Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just in Time

A week or two ago Linzy mentioned that we got an e-mail from americanblinds saying that Hunter Douglas was discontinuing online sales. I originally thought they meant just at that particular retailer but after a little searching I found the press release that confirms it is all online sales:

Effective June 1, 2010, Hunter Douglas brand window coverings will no longer be sold through the Internet sales channel in the U.S. or Canada...."By discontinuing Internet sales, we will lose some business in the near term," continued Hopkins. "We are confident, however, that this policy will further our goal of preserving and enhancing the image, value and reputation of the Hunter Douglas brand and will also lead to greater sales through our Aligned Dealer network over the longer term."

I like to call that insanity. Next thing you know, maybe they'll be shutting down their website to protect the 'in-store' experience at their dealer's shops.

Now I can understand their dealers being pissed that online sites could sell the same blinds thousands of dollars cheaper. And I can understand the company wanting to ensure customers who are buying shades for hundreds-to-thousands of dollars each know exactly what they are getting. But is ending all online sales really the right way to go? What about just opening your own online site for selling the blinds?

We had a completely hassle free experience buying Hunter Douglas shades online, even getting the single most expensive shade replaced when it was damaged without any questions asked. While I'm really happy with what we bought, I can't image paying 20% more for the same thing from a local dealer. All it amounts to is a price increase for their shades and even more of a premium over the other competing shades.

I'm just glad we bought when we did and avoided the price hike.


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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Scramble!

 Tonight a group of co-workers and I went golfing at the University of Minnesota - Les Bolstad course. I hadn't been golfing since the last time I went for work almost two years ago. For the record, that time off didn't exactly help my game.

Fortunately we were playing scramble rules again which I find much more relaxing to play then if I had to hack my way around every hole in 10 shots. We started around 6pm and managed to get 12 holes in before they were shutting things down. The first six holes actually were going pretty well, I had some nice shots and a really nice putt from the fringe for birdie. On the second six we switched groups and the wheels totally came off my game, especially on the tee.

The U of M course was OK, but I can see why it is knocked for not being well maintained, the fairways were definitely not as nice as you would see at other courses. It is also fairly short, but definitely hilly (perhaps not as dramatically hilly as Theodore Wirth but probably more consistently hilly).

Anyways I still had a good time, and it was fun to get out with co-workers and enjoy the nice weather and fairly empty golf course. Look for another golfing post sometime in 2012.


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Monday, April 26, 2010

One Job

Prior to our move, we had the same HD-DVR for years. It didn't have much disk space, had a terribly slow interface, and didn't cooperate with the universal remote very well. So I wasn't sad at all to turn it back in to Charter with the hope that we would get something better when we signed back up.

As it turned out the new DVR was much improved over the previous model. It had way, way more storage, a moderately faster interface and a more sane grid format for the TV Guide (which I believe is/was patented and why the old one had an obnoxious 'cross' scheme). All was good in the land of DVRs.

Until it seemed like there were an awful lot of weeks when the two series that we have it set to record weren't showing (either of them). We didn't think too much about it until this past week when we know for sure there was a new episode of the Mentalist that is nowhere to be found on the DVR. Oh it shows the next few scheduled episodes that will be recorded, but last week failed to do it's one and only job. Further compounding the annoyance is that CBS is stuck in 2001 and does not appear to offer any online streaming for the Mentalist.

I am perfectly capable of failing to record shows, I don't need a fancy machine to do it for me. The trouble now is that every time a show doesn't record, research will be required to double check whether it just wasn't on or if the machine decided to take a vacation again. And considering it's sole purpose in life is to record stuff without me having to think about it, the DVR will likely not be long for this house if it continues to call in sick.


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Sunday, April 25, 2010

House Warming

On Saturday Linzy and I had a house warming party, which was an awesome time. It took a while to actually get to the point where we were ready to have a bunch of people over (today is 3 months exactly since we closed), which was too bad but it was still a lot of fun to see everyone. It seemed like most people had a good time too, so that was cool.

One bad thing was that the party was relative short and with somewhere between 20 and 30 people coming and going it was really hard to actually get to talk to everyone for any significant amount of time. There were quite a few people who came that I haven't seen for years, which is embarrassing but unfortunately sort of a part of life these days as people get busy with kids, work and everything else.

The house made it through the event mostly unscathed, which is definitely bucking tradition, and the cleanup today wasn't even that bad. There was a semi-ridiculous amount of beer and wine left over, and to a lesser extent food, but I suppose that is just motivation for us not to wait years for our next party.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Preparations

DSC_5161We're having friends over this weekend for a house warming party so recently things have been pretty busy getting prepared. Linzy has been doing most of the planning and the bulk of the work (baking dozens of cookies today, for example), but I am sure that tomorrow evening and Saturday morning my work will begin.

Anyways last night's post was derailed because we finally got around to addressing the drapes that we bought for the patio door months ago. The patio door is a strange size and so instead of buying custom ones we instead bought slightly too long drapes and Linzy hemmed them (quite well, I might add). But hemming drapes is a big pain, so it was a two person job. And then there was the matter of the wrinkles and creases that had never worked themselves out, and so the steamer had to make an appearance. The end result is much improved, but it took much longer then expected.

We got a lot of RSVPs in the last day or so, and it looks like there will be a good turnout. That means a last minute scramble for more food and drinks, but that's a good problem to have. I'm excited to get to see everyone.


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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

NFL Draft

Although I don't talk about it too often on here, my sport of choice to follow is football. And specifically professional football in the NFL, while I can enjoy football at all levels I don't follow college football very closely.

Anyways, even though I do like following my team closely one thing I've never gotten into is the draft. I like seeing the results of course, but it is nearly impossible to watch because everything moves so ridiculously slowly. 15 minutes a pick feels like an eternity and there is only so much you can say about the players before you've heard it all (if you haven't already heard it all in the weeks leading up to the draft).

So I am puzzled by the move of the first, second and third rounds to primetime on Thursday and Friday. I'm sure there are people who like watching the draft (maybe people who are more into college ball then I am) but good lord, I find it boring. Even following a ticker of the selections is dull since nothing changes.

I guess I will just be checking the results the following morning on the Internet. I'm hoping the Vikings take a gamble and pick Colt McCoy with their 30th pick, but I don't have much confidence they will be able to avoid the lure of a cornerback.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Ticketmaster = Scumbags

I bought some tickets this weekend for a concert in August and unfortunately that required dealing with the filth that is Ticketmaster. I was fully expecting the ridiculous fees that come with the 'convenience' of purchasing through ticketmaster, but what I wasn't prepared for was the pure evil of their privacy policy.

It declares, among other things, their right to sell all of your information to anyone they so choose, their right to not provide you with a way to opt-out of anything other then their e-mails, and generally their right to do whatever they feel like whenever they choose and you will damn well like it and appreciate their benevolence in deigning to sell you tickets to a concert.

I e-mailed their legal department as specified in the policy and they only redirected me to the e-mail option page, offering no assistance with opting out of any of the other ways they will profiteer from my information.

It better be a damn good concert.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nice Weather

It's pretty amazing how great a weekend with nice weather feels in Minnesota's spring. This weekend the weather was not the nicest we've had but it was plenty nice for getting out and doing a lot of outside activities. I went on a really hard bike ride (and got another flat tire, boo!), Linzy, Pippen and I went on a bunch of walks including a multiple-mile one on Saturday, I cleaned the garage and front porch, etc. The end result was a lot of time spent outside considering we still don't even have a yard yet.

On top of that, we had a great time over at Paul and Laura's house on Friday night, I found some time to play Final Fantasy 13, we did some shopping, we hung a bunch of pictures downstairs that have been sitting in the dining room still boxed up from the move three months ago, and watched a movie.

It was a busy weekend but a lot of fun!


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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guests Welcome

I was procrastinating on posting something tonight, mostly because I didn't have any interesting topics to talk about, and so I was looking through pictures. This one made me chuckle, it was a random sign we saw on a door to a rundown apartment building in New Ulm:

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Apparently Kayla and Max aren't so interested in the spur-of-the-moment 'stop by' visit.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Wall 30th Anniversary Tour

If only Roger Waters upcoming "The Wall" tour featured the entire Pink Floyd band rather than just crazy Roger Waters, I would almost certainly go.

Roger Waters will take The Wall on the road this autumn, 30 years after Pink Floyd first performed the classic double album onstage. Three decades ago, Pink Floyd played the album in its entirety as a white brick wall was constructed between the band and the crowd throughout the show. Films were projected onto the wall during the performance and giant inflatable Gerald Scarfe creatures floated above the audience. In short, it was one of the greatest stage shows of its time during its brief run, and now Waters is promising to bring an updated version of the legendary set into the 21st century.


Perhaps I can talk Dan and Gerard into coming with, for old times sake.


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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Reclaimed Timbers

DSC_5152This spring when the snow melted, I discovered a little present left in the front yard: a pretty good sized pile of leftover wood. I waited several weeks for the builder to pick up the wood, but they never did.

Eventually I couldn't stand it anymore and once the mud dried up a little I ventured out to the pile to take a look. The pile contained quite the collection of exterior grade cedar boards, including a 16 foot 2x12 board and a bunch of 16 foot 2x4s, 2x6s and shorter 1x10s. There was also some leftover cedar shakes. It was clear that the builder was not going to take the wood back, I suppose because it had been in the snow all winter, but cedar dries out well and so I moved some of the more useful boards into my garage to dry out.

I didn't have a particular plan for the wood, other then knowing I was going to be building shelves at the back of the third garage stall. But then my dad was over and we were looking over the wood pile and he suggested building a workbench. I had been checking workbenches out at Home Depot lately but couldn't find any that seemed reasonably priced, so building one out of 'free' wood sounded perfect.

This past weekend I finally got around to constructing a workbench and it turned out to be easy and took far less time then I was originally thinking. I didn't make anything fancy, just a 4 foot by 2 foot two-level bench with 2x4s for supports and 2x12 surfaces based on a general idea for a similar workbench I saw online once. The end result was a really sturdy feeling (and really heavy) workbench, but it should work great for the miscellaneous projects I will use it for.

Considering the simplicity of the project compared to others I have done, I am disproportionally happy with the outcome. So much so that I was already considering building a lighter version to put in the garage (the current one is in the basement). Depending on how you look at the price of the wood from the front yard it was either the cheapest or most expensive project I've ever done.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Video Games Live

On Saturday Brenden, Allison, Linzy and I went to the Video Games Live concert at Orchestra Hall. Brenden and Allison had been to one a few years ago in Houston but it was the first show for Linzy and I. Since I am a big video game nerd, I had a great time and really enjoyed the show, and it was done well enough that a non video-gamer like Linzy was able to enjoy it too.

The show was basically the Minnesota Orchestra, along with a choir and Tommy Tallarico performing the music of video games, with three giant screens behind the orchestra showing videos or footage of the games. There were also some interactive segments where an audience member came up to play Space Invaders while the orchestra provided the sound effects, and when the winner of a Guitar Hero tournament came up to play along with the band. Martin Leung also performed two segments on the piano and was pretty impressive.

My favorite parts were probably the Warcraft segment and the Guitar Hero segment. The Warcraft songs were accompanied by a video made up of Blizzard's quality cut scene movies, including the fall of Arthas which I always liked. The Guitar Hero segment was playing "Jump" by Van Halen and the contest winner (a 15 year-old kid, of course) was awesome jumping around with the music, doing power slides during the solo, and playing with hammer-on/pull-offs only during the hardest parts.

There were only two bad things about the show, first it was mostly the same as what Brenden and Allison had seen before, so they didn't enjoy it as much as Linzy and I did, and second SquareEnix are a bunch of jerks and won't let video montages be used with their music. Since many of my favorite games are Final Fantasy games it would have been awesome to be able to see the games while the orchestra (or Martin Leung) was playing the music. But alas since Square has it's own music concerts, they don't let others use video from the games.

Regardless the Video Games Live concert was a lot of fun, and I am glad that we went. I'm not so sure how much it would be appreciated by a non-gamer, but I certainly had a good time.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Betrayed by Tubes

DSC_5143The weather this weekend was awesome and perfect for getting in the first bike rides of the season. On Saturday I was excited to take my bike out for the first time and try to find some new routes to ride around the house. I checked it out and the bike seemed no worse for wear after a winter in storage. The tires inflated without trouble, didn't appear to be leaking, the chain was smooth, etc.

About 8.5 miles into what I was estimating to be a 15 mile ride (this was a new route so I was guessing), I noticed the back end of the bike seemed to be a bit squirrley. Looking down I discovered the back tire to be nearly flat. It wasn't the mathematical furthest point from the house, but it was pretty close.

Unfortunately I had neglected to bring a cell phone with on the ride for a variety of reasons that given the flat tire didn't really seem like such good reasons anymore. I did have an extra tube (good), but didn't have anything to inflate it with (bad). Looking at a nearly 7-mile walk home, I decided to try to make do on the tire and got another 3 miles out of it. Unfortunately that was all uphill which made for very, very slow going and a lot of effort. From there it was close to 4 miles worth of walking the bike home before I finally got back.

The whole production ended up taking an hour and forty-five minutes. I'm not sure of the actual amount of exercising during that time but I was pretty tired by the time I actually got home. After taking the tube out it looked like just a normal tube failure, probably from a pot hole or something similar, so at least I didn't miss an obviously failing tire before leaving on my adventure. On the bad side it appears that I slightly bent the back wheel by riding too long on a virtually flat tire though.

I did get to spend a lot of time outdoors and learn a valuable lesson about skipping bringing the cell phone with, however, so I guess it wasn't a total waste. Plus Linzy got a bit of schadenfreude out of it.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Getting Old

Blogging has been spotty at best for quite a while around these parts but even more so this past week. That was mostly due to an issue at work on Monday that ended up going until 4am on Tuesday morning. My team got the worst of it, I was actually able to get three or four hours of sleep in several 1-hour chunks, but I was basically useless the next day. By around 3pm I had a roaring headache and ended up heading home early (well early for me: 4:30). I accomplished basically nothing at home, watching the end of Everest Season 2 with Linzy and then heading to bed early.

On the bright side I was fully recovered the next day, but I was still surprised at how worthless I was on just a little less sleep. It seems like there was a time when that wouldn't have been a big deal, or at least I would have been moderately useful the next day.

Next thing you know I'll be complaining about the weather and my achy knees. Oh wait, I already do that.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Patience

DSC_5125We made it back from Duluth safe and sound after Easter weekend. It was a busy trip, with lots of family to visit, and things to do while we were in town, but it was fun to spend time with Linzy's family and grandparents.

Linzy's parent's new dog Ollie and Pippen managed to survive the weekend, although it was touch and go at points. Pippen is basically an ornery old lady who is used to being the center of attention and is fairly lazy these days. Ollie is a puppy with a puppy's energy level and memory. So, for example, reminding him just once that he isn't allowed to sneak up on you and sniff your butt is not going to get the job done.

Worse, at least from Pippen's perspective, Ollie is cute, friendly and loves people. So watching Linzy love up the new puppy only made Pippen that much grumpier. If I hadn't felt so bad for Pippen the hunted look in her eyes all weekend while she tried to be vigilant about the puppy jumping on her would have been kind of funny.

Most of the time Pippen would just move/run away from the puppy, but if he still insisted on chasing her, then there would be a little bit of growling. If that still wasn't enough, then occasionally more drastic measures were required:

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Which, of course, Ollie thought was great fun. In general though, the two dogs got along pretty well and with a few more days for adjustment I'm sure they could have been holy terrors. Larry and Sandy will get to test that out in mid-May when Pippen will be taking a spring vacation to Duluth for a week.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Easter

It's been a busy week at home and tiring at work, so I am looking forward to the weekend. We'll be going to Duluth for a quick trip to spend some time with Linzy's family. They have a new puppy so it should be very, very interesting to see how Pippen reacts to having her heart broken when Larry has a new love, and having another dog owning the house. Linzy and I have been debating who will be victorious, and my money is on Oliver. It will be a busy weekend, but hopefully a good chance to spend time with all of Linzy's relatives.

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