November 2013 Archives

Faster, lighter, longer.

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I scored a new MacBook Pro yesterday. It's a 2013 MacBook Pro 13" with Retina display, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD disk space. It is an absolute beast, yet weighs just about 3-pounds. To say it's amazing would be an understatement.

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I fondly recall the day I purchased my "old" MacBook Pro - it seemed as though that thing would last a lifetime, and it really has - almost 5-years to the day...

Truth be told, the overall tech specs aren't that much different between the two. The old one was a 15.4" MacBook Pro with an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 320GB hard drive. It works great, but it was time for an upgrade.

The new MacBook Pro, with its shnazzy SSD hard drive (all flash-based; no moving parts), screams. There's no waiting for anything - cold boot is nearly instantaneous, apps open within a second or two, and the thing runs with ridiculous efficiency - never gets warm, and the battery life is insane - 10+ hours on a charge.

Photos and descriptions won't do the new machine any justice; it's just too cool for words, but I'll try... Here it is, side-by-side with the old MacBook Pro:

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Left: Old MacBook Pro Right: New

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Left: Old Right: New

So... like I said, nothing that blogs real sexy-like, but trust me when I say that the new machine is awesome. I've been using it non-stop since 7:30am, and I'm showing 71% battery life remaining...

I will be selling my old MacBook Pro. For anyone who's interested, it's not a bad machine - here are brief specs/info. I'm asking $500 for it (damaged ones are selling on eBay for $250; ones without the new battery, upgrades, extra power supply, sleeve, screen protector, or original packaging are selling for $500 - $650).

- Late 2008 15.4" MacBook Pro Unibody
- Intel Core 2 duo 2.4GHz
- Upgraded to 4GB of RAM
- Upgraded to 320GB 7200rpm SATA drive
- Dual nVidia graphics chipsets
- Brand new NewerTech extra-capacity battery (purchased in September of 2013)
- Includes two (2) 85-watt Magsafe adapters ($80 each)
- Includes Tom Bihn vertical sleeve & screen protector
- Runs OS X 10.9 - Mavericks & is current with all updates
- No visible damage or problems, although battery life is shorter thanks to Mavericks (known issue within Apple; working to resolve)

Ping me if you're interested in it, or might know of someone who would be.

Going, going... GONE!

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Managed to sell the Arkansas house yesterday. Finally.

What an ordeal... It all started waaaaay back around 2009, when I tried to do a FSBO and listed the house on Craigslist and similar sites. Lots of tire-kickers and ooodles of unusual questions/requests about the house. I quickly grew frustrated and decided to leave it be. Amy stayed in the house and did a great job of taking care of it and watching over things.

Then, earlier this year, she decided it was time to move to Wisconsin, so we worked to set a move-out time, and to find an approach to try and sell the house without causing too much disruption to things. I drove down to Arkansas in April of this year to meet with my first realtor and to take care of some odds-n-ends on the house.

The first realtor came recommended by a friend, and at first, I had high hopes for the guy. But those hopes were quickly dashed when I saw his attempt at a listing for the property... he had hired a photographer to take good pictures of the house, and they looked excellent. But his description of the property was atrocious. Here's what it read:

"19 Pulham Drive 3BDRM 2 BATH 1647 sq ft plus walk-out basement. In quiet neighborhood."

So... the address was wrong - (mine was "14" instead of "19") and the description basically matched the spec/data sheet for the house. I asked him about the lack of "sizzle" or "flair" - where was the excitement? I drafted a sample, and he got very defensive. He corrected the address, but left everything else the same.

After 2-months of not getting any hits or inquiries, I pinged him and asked about doing a better job of baiting the hook... he took offense and said that I was being "unreasonable" and that things weren't going to work out between us. So, he dropped me as a client. I laughed... a real estate agent that doesn't want to try to sell or get people excited about a house? Hmm.

So... I found another agent and she took the ball and ran with it. She put together a marketing plan, created a great listing, advertised in local print publications, sent out cards to prospective buyers and agents - the whole campaign looked great. She also suggested several things to improve the house, hence my trip to Arkansas back in August.

Fast-forward a few weeks and there was a couple who had walked through the house 5-times, including once with a contractor so they could obtain a bid to finish the other half of the basement. I was excited, to say the least. I waited for an offer... and... nothing.

Not a peep. They went radio silent for a number of weeks. My agent couldn't get ahold of them or their agent. She called, e-mailed, sent mail, but no response.

So, we held an open house in early October, and 22-couples went through the house, including the couple who had been through 5 times before! How odd?!! Immediately following the open house, that same couple made an offer on the house.

They low-balled my asking price, gave me 8-hours to accept, and stated that any counter-offer would result in them walking away. They wanted to close on October 30. I weighed my options, decided to bite the bullet and take the hit and accept.

And that's when the fun began.

I got all of my things in order, and waited for October 30 to arrive. October 30 came and went - no closing. This super couple had apparently decided to shop dozens of banks for better mortgage rates, and in the process, damaged their credit to the point of losing their previous pre-qualification. Ugh. Seriously?!

So, on November 1, they told my realtor that they were going to be getting cash from their parents to close on the house, and they wanted to close on November 6. Once again, we all scrambled, and November 6 came and went without a closing.

They told my realtor that their parents had to sell stock to raise the cash, and the sale was taking longer to process. So, they wanted to close on November 20. I told my realtor that we were going to get a non-refundable security deposit for the closing, and if anything fell through for any reason that I was keeping the deposit. They agreed, and things were set for November 20.

On November 13, the couple said they wanted to close on November 15, rather than the 20th. Seriously? Ok... so, I scrambled again... signed all of the paperwork, had it notarized, prepared a cashier's check... the whole 9-yards. November 15 came, and yep - you guessed it - no closing.

This couple could win the award for dumbest people on the planet (along with their agent)... they apparently couldn't close on the house they were selling because they didn't realize the house needed to be empty prior to closing... so, when the buyer of their house did a final walk-through prior to closing and saw they still had their things in the house, the buyer refused to close as planned.

So, we rescheduled the closing for November 18, and, thankfully it went through at 5:00pm.

What a ride. But I'm glad it's over. It'll be nice to only have one mortgage, one set of utility bills, and one set of worries. Whew!

I can't thank Amy and my friend BJ enough for their help with the house. Amy was a trooper in terms of dealing with house showings over the summer, keeping the house in great shape, and for doing everything around the house for the past 5 years. BJ was a true friend - he kept an eye on the house while it was vacant from August through yesterday. He mowed the lawn, made sure the furnace worked, checked the water, and all of that great stuff. Thank you, both! I appreciate it so much!

So... final pictures of the house... adios, Arkansas digs!

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Fish Fry Review: Springers of Lake Kegonsa

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My friends Elden and Becky suggested that we take a short drive to the far northeast corner of Lake Kegonsa to sample the fish offerings from Springers. So, five of us (Elden, Becky, Jen, and Heidi) piled into the car and made the short drive through Lake Kegonsa State Park and arrived to the supper club/bar at around 6:30pm.

The parking lot could use some attention; it's primarily gravel and is heavily pot-holed. Thanks to the recent rain and lack of good lighting, we had to pay close attention to not drench the 'ole footsies as we made our way to the entrance. Safely inside, we entered our name for a table, then proceeded to the bar for a pre-meal beverage.

The bar is expansive - I'd say it easily seats 30-35 people. A slew of high-top tables flank the bar on all sides. There are two "alcoves" that seat additional people - one directly attached to the bar and one on the "back" of the bar, that's set-up more like a divided dining room.

We ordered a mix of drinks; tap selection was pedestrian, although heavily focused on Wisconsin micros. Bottles selection was decent; prices averaged $3 - $3.50. I chose a New Glarus Staghorn; Jen went with a Capital Skal; Becky a glass of wine; Elden a mixer; and Heidi went with a traditional Old Fashioned, which was nicely muddled.

Our table became available (pay close attention; the PA system that is used to announce tables is very difficult to hear) and we were seated in the large dining room. Our group of 5 were forced to sit at a 4-top table, making for a snug experience, especially since the table was butted-against one of the dining room walls.

The waitress introduced herself, shared menus, talked about the specials, and went for a second round of drinks for us. When she returned, she took our orders - 3 counts of baked cod, 2 of fried cod. Interestingly, Heidi's second Old Fashioned wasn't muddled...

The dinners included salad or soup. I opted for salad, which was an ordinary garden salad. The veggies were fresh.

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Elden reported the chowder was excellent; Becky loved the french onion soup. Along with our soups and salads came a basket of breads that included little fritters. I eventually caved and tried one; while it was cold it was still quite delicious.

Our entrees arrived before we could finish our starters. The fried cod plates consisted of two pieces each, and the pieces were substantial. I sampled a bite or two and was duly impressed. Excellent breading, very moist fish, piping hot, and really quite good.

The baked cod plate featured a single fillet of cod that was massive. I'd put it at around 12-14 ounces; seasoned with standard paprika. Unfortunately, the baked cod was quite dry - appearing to have been pre-cooked and reheated to serve, the texture was really quite chewy and hard. There wasn't much flavor to speak of; I suspect most of it had been cooked out during the reheat process.

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Sides were excellent; trying to be healthy, I opted for the veggies, which were steamed and delicious. Other side options included baked potato, fries, or hash browns. Coleslaw and tartar were included with each plate.

All-in-all, I'd go back to order the fried cod, or to try one of the other fish options (walleye, blue gill, grouper, or shrimp), but I probably won't reorder the baked fish.

And the award for...

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"Laziest Blog Updater In The World" goes to (drumroll) - ME!!

Folks, I apologize for not keeping things current around here. It wasn't until my friend Steve Wright swung through Madison last week and commented, "You need to blog more often," that I realized just how lax I've been. No excuse for it, other than being busy and not being home very often as of late. Excuses aside, let's catch-up, shall we?

October was a busy month. I'll share the highlights here - hope you enjoy them!

Early October: Packers vs Browns

Have I mentioned how awesome my boss is? Well, he is. And I'm not just saying that because I think he reads this (I don't think he does). His name is also Steve, and he's been the most supportive, generous, skill-building boss I've ever had. He's so good at building strong teams, challenging us to stretch ourselves and to learn as much as we can, and just generally developing strong leaders/professionals. He's been our boss for 2 years now, and it's been absolutely superb.

Aside from him being my immediate boss, he's also become a very good friend. Steve is the guy that I went to Austin with in 2011, he's the guy who generously hosted my 40th birthday party at his house, and has done countless other things for and with me.

He's a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers, so I was pleasantly surprised when he asked if I'd be interested in attending a game with him, his treat.

"Let me think about that for a sec- DUH, of COURSE I'd love to go!" was my response... (I'm so smooth and reserved)

The Packers were playing the Browns, and Steve scored seats in the north end zone, just 5 rows from the field. It was a late afternoon game, which meant we didn't have to wake up terribly early. Steve picked me up at around 11:30; we had an easy drive to the game, and we saw a great Packers victory.

The weather wasn't super great; it was coolish, rainy, and a little windy, but it was still a great time. Because of the weather, we didn't imbibe too much - I think we each had one adult beverage, and then I had a coffee at half time. We're party animals, eh?

Here are some random photos from the game, starting with this awesome tailgating set-up that the Browns fans had. It was an old school bus that had been extended to include a smoker/grilling station on the back. The front featured a PVC-made full face mask. There was a HUGE sound system cranking tunes, and nearly everyone seemed to be really enjoying the set-up. It was truly impressive.

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Here are some action shots from the game. Keep in mind that these were all shot with my iPhone, which is a great point-and-shoot, but it's no full-frame dSLR with nice glass.

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And while I said I don't think he reads my blog, I'll say it again, just in case - thank you, Steve for the great time and for being a great friend and awesome boss.


Mid October: The Big Apple - Revisited

I had the opportunity to visit New York for a training class; the class was held at the same location/venue as the class I attended last year, which was awesome because I had complete familiarity with the area.

I spent 5 days in New York, and man, I honestly love that city. I love staying in the Financial District ("FiDi") - it's at the very southern tip of Manhattan and is where you'll find Battery Park, Ellis Island, Wall Street, and a whole bunch of cool parks/businesses. I ran every single day - if I lived in NYC, I'd run 3x per day. Just look at the view from the running trail within Battery Park:

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Residents of NYC aren't as fond of living in the FiDi as they are other areas because the area largely shuts down after 6:00pm. All of the stock market folks, analysts, and financial folks leave at quitting time and don't return until the next day. That was A-OK by me because it made for very quiet nights in my hotel room (no horns or sirens). Residents also complain about the lack of "good food options," which is something I don't get... I found tons of great food in the area, including this awesome breakfast bagel:

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FiDi is about 40 blocks south of Times Square; I made my way up there a few times because where else will you see things like this?

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Aside from Times Square, I enjoyed the Midtown area because it's also home to a neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen. Hell's Kitchen is a super gorgeous, happening part of town that's filled with incredible shops, restaurants, and innovative businesses. It's also where Parmilla lives, and I had a chance to visit with her on a few occasions.

Parmilla is my "cousin" - she's originally from Malaysia, but moved to NYC a few years ago. I know her through my Aunt Linda, Uncle Warren, and cousin Leanne (and hubby, Jeff). They hosted Parmilla when she was a foreign exchange student back in the 1990s; they've stayed close, and when she returned to the US a while back, they kept in even closer contact.

Parmilla works for a game company; she designs the user interfaces and graphics for a bunch of popular online games and mobile applications. She knew I was in town and invited me to stop by her apartment for dinner and to catch-up. I took her up on the offer. We started with a view from the top floor of her building - it overlooks the Hudson River; you can see the Empire State Building in the background as well.

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Her apartment is really cute, although it's a bit small at just over 425 square feet! Talk about having to be a master of efficiency and layout. I think she's done a good job - take a look for yourself:

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She made an excellent dinner that included a combination of Malaysian and Thai (I think?!) dishes. There were tuna cakes, a fish dish, omelette, and a chicken curry dish. Everything was absolutely divine - some of the best asian food I've ever had!

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We also got together later in the week for a few drinks in the Hell's Kitchen area. We stopped at a little pub that she was familiar with; a bartender snapped a photo of us, so here we are having a few beverages.

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It was great getting to catch-up with Parmilla and to hang out. If you have a mobile device and enjoy playing fun, challenging games, be sure to check out the offerings from her company, PuzzleSocial. They're great games, and they're FREE!

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While I was in New York, my boss happened to swing through town while on his way to a Pearl Jam concert in Hartford, Connecticut. He, along with his wife and kids, invited me to join them for dinner at the world famous Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn. It's been around for 125 years and is quite legendary.

We had an awesome meal; steak for four (a huge Porterhouse), potatoes with onions, house cured bacon, wedge salads, and some quality dessert. It was definitely an experience; I won't post a ton of pictures, but here's one of the steak plate, just after it was delivered to us:

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Talk about a good night! I don't think I would've otherwise had a chance to visit that place, let alone get reservations and pony-up the $200 for that steak all on my own. :-)

Before I knew it, my time in New York came to an all-too-soon end. I left on Saturday afternoon, but not before taking one more stroll through some of the awesome neighborhoods and grabbing some pizza from Lombardi's Pizza.

Lombardi's is located in the Nolita neighborhood and is considered to be one of the country's first pizza places. Nolita is a gorgeous neighborhood; here's a little alcove that I stumbled across while walking to Lombardi's:

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Lombardi's didn't open until 11:30am on Saturday, so I had some time to kill as I had arrived closer to 11:00am. I did a little shopping and returned to find a huge line, filled with hungry tourists, all hoping to grab some of that legendary pizza. Despite the line, I was immediately seated and promptly ordered a Margherita pizza - classic tomato, basil, and mozzarella.

They only sell whole pies, but I didn't care. I'd had Lombardi's a few years back, and I've been dreaming about it ever since. Here's the pizza, fresh out of their coal-fired brick oven:

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Belly full of pizza, back-pack stuffed full with some new clothes, I made my way to the subway, where I rode into Queens, transferred to a bus, and was dropped off at LaGuardia. A good trip, indeed.


End of October: Happy Halloween

A couple of years ago, I went all out for Halloween. Well, the bug hit me to do so again this year, so I set about plans for what I hoped would be an excellent costume.

I'm a huge fan of the (now retired) show, Breaking Bad. It's been a while since I've been so engrossed in a series... it was truly a great story with awesome actors.

So... I decided that I would be Walter White, the primary character. For those not familiar with the show, Walter White is (by day) a high school science teacher who contracted lung cancer and was forced to come up with an alternate method to pay for his treatment. So, he did what any upstanding citizen would do: started cooking crystal meth. Only, his was the best meth ever - 97.8% pure, and highly sought after. The show takes a ton of twists and turns; if you haven't seen it - you need to.

Walt went through several phases in the show. He started as a mild mannered, semi-bumbling, unassuming guy who wore bad clothes and had a dorky aura about him. Later, he turned into a ruthless drug king pin that was sitting on an empire and 80+ million dollars. He shaved his head, grew a goatee, and looked like a hardened criminal. Here he is, in a sort-of "before and after," from the television show:

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My plan was simple: attend a halloween party at the MidTown Pub, dressed as "pre-cancer" Walter White, and then halfway through the night, go into the bathroom, shave my head and change into the meth cooking Walter White badass.

Here I am at the pub, dressed as "normal" Walt. Members Only jacket (compliments of my good friend Marty B), tan khakis, plaid shirt, glasses, tan loafers, looking unassuming.

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I went to the party with a bunch of friends from work - Elden, Becky, Jen, Wendy, and Tamara. We had a great time. Here we are, all dressed up. That's (left-to-right): Elden, Becky, Jen, and me.

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Elden and Becky were the devil couple; their make-up was unreal. Becky did a great job with applying the horns and painting their faces - it looked really great, even up close. Here they are, a little closer:

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Jen went as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. Her costume was super impressive - she made the entire thing from scratch, including the leg holsters, and she looks nearly exactly like Lara Croft. Talk about a great costume - here she is, inside MidTown:

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Wendy and Tamara didn't dress-up, but they did take a ton of photos for me/us. So, about 2 hours into the evening, I went into the bathroom, found an open stall, and shaved my head over the toilet. I then changed into my meth cooking uniform, which was completely accurate, even down to the 3M full face mask with methylamine filter cartridges, and emerged as the evil Walter White. I had a Pyrex dish full of blue rock candy, meant to look like Walt's infamous "Crystal Blue Persuasion."

I don't think I need to state the obvious, but I won the costume contest. Here I am with my prize (cash):

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Here are a few side-by-side photo comparisons:

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A great night, for certain - good friends, good food, and my second MTP costume party victory.

Having a shaved head is odd. It's very cold - I had no idea how much having hair on the 'ole noggin' helps to keep someone warm. Oh well... it's only hair - it'll grow back in a month or so. :-)

...and that's it, folks. Thanks for reading, and let's hope I don't wait another 35 days before the next update!

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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