Tuesday, August 31, 2004


I saw Hero, the new Jet Li movie, last night. I should read the marketing drivel more closely next time. Foreign language films are not my thing, and neither are fantasy movies. This was right up there with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It had good looking scenes and sets, but if I wanted to stare at art, I would go to a museum. For a movie I want action, drama, something to draw me in. This had some of each, but not enough of any, leaving me wishing that I was anywhere else. Next time I'm going to a movie where something blows up.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Georgia no longer on my mind

Thank God I didn't move to Georgia... Man Drives Home with Headless Friend because he was too drunk to notice that his friend, while hanging out the window (yelling at the moon?) of his truck had his head cut off by a telephone pole's guide wire. Police recovered the head at the telephone pole, and arrested the driver, found sleeping in bed, covered in blood, after a passerby noticed the headless body still hanging out the window of his truck. Police were quoted as saying "Alcohol is believed to be a contributing factor." Nah! You think?

New home?

Yesterday I went out looking at to look at homes with my realtor, but unfortunately we didn't really get to look at many because of the Sunday night Saints game at 5:05. We started after his open house, so we didn't get started until 2:30, but that was OK because it let me catch up on my TV. So many shows, so little time (lots of disk space though, so I'm waiting for a three day weekend to really catch up). But I digress.

We went out and drove by a nice looking (blue!) rambler in Woodbury, but it was in a community association (which I'm not too keen on) and at about $435k, $50k more than the upper limit for what I wanted to spend. I'm sure I can get a good home in a good location for about $350, based on looking at spec houses and the parade of homes I did a month ago. I just need him to find them and show them to me. We went by a spec home in who knows where (somewhere very south of Woodbury along I35) to meet a builder rep whom my realtor thought would be a good person to work with to pick out a home that would suit my wants and the general needs of the population at large so that I could be reasonably certain of still being able to sell my house in the future.

We saw her one home, took a lot of paperwork on some of their home plans, and left hoping to not be too late to the game. Got there at the bottom of the second inning, and the Saints were already down two nothing. But they tied it up with a three run homer in the fifth and then took the lead in the seventh, so when it started pouring rain in the bottom of the 9th, a lot of people immediately left (that rain was COLD!). We stayed to watch the last two outs just to make sure that the Saints did really win.

This coming weekend I hope to be able to actually see the insides of more than one than home. This is looking like it's going to be long process. I just hope it's not a painful process.

Saturday, August 28, 2004


I just got back from kayaking with a coworker and his wife. It was a great time. They have their own kayaks, and I rented one from REI (like a 20 mile one way drive from my house) for $25. Turns out I rented a kayak exactly like one of theirs. We went down the kinnikenuck (I think I spelled that right), which is a river that runs through Roberts WI. Turns out that Roberts is the summer home of the Kansas City Chiefs and they were practicing this morning. I didn't notice until we got back and they were gone and my friend mentioned it. Doh! Oh well, next year.

But back to the kayaking. We took their car and my truck with all the kayaks and dropped them off at the put in point. Then drove to the pick up point and dropped off a car, then drove back to the put in. All in all, probably twenty minutes of driving back and forth, after the initial forty minutes of driving to get to the put in point. I suppose that's still a lot less driving than I would have done in CA to go kayaking though.

I was thinking the river was looking pretty tame, and my friends said that it wouldn't be too bad. However, the water level was really low and that meant that I was constantly hitting rocks. A couple of times I got stuck on rocks or sand bars in the middle of the river. Very embarrassing.

I would rate the river as mainly class 0 still water, but with a fair number of class 1 (well, maybe 0.5 and some 1.0) white water. Nothing that would have worried me if I was in a raft, but a kayak isn't nearly as stable as a raft, and I'm definitely worried about tipping. On top of that, my navigation skills were demonstratively less than ideal, this being my third time in a kayak, and the first time in a kayak on a river. Moving water makes a difference, making navigation much harder. Plus, I realized that I had no skills in reading the river... At first I was heading right for the rocks because I thought the water was a little deeper there (not to mention that's where the current sucks you). Then even trying to avoid the rocks it seemed that I couldn't. Looking where I wanted to go didn't help either. Something that just takes practice I guess.

We stopped about half way down the river for lunch on a little sand bar and ate some Cliff bars and a bunch of grapes, hung out for a while and gathered up some strength. They said that the second half of the river is a little harder than the first, so I was a little worried, but figured that I could make it. Of course, the first rapid after lunch was probably the worst on the whole river. The current went right along the bank of the river, making paddling difficult, and under a tree, making navigation hazardous. My coworker was able to run the rapid without any real issues, so I was hoping that I would be able to as well. Except I forgot about that whole navigation thing... I ran into the tree. That flipped the kayak.

The things that went through my mind at that point were:

1) Uh-oh!
2) I can't Eskimo roll, get out of the kayak! Water starts to rush over me.
3) Grab the paddle!
4) You're in 6 inches of water, stand up you fool!
5) Oh crap! Grab the kayak! I then proceeded to run down the river chasing after my kayak. That must have been a sight.
6) OK, I've caught my kayak, but it's under water, what do I do with it now?

I was able to pick it up enough to get most of the water out, and my coworker came over and helped me lift it up to get almost all the water out. Back in the boat, thumb skinned and ego throughly bruised, we continued down the river. I was a little more careful about my navigation after that, and luckily the river was reasonably forgiving of my few other mess-ups. The important take away from this trip is that you never want to stop while in the flow of the river, because the river doesn't and it will cover/flip/make you very unhappy.

I'll definitely go back and go kayaking again, but maybe I'll try a river that's a little easier, or a kayak that's more maneuverable, or maybe some lessons. It's just time in water that's important.

Friday, August 27, 2004

TV 1 woman 0

Last night, I was out to dinner by myself at a local restaurant, eating in their bar. They had 5 TVs with two showing a baseball game, two the Olympics, and one a football game. I was watching the Olympics, which clearly wasn't a popular show with the crowd as one TV was almost immediately switched to football, and shortly thereafter, the saddest thing I've seen in a long time happened. A man and women, in their early 20s came in and sat down two tables away from me. They appeared to be on a date, though they had the easy look of a couple that's been together for a while. He's sitting facing her, and in the distance, me and the TV above me. He then asks the bartender to switch the TV over me, the one I'm watching, the remaining one showing the Olympics, to baseball. Not just any baseball game, but the same game that the TV to his right is showing. He wanted the TV in front of him to be baseball so that, I suppose, he could pretend to be paying attention to his girl but really be watching baseball. He then spent the next 10 minutes staring with a dumbfounded look at the TV above me. I really felt sorry for that poor woman. I left so that I could continue watching the Olympics at home. I guess that's the kind of treatment that women expect here in the Midwest, second fiddle to TV. So sad.

This weekend I'm going out to look at land and meet with a rep from a builder. Never looked at land before. Not quite sure how you do it. Should be interesting. I need to start making a list of things I want in a new house so that I'm sure to not miss anything. I should probably prioritize them as well since I'm unlikely to be able to afford all the things I want. Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, August 26, 2004


I work in the tech industry, so layoffs are nothing new, but they are never welcome. At my previous employer in CA I had survived many layoffs, being the excellent worker that I am. :-) Then got a boss that basically just flat out didn't like me. That's what got me starting over here in Minnesota.

So when layoffs were announced at my new job we were all taken aback. There were only a couple of people hit, and fortunately, I wasn't one of them, but it still hits close to home. This comes only a couple of months after I was laid off, so I know how tough it's going to be for these people. But, it's even more shocking because our company had just been bought, and one of the things they explicitly said was that there were not going to be any layoffs because of the merger. I suppose these layoffs don't have to be related to the merger, but still, it reinforces the fact that companies have basically no loyalty to their workers. I wonder why so many people are so loyal to their employers when it's so obvious that employers aren't loyal to their workers. I wonder if unions do actually have a good idea.

On a lighter note, I watched Antwone Fisher last night, an autobiographical movie staring and directed by Denzel Washington about a young sailor having difficulty controlling his anger because of the hard life and abandonment he'd received all throughout his young life and the psychiatrist who helps him work through his issues. The happy ending was especially moving, though the rest of the movie wasn't too interesting, though when it was all over, I was left thinking it was a decent movie. Not amazing, but if you like movies that are all about acting, this might be worth renting.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Starting the home search

I met with the realtor last night to do the initial paperwork thing, which is quite different from how it was in CA where the realtor would work with you to find a house without making you sign anything. One would think that living in the Midwest that a handshake deal was good enough, but I guess it's not.

He seems like a good guy, and I laid out exactly what I'm expecting from him, which is a lot of input. This was something that I didn't get from my previous interactions with realtors but something that I really wanted. I told him that I'm expecting him to be more of a consultant than just someone that shows you houses. Tell me what to do, what he thinks the market will think of things, etc. I'll take his advice, or ignore it, but I want to be informed.

We talked for a while about what I'm looking for in a house (big garage, big basement, European style kitchen, network, etc.) and eventually decided that building it would probably be easiest/quickest to get the house I wanted. He's going to start searching for property in the Woodbury/Cottage Grove area and contact some builders. This weekend or next, probably next, we'll try to look at some models so that I can get an idea of house layout.

My biggest fear is that I'll build exactly the house I want, but something that none of the families in this area might want to buy. Being stuck with a house that I can't sell is a big fear for me (never know when you might loose your job, or something, and not be able to make those payments). The realtor's chief job in this arrangement is to make sure that I don't go too far into single man geek mode when building. To that end, he even mentioned that he knew a few women who would probably be happy to give input to make sure that I didn't get too geeky.

I have a good feeling about this process, and I'm sure I'll have lots to say about it in the coming months. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Never enough sleep

I've been working 90 hour weeks for the past three weeks, and my sleep has been suffering for it. Yesterday I finally got to go home at a reasonable time. I decided that I should catch up on some of my TV viewing as my Replay is starting to fill up my PC's hard drive (via a cool program call DVArchive), so I decided to watch Lost in Translation, a Bill Murray film that got at least one Oscar (for best director I believe). Well, I stand by my general rule that anything that gets an Oscar isn't a movie for me. I would have been better served by going to bed early.

Saw this cool article on CNN about marathon mice that were genetically engineered to be able to run twice as far as normal mice and were unable to get fat, even when kept sedentary and fed a high fat diet. Where do I sign up?

Tonight I meet with the Realtor to begin the house search. I hope he's got some better leads than the 145 houses I looked at on his company's web site, because none of those looked like what I wanted. The basic problem is wood. There's too much of it in houses out here. Wood trim, wood cabinets, wood floors, wood pillars, wood railings, etc. I haven't seen any with wood paneling, but I wouldn't be surprised if they're out there. The problem with wood is that it's difficult to decorate around, and it will always be that color (it's much harder to restain than it is to repaint). I like the modern look of white kitchen cabinets and painted trim, but apparently I'm alone in that opinion. That makes me think that custom building is the way to go, but then would I build something that no one else will ever buy? That thought scares me too. Well, I guess buying a house is scary.

Monday, August 23, 2004


Vacuuming. It's one of those things that no man really wants to do. And yet, being the harrier and generally more slovenly of the species, it's probably something that we should do more than women. That's where the Roomba comes in. It's a way cool robot vacuum cleaner that you can place in a room and forget about. You turn it on, tell it how big the room is (small, medium, or large) and it does its thing. I'm not quite sure what its thing is every once in a while, as it seems to run for a long time some times, and a short time other times. One might suspect that it's analyzing the dirt in the room and running for the appropriate amount of time, but I think that's only a feature of the new Roombas, and I have the original no frills model, so I don't think so. But, none the less, it does an admirable job of giving my room a vacuumed look (judging by the carpet tracks) and it certainly picks up a lot of stuff (judging by its little dust bin). If it only had a charging station that it could go to automatically so that I could just leave it running all the time, it would be perfect. Well, the latest model has a charging station that the Roomba can plug itself into, but I still don't think you can give it free roam of your house as it doesn't know where the charging station is (it just starts following walls until it "sees" it), so it could easily become lost in a distant room and run out of juice. Still, the Roomba I have is so cool that I'll probably buy the upgraded model when it ships later this month. It lacks the automatic dust bin emptying capabilities of the $1400 models from other companies, but for only $250, it's hard to fault it on that point.

Saw Alien vs. Predator the other night. I'm a fan of Aliens, and have enjoyed most of the Alien series. I figured this would be entertaining, and I love getting the back story of characters I like. It was very predictable, but decent in a mindless sort of way. Good action, though not a lot of aliens. The back story of the Predators on Earth was interesting, but not long enough in my opinion. I was hoping for more about them. The ending wasn't unexpected, though somehow I don't see a sequel in our future. As much as I would have expected this to be a big screen kind of movie, I'm sure you'll be just fine renting it.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Getting started (over)

Well, I've decided to take the plunge and start a blog. I wonder if I'll have anything worth saying, but I imagine that every once in a while I'll get lucky and post something interesting.

Today I also decided to take the plunge into the Minnesota housing market and called Dan, a realtor that's a friend of a friend. After selling my house in CA and moving out here, I've been renting a townhouse for a few months, not wanting to make a housing commitment. I moved 2000 miles and left all my friends behind, and people keep calling me crazy, expecting me to move back any day now, so that's made me hesitant. However, I can see housing prices starting to rise, and interest rates starting to rise, and I'm expecting to actually enjoy winter, so I really should get a house and start earning some equity. I need to live my life and do what I want and what I expect from myself, not what other people think. There are enough voices in my head already, I don't need them getting support from the outside. :-)

Tuesday I'll meet with Dan and go over some properties and hopefully he'll give me some good advice of where to buy. I'm looking for something that's got a big garage and a big basement. I need the garage because I like to work on cars (and other things) and have a truck (Lightning), a FM II Turbo Miata, a motorcycle (DL 1000), and a trailer to haul the Miata to the track. I want a big basement too because I've got a big screen TV and I'd really like to have a full blown media room, and maybe a party room too. I've got a long list of what I want in a house, but I'll save that for another blog.