Friday, September 23, 2005

Washington DC: Pictures

One night after class this week I drove around more-or-less randomly until I found a Metro station and took the subway to downtown Washington DC.

It turned out all the museums were all already closed (government shuts down at 5:30pm I guess). Since I didn't have a backup plan nor a map, I ended up just wandering the Mall area. Once it started getting dark, I was too chicken to wander off the Mall area to try to find a restaurant (is the area a few blocks off the Washington Mall still a major crime zone? I wasn't sure).

Here are some touristy pictures I took while wandering up and down the Mall.

The Washington Monument

The Capitol Building

A cool-looking building around the corner from the White House.

The only side of the White House you can get close to anymore.

The back of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (next door to the White House)

While I was hiking back to the Metro, three identical Presidential (I think) helicopters flew overhead. I assume they were actually carrying the President, because they landed at the White House after doing some loops. The helicopters were flying in formation, but since they were so low and flew almost directly above me, I couldn't get all three in a shot. And by the time they passed by, they had started maneuvers so I only got two in a single picture.

The sun was just setting as I decided the ratio of shady-looking people to joggers was starting to make me nervous. So I took one last picture and headed back to Reston.


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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Miscellany

My plane to Reston. Just like a real plane, only smaller. (18 rows of 2x2 seats).

My rental Kia Optima was made for speeding, it came with a special 'Ticket Holder' in the driver's side sun visor. Unfortunately there is too much traffic here to go more then about 20 miles an hour on any road (even the 12-lane highways).


[ Update 10/1: Note the text on the little slot actually says "Ticket Holder", which I found amusing. ]

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Last Week in Sun Pictures

Sunrise on 9/12


Sunrise on 9/16

Sunset on 9/17




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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Olfactory Overload

I was walking Pippen the other morning, around the time when the high schoolers in the neighborhood were heading to school. As I rounded a corner, a large SUV driven by a local high school boy turned in front of me. They had the windows down (it was a nice morning) and as they passed, I noticed a very strong smell.

No, it wasn't the exhaust from their truck, nor was it the smell of burning rubber as they peeled through the neighborhood (actually they weren't going that fast).

Instead, it was the smell of the guy's cologne. I could smell it all the way across the road, as they drove past.

That was some strong stuff. Or at least way too much not-so strong stuff.

I actually felt kind of bad for the poor girl riding in the truck with him, because if the smell was that strong across the road, just think how strong it was in the car. Perhaps she made him open the window to try to get some of the scent out.

It reminded me of going to church with my late Grandmother when she lived with us. Her sense of smell had sort of gone and just before we would leave for church she would load up on perfume. Then all five of us would pile into the car for the (thankfully) short ride to church, drowning in the scent of White Linen (or whatever perfume it was she wore).

Not that I didn't love my Grandma. I just didn't like the overload of perfume.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Brenden's Birthday Bash

Saturday night was the fourth annual Birthday Bash for Brenden, and the first one Linzy and I have been able to attend. It was quite a fun time, as I mentioned when I posted pictures yesterday.

To start the night we had Brenden, Dan, along with Brenden's brother Matt and his wife Jenny over for dinner. We spent a while hanging out and eating, and then played some Apples to Apples. The game was a birthday gift to Linzy from my sister, but we had never gotten a chance to play it. It turned out to be really hilarious and fun. However it also turned out that I am terrible at it.

The whole gist of the game is that you pick the card in your hand that most closely matches the adjective drawn for that round. Then a judge picks the card they like the best. For some reason I was totally hopeless at picking a matching and/or funny-but-unmatching card quickly.

Jenny handily won the game, followed by Brenden and Linzy (I believe). I ended up in last place thanks to a last round point scored by Dan, to pull him out of tie with me. Still the game was a lot of fun.

After that it was time to head to Apple Place Bowl for some moonlight bowling. It had been a long time since I went to the moonlight bowling at Apple Place, but it was just as much fun as I remembered.

One fun thing about it is that they use no-tap scoring, meaning that 9 or 10 pins on your first ball is considered a strike. That inflates scores and makes everyone feel like they are doing better then usual. They also have colored pins which appear occasionally and if you get a 10-pin strike when they show up, mean you win a small amount of money. That adds some excitement, because frequently people have a chance at winning some of their entry fee ($20) back.

Brenden's friend Chey joined us at Apple Place, and everyone signed up for bowling except for Linzy (because of her back). Everyone was bowling really well. Dan had a monster game the first game, maybe 220 or something similar. Matt also had a good game.

During the second game I caught fire and started a 7-strike run in the fourth frame. My game ended up being a 234 and won me $10 for being the Men's high score for the second game. It was a good thing I waited until the second game to find my groove, because the Men's high score from the first game was 273. Now, I should mention that all but the last of my strikes were 9-pin (and thus not real) strikes. Still I was pretty happy.

After the second game Brenden's raffle ticket got picked for the "Cut the Deck" Jackpot. That meant that he had to cut a deck of playing cards, and then had one ball to get down exactly the number of pins that the card showed. Brenden drew a five, but threw a strike so didn't win the 122 dollar jackpot.

A number of people won money through the colored pins. Jenny had by far the most chances at money (including at least two shots at $5 a piece), but Brenden and I both ended up winning a few dollars.

After we finished the three games, it was getting late so after hanging out for a bit everyone headed home. The night ended up being just as much fun as I was expecting. It was cool to get to spend some time with people I don't see very often, as well as meet Chey for the first time. Hopefully the group can get together again, before a year from now.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Brenden's Birthday Bash: Pictures

On Saturday night we had Brenden, Matt, Jenny and Dan over for dinner to start off Brenden's Birthday Bash. Later in the night we met up with Chey and did some moonlight bowling. It was a lot of fun. I'm working on a more detailed write-up, but for now...some pictures.

Brenden questioning how his glass could already be empty.

Brenden, Jenny and Matt playing Apples to Apples.

Jenny, Matt and Linzy.

Don't mess with Matt.

Me jumping in front of whatever Linzy was trying to take a picture of.

Linzy looking bemused at my antics.

Dan was bowling really well.

What would have been a nice group shot if Dan hadn't been molesting me.

Me showing off the $10 I won by having the high scoring game in the second game. (234)

Brenden drawing his card for a shot at winning $122.

Brenden getting the low-down on exactly what he had to do to win the money (knock down exactly 5 pins in one ball).

Brenden angered at throwing a strike when he wanted just 5 pins.


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Sunday, September 18, 2005

Sporadic

I mentioned it off-handedly in the last post, but I'll be out of town for the next two weeks.

I have a few posts queued up for next week and should have Internet access to post them. But after that, we'll be on vacation so any updates will probably be rather sporadic.


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Weekly Biking Update: 9/18

This week likely marks the last Weekly Biking Update for this year. Since I'll be out of town for the next two weeks, I won't be doing any biking. And by the time I get back in October, it will probably be full-on Fall complete with chilly temperatures and early sunsets. Already it was getting more and more difficult to squeeze a long ride in after dinner, before it was dark out.

Regardless, on to this week's mileage and speed information...

DateDistMinutesMPHRouteTempWind
11-Sep29.47110.6715.981673-79S-9-19
13-Sep14.8755.6716.03468-64Calm
15-Sep14.8754.1816.47472-72Calm
Total59.21220.5216.11   


The ride on 9/11 was the St. Paul Bike Classic, which I've of course written about quite a few times. Both of the other rides ended up being by myself, as Shawn got sick just before the ride on Thursday (9/15).

I was pretty happy with my rides this week. It happened to be the first week I averaged over 16 mph. It was work to keep the pace up over all the hills on my routes (particularly on 9/13 for some reason), but I was able to do it.

I am also pleased that I tracked all this information over the summer as I can see a good improvement as the weeks progressed. The first week I tracked my rides, I was averaging 13.53 mph (using semi-fake adjusted mileage numbers) and only rode 35.85 miles. By this last week, I was up to 60 miles and an average speed of over 16 mph In mph only, that was a 19% increase, which seems like a nice improvement to me.

All-in-all, I really enjoyed the biking I did this summer. We originally bought the bikes primarily for Linzy, but I enjoyed riding a lot more then I thought I would. I got to get out and enjoy the summer weather (even the grossly hot and humid days), got some extra exercise, and later in the summer got to spend time with Shawn.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. Hopefully next summer I can find a few more bike tours to take part in.

Previous Biking Updates:

Weeks 1 & 2Week 3 (7/24)Week 4 (7/31)
Week 5 (8/7)Week 6 (8/14)Week 7 (8/21)
Week 8 (8/28)Week 9 (9/4) Week 10 (9/11)



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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Movies: Resident Evil: Apocalypse

A few days ago Linzy and I watched Resident Evil: Apocalypse, which Shawn was nice enough to loan to us after the Bike Classic last weekend.

I've never been a huge fan of the Resident Evil games since I didn't own a Playstation during their glory years and never got around to picking up the acclaimed Resident Evil 4 for the Gamecube. Several years back, we watched the first movie. I don't really recall my feelings one way or the other, so I guess it must have been tolerable. Linzy liked it however, and was enthusiastic about watching the next movie in the series.

I was a bit trepid about the movie. At Convergence (either this year or last year, I don't recall) a friend, a young girl (~14?), and I got stuck in the elavator for a while. The girl was wearing a 'Resident Evil' shirt and so to make converstation I asked her how the RE:A movie was. She replied with "Well, it was OK I guess".

I thought that was a rather unconvincing answer. If someone who was a big enough Resident Evil fan to wear a shirt only thought the movie was 'OK', what was I going to think.

Anyways, all that was basically to explain that I had no expectations at all for the movie being even decent. Though since Shawn was nice enough to loan us the movie, I figured I would give it a shot.

Surprisingly, it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Oh, the acting wasn't good. And there was even less plot then the first movie. But it was somewhat entertaining from a pure action standpoint.

Some of the zombie killing action was sort of cool, and some of the stunts Milla Jovovich did were pretty neat. Particularly the 'running down the side of a building', landing and kicking like 6 enemy soldiers all over the place.

The Nemesis creature reminded me of something out of Mutant Chronicles, a Role-Playing game I used to play in High School. That was cool, but I wasn't overly impressed with the creature in the movie. It didn't really do much except roam around slowly, shoot the chaingun and punch things really hard.

I was a bit annoyed at the cliffhanger ending to the film. Especially knowing that this film didn't do very well, so the next film is probably in limbo. According to IMDB the next film exists, but they don't have much information on it. So I doubt it will be coming out next year.

RE:A certainly wasn't a mentally stimulating film, but it is an action movie so what can you expect. As long as you go in with low expectations, it was OK.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Fantasy Football: All-time Bad

Remember all those negative things I said about the Arena Football All-Stars, my fantasy football team? Well, I was right.

My team went out last week and stunk up the field, it was ridiculous.

I got -0.05 points from Brett Favre. My second running back (J.J. Arrington) and tight end (Chris Cooley) combined for just over 6 points, while David Patten limped in with just 1.9 points. Even my kicker was a disaster, putting up only a single point (and was dangerously close to negative points for most of Monday night's game because he missed two field goals).

Sadly (both for me and as an indication of my opponent), I had more then enough points on the bench to win the game. Roethlisberger had 23 points, and Marty Booker came out of nowhere with 16.4 points. But, since I didn't play either, I ended up losing 64.25 to 77.20.

To further rub salt in my wounds, 64.25 points also happened to be a league-low for point totals in the first week. Thus placing my team solidly in last place.

It might be a bit premature to go on a Jim Mora-esque "Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs! You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game!" rant, but if things don't turn around, it's looking like a long season. My team very well could be All Time Bad.

Despite my team's horrible performance, I only made one personnel move, dropping Mark Campbell like a bad habit for Chris Baker. I'm always leary of making too many moves after just one week, because it is always hard to tell who is a flash in the pan, and who's actually going to be good long-term.

Also, in what is sure to be an exercise in futility, I benched Favre in favor of Roethlisberger, started Baker, and moved Patten to the bench so Booker can play. I have no illusions that I won't end up with a huge performer sitting on the bench, but I have to feel like I am trying something other then just crossing my fingers and hoping things improve.

Though I'll probably cross my fingers anyways. It can't hurt, right?

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

TV: Trigun

Last week I finally finished watching all the episodes of the Trigun TV series. Trigun is a pretty famous anime series released quite a few years ago, that I had never gotten around to seeing. On a triple recommendation from Brenden, Gerard, and Tony, I decided to give it a shot. It was an interesting experience.

Trigun as a series was pretty diverse. The first third or so was very comedy oriented. The characters ran around screaming, acting silly and generally being idiots. Then all of the sudden things got very serious, and there was a fair amount of action. Then, for the last third or so the story took a huge turn out into left field and got really crazy.

It was pretty strange when you look at the series at a whole and how it changed. I'm pretty sure it was on purpose (versus a house cleaning of the people in charge of the series as Gerard suggested), because the story, while bizarre, did fit together more or less. It was just strange to all the sudden have all kinds of spaceships and technology involved in the show when it started out strictly in a futuristic western-style setting.

The general background for the story was that Vash the Stampede is a wanted man. He has a $$ 60,000,000,000 bounty on his head because he destroyed the entire city of July. Two insurance agents are assigned to find him and watch over him so that he doesn't cause anymore damage. When they find Vash, it turns out that he is a pacifist who doesn't want to hurt anyone. But all these people are chasing him (for the bounty, and/or other reasons) and things tend to get destroyed when the pursuers catch up with Vash.

It sounds weird, and it was a bit (particularly the whole insurance agent aspect), but it was pretty interesting. Especially in the second half of the series when the real bad guys show up, the Gung-Ho Gang. The later episodes feature one or more of the Gung-Ho Guns trying to kill Vash, and I thought most of those episodes were pretty cool.

My main complaint about the series, other then the rather strange changes in the focus of the shows as the series progressed, was the early 'comedic' episodes. I didn't find them very funny, and was just annoyed at the antics of Vash. I'm not sure if it is a cultural thing and I just didn't understand the humor or what, but I didn't really think they were funny.

The early episodes certainly served a purpose and were used to explain some things later in the series, but it just seemed to take up too many episodes. There were at least 4 episodes (out of 26), plus a 'recap episode' in the middle of the series, that could have been stripped out without changing the overall series storyline basically at all.

Still, overall I enjoyed the series and was glad I watched it.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Books: Guardians of the Lost

Several weeks ago I finished Guardians of the Lost, the second book in the Sovereign Stone Trilogy. I enjoyed it a bit more then I did the first book, Well of Darkness, although my feelings weren't strong enough to prevent a stub post with this title from sitting in the queue for quite a long while.

The book was an interesting second book in a trilogy, because it takes place 200 years after the events in the first book. That meant that basically none of the characters from the first book make an appearance, other then the immortal evil ones. Since I didn't really like many of the characters from the first book, it was just fine by me if they wanted to do replace the cast wholesale.

In something of a surprise, I enjoyed the characters in the second book a lot more then the first. They seemed a more believable in their motivations, and there was even a bit of intrigue where you weren't positive that everyone was working for the same side. My favorite character was probably the Baron Shadamehr, who can'’t take anything seriously. He amused me, and I liked that he was amazingly competent but just didn'’t really care about taking any responsibility for leading the adventure. I came around a bit to the character of Dagnarus, as he finally hit his stride in being evil which made him a much more satisfying read then when he was just a spoiled selfish brat.

There was a lot of plot to the book, mostly because the first book turned out to be more of a prelude to the final two books. So a whole new adventure had to be setup, using the first book as a backdrop. It actually worked pretty well as I was really into finding out what was going to happen next in the adventure and seeing how things were going to work out.

Another thing I liked about the book was the introduction of several new races. There were at least four races introduced that hadn't been mentioned in the previous book, and I thought they were all interesting and some could almost be called unique. A rarity in the fantasy book genre.

One bad thing about Guardians of the Lost (if you don'’t own all three in advance) is that there was so much plot in the book that it ends with a total cliffhanger, after setting everything up for the third book. Not uncommon in the second book in a trilogy, but still something that would be annoying if you had been reading the books as they came out and had to wait for years for the third book to be written.

All in all I enjoyed the book and am looking forward to finishing the trilogy with the next book.


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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Twenty Mules

Quite a few Christmases ago, Linzy got me a little electronic travel Trivial Pursuit game. I enjoy playing trivia games, particularly Trivial Pursuit, but I have trouble finding people willing to play with me. With the travel game, they have a one-player mode where you just try and answer as many questions as you can without getting one wrong in each category.

It sounds easy, but it is actually reasonably hard (at least for me) because you can't stick to just a few favorite categories. And as soon as you slip up in your top categories, its off to arts & entertainment and other categories where I have little to no chance of getting many right.

Anyways, I just discovered the game buried in the bottom of the drawer a few days ago, so I've been playing it off and on a bit. Tonight I got fairly interesting question:

How many mules are in a twenty mule team?


This is one of those trick questions Trivial Pursuit is famous for, where you might sit there for a few minutes mulling the possibilities for what seems like an easy question.

Is it the painfully obvious answer of twenty?

Is it a trick question, and there weren't any mules in a twenty mule team for some reason?

What if it was some weird deal where there were more then twenty mules? Say 21? 22?

How dumb are you going to feel if you don't guess 20, and that ends up being the answer?


I'd never heard of a twenty-mule team, that I can recall, so I didn't know what to guess. After some deliberation, I settled on the obvious answer of 20. Except that was wrong. There were 18 mules.

Why was it called a fricking 20 mule team if there were only 18 mules in it?

Some Internet searching was obviously called for. After a quick bit, I found out all kinds of interesting information about 20 mule teams. Specifically, this page on Borax, this one on Death Valley, and of course the never-failing-to-amaze Wikipedia page.

The Wikipedia page is actually pretty interesting, and gives lots of detail about what they were doing with 20 animals of any sort attached to a huge wagon in Death Valley (hauling ore).

So anyways, why did they only have 18 mules in a 20 mule team?

Because the other two animals were horses.

Now you are free to impress your friends with your vast knowledge about 20-mule teams.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

St. Paul Classic Bike Tour

On Sunday Shawn and I did the 30-mile 'Grand Round' route in the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour.

It was the first organized biking event for both of us. Even though it wasn't a race per se, I've been focusing on doing some rudimentary training for it the past month. As the date approached, I got pretty excited about the whole thing, while at the same time getting tired of explaining to people how it "wasn't a race" (apparently everyone is well aware of my overcompetitve nature).

The ride takes place ridiculously early in the morning (for a weekend), with registration starting at around 7:00am and the ride starting at 7:30. That turned out to be a good thing on Sunday because it was supposed to get really hot, and was already pretty muggy when we were leaving. After loading the bikes onto my shiny new hitch-mount bike rack and picking up Shawn, we were off to St. Paul for the event.

I was a little leary of parking arrangements since they gave absolutely no information about where to park on the website, and supposedly around 7,500 people take part in the ride each year. My fears turned out to be unfounded, as we were able to find choice parking just a block and a half away from the starting area in a spot with plenty of room to unload.

Similarly, the main area was not nearly as much of a mad house as I was expecting. I had visions of 7,500 people all roaming around trying to get registered, trying to line up for the start, etc. Instead there were just a couple hundred people milling around. I guess since it isn't a race, and there isn't really an official start, people just sort of show up whenever they want early in the morning.

In one of those "It's a small world" I even ran into Scooter in the parking lot. I knew he was going, but assumed the chances of running into him when there were 7,500 other people there was pretty small. Instead it took all of about 5 minutes.

The ride itself was a lot of fun.

Basically all the roads were closed to traffic, and they had St. Paul Police Officers at every intersection stopping traffic for the bikers. That made for a very pleasant ride, as we only got stopped for cross-traffic a single time for about 10 seconds on mile 28. Otherwise it was smooth sailing.

The course was very nice, with some reasonably scenic views of the river and a nice 'touring the town' aspect to it. Overall I thought the course was pretty easy. The first 10 miles or so was all downhill or level, until the 15 mile loop broke off. Then there was a fairly long climb up a hill, a corner where you get your hopes up, and then another hill. The rest of the course was a bit hillier then the start, but none of the other hills were all that bad (at least in hindsight).

I think we were pretty well prepared for the event. The distance wasn't a problem at all, and while the course was a bit hillier then what we normally ride, it wasn't anything we couldn't handle. Plus we seemed to be able to go faster then a lot of the other people riding the course (though they were perhaps enjoying themselves versus trying hard). We got passed a few times, but not often and I don't know that I was ever passed on an uphill climb.

Speaking of climbs, on mile 29, two guys on road bikes passed us and made some comment about how we were riding too much in the middle of the road and blocking the 'faster' riders. In an overcompetitive moment, when we turned the next corner and went right into a hill I decided those guys needed to be caught and passed. So I chased after them and passed them easily on the hill. I did restrain from making any snide comments about how they should be moving over for a 'faster' rider.

You'll notice in the pictures, Shawn demonstrating his Lance Armstrong victory maneuver. We were both actually doing it, but we didn't have good enough synchronization for a photo with both of us. It was sort of funny, on mile 28 or so Shawn was talking about how we should do that as we cross the finish line. In the midst of demonstrating it to me, he almost lost control and swerved into me. I then swerved and almost crashed into the curb. I managed to avoid the crash, but I thought it would have been pretty funny if we had a massive crash two miles from the end because we were busy planning a victory celebration.

Another amusing moment took place after we stopped at the Como Park rest stop. Shawn was showing me how he could squeeze sweat out of the pads in his helmet. I complained that he was squeezing it all over my bike, which was laying in the grass at his feet. Well it turned out that the sweat was actually getting on my brakes, so they made horrible squealing noises for the next half mile of curvy park trails. All the while giving me a chance to rib Shawn about how gross it was that he was squeezing sweat on my bike brakes.

All in all it was a terrific time, and I am really glad I went. I'm hoping to do it again next year.


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Sunday, September 11, 2005

St. Paul Classic Bike Tour: Pictures

[ All pictures taken by Linzy ]

Shawn and I are all smiles before the 30-mile ride.


The pre-ride crowds.


Starting the race. We are just barely visible under the balloon arch.

Already going so fast, everything is blurry.

Our backs, as we scream away.

Pretty much all of the roads on the course were closed.

Riding the end of the 15-mile course for a finish photo-op.

Shawn displaying his Lance Armstrong victory pose.

We're still surprisingly happy looking even after the ride.


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Weekly Biking Update: 9/11

Not a whole lot of biking this week due to a couple of twelve hour days at work, and planned reductions in preparation for the St. Paul Classic Bike Tour.

DateDistMinutesMPHRouteTempWind
4-Sep14.2155.6515.32276-76ESE-10
6-Sep6.8624.7516.631476-71Calm
8-Sep16.9664.6515.741574-72ESE-5
Total38.03145.0515.73   


On Tuesday (the 6th) I got home really late, but couldn't pass up the chance to do at least a little riding in the calm weather. So I ended up doing a short route, but trying to go much faster then normal. Basically a sprint. It was fun, but really tough, especially the last mile or so which was a pretty long hill to try and sprint up.

On Thursday, Shawn and I did a new route through Apple Valley that is much hillier then the one we normally do. It was pretty muggy that day, and windy enough to make the hills difficult. Luckily we only did the route once, instead of trying for one last 30 mile trip before the Bike Classic. I'm not sure I could have done a second time through.


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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Too Hot For Steve

Last night during one of our recently frequent trips to Methodist Hospital to visit friends staying there, we stopped at California Pizza Kitchen for dinner. I've come to really like some of California Pizza Kitchen's moderately bizarre pizza combinations, and if they weren't so expensive, we would probably go there more often. Instead it is a rare trip for us.

This time there were some new items on the menu (although, like I said we don't go real often, so 'new' is a relative term). One caught my eye, the Chipotle Chicken pizza.

This one is SPICY! Grilled chipotle chicken, fire-roasted mild chilies, chipotle sauce, Mozzarella and Enchilado cheeses. Topped with roasted corn & black bean salsa, cilantro and lime cream sauce.


Since I really enjoy the barbeque chicken pizza, I like chipotle sauce in general, and I was feeling adventurous, I decided to try it out.

Holy Crap. Way too hot for me.

I'm normally reasonably good with spicy food (I think anyways). I'll eat jalapenos on my burritos and nachos, make my chilli so hot you sweat eating it, etc. But this was much hotter then I like.

My face got all red, my throat was burning a bit, I drank all my pop and I had only eaten part of one piece. It was so hot that you couldn't really taste anything else on the pizza.

Now, perhaps I just got an overzealous cook, who tossed on extra chilies or something. Or perhaps I am really a wuss when it came spicy stuff. Or perhaps spreading the salsa all over the pizza, before testing how hot it was, was not the smartest move. But regardless I ended up having to admit defeat, invoke the 'adventurous menu guarantee', and ask them to make me a BBQ Chicken pizza instead.

I was pretty embarrassed about having to get a different pizza, since the menu description does say SPICY in all uppercase. That probably would have been a hint to someone smarter then I, that maybe they should stay to the Minnesota-mild section of the menu.

All I know is that it is a good thing the waiter didn't try to warn me when I ordered it, by saying something like 'You know, that is really spicy. Are you sure you really want it?'. Because then stubborn Steve would have kicked in. I likely would not have admitted that it was too hot for my (apparently) delicate palate, and I would have suffered through eating the whole thing. I'm smart like that.


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Friday, September 09, 2005

The All Passing Attack

After 9 month hiatus, the Arena Football All-Stars have returned for another Fantasy Football season filled with bitterness, elation, disgust, and everything in-between.

Management was apparently asleep at the wheel when it came to setting the auto-draft player rankings this year, as the AFAS came out of the draft with one of the most lopsided and terrible rosters I think I've ever had the misfortune of picking.

Normally the time after the draft and before the first week is when I feel the most confident about my team (excepting the year we drafted before the preseason was over and I drafted Michael Vick, only to have him break his leg in the last game). This year I took one look at the roster and went:

What the hell?

Why did I not draft any reasonable running backs? Why the hell is Michael Bennett on my team, I thought I ranked him way down?


The complete disaster that my running game will be is somewhat offset by the fact that I have a veritable fleet of quality receivers. Which is good because we have to play at least 3 receivers per week, and can play 4. In a 12 team league that means quality receivers will be extremely scarce.

My roster looks like thus:

PositionPlayer
QBB.Favre
WRR.Moss
WRM.Harrison
WRD.Jackson
RBM.Bennett
RBK. Barlow
TEC. Cooley
WR/RBD. Patten
KD. Akers
DEFBaltimore
BenchJ. Arrington (RB)
BenchM. Faulk (RB)
BenchB. Roethlisberger (QB)
BenchM. Campbell (TE)
BenchM. Booker (WR)


I'm not too confident, but you never know how the season will play out with injuries and surprise performers. Hopefully those injuries won't be to Brett Favre, scrambling for his old-man life behind a porous offensive line, and the surprise performers won't be some guaranteed star deciding that he plays when he wants to play.

We'll see how it goes I guess.


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Thursday, September 08, 2005

It's All About Me, Of Course

Early last week, when I took Pippen for her morning walk my next door neighbor happened to be out in front of his house. I stopped to talk to him a bit, as he mentioned they were about to leave town for a while.

When I asked where, he said they were headed to southern Colorado. That was somewhere they had gone earlier this summer but this time they were actually looking for some property out there. Apparently his job was winding down here and they were looking to move. Assuming they find property they like, they will be putting the house on the market and moving when they got back.

I'm somewhat of two minds about this.

On one hand, I like this neighbor. We only really talk with just two of our neighbors so this will slash in half the number of people we know on our block. Plus they are pretty nice, to the point that he didn't string me up by my intestines when I accidentally got some deck stain splatters on his (then) brand-new shed.

On the other hand, they own a ridiculously large 28 foot tow-behind trailer/camper that they sometimes park on an illegally too-close-to-the-lot-line pad on the side of a three-car garage. The trailer is so huge it doesn't really fit on the pad (too wide), doesn't fit on the side of the garage (too long), blocks the view out of my two living room side windows, and generally looks stupidly large.

Actually, the trailer hasn't been parked at the house a whole lot this summer (they just bought it this year), it has been parked at my neighbor's work (I think). But I've been assuming all summer that eventually it would be returning to sit on the pad all winter long. So I wouldn't be too sad to be rid of the trailer.

I feel pretty guilty about feeling this way, it just seems so selfish.

Obviously I would be happy for my neighbors if they found some property out in Colorado along with interesting new jobs. But at the same time, I'd pretty happy being able to see something other then camper out of my living room windows. And it isn't like we ever do anything with this neighbor other then talk over the fence, and help each other carry furniture in and out of our respective houses.

I guess I'm just a self-centered jerk.


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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Disgusting?

Yesterday I was walking into one of the bathrooms at work and heard the unmistakable sound of someone clipping their nails coming from one of the stalls.

My first response was 'Ewwww, that is gross'. My second was to make a mental note not to ever borrow a nail clippers from anyone at work (not that I ever have).

Is this a normal activity? Am I missing an obvious efficiency improvement by not manicuring my nails while sitting on the porcelain throne?

What does the poor guy who has to pick those stubborn nail clippings off the dirty, disease-ridden men's bathroom floor think of this? Somehow I'm guessing he doesn't approve.

I'm not sure why this struck me as so much grosser then the guys who read the newspaper after it's been laying on the floor all morning, but it did.


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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Weekend in Review

Were you dying to know how I spent a (US) holiday weekend? Probably not, huh? Well, if you were, you are in luck. With the current drought of content around these parts, that is precisely what tonight's post is about.

On Thursday I came home from work a few hours early to burn some vacation time, and spent my extra hours scraping the paint on some of the exterior trim on the front of our house. That night, Linzy and I watched Collateral.

Friday morning I woke up early and went for a bike ride, and then took the dog for a walk. After that, I spent the rest of the day working on the trim outside, sanding, cleaning, taping, priming, and eventually painting the first coat of paint on all the trim. After dinner I mowed the lawn and then watched the Vikings preseason game on TV, watching all the way to the bitter end. I was rewarded for my dedication by getting to see Ryan Hoag make the 44-yard catch setting up the game-winning field goal. (Unfortunately he was cut the next day).

On Saturday I got up early again so that I could get a final coat of paint on the trim before Linzy's parents arrived for the weekend from Duluth. I didn't quite get done before they arrived, but it didn't take too long after that. Unfortunately just a couple hours later it started raining. And kept raining into Sunday. Thus ruining my 6 hours of painting. :(

Saturday afternoon Linzy and I went to Shawn and Andrea's party for a few hours. It was fun, but broke up pretty early because Shawn had made other plans later that night and most of the people in attendance had little kids (who were fun to play with, though). After the party Linzy and I hung out at home, and eventually I ended up watching three Trigun episodes until Larry and Sandy got back from the casino.

Sunday morning I slept in a bit later, and then went for a bike ride in the morning. After that I don't recall exactly what I did, which probably means it wasn't much other then straightening the house. That afternoon my parents came over and we all had a terrific dinner of steak kabobs, corn on the cob, and pasta salad. The steak in the kabobs was absolutely awesome, very tender and tasty. After a desert of apple crisp and ice cream and a bunch of fun conversation, my parents left and I ended up making Larry watch a House episode with me (currently one of my favorite shows).

On Monday we all piled in the car and went to the giant Cabela's store in Owatana (150,000 sq ft). Linzy's dad likes to hunt and fish, so he always likes going to Cabela's. I'm usually pretty good about being able to find something interesting to consider buying in any store, but Cabela's was the exception. Pretty much nothing in that store interests me. I tried looking at the shoes (overpriced), the GPS and fish depth finders (scared away by crazy old employee talking about the bogies they used to see on the radar in WW2), the fishing lures (boring), the beer-brewing kits (not very nice), and pretty much everything else in the store. After a while I just gave up and followed Larry around. We had lunch at Cabela's restaurant so Larry could get a smoked Elk sandwich, and then left.

On the way home, someone decided we needed to stop at the Big Lots in Fairbault, so Linzy's Mom (the ultimate bargain shopper) could see it. Wow. It was quite possibly the worst store I've ever been in. It combined the worst aspects of Kmart, the Dollar Store, and Frank's Nursery and Crafts into one giant hell hole. Eventually I just sat on a beat-up, broken-down sofa and waited for the merciful end.

That night we went to Olive Garden for dinner, and had a terrific meal. When we got home, everyone watched the end of a pretty terrible Patrick Swayze made-for-TV movie, King Solomon's Mine.

All-in-all a busy weekend, but lots of fun (other then watching my freshly applied paint run off the trim outside, and the Big Lots trip).


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Monday, September 05, 2005

Movies: Collateral

Last week Linzy and I watched Collateral, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was one of those movies we probably never would have rented if we didn't have Netflix. Linzy wasn't all that enthused about seeing it, and while I kind of wanted to see it, my feelings wouldn't have been strong enough to insist on renting it. With Netflix I just threw it on the queue and eventually it showed up.

The acting in Collateral was top-notch. Jamie Foxx was very good as the cab driver Max, and I enjoyed Tom Cruise as the assassin Vincent. Which was something of a surprise because normally I'm not a huge fan of Tom Cruise.

I thought the film was well directed, and that the whole feel of the film was very cool. The areas of Los Angeles where the film took place really had a seedy underbelly feel to them. Perhaps that was just the way they were, but it fit with the tone of the film perfectly.

The story had a few twists and turns, some expected and some unexpected. It was definitely sufficient to keep my attention through the film. The dialog was pretty well done as well. I enjoyed Vincent's rather dry sense of humor and his nonchalance with all the violence taking place around him.

What I liked about Collateral was the ambiguity of Vincent's feelings for Max. I was never really certain how much of what he was doing was just because he needed Max alive, or because he actually started to like Max a bit. The relationship between the two was carefully built and subtly maintained throughout the film, and really kept things interesting.

Overall I definitely enjoyed the film and was glad I got a chance to see it.


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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Weekly Biking Update: 9/4

Another week, another biking update.

DateDistMinutesMPHRouteTempWind
28-Aug14.8457.5715.47457-65W-7
30-Aug25.7698.1015.761273-68ENE-5
2-Sep15.8361.1715.531156-61W-4
Total56.43216.8315.61   


This week's rides were fairly uneventful. No near-death experiences, no idiots yelling nonsense at me, and no law-breaking. I rode well on Tuesday's longer ride, and not all that well on Sunday and Friday morning.

Today happens to be exactly two months since I started tracking (in detail) exactly how far and where I rode, and how fast I was going. My route on the 4th of July was more or less an accident, so I've never done that exact route since. But I've done other similar routes (although probably a bit harder) and my pace is significantly faster.

On the 4th of July, I did an adjusted distance of 14.22 miles at an average speed of 13.47 mph. On Sunday I did a similar route at an average speed of 15.47 mph. That particular ride happened to be fairly disappointing, as I've done the same route as fast as 15.74 mph (On 8/13)

Regardless, either of those two speeds is a pretty good improvement for only 2 months of training, so I am very pleased with my progress.

One week from today I'll be riding in the 30 mile St. Paul Bike Classic. I think I'm in pretty good shape for it, as I've been riding near 26 mile routes once a week for each of the last three weeks without any trouble. I'm looking forward to the ride, hopefully it will be a good time.


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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Embarrassment

While I was ruminating on Worst Job Ever during my rant about scraping paint the other day, I ended up unable to decide what one job/task was the worst thing I've ever had to do. For one thing, over time everything seems less terrible which makes it hard to compare, say, power-washing my deck in the rain on my 25th birthday with scraping playdough off the Teddy Bear Nursery School carpeting every day after high school when I was working as a custodian at church.

After some more thought I recalled another job that, while it couldn't compete with the others in terms of being terrible, certainly was among the most embarrassing jobs I've had to do.

Long ago when I was a freshman in college, some friends and I got in trouble with the dorm staff. The exact details of what we did to get in trouble would be disappointingly uninteresting, and shall remain unspecified since my parents read this. Regardless, as punishment for our infraction we were each assigned 10 work hours.

Work hours were basically exactly what they sound like. You had to work for the University (usually the custodial staff) for that many hours, unpaid. To serve my 10 hours, I was assigned a shift from 7-9 in the morning every day for one week.

The time sort of sucked, since I had carefully arranged my schedule so as not to have any early morning classes, but there wasn't much I could do about it and it was only for a week. When I showed up on Monday to find out what I was going to be doing each morning, it turned out that I was assigned to vacuum (first) and dust (second) several floors of the largest dorm.

There were two problems with that:

1) 7am is ridiculously early to be vacuuming floors in a college dorm.
2) All the floors I was assigned to were girls floors.

So there I was, bright and early at 7 am vacuuming the hallways around the doors to a couple hundred girl's rooms, making a huge racket. Invariably as I would go past, doors would fly open and an angry head would poke out, presumably to start laying into the idiot who was dumb enough to be vacuuming the hallway at this ungodly hour. Upon seeing my sheepish face, they would normally (but not always) relent and settle for merely slamming the door with a 'hmmmph'.

The one benefit of this assignment, as far as anyone I told about it was concerned, was the fact that there were no attached bathrooms in the dorms. Instead, you had to walk down the hallway in your pajamas, towel in hand, to take a morning shower. That would, in theory, put me in prime position as I vacuumed the floors.

Contrary to popular belief, it didn't really work out like that. Instead, being present felt disgustingly creepy, as I was forced to stand in the hallways, embarrassed, trying to avoid looking like I was some leering janitor.

I've had lots of bad jobs in my day, but never one that I felt as totally embarrassed while doing, as vacuuming the girl's dorm at 7am.


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Friday, September 02, 2005

State Fair

On Wednesday Linzy and I spent several hours at the Minnesota State Fair. It was the first time we have gone in quite a few years, as normally we stick to the Renaissance Festival.

We ended up having a very good time. The weather was terrific and the crowds were very manageable. We spent about 5 hours there, doing all the usual fair things like eating junk food we probably didn't need to be eating, checking out the animals, and looking at the junk for sale in the grandstand.

We had an easy time getting in and out of the fair, as my buddy Don tipped me off on the 94 and Snelling bus lot where you can park for free and get a free ride into fair. It worked out really smooth, as we got right on a shuttle and whisked right to the gate of the fair. Plus it saved $9 in parking fees.

I took some pictures while we were there.

The largest pumpkin tipped the scales at 840 pounds, and came up to about my waist.

The judges for the flower show, totally legitimizing my long-held theory that 90% of the people involved with flower shows are old.

They'll deep-fry anything at the State Fair. I didn't actually try the deep-fried Twinkie, it just didn't sound good. But now I kind of wish I had, just so I could say I did. I didn't see a crash cart next to the stand, but I'm pretty sure there should have been one.

The XBox 360 was randomly on display at the IBM booth in the Wonders of Technology building. The wireless controller is pretty sweet.

An enormous above-ground spa. It could be yours for a mere $28,500.

The world's largest leather boot.

Lumberjacks demonstrating speed-climbing (climbing up at this point).

Speed-climbing is apparently all about the descent, which looked a lot like a free fall to me.

Tyler, the Great Outdoor Games silver-medalist in Log Boom Running. He was fast.

I'm sure that yellow on the sheep's leg isn't pee.

I'm pretty sure this bull could have killed us all, with or without those balls on the horns. And I don't think the handler was going to be able to stop a rampage.

Danny, the largest boar at the fair (1,040 pounds). He was, not surprisingly, pretty enthused about just laying there not moving.

A pig making a break for it. Actually, this same pig made about 10 attempts to escape always hurtling right towards us squealing like..well..a pig.

Llamas. Don't stare them in the eye, or they'll spit on you.

Cows lined up for their beauty contest. I was amused by the spray they use on the cows before showing them. It smelled like WD-40, but looked like some sort of hairspray.



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