Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The i-Productivity Destroyer

Well, I did it. I jumped on the bandwagon and bought an iPhone. You may be thinking it was one of those impulse buys, but it actually wasn't. When the first version came out, I thought it would be great for my use on the road since I don't carry a laptop. I could have all my music, my calendar, my address book, access to e-mail, the Internet.....oh yeah, and a phone, all in one handy device. I wanted to wait for Apple to get the kinks worked out before I bought the brand new toy. So I waited, and waited, then when I was finally ready to think about buying one, I went into my local Apple store to do some research. The kid working there told me that they're going to be coming out with a new one soon and that I should wait for the new version. More waiting. Finally, Apple announced the new and improved iPhone. All my waiting had paid off because the new version was not only faster (when it comes to Internet use), but you can download all sorts of cool applications to waste your time with, oh, and it was $300 cheaper. Kudos to the kid at the Apple store who told me to wait.

Ever since I've gotten my iPhone, I don't think I've stopped playing with it. They say it's supposed to help with productivity, I'd say it does the opposite. If anything, it's the most productive way to waste time. Now I am constantly checking my e-mail, I mean like every 10 minutes. When I get done checking my e-mail, I go on the web to look for......nothing. When I'm done looking at nothing, I'll play one of the games I downloaded. When I'm done playing a game, I'll check some stocks. What......stocks? When have I ever been interested in stocks? Well, I guess since it's one of the applications on the phone, I might as well use it. Then I'll check the weather in cities I'm not even going to, just to see how their doing. I don't know why I'm surprised when I see that every city is in the 80's and sunny......it's summer, that's how summer works.

Owning the iPhone can really drop your ego down a couple notches too. I'm not any sort of big time businessman who actually has people calling and e-mailing left and right, but the iPhone will make you realize just how many people don't need to talk to you. I still find myself pulling it out of my pocket every five minutes to see if I've gotten a text message, or maybe missed a phone call, maybe I'll check my e-mail again. Sometimes I feel my leg vibrate where my phone sits in my pocket so I'll think I've received a message and when I pull it out.....nothing. I'm having phantom leg vibrations because I think someone needs to tell me something. The other day I was home alone and I could swear I heard my phone beep with a message. Like a kid on Christmas morning I went running across the room to check it.....nothing again. Now I'm just hearing things!

When I first got the iPhone I noticed if I sent an e-mail from it, it would automatically add a signature that reads, "Sent from my iPhone." Talk about great advertising for Apple. Since I didn't want to do any advertising for Apple, I changed the signature to a link for my blog........where I just wrote a big story about how great the iPhone is and how everyone should have one. Ummmmm, I guess this is advertising for them too, isn't it?

I guess if I needed to give a one line review of my new iPhone I'd say this; "I could not love a human baby more than I love my new iPhone." Kidding of course.......kind of.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reasons I'm Not a Mechanic

A few weeks ago I went to a bike maintenance seminar at one of the local bike shops. I figured since I've been doing a lot of biking lately, I should at least know a little something about how my bike works. I know the basics, pedal, you go, pedal faster, you go faster, etc. But there are a lot of things I don't know, like chain maintenance, how to know when your headset is about to fail and turn left when you want to turn right, and the real reason I went.....how to change a flat tire.

You see, I've already had two flat tires this year. The first one occurred while I was jumping over a curb and didn't jump high enough. My back tire landed hard on the curb causing the actual tire to rip. That resulted in a 5 mile walk home in bike shoes. For those who don't have bike shoes, walking in them is kind of like walking in downhill ski boots, not pleasant. That prompted me to go and buy a pack for my bike which contained a tube, patch kit, tire irons (which aren't iron at all, they're made out of plastic), and a fancy Co2 tire inflater thing.

A few weeks after I put that pack on my bike, I was out in the middle of a field (that I probably wasn't supposed to be in) and noticed that my front tire was suddenly much rounder on the bottom than it was 5 minutes earlier. Another flat! Well, at least this time I had the tire changing kit....of course, I have know idea what to do with it. I found a nice spot to flip my bike upside down and start working on it. Since the air was already out of the tire, all I had to do was take the tire and tube off, put a new tube on, and I'd be off in a jiffy. Well, for someone who's not trained in changing tires, it's not as easy as it sounds.

I made a call to my friend Kevin, who's an avid biker, and he patiently tried to talk me through the process. I really wanted to call AAA and ask if they helped stranded bikers but I stuck it out. After 3 broken tire irons and a frustrating 45 minutes in a hot field with no shade for miles, I got the tube and tire back on, I figured out how my Co2 tire pump worked and filled the tire up with air. I started packing up my stuff and before I even had my tire back on my bike, it was flat again! Ahhhhhhhhhh! I made a phone call to a friend of the family, told them where I was, and they came to pick me up.

A week or so later, I noticed the advertisement for a class called Bike Maintenance 101 at the local bike shop. I decided it would be just the class for me. The advertisement said to bring your front bike tire so you could practice changing it hands on. I showed up and found my place in the front row (yep, I'm a nerd). The bike mechanic spent the first hour going through basic chain maintenance and explained how to tell when something on your bike needs the attention of a mechanic.

The next hour was spent on changing tires. He talked about different types of tires, valves, and brake systems. I was very proud of my bike because I was the only guy with a tread specific tire (meaning that the tread is designed to go a certain way on the wheel), I was the only guy with disc brakes, I was the only guy with a fancy presta valve which is usually only found on high pressure road tires or better mountain bike tires. I was surprised they didn't have me teaching the class at this point.

He explained how to get the tire and tube off the wheel, which was really very easy (although it didn't seem easy when I was in the sweltering sun a few weeks earlier). Once we had the tube and tire off we inspected the tire for any foreign objects like thorns, nails, railroad ties, etc. Then he explained how to put the tube back in the tire, put the tire on the wheel while using the tire iron to work it onto the rim. Before I knew it, I had the tire put back together and was ready to fill it up with air. I pumped it up and was very proud of myself, now I knew how to change a tire. I decided, since I was pretty much an expert now, I would help the girl next to me who seemed to be struggling a little bit.

After helping this other girl, we got our tires and were leaving the store. I noticed that the air in my tire was a little lower than when I had filled it up. I didn't think much of it, but by the time I got home, my tire was flat. You have to be kidding me! There wasn't even anything wrong with this tire! There's something wrong about going to a bike class and coming home and not being able to ride your bike.

I couldn't consider myself checked out on changing tires if the one I changed went flat for no apparent reason so the next night I decided I would try to change the tire again on my own. I pulled out the tube and found a small hole by putting the tube in a sink full of water and looking for bubbles.....yes, the same sink I wash dishes in. I decided since it was just a small pin sized hole, I would try my efforts at patching it. I pulled out my patch kit, patched the hole, and put the tube and tire back on my bike. Well, that was going to work great, except when I hooked the pump onto the valve, the tip of the valve broke off in the pump which let all the air out. Time for a new tube.

Fortunately, I happened to have a new tube. I took the old tube out of the tire, put the new one in, filled it up with air, and put the tire on the wheel. Alright, now we're getting somewhere. Remember how I said my tire was tread specific, meaning it needs to rotate a certain direction. Well, I wasn't paying attention to that and only after it was back on the wheel did I realize that the tire was on backwards. Okay, so now I need to take the tube and tire off again, turn the wheel over and put the tire on the right way.

I took the tire and tube off (which I was getting really good at by this point) and realized I had it on the right way the first time. I thought it was on backwards because the bike was upside down it didn't appear to be on the right way....but it was. Alright, I put the tire and tube back on wheel and installed the wheel onto my bike.

The next morning I went for a long, well deserved bike ride with my new tube! It felt nice to know that I had changed the tube myself (even though it took me 5 tries). Next time when I'm stranded in the middle of nowhere, I'll know that I can change my tire.....of course, I'll probably go through 3 tubes and a patch kit before I'm ready to ride again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Duluth Air Show

Last month Erin and I went to the Duluth, MN air show! It featured some of the best performers in the air show circuit including the Blue Angels, Patty Wagstaff, a Minnesota local named John Klatt, among many more. Some of the show highlights included small aerobatic airplanes performing, a heritage flight with an A-10 and a P-51, an A-10 tactical demonstration, and of course, the Blue Angels F-18's and their C-130 which they've named "Fat Albert".

What was supposed to be a rainy, overcast day, turned into a beautiful mostly sunny day with a few scattered clouds that made a perfect backdrop for pictures. Here are a few of the best pictures I took, not bad for a little point and shoot camera.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Free Coffee

Last week in Chicago a police officer was suspended for 15 months and ordered to undergo counseling for demanding free coffee and pastries from six Starbucks coffeehouses over the last five years. Now, I know that demanding free coffee is probably illegal and immoral but I bet none of those Starbucks locations have ever been robbed. Do you think a criminal is going to rob a place that gives free coffee to cops?

Bad guys don't seem to hang out where police officers hang out. If I owned any sort of small business, especially if it was in a bad neighborhood, I'd be giving cops as much free stuff as I could. If I owned a bicycle shop - free tune ups, if I owned a quick lube - free oil changes, a dry cleaning place - free uniform cleaning.

I think police officers are the soldiers of our streets. They give us freedom and keep us safe from bad guys. For those who think cops are the bad guys....QUIT BREAKING THE LAW!!

Personally, I think cops should get free coffee. They work hard to protect us and get paid very little to do it. Now, there should be some rules about free coffee, no fufu drinks like a "grande, non-fat, no-water, sugar free vanilla, chai tea latte". (You may ask yourself why I know about that kind of drink, well, it's because I like fufu drinks and that one is my favorite.) No, cops get free coffee, maybe some cream, but no speciality drinks. Also, no $4 scones, those things are expensive and I'm sure even a monster like Starbucks can't afford to give those away to every cop in the street.

So, next time you're at your favorite coffeehouse and you see a cop starting the night shift, buy him or her a drink, then tell them where you live....those pesky neighbor kids might become less of a problem all of a sudden.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Joys of Driving in Minnesota!

There was an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune the other day about roundabouts and how they are popping up all over the metro area to replace intersections that were once controlled by a four-way stop sign or by a traffic light. It indicated that Minnesotans were having a hard time dealing with these "new" concepts of driving. One person was even quoted as saying, "I've been driving for 30 years, and I don't really know how I'm supposed to go through it, I think a lot of people are confused".

Okay first off, WOW! How hard can it be to yield and then drive onto a curved road? I only have 14 years of driving experience but I've been through a few roundabouts in my life and I've managed to figure them out. I've actually grown quite fond of them. You have all the advantages of an intersection, you know, like turning, going straight, and most importantly....getting places, without having to come to a complete stop.

Not only do you not have to come to a complete stop but there is no worry of someone running a red light and slamming into the side of your car at 50 mph. National data shows that there are 35 percent fewer crashes and 76 percent fewer severe injuries during crashes when four-way intersections are converted to roundabouts. For those that enjoy the little things in life.....like LIVING! I would think you would appreciate a roundabout instead of getting airlifted to the nearest hospital after getting t-boned by someone text messaging their BFF.

For those who have a hard time figuring out how a roundabout works, let me explain. As you approach the intersection you should see a sign that has a bunch of arrows in a circle. That means you are approaching a roundabout. Once you arrive there is a yield sign, just like any other yield sign, it means that you should yield to other cars, once there are no other cars coming, you can enter the roundabout. Whatever you do, don't stop in the roundabout thinking you're going to let someone in from the one of the entrance lanes. You can drive around a few times to get comfortable if you'd like, you just exit on whatever road it is you want to drive on. If it's a two lane roundabout and you're going right or straight stay in the right lane, if you're going left, stay in the left lane. You can usually go straight from the left lane as well. That's it, that's all there is to it. Yield to traffic at the yield sign, drive around in a circle until you find the road you want to drive down, and you're done.

Good luck out there, and beware of people who've gone around the roundabout a few too many times, they drive like a little kid walks after spinning around in the backyard just for fun.