7 Minute Miles

Up Next: Public Broadcasting

Posted Thursday, November 17th, 2022 09:14 am in Business,Friends,Longform,Personal,Technology,Television,Work at 9:14 AM

Now that I’ve been in my new role as systems engineer at TPT for a month, I figured it was a good time to reflect on this change and write about my experience so far. The organization’s post-COVID return to the office has been branded as a “Return to Lowertown” and it literally is for me too. Hard to believe it’s almost a year already since we left Rayette Lofts to head on down the river…

The commute back and forth has been great so far, usually taking under 15 minutes each way. Next spring, I hope to ride my bike a few days each week if I can sort out the storage issues. I splurged on the expensive parking option in the Lowertown Ramp, which is easy-in on Sibley and easy-out on Jackson (plus covered spots with no winter scraping). I’ve never really had any security trouble in Lowertown, but it is convenient to have a parking spot right next to the office entrance.

Some other logistical things: currently working a hybrid schedule of four days in the office and one day from home (Wednesdays), which has been very nice. While every day has been focused on getting up to speed on systems and technology, I’ve been trying to use the work from home day as a deep-dive research day (which is easier alone). TPT has a nice lunchroom, so I’ve mainly been bringing in frozen lunches to eat. The reawakening of the downtown St. Paul lunch dining scene has been slow, but there are pockets here and there. Still exploring the skyway, but always open to suggestions and recommendations.

Totally digging the culture and mission of the organization:

Enrich lives and strengthen our community through the power of media.

How can you not smile walking into an office with a two-story Big Bird on the wall? I grew up watching Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, The Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact, while my kids were raised on Teletubbies, Arthur, Caillou, Zoboomafoo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Sagwa and Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman. Our family was addicted to the old Action Auction they produced in the former studios across from the fairgrounds on Como, regularly bidding on 25-pound salted nut rolls (among other things).

Looking at some of the other pictures and signs around the office bring back a flood of other positive memories: Downtown Abbey, Rick Steves’ Europe, Nova, Nature, Austin City Limits, Lowertown Line and Almanac. So much good content has been broadcast from this PBS affiliate and I’m really excited to help such a talented and creative crew. My high school friend Terry Gray has been at TPT for 15 years and was a major influence on me considering this role. Super excited to work with him again (we worked together at HSRA Minnesota and I saw him occasionally on the sidelines at U.S. Bank Stadium).

The Information Technology team at TPT is solid and I really enjoy being part of a larger group again. Former McNally Smith veteran Nick Kaihoi is great to work with and we have so many shared tech experiences and philosophies, it’s scary. The team picked out a new M2 MacBook Air for me to use, which was just perfect. I also appreciate that the HR department has an actual “No Jerk Policy” and find the overall vibe just so refreshing. It reminds me of this Mr. Rodgers quote:

There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.

“Funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and contributions to your PBS station from Viewers Like You”

Originally published by DK on November 17, 2022 at 9:14 am

Twitter Tales

Posted Thursday, November 10th, 2022 01:05 am in Business,Family,Friends,Longform,Technology at 1:05 AM

Twitter is really having a moment, isn’t it? Too bad it feels like the verge of implosion, as it has been my favorite social media platform since I joined back in February 2008. Not sure of all the dates, but I think I joined LinkedIn (the first time) just after Twitter, followed by Facebook in December 2008 and Instagram sometime in 2010. I deleted my Facebook account in June 2020, followed by Instagram a few days later. Dropped off LinkedIn for about five years, as it became a huge source of spam and unsolicited sales pitches. I rejoined last year for career reasons, but it seems rather sad that may be the last one standing if I decide to drop Twitter.

Now, I don’t really want to leave Twitter. I likely use the service differently than 99% of the rest of the world, and it has served me well. I’m rarely on the actual twitter.com website, using the awesome Tweetbot client on both macOS and iOS. For reasons I don’t fully understand, using those tools means I never see ads and my timeline is always in chronological order (with only accounts I want to see).

I currently follow about 400 accounts (many of those, it turns out, have been inactive for some time) and I’ve carefully curated what accounts I follow to get useful and timely info in my personal areas of interest (music, sports, food, travel, running, casinos and technology). There are friends and family on there that I know from real life and a bunch of real people that I only know through Twitter. Some of these people I’m connected with on LinkedIn, but I’d miss out on so much if Twitter was out of the picture. Hoping for personal blogs to make a comeback – RSS is solid tech and NetNewsWire is still a great reader on macOS.

Decided to spend some time this week studying what content has been hitting my timeline since Electric Rocket Boy took over. There are a few friends that I follow that use the service *a lot* and I don’t think I fully realized just how much they shape my Twitter experience (hello @rstanzel, @russohockey, @bynkii and @peril_in_pink). I’m closing in on 23,000 lifetime tweets, but Russo is nearing 200,000. I respect how everyone uses the service – you can always unfollow or mute if you don’t like the frequency (or the content). Of course, the new ownership may have other plans. Seriously wondering just how long third party clients like Tweetbot will be allowed access to the system…

So where do I go from here? Just like I did with the other services, I requested a download of my data (which you can do on this page). The Twitter archive you get is actually pretty nice – it creates a local web page you can open with your browser and view all of your tweets, likes, replies, direct messages and media files. I would like to find a way to take this archive, strip out the private stuff and just have a page with all the tweets (like I did for my old Instagram pics here).

I’ll likely stay on the service as long as Tweetbot works the way I’m used to, my favorite people continue to post and it remains free to use. If any of those things change (or the “Chief Twit” makes me as mad as the “Meta” joker did), I will deactivate & delete the @kingsbury account, pour one out for the bird and get to work on improving this little corner of the internet…

7 Minute Miles Twitter Hall of Fame


Thanks for all the awesome micro-content and socializing 💜

Originally published by DK on November 10, 2022 at 1:05 am

Four Years of Bonus Time

Posted Saturday, October 8th, 2022 02:24 pm in Baseball,Concerts,Family,Food,Longform,Personal,Travel at 2:24 PM

This is a streak I can fully get behind: four full years of bonus time as of today (read about year one, year two and year three). As the memories of that day fade farther and farther out, I love having this extra “birthday” to reflect on how lucky I am to have more time with family and friends before moving in to my forever home (pictured above).

My overall health remains good, but wear and tear issues are starting to be felt more and more. Heading to see a foot specialist in a few weeks to have my left foot looked at – not sure if it’s a broken bone, arthritis or something else, but it’s not been the same since running the Garry Bjorklund Half in June. That was my first race longer than a 10K during bonus time, but I’m not sure I want to do anything longer than that again (but we’ll see what the doctor says). Rode 500+ miles on the bike this year and have the watch move streak at 905 days and counting, but played a lot less golf this season. Should drop 25 pounds, but that’s been a challenge.

My periodic MRI and subsequent talk with Dr. Tummala was very positive, so I don’t need another one of those for three years. That’s really great news, as I feel ultra-claustrophobic in that machine now. Had a visit with the dentist this week and everything on that front is still coming up Milhouse. I have a love/hate relationship with my glasses – the prism prescription is now probably the best it will get, so I still need to generally wear them for driving and golf. I can get by the rest of the time without them, so that’s an OK compromise.

At the end of the year three bonus time update, I mentioned there was a big change coming soon. That was me leaving U.S. Bank Stadium and joining the pre-opening team for the new Four Seasons Hotel Minneapolis. I haven’t written much about my time there, but it was a great learning experience. We opened the hotel on time on June 1 and my last day was June 24. For the first time in my professional career, I voluntarily took a few months off during the summer to recharge and figure out what’s next. I’ll have more to write about that next week, but I have to say the Europeans that get to do this every year are really on to something…

Colleen and I have had a very eventful last 12 months. We went to Kauai for our 30th wedding anniversary, built a new “retirement special” home south of Saint Paul and became pretty big baseball fans, attending lots of Saints and Twins game (hoping we can go to spring training next year too, if Fort Myers recovers). We’ve slowed down a bit with concerts, but still love a good live show. Since the last bonus post, I saw The Rolling Stones at U.S. Bank Stadium, Elvis Costello at First Avenue, Richard Thompson at the Fitzgerald, Diana Ross at the Minnesota State Fair, Florence + the Machine at Xcel Energy Center and another amazing Tenacious D show at Surly. Too bad Duran Duran got rained out at Treasure Island.

Today Colleen and I went to brunch at The Copperfield in Mendota Heights, we drove by my grandparent’s old street nearby (which has a completely different house on that lot now), stopped by Acacia Cemetery and admired the giant blaze maple and will head down to Xcel Energy Center for some pre-season hockey before wrapping up the night checking out the hot new Woodbury restaurant Hazelwood.

Still super, super grateful for the wonderful health professionals who helped me on this journey, along with the amazing support of family and friends – you all rock. Lots of big changes coming up in the next year of bonus time – stayed tuned!

Peace and love, DK

Originally published by DK on October 8, 2022 at 2:24 pm

The North Shore

Posted Wednesday, August 24th, 2022 12:00 am in Casinos,Food,Longform,Travel at 12:00 AM

Our family has been going “up North” for as long as I can remember. The Minnesota portion of the North Shore of Lake Superior is a special place: starting in Duluth and stretching roughly 150 miles to Grand Portage and the Canadian border. Each spot along Highway 61 holds special memories for us, but I realized after talking to people new to the area that I’ve never really written about this part of the state (and what to see and do).

My parents started renting cabins on Croftville Road outside of Grand Marais when I was very young. While there are still several different options on that road that we stayed at over the years, Elsie’s Lakeview Cabins eventually became our primary home away from home for two weeks every summer. My grandfather and uncle would often rent the cabin next door (#8) while we were there and my sister has continued the cabin #9 tradition to this day.

So let’s start with some basics. It takes roughly two hours to get from the Twin Cities to Duluth (with a convenient halfway pit stop at Tobies in Hinckley for caramel rolls and donuts), then an additional two hours to get to Grand Marais. During the summer season, we always stop at Gordy’s Hi-Hat in Cloquet for burgers (they are closed in the winter) and love breakfast and/or lunch at the Duluth Grill (they are only open from 8:00am until 3:00pm daily).

Since my sister lives in Duluth and MK has been a student at UMD, we’ve spent a lot of time recently in Duluth. I’ve also run Grandma’s Marathon nine times, which is always a multi-day party for the city. The namesake Grandma’s Saloon & Grill in Canal Park (near the finish line of the race) is a bit touristy, but I still like eating there from time to time. The whole area near the aerial lift bridge is fun and ever changing: new(ish) faves include Northern Waters Smokehaus and Love Creamery. Always fun to just watch the big ships come in and out of the harbor (webcam) and the little maritime museum is great too.

Other things we do in Duluth from time to time include crossing Kingsbury Creek at the Duluth Zoo, skiing at Spirit Mountain, visit the UMD Land Lab farm and attend shows at the NorShor Theatre (RIP Duluth Electric Fetus). The people that own Duluth Grill also own OMC Smokehouse, which we love even when there is a long wait (and there is always a long wait). Some other Duluth favorites include Duluth Cider (get a Gitch), Positively 3rd Street Bakery (try the ginger cookies) and At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe (everything there is good). A tour of the Glensheen Mansion is a must.

Heading northeast out of Duluth, take the “Scenic Route” along old 61 to trace the marathon course back to the starting line adjacent to Sonju Two Harbors. Along the way, you will find the New Scenic Café and my sister’s stomping ground, Great! Lakes Candy Kitchen. The Scenic Route reconnects with the expressway just before Two Harbors, which has the last non-DQ fast food chain options until you get to Canada. Skip those, though, and stop at Betty’s Pies (good) or Rustic Inn Café (better).

The next big landmark heading up the shore is Gooseberry Falls State Park. Honestly, I think this is one of my favorite parks to hike around, even though I’ve been here a million times. The multiple falls are beautiful all times of the year and you can get quite a workout looping up and down the river to the big lake and back. The “new” visitor center is excellent and has a great gift shop and interpretive center. I do miss the old Civilian Conservation Corps visitor center of my youth, but the current one is really better in almost every way.

Iconic Split Rock Lighthouse State Park is next up, which may be the most photographed spot in Minnesota. The lighthouse itself is managed by the Minnesota Historical Society, whose tours are worth the cost. The hike down to the beach is a bit strenuous, but worth it for the photo opportunities that await. I wish the Split Rock Trading Post gift shop with the lookout tower, black bears and anchor from the Madeira shipwreck was still standing, but it appears it burned to the ground in 1999.

Next up is Beaver Bay, followed by Silver Bay, Palisade Head and Tettegouche State Park. We usually haven’t stopped much along this stretch, but I would like to hike around Palisade Head at some point (it is technically part of Tettegouche, but not contiguous with the rest of that park). The visitor center at Tettegouche is huge and is located just before and across the turn for Highway 1 to Ely. That road is super twisty and was a lot of fun in the old Mini Cooper that I drove between Lake Vermilion and the North Shore.

Don’t blink or you will miss Little Marais, which I always thought was funny (and really not very close to Grand Marais). The wayside rest at Schroeder has the infamous “Lives Have Been Lost Here” Cross River Falls, which is just before the turnoff for Father Baraga’s Cross Historical Marker. We stopped once at Temperance River State Park, but I vaguely remember someone throwing lit firecrackers at the parked cars and I don’t think we ever went back.

Tofte and Lutsen come next and we’ve spent significant time in both. The Holiday gas station in Tofte has always been a favorite (they sometimes have donuts from Grand Marais), we stayed at the AmericInn when I went to see Richard Thompson at Papa Charlie’s in 2008 and last year we finally stayed at Bluefin Bay, which I believe was originally owned by neighbors of my grandparents. The Bluefin Grille has solid food and we enjoyed the views from our upper-level room.

Our friend Megan got married on the beach at Lutsen Resort back in 2010 and I always thought it was a cool property. We tried staying there one hot summer, though, and it was not cool at all (literally – none of the rooms in the lodge had air conditioning). The fall colors there are the most incredible I’ve seen anywhere and the skiing at Lutsen Mountains is easily the best in Minnesota. I love the golf at Superior National, the Alpine Slide was a childhood adventure and Moguls Grille & Tap Room is an old favorite. The Superior Hiking Trail passes through here and is home to the Superior Trail Races and the Lutsen 99er mountain bike race.

There used to be an annual Lutsen Art Fair in the field next to the Lutsen Town Hall that mom would take us to every year, but I can’t seem to find much on the history of that event (and it doesn’t look like it’s happened for a while). We also used to eat quite often at Cascade Lodge, but that tradition never really passed on to our kids because of the taxidermy. They do like to camp at Cascade River State Park though. I always wanted to stay at the Thomsonite Inn, but I think we only visited the lobby a few times to look at the rocks for sale. The wayside rest just past there gives you the first glimpse of Grand Marais (at least on the non-foggy days).

Grand Marais was once voted “Coolest Small Town in America” and it’s always been a Kingsbury/Smith family favorite. Classics include Sven and Ole’s Pizza, World’s Best Donuts, Blue Water Café, Angry Trout Cafe, the DQ, Joynes Ben Franklin, Lake Superior Trading Post, Sivertson Gallery and Drury Lane Books. Our kids really like the Putt n Pets Mini Golf, which has grown over time to include goats and only once caused a trip to the emergency room (hello, SK). “Newer” additions to our regulars list include Superior Creamery, Joy & Co., Voyageur Brewing Company, Hungry Hippie Tacos (which now has a second location in Duluth) and My Sister’s Place (which mom boycotted for many, many years). RIP: Leng’s Fountain, Chez Jude and Northern Lights Jewelry. Make sure to walk out to the lighthouse and around Artist Point – it’s right up there with skipping rocks on a calm day for classic North Shore experiences.

Grand Marais has a nine hole golf course up the hill (Gunflint Hills), a nice radio station in WTIP and the annual Fisherman’s Picnic (that mom and dad usually wanted to avoid because of the extra crowds). The iconic Gunflint Trail sign marks the start of the road due north to the Gunflint Lodge, which we stayed at once (and enjoyed). Keep an eye out for Ugly Baby Bait & Boats – how may they help you? The trails at Pincushion are great for trail running and nordic skiing. They claim you can view moose at the Moose Viewing Trail, but we’ve had no such luck. Haven’t spent much time there, but the North House Folk School area next to the Angry Trout is charming and could serve as a coastal New England movie set.

Heading out of Grand Marais, you hit Croftville Road pretty quickly (County Road 87). Beyond that is the Devil Track River (which I always thought sounded sweet), Five Mile Rock, Judge C.R. Magney State Park with the astounding Devil’s Kettle that you really need to hike up and see, Naniboujou Lodge & Restaurant with it’s fascinating history and colorful dining room, then Hovland (former home to Natasha’s Crafts) and on to Grand Portage (both the casino and the National Monument). The hiking trail to the Mount Rose Overlook is memorable, the High Falls on the Pigeon River in Grand Portage State Park is the tallest waterfall in Minnesota and Ryden’s Border Store is the last business you can visit before crossing over into Ontario.

Tip of the Arrowhead, indeed…

Originally published by DK on August 24, 2022 at 12:00 am

The many faces of Black Orchid

Posted Tuesday, July 19th, 2022 02:12 pm in Business,Casinos,Games,Longform at 2:12 PM

Slot machines are fascinating to me – there are literally thousands of different games available in casinos around the world (and online). There are games with licensed pop culture content, brands cultivated by companies like Aristocrat and IGT, infinite varieties of video poker and keno – heck, even YouTube slot celebrity Brian Cristopher has his own branded slot machine now. These games form the revenue foundation for most casinos, but they can be complex to analyze when you throw in multiple denominations, bet levels, volatility and progressive jackpots.

One game that touches on all of these variables, Black Orchid from IGT, also happens to be one of my personal favorites. Introduced around 2013, it spawned two alternate themes based on the same math and gameplay model (Silk Seduction and Vintage Love) and can still be found in a few Minnesota casinos (Mystic Lake has two, Grand Casino has a bunch in both of their locations, Black Bear had three and Fortune Bay used to have one before the pandemic, but it has not returned). I last saw Silk Seduction at Bellagio (since removed) and there used to be Vintage Love games at both Hinckley and Treasure Island (also removed).

Black Orchid appeals to me because of the high volatility gameplay, tropical soundtrack, dimensional graphics (glowbugs!) and the affordable bet levels. Of course the biggest reason is probably that the Orchid is the only game that I’ve won hand-pay jackpots: $3,992.54 in October 2016 and $3,247.79 in May 2017. These both happened on 40-cent bets at Mystic Lake, which resulted in returns of 9,981x and 8,119x. Let’s take a deeper dive into the complexities of this classic casino game.

It is rather shocking to me that more information about slot machines is not documented online. These games have a lot of details for players to learn (and for the operators to market). The various online and app-based companies that offer “free” versions of real-life games are one way for players to become familiar with the ins and outs of a game, but unfortunately I have not found Black Orchid on any of these services (it appears there was a PC-based option at one point). The Lightning Link app licensed by Aristocrat supports many of their popular real world games, even giving players stats on their pretend play.

YouTube slot channels are another great way for players to become familiar with new games and how they play before they use real money. There is no doubt that influencers like Brian Christopher have impacted the popularity and business success of various games over the years. Casinos still tend to limit who can film on their floors, so I think older games like Black Orchid won’t get much of a boost from these channels, as influencers tend to focus on new games and marketing partnerships. I’m also seeing a trend towards more and more high-denomination videos, which means my little game with a $4.95 max bet is unlikely to be featured. I am curious to see if casino marketing departments start to shoot their own slot play videos to promote games (both new and old).

Speaking of max bets, let’s look at the options on Black Orchid. In Minnesota, I’ve only seen a penny denomination offered (even in the Hinckley high limit room). There is a video on YouTube with a ten-cent version, but I’ve never seen this in person. At Mystic Lake, the minimum bet is 40 cents. There are also 80-cent and 99-cent options, plus multipliers of 2, 3, 4 and 5. This means you have fifteen different bet options between $0.40 and $4.95 per spin. The machines at Grand Casino also offer 20-cent and 1-cent options, which gives 25 different bet options starting at a penny a spin (and some very interesting low-bet opportunities that I will discuss shortly).

So what’s the difference between the 1, 20, 40, 80 and 99-cent options? One word: pay-lines. The penny option gives you one pay-line (the five squares across in the second row down from the top), plus the four squares in the middle (top to bottom) that award the Orchid progressive when you get four black orchid symbols in those positions. The 20-cent bet gives you 20 pay-lines; 40-cent is 40 pay-lines; 80-cent is 40 pay-lines plus a 40 credit MultiWay bet for an extra 1024 ways, while the 99-cent bet is 60 pay-lines for 57 credits plus a 42 credit MultiWay bet for an extra 1024 ways. Learning what is and is not a pay-line or “way” is complicated:

MultiWayXtra game is played at 1024 Ways, times the bet multiplier. MultiWay wins contain one symbol from each adjacent column, beginning with the leftmost column. The same symbol, or it’s substitute, in a different position in the column pays that MultiWay win again. Only the highest win is paid for each MultiWay symbol combination. MultiWay wins are multiplied by the bet multiplier.

With this being a high volatility game, you can go many, many spins without a winning line hit. The real money for players is in the progressives: there are five smaller progressives and the one large Orchid progressive. To win one of the smaller progressives, you need five of the same symbol on a pay-line (with or without wild symbols, which can appear anywhere except the first column). You can win the same progressive on multiple pay-lines, but the additional lines all pay at the starting amount for that level.

As mentioned above, the Orchid progressive is awarded when four black orchid symbols appear in the middle column (which also awards 20 free spins; wilds do not count). Two black orchids awards ten free spins, while three black orchids awards 15 free spins. You can re-trigger during free spins, up to 130 total free spins (the most I ever had was 110, which paid me $86.35 on a 40 cent bet). You can also win any of the progressives during free spins (starting numbers on a 40 cent 1x bet):

  • Red: “Flutter-bys” – starts at $5
  • Purple: “Forgs” – starts at $12
  • Blue: “Kitties” – starts at $15
  • Green: “Dudes” – starts at $25
  • Yellow: “Ladies” – starts at $100
  • Orchid: “The Big One” – starts at $2500

All of the progressives change based on the main bet and multiplier. The multiplier increases in the smaller progressives are not straight up – each level only increases by the starting amount at each level. The Orchid progressive is much more interesting:

When that progressive gets very large on a machine that allows 1-cent bets, you can in theory win more than $10,000 on a penny spin. If you up your bet to what I call nickel Orchid, you can also win $500+ on a nickel spin. I’ve done that once at Hinckley, hitting a $524.76 Yellow progressive for a return of almost 10,500x. Playing nickel Orchid is fascinating – you can rapid-fire spins for hours and usually not risk more than $100. With only one pay line, winning spins are rare, but have high ratio paybacks when you do hit:

Symbol Three Four Starting Progressive
Jacks & Queens $0.50 (10x) $2.50 (50x) N/A – flat $5
Kings & Aces $0.75 (15x) $3.75 (75x) N/A – flat $5
Red $2.50 (50x) $5.00 (100x) $25 (500x)
Purple $2.50 (50x) $5.00 (100x) $60 (1,200x)
Blue $3.75 (75x) $20.00 (400x) $75 (1,500x)
Green $5.00 (100x) $25.00 (500x) $125 (2,500x)
Yellow $5.00 (100x) $25.00 (500x) $500 (10,000x)

Triggering free games in nickel Orchid often results in the dreaded “FREE GAMES COMPLETE” screen, with no money won. I’m convinced, though, that your odds of winning the Orchid progressive are the same on a nickel spin as they are on a $4.95 spin (I talked to my old IGT friend about Black Orchid odds once, but I still don’t know all of the math behind this game). I do think that winning the smaller progressives is much harder on nickel Orchid, though, as there are 39 (or 59) fewer winning lines in play. It blows my mind that you can potentially get a 200,000x win on a nickel spin. This excitement is what gets people to play – and to return again and again in person.

While first researching Black Orchid, I came across the personal website of someone who listed themselves as a game designer on this title. I emailed him to ask if he could share more about the development of this slot machine, but never received a response (he may be under NDA for all I know). I’d love to know more about the math and why there is a rare alternate graphic for the cat…

Addendum published 8/2/2022

Originally published by DK on July 19, 2022 at 2:12 pm

Google Apps to iCloud Mail

Posted Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022 11:10 pm in Longform,Technology at 11:10 PM

Back on my birthday, The Verge reported what I heard was rumored to be coming: the service formerly known as Google Apps for Domains would no longer be free to early adopters like me. Now known as G Suite legacy free edition, it was originally a great way to get free email hosting using Gmail’s infrastructure.

At one point, I probably was admin on 7 or 8 domains that used this service – most of which were not businesses. In addition to my personal 7minutemiles.com email address, I also set up email for both kid one and kid two on their personal domains, along with a few charity and friend domains whose websites I hosted. Sure Google would mine the data in your email, but I thought that was a fair trade for good spam filtering and not having to manage my own mail servers (which I did for several painful years).

Google may change course for some users like me (after getting a lot of “feedback” on this plan), but I decided to start looking for alternatives. If I wanted to stay with Google’s Workspace product, the cheapest Business Starter plan was $6 per user per month. Many people like the Microsoft 365 options, which start at $5 per user per month (or $150 a year if you also want to get the Office apps). Lots of other services too at many different price points and service options. What to do, what to do?

I’ve been an iCloud customer for a few years now, first as a cloud backup tool for my iPhone, then expanding to lots of other uses: Photos, Notes, Calendars, Contacts and file storage via iCloud Drive. It really makes using multiple Apple devices much more productive. I paid for a 2TB plan with Family Sharing, so everyone in our family could have their phones backed up automatically. We had a free trial Apple TV+ account, then started experimenting with a paid Apple Music account. When the Apple One plan was announced, it was cheaper for me to switch to that. Turns out that gave me iCloud+ and the ability to use custom email domains with iCloud Mail. Intriguing…

With the Google May 1 and July 1 deadlines looming, I decided I needed to start early on a migration plan. Email addresses are tied to so many things these days, you can’t really just throw them away and start over from scratch. I wasn’t super concerned or worried about retaining old emails, but the mailbox on my personal account was 7.25GB in size (and must contain *some* things I want to keep). A few of the accounts I was still admin for weren’t being used any longer and could just be deleted. The three family domains were the ones that needed a plan. Here’s what I ended up doing for each one:

  • Logged in to Google Takeout and downloaded all Mail data in MBOX format for each account.
  • Logged in to icloud.com, clicked on Account Settings and then the Manage button in the Custom Email Domain section.
  • Followed the directions on this page, then read up about the needed changes to DNS on this page.
  • Since I use the Route 53 service on AWS for DNS these days, I had issues getting the Apple-supplied DNS information to work at first, but this great post by Dale Clifford helped solve that puzzle.
  • Once Route 53 was changed correctly, logged back into icloud.com to finish setting up the domain in Account Settings.

After iCloud confirmed each domain was ready to go, I needed to turn on iCloud Mail on each device we wanted to use. This was troublesome for kid one and kid two, as you need to have a default iCloud Mail address defined before it will let you use your custom domain name account (i.e. – I also have davidmkingsbury@icloud.com, which doesn’t ever get used). We kept getting various errors setting that part up for them, but eventually a random iCloud Mail name took for each of them and sending and receiving worked right away on their custom domains.

We still need to take their MBOX files from the Google Takeout exports and import them to their new accounts, but that can wait for now. For my domain, I found that I could be connected to both the old Google mailboxes via IMAP and the new iCloud hosted mailboxes (also via IMAP) in Apple Mail on my laptop, then just drag and drop messages from old to new. This took a lot of time for thousands of messages, but I also didn’t have to manually re-sort messages after importing from the large MBOX file.

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this very long post. I haven’t done a long form post in quite a while, but it’s always good to document stuff like this for the random one in a billion person who might stumble across it while Googling for help on formerly great Google services…


Originally published by DK on February 22, 2022 at 11:10 pm

Three Years of Bonus Time

Posted Friday, October 8th, 2021 11:13 am in Family,Food,Friends,Longform,Personal,Travel at 11:13 AM

Today marks the three year anniversary of my train platform event in downtown Minneapolis. The first anniversary was amazing, I was ultra grateful for my second anniversary and now things are running on all cylinders for year three. Colleen made my favorite bars to celebrate and we will be having dinner tonight at Saint Dinette to toast another splendid year around the sun.

On the health front, everything is great. I’m on my second pair of permanent prism lenses and they work perfectly. Still don’t need them for reading screens, but I do prefer them now for watching TV and movies, riding my bike, golfing and driving (even bought a pair of prism sunglasses). The move streak on my watch is now up to 540 days, I’m at 530 miles on the bike log for 2021 and have even signed up to try another half marathon in 2022.

As the pandemic continues to roll on, some things have returned to (semi) normal. While we had an entire football season without fans, this year has seen a return to no restrictions and four games with thousands of people through the doors. We took our first airplane trips to and from Las Vegas over Labor Day and will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this December on Kauai. We’ve also been building a new house that should be ready when we get back (after an extended construction period).

Lastly, I want to again thank the healthcare professionals who helped get me to year three, along with all of my family and friends who have provided love and support. There is one other big change coming soon, but I’ll leave that for another day…

Originally published by DK on October 8, 2021 at 11:13 am

State Fair Milk Run 2021

Posted Sunday, August 29th, 2021 06:56 pm in Food,Longform,Running at 6:56 PM

It’s a little crazy to look back at the post I wrote from the last time I ran the Milk Run 5K at the Minnesota State Fair. Back in 2015, I was on a streak to get closer to actually winning an age group ribbon (awarded to the top three in each category) and was disappointed to run an eight minute mile. This year, my C goal was to finish, my B goal was to run the whole thing without stopping to walk and my A goal was to finish faster than my previous slowest time (39:09). Considering I haven’t really run at all since the Get in Gear, it was a minor miracle I hit all three goals (finishing in 32:55).

That 10:36 pace was good enough for 20th in my age group (out of 30) and 399th out of 911 total finishers. My age group leaderboard is still full of fast old guys, with the winner running a 20:11 (6:30 pace). My Milk Run PR of 21:42 would’ve put me just two seconds out of the third place ribbon, though, so there’s still hope. I’m not sure that I will ever get back to distance races, but I could see myself trying to get better at 5K and 10K runs. It was really fun to be back out on a real course again (with a few spectators even). Probably could’ve shaved a few more seconds off if I didn’t wait to start in the back of the pack – there was quite a slow logjam for the first half mile or so. The watch says my mile splits were 10:32, 10:11 and 9:43, so that’s a positive. Hopefully there will be no football game again in 2022 (which is the reason I’ve missed the last four pre-pandemic years).

The course was the same as the last time I ran, starting on Machinery Hill and running through Saint Anthony Park and the University of Minnesota Saint Paul campus. I waved at the old Vince Fan house on Dudley and was amused by the milk protesters halfway through the race. The start and finish were at the intersection of Randall and Underwood, a block over from Giggles’ Campfire Grill, which was kind enough to give all runners a free breakfast sandwich, a slice of watermelon, some blueberries and a bottle of water after the race. I also used my free malt coupon at the Dairy Building (which thankfully wasn’t closed, contrary to a rumor we had heard). Picked up my shirt after the race and went back to the car to change, which was really refreshing. Getting in to park at Snelling and Hoyt was also much less stressful than last time, but leaving that way at 1:30pm was a hot mess.

Colleen went to get Sweet Martha’s cookies while I went to change, and the new(ish) location on Machinery Hill gave her a huge pile of extra cookies. We shared some with the people at the Kemp’s booth, who surprisingly enough asked me about the milk protesters on the 5K course. We found the Wyatt & Ethan bench near the tiny farm and both of us had our first Pronto Pups of 2021. Thankfully, they tasted back to normal (after having mixed experiences during the drive-through events of 2020).

We headed down to the Agriculture Horticulture Building next so that I could finally cross The Peg off my list. Billed as the fair’s only full-service restaurant, it’s been open for 37 years now and I’d never stopped to eat there (until today). Ordered a large lemonade, the breakfast sandwich and a side of hash browns – all of which were solid, offering good value, seats in the shade and great service from a friendly server. We stopped inside the building (masks on) to see the crop art and the bees before heading across the street to the Dairy Building for my free malt (and a stop at Fresh French Fries). Lots of interesting crop art – including my office amongst the nearby scarecrow section.

Along this path, we discovered that the old Senior Center is now called the Ramberg Center and hosts a Music Cafe lineup that included Steve Roehm from the New Standards playing a solo set. We talked to him afterwards and mentioned it was so nice to see him play recently at Mears Park (and up at Lutsen last March – our first post-pandemic concert). He said he was originally booked to play with his other trio – The Neighborhood Trio – but that the other two bandmates had conflicts and the fair booking agent said he could just play by himself. What a nice surprise!

We struck out on two things we were looking forward to: the Minnesota Lottery booth wasn’t selling any scratchers this year (they just had a contest you could enter) and the Poultry Barn was closed for cleaning. We did stop and listen to a band from Ecuador on the DNR Stage while I got some Spring Grove black cherry soda. There was also a giant Adam Turman chair that we look ridiculous in, but of course had to get a photo. Colleen then visited the Turkey-To-Go stand for one of Rich Wang’s favorites. The DNR fire tower was closed and it was sad to see the sign that basically said all staff are gone fighting fires.

We then dropped in at Steichen’s, the “complete food market” that opened in 1933. Colleen said she had been in there before, but I’m pretty sure that was my first time. After that, we headed to the West End to visit I Like You and Lulu’s Public House, where I bought my usual bull bites, mac and cheese on a stick and Mt. Dew. It was getting hot and crowded, so we checked out the latest Blue Barn menu on the way back to the car, then headed home. Back again on Tuesday for the Doobie Brothers at the Grandstand, so more to come…

Originally published by DK on August 29, 2021 at 6:56 pm


Posted Monday, June 28th, 2021 10:38 pm in Family,History,Longform,Personal at 10:38 PM

This week I stopped during a bike ride at Acacia Park Cemetery to say hi to the family and check on my parent’s headstone (we’ve been waiting for my dad’s numbers to be updated for quite a while). As you can see in the photo, it now correctly says 1946 – 2020 (and is actually a completely new headstone). This sent me down two rabbit holes:

  • Investigating headstone options for my plot
  • The wondrous site that is findagrave.com

While we wait for the pricing options on the first one, I was amazed at how much personal information was available on our family on the second. I had no idea there were several other relatives buried at Acacia and I learned a bunch of things about the Kingsbury side of things too (more details after the jump).

In addition to my mom and dad, my maternal grandmother and grandfather are in the Cypress section of Acacia, along with my uncle Greg and my great uncle Warren and his wife Evelyn. Also on the Smith side of the family, Acacia is the final resting place for my great-grandparents Walter and Edna Smith, along with my great-great-grandparents John and Margaret Blaylock (who knew?). Also learned about the ties back to England (I already knew grandma Helen was “a beautiful Swedish Lady”).

On the Kingsbury side, I learned most of the family is buried in southern Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio (with one set of great-great-grandparents in Missouri and a New York connection too). I also learned about “Baby Kingsbury,” who died in 1944 and that I have a Norwegian relative named Ole Larsrud (not married to Lena). Also forgot that my paternal grandmother died on my wife’s birthday (in 2000).

For posterity, here is the data they listed for various relatives (down to fifth generation):

Karen Leslie Smith Kingsbury, mother
BIRTH 1 Sep 1944
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 22 Dec 2017 (aged 73)
Edina, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 12 HE

Michael Alvin Kingsbury, father
BIRTH 7 Sep 1946
Lanesboro, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 10 Feb 2020 (aged 73)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 12 FE

Helen Margaret Elmquist Smith, maternal grandmother
BIRTH 14 Jun 1920
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 26 Dec 2007 (aged 87)
West Saint Paul, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 11 FE

Donald Leslie Smith, maternal grandfather
BIRTH 24 Nov 1919
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 30 Dec 2013 (aged 94)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 11HE

Greg Alan Smith, uncle
BIRTH 27 Dec 1946
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 25 Dec 2018 (aged 71)
Spokane, Spokane County, Washington, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 9 HE

Warren Hewson Smith, great-uncle
BIRTH 16 Jan 1917
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 14 May 1992 (aged 75)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 9

Evelyn Josephine Rigoni Smith, great-aunt
BIRTH 15 May 1918
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 20 Nov 2011 (aged 93)
Eden Prairie, Hennepin County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 10
Daughter of Antonio Rigoni and Rose Cella

Walter Ellsworth Smith, great-grandfather
BIRTH 27 Aug 1890
Pennsylvania, USA
DEATH 22 Mar 1946 (aged 55)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 5

Edna L Blaylock Smith, great-grandmother
BIRTH 8 Apr 1892
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 25 Aug 1958 (aged 66)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 6

John Hewson Blaylock, great-great-grandfather
BIRTH 17 Sep 1848
DEATH 8 Aug 1936 (aged 87)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 13

Margaret Ann Tweddle Blaylock, great-great-grandmother
BIRTH 17 Jul 1856
DEATH 2 May 1940 (aged 83)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Acacia Park Cemetery
Mendota Heights, Dakota County, Minnesota, USA
PLOT Cypress, Block 5, Lot 3, Grave 14

Evalyn C. Campbell Kingsbury, paternal grandmother
BIRTH 20 Oct 1914
Stuart, Adair County, Iowa, USA
DEATH 23 Jun 2000 (aged 85)
Rushford, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA
Henrytown Cemetery
Henrytown, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA

Alvin Clifford Kingsbury, paternal grandfather
BIRTH 28 Nov 1908
Harmony, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA
DEATH 29 Aug 1987 (aged 78)
Rushford Village, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA
Henrytown Cemetery
Henrytown, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA

Baby Kingsbury, aunt
BIRTH 1944
DEATH 13 Dec 1944 (aged less–than 1 year)
Henrytown Cemetery
Henrytown, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA

Frances Mabel Arnold Campbell, great-grandmother
BIRTH 29 Oct 1887
Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa, USA
DEATH 4 Dec 1978 (aged 91)
Coon Rapids, Carroll County, Iowa, USA
Dexter Cemetery
Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa, USA

Clyde Marion Campbell, great-grandfather
BIRTH 2 Oct 1888
Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa, USA
DEATH 5 Apr 1977 (aged 88)
Coon Rapids, Carroll County, Iowa, USA
Dexter Cemetery
Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa, USA

Caroline Larsrud Kingsbury, great-grandmother
BIRTH 1 May 1876
DEATH 6 Dec 1933 (aged 57)
Henrytown Cemetery
Henrytown, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA
Father’s Name: Ole Larsrud
Father’s Birthplace: Norway
Mother’s Name: Betsey Hilestad
Mother’s Birthplace: Norway

Charles Clarence Kingsbury, great-grandfather
BIRTH 8 Oct 1874
DEATH 14 Jan 1960 (aged 85)
Henrytown Cemetery
Henrytown, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA
Father’s Name: John
Father’s Birthplace: Norway
Mother’s Name: Cordelia
Mother’s Birthplace: Norway

Cordelia Ann West Kingsbury, great-great-grandmother
BIRTH 13 Mar 1835
Michigan, USA
DEATH 17 May 1922 (aged 87)
Crown Hill Cemetery
Preston, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA

John M. Kingsbury, great-great-grandfather
BIRTH 12 Jun 1828
Boonville, Oneida County, New York, USA
DEATH 8 Sep 1910 (aged 82)
Preston, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA
Crown Hill Cemetery
Preston, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA

Bertha “Betsy” Hilestad Larsrud, great-great-grandmother
BIRTH 16 Oct 1849
DEATH 12 Sep 1932 (aged 82)
Henrytown Cemetery
Henrytown, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA
Father’s Name: Knud Hileslad
Father’s Birthplace: Norway
Mother’s Name: Sonneva
Mother’s Birthplace: Norway

Ole A. Larsrud, great-great-grandfather
BIRTH 15 Feb 1829
DEATH 11 Jun 1907 (aged 78)
Henrytown Cemetery
Henrytown, Fillmore County, Minnesota, USA

Nettie McCaffree Campbell, great-great-grandmother
BIRTH 3 Sep 1856
Illinois, USA
DEATH 18 Aug 1925 (aged 68)
Polk County, Missouri, USA
Humansville Cemetery
Humansville, Polk County, Missouri, USA

Harvey B Campbell, great-great-grandfather
BIRTH 8 Jul 1855
Fremont County, Iowa, USA
DEATH 23 Sep 1935 (aged 80)
Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa, USA
Humansville Cemetery
Humansville, Polk County, Missouri, USA

Elizabeth Row Arnold, great-great-grandmother
BIRTH 19 Dec 1844
Holmes County, Ohio, USA
DEATH 25 Dec 1929 (aged 85)
Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa, USA
Dexter Cemetery
Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa, USA

Jacob Arnold, great-great-grandfather
BIRTH 13 Mar 1850
Holmes County, Ohio, USA
DEATH 28 Jan 1930 (aged 79)
Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa, USA
Dexter Cemetery
Dexter, Dallas County, Iowa, USA

Margaret Van Slyke Kingsbury, great-great-great grandmother
BIRTH 1809
DEATH 1 Mar 1842 (aged 32–33)
Boonville, Oneida County, New York, USA
Boonville Cemetery
Boonville, Oneida County, New York, USA

Israel Kingsbury, great-great-great grandfather
BIRTH 8 Sep 1800
Boonville, Oneida County, New York, USA
DEATH 24 Jan 1889 (aged 88)
Boonville, Oneida County, New York, USA
Boonville Cemetery
Boonville, Oneida County, New York, USA

Anna West, great-great-great grandmother
BIRTH 13 Mar 1799
DEATH 13 Jan 1898 (aged 98)
Hesper Public Cemetery
Winneshiek County, Iowa, USA

Abram West, great-great-great grandfather
BIRTH 1787
DEATH 1864 (aged 76–77)
Hesper Public Cemetery
Winneshiek County, Iowa, USA

Sophia DeFreece Campbell, great-great-great-grandmother
BIRTH 7 Apr 1826
DEATH 28 Apr 1909 (aged 83)
Sidney Cemetery
Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa, USA
PLOT Sec 2 Row 17

Aaron Campbell, great-great-great-grandfather
BIRTH 25 Dec 1820
DEATH 5 Jul 1897 (aged 76)
Sidney Cemetery
Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa, USA
PLOT Sec 2 Row 17

Emily Jane Morgan McCaffree, great-great-great-grandmother
BIRTH 1 Apr 1830
Kentucky, USA
DEATH 14 Dec 1885 (aged 55)
Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa, USA
Sidney Cemetery
Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa, USA
PLOT Sec 4 Row 14

Simeon McCaffree, great-great-great-grandfather
BIRTH 13 Sep 1822
Kentucky, USA
DEATH 10 Jul 1890 (aged 67)
Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa, USA
Sidney Cemetery
Sidney, Fremont County, Iowa, USA

Mary Gardner Arnold, great-great-great grandmother
BIRTH 30 Mar 1817
Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, USA
DEATH 9 Feb 1905 (aged 87)
Holmes County, Ohio, USA
Arnold Cemetery
Mount Hope, Holmes County, Ohio, USA

John Arnold, great-great-great grandfather
BIRTH 1 Jun 1817
Holmes County, Ohio, USA
DEATH 4 Jan 1894 (aged 76)
Mount Hope, Holmes County, Ohio, USA
Arnold Cemetery
Mount Hope, Holmes County, Ohio, USA

Susannah Sheneman Row, great-great-great grandmother
BIRTH 22 Sep 1812
Tuscarawas County, Ohio, USA
DEATH 4 Feb 1884 (aged 71)
Zion United Church of Christ Cemetery
New Bedford, Coshocton County, Ohio, USA

Andrew Row, great-great-great grandfather
BIRTH 1815
Pennsylvania, USA
DEATH 25 Mar 1863 (aged 47–48)
Coshocton County, Ohio, USA
Zion United Church of Christ Cemetery
New Bedford, Coshocton County, Ohio, USA

Originally published by DK on June 28, 2021 at 10:38 pm

A Return to Baseball

Posted Sunday, April 11th, 2021 01:45 pm in Baseball,Food,Longform,Technology,Work at 1:45 PM

Looking back through the archives, I don’t think I’ve ever actually written about our baseball ticket group. State Farm Insurance Agent Kirk Detlefsen (and his family) have been running a Twins season ticket group for quite some time. I was introduced to them through my Northwest Airlines mentor six years ago and have been hooked ever since.

Each season, Kirk buys up a bunch of season tickets in different sections, then divides them into shares at various price points. A ticket “draft” is held every year and each shareholder picks the games they want to attend. Usually this is held in February in the Delta Club with snow on the field, guest speakers from the Twins and an assortment of ballpark food available for purchase. We didn’t have one at all in 2020 and the 2021 version was held via Zoom (of course). Kudos to all the Detlefsens for pulling that off (and managing 100% digital tickets for the first time ever).

The smallest share in the group is two tickets to two games in the Champions Club. Since these seats are super expensive (and generally not available to the general public via single game sales), this was a nice way to splurge once a year (I split the share with my uncle). After a few years of that, we switched to a share with two seats for ten games in the Delta Club. That’s what we currently have, although it appears that our actual seats may be all over this season because of capacity restrictions.

So what was the return of fans like?

To be honest, the thing I was looking forward to most were the new Andrew Zimmern KFC wings that Stephanie March wrote about for Mpls/StPaul magazine. They are available in Bat & Barrel (which will now be called Truly On Deck, but none of the signage has changed yet), so we headed there first. They still apparently take advanced reservations, as most tables had reserved signs on them and you couldn’t order food from the counter (just drinks at the bar). I asked the person standing at the podium if I had to order through the app, but she wasn’t sure. The tables had QR codes on them, so I scanned that, which took me to a menu page, but no link to order online. Hmm…

So let’s talk about apps for a minute. MLB offers several, but these are the two primary ones I’ve used (and had on my phone): MLB and MLB Ballpark. I could’ve sworn the first one used to be called At Bat, but maybe I’m making that up. The MLB app lets you follow games around the league, while the Ballpark app is supposed to handle all the stuff you need at an actual game – tickets, mobile ordering, Twingo. I opened the wrong app so many times – maybe I need to move them to different screens. I also added the ParkWhiz app to my phone today to park in Ramp A, but more on that later.

There were multiple reports across the league of issues with mobile ordering on opening day, so I was interested to see how the process worked. I was also under the impression that all food needed to be ordered from the app, but that was not the case at all. With limited stands open, lines were long all around the main concourse, but you could place an order at a stand and pay with a credit card (no cash accepted – Apple Pay did work fine, which has been an issue for me there in the past). Here’s what the Ballpark app screens looked like to order my KFC wings:

The first disclaimer screen comes up every single time you try to order. The app doesn’t automatically try to figure out where you are located, so you have to select from the drop-down menu, which has what seems like a million options to scroll through. When I selected Bat & Barrel, there was a limited selection of items – I could order the wings, but no drinks or sides. The app was not integrated with Apple Pay, so I had to manually enter my credit card information. My card got billed right away and the screen said I would receive a text message when my order was ready. The app didn’t ask for my number, though, so I never received a text. Also, once you closed the confirmation window, it was not obvious how to pull up your order info (with the important order number) and I did not receive any email receipts of the transaction. Later I found that you can access a “My Orders” section, but that is only available by starting a new transaction:

There was signage at the front serving area for mobile order pickup, but there was no one working there. After a few minutes of standing around, someone came and asked me if I was waiting for an order, then went back to the kitchen to get it. By this time, there were a few other people waiting too. When they brought out my food, it was in a stapled shut brown grocery bag that just contained the food in a container – there were no utensils or napkins. This was only the second game back after a year of no fans, so hopefully these issues will get worked out as operations get back into the grove. The quality of the wings was really good, but a cheese brat I bought later from the Kramarczuk’s stand was small and overcooked.

While it was great to be back at a game, we had a few other negative experiences. The digital tickets in the app say you must enter at the gate indicated, so we headed to gate 34 when we arrived. Since we were early, there was no one in line at all, but a guest service staffer immediately confronted us. She said this was an ADA entrance and wanted to see our “Sweet Spot” card on the app before letting us proceed (?). That part of the app was not working and she eventually just let us proceed to the empty security screening line. Guessing this process will also get better as the season progresses.

The announced attendance for the game was 9,817 and the concourses never felt overcrowded. People in general followed the mask and distancing rules while moving around, but the concession lines were tight and the group of “bros” behind us decided that since they were drinking all game long, they didn’t need to wear their masks. At all. Seat spacing was similar to the Saints last season, alternating rows with four-seat blocks on both ends in one row with two-seats blocks in the middle of the next. Blocked seats were zip tied shut, but one group asked an usher if they were supposed to cut them to sit (they were in the wrong section). We didn’t see any ushers trying to enforce mask rules, the scoreboard and PA announcements were minimal and it would be nice if the fancam operators would only show people following the rules.

With state regulations capping attendance at 10,000 right now, I don’t envy the task of the ticket office managers. We really like our experience in Delta Club and hope that we can have seats back in there later in the season. It was rather frustrating to see entire empty sections up there the whole game, but I’m guessing that’s because most people wanted to stay inside the warm part of the club (which we would have traded our 12th row seats for in a heartbeat – it never got above 47F). Target Field’s current published capacity is only 38,544, so jumping up to 50% shouldn’t be a huge change. It will also be nice to see the menus expand back to normal – Red Cow, for example, was not offering turkey burgers yet.

The final issue we had (aside from the dumb start-a-runner-on-second rule and Twins loss) was leaving the parking ramp. I drove up to the exit kiosk and opened the ParkWhiz app, only to find my barcode gone and a prompt to login. When I bought the parking pass earlier in the day, they sent me an email with a link to the barcode, but never asked me to set up a login ID and password. With people waiting behind me (and no staff at the exit), I had to pull my car over to the side, find the email, then get back in line. I will now know to have this ready before I start driving, but I wasn’t the only car that had to do this. If there was a regular-sized crowd exiting at the same time, this would be a disaster.

A return to hockey is up next for me tomorrow night (with another Twins game on 4/23). Stay tuned for more reports…

Originally published by DK on April 11, 2021 at 1:45 pm

Brian Christopher Slots

Posted Friday, March 26th, 2021 04:42 pm in Business,Casinos,Games,Longform,Video at 4:42 PM

It seems hard to believe, but I’ve now been out of the casino industry almost six years. Being an old person, I still visit casinos on a regular basis (more on that age demographic thing later). I keep in touch with a number of my former colleagues and suppliers and get an occasional industry newsletter in my inbox from time to time. A recent one had a link to a story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal that I thought was super interesting: The Plaza downtown was opening an area of their slot floor dedicated to a YouTuber named Brian Christopher.

As a nerd, I’m normally pretty open to new gaming trends, but I never fully understood the desire to watch other people play video games on Twitch (and other services). To see that a major casino in Vegas was partnering with someone who records himself playing slot machines was surprising to me, given what I know about casino marketing and security. I started following the BC Slots channel on YouTube about a month ago and I have to admit I now understand the appeal.

So what’s this all about?

While there are probably hundreds of slot machine YouTubers out there now, what Brian Christopher has accomplished so far is impressive. The 40-year-old is originally from Toronto, moved to Los Angeles and now lives in Palm Springs (more on his backstory here). His branding appears to have changed over time – he owns BrianGambles.com and casinoswag.com, for example – and joined YouTube way back in 2006 (he went full-time with BC Slots in 2016).

As of March 2021, his videos have more than 222 million views, with 358,000 subscribers to his channel. His fans are called “Rudies” and he gets financial support from them via Patreon, where people can pay anywhere from $5 to $1200 a month, and from contributions during live chats. Other financial aspects of his business, including sponsorships and appearance fees, are not disclosed. His YouTube account was suspended briefly in 2018 (along with many other gaming channels), as documented in this story from The Atlantic.

Christopher has an appealing video presence (he was an actor before YouTube), with many catchphrases popular among the Rudies. Many of these end up on merchandise that he sells online. In addition to the partnership with The Plaza, he has hosted promotions with many regional casinos and at least one slot manufacturer (Aristocrat). He’s mentioned on recent videos that he attended the G2E conference, an industry trade show not open to the general public.

BC Slots has a small staff in Palm Springs and outsources aspects of the operation (video editing and social media management were specifically mentioned in an interview). Videos are posted daily to the YouTube channel, he does periodic live streams on YouTube and Facebook and has regular content on Instagram and Twitter as well. Assistant Britt appears in most videos, while his husband Marco makes less frequent appearances. Other routines include handing out free “lucky wristbands” to fans and hosting group pulls, where participants normally pay $200-$500 for a set amount of spins (usually on a high-limit machine).

So what is my take on all of this from the perspective of a former casino operator? My initial reaction was “there is no way security would allow this to happen” in Minnesota. Casino security guards are notorious for yelling at people who take pictures on their slot floors (let alone video). On one of his old blog posts, Christopher lists casinos he has visited (including several in Las Vegas that he said were rude and that he would never return to <cough>Caesar’s Palace<cough>). My guess is that those visits involved security getting involved before marketing knew what was going on.

Getting back to the age demographic thing, the entire time I worked in the casino industry, leaders and pundits were afraid of the aging demographic. All the best players were getting older and dying off and there was this constant fear of trying to appeal to younger generations. I always felt this was a little misplaced, because 1) your older players still have a lot of money and 2) younger people will get older and want to eventually do some of these same things. The success of BC Slots (and other gaming YouTubers) show that younger players can get interested in these “traditional” games just like their parents (and grandparents). What will be interesting to see is if the casinos decide to start producing this content themselves. The videos are a great way to train players on new games and generate excitement that can drive future visits.

I love the production value of the videos that Christopher produces. He doesn’t edit out the losses and only show bonuses and jackpots (although I think he does project a luckier-than-average overall image). I also applaud him using his platform to promote causes like Smoke Free Casinos, an effort I’ve long supported (and which may finally get some traction post-pandemic). The partnership with The Plaza is very clever – the section has his favorite games, you can watch videos of him winning jackpots on those games and you can earn your own lucky wristband with 100 points of play in that area. Another recent promotion gave $100 in free play to the first 300 people that mentioned his name in Palm Springs (all were gone the first day). It’s also great that he has a link to NCPG in every video.

So what’s not to like? Security directors will surely see many more copycats try to film without permission. In general, I’d like to see those policies change anyways – from a marketing standpoint, it’s important that guests can share images and videos of them having fun. It’s good for the guest and good for the casinos. I think we are mostly beyond the days of people not wanting to be pictured at a casino (which is not to say guest privacy isn’t important). There are also copyright issues with filming in a casino for profit – some of his videos have to be edited to conceal logos from clothes or mute a song playing in the background. Seems like most of the slot manufacturers are good with their intellectual property being shared and promoted (although I wonder if that will change if some games start to get bad publicity).

The other issue I have with BC Slots is bet size and disclosure. Personally, I’ve always been a minimum bet slot player who likes to maximize time on machine (it is, after all, entertainment). It rubs me the wrong way that BC highlights max betting in all his videos and tends to make light of those that don’t follow suit. While casinos love max bet players, the majority of people can’t afford it and shouldn’t gamble that way. Granted, videos with $25 spins are much more exciting to watch than those with 40-cent spins, but I think it’s unfair if there is no disclosure that some (or all) of that play is coming from the house. From his FAQ page:

How much money do you gamble with & where do you get it from?

Well money is a delicate subject as it’s very personal. I will say however that I am very smart with money. I strictly use an entertainment budget to play with and understand how slot machines work (more on that below). Also a lot of my money gets recycled from previous trips and the key is knowing when to CASH OUT. And just like I don’t ask or know how much my sister and brother make at their jobs, I’m not going to get into finances with complete strangers either 😉

It’s a whole lot easier to do ten pulls on a $100 slot machine if that $1000 was given to you by the casino, no?

That said, I do enjoy watching these videos and will likely continue to do so. Time will tell if it changes the way I play in real life or not. I did try a few new games on my last casino trip based on things I had seen in the videos (although definitely not at those same denomination and bet levels). I think it would also be really interesting if someone compiled statistics/analytics on his videos (index of games played, amounts won/lost, bonuses hit).

In my opinion, there is an amazing lack of information on slot machines online that makes it hard for people to learn about what games they would like (volatility, best odds, payouts, rules). That is probably the biggest benefit to casinos from YouTubers like this – people can see how the games are played before they risk their own money. Hmm…maybe there is a new side hustle in my future…

Originally published by DK on March 26, 2021 at 4:42 pm

Back at it this week

Posted Monday, March 15th, 2021 08:54 pm in Housekeeping,Longform,Personal at 8:54 PM

It was really, really nice to have an entire week off work (and someone else to cover on-call). It’s also great to see some movement in the fight against COVID-19, both on the vaccine front and in the sports and entertainment world. I really felt recharged and ready to move forward this morning, as there are a lot of things that need my attention right now:

  • Find a vaccine – my tier is up now, so I’ve got tabs open in my browser for all the big providers. Also discovered vaccinespotter.org (above), which is a big help. Briefly thought I snagged one for this afternoon, only to be kicked out of the process at the end (just like a hot concert ticket). And as the new South ParQ Vaccination Special said, “There’s a place in town, very hard to get into, very exclusive. Walgreens.
  • Reconnect at work – continuation of the file server saga, spring cleaning on software licensing and backups, starting a new firewall upgrade project and generally preparing for the return of ticketed guests to the building. Sounds like I might even get to hire some help this summer, which would be super awesome.
  • AWS servers – the $100 credit I received from the re:Invent survey is almost used up, so I need to get back to moving this site off of virtual server one and over to the new virtual server I started experimenting with. That way I can shut the first one down and start figuring out a bunch of things on Ubuntu Server 20.04, including virtual host management, transfer of Let’s Encrypt certs, log analysis and WordPress theme development. It’s already been (nerdy) fun switching from Apache to nginx and from MySQL to MariaDB and kicking the tires on PHP8. WordPress 5.7 is the first release in a long time that did something to my (admittedly) ancient theme: the spacing below quote and status posts on the front page is off. Since I use Masonry and jQuery for layout, I thought it had to do with the upgrade of core WP jQuery from 1.12.4 to the 3.5.x tree mentioned here. After testing with the Enable jQuery Migrate Helper plugin, however, I don’t think this is the root cause (my version of Masonry is also pretty old). Stayed tuned…
  • Construction – the design center meeting for the new house last week lasted just under four hours and everything has now been finalized and signed. Next, we move on to the electrical meeting, which has been scheduled for early April. So excited!
  • Baseball – the announcements last week about fans at CHS Field (2,700) and Target Field (10,000) mean both of our ticket groups are about to fire up again. The Saints begin their new Triple A life at home on May 11th, while the Twins welcome fans back to Minneapolis on April 8th. I don’t know yet how many games we will end up with, but I’m very excited to watch more outdoor baseball in 2021.
  • Exercise – my Apple Watch move streak hit 333 days last night, so I’m getting very close to my goal of one full year. Also found out last week that there will be a limited, in-person field for the 2021 Get in Gear 10K, which will include multiple waves and a sidewalk-only course. I was able to snag one of the spots and look forward to running outside more in the coming weeks to prepare.
  • Taxes – ugh, just don’t want to start this yet. Also need to do my dad’s taxes one last time too, so that’s a double bummer. Not too scared of the potential financial hit for 2020, just thinking it will be more complex than normal. Hopefully TaxAct is up to the task (as they usually are).

Now back to refreshing those vaccine screens…

Originally published by DK on March 15, 2021 at 8:54 pm

File Server Blues

Posted Monday, March 1st, 2021 05:12 pm in Longform,Technology,Work at 5:12 PM

Working in technology usually means a fair amount of fixing stuff that’s broken. The advice of Roy and Moss from The IT Crowd is often handy: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Strong Google/DuckDuckGo skills and some free time are usually all you need to fix almost anything these days. I’ve really only had one situation in my tech career that had me stumped for a long time: bad networking at HSRA. That issue eventually got resolved with new hardware, but it’s a terrible feeling when technology doesn’t follow a logical troubleshooting process.

A week ago, another issue surfaced that may join the troubleshooting hall of shame. It started with a team member who couldn’t login to the file server on our office network over the weekend. With most of our staff working remotely, the on-premise file server is usually accessed via VPN, from both Mac and Windows clients. I connected from home and was able to see the file server (and thankfully all of the files) from my office iMac, but could not connect from my MacBook Pro. I find it useful to keep troubleshooting notes for future me, so please continue on if you’d like some nerd-tastic reading.

Like most everything in our building, things are starting to get old. The file server is part of the core infrastructure that was installed back in 2016. Our EMC VNXe3200 SAN is the foundation of a virtual environment with VMware hosts (Dell acquired EMC in 2016). There are a pair of Windows virtual servers, along with a Linux VM. The Windows servers act as our primary and secondary directory servers (Active Directory, still on Windows Server 2012), while the Linux box runs our intranet and some other IPTV services. It’s a fairly complex setup, but has been rock solid up to this point.

The VNXe3200 can serve CIFS shares directly, using AD for file permissions and access management. My AD servers are set to automatically install Windows updates, which I suspect was the root cause of this problem. The SAN hardware all seemed to be fine – no disk, power or network issues. People who were connected had no problems; it was looking like an issue with the authentication from AD. The web-based Unisphere management interface for the SAN was still running the Flash version of the Operating Environment (OE), so I needed to figure out a way around that issue to get more info from the logs (since Flash is now dead).

One of my original project engineers was able to set me up with a very old VM that had a copy of Firefox with the Flash plugin. Being careful to restrict network access for both security and auto-update reasons, I managed to get Unisphere updated to the latest OE version with HTML5 ( Looking at the logs, the SAN had lost connectivity to directory services:

All Domain Controller servers configured for the CIFS server are not reachable. Please check this is not a network connectivity issue. Ensure at least one Domain Controller is up and running and is reachable by VNXe storage array.

It did not appear to be a network issue and I could login to the AD servers with no problem (with multiple user accounts). The support contract I had with Dell/EMC on the VNXe3200 expired and my experience trying to contact them did not go well. They took forever to respond and when they finally did, they wanted to charge me for all of the expired time, plus another year (for an amount that was about equal to just buying a new solution).

My immediate concern was making sure we had reliable backups of all files and folders. My ultra-low cost cloud backup strategy is to connect to the file server on my office iMac and use an app called qBackup that connects to a Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage account. This has worked great for years – the script runs nightly with an incremental backup, qBackup was a one-time cost of $30 and the monthly Backblaze charge is usually under $10 a month. The flaw in this cloud backup strategy is that it takes a really long time to restore 2.5 terabytes of data online (you can pay $189 and wait for Backblaze to ship a hard drive copy, but I don’t know how long that takes).

Since I still had access to the file server from the iMac, I stopped at Best Buy to get a 4TB external hard drive (and some thumb drives for people that needed files right away via SneakerNet). Now I had the cloud backup *and* locally attached copies of everything in my office. I tracked down the original engineer that helped install and configure this setup and he helped me create a new share that is served directly from the domain controller. I copied over all of the backup files from the 4TB drive and tested connections. That worked, so I reviewed security settings with our GM and applied permissions to folders via AD security groups. Cloud backup was re-pointed to the new share and ran successfully from my iMac. I created cheat sheets on how to connect to the new share from both Mac and Windows clients and sent them out to our staff. Done, right? Well…

All of my Mac users had no problem connecting and seeing what they were permitted to see. Some Windows users were also completely fine, but others connected and could not view all of the folders they were allowed to see. I initially had access based enumeration turned on, so some hidden folders were expected (but not ones they should see). One colleague saw all folders in the office, but not over VPN from home (on a brand-new laptop). This TechNote pointed towards a local cache issue (which this article also talks about). We’ve been experimenting with various offline settings and most people are now connected successfully. Here’s how we are troubleshooting Windows connections now:

  • Restart the workstation first, Roy
  • Re-map the network drive using a different letter
  • Use the full AD name (i.e. – domain.local\username)
  • Delete local offline cache files

Dell/EMC sent me a notice this weekend that there is another update to the Unisphere OE (, but I didn’t see anything relevant in the release notes. I did download the huge .gpg file anyways, but so far the health check is timing out and I can’t get it installed. Also forgot to mention that we rolled back two of the automatic Windows Server updates that installed in mid-February (and turned off automatic updates). That obviously isn’t a long-term strategy, so I’d like to get updated to Windows Server 2019 soon (VMware updates too). OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint and even Box/Dropbox for Business are all options that may come into play as well.

Serving files shouldn’t be rocket science. At least I felt a little better when the engineer said, “I’ve installed hundreds, if not a thousand, file servers like this and I’ve never seen one do what yours is doing.”


Originally published by DK on March 1, 2021 at 5:12 pm

A Week of Gremlins

Posted Friday, February 12th, 2021 09:09 pm in Longform,Technology,Work at 9:09 PM

Experienced some weird technical glitches this week:

  • The older of my two AWS instances just stopped running right after midnight one night. Uptime Robot notified me right away via email, but I didn’t see it until around 8am, so there was some significant downtime (relatively speaking). The instance restarted fine, but I don’t know what caused that (and Amazon didn’t notify me of any issues).
  • I made one late night attempt earlier this week to move this site to my newer AWS instance, but had two issues: 1) my nginx virtual host config is apparently wrong, as it started sending requests to a different domain after I updated DNS and 2) creating a new Let’s Encrypt certificate failed (probably because the domain name didn’t match). Decided to just revert back for now and make another run at it later.
  • The iOS WordPress app update this week seems to have now broken all functionality with this site. Before, I just had issues uploading featured images (they would upload to the media library successfully, but the app would never get a “finished” acknowledgement). Now it doesn’t even get that far. I’ll just post from macOS machines for now, but that’s a pain for mobile posting away from the house.
  • My office workstation wasn’t set to automatically restart after a power outage, so it’s been off for a week. I have other machines to use at home, but that machine does my automated network share backups to the cloud, so I needed to get that issue resolved in person today. I went to check status when I returned home and initially couldn’t see it, but that turned out to be an issue with the DHCP lease expiring. All good now.
  • Not a glitch, but decided to take a look at my Twitter settings tonight. Dropped some dead accounts (actually really surprised at how many accounts I follow that haven’t been active for 100 days or more), unmuted some people and started looking for a new profile picture. Twitter remains my last social media account – can’t decide if it stays or goes this year. Leaning towards keeping it, with a renewed focus on pruning and more active curation of what I mute and what I follow. Might go private too.

Thankful for a long weekend – stay warm, Minnesota peeps…

Originally published by DK on February 12, 2021 at 9:09 pm

Streaming in 2021

Posted Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021 12:47 am in Longform,Movies,Television at 12:47 AM

In the not-so-distant past, I was very much an advocate for cord-cutting. Everyone likes to bag on the cable companies, but to be honest, the only real issues I’ve had with them my entire life are cost and channel selection. The former always goes up and the latter never seemed to include exactly what I wanted. Cord-cutting seemed to be the solution – just let me pay for the channels I want. Unfortunately, the TV provider also being the internet bandwidth provider makes it difficult to get one without the other. The last time we moved, Comcast basically offered me internet plus a bunch of channels for the same price as just internet (which also turns out to be a very good deal if you like live sports).

Today, I seem to have a bit of everything (and the amount I pay to Comcast continues to rise). I have an old AppleTV connected to our Sony set, which streams multiple services that I get billed for in addition to Comcast: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Apple TV+, Disney+ and CBS All Access (which we just added so Colleen could watch The Stand). At some point, I need to catalog all of these accounts, see how much I’m paying in total and decide if we really get that much value out of them. In normal times? Probably not. During a stay-at-home pandemic? Likely a bargain.

My list of lists page has always had movies and TV shows I want to watch. Here are some recent things I’ve finished (or just started) since my best of 2020 post:

  • Dark, Netflix (seasons 1-3): Armon told me to watch this German science fiction series about murder and time travel. It’s got subtitles, so you really have to pay attention. That’s good advice even if it was in English, as there is a large cast and it gets confusing very quickly. I did like it overall, but to be honest, it was a battle to finish all three seasons.
  • Letterkenny, Hulu (season 9): I love this Canadian comedy and was super excited for a new season, but flew through all seven episodes in one sitting and now it’s gone again. Pitter Patter.
  • Disenchantment, Netflix (part 3): Matt Groening’s medieval cartoon series is more Futurama than Simpsons, but the trio of Bean, Elfo and Luci make me laugh. Similar to Letterkenny, season/part 3 was over way too fast.
  • Lupin, Netflix (season 1, part 1): Another foreign language Netflix original (France), this mystery thriller with subtitles demands attention. With only five episodes online now (out of ten shot for season one), it’s a quick watch. Cliff hanger warning: hopefully the second half of the season gets released soon so we can find out what happens to Omar Sy’s excellent character Assane Diop.
  • Kim’s Convenience, Netflix (seasons 1-4): this Canadian comedy series set in Toronto has some of the best husband-wife and parent-child jokes of any show we’ve watched. Almost done with season four (and very happy to read there will be at least two more seasons coming).
  • Night Stalker, Netflix: The New York Post (of all places) said this four-part true crime documentary about serial killer Richard Ramirez was “too graphic,” but we found it very interesting. I believe most of this happened while Colleen and I were in high school, but I only had a vague recollection of the case.
  • Snowpiercer (movie): This 2013 science fiction thriller was on my watch list for a long time, as part of our recent Bong Joon-ho kick (Parasite, Okja, The Host). Can’t remember which service it popped up on, but we recently learned this is now also a series on TNT (with two seasons).
  • Peaky Blinders, Netflix (season 1): With five seasons of this BBC show available, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit the time to a period piece set in post-WWI Birmingham, but now it’s almost like a British Sopranos for me, to be honest. Will continue onward.
  • The Aristocats: I like that Disney+ has almost all of the old Disney animated movies to watch whenever you want (no more “available for a limited time on VHS” crap). When I read that some of the old movies now have disclaimers at the beginning, I decided to re-watch this one first. More details can be found on their “Stories Matter” website.
  • Behind the Scenes of The Mandalorian, Disney+: I know I just linked to something different on the Star Wars website, but the behind the scenes series on Disney+ is really good (after you’ve watched both seasons). This franchise is in such good hands: Dave Filoni, Bryce Dallas Howard, Carl Weathers, Robert Rodriguez and Jon Favreau (who was a guest on Letterman the one time I got to see it in person) all seem like such cool, dorky people.

Thinking back on how many hours I’ve spent watching these, it’s a good thing at least some were also spent on the treadmill…

UPDATE: Per Kid Two, *she* pays for Hulu and also said I forgot about Amazon Prime Video…

Originally published by DK on February 2, 2021 at 12:47 am

DK’s January Journal

Posted Wednesday, January 27th, 2021 01:11 am in Housekeeping,Longform,Personal at 1:11 AM

Haven’t really written much lately – both here or on Twitter (my last remaining social media account). The Banff trip from January 2020 seems like an eternity ago and while I’m very grateful for our health and stability, it’s been a mentally tough twelve months. There are so many things I miss right now: attending live concerts and sporting events, eating out, happy hours with co-workers, walking around the Great Minnesota Get-Together, traveling to Disneyland and Vegas. Luxuries, to be sure, but I still miss them.

So what else is going on? The kids are both doing well. Work for Colleen has been intense (as it is for everyone in healthcare these days). With football season complete, my job is all about planning, budgets and maintenance until the future of events becomes a little clearer. It’s stressful being a department of one (and the 24/7 on call), but I’m trying to balance things as best as I can. The days and nights really all blend together now, as do weekdays and weekends. I’ve noticed a shift lately of time seeming to pass by faster, which is definitely a different vibe from a few months ago. Looking forward to the new Boludo to open near the office.

We’re in house search mode and it’s been absolutely bonkers (that’s my nemesis website above). Everything you read about the real estate market right now is true – almost every new listing is receiving multiple offers on the first day. If it doesn’t, you wonder what’s wrong with the place. We’ve only made one offer so far and were outbid (by a lot). Many showings get canceled before we even get there because they sell so quickly. Hoping more inventory comes online as the weather gets better. We are being patient and prudent for now – it will happen when it happens.

Health-wise, I’ve been feeling pretty good. My move streak is closing in on 300 days, so I’m doing something every day. With the cold weather, that’s mainly been hill walking on the treadmill while I watch Netflix. MK and I did ski a few weekends ago at Spirit Mountain and SK wants to hit up Afton next weekend. Still need to read up on the new Nordic walking sticks and get them configured for my height – it hasn’t been *that* cold out so far (and it would be good to get outside on the sunny days that occasionally roll around). Mixed messages on my eyesight these days: still prefer no glasses with most computer work, but finding I need them more and more for reading and watching TV. Stress eating definitely still an issue.

Lastly, I’ve been spending a lot of my free time at night learning new cloud technology stuff on Amazon Web Services (AWS). Inspired by the free sessions and keynotes posted during the online re:Invent conference, I wanted to build on my experience with moving this site to a Lightsail instance a few months ago. After re:Invent, Amazon sent me a feedback survey and gave me a $100 account credit. About a week ago, I decided to use some of that credit to spin up a second virtual server and learn the LEMP stack on Ubuntu Server 20.04, building it from scratch (instead of using a Bitnami bundle). I’ll write more about that experience soon…

Originally published by DK on January 27, 2021 at 1:11 am

Early 2021 Brain Dump

Posted Monday, January 4th, 2021 09:37 pm in Housekeeping,Longform,Personal at 9:37 PM

It’s already been eight months since the last one, so let’s do this:

  • For my Christmas and birthday gift this year, I got new skis and bindings (returning to my classic Rossi/Marker combo). Had a mixed experience at The House – will probably go back to Joe’s next time.
  • With the skis finally here, trying to figure out when I can break them in. Lutsen has some really appealing midweek flex pricing, so that is a leading contender. Might do an Afton or Welch day and still really want to hit Beaver Creek someday (as well as return to Schweitzer).
  • I got all excited about responsive, mobile-friendly WordPress themes this week, but have hit a testing roadblock. MAMP worked out of the box with a plain vanilla WordPress install, but I haven’t been able to get this site transferred over successfully.
  • Thought about tossing my current theme completely (instead of retro-fitting for mobile) and customizing a theme like this one, but now I’m not sure which direction I want to go.
  • Also not entirely 100% behind WordPress these days: don’t like Gutenberg and complexity seems to be increasing overall. Don’t see any great alternatives on the horizon, though.
  • I’ve been happier with my transition to AWS, but maintenance and upgrade issues with the Bitnami WordPress Stack are making me reconsider moving to a straight LAMP virtual server instead.
  • Yes, I do keep my iPhone boxes (but I’m trying to get better about recycling them).
  • We’re house shopping, but this market is crazy aggressive right now. If you know someone in the Twin Cities thinking about selling a good “old people” house, please hit me up.
  • Adult ear infections are not for the faint of heart.
  • My Apple Watch move streak is closing in on 270 days – shooting for a year, then it can restart whenever.
  • I bought a pair of Exerstrider Nordic walking poles after reading the story in the Strib, but I haven’t read the setup and training instructions yet. Seems like it will be fun.
  • OWC has agreed to refund the SSD purchase, thereby ending my iMac kernel panic trauma.
  • I have temporary computer options in place, but do want to move to an M1 machine. At first I thought I would do a Mac mini with a large, third-party monitor, but the retina screens on the iMacs just look so much better to me. I’ll probably wait for the M1 iMac later this year (with lots of RAM and SSD storage).
  • I’m craving a Fuddruckers burger so badly I would consider an eight hour round-trip drive to South Dakota to get one.
  • Sad the Vikings season turned out the way it did, but at least we get the Dallas circus back in town later this year. It will be nice to have Wild hockey again soon (helps to be a night owl) and I’m cautiously optimistic about the Twins and the Saints (but don’t get the whole “we’ve invited” thing – is there a deal or not?).
  • The first Sunday of the Charlie Parr online residency at First Avenue was so emotional – make sure and catch the rest of them (every Sunday in January at 8 p.m. on his YouTube page) and drop him some money via GoFundMe.
  • Speaking of music, we really enjoyed the Bee Gees documentary on HBO – nice job by Frank Marshall (with lots of fun cameos).
  • Long live Grogu!

Welcome 2021, nice to have you around…

Originally published by DK on January 4, 2021 at 9:37 pm

First week with Apple Music

Posted Friday, January 1st, 2021 11:23 pm in Business,Longform,Music,Shopping,Technology at 11:23 PM

For most of my life, I’ve been a music hoarder. Visiting record stores all over the world, I’ve collected rare (and not so rare) records, tapes and CDs from a core group of artists that I like. I did vinyl the first time around, made mix tapes on cassette, fell in love with the “pure” sound of CDs and have spent countless hours ripping CDs to MP3/AAC files to be synched with laptops, iMacs, iPods and iPhones. Things I’ve never done: Napster, the resurgence of vinyl and streaming services. A week ago, I decided to do something about that last one.

My daughters are probably thinking “about damn time, old guy.” They are both big fans of Spotify and each gave me a few tutorials on how they use that service and what they like about it. It seems to me that the real competition in this space right now is between Spotify and Apple Music, so I decided to look at that option too. They both have family plans available for about $15 per month, so I signed up to try Apple Music first. They are different in some ways, but similar in most of the important areas. Apple Music probably gets the initial nod from me, just because I am so invested in the Apple ecosystem.

What do I like so far? I finally understand how the integration works with my current library, so it’s cool to have my existing files available in the cloud to be played across all devices automatically. I like the curated artist stations and themed playlists (even if they seem to be somewhat repetitive) and it’s nice to have real radio station feeds integrated again (hello, KROQ). I love that you can download up to 100,000 files locally, as I don’t always have a reliable network connection. It’s great to be able to just listen to things by anybody instantly, without having to risk money buying something you end up not liking (or only need to listen to once).

What are the bad things? The $180 I’ll pay annually to Apple is money I probably would’ve spent at places like the Electric Fetus. According to Jimmy Page, questions abound regarding the fairness of streaming royalty payments to artists and writers. I don’t like the general concept that I’m renting access to these songs and don’t really own them. I don’t have to worry about Apple going out of business any time soon (cough, cough, Zune), but once you start down this road, you are locked in to pay or your stuff goes away. And you can also have the Netflix issue of artists deciding to pull their stuff at any time.

Right now, though, Apple Music seems to be a nice middle road for me. I get the benefits of streaming services, but can still buy things the old way whenever I want. The price isn’t unreasonable and there is still a lot of functionality for me to learn (profiles, interacting with friends and family, music discovery, MusicKit, Apple Music APIs). Strangely, scrobbling via Last.fm only seems to work with the old files in my library, so it would nice to figure out how to integrate between this site and my Apple Music profile.

Originally published by DK on January 1, 2021 at 11:23 pm

The DK Year in Sport

Posted Friday, January 1st, 2021 12:35 am in Biking,Golf,Longform,Running at 12:35 AM

As the clock inched closer to midnight at the end of this extraordinary year, I realized I was only 10K away from 300 miles on my run chart. This was already the highest annual total for the last four years, but I couldn’t end with 293.8 miles, right? Two treadmill sessions later (while watching season two of Dark), 2020 officially ends up with 300.1 miles. This, unfortunately, is mostly hill walking on a treadmill and not running outside on trails. Given the circumstances, though, I’m fine with just having a trend going in the right direction again.

With the lack of a bike challenge at work this year, my overall bike miles dropped significantly from 2019 (634.1 versus 1074.2). Part of that was also due to Erik the Bike Man being massively overwhelmed with business during the pandemic, forcing me to leave my bike at the Highland Store for three prime summer riding weeks for a needed repair. I imagine mileage will go up again in 2021, with more commuting and single track miles, along with a trip or two to outstate trails like Root River.

I can’t imagine how golf could get better in 2021. I played more rounds last season than any other year I’ve kept records. By a lot. We started a little later than normal because of the initial lockdowns (first round: April 23 at Willingers), but the weather was good all season and we played all the way into the beginning of December. My handicap dropped quite a bit this year, so there is definitely something to be said for more practice (even if I did it all on actual courses).

Grateful (in so many ways) to get to do these things. Now on to programming for the new year…

Originally published by DK on January 1, 2021 at 12:35 am

How durable is your tech?

Posted Thursday, December 10th, 2020 11:54 pm in History,Longform,Technology at 11:54 PM

The tweet I published earlier this week about old technology lead me down another rabbit hole the last few nights. All this started with a review of equipment at work, some of which have been running non-stop for more than four years without a reboot. We are in the process of reviewing maintenance contracts and it seems everyone needs to get creative these days when it comes to pandemic capital spending and the lifespan of various technologies.

This got me thinking about the many computers I’ve had over the years, long-departed applications and obsolete storage formats. I remember my dad having paper punchcards at his job when I was little and over the course of my career, I’ve managed tape drives, 5.25-inch floppies, 3.5-inch floppies, Zip and Jaz media, CD-Rs, DVD-Rs, external spinning disk drives, SSD drives, thumb drives and various forms of cloud storage. The storage capacity on my current home workstation is insanely large compared to those earlier days, in physical form factors that are smaller, lighter and less expensive by unit than ever.

I’ve always tried to have multiple backups of my personal data in different formats, but it’s amazing how many files have made it this far in my life. Even for the weird, obsolete file formats, many of today’s applications have good importers and translators to open ancient files created with long-gone programs. Old video game ROM files from original arcade games can usually be emulated on current hardware (although I’m having trouble getting MAME to work on Big Sur). I came across this article talking about the shelf life of old game console cartridges from Atari, Mattel, Nintendo and others that still start up and run like the day they were first sold.

That article also talks about NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity and the software used to run multi-year, remote missions. What an amazing engineering and technology challenge! I look back to the multimedia CD-ROM golf guide that I produced in 1999 using the authoring tool mTropolis and old versions of Photoshop and Illustrator. While I still have a few copies of the CD laying around, I don’t think I have any machines that can actually run the guide. My current version of Photoshop (22.1), however, can open all of the original media files. I was also able to open my 1995 résumé file with a current version of Word (16.43) and rediscovered what was very likely my first email address:

Speaking of email, this is probably the only tool I’ve used over the years that I don’t really archive. I would hazard a guess that most of the work emails I’ve written or received in previous jobs are long gone. Even the latest version of Outlook at my current job doesn’t tell me how many messages I have in my inbox any more – it’s just one long, infinite scroll. I’ve been using Google with my personal email domain for years (7.37GB out of a 15GB quota), but I rarely go back more than a month or two to look for things.

My daughter asked me about JPEG and PNG tonight and it’s really nice that these formats have been around for a while now, working on many different platforms and with many different applications. Keeping these files organized is a seemingly endless task, but at least there is little concern about losing access (as long as my backups remain solid). I do occasionally run across old music files that have strange DRM tied to them, but it’s easy enough to replace those. I won’t get into the vinyl > cassette > CD or Beta/VHS > DVD > Blu-ray conversation here, as it’s depressing how many times I’ve purchased and re-purchased the same content over the years.

I’ve been publishing this site for almost 15 years now and would love to have it available to future generations of my family. Web publishing isn’t free, though, and even with the recent switch to AWS, it’s still something that requires time and money to keep online. I should be mirroring the site on my workstation (which I used to do), so that if the public site eventually goes dark, at least the family could run it locally. WordPress, PHP and AWS upgrades (not to mention the issues around things like the RedHat/CentOS dustup this week) mean that online sites can’t really be “frozen” without active maintenance.

Website durability might be my hardest nut to crack…

Originally published by DK on December 10, 2020 at 11:54 pm

Top 7 Joel Goldstrand Courses

Posted Monday, November 30th, 2020 09:01 pm in Golf,History,Longform,Sports at 9:01 PM

My latest research rabbit hole started when my friend Brad told me the Montgomery National Golf Course website said MNGC was one of architect Joel Goldstrand’s best designs. We’ve played a lot of rounds on Goldstrand courses over the years and I was curious to 1) know what he was up to now and 2) come up with a list of my personal favorite Goldstrand courses. Jim Souhan helped me out with the first part by interviewing him last year before the 3M Open.

Now in his 80s, the Plymouth resident has designed or renovated more than 100 golf courses during his career in several states (the majority in Minnesota). He also had an impressive playing career, winning a Minnesota state high school title in 1957, two NCAA titles at the University of Houston, the Minnesota State Open in 1973 and 1985, a tie for 12th at the U.S. Open at Hazeltine and an appearance at the 1971 Masters (82-77-MC). He was a pro at Minneapolis Golf Club for 16 years and won the Minnesota Section PGA Golf Professional of the Year award in 1979.

I haven’t played all of his courses, but here are my favorites (in rough order):

  • Ridges at Sand Creek – also a part of my Minnesota 7, this gets the top slot mainly because I’ve played it the most.
  • Superior National (Canyon 9) – technically now a Brauer course, the Canyon 9 has some amazingly photogenic holes (above).
  • The Pines – Fred Boos (RIP) knew what he was doing when this grandfather of Brainerd courses opened in 1990.
  • Eagle Valley – the City of Woodbury has a very nice muni layout thanks to Joel.
  • Cannon Golf Club – not a lot of original Goldstrand left (second nine, but Garrett Gill re-did four holes in 2006).
  • Links at Northfork – haven’t played here a lot, but lots of people rave about it.
  • Fox Hollow – last time I played here, I got paired up with Pepe Willie. Love the green in the middle of the Crow River.

The Golf Advisor website has a comprehensive list of Goldstrand courses, while RJ Smiley at Tee Times Magazine has a fun story about Minnesota architects (Goldstrand ties with Don Herfort for biggest impact on Minnesota golf history). Explore Minnesota Golf also published a short video interview with Goldstrand back in 2010. I think Joe Bissen should head over to Plymouth with a note pad and tape recorder – a Goldstrand book would be awesome!

Originally published by DK on November 30, 2020 at 9:01 pm

Top 7 Food Items

Posted Wednesday, November 4th, 2020 09:08 pm in Food,Longform,Personal at 9:08 PM

Three years ago, I did a “Top 7” post on my favorite foods, but that talked about food categories in general terms. Lots of people have asked me about my favorite specific food items, so here they are (in no particular order):

  • Homemade bleu cheese @ Vermilion Club
  • Let’s start in the Northland at one of the premier dive bars in the country, the VC. Also known for it’s 24-inch Bamboozler pizza, the homemade bleu cheese is the best I’ve had anywhere. Wednesdays are wing night, so load up on buffalo sauce and dip away in that amazing bleu. I usually order some Poor Gary’s pizza too, but I never really have room for that in the end.

  • Chocolate cake donuts @ World’s Best Donuts
  • Staying on the Northland theme, let’s take a trip to the little village on the big lake, Grand Marais. While there are many great food traditions in town (Sven and Ole’s, Angry Trout Cafe, Blue Water Cafe – hell, even the local DQ is bomb), the claim of “World’s Best Donuts” is 100% true. Given the chance, I could eat an entire bag of the chocolate cake donuts in one sitting. Pro tips: pre-order online to skip the line and pay extra for a box instead of a bag so the chocolate doesn’t stick to the side.

  • Cheeseburger @ Saint Dinette
  • Closer to home, the cheeseburger at Saint Dinette is my favorite burger of all time (and I’ve tried way too many). The competition between Chef Adam’s masterpiece and Au Cheval in Chicago was anti-climatic (and definitely not worth a multi-hour pre-pandemic wait). I’ve long had a soft spot in my heart for the burger at Fuddruckers in Bloomington (RIP), but that was good in a different way. Lots of people in town love the Parlour burger (and I think it’s very, very solid), but I’ve got to give the nod to the St. Paul contender. Team Nive Man, all the way!

  • Pronto Pups and Fresh French Fries @ Minnesota State Fair
  • Going to cheat with a two-fer of Minnesota State Fair classics: the Pronto Pup (NEVER CORN DOG SINCE 1947) and Fresh French Fries. Of course, the fair has an amazing assortment of excellent food options (corn roast, Blue Barn, Lulu’s), but I can eat Pronto Pups right when I get there in the morning and just before we leave after a late Grandstand concert (and usually several more times in between). I LOVE French fries (Barbette, the clown, many others), but this year’s pandemic Food Parade reminded me that the red and yellow booth serves up the best ones ever.

  • Pepperoni pizza @ Carbone’s on Randolph
  • If you’ve been following this site at all the past few months, you probably saw that we’ve been making a habit lately of visiting Carbone’s on Randolph for pizza on Mondays. This is the pizza of my childhood, and only the original Randolph location is legitimate in my book (the other franchises try admirably, but they just aren’t the same). We had our concerns when they closed down briefly to remodel and expand, but the original ovens remained and the greasy flavor lives on. In a metro area full of great pizza options, Carbone’s on Randolph is the one for my list.

  • 3 Finger Combo @ Raising Canes
  • I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have a fast food entry on my list, but the 3 Finger Combo at Raising Canes is something I could order every day and not get tired of it. The quality of the chicken is always top notch, they have great fries, the Texas toast is a nice extra and for someone who grew up wanting things plain, Cane’s sauce is the best. Also love the little ice cubes in the freshly made lemonade. Egg McMuffins from the clown are also something I could eat every day (and the quality never wavers no matter where you are in the world, which is an incredible feat). And of course, Arby’s has the meats.

  • Steak @ Murray’s
  • I’ve handed down my love of steak to my eldest daughter, but I’ve yet to take her to the temple of Minneapolis beef, Murray’s. Now I know that many people consider Manny’s to be the temple of Minneapolis beef, but I went to Murray’s first, sharing a Silver Butter Knife steak with my mom way back when. I thought it was magical that they could cook such a thick steak so uniformly perfect and have it be *so* tender. These days, I usually get there for the luncheon filet, a 6 ounce tenderloin with au gratin potatoes that is an absolute steal at $32. Just like pizza, there are a lot of great steak places in town, but Murray’s is my fave.

After I came up with this list, Colleen asked me, “what about Cecil’s?” Their New York style hot pastrami & Swiss on egg white absolutely needs to be top 7, but I don’t know what I want to bump off the list. Let’s just go with eight for now…

UPDATE: I also forgot about mild chilitos with extra cheese at Zantigo.

Originally published by DK on November 4, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro

Posted Sunday, October 25th, 2020 02:59 pm in Family,Longform,Shopping,Technology at 2:59 PM

It’s that time of year again – the iPhone Upgrade Program notified me that I could trade in my iPhone 11 Pro from last year for a new model. After reviewing the options, I decided to pre-order a 256GB Pacific Blue iPhone 12 Pro. My most important features continue to be the camera and battery life, but it turns out storage size wasn’t as big a deal as I thought last year. I jumped up to the 512GB version on the 11, but I wasn’t even using 100GB. I’m still a no-case guy, but the colors don’t really do anything for me one way or the other (same with the other new accessories).

The Apple Store app pre-order process is still very easy and I didn’t have any problems submitting it a week ago. Shipping notifications and tracking from UPS went as expected and the new phone was delivered on time Friday afternoon. I don’t mind the lack of a power adapter or “crapbuds” in the box, as I don’t need either. After losing my original pair of AirPods Pro, it has really become apparent how much you need wireless headphones in the Apple ecosystem. It’s just so much easier than having nineteen different adaptors and cables. I found it strange that there was no up-sell during the pre-order process from AT&T to move to a 5G plan, so I’ll have to change that on my own to test the 5G features (no real rush on that yet, as I don’t know about their local coverage, flavors of 5G or impact on battery life).

After unboxing the new phone, I did one final iCloud backup of the old one. The setup process on the new one required having the old phone nearby and started off smoothly, but I ended up having a bunch of issues this time around. The process did something to my watch, which didn’t initially unlock my iMac (but at least I didn’t lose any of my health data). One of my 2FA apps, Google Authenticator, didn’t transfer settings and I had to follow the directions in this post to help with that (TOTP Authenticator transferred seamlessly). My credit union app and debit card required a bunch of manual set up to restore, but my Apple Card transferred over with no issues. Tweetbot needed new auth tokens to work, my personal 7minutemiles.com email had to be re-authenticated, Siri CarPlay location services settings didn’t transfer and it took a long time to pull down all of the items from the iCloud backup.

I also had an issue with the new phone trusting my iMac, but that just turned out to be user error. I still do not like synching music and photos in the Finder instead of iTunes/Music, but I think I finally have things set up correctly now (there were a bunch of random songs selected for sync in the album tab of the music selection, even though I only wanted to sync by playlist). Very thankful that 1Password transferred over with no issues, as that is a vital service for me now. It’s weird reading a Matthew Panzarino iPhone review that didn’t involve a visit to Disneyland, but I guess that’s the reality of 2020. I do agree with him about the general feel of the 12 line versus the 11, but don’t really buy into the Rolex analogy.

Colleen is waiting for the Max, as she wants to have the “best” phone in the family. It will be interesting to see how the larger camera sensor in that model does with overall photo quality, but that one is just too big for my hands and pockets. I think MK wants a mini and SK is probably due for a new one as well. Onward!

Originally published by DK on October 25, 2020 at 2:59 pm

Top 7 Minnesota Courses

Posted Friday, October 9th, 2020 11:43 pm in Golf,Longform at 11:43 PM

Patrick’s list of his top 10 Minnesota golf courses got me thinking. People often ask me my favorite courses in the state, but I’ve never really wanted to rank them. I’ve also never joined a club, so there are a number of great private courses that I’ve only played a handful of times (and some key ones I’ve still yet to play). Throw in the recent Minnesota public and private rankings from Golfweek and I guess it’s time to finally come up with my list. But since this is 7 Minute Miles, we only do “Top 7” lists around here, OK?

Before we start, a few general comments. Golf has been insanely popular in Minnesota during COVID, which has made it harder to get tee times all over this season. This is a complete reversal of the downward slide the industry took since the “Tiger Boom,” which lead to the closing of so many courses in the state (Joe Bissen documents this history extremely well in his two books on the topic). It’s been a really long time since Minnesota had any courses listed in national “best new course” rankings, but we definitely punch above our weight class nationally, with a wide range of great courses that are typically much less expensive to play than other parts of the country.

Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Donald Ross and local architects Paul Miller and Garrett Gill are friends of mine. Minnesota has many great Ross courses that don’t make my list, but are truly great courses. Northland and White Bear Yacht Club, in particular, would likely make the list if I got to play them more often (and I’ve never played Woodhill or Minikahda). I’m curious to play Minneapolis again after the big redo, but the layout wasn’t one of my favorites before that work was done. Gill and/or Miller worked on many of my favorite public courses around here, including two that aren’t in my top seven, but are very close to the cut: Legends Club and Meadows at Mystic Lake.

I should also talk briefly about the Brainerd lakes area. There are a concentration of spectacular courses there, but most of them get canceled out for me by the Jeffrey Brauer trio of courses farther north. So I while I think courses like The Classic and The Preserve are wonderful, I’d still rather play at Fortune Bay and Giants Ridge. Deacon’s Lodge is the only course on the Golfweek public list that I haven’t played, so I may have to revisit my thinking about this at some point (I also haven’t played Golden Eagle in Fifty Lakes).

Lists like this are always subjective (and ultimately political), but this is my take for 2020. With all of that out of the way, let’s get started.

#7 – Willingers Golf Club, Northfield

I’ve played this Gill/Miller course 45 times and keep my handicap here. I love that the plans for the housing development fell through, leaving the nature vibe intact. I wish they could find a few more yards on the card to get the white tees to 6000 yards so more people would play the correct set of tees, but otherwise this is such a fun layout. It never seems overly crowded and I don’t think we’ve ever had a slow round here in 25 years of venturing down to Northfield. RIP the tree on number 12.

#6 – Ridges at Sand Creek, Jordan

My regular Saturday group used to alternate between here and Willingers on a regular basis, but this really has become our mainstay the past few years. We started playing here in 2000 and had a brief boycott after owner Mike Malone and crew regularly allowed fivesomes on weekend mornings. We had one terribly slow round here this year (a common problem for many courses), but management now is very proactive about keeping things moving. The holes “on top” aren’t all that memorable (aka the farmland holes), but the 11 holes along the Sand Creek would not be out of place in Brainerd. Sand Creek hosts the state high school class AA boys and girls championships (if and when those ever return) and always seems to be in tournament condition. Probably the best Joel Goldstrand course ever. Sad COVID casualty: the free shuttles up the hill for us walkers.

#5 – Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska

My mentor has been a member here as long as I can remember, so I’ve had the honor of playing Hazeltine several times over the years. The new clubhouse is a big improvement over the old the one, but I guess it’s not really that new any more. It was great fun volunteering at the 2002 PGA Championship, playing reporter at the 2009 PGA and attending the 2016 Ryder Cup as a fan. The staff here are top notch, from my friend (and course superintendent) Chris Tritabaugh to past Tapemark participants Mike Barge and Chandler Withington. The history is building for this “modern” course and it’s super fun to play where the pros play. HNGC would likely be ranked higher for me if I were a better player – it’s an extremely difficult golf course, with lightning fast greens and nearly impossible rough when they get it ready for the big tournaments.

#4 – The Quarry at Giants Ridge, Biwabik

When I worked in northern Minnesota, Giants Ridge was the competition. The original golf course, now called The Legend, was the first resort course to open in the area. It wasn’t walkable and conditioning could be a little hit or miss, but it was a fun course. The Quarry opened next, followed closely by The Wilderness. It instantly became a dog fight between us and The Quarry for the top public course in the state. Initially, I thought it was a bit too much target golf, but it has really grown on me over time. It is quirky, stunningly beautiful, well-conditioned, walkable and a joy to play. The clubhouse is small, but has a solid pro shop and a good kitchen. Wasn’t a fan of the closing hole at either Giants Ridge course, but I now appreciate 18 at The Quarry much more than I used to. Eagled number 10 last time I was there – good times, good times…

#3 – Windsong Farm Golf Club, Independence

Back when I worked for an airline, I played Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon and learned about architect Bob Cupp. That lead me to Rush Creek in Maple Grove, which was a Bob Cupp/John Fought collaboration. Mr. Fought started working with Tom Lehman, which brought us the gem that is Windsong Farm (and also the splendid Somerby outside of Rochester). I had taken pictures of the Minnesota Junior Girl’s State Championship at Windsong in 2007, but had never played the course until last year. They recently completed a number of improvements and a second round there this year confirmed my opinion that “the Farm” is becoming a big, big deal in the Minnesota golf scene.

#2 – The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, Tower

Spoiler alert: I worked for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa for five years, so I’ve played more golf on The Wilderness than any other course. I will always have a bias for it over Giants Ridge, but Fortune Bay generally has a more playable course than either The Quarry or The Legend. It’s just more fun to me, with fewer chances to lose a million golf balls. The stretch of 12-13-14 are still the only holes I’ve ever birdied back to back to back. I love walking this course, even though everyone to this day thinks I’m crazy for doing that. Stellar set of par threes. The biarritz green on the par four fifth hole is the only one I know of in Minnesota.

#1 – Interlachen Country Club, Edina

Hard to disagree with Patrick here – Interlachen is the full real deal of Minnesota golf. I love everything about this club: the history with Bobby Jones and the lily pad shot in the 1930 U.S. Open, watching Annika at the 2002 Solheim Cup, photographing the 2008 Women’s U.S. Open, the beautiful English Tudor clubhouse, the tight fairways, the elevated greens. Willie Watson, Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones, Willie Kidd, Patty Berg, Jock Olson. Always envisioned this as the ultimate Minnesota country club lifestyle: golf with all the other perks thrown in. Only played the course a handful of times (two charity tournaments and one solo round to play and photograph). Only negative is that it’s too short now for the PGA Tour to ever return. Their loss.

So that wraps up my first edition of Top 7 Minnesota Courses. I hope to play the remaining three courses from the Golfweek rankings that I’ve not visited and make this an annual post (or maybe every other year, like a certain golf publication). Would also like to give a big shout-out to Dave Tentis across the border at Troy Burne (another great Tom Lehman course) that we might have to give honorary Minnesota citizenship to at some point. Oh, and be sure to check out the excellent golf course photography that Patrick has posted on his beautiful website.

Originally published by DK on October 9, 2020 at 11:43 pm

Two Years of Bonus Time

Posted Thursday, October 8th, 2020 12:00 am in Longform,Personal at 12:00 AM

Today is the two year anniversary of what kid one has called my “big brain blowout” that I experienced on the train platform in downtown Minneapolis on October 8, 2018. Looking back on the post I wrote a year ago, it’s amazing how much has changed in the world since then. The pandemic has dramatically altered my industry and most of my hobbies, but there’s still nothing like three weeks in the ICU to change your outlook on life.

Health-wise, almost everything is back to normal. It appears that my previous 20/20 vision won’t return fully, but I now have permanent prism glasses that mostly do the trick. I don’t really like to wear them, though, so it’s nice I don’t need them to read screens. My brain can trick my eyes for longer distances if I tilt my head a certain way, but overall it’s safer to just wear the glasses for driving and biking. They are also technically bifocals, as my neuro optometrist says I’m just getting too old to read the small print now. Dammit, she’s right.

In other miscellaneous health notes, I successfully completed my colonoscopy back in February and started a move streak in April that still continues (yesterday was day 175). As a result, my weight is trending in the right direction (switching to the no sugar versions of Cherry Coke and Mountain Dew is probably helping too). I’ve played more golf this year than any other, walking almost every round. Bike miles this year are down compared to the last two years, but I should still hit 600 miles by the end of the year. My run log is trending in the right direction, but most of those miles were spent walking hills. Will 2021 mark the return of full-blown running? Time will tell, but I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel on that just yet.

The last year has truly been a roller-coaster of emotion. We got in all of the milestone birthday trips before everything shut down – Las Vegas for SK, Maui for CK and Banff for MK. We lost the last of the parents months apart: Jean in December and Mike in February. I still feel like we didn’t get to properly mourn them once COVID hit. The pandemic continues to hammer away at other parts of our lives that will unfortunately never come back again.

I can’t allow this doom and gloom to overshadow my gratitude to be here today, though. I continue to be inspired by people like Dr. Uzma Samadani, who helped me leave the ICU at Hennepin Healthcare two years ago. Reading about her research on Twitter gives me hope about my continued health and that science will find a way out of this mess. The free lectures I’ve been watching from MIT about the pandemic are also fascinating and inspiring. We need more leaders like this to guide us through these challenging times…

🇺🇸 VOTE 🇺🇸

Originally published by DK on October 8, 2020 at 12:00 am

On Safety

Posted Sunday, August 23rd, 2020 09:07 pm in Concerts,Food,Longform,Personal,Politics,Science,Work at 9:07 PM

I’ve been thinking a lot about safety lately. The pandemic, political and economic turmoil, return to work plans – all of these have safety components that give me anxiety and make 2020 feel like even more of a challenge. What exactly is the condition of being safe? I like these definitions: freedom from danger, risk, injury or loss; unhurt, harmless, cautious. Of course, safe can also mean unlikely to produce controversy or contradiction – also sometimes useful, but not what I’m writing about today.

The spread of COVID and the tools and policies available to manage the threat have become overtly political, which is unfortunate. I’m lucky that I really don’t have to fight any physical battles with people who won’t wear masks or follow guidelines and have the economic stability to isolate at home as much as I can during the pandemic. I’ve already decided I don’t *need* to visit casinos, go to movie theaters or drink in bars right now and I tend to favor take-out over eating inside at restaurants that are offering that option (and winter is coming, patio people). Correctly wearing a face mask to Target or the grocery store is literally the easiest thing you can do to keep the economy running, limit the spread of the virus and help keep people safe.

Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities, which has resulted in a surge of bike sales and golf rounds. These are both things I love to do in a “regular” year, so this has been a great way to pass the time (and keep my move streak alive). It’s funny that some of the outdoor things I like to do aren’t always considered safe: danger is part of the appeal with downhill skiing and single-track mountain biking, for example. But even with those activities, I’m more cautious the older I get. Running has always been important to me, but I’ve even turned that down a notch, preferring strenuous hill walks to full out running for speed (at least for now).

I’m very fortunate that sports, concerts, travel and food have played significant roles in my life. Venue safety is part of my career, so I pay close attention to what others are doing. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a great experience with the Saints returning to live baseball in our neighborhood, so we only bought tickets to two games. Why? We didn’t feel safe: no security at the gates, seat maps that placed people at the drink rail immediately behind us, other fans not following the guidelines and limited staff to enforce the rules. I get the economics, but what is the long-term damage to your brand if people don’t feel safe? We did have a good experience at the Minnesota Zoo a few weeks back and expect to have a good experience at the Minnesota State Fair Food Parade next week, but it seems critical to me that you get safety figured out.

I miss live music, but I don’t see that industry coming back for a while. The next ticket I have is for a November 27th show at the Fitzgerald, a theater I love. Even with masks and a limited audience (which isn’t possible, since tickets are already sold), I can’t imagine any scenario that would make me feel safe enough to go on that date (and near-zero chance it doesn’t get rescheduled again like every other show I still have tickets for from 2020). I’ve also been reading a lot about Disney, and while thoughts of an uncrowded Disney World are tempting, my internal safety meter says tell Mickey we will see him again later.

The activities I’ve talked about so far mostly involve things that a majority of people would consider first-world privilege. I’m still employed, we’re not facing eviction and we have food on the table. Everyone in the family is still healthy. We have a bit of an economic safety net thanks to inheritance. We have access to reliable transportation. Middle class white males don’t have to face the same issues that women and people of color do as part of their daily existence (I’m working on a draft “On Race” post that I hope to publish soon). So what other safety issue is front and center for me? Crime rates.

When we moved from the suburbs to Lowertown, my mom was very concerned about our safety (even though she also lived in Saint Paul). The area has had ups and downs from a crime standpoint, but I’d never felt threatened here (even at night). The pandemic and the protests following the death of George Floyd have changed the look and atmosphere of downtown Saint Paul. According to the Pioneer Press, there have been more than forty recent arrests in the area around Mears Park and Union Depot for fighting, drug dealing and other criminal activity (including a shooting). Homelessness has also been on the rise and a small tent city can now be seen outside our windows near I-94. There are people needing obvious mental health assistance. I wish I knew the answers to these problems – what we are doing now isn’t working and something needs to change…

Originally published by DK on August 23, 2020 at 9:07 pm

Life After Zuckerberg

Posted Thursday, August 6th, 2020 10:20 pm in Housekeeping,Longform,Personal,Pop Culture,Technology at 10:20 PM

It’s been two and a half months since I last posted to Instagram (and about two months since I officially deleted both my Facebook and Instagram accounts). It wasn’t that hard to give up Facebook – I really only used it to sync status with a couple of games, promote posts from this site and to communicate with more distant family members. Add to that all of the other reasons people don’t like Facebook and it became a pretty easy decision. Now I just need Two Dots to continue to improve the Facebook-free experience and I’ll be fine (LEADERBOARDS).

Instagram, on the other hand, was a much tougher decision for me. From what I can tell, it launched on iOS in October of 2010 and I posted my first image on Christmas Day 2010. The original pictures were 640×640 and I used Iain Poulson’s excellent Intagrate WordPress plugin for many years to automatically pull my pics from Instagram and create image posts on this site. Facebook purchased the service in April 2012, but largely left it independent (image sizes did increase to 1080×1080 in 2015).

Instagram is the de facto social media standard for restaurants and foodies, so that’s really what I used it for in the beginning. I don’t like accounts that post the same thing across all platforms, so I’d use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in specialized ways to help prevent overlap. Now that I’m only on Twitter, I initially tried to recreate some of that there, but I’m finding that I need to continue to prune my Twitter follow list and just move on from some things that I know I’m missing. Some examples: Instagram stories from Armon and Meredith, donut pictures from Erin and everything posted by my wife and daughters.

I finally finished merging all of the Instagram metadata they sent me in JSON format with the image files that I uploaded here. Also starting to get back to equilibrium on my main @kingsbury Twitter account (and will continue to use @7minutemiles to link to stories like this one). Really trying to get most of the politics out of my feed too – no real appetite for doomscrolling these days…

Originally published by DK on August 6, 2020 at 10:20 pm

The Transition to AWS Lightsail

Posted Sunday, July 26th, 2020 12:00 am in Housekeeping,Longform,Technology at 12:00 AM

After nine plus years of running this site on a Mac mini in a Las Vegas data center, I decided it was time to transition to the big leagues of cloud infrastructure. This world is dominated by Amazon, Microsoft and Google, all of which have a dizzying array of available services at various price points. I messed around with Amazon Web Services (AWS EC2) last year, when they were promoting a limited free tier for nerds to experiment and evaluate. This year I decided to give Lightsail a try, which is basically an easier-to-use, fixed-priced version of AWS that gives you a virtual cloud-based server.

As you can see in the screenshot of the Lightsail console above, I created an instance with 4GB of RAM, two virtual CPUs and 80GB of storage running in Virginia Zone A. I was tempted to just pick a version of Linux and manually compile and install the various components I wanted. In the end, though, I decided to go with the Bitnami WordPress stack (version 5.3.2-3), which gave me Ubuntu Linux 16.04.6, Apache 2.4.31, MySQL 8.0.18 and PHP 7.3.14 (i.e., the LAMP stack). Throw in phpMyAdmin and certbot and you have a good preinstalled foundation on which to built and troubleshoot. I also decided to switch my DNS management from DNS Made Easy to Amazon’s Route 53, but kept domain registration and management at Hover.

I’ve owned a Tenacious D themed domain name for some time now that I use for testing and initially used that when I signed up for Lightsail (“All of a sudden, there shined a shiny demon in the middle of the road.”). Amazon and Bitnami both have great tutorial and support pages and I also need to give a shoutout to Sanjeev at MetaBlogue, who wrote two very useful posts. Also found this post from Amazon to be very helpful for setting up new certs from Let’s Encrypt (who I love). Speaking of certs, I spent some time adjusting the Apache TLS settings to get an “A” rating from Qualys on their cool SSL test site.

It took a while to transfer 15 years worth of site files from the old server to my iMac, then on to the new instance. The database files were also quite large, requiring an increase in the file upload settings in PHP. Switching from the test domain to 7minutemiles.com seemed to go smoothly at first, but I had a problem with my theme files that took longer than I wanted to troubleshoot (it was a case-sensitive URL thing). All seems well now, though, and even my stupid emoji issue from December 2018 seems to have been resolved on the new server. Lightsail offers the ability to create snapshots of the instance (yay!) and it appears that Vaultpress is successfully backing up from the new server too.

Now on to those elusive mobile theme enhancements and new data entry screens…

Originally published by DK on July 26, 2020 at 12:00 am

Northland Vacation 2020

Posted Sunday, July 5th, 2020 05:09 pm in Casinos,Family,Food,Friends,Golf,Longform,Travel at 5:09 PM

I’ve been fortunate to continue working through the pandemic, but it’s been tough to take time away (especially since I’m the only IT person left). Thanks to the support of my boss and one of our awesome game day staffers, I was able to take a week off without looking at work email once. We originally intended to spend the week on Isle Royale National Park, but the ferry and Rock Harbor Lodge decided to scrap the whole 2020 season and our reservations were cancelled.

Plan B was to stay the first half of the week at Lutsen Resort and the Fourth of July weekend on Lake Vermilion (at Fortune Bay). Those plans changed as the temperatures kept rising – it was even hot along the usually cool shoreline of Lake Superior and we discovered upon check-in that Lutsen Resort does not have air conditioning. They were accommodating by offering us a full refund, but there were really no other options in Lutsen or the surrounding spots (Grand Marais, Tofte, Grand Portage). Fortune Bay could get us in early, so we set off on highway 1 through Ely and decided to spend the whole week on Vermilion.

Fortune Bay has done a nice job with COVID safety and procedures. They had temperature checks set up on the entry road, mandatory face masks and lots of signage, plexiglass and hand sanitizer. The casino floor had basically every other machine turned off, but they kindly turned on my favorite game for the week (big thanks to EJ). I think I made it worth their hassle, though, while still getting a lot of quality playing time. They had Frozen-themed giveaways on Thursday and Friday for 100 points earned (an Olaf waffle maker on day one and an Olaf snow cone maker on day two), so I spread my playing time out accordingly. Marisa really, really wanted these, so I was happy for the solid play-through.

Food options during the week were a little limited, but what was open was solid. We stopped at the Ely Steakhouse on the way over from Lutsen and they were following all of the state orders for in-person dining. On the other end of the spectrum, the Vermilion Club was following just about none of the rules, which blew us away (maybe “VC” really stands for Virus Central). We still ate there twice in-person and had take-out a third day, because Poor Gary’s pizza and the bleu cheese and chicken wings are Northland classics (hopefully we were personally careful enough).

Back at Fortune Bay, I hit the Wilderness Grill four times, having great experiences each time. The new chef used to work at Alma in Minneapolis and I really liked all of the sandwiches I tried (pulled chicken, walleye, porchetta and cheeseburger). Their new fries are reminiscent of the state fair classics. In the casino proper, we had a wonderful dinner at the Sunset Steakhouse and stopped several times at the Gold Mine Grill, which is getting better with service and staffing (they’ve always had great coffeeshop-style food options). The Tamarack Buffet was closed for service, but was the room was being used for socially-distanced overflow seating.

Thought I would play a lot of golf during the week, but the temperatures were warm and I just didn’t feel like going every day. I did drive down to Coleraine to play Eagle Ridge with the Millers and got in a twilight round on The Wilderness with John, Cathy and Bonnie. The whole region needs rain badly, so there were some near-dead areas on both courses (especially in the roughs). The Wilderness also has a lot of behind the scenes changes: the contract with KemperSports was not renewed and former golf GM Tom Beaudry and superintendent Vince Dodge have both moved on to the state of cheese. Still love that course, though, and it continues to be the one I’ve played the most.

It was also great to hang out at Dacha Batinich on Birch Point again with Mary and the crew. Big thanks to John and Cathy for taking us out on the boat for a pizza picnic (and for taking Sasha and Marisa out again later in the week). Skip-Bo games and great conversations make that little cabin a very special place indeed.

Originally published by DK on July 5, 2020 at 5:09 pm

The Art of Email

Posted Monday, June 22nd, 2020 10:12 pm in Business,Longform,Technology at 10:12 PM

When I first heard that the company behind Basecamp was going to release a new email product, I was skeptical. Many others have tried to improve on the pitfalls of email, but nothing has really stood out. I’ve gone through several phases of email management, both personally and professionally. Running your own email server is not for the faint of heart, but I very briefly tried to do that with a mix of Exim, Postfix and a few other tools that tried to deal with the huge amount of junk mail on the internet.

For my personal email, I got in early enough with Google that I get to use their current G Suite service for free. On the work side, one of the first decisions I made in my current job was to move to Office 365 (now Microsoft 365) instead of having an on-site Exchange server. So right now I use the Apple Mail clients for my 7minutemiles.com account and the Mac Outlook clients for work (I like to keep them separate and use both iOS and macOS apps). Spam prevention could be better (especially on the Microsoft side), but I’m mostly OK with my current setup and routine.

I’ve been a fan of Basecamp CTO (and Ruby on Rails creator) David Heinemeier Hansson for quite a while. I agree with a lot of his business philosophies (“It Doesn’t Have To Be Crazy At Work”) and he is usually a good follow on Twitter (just avoid the weeks when he is feuding with Apple). When DHH announced that they were doing a new email thing called Hey, I sent in a request to be one of the early adopters. When my invite code came last week, I grabbed kingsbury@hey.com and started to kick the tires.

Things were kinda hard to test out until I auto-forwarded my 7minutemiles.com traffic to this new account (custom domains are not yet supported). The video I watched from Basecamp CEO Jason Fried got me pretty excited about the features, so I was starting to think this might be worth $99 a year. They give you a free 14 day trial to test things out and here I sit with seven days left, an “Imbox” full of sample messages and a growing sense that this is not really for me. So, what are my main issues with Hey?

  • Just can’t seem to get into the right flow of managing messages in any of the client instances (web, iOS or macOS).
  • Privacy and “spy” trackers: Hey makes a big deal out of this, but you know what? Most of the emails flagged with this are from senders that I already opted in, so I don’t consider this an invasion of my privacy. From what I can tell, there is no way to tell Hey that I consider these OK. It’s a cool feature for junk mail, but I don’t want to see those messages at all.
  • Can’t even imagine what sort of infrastructure is required to store all of this data (email, file attachments, added metadata). Curious to see how this scales and how their privacy and security policies will work in practice.
  • The logo and overall design esthetic seems a bit…off to me. “Imbox” also rubs me the wrong way – looks like a mistake.

This would really only be worth $99 to me if I could move over my domain name, which they say is coming soon. Do I roll the dice and subscribe next week (both in anticipation of that feature and to keep the vanity address)? Most signs point to no – Google doesn’t charge me anything now and I’m mostly happy with how I manage email overall. I will keep messing with Hey until the trial expires, though. Who knows, maybe things will click in another day or two?

Originally published by DK on June 22, 2020 at 10:12 pm

iMac Kernel Panics

Posted Wednesday, June 17th, 2020 12:59 am in Longform,Shopping,Technology at 12:59 AM

If you’ve been following along with the upgrade saga of Mr. Jackpot, I’ve got good and bad news to report. The good news is that I think I’m finally back on track now, but the bad news is that I basically need to start all over from scratch. When we last left the story, I had the fan cable problem resolved and was busy clean installing all of my apps and re-building the Music library. This was progressing nicely – I had made my first pass through all of the old music files, adding only songs and albums I wanted to keep, along with finding or updating album artwork for every file. That was about as far as I made it before we went out of town for a few days. When I came back home, the iMac was on with the dreaded flashing question mark folder.

It didn’t seem like we had experienced a power outage, so I first tried a hard restart. The Apple logo appeared and the progress bar started across, but just before it reached the end, the screen went black and the iMac appeared to shut off. I connected the external clone drive I made of the original internal SSD and rebooted again holding down the option key. This brought up the screen that allows you to select which drive you want to boot from, so I selected the clone and hit enter. That made it through to the user login screen, followed by the multi-language kernel panic message. After that went away, the panic log window appeared:

panic(cpu 0 caller 0xffffff7f8e24b231): nvme: “Fatal error occurred. CSTS=0x1 US[1]=0x0 US[0]=0xb VID=0x126f DID=0x2262
. FW Revision=42A0S63A\n”@/AppleInternal/BuildRoot/Library/Caches/com.apple.xbs/Sources/IONVMeFamily/
Backtrace (CPU 0), Frame : Return Address
0xffffff83cb2c39e0 : 0xffffff800c51f5cd
0xffffff83cb2c3a30 : 0xffffff800c658b05
0xffffff83cb2c3a70 : 0xffffff800c64a68e
0xffffff83cb2c3ac0 : 0xffffff800c4c5a40
0xffffff83cb2c3ae0 : 0xffffff800c51ec97
0xffffff83cb2c3be0 : 0xffffff800c51f087
0xffffff83cb2c3c30 : 0xffffff800ccc27ec
0xffffff83cb2c3ca0 : 0xffffff7f8e24b231
0xffffff83cb2c3cc0 : 0xffffff7f8e236362
0xffffff83cb2c3e20 : 0xffffff800cc33409
0xffffff83cb2c3e90 : 0xffffff800cc33329
0xffffff83cb2c3ec0 : 0xffffff800c561565
0xffffff83cb2c3f40 : 0xffffff800c561091
0xffffff83cb2c3fa0 : 0xffffff800c4c513e
Kernel Extensions in backtrace:
dependency: com.apple.driver.AppleMobileFileIntegrity(1.0.5)[0425E074-601A-3487-A54F-1E675D065186]@0xffffff7f8cf87000
dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOPCIFamily(2.9)[3C56BB73-D149-3E84-A2EB-DF806779B96C]@0xffffff7f8d101000
dependency: com.apple.driver.AppleEFINVRAM(2.1)[4E64E519-CD9C-3D03-8E62-1074E9AD54A7]@0xffffff7f8d309000
dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOStorageFamily(2.1)[E13E9C61-F1F5-3A81-B1EF-65669C3CBDBF]@0xffffff7f8ce65000
dependency: com.apple.iokit.IOReportFamily(47)[1FB49168-0280-3F04-A99A-F830C915E994]@0xffffff7f8d02f000

BSD process name corresponding to current thread: kernel_task

Mac OS version:

Kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 19.5.0: Thu Apr 30 18:25:59 PDT 2020; root:xnu-6153.121.1~7/RELEASE_X86_64
Kernel UUID: 7B7F06EE-1B75-345E-B898-2FD4FEC20F0D
Kernel slide: 0x000000000c200000
Kernel text base: 0xffffff800c400000
__HIB text base: 0xffffff800c300000
System model name: iMac18,2 (Mac-77F17D7DA9285301)
System shutdown begun: NO
Panic diags file available: YES (0x0)

This wasn’t super helpful while Googling, but I thought I could at least stay booted to the clone. Unfortunately, when I tried to launch Disk Utility and check the new internal SSD, the screen went black again and the iMac shut down. I tried this process several times and every single time it would eventually shut down. My initial thought was that the new RAM was bad, since it was happening on both internal and external drives and I had that happen once before when I worked at Northwest Airlines.

I sent Other World Computing a support request and went back to work using my phone and laptop. OWC didn’t reply to my initial support request, so a few days later I started an online support chat with them to ask about the status of my ticket. Even that took a few hours before someone popped up, but eventually a tech suggested I get a wired keyboard and try to 1) reset the PRAM and 2) boot into diagnostic mode.

Since I didn’t want to buy a new keyboard, I rode into work and borrowed an extra Windows keyboard. The PRAM reset (option-command-P-R) didn’t make any difference, but I was able to boot into diagnostic mode (hold the “D” key while starting up). It ran tests for about five minutes, but then came back with “No issues found. Reference Code: ADP000.” I left the machine up for about 30 minutes in that mode and it never kernel panicked. I tried to reset the SMC by unplugging the power for 15 seconds, then plugging it back in, but that made no difference. Lastly, I tried to boot into recovery mode (option-R) and was able to get as far as launching Disk Utility before it crashed. I did recovery mode one more time in an effort to launch the Catalina installer, but that also ended in a crash midway through installation.

I then talked to Armon (who was an Apple Genius when I hired him) and he said to try booting into verbose mode, then single user mode. When I did verbose mode (option-V), all of the usual junk appeared on the screen, then it switched back to the white Apple logo with the progress bar. It did finish all the way across, then launched a Catalina install screen (!?). That stayed up for about two minutes before crashing and shutting down. I got to the command prompt in single user mode (option-S), but when I tried to mount the drive (/sbin/mount -uw /), it kept displaying “disk2s1: device is write locked.” I then tried to use internet recovery mode (shift-option-command-R), which connected successfully to my WiFi network and loaded a disk image into memory without crashing. I started Disk Utility to reformat the internal SSD, but it did not appear in the window of available drives. Commands in Terminal couldn’t see it either. Huh.

At this point, I asked OWC support via email if this model could really support 32GB of RAM, as some online sites listed 16GB as the maximum. They told me that it could actually support up to 64GB of RAM and that they were highly suspect of the RAM being bad. I told him that I was going to open it back up and reinstall the stock RAM, then see what happened. I really didn’t want to go through that whole process again, but I really didn’t have any other option (aside from taking it somewhere like The Foundation). I spent an hour or so doing the surgery, then tried to boot up from the internal drive. Fingers crossed, but startup ended with yet another kernel panic. ARGH!

I did the surgery *again* and reinstalled both the new RAM and the old internal SSD. Fired it back up and it’s been running without a kernel panic for two days now. I emailed OWC and told them I needed to RMA the new SSD and I’m still waiting for a reply. I know they have a COVID note on their support page (“we are seeing increased levels of engagement across all of our customer contact systems”), but it’s been a bit disappointing to go through this experience. At least I’m getting very familiar with the inside of this particular model. Which, of course, means that there will definitely be an extra cool new iMac announced at WWDC

Originally published by DK on June 17, 2020 at 12:59 am

iMac Upgrades

Posted Wednesday, May 20th, 2020 11:02 pm in Longform,Shopping,Technology at 11:02 PM

After several months of frustration with managing my (admittedly) large collection of music and photos on our three-year-old iMac, I decided it was time to either look at a new machine or try to rebuild and optimize the current one. Since the new options I liked were all in the $3,000 or more category, I decided to research cheaper options with Mr. Jackpot, our 2017 21.5-inch Retina 4K model (iMac 18.2).

The 3GHz quad-core i5 processor should still be OK for a few more years and I really like the quality of the screen. I’ve been running just the standard 8GB of RAM, though, which seems meager now. For storage, I originally picked the 256GB SSD option internally, with two external 2TB drives connected via standard USB ports. My gut feeling was that this was now a major performance bottleneck, since the operating system was the only thing on the fast SSD and the photo library and music files were on the slower spinning disc drives with no Thunderbolt interfaces.

I’ve been a customer and fan of Other World Computing in Illinois for most of my IT career. I looked at the upgrade options for this model on their site and reviewed the excellent installation videos several times before deciding to place an order. My goal was to upgrade the RAM from 8GB to 32GB, replace the small internal SSD with their 2TB OWC Aura Pro X2 product, then find a suitable Thunderbolt 3 external SSD option. After consulting with my friend Terry, I opted for a non-OWC option, ordering the 2TB Samsung T5 Portable SSD from Amazon (which, of course, was just made obsolete a few days ago with a T7 version).

OWC rated these installs “skill level: advanced” and I was a little nervous. They provided all of the needed tools and parts, but it was still a challenging installation. Last Sunday was rainy anyways, so the timing for this project was spot on. It ended up taking most of the afternoon, with only one initial issue. The Torx screwdrivers OWC provides don’t have very big handles, so I needed to improvise the T8 by attaching a wrench for more torque to loosen the screws on the power unit (which also had some tricky cable connections). Once everything was apart, popping in the RAM and the SSD chips was easy. I reversed the process to close it back up, then started a clean install of macOS Mojave.

Mojave doesn’t have the greatest reputation right now. Personally, I haven’t had a lot of direct issues with it, but I’ve been carrying along a lot of cruft over the years by doing upgrades and not clean installs. I figured a lot of the issues I’ve had with photos and music are probably related to this, so I wanted to make backups of everything (in multiple places), create a clean install of the operating system, load the latest versions of my applications, then copy over personal files. Time Machine was used for backup number one, Carbon Copy Cloner was used for backup number two (and to create a bootable external drive) and Backblaze was used for backup number three.

Finding license codes for my purchased software took a bit of time. Some companies do a great job of helping with this (thanks, Panic), while others sent me emails after purchase that I archive. It’s interesting how many apps are now subscription services – you just need to remember your credentials to log in, download and activate those products (which now include all of the Office 365 apps, Photoshop Creative Cloud and services like Backblaze). The App Store for Mac remembers your purchases made via that sales channel, so those were easy. Had to use my Cisco login to get access to the AnyConnect VPN client, but otherwise I was able to get everything back in an hour or so. I did end up upgrading 1Password to the latest version, which is also now subscription based.

One area that I need to spend more time on is iCloud. So many things are now tied my AppleID, but it seems like the process is cleaner on iOS than it is on the Mac. I’ve used iCloud for contacts and calendars since it was introduced, but only recently upgraded to the 2TB storage tier for iPhone backups and iCloud Drive usage. I apparently also used my Google Apps account for synching some contacts and calendars, so I need to get that sorted out (and all moved under iCloud). Throw in Facebook and Office 365 integration and my Contacts app is a disaster right now. I do really like how iCloud Drive works, so I will likely move most of my non-media files to that. Also a big fan of using iCloud with the Notes app – super easy to share across devices and basically replaces Stickies for me.

As I progressed with the customization of the new SSDs, I wasn’t very happy with performance. I couldn’t figure out what the issue was, so I turned on the screen saver and went for a walk. When I got back, the machine locked up on me and I had to do a hard power reset to get it to reboot. I noticed the middle of the screen was really hot, so I went back to the install videos and realized I might’ve missed plugging the fan back in. I downloaded the free version of Macs Fan Control and sure enough, the fan was not spinning (and all the temp indicators were high). Guessing the heat was throttling the CPU performance, so it was back to the screen removal tool to pop back inside and reconnect the cable. Thankfully, I was able to reach it without having to take everything apart again. It’s been blazing fast (and cool) ever since and now I’m a very happy camper.

There is still a lot of work ahead of me, but everything is humming along. I’ve started to rebuild the music library using Music, with the files stored on the external Samsung. So far I’ve just downloaded past purchases and ripped a couple of new CDs, but my old library will get added next. I turned off all of the Apple Music and online syncing stuff and performance seems to be fine. I’m hoping Photos running on the internal SSD will also work better, but I haven’t started that yet. Also hoping I don’t need to reset my iPhone to factory default to get photo sync to work correctly in the Finder, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Isn’t technology grand?

Originally published by DK on May 20, 2020 at 11:02 pm

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Posted Monday, May 11th, 2020 12:29 am in Longform,Personal at 12:29 AM

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life:

Who is it, darling? It’s a Mr. Death or something. He’s come about the reaping. I don’t think we need any at the moment…

Nobody wants to think about death, but unfortunately our family has had a lot of experience with it the last few years. With the state of the world now, I thought it might be useful to write up a post on our experiences, what you should do to plan and how to make things easier for your loved ones when the time comes.

When I was younger, I can remember having an intense fear of dying (and of losing other people in my life). The funeral of my great grandmother was open casket and was very traumatizing for me. I also remember my next door neighbor dying after an ambulance pulled up outside – she was the first person close to me that died and I had nightmares about it for years. I remember going on a trip to southern California shortly after that and having an existential freakout in the backseat of the rental car as we drove from LAX to Anaheim. Sorry about that, mom and dad.

As I’ve aged, my thinking about death has become less scary and more sensible. It’s still incredibly hard to mourn and deal with loss, but now I know it’s a part of the natural cycle in our world. That’s not an easy thing to come to terms with, though, after losing so many people in my family. I thankfully haven’t had a lot of friend funerals yet and feel extraordinarily lucky to not be one of the first after that fateful morning in 2018. And even though I never met them in person, I still get emotional when I listen to a Prince, Tom Petty or David Bowie song.

So, what happens when the reaper comes calling? A good funeral home can help immensely and we’ve had great experiences with Mueller Bies in Roseville. If you’re a fan of the HBO series Six Feet Under, you may have pre-conceived notions of what the funeral home business is all about, but a good funeral director can be a huge help in navigating what is usually an extremely difficult time for people. They will work to arrange cremation or embalming, assist with purchase of an urn or casket, coordinate any desired church services, host visitations, order flowers, help write and publish obituaries in local newspapers, submit paperwork to the state for death certificates and arrange for cemetery services (if needed). These services do not come cheap: expect it to cost $7,000 – $12,000.

So what should you do now to help out your loved ones later?

  • Review your insurance and make sure you store all the information in a secure, easy-to-find location like a fire safe or safety deposit box. Keep your beneficiary information up to date and periodically review your coverage levels with a professional to make sure the people you care about get what they need. Term life is way cheaper when you are young and healthy, but whole life acts like an investment that may or may not fit in with your overall retirement and investment planning strategy.
  • If you have assets to pass on, it’s a good idea to have a current will that clearly states your intentions so that probate can be avoided. There are free online options to assist with this, but I recommend spending the money to have a lawyer draw this up that is specific to your state. If there are limited assets, there are transfer on death deed and affidavit options in some states, but advice from a lawyer is still the best route for these situations.
  • You should spell out health care directives now. End of life care decisions are never easy to think about or discuss, but so is having to guess what people want when they can’t decide for themselves. This is also a good place to talk about cremation versus casket burial, where you want to be buried, what type of service or memorial you would want (if any), what songs you want played, etc.
  • Account information and passwords. Get a good password manager (I’ve been using 1Password for many years now) and make sure someone in your family knows where it is and how to access it. Create a spreadsheet that summarizes all of your accounts – checking, savings, investments, retirement funds, credit cards, utilities, loans, etc. Include website addresses, account numbers, login information and any contact information. This will be invaluable, but also needs to be kept as secure as possible.
  • Social media and other online accounts. Your login information should be stored in your password manager, but it’s a good idea to think about how you want your online presence managed after you are gone. Facebook allows relatives to “memorialize” accounts, which involves providing a copy of the death certificate. It’s important to also think about things like AppleID, Netflix, Hulu, PayPal, Dropbox, newspaper, magazine and email accounts, which are likely tied to credit cards that will need to be closed (or transferred to someone else).
  • If you publish personal websites like this one, there are many issues to address: renewal of web hosting services, domain names, DNS services and SSL certificates. I’d like to think I could keep this website online indefinitely for my heirs to access in the future, but that is not an automatic process by any means.
  • Take lots of pictures of the ones you love and keep them organized and backed up (in more than one place). They are some of the most important digital files you will ever create.

In the immortal words of the great Buck Dharma, “Seasons don’t fear the reaper, nor do the wind, the sun or the rain…”

Originally published by DK on May 11, 2020 at 12:29 am

Remembering TBF and Marvel Bar

Posted Tuesday, May 5th, 2020 11:00 pm in Business,Food,Longform at 11:00 PM

I’ve waited almost a week to write this post, as my initial shock turned to anger, and it’s never a good idea to write when you are angry. On April 30, 2020, co-owner Eric Dayton tweeted that our favorite Minneapolis restaurant and bar would not reopen.

How could this be? If anyone should have the resources to weather this storm, you’d think it would the Dayton family. They owned the building. Their mother is a Rockefeller, for crying out loud. They are fighters for the North, do-gooders trying to feed the hungry and solid fundraisers and organizers. How could they throw in the towel so early?

I’ve never met Eric Dayton, but by all accounts, he’s a good guy and outsiders never know the private facts and details behind public decisions. I’ll even cut him some slack for hating skyways. To be honest, though, I was mad at him for this decision, mad for taking away the place my wife and I visited more than a dozen times, mad for taking away our Cocktail Club destination, mad for quitting while others battle on.

Of course, life changes even in “normal” times. When my favorite bartender of all time, Pip Hanson, left in 2015 for London, we were sad. When Chef Paul Berglund left in August of 2017 (a year after winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest), we were sad. When Erin Rolek left in August of 2019 for the beautiful shores of Santa Monica, we were sad. Happy for all of them, but sad they were no longer in that special building in the North Loop.

Now we are sad for the current groups of stars who carried on the tradition. Jonathan Gans started in November of 2018 and re-earned the four star review from Rick Nelson. The Forager Chef Alan Bergo had joined the kitchen. Monday pork chop night was as good as ever.

Now we mourn the loss of the toast racks, the Swedish meatballs, the popovers, the wine board, the red books, the individually-wrapped cookies, the purple door, the “secret” staircase. Gavin Kaysen had some wonderful comments on his Instagram, Erin had an inspiring series of pictures on her Instagram story (that are now sadly gone) and Chef Jonathan is asking for financial support of his team via GoFundMe (done, Chef).

I’m sure this won’t be last of these stories before all this is over, but very few will hit us as hard as this one did. Maybe a road trip to Rochester will help a little…


Originally published by DK on May 5, 2020 at 11:00 pm

Sheltering in Lowertown

Posted Saturday, March 28th, 2020 09:10 pm in Art,Family,Longform,Personal at 9:10 PM

Like many people around the world, the pandemic has been a difficult thing for me to process. I don’t have any particular expertise in the science behind it, but I’m married to the Corona Queen, I like to follow sites like this and I spent a lot of time last week getting our office configured and trained for an indefinite work from home scenario. Most of the things listed in my Twitter bio have shut down and it will likely be months before things return to some semblance of normal.

But we are very fortunate to still get outside to walk, run or bike, have money to order take-out from our favorite local restaurants and have reliable high-speed internet to cross off shows we always wanted to watch from our Netflix and HBO lists (and, of course, work from home). MK is doing the distance learning thing for the rest of the school year and SK has picked up some hours here and there helping out the Nive Man with take-out downstairs.

The Minnesota COVID-19 numbers so far pale with those in the hardest hit parts of the country (and world). The reports out of places like New York and Italy are terrifying and I worry about those on the front lines, like my Twitter friend @susanruns, who bravely works long hours to save lives in unimaginable conditions. My colleague was scheduled to start a new position in Hong Kong on April 1, but he is currently in limbo until the international travel and quarantine picture becomes clearer. I’m not sure what will happen with my work, but I’ve been trying to mentally prepare for all the different possibilities.

On the medical front, I had a 17-month MRI check-up this week at Hennepin Healthcare (which I thought might get cancelled under the non-essential procedure executive order). The new clinic building was empty – I was the only one in radiology and only saw one other person in the general waiting room. I never really had claustrophobia before, but now that MRI equipment feels like a torture chamber. Thankfully, the tech was done after two shorts scans (one 30 seconds, one four minutes). The resident that met with me pulled up the image and said everything looked great. Dr. Tummala will make the final call, but I shouldn’t have to go back for two more years. At that point, they will decide if it will be another MRI or a more invasive CT angiogram.

Lastly, the situation with my father’s estate made significant progress the past two weeks. With assistance from our friend John Schuster at Richfield Bloomington Honda, we were able to pay off his car loan and sell the car. Today, with the help of Kary Marpe from Edina Realty, we sold the house on Lombard. I thought that process was going to be challenging, given the hoarding nature of my mom (that would be one of my elementary school pictures above), various repairs needed and the pandemic’s impact on the economy. Kary was amazing, though, accurately pricing and listing the property, resulting in multiple offers by day two. If all goes according to plan, we will close on April 10. All that will be left is my dad’s taxes for 2019 (which shouldn’t be too hard).

Stay safe, y’all!

Originally published by DK on March 28, 2020 at 9:10 pm

Permanent Glasses

Posted Saturday, March 14th, 2020 07:10 pm in Longform,Personal,Shopping at 7:10 PM

The ongoing saga of my double vision has now lead to a semi-permanent solution. I had always been the one person in my family without glasses, but one of the lasting side effects of my brain aneurysm has been diplopia at farther distances. Thanks to the treatment plans of Dr. Amy Chang and therapist Courtney Mitchell at Hennepin Heathcare, I can now read screens at most distances and watch TV without glasses. Even at farther distances, I can usually find an angle to hold my head to remove any doubling up (although Dr. Chang says that I’m cheating when I do that).

At the end of January, we decided that I’d stop using the 3M Prism inserts in the pair of non-prescription lenses I had purchased from Amazon. We started at a +30 strength in the beginning and dropped all the way down to +8 with the temporary inserts. Dr. Chang wrote a prescription for a permanent pair of glasses that included a +6 Prism for the top half of the lens and some magnification on the bottom half to assist with reading small letters close up (i.e. – cheaters). I’ve had 20/20 vision for most of my life, but age has caught up to me and some things just don’t work the same as they did before (regardless of the aneurysm side effects).

On the advice of a friend, I took the prescription to Warby Parker in the Galleria. Since I’ve never done this before, I wasn’t sure what my insurance would cover, but they had people in the store that seemed knowledgable about my situation and helped me pick out frames and make adjustments for this particular prescription. I paid for everything and was told the glasses would be ready for pick-up and fitting in 7-10 days. After two weeks of not hearing anything, I looked up my order on their website, which had a “please call us about your order” message displayed. No phone calls or emails during this time – WTH? The person I talked to when I called was very nice, but told me that their lab couldn’t produce my prescription, saying the prism strength couldn’t be higher than +5 and that they would just cancel the order. Ugh.

So in the end, I just went to Target Optical in West Saint Paul, which fitted me in a nice pair of Ray-Bans that they shipped in under a week for around $300. It took me a little while to get used to the progressive aspect of my prescription, but once I figured that out, they work really well. I do still prefer to not wear glasses when I can (like right now while I type on the iMac), but it’s nice to have them for driving and for reading the small type on menus in low-light situations. It will be interesting to see how they work for golf and biking later this spring…

Originally published by DK on March 14, 2020 at 7:10 pm

RIP Michael Kingsbury, 1946-2020

Posted Wednesday, February 12th, 2020 10:45 pm in Longform,Personal at 10:45 PM

It seems like I’ve written way too many “RIP” posts recently and unfortunately that now includes my father Mike, who died on Monday at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in downtown Saint Paul. With Colleen’s mom Jean passing at the end of 2019, we are now officially out of parents/grandparents, which is a really, really tough thing to process.

Dad’s medical journey started back in October when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He had surgery at Saint John’s Hospital in Maplewood to have his thyroid glands removed. That procedure went fine and the first few times I visited him out there, he was sitting in the chair next to his bed with his iPad playing video poker and could walk around the room. The surgery was close to his vocal cords, though, so he talked in a whisper-voice. Things seemed to be progressing nicely and he was transferred to Bethesda Hospital in Saint Paul, which is now an intermediate care facility in the Fairview system.

After only a few days at Bethesda, I got the first of many calls that said they needed to transfer him to the ICU at Saint Joe’s to deal with more serious complications that they couldn’t handle at Bethesda. These included a chyle leak, heart and breathing issues and the eventual installation of a tracheostomy tube, connection to a ventilator and installation of a pacemaker. Unfortunately, his condition continued to weaken even after these steps were taken, leaving him bedridden and unable to talk. My brother and sister traveled back to Saint Paul last weekend upon the recommendation of the palliative care team at St. Joe’s and we all got to say our goodbyes before he passed away peacefully just before 1 p.m. on Monday afternoon.

Like my mom, my dad loved being a grandparent to our daughters. As I’ve gone back looking for the photos posted below, I remember that he really liked combining his interests with Sasha and Marisa, whether it was a Twins game, a visit to a Disney park or the annual trip to Grand Marais and the North Shore. He loved playing video poker on his iPad (with fake money) and at many of the Minnesota tribal casinos with me and other family members (for real money). He visited me during my time at Fortune Bay, we made many round trip drives from Grand Marais to Grand Portage, used our free spin coupons at Treasure Island, stopped in at Grand Casino Hinckley on the way to Duluth to play the nickel poker machines and occasionally I would even get him to step out at the ritzy Mystic Lake.

The Twins were a huge deal for my dad. I’m super proud of him for going on the team trip to Seattle last year solo. He had partial season tickets for many years and we all liked to attend games with him (or stop by and visit if we had our own tickets). He’d participate in Twins Fest every year, would go to spring training games in Florida with Brian and Patti and had a great time at the bigger events like the All Star Game and last year’s playoff game (stupid Yankees). His man cave is full of Twins bobbleheads and signed baseballs and it will be bittersweet if they have a great season this year – although he did get to experience both 1987 and 1991. I still have the foul ball I got on 9-5-79 at Met Stadium sitting on my desk that he went and had signed after the game by the Twins hitter (Jesus Vega: Twins 8, Royals 3). If I remember right, the KC pitcher was the Mad Hungarian himself, Al Hrabosky.

Thank you to everyone at Mueller-Bies Funeral Home, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and Acacia Park Cemetery for your help in arranging the events scheduled for next week (please see the obituary below for details). Thanks also to everyone who has expressed their condolences and reached out to our family in this time of grief.

Love you, dad. ❤️

Obituary from Mueller-Bies and photo gallery after the jump.

Michael Alvin Kingsbury. September 7, 1946 – February 10, 2020. Age 73, of St. Paul, died on February 10, 2020. Preceded in death by wife, Karen; parents, Alvin & Evalyn; & brother, John. Survived by children, David (Colleen), Brian (Patti), & Lynn; grandchildren, Sasha & Marisa; siblings, Charles, Caroline (Robert) Anfinson & Richard. Mike retired from New York Life. He loved the Twins, the North Shore, Disney, bowling & video poker. His smile & laugh will be missed. Memorial service 11 AM Friday, February 21 at GLORIA DEI LUTHERAN CHURCH, 700 Snelling Ave. S., St. Paul. Visitation 4-7 PM Thursday 2/20 at MUELLER-BIES FUNERAL HOME-ROSEVILLE, 2130 N. Dale St. @ County Rd. B and also at church on Friday from 10-11 AM. Interment Acacia Park Cemetery.

Published in the Pioneer Press on February 16, 2020

Originally published by DK on February 12, 2020 at 10:45 pm

Trip Recap: Birthdays in Banff

Posted Saturday, February 1st, 2020 07:30 pm in Family,Food,Longform,Skiing,Travel at 7:30 PM

“Sleep at the Fairmont Banff Springs” has been item #34 on my bucket list for quite a long time. As we looked to conclude the year of milestone birthday trips, Marisa and I decided we would make ours a combined ski trip (and invite Colleen and Sasha to tag along). SkiBig3 had some good sales after Thanksgiving, so we picked the week between our two birthdays and made reservations. Airfare between MSP and Calgary wasn’t too terrible on the Delta nonstops and I reserved my normal Emerald Aisle rental with National.

We planned to fly on Monday and Friday, with ski days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The drive from the airport to downtown Banff only takes about 90 minutes and we purchased the required park passes ahead of time, so we didn’t have to stop at the park entrance. Sasha and Marisa brought their own skis with, so we had one large ski bag, four large suitcases and a bunch of carry-ons. Thankfully, National had a Mazda SUV for us that really held up all week with the extreme winter conditions (heated steering wheels are awesome).

Speaking of conditions, the Canadian equivalent of the National Weather Service warned: “Temperatures will plummet to values not seen in years.” Air temp was -30C (-22F) during the early part of the week, closing two of the three ski areas completely on Tuesday. That was the day Marisa and I got to experience the Canadian health system with a morning visit to Banff Mineral Springs Hospital. She had flu symptoms the night before and they did a great job helping get her back in shape for skiing the last two days. Everything was pre-pay for service, so we are now working with our regular insurance to get reimbursed for the hospital and doctor fees (which weren’t outrageous).

What can I say about the hotel? The Fairmont Banff Springs is one of the most iconic hotels in the world, built as part of the Canadian Pacific Railway network in 1888. The “Castle in the Rockies” was just perfect – historic, great amenities and flawless customer service. It’s not cheap, but in the overall scheme of world-class hotels, very competitive. Tipping was included for most services, so that was different (and convenient, since I didn’t exchange for any Canadian currency this time). The valet was wonderful all week – we’d just call down to the concierge (“How is the Kingsbury Family doing today?”) and they would pull our warmed up car to the front entrance. The bellmen were great – somehow loading up everything at the end of the trip back into the SUV. Maid service also went the extra mile to line up shoes, organize things on the desk and generally pick up after our daily mess.

The hotel has at least three known ghost stories. Our favorite was the Ghost Bride, who was commemorated with a postage stamp and coin by the Canadian government in 2014. Sasha and I spent one night searching for the staircase, where the hotel has a picture hanging (along with the stamp and coin). The ghost of Sam the Bellman and the alleged murder-suicide in room 873 are tales that added an extra element of suspense every time the lights by the elevator would flicker when the doors opened. There was a cool museum-style area off of the lobby that was loaded with historical pictures and artifacts. The old pictures of the golf course and visits from Queen Elizabeth and Marilyn Monroe were highlights for me.

We ate at two of the twelve hotel restaurants: Castello Italiana and the Swiss-themed Waldhaus Pub & Biergarten. Both were high quality with great service. I think the Waldhaus might have been the original golf course clubhouse, as it was set down a hill from the main hotel along the river (and near the current 15th hole). Colleen and Sasha both enjoyed time in the Willow Stream Spa, which included the semi-spooky indoor pool. There were also outdoor pools that amazingly had people in them, despite the extremely frigid temperatures (how exactly did they get out there?). The hotel also had several very nice stores, a free ski storage room (with overnight boot heaters) and a uniquely Canadian five pin bowling alley (which is really difficult to master).

The actual town of Banff is a short ride or walk from the hotel, across the Bow River. It was a wonderful little mountain town, full of shops and restaurants and surrounded by the most amazing mountain vistas. On our arrival on Monday, we picked up my rental skis at the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub and had lunch at Tommy’s Neighbourhood Pub. Other stops over the course of the week included a great dinner at the Maple Leaf Grill (with the bison tenderloin recommended by my friend Chuck), poutine at the local McDonald’s, shopping at Roots and Hudson’s Bay and a visit to the largest rock store I’ve ever seen in my life. I also wanted to try out the famous Beaver Tails, but they didn’t really have any indoor seating and it was just too cold to stand around outside for any length of time.

As far as skiing goes, there are three different resorts near Banff: Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort. Norquay is the closest to town, but we elected to skip that one when we found out we could only ski two days. We decided to go to Sunshine Village on Wednesday, as several people told us that Sunshine sometimes gets temperature inversions that make it warmer there compared to town. The other unique thing about Sunshine is that the base area is just a parking lot in front of a building with a gondola. A long ride takes you up to the actual resort (with one stop in the middle for Goat’s Eye Mountain). We didn’t have great visibility that day and had difficulty finding easier, groomed runs to ease back into skiing shape. Groomed runs don’t seem to be as big a thing in the Canadian Rockies as they are at home, so we were initially a little uncomfortable (and I was extra cautious this trip anyways, for obvious reasons). We did find a few runs off the Strawberry Express chair, which is marketed as their beginner chair (sigh). We also skied the Wawa lift, but that was about it. I would love to try it again with warmer temps, clear skies and more confidence in my skiing ability.

On Thursday, we went to Lake Louise. By the second day, we were more comfortable with the bus shuttle system: all three resorts have nice coach-style busses that pick up right in front of the hotel. Schedules varied, but there were usually 5-6 departures and returns each day to each one. The Fairmont was the first stop in the mornings and the last to drop off on the return, with 2-3 stops at various spots in town. Lake Louise is the farthest resort from Banff, but it took less than an hour to get there on the Trans-Canada Highway. The town of Lake Louise is a few minutes away from the ski resort and is home to a couple of other cool hotels, including the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the Post Hotel. I thought about the hotel package that let you split your time between the castle and the chateau, but I’m glad we did what we did. It would’ve been cool (literally) to see the ice sculptures on the lake for their Ice Magic competition, but that just wasn’t in the cards this time.

We loved the skiing and atmosphere at Lake Louise. The bus dropped us off right in front of the Lodge of the Ten Peaks and one of the friendly information guides told us that the breakfast buffet at the Northface Bistro was the spot to go for pre-skiing food. After a great meal, we discovered there are only two choices from that spot: the Glacier Express chair and the Grizzly Express gondola. We started with the chair and took two great runs on nice intermediate cruisers that really tired us out. After another stop in the chalet (and a visit to the nice ski shop), we tried the gondola. It’s not the highest lift there, but I felt like I was on the top of the world when we exited (and honestly, a little frightened at how everything dropped off from that point). Lake Louise prides itself on having green, blue and black runs from every lift, but the cat track we took down from there was scary just for the fact that the runs that crossed it were very steep. But once we got down below the tree line, it turned into our favorite run of the trip.

One of the things that I still find magical about skiing in the big mountains are the moments of complete silence you sometimes find among the trees in the back country. Since our week was so cold, none of the locals really wanted to be out, so it was nice and uncrowded all over. I let the girls ski ahead of me on that long, green cruiser and at one point I just stopped and soaked in the silence. That trail crossed in front of another favorite thing of mine, the mid-mountain chalet with sun deck and greasy mountain cafeteria food. The Temple Lodge made me think of the great times I used to have with my Uncle Greg at the Outback Inn in Idaho. He would’ve loved this trip… ❤️