Thursday, July 31, 2008

Accidents Happen

Back in May, when I bought the new camera, there were a number of accessories that I needed to buy to go along with it. Some of the items, specifically memory cards and lens filters, were much, much cheaper online. So much more expensive that I couldn't justify spending the extra money at a local store just to have it sooner.

At the same time, I didn't really want to wait days on end to be able to use my shiny new camera just because my memory card was making its way across the US like a sloth. A smart buyer would have ordered the memory card prior to the purchase, but, well, I didn't, so make of that what you will.

Anyways, in the end I found close to the cheapest fast memory cards at Amazon, and that was when inspiration struck: the free month trial of Amazon Prime. Amazon Prime is a year-long subscription-based service where you get free two-day shipping on orders as small as you like (as opposed to the $25 minimum on super-saver shipping). The free month trial seemed perfect, all I had to do was sign up, order all my camera accessories and the cancel before the month was up.

Easy.

So over the month of May, I ordered various other camera accessories from Amazon and was able to take full advantage of that quick shipping. Towards the end of the month, I was getting ready to cancel it, but wanted to hold out until I ordered the last item: a camera backpack.

The trouble with backpacks was that I wanted to be able to actually check them out before ordering, which meant that I had to find the time to go to a real store prior to submitting the order. For a variety of reasons, that took until the bitter end of May but I eventually submitted my order. I then left for the June three week travel extravaganza, and completely forgot that I was supposed to have canceled Amazon Prime after the backpack shipped.

So now, thanks to trying to eek out the last bit of value from a free trial, I am a member of Amazon Prime for 12 months. Which is of course exactly what they want to happen with the free-trial. Making matters worse is the fact that I've ordered exactly one thing since May to take advantage of that membership. The even worse part will be trying to remember next April/May to cancel the membership.


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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Two Years

Did you know that if you have gender reassignment surgery from male to female, you are allowed to compete in the Olympics as long as you wait two year afterwards?

That's the case, at least, according to this article on gender testing at the Olympics. I wonder who determined that two years was the 'right' amount of time. Why not one, or four?

The stories of the athletes at the story struck me as sad, particularly the people pressured/forced/cajoled into things by their government. It's one thing to determine on your own that you want to cheat to win, but another entirely to be a 16 year old and have your coach put you on steroids.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Card Counting

The summer after I graduated from high school (and was thus 18), a number of my friends and I used to go to the local casino Mystic Lake on a fairly regular basis to play blackjack.

We were young, had a healthy amount of free time on our hands, and a bit of disposable income. The fact that the casino was only 30 minutes away made it a good destination when we didn't have anything else to do. Over the course of summer, I went to the casino quite a bit. I believe I finished the summer roughly even, after initially starting out on a huge hot streak.

For the most part, I just played what would be termed 'basic strategy'. However, Dan had bought (or gotten from the library) a book on card counting and I had read some articles on various BBSes of the time, and I was reasonably proficient at keeping the count. The relative ineffectiveness of that technique was mostly due to the lack of significant bankroll, which made playing through bad streaks and adjusting bets appropriately difficult. That and the fact that it was basically just something to do, rather then an serious attempt to make money.

Anyways, based on that, I was relatively excited to watch the movie 21 last weekend. I read the book a long time ago, and seemed to remember enjoying it, so I was looking forward to the movie. Unfortunately I found it extremely boring.

I can't quite put my finger on what my complaint with the movie was, but I just didn't really care what happened to the characters throughout the extremely predictable plot. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but between the very long build-up to the main character actually becoming a successful part of the team, and then the inevitable rise and fall of his fortunes, I just lost interest.

We watched the whole film, but it was not as interesting as much as I was expecting. Perhaps it was due to my understanding that card counting (at least the basic hi-low system) is not really all that mysterious or difficult. Or maybe it was just a bad movie.


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Monday, July 28, 2008

Sales Tax

I was looking at our Sprint bill tonight, specifically the various taxes and fees section.

You know, the section where they used to try to make fees they passed on to customers look like taxes. I was amused (sort of) to see that the administrative fee charged by Sprint related to collecting non-mandatory fees actually exceeds the total of all other fees ($3 versus $2.33). Cause I'm sure there is a lot of administration involved in tacking extra charges onto a bill they are going to send out anyways.

Anyways, what actually caught my eye was a line item for $0.15 in Dakota County Sales tax. I wasn't aware we had a sales tax in Dakota County. After a search, I found that it only started at the beginning of the month, so I felt less silly at not realizing it.

I'm sure if I paid closer attention, this wouldn't have come as a surprise (Bill was talking about it back in April after all), but other then it sounding vaguely familiar, it didn't immediately jump to mind. If it helps fix the debacle that is Cedar avenue through Apple Valley, then I guess it will be good.

The interesting thing should come when the state is trying balance their budget with significantly smaller tax revenues. All of the sudden those transit projects are not going to look like money well spent.


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Sunday, July 27, 2008

And So It Begins

On Saturday morning Brenden came over to drop off the oak I ordered for making built-in bookshelves in our guest bedroom. They will be somewhat similar to the ones my Dad built several years ago, and should help make the guest bedroom look a little nicer.

In theory, the wood:
Bookshelves-4

Should change this:
Bookshelves-7

Into this:
Bookshelves-10

What could possibly go wrong with high-quality plans like those?


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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rogue Salesman

A follow-up to the crazy Frontier in-person sales tactic story from a couple days ago:

On Friday I looked at the Frontier website trying to find out more information about the strange forced $5 charge for fiber optic conversion, and while I could find some information about digital phone service I couldn't find any information about why we would have to pay more and why we were being forced into a plan that included pre-paid long distance.

Based on that Linzy called Frontier and they claimed there was nothing they could do about changes made based on in-person sales. It had to be taken up with the in-person sales department, and they couldn't even tell us who had made the changes to our account (as in, who do we call in that other department).

After some heated discussion, and some time for the rep to check with managers, they eventually decided that they could do something, mainly change everything back the way it was. But they still couldn't explain what had happened, who the sales rep was who had gone door-to-door, or why he was lying to customers.

The whole thing is quite weird and frustrating. I'm fully confident that in a month when the next bill comes, I'll be calling Frontier to try to get things straightened out again.


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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Maintaining Adequate Margins

Today our phone company stopped by the house around dinner time and talked with Linzy (I wasn't home yet). That in and of itself is creepy, but the basic gist of the conversation was three-fold:

  • To tell us that they were switching from copper lines to fiber.
  • To tell us that this was going to cost us $5 more a month.
  • To try to up-sell us on any other Frontier services.

Fiber lines to the trunk boxes have little to no value to me as a phone customer only, unless I was interested in getting Internet from them and even then it is debatable what they could offer without running fiber all the way to my house. It certainly isn't worth five dollars a month, or even pennies a month.

As far as their increased costs to make the switch, I can't think of much that I care less about. That's their problem, and the fact that they've managed to last this long on aging copper lines just means they've been socking away that much more profit all these years. So I certainly don't feel a need to subsidize improvements necessary for them to continue to compete.

Then the fact that they also took the opportunity to try to sell us on additional services and switch to having long-distance with them is just tacky. If you were truly just 'notifying' people about the fiber line change then leave it at that. Don't get all sleazy sales-guy on us and try to make an extra commission selling us crap we don't need.

I barely tolerate the fact that we have a landline to begin with (we both have cell phones after all), so this just reinforces my desire to cut the cord. If I didn't talk to my parents or Linzy to hers for extended periods every few weeks, it would definitely already be gone. Now it's looking more distinctly more likely.

Consider another way this could have been handled. One day, instead of the usual junk mail flyer from Frontier trying to get us to sign up for DSL and Dish through them, we get a letter that says:

Hey, just wanted to let you know we are changing all the phone lines in your area from copper to fiber. This will offer increased reliability and allow us to offer better cutting edge services. We don't expect any outage to your phone during this upgrade and because we value your business, this change won't cost you a thing. It's just another in a long line of improvements we are making to serve you better.


Wouldn't that have been better?


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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Smokers

My father-in-law got a new smoker for his birthday, and so there was much discussion this weekend around what would be best to cook in it, how to long to cook things for, etc. The strange part was that the smoker didn't really come with even a few basic recipes in the instructions. They more-or-less said "cook stuff on 250 degrees for 2-6 hours". That's a pretty wide range.

So that left plenty of opportunity for people to weigh in with their completely uninformed opinions on how long something should be cooked, whether jerky should be cooked longer then regular meat, just hotter, or perhaps with less water. You'd be surprised just how vehemently people who have never smoked anything in their life can argue about how a smoker should be used.

We even discussed for a while the best materials for building a smoker. Larry's new one is constructed from materials similar to a grill, but he was leaning towards it being better if it had been made of wood. And while probably true, Linzy and I were trying to help him stay positive by suggesting ways it could be worse. Linzy's top suggestion "if it were made out of ice". My top suggestion "if it were made out of used lighter fluid cans".

The one clear consensus from everyone polled was that the first thing to put in the smoker should not be fish, for fear of everything from that point on tasting and/or smelling like smoked fish. This was a major downer to my father-in-law, as I am pretty sure his first plan involved smoking fish.

In the end, we couldn't decide anything and ended up doing nothing. Larry might have been happy about that, as he probably wanted to try to figure it out on his own without an audience of rookie chefs 'assisting'. I'm sure next time we are up, he'll have an array of jerky made from mystery meats for us to try.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New Phone

Approximately one year ago Linzy and I re-upped with Sprint and got new cell phones. Picking the phones was some what of an ordeal.

Initially Linzy was dead set on a Moto Razr. After a few days with that phone, it was painfully obvious that the battery was going to be a problem since even new it couldn't hold a charge for more then a day. After a week or two of contemplation and much searching online, eventually Linzy found a different model phone (a Fusic) that was available at just one Sprint store in the area, and exchanged the Razr for a phone with much better battery life.

Meanwhile, I bought a Katana DLX, which had just come out a week or two earlier. I really wanted a Sprint Mogul, for its large slider keyboard, relatively small form-factor, and ability to get work e-mail. Unfortunately the Mogul was pretty expensive, costing $75-100 more then the already more-then-Linzy's-phone Katana DLX.

In the end I cheaped out and settled for the Katana, and spent the next month mulling over whether I should have just paid the extra and gotten the Mogul. But I stuck to my guns and didn't exchange the phone. And for the last year I've been more-or-less happy with the Katana DLX.

However, as I've gotten busier and busier at work, especially with more and more meetings, I've really been wishing that I had a phone that could sync with my work calendar to keep me headed to the meeting then they fall back to back, and maybe be able to do a little work e-mail. I've been using the Katana a bit for e-mail, but the lack of a qwerty keyboard made it useless except in the most dire circumstances.

So for the past few months I've been watching (well Google Reader's been watching) Craigslist for secondhand Sprint Moguls. They've come and gone periodically, but I never broke down and bought one. Partly due to the fact that since Sprint lacks SIM cards, you have to be careful that a Sprint phone has a clean ESN if you buy a used one, lest you get stuck with someone else's early termination fee.

Yesterday, with some birthday money from last month burning a hole in my pocket, I finally broke down and bought a Mogul. It wasn't the cheapest that has come across the list, but it was reasonably priced and the guy seemed somewhat less flakey then most other sellers.

Last night, while Linzy was probably rolling her eyes over me spending money so that I could work more, I drove out to Chanhassen, checked out the phone, called Sprint to verify the ESN, and parted with a chunk of my hard-earned money in exchange for a relatively shiny Sprint Mogul.

By the time I got home last night I didn't really have time to do much of anything with it, except wipe the old owner's data and put in a few critical contacts. Today at work I managed to relatively painlessly get it configured for e-mail and calendar syncing and have been thoroughly enjoying playing around with it. Having a qwerty keyboard is as awesome as I was expecting, even if this one is frequently a tad sensitive.

I'm still trying to figure out the dizzying array of options Windows Mobile provides, which I am pretty sure allow me to do just about anything under the sun, if you can just find the right checkbox six tabs deep in the third dialog box opened from one of the four menu options on the main screen. You know, right where you would expect it to be.

Overall the phone seems well worth the extra cost, even if it is a smidge larger then the Katana DLX (though not by as much as you would think). Hopefully as I get the hang of more of the options and get it fully configured, it will be even more useful.


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Monday, July 21, 2008

Back from Duluth

Grandma's Flowers-1Linzy and I were up in Duluth this past weekend to celebrate her father's 60th birthday. On Saturday we had a family birthday party, for everyone with birthdays in July. On Sunday we were planning to go to the Duluth Air Show, but the weather in the morning was overcast and looking like rain so we decided not to go. The weather cleared up shortly afterwards, but we still went to see The Dark Knight instead.

The movie was lots of fun, although I think it would have been better if it ended about 2/3rds of the way through the film. Much darker, perhaps, but better. As it was, everything you've probably heard is true, Heath Ledger's Joker is awesome, the action and special effects are cool, and the movie is entertaining.

Sunday night we went to the very overpriced LedgeRock Grille for dinner, and then randomly ended up watching the Bank Job. Today we visited with family a little more before heading back home.

A very busy weekend, but it was nice to spend some extra time with Linzy's side of the family since we don't see them as often.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Miscellaneous Photos

The other day I finally unloaded the pictures from our Arizona trip off Linzy's camera, and had forgotten all about a few that I had taken.

Safety First! At least they are wearing their helmets.
IMG_0149

Somewhere in random Arizona we saw a new crossover being test driven. The coverage over the various body panels did a pretty impressive job of disguising the vehicle. It was pretty difficult to identify.
IMG_0159

IMG_0160

The new highway bypassing the Hoover Dam is nearly complete (they've been working on it since we were originally there).
IMG_0158
The interesting thing is that it is in front of the dam, so it will be a crazy drop down to the river. You have the full height of the dam plus however far it is above the damn.



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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

There's a Line?

Last weekend, when we were at the Star Wars exhibit they had a two part queue line setup to wait to get into it. Everyone's ticket has a specific time on it and they had two queue lines setup.

One for the closest time slot (say 11:00am) and one for the following slot (say 11:15am). That way they could make sure all the 11:00 people got in before the 11:15 people. Off to the side there was an area for, apparently, handicapped people so they didn't have to try to navigate the narrow queue lines.

So just before 11:00 we were standing in line waiting patiently for our chance to get into the exhibit. There was a guy behind me who kept creeping closer and closer to me. I guess subconsciously trying to push the line in the door.

At one point they paused taking tickets from our line and let in a bunch of the people waiting in the handicap-accessible area (which, of course, included a significant number of people too good to wait with the rest of us).

Anyways, after they let in all those people and switched back to our line, all of the sudden the guy behind me jumped over the queue rope and ran up to the ticket lady and stood there trying to get her to take his ticket. He kept kind of trying to push it at her and she kept (rightly) ignoring him.

Everyone in line ahead of him (now behind him) was like "What are you doing?" and he goes "What?". "Well, there's a line, for one thing.". "There is?". "Yeah, you were just in it?!" "Oh. Sorry about that. I didn't realize".

And he got back in line. What in the world did he think we were doing standing in a queue line? At the point you've just blatantly line-hopped in front of 30 people, at least have the arrogance to stick to your guns and don't sheepishly get back in line.

Instead he meekly returned to the line and continued to slowly invade my personal space by inching ever closer. It was quite strange.


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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rolling

The other day when Linzy and I were leaving Home Depot after exchanging the light fixture, there was a guy in the parking lot who had just finished unloading his cart into his grey minivan.

He was parked in the second spot from the front, near the entrance to the store. As we were exiting the building he took a running start and then launched the cart across the road and towards the building. Intending, I guess for it to careen into the nicely stacked rows of carts and for someone else to pick up after him.

That day it was ridiculously windy, and so as the cart was rolling at a good clip, a gusty crosswind came up and blew the cart. It blew hard enough to turn it 90 degrees, where it continued its now wind-aided trek faster and faster, right into the back of a car waiting outside the garden center.

Wham!

Even crazier, it turned out that the car was occupied at the time as the driver's door immediately popped out and a guy climbed out to inspect the damage done by the lazy idiot.

The mind-boggling part is that there was literally a cart-corral area just a few spots down the aisle. So there was no reason to launch the cart across the parking lot and into someone's car. Other then stupidity, of course.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Best Press Conference Ever

Today was the Microsoft pre-E3 press conference, which announced (among other things):

  • Netflix instant watch will stream to the XBox 360.
  • AC/DC will be in Rock Band 2
  • All Rock Band 1 tracks can be imported into Rock Band 2 for less then $5
  • Final Fantasy 13 is coming to the XBox 360 in North America

Plus they released the full Rock Band 2 song list, with all kinds of additional non-AC/DC awesomeness. Seriously, Hungry like the Wolf and Eye of the Tiger? The singing at our next party should be highly amusing. I fear the 84 song endless setlist though.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Small Changes

Over the past month or so, Linzy had come to the decision that what she wanted to spend her birthday money on was replacing the outside light fixtures on our house. We had the same 12 year old cheap brass torches outside, and they were looking decidedly worse for wear. Actually, they looked worse for wear when we bought the house, and things haven't improved in the past seven years.

Anyways, this weekend we actually got around to looking for new lights and ended up finding ones that look really nice for far less then I was pessimistically estimating we would have to spend. We certainly could have spent more if we had custom ordered something, but it turned out that some stock ones were the ones we liked the best.

So yesterday Linzy and I replaced the 4 of the 5 lights in just a little over an hour, and would have completed all five except that the fifth kit was missing some parts. So we exchanged that one and I replaced it in literally 8 minutes tonight. By that point I had the replacement process down to a science.

It is amazing what a difference something as small as the light fixture makes. The front of the house looks much better now, as does the deck light. For less then $200 an a couple hours worth of work, it was well worth the effort.

The old light that was on the side of the garage nearest the front door.
New Outside Lights-3

The three lights from the front of the house. In dire need of replacement.
New Outside Lights-11

The new copper lantern style lights we put up.
New Outside Lights-8

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Star Wars Exhibit

Star Wars Exhibit-40Today Linzy and I went to the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum. The tickets were a gift from my parents for my birthday, which was really nice of them and a good idea.

The exhibit was a combination of some of the things that were at the Minneapolis Institute of Art several years back and some new things. It was larger then what was at the Institute of Art to my recollection, but not particularly huge. We spent a little over an hour in the exhibit, of which at least 30-40 minutes was spent waiting in line to see the robot video (which was absolutely, unequivicably not worth waiting even one minute for).

We also had tickets to go see the Special Effects movie at the Omnitheater which was a film from 1996 or so on Industrial Light and Magic, showing how blue screen composite effect shots were made for the 20th anniversary re-release of the original movies. You remember that tragedy, right? They also showed some effects from Independence Day, Jumanji and Shazaam (yes, the movie with Shaq). I was puzzled by the choice of a 12-year old movie on special effects.

Star Wars Exhibit-10
The tickets are ridiculously expensive ($27 a person if you buy online) since you have to buy a Science Museum ticket, the Star Wars ticket and an Omnitheater ticket. Plus you have to pay absolutely stupefying prices to park at the Science Muesuem ($8 for 2 hours).

It was interesting to see the props and costumes. If you're a huge Star Wars fan, don't mind large crowds of ill-mannered people, and didn't see the original exhibit, it might be fun to see. Otherwise, you'll have to decide how much an hour or two of Star Wars entertainment is worth to you.

[ I uploaded a sampling of pictures to flickr ]

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Telephone Squatters

There was no post yesterday because our Internet was broken from mid-afternoon through the time I went to bed. The TV was working fine, even the digital box, which seemed sort of strange.

Eventually I got impatient and called Charter to find out what was going on. Since I was lazy and pretty sure I knew the number, I dialed 1-800-GETCHARTER. That got me to a phone tree with a fairly generic welcome message with only two options '1 - for the best prices on cable, internet and phone' and '2 - all other inquires'.

I pushed two and it dumped me to a message telling me to call the 1-800 directory assistance number, over and over. Which seemed bizarre, but I wasn't really listening so I dialed the number anyways and, of course, got directory assistance.

By this time I dug out the last bill and found out Charter's number was 1-888-GETCHARTER, not 1-800. Apparently someone is squatting the 1-800 version of the number and probably trying to get commissions on the sales of people who push #1 at the menu tree. Plus I probably cost myself money by mistakenly calling the directory assistance number.

I'm familiar with domain squatting, but it didn't even cross my mind that I would find a squatter on a telephone number misdial.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Spam Filter Vacation

Apparently today was a vacation day for my gmail account's spam filter, everything was getting through.

The morning started with a "This day in History" e-mail which appears to have come direct from the History channel courtesy of a video I ordered for Christmas for Linzy's dad over two years ago. Now, in theory I'm sure they took my e-mail address from my order, despite the fact that I opt-out of everything marketing related, but I've never gotten another e-mail in the past two years. So I assume the rest were correctly getting caught by a filter.

Then, in rapid succession I got an e-mail advertising a WCCO event where they are having Jason DeRusha shill for their new advertising scheme, two porn e-mails, and a spam e-mail for a woman's fashion website (WTF?).

This afternoon another two really typical prescription drug e-mails made it through, and then after that, nothing. It was like the filter started back up again. I guess maybe even computers need a day off.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

170,000

I was finishing up my workout on the elliptical this evening and since the episode of The Wire: Season 2 was already over, I was paying more attention to the display then normal. During the cooldown the machine was displaying various stats on what I had done, and then at one point displayed the total number of calories burned using the memory setting that I use: 170,712.

That seemed like a pretty decent amount considering I've only owned the machine for 8.5 months, and for several of the early months I was using a different memory setting. It works out to at least 20,000 calories a month, and more then 1,200 per session (assuming I was managing 4 sessions per week, which I wasn't).

Unfortunately Google failed me when trying to find something to scale 170,000 calories against, providing instead page after page of stories on how Heidi Klum bought Posh Spice a dozen cupcakes a week for a year for her birthday, which supposedly total 170,000 calories. It should be safely more then the amount in the piece of leftover cheesecake I ate while writing this.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Fourth of July

4th of July 058On Friday, Linzy and I had a few people over for a Fourth of July get together. It was thrown together somewhat last minute, with Linzy being out of town most of last week, but we had a good turn out and I think everyone had fun.

Thanks to the awesome weather this weekend we were actually able to extensively use the newly stained deck. That also came in handy later in the evening when we watched the surrounding fireworks displays. When it comes to fireworks, this year was quite the impressive display. You can normally see portions of local city fireworks displays from the deck, but it also turned out that virtually all of my neighbors spent the bulk of their stimulus checks on fancy fireworks and then proceeded to try and out-do each other. More then one neighbor had a 'grand finale' display, to give you an idea of their level of commitment.

Fourth of July-11
After the fireworks, Allison, Brenden, Linzy and I tried a game of Rummikub, which I haven't played with more then two players for a long, long time. Allison got stuck with a over a tray of pieces she couldn't play and so had to keep drawing tiles over and over while the rest of us tried to make do without any of the pieces she was hoarding. The amusing thing was once she finally could play, she was able to go out in one turn and win.

In yet another sign that we are all getting old, half the party left shortly after dinner in order to be able to put kids to bed at normal times, and the whole event was over by midnight. Still, I am pretty sure everyone had a good time, and it was nice to be able to spend time with people.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Bear Sterns

I thought this article on the demise of Bear Sterns was fascinating. The conspiracy aspects seem a bit far-fetched, and if actually true means that virtually the same thing could happen to any significantly leveraged investment bank. But the story of how it all came about it pretty amazing.


On Monday, March 10, the rumor started: Bear Stearns was having liquidity problems. In fact, the maverick investment bank had around $18 billion in cash reserves. But soon the speculation created its own reality, and the race was on to keep Bear’s crisis from ravaging Wall Street. With the blow-by-blow from insiders, Bryan Burrough follows the players—Bear’s stunned executives, trigger-happy reporters at CNBC, a nervous Fed, a shadowy group of short-sellers—in what some believe was the greatest financial scandal in history.



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Benefits of Experience

Last year, on the 3rd of July Linzy and I went over to Brenden and Allison's apartment to enjoy a tasty dinner and the Bloomington Fireworks. We did the same thing this year, and it was just as fun.

We went over to the apartment after work and enjoyed one of Brenden's terrific deep-dish pizzas. Afterwards we tried out the cooperative boardgame Pandemic. That was a huge hit, particularly with Linzy, even if it was not particularly suspenseful in terms of there being any question that we were going to be victorious.

By that point it was time to go over to the Normandale Office Park to see the fireworks. Drawing on our vast store of experience with the Bloomington fireworks and where they would be launched from, we were able to get much better seats then we had last year. We were further away from the actual launch area, but had a much less obstructed view. The fireworks display was impressive, and lengthy. They had a variety of fireworks, including some that produced geometric shapes and lots of multi-stage ones.

It was nice to be able to see the whole fireworks display this year, and it turned out to be a great evening.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Hot Dogs

I thought this chart of the number of hot dogs eaten in the Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest was interesting.

Primarily in the enormous jump in 2001 when Kobayashi shows up and destroys the previous record, and then follows it up with 5 more consecutive victories. Then there is the big jump last year when Joey Chestnut comes out of nowhere to win by three HDBs and set a new world record.

I saw that Joey managed to win again this year, but it required an overtime showdown.

[ Video of the end of this year's contest ]

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Good Effort

850A0105The other day I was taking pictures off my mobile phone and discovered a picture I had taken on vacation but had totally forgotten about. Unfortunately it didn't turn out quite as good as I was hoping.

The picture was taken of the cleaning checklist at the Roadkill cafe in Seligman, AZ on the start of Route 66. It looks like a pretty normal checklist, with initials and checkmarks for the inspections at 11, noon, 1 and 2. The only trouble is that the date (which you can't really read) was from 1/8/08. As in a little over six months prior to when we were there.

So, in the best case, that was the day they decided sometime between 2 and 3 that this whole 'keeping track of who was cleaning the bathrooms' thing was overrated. In the worst case, that's when they stopped cleaning the bathroom. From the state of the bathroom, I lean a bit more towards the latter then the former.

[ As a side note of the public service variety, don't ever take pictures near a bathroom. A guy who heard my phone's camera click was understandably pretty sure I was up to no good. ]

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Justification for Moving

I was having having lunch with Paul today (rescheduled from last week) and most of the conversation focused on house and moving. Since he and Laura are moving later this week, and I was over helping move some things on Sunday that shouldn't be too surprising.

Anyways, as we were talking about houses and the dynamics of why people decide to move. There are lots of reasons people give, but I was arguing that most are probably not really the underlying reason. Do you really need those vaulted ceilings? Is wanting a flat yard really sufficient reason to move to a 50% more expensive house?

Note I wasn't saying there was anything wrong with people wanting to move. Nor was I arguing that there aren't also reasons for moving. Moving to be closer to a job, closer to a school for the kids, to get out of a bad neighborhood, or to accommodate a growing/changing family all came up as reasons that seemed like they could support a decision to move.

Instead I was focusing more on the reasons people give when it seems more likely they just want a nicer home. Which, is not a problem. If you can afford it, go for it. I just think it is interesting all the reasons people give that are more-or-less just dancing around the desire for a new house.

For example, when Linzy and I move, I'll tell you right now that it will probably partially be because we want something a little nicer. Sure it might be nice if the backyard wasn't a steep hill, but that's why we have a huge deck instead. And while it might be nice to have more bedrooms upstairs, we can't really legitimately say we need that space right now. So even though those would be 'reasons' for moving, I would argue they probably aren't the real reasons.

It seems more likely that we will just have happened to find a good deal (on a nicer house), or that it will be closer to work, or that we just decided to drop some extra savings into a nicer house. We're just too practical to move for the sake of moving or so we could have nicer kitchen cabinets.


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