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February 12, 2004

Sushi...

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":http://www.origamirestaurant.com, 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, saut�ed 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 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.

Continue reading "Google searches" »

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

April 1, 2004

From Jim Wizmo's files...

Jim has been going through his files in his final days here at Wizmo. He ran across an old email he saved which I sent to him one morning as an excuse for not being at work…read on!

Continue reading "From Jim Wizmo's files..." »

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 4, 2004

Retro-Encabulator

I can’t wait to get one of these…I bet it will increase the battery life of my iPod by 200%, increase my gas mileage by 300% and wash all my dishes for me in half the time!

Tell me about the Retro-Encabulator

(Courtesy of eBaum’s World)

Continue reading "Retro-Encabulator" »

August 19, 2004

5 Minute Distractions

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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 28, 2004

"The Project"

Had my first demo of “The Project” today. All did not go according to plan, but the fix list is short.

Which is good. Worked all night (and I mean literally all night). Time for rest. It wins this round. But the battle is not over.

October 1, 2004

Fire and Ice

This just handed to me from KARE-11 Your Weather:

“Tonight: Freeze warning. Clearing and cold. Wind: NW 10-20(diminishing) Low: 27”

Funny on a such a cold day JManDoo and I have been working on firewalls!

Thanks to the efforts of Max Laier we got a pair of CARP/PF/PFSync FreeBSD 5.3-BETA6 firewalls up and running. Just completed the rest of the configuration today, everything appears to work great. We’ve got a simple lab setup running, but we’re eager to throw some real load at it next week.

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.

October 8, 2004

Another Dilbert Hits Close To Home (Or Work, Rather!)

Dilbert from October 8th, 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:

GIGANTIWORD

FILL IN THE BLANKS TO COMPLETE THE WORD BELOW:

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

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

Continue reading "MENSA Puzzle Calendar Today" »

October 11, 2004

Do Elephants Laugh?

OK, so now I’ve moved back towards the other way. Only I know why.

For this brief bit while I’m on this side of the pendulum’s swing, the question which came to mind was about laughing.

Do we know why we laugh? I mean, people laugh when they are nervous, when they are happy, when something funny happens…I’ve even seen people laugh when they cry.

I’ve personally seen monkeys and other species laugh. Dolphins seem to laugh, although I don’t know if this is a trained behaviour or a natural one.

I’ve heard reports of elephants mourning their dead. Do they laugh, too?

Investigations forthcoming…

October 12, 2004

An Announcement

Cost models get me HOT

October 13, 2004

Sicky

So, last night I felt a bit of a sore throat coming on while I was cleaning up the apartment, but I just shrugged it off. I thought it a bit unusual that I was so thirsty before bed, but once again I shrugged it off.

Woke up this morning with a full-on sore throat. I came into work, all full of energy and chipper, but by lunchtime I could already feel myself getting worn down.

For those of you playing the home game, you’ll know I hardly ever get sick…so I’m fairly certain this was a super germ engineered just to target me. (No one else around me is sick in the slightest!)

Agents have been dispatched to track down who gave me this bug. So far everyone’s alibis check out, but my agents won’t rest until they’ve figured it out.

Meme-orable

everybody join in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 AssBeavers.com, thinking we’d establish a clearing house for reporting assbeavers you may encounter on the road. You can identify an assbeaver by the following behaviors (this IS not meant to be a complete list!):

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

November 5, 2004

JManDoo's Joke

While we were out at lunch today, JManDoo offered up this great joke. I believe that this joke may be the best humor litmus test of all time:

A woman’s pet duck falls ill, and she brings it in to her local veterinarian.

“Doctor,” the woman exclaims, “my pet duck has fallen ill. Can you take a look at him?”

The doctor immediately takes the duck back to the examination room. A few minutes later the doctor emerges and says,

“Ma’am, your duck is dead.”

The woman is crushed. She doesn’t believe this is possible.

“I brought my duck in and he was only ill. I cannot believe he’s dead! Surely, doctor, there is something you can do!”

The doctor reluctantly lifts a dog up onto the examination table. The dog sniffs around the duck, nuzzles against it a little, licks it a bit. After a minute or two of this, the doctor picks up the dog and puts him back down onto the ground.

“No, ma’am, your duck is dead.”

Still considering this impossible, the woman again pleads with the doctor to do anything he can to save her duck.

The doctor picks up a cat this time - places the cat onto the examination table. The cat nuzzles against the duck a little, licks his head, paws at it a little. The duck doesn’t move.

“Ma’am, I don’t know what else to say. Your duck is dead.”

Finally, the woman relents…”What do I owe you?” she asks the doctor.

The doctor takes out a slip of paper, scribbles on it furiously, hands it over to the woman.

“150 dollars for you to tell me my duck is dead? How can you get away charging so much?”

The doctor responds, “Well, if you hadn’t made me do the lab test and the cat scan…”

JManDoo and I both find this joke incredibly funny. Do you?

November 8, 2004

On Co-Pays

I spent most of the weekend getting over this nasty cold/sinus infection/sore throat thing going around. For those of you playing the home game, that means that I’ve been sick twice already this cold season! What happened to my insanely great immune system? It’s still there…the only people I could have gotten this from have had it much worse that I have. Indeed, current thinking is that I’m gonna get better before they do!

Why don’t I just go to the doc? Certainly, there is a belief of youthful invulnerability influencing the decision a bit, but it really comes down to the co-pay. Here I am, fairly well paid; I can easily afford the co-pay. Nevertheless, I sit here just waiting for the yukkiness to pass - since I’ve gotten tired of going into the doctor only to be told it is a virus and there’s nothing to be done. Why pay for that kind of advice?

Might I benefit from some antibiotics? I really don’t know. I know if I get REALLY sick I’ll go into the doctor in a week and complain, and end up with some major illness.

To the health insurer, I’m sure the risk is one they end up saving money on in the long run as millions of people are pushed into the same decision.

However, one of the biggest reasons for companies to provide their employees health insurance - so that they can be more productive workers - is invalidated in this situation. I end up taking more time off work, spreading the disease to others, decreasing productivity as I move through my days waiting for my immune system to win the battle.

It might be interesting to take a holistic look at the cost/benefits of raising the co-pays in an employer-sponsored health plan. Especially one where most of the employees are younger, single workers. (As opposed to plans where most of the employer dollars go to sponsoring family coverage)

November 9, 2004

Pimp My Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 15, 2004

Pinings for Caluj Ejumacashun

I used my dictatorial powers over lunchtime-decision making today and we all went down the U of M to pick up Chick-fil-a.

Every time we go down there, I’m reminded of the fact that I skipped college. Sure, I got a taste of it my junior and senior years in high school, but I never got to go full-time in my post-secondary life. While I wouldn’t change my life at this point, I really wonder how things would have been different had I gone the normal route and spent a few years attending some institution of higher learning. Seeing all the socialization taking place, all the ideas being exchanged, pure learning without the pressures of the corporate world.

November 22, 2004

Dispatches from the Front

I’ll be writing a bunch of journal entries as I have time and getting them up as soon as possible.

Headlines:

  • I’m feeling about a 9 out of 10. Still tender, still feeling a bit rundown.
  • Durand Family Turkey Day was a hit. Had issues with the turkey and the cranberry sauce, as well as being disappointed a second time with the gravy.
  • Excited to leave for my trip
  • Got a lot of crap to do before I leave. 1.5 days of work I missed plus my work today condensed into 6 hours.
  • Still need to pack, but everything should be washed and dry by the time I get home.

Back...to the Workplace!

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

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

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

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 29, 2004

Does This Count As A Career Goal?

Someday I want to have a job with power like they do in all the old movies featuring the military or senior business professionals.

I want to be able to reach over, pick up the phone and instantly be able to utter, “Get me the President!”.

‘course, the “President” part of the statement could be changed to almost anything…the important thing is that my time is SO important that there is someone constantly listening for me to pick up the phone and request to be connected to someone.

I wonder if this was merely a dramatic device or if it was reflective of the state of affairs at the time. Were there really people who had so little time on their hands that their secretary was listening for them to utter a connection request with no notice at all?

Regardless, I want this kind of job!

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?

I Miss My Whiteboard

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

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

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

December 9, 2004

Dilbert

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

Dilbert cartoon featuring ones and zeros

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

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

New Data Center Rules

RULES AND REGULATIONS

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

ACCEPTABLE USE POLICY

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

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

Expressly unauthorized parties include:

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

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.
THOUGHT GNU BRIGHT BEGIN

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

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

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

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

December 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 23, 2004

A Week Excuse!

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

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

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

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

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

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

An OfficeCam Christmas

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

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

Unplanned Parties Are The Best!

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

I also got to give my presents…

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

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

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

January 10, 2005

System Busy - Try Again Later...

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

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

January 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 17, 2005

Another Busy Week Ahead

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

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

January 19, 2005

A Very Mad Ninja

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

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

January 21, 2005

"Nailed It Shut!"

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

“I love it when a plan comes togetha!”

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

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

January 26, 2005

Gimme A Break

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

Gimme a break, k?

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

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.

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 16, 2005

Celebrations (Some Big, Some Small)

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

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

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

April 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!

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!

End Of An Era

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "End Of An Era" »

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!

July 8, 2005

My Bubba And Me

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

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2005

San Francisco Nights

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

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

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

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

July 18, 2005

IAI Reunion

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

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

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

July 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 11, 2005

Overheard

Yesterday in the office…

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

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

August 16, 2005

Feeling Better Than James Brown

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

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

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

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

August 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.

September 2, 2005

Real Life Disaster Recovery/Management

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

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

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

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

September 8, 2005

Some Notes For Googlers

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

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

Continue reading "Some Notes For Googlers" »

September 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 26, 2005

ScanR

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

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

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

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

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

November 11, 2005

Time Flies

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

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

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

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

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

December 14, 2005

Ketchup

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

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

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

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

December 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 22, 2005

How Do You Keep An Idiot In Suspense?

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

December 27, 2005

Christmas 2005 Passes On

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

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

February 28, 2006

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

(Continue reading about the trip)

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

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

March 3, 2006

My Fortune (Cookie)

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

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

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

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.

November 30, 2006

Working Way Too Much

‘nuff said.

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

I need to find something else to believe in…

December 21, 2006

A White Christmas After All?

Picture of snowclump from today

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

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

Preview of the falling snow movie

January 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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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 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…

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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.

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 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 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 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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May 16, 2007

Lunchtime NTN

What happened to me today?

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

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

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

May 22, 2007

Gas Stations Need Proofreaders, Too!

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

In Cash of Fire, Spill or Release

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

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?

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