Thursday, December 25, 2008

And unto you

It's not about presents
or trees
or lights
or music
or decorations.

It's not about family
or friends
or trips
or cards
or phone calls.

It's not about caroling
or hymns
or wassailing
or cider
or hot chocolate.

It's not about "Holidays"
or Santa
or elves
or reindeer
or sleigh bells.

It's not about so many things
we think about
and talk about
and preach about
and get worked up about.

It's about a sinful race
in need of a savior
who was born
to die
for us.

It's about Him.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Ten Below

I can't remember the last time it was this cold. Probably sometime last year, but my brain likely froze and thus the memory was never seared into my cerebral cortex. At any rate, it's super duper cold, and there's a foot of snow on the ground. The bright side? For starters, our apartment doesn't charge us for heat. :) I used to have a Warm Mist humidifier in my bedroom back in kollij, and on nights like last night I would set it to 'max,' so I would wake up on mornings like this to a veritable tropical vacation. We don't quite do the same now, but it's still nice to have a cozy comfy place to live on morning like this. Last night we went out to eat with my cousin and his wife, and then came back here for some board games and Guitar Hero. All the while, we were waiting to hear from my cousing Jessie who was at the Airport in Atlanta, anxiously awaiting the boarding call of her flight up to the Cities. Her original flight was scheduled to depart at 1. It was cancelled, though, because there was too much snow up here for it to land. Major bummer.

She ended up waiting at the airport for almost the entire day, only to find out that her only option was to take a plane on Monday. Ouch. But, a few days late is better than crashing and burning on a frozen runway...

We are actually heading out for Montana in a few hours, where we will spend the week visiting family, eating too much junk food, and watching The West Wing. After that it's a trip to Lincoln for much of the same, but with the added benefit of seeing my two-and-a-half-year-old niece, as well as Amigo's and Valentino's. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tomorrow's gonna be great

I just finished a video project for my uncle's newsletter company, and I'm nearly finished with another one for my work. There's also a wedding and two video slide shows on the horizon, and I think the only real big expense we have to take care of in the next year or so is a set of good tripod legs and our journey toward the Video Side will be complete. Until we go full-on HD, that is, but that could be a few years yet. High-grade standard definition video is doing fine for us right now. :)

Just last week I found out about (gasp!) a cheapo movie theatre not too far from our place. It's no Roseville 4, but then, few things are. It should suit us well, though, and we might hit up a flick there this weekend. I wouldn't mind seeing Wall-E or The Dark Knight again, but Eagle Eye looks pretty good. We'll see (har!).

24 hours from now we will most likely be rolling on the floor, with our friends Jon and Sarah, after eating *way* too much build-your-own pizza. My wife and I picked up the crust and cheese, and the two of them went to get the fixin's tonight. They will probably be here around 6:30 and we'll spend a while crafting the perfect pizza pies, which in my and Jon's case will involve at least one pound of Italian Sausage, one pound of cheese, lots of mushrooms, get the idea. We are also going to, thanks to Sarah, watch Home Alone while punishing our colons. Thankfully there's Wii Bowling to help us drop the extra poundage afterwards.

Speaking (or writing) of video games, my wife and I have been playing a game called Star Trek Conquest recently. It's no Metroid Prime Corruption or Halo, but it's actually a pretty good time. It's kind of a simple turn-based conquer-the-galaxy game, but that format allows us to play a few rounds and then come back later for some more.

Alright, time to get outta here. Later.

Oh, and if anyone knows a good place to pick up Chrono Trigger DS, lemme know.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

"One Hundred, K?"

Our 1998 Corolla, William, hit 100,000 miles today. Awww... The little guy's been so good to us for the past few years after we rescued him from his former owners, and we hope to drive him for at least double his current mileage before sending him out to pasture many years from now.

Well, that's the hope, anyway. And with any luck (and continued frequent oil changes, thanks in no small part to Sarah's dad's garage, and my dad's garage too) we'll get him there.

We made our special chili the other night, and while it might not be up to Andy's standards, it suits us just fine--especially when coupled with a large dosage of corn bread and crackers. Even better, it tastes great even as leftovers, so one night's feast turns into a week's worth of lunch for me at work. Aw yeah.

Oh, and get this. I lost not only my copy of The Two Towers, but also my new water bottle, on our trip to Georgia last weekend. Major drag, huh? But Sunday afternoon we rectified the book situation, and tonight before dinner we made a quick trip to REI to pick up another of their cheapest water bottles. Since we don't go hiking or snowbooting or whatever, we had to hide behind a stack of Power Bars to get away from the clerks who were stalking us and trying to sign us up for memberships. Thankfully we made it out alive without any caribbeaners or Columbia pants--just a simple water bottle, thank you very much.

Time for bed.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

And back again

Once again, for the fourth year in a row, we spent Thanksgiving away from home, but for the first time since moving to Minnesota, we did not go back to Lincoln. No, this year we went down south to visit my wife's family in Georgia. We try to make it there at least once a year, and since our last trip down there was in the summer of 2007, we thought Thanksgiving would be as good of a time as any to head for the deep south for a few days. And it was.

Much of our time there was spent, like most of our vacations, not doing anything in particular except spending time with friends or, in this case, family. We watched some movies, played some Nintendo (me and a few of the younger kids logged a truckload of hours playing Mario Kart DS and Picto Chat), ran errands, went on walks, had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, and tried to sleep in as much as we could too. It was, like most of our vacations, all too short, and we hope to make it back before another year goes past.

Saturday we met up with my cousin Jessie in Macon, and the three of us drove to my other cousin's house in Atlanta where we spent the evening visiting with her husband and four young kids. Her parents came by too, and it's always good to see them even though there were no card games this time around.

Today my wife and I, after getting back to our place around noon, put up our Christmas tree, rearranged the DVD rack (yay for Wallyworld's $2 Black Friday DVDs!), got some schoolwork done, and finished watching a movie called Man of the Year. I hope, as I often do, to go to bed early tonight, but, as often happens, I will probably get distracted and stay up late on the computer or something.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nine O'Clock and All's Well

What a week it's been.

Actually, what a week and a few days it's been.

Last Sunday at this time I was driving back from Lincoln, having gone down for my friend Rachel's wedding, and listening to some tunes and podcasts while tooling across the midwest on Highway 169. It was a great drive, and the perfect way to top off a good weekend. I got to town late Friday, spent Saturday working on my car in my dad's garage, going to Amigo's with friends and family, and then seeing lots of people at the wedding and reception. My brother Phil had the highlight of the evening, with a flawless recitation of White and Nerdy on the dance floor. Actually, Phil even let me be a guest on his weekly video game podcast, Inside the Console, and we discussed our Christmas Wish Lists and lots of other video game goodness. Good friends, good times...great weekend.

Last week I was at work for almost 80 hours, which kind of explains the lack of any new blog posts recently, but things are settling down this week and coming back to more of an equilibrium, which is always nice. In fact, this afternoon my wife and I went to church for an afternoon of board games, which was pretty fun. We started off by playing The Allowance Game with a little girl, her mom, and a few other ladies. Each player starts with $3.50 and the goal is to be the first person to reach $20, which is a lot harder than it seems. I challenged our pastor to several rounds of three-dimensional tic-tac-toe, most of which were won by him, and we finished off the afternoon with a game of Yahtzee. There were even door prizes, and my wife walked away with a box of Chex-Mix Snack Bars, and I got a box of chocolate Turtles.

Time to check the ol' Facebook account and head for bed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Standing in line (for the show tonight?)

I got to my polling place at about 6:50 this morning, thinking ten minutes would be plenty early. I planned to avoid long lines, get in, vote, and get out as quick as possible. A simple smash and grab job, if you will. Turns out, as these things have a habit of doing, it wasn't exactly that simple. When I got there, the parking lot was jammed, and by the time I found my place in the line there were at least 60 other dutiful citizens ahead of me, all eager to avoid themselves.

Thankfully, though, I planned ahead, and as I took my place behind the very tall, very bearded, man in front of me, I whipped out my Nintendo DS and started playing some Mario Kart while awaiting the opening of the gates of destiny. Or, the front doors of the apartment lobby where we were all voting. I'm not kidding, there are few better ways to pass the time than with a Nintendo DS. If only my fellow Americans had thought of the same thing, we could have done some sweet line-waiting Picto Chat. :)

Speaking of games, last Friday I found the ultimate mind puzzle/time waster in my bag as I left for work: a Rubik's Cube. I have wanted one for a long time, but never actually gone out and purchased one. My wife, though, knowing my fondness for the nine-sided insanity-inducer, got one for me and slipped it in my little "stuff to take to work" bag. I haven't solved the thing, and will probably need help from the internet or some friends, but it sure is cool to play around with the little puzzler. I can get one face, and almost two additional rows, but beyond that all heck breaks loose, the second law of thermodynamics kicks in, and I'm right back to the multicolored mess with which I began. It sure is cool, though.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Once more, for the win?

It was nearly a year ago that my wife and I purchased an external 320-gig hard drive because we were just plain running out of spizzace. In the meantime our storage needs have, as expected, grown though mostly due to some summer Video projects. Well, a few months ago we sold my old eMac when we bought the snazzy new iMac, and just this week used the cash to pick up a gigantor one terabyte hard drive, bringing our total external storage to just a shade over 1.5 terabytes. Hyoooge.

The purpose of said new drive? Backing up everything. I've got it split into two partitions: one for my iMac to back up using Time Machine, and one for my wife's iBook to back up manually (she's still got OSX Tiger installed). Since I've only got a 320-gig disk in the iMac, and she's only got an 80-gig disk in her iBook, the new drive should tide us over for a while.

Clockwise, starting from top:
250 gig Western Digital drive in a shifty BYTECC case
320 gig Seagate drive in a Maxtor case with a gratuitous white button on the front
Dual-layer Pioneer CD/DVD burner
New 1 TB Seagate drive in a Maxtor case that looks like it's a dorsal fin for our desk

Also pictured:
Red Swingline stapler
Imperial Scout Trooper on a rolling model of a speeder bike from the Battle of Yavin

Not pictured:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Treading Lightly

Two weeks ago I, um, kind of biffed one of the tires on our car. I didn't exactly see part of the curb as I was pulling in, and, well, you can probably see where this is going. Anyway, I hit the curb, got out to check things, and found a nice little bulge in the sidewall of the front passenger tire. No big deal, really, but not something I wanted to drive on during my half-hour commute (I once drove for weeks on a tire on which the tread was hanging on by a couple pieces of hair-thin rubber). Thankfully, we had a warranty on it, so $9 later our little black Corolla, "William," was nicely outfitted with a brand-new rubber sole.

Trouble was, it turned out that the other three tires were nearing the end of their round little lives. So today I took him in to get new kicks on the rest of his little 14-inch rims. Even though the bill was higher than I was expecting, it's nice to know we're all set for a few years of tooling around town in our little car.

I also started watching Band of Brothers again. I tried watching this series many years ago, but only made it through the first disc or two--not because it was boring or poorly-realized, but I think I stopped out of sheer apathy. And in the meantime I have, off and on, been meaning to give it another go. So this morning I started up again, and so far it's pretty good. I appreciate how much time it's taking to get things rolling, in fact. It bodes well for the rest of the tale, knowing that the filmmakers will have the freedom to really explore the relationships between the characters, and how they change throughout the course of Easy Company's time in World War II Europe. I know plenty of guys who say it's the definitive World War II chronicle, so here's hoping it can hold its own next to Saving Private Ryan.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


(Sometimes you just gotta put on some Pearl Jam...)

So Arizona was pretty cool, and by that, I mean warm. Not super warm, like over 100 degrees, but nice and, oh, post-summer ish. The last time I was in that part of the country was when my friends and I drove to Vegas in one night for a wedding (no, not that kind of wedding. the bride and groom both lived in Vegas, silly) and I had forgotten just how devoid of greenery the whole region is. I mean, there's plenty of cacti and everything, but getting off the plane back here in the Twin Cities just made me realize how (can I say this without sounding too hippie?) lush everything is up here. We had a good time down south, though, and I got to see my friend Matt whom I haven't hung out with in years. We were in a band way back in college, and it was great to hang out with him for a while on Sunday night.

Mega props, by the way, to Mary, the mother of my wife's friend, who let us stay at her place for the weekend. There was all kinds of food to be had, and she made a delicious breffist on Sunday morning too. Way better than a hotel, for sure. :)

Time to go flip the laundry. It's gotta be done by now for sure.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A to Z

We're off to Arizona in a few hours to see some friends and attend a wedding (the former of which would not be taking place without the latter). I have been to Nevada twice, but never Arizona, and I'm pretty excited about the...uh, well, the catci, I suppose. To be honest, I'm not really sure what they have out in the great southwest, but Phoenix (where we will be staying) is a pretty gigantic city, so there's gotta be something.

At the very least, it will be nice and warm. Westward...ho!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sunday, rainy Sunday

Sleep until 8:30...check

Wake up to sound of dripping rain...check

Temperature...45 degrees.

Look in the pantry for some hot chocolate...check.

"It's gonna be a good day." :)

And you know what? It was. Despite all semblances to the contrary when I got up this morning, things turned out just fine after all. Our church had a 60th Birthday celebration (i.e. a catered lunch) after the morning service, and my wife and I helped out with drinks--making sure the tables were well-supplied with water and coffee. We took home lots of leftovers, which means I'll be eating in style at work this week. And later on, things warmed up and we were able to go on a nice walk around our neighborhood, which we try to do as often as possible even if it's cold out.

I guess this is how non-native Minnesotans* adjust to the fall. :)

This weekend my cousin Beth was down for a visit, and last night we made some excellent tacos for dinner and then headed off to the mother of all home stores, IKEA, so she could get some stuff for her new apartment. My wife and I ended up spending about $11 on a couple home-furnishing things like a scented candle, some tupperware, and a CD holder for the ol' car stereo. We drove across the new I-35W bridge, which in and of itself was none too remarkable, but it was pretty cool that downtown Minneapolis is now much more accessible than it used to be. I saw the ruined bridge many times, and not only is it a little weird to think that it actually's not a little weird to think that it's all fixed. And driveable.

So, yeah. All in all, a good weekend. Time to read some more of The Two Towers, download a couple podcasts, and head for bed.

*I was born here, and lived in central MN until I was almost six, but for all intents and purposes, I'm basically a Nebraskan. :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Big Three-Oh

We went to visit The Fam in Lincoln last weekend for my brother Andy's 30th birthday party, and it was pretty awesome. First off, we made the trip in our 1992 Geo Prizm (don't laugh, it's paid for, sucka) which finally hit 168,000 miles. Even though it's old, it still keeps going strong, so we keep it around and probably will do so for a while yet. Anyway, we got to town late Friday, went to bed, and I got up around 8:30 the next morning so I could change the oil and get things rolling for the day. I met up with Andy for lunch at one of Lincoln's fine eateries, D'Leon's, and had one of the best burritos I have eaten in many moons. Seriously, it was super delicious, and pretty cheap too.

(I gotta say, for all the Big City-ness of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, there is a dearth of small-time Mexican eating establishments, which is part of the reason I like Amigo's so much: there's just no Minnesota equivalent. At least none that I know of. Same goes for Taco Inn and the aforementioned D'Leon's.)

Saturday evening my whole family was over, along with my uncle Pete, to celebrate Andy's birthday even though we were, technically, a few days early in doing so. Andy invited some of his friends from church and we all watched the Huskers game on his homemade big-screen, which was the exactly kind of over-the-top venture I would expect from Andy. :) We had a great time, ate tons of good food (thanks Mom!), and even got in some Croquet and Bocce Ball action too. At halftime we all watched the slide show I made for Andy's birthday, which you can take a look at if you want to.

Today, back in MN, things were getting decidedly Fall-like, and I made my first cup of hot chocolate for the season. As long as it's getting cold, might as well enjoy it with a steaming mug of chocolately goodness...

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Great Debate

I go to Costco a few times a week, mostly for gas, milk, and cheese, on which we save enough on to effectively take care of our $50/year membership. But today was one of those days when I had to be at work late, so I stopped at the Food "Court" (can a place that serves six total menu items really be called a Court?) and stared at the same food choices as always, but stuck in the debate which has, even after more than two years, left me with no easy answer:

Is it better to get a Polish Dog and pop for $1.50, or a slice of pizza and a pop for $2.58?

There's the economical side of things, which tells me that the Polish option is a better deal. It also includes Sauerkraut, which is super tasty. It also is cheap enough that I can justify purchasing a Berry Sundae for $1.65 and not feel too guilty in the morning.

But then I'm left with a soda and a Berry Sundae, which is about four pounds more sugar than anyone should really eat in one sitting.

So another option is to get the pizza slice alone, for $1.99, and a cup of water, which is free. I'm then left to get the Berry Sundae with only spending about 50 cents more than if I had purchased it with the Polish, and I can feel extra good about m'self since I had good ol' H2O to wash down the 'za.

Anyway, I ended up going with the Pizza Option, with a pop, which is usually enough to last the evening. The real question, though, is which would Obama or McCain choose?

...and would they consider the churro? it's so delicious...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Muchos Nachos

I was given free nachos for lunch today.

And then again for supper.

It rained after work, and I got to see a massive lightning bolt strike the ground.

I got a new CD this week and I'm listening to it now and it's awesomeness is staggering.

What once was lost (the screw-in thingey to stir the popcorn in our popcorn maker) now is found (I ordered a new screw-in thingey and it arrived two days ago).

My new water bottle is BPA-free and just the right size for my hands.

I'm putting the finishing touches on our final wedding video of the summer.

My wife and I are going to a friend's house for dinner tomorrow.

I changed the oil in our car yesterday without spilling hardly a drop.

Yes, it's been a good week.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Three months to go

I like to measure time in how long it has been since Christmas, or how long it will be until Christmas. It sort of puts things in a weird perspective: today, for example, is September 15. That means there is precisely three months and ten days until Christmas. Wow. In just over three months we will have gone to Georgia, gone to Montana, hopefully gone to Lincoln, finished the school play, and nearly come to the end of the semester.

That was a haiku.

This weekend, though, was very busy in a relaxed sort of way. We didn't have to go out of town, or go anywhere special, or do anything momentous, and for those reasons it was just a nice easygoing weekend. I slept in yesterday and today, and my wife and I both got a lot of stuff done around the house too. But my cousin Beth was over last night, which was really cool. And this morning I taught my second Sunday School class of the year at our church. And this afternoon I delivered some flyers to houses in the area for a meeting at our church tomorrow. Yesterday morning I went to the camera store and got one of our video cameras back from its covered-under-warranty head cleaning, and in a little while my wife and I are going to go to the library. So it's been busy, but not busy, which is really nice. And even though it's kind of dreary and rainy today, and the Vikes lost 18-15, it's still been a great weekend.

And a short disclaimer for those who think I'm being a bit too cheerful here: Winter's coming, which means snow, bitter cold, and about two hours of daylight. I gotta enjoy what I've got while it's here. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pearly Whites

I went to the dentist today for my six-month checkup, and as I hoped for, everything was fine--no cavities, no gingivitis, no lectures about tartar buildup...just a clean bill of dental health. I'm not kidding, ever since I was a kid I have had a terrible fear of the dentist, and have never ever liked going even for a checkup. When I was nineteen I had all four wisdom teeth extracted, and they were so huge that my dentist had to drill them out with some sort of tool that looked like it was straight from an episode of 24. I remember taking my CD player (remember those?) and, for over an hour, blasting my ears out so I would not have to listen to the drill-saw-thing, and also to take my mind off the many shots of novocaine I had to endure.

So yeah, anyway, the dentist has never been my favorite place to go, which is partially why I brush my teeth religiously, and floss at least once a day. It's not so much out of a concern for my health as it is to ward off any future Wisdom Teeth Extraction-type incidents. And thus far, it has worked spelndidly.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Yesterday my wife and I finally saw The Dark Knight. We had been meaning to go for quite some time now, but the summer months were extremely packed with work, studying, trips, and other things that ultimately took precedence over going to a movie. But yesterday we made the short trek to the local AMC Mondo-Plex and sat down for a matinee showing of Christopher Nolan's comic book epic. And what a movie it was.

Imagine a continuum in which Arnold Schwarzenegger's Commando is on one end, and Francis Ford Coppola's* The Godfather is on the other. The former is two hours of sheer bombast and cheese--Arnold waves guns around like fourth of July sparklers, shooting anything that moves, be it animal, vegetable, or terrorist. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and a direct line can be drawn from the opening premise (all bad guys must die) to the closing credits (all bad guys are now dead). The other end of the continuum, occupied by Coppola's opus, is awash in moral complexities, violence is a necessary means to an end, the hero becomes the villain, and very little is clearly laid out for the viewers.

Most action films would fall somewhere in the middle, or closer to Commando. Most have a hero who knows what to do, and set about doing it. The girl is kidnapped? Go save her. The city is going to be blown up? Find the weapons and destroy them. The country is in danger? Kill the terrorists. And this mold has been extremely successful over the years, resulting in scores of John MacLanes, Jack Bauers, Indiana Jones-es, and others like them. And I certainly enjoy these types of blow-'em-up fests.

But The Dark Knight is far different: its villains are complex, its heroes are tragic, and its messages of morality and justice are far more complicated than "do the right thing." It is a film, albeit with a hefty share of explosions and a body count that approaches three dozen much more in line with its spiritual predecessor, The Godfather. Heath Ledger's Joker is at once the most transparent and yet the most complicated villain to appear onscreen in many years. District Attorney Harvey Dent, played by Aaron Eckhart (minus the ginormous Fu-Man-Chu from Erin Brockovich), wants only to do good, and punish all those who do evil. But even this polar view of morality gets twisted to the point where he ultimately becomes the antitheses of the man he once was. And Batman, played to near-perfection by Christian Bale, is a haunted protagonist who does what has to be done, no matter the personal cost, even if it goes directly against what he wants to do.

Suffice it to say, The Dark Knight is an amazing character study masquerading as a summer blow-em-up fest. And that is a mighty good thing.


All that aside, last night when our friends Jon and Sarah were over, we were surfing YouTube and found this video of a restaurant that serves a 14-pound pizza for $50. If two people can eat the whole thing in an hour, they get $100. In college my friends and I used to take the Stuffed Crust Challenge, by seeing who could eat the most Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza in one sitting of Wayne's World...but I doubt any of us could tackle this beast:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Tonight my wife and I might finally take the plunge, if time permits: we will go out and buy one of those digital converter boxes for our TV. Until now this hasn't really been a priority, since we watch about four hours of over-the-airwaves TV per year in our house (no kidding), but with the February deadline looming closer every day, we though it was high time to join the party, albeit a tad late.

We ordered our coupons a few weeks ago, and they got here yesterday, so tonight after running a few errands we will probably head to Best Buy, Circuit City, or another similar place, and snag a converter box. Not that we'll use it much, but it will be nice to be prepared at any rate.

Three weeks ago the two of us went to a "tent sale" put on by National Camera, a local camera outlet, and purchased some nice schwag to boost the quality of our wedding videos--two tripod heads, one set of tripod legs, a camera bag, some lens filters, and, the pièce de résistance, a new Sony HC96 camera. Well, "new" as in "open-box item." Since we already have one HC96, and like it so much, we bought another so the secondary camera in the weddings we record is now of equal quality to the primary. Anyway, the one we bought, unfortunately, did not work, so I took it back the next day for warranty service. Sadly, they told me it would be at least a month until they could fix it, but lo and behold, last night they called and said it was fixed and ready to be picked up. Sweet! It's possible they were pulling a Scotty and just over-estimating from the get-go, but in either case it's nice to have our new camera up and working.

Time to finish up my root beer and get back to some schoolwork...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Labor Daybor

I was going to try to put up some pictures from last weekend's excursion into an anachronism, but truth be told, I forgot to bring our camera. :( Fortunately, my cousin Beth had hers, and I did take some pics. Unfortunately, I also forgot to get them off her camera when she was over at our house after the festival. Ah, the vicious cycle in which we live... Anyway, we had a great time, and I'm already looking forward to going again next year. There are not many places in which you can watch an actual competition where dudes chuck a 56-pound chunk of metal over a very high limbo stick (I saw one guy toss it 16.5 feet. He was very large and hairy.), or see a giant tortoise pull around a small cart while being followed by someone who looked like a medieval shepherd, or watch men in suits or armor fake knock each other off real horses, and then beat the tar out of each other while taunting the crowd at the same time. The Ren Fest was a full day of gleeful weirdness, and there was still so much I didn't get to see. Ah, next year...

In describing this past week, like C-3PO said of his experiences with the Rebellion when questioned about them by Luke, there's not much to tell. Work has kept me very busy, but hopefully things will slow down in a week or two. I'm excited for the weekend because, well, it's a weekend, and with this particular one comes a visit to my cousin Eddy, and also a visit from my wife's friend, who should be arriving here from Lincoln within the hour. There was a thunderstorm the other night when I went to bed, and man, one of my all-time favorite things to do is fall asleep during a heavy rain. It was cool. :)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fair Game

Last night I went to Cub Foods to snag some groceries, and as the cashier was ringing up my bread, potatoes, and other miscellany, she asked me, in a moment of very polite small-talk, if I had purchased my tickets to The Fair yet. I told her I had not, and did not intend to, even though I live within walking distance of the fairgrounds.

"Why aren't you going?" she asked, again with emphasis on the politeness.

I thought for a minute, deciding how to best answer her question without coming across as mean-spirited. "Well, I don't really like the crowds..."

"You should try going in the morning when it's not busy," said the woman in front of me who had already paid for her groceries and was busy packaging them in brown plastic sacks. "I don't like the crowds either, but if you go in the morning it's really not that bad." The cashier nodded in agreement as she drew a bag of broccoli across the scanner.

I was caught. Thinking on my feet, I tried a different angle. "Yeah, but it's so expensive to go, and then to do anything there." That would do the trick.

"Oh yah..." responded the cashier. "but if you get your tickets from the Customer Service desk," she said enthusiastically as she waved her hand, "they're only eight dollars!" She had a point there.

"And there's so many things to do for free!" responded the lady in front of me. "You can see all the crafts, and the animals, and look at the outdoor exhibits..." She went on, and I could sense a near-palpable enthusiasm and genuine sincerity in the voices of these two women who were trying their darndest to get me to reconsider The Fair.

"You know, maybe I'll give it a shot this year," I told the cashier as she handed me my receipt. "I haven't been there in about four years, so maybe it's worth a look." And I meant it too, even though I remained unconvinced. And so I left the store with two bags of food for thought, and who knows...maybe I'll give it another shot time time around.

But in the meantime, I will be attending a different kind of Faire with some of my cousins on Saturday. Huzzah!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunset Cove Molding Memories

Wow, what a week. It would be hard to summarize the annual Cass Lake family vacation in a few paragraphs, so as I tend to do from time to time here, I'll just point out the highlights, with additional commentary as I deem appropriate. So here are, in no particular order, the best parts of this year's Ringsmuth Fest Up North...

• Watching my uncle David and my brother Andy assemble potato cannons, and then shoot off over 50 spuds over the next few days. We even clocked one at over 200 miles an hour.

• The Perpetual Campfire, sponsored by my uncles Pete and David. Pretty much any time of the day there were people sitting around the campfire or, if the fire was out, the charred pit. Anyone looking to join a good conversation needed only to wander by and plop down on a comfy lawn chair.

• Seeing lots of relatives, especially Out-Of-Towners. My aunt from Saint Louis came for the week, and my cousin from Saint Louis also came for a few days with his wife and their two kids. My brother Tom and sister Joanne made it up for the first part of the week, and my brother Andy was, as usual, there for the whole time. I especially enjoyed hanging out with my two year-old niece, and had some great conversations with my parents too.

• Sunsets. They don't make 'em like that anyplace else. Oh, and the Northern Lights were visible on Saturday night, which was awesome.

• Boat rides on the pontoon, not necessarily for any specific purpose, though we did get in some middle-of-the-lake swimming.

• Fishing, even though I didn't catch much.

• Canoeing up the Mississippi with my wife and my brother.

• Target practice with my brother and his pistol.

• Bike riding around a nearby lake.

• Lots and lots of good food, pretty much constantly.

So here's to another great week at the lake, and for those who didn't make it up this year, we missed you and hope to see you next summer.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Off to the lake

This weekend marks another trip to the annual Ringsmuth Family...uh...Trip To The Lake, I suppose. There's no official name for it, but once a year a great deal of my extended family descends upon a resort in upper Minnesota for a week of relaxing, playing cards, building campfires, skiing, tubing, and good old-fashioned visiting. My parents and a few of my aunts and uncles started this annual vacation more than 25 years ago, if I remember the lore correctly, and it has continued every summer save for one or two.

Today we are actually heading to Saint Cloud for my cousin's wedding, and we will stay at her parents house tonight. Then tomorrow it's off to the big lake! And yes, since it's a gathering of Ringsmuths, there will be plenty of Macintosh laptops, not to mention various video game systems, so we can make good use of our time away from civilization to, you know, surf the internet and play Mario. :)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Well why not

For years I denied my impending high school reunion. I thought that if I pretended it would not happen, it would cease to be, and I could go on living secure in my (false) knowledge that I was not old enough to require one of these gatherings. And for a while it worked--I went through college, moved to another state, got a real job...all the while knowing that my ten-year reunion was on the horizon, looming ever closer, but thinking that it would never really happen. I mean, ten years? For other people, maybe. But not me, and certainly not my friends with whom I graduated.

But then last summer, when my brother Andy attended his ten-year reunion, I heard the sound of inevitability loud and clear, and knew that, sooner rather than later, my time would come.

And sure enough, it did. Last weekend, on Saturday, I drove up to a place called Uncle Ron's, just off Cornhusker Highway, with my friends Evan and Christal. The place itself used to be a seedy joint called The Royal Grove, where I saw many bands in high school and college, but it, like the rest of us, had grown up with the times. And as we got out of their new Mazda and headed for the door, I was actually surprised at how not-nervous I was. I had not seen, or spoken to, most of these people since we all graduated, but we were all in the same boat on that one, so what would it matter?

And you know what? It was great. I mean really, really great. There were no pretenses, no awkwardness, and no ill will. Bygones were bygones, and rivalries had been swept away by the passage of time like the last remnants of the old republic long ago. I saw people I barely talked to in high school, and we chatted like no time had passed at all. Everyone was cordial, friendly, and eager to see what everyone else was up to. From the moment we arrived to the time we left, I was talking and joking and laughing with good friends and mere acquaintances, and nary a hint of bitterness was found. I did forget the names of a few people, and I did end up chatting at length with a few who, to be honest, I did not know at all. And there were several individuals whom I simply did not recognize. But we were all in the same boat, and the strange tie that bound--the simple fact that we graduated together--was enough to wash away any of these inconsistencies in recollection.

Will I see these people in the next ten years? I doubt it. Will we all start becoming friends again? Probably not. But that's the great part about reunions like this: there is no expectation of such things. Everyone present acknowledged that we were all pressing the Pause button for one evening, and would go our separate ways like we did ten years ago, knowing that nothing would really change. And we were all OK with that.

And in another ten years I hope to be back at Uncle Ron's, seeing many of the same people, and saying Hey one more time. Thanks to Molly, Jessie, Jackie, Megan, and the rest of the girls who put on one heck of a reunion. Here's to many more.

And believe it or not, this post marks the three-hundredth entry on The Brighter Side. Thank you to everyone who has read this blog over the years. It has been a blast, and with any luck, I'll be writing posts for many years to come.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Big Show

Tonight was my first night helping out at our church's Vacation Bible School program, and even though I was a bit nervous at first, things went off pretty well throughout the evening. I was not in charge of snacks, or break time, or arts-n-crafts, or songs, or even leading kids to the bathroom. No, I was put in charge, more or less, of the puppet show. And ho boy, what a show it was. :)

Ok, so I wasn't technically in charge of the puppet show, but I did play the major roles and had to find another kid to help with the minor ones. One of the ladies who was running the VBS program was the "Storyteller" and I was both Matthew and a Centurion, while my young helper played Jesus. We both handled some minor roles too, like Pharisees and whatnot, and I have to say, it was the best puppet show I have ever participated in. And we get to do it again tomorrow and Thursday, with new skits each time. So if you're in the area and in need of some top-notch Biblical entertainment the next few nights, you know where to find me.

Last weekend we went to my friend Jon's parents' cabin with him and his girlfriend Sarah, and as usual, it was a great time. We hit up all the usual haunts like the Brass Rail, Wal-Mart, and the shifty Packer Bar. We did all the usual things like fish, watch movies, play Wii, and even got in a few rounds of Cowboy Golf. I started out great, but soon met crushing defeat at the hands of my wife and Sarah. It was fun, though, which is all that matters. Overall the trip was a great time, despite some tiredness on my part as well as a stronger-than-usual case of the Post-Brass Rail-Stomache-Ache. And with that, allow me to close out this post with the view from the cabin, and a big thank-you to Jon and Sarah both for a great weekend.

Friday, July 25, 2008

May the Force be with you

Ok, so last night my wife and I went to the Star Wars exhibit at the Science Museum, and it was extremely cool. We saw models and costumes from all of the films, watched lots of mini-documentaries about special effects and other aspects of the films. There was a short animatronic presentation about robots, which was kind of silly, but I appreciated the sentiment behind it at least.

But enough of my yakking. On to the photos!

Me standing next to the actual model used for filming Princess Leia's Corellian Corvette as it escaped from the Star Destroyer at the beginning of ANH.

An A-wing model, which is much larger than it might seem.

She'll make point five past light speed. And she's huge! This model is about four feet long.

Note the black piping holding this Star Destroyer up. I figured they would have used a mount that extended from the bottom when filming this ship in action, but this type of rig allowed them to film from underneath much easier.

The Man in The Helmet.

Two Wookiee costumes used in Episode Three.

An actual AT-AT model used in filming the Hoth sequences.

So yeah, you could (and I would) say the exhibit was pretty awesome. They had a few things that cost extra money, like an OMNI movie about special effects, but we decided against it. The rest of the science museum was really interesting too, by the way.

Tonight we head to The Brass Rail again, on our way to Jon's parents' cabin in Wisconsin. And right now it looks like a nice thunderstorm is brewing. If there's a better way to start the weekend, I'm not sure what it is. :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

On one wheel

Two nights ago I took the advice my brother Tom has been giving me, and rode our unicycle around for a while. It has been a while since I've been one one, except for a teensy bit at my parents' house a week ago, and lemme tell you (because I am right now) that it was a great way to spend part of an evening. I rode around on the bike trails that wind through a park near our home, and got some nice looks and Hellos from people I met, which is always nice. I didn't practice any tricks, but it was really nice to get out and ride for a while.

Thanks, Tom. :)

The other day I was at Costco and decided against a slice of pizza for dinner. Instead I came home and made Macaroni and Cheese. I'm not one for living with regrets, but wow...if I am ever made to choose between Costco pizza and Mac and Cheese, well, let's just say we live and learn. Wow.

Now on to play some Mario Kart on the ol' Wii for a little while. Ah, this is the life...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Just Visiting

Yesterday morning I went to see my cousin Eddy for a while, and we had a great time chatting, looking at photos, and going out for coffee at a Starbucks near his house. We had actually planned on visiting the local Starbucks alternative, Caribou Coffee, but after driving around for 15 minutes with no luck, we gave in and supported The Man instead. But we were provided with delicious drinks, so I guess it's all good in the end.

One thing I realized while hanging out with him is that the iPod Touch we got last week is a fantastic photo viewer. I wanted to show Eddy some pictures of our recent trip to Nebraska, so I whipped out the iPod and wha-bam! Tons of photos at our fingertips, on a screen that was big enough for both of us to see easily. So score one for Apple, I guess.

We might go to see the new Batman movie today, which I've been itching to see ever since I saw the first trailers several months ago. One guy I work with in the summer went to a midnight showing last week and clocked in the next morning barely able to describe how awesome it was. All I know is, M. Night Shamalyan has nothing on Christopher Nolan, who has yet to make a bad movie. Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, Batman Begins...dude. The guy's amazing.

Alright, time to head off for church. Later.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Wow...summer has been anything but a break, though it has been very much a vacation. After spending a week in Montana we were home for three days and then whisked ourselves off to Nebraska to see family and friends for a few days (how's that for alliteration?). It seems like there's never enough time to see everyone, and do everything, that we would like to while we're visiting down there, but it was very enjoyable to visit with the people we did get in touch with. As anyone who knows my family can probably guess, there was a good deal of card and board games that were played throughout the weekend, and probably far too much eating out than what was good for us. In our defense, though, we try to hit the local haunts for which there is no Twin Cities equivalent, such as Amigo's, Valentino's, and Fazoli's. So there really is a purpose, you might say, to all the indulging.

The highlight of the trip, though, was Sunday night which was spent with several family members along with some of my friends I haven't seen in a while. We had dinner, went bowling, and played "Loaded Questions" back at my parents' house. To any of you who were there and are reading this...thanks for a great time. Seriously, it was really cool to just hang out for a while. In fact, the whole trip was fun, and I'm already excited about going back in a few weeks for my ten-year class reunion.

Today we went to the Apple Store and purchased a brand new iMac, complete with a free iPod Touch and inkjet printer, which will stay firmly inside its box until we sell it, because inkjet printers are the devil.

Next to the iMac you can see my four and a half year-old eMac, which has served me faithfully and largely hassle-free, but was just too slow for any serious video editing, though a few projects that I completed on the eMac helped to purchase the iMac, so it has earned its keep for sure. It's nice to have a zippy computer again, not to mention a cool new gadget to play with too. :)

Friday, July 04, 2008

Gates of the Rockies

Yesterday we took the boat trip I mentioned in my previous post, though it turns out it was on the Missouri, not the Madison. Here's a few highlights from the trip.

(click each photo for a much larger version)

Views like this are not uncommon up in Montana.

The State owns the land on the eastern side of this river, while the western side is privately held, but designated as a Conservation Easement. Our tour guide said that a hundred years from now the land should still look just like this: pristine and undeveloped.

Much of the vegetation on the eastern side was destroyed in a fire last summer, which lasted several months and was finally extinguished by December snows. Fires like this are actually good in the long run, though, as they give the forests a chance to renew themselves.

Today we don't have much planned in the way of actual stuff to do, but it should be a relaxing day of just being with family. And what better way to celebrate our Nation's independence? And by the way, major props to TJ for making this trip possible.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It's not the heat

This entry comes to you, once again, from the great western frontier of Montana. Well, perhaps not as much of a frontier as it once was, but stepping out the front door of my in-laws' house reveals a view of such majesty that the pioneers, were they to behold it, would still be in awe. It's mighty pretty out here, and mighty nice overall. The weather has been warm but the humidity is much lower than Minnesota, so things feel much more pleasant overall.

We arrived late on Saturday and have spent the last few days relaxing with the relatives and their little puppy* Maggie. The nice thing about being on vacation is the distinct lack of an agenda, in that when we come up here we are usually not beholden to a schedule or routine, and are free to sleep in, laze about in the day, run errands, eat, watch movies, and stay up, all with relative impunity, though at a slight cost to our own natural sense of biological rhythm. Sunday we went to see one of the coolest (adjectives fail me) movies I have seen in a long time, Wall-E. Sure the animation is peerless, but Pixar's ability to tell a story is second to none. They rely not on cheap scatological humor and pratfalls such as some other movies out there, but instead create characters that are so real and entrancing that they need no cheap crutches to be entertaining. This time, though, with much of the story being told sans dialog...good gravy. These guys are animation wizards, I tell you.

Anyway, platitudes about Pixar aside, it's been a great couple of days. Tomorrow we might take a boat trip down the Madison river, but other than that it's just nice to be out here with relatives.

*she's about 15 years old, but small, so we still call her a puppy. Don't tell her, though...

Friday, June 27, 2008

For a spin

Last night we took our bikes out for their inaugural ride of the summer, even though it has been pretty warm for several weeks, and even though the ride was kind of short. My wife got a bike for her birthday a month ago, and we figured it was good enough weather to bike on a short errand to deliver something to a friend. It's times like these, when the weather is warm but not too hot, the sun is out but not too bright, and the evening is coming but not here just yet, when the trails just beg to be ridden. And so we obliged. We have a much longer ride planned for tomorrow, providing it does not storm, though there is roughly a 40 percent chance of that happening. It's all good, though, because we could use the rain too.

We leave tomorrow evening for a week in Montana again, visiting family and enjoying the summer. I have been re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy recently, and if I'm not too tired from the bike ride I'd like to get some reading done on the plane. A few weeks ago on my trip to Kansas City I tried (honestly, I really tried) to listen to an audiobook of The Silmarillion, but gave up after about eight hours. Seriously, that stuff is for hardcore Tolkien fans, and a detailed atlas and genealogy of Middle-Earth are all but required accessories for anyone attempting the task of wading through Tolkien's history of the imaginary land he invented. It's mind-blowing, to be sure, that anyone could ever dream this stuff up, but not well suited for a long drive through Iowa. So it's back to the classic Trilogy for me, having started it a few months ago and reading it sporadically in the meantime. Sometimes, what works best for me when reading a book is just being forced to do so, free of internet and other distractions. Thus, plane rides, when not too tired, are great for reading. And for staring out the window.

Ok, off to edit some more stuff in Final Cut.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to the Voyager

This afternoon I went to the "Back to the 50s" car show at the State Fair Grounds near our place. I'm not really all that interested in old cars, but my friend Matt had a restored Chevy Nomad in the show, so I mostly went to see him along with my cousin (also named Matt) and one of their friends, Brian. We chatted for a while, watching people stroll by and check out the Nomad, and then went to see some of the other cars at the show. Highlights included, but were not limited to the following...

(click all photos for much larger versions)
One of several "Rat Rods" that were super old cars modified with all kinds of parts that looked like they were just welded on by a drunk mechanic with a Frankenstein complex. This one really was that low to the ground.

Another Rat Rod. The photo kind of speaks for itself. Yes, those are boat seats. Yes, there is a Vice Grip on the shifter. No, I did not get to ride in it.

The engine compartment of the above RR. Note the plastic jug that serves as the coolant overflow tank...

A Dodge Delivery Van. This photo is for my brother Tom, who once, along with his friend Dan, drove his minivan from Lincoln to Saint Paul in the summer with a canoe tied to the top. It was 90 degrees that day, the van had no AC, both guys drank over a gallon of water, and they never stopped to go the bathroom...

Note the comfy driver accommodations of the Delivery Van. To make up for such modest surroundings, there's always the couch, I guess. And yes, the tape deck does feature Auto Reverse. Yuss!

And finally...
This is me standing next to none other than a Ford Edsel. Like I said, I'm not a huge car fan, but this one caught my eye because I remember my dad telling me about the infamous Edsel when I was a kid, and until now I had not seen one in person. In addition to the nostalgia factor, though, was a much more nerdy motivation: the Edsel was once mentioned by Tom Paris in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.

I did tell my cousin the second reason for the photo until after he took it. And for the record, that is a Root Beer in my hand. :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

And Ye Shall Receive

Living in an apartment is nice, though my wife and I long for (ok, look forward to) the day when we can own our own house. It won't happen for at least a year, though, and until then we like our place well enough. It's got a lot of nice perks, as far as apartments go, such as a pool (which I used after a long day of work outside today), convenient indoor mailboxes, and a helpful management staff. And we hardly ever have problems with the neighbors, nor they with us, but last night the people below us engaged in that perennial cause of Apartment Strife: loud music. It's usually not too bad, but last night we could not only hear, but feel, the bass thumping on the floor. And had we been watching a movie or otherwise actively distracted, it might not have been too bad, but we were both trying to get work done, so it was kind of annoying.

And wouldn't you know it, the bass was continuing today. So I figured I would go down and ask them politely to turn it down. I shirked my PJ pants in favor of jeans, donned an old pair of sandals, and descended the stairs to their apartment door, mentally preparing for the worst. I knocked on their door and half a minute later a guy about my age opened it, and I started to expound extemporaneously regarding the volume of his tuneage. He beat me to the punch, though.

"Is the music too loud?" he asked politely, catching me off guard.

"Yeah," I responded in kind.

"Sorry about that, man. I'll turn it down," he said, appearing positively friendly at this point, and even looking a tad guilty for bothering his neighbors.

"Thanks, man. I really appreciate it."

And that was that. Pretty cool what a bit of politeness will get you.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Quick Round Trip

Yesterday I drove down to Kansas City for my friend Seth's wedding, and as I write this I'm in my hotel getting in one last internet fix before checking out. The drive was fairly uneventful, as most drives through Iowa are, but I did see some of the recent flooding, particularly in Des Moines. I have taken the 80/35 route around the northern part of the city many times, and yesterday there were huge swathes of countryside that were underwater. From what I've heard, it's pretty bad downtown, so I hope things let up soon and the waters start receding. Oh, Morgan Freeman, where are you when we need you?

The wedding last night was a lot of fun, and I'm glad I was able to make it. I sat by some friends of the family at the reception and talked about movies and video games with three really cool kids. It pays to have a nerdy hobby sometimes, I suppose. :) I also hung out with some of Seth's college buddies and enjoyed lots of Mac nerd-talk with one of them who is a huge Apple fan like me.

Today I'm meeting a friend, who also happens to be in KC, for lunch and then heading back to the Twin Cities.

Good people, good times.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ergo Propter Hoc

So the past few days have been a little crazy. Last Thursday my wife drove to Saint Louis for a wedding, and the following day I joined her via an early-morning United flight. In doing so I discovered that the only United terminal at the Minneapolis Airport is hidden behind a vending machine on the basement floor next to the hydrogenation reclamation plant. I actually walked past it several times before realizing that it was, in fact, allowing passengers to board a for-real airplane bound for an actual destination. I made it out, somehow, no thanks to the massive banks of Northwest computer screens and flight information kiosks that only served to obscure the United gate even more. Aside from my semi-harrowing MSP experience, though, the rest of the trip was a breeze. Our hotel was within spitting distance of the Arch, and during our brief time in the City of the Cardinals and Rams I was able to see some giant pretzels, eat at Hardee's, and kick it on the dance floor at the wedding on Saturday night. It was fun seeing good people, eating delicious food, and generally having a relaxing time overall.

Sunday we went over to my aunt Donna's place in a Saint Louis suburb and spent the day with her, my cousin, his wife, and their two kids. And dude, they are two of the most energetic and talkative kids I have ever seen. We went smimming, had dinner, and took it easy back at Donna's place. After they left the three of us (me, Donna, and my wife) played some card and board games and called it a night early enough so we could get a good night's sleep for the long drive on Monday.

Good times all around, man. And now I'm off to play some Mario Kart Wii online (friend code: 3909 8376 4843, in case you want to get rocked by me on Delphino Square...)

Oh, and after two days of my summer job, my hands are killing me and my joints are almost frozen. It's good work, though, and I work with great people, so what more can you ask for? Not much, says I.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Rain, Rain

Few things are as refreshing as a nice spring or summer thunderstorm. Not the local bulk storms, mind you. I'm talking about the big Corellian storms now. The kind where thunder shakes the walls and lightning strikes from the clouds like the greatest fireworks show you have ever seen. When I was a kid my brothers and I would go outside and make "rain gauges" in the sandbox, which consisted mostly of piles of sand lines with leaves, whenever a storm came along. We would often go biking in the rain, and look for overflowing ditches and culverts, just to see the spectacle of it all. I still enjoy driving in the rain, but whether transportation is involved or not, it's a great feeling to experience the liquid renewal of the earth. The storms outside right now are subsiding and moving Eastward, but gosh darn it, they were cool while they lasted.

Today more or less kicked off our unofficial Summer Travel Season, which means that starting this morning my wife and I began the first of many trips we will be taking this summer. She is in Saint Louis right now for her friend's wedding, and I will be flying in tomorrow to join in the festivities. We will spend the day with my aunt on Sunday and then make our way back here the following Monday. The next several weeks, then, are going to involve visits to Nebraska, Montana, northern Minnesota, not to mention several weekend-ish events that will be happening around us here in the Cities. I also have three wedding videos lined up for the summer, and my wife and I are both going to be busy with our jobs too. *whew* It's good to stay busy, though, and if it's anything like last summer, we'll be in for a good time.

And by now my leftover Papa Murphys (hamburger and pepperoni, with pineapple chunks added by me) is about done, so it's time to check the oven and pop in Gladiator on the ol' VCR.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

This chick is toast

...meaning, she's probably gonna get one wicked sunburn. In any case, you should probably check it out:

Roz is six days into her solo rowing trip.

"But where?" you might ask. "Down the river?"


"Hrm...across a lake?"

Wrong again.

"I give up."

I knew you would.

No, Roz is rowing across the Pacific Ocean. Pretty schweet if you ask me. And since you're reading my blog, I'm guessing you did. She's decked out, too, with solar-powered computers, iPods, and other such amenities. But it means she gets to post blog updates, and it's supremely interesting. I mean, blogging from a 16-foot rowboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? And I thought it was cool when my brother Andy went down a 700-foot sledding hill with his video camera strapped to one hand...

Good luck, Roz. You've got the tools, and you've got the talent. Just make sure to watch out for those pesky Great White Sharks and the occasional hurricane.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Oily to bed, oily to rise

As far back as I can remember, I have changed the oil on my cars by myself. It's a small thing, I know, but one that gives me just a little bit of satisfaction, as if my car's performance is, even is a tiny way, due in part to something I did myself. My dad showed me how to do this most basic aspect of auto maintenance on my Ford Tempo many years ago, and even though he has performed the operation a few times here and there while I was indisposed (thank you very much, Dad. I appreciate it), I have, for the most part, done it myself. That is to say, I have never taken one of my cars to a mechanic or auto shop to have it done. Since most places charge around $20, and a do-it-yourself job costs around $12, I'm not exactly saving a lot of money. I do it just to provide myself with membership in that echelon of dudes who do their own car work, even though it's really nothing that special. I can't remove an alternator, rebuild a transmission, or tell what that clanking sound coming from the back tire is, but goshdarnit, I change my own oil. So there.

One problem inherent in the changing of one's own auto oil, though, is the concept of space, and for me, a distinct lack of it. We live in an apartment, and even if it were not frowned upon to perform car maintenance in the building parking lot, I would be hard-pressed to store the used oil or even make sure none of it got spilled on the pavement. As such, I have to use my cousin's house, my dad's garage (I change the oil, in whatever car we drive, ever time we are in Lincoln), or my friend Sarah's father's garage. And lately it has been the latter, for which I owe a great debt of gratitude. He doesn't mind if I come over, take up half his garage, and spend a half hour maintaining one of our autos, all the while (more often than not, anyway) unwittingly spreading a fresh coat of Quaker State on his concrete floor.

But today I experienced the most dreaded of all oil-changing problems: the filter would not come off.

There I was, lying on the floor, my hands burnt in two places from the engine manifold, wrestling with a stubborn Wix filter that was firmly ensconced on its post on the underside of my wife's 1992 Geo Prizm. See, the trouble is, I usually go for the Fram TG4967 filter, but the last time I had given this car a new 3,000 mile lease on life, the parts store I went to only had the Wix equivalent (and I'm not talking Drew, mind you). And my filter cap ratchet wrench attachment was just slightly too big for the filter. I could not get the thing off, despite many attempts with and without the adapter. Sarah even drove me to Checker to get a different wrench, which did not work, and I thought I would have to resort to the "jam a screwdriver through it" method.

But then, wonder of wonders, Sarah's dad, who got home while we were at the store, came out and was able to get the filter off with his bare hands. It took a great deal of heaving, grunting, and wide-eyed stares from me and Sarah, but the man actually did it. And all I could do was watch and stare, while my sense of dudley-ness drained out like so much 5W-40.

But now George the Geo has a brand-new Fram, and is good to go for another 3K, so I have that much time to brush up on the ol' biceps, just in case. Now if I could only figure out that clanking sound...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A few of my favorite things

Ok, so I don't have a lot of time to write this, but I just wanted to say a huge thank-you to all my family who came up to visit this past weekend.

And so I shall: "Thank you." :)

We somehow crammed two of my brothers, my sister, her daughter, and my brother's fiancée in our apartment for two and a half days, and despite the itty bitty living space, we had an absolute blast. My wife and I made our signature Breakfast of Awesomeness on Saturday *and* Sunday morning, and much of the time at our place was spent talking, playing Wii, and watching The Office (c'mon, Andy, you know you want to rent it now...). We also took hundreds of pictures, mostly of my two year-old niece who is just starting to learn to talk. Awww... My parents also came up for the weekend, and stayed at my uncle's house, and the whole lot of us ended up going to my cousin's harp recital-slash-high school graduation, and the reception afterwards, on Saturday. Then on Sunday we went to Saint Cloud for another graduation party, this time for my cousin Christy, and following that we hoofed it over to Foley to see my uncle and his family. Highlights from all the preceeding include, but are not limited to:

• Finding out that my sister is pretty good at Mario Kart Wii. She even beat me a few times.
• Eating LOTS of junk food on Sunday evening at our place
• Introducing my brother Andy to The Office
• Riding my uncle's four-wheeler with my sister
• Target shooting with my brother Andy's handguns
• Eating LOTS of excellent barbecue on Sunday, and taking a good deal of it home as leftovers
• Visiting with cousins and other relatives we do not normally get to see.
• Listening to Esther play the harp. Good gravy, she rocks the house church with that thing!
• Having our friend Sarah over on Friday to hang with The Fam. Thanks, dude!
• Playing with my niece, who is the cutest two-year-old in the world. No, seriously, it's true.

Ok, seriously, family is awesome. We're going to Lincoln in a month and a half and I'm already excited for it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Alien Aftermath

Each morning since last July I have had roughly the same routine: wake up, shower, make a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and/or apples, spend ten minutes in prayer while the oatmeal cooks and then cools, and then watch 15 minutes of a movie while I eat breffist, supplemented with a tall glass of O to the J. It works, even though it's not always delicious, but I usually stay full until lunch, which never happens if I eat cereal. Several weeks ago I decided I would wade through my old VHS collection of Alien movies including, as much as I was not looking forward to it, Alien Resurrection.

It was slow going at first, as our VCR slowly died in a fit of black-and-white fuzz, but we soon got a "new" one and I continued my journey through the life and times of Ripley, the heroine of the Alien series, played by the indelible Sigourney Weaver. In many respects I realized how good these films are, and yes, that includes the oft-maligned Alien3. Ridley Scott's original Alien was a masterwork of suspense, and breathed new life into the creature-feature flicks of the 50s and 60s, largely due to a supremely charming and charismatic cast. Its sequel, Aliens, showcases James Cameron at his big-budget best. His films are, if nothing else, epic in scale, and Aliens proved to be a worthy successor to the original by giving us what my friend Ben once described as a "VietNam movie in space." The action was frantic and suspenseful, and the aliens were as scary as all get out. The Queen still gives me chills, and I have no idea how they filmed the final 15 minutes of the movie with the technology that was available at the time.

Most would prefer to forget Alien3, but if you take it as more of a study of David Fincher than anything else, it turns out to be surprisingly well-done. Slow pacing, quick cuts, and religious symbolism (Neo of the Matrix trilogy has nothing on Ripley, folks) all combine to form a moody, ethereal rumination on self-sacrifice and self-preservation.

But Alien Resurrection...good gravy. The final chapter in the franchise (AvP films notwithstanding) is little more than a shameless attempt to cash in on the series' most noteworthy points (the aliens) while disregarding everything that made the original movies so exceptional (the characters). It's a silly splatter flick that proudly wears its grotesqueness on its sleeve, and even becomes a parody of itself by the time the "Newborn" appears. While the original Alien was a magnificent work of suspense and heightened emotions, its third sequel lies firmly at the bottom rung of the entire canon of splatter films, and relies not on impeccable pacing, but, sadly, on sheer shock value alone. The movie, rather than constructing a solid plot (why is there a swimming pool in a spaceship?) just gets more and more gross until the bitter end.

Anyway, after finishing the final Alien movie this morning I figured I needed something much more light to cleanse my mental palate. Enter This Is Spinal Tap, which is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. Though it is best viewed with British friends, like my former college roommates Ben and Simon, it's so funny even while being watched alone at 6am that I am actually looking forward to my morning bowl of oatmeal tomorrow. And, as if to pay homage to the movie, I received a rather fitting issue of National Geographic in the mail this afternoon. I nearly left it in its plastic mailing wrap, too, in honor of Nigel's guitar. :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fishing Opener?

I enjoy fishing, but, though I live in Minnesota, I only go a few times a year, and mostly on vacation or with my friend Jon at his cabin. Yesterday, though, my cousin Matt invited me up to his house on a lake north of the Cities for this year's inaugural fishing expedition. And by expedition I mean that we, along with his wife and a few others, took his old pontoon out for an hour and threw grub worms and peanut shells at the tiny sunfish. Even though I only caught one fish, and between the five of us nothing we reeled in was longer than a few inches, we had a great time. Which, in my judgement, is the real point of fishing anyway. We also had some delicious burgers for dinner and capped the night with some Guitar Hero.

As I type this I have completed five separate projects for my fledgling video business, save for the printing of some DVD inserts. My little Pioneer 110D has been burning DVDs like crazy these past few weeks, and I'm optimistic about a few other jobs I have lined up this summer too. All in all, it should buy a new iMac by the end of the summer. Excellent.

This morning the weather has been astounding--crisp, fresh, and not a cloud in the sky. Minnesota in the springtime really is something else, man. But one thing we do not have, as readers of this blog are keenly aware, is a little slice of heaven in the form of a Nebraska-based taco chain known as Amigo's. And a half hour ago my brother Tom reminded me of this in a picture he sent to me showcasing the condiments he and his fiancée were employing to augment their already delicious taco lunch:

And that, as he said, is just for two people. Well done, Tom...well done.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Green jacket, gold jacket...

I went to (where else?) Costco today to get a spindle of CDs, and was presented with a somewhat singular conundrum. On the shelf, as it were, lay two choices: A 100-pack of CDs for $19.99, or a similar pack of CDs for $16.99. The catch? The latter were labeled as "Music" CDs, whereas the former displayed the "Data" moniker. Now, I've been using these shiny discs ever since people had to use them in conjunction with CD caddies, and I had no idea there was any sort of distinction between a "music" CD and a "data" CD. As far as the computer is concerned, it's a blank slice of aluminum. The burnable ones, such as the discs I was looking to purchase, are just surfaces (squeezed between layers of plastic) on which to burn microscopic holes, thus resulting in a series of bits (i.e. ones and zeros) which are then translated into, well, into data. Music or no, it's just a blank medium to store data.

Nevertheless, those tricky so-and-sos at the TDK Marketing Department caught me off guard! I was stunned, and honestly wondered if I had overlooked some monumental shift in compact disc-based data retention. In a tizzy, I called my brother Andy and explained the situation to him. In his usual manner, he calmly explained that the "music" CDs had what he referred to as an RIAA Tax. It was then that I realized the two spindles of CDs I was looking at were actually different amounts: The $19.99 stack was a 100-pack, as I already noticed, but its $16.99 counterpart was actually a 75-pack. Problem solved, and chalk up another "So long, suckers!" from me to the RIAA, as well as the TDK Marketing Department. I knew there was something fishy going on, and I was just a little bit proud of myself (and thankful to Andy) for being able to beat the system.

Not ten minutes later, though, as I stood in the checkout line, the guy in front of me saw the 100-pack of CDs I was about to purchase, and asked where I found them. "Over there by the TVs," I said, gesturing with my left hand.

"Oh," he replied, interested. "I see those are data CDs. Do you know if they have music CDs?"

Everyone needs to have their own Andy.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Long Day's Night

I started editing video around 8am today, and it's now 10pm and I'm about to call it quits until tomorrow, or perhaps later this week. It's all very exciting, actually: I was contracted to do four slide shows for an organization, and today (along with a few hours of yesterday evening) was spent constructing, editing, rendering, and finally burning to DVD, three of the four. I did four slide shows for the same organization last year, and since I was just beginning to learn how to use Final Cut Express, and my only computer was my 1GHz eMac, it was quite an ordeal. It took a few stressful weeks, and a near-miracle hard drive crash-and-recovery (thanks again, Andy), but I ended up with a good finished product. This year, though, I have made extensive use of the MacBook I recently got from my work, as well as the knowledge I gained from previous projects, and things have gone exceptionally well. It's times like this when I realize that the Lord has me struggle through various things, at various times--so I might learn from it and be better off down the road. Not that a simple video project can be equated to a character-building personal struggle, but in some small part, I believe the lesson still holds a kernel of truth.

I have rather enjoyed this project, too. Not that it's finished entirely (I have one more slide show to go, and still have to burn 22 copies of the slide show I just finished), but it has been very interesting, though I would stop short of saying entertaining, to create these. I get to exercise some degree of creativity that I do not always get to do in my daily life, and learn even more about how to use Final Cut Express along the way.

One problem that had confounded me for several months, which was solved by my wife a few weeks ago, was the issue of DVD labels. I used to use sticker-based labels that I printed off and, literally, stuck to the top of each disc. But in preparation for this project, as well as other projects this summer, I wanted an easier way that looked more professional and resulted in a higher-quality finished product. I had a few options: invest in an InkJet or Laser printer that could print on the label-side of DVDs, invest in a LightScribe DVD burner, or find someone who knows calligraphy. But the solution my wife proposed, which has worked out extremely well, was to purchase rubber stamps and use them for the labels. Even though the stamps, at $18 each, are a bit expensive, they produce a very professional finished product. And for the project I am working on, I can re-use the stamps again next year, assuming I get contracted for the same project again. It is perhaps not as economical, in the long run as purchasing a printer, it is far less hassle, and allows me to continue to not have an InkJet printer in our household--a tradition which will continue for the term of my natural life, if I have anything to say about it.

So yeah, video editing is pretty cool. Now to play some Mario Galaxy...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

8 Pint

Today I got my much-sought-after One Gallon Pin after donating as many units of blood over the course of the last few years. I still can't watch them stick the needle in my arm, though. My dad and I both get squeamish around needles, and I once saw my dad nearly faint after seeing a good deal of blood in the aftermath of one of the many accidents we had as kids. They actually do blood drives in the building next to my work, so it's easy to go donate after work whenever they do these blood drives. I still have a way to go in order to catch up to my brother Andy, my uncles Tony and Pete, and other people I know who donate, but it's a start...

I am finishing up one major video project right now, and in the next two weeks I will be starting, and finishing, several more. It's a lot of work, but the ability to do some of this on my work laptop has been outstanding. I don't remember how I did all this editing last year on my eMac alone, but somehow I did. My goal is to make enough money this summer from video projects to pay for Apple's high-end 20-inch iMac, which will blow my oooold eMac out of the water. Yuss! I'm also learning a good deal about Final Cut Express, thanks to the reference manual my wife got me for Valentine's day, as well as just using it.

Having missed the CD release of my friend's band,The JV All*Stars, I've been listening to their "Girls Forget Your Boys/Boys Forget Your Girls" album recently, as well as some of their more recent stuff over at PureVolume. Keep 'em coming, guys. From Nick's basement on 63rd street to headlining shows in's been one crazy ride, eh? And if you're ever in the Twin Cities, gimme a holler..

Saturday, May 03, 2008

A little energon, and a lot of luck

There's a weekly podcast I listen to called The Hotspot, where four or five guys from Gamespot talk about video game news, events, trends, and the like. They also run contests, mostly on a weekly basis, and this morning I made the following audio file by editing segments from three separate episodes of the show: April 15, when one particular contest was introduced, April 22, when the winners were announced, and April 29, when one of the entry submitters called in to clear up some rumors.

And while failed podcast contest entry submissions are generally not blog-worthy, this is, without a doubt, the best Optimus Prime impression I have ever heard...


Even Peter Cullen would be impressed.

In other news, I put my second broken electronic item on eBay today (the first was my broken iPod I sold over a year ago). I ran across this listing a few days ago for our same camera, with the same problem, and figured I could get at least $40 since I have a better feedback score and a more impressive listing overall. But who knows. In any case, here's hoping our old camera will go out in a blaze of PayPal-induced glory...

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Deli Rounding Up

When I was a kid I had a ritual that would often be coupled with a viewing of one of the Star Wars movies or an episode of Star Trek: I would load up a bowl of Tostitos chips - the regular giant triangle-shaped ones, not one of the strange variations that have been more prevalent recently - and get another bowl of Pace "Medium" salsa in which to dip said chips, along with a mug of milk, and go to town. It was part snack, part endurance test (I sometimes braved the "Hot" salsa, but oh boy...), but whatever it was, it certainly happened a lot.

Then, as often happens with these sorts of things, I moved on to other things to accompany my sci-fi viewing: homemade malts, vats of orange Kool-Aid, microwave popcorn, ramen noodles, and the like. Oddly enough, when I graduated high school and moved out, I stopped eating the snacks I most enjoyed, probably because I had other things to pay for, like rent and such.

Recently, I have been reviving the ol' chips-and-salsa tradition, though but with somewhat of a twist. Instead of springing for the Tostitos, I have been opting for their cheaper counterpart, the classic round yellow "Deli Round" chips. You know the kind: yellow, salty, and available in dozens, if not hundreds, of off-brand labels at every grocery store in America (the bag I am munching on as I write this is branded "Super Crunch"). Even though they are cheaper, they are actually pretty good, especially when I stumble across one with an excessive amount of salt. And the salsa? It's still Pace "Medium," but it now comes in a half-gallon jug from Costco.

Now if only I could figure out how to turn a brick of cheddar into delicious cheese-sauce topping for Nachos. If anyone knows how this secret, please let me know...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Double the 'c' and double the 's'

It worked! Out of the four VCRs I got from my job, one was functional, and now sits mightily atop our entertainment center, ready to play any tape we throw at it. In a surprise twist, though, this VCR outputs audio in (wait for it...) stereo! Yes, we can now enjoy both left and right channels while we watch a movie. Ahhh...bliss.

Truth be told, one of my main grips about DVD players is that I have yet to see one that incorporates the ability to remember where you stopped watching a movie. A VHS tape just stays put, right where you hit [STOP]. But if I'm halfway through the Lord of the Rings and my wife wants to watch an episode of House of Elliot, I have to wade through warning screens and chapter lists the next time I pop in my DVD, just to get to where I left off. But this isn't a blog for griping, so I'll just stop now. :)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tracking? We don't need no stinking tracking!

Three years ago my catalog of VHS tapes entirely eclipsed my DVD collection. I had all kinds of old VHS tapes, mostly obscure movies I got for free when I worked at the video store, and some good ones too, but my DVDs were limited to a few boxed sets like Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. I didn't see the need to re-purchase something on DVD that I already had on tape, since the tapes worked fine (and you stinkin' kids! get off my porch! Yeargh!). But as the months passed and I got sucked on to the DVD bandwagon (albeit several years too late), I started ridding my shelves of many of the VHS cassettes that I used to hold dear. It was for the better, though, as now my wife and I have a decent collection of DVDs, mostly from the $5.50 section at Target, that is slowly, but surely, overtaking our tapes.

But a good movie is a good movie, and why throw out a perfectly good copy of Gladiator or The Rock* when one does not yet have it on DVD? And so a few weeks ago I sat down to catch a few minutes of the original Alien while eating breakfast. Oddly enough, however, much of the movie was black-and-white, despite the fact that my copy was, decidedly, a colour version. The next day, while indulging in another 15 minutes of Ripley and the hapless crew of the Nostromo, I noticed that the picture came through in perfect color...for about 40 seconds. Then the tape started sputtering, the picture went to shades of grey, and not long thereafter the entire screen fuzzed out.

Same thing happened with Aliens, Gladiator, and other movies. Turns out our VCR, which my wife bought from my brother Andy several years ago, is on its last 4-head 19-micron leg. We thought about getting it repaired, but figured we would get laughed right out the door of any given Radio Shack if we even mentioned it to them. Our friend Sarah let us borrow one of those shifty head cleaners, which helped a little, but not nearly enough.

Would our collection of VHS tapes finally be, once and for all, obsolete? It was either face facts, or shell out money for a new VCR, which I'm not even sure you can even buy anymore.

But then, and who would have thunk it, I came across not one, but four VCRs at my work that were bound for the dumpster. I quickly snagged them and they are resting safely in my car trunk until we can try them, one by one, in hopes that our VHS tapes will have a new lease on life. Sweeeet.

*I am not suggesting that The Rock, or any given Michael Bay movie, is good, but sometimes you just gotta watch Sean Connery blow the jeepers out of San Francisco in a Humvee

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

That's a big twinkie

Last Friday our cooking-and-movie-watching friends Jon and Sarah were over for (guess what?)...well, yeah, I won't even tell you. :)

Anyway, after pouring out a 40-ounce of butter for the Roseville 4, we got right to business with the evening's menu: homemade pizzas. Jon and I usually go a little overboard when it comes to toppings, and this was no exception, as evidenced by our final product, shown below in its pre-cooked state:

Our gigantor-sized pizza included the following:

• One Boboli thin crust
• Half a jar of Green Mill pizza sauce (I didn't know they sold this stuff in stores, but I'm glad they do)
Almost one pound of italian sausage
• Lots of pepperoni
• Over a pound of mozzarella cheese
• A copious amount of sliced mushrooms
• Two sliced-up Roma tomatoes, but just on my side, since Jon thinks they're gross

As usual, our pizza was totally awesome, and each of us managed to wolf down only three slices before nearly passing out. The ladies, of course, had a much more sensible pizza consisting of just cheese and pepperoni. A rousing time was had by all, and we topped off (har!) the evening with Entrapment, albeit slightly to Jon's chagrin as I think he was looking forward to one of the Jim Carrey movies he had brought over.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

What Texts May Come

I have known for a few years that if you send a text message to GOOGL (i.e. 46645) with the name of a business and a ZIP code, Google will send a text message back to you with the locations and phone numbers of that business nearest to the ZIP code you queried. In fact, the king of all gadgets, my brother Andy, told me about this a long time ago and then my cousin Beth reminded me of it last summer. I use this feature every now and then, and it really has come in handy on several occasions when I wanted to find the phone number of a business, but was nowhere near a phone book computer with internet access.

But last Saturday around 1:15am, as I was waiting at the Airport Terminal to pick up my wife, whose plane was supposed to land around 1am, I thought, purely on a whim, that I would see if Google could help me out. I sent the text message United 463 to GOOGL and, sure enough, not thirty seconds later I received this reply:

UA 463

Depart: 9:40 PM
Departed: 12:41 AM

Arrive: 10:59 PM
Delayed: 1:55 AM

Not too shabby! Google told me I would have to wait another 40 minutes, so I slipped into an episode of TwiT while I waited for the plane to land.

But it gets better...

A few days ago I was at Costco buying some milk, cheese, and other refrigerated items. While I munched on a slice of pizza from their deli for dinner I wondered if it would be cold enough outside to keep the food cold if I left it in my car for a few hours in the evening. How can I find out? I thought to myself. And then it hit me: I would try Google! So I sent the text message Weather 55304 to GOOGL, and a few seconds later I was hit back with:

Andover, MN 55304 39F, Cloudy
Wind: E 3mph
Hum: 64%

It was actually a complete three-day forecast, but you get the point. Sure enough, thanks to Google, I was able to leave everything in my car without giving it a second thought. Is there anything the Great Organizer can not do?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tuning Out

I haven't had cable TV in nearly two years, and to be fair, when I lived with my cousin before getting married, it wasn't cable TV that was pumped into the living room, it was satellite TV. But who's counting, right? Anyway, we don't have cable and barely even have rabbit ears. What we do have, though, is a subscription to Netflix, which is how we have watched all seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The West Wing. We are halfway through 24 as well.

Not that we are some kind of TV junkies...far from it. But over the span of several years, watching an episode of something or other every now and then, well, it tends to just sort of add up.

Anyway, the other day I was talking with some guys at my work, and they were saying that in the recent storms their HDTV signals went out. "Yeah, my cousin's satellite did that a few times during storms," I said.

"But I don't have satellite," one of them responded, slightly puzzled.

"Yeah, but all I have is one of those shifty antennas that sits on top of our entertainment center," I responded, trying to figure out where the communication breakdown was occurring.

"Yeah, but you can get HD broadcasts over the airwaves," another guy said to me, as the rest were smiling. "That's all I have, and I get lots of HD channels."

I'm out of it for a little while, and everyone gets delusions of grandeur, not to mention HD signals from right out of thin air. Turns out the HDTV revolution is passing me by while I'm busy fiddling away with my Nintendo Wii and, you know, not having an HDTV. It's humbling moments like this when I realize that no matter how I try to stay current on tech stuff like this, there still is a whole lot that I just don't know. And I'm OK with that. It's nice to be brought back to reality every now and then.

Not that our Netflix subscription is in danger anytime soon...