Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roundtrip

I spent most of this week in Appleton, Wisconsin and will be headed back most of next week as well. Appleton is about 30 miles outside of Green Bay, so further then I would want to drive to. When booking the flight for this week last Thursday I was surprised that:

1) I could fly directly into Appleton
2) That there were tons of flights to choose from

I was expecting to have to fly to Green Bay, or some other town and then drive to Appleton or that I would only have one or two flights a day to choose from. Instead, as far as I could tell, Delta has a plane flying back and forth from Minneapolis to Appleton all day long.

Also surprisingly, both of the flights I was on were completely full. Again, I was expecting a handful of people, mostly those from my office who were traveling out there.

Appleton itself was nice enough, although I didn't see much of it other then the client site, the hotel, and the couple of restaurants on the main drag that I ate at. I certainly enjoyed the one hour plane flight versus the 3.5-4 hour flights I had taken to and from California and Florida the previous week.


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Monday, May 17, 2010

Home Sweet Airport

Around this time of year for some reason it seems like I always end up having a bunch of traveling planned. This week I'm in California for work Monday through Wednesday evening, then Thursday will be back in Minnesota, but flying to Florida Thursday night and coming home on Sunday evening. Then there's a possibility I'll have to be gone next week for work as well.

The good part is that the Friday-Sunday portion is a vacation, so it is not as bad as it sounds. The trips did seem to pile up a bit though. And you know you're going to be gone a lot when you start worrying about when you are going to have time to do laundry.

I imagine posts will be spotty at best for the next couple weeks.


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Garage Shelves 2.0

DSC_5234Ever since we moved in, I've been plotting to build some sort of shelves in the garage to allow me to finally clean up the mess there. A couple of weekends ago I went and retrieved the last of the wood that I had been storing in my parent's garage during the move. That was more or less the last straw for the disaster zone that had been collecting in the garage, and since I now had the wood to do something about it, it was time to build some shelves.

Linzy left on a trip on Saturday, which gave me the opportunity to really make a mess in the garage. The general goal was to use up a significant portion of the wood in the garage to build the shelves, thus helping to clean things up and provide space for everything else to be put away. The approximate plan for the shelves was to go floor to ceiling, and run along the back wall of the third garage stall and wrap around the wall, but leave enough room for a heater and workbench (someday).

I went through a few iterations of plans trying to keep reducing the amount of wood required and eventually came up with a plan that required purchasing only 12 8 foot 1x2 boards and two 4x8 sheets of plywood. I could have reduced that further but then things would have looked really junky. And so, after a trip to Menards to pick up the 1x2s, construction started.

Having done this once before, I knew more or less what I was in for, and also developed the plans to minimize the amount of cutting I would need to do. So by the end of Saturday evening, with a stop for dinner and another to recharge the drill battery, I had the skeleton frame mostly complete.

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On Sunday Larry came down to pick up Pippen for a week and so I roped him into helping me go and get the plywood. With that, I spent the afternoon finishing up the shelves. For a total investment of less then $50 and around 8-10 hours of a one-man construction crew, the shelves were complete.

Unfortunately, while you would think that these shelves, being 2.0, would be in all ways better then my previous shelves I don't think they are. For one thing, even though we have a 10' 2" ceiling in the garage I still only ended up with three shelves. Those they are much taller then the old shelves, the overall available shelf space isn't much better. Also, because I was limited in the number of floor-to-ceiling boards available and how they attached, I didn't get to space things out as optimally as I wanted. Also because I was trying to get things done this weekend in limited time, I was more rushed then I would like and so some of the quality suffered.

Anyways, the shelves will work just fine, I'm sure. And if I really have more junk then can fit on 16'x3 shelves, I should probably get rid of some things anyways. I am excited to finally get the garage straightened out and unpack some of the last boxes we still haven't opened. Plus I always enjoy working on miscellaneous construction projects, especially when the weather is as nice as it was this weekend.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Loathing

It's budget planning time at work, and today while I was going through the telecom budget with our business operations director I commented on how it just continues to go up. He joked "Yeah, I think we should go back to pagers", to which I immediately and emphatically replied "Oh, I hated my pager".

When I thought about it later, I was surprised at how decisive my feelings were. Normally I can see many sides to issues, and don't always have a strong opinion. Certainly it's not normal for me to 'hate' a technology device. But the pager, I definitely hated.

What is strange is even when I left my last job where I had a pager, it's not like I no longer get called off-hours. In fact, I get called all the time. But I don't hate my phone.

It could be that since the phone does all kinds of other useful things, not just interrupt my precious evening and weekend hours. And there is always the possibility when the phone rings its not some sort of work crisis. Not frequent, perhaps, but possible. The pager, on the other hand, had no such redeeming value.

Apparently if you want to get on my bad side, just interrupt my life 10-20 times a day for weeks or years at a time.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ice with your Igloo

Almost exactly two months ago I blogged about how the neighbors were gathering their pitchforks and torches over changes that our builder made to the style of new houses that were being built. Specifically the issue was that while the new houses would be comparable in terms of square footage, they were coming with a lot less standard options and so at a price that was significantly less then what most other people paid.

Well the market has spoken, and it's cheap(er) houses FTW. The builder who was two months ago building a ridiculous amount of homes on spec is now just building a ridiculous amount of homes because everything has sold. Even more amazing almost all of those sales appear to have come after the tax credit expired. At this point there are 12 homes either sold or pending sale this year. That's compared to six homes that sold in all of last year, and 11 per year in 2008 and 2007.

That's some serious sales, especially since there were two foreclosure sales this year and two more are on the market, so the builder wasn't the only one providing inventory of houses in the neighborhood.

It's worth noting that midway through last year the sales person at the development was moved to another development (i.e. fired) and a new guy was brought in. Between cheaper houses and a significantly better sales person, they are moving the houses. At this point it feels like every couple days while we take our evening walk there is a new 'sold' sign on a lot. Rumor has it that they've drastically moved up the road construction for the third phase because at this pace they'll be out of lots in the current phase in a month or two.

So regardless of whether people are cool with the new house styles, you can't argue with the fact that they are getting the neighborhood filled up. That's good news, I suppose.


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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Six Years of Bad Humor

Six years ago I had some extra time on my hands one evening and decided to start a blog. I had actually tried to start one a month or two before that, but at the time Blogger wasn't accepting any new sign-ups. The idea fell by the wayside until one evening when I had some extra time and decided maybe I would check again.

I don't recall the exact reasons I was thinking that a blog was just the hobby I needed to fill up the last remaining spare time I had. It was partly boredom, and partly due to reading other technical blogs and thinking "I know more then these guys, I could do better".

Probably the biggest reason, though, was that at the time I was laboring in secret to make a DVD for Linzy for our first anniversary in June. That was an extremely frustrating process because movie editing programs at the time (and to some extent still today) were horrible. Everything had ridiculous limitations that ended up causing me to use at least four separate programs just to put together a 20 minute-long splice of our wedding video plus a slideshow of pictures with a few text overlays and music. That seemed like something that should take a few hours of time one weekend, and instead it took me around 6 weeks. Because it was a secret, I couldn't even bitch about how terrible the process was going to Linzy and so the blog seemed like it would provide an outlet for complaining.

As time went on, I found it much more entertaining for myself to write about random things that I found interesting rather then technical topics. And so you've gotten six years worth of posts on amazingly miscellaneous and trivial topics.

Honestly I never expected the blog to make it even to the first year, let alone six. Thus I'm fairly proud of that even if I am at the same time fairly embarrassed at the ever declining post counts and what I perceive to be a similar decline in the quality of the posts especially over the past few years. But being overly self-critical is pretty much who I am, so I don't see why the blog would not have to labor under the same unreasonable standards.

On the hand, with a tagline (that has never changed BTW) like 'Proving my sense of humor isn't funny to anyone buy me', I can't really claim that my goal was writing something that millions of people would find value in. So I'll keep posting about movies, video games, or whatever else strikes my fancy.

Here's to making it to ten!


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Monday, May 10, 2010

There Will Be Blood

DSC_5206On Sunday my parents came over to the house to celebrate Linzy and my Mom's birthday as well as Mother's day. They've been out east visiting my sister and brother-in-law and we've been busy, so it had been a while since we got together and caught up.

Among the things we talked about was the stuff that Sarah and I have left in my parent's basement, at this point mostly childhood toys that we don't have a particular need for but don't want to get rid of. And also, the Lego collection.

The Lego collection is not at my parent's house because neither of us really wants it, rather it is there because at this point we haven't come up with a way to equitably split it up.

When we were kids, Sarah and I spent a lot of time playing with Legos and for many years Christmas and birthday presents almost always included Lego sets. As we got older we also started combining our money to buy sets and spent entire summers building and playing with massive Lego towns.

Over the years we built up a huge collection of sets and at this point, no one really remembers exactly which sets where whose. We each remember some key sets but also disagree on many others. Some day I suppose we will have kids that want would want to play with the Legos but currently it is easier to leave them at Mom & Dad's and not have an argument.

Mom, though, seemed to be pushing for some sort of draft system to split them up, so perhaps the tentative peace is going to come to an end. I'd just like to go on record right now and say if Sarah gets first pick and takes MY King's Castle, we may never speak again. :)


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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Movies

Not much new to report on at Chez Eck, so I thought I would mention some of the movies we've see since the last time I wrote reviews back at the end of March.

Doomsday: A much worse version of 28 days later. Move along, nothing to see here.

Cypher: This was discovered through Netflix recommendations, and is a sort-of sci-fi distopia sort of picture. Kind of hard to explain, but basically a guy who is unhappy with his life joins a company to act as a spy for them against another company, many twists and turns later you aren't sure who is good, who is bad, etc. It wasn't terrible but also wasn't particularly good. A little slow moving to watch while I was exercising.

The Hurt Locker: I watched this while exercising and enjoyed it. I'm not sure that it was worthy of best picture, but I haven't seen all of the competition. It certainly was entertaining and definitely kept my interest.

Jumper: This wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. Now, I was expecting something pretty horrible. I'm not saying it was good, but I have seen far worse (hey, Doomsday, I'm looking at you).

The Hangover: I watched this again while exercising and laughed out loud. I forgot how slow the start is, but it was entertaining even on a second viewing. I also ended up watching the additional features to kill time while I was finishing my workout, and those weren't so funny.

Hitman: Linzy and I both actually thought this was OK. I was expecting her to hate it, and I wasn't sure what to expect since I haven't played any of the games and hadn't seen anything on the film. It was entertaining.

Leverage: Linzy and I watched the first few episodes of this show over the past couple weekends and enjoyed it. I am a sucker for heist movies, so a heist tv-show is right up my alley. Unfortunately it looks like it will be removed from instant stream soon, which means I'll probably not finish watching it.

24: Season 1: This has been my primary entertainment while exercising for many weeks now, and I have three episodes left. I had forgotten why I was such a fan of the show in the early seasons, season 1 has been great. I am likely moving the Wii down to the basement specifically to be able to stream some more recent episodes.

Race to Witch Mountain (remake): I've never seen the original, but watched this with Linzy's parents last weekend. It was mildly amusing. The sci fi convention segment was very funny.

Ninja Assassin: Ninjas - Check. Assassins - Check. Needlessly gory effects - Double Check. Crazy stunts - Check. Awesome fighting and insane weapon work - Double Check. No plot - Check. I ask you: what more could you want?


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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Professional

 Around this time last year Linzy, Allison and Laura had a fairly successful garage sale. That success along with all of the rediscovered treasures from a house move, and the large amount of very usable clothes unusable by rapidly growing children inspired them to put on a two-day only repeat performance.

So last night we spent the evening over at Paul & Laura's getting everything setup, and today Linzy and Laura spent a very cold day in the garage selling things a few bucks at a time. Or, in the case of one cheapskate who wouldn't pay 25 cents, 10 cents at a time.

Anyways, part of a good garage sale is making signs to advertise it and somewhere over the past year we managed to lose all of our jumbo sign-making markers. Tonight I was out in the kitchen and noticed what must have been the replacement purchase, a Sharpie 'Professional'.

I bet you didn't even know they made a professional grade Sharpie marker. I know I didn't. What, you might ask, does a professional Sharpie user's uncompromising taste demand in a marker? Funny you should ask:

1) A fatter shape
2) Rubberized padding on the end you hold
3) A chisel tip

Apparently that is all it takes to make a Sharpie into a Sharpie Professional. The chisel tip seems counter-intuitive since in my mind one of the main things that makes a Sharpie a Sharpie is the precision tip. Other then that, it would pretty much just be a black marker.

I am somewhat afraid to ask what we paid for such an improved Sharpie, as it would probably make me sad. On the other hand it is not uncommon for strange new products to show up here when Linzy finds a coupon to try one free. I was lucky enough to avoid the Sunkist Solar Fusion a few weeks ago, but most likely this Sharpie will be around much longer then that travesty. So perhaps I will end up hooked and demand that henceforth we only purchase professional grade Sharpies.

Sharpie marketers can hope, I guess.

[ Incidentally the garage sale last year ended up kicking off the sequence that led to us moving, so in comparison things more expensive pens would still be an improvement. ]

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Complacency

Ever since starting at my current job back in 2006 and riding the bus every day, I've played a lot of portable video games during the rides back and forth. For older GBA games, some of this was on a Gameboy Advance SP, but mostly it was on a Nintendo DS (both Phat and Lite). With an average of about 40 minutes in commute each way, I can go through games pretty quickly. That is one reason why I like games that are going to take a long time to finish, and tend to play them until every last extra boss is defeated.

Despite this, and the fact that I played the same game for months at a time (Disgaea for 9 months, Final Fantasy 5 for three months, etc) I have found myself starting to run out of compelling games to play.

Oh there are definitely ones out there that I haven't played, but if I look through the top 50 DS games on gamerankings.com I've played nearly all of the ones that are even remotely interesting to me, and the Gameboy Advance list is in a similar state. I have another couple games that caught my eye and after that it will be slim pickings.

The interesting thing is that it seems like big releases for the DS are starting to slow to a trickle. A few games here and there, but nothing like back in 2006 when they were selling a DS to every man, woman and child in Japan. I guess that is inevitable as the platform ages (6 years is a long time for any console), but since the 3DS is not slated to arrive late this year or early next year, it leaves me in somewhat of limbo right now.

So much of a limbo that I was debating buying Chaos Rings on my iPhone, despite the ridiculous $13 price. Before I stoop to that kind of SquareEnix tax though, I'm trying to play through a few old games and hopefully will use some birthday money in June for something new. Perhaps Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, the highest rated DS game on gamerankings.


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Monday, May 03, 2010

Senior Moment

Pippen 017Once upon a time, in a house not far from here there was a little puppy by the name of Pippen. She weighed just a little over two pounds, had lots of energy, took naps wherever the mood struck her, and was generally a happy dog. The years went by, and Pippen got older. Year by year she got a little lazier then the one before. Pippen started getting accused of being chubby, was mutilated during a grooming session, moved to a house where she can't walk on half the floors, and most recently had to start putting up with the new puppy in the extended family, Ollie.

However none of these insults quite compare to when, last week, her vet sent a postcard announcing that as Pippen turned seven she was now due for her first-ever "Senior checkup". The postcard callously called out how in her advanced age Pippen was now prone to all sorts of embarrassing illnesses and ailments and how with proper treatment the most could still be made of her golden years.

Crossroads Animal Hospital, Pippen would like you to know that she hates you all.

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