Monthly Archives: March 2008

That Was The Weekend That Was

Now that was a nice, low-key weekend. On Saturday I came into work at about 9 AM and worked until around 2 PM before heading home. It’s not that I had anything too urgent, it’s more that the boss is very cool about comp time and I’m hoping to take a half or full day off on Friday the 11th so we can head out earlier for FCN. I could probably get away with asking for a full day at this point but I may come in for a few hours next Saturday morning just to seal the deal. It doesn’t hurt to be seen coming in on weekends, either, since so few in my department do it (excepting the boss).

After I got home, takaza and I talked a bit, then decided to run some errands. We went over to Target and picked up some things for the house (including a spiffy new clock radio), as well as some grocery items. Just to try something different for dinner Dan tried making chicken egg and cheese biscuits; unfortunately, the flavor of the sautéed chicken was eclipsed by everything else. But hey, it was an interesting experiment. We enjoyed the rest of the evening watching accumulated episodes of “Chuck” on our Tivo.

Sunday, linnaeus came up to hang out. We ran some errands, which including getting some supplies for our party at FCN, then rented a couple of movies from a nearby Redbox (which is a pretty slick deal!). We picked up Monster House and The Queen. We went home, ordered pizza and put on Monster House. It was…wow. I can see why the reviews on Metacritic range from 30 to 98 out of 100. I would say this movie is too scary and intense for kids, but too schlocky for adults. I’m glad we didn’t pay full price, but at least I didn’t feel like I wasted the time spent watching it. Linnaeus had to head home shortly after the movie; I suppose we’ll eat the late fee (ooh, another dollar!) and watch The Queen tonight.

No real plans for this week, though who knows what might pop up. I would really like to get back into the habit of getting together with folks during the week to break up the monotony a bit, but being way out in the suburbs can be somewhat limiting in that regard. We’ll have to see what we can put together – maybe more NTN one night or something.

Requiem for a Coffee Maker

Once upon a time (actually, it was a little over three years ago), I got the most wonderful present from takaza: a Bodum Santos electric vacuum press coffee maker. I was pleased as punch with it, and it was a truly wonderful gift. Many of you have seen it in action at various parties since then, and it has served us well. Alas, the years have not been kind to it. First, there was a failure in the electronics, which Bodum repaired under warranty (eventually).

Over the years, though, the electronics have gotten worse even after being replaced, and on top of that since the unit is difficult to clean it has developed a coffee-colored coating that just won’t come off, and has started to affect the taste of my morning coffee. (I will note that these problems are well-documented by other Bodum Santos Electric owners). I looked into replacing the unit, but it appears Bodum doesn’t even offer it anymore; in fact, no one offers an electric vacuum press coffee maker on the consumer market right now, as near as I can tell.

So what to do? Well, I’m going to give the unit a thorough scrubbing from top to bottom and then I’m going to retire it, using it only for when we have company or at parties (because sometimes you need 12+ cups of coffee, stat!). In its place, I’ll be going back to the method which served me so well for years: my trusty French press coffee maker.

Next up: replacing the Mr. Coffee burr grinder which is unfortunately starting to show wear and tear as well (it tends to stop grinding at random intervals, leaving me with no clue how much more coffee I might need to grind). I’ve got my eye on a lovely Capresso burr grinder that will probably be heading my way sooner than later…

If It’s Tuesday…

Another Tuesday, another exciting weekend recap. Well, for some value of exciting.

It was confirmed that we got a full twelve inches of snow on Friday. Fortunately, it warmed up and half of it was melted away by the end of the weekend. Still, it was very pretty to look at on Saturday morning and relax with a nice cup of coffee and some nice music playing. Once takaza woke up, we got to work cleaning up the living room and dining room, then moving all the furniture into the kitchen to give the carpet a needed steam-cleaning.

While the carpet dried we went out for a tasty dinner at Scott Dogs, stopped by Antioch Liquors for the first round of purchases for Furry Connection North, then stopped by Garden Fresh Market to do some grocery shopping. It was an expensive trip there, but with boneless skinless chicken breasts and strip steaks on sale, we laid in a supply of both for the freezer. The carpet was almost, but not quite, dry when we got home, so we arranged furniture as best we could and relaxed for the rest of the evening poking at our laptops.

On Sunday, Dan was feeling sort of blah and antisocial, so I struck out on my own for the Easter dinner that linnaeus was hosting at his place. roho and genet, siriuswolfstar and simbalion, and rustitobuck were also in attendance. Dinner was a very tasty roasted turkey breast, sausage wrapped in brioche, garlic mashed potatoes, and salad. Just excellent! For dessert, Roho and Genet made their tasty cinnamon monkey bread. They were also kind enough to give me a lift home. I had a blast, but getting to bed at 12:15 AM damn near killed me the following day.

Monday both Dan and I were dragging. After we both got home and took care of some chores around the house, we were feeling a bit better, and Dan made a delicious dinner of chicken and rice. The rest of the week looks like it’s going to be pretty low-key, as will this weekend. That’s good, though – I like having some quiet time with my wuff!

And Then It Snowed. A Lot.

When I left for work this morning there were a few snowflakes in the air and the ground was dry. There’s eight inches of snow on the ground right now and it is still falling hard. The roads are plowed, at least, but the driveway into our townhouses garages aren’t; I had to bull my way through with my little two-wheel-drive and hope I didn’t get stuck – yay for snow-driving skills! I shoveled a bit to at least knock down the berm at the end of the driveway so others can get a better shot at getting in, though the whole time the phrase “heart attack snow” (the phrase that they’ve been bandying about to describe the wet, heavy snow that’s falling to day) was running through my head. Yes, I took it easy, but after about ten minutes I could see why they call it that. I’ll leave the rest to the Magical Snow Elves and their snow blowers and snow plows.

takaza wisely took Metra today; he should be on the 4:16 PM train into Grayslake. Hopefully he can get home without getting stuck anywhere.

When all this is done by tomorrow morning we’re supposed to have 6-12 inches total. I expect we’ll be pretty close to a foot, if not more.

Insomnia Again

Man, third night in a row of this. Granted, the reflux doesn’t help (I like a spicy tomato sauce, but it sure doesn’t like me).

And naturally I have a ton of stuff to do at work tomorrow. I guess I’ll do it in a half-awake state…

A Winnar Is I!

I neglected to mention yesterday that I actually won something! One of my favorite food blogs is Serious Eats. Every so often they have giveaways to promote various cookbooks or vendors. I’ve been entering for months, but never was the lucky name drawn…until Tuesday, when I entered to win Artisanal Chocolate Eggs from John and Kira’s, a chocolatier out of Philadelphia. I seem to have won a box of 36 chocolate eggs. Um, wow. A note to all of my friends in the area – hit me up, because it would probably be better if we didn’t eat all those ourselves 🙂 (As an aside, today Serious Eats linked to a recipe I’m tempted to try: Cadbury Creme Eggs Muffins!)

Meanwhile, I’ve been working with my shiny new laptop. You’re right, kellicjtiger, I wouldn’t say it’s flat-out pink; after looking at the possibilities, I’d say it’s a more light Thulian pink. I’m having fun shifting all of my files from my old laptop, and now that I have space, I’m starting to copy our MP3 library on there too. It’s so nice to have a laptop that runs fast and doesn’t have to shift into high gear when I click on a YouTube video, for instance.

And finally, it looks like we’re in for something like 5-7 inches of wet, heavy snow starting tonight into tomorrow night, with possible thundersnow. As this morning’s forecast discussion says, “Happy Astronomical Spring.”

I’m Too Busy To Post! (Or Something Like That)

A relatively busy weekend and a very busy week.

On Saturday we went to a St. Patrick’s Day party; I had wanted to make something in advance but just couldn’t muster the motivation, and as it turned out there was more than enough food. The corned beef and cabbage was excellent, and the shepherd’s pie was really yummy too. Unfortunately, the evening was clearly taking a turn towards very heavy drinking, something that isn’t really a lot of fun to be around when you’re not doing the same (usually three drinks over an evening is good enough for me), so we bowed out early. Not that it’s any judgment on the people involved, just…not our scene, y’know? (and even less so takaza‘s, since he rarely drinks at all)

Sunday was the second in-person Midwest FurFest staff meeting of the year at the Westin Chicago North Shore. I was pretty happy with my preparation going into the meeting, and looking at the meeting notes so kindly provided by linnaeus, I see that we managed to keep the meeting to exactly an hour. This makes me happy. Over eight years, I think I’ve learned that 60 minutes is just about right for our meetings; any more than that and people get restive and the meetings become more of a trial for everyone involved. I think we had a good balance of stuff addressed during the meeting and stuff addressed in smaller groups afterwards. Several staff members who hadn’t seen the hotel got a tour of the place, and everyone seemed suitably impressed.

After the meeting and attendant after-meetings, we adjourned to Claim Jumper, which is located right next door to the hotel. Granted, we had a group of 16 people, but still – 2.5 hours from seating to paying and leaving seems a bit excessive. I will also say (and I preface this by saying that I’m very picky about my restaurants), I don’t have much interest in going to Claim Jumper again (sorry little_wolf!). I’ve eaten once at the Lombard location and twice at the Wheeling location and I have yet to really be happy with the food there. The prices are a bit high, but that’s because you are literally getting two portions (or more!) on your plate; if you don’t take the other half home you’re really losing out. Sadly, my fish and chips were more batter than fish, and the in-house beers were merely “meh”. Oh well – I have two months to try to find the next option for our after-meeting meal.

This week has been a little nuts at work for me. On Friday my boss dropped a quick project in my lap that had me running all over on Monday getting signatures and talking with other departments. Then yesterday, I spent the day across campus implementing a laboratory instrument that I’ve been trying to get validated for fifteen months now. Maybe now I can finally get it and all of the associated paperwork off my plate! Today will be spent back over there making sure all the lab techs are comfortable using the instrument, then I’ve got meetings for much of the afternoon. Fun.

Last night brought an enjoyable surprise, though. We got a call from Linnaeus asking if we wanted to join him for dinner. He had to meet up with roho and genet to return Briana, their floofy, brainless Samoyed, after R&G had spent the weekend skiing in Maine. We met up at BW3 in Vernon Hills and had an extremely tasty dinner (I tried the mango habanero sauce, which was really tasty but very burn-y too!). We also had a lot of fun playing NTN Buzztime, where I proved I still have my old College Bowl chops 🙂 Sadly, Roho was detained by his evil employer and unable to join us; this just means that we will need to get everyone together again and drink beer and play NTN. Oh darn!

First of the Season!

This afternoon the temperature soared into the mid-fifties, which means that it was time to roll out the grill for the first time since last fall. takaza picked up a couple of excellent steaks and I made foil packets with thinly-sliced potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sprigs of fresh thyme. I grilled it all up over charcoal and it was absolutely fantastic. Sure, there may still be more snow coming and the temperatures are going to drop back down, but it’s a nice reminder of warmer days and fun times ahead.

Wednesday Morning Random Stuff

So this morning I’m off to the third day of the four-day “Intro to Statistics” course that I started last week (it wraps up tomorrow). I have to admit, having the break in the usual routine is nice, and today should be more enjoyable than last week since I won’t be running a fever or coughing up a lung. As usually happens with these things, I do still have a slight residual cough, and probably will for another week or so. This led me to get up at 2:15 AM to take some cough syrup, and I couldn’t get back to sleep until 3:30 AM. Ugh.

So I did finally pull the trigger on buying a new laptop. I went with the Dell Inspiron 1520 (2 GHz Dual Core 2 processors, 3 GB RAM, 250 GB hard drive) and picked up a very nifty discount through takaza‘s employer. Plus, it’s a color I suspect pinkleader will drool over:

Of course, I’d have felt better if I hadn’t read two scary pieces about Dell in Consumerist right after ordering, but I figure that’s pretty much life in the consumer laptop market these days. And I look at it this way: if anything goes badly wrong, I always have someone I can call. Hey kellicjtiger, would you be OK with exchanging laptop service for dinner at a fancy restaurant? 🙂

So following today’s exciting class, it’ll be over to the Westin to have dinner with MFF’s salesman there. Hopefully we’ll nail down a few important items, and maybe get some pictures of some of the suites that we’ll be offering soon, as well. But now, I’m off to class.

Hey! You Don’t Want To Miss This!

Did you know that there’s a brand-new furry convention in Michigan next month? Furry Connection North will be in Ann Arbor, MI, from April 11-13, 2008. Registration and room rates are very reasonable, and it should be a whole lot of fun! But here’s the deal: Pre-registration ends tomorrow, March 11, at midnight! Sure, you can register at the door, but if you read my journal chances are you understand when I say that pre-registration is a Good Thing – it helps the convention organizers know how many people will be coming, and allows them to plan accordingly. I expect that there will be 300+ folks at the first FCN; you should be one of them!

Laptop Envy

So as I mentioned my laptop power supply gave up the ghost again. This is annoying because I only bought it two months ago. I will note that it was sold with the Compaq part number as its catalog number – not “compatible with” or “replacement for” – yep what they sent was clearly a knock-off piece of crap. The power module is twice the size of the OEM part, and the OEM power supply has a ground plug; the replacement didn’t. Looking at the warranty, I see that they will “repair or replace at their discretion”. Um, thanks but no thanks. I have a replacement coming in from Amazon that, which more expensive, I know will work.

For all that this is a relatively inexpensive part, the busted power supply reminded me that my laptop is really getting on in age. I was shocked when takaza reminded me I bought it back at Christmas, 2004 – three years is a heck of a lifetime for a laptop that gets as much use and travel as mine has. Still, I’m also reminded of the problems: if you run iTunes and anything else, it slows down the whole system and any use of Java or Flash is cause for the system fans to crank up to “ultrasonic”, the processor to heat to near-glowing, and the whole system to slow to creeping halt. I’m thinking it may be time for a replacement. Plus, genet has mentioned that Midwest FurFest’s Artists Alley needs a new laptop – they may be getting mine!

I’ve got my eye on a Dell Inspiron 1520 running Windows XP. I’m just not sure I’m ready to make the jump to Vista yet, though I know it’s only a matter of time. Maybe after the next service pack release? I dunno. The setup I’m looking at has Intel Core 2 Duo T5550 processors, 3 GB on board, and a 250 GB hard drive – not a bad laptop for $900. Given that I’m going to be doing work with RAW files in the near future, I’m going to need something with plenty of processing power and memory. I’ve got time to think this over, though. I want to get the best bang for my buck, so I’ll be looking at all possible deals and configurations while I can.

A Lousy Week, But A Better One Coming

It’s been a week since I posted, and there’s a reason. It seems that the time when work gets busiest is always the time you get sick. Those two things buried me last week.

Cleaning up the pieces from a broken project at work kept me busy for the first two days of last week. Then Wednesday and Thursday were the first two days of a four-day course on introductory statistics. Oh my god, you have no idea how boring that was. And me attempting to cough up a lung during it – yeah, I was having a great time. When Friday came around I came in long enough to get all of the paperwork for my project squared away then I went home and relaxed for a while. A brief trip to the doctor showed that the sore throat, coughing, and sinus issues were pretty much just the garden-variety Upper Respiratory Ick that has been going around. She said it was probably viral, but prescribed some antibiotics anyway (um…yeah. Well, OK.)

I felt a little better on Saturday, though I woke up far too early and wound up having to grab a nap in the afternoon. takaza took good care of me and made a run to the grocery store. Then we went up to roho and genet‘s, where were joined by linnaeus, feren, lady_curmudgeon, colliedoc, hypersnazz, and Straif and Hux’s sweet short-haired husky Vic. We had a very pleasant evening of tasty food, good drinks, and good company.

I woke up waaaay too early Sunday morning with reflux issues. I poked at my laptop a bit but then the plug to the computer from the power adapter (which I just bought two months ago) finally shorted and gave up the ghost, leaving me computerless. I still had a pleasant morning of reading, so it was OK. That afternoon, Dan and I met Linnaeus at American Science and Surplus (I was looking for spice jars) and Linnaeus was kind enough to lend me his power supply from his old computer, which is identical to mine. After a brief stop to pick up Dan’s pre-ordered DVD of 101 Dalmatians, we grabbed a quick dinner then went home where I collapsed, feeling pretty drained.

And here we are, the start of a new work week. I’m clearly still not up to 100%, but feeling better incrementally each day. The project I’m working on is now humming along without my assistance (yay!) and I can start looking ahead to future projects. I have the last two days of my statistics course this week as well (boo!), but otherwise it should be a pretty easy week.

Weekend Update-o-rama

It’s the start of a new week, which means it’s time to look back at the weekend that was.

We were both pretty worn out after last week. It had been a rough final week for takaza at his old job, though he received some really nice going-away gifts from his boss and cow-orkers, including $120 in Best Buy gift cards. Dan slept in on Saturday and I slept rather late for me (8:30!). We finally got motivated at around 1 PM and decided to head up to Milwaukee. After a bite to eat at a nice little burger joint in Spring Grove, we headed off to Mukwanago, Wisconsin, home of the Elegant Farmer.

Saturday: Fun in Southeastern Wisconsin