Monday, August 31, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009 - Day One

I was extremely jealous when my sister attended Lollapalooza last year. I stated that I would be going this year, even if it was alone. Needless to say, it did not take much arm-twisting to get both my siblings to join in the fun.

Chelsea and I got the three-day passes in order to maximize our Lollapalooza 2009 experience. For those of you who aren't familiar, this is an annual outdoor alternative music festival that is held in Grant Park in Chicago every year. It's billed as one of the largest such festivals in the country.

As I can't really pay justice to proper music reviewing, this is more of a "round-up" of the weekend's events, and less about critical music coverage.

In order to have a more relaxing weekend, I rode the Amtrak to Chicago on Friday. Once the train actually left Champaign, after being one hour late, the ride was a nice time to read and do my iPod-based music prep work. This is despite the fact that I'm fairly certain I was seated amongst some recently-released inmates (matching new gray sweats, white t-shirts, and white Keds).

The weekend (August 7-10) was supposed to be one of the hottest weekends of the year, with heat indices well-above 100F. So, I only took shorts and t-shirts. Unfortunately, Friday was a typical cold, rainy day in the windy city, and we had to make an Old Navy stop for an emergency long-sleeve t-shirt. We embraced the sure-to-be-muddy festival attitude and headed downtown. The rain wasn't too bad, and our umbrellas helped improved situation between shows.

Here's who we saw on Friday:
My favorite was Of Montreal. They had a fun stage show that involved lots of costumed characters. Another highlight of Friday was the availability of 24-oz cans of beer. Although we chose not to watch them, Depeche Mode was the only Lollapalooza band that I had previously seen live. Kimberly and I saw the Devontional Tour when it visited Champaign in 1993. The night was concluded with an 11:00 dinner at one of Chelsea's local bars.

The scariest part of Friday was when Kimberly texted me with "How's the Bud Light?" about 2 minutes after we bought more Bud Light. Big Brother is watching.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ominous Sign

I try to keep my blog from being too political, but this one is unavoidable.

Number one sign that you're probably in line to stand before a so-called "Death Panel": Verizon rep recommends you get this.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Entertainment Center Getting Closer

Last night I officially completed the second of three phases in creating our massive entertainment center. Although the side units were installed almost six months ago, it's taken "some time" to apply all of the details.

We finally moved the home theater components into their custom area (complete with slide-out shelf) a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, after a few days, we had a satellite receiver over-heating issue in the closed cabinet. So, the door had to come back off while I came up with a cool solution. I ended up ordering an 80mm fan unit from Last night, I used my brand-new 3.25" hole saw to a) drill a massive hole into my masterpiece and b) beat the living tar out of my wrist (for those who have used large-bore hole saws in a cramped space, you know what I'm talking about). I vented the fan to the empty area behind the center unit, so you can't see the fan on the outside of the unit anywhere.

In the end, the fan, in combination with some homemade component spacers, keeps the temperature directly above our receiver slightly cooler than it was with no fan and no door. Mission accomplished! And, Ethan and I got to play with the thermocouple for my multimeter.

Here are a couple of pictures:

New Right Unit

Full entertainment center (thus far)

Next, I will begin work on the book units that will fill the final 18" on each end. Hopefully, these will require less than the 9 months I've been working on the side units. Here's a snapshot of the prep work I did with Google Sketchup.

Sketchup drawing of new book unit to be built

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Half-Cat or Mutual of Omaha's Wild Lane

CAUTION: This post is mildly gruesome, particularly those feline-loving readers.

This post deals with a half-cat, not to be confused with either a half-track or a snowcat.

On my way to town last week, I noticed something that resembled a dead animal alongside the lane. After backing up for a closer look, I was disgusted to see a half-cat lying in the grass. The following picture will describe the approximate amount of cat that was lying there.

We suspect a coyote to be the culprit.

Here's a time line of events, as observed on my way to work each morning:

Day One: Observe half-cat in grotesque state.
Day Two: Observe half-cat in less-than-recognizable state. Turkey vulture very reluctantly flies off as I drive up.
Day Three: Observe disheveled half-cat skeleton surrounded by clumps of half-cat fur.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Clark School

All three of the kids spent the last weekend at my parents' house, so Kimberly and I spent the entire weekend trying to remember how to live without the kids. It was no small task. I think we managed.

As part of the management process, I rode to Royal and back using my "guaranteed wind shift" route. On the way back, I finally remembered to stop at the northwest corner of Homer Lake (corner of 2500E and Homer Lake Rd) to look at a historical marker that I've known about for some time, but always have forgotten to actually look at.

View Royal Loop in a larger map. The Clark School historical site is at the blue marker on the left.

This is the site of the Clark School, a one-room schoolhouse that was active from 1856-1951. The display there talks mostly about the collection of schoolhouses that were around Homer. I believe it said there were more than 10 within 10 miles of Homer at one point in time.

This site is particularly interesting to me because the display includes a 1930 picture of the students (about 20) and their teacher in front of the school. Front and center in the picture is my grandmother, Christine Morrison (Wiese), and two of her sisters. Around he same time, my grandfather was also attending a one-room school house situated about halfway between our house and Homer. I don't believe there's a marker for that one though.

Homer has a more interesting history than one would guess from its current state. The town was originally built about a mile north of its current location, on the Salt Fork. It was later moved to where it is now. A trolley used to run through town. In the early part of the century, Homer was the center of African-American life in Champaign County. I've learned this from paging through one of the Homer history books that have been published.

One of these days, we'll get around to visiting the Homer Historical Society Museum, that's supposed to be interesting.