Archive for April, 2007

Duo Team Attack on Invasive Species, Part 1!

Posted by Karen in Work.
Monday, April 30th, 2007 at 1:37 pm

I finally roped Nate in to one of my work events!  He has been conveniently "out of town" for all of the events so far, but found himself with no excuse this past Saturday.  And so… Duo Team attacked garlic mustard!   I say  "Part 1" in the title, because I fully intend to rope him in to other such events in the future.  It was awesome for me to have someone help haul all the gear and get set up, not to mention that he’s a handy guy to have around when it comes to things like hanging banners in high places.  And though he seemed sort of resigned to his fate at first, he hadn’t been pulling garlic mustard for very long when I heard him saying to himself in true Nator fashion, "I kick ass at this!"  I think he has a bright future as a Friends of the Mississippi River volunteer. 

(For more on the actual event, go to Freshwater Stew!)


A not-so-subtle prod

Posted by Nate in Family.
Friday, April 27th, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Dear QSchroe,

Remember when you used to blog?  I do. Those were good days.  Good days.

More later.  Love,

PS – That goes for you, too, JMS107!  (And you’ve got a few more weeks before I get serious, but watch it, Pinolera…)

My Board Buddy and Me

Posted by Karen in Work.
Monday, April 23rd, 2007 at 9:07 am

[ crossposted at Fresh Water Stew! ]

A couple of weeks ago we had a full day strategic planning retreat. All of our staff and board members got together at a meeting room in the Mill City Museum to discuss the direction we would like to see the organization go over the next five years. Prior to the meeting, a board member had been matched up with each staff member and assigned the task of getting to know them a bit. Then, at the retreat, they each gave a short presentation about who we are and what we do as part of a staff recognition/appreciation type thing.

All of my coworkers were pretty jealous when my board buddy turned out to be Hokan. He works at a company that helps manage barge traffic on the river. So as his way of getting to know each other, Hokan invited me to meet him at his office for a tour, and then go out on the river on a towboat! (Everyone calls them tugboats, but Hokan explained to me that they are actually called towboats, even though they neither tug nor tow, they actually push.)

We started with a tour of his office, where Hokan told me about the shipping industry on the river and their role in it. He showed me some great maps and old photos, as well as a model of a towboat showing all of the important parts that are under the water. Living in Duluth for a couple of years and working at Vista Fleet for a summer, not to mention having a father who worked for a time on lake freighters on the Great Lakes, taught me a bit about the shipping industry there. So it was fascinating to see the similarities and differences between shipping on lakes and shipping on rivers. He also showed me this giant board, which keeps track of all of the barges currently on the Twin Cities section of the Mississippi, whether they are full or empty, and which direction they are headed, among other things.

Finally it was time to head out on the river! Captain Mike picked us up on the mighty towboat Itasca and we headed downriver. Hokan pointed out lots of sights that I am still unfamiliar with, but that I will hopefully be quite familiar with by the end of the summer! I realize now that I should have been taking notes, because I don’t remember the names of everything we saw. I do know that we went down about as far as Holman Field, St. Paul’s small downtown airport. It was pretty amazing to see the downtown skyline right there, and at the same time have an eagle soaring above us and swallows swooping over the water eating insects. Urban nature still takes me by surprise sometimes.

In addition to Captain Mike, there were two deckhands on board. We maneuvered over to a barge and the deckhands hooked us up to it. I couldn’t believe how simple it seemed – it kind of looked like we just butted up to it and then they wrapped some metal cables around some posts, unwound the ones that were holding it to the dock, and we were off! I also couldn’t believe how agile the deckhands were! They walked so quickly on such narrow strips with things sticking out for you to trip on. I couldn’t help but ask Captain Mike if he’s ever seen anyone fall in, and he said "Oh yeah, many times". Crazy job!

We then took off, pushing the barge upriver. Hokan somehow thought it was a good idea for me to try driving the boat. I actually was really nervous! With the barge in front you’re pretty long, and the river suddenly seemed really narrow and bendy! Somehow I managed to not crash us, and Captain Mike took back the reins. He steered us over to the side of another barge, to which the deckhands connected our barge. They then disconnected us and we were on our way.  Captain Mike steered us over to the opposite shore where we disembarked.

I have a lot more getting to know this river to do, and this was a great opportunity for me to get right in the middle of it! And to be in the company of someone who has such a close relationship with the river, and could teach me about one of the river’s many roles as a shipping and transportation route, was just amazing. I have been bragging about it to my jealous coworkers ever since, and plan to for quite some time!

Chicago trip

Posted by Nate in Family, Friends, Holidays/Birthdays/Etc, Travel.
Saturday, April 21st, 2007 at 7:11 pm

Justin and I got back today from a whirlwind trip to Chicago – left early Thursday morning to the Grandparent’s house, hung out for a bit with them and my parents, and then headed to Laurel’s show.  It was awesome to see her on stage again, one of the last things I can remember seeing her in was Stop Kiss back at Bas Bleu in Colorado.  Stop Kiss is such a different show it’s hard to compare the two, but it really seems like she’s taken a big step with her acting in terms of being more real in the moment on stage — not that she wasn’t before!  Just that it’s one thing I think I notice is better now.  A really fun show overall, I think everyone had a good time.

Friday I slept in a bit, ate Grandpa’s waffles for breakfast, then we all sort of puttered around the house getting yardwork done – mowing, window washing, and trying to get Grandpa’s old car running.  I know Rick took pictures so I hope he writes that up, it was fun to get to play with an engine that’s about as straightforward as it gets.

pict3215a.JPGThat night after dinner I went to meet up with the Chicago boys and Laurel, it was good to see everyone even if just for a night.  Noah, if you’re brave enough to click that picture, is ironing a crease in his pants — while wearing them.  I believe he put a book in there first to help shield the heat, and Rick V.T. was kind enough to offer the tip of waiting for the zipper to cool before removing the book.  Ah, I miss those boys…  :)

Justin and I left at 5 this morning to get him back for a noon meeting.  Whew.  It was fun driving with him, some good time to chat, but man am I tired!

Chest freezer dying?

Posted by Nate in Consumers, Homebrewing.
Wednesday, April 18th, 2007 at 10:20 am

Dear beer lovers everywhere,

743359_grave_stone.jpgI write to you today with almost unbearably bad news: the much beloved Kegenator (V1.0) is in distress.  It is unable to keep its precious cargo of beer at a deliciously cool temperature, and isn’t showing any signs of improving.  In fact, only about one quarter of the previous cooling area seems to be working at all.  I’ve made inquiry online as to its prognosis, but honestly I have a bad feeling about this…

The question I put before you today is this: should I scour Craigslist for a cheap replacement and face this same disappointment in a few years time?  Or should I buy a new, modern, and highly efficient replacement?  It already seems unlikely I’ll be able to match the dimensions exactly, which means constructing a new collar…


Happy birthday to me!

Posted by Nate in Beer, Holidays/Birthdays/Etc, Homebrewing.
Tuesday, April 17th, 2007 at 10:45 am

Even if I had been able to call up the weatherman and order a perfect day to kick off the grilling season I don’t know if I could have done better than yesterday.  Just gorgeous, it was reading 73 degrees when we went out back to light the charcoal.

nate_cake.jpgAfter last year‘s Hawaiian cake, this year Karen returned to her natural instincts: chocolate, and a lot of it.    She made a triple layer chocolate stout cake using my homebrewed bourbon oak barrel Imperial Stout…  and it was Truly.  A.  Mazing.  You can see me flexing to hold the thing up.

I also found a recipe for wild rice veggie burgers, which ended up being a big hit.  I need to refine my technique for grilling them, I had to pre-cook them a bit indoors so they would stay intact, but I think there might be a better way.  We also used some natural lump charcoal last night which I’m still getting used to — it burns hotter and faster and is much more responsive to airflow.  But less carcinogens!  I also want one of those chimney things to help light them, I don’t want to keep using lighter fluid…

nate_gun2.jpgscott_gun2.jpgAfter eating and drinking for a while, I busted open a sweet present from Scott and Shannon.  The pictures speak for themselves — you’ll notice we’re both out of nerf darts in our guns but still desperately pulling the trigger.  (And safety glasses on tight, natch).

Lastly, I got some Stranahan’s — and can happily report it’s as awesome as I hoped!  And for a grand finale, Karen got the siblings to go in on a long-overdue pint club membership at Town Hall!!!  That means $1 off every beer I buy there, and free drinks from 4-5 on Saturday!!!  Say goodbye to Saturday afternoons, my friends…  Nate’s going to Town Hall (with Karen – she got one too).  Yay!

cake_half.jpgLike an enormous python, I’m still digesting the cake I ate last night… Yum.  Happy birthday to me!

Conference and more

Posted by Nate in Beer, Work.
Saturday, April 14th, 2007 at 5:15 pm

The conference is almost over, and I’m beat.  I’ve been blogging almost every session I’ve attended, which is fun but sometimes too much…  Hopefully a good record for us to look at after we’re back and go into a bit more depth on the interesting parts.  The laptap has been awesome.  :)

457840987_612e7c4d81.jpgBut it hasn’t all been work!  On Wednesday I took the afternoon to go to a local brewpub where I made best friends with the brewer and got hooked up with samples of a ton of their excellent beers.  My favorite was a blend of three beers – a robust porter that had been aged in bourbon barrels, a Belgian strong golden ale, and a brown ale for body.  The porter had been put on 50 pounds of raspberries and inoculated with Brettomyces, a wild Belgian yeast strain that gives a delicious sour funk, and the mix of these three together was simple amazing.  Yum.

459080383_6d84533c06.jpgFriday night there was a conference reception at the Exploratorium, officially my favorite place in the world.  I do love our local science museum, but this one is housed in an enormous warehouse built for a turn of the century World’s Fair — right next to these incredible columns at left.  The science exhibitions were extremely well done, engaging, and threated to take up my whole evening.  That’s me in some infrared trail room on the right.459068600_ae2703a404.jpg

Today I’ve been attending more session, blogging more, and then tonight we have one more reception before I leave bright and early.  Whew.  Looking forward to coming home.

Nate’s Tech Update

Posted by Nate in Day to Day, Work.
Wednesday, April 11th, 2007 at 4:59 pm

screenshot1.pngHello from San Francisco!  I’m out here for a conference, and so far so good – we had ouu workshop this morning and it went really well.  Ended up running out of time — 3.5 hours always sounds like so much so we pad things out, but last year I think we ran out too.  Which sucks for the last guy (not me ;) ’cause he had some great material that we sort of had to skip over.  Ah well.

Wrote the next bit earlier but am posting it here:

I’m writing this while in-flight on my way to Museums and the Web 2007 in San Francisco. Jealous much??darter_u1_open_large.jpg

Last Wednesday I got my first (ever!) laptop, a Darter from System76. They’re a pretty sweet company selling preinstalled Linux machines – Ubuntu, in this case. I’m still tweaking the settings to get it the way I want it and getting used to all the little differences – I work with Linux all the time at work, but really only from a remote command line. This is my first Linux desktop, and I gotta say I love it. The desktop (Gnome) is awesome, I’m still adjusting to the file browser, and the sheer number of FREE apps available is just awesome. And it’s way, way better than Windows, or even OSX.

The next real question is battery life – I’ve got the LCD brightness cranked waaaay down right now and it’s still usable, and that seems to really help the power usage. Looks like I’m averaging about 14 watts at the moment with other 2 hours left. Sweet. Maybe watch a movie on the next leg of the flight.

Like I said, jealous much?

DST = big fat waste

Posted by Nate in Ideas, Politics.
Wednesday, April 4th, 2007 at 10:40 am

Turns out — predictably — that the energy conserving plan to expand daylight saving time has fallen flat: power companies are reporting no measurable change in consumption.  It seems tempting to chalk this up to a "good try", but all signs point to congress knowing it wouldn’t conserve energy — Australia had tried a similar scheme and got no results — but passing it anyway for economic reasons.  Apparently sporting goods stores and convenience stores both benefit from lighter evenings, and via wikipedia I read "both Idaho senators voted to extend DST on the basis of fast-food restaurants selling more French fries made from Idaho potatoes."  Hmm.

daylight-saving-time.jpgNot only that, but personally this has been a big hassle for me: I had to hand patch all our servers at work so their internal clocks would get the correct time.  And I’m just one guy with a few servers – the total estimated cost of the change is $500 million up to $1 billion!!

Wow.  Way to save the daylight, guys.  There’s an energy crisis, look busy!

Back to Biking

Posted by Nate in Bike Commuting.
Monday, April 2nd, 2007 at 12:43 pm

Dusted off the trusty bike last week for commuting to work – caught one warm day and then a chilly one, and today was back on its way down to chilly.  At least the rain stopped for the morning, and hopefully will stay away for the return ride.  I’ve been trying to work out my cold weather outfits so they are layered in a way I can easily remove layers while biking – I hate stopping.  So far it’s been mixed, but I’ll keep trying things.  It’s crazy how much heat you generate once you’re going, but also how cold the exposed parts can get…

We’re supposed to have a high of 32F on Wednesday.  Whoa.  If I’d biked all winter like I said I was going to, that wouldn’t be so bad, but since I didn’t it sounds pretty darn cold.  I’ll post an update then to let everyone know.

In other news, I really, really miss my family right now.  I wish I could have been out there this weekend.  Love you all…