Friday, November 30, 2007

Recent Media - 11/30

Explanation - Previous List

TV: Rome Season 2 & Sopranos Season 6 Part 2 - I watched the series finale of Rome this week, and really enjoyed it. It was a fitting end to the series, but of course made me wish they were continuing the show. It is hard to believe that two 'seasons' of the show resulted in a mere 22 episodes, less then one season of regular TV. Still I enjoyed the show. Now that Rome is done, I've moved on to the final few episodes of the Sopranos. I fear the ending.

Books: The Jansen Directive - I'm still working my way through this book. It is disturbingly similar to the Bourne Identity, which is not surprising since it is the same author, but I have read other books by him and this is the most direct 'homage' to the Bourne books. I would have liked it to be a little more unique, but it is OK I guess.

Movies: Hustle & Flow and Beowulf - Linzy and I watched Hustle & Flow randomly on Showtime one night. It was actually pretty entertaining. I don't particularly care for Terrance Howard, but I liked the movie. Basically an 8 Mile ripoff, but I never considered turning it off.

I went to see Beowulf at the Imax in 3D with Shawn, his brother and his brother's friend. I was pleasantly surprised. To be honest after seeing screen captures of Grendel, I had major concerns. But in motion the animation/style of the movie was not as bad as I feared, and the story was good. More engrossing then the epic poem, at least for me, in part because I only vaguely recalled the gist of the poem. The 3D presentation was cool, with very few 'hey lets do a 3D trick' moments, but more subtle uses to expand a scene.

Video Games (Portable): Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass - On Tuesday I spent the entire bus ride to and from work working my way through the temple for the millionth time. However, just as I finally got back to the room at the very bottom, I accidentally stepped on a teleportation square while trying to get away from some enemies. Before I could do anything else, I was teleported back to the beginning of the temple, from which I will have to go all the way through the temple again. That made me bitter. Regardless, I finished the game a few sessions later. It was fun, but not really a classic. I have two plane flights next week, and I am not sure what I will be playing.

Video Games (Home): Guitar Hero 3 - I was hoping to have completed all of the songs on expert difficulty level by Wednesday, which would have been exactly a month after getting the game (the same amount of time it took to finish GH2). However that was not to be. I completed another few songs, finishing tier 7, but the final 4 songs (which precede the boss battle) are nasty. I like three of them, but they are HARD. I finished one, barely, and am pretty close to finishing one of the other songs. So it is probably just a matter of time, but sometimes it doesn't feel like it when I fail Number of the Beast at 6% three times in a row.

Music: Dashboard Confessional - The (relatively) new album is no Dusk & Summer. That is all.


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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Phone Call

On Friday Linzy and I were in National Camera Exchange, checking out digital cameras. Normally I wouldn't shop there, since I dislike their generally arrogant commissioned sales people, but they happen to be one of the few local places that carried a particular model of camera I was interested in.

The store is pretty small and was absolutely packed, such that their entire camera counter (which is basically their entire store) was filled with people and there was a line 5 customers deep waiting for their chance to go up to the counter and check things out.

While we were standing there waiting, two phone calls came in. For each one, a person answered, told the person to hold, and then announced over the loud speaker: "Cameras, Line One. Cameras, Line One".

As if there was any other reason someone might be calling National Camera Exchange.

The other, completely unrelated, amusing thing at National Camera Exchange was listening to the customer next to me arguing with the sales persona about why the place wouldn't buy his used film camera. Finally the sales guy (who had clearly had enough of post-Thanksgiving-traffic-levels) said "Look. Go over and check out that case at the end of the counter. See all those film cameras in there? I can't sell any of them. It doesn't matter if your camera was really expensive, or is really nice. If I can't sell it to anyone, I'm not buying it". The customer just went "Hmph." and muttered under his breath "It's a really nice camera...I don't understand".


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Helping Hand

On Saturday, while we were working on putting together and decorating the new Christmas tree, Pippen was feeling rather disgruntled from an apparent lack of attention (in her mind).

She spent the whole time following us around, being under foot, sniffing things and generally being a nuisance. At one point she even grabbed one of the little stuffed snowmen that Linzy was going to be putting around the house and dragged it to the other side of the living room for a savaging. Luckily the snowman survived the attack.

At the time, I didn't think too much of it, but upon looking at the pictures they looked a lot like the pictures from a few Christmases ago. Read on to see how 'helpful' Pippen was.

Helping Linzy with an ornament..


Helping me move the tree back against the wall..


In case I didn't notice the previous helping, she moved up closer to the action..


And, helped by whapping me in the head a few times with the toy...


Then, just for good measure helping out with the vacuuming by attacking the vacuum cleaner.


I'm sure glad Pippen was around to assist.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Christmas Tree

On Saturday, Linzy and I were planning to put up our Christmas decorations. After pulling out all of the boxes, I took out the tree and started putting it together and finally had had enough.

You see, our Christmas tree was purchased seven years ago when Linzy and I lived in a smallish apartment along with my future father-in-law. As such, we didn't have much space, and since money was also tight, when we went out to get a tree the primary decision criteria was small and cheap. Thus we ended up with a small tree that was listed at 6 feet and was probably more like 5' 4", because it was small, narrow, and on sale for $15.

The tree worked well in our apartment, but looked patently ridiculous the first year we moved into our house when it was the sole object in the living room. Over the years we've added furniture to that room, and so the tree looked less out of place but it always looked kind of silly. It was too small too hold all of our ornaments, and although all of those ornaments covered the gaps to some extent, they also made the tree lean even when carefully placed.

The old tree, the second year we lived in the house. We tried to disguise the leaning by making it lean into the corner.


In short, it was time to give up our sentimental 'first' tree and get something a little more usable.

So, Saturday Linzy and I made the rounds looking for a new 'permanent' tree (apparently the new term for artificial trees). A big thing with the trees now appears to be being 'pre-lit', meaning they already have all of the lights strung on the branches. Then they use hinging branches so that you can pack the whole thing up with the lights still attached.

That seemed nice enough, except that almost all of the trees (excepting the outrageously priced Bachman's trees) that were pre-lit were only available with clear lights. Both Linzy and I would have preferred multi-colored lights, which meant we spent a lot of time looking at every possible store hoping to find a reasonably priced tree pre-lit with multi-colored lights or failing that, a nice full-looking tree without lights.

Alas, we never were able to find a suitable tree without lights, nor a multi-colored light tree, so we settled on a very nice full-looking tree from Target that has clear lights. One nice thing about that tree is that it also has some pine cones attached to the branches, which made it look a little nicer.

In theory our old tree was 6 feet tall, and the new one is 7-and-a-half. Even with the tip-top of the new tree bent in thirds to accommodate the star, it looks like more then a foot and a half difference.


The new tree all lit-up.


I'm already getting used to the clear lights, and we also later went and bought a good selection of colored globe ornaments to replace some silver ones we had, which should help add some more color to the tree. The new tree also fills in the space in our living room much better, and so everyone was happy with the switch. Except perhaps our Christmas budget.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Doorbuster

Early Friday morning (Black Friday), 200 bargain hunters and I were waiting outside of the Lakeville Best Buy. How early? 2:30am early.

Best Buy had a number of 'doorbuster' deals in their ad, and they were handing out tickets for the items starting at 3am. One of those deals was a $200 PC, LCD monitor and printer, and so I dragged myself out of bed and into the bitter cold to stand in line in the hopes of getting one for Linzy's parents (who have not had a computer since Linzy was in Junior High).

I've never done anything like that before. I don't even know that I've been to a store on Black Friday before 10am. So an experienced bargain hunter I am not. What I was unprepared for was the crowds.

Honestly, despite the really good deals, I was figuring the relative newness of the Lakeville Best Buy, the ridiculously early time frame, and the sub 20 degree temperatures would keep the crowds at bay. Instead, when I pulled up at 2:30am, the parking lot looked like noon on a Saturday.

The line stretched from the front door, down the front of the building, down the sidewalk, around the side of the building and all the way into the back by the car stereo installation bay. There were 163 people in line in front of me (one of the guys behind me counted). At 2-fricking-30 in the morning. There were somewhere around 20 tickets for the PC available, and probably a similar number for each of two laptops that were ~200-300 dollars off. At about 3:10 they announced the PC/laptop tickets were gone and a third of the line left.

It wouldn't have been a total bust, however, if I had wanted some of the other items. There were a number of TVs, digital cameras, a camcorder, and an XBox 360 bundle deal that all had enough tickets to get all the way back to my area of the line.

The silly thing about the line was that they started handing out the tickets from the front of the line, and you were limited to one ticket per item. But each different item started at the front of the line. So if you were at the front of the line, you could take one of every item. You could also take tickets for things you had no intention of buying.

Thus all of the PCs and laptops probably all went to the same 20 people. Those people were dedicated, though. Supposedly the person at the front of the line arrived at 2:30pm on Thanksgiving (that is, 12 hours before I did). What a way to spend your Thanksgiving.

Most people didn't show up quite that early, but there was a lady I talked two who had come at 1:30am, and she was still all the way around the side of the building (so, probably at least 60 people from the front of the line).

The other thing that was surprising was just how cold it got standing around in line. I was wearing long johns under my jeans, my warmest winter jacket, a hat and gloves, and I was still shivering like crazy by the time I left at around 3:20. I can't imagine having spent the four-or five extra hours outside that would have been required to get something 'good'.

Still it was an experience I guess, and only really cost me a little over an hour of my time. I left the house at like 2:20 and got back at 3:30am. Sure it totally hosed up my sleep that night, but my in-laws would have been floored if we had managed to get them a computer for Christmas. So it was worth a shot.


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving: Pictures

We had a good Thanksgiving.

It was fun spending time with my family. We watched some football, a movie, and just hung out. My Mom and Linzy put together quite the meal. All of the food was great, particularly the stuffing, which was terrific. As expected, we had way too much food, but that is half the fun of Thanksgiving.

Read on for some pictures, if you'd like.

I was in charge of the sausage and cheese tray for appetizers.


Linzy had the harder project, the fresh vegetable tray.


We got some snow that stuck around for Thanksgiving.


Dad working the tripod/camera.


Linzy and Mom in the kitchen


Linzy and I


The turkey


The table, with all the fixings.


My meal. Tasty!


Dad, Mom, Linzy and I.


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Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Record

One of my co-workers who I do a lot of eating with when we are both traveling to Cambridge, always orders the same kind of salad when we go out: The Wedge Salad. The wedge salad was a new thing to me. It is basically just a hunk of iceberg lettuce head plated without any chopping and covered in dressing and (usually) bacon bits.

The silly thing is how expensive the salad usually is. It is not uncommon to pay $7-8 for it at the fancier places we go eat at. All for about 29 cents worth of the cheapest lettuce you can buy, a 1/4 cup of dressing and some Bacos.

It has become something of a sport to track the prices of these salads. The 'goal' is to find some place unafraid to charge a full $12 for the salad. Up to this point the most expensive we had found was somewhere north of $9. Then, on Saturday my parents, Linzy and I were at Rock Bottom Brewery and I found their 'new' Wedge Salad. Priced at a record setting $10.79.

Now, they at least throw several extra things on the salad, making it more of a meal then the steak places we go to where it is clearly just an accompaniment to the main course. But that didn't stop me from picture mailing a picture to my co-worker with the text '$10.79 Wedge Salad - New Record'.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Recent Media - 11/23

Explanation - Previous List

TV: Rome Season 2 - After watching three episodes of the second season of Rome, I took a break to watch Heroes. Now that I finished that series last week, I am back to Rome. And enjoying it. The season started a little slow, but it has definitely hit its stride now. I'm enjoying watching the scheming, backstabbing, and manipulations of the various characters. Unfortunately I only have one more episode left, after which the series is done. And that disappoints me, because I really like the series.

Books: The Jansen Directive - I decided on something a little different to read this time. In this case, a Robert Ludlum spy novel. It is no Bourne Identity, but the Jansen Directive hasn't been too terrible thus far (I am about halfway through it).

Movies: 28 Weeks Later and Eragon - 28 Weeks Later was OK I suppose, but not great. You could see how the end was going to work after only about 30 minutes. Eragon was not as bad as I was expecting. The plot was awfully simplistic, but as long as you didn't take it too seriously it was amusing.

Video Games (Portable): Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass - I'm nearing the end of the game now. I found the last of the items so now it is just a matter of going back through old areas with the grappling hook to get extra items and finish the last dungeon. The game has been fun.

Video Games (Home): Guitar Hero 3 - As I mentioned last week, this week I spent a fair amount of time yawning my way through GH3 on easy (which I finished). I also managed to beat Hard difficulty level, which demonstrates just how ridiculous the boss battle mechanic is, that I can be over 75% done with Expert level before being able to beat the last boss battle. On the Expert difficulty level I only completed a couple songs, as now the songs a difficult enough that it takes me a day or two worth of sessions, and much yelling at the TV, before I can flub may way through the song. I'm looking forward to finishing Tier 7 on Expert, as the songs are ones I mostly dislike, where as I enjoy all of Tier 8 excepting the Slayer song (because it is likely stupidly impossible).

Music: Nothing of note, really.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrate it.

As I mentioned last week, we will be spending this Thanksgiving holiday at my parents house. I'm looking forward to it, it should be fun. I'm sure there will be way more food then the four of us can possibly eat. In fact, I am pretty sure there are more appetizers/snacks being brought over then we could eat for two meals. Let alone for a lunchtime snack before the real deal.

Despite the fact that I do a lot of complaining, Linzy and I have a lot to be thankful for, so as always the holiday seems particularly appropriate.

Happy Thanksgiving!


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monthly Payment

On Sunday I was reading the business section and for some reason noticed two car ads right next to each other. What caught my eye was that one ad had only lease prices listed, while the other listed MSRP prices for buying the cars. The lease-only ad was for Acuras, while the MSRP ad was for Subarus. Interestingly the Acura ad was consistent on using only lease prices, even for their less expensive cars.

Tonight I was frustrated enough with Guitar Hero 3 to decide to look through the Sunday paper and see how the car ads listed their prices. What I found was mostly what I would have expected, but there were a few surprises:

Ads with LEASE prices:
Acura
BMW
Ford
Hyundia
Infinity
Land Rover
Mercedes

Ads with MSRP prices:
Chevy
Dodge
Kia
Lexus
Mazda
Mitsubishi
Nissan
Subaru
Volkswagon

Ads with NO prices:
Audi
Jaguar

As you can see, for the most part the ads went along the expected lines: expensive cars - lease prices, normal cars - MSRP. But then you have Ford and Hyundia (?!) with only lease prices. Conversely you have Toyota and Lexus with MSRP prices. I was really surprised at Lexus, since they were/are a luxury brand and the prices listed were expensive.

I suppose the differences could depend on the dealership, the day, or just whim. But I thought it was interesting.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Macy's Christmas Display

On Sunday, when we were downtown to see the Lion King, we had some time to kill in between dinner and the play. To pass the time, we decided to go over to Macy's to check out the annual Christmas display (courtesy of their Dayton's legacy). This year's display was based on a Nutcracker theme.

It has been many years since I have been to the display, so it was fun to see it. We used to go when I was a kid, though I don't remember much about it (other then long lines). The display wasn't super huge, but I am glad that Macy's has continued the tradition.

Read on for some pictures.



The display featured a godfather character who gave the nutcracker present to the young girl. He was decidedly creepy, and sported a crazy pirate eye patch.


I wasn't paying real close attention to the story, but for some reason the mice were attacking people.


The nutcracker prince fought the rabid mice.


Did I mention the creepy Godfather?


I've seen the Nutcracker ballet, but I don't recall Marzipan Piggies in it.




You could tell this wasn't a Disney display, by the slightly risqué Arabian section. This picture is blurry, but the sign says "Arabian coffee - Hot as the desert sun".


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Monday, November 19, 2007

The Lion King

On Saturday night, my parents, Linzy and I went downtown to see the Lion King play at the Orpheum. The tickets were a gift for our anniversary. My parents have seen the play twice (once pre-Broadway in 1997, and then again when it came back to town), but Linzy and I had not seen it yet.

The play was very good, and a lot of fun to see. We had great seats on the main floor, in row S, on the center aisle. The story was exactly what you would think if you have seen the movie, but it was still interesting to see the way they re-worked things for the stage. All of the actors did a good job, particularly Scar.

Probably the most impressive part of the play was the costumes. All of them very elaborate and colorful. There was a huge array of various animal costumes, including a giant elephant, a crazy wheel-contraption with antelopes, and an interesting cheetah.

About the only negative thing that I can think of about the experience was the Orpheum itself. The theater was uncomfortably warm. The seats are very tightly packed in, which would not be the worst, but they were also not particularly well tiered so it was extremely difficult to see over the people in front of you.

I originally thought the guy in front of me must be a relative giant, since I couldn't see anything over his head only to have him stand up at the intermission and turn out to be Linzy's height. I can see not wanting a steep floor, since it makes it tougher to fit in the upper balconies. But at the same time, I don't understand why you wouldn't stagger the seats by a half-a-seat so that everyone is looking through the gap in the people in front of them. It would cost you one seat every other row, but it would make for a much more pleasant viewing experience.

Regardless, we had a terrific time seeing the play and a fun time spending the evening with my parents. It was a great experience.


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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Price of Following

On Sunday afternoon, I decided to mow the lawn one last time. It had been several weeks since I mowed it a notch lower, and because we've had a few warm days in between the lawn had actually grown a bit. It was really cold and windy, so I wasn't really looking forward to mowing, but it will be the last time I have to do it this year and it needed to be done.

Anyway, my neighbor saw me getting ready to mow, and gave me a look like 'what in the world are you doing?'. I soldiered on and by the time I got to the backyard, not one but two other neighbors had apparently decided that maybe they needed to mow their lawns too. That helped validate my decision to mow the lawn, despite my neighbors silent scoffing.

Just as I finished up, it started to rain a little and then shortly after that started snowing. Which, of course, meant that those who only decided to mow after I started were still working on their lawns. It was unpleasantly cold mowing when it wasn't snowing, I can only imagine that made things worse.

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A Good Job if You Can Get It

When I was younger, my Dad and I used to joke that the ultimate job, if you could get it, was 3rd string quarterback. No one expects you to be any good, you aren't really supposed to be hit much in practice, you aren't expected to actually play, and you get paid a lot of money. Oh, and you get 4-5 months off during the year to rest up from all that work of carrying a clipboard and charting plays.

On Wednesday I saw in the paper further proof of that. The Vikings signed veteran backup QB Koy Detmer as insurance because two of their other quarterbacks were hurt. Koy practiced with the Vikes three times and then was cut after the Vikings decided the other two quarterbacks were good enough to be backups for the game last week.

Koy's paycheck for those three practices? $90,352.94

More then a lot of people make in a year, for three days of work. Clearly, if you can't be CEO, third-string quarterback is not a bad fall-back plan.


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Friday, November 16, 2007

Recent Media - 11/16

Explanation - Previous List

TV: Heroes Season 1 - I finished watching Heroes. Overall the series had a few sub-par episodes, and some aspects of the finale were painfully predictable, but in general I really enjoyed it. I will definitely be watching season 2...in a year when it comes out on DVD. In the meantime, I started up Rome: Season 2 again.

Books: The Fire Dragon - I finished the book on Tuesday night, and was disappointed to learn that the book was not nearly as much of a wrap up as I was expecting. For some reason I was thinking it would close off a span of books, but instead only a few plot lines were wrapped up. After two years of reading them off and on, I think I'm done with Deverry books for a while. At least until the final book of the series comes out.

Movies: None

Video Games (Portable): Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass - More of the same, I'm still annoyed at the whole 're-solve the same puzzles in the temple after every dungeon' aspect. Especially since now they give me an option to jump halfway into the temple, but that would mean skipping the earlier floors which have treasures that are only accessible with late-game items. Basically forcing you to play the levels over and over despite the 'shortcut'. I'm most likely a bit more then 2/3rds of the way through the game.

Video Games (Home): Guitar Hero 3 - Not much progress has been made on GH3 on the higher difficulty levels. Instead I've been forcing myself to play through the easy level (which is painfully boring). I did finish another 6-7 songs on expert, leaving only 10 left but they are very, very difficult. I'm still stuck on the final Boss son on Hard level, and more then ever convinced that the Boss fight mechanism added to this game should be an embarrassment to some game designer, somewhere. It is easily the worst addition to an established series since they passed off Doki Doki Panic as Super Mario Brothers 2.

Music: Angels & Airwaves and Priestess - I really like Angels & Airwaves new CD, and Priestess was discovered via them having a song in GH3.


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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Power Outage

Late on Wednesday of last week, we heard from the property management at our Cambridge office that there was going to be a complete 10 minute power outage on Tuesday night of this week, and a second 10 minute outage at some later date yet to be determined. The stated reasoning was to make some infrastructure repairs to the lines, which required a complete outage of all of the buildings in the area.

Many hastily convened meetings were held while we tried to figure out how we were going to handle it. In theory the battery backups should be able to last that long (barely), but it gets dicey in our newest server room where the only battery backups are per-rack which means you have to carefully balance power usage to get consistent survivability times for all servers. This is just another consequence of the relatively rinky-dink server room operation we have, but there isn't much we can do given the budget constraints we operate with.

Anyway, later that day we found out the second outage was going to be on Thursday evening. That made things interesting because there is a significant amount of unreliable hardware in Cambridge which can take a long, long time to bring back up if shutdown (days typically) So, we were looking at a situation where if something went wrong on Tuesday, it was entirely possible that we would work straight through only to have to start shutting things back down for the Thursday power outage.

What boggles my mind is that the power company could decide to have not one, but two complete power outages with less then a weeks notice. There's an entire Mall across the street that will be effected. Why wouldn't they at least schedule it for after the Mall is closed? I can't even recall the last time there was a complete power outage for anything I have been involved in, even for residential areas like where I live. At my old job, we had big diesel generators and they still did all kinds of crazy power stuff hot.

And what can you even do in 10 minutes? I'm envisioning (and probably trivializing I realize) that it basically comes down to all sorts of setup work so that during the 10 minute outage you just cross your fingers, flip one switch off and another on. But in that case, what the heck is the second outage for? Wouldn't you just switch everything over to the new lines and be done with it?

All in all it was really weird. But the good news is I was talk my way out of having to be on site (and thus needing to get CEO approval of travel with <7 days of lead time), and both outages went without a hitch. Even more strangely, neither 'outage' actually involved the power going out. Apparently it was just a 'could go out' rather then the 'will go out' we were told it would be.

The bad news is that since I wasn't there, I didn't get to expense goggles with LED lights and a spelunking light for my head like the guys who were on-site (preparing for the worst if all the lights were off).


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Newspaper Quote

One of my former co-workers e-mailed me this morning to let me know that I was quoted in the paper today, based on a conversation I had with the reporter a week or so ago about Copper Bleu closing.

At the time I didn't expect it to actually be published, because I didn't think there was going to be much of a story. And the story was short, but it did get published on the front page of the South Metro 2 section.

They even got my quote more-or-less correct, as near as I can recall:

Steve Eck, who works for a Minneapolis software company and lives in Lakeville, agreed that the food was good at Copper Bleu but that he and his wife typically went there only on special occasions, because "it was pricier than my budget would allow."

One problem with Copper Bleu may have been its proximity to a Cub Foods store and a strip mall, a humdrum vista just outside the restaurant windows.

Eck said it seemed a strange location for such a contemporary building.

"A wavy roof, interesting shape, covered in copper panels and stone work," he said. "I guess that would be part of my concern -- what are they going to do with such a unique-looking restaurant?"



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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Splitting Time

Has Thanksgiving snuck up on anyone else? We were talking at work in my boss's team meeting on Monday about how Thanksgiving was already next week. I always think of Thanksgiving as being near Christmas, and so it is hard to believe it is already the holiday season.

This year, for the first time since 2003 we'll be spending Thanksgiving at home with my parents. That is not to say that I don't enjoy spending Thanksgiving with Linzy's family (after three consecutive years it is practically a tradition, and we always have fun), but it will be nice to spend some time with my parents and get a long weekend at home to boot.

It was strange trying to figure out how many years it had been since we were last in town for Thanksgiving. The obvious first thought for both me and Linzy was to look back on the blog, but that only takes you back to Thanksgiving 2004. Then we were going to look at pictures, but there aren't any from 2003. After that it starts to get extremely sketchy.

Our conclusion was that we were home in 2003, and in Duluth in 2002 and 2004-2006. But that is at odds with my claim in 2004 that we hadn't been to Duluth in three years. That particular claim seems hard to believe because at that point we weren't married and so were religious about splitting holidays evenly between both sets of families. In the end, the answer came by searching old e-mails to Grandma and discovering that we were in fact in Duluth for Thanksgiving 2002, and (I was) at my parent's in 2001. Clearly blog post research was not that rigorous back in 2004.

It seems odd that figuring out where we spent past major holidays would be so hard to remember. But on the other hand, perhaps that demonstrates that spending the holiday with either side of the family is 'good'.

[ Note: for the record, the 2004-2006 stretch in Duluth was because my parents spent two Thanksgivings in a row with my Sister and Brother out East, not because we had some sort of falling out. :) ]


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Rock Band

A few weekends ago, when we were up in Duluth visiting Linzy's family I had an hour to kill before meeting Bill & Alice for lunch. To waste the time I decided to head up to the local Best Buy. I have a few things in mind to look at, and I was heading into the store I recalled that the Rock Band demo units had just come out.

That sealed the deal, so after milling around for a while waiting for the demo to open up I jumped on to try out the drums. They turned out to be really fun, much more fun then I was expecting, even considering that I was standing to play them and there was no kick pedal hooked up.

I will freely admit that I have terrible rhythm, so much so that the easiest way to beat me at Guitar Hero is to pick a song that doesn't rely on fast soloing, but instead relies on complex rhythm strumming. You'll beat me every time, assuming you can hang at expert difficultly level, of course.

Anyways, given that lack of rhythm I was surprised at how much fun I had playing the drums. I tried two songs, Paranoid and whatever Red Hot Chilli Peppers song was on the demo, both on Medium. I will probably never make expert difficulty level on them, but starting on medium difficulty was no problem if you are familiar with the general way rhythm games work. It will be interesting to see how the drums hold up in a four person game like Rock Band. Will you have anything to do during the guitar solos, and other slow parts of the song?

The trouble with Rock Band is actually not the price of the bundle, but the guitar situation. Similarly my initial plan had been to buy GH3 for the XBox 360 and then buy the bundle pack Rock Band, getting me two guitar controllers for both games. But now after playing with the wireless GH3 controller for the past few weeks I am hooked on no-wires. Also, the Rock Band controller is rumored to not work with GH3, which would put a serious cramp in those plans. I'd really rather not own 3 guitars (two GH3 and one Rock Band) and also have to play with a wired controller for Rock Band.

I'm tempted to try to hold out until after Christmas, and just buy the game and drum kit separately and use GH3 wireless guitars. But then again the drums were an awful lot of fun, and the Rock Band guitars are supposedly much nicer (though wired). So who knows if I will be able to wait that long. My patience for purchasing things has not been good lately.


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Monday, November 12, 2007

Narrow Margin

Since I live in the Farmington school district, on Tuesday there were three school referendums to vote on. I'm pretty sure we've had a school referendum to vote on just about every election that I have lived in this house. Anyway, this year there were three questions and so I checked the results in the paper the following day.

Only one of the three questions passed (the largest one), which wasn't necessary interesting, but the margin was pretty narrow. Specifically, the Star Tribune reported it as:

Yes - 2,803 50%
No - 2,791 50%

That is, it passed by a mere 12 votes. I looked through the other reported results, and could only find one other result that was closer vote-wise. That was a levy in Delano which passed (if the results are upheld) 1,343 to 1,339 There was also a levy in Lakeville which was closer percentage-wise: 6,271 to 6,286.

Still think it doesn't matter if you don't vote?


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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stubborn


The tree at my neighbor's house behind us has spent the last week stubbornly holding onto the very last of its leaves.


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Friday, November 09, 2007

Recent Media- 11/9

Explanation - Previous List

TV: Heroes Season 1 - I'm still working my way through episodes, with only 2.5 episodes left. The last few episodes have been really enjoyable and so I am looking forward to finding time to finish them. In particular, the last episodes I watched ("Five Years Gone") was fun, particularly watching bad-ass future Peter and Hiro fight their way into a well-guarded facility.

Books: The Fire Dragon - Not a whole lot to say here. The book is pretty average, but it looks like a number of plot lines will finally be tied up in this book, so that is interesting. I'm looking forward to moving on to another series for a while.

Movies: None

Video Games (Portable): Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass - The game has been pretty decent so far. The all-stylus controls are less wonky then I was fearing, although at times they can be frustrating. Particularly when you are trying to quickly switch between items of navigate a narrow and precarious ledge. The dungeon crawling has been good, although I am already annoyed at having to revisit the same original temple over and over, and having to solve the exact same puzzles again and again. That's just ridiculous. I am already planning to play through Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past when I am done with this game, to remind myself how great the pinnacle of 2d Zelda games was.

Video Games (Home): Guitar Hero 3 - I've been playing the game as much as I can squeeze in considering I was out of town last weekend, and have been working 10 hour days lately. I finished the second half of the songs on Hard, although I have not yet beat the final boss battle (which is quite tricky). Instead I moved on to expert and am roughly 60% through those songs. At this point the general difficulty level seems slightly less then GH2, but I will reserve judgment until I get further into Expert. There were only two or three songs on Hard that I had any trouble with (not counting the boss battle), which seems like less then GH2 if I recall correctly.

I've been enjoying the game, although sometimes the song choices and groupings make me scratch my head. Almost all of the songs I like playing are in the second half of songs, particularly the last few tiers, while the first several tiers are littered with songs that are just boring to play. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"? I mean, come on.

Music: None really, work has been packed with meetings. Do Guitar Hero songs at night count?


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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Auto-Pilot

I was riding the bus to work on Tuesday, when I realized that my feet felt awfully comfortable. Looking down, I realized that I was wearing my tennis shoes, along with my typical business casual work clothes. At that point, there wasn't really anything I could do about it. Either no one cared, no one noticed, or they all laughed behind my back, because I went the entire day without anyone saying anything about the questionable style choice.

A similar thing happened 6 months ago or so, but there I realized my feet were far too comfortable while only halfway to the bus stop so I could turn around and change. I knew I was tired this morning, but clearly I had no idea just how little attention I was paying when leaving the house.

I suppose it could have been worse, it could have been like one of those dreams where you get to school/work/whatever and discover you have no pants on. That would have been a different matter entirely.


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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Unlucky

This week my Fantasy Football team, the Arena Football All-Stars, lost despite having Adrian Peterson (296 yards, 3TDs), Marshawn Lynch (153 yds, 1TD), Marion Barber (106 combined yds, 1 TD), and Peyton Manning (255 yds, 1 passing TD, 1 rushing TD). Those four players combined for a seemingly unbeatable 83.76 points.

Unfortunately the rest of my squad (5 players) only chipped in another 22.85 points, and my opponent (Hi Pete) got a more even distribution of points from all of his players. Enough to total 111.02 points and beat me.

Frustratingly my points were enough to beat any other team in the league this week, most by over 25 points. Even worse, I had players on my bench with 16 and 10 points, either of which would have won the game if they had replaced my worst running back or any receiver.

Proving just how unlucky I've been this season, I'll remain with the top overall points for the season (by almost 40 points) but under .500 with a terrible 4-5 record. That puts me in 8th place, despite having 165 points more then the 7th place team, and over 200 more then the 9th place team. I guess that's why everyone always says it is better to be lucky then good.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Speed Sensor

Well, that didn't take long. Less then a week after I got my new-used elliptical machine, it broke. I was using it last Thursday night and about 40 minutes into my workout the machine kept going into 'Pause mode'.

At first I thought it was possibly due to the heart-rate monitor, and the machine being worried about my 93% of max heart rate. But then even when I took the batteries out, it was still happening. After watching the behavior a bit closer, the speed display was showing strange single-digit numbers. Since I had no better ideas, it was time to start dissembling things.

After a surprising amount of work to get the casing off the machine, the inner workings turned out to be pretty straight-forward. Specifically, they used a speed sensor almost exactly like what a bike uses.

The sensor looks to be missing one of the two screws that hold it in place and must have gotten shifted when Brenden, Paul and I lugged it out of one house and into another. After playing with it a little bit and moving it closer to the magnet on the wheel, the speed display started working again. A little more work got it re-secured in place.

What was happening, I think, was that since the speed sensor was not working, the machine was trying to accommodate what it thought was someone who had stopped using the machine. That is, by temporarily going into pause mode since it wasn't registering any revolutions of the wheel. Hopefully now that speed sensor has been repositioned and tightened back in place, it won't act up again.

It turned out to be a pretty easy repair, but I will admit to being a little worried about it being something seriously wrong with the electronics.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Irony

I was driving home from Duluth on Sunday, and as I was going through Apple Valley I noticed the car next to me. It was a small white sedan, driven by your typical young suburban girl. What caught my eye was the bumper sticker on the back, proclaiming:

Damn, it feels good to be a gangster.

I bet.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Reward Zone

On Sunday, when I was buying that thing I exchanged on Monday, I tried to use my Reward Zone card at Best Buy. I haven't used it for a while, normally I don't have it on hand and so they have to look me up via phone number.

When we were in Boston and I bought the short-lived camera they couldn't find my account. At the time I just assumed it was some sort weird localized problem where they didn't have the Minnesota records in MA. But because of it we dug out the card, so it was handy (and Linzy put it out to remind me to bring it with).

Anyways, when they scanned the card, the account came right up but it raised an alert that the address could not be delivered because it was a PO Box. Looking at the information, it was all different. The whole account had been changed over to Steve Zeck in Davis CA, including phone number, name, and the address. The only thing that was still mine was the e-mail address.

I have no idea how that happened. The name is close, obviously, but the address was in a totally different state, and the e-mail was never changed. You would think they would have e-mailed me if someone was taking my account. I assume it was by accident, because why would someone steal a Reward Zone account?

It doesn't have anything of value, except some stored points towards gift certificates (which I lost because they opened a new account for me but couldn't transfer the points). There's no credit card information, you can't use it as a form of identification, and it has no real world value, so there doesn't seem to be any incentive to steal the account. So I assume there was some sort of mix-up, but it was still very strange.


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Friday, November 02, 2007

Recent Media - 11/2

Explanation - Previous List

TV: Heroes Season 1 - I only watched another couple episodes this week. It has remained pretty good, with only a few throwaway episodes. Hopefully the last ten episodes adhere to the high standard set so far.

Books: The Fire Dragon - I finished the Black Raven earlier this week. It went quick with two plane flights last week. My initial opinion was that it was forgettable, and unfortunately that held throughout the book. The Fire Dragon will probably be the last book in this series that I read, until next year when the final set of three books (and the series) will theoretically be complete.

Movies: None

Video Games (Portable): Elite Beat Agents - On Monday's bus ride home, I finally finished Elite Beat Agents, which had been in my DS for over a month. The final bonus song and final song in the game were well into the 'frustrating' category, but I am glad I was able to finish it. Overall I really enjoyed the game, I just wish they hadn't resorted to making it so that you basically couldn't miss a single note in the last song without failing. Now I've moved on to Zelda: Phantom Hourglass which has been very fun so far.

Video Games (Home): Last weekend we were over at Paul & Laura's house, and played a bit of Wii Sports and Tiger Woods '08 with them and Brenden and Allison. Tiger Woods '08 was not much fun, thanks to the annoying ability to affect the other players shots, both by trying to distract them as they are swinging and by changing the spin and trajectory of the ball once it is in flight. That coupled with extremely unresponsive controls in general (and particularly for putting) made for a not-so-fun game.

The other big development on the Video Game front was the release of Guitar Hero 3. I picked it up for the XBox 360 on Sunday, and have been playing it since. Thus far it has not been a disappointment. The song list is huge, and while there are a number I don't like, there are also quite a few that I really enjoy.

I've finished all of the songs on Medium difficulty and about half on Hard. The difficulty seems to be at least as challenging as GH2 if not more-so, so I am a little concerned as to whether I will be able to finish all of the songs on Expert again. Certainly the infamous Dragonforce song will probably be impossible.

The wireless controller is a nice extra, and I am really hoping one of my friends buys the game (and XBox Live Gold) so we can play online co-op career. That would be quite enjoyable. Alas thus far no one has stepped up to the plate (Hi Brenden!).

Music: Avenged Sevenfold, Coheed & Cambria, and Serj Tankian - The all Metal week.


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Autographs

I was in the new Lakeville Best Buy on Monday night to exchange something, and as I was walking through the center of the store to get product to exchange I noticed a few people milling around in the center aisle blocking things and taking pictures.

At first I couldn't figure out what was going on, until one of the people moved and I realized there was a guy sitting at a table, signing things. On my way back to the customer service desk I walked around the other way and could see the sign saying it was Tony Richardson (the fullback for the Vikings).

There wasn't really a line, actually it was a lot of employees going through, so after completing my exchange I went back over and got an autographed picture. I was struggling to come up with anything to say to him. Most of the things I could readily think of would have been about the current phenom Adrian Peterson, maybe something to ask how Adrian compares to Priest Holmes or Larry Johnson (who Tony also blocked for). That would have been interesting, but probably would have been a bit insulting since Tony is a Pro Bowler in his own right.

So instead I asked if the Vikings were going to turn things around this week. Which, I guess wasn't necessarily the nicest thing to ask, but then again they are 2 and 6. For the record, Tony laughed and said "I hope so", before launching into the usual platitudes you would expect an professional athlete to answer a question like that with.


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