July 2010 Archives

All I need are some Birkenstocks...

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It looks like I'm officially a "tree hugger" - all I need are some Birkenstocks and a few more Phish songs on my iPod.

Why?

I bought a Toyota Prius. I almost can't believe I typed that; let me explain what happened to prompt this purchase.

As most of you know, I had been driving a gorgeous (but large) Chevrolet pick-up truck. I found it at a local dealer with really low miles, loaded with options, and more or less in perfect condition. I installed a Line-X bedliner, detailed the heck out of it, and planned to keep it for a long time. It was nearly ideal - it could hold my bikes with ease, it was comfortable, it had a great sound system, and it ran like a top.

But, it was nearly impossible to maneuver the thing around town and it was really impossible to park it in my new garage - I literally had to have the front license plate of the truck touch the front wall of my garage so that I could close the garage door (and even then I only had about 1.5" of clearance behind the truck).

Every time I parked the truck in the garage, I went through a 5-8 minute "dance" that involved me pulling-up as close to the wall as I possibly could, jumping out of the truck to check my distance, inching forward a bit more, jumping back out to check, and so on. It quickly grew old. Before you suggest that I hang a tennis-ball to mark the ideal parking location, know this: the ceiling in the garage is 15+ feet high.

It also grew old trying to find parking spots - whether it was at the grocery store, the parking garage at work, or at one of the many ramps in downtown Madison... parking that beast was always a chore, primarily because the turning radius was so poor. I've never done as many Y-turns in my life as I have over the past six months or so.

So, I put the truck on craigslist, and wouldn't you know it, but I sold it in just two days to a super nice couple from Mount Horeb. They picked-up the truck early last week, which left me without a vehicle. The weather was nice, so I didn't mind biking to work, nor did I mind walking to get groceries and other things.

I didn't know what kind of car I wanted to buy... part of me wanted a station wagon (Audi A3, Audi A4 wagon, VW Jetta Wagon, or VW Passat Wagon) because I'd be able to put a bike or two in the back and still have room for other things like a small toolbox, a small suitcase, and so on. The Audi options offered all-wheel drive as well.

Part of me wanted a sedan (Chevrolet Malibu, Subaru Legacy, Saturn Aura, Ford Taurus, or a Ford Fusion) because it would be practical, roomy, and there were plenty to choose from.

Part of me wanted something really fun (Mercedes Benz E350, Mini Cooper S, Subaru WRX STI, or an older Corvette).

And then I stopped to think about how I "really" used my vehicles; truth be told, I hauled my bikes in the truck on exactly two occasions... I didn't really use the 4WD feature... I didn't use the back seat for anything other than holding groceries... but I did enjoy the low monthly payment (I got a really good deal on the truck and loan), and I did spend a ridiculous amount of money on gas every 8-10 days ($65 per fill-up), and I did hate parking it.

So it was evident that I needed something that was affordable, got good mileage, could haul some cargo if necessary, and would prove to be reliable and, if possible, slightly fun.

Purely on a whim, I searched for used Toyota Priuses, and wouldn't you know it, but I found a 2009 Prius at the local Toyota dealer - a one owner car, loaded with options, certified-pre-owned (which meant it came with a 100,000 mile warranty from Toyota), and with a decent number of miles. I checked Carfax for the car's history and it came back clean - the records showed regular maintenance, no accidents, and all looked good.

So, I haggled on the price, got an excellent deal, and an excellent interest rate. As mentioned, it's a 2009 Prius with "Option package 5," which means it has: voice-activated GPS navigation, JBL premium sound system with iPod interface, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, leather seating, and a few other items I'm forgetting. The original sticker price was $29,855. I got it for about half of that, and it came with Toyota's certified-pre-owned hybrid warranty, which gets me a really nice extended warranty.

After getting the car home last night, I washed it and set about detailing it. Here it is, sitting in the garage (in which it fits nicely), getting ready for a good buffing:

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I taped off the plastic and rubber trim so that I could really get after things with the buffer. Once the taping was complete, I clayed the car, buffed it with Meguiar's #101 and #201, polished it with Zaino Z-PC, washed it again, and then applied 3 coats of Zaino Z2 (with ZFX) and finished with a wipedown with Zaino CS (Clear Seal). I dressed the tires, cleaned the interior, and treated the leather. The whole process spanned two days (I started last night at around 6pm, worked on it until around 11pm; woke-up and rode/ran this morning (7am - noon); then finished the detail at around 7pm this evening).

I snapped two quick photos - the lighting was bad, so I'll take some additional photos in the near future.

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And here's some of the fun stuff from inside - the touchscreen computer is pretty cool - it serves as the climate control center, information center, and navigation hub. Check out the mileage I've gotten so far:

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Here's a picture of the entire "dash" area - the layout has most of the items in the center of the car... it's going to take a bit to get used to it.

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So there you have it. I'm a tree-hugging hybrid driver. :-) And while it's not the most exciting car I've ever owned, I should enjoy the lower car payment and the incredible fuel economy (most of my trips are in-town at speeds below 40mph, which is where a hybrid shines). I predict I'll spend about $30 on fuel every 3 weeks (versus $130+ with the truck).

And finally, as I was driving to take a photo of the car, I witnessed an accident in downtown Middleton. Further proof as to how poorly people drive around here... picture this: it's 80-degrees outside, it's sunny, there's not a cloud in the sky, the pavement is totally dry, and there's barely any traffic. Perfect conditions.

A Buick SUV, heading east on University Avenue in the right-hand lane, suddenly decides that it's going to cut across three lanes of traffic to turn left at an intersection that doesn't allow left-hand turns. The driver cranks the SUV violently to make the turn (I'm guessing they were speeding as well), and next thing you know, I'm watching a SUV roll on to its side and slide before coming to a rest. I just shook my head and stopped - the traffic in front of me stopped as well...

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...sort of scary.

Even scarier is that I cross that intersection every single day while running.

Here's the aftermath - just as I was taking this picture the tow-truck got the SUV right-side-up... I was so angry - I wanted to get a better picture, but this is the best I could manage.

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You've got to love the drivers around here. Truly, truly awful.

No fish fry reviews - sorry. The 'ole waistline needs a serious break from that Friday night ritual, so I've been actively avoiding that temptation.

I did however attend a Mallards baseball game last weekend with my friend Dan and his family and we had a blast. Dan and Tara purchased some awesome seats that were located literally behind home plate:

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Not a bad seat for $7!

The game quickly became a lop-sided trouncing as the Mallards went ahead of their opponents (from LaCrosse) in the second inning to the tune of 9-1... So, we had to find other sources of entertainment and the most obvious option was to watch and shout along with a Mallards staple: The Beefstick Guy.

He sells a variety of items, but as he climbs up and down the stairs and makes his way through the seats and bleachers he shouts, "Peanuts, sunflower seeds, caramel corn," (and then with heavy emphasis on the "EE" and with the crowd of 7,000 people joining him) "bEEEEEEEEEEEfsticks!"

You'd think it gets old... but it never does - the whole crowd yells along with him and before you know it, you're joining the crowd. I figured I'd take a picture with his legend:

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I also took a picture with Dan; upon review of the photo we promptly noticed two things - one, we're getting old, and two, we got "photo-bombed" by a little kid in the background... classic!

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The night quickly came to a close and was capped-off by some fireworks and live music. We weren't able to stay for the music as Dan was there with the entire family (including his nephew who was visiting from New Jersey), so we watched the fireworks for a bit and then called it a night.

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In other news, I'm continuing to get the apartment "in order." I got a magnetic knife holder and a few Victorinox Fibrox knives:

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And, I finally got around to mounting the TV on the wall... what a difference that made. I'm waiting on one more component to arrive and then I'll be done with the set-up of the living room entertainment pieces (and I'll be able to get the last cardboard box out of the area).

I also bought a "cat sitter" DVD (I'm embarrassed to admit it) to help entertain the cats a bit. At the old apartment, the cats enjoyed watching birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and other critters as they scavenged bird seed from my upstairs neighbor's (aka "Psycho") porch. Here, they don't have that luxury, so I hoped the DVD might be a nice diversion from time to time. Turns out Shiloh loves it:

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...Probably the best $5 I've ever spent on a DVD.

And finally, here's one last shot of Shiloh sitting on his favorite toy. I'm not sure why he chose to sit on it like this, but I thought it would make a fun picture.

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Left-overs...

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I realized that I forgot to include some additional details from last week, so consider this a "pot-luck" entry of sorts...

If you'll recall from a previous entry, I stopped by Art Fair On The Square last week, and saw some really neat artwork. One of the artists that really stood out was this guy - he had these mean-looking dogs and cats featured in his work:

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I would've loved to buy some of his stuff, but if I recall correctly, he was asking $3,000 or $4,000 for that painting... yikes! I realize it takes talent to conceptualize and create something like that but wow.

And speaking of wow, we (Mark, his friends Chris and Brenda, and me) donated a few bucks to a charity so that we could get our pictures taken in some crazy hats. I chose this viking number -

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Our group photo was taken and posted somewhere online... I've managed to misplace the URL, so I guess I'll never see the fruits of our donation. Something tells me it's not a big loss.

Changing to another subject, I met some really nice folks (Kevin and Kelly) down at the MidTown and we got to chatting about documentaries; turns out we had all watched the "Beer Wars" documentary (I mentioned it here in a previous blog entry). One of the things they did in Beer Wars was demonstrate that nearly all light beers taste identical, and that when challenged, even the most die-hard beer fanatics couldn't tell the difference between 3 beers in a blind taste test.

We decided to give it a try ourselves, and the fine staff at MidTown proctored our test - they set-up 4 blind samples of light beer for us:

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We blind-tested the 4 beverages; I took time to smell them, inspect them, cleanse my pallet between samples, and everything imaginable to try and better my odds of guessing correctly. Kevin and Kelly did the same; we all laughed heartily at how difficult (read: impossible) it was to differentiate between them.

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As you can see, I received a perfect score of 100% misses. While Kelly and Kevin both correctly identified Miller Lite, Kevin was the clear winner with 2 correct answers. I encourage you to try the test for yourself - it's really quite funny/ironic/eye-opening.

Speaking of funny - it's been a while since I've posted or shared something from failblog.com and/or icanhascheezburger.com... as if trampolines weren't dangerous enough, check out this handy work:

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What an excellent day.

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Sorry for posting two entries in a single day, but wow - today was a good day in every sense of the word.

It rained cats-and-dogs last night - some areas around Madison reported 6+ inches of rain in the 'ole rain gauge. I don't know about you, but I sleep really well when there's a good rainstorm. So, with the A/C blasting cold air, the rain pouring down, and with a cat curled up near me, I slept like a million bucks. It's been a long time since I had a good nights' sleep (too many things going on - the mind races all night).

I woke-up extra early to ride the trainer for an hour or so; watched the news, felt refreshed, had a good sweat going, and felt really good (I normally dread the trainer). Had the usual breakfast (.5c Fiber One, .25c Skim Milk, 1oz fresh blueberries, supplements, and coffee), then hit the "Beltline," only to find that traffic was non-existent. I easily made my way over to Fitchburg, where I had an early morning Trigger Point/Deep Tissue massage scheduled.

My legs have been trashed lately (probably due to overtraining), and I figured a massage might help loosen them up and recover a bit. The therapist did an absolutely amazing job on the 'ole levers - and while moments of the massage were quite painful (especially the calves), I felt awesome afterward. I hopped back in the truck, drove to work without any traffic once again, and had a great morning of work - got tons of things done.

At lunch, I stopped at a local farmer's market and scored some super fresh local sweet corn - 3 ears for $1.

Near the end of the day, Phil (co-worker) and I went to a local market where we scored some really good cheese (English Hollow Cheese??), some produce, and some Wild Blue Popcorn kernels. I figured I would try my hand at air-popping some corn in the microwave.

I drove home and went about making dinner. I had fresh, organic, locally sourced chicken, fresh locally grown sweet corn, and a fresh, dirt-grown, locally sourced tomato with some roasted broccoli, a Diet Root Beer (from Point Brewery), and 1 Tbsp of an all natural BBQ sauce:

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I used my new favorite seasoning for just about everything: Mrs Dash. It's salt-free, and the Chicken seasoning is amazing, as is the "Extra Spicy" (use it on veggies), and the "Table Blend" (use it on tomatoes and eggs).

Best of all, I enjoyed this guilt-free, 364 calorie feast out on the deck, because the weather was incredible - mid-70s, no humidity, sun in just the right place, iPod playing some good dinner music... bliss.

I'm still out on the deck now (at 8:30pm), enjoying my air-popped popcorn (it's super good; hit it with some Mrs. Dash as well) and browsing the web. I really wouldn't mind if today never ended - it's been a good day!

I'm confident in stating that Mid-Town Pub has some spectacular fish, as I've now sampled every one of their fish offerings, save for the shrimp. This will be a quick review, as my visit to MTP last week was short - I'm trying desperately to get 100% settled-in to the new place, and spending hours at a fish fry (as enticing and attractive as it would be) isn't on the schedule right now. :-(

I arrived to MTP at around 7:30pm on Friday night, just as the primary Fish Fry crowd was starting to disperse. I grabbed a seat at the bar, where I promptly put in a request for some French Onion soup, a beverage, and some of their famously fresh-popped popcorn.

The bartenders wasted no time in bringing out a bowl of velvety french onion soup - the staff at MTP is so fantastic, I simply can't say enough great things about them - along with the popcorn and drink.

True to MTP form, the soup was scalding hot, so I left it to cool for a bit, and instead munched on the popcorn as I browsed the fish fry menu. I opted for the grilled fish, with a baked potato - figured I'd be a little healthy. MTP fish frys also come with coleslaw, tartar, and a piece of garlic toast.

I eventually was able to try the soup and it was superb. MTP makes a mean soup (and a killer chili, which is always available); their soup offerings are unique, creative, and different with every day - it's rare that you'll find the same soup on the menu twice in one week.

The fish arrived within 10 minutes of placing the order and featured three large white filets of cod, each of which was lightly coated with a flaky, light-colored seasoning (almost like a rub). It's important to note that the fish isn't "grilled" in the traditional sense of the word - it's cooked on a flat-top, but is served very "clean" (no signs of grease, slime, etc). You won't find grill marks, however (other than a nice, uniform sear).

I took a bite and was immediately satisfied - the fish was fantastic in every respect: moist, flaky, slightly-firm, cooked to perfection, and wonderfully flavorful. MTP's cod can't be messed with - fried or grilled, it's incredible stuff.

The baked potato and garlic toast were equally good; the latter moreso than the potato (it's just a simple baked potato, afterall). I scarfed down the meal in record time, paid my bill, thanked the staff and headed home.

MTP Grilled cod = WIN

Service = 5 stars
Food = 4.25 stars
Value = 4.25 stars
MISC = 5 stars (friendliest place in Middleton, and probably all of Madison)


Summary: MTP continues to deliver good food, great service, and a great environment. And while I didn't include pictures (forgot the camera at home), it should be noted that I don't wait for weeks to post my reviews - I'm prompt and responsive... ;-) When "review sites" spend less time Facebooking and digging-on other sites and more time reviewing, readers win. Waiting weeks for a review/update = bad.

Getting closer...

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I had to take a work-related trip to Chicago yesterday, where I had an opportunity to visit our corporate headquarters. The HQ is located in the heart of downtown Chicago - on LaSalle Street, near the Washington Street intersection. It's a gorgeous area; I really do enjoy big cities.

I arrived a bit early for my meeting, so I grabbed a seat at the Starbucks "patio" that was located in front of our building, settled-in, did some work, and took a few minutes to do some quality people watching.

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So much personality in the city - the buildings are majestic, the shade makes things seem more inviting, and the hustle and bustle makes you feel like being active - like you should be working harder. And work harder you'd have to if you wanted to live in downtown Chicago - I almost choked when I saw the hourly parking rates for the ramp I had to park in... $27/hour!!!

I made my way up to the 40th floor of the building and was stunned by the incredible views. One of the folks pointed-out this awesome "green space" that sits atop the City of Chicago's City Hall building:

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Apparently that rooftop is indeed part of city hall - pretty impressive.

The meeting went well and wrapped-up at around 5:30pm or so. I then made my way over to IKEA where I bought a desk and a bookcase for the apartment. The desk turned out to be a major failure - it's far too large for the apartment, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it.

But the bookcase/entertainment stand seems to be working well:

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The stand measures about 6' long and stands about 32" tall. Within the next few weeks I'll mount the TV to the wall and shuffle some things around. With any luck, I'll also sell that small 13" TV in the lower left corner of the photo, and will find a place for that box in the lower right corner of the photo. I can't wait to be 100% settled-in.

Now... does anyone need an oversized desk that's never been used? :-)

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Weekend Wrapup

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If you'll recall from my previous entry, I was contemplating the idea of heading to Summerfest. Well, after much deliberation, I decided to make the 80-mile drive to Milwaukee and check out Summerfest 2010.

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The adventure began with the fight to find a parking spot, and after 20 minutes of driving around looking for lots with open parking spots available, I settled on one near the festival, ponied-up $25, and... got door-dinged by some moron who flung his door open and directly into my passenger door. I was in the truck when I heard that sickening "thud" noise - I looked over at him and all he could muster was a feeble "sorry." Ugh.

From there, I made my way to the ticket window and paid $15 for an entry ticket, then stood in a long line so that I could get frisked by some Neanderthal who when finished frisking me asked, "Do you have any illegal drugs or weapons on your person?" Um, yeah - I've got a whole boatload of drugs and a couple of Uzi's in my pocket... seriously?

Once inside, I made my way over to the US Cellular stage - it's one of the companies that I work for/with on a daily basis, so I figured I should see the stage and snap a photo (and I have no idea who the two random folks are in the middle of my picture - they just walked through as I was taking the picture).

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The neat thing about Summerfest (and particularly the USC stage) is that the entire event is located quite literally on Lake Michigan - the shoreline is just a few feet away from the grounds; I took this photo from the "other side" of the USC stage:

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Since there wasn't a band playing at the USC stage, I decided to walk around for a bit and check out some of the smaller stages, the vendors, and the various food stands. I stumbled across this tropically-themed stage where a band was playing some really catchy music. I have no idea who they were, but they attracted a decent crowd and they were fun to listen to. I stuck around for about 15 minutes or so, then grew tired of getting bumped into by drunk people while being cooked by the sun (there's not much shade at Summerfest).

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I continued walking around the grounds, where I passed twenty-odd food vendors... and eventually settled on getting a "sampler platter" that consisted of cheese curds, chive fries, and mozzarella sticks. All for $9.

I found a seat at the Harley Davidson stage where I snapped this photo of the sampler platter:

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After devouring most of that plate (it was actually quite tasty), I walked around for a bit more - I was thirsty and needed a beverage ($6 for a bottle of Lite!!!!), and I still had another section of the park to check out. I thought about taking the sky cars - they have these mini-gondolas that run from the north side of the park to the south side of the park - but decided a picture of them would suffice and a walk would do me better.

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I quickly started to realize that Summerfest isn't as great as my mind likes to remember it... it's expensive, it's hot, it's crowded, the crowds are annoying, and there's far too much "downtime" between acts. And, for some strange reason, they schedule most of the bands to play at the same time; for the most part, all of the stages run on a 2-hour schedule, so at noon, all of the stages are "live." Then at 2pm, the stages are "live" again; 4pm - live; 6pm - live; 8pm - live; 10pm - live. Why they don't stagger them so that there's always a show going is beyond me...

I spied some kids playing chess - I thought the huge chess board was pretty neat:

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Having covered the grounds end-to-end, I was ready to sit down and settle-in for a band or two. The Counting Crows would be playing the Harley stage, so I figured I'd go over there, stake out a good seat, and wait for the 10:00pm show to start. Two bands played prior to The Crows - the Nick Howard band and Katzenjammer. I took a decent photo of Nick Howard (who was actually quite good):

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Katzenjammer played next - they're an all female group from Norway (I believe) and they were sort of neat because they all played all of the instruments at one point or another - pretty talented group to say the least.

And finally, at 10:00pm, The Counting Crows started their show. Blurry photo - I was standing on a bleacher seat getting bumped by dozens of people.

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And I stayed for exactly one song. Modest Mouse was playing next door on the Miller Lite stage; I checked them out for a second, but their area was even more packed than The Counting Crows area was. And so, after driving for 80+ miles each way, spending almost $140 on parking, ticket, and food, and sitting in the hot sun for 5 hours, I left early.

Just as I was leaving, the fireworks began:

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And they carried on into my drive home - a "gang" of motorcycle riders were in front of me as I left the grounds and for some reason or another we got into a "heated discussion"... I think they weren't moving for anyone and were busy revving their engines and trying to look cool... so I honked at them to get them moving, and they took exception to it. So, we had a little chat. And then a traffic cop came over and told them to move along and told me to leave them alone. Fine - in fact, I'll leave Summerfest alone all together next year. To say it was a supreme disappointment would be a major understatement.

Summerfest is a "free" concert that tests your patience, your wallet, your resolve, and your cardiovascular and digestive systems... I ate way too much junk food while there. :-)

So, yeah - next year, Summerfest will be a big "no go."


Finally, in other news - I bought my first Blu-ray DVD this weekend: Batman: The Dark Knight - and all I can say is "WOW." I'd never seen a true Blu-ray picture before... it's absolutely unbelievable. I cannot explain it and do it any type of justice - the colors are so vivid, the contrast amazing, the motion looks almost 3D, and the sound will blow you away. I tried to take a picture of the experience, but it's not going to be fair... trust me that you need to get a Blu-ray player if you haven't already.

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Deckin' it.

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Woke-up at 7:00 and hit the road for a 65-mile ride today, followed by a nice 7-mile run. I wanted to beat the wind (it's due to get windy today) and heat (it was in the low 80s when I finished the workout). Took a shower, threw on a pair of shorts and am now sitting on my deck, enjoying a bowl of Fiber One with blueberries and an Optimum Nutrition Strawberry Whey protein shake while listening to some music and reading the WSJ on my laptop.

Ahh.

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Apologies for the dark photo; it's super sunny today and I'm sitting in the shade so the contrasts are all messed-up...The deck measures about 180 square feet (10'x18') so it's got a decent amount of room; it offers a fair amount of privacy, thanks to the solid walls, but still allows you to enjoy the outdoors. Wonderful.

I might hit Summerfest tonight... it ends tomorrow and I'm thinking it might be fun to go check out a few of the bands there.

What a week - I'm beat.

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Oh man, what a friggin' week it's been. I can't tell you how happy I am that the weekend is upon us and that it's a "long weekend" to boot. I definitely need some time to rest and relax!

I moved this week; it's hard to believe that I've been in Madison for a full year now. Seems like only yesterday I was in Austin. But, time flies when you're busy and having fun - definitely experiencing both of those scenarios with the new job and life here in MooTown. So with a year under my cheese-filled belt and the lease expired at my old apartment, I decided to find a new apartment - one that didn't have a crazy old lady as an upstairs neighbor...

And I found just such a place; smaller than the old place, just as expensive, but newer and (hopefully) a lot nicer. Bonus: no upstairs neighbors to wake me up at 4:30am as they vacuumed or did laundry - I'm on the second floor. Yay.

The moving process began about 3 weeks ago, when I started to pack-up the "non-essential" stuff. I packed "off-and-on" for about 10 days, then really turned-it-up and got to some serious packing during the last 10 days of June. I also cleaned the heck out of the old apartment - I absolutely didn't want to sacrifice any of my security deposit, so I made certain the old place was operating-room-clean.

June 30 arrived and by 5:00am I was wide awake, ready to get moving. Jed helped me pack-up the U-Haul on the previous night (thanks, Jed - I really owe you one!!!), so all that I had to do was deflate the air mattress, throw the cats into their crates, grab my cooler from the refrigerator, and head over to the new place.

And that's where things went sour. The cats (god love 'em) absolutely hate their crates. I knew this, which is why I woke-up so early - I had to be out of the old place by 9:00am, so I figured 4-hours would be plenty of time for me to get them into their crates. No such luck... they're wise little kitties, as they heard me move the crates into the bathroom.

They instantly sprung from the air mattress to the top of the cabinets in the kitchen, where they sat for 3+ hours, refusing to budge despite my best efforts to coax them down. I tried playing it cool - ignoring them; I tried putting out some "wet food" for them; I tried throwing turkey to them... nope, they were on to my plan.

So, with 15 minutes to go, I grabbed a big bath towel, climbed up onto the counter, and snagged Shiloh. As I was stepping down from the counter (with Shiloh screaming/yowling/yelping like he was possessed), Mack sunk her teeth and claws into my leg - beating me like I owed her money. She was apparently upset that I was "harming" Shiloh.

I flung her from my leg, which was now gushing dark red blood, only to have her "box me in" to the kitchen. She was "halloween cat" (arched back, hissing, swatting); after a brief stand-off, I lept over her and ran for the bathroom, where I closed the door and flipped Shiloh into his crate. He was not happy.

But I still had Mack to capture, and I was pretty certain she wasn't going to play fair. After chasing her around for a few minutes and taking some heavy battle damage to my ams, I had Mack in her crate. I locked the bathroom door, raced over to the manager's office of my new apartment, picked-up my keys, and raced back to the old apartment where I was able to check-out just in the nick-of-time.

I put the cats in the back of my truck (in their crates, of course) and drove to the new place, where I proceeded to unload the cats and the rest of the stuff from the truck. I then drove back to the old apartment, picked-up the U-Haul, and made my way back to the new place, where I was supposed to meet another friend who was going to help me unload the U-Haul.

Well, due to some extenuating circumstances, he wasn't able to make it on time, so I began unloading the U-Haul myself. I had to return it by 3:00pm, or I would've been charged a significant late fee. So, I hustled up and down the 24 stairs that connect the ground floor to my new pad. The new place is about 20-feet above ground; it's nice for views and TV reception but it stinks for moving!

After about 100 trips up-and-down those stairs, I had everything out of the U-Haul, save for the "big stuff:" a couch, the grill, the bed, and my brand spanking new 55" Samsung LCD television.

My friend was still M.I.A., and time was ticking down, so I unloaded everything by myself... I used the ramp to slide the couch down from the U-Haul and into my garage; I carefully slid the TV and grill down the ramp as well. I slipped a moving blanket under the mattress and box spring and slid them down the ramp and into the garage - pure genius if I do say so.

And just as I was wrapping-up, my friend arrived and we raced back to the U-Haul center where I returned the truck at exactly 2:59pm - a full minute ahead of the due-in time.

We drove back to the apartment, carried the big stuff upstairs and then went out for a bite to eat. I think I went to bed at around 2:30am that night.

I've spent the past 2 days cleaning and organizing the place... I've still got a ways to go - I need to mount the new TV to the wall, figure out what to do with my furniture, determine where to place cat boxes, and eliminate some unnecessary crap, but I'm making progress... I went from this:

waldo.jpg

(notice Shiloh doing his best impression of "Where's Waldo?")

...to this (sorry for the dark photos; I took them this evening at around 11:30pm without a flash):

lr_out.jpg

The new place is much smaller - it's only about 800-square feet (compared to 1200+ square feet for the old place), and it's only a one-bedroom, so I'm having to get creative and efficient with my organization.

Here's a shot looking "in" to the living room from the kitchen:

lr_in.jpg

Those windows open to a large deck that I absolutely love - I scored a cheap, used patio furniture set from a co-worker and can't wait to sit outside with a cold beverage and my laptop, enjoying a nice summer's evening.

Here's the massive flight of stairs that I've really started to hate:

hall_down.jpg

At the bottom of those stairs are two doors - one to the left that leads into my garage, and the one straight ahead that leads outside. It's nice not having a shared hallway/entryway like the old place did. I won't have to listen to people coming and going at all hours of the day/night.

At the top of the stairs is a small "intersection" - hallway to kitchen/living room is to the left. Bathroom is the first door on the left; laundry room straight ahead; bedroom to the right.

hall_up.jpg

Here's the bathroom - I found the shower curtain on Overstock.com and just bought the rugs from Bed Bath and Beyond today.

bathroom.jpg

And here's the bedroom - it's a bad picture because it doesn't show much detail... there's a huge walk-in closet to the right, along with a big "nook" that currently holds my other TV (37" Panasonic LCD).

bedroom.jpg

I've also got my bikes in the bedroom, and I love the 10-foot high ceilings with the tall windows. I get a phenomenal breeze here - I've yet to turn on the A/C. Granted, the sun does make things a bit toasty in the late afternoon, but the view and breeze makes it all worthwhile.

I only wish the place had more storage - I don't have a pantry, nor do I have a linen closet or storage closet... I've got a large 1-car garage (it's more like a deep, 1.5 car garage) directly below my apartment that has some storage in it, but aside from that, there's not any extra space.

I'll be happy when everything is all set to go - I'm hoping to mount the big TV to the wall this weekend, find places for everything else, and arrange my furniture in an intelligent manner. I'll share additional photos when everything is all finished.

I still need to buy a bunch of stuff - night stands, a desk, some bar stools, a book shelf, and so on... moving is expensive! But, the great things about the new place outweigh the costs: I'm upstairs, I have a total of 3 neighbors (which I've yet to hear a peep from), I get a great breeze/view, and my television reception is stellar. And, I've got my own private entry and my own garage. Woo Hoo.

I am draggin', though... between the packing, moving, unpacking, cleaning, organizing, running, riding, swimming, and working, I'm about ready to collapse. Speaking of which, it's 12:38am and I've got a long day of riding/running/organizing ahead of me tomorrow.

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