To everyone I owe an email, I'm sorry. I'll try to get to you this week.
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I really need a vacation.
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A quick summary of the past week, covered in one very unorganized list:
- Spent Saturday evening with Heather and Rich, and, for a short time, Diana. The three of us had dinner at the Convention Grill in Edina (incidentally, one of my top three Twin Cities restaurants for hamburgers), and later the four of us caught the Aquatennial fireworks down on the Mississippi. The fireworks were sponsored by Target, and the special glasses they handed out beforehand transformed the fireworks into a bunch of moving Target logos. Said Rich, "I suddenly feel the need to go out and buy something."
- Mel had an interview in Minneapolis Thursday morning, so she camped out here Wednesday night. Not that this means anything, but to my knowledge she's still the only person who's had coffee in my apartment.
- The bathroom is technically back together again, although some of the floor is still a mess and taking a shower now involves a plunger and a lot of patience. The drain has been slow since I moved in, but the new piping seems to have slowed things even further. Any shower over five minutes in length runs the risk of overflowing the tub. Not only is this annoying, it's kind of gross. Since Thursday, I've finished my showers by standing outside the tub and quickly rinsing off my legs. I've attacked the drain with Drano and a couple of other drain-cleaners, but no luck yet1.
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24 days to the St. Louis trip. 53 days to London.
As if the ordeal with the new sink wasn't enough, sometime yesterday afternoon a drain pipe broke in the wall of my bathroom, sending water as many as three floors below. I was oblivious to this problem until the caretaker knocked on my door late last evening to inform me that water was cascading down one of the walls in the apartment immediately below mine. Today, unable to take a shower, I decided to work from home and so spent much of the late morning and early afternoon listening to the sounds of plaster being torn off walls and ceramic tile being pulled from floors. There's now an eight-inch hole in the floor of my bathroom leading to the bedroom below. That hole is just large enough to allow for the passage of a small animal—something the size of a cat, for example—so I find myself leaving the bathroom door closed this evening. The resident feline doesn't seem too pleased about his territory being restricted, and, somewhat expectedly, is being quite verbal about it.
I wonder how long it's going to take the maintenance folks to patch the hole. I'd hope things would be back to normal tomorrow evening, but considering the building is no longer under any immediate threat from the plumbing, I wouldn't bet on it.
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I wandered back to the bathroom. "How's it going?"
"It's a mess. We still haven't found the source... And now it looks like we're going to have to pull out the sink..."
"They just installed that a few months ago."
"They did a pretty crappy job at it. It's not even level."
A few minutes later: "Do you like living here?"
"Yeah, it's pretty nice. We've had a couple of maintenance problems, though."
"I can tell."
I need to slow down on the weekends some. It's Sunday evening, yet I feel like I could use a day or so off.
Spent most of Saturday with Heather and Rich. We headed downtown to catch some of the Aquatennial events, but got there too late and ended up wandering around shopping and exploring the skyway system instead. We had a very good early dinner at Ike's on Sixth, stared at the storm clouds rolling into the city, played with the squirrels in Loring Park, and climbed the steep side of Lowry Hill before heading back to the apartment to watch The Royal Tenenbaums. We also made a brief trip over to the mechanic so they could see my new car, but much to my surprise the car wasn't anywhere on the property.
I'll have to talk to the mechanic about that.
Today Diana and I caught the Crossing The Channel exhibition at the MIA. It was easily the most impressive exhibit I've seen there since I started visiting on a regular basis four years ago. It's not unusual for me to spend hours mulling over a good book or a movie, but this is the first time I've ever done that for an art exhibit. It's really spectacular. If you live around here or are going to be passing through Minneapolis before September 8th, go and see it. Just trust me on this one.
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"Mark, you're really red."
"No, I mean really red."
"Yes, I know."
"How'd you get it?"
"Golf scramble yesterday. 18 holes in seven hours."
"Seven hours!? What'd you do?"
"We had 19 teams. Instead of doing a shotgun, they doubled us up in the middle of the course so they could keep the front nine open for other customers. There were a couple of slow teams, and things got bad really quick."
"Not very organized, eh?"
"Not at all. At one point we got up to a tee and found two teams waiting to tee off, another team on the fairway and yet another on the green."
"You just had to wait then?"
"Nah, we went in and got lunch. By the time we got back we only had to wait for the team on the fairway. You know, later in the day we found ourselves waiting at a 150 yard par 3. One of the people on our team hadn't been having a very good day, and hadn't gotten anything over 75 yards off the tee. And she was a semi-regular golfer, even, so I guess it was unusual for her. Anyway, there was a team on the green, but she hadn't been hitting anything very far, so she asked if she should go. We all said yes and, of course, that would be the first good tee shot she had the entire day. It landed just in front of the green, took a nasty bounce and flew a couple inches past the head of one of the people on the green."
"Were they pissed?"
"Oh, I'd say so. We yelled fore, but so many people were yelling that that afternoon that I think they just ignored it."
"So, did you use sunscreen?"
"Yeah, but apparently not enough."
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Dinner at Ike's yesterday gave me the chance to continue my search for the best hamburger in the Twin Cities, and I wasn't disappointed. The beef itself was excellent, and the bun was easily the best I've encountered up here. I'd put it in my top three of hamburger places in the metro, right up there with Bar Abilene and the Convention Grill. Still, it was nowhere near what one can experience at Kroll's in Green Bay, nor what I can do on my own grill, for that matter.
The search continues.
I have a sunburn, and I don't mean a little slightly-burned sunburn. I mean a Cliff Claven tan-lines sunburn. A sunburn that causes strangers to stop and stare, a sunburn that causes friends and coworkers to stop and say "wow, you're red." A sunburn that causes a friendly brush by the kitty to be greeted not with a "hey Putter" but with an "ow." A sunburn that makes me embarrassed to go out in public. A sunburn that makes it feel like 85 degrees when it's only 70.
A sunburn that makes me think I should replace that year-old bottle of sunscreen with something a bit more... current.
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I also have a headache.
Netscape may be dead, but its soul just became mobile. I'm sure there will be a lot of posturing over the next few days by those who'd been predicting Netscape's death for years, but we have to remember one important thing: Internet Explorer died first.
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Actually, now that I think about it, AOL killing Netscape was probably just their way of trying to keep up with Microsoft. :)
I sometimes suspect there are few people as capable of taking an intentionally lazy weekend and turning into a tumultuous, indiscriminate mess as quickly as I can. Now I just need to find a way to take this talent and put it to good use. Who knows, maybe the Bush Administration is hiring.
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Typically I find the second half the year to be more travel-heavy than the first. From all indications, this year will be no exception. In addition to the trip to London in September, Robin's wedding in October and the usual travel around the holidays, plans have been finalized for a baseball vacation to St. Louis in late August. Although we'll be starting on different trains, (Biker) Ben and I will meet in Chicago and take Amtrak the rest of the way down from there. Although we'll be spending three full days in St. Louis—we should arrive late on a Thursday and leave early on a Monday—it looks like it's going to be an incredibly cheap trip. I was able to get a round-trip fare of $250 on Amtrak from Minneapolis, and Ben was able to get a fare of only $80 from Milwaukee. We nabbed a good hotel through hotwire.com, the downtown Sheraton for $130 per person for four nights. Tickets to the Cardinals game were roughly $30 per person. Since the train goes right downtown, we won't have to rent a car. All in all, if we're conservative with our spending, Ben should be able to do the entire trip for around $350, and I should be able to keep it around $525 or so.
Anyway, back to traveling: There had been a third late-summer vacation planned, a Thursday/Friday/Weekend trip to Chicago with family, but that fell through for a number of reasons outside our control. That leaves me with a few extra vacation days to burn. I'll have to find something interesting to do with them. In non-vacation news—at least for me, anyway—my brother will be camping out here over Labor Day. I'm glad he'll be getting here during a warm month, as his last visit was in the dead of winter three years ago. I love winter myself, but do admit it's not the greatest season in which to show off a community like the Twin Cities.
I find all this traveling and visiting to be especially good considering the past few months have been kind of boring. Sure, there was Mel's visit and the trip to Chicago, but other than those two events life has been fairly routine since SXSW way back in March. Sure, there's a whole month to go before I start heading to points south and east, but if I get off my ass and get a bike that'll just be three or four weeks for me to rediscover the city I live in.
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Finally saw 28 Days Later this evening. Not only was it very good, it was one of the few movies in recent memory that actually had frightening moments in it. All the comparisons being made to zombie flicks of the 70s and 80s were more than a bit misleading (for one, there were no zombies), but, considering I don't like zombie flicks, I found that more of a relief than anything else. What it did have was a good storyline and a fair amount of character development, elements typically missing from horror films. Although some have complained about the ending coming across as forced or tacked-on, I felt it was appropriate. While I can understand other's arguments in that area, even I'm not cynical enough to want to see the movie end in the most logical fashion.
One final note: I've read a lot of people comparing 28 Days Later to Twelve Monkeys. While I'll assume that's based on the way both movies wipe out their respective populations, if that comparison is fair, so is this one: 28 Days Later is a lot like Cast Away. (Spoilers ahead.) Along with the ocean freighter scene in Cast Away, I rank Jim looking up through the trees and seeing the vapor trail of an airplane as one of the biggest reliefs in movie history.
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This is going to be a very busy week at work. I have to go in early Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and will have to work extra late Monday and possibly Tuesday. Considering the whacked schedule and heavy workload, this will probably be the last update this site gets until next weekend.
So, if all goes as planned, this September 19th I'll find myself departing on my first trip overseas. I'm usually not one to do such things, but: Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...
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"So, what are you flying to London?"
"Continental? I thought you found a good price on Air India."
"Yeah, but the friend I'm traveling with talked me out of that."
"Find something cheaper?"
"Oh, there were a lot of reasons..."
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One side benefit of flying Continental is I'll be able to put 8358 miles on my Northwest WorldPerks account. Yay.
It's been a deadly Taste of Minnesota this year. A 16-year-old boy out with family and friends to see last Thursday's fireworks died when he fell off a cliff near their viewing position at Indian Mounds Park. Then, on Saturday, a mother of four decided to toss her 11-month-old twins off the Wabasha Street Bridge and then jump in herself. Other festival-goers jumped into the Mississippi to save her and one of her babies, but as of this morning one of the twins is still missing.
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Photos from the Fourth are up. I cobbled together a semi-automated system for creating the individual pages, meaning the coding that used to take five to ten hours for the more lengthy photo essays now takes only 10 or 15 minutes. There's still the time needed to resize and crop the images and play with things like contrast and color balance—there are automated programs for such tasks but I'm never satisfied with the results—but overall I should be able to hold a much faster turn-around time for photos. In other words, photos should be up in days or weeks rather than months or, in a few grim cases, years.
I still have to post the photos from April's trip down to Chicago for Sarah's confirmation, but all that's left to do there is to write the cutlines.
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It was a good day. We started with the Taste of Minnesota and ended with fireworks in Minneapolis. Photos should be up soon.
Regarding the car situation, I have two words: Timing belt. (Make that three words: Dammit.) From all indications, the car already had problems when I bought it and what happened a few days ago was just something that finally pushed it over the edge.
I guess it's kind of ironic that this was first time I didn't request a car inspection before or as a condition of purchase. I doubt I'll make that mistake again.
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"So, how long have you had this car?"
"About two weeks."
"Think you can return it? Minnesota has a pretty good lemon law."
"Yeah, I looked into that. The car's over 10 years old, though, and I bought it from a private owner, so it doesn't look like I'm covered."
"Oh." She tapped her pencil on the counter for a few seconds. "Sorry."