Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mystery Package

When I got home from Duluth on Friday, it had snowed a bit so I was out shoveling the driveway off. When I had finished and was walking back up the driveway I noticed something that had escaped my notice earlier: a package on the front steps.

We weren't expecting anything (that I knew of), but it is that time of year, so I didn't think to much of it and carried the box inside. Later, I inspected the package more closely and realized it wasn't addressed to us.

Well, it was addressed to our address, but the name it was sent to was Cassandra Gavitte. The return address was for R. Lambert's PO Box in Big Bear Lake California, also something that didn't ring any bells for me. Our mailman had picked up on the strange 'To' name and written two question marks on the outside of the package. I guess to indicate his confusion over why we were suddenly getting Cassandra's packages. Interestingly the package had delivery confirmation on it, which totally failed in this case since the package was in fact delivered, just not to the right person.

Unfortunately for Cassandra and Mr. Lambert, the box is too big to fit in our mailbox (thus the reason it was sitting on the front step), which means getting rid of the stupid thing is going to require a lot more effort then I would like. Ideally we would just write "No Such Person at Address", throw it in the mailbox and eventually it would make its way back to the sender. Instead someone will have to actually drive over to the post office, wait in the sure-to-be-long holiday lines, and talk to someone about refusing the package.

Precisely to my point you'll note that I used the term "is going" in reference to getting rid of the package. Ie. We haven't actually gotten rid of it yet. Soon though Cassandra, soon.

On a whim yesterday night I tried looking both people up, to see if maybe they just got the street wrong and I could just drop the package off at the Gavitte's house. But they weren't listed. R. Lambert however was, he apparently owns Big Bear Pharmacy in Big Bear Lake California. So now, not only am I getting spam e-mail trying to sell me drugs over the Internet, but am actually getting spam packages filled with those same drugs-via-the-Internet.

I wonder what Cassandra was ordering. Hopefully not anything critical to her continued survival.


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Paintball - May 2003

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Belt Replacement

On Thanksgiving, before we got a chance to enjoy some turkey and football, Larry, Lonny and I braved the chilly temperatures of Grandpa Tex's garage to replace the two fan belts on my Pathfinder.

I had bought the belts quite a while back after inspecting the belts and noticing they were getting fairly worn. After spending an evening looking at the Haynes Book instructions, looking at the engine, and looking back at the instructions, I eventually concluded I didn't know where the adjustment bolts for the idler pulleys were. Then a while later I mentioned it to Larry, who mentioned it to Lonny, who said he had just changed the belts on a Pathfinder at work (he works in auto body repair), that it was easy, and that I should bring the belts with at Thanksgiving and we would 'throw them on'.

So Thursday morning bright and early (well, at like 9:30) we all went next door to Grandpa's somewhat heated garage (i.e. there's a oil drum fireplace/heater in one of the rooms). I had forgotten the Haynes book at home, but Lonny found the adjustment cams without any trouble (they are easily accessible from the bottom), and I thought we were in business.

Then the trouble started.

Lonny announced that this wasn't really the same as the Pathfinder he had worked on before. And it didn't seem to matter what we did to the adjustment bolts, the idler pulleys wouldn't release the belt tension. At this point it became apparent that my forgetting to bring the Haynes book with was a big mistake. We tried everything you can imagine to get the idler pulley to loosen up, but nothing seemed to work.

Worse, at some point one of the adjustment bolts got bent. No one is quite sure how.

But that meant now we couldn't put everything back, because the bolt head no longer fit into the collar. Since we still didn't know why the idler pulley wasn't moving, there was some concern that if it was just 'stuck' and the adjustment bolt was loose, the pulley could vibrate itself free when driven, release all the tension on the belt, and mayhem would ensue.

The solution Lonny came up with was to clamp some vice grips on the adjustment bolt to hold it secure against the collar. Lame, but at least that way we could still drive the car to a repair shop on Friday to get a professional to look at the embarrassing disaster.

So on Friday I had the unenviable task of calling around to try to find someone who would be willing to replace the belts on short notice, and not hang up the phone from laughing too hard as I relayed my sad tale of woe.

Luckily we found a place that was desperate enough for some business that Linzy talked them into not only doing the work on Friday, but using my belts (at a savings of ~$100), and give us $10 off their labor rate (which was already pretty cheap for a mechanic). The guy even managed to only roll his eyes a few times when I was answering his questions like "so..uh...why is there a vice clamp on that bolt?".

The trick turned out to be needing to loosen some locking nuts before trying to adjust the idler pulley. The mechanic was even nice enough to claim that "lots of Pathfinders come in because people don't realize how to loosen the idler pulley". I don't know if that is true or not, but perhaps it is. Though I bet not too many come in with vice clamps holding things together.


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Grandma Eileen and Pippen - July 2003

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Protect Your Own Stuff

While I was driving to Duluth for Thanksgiving, I happened to notice a self-storage business in North Branch. It was Bullseye Self-Storage and Shooting Range.

That combination amused me. For some reason I couldn't help but wonder if the shooting range was actually separate or if they just meant that you could sit on top of your storage unit and pick off intruders trying to steal all your stuff. I can just see their tag line being "Protect Your Own" or "The Safest Self-Storage in Town".

Oh, I'm sure they are a regular self-storage place that just happens to have a shooting range too. But regardless, I wouldn't suggest wandering around there just "Checking things out".


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Recursion in the Clift - June 2003

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Thanksgiving

Well, everyone made it back from Thanksgiving safe and sound, me on Friday, Linzy and my parents today. Linzy and I had a good time in Duluth with her family, even though it was a short trip for me.

We drove up to Duluth on Wednesday afternoon and ate dinner with Linzy's parents. Then I went over to my friend Bill's house to check out the new sauna and tile work that was done. I was just a couple days early for the real excitement though, as they had their first child on Friday afternoon.

On Thursday we spent the day with Linzy's family, Grandma and Grandpa, Great Aunt, and an Uncle and Aunt and Cousin on her Mom's side. Linzy's mom cooked up a storm, with pretty much everything you could imagine for a Thanksgiving meal. She even had two kinds of pie for those who don't like Pumpkin pie, as well as a lot of brownies thrown in for good measure.

Thursday night I played some Civilization 4, and then played a fun game of Hearts with Larry, Sandy and Linzy. Larry ended up winning, but only because of my failed attempt to shoot-the-moon on the last hand. Of course, it wouldn't have even been that close, except for Larry's failed attempt at the same thing the turn before. He's quite the card shark.

On Friday we ran some errands and then Linzy, Larry and I went out for lunch. After that I headed home, and spent pretty much the rest of the 'holiday' weekend working. Fun.

Anyways, other then the intrusion of work, it was a fun holiday. We had good food, fun family time, and I even got to spend some time with Bill, who I rarely get to see.

Some pictures:

Linzy and Sandy


Grandma Eileen and Linzy


Steve talking with Larry, Tex thinking perhaps he'd like a piece of pie any day now, and Jason playing on of the infamous Sironen solitaire machines.


Linzy and I


Inez, Sandy, Bernice and Grandma Eileen


Don't hug the brother-in-law, he isn't amused.


Even Bambi gets a good meal at the Sironen house on Thanksgiving.



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Sunrise - August 2005

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

We're off to Duluth for Thanksgiving, to spend some time with Linzy's family. It's always a big gathering of people, and good food. Unfortunately I have to work, so I'll be coming back early and won't get to enjoy a relaxing four-day weekend.

Have a good Thanksgiving!


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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

No XBox for Me

I got asked by at least half a dozen people today whether I ended up getting an XBox 360 this morning. Apparently everyone scoffed at my will-power to resist buying a shiny new game system.

Unfortunately, at least in terms of making this an interesting post, I didn't buy an Xbox 360. So I don't have any fun stories about driving all over town trying to scrape one up. I also didn't talk to Gerard to find out if he was able to pick one up somewhere, so that I would at least be able to relay a second-hand story.

All I do know is that earlier I was regretting that I didn't at least order one for the sole purpose of reselling it on EBay. When I looked over lunch, an XBox 360 premium system was going for over $1500, and even now a lot are going for $800-900. I could have just brought another person with me, bought two and sold one on EBay for enough to cover the cost of the first system. Idiot.

On the other hand, Brenden sent me this link where a guy waited overnight outside Best Buy to get one, and it turned out that Best Buy was foisting bundle packages on people. Insanely bad bundle deals.

The bundle deals forced you to spend $60+ on worthless extended warranties on the system and each game (!). They also bragged about 'Free XBox 360 Remote', even though that is included standard in the initial run of XBox 360s. And, I was amused by the math behind the '10% discount', which was actually more like 5% and didn't even cover the cost of the lame extended warranties.

I would have been very upset if I waited around for hours and hours to buy a system, only to have them tell me I can't have one unless I buy all that extra crap when all I wanted was the system and a game.

I'm sure I'll eventually end up with a system (one friend claimed by Feb.), but at this point I'm just too cheap...err practical.

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Dylan, Linzy and Laura - November 2005

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Monday, November 21, 2005

The Flavor That Should Not Be

In a habit I probably inherited from my Dad, I happen to like a piece of hard candy after lunch and dinner. At work I have a big Sam's Club bag of peppermints, and pretty much every day after lunch I enjoy one. At home I tend to prefer Jolly Ranchers.

I've softened a bit as I aged, but when I was a kid, I only liked red Jolly Ranchers. My Mom and Dad loved me enough to rifle through the pick-a-mix bins at the grocery store and pick out only red Jolly Ranchers (and ideally only Watermelon ones). As I got older and went away to college I was the one rummaging through the bins to make sure I only got red Jolly Ranchers. And today I am lucky enough to have a wife who will put up with my strange preferences and bring home a bag full of Steve Approved Jolly Ranchers flavors.

Occasionally however, I'll end up with one of the pre-packaged Jolly Ranchers bags. Perhaps they were on sale, or I got them as a gift, but whatever the reason it seems slightly insane (even for me) not to eat them just because they aren't Red.

For the most part, I still enjoy the other flavors, and in some ways they are even a nice change of pace. The other night, however, I ran into quite possibly the worst flavor Jolly Rancher ever:

Banana-Pineapple

This flavor has no place in civilized society.

Now, I eat a little can of pineapple every day at lunch. I'll drink pineapple juice, and in general I enjoy pineapple. I don't particularly care for bananas, but it is not because of their taste, but because of their texture. I don't like the soft, slimey, mushiness of a banana. However I do like generally like banana flavored things, like strawberry-banana yogurt, banana bread, banana cream pie, etc.

You'd think that the combination of two flavors that I like (or really like, in the case of pineapple) would be a hit. But, instead it was hideous. I can't put my finger on exactly what it was the ruined the flavor, but whatever it was, I despised it.

In the end I was reduced to sifting through the jar of Jolly Ranchers, pulling out all the Pineapple-Banana candies and throwing them away. I felt guilty about the waste, but there was no way I was going to eat them.

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One fat piggy - August 2005

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Game Night

Last night Linzy and I went over to Gerard's apartment for the second monthly Game Night. This time we were joined by Dan, Nikki, Brenden and Sean. Felicia and Vanessa couldn't make it.

Just like last time, it was an enjoyable evening. We tried some different games, Catch Phrase and Dominoes. Catch Phrase was a big hit, as always, although the team of me, Dan and Brenden (and Gerard for a time) was pretty much unstoppable. Obviously we all think too much alike.

Dominoes was also a lot of fun. We played Mexican Train rules, which is fairly complex game to try and teach 3 people at once. We battled through though and I think with one exception everyone eventually caught on. Brenden won the game rather handily, although up until the last round Dan was giving him a run for the money. The rest of us were all mired at the bottom, battling it out for last place.

We ended the night with idle conversation, mostly revolving around Gerard's plans to pick up an XBox 360 on launch day, and my own flawed recollection of console release dates [ For the record, the Playstation was released in 1994 and the Nintendo 64 in 1996, not the other way around ].

It was a fun night.

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Fred Flinstone can pound a beer - October 2005

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Console Launch

You might be wondering what prompted me to launch into a three-part post about the saga I went through to get my Nintendo Entertainment System when I was a kid. Well, it was on my mind because I was seriously considering trying to get a hold of an XBox 360 on launch day next Tuesday. I didn't pre-order a system, which means I would have to go wait in line at Best Buy or Wal-Mart, probably for one of the midnight openings.

Out of all the consoles I've owned, I've only gotten one console at launch. The closest I've come was getting a Gamecube from Linzy for Christmas the year it came out. Usually I wait for the first price drop, or at least until they are readily available and a good selection of games are out. In fact, the lack of quality games was a huge problem when I got the Gamecube, and I spent 8 months with only a single game for it.

Still, I've been drooling over the possibilities of an XBox 360 for quite a while. And it seemed like something interesting to do, try to get one on midnight the night it came out. Plus the launch title selection seems to be pretty good, with Project Gotham Racing, Kameo: Elements of Power, and Perfect Dark Zero.

But in the end, practicality won out. It just seems stupid to spend close to $500 on the premium system and a game, when I have drawers full of games I've never played for the console I already own. So, you won't see me at Best Buy on Monday night.

Probably.


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Pippen savaging some wrapping paper - December 2003

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

How Much Do You Want For That?

Yesterday we left a young version of me desperately wanting one of those shiny new Nintendo Entertainment Systems, but only having some of the money for one after beginning work on a paper route.

At this point in the story, I had been pining for an NES for months. As a pretty young kid, that might seem like an odd amount of dedication. It was in some respects, but as the saga of getting a Nintendo dragged on, I actually wanted it more. For one thing, I was going through a lot of work to get the stupid thing. For another, everyone I knew was picking them up left and right.

Now, this wasn't really a peer pressure type thing, where I needed an NES just so I could say I had one. Sure it would be nice to be able to contribute to the incessant conversations about new games, tricks and tactics. But I didn't want an NES so it would collect dust in my room. I wanted it because it was cool and fun to play. I wanted to be able to play those games as much as I wanted without having to wait for another person much, much more skilled then I to lose a guy in Super Mario Brothers.

So, that summer, after working the paper route for several months and being closer to, but still out of reach from getting an NES, I decided that I needed to do something to make that additional money.

I decided I would sell some of my other toys at a local garage sale. And not just any toys. No, I decided to sell my prized original Star Wars action figures and toys.

I've mentioned before what a huge Star Wars nerd I am, and it included having a massive collection of Star Wars toys when I was a kid. And by massive, I mean I literally had every single toy they made for the first two movies, and most of the toys they made for the third. I had acquired some of these over the years for birthdays and holidays, but I had also won first place in some contest at a toy store where the grand prize was a shopping spree of Star Wars toys.

The end result was that I had an enormous assortment of figures and vehicles, far more then I and an army of little playmates could use. Plus I was getting older, and while playing with action figures was fun, it was starting to lose its appeal. So I made what seemed like the obvious choice at the time, and decided to put up the collection for sale.

I dutifully put prices on everything, and hauled the boxes of toys across the street for the garage sale. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the whole lot was bought by one guy on the first day, excepting one imperial speeder bike driver, of which I had two for sale. The guy walked in, added up the ridiculously low prices I had put on everything and said "I'll take em all". Probably snickering under his breath while handing over a (relative) pittance in cash.

At the time I was quite happy with my sale. I didn't miss the toys and I finally had enough to buy that NES I so badly wanted. Having plotted for so long, I knew exactly where to get the best deal on a Nintendo at any given time and immediately dragged my parents out to buy my new game system. The NES turned out to be just as fun as I had hopes, and I could finally play all those games I had only heard about at school.

Now, looking back I am somewhat aggravated that I sold all the toys. Not because I missed playing with them (I didn't), but because that same collection I sold for maybe $60 would have been worth a fortune on EBay. But, that is the magic of hindsight, and my toys were not in their original packages (although I probably had more then the 67 that guy is selling, certainly I had addtional vehicles and such).

Regardless, I eventually did get my NES and enjoyed it thoroughly. And I probably even learned a thing or two in the process, which I suppose was what my parents were trying to accomplish. Plus the whole thing makes for an interesting story, I think.

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Downtown St. Paul - April 2005

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What is that Smell?

Yesterday we left a young version of me desperately wanting one of those shiny new Nintendo Entertainment Systems, but not having any way to come up with the money for one.

Back then, my parents were having none of my whining about needing an NES. After all, they were expensive and it wasn't like I was lacking for toys or things to entertain myself with.

I spent what seemed like months begging to be able to get one. I would regale my Dad with tales of the wonders of Super Mario Brothers and how much he would like playing it (which in my defense, he did). I would offer to spend all my allowance for the upcoming year on it. I would try any tact I could think of.

Eventually my parents acquiesced, at least as much as my parents ever did when me or my sister started whining incessantly about something. They agreed that I could spend my own money on a Nintendo. Of course the wrinkle was that I didn't have anywhere near the $100 (?) I needed, and they knew it. That lead to the meat of their plan, that I would work for the money.

Now, this wasn't 'working' around the house doing odd jobs for money. No, this was an honest to goodness real job, delivering papers. Of course, since we lived in the suburbs you couldn't do the traditional biking paper route. No, you needed to have a car and drive around for miles and miles delivering papers. That meant I needed a parent involved, and my Dad made the sacrifice to ruin his weekends by getting up at 3am to deliver papers with me.

Since my Dad was helping (and it was his car), we split the money from the paper route. Further, I could only spend half of that money on things of my choosing (I.E. an NES). The other half had to go in a bank account. Are you getting the impression that perhaps my parents didn't think buying a Nintendo was such a good plan?

Anyways, so my Dad and I ended up in charge of a local weekend paper route. Initially I was pretty excited about the whole deal. I could already see the money rolling in, and the NES was practically as good as mine. Then we had to actually do the route, and after the first couple weeks the newness wore off and we discovered that delivering papers sucks.

First off, you have to get up before the ass crack of dawn. I believe we were getting up at like 2:30 or 3:00am on both Saturday and Sunday, then we would deliver papers until around 6:30 or so, and then head back to bed. But by that time you were wide awake from hanging out a car door in the chilly Minnesota morning air for 3 hours. Plus, you had to spend several hours on Saturday afternoon putting the Sunday paper/ads together.

Second, newspapers are messy. The print gets all over everything, the Sunday paper inevitably wants to fall apart, and a mini-van full of papers and two unwashed guys smells. Bad. In fact, the smell was by far the worst part of the whole deal for me. It used to make me horribly sick to my stomach.

It didn't really help matters that delivering papers in a car involves a constant rocking motion of driving for a few feet, and then stopping at the next mailbox. And in between I had to turn around, grab the next paper and turn back in time to shove the paper into the paper holder. There were a number of times when I distinctly remember getting so sick to my stomach I would dry-heave/throw-up out the window.

All-in-all delivering newspapers was probably among one of the worst jobs I've ever had. To this day, I despise the smell of newspapers.

There were only two redeeming qualities to the whole experience. One was that it was time I got to spend with my Dad, who, despite the fact that he hated delivering papers as much as me, tried his best to make the time we spent out stuffing papers into too-small newspaper holders entertaining. The second was that I was earning money. Money that would soon buy me that all-important NES.

Except that when you split the money from a two-day-a-week paper route four ways (half for my dad, a fourth for the bank, a fourth for me), there wasn't really all that much rolling in. I needed additional supplemental income.

To Be Continued...


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Toga! - April 1998

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

When's My Turn?

20 years ago last month, the Nintendo Entertainment System was introduced in the US.

When I was a kid, we had a couple of video game machines: a Commodore 64 and the ubiquitous Atari 2600. The Atari was a lot of fun, and we had a ton of fun games for it. The Commodore 64 would have been more like a computer, except that all we had was the base unit (keyboard). So all you could do was type in BASIC programs that couldn't be saved, or play cartridge games (some of which were quite good though).

A number of uneventful years passed (with respect to video game machines), until the fateful day I went over to a friends house to see his new Nintendo.

There was a huge crowd of kids over that day, all gathered around the TV where they were playing Super Mario Brothers in all its 8-bit color glory. I had never seen anything like it. The graphics looked a million times better then the blocky, limited-color graphics of the Commodore 64 and Atari. I was hooked.

There were only two problems.

First, in the original Super Mario Brothers when playing multi-player the first player kept playing until they died. And that could take a really long time if you were good at the game. For reference, later when I was in college, Bill and I used to play SMB1 and could beat the entire game without dying (though with warping I believe). No one was quite that good back then, but they were plenty good enough to play for a very, very long time on a single guy.

Since I didn't have an NES, I was quite bad at the game. That meant my turns at playing usually ended rather quickly, after which I had to wait for a seemingly interminable time until the other player died. There was only one solution to that problem in my mind; I needed my own NES so I could play as much as I wanted.

But that lead to the second problem, the fact that as a young kid, I had no way to afford an NES.

To Be Continued...

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Arboretum - August 2005

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Monday, November 14, 2005

Did You Find Everything OK?

So, why do retail stores force their cashiers to ask each customer if they found everything OK? It's not like I'm fooled into thinking the company cares about my shopping experience when a sullen high-school student mumbles the question and ignores my response.

Whether I answer:

Yes

or

No, I came here for food, but you were completely out of everything. The shelves are bare, all you have left is one Snickers bar, which I bought just because I thought I should get something.

Their response is typically the same, "Ok". Or, if they were actually listening, perhaps they might make up a few lame excuses.

I always feel obligated to answer honestly, in the vain hope that the feedback will make it beyond register 6. But that seems hopelessly optimistic.

For example, yesterday I was at Best Buy to buy some dual-layer DVDs. Except they only sold ones good at 2.4x or 6x. Nowhere near the 16x my burner can handle. Not wanting to leave empty-handed, I bought a small pack of 6x discs.

The conversation at checkout went like this:

Her: Did you find everything OK?
Me: Actually, no. I wanted faster DVDs.
Her: What?
Me: Faster DVDs. You know, these can only be burned at 6x, I wanted some 16x ones.
Her: Oh.

And that was the end of it. A waste of everyone involved's time.


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Softball - August 2000

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Thwarted

Yesterday I had a simple list of tasks I wanted to get accomplished:

1) Trim the hedges in the front of the house.
2) Use my Dad's leaf vacuum to clean up all the leaves in the rock out front.
3) Mow the backyard one last time on a short mower setting.
4) Put down some a dormant fall application of fertilizer.

It seemed like a reasonable list, easily doable in an afternoon. So I drove over to my parents house to get the leaf vaccuum, and then planned to stop on my way home to get the fertilizer.

There I ran into my first problem, no one had any fertilizer in stock. I went to three different stores and left empty-handed each time.

No problem, I thought, I'll just have to get some later this week. I'll still be able to do everything else. So I went home and started pulling out the hostas and some of the grass that had crept into the gardens, in preparation for trimming the hedges and vacuuming up the leaves.

Then it started raining, thwarting all my plans.

So instead of being productive, I spent the afternoon taking over the world in Civilization 4.


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Double Rainbow - May 2005

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Stuttering Verse

Is there a more annoying way to bleep out cuss words in a song then by cutting the entire word out? It ruins the entire flow of the song.

Slur the stupid word out, insert an actual bleep sound, or even just exclude the word totally (ala the radio edit of Gold Digger). At least then the beat stays the same.

The worst example I can think of is 'Whatever' by GodSmack. I don't mind the song, but I hate hearing it on the radio. Primarily because the chorus features a prominent F-bomb, which the radio station decides to solve by removing one sylable completely. That screws the whole chorus up, making it stutter from 4/4 to 3/4 and back. And that always makes me change the channel.


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Sunlight - May 2005

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Bloody Gums

I went to the dentist the other day for a routine cleaning and checkup.

Now, I was blessed with pretty good (health-wise) teeth. They're straight enough never to have required orthodontics, strong enough to have only had one cavity (on an adult tooth as it was still coming in), and my gums are in good shape despite never, ever flossing.

Because my teeth cleanings are so uneventful, I only go to the dentist once a year. When I do, the hygienist always give me a half-hearted 'you should floss' lecture, but they've invariably already shown their hand by exclaiming "Wow, your teeth are really good" early in the exam.

So when they ask if I floss, and I go "Nope", they usually say something like "Well, it might be a good idea to start. Of course your teeth and gums are....hmmm...well, you should think about it".

I always smile and nod (to the extent that you can with instruments jammed in your mouth), and we let the matter drop.

Except for one particular hygienist who has been at the dental office for as long as I can remember. She sticks out in my mind because she is a demon with the plaque scraper.

I swear she is sadistic, because where as I come out of every other cleaning feeling no worse for wear, when I come out of her cleanings I feel like someone spent an hour jabbing me intentionally in the gums with a sharp needle.

And it feels like that because that's what she is doing. Whenever she tries to scrape a bit of plaque off the bottom of the tooth, she always starts by sticking me in the gum and then scraping upwards. This isn't an accidental or occasional thing, it is consistent, as it that is how she verifies that she's low enough on the tooth.

The most amazing part is when we get to the flossing discussion. It goes like this:

Her: So, do you floss?
Me: Nope
Her: Well, you should. Look at your gums. They're bleeding. That's an early warning sign. You should start flossing regularly.


I always want to shout "They wouldn't be bleeding if you'd stop sticking that damn scraper in them!".

Instead I smile and nod, and say "Maybe I will..". Completing that thought in my head "...try not to get an appointment with you next time, devil woman."


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Calalily - June 2003

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Commencement Bio

Linzy was telling me yesterday about how she had to write a bio to be read when she graduates from school in March (well, she graduates in December, but the ceremony is in March). She was saying how she didn't know what to say.

I suggested this:

Now accepting her diploma for Health Information Technician, Linzy Eck.

Linzy was the single best student Rasmussen has ever had. She dazzled her classmates and professors with her quick wit, astonishing intelligence, and radiant good looks.

We begged Linzy to come back for another degree, just so we could enjoy basking in the warm glow of her presence for a few more years. Unfortunately we know that Linzy probably wants to get out and apply her towering abilities in the work force, so we understood when she declined.

During her time at Rasmussen, Linzy was the first woman ever to be voted "Smartest Man Alive", beating out such luminaries as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and the honorary candidate Einstein.

Linzy would like to thank a number of people for supporting her through the years, including her parents, for the good genes, her grandparents, for the tuition assistance and supporting thoughts, and her Silky Terrier Pippen. Pippen is the world's cutest dog, and Linzy doesn't understand how anyone couldn't love such a cute dog. Oh, and her husband might have been helpful a couple of times, too.

Please put your hands together for the greatest person ever to attend this, or any school, Linzy Eck.


For some reason she didn't think that was very helpful. My other suggestion was to start with "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away", and then pipe in a certain majestic John Williams tune.

Linzy didn't mention the bio anymore, so I'm assuming she's going with one of my ideas.


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Alcatraz - June 2003

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Misc. Updates

A few follow-ups on previous posts.

New DVD Burner

The new DVD burner works just as well as advertised. Not only is it much faster then the old one (given appropriate media), but it hasn't burned an unreadable disc yet. Well worth the $40. Now I just have to get some dual-layer discs.

Broken Dishwasher (same post)

The repairman replaced the entire soap dispenser unit with a different style. He didn't seem surprised at all to hear that it was malfunctioning once he looked at what kind it was. He said something to the effect:

Ahh, you have an XYZ-50.6 dispenser. This isn't the first one of this type of dispenser that I've replaced, if you know what I mean. I'll replace with with a YXZ-60.5 dispenser, they seem to work better.

Since the repair, it's been cleaning all the dishes just fine.

Fantasy Football

As the season reaches the halfway point, it's become very apparent that my team is bad. I started the season off with a loss, but won three straight to pull into a tie for third place. Then the free-fall started as injuries, bye-weeks, and bone-headed managerial decisions wrecked havoc, causing the Arena Football All-Stars to lose 4 consecutive games.

Three of those games were close (one was lost by less then 3 points, and two others were lost by about 10 points), but one was a 119.40 - 64.35 embarrassment. My team pulled out a win this week (thanks to a bye-week and injury depleted opponent), but we're still only 4-5 for the season and in 8th place. Not good.

Video Games

I haven't had any video games to talk about, because I haven't finished anything for a long, long time. During the end of summer I started playing Tales of Symphonia and had gotten a ways in. But when work started really cranking up in late August, any free time I had that I felt like spending on video games totally disappeared. I enjoyed the game, but I just didn't have much time to play it. And then lately I've been playing Civilization 4 a bit, and really enjoying that.


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Sarah's creative wrapping paper on Linzy's gift - May 2005

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

TV: Neon Genesis Evangelion

Last night I found enough free time to sit down and finish the latest Anime TV series I was watching, Neon Genesis Evangelion. Evangelion (not pronounced quite like you might think) is a pretty infamous anime series that was originally aired in 1995. The infamy rises both from some use of symbolism in the series, as well as its rather obtuse story (even for anime).

In fact, the story and particularly the ending is so bizarre there are not one, but two full-length movies that offer alternative interpretations of the story and ending (including an entirely different ending in one case). Even more confusingly, there are multiple versions of the movies, and multiple versions of the first several episodes.

Despite the fact that I was well aware of Evangelion's reputation, I started watching it anyways. Note: At this point I've only watched the TV series (using the 'Director's cut' versions of the initial episodes). I haven't started either of the movies.

Anyways, I was well aware that I was in for a confusing and bizarre story, and yet I was still aggravated with the series. It is just that strange.

The show starts off innocently enough, focusing on a group of teenagers chosen to pilot huge mechs called Evas. A bit of background is explained, setting up a reason for why giant creatures called Angels are attacking Tokyo-3. The Evas are, of course, the only thing that can defend the world against the Angels, so they are part of a special government project to save the world.

Pretty standard Mech-Anime fare at this point.

Slowly the story starts getting more and more confusing, and there are more and more flashbacks and obscure philosophical conversations.

By about episode 23 or so, I actually had to watch an episode a second time because I couldn't keep up with the subtitles while running on the treadmill. Or, I thought I wasn't keeping up with the subtitles. Sadly, the episode didn't make much more sense the second time through.

Finally, the series plummets completely off the map, ending with two entire episodes taking place exclusively in one character's mind.

The story of the first 20 or so episodes? Thrown out the window. It was never important I guess, so they don't resolve anything. Even the episodes in the mind end in a way that I'm still not exactly sure what it was supposed to mean.

I couldn't believe quite how bizarre everything got. When I was thinking 'bad ending', I was thinking like a lame explanation for what was going on. I wasn't thinking that they would spend 23 episodes on a storyline then just not address it at all.

Anyways, the series wasn't all bad.

The characters were easily some of the most complex I've ever seen in an anime show. The show did a good job of detailing how each of the character's flaws and the way that affected their interactions. It was really interesting how everyone's history was intertwined with the Second Impact and each other, and how all the characters have some sort of history that makes them poorly adjusted.

The animation was reasonable, considering the fact the show is 10 years old. There was a fair amount of panning across a still frame, but I was never certain how much of that was 'artistic' versus corner-cutting.

At this point, I feel almost obligated to watch the two movies, if for no other reason then on the off chance they explain what the heck was going on. Plus, the ending for the second movie sounds like it might be much more of what I was looking for (i.e. a big Mech battle, tying up the loose ends).

Was the series worth watching? I suppose so, if for no other reason then I can say I did. And who knows, maybe the movies will turn out to be really good.


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Spring - May 2005

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Abstract Titles

What is with Progressive Rock bands and their bizarre titles for things? I can appreciate artistic vision, and what not, but frequently I just don't understand what the title is supposed to mean, or even how it relates to the song/album/concept/whatever.

Take, for example, the title of the latest Coheed & Cambria album (which I enjoy, BTW): Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness.

OK. Now, quick, explain what that is supposed to mean.

The only part I understand is the IV, since it is the fourth album in a supposed pentalogy. Of course, even that is sketchy since they started with part 2, part 5 is going to be a two-part album, and they are releasing part 1 last. Is it really a pentalogy if there are six albums? I suppose it doesn't really matter.

The track titles on GAIBS4VOFFTTEOM (how's that for an abbreviation?) are actually rather pedestrian compared to the album title, but still contain things like:

12The Willing Well I: Fuel For The Feeding End (7:17)
13The Willing Well II: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness (7:28)
14The Willing Well III: Apollo II: The Telling Truth (7:19)
15The Willing Well IV: The Final Cut (6:05)


Still, Coheed & Cambria are mere amateurs when compared to The Mars Volta, the undisputed kings (in my mind at least) of crazy titles. I don't even particularly like Mars Volta, their music is a bit too free-jazz-ish for my tastes, but I am amused by the bizarre track titles they use.

For example, their critically-acclaimed album Frances the Mute had only 5 songs, but 12 tracks. There are seven variations on freedb.org of how to label those tracks, some significantly different (as in, is track #2 "The Widow", or "Cygnus...Vismund Cygnus: Umbilical Syllables"?). A sample track listing:

Frances the Mute Tracks
1Cygnus... Vismund Cygnus - A. Sarcophagi, B. Umbilical Syllables, C. Facilis Descenus Averni, D. Con Safo (13:02)
2The Widow (5:51)
3L'Via L'Viaquez (12:22)
4Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore - a) Vade Mecum b) Pour Another Icepick, c) Pisacis (Phra-Men-Ma), d) Con Safo (13:09)
5Cassandra Gemini - a) Tarantism (4:46)
6Cassandra Geminni - a) Tarantism, b) Plant a Nail in the Navel Stream (6:40)
7Cassandra Geminni - b) Plant a Nail in the Navel Stream (2:56)
8Cassandra Geminni - b) Plant a Nail in the Navel Stream, c) Faminepulse (7:41)
9Cassandra Geminni - c) Faminepulse (5:00)
10Cassandra Geminni - c) Faminepulse, d) Mulitple Spouse Wounds (3:48)
11Cassandra Geminni - d) Multiple Spouse Wounds (0:47)
12Cassandra Geminni - e) Sarcophagi (0:53)


I'm pretty sure that one is incorrect too, labeling movements across the tracks. But who knows. Even Amazon and Yahoo Music don't know how to label the tracks, leaving track 9 as 'Untitled'.

And just in case you were saying "Well, those titles are weird because it is a concept album, and they have a deep meaning that you just don't understand", I wonder if you have seen the track titles of their forthcoming new album? It's a full-length live album, sporting these doozies of titles:

Scab Dates Tracks
1.abrasions mount the timpani
2.take the veil cerpin taxt
2A.gust of mutts
2B.and ghosted pouts
3.caviglia
4.concertina
5.haruspex
6.cicatriz
6A.pt I
6B.pt II
6C.pt III
6D.pt IV


I can just imagine being in the audience at a concert and going "Ohh! Cicatriz Pt. III, my favorite!". The most amusing part is that both Frances the Mute and Scab Dates are albums from after the band supposedly got sober. Right.


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Mom and Dad - June 2003

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Sunday, November 06, 2005

Books: Daggerspell and Darkspell

Quite a while ago, after I finished Journey into the Void but before I left on vacation, I started reading yet another new (for me) series of books, the Deverry series. I had never heard of the books before, but Linzy found four or five of them at a library or garage sale for a pittance and so picked them up on my behalf. The thinking was, if there are more then just a few the series can't be all bad, right?

When I was scouring the bookshelves for a non-hardcover book that I wouldn't mind if it got a little dinged up traveling around in my carry-on bag for several weeks, Daggerspell jumped out at me. Once I finished that one, I started in on the second book in the series, Darkspell. That tided me over nicely until the new Robert Jordan book was released.

I was pleasantly surprised with Daggerspell and Darkspell. Not knowing anything about them, my expectations were low, so when the books turned out to be pretty decent I was happy.

The gimmick for the Deverry books is a pretty common one in the fantasy genre, that the past recurs in cycles (see: Wheel of Time, Lord of the Isles, etc). In this case, the general background goes like this:

In the distant past, a selfish young lord makes some pretty bad decisions that end up setting off a cascading sequence of fairly horrible events. His true love ends up dying unnecessarily (along with a bunch of other characters). In his grief the young lord (who was disowned during the whole debacle) swears on his love's grave that he will not rest until he makes it up to all the people involved in their future lives. The gods accept the promise, and the young lord becomes immortal and is doomed to walk the earth until he can make things right.

This setup is not too particularly extraordinary, but the implementation is different in the Deverry books. Instead of focusing on only a particular set of characters, the book instead tracks the whole group of characters as they are reincarnated through age after age. Each time they come back in different circumstances with slightly different characteristics (although the underlying problems always remain). Depending on what happens in that age, things seem to get more or less complicated the next time around (usually more, at this point in the books).

So, while it isn't exactly an original concept, it worked pretty good for at least the first two books. The characters are fairly interesting, and it is always entertaining to watch how things unfold and determine who is who in each age. I'm not sure how well this will hold up over the whole series but for now I was enjoying it.

I didn't really have anything that I despised about the books. If I had to pick a complaint it would be that they are a touch light on the action. There are battles and magic use here and there, but for the most part the characters are kind of just roaming around. That isn't to say the books are boring, just that they aren't as action packed as I might like.

Regardless, I enjoyed the first two books. At this point I have the third and fifth books, but am missing the fourth. Depending on how the third one goes I may just end my dabbling with the Deverry books there. But I'm definitely planning on reading the third one. Just as soon as I finish the new Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin books...


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Mom and Dad - June 2003

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

The End of Fall

Well, that didn't take long. Less than one week after Central Daylight Savings time ended, and I'm already getting up before sunrise and coming home from work in the dark. Now granted, I've been working long days, but it is still disappointing.

Throw in the fact that the outdoor chores the last few weeks have revolved around start-of-winter type things like putting away the bikes, bringing in the deck furniture, and emptying out the garden hoses, and it sure feels like winter is right around the corner.


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Linzy's Halloween pumpkin - October 2005

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Friday, November 04, 2005

Brand New!

I was cleaning up the pile of junk mail we got today, when one of the ads caught my eye. It was a flyer where the whole back page was an ad that said in big letters:

Introducing a whole new way to view your digital photos!

After looking closer, it turned out they were selling....Photo Albums.

Wow! Who would have thought of that? I mean, printing out digital pictures and putting them in a photo album. Revolutionary!

I'll take two.


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Boston - October 2005

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Vanessa

I have a friend. She's the first to give you a hug when you walk in a room.

I have a friend. She has an quick smile, and an easy laugh.

I have a friend. She's the only person I know who can burn the outside of a pizza while leaving the center still frozen.

I have a friend. She loves kids, and they love her.

I have a friend. It's her birthday tomorrow.

I have a friend. She can have fun doing anything.

I have a friend. She's so nice, she would still cook food for all her older brother's high-school friends, even though they never let her forget about the still-frozen pizza.

I have a friend. She's feisty.

I have a friend. She doesn't deserve what she is going through, at all.


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Grandma and I - April 2003

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Annoyances

Perhaps it was just the 70 hours I've worked in the last week, but a number of things in the last few days have aggravated me more then usual.

Search boxes you can't paste into on websites

Seriously, what was that designer thinking? That I wanted to type in the 10 character alphanumeric model number by hand, rather then paste the copy in the clipboard? I don't even know how you would go about making it so you couldn't paste into an edit box, but I assume it was harder then, say, making a normal edit box with <input type=text>.

1080p TVs that don't even accept 1080p inputs

Now, I understand that there aren't any 1080p input sources yet, other then a few outrageously expensive DVD players. But there should be soon (a little thing called the Playstation 3), so why would you try to sell me a 1080p TV that won't even accept a true 1080p signal? The thing has HDMI inputs, the HDMI standard supports 1080p, why wouldn't you spend a couple bucks extra and add the additional interfaces to the inputs? It seems a bit premature to call it a 'Next-Generation HDTV' set, when it is just upconverting everything.

Oh, and I am sure that it has a nicer picture then a regular 1080i TV, but it seems short-sighted not to at least get something with an input for 1080p, when it is almost a given that at least Blu-Ray (but not HD-DVD?) will support outputting that resolution.

Just about everything involved with Open Enrollment at work

If there was a way to make things more convoluted, I can't think of it. And it doesn't help matters that every time I turn around the medical plans have found a new way to stick me with increased costs. Oh, and who's idea was it to cut company-provided life insurance from 2x pay to 1x pay? What was that costing to provide, like $1 per month? They probably make that much extra in interest by only paying me once a month. Obviously it's not the cost of replacing that insurance that is the issue here, it's the principle of the matter.

18 of the 36 pages in the Best Buy circular having ads for the Star Wars Episode III DVD

Now, I like Star Wars as much as the next guy, maybe even more. But I thought having an ad reminding me it was coming out on Tuesday on exactly half the pages in the weekly flyer was ridiculous. Not to mention that only one store's flyer had guts to actually print the price they would be charging (and it wasn't Best Buy).

But I've already ranted about that. Which is probably the sign that I should be ending this.

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St. Paul Science Museum - April 2005

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Real Handcuffs

On Saturday, on the way to the Halloween Party we had to stop and pick up some ice. So I ran into the local gas station to get a 20lb bag, wearing my police officer outfit. I got some pretty strange looks, but no one really said anything.

When I walked up to the counter to pay for the ice, the girl running the register smiled and we had this conversation:

Her: Hey, nice outfit.
Me: Thanks.
<pause>
Her: So, are those real handcuffs?
Me: No, they're fake. You can pretty much let yourself out of them at will.
Her: Oh. I have real ones at home.


Yikes!

Maybe she meant that the Kwik Trip job was just a part-time one, while she was working on a law enforcement degree....

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A church in Red Wing, MN - June 2004

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