Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Culinary find: wild rice soup!

Wherever I go, I like to sample the local cuisine. I was wondering what I would find in northern Minnesota, and this is the stuff! If you ever find yourself in Erskine, MN, head on over to the Ness Cafe for a steamy bowl of wild rice soup. It's kind of like cream of mushroom, but with a unique nutty flavor. Maybe it tastes so good because the soup really warms you up and this part of the workd is really COLD.

I'm told many local resturaunts serve a similar concoction, so if you can't make it over to the Ness, don't feel bad. I may try this in a few more places before I return. I'm hoping someone here will share the recepe.
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

A New Wireless Idea for Rural America

According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, a company called Space Data Corp. is planning to launch weather-style balloons in an effort to blanket rural areas with Wireless telephone service. This story may not have gone anywhere, if not for Google's apparent interest. According to WSJ,
"...Space Data Corp., already launches 10 balloons a day across the Southern U.S., providing specialized telecom services to truckers and oil companies. These (sic) balloons soar 20 miles into the stratosphere, each carrying a shoebox-size payload of electronics that acts like a mini cellphone "tower" covering thousands of square miles below."
Rural America is still highly under served by wireless services. While this idea may seem a bit kooky on the surface, the company says a single balloon can serve an area otherwise requiring 40 cell towers.

"While the balloons are cheap and disposable at $50 a pop, the transceivers they carry are worth about $1,500. Once a transceiver is released from its balloon to parachute back to earth, there's no way to predict where it will land. So Space Data has hired 20 hobbyists with GPS devices to track them down."
Space data pays $50 to dairy farmers and hobbyists per launch of each balloon, and $100 per balloon to recover them.

Destination: Rural Minnesota

Just received my seat assignments for my next training in Minnesota and guess what? Northwest could not assign a seat on the second leg - Minneapolis to Bemidji. They won't say why, but I'm thinking the plane is either too small or empty, there's no point to assigning one. I should have been warned by the phrase, "Turboprop Service". Traveling north in winter always gives me pause but like they used to say at the post office, "neither rain, nor snow, nor something, something..."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Higher Quality Cables?

The Tech blogs has been buzzing (again) about more expensive cables having a value in a digital world. Consumerist reports in Monster Cables, Monster Ripoff that the retail markups on Monster Cable are as high as 80%.

Higher quality cables have always been important with analog gear. This is why good loudspeakers never come with that nasty "zip-cord" that always comes with the cheap ones. Before Monster Cable and their ilk, Audiophiles used to go to Radio Shack and purchase 16 gauge lamp cord. Monster is now considered the choice of "mid-fi" audio and video buyers. Higher-end buyers may even spend far more than the $100 or so that Monster charges, but I digress.

The issue is now one of digital vs. analog. As you may know, unlike analog, digital is either on or off. There is no in-between - either the signal is there, or it isn't.

If you accept the previous paragraph as true, then there is really no need for high quality digital cables. For example, if I have a new digital television and subscribe to DirecTV, the best way to attach these two devices would be with an HDMI cable. After spending several thousand on the TV, one might be tempted to purchase an expensive HDMI cable. "Don't do it" suggests consumerist, you may be better off going to,, eBay, or other places online.

I have a different take, however. I do agree that digital does not require better quality cables, as long as they are at a relatively short distance, probably under 5 feet. This is true of video component cables, or digital audio cables, but not HDMI. HDMI contains the digital video component, but the audio portion is ANALOG. Therefore, if the consumer relies on an HDMI cable alone for audio and video, the cable must be of a decent quality if only to carry the analog portion correctly.

Here's a better way: Rather than use HDMI (a format designed for the lazy consumer), use composite video (red, green and blue cables) for the digital picture and left and right audio cables (red and white) for the sound. If the HDMI must be used, simply connect high quality audio cables in addition.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Finally Blogging

Well, I've finally taken my first "leap" into the great unknown of blogging. Like many of you, I've been thinking about doing this for quite some time now. Some of my thoughts going into this project:
"So much to say, so much of it seemingly random"
"Will anyone read this?"
"Do I want anyone to read this?"
"Will anyone care?", etc.

The most important thing for me will be to keep this interesting, relevant, hopefully useful, and not get me fired. I'll do my best not to embarrass anyone, especially myself.

By now you may be asking yourself, "What the heck is this blog about?" That is a bit of a difficult question. I've been in the telecommunications business for over 17 years in one form or another. Like all technical businesses, there's been an enormous amount of change in that short time. Many people I've worked with over the years have tried this business and then moved onto greener pastures; the industry has consolidated and many companies have gone out of business as well. I've survived by trying to stay on the cutting edge and doing (what I think anyway) as fun.

In this blog I will share some of my experiences through rural America and some insights along the way. Why am I in rural America? This is something I will gladly share with you one I've had a conversation with my company's legal department. Don't get me wrong, they're a swell bunch of folks, but keeping my job is a little more important than keeping a blog - no offense.

In the meantime, thanks for being here and reading this. I will always welcome your comments both positive and otherwise. Here's to an enjoyable experience for both of us!