Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas

DSC_6527Another Christmas has come and gone. The Christmas holiday is among my favorite of the year, but this year I never really got into the swing of things, I suppose because of all the other distractions happening recently. Still, even though I felt unprepared, we had a great holiday.

On Christmas Eve we were able to spend a long time (much longer than I was thinking Elijah would allow us to) with my parents, Sarah, John and Evie. A good dinner, lots of fun presents, and some catching up with each other made for a good evening. Then on Christmas Linzy's parent and Lonny came down from Duluth and my parents came over. That was a good time too, especially watching the grandparents and uncle dote on the newest arrival.

Today Larry, Lonny and I went to see True Grit, which I thought was quite good, while Linzy and Sandy did a little post-Christmas shopping. Now it is back to work, but thankfully only for a short week. Hopefully things will be quiet, so I can spend a little extra time at home. Well, the boy has been screaming in Grandpa Larry's arms for a bit, break time is over!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Back to Reality

DSC_6460Today was the final day of my two-week paternity leave at work, so tomorrow morning it is back to the grind. The time off has been very rewarding, although it is certainly nothing that could be construed as a 'vacation'.

I was talking with Linzy at some point and prior to this leave, as near as I can remember the last time I took two weeks of consecutive time off from work was for our wedding and subsequent honeymoon. That too was reasonably stressful, at least until the wedding was over and we were off to San Francisco.

I fully expect the next few weeks to be equally as challenging as the last two have been, as we try to adjust to life with a child and a very full-time job. At least we're easing into things, with two four-day work weeks.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Sobriquet

DSC_6386One of the most common questions we have been asked regarding Elijah's name is whether we are going to be calling him Elijah or Eli. The answer, as it turns out is both, or perhaps neither.

Initially one of the reasons we chose the name was because we liked the shorter version 'Eli'. However once he arrived, I've actually preferred to call him Elijah instead, while Linzy prefers Eli. So either works just fine. As it happens though, over the past few weeks he has also gained two nicknames that are pretty commonly used to refer to the boy.

The first, "The Gator", refers to his crazy extremity flailing efforts to avoid breastfeeding, leading an exasperated Linzy to complain that trying to contain him was like wrestling an alligator. The name, especially as the antics have continued, has stuck in a big way.

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The second, "Lord Fussypants", was coined thanks to his frequent refusal to be soothed by ... well ... anything. Too little holding, too much holding, having a soothie pacifier, not having a soothie pacifier, being in the swing, wearing a hat to bed, being cold without the hat on, etc, etc. I was describing it to Linzy as envisioning him sporting a suit, carrying a cane, monocle, and little baby top hat while looking down his snooty nose at all our efforts to appease him.

Hopefully he will grow out of the Fussypants stage, although looking at the description makes me realize that the timeline might be more like 'moved away to college', rather than 'turned a month old'. The Gator, on the other hand, may just stick.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

One Thing

DSC_6319It is hard to believe that tomorrow Elijah will be two weeks old. The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and adjustment, even more-so then I or Linzy were expecting. Mostly in a good way, although sleep around these parts has been fleeting and elusive.

Elijah is settling in, and is busy bending Linzy and I to his will. Between feedings, post-feeding soothing, diaper changes, additional soothing, clothing changes, more soothing, and the few minutes of alert time each day when we can interact with him (usually conveniently scheduled at 3am!), it is painfully apparent just who is in charge in this house. And it isn't Linzy, myself or Pippen.

All of that activity, none of which you might have noticed involved sleeping, means that it has been shockingly hard to do much of anything over the past few weeks. I told Linzy a few days in, after the reality sunk in, that I can relatively reliably accomplish one task each day outside of baby-related things. It might be going to the store for groceries, shoveling the driveway, or exercising, but as much as I might intend to get more done, it won't (or hasn't) happened. Just ask the three towel bars that I unpacked in the boy's bathroom two weeks ago, and have intended to install for the same two weeks.

Similarly, that's been the story with the blog as well, as today was the first day when I managed to squeeze in two (admittedly minor) tasks, shoveling the latest couple of inches of snow from the driveway and blogging. But even then, the crafting of this entry has been interrupted twice.

Next week things will get even harder as I return to work and Linzy tries to handle all of the care that two people were just barely getting accomplished together. She unquestionably has the more difficult assignment.

Luckily Elijah is super cute and we love him a ton, so it is all well worth it.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Elijah Otto Eck

Elijah Otto Eck was born at 6:42pm on December 3rd. Linzy and Elijah are doing well, and I am a proud Dad!






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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

False Alarm

After discussing it with Linzy, I didn't go to today's doctors appointment. We have three a week (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday), and based on our results from the end of last week the message was that we were going to be making it closer to week 39 than originally thought. So the plan (Linzy suggested/approved I might add) was to only go to the Wednesday and Friday appointments this week.

Originally, I was thinking that just to be safe I would drive in to work on the off chance that something unexpected happened. But then I was running late and with the ice/snow this morning I figured the roads would be a mess. So I decided that if I drove I wouldn't have made it to the office in time for my first meeting, and rode the bus instead.

As it turned out, this appointment the baby passed with flying colors, but Linzy herself had some things that concerned them, and so got sent right over to labor & delivery. Since this was at 3:15pm there were no buses, so I got to take the $60 cab ride from downtown to Lakeville.

Luckily everything checked out just fine after more detailed tests and so we were sent back home to keep baking the baby. Perhaps we'll find out more at the remaining appointments this week. Then again, perhaps not as the doctors can be certainly be what might politely be referred to as 'cagey'. Things would definitely be termed day-to-day at this point though.


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Monday, November 29, 2010

Thwarted

I've mentioned my love of Amazon many times, especially for the past few years when we've had Prime. The two day shipping on everything is great and makes all the difference in not wondering when something is finally going to show up. It's also fast enough that even with my impatience, I don't often succumb to the 'I need it now' impulse.

Anyways, one of the things that I like about Amazon with or without prime is their lack of screwing around when it comes to shipping stuff. No multi-day wait for processing, no 'billing information received' by the shipping company but yet no actual shipment, etc. You order it, they send it out. With Prime it's even more dramatic since there is no 'collecting' of orders into one shipment, stuff appears to go out asap.

Unfortunately this weekend that came around to bite me in the ass. We ordered some towel bars and other hardware for one of the extra bathrooms upstairs. After some debate about the color to get, we settled on one. After placing the order I was upstairs and looked at our other bathrooms (which each have different colors) and changed my mind on what color I wanted.

So I went downstairs, told Linzy I was changing the order, only to find out...it was already being prepared for shipping and couldn't be changed. I ordered it, they shipped it. Exactly what I normally want. Except when I don't.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving

DSC_5938Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I like any reason to have a few free days off work and spend time with family and friends, but Thanksgiving for some reason has a special place in my heart. Strangely I think it is at least partially because of the association with the start of the holiday season, and the lead up to Christmas (my favorite holiday). But I do enjoy Thanksgiving on its own merits as well.

This year we stayed close to home, which was fortunate since the weather wasn't all that nice on Wednesday. We spent Thursday at my parents house having a good time, watching some football and eating way too much delicious food.

The rest of the weekend was laid back and filled with miscellaneous chores around the house trying to get all the last minute things done for the baby and some shopping. We were able to avoid the crowds for the most part, which I didn't mind at all. On the baby front we had our 37 week ultrasound and things there are going better then they were last week. So the waiting game continues. Week 38 (Friday Dec 3rd) is possibility, and the latest we would go is Week 39 (Friday Dec 10th).

Linzy, the baby, and Pippen waiting for dinner
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Thanksgiving Dinner
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Skyping with Sarah, John and Evie
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Mom and Dad
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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Backscatter

All of the fervor over the backscatter machines they are using at the airports these days seems destined to result in their removal. Certainly enough people seem up in arms about them, and the whole scheme seems rife for perverts, privacy concerns and questions about the effectiveness in the first place.

On my trip to San Jose last month I was selected to go through one for the first time. I did not object and went through the machine, but the whole process actually took much longer then I was expecting. The delay after having gone through until they reviewed my image was significantly longer then it would have taken to go through the metal detector. Especially when they had to do an extra inspection of my arm to look at my watch.

I can only imagine what it will be like as they try to ramp up the number of people going through it, and have people objecting, are doing the extra pat-downs, and generally just having problems. Seems like a disaster for anyone traveling this holiday week.

On the positive side, thus far I haven't grown any strange appendages. On the negative side I also haven't yet developed super powers, so perhaps it takes more then one trip before the XRays take effect.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Well Covered

A few weekends ago I spent some time installing the car seat base into one of our cars. After testing getting the car seat in and out, I ended up leaving the car seat in the car for Linzy to see. She tested it out later and afterwards we decided to just leave it in the car since that's where it will be needed eventually anyways. One less thing to forget to bring to the hospital, was the theory.

That night we had some errands to run and ended up going out to dinner. While getting seated I realized a serious flaw in leaving the car seat in the car: the car seat happened to have a fleece cover over it, that we were testing out to see how it fit. With the cover on, you couldn't see anything in the car seat. And that fully covered seat was left unattended in a parked car.

On the way out, I was explaining our folly to Linzy and joking about how I was expecting to find a horde of people and police surrounding the car concerned about the idiots who had left their baby in the car while going in for a meal. Luckily no one noticed and/or cared (it was a relatively empty restaurant parking lot) and so we were spared trying to explain how our inexperience dealing with car seats didn't mean we were unfit future parents.

While the car seat is still in the car, the covering is now sitting on the seat next to it. So at least we can say we learned our lesson.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baby's Room

We continue to inch closer to being more-or-less ready for the arrival of the baby. Among the things finished this weekend was the baby's room. Where as a few weeks ago we literally had nothing in the room, it is now painted, filled with furniture and the drawers and closet are bursting with soon-to-be-outgrown clothes.

It's looking like the room may be done none-to-soon as we had a trip to the hospital this weekend to have the baby checked out. Everyone got a clean bill of health, but as the weeks go by it's looking more and more likely that the baby will be joining us early. My money's on Friday, but we'll see.

Finally, some pictures of the baby's room:

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Much Improved

I had an appointment this morning so I drove in to work. The trip home was my first in rush hour since they finished the 35/62 crosstown project, and I was impressed by how nice it was. Over the past three years they've obviously been completing it a bit at a time but because of the lane closures and funky rerouting of traffic, traffic was actually worse or at best not any better. But now that everything is done, there were hardly any slowdowns even though I was leaving in prime rush hour. I imagine it will be even better once the HOV/MNPass lane opens up.

Obviously the bus drives on it every day, but I am officially immersed in my DS games at that point so I hadn't noticed the improvement. Interestingly because my normal bus home has shifted a bit later, even if the trip is faster I get home around the same time. Two steps forward, one step back.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dubious Honor

Long Beach Trip 035Last week I got a letter in the mail containing what amounts to a rather dubious honor: gold frequent flier status. That brings with it very few real benefits because in reality it is a pittance compared to how much some people travel, and to me just amounts to a reminder about being away from home too much.

Strangely this year was the first year that I hit 50,000 miles even though I actually flew far less miles then I did last year. While I took more trips this year they were much shorter (four that hit the minimum of 500 miles per flight), and it was only the miles that I carried over from last year that allowed me to squeak past 50k miles for the year (51,977 to be exact).

Anyways, this year I was away on business for a total of 37 nights:

Jan: 5 nights (Boston)
May: 5 nights (San Francisco and Appleton)
June: 3 nights (Appleton)
July: 5 nights (Appleton)
August: 3 nights (Denver)
September: 13 nights (Omaha and India)
October: 3 nights (San Jose)

37 nights is pretty comparable to last year's 36 nights. In 2008 it was only 29 nights, while 2007 was the highest at 44 nights.

The unfortunate part is that the trips continue to be packed into the summer and fall, which is of course the best time to be in Minnesota. Surprisingly few clients in Hawaii have emergencies in February, I guess.

This year the trips were generally shorter then they have been in the past, something I think will probably continue. Over the next year it seems unlikely that I'll be as lucky with nearby clients, but I would expect the overall amount of time away to be similar even if the flights are longer.


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Monday, November 15, 2010

Extraction

I mentioned a few weeks ago about my disappointment when my Shure headphones stopped working, or at least when one half of the headphones stopped working. I forgot to mention last week that I was actually able to repair them. Sort of.

Since they were more-or-less unusable in their current state, I decided to get aggressive with my repair plan, and after searching through my toolbox for a while found a few screwdrivers and miscellaneous tools that were long and thin enough to stick into the ear bud through the sound canal. After messing around for a bit, I managed to pull out a really small foam piece that was wedged in the canal. I assume to protect the speaker.

But after removing the foam the sound was much loud, perhaps it had gotten dirty over time. In fact, removing the foam made the right earbud so much louder that I ended up having to remove the foam from the left earbud as well to make them the same volume again.

Unfortunately the foam was so small I couldn't really clean it or anything, and I ended up losing one of the pieces in the process of trying to clean it. So now I'm just going without the foam and everything seems good. I was quite happy to have the headphones back and operational. We'll see how long they last unprotected by microscopic foam pads.

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Change of Plans

This weekend Linzy had a breastfeeding class that I declined to attend, and so my Mom went with her instead. The plan was to finish up the last of the fall yard work on Saturday, pulling out the hostas and trimming some of the bushes that got a little asymmetrical during their first year. That turned out to be not such a good plan.

On Friday night when we were driving home from visiting friends, the snow was just starting. By the time the dog woke me up on Saturday morning to go outside, we already had a bunch of snow on the ground, and it was still coming down. It snowed all day, basically, and we ended up with a bunch of snow.

How much exactly is hard to tell since it was really wet and so tended to pack down pretty tightly. Plus since I cleared the driveway twice (once for Linzy to leave and once to come home) I never really cleared the full amount. On the positive side, my snowblower actually put together two consecutive reasonable performances, saving my back from having to shovel the super heavy snow by hand.

With the snow the weekend ended up pretty laid back. In addition to the previously mentioned dinner at Jason and Tanwi's house with former co-workers, I did miscellaneous chores around the house while Linzy was at class, we watched a movie, and today just mostly relaxed. It was a nice change of pace.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cover Band

Linzy and I were watching TV tonight and an ad came on for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra tour. As the tour dates scrolled by and went on and on, I started to wonder how they were fitting all those dates in the two months until Christmas. Then I started noticing dates showing up twice in multiple cities.

A closer inspection thanks to the DVR confirmed that there are apparently two separate orchestras touring as part of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra winter 2010 tour. That seems kind of strange.

Admittedly they aren't really known as something you go to see a particular virtuoso player, and I can't name a single member of the band. On the other hand I'm not exactly a fan, so perhaps a fan would know people and be disappointed if they ended up with the 'B' squad orchestra.

All of this begs the question of when going to see this stops being going to see 'Trans-Siberian Orchestra' and start becoming going to see a Trans-Siberian Orchestra cover band?

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Movies

After a really busy September and early October, the last few weekends have been a bit more laid back. We even found time to watch a few movies together, although most of the ones on the list below were entertainment for the elliptical machine.

The Runaways - I knew very little about the Runaways, and after watching the movie I didn't really learn that much more about them. I did, however, learn that Kristin Stewart is a freaky Joan Jett-doppelganger. It was almost disturbing how much she looked and moved like Joan Jett. The story turned out to be pretty boring for a drug and sex filled dramatization of rock-and-roll band's rise and fall. I did get a Joan Jett album afterwards though, so I guess that part of the marketing worked.

Iron Man 2 - Linzy and I watched this. She liked it, I was bored. Some funny parts and cool special effects, and also some really predictable parts where the story just got mired in boringness.

The Losers - Linzy and I watched this the following weekend and both heartily enjoyed it. As far as I can recall, I had never heard of it until Netflix recommended it, but they turned out to be spot on. There was over-the-top violence, humorous dialogue, and telekenetic bullets!

Idiocracy - Recommended to me by a friend years ago when I made a comment about 'someday' having kids, and it just finally made it to the top of the queue. An interesting premise, but the actual movie left quite a bit to be desired.

Godfather 2 - A follow-up to my enjoyment of watching the Godfather last month. So good. I will admit to some boredom during the trip to Cuba part of the movie. Oh, but the end is well done.

Kick-Ass - Linzy and I watched this, and both enjoyed it. I was quite concerned that she wouldn't, but she was able to enjoy the humor in a misfit trying to be a superhero. I really enjoyed the story and fight scenes, though am shocked that Hit Girl's parents let her do the movie. Yikes. I will absolutely see the sequel.

Claymore - An anime series that I had never heard of until Netflix recommended it with four stars. I've watched three episodes so far and am enjoying it. Not perhaps quite as much as I enjoy things like Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex, but on par with many of the other series I've watched over the years.

It Might Get Loud - This is a documentary on the electric guitar featuring Edge from U2, Jimmy Page and Jack White. I intended to watch only the first hour while exercising and then finish it later this week, but instead I found myself watching the whole thing in one sitting. I'm not exactly sure what was so interesting, because they jumped around a lot and only covered random bits of history about the careers as guitarists of all three. But nonetheless I was entertained.

Looking back at this list and the last few months' list, somewhere a Netflix scientist should be getting a fat bonus for his recommendation engine.


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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Greatest

This week is the 24th anniversary of the Super Mario Bros, and I saw in an interview the creator of the Super Mario games (and Zelda and a bunch of others, of course) Shigeru Miyamoto said that his favorite Super Mario game was Super Mario World. I couldn't agree more.

I've enjoyed countless hours of Super Mario games, including Bill and I spending hours and hours playing through Super Mario 1 in college, but Super Mario World stands out clearly as my favorite. It is the game that finally made me sell my Sega Genesis (which I had sold my NES for), because it looked so awesome in Nintendo Power. Why, exactly, I was still getting Nintendo Power despite having sold my NES I don't recall, but nonetheless the write-ups and then watching the game play on a demo system sold me on converting back to Nintendo.

Super Mario World took the map and secrets from Super Mario 3 to the next level, added the cape and Yoshi to the mix, and added all sorts of new challenges and platforming goodness. I liked being able to pick my way around the map and being able to tell (or guess) that there was some other exit from a given level, and then spending tons of time trying to figure out where it was.

Because of its length, I've only played through Super Mario World completely twice. But thanks to Nintendo's complete lack of shame about selling me games I already own for new systems, I'm sure that I'll play it again at some point. And there's always the SNES sitting down in the basement that might be begging for a bit of retro gaming.

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Monday, November 08, 2010

Undamaged Goods

IMG_1877Last month I ranted about the problems we were having getting a crib delivered undamaged, and the absolute crap packing job that company did. After the second (or third depending on how you count) damaged item came we declared that company dead to us and moved on to another crib.

After about six weeks of waiting for it to be made, it finally arrived a few weeks ago and the difference in packing was night and day. The new crib came in pristine condition thanks to custom styrofoam ends holding each piece perfectly in place, extra pieces ensuring everything stayed exactly where it was, and thin foam wrap around everything as (apparently) triple insurance. In short, it was exactly how you would do things if you actually cared about how things looked when they arrived.

The dresser that was also ordered was similarly carefully packed, even though it is a solid wood monster. Wven then, there were extra cardboard spacers to ensure the corners were protected, and a second wood bottom to protect the bottom of the feet from damage. Just in case, I guess.

We were getting a little nervous as things continued to drag on, since we were originally quoted up to 10 weeks for the Young America/Stanley factory to make them. But now that they are here and came in perfect condition, everyone is happy. And that's very important at this point.

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Sunday, November 07, 2010

Poor Selection

I've discussed my disdain for the used video games business model before, but in a moment of weakness when we were cleaning out the house before putting it on the market last summer I traded in a pile of old DS games that I had already finished as well as loaned to Brenden. The games needed to go, and because of the time crunch I didn't have the ability to sell them piecemeal over Craigslist.

I didn't buy a game at that time, and so the credit remained at the store unused for over a year. A few weeks ago I was finally bored with Final Fantasy 13's extra missions and had a moment of inspiration on a game that I could buy used: Halo 3. It's old, but was populate enough for there to be many people looking to sell it, and all those kids who live and breathe Halo are quick to move on to the next big thing and the target market for a used game store to prey on.

So one weekend I used credit to pick up a cheap copy of Halo 3. It was reasonably fun and so a few weeks later I had beaten it and was ready for something different. So I traded it back in, making my total cost for the game a little less then $10. Not bad I suppose, although a little pricey for the limited hours I played it. Emboldened by this experience I was hoping to use up some more credit on another game.

I went into the store with half a dozen in mind that would work, and another few that would be last resorts. In what shouldn't have been a surprise to me, none of the games were there. Not the first choices, nor the reserves. Looking through the games that were there, I was disappointed with the atrocious selection, even though I went in prepared for the worst with multiple choices.

I suppose that is what you get when your business model is to buy games that no one wants anymore. But it was still frustrating to see shelf after shelf filled with shovelware and the few games that I might have swallowed hard and gotten priced for more then they cost new from Amazon. And so, all but $10 of my credit from a year ago still sits unused in their computer system.

At this rate in 5 or 6 years I should be free of having to feel guilty when considering just purchasing a game new rather then trying to get it used. Turns out the business model of giving you 20% of the price of the game for trade-in and charging you 80% of the new price to buy another used, pales in comparison to giving you 20% for trade-in and giving you nothing back in return.

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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Consumer (Up)grade

Almost three months ago I wrote about our wireless router that had been in the process of dying a slow death for months. On Monday Linzy had finally had enough and demanded that I stop making both myself and her suffer with a known-to-be-malfunctioning router.

So today the new router arrived in the mail and after about 15 minutes of work to install and configure the new router the difference is night and day. I knew there would be a difference, but at the same time I was somewhat concerned in the back of my mind that the problem was actually the ~9 year old cable modem sitting right next to the router and I would be spending money on nothing.

But today we proved that it was completely the router at fault. No more having to try to load pages repeatedly every 15-30 minutes and/or reboot the router every few days. I should have bucked up and bought a replacement months ago. Not that I am saying I was wrong and Linzy was right. Not at all.


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Tuesday, November 02, 2010

In One Ear

A little over Three years ago I ended up with a strange sequence of events that ended up with having two brand new midrange headphones: a pair of Bose noise canceling, and Shure SE 210 sound isolating earbuds. I never really used the noise canceling headphones all that much, because the active noise cancellation seemed to give me headaches. The Shures on the other hand were awesome.

I use them all the time, especially once I got a newer ipod that could hold all my music. And not just on those plane flights for work, but also frequently on the bus, especially if someone around me is loud.

Anyways, the Shure headphones were awesome, but all that use took its toll. About six months ago the left heaphone's rubber wrapping started coming off. It didn't seem to affect the operation, so I just kept using them. But then on the flight to India the right earphone stopped working, or was playing sound so soft that you couldn't hear it.

This had happened once before when some junk got in the earphone and was blocking the sound chamber, but either that wasn't the case here or during my attempts to clean it out with makeshift found-on-an-airplane equipment made matters worse. In any case, the right headphone has never worked right since.

It is hard to describe how annoying it is to listen to music or a movie in one ear only. I'm disappointed because even though I got so much use out of the headphones, I was expecting them to last more then three years. And it's hard to justify spending a bunch of money on new headphones when I have plenty of other pairs, including those aforementioned never-used Bose headphones and lots of various earbuds.

But while they all sound better then one ear'd Shure headphones, they don't sound as good as the Shures used to.

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Monday, November 01, 2010

California Hockey

While I was in San Jose last week on Wednesday night I went with two co-workers to see the San Jose Sharks play the New Jersey Devils. I am not a huge hockey fan, as evidenced by the fact that the only professional hockey games I've been to all having been either free tickets or with work, but it was fun to see a different stadium.

The HP Pavilion arena was interesting. From the outside it looked like pretty modern and cool with a bunch of soaring metal and glass windows on either end. Inside the walkways and walls/ceilings turned out to mostly be plain, dull concrete.

The stadium is much less steep then the Excel, so our seats were quite a way further from the ice then ideal. But you could actually see pretty well considering we bought the tickets outside the stadium for about what we would have paid for last minute tickets through ticketmaster/stubhub.

The game was good, both teams are struggling this year but the Sharks put things together in this game and won handily. It helped that Martin Brodeur was looking every one of his 38 years and had a terrible game. Since the Sharks were so far ahead, things got a little chippy and the goons came out for a couple fights. That kept things interesting.

One thing that was a bit different at San Jose, other then vast selection of mexican food that was available, was the clothing that everyone was wearing inside the arena. Basically everyone had what was probably their warmest jacket on, and many many people were sporting hats. I was rocking short-sleeves as it happened, just to show off that thick Minnesota blood.

Overall going to the sharks game was fun evening entertainment.


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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tight Schedule

Last week I was in San Jose for work, enjoying their glorious weather while Minnesota had 60 mile an hour winds and then snow. Of course, since it was days filled with all day meetings, I'm exaggerating the weather enjoyment. But walking to and from the car each day was nice I guess.

My flight home on Thursday was scheduled for 6:30am, which would have gotten back to Minneapolis around 12:00 or 12:30. So I dutifully got up at 4:40am and made my way to airport for the early morning flight. After about an hour on the plane, we still hadn't taken off and I started to wonder what was up. After about another 30 minutes of troubleshooting they determined that some part had failed and so we all had to get off the plane.

Now the flight was completely full and since Delta has a limited presence in San Jose they had only a few gate agents and even fewer flight options for an entire plane full of people trying to make connections. After standing in line for about 30 minutes (and not having moved hardly at all) they announced a new part would be coming in with a plane from Salt Lake and our flight wouldn't be canceled. In the meantime a phone call to our travel agency had switched the tickets over to a flight going through LA and home by 5:30.

With the part arriving around 10am, the original flight was supposed to get home about 3:30, so another phone call switched back to the original flight. And my co-workers and I went for some breakfast and crossed our fingers the part would actually fix the plane.

A little after 10am we started filing onto the plane again, after the captain had verified the fix. Of course at that point we were so far off schedule we got delayed taking off from San Jose and landing in Minneapolis, so we didn't actually get in until about 4:15 or 4:30.

That left me just enough time to get home at 5:15pm, leave again for a quick dinner out, and make it to our birthing class from 6:30-9pm. The whole agreement for this last minute trip to San Jose was that I would be back in time to go to the class, so I was pretty nervous that all of the delays were going to make me miss it. Luckily they didn't, but it ended up being a pretty long day even though all I didn't do much.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Destruction!

This afternoon there was some excitement in the neighborhood. Our next door neighbor's daughter was being dropped off at home after cheerleading practice. Her friend, along with a carload of other high school girls was driving a shiny new silver Honda Pilot SUV.

After dropping off my neighbor, the girls somehow managed to back out of the driveway, head down the road to leave the neighborhood and within half-a-house worth of road build up enough speed to demolish a mailbox on the opposite side of the street. And not just bump the mailbox, or knock it over, demolish it.

No one is quite sure how this happened since there wasn't really enough room to have built up 'lose control' speed, nor were the roads slippery with rain, snow, or ice.

After running over the mailbox, the driver was standing in the middle of the road sobbing, I presume with fear over what her parents were going to say, since no one was hurt.

The fact that no one was hurt also leaves me free to think the whole episode was hilarious, and to help you understand the ridiculousness of the accident, I've created a drawing of the dramatic event:


Texting while driving, distracted by three friends in the back being silly, we may never know. But at least only a mailbox paid the price.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Double Damaged Goods

I complained back in September about failed attempts to have furniture shipped to our house. The first shipment never even made it, it was damaged enough during UPS handling that we never saw it. So we reordered, and it made it to the house but was damaged and sent back. We gave them one more shot, and that one was equally as damaged. The frustrating part was looking at the packing materials in the second failed attempt at shipping and wondering how any items ever make it to their destination undamaged.

Witness the state the box was in, immediately after opening:
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I assume everything was not just haphazardly thrown into the box on shipment, but because there was almost nothing solid in the box other then the furniture pieces, everything shifted around until the pieces were broken, scratched, or both.

One of the best moves was resting a metal piece inside a larger wooden piece, with nothing between them to protect the wood. Resulting in scratches like this:
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You can't really see the depth of the scratches in the picture, nor the chipped corner from the box of hardware that was 'protecting' the piece from the side, but they weren't just surface things that could be buffed out and went all down the front of both sides of the primary piece of wood. A couple of the smaller pieces of wood had gotten caught between larger pieces and snapped during shipping.

All in all, a stellar piece of shipping work by Basset Baby.


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Monday, October 18, 2010

Sick Day

I guess my illness from yesterday turned out to be an actual cold, as I woke up this morning feeling even worse. To the point where I called in sick to work, something that I haven't done for well over a year and possibly pushing two years.

You'd think with all that time around the house today, I would have had time to put together a good blog post. But alas, between napping, playing some Halo 3 solo campaign, and reading The Way of Kings, the day zipped by.

Now its off to bed so hopefully I feel better tomorrow.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pumpkin Orange

DSC_5876I've been planning to paint one of our bedrooms upstairs for weeks now, but haven't had the time before this weekend. Whenever I talked with anyone about it, and I mentioned we were painting the room orange I would always qualify it as a sort-of taupey orange, not pumpkin orange. This weekend I put two coats of the paint up, which took a lot longer then I was expecting to do by myself, only to discover that I was in fact lying. Because it is indeed pumpkin orange.

Oh, perhaps a paler orange than the pumpkin that we have on our front porch, but it is orange. And a far more bold color choice then you might be used to seeing in an Eck household. Still, I think it will work with the furniture that is coming for the room.

The unfortunate part is that either I am coming down with a nasty cold, or I'm allergic to Benjamin Moore paint, because ever since I put the first coat up I've been miserably sick. Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, etc. Hopefully by tomorrow it will have run its course and I can write it off as too much paint smell (although the paint was surprisingly non-odorous, especially for regular VOC paint).

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dangerous

Tonight while walking the dog Linzy and I were discussing CPR and specifically the change in 2008 where it was recommended to only do one half of what used to be involved with giving CPR. The discussion was because we disagreed over which part had been eliminated. That is, one person was arguing for only doing the breathing and the other was arguing for only chest compressions.

As it turns out, the correct change was to do 'hands-only' CPR, where you only compress the chest. Good to know I guess, since picking the wrong half to do would probably not have ended well for whoever was distressed.

I won't even tell you which of us would have been your well-intentioned CPR doom prior to tonight, but rest assured that we are now equally prepared to leap into action and save someone.

...Wait, was it breathing only?






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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Simplified - Or Not

Last week I got a letter in the mail from the bank that manages my 401k account from my old job. The notice turned out to be more then just the normal quarterly statement, it was actually informing me that basically all of the investment options were being replaced with target date funds (where the asset mix automatically changes based on your supposed retirement in a given year). The gist was that if I didn't move the money somewhere else, everything would be automatically converted over to whatever fund they thought fit the best based on my age.

After investigating a bit, this seemed like an ideal time to finally roll the account over to my current 401k, eliminating an account and simplifying the number of investments we were carrying. The distribution of types of investments were similar between the two 401ks, but due to the slight differences between which funds were available to which plans, the actual funds were slightly different.

This hadn't really been a problem, per se, but it seemed like time to admit that I had been unnecessarily lazy in not moving the money over the past four years. In discussing this with my dad (intending to debate an IRA versus 401k), he actually brought up that 2010 happens to be the one year window for conversions of 401k accounts to Roth IRAs without income limits (normally 100k even for married filing jointly) and with a deferral for the accompanying income tax over two tax years (2011 and 2012).

The advantage of the Roth IRA, of course, is that it is after tax money that grows tax free. As opposed to the 401k that is pre-tax money taxed on withdrawl. Since no one knows what tax rates will have done by the time I retire, the theory is having money in both types of accounts diversifies your tax exposure. Converting an existing account also gets around the annual contribution limits and the income limits on contributing money in the first place.

The downside (other then the risk that you end up in a lower tax bracket in retirement), of course, is that converting pre-tax money to post-tax money means paying taxes on it. Potentially lots of taxes, depending on what that extra income does to your tax bracket. Thus the two year deferral of taxes is key, since paying taxes on half the conversion in tax year 2011 (calendar 2012) and half in tax year 2012 (calendar 2013) gives you some time to save the money and avoid the penalties that would accompany not having made estimated tax payments in the year of the conversion.

After discussing it with Linzy at length, we decided that while it would have been far better to have done the conversion in January before this year's 30% run-up, it made a lot of sense to do the conversion anyways. Of course, that means that instead of consolidating accounts, I actually ended up with a new account, complicated tax considerations, the need to adjust tax witholding at work for next year, and homework to research totally different investments.

How's that for simplification?

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Movies

Over the past month, I watched quite a few movies/tv shows but virtually none at home. Which I suppose makes sense, since I was only at home for about 10 days. But, as I also had over 40 hours worth of plane flights, there was plenty of time for keeping my metabolism low and staring at a screen.

Karate Kid (new version) - On the flight from Minneapolis -> Paris we did not have on-demand movies, and this was what was showing. It was OK I suppose, but not one crane kick? Seriously, did they watch the original?

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage - I was specifically saving this for watching on the plane flight to India, and really enjoyed it. But, I'm a fan of Rush and documentaries (especially music documentaries), so my enjoyment of it was expected. I enjoyed the way-back footage of the band such as video of an 18-year old Alex Leifson telling his parents he wants to drop out of school to be a guitarist (how they happened to capture that on video is mind boggling). Anyways, it kept me very entertained, although your milage may vary unless you like documentaries and/or Rush.

The Back-up Plan - Recommended by my boss, of all people, I thought it was reasonably funny. The highlight was when one of the support group ladies is giving birth in a pool in the middle of a living room.

Prince of Persia - Yikes, what to say. The fighting was pretty cool, and there were lots of special effects. I managed to stay awake during it, despite being up for 40 hours or so at that point. Other then that, I don't have much to say.

Entourage Season 6 - I always seem to zip through Entourage seasons, even though the show has clearly fallen far from its origins. Season 6 was OK, with occasional funny parts and lots of mediocre episodes. I did enjoy Lloyd standing up for himself, however, and it worked well for chewing up almost 6 hours of plane flights.

A-team - Oh, this movie was so bad, yet I enjoyed it. Maybe I was just tired, but it amused me.

Green Street Hooligans - Another movie that I specifically brought with for the travel. I really enjoyed this one, it had good acting and an interesting plot. Very entertaining.

Invictus - A movie about South Africa's rugby team competing in the world cup the year apartheid ended. It was very well done, and kept my interest. I liked watching the rugby action as well.

The Big Bang Theory: Season 2 - I'm in the middle of re-watching season 2 of Big Bang Theory, after watching four or five episodes on plane flights. It's been amusing, although I am always disappointed while watching the gradual shift of the show to focus more on Sheldon's neurotic behavior and less on everyone else.

Clash of the Titans (2010) - This was not nearly as bad as I was expecting. It was not good, but I was expecting eye-bleeding terrible, and it was very watchable. Release the Kraken!

The Crazies - This was much more a zombie movie then I was expecting, and it turned out to be OK. A bit grim, but I liked the way they showed the progression from small town to crazy zombie-infected land. Not really scary so much as startling, but it was not the worst movie I've seen.

The Godfather - I watched this while exercising this week, and was reminded just how great of a movie it is. Especially when re-watching it with the volume cranked so hear can hear what the hell Marlon Brando is mumbling. I'm moving on to Godfather 2 next. Leave the gun, take the cannoli.


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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Minnesota Sports

Tonight's post, which admittedly I did not have a topic for, was further derailed by Twins playoff baseball. Who can resist watching and hoping the Yankees get beat.

I'm also cautiously optimistic about the Vikings picking up Randy Moss, who while certainly not as good as he once was, is still better then the collection of stiffs they currently have, and would be better then Bernard Berrian even with only one arm. Plus Randy has two nationally televised games, and a game against the Patriots in the next four games, so he'll have plenty of motivation.

[ Update: Well that was timed about as poorly as possible, just before the Twins imploded in the 6th and 7th innings. Boo. ]

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Gangsters

While I was away last week, Linzy discovered that our iTunes account got hacked and promptly drained of the entire balance. Luckily all we had on the account were some gift cards from Christmas, and it wasn't tied to any real credit cards or accounts, but it was still annoying. Linzy contacted Apple and eventually got the credits restored but our account is still disabled at this point.

This problem seems to be going around, as my parents' account was compromised earlier this summer, and there has been quite a bit of coverage about the problems securing Apple accounts.

What I don't understand is that this seems like a trivial problem to solve. After all, my account has only a limited number of 'authorized' computers and devices associated with it, to allow any DRM'd content to play. Couldn't they just add an option that says my account is only allowed to have purchases made from that limited set of devices (i.e. my phone, Linzy's phone, my computer at home, etc), and only those devices can approve new authorized devices. Problem solved. Sure it would be annoying if I wanted to buy something from some other computer without authorizing it, but that doesn't seem like anything I would need to do even on a rare basis. And the rest of the time my account would be nice and safe.

Most sites don't have the luxury of knowing where you will be accessing them from, but Apple does. So why are they allowing gangsters to drain my account?

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Monday, October 04, 2010

Refill

On the flights to India this time, I was four for four on meals that were more-or-less unappetizing, where I chose not to eat a majority of the meal. The meals are usually so large that even if you eat miscellaneous accompaniments (like the crusty bread on the Air France flights) and a few other things you'll be just fine until they feed you again four hours later.

I was expecting this, so it didn't surprise me, but what did surprise me this time was the wine. It was already opened when the stewardess pulled it out of the cart. My co-worker had mentioned to me that on her first flight, the wine bottle was already opened, and on the second (I didn't have wine on the first one) we both were given pre-opened bottles. I also watched the bottles on later flights and they appeared to be opened as well.

Why would a single serve bottle of wine be pre-opened? That seems crazy, even for notoriously cheap airlines. I have to assume it was a fluke, or I just didn't notice them subtly open the bottle before taking it out of the cart. I sure hope they aren't standing in the galley with a big funnel, a giant case of wine-in-a-box, and a bunch of little bottles. Or, maybe I do, as long as we could watch the entertainment.

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Homebody

IMG_1852Today I got home for the first time in a few weeks and it felt very nice to finally be back. My trip to India over the past two weeks went well, and was productive, but I never like being away for that long. I actually got back from India on Thursday, but this weekend we were in Chicago to see relatives there. As per normal, I had no jet lag going to India, but had a terrible time with it on the way back. Yesterday I woke up at 4:30am, and today it was an even worse 3:30am. Hopefully today will be back to normal sleep. This week will be crazy busy, I am sure, but at least it won't involve any traveling like the past four weeks have.

The picture is of the Bangalore Palace, taken before I knew that an outrageously priced admission ticket and even more expensive 'camera' ticket were required just to take pictures. So alas, I have no idea whether the inside or even front is cool looking, as I refused to pay the highway robbery prices they charged foreigners.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Across the Pond

It was a good weekend, with Brenden's birthday party on Friday, and games at Scooter's house on Saturday. But now it is off to India. I will be back in two weeks.






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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Special Treatment

Today I got my flu shot, which apparently now includes an H1N1 vaccine in addition to the normal vaccines. It was a bit of a challenge to get it, since my clinic doesn't start flu clinics until next week.

Yesterday Linzy mentioned to me that her mom had passed along a comment from my brother-in-law that a virus was spreading in India. I hadn't heard anything about it, but after looking on the internet I found out that apparently they are having a resurgence of H1N1 in India (or maybe it never left?) and given the huge population it spreads like crazy. Interestingly, I've been getting e-mails two or three times daily about the unrest in Kashmir ever since I booked my trip, but never anything about formerly-pandemic viruses still running rampant.

Unfortunately, finding out last night meant that I had only two days to get the shot and being a cheapskate I didn't want to pay for a minute clinic shot. My first attempt was to send an e-mail to the scheduling department explaining how I was leaving for India on Sunday 9/19 and needed to get a flu shot before going, etc etc.

Surprisingly I had an e-mail back right away in the morning, but it was clear they hadn't even read my mail since it just explained that flu clinics started 9/20. Which, of course, does me no good. So then I called them and got the same answer, until I explained my predicament and lack of desire to: a) get H1N1 in India or b) end up having to get vaccinated in India. After being on hold for 5 minutes I got word that the nurse supervisor had approved my coming in for a shot.

When I arrived for my nurse-only appointment, the first thing she asked was "Are you a XXXX employee?". I asked why and she explained that no one was supposed to be getting flu shots early, not even employees, but my record was marked as approved by and she wanted to know how I had convinced them to approve it. Once she heard the situation, the nurse was like "Yeah, that seems like a good reason".

So the end result was what I wanted, it just took a bit of doing to get there. Plus I got to feel like I was getting special treatment. Which I suppose I was.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

San Diego Pictures

San Diego SkylineI had some time tonight to start sorting through the many, many pictures that I took while we were on vacation in San Diego. That ended up taking much longer then I was expecting, which means instead of a real post I'm just going to throw up some pictures. Lazy, I know.

On Saturday Linzy and I went to the Maritime Museum that is in San Diego harbor. It is different then the USS Midway, but almost right next door to it. The Maritime museum has a bunch of ships, including the oldest operating ship in the world, two submarines and the ship that was used in the movie Master and Commander. We also took a cruise around the harbor as part of the deal. It was well worth the price of admission.

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The oldest operating ship in the world: The Star of India, built in 1863.

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There were several America's Cup-class sailboats operating in the harbor. They are FAST, and they weren't anywhere near as fancy as the real deal.

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A Russian sub that was acquired by the museum. In a strange coincidence it was actually assigned to shadow the USS Midway back in the day.

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The Russian sub was not exactly luxurious, and shockingly it was in use as late as 1989 (!).

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Under no circumstances would I have ever sailed in that death trap, it was crazy.

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For comparison purposes the museum also has an American test sub that appeared to be newer and similarly cramped. But it didn't look like it was going to actively send you to your death.

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Speaking of the USS Midway, this is what she looks like from underneath. It's hard to get a sense of scale here, but trust me the ship is immense.

There are more pictures in the full set.

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Similar but Different

In San Diego, our hotel had an evening wine reception featuring tasty red and white wine as well as various appetizers. Olive Tapenade, as previously mentioned, but also crackers and brie, and other things of a similar ilk.

My hotel in Omaha apparently has an evening social event as well. Today it was meatballs and Bud Light in cans.

For reference, my hotel in Appleton this summer featured nachos and a keg of beer.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Useful Knowledge

One night last week while Linzy and I were in San Diego, we were at the evening wine reception at our hotel relaxing after a day of sight seeing. Mostly we were people watching as free wine always makes for quality entertainment.

Among the more amusing was a guy who was extremely talkative and found a receptive listener nearby to regale with random tales. At one point he was commenting on the 'Olive Mulch' (Tapenade) and bread appetizer that was on the table and how much he liked. But didn't know what it was, and so decided to refer to it as mulch.

Then he was talking about some beach up the coast where there had been an increase in shark attacks over the past few years. He was blaming that on a beached whale that had been buried in the sand some years earlier and now the sharks were 'just checking out what they could eat'. The story was apparently that there was a squad of three surfers, but only one was attacked.

To that, I leaned over and reminded Linzy that you didn't have to be faster then the shark, just faster then one of your surfing buddies.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hello, Goodbye

DSC_5362Linzy and I got home safe and sound this evening from our vacation in San Diego. We flew there on Wednesday and spent the rest of the weekend and weekend touring around the town, seeing the sites, and generally having a great time. We stayed at a hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter, through a deal I got thanks to the many nights I've spent at other hotels in the same chain for work. The location turned out to be awesome with a ridiculous amount of great restaurants within walking distance and all sorts of entertaining things to see nearby.

The picture is of Linzy in front of the USS Midway, which was an aircraft carrier built just after World War II, and used up until 1992. It was the flagship during Operation Desert Storm and is now a museum in San Diego harbor. Touring it was really interesting as you were able to go all over the place and see the wide variety of aircraft that had been on it during the many years it was in use.

Unfortunately my time at home will total less then twelve hours as I have to head to Omaha for work Mon-Wed this week. From there, I'm back home for about four days before leaving for a trip to India with a stop in Chicago on the way back. After that, I should be back home for a while. Or at least that is the plan at the moment.

Finally, lest Linzy accuse me of making this blog all about death and destruction lately, I've included a picture of a very tired and cute Koala from the San Diego zoo.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Movies

Things have been busy over the past month, and as usual when that happens the first thing to go is time to watch movies.

Hot Tub Time Machine - Linzy and I watched this movie together, despite her objections. It actually turned out to be much more amusing then either of us was expecting. Of course, our expectations were low, dead low. So it certainly wasn't the best comedy I've seen but it did have some amusing moments including a bunch with Crispin Glover, and a joke at the end pertaining to Google.

The Wolfman - Low expectations can save a lot of movies, unfortunately this is not really one of them. I guess I was expecting something unwatchable, and it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't particularly good. I spent a good part of the movie thinking about how different the world was before telephones, rapid travel and communications, not worrying about werewolves. That's not a ringing endorsement.

Burn Notice: Season Three - This was my entertainment while exercising for the past few weeks and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The two-part season finale was terrific and I am very sad that I have many, many months before Season 4 is available on DVD.

The Expendables - I saw this with Dan O. when we were in Iowa back in August. I thought it was entertaining, in a pure action movie sort of way. Something like Live Free or Die Hard was more enjoyable as a full movie, but the Expendables was fun if you were looking for things blowing up, cheesy one-liners, and dudes getting beat up. Plus it got the early-teen boy seal of approval.

Lost: Season 4 - I got stalled on my way through this season a few months ago but then picked it up again in the past few weeks when the October 1st date for no more instant streaming starting looming. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of good episodes, especially The Constant and the season finale. I'm anxious to watch the final two seasons even though I know full well that the general consensus on them is negative. Never trust Ben.

Dollhouse: Season One - Linzy and I watched the last couple episodes of this series sometime over the past few months but I forgot to mention it. Which is weird because we both really liked the series. I'm looking forward to season 2 coming out on DVD soon, and at the same time disappointed that it is the last season. Hopefully it will be fun while it lasts.


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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Wild Kingdom

Yesterday, our backyard was like an episode of the Wild Kingdom. First, I discovered the amphibian graveyard that our egress window has turned into. Then, for some reason I pissed off the birds that have a nest in the next yard over and they spent 40 minutes dive-bombing me. Worse, over time all of their friends showed up until there were literally 10 birds swooping through the skies at me. It was like The Birds. Finally, I ended up catching the mole that has been making a mess of the back corner of the yard by the Maple trees (which, I might add, are not doing much better then the first set).

I felt bad for the mole, of course, but not bad enough to allow him to find a good-looking female mole and breed a family of yard-destroying rodents. Plus I kept worrying that Pippen was going to get wind of him and revert to what she was bred for, killing rodents. Digging up the yard even more until that task was accomplished.

So, looking back at this post I guess it was more about all of the animals that died in our yard. That's depressing.

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Amphibian Graveyard

DSC_5342I was mowing the grass this morning in the unseasonably cold weather and as I passed the egress window pit I noticed a large black lizard laying next to the drain pipe. He was the largest lizard I've ever seen in the wilds of Minnesota, but probably isn't native since he was extremely sluggish in the cold weather. Linzy and I took him out of the pit and away from the house so he could find a more permanent home.

While I was in the pit, however, I noticed that apparently it has become an amphibian graveyard. There were tons of dead frogs, as well as the bodies of two smaller lizards that were probably the same species as the slightly hardier one. While I was collecting all the dead bodies, I also found a still living frog nestled in amongst the rocks (who we also freed).

I'm not even sure how they all got into the pit without injuring themselves, since it is a good 5 foot drop to the bottom. It was kind of gross,and I felt bad for the lizards who seem unlikely to survive the winter if two of the three couldn't survive the early fall temperatures. Hopefully he found his way into the sewers and somewhere warmer.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Damaged Goods

Linzy and I have spent the past three or four weeks trying to buy a somewhat expensive piece of furniture. It can be purchased in a store, but they don't actually stock it and so it has to be shipped to our house. Which is fine, since it saves us having to rent a truck to bring it home.

The first order never even made it to our house. A few days after it left the warehouse, UPS marked it as 'damaged' and canceled delivery. The store wouldn't do anything about it until they received it back and so we waited 3 or four days while it wended its way back. Then they credited our purchase back but never actually called to say it had been returned or to order us a new one. They were apparently just going to cancel the whole order.

After some stern discussions with the store, a new one was ordered and the process started again. This time the box actually showed up at the house, looking worse for wear, but at least acceptable enough to accept delivery. Paul and I carried it upstairs, but when I opened the packaging the furniture was a wreck with huge scratches and gouges on all of the pieces of wood.

After talking with both the store (about their shoddy shipping processes) and the vendor (about their extra shoddy packing processes) we have to pack everything back up for shipment back. After which we have to again wait for it to arrive back at the warehouse, and reorder the piece again.

Phone calls have been made and vehement complaints have been lodged, but up to this point have been more-or-less ineffective. I am extremely skeptical of whether a third attempt is even worth it, as it seems unlikely to result in any different outcome. And that just makes the whole process that much more frustrating.

Years ago I told Linzy that we would no longer buy any sort of furniture that came in a box and needed assembly. That served us well, and this ordeal makes me wish this type of product was actually available any other way. But alas, we will continue to be at the mercy of UPS and their not-so-gentle shipping processes, and the manufacture's cheap-ass packing processes.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hobos

Tonight I was randomly looking at the Hobo page on wikipedia, because I was curious where the term came from. In the process I learned all sorts of amusing and crazy information about hobos.

For example, were you aware that:

There is a national Hobo convention held each year in August in Britt, Iowa?
The Hobo convention has a Hobo king and queen?
There is a whole system of symbols used in 'Hobo Code', to communicate with other Hobos?
There is a Hobo ethical code and a Hobo court?

Neither did I, so now we've both learned something tonight. I was also amused that they found a picture to use, featuring exactly what I picture when I think of a hobo: slightly sketchy looking guy with a round hat and a bindle stick.


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Monday, August 30, 2010

Rush Time Machine Tour

IMG_1826As I mentioned yesterday, the reason we went to the fair on Friday (as opposed to some other day) was that Brenden and I had tickets to see Rush perform at the Grandstand on their Time Machine Tour. I am not a fanatical Rush fan, but I do like many of their songs stretching across several of their musical eras.

The time machine tour in particular was attractive because they would be playing the entirety of their 1981 album Moving Pictures as well as many of their other hits. Four songs on Moving Pictures (Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, Limelight, and YYZ) are among my favorites, and since Rush is well known to put on a good live show I was really excited to see them perform.

Our seats were in row 14 of the 'G' section of the grandstand, which amounted to basically center stage. Because the patio area was fairly large, we were a ways back, but you could definitely see what was going on, on the stage and the huge video screen allowed you to see close-ups of the band members.

The concert itself was awesome. There was no opening act, just three hours of Rush ripping through about 25 songs and most of their hits. Everyone seemed on top of their game, with Alex cranking out crazy solos, Geddy playing terrific bass and Neil Peart living up to his drum god billing. They sounded great, especially after a brief 10-15 minute intermission when they came back to play through Moving Pictures, a few new songs, a few older hits, and an awesome encore.

Oh, and did I mention that during that same second half, Neil Peart also performed one of his trademark eight minute unbelievable drum solos on a rotating three station drum kit. While I enjoyed the whole concert, the second half was in a word: epic.

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When I originally signed up to go to the concert, I wasn't sure what to expect, because there are definitely some of the crazier Rush songs that I don't like as much as the more mainstream progressive rock songs. But I enjoyed everything they played at the concert, and even got a better appreciation for The Camera Eye, Witch Hunt, and Vital Signs, the last three songs on Moving Pictures that I normally don't enjoy as much as the first four.

All in all, it was well, well worth the slightly expensive price we paid for our center stage seats as the concert was fantastic. I couldn't have asked for anything else since it amounted to a setlist of all my favorites performed flawlessly. If you have an opportunity to see the Time Machine Tour and are evenly remotely a Rush fan, you should absolutely go see it.

Setlist:
Set 1:

Video Intro (Rash: The Real History of Rush Act 1)
The Spirit of Radio
Time Stand Still
Presto
Stick It Out
Workin' Them Angels
Leave That Thing Alone
Faithless
BU2B
Freewill
Marathon
Subdivisions

Intermission

Set 2:

Video Intro (Rash: The Real History of Rush Act 2)
Tom Sawyer
Red Barchetta
YYZ
Limelight
The Camera Eye
Witch Hunt
Vital Signs
Caravan
Drum Solo (Love 4 Sale)
Closer to the Heart (with Alex acoustic intro)
2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx
Far Cry

Encore:

La Villa Strangiato
Working Man
Video Outro (I Still Love You Man)

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Minnesota State Fair

IMG_1804On Friday I took the day off work and went to the state fair with Linzy, Brenden and Allison. The weather was great, and the fair was not nearly as crowded as I was expecting for the first Friday of the fair. We spent about five hours wandering around the grounds looking at things and hitting up the various food stands.

In the Eco building we stopped to see the cool Tesla Roadster, which definitely looks fun to drive. Perhaps not as cool as the Porsche Spyder Hybrid, but much less expensive. The most interesting thing was that the car has no shiftable transmission, just buttons for park, drive, reverse and neutral. The range is unimpressive (240 miles per charge when new), but it seems like a good thing to be working on.

We also waited in line for about 30 minutes to try out the Kinect (motion sensing cameras for the XBox 360). The game Brenden and I played together was a rafting game that is part of Kinect Adventures. The system seemed to do a good job of detecting our movements and was responsive, and the game was fairly fun (although I'm not sure about the replay value). I doubt I'll be investing $150 in one, but it was fun to try out.

Despite only being in the fair grounds for about five hours, I managed to consume an embarrassing quantity of food. After not having much at the Iowa State Fair last weekend, I decided to stick with my favorites and so had some mini-doughnuts, tried some of Brenden and Allison's garlic fries, had jalapeno and cheese french fried ravioli, some Sweet Martha's cookies, and some of fresh cut french fries. Everything was good. The garlic fries were a first, and were a bit overpowering so trying a few was plenty. My favorite was probably the jalapeno and cheese ravioli, which aren't super spicy but are just tasty.

Around 7pm it was time to move on to the primary reason we were at the fair that particular day: the Rush concert!

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Netflix iPhone App

I'm excited about the iPhone Netflix app, despite not yet having a particular use case for it. We have the 360 for streaming Netflix in the family room, and if I was more motivated the Wii could be used in the basement for the same. So in general I don't have any particular need for it, but it does seem like a useful thing when traveling instead of ripping a whole bunch of shows to the ipod classic.

I tried the app out a little tonight and it seemed pretty good. It was a little slow logging in (which I assume is do to the mad rush of people), and browsing the instant queue and episodes of a show was very laggy. But once the show started it played fine, and the quality seemed great. I suppose the smaller screen helps with that.

I was a little disappointed to find that it doesn't allow you to adjust your normal queue, which is somewhat difficult to do through the iPhone's browser. I am frequently eating breakfast and reading e-mail, only to see a reminder that Netflix received movies but then remember I haven't setup the queue yet. Since at that point it is usually too late to be able to adjust things anymore, it probably wouldn't help to be able to do it right from the phone. But at least then I could take care of it right away.

Overall, I'm just excited to see one more option for streaming content. Especially since Netflix just signed another movie channel, which should hopefully help beef up their streamable selection. I just keep waiting for that glorious day when we can legitimately cancel cable.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Plastic Flooring

Last week Linzy and I were walking the dog through the neighborhood one evening, when we ran into a neighbor and her son. They were coming out of the new model home that was built to replace the old bigger/fancier one, so the conversation drifted to when the model home would be finished (it is nearly complete) and how the new houses looked inside for finishes compared with the existing houses.

The general answer was that they were a step down, which was expected, although somewhat surprising that the model didn't have a bunch of upgrades. Then her son, who is probably about 12, threw in that the mud room floor looked like plastic. And by plastic, he meant it was a vinyl floor.

But apparently he had never seen vinyl floors, or at least not this type of shiny vinyl and so thought it was plastic. Which was amusing, given all of the consternation over the newer, less-expensive house styles.

I also thought it was interesting that he had never lived in a house with vinyl floors, since they were common in most of the houses during my childhood (and our old house for that matter).


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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Did You See That?

When Dan and I went to go see The Expendables last weekend, the theater was pretty full. Up in the front of the theater, there were two young boys who had snuck in to see the movie. They enjoyed the movie, a lot, in a way that only pre-teen boys can enjoy a movie.

Every time there was a particularly dramatic explosion, special effect, fight scene, or anything else cool in the silence afterward you could hear the boys ecstatically yelling to each other:

Boy1: Woah, did you see that!
Boy2: Wow!
or
Boy1: Holy crap, did you see that?!
Boy2: Yeah!
or
Boy1: Yeah!
Boy2: Did you see that knife?!
Boy1: Wow! That was so cool!

And so on. It was pretty funny.

Based on their level of excitement over the movie, I imagine they'll have a tough time keeping their deception a secret for too long. I mean, did you see that!? Wow!

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Emergency Repairs

The planned post today was derailed by the discovery tonight that the long string from the mattress which Pippen got caught around her feet yesterday was actually the only thing holding one of the seams together. So after flipping the mattress and changing the sheets tonight, we discovered what was effectively a gaping hole in the side.

Despite the fact that my mattress is over 11 years old, I am surprisingly bitter about its self-destruction over the past six months or so. Apparently one last move was too much, as it has now developed a weird 'lean', a horrendously uncomfortable side (making one out of every 4 weeks no fun), and now a gaping maw of a tear.

Luckily Linzy is an ace seamstress and was able to sew up the tear. Hopefully buying us a week or two to decide whether we bite the bullet and replace it with a new King sized mattress and sell our fancy sleigh bed frame (only a few months old from craigslist), or allow a piece of used furniture to rule our purchases and buy a new Queen replacement mattress that would work with the bed frame. With option B, we would of course tell ourselves that it was 'temporary', knowing full well that we would never manage to convince the budget that it was a good idea to replace a perfectly good bed.

I'm not sure if 11 years is a reasonable time to expect a mattress to last. On one hand it seems like a long time, but on the other it seems like mattresses are one of those things that should last nearly forever.

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