Monday, April 30, 2007

Secret Installation

After years of whining about trying to keep a shadeless south-facing front yard from turning into a dust bowl while respecting the water conservation laws, I finally broke down and am getting an in-ground sprinkler system.

Part of getting an irrigation system is that you have to have a plumber come and install a backflow valve which stops water from the irrigation system from running back into the house's water supply and contaminating us with frightening chemicals. This installation was scheduled for the middle of the day on Wednesday, in preparation for the destruction of my lawn installation of the sprinkler system next week.

Thus I was surprised this afternoon when I got a call from Linzy who came back from running errands to find a new attachment on the front of the house, the backflow valve. Somehow either I wrote down the appointment time wrong (twice) or the plumber got confused about what day he was supposed to come. Undaunted by the fact that no one was home, he apparently decided to install the valve anyways.

I'm not exactly sure how he managed that without being able to turn the water off inside, but I guess he muddled through. The installation looks nice enough (though a little bigger then I was hoping it would have to be), but I was pretty surprised that it would just be randomly installed one day.


Read the whole post.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

And Team

There were two of us from work that made the trip down to Miami, Andrew and myself. Since we have different areas of expertise it made sense to send both of us, as between the two of us, we could (and did) cover anything that came up. No management came with.

As it worked out on Friday, Andrew sent the final status e-mail clearly signed by both of us detailing all that was accomplished during our 12-13 hour days at the client site. To that, the client partner from my company (sales guy basically) sent back an e-mail saying:

Thanks, Andrew and team for your hard work.

Jerk.

I resisted the urge to send a reply saying "You misspelled my name, it is 'Steve', not 'team'". But I can't guarantee that I won't send some sort of reply back.

[ Update: I did e-mail the client partner on Monday morning to express my dismay at his choice of phrasing, and got a profuse apology back. ]

Read the whole post.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Back from Miami

I got back on schedule from my trip to Miami for work, but it was touch and go for a while. The trip was extremely successful as far as work was concerned, but the cost of that was that we didn't ever leave the office while it was still light out. The most common dinner was room service at 9:30pm, which was disappointing compared with the terrific meals I've managed to squeeze in on other trips.

I nearly missed my plane back, as we got tied up in meetings on the last day that started 2 hours before my plane was set to take off. Then we got lost in the construction around the airport and so I ended up making it to the gate with only about 10 minutes to spare. That wasn't good for my stress levels.

But, on the good side the two of us who went down there complemented each other's areas of expertise pretty well and so managed to completely reinstall the entire system in a day and-a-half. That was compared to the weeks and/or months the customer spent working on setting up the same thing. We finished everything they 'had-to-have', everything that was 'nice-to-have' and added in another 3-4 things just for good measure.

So all in all, it was a pretty successful, if not particularly relaxing trip.


Read the whole post.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pair of Bentleys

The cars here in Miami aren't quite to St. Armand's Key levels of fanciness, but there are quite a few expensive cars around.

Just tonight on the way home from the office at 8:30, for example, we saw a Lambourghini pulled over on the highway. For speeding, I would assume. And then there are the two Bentleys that have reserved spots right next to the door of the customer site. Yes, not one, but two black $100,000+ cars.

Seeing that everyday on the way into the building has to make the rank and file employees feel good.


Read the whole post.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bad Luck

My trip this morning started with an hour-and-a-half delay because a valve in the cargo hold of the plane wouldn't shut properly. After moving away from the gate, we spent 30 minutes sitting 100 feet away while they figured out what was the problem, only to pull back into another gate for 60 minutes of repairs. The pilot described the possible side-effects of the problem as 'catastrophic' so I guess from that perspective I'm glad they got it fixed before we took off. But the delay didn't help the timetable for our day in Miami.

Then, while on the phone with Linzy about problems with the roof replacement that is going on at home, the valet brought the rental car back sans the driver's side mirror. Apparently there was some sort of unspecified mishap during parking.

It's looking like it will be quite the week.


Read the whole post.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Wii



Read the whole post.

Huge Receipt

Yesterday after dinner Linzy and I stopped at Circuit City so I could buy a new DS game for the plane rides to and from Miami this week. As it turned out, I couldn't find a DS game that looked good so I ended up paying an exorbitant sum for a third copy of a game I already own. In my defense, it will be the only portable copy. A very thin excuse I know.

Anyway, when we checked out they handed me quite possibly the largest register receipt I've ever seen. Keep in mind, I bought a single $30 item. But the receipt is 4.5 inches wide and over 16 inches long (compare it to the overlaid normal-sized receipt). That's about 80% of the size of a regular sheet of paper. What a ridiculous waste of resources.

Adding to the stupidity, the receipt is way too wide to be folded up an put in my wallet with all my other receipts. And instead of putting the ads on the end of the receipt so they could easily be torn off, the ads are in the middle of the paper. Meaning that I have to hang on to the whole stupid thing for the next month, or break out the tape.

I was very annoyed.


Read the whole post.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Felicia's Reception

On Saturday evening, Linzy and I joined a big group of our friends at the wedding reception for Felicia and Angel. They had gotten married last month with a small ceremony in Hawaii, and now had a bigger reception with family and friends.

The reception was a lot of fun. Quite a few friends showed up and we all had a pretty good time hanging out and catching up. In a sharp contrast to previous wedding events for this group of friends, for the most part people were relatively well behaved. Probably just another sign we are all getting older. Or that the bar was less well-stocked and there was no attached hotel for us to stay at.

Read on for the least blurry of the pictures taken.

The Holiday Inn we stayed at in Arden Hills was one of the most questionable Holiday Inns I've stayed at. This Hamm's case was sitting in the hallway across from our room. It was definitely a Hamms kind of hotel.


There was some sort of police convention going on at the hotel, so the parking lot was filled with cop cars.


The Tri City American Legion, where the reception was held.


Each of the cakes was a different flavor.


Anita took this nice picture of Gerard, Dan, Dan and I. (She demanded credit if I used the picture, so I said in that case I would also give her 'credit' for taking this picture)


The happy couple


Linzy and Gerard dancing


Gerard dancing with his brother-in-law


Linzy and Felicia


Thriller!


Gerard entertaining me


Linzy and I relaxing at the table


Brenden making faces at Allison


Worst DJ Ever


Linzy made all of the flower arrangements for the decorations, and they were pretty impressive. Even when used as a hat.



Read the whole post.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

No Dice

Back when I was a kid, I used to have a pretty large collection of dice for various RPG and tabletop miniature games. Thus last summer when I played in two consecutive D&D sessions over the course of a month or two (what passes for a campaign these days), I was trying to find that collection of dice.

Before the first session, I didn't leave myself enough time to search for the dice at my parent's house (because I thought I knew exactly where they were). So between the sessions I spent a bunch of time looking through every single box in my parent's extra closet to no avail.

I eventually gave up and decided just to buy a new set of dice, which are quite a bit more expensive then I remembered them being back in the day. Regardless, I brought my new set of dice with me to play with that second time.

That was last fall. Now we've finally gotten around to playing again (though with a new set of characters) and so I went looking for my shiny new dice to bring with. Only to not be able to find them. After spending 20 minutes looking through the entire closet at home, I came to the inevitable conclusion: I lost the set of dice.

That's right, I got one whole use out of them before losing the dice. Clearly you don't want to give me anything important to hold on to for you.


Read the whole post.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Marathon Set

I saw on Variety a few days ago that Dave Chappelle set some sort of record for the longest stand-up routine ever:

Anyone who bought a ticket to the Laugh Factory on Sunday night ended up getting two surprises.

The first came when Dave Chappelle appeared onstage at 10:36 p.m. for an unannounced set. The second shocker: Chappelle kept telling jokes until 4:43 the next morning--- making his entire set a whopping six hours and seven minutes.

Cocaine...it's a hell of a drug.

Its pretty crazy to think about standing on stage for 6 hours without any sort of break. Sometimes I can't even come up with small talk to fill 5 minutes let alone enough jokes to fill hours and hours.


Read the whole post.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Slow Route

I got tied up at work late yesterday, trying to squeeze travel plans (that I found out about at 4:30) for next week in before the 7-day advance-notice deadline. Luckily there were still buses running, although I was within one bus of missing the last Apple Valley bus out of downtown.

The interesting thing about the last two buses of the day is that multiple routes get condensed so that instead of going right to the Apple Valley transit station, those buses stop a few other places on the way. I was aware of this in theory, but what I didn't quite comprehend was just how many places they stop.

Normally my bus goes from downtown direct to Apple Valley and the whole process takes 45 minutes door-to-door in rush hour. Last night it took closer to 70 minutes.

First we stopped at the Mall of America. Then, we stopped at a random roadside on the way to the Palomino Transit Station. Then on the road just after the Palomino station. Then we took a slow, winding, and stop-filled tour of the Pennock area of Apple Valley. Then, just when I thought we were finally on the home stretch the stupid bus stopped like 50 feet from the entrance to the Apple Valley station. Just for good measure I guess, before finally pulling into the regular station.

I realize they can't afford to keep running 3 separate buses for all those routes at that time of the evening, but all of the non-transit station stops seemed ridiculous.


Read the whole post.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Clothes Chair

For today's post I present a simple quiz: Bedroom rocking chair, or Closet. You be the judge:

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:


I especially like the robe hanging over the side because, although you can't really see it in the picture, the belt is hanging by a single loop and thus splayed all over the floor. The pillow is also a nice touch, I thought.


Read the whole post.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pathfinder Rides Again

One thing I forgot to mention before we left on vacation was that Linzy's car finally got repaired after the accident and is back in business.

The repair went fairly smoothly although it took longer then they originally estimated (no surprise there). The biggest gaffe was when they gave the car back to Linzy they forgot to tighten one of the idler pulleys. After a few miles of driving it worked itself loose and fell off, taking the serpentine belt with it. Which took out power steering, the fan, etc. Luckily Linzy was able to get the car over to the side of the road safely and then had to wait around for an hour for them to come tow her back to the repair shop.

This isn't the first time this particular repair shop has let something unfinished. One time they left a front headlight unsecured after doing some bumper work, and another time they left the rear bumper half dropped after working on that. Very thorough.

Anyways, the car is all fixed up and seems be just fine all things considered.

Before:


After:



Read the whole post.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Safety First

The other day I happened to catch two episodes of Stunt Junkies on TV. If you are unfamiliar with the show, it is a show basically glorifying people doing insane death-defying stunts.

For example, one of the shows (episode 27) they were doing motorcross step-up. Basically they would build a huge ramp with a close to 90 degree vertical take off (that is, shooting the motorcycle nearly straight up in the air) and then the goal was to jump over as high of a bar as possible. Of course, the ramp was made out of dirt so each time they would go off it it would fall apart a little more, so the trick was to try to get the most vertical ramp you could and still make it over the bar, and then break the record for highest jump before the ramp fell apart or crashing and getting hurt.

On the other show (episode 13) they had a guy on a BMX bike who was going to jump over a van with a scoop on the front and a ramp off the back. But the trick was that the guy on the bike was attempting not to move at all, and the van was driving at 20 mph towards the guy on the bike. The theory was that when the van hit the guy on the bik, the scoop on the front would effectively hurl the biker up in the air, he would do a back flip and then land safely on the ramp on the back of the van (since it was still moving forward).

The moving van trick put the motorcross stunt to shame in terms of insanity level. Especially since they had video of the only other person ever to try the 'ramp on a moving van' trick attempting it and getting shot 35 feet into the air off to the side of the ramp and crashing into the ground. He broke both ankles, his back, arm, collarbone, etc. That guy committed suicide shortly thereafter.

The amusing thing about Stunt Junkies was that during one of the shows, they were showing the rider getting ready to attempt the stunt. And the rider puts on his helmet and goes "Safety First!". As if that helmet was going to provide much help as he attempted a crazy stunt that likely would kill him if botched. It made me and Dad laugh pretty hard, and from then on refer to the show was "The Safety First Show"


Read the whole post.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thirteen

Yesterday was Friday the 13th, and randomly a group of 13 of us from work went out for lunch at Khan's Mongolian Barbeque. No black cats were seen during the trip, which was probably a good thing.

I've never been to Khan's before, but it was quite good. I played it safe and followed the posted instructions on making the Medium spice-level sauce with just a little extra kick of 'Dragon' sauce. That turned out to be the perfect combination for a spicy but not eye-watering lunch plate.

The worst part of the whole trip was getting back into the car for the ride back to the office since it was such a gorgeous day out.


Read the whole post.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Stretch Limo

If you've happened to notice that the pictures I posted of the Florida trip were actually on Picasaweb (instead of the normal blogger photo black hole), you might have scanned through all of the pictures I uploaded before I got around to mentioning them on the blog. If that was the case, you might have wondered what the last two pictures about limos were about.

You see, when we bought our plane tickets to Florida we had a terrible time finding reasonable fares. In mid-December, we had checked and found some ~300 dollar tickets, but the times were not totally optimal so we decided to hold out a bit. By January when we checked again, ticket prices had gone through the roof.

We tried to hold out longer, but by early February everything was filling up and we decided we need to book something. After several nights of trying to find the cheapest combination, we eventually settled on a three-leg Air Tran ticket taking us from Minneapolis to Chicago/Midway, to Sarasota and then back to Midway a week later. From Midway I found $29 a person tickets on Northwest to get back home. The tickets were still much more expensive and less convenient then the original tickets, but they were as good as we could find.

Everything went smooth with the trip down, but on the trip back we arrived in Midway only to discover that NWA had canceled our flight home. They had booked most of the plane onto a 5:30 flight, but filled the last seats with the couple in front of us. Instead they were going to make us stay overnight, catch a 7:10am flight from Midway to Detroit, and then a 11:00 flight back to MSP.

Yuck.

There was much frustrated 'discussing' with the ticketing agents by us and the other 8 people who weren't able to get on the later/last flight from Midway. The ticket agents didn't offer anything for other options, so it was looking like we would end up having to stay overnight. But then another stranded passenger called a friend (who was an NWA employee) and found out there was a 6:10pm flight out of Milwaukee.

After some more cajoling on our part, they eventually decided it would be OK to send us up to Milwaukee to catch the plane. After discovering no buses ran at the right time, they decided to get us a car. 30 minutes later 7 of us (the other 3 decided to spend the night) were cruising up the tollway in a fancy stretch limo.



The limo ride was actually pretty cool, though it did take us about an hour and a half to get up to the airport. The driver must really have been speeding, because we were passing people like they were standing still, which on Illinois roads means you are probably going 85. You couldn't tell from the back though; the ride was really smooth.

Upon arriving in Milwaukee, that plane turned out to be delayed, but we eventually got out at about 6:45. So we did get home, albeit a bit later then normal.

But we did get a stretch limo ride and a tour of the upper midwest out of the deal. All for 29 bucks.


Read the whole post.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Florida: Golfing

My dad and I did indeed end up golfing while on vacation in Florida, as I had mentioned a couple weeks ago. In deference to the fact that I haven't golfed in 15 years, after looking through descriptions of a dozen courses in Sarasota, we decided on Rolling Greens.

Rolling Greens won our business with a friendly-sounding description of "wide, open fairways and large greens". As opposed to the course that boasted "11 lakes", which probably would have translated into two lost balls lakes per hole.

The golfing actually went surprisingly well, all things considered.

On the good side, my putting was actually pretty decent, I managed to par a hole (#5 I think), come within two inches of getting par on the final 5 par, and there were no 10s on my scorecard, let alone any gentleman's 10s.

On the bad side, my chipping was a disaster, and my play out of sand traps was pitiful. The one semi-good shot I did hit out of a mid-hole bunker ended up going right into a bunker surrounding the green. I thought that was a nice touch. My driving was decidedly mixed, one hole I would pull out a nice solid, straight drive only to follow it up on the next hole with a 75 yard slicing shot straight into the trees.

My Dad and I were able to play in a two-some, so there was no added pressure of having strangers watching me hack my way around the course. All-in-all it was quite an enjoyable experience.

Dad, all smiles while we were waiting to tee off on the first hole


Did I mention the wide-open fairways?


No comment on how many shots it took to coax my ball this close to the hole


The weather was great. The course, on the other hand, was extremely dry. Sometimes you could take a divot and be left with no grass clump, because all the dead grass just separated and flew away.


It was fairly hot out, so it became a running joke to "keep the cart in the shade!"


Dad hitting a drive


This did not turn out to be a good drive, if you couldn't guess from the angle of my arms


Trying to make a very long putt to save par on 18, only to come up inches short



Read the whole post.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Vermonster

Our Florida trip last week involved quite a bit of ice cream. We were on vacation after all. One night we decided to head over to St Armand's Circle to get some Ben & Jerry's cones.

The place was packed, which wasn't too surprising. A bit ahead of us in line was a group of 7 high school aged guys. They were ordering the "Vermonster" to share.

It is basically a giant sundae that comes in a huge bucket (literally) filled with:

  • 20 scoops of ice cream
  • Four ladles of hot fudge
  • Four ladles of caramel
  • Four bananas
  • Three cookies
  • One fudge brownie
  • Two scoops each of four toppings
  • Ten scoops of walnuts
  • Whipped cream
For toppings, the guys picked double gummy bears, M&Ms, and Reese's Pieces. Because, you need four scoops of gummy bears.

The Ben & Jerry's staff wasn't skimping on anything, the whipped cream looked like the equivalent of a bottle and a half, and the bucket was nearly overflowing with sundae goodness. All for a mere $35.11 plus tax.

The dichotomy in responses was pretty amusing. Everyone who was not a high-school boy was like "Oh man, that is a disgusting amount of food", while the boys were like "All right! Looks great!".

They were probably debating whether they should get two lest anyone go hungry.


Read the whole post.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Florida: Busch Gardens

Last Monday, during the trip to Florida, we drove up to Tampa to go to Busch Gardens. I haven't been there for a long time, but it was pretty much like what I remembered. Although they have built a few more roller coasters then when I was there last.

The park seemed awfully crowded, but I believe that is mostly due to the monumentally horrible layout of the park. Clearly they were able to hire only the Disney castoffs.

A fourth of the park is wasted by an extra cost safari area. So you can't even see a lot of the animals they have unless you pay extra to ride in a Jeep. Then they stick the best roller coaster in the park way off on a dead end in the front of the park that you can only find via a concerted effort, so there is no one there. Where as the second and third best roller coasters are right next to each other in the back of the park, making that area a mob scene.

We still had fun at the park, but it was only a half-day worth of entertainment even with a few longish waits in line.

Anheiser-Busch reminds you to wash your hands responsibly.


Turtles sunning themselves


This guy could eat you for a snack, if he weren't so lazy


Flamingos are stinky animals


The elephants must have been hot, because they were all spraying water on themselves and covering their backs with straw.


The newest rollercoaster in Busch Gardens is Sheikra, which sports a 90 degree drop (i.e. straight down) from 200 feet in the air. For added effect, they pause you at the top, so you can contemplate your impending doom. Oh, and in June they'll be removing the floor from the cars (apparently)


The lady next to Dad didn't enjoy the ride, I think.


This ring-tailed lemur was busy fluffing his tail.


The hippo had a Como-Zoo-polar-bear-esque swimming pattern through his little area.




When moss is growing on you, probably a sign that you don't move around enough.


All the other lions were laying in the shade panting like they were going to pass out, except for the male lion. He's the king of the jungle after all, a little heat isn't going to stop him from looking cool in the center of the pen.


Mantu was easily the best ride at Busch Gardens (Sheikra was more inovative, but it was short and not much there beyond the initial drop). Plus the ride was completely deserted due to poor placement, so I got to ride it twice back-to-back.


How hot was it that day? Well, we left the parking receipt on the dash of the car and look what happened to it.



Read the whole post.