Monday, November 30, 2009

Movies: Fantastic Mr. Fox

On Saturday after visiting the house, Linzy and I went to go see Fantastic Mr. Fox. The lack of other movie choices, and the insanely high rating on Rotten Tomatoes (92%) swayed me to go see it despite the previews only looking so-so. Unfortunately I didn't really enjoy it.

I didn't hate the movie either, but it didn't really resonate with me. I enjoyed some of the humor, and liked the 'look' of the film with stop-motion puppets, but overall I didn't think it was particularly interesting.

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of some of Wes Anderson's other movies like Life Aquatic, or The Darjeeling Limited which I thought were OK but not as great as many people do. If there had been alternatives, we definitely could have waited for Fantastic Mr. Fox on Netflix.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

House: Week 11

DSC_4716It had been well over a week since I had last been out to the house, when we stopped by this weekend and there was major progress on the outside. The garage floor was poured, the driveway was in, and the exterior was painted. That was exciting news as we weren't expecting either the painting or the driveway.

The mild weather this November enabled them to complete things that were going to wait until spring. In the case of the driveway, that will save us from parking in the street all spring after the snow melts and the driveway turned into a mud pit.

Unfortunately on the inside, there wasn't such dramatic progress. The mudding and taping was all finished, and the knockdown ceiling was applied and painted. They also sanded all of the floor joints. Lots of work, obviously, but nothing that makes for a major difference when you walk in.

Looking ahead on the schedule, we should have more visible changes as the cabinets and trim are installed. Progress has gotten to the point now where it is getting very hard to remember that we still have two months to go.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Moved

IMG_0017I got back from Boston today after a seven day trip to move our Cambridge office to a new location. It was sad to see the old office go, as I have always thought it was cool. The new office is fine, but not nearly as unique as the old one.

The work activities were very successful, but took a huge effort and trying to coordinate everything was stressful. All those long days in a row (with three 16+ hour days over the weekend) took their toll. But everything is done and now it is really nice to be back at home. I got first class on the flight home, so that helped start the process of relaxing. Now it's one more day of work and then a long weekend!


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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

On the Road Again

Tomorrow morning I leave for Boston, taking what is hopefully the last work trip until next year. This will mark my second week-long trip in a month, and when you throw in a random trip to Chicago in between, it feels like I've been doing a lot of traveling lately.

This trip will be good as it is the culmination of 5 months worth of planning a move project. At this point we've gotten everything done that we possibly can in advance, so it's just a matter of doing it. I'm looking forward to having everything completed.

Interestingly, despite the clustering of trips at the end of the year, I actually only had 5 business trips this year. That's one less then last year's six trips and right in the 'every other month' ballpark that I typically tell people who ask how much travel I do.

The trips this year were a bit longer this year then the average trip last year, so I ended up being away 36 nights total for the year:

March - 5 nights (Boston)
Jun - 12 nights (India)
July - 4 nights (Boston)
October - 9 nights (England)
November - 6 nights (Boston)

In 2007 I was away 44 nights, in 2008 it was 29 nights. Despite this being the third year of looking back at travel amounts, I still don't have a good handle on what normal will be. Since my job responsibilities keep changing, the travel requirements have changed with it.

I would assume that next year will bring more change, possibly a few more, shorter trips. It seems unlikely that it will bring significantly less travel overall.


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Monday, November 16, 2009

Movies: 2012

On Friday night Brenden, Paul and I went to go see 2012 on the monster screen at the Burnsville theater. Paul set things up as apparently he is a big end-of-the-world disaster movie fan. I appreciate a good special effects driven film as much as the next guy, so I was up for it.

Unfortunately I didn't really enjoy it. The special effects were certainly impressive, and I did get a kick out of Woody Harrelson's, but the film felt way too long. The amount of explosions and buildings collapsing after a while started to lose their impact. Apparently there is a limit to the number of times I will watch people fly a plane and narrowly avoid disaster after disaster.

I did enjoy spending time with my friends, but I after an hour and a half, I really struggled not to keep checking my watch.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Books: The Gathering Storm


Three and a half years ago, I pessimistically posted that the Wheel of Time would never be completed. To my pleasure, though Robert Jordan passed away they selected another author to complete the series. Since the announcement, I've read four Brandon Sanderson books and found that I generally enjoy his writing style. While not my favorite author (that'd be Steven Erikson with Patrick Rothfuss a close second), Brandon also has benefit of being an extremely prolific writer.

At the end of October the first of the final three books was released. Despite being on spending lockdown, I couldn't resist a new Robert Jordan book and Linzy was even able to get me a signed copy from Uncle Hugo's which is pretty cool.

I raced through the 766 pages in about a week which was far faster then I read normal books. This was mostly due to spending a lot more time reading then I normally do, but the book's fast pace kept you wanting to read more. There were at least two evenings when I went to bed much later then normal, because I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next.

I really enjoyed the book, at least partially because stuff happened. The plot moved along, some things finally got resolved and it generally felt like we were hurdling towards completion. While Knife of Dreams (the previous book) was good from that perspective as well, the previous several books had gotten mired down in details and felt like you read 800 pages where nothing moved forward.

One of my favorite things about Robert Jordan's books is the worldbuilding that has been done over the the twelve books, and the deep characters that have developed. I thought that the book still felt like a Robert Jordan book, which I take to mean that Brandon Sanderson did a very good job of staying true to the characters and world and history of the books and I couldn't really identify sections that were written by Robert Jordan versus Brandon Sanderson (though I didn't really look).

I can't think of too much negative to say about the book, except a common complaint that because of the breadth of the plot in Robert Jordan's books in a given book there are inevitably characters and plotlines that get little or no attention. For example, Taim and the black tower hardly even get a mention. I understand why this must be, but it is still always disappointing.

The good news there is that according to Brandon Sanderson's blog, Towers of Midnight is already 70% complete, which gives us a good chance of the next book being out in a year.

All in all I really enjoyed The Gathering Storm. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Robert Jordan's world and books. Despite being a combined effort of two authors, The Gathering Storm still felt like a true Robert Jordan book. And really, that probably says everything you need to know about the book. Even to a fan who has read most of the Wheel of Time books at least twice, it felt like a Robert Jordan book. If you like his books, you'll like Gathering Storm. If you don't, then why are you still reading this?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Total Agreement

At my cousin's wedding last weekend, I sat next to my cousin Barb and her son Marcus. Marcus is about 11 and a very good kid. I talked to him for a while about video games (he likes Call of Duty). After a while the talk moved to TV shows, when I asked if he still liked the Simpsons, which was his favorite show when I saw him last. The conversation went like this:

Me: So, do you still like the Simpsons?
Marcus: Yes, but I like South Park too.
Me: Oh, you like South Park?
Marcus: Yeah, I like Cartman.
Me (to Barb): Mom is OK with you watching South Park?
Barb: Yes. No Family Guy though.
Marcus: I like Family Guy.
Me: So you let him watch South Park but not Family Guy?
Barb: Yep
Me: Seems kind of arbitrary.
Marcus: Yeah!!

Barb just looked at me and rolled her eyes. Immediately after I said it, I felt bad. But Marcus' agreement was pretty funny, and the distinction did seem kind of arbitrary.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

House: Week Nine

DSC_4640It's a good thing we're building a house, because otherwise I would have nothing to post about here other then traveling. That traveling, and the associated busy schedule has meant that in the past three weeks I've made exactly three trips to the house. The good thing there is that every time I go, there's been tons of progress.

Since the pre-drywall walkthrough last week, they have: finished pouring the basement floor, put all the vinyl siding up on the sides and back, installed the cedar shakes and 90% of the stone on the front of the house, applied the exterior foundation insulation, put in the interior insulation, and hung all of the drywall.


DSC_4644That's getting after it.

It was pretty cool going through the house today, as the rooms really look like rooms now that the walls and ceilings have sheetrock. I'm excited to see what next week brings.


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Monday, November 09, 2009

Chicago Trip

IMG_1626Linzy and I were in Chicago this weekend for my cousin Susan's wedding and to see our family there. It was a quick trip, we flew down on Friday after work and then flew home this afternoon.

The wedding was in downtown Chicago, right on Michigan avenue, so we got to experience a part of the city that we don't normally. Despite having been to Chicago more times then I can count, we've mostly either been visiting people in the suburbs or going somewhere specific downtown. This was the first time in a long time that I've spent time wandering around downtown.

It was interesting to see all of the shops on Michigan avenue, and we had a tasty lunch at Gino's East. The wedding was a lot of fun, and was quite fancy. We had a good time visiting with family and also got to spend time with family on Sunday and Monday before coming home.

The flight home was interesting as we happened to get upgraded to first class, which was cool, except that the flight from Chicago to Minneapolis is only about 50 minutes. So it was mostly pointless. But we did get to sit in row one, and have fancy snacks.

It's nice to be home. That will only last until next Wednesday when I leave again.

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

House: Week Eight

DSC_4638There's been lots of progress on the house over the past two weeks, but almost none of it is particularly photo-friendly.

The closest we've come is the shingles on the roof. But in addition, they completed all of the HVAC vents, plumbing, electrical, low-voltage wiring, and poured the front porch and basement floor. We've been through the pre-drywall walkthrough, and they start insulating the walls tomorrow. In addition the exterior coverings have been delivered, so I expect next week we'll have the start of siding and/or stone coverings.

DSC_4548We found out today that it is unlikely they will paint the exterior of the house this winter. While I would like to have it completed, I am glad that they aren't going to try to paint in temperatures that are far too cold for that to be effective.

There's a little over two months to go, but it is encouraging to see all the progress and feel like we're creeping up on the point where we can start locking down financing and other arrangements.


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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Movies

I watched a few films on the flights back and forth to London, thanks to the on-demand movie system.

On the way over, I watched Terminator Salvation and was unimpressed. It was enough to keep me aware, and perhaps would have been more exciting on a larger screen with better sound, but it wasn't particularly good.

On the way back I watched two movies:

Fighting, which I had put on the Netflix queue a few weeks ago, and ended up liking. Terrance Howard annoyed me a bit, but the storyline was interesting despite being terribly predictable. And the fight scenes were pretty exciting. The plot was completely what you would expect, and gave me the impression that someone wrote Rocky + Fight Club on a napkin at the bar and out popped Fighting's script.

State of Play, which was entertaining but not terrific. I liked the twists the storyline took, as well as the way the investigation unfolded. It wasn't terrific, but it kept my interest.

There were quite a few other very reasonable choices, but after two movies on the way back, I had had enough and had to move on to other ways to pass the time.


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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Other Side

One of the things that I was nervous about for our trip to England last week was driving on the other side of the road. I originally was going to drive from London to Reading and then Reading to St. Albans. I ended up changing plans and taking the train to Reading, but I still had to drive to St. Albans and then around that area to get to and from the office.

When I drove to St. Albans it was night, which made things somewhat more difficult, at least in terms of navigation. Without a GPS, and with fairly questionable directions from Google Maps, it was a bit of an adventure getting to the hotel. The following morning finding the office with written directions was again fairly sketchy. There were a few wrong turns and one near accident. Amusingly the guys in the office also made me drive everyone to lunch that day. Hazing the new guy, I guess.

After a day though, I pretty much got the hang of things and it wasn't a problem anymore. By the end of the week, it was starting to feel much more natural. I was quite surprised at how well it went overall.

I will admit though, the first night driving on a two-lane road with the headlights coming on the other side of the road freaked me out. My brain was firmly convinced that we were going to die.


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Monday, November 02, 2009

London Trip

DSC_4274Last week I had to go to England for work. Linzy was able to come along and so I went a little early so that we could spend a weekend in London. After a few days of commuting out to Reading, we went up to St. Albans to visit another office. We stayed there for the rest of the week and then flew back on Saturday. It was a pretty busy trip, between the traveling within England, work, and trying to fit in some sight-seeing. But it was fun nonetheless.

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London was interesting because I haven't been there since Brian, Chris and I went back in 2000. Since Linzy had never been there, we did a lot of the normal touristy things like visiting the Tower of London, going across the Tower Bridge walkway, and seeing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

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St. Albans was interesting because it was a much smaller town in the English countryside, so it had a completely different vibe then being in the center of London. Linzy did far more sight-seeing then I did in St. Albans, but I was able to go visit the Cathedral with her, which was very cool.

The Tower Bridge at night
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The changing of the guard was exactly like I remembered it being: packed with people.
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The St. Albans cathedral had some underground tombs that were visible through grates on the floor.
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Sheep grazing in the countryside.
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Charlie the peacock putting the moves on the Puegeot.
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Lots more pictures in the Flickr set.


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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Time Change

I woke up this morning at 5:30am thanks to my normal returning-from-Europe jet lag. Apparently 7.5 hours of sleep is plenty as far as my body was concerned. Unfortunately with the end of daylight savings, that was actually 4:30am.

The good part of being wide awake that early was that I got a ridiculous amount of things done this morning. By 10 o'clock I had already done two loads of laundry, read the paper, did work e-mail for a few hours, exercised, and paid the bills.

If I needed so little sleep that I could get up at 4:30 every morning, I could probably rule the world.


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