The Photo Shoot

We ended up arriving at Sears about fifteen minutes before our scheduled appointment for photos. Once we got into the studio, Emma gave us nothing but problems. We ended up taking the photos of the entire family first thinking that would help to calm her down. We were able to get photos of the entire family done, but we did not get many photos of Emma by her self. Well we did get quite a few photos, but most of them were not worth saving. Since we didn't get a lot of quality photos of Emma, the manager of the portrait studio said we could come back in on another day to get some more photos taken, at no additional charge. So we are going to return late Monday afternoon to see if we have better luck.

Family Portrait

This afternoon we are getting a family portrait taken at the Sears Portrait Studio at the Mall of America. This was not the closest location to which we could have gone, but we figured we could walk around the mall a bit afterwards. This was just going to be pictures of Emma, since it is pretty close to her second birthday, but then we decided that we should get a whole family photo taken since we haven't done that since before Emma was born, aside from the photo I took of us myself for our Christmas cards in 2007.

I tried to schedule the appointment so that it would be soon enough before dinner time that Emma isn't distracted by thinking she needs to eat, but still late enough that we do not have to wake her too early from her nap. Last night however, while watching the news, we heard that Joan Rivers is going to be at the Mall of America this afternoon. In fact her appearance began about fifteen minutes ago, so we decided that we had better leave early so we could find a place to park and still get to the portrait studio in time. In fact, someone from the Sears Portrait Studio just called us a little while ago to advise us to arrive early because the mall is getting very crowded.

I think we will probably leave an additional fifteen minuted earlier than we planned. We do not want to get there too early though as Emma could get a bit anxious waiting for our turn.


It looks like my plans to ride on RAGBRAI for the tenth time this summer with the Superior Hawgs may be falling apart. I learned this morning that if they do not have twenty people sign up, they will not be able so run the bus. As of this moment, there are still just three of us signed up for this team on the RAGBRAI website. I believe we have a backup plan in the event that this happens, and that may actually save me some money in the end. However, at this point I am kind of wishing I had gone ahead and signed up with the group with which my sister is going. Unfortunately I think the money was due to them by today.


Bad Drivers

This past week I have witnessed multiple bad drivers in my suburban Twin Cities community. The first was earlier this week when I was taking Emma to daycare. The entrance to the daycare center is on a curve, so I slowed down for the curve, as well as for the right turn that I would soon be making. Because of the numerous driveways for businesses on either side of the road, there is a turning lane in the center of the road. So as I began my turn, instead of slowing down as well, the driver behind me decided to use the turning lane as a passing lane. That is not an acceptable use of the turning lane!

Then this morning, after dropping Emma off at daycare I filled my car's gas tank. Afterwards, I was once again driving along this road which was somewhat snow-covered this morning. The speed limit on the road is 30 miles per hour, but just 25 miles per hour on the curve. After rounding the curve, I was accelerating back up to 30 miles per hour despite the snowy conditions. The road was not so snowy that it necessitated driving slower. Well apparently the guy in the truck behind me thought that driving 30 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone on somewhat snowy roads was too slow, so he decided to use the turning lane as a passing lane. Not only that, but the driver of the car behind him decided to perform the same maneuver. I honked at the first of the two drivers to show him my displeasure with his illegal maneuver. I thought about signaling the same sentiment to the second driver using an alternate means, but I decided against it. I only hope that there is a police officer down the street, as there often is, to witness these two making their way down the road at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour!


Weight Watchers Week 5

I seem to be back on track as far as weight loss, despite eating dinner out Saturday night. Perhaps using the Wii Fit each weekday since last Tuesday has helped me to get myself more active.

Weight: 213.4 lbs.
Change since last week: -2.0
Pounds to goal: 14.4


Cool T-Shirt

Reading one of the blogs that I link to on my sidebar, Geekdad, I discovered this shirt which was designed by Wil Wheaton. Now if I didn't already own dozens of T-shirts, I would consider buying it, especially since it is reasonably priced at just $15, and with free shipping! In case you can't tell, the shirt shows five dice used in such role playing games as Dungeons & Dragons, which I enjoyed playing in my youth, although I ended up selling all of my D&D stuff on eBay several years ago.


When I checked out at the grocery store today, actually at both grocery stores I went to as Rainbow and Cub each had different items on sale that we were buying this week, I got some coupons from the coupon printer at the register. Some of the coupons were related to items I bought, such as the coupon for Pop Tarts when I bought Fiber One Toaster Pastries, and the one for General Mills cereals when I bought some General Mills cereals. I did get a couple other coupons which looked interesting until read the fine print. The two coupons are for the Oil Change Plus service, including free tire rotation, at Midas for $16.95. Now I don't normally take my car to Midas for servicing, but it isn't something that I would not consider doing. However, I do not think I will be using this coupon any time soon. At the right end of the coupon are the words "Redeemable only at participating Seattle shops." As it is about a 1,700-mile drive from where we live to Seattle, I have a feeling that any savings I would get from the coupon would more than be offset by the cost to drive to Seattle. Now I am sure these coupon dispensing machines are run by some nation-wide company, but you would think they would better tailor the coupons to the area in which they are dispensed.


Change of Plans

This weekend, we were going to be heading to Waterloo, Iowa, along with my sister, to visit my mother. Her birthday was last Monday, and we were going to visit to help celebrate her birthday. Unfortunately since the weather was bad Saturday morning, we had to cancel our trip. I really wish we would have been able to make it. My mother will be visiting next month so she can attend my sister's orchestra concert, so we will be seeing her in a few weeks. Well, we won't all be seeing her as Mel is going to visit her friend Penny in Cedar Rapids that weekend. Mel and Penny, as well as a few others, are going to the Quad Cities to see Nickelback. I was invited to come along as well, but although I do enjoy some of Nickelback's music, I didn't think I would enjoy the concert enough to justify the cost of a ticket for me. I am sure they will all have fun despite my not going along.

Since we weren't able to go to Iowa, I used the time I had available in the afternoon to complete our tax returns. Things actually turned out pretty good for us, although I was not too happy about the cost for e-filing the state tax returns, $19.95 per state. Oh, I know I could have mailed the state tax returns in, but by e-filing we will get our refunds faster, and there is less chance of error in the processing of the return. Fortunately we should only have one state tax return to file next year.

Today with the taxes done, and knowing how much we would be getting in refunds, we went bike shopping for Mel. She has ridden with me on RAGBRAI the past two years, but she has problems with riding a road bike for extended periods. Since last summer she has been wanting to buy a recumbent bike. We looked at a few recumbents at the Erik's Bike Shop in Woodbury. There was one there that was alright, but she wanted one with larger wheels, but it had to be special ordered, so she ordered herself a new bike. It should arrive in a week or so. Once she gets used to this new bike, she should be able to ride much more comfortably which will be quite a benefit the next time she goes on RAGBRAI.

This evening I finally got around to completing my online registration for this summer's RAGBRAI. I found out on Wednesday last week that my project manager at work was able to make the necessary adjustments to the project schedule to free up my week for RAGBRAI. I am glad that it worked out as this summer will be my tenth time riding my bike across Iowa on RAGBRAI. I am a bit concerned though as only two people besides myself have signed up with my RAGBRAI team so far. I do believe we have a backup plan though in case our current plans fall through.


Job Security

Lately I have been worried a bit about the economy and how it will affect my job. What made me especially worried is that for the past few weeks, until the middle of last week, I have not been very busy with work to do. That kind of made me wonder if my job was secure. Well today we had a meeting for the part of my company that I work for. I came away from that meeting feeling much better about my job. It seems that I do not really have much of anything to worry about at the moment, although I still won't be getting a raise this year. Maybe if the economy improves my company will give larger than average raises next year to compensate for the lack of raises this year. Oh, I am probably just being wishful there, but it doesn't hurt to speculate about such things. Furthermore, the meeting actually inspired me a bit as we learned that there will be some changes in the way we do what I do. From what was said, I think having too little work to work on should be a thing of the past once everything is implemented. Also, it should streamline a lot of what I do. Of course, it is going to take some time for these changes to be implemented.



I am trying to decide if I want to spend the money to buy the album Incredibadby The Lonely Island, the group consisting of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer. There are at least five or six songs of the nineteen on the album that would make it worth buying in my opinion, including the song "I'm On a Boat" featuring T-Pain, which was on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago.

Other songs on the album include:

Now I could just buy the select songs that I know I like from iTunes, but maybe the entire album will be worth buying. Besides videos of several of the songs are included with the entire album.

Weight Watchers Week 4

This week I am finally going to get serious about watching what I eat. Last week I only exercised using the Bowflex on Monday. But this week that is going to change. Not only do I pledge to use the Bowflex three days a week, but I am also going to start using the Wii Fit that I got Mel for Valentine's Day. In fact, I just completed nineteen minutes of aerobic exercise on the Wii Fit while I was breaking from work for lunch. I think that incorporating the Wii Fit into my exercise routine should make it more interesting and fun. And those two things should help me to sick with it.

Weight: 215.4 lbs.
Change since last week: +1.2
Pounds to goal: 16.4


Happy Washington's Birthday

Emma's daycare is closed today for staff development, so I took the holiday off from work to watch her. Usually Emma and I go to the grocery store Monday mornings before I drop her off at daycare, although sometimes it ends up being Tuesday morning if we do not have a grocery list ready on Monday. This morning we did make our usual trip to the grocery store, although we did not have to leave as early as we typically do. That was kind of nice as sometimes the grocery store shelves are not fully stocked at 6:45 in the morning. We had a successful shopping trip, stocking up on some necessities that were on sale. Overall we saved 25% on our grocery bill which was pretty good considering that I only had two coupons. Most of our savings was from sales.

Emma has been pretty busy playing, and watching the Handy Manny marathon on the Disney Channel this morning. In fact, there are blocks and a lot of other toys strewn about the living room floor. Right now Emma is napping. I am taking advantage of this time to check in on a little bit of work, although mostly I am just doing some blogging and checking out Facebook. I think I may go downstairs to play some Wii when I am done with this blog entry. It is so hard to play with the Wii when Emma is awake. Oh, she does not get in the way or anything like that, she just likes to pull CDs, DVDs, and video tapes of the shelves, and to play with candles and other decorations in the room. Now I just have to figure out what I am going to play.



For the past few weeks we have been telling Emma that we would soon be getting rid of her pacifiers. Prior to moving to Minnesota, we were down to using them for just naps and bedtime. But with our move Emma became a bit more dependent on them at other times. Over the past week or so, we have been working at getting her to scale back down to just using the pacifier as nap time and bedtime again, and we have been pretty successful at that. After mentioning to her teachers that we were going to try to get her to stop using the pacifiers altogether, they asked if they should hold back on giving it to her for her naps at daycare. So at least twice this past week, she did not using one during her nap.

Emma does not have daycare tomorrow because of staff development at the daycare center, so we thought we would use this three-day weekend to get her to quit using the pacifiers, thinking that she would break that habit in a few days and be just fine without it by Monday night. Apparently we were a bit delusional in our thinking. Friday night when Emma asked for her "pasur," as she calls it, we resisted, letting her scream for nearly forty-five minutes. Mel eventually ended up rocking her to sleep. Then around 2:45 in the morning, Emma woke up again. We tried to get her to go back to sleep without her pacifier, but after an hour of screaming Mel decided to let Emma sleep with her on the couch.

So Saturday we gave it another shot. Emma once again kept screaming and screaming when she should have been napping after lunch. This time we relented and gave her a pacifier, however Mel cut off the tip of the pacifier first. One of her coworkers suggested cutting the tip of the pacifier off, and then cutting off a bit more every few days until nothing was left of the pacifier to put in her mouth. So we are going to try this method to gradually wean her from her pacifier. Last night at bedtime, Emma told Mel that her pacifier was broken, and she did not take it as readily as she had in the past. Perhaps this will work. Things did go fairly well last night, although Emma did end up waking up at 4:45 this morning. While that is earlier than she usually wakes up, it is not outside of the span of times in which we would anticipate her waking. I ended up getting her to go back to sleep lying with me on the couch. She ended up falling back to sleep and staying asleep until about 6:15.

Emma napped fine today, but did give us a bit of trouble going to sleep tonight, although I do not think the pacifier was the issue. Once we opened her door a crack to let some light in, she seemed fine.


RAGBRAI Decisions

I got an email from the person who drove the bus last year for the RAGBRAI team I have been riding with for the past nine years, and he says that he will be driving the bus again this year. Assuming I am able to go on RAGBRAI this summer, I will have to decide between riding with this group again, or riding with another group that my sister found through the college she attended.

There are several advantages of riding with the group with which I have ridden since 2000. First of all, our bus has its own shower and toilet, so I would not have to wait in line for either. Oh, I would have to wait to shower, but I would be able to sit at our campground waiting instead of in a line away from camp. I also know the people with which I would be camping, assuming that many of them return. And then there is also the sense of loyalty to the group with which I have been for so long.

There is one potential disadvantage though of riding with this group. Last year there was an incident involving the choice of camping location which caused some major problems, including necessitating moving our camping area after tents had been set up and with most of our group away from the camp. That caused a lot of discord, resulting in some of our group leaving. However, I imagine that our driver learned from that experience and will strive not to repeat the same mistake this year. I am also concerned that, with the late notice about the team, many members of the group will have already made other plans. I can see this resulting in not enough people signing up to go with us to cover the expenses of operating the bus. I do not know what would happen in that case. Although, one person has already signed up since the email we received late last night, and more may do so before I know if I can go.

As for my possibly not being able to go on RAGBRAI this summer. As I was preparing to email the necessary managers and others at work earlier this week requesting to take the week of RAGBRAI off, I noticed that there is a task on one of the projects I work on that is scheduled to be worked on by either me or a coworker of mine during the week of July 20, the week of RAGBRAI. My coworker is likely going to be at an off-site meeting all that week, leaving the task to me. The manager in charge of the schedule said she would see if the schedule could be adjusted to accommodate my request. Since it is still several months away, it is quite possible that the schedule can be changed. So hopefully I will be able to ride on my tenth RAGBRAI this summer.

Sleeping In?

I thought that since I had no meetings this morning, and since I am not at home where Emma likes to get up fairly early, I would be able to sleep in a little later than usual. However I was unable to sleep much later than usual. I ended up waking up around 5:30, which is the time I usually wake up on weekdays. I just did not find the bed to be all that comfortable. Now I wish my travelling companion and I hadn't decided on 9:30 as the time to set out on our trip to Minnesota.


Back to Iowa City

Today I was back in my Iowa City office for the first time since moving to Minnesota this past July. About a month ago, my manager asked a coworker of mine who also works from home in the Twin Cities and me if we would come down to Iowa City to meet our new manager when she was in the office this week. Since our organization is spread out between offices in three different cities--Iowa City, Iowa; Austin, Texas; and San Antonio, Texas--I figured I should take advantage of this opportunity while she was relatively close by. I met my fellow Minnesota coworker at a Starbucks in Eagan, and then we headed off to Iowa City. We arrived in the office just before noon, in time for lunch.

After lunch we each had our separate meetings with our new manager. I think the meeting went well. She wanted to know what I saw as ways I could grow professionally. She also wanted to know what concerns I have with my job. The only real concern I shared with her, in fact it is the major concern I have about work these days, is that lately I have not been really busy with work. It seems like I have a lot of free time. With the economy as it is right now, I have seen not being busy at work to be a major point of concern. I would hate to think I might get laid off. Now while I have not been all that busy lately, it is probably a very temporary situation which should end soon, so I really should not be too worried. However, worrying about things is something I am really good at.

This evening, my coworker and I met our manager, or rather our former manager, at Old Chicago in Coralville for dinner. We spent about two and a half hours there. We stuck around for as long as we did playing Buzztime Trivia. I actually won one of the rounds! That was a lot of fun.

Tomorrow morning we plan on heading back to Minnesota after eating breakfast. We should be leaving by 9:30.


Whatever Happened to "Fair and Balanced?"

Lately, I have noticed that the Fox News website has been using the word "spendulus" when referring to the economic stimulus package that is making its way through Congress right now. Below is an example of their use of this term from Friday, February 6.

Now I know that many people think that this bill is full of wasteful spending, while others think that the spending will help the economy and the American people by providing much-needed jobs. Regardless of your opinion on the bill, using a word such as "spendulus" must make is sound like Fox News is editorializing in what otherwise appears to be a news article. I have no issue with someone such as Sean Hannity or Bill O'Reilly using such a term, and I do not know if they do, I am just using them as examples where it would be more appropriate. The reason why it wouldn't be an issue for them to use the term is that their programs are not news programs, but rather are political commentary programs. The "news" story I linked to and showed the headline of above is not an opinion piece, but rather reports on the status of the bill.

So much for Fox News being "Fair & Balanced" and their other slogan, "We Report, You Decide!" At least they didn't use Rush Limbaugh's term "porkulus."

Weight Watchers Week 3

Ok, Weight Watchers does not work if you do not actually track the points. Also, having the Carlos O'Kelley's Fiesta Sampler for dinner probably does not help much.

Weight: 214.0 lbs.
Change since last week: +1.2 lbs.
Pounds to goal: 15.0 lbs.


Carlos O'Kelly's Mexican Cafe

This past Friday night, Mel called me on her way home from work and told me that she had an idea for dinner, one which she informed me that I might think was a bad idea. She told me that she wanted to go to Carlos O'Kelly's for dinner. Carlos O'Kelly's was one of the restaurants we frequented when we lived in Cedar Rapids. In face, when she was pregnant with Emma, she wanted often craved their chili con queso, and before you ask, no she is not pregnant now. Now I really enjoy eating at Carlos O'Kelly's as well, but unfortunately there are not any in the Twin Cities. The nearest location is in Rochester, over sixty miles from our home. Despite the distance, we drove to Rochester for dinner. We had a delicious dinner, although the service was not too great. Our server never checked on us once we got our food. I had wanted a water to drink once I finished my Dos Equis, but she never came back with the water despite the fact that I asked for it when she delivered our food to us. Needless to say, she did not get a very good tip. In fact, the ten percent I tipped her was probably a bit generous.

I have found a recipe online for chili con queso that is supposed to be similar to theirs. I think I will need to try to replicate their con queso if Mel should become pregnant again. Either that, or I need to convince the powers that be at Carlos O'Kelly's corporate office to open a location here in the Cities, preferably in the southeast metro, although most anywhere in the metro would be better than driving all the way to Rochester.


RAGBRAI Planning

It looks like the group with which I have ridden RAGBRAI for the past 9 years will not be going on this year's ride. This isn't definite yet, but the owner of the bus has been in poor health and is currently in the hospital. So earlier this week, I began looking into other options for groups with which to ride. I found one that would provide transportation from the Twin Cities, but it was a lot more expensive than I am willing to pay. Then I found a group that leaves from Minnesota, although not in the Cities. It was priced at a point that I felt comfortable, but they are already booked up.

Today I found a few other options that might work. Two of them would require driving all the way to Burlington, Iowa, prior to the ride. That would be a drive of over six hours, and we would have to find a place to stay there overnight since they load the bikes Friday night. There is also a group that leaves from Ames or Des Moines. That would be a possibility as well. I would really like to go on RAGBRAI this summer, so I hope I find an option that works for me.


Math Fail

I am glad that I am not the only person who is annoyed when businesses fail to understand the difference between a dollar sign and a cent sign. Here is a recording of a customer having a disagreement with Verizon's customer service representatives about the amount of money he was charged for kilobyte usage while in Canada. He had been quoted a price of 0.002¢ per KB, but instead he was charged $0.002 per KB.

I find the last of basic math skills of the supervisor to be quite discouraging. It isn't just her math skills that are in question, but her lack skills in logic. She can not follow the argument that the customer is making, and finally sums it all up as a "difference in opinion!"

Here is a transcript of part of the conversation:

Customer: "Do you recognize that there's a difference between one dollar
and one cent?"
Supervisor: "Definitely."
Customer: "Do you recognize that there's a difference between half a dollar
and half cent?"
Supervisor: "Definitely."
Customer: "Then do you recognize that there's a difference between .002
dollars and .002 cents?"
Supervisor: "No."



HuchlIj HInob

A man wielding a bat'leth (a type of sword used by Klingons on Star Trek) robbed two 7-11 convenience stores in Colorado Springs this morning, according to the Denver Post. From reading the article, it seems like the robber was not a Klingon, otherwise it probably would have stated that.

Someone involved in this case, besides the perpetrator, must be a fan of Star Trek or at least have a fair amount of knowledge regarding it. Otherwise how would the police have been able to refer to the weapon as a "batleth?" (Please note, the actual bat'leth in this case was not recovered, and this photo is not actually related to the robberies.)

Oh, and I have 500 quatloos for the first person to translate the title of this blog entry into English. Put your translations in the comments.


After initially writing this entry, I found a video of a news report of the 7-11 robberies from KKTV News. I wonder if the robber needed some money to expand his collection of Star Trek collectibles, and did the male anchor at the beginning of the story say "Star Track?"


Weight Watchers Week 2

My weight loss has continued for a second week, although not to the same degree as with last week. This could be in part due to the pieces of cake I had this past weekend at the MPO Salon, dinner at Perkins on Friday, or not paying particular attention to what I ate the remainder of the weekend. It could also have something to do with the fact that I have begun working out on the Bowflex three times a week. And actually, a loss of just under half a pound in a week isn't all that bad. Regardless, I will continue to work toward my goal of 199.0 pounds.

Weight: 212.8 lbs.
Change since last week: -0.4
Pounds to goal: 13.8


Super Bowl Commercials

I have to say that most of the commercials that aired during last night's Super Bowl did not impress me much. I also was not impressed with the 3-D Sobe ad. There was one commercial though that I found to be inexplicably funny. It was the commercial for Cash4Gold.com that featured Ed McMahon and MC Hammer. I don't know why I thought it was funny, but I was laughing my ass off. By the way, I didn't find the LMAO ad that was on earlier in the evening, advertising Thursday night comedies on NBC, to be all that funny. In fact, I thought it was somewhat crude.

I did also find the ad for Universal Studio Parks to be cute.

Besides the regular ads, there were trailers for several movies that I think I will want to see. Firstly, I will definitely be seeing Star Trek when it comes out in May.

The trailer for Transformers 2 also looked good. I haven't seen the first Transformers movie though, so I should probably see that prior to the sequel.

I also thought that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra looked pretty cool.

Finally, while I was not much of a fan of the TV series Land of the Lost when I was younger, the movie starring Will Ferrell could be good.


The Wrath of Khan: The Opera

The folks at Robot Chicken have produced a segment depicting Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as an opera, Le Wrath di Khan. Enjoy...

Two Weekends In a Row

For the second weekend in a row, Mel and I were able to go out for the evening, leaving Emma at home. Last weekend we went to a movie. Then last night, we went to the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra's Second Annual Salon and Silent Auction. We had been invited by a friend of ours with whom I went to high school. It was fun visiting with others and hearing some good music. They also had several tasty desserts and wines to try. We didn't end up bidding on anything at the silent auction, but we had a good time anyway.