7 Minute Miles

EPCOT and Disney-MGM Studios

Posted Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 11:26 pm GMT -5 in Travel at 11:26 PM

We had a great time today, despite the warnings of un-Florida-like weather. It was a little cold when you weren’t in the sun or had the wind blowing, but it still felt great. Tomorrow’s forecast is for much warmer and windier, so I may break out the shorts if it looks promising.

Today we started out at EPCOT, right when they opened at 9am. After making reservations for lunch, we headed straight to Test Track to get Fast Passes. They weren’t necessary all day–the crowds (and lines) were non-existent. We walked right up to the front and rode it twice. After that, we walked over to the Land pavilion and went on the Listen to the Land boat ride and the new Soarin’ attraction that they copied from Disney’s California Adventure.

One of my Disney pet peeves is that they never seem to create different films for attractions that could support them (Star Tours, Soarin’, etc.) at different parks. Still, it is nice to see continued investment in EPCOT. The Land had been totally updated inside since our last visit two years ago (new seating, new food options, entry to Soarin’). The Nemo re-hab of the The Living Seas was also not as bad as I was afraid it might be. The areas at the end after you get off the cars could use a little Imagineering work, though.

After visiting Figment at Journey Into Imagination, we walked to over to World Showcase to board a Friendship to Morocco. From there, we walked to Italy and had lunch at Alfredo’s. Still my favorite spot, but I would like to try a few of the other countries sometime (I did get some bird at the Japanese pavilion later in the day). After lunch, we walked through Japan, Morocco and France before boarding a boat to take us to Disney-MGM Studios.

The 30-minute boat ride took us past the Yacht and Beach Club, the Dolphin and Swan hotels and the Boardwalk area. I’ve never really been through that area much (ran it during the 2000 Disney Marathon), but it looks nice. I still prefer the original resort hotels of the Polynesian, Contemporary and Grand Floridian, though, which we hope to visit later in the trip.

Once at the Studios, we headed for the star attractions of Tower of Terror and Rock and Roller Coaster. My oldest daughter and I went on the Aerosmith-themed attraction and I felt old having to explain to her who Aerosmith was. I just love the theming of that attraction once you leave the recording studio and enter the back alley area–one of my all-time favorite Disney ride queues (it’s neighbor Tower of Terror ranks up there too). No lines here either, but the herky-jerky of the three loops made me talk her out of a second pass (I never remembered three loops on that ride, but they must have been there).

We all went on Tower of Terror and had a blast. The randomness of the drops makes it much more exciting now. We went through some of the shops before taking the boat back to EPCOT. Once there, I revisited Japan, then walked over to Great Britain and Canada before hitting Nemo and Spaceship Earth on the way out.

My wife wanted some treats from her non-Minnesota fast-food favorite (Chick-Fil-A), so I picked up some of that after dropping them off at my brother’s house. He gave me a great birthday present tonight too–a new Pluto hockey jersey (picture coming soon).

Speaking of pictures, I’ve created a new public photo album in the Travel section called Walt Disney World. I uploaded a bunch there tonight, along with more to the private album. Just a reminder, if you’d the password to the private area and don’t know it, please send an email to dk@7minutemiles.com.

Tomorrow: the Magic Kingdom.

Originally published by DK on January 31, 2007 at 11:26 pm

Off to Visit the Mouse

Posted Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 12:15 pm GMT -5 in Travel at 12:15 PM

We leave today to visit my brother and his wife in Orlando, Florida for a few days. The timing is great–it’s forecast to be the coldest week of the year in Minnesota. Orlando hasn’t been the warmest lately (lows near freezing), but it’s supposed to get back to normal by the end of the week.

I’m especially excited to ride the new Expedition Everest ride at Animal Kingdom. No golf planned, but I’m sure we’ll do a lot of walking the next few days. Watch for pictures and stories later this week…

UPDATE: Wireless access rocks. First photos uploaded to the private area of the photo page.

Originally published by DK on January 30, 2007 at 12:15 pm

Tax Time Fun

Posted Saturday, January 27th, 2007 11:59 pm GMT -5 in Personal at 11:59 PM

Today I decided to tackle the four tax returns I need to complete this year (two S-corp returns and two personal). The corporate returns for 7 Minute Miles were pretty easy, as the company was dormant all year and was officially dissolved on December 31, 2006. Our personal federal return was much harder. I’m still missing a mortgage interest statement, but I decided to run through the whole process once using what I have so far. The initial refund outlook is good, but we’ll see on Monday what the final numbers look like.

The current tax code is too convoluted–politicians seem to think that the tax form is the primary way to implement policy. My favorite from this year? The new line on the Minnesota S-corp return that gives a credit to farmers for tuberculosis testing on their cows. Sigh.

The government knows us by social security number and gets reporting from employers every time a paycheck is issued. The technology is out there–why do we still have to go through this process? As for policy decisions, why not have all entitlement programs go through an online application process with direct deposit/automatic funds dispersement? That way, the farmers with the sick cows can get their funding and I don’t have to wade through an extra 10 pages of tax form instructions each year.

Originally published by DK on January 27, 2007 at 11:59 pm

Hot Plate Diner Minneapolis

Posted Wednesday, January 24th, 2007 11:17 pm GMT -5 in Food at 11:17 PM

Today I visited a restaurant in south Minneapolis that my wife loves. Hot Plate (5204 Bloomington Ave S, 612-824-4794) is a fun neighborhood diner with a great atmosphere and fun menu items. We just had to order the bacon-wrapped tater tots with BBQ sauce appetizer, which I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen anywhere else. My chicken club with melted cheddar cheese and applewood smoked bacon and a side of Barbette-like fries was very good. Lots of other items on the menu I wanted to try–and the breakfast menu sounded good too…

Originally published by DK on January 24, 2007 at 11:17 pm

Closing in on Forty

Posted Friday, January 19th, 2007 08:28 pm GMT -5 in Personal,Wildlife at 8:28 PM

This guy paid me a visit today on my thirty-eighth birthday. I’m not sure what kind of woodpecker it is, but this one was much larger than the downeys we’ve had recently.

I spent most of the day goofing off and it felt great:

  • Visited the Target, CompUSA and Best Buy video game, HDTV and computer departments.
  • Played a bit with Windows Vista and will write some more thoughts about that soon.
  • Answered just a couple work-related phone calls and emails.
  • Got a haircut, had lunch at Zantigo and dinner at Fuddruckers with my parents.
  • Received lots of great presents, phone calls, cards and emails–thanks to all of you!

Now I just need the Wild to hold on and beat the Blackhawks tonight…

Originally published by DK on January 19, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Jake O’Connor’s Irish Pub Excelsior

Posted Thursday, January 18th, 2007 11:14 am GMT -5 in Food at 11:14 AM

Lunch yesterday was at a new restaurant in Excelsior, Jake O’Connor’s, located on the corner of Water and 2nd Streets. It’s an Irish pub and restaurant with an authentic atmosphere, which I was told was brought over from Ireland piece by piece. I had fish and chips, which despite having Americanized chips, was very good. The other orders in our group included a BLT, various pot pies and several pints of Irish beer.

My friend Doug knows one of the owners and he said they have been open since the first half of December. The place was previously a hardware store that had suffered some fire damage, but the restoration and transformation to the current version is stunning. The original 100-year-old floor adds a sense of history, while the dark wood tones of the bar and booths bring that old-world European feel to what is really a brand-new establishment. There is a unique hand-painted mural in the back room depicting scenes from Irish literature (including a cameo by Sinead O’Connor), while the basement houses another bar and more seating.

Despite a lack of advertising and promotion, the word seems to be spreading. It was crowded yesterday and this looks like a nice addition to the west-side dining scene.

Originally published by DK on January 18, 2007 at 11:14 am

Stephane Veilleux Fanboys

Posted Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 05:03 pm GMT -5 in Hockey at 5:03 PM

That would be the Wild player in the middle (with the broken nose).

Originally published by DK on January 17, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Fuel Department Reunion

Posted Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 02:47 pm GMT -5 in Personal at 2:47 PM

Today I had lunch with several former members of the Northwest Airlines fuel department. Pictured above (left to right): Jack Van Der Wege, Doug Podolak, Jack Skoglund, Dan Redpath and myself). It was great seeing everyone and catching up on the latest gossip. Special thanks to Doug for buying us lunch.

More on the restaurant to follow in a separate post later tonight…

Originally published by DK on January 17, 2007 at 2:47 pm

Minnesota Wild versus Edmonton Oilers

Posted Wednesday, January 17th, 2007 11:02 am GMT -5 in Family,Hockey at 11:02 AM

Lame. That’s how my daughter summed up last night’s game against the Oilers. The penalty against Burns was lame. The Oilers first goal was lame. The non-stop injuries of the first period were lame. The performance of Shawn Belle was lame. 0-for-6 on the power play was lame. Out-shooting the Oilers 2-1 for most of the game and still losing was lame. A three-game home losing streak is lame.

Lemaire was right, though–they played a good game considering all of the factors. I can’t remember a recent game with so many scoring chances and none of them going in the net. Hopefully the injury situation won’t take too long to resolve itself.

This afternoon we are going to see Stephane Veilleux on Grand Avenue, then tonight it’s Hockey Unplugged in Lakeville with Emmanuel Fernandez-Lemaire and Brent Burns (who replaces trade-bait Dupuis).

Next game for us is February 8 versus Florida.

Originally published by DK on January 17, 2007 at 11:02 am

Jayhawks Live Album

Posted Tuesday, January 16th, 2007 12:02 am GMT -5 in Music at 12:02 AM

Just picked this up at Cheapo’s the other day–The Jayhawks Live from the Women’s Club. I love it when I find new stuff by my favorite bands that I either forgot about or didn’t know was released.

This album is full of great live versions recorded at a really interesting venue (we saw the British Advertising Awards there a few years ago when the Walker was being remodeled). And even better–there is also a volume two.

I’ve seen the Jayhawks live several times at First Avenue and it’s nice to have an “official bootleg” in my iTunes library.

Here’s the track listing:

  • I’m Gonna Make You Love Me
  • Nothing Left to Borrow
  • Drivin’ Wheel
  • Crowded in the Wings
  • Say You’ll Be Mine
  • Save It For A Rainy Day
  • Two Hearts
  • Smile
  • Trouble
  • Bottomless Cup
  • Tailspin
  • I’d Run Away
  • Break in the Clouds
  • Blue
  • Waiting for the Sun
  • Sound of Lies
  • Sister Cry
  • Desperate Serenade (Demo)
  • Someone Will (Demo)
Originally published by DK on January 16, 2007 at 12:02 am

Late Winter Finally Arrives

Posted Monday, January 15th, 2007 05:08 pm GMT -5 in Personal at 5:08 PM

Last night we had around eight inches of snow–just our second plowable snowfall of the season. Tonight the temperatures are supposed to fall to -9 F, but I have to admit that the sight of fresh snow in bright sunlight makes me forget how much I truly hate winter in Minnesota.

Originally published by DK on January 15, 2007 at 5:08 pm

The Month of Birthdays

Posted Monday, January 15th, 2007 04:55 pm GMT -5 in Family at 4:55 PM

This weekend was the start of several weeks of birthdays in our family. My youngest had a frog theme for her “friends” party and my wife made these great froggy cupcakes. My 38th is coming up on Friday, then my oldest has hers a few weeks later. Pictures from this weekend are up in the private photo area.

Originally published by DK on January 15, 2007 at 4:55 pm

7 Minute Miles Now Validates

Posted Monday, January 15th, 2007 12:15 am GMT -5 in Housekeeping,Technology at 12:15 AM

It’s been a long time coming, but I finally found the time to research my validation errors and have resolved them all. So now I’m proud to add the W3C logo to the sidebar:

W3C Logo

It’s a nerd thing, but web standards are a good thing. Happy to finally join the club…

Originally published by DK on January 15, 2007 at 12:15 am

What I Really Want – iPod Pro

Posted Friday, January 12th, 2007 10:16 pm GMT -5 in Technology at 10:16 PM

Now that the freshness of the iPhone announcement has settled down, I’ve decided that it’s not really what I want. The more that comes out about it, the less I like it. No third party apps because they don’t want a rogue app to take down Cingular’s west coast network? Are you kidding? And the more I read about the differences between the various wireless data networks, the less comfortable I am with the choice of EDGE. But perhaps the thing that makes me dread it most is the total cost of ownership–a high upfront cost and what appears will be an expensive voice/data package that will last 24 months. It still looks beautiful and fun to use, but I’m not sure the value is there.

What would I pay $500 for? A wide-screen video “iPod Pro” with all of the features of the iPhone, minus the networking. Give it a 120GB hard drive and I’m all over it. Music, movies, TV shows, iCal, Address Book, iPhoto all synced via a dock and iTunes is exactly what I’ve wanted for two years now. At first I thought I’d also want the wi-fi, but everywhere I’d use that, I’d rather have my PowerBook. I barely want to carry a cell phone, let alone something like a Treo or Blackberry for email and web browsing. I may be old fashioned, but nothing holds a stick to a real keyboard and a 17-inch screen for those types of apps for me. Maybe the iPhone changes this, maybe not.

Since he returned to Apple, Steve Jobs has been a hard person to bet against. I still remember all of the naysayers when the original iPod was announced and a lot of those criticisms either didn’t hold or Apple changed up the product in future revisions. I’m sure the same will happen with the iPhone and I have to believe that most of the features mentioned above will also find their way to the iPod sooner or later.

Originally published by DK on January 12, 2007 at 10:16 pm

Thoughts on 2007 MacWorld Keynote

Posted Wednesday, January 10th, 2007 01:27 am GMT -5 in Technology at 1:27 AM

Another MacWorld in San Francisco that I didn’t attend, but until WWDC moves somewhere else, I’m OK with that. After watching the rumor sites post the play-by-play today and reading some of the media feedback, my initial thought was that this must be one boring MacWorld show floor. With only two iPhone prototypes on display in the Apple booth (under glass no less) and only two other hardware announcements from Apple (the Apple TV and a new Airport Express base station), there really wouldn’t be much new to see. Microsoft pre-announced Office 2008 for the second half of the year, but I’m not sure if they are showing anything at the show. Still, there are lots of things to talk about.

The iPhone is just about everything I was hoping Apple would do with a phone. The size looks good, the screen is a little bigger than the PSP (which I loved when I owned one), battery life seems OK and the feature set is spectacular. It really doesn’t seem right to call it the iPhone–it’s really an iPod Pro with phone functions added. My only real disappointment was the relatively small storage sizes. 4GB and 8GB are OK (and much larger than what the PSP offers with it’s memory card storage), but it’s still ten times smaller than the current largest iPod. I wouldn’t be able to transfer my full libraries (music, video and photos), but I can’t really do that with my current iPods either.

The pricing seems OK to me–the original Treos were in this range. I’m not excited about it being locked in to one carrier and requiring a 2 year contract. It would have been nicer to have an unlocked device sold at Apple Stores that could be used with any carrier, but from what I’ve read, some of the features required changes to the network infrastructure. Too bad Apple couldn’t create or purchase their own network somehow (what is the current market value of the weaker carriers?). Then again, I always hoped Apple would use some of that extra cash to buy Adobe.

My biggest question is how open the device will be to third party developers. They say it’s OS X, but will all of the same development tools work? How is the file system structured? Will there be new APIs to access the new phone-only interfaces? Time will tell. I’d also like to have iPhone versions of Terminal and ARD, a sports score widget and a mobile version of the “real” iChat. I’m assuming there will also be some sort of news feed reader, a calculator and some unique games available by the time it actually launches this summer.

A few other unanswered questions:

  • Is there the equivalent of RAM versus hard drive storage?
  • What sort of processor does it use?
  • How well will the screen last under constant finger contact?
  • How will email and calendar synching work in the Windows world?
  • What’s up with using Yahoo! mail? Isn’t the .Mac framework up to the task?

Even with all of the uncertainty, you could probably put me down today for at least a couple units for work and family (if they were allowed by the FCC to accept orders).

My review of Apple TV is short and sweet: what’s the point? When we bought an HD projector for the office, we bought a Mac mini that does all of this and much, much more. When combined with Elgato’s EyeTV, I have everything I need (albeit at a higher price). If I was able to buy a new HD TV right now for my living room, I’d be buying another Mac mini, not an Apple TV. Maybe I just don’t get it, but it seems that this is a solution in search of a problem.

Lost in the hype was the introduction of a new Airport Express base station. The specs and pricing of this unit are still higher than the commodity wireless gear you find at any CompUSA, but I’ve always liked the easy setup and nice Mac-based admin utility that comes with the Airport line. Three Ethernet ports is a nice improvement, as is the ability to share a USB hard drive. The speed and range improvements are as yet unproven, but I’ll take their word for it. My only disappointment here is having only one USB port–having to add a USB hub just to share both a hard drive and a printer is lame.

Not a bad keynote by any stretch, but it does make you wonder when the rest of the 2007 news will arrive. There are lots of things that need to be done (the “secrets” of Leopard, Mac Pro upgrades, etc.), so it should be a fun year to watch Apple Inc. execute their plans.

UPDATE: From the pictures at apple.com, it already has a calculator widget. Also, some interesting commentary from Chuq Von Rospach, a former Apple employee (and hockey fan).

UPDATE 2: Henry Norr writes at Macintouch that the system is basically closed to Mac developers. In the Macintouch keynote summary, however, there is the quote: “developers who want to do applications [for the iPhone] are welcome to contact Apple developer relations.”

Originally published by DK on January 10, 2007 at 1:27 am

Minnesota Wild versus Tampa Bay

Posted Friday, January 5th, 2007 11:42 pm GMT -5 in Hockey at 11:42 PM

Bit of a let-down yesterday after that dominating victory against Atlanta earlier in the week. Martin St. Louis is such a small guy–I wish someone would have hit him a few times. The effort at the end of the game was impressive, but time just wasn’t on our side. All of those pipe ringings didn’t help much either.

We had a few snacks during the pre-game warm-up and wow, does Buffalo Wild Wings serve some really hot wings! I also saw my cousin and her boyfriend from long distance, but didn’t get a chance to visit.

Here’s a couple of other things Jake and I talked about during the game:

  • We’d prefer Shawn Belle to Martin Skoula on D–swap them out for a few weeks and see what happens. We got ’em both for Willie, but maybe we’ve been playing the wrong one in St. Paul.
  • When Gaborik comes back (which should have been this game–just what happened in the Thursday morning skate, anyway?), place him on the Walz line and sit out Dupuis for a while.
  • Jake thinks Glen Taylor should buy the Penguins, move them to Minneapolis and call them the North Stars. Target Center has a nice hockey layout and he’d probably make more money than he is now. Can the State of Hockey support two pro teams? Perhaps. And just think of all the money they’d save on travel expenses.

Next tickets: January 16 versus Rollie the Goalie and the Edmonton Oilers.

Originally published by DK on January 5, 2007 at 11:42 pm

Kim Johnsson and Todd White Player Appearance

Posted Thursday, January 4th, 2007 09:27 am GMT -5 in Family,Hockey at 9:27 AM

Last night my daughter and I went to see Kim Johnsson and Todd White of the Minnesota Wild at Hockey Unplugged. This edition was held at Joe Senser’s in Bloomington and was well attended by the Wild faithful. This is the second Hockey Unplugged event we’ve seen and continues the great community relations tradition of the Wild. Johnsson was especially friendly and I have two more “To DK” photos to add to the wall in the office.

The next Hockey Unplugged is close to home in Lakeville (players TBA), so we’ll probably hit that one as well. Stephane Veilleux is also scheduled to make an appearance near our office on January 17.

My officemate Jake and I scored free tickets to tonight’s game against Tampa Bay. Sounds like Gaborik won’t be back tonight as I had hoped, but if they play half the game they did against Atlanta, it should be a blast. Great seats too–row 20, section 118. Thanks Alan!

Originally published by DK on January 4, 2007 at 9:27 am

Mini Cars Mashup

Posted Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007 01:14 am GMT -5 in Cars,Pop Culture at 1:14 AM

Following a meme passed to me by Chuck Goolsbee (and following the instructions here), I present my Mini at Mount Rushmore.

Originally published by DK on January 3, 2007 at 1:14 am

Life Breakpoints

Posted Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007 12:26 am GMT -5 in Personal at 12:26 AM

Happy 2007 everyone! I have a good vibe about the upcoming year and I’ve been working a lot on planning and strategy to get things off to a good start. We have a lot of exciting things coming up and I’m anxious to hit some of the lofty goals we’ve set (more on that in a later post).

All of this planning made me think about the movie Run Lola Run, where fate leads the main character to three different outcomes based on slightly different breakpoints in each storyline. I have experienced several major breakpoints in my life and have often wondered how things would be different:

Breakpoint #1: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

RPI Math DepartmentThis was almost my address for college. I had never visited RPI, but was advised that it was one of the best technical colleges in the country, behind only MIT and Cal Tech. They also had a great hockey team, so it would feel like home.

I applied and was accepted into the mathematics degree program, but decided I really wanted to be an engineer and that the cost was too high. I ended up enrolled at the University of North Dakota in their aeronautical engineering program instead of RPI and the much more interesting Hudson River Valley.

There was another college breakpoint at UND–what if I had begun the flight training program there instead of transferring to the University of Wisconsin to study banking and finance (like my grandfather before me)? I probably couldn’t have afforded to become a pilot either, but going to Madison did get me closer to my future wife.

Breakpoint #2: Manager, Credit Systems

When I worked my way into management at Northwest Airlines in the mid-1990s, I was on track to accept what I thought would be the perfect match for my abilities and background–Manager, Credit Systems. I had several years of credit and collecting experience and was the local computer geek for the building. I successfully made it through several interviews and was just waiting for the paperwork to clear.

At the last minute, the director of the credit division called me into his office and said he was excited to welcome me to management, but not to the position I was expecting. The manager of the general credit area decided he wanted to try the systems position, so I was being offered his old job. I had a good relationship with that manager, but he did not have any computer background and the general credit area had a number of interesting employees to manage. I really had no choice but to accept that position, but I wonder how my career would be different today had I been offered that position.

Breakpoint #3: Fallon

Another job related breakpoint came a few years later. I had been working in the fuel department at Northwest for a few years and had a wonderful boss who was (and still is) a great mentor to me. There was some uncertainty in his position (and therefore mine), so I accepted an interview with the Fallon advertising firm in Minneapolis. This came via a referral from my Apple rep at the time, as Fallon was a huge Apple shop and they were looking for someone to run their server farm.

The interviews went great and I absolutely loved the working environment–so many cool and creative people in an office full of the latest and greatest toys. The money being offered wasn’t much more than I was making, but I was ready to accept just for the environment. The only real negatives were the commute downtown and a possible increase in stress (supporting the whole company instead of just one department).

My boss at Northwest really made this a non-decision for me, as he offered me a huge raise and a new title to stay. Airlines and advertising haven’t been great places to be the past few years, but taking that job at Fallon would have been very, very interesting.

Breakpoint #4: Portland and Las Vegas

My final major breakpoint to date happened when my position at Northwest was eliminated. Despite living in Minnesota most of my life, I decided I needed to have a national scope for my job search. The types of jobs I was looking for were specialized and there weren’t a lot of options in the Twin Cities.

Two of my favorite places to visit are Portland, Oregon and Las Vegas, Nevada. I wasn’t sure I could handle living in Las Vegas, but a friend from high school had lived there for a long time and he invited me to stay with him while I looked at jobs. I had an interview for a position with a company that designed graphics for slot machines located just off the Strip. I was a perfect match for the skill set, but their offer was almost $20,000 less than I had made at Northwest.

There were no doubts about Portland–we could totally live there. The primary problem was prices were rising and none of the jobs I was looking at paid enough to give us a standard of living equal to that of Minnesota. Same story for a great position I interviewed for in California. Things eventually worked out in my home state, but I frequently wonder what things would be like now if we had moved west.

I’ve been very privileged to lead the life I’ve led and wouldn’t change a thing, but these breakpoints sure are fun to ponder.

Originally published by DK on January 3, 2007 at 12:26 am
 

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