Friday, November 27, 2009

B20? Not today.

I was excited to make my way to Refuel Biodiesel today to fill up with some B20 for the first time. I didn't really need any fuel, but I thought it might be a good idea to find the location of the pump before I really needed it. Unfortunately, they were completely out. There are only two pumps there; one for B20 and one for B100. I didn't even try the B100 since it's not really great for cold weather and it's starting to get a little chilly around here. So instead I stopped off at RaceTrac on my way home. They sell B5. It's not as "green" as I would like, but it's a start. Since Monday when I picked up my car I averaged 36.8 MPG in a mix of city and highway driving. The efficiency should improve as the engine breaks in. I'll post some better pictures of my new, fuel-sipping ride once I've had a chance to give it a proper washing and polishing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On My Way To The Hot Lips Hustle

A really great sunrise greeted me on the way to the Hot Lips Hustle 5K this morning. Today it was for the run, but I'm up and about most days long before dawn. It's not really because I'm a morning person by nature; my loathing of sitting in traffic just trumps my desire to stay in bed.

This is reason enough to get out of bed early, though.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Am A Centrist Social Libertarian

No surprises here.

My Political Views
I am a centrist social libertarian
Right: 0.01, Libertarian: 4.15

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -4.82

My Culture War Stance
Score: -4.12

Political Spectrum Quiz

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dad Finds A Turtle

Dad found a turtle hanging out in the backyard today. He made a little cage for it to stay until I could get home to see it. The turtle is now safely back at the creek next to my house.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Last night was the first time I've specifically gone out to watch a fireworks show in several years. I forgot how much fun it can be! I went with some friends to view the show put on at Indian Hills. It seemed like a good time to test out the video recording capabilities of my iPhone 3GS, too. Other than having some trouble holding the phone still after 20 minutes, I think it turned out pretty well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I should be used to this by now, but I'm not. I walked into the kitchen at work this morning to find an empty chocolate wrapper and box sitting on the table. The garbage can is about 6 feet away. It's NOT THAT DIFFICULT to throw away your own trash!

Friday, June 19, 2009

iPhone 3G S Day

It's that time of year again. Yes, Apple released a new iPhone so I bought it. Fortunately this year I didn't have to deal with any lines since I pre-ordered from the AT&T store. As you can see from the above picture there was nobody knocking down the doors. I walked right in during lunch and picked mine up without a wait. I've heard of folks having to wait nearly 4 hours today at the nearby Apple Store, though.

My primary motivation in buying this year (like I really need much of a reason) is the upgrade to 32 GB of storage. What can I say? I like a lot of space. The CPU speed bump is nice, too. The device really does feel snappier in general. The 3G performance, however, is kind of disappointing (but in line with what I expected). Last year when I brought home my iPhone 3G on launch weekend, I was testing out at up to 1800 kbps transfers. Over the course of the year I observed performance gradually dropping until last week when I was lucky to see 500 to 800 kbps. With my new 3G S today I consistently saw 1000 - 1300 kbps again. I think it's going to be a constant battle between how many iPhones join the AT&T network and how fast they can add bandwidth.

I expect that next summer they should be releasing a 4G version. I'd really like to see a 64 GB storage option, too, but that might be pushing it. I'd settle for a multi-core CPU and real-world 4G speeds in the 3 to 5 mbps range. A new case design would also be welcomed. Sign me up.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cheese Toast

I'm not the only one who loves Brick cheese. I brought back three bricks to share with the folks in the office. Grant has been making cheese toast in the mornings with it. We'll all be sad when the supply runs out.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wind Farm

I was very surprised and pleased to come across the Mendota Hills Wind Farm today. This was my first time seeing a wind farm up close and personal. This is one of my ideal scenarios; the land under the turbines is still used for crops (producing all sorts of vegetarian delights, I'm sure) while the turbines produce clean energy. The sound of the facility was pretty cool, too. It was a sort of gentle "wooshing" sound. I recorded some video of the turbines in action, but I'll have to upload that later (maybe). We should be doing this everywhere!

Ladysmith Welcomes You!

We arrived in Ladysmith yesterday afternoon. On the way I observed that Wisconsin has both some of the smoothest and roughest roads ever, but at least everything is paved now. It rained the entire drive. Fortunately, the rain broke for a few minutes when we arrived at the cemetery. After paying our respects we drove through Ladysmith so Dad could do some sightseeing. Unfortunately a tornado that came through a few years back destroyed a lot of the old buildings that he could remember, including their old house in town. We then went to visit Aunt Irma at her farm. She seemed to be doing well and is planning to participate in a motorcycle ride in a few days.

The Voss farm is located just down County Road P from the cheese factory where Dad's family lived and worked when he was kid. The gas pump above was the pump they had there. I believe Uncle Fred moved it to his farm sometime after the old cheese factory stopped operating.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Brick Cheese

Brick cheese is one of the only things I miss about living in Chicago. When I was a little kid I didn't really like lunch meat (big surprise), but I loved cheese. In particular I loved this cheese. I saw some in Jewel today and had a Brick and Lorraine Swiss cheese on rye sandwich for lunch. Yum! Shopping in Jewel, by the way, is complete chaos. The aisles are small and there isn't any obvious traffic pattern.

Morning Walk

Dad likes to find stuff on the ground. This morning while he was taking Simon for a walk he found this piece of concrete and a clover patch. The concrete reminded him of Uncle Ralph who invented some form of concrete for use on skyscrapers; I'll need to investigate this further. The clover reminded him of how he picked clover with my brothers and sisters when they were kids. They'd eat the flowers.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rental Cars

My nephew recently commented that my blog appeared to be dead and wondered if I had any interesting trips planned. I take that as a subtle sign that I've been slacking.

Under my original plan I would right now be driving in a rented minivan to Chicago instead of writing this blog entry. I was late picking up the rental yesterday and learned the hard way that they don't hold the vehicle for longer than an hour after the scheduled pick-up time. Now I know not to be late again.

I searched for comparable vehicles, but there is nothing available until tomorrow morning. Fortunately my travel plans are flexible enough to absorb the delay. On the bright side, I will now be able to attend Bear's Memorial Day party this afternoon.

The plan for the trip is to take Mom and Dad back to Chicago (and Wisconsin if bodies and time permit) to revisit places where they met, grew up, visited as a young couple, etc. and record as much information as possible. I consider it to be a mini-documentary project with the goal of producing a DVD / Blu-ray that I can share with the rest of my family. I'll try to post short entries throughout the week to keep my nephew from getting bored.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Sense Of Quality

Grant mentioned this to me last week. I just got around to reading an article about it. Essentially, it appears that younger people are preferring at an increasing rate the crappy sound of low quality MP3 music. My hope is that this is a passing anomaly since the new iTunes Plus standard is 256 kbps AAC. At least with that codec at that setting the lossy version is audibly indistinguishable from the CD version. Maybe kids will start to appreciate high quality audio again. Otherwise, this is just another indication that we're on the path to Idiocracy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kitten Milestone

Last Sunday I reached a major milestone with Frances and Angie (mostly Frances). She finally decided it was okay for me to pet her without having to use food as a bribe. It seems like only 8 months ago they were both ferocious little man-eaters. I think it may now just be a matter of days before Frances decides to become a lap cat. Angie is still a little less personable. She's the one lurking in the shadows in the picture above. To her credit she rarely runs away unless I get closer than about 10 feet; she might need a few more months to warm up.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Red Rice Cooker

I decided that I should eat more rice. This led me to the decision that I should buy a rice cooker. I was guided by three thoughts:

1) The vegetarian meals and cooking styles I enjoy most use rice.
2) Much of the world's population survives thanks to rice.
3) I really don't like to cook, so anything I can do to make cooking rice easier is good.

I researched rice cookers online and talked to friends about their experiences with rice cookers, but ultimately I just went to Target and picked up this small, red one for $18; it was cheap and matched the accent color I use in the kitchen. Yesterday was my first time using it. It was great! I put in some rice, added some water, pressed the button and left for the grocery store. When I got home I was greeted by the smell of freshly cooked rice. Now I just need to focus on preparing a few, key recipes well and I'll be set.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Knife Storage

I'm now ready to expect almost any kind of senseless behavior in our office kitchen, but this was a good one. Evidently toasters are ideal locations for storing dirty knives.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Some Night Photos

I added a few photos to Flickr. I'll probably add some more over the coming days.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Vienna - Day 2

I started the morning by visiting St. Peter's Church. The artwork is beautiful. I didn't look at any brochures or pictures online before entering, so I didn't know what to expect. Walking through the doors was amazing; none of the pictures I was able to take did it justice.

After leaving St. Peter's I started walking towards the National Library. Unfortunately, it is closed on Monday's (at least the tourist portion is closed). I found that the library is actually quite large, and the "real" part of the library is open. However, you have to be a student or card carrying library member to get in. I tried entering through a back door in the ethnic studies wing (I think that's what it was), but I was intercepted by a librarian. I pointed around and said "look". He said "no, it's for students." I think he could tell I wasn't a student. After that I just wandered a bit more. Vienna looks exactly what I have in mind when I picture an old, European city in my head. Street after street is filled with spectacular buildings. I finally came upon the Parliament building. I went on the tour and was surprised that we were actually allowed to stand right up in the front of the National Council chamber. The style is from the mid 50's since the original chamber was destroyed by bombs in WWII. They have plans to renovate it so it will be modern and new by 2012, but those plans are on hold since the economy is hurting right now.

After Parliament I hopped on the train and traveled to Schönbrunn. That place is HUGE. I could probably have spent most of my daylight hours there. As it was I was racing against the clock to take some pictures before sunset. By the time I was done there my feet were in a LOT of pain, but I decided to go back to the hotel and pick up my other camera for some night photography in Vienna. I basically retraced in a much faster fashion the route I took during the day. In spite of the pain I'm glad I did it. I had a feeling the buildings would look even better when lit for the evening and I was right. Those will have to wait for posting to Flickr when I get back.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Vienna - Day 1

I spent most of the morning riding the train from Munich to Vienna. The route offered me the opportunity to see a lot of northern Austria, even if it was only through the window. My impression is that while the architecture and "look and feel" in Austria is similar to Bavaria, there is a lot more industry. On the German side of the border I mostly just saw small agricultural towns, but on the Austrian side there were a lot of lumber mills. It didn't seem to be quite as clean looking, either. Though admittedly my scope of observation is limited.

After checking in to my hotel I jumped on the subway and made my way towards the Museum Quarter. The subway system is NOT as nice as Munich and I feel confident enough in my observations to stand firmly behind that assessment. In Munich, the stations are clean and they don't really smell. In Vienna, I kind of felt like I was riding MARTA. If you've done that, you know what I mean about the odor. Fortunately, the Museum Quarter smelled fine and the scenery was outstanding. I only had time to visit one museum so I ventured into the Natural History Museum seen above. Mostly, I just wanted to see what it looked like inside such a cool building. The architecture was amazing! I didn't really learn much about natural history since almost everything was in German, but I did get to see several large dinosaur skeletons.

I then made my way over to St. Stephen's Cathedral. I was really disappointed when I arrived because Mass was already under way; I only caught the end of the service. However, I was in luck; they had back-to-back Masses. The student Mass was at 7:00 PM instead of 6:00 PM like it is back home. So, I was able to take a seat and participate in that one. Again, it was all in German, but it really isn't difficult to follow a Catholic Mass if you're familiar with it. I'd have to say that this was my most favorite experience so far on this holiday. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Munich - Day 2

I joined my sailor friends on a day trip to Neuschwanstein Castle. It was apparently the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty castle. I have much better pictures, but due to some limitations with my hotel wi-fi connection I can only post what I have on my iPhone. It was a perfect day for this trip; the sky was clear, it wasn't too cold and the views from the mountains were spectacular. King Ludwig II might have been somewhat crazy, but he sure knew how to build a castle. Tomorrow morning I leave on an early train for Vienna. Once again I have no particular plan, but I'm sure something will work out.

Munich - Day 1

I arrived before check-in time at my hotel, so I dropped off my bags and set off on foot towards the center of the city. About an hour later I came upon the New Town Hall (seen above) and found an English speaking tour group forming. I decided to join them. I'm glad I did! The guide pointed out several sites that I revisited later for more picture time. He then mentioned that there would be a beer tour in the evening. How could I skip that? I spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures and visiting the Jewish Museum, then I arrived at the main train station to start the "Beer Challenge". We had folks from England, Australia, South Africa, Columbia and even America ready for the challenge. I hooked up with 3 US sailors on leave for a long weekend; Rebecca, Kim and Amy. They are posted at the Navy base in Sicily and work as a nurse, physical therapist and pharmacist respectively. It was a fun evening. Talking and drinking with people from all around the world is a great experience.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The funny thing about business trips is that you tend to have to do a lot of work on them. I probably won't be able to blog the experience quite as much as I would like. Regardless, I wanted to get these pictures posted tonight before I go to sleep.
We arrived late at the hotel last night since we went straight to work after landing in Munich. The hotel is very odd. It's on the third floor of a building owned by some type of organic farm cooperative. Above is one of the first signs I saw on the wall when we entered the building. All of the lights were out, there was no attendant, and the place smelled like fertilizer. There is warehouse-type facility on the first floor, a Weight Watchers meeting group on the 2nd floor and something that looks like a natural birthing teaching center. 
The "hotel" portion of the building consists of 6 rooms located off of a communal kitchen / breakfast area. The breakfast was good, but the cook doesn't really speak any English. That's fair since I don't really speak German. We all understand what coffee means, though.

This is my room. It's nice and clean. I have much better pictures in RAW format, but those will have to wait until I get back home. I've traveled to a lot of odd places, but I think this may be the most unusual hotel in which I've ever stayed.