Monday, February 7, 2005

From Fog to Smog

Well, time for the California trek rundown. I may twiddle this post in the future as I remember more things. My brother is now in Rancho Cordova, California, a suburb of Sacramento (and arguably Folsom, where he will be working).

My dad came up on Saturday the 29th with the minivan (Honda Odyssey) and a U-Haul trailer. Fortunately everyone had guesstimated properly and the trailer was just the right size. There was a little difficulty getting my brother's bike in there, and a few things got scratched by the front fork as it was fiddled with, but things eventually found good places to settle. In the end, there was only minor damage to stuff.

Brian and I grabbed a few things from my apartment and headed to our parents' place about half an hour after Dad headed out. I had expected that we would start out on Sunday, but we ended up holding off until Monday. The route was pretty simple, basically just U.S. 14 west to I-35 south, then west on I-80. The first day, we were able to listen to MPR's 89.3 FM until we passed I-90 while going along Interstate 35. After that, my brother and I took turns playing CDs from our own collections. No, we didn't bother to try seeking on the radio in the middle of Nevada just to watch it loop around.

The first day was Minnesota to Grand Island, Nebraska (Is there an island there? I doubt it). Tuesday took us most of the way through the Rocky Mountains to Rock Springs, Wyoming and into the Mountain Time Zone. On Wednesday, we finished off Wyoming, passed through Utah, and stopped in Winnemucca, Nevada in the Pacific Time Zone. We finally reached our destination on Thursday.

Iowa was pretty flat. Nebraska was flatter, aside from the fact that the whole state is slanted upward on the west end. Mountains suddenly appeared in Wyoming. We made our highest pass there, at 8640 feet, I believe (maybe a little higher). Due to a curiosity of the geography there, we passed the continental divide twice. Everything out that way was covered with frost.

It turns out that I-80 basically follows the famous Oregon Trail as it winds westward. We descended into Utah through Echo Canyon and dealt with crazy traffic on an eastern descent into Salt Lake City. Getting smashed by an out-of-control semi is not my idea of a good day. Fortunately, appropriate use of engine braking helped us get into the city safely. We had to deal with a maze of highway ramps to stay on I-80, and we finally stopped for lunch that day on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. It was a nice reprieve, with clear sky and warmer temperatures.

Er, well, "shore" is relative with that lake. The area of water at the time was ginormous (what you see on maps is just the part that is almost always covered in water. In fact, most of northwest Utah is swampy muck that was wet at the time we passed through. For about 60 miles from Salt Lake City to the western border, there is almost literally nothing. Just some roads and a rail line that are on dikes cutting through areas of water that turn into salt flats in warmer periods (we saw a lot of evidence of people driving vehicles down in the muck). For at least 30 miles, the highway is perfectly straight. This is a bad thing, so there are some oddities along the way. There's a big tree sculpture about ten miles from the border, probably with no other purpose than to get your brain going after being sedated by the monotony.

Well, at least we were able to maintain 65 to 70 mph most of the way westward, aside from the climbs. Many people decide not to go full speed, so we were passing others relatively often even though the speed limit was usually 75 mph. We saw our first triple-trailered semis on that flat stretch of Utah, and they continued all of the way to Reno, Nevada. Aside from the hills, Nevada was very boring. It was foggy at times every day on our voyage westward, but it seemed to be the worst there. That's where first heard about "freezing fog advisories". It was part of the reason why everything was covered in frost. Fortunately, we didn't have any significant trouble with the road surface being wet or icy. A few spots were iffy, but mostly in the passing lane. We only really had trouble with snow on one day in Wyoming.

Heading through the Sierras was interesting and probably the most annoying stretch of the trip. We were partly stressed by the fact that Intel suddenly required my brother to get a Social Security Number verification from a Social Security office. We were going to try in Reno, but there was a three hour wait. At least our diversion took us under the famous Reno sign. Leaving Reno, we had to deal with horribly rutted roads, most likely because of snow chains. Well, at least my brother and I were in his Honda Accord, and not dealing with the jerkiness of a heavy trailer like my parents.

It was oh so much fun when I saw a sign that said something like "Steep grades next 40 miles". Couple that with crazy Californians headed out of Tahoe and the fact that we had to stay in the rutted right lane because of speed restrictions on trucks and trailers, it was a very stressful period of the trip. Things finally started to flatten out a bit by the time we reached Auburn, which can be considered at outer suburb of Sacramento (well, heck, you can say that of Tahoe in the crazy commuterscape of California). We spent a few hours in Auburn as we did the Social Security bidness, then discovered that I-80 in California does not have mile markers or numbered exits. This contributed to a messy string of attempts to land on a road headed southward to Rancho Cordova. This wouldn't be a big issue around Minneapolis, or even Sacramento proper, but we were smack dab in suburbia, where almost no road goes straight and grids do not exist. But we finally made it.

My brother is hopefully going to do his part to fix the horrible traffic situation in the area since he got an apartment near a light rail line in the area. We checked two places on Friday, and just went for the one he wanted in the first place. Move-in was on Saturday, and Sunday we did a few things including an excursion into Sacramento via the light rail line (It's a much rougher ride than the Hiawatha. I suppose we just have to wait a few years). We saw the capitol and then headed back in order to get me to the airport, which seems to be in a really odd location. I flew to Las Vegas, then had a three-hour layover before catching a red-eye flight to Minneapolis. The plane landed around 6, and I got to my apartment a few minutes after 7 via light rail and bus. My parents are heading back to Minnesota (possibly via Denver to visit my aunt) in the van tomorrow (Tuesday).

A few random thoughts:

  • Who knew it snowed in Reno?
  • How come we could get Comedy Central in the hotel in small cities in Nebraska, Wyoming, and Nevada, but not in a suburb of Sacramento?
  • AAA maps for Nevada kinda suck, and don't mention the Nightingale Hot Springs
  • GSM coverage is amazingly good in the middle of nowhere
  • Highways are amazingly smooth in the middle of nowhere
  • Is it a good or bad thing when even the truckers are hardly appearing on the highway?
  • Food service sucks in California
  • My computer was broken when I got back. Good thing I had a spare

Posted by mike at 03:46 PM | Family | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 8, 2005


I saw this image on the Pioneer Press website and thought, “Who is this weird guy standing next to Sid Hartman?”

Yeah, if you're not Minnesotan, you probably won't get that.

Posted by mike at 10:55 PM | News | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, February 11, 2005

I Cannot Escape The Arcade Fire

Wow. I had no idea that Information Society had been formed at Macalester in St. Paul. Sheesh. This is what we get for having crappy radio stations for a decade.

Hmm. My current music library is lacking InSoc. I may have to fire up a file-sharing client. I'll probably send off a request to KCMP tomorrow and to if they will play anything.

Posted by mike at 11:18 PM | Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, February 14, 2005

Your Ideas Are Intriguing to Me and I Wish to Subscribe to Your Newsletter

It's Valentine's Day, so 89.3 played a song about spanking. Heh. The glue is getting to Thorn (the MPR building is under construction/expansion).

Entertaining link of the day: Big Girl, Big Stuff

Posted by mike at 12:14 PM | Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Brown Note

Sweet. Here's the description of MythBusters for tonight:

Effects of subsonic frequencies on the human body; legendary Hollywood gunfights.
(Emphasis mine)

Posted by mike at 07:09 PM | TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Hmm. I think Mark Wheat had to hit the panic button tonight around 8:35 PM. I heard a blip in a song that sounded a lot like what you usually get in censored stuff, but then the song faded out pretty quick, and I kept hearing more blips (kind of tiny repeated bits of sound) for about the next 10 minutes—probably the 7-second buffer filling back up. It was kind of annoying, like a b0rked MP3 file. I would have preferred a few seconds of silence rather than ten minutes of weirdness.

At least they have real live DJs though, unlike Hard Drive 105 (you can thank former Drive DJ Tim Connolly for that one).

Posted by mike at 09:23 PM | Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, February 18, 2005


Hmm. I like Michael Moore, but apparently he neglected to look at a map when he compared the murder rate of Detroit with that of neighboring Windsor, Ontario.

Posted by mike at 12:24 AM | Michael Moore | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fowler Up

Wow, this Reggie Fowler stuff with the Vikings is pretty wacko. He's been claiming all sorts of strange things about his background. It's hard to say if he can even afford to buy the team (he'll supposedly give Red McCombs $625 million, but some say he only has $400 million). He might become the first black owner in NFL history, but only if he stops acting like an idiot.

By the way, sports puns are way too easy.

Posted by mike at 11:07 AM | News | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Kloss, and Probably a Cigar

Agh. The water is off in my building (the maintenance guys are doing something or other). So much for doing dishes, laundry, or taking a shower...

I think my level of happiness with The Current has been greatly enhanced by the fact that I have a good radio: the Tivoli Audio Model Two (with Model Subwoofer). I really wish it had a lighted tuner dial, but I don't really need that anymore since I'm only listening to one station (during daylight at least—I tune in Radio K every once in a while). It has a great sound and has a long cable between the left and right speakers, so I have them located about six feet apart (which is what stereo is meant to be). I think it's really optimized for classical music, but layered contemporary music works well too.

I've been thinking about how the station is affecting the current media landscape in the Twin Cities (and SE MN). The big thing about KCMP is that it brings a trifecta of goodness:

  • Eclectic music (or enhanced triple-A or whatever you want to call it)
  • Professional and knowledgeable disc jockeys
  • A powerful, high-fidelity (FM stereo, soon to include digital) transmitter
We've had KFAI for quite a while, and the on-air hosts there are pretty well-respected, but it has short range (and block programming—blech). Radio K has a good range (you can sort of hear it in Rochester), but is on an AM signal that easily gets drowned out by noisy electronics. The station uses student DJs for the most part—which is important because they should have an actual outlet to broadcast on—but there is a lot that people who have been involved in the local music arena for 10 or 20 years can add.

Everyone knows it's an apples-to-oranges comparison.. I'm just trying to more fully define it. The Twin Cities can't live on Radio K alone, and shouldn't. Nor should we live on 89.3 alone, since aspiring DJs need somewhere to get started. If Radio K ever ended up on the auction block, I'd lobby for it to go to another educational organization somewhere rather than be merged into a bigger operation (of course, it's hard to get bigger than the U, but whatever ;-).

At least one person has mentioned that Cities 97 and Drive 105 have shifted their programming, but I haven't tuned in enough to know for sure. They're drowning in sweeps-related ads at the moment, though, so it's a bad time to check (mostly for the sake of your sanity).

There's a lot of music I want them to play that hasn't gotten on the air yet, but I also have to consider this: If you merely wanted to play one song from each person/group listed at, a directory of Minnesota music, you'd have to devote a whole week to it—and the list is incomplete. Considering that Minnesota has less than 1/1000 of the world's population (though perhaps more than its share of music), it would take 10 to 20 years to take even a sample of what all is out there. Fortunately, sifting through that stuff isn't my job—it's what people are supposed to be doing behind the scenes at radio stations and other music organizations, though.

Radio K has a whole network of people reviewing stuff, and from what I can tell, 89.3 is building one up too. I'm glad they've mostly gotten the late '90s/early '00s music out of their systems. They've probably got to work on expanding their world music to include places outside of the UK, France, and Scandahoovia, but it's decent. Metal is deficient, but this is MPR after all (and 93X is actually not too bad for people who like that, IMHO—I think it won the City Pages readers' poll for Best FM Station last year).

Well, the station is going to begin a new phase on Monday when DJ schedules get shifted around. The bigtime folks will get their airtime cut back a bit so they can focus on behind-the-scenes stuff more, which should help improve music selections. I wonder if they'll expand the local show… They had originally announced it as two hours, but it has onle been on from 5-6 PM on Sundays. As with local shows on other stations, there's been a bunch of great stuff there that doesn't get in regular rotation (which I suppose is another fairly big nit to pick).

I wish I could fatefully predict the demise of Drive 105 (not that I hate the people or anything, but the computerized rotation drives me nuts), but my predictions usually prove to be way off the mark. I won't be surprised if KCMP blows one (or a few) stations out of the water in the coming months, but I won't be surprised if it's only a minor blip either. If it ends up being anything significant, it might mostly end up being kind of the "Ventura Effect" of radio, where it draws many people who had turned to iPods, Internet streams, and satellite radio back to the medium. I think the localism angle is something that even the iPod would find hard to beat.

Posted by mike at 02:43 PM | Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 20, 2005

You're My Density

I wrote this fun article in Wikipedia, but I guess since someone had written another one earlier that had been voted for deletion, this one got toasted too. So, I'm saving yet another backup copy here (I consider this to be public domain text).

At a width of ten feet (3 m), Al's Breakfast is reportedly the smallest restaurant in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A site with a colorful history, it is crammed into a former alleyway between two much larger buildings, it is located—appropriately—in the city's Dinkytown neighborhood near the University of Minnesota. The haunt's 14 stools have met the rear ends of generations of students, along with notable figures such as writer James Lileks, humorist Garrison Keillor, and former governor Wendell Anderson, all of whom consider the tiny diner to be a significant icon of the state. Anderson has been known to bring along out-of-town "big shots" when he visits, and has also maintained a $25 credit in case he is ever "down on [his] luck." Of course, they and countless others haven't braved claustrophobic conditions for nothing. Lileks's review? "Best breakfasts in the world. Ever. Period. End of story. No debate necessary: trust me."

The restaurant as it is today came into being in 1950 when Al Bergstrom parted ways with another neighborhood restauranteur. Bergstrom had gained experience at the griddle and in kitchen management in the 1940s while working for John L. "Jack" Robinson during summers at a popular Minnesota State Fair cafeteria. The Dinkytown building he purchased dates back to 1937 when a neighboring hardware store erected a shed in the alleyway to hold sheet metal and plumbing parts. This was eventually rented out and was a Hunky Dory hamburger stand by the time Bergstrom took it over. The new owner renamed the diner to Al's Caf and first opened the doors on May 15. Initially, he produced three meals a day, seven days a week, but scaled back the operation to simply be a breakfast outlet after one year.

Customers who visit the tiny space experience something that is not duplicated anywhere else in Minneapolis. Guests must first stand in line along the building's back wall as they wait for others to finish their meals. Frequent customers can purchase "meal books" and pre-pay for their food. Hundreds of such books line the opposite wall, where two griddles are also situated. The stools and a linoleum countertop run down the middle of the building. The menu is considered to have a number of superb selections including buttermilk pancakes, waffles, hash browns, and eggs prepared in a number of different styles including omelettes. There are also some seasonal items.

Besides the food, another major draw is the atmosphere. People crammed into the tiny space can't help but get to know one another, and this has always been enhanced greatly by the attitude of the staff. Bergstrom was noted for his good humor—and always flirting with the ladies. He retired and passed the restaurant to his nephew Phil Bergstrom in 19731974. Doug Grina and Jim Brandes eventually took over around 1980, and have continued to operate the diner in the same way. The recipes and short-order cooking style that Al Bergstrom developed remain the same to this day.

A University of Minnesota music professor composed some special tunes in celebration of the restaurant's 50th anniversary in 2000. These were played in front of the building on May 15 by a local brass band. Al Bergstrom died in 2003 at the age of 97.

External links


I guess I actually have to go there now.

Posted by mike at 12:18 PM | Food | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, February 21, 2005

A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left

I ran into Bob Woodard of KARE-11 at Rick's Market tonight. He was buying some sort of toiletry item—shaving foam or something. I also got food.

I'm not sure which of those two items is more significant. Probably the food, since I didn't really have anything left other than some cold cuts.

Posted by mike at 07:17 PM | Food , TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Th Dcrtcl Mrk f th Bst

Hmm. I forgot to mention someone made a nice video of The Daily Show's coverage of the Jeff Gannon story, featuring wonderful extras such as Stephen Colbert's secret identity. The same site also has Bill Maher's take.

Oh, and someone did buy Not all that exciting, though.

Posted by mike at 07:29 PM | TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Ten Things I Hate About Your Bad Jokes and Deleted Nonsense

In the vein of the six degrees of separation concept, my closest link to Hollywood types would probably be through Trent Reznor. Some friends of friends had mentioned him on LiveJournal a while back, and it looks like Spike (at least) has met him now too. This definitely beats the tenuous connection to David Schwimmer that Dan or Josh has (father's brother's cousin's college roommate's ... ;-)

Yesterday was probably the worst day for Minnesotans in Iraq so far (though I haven't paid a whole lot of attention). Three National Guard members died.

I watched the first episode(s) of Minnesota: A History of the Land on TPT last night. Not too bad, though I guess the announcer threw me off because the voice didn't sound familiar in any way. Looked like they might have filmed it in HD, but I have no idea.

I've gotta get myself some Astronaut Wife (uh, the band). I guess it vaguely sounds like The Postal Service, but with female vocalists. Well, I've got about a hundred things I should buy (not even counting things like clothes and furniture).

The Kings of Convenience will be in town tomorrow and will make a performance on 89.3 before their evening Fine Line show. They're from Bergen, Norway—my grandparents grew up in the vicinity (I can't really say "suburbs" or anything, since my grandmother was on an island).

Hmm. I probably should at least knock the snow off of my car. I think it's the only one in the parking lot that hasn't been moved since the weekend.

Posted by mike at 02:10 PM | Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack


This has probably been done, but...

Church Sign Generator: Don't step on the little people (they're squishy and make a mess)

I got the snow off of my car, and shoveled around it. Whee. However, I did notice that the long ice-scraper/brush/squeegee I had would definitely be a fun Jackie Chan-style martial arts weapon.

Posted by mike at 02:54 PM | Car | Comments (0) | TrackBack


Oh, I'd been meaning to link to the Pitchfork article about KCMP. It's fairly long, which is nice, but seems to be big on backstory and thin on impressions of the "format" itself. But maybe I'm just in a mood or something.

Posted by mike at 05:47 PM | Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


I may not order pizza ever again. One of the guys (at least) has started a weblog: The Streets of Pizza: True Tales of Deliverance.

Posted by mike at 01:30 PM | Food | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, February 26, 2005

What would Brian Boi^W^WJon Stewart do?

Hmm. I applied for a job at Sun today, and uploaded a .sxw (StarOffice/OpenOffice) file as my résumé. If they don't like that, they can suck it (since they, uh, own StarOffice).

Bill DeVille is not my favorite 89.3 DJ. But, he's the favorite for some other people, so I guess I won't complain much. In the meantime I can listen to the dance warmup stuff on BBC Radio 1. Yay for the Internets.

Posted by mike at 02:51 PM | Music , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Prepare for Pan Flute

Something I have in my CD collection that you don't: Innovators by Sam Cardon and Kurt Bestor (et al.) Not only do I have the disc, I have the original 1993 WordPerfect 6.0 demo CD version.

Now watch me get ten e-mails with people who also have it.

Posted by mike at 09:27 PM | Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Well, I guess Halle Berry has a sense of humor:

"I want to thank Warner Brothers for casting me in this piece of shit," she said as she dragged her agent on stage and warned him "next time read the script first."

Posted by mike at 09:36 AM | Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Monday, February 28, 2005


Recognize this guy? Think hard.

That would be everyone's favorite weatherman, Paul Douglas, circa 1978 at WNEP-TV in Pennsylvania. I guess the 'CCO folks don't do weather from the roof anymore, but he had a good run if he was able to do it for about 25 years. Of course, the WCCO rooftop setup had always been a tacked-on thing anyway, while the KARE setup seems to have been there from the get-go with their Golden Valley studios (well, maybe they had to knock out a wall or something.

Posted by mike at 11:19 AM | Weather | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kings of Conversation

Who knew that "miniscule" is actually spelled "minuscule"? Probably only people who like to say "the calculus."

Posted by mike at 03:49 PM | Self | Comments (0) | TrackBack