Dec 25, 2009

Kleenex crossbow

From one of my new woodworking books, this is the first of many fun little gizmos and gadgets I will be making. And it fires quite well!

Dec 18, 2009

Skating Spectacular Stravanganza

Tonight was the holiday program for our skating classes, and they had open skating mixed with some exhibitions. Lots of snacks and more kids than you could count. It was a lot of fun!

Jill and Eli and Lily and I got to do a bunch of skating until completely wrung out. I snuck some practice in and even ended up in a death spiral of phenomenal proportions, but didn't even completely wipe out.

[Yesterday I walked to Target for lunch (1 mile there and back), home (3.5 miles) and then did an hour of skating lessons. Today I walked to Target for lunch again (1 more mile) and home (3.5 more) and then did tonight's skating for two hours. Needless to say, I am pretty wiped out.]

As for the exhibitions, we got to see a bunch of skaters..

Including one we knew! This is Tom's daughter:

She was quite good. There were more skaters..
Including a group!

And of course, a Zamboni wrapped it up!

Dec 9, 2009

The Kids

Just some notes on the kids, half bragging and half trying to remember things later.

  • Came home from work one day and Lily was upset. She's in First Grade. She had tested to progress to the next reading level at school and did not achieve her goal. As a result she has to go up to the Fifth Grade classrooms *ALONE* to get new books, which is what she really was frustrated about. Her current level and new goal are four grades ahead. Yikes!
  • Eli is really turning into a young man. He has this thing where he puts his hand on his chin in contemplation when he's thinking, it's really quite intelligent looking. His personality is also really coming into focus. More than a few times lately I've been interacting with him and can see a personality. Hard to explain.
  • Lily's ice skating is coming along nicely - she can make a little spin standing still!
  • Eli and I just finished "Surely you're joking, Mr Feynman.", a book (350 pages, no pictures!) of anecdotes from Richard Feynman's life. He was a brilliant physicist who not only worked on the atomic bomb project, but had a very interesting personality and way of communicating complex ideas. Anyway, I read the whole book to Eli. He said he liked it because he "didn't understand any of it" but really did get quite a bit of it. We both appreciate Feynman because of his unique and creative thinking methods. So Eli has gone back now and is reading it to himself.
  • Lily is practicing her cartwheel constantly. Some day she'll nail that thing, but for now it's just a half-cartwheel/floppy thing.
  • Eli and I have the same brain. Seriously. Half the time I feel awful for him and wish he wasn't cursed with my brain, the other half the time I feel great pride because he's a smart little bugger!
  • Lily and Eli are still thick as thieves. Sometimes they bicker, but for the most part they just feed off each other and have a great time. Unfortunately, sometimes they use their powers for evil, not good. Like when we're all in the car and they've decided it's time for a snack.
  • Eli has started programming. His goal is to write a game for the Nintendo DS (or GBA), and when he found out I knew how to develop for the DS he hounded me until I relented. (See how I did that?) After a brief shot at BASIC we moved on to Scratch, from MIT. It's a more abstract programming "language" that allows kids to get things going fairly quickly. Even has a repository online where they can all share code and share their applications. Very cool stuff, and he's hungry for more more more!
  • Lily is playing the piano, and she's doing it like a musician. Two hands, reading music, using all sorts of complicated Piano words that I don't understand. :) Making beautiful music.
I love my kids more than life itself. It's so much fun to see them growing like this!

Dec 2, 2009


My latest Pokemon cross stitch pillow (for Lily)

Nov 20, 2009

Catching Up: Finally!

I have finally caught up on all of my old photo albums! (click on the month to be taken to that month's albums..)

Another beautiful spring month. We went to Bear Lake once and Lake George once. We also went to Brainerd for a water park weekend, Grandmpa & Grandpa's Christmas gift to our family and Uncle Ted's family. Jill and I got to see Bloc Party live, and I got to go on a couple TNRs. Lily had a spring program at school, and we found some time to make some silly family movies.

Quite a month! I went on a couple TNRs. I also caught Crystal Method in concert at First Avenue. Lily really refined her biking skills, and we all got to go to Camp Kici Yapi for a family open house. But the big event was our trip to New York and Washington D.C. Lots of pictures, fun, stories, and exhaustion!

The big event was Jill's birthday BBQ. Two trips to Bear Lake and a trip to Lake George continued our travels for the month. We spent a day down in Rochester visiting with Uncle Jerry, Aunt Jean and Uncle Leo at Quarry Hill park and beyond. We got to see the cousins at home and at the cabin. We also attended the Rein in Sarcoma event at Como, a great experience! I began work on the Tweedledum, my homebrew boat. Finally, the kids attended a Children's Theater summer day camp complete with performance at the end of the week.

I completed the tweedledum and spent a weekend hanging with the scooter friends at a local rally. Two trips to Bear Lake including a stop to see the Lundbergs at their wonderful cabin. We were lucky enough to see the cousins again - and spend some time with them at the State Fair! Jill and I took her Mom to the Suzanne Vega concert, which we all really enjoyed. The kids had a last daycamp at Articulture with another performance at the end of the week. Finally, we began a new adventure with Lily changing schools to Lyndale, our new community school! (Eli will be changing next year)

The kids started school - Lily now takes the "walking bus" with other neighborhood kids. We went to Lake George for a weekend and launched the Tweedledum successfully! Our new favorite local restaurant is El Paraiso where they have monster Margarita's and great food. The new 38th Street Festival was a great hit, also. Finally, Robert and his scooter friends drove to CANADA for a long weekend. (And a long ride!)

Summer winds down with just a single trip to Bear Lake. We even saw some snow. Jill and Robert went to see Moby for an early anniversary and then for a late anniversary/birthday for Jill attended A Prairie Home Companion. We went to the Rennaisance festival with Jill's Mom. Finally, Halloween was a hit with our Ghost and Mermaid.

.. and that catches us up. Watch for more monthly summaries as the months roll by. I promise never to get this far behind again!


Last lesson of the "semester" last night and I passed! As a result, Tom will be following up on his bluff and taking the next level with me, hee heee! And I need some new figure skates.

Nov 15, 2009

Star Wars: Lego Wampa Ice Cave

Eli and I were playing Lego. He was working on a "Hoth" and I thought I'd add a Wampa and ice cave. Complete with suspended Luke and old bones!

Nov 14, 2009

Cross Stitching, summer must be over

Did this guy in ONE DAY - actually an afternoon and an evening. It's Lily's favorite Pokemon character. Eli's Charizard is next, but that's quite a bit larger...

And this next one I dedicate to Tom and the rest of the gang on the TNR:

(If you don't understand, you're better off for it!)

Nov 5, 2009


Another great TNR - a very late season one, so it was very cold! Passed through the fairgrounds, which was dark and deserted. Very creepy! Ended at Matt's for some Jucy Lucy action, woohoo!

Nov 2, 2009

Get A Life

A quick little stitch to cleanse the pallet. A subversive cross stitch design that seemed apropos to the beginning of the cross stitching season - winter. I also did the frame, it's my first framing and matting attempt, but it's ok and I learned a lot. And still need a 7.25x11 inch piece of glass. :)

Oct 28, 2009


A nice little ride. Was dark and chilly, but not too cold. Ended for some Surly (Bender, Dark, etc.) at Common Roots. Yum!

We went the "wrong" way down first and also Hennepin, and got to see the new stadium lights blasting the night sky away.

Oct 27, 2009

My Android Post

A Facebook friend asked what I use on Android, and a co-worker just got an Anrdoid phone, so I'm summarizing my preferences and applications here:

Applications (bold means I really mean it)
  • GPS Tracker - tracks my walks home, has a nice web site interface for post-tracking work, etc. Clean background task doesn't hog memory or resources
  • Advanced Task Manager - pay app, but worth it. Typical "kill stuff" app, but it will also hunt down apps in the background and kill them at will. Which can be good or bad depending on who you are. :)
  • MountUSB - When I plug in the phone I hit this icon and it does the "mount usb" stuff that you normally have to do via notifcation and dialogs. Awesome.
  • Toggle Screen Timeout - Lets you toggle screen timeout on/off, obviously. I use this when I'm in the car and I want the GPS to keep the map awake or something like that. Otherwise I have the screen shut down after x seconds or whatever to conserve battery.
  • ixMAT Scanner - I use this daily. By combining my use of Cyrket's feed in google reader and this app I can see a review for a new app, hold the phone up to the PC screen and scan the barcde for direct access to the market app. Really handy.
  • Brightness Level - quick display brightness switcher, NOT a widget.
  • Craigslist Notifications - I have saved searches for used concertinas, boat stuff, scooter stuff, etc. You don't want to GO to craigslist every day and wade through the garbage, but you want to know if something you want shows up. This app does that. It's also great for reading missed connections, which will make you feel superior to the folks who post "I was the sensitive guy with the white belt and black hair at the Death Cab for Cutie concert, you were the chick with the piercings, coffee some time?"
  • Anycut - I place shortcuts via anycut for "Bluetooth settings" and "Settings" on my home screen for easy access.
  • Bookmark2 - allows you to put a shortcut on the home screen, but lets you pick (or screenshot!) your own icon.
  • Snooze - this is my own app, I wrote. Click it and the phone audio goes silent for 9 minutes, then back on. No more "oh I didn't hear it ring because I muted it so I could play solitaire" excuses. Contact me if you're interested.
  • PicPush - jams my pictures to Facebook or Picasaweb or wherever, either as soon as I take them, or ad hoc.
  • Twidroid - clean, strong twitter app.
  • Radar Now - simple temperature app, but it also has animated radar!
  • Space Physics - an awesome awesome game. Paid for it!
  • Andoku - a nice little sudoku app that doesn't require keyboard or writing on the screen. I tried a few sudoku apps and this was the best of the lot.
  • The Weather Channel - there's a reason it's a top 10 app.
  • Blockx 3D - 3d tetris. I'm from the 80's.
  • Jewellust - Bejeweled clone, paid for it, solid as a rock and pretty as a peach.
  • Video Player - I used to use Meridian player, which I would probably suggest you try first. But I don't watch videos on the phone right now, just on my PSP. :)
  • OI Flashlight - everybody has one
  • Shazam - I use this a LOT in the car to find out what song is playing on the radio. A little miracle.
  • Golf Solitaire Free - limited levels, but a great version.
  • Wabbit - lets me control my Nabaztag rabbit from my phone. You won't need this.
  • Wireless Tether for Root - This is how I rock facebook from the cabin at 3g superspeeds. Turns your phone into a wireless access point for any and all to connect to. Security and everything, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • AdFree - removes ads in some software. The old hosts file switcheroo. Don't know if you have to be root for this one.
  • Album Art Grabber - I use" iTunes Agent" to keep my G1 sync'd with an iTunes playlist just like it's an iPod. (Suck that, PalmPre folks!) And this fills in any art I may have missed.
  • AndExplorer - this is the random file explorer I chose
  • AppManager - nice, lets you back up apps so you don't have to go download them the next time you factory wipe or get a new phone. Useful only for ROM hackers who wipe a lot.
  • ChavOff - generates a range of tones that kids can hear and adults can't. I can get my kids to kick me in the face in 2 seconds flat with this one.
  • Camera Magic - awesome camera app, super fast, nice features. Replace your regular app with this one.
  • CoPilot Live - paid app, GPS maps on your SD card. No more network reliance for travel.
  • Facebook - the official app, rocks the house.
  • Google Sky Map - it really works! Even up in the north woods when you really need it
  • Pandora - just like the web app, I've listened to Pandora all the way home with no problems (1 hour walk)
Stuff and Such

  • Never had a problem running the GPS all the time, but I keep the wifi turned off unless I'm actually using it (rare) and the display turned down appropriately.
  • Display - I use "Brightness" (app) to keep my display turned down or up based on where I am. I think there are ambient light sensing apps out there to do this but I'm too lazy to check. Locale (app) might be another option for turning things on and off based on location and/or time.
  • Battery - when you first get the phone you will burn through the battery like crazy. But once you get into a rhythm it's fine. I use my phone all day and listen to music for an hour on the way home and stuff have juice for the evening. I plug it in when I can (at desk, couch, whatever) and carry an energizer battery usb charger if I'm on a long trip.
  • Widgets - some of them are handy, some of them are expensive in terms of CPU and battery. When you discover widgets and add as many as your phone has room for, you will suffer. But if you use a couple you should be just fine. Everything in moderation, right?
  • Root - I rooted long ago, I've done custom ROMs (Go Cyanogen!), but to be honest the only reason I need it is for tethering. Was a fairly easy process, and when they say "brick" your phone, they mean "screw it up enough that it's a hassle but not impossible" to recover.
  • Develop your own apps - it's not that hard, and it's really nice to be able to create something you feel a need for that nobody else has through of yet, or ever will. (ex: my android screen scraping app)
I've been using my phone for almost a year now and wouldn't trade it for anything - except another Android phone with some beefier hardware maybe. I have a lot of pressure to go iPhone, but haven't had enough checkboxes in my mental comparison chart to justify it. While I like to bash the iPhone, it's really not a *bad* phone, it's just not the phone for me.

I'm no expert, and I understand my needs are not always common. But I watch the new app feed and try a lot of apps, so I've been around the block a bit, hope this helps!

Sep 21, 2009

I do love my (phone) Camera

I took these snapshots while the kids were playing in the front yard. They're not perfect, but quite nice. If I had taken them with my "big" camera I'd be happy. But these were taken with my phone. Crazy technology times we live in! (*)

Click the image to see the original, full sizes with all the hairy bug legs and stuff.

* - Yes, in six months we'll look back at this post and laugh..

Sep 14, 2009

Blister Run: The Whole Story -or- How I Spent My Scooter Vacation

4 days
8 riders (and then 7 riders)
2 countries
0 roadside breakdowns
2 swimming pools

826.1 miles

Photo albums listed here as Blister Run


We left from Dinkytown bright and early. The original departure plan was "meet at 7 leave at 8." A quick ride up to Anoka for our first gas-up and then the real miles began.

The ride north went smoothly. We made extremely good time, and pulled into Grand Rapids before three in the afternoon. After a short happy hour at the Eagle's club next door, we headed down the street to the Ground Round. A quick stop at a liquor store got us all prepared for our evening. We went swimming and hit the hot tub. With the exception of the Rainy River girl's volleyball team, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.


Another early departure, we headed out of town quickly and started in on the twisties on 38 fairly quickly. Lots of ups and downs and side to sides, it was an exhilirating way to start the day. Gas stop in Bigfork and more miles until just out of International Falls. The volleyball team coach had recommended "Sha Sha" as a place to check out on Rainy Lake, and it looked like a nice ride down 11 to the end of the causeway. We found it after some of the funnest hills and turns on the trip and had an absolutely wonderful lunch at the Sha Sha resort with a view of Rainy Lake that was simply stunning. When we were smelling the joys of papermill towns later in the weekend we would often talk about the window of loveliness that was that lunch.

Made it back into town and bade a sad farewell to Eric. He had to get back to the cities a day before us so he booked back to Grand Rapids (via some fog) and we continued on to the border. The crossing was uneventful, the typical questions about the scooters and such. The border guard asked Lora how we all knew each other and she told him we got together for rides every Tuesday, etc. To which he replied "But it's Saturday.."

We found our hotel to be nice and inviting and after a short break walked to the local Tim Horton's. What a lovely place! Good eats and coffee. Dave and Tom were in heaven, having spent the previous weeks and months talking about how excited they were about "Timmies". An exploratory ride down ON11 across some fun bridges yielded much good scenery, but when we stopped the mosquitos attacked in waves. Was a nice ride, though.

We ended up going to Pizza Hut for dinner (and some "Blue") and then spending some time in the pool and hottub again. No volleyball teams this time, however.


A relaxed start got us to Tim Horton's for some tasty breakfast sammiches and we got through the border in no time. No serious hassles, there. A gas-up and we were on 53 heading south. We discovered early on that 53 was a serious travel road, and there was quite a bit of traffic, none of which seemed to be very "passing friendly" so by the time we stopped for gas in Orr we were ready for a new option.

We decided to pop over 1 to Ely and then back into Duluth via the roads we knew to be fairly quiet and REALLY curvy! We had a great lunch in Ely and got some souvenirs before heading south to Duluth. The road was even better than we remembered, as the last time I had been on it there were miles of wet gravel and construction. None of that this time! I did the whole road braking only with the gravity of the uphills! It was very exhilarating.

Two Harbors and Duluth were covered in a thick fog, and in thinking back I can't remember seeing the lake AT ALL on this trip. You literally couldn't see the water from the shore. After settling into the hotel we headed over to Superior via the high bridge, which was totally fogged in. It made it easier to go over the bridge without having to look down so far, but at the same time it was tough because you couldn't see that far ahead of you. A meal at the Hammond and then another stop at a liquor store (see a trend here?) we picked up some stuff for the evening. Back to the motel via Skyline Drive (which is in horrible condition these days) for an evening of drinking tiny little beers and being goofy.


The last morning is always a tough one. But we made it to Hell's Kitchen in Canal Park in a timely manner. After breakfast we hit Aerostich, and then it was off to home. We thought we'd head down through Gary and take the 39 bridge across to WI35 for a scenic ride home. Well, that bridge is closed right now... And I couldn't find the next connection over, so we ended up heading down 23 to 61 and grinding home. A nice lunch at Tobies and we were home before 5.

Another great Blister Run!

The route according to my GPS: (the miles are short because of low sampling, and the speed is obviously too high, but you can see individual data points for localized speeds..


Calculating mileage at our wrap-up meal - only a couple hours to go..