 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

Phrases of the Day

Last Friday, the phrase of the day was, “Lemony Snickets”

Monday it was “Lab Work”

I’m pleased to announce the phrase of the day today is “Binomial Nomenclature”

Spread it far and wide. Announce it from the rooftops. Celebrate its wonderfulness.

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 13, 2004

Desk Toys

I spent a few good hours today going through The Boxes™ which have been filling my living room for almost a year now. Besides the known quantities of holiday items (suitable for decorating a house when I have one again) I found an inordinate amount of desk toys.

When combined with the 4-5 boxes of desk toys I have in my storage closet I come up with about 10 copier paper boxes filled with desk toys. Considering I’ve been working at a desk now for more than 12 years now, it prbly should surprise no one that I’ve got so many. But the question is…What does one do with that many desk toys?

My current desk has about 2 more boxes worth of desk toyrs. So, we’re looking at about 12 total. I’m never gonna have a desk that big, obviously. Do I eBay all of the items, at least get it down to a managable amount of items which I may use once again someday in the future? Do I just throw most of them out? Do I give them out as holiday gifts?

November 14, 2004

Toothpaste and Orange Juice

Earlier today, I found myself lamenting the unpleasantness which came about whenever one followed tooth brushing with a glass of orange juice. I was on my way out the door, and I wanted to enjoy a cool glass of orange juice on the way to my appointment. I couldn’t. I knew what awfulness would come about if I grabbed a glass of orange juice for the road, so instead I went without and ended up taking water instead. A really poor substitute early in the morning!

Tonight I got a bit curious why the taste was so bad. After a bit of research using your friend and mine, Google, I came across the answer.

According to New Scientist’s Last Word the reason you get that nasty taste in your mouth is that toothpaste’s detergent, usually sodium lauryl sulphate, affects your taste sensors. This page put together by a TV science program in Australia says that the sodium lauryl sulphate desensitizes the “sweet” taste buds and and enhances the “bitter” taste buds.

As it turns out, there are some people who believe the sodium lauryl sulphate isn’t good for you, so there are companies who make toothpaste without it. The sodium lauryl sulphate is really only used for the foaming action people are accustomed to while brushing their teeth - so the absence of it won’t affect the performance of the toothpaste.

I’m thinking this may be worth a test.

November 18, 2004

What Geek Decade Am I?

I haven’t done a meme in a while, but this one I picked up from Neil seemed like a lot of fun.

Along with 8055 out of the 46473 people who took the quiz, I’m a:

90's geek. Cool, confident, and very powerful, you're the sexiest geek ever! Buckle in, your decade is one hell of a ride.

November 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. the Workplace!

Finally made it back to work after feeling yukky most of Wednesday afternoon, out almost all of Thursday and half of Friday. We’ve got a new customer turning up on Wednesday night, which considering I was going to be gone after 3 today I knew we had to get sealed before the end of the day. Managed to squeeze in a quiet 30 minute lunch at Noodles with New Theresa which about my only downtime of the day. Otherwise, I moved from project component to project component making sure everything was lined up (or at least could be by the remaining staff after I left). Finally got out at 4, ran home, packed until 5 minutes before my parents arrived.

Got on the road around 5:15, out of town and traffic by 6, didn’t turn out too bad. We stopped for 45 minutes or so to have Famous Dave’s in Owatonna, otherwise we’ve been driving down I-35, the spinal column of America! The back of my dad’s 300M is absolutely perfect for me and my Dell laptop, just enough room to flip open the screen to just the right angle and everything works great. Indeed, I’m writing this (and all the backentries) from said position.

It’s great to finally have some downtime after the past 5 days or so. Either I was sick or completely running on adreniline and stress in order to accomplish something on time. As I told people from work…after the past few days, it might be nice to just throw on the headphones and stare out the window. Which is what I plan on doing next.

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 1, 2004


Well, the end of the month passed. I’m sorry to say I didn’t manage to write the next great American novel. I didn’t even manage to get past the 2000 word-count. I did prbly write about 5000 words, when you consider the false starts I made toward the effort and then scrapped when the story didn’t work out.

I found I had no issue coming up with characters for the story. Nor did I have an issue coming up with the setting for the story, the location, the time, etc. Creating time to work on it wasn’t a huge issue, either.

The issue I came across was creating a plot I found compelling. I can create stories with the best of them…but one which has enough complexity to cover 50000 words is really a bigger challenge than I suspected.

I’ll have to keep the event in mind for next year, tho.

Geek Love

As mentioned in 28 Things, number 24, my geekiness is aged like a fine wine. It is only fitting that the first trace of me on the Internet was in regards to my first major geek purchase (paid with my own funds), my Apple Newton. I’ve since moved on…Newton 2000, Ecosphere, OfficeCam, BeetleCam, Libretto, Rio PMP300, Rio Receiver, Series 1 Tivo, iPod.

Tonight I saw the next thing on my geek horizon.


Sonos mixes up a few of the previous geekly gadgets (Rio Receiver, iPod) and adds in a dash of wireless to the mix.

It streams your music library from a central server to a remotely connected unit, which then powers speakers, much like the Rio Receiver. However, the Rio Receiver was plagued by a very small screen, controls attached to the remote unit and the inability to create “whole-house audio” by streaming to all of the Rio Receivers at the same time. Sonos splits up all of the components, which creates a far better experience in the end.

  • You connect one Sonos ZonePlayer to your “server” computer, which has the Sonos server software loaded. Each Sonos ZonePlayer has a mute button and volume controls, along with the following ports on the back:
    • Standard AC Power
    • Speaker Outputs
    • RCA In/Out w/Subwoofer
    • 4-port Ethernet Switch
  • You connect each ZonePlayer (including the one connected to the computer, if you desire) to speakers or an audio system of some sort. The stations can be connected via Ethernet, but you can just connect them wirelessly as well.
  • You control Sonos through a handheld wireless remote. It’s about the size of a Gameboy Advance, a bit heavier, but still comfortable to hold in one hand. The remote has the iPod interface - a scroll wheel with limited, yet effective buttonage. A 3.5 inch color backlit screen makes it a breeze to read and control, and the queueing functionality is leagues ahead of the iPod.

I spent about 45 minutes tonight playing with Sonos. I was excited about the product before I got a chance to use it - now I can’t stop thinking about how exciting it will be once I get my hands on one for my own use! Everything works the way you expect it to in a well-designed audio system. The audio is excellent. Unless you’re a zealot, you’re sending audio generated from lossy files anyway; the lack of optical outputs isn’t a dealbreaker for me. The ZonePlayers take a minimalist approach from a control perspective, providing only volume controls, but the real power is in the remote.

The remote is a work of art, pure and simple. The screen is easily read; the control displays and menus intuitively laid out and a fine example of usability design. Within a minute I was manipulating the “live” queue, adding and removing songs with absolutely no thought. A few minutes more I had already started streaming a live Internet radio feed to the Sonos ZonePlayer in the other room while moving to a more upbeat song on the Sonos ZonePlayer which I was listening to right next to me. I could instruct the server to rescan the server’s music library, which was a nice touch for those of us who sometimes add music to the library without wanting to or having the ability to fire off a scan at the time. iTunes intergration was supurb - all of the iTunes tracks (minus protected AAC files from the iTunes Music Store - but we’ve all got hymn now anyways) and playlists showed up in the Sonos interface.

The price tag is a bit spendy - for two ZonePlayers and the controlling wireless remote you’re looking to be set back about $1200. But it sure beats the systems I use now - either a long cord running from the top of my iPod over to the my stereo across the room or a staticy iTrip-enabled FM modulated signal. Even more so, it whips the Rio Receiver’s bootay with its far superior usability and portability.

Sonos has an answer for everything I’ve always wished for from a audio delivery system. I can’t wait to get my hands on one for myself!

December 2, 2004

On French Dressing...

Those of you who have visited a few restaurants with me already know this, but I consider myself a french dressing connoisseur. I’ve tried french dressings of all varieties…the spicy, the rich, the sweet, the thick and the runny.

Of all of the french dressings, my favorite french dressing of all time is the french dressing on Ruby Tuesday’s salad bar.

It has just enough sweetness, with a hint of tartness, to make any salad perfect.

Least, it used to be. Ruby Tuesday’s changed their french dressing about a year ago now to something incredibly yucky. It went from #1 to almost the bottom it was so horrible. The only explanation I received upon asking why they switched was that they wanted to offer a lower-carb variety for people on low-carb diets.

I lamented…why must low carb dieters affect the ability for me to obtain the most wonderful french dressing in the world! Damn them!

I eventually overcame my disappointment…but it certainly decreased the number of visits I made to Ruby Tuesday’s!

Today, the lunch gang decided to go to Ruby Tuesday’s for lunch. I reluctantly ordered the salad bar with my meal, resigned to the fact that I would have to pile on the cheese and ham in order to mask the horrid french dressing.

When I got to dressing buckets, I noticed the terrible french dressing (it looked horrible, too!) had been replaced with something which appeared to be the original favorite of mine! I poured it on the salad, raced back to the table, stabbed at my salad and lifted the fork up to my mouth. As soon as it touched my tongue, I knew they had returned the yummiest french dressing in the world to me!

This, of course, brings the rankings back into alignment. The new top 4 are:

  1. Ruby Tuesday’s
  2. Outback
  3. Mama Maria’s Italian Restaurant in North Hudson, WI
  4. The Machine Shed in Lake Elmo, MN

December 4, 2004

The Return of Significant Others

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

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

From a production perspective, the show is shot in the “quick-cut” method so very popular in the modern shows of today. In both the therapy sequences and the “life” sequences, we hop from story to story, no more than a minute at a time. It definitely keeps the laughs up, and keeps you flirting with the disasters you quickly see approaching in all of these couple’s lives. According to the Bravo website, the show is improvised by the actors and actresses as it is filmed…although I have a feeling only the therapy sessions are improvised - the “real life” sequences seem scripted to match the improvised material from the therapy sessions.

This show was a $99 Special from the Slamdance Festival. NBC picked it up to pilot it for its prime-time line-up, but the show got pushed off to Bravo for airing. Doubtlessly, it was a bit too racy for prime-time…it deals with a LOT of adult themes. I’m glad it was picked up; this is certainly one of my favorite shows on TV right now.

December 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 7, 2004

AIBO? Ah...NO!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 8, 2004

Direct from the Disappointment Department

Today’s “Mensa Puzzle Calendar” reads:

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

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

December 10, 2004

AOL Finally Owns Up To AIM Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t know what was worse…

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

December 13, 2004

Direct from the Disappointment Department, Part II

Today’s “Mensa Puzzle Calendar” reads:

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

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

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

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

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

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 15, 2004

Meme of 3ees

Jodi’s challenge has not gone unnoticed…

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

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

3 screen names you have
Sir Loin

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

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

Continue reading "Meme of 3ees" »

Comments Fixed, Now Back To Lunch

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

Chipotle Barbacoa Burrito

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

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

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

I Would Walk 4000 Songs...

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

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

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

December 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.

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.

January 6, 2005

Chosen Mindful Distraction

Gravity by

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

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

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

January 7, 2005

Pity the Morons, Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 11, 2005

New Female Tech Support Rates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 23, 2005

Alton and My Chicken

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

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

Continue reading "Alton and My Chicken" »

March 3, 2005

I Finally Get Podcasting...

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

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

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

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

March 7, 2005

Once Again, I'm The Last In Line

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

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

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

The Road To Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrations of the Day

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

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March 8, 2005

New iPod Firmware

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

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

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

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

March 19, 2005

Wow, What a Logjam!

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

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

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

March 22, 2005


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

Continue reading "ROLLERDERBY!!!" »

March 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 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 They don’t tell you this anywhere, nor do they make it available for reverse lookup on the usual sites. I’ll put this here in the hopes that the great Google may look highly enough upon this poor blog post to index the information for others to share.

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

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

April 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 11, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Weird Sightings

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

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

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

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

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

April 13, 2005

Proof That Gadgeteering Never Wanes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 14, 2005

Biking Season Begins

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

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

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

April 20, 2005

My Regnal Name

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Days to Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 23, 2005

I Will Know I've Arrived When...

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25, 2005



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

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

More details soon!

The Ironman Bike Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 4, 2005

A Rollerderby Wipe-Out

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

No, I’m not dead.

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

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

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

Tivo Payback

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

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

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

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

May 19, 2005

Star Wars Episode 3

Closeup Image of Movie Sign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Star Wars Funnies

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

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

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

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

Kickball: Game 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 20, 2005

Kickball: Game 1 - The Day After

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

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

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

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

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

May 26, 2005

Kickball: Game 2

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

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

Continue reading "Kickball: Game 2" »

May 27, 2005

Janine is FULL

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

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

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

Continue reading "Janine is FULL" »

June 2, 2005

Kickball: Game 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 10, 2005

Kickball: Game 4

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

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

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

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

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

June 14, 2005

I'm A Winner!

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

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

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

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

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

Be seen wearing this badge, win a Sony PSP!

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

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

June 16, 2005

PSP Funness!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 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, 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 22, 2005

Biking Update

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

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

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

June 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!

July 1, 2005

Kickball: Game 7

I scored [against a] Godless Whore last night!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 8, 2005

Kickball: Game 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Bubba And Me

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

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

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

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

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

July 10, 2005

Tour Of Saints (50 MILES!)

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

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July 16, 2005

70 More Miles

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

Well, just to squelch any of the naysayers:

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

July 17, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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

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

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

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

July 21, 2005

Kickball Playoffs Tonight

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

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

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

July 22, 2005

Quest for Glory

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures available here. Enjoy!

July 23, 2005

A Great Time Was Had By All

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 24, 2005

Playing With Dirt

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

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

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July 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 Pedals

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

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

Photo of Eggbeater sl

The Shoes

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

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

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

Photo of SIDI's Bullet 2 shoes

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

The 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 4, 2005

Real Men Don't Wash Their Elbows

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

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August 8, 2005


How do I live life more with less?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to ponder…

August 22, 2005

Pandora's [Streaming?] Box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nike's "Real Women"

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

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

Nike "Butt" Ad

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

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

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

August 23, 2005

I Would Bike 1500 Miles and I Will Bike 1500 More

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

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

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This Just Handed To Me...

Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do Kihn Do

August 25, 2005

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

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

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

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

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

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August 27, 2005

Woodbury Days Bike Ride (60 MILES!)

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

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2005 State Fair: Visit 1

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

Tonight was a food excursion, plain and simple.

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

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August 30, 2005

Cooperative Trivia

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

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

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

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

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

September 4, 2005

2005 State Fair: Visit 2

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

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September 8, 2005

Some Notes For Googlers


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

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September 11, 2005

Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour, The Sequel

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 14, 2005

When 4 Inches Is A Big Deal

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

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

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

October 3, 2005

A Fortnight Away...

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

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

There’s more, but those are other entries…

October 13, 2005

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

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

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

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October 19, 2005

A Competitive Giant?

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

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Wanna Catch Up? Pull Up A Chair!

Things have finally calmed down, whew!

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

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

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October 25, 2005

Keep On Beetle'n

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

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

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October 26, 2005


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

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

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

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

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

October 27, 2005

New Janine

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

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

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

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

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

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?

November 15, 2005

Snow Once Again

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

Welcome, winter!

A Trivia Win

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

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


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!)

December 31, 2005

Songs of 2005

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Songs of 2005" »

January 5, 2006

Overlooked Songs of 2005

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

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


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February 12, 2006

Opening Question 1, for 14095 Points!

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

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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.

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March 6, 2006

We Bicyclists Do Our Spring Cleaning Early

A wonderfully productive weekend.

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

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

March 9, 2006

First Ride 2006

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

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

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

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

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

March 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.

April 30, 2006

The Ironman Bike Ride 2006

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

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

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

Continue reading "The Ironman Bike Ride 2006" »

August 31, 2006

Apple IIgs: Geek Nostalgia

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

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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

December 31, 2006

Songs of 2006

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

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

iTunes Library Growth Over Time:

YearTotal TracksTotal PlaysTracks Played >0

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

Continue reading "Songs of 2006" »

January 3, 2007

Overlooked Songs of 2006

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

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

Continue reading "Overlooked Songs of 2006" »

January 4, 2007

Bye Bye Beetle, Hello Honda

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

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

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January 15, 2007

No Blanket Immunity...

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

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

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

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January 25, 2007

The Department of DUH!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 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”

February 3, 2007

January Woot-Off

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

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

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

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

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

February 5, 2007

120 Minutes Love

Relive your adolescence.

Collected Playlists from MTV’s 120 Minutes

February 12, 2007

KVSC Trivia 2007: Around the World in 50 Hours

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

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

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

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

February 21, 2007

All Hail Totino's Party Pizzas

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

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

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

February 22, 2007

You Got A Better Answer?

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

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

More below the fold…

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My Bag o' Crap

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

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

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

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

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 Luc√≠a”. 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 26, 2007

A Little Change of Color

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

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

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

March 6, 2007

Cosmic Blobs

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

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

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

Click on the images below for closeups and the movie

March 12, 2007

First Ride of 2007

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

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March 14, 2007

When 7th Place Rocks

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

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

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

March 15, 2007

Reasons I'm Looking Forward to the Weekend

March 19, 2007

My (New To Me) Recumbent Trike

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

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

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March 22, 2007

Trivia For Boobies

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

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

March 26, 2007

A Week Trekking With Trike

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

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April 25, 2007

My Life With Polly(wog)

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

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April 29, 2007

The Ironman Bike Ride 2007

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

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

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May 1, 2007

The Ironman Sunburn 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 16, 2007

Lunchtime NTN

What happened to me today?

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

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

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

June 29, 2007

I Waited, I Saw, iPhone'd

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

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

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June 30, 2007

It Lives Up To The Hype

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

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

August 23, 2007

Fairtime, It's Fairtime!

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

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

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

Fairday 1: Soggy and Foggy

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

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

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December 9, 2007

This thing still on?

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

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

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

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

February 11, 2008

And Finally, He Rested

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

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

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

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