Saturday, June 30, 2007

Barefoot

I had to go in to work today to get some application server patches done. On my way home I noticed something my co-worker had mentioned. There was a pair of broken red heel shoes laying on the side of the road.

Apparently someone must have been having a rough night, the shoe broke and they just abandoned them right then and there. Or I can imagine someone carrying them a little way and then discarding them in a fit of anger.

Either way, they went home barefoot.


Read the whole post.

Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone Line

On my way to lunch with Paul today I walked past the Baker Center AT&T Wireless store. They had big signs up saying the iPhone line was downstairs, not in front of the store. So on my way back, I had to go check out how many people were waiting to pay $500-$600 plus 2-year contract for a slick-looking, slow-internet-surfing cell phone with a non-replaceable battery.

Turns out about 12.

At least there were 12 chairs in line. There were only 8 people that I saw but I assume they were not enforcing strict 'must be present' rules, and the others were wandering around. Two of the guys were on laptops, although they weren't Apples, so I was thinking about asking if they were in the wrong line.

[ Note: This was at 12:30pm, so there was still over 5 hours of waiting for the poor people in line. ]


Read the whole post.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Minivan Dancing

Tonight I was out on a bike ride, and towards the end I came up to a stoplight where I was going to have to cross two streets (making a left turn effectively). I came across one on and then turned to wait for the light on the next one. As such I was sort of half next-to, half-behind the stoplight pole and not immediately obvious to the cars stopped waiting for the light in the other direction.

As I got up to the crossing, I could hear Eurodance rather loudly thumping from the open windows of a minivan. As I came closer I could see the driver, a middle-aged guy, grooving to the music. And by 'grooving' I mean elbow dancing and bouncing his head all over. He was pretty into the music.

He didn't see me until I was almost up to his car, when suddenly he must have caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye. At that point he did an embarrassed quick intake of breath, choked on it, and started coughing like mad.

I felt bad for him, but it was pretty funny.


Read the whole post.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sifting

My next door neighbor has spent each evening for the past 4-5 days working on his landscaping out front of the house. He moved in a year or so ago and has slowly been dismantling the landscaping left by the previous owner. At this point most of the bushes have been taken out, so I couldn't exactly figure out what he was up to that would take so much time and show little or no progress.

Then last night I realized what he is doing, sifting out the decorative rock by hand. He built a sifting tray and so he grabs handfuls of dirt/rick mixture, throws it in the sifting tray, shakes it a little and then pours the rock into a wheelbarrow and replaces the dirt in the garden. What a pain.

Landscaping rock isn't that cheap, but it isn't really all that expensive either. Certainly not expensive enough that I would spend 20+ hours sifting through it by hand. Heck, if it is that infested with dirt that you can't shovel any of it out, you could probably just throw a new layer of black dirt over the top and make your new garden 3 inches higher then the old one. But maybe I am just lazy.


Read the whole post.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Public Transportion - Just Not Public Parking

On our bike ride tonight Shawn was telling me about the latest plans by the Apple Valley city council for the MVTA bus station on Cedar. That was the first I heard about it, so I had to look up more information when I got home, and found this article in the Star Tribune.

Basically the gist is that the city of Apple Valley is going to be issuing free permits for parking at the ridiculously undersized parking lot at the Cedar Ave transit station. However, they are only going to give permits to Apple Valley, Burnsville and Rosemount. Lakeville and Farmington residents would be out of luck and have to park single file on the road north of the transit station.

The whole battle goes back to Apple Valley being pissed at Lakeville because Lakeville doesn't have an additional city tax for the MVTA. Lakeville says it doesn't have a tax because the MVTA won't run buses out that far out, and that their residents should be able to ride the bus because the bus line is partly subsidized by the state. It is public transportation after all (goes their argument).

I don't really care who is right (and the truth, as usual, is probably somewhere in between). I would probably even buy a permit if they wanted to charge me whatever the increased tax rate is that I am 'saving' by living in Lakeville. I just want to be able to ride the bus and not have to walk 2 miles from my parking spot (at which point I might as well just walk from my house). What I don't have an interest in is being caught in the middle of a pissing match between Apple Valley and Lakeville city officials. And that is exactly what this is.

As far as I can tell the underlying problem here is the idiocy of the Apple Valley City Planners. They built a transit station on a tiny plot of land with a minuscule parking lot leaving themselves absolutely no options for expansion. Plus they built the thing 3 blocks from the Lakeville city line and then act all surprised when people come and use it.

Then they build a brand new 157th street station to the east (also 3 blocks from the city line), but then don't actually have buses running directly from there downtown. Instead, they drive over to the overcrowded Cedar station, adding 15 minutes to your commute and still forcing you to ride the same overcrowded buses from downtown. And then they are like "Well why doesn't anyone use the other station?". Brilliant.

Clearly the same people who thought it would be good to have only two major roads through their city, each littered with not-in-sync stop lights are still firmly in power in Apple Valley. The same people who designed the Super Target/Best Buy/Cub Foods/Enjoy vortex of driving pain with ill-conceived roads, poor turns, wonky psuedo-roundabouts, and the inevitable congestion.

Planning a transit station is just not that hard. Look at Burnsville. They built a transit station with a surface lot, but left themselves enough land that once it was popular they could build a nice parking ramp on the same site. Now their station has tons of available parking, and plenty of space to have a slew of buses come through and pick people up so there is no waiting 15 minutes to get on the bus in the morning, or standing on the way home.

But alas, people are smart.

[ Also I find it amusing that there has been absolutely no reference to any of this at the transit station or on the buses. After all, the people from Lakeville and Farmington don't really have any power to stop Apple Valley from implementing it. Why try to be shady about it...unless you know you are doing something wrong. ]


Read the whole post.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Pressure

Early last week after work I was taking my contacts out at the hotel before dinner. Somehow my hand didn't cooperate and I dropped my right contact into the sink.

I wear gas-permeable contacts, so they are more-or-less rigid (i.e. not the filmy soft kind). They are pretty light, but they still sink in water. Anyway the contact managed somehow to sink to the bottom and suction to the sink. That happens every now and then and normally I just push it up to the top of the sink and to the edge where I can grab it.

In this case, the sink was under a marble countertop so there was no edge to push it to. Instead I was trying to push it down near the drain where there was a sligh depression and I was hoping to get a hold of the contact. Somehow in the course of this I ended up pushing too hard and the contact broke right in half.

The bummer is that we went cheap on our vision insurance, and picked a plan that only allows for contacts or glasses in a year, but not both. The theory being that my contacts last for nearly ever, so getting new ones every other year was plenty often. Plus the other plan allows for contacts and glasses every 6 months which is excessive and thus costly.

So after spending the rest of the week in my glasses, I got to go back to the eye doctor for a completely out-of-pocket visit to get fitted for a new completely out-of-pocket contact. Strangely, the contact that I broke is also the same one I broke a year or so ago, which was the same one I lost a few years before that, etc. So my left contact will be the same one I've had since early 2002, while the right one can't seem to last longer then 2 years.


Read the whole post.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Jon and Nicole Visit

On Thursday afternoon, my cousins Jon and Nicole along with their two little girls, Katie and Ellie, came to visit for the weekend. We had a great time spending the weekend with them.

They arrived around 3:30 on Thursday, which was just about perfect as it left me sometime to unpack after my 1:30 flight back from Cambridge. We spent Thursday evening catching up with each other and playing with the girls.

On Friday we all went over to the Minnesota Zoo and spent the day there seeing the animals and the dolphin show. It was a lot of fun, and both of the girls really seemed to enjoy seeing the animals. Especially at the demonstration farm that is in the back corner of the Zoo. I had actually never been back there, but it was perfect for the girls, as they could feed the goats and pet the animals. My parents came over to join us for dinner on Friday, so we did some grilling and had an awesome dinner.

Saturday was spent at the Mall of America, mostly in the amusement park. The girls went on a number of the rides there, and really seemed to have a good time. Eventually we trekked back home, and Linzy and I babysat Katie and Ellie while Jon and Nicole went out for a 10th anniversary dinner at Enjoy! (which they really seemed to like).

All in all it was a great weekend. I think my cousins had a great time as they kept talking about how much fun they were having, and Katie announced this morning that she didn't want to go home. You can't ask for more then that.

Linzy and Ellie at the Zoo.


Katie enjoying the slide at a little playground at the Zoo.


Even tiger bellies need sun.


I'm sure the Zoo would tell me it is perfectly painless to file down a goat's horns. But it looks painful.


I thought this display in the pig barn was kind of in bad taste.


Sometimes you just don't want your picture taken.


A few other pictures are in the gallery


Read the whole post.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Plain Tacos

My boss, a co-worker and I went out to lunch today and decided to try a new Mexican grill down the street from the office. My boss and co-worker ordered tacos, I stuck to the Chipotle-esque burrito.

The menu was a little confusing and there were some communication problems getting any clarification. So no one was exactly sure what we were going to end up getting.

My burrito turned out somewhat normally, although the hot sauce listed on the menu went missing somewhere along the line. The tacos on the other hand turned out to be two soft tortillas shells per taco, a little meat and a squirt of sour cream. That's it.

As far as we could tell there was no lettuce or shredded cheese in the building. And the pico that was added to my burrito apparently didn't come with the tacos. Very strange.

My burrito was good though.


Read the whole post.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Preservatives

Movie theater popcorn is an amazing thing. It of course tastes better then what you can usually make at home (though I do make a mean batch of stovepan popcorn), but it also lasts forever.

Over a week ago Linzy and I went to see Knocked Up (which was quite funny for the record) and bought some popcorn. Through the craziness of movie theater pricing schemes, we ended up getting the large size because it was only a quarter more then the medium. And since you get free refills on the larges, we took a bucket home with us.

The bucket sat on the counter covered in cling wrap for a week, until I finally admitted that we would never find time to watch a movie and eat it, and decided to eat some of it for a snack. It tasted almost the same as the day we bought it.

Its probably better not to think to hard about exactly how that is possible.

Read the whole post.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

30th Birthday

Today is my 30th birthday, so I can finally become a senator. That's a relief.

Yesterday Linzy threw a surprise party for me at my parents house. The ruse was that we were supposedly going over there to go out to dinner with them for Father's Day and my birthday because they had bought theater tickets for today. Instead, a bunch of my friends were waiting at the house for a surprise birthday party.

I had a good time seeing everyone, and spending time catching up with friends I hadn't seen for a while. There was a very good turnout; Lots of people stopped by for all or part of the party.

Linzy did a terrific job of getting everything together without me knowing, and my parents helped out as well. The party was great, and I really enjoyed it.

Andi, Jenny, Shawn, Megan and Linzy hanging out in the backyard


What could be more fun then bubbles?


Angel and Felicia


Mike


Robin looking incredulous at something Brenden is claiming, while Fred talks to Allison


We had lots and lots of food. It was all really good though.


Brenden, Allison and Mike playing the Wii


Sarah and John made me a present, a box filled with 30s.




My cake was awesome, it had blueberry filling and tasty sugary frosting


Linzy was busy the whole party getting food ready, getting the cake out, and then cleaning up as well.


A few other pictures are in the web album.


Read the whole post.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fourth Anniversary

On Thursday Linzy and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. This year we decided to make a day trip to LaCrosse, Wisconsin. LaCrosse turned out to be a bit further away then we were envisioning, and coupled with the fact that we didn't get started until after lunch, we didn't actually get there until mid-afternoon.

We spent a bit of time walking along the Mississippi river in park. It was unbelievably hot and humid out (93F or so), so that was a bit less fun then you might imagine. After that, we drove up to Grandad Bluff to look over the city and river.

The bluff was pretty impressive, as it is just outside of town but is 600 feet above the city. On a clear day you can see all the way to Iowa (in addition to being able to see Minnesota and Wisconsin of course). Amazingly, the first settlers of LaCrosse (other then the Native Americans) didn't just throw up tents on the shore and rest after their long journey. Instead they climbed all the way up the bluff and held church service. That's dedication.

After the bluff we spent a while exploring 'historic' downtown LaCrosse, and bought a bottle of wine to continue our tradition of picking up a local bottle of wine to have on the following year's anniversary. Incidentally, the Minnesota Old Vines from last year was really good this year.

We finished off the day in LaCrosse with a terrific steak dinner at the Freighthouse. From there we still had the 2.5 hour drive back home, and then watched the video I made for Linzy looking back at all the pictures from the past year.

All-in-all it was a nice day.

The river and bridges for Highway 61


Swimming in the park's fountain appeared to be a popular past-time (you can't see all the kids on the other side in full swim gear)


Grandad Bluff


Looking south off the bluff


Looking west off the bluff


What town would be complete without a Hooters?


There was a random Japanese garden near the park


Relaxing on a bench before dinner


The Freighthouse restaurant, which made a very good steak.


The rest of the pictures are in my Picasaweb gallery.


Read the whole post.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Big Head


Sometimes the bed just isn't big enough for both you and your heavy Silky Terrier head.


Read the whole post.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Dinner in the City

Today was insanely busy at work, and it only got worse towards the end of the day. We had a bit of trouble right at the end of the day, so I ended up staying later then intended. Eventually, Linzy called from running around and said she was going to be late as well. At that point we just decided she would come downtown and pick me up instead.

It worked out pretty well, actually. I had just a few things to finish up when Linzy arrived, so she got to see the office and then we went to Brit's Pub for dinner. I had been there last month for a team event, but skipped most of the food, but before that it had been over five years since I was there.

We had a spinach & artichoke appetizer along with London broil sarnies. The food was surprisingly tasty. I was pleasantly surprised, and totally stuffed by the time we left.

The place was absolutely packed, but the service was reasonable. The meal was a bit on the expensive side, but in terms of downtown prices it wasn't that bad.

All in all it was an enjoyable evening.

Read the whole post.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nicknames

The other day my boss and I were talking about how strange it is how some nicknames just 'stick'. In particular, he was complaining about a nickname the performance team had given him and how he thought it didn't fit at all. Of course the performance team thought otherwise.

It is pretty strange how arbitrary nicknames can be. Witness Willy the fern, or Petey the Pathfinder. Two completely nonsensical names for inanimate objects, but yet that's what we call them.

Similarly, my friend Bill had more-or-less random but hilarious nicknames for our old roommates we didn't get along with, that I can remember vividly to this day while at the same time I can barely remember their real names.

Then there are our extended neighbors, most of whom we don't really know and so instead have developed a whole series of nicknames for them. Some of the names which are not all that original ('the rental house') and others are particularly poignant and bring a smile to my face whenever I hear them.

About the only real nickname I've ever really had came one summer during college when I had an internship as a Novell network administrator/desktop support/dba. I worked with two guys just a few years older then me, and for some reason they nicknamed me "Clean Steve". That was apparently the title of a song by some band they both liked, and since I was (and am) relatively clean-cut the name stuck.


Read the whole post.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Recent GMail

Tonight I spent a while working on setting up Linzy's new computer (which is really our seven-year-old one plus a $15 15-inch LCD monitor and 50 cent keyboard).

One interesting thing I learned was about Gmail's POP 'recent' mode. If you change your login name to "recent:<google account>", your POP clients will download the last 30 days of mails instead of just the ones that haven't already been downloaded by a client (any client).

That plus the 'Leave Mail on Server' option in Thunderbird was exactly what I was looking for so Linzy's e-mail is downloaded on both computers.

Unfortunately for you, my time as a computer support technician cut into my time plotting a more interesting blog post for tonight. Your loss, Linzy's gain.

Read the whole post.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

No Room at the Inn

Last week on Wednesday night/Thursday morning my hotel room phone rang at 12:30 am. Since I was sound asleep by the time I woke up, got a light turned on, and found the phone the caller had hung up. I didn't think much of it, and since I had no way to figure out who had tried to call anyways, I just went back to bed.

The next morning I got up and met my co-worker for breakfast as planned. He was waiting in the restaurant, but had all his luggage with which seemed a little odd. It turned out that he had ended up staying in some other hotel that night.

You see, his flight was scheduled to land at 12:05 am on Thursday. So our travel website booked him a room starting Thursday night, not Wednesday night/Thursday morning. He didn't notice the mistake, and with Harvard Commencement (with Bill Gates and Bill Clinton) and MIT commencement happening that weekend, basically every single hotel in the Cambridge area was booked solid.

There was some confusion over what other employees were staying in the hotel all ready, so some random person with a name close to another co-worker got a midnight wake-up call, along with the call I was too sleep-addled to answer. In the end, they were able to find some $400 a night Boston harbor view penthouse suite at another hotel a mile or so away, and so my co-worker spent the night there.

I felt bad that I had missed the call, and didn't even attempt to follow up on it. But at least he found a room. Of course his reservation for this week has the exact same problem.

Although it is nice to know that I'm not the only one who can screw up a travel reservation that is being made in a hurry.

Read the whole post.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

More Space

Last weekend, I finally decided to make my yearly hard drive purchase, this time to replace the oldest hard drive in my computer.

That hard drive had started randomly not showing up in Windows. After a reboot and perhaps a little cable jiggling it always came back, but it started making me nervous. Primarily because it contained the sole copy of all of my mp3s, and there is no way I am ever going back through the pain that was ripping them all the first time around.

So I went to Newegg and found a shiny new 500G SATA drive for $114 to replace it with. Which seems like a very good deal. It boggles my mind that I can get almost 1000x the storage of the first hard drive I ever bought, for a third of the price.

I probably didn't need quite that large of a drive, since I already have 320G and 250G drives in the computer, but it wasn't really all that much more expensive then other hard drives and is known for being quiet. Plus now, the computer sports over a terabyte of space.

Sure over half that space isn't even used, but that's not really the point.

Read the whole post.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Flat Rate

I never cease to be amazed at the variations in the 'flat rate' for going from Cambridge to the Boston airport. One would think, with something called a flat rate, that it would always be the same price, but it's not.

On the four most recent trips I was charged (before tip):

$28.00
$43.75
$44.50
$34.50

The more expensive two were from the same private Suburban, so why those rates differed even from each other, I have no idea. And the one I took today ($34.50) was sold as being the same price as a taxi, but clearly it was not when all was said and done.

I can't find anything on the web saying what the 'flat rate' should be. Today I realized only after I had gotten in the Towncar that I potentially didn't have enough cash on me, if his flat rate was as expensive as the Suburban's flat rate. Luckily it wasn't as expensive, so I didn't have to make him wait while I went to find an ATM.

That would have been expensive, I imagine.

Read the whole post.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Disguise

The door across from mine in the hotel here in Cambridge looks like just like any other. Except for a small plate on the right-hand wall that has a button in the middle. The plate says "Hold button for five seconds".

I spent a while trying to figure out why there was a button next to the door. My initial theory was it was some sort of accessible room with an automatic door. Then yesterday when I came back from the office, a maintenance-ish looking guy was coming out of the door (reeking of booze incidentally) while I was going into my room.

I still couldn't see into the room at that point, but after I thought about it for a while I realized what the room probably was: the service elevator.

The rooms in that position on each floor have the same button, and having a separate elevator keeps the maintenance people out of the elevator with the hordes of business people paying $250 a night for rooms.

And disguising the fact that room 716 is really an elevator seems exactly like something a place like this would do. After all, this is the same place that pays someone to come into my room each night to turn down the bed, put chocolates on my pillow, turn on the radio and lay out a leopard-print robe.

Read the whole post.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Where Everyone Knows Your Name

When I was checking out of the hotel last Thursday, the concierge said "See you next time". To which I laughed and replied "Yeah, that's pretty much Monday".

The same guy happened to be working on Monday morning, and recognized me. Then, when I came back from work on Monday evening they had left a card, bottle of water and bag of cookies in the room.

I thought that was a nice touch (mainly because I am a sucker for cookies). I guess there are a few benefits to having to travel back-to-back weeks. Small benefits, of course, but every little bit helps.

[ Incidentally, if you are looking for a complimentary hotel cookie review: the cookies at the Doubletree in Miami were much better then the ones here at the Kimpton. ]

Read the whole post.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Pizza Beret

I like pizza. I do not, however, like pizza enough to wear an oversized pizza beret.





As far as I could tell, there was no reason for him to be wearing that hat. He just seemed to be a normal guy driving up the road. While wearing a pizza beret.


Read the whole post.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dan & Nikki's Wedding

On Saturday, Dan & Nikki got married at a church in Eagan. The wedding was in the works for a long time, since Nikki was moving here from the UK, but all of the preparations were done in just two months. Since you don't know how long a fiancee visa is going to take to get approved, you can't really plan anything specific until the approval actually comes through.

Anyway the ceremony was really nice, and everything went according to plan (as far as I am aware). There was a short reception in the basement of the church afterwards, and then a bunch of the friends got together at a local tavern for a few drinks at the end of the night.

All in all it was a lot of fun. Read on for some pictures of the wedding and reception, if you'd like.


The rehearsal on Friday night. Nikki's daughter Phillipa was the Maid of Honor, Tristan was the best man, and Linzy was a witness.


Exchanging vows


Dan, Nikki and Dan's parents


Linzy, Nikki and Phillipa


One of the infamous pots


Two wedding cakes from Byerlys, which looked quite a bit better then they tasted (the Marzipan frosting was a bit different).


Linzy made all of the flower arrangements. This was Nikki's bouquet, sitting in a makeshift water holder.


Cutting the cake


Felicia and Linzy


Dan, Gerard, Dan and I (taken by Kelli)



Read the whole post.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Weight Management Salad

Last week the team in Cambridge and those of us traveling out there all went out to Cheesecake Factory for dinner.

If you've ever been to the Cheesecake Factory, you are probably well aware of their proclivity for massive portions. Entrees might as well be served on troughs. Not that the food isn't good (it's generally terrific), but when the chicken and dumplings comes in basically a bucket with like 8 whole biscuits stuck on the rim of the bowl, you know you should be asking for a doggy bag.

Anyway, one of my co-workers decided she was going to try one of the Weight Management Salads. Apparently she goes to Cheesecake factory all the time and was looking for something different to try.

With a name like "Weight Management Salad", I was expecting a more reasonably sized salad to be delivered. Instead, they brought a huge plate absolutely heaping with salad. The pile of lettuce, and various accompaniments was probably 8 inches tall at the peak. My co-worker wasn't even able to finish half of it.


Read the whole post.