Monthly Archives: November 2009

Paranormal Activity – don’t watch it at home!

Kristin and I have been enjoying the big malls here in Manila, but I was really wanting to go to a movie.  That’s something that we both really enjoy but don’t make the time to do much back in the states and since we are supposedly on vacation here we looked up the listings and found a movie we would *both* enjoy.  Twilight is evidently huge over here and has overtaken many of the screens, leaving few choices.  I had read a good red box blog about Paranormal Activity, and since Kristin had been gone for Halloween when I typically try to watch a horror movie, this seemed like a good choice.  Paranormal Activity was a fantastic choice as it wound the audience tight and was a well shot and written horror movie.

The movie is about a couple who deal with a demonic haunting following Katie, the female protagonist.  Micah, the male protaganist and boyfriend who can handle whatever is going wrong in his home, decides to film and communicate with the demon.  There are only two other people in the movie and they have only bit parts.  Realistically, the best part of the movie is when the camera is set still and covers the entrance to the bedroom and the bed.  The movie is completely shot with a handheld (albeit professional grade) camera, so be prepared for some wobbly camera shots.

I get really immersed in horror movies and know that they are especially awesome when the entire theater audience gets into them.  My previous best experience at a horror movie was at a showing of The Ring, when the whole theater was gasping and nervously chuckling altogether – someones phone rang in the theater about half way through, which resulted in a short scream.  Well folks, that happened again with Paranormal Activity and it was fantastic. 

The audience was really into it and by the end of the movie, everytime we cut to a night shot the audience would start to chatter nervously and and that enourmously dialed up the tension.  When the good stuff happened, the screams filled the theater.  Speaking of the good stuff, the effects are great and I was really impressed to see that the director and editor refrained from cheap “jumps” by  not doing stuff everytime they panned the handheld camera around.  That added to the tension rather than diminishing it.

Kristin and I were creeped out all night by this movie and even into this morning, talking about what some of the things meant and how it was supposed to be interpreted.   We were very glad we didn’t watch this by ourselves, in our home.  Any couple that chooses to do that and genuinely gets into the movie is setting themselves up for a bad night!

Everything is OK after the last night.

Trust me.

A solid A for this one.


SMTP & Comment Goodnes

This blog is slowly growing up and getting more complex.  Today I have fixed the SMTP issue that meant I didn’t know when I had comments to approve and added a change that should send you an email when your comment has “cleared” moderation and then will send you an auto-reply when someone else comments on that blog post.  Two plugins and one email address was created to make this functional.

First, I installed and activated a plugin called Configure SMTP that moved the mail function out of PHP and onto the SMTP protocol that I know a bit more about.  This also allowed for much more granular mail settings, including using gmail as an SMTP relay.   In order to do this, a functional gmail account needs to be setup.  If you get an email from in the future, now you will know why 🙂

Second, the WP Comment Auto Responder plugin was downloaded and activated.  This should, theoretically, do a better job of keeping you in the loop as far as comments go and also email me when comments are posted.  Previously, I would only get emails when a comment was awaiting moderation.

Remember to add to your address book!  Getting these emails will be worth it, I promise 😀


Made it!

At about 1:30 am Manila time I finally made it into the hotel, which means that I traveled for nearly exactly 24 hours to make it here.  Exhausting!  It was interesting at the main Manila airport (Where the service goes the extra SMILE!) where it was line after line that seemed fairly pointless.  Medical, then immigration, then finally customs.  Before customs I waited a good ten minutes to turn $40 int a solid 1860 Pesos, of which my taxi ride from the airport (another 1o minute line) cost 240.  Arriving at the airport, they insisted on calling Kristin’s room to make sure she was really expecting me, gave me a key and I had finally arrived.  Whew!  Too bad the key they gave me broke Kristin’s keys, but I suppose it couldn’t be perfect.  It is awesome to be with Kristin again!  🙂

On the plane I was super annoyed with an older lady who took my Window seat.  She practically refused to move, finally saying “well, I don’t want to be sandwiched between two men!”   I just kept reiterating that she was in my seat.  As a stewardess came over to see what was up just as I said, “fine.”  She asked me if I was sure that was OK, I just nodded and sat down, not wanting to push it anymore.  The lady got the patented MN passive aggressive treatment from then on as I pretended she wasn’t there.  But when I looked at her, sleeping with her head against the bulkhead, which was the only reason I had wanted a window seat, I knew she had come out ahead.  Sigh.  I didn’t even get out the noise canceling earphones, which actually served as awesome earplugs on the first leg.  I read a little, watched the movie without sound (its amazing how much more of the set details and acting you can absorb that way) and mentally willed the time to go faster.  It felt as long as the first flight.

I think it is time to go wander around having successfully retrieved three roles of toilet paper which they are unexpectedly stingy with in a $110 a night hotel.  Called the front desk and talked to two different maids in the hallway and put that in the stash.  I have the “please clean our room” tag out, so hopefully we’ll get at least one more as I have stashed the rest away 🙂


Trip to Manila, flight leg #1

It’s hard to believe that I left at ~10 am and showed up here about 15 hours later with about 12 hours of flight time.  I must have fallen asleep everytime they got ready to trundle out the drink cart, because I got one diet coke on the entire flight.  I managed to get all three meals, though but I would have been way better off missing one of them and getting a couple more diet sodas.  Thanks to Dan for showing me the empty waterbottle trick  (bring empty waterbottles and fill them at the drinking fountains post security checkpoint) when we went to Dugway, it would have been much more irritating had I not had my own bottled water to fall back on.

I had the great fortune of having a window seat and an adjacent empty seat.  Since the 747 configuration featured 3 seats in the outside rows, that meant the lady on the aisle and myself shared the middle seat as a place to store our stuff.  I was quick to steal the extra mini-pillow, too, and I think I probably slept about four hours during the flight.  Strangely, the first movie shown was “The Time Travelers Wife.”  This was strange because I was listening to the audio book at the same time.  From what I saw of the movie, you should read the book.  Next up was “Land of Lost” with Will Ferrell – an airplane is a perfect venue for that movie, for sure.  Not good, but mildly amusing and you don’t feel bad if you miss some of it.  I managed to listen to about three more hours of that audio book and read sixty pages of the new Stephen King novel Under the Dome which is starting out well.

Dad, I made sure to choose the beef for the inflight meal.  It at least resembled beef 😉


Working Downtown

Today marks the one week anniversary of starting my new job at Lawson Software in pleasant down town St. Paul.  At some point, I’ll have to write about that in greater detail.  For now, I am reveling in the downtown work experience.

For those unfamiliar where I used to work, the BAE Systems “plant” in Fridley was just that.  It is a massive 2million square foot manufacturing building whose closest neighbor is huge rail yard and the only food within walking distance was the Aramark caf in the building.  At one point, I believe there were more than 10,000 workers at this building and it was considered out of town.  In my time there, the number had dwindled down to something like 1,000, resulting in a ghost-town-like creepy feeling.  No windows were present in the part of the building where I served my tenure.

Anyway, the vibe here is much different.  Downtown St. Paul seems pretty nice with plenty of shops within walking distance.  Where I work, the Lawson Building, is full and bustling with something like five restaurants and a convenience store inside of it.  I am up on the 10th floor and the set of windows near my cube overlooks a park, the St. Paul Library, the Museum, and finally the river.  Today I wanted a quick lunch so that I would have time to walk to the Waldenbooks down the block – I was down to Chipotle and back to my desk in about five minutes.  I was Zune shopping recently and I managed to find a seller in downtown St. Paul so we just met over lunch to do our business which was very convenient.

Is it all wonderful?  Our commute lengthened by about eight miles (worth 10-15 minutes) one way and parking is expensive (~$6.50 per day.)  The parking situation also makes it tough to justify driving anywhere during the day as that would incur more parking fees.  It is hard to meet non-St. Paul colleagues for lunch because of this, and running home over a lunch time is no longer feasible.  We plan on making extensive use of the bus system to reduce the cost but that really hinders our flexibility just that much more.

In the end, I am excited to be downtown.  It feels different because it is different and I think that in the near term it will be much better.

Now to figure out how to pick up a half eaten Chipotle burrito without spilling it all over my desk…


Farmer for a day…

Every once in a great while my Dad calls me up and asks for help.  This weekend was one of those times, I didn’t get there as quick as I should have but I made it for a few hours Saturday and the entire time the COOP was open on Sunday.

My Dad had me come down and haul loads into town, Plainfield in this case. It is one of the easiest, if not most exciting job around.  Basically, it entails:

  1. Driving a tractor and wagons either out to a field or up to a bin to be filled.
  2. Driving them into to town where the whole setup is weighed and the moisture is tested.
  3. Dumping the grain into the COOPs storage.
  4. Getting weighed again and picking up the result slip.
  5. Driving home and doing it all again.

Sounds pretty straight forward.  The trip to Plainfield is only about 5 miles, the catch is that 800 bushels of corn at 56lbs a bushel plus the tractors and wagons weighs a lot.  This limits reasonable speed to about 15mph otherwise the rear wagon starts wandering around – a scary thing given it weighs at least 23,000 lbs.  As you can see from the pictures, once unloaded the tractor can be run with the throttle to the floor in the highest gear – a blazing 20 miles per hour!  It makes the round trip take a little over an hour.

It was a good weekend.


Wall Mounting the Dell 23″

I finally got around to mounting the LCD in the workout area to the wall.  This meant that I could move the center channel speaker back onto the shelf where it belonged, starting the transition away from the current layout that includes the glorious old 21″ Sony Trinitron that I bought in 2003 for the princely sum of ~$562.  Free shipping, of course.  Which was important, give its packaged weight rating of 80lbs.

Anyway, this is my first attempt at a gallery like this WordPress.  I think it turned out pretty good, actually.


I’ve been Zuned!

With the big trip to Manila looming and the lack of a smart phone seriously reducing the level of technology I have been carrying around, I decided to take a peek at Craigslist for either the smaller flash Zunes or an even older 30GB hard drive based model.  I found an ugly yet functional brown 30GB Zune right in downtown St. Paul, I met the guy over lunch and I now have a Zune of my own.  Why a Zune?  Here is my top ten list:

1. It’s not an iPod – no iTunes required.

2. Even the oldest Zunes are feature complete – they keep getting new firmware.  Try that with your iPod.

3.  The Zune Pass.  $15 a month, you get unlimited music from the Zune store PLUS you get to *buy/keep* 10 tracks a month.  You can have this used by up to three Zunes and three PCs simultaneously.

4. Seriously cheap accessories.

5.  It is not an iPod.  I can hook it up to a bunch of different PC’s to sync music to it and evidently from it.  I’ll be testing this out more later.

6. FM + FM tune tagging.  I like listening to the 93x morning show and *if* I get the Zune pass, I like the idea of just snagging a song title on the way into work and having it automatically pull the song down when I get to work.  I’ll be taking the bus to work soon and this should work out nicely.

7.  Pretty big screen for video and a solid amount of storage.

8.  Wireless syncing for leaving it in the car yet having new music put on it.

9.  It was cheap.

10. It comes in Brown.  Best. Idea. Ever.

Do you see how well it coordinates with our fall placemats?  Priceless!

Do you see how well it coordinates with our fall placemats? Priceless!


PS:  Not an iPod.  This me showing my nonconformity.   That’s right, by choosing Microsoft.

Deal of the Day

When I come across a deal I think is good, I am going to start posting it up here…

$30 shipped Cooler Master Case

I almost exclusively use Cooler Master cases now, and while I haven’t used this exact one, I believe I have used this base chassis before.  It works well – and you can’t beat a solid case that comes with two fans for less than $30 with free shipping.  If you have a crappy case or will be doing a new build in the next couple of months, hit this guy up…



It happened, and I thought it was pretty awesome 🙂

Unfortunately, no pictures were taken.  Doh.

Please leave me some comments if you have any feedback.

Looking at the first weekend of April for the full up NATLAN 2010.  We’ll be looking to get a full 24 people for what is likely to be some great Team Fortress 2 action.  What do you all think about that?  T-shirts and the whole bit 🙂