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Sharon Kahn

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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?
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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.

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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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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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03:51 pm - Book reshelving almost done... any advice on where to buy paperback shelves??
Okay, all the sff paperbacks are on shelves with their spines visible! Well, for certain values of "all."  I'm not counting the anthologies, but those will fit on the shelves downstairs in the den if I don't find a better place for them. And, most important, I'm not counting the probably THOUSANDS of books that Richard has hidden away in the den - many of them on shelves but probably not all of them. These are newer, bloated size paperbacks, mostly of a genre I have no interest in. So for the purposes of this project I'm pretending they don't exist, except for when I find little caches of books that I feel are longing to be reunited with their sisters in the back room (like all that Mercedes Lackey).

However, I am not satisfied with the way things are arranged: A's and B's in the hall, B's in the shelf by the attic step, C's and D's on the shelves in the middle of the office, and so on. I want them to flow logically from A-Z, and I'd rather not use so many of the hardback-sized shelves for paperbacks.

So ideally I will finish up this project by adding a new set of paperback shelves in the hall where the tipsy pile of books and comics used to be. Unfortunately, as far as I know, nobody actually sells paperback shelves. The best I can probably do is a much-too-deep cabinet with movable shelves (and preferably extra shelves for sale as piece parts). Width should be somewhere between 36-41" and height between 45" and 60". Ideally, depth would be no more than 6" but I don't think anybody sells shelves like that. Depth could be as much as 11-1/2" without exceeding the space. Richard has some in the den that more or less fill the bill (except that they are in use, of course). He thinks he got them at Menards. Anybody have any other suggestions?

ETA: It looks like the best bet is to search for DVD or "multi-media" storage units. I still find it mind-boggling that NOBODY makes shelves for paperback storage, but as far as I can tell that is in fact the case. And even compact DVD shelves are hard to come by. A CD/DVD case is less than 6" deep, but most of the storage systems have shelves that are 9.5" deep. Why??

But this one doesn't look too bad. The shelves are only 7" deep and adjustable and the whole unit is about the size I want. I'm more in the mood to just go out and BUY the shelves I want, put them together and finish this project. But if that is just impossible, I can order these.

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July 5th, 2014

12:03 pm - Clean car, clean shelves
But when I creaked out of bed this morning, every muscle in my body ached. Lordy, who would have thought that vacuuming out a car and moving books from shelf to shelf used so MANY different muscles??

The car looks wonderful - vacuumed, wiped down and with brand new rubber floor mats installed. The shelves of books are all clean and sparkly, but still not done. There are 11 more shelves of Bs and Cs to move up from downstairs, and several boxes full of books that are no longer on the shelves that need to be dealt with.

The best is the box of duplicates. Every time I find another another dup it's a little moment of Easter Egg joy. Yay! Room for one more book on this shelf! This time I am putting little "dup" stickers on the ones I removed. I had a whole box of duplicates once before, and I think they all migrated back to the shelves again. 

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July 4th, 2014

12:01 pm - Fireworks, anybody?
Usually I attend fireworks displays semi-reluctantly, but go because Richard loves them so much. But he's at Convergence this weekend and I am not, so now I have to decide whether I care enough to seek out fireworks on my own. Haven't decided yet.

I hear that our usual venue, Powderhorn Park, isn't doing them this year.  Does anybody have a different one to recommend? Anybody mounting an expedition I could join?

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11:46 am - Decluttering report
Encouraged by vgqn's similar efforts, I thought I'd start posting my progress too. Current project started as an effort to Do Something about the tall teetery pile of books and comics on top of a shelf unit in the upstairs hall. Ultimately, I moved all the non-sff books to the bookshelf in the living room, giving away 4-5 boxes of books that were filling that shelf to capacity and beyond. At one point there were actually 2 or 3 empty shelves in that unit!  (Not any more - I filled them yesterday with another surprise cache of non-sff).

Current project is to get all the sf&f paperbacks shelved in alphabetical order. This used to be the case, but more and more books arrived and long ago overran the alphabet shelves. I've spent probably 8 hours of the last week sorting and dusting. Just vacuuming the disgusting layer of dust off the tops of each shelf of books is amazingly time consuming.

I boxed up all the sf magazines (Analog and others) - haven't entirely decided whether to keep them or give them away. In some ways, these magazines are more worth keeping than the books, since they contain many stories that were never published anywhere else and would be hard to find again.

Still not enough room. Then I had the bright idea of making room on the alphabet shelves by pulling out Special Collections and putting them elsewhere. Brilliant! I decided to move sets of books that could reasonably be classified as children's books into the paperback shelves behind the door in Amber's room. There were some books on those shelves, but mostly miscellaneous junk. I relocated all the Andre Norton (2 shelves worth!), a shelf of Oz books, another shelf of Tarzan and Conan books. Still not enough. So I reclassified the Lovecraft Collection as part of the Vintage Fantasy Collection (Lin Carter, A. Merritt, et al) and parked those in there too. There might possibly be enough room now to get A-Z into the 2nd floor shelves. Much more dusting and book-hauling on the agenda for today. 

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July 1st, 2014

01:30 pm - #FacebookExperiment - what exactly did they do?
I have now read multiple reports of the Facebook experiment where Facebook "manipulated users' newsfeeds" to see how it affected their emotional state. I am mildly appalled but not even a tiny bit surprised. But I am having a hard time figuring out what they actually did. I gather that it was an unusually badly designed experiment based on counting words without regard to context, which means it proved exactly nothing. Kind of a bad ROI for riling up the membership. But what did they DO?

It is my understanding that the Facebook "News Feed" is actually where you read posts from your friends. So were they DELETING posts from friends that had the "wrong" emotional values for this particular subject? Were they moving the placement of the posts so they were less likely to be seen? Or were they actually editing the posts - removing keywords like "happy" and "sad?"  Or maybe they were adding posts from fake users to change the emotional balance of the newsfeed?

Facebook users (you know who you are), do you know whether your posts were altered or deleted? Does it matter to you?

supergee, I borrowed your facebook tag format. I hope you don't mind. It cracks me up every time I see it.

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June 30th, 2014

01:21 pm - Last chance for Fringe Ultrapass at discount price
A couple of years ago, the Fringe Festival hiked up the cost of their all-you-can-eat Ultrapass to a price higher than I was willing to pay ($255). But they offer a pre-season special price of $175, which is still in the reasonable range for people who are pretty sure they will see at least 15-20 shows. Anyway, if you're interested, the pre-season special is now open to anybody. Here's the link:

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June 28th, 2014

06:39 pm - What to do with boxes of old sf magazines?
I'm cleaning off shelves again. Just spent the day vacuuming the dust off of about 15 shelf-feet of old SF magazines (mostly 1960s-1980s, but some outliers from the 50's and some newer). About 3/4 of them are Analog SF, but there's a whole Cub box full of miscellaneous titles. Condition varies, but mostly in the Fair/Good/Very Good range.

If anybody would like some of these, please speak up. If there is interest I could bring them to a Minnstf meeting, but I'm not going to lug them around if nobody wants them.

Any suggestions where to donate them? 

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12:07 pm - And here's an example of why you need Internet Explorer, even if you hate it
In a recent grumbly post about setting up a new computer I mentioned that I had spent a massive amount of time getting Internet Explorer to work even though I rarely use it, and minnehaha asked why I needed it.  Today I ran into another example of why. I was trying to submit a form on the American Airlines site about missing bonus miles. Using my preferred browser (Chrome) I filled out and submitted the form, only to get a message saying, "System Error. This feature is currently unavailable. Please wait a few moments and try again."

So I waited about 20 minutes and tried again (this time taking the precaution of saving the text I had typed in). Again, same failure. So I cranked up IE and tried one more time. Worked perfectly. Notice that the original error message said nothing about unsupported browsers. They probably had never bothered to test their stupid software with anything but IE, so they didn't even KNOW what browsers they supported.


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June 27th, 2014

05:56 pm - The Historic Palmer House - the Sistine Chapel of Hotels
Lots of hotels like to tack "Historic" onto the front of their names, but there's no disputing that this one has earned the moniker.It was built in 1871 by Potter Palmer, one of those larger-than-life Gilded Age tycoons that didn't do anything halfway. Potter built the hotel as a wedding gift for his bride Bertha (a pretty remarkable character in her own right). Not wanting his gift to seem chintzy, he made it the biggest hotel in the world. It opened on Sept 26, 1871. 13 days later it burned down in the Great Chicago Fire. That's the 19th century for you.

Undeterred, Palmer took out the largest individual loan that had ever been secured and rebuilt it, even bigger and grander than before, with part of the floor paved in silver dollars. Bertha had a wonderful time decorating it in typical restrained Gilded Age style, and everybody from Ulysses S. Grant to Oscar Wilde stayed there. In the 1920's, the Palmers having amassed even more money than they had before, they expanded and gradually rebuilt the entire thing. This time they hired a French muralist to make the lobby look like a rococo 18th-century French palace.

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June 25th, 2014

02:12 pm - Richard's a star! Watch this video!
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June 23rd, 2014

10:21 pm - By Train to Chicago
We took the Empire Builder to Chicago, and it was fun. We departed from the recently refurbished Union Depot, which was honestly kind of a disappointment. Somehow they have taken one of those impressive old vaulted train stations and made it totally, boringly bland. Except for the mustard colored ceiling, which is the only color ever invented that can clash with beige. *meh*

The coach seats are about the size of 1st-class seats on a plane but with much bigger windows. And best of all, there is an electrical outlet at each seat for keeping your devices charged. Important, since there is no wifi. If buses can have wifi, why not trains?  Huh.

The best place to spend time is the Observation Lounge, especially when the train is largely empty (as it was on Thursday). Half the car is little seats aimed at the humungous windows. There are tables in the back half of the car where you could eat lunch or play games. But time goes fast if you just zone out and stare at the scenery zipping by in front of your eyes.

Lots of sad trees with their feet in the water, and drowned bushes. It was a hard winter, but sometimes spring can be even crueler. And finally - the money shot. Hi there,  Wisconsin Dells! Zow. It went by so fast on the way down that I missed the shot. But on the way home I was ready for it.

008_Train010_ChicagoThat's Milwaukee on the left. Click through to the larger picture and you'll see the unmistakable Miller sign in the background. And finally we coast in to the REAL Union Station right next to the Chicago River.

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June 22nd, 2014

10:27 pm - Note to self - Huh?
I have spent all day cleaning the room I refer to as "my office" and it really doesn't look much different. *sigh*

In the process, I opened up a little door and found a pink post-it stuck to the inside, you know, the way you do with Top Secret Info. On the post-it is written (in my handwriting):  "Amber 892002, Thorin 560873."

I have not the slightest idea what this means. But I'm afraid that if I throw it away, it will immediately become obvious why I needed to know this.

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June 20th, 2014

04:46 pm - New Computer Blues
Mostly, I love my new laptop. There's just one little problem and it is driving me nuts. I can find lots of indications online that many other people have had the same problem, but no solutions. It probably doesn't even matter, cause I pretty much hate Internet Explorer.... but every now and then you really have to have it.

Here's the deal. My laptop came with Windows 7 Professional installed, complete with Internet Explorer 10, which worked fine. Until the first time I rebooted, and Windows helpfully installed 60+ Important Updates. After the reboot, Internet Explorer was dead in the water, claiming "This Page Can't Be Displayed." Note that there is nothing wrong with the internet connection. Firefox and Chrome are working fine.

I finally gave up and restored to an earlier checkpoint before the Windows updates and IE immediately started working again. I unchecked the box in IE that says "update automatically" and rebooted. Again with the huge Windows Update. And again, IE was dead. This time IE itself had not been upgraded, but one of the dozens of other updates makes it not work.

I have tried every cockamamie suggestion I found online, and none of them have helped. Once IE is dead it is DEAD. I tried downgrading it back to IE9 and IE8. Didn't matter. With the killer update in the system, IE will not work on Windows 7.

Anybody familiar with this issue?

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June 18th, 2014

05:15 pm - Shopping for new computer
Isn't it always the way? You buy something expensive, and the new acquisition immediately starts demanding new stuff of its own.

I'm kind of amazed at what's out there, though - how teeny everything is getting. I deliberately decided to buy a laptop that was powerful but lean. Rather than lugging around the extra weight of an internal DVD drive and hard disk, I figured I would buy separate peripherals  and attach them only when needed. I was thinking of the 3TB Seagate drive (about the size of a trade paperback) or the noisy old DVD drive (about twice the size of the Seagate drive). Turns out if I want to I can buy a 1TB portable drive no bigger than my iPhone and an external DVD drive no bigger than an old-fashioned CD case.

But the first thing I need is a nice USB hub to plug all this stuff into. 

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June 17th, 2014

08:09 pm - New computer!
My beloved old General Nano is 6-1/2 years old, and is starting to get creaky. It's always complaining about "not enough virtual memory," and various drivers have subtly gotten corrupted over the years. So, for instance, I can still print from Word, but only if I bypass the spooler by using the little print icon on the toolbar instead of the menu option. It probably needs a complete reinstall, but let's face it, reinstalling XP at this point seems a little silly. I couldn't decide what to do, so I kept putting it off.

When I realized that all the new computers were coming with Windows 8, I got depressed. Then I started thinking about finally getting a real laptop for traveling, and it all fell into place. If I got a BUSINESS laptop I could still get one with Windows7. And it would be powerful enough that I could plug it into my home monitor and use it as my primary computer. But I hate laptops. Hate the tiny flat keyboards and the trackpad. The only time I ever had a laptop I liked it had a weird little eraser-head in the middle of the keyboard that let you move the cursor around without moving your fingers from the keyboard! I wondered if they still make that thing? Well, it turns out they do. It's still called the Thinkpad, but IBM has sold that division to Lenovo.

Anyway, I decided the Lenovo T440s was just what I wanted. 14" screen, full-sized keyboard, eraser-head AND trackpad, 8G RAM and 6 hours of battery life. Not only that, I could order it on Amazon using gift cards I bought at Office Max with my Chase Ink card that gives me 5x Ultimate Reward Points (I've become a travel hacker, y'see). So I ordered it, and it's here! I'm now trying to figure it out. It has a very peculiar approach to the mouse buttons, but it seems to be pretty customizable.

It has things I didnt even think about, but they're cool. A built-in camera and microphone (maybe I can finally learn how to use Skype!). A FINGERPRINT READER! It's astoundingly light - under 4 pounds. The keyboard feels great (although still flat).

First thing I'm going to do now is download Firefox and Chrome so I can stop using Internet Explorer. Then I'm going to figure out the mouse buttons.

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June 4th, 2014

07:51 pm - Goin' to Chicago!
Strangely enough, I have lived in Minneapolis for more than 40 years and have NEVER touristed to Chicago! Well, okay, Thorin reminds me about that 5th grade chess tournament, during which he says we visited the aquarium. I do dimly remember sitting around in a hotel function room for many hours watching boys play chess, but I don't even remember the aquarium, so that doesn't count. I guess it counts for Thorin, but not for me.

Anyway, I had some free hotel nights to use up at ANY HILTON IN THE WORLD. Some people would have booked a flight to Paris, but I decided Chicago was adventurous enough. And then it occurred to me that we could take the train (which I can pay for with travel points on another credit card) and the whole trip is practically free.

So... tomorrow we are getting up early and taking the train to Chicago! I bought us a couple of 3-day Go-Chicago passes that allow us to gallop from one attraction to another until we are completely worn out. I have a tentative plan. If the train gets there on time, we should be able to make it from our hotel to the Art Institute, which happens to be open late Thursday night. If the train gets in late, which I gather has been known to happen, we'll just have a leisurely evening and take a trip up the Sears Tower on Sunday before we catch the train home. Day 3 was on sale, so one attraction breaks even.

The itinerary on the 2 full days in the middle is somewhat weather-dependent. If it's nice, more with the boat tours and bike rentals and zoos. If it's rainy or unbearably hot - more museum time. I had no idea Chicago was such a disneyland! 
Current Mood: excitedexcited

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June 1st, 2014

10:09 pm - Wow am I exhausted!

Delivered 4 boxes and two bags of books to the Women's Prison Book Project (thanx to magenta for the tip). I estimate about 300 books, all in the non-fsf category. The huge tippy pile of books at the top of the stairs is gone and there are even 2 or 3 half empty shelves! Vast amounts of dust was vacuumed up, and at least 3 bookcases in this house now have no double stacked books.

Not only that, I found three books I have been trying to find for years! And two books belonging to other people, one of which I have returned.

I'm not sure why this was such exhausting work. I guess a lot of bending and reaching, getting up and getting down, and running up and down stairs looking for vacuum cleaner attachments and empty boxes.

Any way, a good weekend's work.

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