Sunday, July 31, 2005


Last night I went out with a coworker, Joel, and his wife to see Stealth and have a late dinner.

Stealth was a much better movie than I was expecting, pretty much by virtue of being a different movie than I expected. It was kind of an I, Robot meets Iron Eagle movie (down to the bad rock music played by the robot plane during attack missions). I'll try not to spoil the movie, which means I won't be saying much. Suffice it to say that you really have to suspend disbelief to make this movie work.

One part that I noticed was that there was a new Pontiac GTO in the movie. It was in the movie for about 10 seconds alltogether, and I have to wonder if Pontiac is pissed that a bunch of footage of the GTO was left on the cutting room floor.

Birthday fun

Friday evening I went to the birthday party of Lori, one of my kickball teammates. It was held at Elsie's, a local bowling alley, but not your average bowling alley. It's part bowling alley, part sports bar, and part classy restaurant. We had a reserved section with our own private bar and server.

Lori has a great batch of friends, many of them driving or flying quite a distance to make it to her 30th celebration. Early in the party, before too many people arrived, I was able to chat with a few of them, being one of the few kickball people that was talking to non-kickball people.

Also at the party, and one of my fellow kickball teammates, was Saire, and I spent much of the evening talking with her. She has previously mentioned a desire to go motorcycling, as a passenger, so I've offered to take her out for a ride.

We'll probably be doing a ride along the Mississippi river Sunday afternoon/evening. I wish the weather was better today; highs in the upper 70's would be ideal, but instead they'll be in the low 90's. At least we'll be able to chat while riding, making wearing a helmet in this weather slightly more pleasant. She'll be wearing my old helmet and I bought a new helmet for myself, along with a second speaker/microphone setup to create an intercom with my Autocom setup.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Not a lot going on

This week has been pretty quiet. We got some much needed rain over the weekend, though I don't think that getting two inches in an hour is the best way to make up for a long dry spell. The wind (50+mph, trees downed) and rain was very impressive. The kind of impressive that makes you really glad you have a well built structure. Tossing all that aside, however, I went outside to stand in the fury and quickly changed my mind. Instead, I just stood hunkered down in the corner of the porch that wasn't getting pounded. The air funneling between my and my neighbor's house produced some impressive velocities and the rain was basically horizontal through there. On other people's houses it was coming off so fast that it was over shooting their gutters. Lucy poked her head out, but had more sense than I did.

That storm signaled the start of cooler weather here and this week as been all mid to upper 70's, which is far nicer than the high 80's and mid 90's that we'd had for the previous two weeks. Looks like next week is going to be all 90's though.

I changed my sprinklers to run twice per day (but for half as long each time) in an effort to keep some water in the ground and the grass alive. The grass is looking better, though I have to adjust a couple of sprinkler heads and trim some low tree branches. I think that the morning and night watering might be the key to keeping the grass alive (either that, or the massive storm).

I changed the oil in the Miata over the weekend. Since I hadn't changed it in probably two years, I decided to unbolt the oil cooler and drain it as well. How did I ever get that thing up in there in the first place? It must have taken me 20 minutes to get it out. This is all in preparation for getting the Miata out and tuned with the wide band O2 sensor -- something that I've been meaning to do for the last couple of years now. Maybe I'll get it done before winter. I wouldn't bet on it though.

I got a coupon for 10% off an unlimited amount of Home Depot purchases, this weekend only. I have been wanting to work on the basement, but plunking down $5k or more for lights, drywall, sub-flooring, flooring, and other miscellaneous bits isn't really what I want to do at this point. It's definitely temping, but I don't really want to tap into my investments at this point, and my checking account really can't handle that kind of expenditure at this point. They usually send out these kind of coupons a couple of times a year (though usually they're 10% off up to $200), so perhaps I'll just get some drywall and lights this weekend and save the really big purchases for later in the year when I've had more time to save.

Tonight I'm hoping to have some fun with the kickball team at a member's birthday party which is being held in a bowling alley/restaurant. That should be fun.

No plans for the weekend, but maybe I'll do some demolition of the existing bedroom in the basement because it doesn't really fit into my plan of a home theater/pool table/work-out space.

Sunday, July 24, 2005


Last evening I went outside to check on the state of the lawn (it's doing OK, though there are still a number of brown spots) and Lucy decided to follow me out.

It was hot and humid outside so I didn't want to stay out too long, but Lucy didn't want to come quite so quickly. I left her out unsupervised, hoping that she would want to come back in quickly. Twenty minutes later I was worried because she wasn't waiting to come in. After doing two laps around the house, calling out her name, she finally came out of the bush she was hiding in. I decided that it was time for her to come in. I picked her up, went to the sliding door and put her down, expecting her to go inside. Instead she immediately turned around.

I decided that I'd go back inside and check on her later. Another 20 minutes passed and she's still not waiting at the door. It's starting to get dark, and I'm not looking forward to trying to find a black cat in the dark, so I go back out looking for her.

Calling her name and walking the perimeter of the house (which she likes to stay close to, I don't think she likes the grass, preferring the mulch) I finally heard her. She was doing a non-stop meow and standing in the egress pit for the basement bedroom. The dew on the window told me that she had been scratching at the window. I wondered for how long? But, that answers the question I had. Could she could jump the 4+ feet out of the egress pit? The answer is no (well, maybe she didn't try hard enough).

I jumped down, picked her up and put her on the ledge (briefly wondering if I could jump up) and then got out, scooped her up and took her back inside. Interestingly, she wanted to run right back outside, but I wasn't going to let her.

I was really worried about losing her, I don't think I'm going to be letting her outside too much again.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Cool links

I found a few cool links that I thought were worth sharing...

An article in a German newspaper about birds learning to imitate cell phone rings is interesting. Apparently they do it as a way of trying to keep their territory by spoofing the sound of encroaching birds, thus making those birds think the territory is already occupied by one of their kind.

For you motorcycle fans, a motorcycle powered by 24 chainsaw motors. 'Nuff said. Be sure to check out the videos, and if anyone can translate German, I'd love to know what the rider had to report.

And on the "is that really useful?" front, the Optimus keyboard has little screens for each of the keys so that you can have your keyboard display any symbol you want for any key. I suppose that means the end of the keyboard overlays, but I like the Das keyboard, a keyboard without any symbols, better.

Red Dawn

This morning I was awakened by the crash of thunder at about 5:35am. That meant that I had to get up and close a few windows and to my great surprise I opened my eyes to find the entire world (at least all that I could see from my second story windows) an eerie red. It was more than just the cool red sky you get in the evening. It was more than just some red clouds. It was everything. It was like I had awakened on another planet. It was cool.

Too bad for you I was too tired to find the camera and take any pictures. By the time the heavy rain, howling wind, and non-stop thunder hit, the world had returned to a neutral blue/green/grey color. Now I fully comprehend the saying "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning." I wouldn't have wanted to be staring at storm like that if I was stuck in a little wooden boat in the middle of the ocean.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Movie night

Last night I went out and saw Wedding Crashers and then met up with a coworker to see Fantastic Four.

Wedding Crashers was pretty darn funny, at least for the first 30 minutes. I didn't realize that it was an R rated movie either until topless women started flopping down onto beds. Was amazed me most was that during some pretty crass scenes, I heard more women laughing than men. Quite frankly, I was expecting that these kinds of scenes wouldn't play too well in middle America, but apparently they do. Maybe it's not so bad out here after all.

Fantastic Four was decent, not great, not bad, but not really as much of a "big screen" movie as I was expecting. There is action, but not as much as I expected. I had been warned by a different coworker that this was the case, so I wasn't disappointed. The movie also moves slower than I was expecting. They definitely spent a lot of time setting up the characters, though they never really explained why Von Doom's company was going bankrupt (though it appeared to be because of the cosmic storm incident, that doesn't really make sense). It really looks like they set up this movie as a lead in to another Fantastic Four movie. Hopefully we'll get another one in a couple of years that won't have to spend so much time explaining things to us and will be better for it.

I would say that each of the movies was worth the price of admission (about $8 here in MN).

Porn Scam

Thursday I received a e-mail on friendster from "Carrie" saying that she had seen my entry, was new to the area, and looking to make friends. Well, I'm looking to make friends too, so I thought I would reply to see if she was for real and got this e-mail the next day:

Hey Mark, thanks for getting in touch! So how's your Friday going? Just
another work day for me:) A bit about me....I'm a LA woman, who moved to
the Minneapolis area for my job (sales) and I officially know 0 people. I
never imagined a change like this would be so hard and lonely to say the
least. I definitely want to meet up with you soon if you're down! According
to friendster, I live close by so we could really meet whenever you want.
GREAT NEWS (if you're a baseball fan) my boss gave me 2 tickets to the
Twins/Devil Rays game for Saturday's at 6:10PM. Care to come
with me???

I posted A LOT more pics (as I said I'd give you!) on my newest personal,
they're at My profile is listed in
that site under "BackSideBabe". I wanted to post my personal info (i.e.
phone # and my personal email address) there for 3 real simple reasons. 1)
It's DISCREET! 2) I never have to worry about being contacted by children
since only adults are allowed in the site and 3) I know all the replies I
receive are genuine. I've met 3 people off of this site, and it's truly made
me feel safe. I had a nightmare of an experience in the past that I don't
want to happen again. Thats all I've got to say right now, let's just plan
on meeting soon! Cause you know what that means... ;)

Give me a call!


***The following is a requirement of this website: "If you are offended by
adult material or are not of legal age to view such material, or if you
simply would not like to hear from any members from this website, follow
this link to be removed:"

As I expected, she wasn't real. Turns out "she" has been running this scam with lots of different people on at two different services (using as well), but it looks like more people are getting wise to the antics.

This morning, after failing to call her yesterday, I got another e-mail (from a different, but similar, hotmail e-mail address), saying how she was disappointed that I hadn't called her yesterday. She suggested that I go to myblissfuldesires and look her up as NaughtyNaughty. She's having trouble keeping her story straight. I replied back that I was on to her scam and she needed to move on.

Gotta love the Internet.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Attic vent

This week has been very warm, if not down right hot. It's been in the high 80's to low 90's every day for going on two weeks now. The humidity adds to the suffering and means that opening a window for a fan is the last thing you want to do. Even if it's cooler outside, it often feels warmer.

Since my HVAC system is doing such a poor job of keeping my upstairs cool (or warm), I decided to buy an attic fan to keep the attic cool and thus keep the house cool. After looking around at various different kinds of attic fans, I decided to go with a gable vent fan. They're easy to install because they don't require you to get on the roof, they move a lot of air, and they're more weather and animal resistant than some of the other options.

Since every house I see has gable ends, I naturally assumed that mine did too. But, you know what they say about assumption... It turns out that I don't actually have a gabled roof, so the $120 worth of fan and vent louvers do me absolutely no good.

At least that means I don't have to go into the stifling hot attic this weekend. Now all I have to do is find my receipt.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Weak Grass

I'm really having a difficult time of trying to keep my lawn healthy out here, which is quite the opposite of what I expected.

From my lawn experiences in California, I'm used to watering the grass for 15 minutes two or three times a week. I realized that wouldn't cut it here in Minnesota about a month ago. However, it seems that my response has been too little, too late.

Parts of my lawn are doing just fine (mainly the parts I see), but parts are in real trouble (mainly the parts my neighbors see). I don't think it's insects (grubs). I've fertilized the lawn a couple of times since spring, though I haven't used an insect control product, mainly because I don't see any insects or predators (birds) on the lawn. I don't see my neighbors watering any more than I am (of course I water at 3am, so if they're watering at 3am and 6pm, then I'm in trouble).

I think it's just that I'm not watering enough, but that's really baffling me. I'm watering about 30 minutes every other day (I can water my lawn on even days). I made sure that my sprinklers were all running correctly last night (need to buy one new head, but it's not in the affected area), adjusted a few, and increased the run times of a few zones. I'm hoping that with enough water I'll be able to bring my lawn back. Grass is pretty hardy, so I imagine it will be back next spring, but I'd like it back by this August.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Wow, Minnesotans really like their fireworks. They started launching them off on Friday, and it was pretty much non-stop until about midnight Monday.

One particularly interesting bit was the neighbor kids that lit off one of those spark shooting kinds, braced up against their deck support. As if that wasn't bad enough, their dog made a lunge for it, but was restrained at the last second. Then once it was out, the toddler came over to stamp it out, with his bare feet, just like he had seen the older kids do on the previous fireworks. Well, at least no one was injured, but it was touch and go for a moment.

The local junior high school a block down the street was the location of the Cottage Grove celebration, so I had a great view from my second story bedroom window. The air bursts were so loud, however, that Lucy, my cat, decided that the basement was a better place to be. She didn't have a problem with the personal fireworks, but I guess this was just too much for her.

Monday night was by far the biggest display of personal fireworks that I've ever seen. Four neighbors within five houses of me set off massive displays of aerial fireworks (which are thoroughly illegal in Minnesota, but the police don't seem to care). These fireworks are just slightly smaller versions of what the city was using, but since they were only 50 feet away, they appeared with equal magnitude. A couple of houses even seemed to be synchronized. This was either very impressive, or they both bought the same setup and lit it off at approximately the same time (the latter being my guess). The personal fireworks ran for well over an hour, and it wasn't like it was one at a time. These were full-on fireworks displays with virtually no gaps between air bursts.

All in all, it was quite a display and left me wondering, how much did these guys spend on fireworks? If you told me it was over $1000 each, I wouldn't be surprised. In fact, if you told me it was less, I would be surprised.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ceiling fan

This afternoon I installed a little ceiling fan in my first/second story stairwell. I'm hoping that moving air from the lower level, where the HVAC seems to do a good job of heating/cooling, to the second story will help to keep the upstairs cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

I got a little 32" Hampton Bay White Minuet II fan. I'm glad that I decided to get the 32" model, and not the 36" model, because even though the stairwell is 39" across, there is a ceiling joist in the exact wrong spot if you want to mount something in the middle of the stairwell. The fan needs to be offset to the left a couple of inches, and that just wouldn't have been possible with a 36" fan.

The tricky part of the whole thing was how to get to the ceiling in the stairwell. Normal ladders don't work, and a Little Giant ladder that does work on stairs costs about $350. That's a lot of hardware to install a $40 fan. Luckily I was able to rent one in Hudson for only $30 a day.

To save some time in the attic (which is like 140 degrees today) I got a remote control for the fan. That meant that I didn't have to wire in a switch and made the install considerably simpler (if you discount the standing 10' in the air on a wacky ladder part). There was plenty of slack in the wire that I had run months earlier to power the new outlets I put in for the towel warmers, which was nice since I didn't have to do anything other than just cut that wire at the new box for the ceiling fan. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get that box quite level. Since I was mounting it from the attic, I couldn't really see how it was fitting with respect to the drywall. It's not perfect, but it's passable (I wonder how I could have done a better job -- screw a board below the box to give me a level reference point?). Considering that it's nearly 16' up in the air, I don't think too many people will immediately notice it (though if you look, it's clear there's a gap on one side). The fan sits on a ball mount, so it hangs level, even if its mount isn't. I've got the ladder for another 16 hours, so maybe I'll make another stab at before I return the ladder.

The cool thing about the remote is that it can dim the light on the fan, turn the light off after a specified period of time, but most importantly, it can automatically control the fan speed based temperature.

Now the only thing left to do is adjust/balance the fan blades. At least one of them must not be quite level because you can really see the fan blades going up and down as it spins.

It's really moving a fair amount of air though, and it's far more quiet than the fan I had sitting on the floor, so even if things stay as they are now, I'll be quite happy with it.