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Sharon Kahn

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May 25th, 2015

08:41 pm - News of the Day - Pedal Pub Pirates in downtown Minneapolis!
This is why I still subscribe to my local paper - you would truly hate to miss out on a story like this.

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03:14 pm - Warning! Cuteness overdose
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Click through for full-size pics,if you think you can stand it.

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May 20th, 2015

09:52 pm - News flash! Baby sits up!
Okay, even proud grandparents realize that all babies do this stuff. But has there ever been a baby that wanted SO MUCH to accomplish this particular milestone?

Here's Little Lena at two weeks of age, having used her Jedi mind powers to induce her Grandpa to prop her up so she could stare at her favorite lamp. Note that she is already holding her head steady on her own. She loves to be upright.
Here she is at 2 months, gamely trying to keep from sinking out of sight in an upright play chair that is miles too big for her. No complaints from her though - she's sitting up!
At 3 months she really appreciates the Bumbo Chair, a cleverly designed plastic baby seat that is damn near impossible for baby to fall out of. At this point she still needs the back support, but she appears very much at ease.
At 4 months she discovers her abs, and is no longer willing to stay in the recumbent pose demanded by most baby furniture. Amber reports that she did crunches until she sat herself up, at which point she appeared VERY pleased with herself. Still needs rolled up blankets for side support, though.
Here she is at almost 5 months, clearly extremely proud of her progress. Now she is completely supporting her upper body with her powerful trunk muscles, but still needs her hands down at her sides for balance.
Still likes that bumbo chair, but no longer needs the back support (thanks to vgqn for the wonderful picture).
At 6 months, she's finally made it to Baby Nirvana! Now that she no longer needs to keep her hands down for balance she can use them both for playing with her toys. She is particularly happy in this picture because somebody finally gave her a toy that can be torn apart and the pieces thrown all over the room. And now she can use both hands to do it! Life is good.

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May 11th, 2015

07:12 pm - Ex Machina is brilliant
... although a little disturbing. If all you know is that it's about a young programmer and an AI/robot who might be falling in love you might expect a romantic comedy. Not. It's actually more of a psychological thriller. Meticulously written, perfectly acted, and beautiful to look at. Definitely worth seeing in a theater. $5 and change at the 4pm matinee. 

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April 21st, 2015

10:11 pm - What should I watch?

So I signed up for a free month of Hulu Plus, more or less on a whim, because I wanted to watch "Last Man on Earth."  After a few episodes, I think I've had enough of that (clever setup but way too heavy on the potty humor). I've got 28 more free days here - what should I watch?

I checked out "Community" and enjoyed the first few episodes. Laurel, I looked for "Person of Interest," but it's not here. It's not anywhere, as far as I can tell. Not on Netflix, not on Amazon Prime. Not sure how anybody watches it?

I was hoping to find the current season of "Orphan Black," but no luck there. Oh, look, "Jane the Virgin." I've heard that's good. But... only the most recent 5 episodes???  WTF?  How exactly is this service supposed to be worth $8/month?  There's a limited list of shows with full seasons available, but there doesn't seem to be any way to search them except to scroll through big colored icons in what appears to be random order. The search engine mostly turns up links to network websites. Well, at least I won't be tempted to continue this subscription. In the meantime, I guess I'll just keep watching "Community," unless somebody's got a better suggestion.

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April 17th, 2015

09:30 pm - Surprisingly good little movie
Having finished the latest Netflix series I was working through, I found myself adrift last night. Netflix still fails pretty much all the time in their attempts to predict movies that I would like ("Trailer Park Boys"??? Seriously, Netflix?). But I am increasingly amused by their batty ideas for sorting their offerings into theme collections. My absolute favorite, just as a concept, was "Movies watched by Tobias Funke on Arrested Development." Not that I had any interest in watching any of them, but the idea was hilarious.

Several collections down the line from that I ran into a little gem called "In a World."  It's a charming, surprisingly subtle indie movie about a young woman trying to deal with the burden of being the daughter of the world's greatest living voiceover talent. You could call it a romcom, but I wouldn't because the romance is a relatively minor part of the plot. It's more of a coming-of-age story. It's funny and heart-warming and has a lot of family drama/comedy in it. But it's also about how we present ourselves and judge others (and the mistakes we make in both) with particular focus on the voice. Since it's about a family of voiceover artists, after all. It's also about feminism and female empowerment, so it  triumphantly sails through the Bechdel test. And  it has the adorable Demetri Martin cast in the boy next door role, which he aces. The rest of the casting is also pretty brilliant for a teeny tiny little Sundance film by a brand new filmmaker. Highly recommended. 

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April 16th, 2015

10:41 pm - Tried a new restaurant - Pig & Fiddle * * * *
Rewards Dining Network does it again! If you register your credit cards with them, you can earn frequent flyer points in various programs by eating at participating restaurants. The catch is that their restaurant list is fairly limited. But they tend to pick the type of restaurant we enjoy - locally owned brew pubs, boutiques and other places I'd characterize as "high end casual." Quirky, chef-driven and medium expensive (especially if you have a weakness for ordering drinks and appetizers).

Pig & Fiddle fits the mold. It characterizes itself as a "gastropub." Limited menu with a British Pub theme, but everything we had was delicious. To start with, they have my favorite beer: Young's Double Chocolate Stout. We split an order of Apricot Samosas, which were exquisite (and quite filling, even half an order). Their signature burger is dressed with mushrooms, carmelized onions and bleu cheese. The chef is apparently so sure that this is the best possible burger that they don't even list other variations on the menu. It really is good. Richard ordered Bubble and Squeak (which is Britspeak for "fried leftovers with a poached egg on top"), but the P&F version is much more refined than that. Still a little gloppy, but good.

It's at 50th & France. Pleasant atmosphere, lots of wood and stone in the interior, manages to feel both cozy and roomy at the same time. I like that there's a separate dining room beyond the bar. Thursday evening is a great time to go - not empty, but plenty of room for walk-ins. Highly recommended - I'd go back.
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Apricot Samosas - yum!                                             Bubble & Squeak                                                  Eponymous Bar Burger
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April 10th, 2015

05:32 pm - Minicon 50 - Yowza!
So Minicon 50 happened, and it was a huge success. I admit that I was skeptical of the plan to make a big deal out of Minicon 50, expand to 4 days, invite twice the usual number of GoHs, massively increase membership, etc. I was wrong. All that happened and it worked out great. We doubled our membership, and finally had enough people so we didn't rattle around in the hotel. There were a few glitches along the way, but no big disasters. Pretty much everybody seemed to be having a great time, including the impressive number of Minicon first-timers, and the GoHs went home happy.

I ended up spending much more time working on Programming than I had planned, so I didn't actually have time to ATTEND much of anything: just Opening/Closing Ceremonies and music performances. But as far as I could tell, programming went very well. Ever since we got small, Minicon has had a perpetual problem (which I have been guilty of contributing to) of scheduling too much programming for the size of the con. This year I think the ratio was just about right. There were a few items that overflowed the programming space allotted, and a few items that were sparsely attended, but most of the ones I looked in on were just Goldilocks-perfect. I heard many comments from people who had been on panels or in the audience that support this. Terms like "energy" and "enthusiastic" came up a lot.

The "First Minicon" ribbons were a great idea. I made a point of talking to as many new attendees as possible, and I know a lot of others did the same. All the newbies that I talked with seemed to be having a blast and said they would be back next year. I asked how they heard about Minicon and why they decided to attend this year, and the answers were all over the map. Cats Laughing was a bigger draw for people returning after some years away. But some of the first-timers came for the Cats, including one who came all the way from Atlanta. Several people cited specific GoHs (typically Brandon or Larry). But a surprising number couldn't quite seem to put their finger on why they came this year. They said things like, "Because it was local" or "We were looking for a family activity over Easter Break."  One family saw a flyer or heard someone talking about it at Con of the North. A woman who was introduced to me as "Ruth Anderson's 8th grade teacher" said she came because Dave and Elizabeth Clement were driving down from Winnipeg and she could ride with them. But they drive down from Winnipeg nearly every year - why THIS year? She wasn't sure. It just seemed like a good idea for some reason.

What about you? Did anybody share with you why they decided to attend Minicon for the first time this year, or why they came back after years of not attending? How many of them do you think will come back next year?

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March 29th, 2015

05:06 pm - Finished "The Golem and the Jinni"
It was very good. Thanks to whomever recommended it to me (Lydy, maybe?).

I read it on my Kindle. It's available in e-book format from the HCLIB, and the waitlist wasn't terribly long. Recommended.

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March 27th, 2015

07:32 pm - New Years Resolution 33.3% accomplished
I was tired of making resolutions that were hard, so Thorin and I agreed on a joint resolution for 2015. We vowed to rewatch all 3 of the "Back to the Future" movies together (in celebration of the fact that 2015 was The Future in the second movie).

None of them were available on streaming Netflix, but we still pay for a single-disc option, so why not use it?  Anyway, we watched the first movie a few nights ago.It held up really well. It was a little more of a kids' movie than I had remembered, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the great movie comedies of all time. Definitely one to keep in mind if you ever find yourself casting about for a good family movie to share with kids aged 8-13. It's funny, heartwarming, and has a wholesome but not totally sappy message. And while "thought-provoking" might be putting it a little strongly, the plot is meatier than the average comedy. It also features great use of sound. I'm pretty sure that it fails the Bechdel Test, however.

Back to the Future II is next on the queue.

Fun fact. When they made the first movie they actually weren't planning a sequel. What appears to be a plug for the next movie was actually just intended as a final joke. The director says they would have done that part a little differently if they had really thought it through, and they ended up having to work around the setup.

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March 20th, 2015

10:55 pm - World's Cutest Grandbaby gets even cuter
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I know, it hardly seems possible, but as she approached 3 months she got even more adorable than she was before. Still no hair, but that 1000-megawatt smile makes hair irrelevant. But (full disclosure) all that cuteness has its price. This baby has no off-switch. As long as she's awake she's in motion. And most of what she wants to do with her time requires big people to carry her around, stand her up, or smile at her. A few still pictures are inadequate to capture the essence of the roaring flame that is Baby Lena. For the baby-curious, I've put up a couple of new albums on Google+ that include multi-photo sequences. If you can't see these, let me know and I'll add you to a circle or whatever.

Lena #5 World's Cutest
Lena #6 Flirting With Grandpa

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11:29 am - You don't know what you got 'til it's gone... *sob*
For years, Ry Krisp has been my go-to "healthy diet" cracker. I don't know if it's really all that good for you, but with the cardboard texture and the rye-flour bite, it SEEMS like it must be. Over the years I got really fond of Ry Krisp. Some people learn to hate their favorite diet foods, but I have the opposite reaction. Anything that I eat when I'm really hungry tastes so good! A few pieces of Ry Krisp really perks up a salad, and it goes great with cottage cheese. Or any kind of cheese, actually.

I had no idea that Ry Krisp was manufactured in Minneapolis. And even if I had known that, I would have assumed that it had long ago been folded into Nabisco or something and had factories in North Carolina or Uruguay. But no - apparently it's never been anything but a Minneapolis specialty. And now IT'S GONE!!!

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March 14th, 2015

11:01 pm - Homeless
Yesterday I packed up my office at work and brought home 10 years worth of old calendars, office supplies and random junk. No, still not retired. I keep waiting to get laid off as promised, but keep getting extended. However, my entire division has now been turned out of our building in Shakopee (on VERY short notice) because some genius at corporate HQ decided that the tax writeoff for letting the building stand empty was worth more than anything we could possibly contribute by continuing to work there.

So we spent the last 6 weeks frantically redesigning our huge labs to take up 60% less space, unracking everything and stacking it on pallets to be shipped to California, and throwing out thousands of dollars worth of equipment that didn't make the cut (very painful for frugal Minnesotans). The last truck left the building on Friday the 13th (what could go wrong?). They issued us all laptops and docking stations and sent us off to work from home. I plugged in the laptop and ascertained that I could access the VPN, but I still haven't figured out how to set up my office so I can switch easily between computers. So instead, I spent the day trying to integrate the influx of office supplies and an entire desk drawer pharmacy into the ambient clutter. My office is cleaner, but desk in the sewing room is completely covered with boxes of pens, pencils, markers, and highlighters. I'm not sure if that is progress or not.

It was sad to say goodbye to the co-workers I will rarely see again, but confusing. We kept falling into those old goodbye patterns - "It's been great working with you - maybe we'll run into each other again" and then remembering that we supposedly are still working together.  It's been a weird week.
Current Mood: off balance

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March 1st, 2015

12:28 am - It's white and gold
Obviously and unambiguously. I would think this whole thing was a joke if someone in MY VERY HOUSEHOLD didn't see it as blue and black.

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January 20th, 2015

09:48 pm - Lena and the Mobile
Amber's cousin Jill and her husband visited them last weekend, and somehow after Jill and Jay left they had a new crib. I think Jill had been delegated by the Tatge family to buy a group gift for the baby and that's what happened. Jill took some great pictures, including pictorial proof that even though Little Lena has learned to smile and laugh she still has an array of more serious expressions featuring her very mobile eyebrows. But the knockout pictures were Lena watching the rotating mobile mounted on her new crib.

If you're really into this, you don't want to miss the movie version (last item in the gallery). There is apparently one angle on that mobile that Lena especially loves, and you can see her anticipating it coming 'round again and then exploding into laughter when it does. Towards the end of the video she is starting to reach out toward the mobile with her left hand (obviously having no idea how far away from her it is).
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January 17th, 2015

07:03 pm - Two more cute pictures
Now that she's 2 months old, Lena is starting to work towards reaching and grasping. Newborns have a grasping reflex, but can't control their hands voluntarily. Most of the time their little hands are in loose fists, and they usually move both arms in unison (usually out and back in, or up over the head and then back to the chest). At 2 months they develop the ability to open and flex their hands and move each hand independently. It's the first step towards the classic baby objective of grabbing everything they see and sticking it in their mouths. Not so coincidentally, at the same time they suddenly become much more interested in toys, especially ones that are within grasping distance. Lena hasn't gotten very far with the hand control, but is now quite fascinated by this line of baby toys suspended across her car seat. These pictures are so cute: you should really click through to see them full size. In the first one you can see that she is very focused on the toys and is batting at them with an open hand. In the second one she seems to be saying, "Thanks for the new toys, Mom and Dad."
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January 16th, 2015

11:46 pm - She is mighty, but she is still small
Here are some pictures of teeny little Lena (not quite 2 months) doing things that most babies don't do until 3 or 4 or 5 months: mini-pushups, rolling over, and trying to stand up and walk at every opportunity. She is very strong and very determined. The reason she learned how to roll over was because her silly parents kept insisting on "tummy time" when she would rather be on her back.
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So even though she is considerably younger than the target age they decided to let her try the Exersaucer bouncy toy. Here we see that no matter how strong and determined you are, sometimes you just aren't big enough.
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December 23rd, 2014

12:12 am - New Grandbaby pictures
Lena has adorably turned 6 weeks old right here at our house, and right on cue she is learning the art of the "social smile."  This big smile took a lot of work. To see how it's done, check out the Google+ gallery here.

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December 10th, 2014

10:28 pm - Looking to borrow bassinet, cradle, baby seat or tiny manger
Amber is coming home for Christmas and bringing the little one. We'll need a small baby container for her to sleep in next to her mother's bed. Since she'll probably have outgrown it by the next time she visits, I'd rather borrow than buy.

We'll also need a car seat, if anyone has one to lend. If we can't borrow one, we'll probably buy a convertible one that will be good for several years. Anybody have any recommendations for a good brand, preferably one that will fit comfortably in the middle of the back seat of a small car?  I've looked online and the number of choices is overwhelming. 

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December 6th, 2014

04:33 pm - Changing horses in mid-stream
I must admit that while reading an older baby-development book I started to have some sympathy for the modern concept of alternating "he" and "she" in such books. I was reading bits aloud to the new parents and found that swapping "she" for "he" made it seem a lot more relevant to the new parents of a baby girl.

But here's how to carry things too far.

"When your baby is rear-facing, adjust the straps so they're threaded through the slots at or below his shoulder level, says Jennifer Stockburger, vehicle and child-safety program manager at Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center, in East Haddam, Connecticut. Otherwise, she could be injured or ejected in a crash."

What, the baby boy is okay but JENNIFER might be injured? Huh? Really, people, I think it's okay to stick with a single pronoun for at least the duration of a thought. If you can't stomach that, go back to the Victorian English convention and just say "it."


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December 5th, 2014

02:15 pm - Rain in the Plane is worth 4,000 Skymiles
As we started our flight back from San Jose on Wednesday it was raining outside the plane (actually pretty remarkable in California at this point). But even more remarkable, as soon as the plane left the runway, water started pouring out of the overhead console onto me and the other aisle-seat passengers just ahead of me. Not just a few drops of condensation, but a heavy stream of water that completely soaked the left sleeve of my cotton travel shirt. Most unpleasant. It also alarmed a few people who were convinced that there was a hole in the shell of the plane letting in the rain. I wasn't too worried about that, but did not like getting soaked. After two tries on the call button a flight attendant came along and opened the overhead bin, looking for errant water bottles. Not finding a likely culprit she said it must be condensation from the A/C, and left me with nothing but a linen napkin to try to dry myself. This didn't help much, so I just turned on the overhead air blower and shivered until I dried off.

It wasn't the worst airplane calamity ever, but I figured it might be worth trying to get a little recompense for my pain and suffering. So I went to the Delta site and filled out the online "compliment/complaint" form (like they ever get COMPLIMENTS). Within 2 hours I had an email response apologizing for my dreadful experience and offering me 4,000 Skymiles as compensation. Thank you, Delta!

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November 28th, 2014

11:24 am - Little Lena - new skills for week 3
As Little L moves into her 3rd week of life she is not only growing, but learning.  Here's some new skills documented yesterday. First, look how well she can balance her giant anime head now (at least when she is wide awake). In this picture she has actually TURNED her head to look at the window, all by herself!

Here we see the newborn standing/walking reflex in action. At this age they can't support their weight on those spindly little legs, but if you help them out they can push back against a firm surface and even make little walking movements. This reflex disappears a few months after birth, but comes back as volitional movement when it's time to start standing and walking.
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Probably the most exciting - she is starting to pay attention to toys. This Baby Einstein Radio plays music and displays a pattern of flashing lights. You would think it would be impossible to ignore. But just the day before she showed little interest in it. Yesterday she stared at it every time it was presented and even waved her arms as if she was trying to reach towards it. This means it is now possible to PLAY with her!  Fun.

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November 27th, 2014

06:14 pm - But wait! There's more!
For those of you who simply cannot get enough baby cuteness.

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05:45 pm - Baby pictures online (I think)
I created a Picasa album of Lena's first two weeks and "Shared" it, but I really have no idea if I did it right. Picasa now runs through Google+, which I find totally inscrutable. The link is here. Can you see it?

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November 23rd, 2014

11:03 am - Sleeping Baby #1
One of the things grandparents do is simply stare at their sleeping grandbaby for minutes on end. Richard will hold or rock her for HOURS, but my attention span isn't that long, so I eventually start things like the Sleeping Baby Vine Project. It turns out that sleeping babies are more entertaining than you might think. They spend about half their sleep time in the baby version of REM sleep, which looks something like this. As they sleep they repeatedly run through their entire repertoire of facial expressions, from grimace to frown to smile. Then they stretch all the large muscles in their bodies, flutter their eyelids tentatively and fall back into deep sleep. This is just a small sample of the expression repertoire. Don't miss the adorable "coo" at about second #5!

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November 22nd, 2014

10:18 pm - Best grandbaby ever
Every day I plan to post some pictures but then the next day comes and there are more pictures and I never get caught up. So here's some random cute pictures of Baby Lena, aged 2 days to 12 days. The first shot is a 2-day old Lena responding to her first stroller ride with a typical "WTF??" expression. In the next picture she has matured into a criminally cute week old cherub, followed by what appears to be a hungover college kid passed out in the corner. But she recovers from her early dissipated phase to become a political activist, and eventually a modern dance instructor. Who knows what the next week will bring?
Lena_486_nov12 Lena_604_nov18 8 Lena_750_nov22FiLena_652_nov19 Lena_762a_nov22

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November 10th, 2014

06:55 pm - Introducing Lena Tatge Laster

6 lb 13 oz, 19". Scorpio



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11:17 am - The Eaglet has Landed!!
Amber's baby is here!  

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November 9th, 2014

10:48 pm - Amber's in labor!!
After a day of early labor, things have speeded up considerably - contractions now 6 minutes apart. They'll probably be heading for the hospital within an hour or two. Or more. Or less. You know, depending on how things go.

She's a few days ahead of her Official Due Date (Nov 14). Which isn't a problem medically, but sadly we bet the wrong way and made our reservations to fly out there for Nov 12. *gnashing of teeth*  I really wanted to be there for her, but it's hard to make travel plans around an event that can easily be plus or minus two weeks. I'm sure they'll all be just fine, but I wish I were there...

On the other hand, it appears that the nurses in her hospital are planning to go on strike on Tuesday (!!!) so Monday is probably the right time to get this over with.

It's going to be a long night.
Current Mood: anxiousanxious

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November 5th, 2014

07:50 pm - Election Night *sigh*
On the other hand, Minneapolis did pass the two referendums.

And Minnesota demonstrated in the 7th and 8th Congressional Districts that just flat out buying an election with boxcar loads of out of state partisan money is not as easy as it sounds.

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October 26th, 2014

04:19 pm - Looking for a used van? Watch this space
Since I am (ostensibly) about to retire, I'd like to trade in our old van for a more reliable newer model: something I'd feel comfortable taking on long road trips. And (increasingly important with each passing year) a van where all the back seats fold into the floor. Which makes the choice really simple - it's gonna be a new or almost-new Grand Caravan SE.

Now that I know what I want, I could wait until next year or do something impulsive. If I found a buyer for the old van, I'd probably take the impulsive route. Otherwise, probably wait until next year when we weren't in the middle of a bunch of other projects and events. So this is sort of a trial balloon.

Old van is a 2000 Plymouth Voyager with a high-end trim package for the time: driver-side sliding door, center console with compass/trip computer, plushy seats. It's dented and dinged and has mis-matched pieces, but is not badly rusted. About 200,000 miles. Good mechanical condition for its age. Repair records available for the 7 years we've owned it, and maybe before that.

According to Kelley Blue Book, resale value in Fair-to-Good condition is about $1100. That sounds about right to me. If anybody is even a little bit interested, let me know. 

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October 24th, 2014

04:05 pm - 35,000 tanks
That's the estimated number of abandoned underground fuel oil tanks in the metro area. Yikes! So anybody who thinks that Dean's Tanks is limiting their future by doing only one thing (residential fuel oil tank removal) should think again. And if you happen to have one in your back yard, these are the guys to call.

I know that hiring a contractor is supposed to involving painstakingly interviewing multiple candidates and choosing among competing estimates. But so far in our oil-to-gas boiler conversion, the first one was so obviously the right one that I just hired them on the spot. Pete the Boiler Guy and the Asbestos Abatement firm formerly known as Aardvark really were just perfect, so I'm trying for a hat trick. Just one look at the Dean's Tank web page makes it clear that we're talking about another little family-owned business that has been doing one thing for decades and takes pride in doing that thing really really well.

Anyway, I called the number and got Doug, the owner (Dean was his father). He just happened to be in the neighborhood doing another estimate, so he came right over. Took a few measurements and concluded that the tank runs under the backyard retaining wall and would be impossible to remove without wrecking the yard. Which makes it a perfect candidate for "in-place abandonment." That requires a removal waiver from the city inspector, but no problem - Doug works with him all the time and was sure it would be no problem.

The estimated price sounded very reasonable, considering it includes $500 worth of permits, removing and recycling the oil in the tank, removing all filler pipes, and even patching the basement floor after they dig the fuel line out of it. So I said sure - when can you start?

20 minutes after he left, Doug called back. He's already gotten approval from the city inspector, sight unseen. So I guess he was serious when he said the inspector trusts his judgment. If the permits come through without delay he hopes to have it done in the next two weeks. 

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October 16th, 2014

05:18 pm - Typo of the day

"There are a lot of great qualities that define the United States, but chief among them is the Constitution. The country’s founders pieced together one of the most timeless and endearing governmental contracts ever written"

Read more:

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October 7th, 2014

10:06 pm - Mixed messages much?
While waiting for a prescription at CVS today I noticed that they have a new spokesman for their Important Health Messages.

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09:33 pm - I guess this is goodbye, #31
I'd like to say that you were a good, loyal old molar. But actually, you were kind of a crappy tooth all along, the bad apple that spoiled the barrel. It's your fault that the lower right quadrant of my mouth ended up with 3 crowned teeth in a row while the other 29 were smugly perfect.  I probably shouldn't have held onto you as long as I did. But bad apple or not, you were MY bad apple. So when they tried to tell me that you just weren't worth saving, I went into denial and kept on enabling and enabling. "There's nothing really wrong with this tooth," I insisted. "It only hurts when I chew on it!"  But technically, that's what molars are for - chewing. And a molar that you can't chew on isn't much of a molar. So I finally gave in and had you extracted today. And the bright side of the mess you made of the neighborhood is: the crowned teeth on either side are ready and willing to support a bridge to replace you.

Cut for graphic contentCollapse )
Current Mood: relievedrelieved

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September 16th, 2014

01:47 pm - Aardvark Abatement in progress!
There are horrible crashes, clangs, and grinding noises coming from the basement as the Aardvark Asbestos Abatement Company destroys our 100-year-old boiler. 

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September 5th, 2014

10:53 pm - I just wanted to say...
... that the season finale of Season 2 of "Orange is the New Black" is the best season finale ever made.

There may have been times during the season where I thought that plot lines, characters, themes were sort of running in place or even turning up blind alleys. But no. Nothing was running in place. Every episode, every apparent throwaway flashback or seeming non-sequitor, was going somewhere after all. So many characters, so many stories, and somehow all the storylines converged into one in the space of an hour without even seeming rushed, and everything that needed to happen...did. OMFG, what a great episode!

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04:43 pm - Creepy... cool ... creepy... cool .... creepy.
Google knows it is my birthday. Of course they do. What don't they know about me? But changing the Google logo to say "Happy Birthday, Sharon!" when I bring up the Google page?  No. That is not warm and friendly; it's just creepy. 

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August 24th, 2014

04:03 pm - HOBT is in trouble
I saw in the Strib that HOBT (Heart of the Beast Theater) is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy due to loss of some long-term grant money and devaluation of their theater building. If I read the article correctly, the entire staff, including the co-founder and director, has been laid off but are continuing to work as volunteers. They're trying to focus the resources they have left on 1) fulfilling ongoing commitments for community art projects in progress and 2) keeping Powderhorn May Day afloat.

I had stopped donating to them a few years ago (except for money in the bucket at May Day) because they simply would not understand that "anonymous donation" meant not pestering donors constantly for more money. But this is just too sad; I'll forgive them and give them another chance. They probably don't have enough staff left to make fund raising calls any more anyway. I just made a substantial donation online.  I hope those of you who have the means will do the same.
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August 20th, 2014

10:53 pm - Latest TV discovery (yet another doomed little series)
Browsing through Amazon Prime video offerings I discovered a little gem called "Family Tree." It's an 8-episode mini-series by Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, etc). The first episode was quirky and charming and I think I'll just go watch another. It's also available from Netflix, but only on DVD.

When I first enrolled in Amazon Prime there wasn't a lot available that wasn't also on Netflix streaming. But as the months roll by, I am seeing more and more Amazon Prime "exclusives." I may just have to keep it. 

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August 15th, 2014

11:39 pm - Matthew Mcconaughey fan?
Then don't miss Dallas Buyers' Club ( which I just watched). And if you haven't seen Matthew McConaughey since his '90's pretty boy roles (or ever), don't miss Magic Mike (the movie that introduced me to McConaughey, as he somehow managed to steal the show from the astonishing Channing Tatum).

This is why I still keep my Netflix DVD subscription. Wow. Great movie.

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August 7th, 2014

03:57 pm - Hooray!
My Minicon 50 registration check has finally been cashed. I can balance my checkbook again.

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August 4th, 2014

03:19 pm - Fringe Plans for Monday
I've never had so much trouble trying to fit together a Fringe schedule. There are quite a few things that I want to see, but they are all at the wrong time or in the wrong place. Just no flow. The best I can come up with for this evening is one show that I really want to see but will have to leave work in the next 45 minutes to make followed by 2 more shows that I don't really care about but they're close by.

5:30 All Night Radio  (Theatre Garage)
7pm Rewind-a-Buddy (Music Box)
8:30 Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend (Music Box)

If Rewind-A-Buddy is as dumb as it sounds it might be replaced by dinner at Ping's. Actually, that sounds pretty good, as I finish my lunch of protein bar and carrot juice.

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12:28 pm - Top Fringe Recommendation
So far the best thing we've seen is Fifth Planet, at TRP.  Haven't had time to write real reviews yet, but I wanted to get my recommendation out before their second show, at 2:3p today. It's an absolutely pitch-perfect, subtle relationship comedy/drama.

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July 26th, 2014

08:56 pm - Iowa Road Trip Part 4 - Owatonna
The last stop of our great Iowa Road Trip was actually in Minnesota. We stopped in Owatonna for dinner and what turned out to be a lovely evening. I found the sushi restaurant (Mizuki Fusion) on Yelp, where the reviews tended towards "surprisingly good sushi for rural Minnesota." Let's just dispense with the obligatory big-city condescension and say that the sushi was every bit as good as city sushi. The fried wonton appetizer was the 2nd best fried tofu I've had (and it's really hard to beat Peninsula for that).
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After dinner we strolled across the street to the Historic Central Park Bandstand for a free outdoor concert. While we listened, I wandered around taking pictures of the Historic Fountain (restored in 1977) and the Historic Baby Alligator Water Fountains (1904). Owatonna is proud of its history, and there are plaques everywhere.
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Then, it being Golden Hour and all, I started in on the obviously old, handsome, and well-preserved downtown buildings (which probably had plaques too, but I didn't walk over to see). The most striking one turned out to be an architectural landmark even to people who are not from Owatonna. Can you identify the Louis Sullivan "jewel box"?
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July 20th, 2014

03:31 pm - Road Trip part 3 - The High Trestle Trail
Finally we get to the centerpiece of this trip - the High Trestle Trail. This is one of Iowa's newer Rails to Trails efforts, and it's a beauty! The trail itself is fairly long, but we just rode the segment between Woodward and Madrid where the High Trestle is (round trip 13 miles). The Woodward trailhead is great - parking, green space, flush toilets and picnic tables. It's less than 3 miles to the main attraction - The Trestle.
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The bridge is just beautiful, decorated with concrete pillars with shiny stuff embedded in them and these crazy self-rusting decorative... arches?  Not sure what to call them. But the best thing about the bridge is the silence. I've been on bridges that high before, but not without the roar of traffic. This is just bikes and peds.
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And when we finally get to Madrid (rhymes with "bad kid"), we find the best amenity of all - a trailside bar. With Blue Moon on tap!
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03:09 pm - Road Trip to Des Moines - The State Capitol

Thursday was our Big Day. We got up early, took advantage of the better-than-average free breakfast in the lobby, and were checked out by 9am. Our first adventure of the day was a tour of the spectacular state capitol. This has to be the best tourist deal in Iowa - the tour guide obviously loves his job and the whole thing was free. It really is quite a building. If Minnesota thinks it's going to catch up with Iowa in the upcoming capitol building renovation I hope they have invested in a ton of gold leaf.

The first floor looks pretty much like any stately government building if you don't peer too closely at the ornamentation on the ceilings and door frames.
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Things get more excessiveCollapse )
But once you head up the stairs to the 2nd floor things get really out of hand. Those hand-painted frescoes around the top of the rotunda representing "the functions of government" are a great example of what happens when the repressed sexuality of the Victorian era meets classical art under the guise of sober civic reflection.

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 The hike between the House and Senate Chambers is decorated with incredibly elaborate Italian-made mosaics, topped with more gilding. The Chambers themselves do not disappoint.
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Our tour guide informs us that this is "the most photographed law library in the world." I'm not surprised. All it needs is an orangutan librarian to make it complete. Click through on this picture to see the incredible spiral staircase that appears to be the only way to reach the stacks on the upper level. There's another one just like it at the other end of the library.

And finally, if you have the stamina, you can run up a completely different spiral staircase (103 steps!) to the Whispering Gallery way up under the dome. I went up - Richard waited below.
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02:45 pm - Road Trip to Des Moines - Wednesday
If you can have fun on a trip to Des Moines, you can have fun anywhere, right?  Well, we had fun. Briefly, we drove to Des Moines to use up a free hotel night that was worth more in Iowa than in Minnesota. The centerpiece of the trip was actually a bike ride on the High Trestle Trail north of Des Moines, which did not disappoint. But for bonus fun we stopped on the way down to bike at a MN state park, visited the Science Center of Iowa, and enjoyed an excellent tour of the spectacular Iowa capitol building. Oh, and had a lovely evening in Owatonna on the way home.

Driving down we marvelled at the fighter jet sculpture at the Owatonna airport and an enormous wind farm just south of the Iowa border. The weather was picture-book perfect the whole way.
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We stopped at Myre Big Island State Park just outside Albert Lea for a little biking. It was very scenic, but hillier than anticipated, so our 5-6 mile ride pretty much wore us out.
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After our biking stop it was only another 2 hours to Des Moines. Checked into our hotel (Residence Inn Des Moines) and wandered over to the nearby Iowa Science Center. The museum was definitely kid stuff, but amusing enough for a quiet evening. We really enjoyed the Imax Show: Mysteries of the Unseen World.
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A lively restaurant/bar district was just a short walk from the hotel on Court St. We had a delicious dinner at Dos Rios Cantina. The empanadas were a work of art. Finished up Wednesday evening in the hotel hot tub, which we had all to ourselves.
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July 10th, 2014

12:16 pm - Free storage space!
Nice 2-door oak cabinet, probably meant for wall mounting, but we just had it sitting on top of some shelves. We need that space for something else, so would like to give away this cabinet. Will advertise on freecycle if I don't get a response here. Or maybe just leave it out at the curb.


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July 6th, 2014

09:35 pm - Another vacation to use up free nights - how about Des Moines?
The trip to Chicago happened because I got these credit cards that gave me free Hilton nights, and one thing led to another. That mini-vacation was such a success that I think it's time for another, albeit more modest one. I have a free night to use up at a Marriott Category 4 hotel. Turns out that Cat 4 doesn't go very far in Minnesota (even Duluth has no Marriotts below Cat 5!). Oh, but what of our gentle neighbor to the south? All sorts of possibilities.

We like to take overnight bike trips, sleeping in a nice hotel or B&B rather than on the ground by the bikes. I'm kind of tired of Lanesboro and realized that if we're willing to drive to Lanesboro it's only a stone's throw further to Iowa. So I'm thinking of a trip to Des Moines, stopping along the way at Big Island State Park in Minnesota and the High Trestle Bridge Trail in Iowa. It appears to be only 3-4 hours to Des Moines, so even with a biking stop along the way we should have time for a little touristing and a nice meal.

I have my eye on The Residence Inn Des Moines, which looks quite pleasant. Any ideas for spending a day or so in Des Moines?

The hotel says, "The NEW Residence Inn by Marriott, the only all- suite, extended stay hotel in downtown Des Moines sits on the scenic river, close to Principal Park, Court Avenue Entertainment District, Science Center of Iowa and the Iowa Events Center "

So in the absence of a better idea, I'm thinking Science Center of Iowa sounds promising. Some place air-conditioned would probably be a good idea, considering the climate in Iowa. Any ideas from Iowa folks?

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