Thursday, March 31, 2005

Spring Fling

It's that time of year again.

The last couple of years it's been a cardinal, I think. Maybe I remember wrong. But this year, it's a robin.

In the morning, when the light is just right (wrong?) this robin keeps flinging himself against one of our living room windows. Hurling himself over and over again at what I assume is his reflection.

He lands in the pine tree a few feet outside the window, eyes the window, and attacks. Thump! Thump! Thump!

It's funny at first. After a while it becomes pretty annoying.

The switch on my Rio Riot broke. I had a hunch it would at some point. I asked around about Single Pole, Triple Throw switches -- couldn't find any the right size. Well, since one of the settings was for "Lock" which I don't use, I decided to go with an SPDT switch. Got one at Radio Shack -- a little too big but I figured I'd make it fit.

So, I went to put it in last night. Used some enameled wire to solder to the contacts and ran them to the switch -- worked great.

Until I started to put it back together.

in all the jockying around I had to do to get the switch to fit, one of the wires broke. I knew that was a possibility since it's just mono-filament copper wire. I just didn't think I'd have to do that much wiggling.

So, I decided to pull it off. First big mistake. Should have de-soldered. But I didn't think the solders were that good and I thought the wires would just pop off. That was true for one of the contacts... not so much for the other. It ended up ripping the contact off of the printed circuit board.

Fortunately, I found the copper path (which had partially peeled up) that lead to that contact. But it was fragile. I tried supergluing it back down to the board. I soldered some multi-strand insulated wire to that and the other two contacts and hooked up the switch. Worked fine. Turns on, turns off.

I ended up having to modify the shell a bit to accomodate the switch. So, three hours later....

Put the whole thing back together. It turns on. Matter of fact, it now won't turn off. Which was my problem before I ever started. Further, while the computer recognizes the Rio Riot, the Red Chair software I'd bought to manage it would not connect to it. And on top of that, the selector rotary dial doesn't work.

It may be hosed.

And I got an email from Jeff this morning telling me he found some switches that might work better. That's what I get for my impatience.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Well, I wanted to wait until everyone who wouldn't be upset if they didn't hear it first hand had heard it, but some of Brian's unit (including Brian) got called up to go to Iraq later this year, apparently to train Iraqi soldiers to help them secure their own country.

Well, that's what everyone says is the most important thing to do, no matter which group you side with.

Unless you side with terrorists, of course.

Brian's eager to do his part. If you have an extra thought or prayer to share, though, please feel free :-)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Take Me Back to Chicago

Back in college my favorite group was Chicago. Now, mind you, when most people think of Chicago they think of one of about 5 songs, usually. And their popular songs are great (especially through the 70's) -- but I'm talking about the incredible, soulful jams that only people who've heard the whole albums would know. Like "South California Purples" -- especially the live version on Chicago 4.

All the albums through Chicago 8, (9 is a greatest hits album), then 11 is pretty good. And after that, the only one that stands out is Chicago 16 -- not because it's anything like the first 8, but because of it's sheer excellent pop polish. Right after that they added more sugar to the pop and they crashed fast and hard with 17. Which, ironically, was the only time I got to see them. At that point, to me, it wasn't even Chicago anymore. I figured 17 was a good breaking point because Cetera left after that one -- not that he wasn't largely responsible for the schlocky sound of 17. (No offense to Peter - they were very GOOD at the schmaltzy sound, I just don't particularly care for it.)

Anyway, I've been listening to them on Rhapsody the last couple of days. I have all of these (up to 17) on vinyl, but they vinyl collection's kinda hard to get to, and records are just more trouble than CDs and mp3s.

Chicago V, VI, VII, and VIII are probably my favorites. After Chicago 8 (with the exceptions of 11 & 16) there were a few pretty good hit songs but the rest of the stuff between was musically ... um... boring? Nothing like the great music you'll hear on VII, for instance.

Freakin' great stuff with actual melodies (which you pretty much don't hear anyomore outside of country music) and texture and improvisation. Fancy Colours indeed!

Anyway, it's reminding me a lot of my college days (good and bad) -- how many people who went to college in the 1980's are reminded of them by old Chicago music from the 1970's? Kinda funny.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Hangovers... I remember those

I guess I got a little overconfident this weekend with the whiskey. My tolerance is not nil, and there's always been this little meter on my brain that tells me when to slow down. Plus I usually drink a lot of water.

Well, apparently that meter was broken Saturday night, and I was too out of it and queasy to drink the gatorade/water when it was offered.

I felt a little woozie going to bed - but it took me all day Sunday to recover. I did manage to get up and make the Snoopy Waffles for the kids. That's one thing they really look forward to at our house, and with all of the adult time we try to work in I wanted to make sure that they at least felt like coming here was something special. But as far as my stomach and head... what a waste of a day. Gonna have to get that meter checked. I haven't had one of those in a long time. And it hadn't been long enough.

Had the Groves over Saturday/Sunday. Did some marinated chicken on the grill for dinner. Mark and I wandered back into the woods in the creekbed behind our house with the kids. Nathanial thought it was "camping". Of course Mark and I both have fond memories of traipsing around in our respective woods and playing in creekbeds when we were little. And naturally there was a lot of "look what I'm doing! Papa! Unco Pheo... look!"

There were naturally the requisite music sessions. I picked up a Cmaj7 from Cami, which is cool, and we learned what to call the funky chord (or one name for it) in "Horse With No Name" -- apparently it's a D+6+9. Which does NOT make it a D15 ;-) It's good to have songs everyone knows -- and "Peaceful Easy Feeling" is always a fun one to do. A little "Uncle John's Band", too. Cami's pretty proud of her finger callouses -- I remember those days. Mine are apparently pretty good as mine never really never got sore all weekend.

We watched "The Incredibles" last night. We missed it in the theaters. It was quite funny. Got some pretty good socio-political jabs in there, too.

We'll, I'm off.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


It's St. Patrick's day. Yes, I'm wearing a green shirt. Ok, AND a green earring.

Altan is probably my favorite Celtic group. I fired up Rhapsody this morning, and lo and behold Altan has a new album out this year called "Local Ground". Forunately, with Rhaspody, I get to listen to it now.

Of course, it's excellent. :-)

I brought in some of my Celtic Fiddlefest CDs as well, and some Chieftains.

It promises to be a very green day. (No, I left THEM home today :-) )

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mike the TD

Vicki's cousin Mike -- like a second cousin or first cousin once removed or however that works.... came into town yesterday. He's a free-lance technical director for Television shows. He was here working the NIT tournament for ESPN (Mizzou was eliminated last night in the first round -- big surprise there).

He showed us the inner workings of the "trailer" -- basically a big control room in a tractor trailer. When they park it, one side extends like an expensive RV to make the interior bigger -- and they put stairs on to get in and out of the doors. Cameras and expensive electronic equipment is stored below -- and inside is this television studio. There were about 70 8" television monitors in there, and he sits in front of this massive control board. The producer sits to the far left, the director in the middle, and Mike -- the Technical Director -- sits in the control seat.

The producer decides which direction the telecast is going to go -- what kinds of things they will focus on. The director decides which shots & graphics will best fit that story, and it's Mike's job to make it happen. All those screen wipes, graphics, and bugs that come up on your screen... scores, stats, replays... all Mike. Cool.

We took him to Murry's for dinner -- he had about a 90 minute break after the place got set up, then he had to be back in the trailer 2 hours before the show.

Had a nice time with him at dinner. He showed us some family pics on his laptop -- and we went home. He's already in Vegas for the next game today.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Weekend Update

Well, I spent a lot of Saturday and a little of Sunday cleaning the garage. I got some containers to organize -- did some organizing, threw some stuff out, and I'm still at it. Another day or two half days ought to do it.

I hurt my back walking the trail with Vicki last weekend -- an old injury from picking up a concrete bird bath pedestal many years ago (lift with your legs! Not your back!). As long as I keep my back muscles strong, it's not a problem -- guess they got weak, and I walked funny for 5 miles in shoes that didn't fit right....

Still hurts.

Got sound working with the WinTV card... and my first project is to transfer Vicki's Tae Bo tapes to DVD before they deteriorate more. Still haven't figured out how to get the software to compress to MPEG while recording (instead of AVI). The current recording method requires about 1.7 - 2 gig a minute at 640x480.

However, the Nero authoring tool is cool -- you can actually insert DVD chapters into what you recorded.

Our main DVD player, it turns out, isn't smart enough to play video CDs, so I have to burn them in real DVD format.

Friday, March 11, 2005

New Monitor

I try not to talk about work on this blog.... however, I did get a new monitor at work today, so now I have two. So that's kind of exciting. I have joined the Über Geek Club, I guess.

Anyway, for those of you curious, here's me at work in my office -- with my new monitor.

What am I gonna do with all that real estate?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Dierdre Flint

I got a hilarious email this morning with a link to a song by a lady named Dierdre Flint. Ok, the song was hilarious, not the email. It was about all the junk you get in your email, done to the tune of the Irish Washerwoman.

It's called "The Irish Email Song".

The irony of getting the link in an email is not lost on me.

I looked her up on the web. She's hilarious. There are several other songs out there that are just as funny.

I don't generally plug stuff on my blog, but -- I enjoyed this too much.


I forgot to mention, when we were out at Mom and Dad's over the weekend, Joel and dad moved this concrete statue of a horse, maybe 3 feet high... it had been up near the porch. They moved it down into the yard by the bird feeder.

Now this horse is posed reared up on its hind legs. Still, it's small, concrete, and doesn't move. I wouldn't have thought that real horses would pay it any attention.

Well let me tell you, they got pretty riled up about it.

Prancing, running around with their heads held high and their tails sticking out, stopping and snorting at it... it was hilarious.

Here's a few pictures I took while we were out there for those of you looking:

Monday, March 07, 2005


Went out to Mom and Dad's Saturday and took out the shelf and TV they "ordered" through us ;-)

It was a nice day and a pleasant visit. Joel and Dawn came out as well. Had BBQ'd chicken for dinner. Sat and talked, looked at a slide show of pictures on the new TV/VCR/DVD combo, took a little tour of the place on the 'gator. It's kind of like a little 4-wheel-drive utility golf-cart.

The afternoon sun was nice on the porch, which faces pretty much west. I grabbed my guitar out of the trunk and sat and played it while we talked for a while. Did little things like flip a gate (that was upside) down over, put the shelf up, clean the cast-iron grill (which will now need re-seasoning).

Sunday we did some stuff around the house, then went and drove by a house that is for sale near Rocheport (not a very nice house) and took about a 5 mile walk on the MU/Columbia walking trail down the hill from us. It was 67 degrees yesterday. We're expecting snow tomorrow night. Welcome to Missouri.

I played with my new WinTV card last night. Couldn't get the sound to work. Guess I'll have to read the manual ;-) In my defense, I did read it some last night. Might not integrate with my external sound card right.

Been playing with "New World in the Morning" and "Durham Town" on the guitar -- both of which force me to work on my barred "F", which is getting better but I've been saying that for two years now so you can see how slowly it's getting better. Still, I think I'll have it in another 9 or so months and then the fretboard will be opened up a bit more for me.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Arlo Guthrie

Some Arlo Guthrie tickets fell into our laps yesterday afternoon for the show last night at Jesse.

I wasn't all super-excited or anything, but I like Arlo's stuff and the tickets were free, so I went, sans expectations. Which, incidentally, is a good way to go into anything like this -- if you want my advice.

Not surprisingly, the show was very good. Arlo is a great story teller and he's a pretty genuine human being. He talked about his first public gig (outside of coffee house gigs) being in Columbia, MO in 1965 -- 40 years ago. He had also written a song about how as he gets older -- friends die off, and he dedicated it to Gerome Wheeler (not by name, but a local musician who just died and he clearly knew who he was). Wonder if he knows Lee? Wouldn't surprise me.

No "Alice's Restaurant" -- which I'm sure dissapointed a lot of people who went there to hear that -- can you imagine how sick and tired he must be of that song? I mean, he DID do others. Lots of them.

Well, now it looks like we get to go to see Trinity Irish Dance on the 31st with Mary.

We are lucky people.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Heartburn (not) on the Diet

Since being on this South Beach thing, neither Vicki nor I (neither, nor indeed!) have had heartburn. It was something we both had frequently before. We have had none -- zero, since we began this diet Jan 24. Used to be several times a week. Tagamet and Tums were staple items in our house. And it ain't the caffienated coffee, because I'm still drinking that same as before.

Now we weren't on a high fat diet before, but we sure ate a lot of pre-prepared foods - which, as I mentioned before, is the down-side of this diet. More food preparation. More time in the kitchen. Not that we spent a lot of time in it before. What I try to do is cook chicken breasts en masse, then cube them and flash freeze them to use on salads. I do a couple of heads of mashed cauliflower at a time as well and freeze it in little containers, about 2 servings per. And when I chop vegetables (peppers, squash, eggplant, onion) I chop a bunch up, and flash-freeze for later convenience.

Wondering what I mean by flash-freeze? Spread the chopped up stuff on a cookie sheet or similar flat item, one layer thick if you can, and freeze it. Then pull it out and put the frozen stuff in a ziplock or other bag and throw it back in the freezer. The reason you do it this way is so that it doesn't all freeze together and you can take as much or as little out of the bag at a later date, depending on what you need.

So what we'll do is grab a few hands-full of vegetables from the freezer and saute them, heat up some of the pre-prepared mashed cauliflower or other frozen veggie and do some lean ground sirloin or fish or pork chops (the "miriacle thaw" comes in real handy here when we don't think ahead to thaw something) on the little Foreman Grill and dinner can be prepared pretty fast with all that chopping out of the way.

I also chop up buckets full of lettuce and veggies ahead of time for the salads we have for lunch. Then in the morning throw about 3 or so cups of lettuce in a container, 1 cup of frozen chicken breast cubes, grab some sugar free jello (and now that we're on Phase II) an apple and a slice of whole wheat bread -- and lunch (and morning and afternoon snacks) is done. Vicki grabs celery and that famous Laughing Cow cheese.

And I make up the breakfast quiches ahead of time as well. Grab a few of those and a slice of canadian bacon and your V8 and you're good to go. Boiled eggs are also a staple I keep done up ahead of time. The key is to make efficient use of your time in the kitchen so that you have to spend less time when you get up or get home tomorrow night and make it much easier on yourself to make good food choices. When alf the preparation is done ahead of time, it's easy to have a good (and good for you) meal.

Just as an example, the other night I spent an hour in the kitchen making bread (bread machine) cooking chicken breasts, boiling eggs, and making Jello, and slicing lettuce and radishes. A couple of nights before I steamed up two heads of cauliflower -- didn't feel like mashing them right then, stuck them in the fridge. Last night I decided to use some, so I went ahead and mashed ALL of it -- which didn't take too long -- while I was preparing the rest of dinner -- and froze what we didn't use last night.

It's been good for us. I lost my 12 lbs, Vicki's lost about 12. I am back to being able to have a beer at night, too :-)

Oh, the other thing we discovered (well, this was before we went on the diet, but it's come in real handy on the diet) -- flavored sparkling water. Mendota and La Croix -- natural fruit flavored sparkling water. No calories. No artificial flavors. No sodium. Just mildly naturally flavored fizzy water. Feels more like a snack, and I like it as well as soda. Maybe even better. Mendota has lemon and lime and La Croix has lemon, lime, orange, and berry (they both have unflavored) -- all of which are good.

So, like they say, this is not so much a diet as it is "changing the way we eat". Changing what makes up the majority of our diet. You're not really "depriving" yourself, you're eating a better balanced variety of food -- most of the time it's not pizza or breaded cheese sticks -- but it can be sometimes, in the long run.