Yesterday we had Brian Broughten, the founder and owner of Advanced Aquarium to our house to get started on a bid to build a custom aquarium. He was here for about 90 minutes of good geek fun regarding aquarium stuff. Those that have known me for a long time know that I had a saltwater tank for the first half of the 1990s. In fact, my “Early Days” site still has the web page about it. I really like aquariums but I stopped for two reasons. First, I was a (relatively) poor student and couldn’t afford to do it right. I never had good lighting, and everything was DIY. Nothing against DIY, but that also meant somewhat crappy solutions for many things. The second issue was that I got sick of lugging buckets of water all the time. Now that we live in a house, I could have it plumbed straight in and not have to worry about pals and hoses.
The funny thing about the visit from Advanced Aquarium was that I used to shop at Brian’s store all the time. Broughten used to run a store out of his basement. My friend Mike and I would make somewhat regular trips there for stuff, but mostly to pick Brian’s brain and admire new fish and other creatures. When he came over I confirmed that that was in fact the same guy, and he actually vaguely remembered me as well.
Anyway, in a couple of weeks I’ll get a quote for the tank we worked out. I started getting so excited just talking about it. It would be 8 feet long, 2 feet deep and 30 inches tall — a whopping 300 gallons! All filtration and reserve water systems would be in the utility room. Out of sight, and sound. It would have dual pumps moving 3,000 gallons per hour through the reef. And it would have those magnificent metal halide lights that I could never afford before.
I’m trying not to get too excited, but I’m eagerly awaiting the quote.
We stopped by two new restaurants yesterday and were happy with both. We had lunch at Salut in Minneapolis, at the 50th and France area. Salut is a fairly new French bistro. Don’t let the French part scare you off — they have an extremely approachable menu. It’s owned by the same people that own Manny’s (my favorite steakhouse!), Chino Lationa, Good Earth, etc. so you can rest assured that it’s going to be at least passable.
We entered the restaurant and I was shocked by it’s size. Much bigger inside than I expected from the outside. The menu was very good. Tammy and I had a glass of the Riesling. Wine at lunch? Sure, we’re on vacation! It was great. I had the steak frites for my lunch and Tammy had the steak sandwich. My tenderloin was amazing, and the frites were equally impressive. Highly recommend this place.
We then had dinner with our friends Jim and Suzie at Ravello. We ended up here because of a recommendation from a friend at the office, and really liked it. It’s in Long Lake so a bit of a drive unless you live in the western suburbs. They have a nice wine menu, and the lamb shank was delicious.
My friend Chris (get a site!), who is constantly finding new things to get into and get everyone he knows excited in, recently decided to turn his OCD towards RC helicopters.
In recent years helicopters have gotten much more approachable. Battery technology has evolved and you can now get a simple, ready-to-fly electric helicopter for a reasonable price. I picked up a E-Sky Lama 2 just like his from eBay a couple of weeks ago and have been having a blast!
First off, this helicopter is a toy more than a true RC helicopter. It’s small, about a foot long, and isn’t strong enough to fly outside unless it’s absolutely still. It is best suited for a large open-area in your house. It also can only carry it’s own weight. The first question most people have asked is “Can you strap a camera on it?” It’s surprising to me how many people ask this. Secondly, no, you need a bigger bird to do that with. (Chris just ordered a T-Rex, which can carry cargo and so much more. We’ll see how long I can hold out before upgrading.)
Even though it is a toy, it is a tremendous amount of fun after you learn to fly it. It took me about three 10 minute sessions before I could really hover with stability and not run into a variety of stuff. Now, after a few more sessions I have good control and am starting to make some maneuvers. My hope is to get to the point where I can race my father-in-law (he got one of these for Christmas from yours truly).
I sent my Digital Photography Storage Explosion article to our editorial team at MarketWatch to see if they would be interested in an article version of it for our site. They said it looked interesting so I wrote up a much smaller version and it was published today. I got a byline! :-)
This version is much abbreviated and less “research paper” like. If you find it interesting, check out the original, unabridge version.
For the first time in the 196 days since she was born, Mazie slept through the night last night. She enjoyed restfulness, with minimal disturbances, from 7:00 pm to 6:10 am. Her mother was extremely excited but realistic that this is not a pattern yet. Her father was proud but thought she did this all the time. News at 11!
Mazie turned 6 months old on Dec. 14th, and she had her 6-month Doctor appointment on Monday. She’s doing just great. She’s just growing faster and faster. She’s essentially 75th percentile for weight, height and head circumference. She’s mastered sitting up now and loves to sit on the couch or on the floor with tons of toys all around her banging things and having a blast. She’s also started real food now. She only had rice cereal, aside from milk of course, until she was over the 6-month mark. She’s started oatmeal now and really likes it. We’ve tried carrots which she was a bit suspect of, and at this point she’s decided that bananas are not for her. Whenever she gets a mouthful of bananas she gets a really funny look on her face.
I can tell she’s super excited about Christmas, or perhaps I’m just more excited about Christmas because of her. She’s going to love digging into all her toys. :-)
Pretty much everyone that we sent our Christmas letter to should have received it by now, so now we can release it on the website. Enjoy! Tammy get’s all the credit.
Okay, so maybe this is the Minnesota version of a celebrity spotting. It’s not Madonna, or Bono, or any other single-named person (really, how pompous do you have to be to only have one name?).
Today when Tammy, Mazie and I were going into the Galleria for some shopping, we were passing in front of the entrance of Barnes & Noble and there is Al Franken getting out of a black Lincoln towncar. Apparently he was in town for a book signing event so a lot of people had this “Celebrity Spotting”.
Anyway, we didn’t gawk or anything. Didn’t want to make Al feel awkward. :-)
I’ve had fun this week getting caught up on some hobbies, restarting others, and considering picking up some more. I revisited my telescope for the first time in a while this week. I’ve been wanting an equatorial wedge, so I got that and played around with the whole rig some more. The wedge will allow me to get into astrophotography. While I still don’t feel terribly comfortable with my scope (I always feel like I’m going to break something), I’m much more comfortable than I was before. I took it outside last night and played around with the fairly clear, but incredibly light polluted, sky from our driveway.
I’ve also gotten a little fascinated with binoculars. Canon makes these amazing image stabilized binocs that would be great for nights out with the telescope (particularly if someone comes along) and for checking out birds. I admit that I’ve developed this wierd birding hobbie. I can’t wait for next summer with the new bird “sanctuary” we got setup this fall. It’s going to be crazy.
Then there is shortwave radio. This has interested me for years, but I’ve never taken the plunge. The place in town that sells my telescope stuff sells shortwave stuff (it’s actually more of a radio star, called Radio City after all). I was playing with this Yaesu VR-5000 radio there and thinking that would be a lot of fun to learn about as well. I could put a big antennae on the roof and tune into Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Add all this to photography, anything and everything computer related, digital video — oh yeah, and stuff like cycling and hiking. I need more time in the day.
This past week I was in Radio Shack and saw they were running a great deal on the Linksys WRT54G wireless router (double rebates!). I’ve had a D-Link 624 for a long time and its worked without any issues. However, I’d read at length about the WRT54G and it’s open platform. Linksys built the WRT54G on a Linux platform and made the firmware available via open source. There is some debate wether that was intentional or not, but the GPL forced them to make it available. The result was awesome 3rd party firmware like Sveasoft and DD-WRT.
So, I picked up one of these cheap units at Radio Shack and today I sat down to play with it.
Then everything went south…
About 20 days ago Linksys (now owned by Cisco) started selling the WRT54G v5. All the previous versions of this ran Linux, but now they are using VxWorks. Unfortunately, this means no 3rd party firmware. This seems like such a bad idea, particularly since this router became the success it is because of 3rd party firmware. Luckily there is a new model, WRT54GL that is the v4 box with Linux.
Buyer beware if you are looking to get one of these.