Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ship Activities: Eating, Drinking, and Sleeping

What does one do on a cruise ship besides eating, drinking and sleeping? Get creative, of course. You start treating the food as a canvas and create art:

It's a Big Mac© made at the buffet.

You treat the drinking like a challenge:

Pictured here are drinks #1 of our attempt to sequentially drink at every bar on the ship in one night. We were going top to bottom, starting on floor 17. 

Don't hold your breath, we failed. THERE WERE SO MANY BARS AROUND THE POOL! We decided we were too drunk to continue after 6 hours and ten bars. We left with our heads hung in disgrace, leaving six bars untouched that fateful evening. 

Finally, you don't just sleep, you get super good at sleeping: 

The sunset as viewed from bed on our television. We woke up from our naps just in time to catch it!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

About a Boat

The boat itself was awesome. See for yourself:

This is just one of the "neighborhoods" on the ship. Outdoor park, yo. 

It was the attention to detail that made the Allure of the Seas fun to walk around. Here's the kind of thing you'd see if you stopped and focused on any one thing:

Glass birds, I guess. 

Art was just everywhere. Every hallway, every walkway, even when you looked up at quiet boring corners. As a result, it took until about day 3 for us to feel like we had a handle on the ship. I mean, check out the directory: 

The ship's directory.

Even with these directories everywhere, it was day 5 that we realized there was a bar on the top floor we'd completely missed:

The Viking-Crown Lounge on the 17th floor of the ship. Check out that ocean view.

In our defense, that bar was aft, while our stateroom was forward (which only went up 16 floors). 

Overall, my favorite part of the ship was the lighting. It turned a pretty ship into a sexy ship:

Look at that sexy lighting. It looks sexy in spite of the guy who walked into the center of my shot. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Alicia and Brian Pictures

Next up, let's actually show Alicia and myself to prove we were there. We're totally not creepy people that just fake a vacation. Definitely not.

Too cool for school, despite what that shirt suggests. 

Thursday night was a "Prohibition Party." It was free booze! Well worth the dress-up.

 Possibly the best picture of my wife I've ever seen.

I take it back, this is an even better picture of Alicia. 

Gotta finish on a classy note - here's a formal-night selfie.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Standard Vacation Pictures

Our cruise departed April 27th, so let's get the standard vacation pictures out of the way. It goes without saying that there's going to be some pretty sunset and ocean pictures.

Sunset at Nassau, Bahamas.

Is that blue or what? That's the Atlantic Ocean, yo.

This was my third cruise and every one has involved towel animals in some way. It seems these are a staple. Still a heck of a trunk though, eh?

Here's Alicia in the distance at a beach in St. Thomas within the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Just a closing note to brag - try to speculate how close to the (very much wavy) ocean I had to bring my camera to get this shot. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Absolute Favorite Public Bathroom

Here's a sneak peak inside of Target Plaza Commons:

Bathroom sinks in the men's room

Seriously cool, darn it.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

An Intro to Backyard Season

It was a gorgeous day. Time to get the cushions on the couch outside.

Just a fantastic Sunday. Garage cleaning, burgers on the grill, after-dinner nap. It all lead to my absolute favorite part of summer: 

Look at that comfortable, Ikea-furnished back yard patio!

Backyard night time! Yaaaay! It feels like air conditioning, no kids yelling in the distance, perfect lighting for laptops... it's great even sober!

Thanks to my parents for the outdoor path lights

April makes it sans-bug time, too, so it was all the better out.

That's a fire pillar in the center of the photo, yo. I'm writing this blog post by firelight

You might recall I've written about backyards five years ago. In Brooklyn, we briefly started taking care of the backyard of the apartment building we lived. Alicia and I spent some decent elbow-grease and made it a great little urban escape:

Here's the post from my previous blog this picture was featured

Seriously, this backyard used to be so nasty that Alicia refused to go back there. But we managed to turn it into something I was proud of. The epilogue to that story (unfortunately) is that new tenants came in and claimed it as their own. They ended up killing all the grass, scattering the rocks, and just treating the backyard as a flat patch of dirt for their kids to run-around. 

It may have taken a few years, but I've got my backyard back now. Huzzah. 

Gorgeous Morning

At OptumInsight, one regular meeting held were the "Breakfast Boosts". Once a month - over the breakfast hour - someone would present a topic they were knowledgeable about with the goal of team development.

As a result, most presentations had breakfast-centric pictures. I gave a Breakfast Boost back in June 2012 on Facility Upcoding and I've always been fond of the picture I used on the title page. I thought I'd share it here:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dishwasher Fixed ~ Boom.

You see this?


That's a water intake valve from a dishwasher. A _broken_ water intake valve. I got my digital multimeter:

Multimeter, baby

I pulled out the dishwasher:

Had to redo the intake hose to pull it out this far

After some troubleshooting, I headed out to Appliance Depot for my replacement water intake valve:

See, that's a _working_ water intake valve. Huge difference from the first picture.

Popped that baby in and the magic happened: 

Well, it's less magical when cleanup hasn't happened yet.

That's a working dishwasher. I'm combinations of satisfied, smug, proud, and amazed I managed to do it. I figured pulling the dishwasher out and recreating the error (it would emit a buzzing sound and water would start leaking through the basement ceiling) could be possible, but I'm not exactly an appliance repairman. One hour later, I had the dishwasher pulled out and running over and over. When the buzzing finally did happen, it was during a phase neither motor (not the pump to empty the washer nor the main pump) was running. The buzzing continued even after the electricity was cut; water just kept filling the dishwasher. Must be a valve problem, right? The Multimeter confirmed 120 volts were being sent to the valve (thanks high school electronics class!).

Lucky for me, the internet is a beautiful place. There are actually videos of replacing a water intake valve on a Frigidaire Dishwasher available. Even luckier, replacement parts for appliances are available on demand on a Saturday afternoon. 

My take-away is keeping fear in check. All told, it was a five-hour endeavor (including driving time to Appliance Depot). There were a ton of points along the way where I was telling myself I was an idiot for even trying this. In that last photo, you can see the wet-vac out, implying exactly how sloppy of a time I had. But dog-gone-it, problem solving works in any discipline and a little faith in yourself goes a long way. Screw fear. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Model Train Society Next Door

From the Archives:

Here's something it takes you two years to do after moving into your first house: visit your local Model Train Historical Society down the block. I guess it's like going the dentist or something.

One Saturday, I finally managed to stop over while Alicia was preoccupied.

The "Oh man they have real places in the neighborhood mixed amongst the fake town!" moment

You didn't think it was going to get political, did you?

People added for scale

Yep. That's a thing you can do, I guess.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Leela Burrowed

One of my coworkers had a birthday on Thursday and a few of us took a half day and enjoyed a Twins game which happened to set the record for coldest game ever at Target Field.

More importantly, it was a noon game, which meant I started drinking at noon. Long story short, it was a long day with no pictures. 

Thus! From the archives - my cat burrowed in bed on a cold winter day!

Here's me peaking at Leela who was hidden under the bed sheets. So cute, I need not say more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Driving Business Development

I strive to be a leader at work. I've got to identify promising techniques and tools, then help others become masters - advancing both individual development and (hopefully) corporate success.

My latest endeavor at work is WingDings. Such a valuable, underutilized tool. As such, I'm now hanging reference sheets on my cubical:

Just like teachers hanging the alphabet above the black-board in grade school, I'm hoping myself and fellow colleagues will slowly pickup Wingdings as their new go-to alphabet. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tuesday Ball Game

Did you notice it was cold on Tuesday? One of Alicia's coworkers did. That coworker happened to have season tickets to the Twins and wisely decided to find someone else to enjoy them. Alicia and I were the suckers.

It was seriously cold:

We only made it to the seventh inning. But the seats were fantastic! You could practically see the individual blades of grass on the field. Here was our view: 

Section 123, if you're curious

What tickled me even more was getting to gaze up at my office. Wikipedia says there are 52 total floors, so you can see me here:

Yay for Baseball! Hotdogs and popcorn and beer, oh my! Twins has a 2 run lead for most of the game, until the 6th when the Blue Jay scored 6 runs. Oy. 

To get respite from the cold, we employed a couple tactics - using heated bathrooms and camping under heat lamps. Frankly, none of it did very much - it was a piercing wind. But like our Tornado warning game a few years ago, it was a heck of an experience. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Booting up the old Mac

Normally, Monday night is game night for me. But work managed to invade and I ended up working through 8pm. To reward myself afterwards, I let myself indulge in some nostalgia:

An Apple Macintosh Performa 575

Yup, this is my first computer (well, it was the family computer at the time). I brought it up stairs and explored a bit. It's got dial-up AOL, old Shareware games, and lots of 5th grade projects contained in this bad boy. Here's what AOL looked like (as seen through some screen-captures):

I found pictures of Mortal Kombat (I was huge into MK at the time) from fan websites (after all, what else was there to do on the internet other than share pictures of games?). What was really thought-provoking were the programs and games written by people who don't even have websites anymore. Some apparently end up getting archived on sites such as (such as an old favorite called Factory); others end up being recreated for play in a browser (such as Glider). 

Ahhh... Nostalgia. It's more and more fun as I get older. Nostalgia back in college was silly - I was thinking back to just a few years ago. Now when I think back to 1996, it's nearly two decades ago. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Coffee at Peace Coffee

Twas a quiet and cold day yesterday, but I still managed to get out biking. Just five-ten minutes away is Peace coffee and they were hopping on a Sunday afternoon. Here's the view from my seat.

One small pour-over coffee from Peace Coffee

If you ever go, I can't recommend the pour-over enough. It's unlike any coffee you've had before - zero bitterness. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cruise Prep Shopping Day

Alicia and I pulled out a shopping day on Saturday. We've both got various small clothing needs for an upcoming trip, so we decided to walk around the Mall of America. Some jeans and flip-flops for me, sunglasses and jeans for Alicia, good times.

But shopping day always has it's casualties. Weaknesses of the will where we throw money out the door. Here's one such splurge:

Behind that smile is anguish at spending $20 on two pounds of sand

Alicia's such a trooper - hiding her pain to ensure the troop's morale stays high. But we've let Brookstone bamboozle us into buying sand. Oh well. 

There was one distraction that helped us forget our troubles and recognize the good in humanity: 

A Yo-Yo Competition at the Eden Prairie Mall

The wild flailing of these spinning performers and trick-masters really saved the day. Huzzah!

Also on Shopping Day of note:

- $5 Dilbert Book!
- The Return of the Library Books
- The Grand Budapest Hotel
- Dinner with the Copelands 

Friday, April 11, 2014

I collect mice

So what? What do you collect? I don't do it often, unfortunately. If you're curious, second from the right is my day-to-day mouse, the Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX. Those people at Logitech sure know what they're doing. (Photo from the archives).

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Nook in St. Paul

A Juicie Nookie from Casper's & Runyon's Nook in St. Paul

Normally in polite company it's a bad idea to discuss politics and religion. For my lunch board gaming group at Target, it turns out that hamburgers is a third heated-uncomfortable-discussion topic. Very passionate opinions. One of the members of the group had previously even attempted a study of hamburgers in the Twin Cities. He's got good burgers at the top, including the Juicy Lucy from Matt's Bar which happens to be my personal favorite (twas my Birthday Dinner this year, after all). But number 1 is a burger from the Nook. 

Thus, I had to try it. 

First few timid bites

My initial reaction was amazement: the meat was fresh ground and reminded me of my fresh-ground burgers from home. The onion was raw and plentiful, adding the onion-y kick I love. But the amazement didn't stay glowing throughout the burger. Once I was deep in the cheese, I couldn't get the flavor of the hamburger as much. The super fresh meat was masked by the standard melted American cheese of the juicy-lucy. 

Two things have resulted: 

1) In this author's humble opinion, Matt's Bar retains the title

2) I need to come back to the Nook and have a non-Juicy-Lucy burger.  

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


From the 2013 Archives - Behold! A sight unseen by human eye! 

Our cats sitting peacefully next to each other. Sure, I had to trap them inbetween the door and the screen door... but they took it without dying! If only they recognized that.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Awesome night at work

I really enjoy working late occasionally. I also enjoy blacklights occasionally. On this fateful night (from the archives), those pleasures crossed paths when the lights were turned off. 

There's not much I don't like about this picture. My cool lamp at my desk, my coffee cup. The colors. Mmm.