Monday, August 20, 2007

west coast, east coast, midwest? which will it be?

I'm so confuzzled. OK... I'm not confused at all. West Coast is where it's at (sorry, Lifshitz).

It's 7:15PM... I mean 9:15PM and I'm in Albert Lea, Minnesota. I have a lot to share, but not too much time/effort. Here's a list of observations from my trip, in no particular order. Photos to come later.
  • Eastern Washington state is beautiful. Nice rolling hills. People say there's nothing out there. There isn't.
  • Spokane is like a small Portland.
  • There was construction on almost the entire stretch of I-90 in Idaho.
  • Montana has a lot of mountains, hence the name Montana.
  • There were wildfires all over Montana. I was driving through smoke almost the entire way from Missoula to Rapid City. That's a distance of over 700 miles. Made me feel better about not having time to visit Devil's Tower and Mt. Rushmore. The people visiting wouldn't have seen much of anything with the smoke.
  • At first I thought the smoke by Billings was from the refinery that was next to the hotel. Then I realized that it was from the fires. Saw some helicopters flying over to the lake to pick up buckets of water to bring to the fire.
  • Southwestern Minnesota smells like poop. Then again, I have to drive through Gary, Indiana tomorrow. I'd rather it smell like poop from cows than from smog.
  • I thought that after getting to Minnesota I'd be back in civilization. Yes, they dropped to speed limit to 70mph and they started setting up speed traps, but still no traffic. 7pm I had the entire highway to myself - about 10 miles between me and the next car. How did I get 10 miles? I saw cars when I was getting towards the end of a 20 mile straight stretch of road.
  • I saw a funny name for a convenience store (or "C-Store" as they like to write out). Kome-n-Go.... or was it Kum-n-Go? Sadly, I didn't get the photo.
  • This morning when I was having breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express in Billings, Montana, literally half the guys (4/8) in the lobby had cowboy hats on.
  • I am annoyed at the 85 octane gas they sell in South Dakota.
  • I am even more confused by the 85.5 octane gas in Montana.
  • They used to have no speed limit in Montana, saying that your speed had to be "reasonable and prudent." Since then, it's been changed back to 75mph. In western Montana, driving 75mph is not reasonable and prudent. More like 70mph if your car handles well.
  • Eastern Montana is like West Texas. Open road, no people. So much land you don't even bother to notice the occasional refinery.
  • I still think the Badlands are over-rated. I remember thinking that the first time when I was coming from the East. Still over-rated coming from the West.
  • Conservatives must love I-90. The periodic signs about abortion, drugs, etc. Nice touch.
  • I noticed the price for the Tendercrisp combo at Burger King dropped about 50 cents every 300 miles. $6.49-ish in Couer D'Alene, Idaho. $5.99-ish in Billings, Montana. $5.49-ish just west of Rapid City, South Dakota. BK rules I-90 apparently. What do you want me to do? Starve? I'm having Applebee's right now.
  • A "prime" exit has 2+ gas stations and 2+ fast food options (national chains for both). So far on this route, prime exits come every 150 miles or so. Planning ahead has paid off.
  • I saw this caravan of an RV and a car with Washington plates today heading east. They had a canoe. At first I thought it was cool that they were going on a trip and have come as far as I have. Then I realized that they were in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota with a boat. Why the hell would you leave Washington to go anywhere with a canoe? And of all places, why South Dakota? Or even Minnesota???
  • South Dakota has by far the best random man-made attractions. Wall Drug literally had signs for 30 miles. Seemed like one every quarter mile. All different. Then there is the Corn Palace in Mitchell. I didn't go to either one. No time. )-:
  • People with Minnesota plates drive slow. It's like they think they're from the Northwest. I have some news for you. Sure, Minnesota was part of the Northwest Territory, but it is certainly not part of the northwest.
  • People in Montana were pretty good at using lanes. I like that.
  • South Dakota license plates look like Louisiana license plates.
  • Idaho plates look like Ohio plates.
  • It seemed like every car with Iowa plates was a Buick.
  • The last real city I've seen was Spokane, Washington. I guess I-90 only passes through a few "real" cities. Seattle, Spokane, Madison, Chicago, Toledo (it makes the list if Spokane does), Cleveland, Buffalo, and Boston. Note that I've only passed two of them so far.
  • Only three cities on I-90 have anything resembling traffic: Seattle, Chicago, Boston.
Today's winner is Swift, coming in with 11. Runner up is FedEx with 7.
Also in the running were: CRST - 6, Wal-Mart - 5, Sysco - 4, Coca-Cola - 3, Hey! - 2, Rude - 2, UPS - 2

Friday, August 17, 2007

so what's the plan?

Leave Seattle at 7:00am.
Get on I-90 at the very end at Safeco Field.
Lunch at BK and gas at Couer D'Alene, ID.
Get gas at Missoula, MT.
Get gas at Laurel, MT or Billings, MT.
Stay at the Holiday Inn Express on the east side of Billings, MT.

Shed a tear for not having time to visit Devil's Tower in WY.
Lunch and gas at Sturgis, SD.
Check out the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD.
Get gas at Sioux Falls, SD.
Stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Albert Lea, MN.

Lunch and gas at Janesville, WI.
Stay at my parents' place in Shaker Heights, OH.

Visit my brother.
Pick up a replacement rear left brake caliper that I just ordered from the Mayfield Murray's.
Replace the rear left brake caliper.
Change my brake fluid.
Change my oil.
Replace the oxygen sensor.
Stay another night at my parents' place in Shaker Heights, OH.

Leave at about 7:00am.
Get gas in Beachwood, OH on my way out.
Lunch and gas somewhere on the NY Thruway.
Finish the length of I-90 at Logan International Airport sometime around 6pm.
Dinner at someplace of Katie's choice in Boston.
Stay at Katie and Al's place in Boston, MA.

Depending on time, maybe drop by my place and unload the car.
LDP Planning Meeting at noon in A-48
LDP Group Meeting at 2:00pm
SYA Dinner at 5:00pm

Thursday, August 16, 2007

boo silverstar, update 2

So last night I drove over to the Amtrak station to pick up Greg. Yes, Amtrak. It sucks. Train showed up 2 hours late or something.

But anyway, he pointed out that I was missing a headlight. I went to take a look, and sure enough, I was down one. I've replaced it this morning.

Checking back on my records, the bulb that blew was a Sylvania 9006ST, a standard halogen bulb rated to last 1000 hours. I installed this bulb March 11, 2002, when my car had only 104,078 miles on it. Now, almost 5 and a half years later and 67,379 more miles on the car, I'm replacing the bulb.

So how does this compare to the Silverstar that I've been ragging on? The Silverstar light bulb that my dad installed lasted almost exactly a year. It was rated for 150 hours. My bulb lasted 5 years, 5 months. It was rated at 1000 hours. So 150-180 hours of use a year. Reasonably close.

Here's the empirical data:
Silverstar: ~1 year
Standard Halogen: 4 years, 3 weeks; 5 years, 5 months

Did I mention that the Silverstar costs about four times as much?

Original Post
Update 1

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Finally got a full look at this seemingly ridiculous ad. It's for a drug to relieve restless leg syndrome. Potential side effects?

Drowsiness or falling asleep during normal activities... like driving
Feeling faint or dizzy when standing up
Gambling or sexual, or other intense urges


vern fonk

Thank you, late night TV. My life is now complete.

Friday, August 10, 2007

making lemonade

So as the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, today I was busy making lemonade.

A bit of context. Today was the first of two days of presentations about the state of the competition. In attendance were a number of the Group Program Managers as well as our VP. For me, I was responsible for a 30 minute presentation covering my little piece of the Windows Live offering. Good times.

I had my slides ready, I had my demos scripted, so what could go wrong? A lot. A few days before I started getting a sore throat, and I was pretty certain that I was going to lose my voice right around the time of the presentation. This morning I woke up, and crap. My voice was pretty much gone. Great. I figured I'd just deal with it. Practice using a deeper voice and not using the same intonations that I usually use and I should be good, right? Issue number 1 resolved... kinda...

Not quite... a few more technical difficulties. Google Calendar, one of the sites that I was going to demo was behaving pretty strangely in the morning. First off, things were just acting weird. Then after a bit, the whole thing just shut down. Issue number 2. Thankfully, it came back up shortly afterward, but not much that I could have done in that time frame as CYA if it decided to die again.

Third issue? When I got to the building where the presentations were taking place, my laptop was having some issues getting a network connection. I wasn't the only one. Quite a few people were having the same issue. Thankfully, Alpa found a solution so the network was up and running a few minutes before the presentations started. Without a network connection, most of my demos wouldn't have been possible.

Fourth issue. So I knew that the combination of my laptop, external monitor, and powerpoint slide shows spells trouble. The presentation mode likes being on the main screen and there is no way to change it (annoying). So in preparation, I spent a few hours in the morning running an external monitor under some pretty terrible settings just so I can just plug and go at the real presentations. Well... it didn't work out so well. First off, my laptop reverted to the dual display setting which Powerpoint doesn't like. Thankfully, I had the control panel handy to change the settings again. Problem solved, right? Wrong. The software problem had turned into a hardware problem. My luck had it so that my laptop's VGA port flaked out on my at that precise moment. End result? Swapped laptops. Good thing I had a reasonably up to date copy of my presentation out on the Sharepoint server (yes, the occasional Microsoft plug). Phew.

The unfortunate thing about the laptop swap is that I didn't have my two browsers open with the sites that I needed for the demo. Why two browsers? Because IE7 had been flaking out on me all morning... especially with Facebook (I did a side by side comparison. For some reason IE7 just didn't feel like loading Facebook for a while even though it worked fine on FireFox. It continued to load other sites fine). I knew the order of sites that I needed, so that wasn't going to be a big issue. The bigger issue ended up being me not knowing what login and password I use for certain sites. 30 Boxes, for example, I completely botched. I was trying as my e-mail, and a variety of passwords. Somehow I managed to integrate this into my demo. It made a really nice premature segue into how 30 Boxes in integrated into Facebook. Basically after two failed attempts I explained that I forgot the login information because 30 Boxes is so easy it never asks me to log in and that I could bypass my whole login fiasco by just accessing the thing directly from Facebook... which I did... while crossing my fingers hoping Facebook wouldn't ask me for the 30 Boxes login information either. It didn't. Issue number 5 solved.

At the end of the whole thing I just couldn't help but laugh at the situation and how many things went wrong. It's like my visit to Kellogg. Hopefully this has better results.

What do I mean by that? I have my final review next week on Tuesday. We shall see. (-:

By the way, does anyone know where the scenes in the Paul Newman film Hole in the Wall Gang was filmed? Reminds me of Zion National Park and Canyon de Chelly. Shaker Heights, baby!

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Apologies for the low effort post, but I'm busy at work. Seriously. More on that later.

At 7:00am PST, I'll be beginning my drive across the country on I-90, end to end.

And excerpt from WSDOT:

Washington is the western terminus of the nation’s longest Interstate Route. Interstate 90 is 3,020 miles long, stretching from Seattle, Washington to Boston, Massachusetts and crosses 13 states. Much of the route through Washington replaced US 10, which was decertified as a US route in 1969.

Interstate 90 crosses 13 states: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts.

Interstate 90 features two floating bridges: The “Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge” and the “Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge.”

And of course, gotta check out Wikipedia's article on I-90.