Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fat Air

I remember one episode of The Simpsons where Homer disappeared, or something, and either Patti or Selma said "he just vanished into fat air." Well, from where I sit, I am without a doubt experiencing the low-cal version of the atmosphere. As soon as I stepped off the plane here in Helena I breathed deep...and kept on inhaling. It's a strange feeling, and one that takes a few minutes to get used to, but it's a small tradeoff for such good company and such staggering vistas.

From the front door of my wife's parents' house in the outskirts of town one can easily see mountains commanding attention on the horizon, at once reinforcing the majesty of their creator and reinforcing the smallness of the beholder. It is a humbling sight, and one that I hope I never tire of witnessing. Not that I am in danger of wearing out the view, mind you. We come up here once or twice a year, depending on finances and obligations and whatnot, and usually stay for about a week until heading back to the trees and plains of the midwest. And our time here is usually spent relaxing, running small errands, walking the dog, and preparing and eating meals. Tonight's menu, by the way, is homemade pizza.

I should also take some time (and so, I will) to mention a few things about our visit to Lincoln which was, as predictable, awesome. :) We got in at 2:30 on Saturday morning, thanks to extremely dense fog clear through Iowa, and went about enjoying the amenities of Lincoln for several days thereafter. Christmas Eve was a near critical mass of unicycle riders (and future one-wheelers for those who don't yet know how) all opening presents and drinking my brother's apple cider in my parents' living room. My mom even surprised me with one of the best presents I have received in recent memory, which also served to provide somewhat of a degree of closure: A 100-pack of Fiery Habanero Doritos, all single serving bags, of which I consumed 15 the following day. My wife got me the Indiana Jones trilogy, and other nice gifts included The Protector from my brother Tom, a self-charging flashlight and a copy of Super Mario Galaxy from my parents, The Godfather Part 2 and the complete Firefly series from my wife's parents, an ornament from my brother Phil, and others that I cannot remember at the moment. On top of it all, however, sits the gift of Christ who was sent for all of us, and without whom we would be hopelessly lost sinners in need of a savior.

The sound of the door opening just a few moments ago means it's time to get started on dinner. Merry Christmas once again, everyone, and a Happy New Year to you all.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Recap

Just rolled in from Lincoln, and here's the quick version:

- Christmas with The Fam was Teh Awesome. Lots of good food, excellent card games, and dozens of photo-ops with our 19-month old niece.

- Brought Guitar Hero. Rocked basement.

- Got Mario Galaxy. It feels like my computer is rotating while twisting itself inside out as I type this.

- Saw lots of friends, ate lots of shrimp, drank lots of Andy's cider.

- Board games rule.

- We head out for the second leg of our Christmas 2007 Tour tomorrow. Destination: Helena, Montana!

- George, our Geo Prizm, officially turned 160,000 on the drive home this afternoon. I got him some new windshield washer fluid and an oil change to celebrate.

- Time for bed. *snore*

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Winter, To

Last weekend I attended my first-ever hockey game, which may seems a bit countercultural in that someone of my age around here should have been to several of these events by now, but might I politely remind all you would-be naysayers that I attended UNL for five years and went to nary a Huskers game?

I will, thanks.

Anyway, the game was, as many of the spectators might have described it, "super fun." Far more interesting and exciting to watch than football, and far more mentally engaging than baseball. I hope to attend more of these in the coming months, and my brother Andy even offered to take me to a hockey game should I be in Lincoln when one is occurring.

After the game we made a trip to (where else?) The Brass Rail with (who else?) Jon and Sarah for some broastedey goodness, but an otherwise stellar trip to an outstanding eatery was marred by a dearth of cottage cheese and longer-than-usual service times. But nothing stops the Chicken Train once it gets going, and dinner was as belt-loosening as ever. Mmmm...tasty chicken...

Monday I tailgated with Jon as well as my cousin Matt and some others downtown near the Metrodome before the Vikes played Da Bearss. Two hours of standing in the cold with good company, excellent brats, and strange but fun sports fans wielding all manner of purple paraphernalia all amounted to a supremely fun time. Definitely worth checking out if you have not experienced it, but it is also, without question, a dude thing.

Last night some friends stopped by to drop off some Christmas cookies, which was an extremely pleasant surprise. We even made tentative plans to go snow tubing, as well as have a game night where we can all get together for some cards, board games, and a healthy dose of Vitamin Wii. One of my wife's friends is also in town for a visit and stopped by with her fiancee (sorry folks, I don't have time to look up the HTML code for the ASCII character that is an accented 'e') and we had some delicious pizza, followed by Guitar Hero and a few rounds of Password, a game my parents got for us last Christmas.

Why is it that so much of this blog revolves around food? :)

Friday it's off to Lincoln, and then to Montana next Thursday. Them's the holidays, folks!

Friday, December 14, 2007


When I was a kid, my dad had an ice cream pail full of taconite sitting in the garage, perpetually full and continually tempting, daring, all us brothers to use it. So we often did, and often in conjunction with my dad's slingshot. We usually shot it at street lights and trees, but occasionally we just went to the nearby schoolyard and hurled those tiny little pellets with as much potency as far as our tiny little arms could wrest from that slingshot, often aided by the rules of physics and some coaxing, just because, well, why not? And as such is the logic of little boys, so often is the logic of their grown counterparts.

I still do not know precisely what taconite is used for, but I do know that tonight my wife and I watched a movie based, more or less, entirely on those pellets of slingshot fodder. Well, perhaps that is somewhat of a stretch, but the movie, North Country, did take place in a mining town way up nort in Minnesota.

Now, the plot of the movie aside, there are some archetypes which are uniquely Minnesotan, which can often only be captured by a skilled observer (ethnographer?), and such was the makeup of North Country. A chilly small town framed always by a monolithic water tower and accented by aging Chevy trucks, the sides of which are eternally tinged with salt and grime. A Lutheran church potluck. Bearded men in Carhart jackets and plaid flannels. Low-slung motels with aging siding dim lighting. The cold grey light of day, as if the sun itself was visiting only as a courtesy--a friend from long ago paying a token visit and then fleeing to more comfortable surroundings. Crusty laborers who know the value of a good day's work.

It's a romantic exaggeration, to be sure, but one not without grounds in reality. There's a pride in the Clearbrooks and Elys and Virginias, one that so many Twin Cities residents remember and even long for, and I appreciate a movie that can capture the essence of these towns without falling into the all-too-easy trap of Northern Mockery.

I may not know what to do with taconite, but I know where it comes from, even if I cannot lay claim to it myself. I grew up in Nebraska, far from the North Woods, and have spent the last few years dwelling in the relative insulation of the Twin Cities. But I do know where it comes from, and I do know enough to tip my hat.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

You sent me a letter

When I woke up this morning, the air temperature was one degree. Below.

I just thought I would mention that.

Anyway, last night our friends Sarah and Jon came over for some good cooking, good laughs, and a good movie. The dinner was lasagne, homemade, using Sarah's recipe, with about twice as much cheese as it called for. The laughs were mostly from a Comedy Central special that Jon brought, of a guy whose name slips my mind, but who was, in what is rather singular in his business, funny but not very foul-mouthed. The movie? Robert Zemeckis' gift to nerds the world over: Back to the Future. As Jon said, why don't they make movies like that anymore? I don't know, but someone really should. We capped the night with a few rounds of Wii Bowling, during which I finally joined Sarah and my wife in the "Pro" club, which is attained when one reaches a score of 1000 in the bowling rankings. It takes quite a bit of work, and the reward, a sparkling bowling ball, is more than worth it.

Today, after sleeping in and then fiddling with the backup software on my computer, I made some calls to local stores and managed to locate one copy of Guitar Hero 3, which I have been attempting to find for some time now. I high-tailed it down to the GameStop on University Avenue where an employee named Colin (thanks, Colin, if you're reading this, the chances of which are highly unlikely. But it never hurts to try...) handed me their last copy, which he graciously held for me. Much of the day was spent trading the Les Paul between my wife and myself as we strummed virtually along, unlocking songs and battling opponents online and off. My wife's brothers introduced us to Guitar Hero 2 this summer, and we have both been awaiting the release of the series' third iteration ever since. Well, I have, at any rate, though my wife does enjoy the games a good deal also. :)

So yes, it is one degree out, but we have a roof over our heads, a heater that works, a pair of reliable automobiles, food in our fridge, clothes on our back...I suppose I could go on, but one does get the point. It's not the dark circle of winter on which I try to focus, but the bright spot in the center of the degree, the brilliant point the cold of winter is farthest from.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Backing forward

So, you all remember my new hard drive, right? Well, as it turns out, there's much more to the story.

When I bought my 160-gig LaCie hard drive several years ago I decided to make it my primary boot volume, in case my internal hard drive died. And sure enough, in the winter of 2004, my trusty blue iMac gave up its fanless ghost, and died in a quite literal puff of smoke on a chilly February evening. Thankfully, everything on the computer was stored on my trusty external drive, which I had purchased only a few months prior. So when my eMac arrived about two weeks later, fresh from Apple's Scratch'n'Dent store, all I did was plug my drive into one of its Firewire 400 ports and voila!. Instant Computing, just as it had always been.

Oddly, though, the LaCie drive has always had this weird problem with (don't laugh) sounding funny. Hard drive platters usually spin around at 7,200 revolutions per minute, which, over the course of several years, adds up to quite a great deal of revolutions (and, coincidentally, a great deal of minutes). Inevitably, something will leave its rocker, so to speak, and problems will surface. Well, this drive will sometimes start to make an undulating high-pitched sound as it spins, almost as if it imagines it were a tiny digital police siren. When this happens I usually a) freak out, b) break into a cold sweat, c) thank the Lord I do nightly backups, and d) wait for it to stop. It usually does, and I resume my computing without a care in the world, and having learned nary a lesson from the incident.

Anyway, last Sunday things went all haywire, and the poor hard drive looked as if it were finally giving up on this world. In a fit of panic I called my brother Andy, who always has an answer for these sorts of things, and, over the course of the next twenty-four hours, successfully migrated everything to our new 320-gigger. Not bad.

So, having been told off by my hard drive one last time, I have finally put it out to pasture. It now rests quietly beside my desk as it has for years, its glowing blue power light barely illuminated, as if to remind me that it has earned its retirement and will be dozing quietly, if I don't mind. But should I need it for one last storage mission, I'm sure it will be happy to comply in its own grumpy, cantankerous way.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Where do you go

when it's cold inside?

Quite the opposite question would apply for today, as I awoke to the quintessential Minnesota Morning: a shroud of soft snow blanketing the world below, flecks of silver swirling past my window, and the soothing hum of our furnace, as if our apartment was sighing as it settled in for another of what Laura Ingalls Wilder might call a Long Winter.

Despite the white tendrils of winter worming their way through the city streets, my wife and I ran some errands in our trusty 1998 Corolla named William, after his fearless Scottish forebear, but not before breaking our nightly fast with two servings of another Minnesota staple: the piping hot bowl of oatmeal, ours with apples and raisins. We made our way to several stores in the afternoon, thus earning whatever downtime we had in the evening. And wisely did we spent it, I might add, putting up our tree and trimming it with an assortment of lights, ornaments, and odd knickknackery from our childhoods. Nothing says December like a Christmas tree.

My cousin and her boyfriend were over last night, and we had a delightful time at Applebees followed by a trip to the Roseville 4 second-run theatre to catch one of the most delightful and simply entertaining movies I have seen in a long while: Ratatouille. We followed this with several rounds of Rayman Raving Rabbids and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned conversation--a lost art, perhaps, but one I still enjoy practicing.

As I write this, the room around me glowing with the soft feathery light from our tree, complemented by a shimmer from the modern-day equivalent of a button lamp, the scented candle, I think of the months ahead which will, sans doute, be filled with snow and cold, and dwell not on the cold and darkness, but on the coziness that being indoors can bring during such times. I also think of December 21, and the extra minute of daylight that each day in January brings. I think of being back in Lincoln in a shade under three weeks, and in Montana soon after. I think of a Christmas spent in the company of family and friends. I think of Moses Merrill near the end of January, the melting of snow, the green of spring, and the turning and revolving of the world ever after.

It's gonna be a good winter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Something old, something new

A while back I stumbled across a web site called Pandora that I thought was fairly interesting, but filed it away in my mind and went about my usual daily internet-surfing routing of slashdotting, digging, IMDBing, and the like. In the past few weeks, though, I have, oh, how should one say it...rediscovered what it has to offer. See, there's this thing called the Music Genome Project that is, in a nutshell, an effort to analyze "genes," or building blocks, of songs. Apparently there's something like 400 individual qualities that music can be judged by, and the guys at MGP have basically broken down all the music known to mankind, or at least a healthy chunk of it, and interpolated it based on these 400 characteristics.

Pandora, then, is an extension of the efforts of the Music Genome Project. You go there, type the name of a song or an artist, and you are presented with either the song you typed, or a song that epitomizes the essence of the artist you requested. You listen to the song and click a button saying you like or dislike it. Pandora then generates a new song, by a new artist, that shares similar "genes" with the original.

So, basically, Pandora helps you find new music that you will probably like. It's awesome, and free, and you should check it out, like, right now. I have been using it a great deal these past few weeks, and it is pretty impressive.

On a totally different note, I went shopping on Black Friday last week, and while I did not go to any stores until about 8am, I found the entire experience to be interesting at the least, and, dare I say it, enjoyable at its best. I found a nice knife set for $20, some cheap DVDs at Circuit City, and other typical BF-type items. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to qualify that I went with my wife and her friend, and on my own it probably would not have been as fun. My recommendation for next year? Give it a try. You might like it.

And finally I have to say Hi to my aunt and cousin who came for a visit last weekend. We all had a great time with you, and I'm so glad we got to spend thanksgiving with you two.

Monday, November 26, 2007

One for the road

Wow, what a week it's been. Kah-razy. In a good way, to be sure.

Here's how it all went down.

Last Tuesday, fresh off a trip to Nashville to see some family on my wife's side, we saddled up and hit the friendly streets of Minnesota for a temporary southward migration to the slightly sunnier climes of Lincoln for a visit with some family from my side, as well as plenty of friends from back in the day and whatnot. We had a stopover in Des Moines on Tuesday night for some delicious tacos and good times, courtesy of my wife's brother and his wife, not to mention their son who is old enough to walk but young enough to entertain everyone in the room by pretty much anything he does.

Two points if you can guess our first stop once we hit Lincoln the next day.

After a delicious pre-Thanksgiving feast we spent the day with friends and family, as is often our wont when we visit Lincoln. Wednesday night I saw several friends, including one who made the trek from way down south with her husband and young daughter. 'Twas great to see all y'all.

Thanksgiving itself was appropriately awesome, as one might imagine, and even included my aunt from Florida and cousin from Colorado. I tell ya, man, when you put a bunch of us in the same house, and throw in some long-distance relatives for good measure, it's always cool. Many games of cards, and games of the board variety, were played, much popcorn and ice cream was consumed, and a multitude of photos were snapped by all involved. 'Cuz that's how we roll, sucka.

And such went the weekend. It was relaxing and enjoyable, and I'm glad we're heading back for Christmas in a month.

On a side note, on Saturday I submitted a story to Digg, as I do upon occasion, but this was of particular note for a few reasons. First, the "story," as it might be called, was merely a photograph that my brother Andy took on Thanksgiving morning. Additionally, the image was put up on a directory of one of my web sites is, as are all my web sites, hosted by my brother's web server. As of Saturday afternoon the story had over 100 "diggs." It quickly rose to several hundred, and then skyrocketed to well over a thousand. By the time I went to bed, the story had over 2,300 diggs and was the number two story of the day.

The real surprise came during the next few days, including today, upon examination of the server logs. As of this morning, the photo has been accessed over 150,000 times by individuals across the globe, and the original story has over 3,200 diggs. Goodness gracious, that's a lot of bandwidth, but Dreamhost didn't even break a sweat. :)

So anyway, we're now back at home and setting into our usual routine, which can be nice after many days of being on the road and away from home. *whew*

Sunday, November 18, 2007

There and Back Again

We just rolled into town from a trip to see some relatives in Nashville. As much as I know that air travel is, really, the safest way to go from A to B, I still get jittery (much like Luke when he knows Vader is on the Command Ship, or, like Wicket when he meets Leah) whenever the plane takes off and lands. But once again, thanks to excellent piloting and the Good Lord Above, we made the trip without incident. It was a great visit, seeing lots of family and attending the baptism of our nephew on Sunday morning. It was quite warm down there, so we spent time on Saturday playing with some of our other nephews in a park near my wife's brother's house, where we were staying. We had a gigantor meal this afternoon, and I believe I am more or less recovered from it, and my tummy should be sufficiently stretched for Thursday's turkey marathon. I'm sure my brothers will out-eat me (Phil, how do you do it?), but it's good to try, eh?

Ok, time for bed. Sleepytime, here I come!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


So a while ago my wife and I got what is basically the perfect clock for our living room. It matches the color of our furniture rather well, and it is just the right size for our wall, and it contains European, not Roman, numerals. However, it recently stopped performing its most basic, and only, function, which is telling time. The hands no longer make their day-and-night trek 'round the circumference of their dwelling. Instead, the clock, as may be said, now displays the correct only twice a day. Changing the battery yields no results. I'm no horologist, though I do enjoy singing from time to time, and I fear the repair of our timekeeping apparatus is beyond my humble abilities.

Thus, I decided to phone the number on the back of the clock, which one is, apparently, to do in lieu of returning the clock to its place of purchase. I was told by a friendly voice on the other end to do, however, exactly that. So tonight I brought it to Target and asked if I might exchange it for one that, well, works. My request was twice denied, and rather than attempt a Peter-scale hat trick with subsequent managers ever higher on the corporate food chain, I accepted reality and vacated the store, proverbial tail between my figurative knees.

However, a noble spirit embiggens the smallest man, and this small setback only served to compel me to pursue the matter further. And, thanks to some sage advice from one of my wife's friends, Step Two will involve what my friend Jon refers to as a "Strongly-Worded Letter." Such techniques have a rather high success rate, so I am ever hopeful we will end up with a working clock soon enough.

Tomorrow we leave for Nashville for our nephew's baptism, and less than 48 hours after our return on Sunday we will be on the road to Lincoln for Thanksgiving. 'Tis the season, my friends, and the season is good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Verdict

So I guess I shouldn't leave y'all (or, as my wife informed me, all y'all, which is the correct plural form of the singular y'all) hanging about the slippers post. Well, they arrived just fine, and wow, they sure are comfy. I basically wear them all the time when I'm at home, and it's like being in outer space for my feet. It's like there's a party on my feet and my slippers are invited. Wearing these slippers is like the tactile equivalent of an Amigos Meat Nachos.

We saw The Bourne Ultimatum tonight at the $2 theatre nearby, which is actually $1 on Tuesdays. Good movie, but I was kind of confused, partially at the plot in general, but also by the fact that Matt Damon is a decent action star. Weird.

Is it wrong to sneak candy into a movie theatre? Is it extra wrong to sneak candy into a $2 theatre? Is it even more extra wrong to sneak candy into a $2 theatre on $1 night? Why do hot dogs come in packages of ten and hot dog buns come in packages of eight? I suppose there are some things we were never meant to know, and in the meantime, I'll continue purchasing Gummi Worms in advance so as to enjoy them during the show. It may not be right, but it's such a tiny offense that I can still sleep at night. But perhaps it's so wrong that I shouldn't be able to sleep, and my heart has been hardened by years of candy-sneaking. *sigh*

Tom, if you're reading this, the movie you asked me about was either The Returner or Casshern. I own the former but not the latter. Note, however, that both movies cannot be in close proximity of each other, as such a confluence of awesomeness would be unsustainable in our current space-time continuum. I actually voided my computer's warranty just by watching those trailers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Milestones in Computing

When I was eight my parents got a Mac 512K-E. It had one half of a megabyte of RAM and no hard drive. The floppy discs it used could hold as much as 800 kilobytes, or, 0.8 megabytes.

In the early 1990s we got a Mac LCII with an 80 megabyte hard drive and one floppy drive. I thought we would never fill up that hard drive. We did. At one point, over one quarter of the hard drive was taken up by the installation of King's Quest VI, the installation of which was contained on nine floppy discs.

My brother Andy purchased a one gigabyte hard drive a few years later. He allowed me to use 100 megabytes of it, which I thought I would never fill up.

We later got an iMac with, if I remember correctly, a four gigabyte hard drive. I thought we would never fill it up.

Shortly thereafter my brother Phil purchased what I considered to be the pinnacle of MP3 players at the time: an Iomega HipZip. It used removable 64-megabyte discs--more than enough for listening to music on the go.

My brother Phil also purchased one of the first consumer-level digital cameras in the early 2000s. He spent nearly one hundred dollars on a 64-megabyte card for it. I thought he was out of his mind to want so much storage space.

In the summer of 2004 I purchased an iMac with a ten-gigabyte hard drive. I was fairly certain I would fill it up.

In the fall of 2003 I purchased an external 160-gigabyte hard drive. I thought I would never fill it up. I began booting solely from the external drive.

In the spring of 2004 my iMac began smoking and stopped working altogether (perhaps a computer designed without an internal fan was a poor idea, Mr. Ive). I purchased an eMac with a 40-gigabyte hard drive. I continued to boot from the external 160-gig drive, thus ensuring minimal data loss in the event of another smoke incident.

In the summer of 2006 I purchased an external 250-gigabyte hard drive, bring my total storage up to near half a terabyte*. I thought I would never fill it up.

Today my wife and I purchased a 320-gigabyte hard drive for less than what Phil paid for his 64-megabyte camera card six years ago. I imagine we will fill it up, probably much sooner than we think.

*to put things in perspective, my brother Andy once told me that an isolinear chip holds roughly two to four terabytes

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Burning Daylight and Petrol

It's just a bit depressing now that we are finished with Daylight Savings Time and the world, or at least the Twin Cities, settles into a darkening slumber by 5:45, especially considering that it will only get worse for the next month and a half. But therein lies the positive: it's only temporary, and on December 21st all bets are off, and we start gaining sunlight by about a minute per day. Free sunlight! How cool is that? Very, says I. Anyway, the dark evenings are good for guilt-free indoors-residing, and as an added bonus, my morning commute is much lighter now, so that's cool.

I have been re-watching some of the DVD extras for the first three Star Wars episodes, and am continually struck by how grand those movies are. The sheer amount of time, effort, and good old-fashioned work that went into the process of bringing Lucas' vision to life overwhelms the mind. Say what you will about the movies, but it's hard to deny the richness of the tapestry upon which they are woven.

My brother Tom got engaged about one week ago, so mega-congratulations to him and his fiancée, who plan on getting married sometime in the spring of 2009. They came up for a visit a few months back, and we had a great time with them. She's a wonderful girl, and he's one lucky dude. :)

Time to eat some Wheat Thins and Costco Sharp Cheddar for breakfast. G'day mates.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Old Friends Long Gone

Doritos Fiery Habaneros, is your firey taste and crunch
Now gone and lost forever, to no more augment my lunch?
Was ever there a chip so hot, so tasty and so good,
As you, O Fiery One, foremost of all snack foods?

'Twas two years ago that I, upon an unsuspecting hunch
Purchased a snack-sized bag, and quickly brought them home to munch
But on the way did I, in fit of hungriness
Rend apart your topmost seam, to expedite my mouth's access

To sample your magnif'cent taste, which further set my mouth ablaze
And stumbled hastily home did I, in blissful smold'ring daze.
Not searing hot were you, as Andy Capp's Hot Fries, also
Not insufferable, your vehemence, like Chester's Flamin' Hot Cheetos.

But gone are you from retail shelves, no more can you be found.
Checked all the grocery stores, have I--checked every one around.
And though you may be discontinued, no longer on the vendor rack,
I nonetheless remember you, a true and tasty snack.

one point if you know the work to which my poem alludes
two points if you know the other sci-fi reference

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Several years ago I got a nice pair of slippers from my parents for Christmas. They were your (well, mine, to be precise) typical moccasin-style winter footwear, with leather construction and a soft lining, so quoth the attached tag, most likely. There was no tread or pad or any other friction-inducing material on the underside, which caused them, and by consequence, me, to slide something awful on any slippery surface (hence, possibly, their moniker?). I wore them outside many times for short errands, like retrieving the daily post, and had many a close brush with death thanks to the extremely slippery slipper surface and subsequent skating across many an icy driveway.

Which is why it's nearly impossible to get these kinds of slippers anymore. For every time I nearly fell, there were probably others in the world who did fall, thanks to the lack of any built-in mechanism on the slippers to prevent such a tragedy. I have been to dozens of stores to try to purchase a new pair of comfy winter footwear in the past few years, but all the modern versions of my good ol' moccasins have uncomfortable, and ugly, plastic-ey pads on the soles. No dice, man. And as such, I have continued to wear my old slippers long after they should have been sent out to pasture.

But possibly no longer. As I type this, I have a brand-new pair of slippers waiting for me at home, thanks to my wonderful wife and the Land's End web site, where she found a pair that, while not identical to my originals, has done away with the new-fangled sole design in favor of something called a "crepe" sole. I don't know what it means, but it looks comfy and infinitely more flexible than anything else I have seen lately, or ever. Apparently they arrived in the mail today, and I'm pretty pumped to get home and try them on.

Hey, it's the little things that make life worth living. :)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

When things just work...

My computer would not print today. All day, printer jobs just got stuck in the queue on my eMac and would not get sent to the printer. I restarted my Mac. I power-cycled the router. I hooked the printer up to another port on the router. I tried and re-tried, and finally I went on to other things.

Then tonight I could not connect to my shared iTunes library from my wife's iBook. Odd. I could also not connect to my computer's shared drives on our network. Double odd. So I checked the DHCP Client Table in our router from the iBook and only three devices were found: the printer, the Wii, and the computer I was using. I went back to my eMac, which could send and receive data over TCP/IP, entered the IP of our router, and it could not locate it. I literally said to my wife, "My computer can connect to the internet but our router doesn't know it's connected to the network."

You probably already know what was wrong. Well, it took me a few more minutes to realize that my eMac had, sometime in the morning, disconnected from our LAN and hooked itself up to an open WiFi network in our building. I ran to my eMac, connected it to our LAN, and BAM! Everything works.

It's sort of like beating a boss level, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Leopard Line

So last night I had kind of a surreal experience. I'm no stranger to line-ups for release events, having spent a few days in line for Star Wars Episode I, camping outside overnight for Episode II, as well as several other movie-related lines. I often find that I meet interesting people in these kinds of lines, because we are all there for some (relatively) obscure common purpose. I waited for hours in the back of a Wal-Mart for the release of the Nintendo GameCube, and met some very cool people in the process.

But last night was the first time I waited in line for what was, ultimately, just a T-shirt.

Apple computer's new operating system, OS X version 10.5 (codenamed Leopard by the company) was released at 6pm yesterday, and even though I was not planning to buy it since my wife and I hope to buy a new computer in the spring, which will come with the new OS installed, I wanted to wait in line for it anyway. So I hopped on down to the local Apple Store at 5:30 where, to my great surprise, there were already about a hundred people in line.

My surprise was due to the fact that this was not a movie premiere or the new hottest Christmas toy, but a computer operating system. I had no idea so many people would show up, but such is the power of the Apple Hype Machine (see also: Steve Jobs' Reality Distortion Field). I did, in fact, meet some cool people in line as well, not to mention a few of my students from school who managed to get a spot right near the front. Lucky them. :)

The doors to the store were opened promptly at 6pm to the cheers of many Apple employees and customers, and people began filing in to get a peek at the new whiz-bang OS as well as a free T-shirt. I did both, and as I write this while proudly displaying my wearable Apple advertisement (or, more accurately, my badge of nerdery), I gotta say that it was indeed a pretty cool time altogether.

I apologize for the crudity of the video clip, but it gives you an idea of the extent of the line. This was about 5:50, and I'm guessing there were about 200 people there.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Rundown

A brief overview of the sodas I have been drinking since giving up caffeine* last spring, in no particular order:

Caffeine Free Pepsi: Not bad, really. Tastes nearly identical to regular Pepsi, except for a slightly odd aftertaste that kind of sticks in one's mouth.

Caffeine Free Coke: Very similar to regular Coke. Goes well with Gummi Bears.

Squirt: Excellent soda. Unfortunate name. Has the added benefit of fewer grams of sugar compared to most of its soda counterparts, as well as a slightly tangy Grapefruit flavor.

7up: Produces the most BPCs (Burps Per Can) out of nearly any pop. Clean, refreshing taste.

Cherry 7up: Not bad, really, but it does get on my nerves after a little while. 7up has kind of an absence of flavor, whereas this is kind of sweet and cherry-ish, so it goes out of style quicker.

Sierra Mist: Very similar in taste to 7up, but a tad sweeter. Has a significantly lower BPC rating, so all things considered, best stick to 7up.

Cranberry Sierra Mist: Didn't know it existed either, did you? Odd. Give it a shot and you'll probably dig it.

A&W Root Beer: Highest BPC rating of any pop on the planet. Try drinking an entire can without letting one out, in under two minutes, and you will wish you hadn't. Best served with two large scoops of Vanilla ice cream.

A&W Cream Soda: Not caffeine free. Weird, eh? I didn't know it either.

Sunkist Cherry Limeade: The surprise of the bunch. It's very flavorful without being overly sugary (most fruity pops, like Orange or Grape, have tons, or perhaps I should say, grams, of sugar).

Caffeine Free Mountain Dew: The one that started it all, thanks to a suggestion from my big brother, that I almost entirely ignored, several years ago. It tastes kind of like a slightly salty version of its high-octane brother.

On an entirely unrelated note, if you have an interest in handmade Chain Maille, hop on over to my friend Joe's livejournal. He makes Chain Maille and has several good pieces up for sale)

*Every now and then I do have a caffeinated soda, but yeah, for all intents and purposes, I'm clean

Dancing the Night Away

Several firsts, or at least notables, happened this weekend. Early Friday morning we left for Philadelphia (or, as the locals apparently call it, "Philly") for a wedding. I have never been to that part of the United States before, though I have spent time on other parts of the East Coast. We got in around 11am and took a shuttle over to the Hertz office to rent a car--also a first for me. My parents once rented a car when we flew to Florida in the 80s, but I have never done it myself, and neither had my wife. We pre-booked, or whatever it's called, a vehicle several weeks ago and even got a discount using our Costco card, and as we arrived at the counter we eagerly awaited our "Ford Focus or similar." What we ended up with was a 2008 Chevy Cobalt, which was, to be honest, not all that impressive of a vehicle. It was fun to drive around, though, and drive it we did, right to the mall for some lunch. We ate at a place called The Cheesecake Factory which, I found out, is more like a Green Mill than a dessert assembly line, as its name would imply. An hour and a half, and a quick stop at our Hotel to change, later, and we were on our way to Saint Philip of Nerie church for the ceremony.

All in all the wedding, and its subsequent reception, were very enjoyable. It was cool to see the bride and her family, and the people we sat with for dinner were really fun to talk to. I'm generally not a big fan of dancing, but the DJs were outstanding and the music was a great mix of oldies and current pop-ish tunes which lent themselves rather well to a wedding reception.

Once again, our friend Sarah picked us up from the airport and we spent the rest of the day with her and her boyfriend, playing Wii Sports, going to look for a movie to buy, and making delicious homemade calzones. Thanks for a great Saturday, you two. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Costco Size Me

Sometimes I overdo it. I mean, really. Like, ok, today I was at Costco and purchased an eight-pound jug of popcorn. Eight pounds. It's literally the size of a gallon of milk. It seemed like such a good idea at the time because, well, because I really like making homemade popcorn (mostly thanks to a cool popcorn maker my wife's friend got us for our wedding). But eight pounds? Sheesh. It will probably last me until I retire.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Raining on my Padre?

Much of this summer was in a rather prolonged drought, thus putting a damper on one of my favorite summertime activities: experiencing the rain. I don't mean running around in thunderstorms, but enjoying it however possible, whether going for a drive in the deluge, falling asleep to the sounds of droplets hitting the windowpanes, or watching the aftereffects of such showers develop such as the swelling of lakes and ponds. But like I said, this summer was fairly dry, so not a lot of that goin' on around here. Or pretty much anywhere in the Midwest.

So it has been my great delight to witness the return of the rains these past several days. It has rained intermittently for quite some time now, and today the skies wept for nearly the entire day. I know it might seem trite to write about the rains on the plains, but I do greatly enjoy it when the Lord refreshes His creation. It's also nice to think that the cement splash guards outside my parents' home, in which my brothers and I embedded several rocks so as to scatter the water as it exits the downspouts, are still hanging in there.

Now if only I had a sandbox and the leaves from a linden tree from which I might fashion a rain gauge.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Gifts Unlooked-For

First of all, mega-thanks to Sarah and her parents for letting me use their garage to change the oil in our Toyota yesterday. I have grown to appreciate our apartment in the last year that we have lived here, but I do miss having our own space to work on cars, and in the meantime, I greatly appreciate being able to do car work at places like Sarah's dad's garage. Also, my cousin Matt has always been willing to let me use his space (and tools, when I need them) to do simple things like change the oil or a tire. And when bigger repairs are needed, he helps me with them or just does them himself. So yeah, thanks a lot, guys. And this goes tenfold for my dad who taught me lots of stuff about auto maintenance and always lets me use his garage when we're down in Lincoln for a visit. Sometimes he even works on our cars without me asking him to. Wow, Dad. Thank you. :)

So last night my cousin Beth came over with her boyfriend and the four of us had a great time eating lasagna (homemade, using a recipe from my wife's friend), playing Wii (Rayman Raving Rabbids and Wii Sports), and eating DQ ice cream. It's always nice to spend time with family, as anyone who reads this blog knows, and I'm glad that we get to see Beth and other relatives as often as we do. In fact, tonight we're going to the aforementioned Matt's house for his birthday. I think he turns 26, but I've always been bad with numbers like this. I do know that his birthday is the day before my brother Phil's, and Phil's is one day before Mark's (an old friend from high school).

Today I got a nice surprise in the mail: not one, but two hoodies from my in-laws. I let my wife's mother borrow my hoodie several months ago, and wasn't expecting to get it back until we see them in November, so that was pretty cool. On top of that, though, was a brand-new hoodie she bought me as a thank-you gift for helping them with some computer stuff lately. I'm going to send them a note, but I thought I would thank them publicly on my blog too. Thanks!

Time to finish my hot chocolate and get to work on some stuff.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Easy Money

When DVDs first became popular, I thought it rather pretentious how people had a tendency to mention that they owned, or had even seen, a given movie "On DVD!". I did not see what the big deal was, possibly because I had no DVD player of my own for a very long time. I honestly could not tell the difference between DVD and VHS, and to be honest, the apparent snobbery of DVD player owners left such a bitter taste in my mouth that I had no desire to own one.

In the subsequent years, however, as more and more people began purchasing those new-fangled disc players to replace their aging tape machines, I started to not only notice the myriad improvements that DVD had over VHS, I realized I could actually tell the difference. And now in a Winston/Big Brother way either. Here's what I mean...

I own some movies on VHS and have watched them dozens of times. Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Alien, Aliens, Alien 3...heck, even the original Star Wars trilogy. And for years they have served me just fine. But as I slowly replace these tapes with their new circular counterparts, I realize just how much better the DVD format is.

So what's the point? Most of you already know that DVDs are better than VHS tapes. Well, tonight I sat down to watch Terminator 2 on DVD, having purchased it a few months ago in the $5 bin at Wal-Mart.

Oh. My.

Talk about a moment of clarity, man. Or, rather, twenty-four moments of clarity every second. I'm hearing things I never heard. I'm seeing details I never knew were there. It's like watching an entirely new movie. Seriously, it was that cool. And to all those people I used to think were snobs, well, maybe they were right all along. Now if only I could get my hands on my brother's sweet Blu-Ray player...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Kapow! Fwoosh! Zingg!

Most of you know I'd take summer over winter any day ("you don't have to shovel the heat!"), but since it is autumn and the leaves are flashing warning beacons that change is on its way, I thought I'd put together a quick list of things that I do like about this time of year...

• Guilt-free evenings spent indoors
• Hot chocolate. Many times per day.
• The colors. As Hobbes once said, "The trees are like natures own fireworks display."
• The imminence of Thanksgiving and Christmas
• Wearing my new leather jacket. :)
• Turning the heat *way* up in my car on the drive to work
• Using a space heater (Thanks, Sarah!) to keep me warm at work
• The crisp air. I don't know how else to describe it.
• Remembering the October 1997 snowstorm. Lucas, if you're reading this, I probably should have taken you up on the offer of a ride in your gigantic Impala rather than walking home.
• Going to my parents house and sitting in the living room with a fire going. It may be trash, it may be wood, it may be both. But it sure is comfy.

Friday, October 05, 2007


I just got off the phone with a nice guy from GameInformer magazine. I forget his name (I always try to get the names of people whenever I call Customer Service) but he helped me renew my subscription for two more years (one year less than what John Hammond would have preferred, no doubt). I was tempted to let him know how good his magazine was, especially when compared to its peers, but I'm guessing he would have thought me kind of odd for doing so. Not that I would have minded, but I guess I just figured there wasn't a whole lot of a point to it. But anyway, if you are at all interested in video games, you really should check out GI. I don't know why I felt the need to plug their mag on my blog, but, well, why not?

It rained again last night, and though the precipitation is a tad overdue (could'a used it two months ago) it's still good to see the earth being replenished as often as it has been lately. Apparently we're not done with autumn yet, and even though many Minnesotans are itching to get out their skis and snowmobiles, I'm perfectly happy without snow, probably because I mostly grew up in Lincoln, where any amount of the dusty white powder meant a possible school closing. Not that it happened all too often, but every now and then...

Ok, time to bust outta here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ah, that crazy Burt Ward...

My wife said the word "defunct" tonight. Now, in and of itself, the utterance of a given word would not be of note. However, this one, or, more accurately, its genesis in my personal lexicon, has always been imprinted on me thanks to an odd TV experience I had many years ago, probably when I was in middle school.

I first heard the word "defunct" on an episode of Batman--a rerun of the campy 60's television show that chronicled the deeds of derring-do by the dark knight and his occasionally trusty, but more often simply expository, side kick, Robin. The Dynamic Duo had, once again, escaped from the clutches of another nefarious villain, most likely at the end of the first in a two-part episode. No doubt they had found a sneaky way out of some kind of elaborate, but fully explained, trap set by said villain, as Robin was exclaiming, while gesticulating wildly, that if such-and-such had not happened, they would both be "devoured and defunct." Now, the first in that alliterated couplet may not have been "devoured," but it was some kind of d-word that meant something to the effect of the two of them no longer being among the living. Possibly it was "defiled," or "destroyed," but in any case, the second word was, sans doute, defunct.

To which Batman, as was oft his wont, proclaimed "That's it!" The villain's lair, he had deduced while Robin was briefly pontificating, was inside "the defunct seventh-street reservoir!"

Holy hole in a donut, Batman. Linguistics and comic book action. What more could one ask of a TV show?

(edit: last night before bed I remembered that Batman and Robin were in a trap involving a giant teapot that was slowly tipping over and which would, in so many minutes, suffocate the heroes under a deluge of boiling liquid while they sat immobilized in (what else?) a giant teacup. Robin's first word, upon describing the trap, was, of course, "drowned." Odd how I can remember all that, but not where I put my car keys...)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Quick Recap

Highlights of the past few days...

• Changed the front-left headlight bulb in my car, which involved removing the battery as well as a few other minor parts. Thanks to my dad, who taught me years ago to not fear the underside of my car's hood, and to opt for prayer in lieu of swearing when doing auto maintenance and repair. I also topped off the air in my wife's car tires for good measure.

• Spent Friday evening with my cousin Beth and her boyfriend, which involved walking to a nearby coffee shop and playing some Wii Sports before turning in for the night.

• Heard the acoustic guitarist at said coffee shop play The Rainbow Connection. I haven't heard this song since Gavin played it on the keyboard back at Alpha Sigma Sigma.

• Picked my wife up from the airport this morning. I love it when she comes home from a trip.

• Went out to lunch with some friends (hey you two, is it OK if I use your names here?) at "Tasty Pizza," a restaurant that lives up to its namesake rather well. Lunch was followed by two games of bowling at the Brunswick bowling lane near the restaurant. We all stink at bowling, but that's not really the point now, is it?

• Made liberal use of our new space heater. Good golly it's nice. I'm also on my second cup of hot chocolate for the day as I write this. mmmm...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A New Lease

I often rode the bus to college during my freshman year, since its route wound near to my parents' home, where I lived for the duration of my inaugural semesters at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. And it was during that time when, walking the three blocks from the bus stop to our slightly oversized, backyard, I would often marvel at the warmth of days like today during this time of year. See, today is September 27 and the proverbial mercury is hovering somewhere in the neighborhood of 70, which is just about as close to perfect as I could imagine. And on a day like today, I inevitably feared that it would be the last day like today for the year. My continual fear was that Old Man Winter was lying just on the other side of tomorrow, ready to expel his blustery fury on the midwestern plains of southeastern Nebraska.

And yet, somehow, there was always just one more day like today before things really got bad. And so here we are today, and I am once again thanking God for the simple things like the nice weather, and wondering if this is the last nice day of the season before winter sets in for its long cold slumber.

But it's probably not, and more will be on the way, and yet I still wonder. And I try to savor the day as best I can.

Which is why dinner tonight was one of mankind's greatest creations in all the earth: a six-inch steak and cheese from SubWay, loaded with jalapeños, pickles, black olives, lettuce, and (as my dad would put it) submerged in southwestern sauce.

Now that's living. :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Speed Run

I was literally one of the first people in Lincoln to have a Nintendo 64. I got one from a Toys'R'Us three days before the release date. I would not let my brothers (or sister, for that matter) get farther in Mario 64 than I was. It might have been a jerk thing to do, but I paid good money for that N64, so why not? :)

Good thing I didn't know this guy...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Heating Spaces

Last winter our heat went out for a week, and though it certainly wasn't unbearable, it was rather chilly in our apartment. I borrowed my friend Sarah's space heater midway through the heat outage, and though it was small, it certainly was a nice little workhorse. It kept the computer room nice and cozy, not to mention the living room, albeit with a little help from a nice blanket too. Well, this year we're heading into winter prepared as all get out, mostly thanks to a small heater we bought this afternoon. We looked at several different kinds, like oil-filled and ceramic and whatnot, and even called the fire department to see if there was a particular heater they recommended. The one we got was a micathermic heater which is supposed to be pretty good, but it also didn't hurt that Costco had it for way cheaper than anywhere else. Bring on Old Man Winter!

We went to Saint Cloud last night for my uncle Frank's 55th birthday, and as usual, it was a great time. Anytime a bunch of my family members get together is pretty much going to be enjoyable. No special highlights, really, other than watching some bright floating objects that appeared in the eastern sky soon after dusk, and seeing my uncle Pete who drove from Nebraska just for the birthday party.

And speaking of parties, today is my friend Joe's birthday. And yesterday my brother Phil celebrated his college graduation. Congratulations to both of you!

Time to check and see if the dryers are free. Laundry in an apartment can be kind of tricky that way. Ahoy!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

One of those things

Ok, so I have seen Return of the Jedi many times. Many. I can literally say the words along with the characters, for the entire duration of the movie, with about 80% accuracy. But tonight, in watching it again*, I stumbled across across a hidden surprise that I had heard many times but never understood.

As Yoda is about to die, he discusses Vader with Luke. The following conversation takes place between the two, but keep in mind that Yoda, at death's door, is speaking in muffled tones:

Master Yoda... is Darth Vader my father?

Mmm... rest I need. Yes... rest.

Yoda, I must know.

Your father he is.

Told you, did he?


Unexpected this is, and unfortunate...

Unfortunate that I know the truth?

YODA (gathering all his strength)
No. Unfortunate that you rushed to face
him... that incomplete was your training. Not
ready for the burden were you.

All my life, until about 20 minutes ago, I thought Yoda's explanation went like this (differences noted in boldface):

YODA (gathering all his strength)
No. Unfortunate that you have to face
him... that to complete with with your training. Not
ready for the burden for you.

Subtle, yes, but it entirely changes the meaning of the scene! Yoda is not speaking of what will happen, but what has happened--presumably what Luke has not even told him! Yoda is demonstrating not his ability to forsee the future, but his ability to observe the past, or, rather, observe events that happen when he himself is nowhere in the vicinity of them. He is not saying that it is unfortunate that Luke will face Vader. He is chastising Luke for rushing to face Vader, which he did years earlier before completing his training on Dagobah, when he saw a vision of his friends in the clutches of Vader's machinations on Cloud City. At the time, Luke only thought he was leaving to save his friends, but Yoda knew his confrontation with Vader was imminent. And it is all revealed when listening to the real dialog in the scene from Jedi.

Ain't it cool when stuff like that happens? :)

*I was viewing the unaltered original version, available on the bonus disc of the RotJ Special Edition DVD, with subtitles turned on

Monday, September 17, 2007

We Want The Funk

I would just like to take a minute to say that last Saturday it was so cold we went shopping for a space heater. I was sleeping with an extra afghan blanket at night. I busted out our Costco pack of hot chocolate. I almost dusted off my snow boots.

And now, as I write this, it is nearly 11pm and so hot in our apartment that the window is open. It's 81 degrees outside and supposed to be in the upper 70s all week. Now that's what I call a gift unlooked-for.

Also, Undercover Brother is one of the most criminally underrated movies in the past decade. :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2007


As I write this I'm listening to the song "Say the Words," by DC Talk. When I was a kid I had a game for our Mac LCII called "Hellcats Over the Pacific," which I used to play endlessly. It was one of the most simplistic flight sims around, but I enjoyed it immensely. I used to listen to the album this song is from, Free At Last, on my GE portable tape player, while playing the game, and to this day every time I hear any song from it (particularly the one I'm listening to now) I am bombarded by images of blue seas, green fields, a grey cockpit, and Zeros honing in on my position.

You ever have that happen? It's cool when it does, man. Like, this other album, Flood, by They Might Be Giants, was the soundtrack to my paper route when I was in ninth grade. I would blast it through my tiny little Sony earbuds (from the same old tape player) while delivering papers through rain, snow, and the gloom of afternoon, pausing it only long enough to refill my 52-ounce mug with Pepsi, and get a pack of Sugar Daddies, from the Kwik Shop on Fremont and Touzalin. Now, every time I hear any song from that album I can immediately picture all manner of images from that route I traced every day after school with my bike rack stuffed full of newspapers.

Kind of neat when memories sneak up on you and smack you straight across the face, eh? Nice.

I'm on my third cup of hot chocolate today, mostly because it's delicious but also because the bitter chill of winter shot an early warning volley across our bow last night. In fact, we went to look for one of those oil-based space heaters at Target today, and they only have one heater in stock. It's coming, folks, and we want to be ready. But forecasts say we'll hit 70 again this coming week, so maybe we can stave it off a bit longer.

Ok now, back to work. And then to Metroid Prime 3, which continues to be one of the most outstanding video games I have ever played.

By the by, this is my 200th post here on The Brighter Side. It is also the debut post of my new title bar icon, which I drew myself (all 256 pixels of it!) using GraphicConverter. Thanks for reading, everyone! *lifts mug* Here's to many more!


Well, I sold my GameCube on eBay a few weeks ago, and technically I sold my GameBoy Player as well. Trouble is, the guy who bought the latter never paid me. It's no big deal, really, because on eBay one never ships an item until one is paid for it. Thankfully eBay lets you relist items for free when that sort of thing happens. So I did, and the auction ends next Friday night. I'm hoping for $25-30 for it, but we'll see.

My cousin Beth was over last night, as with the previous Friday, because she has class on Saturday morning at a university near our house, and lives about an hour away. The three of us had homemade tacos for dinner, went to a Coffee Shop, watched a movie called On A Clear Day, and made some yummy popcorn too. It was a great way to spend the evening.

Oh, and on said Tacos I used the delicious Amigo's Taco Sauce that my brother and his girlfriend sent to me. Wow, you two. Thanks for sending those! It was like paradise in a corn shell.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Excellent news, this is

Star Wars Comes to Saint Paul

I waited in line for nearly three days to see Episode I. Suffice it to say I will be visiting this exhibit as soon as it opens.

Many thanks to my wonderful wife for sending me this link, by the way. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Pay/Mail It Forward

Now this is one of those tiny little things that kind of gives people a renewed faith in humanity...

It showed up in our mailbox today, along with a package from my brother's girlfriend that was missing just over four-bits worth of stamps. Thanks, Mr. Mailman!

Even better, if such a thing is possible, was the contents of the package. A nice card from the two of them, some photos, and wouldn't you know it, sweet nectar from on high, in packet form:

(I put a quarter in the photo to show scale. Without it, the packets looked as big as couch cushions.)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I wrote this email about 10 minutes ago to my brother Tom in response to a question he asked me regarding megapixels on a digital camera.

Here's the deal with megapixels: you're correct in that anything above 3-4 is kind of pointless. The bigger issue is the *quality* of the megapixels you do have. You could have a 10 megapixel camera with a crappy image sensor, and it will take very bad photos. Andy's old camera was 4 megapixel but the photos were excellent quality because it was a high-quality image that his camera captured.

However, let's say that you want to do a lot of cropping and whatnot. Like, you take a picture of Dan on a unicycle but there's a ton of stuff in the background that you don't want. If you took the picture on 3 megapixels and then cropped it, your pixel count would also be greatly reduced. However, if you took it at 5 or 7, then cropped it, it would still look fine.

The only time it really matters is when you are talking about actual printed versions, though. Let me give you a few examples. We have two photos on our wall that we blew up to 8.5 X 11 inches. The photos are of the Montana skyline in the winter and during summer. But each photo clocks in at just under 3 megapixels. And NODOBY knows. You can't even tell. We have another photo of us leaving the church at our wedding, which we cropped to 1119 X 1119 pixels, which means it is about 1 megapixel. We blew it up to a full-page photo in our wedding album, and nobody can even tell that it's not a "good" photo. As a final example, Eve has a photo of her dog, Maggie, that was pulled from a short video clip I took. It is a 640 X 480 image, which means it's 0.3 megapixels. As in, one third of a megapixel. Well, the we have a print of the photo on our wall, and nobody can tell the difference.

So what does it all mean? Learn to use your camera. Megapixels mean jack squat, man. It's all about lighting, shutter speed, white balance, exposure...all sorts of stuff that I don't even really understand. It's about the quality of the photo, not the number of megapixels.

But, you can't go wrong with setting it to 5 or 7 megapixels either. You'll just waste a bunch of space on your memory card. :)

Incidentally, the picture at the top of this blog is a tiny portion of a 1.9 megapixel photo I took while on vacation a few years ago.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Theatrically Dining

Last night we went to a performance of Les Miserables at this place called the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. We got a sweet two-for-one deal thanks to the ad I saw at Papa Murphys a few weeks ago, and I have to say, because this is my forum to do so, that it was an absolutely exceptional experience. I have seen many productions before, but this was accompanied by a nice dinner as well, which cast a rather classy light on the whole evening. While the food itself wasn't particularly outstanding, it was cool to have a meal before watching an incredible stage production. And oh, what a show it was. I read the book when I was in high school but forgot everything about it except the main character's name, Jean ValJean. The story is about a man's transformation from lowly urchin to respectable father figure amidst the backdrop of the French revolution. His counterpart is Javert, the police inspector who strives to do his duty at any cost, even when he can clearly distinguish between the letter and the spirit of the law. The performance was epic in scope, even on a rather smallish stage, and the production values were through the proverbial roof. Altogether an outstanding evening.

Before the show we went to visit some relatives who live near the theatre, and listened to one of them, my cousin Esther, play a beautiful piece on her harp. Yeah, harp. That sucker was massive, and I could hardly believe the melodies she was able to delicately coax out of its assortment of strings. I gotta give a major shout-out to my other cousin Eddy, who greeted us at the door standing up all on his own. Way to go, man! The Lord is faithful, and will return you to full health, I know it.

I had leftover rice for lunch, and leftover tuna for dinner, but each old thing was made new by the addition of a ripe juicy tomato, donated by someone at work who left a bucket of them out in the breakroom with a sign that said "Free," which, incidentally, was the same way my friends and I acquired a charcoal grill back in college.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Parking, Lots

So a little while ago somebody biffed our car as it was parked out in front of our apartment. We went shopping, came back, and whoa, there was a dent the size of a soup bowl in the hood. Not cool. So we started parking in the lot in back, which is under video surveillance and all that stuff. And you know what? It's been pretty cool. I was a little leery of it at first, mostly because parking out back mostly, but not entirely, necessitates using the s l o w elevator in our building. I like buzzing out the door, down a quick flight of stairs or two, and out to my car, which is not really possible when I have to wait for the elevator.

So where's the positive in all this? Well, I've discovered that I can use the elevator ride to my advantage, like in the morning on the way to work when I find my podcast for the ol' commute while I am being lowered down to the ground level. Also, pressing the button in the hallway and finding that the machine is right there, on the same floor, is kind of like getting a small little present. And I never know when it's going to happen, which makes it all the better. Also, it's easier to carry lots of groceries in the elevator than it is to lug them up the stairs.

Tom, if you're reading this, I went to Costco today and bought one of those mondo-sized containers of Vitamin C to help fight off this cold I got recently. Dude, those little chewables are tasty!

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Poison Ball

Option 6. Poison
A version of the game allowing “poison” balls is popular. A poison ball is one that has scored all the wickets but hasn't hit the finishing stake. A poison ball may hit any opponent ball and have it removed from the game. Conversely, if an opponent ball hits a poison ball, the poison ball is removed from the game. If a poison ball fully passes through any wicket in any direction, it is removed from the game.

A poison ball does not earn bonus shots for hitting other balls.

Well, I guess that settles that. When I was growing up in Lincoln we allowed one extra shot after the poison ball hit an opponent ball. My family up here, for the most part, goes by the official rules. However, I have never played by the rule that an opponent ball can strike the poison ball, thus eliminating the poison ball. Weird. In any case, croquet is a fantastically fun game (though you might not think so at first glance) and is best played with a hearty dose of extended family members. If there does happen to be a dispute, it might be best to settle it by asking the person whose house you are playing at, or whose set you are using.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

All in a day's...

I can't believe (though I have to, because it's true) how much stuff we did yesterday. Let me see if I can recall...

Took a jaunt over to Minnehaha Falls. Got some great photos, walked to the Mississippi, petted some Alaskan Huskies (I think. They were some sort of massive wolf-type dogs).

Had far too many cheese sticks for lunch back at home

Went for a walk through Como Zoo and Conservatory, which we have been past, but never inside of, many times. For a relatively free zoo and conservatory, it sure was fun. The highlights were a giraffe licking a steel pole with his looooong tongue, and a polar bear doing laps in his pool.

Took a swim in our apartment complex's pool. The first time I have used it, in fact, even though we have lived here for over a year. Met some of our neighbors, too, one who was swimming and played catch with me and my brother, and another who was barbecuing nearby.

Made Chicken Alfredo, which probably does not need to be capitalized, but can you give me a good reason not to? I didn't think so.

Went to my uncle's house in Maple Grove to play croquet, "speed scrabble," and eat cake and ice cream. Speed scrabble is exactly like regular scrabble, save for the fact that you don't take turns. You write down each word and the associated point value as you go, in the event that a dispute is lodged at the end of the game. Give it a try, I'm sure you'll like it.

So yeah, yesterday was pretty cool. Today is my brother's birthday and we're heading up to Saint Cloud to see some family and whatnot. Excellent. :)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Quick Recap

Good gravy, the last few days have brought a veritable onslaught (albeit in a positive sense) of activity. Yesterday we went on a bike ride down the Gateway Trail, a Minnesota State Bike Trail about three miles from our house. It was a great time, and my legs kept pumping (unlike last time) without much of a problem. Getting there, though, required deft maneuvering through busy streets, and even though most had sidewalks, it was still not the best of situations. We don't have a bike rack for our cars yet, so until we get one, we might have to figure out how to continue to not get run over by city buses as we navigate towards the bike trails. :)

Last night we went to the going-away party for the guy from Generation Bob. We met some nice people, played Bocce Ball, and had a couple tasty bratwurst(s) too. Thanks for a good party, Generation Bob Guy, and good luck in New Zealand!

As we arrived home from the party we met up with my brother and his girlfriend who drove here from Nebraska to spend the weekend with us, as well as some extended family. I was super excited to have them come visit, and even though nothing particularly grandiose is planned for the Labor Day holiday, it doesn't matter. Just spending time with family, even if it means going on a walk to a lake or going to church together, seems to enhance the very act of living somehow.

Oh, and before I forget, here's the books I've read this summer, followed by my rating for each:

Rescued, by John Bevere (8/10)
A Separate Peace, by John Knowles (7/10)
Candide, by Voltaire* (7/10)
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd* (6/10)
A Meaningful World, by Jonathan Wiker and Benjamin Witt (10/10)

I think I may have read one more in there somewhere, but if I think of it, I'll edit this post to include it. Technically the last book wasn't read this summer, but during the past several months. I did, however, finish it this summer.

*listened to on CD while in the car

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Taco Town

Too funny to not watch. Get it quick before NBC makes YouTube remove it!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Liquid Cake Frosting

I enjoy myself a nice tall glass of cream soda from time to time. It's not the kind of pop one can just crack open at any old time--it's best when consumed from a glass, not a can, and preferably after a meal. Perhaps I just enjoy the taste of cold, sparkling vanilla, or perhaps I enjoy that it cannot be quickly quaffed. It's best when sampled a bit at a time over the course of a good movie or internet-surfing session. At any rate, it's delicious stuff and if you haven't had any in a while, you might want to give it a try.

So far my Firefox experience has been a good one, mostly due to another great theme which was recommended to me by some posters on the IGN Mac boards. It's not quite as zippy as Safari, but far more reliable, and far more extendable thanks to myriad plug-ins and whatnot that have been written over the years.

I had a mean case of the hiccups tonight which was cured in about 30 seconds thanks to a technique I read about back in February. I'm not kidding, it seriously worked. :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Saving Soles

I just finished a book entitled "Rescued," by John Bevere and Mark Andrew Olsen, and I highly recommend it for pretty much everyone. It's kind of an adventure story, but with an amazing spiritual twist near the end. I don't want to give away much, so I won't, but if you're looking for a good book (that is, incidentally, a fairly quick read as well) to pass the time, you should check it out.

While I was finishing the book I took a short break and threw a pair of my old shoes in the laundry. One of my uncles told me about doing this a while back, and I figured I'd try it on a pair of Vans I got about two years ago that had become extremely soiled. They were, most recently, my work shoes for my summer job, which often involved outdoor work as well as floor waxing. So I threw 'em in the wash, along with a couple shirts and a dirty pair of jeans, and they seem to have turned out just fine. One might even say they have been given new life, since I was about to give up on them altogether due to their thoroughly dirty state of existence. I once extended the life of a pair of Vans by several months with the application of several layers of glue where they were wearing out on the bottom. I guess the lesson here has something to do with Vans, or perhaps washing machines. I'm not sure.

This morning I also tried, once again, switching to Firefox as my main browser. I go through this phase every few months, and usually end up going right back to Safari, but perhaps this time it will last a bit longer. I found a cool theme for Firefox which greatly helps too. So we'll see how it goes, but don't be too surprised (not like you would even know, though) if I'm back to Safari by the end of the day. :)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Stately Faring

Last night we went to see Pirates 3 at the $2 theatre near our house, which was preceded by a visit to a local burger restaurant called Snuffy's. I was thoroughly confused for much of the movie, so I decided to not think about what was actually happening and watch for cool special effects and the like instead. All in all it was a decent movie, and I would enjoy seeing it again now that my wife has explained almost everything I did not understand, but not as good as the first one. It seems as though what began as a fun summer distraction has turned into an overwrought tale of mysticism and betrayal, a story struggling to match Lord of the Rings in terms of epic scope, but ultimately failing due to inherently weaker source material. But hey, it's got pirates and stuff blowing up, so as I said, I'm eager to see it again. :)

It's State Fair time in Minnesota, or, as I heard it described on KTLK, "The Great Minnesota Get-Together." I liked going to the Nebraska state fair when I was a kid, but mostly for the rides. When I outgrew the rides, I guess I stopped being interested in much of what the fair had to offer, and that continues to this day. I mean, the fair is cool and all, but I guess it's just not very interesting to me personally. I like the idea of eating lots of odd fried food concoctions on a stick, but not the idea of, well, going to the fair to do it. I'm not really into agriculture and animals, but I do think it's cool to have stuff of your own to show off. If I grew some prized veggies or whatnot, I'd be proud to show 'em off at the fair. So I guess what I mean is, to those of you who are Getting Together, I'll be elsewhere, but I hope you have a good time. Let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Within Your Means

I recently discovered that my wife and I live rather frugally. Now, I already knew this since, well, I just did. But this list confirms it. Of the 20 suggestions offered, we do roughly 17 of them on a regular basis. I think my favorite item is #8, since we try to go to the dollar theatre by our house as often as possible. Well, not like we're there every night or anything, but every couple weeks we'll hit it up on a Tuesday night when it really is a dollar. Don't get me wrong, though, this is about the most un-classy movie theatre I have ever been in (makes the Joyo look like an AMC), and you really do have to sift through the seats in any given row to find the working ones, but it really is hard to beat the price. We just saw Evan Almighty and Ocean's 13 there, and next week it will probably be the third Pirates of the Caribbean or Waitress (why Waitress? I shan't dignify the question...).

Tonight we helped the guy from Generation Bob (can I use your real name?) move his piano into storage before his year-long furlough in New Zealand. Afterwards we went out for some Dairy Queen which, for those of you who don't live in Minnesota, is one of these people's favorite summer pasttimes. Lemme tell you, they like themselves some summertime up here, and that usually means very long lines at any given ice cream shoppe. But what a most delicious way to pass the time. :) Anyway, thanks for the ice cream, Mr. GB, and best of luck on your trip!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thy sea is so great, and my boat is so small

Well, the big storm turned out to be about two days of slow rain, which is much better for pretty much everyone who would be affected by rain-type stuff. I like rain no matter how it comes, whether by storm or by drizzle, so it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

Last Sunday we went to Saint Louis for my uncle's funeral. I did not know him very well on a personal basis, but he was a man who fought for every second of his life and never gave an inch. He survived over twenty cancer surgeries and, though he was unable to speak for the last 14 years, continued to be a positive force in his family and at his job throughout all manner of health problems. His faithful wife hardly left his side during the final two months of his life, and has been a model of steadfast character and faithfulness for me and many others. It was wonderful to be with her, her son, and his wife and two children as we mourned their loss and celebrated the new life he how has in Heaven. Through all manner of hardships, Jesus Christ has been a steady rock in a sea of troubles for this family, and often have I looked to them for inspiration and assurance that if we would only trust in the Lord God above, He will see us through to the glorious end.

And oh, how He does. Praise be His name.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Big Storm

Last week it stormed so bad that many trees in our neighborhood were damaged or uprooted altogether. Not the local trees, mind you. I'm talking about the big Corellian trees now. But the storm itself was pretty cool--one of the old-fashioned kind that shows up at night like a party guest and brings a truckload of thunder and lightning. I really enjoy those kind of storms, and have ever since I was a kid. My brothers and I used to run around outside during big honkin' thunderstorms, and ride our bikes around after they left, and build dams in the street to divert the water, and other such things that young boys do for fun. Often my parents would drive us around in their minivan afterwards to look at the swollen ditches and overflowing streets after a monster storm tore through the area. And that's the kind of storm we had last week, and will probably have again today. It's windy and cloudy and chilly, and the weather radar shows a massive blotch of green, yellow, and red heading this way. I'm pretty excited.

Last night we hung out with our friends Jon and Sarah for a while. I actually changed the oil in my car at Sara's house, since her dad is kind enough to let me use his garage when I need to. We also went to eat at Texas Roadhouse, did some shopping at Kohl's (is it just me, or is every single item in that store perpetually on sale?), and then broke in our new bowling shoes during two games at a bowling alley nearby. Good times, all in all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Van Saywhatagain?

Absent my complete inability to offer commentary on such an announcement, I will let Bob Rivers speak in my stead.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

If Picasso Played Video Games

I sat in line for eight hours at a Wal-Mart to buy my Gamecube the day it came out. I played it for many long hours during the past several years. And now it's one of the many chunks of my life that have gone to that great big internet flea market, eBay. I put it up tonight, along with an accessory that you can use to play Gameboy Advance games:


Gameboy Player

I'm hoping for $50 for the 'Cube, and $30 for the Gameboy Player. What then? Who knows. Possibly a new game for my Wii?

And before I sign off for this entry, let us all pause to remember the Great Internet Crash of 2007...

Another One Joins The Crowd

Congratulations to my friends Drew and Casey, who had their first baby last week. I have known Drew since way back in the day, like my sophomore year of high school or something like that, and I know he's going to be one heck of a dad.

My cousin Jessie is in town for a week, and last Friday we went over to her brother's house and had some hamburgers which were followed by a nice pontoon ride on their lake. I don't know why conversation is enhanced by location, but sitting down in a living room will not yield the same results as the same people sitting down on a pontoon. Or in a car. Or in a booth at a gas station. Or walking down the street. I have often gone driving with friends just to chat, when we could sit at home and do the same thing. But it's just not the same.

Last night we had our friends Jon and Sarah over for delicious tacos and a movie. The tacos were homemade, of course, and the movie was The Pursuit of Happyness. Both were very enjoyable, but the real highlight of the night was when Jon suggested downloading the old (original) Nintendo game "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" for my Nintendo Wii. The four of us took turns battling through the sewers and waterways with Don, Mike, Raph, and Leo (their full names would not fit on the screen), and Sarah even beat this one super hard underwater level on her first try. Noice!

And speaking of games, I should give a shout out to my brother's Inside The Console podcast. Go give it a listen because, well, because I said so. :)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Recalling Genius?

So my wife's laptop battery isn't what it used to be. It holds a charge for about 40 minutes--not nearly long enough to do any reasonable amount of computing. We figured we would be out a cool C-note for a new battery, but just for kicks we took it to the Apple Store near our house. The dude at the help desk (Apple calls them "Mac Geniuses," or I suppose, perhaps properly pluralized, "Mac Genii") took about one-half of one look and happily informed us that her battery was recalled some time ago, and she was entitled to a brand-new one free of charge.

Between that and the Verizon incident, we've had our share of good customer service experiences this week. Drew, are you reading this? I know you would appreciate it. :)

Anyway, we filled out a quick online form and that was about it. Not too shabby, says I.

If any of you are interested in doing crosswords, I highly suggest starting on your local newspaper's Monday puzzle. They are usually easy, and increase in difficulty through Friday, at which point you may want to incinerate your newspaper out of sheer frustration. We bought a book of Monday crosswords a few weeks ago and I can now solve *most* of one by myself, save for one or two letters. It's more fun when solving with another person, though, and my wife and I are often able to get most of a Washington Post crossword done too. Just thought I'd share.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ask And Ye Shall Receive

My wife and I like to send text messages with our cell phones, but Verizon charges a hefty penny for each one sent and received. If I text my wife it costs $.30 ($.15 for me to send, and $.15 for her to receive), and when you multiply that by a couple dozen in a month, things really start to add up. So this afternoon I called up Verizon and asked what they could offer us lest we switch carriers. The lady, Jane, with whom I spoke, was very polite and helpful, and eventually hooked us up with a sweet deal that gives us something like 250 texts a month for $5 per month, where normally that same deal is $10 per month. Not bad, says I! Emboldened with my sword of consumerism, I plan on calling up Comcast in the next few days to see what they can do for us too. $60 per month for internet? Come on... :)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ex Post Wedding

*whew* It was one heck of a trip, partly because the wedding was so much fun but also because it was such a fast trip all in all. We left Saturday at 9am and got back this afternoon about 3pm. Madison is about four hours from here, give or take, so you do the math. It was totally worth it, though, as the wedding was beautiful and the reception was so darn fun. We consumed massive amounts of soda along with pre- and post-dinner appetizers. In fact, the latter was something I had not experienced at a wedding until now: about two hours after dinner, in the middle of "Ice Ice Baby," I was told that there was a pile of chips and cheese squares in the anteroom along with copious amounts of guacamole, sour cream, and salsa. It wasn't as good as the post-dinner Amigos run at my brother Phil's wedding, but it was close. All food comments aside, though, we both had a wonderful time and wish the new couple all God's blessings on their marraige.

(The following paragraph contains spoilers about 24. Highlight the text to see them)

After we got home we finished the final two episodes from the first season of 24. I am pleased that the show has graduated from its transparent attempts at overtely shocking its audience, from the first few episodes, to building several thoroughly entertaining dramatic conflicts throughout the season and then wrapping them all neatly up at the end. Even down to the final seconds, the show was engaging and quite literally kept me guessing as to how in the world things would actually end up, especially with Nina and her connections to the Drazen's people. While I think the ending scene when Jack's wife died was a rather blatant attempt to resort to that original in-your-face SHOCK value, it did fit the show's tradition of keeping its audience guessing. And, I have to admit, I do eagerly anticipate beginning the second season. :)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Wisconsin Wedding

In about 20 minutes we're off to Madison for a wedding. Should be a nice bite-sized road trip with lots of good people to see at the ceremony and reception.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Bridge Is Out

Thank you to everyone who called during the past two days to see if we are doing OK (we are, in fact, just fine, and were safely at home during yesterday's evening rush hour). My wife and I appreciate the kind thoughts and words from all of you, and we all continue to pray for the families of those affected by the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge.

I went down to the scene this morning before work to see if I could get some video or photos of the disaster, but was not allowed anywhere near. In fact, the police officers had blocked off nearly all viewpoints from which a person could see the bridge, which was a little frustrating but probably a very good idea in hindsight. They have a job to do, and don't need bystanders like me fouling it up. I was a bit snippy with a police officer who would not let me go on to a walking bridge to get some footage, and I feed very bad for it. He was just doing his job, and I should have been more respectful. Sorry, man.

Good gravy, it's been a busy day. Time to watch the fourth-last episode of season one of 24 and then head to bed. G'night everyone.

Oh, and one more thing. I changed the look of the navigation buttons on Ringsmuth Video. Yeah, it's a small thing, but I do like a good, if not all that significant, site tweaking.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Shifty Shrek Seats

We went to see "Shrek the Third" at the cheap theatre tonight, and the theatre experience was actually much more entertaining than the movie itself. We had to move seats because my wife initially sat down and found that her seat was moving out of control in at least one horizontal direction. Someone up front held up a lighter during a slow song of the movie. Someone else up front raised his hands as if to say "Touchdown!" during another part. Four small children literally ran up and down the aisle for about five minutes during the movie. There was even a handmade sign on the way into the building that said "We do not accept plastic. That really really is the honest truth." The best part? It was one dollar each to get in. Now that's economy. And a pretty decent time overall, followed by a trip to the libary to snag two novels for my wife.

Thanks to a recommendation from my cousin Beth I have started listening to a podcast called "WNYC's Radio Lab." It's interesting and thought-provoking, though a little heavy on the secular/atheist side at times (modern morality, as they incorrectly hypothesized, may well come from our "inner chimp." sigh), but pretty cool nonetheless.

I went to my cousin Matt's new house today. Holy lakeshore property, Batman! It's a very nice chunk of land on a lake about 40 minutes from our house, and I hope to go back soon, especially to visit my cousin Jessie who will be staying there for a week, in about a week.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

An Easy Day's Night

Went to Saint Cloud to hang with the family today. The extended variety, that is, which consisted of two aunts, two uncles, several cousins, and some of their friends. It's nice to live close enough that we can just hop skip and jump up there for an afternoon and still have time for just the two of us after we get back. While we were up there my uncle Frank let me borrow his tripod which I will be using to record a wedding on Friday. And my cousin Erik was there with his iPhone, which was super slick. A bunch of us spent an hour playing volleyball in the back yard, which was a great time, especially since the teams were very evenly matched.

My cousin Beth, who made a delicious grilled chicken salad for lunch, and her boyfriend went with us to get some bowling shoes, which we got from a sport's store called Dunham's after checking with Wal-Mart and Sheels. The salesdude was super patient, especially since we got there right as they were closing too. We're really excited to try 'em out on Wednesday night, and we figure after a few years they will pay for themselves too. Thanks, Mr. Salesdude!

On tap for the evening, then: some West Wing, some web site coding, and some caffeine-free Mountain Dew.

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Meaning of Life

According to my uncle Pete, it's "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."

This evening I had a free dinner courtesy of Chipotle. They sent me a card in the mail a month ago that I could use for one free burrito, no strings attached, from their new location about two miles from our house. So I went and got the biggest burrito I have ever had from there (I'm not kidding, it was huge), and ate it while watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Not only did I get a free lunch (well, dinner...), but it was coupled with Star Trek. Now, I'm not saying my uncle is wrong, but it's hard to argue with results, eh?

My brother Tom called me tonight to let me know he was driving behind one of those Google cars that takes pictures of basically everything in their path (sort of a Unicron of photography) and puts it online in their "Street" view on Google Maps. I freaked out and told him to try to get his picture taken by them, and then I had to go because I was right near Chipotle and can't very well drive while hungry and chatting on a cell phone. So here's hoping Tom and his old red minivan are immortalized forever (which Pete would say is redundant) on Google Maps for all to see. Good luck, Tom!

Oh, and MONSTER props to JVA, who have put most of their new record online. Listen to it!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The O.C. to the B

So today at work, in another stunning display of generosity, a coworker bought lunch for me and the five guys I work with. It was the second time this has happened, and both times we were simply told to go wherever we wanted to eat. Last time it was Chipotle, makers of the best burritos pretty much ever, and this time it was Old Country Buffet. Now, I'm not a huge fan of buffet food, because most buffets offer a stunning quantity of stunningly average food. And true to form, this one was no exception. But it was an excellent and most welcome respite from the daily grind, which actually isn't really that bad in and of itself, but work nonetheless. We had a great time, though it was capped by possibly too much ice cream with too many toppings.

This evening I took my video camera back to the place I bought it, which was not a Best Buy or online retailer. It was a place called National Camera where the camera itself was more expensive than many other outlets such as the ones I just mentioned. I got it there, though, because I knew I could take it in if I had any problems and my chances of finding answers and solutions were much greater than a Best Buy or online retailer. So anywho, my camera was having a bit of an issue and the guy who spoke with me tonight ("Chris," one of the managers) was very helpful. Unbelievably helpful, in fact, to someone who has grown tired of the casual detachment that passes for service at other places such as, well, you get the point. In fact, this Chris dude just chatted with me about video compression formats, computer software, camera mechanics, and other things just for the heck of it while he cleaned my camera free of charge. Most excellent.

We watched a movie called "Shark Tale" tonight, which I continually compared to its counterpart, "Finding Nemo." Such a comparison is unfortunate, since the two films are vastly different and share only the medium in which their stories were told, but inevitable, since they are both ultimately about talking fish. Dreamworks seems more like a one-trick pony with every film they produce, its trick being weak and superficial parodies of pop culture strung along with fairly thin storylines. This holds true for the "Shrek" films (though I have not seen the third) and certainly for "Shark Tale." Pixar movies are rich multi-layered stories that rarely dip into the vast but shallow bucket of pop culture parody, and are all the more timeless and endearing for it. I suppose it also doesn't help matters, as far as Dreamworks is concerned, that I watched "The Incredibles" and "Finding Nemo" last week. But that's how things go, I guess. The moral of the story? I really want to go see "Ratatoullie." I also want to see "Transformers" again, but that doesn't really have anything to do with the rest of this entire post.