>And now for today’s crisis:

>    I got up at the crack of dawn this morning. As usual. My alarm normally goes off at six o’clock anyway. Today was different, however; I had an eight o’clock appointment at the Farmers’ Union Cenex and I meant to make it. I wanted to get my jog in, though, so I was up at six and out jogging by 6:20. I listened to. . . The Dandy Warhols. Thank you, memory. Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia, to be exact – the best darned album the Dandy Warhols have offered so far.
    By 6:55 I was back home and getting in the shower. 7:40 I was saying good-bye to the wife and leaving. I made it to the Cenex a minute or two late, but the Gary – the shop manager – didn’t seem to mind. He was a little surprised that I was going to wait for the diagnosis of the check-engine light and the estimate, though. Strange? Not so much – I guess sometimes the “check engine” light can be squirrelly, especially with newer cars. I went and sat down at one of the pic-a-nic tables before I decided to buy a coffee. I had eaten breakfast, though I hadn’t had time to boil a couple of eggs; I had made do with three slices of lean turkey and two spoons full of peanut butter. Now, I had the chance to get my caffeine on.
    I was about fifteen minutes into watching Sherlock Holmes on my Zune and Gary came back out and told me that I had a bad EGR valve, as well as a bad coolant temperature sensor. I said, “how much?” The EGR valve, Gary said, was about two hundred dollars. The coolant temp sensor was twenty-five. Add labor and the computer hook-up (a rip-off if I ever heard of one,) that’s about another hundred. So I’m thinking, yeah. I’ve got the money. But. . .
    I say, “what’s the downside of skipping the EGR thing?” Gary says, “it’s still gonna run rough,” (It’s been really bad lately,) “and the check engine light’s going to stay on. I can turn it off, but it’s going to come right back on.” So I thought about it. . . (not really. . . ) and then I said, “how long?” About an hour, hour and a half. . . so I said, “ok, let’s do it.” I’m such a sucker. But you know, in Detroit we had this thing. . . can’t fix your car? Run it into the ground. North Dakota, however, has been quite fertile and I’m socking away cash like I’m Eminem on a bad flashback.
    I drove the Saturn away from that place like nothing was ever wrong with it, and I don’t regret that. So anyway, I thought I’d stop at Best Buy on the way to work and see if I could find the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack, because I kept hearing Irish punk music, like Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys and such. Best Buy had nothing of the sort. OF COURSE. So I Googled it on my phone, and the only soundtrack anyway is Hans Zimmer. Orchestral!! What?? God!! Some movies did this horrible, unspeakable thing and spawned two separate soundtracks – one for the orchestra and one for the regular music. I know –  it sounds tragic, right?
    But the foray into Best Buy wasn’t a total waste. After all, I hate Best Buy like an abused housewife hates her husband. I can’t help but to go back and see if I can find something good in there. This time, I found the DLO Action Jacket for my Zune HD, with the cord-keeper on the back. Awesome!! I bought it.
    So I went to work, and I worked. Then I left work at 5:30, knowing that I was going to have to be back in Bismarck at 7:15 so that I could see the Spring concert, where Karisa would be playing her bass clarinet in a show titled, “Around the World in 80 Minutes.” It was amazing. They did this medley from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite that just blew Fantasia out of the water. By the end of the concert, however, I was marveling under the surface how many people in the band I had connections with. My wife was playing the bass clarinet. My brother in-law was playing clarinet. My manager at work was playing french horn. The guy at work who helps me on Wednesday morning with the huge stock transfers? His wife was on the other french horn. The only female in the trumpet lineup used to work at Eckroth. Another girl on clarinet was my Music Appreciation teacher last semester. The band’s conductor was my academic advisor. The guy who composed the second-to-last piece, Halls of Anubis, was at my wedding and is someone I see at the store on a regular basis. This is just the tip of the iceberg – I can tell you where half of the other half of the band works! This chick works at K-Mart. That guy works at Target. It’s crazy.
     But I decided when I got home I would do some research to figure out where I’m going to school next year, seeing as how I’m going to be graduated from Bismarck State College in less than a month and I need to get this ball rolling, and here’s where the crisis comes in: I’m not finding any options I like. I’m in a panic! The only college in town that offers Bachelor degrees is University of Mary and they want a structured curriculum and a whole block of theology courses thrown in. The latter is interesting, the former – intolerable. University of North Dakota, I can get a bachelor degree in Psychology online. But there’s no education degrees and no English degrees online. Fail! North Dakota State University has no online degree programs even close to applicable to what I’m looking for. Double fail! So what do I do? What the heck do I do? I just want to get a jump on my Bachelor degree, while simultaneously keeping my student loan lenders at bay – just out of reach, in deferment-land.


>a fix for non-working external hard drives

>     Real quickly, I wanted to post a fix I performed just now so I’ll have it in the future. I did a stupid thing and tried to use Boot Camp to put a copy of Windows on Karisa’s iMac so that she could dual-boot and play MSN Games (it sounds dumb, I know – but it really is.) Somehow, either Boot Camp or the Windows boot disc toasted the computer and I had to reformat the hard drive and re-install OS X. Well, Karisa was okay with all this as long as nothing was wrong with her external hard drive, which has her pictures and music and stuff for iTunes on it.
     Well wouldn’t you know, for some reason, I couldn’t read that either. If I plugged it into the mac, it would tell me that it was unformatted and I had to format it. If I plugged it into Windows on my laptop, it would tell me it was unformatted and I had to format it. If I plugged it into Linux on my laptop, it didn’t see the drive at all. So what to do?
     I found a little utility called TestDisk that saved my life. I downloaded it from here. I had to rebuild the boot sector of the disk; according to TestDisk, without the boot sector, the disk is unreadable whether it’s bootable or not. Well ok! I went to “Advanced/Boot/RebuildBS” and confirmed, which fixed the boot sector, and what pops up? Explorer’s autorun prompt. Awesome! I win again.

>Introducing. . . Disco Flash!

>     Well, getting my morning exercise is going well. This morning I went out again, which is great! Coming back from the blue dome (which Karisa says is a water tank – makes sense to put it on a hill, right?) I put my sights on going down 9th Street from Collins to 6th Avenue NW. It was so steep. In fact, it was too steep; I had to go so slowly down that hill, I wasn’t even moving at a walk. Oh well, it was a great workout. I stopped at the store before going home to get soda, mustard, and garlic toast. Gotta keep the supply chain moving!
     I had speech class this evening after work. It was the same thing at first; we had to watch examples of persuasive speeches. Sweet. I had a hard time staying awake, thanks to my narcolepsy. Then we had a cool little activity: our teacher – a fun little lady who probably qualifies as a midget in terms of her stature – put us in groups of five and gave each group a little knick-knack. Our job was to make an impromptu infomercial based on that item (which could be anything we wanted it to be – it was an inspirational prop.) We had about ten minutes; the criteria were that everyone had to speak, and there had to be three selling points. We had a little blue disco ball on a keychain.
     Disco Flash was born. Have you ever found yourself nervous while walking down the street at night? Have you ever felt like pepper spray just wasn’t enough? Do you wish that you had a way to retreat? Well now, your escape is within reach with Disco Flash!
     Just pull the pin and chuck it in! Disco Flash is a military-grade flash-bang grenade in a convenient keychain. This high-speed device looks like an ordinary, el-cheapo keychain; but when you’re looking for that quick exit, you just pull the pin and chuck it in! That’s right, folks: no more lame excuses and victimization! Disco Flash is fashionable, easy to use, and quite affordable. Are you facing the threat of imminent death at the hands of a mugger? Do you feel like telling your boss off, once and for all? How about getting rid of that ultra-clingy girlfriend? The bright flash and loud noise generated by Disco Flash will incapacitate your foe and give you time to make your escape!
     If you call now, for the low price of $19.95, you’ll receive not one, not two, but three Disco Flashes, and as a bonus we’ll throw in the patented Disco Flash sunglasses with built-in earplugs!
     Pretty cool, right? I’d buy that!

>Climbing Mt. Mandan

>     Jogging has been going well. I got out and scoured Mandan for the past three days, including today; and I can feel the difference already. Of course, I’m worn out at the end of the day, too. I had an intense pain in my knee last night when I kneeled on the floor. But I breathe easier, it’s not so challenging to go up the stairs to the apartment, and I’m looking forward to losing some of this dead weight. I let myself go for too long.
     I’m also finding it easier to jog. I head up the sloping streets of Mandan, past houses yet asleep and passed by cars, heralds of the busy day ahead. I reach what I feel may be the zenith, the high point of the area I’ve been hiking; I look upon the blue dome at the corner of Collins and Division from beyond the fence with its “no tresspassing” signs. I do not fear prosecution, and yet I have no desire to go any closer. Roughly eighteen minutes into this walk, this slog up the steeply sloping sidewalks of this hill-studded city, I turn around and begin to jog lightly down. With Last.fm playing a klezmer version of the Pink Panther theme into my ears, I focus on keeping pace on the downslope so that I can make it last.
     A lady in a truck passes me by, and I see that she has a huge grin on her face. I’m thinking, “yep, it’s a great morning, people are out jogging, what a great day to come.” It hits me about a minute later, while I’m rounding the corner from Division onto 6th Avenue that she was probably amused with my cans. I’ve taken to wearing my Yamaha RC-3 headphones while I’m out in the morning because they’re sturdy and stabile, not to mention they keep my ears warm while I’m still warming up. The thing is, I probably resemble Ben Stiller from Starsky and Hutch, when he’s jogging on the beach with those ridiculous 1970’s radio headphones – except mine aren’t sporting telescoping antennae.
     I got back to the house, huffing and puffing but not so badly, and went right past it to the grocery store. I had planned this, so that I could pick up yogurt cups to put in lunch this week. I also picked up a loaf of bread for myself and a couple of energy drinks for Karisa and myself. Got back home, showered, and woke up the wife. Not a bad morning, if I may say so. I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning!

>It’s finally Friday!

>     Yes, and the weekend brings awesome weather!! I managed to get out to jog this morning; in fact, it was almost like an exact redo of Tuesday morning (which was the first time back jogging,) except that I took a different route this time. Instead of wandering around the turns in the subdivision at a half-jog and wishing I could breathe, I went straight for the inclines.
     Don’t let anybody tell you North Dakota is flat; I mean, it is, right? But there are hills to go around, and for some reason the hills are mostly in the cities. They build around and over the hills. Apparently, suburban design is more of an art than a science. My SimCities never looked like this; the hills in my neighborhood are steep. Some people even have steps in their sidewalks! It wasn’t long before I was having trouble catching my breath again, pushing through at the fastest walk I could muster. . . again.
     I’m not a patient man, but I will get through this. I will run again. On another note, today’s weather is quite lovely; it’s fifty-four degrees and awesome. Karisa and I are going to see “How to Train Your Dragon” tonight in 3D at the Grand Theatre. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film, to say the least. Work was much less hectic, and I used less slack time to blog. . . obviously.

Ciao for now!

>Thursday has been trashed.

>     Oh, what a stupid day. As if it didn’t start out cruddy; I couldn’t run again, because it was nineteen degrees outside and there was snow on the ground. What? What happened to Spring?!? Well, Monday’s high is supposed to be sixty-four, so there’s hope yet. I get to work and it’s a freaking zoo. Kids all over the place, carrying violins and violas and cellos and I’m thinking, I thought this was supposed to happen last night. Despite the distraction and the inability to get anything done quickly, I finish receiving and dealing with “special” issues by 12:30, and I’m supposed to find stuff to do among all of the hubbub?
     Oh yeah, there’s a string festival happening in the store right now. Apparently whomever holds it couldn’t afford the space they usually get, so Eckroth was kind enough to host it. I’m actually writing this right now because I’m bored to tears and I can’t do anything else because there’s too much traffic in the store. The good thing about today is that I get to pick up the Saturn after work. The shop manager at Cenex called me just before eleven this morning to tell me that it’s ready to go. Apparently, the coolant was leaking from a gasket and he just tightened it and solved the problem!

     We’ll see, right?

>Wicked Wednesday

>     This has been one tiring day. I didn’t get a chance to run this morning because it’s Wednesday, and on Wednesday I start work two hours earlier than usual. Karisa didn’t feel well – grumpy stomach, possibly due to the tuscani pasta from Pizza Hut last night – and I let her stay home instead of taking me to work because we have her Mom’s van for the time being and I wanted to drive the Saturn anyway to check my suspicion that it still has a coolant leak.
     I was right. Although the coolant reservoir was full when I left the house, when I checked it at lunch time, it was nearly empty. Go figure, right? The chumps at Cenex replaced the water pump and didn’t fix the coolant leak. I had to call them and make an appointment for them to “look at it” tomorrow; I dropped it off after work at the Cenex, where Karisa was waiting for me in the van.
     On the upside, I got a really sweet Fender lunchbox at work today, with a little thermos and everything. We got ten of them because all of our stores are switching over from loose guitar picks to pick packs, and so we had to order a ton of picks for seven different locations. I also picked up some cool Ernie Ball stickers from an order that came in today, which was a nice surprise. Usually Ernie Ball sends us guitar cables and picks as promos, which I usually throw in the marketing area for giveaways and door prizes.
     Also, the weather here was nicer than expected today – very sunny, high in the mid-fifties, which was supposed to be in the high forties. . . so that was great, and we’ve opened up the windows in the apartment for the first time since last Fall, when we moved in. The air coming in is a tad cooler than I would prefer, but it’s fresh air, after all, and I totally approve.
     But work was definitely busy. It’s about that time of year that I stop having an excuse to slack off, and products will begin to arrive with increasing frequency. Today I received two pallets of snare/bell kits and pad/bell kits. Forty-seven pieces in all, each one serialized and kind of heavy. I didn’t have this problem with them last year. . . but then again, I was less out-of-shape last year; I’m tackling that one.
     I’m ready to rest, but it’s going to have to wait a little bit longer. The Zunited podcast has a dearth of email for the next show (which is on April 6) and they requested on air that I write a thought-provoking email. Let’s see how that goes!

>Back to shape, day 1

>     Today, I started my jogging regimen again. Since moving to North Dakota, I have gained at least forty pounds, and my clothing has been shrinking at an alarming rate; at this point, there is quite a bit in my wardrobe that I am unhappy about. I have resolved to change this by getting back into my exercise habit. Unfortunately, I have no bicycle, which is not only a good workout, but fun; and it’s less of a chore than running.
     I decided, after looking at weather.com at eight o’ clock this morning, that if I were to wait for the morning temps to hit fifty degrees, I’d be waiting a while yet. No more waiting! I threw on my sweatpants (or rather, I slid them on like you slide on socks,) put on my hoodie, threw on my Skullcandy Lowriders (red, white, and chrome, thank you so much,) and stalked stealthily down the mile of stairs to the door outside – creaking all the while. The stairs, I mean.
     Once outside, I put on Huey Lewis and the News – Greatest Hits. In retrospect, a great choice for jogging, but I didn’t feel nearly as peppy as the music sounded. At 8:12 I started jogging. At 8:18 or so, I had to slow down to a power-walk. I had trouble catching my breath, which seemed unusual to me. I was going to the gym a few months ago, and didn’t have this trouble breathing on either the elliptical or treadmill, but jogging always seemed tougher and more strenuous to me (although once you get used to it, it’s highly addictive.) I kept going, resolving to stay out until about 8:30; that was a good goal for day 1.
     About 8:25 I found myself about the distance of three blocks away from home (I was weaving around the different streets in my area,) and although I still could not catch my breath, I told myself I would jog the distance. About twenty seconds in, I had this sensation of being suffocated, and told myself to get past it. Either I sink or swim, I thought. I was breathing, after all. . . why did it have to be so hard? I forced myself to breathe harder, deeper, faster, until I realized that even though it felt like I couldn’t breathe, I was indeed going to make it. No problem.
     I made it home and climbed up the first flight of stairs, and unlocked the door while wishing I didn’t have another flight of stairs to go; while they look like simple stairs, easy enough to climb, they are steep and a royal pain when carrying in groceries or moving. The clock said it was just past 8:30 and that meant the alarm had gone up and Karisa had shut it off and gone back to bed. Good! That means I get the first shower! I forgot about my breathing problem after about ten minutes in the shower.
     I’m never getting any heavier than this, I’m back at my high school high, which is around 225 lb. and that’s already too heavy. Either I’ve become so out of shape that I just can’t breathe, or being sick so much this year has really taken a toll on my lungs. I’m hoping for the former, because I’m more familiar with fixing that problem.

>Free Software and G.I. Joe


The following is a post that I made on the discussion forum for my Linux Fundamentals class this morning. The topic was whether or not the issue of KDE, a free software desktop environment, using Qt, a (formerly) proprietary GUI toolkit, was a big deal and why. I hope this helps to inform people as to my opinion toward the now-dead KDE/Qt controversy (I removed all of the links.)

software           Katie (last name omitted)                                                          
2/25/2010 8:24:05 AM
I really don’t understand what the fuss is all about with KDE, Qt and the 

develoment of free software. If companies are out to make a persons job 
such as the software developer less stressful by writing less code and 
creating more and in turn making it available for others then it should 
make everyone happy right!? As I research more about the Qt tool kit or 
GNOME, I have to say I am in more favor of GNOME. But I still am getting 
use to the different kinds of options available, nonetheless I am always for 
free software!

RE: software    Robert Ross                                                                            
2/27/2010 9:45:29 AM
Well, Katie – the way I see it – the fuss is all about KDE relying on Qt for its 

sizzle; it’s like finding out that the Christian Children’s Fund (CCF) is 
financed by Cobra (the world domination-seeking military organization, 
not the health insurance extension legislation.)

So you’re like, “aww, that’s great, the CCF saves starving children in third-
world countries!” and you start sending them your money.  But then one day 
you read about how the CCF gets a sizeable charitable donation from 
Destro every year (can we say “tax break?”,) and you’re like, “what-what, 
but he’s a thug!  He just blew up an offshore oil rig the other day!” and then 
you feel cheated and even a little dirty for sending in your twenty cents a 
day, or whatever it is. You suddenly don’t know if your money is going to 
feed starving children, or Sally Struthers, or if it’s going to buy laserguns and 
hand grenades for Cobra’s fight against G.I. Joe.  So what do you do?  
What do you do, Katie?

Where the closest ocean is all in my mind . . .

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