Sunday, March 29, 2009

V8 Fusion Exposé

I love vegetables. A little asparagus, a little hollandaise, I'm in heaven. Broccoli? My long-lost brother. Still, it's hard to get enough veggies in my diet. You know what I'm sayin'...

My solution? V8 Fusion. Talk about awesome. Why didn't they come out with this product 20 years ago? One 8 oz drink of V8 Fusion has 100% juice and has a full serving of both fruits AND vegetables! And it doesn't taste like a yucky veggie drink - we're talking full on delicious fruit flavor.

But there is one small problem. V8 is out to get us.

Exhibit A: Two delicious bottles of V8 Fusion. My two personal favorites, Strawberry Banana and Goji Raspberry. What's the difference? The bottle on the left is 'Light'. Why did I pick Light? Because it was a complete mistake. The bottle looks exactly the same as the regular except for the 'Light' stripe and the non-colored cap. Being in a hurry at my friendly local grocer, I grabbed the wrong bottle.

But that's ok, right? Half the calories, half the sugar, still giving me my veggie intake...we're good so far here.

Popping the cap, I found that the 'Light' product tastes just like a watered-down version of the original. Though not as good as the original, it's still quite tasty. We're still good, right?

Exhibit B: Notice that the 'Light' product is only 50% juice, compared to the 100% juice of the original product. Taking a look at the ingredients, they're exactly the same. But both products are reconstituted juices - water is the number one ingredient. Adding more water doesn't change the ingredients list! So I really am drinking watered-down V8 Fusion? Surely they must add some non-caloric vegetable goodness that still gives me a full serving of veggies and fruits, right?

Exhibit C: Wrong. The original has one full serving of veggies and one full serving of fruits per 8 fluid ounces. The 'Light' has 1/2 serving of fruits, 1/2 serving of veggies per 8 fluid ounces.

A full bottle of V8 Fusion has 46 ounces, so the 'Light' has 23 ounces of juice, 23 ounces of water. At an MSRP of $3.99, This means I'm paying $2 for the 23 ounces of juice and $2 for 23 ounces of water. If my math is right, this translates to $11.13 per gallon of water. Here in Meno Falls, we pay less than 6/10 of one cent per gallon of water. That's a markup of 2000% on the water. Blimey! What kind of water are they adding to my juice? Bling H2O bottled water?'ve kept my diet straight for so long! Can't we be friends again? If I want to water down my V8 Fusion, I'll do it myself at a cost savings of 2000%.

Avoid those white caps at all costs!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Three Saturdays

We don't get a whole lot of time with the whole family together. With a solid year of intense professional studies starting in one month that will take up every spare moment, I've tried to make a special effort to have enjoyable Saturdays with the whole family. Here are pics from 3 of the last 4 Saturdays; I was at a week-long seminar in Chicago the other Saturday so we obviously didn't do anything fun that day.

Three weeks ago we went to Jordan's gymnastics class and then hurried over to Home Depot for their kiddie craft project. I'm so glad the home improvement store does these days. Who else does boy oriented crafts? Jordan and Carter both made and painted these fabulous drag race ramps.

Last week we tried going to Home Depot again, but we were too late. So we went downtown to Veterans Park. If you're not from Milwaukee, you've got to realize that you can always count on two things in this city: 1) People complaining about the weather, 2) Wind by the lake. Veterans Park is the premier lakeside park here and we always go there to fly kites. Even when there's no wind anywhere else in the metro area, we can count on flying kites at Veterans.

We purchased some good kites from HobbyTown last year and there's no effort involved by the lake. Pull the string taut and let go. So easy, even the kids can man their own kite. You can't really see Jordan in the second picture, but his kite is a traditional diamond shape with a jet on it. He loves that kite. Which is why it was so distressing when the kite got stuck - REALLY stuck - in a tree. We were able to cut the string, hit the kite out, and retie it, so no biggie in the end.

Today's big event was Discovery World. I got two free adult tickets from my employer last year and we finally decided to use them. Even with two free tickets it ended up costing $34, just for the kids and parking. I doubt we'll ever go again due to the cost, so Cyn and I both took tons of photos.

There are two main areas to the museum: The technology wing and the aquarium wing. Here are some pics from the Tech side. The first pic is a metal model of a double helix that expands and contracts. It is located in the center of a double helix staircase so the effect is pretty neat.

More Tech pics. The second pic is basically a large hamster wheel that generates enough electricity to power lights. When I ran in it with Jordan we were able to generate 40 volts. Carter loved this wheel and didn't want to leave. If only we could hook one of these up in our house...
This brings us to the aquarium portion of the museum. By far, the aquarium wing was the better side. Here is Cynthia on the ground level with a model of the Great lakes water system.

Hanging right above (yes, above) the Great Lakes exhibit is The Challenge, a schooner that shipped between Milwaukee and Chicago. The kids REALLY loved this ship. Just don't look over the deck - it was a long drop down to the first floor. Cynthia is pictured in the captain's dining area, Jordan is in the captain's quarters, and Carter IS El Capitan.

The basement level is the aquarium. My favorite part of the museum. Aren't jellyfish beautiful? Hard to imagine them as the most dangerous creatures on earth.

The really cool part about this aquarium is that the fish tanks are everywhere. In the picture above there is a large tank hanging over Cynthia's head. And, if you look closely, you can see that there's a tank below her feet too. The whole basement level was very well planned out like this.

Holy huge tank! Just look at the size of that thing!

Tooth Fairy pays first claim

Jordan lost his first tooth on March 12! Look how proud he is! For some reason I wasn't expecting this for a few more years. Visions of orthodontics bills are flying through my head. Is it normal for two adult teeth to come in the place of one baby tooth?

Jordan was very excited that his wiggly tooth finally came out. He also told us about some tooth fairy person that leaves money for unusable disposed chompers. As we were never able to recover the tooth, I stated my opinion that evidence of claim could not be provided and thus, the contract with aforementioned fairy was null and void. Jordan wouldn't budge from his position.

The tooth fairy paid out - one or two days late - but Jordan didn't find the quarter until it was pointed out to him. We need to sync up a little better next time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Windows 7, Idol, etc.

Look, Ma, I'm a beta tester!

When Windows Vista went beta 2 years ago, I missed the window by two days. I felt totally dejected - at least until negative reviews started spilling in. Didn't feel so bad then. I've still never used Vista and we run XP happily today, thank you for asking. But I promised not to miss the next public beta of a program I wanted to try.

Enter Windows 7.

So I've been using Windows 7 for a few months. I have two hard drives to accommodate our media center, so I made a small partition for Win7 and fired her up. Jordan, for one, was less than impressed.

Daddy: "How do you like the new computer, Jordan?"

Jordan: "The apple computer? "

That's right folks, he calls Windows an apple computer... here's why:

Apple computer, get it?

Jordan: "Uhh...I like the space computer better."

That's the XP partition he's talking about, which has a nebula for a background picture.

Daddy: "Why is that"

Jordan: "Because Batman doesn't work on the apple computer."

There you have it. No Lego Batman, no deal. For the record, Lego Batman does work on Win7 and Jordan is happy again.

But I'm not.

Win7 looks pretty at first. The visuals are nice and crisp (hooray for slideshow wallpapers!) and Win7 seemed to stay out of the way pretty well. It starts up quickly, and it was pretty stable.

However, it started to wear on me like a needy best friend. Win7 is nothing more than Windows Vista Lite. It may be an improvement, but it still has the same flaws. User Account Controls were 'fixed' by adding ways to minimize the notices. But in doing so, desktop gadgets (replacement to Vista's sidebar) are disabled. Windows Aero is toned down from Vista, which was an unnecessary reduction. Microsoft tried to update the taskbar by modeling OSX's dock, but they failed miserably. And why, oh why, does my Linksys wireless card not work???

The worst part was that Win7 automatically locked up all of my music files. Remember, I now have 3 partitions over 2 hard drives. The other two partitions have XP loaded (one is just a backup image) and have music files on them. Win7 decided it would be the owner of the music files and locked all the images up. I had to unlock every single directory of music in Win7 one-by-one just so XP would recognize the files again. Why do this to a nice bloke like me, Win7? I'll never have those 3-4 hours of my life again. This same lock-up problem also applies to iTunes. My solution? Drop iTunes. It wasn't worth fixing. I think the whole problem is that Win7 wants us to use 'libraries' that can comprise several directories. That's sorta kinda nice, but not worth the bother.

And did I mention that an update from XP to Win7 will not be possible when it goes retail? Ahh, stink.

Now is the part where you shake your head in shame at me. You see, I'm totally going to buy Win7.

Windows Media Center will be included on all retail versions of Win7...and it's fabulous. Of the 5 different media centers I've tried, it's far and away the best. Since our computer is more TV and DVD player than compy, I've been highly frustrated with Catalyst Media Center on our XP install and other programs like BeyondTV were lackluster.

There's been one snag though. My program guide quit working last night. I think it's related to the "conversion" to HD that didn't really happen. I read on Engadget that Microsoft discovered the problem and fixed it, but it's still not working for me. So I have to record manually! Like one of those ancient tools called VCRs. Remember those?

Ahh...Windows Media Center. How I love thee.

Anyway, now we hardly ever use the XP partitions. We turn Win7 on in the morning to record Super Why (in HD! Woot!), Curious George, and Clifford. Then the kids watch movies. Then Cyberchase is recorded. Then we record American Idol. After that sometimes we record a movie in HD. There's hardly a moment Win7 is not on.

Here's another shot of the beloved Windows Media Center. 10 points if you recognized 'The artist formerly known as Megan Corkrey' in the background. Who, by the way, is the only person I would vote for if I actually voted for American Idol. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of Even though it's the only show I watch, American Idol is a stagnant program with no drama or surprises.

Megan doesn't hold a candle to our hometown homeboy, Danny, but man is she entertaining. Honestly, who else sings like that? Who else has the quirkiness required to yell "Caw! Caw!" at the end of their song? People, do me a favor. Keep my Tuesdays and Wednesdays enjoyable and vote for Megan Joy.

Friday, March 13, 2009

4-year old art gallery, part 1

In tribute to Emily's recently found fame in which we all learned to not share our opinions of art (at least not in Milwaukee), I felt it appropriate to re-post two of Jordan's adventures in creating modern art. Tongue firmly planted in cheek, Emily...though I do hope to see more of your famous critiques in the comments section.

Part one was originally posted Nov 27, 2007 on my parents' website.

Let it be known, once and for all, that I have a silly 4-year old.

Every time we try to leave the house he says "I wanna stay!". We respond, "Ok, then stay" and he replies "...I wanna go!".

When we played Nintendo Wii at a friend's house last week, he kept bragging about how good he was compared to all the adults in the room.

He constantly asks myself or his mother if we're going on a date this week just so he can get us out of the house.

Yes, he's as independent as they come. And sometimes his independence leads to surprising turns of brilliance. Like the amazingly sturdy bridges he builds out of expensive books from our bookshelf. Or his organization of marshmallows into a Pareto distribution pattern. Or his co-writing a song on my guitar called "Circles".

Lately his new thing has been photography. Over the past 6 months, he's probably taken about 100 photos. I couldn't quite bear to erase them, because some of them...well...they're close to modern art. Each evokes a certain emotion (mostly confusion) within me. So it is without further ado that I give you the "4-Year Old Photo Gallery" presented by the National Fund for the Child Arts.

Existential Pumpkin

What is a pumpkin really? Once carved and desecrated of its seeds...can it really retain its nature? My 4-year old challenges the very assumptions we have of nature.


Vertigo encloses every thought as I view this image. Accentuated by the ripple effect delicately captured on the clock face, the trepidations of our pumpkin jumper alarm a passerby.

Light and Shadow

My 4-year old's classic image from his light and shadow period. Is the tree really that full or does it just SEEM to be that full? Only the 4-year old genius knows for sure.

The Void

Does a family table really have a base without the family at the table? My 4-year old again challenges the very beliefs we take for granted everyday.

The Forlorn Foot

Just a foot you say? Or is it the sad viewpoint of child as Daddy packs up for a business trip? Melancholy in digital format, I say.


From my 4-year old's "my favorite things" period, he vividly captures the pride of parent only a genius can truly enjoy.

The 4-year old Artist

No photo gallery could be complete without a moody image of the artist. By the way, his shirt says "Are these people really my relatives?" Perfect. I smell a Pulitzer a comin'!

4-year old art gallery, part 2

I originally posted part two of the art gallery on my parents' website Jun 26, 2008.

I hesitate using the same gag twice.

But Jordan, you see, may actually have more talent in his right index finger than I have in my whole frame.

Several months ago I mentioned that Jordan had taken a strong liking for photography and started going around the house taking pics. He hasn't stopped since.

What's more, we had to get a new digicam, so guess who got the still-somewhat-functioning older camera?

...this time I won't use the facetious art critic comments.


I've always liked his quilt, but Jordan just seems to capture something here. I love the lack of center without overhanging of squares on the margins.

Read Above the Lines

The top of his bookshelf. Cynthia enjoyed this one more than I did, but the angles, lines, shadows, and contrast with the righter void are very nice.


Jordan seems to love contrast in light. When I asked him about this stunning pic he said 'I took picture of my shaaadow." (that's his shadow in the lower left).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Crokinole croked

For the past few months I've been working on a Crokinole board. If you're wondering "What on earth is Crokinole?", either click here or smile and nod. It's been a lot of fun to work with wood again and make something of such great value - a board like this sells for about $400. Here are a couple pictures of my progress:

This is the blueprint of the crokinole board on 1/2" birch plywood. These boards are huge - 26" round with a base that's 30". Shortly after this step I routed the edge, cut along that edge and sanded it down, applied a thin birch veneer around the edge and took plenty o' measurements. Here's what I was measuring:

Yeah. It's a freakin' 8-point star! I had to remove the veneered layer from the plywood and then cut 16 individual pieces of maple veneer (all custom-fit) and glue them into the holes. This, in retrospect, was not the smart way to go. I should have left the birch plywood and just veneered the entire surface. Moving on...

After 3 months of work, here was my board. I still had a lot of work to do (rubbing the finish out, completing the base, filling the center hole, adding posts, and adding rails), but this was just about the most beautiful thing I'd ever made.

Which brings me to tonight. I botched it. I botched it bad. I messed up on the polyurethane finish (which is actually quite easy to apply) and I couldn't correct it over the past week. I tried stripping and starting from scratch on the finish but...but... it just didn't work. The veneers were cracking and peeling, the stain was spreading and I knew it was gone.

Here it is being dumped unceremoniously into the garbage.

Down 3 months of work and at least $30 of materials, but not out. I was in a really foul mood for a while, but I'm better now. I'll make it again...someday. But first, I'm going to shift my attention to the second Crokinole board I was working on! It's a much simpler board this time, but I need to have the center 8" circle painted. Any artist out there want to paint on an unusual canvas?

Eulogies now being accepted in the comments area.