Archive for the ‘Minneapolis’ Category

Married People Conversations: Dream House

December 20, 2011

Sunday was gorgeous. The sun was shining, all of the snow had melted away, and it was a balmy 40F. The Hubby and I decided to walk up to Calhoun Square to make some much-needed Vitamin D, and to stop at Jimmy Johns for sandwiches (well…a sandwich for him and a gluten-free lettuce wrap for me).

Along the way we ran across a nice-looking 2.5 story house for sale, which sparked the time eternal husband-wife Dream House Conversation. The Hubby and I have radically different views on what the ideal house looks like. I want a house with lots of hidey-holes, closets, odd rooms, funny half-levels, and stairs and doorways arranged every which way. I like older, established houses that have Character.

My sort of house. Image Source

The Hubby wants a big garage, a place for him to set up a workshop, and a man den. He likes strong angles and unique features, but most important above everything else, the Hubby wants a New House. He thinks an older house would be too much work; he wants to start fresh with a recently-built house or a brand-new construction that won’t give him any headaches (I call poopy-cocka on this because every house gives you headaches. It’s just more disappointing when the new ones fall apart). He actually likes cookie-cutter subdivisions – blech!

The Hubby’s sort of house. Image Source

But we both agree that owning a certain styles of a smallish, converted church would be incredible. I love the wonky architecture in some churches, and he likes the brick work and big open area that would be left from where the congregation used to sit. Although according to the Hubby, it would need all updated fixtures, plumbing and any structural repairs done right away so he wouldn’t have to fix anything later. F%^&ing stubborn Swedes.

Dream house! Image Source

Anyway, that was an unusually long lead-in to a MPC, but this is the conversation that started up after running across the house for sale in South Minneapolis:

Me: That one looks nice.

The Hubby: Yeah, it looks well-kept. Hey – it’s got one of those barcodes. Scan it and see if it tells you how much they’re asking.

I scan the QR barcode and the property information comes up.

Me: $450,000.

The Hubby [grunting]: Wow. Someday, maybe.

Crossing the street we pass a HUGE church with beautiful stained windows and stone walls.

Me: I want that house.

The Hubby: [perking up] Yeah!

Me: Can we keep the stained glass windows? They’re awfully pretty and not overly religious.

The Hubby: Sure.

Me: I want to model it after that place in Saint Louis that we visited.

The Hubby: The City Museum – definitely!

Me: Really? You’d put a slide in?

The Hubby: Hell, yeah! A slide, a couple of fire poles, a tight winding staircase. I mean, we could have regular stairs too, but it’d be fun to jump out of bed and slide down to the kitchen for breakfast.

Me: Hey, can we put an elevator or a lift or escalator in, too?

The Hubby: No way.

Me: But what about our friends and family who don’t navigate stairs so well?

The Hubby: I want everything to be green and not require any energy use, so when the apocalypse hits we can still use our house.

Me: Oh, right. ‘Cuz when the apocalypse hits, our house is going to still be standing. Or if it does actually make it through whichever disaster scenario we go through, we’re not going to be overrun with survivors looting us for all we’ve got.

The Hubby: Well, that’s what the machine-gun turrets are for.

Me:  Ahhh…

A comfortable pause as we walk along and consider our house.

Me: Can we rig up a pulley system lift that doesn’t require any energy?

The Hubby: Sure, why not? Now, where in an ex-church is a good place to put a leathercrafting workshop?

Calculus: The Musical

December 8, 2011

On Tuesday a friend invite me to join him for a show at Huge Improv Theater called Calculus: The Musical. It was a small production. Two actors portrayed many different characters, there was no intermission, and there were several frenzied costume changes during the show. Both actors played guitar at points, and one had several pieces on an electric keyboard. It had all the elements that I love in a musical comedy: Witty characters, fast-paced dialogue and action, a dash of slapstick, various overdone accents, a multimedia presentation, a blending of musical styles (from classical to rap and a lot in between), and a man playing Sir Isaac Newton talking to a little action figure of himself (“Little Isaac”) and then having the action figure answer back in a higher-pitched version of his true voice. Okay, that last was specific to Calculus: The Musical and not at all something I look for in musical comedies.

As the name might imply to those among you who are particularly quick-witted, it was about calculus. As a mathphobe who never made it all the way through a calculus course I was worried that all of the jokes would go right over my head. I did miss some of them; several times my friend’s giggling indicated that something humorous had transpired on stage after some dialoguey gobbledygook about derivitives, functions, limits and infinite series. But the writer managed to incorporate calculus without making the storyline completely unintelligible to the uninitiated.

You can listen to songs from the musical at maththeater.com. Here are the lyrics from the only song that I can actually claim to have understood entirely. It’s called 5 Sizes of Numbers:

There are 5 sizes of numbers,
Big Infinity and small Zero,
And the Finite in the middle,
They’re the ones, I’m sure you know.

But now we look between Finite and Zero.
To numbers so small, they’re nothing at all,
But still a little larger than a Zero.
Their name is Infinitesimal.

On the other side of Finite,
There are numbers too large to say,
Infinites are what we call them,
They are big, in every way.

But they will never quite be Infinity,
They’re not quite as big, not even close.
We’ll use all of these numbers in Cal-cu-lus,
The numbers, I love the most.

It only gets nerdier from there. They have a song about Bernhard Reimann in the style of Eminem’s Without Me. Just sayin’.

Calculus: The Musical has been touring nationally for six years, and it stopped in Minneapolis only for a couple of days. But they have shows scheduled from now through May of 2012 in different parts of the country. I had a good time, maybe even learned a thing or two, and it reminded me that I really need to stop procrastinating and start reading that copy of Jennifer Ouellette’s Calculus Diaries that I got for Christmas and have left languishing on my bookshelf for the last year!

Twin Cities: First Snowfall 2011

November 21, 2011

Winter is here, and so is winter driving! Or, as one friend likes to call it: “The Season During Which Minnesotans Relearn Physics.”

Well, we knew we couldn’t avoid it forever. But man, things change fast up here! I mean a day prior it was a typical sunny, cool, fall day. And then on Saturday it was all like:

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Photos in order are: 35W South, Driving Across the 35W Bridge, Downtown Minneapolis and the Stone Arch Bridge, Near Hwy 7 & Hwy 100 in St. Louis Park, Lake Calhoun, Uptown, Our Front Yard, and The Hubby in the Snow.

Yuck! But there are a couple of awesome things associated with the first snowfall of the year:

1) I made an appointment to get snow tires put on my car on Friday evening. If I was a day trader I would so have been buying stock in tire companies in Minnesota at the end of last week. I don’t know how Discount Tire in Eden Prairie managed to fit me in, but they did. Off came the worn, barely-acceptable-for-dry-summer-roads tires, and on went shiny new Michilin X-Ice 2s! Considering what the roads looked like at the end of Saturday afternoon, I felt really lucky to have gotten this chore done just in the nick of time.

2) We managed to get the motorcycle put away for the winter on Saturday morning just as it was starting to snow. We didn’t really make it to our storage garage in Mounds View before it got gross out, but we did manage to minimize the damage.

I was the driver for this little expedition and had to get all winter-geared up for the 15-mile drive in 25°F, lightly snowing weather.

I’m wearing thick socks, insulated ankle-high workboots, jeans, carhart overalls, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, my leather motorcycle jacket, a carhart coat, lined leather gloves, a neck wrap, a fleece hood that covers my nose and mouth, and my full-face helmet.

I’ll start out by saying that we made it to Mounds View without incident. But the ride overall…what’s the word…oh yeah – sucked. The Hubby rode behind me in the car and I slowly made my way up 35W on the light layer of fresh, blowing snow. One thing that I discovered right away is that the snow was heavier and wetter than I had anticipated. I had to keep wiping snow off of my face shield, and near the very end of the ride it started icing over and had to be scraped off. Blergh. But, like I said, this was earlier in the day, so the snow hadn’t started to really accumulate yet and clog up the roads. And now it’s done.

That’s about it. The snow stayed overnight and through the weekend. It hasn’t melted yet, but the temperature is supposed to rise up to as high as 50°F by the week’s end, which should make Black Friday shopping a bit more cheery!

Jury Duty

November 14, 2011

So, I pulled jury duty for Hennepin Country, and today I’m starting a two-week term of service. I was originally on the call-in list, but I guess Hennepin County is feeling a might criminally and civil complainty this month because our group was called in on Day 1. Now we’re no longer on the call-in list; we’re in the active pool. This means I have to show up to the Government Center in downtown Minneapolis and report to the Jury Assembly room (or a courtroom) every. day. for the next 10 business days.

But – there is no court on Thanksgiving or the day after Thanksgiving (thank FSM that my Black Friday consumerism won’t be hindered by a sense of court-ordered social obligation!), and being on jury duty is a pretty easy gig.

I show up, check in, and then lounge around in a comfy room with comfy chairs. There are lots of tables, electrical outlets and pretty decent WiFi, which means that I can use the internet and charge my phone and laptop throughout the day. There is *nothing* to do if I’m not actively on a jury panel – and I mean that in the best way possible. I can read, play online (maybe catch up on some of my 2,626 twitter favorites that I’ve got racked up), play games on my phone or iPod, listen to music, watch movies or TV on my laptop, talk on the phone, and I can eat or drink in here. They also have a TV room and office. I could even pull up work email and documents if I run out of other amusements!

Missing work is the only part that is frustrating. I’m in the middle of a couple of big projects, and while work is understanding, there are still things that I need to get done in the next two weeks. Which means I’ll end up doing work at home and possibly have to go in on the weekend to play catch-up. Ah well, it’s a good job; I enjoy…hrm…perhaps that’s too strong… I *appreciate* what we’re doing and it’s worth it.

So, I may be around the interwebs a bit more than usual in the next two weeks. Say hi! And if you’re downtown (I’m looking at you Heidi and Alicia!) and want to catch lunch, I do get noon-1:30pm free if I’m not assigned to a panel.

Let the court-imposed sort-of vacation begin!

Weekend Nerd Updates and New CUP Photo Info

November 6, 2011

1) I saw Lazer Tag in Macy’s. I wanted it. Badly. The Hubby didn’t agree to the purchase. I almost had a temper tantrum in the store like a two year old.

2) Later at Target we were walking through the 50% off Halloween aisles, and I managed to convince The Hubby to try on this Batboy costume. He didn’t let me buy it for him, but I was actually okay with that.

3) We actually did buy this from the Target 50% off Halloween aisle and made the dog wear it. There’s a special kind of hell waiting for people like us.

4) I found this cartoon of Dumbo with stretched earlobes on poorlydressed.com and have been trying to find a way to work it into a blog post ever since.

5) While grocery shopping I saw this jumbo pack of lunch-size chips, and the first thing I thought was “Eat ALL the chips!

6) My new shirt came in from lolshirts.com!

7) The Hubby and I each bought funny looking shoes.

8 ) The Hubby and I played Dodgeball with a bunch of grown adults and had a BLAST. We’re going again next Wednesday. You know, if we can walk again by then. So…much…pain! Not from getting hit with dodgeballs (they’re foam, not rubber), but we’re trying to recover from the aching shoulders, spasming back muscles and burning knee and hip joints from the overexertion! Also, I have a blister on my big toe *sniff*.

Close-Up Photo Contest

I’ve had several people remind me that we’re not done with the CUP Contest. I love that you guys love it so much. So here’s the deal: Starting on Tuesday November 8th, I will be posting a new CUP EVERY DAY at noon (12pm Central Standard Time). We’re going to play every day until somebody reaches 1000 points. After that I’m thinking about keeping it as a regular feature, but we’ll have individual winners for each photo entry. So, keep your eyes open – somebody is going to win the CUP Contest very, very soon!

Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure

October 25, 2011

On Saturday I participated in the Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure. I posted about the race last week, and since then I’ve had people emailing me for more information. Apparently the race is going to be held in several cities across the U.S., and enterprising individuals are looking for clues or trying to decide if they want to get in on the action. I’m not going to share specific clues that we given here on the blog, but I’ve made a couple of lists about my experience with the Minneapolis race.

Top Ten Highlights

1) It was FUN. I had a really good time.This was an enjoyable scavenger hunt, especially for someone like me who enjoys logic games, friendly competition, a little exercise, and exploring.

2) Well-organized start. The starting location was huge and there was plenty of room for people to leave the park at their own pace when the race opened up. There was no craziness or fear of being trampled as people raced out of the area. Not getting trampled was a nice way to start the day.

3) The clues were really quite well done. I was worried that the challenges would either be too easy or impossible, but the people who were responsible for creating the clues for Minneapolis managed to make them challenging without being frustrating. We didn’t have to know the city to figure out the clues, but it did help to have a general sense of direction of where we were and where we were headed.

4) We got some exercise. My partner and I walked several miles on Saturday, which was lovely because the weather was PERFECT – sunny, a gentle breeze and somewhere in the low 70s.

5) I love group activities. The organizers handed out pale pink shirts with the logos all of the supporters written on the back. When we were walking around the city we’d run into each other and there was a sense of camaraderie. Also, there was a bit of hint-helping – you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. No one that we ran into were super-competitive jerks, and most of the teams were smiling and laughing. It felt nice to be part of the group. And one amusing thing about 500 people running around the city in pink shirts was that it confused the crap out the cabbies and other downtown Minneapolis regulars.

6) Seeing the city with new eyes. I’m pretty familiar with downtown Minneapolis, but I discovered new parks, landmarks and stores that I had never noticed or paid attention to before participating in the race.

7) They planned ahead with the no-bike rule. The organizers did not allow bikes or other wheeled transportation (with the exception of medically necessary wheelchairs). There were up to 500 people racing around crowded downtown Minneapolis on a Saturday afternoon. I am so grateful that no one from our group was on bikes; that would have been a nightmare with the pedestrian and car traffic.

8 ) Well-organized ending. When the game was over, the app and text number were disabled. It was a very clear message that the game was over and it was time to head back to HQ.

9) Treats and Prizes! At our game the organizers had a bunch of different kinds of granola bars, fruit snacks, candies and water waiting for us at the end of the race (totally not expected as we hadn’t paid an entry fee). And at our location, one of the local radio stations helped sponsored the event and handed out some swag by random drawing. Finally, the organizers awarded tickets for local events, an MP3 player and a couple of digital cameras to the top eight finishers. I’m not sure what the first runner-up won, but…

10) Someone actually won a freaking car! As I mentioned in my earlier post, the details for the race were quite vague. There was a statement about how participants might win a new Chevy Sonic. My partner and I thought maybe the top winner would get entered into a drawing, or maybe someone would have to hit a certain number of points to win the car, but no. At the end of the race they actually gave away a car to what I’m assuming was the team who ranked the highest in points. That was really neat.

Top Five Disappointments

1) Crowd control during registration. The race was advertised as starting at 11am. We showed up at 10:30 to register and were told that registration didn’t open until 11am (oh, that’s what they meant by starting at 11am). There was no help for queuing up, so at about 10:50 everyone started bunching up and pressing into a huddle around the reg tent. When emcee announced that registration was open the crowd surged toward the table. A couple of orderly lines eventually formed, but not without some shoving, nudging, elbowing, grumbling and generally jerkiness. It took the organizers over an hour to register everyone and we didn’t leave the park until sometime after noon.

2) Runners had the advantage. The name of the game seemed to be hit the most number of clues (and correctly answer them). Those who were able to keep up a steady jog made it to more places. I’m not saying that it was unfair, but those who were used to walking or jogging for long periods of time definitely had an advantage.

3) SCVNGR sucked it up BIG TIME. Don’t get me wrong – the SCVNGR app is really well designed. We pulled it up at the start of the race and all of the  locations were mapped out and the clues were all listed. We planned a route that would cover the greatest number of points in the most direct lines. The app was beautiful. And then the f*cking thing crashed. They weren’t ready for the traffic and we ran into many groups who were having trouble getting the map and clues to refresh or open up. We eventually switched over to the text mode of playing, but we lost a lot of time and a few clues in the process, and…

4) The text message mode of play is at a big disadvantage to the SCVNGR app. The text message mode of play was more reliable than the SCVNGR app for us, but WAY more inefficient. With texting we were sent to one location at a time and we couldn’t pick or choose which location it would send us to. We were sent back and forth across several blocks and had no ability to plan our route. E.g. – it sent us to 7th Street, then up to 10th street, then back down to 8th Street, then to 10th street again. That was frustrating. If they wanted to make the race more even, they would limit everyone to use of text messaging.

5) Battery Life!!! My phone had a 2% charge left at the end of the race. If it had gone any longer we would have had to stop and charge up or throw in the towel. All answers were tied to one phone – not an account that you could log in to from anywhere – so once we had started answering questions, we needed to keep using the same device.

Conclusion: DO IT.

Overall it was a GREAT day and I would recommend the race to anyone and everyone who likes this kind of competitive gaming. The few annoying things were not enough to ruin the overall awesomeness of the event. The thing that made participation a no-brainer for me was the free entry. For $0 from all of us the organizers provided a wonderful afternoon of entertainment, plus a free t-shirt, snacks and prizes.

I would suggest getting a bunch of teams together that all know each other. My teammate and I didn’t know anybody else, so we were our own little world of two. Teams were strictly limited to two people, but there were a couple of larger groups of two-person teams who all sat together before and after the race, and I imagine they had fun running into each other downtown and competing against each other.

And, you actually have a pretty decent chance of winning a car. In Minneapolis the challenge was limited to 250 teams, and one of those teams won a car. If you consider that some of the groups that pre-registered probably didn’t show up, that means each team had a better than 1:250 chance of winning the grand prize. Those are better odds than most of us will probably ever have of winning a car in other types of contests (radio call-in contests, raffles, etc.).

There are photos and video of the event over at the official Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure website. And knowing what I know now…there are some clues about the types of questions and answers you might expect if the Chevy Sonic Adventure comes to your town!

Pregnant Barbie

June 28, 2011

Work is eating my brain!!! For the last two weeks I’ve been working 9-12 hour days, commuting home, having a quick snack or fast food and sitting on the couch for one episode of Futurama – which is less about unwinding and more about submitting to my cat’s demand for lap time after not seeing me all day – then sleeping for about 6 hours, waking up and doing it all over again.

In addition to my all-(brain)consuming current work assignment, Mom has been in town since June 19th! Every spare minute not spent at work, on the couch with the cat, or sleeping has been spent adventuring around Minneapolis and the Twin Cities. So far we’ve gone to the Minnesota Science Museum, roof-top dining at Stella’s Fish Cafe, on a makeup shopping spree at Bare Escentuals, to the Vali Hi Drive In in Lake Elmo (Green Lantern and Super 8), the Minnesota Zoo, wine and cheese shopping, the Twin Cities Gay Pride Parade and exploring cool restaurants so we have an excuse not to cook. Seriously, I’ve got so much photo editing to do that my Mac is going to crash before I get to it.

Life is good. Chaotic, crazy busy and good.

So, the blogging has been light here, but I’ve been wanting to post this article for about a week now. May I present:

Pregnant Barbie!?

I was chatting with some friends a couple of weeks ago about women and careers. Barbie was brought up as an example of a toy that has changed over time with women’s evolving career choices. Nowadays you can find Barbie in almost every line of work and lifestyle choice. Someone in the group said that you could even get a “Pregnant Barbie”. My first thought was, “Cool! Pregnant Barbie”, which was followed by my second thought, “Uh-oh…Pregnant Barbie”.

It was mentioned that Pregnant Barbie could even “give birth”. Double uh-oh. Please, I thought, please don’t let it come out of the belly button. The friend who was speaking didn’t remember if the baby did in fact come out of the belly button, but we all agreed that the chances of an anatomically-correct vaginal birth for Baby Barbie was probably not part of Mattel’s plans.

I came home and googled “Pregnant Barbie” and learned a couple of things:

This is old hat. Mattel’s pregnant doll was introduced in the early 2000s. A good many of you may have seen or remember commercials for “Pregnant Barbie”. I had just graduated college around this time and wasn’t watching a lot of television then, so I completely missed the entire preggers Barbie doll.

Second,  Barbie herself has never been pregnant. Mattel’s prize hog doll was spared a potentially image-crippling pregnancy; they decided to let Barbie’s friend Midge take the normal social risks of being a pregnant woman. And the public outcry against Midge’s pregnancy was predictable: How dare a doll address something wicked and dirty like pregnancy? Wouldn’t a happy, healthy pregnant doll promote promiscuity and a desire to get pregnant in young, impressionable girls?  After a few years Midge was discontinued and is now considered a collector’s item.

I found this fabulous and moderately annoying YouTube video about Pregnant Midge. The analysis is decent, but the sound effects are pretty awful. Mike Mozart raises some excellent points that are worthy of a bit of good ol’ feminist outrage:

  • Midge was originally released with a bare hand, but a later version shows Midge wearing a wedding ring. There’s no unwed teen mothers in Mattel’s family-friendly clan!
  • Pregnant Midge’s feet are molded for high heels. Because women in their third trimester always wear heels.
  • The belly is attached by magnents – Barbie can get pregnant and have kids again and again and again!

The thing that annoys me most about Mattel’s pregnant Midge doll is the misinformation that it spreads around to its target audience. If you are going to address pregnancy in a doll, why confuse a kid with a full-grown baby tucked in Mommy’s interstitial space?  Sure, there is a great deal of suspension of disbelief  when dealing with Barbies, but why do this weird kind-of delivery? Why not just create a nice, sterile third-trimester lump above Barbie’s nice sterile genitals?  The “baby bump” is probably about as much as young kids usually get exposed to anyway. I think it was a cool idea for Mattel to introduce a pregnant Barbie. However, I think that they should have treated Barbie’s pregnancy with the same general vagueness as they do Barbie’s life in general – just smooth over the “ucky stuff”.

Go Buy Tim Minchin Tickets!

June 21, 2011

Hey Twin Cities friends!

Did you know that TIM MINCHIN is going to be doing a rare live performance in Minneapolis on July 16th at the Pantages Theater???


Photo Source

Are you going? Do you already have tickets? I have tickets!

If you haven’t heard of Tim Minchin, hell’s bells, go YouTube him! He writes, plays piano and sings about rationality, sex, common sense, boobs, prejudice, sex, skepticism, boobs and religion…to name a few. Also boobs and sex. Oh, and he wrote the music and songs for a musical stage adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda with the Royal Shakespeare Company. He’s a hell of a showman and comedian, and according to his website he has an enormous…sense of occasion. Yea, a man of many talents.

I’ve posted this before; it’s one of my favorite Tim Minchin songs:

I know, right? AWESOME! So get out of here – go buy tickets! They’re only $28 if you buy at the door, $40 to buy online (thanks for that kick in the ass, Ticketmaster).

If you’re in Portland, Seattle, Austin, Anaheim, San Fran, Atlanta, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. or Montreal, Tim Minchin is also coming your way in June or July. Check out his full calendar here.

Squee!

Minnesota Skeptics’ Blog

May 23, 2011

Guess what?

I was invited to participate in a group blog for the Minnesota Skeptics’ meetup group! I’ll be writing with at least nine other members, so I anticipate that we’ll have a wide range of skeptical topics to blog about. Do  you wanna see my first article? Do ya? Ohboyohboyohboy!

9/11 Truther Sighting and a MN Skeptics Win

In the Heart of the Beast Theater (HOBT) hosts an annual May Day Parade in Minneapolis. The first part of the parade consists of HOBT-chosen themes and elaborate masks and puppetry, and the second part is reserved for “Free Speech”. Anyone can present any message (as long as it is delivered in a peaceful manner and is appropriate for an audience that has young children present), and this May these guys marched:

Dude’s poster reads:

Read the rest of what I have to say about 9/11 conspiracy theories over at the MN Skeptics’ Blog!

May 21st End Times Bus

May 7, 2011

My friend Ben (@deisum on Twitter) snapped a picture of the May 21st End of Days preachers. Apparently they showed up in Minneapolis today, just as I was driving down to Chicago. How come I always miss when the circus comes to town?