Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Independant Thinking

Tonight after work I took advantage of my hotel's fitness center for a quick spin on the elliptical trainer. Each of the machines has it's own TV attached with replaceable headphones so you can watch whatever you like. Unfortunately for easily-bored-me, there wasn't really anything on at the time I was running.

Towards the end of my run after a few spins through the channels I ended up on Mad Money. This being the Halloween show, he was picking one 'scary' stock that he thought was destined for a fall. In this case, he picked Hansen Natural, a beverage company. He went on or a while about why energy drinks were destined for a fall as they were a fad, unsafe, etc. Basically all easy, obvious observations.

What I thought was interesting was watching the ticker at the bottom of the screen, which showed after market trades. Which stock showed up constantly, with a red down arrow next to it? Why Hansen Natural, of course. Coincidentally or not, just after Cramer slammed the stock, sells after sells went flowing across the screen.

On the other hand, even if you thought things were rosy for the company, when a big name TV stock guy says its not a good stock to own, I suppose you have to take a long look at whether you are really sure you know more then him.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween Party

On Saturday night I went over to Gerard's for his annual Halloween Party. This year not many people dressed up (less then half), but it was still a good time. I always enjoy an opportunity to hang out with friends.

One of the new entertainments at the apartment is their new kitten, Snarf. He was pretty wild, running around the apartment attacking anything that caught his eye. Since he's not declawed yet, it can be a little surprising when he pounces on your feet.

Here Snarf is exacting vengeance on a string hanging from a coat. He had been charging down the hall and ran into the string. That caught him off guard and so after leaping across the width of the hall he came right back and spent the next while beating up the string.


Felicia and Angel came as greasers, but by this time in the night they had ditched the satin jackets.


Gerard had a super cool Tequila bottle costume. But like virtually all of Gerard's elaborate costumes, it was too hot and he had removed it by 9pm.


Anyone for a game of Moose?


Jim was having a good time.


Dan couldn't find a costume, and didn't want to spend the money to buy a pre-packaged one so he came as himself.


Tristan and Amy went old-school and got all dressed up and wore masks.


There was a pretty good turnout for the party, but I was pretty lax on taking good pictures so most of the attendees will have to remain nameless (and pictureless). All in all the party was a blast.


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Saturday, October 28, 2006

Tiny Contributions

Earlier this week I got yet another check in the mail from my former employer. This one was a minor $36 for second shift differential pay, as I had some on-call work the very last week I was employed there. Honestly I forgot all about it, so I was surprised to see that they actually followed through and paid me.

What was even surprising was that while they didn't withhold any federal or state taxes (though they did take Social Security and Medicare taxes), they still insisted on taking 401k contributions. $3.92 worth, to be exact.

That will get split seven ways and I'll end up with some infinitesimal increase in the number of shares of each mutual fund I own. Even more bizarre will be when the 2% company match gets deposited and I'll end up the proud owner of exactly 78.4 cents worth of additional former-company stock.

Of course, as a matter of principle I'll have to turn around and sell that, just like I've done with all the other batches of former-company stock that was purchased with their match. I wonder what I'll spend all that extra money on in retirement.


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Friday, October 27, 2006

Comparisons

I was flipping through the new magazine Linzy bought me for my flight on Monday, to take out all the subscription cards, and saw this quote from the lead singer of The Killers about their new album:

I'd put Sam's Town up against OK Computer; I'd put it up against Achtung Baby.

I like a bit of bravado and all, but seriously, the only kind of comparison Sam's Town is going to be involved in with those albums is "Hey, here's yet another album that isn't nearly as good as OK Computer."

Not that Sam's Town is a terrible album, I have many, many that are much worse, but it isn't a classic. I like The Black Parade much better, and even that I wouldn't consider on the same level as say, The Wall.


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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Security Lines

I was thrilled (in a sarcastic, not so thrilled way) today to see all the articles talking about the Northwest Airlines boarding pass generator. Why? Because next week work is sending me to Cambridge, MA, and I am flying NWA.

My only hope is that the inevitable knee-jerk reaction doesn't have time to happen for Monday, and that things have settled back down by Friday when I fly back home.

Otherwise, if the resultant security changes mean I have to get up too much earlier for my 7am flight, I might as well just go over there on Sunday night and sleep at the gate. On the plus side, though, it looks like I could fly business class if I wanted. :)


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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Optimism

The other day I was idly surfing the web and happened to go to George R.R. Martin's website to see if he had any update on the next book in his series. You see, back in June the claim was that he was expecting to have the book done by fall 2006. Being well into fall 2006, I figured I would see what the new update said.

Unsurprisingly it said that the book was likely delayed and he was hoping to have it done by the end of the year. That in and of itself wasn't all that surprising, but what was surprising was his excuses for why the book wasn't done. Basically it sounds like he spent the entire summer visiting conventions, award shows, and generally flying all over the country.

Now, I have no issue with the man promoting his work, or attending the award shows his work garners him invitations to. But, knowing that you are going to spend two full months of summer on the road, why would you still assume you are going to finish the book by fall?

I'm as bad an estimator as the next programmer, but even I would can look at that and think "Gee, maybe I'm not going to be able to get much writing done when I'm sleeping in a different hotel room each night".

I mean, it's only been a year since the last book. The gap between that book and the previous one was 5 years. I think we can deal with being told the next one is going to take 18 months. Excuses aren't necessary....yet.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dates

A while back I was walking through the skyway over lunch and I overheard this conversation:

Girl1: So you went on a date last night?
Girl2: Yep
Girl1: Cool, who was it with?
Girl2: My godfather

Ewwww.

I hope it was the kind of 'date' where you plan an activity with a friend you hardly ever see, and not a romantic-type date. But I have a feeling some therapy is going to be involved eventually.


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Monday, October 23, 2006

Uninvited

One day I, the pudgy prairie dog, was peacefully sleeping near my hole. All of the sudden another even less svelte prairie dog came waddling up to my humble abode.


Shockingly, he started heading in as if he paid the exorbitant mortgage payments on the hole.

I was like "Buddy, where do you think you are going?! You aren't invited into my prairie dog house! Buddy!"


Unfortunately, Buddy wouldn't listen to my fair warnings. Instead he charged further into my personal space.

So I did what any reasonable prairie dog would do: I grabbed him by the tail and dragged his fat behind out of my hole.







[ Today's anthropomorphism was brought to you by Linzy's photography and the Dakota County Library's free Minnesota Zoo Pass. ]

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Close To, But Not On

Back this summer when I saw the pulmonary specialist, she prescribed a whole bunch of things to do. Basically, attempting to address everything that she could think of that could cause a persistent cough all at once. A different kind of inhaler, additional allergy medicine in case it was from post-nasal drip, etc. In addition, she banned Pippen from the bed.

Her theory was that, since I am mildly allergic to some dogs (typically of the long-haired variety) having Pippen on the bed could have been aggravating my allergies. My argument that she didn't have 'fur' like a normal dog and the fact that we'd had her for years and I hadn't had a problem didn't hold much weight. She replied "Well, people aren't allergic to dog fur, they're allergic to dog dander which is basically their skin. She has skin, right?".

Having no comeback for that, Pippen was thus banished from the bed.

It has been months, and Pippen is still positive that she is, in fact, allowed on the bed. She spends the night in her crate, but during the day she finds opportunities to sneak into the bedroom. If we leave her out roaming the house while we are gone, we'll come back to find a Pippen-sized warm nest made out of our covers. If we are playing a game or eating dinner in the kitchen, we'll see her disappear into the bedroom and shortly thereafter hear the not-so-subtle sounds of her beating the covers into an appropriate resting area.

As you can see from the above picture, her latest stubborn resistance to the bed-ban is to lay on the comforter if it droops to the floor. Thus being really, really close to the bed, but not 'on' it, so she doesn't get in trouble.

Of course, since the point is not to get her dander all over the bed, that kind of defeats the reason why she was banned from the bed. But at the same time seeing her curled up into a tiny ball on a little scrap of cover that happens to be on the floor looks so pathetic I have a hard time scolding her.


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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Trail of Terror

Last night a bunch of us, along with every high schooler in the metro area went to the Trail of Terror. It wasn't very much fun.

First, it was crowded, ridiculously so. And it was fairly cold. And there wasn't much to see, so the two attractions you might want to see had long lines. Long, slow moving chaotic lines. Oh, and to top it off it was expensive ($12 a person).

I think part of the problem with the crowds is that it is MEA weekend for the kids this weekend, which means no Friday night football game. So all those kid who would normally have gone to the game were looking for something to do.

After spending 3.5 hours at the place, we had only just gotten through the scary maze (which was OK, but not worth a 3 hour wait in line). At that point there was still at least an hour wait for the hayride, so we left.

Not Worth The Money.


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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Integrity - Using the Term Loosely

Earlier this summer, my area of Lakeville got some hail during one of the storms. As such, our mail has been inundated with flyers and advertisements for roofing, exterior, and hail damage companies. Everyone apparently has a side business in hail damage repair these days, judging from the amount of 'family owned' businesses we get ads from.

The ads I can deal with. The advertising trailers sitting in various parking lots around the area, fine. But what annoys me is the companies going door to door offering free inspections.

The worst of these companies by far is one called Integrity Plus. They claim to be based in Lakeville but are actually based in Maple Grove according to their website. They've been to the house seven times that we know of (including 4 times in the same day). As if that wasn't enough, they send just as many flyers as the next company, if not more.

I would have serious reservations hiring a roofing company based on someone coming to my front door. I would never hire a company that goes door to door in the same neighborhood seven times and isn't even thorough enough to keep track of who they have already bothered. That's just stupid.

What makes me sad is that I assume this technique for pressuring people into getting inspections, and then pressuring them into filing for claims with insurance for a 'free' roof replacement is actually effective. Why else would they waste the time and manpower to have people come through the same neighborhood 7 times?

Maybe they actually do a good job on exterior repair, I have no idea. But I certainly don't like their way of trying to find business.


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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

I'm Sorry, We Can't be Friends Anymore

On Sunday, when we were at Dylan's first birthday party I noticed something interesting about the presents Dylan was receiving.

A significant portion of them were the kinds that make noise. Usually loud, repetitive sounds, or at least sounds/music/sayings that are tolerable the first 50 times but make you want to pull your hair out after that. In short, the kind of toys one-year old kids love and their parents curse.

When Linzy and I were talking about what sorts of things to get, I had said that it couldn't be any thing that played obnoxious music because "Those are the types of gifts that result in people not being your friends anymore".

As in, every time Tickle Me Elmo screams "Do it again!" the parent thinks "Why am I friends with Steve and Linzy again? They bought this stupid toy.". Or at a minimum leaves you open for obnoxious-toy payback in the future.

It was funny to see that all of the grandparents weren't afraid to leverage their immunity and gave almost exclusively noisy toys.


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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Dylan's Birthday

On Sunday Linzy and I went over to Laura and Andy's house for their son Dylan's first birthday party. The party was short but fun.

The highlight of any first birthday is usually the birthday boy/girl getting to eat their own piece of cake however they like (typically ending up with cake everywhere but in the tummy). Dylan was a little hesitant to mess with his cake at first. Eventually with some coaxing he got into it, but mostly beating it with a spoon and then trying to wipe the frosting off his tray and hand it to his mom. In the end, he still managed to make a pretty good-sized mess.

Laura and Dylan opening presents.


Dylan was more interested in the cards and bags then most of his presents.


Dylan's Aunt bought him this cool rocking horse, which Dylan wasn't so sure about. It looked a little scary he thought.


Dylan trying to figure out exactly what he should be doing with this thing on his tray.


The spoon turned out to be pretty effective at spreading the frosting around.



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Monday, October 16, 2006

Coming and Going

A little computer story for you today:

So at work this afternoon I was working at getting clusterware installed on a new set of database servers we are building. Part of the process involves entering in the public, private, and virtual names of all the servers that will be in the cluster.

After entering all the information in, I tried to proceed to the next step and got an error message complaining that one of the virtual names wasn't allowed because it couldn't be resolved (into an ip address). That was easy enough to fix, and after getting the hostname added to the hosts file I tried to continue again.

This time it got a little further, before erroring out saying that both of the virtual addresses were illegal because they were already in use on the network. After a bit of head scratching, and trying some things that didn't resolve the problem, we ended up having to remove the hostname definitions added to get around the previous step. At that point the install was able to continue to the next part (which also failed, but for a different reason).

So, let me re-cap:

1) You are required to have the virtual hostnames defined.
2) You are also required to not have the virtual hostnames defined.

Obviously the second issue is a bug, but how it wasn't caught in quality assurance boggles the mind. Anyone installing would have hit the problem. Luckily the install process was smart enough to remember it had already passed the checks requiring the hostnames to be defined, or we never would have gotten past that point in the install.

We've spent weeks trying to get these particular systems built, running into problem after problem. So it didn't surprise me at all when we hit even more bizarre issues. The fact that I can see the humor in the whole fiasco is probably a good sign.


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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dan's Birthday

Today is my friend Dan's 30th birthday, so we celebrated with him last night.

As my friends and I get older, it seems dangerously easy to have birthdays become less of a big deal. Luckily my particular group of friends has been pretty good about taking the time to celebrate everyone's birthdays. Sometimes people throw their own party (such as here, here, here, here, etc), other times someone else will throw the party (such as here, here, here, here, etc)

Either way, most of us try hard to make it to the various parties (heck, Dan and Kelli drive 3 hours on a fairly regular basis for some of the parties). The parties always turn out to be fun, and a good chance to hang out with friends even when we aren't able to do as much together as used to.


Dan's Birthday this year was no exception, everyone had a good time as far as I could tell. Linzy and I started the night by having Dan over for a tasty lasagna dinner and some birthday cake. Afterwards, we went over to Bogarts and met up with Tristan, Amy, Gerard and Mike for some drinks, darts, and to listen to the random cover band playing that night.

The band had a fairly decent selection of songs, although their implementation of that song selection was pretty poor. I'm not sure if the singer was having microphone issues or what, but he sounded pretty bad and was cutting in and out a lot. The theory at the table was that it was more a talent issue then a technical one. But regardless, the band was tolerable and we weren't really there specifically to see them anyway.

Anyway, the night was really fun and like I said I think everyone had a good time. Hopefully Dan had a good birthday.

Linzy using the 'gun' to light Dan's birthday cake.


Dan, looking embarrassed that we were actually going to sing happy birthday to him.


Dan, Gerard and Me at Bogarts.


How do these drinks keep getting put in front of me?


Amy thinking that Tristan isn't moving towards the door quite quickly enough.



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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cell Phone Complications

Why does everything with cell phones have to be so complicated?

Ever since I started at the new job, I've been eyeing up a Treo 700 or similar phone with a qwerty keyboard and a decent Internet browser on it so that I could better utilize the time I spend on the bus. Plus, for the last 4-5 months Linzy has been using one of our really old phones after she dropped her not-yet-a-year-old phone down the toilet at Target accidentally. Since the phone never really had great battery life and that hasn't gotten any better in the past three years, she could use a new phone too.

Except that we don't qualify for the $150 rebate on new phones until next June. Making getting new phones pretty dang expensive (especially when one is a Treo-level phone).

And of course, replacing a phone with our particular provider requires a new two-year commitment, which means that replacing only one of the phones would cause the end-dates of our contracts to be totally different.

But then Sprint raised the rates of text messaging and Internet usage, and was supposedly letting people out of their contracts without an early termination fee. That seemed like the perfect opportunity to either argue them into giving us $150 rebates for replacing our phones right now, or letting us out of the contract so we could go somewhere else and get rebates at that place.

Except that Sprint was obviously on to the whole 'material change to my contract' ploy now and so the best I could do was get them to make Linzy's account eligible for a $150 rebate right now.

That doesn't really solve any problems, since we would still end up with one phone having to be renewed for an additional 2-years, and then replace the other phone 8 months later. And at this point I'm not so sure I want to stay with Sprint, even if they are much cheaper then most of the other providers out there.

So in the end, I don't think we will do anything. Unless you count torturing myself by reading Engadget Mobile every day and seeing all the phones I won't be able to have as 'doing something'.


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Friday, October 13, 2006

Leather Seats

While Brenden and I were walking back to the car (we used the cheaper lot, of course) from the Gopher's game last weekend we passed a cop car parked on the sidewalk. As we walked by I happened to glance inside the back. Why, I'm not sure. I guess I was hoping they would have some unruly football hooligan cuffed back there waiting to be taken down to booking.

Unfortunately, there was no one detained in the car. What I did notice though was the fact that the car sported nice looking leather seats. Now, why do we need leather seats in the back of a cop car?

Does leather make it easier to clean up after the innocent-till-proven-guilty crowd that passes through the back? Are they really going for leather seats in front and the seats in the back just come as part of the deal?

It seemed strange, but then again I guess it could be worse. After all, the CSI: Miami division drives Hummers.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Who's Lying?

Big drop seen in winter heating bills

Heating bills for many Americans are expected to be a lot lower this winter.
Bills for homes heating primarily with natural gas are expected to be about $119, or 13 percent, less this winter, the Energy Information Administration said.

CenterPoint: Natural gas bills likely to rise 12%

Consumers will pay 12 percent more to heat their homes with natural gas this winter than they did last year, but that's only because last winter was unusually warm, according to the annual forecast from the state's largest heating fuel provider.

I assume the difference is that Centerpoint is talking about bills for only its customers, where as the Energy Information Administration (did you know we even had one?) is looking at bills across the entire nation.

Both appear to agree that this year will be colder then last, and natural gas prices will be cheaper. But it was still odd to see both stories published on the same day.

Personally, I'm not convinced it matters if the price of natural gas goes down. I have full confidence Centerpoint will find some way to ensure my bill goes up. Increased transportation costs perhaps...


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

October Snow

It doesn't matter if it doesn't stick around, or doesn't accumulate to any substantial amount: Looking out my window at work and seeing snow flakes whirling around the sky in the second week of October is depressing!

Coming home and actually being able to see that snow in the yard, and piled on the deck is even more-so. Between the chilly gusting wind, the snow on the ground, and the freezing temperatures it felt more like late November rather then October when I took Pippen for a walk after dinner.



Hopefully it'll warm up at least a little for the weekend, as certain people are moving up here from Texas on Saturday. And we wouldn't want to scare them away right away.


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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gophers Game

On Saturday, after a windy bike ride with Shawn, I went to the University of Minnesota Gophers football game with Brenden. I'm not a particularly avid college football fan, but I do really enjoy football and seeing a game live is always fun.

The game turned out to be a really fun game to attend, if somewhat frustrating, as the game was really close the entire way through. Eventually it was decided by one point.



The Gophers made mistakes left and right during the game, eventually falling behind Penn State. First they fumbled a punt inside the 10 yard line, which Penn State recovered and scored on. Then, just before the half the Gopher's coach called for three conservative runs trying to run out the clock and enter the locker room tied. But the three runs went absolutely nowhere (except out of bounds stopping the clock) and so the Gophers were forced to punt the ball away and leave Penn State plenty of time to drive down and score.



The second half was spent with the Gophers not doing much at all (not even stopping Penn State), until with 2:30 remaining in the game they finally put together a quality drive to tie the game and force overtime.



In overtime, the Gophers started with the ball, ran three terrible plays that managed to move the ball a total of about 2 inches and then amazingly threw a touchdown pass to the back of the end zone on 4th down from the 25 yard line. It was incredible.



But then, inexplicably the Gophers missed the extra point. Talk about an emotion swing.



On defense, the Gophers looked like they had Penn State all bottled up until on 4th down they got a bogus pass interference penalty called on them that gave Penn State a fresh set of downs from the 10 yard line. With that, Penn State drove in for the tying touchdown and demonstrated how to kick the extra point for the win.

So, even though the Gophers lost, it was definitely an exciting game to be at as the Gophers were competitive for the entire game and certainly had opportunities to win. Plus it was fun to see Brenden and spend some time hanging out.


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Monday, October 09, 2006

Fair Warning

To my Future Children,

After watching one of the kids who lives behind us, consider this a preemptive warning.

Should I ever spend a tidy sum getting a concrete driveway installed, under absolutely no circumstances should you decide to try skateboarding across it less then 24-hours after it is installed.

I would expect the fact that your shoes sink into the driveway when you step on it to be a warning that setting your skateboard down on the same driveway and jumping on it is not a good idea. But if you needed confirmation, I can tell you exactly what will happen:

First, the whole board will move forward slightly, as the wheels resist the inevitable pull of the unset concrete. Almost immediately after, the front wheels will start to dig into the concrete. At which point the board will jerk to a stop, and throw you forward off the board into the giant pit of sludgey concrete that will someday be a driveway. Except that now, said driveway will forevermore be somewhat less then smooth.

So just don't do it. I've seen it happen and while it was amusing for me as an innocent observer, I'm not so confident I would see the humor if it was my driveway featuring a prominent impression of your young, apparently stupid body.

Thanks,

Steve


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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sleep Mode

As I've mentioned before, these past few weeks I've been passing the time on my bus ride to work playing my Gameboy Advance SP. I've been entertaining myself by finishing up Lunar Legend, an RPG game based on the Playstation game Lunar: Silver Star Story, which was a remake of the Sega Saturn game Lunar: The Silver Star.

I started playing Lunar Legend quite a while ago, but lost interest when newer, shinier games were procured, and I never went back to it. When I was looking for something to play on the bus, it seemed like an obvious choice since it features save-anywhere, doesn't require any reflexes (its an RPG after all) and is pretty fun.

Anyway, last week I spent most of a morning making my way through one of the last dungeons in the game. For whatever reason I hadn't saved at all the entire bus ride. Then, just before we pulled up to my stop I walked my characters into an area that triggered an automatic cut-scene followed by a fight against the third-to-last Boss character in the game.

The problem here was of course that I had no way to back out of the boss fight and save my game. And turning off the Gameboy would erase all the progress I had spent 40 minutes on the bus making. But being an endgame boss, the fight was going to take a significant investment of time. Perfect for a ride home on the bus, but not something I could really complete standing in front of my building.

Ahh, I said to myself, my Nintendo DS has a nifty sleep mode where if you close the top the machine automatically goes into a sleep mode where it doesn't use hardly any battery at all. Certainly my GBA SP, being a redesign of the GBA released shortly before the DS will have a similar function. So I closed the top of the GBA SP, threw it into my bag and forgot about it until I was heading home.

At that point I discovered that, in fact, the GBA SP doesn't have a sleep mode when I pulled out the device only to find it a useless brick of plastic since the battery was totally dead.

So, not only did I have to re-do all my dungeon traveling again, but as punishment for not knowing the GBA SP didn't have a sleep mode, I didn't even have anything to do on the bus ride home that day.

That'll teach me.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Here's the Back

The other night (it may have been at the cabin, or perhaps Brenden's Birthday) I was talking with someone about how I thought it was kind of silly when a hairstylist uses the mirror to show you the back of your head after a haircut and asks "How does the back look?".

I realize they are just letting you see the whole package, but at the same time I've never once said "It looks like crap, what were you doing back there?". And I haven't ever heard any other male say anything other then "Yep, great, thanks.", nor any females for that matter.

After conducting a highly scientific poll that evening, my research indicates exactly 100% of people have never said anything of substance in response to being showed the back of their head in the mirror.

Then, last week I was out getting my hair cut and the conversation popped back into my head when, at the end of my time in the chair the stylist held up a mirror and said "So, how does the back look".

I jumped on that opportunity to quiz her whether anyone has ever actually said anything negative about the back of their hair after a haircut. She confirmed that no one she has ever cut hair for has ever said anything about the back of their head.

So, that only leaves one question: If seeing the back of the head truly doesn't matter, why do I always scramble to put my glasses back on after my haircut to see the back of my hair?


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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Money in the Mail

I don't know about you, but I don't hardly ever get anything good in the mail. Occasionally I'll get a magazine, or maybe a thank you card, but the vast majority of the mail I do get is either junk mail or bills. And most of that are bills, because at least half the junk mail comes for Linzy. That is, until this week.

This week was a glorious week as far as mail goes, since I got not one, but two checks in the mail. In a strange coincidence of timing, I got my vacation check from my old job on Monday and a check for my first week of work at the new job on Tuesday.

I can't even remember the last time I got a real check for any substantial amount in the mail for a job. It's been a long time, that's for sure.

At least, I thought I had gotten two live checks until Linzy tried to go deposit the vacation check. It turned out to be a rather elaborate notice of deposit that for some reason came on a real-looking check complete with watermark and a nice perforation for easy removal from the packaging. But the other check was indeed live.

Unfortunately, that will likely be the last real check I get for a long time, so it will be back to a steady stream of bills and advertisements for roofing companies doing hail damage inspections.


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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sarcasm

Among the new experiences associated with my new job is the joy of riding the bus to and from work. Going to work in the morning is not usually too problematic, as there is basically only one spot to get on the bus, and they arrive nearly on top of each other.

Going home is sometimes a bit more of a challenge. For one thing the buses heading home, at least at the time I ride them, are much less frequent and since I am on the second to last stop before leaving downtown the buses are much more crowded. Depending on exactly what time I leave the office, I can end up on very tightly-packed bus for the ride home.

The worst buses are ones where they have seats (if you ask the driver), but there are only one or two left which are invariably in the back row of the bus where it is 5 across. Or what I refer to as the sardine row.

Two days in a row this week I ended up in that row packed in between two people who needed more then their allotted space. That in itself doesn't bother me, as I just sit there and keep to myself. But it becomes relevant in a minute.

Anyway, after a long ride where I kept my backpack on my lap, studiously played my gameboy and tried to take up as little room as possible, we were pulling into the transit station. The bus driver came on the intercom and announced the stop, and then launched into a lecture about how there were 75 people on the bus which meant there should only be three people standing (there were more standing then that). He was saying how sometimes people put packages and things on the seats, and they really need to leave the seats available for people.

After the lecture, the lady on my right turned to me and said:

Damn, next time you should put that bag on the floor or something.

Uhh, say what?

At the time I just looked at her, trying to figure out if she was serious. After all, the cramped conditions didn't have much to do with anything I was responsible for, as far as I was concerned.

After a moment of extremely shocked silence from me and the woman on my left, lady-on-the-right hastily backpedaled and made some comment about how it was just crowded and the driver was an idiot. Exactly what she said I am not sure, because it was mumbled while she tried to curl into a little ball in the back corner of the bus.

So, remember the horrid thud that failed joke made the next time you consider saying something witty to the person next to you on the bus.


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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Geography Lesson

While Linzy and I were waiting in line to enter the Corn Maze on Sunday, they had lined the queue area with aerial pictures of the corn mazes from previous year.

In front of us in line was a lady with her young-ish son (maybe 10?). As they were walking past the pictures, the lady was describing to her son what a few were:

Mom: It's a T-rex, see it's mouth right here?
Mom: It's the Titanic. See how it is sinking?
Mom: Oh, this one is the midwest states. Here's Illinois, see?

The problem?

That particular picture was the 2002/2003 "Around the World" corn maze, which was basically just a world map. And the Mother was pointing directly at South America.

I kid you not.


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Monday, October 02, 2006

Sever's Corn Maze

On Sunday the weather was beautiful and the chores not pressing, so Linzy and I took the opportunity to head out to Shakopee to visit Sever's Corn Maze. Neither of us had ever been there before, and it turned out to be pretty fun.

For those of you unaware (which would have included me as of early last week), a corn maze is basically a Midwestern version of an English hedge-maze. Basically, someone (Sever Peterson in this case) plants a huge field of extra-tall variety corn. Then, when the corn stalks are about 6-inches tall they go through and cut out the pathways and designs for a big maze based on a pre-determined gridpaper pattern.

Flash-forward 6 months, and you have yourself an intricate corn maze people can wander around. Charge visitors $8 a head, and you're probably a rich man. Although you would have to admit at parties that your occupation was 'corn maze proprietor'.

The corn was pretty tall, so that normal people couldn't see over it unless they were approximately two-Linzys tall.


Anyway, the corn maze was fun to explore. This year the design had an Egyptian theme. In the past, they've had world maps, maps of the US, a T-rex, a sinking Titanic, etc.

What this year's maze looks like from the air.


Initially we just wandered around trying to get ourselves lost (which was surprisingly difficult since I could envision the maze in my head after having seen what it looked at the entrance). After that got old, we started navigating through the provided map to find some of the 26 signposts located around the map.

Both methods of exploring the maze were interesting. Not having the map in front of you all the time and just wandering around was fun, but after a while without a specific destination in mind you just kind of wandered around in circles. Finding the signs was fun as well, as you had a destination to get to, and had to keep track of all your turns so you didn't get lost. But after a while, that starts to get pretty easy.



Even from the observation bridge, you couldn't make out much of the detail of the maze.


They also had a whole tent filled with exotic animals at the maze. Most of the animals were decidedly non-active. But I suppose there is only so many handfuls of feed you can eat before you'd rather just take a nap (as demonstrated by Kangaroo #2 in the background).


There were camel rides to fit in with the Egyptian theme (or perhaps they always have them, I have no idea).


Before leaving, we watched some piglet racing, which was sort of amusing. Some of the pigs were pretty into being the first to get to the mini-donut at the end.


It was neck and neck in the final corner.


All-in-all we had a good time. The fact that it was in the upper 70s and sunny on the first day of October certainly had something to do with it, but the maze was definitely an interesting experience. It was something different to do, and both Linzy and I had fun checking it out.

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