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.
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?)
Tonight I came home from work and started work on restoring some sense of sanity to the apartment.
I’ve made efforts over the past year or so to unpack from the house, get rid of what I don’t need or want and make some space in here for the things I love.
I spent most of the night picking things up which were already unpacked, although I did manage to make a small dent around the dining room table as well.
A trip to the Hennepin Country Hazardous Waste Center (computer recycler) this weekend should help clear out some space…I’ve got a bunch of old computers that are just sitting in the middle of the floor gathering dust. 486DX/66’s, a Pentium 60…even an old CompuAdd 386/25! The Apple IIgs I had while growing up will stay, along with all the currently used boxen.
Tomorrow night I’ll try to finish off the kitchen and the books.
Getting these three things out of the way first is important - I know I need storage in all three areas, otherwise things will fall back into disrepair rather quickly. The rest of the stuff is assorted junk which will need to find its place - but the first three need to establish their places first.
Spent most of the day today cleaning and picking up the place.
The highlight/biggest chore of the day was the 3.5 hours of work I performed in the kitchen area. As much as I love this apartment, the kitchen is always been a bother. It’s just simply too small. Coming from the Hudson house with its 650 sq. ft. kitchen the apartment’s 250 sq. ft. kitchen simply doesn’t have enough storage nor counter space to hold all of the kitchen gadgets I’ve accumulated over the years, nor enough counter surface to prepare a meal. Couple this with a dishwasher which rarely gets the dishes clean to my satisfaction and things end up piling up pretty quickly into a mess.
Still got a lot of work to do before November 21st, when I’m holding Thanksgiving here at the apartment. (I’ll have the party room, too, but since none of my family has seen the new pad I think it is only proper that I make this place presentable as well!) Still need to work my way through the clutter which is my living room/dining room area, sort through the 1000’s of photos/other memorabilia which came over in Twinkie from my parents’ house and decorate the blank walls a bit.
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.
A list of the weekend chores:
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?
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.
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!
Whenever I’m at home and wanna sketch out an idea, I find myself missing my nice big whiteboard at work.
Why isn’t there some kind of application for a PC which emulates all the good things of a whiteboard? I use Visio all the time, but you can’t use that to sketch. Could I just use something as simple as Paint if I got myself a tablet?
I dunno…but right now I’ve got ideas I wanna get down on paper and work out…and the concept of plugging it all into Visio doesn’t excite me at all. Off to find paper and a pen.
Last night my parents called…they wanted me to drive Twinkie up to their house sometime before Christmas. They were otherwise silent as to the purpose, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out some kind of Christmas-related activity requiring either A) Twinkie itself or B) Twinkie-style transportation. I explained that Saturday I could come up sometime in the early afternoon, not only for this über-secret activity, but also to give my Dad a little in-service on his newly received iPod.
Now, the other thought through my head was…um, Twinkie isn’t exactly a cold-weather vehicle. Not only should it not be driven in the winter (salt, sand, etc all work to ruin its finish) but we never completed getting the heater hooked up this summer. Why rush it, since I don’t drive Twinkie in the winter anyway? Considering that my parents were the people who helped me fix up Twinkie this summer - so certainly they understand the situation. If they are still asking me to bring Twinkie up, it must be for something good.
I woke up this morning and saw the weather forecast. BRRR! I took a nice warm shower before leaving, put on a few extra layers, zipped up the jacket and drove up to my parents’ house. I didn’t get really cold until a few minutes before I got up there. When I arrived, I drove up to the spot where Twinkie had been parked for all those years, turned off the car and proceeded to grab my stuff to walk up to the door.
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.
I like having my CDs out for visitors to peruse through - or for the occasional listen without the aid of my iPod.
A curious thing struck me this evening. Months ago, I sorted most of the CDs in library order: artist’s last name, then first name, then album name. This has worked out well…until tonight.
I finally drifted off to sleep last night around 2am. As my eyelids began to droop, I got to watch quite the show outside as the winds and rain battered the outside the apartment window. Lightning all over, trees being whipped back and forth by the wind, it was all there.
I wake up around 6:30am. I can’t read the clock…not all that unusual in the morning, due to the light coming in the window glaring off its display. Walk over to the bathroom…the light doesn’t work! Sure ‘nuff, the entire apartment is out. I checked the only wall-powered mechanical clock I have in the apartment, on the stove, and find out the power went out shortly before 4:00am. To eliminate the possibility that the power issue was contained within the apartment (circuit breakers, etc) I opened the door to the hallway…yup, only the bright red EXIT sign illuminated the hallway.
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.
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.
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…
It’s been 2 weeks since I last wrote…what have I been up to?
There’s more, but those are other entries…
A wonderfully productive weekend.
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).
After noon on August 31st (and quite possibly sooner) I will be changing my place of residence. Trust me, the new location will be much more stalker friendly. No more climbing up trees, employing periscopes from ground level, repelling your way down the side of the apartment building or using your feminine charms to get past my security guards. Now you’ll be able to simply drive-by. What could be easier?
The fact that my name, backwards, spells “Nomad” has always fascinated me. At times, I’ve taken it to mean that I’m destined to stay in one place. This past month has only reinforced that idea.
I’m not meant to be nomadic. Damonic, maybe, but never nomadic. I’ve simply have too much stuff to fit on the camel and/or horse. I filled up a 16’ moving truck once, four round trips with a full Twinkie, 3 round trips with a full minivan. That’s easily the equivalent of a 24’ moving van, I’m sure. Sure, maybe the Trojan horse would fit all my stuff, but that’s the only horse that would do!
Everything is finally done, tho. Keys are handed over to the old apartment manager. My final walk-thru is completed. My multitudes of things are in my new place, either packed in the garage awaiting the decision as to their final destination (trash/storage/give-away/placement inside the new pad) or have already met their fate.
Some words of wisdom:
Overall, the move went great. I’m glad it is done, for sure. Now the real fun begins…can I get my second garage stall emptied of boxes before first snow…?