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The T3sk3y Defenestrator


After three weeks of getting nothing done between 10PM and Midnight because of my TiVO’ed OLN broadcast of the “Tour de Lance”, my life is going to return to normal. Once again, it was an amazing race to watch – the world’s best brought their “A” game and it wasn’t enough.

Jim Souhan, a writer from the local paper had a great story on Sunday:

In seven years, Armstrong has transformed yellow into the color of courage, bike racing into a sport ripe for American domination and a Trek cycle into a worldwide vehicle for cancer awareness.

You go to a Little League game and see parents wearing those yellow “Livestrong” bracelets.

You go to a party, and people who have never ridden a bike without baseball cards in the spokes ask what happened today “in the Tour.”

You wake up every morning and, instead of tuning into Don Imus or SportsCenter, flip on OLN.

I saw this personally a lot – even in my own family. It’s been three solid weeks of strategy discussion around a sport we know nothing about. Now we’re going to have to go back to the important talks regarding life, relationships, politics.. well, maybe not politics.. Fortunately, it’s only about 6 months until the Winter Olympics – that’ll be another two weeks spent in front of the TV.

Here’s a link to the complete Souhan article:
The transformation of cycling, a la Armstrong

Congrats, Lance – the T3sk3y compound will miss you!

You snooze.. you lose..

One great thing about having a family driven by collecting and hobbies is that you have to get up early to get the good deals. This was really underlined for me last week..

I caught the following notice on on USENET a couple of weeks ago:
Pinball Warehouse Sale Fridley, Minnesota July 16th and 17th.

The machines were cheap – but were they firewood? A quick phone call to Big Al at Pinball Warehouse raised my hopes. He said “None are junk – but they all need work. You should assume they are non-working”. That’s my favorite kind – non-working, non-junk, non-expensive. As a restorer, I’m always looking for machines that fit that description.

I knew I had to be there early – undoubtedly there would be other sharks that smelled that chum in the water. My brother Jay and I got there at about 9 AM for the 10 AM sale – and were disappointed to find that we were about 8th in line. The first person got there about 7, apparently. It was about 85 degrees and very humid at 9 – it would be a long hour waiting in the parking lot. Over the next hour, about 20 people filled in behind me.

At 10 AM sharp, Big Al came outside and gave the rules:

  • All machines appear to be complete but all need work
  • When you grab a tag, the machine is yours
  • It’s tight in there – be careful
  • and.. NO FIGHTING

Then, he stepped out of the way and the line streamed in. I think the entire sale was done in under a minute. Most of the machines I was interested in were gone before I even walked in the door. People were walking down the aisles grabbing every tag as they went past. I sent my brother after one machine as I scooted to the back row since most were packed in to the first two rows.

I found a Williams “Flash” at the front of last row – it looked pretty good (nice backglass, nice playfield, nice cabinet) but needed some touchup on the head. I grabbed that tag and kept walking down the aisle. A few machines down was a pair of good-looking Bally “Elektra” machines with perfect backglasses and nice playfields. Both had some minor issues but none I couldn’t fix. I grabbed the tag from the one with the nicer playfield and kept looking. That was when I realized that most of the rest of the tags were gone and stopped looking.

I could have fit in another – but there just wasn’t anything else I had to have. There were a few Gottlieb Sys3’s – but apparently nobody loves the mid-90’s Gottliebs. I also had a hard time leaving a Williams “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” that looked like it was in perfect shape – but it just isn’t my first choice of machines. The sale was ‘cash and carry’ – so I forked over my cash and the machines were loaded into mine and my brother’s truck.

When I got home, I started examining my treasures. The first thing I opened was the Elektra. I was saddened to see that the main circuit board (the MPU) was terribly corroded by an exploded battery. I strongly doubted it would work after seeing that and I was correct. After reassembly – I powered it up and got absolutely nothing. At least a replacement board was had on eBay for not much money.

The Flash looked a lot more promising – the circuit boards looked perfect! Actually, most things looked like they were in very good shape. I did notice that the head would need some reconstruction – there is some splintered wood and some gouges that’ll need attention. I also noticed a big kicked-in hole in the bottom of the cabinet – somebody in the past apparently tried breaking in to get the cashbox. It was crudely reparied with a sheet of masonite.

After reconstruction, I was greeted with a loud *DING* and the game fired right up! There were only minor issues – drop targets that needed cleaning, a stuck slingshot, and some switch tweaking. This machine will clean up VERY nicely.

So, it looks like I’ve got two fun restoration projects – that ought to keep me busy for a few months. After that, I’ll enjoy them for a while before moving them on.

For those interested in seeing my new treasures:
Flash and Elektra

Week of Outdoor Concerts – Part II

The second concert of the week was Friday night. My brother won tickets to see Kenny Wayne Shepherd at the Minnesota Harvest Orchard.

That’s the strangest venue – they built what appeard to be a 2000 seat tent pavilion in an apple orchard – surrounded by a petting zoo, barbeque pit, horseback rides, etc.

There were two big ‘100’ problems with the show:

1) It was ’bout 100 degrees under the pavilion. I’m sure KWS wasn’t bothered – he’s from Louisiana. I was..
2) There were about 100 people at the show

I felt bad for them – it was totally empty. Therefore, we moved way up front and were treated to a really smoking show. To their credit – they played it like there were 10,000 in attendance.

I had never heard KWS before – the guy is a hell of a guitar player. He had a great band, too – good singer, a really solid and ‘busy’ bass player, great keyboard player, etc.

This all goes to what I call the ‘Chaos Factor’. The Chaos Factor is that the amount of Chaos at a show is a product of the number of people and the size of the room. Big room, small people = low chaos factor. Small room, big people – insane. So, if this show were at Famous Daves – I bet it would have been nuts.

I’d recommend going to see Tower of Power at the same place on July 29th. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go.

Thanks for the concert, Jay! Great show! Check ’em out if you get a chance..

Week of Outdoor Concerts – Part I

I got to experience some of the strangest concert experiences last week. It was apparently “Take Mark to a concert week”. As far as I’m concerned – that could be every week!

It started on Tuesday with the Willie Nelson / Bob Dylan show at Midway stadium. A little background – I’m easily the world’s smallest Bob Dylan fan. Here’s what music consists of:

  • Rhythm
  • Pitch
  • Tone

As long as you have at least two of those, you’ve got a reasonable chance of being a musician. So, lets evaluate Bob Dylan by those criteria:

Rhythm? Nope.
Pitch? Big Nope.
Tone? Nope.

As you can see, his popularity is lost on me. Regardless, the goal was to see Willie – not Bob. Dad was very excited about seeing a legend like Willie while he’s still alive – and not in jail.

I think the local paper said it best – Willie’s set fit like a pair of old sandals. Very comfortable, very familiar. It’s amazing how many songs you know that you didn’t know you knew. He’s also a pretty good guitar player – He did a lot of pickin’ on his heavily reverb’ed acoustic guitar. I was pleasantly surprised that Willie had real chops!
I think he ripped through about 25 songs in his hour or so set – pausing only to wave or to acknowledge the woman holding up the “I’d smoke pot with Willie” shirt.

Bob was, well – Bob. We stayed for about half the set, when dad announced “This does nothing for me – let’s go”.

All in all – it was a very fun night. Thanks, Dad!

Wheatgrass madness

True Story:

Once, when rollerblading, I stopped by Jamba Juice to get a fruit smoothie.

Me: I’d like the berry smoothie – but skip the wheatgrass please

JJ: It’s free, you know.

Me: I know. I just want fruit, sugar, and ice.

JJ: You don’t want the wheatgrass??!?

Me: Nope. Fruit, sugar, ice.

JJ: But-but-but-but-but…..

It plainly confused the crap out of them why somebody would just want fruit and not some goofy additive. This, from the same people that are AGAINST ADDITIVES.

Anyway – the short answer is that unless you are a cow – skip the wheatgrass. You can’t digest it anyway!

Wheatgrass madness


To really have fun – I should have asked for some artificial sweetener in it…
Aspertame – Urban Legend

Hack me.. Hack me.. Hack me..

Sometimes a device just BEGS to be hacked. I hear the soft call:

“Hack meee.. Hack meee… Hack meeeeeeeeee….”

And I reply:

“No, I already hacked you. It’ll be a lot of work to hack you more. You’ll have to wait”.

Then, they say:


Yeah, My DirecTiVO yelled “Hack me dammit” last week when it took matters into it’s own hands by destroying one of it’s two hard drives. This manifested itself by causing a video freezup every few minutes. That’s really frustrating when trying to watch NASBIKE.

I had already hacked it by adding a 160GB drive to the original 30 – making it a 180 hour TiVO. This time, the 30GB drive said enough and started checking out.

This time, I downloaded InstantCake from It’s an all-in-one utility to create new TiVO drives. I bought a new 160GB drive (for $43 after rebate!) and plugged it into my computer along with my original 160GB drive. I put the InstantCake disk into my computer and fired it up. After about 1 question (Do you have one drive or two?), it said “Give me a minute”, and *poof* – instant drive upgrade and replacement.

I’ve now got a 300 hour TiVO. Muahahahahahahaha

Now, here’s the REALLY fun part – I also got the PTVnet disk that enables networking on it. This lets me do really fun stuff like add a web page that I can use for scheduling, make backups, show CallerID on screen, and lots more. This installed just as easily as the InstantCake disk did.

There’s a little more hacking to enable some of the other TiVO goodies – but I’ll have to wait for my USB Ethernet adapter to arrive to do that.


For the 2nd year in a row, we’ve become huge Tour de France addicts at the T3sk3y compound. Every night between 9 and 10, Heather and I retire to the TV room to watch our TiVO’ed coverage of the race that morning.

It’s been great watching so far – lots of drama, horrendous crashes, funny sights and good action. To boil down a few quick observations:

  • The Tour really isn’t anything more than a Frenchy-French version of NASCAR
  • I think any sporting event that includes *lunch* is funny
  • Any sporting event that includes bathroom breaks during the event is really funny. They pull to the side of the road, and do their thing without leaving the bike.
  • Any sport with a bunch of streakers every day is really really really funny.
  • The sprinters are nuts. They hang out for 120 miles just to haul ass for a couple of hundred yards while trying not to plow into each other. Oh, and see comment #1
  • The leg – Stage 6 – where the French guy led for hours only to crash on the last turn in the rain causing a two dozen biker pileup was awwwwwwwesome!
  • I love watching the sprinters on the mountain stages – they just say ‘screw it’ and try to survive

Now the real fun begins – big mountains. Nothing up until now really mattered – everybody just tried to not crash.

Born to be Bad

On my way home from work last night, I stopped at Something Fishy – a local fish store – to pick up more food for my 90 gallon saltwater tank. During my stroll around the store looking at the fish, I noticed the cutest 1.5″ baby Clown Trigger for sale. For those not into salt water fish, here’s a picture of a Clown Trigger in the wild:

I’ve wanted to have a Clown Trigger ever since I got into marine fish. Besides being really cool looking, they are at the top of the fish food chain in terms of intelligence. They have a wide range of behaviors and personalities, including:

  • Changing color based on mood
  • Communicating by a series of grunts and clicks
  • Greeting its owner by shooting a stream of water
  • Rearranging the tank and gravel
  • Laying down and playing dead, just for fun

On the bad side:

  • They are MEAN when big and old. They define “Alpha Fish”, and a full-grown one can make a pirhana look like a girl scout
  • They get big – 12″ in the wild.
  • They’ll bite through anything and everything, including pipes, acrylic aquarium parts, coral chunks, shells, tankmates, and human hands
  • They eat (and excrete) a lot

In short, I may have introduced chaos to a normally peaceful tank. Though everyone agrees their behavior (and future behavior) is totally unpredictable, it seems the best chance to acclimate one to society is to get them tiny and raise them with other fish. Even then, many suddenly decide that their tankmates are tasty.

So, the first nip I see on another fish – and he’s gone!

Now all I need is a name.. any good suggestions?

Worst Engineering EVER

The designer of the Presta valve needs to be slapped silly.

For a recap: Presta and Schrader Valves

Anybody that designs something that will take mechanical stress – yet not survive mechanical stress – is an idiot. This has been proven twice in the past month by me.

The basic problem is that if you put any stress whatsoever on a Presta valve, it rips out. That is a bad situation when you want to keep air in a tire. I had this happen last night on a ride from work to home (about 27 miles). Fortunately, we had a spare and a passing bicyclist had a decent pump and we were able to fix things to continue our journey.

Now, for the bikers, yeah, I know. Loosen the lock nut. Yeah, I know. Don’t tighten the nut that goes around it. Yeah, I know, don’t ram the pump on too hard.

Bad design.

4th of July recap

I hope everyone had a fun and safe Fourth of July weekend.. whether home or on the road. Ours was spent on the road at our friend Paul Bilstad’s cabin in Detroit Lakes.

We bolted from work early on Friday and headed north through horrific traffic. We tried to beat that by leaving early – I think 10:30 would have been too late to miss it. After a long stop at the Albertville outlet mall, Dairy Queen and the Monticello Rainbow to buy Stewart’s Orange Cream soda for Paul – we arrived at 9:30ish and spent the night visiting.

Saturday was the ‘nicest’ day for all the summer-lovers – bright sun, hot, no breeze. We spent a big chunk of it either on the boat or in the water playing water polo. BTW: Best water polo play? Charge the net, splash the crap out of the goalie, dunk the ball around the goalpost. Saturday night was spent relaxing intermixed with playing games.

Sunday was cooler and breezier – no boating or swimming for us! I did get a solid game of croquet in the afternoon, though. Frankly – I like that weather a LOT better. We spent a good chunk indoors playing games and I was able to redeem myself partially at playing Magic. I lost 90% on Friday/Saturday – won 90% on Sunday. Since Paul and I go 55/45 splits at playing, that brought the average back online.

Monday was spent packing and driving home. We raced home so that we could meet up with Mark and Julie Picha as they were visiting from Denver. As it turned out, they weren’t able to get together until evening giving us the chance to do some house projects. That night, we met up with them at Dave & Linda Picha’s for tacos and Corona’s.

Big thanks to everyone for their hospitality last weekend – we had a blast!

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