[Letter] Dear Senator Kerry: Go Away

Dear Senator Kerry,

This is Kerry voter # 30,459,958. I was a true believer for you during the campaign. I put up a yard sign emblazoned with your bland catch phrase, wore a Kerry Edwards button, converted a couple centrists, and even stood outside for an hour during a cold October day to attend a 50 minute Kerry rally. In short, I had your back.

Then Election Day came, crushed my liberal spirit, and I joined millions of Americans wallowing in political depression for weeks. Kudos to you for not growing bitter, bulbous, or a beard a la Al Gore circa 2000. You appeared to brush yourself off and get on with life. So too did I.

But lately something has been bothering me, Senator, and it's you.

I happend to see your picture in a magazine. There you were, standing on a chair in an everyman's bar, arms out, suit on. Surrounded by earnestly watching fresh faced youths and combat amputees - you were campaigning!

What happened this past campaign season cannot be pinned simply on you, nor do I think other Democrats feel you to be solely responsible. The lesson we learned, as The Daily Show concluded, is that the Republicans are just better at this than we are. But that's as far as the good will goes. You were forgiven because the party needed a wake up call - not because you rallied the troops and inspired the undecided. No, Senator, most of us voted for you to get Bush out...myself included. Those 59,028,109 votes are fool's gold.

The future of the Democratic party is at stake. We cannot continue to launch centrists almost indistinguishable from the Republicans. We will not reclaim the White House as the Republican Lite party. Voters need to be moved by our candidate, moved by our ideas, not simply the hope of ousting the other guy.

I want to close this by thanking you for your service to this country, but please, Senator, your time in the national spot light has finished. Go away.


[blog] Streets of Pizza

One of the Twin Cities local papers the 'City Pages' a few weeks ago ran an article about Pizza Delievery. It was a great article. They started a blog about the topic called 'Streets of Pizza', it's a great read.

Anyone who loved the protagonist in Snow_Crash by Neil Stephenson, will love this blog.


[Thing] Monsieuer Le Chat

Monsieuer Le Chat is the name I gave a neighborhood cat that adopted us in St Paul. We actually do not know whose cat he is as we see him at various other houses on the block. He is a very urbane and street smart cat, very intelligent, very wise. He is a gray tabby with notched ears and a snaggle-tooth mouth that indicates he has had some trauma in his earlier years. He always amazes me. We live on a block that is zoned half-industrial, with large trucks terrorizing the roadways from 8am-5pm Monday-Friday. He knew to watch the street in both directions, and cross when there were no cars.

He was a constant companion in the summers while working in the garden. In the winter we would let him stay on our porch to warm up. We always fed him, the same stuff we fed our indoor cats (Science Diet). He's a good friend. We have known him for years. He has many names we have heard him called, 'Stray', 'Damn Cat', 'Shithead', but all in loving and joking tones. But to me he was 'Monsieur Le Chat.'

After we moved to Rochester, we do not spend much time at the house in St Paul. Basically waiting the winter out until spring when we will finish moving and sell the house.

Even though I have not seen him in almost four months. He still remembers me. I stood outside making a call on my cell phone (the lead paint on the old walls of the house make for poor signal). He came running across the the street to say 'hi'. We still have some food and his dish for when he used to visit. I spent some time with him and gave him some food. It was like catching up with an old friend. He stayed a while until his stomach was full and his need for attention met, then he disappeared like he always does into the night.

I will miss him, and I suspect he will miss us. He was one of those little things that will be missed from the old neighborhood.


[Musings] Someday, when I grow up...

To quote T.S. Elliott, "...I shall wear my trousers rolled..."

I don't know where I am going with this post. Merely seeing where my mind goes when I let it wander.

Life, as a journey, not a destination.

An eccentric person at a discussion I was once in said that he was "...over the rainbow man! I'm speaking to you from the destination!", he said some other things as well as had a fetish for purple. At the time I thought "holy shit, this guy is nuts." And he was, but this phrase has stuck to me. A meme, bouncing around in my mind.

In an episode of 'Dr. Who' (the exact episode name escapes me, but the Doctor was played by Tom Baker) the character of the Doctor said, "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. BUT! It is not necessarily the most interesting."

Yeah, I can dig that.

When I was younger (mind you I am not really that old) I believed that growing up would be the proverbial 'it' (as in shiz-nit). But now that I am, by legal definitions at least, 'grown up' I've learned to value a few things I never thought of as a child. The 'shiz-n' is still there, but the 'it' is different. For example:

- the warmth of a cat, slightly purring while napping in your lap
- the personality of fish (koi mainly) and their like of watching TV
- loyal friends
- a good cup of coffee
- a shitty cup of coffee drank among friends engaged in good conversation
- the last 30 seconds before the alarm goes off

I thought 21 would be a magic age. It was, but not how I expected it. I did go to a bar on my birthday, but it was a small dive in rural MN called 'The TNT Bar.' It was the kind of bar that I image you would expect to see in a small town. It was never really busy, its clientele were locals, a few of whom were alcoholics. It had a jukebox that was also a karoake machine. My dad took me there. The beer selection was 'Pabst Blue Ribbon', 'Grain Belt Premium', 'Budweiser', or 'Coors'. Hard liquor was simply a shot of Jack Daniels or Yukon Jack. I am not going to sugar coat this, the place was shit-hole. It was smoky and dimly lit. But I didn't care, what I remember most about that was being there with my father. Now my father does not really drink, nor is he the bar going type. We went to the TNT because it was close to our house (mind you we lived in the country, it was pretty much 20 miles to anywhere). He was just happy to be the first one to buy his son a drink.

Fast forward a few years to my Bachelor Party. It wasn't at a strip club like I kind of thought it would be (or perhaps was conditioned to believe from TV), instead it was around a campfire with a case of beer (Pig's Eye Ice, my tastes were simpler then as was my palate), my best friend, my cousin, and my father. We sat around the fire and told stories and reminisced until 3am.

Anyways I guess what I am getting at is, to quote another movie, "Life is like a box of chocolates." You never know what you are going to get, and some people can't open the box.

In closing I leave you with something from 'Conan the Barbarian', more words of wisdom about life.

chieftain: "Conan! What is best in life?"
Conan (in a thick Austrian accent): "To crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of de vemen."

Eh, fuck it.

[Location] Coffeehouses in Rochester, MN

Location: Rochester, Minnesota, United States of America, Earth, Sol, Milky Way, This Universe (or there abouts)

Rochester MN, the home of the World Famous Mayo Clinic (tm? sm? something?), as well as a large IBM design and manufacturing facility (specializing in RISC chips for the pSeries systems, and home of Blue Gene, the new super-computer for bioinformatics). It is located ~80 miles south of the Twin Cities' core cities of St Paul and/or Minneapolis. Connected conviently via Hwy 52. Its a boring drive across declining farmland and increasing town homes. Since last summer there are only two stop lights to interrupt the auto-pilot, and both are at about the half-way mark in Cannon Falls.

Rochester is a small city of about 90,000 people. Roughly 1/3 of which work for Mayo, 1/3 for IBM and the rest in hospitality/support industries for the area. There is also a Federal Prison Medical Center. Rochester because of Mayo is actually quite diverse for a rural Midwest city. People from all over the world pass through here, for the Clinic, IBM, or just as a stopping point. So as a result Rochester has a fairly diverse collection of ethnic dining. I say diverse using Minnesota standards, the Minnesotan pallete is usually quite bland, so that fact that a city of this size has many italian, mexcian, chinese, and a few indian restaurants is impressive. There is also on the periphery the obligatory American sprinkling of franchises, Wal-Mart, Shop-Ko, Target, Menards, Home Depot, McDonalds, Noodles and Co, etc., etc., ad nausem. This are situated in the new development areas where fields and woods have recently been converted into vast expanses of town homes. But for purposes of this discussion I will focus mainly on the older parts of the city and downtown more specifically.

Here is my list of coffeehouses, broken down by type:

Locally owned, specifically coffee only: 2
Marcelli's - a nice coffee house with good pastry, and excellent coffee. It is only open from ~6am-5pm. Across from St Mary's.

Double Click Internet Cafe - the only internet cafe I found in town, but with the prevelance of wi-fi here, almost everywhere has access. But the Double Click has computers you can rent. Coffee is pretty good, but the atmosphere and the building in which it is situated are really its main draw. Limited selection of pastries. Being someone who works with all things *nix, this is my place. Wi-Fi, shot of espresso, table with a view, power outlet = heaven. They close around 8pm.

Locallly owned, coffee plus other sutff: a few
(I have not hit every place in town that servers coffee as well as food or meals, so I will list the ones I have been too)
Jaspers - easily my favorite place. It is a bistro that servers espresso drinks, pastries and an affordable lunch. In the evening it is a location of fine dining and the menu gets prohibitively expensive. I enjoy a single-shot of espresso here. Nice building, nice atmosphere.

Franchises, not-locally owned: a lot
Caribou - located in the 'Subway' which is the warren of underground tunnels that connect everything in downtown Rochester (because of winter). Its Caribou, anyone who has ever been to one will know what it is like.

Starbucks - , located at various places. The notable ones is the one in the Chateau Theater Barnes and Noble. The Chateau is an old movie theater converted into a book store. The other on is in the Kahler across from the Gonda Building (one of the main Clinic buildings) and across from Rochester Methodist Hospital. Like Caribou, if you have been to one, you have been to this one.

Dunn Bros - various locations. The one by the Apache Mall has a drive thru.

Panera Bread - great sandwiches and pastries (tho a bit spendy). The coffee is decent and they have a giant fireplace which is nice on cold mornings.

Espresso Express (or Java Drive...something like this) - drive thru espresso. Don't have to get out of your car.

This town needs a local coffeeshop open after 9pm.

Did I mention there is also no brunch place...


[Tech Support] Linux (SuSE 9.2) + CodeWeavers = teh win

I strongly recommend any Linux users check out CodeWeavers (a superset of wine, costs ~$40, but you are helping support Open Source Software). With it, I was able to get iTunes/QuickTime working on my SuSE install, meaning I can use my iTunes account at work now.

iTunes runs as well (if not a little better) than on native WinXP, however it does have the same problem of not being able to burn CDs. But since I just want to use it for my iTunes account (b/c of Apple DRM and I want to keep it legal, i.e. not use a hack), it works great (XMMS is a better mp3 player for *nix I've found).

Check it out. I recommend it (for what that's worth).


[Tech Support] iTunes + WinXP SP2

Doh. I upgraded to WinXP SP2, simply because I was tired of unchecking it on my windows update refreshes. I figured that it has been out long enough that the bugs have been identified and most of the ISVs had patches to fix issues with SP2 (mainly the AV vendors). So I updated and I knew a few of my ancient programs would not work, but since I no longer used them I didn't care.

Then I went to install iTunes. I like iTune's interface and it is a quality mp3 player. I don't have an iPod, I merely wanted to use it instead of winamp (which is still one of my favorite mp3 players). But what iTunes has that winamp does not have is the ability to see you whole library and easily manipulate it.

I found out the hard way that WinXP SP2 and iTunes do not work together. It errors on install with a message about 'GEARAspiWDM.sys'. I found some help in this forum thread. My solution was to follow the suggestion of when you get the error dialog box, go out to \Program Files\iTunes and rename it to something else, then click on the error message. Once it errors out, I went and created a shortcut to the itunes.exe and now I can use iTunes, however it errors on every start up about not being able to burn CDs, which is ok since I wanted to use it as a mp3 player.

I hope Apple fixes this. I really like iTunes.


[Video Game] Star Wars: Republic Commando

Category: Action/First Person (with elements of RPG, and it has stealth if call using explosives to sneak into a place stealthy...)
Rating: T for Teen (on a side note I hear SW Ep3 will be PG-13...)

Synopsis: You are Delta-38 the leader of a 4-man clone commando squad. You are born in a vat like all other clone troopers, but from birth you received extra training and better equipment to allow you to become a lethal weapon of the Republic. You have trained all your life with 3 other commandos who form your squad; Delta-40 (code slicer specialist), Delta-07 (sniper), and Delta-62 (demolitions) (your specialty is close-combat). This game is meant to help span some of the storyline starting from the battle for Geonosis to Ep3 and supposedly hints about Ep3 are given as you progress through the game (only seeing Ep3 will prove this true or not).

- Good graphics
- easy to use squad control interface
- relatively good and robust AI, especially for your fellow commandos
- excellent sound effects (I turn the music off in games such as this so I to be more immersed in the environment)
- multi-player
- the squad (nice to have backup)
- your armor looks cool
- you can use turrets to help
- the Wookies look cool

- Linear gameplay and often only one way to do things that is laid out before you. At least it does not feel you are being ram-rodded into the story thanks to the help of your handler named 'Advisor'
- Super Battle Droids are tough, which they are supposed to be, but when faced with more than 2 and no more grenades, you are screwed
- Squad has unlimited ammo, while during points of the game this is a good thing to have, it does detract from the immersion since you only have a limited amount of ammo (except for your pistol thankful which can recharge AND has a decent punch to it)
- Multi-player while having many maps and a few modes are your basic FPS faire, CTF, DM, TDM, AS. It would have been nice to have missions, allow for custom missions and maps, and let you form squads so you can use the squad interface. I found the multi-play to be fast paced and standard, find which gun does the most damage then use it while jumping around stuff you've had since Quake 3. Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six in my opinion are how multiplayer commando games should be done. :)

Nit-pickers corner:

I was very excited about this game. All the trailers and pre-release stuff I saw had these anonymous, cold, professional commandos in plain gray armor. In the game each command has 'customized' his armor with colors. I can see commandos camoflaging their armor based on their mission, but reds and yellows would not be it. I was originally upset at the campy chit-chat the squad has with each other, but I got over it. I would have just preferred to have seen the commandos in non-descript gray armor that looked really nice.

All in all though I enjoyed the game.


[Musings] File this under: Who cares?

From a headline on /. today:

Linux creator Linus Torvalds said this afternoon that he's now running an Apple Macintosh as his main desktop, mainly for work reasons, although partly simply because he's a self-described "technology whore" and got the machine for free.


[Video Game] The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

Category: Action/First Person/Stealth/RPG
Rating: M (very bloody, scary monsters, harsh language)

Synopsis: This game is set in the time period between 'Pitch Black' and 'The Chronicles of Riddick' and the game itself (the part you play) is a flashback of Riddick's to the time period before 'Pitch Black'. The game is meant to fill in more story and myth of the Riddick universe. It fills in a few more gaps about the history of the Furyans and how Riddick fits in as well as provides the story of how his eyes were 'shined'.

- Excellent graphics and the game ran smooth at high settings. Everything had a realistic look and textural feel to it.
- Excellent sound and voice acting. Vin Diesel played Riddick.
- Stealth. I am a big stealth in games fan. Which is why I love the Thief series.
- Neat tricks like drop-killing opponents. You can jump on them from great heights and they die as well as break your fall.
- gritty prison life drama

- Short, I completed the game in about 16 hours of play
- Linear. However, you are not creating a story, merely moving through it. So it is like an interactive movie.

I thoroughly enjoyed the escape of the game and since I did not find all the secrets (packs of cigarettes that unlock extra stuff like TCoR movie trailer and such) and I am playing it a second time.

I also downloaded the Star Wars: Republic Commando demo and liked enough of what I saw to get the game.


[In Memorium] Thomas G Virnig, MD

I had some bad news today. Very bad. A friend of mine passed away after losing a battle with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). He was the same age as me. We both met in the hospital in June 2002, we had both been diagnosed with AML at the same time, we were both 26. We had a disease that usually only occurs in people 65 or older.

There were three of us that summer. Myself and Tom who were both 26 and Travis, who was 23. We all had AML.

Travis had the worst prognosis and after a year of fighting passed away.

Tom (and his fiance, later his wife, Becky) had formed a bond with me and my wife. The others were never far from our thoughts or our hopes. Tom was an inspiration for me because he finished his therapy and was able to leave the hospital a few weeks before me. He was doing well and looking good. A year later he had a relapse and had to undergo mutliple bone marrow transplants. He never recovered. He was a fighter and fought for more than 2 years.

Tom you were my friend and I will miss you.