It's Murray!

We were pretty sad after losing Solly, but knew that eventually it would be time to bring home a new friend to keep us company. We planned on picking out a random adult dog from a shelter, but when we saw this little guy was an option, we had to go check him out. He's part corgi and part pug, just like Solly. We brought him home when he was just about twelve weeks old, which means he was born back in July.

We decided to name him Murray.

We were hoping that going with the same breed mix would land us a dog with as calm and laid back as our last one. Not sure how true THAT turned out to be, as now we have a puppy who loves to run around in circles at 100 miles per hour and chew on everything in sight, when he's not barking at invisible monsters. I'm thinking we should have paid more attention to the warnings about what level of effort it takes to deal with a puppy. But, we're managing. We love him, he loves his new home, and we're slowly training him to sit and stay and go potty at the right time and in the right place.

And thankfully, he falls asleep from time to time.

A Rough Week

It's been a rough week. Last Sunday night, our dog Solly fell down the stairs to our lower level at about 11pm. He ended up spending the night at the emergency vet, and the next day the doggy eye doctor confirmed what we had feared, that the fall damaged his remaining eye. We decided that it would be too hard for him to try to recover from surgery at his advanced age (14 or 15), so we brought him home and spent the next day with him, making him as comfortable as we could, saying our goodbyes, then took him to the vet on Tuesday afternoon to have him released from his pain.

I can't begin to describe how sad this was for us. And still is.

He was a happy dog, and we had a lot of good times together. Lately he was wanting to snuggle more, spend more time close to us, and it made us so happy. He was an easy dog to please; we're lucky to have the beach, park and lake at the end of our block, and lately, we had been making an effort to take him down there a bit more often. I'm glad we did. The picture above is from just a couple of weeks ago when we went and sat on the grass together at the park, the three of us.

Kate adopted Solly from a corgi rescue over ten years ago. Also pictured there is Lucy, who left us almost two years ago. Dealing with that loss was also sad, but a bit easier, as the timing was more obvious and we knew it was coming. She had dementia for a while and really didn't have a clue where she was any more. But with Solly, he was still our little friend, and he still knew it.

Miss you, Solly.

Dumpster Diving for Furniture

One of my many hobbies is irritating my wife. One of the ways I do this is by finding furniture in the alley and bringing it home. The pieces are invariably dirty and beat up, which makes it hard for her to visualize what we could actually end up with. But, with a little bit of sanding and painting, most of these end up working out very well for us. We've gotten quite a bit of stuff this way -- to date: a cabinet for my home office (which holds my printer very nicely), a bookcase for our spare room, a large dresser (which I now love), a wrought iron end table (which might have been a plant stand), and now this:

Our lower level has these weird ledges along the floor. We believe that the basement floor was lowered, but that they weren't able to go all the way out to the foundation walls. The result is a 10"-12" deep ledge along outside walls. We've been on the look out for stuff that might fit on the ledges and help us better use space. Here's what we came up with, in our main downstairs room. Everything under the bookcase (wall, footing) is part of our wall.

Here's what that bookshelf looked like when we found it in the alley.Very dark wood, rough finish, but very sturdy.

It took days to pull this off. Lots and lots of sanding and filling. This is real wood, but it was probably something some guy hand built and hung on his garage wall 40 years ago. Lots of nicks and dings, and I ended up adding a few of my own, including accidentally ripping a chunk of wood off when trying to remove the cross-beam. Oops. But yesterday, I finally got it bolted to the wall, and applied the last bit of touch up paint and sanding, and today we've got a nice looking bookshelf that almost looks like a built-in.

This was almost too big of a project -- I'm not sure I have the patience to go through this again, but for sure, I'll keep an eye out for something else good in the alley, just in case.

My Rogers Park office was nice...

...but the view from my new office downtown is nothing to complain about!

Home Reserve Furniture: I'm happy.

Check out this chair! We ordered it online from Home Reserve furniture. It cost $219, including shipping. It actually came in the box you see to the right and we had to assemble it ourselves.

There were a lot of pieces of strand board to assemble. It's a bit rough around the edges (literally), meaning there was a fair amount of sawdust to clean up when we were all done. It's not very easy to pull the fabric over the finished frame -- that took a lot of grunting and swearing. A few of the bolt and screw holes weren't drilled all the way through, but that was easily enough dealt with.

One lesson I learned (that I wish somebody had told me before purchasing) is that a stripy fabric like this makes it very obvious when you don't have the fabric positioned perfectly. That will be an ongoing project to wiggle bits into exactly the right place, I think. Also, there is NO WAY you could assemble this without a power screwdriver -- it would take about a million years to put all the screws in. With a power screwdriver, assembly took just about two hours.

There are a lot of people asking online if Home Reserve furniture is nice, so allow me to add my voice to the chorus: On day one, after assembly, we're very happy, and I'm already thinking about buying another chair and an ottoman. It's average sized, seems comfortable, and seems entirely as-advertised. It is not as squishy as a big overstuffed chair you'd buy from a furniture store, but you'll still be quite happy with it.

Here's the chair in various stages of assembly.

Beat Radio how-to from 1998

Back in 1998, I volunteered to help out with Beat Radio, a dance music radio station with an interesting history. It started in Minneapolis as a pirate radio station on 97.7 FM, until the FCC showed up one day to seize the equipment. Then later, a network of radio stations was looking for a buyer and needed content, so the Beat Radio guy got me and a bunch of other folks to volunteer to help fill the network's airwaves with dance music. For more on the history, check out

My tiny part in this adventure involved learning how to run the board at the radio station and becoming a radio DJ. Yesterday, while unpacking boxes at our new apartment, I found my notes from my 1998 training on how things work, mostly focused on Beat Radio's original Sunday night schedule. After Beat Radio relinquished most of its control over the former Radio AAHS Network, the network hired a few of us directly to do whatever we wanted. I filled my time with Radparker Radio. A bit later, the stations were finally sold to the "Catholic Family Radio Network" and our time came to a close. I was invited to continue on as a board op for the religious network, but I declined.

Dog Found at Loyola Beach

Bark Bark Club reports: FOUND DOG! This pretty girl was found on Thursday 6/16 around 5 pm at Loyola Beach near Albion. She had on a red harness with no tags, is very well behaved, and seems to have had puppies at some point. If you know anything about her, please contact Dan at (616) 291-6808 or by email at

Here's two other pets found recently, more information at EdgeVille Buzz.

Bluetooth at Home

Few statements can be considered more exciting than the following: Finally, I have a use for bluetooth at home!

OK, I'm lying, but still.... We stumbled across a very simple and satisfying solution to an annoying problem. In our new apartment, we have fairly poor cell reception. Believe it or not, with Verizon, not with AT&T. The phones work, but calls drop pretty regularly if you're not actually near a window.

A friend of ours has AT&T and mentioned buying a microcell to solve that problem -- but that's kind of expensive and it irritates me that I have to pay so much to solve the cell provider's issue. So, here's what we stumbled upon instead: The Cobra PhoneLynx Bluetooth Cell to Home Phone Connection System.

What does it do? It connects to your fancy smartphone over Bluetooth, and then it connects to whatever regular telephones you have. We've got ours connected to a cordless phone system with two phones and two base stations. When we're at home, we drop our iPhones into their chargers, conveniently located by the window, where they get great reception. Then, if a cell phone rings, the house phone rings. The house phone is thus an extension for your iPhone. Since the cell phones remain near the window, reception is always great. And the thing supports two phones/two bluetooth connections. Caller ID tells us if phone #1 or phone #2 is ringing.

Wasn't sure if we'd find this all that useful, but it turned out to be a life-saver that we use every day.

And when you pick up one of the cordless phones, you get a dial tone. Dial like normal, and your call goes out over your cell phone.

Alive in Rogers Park

Well, we found our fabulous new dream apartment, right here in good ole Rogers Park. Have already connected with a couple of neighbors online and at the corner bar -- and they seem ecstatic that we're replacing the college kids who had a drum set. (There's a diaper-wearing story to be told over beers sometime.) More on how we got that apartment later, but for now, here's a picture of our fabulous new, huge patio.

You can't really tell, but I had just spent a couple of hours sweeping up all the dirt and detritus, followed by a good hosing down. Confirmed: the drain works. Can't wait to load this up with chairs and be able to sit out here drinking wine after dark.

And the deck above it is ours, too.

SMS Spam from 714-363-6375

I am logging here that I got SMS spam from 714-363-6375 at 8:51 am on Sunday, May 15, 2011. The spam: "Need fast cash in your bank account within 1 hour? Get an instant payday loan now! Text YES for more info, NO to be removed from su.rvey"

Damn spammers.

More fun with Sprint 4G/Clear Wimax

Just a couple of months ago, I made the jump to Verizon Wireless, right after they launched the iPhone 4. And let me tell you, I'm loving it. Verizon's network footprint is crazy huge -- way better than the 3G coverage I was getting on my iPad (AT&T) or any of my previous Android phones (on T-Mobile). Recently I had began to use tethering on the iPhone, using its 3g to connect my work laptop to the internet so I could work at the coffee shop (which had horrible wifi) or while on the road. After a while, I decided to see if my work would spring for a modem for me, so I wouldn't have to pay for that out of pocket.

They did, and I ended up with a shiny new Sprint 3G/4G modem a couple of weeks ago.

I've been using it mostly in my neighborhood (Rogers Park) here in Chicago, and the 3G connection is always solid, if a bit slow. But the Sprint 4G connection? Always poor. ALWAYS. Every single time I end up having some problem. The thing drops me after 10 minutes (or 10 seconds), or just doesn't connect at all. And when it's working, the time it takes to establish a connection is painfully long. It takes so long, I can visibly observe my fingernails getting longer before it establishes.

As you might already know, Sprint 4G is really Clear Wimax. We tried it as our home internet connection about a year ago, and immediately switched back to Comcast.

Now, it's a year later, and Clear Wimax 4G still sucks. It is just flat out the worst connectivity I have ever experienced ever. How is Clear still in business? How is Sprint still tied to this dog of a technology? Can somebody explain it to me? Who PAYS for this? I'm getting it free courtesy of my employer and I STILL want to return it.

Looking for a new apartment

We're looking for an apartment in the East Rogers Park neighborhood if Chicago, preferably a first floor 3bed/2bath that will allow a dog, but we're open to discussing things not exactly matching what we're looking for. Probably looking for June 1 move-in date.

The process is kind of painful, because half of the real estate agents you call don't return your phone calls, and you don't know if it's worth chasing them down or if the listing was just balogna, or if they don't try very hard when it comes to rentals.

Anybody got a big apartment they want to rent to us? Click here, then click on "Send an Email" to contact me.

Have you been to the Oasis?

The Oasis, a neighborhood bar in Rogers Park, is quite close to our home. Kate and I have been stopping over there every once in a while, ever since I moved to to Chicago back in 2006. If they call Starbucks the third place, then I guess the Oasis is the fourth place. Gigi, April, Michelle and everyone else working there are always friendly and eager to chat about local goings on. And now they even have free wi-fi!

They've now got a simple website up and running (with a little help from me) at Check it out. And if you want to stop by and say hi, it's at 6809 Sheridan Road, at Pratt, in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood.


A union member, a Tea Partier, and a CEO are sitting at a table, a dozen cookies on a plate in front of them. The CEO takes 11 cookies. He looks at the Tea Partier and says, "Watch out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."