Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Warm Side

Today, as I look out the window onto our front lawn, there is frost on the ground. I don't recall a day since moving here that this has happened. Just yesterday my wife and I were talking about how it doesn't really feel like Christmas yet, even though the celebration of the birth of Jesus is just five days away. I'm sure it will happen eventually, but right now living in Oklahoma where, for instance, the high today is supposed to be 60 degrees, it's just not the same as being surrounded by snow up in Minnesota. So yeah, another difference about living here that isn't necessarily good or bad, just notable.

Last night we had some friends over for cards, and I don't know about you, but spending an evening playing Spades, Pitch, 500, or even Hearts is a great way to pass the time. Sure I like me some video games, movies, going on walks with my wife, working on stuff around the house, and other things like that, but getting some friends together and playing some good old-fashioned card games is where it's at. I'm not into poker, because though I understand that the financial element of the game adds a certain level of intensity and engagement to the proceedings, it also elevates things just past the point to where the game is a little too much about competition as opposed to just having a good time. Last night our game of choice was Spades, which I used to play religiously on the weekends in college, and it was great to sit around the table, munching on junk food just playing some cards. In a few days we're heading up to Lincoln for Christmas (where there is snow, from what I'm told) and I'm sure there will be plenty of evenings that involve card games until the wee hours of the morning. Awesome. :)

We've been doing lots of little improvements around the house lately, and it's nice to not only have the sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well done, but it's just cool to be able to fix things up here and there. Even little things like the towel rack we put in on the bathroom wall, the mantle we installed above the fireplace, or a lamp that we fixed up with a new shade and new table to set it on, are nice to get done because each one makes this place feel a little more like home. I guess it could be that when we have more of ourselves personally invested in our surroundings, those surroundings begin to take on a more personal and familiar air. Next project is mounting our TV above the fireplace, and the mounting bracket should be here sometime this week, so let's hope that works out.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Stepping Out

Yesterday we went down to Oklahoma City with some friends and spent time at an honest-to-goodness art museum. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have been to an art museum, and most of those were at the Sheldon Art Gallery in Lincoln. It's not that I don't like going, it's that art museums don't really enter into my daily consciousness. So when a friend of ours asked if we wanted to go see the Dutch Italianates exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, we both thought it would be something fun and different, so we decided to give it a shot.

And you know what? It was pretty cool. I don't know Monet from Manet, or Impressionism from Surrealism, but I did have a good time looking at all the (very old) paintings, probably because they were all nature scenes. We took out time, reading all the descriptions and even trying to dig a little deeper into the meaning of some of the paintings. Mostly I just liked how the artists were able to create such vivid nature scenes, including animals and people, with nothing but a paintbrush. Today these kinds of things could be banged out in no time in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet, but those artists had nothing but unadulterated skill and tenacity--no computer sketching, no Google image searching, and no [undo] button.

We also spent time looking at the rest of the museum, and even though I didn't really get some of it (a giant blue square with an orange stripe down the middle, a small red square matted inside a people really pay for this stuff?) it was different and interesting, so that was nice. They also had dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of works from a guy who is famous for glass creations. A lot of it was blown glass, and in the lobby there was a tower made of hundreds of pieces of blown glass that stretched nearly three stories high. With all due respect to the dutch artists, the glass was definitely my favorite. :)

One of the cool things about living in our own house has been putting things together in such a way that the house feels like a home. From mowing the yard to decorating the walls, rearranging furniture, and even buying a few things here and there, it's nice to watch this place come together. This week we should be receiving a mounting bracket for our TV, which means we will get to rearrange the whole living room, and I'm looking forward to it. One more step that makes this a place we really feel like we live in.

Time to get working on my review of A Christmas Story for Walking Taco, and the it's off to church. Aw yeah.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Last night my wife and I tried something rather new for the both of us. When she was out of town a few weeks ago for a social event with her work, she met someone who teaches English Country dancing. By "English," I mean "England," and by "Country," I mean "Jane Austen-Style." Since my wife is an ardent fan of Jane Austen, and dancing features prominently in several of her novels, we decided to go down to Oklahoma City for some lessons and dancing last night. It was a lot of fun, and an altogether entirely singular experience for the both of us. To wit: this ain't dancing like the kids at the clubs today.

For starters, most of the people (of the roughly 25 or so total) were not exactly in their youth. But they sure were having a good time, and were delighted to have some of the younger generation there last night, and the way these folks danced you would have thought they were all in their 20's as well. Some were dressed up in period clothing just for the fun of it, and one dude wore a kilt. We got there at 7:30 for some lessons in basic steps and maneuvers, and learned how to change, cross, circle, step, and a lot of other little moves that serve to make up an entire dance. Then around 8, as more people got there and the live band had finished tuning up, we started up the real dancing.

This type of dancing eschews traditional definitions of the word, though in some respects it is in fact far more traditional than the dancing we think of today since it has been around much longer. A typical dance involves two lines of people, one made of men and one of women, standing a few feet apart and facing each other. The individuals facing each other are partners, but partners change with each dance. At the front of the room is a "caller," who first tells the particular moves that make up the dance, and it's up to the partners and their neighbors to make it all happen.

The video above is not from last night--it's just something I found on YouTube that exemplifies the dancing we did. It might not look like much, but it was super fun. I'm not kidding, I had a blast with it and people were super friendly and helpful when we forgot what to do. I also had to be extremely focused the whole time, as things were happening to fast that if I lost my concentration for a few seconds things would break down.

We hope to go again soon, and maybe check out the Ballroom Dancing lessons offered here in town too. In any case, it was at least something different for the both of us, and we had a great time.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

There will come soft rains

It's been a while since there's been a day like this around here. I woke sometime last night to the sound of rain and thunder, and today the lingering after effects are working to craft a Sunday that is one of the perfect kind of days to be inside at home. It's just a little chilly, just a little rainy, and just a little foggy, with a little over an hour until we leave for church. Great way to start the day. :)

Last night we went over to a friend's house for dinner, and it was fun just hanging out and talking for a while. I watched the OSU football game too, and realized that the more I watch football the more it makes sense to me (though actually playing it is something else altogether). I went through a somewhat informal football education in college thanks to my roommates (mostly Evan) who would try their hardest to explain the onscreen Nebraska Cornhuskers action in language that my computerfied, quiz-bowling brain could understand. He did an admirable job, and his efforts served to prepare me for a few years of Vikings football-watching up in Minnesota, and now I really enjoy watching me a foo'ball game here and there. I don't always understand everything that's going on, nor do I always know why a given penalty is called at any one time, but I do like watching nonetheless. So it was pretty cool to see the Cowboys beat the, uhm...Red Raiders (had to look that one up just now) last night. But of course a good deal of that is due to the company, too, and I enjoyed not just watching the game, but watching it with Mark and Jesse. Good conversation, good times. :)

Last week I went to two different conventions with my work, though one was as a worker and one was an attender. I have always enjoyed the behind-the-scenes aspect of any type of production, which is partly why I enjoyed being the Technical Director for so many plays at MCCS, and it was cool to be part of the team that put on the convention. I suppose you could describe it as small, because only a few hundred attendees were registered, but it was really cool nonetheless. We had to set up the giant banner behind the stage, make sure the projectors and laptops were all ready for the speakers, take care of setting up the exhibitors' booths, and deal with a few audio problems that popped up during the course of the afternoon. Nothing too serious, and thanks to the Crowne Plaza's head tech dude Richard, things went great. The speakers were interesting, and from what I could tell the attendees enjoyed coming, and I like knowing that I was part of the team that made it all happen. Awww. :)

We had planned on going out to chainsaw up some fallen trees for firewood today, but the rain might mean we'll be at home instead. It's all good, because there's plenty to do around the ol' house. So here's to a good start to the week.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

The colors of all

Being homeowners has been pretty cool for the most part, with the exception of a few hitches here and there that aren't really worth mentioning in the grand scheme of things. There's the psychological element first and foremost--that feeling of security that comes from knowing you wake and sleep in a place that is entirely your own, on a piece of land that belongs exclusively to you. After living in rented homes and apartments for so long, it's nice to finally have a place to call home that actually does belong to us. Beyond that, though, have been the improvements both large and small. We have slowly been populating the walls with pictures and artwork, replacing some oft-used lights with CFL versions, and organizing our possessions in such a way as we see fit in order to turn this house into a home.

There's some bigger things too, like the leaves in the yard. Oh, the leaves. Our yard is full of them, partially from our own trees and partially from the neighbors, but however they got there they aren't leaving (har!) anytime soon. So yesterday I spent a while raking and mowing and generally chopping the leaves into tiny bits that will stay in the grass, decompose, and help our lawn be just a tad bit healthier in the long run. Or so I hope. The thing about fall down here, though, is that it tends to last for a while, so even though it's November I doubt it's the last time we'll have to go out and do yard work. It's a good kind of work, though, because I know in the end that it's our own place we're working on, and sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.

I also went on a short geocaching mission yesterday, though objectively speaking I suppose one could say I was unsuccessful. I located one out of three geocaches, though I didn't spent a lot of time searching for the final one on my list, so I suppose I could blame my lack of success on my lack of time spent doing it. :) I count the journey a success, though, as it gave me the opportunity to be outside on my bike enjoying the fall weather.

Time to head for church in a bit. This is indeed the day the Lord has made. :)

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Skipping Halloween

One thing about moving to a new town...about 80% of the integration is pretty easy. Getting to know the places to get stuff, people at work, neighborhood you live in, where to eat, and those sorts of everyday things aren't too difficult and for the most part just come naturally through the act of existing in the new location. You need to stock the fridge? You gotta find the grocery store. Need to fill up the car? You have no choice but locate a gas station. It's the minutiae of a new community that's a bit more tricky, especially in a smaller town like where we live now. There was a big Homecoming celebration a few weeks ago, and we weren't sure if we were going to go or not. It sounded kind of interesting, but in just hearing about it we weren't exactly thrilled to go, nor did we understand what the big deal was. But when we went for a walk down the main drag on Homecoming night, saw the amazing displays outside the frat houses, and moved our way slowly through the thousands of people checking out said displays, as well as street vendors, carnival rides, and parade floats...we finally got it. And next year we'll know. :) But we weren't so lucky with the trick-or-treating situation...

Last night was Halloween, but not around here, since it was apparently moved to Thursday night. Neither my wife or I are really into the whole Halloween thing, but we thought it would be a good chance to meet the neighbors around here: pass out some candy to the kids, talk with the adults, and work our way into the neighborhood consciousness. But alas, due to the OSU football game on Saturday, and another game the night before, trick-or-treating was bumped back to Thursday and we didn't even know it until Friday morning. :( Lesson learned: keep our eyes peeled and ears to the ground, and maybe read the local paper a bit more. :)

In our quest to make our house more of a home, we have been doing lot of little things that, taken as a whole, are serving to turn this place where we exist into a place we really live. One of the most useful tools we have discovered, though, is patience. Rome wasn't built in a day, nor are house projects completed all at once. But our list of things to do is slowly decreasing, as is our list of stuff to buy from Lowe's, and yesterday we finally took care of the light bulbs (replacing some oft-used incandescents with CFLs), blinds in the dining room, and a few other miscellaneous items. Today we are going to go get some wood for the fireplace and maybe do some yard work too. And my goal of having our moving boxes unpacked by the end of October was mostly accomplished: everything is out of the boxes, but there are still a few items that need to be actually put away or hung on the walls. We're getting there, though, and it's a fun ride along the way.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The little things

In many ways, living down here is the same as living any other place: I get up, go to work, come home, have dinner with my wife, spend the evening working on projects (or playing on the computer), go to bed, wash, rinse, and repeat. That's not to say it's boring, though it may sound uninteresting. Far from it, in fact. I enjoy living in Oklahoma, I like my job, and I like finding joy in little things as well as big things. But recently I've become keenly aware of how different things can be just based on location alone. To wit: it's been cold and snowy up in Minnesota, whereas down here we've had weather in the 70's with a bit of rain on the side. As such, I have continued to bike to work, which I have not been able to do for a long, long time. My wife and I also went on a nice 3.5-mile hike yesterday, with a blanket of yellow leaves underfoot and a big lake just to the west of the trail. After we got home, we spent an hour or so doing yard work--nothing entirely too interesting, but very different from the environment I have been used to for the past five years. And it's not necessarily better or worst, just different, and a difference I'm learning to appreciate. While my Northern counterparts have wintertime ameneties like skiing, snowmobiling, and white Christmases, down here we have...I'm not sure. Because this is my first winter as an Oklahoman. :) So whatever it is, I'm looking forward to it.

I spent a while playing Rainbow Six 3 the other night, and I realized it was the first time I had sat down to play a video game in months. I enjoy video games, but find it difficult to keep up with the newest trends and games mostly because of the amount of money it requires (one game is about the price of three months of Netflix, and we still have the same DVD player we've had for years) to not only buy games, but buy the newest hardware as well. But my old Xbox is still alive and kicking, even though I don't play it that often, so when a new friend offered to let me borrow his copy of RS3 I was pretty stoked. I also realized how not-good I am at games that require a learning curve, as I prefer the Halo-style of game where you run around, guns blazing, and take out all the bad guys in sight as quick as possible. RS3 is pretty cool though, and it's a nice change of pace from the usual, so I'll probably give it some more time before going to bed tonight.

Ok, time to hit up some internet tubes and maybe read some Dune before heading to bed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Big Picture

Trip to Sedona was awesome. I've only been to Arizona once before (well, twice if you count the time we drove to Nevada and barely grazed the northwest corner of Arizona on I-15) and when I was there the first time we pretty much just hung out in Phoneix. Everyone said that Sedona was beautiful, though, and seriously...everyone was right. It was probably one of the most breathtaking locations I have visited in a long time, if not ever. From the house at which we stayed, just outside the edge of town, you could look out and see a vista that included massive rock formations touching the edge of the sky, skirted by green valleys that ran as far along the horizon as the eye could see. The best part was that almost everywhere we went, whether in town or not, included similar views of deep red peaks rising hundreds or even thousands of feet into the air. But aside from the scenery, it was just a really fun weekend with lots of good people to see and talk with. The bride is a longtime friend of my wife, and the two have known each other since freshman year of college, so it was really good to be there with her and her family to celebrate such a wonderful occasion.

But alas, the duties of a husband-of-a-bridesmaid are often not pressing, and so there was little to do while the ladyfolk were scurrying about, giddy with wedding preparations. So one afternoon some of the other guys and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon which, I gotta say, was pretty grand. Having never been there before, and only seeing pictures in books along with the occasional educational video, I was more or less unprepared scope the scope of the canyon. The drop was so deep, and the expanse so wide, that I had to just stare for several minutes before even realizing I was actually seeing a place on this island earth. It's phenomenal how huge this thing is, and the scale of it all is just overwhelming. We took turns sitting on a cliff edge that dropped a few thousand feet to a rocky slope below, and holding mortality in our own hand like that was an experience I will not soon forget.

The rest of the weekend--the natural wonders, the conversations, the dancing at the wedding reception, it was all a blast. So C and M, if either of you two are reading this, thanks for a great weekend and I wish both of you a blessed married life together.

Since getting back and slipping back into our more-or-less daily routine (which in many ways has yet to even be established, since we're still new to this town and this house) it's been nice to have a place of our own to hang our coats in the evening, and do our part to take care of it too. Yesterday my wife and I did some yard work, today I changed the oil in our car in our own garage, and we got the programmable thermostat figured out too. Always a nice bonus. :) Time to sign off for the night, though, and head for bed.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Moving Day

As of last Thursday we are officially homeowners, and I'm writing this post from the very comfy living room of our very own house near the edge of town. It's been a long time in coming, and like all home purchases this one was accompanied by its share of questions, anxiety, uncertainty, and ultimately elation as we moved closer to the actual date of purchase and then finally to the signing of the papers. We probably looked at close to 30 homes during our search (a big Thank You to our very patient realtor, btw) but this was the only one on which my wife and I were in wholehearted agreement. And so far it's great. We have a surprising amount of stuff unpacked already, and this afternoon our new washer and dryer were delivered, which marks one more item off the checklist of home ownership. My parents and big brother came down last weekend to help us move in, along with two of my coworkers, and this was also when we realized firsthand one of the nice things about a ranch-style house: the lack of stairs is of significant advantage when moving heavy pieces of furniture. :) We've got a list of small improvements to make, and a few long-term goals as well, but right now it's cool to know that we finally have a place to call our own.

The new house also means I have to find a new way of getting to work, since we only have one car and it's a little too far to walk now. But thankfully I discovered this morning that it's only a 15-minute bike ride to campus. Not having biked to work since my days of living in my parents' basement and working at Russ's Market, it's pretty cool to be able to revisit the tried-and-true method of human-powered two-wheel transportation once again. And the general absence of winter snowfall means I should be able to bike for most of the year. I've been trying to exercise more regularly too, and this will also help things in that respect. So yeah, major bonus. :)

This weekend we head to Sedona, Arizona, for a wedding, and I've heard it's really pretty up there. I also plan on loading up my GPS with several Geocaches to find when there's downtime, and hopefully I can locate some near the place we're staying. Right now, though, it's high time I got to bed. *yawn*

Praise the Lord. :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Big Game

Last night I went to my first-ever college football game. Despite having a degree from UNL, and attending school there for five years (not because I was a slacker, but because my program required it), I never went to a Huskers game. Back then I worked most Saturdays and I liked being at my grocery store job during a football game because the place was pretty empty and we got to dress down a little. Even when I had a Saturday off I just wasn't really interested in football. But since graduating and living with my cousin and his friend who are pretty hardcore Minnesota Vikings fans, I've come to appreciate the game a little more. So when we were offered the chance to go to see OSU play Grambling State, I was pretty stoked about it. And it was a really good time. We helped set a new attendance record at the Boone Pickens Stadium, even though fans were pouring out after halftime because an OSU win was pretty much a foregone conclusion at that point. My wife and I stuck it out to the end, though, and I hope we get the chance to go again someday. Come to think of it, I hear we play UNL next year...

One thing I've liked doing since moving to Oklahoma is figuring out more about the town--where to eat, how to get around, where to walking and biking trails know, the kind of stuff that transforms a location from a place where one resides into a place where one lives. Last Friday one of my wife's colleagues took me to breakfast at a place called Mom's Cafe, and whatever images you might conjure up with a name like that in a town this size, they are probably spot on. It was a little way out of town and shared a parking lot with a place called "ABC Used Appliances." But man, when I pulled in on Friday morning, the place was jammed. Mostly working dudes catching some grub before their shift at the mill/factory/construction site, it was the kind of place you hope to stumble upon one day (sort of like the Brass Rail) and maybe even get to know the workers and/or owner. The pancakes were huge, the service was fast, and the air was genial contentment all around. That same night we went to a place called Aggie's, which is a local steak house, for dinner with some new friends. It was outstanding food, and we probably sat there for over three hours talking, laughing, and joking around about all kinds of things. So yeah, I'd say this town is becoming a little more homely.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Got the blues

This morning we got up at 6am, for the second week in a row, to go garage-sale hunting and see what kind of stuff we could pick up for cheap. Last week we grabbed some great deals, like a shop-vac and a reel mower, both in really good condition (an old lady owned them and never used them) for $25 total. Not bad, I must say, and a nice vindication of our efforts to get up early and give the early birds a run for their worms. So in today's sequel outing we got started even a tad earlier (and avoided shifty dirt roads too) and though we didn't pick up as much good swag as last week, I did snag a set of halogen garage lights for $10. I don't know if we'll go again next week, but even if we don't, I'm good with what we got. I usually have pretty bad luck at garage sales, but I guess it pays to go through the listings the night before, map out a route, and (most importantly) suck it up and get going early. Now if only we could find a rocking chair, a table, a desk, some recycling tubs...

Tonight we hit up the 12th annual Stillwater Blues Festival, which is a free event held in the parking lot of the community center. It was really cool seeing some good blues bands, drinking some soda, and enjoying the nice Oklahoma weather. I was just thinking today about how I miss being in Minnesota partly because of the lakes and trees (call me a hippie, but seriously, it's beautiful up there), but after five winters up there I'm glad to be in a part of the country where it'll be a little more bearable during the darker months of the year. And tonight was a nice reminder of why I like this kind of weather. And why I dig live blues music.

This past week I started doing some more aerobic exercise, and so far it's going well but wow, I'm worn out right now. Monday I went for a run--the first time I've done that since my Healthy Lifestyles class in college--and nearly passed out by the time I had done my two miles. But it's a start, right? The next two days I rode our exercise bike about 11 miles each day, and Friday I hit the trail behind our apartment for another run. I'm doing this in the morning when it's nice and cool out, and I hope I can keep it up for a while. But today I took my first nap since college too, probably thanks to the exercise. :)

Oh, and check this out: I reviewed a show called "Man vs. Food" on Walking Taco a few days ago. Not only did the host of the show find out about my review and post it to his Twitter page, but his mom left a comment on my review. Awesome.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Back and at them

I'm not sure exactly what Labor Day is for (I assume it's a holiday in honor of the blue-collar labor force, hence its name), but I'm glad we have it. And if it is in honor of those folks, then I heartily tip my hat to all of the unsung heroes who keep this country running, like my dad who works for the railroad and my brother who works for Kawasaki. But whatever the reason for labor day, it's nice to have the three-day weekend. We spent ours back in Nebraska visiting family, which also included a baby shower for my brother's wife (my wife went to this while I went to see the mind-blowing District 9), a baptism for which my wife and I were sponsors, and a bonus from my big brother: he's officially engaged to his girlfriend now. So yeah, all in all a pretty sweet weekend. No Amigo's, though, but my mom was nice enough to buy Valentino's for everyone on Saturday night when people were over for my other brother's birthday. Definitely an acceptable substitute.

I started watching a series this morning called Man vs. Food, and I think I'm intrigued enough to stick with it for a while and see what happens. Apparently it's about this dude who goes to various locations around the country (possibly world, but I've only seen one episode), susses out the local food lore, and tackles the sorts of eating-based challenges that most of us would never dream of doing. The episode today was about going to this place in Texas that serves a 4.5-pound steak, and the guy actually finished the whole thing in under an hour. But it's just a TV show, so why mention it on the ol' blog? It reminded me a little of how I like to experiment with food by trying odd combinations of stuff just to see what happens. Tonight we made homemade burritos, and I saw some parmesan cheese in the fridge, so I figured "why not?" I couldn't really taste it in the end beneath the salsa and ranch dressing, but it sure didn't hurt.

Before I close out this post I wanna mention the storm we had tonight, and how cool it was. Being a midwesterner by birth and by trade, I enjoy me a good window-rattler, and this evening's storm handled that in spades. :)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Caching In

Yesterday I went geocaching in the big cross country course just behind our apartment, and while I have a few battle scars in the form of bug bites and scrapes from thornbushes, and even though I did not actually find the final cache I was looking for, I still deem the hunt a success. Since getting my Garmin Venture HC GPS about a month ago I have taken it on a handful of geocache hunts, most of which were successful, but yesterday's solo trip was a bit different because I had to go it alone. I did not have the wisdom or experience of my brothers Phil and Tom to guide me--only the GPS and a few basic hints from

The cache I set out to find was a multi-part cache, which means the first find is actually a set of coordinates for another find, which is a set of coordinates to another find. After finding the location of Part 1, I spent nearly 10 minutes looking for the coordinates marker, and finally saw it--a 2" square piece of wood attached to a tree branch by a piece of wire. The second destination was a little trickier to get to, but the coordinates marker was brilliant: a decoy pigeon attached to a tree branch, 50 feet from the cross country trail. No way passers-by would ever find it, and if they did they would just see a bird sitting in a tree and think no more of it (that's what I enjoy the most about geocaching: finding things hidden, like autobots, in plain sight).

The third and final marker was a little more tricky, and I didn't actually locate it, though I do have the coordinates and will try again when the weather isn't so hot and the mosquitoes aren't so hungry. So all in all I spent at least an hour walking around some beautiful countryside and found two out of three things I was looking for. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.

Before going to bed on Friday night I purchased an ad on facebook for Walking Taco. So far nearly 4,000 people have seen it and 0 people have clicked on it. :) It's a learning exercise for me, though, and because I don't pay unless someone clicks, I'm out nothing. Not a bad deal, really, and who knows...maybe something will happen before the ad runs its course by the middle of the week. We'll see.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Corn for popping

Tonight for dinner I had a giant bowl of homemade popcorn, my first since moving to Stillwater and, come to think of it, my first in at least a month. I wouldn't say it was worth the wait, because the wait itself wasn't a deliberate decision on my part, but man, was it delicious. :)

But anyway, here's a dilemma my wife and I are facing now that we live in a small town with fewer choices for these kinds of things than Minneapolis offered. Since we've been married we have gotten most of our groceries at Cub Foods, even though it was a tad more expensive than some other places (but not as bad as Rainbow). Mostly it was out of convenience, but it was also a small way of sticking it to the man--the Mega Store man, that is. The one who is rearing his ugly head here in the form of not one, but two, Wal-Marts in town, both a short drive from our place. But not only is Wallyworld omnipresent, the competition really does have higher prices and not as much selection.

So what to do? Do we give in and follow our wallets, thus contributing to the ever-growing chokehold that the Walton family is placing on small businesses in places like this across the country? Do we stand on a veritable financial soapbox and, with our hard-earned dollars and a sense of duty to the people who built this town from nothing, shop for groceries instead at one of the few local stores, knowing we're paying more for the same thing?

Well, we've sort of come to a stalemate over all this--going mostly to the Food Pyramid, but also getting a handful of things at Wal-Mart when it's (gosh darn it!) just convenient. I would like to say we stand on principles and only patronize the locals, but sometimes you just gotta buy the 47-cent cornbread mix even if you know you're feeding the war machine all the while.

In college I was on this high-minded one-man Wal-Mart boycott that changed no minds, affected no one, and in the long run only helped my 22-year-old ego--not the local business owners. Now that I'm married and have enough dollars to buy more than ramen and off-brand spaghetti o's, I still try to shop the locals, but...yeah.

Is it a tragedy? Nah, not really. I sleep well enough at night.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lazy Saturday

Two weeks of living in Oklahoma and things are going pretty well. The people are nice, my job is great, and our kitchen is virtually box-free. So score one big victory for the 'smuths. But one thing they're missing in our town is a Target, and while this seems virtually impossible for our Minneapolis-dwelling brethren, it is most definitely a reality down here. So today we took a drive over to Oklahoma City to hit up one of the many Targets they have, along with some clothing stores at the mall and an Ace Hardware to boot (yes, it's true--there are no Ace Hardware stores here. Heck, there's not even a Do It Best, though they are probably opening one soon).

Target was cool, and we snagged some polo-type shirts for me and a few house-type stuff for our home. After that we went to the mall, and even though I'm not much for doing the typical mall thing, and generally feel out of place amid throngs of shoppers carrying bags from places like Hollister, Abercrombie, and Macy's, I did find enough to do at the mall to keep me interested while my wife looked for some clothes. All in all the trip to the Big City went fairly well, despite a few ominous-sounding rumblings from the front driver's side of one of our cars. I'm fairly sure I know the problem, though, and hopefully my dad and I will be able to get it fixed next time we're in Lincoln.

I missed the Perseids this week, which was a bit of a bummer, but a few of my friends got out to see them and hopefully I'll make it next year. I know there's a few other meteor showers throughout the year, but this one is good because it happens when it's still warm out. :) In college a bunch of us went out around 3am to see the Leonids, and it was awesome seeing the night sky lit up by streaks of white, burning bright across the night expanse. Sometimes I think the Lord gives us stuff like that just to remind us how small we are, and how powerful He is. He really does have the whole world in His hands.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Warming up

Our first week of officially living in Oklahoma has gone very well. Not entirely without issues, mind you, but overall it has been a good experience, and while I already miss the people, activities, and weather of Minnesota, I have a feeling things are going to be just fine down here.

The moving truck finally showed up on Monday, and even though the crew of three was down to only two since one of them didn't show up to work, they still got everything unloaded and up to the third floor of our apartment building in one afternoon. I was at work (the second day of my new job, which is going very well) but came home for lunch to see how things were going and bring some McDonalds to my wife and the two movers. Bummer of a thing, though, the people at McD's forgot to put a fork in with the salad that one of the movers ordered. So this dude who had been lifting boxes up three flights of stairs in 95 degree heat couldn't even eat his lunch. But instead of complaining, he was totally cool about it and just kept on working. I'm not kidding, those moving guys had such a great attitude about it the whole time, and the next time I start to whine about something stupid I hope I remember the movers.

As far as life in general goes, I can't complain. My new job is going great, the a/c in our cars is holding up well, and we've been taking stock of the local surroundings as best we can. We spent two days on two weekends looking at houses with our realtor, and have found two that we really like but a ton of questions left to answer. We went to a nice church this morning, ate at some local establishments like Taco Bueno, Mazzio's, and Ci-Ci's, and have spent time unboxing our stuff almost every day since moving in. So yeah, all in all this whole Oklahoma living is going pretty good.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


About a week ago I finally got my hands on the GPS I've wanted for a while, and so far it has been very nice. My brothers and I went geocaching and found several caches, one of which was a "multi-cache," which means that the first found item was a clue that led us to the real item. My wife and I also went on three 20-mile bike rides, and the GPS tracked our speed, position, and total miles traveled. Even better, I was able to upload the trip data to Google Earth so we could view our bike trips on a map. All in all a nice little device, I must say.

We had a good time in Lincoln this past week, but like usual, it was over all too soon. Mostly we spent time with family, and played lots of cards and board games, but we also made it up to Omaha to see some of my wife's friends who just bought a new house. There were people I wish I could have seen, and things we didn't get time to do, but the nice thing about visiting Lincoln is its proximity--home is merely a short car trip away. It was true in Minnesota and it's still true here in Oklahoma.

Speaking of which, we made it here safe and sound two days ago and it's been pretty good so far. Most of our belongings are still on the moving truck, which should arrive on Monday, so we're living in a hotel until then (courtesy of the moving company, which said our stuff would be here two days ago). We got the keys to our apartment, I started my new job, and today we are meeting some people for lunch and then checking out some houses with our realtor. The weather is nice too, but I've been warned about the annual August Heat Wave. Here's hoping all those years in Minnesota haven't softened me to 100+ degree summer days. :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And here we go

It's weird to think of all that's happened in the past week. It seems like enough to fill at least eight days. I got the fans replaced in my car, all by myself no less, though one of my coworkers was with me to hold a few parts when I needed it (we did the job after work, by the way, so no time was robbed from the clock). I'm not sure the a/c is entirely fixed, but at least we got one of the major problems taken care of for only $60.

Last night I ordered a GPS I've had my eye on for quite some time: a Garmin Venture HC. It's pretty well-reviewed, and I got it so I could start geocaching on a somewhat regular basis. I've always liked going with my brothers and friends, but now I'll be able to go even if no one else is available (not so easy when I don't have a GPS, hence the purchase). It should get to me on Friday or Saturday, so hopefully we can get some caching in this weekend. And speaking of this weekend...

24 hours from now (give or take a few) we will be on the road to Lincoln--our halfway stop on the trip to Stillwater, Oklahoma, which will soon be our new home. The boxes in our apartment have been multiplying lately, and some of our rooms have developed a rather curious echo to them, which is normal but a little strange nonetheless. It has been fantastic living here for five years, despite the very frigid winters, but I'm excited to move on to a new town, with a new job, and meet new people too. Last night we went out to dinner with my cousin, his wife, and some other friends, and tomorrow we'll get to see Jon and Sarah one last time before heading out tomorrow. I was hoping to get one last trip to the Brass Rail, but we're going to hit up Key's Cafe instead. BR is just too far away. Sad, yes, but it will be another reason to get us back up to Minnesota. :)

So this will likely be my last blog post from Minnesota, at least for a while. It's been a great run, and here's to new faces and new frontiers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mille Borne

Our apartment has kind of disappeared lately. I don't mean like Deathstalker and his invisi-blanket, though. It's more of a Millennium Falcon/Star Destroyer disappearance. Our living room is here, but hiding in plain sight, more or less. We're getting everything in our place packed up for the big move in a week (yikes!) and right now our carpeting is buried under a massive pile of boxes, packing paper, and rolls of tape. It's been slowly working its way to this point for a few weeks, but wow, now that our stuff is actually more in boxes than on shelves...well, it's kind of an odd thing to have happen. There's still a lot left to pack up, but it's probably a good thing we started when we did. And thanks to everyone who has given us boxes! So far we haven't had to actually go out and buy our own, which has been awesome.

Tomorrow I'm going to the auto parts store...kind of. Our black Corolla has two radiator fans, and one of them needs replacing. Well, to be specific, it's the fan blades that need replacing, not the fan motor itself. It's a very cheap part, but no place actually sells them. You have to purchase the entire fan/motor/bracket assembly, which is a couple hundred dollars. So I'm gonna give the salvage yard a try and see if I can yank one out of a car sitting on the lot. I'm also going to change the oil in our other car at my friend Sarah's house. Her dad always lets me use his garage, for which I am heartily grateful, and it will be nice to see her parents one more time before we move too.

I had a looong road trip this weekend: 1600 miles in four days, all by me lonesome. There were plenty of podcasts to keep me company, though, but it sure is good to be back home. It's past my bedtime, though. Time to hit the hay.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Packing it all in

Despite not lighting off a single firecracker, smoke bomb, ground bloom flower, artillery shell, or even the lamest firework ever invented, the snake, I still had an outstanding Independence Day yesterday. In the morning I went to the local Hmong Festival with my friend Ben and his girlfriend. Despite living two blocks from the park where they hold the festival every year, I had never actually attended it. So I figured that since we're heading to Oklahoma soon I might as well go. Ben has worked with the Hmong people for years, so he and his girlfriend were able to explain all kinds of cultural things to me as we walked among the hundreds of booths displaying and selling all manner of items. Not entirely unlike an American state fair, the booths contained clothes, DVDs, candy, music, treats, trinkets, live performers, and some with nothing more than an assortment of herbs, roots, and unmarked pills. The sounds were loud, the people chatty as all get out, and the prices fairly reasonable.

And then came the food.

Nearly four blocks of wall-to-wall food tents were hawking sausages, chicken, fish, rice, papaya, mango, egg rolls, spring rolls, drinks in strange small cans, and lots of other culinary curiosities that I had never seen before. The three of us shared some lunch while watching a soccer game, and before I left we picked up three cups of what's called "Nava," which is basically colored tapioca pudding mixed with coconut milk, syrup, and bits of water chestnuts. The tapioca looks like grubworms, instead of tiny little balls like I'm used to, and the whole thing is slurped through a pretty big straw. That was probably my favorite part of the whole festival, other than seeing some insane athletes compete at Takraw. :)

In the afternoon my wife and I headed up I-94 to Saint Cloud for some good old-fashioned family time with the relatives. We spent the afternoon and evening at my uncle Paul's house with lots of my extended family, and even though we didn't really do anything super crazy or exciting, it was a lot of fun (maybe I'm getting old, but I really enjoy sitting around and just talking sometimes). My cousins and I found a geocache and traded a superball for a small action figure, and there was also some card and croquet games too.

So yeah. Happy Independence Day everyone. :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Chance of showers

We just got home from a great, but short, weekend in Lincoln. Even though it was short, and much of the time was spent working on our car with my dad in his garage, we had (as you can probably predict by now) a great time seeing family and friends and partaking in the usual Lincoln-ish trappings. But first...the car. It's been making a weird rattling noise for a while, and even though everything looks fine, my dad and I decided we would put new shocks in nonetheless. So we spent Saturday morning and afternoon installing the new ones, and even though the rattling is (mostly) still there, the old shocks were done for, so it's a good thing we got the new ones in. Not that shocks are mission critical, but it's just another one of those typical auto maintenance things that should probably be taken care of when it's time, and not put off and put off and put off until the car falls apart. So anyway, we got that taken care of, though still on the list: breaks, rotors, and (nooo!) air conditioning. Just part of the joys of car ownership! :)

My mom threw a really nice party for my wife, who recently completed her grad school program, on Saturday night, and it was cool to see lots of family and friends, play some bocce ball, sit around my dad's new fire pit, play cards, and have some really good roast beef sammiches. Sunday my wife went to a baby shower for our friend who is due in August, and her husband Evan and I went to a sports bar and watched the USA lose to Brazil. :( It was a really good time, though, and I learned a lot about soccer and NASCAR, and we got to shoot a game of pool afterwards which is always a good time. We did end up going to the baby shower for a little bit, and managed to make it out alive and mostly sane. Score.

Later that night me and Evan went to see my friend Nick's band, The JV Allstars, at a bar down on "O" street. Duuuude. It was schweeeet. I haven't seen them, or pretty much any band, in years, and it was awesome to watch them play the final show of their semi-national tour back home in Lincoln. We chatted with Nick and his girlfriend for a while after the show, caught up with some cool people we hadn't seen in a while, and even made it back home in time to get a good night's sleep for the drive home today. So yeah, all in all, one heck of a great visit home.


ps. We move to Oklahoma in 23 days. Whoa.

Monday, June 22, 2009

90 Degrees

One of the nice things about living in an apartment, aside from not having to go through the process of selling a house when we move in a month, is that some things are just taken care of by nature of the rent we pay. Case in point: last Saturday, when close to a dozen family members from three separate states were all set to converge on our place at 11am for some bratwurst, chips, and summer sausage. When we woke up that morning the air conditioning had gone on the fritz, which meant that soon the whole place would be not just hot but muggy as all get out. Major bummer, for sure. But thankfully, all it took was a quick visit to the main office and a guy was up in less than an hour to fix it--at no charge to ourselves. So even though he technically didn't get the problem fixed (it was a bigger issue than the repair dude realized, so he had to call for backup), it was cool that there was a solution at hand that required very little effort.

It's this kind of thing that I go back and forth on when it comes to the idea of owning a house, which we hope to do by the end of the year, Lord willing. I like to fix things, and from time to time I even get to try my hand at the occasional household or automotive problem, but there's so much I still don't know how to do as far as maintaining an actual house. But my dad taught me enough growing up that I think I could at least make a respectable effort at fixing problems before having to call some type of repair service. We'll see, I guess. So while I'm really stoked to have our own place, with a yard, a garage, a washer and dryer, carpet we can rip out, walls we can knock down, walls to paint...well, it's some of those things we can't do here that make an apartment kind of cool. In any case, though, we'll be renting at least for the first few months following our move, but I sure think it will be cool to have a house soon. :)

The weekend, with all the aforementioned family visiting, was really really cool, by the way. It's so nice when family come from out of town, and we spent a lot of time just visiting, or going to the Mall of America, hanging out at the hotel, walking to the park, and just being with each other--and at the end of the day, that's really what it's all about. So yeah, thanks to everyone who came for the visit, and here's hoping we can see you again soon!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Apples and oranges

This is a bit of an odd post, since it kind of sounds like I'm shilling for Apple. Keep in mind that I have also had bad experiences with Apple customer service before, but this one totally blew me away.

Several months ago my white MacBook developed the infamous hairline crack just to the side of the trackpad. Thinking I was doomed to have a broken case for the rest of the computer's life, I just patched it with masking tape and went about my business as best I could. Over time the crack got worse, and another started to form on the opposite side of the trackpad too. I had heard about people getting these cracks fixed, and my MacBook was covered under Applecare, but I couldn't afford to be without it for a prolonged period of time. I'm a computer teacher, so I use my laptop daily as part of my job, so the thought of handing it over to Apple for a week wasn't really something I wanted to do if I could avoid it.

Well, it's now summer break and even though I'm still working with my MacBook to do software updates, deploy disk images, and other maintenance on our school's computers, I figured it was time to bite the bullet and get the case fixed before it got even worse. Yesterday I called the Apple Store near my house and they said it would probably take 3-7 business days to fix the crack, but that it would most likely be covered under Applecare. I had to make an appointment with an Apple Genius to get it inspected, so I went ahead and made my appointment for 7:40 this evening.

So my wife and I get to the Apple Store, I hand the computer over to the Apple Genius, and after looking at it for about four seconds he says it's definitely covered under Applecare, and can get it fixed ASAP.

"Great," I said as he pulled out some papers for me to sign. "When can I expect it to be done?"

He glanced down at his watched, looked at me from behind the frames of his trendy black-rimmed glasses, and calmly said "Around eight."

I was a bit confused, since "eight" didn't mean a whole lot to me. Today's date is the 16th, so I thought he might have meant the eighth day of next month. Ouch. They had told me 4-7 business days, but this was a little ridiculous. "What do you mean, eight?" I asked.

Puzzled, he simply replied "Eight o'clock."

"You mean, in 15 minutes?" I asked, totally floored.

"Yeah, or maybe a few minutes after that."

And so it went. I handed my computer over to Devin the Apple Genius who told me he was going to go fix it personally right in the back of the store. My wife and I came back 20 minutes later, and he handed me my MacBook complete with a brand-new case top (including the keyboard and trackpad, mind you). I've been using it for a while since with no problems. I'm not kidding, this is probably the best customer service I have had for any product, ever. Apple just went up a notch or two in my book.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Q Who?

So almost seven months ago I got a Rubik's Cube from my wife as a surprise present. For most of the time between then and now I fiddled with it occasionally, often getting no farther than the first two rows, and always just sort of giving up once I found myself staring at that blasted third row. I tried a few online tutorials, asked a handful of friends, but could never actually solve the thing on my own. So when we made a trip to Georgia in late May, I printed off some directions beforehand and decided that I would conquer the cube once and for all.

That weekend I spent a long time poring over my printed instructions, watching online videos, and consulting with others about how to solve the game. No single solution seemed to work, and even the most basic "beginner's guides" soon lost me in pages of obscure naming conventions and bi-directional side twisting. We flew back from Georgia having had an enjoyable and relaxing weekend, but I was still mostly confuzzled by the puzzle.

Soon afterwards the cube was once again sitting in my teacher's bag, mocking me and defying me to ever solve it. I also found myself too caught up with work to really give it another shot, but then one of my students brought one to class and spent a few minutes trying to solve it before the bell rang. "I can get the first two rows," I told him, "but nothing more after that." It finally hit me: there had to be a way for me to solve it. If I could get the first two rows, by using a mix of logic and memorizing some moves, there must be a way to get the third row.

So I sat down one night about two weeks ago, and came up with a solution that involved bits and pieces of several tutorials and videos I had been watching. After much twisting, turning, and starting over, I finally solved the Rubik's Cube. So I quickly messed it up and solved it again. And again. My custom-made instructions, a concoction cobbled together out of spite and determination, had allowed me to finally solve the Cube.

The next morning I solved it again before heading to work. I kept it with me all day, solving it over and over during my free time, and did the same for the rest of the week. And as I write this, my cube is sitting a foot away, its spirit shattered and will broken, just waiting to be solved again. It still takes me a good three minutes to do it, but I'm pretty stoked that I finally learned how.

This morning I tried making my own solution video too. Now that's where the real challenge lies...

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Heading up north

Ever since we moved to Minnesota, there have been things we wanted to do that were, more or less, uniquely Minnesotan (or at least Northern). Many of them we did, but here as we approach the final month of our time in the Twin Cities, it seems like there is still so much left to do. I'm not one who likes to live life with regrets, though, so rather than focus on what we didn't get to do, we're thinking of what can yet be accomplished before the end of July. One of those things, a trip to Canadia, will soon be realized. Just tonight we booked a hotel in Thunder Bay for this weekend, and even though it will be kind of a short trip, it's going to be a nice way to spend a few days together doing something very different from our usual routine. I'll try to bring back some maple syrup or get a photo of a Mountie or something. :)

In the past few weeks I've been trying to get into Twitter, and to be honest, I still don't really get it. It's been a bit of a distraction from this blog, actually, and I don't like that at all. Twitter seems like a hollow, impersonal flurry of activity at all times, and I find it hard to follow what's going on unless I check it several times a day. I'm probably going to keep up with my postings tweets, but I feel a little guilty that my exploration of weird new Web 2.0 technologies has caused other things to fall by the wayside if even just a little bit. However, to that end, I have also consciously put an end to my surfing of, mostly because I realized just how much time I was wasting on that site. Weird videos, odd tech news, up-to-the-second coverage of anything Apple was all amounted to little more than a heap of distractions from things that really matter. I was also deeply dissatisfied with the brazenly political bent of the site, and so, in the past month I think I have visited the site twice for a total of about 20 minutes. I've been replacing it with TechCrunch, Drudge, and that tried-and-true standby, Slashdot, and have hardly looked back. So long, Kevin Rose!

Before I close out this post I have to mention that I went rock climbing today, and it was pretty cool. I went to this place called Vertical Endeavors and found out just how little upper body strength I really have. It was a lot of fun, though, and I hope to go back at least once before we make the move to Oklahoma.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Two Months

Wow, it's been crazy around here this week. Nay, scratch that--this month. It's always busy around this time of year as the school term comes to a close, projects come up, wedding season sets in, and all sorts of other activities (and, to be honest, distractions) start to fill the calendar. This weekend some friends of ours are visiting from Omaha, and yesterday we went up to Taylors Falls (the town, not the falls themselves which, I was told, have been displaced by a dam) and canoed down the Saint Croix river. I like myself some canoeing, even though I'm not exactly good at it, and only do it a few times a year--mostly at Cass Lake. But we had the current of the river with us, so even if we just sat there and did nothing we still made progress. I got my first sunburn of the year, and will probably be wearing sunscreen more in the future. Oops.

Last weekend we flew to Georgia for my wife's brother's college graduation, and had a great time seeing everyone down there. I often tell my wife that one of the cool things about being married to her is how much my traveling has increased. I have now been to Georgia and Montana infinitely more than I would have ever been had we not been married. I still have yet to leave the country (yeah yeah, I know...) but this summer we are taking a short trip to Canadia and hopefully we'll get to Europe before have kids someday. But yeah, it's always nice to get out of Dodge for a few days, especially when it involves seeing family. We even got to spend the night with some of the Atlanta-based Ringsmuths, which is always fun and often involves delicious food too. But that's kind of a general rule for the South. :)

Today after church we'll probably go see Star Trek again, since our company hasn't seen it yet, and take a walk down to the local free zoo too. It's actually pretty decent for what it is, and a great way to spend some time when the weather is nice.

iDVD just bleeped at me, so it's time to go to work on another DVD project and burn some disks too. Take it easy, all y'all.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Summit

It's weird that we'll be moving away from the Cities in under three months.

Dude, three months. Seriously.

We have had three moving companies come look at our place to give us quotes, and tonight we sold a load of books to Half Price Books for a whopping $5 (it would have cost twice that much just to load them on the moving van, so we kind of made $15, I guess). Not bad, really, since they were just sitting on the shelf not doing anyone any good, much as they have done for the past five or ten years.

So anyway, here we are, coming down to the final weeks of living here, and it's weird how much we haven't really done. I mean, there's a ton of stuff that people do up here, but we haven't really done much of it. Like restaurants. People have told me that the Twin Cities has great restaurants. Well, we don't really eat out much, and when we do, there's a few local haunts that we patronize, but there's hundreds of places around here we just haven't been to. We aren't really into skiing (I went once, and it was awesome, but I never got around to going again). We don't rollerblade or hunt deer or go ice get my point.

It's not that we don't do anything--far from it. But time is running out to experience the cities we have called home for the past five years. We have a small list of things that we'd like to do, but you know, I'm not really losing sleep over any of it. The thing is, each day I get up, say my prayers, and go about my life, and if I can't find joy and accomplishment in my teaching or the things my wife and I do on a regular basis, well, what would be the point? And so it's in these things that I take joy--often the simple things, like today's walk down Summit Avenue. The houses there are old and gigantic, and the weather was a crisp 58 degrees, and the sun was shining...a far cry from jet-skiing on Lake Minnetonka or snowboarding down Spirit Mountain, but it was a great way to spend the afternoon nonetheless.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Set a course, Mr. Data...

"Two tickets for Star Trek," I said to the teenager behind the counter, trying to conceal my excitement. "Next Thursday, please." She punched a few buttons on her computer, looked at a co-worker for reassurance, and went back to managing the screen. I thought it might take a little while, but the sun was just beginning to set, the weather was warm, and my wife and I didn't have much else to do, so we waited patiently.

"Do you want the seven or ten o'clock show?" the ticket girl asked.

"Seven," I said, smiling at my wife.

"Twenty dollars," she replied. I was a bit shocked, since we had seen the tickets online the night before for half that price, plus a one-dollar "service fee," which is how we ended up at the theatre in person. I was a bit surprised, since I agreed to forgo an opening-day showing at the IMAX on the south side of the Cities mostly because they wanted a hefty $15 per ticket.

"Are you sure?" I asked, thinking back to the opening night of Star Trek: Nemesis, and wondering if the new revival of the Star Trek franchise was really worth a $20 gamble. I'm hoping it will be, but still, if the tickets are supposed to be $5 each, well, it never hurts to ask, right?

"I think there might be a problem with the computer," she said with a slight bit of empathy. "I'll check with my manager." A few minutes, and several garbled syllables by way of a walkie-talkie later, she found a way to sell us seats for the $5 price we had seen online. "You'll be in theatre 10, which is a little smaller..."

Red Alert. Prepare for saucer separation, number one! "Smaller?'s Star Trek!" I widened my eyes just a little, trying to appeal to her good nature and what I hoped was a sympathy for the endangered species she was encountering first-hand: the walking anachronism that is the modern-day Star Trek fan, firmly clinging to memories of The Voyage Home and The Inner Light, hoping his faith in the once-great series would soon be redeemed. Sure enough, it worked, and a few more minutes of screen-tapping later, she landed us seats in the Big Auditorium for the same $5 price.

And so we walked away, hoping J.J. Abrams' interpretation of Gene Roddenberry's grand vision for humanity will live up to the hype. I guess we'll find out in a week!


Thursday, April 09, 2009

Breathing Room

I don't like to do nothing. It's kind of a bad habit I have, actually, because it's hard for me to just sit and relax. Even playing video games or watching movies is a little difficult, because after 30 minutes or so (if I'm by myself, anyway) I'll have to get up and clean something, fix something, or tweak some odd project on the computer. I don't even like to sleep more than 8 hours, even if I have nothing to actually *do* when I get up. I think I get it from my dad, who gets up around 6am every day for work, but is out in the garage putzing around on things on Saturday mornings nonetheless. Last weekend was kind of a good example of this: I had Thursday, Friday, and Monday off work, but did I sleep in? Nooo. I could have, I guess, but instead I dutifully set my alarm so I would get no more than eight hours of rest, woke up, and started editing video footage or cleaning the kitchen. In fact, I didn't touch my Nintendo DS (halfway through Chrono trigger, baby!) or Nintendo Wii the whole weekend. I probably should have, though, because the next few days were kind of a blur. We're right at the end of Play Season, as I call it, so we were in high gear with rehearsals and whatnot. It's going to be a good show, though, even though I won't be there for this weekend's debut performances.

As I write this, I'm back in my parents' dining room in Lincoln. My wife and I got in super late last night (or super early this morning) and the next few hours are the calm before the storm, as my little brother Tom's wedding festivities will begin shortly and not let up until sometime Sunday afternoon. It's going to be a whirlwind of Ringsmuths and other friends and family around here for the next few days, but it should be a good time for all involved. It usually is when we all get together for something like this. Last Sunday, for instance, a bunch of us were at my uncle Tony's house for some Easter celebrations including Croquet, cards, board games, and of course, way too much food.

Anyway, it's nice to have a break this morning, and it was really nice to get Valentino's take-out for lunch. Mmmm...Val's lasagna...

Sunday, April 05, 2009


One of the reasons I purchased Sony HC96 camcorders when I started filming weddings two years ago was because they could convert analog signals to digital. I mean, the HC96 is a really good camera on its own, but this added bonus would probably come in handy at some point. And recently, it has. I've been using the "analog pass-through" quite extensively in the past week or so to do some work for a friend, and aside from some odd Mac OSX permissions quirks with Final Cut Express, it's been going very well. I guess the lesson here is to be prepared, I think. And speaking of which, I ordered a bunch of video stuff yesterday that should keep us going for the rest of the year, if not into next year. DVDs, cases, tapes, plastic sleeves...all the things that we will need for the projects we have lined up so far, and enough for some unforeseen work too. Even if I don't get a job right away when we move to Oklahoma this summer, I should be able to do enough of this video work to keep busy and get some income while the job search progresses.

It's snowing outside, by the way, which still weirds me out just a little. Usually in April we get rain, not snow, but such is the way of things in Minnesota. Last night I went to pick up my wife from the airport and was pleasantly surprised to find myself making the half-hour drive in a nice rainshower. Ever since I was a kid I have enjoyed driving in the rain (or, in the case of my younger counterpart, being driven around in the rain). It's soothing, I guess. I can't quite put my finger on exactly why, but I just know it's pretty cool.

Next week is Easter, which means not only a celebration of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, but as part of such a celebration, the Ringsmuths will descent en masse on my uncle Tony's house for the afternoon. And as these gatherings typically go, I'm sure there will be cards, games, and even some croquet if it's nice outside. And food, too. Lots of food. Good times will be had by all. :)

Time to get out of these PJs and head for church. Today's Sunday School lesson is on Zacchaeus. It's kind of weird how I heard all these lessons when I was a kid, but now that I'm teaching them I see them in a whole different light. God's Word is like that, you know. The more you study it, the more there is to learn. Anyway, time to bust outta here. Peace.

ps. Before I sign off, I need to send out a massive Thank You to Ron, who let me use his garage again to change the oil in our car. Thank, Ron! And thanks for pizza too! Sarah, your dad is the coolest. :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Road to Spring

This weekend my wife and I got just a small taste of how things are going in North Dakota. Her friend's parents live right on the Red River, and as such they spent most of last week filling sandbags and piling them into massive dikes behind their house. While the river was expanding, and they were stonewalling (or sandwalling, as it were), they got dumped on by rain and snow, even to the point of blizzard conditions. Eager to help, we left for Fargo after work on Friday and got there in time to help out at a local golf course where the river was threatening not only the course, but the entire neighborhood nearby. We spent about an hour and a half chucking sandbags around with 100 strangers, who were extraordinarily friendly and upbeat, despite the week of cold weather and hard work.

The next day things were pretty quiet, despite the unbelievable amount of flooding that was taking place. We helped out around the house a little, but mostly there was a sense of collective anticipation, or possibly anxiety, as people weren't sure what to do but wait. The dikes had been built and fortified, and until something happened, there just wasn't a whole lot left to do. We called the volunteer hotline again around 11am and were told of a sandbagging effort that was to take place in a nearby town in an hour and a half, but when we got there a policeman told us that there was, again, nothing left to do. And so even though we only got in a little bit of actual sandbagging, it was nice to go up and help out as best we could.

So yeah, between that and working far more than I usually do, it's been a hectic few weeks. Good, to be sure, but a little busier than normal. Our school's spring play, A Midsummer Night's Dream, opens in a few weeks and things are coming together very well. My little brother is getting married in a few weeks, my dad had a birthday, and we even made it up to The Brass Rail for some (what else?) delicious chicken, followed by an evening of Dominos with Sarah. Good times all around, I must say. God is good.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Expiration Date

I went to the dentist the other day, and while the receptionist and I were chatting, she asked if I wanted to set up another cleaning appointment in six months. "No," I told her, "I won't be living here in six months." "Oh really?" she replied, with just the right amount of calculated politeness so as to appear interested. She had no doubt perfected this art after years of similar interactions, and I responded in kind. "Yeah, we're moving to Oklahoma."

We've known since last fall that we would be moving this coming summer, but for the longest time, including even now, it has seemed like a vague date on the horizon. An event that would happen someday. But when a date on the horizon attaches itself to a tangible concept, like the date of a dentist appointment, it becomes just a little more real.

Here's an example: we buy lots of yogurt. At the store, we try to choose yogurt cups with dates that are far off--often about a month down the line. And standing in the chilly dairy aisle, the expiration dates seem so distant it's as if the yogurt will last forever. But inevitably the dates draw nearer, and as I peek into my fridge now, I see dates looming ever closer and closer that once seemed so distant.

All this isn't to say that inevitability is a bad thing. It's just a different way of looking at it. We don't know when we will start packing our stuff, or loading the truck, or actually waving good-bye to our place here in Saint Paul, but it's coming whether we realize it or not. The nice thing is that we still do have lots of time up here, and as I pray on a daily basis, I want to make good use of it.

So here's to life. :) Time to go snag a yogurt...

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Spring Break

So how's the break going?

I'm glad you asked.

I gotta say right off the bat that it's been really nice to just stay here in Minnesota instead of traveling somewhere to visit family or friends. Not that we don't like doing that--far from it, in fact. Visiting people out of town is one of my favorite ways to spend a three- or four-day weekend. But man, it has been great to chill here at home, get lots of video editing done, finish some grading, watch some movies, and just sort of take it easy over spring break. Best part? There's still one more day left. ^_^

I watched two excellent TED talks tonight (how's that for alliteration?), one on how Digital Domain went about creating a very old version of Brad Pitt for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and another from J.J. Abrams on mystery boxes, movie creation, and special effects innovations. I've always enjoyed seeing the man behind the curtain, just like Dorothy at the end of "Wizard of Oz," and finding out how things work, instead of taking them for granted. If any of this kind of thing interests you too, you should check out the links. Great stuff.

Tomorrow we will probably go Snow Tubing again, thanks to our free passes from when the conveyor lift broke down last time, and then Jon and Sarah are coming over for some board games and delicious baked ziti. mm...baked ziti...

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Not long now...

I heard on the radio last week that Daylight Savings Time happens next week. For those of you who live south of the forty-fifth parallel it might seem a bit silly to take up valuable internet space to write about gaining an hour in one's day, but when I spend two months of the year watching the sun descend on the horizon (and, according to Calvin's dad, into its daily resting place near Flagstaff, Arizona) it's nice to know we'll have an artificially-created perception of longer days for the next several months.

An intense week of video work is wrapping itself up, and on its heels lies a week of respite from schoolwork as my employer is currently (as of tomorrow) on Spring Break. For the first time in a while, though, my wife and I aren't really going anywhere or doing anything special for it. Last year we were in D.C. seeing the sights and gathering data for her dissertation at the Library of Congress, but this year we're just staying here and chillaxing. After spending many hours working on a project for my uncle's company last week, and filming a wedding on Friday, it will be nice to take things at my own pace for a few days.

Incidentally, the wedding was our first one with our new equipment: two sweet-o tripods and a second really nice camera. So far the editing is going extremely well, and I'm very pleased with the footage my wife and I were able to get of the ceremony. The final video should be excellent.

Time to do a bit more editing before bed. But in advance of signing off, I must also wish a very happy birthday to my friend Steve. May it be (and I mean that in the past tense, of course, since it's almost over now) filled with blessings. And maybe some ice cream too. :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009


If I look to my right, I can see a half-empty parking lot, full of cars hidden beneath a blanket of new snow. Headlights, like tired eyelids, are poking out warily from beneath the brows of so many hoods, waiting to lurch to life on the way home which will, hopefully, be not too far off. Leafless trees are waving, defying the airy flakes gathering en masse, knowing they will have the last laugh with the inevitable marching in of springtime.

If I look to my left, I can't see anything except a whitened window.

After spending nearly 20 hours editing a 15-minute video over the past few days, it will be nice to put the final polishing touches on it at home tonight, a mug of hot chocolate beside me and my playlist faithfully chugging away while winter, not quite in its death throes, struggles to blast the Great North one more time.

I'm going to miss these Minnesota winters next year. But then, it will be nice to wear a T-shirt and jeans in January, and run errands in February without waiting for the engine to warm up first. It's a trade-off, to be sure, and all things considered I'll take warm weather over its chilly counterpart any day of the week. But still, there's just something about a Minnesota snowstorm (not to be confused with a Nebraska snowstorm, which would be melted by this time tomorrow) that makes me feel...alive.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Too Short?

More than a year ago, my cousin Beth convinced me to give Facebook a shot. I was skeptical at first, but took the plunge nonetheless, and ever since it's been pretty cool. Sure there are some annoyances, like constant invitations to join causes, play games, and be in groups, and I have trouble following everything that's going on at times, but for the most part I have found it to be an easy and (dare I say it? Yes, I dare) fun (whew!) way of keeping in touch with people.

Two weeks ago, also at the slight prodding of Beth, I joined Twitter. And now, two weeks in, I'm still not exactly sure what it is or does, and just exactly how it has grown to be so popular, but, well, I'm using it. So that's something, I guess. Actually, I'm finding that between this blog, Facebook, and now Twitter, it's kind of hard to keep track of them all. But I'm sure things will even out over time, and who knows, this Twitter thing might catch on. Kind of like those DVD things people keep talking about. I hear they're gonna be huge someday...

Last weekend we went up to Saint Cloud for some Cross Country skiing courtesy of my aunt and uncle, who are avid CC Skiers, and also (guess who?) my cousin Beth. We had a pretty good time, and though I didn't enjoy it quite as much as downhill skiing, it was fun to be out in the snow and learning something new. After that we had a delicious dinner of, what basically amounted to homemade Chipotle burritos, and then went to see the movie Fireproof at a catholic church nearby. Despite being virtually eviscerated by critics, I found it to be thoroughly enjoyable, and one of the most compelling movies I have seen in a while. I highly recommend it to anyone, but especially anyone who is married. Excellent movie.

Time to get back to some lesson plans, and then maybe an episode of The Office before bed.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Warming trends

Some people think it's a bit trite to discuss the weather, but most of those people don't live in Minnesota. It's been CRAZY cold here in the past month, and only recently have things been above zero on a regular basis. Today I walked out of work and it was a downright balmy 30 degrees. My wife and I even went for a walk a week ago, and the best part of all this is, it's only going to get better from here on out. Sure we will get plenty of snow, cold mornings, and icy windshields, but at least the days are getting longer and Spring is in sight.

Last Saturday we went snow tubing at Afton Alps with a bunch of friends, and I wouldn't say it was necessarily better than Green Acres, but it was fun in a different sort of way. Their six well-manicured runs and cool conveyor belt-type of lift were a radical change from Green Acres' two runs and tow-rope lift, and they definitely had higher-quality tubes too. But I kind of like Green Acres' semi-shifty aesthetic, and their two hills are much wider, allowing for massive groups to go down at one time, all linked and tangled together. Still, it was fun going to Afton nonetheless, and after our first run the conveyor belt broke so we had to hoof it up the hill Moses Merril style, but we also got free passes to go again. And so we shall. :)

Ever since reading everyone's "25 things" posts on Facebook, I've been thinking about what I want to say on mine. Even though the fad has kind of passed by now ("25 things about yourself? Dude, that's so last week...") it might be cool anyway. And it's not like the lists are anything groundbreaking or life-changing, and nobody thinks about them for more than a minute after they read them, but still, I want mine to be good. Not better, necessarily, than anyone else's, but good enough that one of the things might actually be memorable or insightful. So, as my dad used to say, we'll have to see.

Speaking of my dad, I hope he's doing better after hurting his hand a few days ago. He broke one of his fingers and will have a splint/cast thing on for a few weeks, so Dad, if you're reading this, we are praying for you and hopefully you can still find a way to operate the welder with one hand. :)

And Sarah, if you're reading this, thanks for coming over with Jon last night. Sgt. Bilko was great, as was the delicious lasagne.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

We didn't start the fire

So my wife and I were watching Jack Bauer bust some terrorists tonight when this strange high-pitched warbling sound started blaring through our apartment. I thought it was from the show and didn't think much of it, but after a little while I muted the TV and sure enough, it was coming from down the hall. It sounded like a fire alarm, so I popped my head into the hallway to check it out. While I didn't exactly see smoke, I could smell something funky, so the two of us decided to play it safe and get the heck outta there.

We put on our coats, grabbed our laptops and a couple other things like a cell phone and our wallets, and walked out to the front where a few of our neighbors were gathered on the street. Honestly I was just glad we weren't the only ones who decided to vacate--it made me feel just a little bit better knowing other people were thinking the same thing we were. I asked around and no one had called 911, so I dialed them up and told them what was going on, namely that our building could be on fire. Not so good.

A few minutes later some fire trucks pulled up and teams of firefighters rushed into the building which, though the alarm was still blaring, seemed perfectly fine. Turns out it was, actually, and 15 minutes later they gave us the all-clear to head back inside. Near as I could gather, someone on the first floor left a skillet of chow mein cooking a hair too long. So mega props to the firefighters who showed up super quick, checked things out, and even held the doors for all us shivering apartment-dwellers as we went back inside.

But hey, even if the place had burned down, at least we had that sweet off-site backup hard drive for my wife's dissertation. :)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Deals (with a z)

Ok, so this might seem a bit excessive, but what the hey. Back in October my wife and I bought a third external hard drive for backing up both of our computers. We partitioned the terabyte drive into two 500 gigabyte drives, giving one to each of our computers for backing them up. Well, we realized this weekend that, in the unlikely event we have a fire, robbery, or are invaded by Canada, my wife's entire dissertation could disappear if, in said event, both her computer and the backup drive were damaged, stolen, etc. So we pondered a few options for an off-site backup, finally deciding on an additional 500-gig drive that she will keep at her office on campus. We trolled the tubes for a drive that was cheap but reliable, finally settling on a Western Digital MyBook drive that Best Buy had on sale for $89. Turns out the drive wouldn't work with ourfree backup software we got with the terabyte drive. Sad.

So today we returned the MyBook to Best Buy, and lo and behold, we found a 500-gig Maxtor drive for $20 cheaper at the same store. Cha-ching! After that we went to a Circuit City down the road and snagged two movies for cheap, thanks to their Going Out of Business sale. I have a sneaking suspicion they are operating on the Kohl's philosophy of raising prices and then offering the same items at a "discount," but the bottom line is, we gots two movies for cheep. Nice.

Yesterday we went to Saint Cloud to hang out with my cousin Beth and her husband for a while. We hadn't seen their new apartment yet, and it was nice to make the (very chilly) trek an hour north to spend the evening eating quiche (delicious, Beth!), playing Clue, and watching one of the greatest episodes ever of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It had been a few years since I watched The Best of Both Worlds, but it was every bit as outstanding as I remember, despite the limited sets, costumes, and special effects. In fact, the episode is all the more impressive given the limitations of the production crew. Anyway, it was a great time, and Beth, if you're reading this, I hope you get your internet situation resolved soon. :(

Time to get a few things in order for work tomorrow. g'night everyone.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

800 Feet to Freedom

Last weekend, as predicted, was a pretty good time up at the ol' cabin. Hardly any snow, though, but that didn't stop us from trying to conquer the hill with a rubber inner tube anyway. We didn't exactly make it very far. :) In lieu of good sledding, though, we spent the weekend playing video games, playing cards, watching movies, and all the usual things that make the cabin so enjoyable. We also played a good deal of ultimate frisbee, including one game in the dark (glow-sticks courtesy of Evan. Thanks, man), and walked all around the cold, muddy terrain of Moses Merrill. Saturday afternoon a half dozen of us went around looking for a geocache, which we found, and the next day my brothers put a new cache in another part of the woods. Here's hoping someone finds it before next year.

A few days ago we got our second set of tripod legs, which means we now have two sweet tripods for doing wedding videos this year. When my wife and I started filming weddings a year and a half ago we had one really oooooold, flimsy aluminum tripod I got from my uncle, and another really oooooold, but not quite so flimsy, aluminum tripod I borrowed from another uncle. And now we have, using income from these video projects, been able to purchase two nice cameras, two nice tripods, and even a new iMac to boot. Not bad, I think. This year's video income will mostly go toward a house down payment, which is far cooler than any number of tripods. :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

A bit chilly

It was a cold drive to work this morning...

On the plus side, though, my good little 1998 Corolla faithfully started right up, as usual, and after a minute or so of warming up in the parking lot, I was on my way. And, as my wife often points out, we get an extra minute of daylight every day throughout the month of January. Summer's coming folks! :)

We head for Nebraska tonight for the annual Camp Moses Merrill retreat, something my friends and I have been doing for the past ten years or so. We all make the annual trek to a two-story cabin an hour north of Lincoln where we basically just spend the weekend hanging out. There might not be much snow for sledding, but it's going to be a great weekend of playing cards, board games, capture the flag, football, ultimate frisbee, and Nintendo. There's also plenty of eating, watching the campfire, watching movies, and usually a Bible study too. We actually started going there when some of us were in youth group way back in ninth grade, and it was so much fun we just kept it up over the years. So here's to a good weekend, and hopefully a safe drive. *tips can of soda*

Sunday, January 11, 2009


It dawned on me recently that Ringsmuth Video needed a bit of an overhaul graphically, so this weekend I opened up my new copy of Fireworks CS4 and set about redesigning the header, brushing up the couple images I have throughout the site, and generally tweaking things here and there. And for the most part I'm pleased with the result. The original header graphic had, in addition to the title, pictures of a giant 8MM film reel, a VHS tape, and a CD-ROM. Not exactly confidence-inspiring, to say the least. The new one does away with all that and has simply a picture of some 35MM film, designed to simply evoke the idea of "movie" or "videos" in the mind of the site visitor. I have also added a subtle texture to the "Digital Video" text to hopefully, you know, make more, computerized-ish. Anyway, I hope it works.

I also totally re-did Tom Frye's web site with iWeb. While it's far from my web site editor of choice, it does do a great job of kicking out a good-looking site in short order. It's light years ahead of the old one, which I whipped out five years ago using only a bare smattering of HTML and CSS knowledge...but hey, it worked for its time.

One of my personal mottoes is "do not put off until tomorrow what can be done today," and I have found time and time again that, no matter how much I might resist following that little mantra, things always turns out better if I do. Case in point: after church my wife told me my front passenger-side headlight was out. I figured I would change it sometime this week, or maybe in my dad's garage when we visit Lincoln this weekend. She asked me later on if I planned on changing it soon, and I kind of hemmed and hawed, for no good reason, really. I just didn't want to go out in the cold, remove a fuse box, pry off the rubber gasket, get at the bulb, and stick in a new one. But the temps later this week are going to be hovering just below zero, so really, there was no better time than today to do it. So I went and got it taken care of, and I'm just glad I did. It's a simple thing, sure, but having not put it off anymore, I don't need to think about it anymore. :)

Oh, and last Friday we got our final Christmas present of the season, courtesy of my mom:

Thanks, Mom! And thanks to my wife's mom for the post office assistance. *wink*

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

It's all over?

Johnny Cash said that he's been everywhere, and while I can't quite claim that degree of omnipresence, it does feel like I have traveled quite a bit during the past few weeks. We spent the days around Christmas visiting family up in Montana, as we often do, and it was great to see people and also get a lot of nothing done. :) I also spent a ton of time with my new copy of Chrono Trigger DS, thanks in part to much encouragement from my brother Tom. I also found out, tangentially, that riding an exercise bike is much easier with a DS and a pair of headphones. We did some maintenance-type stuff around the house too, for which my in-laws were very happy, and probably took in too much chips and junk food too. But what are ya gonna do?

That's what I thought.

After Montana was a trip to Lincoln, and you can probably fill in the blanks like usual. All the staples of a great trip were in place: Family, friends, Amigo's, Valentino's, card games, and, her place on this list notwithstanding, my niece Janessa, who remains, objectively speaking, the World's Cutest Niece.

And then, just like that (or so saith Kaiser Söze), it was all over, and were back in Saint Paul in zub-sero weather once again. In fact, yesterday on the way to work, my car's back door actually froze open. I had to drive with my right hand on the wheel and my left hand stretched behind my seat, holding the door closed with all my frozen might. It's all part of the fun of winter, though, and a year from now when we're basking in 30-degree Decembers down in Oklahoma, I'll probably miss this stuff.