April 2006

28. April, 2006 - workin’ for the weekend?

Ahh, Friday. Only seven more days until the weekend. I’ve made a lot of progress this week, and feel as though I’m ready for a break. But this weekend isn’t going to be much of a break. Saturday looks like a trip to mom’s, popping by the Saints Training Camp if it’s not raining, and a party in the evening. Sunday there’s the photowalk, flipping the calendar to a new month (with the associated bills to pay) and collapsing in a heap on the couch once it’s done. It’s all stuff I want to do, but I think I’m going to need to schedule a weekend day with absolutely nothing sometime in the near future. Just not this weekend. Or next. Sigh.

Me at Oktoberfest 1980
Me at Oktoberfest 1980
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It almost makes me long for the days when I could spend the best part of three days walking around Munich with giant litre mugs of beer. Here’s a moment when I seem to have lost the beer and paused to prop myself up against a pillar. Given that I was almost as tall then as I am now, but weighed less than half as much, I was a much cheaper drunk. Not a prettier one. But the main thought I’m struck with when looking at this photo is Eric Forman could have kicked my ass, and was much cooler too. I’d like to think I’ve grown since then, and not just physically.

I don’t have all that many pictures of me through the years. Yeah, there are a bunch from when I was a little kid that I should scan someday. And there are yearbook photos from school. But from the time I graduated high school until today, I’d be lucky to find even one picture per year. I sometimes think I should try to correct that, but I’m a lot more comfortable on the side of the camera that doesn’t steal your soul…

27. April, 2006 - more text, fewer links

Yesterday was Wednesday, and if you’ve been reading me for any length of time, you know that’s meeting day at my new job. Some weeks (like last week) the meetings get cancelled, but yesterday I got nearly the full complement. I was definitely dragging by 5:30 when I headed out the door from work. As a result, I didn’t get out to take some new pictures like I’d planned, so this morning I went digging in the archives.

Basilica of St. Mary
Basilica of St. Mary
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The result is the large stained glass at the Basilica. This was shot off from the side and below, so I did some tweaking to get the perspective looking (nearly) right. The Camera Lens filter in Photoshop was not my friend this morning, but I managed to get pretty close by just doing a free transform. And a minor bump to the both the lightness and saturation of the reds, and here you are. The sharpness isn’t quite what I’d like, but I think the effort to correct the perspective was worth it.

I’m finding out about more of the tools available in Photoshop over time, and some of the ones I never would have touched a year ago are turning out to be pretty darned handy. Hue/Sat was very imposing, but once I’d seen examples of it in use, I felt confident enough to give it a try. I recommend Bruce Fraser’s Real World Photoshop CS2 if you’re in the same boat I was in. There’s an awful lot of good information in there.

On the other hand, I’d prefer not to need to do extensive edits in order to have a photo I want to post here. I’d rather just get it right in the camera in the first place, and that’s one of the reasons I wish there was a perspective correction lens that would work with my camera. As it is, I find myself tempted to get a Nikon D-200 just so I can use the PC-Nikkor 28 and Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8 PC lenses. Of course the price tag for that camera-bag full of stuff means that it’s just a dream for now, but maybe one of these years…

Which brings me to the last bit of the update for the day. The surveyors were out yesterday, and there are new markers on the corners of my lot. The reason I didn’t find the old ones was that I was looking on the street side of the sidewalk, not the house side. Oops. But hey, they’ve been found, which means that as soon as the weight restrictions come off the roads, the landscaping work is ready to go.

26. April, 2006 - hurried

Running a bit late this morning. Allergy season is in full swing, and an extra hour of shuteye just seemed like a darned good idea this morning.

ferns
ferns
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Ferns again, this time in color. I actually spent an awful lot of time on this picture with photoshop, mostly because I had a much larger photo and discovered this cool little bit of fern in the corner. But the whole was marred by the shadow on the wall of the garage behind it. Much effort spent playing with adjustment layers and such, but I like the result. I just wish I’d seen it when I was still holding the camera, so I could have captured it full-frame, rather than having to snip out a tiny corner of the frame I shot. Do you think it was worth the effort? Let me know. I don’t get much feedback on the photos, and find myself wondering if they’re worth the effort sometimes.

Dinner and drinks last night with some ex-cow-orkers. Good time, and Barley John’s was a darned good location for our group. Both of the seasonals were yummy, but I ended up switching to the wild brunette for the long-haul. Brown ales just seem to work better for me over the long run, even when they’re 7.5 percent alcohol. And that’s it for today. Time for me to get to work.

25. April, 2006 - chilly!

Yesterday morning, cloudy but pretty reasonable temperatures for this time of year. By the time I left work yesterday, it was down to 50 and feeling decidedly chilly. And it looks like it’s going to bottom out this morning at 33°F. No actual frost, but darned close to it. Makes me glad I didn’t get all excited about the garden yet.

bunny
bunny
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Pictures? Yeah, I’ve got some again. Yesterday’s ferns were one of the few I’ve taken recently that had strong enough lines that I thought it worked better in black & white. Today, just a bunny who lives in the neighborhood, and apparently sees me often enough that it’s not very frightened. I managed to walk up to within ten or twelve feet to take this picture. I like the way a guy can see the individual hairs in the rabbit’s coat. Looks warm to me this morning.

There’s a new development in the landscaping. I called in an actual surveyor. It’s gonna run between six and seven hundred to get my property mapped out, but I’ll get new markers placed at the four corners of the lot, and a drawn map which shows everything on the lot. But yesterday the city came by to grind out the tree stump that was on the boulevard of my neighbor’s lot. The wood chips are currently covering the property line I’m most concerned about for the landscaping, so I hope the city comes and picks them up before the surveyor gets here.

24. April, 2006 - back to it

No call from the contractors last Friday. That’s not a huge problem, but a little disconcerting, especially when I keep reading about all the problems Lileks is having with his water feature. But I remain confident I’ll hear back from them soon. Also no return-call from the appointment I’ve been trying to schedule. Sigh. I’d be tempted to just drop that one, except that I’ve paid for the work already, and just need to stop in to finish things up. Apparently pre-paying wasn’t the best plan.

Friday and Saturday were fairly sedentary. To bed early on Friday, and out of bed late on Saturday. Over ten hours of sleep. Out to the range on Saturday, where a friend and I put a couple hundred holes in various pieces of paper. We both, apparently, need more practice. Once that was done, I napped a bit, and then did some work in the basement. One of these years I’d like to make my basement habitable, but the fact that I can’t walk around upright down there is a powerful disincentive. I imagine that will eventually push me to replace the furnace, but not this year. Saturday night was spent staying up far too late reading a book. It’s been too long since I’ve done that.

ferns
ferns
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Yesterday was yard work. I cleared out the last of the pile of blocks and bricks from beside the garage. Moved the smaller pieces to the trash, and the larger pieces near the trash. I hope I haven’t misjudged how much I can dispose of in a single week, since too much means no trash pickup at all. Plus I filled in the resulting bare spot with grass seed. I also went out in the yard with the metal-detector, attempting to find the posts that mark the edge of my lot. Unfortunately, they’re either buried more than a foot deep, or I have no freakin’ idea where my property lines are. I guess that’s not a huge deal until the contractors get here, but now I need to decide whether we’re just going to wing it, or I call in professional help. Wish me luck!

Thinking ahead to next weekend, there’s the Flickr Twin Cities April Photowalk on Sunday, and Saints Training Camp opens on Saturday. Looks like a busy weekend coming, so I guess I’d better get started on the work-week.

21. April, 2006 - running late

This morning I decided to sleep in an extra two hours. Which is going to get me in to work later, which means I’ll be coming home about the time they take away the freeway near my house this evening. I’m already planning alternate routes.

I guess the good part of running behind today is that I’m going to still be at home late enough that I can call to make an appointment I’ve been putting off for a few weeks. Nothing major, but the office is only open when I’m at work or driving to and from, and I never think of calling from work. So I’ll try and schedule that a bit later this morning, and then I’ll be able to cross one more thing off the to-do list. Between that, and hopefully hearing from the contractor today with a bid, I think I’ll feel like it’s been a productive week, no matter how work goes. The only dark cloud on the metaphorical horizon is that two of my meetings that are normally held on Wednesdays got moved to Friday this week. Wednesday went great because of that, and I guess I’ll pay the price today.

20. April, 2006 - Vino 610

Dinner Club last night was at Vino 610. I had a good time there. The company was good. The wine was reasonably priced. The appetizers were good. And my dinner was good on the second try. When the waitress looked at the sad, gray slice of steak I’d cut off the first attempt, she said That’s way overdone, isn’t it? and took it back. I’m sure it didn’t hurt my case that when ordering, I’d asked whether medium-rare meant a red center. The next attempt arrived just right: Red warm center and will have a springy firmness. It’s a common failing, and we’d slammed the place by having a dozen people order entrees all at once, so I wasn’t upset — I know how easy it is to forget something on the grill for the extra minute or two it takes to go from medium rare to medium well, especially when things are really hopping in the kitchen. But I also wasn’t going to spend $20 for a steak that wasn’t done the way I’d asked for.

The downsides? Well, as I hinted at above, they don’t seem to be set up for getting a large group all at once. Our food arrived in waves, leading me to suspect that a table of four would be fine, but larger groups may be disappointed. Understandable, but it would have been nice to know that when Kat phoned ahead to see if they could handle twelve people.

The biggest problem was the noise level. The room is hard. Hard concrete floor, hard wood walls, hard glass windows, and a high hard ceiling all contributed to a loud room. On top of that, the sound system was turned up high enough to require everyone to raise their voices to be able to converse over the music. If you’re expecting a quiet romantic dinner, this might not be the place for you.

So I’d rate it pretty solidly in the upper middle of the pack. The service and food were good, but the ambience could use something to soak up the noise. And be clear that they’re a wine-bar with food, not a restaurant with a good wine list. If you set your expectations that way, there’s a lot to enjoy. The staff were friendly and patient with us, and the prices were reasonable for the quality of the food and drink. Call it a seven out of ten.

19. April, 2006 - wet

Nice thunderstorms last night. I wish I could say I’d gone out and tried to take some pictures of lightning, but by the time the light-show started, I was comfortably at home, digesting my dinner. No metal-detector searching for the corners for my lot, either. My cow-orker forgot to bring it in to work. No hurry though, since the contractor says he’ll probably be back on Friday with some sample blocks for the retaining wall and patio, and I really don’t have to know where the property line is until they start digging.

And I think that’s about it for this morning. As near as I can figure from the conflicting weather forecasts, there’s going to be more rain this week (even if they don’t agree when it’s coming), so there won’t be any fascinating tales of yard work. I guess I’ll just have to do my best to come up with something else to bore you with.

18. April, 2006 - contractors

This morning, I’m expecting a visit from the contractor. He’s going to rebid the retaining wall and patio, since concrete prices went up over the winter, and I’ve changed the design on the patio. Fair enough. And I’m excited to get the ball rolling here, even if it’s probably going to cost more than I had planned.

Also today, a cow-orker is going to bring his metal detector in to work. I’ll use that, perhaps this evening, to find the markers for the corner of my lot, so I can tell the contractor how far he can go with the retaining wall. I wonder how many false alarms I’ll have before I find the markers. It won’t be as good as if I’d hired a surveyor, but it’s probably good enough. More information is at Minneapolis’ property line information page.

And I think that’s going to do it for this morning. I figure I should probably make sure I’m not still in the shower when the contractor shows up. Wouldn’t do to keep him waiting.

17. April, 2006 -

It was a good weekend. I just stayed home on Friday evening. Saturday I ran a bunch of errands, napped, and visited with a friend who stopped by to take away a bunch of old patio blocks I didn’t want or need anymore. The windows were open all day Saturday for the first time this year, which was nice. Sunday I visited mom and then hid inside with closed windows avoiding the high winds which seemed to be stirring up more allergens than I wanted to be around.

On Saturday evening, we talked about my patio plans. I’m leaning toward the circular patio that she recommended. I’ve got an area bounded by the house and the sidewalk, twelve feet on a side. That’s two sides of the patio nailed down. But putting some sort of circular section for the rest of the patio is appealing (even though it’ll be more of a hassle to mow around). I know I want it to run into the house and sidewalk 12′ from the corner, and I think putting the center of the circular section 4′ up and over from the corner (or 5′ 7¾″ on the diagonal) is right. The math looks like a 9′ radius circle on that point is pretty close to what I want (it’s less than an inch too long). Does that description make sense to anyone but me? I’m betting it’s going to cost a lot more than a rectangular patio because they’re going to have to cut bunches of blocks, but I had already decided I wanted the hex or honeycomb pavers, which meant cutting for a rectangular patio, too. Oh well, I guess it can’t hurt to ask. If the contractor ever returns my calls.

14. April, 2006 - in a rut

I was thinking that I might try to get up and out of the house even earlier than normal this morning, perhaps getting an opportunity for some nice sunrise photos, but I find myself here typing as the sun is rising instead. I was halfway through the morning reading before I realized that I was hoping to do something else. Guess I’m in a rut. But hey, at least you get a morning update.

13. April, 2006 - Just a month

This morning I spent a few minutes looking at the Saints schedule and realized that there’s just a month left before the season starts. Given the warm weather we’ve had this week, that seems like a long way off, but I keep thinking that this is not a normal Minnesota spring, and we might even get snow again before it turns nice for keeps. I hope not, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I’ve also noticed this week that I’m already doing things to avoid going out and working in the yard. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Too much time working on the grass and such would mean I’d be tempted to get started on the garden, too, and it’s definitely too early for that. So instead I’ve been doing things like visiting friends or going to the local watering hole, when I really should be cleaning out the garage, or going for a ride on my trike. Perhaps this weekend I’ll make the mental transition.

Spring in Minnesota is generally a pretty good time, complete with college gals throwing off their parkas and showing off their spring-break-tanned bodies. But the biggest downside of spring in Minnesota is that the crazies come out, too. Two weeks ago, there was the guy who thought he was Jesus at the bar. Yesterday, a friend got accosted by the neighborhood “thugs,” a handful of teenagers who are apparently hassling people on the streets.

I’m glad I haven’t had an encounter with such yet this year, but I worry about the day. Not so much because I feel threatened by them (though there is an element of that) as by the fact that it would be far too tempting to “escalate the situation” to the point that someone would need to call the police. I’d rather just avoid the whole mess in the first place.

And that’s the same reason I don’t see “patching things up” from last year’s party, either. I don’t hate ’em, but I seem to feel better when they’re not around. Is it cowardly, or “being an asshole” to avoid people who make you feel bad? Could be, but I don’t particularly care. Life’s too short.

And before this goes any further off the rails, I guess it’s time to get to work for the day. If the weather and my sleeping patterns hold for tomorrow, I might skip the update. I keep seeing beautiful sunrises out the window while I’m writing these morning rambles, and it might be time to get outside and actually enjoy one. So maybe I’ll see you tomorrow, but if not, have a swell weekend.

12. April, 2006 - tired

Tired this morning. I went over to some friends’ house last night and hung out with them for a few hours talking, and generally having a good time. Got home and to bed about the normal time, but for some reason woke up at 3am this morning. Finally decided to get out of bed around 4 because I just wasn’t getting back to sleep, but now, at 6am, as I’m wrapping up the blogging for the morning, I’m feeling tired. And I know that if I go back to bed, I’ll sleep until noon or so, which wouldn’t exactly be a career-enhancing maneuver, since I have a meeting to get to this morning.

So I guess it’s just a matter of powering through the sleepiness with a combination of Mountain Dew and Sudafed. I’ll probably be okay, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I had an overpowering urge to nap sometime after lunch this afternoon.

11. April, 2006 - no pictures

Yesterday was a beautiful day here in the Twin Cities. And it was made even better by a power outage at work about 4pm which sent me home a bit early. Came home to a temperature of 79 degrees in the back yard, and did a little more chopping apart of the brick-like black dirt left after last year’s sidewalk work, putting down some grass seed, and hauling out the hose to water it. I also noticed that some of the seed put down last fall has started to poke through the surface, so I have high hopes for having healthy grass there. Of course I’ll be complaining about having to mow it in a month or two, but for now it feels nice.

I’ve decided to take a day or two off from the posting of pictures. With the nice weather predicted for this week (including a chance for thunderstorms — maybe I’ll get a chance to do some lightning photography), I’m going to try and spend more time outside in the evening rather than post-processing up photographs for the website. If this bothers you greatly, you could always drop a note which might encourage me a bit.

10. April, 2006 - the cycle begins

Another weekend come and gone. Pretty darned nice weather, and they say it’s going to be around 70 outside today, too. Almost makes a guy wish he had some time off accumulated, but he doesn’t, and it appears he won’t anytime soon, either. This is the part of the year when I suspect the change to a full-time job will hit me hardest. There’s a lot of things I want to be doing outside this time of year, and just not enough hours to do them.

That said, I did get ouside enough to sunburn my forehead a bit over the weekend. Saturday I headed out to Peter’s Billiards to pick up the last two chairs to complete the setup around my dining-room / poker table. For the past couple years, I’ve had only four chairs for a six-person table, which meant pressing others into service. It worked, but this way is better, and I needed something to spend my tax-return on. After that, I spent a couple hours out in the yard. I cleaned all the dead vegetation out of the garden and from along the side of the garage. The result was two trash bags of “yard waste” and another six inches of stuff in the compost bin (which got a good stirring), which needs watering so it’ll be moist enough to start going again for the year. I also loosened some of the bare dirt left over from last fall’s sidewalk project and threw some grass seed into it. Didn’t water it, since I figure we’ll get rain soon enough, and maybe I’ll get some more done before that rain hits. That and the garden hose is currently somewhere in the basement.

Horse Detail 3
Horse Detail 3
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Sunday I headed over to the Summit Brewery to pick up my Saints season tickets for the year. I’m a little unhappy with the schedule, since they’re doing things like having a Saturday night game on the 6th of May (which is awfully early in the year for a night game, especially on a weekend when folks could go to the game during the day), but generally the schedule looks good, and it was nice seeing the other fans again.

Carousel Roof
Carousel Roof
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The pictures. These are the last of the carousel pictures that I had meant to post last Friday. There’s another detail of a horse’s head, and a picture showing the interior of the roof of the carousel. The latter shows the big bearing on top that carries the weight of the whole thing. The carousel is entirely suspended and that black thing where all the cables converge holds up everything. Kinda cool, actually, though I don’t think the picture does it justice.

And I think that’s going to do it for today. It’s time for me to look through the bills, write a few checks, and then get off to work for the week. Wish me well.

7. April, 2006 - uh-oh

Had problems with my server this morning. There was some task that was running away and sucking all the CPU. By the time I had the colocation people reboot it, it was time to head to work. And that’s the update for today.

6. April, 2006 - back to work

I’m still not feeling 100%, but today it’s time to get back in to work. Not sure what the day will hold, but I’m suspecting that a large part of it will be dealing with email from the days I took off. Wish me luck.

The Makers
The Makers
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I’m winding down on the carousel photos. Today there’s a picture of the plaque showing who made the carousel. Wikipedia has an article on the company, saying that The company’s carousels were preferred among discriminating clients, for their elaborate carvings and elegant decorations. Cool.

Loaded for Bear
Loaded for Bear
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Then there’s the horse with the rifle (is that a Winchester? I bet it is). I thought it was pretty cool looking, if not exactly politically correct in today’s climate. There were pistols on a few horses as well, but this is the gun photo that turned out the best of the lot.

Tomorrow I’ll be wrapping up the carousel photos. Next week? I dunno. There’s a few pictures of critters from Como Park Zoo, plus there’s a bunch left from the downtown walk over a month ago now. I’m betting the week will be something of a grab bag. Or maybe I’ll find something to take pictures of this weekend. I suspect I’ll more likely just stay inside and avoid getting any cold winds in my tender ears, though.

5. April, 2006 - better?

Went to the doctor yesterday. My ears were screwed up, which confirms what I thought was going on. Then to Target to fill the prescription and pick up a few necessities, and back home to sleep away the afternoon while “watching” a couple movies. The only one I completely slept through was something on the TiVo that I didn’t really care if I saw or not, so that was just fine by me. I’m feeling a little better this morning, but think I’m going to take another day off. My brain still feels fuzzy, and my ears haven’t stopped hurting. No point in going back only to feel miserable and have to head home mid-day.

Smile!
Smile!
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More pictures of things on horses’ butts today. A grinning cat (?), an Indian Head and an eagle. The first still intrigues me, and I wonder if there’s a story behind it. The toothy grin just catches my eye, I guess. And the crude lines work better for me than it if had been sculpted more realistically.

No Wooden Nickel
No Wooden Nickel
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To the right, a carved Indian Head, similar to that found on US pennies around the turn of the century or that of a Cigar Store Indian. The gold paint around the edges stood out nicely, and it was just visually appealing.

Eagle
Eagle
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Finally, there’s a gilt eagle. I pumped up the highlights a little to get it to look more like what I actually saw, and I like the way it’s peering over the rump of the horse. Again, it was something that caught my eye, and I think I got a fairly accurate rendering of what I saw almost two weeks ago.

I think that’s going to do it for today. I’m a little light on the links again. At this point, I think it’s as much due to it being a slow news day as to my not feeling well. In any case, you get what you get. Here’s hoping I’m feeling better tomorrow. I’ve used up all of my sick-time at work, so today’s probably going to be an unpaid day off. Kinda sucks, but there you have it. Hopefully this is my one big illness for the year, and I’ll be in good shape once I kick it.

4. April, 2006 - Sick
Nice Kitty
Nice Kitty
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So I did decide to stay home from work yesterday. Went back to bed after the morning update and woke around noon. Headed out to do a few “daytime” errands that have been piling up for a while, and got them done, and then back home for more laying about. By the time the day was done, my head-congestion had transformed itself into an ear infection. Ugh. Now I need to decide whether I’m going to take some time off this morning to head to the doctor, or just go to work and hope I can work through the day with some invisible friend driving an icepick into my head-holes.

Nice Doggie
Nice Doggie
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In today’s pictures, I continue with detail pictures of the horses. Each horse on the outside row of the carousel has different adornments, many in the form of a badge or something on the horse’s butt. Here are two such. The kitty is facing backwards, looking over one horse’s tail. The dog is just a badge on the side of another horse’s hip, but I couldn’t very well have a cat without a dog, could I?

And that’s about all I have energy for today. Sure there are some links, but the commentary on them might be a bit off. I know I’m sick, and it’s quite possible I’m feverish and making no sense at all, but things mostly seem reasonable to me. But then maybe I’m feverish… I think the fact that I’m unsure gives me a clue as to whether I should go to work or not. Programming when I’m not particularly sharp has led to some very frustrating debugging sessions in the past. Usually best in the long run to just not write anything new when I’m feeling like this.

3. April, 2006 - A new month
Horse Detail 1
Horse Detail 1
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I’ve been looking forward to April for a few weeks now. It marks the start of spring in my mind, and that’s a good thing. But it hasn’t been much of a month so far. Friday night (still March, but what the heck), I came home from work and never made it out to the Auto Body Experience show that night. I just wasn’t feeling very good. Saturday, a friend that I’d like to see was in town from Duluth, and there was also a party in the ’burbs to attend. Did neither. Sunday, I made it out for another friend’s birthday, but called it an early evening there after a little more than an hour. So what did I do over the weekend? Not a heck of a lot. Mostly went to bed early and slept late, and hoped that I’d be feeling better when it was time to head off to work this morning. Doesn’t seem to have worked especially well.

Horse Detail 2
Horse Detail 2
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But hey, there’s pictures of horsies on the carousel this week. Today I start with a couple of horse’s heads. Anything especially notable about them? Not that I know of. But they’re something to get the week started. You’ve gotta start somewhere, right?

And “starting somewhere” is going to be a challenge today. I need to get going for the week, both for work and around home. I got something of a start by doing a load of laundry this morning. Next up is a session of bill-paying, hoping that the direct deposit from work actually worked. And when that’s done, I need to decide whether to go to work today or not. I’m feeling cruddy and might just use that one personal day I’ve accumulated. Sorry for the “down” tone of the update this morning.

Last Month
Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 14:00:48.