thingelstad

Jamie Thingelstad's personal website

Month: September 2004 (page 1 of 2)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I think it was three years ago that I caught the Harry Potter bug. In a matter of a couple of months I had read the four books that were available and loved every page. Yes, it’s a kids book. But the story is just great.

I was very excited when the fifth book, the Order of the Phoenix, came out. I had pre-ordered it at least a year in advance on Amazon.com and it seemed like forever to wait. When I got the nearly 900 page tome I started reading it right away.

But then something happened. For the first time ever I wasn’t all that excited to read it and it sat on my nightstand for months. I finally picked it back up and got infected with the Potter frenzy again.

The book was a great read. Very enjoyable (even with a 6 month pause in the middle). Clearly the story is evolving to even bigger and bigger levels. Now the wait begins for Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince!

Chet Ringwall in the Paper

The Minot Daily News ran a big interview with my grandpa from my birth-fathers side of the family (click here to read it). They keep referring to him as Chester but I never heard him called that once, he’s always been Chet. My fondest memories of Chet and the farm were of winter and riding on a real, honest-to-goodness sleigh that he had restored behind a magnificent pair of horses. I also remember building a snowman in the entryway of the farmstead (I figured it was too cold outside), chasing chickens around in the summer and staring at the goat herds with the dogs. It’s amazing how stuff like that still sits deep in your heart and head so many years later.

This interview is one of a number of pieces I’ve read in recent months about the part of the country I spent some of my earliest years in. An entire way of life is disappearing in front of us, and a lot of people probably don’t even know it. All of the stereotypes of rural North Dakota are essentially true. It’s bitterly cold and nothing for scenery. But the people are amazing and the roots run very deep. I remember on a regular basis going to the cafe with my other Grandpa, Ardell, in Lignite, ND (I am completely stunned to find that Lignite has a web page, wow! To give you an idea of the size of the town, this is the whole phone book.) and sitting at the counter with the other men. There is nothing like that in the cities that the majority of us live in.

I hope that I will have the opportunity to bring my children, and even their children, back to this part of the world and tell them about it.

Hot Air Balloon Scams

I broke this originally in early June when I wrote my Expose on the Hot Air Balloon industry. My theory has proven itself out. As I said before, this is the perfect system. You buy tickets ahead of time and for mysterious and unknown reasons your flight never happens. “Oh, a bird flew south today so we cannot fly.” Sure…

I called for the umpteenth time to schedule our flight a while ago and found out that Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloons is no longer in business. To be honest, I was a little excited about this. Great, I can just get my money back for these certificates and forget this crazy mess.

Yeah, right. They cannot be reached on the phone. Multiple calls are not returned. Mail is returned to sender. All the while, they’ve got nearly $300 (and have had it now for at least 3 years) and I am positive I’ll never see a cent of it.

Nice going. It really sucks that one of the tickets was a gift from my family. Not the way anyone wants a gift to unfold.

Take my advice. Don’t ever pay for one of these things unless you are getting off of the balloon having just enjoyed a great ride.

The Forgotten

Last night Tammy and I went to The Forgotten. The movie was moderately entertaining, however I certainly wouldn’t make a huge effort to see it. Renting the DVD would probably be fine. The theme of the movie reminded me a bit of Dark City. The movie successfully provides a number of shocking adrenaline scenes that will definitely make you jump in your seat. The rest of the time it takes an eerie, 3rd party perspective for the camera. If you’re bored and looking for something pretty simple but exciting, check it out.

Thunderbird 0.8

I mentioned before that I’ve ditched Microsoft Outlook in favor of Thunderbird. I’ve been using Thunderbird for a while now and I’m really liking it. Also, they just released 0.8 of it which has notably added RSS support! Finally I have a worthwhile RSS reader for home use that is integrated. If you haven’t checked out Thunderbird, it’s worth looking into.

Son Volt Back Together

I got this email in my inbox today:

 NO ONE EVER SAID IT WAS OVER: SON VOLT REFORMS AND RETURNS TO STUDIO

How awesome is this! This is the official release from JayFarrar.net

SON VOLT IN THE STUDIO
Midwest-based Son Volt, with songwriter Jay Farrar at the helm, will begin recording their fourth full length album at the end of September. Following a five-year hiatus, with the exception of the April 2004 recording of “Sometimes” for the Alejandro Escovedo tribute album, multi-instrumentalist Dave Boquist, bassist Jim Boquist and drummer Mike Heidorn will reconvene at Farrar’s St. Louis studio. Speaking about the “Sometimes” session, Farrar says: “It felt like we hit the ground running when we recorded Al’s song for Por Vida. Five years seemed like five days at that point. It proved that more recording and performing as Son Volt is something that should happen.”

As this revered band reconnects, a unique glimpse inside the Son Volt sessions will be offered. Beginning October 1, a webcamera will be placed in the studio to capture a day of pre-production and 16 days of recording. The webcamera can be accessed at www.jayfarrar.net/webcam and will feature streaming photos that refresh every 5 seconds.

Farrar formed Son Volt in 1994 after the dissolution of Uncle Tupelo. With the release of Trace, Straightaways and Wide Swing Tremolo, the band was met with praise by the public and critics alike. From the plain-spoken chorus of “Windfall” to the gritty guitars of “Straightface”, Son Volt has always pushed the boundaries to blend traditional American music forms with poetic imagery and straight-ahead rock.

Son Volt is not currently affiliated with a label and plans to return to the road in early 2005.

I can’t think of a more exciting or unexpected piece of music related news I could have gotten today. Can’t wait for the album!

What is wrong with MSN Search?

I’ve been having some “fun” (that’s in the geekiest sense of the word in this case) playing with some log analysis tools on thingelstad.com. What the heck, I’m curious to see who is hitting what and how often. It’s been some time since I’ve played with any of this and spiders are an interesting challenge. (Spiders for those that aren’t aware are the robots that sites like Google and Yahoo use to mine web sites).

Anyway, I was looking at spider activity and this just stunned me.

What is wrong with MSN!? They have hit our site four times more than any other spider out there. That seems a bit excessive! Gotta wonder if that is the norm for them.

Anyway, just struck me as odd and rather stupid.

Too Fat for the Fat 40

The Fat 40 is over for another year. This has come to be my annual ‘rite of passage’ it seems. This year was as memorable as every other year. I just wish it was more positive! :-)

The Ride

The ride this year was grueling. Simple as that. Last year I had just snuck under 4 hours for the event finishing in 3:59:55. I was hopeful that I would meet that mark. That and finishing were my only objectives. I surely expected to do better than 2002 when I did 4:25:13 and I knew I wouldn’t even approach my best time from the first year I did it in 2001 of 3:44:00 (including a couple of flats).

As I rolled through the finish line at 4:41:32 I had survived my worst beating on the dirt of the Chequamegon that I had ever felt. There were solid rains earlier in the week and the course was pretty wet. The trails just felt like they were glue. As soon as you stopped pedaling you stopped, there was just no momentum.

This was my hardest 40 yet. I sort of lost it on the trail. My grandma reads this site so I’m not going to share some of the words that were coming through my mind, but they were choice.

The Bonk

Every cyclist at some point bonks. If you are not familiar with that term, it simply means you are on empty. You have not eaten, you have no more glycogen left, your muscles are completely empty. You’re head can’t keep a thought. You feel like a zombie on the bike. A lot of people think they have bonked, but really they were just hungry. When you forget what was happening for the last 10 minutes, then you’ve really bonked.

I’ve bonked before. And just like everyone else, I’ve sworn never to do it again. Well, I did it again, and this time on the very unforgiving trails of the Fat 40.

When I took off I felt a little uncomfortable. I had a waffle early in the morning and some oatmeal and it was still in my stomach. Whenever my heart rate got way up there it felt really uncomfortable. So, my genius solution was to skip some food. I waited until I was hungry. At this point, I’m toast and I just don’t know it yet. About 28 miles in and a lot of pain later I realized that I could barely keep the pedals going. My head was light and I wasn’t really comprehending everything going on. I was in real trouble. At the next stop I took on two bananas and some gatorade and I could fee the sugar instantly. However, it’s nearly impossible to work yourself out of the hole dug by bonking.

After the race my inventory of what I had eaten showed that I ate about half of what I should have taken in. I would normally eat 300 calories an hour, so 1,200 calories on the 40 on a four hour pace. I figure I had about half of that. What a rookie move.

The Gear

This was the first year on my new Specialized M4 Stumpjumper FSR Elite. Overall I was very pleased with the bike. It took the punishment of the course without any problems. I did appreciate the additional comfort of full-suspension over the hard-tail I had always ridden in the past. I did find climbing harder just because I’m an out-of-the-seat climber and when I did that the bike turned into a pogo stick. That is as much my problem as the bikes though, so I won’t get too upset about that. All in all, very good.

I was also lucky not to have any flats since I realized 5 minutes before the start that I forgot to bring a trail pump with me. Oops!

The Brother-in-Law

I’ve always thought it would be fun to have someone riding in the 40 with me so this year I convinced by brother-in-law Dennis Daily to ride. I’ve known many people that ride in the past, like Jim Rikkers, but they are much faster than I.

Of course having your brother-in-law ride means there is at least a competition for pride to win. I have to tip my hat to the rookie who finished in 4:34:09, a full 7 minutes and 23 seconds before I did. It looked like he had a “fun” time, or at least as much fun as anyone has there. I will have to shoot for a rematch next year.

The Finish Line

I crossed the finish line and just sat for a long time. I really felt defeated by the course this year. Various promises were made to myself about training better next year, dropping weight, etc. I know I will be back (lottery provided!) even though I can’t imagine it right now. The pain dissapears, the fun stays.

iPod Mini

I’ve been belaboring the idea of getting an iPod for months. Really, this is probably one of the hardest consumer electronics decisions I’ve tried to make recently. Well, the decision making process was shortcut today when I found myself to be the winner of an iPod Mini! Yeah!

Some know that I got my start on computers on the Apple //c and then the Macintosh. Deep down in this jaded IT professionals heart is a soft spot for all things Apple. I’ve got a similar soft spot for all things Unix as well which makes one wonder why I spend my entire day looking at Microsoft dominated systems. Anyway, that’s another blog entry.

Opening up the iPod Mini was a reminder of how Apple “gets it”. They realize the user experience starts with opening the box. The packaging is even cool! Everything was made to be really simple. In fact, I found that when I was having a hard time I was essentially thinking too much about what I was trying to do.

Anyway, I’m only about an hour into using it but I love the iPod Mini. I’m worried that love may turn to infatuation and I’ll be getting a 40G “big” iPod to go with it. iTunes is a great player package. Unfortunately it is so much more intuitive than any of the Windows players.

More to come as I use it, but the immediate reaction is “sweet!”

Meditation Class

I’ve been referenced several times to the benefits of meditation but I’ve never really understood it. Mainly because I didn’t understand how sitting still could benefit you so much. Also, I find it almost impossible to do. I decided that I wanted to give it a try so Tammy and I signed up for an introduction to meditation class at the Yoga Center of Minneapolis.

We had our first class last night and it felt a little goofy but I left the place feeling a level of relaxation that I typically only feel after a massage. As I expected, it was very hard for me to quiet my mind or ego as the instructor says. I’m going to keep trying though. The class is eight weeks and we will learn several different techniques for reaching a meditative state. Last night we did a mental chant of huang-sah which just means swan. You think huang on inhale and sah on exhale. It does work.

I’m looking forward to the next class!

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