miscellaneous commentary

Archive for March 2011

EyeTV conversion

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Last weekend I picked up Micah’s EyeTV conversion box and have spent the past few days digitizing several VHS cassettes. A few of those cassettes were hodgepodges of various television programs from the 80s and 90s. Part of the joy of watching them again was the commercials and one classy promo spot for the KWWL news at ten, circa May 1988. I’d post it on YouTube if I could figure out how to reduce it from its current 9 MB file size.

My VHS film collection had dwindled from a hundred titles several years ago to only a couple dozen as of this year, but after some reflection I decided I wasn’t going to watch a grainy fullscreen version of any movie when a high-quality widescreen version could be seen via Netflix or other online streaming sites. The only films I digitized were the ones not available in Region 1: “Breaking the Waves”, “Song of the South”, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” and “Mudhoney”. I also digitized the 90s MTV cartoon series “The Maxx” as the VHS copy contains a song whose copyright was not extended to the DVD version (a trivial concern, but what the heck).

I bagged up the VHS cassettes and will drop them off at StVdP this weekend. I’m going to try to find a good home for the Orion VCR that has served me well since December 1999, otherwise it’s heading to StVdP as well.


Written by camcarlson

March 31, 2011 at 8:23 PM

Posted in Simplicity

I concede defeat.

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I signed up for a new Facebook account yesterday. While I stand by my reasons for leaving the site, five months of being AWOL has left me out of contact with far too many people who I can’t believe don’t know how to write or respond to an email. It’s incredible. But anyway, I’m back on there now. Re-friend me at your leisure.

Written by camcarlson

March 30, 2011 at 3:58 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

Haochen Zhang in concert

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My friend Matt scored free tickets for a performance by Haochen Zhang on piano at the GBPAC last Sunday. We were in the third row, near dead center. Excellent seats. He performed pieces by Schumann and Beethoven during the first 45 minutes. The selections made me drowsy, until the “presto” coda woke me up. Lots of banging on the keys and frantic gestures. One of the stage lights way above seemed to be aimed right at me. Very annoying. The second half was a bit more interesting, with pieces by Chopin, Debussy and Prokofiev. A larger crowd than the string quartet last month.

Written by camcarlson

March 29, 2011 at 7:39 PM

Posted in Cedar Valley

The Chronicles of Narnia

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Last week I finally finished reading The Chronicles of Narnia, which Jillian had kindly lent me sometime around New Years. I lost steam after Books 1-4 and put it aside, then read Book 5 in a day earlier this month, and then read the last two on the car ride to/from STL two weekends ago. Overall, I liked the interlinked stories. I think they work best being read aloud to children. But I still prefer the Lord of the Rings series.

I especially liked The Horse and His Boy. Aslan is more of a phantom deity, more mysterious in that story than in the others.

“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the tombs. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at night, to receive you.”

I rented “Prince Caspian” last Friday under the impression I hadn’t seen it before. But after the first 10 minutes I had the vague feeling I had. Various bits and scenes seemed familiar but I still couldn’t be certain. I clearly watch waaay too many movies.

Written by camcarlson

March 29, 2011 at 7:33 PM

Posted in Cinema, Literature

5K update

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New personal best 5K time – 25:55. 7 mph for the first two miles, then gradually accelerating to nearly 9.5 mph for the last third of a mile. Now I’m going to focus on consistency, working my way down from a 9-minute mile pace to an 8-minute mile pace for the entire run. If I can do that, I can break the 25-minute mark. I’m also going to do some slower, longer runs each week through April, so my feet and ankles can get used to pavement again.

Written by camcarlson

March 29, 2011 at 7:29 PM

Posted in Running

Blake’s wedding & the Feasting Fox

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We left 9 AM Friday morning from Ben’s house, Cory and Cara in the back seats, Ben behind the wheel. We met Andrea and Robert in the parking lot of the Riverside Casino, where they left their car for the weekend to hitch a ride with Micah & Alice. We all stopped for a late lunch in Hannibal MO at an Italian restaurant that appeared nice but was suspiciously out of stock of numerous menu items. A stop by McD’s for a sinfully delicious shamrock shake and we were back on the road, passing the Mazda en route to St. Louis.

Upon crossing the Des Moines River into Missouri we noticed nearly all houses had vehicles seemingly abandoned in their front lawns, as if mandated by law. The distinction between residence and junk yard was blurred to an obscene degree. But we had some hilly scenery to entertain us, and we found the one decent classic rock station amidst a sea of country music.

There are two Ramadas near the STL airport. Cory’s iPad app directed us to the wrong one; largely deserted, decrepit and completely uninviting. When we reached the other one, they didn’t have any non-smoking rooms available for us to check into. By the time a room did become available we had no time to rest — we changed clothes, hopped right back into the car and drove through downtown to the Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts on Cherokee St. We scored premium streetside parking and, with a half hour at our disposal, wandered through a nearby hipster thrift store.

The wedding ceremony was totally befitting Blake and Hannah’s personalities; informal, carefree, creative and fun. Blake’s little brother Trevor played “here comes the bride” on electric guitar. Officiating the event was John Hancock, fellow printmaker, donning a wizard’s cape, WWI-era German Hun helmet and large brass belt buckle. He kept things moving and the crowd laughing. The entire ceremony took 5 minutes. Short and sweet.

We left the gallery and walked around the neighborhood. A number of stores were serving chips and drinks to celebrate the printmaking convention taking place. A parade came down Cherokee St. shortly after the ceremony ended. Floats, drumline, fire breathers, robots, Superman, the works.

We didn’t stick around for long, as we had 8 PM dinner reservations at the Feasting Fox, a German hotel and restaurant a mile south of Cherokee St. Hands down the best meal I ate that weekend. A robust German ale, various sausage appetizers, black bean soup, Wiener schnitzel, garlic potatoes and a scrumptious slice of carrot cake for dessert.

Back to Cherokee St for post-wedding festivities. The wedding party was hanging out at El Leñador across the street but we chose instead to walk off our feast. We went up and down Cherokee, checked out the artwork on display inside several galleries and a record store with bizarre animals stuffed into glass jars filled with formaldehyde.

We pooped out around 11 PM and returned to our hotel. Taking off my shoes and socks was the best feeling in the world, and I was out within minutes of my head hitting the pillow.

The free breakfast at the Ramada barely qualified as cafeteria fare but I ate it anyway. The waffle was okay. It baked fast. But I’ve stayed in worse places. The Pruisners and Reihers opted to lodge at a pricey downtown hotel, so we didn’t see them again until Saturday afternoon.

After getting gas and a stop at a dingy thrift store, we headed downtown to the Arch. By the time we reached downtown and found parking and stood in line for 20 minutes in the chilly morning breeze, tickets for the ride to the top were sold out. So we walked north along Mississippi riverfront instead. Saw a statue commemorating Lewis & Clark, hordes of cooing pigeons, cobblestone roadways, the metro line running across one of the oldest steel bridges still spanning the river.

We drove back through downtown to Union Station where we met our other travelers, minus Alice, for lunch at Houlihan’s, a sporty bar/restaurant inside the mall. The Angus beef burger hit the spot.

We all piled into the Yukon and headed for the Anheuser-Busch brewery for a tour of the impressive campus. My camera battery died while my fully charged replacement battery sat idle back at the hotel. The finale was a trip to the hospitality room for free beer! We enjoyed a dozen glasses of various fresh brew and bags of pretzels. I liked their new raspberry Shock Top drink. Too bad Busch Ice wasn’t on tap.

Next stop: Delmar Loop, another up and coming neighborhood swarming with teens, hipsters and art folk. I joined Micah, Andrea and Robert for some quick Chinese grub and then left them to head down the street to meet Cory and Ben at Blueberry Hill, where they were enjoying some PBR on tap.

Cara found us and we returned to Fort Gondo, just minutes after the repeat service had ended. But no worries, we had seen the fun version. Blake was happy enough that any of us had bothered to make the trip in the first place, but I don’t think he should have been surprised. Our collective appearance in St. Louis is testament to how good of a friend he is to all of us.

Cookies and kegs of Schafly pale ale and oatmeal stout were served along with a Cajun dinner prepared by Blake and Hannah; white rice, spicy beans and cornbread. We ate and drank and talked and blew bubbles from pencil-thin tubes of soap. Blake gave us a tour of the upstairs apartment. The owner had acquired the building ten years earlier for $3,500 on his credit card.

Our crew decided against attending the after-reception burlesque show and instead went looking for a bowling alley. It was raining fairly steadily and by the time we found an alley, it was packed. We waited half an hour for a free lane before giving up and returning to the hotel for the night.

Same crap breakfast on Sunday morning. Check-out was a breeze. We drove to the south side of town for Ben to pick up a 1930s porcelain Frigidaire, The sun was shining and the temps were in the seventies. Pit stops were made for White Castle, double fish fillets and shamrock shakes.

The weather turned cloudy and cooler as we approached Cedar Rapids. Pit stops in Center Point and Elk Run Heights. Rain began to fall as we reached Ben’s house. I helped Ben moved the Frigidaire into his house before returning home for a much-needed shower and shave.

Written by camcarlson

March 23, 2011 at 9:20 PM

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

Getting into gear

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Yesterday was the official start of the 2011 bicycling season. Over this past weekend Bike Tech gave my Raleigh a tune-up and replaced the front and back brake pads, the chain and the rear cassette. It wasn’t cheap but it was definitely worth it. Pedaling is almost effortless, and the pedals were so smooth from their scrub-down that my shoes kept slipping off.

Most of the trails are now clear, except for parts of George Wyth and a small strip of trail in the shadow of the pine tree cluster in the northeast corner of Big Woods Lake. I had to dismount inside George Wyth a number of times and hike over the lingering snow and ice, in 100-200 feet lengths. If temperatures remain above freezing at night, the trails should clear up after this weekend.

I logged 12.41 miles, a respectable amount given that I didn’t drive north of Big Woods. If I hadn’t developed a runny nose, I probably would have gone as far as Black Hawk Park, which I expect is in the same shape as George Wyth. I’ll have to spin the wheels to log the 6.31 miles I got in last month into the odometer. (I’ll also have to remember to wear my helmet!)

I’m sticking with my goal of 2,000 miles for the year. Actually, I’m aiming at 2,000 miles by November 1, when it’ll get cool and Daylight Saving Time will shorten the afternoons. If I can log 100 miles this month, 200 miles in April, 300 miles per month from May to September and 200 in October, I can do it. From May to September there are 22 weeks to ride 1,500 miles, or 68 miles per week. Let’s hope there’s no flooding this year…

Written by camcarlson

March 17, 2011 at 6:46 PM

Posted in Bicycling