Brooke and I were watching “House, M.D.” on Friday night in the office after Meg went to bed when we heard a loud “pop.” Not so much a “pop” as much as a “who’s shooting at us?!”

Well, turns out one of Brooke’s Hard Apple Cider bottles continued fermenting to the point where it generated enough CO2 to explode all over our dining room.  It sent glass flying across the room, including 8 ft in the air where it caught a nice, large shard in the curtains (pictured above).  We found small bits of glass spread throughout the room.

The Cider is now sitting outside in our metal trash can (sans trash, of course), where it will be a bit…safer…for everyone involved.  🙂

We had opened up some of the stuff last Wednesday night and I noted that it had lost some of the sweetness it had a few weeks ago, and the carbonation had increased.  The champagne yeast, apparently, is more hearty than we’d initially thought.  That, or the brown sugar Brooke added to “prime” the cider for bottling ended up being more than was necessary.

Either way, if you have a bottle of our cider sitting in your fridge, I’d recommend you open it and drink it immediately.  And do it over a sink.  It can get messy. 🙂

A Lesson in Customer Service

Brooke signed us up for Amazon Prime last year, a $79/yr service that grants you various benefits at  The most well-known service is free 2-day shipping on anything you purchase.  As we now live, for all intents an purposes, in the middle-of-nowhere, we figured it would be a useful service to take advantage of.  Typically, we can wait 2 days for an item, and now that we both have Android smartphones, we can shop for stuff in town, scan the barcode of the item with our phone, and see if we can get it cheaper from

As I was shopping for components for my new web server box (which this site is now running on!), I was looking at, the computer company I typically buy components from.  I have no problem with Newegg, of course, and they tend to provide a wealth of details on each component, something Amazon doesn’t do very well, yet I still checked with Amazon to see if I could get the same thing(s) from them instead.  Turned out I could, and because we already had Amazon Prime, that meant I could get the same things for almost the same price, but not have to pay $13 in shipping.  And the $13 in shipping would have been regular Ground shipping.  In order to get the same, 2-day shipping through UPS, the same items would have cost $38.  Through FedEx, for some reason, it would have been $59.

So yeah, almost in a single purchase, Amazon Prime justified itself.

I started assembling the system last Thursday night, inbetween various baby duties.  Unfortunately, the thing wouldn’t turn on.  I had the components installed in the box, tried a few things, re-seated various wires and jumpers, and couldn’t get the monitor to turn on.  This, obviously, did not please me.  It could have been a few different things, but I eventually tracked it down: the power supply was, likely, not working properly (as another power supply I had booted the new motherboard just fine), and the RAM seemed like it had problems (as the BIOS screen would only work with one stick in, and it was a specific stick).

I did a bit more research on Friday on the interwebs and brought my multi-meter home from work, in order to try checking the output of the power supply.  Some folks online that had written in about the case I bought, which came with the power supply, had said that their power supply was “dead on arrival,” so they had to get replacements.  There was one poster, however, that said they had to “turn it on and off a few times, and eventually it worked.”  Therefore, I didn’t want to write off the power supply until I’d let it sit overnight.  The multi-meter would tell me definitively whether it was generating any power or not for the system.

Long-story-short, I tried it again on Saturday morning.  The multi-meter said that the power supply was providing power to the motherboard.  I plugged it back in to the full system and the thing booted.  I dunno.

The RAM, on the other hand, is still presenting problems, which brings us to the “Customer Service” part of this story.  I bought two sticks of RAM for $40 from Amazon, but only one of them worked.  In order to return/exchange them, both sticks have to go back.  Annoying, ’cause I’d like to continue using one of them until the replacements arrive.  So I log in to Amazon, go to my “Orders,” and select “Return” to go through the process of exchanging the RAM.  In then end, Amazon had me print off a UPS slip that lets me return the RAM at no shipping charge to me, and I have 30 days to do it.  And along with that, they’re automatically shipping me an identical replacement.  The kicker to this story, though, is that they’re shipping me the identical replacement Next Day, so I’ll have it tomorrow.

So, in the end, I can wait until the replacement arrives before sending back the defective product, and they’re sending the replacement as quickly as they can at no additional charge to me, even though I used Two Day shipping the first time around.

That, I tell you, is customer service.

Good on you,

Passing On


We went down to Columbia this past weekend for my Grandma’s funeral. She was 95-years-old and took a fall a few weeks ago. Grandma never recovered from it and, thankfully, her pain didn’t last for too long. While my Aunts and Uncles (and Mom…and the whole family, for that matter) were sad to lose her, Grandma lived a very long life and was able to do things on her own for the vast majority of it. She only moved into a nursing home last year, and even then, her heart was always strong.

I’m very happy that Meg got to meet her Great-Grandma. In my case, I actually remember my Dad’s Grandparents (as they passed away in the late-1980s/early-1990s), but I never really knew my Mom’s Grandmother. We do, however, have a picture of Mom’s Grandmother holding me while in the nursing home when I was a baby. Similarly, Meg will probably get to know Brooke’s Grandparents over the next few years (as they’re all in their 70s), but will have a picture (or two) of her being held by my Grandma.

Of course, I now have someone else I can call “Grandma” (or whatever Meg decides to call my Mom, someday :-)).

On another note, some of you may have noticed the server was down over the weekend. We woke up Friday morning to find the server powered down. I tried a few things, but couldn’t get it started again – it wouldn’t power on at all. I was hoping it wasn’t the motherboard, as replacing that would likely have me lose the blog up until my last backup (which was a few weeks ago…grrrrr…). Fortuitously, we were going to Columbia anyway, where I could take advantage of Dad’s stash of components and electrical equipment, so I just took the server with us! Long story short, we tried a few things and eventually figured out it was the video card. The fan on the thing was immovable, suggesting it had overheated. After I removed it, the thing turned back on…but I had to go get a new one from Best Buy in order to actually see anything on the screen. The new card was recognized by Linux without a hitch and it’s all up and running again (obviously). Now I’m investigating ways of automatically backing up the blog database…

Travels: Part I

Brooke and I were in different parts of the Midwest last week (or even two weeks ago, almost).  Here’s the first post relating to all that – Brooke’s will follow once she pulls pictures off the camera.

So, I went to Chicago this year for our annual Society for Neuroscience meeting (I only took a few pictures, but here they are if you care…).  We decided to take the train this time around, as something of a change from the typical “hop on a plane” experience.  To be honest, the trip up there via Amtrak was actually pretty nice compared to flying Coach on an airplane: you get much more leg room, slightly more comfortable seats, AC plugins for your laptop (if you want to watch a movie, for example…no WiFi available, sadly…), roomy bathrooms, and a full-service snack car.  The trip was a bit over 5 hours, so it was basically as long as a car ride, but quite a bit more comfortable.

Anyway, we made it to Chicago and got off at Union Station.  Once there, we found a taxi and started heading toward it.  A “gentleman” grabbed our bags and put them in the trunk of the car.  At this point, Dr. Macarthur got in the back seat, and we both noticed that the driver of said car was still in the car, making me wonder who this guy was.  He then demanded a tip.  I was, of course, rather confused by this whole situation, not being used to taxi service in major metropolitan areas, but Dr. Macarthur was kind enough to get rid of him for me.  Once we started driving, Dr. Macarthur told him “Palmer House Hilton” as the destination.  The driver was talking on his cell phone (which he wasn’t supposed to do…), and a few minutes later, we made it to the Hilton Chicago.  Not where we wanted to go.  Then Dr. Macarthur tried explaining this to him, and he actually argued with her about it.  She was not pleased about this, of course.  Long story short, he ended up turning off the meter so we weren’t double-charged, so that was a bit better…  My first exposure to “Chicago,” proper.

The conference itself was pretty good.  Over 30,000 attended, making it pretty crowded.  I wasn’t a huge fan of McCormick Place (the convention center), as it seems pretty poorly laid out (multiple levels, funky entrances, etc.) and not in an area populated by any restaurants, making lunch a bit difficult.  We saw some interesting posters and heard a talk from Dr. Francis Collins, the current head of the National Institutes of Health.  My presentation wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon, the final day of the conference, making me wonder if anyone would still even be around to see my stuff.  Thankfully, I garnered some interest and got to present it multiple times…not as many as last year, but still, much more than I’d expected.

So, we left Wednesday afternoon, again via taxi.  This time, the driver didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign, so we got chased by a cop on a 4-wheeler (yes, they have those in Chicago…with sirens…).  The cop was on a power trip, taking advantage of this poor Asian guy that spoke little English.  When the cop went back to his 4-wheeler to input the license and registration information, the driver made the unfortunate choice of getting out of the car to go talk to the cop, who then proceded to yell at the driver: “GET BACK IN THE VEHICLE!  DO NOT EXIT YOUR VEHICLE!”  He knows better now, I guess…  Considering how many people don’t come to complete stops at stop signs, I kinda felt sorry for this particular driver, as he was actually a much better driver than the vast majority of taxi drivers out there, weaving in and out of lanes.  How about you cops on 4-wheelers try picking up some of them, eh?

Finally, we hop on the train for the ride home.  About 5 minutes north of Joliet, IL (which is around 30 minutes outside of Chicago…), we stopped to allow freight traffic to pass by.  Well, they couldn’t re-start our train.  Apparently, one of the computers wasn’t rebooting properly (probably running Windows Vista…).  We spent 2 hours sitting there waiting for the train to get going, and during that time, we were low on power as they’d shut the engines down.  Without power, you a). don’t have lights (making reading difficult) and b). don’t have snack car service, as you can’t use the cash register and can’t use the microwave.   They never actually re-started the train, but instead waited for the next train from Chicago to come down and attach itself to us, so we ended up having two trains heading down to St. Louis, making two stops at each town on the way because there were two trains-worth of people trying to get to their destinations.  Thankfully, Brooke was kind enough to pick us up 2 hours later than planned (12:45 am…).

So, that was my trip.  There were more good things than this (restaurants, some sights, etc.), but these are the more interesting aspects to report.

Year 26

Brooke is going to be updating her blog a bit more often. As in. Every day, and hopefully with a picture! You should check out her blog for details!

She also has a picture and description up from her car over the weekend, which had its windows broken out by hooligans…grrrrrr… Thankfully, car insurance paid for most of it and it’s all taken care of now, but when you’ve got multiple weddings to attend over Memorial Day weekend, having to deal with such things is an annoyance.

Happy Birthday To Me…

Car Window......BustedSo…..I woke up Saturday morning to my driver’s side windows both being smashed out.  Our cars are always parked on the street, so it’s really not all that surprising, but not how I expected to spend my Saturday morning.  So, I made the police report, settled everything with the insurance company, and have new windows, but this morning I had to drive to Chesterfield to have an estimate made of the damages to the inside from the glass and rain.  As far as I know, the punks (or “knuckleheads” according to the officer who took my report) have been apprehended and are being charged with breaking the windows out of multiple cars.

As far as this blog goes, my plan is to try to update more frequently since I feel like I consume an awful lot of internet information without putting anything back out there, so I’m trying to even out my kharma a little. And I needed another good reason to purchase our Nikon D60 and this seemed like a good enough one!  Comment often and enjoy!

Another Mardi Gras down…

Mardi Gras went off without a hitch, for the most part… I’ve put up some pictures on Picasa of the event, for those that are interested.

In summary, Kristen, Jake, Sarah, Ben and I went down to the parade and saw some pretty neat floats…and LOTS of people (shown above). The weather was in the 30s F, but since the sun was out, it actually felt pretty good out there! We ended up having a little less than 40 people come by our place after the parade was done…Brooke’s jambalaya didn’t last long! Most people were gone by 4:00, allowing me to fall asleep by 6:00, then wake up again to finish “Monk” and “Psych” with the wife later.

Overall, it was a good day! Lots of clean-up had to be done on Sunday after church, but oh well…it’s only once a year… 🙂

It’s that time again…

Mardi Gras is this weekend, Saturday, February 21, in Soulard. More information can be found at the Soulard Mardi Gras website, with regards to parking and events. As we have for the past few years, we’re making our house available for warming and bathrooms (as the only other options are port-a-potties spread around the neighborhood), as well as Brooke’s jambalaya.

In years past, people will usually come by after the parade (so, after 12:30?) and leave by 2:30 or 3:00. You’re welcome to come by anytime, of course, but that’s when the largest group is there! If you want it to feel like a party…which it isn’t…just sayin’… A lot of people leave Soulard by 6:00, but there are events (concerts?) that go into the evening, if anyone’s interested…no big headliners this year though, it seems.

The weather is supposed to be a high of 34 F with a chance of snow in the early morning. That temperature will probably keep some folks away – last year (weather in the 50s F?) brought all kinds of people out, but two years ago, when it was in the upper 20s F, the numbers were down in the 60,000 range…last year, though, it was closer to 500,000 (so far as I can find…).

Should be a good time! Let me know (somehow) if you plan on being down here so we can watch for you!

“I think I killed it…”

So, a few nights ago, I tried installing Yellow Dog Linux (YDL) on my PS3… This is a version I know relatively little about, except that it’s based on Red Hat/Fedora (which I haven’t used in years) and it classically has been used for Macs, as they used PowerPC processors back in the day. As the PowerPC and the Cell Processor in the PS3 are related, YDL is specifically geared to run on it. There aren’t really any specific benefits to having Linux running on my PS3, except that I can potentially plug in a keyboard/mouse and do computing on a 32″ HD TV screen…or stream content from upstairs (Linux server box) down to my TV…or stream a variety of Flash-based TV shows to the TV without having to fight with the PS3’s installed web browser.

Anyway, I flipped through a few tutorials and used this one from Essentially, just as on a PC, you need to format the hard drive to make a 10 GB partition capable of housing the Linux install, leaving the rest for the PS3 to use. The guide says NO DATA WILL BE DELETED.

Not so much.

Apparently, it doesn’t work like it does on a PC, where the formatting simply resizes the existing partition and makes room for a new one, deleting (essentially) no data from the existing drive. The PS3, on the other hand, formatted the whole thing in order to get Linux on there…sigh…

Long story short, I had to re-download all the games I’d purchased through PSN, but thankfully, some of my progress through games (online progress, at least) was saved to external PSN servers. However, my progress through the single-player campaign of Resistance 2 and LittleBigPlanet were both lost (along with Wipeout HD and Burnout Paradise…), so now I’ll have to go back and re-play what I lost.

My holiday season is now planned, I guess!

Edie: Wonder Dog

So, Edie isn’t the happiest dog when we leave her alone at someone else’s place. She was kind enough to hurt herself over the summer at Brooke’s parent’s house by getting her mouth stuck in the cage doors of the kennel she was in…so this time, at my parent’s house, we locked her up in Pepper’s old kennel (which is a bit bigger and constructed differently than ours).

Well, we got home from church and dinner (a total of, like, 4 – 4.5 hrs?) and found her loose inside the house. “What the heck,” we say…

We go downstairs to check out how exactly she got the door open. Apparently, as the picture above shows, she didn’t get the door open – she tore a new hole in the bars…

Needless to say, this is getting a bit ridiculous. To top it all off, once loose, she got into our cooler and stole some of my deer jerky (courtesy of Uncle Mike…thanks!) and ate some leftover cheese cake “bites,” keeping her awake through most of the night.