Monday, October 31, 2005


Last night was my usual Sunday night out with the crowd. This Sunday, the "crowd" was only Spencer (the organizer), Sara and I. For a while, I was worried that it might only be Sara and I, but eventually Spencer arrived (which wasn't too unexpected, he's been working hard in his basement too).

Sara and I talked about random things and listened to the guys behind me complain about how poorly their fish sandwiches were cooked (apparently even the replacement sandwich was poorly cooked). The manager tried to sooth rumpled feathers, but I don't know if those guys will be coming back any time soon.

It wasn't going to be a good night for the manager.

I was maybe three bites into my bacon and cheese chicken sandwich when I bit down on something hard. Thinking it was just overcooked bacon, I bit down harder until I heard a loud snap! and I was through it. A fraction of a second later I thought, "that didn't sound right". I stopped chewing and looked at the sandwich to see what I just bit into, thinking it was a bone or the like. A piece of shredded lettuce didn't look quite right. When I grabbed it, it turned out to be a shard of glass a about half an inch long, a few millimeters wide, and maybe a millimeter thick. I promptly, though not too elegantly, emptied the contents of my mouth back onto the plate.

We called over the waitress and explained it to her, and she promptly called over the manager (whom we know quite well from years of doing Sunday nights here). We gave her the piece of glass that was pulled from the sandwich and found the bit that had been in my mouth, which was probably about 2mm square. She asked if I was OK and I said I was, though I had cut the tip of my tongue, though not to the point of bleeding, but it sure did feel weird.

I got a replacement sandwich, and had my sandwich taken off the bill, as we pondered how a thin shard of glass could get into the food prep area, which for obvious reasons is kept free of glass containers. The best we could come up with was that something may have fallen and shattered, scattering pieces much father than expected. The odd part was that it was a pretty thin piece of glass, thinner than any of their drink glasses -- at least the ones that I've seen. Perhaps a Martini glass?

Oh well, no harm, no foul, and I'll be back there next Sunday.

Saturday, October 29, 2005


Today I spent about an hour and a half raking leaves, followed by an hour mowing the lawn. I've decided that I hate raking leaves. Well, not all leaves, the maple leaves are nice to rake. Large and easy to control.

It's the small leaves that pass through the fins of the rake, mocking me at every sweep, that really make the job less enjoyable. The same tree also drops its leaves' stems separate from the leaves, which is like raking toothpicks. Toothpicks that mock you. Whomever picked that tree should be punished by being forced to rake it's leaves in a high wind for all eternity.

I have five trees that are fully bare and two (a birch and something else I don't recognize) that haven't even turned yet. What's up with that?

After raking the leaves into a dozen small piles, I got the lawn mower out to use it to scoop them up. I was hoping that it would mulch the leaves as it bagged them, but it didn't (even though it's a mulching mower). However, even if it didn't save space in the garbage bags, it at least made it easy to get the leaves into garbage bags.

After that, I mowed the lawn for, hopefully, the last time this season. I'm looking forward to the snow.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Workin' in the basement

These last few nights Sara has been out of town on a field trip to other museums to see how they do things and get some ideas of what works and what doesn't.

That left me with lonely evenings, and there was only one thing to do. Yep, work in the basement! :-)

The first night I got an additional 6 recessed lights hung and wire run, but not connected since I had forgotten to get the needed grommets for the wire going into the metal boxes attached to the lights. I had just enough time to lift some weights and take a shower before hitting the sack at about 10pm. Yep, that's my bedtime. What can I say, I'm getting old.

The second night, with grommets in hand, I wired up the lights and removed the temporary switch for the first bank and installed the two permanent switches to control the 12 lights. Nice and bright once again in the basement. There are some parts that still need more light, and I have 4 more lights that I will be installing for that purpose. The dimmers on the two banks give a nice effect allowing you to have just enough light for whatever you're doing. I then turned down the light levels and rode my mountain bike, clamped into a stationary stand, for about 25 minutes. Boy am I out of shape.

The third night, after coming home late from work, I only had time to install a new electrical outlet up near the ceiling for the wall mounted TV and ReplayTV that I had mounted over the weekend. No more extension cords, which is a good thing. Adding that outlet allowed me to easily get two outlets working again as well. Those outlets had been wired into the ceiling lights, so when I removed the lights, the outlets went dead. But, they had enough wire poking out of them that I could wire them into the new outlet which saved me from having to tear out more drywall just to get to them. Yea for my side! Another quick 25 minute bike ride and I was left unable to fall asleep until after 11:30pm. Argh, exercising too late at night can really throw off your sleep schedule.

And on the fourth night, Sara returned from her trip. I wanted to reinstall the low voltage wiring for the TV and ReplayTV, which is currently dangling from the ceiling since the wall it used to go into no longer exists, but Sara wanted to relax with me on the couch. What's a guy to do?

After a bit I told her that I needed to get up and exercise before it got too late, and she said that she had to make some "old time" candy to give away the next day at The Ramsey House. I finished riding the bike after about 30 minutes and came up to see Sara looking sad and complaining that making candy on an electric stove is impossible. I tried to help her out, but yeah, making candy on an electric stove, at least my stove, is an exercise in frustration.

The problem is that the cook top doesn't produce an even heat, instead turning the burner on and off as the stove deems necessary. What this does to a high sugar content fluid is a crime. Alternately boiling it and cooling it. Two things that are just no good for candy. I think if we had used a little more heat than medium and less than high, we might have been able to get the butterscotch and sugar to melt without burning, but in Sara's frustration she turned the stove up to high. That certainly caused the sugar to start to melt (the sugar and milk had turned into something resembling brown sugar when we added the butterscotch chips), but it was too hot and no amount of stirring and moving the pot on and off the heat could keep the butterscotch from turning a shade or two darker than it should have.

We did get it all melted, and I thought it tasted great, though it had a very smokey or Oakey flavor to it which meant that it had been burnt. Didn't taste anything like butterscotch if you ask me, but I think it was yummy none the less. Breaking it into 100+ pieces was a real chore, however, since it was supposed to be cut into squares and not just broken into random sized pieces. Unfortunately, she let it cool too much and I think I would have had better luck cutting it with my glass cutting tools than a kitchen knife. In the end, we just scored and snapped off pieces that were roughly, and I do mean roughly, uniform in size.

Hopefully everyone will like it, and I say that it's probably more authentic anyway since cooking over a wood-fired stove would surely result in uneven heating as well. I told her I would eat anything that they didn't, but to please not bring back any leftovers. It's just too yummy and I'm trying to be good. It was actually the first sweets that I had all week and I'd like to keep it that way. Too many temptations with Halloween coming up and all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


This morning on my way into work I turned north onto Manning Ave, my usual way to work. Up in the distance I could see red and blue flashing lights and thought "Wow, they're really cracking down on speeders around here."

As I got to within about a quarter of a mile I saw that the cop car was sideways with it's back half in traffic and a tow truck, complete with flashing lights, was just pulling up. I was thinking "Do they impound cars around here for not having valid insurance or what could this person have done to get their car impounded on their way into work?"

As I got to with a hundred feet it became clear what had happened. The cop had driven off the shoulder, presumably trying to make a u-turn, and had beached his cruiser as there is quite a ditch at that point. Oops.

But it was OK, he had another officer there to keep him company while the tow truck started to figure out how they were going to get his car back onto the road. I'm sure that's going to require some explaining back at the station.

As I left, I couldn't help but think that whomever he was turning around to chase (if that's in fact what he was doing) was one lucky bastard. If only we could all be so lucky. :-)

Annoying Blog Spam

OK, today I've had enough. After getting one too many posts from some loser about how to cook prime rib, I've turned off comments on this blog. If you're reading this, you probably already know my e-mail address, so if you want to comment, please do, but it will have to be by e-mail.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Blog spam

Guy complained about blog spam a while ago, and it's finally gotten to the point where I'm going to turn off anonymous commenting as well.

Blog spam is really lame, just like regular spam, only I personally think it's even more lame than regular spam. It seems that there are bots (automated programs) running that are just looking for blog changes. When they find them, they immediately post a comment about their own topic (which would have nothing to do with the original blog entry) to the new blog entry. This ends up sending me a mail, and presumably anyone searching Google or the like would find their comment and their link.

I've noticed that for the most part has been pretty good at automatically removing the bogus comments, but I still get the e-mail and that's pretty annoying. I then go in and delete the comment so that no one gets a chance to read it, and that's beginning to be a hassle.

So, the first step is turn off anonymous commenting and hope that helps. If that doesn't help, then I'll turn off commenting all together and you'll just have to e-mail me your comments. Safe bet that if I actually want to hear your comments, you already know my e-mail address. :-)

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Yesterday Sara and I spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon deconstructing the fifth room, located in the basement. The plan is to have the basement open as one big space with the fitness equipment at one end, the TV and couches at the other, and a pool table in the middle. There will be a bathroom (probably with a shower instead of full tub) and of course the utilities, but the rest will be one large space.

I had removed the drywall earlier in the week so we started the morning by carrying that up and putting it in the back of the truck. We cut up the two layers of carpet and put that in the truck as well, which left the truck piled higher than I can probably drive with. I found a local solid waste transfer station, but decided that I would go there next week so as to not slow down the immediate progress in the basement.

We started on the walls next, which were clearly not constructed by a seasoned carpenter. It was nice that he had screwed many of the studs together since that made things easier to take apart. I still needed to get out the sawsall to cut through a few screws that I couldn't get to, but after that a big ol' mallet was able to finish off the walls with quickly.

I then attacked the wacky wiring in the basement. Removing the ugly fluorescent flights and some wires that were going in weird directions. I only got electrocuted once, luckily only across one hand, so it was just a tingle and not a jolt. When everything was done and the breakers were flipped back on I had three hot wires with caps on them and one shut off breaker (that was some of the outlets in the bedroom). I can reuse that one circuit (not quite sure where yet), but I don't want to use any of the other lines since they were coming from the first floor and not specific to the basement. Unfortunately I'll have to reuse one or else I'll have to remove even more drywall to rewire the two outlets that are remaining after the demo. Oh well, at least I have enough existing wire to add in the one outlet I need up in the wall for the Replay and TV.

In the immediate future I need to add a bunch more recessed lighting over the fitness equipment space and pool table area so that there is decent lighting to continue working. I've still got to put in some accent lighting, speaker wires, vent ducting, hang drywall, install subflooring, finished flooring, prime and paint, and then install the wet bar and cabinets. Well it will give me something to do this winter, that's for sure.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fall cleanup

Fall is upon us out here in the Midwest, though some of my trees are all but bare, and others haven't even changed color yet. I think we're past the "peak colors" time of the year and I'm bummed that I didn't get a chance to get out there on the motorcycle to check them out.

I kept meaning to ask my neighbors who they used to blow out their sprinkler systems, but I didn't get the chance, so I just went with a random name from the phone book. I've scheduled to have my sprinkler system blown out next week, but was woken up this morning by the sounds of a heavy duty air compressor running -- my neighbors were getting their sprinkler system blown out. Oh well, maybe next year I'll use their guy.

I spent an hour or so raking leaves while Sara planted bulbs in front of my house. The only problem with raking leaves while they're still falling is by the time you're done, it doesn't look like you even started, aside from the two bags full of leaves. I knew this was going to be multi-week process, but I was hoping that I could look at a clean lawn for at least a few minutes. Maybe next year I'll get a lawn vacuum so that even if I have to go over it multiple times, it won't be nearly so much work (raking is hard on the elbow). Plus the lawn vacuums shred the leaves resulting in fewer bags that I need to take to the local compost pile (at $1 a bag).

I think I'll need to mow the lawn at least once more (and probably two or three time more), but not this weekend. I mowed it last week (because I mow it every week), but it's definitely growing more slowly now so I'm going to be lazy this week and pretend it's a good thing. I just need to make sure that it's not too tall before it snows because apparently that can cause rot in the spring as the snow melts.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Home phone

Earlier this week I decided to cave in and get a home phone. It's not so much that I need one, but at times I want to have a bigger phone that rings louder, or has better battery life, or better sound quality, or I can have a two hour conversation on without costing a small fortune.

The main reason I did this is I'd like to be able to work from home for at least part of the winter (at least the really bad commute days), so having a phone that I can use for hours on end during the day is important.

However, I decided that I still don't need an actual phone, so I went with Vonage, a phone-over-internet (VoIP) provider instead. It looks like a pretty slick system, just a small box that you plug into your network and then plug your phone into. In my case I have just a phone cord going to my punch-down block in the basement so all the phone jacks in the house can eventually (currently I only have one physical phone) be on Vonage. The box supports two physical phone lines, and you can easily have two boxes connected to your network (based on what UDP ports I had to open in my firewall). It's only $14.99 a month for 500 outgoing minutes (incoming and Vonage to Vonage calls are always free) or $24.99 for unlimited minutes. I decided that 500 minutes should be more than I need.

The Vonage service is pretty nifty. I can get notified of new voicemail via e-mail, with or without the actual voicemail audio, if I so choose. I can configure a whole host of things related to my phone line from their website. A really cool feature is that for only $4.99 I can get a virtual phone number -- a number that works only for incoming calls. This number can have any area code that Vonage supports (which is most of them) so that friends and family can call me as if it was just a local call (which are always free to me). And there a lot more cool options like that, with hopefully new ones able to added quite easily.

The sound quality is exactly what I would expect from my phone. They give you a selectable quality level of 30kbs (low), 50kbs (average), or 90kbs (default - high) so you can tailor your bandwidth usage to your available bandwidth. I've not tried using the phone and doing a large upload yet, so I don't know what happens when my uplink is busy.

The most interesting thing is that your phone number is tied to your box, which is reasonably small. You can take you box with you on a trip and be carrying your local phone with you. I can see how this would work out great for a business traveler that books a hotel with broadband access, especially since calls to you will follow you wherever you go. Of course this plays havoc with 911 calls, so they make you click through a bunch of screens talking about this and make you enter your physical location before they'll activate the 911 service, but it's a small price to play for the convenience.

All in all, it's a pretty slick system and I think I'm going to like it a lot. I'll report back on any issues that might crop up.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Out of town

Last week I left sunny and nice MN for hot and smoggy CA (Anaheim area) to finish up the USB Audio 2.0 spec. The flight out Tuesday morning (at 7am ) was delayed for 2 hours because of lightning in the area which prevented the refueling and baggage loading. Apparently the storm dumped 5-6 inches of rain and caused landslides in my general area (where they were doing construction on the roads). Nothing happened to my place and my basement remained dry. Yea for me.

On the first day, I went to Irwindale to meet the people at the main headquarters of my company to put faces to names and voices. Funny how people never look like how you imagine them to be.

The next few long days we finished the spec and it's now available for public comment on the USB web site. If you've got anything bad to say about it, now's the time! Remember though, no new materials will be added, and no changes will be made unless it's to correct an error in the spec.

Lucy was glad to see me when I got home, and I think she had gotten even fatter while I was away. I think she eats when she's lonely (don't we all?). Sad.