Dec 17, 2010

Marting Luther King Jr Dog Park

No, I'm not talking about the Minneapolis neighborhood kerfuffle. I'm not even a dog person. But I noticed something. There are three dog parks NAMED for Martin Luther King Jr. around the country:
  • Martin Luther King Jr Park Dog Park in Corvallis OR
  • Martin Luther King Field and Dog Park in Sausalito, CA
  • Martin Luther King - West Oakland Dog Park in Oakland CA
And then there are more on streets named for the undeniably great man:
  • Off Leash Dog area in Golden Gate Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
  • Sam Smith Park dog park on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Seattle, WA
  • Thomasville Dog Park on Martin Luther King Drive, in Thomasville GA
That search took a couple minutes, tops. There must be more. I can't help but wonder if their communities embraced or rejected these memorials.

Dec 8, 2010


Long story. Many years ago I was working the web development world at a consulting company. It was a great group of folks, both technical and non-technical. Occasionally a bit of geekiness would show up in meetings and the business folk didn't always "get it." In one such meeting the idea of using GUIDs for something was brought up, and the concept of the GUID would have to be explained. Even after the explanation one of the business people made some comment about using GUIDs sparingly, lest we "run out" of them.

Being the wiseacre, I had to take that comment a couple steps (ok, miles) further. Thus GUIDSQUIRT was born. It's a site dedicated to wasting GUIDs. Flagrant misuse and disrespect for the remaining supply of GUIDs!

A site was cobbled together and given the timeframe of this idea (.com boom anyone?) we took out a domain name -- There was even some talk of a store in which you could buy t-shirts, but I think the fact that each shirt couldn't have a dynamically generated GUID killed that idea. After a number of years I got tired of dropping $x for a goof-off domain and let it go.

But people keep asking about GUIDSQUIRT. So here it is.

(I'm building an Android app based on the concept now. So you can waste GUIDs in your pocket all day long.. Stay tuned for further developments)

P.S. Waste not, want not.:

Waste! Waste! Waste!

Nov 18, 2010

OPP, my favorite technical creation

(click ^that^ link to see it)

Technical Information: The application backend is Active Server Pages (something of a precursor to .Net) on a Windows server. Images were originally captured with a Bell + Howell BH10 mini digital camera. They were then processed by accessing a Photoshop DLL via ASP and applying filters 'charcoal' or 'cutout' -- the original goal was just to see if I could apply Photoshop actions to images dynamically via ASP. Turns out, I could! In the end it was pretty precarious and wouldn't be very efficient in a production environment, but for post-processing via an administration page, it worked quite well. You would import the latest images and the interface would present you with the the same image filtered in each of the filters. Click on the image that seems "right" and it gets added to the mix. The other filtered image is tossed. Think Rorschach Photo Editing.

Personal Information: Two months after 9/11 I was working in a job I didn't feel comfortable in -- at a company I couldn't stand. Because it was the only job available. I had just spent part of a summer job hunting having been laid off in a bad economy before 9/11 happened. I would take the bus to and from work, go through the motions and act like a grownup. There was no challenge, no technical peers, an petty corporate culture. I hated it.

Our son was almost two at this point and had been slowly focusing from "screaming toddler" to "communicating child" but that was new. I felt like I didn't know what I was doing and got mixed feedback from the boy. Endless hours spent at toddler playgrounds just sitting there waiting and watching. Don't get me wrong, I loved him (and still do) more than life itself. And my lovely wife is wonderful and supportive, but this was not the best time of my life. Lots of days mix together, some pretty good, some horribly bad. Almost a decade later and these pictures in this application are an exact image of my memories of the time. Some vague and colorful, some gray and dirty. But few very clear, many confusing and uncomfortable.

It's not one of my most advanced technical projects, but it's one that I come back to from time to time to revisit and feel some feelings and realize how things change, how things are good, how things are bad, and how things just .. are. So this is my most successful project on a personal level. Just thought I'd share it.

Classic: ASCII Flaming Plural Logo

This commercial came out when I was working at a "B2B Web Architecture and Content blah blah blah" consulting company. To it's credit, it was actually a pretty good one until the bottom fell out of the market.

It was also about the time I was really getting my ASP on. (Active Server Pages, web stuff.) We would joke about various things here and there and every once in a while a mini-project would spin off. This was one of them. The joke was that someone would want more than just a flaming logo, etc.

So the challenge was:

"Can you make a flaming logo but not use graphcs?"

The answer was:

(p.s. No, it's not optimal, yes it's a crap hack job, no it doesn't matter.)

Nov 10, 2010

TNR 11/9/10 - Bridges!

Update: ampers did a really cool piece on the Bridges of Hennepin county! It's only 90 seconds, click on it!

Every bridge that crosses the Mississippi within the beltway! That's 18 if you didn't know already. Those are the "shore to short vehicle allowed, distinct" bridges. We have a pretty high standard. If you just counted the number of times you went over a land to land span it would have been 38. Not too shabby!

I was running two mapping applications and Tom was running a third. It was an interesting experiment to see the different options. These are all Android apps, BTW.

Instamapper (Application name: GPS Tracker)
Pros: Always on so it's easy to define start and end points, simple web interface,
Cons: Not highly configurable, not a lot of statistics available

GPS tracking powered by

EveryTrail (as reviewed by Tom)
Pros: Seems to be very robust in the current version, allows you to either see the map or see overall statistics as you're going, the display interface for afterward is pretty solid, it seems to prioritize the data collection such that whatever might be going on with the phone, it gets the data anyway
Cons: It can be slow to respond to input, can't see both the map and stats at the same time, display interface on their website uses flash, which I hate

Google MyTracks
Pros: Lots of display information, super easy upload to My Maps, quite accurate despite GPS quality
Cons: Hard to tell if you're recording, stats good but don't filter obvious GPS errors, have to remember to start and stop recording. :)

View TNR - Bridges! in a larger map

I think it all comes down to what your needs and personal opinions are. None of these are rubbish, and for certain needs some of them are stellar. But I don't think there is a consensus or best practices for what a navigation recorder needs to be. Someday...

Nov 7, 2010

Mississippi Cruising

GPS tracking powered by

Yes, I know it's not *really* the upper Mississippi, but it is if you're talking about the river within the beltway.

The original plan involved lots of charts, maps, schedules, complicated drop off and pick up, and an actual timetable. Unfortunately that got delayed until next spring, but I had a couple hours and a desire to go boating.

I headed for Boom Island. I had never been there but the images of the landing looked promising. I was not disappointed. Nice smooth pavement ramp, steep enough to get the trailer wet without much trouble, but not so slick I have to worry about the car getting stuck. Ample parking (when there are no events, obviously) and a very short walk from parking to landing are always a bonus.

Just off the ramp is a small rectangular pool that looks as if it normally has a couple piers in it. Really nice to have smooth, calm water for launching, especially on a river! I floated a bit while prepping the boat once I got it on the water and got the engine running. I usually use the electric trolling motor for "impulse power" before and after trailering, and this was an excellent place for it.

I didn't have any detailed maps, just the GPS maps, but I had studied this section of the river from Boom Island up to Coon Rapids. I would motor upriver for 3/4 of my time on the water and back downriver for the last 1/4. Or so.

The motor pushed me upriver quite nicely at about 3 or 4 mph. I didn't mind the noise so much, but when you're on a river you have to pay a LOT more attention to what you're doing. Between the eddies, the debris in the water, and the other river traffic it can get pretty busy.

I did get the chance to see some interesting sights on the river. There was even a cute little shanty/house boat docked at a house. They also had a huge houseboat looking thing, but I'm pretty sure it would get through the bridges upriver or the locks downriver.

When you're on the river you get to see a lot of things that you don't see from the streets:

I had no idea that was where garbage trucks lived.

The river definitely has some character to its current. I'd love to have a really clear understanding of what exactly is on the river bottom at any given point. The swirling vortex of doom in the picture above is a common sight. Quite often it means there is a wing dam down there somewhere, but I have a feeling it could also indicate other obstructions or imperfections underwater. These and other less visible currents can make the boat wiggle side to side, drift slowly in a lateral direction, or even surge forward suddenly. It's not a major issue, but it absolutely affects how attentive you must be to minor course corrections.

This trip was also my first sighting of a barge/tow vessel underway. I'm glad it was a small one. The wake it kicks up is obviously a big one, but if you quarter nose into it you cut right through it. What I didn't expect was the "echoing" of the wake off the shores. For a while the water gets choppy and unpredictable as the wake bounces around on itself. Fun!

I had been setting something on the phone/gps and hadn't been looking ahead for about a minute when I looked up and saw barges bearing down on my fairly quickly. I had a lot of time to get off to the side, but it was a very vivid reminder to Always Pay Attention! I had topped off the fuel tank just minutes before (a distracting activity) and will take more care to move to the edge of the river, anchor well, and be ready for anything coming up or down river.

Again, you see things on the river that sometimes surprise. This drain pipe was just sticking out over the water, ready to dump whatever may come. I'm sure it's a storm drain or something like that, but when I think of the dirt, fuel, tar, junk, litter, chemicals, etc. on a regular street just dumping straight into the river it makes me wonder just how nasty it is way down south. It just gives one pause.

Just before the Camden bridge is a railroad bridge with a rather threatening sign on it. I was curious to know what a hazardous channel was -- I'm assuming it just indicates the end of the navigable dredged channel. Unfortunately, the current between the quite wide bridge supports picked up quite a bit. By the time I crossed over the "wake" from the bridge and started to pass beneath it the boat had slowed to a stop. I could maintain position with the motor, but it just wouldn't get past. I was going through the middle of the channel, and I suppose I may have had better luck on the sides, but decided I'd had enough and would have to explore this further some other day.

Popped back downriver quickly and found myself having to hold my hat on. I think it was more of a headwind than a wind from the crazy 9-11mph speeds. Trailering up and getting home was wonderful due to the landing, and I called it a short but successful day.

Random things:
  • The "wellingtons" Jill got me for our anniversary were wonderful! Dry feet even when standing in ankle deep water at the landing!
  • The river was quiet and I saw very few people, which was nice
  • I rarely touched the motor handle and steered mostly by shifting my weight on the pilot's bench. A controller for trim would be nice but not needed.
  • Still need a device for holding stuff on topdeck, and would like a phone charging adapter onboard as well.

Oct 29, 2010

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

When I was in the Marines in California, the movie "Always" was playing at the base theater. I'm not one to go to restaurants or movies alone, but for some reason I went to this one alone. I had heard good things about it and wanted to see it. So I went. This song plays a key role in the movie and Holly Hunter connects with it and really makes it memorable. I loved the movie and the story and the actors (Dreyfuss, come ON!) -- it's an underrated movie. Go find it and watch it. Oh and John Goodman is hilarious and has shows some serious acting chops.

A couple years later I'm still a Marine, but living in Korea as a linguist. I'm detached from my unit for the summer to study at the University and that puts me in Seoul. I had a couple favorite bars I'd go to and just hang out. I had never really hung out at a bar regularly before -- alone, that is. I would sit at the bar and drink bad Korean beer and chat with the bartenders.

One of the two bars was deep in the military/tourist area. The bartender was a young woman who always smiled. She would chat with me and when I got something wrong she'd smile a huge smile of someone who was happy to help but also a little embarrassed by the error. When I went out once with my class we went there and they loved it. That's where I heard the best riddle about cigarettes from a Korean who grew up in Nepal. Those were some strange days.

Another was a bar much further up the hill on the edge of the bright lights, but it was a smaller, quieter bar. The bartender there was an older lady who was really nice and helped me with my conversational skills. If she was serving someone and accidentally chipped the beer bottle opening it she'd give it to me. Yeah, I know, but it was free beer. I would occasionally request this song and she'd happily play it.

So whenever I hear the song I think about two times when I was alone in my life but happy to be so. And I see those people, those bars, that theater. It's not major, nor is it earth-shattering, but it's very nice.

Oct 21, 2010

Photo Albums all caught up!

My online photo albums are all caught up. There were various albums here and there that never got captioned, etc. Flip through the calendar and enjoy!

Oct 19, 2010


Tonights route:

Cold, but a nice ride nonetheless. And we saw the pedal pub! As for the map, I'm really grooving on Google Tracks.

View TNR in a larger map

Oct 16, 2010

After You - Mississippi River

The After You is a river cruiser. And we live near the Mississippi. We cross it weekly, the land "Up North" is by the source of the river. I've read Twain and various travelogues of folks who have gone down the river in canoes, bass boats, riverboats and more. I've read the history of the river and the lands around it. To say I am drawn to the Mississippi is a safe bet. I built the boat with the Namekagon in mind, but it didn't take long for me to turn my sights to the Mississippi.

After the success with the Namekagon I wanted to try something bigger. The plan was simple: Jill drops me at Hidden Falls and picks me up a couple hours later at Lilydale. It was decided the night before that Lily wouldn't be joining me on the first Mississippi run. Everyone wanted to know if I could make it. I'm not really sure what they thought would happen..

Launching went well and I headed UP river! The motor seemed quieter given that the river was a bit wider. It's possible the current was less than the Namekagon, but I'm not sure. I moved upriver at a walking pace that might not lend itself to long upriver trips, but certainly affords enough speed that I don't feel like I'm completely at the mercy of the current. I made it up to be able to see the lock and dam - but I certainly wasn't going to try locking on my first trip out.

The upper portion of the river was fairly busy with everything from motorboats to Caddyshack-sized yachts.

Wakes on passing boats were an early concern, but eventually became just another part of the ride. I got pretty good at taking the waves right on the bow corners and we slipped right through them. There is some side to side rocking but nothing alarming. I headed downriver and eventually got to the Minnesota river "riverlets" down by Fort Snelling State Park. The Minnesota really does dump a ton of mud and silt into the river. You can literally see the color change. It's a bit disturbing.

When I got to the main channel of the Minnesota I headed up. The current was stronger, so I wasn't making much progress. Combine that with the additional twigs, sticks, branches and logs coming down at me I figured I'd wait til I ran out of gas and turn around when that happened. When it did indeed I dropped anchor and refilled the tank with the auxiliary gas can and headed back down. I anchor from the rear, so it aims me downriver automatically. Handy.

After fighting the current upriver the trip down felt like I was flying. The power of the motor is just enough that I can steer by simply shifting my weight, so it felt a bit like I was surfing down the river. Really felt connected to the current somehow. Nice.

Coming up the river was the Anson Northrup, one of the Paddleford packet fleet. I rang my bell at them and they were literally cheering at me. It was a lot of fun, and nice to see one of the old-style boats on the river.

Had the opportunity to see barges, but no towboats. I can wait on that. They're big, wakey, and can be dangerous.

Near the landing was this shanty-looking boat. It's been there for weeks and I thought it might be storage, but there was smoke coming from the stack, and later on I noticed movement on the boat. Was too far away to see well by then.

I like how the river seems forgotten and how remote and "old" it feels. These old pilings had some pretty intimidating signs on them, but looked quite old.

I landed with time to spare and spent some time with (yes, of course) the traditional "old man come to look at the boat" and his daughter. They were actually visiting from down south, so it was interesting to wonder what they thought about these crazy Minnesotans.

Found some pretty large paw prints in the mud. They didn't look like dog prints, but what do I know? Just prefer to think it was some sort of mountain lion or something.

Taking out went well, though I had to have Jill sit on the hood of the car to make sure we didn't slip the wheels on that stinky Mississippi mud! The next time I pulled the boat I could still smell it even though it was dried and caked a bit on the trailer tongue. Beautiful, beautiful stinky.

Can't wait to go on a longer trip!

(I'm already planning to take the After You down the river to the Pepin Messabout in June. Sweet!)

Oct 12, 2010


The GPS didn't pick up the signal until we were near Nokomis. Did a reverse Grand Rounds ending at the Coffee shop. Sadly, they changed their hours. Happily, we found a BETTER one around the corner. And it has beer, even!

Oct 9, 2010

After You - Namekagon

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When I was young my father used to take us on canoe trips on the Namekagon river. We went with the Boy Scouts, we went with friends, we even went with some teachers from my school! I don't know how many times I went down that river, but I have a lot of fond memories. When he died there was talk of his ashes going in the river, but it was decided that some seedlings from the memorial tree we planted for him would be a better contribution to the area.

Many years later I have taken my family down the Namekagon on day canoeing outings. Rather, my wife motivated us all to go. I was so happy that she shared our love for that river! While the stretches we've come to know are up a bit upstream from where the canoe trips were, it's absolutely the same river. Winding, narrow with lots of sand bars and a seclusion that makes you feel like you really are out in the "the wild and the wooly" as my dad used to say.

So when I built the boat I did so with the Namekagon in mind. When I tell people it's a minimalist river cruiser I always add "think canoe trips without the tent!" Launching the boat on the river was very exciting and I was thrilled, to say the least. Launching on a river was a new experience, but lessons were learned pretty quickly. It was also one of the first launches with the newly refitted trailer. I could walk out on the skids and she slid right in easy as can be. I hopped in and ran the electric motor to get her out into the river so I could start the outboard motor in deeper water.

The motor fired up quite nicely (once I opened the fuel valve) and I headed up river. Jill took the kids and the car/trailer to the other end and got a ride back up with the canoe outfitter and a rental canoe. Meanwhile, I headed upriver. The new motor took me against the current nicely, but not really "fast" by any stretch of the imagination. And it was loud. I was used to the electric, so blowing upriver with the outboard running seemed sacrilegious.

I turned around and headed back down to the launchpoint just as Jill and the kids were re-arriving. I pulled the outboard and went on electric for the rest of the trip. It was all I needed to keep my direction and keep up with the canoe. I was able to pass them and move ahead, but kept them in front of me as much as possible. I didn't want to be fighting a current sideways and worry about them coming up on me from astern.

It was a lovely trip, and waters were high enough that I grounded out only once and not even very much. An oar pushed me over the sandbar. The "rapids" we did see were minor and easily handled. I was happy to know she could make it through a bit of bubbly water, though I did ride one rock all the way down her and waited to see if it would take out her transom. It didn't. Didn't even scratch up the hull, just the skegs a little.

We stopped for a picnic lunch on a sandbar and I channeled my father by scrutinizing the maps. Eli wasn't feeling well, so he transferred into the After You for the last half of the trip.

As it happens, he also became the first person to sleep aboard the After You while underway. I had a nap in it on the trailer once, but that's another story.

Taking her out was fairly easy, attracted the usual "old man" come to look at the boat. It did rain for a bit while Jill brought the car to the landing, but Eli slept through it and I enjoyed being out in the rain -- with no serious clouds in sight!

Notes for future trips:
  • Downstream only, like the canoes do. No need to prove anything anymore
  • A little higher water level would be ok, but it was doable.
  • Less rocks, more width. The Saint Croix past Riverside landing, maybe
  • Next time: Camping in the boat!
  • Awesome!

Oct 7, 2010

Durutti Cab for Star Wars

When I went to see Star Wars with my father, I remember saying it was the Best Movie Evar!  I distinctly recall him saying it was a good "B dogfighting movie" and I had to ask what a B movie was.  And what a dogfight was.  In my defense, I was seven.

He was right, of course. But it astounded me that he could NOT be blown away by the Best Movie Evar, regardless. And I'm sure he chuckled to himself and thought about the excitement of experiencing something for the first time and thinking it's the best.  Your first love is always your most intense, right?

When someone says something like "Death Cab For Cutie is the Best Music Evar!" I say it's good music, but emo's been around since punk, really.  I bled my adolescent depressive wounds to the tune of Joy Division, This Mortal Coil, and the Durutti Column.  And that whole discussion is what tells me I've grown old.

In both stories we have generational disagreements, and will always have those disagreements, with one exception:

Star Wars was indeed the Best Movie Evar.

Oct 1, 2010

After You - Harriet (night)

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The Twilight Hours were playing at the Lake Harriet band-shell one Friday night, and Jill was going to take the kids to the concert which I putted around on the lake. I got my lights hooked up and arranged in a much safer and more efficient manner than I had before, and they worked great. Launching solo was easy and I got to hear the soundcheck while I did it. When Jill and the kids arrived I met them at the dock and said hi, but nobody wanted to ride. That was just fine by me, as I really enjoyed going out into the inky darkness and being out there all alone on the boat I made for myself. Not even scary!

By the time the music came on it was full dark and without the lights of the bandshell and surrounding paths and lots navigating would have been difficult, but it was easy with them. Next time I'll bring the 2 million candlepower spot, just in case.

Taking the boat out was ok, although folks were trying to go through the boat landing to leave after the concert, which was annoying, but dealt with. I look forward to taking the boat out after dark again some time!

Sep 28, 2010


A Saint Paul ride without a GPS, I don't have a map. But we wandered Saint Paul quite a bit. At Calvary cemetary Matt's scoot stopped working. After a bit of fiddling Tom bodged up a classic rig which solved the issue. All I know is it involved a wire, grounding, and something about the seat.

Sep 25, 2010

After You - Keller

(I didn't turn on the GPS until we were halfway through the ride.)

Gervais Lake on a beautiful September afternoon. After launching from Spoon Lake, the little bubble in the middle of the map, we headed north.

Lily, my awesome first mate, apparently heard there was a cold front moving in. She was bundled up and as it turned out that wasn't so bad. Sunny, but cool. Here she's enjoying a mid-cruise snack. We like to have snacks on the boat.
One of the many reasons for going out this time was to try out the new motor! It's a Gamefisher 3.5hp motor I picked up used and cheap. She fired up quite nicely and pushed us around the lakes on just a splash of gas. Her top speed wasn't quite 10mph (ok, by a couple) but it ran solidly. It has twice the power of the electric, but there's a lot less "give" - so when that prop spins, it spins! No slowing down for hills! As a result the push is considerably stronger. In fact, it's fast enough that "steering by weight" really comes into play. By standing in my usual spot in the cockpit and just shifting my weight left and right, I can get the boat to turn left or right by degrees. If I walk to one side of the boat I can get a strong turn out of it, without even adjusting the motor. Quite nice not to have to keep a hand back there. I am always within reach of the motor, however, and understand the risks. So don't start.

The motor is loud, so conversation on the boat dwindled. Lily eventually ended up doing some reading and hanging out in the cabin.

After the last bridge passing into Keller Lake, I let Lily try her hand at navigating the boat using the electric motor. She can't do much damage, and I was Right There in case she needed help. But I think she enjoyed it, and when she's legally old enough to drive a boat I'll let her take over a whole cruise. For now it's stolen moments like these to keep her interest!

We spotted a few birds and the electric motor let us get fairly close. We were going to try and get around the island in Keller Lake, but there's a walking bridge that we wouldn't have been able to clear - by inches!

All in all a wonderful expedition, the motor worked great, and launching/recovery both went quite smoothly.

Sep 22, 2010


A lovely if not a little chilly ride. Tom clocked it at a bit longer than the GPS indicated, but at least the speeds look good. :) It's getting later in the summer so the rides are ending in the dark. Makes for a completely different experience, and will affect how and where we ride.

We ended at Cafe Latte in Saint Paul and had some really good food.