Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Movies: Appleseed

A while back Linzy and I watched Appleseed, a movie recommended, through some strange coincidence, at nearly the same time by Netflix and Shawn. The movie is a remake (I think) of a 1988 movie with the same title.

The remake uses a rather unique visual style, with highly detailed CGI backgrounds but characters who look like something you would see in a cell-shaded video game (XIII came to mind). The style wasn't necessarily bad, it was just, different, and somewhat jarring because the characters stood out from their environments so distinctly.

The other reason the characters evoked memories of video games was that their animation was pretty stilted. Frequently character's hands didn't look like they were really holding things that their fingers were around, and sometimes arm and leg motion was a bit puppet-like.

The story was inconsistent. Initially it was pretty interesting, but it got complicated fairly quickly and then veered off into near incomprehensibility towards the end of the movie. Still I was able to follow along, and there were some good aspects to the story and interesting twists & turns.

On the other hand the action sequences in the movie were pretty cool. The opening action sequence in particular was very neat, as was a giant robot chase in the middle of the movie. And the final battle with extra-giant robots trampling through the city was highly entertaining.

Overall, I wasn't all that enthused with the film. It definitely had some good parts, so it wasn't a total waste but it really wasn't what I was expecting. For one thing I was expecting a hand-animated movie, not a computer generated movie. And the stark difference between the characters and the background scenes bugged me for a good amount of the movie. I guess it was OK, but not one that I'll be in a rush to see a second time.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Arrr Matey, It's Nap Time

I was amused yesterday by the context ads GMail displays while you read e-mails. In theory the ads are targeted based on the content of your e-mail. Initially the ads were really bad a lot of the time, having little or nothing to do with what the e-mails were about. Over time it seems to have gotten better, I assume as they refine the association algorithm and acquire more history on users.

To be honest, most of the time I totally tune out the ads. They are just text, and reasonably separated from the body of the e-mail so most of the time I think I am pretty successful at ignoring them. However yesterday one caught my eye because it was completely bizarre.

I was reading the latest e-mail in a short conversation thread with Brenden talking about what we had done last weekend. On the side of the e-mail was an ad:

Pirate Preschool program has openings

The Branson School District has openings for 4-year-olds in its Pirate Preschool program.

What in the world is a Pirate Preschool program? Call me crazy, but I'm not sure I would want my preschooler learning to wear an eye patch and say 'Arrr, Matey'. Or swilling grog and singing 'Yo-Ho, Yo-Ho, a pirate's life for me'. Granted they would probably think having a teacher with a peg leg and a hook for a hand would be cool, but I'm not sure learning to be a maurader of the high seas is the best career path for the little ones.

And why would GMail decide to show that particular ad to me while I was reading an e-mail chain involving a movie, bike rides, a party, the Vikings game, house cleaning, a funeral, cancer, video games, and missed phone calls?

The preschool part can at least be explained because one of the e-mails contained a line like "There was lots of baby and birth talk going on. So that was educational.". But which of those topics has a high correlation to pirates?

Regardless of it's applicability to the current e-mail, I guess the ad was semi-successful since I spent a while amusing myself with ideas of exactly what a pirate preschool would be like. And there is that lingering concern that perhaps I'm not as good at ignoring the ads as I think I am. Perhaps they are leaking into my subconscious and one day if I have a preschooler, I'll make Linzy all upset by stubbornly insisting that the kid attend a preschool where they make troublemakers walk the plank or have knife duels, and teach the kids the best way to ransom the daughter of a wealthy town-dweller.


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Monday, August 29, 2005

Vikings Game

As I mentioned yesterday while making up excuses for my lack of biking this week, on Friday night Linzy and I went to the third Vikings preseason game. This was the third year in a row we've been able to go to a preseason game, and just like the previous years it was a lot of fun.

Our seats were similar to past years, about halfway up the second level on the 35 yard line. This year we got to sit on the aisle which was a little nicer then being in the middle of the row. You could see everything on the field really well, even though the seats are fairly far up.

The game itself was good, the Vikes ended up wining 19-16 but it was a rather unconvincing win. The first-string Chargers offense drove down the field to virtually no resistance even without LaDainian Tomlinson, scored a touchdown and left the game. Our starters stayed in the game quite a bit longer (until near the end of the first half), and ended up putting up some points. But I am pretty sure it was against the second string Chargers defense.

Still, it was fun to watch the game, as Troy Williamson got his first action with the first-string offense and Fred Smoot played in his first game as a Viking. Williamson actually had the best catch of the game, a sideline grab of a pass way over his head. I don't recall anything Smoot did in particular, which is probably a good thing to say about a cornerback. Although the pass-defense did look pretty terrible against the first-string Chargers defense.

We stayed until the bitter end, at least in part because I enjoy cheering for Ryan Hoag, who, despite the fact that I've never met him, is about as close as I will probably ever come to even remotely 'knowing' a professional football player (my Dad works with his Mom). In a step up from last year, Ryan got quite a bit of time with the second team offense, although I don't think he caught a pass (not that more then one or two were even thrown near him). He also got to return punts and kickoffs in the second half, and ended up getting injured on the last return, after taking a big hit in mid-air. According to the paper the injury is a thigh contusion (i.e. bruise) so I assume he'll be fine.

This year we rode the Light Rail again, and it worked great. The Mall of America station is finally open, which is a lot more convenient for us then Fort Snelling was. Plus, its the start of the line, so there's no need to try to cram onto an already full train. We waited about 10 minutes for tickets and to get on a train on the way up to the Metrodome, and about the same amount to get a train to go home. For $3.50 a person, it worked well.

All in all the game was a lot of fun, I'm glad we went.

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Sunday, August 28, 2005

This Week in Sun Pictures

Sunrise on 8/24

Sunset on 8/27

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Weekly Biking Update: 8/28

For the second week in a row the number of miles I biked dropped precipitously. This wasn't due to any lack of desire to go riding (honest), it was more just bad timing.

After my bike was out of commission two weeks ago, I ended up doing that 24-mile ride two Saturdays ago. So that put me on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule this week. But then on Friday morning it was raining and we had tickets to the Vikings preseason game that night so I wasn't able to go then either. Finally I had to work on Saturday morning at 6:00 am, so I only ended up going out twice this week.


Shawn and I made an interesting discovery on our ride on Monday, not only is my bike computer really terrible at division, but it was also set to the wrong tire diameter by the crack staff at Penn Cycle. Specifically, they had set it to 205 cm versus the correct setting of 217 (according to the manual). That provides a 5.85% inflation to all the mileage numbers I was logging previously.

The change doesn't make much difference in the total mileage I've been logging but actually has a fairly significant impact on the average speed. For example, on the Monday ride, with my old settings the bike computer said 24.30 miles at an average speed of 14.76 mph. After adjusting for the different tire diameter, I get 25.72 miles and an average speed of 15.62 mph, or almost a mile an hour faster.

That was a pleasant surprise, even if it does make it really difficult to compare the results across setting changes. If the average speed numbers meant something to me (rather then just for use in relative comparisons), I would be pretty pumped to discover that I've been doing a max of almost 16 miles per hour instead of almost 15.

For reference, of the two rides this week, the first one uses manually adjusted numbers (that is, I took the mileage I had logged with the wrong settings and multiplied by 1.0585), where as the second one had the cyclometer set correctly. All the old blog entries were left unadjusted at this point.

As far as my training plans, they haven't changed much since last week. I'd like to try to fit in one 20+ mile ride each week, and I'm still planning on continuing to work on improving my hill climbing by riding the windier and hillier Southern route from my house (route 13 this week, but normally route 11). And, after this weeks sad mileage total, I'm hoping to get back to at least 3 rides a week again. :)

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Sidewalk vs Bike Path

To the idiot who yelled "Get off the sidewalk" at me from his pickup truck while I was biking on Wednesday night:

It was a bike path, not a sidewalk, and I was riding on it because there was no bike lane in the road.

If you don't believe me that an 8-foot wide, asphalt path on the side of a busy four-lane road was meant for biking, please refer to this map of Dakota County bike paths.

See that blue color on the section of road in question? That means Off-Street Bike Path. In case you have have difficulty understanding what that means, I'll translate:

It means it is a bike path and I can ride on it if I damn well please.

In closing, I'd like to thank you for your concern over whether the local cops will have a reason to pull me over. I also would like to thank you for making it easy to pick the topic of today's post. To show my appreciation, I'll refrain from ridiculing your shirt (wifebeater), your trucker hat (so 2004), or your apparent intelligence level (certainly placing you in illustrious company).

Feel free to keep your opinions to yourself next time,


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Friday, August 26, 2005

Car Rentals

On Wednesday night I was trying to book a rental car for our trip out to Boston at the end of September. The prices for 8 days were pretty outrageous, which I guess was not unexpected because we didn't have any special coupons and no one seemed to be running any special deals.

I looked all over trying to find a better deal, checking the direct rental company website, checking on the Expedia and Orbitz, checking on less common aggregate sites, etc. Regardless of where I looked, the prices were pretty similar and all quite a bit more then I wanted to pay.

For example, on Orbitz, the prices (for 8 days) ranged from $353 (Alamo) to $415 (Avis). On the direct Avis website the price was still $366. Alamo's direct website was broken and wouldn't let you get quotes (nice).

On a whim, I clicked the Hotwire link from Orbitz. I've never used Hotwire before, always having been afraid of letting them book you with who-knows-what company. I assumed the price would be similar, and I would just book with Alamo some other day when they got their act together.

Instead, Hotwire offered a car for $21 a day, or $221.47 after taxes/fees/etc. How could I justify passing that up?

I double-checked and their three car rental partners were Hertz, Avis and Budget. Since all car companies are basically the same to me (other then Hertz where I have #1 Club Gold through work), I couldn't justify spending an extra 130 bucks just to be able to pick one car company. So I ordered through Hotwire.

It turned out that our reservation is with Avis. The same company that Orbitz was going to book us through for almost twice the price ($415 versus $221), and the same company that wanted $145 more to book directly through them.

How ridiculous is that? Why should the same car from the same company ever be cheaper through a middle-man who has to add margin to everything? If they had just offered the car for $221 on their website I would have booked directly, and they could have made even more money.

Regardless, I was pretty pleased with how Hotwire worked out. Now if I could just work up the courage to book at an unknown hotel through them...

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Easter Eggplant

While Linzy and I were at the University of Minnesota Arboretum on Saturday, there was a flower show going on. Easily the strangest planet on display was an "Easter Egg" plant.

It was a large bush/plant that had fruit (?) growing on it which looked exactly like eggs. The thing was fairly creepy because the flowers/fruit/veggie/whatever felt and looked just like real eggs. So, if you wondering, eggs do in fact grow on trees.

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HOG Microbrews

When my sister was came to visit the weekend before last, she was nice enough to bring us a six pack of HOG Microbrews, the beer her and John brew. On Saturday Linzy and I decided to enjoy one with dinner, and I am pleased to report that both the pale and the stout were very good.

Good enough that we might contemplate brewing our own beer if it wasn't for the fact that we rarely drink anymore and that it can be kind of a pain to brew your own beer.

Anyways, thanks a bunch for sharing, Sarah!

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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Spot the Design Flaw

A little while back Linzy bought me a brand new Weber grill cover at a garage sale for $2. This was a huge steal since the thing was still in its original packaging, sells for $45 normally, and my old grill cover (a $20 Menards special) was looking rather tattered. When I put the cover on the grill however, I immediately spotted what seems like a significant flaw in the design of the cover.

It has a big vent right in the middle of the cover, just asking for rain and snow to pour in through. It's even ideally positioned for catching rain, as it is down the slope of the cover so more of the rain will be able to drain down to it.

Why in the world would anyone design a grill cover with a big fat hole in it?

I suppose in theory some people might want a vent so that heat could escape, but I always just let the grill cool down before replacing the cover. And I don't think a small vent at the bottom of the cover is really going to prevent the thing from melting to the top of the grill if you put the cover on immediately after using the grill.

Putting a giant "Snow/Water Enter Here" hole on the top of the grill cover doesn't seem like an optimal design for Minnesota where everything will be covered in snow for a good 6 months of the year. At least they could have put the vent down below the bottom of the cover. Or better yet, just skipped the vent completely.

I ended up deciding to keep the old cover on-hand so I can double-bag the grill for the winter, rather then let snow collect inside the cover all winter long. How ridiculous is that?

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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Now Costing You Pennies Less Per Week

I was reading an article on AnandTech today about the Intel Developer Forum that is going on right now. On one of the pages they have a bunch of slides on the new Intel marketing push for this generation: Performance per Watt.

I'm pretty impressed, I don't know that they could have found a performance metric that I care less about.

For one thing, I don't own a laptop, where you might at least conceivably care about performance/watt since it would directly impact battery life (although so does that huge widescreen LCD screen, the big hard drive, and that fancy video card, and you can always buy a spare battery).

Now in theory I still might care how much power my desktop computer is using, but in practice I just don't. I track a lot of our expenses, including our electricity usage, but more from a "just so I know how much it costs" perspective rather then thinking I can do much about it. And I certainly don't have (nor want) a way to track electricity usage down to the individual appliance. I don't really want to know how much money it is costing us to put the dishes in the dishwasher instead of doing them by hand, or exactly how much it costs to keep all that food chilled in fridge.

If I buy a new computer, I want it to be stable, faster for types of things we do with it, and quiet. That's it. If it generates a bit more heat then the old one, that's life. If it uses more electricity, oh well.

Oh, I'm sure that big corporations are probably drooling over the prospect of saving billions in energy costs by moving to only slightly faster computers that use way less energy. But then again, how much is it going to cost them to refit all 50,000 employees with brand new computers. Microsoft might be able to afford it, but I know my employer won't. They're too busy plotting how to take away our secondary monitors, and making up silly titles of executives.

But for the average consumer, power consumption by a desktop has to be about 35th on the list of criteria for purchasing a computer, behind whether the keyboard has a zoom slider, and whether the case fans have LEDs for Lan parties.

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Monday, August 22, 2005

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

On Saturday Linzy and I spent the afternoon out at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, something I didn't even know existed. It turned out to be really impressive and gargantuan, with over 1,000 acres of gardens, trails and crazy plants. They had pretty much any plant that will grow natively in Minnesota weather represented, along with a healthy amount of non-native plants. I've never seen anything like it.

Originally we were thinking of going to the Como Park Conservatory again. But then Linzy remembered hearing something on the radio about the U of M Arboretum. It turns out that they have been advertising quite a bit lately to drive up attendance after investing a lot of money in a new multi-purpose visitor center.

Since we've been to the conservatory several times, we decided to branch out and try a new place. The Arboretum turned out to be quite a lot of fun, they had a huge variety of plants to look at and a lot of nice trails through the area. Plus it was absolutely beautiful outside so it was pleasant to be outside enjoying the weather.

The only downside to the Arboretum was that it is a lot further away then the Conservatory (it's out past Chanhassen), and is significantly more expensive ($7 an adult versus $1).

Still we enjoyed our trip.

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

Weekly Biking Update: 8/21

I didn't do as much biking this week as I had been doing lately, since my bike ended up being out-of-commission most of the week after I narrowly avoided being run over by a car.


Originally when I brought the bike in on Tuesday evening, they 'trued' the rear wheel rather then replacing it. That had the advantage of being free, but had the disadvantage of not actually resulting in a usable wheel. So I (well, Linzy actually) brought the bike back on Wednesday to have the wheel replaced. It turned out they carry a matching wheel, and then it turned out that they didn't have even a non-matching wheel in stock. After a few days waiting for the necessary part to come in, on Friday night I was able to get the bike back. The rear wheel doesn't match anymore, but at least the bike is usable again. I still don't really understand how such a lame crash managed to screw up the rear wheel so bad.

Saturday morning I was itching to try out the bike, so I did the 24 mile route Shawn and I had started on Tuesday (and he finished), by myself. Riding 10 miles further then I normally do turned out to be a lot easier then I thought it would be. I did the whole thing in one go, without any breaks (other then stoplights). The weather was gorgeous and I was well-rested, so I was able to keep up a good pace (for me) pretty much the entire way.

Interestingly, I was actually a bit faster on the second loop then the first. That was probably due in part to the fact that on mile 18 another biker pulled out of a cross street a ways ahead of me, and I decided that I should try to catch them. So I kicked the pace up a few miles per hour for a mile or so, and managed to catch and pass them a little less then a mile later while we climbed a hill. Overcompetitive? Who me?

With my relative success on a 24 mile route, I signed up today for the St. Paul Classic bike tour. I'm looking forward to doing the 30-mile route in a few weeks.

Until then, I'm planning to continue to work on the same things I've been concentrating on the last few weeks. Namely better hill climbing and better overall endurance.

[ Update 8/28: These mileage and average speed numbers turned out to be slighly low as my cyclometer was set incorrectly. ]

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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Slave to the Marketing

The last two days I've had Linzy's car, because she needed the truck for errands related to the baby shower she was throwing for a friend. I didn't bother to move the MP3 player equipment between the cars, so I've been back to listening to the radio on the ride to-and-from work.

Yesterday while I was flipping through stations I happened on Jack FM (the faux-underground Infinity Broadcasting station) while they were playing "End of the Line" by the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys.

The song caught my ear, and while I was listening to it I realized that my music collection was sorely lacking in Traveling Wilburys' songs. So like the slave to marketing I am, I went out and got their first cd Vol 1.

I still haven't decided if I should be embarrassed by the whole episode, but I do know that I'm enjoying the new music. So there.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

Rising with the Sun

I get up pretty early to go to work. Not as early as some people I know, but early enough so I can get into the office well before 7:00 am. Long ago, the plan with changing my schedule was so that I would get home earlier. As it turned out, I've never been very successful at getting out of the office on time, so I just end up working longer hours. Good for my employer, not so good for my work/life balance.

Anyways, one of the nice parts of getting up as early as I do is that for a couple months a year the sun is rising around the time when I am eating breakfast or walking the dog, so I can watch the sunrise.

For the last month or so, I've been occasionally taking pictures of the sunrise on those rare mornings when I'm not a total sleep-deprived zombie. Some of the pictures turned out better then others, and they are all just taken right from our deck. Certainly not the optimal location for taking a serious sunrise picture, but being gainfully employed puts a damper on most other plans.

I've been waiting to upload any of the pictures until I had time to work on putting a bunch of pictures from one cooler sunrises into a panorama. That turned out to be a lot more work then I was expecting, because the color balances in the different pictures were completely different. So I had to manually tweak all five pictures to get them to look even remotely like a single picture when pasted together.

Last night I finally had the time to spend on fiddling with the panorama (thanks to the bike being in the shop). The result wasn't quite as impressive as I hoping it would be, but it is tolerable. Plus I'm sick of messing with it. :)

Below are a few of the pictures I've taken.

From the morning of 7/13:

From the morning of 7/29:

From the morning of 8/9, easily one of the more impressive sunrises that I've seen.

Panorama from the morning of 8/9 showing my complete lack of photo-stitching skills

From the morning of 8/11:

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I'm shocked, just shocked at this revelation from Randy Moss.

Next thing you know, he'll probably be admitting that joint found in his car while he was running over traffic officers was his!

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Thursday, August 18, 2005

Movies: The Island

A week ago Wednesday, Dan, Nikki, and I went to go see The Island. I'm not sure how we ended up picking that movie in particular, but it was actually already on its way out of theaters. That didn't strike me as a good sign.

The movie started out like a hard-core science fiction movie and then did a complete 180 and turned into an all-out action movie. It was sort of a strange mix in some ways, because they spent so much time building up the background story only to throw it all away in a hail of car chases, gun fights and explosions.

In fact, the movie inspired me to invent a new metric for movies, Plot per Minute. The Island would have scored incredibly low on that scale, because it was ridiculously long (2 hours 16 minutes) for how little plot there was.

The plot was a mish-mash of sci-fi cliches and was basically:

A company is growing human clones for organ harvesting, baby carrying, and other rather nefarious reasons.

They keep said clones in a closed environment, telling them all a shared lie, basically that they are the last surviving humans on a planet that has become uninhabitable outside of the building everyone lives in.

Two clones manage to escape.

[ At this point the movie becomes an action movie ]

Chase on foot, minor plot explanation, Chase on foot, chase by car, gun fight, chase in car, chase on jet bikes, dangling from sky scraper, car chase, gun fight, karate fight, gun fight, fist fight.

And that is it, basically, in a bit over 2 hours. So while movies like say Dukes of Hazzard probably has less plot, it is much shorter leaving The Island to dominate the Plot per Minute metric.

Now, I should point out that the lack of plot should not be confused with boring. The movie definitely wasn't boring (except perhaps a bit of the early portion). At least, it wasn't boring if you are even mildly amused by mass explosions.

One thing I thought was crazy is that Michael Bay (the director) has apparently completely run out of excuses to have things blow up, as he stole a scene straight out of another of his movies (Bad Boys II) and plopped it into The Island.

Specifically, the chase scene in Bad Boys II where good guys in a car are chasing bad guys on a truck hauling brand new cars, and then the bad guys start dropping cars off the trailer onto the road where mayhem ensues. In this case the good guys were on a truck filled with railroad wheels, and were pushing them off the truck into the road to smash up the bad guy's vehicles. But, basically the same thing.

Of course, it was a pretty cool scene, even if I had seen it before.

The movie felt like it had potential, but it just couldn't decide what kind of movie it wanted to be. In some ways I was disappointed they didn't do more to make the backstory and world a more central part of the story. At the same time, it seemed silly to spend all this time showing us the cloning operation only to turn around and just have car chases for an hour and half. It was almost like someone serious wrote the first half of the movie and then Hollywood stepped in and said 'You know what would be cool here? Explosions...and a car chase!', and totally changed the story around. It seemed a bit disjointed.

Anyways, overall I thought the movie was OK, just nothing particularly special.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Yesterday was supposed to be the big 24 mile bike ride with Shawn.  I had planned it several days ago, in order to judge my readiness for the St. Paul Classic.  The general idea was to do the primary loop of my route through Apple Valley twice (instead of the usual once).  That, plus the mileage to get to and from the loop was going to be about 24 miles according to GMap Pedometer.

I figured my performance on that much-longer-than-normal route would be a good indication of my ability to handle the 30 mile tour in September.  I was actually pretty excited to go on the ride.  I guess because it was going to be something different.

At the appropriate time, I left to go meet Shawn at the starting location.  On my way down I came to a three-way intersection stop sign.  Like a good citizen of the road, I came to a complete stop and waited while the two cars (one opposite me, and one on the cross street) went through the intersection.  That made it my turn to go across, so I started out.  Well, the next car that was opposite me either didn’t see me, or didn’t care, because they turned across the intersection and accelerated straight at me.

I hit the brakes, swerved and managed to avoid getting run over.  It was definitely a close call, because I didn’t even have time to do any yelling.  I was too busy avoiding the collision.  Sort of like how you don’t use your horn in a really close car accident (or at least I don’t) because you are too busy concentrating on swerving.  I more-or-less fell forward off the bike during my evasive maneuver and ended up rolling the bike up on the front tire a bit.  The jackass didn’t apologize or even look sheepish, and instead squealed his tires as he drove off.  Nice.

Anyways, I continued on my way to where I was meeting Shawn.  He arrived a bit later and we headed out on our trip.  A mile or two up the road, we had to single file through the small bit of the route without a bike path and so I pulled in front.  Shawn noticed right away that my rear tire was wobbling a lot.  Looking down, I could see the tire wiggling all over.

We stopped at the end of the road where there was a sidewalk and checked things out.  It turned out that when I almost got run over and rolled the bike forward the back tire must have smacked back into the ground hard enough to twist the tire.  It was pretty twisted, pushing the brake pads all over the place as the tire spun.  I decided I probably couldn’t continue and so headed back towards home, ending my day at a measly 5.76 miles.

Very disappointing.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Blogger for Word

I saw today that Blogger released a new tool, Blogger for Word, a plug-in for Microsoft Word.  It allows you to type up your posts in Word and then directly publish them to Blogger.  You can also edit existing posts and save them out to Word docs.

That is pretty cool, because I like the auto-spelling and grammar checker in Word a lot better then the Blogger system.  But I didn’t like all the hand-editing I had to do if I cut-and-pasted from Word into the Blogger textarea (to fix Word’s smart-quotes in hyperlinks).

Plus, this way, I will have a local copy of all my blog posts, should I need them for some reason.

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Three for the Road

Our dog Pippen has just as many neurosis as any other dog, some of which I've detailed here before (here, here, here, and here, for example). One thing she didn't use to be very strange about was her food. For the first year and a half, the dog got as much dry food as she wanted. Then came the Great Diarrhea Episode last Christmas.

After that, the vet wanted her on special (read: expensive) food, and only small meals (1/4 cup) four times a day. That was a huge pain because it made Pippen into a frothing monster when it came time to actually give her the food (as if each fourth of a cup was all she was ever going to get).

The four meals a day lasted a few months, until Linzy's back surgery when we unexpectedly got switched to a different hospital and my parents had to come pick the dog up for a few days of puppy-sitting when we weren't home. Pippen got all out of sorts and went on a hunger strike. She wouldn't eat anything at my parent's house without coaxing, eventually giving in and eating a bit of food only after Dad mixed some training treats in with her kibble.

The hunger strike continued when she got back to our house (I suppose because suddenly the training treats were gone. Thanks Dad). I took advantage of the situation to get her back on free feeding by just continuing to put each fourth of a cup in her dish even when she hadn't eaten the earlier helping. Eventually she started eating again, and I just kept giving her full bowls of food.

Since then, Pippen has been doing OK on the free feeding, except that she'll pick strange times to actually eat her food. Like, Linzy will be sleeping and I'll be laying in bed reading a book at 10:30 pm and all of the sudden Pippen will jump down, run into the kitchen and polish off every last piece of food in the bowl.

That seemed pretty dang weird until a few weeks ago, when Pippen set a new standard for weirdness with food.

Every day after I get home from work, I take Pippen for a mile walk. It helps keep her calm during the night. She loves going on walks, so from the time I step in the door she follows me around the house, running around in circles and playfully attacking my feet until we leave for the walk. Normally when I stop in the kitchen for the poop kit (a baggie and paper towel) Pippen will race downstairs to stand by the door ready to go.

On this particular day, after I picked up the poop kit, Pippen turned around as if to race downstairs and then noticed the food dish right behind her. Completely sidetracked, she grabbed three kibbles and ran down the hall to gobble them down. Once I had my shoes on, she came downstairs like normal to go on the walk.

Since then, almost every day when we get ready for a walk, Pippen stops and grabs a mouthful of kibble for the road. Protesting, I guess, the excessive time it takes for me to gather up the leash and get my shoes on.

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Sarah's Birthday

This weekend was my sister Sarah's birthday and she surprised my Mom by coming back to Minnesota from New Hampshire for the weekend. She flew in to town on Friday night, and we picked her up and brought her over to my parent's house.

There were a few moments during the past week where it was looking like the surprise was going to be spoiled as Dad was having some trouble coming up with an excuse to keep Mom at home that night. We ended up saying we would bring the dog over so they could babysit her. But then Mom started asking Dad exactly why we were bringing the dog over, and why couldn't the dog just stay in the kennel for the night, and what were we doing anyways. At that point the story she was getting from dad started getting rather sketchy. Apparently it ended with Dad mumbling something like "I'm not really sure. Umm, I don't know." and then wandering off.

Regardless, Mom was still surprised when Sarah arrived and we spent a while on Friday night catching up. That was a lot of fun.

On Sunday, Linzy and I went back over to my parent's house to celebrate Sarah's birthday. The weather outside was gorgeous, so we spent most of the afternoon relaxing on the deck out back and enjoying the weather. You couldn't have asked for a nicer day.

For dinner we had the usual (this year) birthday meal of Brats on the grill, along with a lettuce and a fruit salad and some corn on the cob. Everything was terrific, including the birthday cake. It was a really great time.

I actually managed to buck the Eck trend of forgetting the camera at home and actually remembered to bring it with. So I got some pictures of the festivities on Sunday.

Sarah opening presents while Mom looks on.

Linzy throwing a ball for Pippen.

Sarah, Me, Linzy and Mom enjoying the gorgeous weather.

Dad looking suspicious at this whole 'picture taking' thing.

Linzy, Mom, Dad and Sarah relaxing on the deck.

Linzy showing what she thought about me taking her picture.

How does this timer thing work again?

Sarah blowing out the candles.

Dad is always in charge of cutting the cake.

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Sunday, August 14, 2005

Weekly Biking Update: 8/14

This week was a pretty good one for biking. The temperatures finally dropped off quite a bit, and the humidity was pretty reasonable every day I rode. The other nice thing this week was that for the most part the wind was reasonable.


I tried something different on Tuesday (the 9th), I went riding with Shawn. It was a lot of fun having someone else with at a similar skill level to ride and talk with, although going up some of those hills carrying on a conversation became a bit hard. I'm looking forward to riding with him again. Hopefully next time we will be able to meet a little more halfway between our houses.

You'll notice a significant lack of variety in the routes I used this week, despite my claim last week that I was going to be looking for new, longer routes. Instead I decided to continue concentrating on improving at the hills of my southern route and didn't really have time to try anything longer on Saturday.

I was pleased with my continued improvement this week, as I rode just a little further than last week and at a faster average speed. I also posted my first 15 MPH run with a wind (although not much of one) and logged an over 14 mph speed through the southern hills even with a wind (although one coming from the South, which is not as bad as North on that route).

For next week, I'm still planning to try and think up a way to add a couple miles to each route so I can work on my endurance. Also I'm hoping to keep working on my hill climbing, as much as I dislike it.

[ Update 8/28: These mileage and average speed numbers turned out to be slighly low as my cyclometer was set incorrectly. ]

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Books: Well of Darkness

Last week I finished the first book in a new series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Well of Darkness. Brenden was nice enough to give me his copies of all three books for my birthday. Since I usually enjoy Weis and Hickman's books, the Sovereign Stone trilogy books jumped to the top of my 'to-read' queue.

Back in the Day, Weis and Hickman wrote some of my favorite series of books, the seminal Dragonlance Chronicles, and the Death Gate cycle. Since then, I've continued to read their books, but haven't enjoyed them quite as much as I used to. Rumor had it the latest books were better, so I was excited to read them.

The book ended up being fairly good. It wasn't up to the standards of some of my more recent favorite authors, but it was decent. The trilogy is set in a pretty interesting world created by Larry Elmore (from what I understand). The races in the first book at the standard Human/Elf/Dwarf/Orc, but are slightly different from the traditional Tolkien-esque stereotypes (although not a whole lot).

Well of Darkness' plot was OK. It kept me interested, but only barely. There really wasn't a whole lot that happened in the book, most of the plots and subplots (particularly in the first half of the book) were primarily setup for the remaining two books in the trilogy (I assume).

My main issue with the book involved the central character of the book, Gareth. Gareth is chosen as the Whipping Boy for the young prince Dagnarus. That means Gareth becomes Dagnarus' companion and gets punished whenever Dagnarus does something wrong (since they apparently can't directly punish the prince). Dagnarus is the younger of two brothers by a different mother and so not in line for the throne. He despises his older brother and wants to be King. Gareth is generally a nice sensible boy with a reasonable conscience.

Eventually something happens (I won't say what) that causes Dagnarus to want to learn Void magic (evil magic). Since he can't read, and Gareth is a good student, Gareth ends up studying Void magic, and passing on knowledge to Dagnarus.

I didn't really buy into why Gareth would sell his soul for Void magic just because Dagnarus told him to. By the time they start learning about the Void, Gareth is almost ready to enter the regular magic academy where he would no longer be directly beholden to Dagnarus. While Dagnarus was the Prince and thus has to be obeyed to some extent, he was never really all that nice to Gareth, so I didn't really think it was realistic that suddenly Gareth would be doing all these horrible things.

Regardless, I enjoyed Well of Darkness and dove right into the next book in the trilogy.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Reverse Mohawk

I was amused by this story of the crazy people at QuakeCon competing for Nvidia video cards and Dell laptops, mainly because it used the term 'Reverse Mohawk'. Which I don't know if I've ever seen on CNN before.

That happens to be a running joke when Linzy's mom cuts my hair, whenever she says 'How do you want it cut?', I always respond 'Just give me a reverse mohawk'.

One of these days she'll probably do it, and I won't think it's quite so funny.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Movies: Count of Monte Cristo

Two weekends ago I finally got around to watching a Netflix movie we've had sitting around the house for a full month, The Count of Monte Cristo.

That month long stay at the Eck abode didn't really have anything to do with the quality of the movie, but instead had to do with the fact that I've seen it before and it is a moderately long movie. With the steady flow of new movies coming in, I never found the time to sit down and watch something I'd seen before. When I finally did watch the movie, I enjoyed it nearly as much as I had the first time around.

The Count of Monte Cristo is not going to be winning awards for outstanding acting, or terribly deep philosophical statements. But it does provide an entertaining story of revenge and some cool action. I always enjoy the intricately planned revenge that makes up the second half of the movie.

One good thing was that I didn't really recall the specifics of the plot, so it was a lot like watching the movie for the first time. I followed along with all the plot twists and turns as if I had no idea what was coming up, because I didn't. Oh, I remembered in a broad sense what happened, but the nuances of exactly what happened when apparently had gotten aged out.

In addition to the pretty interesting revenge plotting and sword fighting, the movie has some pretty cool visuals, from huge castles in France to the forbidding prison Chateau D'If. The dialogue is also pretty funny at times, in that dry sort of way. For example:

Luigi: [....] That is why you are such a fortunate find.
Edmond: How's that?
Luigi: You provide me with a way to show a little mercy to Jacopo - that maggot you see tied up over there - while at the same time not appearing weak. And as a bonus, the lads will get to see a little sport as well.
Edmond: How do I accomplish all this?
Luigi: We watch you and Jacopo fight to the death. If Jacopo wins, we welcome him back to the crew. If you win, I have given Jacopo the chance to live, even if he did not take advantage of it, and you can take his place on the boat.
Edmond: What if I win and I don't want to be a smuggler?
Luigi: Then we slit your throat, and we're a bit shorthanded.
Edmond: I find that smuggling is the life for me, and would be delighted to kill your friend the maggot!

There isn't a whole lot about the movie that I don't like. If I had to come up with a complaint it would probably be the length. Although the movie isn't Lord-of-the-Rings-Extended-Edition long (about 130 minutes), considering that the most of the first half is basically just setup for the revenge of the second half of the movie, things might have been cut down just a bit. But at the same time, the longer story helps setup characters and plot lines for later, so I am not sure exactly what I would have trimmed.

All in all it is a good, fun movie.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Tempting Death

Before we went looking for furniture on Saturday, Linzy and I ate lunch at a local restaurant. While we were eating, a shiny steel-blue BMW 745i pulled up and spent a while getting itself aligned just so in the parking spot.

The endless parking maneuvers initially caught my eye, and then the shiny 19 inch BMW rims did. Actually, it wasn't the rims that caught my eye so much as it was the thin Pirelli tires stretched onto those huge chrome rims.

Now, the tires were interesting, not just because they cost $200-300 each, but because they were so small and thin. They looked like they would be terrible in the snow (I'm annoyingly practical, I know).

So when we got home I had to look up the tires to see what they were rated for. From what I can find, it looks like they are sold as ultra high performance 'summer' tires. The ratings were outstanding for everything, except winter where the tires were rated 'Unacceptable' (0-2.5 out of 10).

I read that as 'driving your car with these tires in Minnesota in the winter is pretty much guaranteed to have you end up in a ditch somewhere'.

Now I'm sure the owner has a winter beater (perhaps a Hummer H2), or perhaps a set of winter tires so it's not a big deal, but I'd be pretty nervous driving my rear-wheel drive $75k car around with 'summer' tires in the winter.

The tires did look pretty cool though.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Movies: Hero

On Sunday Linzy and I watched Hero, a critically acclaimed movie we somehow missed both in theaters and in DVD release. This was the second Kung-Fu movie we've watched recently (the other being House of Flying Daggers), and one I have been looking forward to seeing for quite a while. Amazingly, I wasn't disappointed despite my high expectations.

I really did enjoy Hero; I found it to be quite entertaining. It was different from both House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (the two movies it is typically compared to) and had its own unique strengths.

The most striking thing about Hero was the outstanding cinematography and use of color. Specifically, the story involved seeing certain events from a number of different angles. Each time they would return to a similar scene retold from another angle, it would be in a different color. The first time everyone might be in red, with red tinting to the sets and scenery, where as the next time everything might be in blue. It sounds dumb and ham-handed, but it really created a strong sense of difference between the various retellings.

The martial arts was quite stylized and pretty amazing, although it was almost solely sword-play. The use of wires was fairly subdued (as modern day Kung-Fu movies go), and while there was some 'flying' (which always annoys Linzy), I thought it was well done overall.

Another of the really impressive aspect of the movie was the sense of scale everything had. Being China, everything has to be 'big'. The hordes of soldiers rivaled anything done with Massive in Lord of the Rings, the flights of computer generated arrows were amazing, and the palace of the future First Emperor of China felt immense.

Along with the sense of scale, I really liked the setting of the movie in ancient China. The calligraphy school was neat, particularly the 'library' with its stacks of shelves. The palace of the emperor was amazing, it felt huge whenever they showed someone walking up the zillions of steps at the entrance to the throne room. Also, the fights in the rain and the forest of falling leaves were both pretty cool (particularly the forest).

I didn't have many complaints about the movie. One thing that made me laugh out loud was the old guitar player during the fight between Nameless and Sky. That didn't have anything to do with Hero so much as the fact that Kung Fu Hustle parodied nearly that exact thing, and I couldn't help thinking of it during the (serious) Hero scene.

The only other complaint would probably be with the story. The story was both good and bad in Hero. On one hand it was totally original, and told in a very interesting manner. On the other hand, there wasn't much story. It was basically just a story about how Nameless managed to slay three famous assassins who were wanted by the emperor. While they retold parts of the story a number of times, by the end I was a bit tired of the variations (and the fact that all the fighting was sword fighting).

That said, I really did enjoy the movie. I loved the use of color, I enjoyed the twists of seeing a story change and morph during the movie, and I liked the setting where everything was taking place.

Highly recommended, if you are even vaguely a martial arts movie fan.

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Monday, August 08, 2005

It Looked So Much Smaller in the Store

On Saturday, Linzy and I were out running errands in Burnsville. After stopping for lunch, we decided to stop in at Bassett Furniture, as part of our never-ending search for the perfect couch.

Surprisingly, they had a couch we both just loved. It was a four-person home theater sectional. It looked just a little bigger then a normal couch (because of the 4 seats), but was slightly U shaped. It was comfy, had an ottoman so you could really relax, and looked perfect for watching movies (which is about all we use the downstairs couch for).

There were only two downsides we noticed initially. One was that it was pretty dang spendy. Especially since the ottoman (which was required for maximum comfort) was, unsurprisingly, sold separately. The second was that the couch was part of the John Elway collection (yes, that John Elway). Who wants furniture designed by a football player?

Regardless, it turned out that Bassett was running a reasonably good deal on the couch, where you could get 25% off the couch, and 15% off the ottoman. It was still expensive, but after 4 years of searching for a couch we both liked, I was willing to spend a bit more then we normally would.

As far as the John Elway name, I assume he doesn't actually design the furniture but just slaps his name on it after someone else comes up with the design. And besides, who really cares who makes the couch, if it is comfy.

The only remaining question was to find out the exact dimensions, to make sure it was going to fit in our family room.

The saleslady went off to find a tape measure and an informational sheet on the couch, while I made lame jokes about the lack of laces on the rather football shaped and colored ottoman. Eventually she came back to report that each half of the couch was 75 inches.

Say what? That is 150 inches for the whole thing, 12.5 feet.

Our family room is pretty good sized, but not quite big enough to hold that monster. The really crazy thing was that the couch just didn't look that big in showroom. I suppose it was just an illusion, but I honestly thought it would be just a little wider then the 3-person couch we have now. When you consider putting end tables on either side, you need lots of space to be able to accommodate a 12.5 foot couch.

So, once again our hopes of finding an acceptable furniture arrangement for the basement were dashed.

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Hill Training

I was reading in the paper a few days about the oft-injured Michael Bennett's off-season training program.

He was running up Buck Hill, a local ski hill.

Now granted, Buck Hill isn't the largest ski area you'll ever see. In fact, it might be the smallest hill called a ski area in Minnesota. But it still isn't really something you'd want to run up and down for fun. Let alone 6 times.

As my sister can tell you, hill training sucks.

Now if only Bennett can stay healthy for a season.

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Sunday, August 07, 2005

Weekly Biking Update: 8/7

What a difference the wind makes.

I went biking 4 times this week, twice in fairly stiff winds and twice just a day later on calm days. Even though my legs weren't as fresh on the calm days, I was able to ride at a significantly faster pace when there wasn't wind interfering. In fact, I was able to put up my fastest average speeds so far on the calm days. Plus it was a lot more fun without having to fight against the wind.


I finally broke down and bought some actual biking clothes at the end of this week.

Originally we went to Sportmart at the Mall of America, thinking they would have a reasonable selection and be cheaper then a specialty store. It turned out that they don't sell any biking paraphernalia. Which boggles the mind, since they have equipment for every other sport under the sun. I realize they don't sell bikes, but I was still thinking they would sell helmets, jerseys, or maybe even those much-hated kickstands.

On our way home, we were going past Penn Cycle and so decided to stop and see what they had to offer. They had quite a few jerseys, but they wanted $75 for them. Yikes. I had been thinking on the way in, that I wasn't going to buy any shirts if they were more then $30 a piece, so I certainly wasn't going to pay twice that.

The next day we went to Target, where they turned out to have a nice selection of cheap athletic shirts that were fairly tight fitting (though not so tight as to scare innocent bystanders) and breathable. They also had some nice breathable (non-spandex) shorts that I picked up too.

I tried out the new clothes for the last ride, and they worked great. Previously I was just wearing old t-shirts which were usually way too big, and ended up feeling like I was wearing a sail. Plus some of the thicker ones didn't breathe at all, making me a sweaty mess by the end of the ride. The new clothes were less sail-like, and breathed really well, keeping me nice and dry for the ride.

The selection I picked up at Target was nice in that the clothes, while more athletic looking then what I was wearing, are not super-serious biking clothes, where I would look like a huge poser riding around at 13.5 mph on my hybrid bike. All-in-all I am quite happy with my purchases.

I'm still trying to find the perfect route.

My southern routes continue to be a bit too difficult for my not-so-great biking abilities. They are hillier then I like, and the wind is terrible without any buildings or trees to break the wind. On the other hand, I'm starting to think my favorite route through Apple Valley (#4) is perhaps a bit too easy, after I posted my first ever 15 mph average speed.

I'm working on finding a happy medium, and/or continuing to slog through the southern routes until they too become borderline too easy. At least I look a bit more like stylish as I'm struggling up the various hills.

[ Update 8/28: These mileage and average speed numbers turned out to be slighly low as my cyclometer was set incorrectly. ]

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Liar Liar

I was talking with a friend earlier this week. He said he had this Saturday off of work and said we should get together and do something. I said that sounded like a great idea. The friend said they would call me later this week to figure out what we were going to do.

This week came and went with no call. Fair enough, everyone is busy.

So today I talked with the friend, to make plans. My friend said that actually, he was probably going to have to work today, because one of the other people at work had had a seizure while on the job. So he was going to have to cover her shift.

OK, fair enough.

So this afternoon, we were over at my friend's house dropping something totally unrelated off for someone else who lived there. Who should pull up in the driveway, but my friend with someone else in his car.

Apparently he didn't really have to work, and was instead having a bunch of people over to his house to play a game. He didn't even look sheepish, or offer to let us join the game.

Nice. I didn't notice if his pants were smoking.

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Friday, August 05, 2005

The High Price of Staying Cool

So, just how ridiculously hot and humid has it been around here lately?

We just got our electricity bill for the last month, and we used roughly twice as much energy as the same month last year, and almost 50% more then the next highest month in the past 2.5 years.

The bill was presumably so staggering that Dakota Electric put a disclaimer above the energy usage information:

Temperatures this summer have been much warmer than last summer. Your electricity usage may reflect these higher summer temperatures.


Now, it did happen that the worst of our warm weather this summer fell within this single bill. Our average usage across June and July is actually pretty comparable to the average usage in June/July of 2003 (which was also apparently a warm summer).

Regardless, it is probably only a matter of time before they start offering a No Surprise plan for those who like to pay a 30% premium for their energy, just to avoid a $120 bill in July.

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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Sweet Silence

Earlier this week, my new extra quiet Zalman computer fans finally arrived. After suffering with ridiculously noisy computer fans for the last several months, I was actually pretty excited to get what seems like a fairly unexciting package of fans. In a fit of shopping frenzy, I ordered three new 80mm fans to replace all the standalone fans in the case, a new CPU fan, and a Northbridge heatsink.

The first surprise was the size of the box everything came in. I was expecting a much smaller box then what actually arrived. Upon opening the package, the reason for the large box became clear, the new CPU fan was Xbox-Huge.

I was actually kind of worried it wasn't going to fit. I was certainly glad I didn't order the 7700, which uses an even bigger 120mm fan instead of this 92mm fan.

Last night work finally left me alone for long enough that I felt safe dismantling the computer. The first problem became immediately apparent, two of the fans I was planning to replace (the front two for cooling the hard drives) were completely inaccessible.

Kingwin, in their infinite wisdom, built a welded frame around the fans. Good from a stability standpoint I guess, but it made it impossible to get at the four pins attaching the fans to the inside of the case. Brilliant design Kingwin.

Here you can just barely see the bottom corner of a fan in the lower right corner of the picture. That, and the bottom pin on the other side of the same fan were the only two of the 8 pins I could figure out how to get at. Even after removing all the hard drives/floppy drives/etc to get into the frame.

Luckily the other 80mm fan was easy to get at, and I had it replaced in just a few minutes. I resigned myself to just having two extra 80mm fans, and started looking into the Northbridge and CPU fans.

That brought up the next problem, my ABit motherboard doesn't have any screw holes for the Northbridge heatsink/fan. Instead they use springy wire clasps to hold the fan on the chipset. That works fine for their fan, but since my new heatsink needed screw holes, that left me to try to use thermal adhesive to attach the heatsink.

Theoretically OK I guess, except the chipset turned out to be just a little tiny quarter-inch by quarter-inch square in the middle of a bigger chip. So they didn't give me much surface area to have the heavy heatsink (which hangs on it's side in the case) attach to. Worse, the Northbridge fan was a known contributor to the jet-engine effect in my computer case, and the primary driver of this whole replacement exercise. So it had to go.

This is the back of the old fan, you can see the little square in the middle of the pink goop where the old fan touched the chipset (the pink goop was extremely difficult to remove, BTW).

Luckily the Zalman adhesive was ridiculously strong. It was basically a two part epoxy, and it didn't care that it was attaching a heavy heatsink to a tiny, tiny section of chip. After allowing 15 minutes for the epoxy to set the heatsink feels like a rock.

Installing the CPU fan was fairly uneventful, other then it required a surprising amount force to attach it to the support brackets. I guess they wanted to ensure a tight fit between the fan and the CPU. As advertised, the fan worked perfect with my motherboard, fitting into the area allotted like a dream.

After putting everything back together, I hooked the computer back up turned it on, and heard...nothing. In a good way. It was completely awesome. I actually find myself walking into the room and going "Is the computer even on?", it is that quiet. Well worth the 60 bucks.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Say What?

Linzy and I went to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner yesterday and one of the fortune cookies read:

A kiss? The renunciation of the heart when one is no longer alone.

Uhhh, what? I even looked up renunciation in the dictionary to see if it meant something other then what I thought it did. And the answer was, nope, the saying still doesn't make any sense to me. At least not as a fortune.

Obviously something was lost in translation.

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Hey Ladies

While I was walking the dog yesterday, I saw two young guys trying to chat up a local neighborhood high school girl, while riding double on a Vespa.

Guys. One dude on a Vespa has a hard time looking cool. Two on a Vespa isn't going to have the young lasses flocking to your side.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Shipping Option - Extra Slow Please

Unbeknownst to me, we've apparently moved into the Bermuda Triangle of Internet shipping.

Early last week (Monday) we sent two movies back to Netflix, who had thus far been great at the two day turnaround (i.e. one day out and one day back). Despite the fact they were in the same mailbox on the same day, one showed up at the facility on Tuesday while the other took a day off and didn't show up till Wednesday.

That would be fine, except that both of our next movies were shipped back via slow-boat from Tacoma, Washington. Which meant we didn't get the first back until Saturday, while the second got delayed until Monday, a full week turnaround time.

Then I ordered all those fans Monday of last week. Even though I ordered them in the afternoon, they were still able to ship them that day and I was all excited to soon be receiving sweet silencers for my computer. Except the shipment somehow got lost in South California for three days (there's a huge gap in the tracking info, where it checks out and checks back in at the same place three days later) and didn't end up arriving until Monday. Also, a full week after I originally ordered them.

Finally, I ordered an FM transmitter for my MP3 player from Amazon on Tuesday of last week. Normally they are really good about getting stuff out in a timely fashion. In this case, they are taking advantage of that little qualifier 'usually' in front of 'ships in 24 hours', because the product didn't even think about getting on a truck until Sunday (when they started shipping stuff on Sundays I don't know). The projected arrival date for that item isn't until 8/6-8/9, two weeks after I ordered the stupid thing. And there isn't even any tracking information about the package yet, so I'm not holding my breath.

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