Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Looking Out at the Cold

With the temperature dropping way down into the single digits (and going subzero once it gets dark), every day that I walk from my bus to my work building I am more and more thankful for the Minneapolis skyway system. It's pretty amazing that Minneapolis is really the only US city to have such a large, climate controlled connection system between buildings.

I wouldn't even want to think about having to walk in the outdoors of Chicago or New York or Boston as the cold, winter winds whip through the spaces between buildings. When I've been in Chicago during the winter, walking between my hotel and my company's offices gets to be pretty frickin' cold. I really wonder why the concept hasn't caught on in some other cities. It might be hard in Chicago with all of the train lines being on the second floor level of buildings, and the construction of a skyway system would probably entail a complete overhaul of some buildings' floor layouts, but I bet people would love it.

Then again, the skyways might be unbelievably packed. Since Minneapolis isn't nearly as populated as other big US cities, the skyways never get too flooded with people. They get busy, yes, but never so much that it's a pain in the ass to get anywhere. I know that some Canadian cities have tunnel systems in their cities, but I think that would be impossible in most US cities.

Any way you look at it, though, I love our skyways. It keeps me from having to walk in the cold in the winter and keeps me out of the heat in the summer. I'd even go out on a limb and say that it's one of the big reasons I love working in Minneapolis and wouldn't want to move to another big city to work in. Minnesota for life for me.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bug Fighting

One of my friends recently showed me the website japanesebugfights.com where, you guessed it, bugs fight each other. It's kind of interesting to see the various matchups and to see how different types of insects attack each other and defend themselves. It's also surprising to occasionally see an insect you would think has no chance against the other actually win. Once and a while you don't even know why one beat the other... it just did.

When I passed on this website to two of my friends I got two totally different responses. One thought it was the awesome-est thing he's seen in ages. The other thought it was cruel and as far from entertaining as you could get. It was pretty weird to get two polar opposite responses, especially since I was pretty much indifferent to watching bugs fight. It was interesting, yes, but nothing that I'd watch all the time or even think about beyond having seen it.

In thinking about it, however, by condoning bug fights a person could be seen standing on the edge of a very slippery slope. Sure, these are just annoying bugs fighting, so maybe they could up the ante a little bit. Why not have lizards fight each other? They're just big, cold-blooded bugs, right? And then, maybe, if you get bored you could watch some small mammals go at it, or take in a cockfight every now and again. Pretty soon, you're thinking dog fighting is ok. I know, I know, it's pretty ridiculous to make the stretch from bug fights to dog fighting, but there definitely is a path from one to the other that could be slid down.

So are bug fights inherently evil? Maybe... Probably... but they're also extremely interesting.

Monday, January 07, 2008

New Lighting

I'm not exactly sure yet what possessed me to do it, but this weekend I finally replaced all of the light bulbs in my house with energy saving CFL bulbs. Part of me never got around to doing it because I figured I'd just wait until the incandescent bulbs I have burnt out and then replace them, but for some of the lights I don't use that much, it could take forever. And I didn't really want only parts of the house having CFLs and part not (it's a weird thought, I know, but I like uniformity).

Having made the decision to do it, I visited Sam's Club (sadly, it's the cheapest place to get CFLs) and loaded up on planet saving light fixtures. Once I got home and started replacing bulbs, I realized how many lights I actually have in my house. I never truly grasped how many bulbs were in the various light fixtures all over the place.

Anyhow, I replaced almost all of the lights in the house and happily thought to myself that I'm doing my part to save the world, even if it is pretty minuscule when I realize the scale of my power saving. Not wasting a couple of kilowatt hours a year really isn't that huge, but I like to believe other people like myself will be following the trend.

However, not all is well in my new energy saving house. It feels different... or, more appropriately, it looks different. The CFL light bulbs give off a different hue of light and it gives the rooms in my house a different aura at night, especially in the basement. One of the reasons might be that I had 100 watt bulbs in the basement previously and I replaced them with 65 watt equivalent CFLs, but even beyond that it still looks... whiter.

I'm still not sure if this new sheen that has been tossed on everything is good or not, but it is different. My bedroom really feels different since I put in "soft" white CFL bulbs which, much like their name, do give my room a slightly less edgy feel. It's somewhat more relaxed, if you can believe that new lighting can do that to a room.

It'll surely be something I'll get used to over time, but right now it can sometimes feel extremely weird going into a room that I'd been so used to looking one way and it is just ever so slightly... off.

Friday, January 04, 2008

My Portfolio Woes

Hey you. Yeah you. I'm talking to you, Dow Jones Industrial Average. How about you stop sucking and bleeding away massive chunks every day? I'd love to be able to look at my brokerage account one of these days and not be bombarded by the color red. Are you allergic to green, Dow? What's your problem lately? You need to stop your complaining about the credit crunch, housing problems, the crashing dollar, skyrocketing oil prices, and all of your other supposed issues and get back to making me money. Suck it up!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Being Back Home

It was great to be back in what I still consider, for the time being, home (I'm sure once I ever get around to getting married or having a family my view will change) at my parents' house in Waltham (which is located in the middle of nowhere in south eastern Minnesota). For the weekend before Christmas and the weekend before New Year's, I made the trek down and spent time with the family.

It's somewhat rarer nowadays for me to get back home. I often have activities on the weekends that keep me from getting home or, if I am free, my parents may have something going on or be working, so when I do get home it is very enjoyable... yet taxing, but not in a bad way, mind you.

As I've tried to establish myself on my own, revisiting what was essentially the center of my existence for more than a decade brings with it a rush of memories, snippets of the past, old nuances, and tons of long thought locked away emotions. And I know all of this overwhelms me because I'm there less and less and get further and further removed from the time that I had spent living there, growing up, and becoming the uniquely odd person I now am.

For as much that has changed in my parents' house, there is so much that is the same. My old room is now a guest bedroom, but it doesn't feel that way. The bed is different, there's no dressers (instead it is just random furniture put in there for storage), and there would appear to be no remnants of its previous occupant...

...but then I look around and even though my stuff isn't there any more, I know exactly how I used to have it set up--all of my cluttered, crazy organizational schemes for my junk, my computer setup in the corner inset of the room, and my bed (which was partially used to store crap on as I only slept on one half of it) standing out in the middle of it all.

Then there are also the little pieces of my time there that still remain. Flipping the light switch on I see that the uber-nerdy Star Trek light switch cover is still there. On the back of the door is a taped up scorecard that tracked all of my one-on-one basketball games against my brother, Randy. On my closet is still taped my print out of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verses 1-13, the few bible verses that mean the world to me. In the closet, now filled with my mom's clothes, there's still the hood for my leather jacket stuck up on top of a shelf next to a baseball hat I never wore. On the bed's headboard is one of my math league medals and the manual to my old graphing calculator that I rarely used outside of the few times I needed it for tests in school where I couldn't figure something out on my own (I believed in not relying on my calculator, which I believed to be a hindrance to truly learning what I was being taught).

There were pieces of me left behind all over and with each one there were hundreds of memories attached, memories that come crashing together in a gigantic overload of nostalgia every time I set foot in my room. I know I can never go home again, as the saying goes, but it's just as impossible to forget home. And why would I want to?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2008? Already?

It's a new year. Is anything really different? Not really. The only thing that happens to be new is remembering to date things with an '08 instead of '07. It's an interesting phenomenon to see so many people trying to make monumental life changes as the last digit of the year number on your desktop calendar increments one in the positive direction.

I'm glad people are making that leap to change something, but why wait until January 1st? It seems so weird. I can understand that making the connection between a new year and a new you is easy to make, but I find it supremely hilarious that some people push off making a life change until the New Year holiday.

How many times have friends, associates, or family members told you they'd make a change... in the coming year. They'll give up smoking in 2008 or they'll actually work on that grad school application once this year is over or they'll actually go on a diet once '07 flips to '08. If you're dissatisfied with something in your life, change it right away. Don't live with it and change at some arbitrary date.

It's a little hypocritical to rail on new year's resolutions since I've made my fair share in the past, but most of the time they weren't huge, life changing resolutions. More often than not it was something little like trying to eat a few more vegetables every week or read at least one book a week or try to run 20 miles a week instead of 15. If something really needed to be changed, I don't see how I could continue on until a new year came around before I tried to change.

Will 2008 be any different than 2007? Sure it will. But I'm not going to force it to be different. I'm sure things will be quite interesting enough on their own.