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