Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Netflix

I've mentioned several times before that we subscribe to Netflix. We joined in June 2005, just before Linzy had her back surgery, so that she would have something to watch while laid up at home.

Overall I've been pretty happy with the service. But since we are coming up on a year of having it, I've been evaluating whether we want to keep it, cancel the service, or change to a lower priced plan (2 movies out at a time).

On the plus side, it really is very convenient to just have the movies on-hand for watching whenever we feel like it. I also find that I watch more random/obscure movies and things that I would never have spent money to rent from Blockbuster because it is easy to throw them on the queue and have them show up someday months later.

On the other hand, it is relatively expensive and several months we didn't even watch enough movies to break even (relative to the $4 price of a rental from Blockbuster). And frequently the movies we do watch are things that I question whether we would actually have ever rented in the first place.

However, having Netflix could possibly be saving us money in other ways, namely movie theater tickets and buying DVDs. In 2004-2005 it appears we went to somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 movies in the theater (at least I wrote reviews for 16 movies that we saw in the theater). In 2005-2006, we only went to 7 movies (again, or I only wrote posts about 7 theater movie experiences). Each movie we don't go to in the theater covers nearly the entire cost of the monthly Netflix fee.

Similarly, we used to occasionally buy the DVDs of movies during the first week of release (when they were cheaper), that we either hadn't seen and thought we would enjoy, or had seen and wanted to see again. Sometimes we watched the movies, other times we don't get around to it, but either way those are expensive 'rentals' if we only watch the movie once. I suspect we've bought fewer DVDs for this reason, as we tend to just throw them on the Netflix queue.

On the other hand, Linzy's back was out of commission for movie theater attendance for a good portion of the year (in fact most of the 7 movies were only attended by me), so it is entirely possible that our reduction in movie ticket purchases was solely related to that and not the fact that we had movies on-hand and ready to go from Netflix. Along the same lines, I have absolutely no idea on the number of DVDs we bought from year to year, so it could be that we didn't really used to buy as many as I thought, or that most of the movies we bought but never watched were gifts.

In the end, my assumption is that the Netflix membership price was pretty much a wash as far as being a money saver.

So, given that, I just have to decide whether it would be worth the $3.20 a month savings to move down to the 2-movies-at-a-time plan. I suspect that most of the time we could get by on that plan, and it would help make it easier to 'break even' in terms of movies per month. On the other hand, it has been nice to be able to have one movie for Linzy, one movie for me, and one we both want to see all out at the same time. Certainly the two-at-a-time plan would make weekends (which is when we tend to watch most movies) somewhat more difficult in the event we wanted to watch more then one movie in a weekend.

Also to be considered, is my vague plan to get a new TV for the family room this summer. That would significantly improve the movie experience down there, as a 32" 4:3 TV viewed at 11.5 feet isn't really optimal (though it would do nothing to make the couch more comfortable). Whether a better TV would inspire us to watch more movies I don't know. And even if it did, given its exorbitant price, I couldn't really argue about Netflix saving us money.

In the end, I think I'll probably leave the Netflix subscription alone (inertia wins again), but will have to keep an eye on it.

If you are interested, here is the monthly break down of movie rentals:

Jun: 6
Jul: 9
Aug: 11
Sep: 3
Oct: 8
Nov: 3
Dec: 6
Jan: 9
Feb: 5
Mar: 7
Apr: 3
May: 4

The total per movie rate ended up being $2.85 (but that includes 6 'free' rentals in June).

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Gritty

While visiting my cousins Jon and Nicole, they relayed a story about their other daughter that Linzy and I found pretty hilarious.

Jon and Nicole's older daughter, Katie, is about 2 years old. Apparently a few weeks ago she used a nightstand in her bedroom as a ladder to get ahold of a one pound tub of vaseline. She then proceeded to use the full tub to cover her entire body in vaseline, including her hair.

Newly greased up, Katie decided to go roll around in her sandbox. So by the time my cousins found her, she was covered head-to-toe in shiny, slimey vaseline and sand.

Of course since petroleum jelly is not water soluble, it was nearly impossible to get Katie cleaned up. Nicole said it took close to a week before she was fully clean, but that her skin was nice and soft.


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Monday, May 29, 2006

Eleanor's Baptism

Well, Eleanor is now baptised, and Linzy and I are safely back at home.

It was a good trip, although pretty hectic. We spent most of Friday enroute to Chicago. On Saturday we drove down and visited with my Grandma, and then helped prepare things for the post-baptism party. Sunday was the baptism and associated party, and then we spent all day today in the car driving back home.

It was great to see everyone, and a lot of fun, but I am glad to be home and looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.



[ The first picture is of me and my cousin Julie (Ellie's godmother) ]

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Chicago

Linzy and I are leaving for Chicago today. We'll be spending the weekend down there visiting family, and attending the baptism of my goddaughter, Eleanor.

It's been quite a while since I've been down to Chicago. It should be a good time, other then all the driving back and forth. See you next week.


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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Books: The Dragon Token

A few nights ago I finished reading The Dragon Token, the second book in the Dragon Star trilogy. Unfortunately it didn't manage to live up to the quality of the first book.

The Dragon Token largely fell into the second book in a trilogy trap, just filling the space between the first and last books and not having anything too significant happen.

Oh, most of the characters are there, and they are still interesting for the most part, but they basically just sit around trying to figure out what to do. Whereas the first book in the trilogy saw the invading army pushing the heroes out of one city after another, in the second book the characters arrive at their final retreat area and pretty much just hang out there. There are a couple battles, but for the most part the invading army is held up at Stronghold, the castle abandoned at the end of book 1.

I'm looking forward to book three in order to see how things end up, so the plot is still interesting, but I couldn't help but feel like The Dragon Token was just biding time until the third book.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Planning Ahead

When Sarah and I were little, my Mom only worked part-time and stayed home with us during the day and the summer. As we got older we needed less supervision, and so my Mom went back to college to get a bachelor's degree in Nursing and then got a full-time job.

That first summer, when I was probably 13 and Sarah was 11, we were left to mostly fend for ourselves during the day. For the most part Sarah and I got along pretty good, or at least as good as you can expect a brother and sister to get along.

One warm August day, however, we decided that we were going to get into trouble and get sent to our rooms. I can't recall if this was an imminent threat (as in, when Dad gets home we are in trouble for something), or an inevitable one (as in, eventually we are going to get in trouble, it just happens). I believe it was the latter, but I can't remember for sure. Regardless, in our young minds the solution to this problem would be a secret mechanism for passing notes between our rooms.

Now, given how our rooms were situated, it is conceivable we could have decide to try and drill a hole through my closet into Sarah's. But however young and stupid we were, that was clearly not a good idea. Instead we settled on a rope and pulley system that would run between our windows, with a bucket attached, so we could put stuff in the bucket and pull it between the rooms. This wonderful contraption would allow us to, when we got in trouble and were sent to our rooms, freely pass notes and objects back and forth.

So we got down to work.

It turned out to be a bit harder then we were planning. Our room's windows opened the same way, and so required running the rope under one window and then trying to hurl it over to the next bedroom. There also wasn't an easily apparent way to attach a pulley to either window that would allow the rope to run under the window and over to the other, but still move a bucket.

Undaunted we spent all day working on trying to get something to work, with countless trips in and out of the house to view things from the backyard (our rooms were on the second story), and innumerable attempts to get the rope strung between rooms correctly.

At some point it got late enough that Dad came home while we were working on our secret rope system. What we had failed to consider was that in all these trips in and out, attempts to throw the rope between windows, and other activities we had managed to leave every door in the house wide open, along with about half the windows. And the air conditioning was on.

That day was ridiculously hot, and so my father came home to about an 85 degree house, with an iced up air-conditioner that had been running full-tilt all day trying to cool things down, and two kids trying to string rope between their windows in the event that they got in trouble and were sent to their rooms.

Oh, we got in trouble all right, and definitely got sent to our rooms. What we didn't have was a working note-passing system.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Anita's Birthday

On Saturday night I went over to Gerard's for a surprise birthday party for Anita. It was originally supposed to be a surprise party for both Anita and Linzy (who share the same birthday), but Linzy had a bachelorette party the same night.

There was a pretty good turn-out, despite lingering concern until the very last minute that Anita wasn't going to show. We hung out, played some Guitar Hero and introduced Nikki to the party staple Moose.

Gerard and Jim were all about drinking Jager-bombs.


Gerard even made a fancy pie with Kahlua that everyone complained was way too strong. But it got eaten anyways, because who can pass up creamy chocolate pie?


Playing Moose.


Dan had a headache, Gerard needed another drink.


Felicia doesn't think much of Jim's dancing.



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Monday, May 22, 2006

Spilled Rock

On Saturday while I was out washing the car in preparation for waxing it, we had a bit of excitement.

A large dump truck came down the street, that was either on its way to deliver some rock to someone in the neighborhood, or on his way back from delivering rock. Either way, just as he turned the corner onto my street, rock started just pouring out of the back of the truck.

The driver apparently didn't notice, and just kept dumping rock into the street as he roared down the road.

The rock pieces must have been fairly large, so it was shattering on impact and making a pretty big mess for the two blocks or so it took for most of the rock to empty onto the street.

After the initial shock my neighbor drove down the road to see if he could catch up with the truck, but it was already gone. With all the rock littering the road, that lane was basically unusable to cars. Eventually the Lakeville street department had to bring the street sweeper out to clean everything up.

Later that day, when I was walking Pippen, I noticed that Paul and Laura's had a large pile of new rock sitting in their driveway. I assume the cops probably stopped by at some point to find out who had delivered the rock, so they could send them a bill for the cleanup.

[ Incidentally, the picture doesn't really do the situation justice, you have to click through to the large one and even then the mess looked much worse in person. ]

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Soul 2 Soul II Concert

On Friday night, Linzy and I went to the Tim McGraw & Faith Hill concert in St. Paul. Linzy had gotten tickets from my parents for her birthday, and was really excited to go. I, not really liking country music and especially not liking Faith Hill, was somewhat less excited.

The concert turned out not to be quite as painful as I was imagining, and Linzy had a great time which was really the point anyway. There was no opening act, but the concert ended up being close to 3 hours long. Faith and Tim each played for a little over an hour, and they did a handful of duets at the start, in the middle, and at the end.

The concert opened with a duet, and then Faith did her solo songs. Her voice sounded good and very strong, but her crowd banter was pretty poor. She also looked somewhat uncomfortable working the in-the-round stage.



After Faith finished, her and Tim did a few more duets, and then there was a few minute break while the backing bands switched places. After that, Tim came out to do his set.

As you could have guessed from the 2-to-1 ratio of women to men in the audience, most people were there to see Tim. The crowd was going wild throughout his entire performance, singing along and cheering him on. He put on a pretty good show, working the stage and singing well once he got warmed up on the first few songs.



As far as I could tell, they both played a good selection of their hits. Linzy said they hit all her favorites, and the crowd was really into things pretty much the entire concert.

The strangest thing about the concert was the way the initial duets were staged. Tim and Faith spent them back to back, sometimes at opposite ends of the stage. Even when they were close together on a couple of the duets, they were sitting in chairs facing opposite directions. I assume it was so that more of the crowd would have someone facing them, but it seemed weird to hear love song duets when the people singing weren't even looking at each other.



The stage itself was quite the interesting thing, there were a few trap door elevators, and the whole thing could display video (ala The Fremont Street Experience). That was a fairly neat way to liven up the presentation, given that it wasn't a traditional stage where there could be video screens behind the performers.

I thought the concert was pretty good, even for someone who wasn't a fan of either artist. If you were a fan, I think you would really enjoy it. Linzy certainly did.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Well Deserved

I was out in the garage this afternoon waxing my car and occasionally watching the two kids from across the street play together. They played like most older brothers and younger sisters do, alternately fighting and then shortly thereafter playing together again like nothing happened.

At one point, the older brother stole his sister's (rather girly) bike and was riding up the sidewalk with it. The sister was of course incensed and yelling for him to stop and give her back the bike. The brother ignored her and continued his slow-motion escape. The sister gave chase on foot, continuing to yell for him to stop.

At that point the brother got cocky, yelling back over his shoulder "You'll never catch me!". Unfortunately for him just then sweet justice was dispensed, as he mistakenly rode into the grass, lost control of the bike, and crashed (unhurt).

The sister ran up, yanked the bike from her brother's tangled legs and said matter-of-factly "That's what you get for stealing my bike!"

I had to laugh. Mostly because it was totally something that I would have done to my sister when we were kids, including the ill-fated taunting over the shoulder.


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Friday, May 19, 2006

Artificial Selection

Today I spent some time ruining a large bush/tree on the side of our house. The plant has a tendency to get rather leggy, with all its growing being at the ends of branches and never filling in. This makes it look less-then-spectacular but also poses a huge problem because most of its new growth was directly in the way of the garage.

Over the years, I've trimmed the branches that were closest to the garage out of the way, but this year ran out of anything to trim short of hacking off an entire third of the tree. Which is exactly what I did.



The branch pile from the main section I cut off.


All the trimmings neatly cut up and crammed into the yard waste recycle container.


The tree ended up looking fairly decent from the front.


But from the side, you can really tell that it only grows at the top, as there is nothing left in the center.


I also trimmed a lot of the long new growth on the top, in the hopes that it will convince the plant to start some new branches down lower. For the next few years I think the tree will be an eyesore, but hopefully eventually it will rebound.

And if it doesn't, it's already been warned that I'm not afraid to cut the whole thing down and replace it with something more cooperative.


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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fire Drill

Long ago, I was on my way to a job interview. This was a second in-person interview at the place, so I knew where I was going and how long it would take to get there. I arrived in plenty of time, only to find out that all the visitor's spots were taken.

This company had a severe shortage of parking, so I ended up driving all over the place trying to find somewhere to park. All the while watching the clock tick closer and closer to me being borderline late. Eventually I found a spot way in the back of an auxiliary lot and hustled towards the building.

As I got up to the door, there was a guy standing there not letting anyone in, because the company was just starting a fire drill.

Since that doomed me to being late regardless of any parking difficulties, I went over and sat on a bench across the road and patiently waited for the drill to come to an end.

As I sat there, a steady stream of people came past or sat on the bench to wait out the drill. Apparently I looked like I belonged, because all kinds of people were asking questions. Some of these were easy: "What's going on, how come we can't go in", others I didn't have a prayer of answering: "What floor is being done?" or "Didn't they just have a fire drill for that floor?".

As time went on and more people passed by, I picked up all kinds of good information about this company's fire drill policies. Eventually, I was authoritatively answering all kinds of questions: "Yes, this fire drill is only for floor 4." "No, you can't go in yet." "Yes, floor 3 was done this morning and floor 2 was last week. " "Usually they usually take about 20 minutes, so it shouldn't be too much longer."

In due time, the drill was over and we were all allowed back into the building, and I went off to my interview. The recruiter met me in a lobby, obviously distressed about the whole deal. She made a specific point to reassure me that everyone was aware that I was late because of the fire-drill. So I never had to mention that parking had been the real problem.


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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Fire Hazard

I was out walking the dog this evening after dinner, and along the way noticed the smell of someone grilling out. As I got closer, it became aparent that he wasn't actually grilling out as much as grilling in the middle of his garage.

Maybe I'm just paranoid, but that didn't seem like a good plan at all.


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Brain Swabbing

For the last month or so, I've been having trouble with a cough that just will not go away. A couple weeks ago I went into the doctor and got some drugs for it, which did basically nothing as far as I can tell. I was supposed to go back last week, but I was busy and hoping it would just get better on its own. Today I admitted defeat and went back for a follow-up.

They did a bunch of stuff, including the standard 45 minute wait in the exam room, but also taking some chest x-rays and threatening to send me to a pulmonary specialist. Eventually he decided just to increase my asthma medicine for now.

But, he also wanted to test me for Pertussis (Whooping Cough).

Yep, that's the same thing I said "Whooping Cough? Do people still get that?".

Apparently they do, and while I don't think my cough sounds anything like Whooping Cough, the doctor wanted to test for it. "OK", I said "How do they test for it?". To which he replied "Oh, just a nasal swab, it's not too bad, a little annoying, but not bad".

I should have known better.

Shortly thereafter the nurse came in and pull out a 12-inch long wire rod with a padded Q-tip type end on it. She started bending it in the middle to have an angle on it.

I should have been suspicious.

So, we start the nasal swab, and it started out fine. Then it got a little uncomfortable, and then I started getting nervous because there was a lot of swab left.

Then it got really bad, with a burning sensation as she crammed what felt like 3.5 feet of swab into my nose and tried to tickle my brain.

I went "Yeeeeooooww" and pulled away as my eyes started watering like crazy and my nose started to run.

At that point I had to ask if she got the sample before I pulled away (hoping that she wouldn't have to do it again). She said "Oh yeah, I always know it is working when there is a burning sensation".

Gee, I wish I had known that before we started.

In retrospect, I think it was more of a surprise then excruciating pain, because when they were saying nasal swab I was thinking just collecting some mucus from my nose. Not trying to stick a swab into my sinus cavity. But it still wasn't much fun.


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Monday, May 15, 2006

Marketing Lesson

Let's say you're a marketing executive at a major restaurant chain, and are angling for a big bonus this year.

Maybe you could decide to offer a special Mother's Day buffet. After all, Mother's Day is the second most popular special occasion to eat out, after birthdays.

And, maybe, you could even charge more for the Mother's Day brunch. Oh, everyone knows its exactly the same as the brunch offered at your restaurants every other Sunday of the year, but we'll all pretend like it really is special. I'd suggest a 35.8% increase in prices, just to pick a number.

Now, for the important part. Don't leave the flyers for the regular brunch at the tables. Because:

1) They have a list of items offered at the buffet, making it easy to compare the regular buffet with the "special buffet".
2) They blatantly show that the regular price for the buffet is $13.95, while the same thing on Mother's Day is $18.95.

Otherwise someone might accuse you of price gouging.

[ On a side note, no, we weren't suckered into an overpriced buffet yesterday. I just noticed the dual flyers at a restaurant table last week and couldn't help but compare them. And this happened to be a fairly reasonably priced buffet as Mother's Day buffets go. ]


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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Movies: Aeon Flux

This weekend Linzy and I watched the movie Aeon Flux. I actually enjoyed it.

I was a little nervous going into the movie, because the film has gotten such terrible reviews, and I wasn't a big fan of the original cartoon. In fact, I used to think that I should like the cartoon, and tried to watch many episodes, but it was always just way too weird for my tastes.

But, since the movie is virtually totally unrelated to the cartoon (which I am sure gives all the Aeon Flux cartoon fans coniptions), I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. Oh, the science is rather suspect, and the parts of the plot are ridiculous, but in general I liked the movie.


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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Gas Marks

Linzy and I went over to Dan's tonight to have dinner with him and Nikki. It was a great time, a good meal, and I even learned something: the Gas Mark cooking scale.

When we were talking about how to roast the chicken, Nikki was saying that she normally just puts it in at "Gas Mark 6" for a few hours and it comes out perfect. Not being from England, none of the rest of us had any idea how to convert Gas Mark 6 into a Fahrenheit temperature.

Google came to the rescue, and Dan had found a translation scale. It turned out to be pretty easy, with each Gas Mark being a 25 degree increment from 275. Making Gas Mark 6 400 degrees.

The chicken came out perfect, and everyone learned something new. What more could you want?


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Friday, May 12, 2006

Account Maintenance

Earlier this week I had to close my credit union checking and savings accounts. I had opened both back when I bought my first car after graduating from college. They had good auto loan rates, and so I had opened the accounts in order to be able to use their loans. Later, when I bought the Pathfinder a few years later, I got another loan through the credit union. Both loans have long since been paid off, and since then the accounts just sat with a pittance of money that was leftover.

The savings account had a whopping $5.80 in it, which was completely free money. In order to entice me to open a savings in the first pace (you only needed a checking account for the loan), they offered a free $5 to deposit in the account. The other 80 cents was the interest I had earned over the past 7 years. My checking account had a bit more money in it, but only in the $30 range.

I left the accounts open after paying off the loans in the theory that some day I might need another loan of some sort, and it would be easier to just have everything already setup. So for the past few years I've dutifully checked each monthly statement to make sure nothing was changing, and filed the statements with the rest of the stuff I save.

Then earlier this week I got my latest statement, and something immediately jumped out at me, a balance of a mere 80 cents in the savings account. Looking closer, there was an itemized withdrawl of $5 for a 'Monthly Account Maintenance Fee'.

Ouch.

When I called them up the next day to find out what the heck was going on, the lady informed me that starting in March they had instituted a monthly fee on accounts where the total account value was less then $300. Unfortunately the lady wasn't swayed by any of my arguments about how it didn't make any sense for them to push me out. She also didn't care for any of my arguments about why they should at least credit the $5 back to my account this one time. Finally, she didn't buy into my explanation of how databases work, when I disputed her claim that 'their database is very expensive and costs a lot of money when there are small accounts stored in it'.

So eventually I admitted defeat and told her to close my accounts and send me a check for the massive $29.99 that was left after the $5 service fee.

Up to that point, I couldn't really seriously argue with her, since I had no proof that they hadn't notified me of the fee and I certainly wasn't going to deposit $300 in an account that is nearly inaccessible (they have only one branch office in downtown St. Paul) just so that some day I might get a loan from them. But then she said that she couldn't close the account unless I wrote a letter to them. I don't think I did a good job of hiding my disbelief of that stupid requirement.

Especially since it meant that they would assess even more fees while waiting for my letter to arrive, and then processing the request. Eventually I started pressuring her on why I couldn't request the account to be closed through their website (since she had previously been claiming I should have seen the notice of their new fee schedule on the website). She said I couldn't do it on the website, but could send an e-mail.

What the hell kind of backwards logic is that? I can't close the account on the phone, when they verify my account number, social security information, blood type, and everything else, but I can send an e-mail from some address they have no record of and say close my account and mail a check to some address?

When I questioned why in the world they would do something so insecure, she said that in fact they would verify the e-mail request before processing it. And guess how they verify those requests? You got it, by phone.

By that time I was tired of arguing with her, so I sent the e-mail (while on the phone) and the next day had my $30 to deposit into my slightly-less-hated regular bank.

It completely mystifies me why the credit union would effectively force me out. It's not like they were paying me any interest on my accounts, so it wasn't costing them much more then the cost of sending me a statement each month. And if they had said "We'll only send your a quarterly statement because your balance is so low", I probably would have just agreed. And for the price of quarterly statements, I probably would have continued to give them my loan business (which, though not as much as some people's, is certainly worth more then the price of sending a few statements).

Oh well.


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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Part Deux

Two years ago today, I started this little blog. Over the past year, I've added another 515 posts to the collection, although 192 were just random photos.

Looking back through the posts from the archives, it has been both a good and not-so-good year.

Linzy and I went on several fun trips, I made a few interesting treks for work, Linzy graduated from college, I discovered an interest in biking, and we had lots of great times with our friends. On the other hand a close friend passed away, Linzy had unsuccessful back surgery, and my job started consistently chewing up disturbing amounts of my free time.

Still, those kind of not-so-great things are more-or-less a part of life and out of my control, so I think in general I would call it a pretty good year.

Unfortunately, that decrease in the amount of free time is directly responsible for the fact that I wasn't able to average over one real post per day this year. I'm a little disappointed about that, but at the same time it is just a hobby. So when activities have to get cut, daily blogging was frequently one that didn't make it.

Anyway, I am still having fun writing posts and so have no plans to stop publishing random anecdotes about my life here. Thanks to everyone who reads my site, I definitely appreciate it. I'll do my best to keep you occasionally entertained.


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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pancake Breakfast

On Saturday morning when we were in Duluth Linzy, Larry and I went to a pancake breakfast fundraiser for the Normanna Township Volunteer Fire Department. The breakfast was held in the gym of a former school, and featured a raffle, silent auction, and all the pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage you could eat.

The pancakes weren't too bad, and the firemen running the line were certainly working hard to make sure everyone got their fill. Every time I went up, the guy would offer to load five pancakes on my plate, and then follow that offer up with "How bout some extra sausage?"

They even had live music on hand. As befits a small country town-style pancake breakfast, the live music included an accordion player. The band was reasonably good, and did a wide selection of songs including lots of familiar pop song reworked to include an accordion. There's nothing quite like sitting on metal folding chairs in a rundown gym, eating pancakes with Grandma while listening to "Authority Song" on the accordion.

It was somewhat amusing to look through all the random junk people had pulled out of their basements to donate to the silent auction. The highlight was two paintings and a wall carpet obviously pulled out from someone's rec room.

All in all it turned out to be a lot more fun then I thought it was going to be.


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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Genius

Today's post is dedicated to whoever thought to add a caramel center to Nestle Crunch chocolate eggs, turning them into a surprising masterpiece of candy goodness.

Genius, pure genius.

Linzy's mom was nice enough to give me a little bag filled with Easter candy eggs when we were up there last weekend. Last night I tried a Butterfinger egg, which was OK, but a little too much butterfinger filling for my tastes. Tonight I decided to try a Crunch Egg.

I like regular Crunch bars, and so was looking forward to trying the egg. Then I bit into it and discovered the unexpected center of caramelly tastiness.

It was good, and even better I have three more.


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Monday, May 08, 2006

Carrying Trays

Tonight Linzy and I were over at my least favorite store, Wal-Mart, picking up a new piece of deck furniture.

After picking out a new chair, we got in the garden area checkout line which was actually fairly long (for the garden area checkout). There were two ladies ahead of us in the line, which was being manned by the slowest-moving old woman you'll ever meet.

After spending 15 minutes ringing up a whole slew of plants, mulch bags (some opened and thus 'cheaper'), and other assorted crap the lady at the front of the line was finally done. She charged off with her cart, only to get stopped by the cashier. You see, she had left all her plants piled at the checkout.

The conversation went like this:

Cashier: You forgot your plants.

Lady: Oh. Could you put them in a tray for me?

Cashier: Nope. We don't have any of those.

Lady: Oh. I thought they usually had cardboard carrying trays for plants.

Cashier: Not at Wal-Mart!

With that, the cashier turned to the next person in line.

At the dismissive comment, the lady behind me went "Mmm-Hmm" in affirmation (as if saying "Of Course they don't have trays, you idiot").

Unable to argue with that succinct logic, the lady at the front of the line gathered up her plants and left.


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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Strange Signage

On Saturday Linzy and I went over to Bill and Anne's house to visit and meet Alice for the first time. On the drive there from Linzy's parent's house we took the back way and came down a part of Woodland Ave that I don't normally drive on.

Just a few miles from Bill's house was a small somewhat-shady-looking car repair shop that had a large permanent sign in front where they could put messages. You know, one of those signs that would say things like "$99 spring car tuneup", or "Free Brake Inspections", or something along those lines.

This sign, however, was being used to display messages that, as far as I can tell, had absolutely nothing to do with their car repair business. One side said "Marriage - Is it a word or a sentence". Ok, kind of weird. Then the other side had this written on it:

I don't jog
If I die
I want to be sick


What the heck is that even supposed to mean, let alone have to do with car repair? I'm pretty sure if I lived in the area, it would mean "Don't take your car here".


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Friday, May 05, 2006

Duluth

We will be Duluth this weekend celebrating Linzy's birthday, Mother's Day, and Lonny's birthday with my in-laws. It'll be a whirlwind trip, heading up after work on Friday and back on Sunday morning.

Rumor has it the snow might even have melted.




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Thursday, May 04, 2006

I Hate George Lucas

I was disgusted to read today that Greedy George Lucas has now decided that he will release the original theatrical version of the Star Wars Trilogy (IV, V, VI) on DVD. But only in two-disc special editions bundled with the 2004 DVD versions that I already own.

So now I'll have to pay Yet Another $45 to get the movies that are really what I wanted on DVD in the first place. And then 5 years from now I'll be paying up again (probably twice the way George works) to get the movies in some HD format.

Thus far the only dirty Lucas trick I have managed to avoid is buying the special editions of the movie on VHS, because they just shouldn't be owned, especially by someone who already owned the originals on VHS. But I am not sure I will be able to resist this one, even if the movies are only in Dolby 2.0 surround (What is up with that, I want the original cut of the movie, but I don't care if they digitally re-master the sound track).

And, just to show how much George mocks my unreasonable need for his movies, the subtitle on the front page of the StarWars.com website advertising this new release says "See Han Solo shoot first".

Rubbing my face in the fact that George ruined the movies by tampering with them, and knows it.


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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Hermits

It never fails to amaze me each spring just how little I see friends during the winter, compared to once the weather gets nice. It's not like the friends are snowbirds and leave the cold, snowy state of Minnesota during the winter. They live in the same houses mere miles away, but I'll sometimes go a long time without seeing them in person. And not always through lack of trying on my part (though I admit that sometimes it is my fault).

Then the weather starts to get nicer, our annual spring party starts to draw closer, and suddenly we have stuff planned every weekend.

In the past two weeks, Linzy and I were over Paul & Laura's for dinner, had Shawn and Andrea over to our place, had Laura & Andy over for dinner and went out with Dan and Nikki. That's a more diverse group of people then I hung out with during the entire month of February, especially in a non-party setting.

Plus there are all the neighbors that I've talked to now that we are outside the house for more then a quick 20-minutes of snow shoveling.

It's been fun.


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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Movies: The Interpreter

On Sunday night Linzy and I watched The Interpreter. I actually liked it quite a bit.

When I first saw previews for it long ago, it didn't seem all that interesting, but it held my interest much better then I thought it might. The plot was twisty, and the pace kept up fairly well. The acting was top-notch, particularly Sean Penn as the tortured (does he play anything else) agent assigned to investigate/protect Nicole Kidman's character.

I did get a little bored just before the end, as we waited for everything to finally come together, but for the most part I thought it moved along at a decent clip.

The movie received fairly mixed reviews, but I enjoyed it.


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10,000 Days

The new Tool album is quite good. That is all.


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Monday, May 01, 2006

Rhode Island Wi-fi

I'm sorry, but everytime I see a story about how Rhode Island wants to offer statewide wireless broadband, I can't help but think:

One linksys router and...we're done.

Ok, ok, so in reality their state is not quite that small and would take a mesh of at least two routers, maybe even three if they weren't those fancy 802.11n jobs.


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