Friday, October 25, 2013

Documentation That I Once Was a Baby

It's only natural when you finally grow up and buy a house that your parents drop off boxes of your childhood memories they've been hauling around for the better part of 20 years. They happily wave good-bye, as they drive away from your house quickly, knowing that these boxes are now your problem.

I refuse to haul around the 7-8 boxes that Sallie and I now have in our possession. I've been going through them, digitizing pictures and awards, and throwing some stuff out. My goal is to get my boxes of memories down to one box.

I found one of those baby books where your parents keep track of special occasions. The calendar came with stickers celebrating events like first Christmas. The thing that cracks me up is how mundane things have stickers in the calendar. Things like "Finds Hands (11/16/84)" and "Turns to Sound." I guess I'm not a parent, so I don't understand how these things are important or exciting.

 Anyway, here are some highlights of my first year with a commentary track.

  • Included in the calendar was a piece of paper my dad was writing his thoughts down on as I was being born. It's a really touching front and back where he ponders life, talks about how scared and excited he is, and then he ends this touching piece of history with, "Danny J. Let's you know when he poops in his drawers - he farts real loud (and it sounds awful wet!)"
  • July 26th, 1984 - 3:48 AM - Thursday - I am born after 9 hours of labor to the Raymond W. Bliss Army Community Hospital in Arizona. 6 lbs 1 oz and 20 inches tall. 
  • On the day I was born, Russia announces they are going to boycott the LA Olympics, Ronald Reagan was president, Bruce Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark is the most popular song, and break dancing is all the rage. 
  • December 25th, 1984 - I'm put in my walker after being all sorts of amped up playing with wrapping paper, immediately run off the concrete patio, flipped over, and was left on my head, feet in the air, while the parents laughed at me. 
  • September 7th, 1984 - I sleep through the night for the first time. And according to the notes, that means I slept until 4 am. 
  • October 1st, 1984 - First solid food, rice cereal. Sounds gross.
  • February 6th, 1985 - First words, "Momma." Baby Dan was a giant ball of cliche. 
  • February 25th, 1985 - "Pickup a Cheerio off his tray and put it in his mouth." Setting the bar really high early on.
  • March 12th, 1985 - "While in the bath tub, Daniel discovered his personal area." Now this is starting to sound like me. 
  • March 15th, 1985 - "Daniel tipped over in walker, head on floor, feet in the air, for the second time this month..." By my count, that's the third time I've flipped over. Maybe we needed a fence?
  • April 3rd, 1985 - "...Is falling down a lot and hitting his head." Beginning to think there was a little neglect happening.
  • April 17th, 1985 - "Went outside today and when it was time to come in, Daniel screamed. I think he'll grow up loving the outdoors." HA! Pave the world!
  • May 25th, 1985 - "Daniel went up Grandma's stairs with no one watching." Where the hell were my parents? No wonder I'm such an independent person, I basically survived on my own.
  • June 9th, 1985 - "Ate his first McDonald's hamburger." A true American accomplishment.
  • July 4th, 1985 - First Cardinal's game. $4 for tickets, Cards beat Dodgers 3-2. 
So there you have it folks, the blue print on how to grow the perfect child. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Chicago First Full Day

We woke up and went to this nice patch of land in downtown Chicago called "Bang Bang Pie Shop" and stood in line for 20 minutes staring at this rustic fence made out of old doors to order biscuits.
These weren't ordinary biscuits. These were made from scratch by hipsters biscuits, butters, and jams.
Needless to say, it was worth the wait.

Sal had to go off and do race prep, so Kevin and I sipped a few cups of coffee and found this awesome sports bar called Logan's to watch the Mizzou game from. This bar had some of the greatest paintings of Star Trek characters dressed in Star Wars gear. They also had this deliciously seductive picture.

After having a huge debate between Falafel and Reuben,  I decided on Falafel. ... but then somehow, subconsciously ordered a Reuben. It was a small surprise when marble rye housing 8 oz of meat, cheese, and sauerkraut was delivered to my seat. 

After a thrilling Mizzou win, we came home, took a nap, and prepared for part two of the day.

The breweries...

I was told we were going to the Revolution Brewery tap house. We pulled up next to this nondescript warehouse looking building. Entered a plan looking door, into a plain hallway that could be any white-tiled hospital, and turned a corner to find a large brewery.

The beers were pretty good, but I loved the revolution inspired Soviet era propaganda art style on all their swag.

After a couple pints we went to another brewpub called Half Acre and had a few more pints before finally getting some food.

Then we headed to a party that belonged in a Wes Anderson film. There were all these tattoos personalities hanging out, drinking PBR, blanketed in a soundtrack that Mark Mothersbaugh would pick out. We discussed the genius of David Lynch and Twin Peeks until around 1:30 am, when we finally went home and retired for the evening. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Burn of Technology Gone Wrong

The past 20 years have seen some of the greatest technological advances in man. We are holding phones in our hands that are as powerful as computers from 2009.

Remember video stores? Yeah, useless because everything is instant gratification over the internet.

And I can order cat food from my phone and have it here within a day.

But when technology doesn't work as you hope, it gets ugly quick.

Sallie gets incredibly frustrated. When technology doesn't work right, she gets pissed and I find myself apologizing and listing all the places where the technology could break down as if the complexity of it is an excuse.

(Secretly, when the same stuff happens and Sallie isn't around, I curse technology to hell.)

Last night was the perfect example of everything going wrong.

Last year, Sallie and I would stream Blues' games and hook her laptop up to the TV with the VGA cable. We had to get a new TV over the summer. Turns out, VGA is no longer a supported format for video input on newer TVs.

Since that was no longer an option, I bought a Chromecast which allows you to stream anything from your Chrome browser to the TV through this magical little stick.

I tested it by watching Southpark, Premier League Soccer, YouTube and Netflix. All seemed to work with little issue.

Queue the start of the Blues' season and Sallie's laptop dies. And it's not the, "Oh, we can just reload Windows and all is fine" sort of death. She was getting beeps upon start-up, which means her motherboard / processor is fried. (As a side note, anyone that wants the laptop for parts can have it.)

So we got a new laptop... that has HDMI out. So the original reason for the Chromecast is invalid. But I'll still use it because it's easier than digging out wires.

Last night, I found an HD stream of the Blues game. Turns out Chromecast can't handle streaming of that quality just yet. (It's still in it's Beta)

So out come the cords. I spend the next 35 minutes swapping out HDMI cables, downloading Windows updates, using the receiver, disconnecting the receiver, playing with Windows settings, etc, to try and get the picture to work. Finally get it to work in the second period.

Then, about 30 seconds before the game goes to a shootout, the stream starts looping to the same 30 seconds. Turns out the internet connection in the house went out.

Our router has been acting up lately and dropping internet connections. I think it's because with Scott living with us, we might have a few too many wireless devices connected to the router. (I get IP address conflict errors sometimes)

So I reboot the router and am unable to get a connection again.

So to solve this, I go back to a 100+ year old technology. I flip on the radio, just in time to hear Oshie score.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Random Odds and Ends

Things have been crazy busy the past few weeks and I've have a list of things I've wanted to write about, but just haven't had the time. So you're going to get quick little stubs of everything.

Man Dates

One thing I've never done, even with how often I write about it, and how much I know about it, (thanks videogames) is shoot a gun. Thanks to my Best Man Cory, that has changed. 

A few weeks back, Cory and I went shooting. He showed me how to use three different guns and I got to feel how different each one felt. I shot best with the Glock, but enjoyed shooting the .44.

The shooting range is a weird place. There were gangsters firing their pistols as fast as they could, constantly being yelled at by the people running the place. Red necks with high powered sniper rifles and spotters. Normal folks just wanting to fire some frustration out. Everyone comes together in this one place and act as if they've known each other for years. 

After that, we went to Hot Shots, talked hockey, shared a bucket, and then went back to his place, where things got really sexy.

Actually, it was two dudes realizing they were nearing 30 and tired. We played with his hedgehog, watched Archer, and chugged energy drinks.

After we got our second wind, we headed to a beer festival at the Family Arena. Turns out it was mostly big breweries in disguise. You would step up to have a sample, the brewery would be called something crafty like "Dick's Backyard Brews," and when I looked them up the next day, I would find out it was actually Coors. 

St. Louis Sports Night of the Year

I'm sure downtown was a wreck. Cardinals elimination playoff game and Blues vs Blackhawks nationally televised game, both in St. Louis, both starting within 8 minutes of each other.

I was tucked away in the back corner of a local bar and sticking out. I was decked out in my Blues gear in a sea of Cardinals' red, joined by Scott, Sal, and the Colombinis. 

I didn't expect to have more than one TV for the Blues game. I would've been happy with just getting that broken TV in the back corner of every bar, but with the way this bar was wired, the only TV with the Blues game was on the opposite side of where I had seats. The 7 or so Blues fans in attendance, stood right under the TV, craning our necks to see what would be one of the most exciting Blues games I've seen in a few years. Turns out, one of the most exciting baseball games was on too.

It was a great night to be from St. Louis. The bar crowd of maybe 100 people cheering, high-fiving, and generally screaming at the top of their lungs.

Seconds after Alexander Steen's game winning goal on the Blackhawks, a fantastic "Let's Go Blues" chant rang out across the crowd. It would only be 3 minutes later when Wainwright would get his final out and I thought the roof was going to come off the place.

It makes me really scared for how the mood would've been had the Cards lost. 


Thanks to SNL, I keep getting this Miley Cyrus song stuck in my head, but it's never the original song, it's the parody they did about the Republican Party. If you watch the original video, you'll realize just how well they nailed the weirdness of it.

Work Stuff

Things have been going well at work. I'm busy as can be, but I like it.

I got a small pay bump a few weeks back which is always nice.

Then there was an announcement that our manager would be changing. This would be the 4th manager I've had since I joined the team a year ago. I was getting frustrated because I'm tired of having to prove myself to new people every quarter. Well it turns out that my new manager is someone I worked with during the A.G. Edwards days. Someone that I already have a rapport with. Pretty excited about that. 

Gearing Up

Usually Sal and I prepare well for trips, but we might have packed just a little too much into this week. It's only 3 hours before we are set to hit the road to Chicago and I haven't packed or showered yet. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

That Box of Cords and Wires

Every electronic / computer nerd have these weird hoarder tendencies.

We have stacks of flattened boxes for software and hardware we bought years ago, some of which we no longer have, sitting in our basements.

We keep a huge library of instruction manuals that can be found online tucked into our overflowing CD binders with copies of Encarta '98 and a DVD manual for Windows ME.

And the biggest identifier of this nerd is the box of wires, cords, and adapters that are dragged from house to house for decades.

I'm trying to downsize the sheer amount of crap I have. I don't want to have to move all of this stuff ever again. One of the larger (and heavier) boxes I have is the box filled with cords.

This is a third of my complete box.
I'm shedding some of these cords. In the age of HDMI and USB, most of these will never be used again.

Here are some of the greatest hits from my collection:

  • Cable TV: About 60 feet of coaxial cable. I've not had cable TV in 6 years, yet I've hauled this ugly monstrosity to five different homes.
  • Printer: USB to fire wire. I have literally not seen anything use fire wire in 10 years.
  • ???: This thing to the right that appears to be A/V to 3.5 mm cord. That would essentially mean, plug a video (yellow) and mono-sound (white) into a headphone jack. How does that even work?
  • Speaker: I have four different gauges of speaker wire. If I were to tie all of this speaker wire together, I probably have about 200 feet. I could run a speaker from my receiver to my garage and have some slack left. 
  • Electrical: I have six of those two prong to three prong adapters for old houses that don't have grounded outlets. If I ever live in a house that outdated again, I've done things wrong. 
  • Internet: I have fifteen CAT 5 Ethernet cords varying from one foot to twelve feet in length. That doesn't include the dozen or so Ethernet cords in use around the house. 
  • Old Computer Crap: I have an IDE to SATA power cable. It's nearly impossible to find an IDE hard drive anymore. 
  • MP3: I have six Microsoft Zune cords. That's right, my Apple dislike was strong enough that my family owned four different Zunes, one of which is still in use.   
The worst part about this box is no matter what cord you actually need, you don't have that in the box. So you load up Amazon, buy the cord, and add to your collection. 

Since everything seems to be moving to universal connectors (USB, HDMI, MiniUSB) the nerd's cord box is in danger of disappearing. There are kids born now that will never know the sense of accomplishment of untangling the giant ball of hell and using twisty ties to organize them. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Government is Closed. How is Your's Doing?

I'm really bummed out about government today.

Our government, the people that we elect to run our country, are in a pissing match with each other. Yes, the free world, we the ones that supposedly police the world, the country everyone else supposedly looks up to, have shut the doors.

We probably won't notice much of a difference for at least a few days between a working government and one that is closed. We have at least 10 days before the courts start shutting down, military paychecks start arriving late, and the 24 hour news channels start running out of things to talk about again.

Hell, we're going to save quite a bit of money by not paying all those pesky 800,000 to 1 million non-essential employees (park services, NASA, Smithsonian museums, national zoos,  portions of the Food and Drug Administration, and Federal occupational safety and health inspectors) for a few days.

My problem is, all the guys that are in the midst of this stalemate, Congress and the President + cabinet, do still get paid. (Several Congressmen have used this opportunity to show how much they are like us by asking to not be paid. "See guys, I'm just like Joe Average. I'm not getting paid until we fix this either.")

The Affordable Care Act is the largest reason why our budget hasn't been passed. Several GOP congressmen at the very basic level want to de-fund Obamacare, which went into effect today, in order to pass the budget.

Why do we need something like the Affordable Care Act?

America ranks last in health rankings, but first in expense of healthcare. There are many reasons for this and really, it's too complicated to point at just a few reasons why this is, but I think this guy does a great job of explaining it while keeping the conservative vs liberal B.S. out of it.

The Affordable Care Act is not the 100% solution toward universal health care. There will be many amendments once we figure out what works and what doesn't. But this is at least getting the ball rolling. Universal health care was going to eventually come. Hell, Republican's championed it in the 90's.

The hang up seems to be whether to leave it to private companies to implement universal health care or the government. It just so happens that many American's don't trust their government and many more don't trust private companies to do what's right.

Why you ask?

  1. Politicians are mostly rich, out of touch white dudes who think the middle class make $250,000 a year and less
  2. Lobby groups fund campaigns as long as their guy supports doing things that profit them.
  3. Oh, and that whole 2008 economic crash caused by greedy and corrupt companies. 

The problem is, the ACA a bill written with a lot of legal jargon, bi-partisan misleading marketing is informing most of the populace, and no one really knows what it means. Americans are overwhelmingly uninformed and allow TV personalities like Bill O'Reilly and Jon Stewart to tell them what to think about it.

For instance, a survey conducted by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly two-thirds of Americans didn't know about the ACA's online marketplace. This was a major pillar of the ACA. There would be an online market to compare private vs public insurance options.

Or, scarier yet, people don't even know that Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing. A CNBC survey showed that 46% of American's oppose Obamacare whereas 37% oppose the Affordable Care Act. ... Let that sink in. There's almost a 10% change in whether the public supports this act depending on what you call it. Just watch this video.

Conclusion? We're Screwed

As you can see by my back and forth ramblings, health care is way too complicated. No one is 100% right and no one can be trusted. We are stuck in one long terrible episode of the X-files, but the aliens are running the hell away because we look ridiculous.

Sallie and I didn't have insurance for almost 5 years and it was scary. Now that we do have insurance, I don't mind maybe giving a little more tax money so that other's can have it. Sure, some people will work the system like all those druggies that collect food stamps and welfare. Thing is, as long as there is a system, someone is going to try to exploit it. I'd rather know I'm helping that single mom with two kids rather than take a program away for everyone because there is a small population ruining it.