Lots 'o Updates: Party, Pearl Jam, and AR

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It's been a while since I've updated the blog - almost 2 weeks... lots of things going on to keep me busy and distracted (although nothing to keep me from eating like a maniac - I SWEAR I'm going to do 6 weeks of super clean eating - this is ridiculous).

Let's see... where to begin? How about last week? I had one of my biggest projects come to a successful close in July. We updated more than 5,000 computers from Microsoft Office XP and/or Office 2003 to Office 2010.

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We did it on time, under budget, and without any outages or downtime for any of our 60+ business units and 3500+ employees. That may not sound like a big deal, but it really was, especially when you consider the project had to ensure that all of our legacy applications and data were tested and confirmed to work with the new version of Office, and that we had to arrange for training, awareness, and communication to all 3500+ employees without disrupting normal business processes... Oh, and our project team consisted of less than 10 people.

So, we celebrated the success with a party at the Capital Brewery. We catered-in some barbeque from Blowin' Smoke BBQ, which included smoked brisket, smoked pork shoulder, cheesy potatoes, potato salad, and a bunch of goodies. Here's part of the spread:

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We also ordered a cake from Craig's Cake Shop - and it was amazing, as usual. The cake featured a chocolate base layer, peanut-butter-chocolate-mousse layer, and a vanilla cake layer, all covered in Craig's signature whipped frosting with white chocolate shavings. YUMMO.

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The only bad/unfortunate thing about the celebration was that the weather didn't really oblige us in a friendly manner... we had the party last Thursday, when it was 95F and nearly 100% humidity. So, we all sat outside, sweating to death and eating a lot of food. Not a good combination if you're hoping for a festive and celebratory mood. :-) Here's my project team, sitting in the sweltering heat and humidity:

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Notice how there isn't anyone else sitting outside with us? Apparently we were the only ones daring enough to suffer the oven-like conditions that day. :-)

Fast forward a few days...

On Sunday, I went to the Pearl Jam concert with my boss and a few of his friends, and we had an absolute blast. The concert was held at one of my most favorite venues, Alpine Valley.

Alpine Valley is an outdoor venue that's situated in the valley of a ski facility, and it offers some of the best views, sound, and environment of any concert venue I've ever been to. I've seen dozens of shows here, from Guns 'N Roses to Rush to Metallica to Van Halen - countless of great, great shows. But all paled in comparison to the Pearl Jam show - seriously.

We parked out in the boonies, as is the norm when you visit Alpine Valley...

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The show ran all weekend - there were probably a dozen bands playing, but we were there to see: Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, and Pearl Jam. This superset of groups was scheduled to hit the stage at around 6:00pm (QotSA first, followed by the Strokes, with PJ coming on at 9:00pm).

As we made our way to the seating area, we saw this awesome billboard that some local artists were painting for the show. It was super colorful - I don't think my phone captured the color quite as well as it looked in person. They started the billboard on Friday and were just finishing it on Sunday when I took this photo:

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We made our way from the entry straight to the "shelter" area, where there was a Pearl Jam "museum" (I didn't go through it, but I did take a picture of the walls that surrounded the exhibit. Fans were encouraged to sign the walls and leave words of wisdom - it was pretty neat):

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We bought some t-shirts (Pearl Jam had special edition "Wisconsin Sports" shirts - they took the Packers logo and modified it to have "PJ" instead of the "G", along with a Brewers and Bucks version), and then almost had a heart attack when we saw how much a beer cost at the show... what is the world coming to?

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Now, I know what you're thinking - "Stella Artois is an import, and it's probably a really big can of beer, so $13, while pricey, isn't that bad."

There's only one problem (or three)... all beer was $13 per can, including Miller Lite, Bud Light, Corona Light, etc... and a tall can meant a 16oz "tall boy"... and, Stella was only available in a bottle, which they poured into a cup and "topped it off" with part of a second bottle. For reference, an entire case of Miller Lite should run you around $16 if memory serves me correctly. Needless to say, we only had a beer or two the entire night. :-)

Brats were $6.50; hamburgers were $8.50; pretzels were $7.50... so, not only did we not drink anything, we didn't really eat anything. Good times (not really).

I mentioned that Alpine Valley is situated on a ski hill - if you look closely in the background of this photo, you can see part of the ski hill. I took this while standing in line for a t-shirt (which was $35 - sensing a theme??).

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We found our way to the seating area, settled-in, and enjoyed the rest of the evening. The crazy thing about this particular line-up was that it "built" on itself - every part was better than the previous... The Queens of the Stone Age were great - sounded incredible, and played a great set of songs. The Strokes were even better - better sound, and a super great mix of hits. And then Pearl Jam came out and just nailed it.

Perfect sound, perfect stage show, perfect musicianship - it was so unreal. And they played for about four (4) hours!! The show ended at about 1:00am... they did so many great songs, and the crowd was singing along so loudly at times that you couldn't even hear the band. I would recommend that you go see them if you have any interest in their music at all. Here's the only decent photo I could get:

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We arrived home at about 3:00am - a long day, for sure, but definitely worth it.

And then, the following day (Labor Day), I got a surprise call from Amy... apparently the house was in need of some repairs, including the A/C unit, which had stopped working (and it was 95F). Amy was able to help me diagnose the problem, which appeared to be a failed compressor-assist capacitor and the contactor assembly.

Quotes to repair the unit were around $300, and along with the other things that needed to be done around the house, I figured it was better for me to drive down and take care of it on my own. I found the A/C parts online for a total of $50-ish and had them shipped to AR. I left Wisconsin on Wednesday after work, and arrived just after midnight.

One part had arrived, but the other one was MIA. So, I checked the tracking details and discovered that the part wasn't due to arrive until Monday, despite my paying for expedited shipping. I called the company that I ordered the part from and learned that they goofed-up the shipping... so, I ran around all of northwest Arkansas today, looking for a suitable replacement part. Eventually found what I needed and went about fixing the A/C unit. When I was all done, this is what my handy work looked like:

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This is what the old parts looked like - notice the rusted/leaking/oily capacitor (round thing) and the heavily corroded contactor assembly (block-thing):

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Also note that I replaced all of the connectors, cleaned-up the wiring, and had to "translate" the wiring on the contactor so that everything would work properly. The replacement contactor was a generic version that didn't have the same configuration as the original part did... thankfully I was able to trace everything with a volt/ohm meter and got it figured out on the first try. I'm writing this from the frosty-cool-confines of the house, where it is an icy 68F inside (instead of 80F). :-) The system has been running flawlessly for a few hours now.

Which leads me to the last part of this entry. A lot of folks ask why I like Arkansas so much. The answer is simple - I like the house, it's inexpensive, the people here are much more friendly than they are in Wisconsin, and I get to enjoy views like this from my backyard...

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And my "neighbors" are great:

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And of course, the dogs are excellent - here's a "dog bomb" that went off in my office:

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We're off to have dinner with some of Amy's coworkers. I can't wait to kick back and relax a bit. What a day.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steve published on September 9, 2011 3:56 PM.

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