News about Nathan and Heather Straz

Friday, 5 November, 2010
Moved on to Facebook
by nate

Sorry about the lack of updates here, but you're not likely to see any more on I don't have the time nor energy to maintain my own blog software.

If you're looking for updates from us, find us on Facebook.

9:43 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 8 July, 2009
Dessert Truck on Today Show Saturday
by nate

While we're on vacation in New York City we decided to stop by the Dessert Truck which we saw in an episode of Throwdown! with Bobby Flay. When we found it on 3rd Ave we also found NBC was covering the truck for a piece on Weekend Today. The piece airs on Saturday during the 8 o'clock hour. We had the warm chocolate bread pudding with bacon custard sauce and the milk chocolate mousse with creamy peanut butter center and caramelized popcorn. Trekking to 3rd Ave was certainly worth the effort.

21:47 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Monday, 16 February, 2009
Circuity Clearance Sale
by nate

We stopped by the local Circuit City to see if there were any clearance items worth picking up. I had been in there earlier looking at Digital SLRs, but they only had picked over display models. There was a Nikon D80 there which Heather wanted, but it was still $627 and it didn't include any accessories, not even a battery. We did find some bookshelf speakers for under $30 and a TiVo HD for $220. The sales guys even found me a power cable and a remote. So now I have a TiVo which can play Netflix and YouTube!

7:51 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Monday, 12 January, 2009
What am I?
I need suggestions...
by heather

I went from being a highschool student and athlete, to a college student, to a mechanical engineer, to a neuro-surgical patient, to what-ever I am now... that's what I need help with. What am I now??

When I run into people I haven't seen in a while, I'm often asked these ever-so-common questions.
  • "what are you doing these days?"
  • "what do you do for work?"
I never know how to answer them. I've come up with some answers, but I don't like any of them..
  • "I'm a stay-at-home mom with no kids"
  • "I'm a house-wife, but my husband does most of the cooking and cleaning"

So, I'm looking for suggestions... What am I?

12:47 | Tags: Happenings | 3 Comments

Sunday, 16 November, 2008
Disconnecting our Minnesota cell phones
by nate

We decided it is time to disconnect our T-mobile phones which we've had for four years. We picked up a TracFone for traveling and emergencies, but our primary number will be our land line.

The best part about this is that we're removing about $60 from our monthly budget. It was really frustrating to spend that much for 500 minutes which we didn't come close to using. The TracFone will cost only $80 a year to keep it running. Add to that if we actually need to use it.

Our long distance calling will move over to our land line. We just committed to a year of service to get unlimited long distance calling for the same price we were already paying. For the next three months, we'll even get a discount. I'm impressed to see a phone company giving us a better deal. Thank you, FairPoint.

12:41 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 1 October, 2008
Diabetes fund-raiser
American Diabetes Association
by heather

My little brother, Caleb was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was only 8 years old. Type 1 diabetes is the kind that is insulin dependent, so he wears a pump that administers insulin when he needs it. He was done a great job at learning about counting carbohydrates in the foods that he eats and then figuring out how much insulin he needs. He is not letting the diabetes get in the way of anything that he wants to do! He plays soccer, baseball, and of course basketball. He LOVES basketball! Just in the short time that Caleb has had diabetes, the technology has improved (he went from injecting himself up to 6 times per day with shots of insulin, to just programing in the number of carbs that he ate into his pump). Just think of the improvement he will look back on when he gets older! That's why fundraisers like this are important.

The American Diabetes Association is having a fundraiser this Sunday in Augusta Maine called 'Step Out: walk against diabetes'. For more information, check out Caleb's Team page.

13:14 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Monday, 8 September, 2008
Chase Adjusts My Rates
by nate

While I was checking on my credit card spending for the month I noticed an understated attachment to my online statement, Global Change in Terms. In it they state that effective in October my rates will be going up to the max. I can refuse the change in terms, but then they will close my card. So I guess it's time to shop for new credit cards after enjoying the Chase customer experience since 2005.

My top priority was to transfer my high balance card, one that won't be paid off in the next 12 months, to something with good balance transfer terms. About half of it is at a 4% promotional rate which won't change, but the other half could change from 8% to 26%. I settled on American Express Blue which approved me online and accepted the whole balance transfer with a $99 fee and a new interest rate of 4.99% for the life of the balance.

Next I need to replace my month-to-month rewards card. I already maxed out my $300 rebate for the year so I was going to look for another one anyway. Time to find one so I can ditch Chase. I liked getting cash back and I liked getting a high percentage from gas and groceries. I'm open to recommendations for my next card.

10:21 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Thursday, 28 August, 2008
Weekend in Prospect Harbor
by nate

Last weekend we went up to my parents' place in Prospect Harbor with both Baxter and Rex. We got to see Uncle Jim, Grampy and Joy, and Tim and Sarah were there with their puppy, Scout.

22:02 | Tags: Happenings Pets | 0 Comments

Sunday, 2 March, 2008
Tax Time
by nate

It's tax time again. I usually get my taxes done before March starts, but I haven't had the motivation yet. I started it on Saturday morning and had the numbers complete by the afternoon. Now I just need to fill out the forms so they're fit the be submitted. I'm filing three returns this year, federal, Minnesota, and Maine.

The federal return was by far the easiest to prepare. Since I have mortgage interest I file the full 1040 with Schedule A, three pages.

The Minnesota forms are pretty easy too. There are three pages for the M1 and M1W, which are normal. The M1W replaces all W-2's in the envelope which I think is smart. I'm also filling out the M1NR since I moved out-of-state last year. I was disappointed to find that there isn't a fill-in version of the M1NR form. I like to fill them in on the computer so I can save a copy there and print out a nice clean, legible form. In total I should have seven pages for my Minnesota return.

The Maine tax forms are completely different. There aren't any fill-in forms at all. Not even the Maine long form. The long form is two pages, plus another page for Schedules 1 & 2, another page each for Worksheets A and B, and a final page for Schedule NR. That's six pages plus the three for the federal forms, for a total of nine pages, plus W-2's.

Okay, so two pages doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Take a look and compare M1NR with Worksheet A & B and Schedule NR. Worksheet A makes me feel like I am being interrogated. As someone who is returning to the state and bringing their out-of-state income with them, I am insulted. As for Worksheet B, why does it take Maine tax forms five columns where Minnesota only needs two? And finally Schedule NR, where we calculate a tax credit based on non-Maine income. I get a feeling that Maine thinks it is entitled to everything rather than just taking its share.

Being a Maine tax-payer again doesn't give me any warm, fuzzy feelings.

17:55 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Thursday, 21 February, 2008
Back on the Dew
by nate

A few weeks ago I stopped drinking Mt. Dew. I ran out and I went through the caffeine withdrawal and thought that it was a good time as any to quit the habit. The problem is, I like the taste more than the caffeine. But I remember Coke had another drink like it but without the caffeine, Mello Yello. Unfortunately I couldn't find Mello Yello in any of the local grocery stores. So now I'm back to drinking one glass of Mt. Dew a day, for the taste.

15:27 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Sunday, 3 February, 2008
by nate

We got a new toy this week, a Nintendo Wii. I got a small taste of one at Dug and Sharon's house after Christmas. That was enough to turn "Ooo, shiney," into "Gotta get me one of these." After watching Wii Tracker for a few weeks and reading the forum I decided to just preorder a bundle from I ended up spending more than I should have, but that's what bonuses are for, right?

After going back to GameStop to exchange a few items in the bundle I ended up with the console, two sets of remote with nunchuck, the classic controller, a 1G SD card, Wii Sports, Wii Play, Mario and Sonic at the Olympics, Super Mario Galaxy, and 2000 points to spend on virtual console games at the Wii Store. I think that should keep me entertained for a few months.

15:10 | Tags: Happenings | 2 Comments

Sunday, 20 January, 2008
Good Maine Root Beer
by nate

On a trip to Freeport on Saturday we took a break in the cafe in L.L.Bean. I was looking to get my daily dose of caffeine (Mt. Dew) but instead a bottle of root beer caught my eye. I have a hard time passing up a chance to try a new root beer. It was Maine Root and it was good enough that I peeled the label off the bottle so I would remember to check out their web site. They also make ginger brew and sarsaparilla so I may have to pick up their variety pack.

14:19 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 2 January, 2008
A little snowy
by nate

Before we left for a trip to New York to visit friends our deck was clear. This is what we came back to.


13:39 | Tags: Happenings | 2 Comments

Monday, 26 November, 2007
The Big Moving Ordeal
Part Two, The Good Movers
by nate

Wednesday morning just before 8:00 AM we got a call from the Bekins truck. "Where is your house? We're on Ipava." I gave them directions and they backed their massive Mack truck and 53' trailer in front of our house. We met the driver, Scooter, and his girlfriend/assistant, Amy. We walked them through the house to show what was going on the truck and what was not.

Scooter and his crew were very professional. Amy started tagging everything with numbered stickers and recording each item on inventory sheets. Scooter and his local help, two guys from Action Moving, started wrapping furniture in pads and moving everything out to the truck.

Heather and I felt very comfortable and lucky. Scooter and Amy were a lot of fun to talk to. We heard lots of stories about different people they've moved, both good and bad. Scooter recommended we rent "Moving" with Richard Pryor. We probably chatted with Scooter too much because they didn't get out of there until 12:30 PM. After a quick lunch with Aunt Peg we hit the road.

Our three day drive back to Maine was largely uneventful. We stopped at Mark and Laura's at the end of day two. Thanks again for letting us crash there. We arrived in Maine two days later than scheduled. I think that's pretty good, all things considered.

So when were we going to get our stuff? November 19th. That's a long time to be without our stuff, but we did it. Scooter arrived with our stuff on the 19th just as planned. Looks like everything made it intact. We got everything into the house except our couch. We couldn't get it to fit through any of the doors.


10:04 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Thursday, 22 November, 2007
The Big Moving Ordeal
Part One, The Bad Movers
by nate

So what was the "ordeal" with the moving companies? Let me tell you a story. This might get a little long. Heather used one of those Internet forms to get quotes from a bunch of moving companies. She talked on the phone with a few of them and we decided to go with Nationwide Relocation. The sales man, James, promised that our stuff would be the only stuff on the truck and that it would be moved directly to Maine. No stops or other pick ups. We checked them out with the Better Business Buerau and they have a A- score with almost 600 complaints in the last 36 months. We didn't know what to think about the 600 complaints, perhaps they just do a lot more business than anyone else. That's a good thing, right?

According to the contract we signed they were guaranteed to arrive on Saturday or Sunday, November 3rd or 4th. They would give us 28-48 hours advanced notice for the pick-up time. Friday afternoon rolls around and Heather hasn't heard from the company yet. She calls to find what the pick-up time will be. They say they can make 10 PM on Sunday, which is still inside their guaranteed pick-up window. Digusted we choose Monday morning at 7:00 AM instead.

Monday morning arrives and we get up at 5:30 to finish the last bits of packing. Heather leaves around 7:30 to pick up some coffee and possibly some touch-up paint. The truck still hasn't arrived and we haven't heard anything yet from the moving company. She gets back at 8:30 after deciding that it isn't worth it to spend $30 on a gallon of paint. The truck still hasn't arrived and no phone calls. She starts calling people at 8:45 and can't get a hold of anyone at Nationwide or South Moving and Storage (the subcontractor).

After a dozen phone calls, including a few to Heather's mother to find out more about this "South" company, she gets a hold of the owner of South on his cell phone. He can't speak very good English so he hands the phone to a woman who puts the phone down and starts yelling back and forth with the owner in another language. Finally she says that the truck will be there between noon and 4:00 PM.

To kill the time until noon we decided take Baxter to the dog park. After getting back from lunch, Heather started calling again. She finally got a hold of James and expressed her digust. He "made a few calls" and said the truck was 30 minutes to an hour away. Heather wasn't feeling well so we took a nap and after two hours I woke her up to start making calls again.

After a few calls she got Traci in customer service. From her we found that we could cancel now and get a full refund. They missed their guaranteed pick-up window and broke their end of the contract. After a few minutes of discussion we decided to call back and cancel. James had lied to us, the company didn't call us at all, and we didn't trust them anymore to return our stuff if they did take it. Traci transfered us to Cheryl in the cancellation department. Cheryl didn't seem very competent to do anything but we made sure she knew we were cancelling at 5pm Eastern Time and to make sure everyone else knew.

At this point we went to our friends' house to have dinner and use the Internet. We cancelled our hotel reservation in Indiana. We didn't know when we were going to get that far. I started submitting requests for estimates to any moving company I could find. I submitted to ABF, United, Mayflower, and Bekins.

Tuesday morning before 7 AM we received a few calls from the truck driver of South, but we didn't answer them. We cancelled through Nationwide and if they can't notify their drivers in a timely fashion, that's their problem.

At 8:20 I got a call from the local Bekins estimator and scheduled him to come by at 9:30. An estimator from Mohawk United called shortly after that and made an appointment for 2:00 PM. After going to get some breakfast food I met with Matt from Bekins. He was very professional and gave us an estimate before he left. It was better than the contract we signed with Nationwide.

While I'm talking to the Bekins guy, Heather starts getting a ton of calls from Nationwide and South about the cancellation. They want to make thing better. They want to keep our business. The truck is only eight miles from our house. It's in our neighborhood. Heather got calls all the way up the management chain. She did a great job of being firm and professional with them. I wouldn't have been so calm.

During lunch I got a call back from Matt at Bekins. He learned of a cancellation on a truck that was heading back east. They could pick up our stuff on Wednesday morning, but we needed to act fast to reserve it. I wanted to get the other estimate done, but there really was no time. We decided to go with Bekins. Tuesday afternoon we signed our contract and headed to U-haul to pick up a mattress bag.

Tuesday night we went back to our friends' house for dinner with a totally different state of mind. We were much more relaxed and comfortable with the moving process. We knew our stuff wouldn't go directly to Maine, but we were okay with that. We were much more confident that it would get there.

8:52 | Tags: Happenings | 2 Comments

Tuesday, 20 November, 2007
Back Online in Maine
by nate

After what it seemed like an eternity waiting for our stuff, we're back online. If you're seeing this message, Mark has updated our DNS entry and our email should be working again.

14:24 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Thursday, 25 October, 2007
Moving to Maine
by nate

That's right, we're moving back to Maine. We still haven't sold our townhouse, but we got an offer to rent that we couldn't refuse. We've already booked the movers and sold off my yellow Mazda3. I will be working from home after we move. We're packing like crazy and getting rid of anything we can.

The truck is scheduled to come the weekend of November 3rd. Our web site and email will be on the truck so will be down for about a week. Mark is going to set up a server to collect our email so we should get it once I get our server back on the net in Maine.

9:10 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 1 August, 2007
Won't be going that way for a while
by nate

If you haven't heard yet, you will soon. The I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed this evening. This is a bridge I would normally take home after work. I haven't been since mid-June when they closed the on-ramp that I used to get on I-35W. I was never in danger today. I crossed the river on a different bridge around 5:50pm, about ten minutes before the bridge collapsed and didn't hear about it until I was picking Heather up at 6:30.

21:09 | Tags: Happenings | 2 Comments

Sunday, 27 May, 2007
Townhouse for Sale
by nate

We've been thinking about moving back to the east coast for a while now. I got the OK from my boss to work remote so I don't need to worry about finding a new job. We decided less than two weeks before we left for New York that we were going to put our house on the market before we left. It was a frantic 8 days of cleaning and packing things away. We signed the paperwork the day before we left and the house is now listed on the MLS. We're hoping to get some showing while we're out-of-state.

11:05 | Tags: Happenings House | 0 Comments

Thursday, 17 May, 2007
Third time's a charm
by heather

Surgery number 3 is going to be May 29. I have been putting off blogging about it since I decided to have the surgery back in February. I think this is because the doctors aren't very confident that this surgery will take care of my primary complaint, the constant head pain. Its really hard to be an optimistic patient when the doctors aren't optimistic. But this is the only thing that Dr.B is offering for treatment for me right now. He said that the tethered cord has to be fixed before they look at trying to fix my neck/fusion or there will be further damage.

This surgery will be much different from the other two I've had. First the good news: They won't have to shave my hair :) and the recovery is supposed to be shorter than the others. This surgery will involve releasing the spinal cord (at the bottom) from the bone where it is attached. So, this surgery will be on my lower back instead of my neck and back of my head.

Check back for updates. Nate will try to keep the blog updated after the surgery so you all can follow my recovery. Don't forget to post a comment and say 'hello'. I love hearing from you all and its always nice when Nate comes to visit me in the hospital and reads the comments to me :)

18:34 | Tags: Happenings Chiari | 5 Comments

Monday, 23 April, 2007
MinneBar 07
by nate

This weekend I spent Saturday at MinneBar, a technology and design un-conference. I've never been to one of these before and it was an interesting experience. It's a free conference where anyone can sign up to attend and present. Over 380 people signed up. I'm not sure that many actually attended, but the space was packed and got really hot. I went up to the roof a few times to cool off.

The conference started out with some opening remarks and a demo/talk by William Gurstelle, a writer and tech enthusiast. He was drawing comparisons between BarCamp and the "technology underground" which he writes about. He was also pushing his latest book, Whoosh Boom Splat.

The first session I went to was Does the world need more storage?. Since storage is my day job, I couldn't not attend this session. I've spent most of my career working with the shared file systems CXFS and GFS. It was good to see what else was going on in the industry.

Next I attended You can do that? Selling agile to the enterprise. I felt that the presentation was missing an overview of what agile development was all about. I got the sense that it was a most flexible and reactive method of developing software. I certainly want to read more about it.

For the last session before lunch I headed downstairs to Designing for Use. I've seen some really aweful interfaces since I joined Red Hat. We've started design discussions for some major internal infrastructure for the QE department. I was hoping to get some ideas on how to avoid another design disaster. Instead of a talk on the fundamentals of design it was more of a group theray session. I didn't get as much out of it as I was hoping to.

After lunch there were two slots for demos. I think the best one was for Crash Plan, a backup tool with an interesting twist. Instead of backing up to tape or CD, it lets you back up to other people who use Crash Plan. What happens is that you and your friends and family buy the software. Then you allow each other to backup each other's data. I think that's innovative.

After the demos was a special session, an interview with David Heinemeier Hansson from 37 signals and Ruby on Rails fame. Interviews with founders of open source projects are always good and this was no execption. It's great to hear how they and their projects got started. Hopefully the audio or video will be posted on the MinneBar web site.

A fellow TCZPUG member, Gary Berosik, co-presented the session Introduction to natural language processing. This was certainly the most technical presentation I went to. They didn't explain the math behind the techniques, but they did have the equations on their slides. One technique they highlighted, naive Bayes, is one that was once popular in spam fighting. I can see how it would work really well in categorizing non-hostile content. It also brought a different idea applying it to spam fighting. If you could train the network on the blog posts, it might make a good decision on comments for the post. I get a lot of spam comments that aren't at all related to the blog, let alone each post. Being able to toss them out automatically would be great.

The final session I attened, I actually organized. One of the organizers, Luke Francl, sent an email to the TCZPUG mailing list about doing a Web Frameworks Panel. After some thought I decided to do it. I volunteered to support Django. Jack Ungerleider volunteered to speak on behalf of Zope. I left an open invitation in the session description so other attendees could join the panel. We ended up with five including David Heinemeier Hansson. I was pretty nervious going into the panel as I was the only hobbyist on the panel and everyone else did web development professionally. I think I did okay. There were a bunch of times I wanted to answer a question from the audience but by the time someone else finished answering the question, the topic had headed somewhere else. Oh well. I'm still glad I did it.

Overall, I'm glad I went to MinneBar. Next time I won't bother taking a laptop with me. I should also try to present something Linux related. The un-conference was heavily dominated by web specific topics so I felt a little out-of-place. I also think the sessions felt really short. I would have loved another 10-20 minutes because the discussions could have easily gone that much longer and hit more important points.

9:36 | Tags: Happenings Projects Django | 2 Comments

Monday, 9 April, 2007
Easter Bread
by heather

We had a nice Easter. We went to a neighbor's house for dinner and had some great food. I love to bake, but have not attempted bread much. I think I've made bread from scratch less than a dozen times - ever, and never Yeast bread. When I was growing up, my mom made wonderful bread and so I'm familiar with how much work goes into it. I was searching my favorite website for cooking a few weeks before Easter looking for something new to try. I found a great looking bread that I wanted to try, but it was a yeast bread, and I was afraid it wouldn't come out well. So, I made a 'practice' loaf on Thursday and it came out well. So, I made another one on Sunday to take for Easter dinner. Here is a picture of it.


10:09 | Tags: Happenings Sites Cooking Social | 0 Comments

Monday, 12 March, 2007
I want a cupcake!
by heather

I've been reading that certain foods can increase pain. I decided to cut some of the common foods that can make pain worse. My plan is to try it for a couple months, then slowly add things one at a time to see if I notice it making my pain worse. The following foods are on my list to stay away from:

  • Refined Sugar
  • White flour
  • Milk
  • Caffeine
  • White rice
  • Gluten

I've followed this for 9 days now. I stopped coffee cold turkey and it went surprisingly well. I've switched to green tea for my morning pick-me-up. It has been pretty easy to stick to this for breakfast and lunch. Dinner is a bit harder. The hardest though, is staying away from sweets. I'm eating lots of fruit, so I'm getting plenty of 'natural sugar', but its not the same as a cupcake. I keep bringing up the cupcake, because I just baked some to take to a friend who just had a baby. Its really hard to sit here and not eat one!

16:03 | Tags: Happenings Chiari Cooking | 1 Comment

Sunday, 4 March, 2007
by heather

I made it home from Maine just in time for a snow storm. It seems like the March storms have been the biggest in the last couple years. Between this storm and one last weekend, we have over 2 feet of snow on the ground. Saturday we took Baxter to the park and met some of his friends (and our friends) there for some fun in the snow. Here are a couple pictures of Baxter and his girlfriend, Izzy playing chase.

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9:52 | Tags: Happenings Pets | 0 Comments

Monday, 19 February, 2007
Falling Ice
by nate

After I got out of the shower this morning I was startled by a series of loud thumps that sounds like it came from the roof. It scared Baxter and he barked at it. I quickly got dressed and ran downstairs to look to see what was going on outside. I found this large chunk of ice had fallen off the roof.


This is the section of roof that it rolled down. It must have been hanging on the furnace exhaust. The vent on the lower left is for the bathroom where I was standing. I had to borrow a camera to get these pictures (Thanks, Leslie!) since Heather took the camera with her. When I took Baxter out this morning you could still see the bits of ice that had broken off while the big chunk rolled down the roof.


12:04 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Saturday, 17 February, 2007
Travel Nightmares
But we are in Maine now
by heather

I'm glad that I don't have to travel through airports again for a while (just over a week). Mom and I spent 4 1/2 hours at JFK on Wednesday looking for my bag. They were supposed to call me when it arrived and they would arrange to deliver it to me, but they didn't call and we knew that with all the cancelled flights, it would take forever to get my bag if we waited for them. So, we went to JFK (had to go there to get the rental car anyway) and spent nearly 5 hours getting different stories about where my bag 'might' be. After all that, we DID find it! It was in the Delta office..not really sure why, because I flew NorthWest and Jet Blue...But the important part is we got it!

We had a flight to return to Maine on Friday afternoon. That morning, we heard that Jet Blue had cancelled many of their flights and delayed many more so we knew it was going to be a long day. We got to the airport with plenty of time to return the car and stand in the massive lines of people at the check in area. The airport was mobbed with people who had been bumped from the days before and wanted to get out. The story changed multiple times about when and from which gate our flight was going to leave. When the gate assignment changed, we had to take a shuttle to another terminal and it was then saying the flight was going to be on time so we rushed over and didn't grab lunch because we didn't think we had time. We got to the other area, it was at least 85 degrees in that area and mobbed with people. Our flight was then delayed, but we didn't know for how long, so we couldn't leave to go some where more comfortable and get lunch. Anyway after all that, we boarded 2 hours late and then sat on the plane for an hour before we took off. We got different stories about needing to refuel and wait for luggage. So, we got to Portland 3 hours late and we went to baggage claim to wait for my bag. We watched them unload the entire plane and not a single person claimed a bag. None of the luggage on our flight was for any of the passengers on our flight. So, we have no idea where my bag is, or when I will get it! Jet Blue announced today that they have cancelled all their flights in to Portland for this weekend, to try to catch up. But at least we are here and I don't have to fly again until the 28th! Time to relax for a while.

12:18 | Tags: Happenings Chiari Vacations | 0 Comments

Tuesday, 13 February, 2007
Long Day of Travel
by heather

Today I flew from Minneapolis to Maine, through Detroit. Then I flew from Maine to JFK. Mom and I were going to fly to JFK Wednesday morning, but they were already canceling flights due to the snow storm on its way so we decided we better get to New York ahead of the storm so that I don't miss my appointments at TCI. So, we are here in NY. We'll be headed to the Variety House tomorrow and then my appointments are still scheduled for Thursday. My connection in Detroit was so tight that I had to run to catch the plane. My bag didn't make the connection, so its due to get to Portland tonight around 11pm. Then they will get it to me tomorrow somehow. It has been a long crazy day!

22:45 | Tags: Happenings Chiari | 2 Comments

Monday, 5 February, 2007
Time for a change
by heather

The other day we decided that it was time for a change. With the help of our friends Kenny and Kristy, we moved the furniture in our living room. This is the first time we have moved the couch since we moved in over 3 years ago. I think its fun to have a new look!


11:44 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Thursday, 11 January, 2007
by heather

New Years weekend we got about 2 inches of snow. I didn't think it would be enough to play in but I babysat for Carli and Max on Tuesday and we went out sledding in the back yard. Baxter joined us too! I hope this isn't all the snow we will see this winter, because its almost gone now!

9:34 | Tags: Happenings Pets | 0 Comments

Saturday, 30 December, 2006
Quiet Week Off
by nate

I've been on "vacation" all week as part of Red Hat's annual holiday shutdown. I don't feel like I've done much all week. I intended to get some work done on a few programming projects, but alas, I procrastinated. Today I did a little bit of work on the layout of the web site. It should finally look right for all of you Internet Explorer users. I gave in and added a table to get the sidebar and content spaces in the right place. I really wanted to do the layout without using tables, but CSS just doesn't have a sane way to make it work on all browsers.

The week started out with Christmas on Monday. Heather and I were quite impressed with the number of presents under out tree. Our families sent a ton of presents. Thank you. After openning our presents, we stuffed and dipped a bunch of eclairs to take over to Deb and Jeff's for brunch. We spent the middle of the day there then took Baxter to the dog park for some exercise.

Tuesday we relaxed around the house. I probably spent too much time playing my new game Burnout: Revenge. Wednesday we dropped Heather's Mazda 5 off at the dealership and drove up to Albertville to do some post-Christmas bargain shopping. We found some great deals at Banana Republic and picked up some new shoes at Sketchers.

Thursday I returned a pair of gloves that Mom bought me at Lands End. Sorry, Mom I was really impressed with the return process. When they pick items for an order, they slap on a label each item. They can punch in a number from the label to look up the entire order. They put the balance on a gift card while I looked around the store. I ended up using the gloves to subsidize a new Primaloft pillow. Hopefully my neck won't ache so much in the morning.

Friday I spent most of the day playing video games. In the evening Heather and I went to a party in White Bear Lake. My friend Dean got married this fall and moved into a new house. His in-laws decided to throw a party to celebrate in his new house.

20:52 | Tags: Happenings Vacations | 0 Comments

Sunday, 3 December, 2006
Our tree is up
by nate

Every year our real estate agent invites us to his office's Toys for Trees event. We bring a few toys to donate and we leave with a Christmas tree. Every year we're impressed with how good the trees look. It's a deal that we just can't pass up.

21:19 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Sunday, 15 October, 2006
by heather

I just sorted through all our blog entries to assign tags. Please let us know if an entry seems to be filed incorrectly. Thanks!

16:28 | Tags: Happenings Sites | 0 Comments

Monday, 11 September, 2006
Feeling Handy
by nate

If you've ever watched The Red Green Show then you should know the phrase "If they don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." Today I think I proved that I'm handy. The power nozzle on our vacuum stopped working this weekend. As soon as you turned it on it would stop and act like it was jammed. I took the power nozzle apart and found that one of the bearings in the brush had frozen up. A quick Google search for the part number on the side of the bearing showed that I could easily buy one online for $3.95. For such a small part I didn't really want to pay the shipping. I openned up the phone book and found that there was a "Bearings" category and Gopher Bearing had an ad that stated "Open to Public." I emailed them to make sure they had the part and picked up two bearings today for $2.90 each. I installed the bearings this evening and am happy to say the power nozzle works great.

21:30 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Sunday, 10 September, 2006
One-sided Minutes
by nate

Just when I had gotten the anger of the board meeting out of my head, the minutes arrive. I should have expected it. The minutes were written in the usual Louis fasion, long winded with no useful information. Now I feel driven to write a letter to the rest of the homeowners about how the board is acting completely unprofessionally and that they shouldn't be trusted. I hope I can calm down enough to write them in a coherent fasion.

8:56 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Saturday, 2 September, 2006
Removed from the board
by nate

On Wednesday we had a special meeting of the homeowners of our townhouse association. The purpose of the meeting was to remove my wife, the president of the board up until the rescheduled regular meeting just prior to the special meeting, from the board. Heather had done nothing wrong. One of the board members had been removed from office two years ago and was getting his revenge. Heather was removed from the board.

I don't want to get into the whole back story because it would take too long and get me all worked up again. I had a really hard time sleeping Wednesday night because I was re-living the meeting in my head. I don't think I've ever been more angry about an issue and that includes the 2004 presidential election. I have to find ways to keep my mind occupied so I don't start thinking about the meeting and what I would have liked to say.

At this point our board can not be trusted. I think during the meeting we at least showed that the homeowners need to watch the board more closely. I was very disappointed when only one homeowner out of the 25 present volunteered to replace Heather on the board. The lack of participation shown is exactly the reason why the board got into the state it is today.

13:42 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 5 July, 2006
Netgear, ARGH!
by nate

I got another reminder today of why I shouldn't spend money on Netgear equipment. Their tech support absolutely sucks and their "intelligent" equipment is anything but.

This episode started a few weeks ago when we needed some managed switches at work. We were going to put 2 quad-port Ethernet cards in four different machines to test large numbers of cluster services for Red Hat Cluster Suite. We needed at least 40 ports to handle the connections for the four machines and we wanted to be able to turn ports on and off with a script for failure testing.

I started looking at managed switches and settled on the NetGear GS748T. It had enough ports and it had enough smarts to let us disable ports at will. We purchased three of them.

After receiving the switches I powered them up and ran into the first problem. Their web interface didn't work with Firefox. I was able to log in, but as soon as I selected another configuration function it would ask me to log in again. I started a support case for this and continued on trying to get the switches configured. It turns out Konqueror was able to configure the switches.

I configured up two switches to be trunked together and that worked perfectly. The third switch I needed to configure with 802.1Q VLANs so I started playing with that configuration. After getting the VLAN ID's from the network guys I removed the test VID and added the official VIDs. I mean, I tried to add them. It said the new VID value was invalid. I reset the switch. Still invalid. I did a factory defaults reset. Still invalid. I tried another switch and was able to configure them, so I did a hardware swap. I was able to get the new switch configured and running.

Overnight, the power went down in the lab. In the morning I wasn't able to talk between the tagged and untagged ports on the switch. Argh! I tried a factory reset and got into the same state as before. I added this to the case and waited until after the holiday weekend.

After getting back from the holiday weekend I got a message that they thought it was a hardware problem and that I was authorized to get an RMA and send the hardware back. Great!

I called up tech support and started talking to a tech. They immediately started to troubleshoot the problem again. I had the switch on my desk so I could give them the serial number and get the RMA, but no, they wanted it up so I could try a few things. I put the guy on hold and installed the switch again. He wanted me to try resetting the switch again. I didn't work for me the last ten times, and it didn't work for me this time either. He had me enter VID's which still didn't work. Then he asked me if I could make the switch available to him so he could try out a few things. Ha! No! I told him that if he gave me that RMA number I was authorized to get he could play with it all he wanted. He put me on hold to talk to someone else. He asked me to turn off the cache for my web browser, which didn't change anything. He asked me if I had tried Mozilla Firefox, to which I replied that I stated at the start of my case that it didn't work.

He finally asked when I purchased the switch. June 23rd. Oh, since you purchased it less than 30 days ago you have to return it to the store where you bought it. At this point I yelled at the guy, "THANK YOU FOR WASTING A HOUR OF MY TIME!" and slammed the phone down on the cradle.

I sure hope that after this incident I'll remember not to buy Netgear again.

20:10 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Saturday, 20 May, 2006
New Car
Gotta Love the Mazda
by heather

Today we bought a new car. After getting the news from the shop about how dangerous our old 626 was, we decided it was time to get something new. We went to the Mazda dealership looking for something that I feel comfortable driving. Since my surgery, I have limitted motion in my neck and find it difficult to see when driving our Mazda3. When I drove the new Mazda5, I couldn't believe how much better I could see out of it. The larger mirrors on the sides helps a lot too. So, we ended up getting something bigger than we thought we would, but I'm really happy with it! I'm calling it a mini-mini-van.


22:52 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Thursday, 18 May, 2006
Time to retire the old car
by nate

The '91 626 has been needing a new clutch for a while. Today I took it down to the local mechanic to get an estimate on that and the brakes. I expected to get a thousand dollar quote. Instead the mechanic told me that while he'd love to put a new clutch in my car, he couldn't let me put that much money into the car. It seems that the frame has a lot of rust and it really isn't that safe to drive. So it turns out that we need to start car shopping again. Ugh, I was hoping we would finish the first set of car payments before starting the second set.

22:55 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Thursday, 11 May, 2006
Beautiful Day
by heather

Yesterday was absolutly beautiful. Here are a couple pictures taken of the tree in our side yard.

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11:21 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Tuesday, 14 February, 2006
Happy Valentines Day
by heather

Nate and I celebrated Valentines day with Sushi and Chocolate Covered Strawberries. We have a nice fancy grocery store that carries Sushi so its a great treat to be able to get that and bring it home. Sunday I made cut-out cookies and a chocolate glaze for them. We decided the glaze was not quite right so I made a butter cream frosting and decorated them with red sugar. The chocolate was perfect for heating and dipping strawberries in though!

23:07 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 25 January, 2006
Blessings for today
by heather

Today's blessings all happen to start with the letter 'B'. Strange huh? I happen to be enjoying all of these right now! 3 at once, how nice? Well, here they are:

  1. Blue Sky
  2. Birds singing
  3. Belgium Waffles

10:51 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Tuesday, 24 January, 2006
by heather

Last week I was thinking about a blog entry that would include a list of things that really drive me crazy, or make me angry. I was having a particularly bad week and thought that venting on my blog would help. Then I went to church on Sunday and heard Pastor Mike talk about focusing on the blessings in life instead of the negative occurrences. He mentioned how easy it is to be brought down by thinking about the negative things in life. Pastor Mike challenged us all to think of 3 blessings per day and see if that changes the way we think about all the other events that go on in our day. So, here goes, three blessings for today:

  1. I have a very supportive husband. I couldn't ask for more support when dealing with my health issues!
  2. I have found doctors that are experts in treating patients with Chiari Malformations and they are going to operate on me in 5 weeks.
  3. I have a puppy and a bunny that both love to be pet. Petting an animal is a wonderful stress reliever!

10:46 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Thursday, 22 December, 2005
Christmas Decorations
by heather

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas season is decorating. I thought some of you might like to see how we decorated our house for the holidays.

This picture shows the wreath that mom made and sent to me all the way from Maine!

Here is a picture of the stocking advent calender that I made last year. I put little goodies in each for us to eat each day as we count down the days until Christmas.

20:39 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Sunday, 13 November, 2005
Winter Weather!!
Snow is better than prozac
by heather

The weather gurus around here are saying that we should get 4-8 inches of snow Monday into Tuesday. When I heard the news I wanted to run outside and do a snow dance. I refrained, but may have to do it tomorrow! I'm looking forward to using my new skiis that I bought 3 years ago that I've never used! Anyone know the snow dance? I've kinda forgot it since I havn't thought about it since highschool ski seasons.

21:50 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Friday, 30 September, 2005
Considering Vonage
by nate

Anyone who has delt with Frontier will tell you that they are a very bad phone company. They take advantage of their monopoly position by charging lots of money and providing terrible customer service.

A few weeks ago we bought new cordless phones for the house. We thought it would be a good idea to add Caller-ID since the new phones display it. Heather called Frontier and added it today. They want to charge us $11 to activate it and $7.50/month for the service. That seemed a little shoking so I started looking at options.

Vonage provides Caller-ID with their basic service at $14.99/month. That sounds great, but we have to keep the DSL line so we can host our weblog and email server. I called back to see if Frontier would provide a "Naked DSL" line. They do! But they cut the bandwidth back from 2M/256k to 1M/128k. Ouch! I'm not sure I can do that.

Option 1:
Frontier Phone ($40) + Frontier DSL ($36) + Visi ISP ($20) = $96
Option 2:
Frontier DSL ($36) + Visi ISP ($20) + Vonage ($15) = $71

Hmm, is twice the bandwidth worth $25?

17:02 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Thursday, 15 September, 2005
Sushi Picnic
by heather

For our anniversary, Nate and I had a Sushi Picnic at a very special place. We went to Kowalskis, loaded up with your favorite sushi, grabbed a blanket and headed to the spot that we got married, two years before. We sat under the weeping willow tree and enjoyed being together. I think it was more romantic than our original idea of going out to dinner at a restaurant.

15:55 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Sunday, 4 September, 2005
State Fair
The Great Minnesota Get-Together
by heather

I took the day off on Friday to make the annual trip to the State Fair. Since Nate doesn't really care for the fair, I went with two neighbors, Derek and Jan. We had a good time. It really was just a day of people watching and eating. Derek did go on a ride called the 'ejection seat'. It was quite entertaining to watch!

22:09 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Saturday, 3 September, 2005
Viewsonic PS790 lasts 6 years
by nate

Back in college I had a 15" monitor that just wouldn't die. It started giving me problems when I was a sophomore. By my senior year I decided to stop waiting and buy a replacement. I bought myself a 19 inch Viewsonic PS790 with dual inputs. Yesterday it made a new snapping sound and the picture went away for a few seconds. When I turned it on this morning it made the snapping sound and wouldn't produce an image. I decided to order a Dell 1905FP (20% off through Labor Day). I'm using one of these at work and I really like it. I wanted to get something that had a DVI input so when I finally upgrade my PC, I can go all digital. Until that arrives, I'm suffering on an old 14" monitor that can only do 800x600.

14:28 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Lost my cell phone
by nate

Last weekend when we were at Mall of America I lost my cell phone. I think it fell out of my pocket when I was trying on shoes at DSW. By the time I realized it was gone it was over an hour later. I went back to everywhere I had been and asked, but no one had found it. What really sucks is that I probably had 40 phone numbers on there and I don't know which ones I didn't have anywhere else.

After I got home I called T-Mobile and suspended it. They let me know that someone had made a call on it after I had lost it and gave me the number. They don't expect that I will get it back, but to try calling the number to let the person know that their friend was using a stolen phone. I did. I was able to talk to a mother who said it was probably someone calling her children. I'm guessing that some kid found it, thought "Cool, a free phone." then threw it out after it stopped working. I have 30 days to re-activate my phone number before I get hit with cancelation charges.

14:15 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Saturday, 28 May, 2005
Wireless Equipment Sucks
by nate

Thursday night Heather and Derek started having trouble connecting to the Wireless Access Point, a Linksys WAP11. After fiddling with it for a few hours it finally went ka-put. I've tried to reset the thing a hundred times and I can't talk to it at all. It started digging around for customer support and I'm afraid I might be SOL. After digging through my credit card I found that I probably bought it back in December. I probably don't have my receipt because I sent in a rebate. Although I still have the box, I don't have the UPC because that went in with the rebate. Ugh!

This is the second piece of wireless equipment that's died on me in the last year. The previous piece was a Netgear MA521. I'll admit that the stuff is neat when it works, but IMHO, that doesn't last long. I'll take a nearby ethernet jack over Wifi any day.

20:33 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Thursday, 26 May, 2005
Recommending a film lab
by nate

Hey Eric, saw your entry on film processing. You might want to find a Ritz Camera store in your area. I use them for all of my digital prints and Heather started using them for film developing. They don't use the old chemical process. They digitially scan your film and print them out on high quality paper. Stop by one and talk to the manager sometime.

10:13 | Tags: Happenings Sites | 0 Comments

Tuesday, 10 May, 2005
Caleb's Zoo Update
by heather

Here is Caleb's update about the trip to Como Park:

Right now I am watching the incredibals. Como Park was great. I saw lions, tigers, monkeys(gorrilas), polar bears, seals(sea lions), bicein, giraffes, zebras, puffins, pengwins, pellicans, ostriges, deer, horses, and alot of plants. (dad thank-you for the coment... and I love you!)

20:18 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

by heather

My brother Caleb wanted to write a blog entry:

I'm having fun in Minnisota. We've been to the Mall of America and today we're going to the Zoo. I think Heaher is doing better. She seems to be doing more things now.Rex is doing better and he likes cheerio's alot. Yesterday we went to a icecream shop called called cold stone. Tomorrow we go home I can wait. One more day in Minnisota please! Afew days ago Heather got a haircut it looks good! Later I will tell you what I saw at the zoo.

9:50 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Monday, 25 April, 2005
Suggestions for light reading? learn about CUPs..
by heather

I'm hoping some of the Engineers from Chevron will read this and can suggest some reading for me. I've been thinking about that huge project that will be starting up soon and I want to learn about it before I'm ready to come back to work so that I can get up to speed (if that's possible; I know I have LOTS to learn).

So, any suggestions for reading about CoGeneration Utility Plants?

9:53 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Saturday, 23 April, 2005
Repair or replace?
by nate

While we were down in Rochester, something went very wrong with Heather's laptop. It's a three year old Gateway Solo 1450. I had it sitting in the front seat of the car, ready to find some wireless networks on the way back to the house. I was driving out of the parking garage and I put the screen down before I got to the parking attendant. When I looked at the laptop again, it was "off" and wouldn't turn back on. As it stands now, it looks like the laptop if off and the battery is charging, whether on battery or AC. It still drains the battery, but won't charge it.

I called Gateway and they told me I would have to send it in for trouble shooting. I couldn't find anywhere on their site that tells me what the LEDs mean in the current state. They want a $299 deposit and they'll cover shipping. They'll only charge what the repairs cost, but a motherboard replacement costs $649. I'm not sure the three year old laptop is worth the repair costs, but at the same time I don't want to shell out money for a replacement.

Any suggestions?

10:14 | Tags: Happenings | 3 Comments

Monday, 18 April, 2005
Chevron Dorks are the Best
by heather
Thanks to all the dorks (and those of you who think you aren't dorks) at Chevron for the wonderful going away party. Jesse, thanks for organizing the "alcoholic beverage optional" party. Its always a good time to go to the Moose. Also, the party at work was such a surprise and thanks to all of you, I will be sure to keep busy while recovering. The 4 coloring books should keep me busy for quite a long time!

13:18 | Tags: Happenings | 3 Comments

Monday, 11 April, 2005
Electronic Traffic Signs Cause Jams
by nate

I've noticed this several times in the past. After working your way through a traffic jam you get to an variable message sign with a message on it. Right after you get past the sign the traffic jam ends and you can get back to highway speeds. Do you really have to slow down that much to read a traffic sign? I wonder if Mn/DOT has the data to figure out how many traffic jams are caused by messages flashed on the variable message signs.

19:23 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Monday, 28 March, 2005
68 degrees on March 28!
No excuse not to run!
by heather
I just returned from a run. Leslie and I took her two dogs, Bailey and Billy and we went 4 miles. We did pretty well since we havn't been running much the past few months! Now that spring is here in Minnesota, I guess its time to start running again :)

19:02 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005
New Bike
by heather
I'm looking forward to hitting the roads with my new bike! I just went to pick it up tonight. Its a Trek 1000 and its about 1/4 the weight of my old trek. It felt so fast even as I tried it out in the parking lot. This summer I'm hoping to be able to bike with Nate without holding him up too much. I'm working on getting in shape with running and I think my new, lighter bike with clipless pedals should help me become a speedier rider. Wish me luck!

21:39 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Saturday, 29 January, 2005
Clarkson Hockey Telecast
by nate

Every year the Clarkson Alumni Association telecasts one of the Clarkson hockey games around the country so far flung alumni like myself can watch the game and meet with other fellow alumni in the area. This year I was surprised to run into Karyn Smith who is also a Computer Science grad from class of 2000.

15:41 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments

Friday, 12 November, 2004
Clarkson Reunion 2005
by nate

I received a notice in the mail today about our five year Clarkson reunion. Is it July 7-10, 2005. It would be great to see some of those people you never expected to see again, but is it worth going to? Has anyone else made a decision yet if they are going to go or not? Who would you like to see again?

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Here is who I would like to see again [1] :

Mike Akers, Marshall Hayden, Kevin Makles, and Ryan Esty
Always a fun group of guys to hang out with and do tech stuff with. I read Mike's blog periodically. We took a trip to North Caronlina to the 5th (and last) Linux Expo and we saw Linus at the first LinuxWorld New York. Great memories!
My advisor. I regret not meeting him for breakfast the day before graduation. What can I say? I didn't like getting up early in the morning and I still don't. My bad.
Kelly Turner
We had a lot of classes together. At graduation she didn't know what she was going to do with her math degree. I wonder what she ended up doing.
Charlene Sickler
She was one of those people that would make me smile, no matter how grouchy I was, just by passing by in the hallway and saying, "Hi." I think she was heading to the D.C. area to use her Environmental Science and Policy degree.
Ben Stein
Ben skipped the first year of C.S. like I did. He was a really smart guy, but I think he has a big StarCraft addiction. I didn't see him in class much senior year. I hope he's done well for himself.
[1]Before the guys that I saw this summer say, "Hey! Don't you want to see us again?" YES I DO. The thing is, I know I'll see you again. We keep in touch. I don't know what these people are up to anymore.

23:50 | Tags: Happenings | 1 Comment

Sunday, 31 October, 2004
Halloween Results
by nate

This year marks a new record for the number of trick-or-treaters at the Straz residence. We had a full 200% increase from last year. Our new record is 3 kids. Does anyone want some candy?

21:24 | Tags: Happenings | 2 Comments

Friday, 22 October, 2004
Curling Starts Tonight
by nate

Our curling season starts tonight at the St. Paul Curling Club. If you ever try to call us on a Friday night this winter, that's probably where we are. Update: We won our first game!

14:00 | Tags: Happenings | 0 Comments