Monday, September 21, 2009

Northshore Inline Marathon 2009

WHOOPS! I forgot I had this blog post in my list of drafts! It's been a few months so I've tweaked it some (and backdated the post). Enjoy-

So this years Northshore Inline Marathon was a pretty memorable one. There are many stories to be told and probably not enough creativity to tell the whole story and yet keep you interested. With that being said, I'll give it my best; it goes a little something like this:

Inline?? Whats that mean?

Um, just a modern, more cool, hip way to refer to the popular 80's term, 'Rollerblading'.


The Northshore Inline Marathon is probably one of the most easiest, yet hardest marathons you could do. The reason I say that is because its all done on inline skates. Its still hard because it is still 26.2 miles. This year, the word hard, was a near understatement. Seeing this was the first 'real' competitive race I took part of this year (compared to the 6 last year), I have to admit I wasn't in peak physical condition... and boy, I really felt it during this race!

The race started out ok, I was thinking my 2 inline training workouts on the Midway Greenway Trail system actually paid off but soon realized after mile 7 that I was in for a looooong haul. At that point I knew I had to start doing some serious & steady pacework if I was gonna finish. I basically kept the legs moving while trying to stay pace with my significant other. She was doing much better than me even though it was her first time on blades since last years' marathon (yeah, she stayed in better shape than me by running a few races doing kettle bells, etc)!

Mile after mile, I hung in there. My heart rate monitor was going off the charts, especially after trekking up any slight incline or hill, but I was able to make up some great ground on my way down (I've got my weight to thank for that). At times I didn't think I was going to make it, especially right before the last 3 miles or so. It was the last, long stretch of road. All flat. At the end of that stretch comes what I feel is probably the 2nd worst hill of the whole course (the absolute worst being the one just before the finish line). Once I got to that hill after the long flat stretch, I knew I could get 'er done. My form was off the wall-the-wall horrific (and I have a small tiny, thumbnail picture to prove it) but I made it. Yes, I made it.

The post race activities were good. Some time in the hot tub and I was good to go. As usual we made our rounds around 'downtown' Duluth and even made the annual trip to Fitger's Brewhouse for some fine brews. To wrap this up, we did sign up for next year, but I declare right here, right now... I'm  going need to be sure I'm in better shape the next year.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Macbook Pro Hard drive upgrade

Thought I would post a blurb about something I did a few months back. Yep, it was another tech-filled adventure by yours truly. I was in need of an upgrade on my computer to run and play with some new operating systems such as Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux, but with my current 160GB hard drive, I was pushing the limits of its storage capacity. So as soon as my warranty expired on my Macbook Pro (MBP), I went on the hunt for a bigger, faster internal hard drive.

Was there something seriously wrong with the one I had? NOPE.

Was I looking for something to test my inner-tech hunger by pulling out all stops and tearing apart my laptop to increase the capacity and performance? YES.

I didn't have to look too hard find some other instructions, DIY guides and tutorials on how to upgrade it (as most hard-core geeks do this all the time). All I needed was a trusty site I have used in the past - I've used this site for both purchasing stuff (many sticks of RAM throughout the years, a replacement ipod battery kit (see this post) as well as some killer external hard drive enclosures) as well as just using for reference/guidance when attempting to install new /replacement hardware. The great thing about this site is the FREE video tutorials. If you have a need for upgrading an Apple product, they probably have a video instructional guide to help you along.

To get into the geek-tails, I scored a 320Gb, 7200RPM, 16MB cache, Seagate Momentus internal 2.5" SATA hard drive, model ST9320421AS. I got this at for $85 at the time (at the time of this post, the same drive is $69!!) Using this video guide from MacSales, I tore apart my MBP, installed the drive and re-assembled it in about 45 minutes flat. This was one heck of a deal and should last me a LONG TIME. If you have a Mac (or PC for that matter) that is running low on hard drive space, I encourage you to save a few bucks and install a hard drive yourself!

For your visual pleasure, I have attached some pics of the momentous event:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guitar Hero World Tour!

Ever played it? If haven't, you should. This is probably the best game/toy I've played in many, many, MANY years. Guitar Hero World Tour is one of the latest game put out by RedOctane/Activision. There have been many iterations of Guitar Hero since the first Guitar Hero I. There has been Guitar Hero II, III, World Tour, Rock The 80's, Aerosmith and soon to be released Metallica.

Being a musician, I enjoyed Guitar Hero III (the 1st guitar-based game I've ever played) but hit a plateau after I breezed through the Easy and Medium levels. I found the jump from Medium to Hard level was simply to big and honestly never took the time and dedication to 'learn' the guitar past that level.

World Tour combines the elements of a 'band' into the Guitar Hero platform with a low learning curve.  The 'kit' comes with a wireless guitar, drums and yes, a microphone! With all these elements, it's great for a social/party-type environment. As a matter of fact, within a few weeks of getting this, I convinced asked a neighbor to host a Guitar Hero party...they did and IT WAS A BLAST!

It was all adults and we all took turns singing, drumming and playing guitar and bass. Each person could play at their own level so its became fun for for everyone! There were about of us 5 families taking turns so we ended up playing all night 'till about 1am! Truly a great time.

Months later, I still enjoy the game. I've completed all the songs in 'career' mode on Medium level and am about halfway through on Hard! Some songs are harder than others but I am definitely not getting bored of it. What's even better is the fact that you can download new songs -  so the game stays fresh. My young boys love it and often have their friends over to play on it as well.

Overall, I highly recommend buying or playing this game; the more people the better in my opinion.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Snowboarding Rookies - February/March 2009

About a month ago, I was able to get out snowboarding for the first time this season. It was also extra special because I was able to take my 2 boys out for their first time as well! Last year as Christmas presents, my wife and I bought the kids 'new' snowboards. After much searching and bargain shopping, we were able to get a few used boards and boots off of Craigslist and Play It Again Sports as well as a few helmets and goggles that were on sale off of and Sports Authority. With all things considered, we got all this on the cheap.

After Christmas, weeks went by with busy family & social schedules, other commitments and of course, bad weather. But in February, we were able to get out to Mount Kato located in Mankato, MN for an experience to remember!

Being a long-time snowboarder, I was in the frame of mind to be teaching the kids for at least a few hours (I remember when I learned to board back in the mid/late 1990's and it took me almost a full day!). So I was very surprised when my 7 yr old went down the 'bunny hill' once (yes, once, without falling) and insisted he was ready to go up to the top of their 'bunny hill' via the chairlifts! I was pretty shocked and blown away, I just remember looked to my wife in awe and saying "OK, I'll go with him".  We went up the chairlift leaving my wife to teach my 5 yr old. In hindsight, I feel bad about that, considering my wife did not know how to snowboard and was left trying to teach our 5 yr old how to do something she knew nothing about...

Overall, the day progressed well. There were a few falls, wipeouts and spills throughout the remaining hours but by the end of the day the only one who didn't get the hang of it was my wife. It wasn't fair to leave her to 'fend for herself, but with two boys who were on the go, I don't know what else I could have done. She ultimately gave up after just a few times trying to go down. However, she did say she would do it again if she took lessons or went with someone else that that had never done it before.

We were able to get once once again, this time at Buck Hill. The boys picked up pretty much where they left off before. After a few times down the hill they were getting it. Buck Hill was probably a bit better as they had much smaller practice hills along with a nice conveyor belt to get up the hills.

Take a look at some of the pics below for the family in action!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Ever heard of it? If not you should check it out. This is a computer software application that allows you to do online chat, video and voice conversations as well as placing and receiving call to and from land-line phones!

Now some of these features you have to pay for, but the basic online chat (instant messaging) and online video and voice chat are free and the only requirement is the other party needs to be using Skype as well.

I've had a Skype account for some time but only used it while traveling many years back when I worked for Norstan/Black Box (I used it to do voice and video chat to my wife and boys while they were back at home). However, in January, I was looking for an alternative to my land-line provider, Embarq (whom was asking a whopping $15 a month for unlimited long distance calls) and almost forgot about Skype. I happen to listen to a few podcasts that feature people using Skype so I checked it out. I found their long distance plan was a whopping $2.95 a month so I signed up!

Sure there are limitations such as being tethered to your PC but there are Skype enabled phones you can buy which allow you to use it like any other phone in your house; all you need is the internet connection. You could even take with with you on the road and plug it into a friends house! For me a simple headset to my mac is working fine. I've even hooked up my wife with a Windows version of Skype so she can login as me and make a long distance call and not have to worry about long distance charges, cell phone signal strength, etc.

For something cheap and fast, check out Skype. Its a great alternative to your local phone provider as well as VoIP providers such as Lingo and Vonage.