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MyPrecious15ProMax Experience

Posted September 24, 2023

‘Tis the season for my annual iPhone Upgrade Program membership to kick in. This year I moved from a purple iPhone 14 Pro (256GB) to a blue titanium iPhone 15 Pro Max (256GB). The notification and pre-order process went smoothly, as I received a timely upgrade email and also had the correct information populated in the Apple Store app on the older phone. It’s nice that this has all worked without major issues for several years now.

The UPS delivery person brought the new phone to our house on Friday and I decided to do the phone-to-phone transfer process again instead of restoring from the iCloud backup (which I also ran manually on the old phone immediately before starting – just in case). The time estimate displayed laughingly said it would take 10-15 minutes, but I needed to let the process run overnight. Even then, it didn’t download all the apps to the new phone until I hit the continue button Saturday morning.

Despite the long setup time, big kudos to the team at Apple that is responsible for engineering this upgrade process. Trying to create a process that works reliably for millions of customers with a basically infinite number of combinations just blows my mind. Here are some examples from my particular setup:

  • All of my Apple Wallet items transferred seamlessly (with the process to add my Wings Credit Union debit card now all online with no need to call them like before) – Apple Card, tickets, Science Museum membership card
  • All photo, music, iMessage and health data just worked on the new phone (did need to sign-in to MyChart to restore that app)
  • My third party calendar app Fantastical asked me to sign in again, but then all the correct calendar data appeared
  • All my favorite third-party games data transferred with no issues this time: Two Dots, Lightning Link, Star Wars Card Trader and Words with Friends
  • Password management didn’t skip a beat – 1Password transferred over after a sign-in on the new phone and all of the iCloud password management worked as expected
  • My 2FA accounts in Google Authenticator did not automatically transfer, but the export/import process via the double QR scanning worked great (make sure you don’t erase your old device until you do this)
  • Didn’t experience any of the software update issues I had read about – the setup process started by first telling me I needed to update to iOS 17.0.2 before transferring data from the old phone
  • Re-pairing with my Apple Watch was much smoother this time (and was part of the upgrade process and not something I needed to handle manually)
  • I had to reauthorize the new phone for CarPlay in my Honda Civic, but after that everything just worked as before (needed a new USB-A to USB-C cable)

I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go back to the larger size again, but really, really wanted the 5x optical zoom lens only available on the Pro Max. So far it fits OK in my pocket and the in-hand feel and overall weight are much better than I expected. The build quality of the iPhone Pro models continues to be on par with the excellent MacBook line of laptops – I really don’t want to use anything else.

Hopefully I can go more than a week without scratching the screen or dropping it on the floor (yes, I’m still a no-case, no-screencover daredevil)…

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First look: Porzana and Flora Room ✅

Posted September 11, 2023

It’s been a few weeks now, but when I heard that Daniel del Prado’s newest bar and restaurant in the old Bachelor Farmer/Marvel Bar building was taking reservations, I lucked out with a 5:30 spot on Saturday, August 26, 2023. Just like our old favorites, we planned to hit Flora Room downstairs right when they opened at 5:00, then head upstairs to Porzana for dinner.

Parking in the North Loop is now worse than ever, so we were initially excited by the open meter spot in front of the restaurant (on 2nd Avenue North). But just like at Alma, the City of Minneapolis allows restaurants to convert these spots during certain hours to “valet only” and the app wouldn’t let us park there. The “helpful” valet also ran over to our car to inform us we couldn’t park there. I dropped off Colleen and declined to pay their valet charge on general principal. If you are willing to walk a few blocks, there is a nice little cheap lot along the river next to the North Loop Playground (N 4th Ave & W River Parkway).

Getting in the bar is the same as before and to be honest, I didn’t think the room looked all that different from Marvel Bar (Colleen had a different opinion). I asked the bartender what their most popular “original” drink was and he directed me to the Alsace ($16 – egg white, riesling, peruvian agave, lemon, lychee, grapeseed oil, orange and rose blossom). It was a great pick, one that I liked a lot more than the drink I had upstairs (the name of which escapes me now). With the long walk from parking, I basically needed to drink and run up the stairs to get to dinner on time (escorted by former Marvel Bar staffer Keith Mrotek).

The upstairs layout is all different now. The side entrance on 2nd Avenue is locked, with the main entrance on the corner of 2nd Avenue and First Street (where the old cafe was located). The old main level bar is still there, but it’s now basically all one giant dining room now (plus a large outside patio). I would’ve preferred to be in the back area near the kitchen, but we were seated in the front area, which had very close, very loud tables.

The good part of being up front was watching the crowd flow in all evening. Bill Summerville was working the front of house and it was really nice chatting with him again. Former Four Seasons coworker Paul Hennessy is now the Porzana General Manager and it was great to talk to him as well (he also previously worked at TBF).

Colleen and I ordered the bread basket ($6 – apple cider vinegar butter, brown butter) and glazed carrots ($14 – ricotta, honey, crispy shallots, thai basil), then waited. And waited. And waited. Turns out one of the larger, louder tables got our order and just ate it. One of the managers noticed, came over to apologize and said those items would be taken off our bill. They fired replacements and also brought over an order of complementary empanadas ($14 – pork, llajua verde).

For the main dishes, Colleen ordered the Chilean sea bass ($36 – early butternut squash, brown butter, sage) and I went to the “LIMITED” section of the steak menu and picked the 14 oz gorgonzola striploin ($65) with a side of tallow fries ($14 – ketchup, kewpie). We both loved our dishes and I need to go back with SK to continue exploring the very large steak selection (reminiscent of Burch – RIP). Skipped dessert on this visit, as we had been at that table a very long time by that point.

When our check arrived, there were no adjustments, so we needed to wait longer for that too. For a busy, high profile new restaurant that had only been open less than a week, some slack needs to be cut, no? I like all the people behind it a lot, so I’m sure “Chef Danny” and the team will get the kinks worked out. I’d like to go back again soon…


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Web browsers on Apple platforms in 2023

Posted July 26, 2023

When I look back on web browsers I’ve used on macOS over the years, it seems like I find one I like and just stick with it for a long time. When The Browser Company announced that their new Arc browser was out of closed beta this week, I thought I’d download a copy and take a look. David Pierce at The Verge has been raving about it since last year, but I’m stuck in my ways and a lot of the concepts Arc introduces would take some time to really figure out. I ended up spending about 30 confused minutes with it before deciding to look at everything else out there right now too.

I vaguely remember the days of Netscape, then Firefox, then Safari, then Chrome. Internet Explorer was the evil actor in this story, both on Windows and macOS. As someone who has published websites for fun and for work, web standards were always the goal versus anything proprietary and tied to one browser. As market share has shifted, this goal always seemed elusive, as people would build sites optimized for whatever was the most popular. Thankfully for Mac users, most Windows or IE-only technologies have died out over time and “the web” has become more of a neutral platform. And with the rise of mobile, iOS and Android browsers are probably more influential now on standards than any of the others.

Read more…

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Top 7 Internet Services

Posted July 23, 2023

It seems like there has been so much negativity around social media and other online mediums lately, I thought it would be a fun exercise to think about my personal top seven list of internet services that are (mostly) positive.

Let’s jump right in:

  • #7 – Wikis. I’ll admit I thought this software was kinda dumb back in the day, but sites like Wikipedia and Setlist.fm really showcase the power of group knowledge to record and document history. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s usually a great start and I reference both of these sites regularly.
  • #6 – Smart People. Having access to smart people online is a killer resource, but sometimes it takes a lot of effort to find and follow them. In the past, this may have meant mailing lists or discussion boards, but a lot of that basically shifted to social media (none of which have a great track record). I do rather like the curated follow list I have right now on Mastodon (and to a lesser extent, LinkedIn) and there are tons of reporters I like to read on traditional news sites (local, national and international).
  • #5 – Music and Video Streaming. On the music side, I’ve written before about my slow move from physical CDs to a local digital library to streaming, but I’m now all in on Apple Music. I know this is a bad thing for local record stores and radio stations, as I don’t really use either now. It also sounds like it’s not great for a lot of artists either, but it’s hard not to enjoy the ability to listen to almost anything instantly. On the video side, we still haven’t achieved the cord-cutter holy grail of paying just for what you want, but it’s moving in the right direction. Lots of warning signs out there right now, though, so hopefully this doesn’t get completely screwed up.
  • #4 – Maps. I’ve loved maps since I was a little kid reading National Geographic. In hindsight, I’m amazed I didn’t enter the GIS field, seeing how much I like technology and maps. A few years back, I added a bookmark in my browser toolbar for Google Maps and use that all the time to look up news events, figure out directions, find bike routes and many other things. Wasn’t an early fan of Apple Maps on my phone, but it’s improved a lot and usually gets used now even when I know where I’m going.
  • #3 – Shopping. This category also seems like a dual-edged sword: convenience and low prices vs. the death of small local businesses (not to mention questionable labor practices and environmental impacts). But I’m not just talking Amazon here – shopping for cameras at B&H in New York, comparing reviews from Target and Best Buy and finding rare and out of stock items on eBay are all things that weren’t possible when I was growing up (or were much more difficult). I still prefer to buy some things in person (most groceries and clothes, for example), but other items are just way easier from Bezos & Company. The Target app pick-up routine is pretty stellar too.
  • #2 – Cloud Computing. This was another thing I thought was dumb in the beginning – mainly because I thought it was just marketing hype. I hosted this site for many years on Mac mini hardware that I sent off “to the cloud,” co-located in various data centers that were not my house. Of course today’s cloud world is much more advanced and I have my current playground set up at AWS (that Bezos guy again). I only scratch the surface of all the things you can do there, but it is so much easier in my use case to fire up a virtual instance in Lightsail and go from there.
  • #1 – Blogs. I’ve written a lot about how much I love publishing this site, but it’s still amazing to me that anyone in the free world with time, knowledge and a relatively small amount of money can have an avenue to self-publish their message to most of the world, instantly. The way I do it takes a little more effort, but there are lots of easier and cheaper options out there too. I own my data, have full control over the look and generally have few restrictions on what I can publish. People can find me via search engines (which all seem to be getting worse), follow the RSS or ActivityPub feeds or add this blog as a bookmark in their browser (hi, family!). Love it.

There are still days when I really want to unplug from everything and move to a cabin in the woods, but this list represents why I would probably still want that cabin to have a high-speed internet connection…

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The Art of Being Social

Posted July 7, 2023

This picture from Andy Allen of all the various Twitter-like apps now fighting for attention, along with Meta’s launch of Threads this week, really made me think about the current state of social media in 2023. As I’ve written on this site many times in the past, I find social media to be a fascinating bit of technology that has had a profound impact on life in the last two decades.

I also don’t really like most of it. Hmm.

When I think back to my primary uses of social media, it’s really been as much to stay informed as it’s been to stay connected to people. Since launching this site back in 2006, I’ve supplemented social media with posts here to keep family and friends updated on personal news (and have often automated connections between those services and this site). It automatically produces RSS feeds and content is now pushed to the Fediverse using the ActivityPub plugin. I also love this site as a way to learn new technologies and skills, such as WordPress, PHP, MySQL, Linux and AWS.

It seems like one by one, my favorite social media companies have done questionable things (Doctorow’s enshittification) that caused me to close up shop: Facebook, Instagram, then Twitter. I miss family from Facebook, restaurants from Instagram and some really awesome people on Twitter. I still keep my LinkedIn open for work reasons (after closing it once) and I’ve really grown to like my Mastodon experience. Was never on TikTok or Snapchat and it seems like I will be on the Bluesky waitlist forever (their new domain revenue model is certainly interesting). Don’t think I will try Threads at this point, given my issues with past Facebook products, but I am cautiously optimistic that the promised interactivity with the Fediverse will happen.

Read more…

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11 Minute Miles 🏃‍♂️

Posted June 26, 2023

As I wait on the TC 10 Mile drawing results tomorrow, I’ve been pondering my running future. My former marathon training partner Megan visited last week and we joked that if we ran another Disney marathon, it would now be an 11 minute mile (although I seriously doubt she would be that slow). Unfortunately for me, though, my 2023 race results have actually been that slow (11:32 at Get in Gear and 11:03 at the Milk Run).

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to be running at all right now. Since the aneurysm, I’ve finished five slow Get in Gear 10Ks, two slow Milk Run 5Ks, one slow 12.5K trail race and one slow half marathon (plus lots of slow hikes and walks). I’m also fully back on the mountain bike and still mostly walk with an ultra light golf bag for my golf rounds. The move streak on the watch is currently at 1,167 days and I’m now slowly increasing the daily calorie goal each week to help with my new “MeGovy” philosophy.

What is MeGovy, you ask? Well, at my last physical checkup, my doctor and I discussed my weight plateau. Despite all the activity and move rings (and no real change in my eating patterns or diet), my weight was at the highest it’s ever been. I’ve talked to a few other active men of a certain age and this is apparently a common thing. The doctor was like, we now have drugs that actually work – do you want to try Wegovy?

This drug was developed for diabetes and is now popular for weight loss, usually giving a 10% reduction with reportedly minimal side effects. But it’s in short supply, costly and not covered by many insurance plans. I’ve also heard most of the weight comes back if you stop taking it. So I’ve decided to try one final “MeGovy” exercise plan of making “me go” more miles this summer to see if I can get similar, non-drug-induced weight control.

I’ve got the new shoes, now I just need Twin Cities in Motion to pick me tomorrow so the training can begin…

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The DK Apple Wish List/Road Map

Posted June 21, 2023

Now that the WWDC news has faded (and resurrected again today with the new beta releases and SDK), I’ve started to think about what my next purchases will be. I’m super fortunate to have great working gear right now, so there is no big rush on anything. Apple hardware just lasts such a long time: my home office iMac is from 2017 and my Apple Watch is a Series 5, which was released in 2019. I use both daily and they still work great.

My laptop, tablet and phone are all newer and also get heavy daily use. Thanks to the iPhone Upgrade Program, I do tend to turn in phones every year for the newest model. My only decision this year will be if I want to move back up to the larger screen or not. If the best camera ends up being exclusive to the Max, I’ll probably do a 256GB Pro Max.

If I were to order a new work laptop today, I’d go with the new 15-inch MacBook Air. $1499 for the base 8/512 model is a great value. A fully loaded 24/2TB model goes for $2499, which is what I’d get for a personal use laptop. My 2021 14-inch MacBook Pro will likely last a long, long time, though. I mainly use my iPad Pro for watching video on the treadmill, so I don’t see needing a new tablet anytime soon either (same goes for our AppleTV units).

I’ll reserve all opinions on the Vision Pro until the developers go wild and I get a chance to see if my specific optical prescription will even work with the custom inserts. My initial reaction was overall positive (and much different than I expected from the rumors), but also that I probably wouldn’t want one right away. The reality is that I’ve thought that about most of the recent platform additions, but ended up buying all of them in the end (most on launch day too).

Outside of the next phone, though, here are my top 3 wish list purchases: 1) Apple Watch Ultra with Black/Gray Trail Loop, 2) the next version of the AirPods Max and 3) the next version of the iMac…

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Three months on Mastodon

Posted April 23, 2023

Tomorrow marks three months since I joined Mastodon. Just like with Twitter and Tweetbot, I don’t use the web interface of the instance I joined (mastodon.social), but have exclusively used the iOS and macOS Ivory clients, published by Tapbots. I love their work (thanks, Paul and Mark!) – the interface is familiar and polished and my timeline syncs well between devices.

Current stats: 110 posts, 26 followers and following 252.

So what are my thoughts on Mastodon after 90 days? I’ve already written a few posts about Mastodon that you can view here, but I thought I’d write a little today about some big picture things.

Read more…

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Mastodon and WordPress

Posted April 16, 2023

Next Sunday will be my three month anniversary on Mastodon and I’m liking it more and more each day. I’ve discovered lots of new people to follow and I’m now trying to post more like I did on Twitter. I had been a little hesitant to create a lot of content on Mastodon because there wasn’t a mechanism to capture those posts on my WordPress-based website like I used to do with the Import Tweets as Posts plugin. But that all changed this weekend…

As of today, the WordPress plugin repository has 38 plugins that are tagged with Mastodon, so I thought it was time to take a look at these in more detail. When WordPress.com owner Automattic purchased Matthias Pfefferle’s ActivityPub plugin, I decided to install and activate it here. Out of the box, it allowed me to see 7 Minute Miles posts by following “@dmk @7minutemiles.com” in my Mastodon client (no space). There are a lot of other options with that plugin that I still need to explore, including their list of other recommended ActivityPub-related plugins like Friends and NodeInfo.

The other big find this weekend was Marco Hitschler’s TootPress plugin. I was a little hesitant to test this one, as it showed fewer than ten active installations and had limited documentation. I was also a little scared that it created new tables in my database to store Mastodon posts (instead of the standard post storage method) and did it’s own thing in my uploads folder for storing images from Mastodon. It also required some API setup on the instance side, which actually turned out to be much easier than getting access to the old Twitter APIs.

So what do you get when all of this is set up? 7minutemiles.com/mastodon/

Since each Mastodon post is not a “real” WordPress post, they need to be on a dedicated page and not mixed in on the main page like I had before with tweets. I think I’m OK with that for now – everything else seems to work great (with the exception of pagination, which I’ve asked about on the support forum). There is a cron job that runs every 15 minutes to check for new Mastodon posts and any attached images seem to be handled correctly (including the alt text). It also captures the time stamp and embedded URLs just work. Nicely done, Marco!

UPDATE: pagination is working now, so I’m not sure what was up with that (I didn’t change anything).

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17 years of web publishing

Posted March 30, 2023

Just like kottke.org, this site is celebrating an anniversary this week. The first post on 7minutemiles.com was published 17 years ago today. If that wasn’t enough to make me feel super old, I also recently discovered that per ICANN, 7minutemiles.com has a creation timestamp of 2002-11-26T19:08:46Z.

Damn. 20 years.

It looks like I didn’t publish an anniversary post in 2022, so let’s look at what’s happened since the 2021 update:

  • Jumped from 12,192 posts to 28,918 (largely due to the new Twitter archive)
  • Still have 201 published pages, but cleaned up and dropped a few
  • FINALLY moved to a mobile-friendly, responsive theme (intro post, longer post)

I had a draft post sitting around forever about my current AWS virtual server setup, but it’s been so long now that none of the processes to recreate it are probably valid any longer. I’ll just say that I’m very happy with the current environment and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend their Lightsail and Route 53 offerings to anyone who wants to experiment with the Amazon cloud. Currently running one instance in Ohio Zone A with 4 GB RAM, 2 vCPUs, 80 GB SSD and Ubuntu 20.04.

WordPress turns twenty later this year and I’m chugging along on the latest 6.2 version (although still with the Classic Editor plugin and no Gutenberg). The new theme helped me get current on PHP (8.2.4) and my backend is running on nginx 1.18.0, with MySQL drop-in replacement MariaDB 10.3.38. The cert process is now fully automated using Let’s Encrypt and so far Just Works™.

Still haven’t really looked at any web server traffic log options for nginx, so let’s take a quick peek at the WordPress.com stats for 2022: 6,843 visitors with 21,664 views and 1,032 likes (which I didn’t even know was a thing). Taking all of those numbers with a large grain of salt, but it is interesting to see that the Spring Hill post got bumped down to the #2 spot (only one view behind the Brian Christopher post).

Thanks for visiting!

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The Business of Mastodon

Posted March 20, 2023

Last month I wrote about the Mastodon tech stack and today I’ll talk about the business of Mastodon: finance, marketing, legal and operations. I’m by no means an expert on any of this, but trying hard to keep in front of a news cycle that seems to get accelerated by the actions of Twitter daily. There is a lot out there to read and digest, so let’s get started.


Mastodon was created by German software developer Eugen Rochko and was first released in October 2016. Five years later, Rochko incorporated Mastodon gGmbH as a German non-profit with him serving as founder and CEO. The Mastodon code is free and open-source software (FOSS) and anyone can download the software from Github and use it to run their own social media site.

There are lots of good introductory Mastodon posts, including the one by Glenn Fleishman that I linked to last month. I won’t go into the specifics of things like the fediverse and the ActivityPub protocol, but people seem to be most interested in Mastodon as a Twitter replacement. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (@eff@mastodon.social) has also published a nice series of posts.

Read more…

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Sparking Joy in 2023

Posted December 26, 2022

This whole thing with Twitter started me down a path with my Twitter archive that has spawned an entire new direction of personal tasks that all tie in with Marie Kondo’s philosophy of reducing clutter and determining what “sparks joy” in your life. I finally figured out a way to automate the creation of posts on this site for every historical @kingsbury tweet that was missing and have set up yearly pages you can access here.

Since Twitter would downsize any attached photos, I’ve been going through those pages to look for pictures that have better originals, then looking through my iCloud library to see if I can locate and update to the best versions. This lead to the discovery that my iCloud photo library was missing a number of months, so I started looking through all of my old hard drives to see what I could find. After moving jobs and upgrading personal laptops over the years, this was a prime candidate for reducing clutter and better organization.

I’ve long battled with music and photo files, but this is my first stab in a long time of trying to get everything at least in one spot for a review of what to keep and what to delete. Just trying to eliminate duplicate folders is a huge step in the right direction. Now that iCloud file storage is (mostly) solid and we have fiber to the new house, I’m consolidating everything in the cloud now. This generally works great with my many devices that can access it, but I do still have concerns about how iCloud manages local disk space (and how I can have local and secondary cloud backups of this data).

Read more…

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Up Next: Public Broadcasting

Posted November 17, 2022

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.

Read more…

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Twitter Tales

Posted November 10, 2022

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.

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Four Years of Bonus Time

Posted October 8, 2022

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.

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The North Shore

Posted August 24, 2022

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.

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The many faces of Black Orchid

Posted July 19, 2022

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.

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Google Apps to iCloud Mail

Posted February 22, 2022

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?

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Three Years of Bonus Time

Posted October 8, 2021

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…

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State Fair Milk Run 2021

Posted August 29, 2021

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.

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Posted June 28, 2021

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).

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A Return to Baseball

Posted April 11, 2021

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?

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Brian Christopher Slots

Posted March 26, 2021

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?

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Back at it this week

Posted March 15, 2021

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…

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File Server Blues

Posted March 1, 2021

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.

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