Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Minnesota, Again

I find myself in the North Country yet again. I'm currently in Virginia, MN for another two day trip. I did a similar one last week as well.

I've got a few things to post. Last weekend was especially busy, but I promise I'll try to keep it under 1,000 words.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Busiest Week

The last week of September was quite possibly the busiest week I've ever had. I put well over 1,000 miles on the Civic in the course of visiting three states. It all started off Monday morning, when I received a call from a client wanting to schedule the site walk for a new tower north of Duluth, MN. I left work around noon and ran home to grab a change of clothes. I stopped at an existing tower site on the way up for photos. Here's a shot of the Civic atop a hill overlooking the farm buildings on the property.Following this I made my way up to Superior, where I spent the night. I attempted to email back pictures from the site I visited, but yet again the hotel WiFi was not up to the task. I was up early the next morning to make my way through Duluth to the proposed tower site. Coming over the Blatnik Bridge from Superior to Duluth, I saw three separate boats in the harbor. I've always had a thing for Great Lakes shipping. It took me about 45 minutes to get to the tower site, and I ended up being about 15 minutes early. The property owner happened to be home, and he came out to see what I was doing in his driveway. He had a dog that was the size of a pony. Once we got back in the woods I quickly determined that there would be no tower going in at that location - there were wetlands on the property, and of course the owner wanted the tower there. So this was yet another semi-wasted trip, though not as bad as some.

I raced back home to try and rest up, for I was heading down to Chicago the next day for a two day WiMAX convention. I made the mistake of waiting until Tuesday night to book the hotel, and ended up paying a lot for a Courtyard Marriott by Midway. Not a terrible drive to the McCormick Center, but for what I was paying I would have expected more. The convention itself was slightly boring. WiMAX doesn't really pertain to what I do at the moment. I cruised the expo floor and tried to grab as much free swag as I could. In this regard I failed, since I always feel too ashamed to just grab something without talking to the salesperson at the booth. And since I was in so far over my head (I don't know much about WiMAX, even after this convention) I didn't exactly feel comfortable getting into a conversation and revealing my ignorance. But I did take a few pictures the second day. Here's a shot of the expo floor.The real highlight of the Chicago trip had nothing to do with mobile broadband internet. I met up with two acquaintances for dinner in downtown Chicago. I had called up my friend Alex when I found out that I would be down, but both he and his girlfriend were out of town. However, he suggested that I call up Luke and Fran, two of his friends that I've met around ten times in the last four years. So I called Luke up and he and Fran agreed to meet me at Mike Ditka's on Chestnut. After paying $21 to park the Civic, I met up with them outside the restaurant. I'd never been, but I was impressed. We had a few drinks at the bar while waiting to be seated, and I caught up with the goings-on in their lives. Luke is an electrical engineer who also works for a small company named Callpod. His company is coming out with a new Bluetooth earpiece, which he's done a good deal of work on. Personally I find it a bit more fascinating that towers, but I did go to school for electrical engineering for two years, so I can relate to his excitement on designing a new product.

Thursday I returned to the convention and sat through several more boring presentations. I did take an hour-long break where I did a quick post about the second Lutsen site trip. I left Chicago later in the afternoon, and spent a good hour crawling along the Kennedy while listening to the Cubs game on the radio. I can't stand it when I don't make any one of the three sets of lights along Hwy 12 on my commute (soon to be four, with the lights going in at the Hwy 19 intersection - not too happy about that). I can't imagine going through that every day. I made it back in time to hit up J.T. Whitney's with E Eugene for Big Beers. But the week wasn't over, not for another three days.

Friday I came to the office for the second time all week. I had a pile of mail and a lot of emails that I hadn't answered using my laptop or BlackBerry. But I was only putting in my time, really. I left at noon and headed on down to Dayton. I was meeting up with my father, and we then made our way down to Evansville to get in a round of golf with my old college roommate Nick. My father went in for rotator cuff surgery in October, so this was to be the last round of golf for the year. It was a simply beautiful day, and despite the fact that neither of us played all that well, it was a great time. Here's a picture of Nick crossing the bridge on the ninth hole.The next morning I woke up early so that I could drop off the Civic for an oil change. My father picked me up and we worked for a few hours on various things before heading back up to Madison around noon. I had managed to get two tickets to the Wisconsin-Michigan State football game! My father and I drove up near campus and parked on Monroe Street. We walked down to Lucky's, one of the bars lining Regent Street and stopped in to grab a beer and a brat. As we were making our way though the crowd in the outdoor beer garden (fenced-off parking lot) I ran into Nick's younger brother, who's enrolled at UW. After a few beers there, we made our way up toward Camp Randall. We were in the stands in time to catch the end of the UW Band's pre-game show. Here are a couple of pictures:
The game was close. Looking back on it now (after two Badger losses) we were lucky to pull away with the win. However, at the time I couldn't understand how the Badgers seemed unable to stop the Spartan running game. I get a little worked up watching sports, especially if things aren't going my team's way. The game went down to the wire, but the Badgers pulled it out. Very few things feel as rewarding as having your team win the game after you've been standing and shouting for the last five minutes of the fourth quarter. After the game we stopped off for one more beer while waiting for the traffic to clear up. I suppose we should have waited a bit longer, since it took a good thirty minutes to get off Monroe Street. We went to Picasso's for a delicious Gorgonzola and ribeye steak pizza, and then my father dropped me off to pick up my car. I had to call it a night, because I had a busy day ahead of me.

Sunday morning I woke up around 7:30 and drove over to my friend Logan's house. We were heading over to Milwaukee to play in the Philippine Cultural and Civic Center Foundation (PCCCF) Golf Tournament at Ironwood Golf Course in Sussex, west of Milwaukee. Logan's wife Beverly was sick, and Logan's friend managed to injure his shoulder raking leaves, so it was the two of us. I played somewhat inconsistently: I had three pars and one birdie, but I also had a couple of holes that I scored 8's and even one 10! We finished up at a very fast pace, so we had a bit of a wait for everyone else to finish up and dinner to be served. I didn't win either of the flag prizes I had qualified for - longest putt and longest drive in the fairway. However, there was a Calloway scoring system drawing. I don't know exactly how, but I won first place - a $40 pro shop gift certificate. And Logan won second! Here's a picture of the clubhouse as we were coming in on the 18th hole, I believe:After dinner we made our way back to Madison, stopping for a bit at Logan's injured friend's place to rub in how fun the day had been. I believe I made it back to my apartment by 11:00 PM, which was a bit late - I was heading up to Shawano the next morning. But that's a whole different week...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hungry Like The Wolf

Last year I posted about how I saw a Bruce Cambell commercial for Old Spice. Well, last weekend I caught Act II:

Again, it was during a football game. Again, I laughed for a solid minute. Granted, I didn't see the full commercial. I saw the 30 second spot that unfortunately doesn't feature as much Bruce. Not that any of these lovely ladies don't merit attention, but there is only one Bruce Campbell.

OK, this is even better! I especially like the part where she says, "Bruce is wearing Old Spice, and he's playing good music..." That is my entire life philosophy, not even distilled.

Trips, Many Of Them

I've been a busy guy. In the absence of work in the office, I've found myself as the "designated site-tripper" of the office. Besides the aforementioned trips to MN and Chicago, I found myself up in northern Wisconsin several weeks ago. The best part about this particular trip: my sister now makes this region of the Dairy State her home.

I signed up for this trip as soon as I found out about it. It was a tower going on the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe's land, near their casino. This happens to be about 15 miles from the little town of Gresham, where my lovely and talented sister is now the first grade teacher. Of course, I stretched the trip into a full day, so that I could meet up with ELK and buy her a reasonably priced dinner. I had to leave early, about 5:00 AM, to make the meeting time. The site was difficult, since it was the third candidate - the last two sites had been shot down for various reasons. I spent a good hour mapping out the particulars of the site, and staked out a layout that would hopefully be approved. By 11:00 AM I was more or less done, and I had a few hours to kill. I drove around the small town of Gresham for a good thirty minutes, getting a feel for the town whose young my sister was now charged with educating. As my sister is fond of pointing out, Gresham maintains a 2:7 church to bar ratio - the true hallmark of a northern Wisconsin town. After lunch at one of the two restaurants in town, I stopped at the village park. Here's a picture, showing the fall colors with the view of the flowage behind the dam.
I still had time to kill, so I made my way over to Shawano, where my sister's apartment is, and found a good little coffee shop. I actually posted the last two posts while waiting for my sister. She showed up right as I was uploading the picture of her any my grandparents. She liked that photo better than the one I took of her drinking straight from the wine bottle during the dinner...

I spent a couple of hours catching up with her world, and then we made our way to a local bar & grill for dinner. Unfortunately I had to call the night premature, since it was a three hour + drive home and I needed to drop off some equipment in my possession to someone for the next day. Regardless, I'll always take any opportunity to visit my back-home-again sister. As I've said to many, a three hour drive is much better than a half-country one...

Monday, October 01, 2007

They grow more than corn and beans in Illinois

On the way back from my grandparents' 60th we drove past the Camp Grove Wind Farm along Highway 40. The wind turbines are currently being constructed, and I was leaning out the rear window trying to get a good look. Here's a few pictures:Here's one that's under construction:I've noticed more and more of these going up down in Illinois and in southern Wisconsin. Whenever I go down to Illinois I listen in on the conversations that my grandfather, uncle and cousins have about the state of affairs in Illinois. Aside from the usual talk about the price of corn and the crazy things that tractors can do these days, now wind farms are a bit of a hot topic.

60 Years!

Three weeks ago I went down to my maternal grandparents' farm in Illinois to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. The entire family was there for a family picture. We did the same thing 10 years ago for their 50th. Despite the alarming number of bees present at the outdoor park where the photographs were taken (I have an irrational fear of bees and other stinging insects, which didn't seem so irrational after my sister and my cousin's fiance were stung), everything went well. We went to a nice restaurant in Peoria afterwards and by all accounts the night went splendidly.

My mom's side has a definite Norman Rockwell-esque quality to it. My grandparents live on the family farm in the old farmhouse pictured above, where my grandfather was born. My uncle lives a quarter mile up the road, across from my late great-aunt's farm. I'm related to just about everyone in those parts. In fact, my great-great-great-grandfather, Michael Streitmatter, founded the town in 1848! What's always been disconcerting is that I have never been able to remember most of the extended family - third and fourth cousins and such. There are simply too many of them (my mother had 42 aunts and uncles). But they all know me - we're the only ones from Wisconsin.

Here's a picture of my sister with my grandparents the day after the dinner.