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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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Iowa State Fair

IMG_1787This weekend Linzy and I drove down to Des Moines to see Dan and Kelli and so Linzy and Kelli could go see Sugarland in concert at the Iowa State Fair. The trip down on Friday was uneventful and a piece of cake (less then 4 hours including a sit-down stop of dinner). On Saturday we went to lunch with Dan and Kelli, hung out at their house for a few hours and then hit the Iowa State Fair.

I had never been to any state fair other then the MN State Fair before this weekend, but as a now well-traveled state fair veteran I can assure you, based on a highly scientific sampling, that they are all the same. The attractions, people attending, food, rides, etc all looked pretty much the same. So much so that my original plan was to take a bunch of pictures of both the Iowa State Fair and the MN State Fair and challenge you to pick which were which. But in the end, the loyalty of Iowa citizens to their college football teams and state made that less difficult then I was envisioning when concocting the plan.

Anyways, we had a good time at the fair. It was ridiculously hot, but since it was the last weekend of the fair the crowds were very manageable. The food selections did strike both Linzy and I as somewhat less varied then the MN State Fair, but we weren't sure whether this was actually true, or just a factor of the fact that we know where all the weird food is at the MN State Fair. We also got a little turned around with the layout, so it is possible that we didn't venture into the 'cool food' area.

In the evening, Linzy and Kelli went to the concert (which was reportedly good), while Dan and I went to a movie. The original plan was to go and see Scott Pilgrim, but there were no convenient showtimes available, so we settled on the Expendables. Which was amusing, in an 80's action movie sort of way. Perhaps it took itself a little too seriously, but there was no lack of stuff blowing up and people getting beat up.

Today we drove back home, and it is hard to believe the weekend is already over. Back to the grind I guess, at least until Friday when we double down on deep-fried Fair food with a MN State Fair trip.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You Can Find Anything

Tonight books were on my mind for a variety of reasons, and particularly old books. Perhaps because I was thinking about my parent's plans to clean out their basement and wondering what old books I still have stashed in their closet. While I was thinking of books I enjoyed reading while growing up, I recalled a sci-fi series of books about a young boy in space.

I distinctly remember picking the books out at the book store in the mall prior to going off to summer camp or perhaps on vacation. And I remember spending the entire time leading up to the trip complaining about not being allowed to start reading the books right away.

But what I couldn't remember was the name of any of the books, or the main character. Which really started to bother me. I vaguely remembered in one of the books him building/inventing some sort of spaceship, but nothing else.

Luckily we now have the Internet, where I could type in the sum total of what I could remember "old sci fi young inventor book", and it promptly came up with Tom Swift. The name sounded familiar but the sample covers looked nothing like I remembered. But then I found a site showing the third Tom Swift series covers, I immediately recognized two of them: The War in Outer Space and The Astral Fortress.

Of course, now that I have satisfied my curiosity, I don't have a particular need to re-read the books and vaguely remember getting rid of them when cleaning up because they didn't hold up well as I got older. But it was still amusing to me that I could put in such a completely random search string and have the first result give me the name I needed to be able to find exactly what I was looking for.

Any day now Skynet will become self-aware, I guess.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Practical

I am far, far too practical to buy a sports car at this point in my life and possibly ever. These days I won't even buy cars that we would drive every day, let alone something that would sit in our garage 9 months a year.

However, if I did buy a sports car it would definitely be a Porsche. I can appreciate all sorts of sports cars and for a long time I would have bought a Dodge Viper, but these days it would be a Porsche. Tonight I found out that if I was going to buy a $600k Porsche, it would be the 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid:



The plug-in hybrid combines a V8 power unit delivering more than 500 hp and three electric motors with a combined electric output 160 kW (218 hp), boasting overall output of 718 hp. Fuel efficiency is said to be 78.4 U.S. mpg, making this the fastest and greenest Porsche ever created.

The sprint to 62 mph is said to take just 3.2 seconds, and a top speed of 198 mph is sure to be ample for Autobahn cruising. Porsche says the car will lap the Nurburgring Nordschleife in under 7:30 – besting the Carrera GT.

0-62mph in 3.2 seconds, and 78 mpg? That's both awesome and practical. How can you afford not to buy one?

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Target Field

IMG_1778On Sunday Linzy and I went to the Twins game with my parents. It was the first trip to the new stadium for Linzy and my parents, and I had only been to about three innings of one game so it was basically the first trip for all of us.

Our seats were amazing, just four rows above the Oakland dugout and basically even with third base. Basically it felt like we were right on the field. You could see the player's expressions, see just how fast a 100 mph pitch is, and how fast the ball comes off the bat, etc. It was also a good place for getting game balls, as the players usually threw them into the stands after each inning as they ran back to the dugout. The kids in the first couple rows ended up with quite the haul.

The game itself was exciting, with Kevin Slowey taking a no-hitter through the seventh inning. The Twins also won 4-2, had a couple innings with a few runners on base, and Jim Thome hit a monster home run.

I've never had seats that close for a baseball game and it made for a really cool experience. The new stadium is definitely nice. The other game I went to we had seats in the third level and you could see well from up there too, so it appears that the rumors of all seats being good might be true. Of course, there was certainly a cool factor being just a few feet off the field.

Throw in some really nice weather and the game was an awesome experience.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Starter Castle

DSC_5336When we were building the new house, my boss started referring to it as my 'starter castle'. That quickly stuck, probably because I was embarrassed. The joke was that while it was a full-sized castle, it was 'starter' because there was no moat to begin with.

Last week they started building someone else's starter castle on the last lot that is near our house. Last week was also when we got a ridiculous amount of severe weather and huge thunderstorms several days in a row. Across the street all that water ended up collecting around the foundation of the new house, looking exactly like a castle moat to both Linzy and I.

So apparently a mere starter castle wasn't good enough for them, they had to go right for the full castle on day one.

DSC_5333


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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Small Price Difference

I was booking a rather complicated trip today, trying to find flight times on a multi-city trip that worked with a narrow schedule. My first attempt came back at a price that was more then I wanted to spend, and I started to get concerned I wasn't going to be able to find a schedule that worked. On my second attempt, I found another sequence of flights that was identical in every way to the first attempt, except that my last flight would be 40 minutes later. Everything else was the same (same carrier, same airports, same days/times except the last flight, same class of service, etc).

The difference in price: $2000

As much as I prefer to be at home, and minimize my time on business trips, I think I'll let that one go. Yikes.


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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Over or Under

Today we had two new trees delivered to two of the Maple trees that were put in back at the end of June. In less then a month, both went from apparently healthy to dead as a door nail.

There was some debate at the greenhouse over why they would have died so quickly, but they were sure it was either overwatering or underwatering (read: my fault). While I was, of course, firmly in the 'bad trees' camp (read: not my fault). The discussion about over versus under watering was somewhat amusing since there were two tree barn guys involved who back-to-back argued with us about how it was the opposite reason of what the previous guy theorized. In the end, since there is really no way to know and there was a one-year warranty, we have two brand new trees.

I doubt the replacement policy will be as lenient the next time, so hopefully this pair decides they like the place and sticks around. Now we just have to roll the dice on whether to water them or not.


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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Consumer Grade

I've been frustrated for the last few months as our router at home has steadily gotten less and less reliable. In typical fashion it hasn't exactly stopped working, it's just stopped working intermittently. As in, you're surfing the web along just fine and all of the sudden the next 5 pages you try to load all time out. And then randomly everything becomes operational again, or perhaps you reboot the router and everything comes back. And not every day, but just frequently enough to remind you that yes, one of these days, you have to do something to replace it.

This is at least the third router in about the past 6-8 years, and since it is approaching 4 years old it is actually statistically better then average. What is mystifying is the venerable cable modem sitting right next to the router, still going strong after those same 6-8 years. Since both are plugged in all the time, do more-or-less a similar function, and sport similarly cheap plastic+circuit board construction I am at a loss as to why all my routers seem to crap out after a few years while the cable modem keeps going strong.

On the plus side, I guess whatever I buy to replace the router will likely have a port for making a cheap NAS out of the external USB backup hard drive. If Linzy's laptop got more use that would arguably be useful. Since the new house is fully wired, the wireless doesn't get much use anymore except for the iphones and the aforementioned laptop they rendered obsolete.

Unfortunately these types of situations, where something is not actually fully broken and I don't have a good excuse for why I 'need' to upgrade, tend to be some of the hardest for me to admit that I have to spend what seems like unnecessary money. Similar to the car replacement issue, I suppose. At least this one will be infinitely cheaper when I do admit defeat and buy a replacement.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Camera Planning

I love our DSLR camera, it takes great pictures, is fast, has a good zoom lems, and works reasonably well in low light. It's also huge and clunky, and as a result I don't take it to as many places as I probably should. I would definitely still buy it, but the little point and shoot makes a surprising amount of appearances despite being relatively frustrating in terms of whether it will produce a good picture.

When I went to Denver, I brought along the point and shoot camera thinking that it would be good for taking pictures in the mountains on the hike. Instead, when it actually came time for the hike I decided that I wasn't sure what sort of hike it was going to be, how long, how strenuous, etc and so I wouldn't bring the camera. I'd have my phone with anyways, in case I wanted to take pictures.

Proving, I guess, just how lazy I am. Not bringing the DSLR, OK. But too lazy to carry around a pocket sized point-and-shoot? That's a new low, even for me. It was a fitting punishment, then, when the hike was extremely picturesque as was the trip to Red Rock Amphitheater. From which I now only have mobile phone pictures.

Go me.

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Movies

I was talking with a co-worker while out in Denver about how she had canceled her cable and gone to basically all online streaming. When she did this, the sales person tried to get her to reconsider by saying "But it is hot outside, don't you want to curl up in your basement and just watch movies?". Not exactly a Minnesota-oriented sales pitch, I guess. Along the same lines, the list of movies and shows from the past month is pretty short.

Shutter Island - For some reason I was expecting this to be scary. It was not, particularly, tending more towards 'creepy medical institution' then outright scary. The plot twists were predictable and while I liked the ending overall the movie wasn't as good as I was expecting.

Book of Eli - First, I should confess that I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies. Put a few hardened characters in the desert wasteland that is all that is left after some disaster has befallen earth, and there is a good chance I will like the movie. If you can avoid zombies and/or vampires, there's an even better chance I will like the movie. Exhibit A: Book of Eli. Hardened characters - check. Desert wasteland - check. Story intertwined with world building of just exactly what went wrong - check. No zombies or vampires - check. I couldn't help but like the film. Linzy wasn't as much of a fan, despite her love of Denzel Washington.

Burn Notice Season 3 - I finished the first four episodes and am enjoying the show nearly as much as the first two seasons. I am a little disappointed that up to this point they haven't created a nemesis for Micheal Westen that is as effective as in past seasons. Bruce Campbell is awesome as always, and so the show works well while I am exercising.

Inception - Outstanding. I loved the whole thing, from the convoluted sci-fi elements, to the plot, to the action, everything. It was 2.5 hours of pure entertainment. Linzy liked it just as much, although she had a harder time accepting the ending. Go see it.

Green Zone - Meh. I was expecting Bourne Supremacy-ish quality, and the film didn't live up to that. Action packed, yes, and sporting gritty editing, but the story was predictable and the characters were not particularly well fleshed out.

Heat - I finished watching this while exercising, after watching Burn Notice. Watching the firefight down the street outside of the bank job reminded me why I liked the movie so much when I was in high school. Other then that, I was only mildly interested.

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Home from Denver

I got home from my trip to Denver tonight pretty tired after a long four days. Considering most of what I did was sit in meetings or go to dinners and events, there isn't much excuse for feeling tired, but that's what I am.

The trip was successful and there was some fun to be had along the way, including a very fun GPS hike through the Rocky Mountain foothills. After the hike we also stopped by Red Rocks Amphitheater and go to see the amazing natural acoustics. You can also see a huge rainstorm in the background over Denver (it had already passed over us while on the hike). One night we also had dinner at the Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery which was an interesting place. That event was in what was generously described as a courtyard, but basically was an alley in between a building and the garage/winery in back. The wine and food was good, and it seems like the proprietor is going to be very successful.

It is nice to be back home though, and I am looking forward to two weeks at home before having to travel again.

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Measuring 'Happy'

This morning in the paper I was reading an article about a Dutch research study that was looking at the 'happiness increase' from planning a vacation and how there was almost no carry over in that happiness after the trip. Coincidentally today Linzy and I finally settled on where we will be taking our fall vacation to this year.

It won't be anywhere as relatively exotic as the past two trips to England and Stockholm; Instead we'll be heading to San Diego. It's been quite a while since I've been there (long enough to be pre-digital camera and pre-blog so I'm not exactly sure when it was), and Linzy has never been there so we are looking forward to it. I'm not sure if buying the tickets (or using frequent flier miles as the case may be) appreciably increased my happiness, but I was definitely glad to have it settled. We had spent a lot of time recently debating where to go.

Linzy's looking forward to the San Diego Zoo and Seaworld, while I'm looking forward to 72 and sunny temperatures and getting to spend time together. Since according to science I'm getting most of my happiness from this whole process now, so I guess I should revel in it while I can.

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