Thursday, March 16, 2006

Snowin' snowin' snowin'...

It's snowed a lot this week. Monday most people decided to just call off their day due to the snow. The Minneapolis Twin Cities area got a fair amount of snow (6 to 18 inches, I got about 12 inches), concentrated during the morning rush hour and the plows just couldn't keep up. The morning news was full of spin outs and buses stuck in the snow.

I got up at 7am and started to snow-throw my driveway and sidewalk. It was the thick heavy snow that sticks to everything (including the sides of buildings and cars -- looked like the town had been attacked with papier mache) and that thrower can't throw quite as far. The wind had driven the snow to well over a foot in some places -- taller than my thrower. And the wind was still blowing at quite a clip (about 10mph), creating deep drifts and making throwing snow in the wrong direction a cold and unpleasant experience.

It had started to snow late the previous night and there was probably about 6" of snow on the ground and in the street (not counting the drifts). It took me over an hour of hard work with the thrower to clear the snow. While I was out there I watched a van get stuck on my street and decided that I would wait until the plow came by before trying to leave for work.

I got back in the house and was able to take a shower before the power went out. The unfortunate side effect of having an on-demand hot water heater is that if the power goes out, so does the hot water (my unit has a computer to control the burner and input and output water valves, not to mention a fan to assist in combustion).

Unfortunately, Sara was in the shower when the power went out. I quickly ran downstairs to get the UPS from the computer and plug it into the water heater (in the dark, the spark told me I had plugged it into the right outlet in the UPS!), but Sara wasn't patient enough (the heater apparently takes a while to reboot before it will deliver hot water) turning off the hot water just as the burner turned on. She said that she got her hair clean before the water went too cold. It's a good thing to know though, that you can at least finish a shower if the power goes off.

I didn't have enough UPSes to do actual work though, so for the 2+ hours that the power was off, I read a book. At least the stove is gas and I can light it with a match, so I was able to do a late breakfast without a problem.

Once the power was back, I worked from home while the snow continued to pour down. At about 1pm the street plow came by and at about 2pm the sidewalk plow came by. I could see that the snow was pretty thick, but it wasn't snowing much anymore. The neighbor's driveway was nice and clean, so I decided I should get mine in order as well.

I started to shovel the snow from the garage door, but it was just too heavy to move with a shovel, so I went back to snow thrower. This time the drifts were bigger (up to my knee), and the wind was worse. I could only attack small sections of the snow at once, and it wasn't making it off the driveway, which meant that by the time I got to the other side, I would be moving twice as much snow. I just kept slamming the snow thrower into the snow, and while it nearly stalled a hundred times, it managed to mostly clear the snow. I then went back with the shovel to get the bits of snow that thrower left behind.

All told, that took me over two hours, and none of it was easy. My back was definitely feeling it, and I knew that the next few days were going to be painful.

Around 5pm the street plow came back again. This time going so fast that he nearly completely covered the sidewalk with thick, compacted, snow and managed to even get some snow onto my lawn! Another hour of shoveling to clear the sidewalk and driveway apron of the heavy sticky snow (a small shovel full weighed at least 50lbs). I was also nice enough to clear most of the corner of sidewalk/street where the snow pushed by the plow and was up to my waist.

Today, Thursday, we got another 6 inches of snow. Luckily this was the lighter, fluffy variety that's easier to shovel. However, the ground is much colder now, so it doesn't release from the pavement as nicely as it did on Monday. I shoveled for an hour this morning, but used the snow thrower on the driveway apron where the plow had pushed it so high and hard that I really couldn't shovel it in a reasonable amount of time.

Traffic wasn't nearly as bad today and I was able to get into work at my normal time. It's still snowing, however, so there will be plenty to shovel when I get home today too.

I love winter! It's good exercise. ;-)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wedding photo idea

So I had an idea yesterday, while going over the budget for the wedding...

Everyone talks about getting a bunch of disposable cameras instead of a photographer (because they are damn expensive), and I was momentarily thinking the same thing, but then I came up with a twist.

What if we got four or five quality digital cameras (like a Canon Rebel XT or Nikon D50)? We would hand them out before hand (and probably have to give brief lessons) and have a few people use them to take photos during the wedding and at the reception. I imagine that the quality of the photos would be no worse than a disposable camera, and hopefully they would be quite a bit better. The twist is, at the end of the evening we would raffle them off (all but one, I want one for myself) for $25 a ticket.

Five Rebel XT cameras or seven Nikon D50 cameras would cost about the same as hiring the professional photographers that we've been interviewing. With about 150 guests, if everyone buys a ticket at $25 each, all of the cameras are basically paid for (and I get one for free!). If only 4 people buy tickets, then I'm no worse off (monetarily) than if I had hired a professional photographer. Any other number of tickets and I'm ahead (fewer and I e-bay the extra cameras, and more and I have at least a little cash to offset the expense).

Seems like a reasonable, if not ecstatically cool, plan to me. It has basically no downside (since you can often get really lousy pictures even with a professional photographer). And it has the upside that four to six guests would be very happy at the end of the night. Sara doesn't like the idea of selling tickets at our wedding, and I can understand that, but I still think it's great idea. I'll probably be soliciting opinions on this, so don't be surprised if I bring it up in conversation. :-)