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.