Ten Years of MZ Online!

Practical Advice

Extraordinary Ideas

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!


Studying
She really does like to figure out how things work and how to help out...
So Christmas of 2008 has come and gone, and all is well. It was another good Christmas festivus, although things tend to get so busy and crazy in the days and weeks leading up to the holiday.

But at any rate, we all survived, all is well, and here's to the end of another year and the beginning of the next!

So to all of you, I wish a Happy New Year!

Until next time...
--MZ

Friday, December 12, 2008

And Along Comes Christmas!


Annoyance
I know I was being an annoyance to him, but I was just returning the favor.
So I've been really horrible. The last post was the day before halloween?!?!

Where did the month of November (and nearly half of December) go? These are important questions. I want my month back!

In all honesty, I have barely been able to keep up with my 'at home' email and newsletters. Truth be told, I actually deleted a bunch of them unread after I decided an attempt at catching up would be an act of futility on a grand scale...

I've managed to stay busy as of late. Even managed to win the photo frame for November's Picture of the Day thing at KMRS/KKOK, which was cool. Anyone can submit a picture of the day; only the talented really win the monthly award. Or just randomly lucky...

As I sit here and write a few words before I go to bed on the Friday before an apparent blizzard (Sunday) is to strike, I try thinking of the things that have kept me busy over the last month. And I fail to do that, much like I fail to think of things I would like for Christmas. Both of these things cause much angst. I think I should become a hermit. :)

On another topic, I admire the unique nature of Facebook. When I first 'joined' as it were somewhere in the last nine months or so, I figured I'd be a bit old for that crowd. Much to my (pleasant) surprise, this is quite not the case. And it's been a really good thing to randomly catch up with people...many of whom I've not seen or heard from in several years. And it's one hell of a time-waster; another reason I've not likely felt the need to ramble on here (although I think it's more a contributing factor as opposed to true reason).

I noticed tonight that I've uploaded image number 7,400 to Flickr. Seventy-four hundred. That's a crazy big number. And it only grows. The 13,000th image with the XTi was taken the other day (since March 13, 2008). Not too shabby, really...at least if you ask me.

But at any rate, I'm heading for bed now. So until next time...hopefully not after Christmas!
"A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."
- Paul Erdos (1913-1996)

--MZ

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!


Pumpkin Carvings
So here are the two pumpkins we got from Amy (thanks!), in the dark. Kirstin's is on the left (she's quite an artist), and mine is on the right.

In all actuality, I carved them both, and the team of Beth and Kirstin cleaned up the seeds and innards).
So it's been a few weeks again since my last post; I'm really bad at this lately. I guess life has a way of getting in the way of things sometimes. :)

At any rate, I decided to stay home tonight and 'take the night off' so to speak by using the time to carve pumpkins. I'd procured a few of them from Amy a few weeks ago, but they'd not yet been carved (as we've just been so busy as of late).

So tonight was the night, and the accompanying picture is the result. I did most of the carving, while Beth and Kirstin sorted out the seeds from the rest of the business. Using some simple (and free) patterns procured from the Internet along with my pumpkin-knife skills, the results are stunning.

Actually, they are a lot better than I thought they'd turn out. And I'm happy with them.

So there it is! A post!

I've taken a lot of pictures in the last few weeks. As of tonight, the official count on the XTi is 12,223. Since March 13, 2008. Over the weekend, Beth and I made a side trip down to the Gold Mine bridge (a one lane truss bridge erected in the first decade of the 20th century (1904 or 1909 comes to mind, but I can't recall which is correct). That was cool -- I'd been meaning to get some pictures of it for a while...and since it's considered a fracture critical bridge, I figured I'd better do it sooner than later (since it might not be around much longer (although I'm not sure there's a replacement plan in place since they're comfortable with the height and weight limits in place for the structure)).

And I'll likely post more stuff as I get time. Along with pictures, of course... :)

And I'm also planning on sharing some of my Kill-A-Watt results as I compile things in the next few weeks!

So until next time...
"Problems worthy of attack prove their worth by fighting back."
- Paul Erdos (1913-1996)

--MZ

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Few Weeks!


The UMM Biomass Gasification Facility
A few images I took of the south end of the new building on October 3, 2008, the date of its official dedication.
So okay, it's been a few weeks since my last post; my apologies for that.

Things have once again been busy, and when I've had a few moments to write or whatnot, I've usually been so tired (and not in the rambling mood) to partake of the activity. It's certainly not for a lack of something about which to write.

At any rate, I've managed in the last few weeks to do several things. One weekend I assisted in canning something like 27 pints of tomatoes and pressing sixteen gallons worth of apple juice/cider. It took on the order of 8-10 bushels of apples to do so. Quite a task, but it really only took about five hours to complete.

So we have a lot of juice. :)

I've also managed to get all of the stopping points (short of gas fill-ups, which I didn't record) on the Google map for our epic journey. I haven't yet decided how I intend to mash all of these things together, but it's ready for that point. Also, I've made my way through about half of the days' worth (by number, it's more like a third) of geotagging photos on flickr (from the epic journey). That is generally much more time-intensive than the Google map, since each photo can have its own place. So I work on that in smaller bits as time allows.

Friday was the official dedication of the UMM Biomass Gasification Facility (shown in the picture). It was a quaint little ceremony with a few hundred people gathered to check it out. And we were actually gasifying corn stover as well (even better). So Friday was a very long day, but an eventful and important day. It's good to be a part of some big projects that really make a difference. :)

In other news, I had to replace the 70W HPS lamp in our yard light again. 24,000+ hours my ass, I might add.

A few weeks ago now, I'd noticed that the yard light was more sensitive to voltage fluctuations than normal (it was going out and re-striking more frequently), but I wrote it off as a power anomaly and not early signs of end-of-life behavior. Well, about a week ago now, it started repeatedly striking, warming up, and going out. Definitely end-of-life behavior for a lamp of that nature.

So I went and bought a replacement for $22 and installed it. Voila, it works nicely and has yet to go out in the night (to be re-struck again). I suspect the old lamp only lasted about half of its advertised life, but I also suspect that this was at least partially due to the beating it took (the lamp itself) when the diffuser/shade was blown off (wind ripped the aluminum around the screws holding the diffuser on to the fixture) and then hung perilously on the lamp. The lamp was quite scratched up and also had a rattle when I removed it.

So we'll hope that this sort of thing doesn't happen again (I suspect that the diffuser/shade shouldn't come off again, since I fixed the root problem or vulnerability that caused it to happen in the first place).

And speaking of power fluctuations...

I was sitting quietly at home on Friday night when the phone rang. it was an unfamiliar number/name combination, and being it's political season, I took the call (because I really love to mess with the survey folks when it comes to question wording). It turns out that it was a commissioned survey from my power company, Agralite Electric Cooperative.

I was thrilled to get this call, and I believe I told the representative that on several accounts.

Based upon the questions she asked, I gathered that they (Agralite) are surveying their members' feelings on rate increases and energy conservation measures (both as a consumer and as incentives provided by the cooperative). I was so happy to be able to take part in the survey, because I was finally able to provide input on a subject I've been pretty passionate about (energy conservation and my power company) over the last few months.

I fear, however, that my answers may be statistically different than the remainder of the populous, however, which may make my answers (when compiled) less striking. But that's not the point, really. I got to speak my mind. And I did.

My biggest gripe with their policies is not the rate increases and whatnot; I can accept stuff like that. It really comes down to how they treat conservation and usage. They encourage the load management programs when it's prudent to them (when loads are high and result in power cost adjustments from their wholesale supplier), but they fear renewable initiatives which may reduce volatility in the market (and price) in the future.

I understand, really. They're a power company. Money is made by selling power. Cheap power. Load management helps them spread out load and keep those pricey cost adjustments to a minimum, but those really only take place in the summertime. Load management [specifically, getting more people to participate] is less a concern of them when it doesn't always directly affect the wholesale cost of power. Similarly, renewable initiatives are not cheap. Margin is lower, therefore it's bad.

But what really gets my goat on this whole topic is that they charge a $2.50/month per sub-meter fee. This allows me to be on a load management program. So while I still save some money by participating (and it's the right thing to do anyway), I have to pay to participate in a program that helps everyone. No wonder they don't have more people involved...

So that's enough of that rant. :) On Saturday, I insulated the floor/ceiling spaces in the attics (crawlspaces behind the second floor kneewalls). I'd done a little work on the roof line insulation of those spaces a few years back, and two years ago I insulated the kneewalls themselves. This year it was time to complete the triangle by insulating the floor as well.

Work wise it wasn't terribly difficult. Worst part of it all was taking all of the stuff out of those spaces so I could pull up the floorboards and then lay down insulation. That said, it took about six hours for me to insulate just under 230 square feet of space (including time to clear and replace the stored material).

The worst part about the project was that I spent those six hours bent over and knee-walking across ceiling joists. Kneepads don't help much in that situation; I ended up with two bruised knees and a blister on my right knee. And I'm pretty sore today. But it's a good project to have completed, and when it's all said and done, the insulation will have only cost about $100. That's what happens when you buy it on sale and also get a rebate. :)

And so that's how I spent my weekend. And a portion of the weeks prior. Last week I borrowed a Kill-A-Watt from the campus sustainability coordinator (thanks, Troy!). I haven't yet used it at home, but I intend to do some surveying of power consumption for some of our stuff here at the house. Just to see what sort of usage there really is. The office is one location for monitoring, and the living room is another. But that will be a topic for another day.

So until next time...
"Try to learn something about everything and everything about something."
- Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895)

--MZ

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another Week Passes


Relaxed
Felix was hanging out on the toy box just before Beth and I went to bed.
As another week draws to a close, I'm reminded of the many things that I never seem to get accomplished on my never-ending list of things to do. Now if that's not an overly negative way to start a post, I don't know what is.

It's not that I'm bothered by it, really. It would just be nice to make some progress on some of those loose ends that are out there. Instead, I feel like hibernating (but it's been cold and rainy the last few days which likely has something to do with that). At any rate, I have made some progress in one of the random projects that I've been intending to complete before the memory gets too foggy.

I've been adding bits to the epic journey map; the object is to pinpoint specific places we visited and (potentially) the route we used to get there. We'll see about the latter, but the former is certainly easy enough to do. To date, I'm up to just about our arrival at Nashville. I've not yet geotagged any pictures from the journey, but that's much easier to do (for me) than the plotting thing.

That's really all that's incredibly new around here. Last week was particularly busy, so by the time Friday evening rolled around it was time to sit down and watch a movie. That happened to be Songwriter.

Seeing as how we were just in Nashville and all. It was a good time, and I love some of the songs/bits in the movie. Good times for sure.

And wrapping up the weekend brought a viewing of Chicago, which was the alternate title to watch on Friday night. Here again, love the movie, love the music. Good times for sure. :)

So I now wait for the 10PM news to come on, which was of course preempted by a football game or something else similarly silly. We're now 30 minutes after ten; we'll see what happens.

I'm thinking of simply heading to bed and hoping to catch the weather before I fall asleep. And hopefully I get some more stuff done this week that moves me to write about the adventure. :)

Until then...
"Dancing is silent poetry."
- Simonides (556-468bc)
I never was good at poetry...

--MZ

Sunday, September 7, 2008

An Epic Journey

So I've been horrible at this as of late, but I have a really good reason. Honestly.

We were on an epic journey through the mid-south. For roughly twelve days, we were away from home and made our way through twelve states (if you include Minnesota, parts of which I'd not seen or been through before) in that time.

In order of travels: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota.

A very much good time was had, and I managed to document the journey (both on paper in a way and via pictures). I haven't yet had much time to compile the paper stuff (which will be what I use this forum for), but I have gone through the 1,507 photos that were taken during the time and 872 were posted to Flickr. It was quite the undertaking...and it's not done just yet.

I have a lot more work to do on Flickr in regards to the pictures (namely, I'd like to geotag a bunch of them), which should be cool.

At any rate, the work has just begun. I intend to document the daily progress and happenings of the journey here, likely by back-dating posts to the correct date. That should be cool. Combined with a Google Map and the geotagging thing on Flickr, it should be fairly well documented...for the flocks of people that wish to follow in our footsteps.

Donner, party of ten...?

So that's the state of the world. I'm still alive. I promise. And things are going well. I've been able to play with some cool video equipment in the last week or two, and that's been a lot of fun. I look forward to making things available to the public for their consumption as time passes and the facility comes on-line. Should be a good time.

As a random note, this also happens to be post number 500 to the old blog (if you include all of my old news posts I migrated over). So that's pretty cool if you ask me. :)

Until next time...

"The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad."
- Salvador Dali (1904-1989)

--MZ

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Forgotten, But Not Gone


Forgotten, But Not Gone
This old well pump is about the only visible remnant of the house that once used to sit adjacent to it.
Okay, so this title really reflects my state of mind when it comes to writing here as of late. My apologies to the flocks of visitors. :) Really.

I'm serious this time. :)

I really do look forward to the end of the summer season; I think it will actually mean that I wind down a bit regarding all the random things with which I find myself involved. Part of the problem is that due to various reasons, I put off a lot of stuff (or did just enough to get by) that I've been trying to get caught up with over the summer (keep my desk clean for starters). I look forward to spending some more time at home...it will be a welcome thing.

The other morning (Monday) as I was getting ready to go to work, I happened to look outside (which I do often anyway). Across the road and way out in the wildlife area, I saw a fawn/yearling. Doing its frolic bit. It was one of those things that solidified in my mind that it was going to be a good day. And it was. :)

This week is the last of our Biomass interns' time with us. It's a bit of a bittersweet thing, really. I was asked by one of our interns what I'd do when they're gone. I quickly and wittingly responded, 'drink heavily.'

I lie, but it was funny to see the reaction.

I will miss the interns. They've been a good group to have around, and they're always up to something, even if it's no good. Thanks to them, I now understand that there's an 'Urban Dictionary' and I've learned many hip and cool things from them. That makes me sound quite old and crotchety, I guess. Ah well. I am who I am (although I'd hope that crotchety doesn't come into play in that regard).

We made the annual trek to Farmfest last week, which was fun. I got to 'work' at the University of Minnesota tent, which was actually quite fun. I like to have an audience. :) It's good to interact with people, and events like that are always fun that way.

In the world of Blogs, there are two new blogs I should probably mention. One I've been following for a little while -- it's the pregnancy blog of my old Vato. They're having twins, which is incredibly cool (and I'm glad it's not me), and so it's fun to catch up with how that's going...especially since I'm so horribly bad about finding time to call him anymore... :(

The second is a new creation by Beth, currently an unnamed blog. I told her she should name it 'The Cat's Gonna Die' or something equally macabre-sounding, but we'll see what happens. She's just started it and hasn't (yet) gotten to the incredibly rambly stage. It should be interesting to follow as time goes along. At least I can keep track electronically of what's happening at my house when I'm not there. :)

Anyway, with all that said, I'm going to head for bed. It's been a long last few days, so the bed is really calling my name. It's gonna be great!

So until next time...
"If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you'd best teach it to dance."
- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

--MZ

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Do We Have To?


Do We Have To?
Sylvie was looking around, almost as if asking if she had to leave...
Eesh, that's almost been my own mental note of writing as of late. It's now been three-and-a-half weeks since the last rambling, and that's really not saying much.

Life has been busy as of late. It seems always as though I've been suffering a serious case of what I like to call the 'Chinese Disease:' Draggin' Ass. At any rate, I'll see what I can do about being a bit more punctual with the posts around here. It would serve us all well. :)

One of the recent 'hot topics' I was intending to ramble or rant about was related to my electric company, which happens to be Agralite Electric Cooperative in Benson, Minnesota. My big rant with them as of late has been related to what I would call 'biased propaganda' as they were presenting through their monthly newsletter.

Now, it's really my only hope that most people simply ignore the newsletter (and treat it like junk mail, which is how I think a lot of people actually handle print material like a monthly newsletter anyway). I, on the other hand, actually read stuff like that, although I have to admit that I skim through most of the random 'filler' material, selecting whether or not an article is worthy of my time based upon its title.

Over the last several months, the 'big argument' that seems to pop up at least once in the first three pages (often times twice) was 'information' relating to forthcoming renewable energy mandates and, more specifically, what those mandates will mean for everyone's electric bills. While I can appreciate the thoughtfulness of the cooperative's management in regard to the pocketbooks of their members, I really have a poor time accepting their arguments for why renewable energy mandates are a Bad Thing.

Without going into great detail, for starters they claim that amongst other things, the technology required to implement such mandates doesn't exist. Fair enough. But, for the uninformed, they conveniently 'forget' to mention that many of these mandates are on the order of twenty years out. Plenty of time for technology being developed right now to make its way into place, at least if you ask me.

Secondly, they use the flawed argument of 'clean coal' technology. I'm not abashedly bringing down the whip on coal; it's likely to serve a purpose as a baseload fuel for some time to come. However, it is not the long-term answer when there are cleaner, more environmentally-friendly methods of generating power. Clean coal is not going to fit the bill when a sizable portion of one's electrical generation is required to fit the renewable banner. The use of clean coal, in my mind, will need to be used as old baseload generation facilities reach their end of life or are upgraded.

Lastly, they use the argument that renewable energy is not as reliable as good old coal and fossil fuel. And as it currently stands, this is the case. The wind doesn't always blow, crops don't always grow, and so forth. However, they're clearly mis-representing the point on this one. These proposed and existing mandates will require that a percentage of supply come from the renewable group. Not all of it.

As I'm kinda sick of getting any further into detail about the arguments, it is depressing to see what is supposed to be a member-oriented company (cooperative) take such drastic and obvious steps to buck these things from the start. And what really pisses me off is when they bring the argument of 'your rates will go up as a result of us having to implement this stuff...'

Umm, they conveniently forgot to mention that in February they raised our electrical rate by approximately 1 cent per kWh. Oh yeah -- why was that again? Right...you have too much overhead and can't afford to keep operating the cooperative the way it's been run lately without jacking up the rates on everyone. How conveniently they forgot to make the argument of 'we're sticking up for your pocketbook' on that one.

Amongst other things, this is one of the reasons I really don't care for my electric company right at the moment. All the more reason to try to get off the grid. Somehow. After all, I do pay $34.50 each month (outside of taxes and whatnot) just to have the privilege of Agralite's service. That's before a cent of electricity is purchased.

Oh, and did I mention that it actually costs me $2.50 (of the aforementioned $34.50) each month to participate in load management programs? I have to pay to be on load control which, in turn, is supposed to assist the cooperative in managing their electrical load.

So why do I participate? Because it's the right thing to do...and it still does save money. But it seems awfully backward a marketing scheme to make a voluntary, for-the-good-of-the-cooperative, program have a monthly fee... Oh wait. I know! They make money by selling electricity -- why would it be in their interest to sell less? Aside from the fact that it's a member cooperative and should have the members' best interests in mind...

So I anxiously await the day when I can generate my own electricity and only have the 'formality' of a grid connection for those moments when the wind isn't blowing, or the sun isn't shining... Hell, just the $34.50 each month is over $400 a year going to nothing but the pride in saying I'm an Agralite member.

Sorry, my sarcasm button was stuck there...

Where I was really going to go with this rant is that as of the last newsletter (which came out last weekend), I only read one mention of the 'renewable mandates are of the devil' argument (which was actually back several pages in the 'filler'). The first several pages were laden with the word 'conservation.'

Now there's a novel idea, eh?

At least it's a start. Perhaps there's still hope for my faith in Agralite...

I find it somewhat strange that a lot of people seem to think that the idea of renewable energy automatically means a complete shift away from what I would call more 'traditional' energy sources (fossil fuel-based, such as coal, oil, etc.). The fact of the matter remains that we are likely to continue consuming fossil fuels for a long time -- there are certain obstacles to completely going 'cold turkey' -- but by innovating and getting more from less (fossil fuels) via the methods of conservation and a blend of more renewable fuels, we will likely stabilize a lot of currently unstable things.

So here endeth the lesson for the night. Until next time...
"The power of accurate observation is frequently called cynicism by those who don't have it."
- George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

--MZ

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happy Forthcoming Independence Day!


Watching The Crowd
Koshka was watching all of us walk around in the yard after giving her a little bit of attention.
As it's unlikely I'll get around to posting anything before Friday's holiday, I'll just say it now. :) Happy Independence Day!

I had great intentions tonight to write something complex and insightful, but then got caught up in another project and reading the local paper. So that kinda put a damper on my writing activity tonight.

I will, however, share a few random bits about the last few days. Amongst other things, I made my first ever presentable Flash 'presentation' today. It's part of a 'virtual tour' thing I'm working on, and I have to say that as I'm getting more familiar with the application, it's getting a bit easier to work with. Due to how it is going to function ultimately, I had a bit of a time getting the layer and timeline thing through my head (I'm used to application development, where things are layered, but not layered and linear. Or something like that.

At any rate, there's a lot of work to be done with it (and it will likely evolve over time), but it shows promise and should be pretty cool when 'complete.'

I had to 'fix' the washing machine tonight. I noticed the other day when Beth did a load of laundry that it seemed to always be 'running' and not making any progress. When I checked into it further, I noticed that it was 'stuck' in the rinse cycle, and always draining while filling. I figured it to be a fluke, forced the machine into spin, and the problem went away.

Until this evening. It wouldn't fill. Well, it would try to fill, but then would start emptying and never get to the point of triggering the pressure switch to shut off the water.

Long story short, after taking the control panel off and making sure everything looked right (and also referencing the control wiring diagram to see how I could bypass the pressure switch if necessary), I discovered the problem. The washer wasn't pumping out water; it was simply flowing out on its own accord.

It turns out that the drain hose wasn't up high enough after I'd moved the washer back last weekend after painting. Due to where I was working and how I was cleaning up things, I removed the old duct tape fastener that held the drain hose in the right position. I didn't put it back in the same exact position and, as it turned out, only had to raise it about two inches to make everything work just fine again.

So I fashioned a new (temporary) mechanism to hold the drain hose in the right position. I'd intended (once this painting business is done) to make a nice, clean-looking drain mechanism for everything in that area (water softener, washer, etc.), which is why I didn't re-create the old fastener when I moved the washer back to its position. C'est la vie, I guess. At least I know I don't need to buy a new washing machine.

And in other random bits, I read this little tidbit of information about an experiment done to see what happens when all of those spam messages and pop-ups are clicked on and responded to. It's not really all that surprising to me, but it's a good and fairly general read (for non-techie consumption) illustrating the sort of issues that really do pop up if one's not careful on the big bad Internet.

So I'll leave it at that. Until next time...
"Whenever I climb I am followed by a dog called 'Ego'."
- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

--MZ

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Long Weekend Comes To A Close


Pelicans!
I was stoked to see several flocks of pelicans as I drove home from town this morning. It was so cool, so I went to get my camera quickly. Unfortunately, when I stopped to take pictures, the closest ones (a hundred feet or so from my location) decided to fly off...
So I had today (Monday) off in addition to the regular weekend. Or really, I just took today off on one of those 'use it or lose it' days.

I don't intend to ramble too much tonight, but just as a teaser...I do have some pretty hot (in my mind, anyway) topics about which I intend to share an opinion one of these days. It'll be great!

At any rate, the weekend was pretty uneventful, really. Saturday I spent time in the basement removing some shelving from a wall I needed to paint, scrubbing (with bleach water) said wall(s), and otherwise hanging out. It was a good day.

Sunday, I got a coat of paint on the walls mentioned from Saturday's activity, and also put a second coat of paint on two sections of basement wall that were devoid of a second coat. We went to a picnic event in town on Sunday afternoon/evening, and that was really nice (I wished I'd brought the camera). And today was the day of work...

It started out simply enough. I slept in (which was nice), made a quick trip to town to do a few errands, and on my way back as I drove by the WPA, I noticed pelicans. Very near to the road.

Of course, I didn't have the camera.

So I drove the remainder of the way home (less than a mile), grabbed the camera and 75-300mm lens, and headed back to the pelicans. It was so very cool -- I'd been wanting to get pelican pictures for some time and, while they didn't all turn out as cool as I'd hoped (namely since the pelicans closest to me weren't interested in hanging around), I was still successful in my quest.

So that was cool. And made my day look brighter. :)

I went back home and decided to start working on projects. First off was to do as much basement painting as I could get accomplished before running completely out of paint. I still have a little paint left (if I scrape out the 5-gallon pail), but I did just enough scraping of paint from the pail to get my main work area completed. I need to pick up a gallon or two to complete the basement, but it's really down to the last stuff now. And that's a good thing.

After I cleaned up from the painting thing, I decided to go outside and do a little work. Even though it was in the mid-80's at the time. I managed to get two trailer loads of river rock removed from the eastern landscaping bed on the front of the house. I also removed the edging. After having to fix the tire on the trailer on the second load of rock removal (always a fun time), I decided I'd done enough hard and hot manual labor for the day and called it good. But at least that area now looks a little better -- it's not quite as ghetto-looking as it was (with a pile of rocks sitting there). I still have at least two more loads of rock to remove from that side, but that's all behind the bushes and next to the house, so it'll be a little more complicated to remove (and a project for another day).

Amongst other things, I decided it was then time to work on some side jobs earlier in the day/evening than later, so I got some semi-substantial work completed on those, which is always a good thing. After some ice cream (with fresh peaches) and the 10pm news, I'm brought to the current time where I find myself idly typing this.

So, that was my weekend in a nutshell. This will be a very short week for me since I have Friday off, so I've got a whopping three days to sit at the office this week. It'll be weird, really. But I've got plenty of things to tinker with there that are different from what I find myself doing at home...so that makes life more enjoyable.

Anyway, I'm going to leave it at that and call it a night. So until next time...
"Everybody pities the weak; jealousy you have to earn."
- Arnold Schwarzenegger (1947-)

--MZ

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Eesh, A Month!


Alert
Felix was getting ready to go back inside, hence his elevated state of alertness.
I should really try to be more alert (short of Beth's periodic reminder of how long it's been since my last post) about posting here, but things have been terribly busy, much to the dismay of the flocking audience here.

For starters, today is our 6th anniversary. It doesn't really seem all that possible when I think about it, and I suppose that's a good thing. :) We've not done anything special yet, but it fell on a Sunday and so we'll have to figure something out for later on. Ma and Dad came up for the day, and that was cool.

I've spent the last month or so really working on the basement (mostly on weekends when I have a little more time). As of tonight (or more appropriately Saturday evening), roughly three-quarters of the exterior basement walls have been painted (on the inside). I have a second coat to apply on one section before it's finished (and officially three-quarters complete), but that's just roller work and should go quickly.

My goal is to get the remainder of the exterior basement walls painted (with the exception of the root cellar area) by the end of next weekend. It's a bit of a lofty goal, but I think I could be pretty close to getting that done. The root cellar area is another story (since I need to get the shelves down and possibly remove the doorway), but I need to get those walls done so I can get to the floor treatment and move on with life. :)

Things have been moving along in other ways. I've been keeping busy with a few side projects that have seemingly rotating deadlines or pressure spots. So that's really what's been keeping me busy in the evenings after my daily routine of hanging around with Kirstin and taking pictures.

Another birthday passed since my last post, which was another reason for the long time. Do I feel older? No. That's probably a good thing. :)

I started out writing this (or thinking about it over the last few days) with all sorts of good ideas about stuff to ramble about, but I'm not recalling them off hand, so I'll have to leave this post at that and call it good. For now.

And hopefully not wait another month until the next one. That's just plain pathetic! :)

So until next time...
"Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain."
- Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)

--MZ

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bits Of Randomness


You Take It
Kirstin offers George a pinecone.
So it's been nearly two weeks since the last post; my apologies to the faithful. :)

With the change (finally) to spring/summer days, I find myself occupied with many more tasks than normal, and that makes for long days coupled with a periodic lack of motivation to sit and write. More appropriately, write cohesively.

At any rate, a number of things have taken place or been noted on post-its as conversation pieces/writing notes:

For starters, during the first part of finals week at UMM, as I was driving home from work (I often drive through the UMM campus since it's the most straightforward route), I noticed a random backpack in a grassy area. The odd thing about this was that there was no obvious person nearby. It was just a lone bag. Or so I thought.

As I rounded a corner, I noticed a random foot. Hanging from a tree. Somewhat disturbing in a basic sense, really, but what I soon discovered was a girl, with several books in tow, quite a distance up in a tree very near the backpack. This immediately brought two questions to mind -- 1) why climb a tree to study, and 2) how in the hell did she get all that stuff up there with her? The grounds crew keep most trees (this one included) quite well trimmed presumably, amongst other things, to keep people from climbing.

I still don't have the answers to this question, but I did run into someone else (one of our summer interns, actually) who had seen the same thing -- so I know I didn't see something that didn't exist or happen.

Another random thing I saw was a bald eagle eating on a dead raccoon. There's really not much to say about this (dead raccoon on the road near home), but it was unusual to see a bald eagle around here. I don't know of any nest nearby, so that was kinda cool to see (it was on my way to work one morning).

Coming in with the 'Here's Your Sign' award is something I saw in the little town of Cyrus, Minnesota on May 15. I had driven to Alexandria after work to pick up some things, which brought me through Cyrus. Normally this is a pretty uneventful thing, but a sign caught my eye. Along the road, in town, on one of those little hand-painted yard signs (akin to the 'vote for' type of sign) had very bright red lettering on a stark white background and read:
We Buy Batterys

Obviously we're talking about lead-acid batteries, and presumably this gentleman (assuming it was a gentleman) had been sneaking into his stockpile for a little lead lunch, because it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand the fairly common spelling of the plural of battery.

On the experimental front, I started driving at 57MPH a few weeks ago. This was a relatively small change from my normal 62MPH, the speed at which I've usually driven for many years now. It was an experiment in the sense of a reduction in 5MPH should in theory improve gas mileage. Well, after one tank of gas in the pickup, it would appear that this is indeed the case. My mileage increased approximately 1.5-2MPG. This is quite unscientific, but interesting nonetheless, and the range is due to my 'typical' mileage over the last six months or so. Wintertime driving always gives me somewhat lower MPG's, so more 'research' is necessary. But it's a good feeling anyway...

I should note that the relatively same experiment with the car has produced no noticeable difference in mileage. This is presumably due to the difference in transmissions and gearing that I find between the car and pickup. More time must pass to determine feasibility with the car, but I'm sticking to 57 with the pickup for now. It most definitely works. Granted, I tend to piss off a lot of people during my commute, but the additional 45 seconds to a minute I incur during my commute to/from work is so marginal to me that it's worth it -- especially if I can see a 2MPG increase...

On the home front, several things have taken place lately. For starters, I'm willing to call the sump basin project a complete success. Yes, there was some capillary action going on around some of the floor cracks in the basement, but there is yet to be any standing, running, or physically visible water above floor level in the basement this year. The sump pump system (with the perforated sump basin) seems to be relieving enough of the hydraulic pressure to prevent water infiltration.

This is clearly a Good Thing, and something about which I'm very happy. The water level is starting to go down again, so I've noticed in the last two days or so that the sump pump is not running as often (back to 3 times/day versus 4-5 times). Eventually the basin should dry up as the summer progresses. So that's my report on that note.

In other basement-related news, I spent the better part of last weekend (another reason I didn't write anything last weekend) scrubbing the walls and floor of the northwest corner of the basement (the area around the furnace and oil tank, as well as the sump basin area). Half of the basement (the worst half, I might add) has now been completely cleaned. I even started painting the walls, which still need a second coat but are looking much better with a single coat. Once I get the walls painted in the northwest corner a second time, I will then do the EpoxyShield thing on the basement floor of that corner of the house. Then I'll likely move into the cistern and paint the walls and floor.

Once the North half of the basement is done, I can then focus on the more utilized South half. I can't hardly touch the South half at all until I have a place (cistern and NW basement corner) to put everything. So this will be a work in progress, but it is one of my personal goals to get the basement walls and floors painted and sealed this summer. Considering I have pretty much all of the material to accomplish this task, I feel fairly confident that I can make this happen (as long as I dedicate time to the project).

And in outdoor news (the last thing I'll talk about tonight), I got the tiller running once again. I asked around (interestingly enough, I had the fortune of candidly having a chance to pick the brain of a diesel mechanic) and was referred to a fellow in town who does a lot of small engine work. I called him, explained my carburetor situation, and asked if I could simply have him clean the thing. After bringing it to him and having him use some sort of caustic solution to clean out and dissolve all the varnish, I got the carburetor back (with a new air filter as per my request) after a bit of a delay (due to a gasket order) yesterday (Wednesday). I installed the carburetor and, on the very first pull, the engine fired right up. This made Matt very happy. :)

So, after having about $30 in carburetor work and $4.50 in filter parts, I'm still well under $200 for a damn nice tiller that's essentially brand new. I'm very happy about that (as is Beth). So one of my upcoming projects will be some tilling, I guess... :)

And with all of that said, I'm heading for bed. It promises to be a short day tomorrow (since I'm leaving early due to the long holiday weekend), so I must get all the beauty sleep I can (you know I need it)!

Until next time...
"We have art to save ourselves from the truth."
- Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

--MZ

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Minnesota!


Happy Mother's Day!
Kirstin all dressed up for church this morning. She's too cute.
Okay, so today doesn't happen to be just Mother's Day or Minnesota's 150th birthday (I love the word sesquicentennial, by the way). It's both. And that's cool. At least to me.

So go mothers, and go Minnesota.

Here ends the public service announcement.

In other random bits of news, things have been busy (as per the usual) over the last several days. I have, however, taken some time to do nothing but sit down which, until very recently, seemed a nearly impossible thing to do. So that's been kinda nice.

I took the opportunity on Friday evening to change the oil in all of the random equipment with small engines. Both lawnmowers, the powerwasher, and of course, the tiller. While I was at it, I continued to try getting the carburetor cleaned up and unplugged. Something at which I failed. Well, not completely, but in the repeated attempts to clean it out, some of the seals and gaskets have deteriorated to the point of needing replacement.

So the tiller still doesn't operate, but I am still one step closer to getting it back into operation. I just need to make a few calls and track down someone that can get me some replacement parts (and/or industrial-strength cleaner to dissolve the gunk plugging it up).

This just acts as a reminder to anyone with gas engines around that haven't been used for a while -- either empty out the fuel system, add some sort of stabilizing chemical, or periodically keep things running. Don't let three years pass without some operating time.

At any rate, I can't really complain too much. I did get the tiller for $150, which is quite literally a steal, considering the condition in which it is (more or less brand new).

Seeing as how Saturday was pretty much a washout, I took the time to install the R/O water treatment system. Since we have water pressure which is at the low end of what the system requires for operation, it takes a long(er) time to work, but having tried the results tonight for the first time, it should be a welcome addition.

Besides, the water pressure thing is on my list of things to change (when I run new water line through the house (increasing from 3/4" to 1" where it's currently being reduced (from 1" to 3/4") and installing a new pressure tank and switch (a 60/40 switch instead of the current 50/30).

One of my many basement-related projects for this summer. It should be great. I hope to have an awesome functional basement all ready to go in a few months' time. Given the difficulty I had in finding my main wrench set this weekend, it can't come soon enough...

So I leave you with not only a quote tonight, but an interesting alliteration of mine from this morning: "Hey, a broken bottle of Beck's!"

Until next time...
"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
- Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

--MZ

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spring Has Sprung


Smiling
Koshka's got a really unique smiley expression.
Or something like that. It sure feels like it, anyway.

It's been relatively quiet and yet fairly busy so far this week. I really don't have a lot to ramble about off the top of my head (short of the fact that the sump basin business seems to be doing its job). But it's been quite nice outside the last few days, and that's a welcome change. It certainly beats the foot of snow of not long ago.

I had great and marvelous intentions of making this another killer post tonight, but I've run into some serious writer's block all of the sudden, so I think I'm going to call it a night and head for bed. My apologies to anyone expecting something grand (I'll work on that for next time). :)

So until then...
"I think 'Hail to the Chief' has a nice ring to it."
- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) when asked what is his favorite song

--MZ

Monday, May 5, 2008

Vitamin D


Interesting Hat
She was only interested in her hat after a bit. But we learned all about pinecones and rocks and grass and trees today, so she was due for some mindless stuff.
There was no shortage of its intake (Vitamin D) this weekend. That's for sure!

We all stayed fairly busy this weekend and had a pretty productive time. On Saturday, I spent most of the afternoon outside 'stealing' the rest of the gravel that the county snowplow had so kindly deposited in the ditch for me to 'mow' all year. All-in-all, I managed to walk away with something like ten trailer loads of gravel. Since each trailer full can hold somewhere around 5 cubic feet of material, I put quite a bit of material on parts of the driveway (and parking spot for the car).

There's more gravel I could get, but I was damn tired of raking up gravel (and got the most important parts where it was deep) that I called it quits. I even managed to get a bit of a suntan in the process.

In other news, the sump basin experiment is working so far. There have been a few moist spots in the basement floor (at various cracks) where there's sign of some capillary action going on, but there's been no actual water flow recorded in the basement (above the floor level) yet. The pump still runs 3-4 times per day, and it seems to be doing what I intended it to do. So that's a good thing.

Today it was WARM outside. It was near 70 and ideal for just hanging out, which Kirstin and I did while Beth did some garden work. Good times. Lots of pictures, education for Kirstin (about things outside), and even some time for George and the other animals (sans Felix, who is afraid of the outdoors) to enjoy a beautiful day. So that was basically the weekend in a nutshell.

And seeing as how it's now past midnight, I'm heading for bed. So until next time...
"I have nothing to declare except my genius."
- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) upon arriving at U.S. customs 1882

--MZ

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Two Weeks!


You Hear This, Rabbit
She grabbed the bunny by the foot and swung it around.
Okay, so I've been awfully latent in posting around here lately. I know it's getting bad when Beth reminds me. :)

I've been meaning to write some random stuff for at least the last week, but it always seems as though I get too tired to write (and it gets too late)...so Mr. Procrastination comes to visit. At any rate, things have been busy and I won't be writing very much tonight (see above about tired and late).

A few weekends ago we went to my folks' place. Good times were had, and I managed to get some really cool pictures of bald eagles. That was pretty cool. Especially since once the trees bud out (and get leaves) it will be much more difficult to photograph them. So that's cool.

Short of that it's been pretty normal and things have been fairly busy. We got a foot of snow last weekend (not so good times), but as of yesterday afternoon it was all but gone (more so a good time). And speaking of precipitation...

I finally plugged in the sump pump for operation, seeing as how the water level finally made it high enough. I'd been keeping track of the basin water level (remember this is not a normal basin in that it's designed to let water seep into it, not contain water from other sources) as the water table fluctuates for about the last three weeks or so. Until last weekend's snowfall, the water level really didn't fluctuate all that much (about a quarter to half inch per day). But in the last week the water level would rise by about an inch per day.

Until Wednesday. When I got home the water level was around 16 inches, so I decided to give it a whirl. Pump pumps, water level goes down, and (at the rate of anywhere between 1-2 inches per hour) rises and the cycle repeats itself. This is a good thing, and I'm glad it seems to be working so far. The seepage into the basin is at a rate I'd expect given my recollections of about how much water would be seeping through the floor cracks due to hydraulic pressure from previous years.

So, if all goes well this experiment and installation will relieve enough of the hydraulic pressure that water will not seep up through the cracks in the floor or, if water does start to seep up, will minimize the effects. Time will tell, but so far so good. It's pumping out roughly thirty gallons of water each cycle, so far running about four cycles per day.

So that's basically been what I've been monitoring here for the last few days. It's neat to see something that required a lot of work and patience to complete finally being used. And seeming to work so far.

And with that said, I think I'm heading for bed. So until next time (I'll try to be better about that)...
"Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."
- H. G. Wells (1866-1946)

--MZ

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Grilled Food!


So Cute
She's my adorable little girl.
So I officially broke out the grill today. And the first of the season -- bratwurst! Most excellent.

There's really nothing quite like grilled sausage. Yeah, it's pretty much that simple. :)

Short of that, the week has been busy, but in a unique way. I spent Wednesday hanging around after I got home from an evening meeting. And tonight I worked on getting out a release of some software. One thing I've not been able to do much of is get many good pictures over the last few days (namely due to time). But, there's another weekend coming around... :)

In other news, the sump basin has (as of this evening) 4.25" of water in it. This is the basin with holes drilled into it that I installed last summer. Water started seeping in to it (as the water table changes) over the weekend, and through Wednesday was rising at a rate of about an three-quarters of an inch per day. It's slowed down now and seeing how there's no longer any snow on the ground, we might not have enough water rise this spring to cause the basement problems we've had the last few years. We'll see -- time will tell.

At any rate, I'm glad that it's taking in water. It's a relatively successful proof-of-concept if nothing else.

I am really quite tired, though, so I'm going to call it a night and sign off early. So until next time...
"Talent does what it can; genius does what it must."
- Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873)

--MZ

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just A Week This Time


Intimidation
They were both fighing over my attention; this time I was closer to Kurva. I love Koshka's reaction. :)
So I was on a sort of pseudo-roll, when life went and got busy enough to prevent me from having lots of time to write. :)

It all started last week on Tuesday with an evening meeting. By the time I got home, I didn't feel like doing anything but going to bed. So I did just that. And during the evenings for the remainder of the week I was working on bits of a project with a deadline in place, so once again...

I didn't manage to accomplish as much this last weekend as I'd hoped. But I did, however, manage to take a load of pictures. It was a fairly nice weekend and I spent a little time outside in addition to just hanging around the house. It was a good time.

Sunday I also started up the lawnmower for the first time since it got put away last fall. That all started because I had a bit of a fire under my ass (I got motivated) and decided to see how much gravel I could procure from the road ditch (due to snowplowing), which I would then use to spread on the driveway -- specifically in one low spot.

It didn't take long to have a trailer full of gravel, and there's a lot more to get yet. I figure I'm just doing my part to clean up the road ditches a bit (especially since I mow them and it's either 'collect the gravel and do something with it' or 'mow the gravel all year long'). Besides, it's unsightly, and the county isn't going to clean it up. So I might as well do the work and get something out of it for myself. :)

I have managed just that. I got one trailer of gravel on Sunday afternoon, and I raked up another two trailer loads of gravel this afternoon. The one really bad spot in the driveway is now more or less fixed (for now). And part of the ditch is cleaned up.

I'd have done more on Sunday, but I had to fix a tire on the trailer, which I didn't get around to doing until this afternoon. But once it was fixed (which didn't take long), that trailer works like it's brand new (except it doesn't look brand new). I figure I've got at least three more loads of gravel sitting in the ditches, but I'm not sure exactly when I'll get to that. I'd like to keep working on it a little bit at a time, especially right now, before the grass gets too long and whatnot.

So that's been my free time lately. :) Short of that it's been the same old business.

It's nice to have what really feels like spring in the air. Between that and the extra sunlight during the day, it's quite a motivator. :)

But, at any rate, I need to head for bed. So until next time...
"The difference between 'involvement' and 'commitment' is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was 'involved' - the pig was 'committed'."
- unknown

--MZ

Monday, April 7, 2008

Interesting Monday


Knock Knock
Who's There?
I know, I know. Two posts in as many days. It's like some sort of amazing thing. :)

Today was a most interesting day, on a few notes. For starters, I woke up to about three inches of snow (on top of a thick layer of ice). Skating to work this morning wasn't really all that fun, but it has been worse before. I only saw one accident (which looked more like a spinout involving a school bus and a small car, in which the small car was obviously spun out on the shoulder), and there didn't appear to be any property damage or injury, so that's a good thing.

Only April in Minnesota can one go from green grass to several inches of snow. Overnight.

One of the more random things that happened today was the procurement of a garden tiller. I happen to be on a staff mailing list for UMM, and out of nowhere an email arrived this morning (the list tends to, amongst other things, be a hot place to announce stuff for sale) listing many items for sale (mostly baby-related). In the middle of the list is a tiller. For $150.

Seeing as how Beth's been looking for a tiller for some time, I figured I'd bite. I asked a few random questions about it (one being -- is it in working condition?), and by 10:30 this morning had discussed and agreed to buy it. So I get to go load up a tiller tomorrow evening on my way home. Beth is very excited. :)

So we'll see how that goes. The tiller is only seven years old and hasn't really been used much (if all) in the last three years. So it's more or less new.

And one major thing that happened today was the governor ultimately signed the biennium bonding bill. Amongst other important things, a $2 million earmark for office renovations and building of a renewable energy center (at the WCROC) made it through. This is a Good Thing. It means that some very cool things will be happening at work in the next year or so. And some much-needed upgrades and expansions will be involved. :)

So that's how Monday shook out. I managed to get a few other things done around home (miscellaneous things, really), so I've had a pretty productive day overall. Let's see if that falls through to the only real work day of the week (Tuesday). :)

Until next time...
"If you are going through hell, keep going."
- Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

--MZ

Sunday, April 6, 2008

More Busy Times


I'm Safe Here
Kirstin and Beth share a cuddly moment for me. :)
It seems like this is becoming more of a weekly post sort of thing than a daily sort of thing. I'm not sure what I think about that off hand, but we'll see how things pan out now as the spring progresses...

I've been keeping busy over the last week or so. I finally after all the good intentions managed to finish plumbing up the sump pump, which (with the exception of providing a closer, less 'in the way' electrical outlet) rounds out the completion of that project. I did a good chunk of the plumbing (the complex part) last weekend, and I finished it up yesterday. There are a lot of little pieces and parts and twists and turns in the pipe route (due in part to the fact the basin is under the basement stairs), so there was a lot of cutting and measuring to do.

Additionally, I kinda over-built it. For starters, there's a three-foot section of the pipe immediately above the cover that is completely removable (to allow for cover removal and pump access if necessary). Then there's the check valve (which is below the cover), two rubber unions (to minimize vibration), a tee in the line (with cap) for optional internal discharge, and all of the elbows and fittings between pump and outside. Overall, I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. Until last weekend, the entire layout and look was in my head, so it was nice to see it come to completion without any major snags. I'd planned well. :) But I had more than enough time...we did the excavation work last summer...

So that project is done. I have a little more work to do in that area (I need to seal off the envelope point (where the pipe leaves the house), but that will require some more investigation before I do anything major -- it has to do with where it exits and how it affects other items that exit in the same vicinity), and I also have a skim coat of concrete to finish (which will involve creating the slight 'slope' to the basin from the normal floor level), but that's about all.

I'm really wanting to get a few more basement projects started now that it's warming up. One involves cleaning the walls (the bleach job), and another involves painting/sealing the walls. That will likely do some amazing things to the space (since everything will be white). Ultimately, I'd like to re-coat and seal the concrete floor this summer, but that's one of the lower projects on my list at this point in time.

There's also some painting stuff I'd like to get started as well. Preferably before the paint goes bad (we've had the paint for around a year and a half if not longer).

So it must be spring, because I think of all these random things I could be doing...

In other news, I've been working out a few web design ideas (one set for my day job, and another as a redesign of an existing site I maintain). So far things are going well with both projects, and in a perfect world we should see some live activity (or beginnings) available for the public within the next month or so.

And short of that stuff, I've just been trying to get a few things done around the house as time allows...as well as spend some quality time with Kirstin. She's a lot of fun to have around -- especially since she tries to be so independent but yet remains quite dependent. Teaching her stuff is a blast. :)

I've also decided that I need to invest in an additional hard drive. A much larger hard drive. :) With the change to the new camera, it's easy to eat up several gigabytes of disk space in a week. In a way it's a good thing, because as it stands right now it forces me to make backups to DVD more frequently (and when I do that, I make two copies -- one which is kept off site), but I'm getting a bit sick of having to move files and whatnot around all the time.

So I figure I have two options: 1) take fewer pictures and/or modify the camera settings to use lower resolutions (neither of which are likely), or 2) look at buying a very large (250-500GB? Depends upon the market price) drive dedicated to imagery and see how long it takes to fill.

One thing's for sure (in any case) -- I'm glad I recently picked up the spool of 100 DVD-R's for an amazing price (less than $25). I've not yet had to use any from that spool (I've still got ten or so on a spool of fifty), but it will certainly be necessary much sooner than I expected. :)

At any rate, I'm going to head for bed now and ponder my options...so until next time...
"Many wealthy people are little more than janitors of their possessions."
- Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)

--MZ

Friday, March 28, 2008

Another Week Down


Missing
I really should glue the ivory back on...
It's been a busy week. Plain and simple. I do have to say, however, that I'm enjoying the schedule that I'm holding in the new position. Yeah, it means I have to get up earlier than I'm used to, but I also get home earlier than I used to, which will be nice in the summertime when it's still light outside at 10PM. :)

So it's taking some getting used to, but it's getting better as time goes along. And unfortunately, short of talking about Kirstin's doctor appointment today, I can't think of anything earth-shattering that's happened this week (unless you count playing with my copy of the Adobe Creative Suite that arrived at work this week :) ). But at any rate, Kirstin's 12-month checkup (and shots) were today.

She officially weighs 20 pounds and 14 ounces, and is normal and healthy. A good problem to have, really. But she didn't care much for the four shots she got today. :) The first two weren't so bad, but that MMR one was a real bear. She did not like that one at all. But, as per the usual, by the time we got out to the car, she was calmed down (and actually talking again).

I've got a hankering to go out and take some pictures in the out-of-doors, but I haven't done so yet. Partially because it's that nasty time of year when the top inch of ground has thawed but is incredibly mushy. Not a good time to hang around. It's unpleasant walking. :)

But we'll see what happens once the frost comes out. Besides, everything is pretty well brown right now and not incredibly inspiring...

So anyway, until next time...I leave with a most-fitting quote for myself tonight:
"I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters."
- Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)

--MZ

Saturday, March 22, 2008

11 Inches?


'White' At The End Of The Tunnel
It was still coming down quite a bit at 9:30 this morning, but the temperature wasn't condusive to much more accumulation by that time (it was above freezing again).
Okay, so I know we got a load of snow dumped on us on Thursday/Friday, but 11 inches? Seems a bit much to me.

From the best I could tell, I figured our yard received somewhere in the eight inch range. Officially, however, in town (according to this story) 11 inches was reported. Seeing as how that's about three miles (as the crow flies) away, I guess we got closer to a foot.

Shows me for not taking a yardstick with me...

I also would like to know who is in charge of taking the snowfall measurement in Donnelly. I may have to ask around.

I've been meaning to post something here for the better part of the last week, but I instead decided to take it a little easy and relax. Or something like that. More realistically, I'm in that adjustment period of starting a new job, which officially happened on Monday (the 17th).

It's been a pretty good transition so far. I enjoy being back in the various University circles. While I'm not directly dealing with people I used to (back in the student days), most of the people I knew are still there, so it's a lot of fun to catch up and be relatively familiar with the ways in which things work in that sort of environment.

At any rate, I had my first official University-paid holiday already -- Friday. I'd have preferred it to be on Monday, but that's neither here nor there. My new computer finally arrived on Thursday afternoon, which was very cool. I think I'm going to come out with a sunburn (from the large dual monitor setup), but I guess that's one of the risks or occupational hazards. :) I'll deal with it.

So enough about that. I've been playing a lot with the new camera, and it's a blast! And oddly enough, I actually used all three cameras yesterday -- in the same 12-hour period. I recorded and captured some video of Kirstin dancing and being silly, used the new camera for snow/dog/cat/Kirstin pictures, and used the old camera to take reference pictures of Beth's keyboard before she popped all the keys off to do a thorough cleaning.

Short of that, I've just been hanging around. Installed the upgraded satellite modem yesterday, which was a relatively painless operation (for me), but I could see where it may easily be a daunting thing for the average user.

Today, I'm pretty much going through old pictures I had digitally re-developed from the Germany trip in 1998. I uploaded a bunch of random pictures to Flickr last night that I'd been putting off for several weeks (due to time issues), so now I can attack the German trip pictures. That likely won't happen today, but if I get them all ready and ordered properly, the process can be done in bits (rather than one large chunk) over time. Remember -- work smarter, not harder. :)

And so that's that. Seeing as it's nearly 1:30 now and I've not had lunch, my next task is to find some lunch. It'll be great.

Since I likely won't post anything now until after Easter, Happy Easter!

Until next time...
"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go."
- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

--MZ

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Year Ago...


Hungry Girl
She was asking for more bits of her supper.
Well, a year ago as I write this, Beth was in labor and just under six hours from delivering little miss Kirstin. :)

It really doesn't seem possible that Kirstin was born a year ago. She's really grown into quite her own personality, and she's a blast to be around.

It's getting late, so I'm not going to ramble on too much, but I will talk about a few other things briefly.

My Digital Rebel XTi arrived today. :) It's going to be a lot of fun learning the intricacies of using it, and it takes some truly amazing pictures with little to no user intervention. So that's cool. :)

And I really can't believe it's been nearly a month since my last post here. Many things have been happening at the 'ranch,' and I've been busy staying afloat amidst it all.

For starters, Beth's grandpa Don passed away at the end of February. That sort of event always puts a bit of a damper on life as people reflect and so forth. This was no different.

I also paid $50 for a tank of gas in my pickup for the first time the other day. It just doesn't seem right...

And last, but certainly not least, I've accepted (and will start) a new position within the University of Minnesota system. I'm really excited about it -- I will be working with the renewable/sustainable energy research (specifically the Biomass facility) that's taking place at the Morris campus (and West Central Research and Outreach Center). It has meant that my time with Sunrise Software is coming to a close. So, to say the least, I've been busy preparing for that transition.

With all that said, it's no wonder why I haven't written anything here in a month. But, I promise to output a little more material as this spring progresses. :)

So until next time...
"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."
- Voltaire (1694-1778)

--MZ

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Are We Done Yet?


Are We Done Yet?
She was getting tired of being outside, although I think it was more of just sitting still. She liked the remainder of the sled ride.
This is the question I keep asking myself this weekend. Are we done yet? And, fortunately, the answer is 'almost.'

I've managed to get a significant amount of stuff gone through in the office/back room. I took Friday evening off (from the cleaning and organizing duty), but I worked on it for a good portion of both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I am happy to report that I am now basically to the point of putting things back into their respective places (having gone through everything), many of which are no longer in this room.

I won't be doing any more work on this tomorrow, but I will likely do some on Tuesday evening after Kirstin goes to bed. The majority of things are just boxes of items that need to find their home (either in the attic or the basement, depending upon item). So it's a good feeling I'm having right now. This back room office has been bugging me for some time, but I knew it would take a few days to really get through it all. Go Zen Habits, I guess.

I managed to also sort through a box and a bag full of pictures. Well, essentially so. I removed the negatives and categorized those so that when I take them in to be redeveloped digitally I don't just drop a load of random negatives. I will likely have some of them redeveloped, others perhaps not. It'll be a work in phases sort of thing, I think.

I also managed to (with Beth's assistance) fix my LED flashlight. Several months ago, the LED flashlight that sits on my desk fell off (due to George's activity -- he decided to jump on the desk at a most inopportune moment) and the tripod stand (it folds into the handle proper) became dislodged. So, I had a permanent tripod. That's fine and dandy for certain things, but it took up a significant amount more room on my desk (and just bugged me that it was broken). I tried off and on to fix it to no avail, but really looked at it tonight. I needed an extra hand (two, actually), which is where Beth came in. She held two of the three legs, I held the third leg and the screwdriver, and between those four hands managed to pop the spring mechanism back into its rightful place, thus rendering the tripod/handle fully functional once again.

Go me! The flashlight now has a much smaller footprint, something for which I'm thankful (given my need for clean and organized back here).

I also renewed my Flickr Pro account tonight, this time for two years. It now expires in late February of 2010. Who knows what sort of state Flickr will be in at that time (due to the pending deal(s) that Yahoo! has on the table right now), but at any rate I figured it would be a safe thing to do. After all, I have four thousand and some images there and I'm not the only one... :)

Anyway, I feel the need to go to bed now, so I'll write more another time.

Until then...
"He is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death."
- H. H. Munro (Saki) (1870-1916)

--MZ

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day!


My Valentine
This was taken moments after the Ironic picture. She's such a little sweetheart.
So, I took a day off...and it was magical. Well, sort of.

The last 36 hours have really been interesting. Several things have happened that I didn't expect. But I'll get to those in a moment.

It did snow and blow last evening and night. In many ways, I was happy about that. It'd been a while since we got a reasonable snowstorm, so I was happy. It was also just plain snow. No other icky stuff, so that also makes me happy.

Jill had to work in Wheaton today, and to make a long story short, she ended up staying with us last night (since we're about halfway between her house and Wheaton, which is around a one-hour drive for her). Due to the impending snowstorm, it was simply easier to stay with us for a night. And it was a good time, too, however unexpected.

I can see more carpet in the office here tonight. I managed to get through about half of the stuff that had been residing on the floor since before Christmas. To my credit, there are several empty boxes and most of 2007's papers that are remaining on the floor, so [the boxes' presence] actually takes up most of the remaining half. This was somewhat expected, but I didn't know exactly how far I'd get on that project, so it was unexpected. :)

I also reorganized the top shelves in the office this afternoon. Put some books away in boxes to be stored in the attic, threw some things out, and straightened up things. Looks considerably better (and less cluttered) than before. This was partially a side effect of clearing the floor, but quite unexpected in how far it managed to go.

And probably most unexpected of all -- I managed to shovel out (by hand) our entire driveway and turn-around area. We probably had somewhere between two and three inches of snow (it's tough to tell due to drifting), but it was all light and powdery. Well, 85 feet of 15 foot wide driveway and a car-and-a-half sized turn-around area adjacent to the driveway later (it took about an hour), I had really accomplished something.

I'm sure I'll pay for it tomorrow. And Saturday. And Sunday. :) I can feel it in my lower back now this evening, but I think a good night's sleep should keep things from getting too messed up. So I can hope, anyway.

So I had a good and productive day at home today. It was nice to actually get some things done that I'd not been able to due to scheduling issues and the like.

To wrap up the evening (well, short of my sitting here and writing these posts tonight), Beth and I sat down and watched Crash, which I just recently got on DVD. It really is quite an amazing movie. There is a lot of subtle (and not subtle) social commentary in that film, and I liken it to being a racially-charged version of Magnolia in a way. If you've not seen either of those movies, I would highly recommend them.

As it's now getting to be late, I'm heading for bed. Until next time...
"I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."
- Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

--MZ

Creationism Versus Evolutionism


Woof, Woof!
Koshka howls at me to get out there from her latest snow hole adjacent to the house.
Back in November I rambled on about a phrase I really hate: 'Grow' whatever.

Well, I happened to be reading an article online this afternoon which was an overview of Governor Pawlenty's State of the State speech yesterday. And in said article was once again, quite perversely, the quirky phrase 'grow jobs.'

I won't bore about the details of my distaste for that phrase (read the November post for that), but I finally figured it out. I now know why they can't/don't say 'create jobs' instead of the all-too-popular 'grow jobs.' And it's really quite simple.

Creationism vs Evolutionism.

You see, the creationists would prefer to say 'create jobs,' while the evolutionists would rather say 'grow jobs.' It's really, really that simple. And due to the separation of church and state (unless you're living in Kansas**), it is very much uncouth, arguably politically incorrect to take the creationist stand.

Here endeth the dripping sarcasm.

--MZ

**There's an interesting episode of 'Family Guy' (one of my more favorite social commentary programs) in which the evolution versus creation argument is played out with a large stab at the state of Kansas where Jeannie ('I Dream Of Jeannie') magically winks everything into being.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Nearly Mid-February


I Won!
Okay, so maybe I didn't win, but I did have this photo (see the original for clarity) selected as the KMRS/KKOK Photo of the Day for February 12, 2008.
So I again apologize for another incredible absence from posting. Even though I didn't do One-Act this year, my early February has just been jam-packed with things happening it seems.

Speaking of One-Act, it was an interesting season this year. Beth and I went to watch the Section 3[A] One-Act competition in Redwood Falls on February 2. It never ceases to amaze me the incredible talent that's on display every February in Southwest Minnesota. The section competition is almost always more interesting to watch than the Sub-Section competition, mostly due to the amount of fine-tuning that's been done to each production (in contrast to just a week earlier at the previous contest). For $12, Beth and I watched eight really amazing productions. I'd highly recommend catching theatre in this sort of format.

One thing we didn't do this year was travel to watch the State Festival. It's the first time I've missed it in the last seven years. In a way it was nice -- I didn't have to arrange for the trip to take place (even if it were only for Beth and I) -- but I also missed not seeing the incredible theatre during the two-day event. We'll see -- maybe next year. Beth and I were considering going for one day, but then the school whose performance we would've tried to see didn't make it to the festival, so the ultimate desire wasn't really there to do all that driving (six hours round trip) just for one day. So we skipped it this year.

Other than that, I've been keeping busy. The unfortunate thing is that I can't really say how. Not that I'm keeping anything a secret -- it just seems as though I've always been busy as of late. But, I've taken quite a few pictures, hung around with Beth and Kirstin, and doing the daily grind as usual. Those three activities take up most of the weekdays.

I think the problem I've had lately is in my weekend time. We've been gone off and on each weekend (namely on Saturdays, which are my Power Days for getting random things done) for several weeks now, so the household pile (read: massive pile of things in the office here at home) hasn't been tackled.

This is a project for later this week and this weekend. I did manage to get the better part of my desk cleared off last week, which was very much a welcome change. But, I need to do some serious things here now. Filing, organizing, and throwing. At this point in time, I'm considering taking a day off later this week to tackle the project.

I'm not really a fan of taking days off to do random things like that, but now is as good a time to take a day or two as any. I'm more than on schedule (actually, somewhat ahead of schedule) at the office, we're in the middle of a release cycle (last update was in January, next will be in mid-March), and I haven't spent a weekday away from the office (short of holidays) for a while now. So we'll see what happens. If we get some more serious snow tomorrow (Wednesday) night and into Thursday, I might just use that as the convenient catalyst. :)

I recently dug out a bunch of old pictures (and more importantly, developed negatives). I'm going to look through the negatives and get them redeveloped as digital prints (not actually reprinted, since I don't need another copy) sometime in the next few weeks. Now is a good time to get that done since it's after the Christmas season and before the prom and summertime season. That, and I found out from the gal who runs the photo department at Benson's that it's basically just a straight (small) hourly charge to do the work...

It will save me vast amounts of time and effort (as opposed to scanning hundreds of images). That is worth a small fee, since I'd be looking at weeks of scanning in my free time. So that's cool. I'm excited, since it means I can expand my Flickr collections even further!

And speaking of Flickr, I uploaded image number 4,000 tonight. Seeing as how my official Flickr birthday is on February 24 (the day I uploaded my first image), I think that's fairly impressive. :) One might actually call photography a 'hobby' of mine!

Which leads me to the next mini-topic, the subject of this post's image. My image was chosen as the KMRS/KKOK Photo of the Day today! Go me! I don't win anything for it (short of the fame), but I am entered into the monthly drawing for a free photo frame. Still, I had to do a screenshot of it!

And that's about all I have to ramble about tonight. I promise -- I'll try to be better about posting more frequently in the next few weeks. Things should settle down a bit now...at least I hope! :)

So until next time...
"I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them."
- Ian L. Fleming (1908-1964)

--MZ

Thursday, January 31, 2008

So It's Been A While


Lazy George
I love the look that George gave me as I took his picture. Lazy cat. :)
My apologies for not posting more as of late. It seems as though I've just been really busy with various projects and by the time I get to sit and write, well, I get lazy. That, and it's been awfully cold here lately, so I've found myself in 'hibernate' mode as of late.

I really must work on that. :)

On Saturday Beth and I went to go watch the Sub-Section 12 One-Act Play contest in Montevideo. It was a good day. We got to spend some time without Kirstin...and at the same time got to see some interesting high school theatre. Admittedly, however, it was weird for both of us -- seeing as how we were there without a student group in tow.

I've been working on a few random projects lately on the side as time allows. One is a website redesign -- a change in a design that I've never really liked (but didn't have the time or inspiration to accomplish). I like many things about the old design, but it's not unique enough and [the design] doesn't enhance the purpose of the site well. So I've been tinkering with that and have a good, solid wireframe in place.

I'm looking forward to its release, but I expect it will be a few weeks before it goes anywhere near live, seeing as how it'll have to be approved and all of the back-end stuff has yet to be written.

Another project I'm kickstarting (due to request) is the Recipe Collector. I haven't done much work on it for some time, but I'm wrapping up some of the random fixes and minor enhancements to the application to simply provide a better product.

And finally, speaking of lazy (in a return to the beginning of this post)...

I had the 'pleasure' of carrying on a bit of a 'conversation' tonight with a gentleman who is 18-19 years of age. To make a long story short, I will use a bulleted list to describe my annoyances with this conversation:
  • No letters were capitalized. At all.

  • [His end of] the conversation read like a poor Chinese to English translation of a manual ('it dont work', etc.).

  • Numerous blatant misspellings

  • Text message style conversation ('c u l8er', 'worx', etc.)


It really bothers me that people don't take at least a little pride in their ability to communicate. I spent more time deciphering what was trying to be said than I did answering questions. This could lead me to an entire rant on communication, but I'll leave it at this -- I really hope that these people don't communicate like this when it really matters (job requirements, interviews, etc.). I fear this is not the case, however...

Until next time...
"If you can count your money, you don't have a billion dollars."
- J. Paul Getty (1892-1976)

--MZ

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Really Too Bad...

Back in November, I wrote a post about the End Of An Era. I humbly signed off from a most exciting (albeit sometimes tiring and work-filled) period of my life as the One-Act director.

In my various bits of resignation communication with the administration, I warned of the difficulty in finding someone to take the position and that I feared the district could possibly use that to cut the entire program. I had hope, really I did.

I should be clear -- the district has not cut the program at this time, nor do I speculate that it will. However, I found out this afternoon that there will be no 2008 One-Act, which is truly a pie in the face in a strong and proud group of students. The reasoning I've heard at this point is essentially a combination of unfortunate things -- lack of student involvement (a really sad situation) and a new director. I'm sure there are other smaller circumstantial things as well.

I give the person who was doing this year's One-Act an incredible amount of credit. She was not familiar with the One-Act format nor its intricacies. But she took it on and tried. And that's what really matters. The One-Act is a unique beast, and as simple as it sounds, in many ways I always found it more challenging and complicated than the longer shows. After all, it was for competition purposes.

So I feel for the director, but I really feel for the students. There's a core group that will be watching instead of performing for their senior year. Their dedication and love for theatre is inspirational, and I am sad that one of the few theatrical outlets for them will be unavailable this year.

Do I think this could have been avoided if I were still doing One-Act? Absolutely. That doesn't mean it would be easy; the student involvement aspect is an incredibly complex and integral part of any school-sponsored production. Without students, there can be no show. I hold out hope that they will move on, shrug off this year, and come back more knowledgeable and dedicated next year (for those who will be able to do it next year). That applies to both the students and to the director.

I'm still planning on going to watch the competition on Saturday, and I'm planning (if all works out well) to meet up with a few of the students that were once under my tutelage and offer comfort and support for what is an incredibly disappointing and frustrating turn of events. That and catch up. :)

If only life were easy... :)

How fitting a quote for discussing theatre:
"When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world."
- George Washington Carver (1864-1943)

--MZ

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