Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Dozen Years

Our house was built in 1996, making it 12 years old earlier this year. Apparently 12 years is the magic point at which random things start to give up the ghost.

For example, a week ago our garage opener stopped working. Or at least stopped raising and lowering the door. Instead it was content to just 'hum' and turn on the light indicating it should have been doing something. After opening it up and going "Yep, motor is still there, plastic gears appear fine" I had exhausted my garage opener troubleshooting skills and we ordered up a new one. (Which was put in today and is infinitely quieter then the previous one).

Similarly our refrigerator has been rather suspect for quite a while but in the past month or so it has developed a whole new repertoire of concerning noises. The ultimate is one that Linzy describes are "burping". I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that isn't a good sign.

My only hope is that we avoid the whole "bad (expensive) things come in threes", or that the computer failing counts as the third. I'd rather not have to also replace the water heater, washing machine, or something even more expensive.


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Monday, December 29, 2008

Punched in the Eye

I was highly amused today at this story about a couple who got in a fight over getting a Wii for Christmas:

Blom was disappointed when he did not receive the $1,000 airplane he had asked for from his grandparents, and was underwhelmed by the gift he received from Young: a Nintendo Wii video game console.
...
Blom admitted to the paper that he had disparaged the Wii, angering his girlfriend
...
An argument ensued, and Young allegedly hid the gift and began packing her bags. Insults flew, and a fist fight between the two allegedly ended in a two-story tumble down the stairs.

“He dragged me down two flights of stairs, by the hair,” Young claimed on Friday.

But Blom said, “I stood in the doorway trying to block her. She punched me in the eye. She punched me three times. I said ‘That’s it.’ And I pulled her hair.”
I wonder what exactly he said to disparage the Wii. I can attest to the fact that mine sits unused 90% of the time, so there is certainly room for criticism. Although perhaps immediately following having received one as a gift from your girlfriend is not the optimal time. Unless your eye is itching for some punching that is.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back to Work

And just like that, Christmas has come and gone.

It was nice to have 5 days off from work in a row, and being able to spend a bunch of time with both my parents and Linzy's parents was great. It's also pretty hard to get tired of fancy, delicious meals along with tasty cookies and treats just in case you get hungry in between.

The gifts I got this year were skewed heavily towards videos games, including Chrono Trigger DS, Gears of War 2, and Ninja Gaiden 2. I'm looking forward to trying all of them, and have already started NG2. It's living up to its ego-killing reputation as I flail on the buttons like an uncoordinated five year-old (a six year-old would probably be better). But it is fun.

Still, nothing last forever and tomorrow it will be back to the real world and work. At least for three days, until the next holiday.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

DSC_3150Merry Christmas!

The holiday this year really snuck up on Linzy and I, so we've been very busy the past few weeks. But now everything is finally complete, the baking is done, presents are bought and wrapped, plans are in place. All that remains is enjoying the holiday.

I spent the morning working, but now it is time to go over to my parent's house for the traditional Christmas Eve festivities. Then we'll have a Christmas Day dinner tomorrow, followed by Linzy's parents coming down from Duluth for the weekend. It should all add up to several days of family and relaxation. I'm looking forward to it.

Enjoy the holiday.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Crowded

This weekend I was out doing the last of my Christmas shopping and heading out I was a bit concerned that it was going to be a disaster. First of all because we were in the middle of a snowstorm and secondly because it was the last Saturday prior to Christmas, the busiest shopping day of the year.

Part of these concerns were well-founded, as the roads were a mess, and while the places I went were crowded none was all that ridiculously busy. On the other hand I thought that all of the stores 'felt' really crowded.

But it wasn't really people. While there were people there, it wasn't a frenzy of people grabbing things off the shelves. Instead, after thinking about it a bit I decided it was the fact that they all insisted on having a million island displays in the middle of the aisles, piled with product. That made the paths through the store even more narrow, especially when filled with people, and made the store seem more crowded.

To some extent island displays are just a normal part of business, but this seemed even more prevalent then past years and I started to wonder whether it was actually a sign of something else: excess product. It seemed plausible that the real issue was the generally terrible sales figures for the holiday season which left merchandisers with piles of excess inventory.

Which then, for lack of a better place, ended up in the middle of the aisles. Admittedly very anecdotal evidence, but it certainly seemed to be consistent with how bad the sales numbers have been reported to be.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Movies: Quantum of Solace

Linzy and I found time in amongst our busy weekend to go see the new Bond movie on Saturday evening. We both enjoyed it quite a bit.

I really like Daniel Craig's ruthless James Bond. It fit perfectly with this movie being a revenge film, and it will be interesting to see how things adapt for the next movie. If they continue with the ice-cold aspect of try to bring things more back in line with some of the previous Bonds.

I've seen a number of complaints from various people that Bond should not be an action hero. And if that is your stance, you'll have serious issues with Quantum of Solace. But I found the action scenes exciting and entertaining (especially the opening car chase and the chase/scaffolding fight).

The movie definitely did not spend any time brushing you up on what exactly happened in Casino Royale and in some ways I wish I had re-watched that first. I could still follow along with what was happening, but there were a few names bandied about early on that I had trouble remember exactly what they did in the previous film.

Depending on what you like in James Bond movies, Quantum of Solace may or may not fit with what you like. But all in all I found it very entertaining and continue to have Daniel Craig among the top two Bonds of all time.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dazzled by Technology

The new computer came preloaded with Windows Vista 64-bit as an OS. Which is just fine from my perspective, as Vista works great for what limited things I do with the computer. Unfortunately one of the few things that I actually use the computer for regularly is VPN access to work, which does not work on 64-bit Vista.

Cisco apparently has decided that they don't have an interest in selling client software to companies with employees with new computers and amazingly no one else seems to want to either (except some German company that wanted $144 a copy for generic IPSec VPN software). Seriously, I've written 64-bit software, it's not rocket science.

That raised a bit of a problem, as only e-mail access to work is OK 85% of the time, but I didn't really want to bring home my laptop every single day on the off chance I needed to VPN for one reason or another.

Anyways, what I ended up doing was channeling my inner nerd and using a pre-made Linux virtual machine image that my company provides, along with VMWare Player. This lets me run the VM on the computer simultaneously with Vista and the Linux machine has full VPN access to the company along with all the software I need preloaded.

It sounds complicated but in reality it was ridiculously easy to setup (I downloaded the image and VM Player and was up and running <10 minutes later). And in many ways it is probably better then having the real VPN client polluting my PC. Plus with this I can access the Internet and other networks from Windows while still accessing work networks via the VM.

I even got a flashback to back in high-school when I was editing the X server configuration file tonight to change the resolution of the desktop. It was just like trying to get X configured on Slackware (installed from 250M tapes) back in 1994. Which is both amusing and sad at the same time.


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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Slight Delay

Today Linzy and I had the time to sit down and watch a Battlestar Galactica episode from Season 2. For quite a while we've been slowly (really slowly) making our way through the second season via Netflix.

Anyways, when I pulled out the disc to play I discovered that it was cracked and unplayable. Which was a bummer because we were looking forward to seeing what happened next. Instead we watched something over the xbox 360 streaming (which would be the greatest thing ever if the selection of instant play titles was a bit better).

Anyways, so later tonight I went to report a problem on the DVD, and felt a little silly because we had the disc for a little while and I hadn't even bothered to check it out until now. When I actually went to report a problem, however, it showed exactly when that disc was sent to us: 10/28/08. Or, dangerously close to two months ago.

Whoops.

Now there are many reasons for this, not the least of which was the fact that I was gone more-or-less the entire month of November. But regardless it has gotten to the point where I don't even pretend to claim that Netflix is somehow saving us money, it's pure convenience at this point.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crazy Axl

I was amused today when a 'what's related' type link to some completely unrelated story came up with an article about Axl Rose now commenting on GNR message boards.

In particular, the article was talking about this 4,000 word rambling crazy-man post about why exactly he is entitled to own the GNR name despite being the only original member left, how Slash is the devil, etc.

That's what too much free time and money after finishing a 13 year-long album will get you I guess.

[ For the record, in what should not be a surprise: Chinese Democracy is not good. ]

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Frostbite

It was ridiculously cold here this morning, about -10 by our thermometer. With the wind chill it felt much, much colder. How cold?

Well, last night we got several inches of snow. I'm not exactly sure how much specifically, since with the wind the snow was drifted up to 4-5 inches or more in some places. So this morning I bundled up and went outside to shovel off the drive.

Which was not particularly pleasant, what with the cold and wind and blowing snow. Eventually I persevered and finished the driveway, only to realize that my hands were tingling. And not a "hey it's cold out here, but we're doing fine" tingling. Instead it was a painful "Hey it's like -30 wind chill out here and we've been gripping a cold shovel for the last half an hour" tingling.

I ended up running them under hot water when I got inside to warm them up, which is crazy when you think about how short of a time I was outside. Now granted, it wasn't real frostbite or even dangerous, but I was surprised none the less.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Archives

DSC_3144The new computer came this weekend, and is up and running. Technically it came on Friday but since Dell didn't provide any tracking information or a solid shipping date we weren't expecting it that quickly and no one was home to accept delivery. Anyways, in between other activities this weekend I've been diligently to get it setup.

Since the transfer to a new computer was unexpected, resetting up all our programs is a bit more complicated it needs to be. Instead of an orderly export of all the information to the backup drive, and import into the new computer, I'm swapping hard drives in and out, and then sifting through directories trying to find all the right files to copy to their new home. At this point almost everything that can be made to work is working, which is pretty good for the limited amount of time I've spent with things.

One of the first things I did was copy one of the smaller hard drives wholesale onto the new computer, in a folder called "Old C Drive". What was amusing was that while I was sorting through all the crap that was on the old computer, I found another folder "Old C Drive" inside the new "Old C Drive" folder. Which, of course, was from when I did the same thing 2.5 years ago.

Embarrassingly that folder still had things in it that I had never quite gotten around to finding a real home for, and I still didn't have the ambition to do anything with it this time either.

At least I'm consistent.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fair Warning

The Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon movie is not good. Considering it is a Star Wars movie made after 1983, you probably already suspected that. But in case your curiosity might have gotten the better of you, rest assured it was not good, bordering on painful. For example, did you know that Jabba the Hutt has a gay brother? Or a son nicknamed Stinky?

On the other hand, it was probably better then the Phantom Menance. But that's like comparing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to the Temple of Doom.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Always Something

Long ago, before we all got older and there was a bigger chance for hard feelings, it was not all that uncommon for my group of friends to discuss salaries. Frequently during those discussions someone would make some sort of statement like 'If only I made X a year, then these money problems wouldn't be a concern anymore'. I'm sure everyone has said or thought something similar at one point or another.

And over time, I've become completely convinced that this is pretty much not the case. Except in really abnormal circumstances, there is always something you can't afford that you'd like to, consumption choices that have to be made, another more expensive/better version of something you used to be perfectly happy with, etc.

Unless you succeed where the bulk of the world fails and eventually reach a level where you can consistently live within or below your means, or are lucky/talented enough to become ridiculously wealthy, there will always something to spend the money on.

With that in mind, I was amused by this quote when I read "Profile in Panic":

[...]“Let’s take a guy who makes $5 million a year,” the banker suggests. “He’s paid two and a half million dollars of that in equity compensation”—Lehman Brothers stock. Plus he gets to buy that stock at a 30 percent discount, so he’s really getting $3.25 million in stock. “Plus appreciation? Over five years? That’s $25 to $30 million!

“Then let’s say a guy in that position borrowed $5 million against the $30 million in stock. It would seem a very conservative loan, right? Until the $30 million goes down to zero, which is what happened. So now he’s negative $5 million.”

True, that same Lehman banker got the other half of his compensation in cash. The banker nods. “For five years, he made two and a half million dollars a year in cash. So that’s twelve and a half million dollars. But of course he’s had to pay more or less 50 percent in taxes, so divide that and he’s got six and a quarter million. He’s probably spent that money over those five years—$1 million a year, it’s not so hard to do, right? So he has nothing—and he has to repay that $5 million loan.”

The key point is the claim that spending $1 million a year is not hard. On the surface of course, this is ludicrous. But in some ways I can understand it, at least in the context of the never ending Hedonic Treadmill especially in a position like Wall Street investment banker where there is pressure to live extravagantly.

There's always something to spend your money on.

[ Note that I am not trying to claim that the pressures of trying to balance a budget on 50k versus 25k are the same. This is all assuming we are talking about money over and above whatever is necessary to maintain some minimum standard of living. From there people almost always find a way to use up that discretionary income, and I certainly would not exempt myself from that generalization. ]


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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Delay

Two weeks ago tomorrow, we ordered the new computer. With the holiday, weekends, and the normal business plan of holding money in advance of delivery for as long as possible, the actual ship date of the computer wasn't until today. I've been faithfully keeping an eye on it, hoping that through some miracle the computer would arrive early, or at least on time.

Today I got an e-mail in my inbox from the company, which I happily assumed was a notice the stupid thing finally shipped. Except it wasn't. It was actually a notice saying they had encountered 'unexpected delays' and were delaying the shipment a full week to 12/16. Meaning, of course, that there is a very real chance it won't even arrive prior to Christmas. Pushing the whole process out to more then a month.

Note that this was communicated mid-day on the day that it was supposed to ship. What kind of 'unexpected delay', that you don't know about ahead of time, causes you to slip your delivery by an entire week. Not a day, or two, but a week. And you didn't know about it until the day the computer was supposedly fully assembled and on a pallet ready to go out?

I can't imagine the conversation my boss and I would have at work if my team missed a delivery to a customer by a week and I didn't tell anyone until the day it was supposed to be done. "Oh, by the way, remember how I said we'd be done on Tuesday...yeah...well..I must have meant next Tuesday".

The most frustrating part is surprisingly critical nature of the computer that is currently broken. Over the past few weeks, we've discovered just how many things that, and only that, computer was capable of doing. For example, it happened to be the only place where we have addresses and the list for Christmas Cards. Which is only needed once a year, but that happens to be right now. Not to mention that even if we had Christmas Card addresses, we don't have a word processor or a printer to write a holiday letter. It is also the place where all of the passwords were stored (in Password Safe), meaning that for all the important financial sites with unique generated passwords, we are now more-or-less locked out.

All of which would have been tolerable, had said computer shipped when it was supposed to, so that we had time prior to the holidays to finish up our various tasks. I guess I should have just forgone the tremendous deal and just bought some parts from NewEgg, or been a slave to marketing and paid twice as much for half the computer and ordered a Mac.

[ Amusingly, the morning after I wrote this I got an e-mail saying the computer had shipped. So I guess the unexpected delay was just a day, which is a bit more understandable. ]

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Best Part of the Day

What was the best part of my day?

a) The long day at work
b) The 2 hours I spent waiting/standing on the bus going home in the snow
c) Getting home at 7:45pm and then having conference calls starting at 9pm
d) All of the above


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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sign of the Times

One of the houses next door to us was bought a few years ago by a guy a little younger then me and his fiancee. They lived there for a year or so, then broke up and the fiancee moved out and a couple of the guy's friends moved in. I've been amused lately as the number of people living there has steadily increased over the past year, to the point where last week there were seven cars in the driveway.

I guess when the economic going gets tough, you get some more roommates.


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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Cropping

The bus ride home tonight was crowded (gotta love the influx of winter riders) and so as I stood in the aisle biding my time for the ride home, I was looking at the 'ads' that were posted on the top part of the sides.

Actually, of the 7 ads, there were:

  • 2 ads looking for more bus drivers
  • 2 ads saying to 'Keep an eye out for safety'
  • 1 ad for viewing bus schedules on the metro transit site
  • 2 ads for a eco-awareness website that told you what you could and couldn't recycle

The only real ad, the one for the green website, caught my eye mostly for its low budget nature. It was basically just some white text on a blue background, along with the right third of the advertisement having a little logo for the website. The thing that was strange was that the ad was apparently created straight from a web page because the ad still contained the browser's menu bar on the top. As in, the grey section where it has file, edit, view, favorites, etc.

What I couldn't figure out was why anyone would who was competent enough to do rudimentary graphic design on the ad would not have been smart enough to crop out the menu bar from the screenshot of a web site. And that doesn't even mention the question of why they were even using a screenshot of a website in the first place.

So strange.


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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Freelance

Today was the first significant snowfall of the winter, particularly on the south side of the Twin Cities, and as usual traffic was a snarled mess getting out of Apple Valley. Thus the bus ride into work took longer then normal, though not as long as it sometimes does.

What I think is interesting is the amount of difference in how the various bus drivers react to bad weather. For example, this morning my driver was stubbornly sitting in the middle lane of Cedar even when there was a shoulder available, which defeated a major benefit of the bus. On the other hand, a co-worker who took the bus 10 minutes after me actually ended up arriving first because his bus driver ditched the normal route completely, went up side streets and then when he got back on Cedar used the shoulder aggressively.

One time when there was supposedly some large accident I had a driver who took us down 35W into Burnsville, before cutting back all the way down 42. Which, if you are at all familiar with south metro traffic patterns is an absolutely ludicrous way to get to Apple Valley.

Normally all the buses take the exact same route every single day (which actually changed while I was in Sweden, strangely enough). But when bad weather or something unexpected happens, apparently it is every driver for themselves.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bandits

A while back at work I had all-day meetings with a fairly large group of external people. After we returned from lunch and started the afternoon round of presentations, I noticed one of the attendees reach into his pocket, pull out a tin of chew and pop in a bandit. He then proceeded to gut the spit for the rest of the meeting while leaving the tin laying on the table in front of him.

I can honestly see I've never seen that in any business setting before.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

...and Done

Apparently distraught at having been left home alone while Linzy and I gallivanted across Sweden, our 4.5 year old computer died a few hours after we got home. Unfortunately it didn't decide to fail in some sort of easily repaired way, but instead the motherboard failed rendering the entire PC useless.

The PC has led a troubled and unreliable life in the few short years we've had it, and so in some ways I am not sorry to see it go. On the other hand, you can't really get a socket 478 motherboard any more that will work with my combination of CPU, memory and video card. Oh, you can get one, as long as you are willing to pay ~$100 to a random seller in Hong Kong on EBay for a non-returnable as-is motherboard. I'm not.

So instead we'll be getting an entirely new PC, complete with a quad core CPU, a ridiculous amount of RAM and a 20" LCD widescreen monitor for far, far less then I've ever paid for a computer in my life. That was partly due to careful searching for the absolute best deal, and partly due to shamelessly calling up a real live human and negotiating them into giving me an extra 7% off for a corporate discount, on top of the 30% discount they were already offering, while also throwing in the 20" LCD for $40 (seriously).

I'm still disgruntled that the old computer broke after not even 5 years while the 8 year old computer Linzy claimed as 'hers' is still humming along just fine, as is the computer from before that. But at least we'll end up with a new hopefully more reliable computer.


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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving

Hopefully everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Our Thanksgiving was somewhat eventful, as Linzy's Grandma fell ill and ended up having to go to the hospital on Thanksgiving day. She is fine now, but had to spend several days in the hospital while they ran some tests, and so most of our Thanksgiving activities involved waiting around the hospital for test results and doctor's visits. Not exactly what we had in mind for the weekend, but at least everyone is healthy.


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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Swedish Food

The cuisine while I was in Stockholm the past few weeks was interesting. It was more similar to what we eat in the US then, say the middle east would be, but at the same time the options available are different.

The menus typically consisted of several types of fish (Char, Herring, possibly Pike), some game meat (usually Reindeer, occasionally Elk), and possibly some veal. There were almost never salad entries available, though some meals came with small spinach salads on the entree plate. The usual accompaniment for any entree was potatoes of some kind. Any sauces were usually mushroom based (Chanterelle typically).

Over the course of the two weeks I had all of those items, as well as some duck and many raw/strangely cooked fish appetizers. Of the entrees the char was probably the best, although the duck that I had was well prepared and not greasy at all. Reindeer, once you got past the red nose, tasted a lot like venison and was very gamey. Although a co-worker had a rack of Reindeer rather then a steak and said that it was much less gamey.

Another interesting thing was that there was tons of fresh fruit available: with breakfast, in bowls to take with you, in large boxes in the break rooms at the office, etc. It was strange because vegetables were very scarce, yet both seem equally difficult to grow in a wintry climate.

On the plus side, the bread in Sweden was universally delicious. It was downright shocking how good the bread was no matter where I got it. The breakfast buffet had piles of fresh bread, the little place near the office where I got a baguette sandwich most days made terrific bread, etc.

One thing I did not have was Swedish Meatballs, at least directly. I did have some meatballs with breakfast one day, and the two hamburgers I had both tasted like meatballs, but I did not ever order (or see) a purely meatball entree.

As far as restaurants, if you could ignore the across-the-board ridiculously expensive prices (at a pub - $20 entrees, at a real restaurant expect $75-$100 a person), there were many good places to eat.

Hands-down the best was Kungsholmen, both for variety (though you should get the Char) and atmosphere. Second best was (strangely) the hotel restaurant, but only when they switched their menu to Argentinian for a week and had surprisingly terrific bacon-wrapped black angus fillets. When it was a traditional Swedish menu it was merely run-of-the-mill. The Gondolen was overrated, although the second time I went there my duck was very good. Another notable place was a small restaurant we found in a basement in Old Town which, while overpriced due to its location, had a very nice menu.

Despite the good bread and interesting food, it was nice to get back home and return to the kinds of food I normally eat.


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Monday, November 24, 2008

Back from Sweden

DSC_3130Over the weekend Linzy and I made it back from Sweden safely, although not without some excitement.

The day we were leaving happened to be the first substantial snowfall of the winter in Stockholm (it had snowed a couple times previously, but not in a way that stuck around). The snow snarled up the roads so that our trip to the airport took forever, and then the flight to Amsterdam was delayed because the plane got delayed leaving Amsterdam for Stockholm (it was apparently just a there and back trip for the crew).

Unfortunately we were only able to allow an hour between the two flights. So with the delay we thought we had missed the connection. After standing in line for a bit to talk with the transfer desk it turned out we hadn't missed our flight because that flight was having mechanical problems, but we had to run across the massive Amsterdam airport to catch the plane home. In the end we made it, but I really thought we were going to end up having to spend a night at Amsterdam waiting for the next plane back to the US.

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Stockholm was not 'on my list' as somewhere to visit, and while it was a nice place to visit I think there are many other places I would go before making a return trip as a tourist. I would definitely advise against going in November, as the weather is pretty unpleasant. It was about 32-35 degrees every day with a constant 20-30mph wind. It also rained or lightly snowed just about all of the 15 days I was there. Also, it gets dark about 3:30pm, which is fairly depressing. On the other hand, I am sure the extra-long days and mild weather of summer would make it quite enjoyable.

Regardless of the weather the trip was interesting, and it was definitely cool to be able to experience Sweden. The people were friendly and helpful, and there was no shortage of things to keep us busy. Linzy and I had a good time seeing the various museums and sites over the weekend, and she also enjoyed exploring the town during the week while I was working.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Swedish Royal Palace

DSC_3056After visiting the Vasa museum yesterday, today was devoted to the Swedish Royal Palace and associated museums. The palace didn't open to noon, which fit in well with our rather late start today, but also meant that we weren't able to make it to the Royal Treasury. We were able to see the Tre Kronor, Royal and Guest apartments, the Armory, and an Economic/Mint museum.

The Tre Kronor museum was probably the most interesting. It focused on the 13th century castle that the current Royal Palace is literally built on top of. It was pretty cool to walk down a few flights of stairs from the Renaissance-styled palace and see 13th century bricks and stonework, as well as all sorts of the artifacts that they found underneath the castle.

Unfortunately the weather was not as cooperative today, it rained all morning and then eventually turned to snow about 2pm. That didn't stick around, but the colder weather did. Still we had a good time checking out the various museums and wandering around Old Town.

Believe it or not, This is not actually the palace. That is much bigger, though similar looking.
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The church behind the palace (that's Linzy standing against the wall trying to get out of the wind)
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One of the side streets in Old Town
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A suit of armor in the Armory
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In the basement of the Armory they had a number of the royal carriages on display.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Stockholm Pictures

DSC_2955Today was the first that I didn't work 12-14 hours so Linzy and I got a chance to explore Stockholm a bit. It was also tolerable weather, cold but not rainy, which made it easier to get around.

In the morning we took the ferry over to the Vasa Museum and spent several hours there checking out the ship and the associated displays. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the nearby neighborhoods admiring the architecture of the local buildings. Tonight we have reservations at the Gondolen, which has a view of Old Town from 33 meters above the river.

The Vasa, the most complete 16th century ship in the world (95% original materials).
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The ship sank 20 minutes into her maiden voyage, less then a mile from port, thanks to a combination of being too tall and narrow, having insufficient ballast, and being too top-heavy (too many cannons, too many sculptures, etc).
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The wikipedia article on the ship has a more in-depth description of the debacle of the Vasa's maiden voyage, which is pretty amusing in a morbid, epic fail, sort-of-way.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

KLM

Anyone who has flown Northwest (now Delta) lately is well aware that the airline is more-or-less charging extra for everything but seatbelts these days on domestic flights. International is a different story, but then again since the tickets are twice as expensive, I suppose it should be.

Anyways, on my trip to Sweden this week, I flew Northwest to Amsterdam (which was fine), and then had a two hour KLM flight to Stockholm. I was expecting the quick flight to be similar to a Northwest domestic flight, or perhaps the cattle-car RyanAir flight that I took long ago from London to Dublin.

Instead the KLM flight spoiled us with a meal, drinks (including beer and wine), desert, and coffee. It was crazy, and took a concerted effort to fit all that into a 1 hour 50 minute flight. A strange thing was the choice of sandwich for the meal. Half was goat cheese, walnut and fig, and the other half was rosemary lamb. Not exactly what I was interested in at that point, but they do get points for trying.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

And By Repaired, We Mean Replaced

A little over two weeks after my XBox 360 crapped out, my repair is complete and I have a working console in the house again. The process, while quick in the grand scheme of things, and not just because I was forced to lose sleep thanks to Civilization 4.

Getting the coffin shipped to me took several days, and so then by the time the console got shipped back the weekend stretched the shipping time to nearly a week. Then it took a day or so for them to acknowledge receipt of the console, and then they spent 3-4 days repairing the console before sending it back. And that was the fastest part of the whole process, arriving a full day before the scheduled delivery day.

I was pretty nervous when I saw the 3-4 days spent repairing the console, because I really didn't want my own console back, refurbed. Luckily what they sent back was indeed a brand new console manufactured on 8/30/2008 (though I don't know if they change the mfg date after refurbing them). So getting a new console was good, but it made me wonder what, exactly, they were doing with the other console for 3-4 days worth of 'repairs'.

Still, at least I have a working console that hopefully should have the fatal flaw in the GPU soldering fixed so that I don't get any further red rings of death. I definitely missed having it available for gaming and DVD watching.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

About Face

It has been over two years since I broke my mp3 player, and up to this point we were getting along just fine without one. Now, through a random fluke of timing, we own not one but two new mp3 players.

The timing fluke was similar to what happened this spring when in less then a month we ended up buying two new cameras to fill two difference niches. This time, Linzy decided she wanted an iPod and eventually settled on a Nano last month. Which I was specifically forbidden from using or borrowing for trips. Given that, I was planning to get my own iPod Classic early next year as I will most likely have several trips for work that involve exceedingly long plane flights. Then just a few weeks later the emergency trip to Sweden came up, and suddenly that iPod Classic purchase was looking a lot sooner then originally planned.

The end result is that we are now part of the millions and millions of other people lining Steve Job's pockets. I'm still annoyed that there is not even remotely any competition in the mp3 player space, but there are some advantages to buying exactly what everyone else in the world bought in terms of accessories and compatibility. Despite the fact that I am embarrassed at buying two mp3 players when we were just fine with no mp3 players a month ago, the iPods seem pretty nice and Linzy really likes her shiny blue Nano. And that is enough for me.


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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voting

I foolishly went to vote prior to going to work this morning. I'm not quite sure what I was thinking, showing up right as the polls open. Normally I try to go a little later in the morning after all the other early-rising Minnesotans try to get their voting out of the way early. But today for a variety of uninteresting reasons I couldn't go in to work that much later and so tried to go vote early.

The line was out the door as probably 150 people had the same plan as me, so I spent about an hour waiting to vote. The strange thing about the line was that once we got inside the church the line was theoretically supposed to split into two lines: one for A-L, and one for M-Z.

Everyone was waiting in the A-L line, while the M-Z line was literally walk-up. 50 people stood (sort of) patiently waiting for their turn to check in and periodically a random person would go to the M-Z table. I was talking with a co-worker today about his polling location where the A-D line had the same issue.

I wonder how much was due to an uneven distribution of last names, and how much was due to people not realizing that they could just jump ahead and go right in the M-Z line.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Scandinavia

On Saturday I will be heading to Stockholm, Sweden for work for a little over two weeks. I'm somewhat excited to go, since I've never been to any Scandinavian country before, but realistically there are many other places that would be higher on my list of countries/cities to visit.

Still, the hotel I'll be staying at appears to be at nearly the dead-center of Stockholm, and seems nice on the website (it should be for ~1900SEK a night). And I'm going with a bunch of sales guys, so I'm sure there will be no shortage of fancy dinners.

Thus this week is filled with last minute preparations for being away from home for at least 15 days like catching up on laundry, finishing up the fall yard work, buying a couple suits for the customer presentations (my only current suit is a college-era interview suit and hardly appropriate now, even if it fit), and other random things that I've been procrastinating on but now have to get done.

My Grandma is saying that Stockholm is known as the "Venice of the North", something that seemed ludicrous given the cities Minnesota-like climate, but Wikipedia backed her up. So perhaps the city will be a lot cooler then I am expecting. And not just because they were already getting snow last week.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Gophers Game

On Saturday I went to the Gophers football game with Brenden. The game was a lot of fun, although the Gophers ended up losing on a last second fluke play. The game was tied with under a minute left, and the Gophers had gotten the ball and were trying to drive down the field to kick a game-winning field goal. After picking up a first down, a pass got tipped twice, intercepted by the Northwestern defense and run back for a touchdown through the entire Gophers offense, costing the Gophers the game.

The game was interesting the whole way, with Northwestern jumping out to an early lead, the Gophers clawing their way back and eventually getting a lead but never really putting the game away.

This year is the first one for Brenden's seats in a new section of the stadium, and they have a bit better view overall of the field then the old ones down on the goal line. However the fans in the section tend to be of the old and cranky variety.

Just behind us was the most bitter 'fan' ever. The only time he said anything was when something bad happened to the Gophers (and then it was to yell 'I told you these guys suck!'). You'd think he was a Northwestern fan, but he was wearing Gophers apparel, so his bitterness is apparently why he goes the to games. Which is pretty much insane.

Another interesting fan was the lady in front of Brenden who was annoyed the whole game at how loud the stadium was, and at one point turned around and yelled at Brenden for 'having too loud of a voice'. She also didn't like getting up to let anyone in and out, and would spent 30 seconds sighing and making annoyed sounds whenever someone was trying to get in or out of the row.

Despite the sub-optimal surrounding fans this year, next year it will all pay off, when the new outdoor stadium opens up. An outdoor stadium certainly would have been great on Saturday as the weather was absolutely perfect autumn football weather. Even though the Gophers lost I had a great time at the game and was really glad that Brenden invited me to attend.


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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Worst of Both?

I got a marketing e-mail last night from Delta announcing that they had officially eaten Northwest. The gist of the e-mail was 'business continues as usual', and I assume everyone with a frequent flyer account got the same e-mail.

This morning the paper of course had an article as well, and listed some of the things that will change with the merger over the next year:

  • Switching to Delta food (what flights even offer food anymore?)
  • Flight Attendant uniform changes
  • Paint-job changes to Delta color scheme for planes
  • Delta to start charging extra for window and aisle seats in coach

Not an impressive list, considering those are the 'good' changes that they are willing to disclose already. I assume things like 'closing the Minneapolis and Memphis hubs' will come later.

At least they could drop the silly charge for the first checked bag that was instituted back when oil was $150 a barrel. Now that it is $60 I imagine we won't see those savings passed on to the consumer.

I guess I should get used to flying through Atlanta, Detroit, or Salt Lake City.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

One More Turn

Since my XBox 360 is currently winging its way to a Microsoft repair center, I was unable to spend some time playing Rock Band 2 when I had a few minutes of free time. I could have played some of the many games I have sitting around unopened, but instead I went back to a classic and borrowed Civilization 4 from my Dad. I played the game back in 2005, but haven't for a number of years since. I forgot how enjoyable it was.

My proficiency at it has clearly taken a turn for the worse, as the first game I tried I got wiped out midway through (after spending all my time building wonders and no armies). My second game has been going much better, and I'm well in the lead roughly 2/3rds of the way through.

The trouble with the game is the same that all Civilization games have had: they are addictive time-sinks. It is amazing how quickly time goes by if I fire the game up late at night, as I go "just a few more turns". There always seems to be just a couple turns until I've built some major building, or moved a few more units into attack position, or just researched some crucial technology.

That is clearly the mark of a good, engrossing game, but I must admit that it is really interfering with my ability to get enough sleep. I'll start the game up at 9:30, thinking I'll just play for a little while, and then the next moment it is way past when I should be up wasting time with video games.

It's fun though, even if I do have to play on one of the easier difficulty levels.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Racing Stripes

Pippen's racing stripesPippen had her biannual haircut today, and it is always interesting to see how different she looks after six months of silky fur is cut off.

In particular, she has curious color changes around her back legs that only are visible right after her hair is cut. The brown coloring lines in the midst of the black fur have been nicknamed her racing stripes. A few weeks from now you won't be able to see them, but they are immediately obvious in person right after a hair cut.

In theory Silky Terriers are supposed to have coats that are allowed to reach the floor. Which seems absolutely silly. Pippen is a giant mess when her fur is allowed to grow a few inches long after 6 months. I can't imagine the disaster she would be with her fur dragging through the muck when she is outside.


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Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Hour

When I got into the elevator to head home today, it smelled vaguely of booze. That reminded me of the two guys who work in my building who, at least whenever I see them in the elevator at the end of the day, always reek of booze and are obviously drunk. And usually pretty early in the afternoon (at least as far as being drunk in a work elvator goes).

Which is sort of mind boggling when you think about it, because they are leaving the building yet are already drunk. As opposed to coming back to the building after happy hour or something.

I guess being able to have already hit a happy hour, get drunk, come back to the office to pick up your stuff, and head out prior to five is a good job...if you can keep it.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Skin of my Teeth

One of the agreements I made when convincing Linzy that I should take over the garage for three months to build bookshelves for the extra bedroom was that the cars had to be back in the garage by the time the snow flew. That seemed completely reasonable at the time.

Today I brought the last of the equipment back to my Dad's house, and put the downstairs bedroom back into shape officially ending the project. And not a moment too soon since as we were unloading the table saw the snow started flying.

It wasn't really snow, exactly. More like messy rain mixed with some flakes, and it certainly isn't going to stick around. But it was still snow, and was strangely coincidental with finally being able to get both cars back into the garage.

[ As a side-note I should mention that 40 mph winds and 40 degree temperatures, with rain/snow coming down was pretty depressing today. A good day for staying inside, but I'm just not ready for winter quite yet. ]

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Reward Zone

A little less then a year ago, I posted about how my RewardZone account had been mistakenly attached to someone else, and all of the points lost. Unfortunately it is no better today.

I had been ignoring it up until May of this year when I spent a bit of precious time to take the account back (which was disturbingly easy, and I assume the reason it got lost in the first place). I was even able to talk them into combining the new and old accounts together, so I got a few of the old points back.

At that point I thought everything was good to go, and bought a number of things over the summer racking up a ridiculous amount of points. Those were all banked in the account and after periodically checking in to see if Steve Zeck's purchases were showing up again I decided everything had been resolved.

Until Monday, when I logged in to print out some certificates for Linzy to use on an iPod, only to find 7,000 points (about $140 in certificates) had gone missing. After calling Best Buy they explained that somehow (again) points had gotten moved to one of the two additional accounts that are attached to my e-mail but are not visible on the website. So back we went through the exercise of trying to combine the accounts.

It is stunning how ridiculously poorly they are managing something that should be about the easiest process in the world. How hard is it to track my purchases, and occasionally let me print out a gift certificate? Apparently along the order of getting to and from Mars.


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hunting Stories

When we were in Chicago last weekend, I spent some time talking with my Uncle. He's always interesting to have a conversation with, since he is never at a loss for interesting stories to tell. My particular favorites are usually hunting stories, since he really likes the outdoors, hunting and fishing and for some reason ends up in strange and interesting situations.

This time he was telling us about how they went for an early deer hunt in Kansas on someone's land who had a bunch of dead junker cars out on the back forty. When they asked about it, the land owner started going down the list of all of the family members whose vehicles were collecting dust back there. Going all the way back to Great-Grandfather. Plus a few where people had come over with the car for a regular visit, the car had died so they just pushed it out back to the field and left it there.

My favorite story was one time he was telling us about the guide that his hunting party had hired to take them on a mountain goat* bow hunt. At some point my uncle had shot a goat and it had run away through the woods and for some reason they couldn't track it as a party. So the guide went off by himself to track down the animal. But then it ended up being nightfall and the guide was stranded out in the middle of nowhere with a bleeding dead animal corpse for the evening. At some point wolves started circling, and so the guide decided to bury himself and the corpse in loose shale.

The guide survived the night and made it back to the rest of the hunting party. Apparently my uncle write a check for the guide's tip and it not having been cashed for a year. And when my uncle asked about it, he found out that shortly thereafter the guide went to prison and so wasn't able to cash the check.

The crazy thing is that when my Uncle tells the story he gets more worked up about how the guide went to prison, then the whole 'circling wolves, burying yourself in shale, and hauling a dead animal miles through the woods'. Which always amuses me since the rest is just par for the hunting experience I guess. At least for my Uncle.

[ * I can't actually remember if they were hunting mountain goats or some other sort of shifty, hard to track mountain animal ]

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Abs of Steel

This weekend the hotel we were staying at did not have an exercise room, but instead offered free passes to a Gold's Gym that was nearby. The deal was pretty good, as both my parents and I took them up on the offer on Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday while I was using the elliptical machine (an even fancier one then we have, with adjustable incline settings), I was amusing myself during commercials by watching people use the various weight machines. There was one guy in particular who caught my eye because he looked to be in his late 60s, and he was doing all kinds of machines, pull-ups, etc during his workout.

After doing his other work, I noticed him over at a crunch machine where he went absolutely all-out, doing one crunch per second for at least seven minutes straight. It was an insane performance of at least 400 straight crunches, and might have been more since he had already been going long enough to catch my eye when I looked at the time.

So what did he do after 400 ab crunches? Go over to another ab machine and do some reps on it, of course.


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Red Ring of Death

IMG_0789

Sigh. The console was not quite two years old, and it's coffin is in the mail.

At least the new one should be here by the time Netflix streaming starts in November.

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Chicago Trip

IMG_0773This weekend Linzy and I went to Chicago to visit family, especially Sarah and John who were in Chicago for the weekend as well. It was a whirlwind trip.

We drove down on Friday since airline tickets were ridiculously expensive, and went to visit my Grandma on Saturday morning. Then we found out that my cousin's Jon and Nicole had their third child (and Linzy's godchild) overnight Friday-Saturday so stopped by the hospital to see Thomas Pierce, before heading all the way out to Algonquin to my cousin's child's first birthday party. On Sunday Linzy threw a baby shower for my sister at my Aunt's house, so we had round two of family gatherings, before heading back to Minnesota today.

As a longer explanation my previous post, Lake Forest hospital is where my cousin delivered her child. I had never been there before, and it looks more like some sort of crazy ivy league school then a hospital. Both inside as well as out. To give you an idea of the craziness, apparently you can order lobster as your dinner, the rooms are enormous (for hospital rooms) and have built-in oak cabinets, crown molding, etc. It was unlike anything I have ever seen, but fits right in with that area of greater Chicago.

It was nice to see everyone, even if the trip did seem a bit on the hectic side.


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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lake Forest Hospital

Fanciest hospital ever!

More explanation here

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Winter is Coming

Last night Linzy and I were in Menards so I could pick up some miscellaneous stuff. The trip was depressing from a 'winter is almost here' perspective since:

a) My impulse purchase was a new snow shovel to replace the venerable 7 year-old one my Dad gave me when we bought the house.

b) They had all of their Christmas junk out. That included an inflatable Hummer driven by Santa that moved up and down automatically, and a giant inflatable Menards stock car also driven by Santa. Because, don't you want those in your front yard?

The really strange thing was that my main reason for going to the store in the first place was to get new cord for my weed whacker. But I guess instead the next thing I should be planning is when to swap the lawn mower out for my completely unreliable snowthrower.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Speed Demon

For work today we went to a river boat cruise on the St. Croix river. It was an enjoyable time, even if the weather was a bit cold and windy. The leaves were colorful, and the boat had an enclosed deck that was nice and warm.

It was quite a hike to get from downtown out to Stillwater for the cruise, so we took a number of cars and caravan'd out there. All the cars left at different times, so the group trickled in over ~15 minutes. Eventually most people got on the boat and a few of us with the tickets waited around for the last car to arrive.

They eventually showed up, and it turned out that the reason they were so late was not because they had left last (which they had), but because the driver had gotten a speeding ticket along the way!

Even more embarrassing was the fact that the car was packed with co-workers, who all got to witness the ticket firsthand. Whoops.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Cursory

I went to the doctor this morning ostensibly for my annual physical, but more realistically to get new prescriptions for the couple asthma/allergy drugs I take. Since those only last a year, it helps keep everyone in business by forcing me to come back at least every year. As opposed to the eye doctor who, since my contacts last years a time, hasn't found a way to keep the easy money flowing in.

Now, obviously I am being a bit facetious, since I understand the value of preventative doctor check ups. Normally the doctor checks me over, runs various tests, asks pointed questions about whatever the HMO is focusing on improving their care of that year, I get my prescriptions and everyone is happy.

This year, however I caught the doctor by surprise by asking what vaccinations I needed to go to India and so we spent some time checking out the CDC site and ordering up several jabs (as Nikki would call them). So by the time we got through the prescriptions, I think I had gone over my allotted time. Because the doctor listened to my breathing, checked my pulse, felt my liver (or whatever they are doing when they knead your stomach) and called it good.

He was still polite enough to answer a couple questions about my knees afterwards, but that was the extent of the examination. I like my doctor, and since I'm not concerned about any health issues, particularly, it is not a big deal at all. But I did think it was a pretty quick examination.


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Monday, October 13, 2008

More Important

Over the past few months, as gas prices reached the outrageous, there have been noticeably more people on the buses going downtown. This has been particularly apparent in the evenings, particularly on the less frequent later buses where standing is a disturbingly common occurrence. With all of the extra people, you can usually tell the first-timers, as they are the ones getting all confused at the (only) bus stop when everyone else is patiently waiting to file off the bus in an orderly fashion.

Today there was a guy sitting a few rows ahead of me, against the window (so there was a person between him and the aisle). When the bus pulled into the station and people were waiting filing off this guy stood up and demanded that the lady between him and the aisle let him out. Because "he had to go". So the lady let him out and off the bus he went, while the rest of us waited for our turn.

When I got off a minute or two later, I was surprised to see the guy in such a hurry to get off the bus sitting in the transit station waiting for a ride. Clearly, that wouldn't have been possible if he had waited another minute.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Minnesota Zoo

DSC_2587Today Linzy and I went over to the Minnesota Zoo to see the fall colors and enjoy what was likely the last 70-degree day this year.

The zoo was a bit more crowded then I was expecting given that there was a Vikings game on at the same time. The Grizzly Coast exhibits, and the bear exhibit in particular were crowded, which makes sense since they are the newest. The bear exhibit continues to be impressive in getting you right up close to the bears.

I was also able to see the Amur leopards for the first time, as they were still hiding back in June. Now they appear to have adapted to the exhibit and were very active. We got to see them in their den hanging out, playing and wrestling, checking out the trees, and then eventually climbing up to the top of the exhibit to take another nap. It was pretty cool to not only see them but also see them active and doing stuff.

After the Grizzly Coast, Linzy and I walked through the rest of the outside areas and enjoyed the nice weather and reasonably active animals, before heading out. It was a quick trip, but still enjoyable.

The prairie dogs were all bulked up for winter
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Calling out a warning when a plane flew over
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Two of the leopards playing
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Intently watching the movement outside the exhibit
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The bears were quite active, swimming in the pond and digging a big hole in the ground
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The leaves were starting to change. I think next week will be about peak.
DSC_2647


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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Descriptive

Earlier this week, a co-worker and I were discussing with a third co-worker where he was going to be going for dinner. Co-worker B was mentioning how he was on his own for dinner which inevitably leads to dining out, at least for me and many others.

Anyways, we were naming off places he could go including BW3s (which lead to a digression on Weck), Chipotle and other staples of 'on your own' dinners. While talking about Chipotle, Co-worker A said "If you go there, are you going to get the double-barrel?". Which I had never heard before, but found instantly recognizable as to what it was referring to: Two burritos.

Unfortunately co-worker B wasn't game, even when I offered to buy the second burrito if he could eat both.

Regardless, the new entertainment at work will be to try to get the saying to catch on, particularly with the co-workers who would actually consider ordering two burritos. Feel free to try it out.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Definition of Bad

I was paying some bills tonight and so happened to take a look at a few of the financial charts Money makes available. Mostly out of a masochistic desire to see how bad our mutual funds are doing. And what I found was almost more depressing then I was expecting, and I was expecting depressing.

Price history for investments over past 12 months:

That is unequivocally and across-the-board bad. So much for diversification I guess. Even the lines at the bottom of the chart that appear to be better are just flattened by the scale of the chart. When the best thing you can say about your investments is to remind yourself that dollar-cost averaging is softening the blow of a ~30% decline, you know things are not going well.

Good thing I'm not looking to retire anytime soon.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bookshelves - Complete

DSC_2519Today the bookshelves were officially assembled. I finished the varnishing this weekend, as I mentioned on Sunday, but it wasn't until today that they were dry and ready to be put together.

I am obviously biased, but I really think they look good and am quite proud of what my Dad and I put together. The shelves really look nice in the spare bedroom, and the three coats of varnish make everything glassy-smooth.

Now just comes to work to figure out the best arrangement of shelves and stuff on the shelves. Linzy and I spent an hour or so collecting books and knickknacks from various parts of the house and putting them on the shelves. There is still some work to do, but putting stuff on the shelves will be much more pleasant then sanding 21 shelves (of which we ended up using 18).

Unfortunately I still have a minor bit of touch-up painting to do before the room can be put together, but for all practical purposes the project is complete. And even though it was enjoyable and produced a satisfying result, I'm looking forward to spending my weekends doing something else.

Before
Bookshelves-7

The plans
Bookshelves-10

The bookshelves in place
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The shelves filled with an assortment of stuff (still in progress)
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Pictures of the entire two-month saga

All the updates:



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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Bookshelf Update #8

The bookshelves are so close I can taste it. I spent most of this weekend completing the final steps for 'finishing' the bookshelves. Last weekend was staining, this weekend was all about varnishing. And sanding. Lots of sanding.

I buckled down in a big way and managed to get three coats of varnish applied Saturday and Sunday. Between applying the varnish, letting things dry, sanding, wiping down and repeating, that was virtually my entire weekend.

It is hard to articulate just how demoralizing that first coat of polyurethane is. It takes forever to apply and dry. And while it looks reasonable, when you feel it, its not even remotely smooth. So you sand it, which absolutely destroys any semblance of nice finish that you might have managed to get in place. All the while, remembering the 5 hours of your life you spent applying the first coat.

Luckily the second coat goes on much better. And the third was probably unnecessary, but since I had been planning on it and had all the supplies, I decided to go ahead with a final coat.

Hopefully everything dries satisfactorily and I can move on to clean-up and actually putting stuff on the long-awaited shelves.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Two Cameras

I'm decidedly un-excited about the new Nintendo DSi. I enjoy my DS immensely, playing it virtually every day on the bus to and from work. It replaced a GBA which was equally enjoyable. I'm just not convinced that adding two cameras and slightly increasing the screen-size is anything that results in the device being significantly better, more fun, etc.

Certainly it is possible developers will find ways to utilize the new hardware, in the same way they've found ways to take advantage of dual screens and/or touch screens. The trouble is with approximately six quad-zillion regular DSes in circulation, are they going to be cranking out the games for a brand new device with much less penetration?

On the other hand, when my DS Lite gives up the ghost, I don't see any reason not to replace it with a DSi.


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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

18-inches of Burrito

Today I went to lunch at Cheesecake Factory with co-workers, and one of them ordered the Factory Chicken Burrito. The Cheesecake Factory is known for large portions, but the burrito was absolutely ridiculous.

It took up an entire jumbo-sized elongated plate, totaling a thick 12-18 inches. Just in case that wasn't enough, it comes with a bowl of black beans and sides of sour cream and guacamole.

I guess that is what you get when the Cheesecake Factory describes something as "a monster".


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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Rock Band: AC/DC

The news today about an AC/DC branded Rock Band standalone game (or retail disc filled with DLC depending on how you look at it) disappoints me. Not so much because it is only going to be available at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, rather then for download like every other new Rock band track released in the past year, I don't really care about that.

Its because I would consider actually buy it, at least for a minute or two.

The pack is ridiculously overpriced, at $40 for a mere 18 songs which have to be bought all or nothing. The going rate is $2 per track purchased individually or a bit less then that when you buy a pack ($20 for 16 Blood Sugar Sex Magic).

But on the other hand the track list includes oodles of (what I imagine) are fun guitar songs. Plus they'd actually be songs where I couldn't possible sound any worse then the real singer.

Hopefully at some point the songs will be available for download bundled in smaller and more reasonably priced collections, or I can pick up the game used, so I can play Moneytalks and not feel guilty about being a sucker.


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Monday, September 29, 2008

Perfectionism

You might be wondering why, exactly, the bookshelves I started at the beginning of August are still not complete. There are many reasons like the fact that I only work on them on the weekends and not even every day each weekend, or the fact that it's a reasonably big project. But the truth of the matter is that any normal person would already be done with them by now. I thought a little story might help cement this:

After spending several hours on Saturday night sanding down every location where I put nail filler, the next afternoon I started back up by wiping down the bookcases with a tack cloth. This was the final preparation for finally staining them. While wiping them down, I realized that I had forgotten to sand the panels making up the back of the cabinets. They are A grade plywood veneer, so reasonably smooth as shipped, but I could feel the bumps as I was wiping them down.

Now in theory, no one will ever be touching the backs of the bookcases. You probably won't even be able to see them once the shelves are loaded up with books. And even if you did move the books and started caressing the backs of the cabinets, once two or three coats of varnish are applied, there is a pretty good chance you wouldn't have any idea that the back had never been sanded.

So I considered, debated with myself, tried to continue with wiping down the rest of the cabinets, but in the end I couldn't do it. I stopped wiping things down and sanded down a part of the cabinet that will be only partially visible, never touched, and covered in multiple coats of smoothing agent. Even though doing that meant that I was going to have to re-wipe everything down afterwards.

I couldn't help it. Because I would have known that that the back wasn't as nice as it could have been. That sort of unreasonable perfectionism is the real reason why I'm two months into the project, and still likely multiple weeks away from completion.

Not that I am in any rush to be done with the project; I enjoy working on it after all. And the standards I hold myself to for projects like this lend themselves to a quality product. But not to getting it done quickly.


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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bookshelf Update #7

DSC_2495Progress continues on my bookshelves, but up until today it wasn't really anything that photographed particularly well.

Last weekend I spent a ridiculous amount of time sanding all 21 shelves by hand. What I was actually doing was sanding the face pieces so that they were flush with the shelves, and since the shelves have only a thin layer of veneer on them, I didn't want to risk sanding through veneer. I probably could have made it work, but it seemed better to be safe, even if that did result in a really tired shoulder. After all that work, I only really had the time to do some testing on stain and nail filler combinations.

This weekend the progress was much more visibly dramatic. I filled all the nail holes in the bookcases and shelves, sanded everything down (again), cleaned it all up, put up wax paper to protect the walls and finally stained everything.

I thought the shelves actually looked pretty good unfinished, but I think the stain looks better. The stain picks up the grain in the wood nicely, and the color turned out plenty dark enough (there was concern it would be too light).

I'm not out of the woods yet on this project, as I still have a projected three coats of varnish to put on. But getting everything stained is a huge step towards actually finishing this thing.

Before staining, with nail holes filled and wall protectors in place.
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After staining.
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Shelf dominoes!
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Echo Chamber

My friend Shawn has a long history of introspective posts on his blog assessing himself, his work, his family, and how they all intertwine.

Lately he's been particularly loquacious about exactly how he thinks and why he gets as upset about things as he does. That sparked some comments, which triggered further posts, and even more discussion.

I can't relate to his utter disdain for having a job (any job), or the seeming lack of appreciation for the good things he does have. But I do know first hand how hard things are if you have a job you dislike. And if you hate the concept of having a job, that is going to make things tough.

Whether you agree with him or not, reading the series might help you fill up that slow time on a Friday.

A typical post from this year.
Existential Angst
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday
The American Dream
Get Over It

[ Update: I should clarify that I am sincere in feeling that Shawn's posts are interesting and worth reading. Very few people are as open and honest about what they are thinking and how they view their life. ]

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