Thursday, September 30, 2004


Last night I went to a class called "How to be mortgage free in 10 years". It was very enlightening. The basic premise is that mortgage interest rates are very low, and the average rate of return on investments over the length of time of a mortgage is generally much better.

Bottom line, instead of paying down your mortgage, you put that money into investments. In the time that it would take you to pay off a 30 year mortgage in 15 years, you would have saved the equal amount of money to pay it off in one lump sum at the end of 15 years. In the mean time, you'd have control of all that money and could use it in any way you wanted to -- including paying off your mortgage.

For instance, if you and your neighbor both buy the same house for same amount of money. He takes out a 15 year mortgage and you take a 30. You invest the difference in payments between your 30 year mortgage and his 15 year mortgage. In 14 years, you both have a house that has appreciated the same amount. If you are then both laid off, you have a massive amount of money in your investment account and can continue to make payments -- your neighbor is in a position to loose his house, and all the equity he paid into his house.

The same holds true for your down payment, even when you factor in PMI. It would be better to take out a mortgage with zero down and invest the money you had for a down payment. That's better than making a down payment and investing the difference because with the no down payment option and all that money invested from day one, you have more money working longer than someone who invests the same amount of money over time.

This throws a whole new wrinkle on my thinking about what to do housing wise. It also means I need to start researching what to do with the money I could be using to pay off my truck and motorcycle. That money is sitting in my savings account, but needs to be moved to an account that earns more than 1%.

Of course, all of this is speculation, and assumes that you can do market average on your investments, but that's probably not too hard of a stretch.

It was a really great class and I'm hoping that one on investing $25 a month I'll be taking tonight is just as good.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Cooking class

Yesterday I went to my first, of what will hopefully be many, cooking classes. It was held in the home economics class of a local junior high school, which was a well reasonably equipped room. I was impressed.

It was a low-carb cooking class, and there were high expectations all around. And then the teacher started talking. This was her first class -- ever. She was really impressed with her Masters in Nutrition and 10 years of experience, but we really just wanted recipes and suggestions for things to try.

We eventually got a couple of recipes and started working on our noodle-less lasagna, the meal for the night (along with an interesting salad that avoided). We used eggplant as the noodle replacement, which wasn't an obvious choice, but seemed reasonable after we saw how it all went together. For bulk we used chicken and green peppers, and for sauce we used salsa. This certainly wasn't going to be like any lasagna that I'd ever had before.

Everyone grabbed something and started working. I got the big knife and the chicken and started attempting to slice the skinless chicken breast into 1" strips. The knife was so dull that I could barely cut the chicken and was severely worried that if I slipped with this knife, it would somehow find a way to cut me. Luckily that didn't happen. However, I'm seriously considering taking my own knifes with me next time.

I and another lady, somewhere in her 60's I would guess, fried the eggplant after it had been cut into 1" thick rounds while a mother and daughter team cooked the chicken and bell peppers at another station. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, the amazingly attractive wife of a very picky chiropractor came over and wanted to know more about me and my story of why I moved out here to Minnesota.

Why does everyone think I'm crazy for moving here, but think they're perfectly sane for living here? She claims she's still here because her family is still here. But why are they still here? Perhaps organizing a mass move of 40 people is just too difficult for the average family? I tend to think that Minnesota isn't quite as horrible as they'd like you believe.

The lasagna actually turned out much better than I was expecting. Turns out that eggplant works a lot like tofu -- it tastes pretty much exactly like what it was cooked in. It was a reasonably passable meal. If I were to do it again, I'd cut the eggplant thinner and use ground turkey in a spaghetti sauce. A sauce thicker than salsa would definitely make it a better meal.

But then again, I've been eating out every night since I moved here. Why change a good thing now?


I'm usually really good at turning off lights that I don't need, which is why I was very surprised to find the garage light on this evening when I went down to get my drill and bits. I can't even remember the last time I was in the garage. It must have been more than two weeks ago.

So, I'm sure you would be as surprised as me if, after turning that light off and then coming back two minutes later, you find the bulb burnt out when you turn it back on. Lucky for me there's a light in the garage door opener.

I needed the drill and bits to drill some holes in the top of my PC's case, over the CPU. My new CPU is running very hot, like at it's thermal limit, so I wanted to see if I could get the temperature down without resorting to a noisy CPU fan. So after drilling a handful of holes in the top case with the hand drill, I realized that I had a drill press. And lucky for me, it has its own light bulb. It even worked!

How come none of the holes I drilled with the drill press came out as straight or as good as the ones I did with the hand drill?

Well, that's irony for you. Shows up when you least expect it.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Lazy weekend

Yesterday I wanted to take it easy. I was to meet up with my friend Dave and do a beer tasting at the St. Paul Saints' baseball park. I started the day by watching some TV, trying to empty my now almost full 250 gig hard drive. I met up Dave for beer tasting and a tailgating at the park. I was looking forward to the tailgating part, since I hadn't had breakfast or lunch yet. However, Dan, my realtor called before the tailgating competition began, and before I could even get a taste of any beer (no loss there really). So I was off to look at some houses.

I met Dan in Eagan at a real estate office and we were off to head down south to check out models in what seemed like Iowa. I'm pretty sure it would have been an hour and a half commute to work only if no one else was on the road. Clearly we weren't here to look at actual properties, but to get ideas of things that I might like in a future house.

I like the "great room" concept, where you get one large room, probably to used as the family room, with high ceilings. It really opens up the house, though it definitely cuts down on the square footage of the house. Another feature that I really liked is the wall of windows that a couple of places had. Basically they had 8 to 12 windows in the great room so that you have floor to ceiling windows on one wall. This may be an idea that better to look at than live with, but assuming double or triple pane glass, low-e coating, the correct orientation to the sun, and a decent view, it could really be a cool feature. However, the two houses I saw with such setups just looked across at their neighbors. That would require a lot of drapes.

Today I tried for a very lazy Sunday. I watched even more TV, catching up my reality shows that have just begun (Survivor and The Apprentice) as well as some racing from last week (which really eats up precious disk space because it's recorded at the highest quality possible). I got down to the gym to bicycle for 30 minutes. This is something that I need to get much better at. I've gained at least 10 pounds since moving here. A combination of not going to the gym due to a lack of time and sleep, working at a place with pastries, and trying to fit in by going out for beers with folks. I'm going to make a concerted effort to get back in shape by Thanksgiving.

After the work out, I went to see The Forgotten, a new sci-fi movie. It was supposed to have some good scares in it, and there was one part that made me jump, along with most of the crowd, but it certainly wasn't scary. At the end of the movie someone yelled that they wanted their money back. It wasn't that bad, but it certainly wasn't a great a movie either. It could have been better in so many ways. Heck, if it had been better in any way I would probably feel much better about having spent $5.25 on it (at least the matinee prices are good until 6pm even on the weekends here). The story could have been better, the dialog could have been more interesting, there could have been more suspense or creepy parts, there could have been some special effects to give you a glimpse at those running the "experiment". But sadly, there was none of that. Julianne Moore is a great actress and I had no problem staring at her for an hour and a half, but that was about all I got out of the movie.

Now I'm about to head out to meet up with my Sunday night crowd for dinner, drinks, and laughs. All in all, a pretty decent (read: relazing) weekend.

Saturday, September 25, 2004


Last night after work four coworkers and I went to Mike's house (one of those coworkers) for a BBQ dinner and then we went on to the Gasthaus for some beer and standing around. The parking was totally country, parking out in a rolling hay field, along with probably 200 other cars ("Everyone remember where we parked!"). It only would have been more country if the party was out in the field. It was great. I loved it.

There was lots of standing around and talking shop since God knows I'm not going to be dancing the chicken dance any time soon (though by the end of the night I was in for one round of the Hokey-Pokey). There was plenty of people watching to be had, and the music was entertaining, even if the accordion was rather loud. By the end of the night, Mike was dancing with some lovely drunk lady who was really quite nice. We were quite amazed that her husband didn't seem to mind at all. Mike can dance reasonably well considering how drunk he was. I was impressed.

They had beer in commemorative 1L mugs for $19 which were only $8 to refill. I only had one and then turned to the free Pepsi, but clearly most of the crowd was there to take them up on their generous refill offers. I hope they all got home OK.

No luck on the girl front that night. There were plenty of them standing around, but the crowd seemed to be evenly split by the 20-somethings looking for mass quantities of cheap beer and the 40-plus-somethings looking to listen to polka music and pretend they're doing Oktoberfest. Oh well, it was fun to get out, and I certainly needed to unwind. I'd like to go back, but it's not one of those things that I'd feel comfortable doing by myself.

Today I'll be doing the daytime version of the Okoberfest thing at the St. Paul Saints ballpark with different friends. Unclear on what the people watching will be like there, but it gets me out of the house.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Blind Girl Walkin'

Yesterday a coworker and I were walking to a local sub shop for lunch and noticed a blind girl (maybe 16 years old?) and a man (mid 30's) with a disposable camera crossing the street in front of us. We quickly caught up to them and overheard the man telling her which way the lights on the corner worked. We looked ahead and noticed that the sidewalk was closed, and the tape extended into the parking spaces on the street.

There's been a lot of construction, or destruction, of the street and sidewalk for the last week or so. I think they're doing plumbing, but I've not had a chance to look in the holes -- big holes, as wide as the sidewalk, which is about as wide as a car. Though they're usually covered with steel plates at lunch time, today they were covered with wet cement. We looked at the sidewalk closed signs and red tape, and at the street, and decided that we would have to walk in the street, on the far side of the parked cars (and wet cement), and thought we should say something to the blind girl.

We told her that the sidewalk ahead was closed, and that she would have to walk in the street to get by. I offered to lead her if she wanted, but there were a couple of conversations going on at the moment, so I don't know if she heard me. She stopped to think, then turned to the man and said that she would cross to the other side of the street. While this conversation was going on, he was taking a picture of the three of us (for a newsletter for the blind?). She turned around and headed back to the intersection, and we continued forward and onto the street. Looking across the street, we noticed that the sidewalk was closed on the other side of the street too!

Not a good day to be learning to navigate city sidewalks for the blind. Or maybe it was. It took us close to 10 minutes to get our sandwiches, and when we got back out we saw that the girl and man were stopped a few feet from the closed sidewalk section on the other side of the street. Obviously talking about something, she was nodding her head in agreement. (How to blind people know to nod their head when they agree with you? Is nodding in agreement instinctive?)

I'm guessing he was there to make sure she didn't get killed, but otherwise was just an observer. Interesting concept. I guess the world is a harsh place, so tough love training might be just what's needed.

I still wish that I could have helped her past the sidewalk and street construction. That seemed like the Boy Scout thing to do, but she might have rejected that because there's not always going to be a Boy Scout handy for every tough situation she's going to face.


Last night it was windy. I don't mean a little breeze making the trees' leaves russel. I'm talking about 60mph+ winds and noises that make you wonder how well the roof is constructed. The wind was shaking the building, and I'm in an 8 unit townhouse (though I'm an end unit).

Needless to say, I didn't sleep well last night, but still I can't seem to sleep past 7:30am. Ugh.

Tonight a coworker is having a boys night out kind of party, which I was planning on going to. Now I'm hoping that I'll be able to stay awake long enough. Well, that's what caffeine is for I suppose.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Important Safety Tip

I meant to post this yesterday, but figured better late than never.

Don't eat a large peperoni pizza and watch Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back and then go to sleep with the window open. Makes for a very rough night's sleep. I swear I thought an AT-AT was attacking me when the sprinklers turned on at 1:40am.


Yesterday was pretty uneventful, which was good. Looks like the problem that we've been tracking down for the last couple of weeks was a bug in the application we were testing with. That kinda explains why nothing we did in the driver seemed to affect it. Well, now we know.

The guys at work needed some specialized music rack parts, which we should have been able to buy at a local guitar store, or make. Seemed that buying them would be easier, so we called around and found a store that had what we needed. It's a little bit past where I live, so I offered to get them as a way to learn more about the town I'm living in. Directions from Yahoo were good, and luckily when the road was closed, it turned out that I needed to get off at that point anyway. Whew, I was really worried that I was going to be lost in a not so lovely part of St. Paul.

Unfortunately, the store lied about actually having the parts. Serves us right. Next time we call, we need to make sure they can put their hands on the parts, not just look up their inventory list in a computer. Computers are OK, but I don't think I've ever met an inventory control system that I actually trusted.

I also printed out directions from the guitar store to a little computer store that a coworker recommended. I've been meaning to get more memory for my PC since it seems to be paging a whole lot. I figured while I was in there I should look at new Pentium processors since my lowly 2.4GHz CPU just doesn't seem to be keeping up with all the video and server things I'm asking my PC to do. On the way to the store, which I was told was a little hole in the wall kind of store, I got confused as the numbers changed directions, looked down and noticed I was 10mph over the limit. I hit the brakes and looked up only to notice a cop with a radar gun out his window. I tried to look innocent, and about 50 feet later found the store I was looking for. By the time I was parked, the cop had someone pulled over right in front of the store. Whew.

On the way home from the store I forgot where I lived and got on the freeway going west instead of east. Oops. Got off at the next exit, which is for U of M, and then through some good luck and lack of worry was able to work my way back to the freeway through a maze of twisting one way streets and 5 way intersections. I thought I was lost for sure, ready to break out the GPS, but a little faith (and knowledge that there are freeways everywhere in downtown St. Paul).

Back home I tuned in to the season premier of Lost which I was thinking might be a good version of those lost-on-a-tropical-island type shows. It started out well, but then it got weird with some giant monster knocking down trees in the jungle in the middle of the night. Now I'm thinking, is this Land of the Lost? Ugh, I was hoping this would be a good "people" show, but now it's looking like a "thing" show. Well, I'll give it another couple of episodes before I go looking for other prime time shows to keep me entertained.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Working hard...

This weekend was no picnic by any stretch. A little good news is that the woodworking 2 class that I had signed up for, which was to run all day on Saturday, was canceled. This is good because I ended up working eight or so hours on Saturday, leaving without any real proof that the problem we're seeing isn't actually in our software or hardware.

I took some time out to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. An interesting looking movie, but I decided I didn't actually like the look. It looks washed out, over exposed, and a little too much like a 1930's Flash Gordon serial. It's an interesting concept though, a 100%-computer-generated-sets movie. It reminded me of the days when you'd have real actors in cartoon worlds. They're better at making the real people and the fake world line up, but still, the lighting is off in places, and the world just doesn't look real. At least with a cartoon you know it's not supposed to look real. Here it was distracting. The acting was good, the dialog was interesting though a bit of "Who talks like that?" The robot at the end reminded me of the one from Metropolis, which I imagine is what they wanted. All in all, it was an OK movie, but I had trouble staying awake during it (at a 5pm showing), so it couldn't have been that interesting.

Sunday was a brutal 12 hour day working on the problem again. We left even more convinced that it's not us, but unclear on how to prove that, or more usefully, how to work around the issue. We'll be exploring more ideas on Monday, if we can keep our spirits up and our eyes open.

It's a real shame that I was stuck working late every night and this weekend, as my only non-work friends were all at the St. Paul Saints baseball games -- the final three games of the post-season. They were the underdogs in the championship battle, and were even at game two of the five game series when they lost game three on Friday night (couldn't make it, worked 'till midnight), then won on Saturday to push it a full five games (couldn't make it, had to sleep). On Sunday, it looked like certain doom in the 9th with two outs but with a grand-slam the Saints take the win and championship (couldn't make it, worked 'till midnight). Read about it here. Damn, that sounded like a good game, and I'm not even a big fan of baseball. Plus I had tickets to all three games, given to me by a friend. At least he had other friends at game.

The weather here has been really nice, and it's a shame that I'm stuck inside. Saturday was an autumn festival that was happening just outside of our office. I couldn't do anything but stare at it. Yesterday was gorgeous as well, and today looks to be nice as well. Though it's going to be windy, maybe 25-35mph all day long, and it might rain tonight. That certainly helps to keep the perceived heat down. Plus it's lots of fun watching the big rigs trying to drive in straight lines.

I'm hoping to be able to start looking at houses again later in this week, or this coming weekend, though there are no guarantees that this fire will be put out by then. I'm also beginning to wonder if I should be buying a house. I could live out here for years on what I have in the bank. I'm unlikely to throw in the towel, but the thought of being able to definitely gives me some form of comfort. I've never backed away from a challenge yet, and I don't want to start. But on the other hand, I don't want to snap either. Lots of things to think about in the coming weeks.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Home early

I got off from work early today; which is to say that I left after working just a little more than 10 hours, instead of the normal 15 of late. I've been working on a really tough problem, trying to get some hardware working perfectly (because in my line of work, nothing else will do), and the system is being quite uncooperative. After spending many long nights, we had an epiphany and tried something that just seemed so wrong. I mean, who implements a ring buffer in hardware, but then waits for an interrupt to be serviced before looping around the ring? I mean really? What's the point in having a ring buffer if you're going to stop at the "end" of it? It's a ring buffer! It doesn't have an end! That's why it's a ring! Someone needs to be taken out behind the wood shed and given a what for.

So. There was much rejoicing when we cleared the interrupt flag in the primary interrupt handler (instead of the more delayed secondary interrupt handler) and got much better performance. But, it was short lived. There was much sadness when we realized that there was still some other issue tripping us up. It's probably related, but at this point we have no idea what it could be. And we're tired.

At that point, we threw in the towel and decided that a good night's sleep was what's really required. Oh yeah, that, and a PCI analyzer. We should have both in the morning.

So, I was going to go to bed early tonight, but I bought a copy of Man on Fire on the way home and decided to watch it tonight since I can't seem to be able to fall asleep after having been up late every night for the past month. It's a good movie, though rather violent and a little graphic at times. They use interesting camera angles and cuts to emphasize the emotions and try to give you a "feel" for the characters. Normally I don't like that kind of trickery, but here it worked well (or maybe I'm just too tired to complain). I'm not a fan of the ending though, because I like happy, Hollywood-style endings, and this didn't really have one of them. All in all though, I give it two thumbs up.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

ReplayTV Rules!

I have a couple of ReplayTV units, and I think they are really cool. I like them better than the DirecTivo that I used to have, though the DirecTivo certainly has it strong points and I was very happy with it. But, it just can't do the cool things that the ReplayTV can, or at least not so easily.

The coolest thing about the ReplayTV is the third party, free, software DVArchive. It uses a computer and the storage attached to that computer (which can be multiple different hard drives) to store shows from all of ReplayTV units you have in your house, copying the shows over at scheduled intervals. The ability to watch a show recorded on another ReplayTV is already built into the ReplayTV, so the PC just pretends to be another ReplayTV on your network.

But that's not the coolest thing... It can also give your ReplayTV a web interface by acting as a proxy for all your ReplayTV units. So, I set up my router to work with so that I have a permanent name to get to my house, even though I get a dynamic IP address from ISP, and now I can tell my ReplayTVs to record a show if I'm not going to be home (which seems to be happening more and more lately as I get stuck working on super hard problems at work) as well as see what it's planning on recording, delete recordings I'm not going to watch, and do other house keeping chores remotely.

It even works from my PocketPC! Very cool. Next on the list of cool toys to have will be a new Motorola v600 with Bluetooth so that I can use the PocketPC to get to my ReplayTV from anywhere in the country (and Canada too!).

The next thing to do will be set up the PC so that I can control it remotely, and then to set up the house using X10 or similar products so that I can control it remotely. Better living through modern technology.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Cottage Grove

Yea! I have internet again! It turns out that the townhouse on the end of the building had their cable hooked up (probably illegally, but perhaps it was just left connected when the last tenant moved out -- yeah, right!), and when it's hooked up, my cable goes to H#ll, no picture and no internet. Who knows what they're doing in there, but it certainly isn't right.

What I wanted to post the other day was...

Went out the other night with my realtor and the builder's rep and looked at models and lots in a development in Cottage Grove, a suburb of St. Paul, almost directly south of where I am in Woodbury. Seemed like a nice enough community, and I really liked a couple of the models; though their garages weren't large enough, and most of the basements weren't large enough either, and I didn't like any of the remaining lots. But, other than that they were nice, so things are starting to look up.

This Saturday begins the Parade of Homes in the area, and there are a bunch of model houses in my price range in Woodbury and Cottage Grove, so I think I'll be going out this weekend and looking at houses, but without my realtor as he's got other things to do. This might be an issue as some builders don't want to pay realtors if they're not there on the first showing of a property, so I need to let them know that I have a realtor and give them his info. If it's an issue, I'll just find a different builder, it's not like I'm likely to find a model that I absolutely have to have.

One of the houses that I want to look at uses pre-stressed concrete tubes to clear span the space under the garage (which normally isn't dug out at all). That would be really cool, giving me an extra 600-700 square feet in the basement and making a perfect home theater room. I'll be interested in seeing how much that adds to the price of the house.

Yesterday I got a community education catalog and it actually had a bunch of classes that sounded interesting, so I signed up for five classes that start next week. They're all just one day classes, and there are bunch more that I'd like to take, so I'm using these classes to know if the rest are worth taking. Next Friday and Saturday I'll be taking a couple of different woodworking classes, and then after that a cooking class and a couple of financial classes. I'm also hoping that these classes work as a way to get me out of work at a reasonable time (like after only 10 hours instead of the 15-16 hours that I seem to be doing lately) since I seem to be slowly working longer and longer hours. Great for them, not so great for me. I guess I would be a little less bitter if my boss didn't sound so sad when I call him to tell him that I'm going home after working 15 hours.

Still nothing

Still no cable at my place. The tech came out on Saturday and was amazed that I was able to get any picture at all. He tested the outlets and the main splitter in the garage then went out to main cable branch in the front lawn. There he saw that the plastic inner ring of the cable connector was pinched and pronounced that the cause. He switched my connection to an unused one and we went back inside to check the signal.

Yay! I had a clean picture and I could an IP from comcast, instead of what seemed like one from my neighbor (I was getting an IP address of, which looks suspiciously like a NAT'ed address from a LinkSys router -- not the 24.X.X.X address I normally get from Comcast). He wrote up the work order and I signed it all happy that I had TV and internet.

Twenty minutes later it was all gone. It was like someone hit a light switch. The TV went to static and the internet connection was lost. I called Comcast, but they didn't think the tech would be able to come back out. I wined and they sent a message to dispatch, who said they would call me if he could make it back out. So I waited by the phone all day, instead of looking at houses, for a call that never came.

Later in the day I called back and got scheduled for Monday from 3-5pm, so I'm at work bright and early so I can get out of here to meet him this afternoon. Some how I don't have a good feeling about this being permanently fixed this afternoon.

On the bright side, the digital cable is still working, so I was able to watch some TV, and I was able to watch the Lions vs. Bears in HDTV. Amazing picture, you're able to make out individual blades of grass on the field. Of course, when it came time for the Vikings to play, the HDTV signal went black. I feared that the game was being blacked out, but the non-HD FOX channel was showing it (though because of my cable problem, with a picture so bad I could hardly make out anything). I don't know why the HDTV FOX channel was just tone bars. In theory, they're both the same station. Nothing works, and it seems that no one cares.

Friday, September 10, 2004


I have to be brief because I'm writing this from work this morning because my cable (TV and internet) is on the fritz at the apartment. The stupid cable has been on again off again for the past few weeks, which is really quite annoying. I realize that it's got to be a lot of hard work to maintain something of that size, especially given the harsh conditions the midwest can throw at it, but really folks, you simply must try harder.

I had prepared a long message about my house search earlier in the week, but posting that will have to wait until my apartment gets back into the twenty first century.

Tonight I go to the first playoff game of the St. Paul Saints, and tomorrow I hope to look at houses when the parade of homes opens.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

States' Rights

I think Alexander Hamilton is one of, if not the, most brilliant of the founding fathers. I've been listening to his biography on CD every day on my ride to and from work.

The federal government usurping the states' power was one of his greatest concerns. In fact he was opposed to the Bill of Rights, not because he didn't think the people should have those rights, but because he insisted that the Constitution didn't give the government the right to make laws regarding those things. Therefore the Bill of Rights is a redundant and confusing addition to a document that is brilliant for its brevity and simplicity.

Reading my friend Dave's blog pointed to a link to this page about how the Constitution of the United States is being all but totally ignored, and the federal government is spiraling out of control. It talks about how the federal government has usurped the power of the states, powers never granted by the states and explicitly reserved by the states, by collusion between the three branches of government thereby mitigating the balance of power. Damn. I hate it when the crackpots make sense.

It seems that money is truly the root of all evil. And this evil is that the federal government has the money (via constitutional amendment number 16 which created the IRS) and will only give it out if the states don't object to its usurpation of their powers. The federal government seems to be bribing the states to keep quite. Hey, how about us? "We the people" are supposed to have the power to direct the government. Where's our hush money?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Lino Lakes Lots

I went out looking at looking at homes and lots around Minnesota today. We were in White Bear Lakes, and Stillwater, but spent most of our time in Lino Lakes looking at new homes in a subdivision. Most of them weren't even rocked (sheet rock wasn't installed) and some were barely even framed. The realtor found a lot that seems to be a pretty good location. It backs up to a wetland (like pretty much everything in Minnesota, it seems) making my backyard the wetland, but the best part is that the wetland makes it so that the next house has to be pretty far away. I'd never have a house behind mine any closer than 100 yards, and that's a little unusual for the new homes that I'd previously seen.

It's a walkout lot, which is the lot that the style of home that I've liked the best (multi-level) requires, so that's a definite bonus. The big problem is that Lino Lakes is like 35 miles from Hudson, which would translate to a 40-45 minute drive in the morning. If I wanted that commute I would have stayed in California. However, it would be a better commute to Minneapolis or St. Paul. I guess the question is, am I willing to put up with a bad commute now, to have a better commute later? Should I ever change jobs, I would likely be working in the Twin Cities, so that's something to consider.

Looking at the existing homes in the area just makes me want to build a new house, but the locations I've been looking at haven't been my first choice. Getting an existing home means that I'll probably have to remodel the kitchen and bathrooms, not to mention upgrading the electrical and adding all new wiring for networking and home theater. But, it would be in a location that I might like better.

I've only been here a couple of months so I doubt I'm really qualified to say where the good places to live are, but I really like Woodbury. Lots of things to think about.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Stupid motorcycle tricks

This just in! A friend forwarded this movie of a guy doing a wheelie, on a reasonably fast road, and throwing his girlfriend off the back. Ouch! This is why you always wear full protective gear. You never know when something bad is going to happen, like your boyfriend turning off his brain.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

As real as a $200 bill!

I love news of the weird. I try to read it every day. It affirms how much smarter than the average human I am.

Case in point is the cashier that accepted a $200 bill and made change.

The case of three die in crush for IKEA vouchers is tragic, but mildly amusing as well. Have these people never seen IKEA furniture before? I guess it's just sad commentary about the haves and have-nots, along with how greed can lead to devastation.

Speaking of devastation, I'm not sure who to vote for this year in the Presidential race. I don't like Bush, but I don't really think that Kerry is any better. I don't think the waffle thing has any merit though. Who doesn't change their mind? What about the balance of power? After all, Kerry was in the Senate, and it's not exactly their job to rubber stamp things the President wants. I can see how it would be easy to be for the generic idea of something, but against the specific implementation of that idea. I'm more fearful of stubbornness than I am of someone who changes their mind.

After all, we're electing someone that's suppose to represent us, and I for one would like someone who recognizes a mistake and recovers from it than someone who makes a mistake and keeps throwing good after bad in a strained effort to prove that it was a good decision in the first place.

I also don't like the idea of America being the planet bully. But that's a topic for a different day...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

1st Birthday Party

A coworker held a 1st birthday party for his daughter yesterday. I and two other coworkers were invited. The proud father is Hindu, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect for the party, but it turned out to be a reasonably normal birthday party, at least the part we saw. Apparently there is a two hour long religious ritual that proceeded the party, so as one would expect, the birthday girl was very tired and cranky by the time a dozen strangers invaded her house. Strangely, the giant balloons bursting at random moments, making all the adults jump out of our skins, didn't affect her at all.

In an interesting twist, we had cake (and very good cake it was) before dinner (a suitable for white people vegetarian north India style buffet). Desert before dinner, these people know how to throw a party! Once we got to presents it was obvious that the white people hadn't been given sufficient coaching in the Hindu way. White people gave toys and clothes. I gave a very soft stuffed elephant and a 12" square pink blanket with a pink elephant head attached at one corner -- which I thought would be about as Hindu of a gift that I could think. All the Hindus gave jewelry. Tiny, tiny, diamond and pearl earrings, and itty-bitty gold bracelets were the norm. Oops. Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?

During dinner, in keeping with what men do everywhere, but totally unexpected from this crowd, my coworker's brother turned on the TV, tuned to ice hockey and lost all connection with the rest of the party. He's living in Canada now (and it was a Canada vs. USA match, Canada won, 2-1), but he's also Indian, so that was rather unexpected. Would I have been less shocked if he had turned on a cricket match? Maybe. I just didn't figure someone who's from the tropics for being into ice hockey. I guess I'm just narrow minded, and the constant reminder of that fact never ceases to amaze me.