Mill City Farmers Market

Yesterday morning we went to the Mill City Farmers Market. It was our first visit, and only the second weekend that the market has been in operation. This market is different than the huge Minneapolis farmers market. It was coordinated by a number of people and led by the founder of Cafe Brenda. The market combines great locally grown food, with orgranic practices. There are also people there with artisan cheeses and locally raised, grass-fed meat.

The space is great and there is even a musician playing resulting in an airy atmosphere that is relaxing and very enjoyable. I highly recommend it to anyone — either to stop by for some bread and cheese for lunch or pickup some food for the week ahead.

Kudos to everyone who made this market a reality.

MacBook

Amongst the celebratory gifts I got for father’s day this year was a pretty surprising toy. I had been commenting to Tammy for a while about how cool I thought the new Apple MacBook was. She decided that it was inevitable that I was going to get one and surprised me on father’s day with a nice box containing a black MacBook.

The Path to Here

I was born and raised on the Macintosh platform (after some very early years on TRS-80, TI-99/4A and finally Apple //c). I fondly can remember the release of the first color Mac, multifinder and the advent of System 7. However, when I came to college I discovered Unix and “real” operating systems. I then wandered into the Windows NT world as I moved into the professional or commercial world and never looked back to the Mac. Until…

About a year-and-a-half ago I got an iMac. The main reason I got the iMac was location. It was going in a very public place in our house and I wanted something that looked good. I was open to getting a Mac because of OS X. Apple had finally given up on the horrendous operating systems they had and moved to a Unix based environment. Stability and tools were greatly improved. I’ve been happy with the iMac, but then Apple got really serious.

The announcement a year ago to switch to the Intel chip was huge. The promise of hackable machines that could run Mac OS X but also run Windows and other environments was a siren song. And it’s become real over the last year. This decision, combined with a good, stable OS and some very nice hardware got me to get back in with the Mac crowd in a bigger way with the MacBook.

Initial Impressions

The MacBook is an extremely well constructed and versatile machine. It isn’t as light as my business laptop (Dell D410), but the construction quality runs laps around my other home laptop (Sony VGN-S360). Everything is solid. The keyboard looks like it may be a “chiclet” keyboard, but it’s feel is great. One of my favorite laptop keyboards thus far.

On the software side I’m enjoying Mac OS X. I’ve been using it on the iMac for a while, but mostly that computer just surfs the web and ‘looks pretty’. This machine has been getting more industrial use and I’ve optimized it more for myself. I’ve purchased Parallels as well which allows me to run Windows XP (and really almost any x86 operating system) without rebooting. The product is great for a v1.0 and they will close the gaps in the coming updates. I look forward to having one machine with Mac OS X, Windows XP, Windows Vista and whatever else I want on it. Can you say Swiss Army Knife?

Areas of Improvement

There are some things that Apple didn’t get right yet. First, Apple’s insistance on a 1-button mouse is just infuriating. I may give them a break if they didn’t emulate a 2-button mouse themselves by holding down the control key. If your software uses a 2-button mouse concept, put one on the computer!

The MacBook is also extremely hot. Much has been written about this and I’m hopeful that there will be a firmware update to lessen this. I’ve been using CoreDuoTemp to monitor and I’ve seen my CPU hit 90° C. (Right now just typing it’s at 77° C.)

It’s a Wrap

I have to take my hat off to Apple. To get me to buy a Mac laptop is a feat. I had all but given up on them and they’ve really risen from the ashes. This is a fun machine.

Wordplay

Last night Mazie’s aunt came over and babysat while Tammy and I went out for a “classic” date — dinner and a movie. We went to Wordplay at the Edina Theater. It was a fun movie all about the world of crossword puzzles. Sound like a topic that doesn’t really deserve a movie? Well, that just means you aren’t aware of the annual crossword puzzle tournament and the ridiculous speed at which some people solve a crossword puzzle (just over 2 minutes!).

The movie was great, and particularly fun for me since I have so many geeky hobbies: rc helicopter? rc cars? telescopes? home network? solar power? Watching Wordplay is like getting a 90 minute pass into this world of crossword puzzles. To an extent, you could envision a movie about one of your geeky hobbies with you in the hotel convention center talking to the guy about how amazing your telescope, helicopter, car is.

Fun, lighthearted movie.

Happy (Delayed) Fathers Day

Being a dad rocks.

That pretty much sums it up. I could just end this comment now and be done. Dad’s that are reading it would understand. In fact, the openness of the statement is ideal as you can consider all that individual greatness of being a dad with your kids.

This year was my 2nd fathers day. It’s fun that Mazie’s birthday is right before fathers day. It makes for a better day as you are already celebrating how awesome it is that your child has grown more and more.

Mazie is so cool. She’s a pro walker now, rarely falling or getting tripped up. She even does pretty well on uneven surfaces with actual shoes on. She’s really verbal. She ranges from her version of dog, banana, gypsie, logan, mom, dad to her tendency to be, as Tammy and I put it, squaky.

She is a strong willed kid. She knows exactly what she wants to eat, in what order, and will clearly communicate it to you. She has started to play games with me. She’ll pretend like she’s going to come to me and turns away at the last minute giggling. Simply put, it’s pretty awesome to watch this little girl growing up.

Being a dad is a pretty great thing. I realize that it’s so much easier than the mom side of the fence. No being pregnant. No delivery. No breastfeeding. Even the things that are shared, this dad gets the easy route on. I change a tenth of the diapers Tammy does. The hardest thing I do is going away on business trips, but I credit that away time with making me truly appreciate the wonder that is my kid.

I love my kid. I love my wife. I love being a dad.

ARR!

Tammy here again…

One week ago today, Mazie had a blast at her very first birthday party. All of our family that lives in town were invited and everyone did their best to dress and act like the pirates that they know they are. We beat at a parrot until it spilled its guts, made clothespin people walk the plank and dive into a shark pail, and were merciless in our pinning of an eye patch on a poor pirate over and over again. Mazie’s friends from across the street came to help with the fun.

After all of the fun and games we sat down to our spoils and enjoyed the very best pirate cake ever! Mazie blew out her candle (with a little help from her friends) and got involved good and dirty-like with her cake. She squished and gushed chocolate frosting all over her little self just like a good pirate would do. Presents were next and Mazie was pleased with all of the treasures she received. She balanced on top of her new rocking chair like a circus star, flipped the pages of some stellar books, and reveled in the beauty of her new fashions.

In true Pirate fashion we then kicked everyone out! See the pictures!

PAX

Tammy and I decided that we wanted to make sure to raise Mazie understanding the value of charitable giving and in general “doing good” in the world. One of the things we are doing to that end is making a donation to a charity of her choice (or our choice on her behalf until she is old enough) on her birthday. This year we decided to support PAX, an organization that is working to reduce gun violence amongst children and teenagers. I attended an event of theirs a few weeks ago and the numbers were shocking. Eight children or teenagers die everyday as a result of gun violence. Even more shocking is the fact that more houses have guns than Xbox‘s.

PAX has two main programs. The first is called “ask.” and is aimed at parents. The simple goal is for parents to ask if there is a gun in the house before their children go to play somewhere. Awareness is key, and many accidents happen while children are playing and some of the parents have no idea a gun was even there. The second is “speak up!” which is a toll-free hotline for students to report gun related concerns in school. The hotline receives over 15 calls a day of reported gun issues in schools, and coordinates with the school administration to respond.

They are an impressive, national organization with low overhead and a passion for working on this issue. Hat’s off to them and all the great work they are doing!

Mazie's Birthday

Hello, Tammy here. It was Mazie’s first birthday today! Whee… I have been looking forward to this day since before she was born. I finally have a kid that’s one. I don’t know why that matters, but to me it is a big milestone. Jamie took the day off of work to help celebrate. There were pancakes and a visit from the neighbors and our favorite landscaper, a trip to the beach where Mazie found her sea legs in preparation for her pirate party on Saturday, lunch with my mom, her friend and her friend’s granddaughter, and then off to the Minnesota Zoo. Mazie thought that all of the animals at the zoo were interesting, but the pigs were her favorite. I think she fancied the snorts and other fun noises they made.

After Mazie hit the sack, Jamie and I headed over to our neighbor’s house for an evening of ART! We met a local artist that our neighbors know, saw and helped in the hanging of the really cool paintings that they purchased from him, and had lots of fun talking and looking at art. It was a great way for the two of us to celebrate the passing of our first year with little Mazie.

Thanks to everyone who emailed, called, visited and sent Miss Mazie birthday wishes. She very much appreciated all of the love that she felt today. Mazie’s first birthday rocked! Jamie uploaded some of the pictures from the day which include several shots of Mazie wearing her fabulous birthday hat.

Tammy over and OUT

Save Some Birds

Over this past weekend I applied some bird protection to our house. We live in an area with a lot of birds, and we have large parts of our house where we have a lot of windows. On top of that, I like to feed birds and with the landscaping work that we’ve done over the last three years we’ve seen a marked increase in the number of songbirds that frequent our yard.

However, we’ve also seen a huge increase in “bird strikes”. Almost everyday birds would hit our windows, and sometimes the hit would be fatal. I searched for a while to find a solution to this problem and finally found Window Alert.

I’ve applied these decals to the major windows where we were having problems and so far it’s been great. No hits that we’ve heard since then. They don’t ruin the view — and while you can see them they are not annoying. They work by reflecting ultraviolet light which birds can see, but we cannot. If you have a problem with “bird strikes” you should give these a try.

Solar Panels Started

Our solar heat project completed today! Just before 2:00 pm today Innovative Power Systems turned on the collectors and started to bring heat down to the storage tank. I’m monitoring the system and collecting data with Cacti. Below is a graph showing the temperature of the water that is coming back from the panels (this is one of several data points I’m monitoring on the system). The water coming back reached a maximum of 138 degrees and the panels themselves were about 145 degrees.

I’m really excited to have this project done. Not least of which is that it’s been 8 months since we made the decision to do it. I’ve been really surprised (but pleased!) at how many people have asked me about this project so I am going to write-up a thorough post about “My Solar Experience” and post it in the coming days. I’m very encouraged that some of you may consider to start tapping into renewable energy as well.

I have to go check my graphs again. :-)

Xcel Energy Cheating Customers

I’m mad.

I’m a big supporter of alternative energy. For the last 3 years I’ve voluntarily paid a surcharge to Xcel Energy to fund the purchase of wind power equal to the amount of electricity I consume. This program is called Windsource. I pay $2.00 per 100 kWh of electricity, and I buy 16 units of this to account for our total electrical consumption. Every month I tack on $32 to my electricity bill and have been happy in the knowledge that our entire house is powered by renewable energy.

In addition to the WindSource program that I just mentioned, Xcel also collects a “curtailment payment” from all customers to fund wind-generated electricity. This is not an optional payment. If you are a customer, you are paying it. Then the Star Tribune broke this article on June 1st, Public Paid for idled wind farms.

It turns out that in 2004 Xcel paid wind farms to idle their turbines because Xcel could not transfer the power. Xcel doesn’t have the transmission lines to accept the power. By the way, they aren’t doing much about it either as you can read in the article.

When I signed up for WindSource I asked the person “How can I insure that my money is going to wind power?”. Turns out there really isn’t a good solution for the individual consumer. Relying on the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission seems like the only real option, but they may be part of the problem.

Xcel Energy customers should be mad. We should be mad for being sold a bill of goods that wasn’t true. And we should also be mad because Xcel isn’t being a responsible corporation.

See also: KARE11 Article, WCCO, Minutes of MnPUC (page 2)