Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chicago, Chicago

Went to Chicago for some training last week. Reason #2 I put the cruise control in. It worked great just like on the Nashville trip. I thought about going to the Arch on the way... I've yet to go up in the Arch. I ended up leaving later than I had expected, though as I was getting the new car all titled and registered before I left. At any rate, I figured the view from the arch would be better when it's not winter. Leaves and all, you know. Green.

And so it occurred to me during one of my constant ETA recalculations as I got to 370 in St Charles that if I didn't stop anywhere I might get to my destination AT 5:00 pm. Before I thought I'd be hitting the suburbs at about 5:00, but it was looking more like about 4:15. I really didn't go IN to Chicago. The training was in Shaumburg, about 25 miles up the west side suburbs. I pulled in to the parking lot at the Marriott at 5:01. Traffic was fine.

Listened to a lot of Chicago on the way up there, but I switched to Helen Forrest when I hit the suburbs to keep me cool and calm through any traffic snarls. The trip was fairly uneventful. It was my first trip north of St. Louis on I-55, so that was new, and of course I'd never really gone up to the Chicago area anyway.

Shedds closes at 5:00 during the winter, and I didn't even go downtown. My training went from 9-5, and by the time I finished dinner and all it was 7:30 or 8:00. I went to the RAM (Big Horn Brewing Company) both nights. The food was good, the beer was good, and the service was good. So what the heck.

I went to the IKEA store up there for about an hour both nights. Rob-Bob and Kathy had said they had gone and that these stores are rather unique... and I'd heard a story on NPR the other morning about it as well. It was there, and I didn't have anything else in particular to do. I ended up replacing our drinking glasses and tumblers. Ours were big and heavy, and kind of weighed down the dishwaser rack.

Had to drive back Friday night. I left at 5:15, went through friday evening rush-hour in the Chicago suburbs. As I figured it added about 45 minutes to the drive back. I was home at 12:15 am and in bed by 12:30.

Over the weekend we washed curtains and blinds and I re-repaired the water heater. It developed a slow leak again, so I replaced the cheap plastic gaskets with rubber ones. However, it still has a slow leak. Either I need fatter gaskets, or new screw holes closer to them to put the pressure closer in to the gasket. I think the problem is the resin, though high temperature resin, still warps a bit over time. With between the distance of the screws from the middle (where the gaskets are) and the heat, over time I figure it's warped slightly.

Brian is leaving Iraq soon. We'll be seeing him before we know it. I won't say the time flew.... but it did go faster than we expected. I think being able to stay in touch like you can these days helped.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Kid Weekend

No, nothing too exciting. Kevin called. He and Angela were headed into St. Louis this weekend to see "Rent", and needed someone to take care of Mia (Potato).

Mia is often called "Mia Potato" because she is the same color and is roughly shaped like that tuber that was so popular with the Irish.

Speaking of Irish, I made Corned Beef and Cabbage for St Patty's day, but of course Vicki and the kids weren't going to be back for dinner and so most of it was eaten tonight. So yesterday we took them to see the new Shaggy Dog movie, which has absolutely nothing to do with the original other than there's a guy who turns into a Shaggy Dog, and even the mechanism is completely different. Oh, there' was a reference to Tibet, but that's about as close as it got to "In canis corpus transmuto" (that's roughly the quote from the ring in the original movie). Oh, and Disney did both movies. Oh, and there was a D.A. in the sequel, and Tim Allen played a D.A.

Nathanial was unimpressed (that's putting it lightly). The target audience was probably more the 10-14 crowd. Cassie liked it. It had its humorous moments, but I'd recomend the original any day.

We watched Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire last night -- well most of it. Tired eyes about 2/3 of the way through lead to an overnight intermission. Of course, Snoopy waffles were eaten for breakfast both mornings (along with eggs and other good stuff).... By the way, were you aware that Cedrick dies in the movie? Yes. With his eyes opened, no less. Nathanial made sure we knew (many times) before (and when) it happened. He was funny. Well, the kid's only 6.

There was a thorntree forest built by Cassie in our back yard, and Nathanial's new monster truck terrorized the Williams' driveway on Saturday as we helped put siding up.

Then, insane people that we are, we (and Kristin) took them to Chuck E Cheese for lunch before taking them back to Mom and Dad. What a cacophany of activity! I was mentally prepared, though, and the pizza was actually not bad. I'm not going to go out on a limb and say it was pizza I'd recomend, but it should not be feared, especially if you have kids.

We were there a couple of hours. It was far more exciting for the kids than for us, but it was fun to see them having fun. I spent about $10 on tokens, and it was a cheap afternoon's entertainment.

We watched a couple of episodes of Survivorman this morning, and I noticed that the ones I'd recorded off of TDC said the FULL versions were available on the Science Channel (which we do not get) and they were a full hour. Perhaps I wouldn't be so disappointed with those.

Anyway... dat's it for now.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Take the last train to Nashville

Well I drove through Clarksville on the way.

Went down to Nashville to the HEUG/Alliance conference. They held it at the Gaylord Opryland hotel/resort/convention center, right next to the New Grand Ole Opry. Listened to a lot of the Lovin' Spoonful on the way down. Yup. Nashville Cats. Clean as Country Water.

I was expecting a largish hotel with garish, over the top country music themes. Boy, was I surprised. It has very clean, southern plantation architecture, and there are three garden areas with waterfalls, fountains, even a sort of "gondola" boat ride. The place is kept meticulously clean -- the surroundings were quite pleasant. A bit expensive, but pleasant.

This is not a work blog -- I don't really talk much about work - so I won't start now. Suffice it to say that I went to a lot of sessions and listened to people talk about stuff that was sometimes periferally related to what I do, and a couple that were closer and a little more interesting.

I took Tuesday afternoon to go to downtown Nashville -- though I didn't get there until about 3:00 and I needed to be back at the hotel by 6:30 or so for the Charlie Daniels/Jo Dee Messina concert that the conference put on for us at 7:00.

I went to the the Ernest Tubb record store to pick up a few guitar pics for myself and for Sam, who had given me his and said "just pick me up another when you go". I went into a few touristy shops, and then decided to hit a honky tonk bar. I walked by four of them and listened for the honki-tonkiest sound, and went into Tootsie's Orchid Lounge. The young bartender looked like she was about 15, but I'm getting older, so she probably wasn't. Another pretty young blonde her age got up and sang with the band of otherwise 50 and 60 something men. I had a $4.00 Miller Lite and got Vicki a shirt while I was there -- but I had to go eat.

I'd walked by a BBQ place called Rippey's, but upon closer inspection I decided it was too upscale for my grittier Nashville experience. Over by Tootsies was Jack's BBQ, with an old flashing neon sign with three pink pigs taking turns lighting up, and I said "yup, that's where I'm goin'". I had a BBQ sandwich and some slaw, and a $3.29 beer -- and I still got out of there for $8.69. And it was good stuff. Nothin' fancy in there. Three young black men behind the counter, workin' hard. The place was clean but worn and tired... oilcloth style tablecloths. Just the way you'd expect an honest BBQ place to look and feel. Autographed picture of Dolly Parton at my table basically saying "Jack, you're the best .... Dolly Parton 1999". Well Dolly has good taste in BBQ.

Got back for the Charlie Daniels concert, which was very entertaining. Charlie tells it like he sees it. He didn't play "This Ain't No Rag" for the Higher Ed crowd, I noticed... but he did play "In America" and the band gave their heartfelt gratitude to our boys and girls in Iraq & Afghanistan, including Brian :-)

I put cruise control on my car last week, and it worked great. I also got about an extra 3-4 miles per gallon using it, in addition to the benefit of resting my throttle leg. Had to make one adjustment when I got to Nashville (it was idling fast) and that was it.

We have Cassie & Q this weekend to give the adult Groves a kid break. We'll be sure and get 'em real wound up on Snoopy Waffles, Chuck-E-Cheese, and movies before we send 'em back ;-)

I actually may spend quite a bit of the weekend helping Ryan with more siding.

Anyway, that's it for now.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I'm still here -- still busy

Spent last Saturday helping Ryan with his new siding. We did the front of the garage. Neither one of us had put up vinyl siding before, so there was a lot of figuring and learning -- plus there was quite a bit of detail work. Only one course went up without making any special cuts.

Near the end of February, I ordered cruise control for my car from JC Whitney. Got the expedited shipping for an extra $5. And they very quickly shipped me the vaccum reservoir. The actual cruise control unit, I was informed the next day, was on backorder until the 17th.

I wanted to get it installed before this weekend. I called them to find out if that was an estimate or if that was really the date. They said that was really the date.

So I did a web search and read about a guy in Florida who bought one at AutoZone. So I called AutoZone. They said I could have one by the 7th. For $30 less.

I went down to AutoZone and paid for it so they'd order it, and the next morning I called to cancel the rest of the JC Whitney order. Well, they said they couldn't cancel the order because they got 20 in that morning and my order was on a "pick list" and there was nothing they could do. I could refuse the package when it came.

Only it was left by FedEx on my stoop, so I had to call and have them come pick it back up. Sheesh.

Anyway, last night Ryan, Daryl and I mounted the servo and vaccum reservoir, and drilled holes to get the wiring through the firewall into the car. Running the wires actually took half the 4 hours we spent on it. When I got home tonight, we wired up the VSS (Vehicle Speed Sensor) and the break switch sensor. I also mounted the switch on the dash and ran the wires from that down behind the trim.

Can't find the tach sensor, so I'll ask Troy about that tomorrow. Tomorrow it's just hooking up the power, the tach, and putting the actual throttle mechanism on it. Got a long trip to Nashville coming up soon, followed by another to Chicago. I'd love to have the cruise on it.

I got the good speakers out of the back of Vicki's old Taurus and replaced the ones in my car. Her front speakers wouldn't fit my door speaker holes... and my door speakers were shot -- I think they had gotten wet. I bought some polypropylene replacements -- they won't be so succeptible to moisture -- and some door tweeters up by the dash on the door. Sounds muuuuuch better.

The new Taurus is running fine -- we did have a little scare there the day after we got it. It started running very rough. But it turned out (thanks to my handy dandy OBDII computer) that it was misfiring on 5&6, and they each had about 1/2" of water in them. Probably from when they powerwashed the engine before we got it. It's been fine ever since.

We went to Jazz (local New Orleans style restaurant) with the Williams' for Mardi Gras dinner. As always had a good time with them.

I found a new battery for Mom's old laptop and I'm borrowing a wireless network card for my conference trip and training trip. It's Win2K, and it's just a P-II with 160MB of memory with no possibility of expansion. So I don't want to run any extra software on it. Still -- you really ought to run a firewall. So I spent some time configuring IPSEC (part of Win2K) to act as a firewall. Seems to be working.

I sent the .22 pistol down to a gunsmith in Rolla. The cleaning did not fix the problem. He's dealt with these before. I really like the gun, so I'll be glad to get it back in working order.

So.... lots going on. I'll try to keep updating at more reasonable intervals.