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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