All posts by Andrew

The Death of Google Reader Ruined Blogging For Me

When Google announced the imminent termination of their popular RSS reader app, I was indifferent.  Perhaps I’d taken the software for granted; forgotten how things were when it first came out and blogging was basically peaking.  I can remember the excitement of launching Reader every morning, a feed totally of my choosing there waiting for me: Dinosaur Comics, Cyanide & Happiness, XKCD, and of course, all my friends’ blogs.

I guess I just assumed the tech giant that whips out ridiculously useful free apps in its sleep would soon announce an even better replacement.  But that announcement never came.  When I returned from my typical summer hiatus from the blogosphere, I found Reader gone like bits in the wind.

I think theres a tendency to consider things in the online world immortal, like that heart you carved into that aspen tree when you were young. The cold truth that Reader was totally gone was like a punch in the stomach.  I wanted to check in on the blogs I’d neglected for so long, but found myself lost.  I couldn’t remember the URLs, so I was left conducting weak Google searches.  Do you know how many Laura Peters blogs there are?  I did finally find it, but no update since April.  Another victim of the downfall, I presume.  SinglePlusCat? No updates since 2012, but i’m probably 3 blogs of hers behind by now.

Reynolds Tribe!  My favorite Mommy blog!  Alive and well!  So good to see.  Just in time, too.  I was so caught up in my little blog eulogy that I was starting to hear Les Mis’s Empty Chairs at Empty Tables in my head, only with the words changed to “Empty blogs in empty readers”.

I’m going to attempt to power through and keep this whole blog thing going.  If you are reading this and still blogging too, please send me a link.  I’d love to read it.  Now to go find a rebound…

 

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AbsolutelyAndrew Outgrows the www

If you’ve been to this site in the past couple weeks, you may have noticed a very subtle change.  The www has been removed from the URL.  That’s because we’re big shots now here at AbsolutelyAndrew and we don’t want our readers to be bothered with repetitive entry of the letter ‘w’.  Actually, fearless host Gavin worked some magic under the hood to optimize server space or something crazy like that.

In honor of the shorter address, I decided it was time for a new look and feel to the site.  The most obvious change is the theme, but more exciting is the addition of the photography page.

I’ve been enjoying making pictures (look, I’m even using the pretentious photographer vernacular) more than ever lately and, consequently, liking Facebook’s photo app less than ever.  I’m going to let you, the reader, in on a little secret: all the photos on my  new photography page are pulled from my new Flickr stream.  That’s right, look who’s ahead of the times.  I think Gavin told me to get Flicker 4 years ago.  I finally got it and he doesn’t even use it anymore.

In any case, now I have all my creative inspirations in one place.  If only the cavemen could see me now.

The Paper Route

The summer after sophomore year my friend Scott got us all jobs at the advertising company responsible for the weekly ads supplement in the Omaha World Herald.  Our tasking was simple: Once a week, deliver the ad to everyone that doesn’t have a newspaper subscription.  In other words, deliver a publication that 98% of the receivers couldn’t give less of a shit about.  It was the ultimate dream job for young high schoolers.  We worked for 2 days out of the week and played the rest.

I formed a partnership with my friend Jeremy and we tackled the routes as a team.  This made the work go faster and significantly more fun.  My ’89 Plymouth Voyager minivan was our mobile office.  We’d pick up the papers and go to a nearby park to roll and bag them.  If it rained, we moved operations indoors–to the back of the van.

Then we’d hit the route with Jeremy in the back with the sliding door open handling the right side of the street and ensuring I had a supply of papers up front as I drove and handled the left side.  Using this method, it only took a few hours to deliver a few hundred papers and earn $150 to split between us.  It seems like chump change now, but it was more than enough for a couple 16 year olds.  Once we were done, we’d go ride dirt jumps for the rest of the day.

The technique was easy enough to master:

  1. Grip rolled paper at one end and fling kind of like a Frisbee.
  2. Ensure you grip the end with the bag opening when you throw lest the paper fly out and blow down the street in 50 pieces while you chase it down.
  3. Ensure the standard transmission minivan has the parking break applied when you run for loose papers. (Just kidding, that step was never neglected)
  4. Ensure the window is rolled down prior to throwing the paper.
  5. Extra points if you nail the mailbox.

Jeremy tired of the paper route after that summer, but I kept with it doing a couple of the routes solo.  At some point Mike and Kyle also got routes and the following summer we’d all meet at Seymour Smith Park, aptly nicknamed the “Hairy Cock” due to the Harry A. Koch shooting range in the park.

For many, the goal in life is to find a job that doesn’t feel like work.  When I reminisce about that paper route, that wasn’t work.  Over time, I’m sure my memory has glossed over the extreme heat, the extreme cold, people constantly honking at you for going too slow, people complaining for not getting their ads, people complaining for getting their ads.  What I remember most fondly is friends, teamwork, and discipline.  More importantly, when the work was done, we left it until the next week and played hard in between.

Alas, a paper route doesn’t quite fund a mortgage.  Or perhaps when a job becomes a means of a particular lifestyle rather than just fun money, it becomes a more serious matter.  Rather than the job itself, I think it is the carefree summer that I miss.  The year is no longer comprised of 2 semesters and a summer and winter break.  It is strange to not get a “clean slate” every 13 weeks.  Further, the path through life is no longer clearly defined.  What is the ultimate goal?  How do I graduate life?  Forget graduation for now–I need to get back on this 2 days/week work schedule again…

12 Years Ago Today

The 12 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America seems like a random time to post a memoir of that day, but it occurred to me that I’ve never written it down.  And, although the years have skewed the memory, there are parts of it that are still crystal clear.  

I was a sophomore in high school.  I was at marching band practice.  it was a beautiful morning as many September mornings are in Nebraska.  We were just coming off the field when a girl (One of the section leaders, I think) came running outside and told us a plane had struck one of the World Trade Center buildings.  Practice abruptly adjourned and we filed back inside unsure what to think.

I was only 80% sure I knew what the World Trade Center was.  It took me a while to comprehend the gravity of the situation.  We made jokes about the situation that were probably quite inappropriate, but was the only way we knew how to react.  We watched the amateur footage of the crashes again and again throughout the day.  Every class had the news on.  They started saying it was Osama bin Laden.  I had no idea who that was.

When I left the building after school the sky was eerily quiet.  Then we heard it.  An approaching airplane.  Our hearts raced for a second before we realized it was Air Force One, on its way to Offutt Air Force Base.

My account is no more noteworthy than most of the nation and it almost seems insensitive to even share on a day dominated by stories of those actually involved in the events.  But we all remember.

Solstice

When I was young I had a 9:00 P.M. curfew, except for the first day of the summer, for which my mother graciously extended our play time one hour to 10:00 P.M. in honor of the longest day of the year.  For a few years, this was our tradition–exploring the neighborhood by bike or by scooter until the last bits of summer sun had dissipated amidst the corn stalks and fire flies filled the sky.

One year we rode scooters down from the gravel road behind our house through the backyard.  Jeremy, disoriented in the darkness, inadvertently jumped his scooter off the three retaining walls in our side yard.  Our laughter echoed off the neighboring houses and our bellies cramped from the effort as we rolled around in the grass.  

It was only a few years before I was old enough that my curfew was extended, but the magic of that day lived on.  This year, Tara and I decided to take a walk through our neighborhood to Parley’s Park.  We found ourselves in an adventurous mood, taking streets we had never been on and following Parleys Creek far into the park.  When we reached the far end of the park, at a place where young people do something called “Shooting the Tube”, I realized it was 9:30 and we were nearly 2 miles from home.

So we walked back towards the sunset, the Salt Lake City skyline and Antelope Island in the distance pasted against the pink sky.

Cozumel

In March, Tara and I took a second honeymoon.  We didn’t really call it that, but it was a full week vacation to the tropics just the two of us, and we haven’t done anything like that since our honeymoon.  We first visited Cozumel on our honeymoon cruise and had wanted to return ever since.  And so, in the peak of spring break season, we boarded a plane and flew from winter to 80 degree sunny skies.  After a 45 minute ferry ride on rather choppy seas, we landed in Cozumel and took a taxi away from the city to a small all-inclusive on the beach, surrounded by jungle.

We had left all the spring breakers in Cancun.  This resort was secluded and quiet.  The demographic was surprising, but a good mix.  It was mostly older (than us) couples and families with some retirees.  I think we were the youngest people there that hadn’t come with our parents.  At least 50% of the guests were Canadian.

The all inclusive bar scene is fascinating.  Everyone gets up pretty early because it gets dark so early and by 7 AM the sun is out in full force.  After eating breakfast, the guests head down to the beach bar and line up, waiting for it to open at 9.  It is not unlike a herd of cattle eagerly anticipating meal time.  Veteran all-inclusivers have brought big gulps and travel coffee mugs to have their libations made in as the resort cups are so small they make Main Street’s glasses seem king-size.  My UNL Alumni readers will appreciate this comparison, for everyone else, the glasses are really friggin’ small.

The bar tenders are totally chill, but can make frozen cocktails faster then anyone’s business.  90% of the patrons order drinks that require the use of a blender, so there is an “express” cerveza line.

Early in the week, we took a taxi to the only city on the island, San Miguel.  We went to the Cozumel history museum at which I was able to get my Carribean anthropology and geography fix (totally fascinates me for some reason).  We then enjoyed lunch at the small cafe at the museum overlooking the ocean.

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We tried some shopping in the afternoon, but quickly tired of the high pressure marketing made prevalent by cruise shippers’ tendency to spend a lot of money fast just because they think they’re purchasing an authentic souvenir from a land they spent 3 hours in.  At one point, while we looked for a sun hat for Tara, an American woman came over in a sun dress she had tried on and asked “You like?”, evidently forgetting that although she was in a foreign country, most people around her spoke fluent english.

We padded our way out of the cruise ship zone seeking a mini golf course I had read about that supposedly provides walky-talkies so you can call in drink orders while on the course.  Alas, it had gone out of business, but some excitement was had anyway when I nearly leaned on a massive iguana sunning itself on a stone wall.  Out of my peripheral, I had mistook it for a sculpture.  I swear it made a weird croaking noise to alert me of its presence.

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We then came upon an old catholic church with its doors open welcomingly so we stopped in briefly to look around before heading to a seaside bar for Pina Coladas and churros.

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Another day, we rented a car and drove down to Punta Sur Eco Park for exploring and snorkeling.  The recommended snorkeling route was to paddle 300 meters off-shore to a buoy, then turn right and follow the reef which parallels the shore for about half a kilometer until “you see a black coral”, then head back to shore and walk back up the beach.

This turned out to be a marathon of a snorkeling trek, but was absolutely amazing.  There was so much sea life and the water was perfectly clear.  We were exhausted by the end and it felt like we were having to fight the current to get back to shore.  When we finally did reach the beach, we collapsed on the sand to rest and found ourselves completely alone with nothing but palm trees and jungle to the inland and pristine blue ocean off-shore.

We walked back up the beach back to the little outfitter to return the gear.  We checked out the light house, and some of the other sites at Punta Sur before driving on to the far west side of the island to the same seaside cantina we ate at on our honeymoon, and once again had barely enough cash…

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The rest of the time we spend relaxing on the beach and snorkeling.  We did aqua aerobics one morning, or as the Mexicans call it: “Exercise in the Pool”.  This turned out to be a gaggle of drunk, middle-aged women and Tara and me.  The young male instructors knew exactly how to appeal to this crowd and the workout involved lots of pelvic thrusting and cat calling.  I felt totally out of place and was wishing I’d hit the pre-workout Pina Coladas a little harder.  At the end we all lined up and gave each other massages.  Yep, that happened.

Oh yeah, I should mention the limbo contest that I took 3rd place in, beaten only by a couple Brazilians.

 

 

 

The week went way too fast.  I’d highly recommend this destination to anyone considering the Cancun area.  Here are some details if you decide to go:

The Occidental Allegro, Cozumel MX

Flying into Cancun is the cheapest, but requires a 45 minute taxi to Playa del Carmen followed by a 45 minute ferry to Cozumel.  Next time I think we’ll fly right into Cozumel.  Even just avoiding the Cancun airport would make it worthwhile.

We were infinitely glad we went with the all-inclusive.  It was so nice not to have to worry about meal expenses all week.  Unlimited alcohol is a nice perk as well.

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Farewell Grandpa Ploetz

This past Tuesday I received a call I’ve been expecting for a while.  In the same strong, calm voice she used throughout my childhood to reassure me there was nothing to fear, my mother told me my grandfather had passed away as he slept, never betraying, with even the slightest crack or break, that she had been with him the previous afternoon, said goodbye, and then waited by his side until the wee hours of the morning, and probably hadn’t slept since.

Grandpa did not speak a lot.  In fact, his voice was so gruff it almost sounded like it pained him to talk.  But when he did, it was often to tell a server if wasn’t finished yet as he white-knuckled his plate (Great Depression kid with a huge stomach), or to tell a joke.  He and my brothers and I shared an appreciation for big-breasted women and we loved sharing racy jokes.  This put my poor mother in the awkward situation of wanting her boys to bond with their grandfather yet disapproving of the topic.

When Grandpa laughed, his face would contort and his eyes would squint into a look of pure glee–an expression that beautifully contrasted his otherwise gruff, German demeanor.  When Ben laughs, he makes this exact same expression.

Once on a family trip to Buca di Beppo (our favorite restaurant while it was open in Omaha), my brothers and i discovered pictures of pin-ups adorned the walls of the men’s room.  We told Grandpa this and he immediately excused himself to go to the restroom.

Grandpa had a wide repertoire of jokes and euphemisms he had picked up during his time in the Army in WWII.  One of my favorites was “Used Beer Department”, which I referred to as “Used Mountain Dew Department” until I went to college.

He was impressively up-to-date on technology his whole life.  He was an early adopter of email and even had a Facebook account.  For a while, he was buying nearly every new Apple computer to come out.  He skipped over the first iMac (I imagine neon colors weren’t really his thing), but when he got the Sunflower iMac, I would make excuses to come up and play with it.

Oh how he used to pound the mouse and keyboard!  I’m not sure why he thought he had to hit the keys that hard.  Then again, I kind of do the same thing…

With a rich German ancestry and having been stationed in Belgium in WWII, Grandpa spoke fairly fluent German.  He was delighted when my brothers and I elected to take German language classes in high school and used to bark “Bitte leiten Sie die Kartoffeln!” across the table at us in true German style.  Alas, his dialect differed from the pasteurized German we had learned in school so we could never decipher what he was saying.

Grandpa loved his beer and wine.  Once on a family vacation in Arkansas, we visited a winery where my parents bought a few bottles and Grandpa bought an entire case.  A month or so later, he had finished all of his wine and was quite incredulous when he learned my parents had barely made a dent in theirs.

Christmas in Tahoe in 2011 was the last Christmas we’d spend together as an entire extended family.  We had 15 people crammed in Larry & Sonja’s cabin and it worked well enough.  I brought some of the stout I had brewed to share with everyone.  Grandpa took one sip and declared it good.  It is the best and most regarded compliment I’ve ever received.

I don’t think I fully realized how similar I am to Grandpa until after his death.  He was a man that never aged or became complacent mentally.  He was always learning, always asking tough questions his whole life.  I truly respect that.

As I drove home from work after receiving the news, I reminisced on all my memories of Grandpa and said to myself, as tears of joy streamed down my face, “My grandpa was totally bomb”.  I’ve never used those words to describe anyone in my entire life.  Why they first came out to describe a 92 year old man, I will never know.  But it’s totally true.

 

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Christmas 2011 at Tahoe

Yay Homebrew!

I have been homebrewing with a friend for a couple years now, but thanks to lovely brewing equipment gifts from my in-laws for Christmas, I now have my own setup.  So far, I’ve done two batches: a hazelnut brown ale and an oatmeal stout.  Gavin suggested making labels with fun pictures for the beer.  I was a little skeptical at first, but this proved to be one of the most fun parts of the process.

When my family visited last August, my dad stuck his thumb drive in my computer an unloaded some 30 gig’s of family photos.  Gee thanks, Dad.  Anyway, it was in these pictures that I stumbled upon a self portrait of Garin in a suit wearing headphones.  The potential was there.  I threw it in PS, applied a couple filters and BAM!  The Gentleman’s Oatmeal Stout label was born.

Oatmeal Stout in a Row The Rocker Top Label Closeup

Garin with the Virgin

 

Ben and I spent a few hours over the weekend constructing this sweet brew shelf.  We wanted to make it strong enough to support a couple fermenters.  This was probably overkill, but it works.
The Brew Shelf