Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A Weekend of Beautiful Weather and Difficult Disc Golf

This past Memorial weekend the Twin Cities had some of the most incredible weather.  Although humid at times, the abundance of sun shine and a cooling breeze made it great to spend time outdoors.
A number of weeks ago the Star Tribune ran an article in the North section of the paper describing the disc golf course @ Bunker Hill Regional Park in Andover, MN
layout of the course provided by Anoka County
Informational signs are now in place, however, there is still construction on hole 6.  For a 9-hole course, it was moderately difficult.  The signs were helpful in determining the shot needed to hit the hole and the number of strokes also made it easy to find ones way to the next hole.  We didn’t have to pay-to-play as it were, but there was a day pass fee for the park of $5.00.
The Disc Golf course is very close to Bunker Beach, the water park in Bunker Hill, and was closed while we were there as their season does not begin until June (now).  It was amazing to see the number of water parks that begin their seasons in June closed with the phenomenal Memorial Day weather.
With as dry as it has been, the course was mostly dirt and scrub grass that was trying to grow in.  The sections that were in the forest smelled of pine needles blistering in the heat.  Near the parking lot we found the usual amenities: a large pavilion that was being used by the local VFW for the Memorial Day holiday, a large play area with a mister for cooling off in the heat, kind of neat to see them here in Minnesota when they are often found in the South and Western states of the country, and then finally a large grassy field.
Kristen and I picked out a nice spot in the shade and unrolled my University of Minnesota blanket, to enjoy a break and some much needed lunch.  For entertainment, we watched a group of kids and parents run wild around the field flying kites.  The father in charge would direct a corresponding child to run like the dickens to keep their kites in the air, searching for that essential updraft that would make it sore.  However, what would ultimately happen was the kid would keep running and the kite would smash to the ground.
With our stomachs full, we packed up and made our way to my parent’s house in Brooklyn Park, our base of operations for the weekend.  Feeling energized from lunch, we stopped at Brooklyn Park’s 9-hole disc golf course located in Central Park.

Map view provided by:
The course is made up mostly of grass and wood chips near the scoring baskets (is that their official title?).  Distances and Par are listed on the base of the throwing platform for the hole, however, unlike other disc golf courses; BP has not installed signs that show this information or how to best set up ones throw.
 However, the course is pretty user friendly and is a great introduction to the past time/sport/activity, that is Disc Golf, and the fact that the course is free: icing on the cake.
Before starting out on the course, we took a couple of shots around the putting circle (lower left corner of photo posted above) which allows players to practice putting from a number of distances that diminish as one gets closer to the hole (as opposed to an ascending order).  Kristen and I’s favorite hole is #8 from the top of the hill; and is also the best hole to watch other disc golfers perfect their throws and plead with their discs to ‘Get Down, Get Down, Get Down”.  The trick is to pick up enough of an updraft to carry the disc to the hole, but not too much, thus having the disc hug the hill as it approaches the hole.
That evening we got a Facebook message from a good friend from College, Matthew Rhett, who told us that’d he would be in town for the weekend and would be up for playing some disc golf.  An avid and semi-pro disc golfer recommended the 18-hole course @ Bryant Lake Park: part of the Three Rivers Park District.  We all agreed on the location and planned for a tee-off time of 10:00 Am the next day.  Kristen and I then went to bed with the hopes that our throwing arms would have enough rest by morning.
Kristen and I awoke with the excitement of playing a new course in the Metro area and reconnect with friends.  Along with Matthew, his older brother and former floormate of Kristen’s @ Middlebrook: Brian Rhett joined us along with his wife Katrina who I often tease as the Hurricane (I hope she doesn’t hate me for this) and their baby daughter Bella.  The course has a daily fee of $3.00 per person of which Matthew was kind enough to cover for all of us, I’ll have to take him out for a beer the next time he is in town, or challenge him to another round at a different course.

Here’s a description of the course from the Three Rivers Park Website:
The 18-hole disc golf course at Bryant Lake Regional Park offers short and long tee boxes, scenic lake views and the infamous hole #17, where golfers throw their discs off a cliff to reach the basket.  
Descriptions of holes can also be found on the three rivers park website, under the tour button.  The course was one of the most difficult that Kristen and I had ever played through, and the wind was also a contributing factor on a number of holes.
We had some throws where we thought for sure and always aloud “Well, that one is gone forever!”; only to later find our discs in either the thick woods or tall grass.  It also got incredibly hot through the course of playing and I had made the mistake of wearing mostly cotton and not bringing anything synthetic.
We kept pace with Matthew and Brian, while Katrina and Bella walked the course behind us.  I can’t remember how we did stroke wise, but will say that we’ll have to go to Bryant Lake again and continue to work on our disc throwing abilities.

This turned out to be a pretty lengthy post, and it took me a while to finish due to grabbing photos and reading some descriptions, finding links to embed etc.  Overall this was a really fun Holiday weekend for Kristen and I and we are looking forward to spending time with the Rhett Family again in late June during Cottage Grove’s Strawberry festival and a tour of Brian’s garden in his backyard.

Today its June 9th already, and I am up North @ the Tulaby Cabin.  It’s been rainy, windy, cold and overcast and not a typical warm summer day as was promised.  But this has lead to some well needed napping and reading of books.
Kristen spent the last weekend and most of this week with her folks: Dave and Lola @ a campground near Collinwood Lake in Cokato, MN.  Lola recently bought a new camper and they spent the weekend breaking it in.  On Tuesday, Kristen and her Dad where out fishing and Dave was able to land a fairly large Carp weighing about 8 IB.  Hopefully Kristen will write a post about her weekend @ Collinwood in the next couple of days.
I need to write a post about new toy purchases, I recently upgraded my old phone to a new Palm Pre Plus through Verizon Wireless and the Pre Plus has been a handy device.  My father got one as well, and now we have 3G wireless through the Mobile Hotspot at the Cabin.  It has been nice for simple web browsing and checking email.
We’ll see if the weather makes it possible to launch the larger boat and maybe do some fishing if we feel adventurous.  Planning to be back in the cities Thursday and then down in Red Wing, MN Saturday for Fusion Dance’s annual Recital.  My older brother Frank’s students did really well this year as well as a number of his pieces were recognized for choreography awards.
Now, back to George Orwell’s 1984, of which I am reading through for the first time, and possibly a fresh pot of coffee.     

Sunday, June 06, 2010

One of the Best Uses of: Sleepyhead by Passion Pit

My vote is for the Little Big Planet 2 Announcement Trailer. While I am not an owner of a PS3 or Little Big Planet, a good friend of mine has got a lot of mileage out of it and has created some good levels. The first time I heard the song "Sleepyhead" by passion Pit was in the first round of commercials for the Palm Pixi. However, the song didn't get me excited about the product itself; although I have gone on to buy a Palm Pre Plus through Verizon (of which I will dedicate a post to in time). The Song does a great job getting me excited for fans of Little Big Planet 2 and the changing adventures of the main protagonist: Sack-Boy.

The song fits well into the marketing of the game for its epicness of creativity and customization through the driving beats in the background of the song. The creator did a great job of linking moments from the game to the song.
So to wrap things up; this is (IMO) the best use of Passion Pit's Sleepyhead song in the use of marketing a product. Whomever attempts to use the song again for an IP, should consult this video to try an out due what was done, or choose another song. I hope the artists have gotten plenty of exposure from these marketing materials, and compels them to put out more tracks for our enjoyment.
As for Little Big Planet; I saw some great level designs based on ABC's Wipeout that were really well done and I am sure it will continue to be a great platform for beginning, amateur, and experienced game designers the world over. LBP 2 is expected to drop Winter of this year.

The Real Ghostbusters Makes #22 on IGN’s top 100 Animated Series!!

From IGN

"There's a part of us that actually appreciates The Real Ghostbusters more than the actual Ghostbusters movies.  Don't get us wrong, the first movie was classically hilarious, but The Real Ghostbusters just told some really mean and nasty supernatural stories. Their take on The Boogeyman -- and we all know that everyone has their own take on that creature -- was the best we've ever seen. This show had a notably darker tone than other cartoons on at the time, and did well in its research of creature myths and folklore. Most of the time, Venkman, Stantz, Spengler and Winston could often be found thwarting famously diabolical creatures. Samhain, Grundel, Tiamat, Marduk, Russian Domovois and even the freakin' Lovecraft beast Cthulhu! They all fell to the power of the real Ghostbusters!" Image obtained from

The Real Ghostbusters: Winston Zeddemor,Raymond Stantz,Peter Venkman and Egon Spengler
Staff, IGN. Retrieved June 04, 2010, from IGN's Top 100 Animated Series:
The reason I am posting this is The Real Ghostbusters was and remains one of my all time favorite animated series of all time. For years and years I would search the vastness of the internets in the hopes that a fan or dedicated group of fans would put together the episodes as a collection or a rallying cry to owners of the works to put a complete set. For the 25th Anniversary of the original film: Time Life released a massive collector's edition DVD boxed set of the entire show: All episodes and special commentary of series producers; including another favorite of mine: J. Michael Straczynski – creator of Captain Power: and the Soldiers of the Future, and more well known; Babylon 5.

The IGN staff nails it in their critique on the series, that while intended for children, there were a lot of mature story lines and truthfully scary moments, particularly episodes that were written by Straczynski.  This allowed for the show to be enjoyed by adults and also add depth to the series.

Last Christmas, this was the top item under impossible never going to happen in a million years category: and my wonderful girlfriend Kristen totally GOT ME IT!! I contained my excitement and the next morning opened the iconic Firehouse Case and dived into Season 1. Months later, I am somewhere near the end of Season 2. Other television series have taken my focus, as well as some video games including: Ghostbusters: The Video Game for the Xbox 360 made by Atari. The game was a real treat for fans, with the majority of the original cast returning to reprise their roles from the first film, and a great mechanic for catching and defeating ghosts that was intuitive, rewarding, and most importantly fun.

For fans of animated series through the years and for those like myself who grew up in the late 80's and early 90's, there are many of the greats in IGN's list and several that are currently in my DVD collection. A series that I recently got back into from the early 2000's is Samurai Jack: from Cartoon Network's Genndy Tartakovsky; who also animated IGN's #21 on the list: Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003)

My thanks to the IGN editorial staff for this piece, and I hope they continue to produce these quality top 100 lists.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wild Weather @ Tulaby Lake

Kristen and I spent the weekend up North, mowing lawn and enjoying some well needed rest and relaxation. We left the Twin Cities Friday evening around 6:20 PM. Feeling excited and ready for the weekend, we jumped onto 35W northbound hoping to make great time and have few stops.

Boy did we make a mistake, as soon as we hit the junction of 35W and county rd C we could already see traffic backing up from the single lane reductions in both directions starting at 35W and highway 694. We lost a lot of time on this stretch of highway, but were able to get off and found our way to County Rd 10, eventually merging with Highway 10 and on our way North.

Road Construction has been horrible this season trying to get North of the cities, lane closures on both 35 and 94 westbound in Rogers have made the necessity for side routes and new ways of getting to the cabin. We hit all greens on highway 10 and were able to make up some time.

Friday night we rolled in around 11:20 PM, got settled, and watched Star Wars: the Empire Strike Back (that celebrated its 30th Birthday on Friday) and made microwave popcorn as a snack before bed.

Saturday morning we enjoyed a breakfast of Hormel thick Bacon and Pancakes before heading up to the garage to prepare the mowers. We also got to enjoy a few cups of coffee: Starbuck's Yukon blend.

Saturday's weather was overcast with very high winds that made it difficult to mow, but we were able to finish a majority of the cabin property and Kristen taught me a new trick with the riding mower: by engaging the parking brake, you can keep the mower running and dismount without the mower shutting off. Saturday evening there were high winds which forced Kristen and I to cook our steaks on the stove as opposed to on the grill, of which we couldn't get lit because of the wind. That night a thunderstorm moved through that lit up the sky and had some soft thunder, but left very little rain.

The best day of the weekend came Sunday with clear skies and a slight breeze. Kristen and I took a hike to the Fire Tower near Tulaby Lake off of Highway 113 and we had gone a long ways before we realized that we had missed the turn to get to the tower and had instead followed a snow-mobile trail…Usually I hike this path with my dad in the fall and winter and forgot to turn left to ascend the hill. As we got further from highway 113 the bugs got worse and the wind couldn't keep us cool. So we hiked back to the cabin, changed into swimsuits, and I took a well needed dive into the frigid lake.

Sunday night we enjoyed watching some movies including Pixar's UP and The Box. The Box was an interesting science fiction/mystery film and starred a good friend of ours as an extra as a reporter dressed in1970's attire. We might have seen the back of his head during a scene but were both unsure. Also Sunday night more sever weather entered the region and dumped rain, hail, and strong winds knocking out the power Monday morning around 5:45 AM. Kristen and I woke up, did our best to clean up the cabin and then hit the road.

It feels nice to blog again, I know I say this a lot but I am going to try and update as much as I can. I have been meaning to write a post about some of the books I have been reading over the past number of months and some of the games I have played through notably: Dead Space for the Xbox 360. I received Dead Space as a gift from my older brother last Christmas and it was a very satisfying entry to the survival horror universe and a joy for fans of horror in space.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

NEC 25th Birthday!!!

Posted by Picasa
Photo courtesy of the wonderful staff @ the Neighborhood Energy Connection
624 Selby Avenue • Saint Paul • MN • 55104 • Phone: 651.221.4462

The NEC invites YOU to join us in CELEBRATING 25 YEARS of conserving, cycling, recycling, building community, driving less and driving change in the world.

Party with the NEC, HOURCAR members, celebrities, friends and supporters. We will be serving Summit beer, root beer, Chipotle burritos, chips & salsa, and cake.

Come one come all for great food, games, live music and fun

Thursday, February 25
6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
SUMMIT BREWING CO. - The Ratskeller Room
910 Montreal Circle
St Paul, MN 55102
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by calling (651) 221-4462 ext. 136. Visa/MasterCard or checks accepted.

If anyone out there still reads the outpost known as "Nothin' but a Drew Thing" you know that I usually focus on issues related to Land use and Transportation (HSR, Woot!!), descriptions and photos of major occurrences in my corner of South Minneapolis, and whatever else crosses my Radar.

But now I am taking a big leap into the world of Home Energy efficiency, Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs), and Water Heater blankets, my specialty ;-)

In late January I started working with a great group of people over at the Neighborhood Energy Connection (NEC) as a crew member for one of their many programs: The Home Energy Squad (HES).

I have only been on the job for a few weeks and already I have been exposed to a lot of information on how simple, low cost improvements can result in significant energy use reductions and savings for home owners in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area.

We are hoping to have a strong attendance to our 25th Anniversary party, so if you consider yourself a home energy efficiency junky, a fan of delicious CHIPOTLE burritos, live music, and a great group of like minded people we hope that you can attend.

P.S. Xcel energy has partnered with major retailers in Minnesota offering its energy customers CFL light bulbs for as little as $1.00 per bulb, this is a great opportunity for home owners to replace their most used light fixtures with CFL bulbs that come in various shapes and lumens:
From the Wikpedia:

The lumen (symbol: lm) is the SI unit of luminous flux, a measure of the power of light perceived by the human eye. Luminous flux differs from radiant flux, the measure of the total power of light emitted, in that luminous flux is adjusted to reflect the varying sensitivity of the human eye to different wavelengths of light. The lumen is defined in relation to the candela by

1 lm = 1 cd·sr

That is, a light source that uniformly radiates one candela in all directions radiates a total of 4π lumens. If the source were partially covered by an ideal absorbing hemisphere, that system would radiate half as much luminous flux—only 2π lumens. The luminous intensity would still be one candela in those directions that are not obscured.

Not sure when the program ends, hoping to get to my local Home Depot and pick up a bunch for the fixtures I use the most.