Saturday, May 31, 2008

New June - Same as the old June

Last year the end of May marked the beginning of frequent travel for work, which continued over the course of the summer and into fall. Lately I haven't been traveling too much, just a trip in January and April. That is about to change.

This coming week I'll be traveling to Austin, TX Monday afternoon-Thursday night, then coming back for three days, only to turn around and fly to Las Vegas for the next week. After that, I'll be staying in Arizona for a week before coming back home.

That means, for the next three weeks I'll be at home for exactly 3 days. The only good thing is that the third week is a week of vacation, and Linzy and I will be meeting up in Las Vegas before heading out to the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and Scotsdale.

I'm excited to see the Grand Canyon and all the other things we have lined up (including tickets to 'O' in row H). Plus it will be nice to have a week off from work. However, I'm not particularly looking forward to being away from home for three straight weeks.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Duplication

When I was a kid, one of Sarah and my favorite movies was Scavenger Hunt. We thought it was hilarious. I've tried to watch it since, and it really was not a good movie. But to two young kids it was great. There was physical humor, silly characters, and ridiculous situations, what was not to like?

Anyways, the basic premise of the movie is that a rich game maker dies and in his will, instead of leaving his fortune to his family or splitting it evenly he decides to make it all hinge on a game of scavenger hunt. His family, servants and others all get in on the act, form teams, and hilarity ensues. At least to two 10-12 year olds.

At one point towards the end of the movie, one of the characters (a sleazy lawyer) is running around trying to get items from other teams disqualified by claiming they are duplicates of previous items. He follows the scorer around screaming "Duplication. That's duplication right there. You can't count that, Duplication. Duplication!".

Well Linzy and I finally now have duplication of our data at home, as last week (strangely, just a day before we had this debacle at work) I went over to Best Buy and picked up a terabyte external drive. I've been sticking my fingers in my ear and yelling "nah nah nah" over the risk we were at on the home computer with all our hard drive space filled with pictures, music and videos that were not really stored anywhere else. Finally the terabyte drives fell to the magical $200 mark and I picked one up (plus 10% off for good measure).

At this point I've only done one backup, and the drive is just sitting on my desk ready and waiting for disaster to strike so it can be called into action. That is, some sort of extremely localized disaster that involves massive data loss to the computer but spares the backup drive sitting three feet away.

Some day perhaps we'll move to keeping the drive off-site, but for now at least we have a backup copy of everything. Duplication!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Remember the Camera

A few weeks ago Dan and Nikki had their first child together, a little girl named Megan Jane. The baby came in a hurry the middle of the night, and in the rush to get out of the house they apparently managed to forget the camera. So part way to the hospital they turned around and drove back to the house, got the camera and resumed their journey. Luckily they made it to the hospital in time, but it was close.

Tonight our friends Paul and Laura are having their second child. Linzy and I agreed to be on-call for coming over to watch Evan and their dog while they were at the hospital. Last night Linzy had a dream they were calling in the middle of the night to tell us to come over and she was halfway dressed before realizing it was just a dream. Tonight at 8pm we got the call for real, and went over to hold down the fort.

Paul and Laura were pretty organized, with a couple bags already packed, instructions for us prepared. After sending a few quick e-mails and transferring some car seats they went off to the hospital. About 30 minutes later I got a call from Paul saying that they had forgotten the camera (along with a pillow and some chapstick).

So I drove those items over to the hospital and hopefully everything is going well now. But, I thought as a public service to any other friends having a baby in the near future (and there are at least two of you): Remember the Camera!

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

I've pretty much covered what Linzy and I were up to this weekend already. On Friday evening we went to the Minnesota Orchestra. Saturday I spent doing chores around the house, like painting the new flower box holder out front, mowing the lawn, helping Linzy with the planting, etc. Sunday I got in a bike ride (the first one of the season, amazingly enough) and then we went to see Indiana Jones.

By Monday we didn't have any specific plans, and ended up spending the afternoon taking a long walk through Alimagnet Park over in Burnsville (pictures here). We originally went to the dog park but got bored with that and decided to spend some time walking on the trails back through the woods.

The weather was perhaps not quite as nice as we might have liked, but it was still pleasant enough for our purposes. We explored a few of the trails, wandered around the lake a bit, checked out an entrance to the park that I didn't even know existed (where the Frisbee golf course starts), and eventually made mile hike back to the car.

Then in the evening Brenden and Allison came over for a nice dinner and some games. We tried out Ticket to Ride, which was a huge hit with everyone. Linzy in particular really liked the game, which I guess is precisely why it is known as a gateway strategy game. The game was really close until the very end, when I completed a single track train all the way from Sault St. Marie to Calgary via Montreal/New York/Texas/Los Angeles/Seattle completing a fistful of huge point destination tickets plus bonus points for the longest train.

Anyways, it was fun to see Brenden and Allison and try out one of their (many) new strategy games. We've been trying to arrange that for several weekends, but our schedules kept not working out.

All in all it was an enjoyable long weekend.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Recent Media - 5/26

Explanation - Previous Lists

Movies: Iron Man & Indiana Jones - I mentioned off-handedly earlier this week that Linzy and I went to see Iron Man last weekend (the 18th). Linzy really liked the film, and I thought it was pretty good as well. I couldn't exactly put my finger on what it was that stopped it from being fantastic in my book, but it was definitely entertaining. I enjoyed the special effects, some of the humor (other parts just annoyed me) and surprisingly I even liked Robert Downey Jr. Which is not typical Iron Man was well worth seeing in the theater, certainly.

Then on Saturday of this weekend Linzy and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull Kingdom. I was disappointed. I am something of an Indiana Jones fan, not to the extent where I would argue Temple of Doom is anything but crap, but I definitely enjoyed Raiders of the Lost Ark and Last Crusade. I had been trying to keep my expectations low for the new film, knowing full well that George Lucas would be doing his best to ruin things for me.

Unfortunately that wasn't enough, as the movie was just not very good. I have numerous complaints, but among the non-spoiler ones: Tarzan and the whole nature of the crystal skull. I enjoyed the Indiana Jones aspects of the movie, the fighting in vehicles (though that was done a few too many times for my tastes), old Harrison Ford acting more like Sean Connery's character in the Last Crusade, and the fact that it was Indiana Jones! But the story was crap and I just couldn't get over that. I kept expecting the skull to rip someone's heart out of their chest, and serve them monkey brains.

TV: None

Books: Memories of Ice - I'm continuing to enjoy this book, although it is taking forever to get through. At this pace I have significant concerns about what I will be bringing with for June travel season starting next week, as the hard cover is much, much too large to bring with. Hopefully I'll be able to power through the second half of the book (350+ pages) by next Monday.

Video Games (Portable): Final Fantasy V Advance - I spent several days worth of bus rides working to get to a point where I had a particular difficult-to-acquire spell and could train. Then I spent three or four consecutive bus rides training with the new spell and hopefully finally have my characters up to a point where they are competitive again. Because they were woefully underpowered for the last few dungeons and it made things painful.

Video Games (Home): Grand Theft Auto 4 - Linzy's parent's got me GTA4 for my birthday (an early gift since we were up there last weekend and won't be back prior to my birthday). I played it for about 30 minutes last night and had a pretty good time. The graphics are definitely a significant step-up from the previous games, and the city feels quite gritty. I'm not very far into the game, but up to this point the driving controls feel significant different then past games. In particular the cars feel awfully 'heavy', and so I spend a lot of time slamming into things or backing up to make turns I couldn't slow down enough for. But it seems like a fun game.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Meetings, Meetings, and more Meetings

On Friday afternoon I was looking at my calendar for Tuesday, to get the number for a conference call I'll be taking from home early in the morning. Only to be greeted with the disgusting meeting schedule you see above.

Looks like 8-9, 4-5, and 9:30-10:00 will be about it for getting actual work done. Awesome.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Crash! Bang! Boom!

On Friday night, Linzy and I went to see the Minnesota Orchestra's perform as part of their Crash! Bang! Boom! percussion festival. I bought the tickets for Linzy for her birthday, as she used to be a very accomplished viola player in high school and I thought she would enjoy seeing the Orchestra.

The performance was interesting, and fun to see. The orchestra performed the "Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila", the "Carmen Suite", and Rachmaninoff's "Symphony No. 3". Ruslan and Ludmila was my favorite, although the Carmen suite was pretty entertaining at times as well.

For the Carmen suite in particular, they had four percussion players going crazy on almost 50 different percussion instruments. Including one that was listed in the program as "whip". I was hoping to see someone cracking a bullwhip over the heads of the orchestra, but alas that didn't happen.

Our tickets were in the fourth row, so we could see most things really well. There was a moment of panic when I checked the tickets for the first time the night of, only to discover that they were Row 4 seats 9 and 11. Which I thought meant I had somehow screwed up the ticket ordering and that we weren't actually sitting together. As it turned out, the seats were together and the odd numbers meant that we were slightly to the left side of the stage. Which is good, because Linzy did seem to be finding my 'mistake' amusing or endearing.

I got a kick out of being able to watch the musicians and their individual playing styles. The Bass players and Viola players in particular seemed to attract unique characters. There was a Bass player who, when things got going fast, started puffing his cheeks in and out like a blowfish and another Bass player who basically headbanged along to the music while he was playing. Being so close we could see expressions, which was fun.

We were clearly not the normal demographic for attending a Minnesota Orchestra event, as we were probably half the median age of the audience. But Linzy really enjoyed the concert, which was the main point, and it was fun to get dressed up, go out for a fancy dinner and do something different.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Murphy's Law

The amount of times that two disks can fail in the same protected RAID set boggles the mind. It should be statistically nearly impossible, yet more times then I can count it has happened.

Including tonight.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Duluth Pictures

On Saturday morning when we were up in Duluth, after I got done with my work I had a bit of time to kill. I had a few errands to run, but I also wandered around town a bit with the new camera and took some pictures. Later in the afternoon, Linzy and I spent some time visiting with her grandparents and then her grandpa and I sat outside and watched the clouds and talked. I took some pictures there as well.

The picture to the right was taken from Central high school, which is one of the highest points on the Duluth 'hill', looking down at the harbor.

I was running a bit early in the morning, so I stopped at the beach and took some pictures on the shore.


After work I went down to Canal Park. I thought the shadow of the bike rack was kind of cool.


Standing below the lift bridge, looking across the canal.


Duluth has some steep hills


Grandpa Tex watching the clouds.


Grandma


Easily my favorite picture from the whole weekend, Grandpa and Pippen catching a quick nap on the couch.


Linzy's Grandparent's old van, left out back in the woods.


The pond behind her grandparent's house.


It was raining down on the shore.


Larry relaxing with Pippen.


Some more pictures are in the album, if you are interested.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Optimism

One year ago, I posted about how I was going to be traveling to Boston for work quite a bit in late May and early June. I was explaining how I was going to be there basically three out of four straight weeks, and all but 92 hours out of 230 in a ten day period starting right after Memorial day.

At the end of the post, I had this optimistic doozy of a claim:

Hopefully after that, there will be just one more trip either the third or fourth week in June, and this particular fire will be resolved.

Of course, if you've been reading this sad tale for any length of time you know that my travel to Boston most definitely did not end at the end of June, but instead stretched all the way through the summer and then at a less frequent pace all the way to January of this year.

I was quite amused tonight when I stumbled across my claim that a mere month of travel was going to solve what turned out to be a six month challenge. I have no idea what I was thinking, but clearly I was a bit optimistic.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Responsible

Yesterday, it was mid-afternoon when we got home from Duluth. The weather outside was pretty nice, at least compared to the colder temps up north. After unpacking and putting everything away, we had a few hours before dinner.

What I really wanted to do was squeeze in my first bike ride of the year. Instead I decided to be responsible and work on putting primer on my new cedar board on the front of the house, in preparation for painting them next weekend. By the time I finished scraping the old board, climbing up and down the ladder, and putting two coats of primer on the two boards it was getting late. Or at least too late to get in a bike ride, since we hadn't even had dinner yet.

But then, after looking at our meal choices, Linzy and I decided just to forget dinner and go to the 7:25pm Iron Man show instead. Popcorn is a dinner, right?

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Forty Hours in the Northland

This weekend Linzy and I were in Duluth for her family's May Birthday party. This year Linzy went up on Thursday to celebrate Heather's birthday, and then I came up Friday after work. Coupled with an early Sunday departure, I was only actually in Duluth for roughly 40 hours.

Unfortunately several of those hours were spent working, since we had an unexpected thing happen at work that ate up several hours of my Saturday morning. I did get to drink an excessive amount of really terrible Perkins coffee, however, while I was taking advantage of the much better downtown Duluth Sprint coverage. I was highly disappointed the new Dunn Brother's coffee shop across the street didn't open until 7am on the weekends.

Still we had a good time and got to spend some time hanging out with Linzy's parents, grandparents and brother along with the rest of their relatives. Many gifts were exchanged, as we were covering several birthdays, Mother's day, and since we won't be back up in Duluth in June, Father's day and my birthday.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Recent Media - 5/15

Explanation - Previous Lists

TV: The Wire: Season 1 - Linzy and I finally finished watching the first season of the Wire and it was highly entertaining. There were some rough patches in a few episodes where things seemed to drag, but the last four or so episodes were top-notch. I've already ordered up the first disc of Season 2 from Netflix, to see how the series continues. Hopefully next season features more Omar!

Books: Memories of Ice - I've been enjoying this book immensely. It is exactly what I look for in an epic fantasy book, lots of interesting characters, a detailed world, mysteries and ulterior motives and fast paced. I'm less then halfway through the book but it is shaping up well.

Movies: None - I'd still like to try and see Iron Man while it is in the theaters, but it is not looking likely as if it comes down to that versus Indiana Jones, Robert Downey Jr. is not getting my money.

Video Games (Portable): Final Fantasy V Advance - I'm a little more then halfway through the second of three worlds, and my characters are approaching level 30 so I think I am making progress through the game. It is a fun game, but despite my normal snails pace that I play RPGs at, I still think I am doing less training of my characters then they are intending.

Video Games (Home): Mario Kart Wii & Sonic/Mario Olympics - Gerard brought both these games over for Linzy's party and I tried them both. The Wii continues to be a fantastic system for when you have people over, and just another thing to collect dust when you don't. Mario Kart Wii was good, except I am extremely tired of their penchant for including 50% rehash tracks in every game since Mario Kart DS. Come up with some new fricking tracks already. The Wii Wheel was much more natural then I was expecting, though I am pretty sure a Gamecube controller would have cleaned up.

Sonic/Mario Olympics was interesting, though only in a late-night party sense. Some of the events were fun, others were just annoyingly long (I'm looking at you eight-station skeet shooting). The fact that Gerard set no fewer then three world records (and broke his own record in the same match at least once) probably indicates the playing field was was not exactly level.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Twins Game

This afternoon my group at work had our quarterly outing: we went to the Twins game. It was one of those tough days to go into the Metrodome, since it was 72 and beautiful outside. Alas, there are 138 more home games to go before the new stadium opens.

We sat out in the 'home run porch', the lower level behind left field. I've never sat out there, so it was a new experience. Basically, it was like sitting in the end zone at a Vikings game, except that instead of half of the action taking place on your end of the field virtually none of the action takes place there.

There were a few balls hit into left field, and so you could see those really well, but the rest of the game felt extraordinarily far away. Not like upper deck general admission, but not like sitting even in the upper deck on one of the base lines, let alone behind home plate.

The game went into extra innings, but the Twins lost. The frustrating part was watching Twins players get thrown out twice at home plate to end an inning trying to overly aggressive on the base running.

The first time no one was sure whether the runner was waved home or not, the second time it was clear that Kubel was being told to hold up at third. The next time he got on base they pinch ran for him. Guess Gardenhire thought his lack of any semblance of sensible base running it was ridiculous as well.

Still it was fun to spend the afternoon hanging out with my co-workers doing something other then the usual work. I came back to a pile of e-mails, but it was well worth it.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New Ways to Spend Money

I didn't explicitly mention it, but a little over a week ago what I was at Best Buy to purchase was a new digital SLR camera. Specifically I bought a Nikon D300 along with the 18-200mm VR zoom lens.

The camera and lens by themselves are expensive, of course, but a dSLR in general opened up a whole new world of expensive accessories and stuff to buy. Some of it was expected, others caught me a little off-guard.

Even something as simple as a memory card became an exercise in evaluation, since RAW images at full resolution and bit-depth can be large and suddenly the speed of the memory card can be important. Let alone things like bags, filters or heaven-forbid additional lenses, where there are more choices then I could possibly research effectively.

Even the instruction manual was oversized, clocking in at 408 pages. The Quick Start guide was a comparatively svelte 68 pages, but didn't really cover anything other then the buttons on the camera in broad terms.

Still, I'm enjoying the camera and the opportunity to learn more about photography. The speed of the camera is lots of fun, and it seems to do an admirable job even at relatively high ISO settings. That makes it much easier to use indoors and in low light. I have no doubt that I will be just as capable of taking poor pictures with this camera as before, but I'm making an effort to understand how to take advantage of its crazy-long feature list.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mother's Day

On Sunday Linzy and I went over to my parent's house to celebrate Mother's day, my Mom's birthday and Linzy's birthday with them. The weather turned out to be fantastic so we spent most of the afternoon outside enjoying the sunshine.

We played a few games with Linzy's new ladderball set (ostensibly purchased for her party, which turned out to be too rainy for outdoor games). The team of Mom and I won both games over my Dad and Linzy, so that was fun for us. For dinner we had some nice steaks and then opened presents and had cake before heading home.

We had a good time, and I think Mom & Dad enjoyed having us over. Read on for some pictures if you'd like.

Mom trying one of her first throws.


Dad caught one of my scoring throws in action.


For some reason this tulip was the only one of the crowd that survived being eaten by bunnies.


Mom excited about her new Wicked soundtrack CD. In a sign of how times have changed the first thing she mentioned doing with it was ripping it and putting it on the iPod.


The birthday girls




The rest of the album.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Protected

The other day I was walking to my bus and there was a guy standing in line for the bus wearing a biking helmet and sunglasses, but without any sort of bike with him. Just standing in line like it was perfectly normal to be wearing head protection to get on the bus.

You see lots of people biking downtown, or bringing a bike back and forth on the bus (though that always seems a little strange too). But you don't see many people just wearing a biking helmet around for fun.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Linzy's Birthday Party

Saturday we had a party at the house to celebrate Linzy's 30th birthday. There was a pretty good turnout, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

After several years of having our spring/summer parties rained on, we finally wised up and went with a meal other then grill-fare. That turned out to be a fortuitous decision since it sprinkled all day long.

Instead of the usual hamburgers and brats, we went with Famous Dave's pulled pork for sandwiches, coleslaw, corn muffins, bakes beans, chips, fresh fruit skewers (made by my Mom) and fresh veggies. The food went over extremely well. In particular the chopped pork was tender and super-tasty and the corn muffins were a huge hit (at least two people were separately talking about where to stash one for a snack later).



For the birthday cake I got Linzy a Wuollet's Strawberry Souffle cake, which was fantastic. The cake was two layers of white cake with a middle layer of thick Bavarian cream and strawberry pieces, all covered in a light white whipped frosting. It was easily one of the best cakes I've ever had, and well worth the extra time spent driving up to Minneapolis to pick it up.

Otherwise it was a pretty normal party, with a wide variety of friends hanging out and catching up, and some video games thrown in for good measure. Hopefully everyone had a good time.

Wes, Gerard and my parents talking.


Thirty fresh fruit skewers turned out to be a mountain (but they were awesome so over one per person were eaten).


You know you are good friends with someone when you feel comfortable leaning over a half-story drop with their brand-new dSLR camera without any sort of neck/wrist strap, to take a funny picture. On the other hand, I wasn't the slightest bit worried, so that's how well Dan knows me.


Linzy lighting her cake. She forbid me from putting all 30 candles on it.


Linzy and Mom (taken by Dad).


After dinner, a bunch of people ended up playing the Wii games Gerard brought over. Here, Jim, Shawn, Allison and Paul are trying out Mario Kart Wii.


Jim was at a disadvantage playing with the only controller without the wheel shell, and I was amused by the body language he was using to try and make up for that.


Pippen was not amused that people were hogging the couch and, more specifically, her pillow.


Gerard setting a world-record in Mario vs. Sonic Olympics Long Jump.


In order to run for the approach you had to alternate the Wii controller and the nunchuck up and down as fast as possible. Bonus points are given for the best grimace.


Linzy and I (taken by Allison)


A bunch of additional pictures are here: Linzy's 30th Birthday Party album.


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Friday, May 09, 2008

Recent Media - 5/9

Explanation - Previous Lists

TV: Nip/Tuck Season 3 & The Wire: Season 1 - I watched the season finale for Nip/Tuck last weekend and thought it was pretty good if a bit drawn out and predictable. They did throw in a crazy twist I wasn't expecting, but it was pretty random so there wasn't really any way you could expect it until just before they revealed it.

Linzy and I are still also working our way through the first season of the Wire, and the last few episodes have been quite good. We have two more left for the season and it has definitely gotten interesting.

Books: Memories of Ice - I've been so busy the last week I've only been getting 5-10 minutes of reading in before I end up falling asleep so this book has been slow going. However that slow start shouldn't be taken as a reflection on the book which, if anything, started out much more directly then previous books in the series. That probably has to do with the fact that we are finally dealing with characters who were already introduced, so some of the background setting work is not necessary. This book is also the first to finally shed some light on things that are referenced obscurely in previous books, so that has been satisfying.

Movies: None - We were thinking about trying to see Iron Man, but with the weekend plans getting all screwed up we never got a chance.

Video Games (Portable): Final Fantasy V Advance - I've made some more progress in the game and am probably roughly 40% complete with the main quest, although the difficulty level just keeps ramping up. Clearly I'm not up on how to balance my party and really take advantage of the many, many jobs and abilities because my party is constantly not well suited for the long dungeon runs required. During one boss fight, on my fourth attempt with different combinations of characters I managed to win with three of my four party members running out of MP, getting killed and the last guy being one hit from death before landing the killing blow. Victory, surely, but not by much.

Video Games (Home): None

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Finger Drums

I was riding home on the bus today in the middle of the back seat and the guy next to me was listening to music on his headphones pretty loudly. Loud enough that I could listen along.

Anyways, at one point what sounded like a catchy song came on and the guy was really enjoying it. He started tapping his feet, and kind of bobbing along to the music, eventually getting into full leg motions. Then, he started with the finger drums.

He had his hands formed like a little kid would make a gun, and was pretending that his out stretched index fingers were drum sticks as he drummed along to the music. I'm glad he was enjoying his music but it was pretty funny if for no other reason then because Linzy and I have a running joke about using double finger-guns to drum along with CSI theme songs. I'd never seen anyone pull them out in public prior to today.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Sbarro's

I continue to be mystified at how Sbarro can still be in business. Approximately once a year I'm suckered into thinking "Hey, you know what would be a good, some pizza...Oh hey, there's a Sbarro, I'll just go there". And every time the gross food reminds me exactly why I don't eat there.

The last time this happened I was at an airport, so my choices were particularly limited. That somewhat deflects the blame, but tonight I had any number of choices. Unfortunately I picked Arbys that happens to have a connected Sbarro and the drive through pictures tricked me into thinking I was going to be ordering something like pizza.

Of course, instead I ended up with the usual rubbery, reheated, slimy mess of a pizza slice. Just like every other time I've ever been there.

Can they possibly survive solely on the masses all making a once-a-year mistake and ordering from them? Apparently.


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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mowers

I mentioned in my woe-is-me post a few days ago that my lawn mower was not running right after I got it back from a tune-up. Well today I got the official word from Ace Hardware that it is toast. As expected, they have various claims as to how this is possible and yet still not be their fault.

Regardless of where blame lies, the bottom line is that I am now in the market for a new lawn mower. So instead of doing what I was planning tonight, I spent the evening scouring the web trying to determine whether the Toro 20093 or Honda HRX217K2HXA would be a better purchase.

The Honda has the advantage of being a known quantity (it's effectively what I had up to this point). Of course that mower only managed to limp through 7 seasons before crapping out, so that may not be a complete plus.

The Toro is significantly cheaper (~20%), and was highly rated by Consumer Reports. However it features a wacky personal pace system where the mower's speed is dictated by how hard you push on the handle. That sounds great, except that we have a large and steep hill in the backyard which seems like it would wreak havoc on anything depending on pressure on the handle. Plus I read a number of review talking about problems with the drive gears in the Toro wearing out in just a couple seasons when used on very hilly terrain. On the other hand the Toro was the highest rated company for mower reliability in Consumer Reports this year (!) and sports a five year warranty versus the Honda's three year.

The frustrating thing about mowers is that the way they run in actual use is probably far more important then anything else, but that is the one thing you have no way of knowing until you get it home. Making the whole thing a crapshoot.

I wonder how many sheep I could buy for $800; They'd keep the lawn trimmed down.


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Monday, May 05, 2008

Event Lines

Yesterday, for the second time in sixth months, I found myself standing in line outside of a Best Buy. I went over 29 years without ever stooping to waiting in line just for an opportunity to purchase something, but apparently now I've suddenly become a slave to consumerism. Or at least to getting a good deal.

Anyways, this time it was for a RewardZone special event that happened after store closing on Sunday evening. The line was much more reasonably sized then the one on the day after Thanksgiving, with Linzy and I ending up 47th and 48th in line after showing up 15 minutes early.

They did the doorbuster coupon deals this time again, although it seemed that there were far more coupons then there were people who wanted those items. Probably a reflection on the fact that the deals didn't seem all that good.

In my case the only reason we were standing in line was because I was there for an item that I knew they only had one of, and the event offered triple reward points for purchases. That, coupled with the 10% off coupon good only this week, a $300 rebate, and 18-month interest free financing was enough to make me stand in line to ensure that I would have a reasonable shot at getting that lone item.

The event was kind of interesting because while there were probably 100 customers, they had what seemed like a full complement of employees (or more) manning the store. The place was crawling with employees trying to be helpful. They also had free smoothies (tasty) and mini-burritos (which looked good, but I didn't try one). There were five $50 gift cards given away as well, which considering the low turnout gave you a pretty good shot at getting one.

Linzy and I were debating whether the event was actually worthwhile for Best Buy. It is hard to judge, because it probably really depended on exactly what it cost to have all those employees work an extra 2.5 hours. Even though there were not all that many people there, people were definitely buying things. So if the goal was to get a couple hundred people out buying stuff when they normally wouldn't on a Sunday evening, it was certainly a success.

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Frustration

This weekend was one of those where nothing seemed to go the way it was planned. It started uneventfully, on Friday evening Linzy and I watched a couple episodes of The Wire and enjoyed them a lot. Then Saturday morning I worked out and had a generally relaxing morning.

That afternoon Linzy decided to take a nap, so I went out front to work on replacing our old junky flower box with new brackets for new replaceable wood boxes that we are planning to get. That was at 2pm, and in my mind I was figuring it would take an hour or two at most to take down the old box and put up new brackets.

6 hours later I was still working on it.

Things got extremely complicated, and I ended up having to expanded the scope of what I was trying to do significantly to fix things 'right'. My Dad came over to help on short notice, and things still weren't completed at 8:30 pm.

That in turn ruined our plans to go meet up with Brenden & Allison for the evening, since I still hadn't eaten and was filthy from dealing with my flower box project.

Then this morning I went back out to finish up the project in the front, which primarily just involved having to exchange a 2x8-8' Cedar board we had bought for a 2x10-8' board, cut it, mount it and the new brackets. Simple, right?

Well it turned out that Menards doesn't carry 2x10 cedar boards, but it took an hour to figure that out because everyone there was sure (just like I was) that they had to carry them. So I trailed after employee after employee through the whole lumber yard trying to find a 2x10 board (of any length).

Eventually I gave up and went over to Home Depot, where they also didn't carry those sized boards. My Dad called Lowe's and found the same problem. I even tried Lamperts (a local contractor-focused lumber yard) but they weren't even open. In the end I had to go back to Menards and have them special order it, which means that for the next week I'll have a 79.5x41.25 inch gap on the front of the house where the board is supposed to go.

My intention was to get the old flower box all fixed up in time for Linzy's 30th birthday party on Saturday, but instead I made things worse.

Then, after the board problem I was planning to mow my lawn for the first time. I had just gotten my mower back from Ace Hardware after a tune-up to get it running better. Except when I turned it on, there was this horrible banging noise and it sounded like it was going to explode.

So I had to drive the mower back to Ace, to see if they can figure out what went wrong on their repair. Which I am sure will require some strongly worded discussions tomorrow to get them to own up to not repairing it properly the first time around.

I ended up having to borrow my Dad's lawn mower to cut the grass, which was somewhat sketchy since earlier in the day his was broken, though with something that he could more-or-less repair himself.

Oh, and the first thing I did while taking down the flower box was slash open a finger on one of the existing metal brackets, but didn't realize it until I was leaking blood all over everything (the house and my clothes most notably).

It's looking like work tomorrow might actually be a refreshing change.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Recent Media - 5/2

Explanation - Previous Lists

TV: Nip/Tuck Season 3 & Dexter: Season 1 - I have just the finale of Nip/Tuck remaining, and I was disappointed that I didn't get to watch it last weekend. Instead, due to time constraints, I watched the first episode of Dexter. Which was OK. The show strikes me as exactly what you'd expect if one of the premium cable channels pitched you their version of CSI: Miami.

Books: Deadhouse Gates - I didn't finish this book before leaving on my trip, but I did buck up and bring it with despite it being a large hardcover (though not as big as some). It was well worth the hassle because the book got terrific towards the end and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to starting Memories of Ice, and if I had unexpectedly finished Deadhouse Gates while out of town I probably would have just gone out and purchased the next book. That's how much I was enjoying the story.

Movies: Gone Baby Gone - I thought this was a pretty interesting movie. I thought the pacing was interesting and enjoyed the acting and story. It was a bit challenging in what it was presenting, but I liked it.

Video Games (Portable): Final Fantasy V Advance - FF5 got some serious playtime on the flights back and forth, and I am enjoying the game. Even if there are way, way too many careers, abilities and spells to juggle. The encounter rate is ridiculously high as well, which can make some of the dungeons take forever. I'm still having fun with it, even if my party is not particularly strong.

Video Games (Home): None

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Foreclosed

I was waiting to get off the plane today and a guy in the row behind me was on his phone talking to someone about various things. At one point he started asking whether they had gone to look at some house, which was apparently being foreclosed on. After hearing that the person had gone to look at it, he said

And was it a dump inside?
[pause]
That's what I figured. I suppose they trashed it because it was getting foreclosed.
Why do people get so bitter when they bite off more then they can chew?

Looking at foreclosed houses for bargains seems to be the new condo flip, but everyone that I've talked to about it has been very descriptive about just how trashed the houses always are. And not just dirty carpet trashed, but "used the toilet and then let the pipes freeze so the toilet exploded" trashed.


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